The One Tree
First edition cover
|Author||Stephen R. Donaldson|
|Cover artist||Darrell K. Sweet|
|Series||The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Wounded Land|
|Followed by||White Gold Wielder|
This book differs from the others in the First and Second Chronicles, in that the story takes place outside of the Land, although still in the same world.
Following the vision he received from the Clave at Revelstone, Thomas Covenant has resolved to find a solution to the problem of the destruction of the Staff of Law, the result of which has been the corruption of the Land's natural beauty by the curse of the Sunbane. He is accompanied on his quest by Linden Avery, a physician from his own "real" world, and four Haruchai bodyguards. Their means of travel from the Land is a ship crewed by the Giants, a benevolent, seafaring people from a distant region of the Earth. The journey is made more difficult by Covenant's continuing relapses into sickness caused by the venomous bite of a Sunbane-spawned monster: the venom leaves Covenant prone to uncontrollable outbursts of power-madness, the wild magic unleashed by his white gold ring posing an imminent danger to those around him. Linden, who in this world is endowed with a kind of clairvoyance, is frustrated by her inability to help him.
From the Land, the Giant-ship sails to the home of the Elohim, a race of beings who are known to possess supreme wisdom. Linden perceives that the Elohim are in fact the embodiment of Earthpower, the mysterious energy which is the source of the beauty and magic found in this world. Despite their seeming omnipotence, the Elohim are bound by a strange code of behavior, and provide no direct help to the quest, other than showing the Giants the location of the One Tree, from which the Staff of Law was fashioned. This knowledge was hidden in Covenant's mind by the Forestal Caer-Caveral (Hile Troy), but Covenant lacked the means to reveal it. In the course of rendering this service, the Elohim cause Covenant to go into a catatonic state - "don't touch me" is all he can say.
Sailing the course which has been charted for them, the travelers find that one of the Elohim, named Findail, has joined them aboard the Giants' ship, for purposes which he declines to reveal. The questors are not pleased at this uninvited companion but are powerless to make him leave. After suffering severe damage in a storm, in which Findail refuses to help, the ship arrives at the port city of the Bhrathair, a militaristic - but also wealthy and civilized - people living at the edge of a great desert. The Bhrathair are ruled by the gaddhi, Rant Absolain, who rather coldly receives the quest's shore party, and it is discovered that the true ruler is the gaddhi's chief adviser, a wizard named Kasreyn of the Gyre. Kasreyn initially appears to be kindly disposed to the quest but is revealed to have ulterior motives.
The ship is repaired, but the ill will between the travelers and the gaddhi breaks out into overt violence. Two of the Haruchai guards lose their lives - one at the hands of a Sandgorgon, a monster indigenous to the desert, and one killed by a hustin, a semi-human creature of the gaddhi's guard. The feud was in fact the result of a manipulative ploy by Kasreyn. The wizard abducts Covenant, who is still in a catatonic state, and attempts to use his powers to compel Covenant to give up his ring. The remainder of the shore party is imprisoned in the dungeon. Using her power to invade Covenant's consciousness - which she had been loath to use because she abhors the idea of "possession" - Linden breaks Covenant's catatonia and thwarts Kasreyn's efforts to seize the ring. Covenant and the Haruchai fight their way to Kasreyn's laboratory, but discover that Kasreyn has a parasitic being, a croyel, living on his back and providing him with extended longevity, as well as immunity to physical attack. Findail destroys this croyel, killing Kasreyn and setting off a palace coup that leaves the port in a state of chaos.
The ship narrowly escapes, and further travel eventually brings the quest to the island where the One Tree is located. Brinn, Covenant's Haruchai bodyguard, sacrifices himself in a duel with the Tree's Guardian ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol (himself a figure from Haruchai mythology who represents their idea of the perfect warrior), and is then regenerated as the new Guardian and leads the party to the Tree itself.
When Covenant attempts to take a piece of the Tree using his power of wild magic, he is stopped by Cable Seadreamer, the mute giant. When Seadreamer makes the attempt himself, he is killed: he has disturbed the Worm of the World's End, which sleeps beneath the Tree and whose "aura" serves as a defense mechanism. This aura triggers Covenant's power to an exponential degree. As Covenant attempts to overwhelm the Worm with his power, Findail warns Linden that the Arch of Time cannot contain the struggle between the two powers and that the world will be destroyed if it continues.
Linden, much against her will, mentally reaches out to Covenant. Sharing his thoughts, she sees him open a passage back to the "real" world and attempts to return her to it. She senses, however, that in the "real" world Covenant's body is very weak (from the stab wound inflicted just before the summoning) and will die if he does not himself return. Unwilling to do this, Covenant draws Linden back through the rift between the worlds. With her help, he is able to contain his power, but at the price of the Isle of the One Tree sinking beneath the ocean as the earth heaves with the movements of the Worm of the World's End settling back from disturbance into slumber. Thus, the quest ends in failure.