The epic voyages continue in The Tree of Water, the fourth adventure in bestselling author Elizabeth Haydon's acclaimed fantasy series for young readers, The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme.
As Royal Reporter of the land of Serendair, it is the duty of young Charles Magnus "Ven" Polypheme to travel the world and seek out magic hiding in plain sight. But Ven needs to escape the clutches of the nefarious Thief Queen, ruler of the Gated City, whose minions are hunting for him. His friend, the merrow Amariel, has the perfect solution to his dilemma: Ven and Char will join her to explore the world beneath the sea.
As they journey through the sea, Ven finds himself surrounded by wonders greater than he could have ever imagined. But the beauty of the ocean is more than matched by the dangers lurking within its depths, and Ven and his friends soon realize that in order to save thousands of innocent lives, they may have to sacrifice their own. For everything in the ocean needs to eat...
"A delightful epic fantasy that will attract a readership both older and younger than the target audience." -Booklist (starred review) on The Floating Island
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
ELIZABETH HAYDON is the author of the bestselling Symphony of Ages fantasy series, which began with Rhapsody. The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, set in the same enchanted world, is her first series for young readers. She lives on the East Coast with her husband and children.
As the daughter of an air force officer, ELIZABETH HAYDON began traveling at an early age and has since traveled all over the world. She draws on the imagery of these visits in The Symphony of Ages series, and blends her love of music, anthropology, herbalism and folklore into much of her writing. Haydon is also a harpist and a madrigal singer (a singer of medieval songs). She lives with her family on the East Coast.
Brandon Dorman is the illustrator of The Tree of Water.
Read an Excerpt
The Tree of Water
By Elizabeth Haydon, Brandon Dorman
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2014 Elizabeth Haydon
All rights reserved.
To Go, or Not to Go
Ven Polypheme had two sets of eyes staring at him.
One set was black as coal. The other was green as the sea.
Neither of them looked happy.
The green eyes were floating, along with a nose, forehead, and hair on which a red cap embroidered with pearls sat, just above the surface of the water beneath the old abandoned dock. The brows above the eyes were drawn together. They looked annoyed.
The black ones were in the middle of the face of his best friend, Char, who stood beside him on the dock. They looked anxious.
In the distance a bell began to toll. Ven looked to his left at the docks of the fishing village to the south of them, where work had begun hours ago. Then he looked behind him. The sleepy town of Kingston in the distance was just beginning to wake up.
Ven looked back down into the water.
"Come on, Amariel," he said to the floating eyes. "I can't really go off into the sea without him."
A glorious tail of colorful scales emerged from below the surface, splashing both boys with cold salt water.
"Why not?" a girl's voice demanded from the waves. "He's a pest. And he isn't nice to me."
Char's black eyes widened.
"I — I'm sorry 'bout that," he stammered. "When I first met you, Ven didn't tell me you were a mermaid —" He shivered as another splash drenched him again. "Er, I mean merrow. I'm sorry if I made you mad."
"Please let him come," Ven said. "Captain Snodgrass gave him orders to keep an eye on me. So if I'm going to explore the sea with you, he kinda has to come along."
Char nodded. "Cap'n's orders."
"He's not my captain," said the merrow. "I don't take orders from humans. You know better, Ven. My mother will fillet me if she finds out I'm traveling with a human male. Especially if we are going to go exploring. There are very clear rules about not showing humans around the wonders of the Deep. And besides, it's dangerous. You have no idea how many sea creatures think humans are tasty. I don't want to get chomped on by mistake."
Out of the corner of his eye, Ven watched Char's face go white.
"We'll be careful," he promised. "Char will be on his best behavior."
"I've seen his best behavior. I'm not impressed."
"Look," Char said. "If you get sick of me, you can always cover me with fish guts and toss me out as shark bait."
The merrow stared coldly at him.
"Oh, all right," she said finally. "But remember, there's a reason they call bait for sharks chum. 'Chum' is another word for 'friend.'" Her eyes stayed locked on Char. "And if you make a bunch of sharks angry, Chum —"
"I'll be chum," Char said. "Got it."
"So if you're coming, we have to find a fisherman named Asa with a red-bottomed boat." Amariel pointed south to one of the far docks. "He'll cut your gills, and we can get going."
Both boys grabbed their necks.
The merrow rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on. Do you want to be able to breathe underwater or not? Gills are the only way I know of to do that. I'm tired of waiting. Decide whether you're coming or whether I'm leaving."
"We're coming," Ven said as he let go of his neck. "Sorry — it's just instinct. Let's go."
Char nodded, but did not remove his hands.
The merrow disappeared below the surface of the water.
The two boys hurried south over the packed sand along the shore.
"Ya know, it's not too late to change your mind, Ven," Char muttered. "We could get a boat or somethin', and follow her out to sea, like we did when we were chasing the Floatin' Island, and then dive down to see whatever she wants to show us —"
"You can stay on shore if you want to, Char," Ven said, trying to see the merrow in between the waves. "But I promised her a long time ago that I would explore her world with her. It's now or never."
"Have it your way," Char said gloomily. "You always do anyway."
They followed the pebbly path in the sand south until the fishing village came into sight. Several long piers led out into the harbor, with docks along each of them. Small boats lined the docks. At each boat fishermen were hauling nets filled with flapping fish and cages with crabs and lobsters onto the piers. Seagulls flew in great wide circles above, screeching and crying, then diving for food.
"So how did she happen to find this Asa, and how does she know he won't just cut our throats?" Char asked as they picked their way among barrels and pieces of rope on the slats of the pier.
Ven shrugged. "No idea. But sailors and merrows have a pretty good connection." He pointed about halfway down the pier, where a small green fishing boat with a red bottom bobbed lazily in the morning tide. A wrinkled man in a wrinkled hat sat on a barrel at the edge of the dock, cleaning his morning catch of fish. "Could that be him?"
Char squinted. "I guess so."
"Come on. We may as well ask. If it's not Asa, he probably knows where to find him. Fishermen all know each other."
The two boys walked along the pier, stepping out of the way of men dragging lobster traps and heavy netting, until they got to the red-bottomed boat. They stopped behind the elderly fisherman, who did not seem to notice they were there.
Ven coughed politely.
"Excuse me, sir — are you Asa?"
The fisherman looked up from his work, his sky-blue eyes twinkling in the sun.
"Er, my name is Ven, sir. I was told I might find a fisherman at this dock who could, uh, cut gills."
The wrinkly man nodded. "Well, Ven, you've found 'im. But I can't say as I've heard of any recent wrecks."
Ven blinked. "Pardon?"
"Shipwrecks," said the fisherman. "That's the only reason I know of for a man to risk a slice in his neck — to salvage the treasure from the bones of a shipwreck."
"Oh." Ven and Char exchanged a glance, then looked off the edge of the dock.
In the water behind the boat, the beautiful tail of multicolored scales was waving at them from beneath the surface.
"Uh, we weren't really planning to dive for treasure," Ven continued, trying to block the sight of the merrow's tail. "We just want to do some exploring."
The fisherman's eyebrows arched.
"The sea's no place to explore without a good reason, lads," he said seriously. "Lots of bad stuff down there — believe you me. The only reason a man takes his life into his hands on a daily basis by going out there is to make a living for his family. Otherwise, we'd farm the land." The blue eyes twinkled. "If we knew how."
"Well, we'd really like to have gills, nonetheless," Ven said. "We've been told you know how to, er, cut them without too much pain — and safely. Is that true?"
Asa exhaled, then nodded.
"I suppose that depends on how much is too much where pain is concerned," he said. "That's really up to you. It's not my business what you're doing. We mind our own business on the sea. If you want gills, and you're willing to take the risk, I can cut 'em for you right quick." He held up a thin silver filleting knife. "Then I have to get back to cleaning my catch. So, what'll it be? Make haste, now."
Char and Ven looked at each other once more, then nodded at the same time.
"We're in," said Char.
"All right then," said Asa. He reached into the boat and took hold of the top of a small sea chest that held his tackle. He slammed it closed and put it on the dock in front of them. "Kneel down and put your heads on this chest, your left ears down."
The boys obeyed.
"Well, 's been good to know you," Char whispered as they positioned their heads on the chest.
"Shhh," Ven whispered back. "We're not being executed, for pity's sake."
"You hope we're not. You never know."
Asa wiped the filleting knife on his trousers, then came and stood over Ven.
"Hold very still, now."
Char winced and put his hand over his eyes.
Ven started to close his eyes as well.
Suddenly, from the end of the dock near town, a bright flash of rainbow-colored light blinded him.
And the world seemed to stop around him.CHAPTER 2
The Fortune Teller's Return
Ven looked east into the light of the climbing sun.
A tall, thin shadow was standing there where nothing had been a moment before. The rays of morning light made it look like the shadow was dancing in the air, which had suddenly become still and heavy.
Ven's eyes opened wide.
"Madame Sharra?" he whispered.
He blinked. The shadow came into focus.
Standing at the edge of the pier near town was a woman of great height, with golden skin and eyes. The eyes were watching him closely.
The golden eyes did not blink in return.
"Is this how you intend to bring my prophecy to its end, Ven Polypheme?"
"Excuse me?" Ven stammered.
"You are allowing a man you just met to slash your throat? Why?"
Ven sat up, careful to avoid the knife in the fisherman's motionless hand above him, and began walking toward the golden woman.
"Er — well, I need to be able to breathe underwater." As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Ven could almost feel them fall foolishly to the ground in the heavy air around him. He swallowed and tried again. "So I can go into the sea."
Madame Sharra's expression did not change.
"For what reason is a Nain, a son of the Earth, going into the sea?"
Ven blinked again. His eyes felt as heavy as his tongue.
"Lots of reasons," he said slowly. "Amariel — the merrow over there — she's my friend." He pointed to the motionless tail rising out of the water, just the fluke fin visible. "I've been promising her for a long time I would come and explore the sea with her. It's her home. She came out of the sea to explore my world — she grew legs, in fact, and —"
"A good reason, perhaps, but good enough to risk death?" asked the golden woman. "Is there another reason?"
"Well, it's sort of my job." Even as he spoke the words, Ven thought they sounded silly. "King Vandemere — the ruler of this island — has asked me to make note of any magic hiding in plain sight in the course of my travels. He — he thinks I have the ability to see that magic, and he wants to protect it. He thinks there is a great magical puzzle, and when we have enough pieces, we can solve it, and know why the world was made and what we are supposed to do with it. I've been keeping notes in my journals —"
The golden eyes did not blink.
"There certainly is a great deal of magic to be found in the sea. A great deal of danger as well. You can find magic hiding almost anywhere you look. Why the sea?"
Ven's mind felt like it was slowing down along with the world around him. "Uh, well, you were the one who warned me that the Thief Queen in the Gated City was searching for me. It will be hard for her to find me in the sea, won't it?"
Madame Sharra let her breath out slowly. Ven thought he could see it sparkle in the air as she did. She glanced back over her shoulder to the north, where the Gated City stood within the walls of Kingston.
"If that is your reason, I suggest you leave as quickly as you can once I am gone."
Ven followed her glance.
The sky in the distance was darkening with what looked like thin black clouds. Ven stared harder.
Though they were barely moving, he could see that what he thought were clouds was actually a gathering flock of dark birds.
"Ravens," he whispered. "She knows I'm here. Felonia knows I'm here."
"Perhaps." Madame Sharra looked back at him, and her eyes narrowed. "Only one full turn of the moon has passed since last you and I met on the northern docks by the Gated City, Ven Polypheme. I warned you then that she and all her minions were seeking you. You left Westland to escape the Thief Queen's spies. For what reason did you return so soon?"
Ven coughed nervously. "I — had to get Amariel back to the sea," he said. "If I hadn't, she would have stopped being a merrow and been human forever."
"That seems folly. You don't appear to have spent too much thought on your reasons for making important decisions, Ven Polypheme." The golden woman looked down into her hands. "But then, one does not always know the reason at the beginning of a journey. Sometimes you find the reason in the course of it. What matters is that at the end, you know why you undertook the journey in the first place."
She extended her long, slender hand.
"These will spare your throat, and that of your friend," Madame Sharra said. "Take them."
Ven obeyed. The stones were icy cold to the touch, and vibrated with what almost seemed like a hum.
"What are they?"
The golden woman smiled slightly.
"Hold your breath," she said.
Ven obeyed. He took air deep into his lungs and held it.
After what seemed like five or more minutes, he held out his hands in question.
"Elemental wind," Madame Sharra said. "Living Air, left over from when the world was new. You don't need to breathe as long as it is on your person, so guard these carefully. They will breathe for you. If they are lost, however, the need to breathe returns immediately, no matter where you are, even fathoms deep in the sea. Should that happen, it is unlikely you will be able to return to the surface in time, and even if you do, coming up too quickly can be worse than drowning."
Ven let his breath out. "Thank you," he said. His voice was filled with awe. He put the stones in the buttoned pocket of his vest and rebuttoned it carefully.
"You still have one of the other gifts you have received from me," Madame Sharra went on. She pointed to his palm, where the image of an hourglass, thread, and scissors could still be seen. "You have chosen not to make use of the gift of the Time Scissors?"
"Not yet," Ven admitted. "I'm a little nervous about undoing something I've done in the Past. I want to make sure that there is no other choice when I resort to that."
"Wise of you. And the dragon-scale card? What have you done with that?"
Ven swallowed hard.
"I — uh — gave it to a dragon named Scarnag I met in the eastern lands past the Great River." When the golden woman remained silent, he pressed on. "It came from the, er, hide of his mother."
Madame Sharra was quiet for a moment. Then she reached into the folds of her robe and took out a thick oval stone casing, black as midnight, and handed it to Ven.
He carefully ran his finger over the slit at the top.
The sharp ridge seemed to have vanished.
He tried again.
Ven looked at the top of the Black Ivory sleeve carefully. He could still see what looked like the ridge of a dragon scale, but when he tried to touch it, there was nothing there.
"Is it empty?"
"For the moment." Madame Sharra passed her right hand over her left. In the left hand a deck of dragon-scale cards appeared, spread out like a fan. Each was a dull gray, scored with scratches. The light of the morning sun, frozen in the sky, revealed all the colors in them, causing them to flash like the rainbow Ven always saw whenever Madame Sharra appeared.
Ahh, he thought. It's not her — it's the scales that cause the flash. That makes sense.
"Does one of these cards call to you?" Madame Sharra asked.
Ven stared at the deck.
At first he saw no difference between them. Then, after a closer look, one of the scales tucked within the fan began to glow and vibrate with a tinge of indigo blue. Deep in his ears, it felt as if a very large bell had rung and was vibrating still.
Excerpted from The Tree of Water by Elizabeth Haydon, Brandon Dorman. Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Haydon. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. To Go, or Not to Go,
2. The Fortune Teller's Return,
4. Eyes in the Sky,
5. Thrum, Drift, and Sunshadow,
6. Kingston Harbor,
7. On the Skelligs,
9. The Herring Ball,
10. The Coral Reef,
11. A Deadly Song,
13. The Drowning Cave,
14. The Airwheel,
15. An Uneasy Truce,
16. Back to the Drift,
17. Into the Deep,
18. The Underwater Forest,
20. The Desert Beneath the Sea,
21. A Cage of Bones,
22. The Octopus's Garden,
23. In Coral Cathedrals,
24. Feeding Frenzy,
25. The Summer Festival,
26. The Wild Hippocampus Roundup,
27. The Second-to-the-Last Race,
28. A Coming Storm,
29. The Waterspout,
30. At the Edge of Twilight,
32. A Risky Negotiation,
33. A Bargain Struck and Fulfilled,
34. The Diving Bell,
35. Descent into Darkness,
36. The Abyss,
37. All the Way Down,
38. At the Bottom of the World,
39. Letting Go of the Last Lifeline,
40. The Real Queen of the Sea,
41. The Fulfillment of Most of Two Prophecies,
42. Another Riddle Answered,
43. A Familiar Friend,
44. A Mysterious Reunion,
45. A Rescue, Long Time in Coming,
46. The Return,
47. The Surprise,
Excerpt from ITL[The Floating Island]ITL,
Also by Elizabeth Haydon,