Our story starts in a mysterious forest in Northern Ireland at a time when druids are still believed in but are not apparent and there is no such thing as machinery. In this forest there is a little house that is dug into a hill in the middle of a clearing. In this house an old woman, the grandmother of two 11-year-old girls named River and Hickory who are cousins and best friends, has just finished telling them about the druids and old magic that they loved to hear about. Both River and Hickory have black hair and eyes and they love animals and the stories that River's grandmother tells to them. They each have a dog: River's is a female Shetland border collie named Flicka, and Hickory's is also a female but it is a golden retriever and her name is Sun. They both love to explore the mysterious forest that surrounds the little house that River and her grandmother live in.
River's mother died when she was born and her father was a sailor whose ship was lost at sea in a storm and he hasn't been seen since. Hickory's parents own a large farm and they live between the edge of the forest and the river of Dar. On the other side of the river, there is the town of Ronan, where most of the people in the area live.
That day, River and Hickory decided to go for a walk with their dogs to one of the many secret places that they had found when they were exploring the forest. They set out and before long, they came to their destination, a hidden valley that they had found a few days ago. They scrambled down the steep sides of the valley with Sun and Flicka following and stood looking for a moment, wondering what to explore first. Hickory decided to climb the boulders that lined the side of the valley that went steeply upwards to become part of Mount Mircanan, a small mountain that could be seen from the town. River was still thinking about what she should explore when Hickory called to her in excitement.
River was still thinking about what she should explore when Hickory called to her in excitement.
She had found the entrance to a cave! River came running,with the dogs following her. “Really? It's really and truly a cave?” She asked excitedly. “Yes, isn't it amazing!” said Hickory. River and Hickory were elated! All their lives they had wanted to find a real cave that no one else knew about, and here it was: their very own secret cave. Luckily, they had brought candles and they wondered what they would find as they lit them in readiness to go into the passageway,while Sun and Flicka ran in circles wondering what it was all about.
They squeezed behind the large boulder that hid the entrance to the cave and found that to their amazement, the walls and floor were smooth and flat, as if someone had polished them with a stone. Also, for some reason, River and Hickory had the oddest sensation that the passageway was very, very old, older than Time itself, as if the last time a person had been in it had been thousands of years ago, yet strangely, it did not feel musty or neglected. Even the dogs seemed quietened, but River shrugged off the feeling and decided that it had been her imagination. Hickory wasn't so sure but she decided not to worry about it.
They went on and after a sharp bend to the right that doubled back on itself that had obviously been made so that no one could see the end from the entrance, they came to an archway that marked the end of the passageway. Through the archway it opened out into a circular cave about ten feet across with a beautiful, clear, pool in the middle and a small waterfall cascading from a hole in the roof of the cave into the pool. As they stood staring at the beauty of the pool, River and Hickory, with their dogs sitting beside them, realized that there were simple smooth stone benches lining the perimeter of the cave and the only breaks were for the archway and the space opposite it.
They decided that just for fun, they would jump through the waterfall and back and then race each other to the entrance to the cave. "Ready, Set, Go!" said River. They jumped and jumped again and funnily enough, Sun and Flicka followed them through the water. Then they ran together to the entrance of the cave with their dogs following them. River won and as they started to go back into the cave for another go, they suddenly saw a huge black dragon advancing towards them.
They screamed and ran away from the cave, at which point they stopped and realized that the dragon was chained to a boulder and they had run out of its reach. They saw that the dragon was now between them and the cave. As they looked around, they realized that everything was different from the way it had been when they had gone into the cave the first time. River decided that they had either gone backwards or forwards in Time while Hickory had the feeling that they were in a place between Times. Whenever and wherever they were, they both agreed that their main problem was how to get back to their own Time. Or rather, how to get past the dragon.
River and Hickory decided that they didn't need to be right next to a huge dragon while they were figuring out a way to get past it, so they set out to explore a bit. They were just resting in the shade of a huge old oak tree when they suddenly saw a person walking towards them. They jumped up and started climbing the tree but as the figure got closer, he called up to them in a kind voice that River thought she recognized but she forgot about it because of what he said next, "You must be River, and you must be Hickory, you may call me Erin." River and Hickory stared at each other in amazement, how did he know their names? When Hickory asked him that very question, he said, "The Old Ones told me."
Now River and Hickory knew all about the Old Ones from their grandmother's stories, there were three of them, the oldest was Orin, the grandson of Merlin himself. Then there was Auros and Riasa, the twins. Together, the Old Ones had created a small world of magic that was safe from Time. There was only one way to go in and out of the Valley of Magic, and if Erin could be believed, then they, River and Hickory, had found that way. They cautiously started to climb down the tree, and after they had talked with Erin for a few minutes, they decided to believe him because where else could they be, if they were not in the Valley of Magic?
They told Erin about what had happened to them and Erin told them that he would help them to get away from the Valley of Magic because a terrible thing had happened to it. It had been taken over by an evil wizard named Sethmoore. Sethmoore wanted to destroy the magic of the druids by making sure that no one would ever believe in the druids and their magic again for if no one believes in the magic, it will fade, and as their magic fades, so will the druids.
River and Hickory thought about what had happened and asked Erin why the Old Ones hadn't been able to stop Sethmoore. Erin responded that Sethmoore had taken them by surprise and hypnotized Auros and Riassa. He had tried to do the same to Orin, but though Orin's magic was not strong enough to fight back, he could still keep himself from becoming hypnotized. Sethmoore decided to lock him up until he was weak enough to be persuaded to tell Sethmoore all of his secrets, which is why Sethmoore did not kill the Old Ones in the first place. When River and Hickory hear this, they know that they must help Erin to free the Valley of Magic from the terrible rule of Sethmoore.
They told Erin, and after much arguing, he had to give in and together they decided that the first thing to do was to find out where Orin had been taken.
River asked Erin if he could use some magic to find out where they should go to rescue Orin, but Erin responded, "Unfortunately, I myself am not a druid at all and I have no magic. The only reason that I am in the Valley of Magic is that I was saved by the Old Ones when my ship was wrecked. But I do know someone who might have enough magic." Hickory asked Erin to take them to that person and after a long walk through the valley they finally arrived at a little house built into the branches and roots of a weeping willow near a small stream.
Erin went in after requesting that the girls stayed outside and after a few moments, he came back out with an old man. "This is my father, Tom, it was on his request that the Old Ones saved me from the wreck. I have told him about you and how you decided to help us free the Valley. He has consented to try to find out where Sethmoore has hidden Orin." He said. Tom went back inside his hut and soon came out again with bedrolls and chairs for Erin and the girls "I'm not sure how long I will take. It has been a long time since I last practiced magic." He replied in answer to Hickory asking him why he had brought the bedrolls. Then he once again went into the hut. That night, River and Hickory barely slept, they both lay thinking of home, and wondering what would happen to their world if Sethmoore wasn't stopped.
The next morning, the three of them were woken by the smell of sizzling bacon being cooked over the small fire that Tom used as a stove. After they had eaten their fill, Tom told them that he had found out where Orin had been taken. A cave at the top of Mount Mircanan. "It is heavily guarded and there is even a small dragon at the mouth of the cell where Orin is being kept. But there is another way to get into the cell; a stone trapdoor that cannot be seen from the inside unless you know about it. The entrance to the small passage that leads to it is not far from here, I can lead you to it. Follow me."
As they followed Tom, Erin and the girls discussed the details of rescuing Orin and wondered whether he would be strong enough to use his magic to find out how to destroy Sethmoore. A little while later, they came to the entrance to the passage that led to the cell where Orin was being kept. As they walked into the musty passage, River and Hickory quietly rehearsed the plan to free Orin while Erin was suddenly having doubts on the wisdom of bringing them and putting them in danger. The three of them went on up the flights of stairs all the same, after having said goodbye to Tom and insisting that he go straight back to his hut so that he would be safer when the guards realized that Orin was gone.
The stairs went on and on, going up into the darkness that seemed even darker after the relative brightness of the lamp that Erin carried. After what seemed like hours, the stairs stopped and when Erin covered the lamp, they could all see the faint crack of light that formed the shape of a square in the ceiling. "Phew, we did it!" gasped Hickory, breathless from the long climb. "Shh, listen", said Erin, they all heard the clump of boots and the creak of rusty hinges as a guard looked into Orin's cell to make sure that he was there.
The three of them held their breath, and River let out a long sigh as the echoing footsteps faded away. "That was close." she said. "Hurry, we don't know when the next one will come." whispered Erin. They slowly pushed on the trapdoor and they heard a gasp of surprise as the weight suddenly decreased and the trapdoor flew open. Erin quickly grabbed it before it banged on the wall and as they looked around they saw the person that had gasped. It was Orin! They could see by his long robes that he had been, and indeed still was, a very powerful druid with much magic. Erin decided to have no formalities and quickly said, "We have come to rescue you, hurry." Orin did just that and soon the four of them were walking as fast as possible down the stairs. As they went down, Orin told them the details of what had happened to him and Erin introduced the girls as the three of them told Orin what had happened after he had been locked up.
After a long time, they got to the bottom of the stairs and quickly made their way to Tom's hut. He welcomed them in and told them that Sethmoore's guards had come and looked for Orin and they would probably be back soon. "But I know a place where you can go and the guards will never find you there. Follow me." Erin, the girls, and the oldest One followed Tom up the stream and when they got to a small waterfall, he stopped and showed them the entrance to a small cave that was hidden by the water. "You will be safe here, the guards do not know of this place and the water will mask your scent from the dogs." said Tom, "I will go back to my hut now. Good luck."
The four of them waved goodbye to Tom and then proceeded to go into the cave behind the waterfall. When they were all safely behind the waterfall and out of sight of anyone who didn't know where to look, Erin asked the oldest One if he would be able to use his magic to find out how to destroy Sethmoore.
Orin replied that he had done that when he was in the cell inside Mount Mircacan and unfortunately, he had found out that none of Sethmoore's spells could be undone, and Sethmoore could not be destroyed unless the box that held all of his magic as well as the magic that he had stolen from all of the druids that he had hypnotized was opened. If the box was opened, the magic that Sethmoore had stolen would go back to the druids to whom it belonged, all of Sethmoore's spells would be undone, and Sethmoore himself would be weak enough to be overthrown even by someone without magic.
When Erin heard this, he remembered something. When he had been looking for a way to destroy Sethmoore, (This was before River and Hickory came into the Valley of Magic) he had seen a huge black dragon that he knew to be Sethmoore's, chained to a boulder. It had looked like it was guarding something that seemed to be the entrance to a cave. Erin had been about to approach it and try to find out what was in the cave when he had realized that it was growing late and he should go back to Tom's hut. The next day, when he went to try again, he forgot about it when he saw River and Hickory by the oak tree.
Erin said excitedly, "I think I might just know where Sethmoore hid the box!"
Erin said excitedly, "I think I might just know where Sethmoore hid the box!" "Really!? Where?" chorused River and Hickory, jumping up in excitement. "Shh, calm down. If there are guards about they might hear you." Orin said quietly. "Now Erin, tell us where you think the box might be and why it would be there."
So Erin told the girls and Orin about the huge, black dragon that was Sethmoore's and the possible cave that it was guarding. When he was done the others thought about it and decided that it was their best hope of finding the box and destroying Sethmoore, and that as soon as it got dark, they would go to the dragon and try to get past it.
As they were waiting for it to get dark, River and Hickory suddenly remembered that they had not seen Sun or Flicka since they had come into the Valley of Magic. They knew that the dogs had been with them in the cave and River thought she remembered seeing them come out of the cave and into the Valley of Magic, but they definitely had not been with them when they met Erin.
The girls decided not to worry about Flicka and Sun as both dogs were very capable, and they had more important things to think about at that time.
They were snapped out of their thoughts by the realization that the sun was setting. "Let's go." whispered Erin, leading the way. They walked in silence for a while and when they were getting close to their destination, Hickory said, "Wait a minute, this is where we came into the Valley of Magic!" She recognized the large oak that she and River had climbed when they had seen Erin. "Yes!" said River. "And the possible cave really is a cave, we were in it. I'm sure we'll find the box there, I saw some shelves along the entranceway with some boxes on them." Erin replied, "Good, now all we need to do is find a way to get past the dragon, though that will be quite hard." "There's the dragon."said Orin excitedly. "Now if only we had something to distract it with."
"Flicka! Sun!" said the girls, as they suddenly caught sight of their dogs. "There they are!" As River and Hickory happily greeted Flicka and Sun, Erin figured out an idea of how they could distract the dragon. "Orin, girls, I think I know how we can get past the dragon!"said Erin. "I will stand on guard while you three go in. The dogs can run just out of the dragon's reach, they will be fine because it is chained to a boulder, and while it is preoccupied with them, you can run into the cave and open the box." They all agreed to the plan so Erin stood guard, but then River and Hickory realized that they couldn't just tell their dogs to do what they wanted them to do.
They told Erin and just as he started to think about what to do, Sun and Flicka started running back and forth and teasing the dragon. "Quick, go into the cave." said Erin, giving the girls a push in the right direction. River and Hickory made it to the cave and waited in the entranceway for Orin. As soon as he got into the passageway, the three of them went along it slowly, feeling the smooth walls so as to make sure that there weren't any secret passageways where the box might be hidden that they might miss.
When they got to the archway where it widened out into a cave, they thoroughly searched the shelves and all of the boxes on them but there was nothing. "What will we do now?" said River anxiously. "There are no shelves in the cave." "We'll just have to search the cave and hope that there is a secret passageway with the box in it." said Hickory. That is what they did, they felt all of the walls and searched everywhere when Hickory suddenly said, "Isn't that a crack in the wall? Right over there, opposite the archway?" "It is!" said River. "I don't remember seeing it before." They went over to the crack and after Orin inspected it, he said, "It is a magic doorway. When you attempt to walk through it as if it were an open door, it will open up and allow you to pass through into the room beyond. Most magic doorways are hardly ever seen, good job Hickory!"
The three of them then proceeded to go through the doorway and when they were all inside, they crowded around the pedestal that was in the middle of the circular, closet-like room. On the pedestal, there sat a small, wooden box, inlaid with pearls and ivory. As soon as the they saw it, they all knew that it must be what they were looking for. "You might want to close your eyes, it will be very bright when I open it." said Orin. River and Hickory closed their eyes and then Orin opened the box.
Even through their eyelids the light was so bright that it hurt. Luckily, it only lasted a second and when they opened their eyes they could tell that there was a lot less magic in the room, and that something had changed. They didn't know how they knew, or what had changed, they just knew.
When they came out of the passageway into the open, something else had changed too. River took one look at Erin and knew why she had thought his voice sounded familiar, she suddenly remembered that her father's name was Erin! He was her father!
"I was put under a spell by Sethmoore that made you not recognize me, and I couldn't tell you who I was." said Erin. "But why do I recognize you now?" asked River. Orin answered for Erin. "When we opened the box, all of Sethmoore's magic escaped and all of his spells became undone. Now he has no more magic so Auros, Riasa and I can easily regain power and make sure that this will never happen again." River and Hickory called to Sun and Flicka and once they were all reunited once more, they set out for the place where the Old Ones lived together, with Orin in the lead. After a while, they came to a simple stone house cut into the mountain surrounded by beautiful trees and even a small stream.
Orin led the way through the door and welcomed them into the house that he shared with Auros and Riasa. "Sit down, sit down. Don't worry about Sethmoore, our best druids are at this moment tracking him down. He has absolutely no magic at all right now, and soon he will be in one of our safest cells being guarded by his own dragon, as well as the small one that was guarding me." Then he smiled. "And yes, we have made sure that it does not have any trapdoors or secret passageways leading to or from it!"
"And yes, we have made sure that it does not have any trapdoors or secret passageways leading to or from it!"
Just as they finished having lunch, Tom came in through the door and who should come in with him but River's grandmother! They stayed the rest of the day at the home of the Old Ones as the girls told grandmother all about their adventures while Tom listened to the parts of it that he had not been present at. After the story was done, Tom told grandmother and the girls that he had been visiting the Old Ones a few years ago after one of his merchanting voyages, when he had asked the Old Ones if they would use their magic to give him news of his son who, as a sailor, was often gone on long journeys. When he learned that Erin was in a shipwreck, he immediately asked the Old Ones to save him by bringing him to the Valley of Magic. He meant to leave as soon as possible because grandmother, who was his wife,expected his voyage to end that month, but Erin fell very sick and it was all that Tom and the Old Ones could do to keep him alive. Erin's sickness lasted for at least a year before he showed signs of recovery. When at last Erin was healthy enough for Tom to leave and tell grandmother where he had been all that time, Sethmoore came.
After Tom was done, Orin rose, and as it was quite late by then, suggested having some supper. Everyone agreed and as Orin prepared the meal, Auros and Riasa came into the room and sank down onto the couch, they were evidently very tired from hunting down Sethmoore. Auros had brown eyes and short brown hair, he was slighly taller than his twin sister Riasa, who had blue-green eyes and shoulder length reddish-auburn hair. They both had kind looking faces.
During supper,Auros and Riasa recounted the chase of Sethmoore. He had led them a long way but in the end they had captured him and put him in the cell that they had reserved for the worst people. They had also put several strong spells on him and the cell to make absolutely sure that he could never get out.
The next morning, Tom, River's grandmother, River, Hickory, and Erin all set out for River's grandmother's house with the blessings of the Old Ones. Once everyone had settled down and River and Hickory were alone with River's grandmother, she sat down and told them that she was the Keeper of the Old Traditions and it was her job to pass down the stories and traditions of the druids to keep their memory alive so that they would never be forgotten. She also told them that someday it would be their turn and they would have to pick someone to succeed them. The very lives of the druids and the Old Ones as well as the traditions and stories of the magical world would be in their hands.
"Well" said River's grandmother, "Now that you know all the important stuff for the future, let's go and see what we can do about supper. The one thing I know about adventures is that they always make you hungry enough to eat a horse!"