One day twelve-year-old Tirissa discovers that everyone in her village is under a spell. Everyone but her!
Then she sees a mysterious stranger change into a huge bird, a bird with a beak like a sword. Did he cast the spell?
Desperate to find someone who can break it, she flees, leaving her village behind. An old herbwoman tells her to seek help from a wizard who lives far away, and her journey takes her across the Three Kingdoms.
Along the way she’s joined by a kindly troll and a short, fat palace guard. They are pursued by the twin princes of Kellayne, the best hunters in the Blue River Kingdom, as well as by the huge, dangerous bird.
Meanwhile, an evil wizard watches Tirissa and her friends in his magic mirror and plans a second spell that will kill everyone in the Three Kingdoms.
Tirissa climbed Oakenwood Hill at dawn, following the path between the big, gnarled oak trees she loved so well. The misty light filtered down through the autumn leaves and the Full Moon hung low in the West, white against the pale sky. She climbed the hill every morning at first light, but today seemed different because the birds weren’t singing. Even when she scattered the breadcrumbs she’d brought, none of her little friends flew down from the trees or bushes. She looked around for anything that might have scared them away, but no hawks were gliding above and no cats were prowling below. Something was wrong, though—she could feel it.
Her skin prickled.
Just then a huge shadow passed overhead. It went by so quickly that when she looked up, whatever had flown over was gone and the sky was empty. A moment later nearby branches creaked as though about to break. Something had landed in a tree. Something big. She turned and raced for home, back down the hill, across the meadow, and past the plum orchard. Smoke rose from the chimney of her family’s stone cottage and she ran to it and threw open the door.
Her sister Mori, her father, and her brother Gart were seated at the table and they looked up from their bowls of oatmeal. Her mother turned from the fireplace where she was tending a pot, her round face reddened from the heat. She said, “Tirissa, sit down and have your oatmeal while it’s still warm. I put in some ripe plums and honey, just the way you like it.”
“I have to tell you what happened,” she said, trying to catch her breath.
“Tell us while you eat,” her mother said.
Tirissa sat down. “When I was up on the hill, a big shadow passed over and then something heavy landed in a tree.”
“A giant bird?” Mori’s eyes widened.
Gart shouted, “Let’s go look!”
“Settle down, son.” Tirissa’s father spoke calmly. “So you didn’t actually see what it was, Tirissa?”
“No, but it had to be a bird bigger than me!”
Gart jumped up.
“Sit down.” His father gave him a pointed look. “None of you are going up there.”
“And don’t you either,” Tirissa’s mother said to her husband.
“I’d best see what’s going on.” He ate the last of his oatmeal and stood up. “Son, go on to the fields and start stacking the hay we cut yesterday. Soon as I check up on the hill, I’ll join you.”
“But Father, a giant bird!” Gart said.
Tirissa and Mori rolled their eyes at each other—Gart was crazy to want to go looking for some big, scary thing.
“Father, please let me come!” Gart begged.
“Absolutely not.” His father put on his jacket. “Off to the fields now.”
“Good thing you knew enough to hurry home, Tirissa,” her mother said to her.
Just then something shifted, as though the air had shivered or the Earth had trembled. Tirissa said, “What was that?”
“What was what?” Mori glanced up but kept eating her oatmeal.
“I don’t know, but I felt something.” Tirissa stared at Mori. The gleam had gone out of her sister’s eyes, now no livelier than the oatmeal congealing in her bowl.
Her father stood at the door. “Let’s go, Gart.” His voice was flat. “That hay won’t stack itself.”
Tirissa was puzzled. “Aren’t you going up on the hill?”
“About that fool story you told?” He looked at her as though he didn’t know her and didn’t want to. “Bunch of nonsense. You’re imagining things.”
Mori said, “So you saw a shadow—so what?”
Tirissa felt frozen out of the family. “What’s the matter with everyone?”
“Don’t know what you mean.” From the blank look her father gave her, it seemed like he really didn’t know. “Come on, Gart.”
Gart stood up without his usual protests and made no mention of the huge bird. He put on his jacket and headed out the door with his father.
Their mother said nothing to them as they left and then she turned to Tirissa with cold eyes. “I wish you’d be on time in the morning. I don’t see why you have to go up on the hill anyway.”
“I thought you understood,” Tirissa said, downcast. She loved walking among the trees. It felt as though just beyond them was a magical place, if only she could get there.
She looked at the door where her father had gone out and she realized he hadn’t hugged her mother when he left. She’d never seen them take leave of each other without a quick kiss. Had everyone in the family stopped caring about one another all of a sudden? She felt sick to her stomach.
Her mother stood up and said, “Wash those dishes, Mori,” as she did every morning when she went to her loom. Most days Mori, dawdling and complaining, waited to be told again, but today she jumped to her feet and gathered up the dirty bowls and spoons. Usually quick to chatter, she didn’t say a word to Tirissa or even look her way.
Tirissa went out to the pens to feed the pigs, goats, and chick¬ens. Until today, she’d always felt as much a part of the family as the rest of them, but now she thought of something she didn’t often remember, that she hadn’t been born into this family. Instead, she’d been adopted. One day a woman had come to the village and given birth to Tirissa. The woman died the same day and a kind family had taken her in—now they were her family. Surely that didn’t have anything to do with how they’d pulled away from her today—no, because they’d pulled away from each other. What could be going on? She took comfort from the animals that gathered around her and the baby that goat nuzzled her and tried to eat one of the buttons on her dress. When she went back into the cottage, Mori was still washing dishes, her long blond braid hanging down her back.
“Mori, what’s wrong?”
Mori turned around, and for a moment she looked puzzled, as though wondering the same thing, but then her eyes went dead again. She turned back and continued washing the dishes. Tirissa felt a chill down to her bones. From one moment to the next, they had become strangers. She didn’t ask any more questions.
Willow lives in Northern California with her husband, her elderly dog, and the two invisible dragons that guard their house.
You can visit Willow’s website at http://www.tirissa.com/
November 4th - Review of Tirissa and the Necklace of Nulidor
November 10th - Willow's Guest Post
November 19th - Interview with Willow