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The One Tree  
cover of The One Tree
Cover of The One Tree
Author Stephen R. Donaldson
Cover artist Darrell K. Sweet
Country United States
Language English
Series The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
Genre(s) Fantasy novel
Publisher Del Rey
Publication date 1982
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 496 pp
ISBN ISBN 0-345-34869-9 (USA paperback)
OCLC Number 33938656
Preceded by The Wounded Land
Followed by White Gold Wielder

The One Tree is the second book of the second trilogy of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever fantasy series written by Stephen R. Donaldson. It is followed by White Gold Wielder.

Plot summary

This book differs from the others in the First and Second Chronicles, in that the story takes place outside of the Land, but still in the same world.

Following the vision he received in the prior novel, 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 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, sea-faring 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 energy field which binds this universe together. 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.

Leaving the Elohim, 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 group is 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, but it is discovered that the true ruler is a wizard named Kasreyn of the Gyre. Kasreyn abducts Covenant, who is still in a catatonic state, and attempts to use his powers to compel Covenant to give his ring to Kasreyn. The attempt is thwarted when the Haruchai are able to break into Kasreyn's laboratory, and Kasreyn is discovered to have a parasitic being, a croyel, living on his back and providing him with extended longevity. Findail destroys this croyel.

The ship is repaired, but 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 creature of the gaddhi's guard). Linden is able to break Covenant's catatonia to thwart an attempt to take his ring from him. The ship narrowly escapes from the port, and further travel eventually brings the group 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.

The giant Worm of the World's End sleeps beneath the One Tree, and taking wood will wake it, triggering the end of the world. When Covenant attempts to take a piece of The One 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, activating the "aura" which serves the Tree as a defense mechanism and disturbing the Worm. This aura triggers Covenant's power to an exponential degree. As Covenant attempts to overwhelm the aura with his power, Findail warns Linden that the Arch of Time cannot contain the struggle between the two powers and 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.

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