The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
For ten years after the events of The Power That Preserves, Covenant lives alone on Haven Farm, writing novels. He is still an outcast, but he has one friend, Dr. Julius Berenford. Then, however, two damaged women enter his life.
His ex-wife, Joan, returns to him, violently insane. Leaving Roger with her parents, she has spent some time in a commune which has dedicated itself to the service of Despite, and which has chosen Covenant to be the victim of its evil. Hoping to spare anyone else the hazards of involvement, Covenant attempts to care for Joan alone.
When Covenant refuses aid, Dr. Berenford enlists Dr. Linden Avery, a young physician whom he has recently hired. Like Joan, she has been badly hurt, although in entirely different ways. As a young girl, she was locked in a room with her father while he committed suicide. And as a teenager, she killed her mother, an act of euthanasia to which she felt compelled by her mother’s illness and pain. Loathing death, Linden has become a doctor in a haunted attempt to erase her past.
At Dr. Berenford’s urging, she intrudes on Covenant’s treatment of his ex-wife. When members of Joan’s commune attack Haven Farm, seeking Covenant’s death, Linden attempts to intervene, but she is struck down before she can save him. As a result, she accompanies him when he is returned to the Land.
During Covenant’s absence, several thousand years have passed, and the Despiser has regained his power. As before, he seeks to use Covenant’s wild magic in order to break the Arch of Time and escape his prison. In The Wounded Land,however, Covenant and Linden soon learn that Lord Foul has fundamentally altered his methods. Instead of relying on armies and warfare to goad Covenant, the Despiser has devised an attack on the natural Law which gives the Land its beauty and health.
The overt form of this attack is the Sunbane, a malefic corona around the sun which produces extravagant surges of fertility, rain, drought, and pestilence in mad succession. So great is the Sunbane’s power and destructiveness that it has come to dominate all life in the Land. Yet the Sunbane is not what it appears to be. And its organic virulence serves primarily to mask Lord Foul’s deeper manipulations.
He has spent centuries corrupting the Council of Lords. That group now rules over the Land as the Clave; and it is led by a Raver, one of the Despiser’s most ancient and potent servants. The Clave extracts blood from the people of the Land to feed the Banefire, an enormous blaze which purportedly hinders the Sunbane, but which actually increases it.
However, the hidden purpose of the Clave and the Banefire is to inspire from Covenant an excessive exertion of wild magic. And toward that end, another Raver afflicts Covenant with a venom intended to cripple his control over his power. When the venom has done its work, Covenant will be unable to defend the Land without unleashing so much force that he destroys the Arch.
As for Linden Avery, Lord Foul intends to use her loathing of death against her. She alone is gifted or cursed with the health-sense which once informed and guided all the people of the Land by enabling them to perceive physical and emotional health directly. For that reason, she is uniquely vulnerable to the malevolence of the Sunbane,
as well as to the insatiable malice of the Ravers. The manifest evil into which she has been plunged threatens the core of her identity.
Linden’s health-sense accentuates her potential as a healer. However, it also gives her the capacity to possess other people; to reach so deeply into them that she can control their actions. By this means, Lord Foul intends to cripple her morally: he seeks to transform her into a woman who will possess Covenant in order to misuse his power. Thus she will give the Despiser what he wants even if Covenant does not.
And if those ploys fail, Lord Foul has other stratagems in place to achieve his ends.
Horrified in their separate ways by what has been done to the Land, Covenant and Linden wish to confront the Clave in Revelstone; but on their own, they cannot survive the complex perils of the Sunbane. Fortunately they gain the help of two villagers, Sunder and Hollian. Sunder and Hollian have lived with the Sunbane all their lives, and their experience enables Covenant and Linden to avoid ruin as they travel.
But Linden, Sunder, and Hollian are separated from Covenant near a region known as Andelain, captured by the Clave while he enters Andelain alone. It was once the most beautiful and Earthpowerful place in the Land; and he now discovers that it alone remains intact, defended from the Sunbane by the last Forestal, Caer-Caveral, who was formerly Hile Troy. There Covenant encounters his Dead, the spectres of his long-gone friends. They offer him advice and guidance for the struggle ahead. And they give him a gift: a strange ebony creature named Vain, an artificial being created for a hidden purpose by ur-viles, former servants of the Despiser.
Aided by Waynhim, benign relatives—and ancient enemies—of the ur-viles, Covenant hastens toward Revelstone to rescue his friends. When he encounters the Clave, he learns the cruelest secret of the Sunbane: it was made possible by his destruction of the Staff of Law thousands of years ago. Desperate to undo the harm which he has unwittingly caused, he risks wild magic in order to free Linden, Sunder, and Hollian, as well as a number of Haruchai, powerful warriors who at one time served the Council of Lords.
With his friends, Vain, and a small group of Haruchai, Covenant sets out to locate the One Tree, the wood from which Berek originally fashioned the Staff of Law. Covenant hopes to devise a new Staff with which to oppose the Clave and the Sunbane.
Traveling eastward, toward the Sunbirth Sea, Covenant and his companions encounter a party of Giants, seafaring beings from the homeland of the lost Giants of Seareach. One of them, Cable Seadreamer, has had a vision of a terrible threat to the Earth, and the Giants have sent out a Search to discover the danger.
Convinced that this threat is the Sunbane, Covenant persuades the Search to help him find the One Tree; and in The One Tree, Covenant, Linden, Vain, and several Haruchai set sail aboard the Giantship Starfare’s Gem, leaving Sunder and Hollian to rally the people of the Land against the Clave.
The quest for the One Tree takes Covenant and Linden first to the land of the Elohim, cryptic beings of pure Earthpower who appear to understand and perhaps control the destiny of the Earth. The Elohim agree to reveal the location of the One Tree, but they exact a price: they cripple Covenant’s mind, enclosing his consciousness in a kind of stasis, purportedly to protect the Earth from his growing power, but in fact to prevent him from carrying out Vain’s unnamed purpose. Guided now by Linden’s determination rather than Covenant’s, the Search sets sail for the Isle of the One Tree.
Unexpectedly, however, they are joined by one of the Elohim, Findail, who has been Appointed to bear the consequences if Vain’s purpose does not fail.
Linden soon finds that she is unable to free Covenant’s mind without possessing him, which she fears to do, knowing that she may unleash his power. When events force her to a decision, however, she succeeds at restoring his consciousness—much to Findail’s dismay.
At last, Starfare’s Gem reaches the Isle of the One Tree, where one of the Haruchai, Brinn, succeeds at replacing the Tree’s Guardian. But when Covenant, Linden, and their companions approach their goal, they learn that they have been misled by the Despiser—and by the Elohim. Covenant’s attempt to obtain wood for a new Staff of Law begins to rouse the Worm of the World’s End. Once awakened, the Worm will accomplish Lord Foul’s release from Time.
At the cost of his own life, Seadreamer succeeds at making Linden aware of the true danger. She in turn is able to forestall Covenant. Nevertheless the Worm has been disturbed, and its restlessness forces the Search to flee as the Isle sinks into the sea, taking the One Tree beyond reach.
Defeated, the Search sets course for the Land in White Gold Wielder. Covenant now believes that he has no alternative except to confront the Clave directly, to quench the Banefire, and then to battle the Despiser; and Linden is determined to aid him, in part because she has come to love him, and in part because she fears his unchecked wild magic.
With great difficulty, they eventually reach Revelstone, where they are rejoined by Sunder, Hollian, and several Haruchai. Together the Land’s few defenders give battle to the Clave. After a fierce struggle, the companions corner the Raver which commands the Clave. There Seadreamer’s brother, Grimmand Honninscrave, sacrifices his life in order to make possible the “rending” of the Raver. Then Covenant flings himself into the Banefire, using its dark theurgy to transform the venom in his veins so that he can quench the Banefire without threatening the Arch. The Sunbane remains, but its evil no longer grows.
When the Clave has been dispersed, and Revelstone has been cleansed, Covenant and Linden turn toward Mount Thunder, where they believe that they will find the Despiser. As they travel, still followed by Vain and Findail, Linden’s fears mount. She realizes that Covenant does not mean to fight Lord Foul. That contest, Covenant believes, will unleash enough force to destroy Time. Afraid that he will surrender to the Despiser, Linden prepares herself to possess him again, although she now understands that possession is a greater evil than death.
Yet when she and Covenant finally face Lord Foul, deep within the Wightwarrens of Mount Thunder, she is possessed herself by a Raver; and her efforts to win free of that dark spirit’s control leave her unwilling to interfere with Covenant’s choices. As she has feared, he does surrender, giving Lord Foul his ring. But when the Despiser turns wild magic against Covenant, slaying his body, the altered venom is burned out of Covenant’s spirit, and he becomes a being of pure wild magic, able to sustain the Arch despite the fury of Lord Foul’s attacks. Eventually the Despiser expends so much of his own essence that he effectively defeats himself; and Covenant’s ring falls to Linden.
Meanwhile, she has gleaned an understanding of Vain’s purpose—and of Findail’s Appointed role. Vain is pure structure: Findail, pure fluidity. Using Covenant’s ring, Linden melds the two beings into a new Staff of Law. Then, guided by her health-sense and her physician’s instincts, she reaches out with the restored power of Law to erase the Sunbane and begin the healing of the Land.
When she is done, Linden fades from the Land and returns to her own world, where she finds that Covenant is indeed dead. Yet she now holds his wedding ring. And when Dr. Berenford comes looking for her, she discovers that her time with Covenant and her own victories have transformed her. She is now truly Linden Avery the Chosen, as she was called in the Land: she can choose to live her old life in an entirely new way.