Sword, Garden & King
By Michael Phillips
Who would risk comparison with the beloved stories of the Narnian Chronicles? Certainly not fourteen year old Matthew Robinson. Matthew loves fairy tales. How could he know that he is about to step into an adventure as exciting and dangerous as Lucy’s in the snowy wood? Matthew’s odyssey begins so quietly and mysteriously, however, that he does not realize what is happening until he is in the middle of it.
During a visit to his grandparents, Matthew goes exploring in the forest near their home. He is accosted at the Tall Tree by two talking prairie dogs called Spunky and Ginger who tell him he is the prince sent to save the Forest of Pellanor from the deception of an evil man and woman who are stealing the children of the Forest from their families and plotting to take over the Forest.
Laughing the whole thing off, Matthew is awakened the next morning by a crow on his windowsill telling him he has been summoned by the king. Finally Matthew believes there might be something to what these talking animals are saying after all. He follows the crow to the edge of the Forest and arrives at the so-called Center of Enlightenment. He is welcomed and lauded by a man who introduces himself as Argon, king of the Forest. A great celebration and feast is in progress which Matthew assumes is to honor him as Prince. He eats to his heart’s content, and takes long draughts from a wonderfully fragrant and delicious drink.
Matthew does not yet know it, but he has been taken in by the very enemies Spunky and Ginger warned him about. Not realizing his peril, Matthew has partaken of pretender-king Argon’s magic truth-poisoning Elixir. It is now inside him and cannot be removed except by the most extreme measures.
Back at the Tall Tree, Matthew meets Crynac, a great peregrine falcon and the Wise One of the Forest. Crynac compels Matthew to tell them the truth. Matthew admits that he has seen Argon and has drunk of his Elixir. “It is as I feared,” Crynac says. “If the prince for whom we have been waiting has been turned to Argon’s cause, saving the Forest will be more difficult than we thought, and possibly more painful than the boy can endure. It is time to summon the Council.”
By now Matthew wants to help save the Forest. But the magic of the Elixir is inside him, and the pain from something terrible growing in his stomach is severe. Crynac leads him into the High Country and the fabled Gate of the Garden. When they arrive, Matthew is told that the only way to rid himself of Argon’s deception is to plunge the Sword of Ainran into the depths of his heart. Summoning all his courage, Matthew does so. A horrid, writhing snakelike demon appears from the wound. With all the strength he can summon, Matthew battles the creature and pulls it out and slices off its head. He has passed his first test as the Prince of the Forest. Crynac now flies him down out of the mountains on his back to meet with the Council. They must decide on a strategy to meet Argon’s threat.
Quoting from the ancient Book of Prophecies, Crynac affirms that the boy-prince is to lead them, but not until he drinks from the waters of the Garden of Ainran. The others are aghast that an outsider, especially one who has succumbed to Argon’s wiles, be shown the center of the Garden. They know that if Argon discovers that sacred site, nothing will prevent his victory. Crynac argues persuasively that Matthew can now be trusted. Matthew is led again into the High Country. There he now lays eyes upon the two sacred volumes—The Book of the Prophecies and the Truth of Foundations, and reads of the Legacy of the Kings He is then led through the Gate into the center of the Garden. He and the members of the Council drink of the sacred and strength-giving waters of the Pool of Ainran,.
After Matthew rescues some of the captive children from the Center of Enlightenment and liberates them from Argon’s deception, the Council learns that Argon is raising a great force with his allies in the lands of Shelaharan and Ophir. Their combined armies are preparing to invade the Forest. They also discover that more children are being held in the southern kingdom of Caslushah. Stepping now fully into his destiny, Matthew chooses from the most faithful of the forest animals a small invasionary force to journey into the heart of Caslushah where the rest of the children are being held.
While the Council prepares the Forest for battle, Matthew and his band set off on the long and hazardous trek. Danger stalks them all the way. They must remain invisible to Argon’s spies. They manage to sneak undetected into the great southern city. There they learn that a great battle has begun in the Forest. There is not a moment to lose. Matthew pulls off a daring rescue. He and the freed captives race back to the Forest.
During Matthew’s absence, the true King of the Forest has returned from distant lands. Argon and Dezreall and their vastly superior hosts advance to meet him. Without the Forest children liberated, however, the King’s power is limited. Argon and Dezreall are gloating over the ease of their victory. Suddenly Matthew arrives with the freed captives. He recognizes the king. The battle quickly turns, for the deception is undone. Argon and Dezreall and their allies flee.
A great celebration is held in the Garden of the High Country at the King’s palace. Medals of valor are awarded to all the brave animals who helped save the Forest. Matthew removes his tunic and boots, unstraps the sword from his waist, and returns them with his other weapons from the battle to the King’s Armory where they will remain until needed again by some future prince or princess of the Forest. Older and wiser, a true prince now, Matthew returns to the home of his grandparents. There it seems no time has passed at all.