Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series: Isle of View


Isle of View (1990)
Chex, the winged centaur, discovers that her 5-year-old son Che has gone missing – possibly kidnapped.  (Her husband, Cheiron is away at Mount Rushmost, at a convention of winged monsters.) After searching the vicinity of her home, she flies to Castle Roogna, and reports to Murphy, who is acting King, while Dor and Irene are away on an official visit to King Nabob Naga.  (The naga are a snake/human crossbreed, able to take either snake or human forms.)

Murphy calls all available people to form search parties.  Murphy’s talent is to make things go wrong: he lays his curse on the people who had kidnapped Che.  Chex is partnered with Grundy Golem as one of the search parties.  They return to the clearing near Chex’s home, and find an elf – but she looks different from Xanthian elves: she is bigger, has pointed ears, and 4 fingers on each hand.  And she doesn’t need to stay close to an elm as Xanthian elves do. She says her name is Jenny; she comes from the World of Two Moons.  [The author has based Jenny on the elves of the ElfQuest graphic novel series.]  She had followed her cat Sammy, and somehow ended up here.  Sammy can find anything except home.  He races off the moment someone mentions something that needs to be found; Jenny spends a lot of time running after him.  Jenny is short-sighted, so Chex gives her a pair of spectacles from a spectacle bush.

When Chex mentions her lost son, Sammy takes off again, with Jenny following after. Jenny finds the centaur foal tied up with goblins guarding him.  She throws exploding cherries (cherry bombs) at the goblins, scaring them off, unties Che, and they run off together. But Jenny and Che are captured again by goblins. Jenny tells Sammy to go and find help.

Electra and Nada Naga have been partnered as a search party; they go to Good Magician Humfrey’s Castle to ask for information.  Grey is answering Questions in Humfrey’s absence; in fact people are now referring to Grey as the Good Magician.  He is learning to find his way around Humfrey’s Book of Answers.

Both Nada and Electra are engaged to marry Prince Dolph. Electra is 17 (she looks 15); she will turn 18 in a week.  This is the deadline for when she must get married, or else she will die, due to her enchantment (refer “Heaven Cent”).  It seems most likely that Dolph will choose to marry Nada, who is 20, and very attractive.  Dolph is 15, due to turn 16 in a few months.  (According to Xanth law, the girl must be at least 16 when she marries, but it does not give the minimum age for the boy.) Everyone has been telling Dolph he ought to marry Electra, but Nada is the one he loves.

Electra and Nada arrive at the Castle and ask Grey about Che’s location. Grey is surprised because he had expected them to ask about their betrothal situation, and this is what he had researched.  He asks a magic mirror, which shows a scene of Che having been captured by goblins.  Then he asks Ghorge the ghost writer (a ghost who writes messages on paper).  The ghost writes a message saying that Che is at the With-a-Cookee River.  Grey has a few of the large gourds, which enable people to pass through the dream realm physically, to get to their destination quickly.  Electra and Nada enter one and follow the trail of cookie symbols.

Dolph, meanwhile, is searching the Regions of the Elements for Che.  Using his talent as a shapeshifter, he takes the form of a ghost, which is less likely to be affected by strong winds etc. Demoness Metria appears; she is teasing and seductive, and constantly in search of interesting situations. She tells Dolph that Che has been captured by goblins, he is at With-a-Cookie River, and that Nada and Electra are headed there.  She also tells him that there is a hole in the fabric of the world, which Jenny Elf had come through. But other creatures from other worlds could also come through, so he ought to plug the hole.  (Throughout this story Metria appears to various characters, often to tease, but sometimes to challenge their ideas or offer helpful suggestions.)

Dolph doesn’t know whether to believe her, so he continues searching the Elemental Regions.  But then Metria takes him to the hole.  A strange alien creature comes through.  Dolph overcomes the creature and plugs the hole with it.  Then he takes the form of a nighthawk and flies off to With-a-Cookie River.

Ghorge the ghost writer brings a message to Chex and Grundy from Grey.  Che is at the With-a-Cookie River, and has been captured by goblins.  Nada and Electra are on the way there. But Chex mustn’t go there. If the goblins see a winged centaur arrive, they’re likely to put Che in the cooking pot on the spot.  Chex (with Grundy on her back) flies to Mount Rushmost to tell her husband the situation.

Jenny and Che are led away by the goblins, and confined to a hut. They realise that this is a different, and worse, lot of goblins from the ones who had captured Che before.  These are the Goblinate of the Golden Horde: a nasty lot, who torment their victims before cooking them and eating them.  Jenny has the ability to sing, and bring her hearers into a dream state, if they are not paying attention to her.  Can she use this to allow them to escape?

In the dream realm, Nada contrives to get lost, thinking that this would be a solution to their betrothal problem. If she were to disappear, Dolph would have to marry Electra. But Electra finds her, and makes her promise not to do it again.

Nada and Electra arrive at the With-a-Cookee River.  They encounter Godiva Goblin and her three henchmen, Moron, Idiot and Imbecile.  After an initial struggle between them, they call a truce.

Godiva tells them she is from the tribe at Goblin Mountain.  She is the daughter of Goldy (refer to “Ogre, Ogre”), and has inherited the levitation wand from her mother.  Godiva’s daughter Gwendolyn is lame and needs a steed; this is why they had kidnapped Che.  Che is not yet big enough for a rider, but will grow.  They had used a tunnel spell to get to Che, but on their return journey the spell had gone wrong (because of Murphy’s curse), and they hadn’t reached home.  Then the elf girl had released Che. But then the elf and Che had been captured by the Golden Horde.

The two parties agree to work together to free Che and the elf girl.  After that they will decide who would take Che. Through their combined effort, plus Jenny’s singing, they rescue Che and Jenny, and they are all on the run from the goblins of the Golden Horde.

Dolph is searching the With-a-Cookee River, when Sammy Cat arrives.  Dolph changes into a cat to talk to Sammy. Then Dolph tells Sammy to find Nada, and follows him.  He meets up with the others and learns the situation.  The two parties now play a game of chance to decide who will take Che.  Godiva wins.  Dolph changes into a sphinx to carry them all to Goblin Mountain.  Jenny wants to stay with Che, and Che wants her with him.  So Godiva takes Che, Jenny and Sammy into the mountain.

Cheiron, on Mount Rushmost, has received the news from Chex.  He flies to the harpy grove, to talk to Gloha, the winged goblin daughter of Hardy Harpy and Glory Goblin.  (Hardy and Glory’s story is in “Dragon on a Pedestal”.)  (Gloha is 15.) Gloha checks with her grandfather, Gorbage Goblin, and says there is no goblinwide conspiracy against the winged monsters.  Gloha decides to come with Cheiron; she can negotiate with goblins if necessary.  Back at Mount Rushmost, Cheiron receives news from various winged monsters on sightings of Che.  (Grundy, whose talent is to translate the language of any living thing, provides a translation service.)  Then Metria appears; she had been present with Dolph as he carried the group to Goblin Mountain; she tells him the whole story.

Cheiron flies to Goblin Mountain, carrying Grundy and Gloha, and accompanied by a posse of winged monsters.  They meet up with Dolph, Nada and Electra.  Cheiron gives his ultimatum to the goblin chief Gouty; they must deliver Che, Jenny and Sammy by noon, or the winged monsters will start attacking.  But noon comes, and the captives are not released, so the rocs start dropping boulders on the mountain. The dragons get ready to breathe fire, smoke and steam on the mountain.

Che, Jenny and Sammy are locked in a room in the goblins’ tunnels.  Then Godiva comes to talk to them.  She asks them to promise not to tell anyone what she is about to tell them.  Che is unwilling to do this, but Jenny agrees, so Godiva takes her to another room.  Godiva tells her that she, Godiva, is the wife of the chief, Gouty.  Her daughter, Gwendolyn, is the chief’s heir; she is in line to be the first female chief of a goblin tribe.  But Gwendolyn is virtually blind.  If the goblins knew she had such a weakness, she would be killed, and the position of chief would go to Gouty’s illegitimate son, Gobble.  This is another reason Godiva wanted a centaur as a companion; besides being a steed, he would be able to communicate to Gwendolyn what she is supposed to be able to see.

Then Godiva introduces her to Gwendolyn (known familiarly as Gwenny). (Gwenny is 12, the same age as Jenny.)  Jenny returns to Che, and tells him it is okay to make the promise, which he does, and Jenny tells him about Gwenny.  They then move into Gwenny’s suite of rooms.  But Che can’t decide whether he agrees to be Gwenny’s companion, so he asks Jenny to decide for him.  She says she can’t decide yet.

Gloha and Electra enter Goblin Mountain to parlay.  They meet Godiva, who is Gloha’s cousin, and is handling things while Chief Gouty is indisposed.  She introduces them to Prince Naldo Naga (Nada’s brother) and Bud of the Flower tribe of elves.  The goblins have called in their allies, the elves and the naga, for this conflict.  There are ancient alliances between the land-based creatures, just as there are between the winged monsters.  And the land dragons are on their way.  Gloha and Electra then go to see Che, Jenny and Gwenny.  Che tells them he has not yet decided whether he will be Gwenny’s companion, and Godiva says that until he decides, he cannot be released.  Electra and Gloha feel that Che and Jenny are hiding something; however, Jenny hints that their situation is somehow parallel to Electra’s betrothal situation. Gloha and Electra report back to Cheiron.

Chex had arrived in the meantime.  Cheiron and Chex fly off to confirm that the land dragons are approaching.  Dolph transforms himself into a winged centaur and joins them, with Gloha riding him. Dolph and Gloha debate what Jenny’s hint could mean.  When they see the land dragons on their way, Cheiron is keen to recommence the attack, before the land dragons arrive.  But Dolph persuades him to hold off, while they parlay again.

Dolph, Nada and Gloha enter the mountain.  They meet Naldo – Nada is happy to see her brother again – and then they go to see Che, Jenny and Gwenny.  Jenny tells Che she has now decided that Che must become Gwenny’s companion, and Che agrees.  Dolph, Nada and Gloha return to Cheiron.  But they have figured out about Gwenny’s near-blindness, and its consequences, and they tell Cheiron and Chex.  Che, Jenny and Gwenny come out of the mountain, and Che tells his parents his decision.  When Godiva comes out, Cheiron tells her he does not accept the decision; Che must be with his own kind.  The attack will still go ahead.

But then Chex comes up with a solution that will satisfy them all.

But there is still the matter of which girl Dolph will marry.  Naldo Naga comes up with a solution.  It is not entirely satisfactory.  But the situation develops in an unexpected way.