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Return to Del (book)
Return to Del
General information
Series

Deltora Quest 1

Author

Emily Rodda

Illustrator

Marc McBride (cover) Kate Rowe (any illustrations associated with the story, including maps and letters)

Cover

Ak-Baba

Publication
Published

2002

Chronology
Preceded by

The Valley of the Lost

Return to Del is a fantasy novel written by Emily Rodda. It is the eighth and final book in the first series of Deltora Quest.

Book description Edit

"The seven lost gems have been restored to the Belt of Deltora. Now Lief, Barda and Jasmine must find the heir to the kingdom's throne. They know only the true heir can use the Belt's magic to overthrow the evil Shadow Lord.

But the heir has been in deepest hiding from birth and only the Belt can reveal the hiding place. Shock follows shock as the Deltora Quest rushed to to its thundering climax and the fury and power of the Shadowlord himself threaten to destroy its three heroes and everything they love."[1]

This book is 136 pages long.

Plot Edit

After the defeat of the final guardian, the Diamond was returned to the Belt of Deltora. But contrary to what Lief's father had told him, the heir remained in hiding. The three companions rest in the Valley with the newly freed Torans, contemplating their next move. They show Zeean the Belt of Deltora, and she mentions that the Amethyst is the Torans' gem. Peel believes that the Amethyst was hidden in the Maze of the Beast because the gem wanted to return to its territory and influenced the Ak-Baba carrying it. The Torans sense intruders entering the Valley—though the intruders are Dain and Doom, the companions are still wary. Doom recognises Fardeep as the Guardian and moves to attack him, but Lief intervenes and explains the truth of the matter. 

The companions accuse Doom of concealing his knowledge of the Valley from them due to his misguided bitterness towards King Endon, whom he believed was the Guardian. Doom admits he concealed his knowledge because he thought it was better for others to believe the king was dead rather than discover what their king had become. Lief tells him that he played into the Shadow Lord's hands by doing so, for the Shadow Lord wants the king forgotten so that his hold on Deltora is not broken.

Doom learns that the trio succeeded in their quest, but is bitter that they still refuse to trust him. He starts to leave with Dain, but Zeean stops them, saying that the time for secrecy between friends is past and all who resist the Shadow Lord must band together to help each other. Reluctantly, the three companions show the Belt to Doom and Dain. Doom says he knew the companions were undertaking a momentous task and regrets that he believed they were working against his cause. Dain looks at the Belt with shining eyes and says that he knew the trio was hiding some mighty aim. Doom doubts that the Belt can save Deltora, and asks how many gems the Shadow Lord believes they have found. When they admit that they hope that he thinks they are still to reach Dread Mountain, the Maze of the Beast, and the Valley, Doom replies that 'hopes are no basis for planning'. The companions are annoyed at his response, and resolve to give Doom the proof he wants by getting Lief to use the last of the water from the Dreaming Spring to spy on Fallow, a Shadow Lord servant.

During the Dreaming, Lief discovers that the Shadow Lord does not know where they are, but he knows exactly who they are, from their appearance to their names and history. This indicates there is a spy among their allies. Lief, Barda and Jasmine are at a loss of who it could be and are even more reluctant to trust anyone, despite promising Zeean they would. The next morning they try to sneak away from the Valley, but in their attempts to leave they disturb Nevets, who was sleeping in Steven's caravan on the outskirts of the valley. Doom saves the three companions by diverting Nevets' attention and assuring him that there is no danger, prompting him to return to Steven's body. The companions fume at their thwarted escape and are forced back to the Valley by a furious Doom, who tells them Zeean wishes to discuss something with them.

Representatives

The list of representatives of each tribe and gem.

Over breakfast, Zeean explains her theory that something more must be done to find the heir and awaken the Belt's power. Dain believes Adin's winning of the seven tribes' trust created part of the Belt's power, and suggests bringing together representatives from each tribe to renew their pledge of loyalty to Adin's heir. The group agrees to his suggestion and makes a list of people that could be contacted to represent the seven Deltoran tribes. As they discuss, Lief is stunned to realise that he, Barda and Jasmine have met representatives from all tribes of Deltora on their travels. The allies organise a plan for the representatives to meet in Withick Mire, a Resistance stronghold close to Del, and for Lief, Barda and Jasmine to travel there secretly in Steven's caravan. Doom suggests decoys of the trio be placed in the west near the River Tor to direct the Shadow Lord's attention away from them. Although the companions protest, the decoy plan is executed with Peel, Kris and Lauran of Tora acting as decoys.
Queen Bee's message

The message to the Ralads formed by Queen Bee's swarm.

Messages are sent to the Ralads and the Dread Gnomes. From outside the western stronghold, Jinks the acrobat sees a group of ravens flying north, but believes he is imagining things when he sees a flash of gold among them. The birds arrive on Dread Mountain, where Gla-Thon views them with alarm and suspicion, believing that they are a sign that the Shadow Lord has realised their rebellion and has turned his attention toward them. However, she soon sees the golden arrowhead flashing in the beak of one of the birds, and runs back into the hold shouting that the sign has come. In her orchard, Queen Bee talks to her bees, who pass a message to her. She thanks them, and bids them to fly and pass the message on again. The bees fly to Raladin, where they present a message in Ralad symbols to the astonished Manus. In the tavern next to his shop, Tom serves a troop of Grey Guards, who mention that there is to be fighting in the west. Upon hearing the shop bell ring, Tom goes to serve the new customers, who trace the Resistance symbol in the dust of the counter. Wiping it away, Tom leans over and tells them the news he has heard.

Hiding in Steven's caravan on the road to Del, the three companions hear Steven's song warning them of nearby Grey Guards and a Gripper field to the right. Though puzzled at what this means, they have no time to question Steven as he hurriedly opens the back of the caravan to tell them that the road ahead is blocked and Grey Guards are searching travellers on the road. He tells them to run quickly across the field and toward the forest to their right, cryptically remarking that 'the stones are hard to see'. He doesn't have time to speak more, as the Grey Guards descend upon him. Lief, Barda and Jasmine, clueless at Steven's last remark, walk across the field of flat green plants, but find themselves sinking, and feel a burning pain. Wrenching himself free, Lief sees his leg covered with blood, and realises with horror that the field is full of carnivorous plants—the Grippers that Steven sang of. Lief realises he is not sinking as Barda is because he is standing on one of the stepping stones that lead through the field—the stones of which Steven tried to warn them. Jasmine is also standing on a stone, but Barda is sinking, all four of his limbs trapped in the plants' throats. Lief tells Jasmine of the stones and the two of them strive with great difficulty to free Barda and drag him to safe ground.

After pulling Barda from the Grippers, Lief and Jasmine walk to the forest, supporting Barda between them. Before they reach the forest, they hear a commotion and turn to see the Grey Guards facing the Gripper field. At first Lief believes they have been seen, but then realises that the Guards decided to have some 'fun' with Steven by urging his terrified horse into the Gripper field. Amid shouts telling the Guards to stop, blinding yellow light pours from Steven, and a figure forms before him: Nevets. Nevets attacks the Guards savagely while Lief and Jasmine watch in horror. On the ground, Steven roars at them to run and get out of Nevets' sight before he turns on them as well.

Fake letter dq

The letter.

Safe under the trees, Lief and Jasmine bandage Barda's wounds but cannot stop the blood from flowing. As rain begins to fall Lief spies a stone hut, and leads Jasmine and Barda there. In a corner of the hut lay three skeletons: a man, and a woman, and a baby in her arms. At the foot of the man's skeleton lies a flat tin box. With dread in his heart, Lief opens the box to find a letter, and reads it. Horrified, Lief can hardly believe it, but it seems to be true. The heir to Deltora has been dead all along. He is heartbroken that their quest, his parents' suffering, and the Withick Mire meeting are all in vain. Jasmine speaks harshly of Endon, saying that he did not deserve to be king and brought his loss upon himself by not having the courage and strength to depend on himself to keep his family alive, as her own parents had done. But her eyes brim with tears, showing that she is more sad for the woman and babe than she seems. Steven comes to the hut, and Lief wordlessly shows him the letter. Grieved, Steven pounds at the hut wall, trying to contain Nevets. After Steven calms down, he takes the trio back to the caravan, carrying Barda easily in his arms. As they reach the caravan, there is no sign of the Guards, and Lief realises that Nevets fed them to the Grippers. 

After more hours of travelling, the caravan stops and the companions find themselves in a garbage dump. Angered, Lief turns on Steven, for he longs to get Barda to the stronghold so he will be well-cared for and can die in comfort if that is his fate. Steven points to a sign that says 'Withick Mire', and Lief realises that the dump is the stronghold. A scavenger comes to them, wearing a black patch over one eye and a scarf around his mouth and nose, and guides them to a surprisingly comfortable and well-stocked shelter. Inside, the scavenger reveals himself as Doom. Doom is pleased at Lief and Jasmine's astonishment, and explains that since Withick Mire is a smelly dump, no Grey Guards venture to it so it is the perfect place for a Resistance stronghold. After Jasmine tells him of Barda's injuries he organises bedding and care for him, and care for Lief and Jasmine's wounds. Once he sees Endon's crumpled note in Lief's hands, his face darkens but he makes no comment.

To Lief and Jasmine's surprise, Glock gives them a salve which stops the bleeding caused by Gripper venom. Glock claims Barda is finished and is disgruntled when they insist on using it on him. Doom, Zeean, Fardeep and Steven read Endon's letter, loss of hope evident in their faces and words. Doom begins to revert to his old bitterness, whereas Zeean seems grief-stricken. They are ready to abandon hope when Barda stirs and demands to see what they are looking at. Once Lief reluctantly hands the note to him, he reads it and smiles. To everyone's astonishment, he declares the letter a forgery. Barda explains that though the note is a good forgery, it cannot have been written by Endon himself. Endon would not have written such things because they would not have been in his mind in his final moments. Barda says Lief's father Jarred often spoke of the guilt Endon felt at having failed his kingdom. Yet the note says no word of that guilt. Additionally, the note bears the royal seal, and Endon did not have the seal in his possession when he fled. Barda admits that his mother, Jarred and Endon's nursemaid, was a great chatterer and told him that Prandine kept the seal and brought out when messages had to be signed.  

The group is relieved and amazed, their hope in their quest restored. After Barda disproves the letter, he slips into sleep again, his heart beating faintly. In grief, Jasmine reaches out to Lief and holds his hand for comfort. Lief finds that he is not ashamed to weep, and thinks that Barda would laugh at how much they have changed, for Jasmine's expression of feeling and Lief's unashamed tears. Dain offers to help them care for Barda, and Jasmine and Lief receive this with gratitude. That night and another day pass. Dain, Jasmine and Lief take turns caring for Barda, Dain spending longer and longer hours at Barda's beside in an effort to spare Lief and Jasmine what he can. At times, Barda seems to grow stronger, but he always relapses. Lief is forced to accept that Barda is dying, but he can't make himself give up hope of Barda's recovery. 

Visitors arrive in Withick Mire. Ailsa and Gla-Thon arrive unexpectedly in daylight, surrounded by a flock of birds. Lief is overjoyed to see them, but his joy is overshadowed by Barda's worsening state. A few days later Manus and Nanion of D'Or reach the stronghold, having travelled on a horse loaned from Tom. Nanion tells Doom that there is fighting expected in the west, and Doom pulls him aside to speak privately to him about it, seeming concerned. Manus is left alone with Lief, Jasmine and the dying Barda. He expresses grief at seeing Barda in such a state, and is glad that he came when he did. He explains that he had guessed why he was needed, though Jasmine has told him the reason. He says that Lief, Barda and Jasmine have 'worked a miracle'.

That evening, the ceremonial pledges of loyalty from the seven tribes representatives begins. One by one, the seven representatives restate their loyalty to Adin's bloodline and the heir to the Belt of Deltora; Zeean sombre, Fardeep humble and emotional, Glock with tears in his eyes, much to Lief's surprise. When it comes Lief's turn, he steps forward and says his part for Barda, his parents and all at home. The representatives renew their ancient vow to unite under the power of the Belt of Deltora and swear loyalty to Adin's heir. After these words the Belt grows so warm that the seven are forced to take their hands away. With clarity, Lief realises that the heir is among them in the room. He scans the room and sees Dain, his face shimmering with light, stepping forward. Stunned, Lief realises that this must be what Dain has been hiding all along: he is the heir to Deltora and must keep his true identity a secret until Deltora is free again. Lief wonders how he did not guess it, for Dain is an anagram of 'Adin', as 'Rhans' is an anagram of 'Sharn'. He grew up on an isolated farm not far from where they are now, and is quiet, obedient and dutiful like Endon, and dark and delicate like Sharn.

Lief picks up the Belt and moves slowly toward Dain. The room is tense, waiting. For a moment, Lief hesitates, taking one last look at the magnificent Belt and its gems. Lief realises too late that the pale Ruby and Emerald signal evil. In those few seconds, pandemonium erupts. A great beast bursts through the door, covering everything in darkness and throwing the people across the room. Lief hears Dain screaming for him to give him the Belt quickly. But it is too late; when the commotion dies down, the allies find that a monstrous beast has abducted Dain, leaving only his bloodstained dagger on the ground. Lief picks up the dagger, remorseful that he could not protect his king.

Upon hearing Glock's description of the beast, Lief realises what it is, and, hesitantly, begins to speak. Doom finishes for him, revealing that the monster that took Dain is none other than Ichabod, the only remaining living child of the Sorceress Thaegan. Enraged, Glock turns on Manus and Nanion, convinced that they have betrayed them by leading Ichabod to Withick Mire. Sternly Nanion declares their innocence in the matter, and tells Glock to keep his insults to himself. In an effort to prevent dangerous divisions from appearing among the allies, Barda calls on them not to fight, saying that fighting will profit them nothing. As he speaks his voice grows stronger, astonishing those who thought he had not long to live. Lief realises that the Belt, which was thrown onto Barda's chest in the commotion, is helping him recover.

Doom strides toward the door, snapping that they must free themselves and go after Dain and Ichabod as soon as possible. He realises that Steven is also missing, and calls out to him. Steven replies faintly, revealing that the ceiling collapsed on him and Nevets when they attempted to give chase, and that Ichabod was laughing at Dain, saying that if Dain was king, it was only right to take him where the king belonged—to Del. The group digs their way out of the stronghold and sets out for Del, a tearful Ailsa waving them farewell. While camping amid bushes near the roadside, Lief and Jasmine hear Steven's caravan coming toward them, and hear Steven singing to them, telling them to come out and join him. At first the two are wary, but Lief surmises that since Steven is referring to them as 'Twig' and 'Birdie', the false names Barda made up for them in Rithmere, then Steven must not be an Ol, as an Ol would not know of those names. 

As soon as Lief and Jasmine reveal themselves, Steven tells them to get into the caravan, for there has been a change of plans: instead of the entire group of allies entering the city together after dark, Barda and Steven have decided it is safer to separate from the group and travel into the city before sunset, without telling anyone—not even Doom. After an hour in the caravan, the group arrives in Del. Lief, Barda and Jasmine farewell Steven, who plans to go to the meeting place outside the city walls, 'to explain, or settle a score'. However, they soon find that the ambush has already occurred—as they hide in the shadows the horrified companions see Grey Guards appear, dragging Zeean, Glock, Nanion, Manus, Fardeep, and Gla-Thon in chains into the square. Only Doom is missing.

Dain is atop a stone pyramid, tied to a stake piled with kindling. At Steven's shout, Lief, Barda, and Jasmine charge toward him. Lief runs straight to Dain, while Barda and Jasmine fight Grey Guards, intending to cut his bonds using Dain's dagger. But the dagger unexplainably is gone, so Lief uses his sword to free Dain. Just as Lief is about to hand Dain the Belt, there is a great crash, and Lief spins around to see Steven, Nevets and a troop of Guards disappear into a hidden pit in the square, trapping them. With growing horror, Lief watches as shimmering rats marked with the Shadow Lord's brand pour into the square. Lief turns back to Dain, realising that a trap had been set for Nevets, and that somehow they had been betrayed. At first he cannot understand, for no one knew of Barda and Steven's plan. But then he sees the dagger in Dain's belt—unbloodied, identical to the dagger Lief carried with him to Del and had thought lost. He understands the horrible truth—Dain is a Grade 3 Ol, the most perfect of the Shadow Lord's creations, able to take on both animate and inanimate forms, nigh indistinguishable from creatures or objects. Dropping all pretense and admitting his treachery, Dain disarms Lief and knocks the Belt into the fire to melt. 

Dain reveals his plan to Lief, gloating and filled with pride. As he speaks, Lief sees a movement from the corner of his eye; Doom is crawling up the pyramid, aiming to kill Dain. Lief keeps Dain talking to keep him from noticing Doom. As Dain shrieks of the Shadow Lord's victory and the rising of his armies, Doom chooses this moment to strike, his sword plunging for the heart. Dain is too quick, twisting and dissolving into his true form, throttling Doom with icy fingers. Lief grabs the Belt of Deltora from the fire and throws it around Dain's waist. Screaming, Dain lets go of Doom, who falls heavily down the steps. Dain begins to melt, dying, and images of Dain's face expressing every mood are clear in the white flesh, until he is only a puddle on the platform. With the Belt once again around his waist, Lief sees Doom is badly injured; his lips are blue, there is a swelling bruise on his head and great red marks blotch his throat. Lief hauls the man to his feet, trying desperately to think of where they could go for safety from the red clouds heading for the square. 

Lief, Barda, Jasmine and Doom hurry to the forge cottage to recover from their ordeal, though Lief knows their safety is temporary. The Shadow Lord's servants will likely raid the forge in search of them, knowing that the forge is the most likely place for them to hide. As they tend to Doom's wounds, Doom looks around as if he recognises his surroundings. When Doom sees Jasmine his face lights up. Puzzled, Lief calls Jasmine to Doom's side, realising that Doom wants to see her. Jasmine comes. Doom tells her that she looks so much like her mother. At Jasmine's sharp questioning ('How would you know this? My mother is dead!'), he affirms that Jasmine's mother is dead and begins to weep. Doom relives memories of his past while a stunned Lief and Barda and a sobbing Jasmine look on. Doom murmurs of being refused refuge, of having to go east instead of west. Lost in his memories, he speaks to his dead wife of Guards killing pregnant women on the western road, forcing them to go east, into the Forests, where no one will find them. He comforts his wife, reassuring her that they will survive the danger and their child will be safe, 'until it is time …'

With a hammering heart, it all begins to come together in Lief's mind. Barda only stares. Jasmine looks at Doom, weeping, unable to tear her eyes away. Doom weakly calls to Jasmine again, his consciousness fading, and expresses sorrow at raising a little girl alone in the fearsome Forests. He regrets that she had to be brought up in such a way, with no comfort, toys, books, or friends, except for animals. Though he knew he and his wife did the right thing, he wishes they could have raised their brave little girl under better circumstances. 'So many times we wondered if we had done right. We did not regret our choices for ourselves. But for you …' Jasmine quickly, tearfully, says that she was happy living in the Forests with her parents, having rhymes, games, and songs to entertain her. She speaks of the rhyme she loved best, because it had pictures.

Wakethebear

The rhyme.

Desperately trying to rouse Doom, who has fallen unconscious, Jasmine rummages through her jacket pockets and finds an old, grubby paper. She unfolds it and shakes it in front of Doom's face. Lief and Barda are unable to believe their eyes. Here is proof they cannot deny: the childhood rhyme that told of the secret way into the palace, which Lief's father spoke of long ago in that very room. The rhyme Endon drew as a small child. With shaking hands, Lief unclasps the Belt, and holds it out for Jasmine to take. Jasmine, shocked and anguished, shrinks away shaking her head, realising what Lief intends for her to do. 

Barda shouts for her to put on the Belt, for she is Endon's daughter, the heir to the Belt of Deltora. But Jasmine refuses, not believing it could be true. Lief and Barda beg her, and at last she gives in. She lets Lief loop the Belt around her waist. Nothing happens. Bewildered, Lief can only stare as Jasmine takes off the Belt in despair and lets it drop to the floor, asking Lief to take it back. As Barda buries his face in his arms in despair, Lief puts the Belt back on, wondering why the it refused to shine for Jasmine. He wanders to his old bedroom and lies on his bed, recalling the boy he had been on his sixteenth birthday. He leaps to his feet when loud voices and crashes come from the front of the cottage. Drawing his sword, Lief runs to the bedroom door. Jasmine warns him back, at the same time making the Guards believe she, Barda, and Doom are the only people in the house.

Stunned and heartsick, Lief stands frozen as he hears the Guards roughly subdue Barda, Jasmine and Doom and leave the forge. When he is sure they are gone, Lief creeps into the living area once more, and sees Kree perched hopelessly on an overturned chair. Cold anger fills him with determination. Bells begin to ring, summoning the people of Del to the palace like they did so many times during Lief's childhood. Grimly he picks up the scrap of paper Jasmine left on the rug as she was taken away, and places it in his pocket, determined to save his friends.

A while later, Lief crawls from the secret tunnel into the chapel, with no plan at all other than knowing that he must reach the Place of Punishment. As Lief looks out of the chapel window, he sees Fallow standing at the Place, announcing the planned executions of the prisoners behind him. Lief exits the chapel and climbs up one of the palace towers to a good height where he can leap onto the Place without being seen. Below, Fallow continues his speech, declaring the six tribe representatives traitors and announcing their punishment of double branding and death. Two disheveled people lie crumpled at his feet, chained by the neck. At the Grey Guards' threat of blisters, the crowd tonelessly chants for double branding and death for the prisoners. A new Guard arrives, signalling to Fallow, and Fallow's expression changes to one of complete triumph. He gazes upward, not in Lief's direction as Lief fears, but at the highers tower, where seven Ak-Baba perch and the presence of the Shadow Lord resides.

Lief reaches his intended spot: a small window-washer's stone platform directly above the Place of Punishment. He ties his rope to the end of the flagpole bearing the Shadow Lord's flag, and witnesses Fallow announce the capture of Jasmine, Barda and Doom (who he believes to be Lief). Fallow hauls up the couple at his feet, his face dark with spite and anger, and taunts them, saying that they will see their son before they die. With horror, Lief realises that the couple at Fallow's feet are his parents. As Lief looks out into the crowd, he notices faces creased in pain and grief, and knows that they grieve what is to come. Before he enacts his plan, Lief unclasps the Belt, intending to leave it on the ledge, as it will give him no help in this fight—a fight he is certain will be his last. Lief looks at it and thinks that though it is complete and powerful, somehow it is still not perfect. One last secret waits to be uncovered. Lief recalls the winning of each gem, how he had felt as each was added in turn to the Belt.

And then Lief realises what the final secret is. The Belt of Deltora will only be fully restored and have the power to expel the Shadow Lord when its gems are arranged in the order in which Adin first added them to the Belt. Lief eases the gems out of their places and places them in a different order—the right order. They seem to come out easily, as if they are helping him. And when Lief finishes and sits back, he knows that the Belt is complete. The first letter of each gem in this order spells the land's name: Diamond, Emerald, Lapis Lazuli, Topaz, Opal, Ruby, Amethyst—DELTORA.

Lief stands up with the Belt in his hands, knowing without a doubt that the Belt is now as it should be—now it will be able to be claimed by Adin's heir. And Jasmine is coming to the platform. Determined and ready, Lief prepares to jump. Suddenly, at Fallow's order, the Place is lit by blinding white light, erasing all shadows and flooding over Lief. All in the crowd can see Lief, and Lief tensely waits for one of them to give him away. They all keep silent, for they recognise Lief as one of them, and the know what he carries in his hands. Jasmine, Barda and Doom are led onto the platform, hooded, blindfolded and heavily chained. Lief grasps the rope in his right hand, and the Belt in his left, and readies himself.

Fallow introduces the new prisoners, and throws back their hoods in a dramatic display. He reveals Jasmine and Barda. When he realises that the third prisoner is clearly not Lief, he takes a step back, furious and frightened. Lief's father turns to look at Doom, and recognises him. His face lights up in a mixture of joy and pain, and he reaches out a trembling hand. To Lief's surprise, Doom stares back, recognition clear on his face. Doom looks around, searching for someone he cannot find. Fallow hisses at the Guards, who back away, confused. Lief chooses this moment to make his move.

He jumps, holding onto the rope, landing just beyond Jasmine. Chaos erupts as Lief lunges for Jasmine, while the crowd roars, Fallow screams to the Guards, and Barda shouts. From the tower, there is a cry of rage that forces Lief to his knees, and he moves to the side just in time to narrowly miss being hit by a bolt of lightning. Part of the platform begins to break apart, and the boards become unstable. As Lief struggles to stay standing, Fallow strikes at him, revealing himself as an Ol. His cold hand wrenches Lief upward, his cruel face grimacing in triumph. Then Fallow is pulled away from Lief, choked by chains he had dropped, believing the two chained people too broken to be a threat. Lief's parents haul the assailant away from their son, as an enraged Fallow pulls out his dagger. Seeing this, Lief calls out a warning, but he is too late. Fallow strikes, stabbing Lief's father in the chest. Lief's parents fall to the boards, Lief's mother cushioning their fall. Fallow is dragged down with them, but recovers quickly. He struggles to regain his balance, and sees the red cone of light sliding towards him. He grabs at it, but the cone tips towards him, and burning white liquid pours over him, sizzling, burning him to death as he screams in agony.

There is a roaring sound from above, and Lief looks up to see the red clouds coming towards the Place of Punishment. Jasmine and Barda lie face-down on the other side of the platform, clinging to the boards. Once, Lief would have tried to jump the gap without both of his hands to help him, but now he is wiser. Preparing to jump, Lief sheathes his sword and clasps the Belt around his waist. For a moment, time stands still. Then, with a crackling noise, the Belt explodes with brilliant, radiant light, and a rush of heat goes through Lief's body. Shocked and bewildered, Lief watches as the Shadow Lord clouds roar in fury and defeat and retreat to the Shadowlands, leaving behind his now powerless and mostly dead servants. The people celebrate, ignoring the Grey Guards' threats and commands to stop. Lief sees it all, and knows that all around Deltora, fear is vanishing and evil is retreating. Deltora is finally free, and Lief is the heir to Deltora.

As the commotion fades and the Belt's glow dims, Lief goes to his parents' side, filled with questions. Doom, his memory restored, is able to explain. As Doom explains, Lief understands the nature of Doom's plan—Doom who is Jarred, not Endon. Jarred, who fled Del with his wife in place of the royal family, so that Endon and Sharn could stay hidden in the forge to raise their child in safety. It was a plan of sacrifice, reliant on the confusion reigning during the Shadow Lord's invasion. Lief's father is not Jarred of the forge, but King Endon, and his mother is not Anna but Sharn of Tora.

Lief's father—Endon—now lies dying. He tells the huddled group around him not to weep, for he is happy to die knowing that the evil that he helped cause is undone, and that he and his wife have raised a son that will lead their people well, and know their hearts. Lief asks him why he did not reveal the truth to him, but Endon replies that while Lief did not know that he was the heir, he was safe, and that it was the best way for him to learn to love the people and be one of them. Barda never knew the truth either, for Jarred, Anna, Endon, and Sharn had sworn to keep the secret between the four of them. Barda he had only seen the royal couple dressed and painted in palace fashion, and so did not recognise them when they were posing as Jarred and Anna. Endon and Sharn believed the Belt would shine immediately after the final gem was restored. They had not realised that the order of the gems was important, for the book never seemed to mention it. Lief says it did, but in riddles. At this, Endon smiles and says that is fitting for their story, where nothing has been what it seems to be. He says he likes such tales, for they often end happily, as theirs has. Then Endon's eyes close in death. Lief bows his head and holds his mother's hand.

Much later, Lief, Barda and Jasmine stand together to greet the dawn. Jasmine is glad that Lief was the heir instead of her, because she could have offered Deltora nothing. She says she is too wild, troublesome, and quick tempered, and belongs in a forest, not a city. Even now, she thinks the city is hideous, and the palace is a prison. She tells her friends she wishes to return to the Forests. But Lief asks her to stay, choosing his words carefully so he would not reveal his true feelings. He tells her part of the truth: how he, Doom and Barda need her with them, to help restore Deltora. They need her exactly as she is, full of strength and courage. Barda agrees, and Jasmine looks to Filli and Kree, who also voice their opinions. Jasmine agrees to stay for a time. For she sees that Lief is right—she is needed, as his father needed her father. Lief smiles, well satisfied.

Characters Edit

Protagonists Edit

Antagonists Edit

Trivia Edit

References Edit

  1. Rodda, Emily. Return to Del. Scholastic Australia. 2002.

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