|The Isle of Illusion|
The Isle of Illusion is a fantasy novel written by Emily Rodda. It is the second book in the second series known as Deltora Quest 2 or Deltora Shadowlands, and it is the tenth book in the overall Deltora Quest series.
"Lief, Barda and Jasmine are desperately searching for the three parts of the fabled Pirran Pipe, their only hope for saving the thousands of Deltorans held captive by the evil Shadow Lord. They have already risked their lives to gain the first part of the Pipe. Now they must find the second.
As their loved ones left behind struggle in a thickening web of rumour, suspicion and trechery, the companions move on to the mysterious island of Auron. They have been warned that terrible dangers await them. But nothing can prepare them for the reality of what is to come."
Deep below Deltora, in the Pirran Caverns, Lief, Barda, Jasmine, Filli, and Kree journey through the opal sea in a small boat. The Fighting Spiders sleep in their cages, Fury hanging from Barda's belt and Flash in the bottom of the boat. As Barda and Jasmine try to find their bearings on Doran's map, Lief thinks of those at home who know he is gone—his mother, Doom, Josef the librarian, Josef's assistant Ranesh, and Marilen. He wonders what Marilen is feeling, and if she is in any danger. Lief recalls two attempts on his life that occurred when he was still at the palace in Del. First, a crazed woman tried to knife him, and killed herself when she failed. In the second attempt, a crippled former palace guard named Moss tried to choke Lief to death. Three guards came to Lief's rescue, but after that, Lief kept to himself in the palace, away from large crowds. His recollection is interrupted by Barda and Jasmine's conversation about Doran's map and lack of landmarks in the caverns. After some time, Kree spots land.
Back in Del, Josef worries about how long Lief has been gone. His worry is furthered when he observes his apprentice, Ranesh, and Marilen, whom he belives to be Lief's fiancée, laughing and conversing closely. Fearing what will happen if he does not intervene, Josef calls Ranesh down to the kitchens where he can speak to him without fear of Marilen overhearing.
In the secret sea, the companions approach the small island marked with an ‘’x’’ on Doran’s map. The bleak island is ringed by a bad of pink and yellow seaweed, and is covered by conical mounds that are too small to be houses. A group of sea moles play around the boat for a time, but leave suddenly when it crosses the seaweed line. Jasmine does not want to land on the barren island, but Barda is anxious to be out of the cramped boat and argues that they should land. He accidentally overturns Flash’s cage, and the spider begins to rail against the bars once more. Not wanting an argument to ensue, Lief convinces Jasmine to land for a little while. As Lief thinks of Marilen again, Jasmine notices his pensiveness. Lief wishes he could tell Jasmine the secret that burdens him and return their relationship to its former trust and openness, but he cannot confide in her. He hopes she will forgive him and she understands he still trusts her and would tell her everything if he could. Once they reach the shore, Lief and Jasmine stay near the boat, wary of the silent island. Barda inspects the cones and calls his companions over when large grubs begin to emerge from the clay. They do not look dangerous, but Jasmine is suspicious and Lief urges his friends to get back to the boat and leave the disturbed grubs alone. As he turns, he sees many more grubs have come up from the clay behind them and block their way to the boat. Before Lief can react, a grub rears up and sprays yellow mist at his face, rendering him unconscious.
In the palace kitchens in Del, Josef finds Amarantz of the pottery, and old friend whom he believed to be dead. She is deaf, and must communicate with Josef by writing on a slate. Amarantz claims that she was not taken to the Shadowlands, but was beaten and left for dead in Deltora's north. She returned to Del only a few days prior seeking work, and Sharn hired her as a cook. Amarantz plans to seek an audience with Lief and beg him to rescue the Shadowlands slaves, for among them are her sons, their wives, and their children. Trying to comfort Amarantz and communicate some truth to her, Josef tells her that Lief is in Tora but he will come back to Del soon, for his "Toran bride" is hidden upstairs in the palace. As Amarantz reads the information about Marilen and her location, Lindal of Broome bursts into the kitchen, hauling Jinks with her and demanding to see Doom. A panicked Josef erases the slate, hoping the newcomers did not have time to read it, and rushes to find Doom on Lindal's bidding. Ranesh enters the kitchen as Jinks makes false claims about trying to save Lief from death at the hands of a Granous pack.
Lief wakes in terror, immobilised and encased in a cone of hard clay. He can still breathe through his nose, but the grubs have almost finished covering him and Barda in mud. It is only a matter of time before they suffocate completely. Fury rattles in her cage at Barda's belt, unaffected by the grubs' mist. Kree screeches overhead, but Jasmine is nowhere to be seen. As Lief watches in revulsion, a grub breaks open a cone containing a sea mole and drinks from the dead carcass. Lief understands the fate in store for him and his companions but is unable to make any movement in his mud coffin. Abruptly, the grub working on his cone ceases its work and crawls away to combat a disturbance—Kree had released Flash from his cage in the boat, and the fighting spider rips through the mass of grubs to reach Fury. Flash tears away the mud of Barda's cone around Fury's cage and the grubs can do nothing to stop him. While the grubs are distracted, Kree flies to Lief and breaks away the clay from his hands. Jasmine appears, scraping the mud from Lief's feet as Filli gnaws away the mud from his face. When he regains some range of motion, Lief cracks the hard shell from the inside.
Lief and Jasmine cover their faces to protect themselves from the grubs' spray, but they cannot get past the grubs defending Barda. Flash still attempts to fight Fury, knocking more mud from the middle of the cone, while the grubs try to smother Barda's face. Lief can see Barda's eyes telling him and Jasmine to take the boat and go, but Lief will not even consider leaving without Barda. Frantically trying to think of a way to save him, Lief runs through what supplies they have in the boat. A plan strikes him, and he explains it to Jasmine as they run to the boat. They take buckets and rope, fill the buckets with water, and splash it on the cone to soften the clay. They loop the rope around the softened cone several times before coming together and pulling hard. Grubs scatter as the cone topples and Lief and Jasmine fall to the ground. Lief and Jasmine pull Barda (and the spiders) from the rubble and race back to the boat, supporting the dazed man between them. The grubs give chase under the mud but are not fast enough to overtake the companions. Barda stumbles deliriously into the boat, and Lief and Jasmine paddle away from the island as fast as they can.
In Del, Jinks continues his melodramatic account of how he tried to save Lief and Barda from death. The acrobat lies in a bed in the palace, pretending to be distraught, while Sharn feeds him soup. Doom and Lindal have set out for the Os-Mine Hills to determine what really happened to Lief, Barda, and Jasmine. Before Doom left, he reassured Sharn that Jinks was lying, as is his nature, and Lief is undoubtedly alive. Sharn wishes she could be as certain as Doom, but she fears for her son. As Sharn considers Deltora's tenuous security, Jinks pretends to fall asleep. Sharn is overcome with weariness and the prospect of all the duties she must attend to, and chooses to rest in her chair for a little while. Jinks sees her resting and grows impatient, but tells himself the wait will give him time to perfect his plan.
Lief cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong in Del. Jasmine coldly asks what he is thinking, since he was not paying attention to Barda's remarks about the dim light. Lief tells her he feels there may be trouble brewing in Del, and he wishes he could tell Sharn, Doom, and "others in the palace" where they are. Jasmine guesses that by "others in the palace" he means Marilen. She begins to feel guilty and angry for running off and pulling Lief into danger, away from his duties and from Marilen. Afraid that her hasty actions may be harmful to Lief and to the future of Deltora, she lashes out and says she never wanted Lief and Barda to follow her. Even though she would be dead without them, Deltora would be safe. To Lief, her outburst seems unreasonable. He protests, saying he is grateful that she led him to discover the location of the Pirran Pipe. She says nothing. Lief grows irritated and tells her he sacrificed duty and safety to help her save the Shadowlands prisoners, and left the chance to return to Del for help when she told him they did not have much time. Barda interrupts the argument to point out the nearing shape of an island in the dark.
Sharn wakes to Jinks whimpering of his injuries. She knows he is exaggerating, and begins to leave after conversing briefly with him. It practical for her that he stay in his room so his bad news of Lief does not spread to other parts of the palace. Marilen barges in the room, contemptuously accusing Jinks of being a liar. Sharn asks her to leave, and Marilen heads for the library while Sharn goes downstairs. As soon as the women leave, Jinks tries the door, only to find Sharn had locked him in. He schemes to find a way out.
In the secret sea, Kree is struck out of the air as he flies ahead of the boat to scope out the land ahead. The boat is suddenly surrounded by massive eels upon which ride small dog-faced beings armed with spears. One of them tosses Kree into the boat. As Jasmine moves to him, they ready their weapons to strike. Lief knows these are Aurons, the second of the Pirran tribes, and invokes the name of Doran the Dragonlover to save himself and his companions. The Aurons have a wary conversation with Lief, sending an unspoken message underneath their words - "do not lie." Lief honestly tells them he is looking for the second part of the Pirran Pipe to save his people from the Shadow Lord, but he was told they would not give him their piece. The Aurons agree that they will not give it, lower their spears, and ask the companions to come with them.
As they approact the island, the companions realise the "island" is actually a giant raft supporting the Auron community. Lief figures the platform is the dotted line on Doran's map. Jasmine angrily suggests that the Aurons live on a raft because they cared nothing for their island and made it unfit to live on. Lief tries to quiet her, but the crowd heard and is outraged. Jasmine is still furious over the Aurons' attack on Kree and will make no apology for her words. Penn, history-keeper of the rafts and friend to the Auron Piper, tells Jasmine that these people have never seen a bird before and had no way of knowing he was harmless. Penn introduces herself as the companions' host and advises them to follow her to their lodging before the crowd grows too angry.
In the palace, Jinks escapes his room using a hairpin and begins to search the palace for valuables. He plans to be heading west out of Del before anyone discovers his tale is fabricated. He finds nothing of value in Sharn's room except a few coins and two pieces of jewelry. He enters Marilen's room expecting it to yield a more satisfying haul, for he believes Lief would have given royal jewels to his betrothed. Jinks reads an open letter from Marilen's father and eats a cake from Marilen's untouched lunch. Almost immediately after he eats the cake, he feels a stabbing pain in his stomach, falls to the ground, and dies.
Penn takes the companions to her home, where she gives Jasmine supplies to heal Kree, asks the trio questions about their journey, and makes soup. Penn asks her guests if they like it, and Liefl assures her he does. She sees through his lie and warns that Aurons value truth above all else, and to lie, even under the guise of politeness, is considered the greatest sin. After the meal, Penn tells Lief that the Auron Piper would give him anything he asked, if it was within his power, but the stem of the Pirran Pipe and the Isle of Auron are lost to the Auron tribe. The history-keeper takes two pieces of parchment from her baskets and takes the Deltorans to their boat. She believes they can only understand the full truth of the situation if they see the island for themselves. The Deltorans are met with icy hostility from other Aurons, because they came from Plume bearing the Plume piece of the Pirran Pipe. Since Penn has read of the history of Deltorans and how Doran helped her people, she views the above-worlders in a better light.
In Del, Sharn learns that a former Shadowlands slave named Pieter was responsible for the Plains Scorpion assassination attempt on Lief. Marilen shows Sharn her bedchamber, where Jinks' body lies on the floor. Marilen claims Toran magic revealed the cake was poisoned. She believes there is a spy in the palace who knows she is important, but she refuses to return to Tora and give into the enemy's wishes. Sharn suspects Ranesh is the culprit. Marilen reacts to Sharn's notion with awkwardness, unintentionally revealing that she has feelings for him. Sharn realises the complications that Marilen's feelings imply and silently wishes Lief would return.
In the boat on the way to the Isle of Auron, the magic of the stem of the Pirran Pipe puts Lief in a daze. Penn splashes him with water to wake him. A glowing white dome shines through the gloom, surrounded by dank, murky water full of refuse. A band of pink and yellow seaweed like the one around the grub island rings Auron and the milky water around it, warning to those who come near not to cross it. In the presence of the once-beautiful Isle of Auron, Penn explains that the magic dome veils the island and cannot be penetrated. The opal caverns and the sea within them used to have a wild and savage beauty, but now the caverns grow dim. She hands the companions the parchments she took from her home, saying she would rather let them read the story than listen to her tell it, because it brings her too much grief. The parchments tell how the first Aurons in the caverns were so obsessed with the beauty of the Pirra they left behind that they wove spells of illusion to make their island seem like their former home. Dissenting Aurons, who wanted to live in the real world no matter how strange and different it was, were cast off the island as traitors and stripped of magic. These Aurons built the rafts and were content to live true lives. The Piper of the time said that if the dissenters went in peace, the caverns would remain lit. For a while, his promise held, but over the centuries the light dimmed until it was almost nonexistent. The people of the dome expel their waste into the waters around the island, feeding the Arach in the dim warmth of the dirty sea. Without magic, the Aurons of the rafts have no hope of penetrating the dome. They can only prepare for a time when the light will be gone altogether and they will have to find their way in the dark.
In her distress, Penn had let the boat drift over the line of seaweed. As the boat crosses into the murky water beyond, two huge, spiderlike creatures rise up and run across the water. Lief and Barda try to row the boat back across the line, but it will not move through the seaweed. Penn jumps overboard and swims away, telling the companions to do the same. Lief takes Jasmine in his arms and swims away with her, supporting her weight in the water. She tries to tell him to leave her behind, but he will not even listen to her. Barda joins them, and, holding up Jasmine, they struggle through the thick seaweed. Penn, who can swim like a fish, leaves the safety of open ocean to help them. She at first thinks Jasmine is injured, then is shocked to hear that she simply cannot swim. Penn takes Jasmine and easily swims her to safety. In the open sea, the companions can only watch as the Arach destroy the boat and scatter everything in it. Lief and Barda save Flash and Fury from drowning. Penn calls for eels to take them all back to the rafts.
- Flash, a fighting spider formerly belonging to Glock
- Fury, a fighting spider formerly belonging to Jinks
- Doom (Jarred)
- Marilen of Tora
- Josef, the palace librarian
- Ranesh, Josef's apprentice
- Lindal of Broome
- Jinks, former palace acrobat
- Steven the pedlar
- Nevets, Steven's brother
- The Aurons
- Penn, history-keeper of the Rafts
- The Auron Piper of the Rafts
- Eeran, a previous Auron Piper of the Isle of Auron
- Auris, the Auron Piper of the Isle of Auron