Taran, Fflewddur, and Gurgi ride out of the Valley Cantrevs and into the Hill Cantrevs. Fflewddur remarks that the Hill Cantrevs used to be rich pastureland for sheep with “fleece so thick you could sink your arm in it up to the elbow!” But, much like the farmers of the valley, the shepherds of the hills were robbed of their secrets by Arawn, and now the land is gray and dense with brush. Gurgi doesn’t much care, and wishes he were back at Caer Dallben. Fflewddur says he’s looking forward to heading home himself, to his realm in the north, and loses a string when he says his subjects are always anxious for his return (though his strings hold fast when he says that Prince Gwydion is a distant kinsman).
They stop so Fflewddur can repair his harp, and Kaw arrives, bearing news that Eilonwy is well and that Dallben’s potion succeeded in returning Glew the giant to normal size. Then the crow snatches up Fflewddur’s tuning key and mischievously flies to the top of an oak tree with it. Fflewddur commands him to drop the key, and Kaw does – right into the hollow oak. Gurgi climbs the tree to retrieve it, and finds something else hidden in the trunk. He brings down a small, locked box made of iron. Wondering if it contains treasure, the companions pry the hinges off with their swords, and reveal the box’s contents: “no more than a slender piece of bone as long as Taran’s little finger.” Taran wonders why something so seemingly worthless would be locked up and hidden away. Fflewddur thinks it reeks of enchantment and suggests they get rid of it. Taran says whatever it is, “it’s not ours to take.” (Then why’d you break into the box in the first place?) He puts the bone back in the box and convinces Gurgi to return it to the hiding spot.
They return to the horses to find that Llyan has wandered off. She quickly returns, proudly carrying a large frog in her jaws, which she drops at Fflewddur’s feet. He praises her, explaining to Taran that she does this often with mice and other creatures and he always makes a fuss over them (Alexander must have had cats). Turns out the frog is still alive, though badly dehydrated. Taran thinks they can save him; Fflewddur is skeptical. Just then the frog croaks: “Arrad! … Urgghi! … Ood! … Elpp!” Fflewddur – or Ood, as I will now call him (at least for the rest of this paragraph) – says hey, that’s odd, it sounds like the frog is calling for help. Then the frog says something else to Taran, something which makes him gasp and announce: “It’s Doli!” Quickly, they douse the frog with water, and he starts to sound like good old grumpy Doli again.
|… aaaand D.
Fflewddur asks him why he decided to be a frog, and Doli harrumphs that he was bewitched through no choice of his own, by an enchanter named Morda. King Eiddileg had sent Doli on a mission to find out who was behind a recent theft of Fair Folk treasure. He tracked Morda down, but was turned into a frog before he could find out why Morda stole the trove. He urges his friends to take him back to Morda’s stronghold so that he can find out what the wizard is planning and warn Eiddileg. They ride deep into the forest, and then Kaw suddenly swoops down with the bone fragment in his beak, and gives it to Taran. Taran wonders if Morda might be the one who hid the bone, which he puts in his pocket for safekeeping. Doli is ill and despite their attempts to keep him hydrated, getting sicker. Taran leaves him with Fflewddur and Gurgi, and sets out alone to find Morda. He’s terrified of being turned into a frog before completing his quest, but his desire to provide us with some sick cover art for this installment of the series wins out. Seriously, almost every edition of the book has some version of Taran confronting Morda on the cover!