When Heather journeys to the White Witch to ask for instruction in healing magic nothing goes as she expects. First she's thrown into the company of three other seekers: Bjorn, a warrior prince; Dahmia, a beautiful merchant; and Merwin, a stage magician. Then the witch refuses to teach them magic unless they can see with Wizard's Eyes, "an ability which can be learned, but not taught." To help them master this mysterious skill she sends them on a Quest for "that which is worth more than good karma." Heather has no idea what this means, but she sets out- reluctantly- with the other three. The quest brings many dangers, including an ice monster, bandits, and a brewing revolution. Heather gets so busy surviving she almost forgets their purpose- to learn to see with WIZARD'S EYES.
A half circle of amber eyes and scarlet, sharp-fanged mouths . . . shaggy white shapes appearing dimly, veiled in the blinding whirl of snow . . . behind her the cliff edge, plunging straight down into white nothingness . . . a terrible urgency . . . "Throw it away!" she was shouting, "That‟s our only chance!"
Heather pulled herself back to waking reality. That was all she could remember of the dream that had yanked her out of sleep, sweating and shivering, early this morning. Only a fragment, but so vivid! The memory of it briefly blotted out the cheerful sunlight falling through the pines, her riding companions, her horse‟s gray velvet ears. It was the vividness that bothered Heather. She dreamed a lot, but the only dreams that foretold trouble were the vivid ones. Like this one.
What could it mean? Throw away what? How could you save yourself from a pack of whatever-they-were by throwing something away? None of it made sense. Autumn was too early for snow here on Mt. Andorlil. Besides, Andorlil was an old, comfortably rounded mountain -- nothing like the jagged crags in her dream. She had no reason, and far less desire, to roam into the high country. And she couldn't imagine how a quiet person like herself would get into such a predicament. It couldn’t have been me I was dreaming about, she reassured herself. I’m definitely not the type for wild adventures.
Of course when you go to consult a witch, especially one as powerful as the White Witch of Andorlil, anything may happen. Heather knew this as well as anybody did, but somehow she didn't feel it would apply to her. She couldn't imagine her peaceful request leading her into trouble. The more she thought about the dream the less sense it made, vivid or not. It seemed pointless to keep pondering it, but it stuck in her mind like a burr, persistent and irritating.
She shook her head and forced her attention back to the scene around her. The little mountain road twisted upward through cool, dappled shadows and patches of starkly bright sunlight. Squirrels frisked and chittered among the tall trees, and an occasional jay shrieked warning. It was the kind of brisk, early autumn day that sends a thrill of excitement along the nerves. The thin, clear air was tangy with the scent of pine. Cool wind gusted out of a clean blue sky, alternately dead calm and roaring through the treetops. It tasted of strangeness and change.
As her mare, Mystery Lady, plodded patiently along, Heather considered the three who rode with her up the narrow cart track. What an oddly mismatched group we are! We must have very different reasons for going to the witch, for truly the four of us are as different as people could be!
Beside her, bulking huge on his big black warhorse, rode Bjorn Haaralson, prince of some little tribal kingdom in the remote Norrish Mountains, far outside the boundaries of the Cynethian Empire. He was a shaggy blond bear of a man with braids in his long hair and his reddish beard, and eyes the pale, translucent blue of glacier ice. His face was as craggy as a granite mountain. Old battle scars laced his muscular arms. He was dressed plainly, brown tunic tucked into leather breeches, high boots laced around his thick legs. A fur-lined cloak was tied behind his saddle. His clothing, like the long sword he wore, looked both well used and well cared for.
There was no mystery about what Prince Bjorn wanted from the witch--he‟d expounded on it in great and tedious detail for the first couple of hours after they‟d left the little inn at the foot of Mount Andorlil. "So if we‟d known King Gustane's plan, nah, never could they have beat us. Nor is the ability to scry enemy plans the only useful magic I might learn. By Firborgen the Frost King, if I could create the illusion of some fearful monster -- an ice kraken, say -- what confusion that would throw into enemy ranks! Yah, and while they were fighting with nothing we could rush in and cut them right down . . ."