The Search for Delicious
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Gaylen, the King's messenger, a skinny boy of twelve, is off to poll the kingdom, traveling from town to farmstead to town on his horse, Marrow. At first it is merely a question of disagreement at the royal castle over which food should stand for Delicious in the new dictionary. But soon it seems that the search for Delicious had better succeed if civil war is to be avoided.
Gaylen's quest leads him to the woldweller, a wise, 900-year-old creature who lives alone at the precise center of the forest; to Canto, the minstrel who sings him an old song about a mermaid child and who gives him a peculiar good-luck charm; to the underground domain of the dwarfs; and finally to Ardis who might save the kingdom from havoc.
The Search for Delicious is a 1969 New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year.
was exactly like the one that hung inside Gaylen’s tunic: a gray stone key. And there was a hole down through the middle, exactly—he now saw for the first time—like a whistle’s. Above the mermaid, nearly hidden in the twisting branches of a spindle tree, sat a family of crows. And as he stared in amazement, a rasping voice scratched across his memory, a voice that had called after him in the morning sun of another day, “Whistles and keys! Whistles and keys! Goodbye!” Gaylen rode marrow up
air which knocked Gaylen head over heels they were off across the tops of the mountains and gone. Gaylen swayed dizzily to his feet as the voices of the wind shrieked away into the distance and faded. He stood for a long time gazing after them sadly. Then he remembered Marrow and looked about. The horse was nowhere to be seen. He ran up and down the narrow ridge, calling, but there was no answering whinny, no gentle thud of hoofs coming to meet him. The sun was rapidly disappearing behind
somewhere in the middle of the line—a scuffle which rapidly became a fist fight, a fist fight which immediately developed into a general free-for-all. The whole square had suddenly become one big grappling mass of people, all throwing things and punching one another and falling down and tearing one another’s clothes and yelling things like “Melons!” and “Pork!” and “Raisin cake!” The Mayor, who was still standing on the well beside Gaylen and the horse, tried to salvage a shred of order, but his
little pig stood squealing on the cobblestones. The forest toward which Gaylen turned his horse rose green and silent just across the meadows beyond the town. He was halfway there and wondering how soon the rain would begin when, with a great flapping and squawking, the cockatoo dropped suddenly out of the heavy sky and landed on his shoulder in a graceless splash of feathers. It clung there, rocking dizzily for a moment, and Gaylen found breath enough to gasp, “For the love of Hector… !”
Then he gathered all his courage and turned around. “Who is Ardis?” he asked. “The woldweller said you were looking for Ardis in the lake.” “He told you that, did he?” said Hemlock. “Well, it doesn’t matter. Ardis is only a dream.” He drew his cape more closely about him and scowled again. Then he shrugged and added, “What good are dreams, after all?” He turned and strode away, with Ballywrack after him, and disappeared among the trees. The green light of the forest glimmered tranquil and silent