I had originally listed “The Green Stone” as a 1996 story because that’s the year given in Unexpected Magic’; however, in Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature, it was listed as a 1988 story, first published in Gaslight and Ghosts. I only realised this when I was checking on the bibliography for “Mela Worms”, and have since rearranged my DWJ Re-Read list accordingly.
“The Green Stone” is a quest story, although like all DWJ stories, it doesn’t quite go the way quest stories usually do. Narrated by an unnamed Cleric about to go on her first quest, she runs about trying to make some sense of the chaos that is her party. The quest, she explains to one of the heroes (who refuses to give her his name), is a dangerous journey to find an artifact called the Green Stone. Anyway, despite zero help from her party members, she tries to record their names while they wait for the king to arrive and bless their quest. Among the last few people she encounters is a man who sarcastically gives her the name Basileus, and another man, Pelham, who claims to be a healer before rushing back to a post-mortem he was in the middle of.
The quest party began to calm down a little, and the cleric settles into her cart, when Basileus comes up, pulls off his hood to reveal a crown, and announces that he is the king. He adds that with the help of Pelham, he has retrieved the Green Stone himself, and that there is no longer any need for the quest.
As one would expect from a band of rowdy adventurers, this doesn’t sit well with the party members, and one thing led to another… causing them to steal the Green Stone they were supposed to get for the king, and run away, now expecting the king to round up a second group of adventurers to come after them.
Like many of the stories in Unexpected Magic, “The Green Stone” is very short, and straight-forward. The ending felt a little more unfinished than the rest, but only because so many characters were introduced in so very few pages, and I can easily imagine whole books, plural, being written about this group of adventurers. It’s kind of like Wild Robert in that sense. As a D&D player I really enjoy this take on quests/adventures, but I think those that don’t read a lot of traditional fantasy or play similar RPGs may find it not as compelling as DWJ’s other stories.
A note on my next read: as long as the next story in my DWJ rereads are short stories, I’ll go on as usual, but I’m also embarking on a Harry Potter reread (and am in the middle of a Raven Cycle reread!) soon so I may pause when I come to the next novel in the list. Because Castle in the Air needs my undivided attention, after all.