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Adin knew that he was the one who must fill the medallions in the belt.

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The Shifting Sands
General information

Deltora Quest


Emily Rodda


Marc McBride (cover)
Kate Rowe (any illustrations associated with the story, including maps and letters)




Scholastic Australia


July 1, 2000

Preceded by

City of the Rats

Followed by

Dread Mountain

The Shifting Sands is a fantasy novel written by Emily Rodda. It is the fourth book in the first Deltora Quest series.

Book description[]

"When the seven gems of the magic Belt of Deltora were stolen, the evil Shadow Lord invaded the kingdom and enslaved its people. Determined to rid their land of an evil tyrant, Lief, Barda and Jasmine are on a perilous quest to find the lost gems, which are hidden in fearsome places throughout the kingdom.

They have found three gems. Now they must seek the fourth, hidden in a shimmering, barren waste, kept jealously by an unknown guardian. Confusion and strange, terrible enemies await them in the ordeal of the Shifting Sands."[1]

This book is 131 pages long


After leaving the City of the Rats in flames, Lief, Barda, and Jasmine are on their way to the Shifting Sands. When they reach the end of the plain, they discover that the Plain is surrounded by a man-made canal of water. They spot an Ak-Baba, and are forced to hide in the river using Lief's cloak to cover themselves. The fish in the river assist them in hiding by covering them up while hiding underwater, although Lief and Barda are certain they are trying to drown them.

The next day, as Lief sleeps, Jasmine steals some apples from a nearby garden, and though Lief is uncomfortable about this, he eats some of the apples with Barda and Jasmine when he awakens. Unfortunately, they are caught by an old, wizened woman while in the midst of eating. The woman is furious at the loss of her apples, and speaks of a quota that must be filled. She is so angry that she appears ready to order her bees to sting the three companions to death. Desperately, Jasmine offers the remainder of their coins as payment for the lost apples. The woman accepts, and calms down. She orders them to leave by the road where they came from. Jasmine tells her that they did not come from the road, and that they are not thieves. It is then that the old woman realises where they had come from, for the only other way to her orchard is from the other side of the Plain of the Rats and Lief's cloak is damp with water. She urgently tells the trio to leave and tell no one that they were in her orchard.   

As the trio leaves, they see a sign swinging from the gate of the garden. Quickly they realise that the place they had stumbled upon was the very place where the Queen Bee cider is made, and the woman is apparently Queen Bee herself.

Queen bee sign

The sign to Queen Bee's plantation.

 They find a flier for the Rithmere Games, which awards one hundred gold coins to every finalist and one thousand gold coins to the champion. The trio decide to join the Games and they set out for Rithmere

In Rithmere, while they are looking for money for their lodging, they run into a man named Ferdinand who runs a game called Beat the Bird. He pays them one silver coin for Kree to spin the wheel thirty times. Many people rush over to play, and due to the success of the first two customers Lief is tempted to use their coin to play the game. However, Barda objects, as it is a game of luck and they may end up with nothing but a wooden bird. After the first two customers, every person who attempts to play only wins a worthless wooden bird. After Kree's thirtieth turn, Kree reveals that Ferdinand has rigged the wheel. Ferdinand manages to escape, and Jasmine picks up a wooden bird.

They go to the Champion Inn, which is run by Mother Brightly, to stay for the night. Because they only have one silver coin between them they offer to work for their keep, but Mother Brightly will have none of that. She asks for their names, and as agreed Barda gives her false names. Much to Lief and Jasmine's annoyance, Barda chooses 'Berry' for himself, 'Birdie' for Jasmine and 'Twig' for Lief. They follow Mother Brightly into another room where their weapons are confiscated and locked away in a cupboard. Their measurements are then taken. Mother Brightly asks what their strengths are. Jasmine tells her that she can balance on high places, climb, swing and jump; Brightly writes 'agility' beside her false name. Strength is put down as Barda's talent, while Lief is listed as having 'speed'.

Mother Brightly leaves and returns with three strips of cloth. One is red, one is green and another is blue. A band is tied around the wrist of each companion. Mother Brightly warns them to keep them on at all times, for they show that they are competitors in the Games and entitle them to food and drink in the Inn. She also gives them a key to their room, labelled with the number seventy-seven. Because she has taken a liking to the trio, she warns them to always lock their door at night and trust none of the other competitors.

They follow Mother Brightly into the dining hall, which is filled with dozens of people with red, blue and green wristbands like those the trio has. Joanna and Orwen are among them, as is the scarred man the three companions first saw in Tom's shop. Before Mother Brightly returns to her post, Lief asks her which events she would advise them to enter. To his shock, she replies that they do not choose who they fight, revealing that the Games consists of fighting bouts against competitors.  

Lief, Barda and Jasmine decide to leave the Champion Inn after having eaten and drinken, thinking that being beaten to the ground to earn money is not worth it in the long run. However, as they try to leave they are stopped by Orwen, who tells them that as they have become competitors in the Games, they cannot withdraw and go on their way. Frustrated and angry at the thought that they are now prisoners in the inn, the companions decide to retire to their room to sleep, thinking that they will be able to think of a way out in the morning, when they are rested and their minds are more alert. However, as they walk to their room they are attacked in the dark by an unseen person, who takes their key and leaves a note in its place. Jasmine retaliates with her dagger, and as the person retreats is pleased to see that she drew blood. Barda shows Lief and Jasmine the note. The trio is angered by the threat, and resolve to compete in the Games despite their previous thoughts.

They fall asleep after blocking the room's door with a cupboard, thinking themselves safe now that no enemy could enter during the night. The next morning, however, they wake up to find that they are locked in their room. Their enemy, after seeing that their threat did not work, had decided that the best way to stop the companions from winning the Games was to prevent them from being able to attend at all. For a long time the trio beats at the door and calls out to no avail, and begin to lose hope. It is not until Jasmine has the idea of waving a bedcover out of the room's window that Mother Brightly takes notice and they are rescued.

The trio tell Mother Brightly what had happened. Mother Brightly is furious that such a thing would occur in her inn. She leads them to the Arena, where she wishes them good fortune before leaving them alone. The three companions stand with the other competitors and pledge that they will fight as well as they can. Lief notes that the scarred man now has a ragged piece of cloth tied around his neck like a scarf, and speculates whether it is there to cover up a cut made by Jasmine's dagger the night before. His anger at the incident returning, Lief's doubts and fears about the competition disappear, and he is determined to show their enemy that he cannot be defeated that easily.

The three companions easily win their bouts during the early rounds of the Games, and by the end of the first day are announced as finalists, along with Joanna, Orwen, the scarred man, a woman called Neridah the Swift and a short, muscled man named Glock. It is then that they learn the name of the scarred man — Doom. Lief voices worry at the possibility of him, Barda and Jasmine being forced to fight each other; Jasmine is surprised at his fears and tells him that they will have to decide which one of them wins beforehand if that is the case and just pretend to fight. She also suggests that they do so for all their bouts, to avoid injury. Barda is uncomfortable with the thought of cheating to lose, as it would not be honourable. A furious Jasmine turns to Lief, hoping that he will agree with her, but Lief disagrees with her, as a part of him is still angry over the warning note and the locked door and does not want to make it look as if they are bowing to their enemy's threats. Angry at their reluctance, Jasmine storms away.

By the time they dine, Jasmine is still angry. She drinks only water, complaining that Queen Bee cider is too rich for her taste. She comments that the people in the audience had been drinking it all day, causing the Arena to stink of it. Barda disapproves of the Cider being sold to the people, as it is meant only for fighters who need large amounts of energy. As they eat, Mother Brightly warns the eight finalists that the crowd is 'very excited' on the final day, and is known to tear to pieces finalists who do not perform well. Chilled, Lief realises that this is how the Games organisers ensure that the competitors perform their best until the very end — the crowd is their weapon.

During the second day of the Games, Lief fights against Neridah the Swift, Barda against Doom, and Jasmine against Orwen. Lief and Barda both lose to their opponents. Jasmine wins her round, thanks to Glock, who is strangling his opponent, Joanna, who Orwen loves, causing Orwen to come to Joanna's aid and get knocked unconscious by Glock. Before the next round can begin, Glock and Neridah faint from drinking drugged Queen Bee Cider. This results in Jasmine fighting against Doom. After a lengthy battle, Jasmine defeats Doom and wins.

After the Games have ended, though Jasmine is proclaimed Champion she is heavy-hearted, realising that she had become just as bloodthirsty as the crowd during her fight with Doom and hates that she let herself be provoked after Doom deliberately insulted her mother. Mother Brightly is very kind and accomodating to the trio, offering to sell them any supplies they need for their journey. She also warns them that they will likely be assaulted and robbed by bandits as they leave Rithmere and offers to show them a secret way out of the city. Unfortunately, Mother Brightly leads them into a trap, causing them to be captured by the Grey Guards and taken to the Shadowlands to fight in the Shadow Arena.

While the guards are sleeping, Doom rescues them and reveals that the whole Rithmere Games was a trap to send the best fighters to the Shadowlands. He had purposefully entered the Games to find out more about them and see for himself how the fighters are captured and enslaved. He reveals that he meant for Jasmine to drink the drugged cider instead of Glock, and after Glock drank the cider instead he had to find a way of pretending to lose to Jasmine. He also reveals that there have been whispers of a grown man, a boy and a girl with a black bird travelling through the countryside, and that wherever they go a piece of the Shadow Lord's evil is undone. The trio are alarmed by this, as it means that the Shadow Lord is becoming aware of their quest, but do not show their alarm to Doom. Doom generously offers to shelter them in a Resistance stronghold in the mountains, but the trio refuses, politely telling Doom that they have urgent business to attend to. They refuse to tell Doom their real reason for refusing his offer, as they do not trust him. Doom, hurt by their lack of trust in him, leaves shortly after, but not before threatening them: "Say nothing to anyone of what I have told you this night, or you will wish you had gone to the Shadowlands."       

After he leaves, the heroes make their way to the Shifting Sands, and climb over the high wall . While walking around in the Sands, the Grey Guards catch up to them, but the trio manage to hide themselves with Lief's cloak. The guards start to dig, only to be caught and eaten by a sand creature. When emerging from the cloak, the trio see that their coins are gone (as well as Jasmine's second dagger) and there are marks in the sand where they used to be. Lief then collapses from exhaustion. When he comes to, he is almost devoured by a sand creature until Barda flings a blister. They find the main hive where the Lapis Lazuli is stored. Then they use smoke to calm the hive while Lief is lowered into the hive on a rope. He spots the Lapis Lazuli but he then realises that removing the Lapis will cause the hive to turn on him. The hive is close to waking up, so Lief uses Jasmine's wooden bird to replace it. Lief is then evacuated from the hive. With the Lapis, Lief, Barda and Jasmine begin their trip to Dread Mountain.



  • The Opal shares a special relationship with the Lapis Lazuli.
  • The Lapis Lazuli is also called "the heavenly stone."


  1. Rodda, Emily. The Shifting Sands. Scholastic Australia. July 1, 2000.

See also[]