Sent to live with his mother's folks in the West Virginia mountain hollow of Twilly's Green, Ray is at first appalled to find himself related to hicks like the Clewareks, Yantos and Tullos; then determined to earn money for a bus ticket out of town even if it means defying Uncle Dream by selling a giant fossil snake to shifty storekeeper Arbie Moat; and finally converted into defending the hollow from destruction by Arbie's Deep Run Coal Company. Unfortunately, it takes more than cousin Rainelle's music and a newfound respect for men like Delly who at first seemed retarded, to change Ray's mind. Soon after his arrival he begins to see The Watchers and find himself playing a part in an ancient tragedy--the betrayal of the sacred place of Tul Isgrun to enemy warriors. The parallels between the ancient assault on Tul Isgrun and the modern threat to Twilly's Green are most effective if one doesn't worry too much about just who The Watchers are; they seem to be snake-worshiping mound builders, but the suggestion that they are the ancestors of Ray's hillbilly relatives and the discovery of a Latin book, dated 330 A.D., push them into mistier and mistier realms. If Ray's visions seem tetched by occult influences we can't quite pin down, one is drawn to share his love for the ""ragged beauty"" of the hollow and cheer his desperate attempt to save it by setting fire to the old coal mine. Oddly resonant and eerie, for anyone who can make the dizzying leap into a twice removed, remote mountain hideaway.