Paladins of Shannara: Allanon's Quest by Terry Brooks




  SHANNARA

  SHANNARA

  First King of Shannara

  The Sword of Shannara

  The Elfstones of Shannara

  The Wishsong of Shannara

  THE HERITAGE OF SHANNARA

  The Scions of Shannara

  The Druid of Shannara

  The Elf Queen of Shannara

  The Talismans of Shannara

  THE VOYAGE OF THE

  JERLE SHANNARA

  Ilse Witch

  Antrax

  Morgawr

  HIGH DRUID OF SHANNARA

  Jarka Ruus

  Tanequil

  Straken

  THE DARK LEGACY OF SHANNARA

  Wards of Faerie

  PRE-SHANNARA

  GENESIS OF SHANNARA

  Armageddon’s Children

  The Elves of Cintra

  The Gypsy Morph

  LEGENDS OF SHANNARA

  Bearers of the Black Staff

  The Measure of the Magic

  The World of Shannara

  THE MAGIC KINGDOM OF LANDOVER

  Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!

  The Black Unicorn

  Wizard at Large

  The Tangle Box

  Witches’ Brew

  A Princess of Landover

  THE WORD AND THE VOID

  Running with the Demon

  A Knight of the Word

  Angel Fire East

  Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life

  Paladins of Shannara: Allanon’s Quest is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  A Del Rey eBook Original

  Copyright © 2012 by Terry Brooks

  Excerpt from Wards of Faerie by Terry Brooks copyright © 2012 by Terry Brooks

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States of America by Del Rey, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  DEL REY and the Del Rey colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Wards of Faerie by Terry Brooks. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

  Cover design by David G. Stevenson

  Cover illustration by Stephen Youll

  eISBN: 978-0-345-53680-8

  www.delreybooks.com

  v3.1

  Contents

  Cover

  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page

  Copyright

  First Page

  Excerpt from Wards of Faerie

  The storm clouds scudded across the night sky in roiling clumps that blotted out the half-moon and stars and enveloped the land beneath in heavy shadow. The woods surrounding the village of Archer Trace, fifty miles north and east of the city of Arborlon, stirred uneasily. The trees swayed, and their leaves shivered with a metallic rustling as wind tore at the branches in sharp gusts and rain pattered heavily against the leaves. A drop in the temperature had already announced the storm’s arrival, the air damp, chilly, and raw. Intricate patterns of lightning flashed, and bursts of thunder rumbled from across the eastern edge of the Sarandanon.

  Allanon pulled his black robes tighter and his hood closer as he entered the Elven village, passing the first of the outlying buildings and making his way along the empty pathways. Candlelight burned in the windows of a few cottages and huts, flickering behind glass panes or through open shutters, and this small light was sufficient to guide him on his way. But most of the buildings were entirely dark. The residents had either gone to bed in anticipation of an early rising or down to the taverns that provided the main source of entertainment for the village.

  Had anyone been looking through windows or shutters, or had he been careless enough not to disguise his coming, he might have been observed. But Allanon was not the careless sort, and he had used his Druid skills to change his appearance sufficiently that he seemed little more than another of the night’s shadows. To anyone looking, he simply wasn’t there. It was a Druid trick—one he had perfected during his early years, when he was just learning his craft. Bremen, who had taught it to him, was already gone by then, so he had mastered it on his own, expanding on his existing skills.

  But while Archer Trace was the sort of miserable place where inhabitants and visitors alike made it a point to watch one another closely, there was little vigilance on this night. The foul weather did not invite the monitoring of those abroad, and the pleasures of the taverns provided a more attractive lure. So Allanon passed into the village relatively unseen, traveling along its single roadway to a cluster of ragged buildings that were illuminated by torches wedged down in iron brackets beneath their weather shields, fighting bravely to stay lit against the onslaught of wind and rain.

  Slowing, he looked for the sign that would identify his destination and quickly found it: THE DRUNKEN FOOL. Big, bold letters—no doubt a reference to its patrons. But if it could provide him with the information he needed, what did the nature of the business or its patrons matter to him? He had come all the way from Arborlon on this slim hope of success because time and opportunity were growing short. And rumor alone was enough to send him on what others might have dismissed as a fool’s errand. Lives were being snuffed out, and all that mattered might soon be gone—something that would prove disastrous to the Four Lands. If even one of those he sought could be saved, he had to do whatever it took to make that happen. There was more at stake here than his discomfort and risk.

  He cast aside the magic that let him remain unseen as he pushed his way through the tavern’s heavy door and into the smoky interior, then looked about. The room was crowded—more so than he would have expected, given the size and condition of the village. Most of the tavern’s denizens were Elves; no surprise there—this was their homeland. But it appeared as if everyone who lived in Archer Trace or might even have been passing through had gathered. A few heads turned to look at him, but most turned quickly away. A man seven feet tall and possessed of rough features and a dark scowl did not draw many extended looks. He ignored the few looks he received and waited for the barkeep to acknowledge him. When the man gave him a nod of recognition, the Druid turned his attention to a small table in the back of the room and the two men who occupied it. A moment later, both men rose, having suddenly decided that it was time to leave although neither could have said why.

  He gave it a moment, then crossed to the table the men had vacated and sat down.

  After a few minutes, the barkeep wandered over.

  “Long trip?” He was a large, heavyset man with big features and a dour look. For an Elf, he looked downright sullen. “I know everyone in the village,” he added. “You’ve come from somewhere else.”

  Allanon nodded. “A cold tankard of ale would ease my weariness.”

  The barkeep nodded and wandered off, and Allanon looked around at the room’s patrons, his gaze moving from face to face, making sure that nothing seemed out of place and no one appeared to be a threat. By the time he had finished, the barkeep had returned.

  “Anything else?” He set the tankard of ale down and waited. “Something to eat, maybe?”

  The Druid shook his head. “Do you know where I can find a man called Derrivanian?”

  “Might. What’s your business?”

  “My business is my own.”

  “Maybe so, but I don’t like sending trouble to other people’s doorsteps. Trouble finds them quick enough
without my help.”

  “I intend no trouble.” Allanon brushed the rain from his shoulders and sat back. “He is an old friend. I knew him when he served as record keeper for the Elessedils.”

  “Oh, you know of that? So maybe you are a friend. But where’s the proof? What’s to say you aren’t here to collect a bill or cause some other sort of mischief?”

  Allanon gave him a look. “Derrivanian is an old man with an old wife and an old dog, and he hasn’t got much of anything to give and no history of ever having done anyone harm. Why don’t you just tell me where he lives?”

  The barkeep shook his head. “I need something more than your word before I tell you anything. I don’t much like the look of you—all in black, dark-faced, and grim. You’re a big man used to getting his way. Well, I’m a big man, too, and I’m not afraid of you.”

  Allanon went very still. “It isn’t me you should fear, barkeep.” He locked eyes with the man. “Ask yourself this. Are you sure enough of yourself that you would risk a meeting with some who might not ask any questions but simply tear the information from you? Would you risk a meeting with those they call Skull Bearers?”

  The barkeep paled. “Do not speak that name in here!”

  “What name should I speak, then? I gave you Derrivanian. Should I give you another? The Warlock Lord’s name, perhaps? Or is there another you would prefer me to speak?”

  The barkeep backed away. “I want you out of here! Take your business elsewhere and seek your answers from another.”

  Allanon shook his head. “I have no time for asking others. I have chosen to ask you, and I will have my answers now. Look at me. Where will I find Eldra Derrivanian?”

  The barkeep tried to back away, but suddenly his strength failed, and he found himself rooted in place. His face tightened with his efforts to free himself, and it was clear he saw something new in the Druid’s eyes that made him realize what he was up against.

  “Answer me,” Allanon ordered.

  “Take the road west out of the village.” The barkeep was speaking in a different voice, one dredged up from the dark places you hide when you are very afraid. “Go about five hundred yards. Look for a fence and a wooden gate inset with the carved image of a rooster. He can be found there.”

  Allanon nodded. “My thanks. Now forget you ever saw me. Forget this conversation. Forget everything but your purpose in coming to my table with my tankard of ale.” He paused. “What was it you wanted to ask me again?”

  The barkeep’s eyes, which had lost focus, suddenly seemed clear again. “Something to eat, maybe?”

  When the barkeep had left the table, Allanon took a few minutes to finish the tankard of ale, relishing the cold liquid flowing down his throat and the fire it brought to his belly. He stopped examining the patrons and the room and delved deep into his own thoughts, musing on the Druid abilities he had developed since leaving Bremen to his fate at the Hadeshorn all those years ago. Sometimes, it seemed like a dream to him. He could still see the old man walking out onto the glistening black rock of the Valley of Shale to the edge of the lake’s waters and into the arms of the Shade of Galaphile, then being carried beyond into the mists. He could still remember standing alone afterward and wondering how he could manage what he had been charged with doing.

  He was only fifteen when Bremen had left him. Only a boy. But he had been strong, both physically and mentally, and he had only grown stronger with time. And he had used that strength in ways that now made his name a household legend.

  He had restored Paranor to the world of men, using the Black Elfstone entrusted to him by Bremen, and made the Druid’s Keep his permanent residence. He had brought a fresh contingent of Elven Hunters—supplied at first by Jerle Shannara, then by those Elven Kings who had succeeded him—to act as protectors of the Druid’s Keep and the Sword of Shannara, which had been set within a block of Tre-Stone and placed in a vault, there to await the day when Bremen had promised it would be needed again.

  Then he had slept the Druid Sleep, deep and dark with magic that let time and aging pass him by.

  But now the day that Bremen had promised had arrived—the day for which Allanon had been preparing himself all his life. A life that, because of his extensive use of the Druid Sleep, spanned almost five hundred years.

  So fifteen years of age was a very long time ago, and that boy he had been was very far removed from who he had become.

  He lifted his eyes from the tankard and looked out across those years to the many, many people he had left behind. He was in the prime of his life, while all those he had known as a boy and a young man were gone. It was a strange feeling to realize that so much had passed him by. It was a hard way to live your life, but he was the last Druid—the only Druid—and he wondered where he would find another to succeed him. He had looked, but no one seemed right for the weight of what he would have to ask of them. Who would willingly accept that burden? Worse, only someone who fully understood what it meant to shoulder such a load, and what responsibilities came with it, would be the right choice.

  But that was another problem for another time, and this night was meant for other work.

  He pushed back from the table and rose. The tavern seemed busier than ever, the bar crowded with laughing, shouting, jostling people. All the tables were occupied. He was barely on his feet before a pair of young men hurried over to claim his space, pausing only long enough to make certain he did not object. He nodded to them and walked away—ignoring the barkeep, who ignored him in turn—then moved back through the door and out into the night.

  Wrapped in his cloak, he trudged up the muddy roadway, head bent but ears and eyes alert for sound and movement. The rain was a slow, steady downpour that had already soaked the ground and was now being channeled into low places to pool and settle. He kept to the drier parts of the sodden path as best he could, moving westward toward his destination, thinking about what he hoped to accomplish. So much depended on what Eldra Derrivanian remembered or what he had written down, or even what he might be able to divine. It had come to this: a sort of crazy guessing game as to who might still be out there that the winged servants of the Warlock Lord hadn’t already found. Someone who hadn’t already been revealed by traitors and sycophants eager to preserve the lives they were assured of losing. Someone who hadn’t already been turned or killed.

  Someone who might still have courage enough to do what was needed to save the Races.

  But this was Eldra Derrivanian, and he might not care about saving anyone.

  Two weeks earlier, Allanon had thought his search a lost cause. He had known of the Warlock Lord’s imminent return for months. All the signs were there for anyone who could read them. Winged fliers had been spotted in the North—Skull Bearers patrolling the night skies over the Knife Edge Mountains, bathing in the waters of the River Lethe to armor their skin by day. Bodies of travelers had been discovered in the surrounding regions, ripped to shreds and partially devoured. People and animals alike had gone missing, never to be seen again. Fire bloomed in the once-dead volcanoes that riddled the Charnal Mountains, and deep rumblings shook the earth at regular intervals.

  The prophecy that Bremen had passed on to him all those years ago was coming to pass. Brona, the once-Druid who had fallen victim to his own pursuit of the dark magic and evolved as a consequence into the Warlock Lord, had not been destroyed as most believed. The Elven King Jerle Shannara had not successfully wielded the sword forged especially for this purpose, and though the Warlock Lord had been defeated and driven from his mortal body and the Four Lands, still he was only diminished, not dead. One day, Bremen told the boy, the Dark Lord would return. To that end, the Sword of Shannara must be kept safe and made ready for an heir to the Elven house of Shannara. When the time came, whether during Allanon’s lifetime or the lifetimes of his Druid successors, a Shannara heir must take up the Sword and stand against the Warlock Lord once again.

  It was easy enough simply to acknowledge this truth and set it as
ide for another day, which is what Allanon had done. He had made certain the Sword of Shannara was kept safe at Paranor and gone on with his life. Years had passed, with no indications of the expected return. Other matters had occupied his thoughts and his time. Eventually, hundreds of years later, the prospect of the Warlock Lord’s return was all but forgotten.

  Even so, he recognized it when it happened, and he understood what was needed to keep the people of the Four Lands safe. But he had acted too slowly. He had failed to anticipate the nature of the approach the Warlock Lord would employ to make certain the Sword was not used against him a second time. The Sword itself was anathema to both the Dark Lord and the Skull Bearers; they could barely stand to be in its presence, let alone touch it for even an instant. So lacking the means to take it for himself, Brona chose instead to eliminate all those who might one day use it against him. He decided to wipe out Jerle Shannara’s line.

  Systematically, he killed all those who were scions of the Elven house. Since Jerle Shannara’s direct descendants had all died of natural causes within three generations of his own death, the Warlock Lord needed only to search out those distant relations who carried even a trace of his Elven blood. Allanon did not realize at first what was happening. And by the time he did and began his own search, he found himself arriving too late to save any of the ones he sought. By then he was in steady communication with the young Elven King Eventine Elessedil, and the two of them were working together to glean any references or scraps of information about Shannara descendants from the Elven genealogy records and histories that might help in their search.

  It was Eventine’s last message that had brought Allanon to Arborlon two weeks earlier and set him on his current hunt.

  “You’ve had no luck finding an heir?” the young King had asked him after they had settled down in one of the private reception rooms. Eventine had only recently ascended to the Elven throne following the death of his father. Already, Allanon believed the Elf’s potential was enormous. His charisma, his strength of character, his concern for his people, and his ability to act quickly and judge fairly suggested he was a king in more than just name.

 
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