The Black Irix by Terry Brooks




  First King of Shannara

  The Sword of Shannara

  The Elfstones of Shannara

  The Wishsong of Shannara


  The Scions of Shannara

  The Druid of Shannara

  The Elf Queen of Shannara

  The Talismans of Shannara


  Ilse Witch




  Jarka Ruus




  Wards of Faerie

  Bloodfire Quest

  Witch Wraith



  Armageddon’s Children

  The Elves of Cintra

  The Gypsy Morph


  Bearers of the Black Staff

  The Measure of the Magic

  The World of Shannara


  Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!

  The Black Unicorn

  Wizard at Large

  The Tangle Box

  Witches’ Brew

  A Princess of Landover


  Running with the Demon

  A Knight of the Word

  Angel Fire East

  Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life

  Paladins of Shannara: The Black Irix is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  A Del Rey eBook Original

  Copyright © 2013 by Terry Brooks

  Excerpt from Witch Wraith by Terry Brooks copyright © 2013 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 Witch Wraith 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: © Stephen Youll

  eISBN: 978-0-345-53682-2




  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page


  First Page

  Excerpt from Witch Wraith

  About the Author

  More than a year had passed since his return from the Skull Kingdom, and Shea Ohmsford was finally beginning to sleep through the night. For a long time, that had been unthinkable. Nightmares of what had been—and what might have been—plagued him like demon-spawn, startling him awake and rendering him sleepless afterward. The hauntings drained him, and for a time he believed he was in danger of dying. He lost weight, color, and spirit. He lacked not only the energy to do his regular work at the inn, but the will to do much of anything else.

  Then Flick, his always-brother and forever-best-friend, took the unusual step of visiting a woodswoman who specialized in potions and spells to cure maladies and who, it was said, could divine the future. Her name was Audrana Coos, and she was neither young nor old, but somewhere between, and she was a recluse and an object of constant derision by all but those who had gone to her for help. Flick, never given to anything that wasn’t practical and solidly based in demonstrable fact—and who would never have gone to such a person before the quest for the Sword of Shannara—made a leap of faith. Or perhaps, more accurately, a leap of desperation. And he went to see her.

  There, deep in the Duln, miles from his home, he sat at a table with this odd-looking woman with her hair braided in colored lengths, her face smooth as a child’s and painted with brilliant rainbow stripes, and her arms encased in gold and silver bracelets from which tiny bells dangled, watching closely as she read the waters of a scrying bowl and determined the merit of his cause.

  “He is very ill,” she announced solemnly, her voice unexpectedly deep and scratchy. “He agonizes over what he might have done … and what he did. He is damaged by the closeness he experienced to the Dark Lord, and he festers with the poisons released in him due to his contact with the Skull Bearers. Long has his sickness waited for its chance, and now it breaks free of its fastenings and seeps through him. His life slips away.”

  She paused, as if considering her own words, and then began rifling through shelves of tiny bottles, leather sacks laced tight with drawstrings, and packets whose contents were hidden from Flick, her slender hands closing at last on a small brown bottle that she handed to him.

  “You must give him this,” she told him. “Do so in secret; do not let him see you do it. If he sees you, he may resist. Give it all to him in a single serving. Mix it with a drink he enjoys and make certain he drinks it down. All of it. Do it immediately upon your return.”

  Flick studied the bottle doubtfully. “Will it cure him of his dreams and wasting sickness? Will he come back to the way he used to be?”

  Audrana Coos put a finger to her lips. “Speak not of other possibilities, Valeman. Do not even think of them. Do not doubt what I tell you. Just do as I say.”

  Flick nodded and got to his feet. “I thank you for your help. For trying to help my brother.”

  He began searching for coins to pay her, but she waved him away. “I will not accept pay for giving aid to one who stood against the Warlock Lord. I will not profit from one who can be said to have saved the Four Lands and all those who dwell within.”

  She paused, cocking her head to one side and looking down again into the scrye waters, which had suddenly begun to ripple anew. “A moment. There is something more.”

  Flick peered down into the waters, but could see nothing.

  “Be warned,” the seer whispered. “Not long after today your brother will journey to a faraway place on a quest of great importance. You will not wish it. You will not approve. But you cannot stop him, and you should not try.”

  “This can’t be true,” Flick declared, shaking his head for emphasis. “Shea has said repeatedly that he will never go on another quest.”

  “Even so.”

  “He has said he will never put himself in danger like that again, and he is staying in the Vale with me and Father!”


  Flick dismissed the reading out of hand. He rose, thanked Audrana Coos once more, and with the potion tucked into his pocket set out for home.

  When he got there, late in the day, he considered his choices. Even though he had possession of the potion, he was not entirely convinced of its value. What was to say it would not prove harmful to his brother in spite of what he had been told? Maybe he had been deceived. Maybe the claims of effectiveness were exaggerated.

  But he could not persuade himself that it was better to do nothing than to try something. There was about Audrana Coos a reassurance that he could not easily dismiss. There was a confidence and perhaps even a promise in her words that dispelled his doubts and persuaded him to proceed with his plan.

  So he waited until a worn and ravaged Shea was finished with his afternoon nap, walked his brother downstairs from their rooms, an arm about his waist to steady him, and sat with him on the inn’s covered porch, watching the sun sink slowly behind the trees. Flick was animated and engaging on that afternoon as he related an imaginary tale of things he had never done, covering up the truth
about where he actually had been. He worked hard to capture his brother’s full attention while encouraging him to drink down the tankard of ale he had given him, remembering what Audrana Coos had told him—that all of the contents of the bottle must be consumed.

  And in the end, it was. Shea, almost asleep by then, head drooping, eyes heavy, drank the last of his ale, and Flick caught the tankard just before it dropped from his brother’s hand.

  Then he carried Shea to his room, tucked him into his bed, and went down to dinner alone. He ate in the dining room at a corner table, keeping to himself—his father was working in the kitchen that night—as he considered what he had just done and prayed to whatever fates determined such things that he had not made a mistake.

  In the morning, when Shea woke and came down to breakfast, he looked much better. He was smiling and lively; he appeared to have begun his recovery.

  “So you don’t feel sick anymore?” Flick asked happily.

  His brother shook his head and grinned. “No. I can’t understand it. I feel like I used to. Much, much better.”

  Flick said nothing then about what he had done. He watched his brother closely for almost two weeks, constantly looking for signs of a regression into the sickness, worrying that the potion’s effectiveness might not last. But at the end of that time, when Shea was still healthy and in all respects back to himself, Flick had to admit that the medicine Audrana Coos had given him had indeed worked.

  It was then that he admitted the truth to Shea about what he had done, not wanting to keep anything from the brother to whom he told everything. He did so hesitantly, not certain what Shea’s reaction might be and anxious to be forgiven for his deception.

  But Shea simply clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Well done, Flick. No wonder I love you so much.”

  Emboldened, Flick then told him what the seer had said about Shea going on another quest—one that Flick would not countenance, but one his brother would undertake anyway.

  Shea laughed. “I’m not going on any more quests, Flick. I’m all done with that sort of thing. I’m staying right here in the Vale with you.”

  And Flick smiled and hugged his brother, and put the matter out of his mind.

  * * *

  Four months later, with the summer mostly gone and the first signs of an approaching autumn reflected in chilly early mornings and leaves turning color, Shea Ohmsford was hauling wood for use in the big stone fireplace in the tavern’s common room. He did it by hand rather than by cart because he was still proving to himself that he was healed, that it wasn’t a temporary cure. His day stretched ahead of him, filled with upkeep tasks—patching the porch roof and repairing the hinges on the side kitchen door after he finished hauling in the wood—all of it providing him with a feeling of satisfaction at being able to do something that four months earlier he wouldn’t have. Every day he celebrated his recovery, still remembering how sick he had been.

  Flick had driven the wagon out to the miller’s to haul back sacks of grain and would not return before late afternoon. On the morrow, they would go fishing in the Rappahalladran River, the day their own to do with as they wished. The air was pungent with the smell of dying leaves and smoke from fires, the sun warm on his shoulders, and the birdsong bright and cheerful. It was a good day.

  Then he saw the rider approaching. Not on the main road leading into the village and past the houses and businesses that formed the bulk of the community’s buildings, but through the woods behind the inn. The rider was sitting casually astride his mount, letting the horse pick its way through the trees, but his eyes were on the boy. Shea thought afterward that he probably knew right away who it was, but couldn’t bring himself to admit it. Instead, he simply stopped where he was, a stack of wood cradled in his arms, and stared in disbelief.

  It was Panamon Creel.

  When he had first met him, the thief and adventurer had been clad all in scarlet—a bold, open challenge to convention and expectation alike. Now he wore woodsman’s garb, all browns and grays, with the exception of the scarves tied about his arms and waist, blood red and sleek, a reminder of the old days. His mount was big and strong, a warhorse from the look of it, with long legs that suggested it could run fast as well as far. Weapons sheathed and belted dangled from the horse and the man, strapped here and there—some fully visible, others apparent only from their distinctive shapes beneath clothing and his saddle pack.

  He rode up to Shea and stopped. “Well met, Shea Ohmsford,” he said, swinging down to stand before him.

  “Panamon Creel,” Shea replied in a voice that didn’t sound remotely like his own.

  “I should have sent word I was coming. But it is always more fun to show up unexpectedly. I trust I am not unwelcome here?”

  “Not you,” the boy said. “Not ever.”

  “Well, then, don’t stand there with your mouth open—show some enthusiasm!”

  Shea dropped the wood with a clatter, rushed past the fallen logs, and hugged the other to him, pounding his back happily. “I can’t believe you’re here!”

  It had been over a year and a half since the culmination of the events leading to Shea’s discovery and use of the Sword of Shannara against the Warlock Lord—an effort that would never have been successful if not for Panamon Creel. In the aftermath of Shea’s flight from the Skull Kingdom, he had been forced to leave his friend behind and thought him forever lost. But Panamon had turned up again weeks later in Shady Vale, alive and well, eager to recount the tales of those earlier days and to learn the truth about what had really happened, for much of it had been hidden from him.

  Now he was back again—the bad penny returned, the clever trickster everyone so mistrusted, but who had saved Shea’s life over and over and about whom he could never think badly.

  “You wouldn’t happen to have a drink for a thirsty traveler in that establishment of yours, would you?” the thief asked, grinning. “I’ve come far and ridden hard, and I’ve a very parched throat.”

  “Come along,” Shea invited, picking up the scattered chunks of wood once more and starting for the inn. “You can tie up the horse out back and come inside for a glass of ale.”

  “Or two, perhaps?” the other pressed, one eyebrow cocked.

  He hadn’t changed, Shea thought. He never would. In point of fact, he looked exactly the same as the last time the Valeman had seen him—sun-browned face, unruly dark hair with touches of gray at the temples, piercing blue eyes, and a ready smile. A small, thin mustache gave him a rakish look. He was always charming and never predictable. With Panamon, there was always more than what appeared on the surface.

  Shea remembered it all, fleeting thoughts that came and went as he walked the other inside and dumped his load of wood in the bin next to the fireplace. Then he walked over to the bar, drew down a couple of tankards of ale, and led his companion over to one of the tables in the mostly empty common room.

  Panamon raised his tankard in a salute. “To surviving the bad and enjoying the good.”

  Shea clinked his tankard with Panamon’s and drank. “You look as fit as ever.”

  “Oh, I am. I don’t age, you know. I prefer to stay just as I was when you first met me. I’ve found that age to be a perfect fit for me, and I have decided to keep it.”

  “Nice trick.”

  “Magic, of a sort. You can do it, but it takes practice.” He leaned forward. “Rather like using those blue Stones you were carrying around when I went with you into the Northland. Do you remember?”

  Shea nodded. “How could I forget?”

  “Do you still have those Stones?”

  Right away, Shea knew there was a reason for asking that went beyond mere curiosity. But this was Panamon Creel, and it would have been out of character for him not to be hiding something. “I do.”

  “You can still use them?”

  He shrugged. “I haven’t had reason to try for a while.”

  The thief laughed. “Good point. I certainly hope you haven’t. The
good life of the Vale is founded on enjoying peace and prosperity, not engaging in life-and-death struggles. You’ve been well, I trust, in the last year or two?”

  He hadn’t, of course, and he told Panamon about his struggle to recover from what had happened to him in the Skull Kingdom. Panamon listened and nodded and drank his ale, his eyes bright and interested, his face impassive. When Shea had finished, he suggested another tankard—for himself, since Shea had barely touched his.

  Shea refilled the other’s drink from behind the bar and then returned. He glanced around as he did so—a necessary habit when you are an innkeeper’s son—to see if anyone needed anything. He was surprised to find that the room was empty.

  “How is Curzad?” Panamon asked as he took his seat. “Your father has always been one of those who look like they might live forever.”

  “Just so,” Shea answered. “It was being of his blood, I think, that kept me safe when things looked bad.”

  “Yes, the sickness.” Panamon looked about casually. “I confess I came here for a reason, young Shea, beyond the obvious desire to visit an old friend. I have a favor to ask.”

  Shea nodded. Now we are getting to it. “Ask it.”

  “This may take a few minutes. Bear with me. Are you sure you don’t want a refill before we start? Once I get going, I like to keep going.”

  “Just say what you have to say,” the Valeman replied.

  Panamon squared himself up and leaned forward. “You will remember that we lost a good friend when we tried to escape from the Warlock Lord. He gave his life for us. He was my companion for many years, but almost to the end of his life he was a mystery to me. We found out together, you and I, the secret he was hiding when we were taken by Rock Trolls. Do you remember all this?”

  Shea did, of course. Keltset, the giant Rock Troll, had been with Panamon when they had rescued Shea from Gnome raiders. Then, subsequently, when they were found by members of his own kind, he was placed on trial as a traitor for being in the company of people from a Race with whom his own were at war.

  “Keltset,” he said.

  “You will remember, as well, then,” Panamon continued, “that you and I were saved from being handed over to the Warlock Lord, and he from being thrown off a cliff, when he revealed he was the holder of the highest honor that can be accorded by the Troll nation to one of their own. He stood there before them and displayed it boldly—a challenge to all to dispute his loyalty and his courage when it was being questioned. That was an unforgettable moment, wasn’t it, Shea?”

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