The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

  “He’s betrayed us!” whispered Menion harshly, his hand instinctively reaching for the long hunting knife at his belt.

  “No, wait a minute,” ordered Balinor quickly, motioning them all to lie flat as the party came closer to their hiding spot.

  Allanon’s tall figure approached slowly along the trail in no apparent hurry, the deep-set eyes turned straight ahead as he walked. His dark brow was furrowed in concentration. Menion knew instinctively that they would be found and tensed his muscles for the leap onto the trail where his first blow would destroy the traitor. He knew he would have no second chance. The white-garbed Gnomes followed their leader dutifully, not marching in any particular order as they shuffled along in apparent disinterest. Suddenly Allanon halted and looked around in startled realization, as if sensing their presence. Menion prepared to spring, but a heavy hand grasped his shoulder, holding him firmly against the earth.

  “Balinor,” called the tall wanderer evenly, moving neither forward nor to either side as he looked about expectantly.

  “Release me!” demanded Menion furiously of the Prince of Callahorn.

  “They have no weapons!” Balinor’s voice cut through his anger, causing him to scan again the white-robed Gnomes at the tall man’s side. There were no weapons visible.

  Balinor stood up slowly and advanced into the clearing, his great sword gripped tightly in one hand. Menion was right behind him, noting the lean figure of Durin just within the trees, an arrow fitted to his bow in readiness. Allanon came forward with a sigh of relief and reached for Balinor’s hand, stopping quickly as he saw the faint distrust mirrored in the borderman’s eyes and the outright bitterness registered on the face of the highlander. He seemed baffled for a moment, and then looked back suddenly at the small figures standing motionless behind him.

  “No, it’s all right!” he exclaimed hastily. “These are friends. They have no weapons and no hatred toward you. They are healers, physicians.”

  For a moment no one moved. Then Balinor sheathed the great sword and took Allanon’s extended hand in welcome. Menion followed suit, still distrustful of the Gnomes waiting up the trail.

  “Now tell me what has happened,” ordered Allanon, once again in command of the weary company. “Where are the others?”

  Quickly Balinor recounted what had befallen them in the Wolfsktaag, their incorrect choice of the trail at the fork, the battle that had followed with the creature in the city ruins, their journey to the pass, and the plan that had gotten them past the assembled Gnomes. Upon hearing of the Valemen’s injuries, Allanon immediately spoke to the Gnomes who had accompanied him, informing the suspicious Menion that they could treat the wounds his friends had incurred. Balinor continued his tale while the white-robed Gnomes hastened to the side of the injured Valemen and hovered over them in obvious concern, applying a liquid from some vials they carried. Menion looked on anxiously, wondering to himself why these Gnomes were any different from the rest. As Balinor concluded, Allanon shook his head in disgust.

  “It was my fault, my miscalculation,” he muttered angrily. “I was looking too far ahead in the journey and not watching closely enough for immediate dangers. If those two men die, the whole trip will have been for nothing!”

  He spoke again to the scurrying Gnomes, and one of them departed at a hasty walk up the trail toward the Pass of Jade.

  “I sent one of them back to see what he could learn about Hen-del. If anything has happened to him, I’ll be the only one to blame.”

  He ordered the Gnome physicians to pick up the Valemen and the whole group moved back onto the trail, heading westward, the stretcher bearers in the lead and the weary members of the company trailing behind. Dayel’s rib wound had been attended to, and he was able to walk without assistance. As the company traveled along the deserted trail, Allanon explained to them why they would not encounter Gnome hunting parties in this region.

  “We are approaching the land of the Stors, these Gnomes that came with me,” he informed them. “They are healers, separate from the rest of the Gnome nations and all other races, dedicated to helping those in need of sanctuary or medical aid. They govern themselves, live apart from the petty bickerings of other nations—something most men could never manage to do. Everyone in this part of the world respects and honors them. Their land, which we will enter soon, is called Storlock. It is hallowed ground that no Gnome hunting party would dare to cross into unless invited. You may rest assured that invitations are at a premium this night.”

  He went on to explain that he had been a friend to these harmless people for many years, sharing their secrets, living with them for as long as several months at a time. The Stors could be counted on, he guaranteed Menion, to cure whatever might be wrong with the young Valemen. They were the foremost healers in the world, and it was no accident that they had come along with the historian when he had returned through the Anar to meet the company at the Pass of Jade. Hearing of the strange events that had taken place from a frightened Gnome runner he had encountered on the trail at the edge of Storlock, who believed the spirits of the taboo land had sallied forth to consume them all, he had asked the Stors to come with him in search of his friends, fearing that they might have sustained injuries at the pass.

  “I had no idea that the creature whose presence I detected in that valley in the Wolfsktaag would have the intelligence to remove the trail markers after I had passed,” he admitted angrily. “I should have suspected, though, and left other signs to be certain that you bypassed that place. Worse still, I passed right through the Pass of Jade in the early afternoon without realizing that the Gnomes would be gathering that evening for the purging of the mountain spirits. It appears I have failed you badly.”

  “We were all at fault,” Balinor declared, although Menion, listening silently from the other side, was not so willing to believe he was right. “Had we all been more alert, none of this would have happened. What matters is curing Shea and Flick and trying to do something about Hendel before the Gnome hunting parties find him.”

  They walked on in silence for a while, dejected men too tired to think further on the matter, concentrating only on putting one foot in front of the next until they reached the promised safety of the Stor village. The trail seemed to wind endlessly through the trees of the Anar forest, and after a while the four lost all sense of time and place, their minds dulled into sleepless exhaustion. The night slowly passed away, and finally the first tinges of the dawn’s light appeared unexpectedly on the eastern horizon; still they had not reached their destination. It was an hour later when they finally saw the light of night fires burning in the Stor village, reflecting off the trees encircling the tired travelers. All at once they were in the village, surrounded by ghostlike Stors, wrapped in the same white cloaks, looking at the men with sad, unblinking expressions as they helped the exhausted travelers into the shelter of one of the low buildings.

  Once within, the members of the company collapsed wordlessly on the soft beds provided, too tired to wash or even undress. All were asleep in seconds except for Menion Leah, whose high-strung temperament fought back the clutches of a soothing sleep long enough to allow his bleary eyes to search silently about the room for Allanon. Upon not finding him, he rose sluggishly from the softness of the bed and stumbled wearily to the closed wooden door, which he dimly recalled led to a second room beyond. Leaning heavily against the door, his ear pressed closely to the crack in the jamb, he listened to snatches of conversation between the historian and the Stors. In a daze of half-sleep, he heard a brief digression concerning Shea and Flick. The strange little people felt that the Valemen would recover with rest and special medication. Then abruptly a door beyond opened to admit several people, and their voices blended meaninglessly in exclamations of dismay and shock. Allanon’s deep voice cut through in icy clearness.

  “What have you discovered?” he demanded. “Is it as bad as we feared?”

  “They caught somebody in the mountains,” came the timid
answer. “It was impossible to tell who it was or even what it was by the time they were finished. They tore him to pieces!”


  Stunned, even in his exhausted condition, the highlander pushed himself upright and stumbled back to his waiting bed, unable to believe he had heard them correctly. Deep within him, a great empty space opened. Helpless tears of anger welled up, unable to reach his still-dry eyes, and hung poised there until the Prince of Leah finally dropped off into comforting sleep.


  HEN SHEA FINALLY opened his eyes, it was midafternoon of the following day. He found himself resting comfortably in a long bed, tucked in with clean sheets and blankets, his hunting clothes replaced by a loose white gown tied about his neck. On the bed next to him lay the still-sleeping Flick, his broad face no longer drawn and pale, but alive once more with the color of life and peaceful in slumber. They were in a small, plaster-walled room with a ceiling supported by long wooden beams. Through the windows, the young Valeman could see the trees of the Anar and the shining blueness of the afternoon sky. He had no idea how long he had been unconscious or what had happened during that time to bring him to this unknown place. But he felt certain that the creature of the Wolfsktaag had nearly killed him, and that Flick and he owed their lives to the men of the company. His attention was quickly drawn to the opening door at one end of the small room and the appearance of an anxious Menion Leah.

  “Well, old friend, I see that you’ve come back to the world of the living.” The highlander smiled slowly as he came over to the bedside. “You gave us quite a scare there for a while, you know.”

  “We made it, didn’t we?” Shea grinned happily at the familiar joking voice.

  Menion nodded briefly and turned to the supine figure of Flick, who had stirred slightly beneath the covers and was beginning to awake. The stocky Valeman opened his eyes slowly and looked up hesitantly, seeing the grinning face of the highlander.

  “I knew it was too good to be true,” he groaned painfully. “Even dead, I can’t escape him. It’s a curse!”

  “Old Flick has fully recovered as well.” Menion laughed shortly. “I hope he appreciates the work it took to carry that cumbersome body of his all this way.”

  “The day you do any honest work, I’ll be amazed,” mumbled Flick, trying to clear his sleep-fogged eyes. He looked over at a smiling Shea and grinned back with a short wave of greeting.

  “Where are we anyway?” asked Shea curiously, forcing himself to sit up in bed. He was still feeling weak. “How long have I been unconscious?”

  Menion sat down on the edge of the bed and repeated the entire tale of their journey after escaping the creature in the valley. He told them of the march to the Pass of Jade and the encounter with the Gnomes there, the plan to get them by, and the results. He faltered a bit retelling of Hendel’s sacrifice to the company. Shocked looks registered on the Valemen’s faces on hearing of the gallant Dwarf’s grisly death at the hands of the enraged Gnomes. Menion quickly continued with the remainder of the story, explaining how they had wandered through the Anar until discovered by Allanon and the strange people called Stors, who had treated their wounds and brought them to this place.

  “This land is called Storlock,” he concluded finally. “The people here are Gnomes who have dedicated their lives to healing the sick and injured. It’s really amazing what they can do. They have a salve which, when applied to an open wound, closes it up and heals it over in twelve hours. I saw it work myself on an injury Dayel received.”

  Shea shook his head in disbelief and was about to ask for further details when the door again opened to admit Allanon. For the first time he could remember, Shea thought the dark wanderer actually seemed happy, and detected a sincere smile of relief on the grim face. The man walked quickly over to them and nodded in satisfaction.

  “I am certainly pleased that you have both recovered from your wounds. I was gravely concerned about you, but it appears the Stors have done their work well. Do you feel recovered enough to get out of bed and walk around a bit, perhaps to have some food?”

  Shea looked inquiringly over at Flick, and they both nodded.

  “Very well, then, go along with Menion and test your strength,” the historian suggested. “It is important that you feel well enough to travel again soon.”

  Without further word, he left by the same door, shutting it softly behind him. They watched him go, wondering how he could continue to be so coldly formal in his attitude toward them. Men-ion shrugged, advising them that he would find their hunting clothes which had been taken out and cleaned. He left and quickly returned with their clothing, whereupon the Valemen rose weakly from their beds and dressed while Menion told them a little more about the Stors. He explained that he had mistrusted them at first because they were Gnomes, but his fears had rapidly vanished upon watching them care for the Valemen. The others in the company had slept well into the morning before waking and were scattered now about the village, enjoying their brief respite on the journey to Paranor.

  The three left the room shortly thereafter and entered another building that served as a dining hall for the village, where they were given generous portions of hot food to appease their ravenous appetites. Even with their injuries, the Valemen found themselves able to put away several helpings of the nourishing meal. After finishing, Menion led them outside where they encountered a fully recuperated Durin and Dayel, both delighted to see the Valemen back on their feet. At Menion’s suggestion, the five walked to the south end of the village to see the wondrous Blue Pond that the highlander had been told about by the Stors earlier in the day. It took only a few minutes for them to reach the small pond, and they sat at its edge beneath a huge weeping willow and gazed in silence at the placid blue surface. Menion told them that the Stors made many of their salves and balms from the waters of that pond, which were said to have special healing elements that could be found nowhere else in the world. Shea tasted the water and found it different from anything he had ever encountered, but not at all displeasing to drink. The others tried it as well and murmured their approval. The Blue Pond was such a peaceful place that for a moment they all sat back and forgot their hazardous journey, thinking about their homes and the people they had left behind.

  “This pond reminds me of Beleal, my home in the Westland.” Durin smiled to himself as he ran a finger through the water, tracing out some image from his mind. “There, you can find the same sort of peace we have here.”

  “We’ll be back there before you know it,” Dayel promised, and then added eagerly, almost boyishly, “And I’ll be married to Lynliss and we’ll have many children.”

  “Forget it,” declared Menion abruptly. “Stay single and stay happy.”

  “You haven’t seen her, Menion,” Dayel continued brightly. “She is like no one you have seen—a gentle, kind girl, as beautiful as this pond is clear.”

  Menion shook his head in mock despair and slapped the frail Elf on his shoulder lightly, smiling his understanding of the other’s deep feeling for the Elven girl. No one spoke for a few minutes as they continued to gaze with mixed feelings at the blue waters of the Stor pond. Then Shea turned to them questioningly.

  “Do you think we are doing the right thing? I mean going on this trip and all. Does it all seem worth it to you?”

  “That seems funny coming from you, Shea,” remarked Durin thoughtfully. “The way I see it, you have the most to lose by coming along. In fact, you are the whole purpose of this journey. Do you feel it’s worth it?”

  Shea considered for a moment while the others looked on silently.

  “That’s not really a fair question to ask him,” defended Flick.

  “Yes, it is,” Shea cut in soberly. “They are all risking their lives for me, and I’ve been the only one expressing any doubts about what we’re doing. But I can’t answer my own question, even to myself, because I feel I still don’t know exactly what’s happening. I do not think that we have the whole picture b
efore us.”

  “I know what you mean,” Menion agreed. “Allanon hasn’t told us everything about what we’re doing on this trip. There’s more to this business about the Sword of Shannara than we know.”

  “Has anybody ever seen the Sword?” Dayel asked suddenly. The others shook their heads negatively. “Maybe there is no Sword.”

  “Oh, I think that the Sword exists, all right,” Durin declared quickly. “But once we get it, what do we do with it? What can Shea do against the power of the Warlock Lord, even with the Sword of Shannara?”

  “I think we must trust to Allanon to answer that when the time comes,” another voice said.

  The new voice came from behind the five, and they turned around sharply, breathing an audible sigh of relief when it was Balinor who appeared. Even as he watched the Prince of Callahorn stroll over to them, Shea wondered to himself why it was that they all still felt an unspoken fear of Allanon. The borderman smiled a greeting to Shea and Flick and seated himself with the others.

  “Well, it appears that our hardships in coming through the Pass of Jade were worth it after all. I’m glad to see that you’re all right.”

  “I’m sorry about Hendel.” Shea sounded awkward to himself. “I know he was a close friend.”

  “It was a calculated risk that the situation demanded,” replied Balinor softly. “He knew what he was doing and what the chances were. He did it for all of us.”

  “What happens next?” asked Flick after a moment.

  “We wait for Allanon to decide on our route for the last leg of the journey,” replied Balinor. “Incidentally, I meant what I said about trusting him. He is a great man, a good man, though it may appear otherwise at times. He tells us what he feels we ought to know, but believe me, he does the worrying for us all. Do not be too quick to judge him.”

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