The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks


  “Where is all this talk taking us anyway?” he asked after a moment.

  Allanon glanced down at him sharply, cocking one dark eyebrow in wonder.

  “Your patience is remarkably limited, Shea. After all, we have just covered in a matter of minutes the history of a thousand years. However, if you think you can restrain yourself for a few moments longer, I believe I can promise you that your question will be answered.”

  Shea nodded, feeling no little mortification at the reprimand. It was not the words themselves that hurt; it was the way Allanon said them—with that mocking smile and ill-concealed sarcasm. The Valeman regained his composure quickly, though, and shrugged his willingness to allow the historian to continue at his own pace.

  “Very well,” the other acknowledged. “I shall try to complete our discussion quickly. What we have spoken of up to this point has been background history to what I will tell you now—the reason why I came to find you. I recall to your memory the events of the Second War of the Races—the most recent war in the new history of Man, fought less than five hundred years ago in the Northland. Man had no part in this war; Man was the defeated race of the first, living deep in the heart of the Southland, a few small communities trying hard to survive the threat of total extinction. This was a war of the great races—the Elven people and the Dwarfs fighting against the power of the savage Rock Trolls and the cunning Gnomes.

  “After the completion of the First War of the Races, the known world partitioned into the existing four lands, and the races were at peace for quite a long time. During this period, the power and influence of the Druid Council diminished greatly as the apparent need for its assistance seemed to have ceased. It is only fair to add that the Druids had grown lax in their attention to the races, and over a period of years the new members lost sight of the Council’s purposes and turned away from the peoples’ problems to more personal concerns, leading a more isolated existence of study and meditation. The Elven people were the most powerful race, but confined themselves to their isolated homeland deep in the west where they were content to remain in relative isolation—a mistake they were to regret deeply. The other peoples scattered and developed into smaller, less unified societies, primarily in the Eastland, though some groups did settle in parts of the Westland and Northland in the border countries.

  “The Second War of the Races began when a huge army of Trolls came down out of the Charnal Mountains and seized all of the Northland, including the Druid fortress at Paranor. The Druids had been betrayed from within by several of their own people who had been won over by promises and offers from the enemy commander, who at this time was unknown. The remaining Druids, except for a very few who escaped or were away, were captured and thrown into the dungeons of the Keep and never seen again. Those who had escaped the fate of their brothers scattered about the four lands and went into hiding. The Troll army immediately moved against the Dwarf people in the Eastland with the obvious intent of crushing all resistance as quickly as possible. But the Dwarfs gathered deep within the huge forests of the Anar, which only they know well enough to survive in for any length of time, and there held firm against the advances of the Troll armies despite the aid being given by a few of the Gnome tribes who had joined the invasion force. The Dwarf King, Raybur, recorded in his own peoples’ history whom he had discovered the real enemy to be—the rebel Druid, Brona.”

  “How could the Dwarf King believe this?” Shea interjected quickly. “If it were true, the Warlock Lord would be over five hundred years old! At any rate, I should think that some ambitious mystic must have suggested the idea to the king with the thought of reviving an old, outdated myth—perhaps to better his own position in the court or something.”

  “That is a possibility,” Allanon conceded. “But let me continue the story. After long months of fighting, the Trolls were evidently led to believe that the Dwarfs had been beaten, so they turned their war legions to the west and began to march against the powerful Elven kingdom. But during the months the Trolls had battled the Dwarf people, the few Druids who had escaped from Paranor had been assembled by the famous mystic Bremen, an old and highly esteemed elder of the Council. He led them to the Elven kingdom in the Westland to warn the people there of this new threat and to prepare for the almost certain invasion of the Northlanders. The Elven King in that year was Jerle Shannara—the greatest of all the Elven kings, perhaps, with the exception of Eventine. Bremen warned the King of the probable assault on his lands, and the Elven ruler quickly prepared his armies before the advancing Troll hordes had reached their borders. I’m sure that you know your history well enough to remember what happened when the battle was fought, Shea, but I want you to pay attention to the particulars of what I tell you next.”

  Both Shea and an excited Flick nodded.

  “The Druid Bremen gave to Jerle Shannara a special sword for the battle against the Trolls. Whoever held the sword was supposed to be invincible—even against the awesome power of the Warlock Lord. When the Troll legions entered the Valley of Rhenn in the borderlands of the Elven kingdom, they were attacked and trapped by the armies of the Elven people fighting from higher ground and were badly beaten in a two-day, pitched battle. The Elves were led by the Druids and Jerle Shannara, who carried the great sword given him by Bremen. They fought together against the Troll armies, who were said to have had the added might of beings from the spirit world under the domination of the Warlock Lord. But the courage of the Elven King and the power of the fabulous sword overwhelmed the spirit creatures and destroyed them. When the remainder of the Troll army attempted to escape back to the safety of the Northland across the Plains of Streleheim, it was caught between the pursuing army of Elves and an army of Dwarfs approaching from the Eastland. There was a terrible battle fought in which the Troll army was destroyed almost to the last man. During the battle, Bremen disappeared while in combat at the side of the Elven King, facing the Warlock Lord himself. It was recorded that both Druid and Warlock were lost in the fighting and neither was ever seen again. Not even the bodies were found.

  “Jerle Shannara carried the famous sword given him until his death some years later. His son gave the weapon to the Druid Council at Paranor, where the blade was set in a huge block of Tre-Stone and placed in a vault in the Druid’s Keep. I’m sure you are quite familiar with the legend of the sword and what it stands for, what it means to all the races. The great sword rests today at Paranor just as it has for five hundred years. Have I been sufficiently lucid in my narration, Valemen?”

  Flick nodded in dumbfounded wonder, still caught up in the excitement of the history. But Shea suddenly decided that he had heard enough. Nothing that Allanon had told them of the history of the races was fact—not if he was to believe what he had been taught by his own people since he was a child. The big man had simply related to them a childhood fantasy that had been passed down through the ages from parents to small children. He had listened patiently to everything Allanon had falsely represented to be the truth about the races, humoring him out of respect for his reputation. But the entire tale of the sword was ridiculous, and Shea was through being played for a fool.

  “What has all this got to do with your coming to Shady Vale?” he persisted, a faint smile betraying his disgust. “We’ve heard all about a battle that took place some five hundred years ago—a battle that did not even concern Man, but Trolls and Elves and Dwarfs and goodness knows what else, as you tell it. Did you say there were spirits or something? I’m sorry if I sound incredulous, but I find this whole tale a little hard to swallow. The story of the Sword of Jerle Shannara is well known to all the races, but it’s only fiction, not fact—a glorified story of heroism created to stir up a sense of loyalty and duty in the races that have a part in its history. But the legend of Shannara is a tale for children that adults must outgrow as they accept the responsibilities of manhood. Why did you waste time relating this fairy tale when all I want is a simple answer to a simple question? Why are you looking for ??
? me?”

  Shea stopped short as he saw Allanon’s dark features tighten and grow black with anger, the great brows knitting over sudden pinpoints of light in the deep shadows that hid the eyes. The tall man seemed to be fighting to contain some terrible fury within, and for a moment it appeared to Shea that he was about to be strangled by the huge hands that locked before his face as the man glared in open rage. Flick moved back hastily and tripped over his own feet in the process, fear welling up inside.

  “Fool … you fool,” rasped the giant in barely controlled fury. “You know so little … children! What does the race of Man know of truth—where has Man been but hiding, creeping in terror under piteous shelters in the deepest regions of the Southland like frightened rabbits? You dare to tell me that I speak of fairy tales—you, who have never known strife, safe here in your precious Vale! I came to find the bloodline of kings, but I have found a little boy who hides himself in falsehoods. You are nothing but a child!”

  Flick was fervently wishing he could sink into the ground beneath his feet or perhaps simply vanish, when to his utter astonishment he saw Shea leap to his feet before the tall man, his lean features flushed in fury and his hands knotted into fists as he braced himself. The Valeman was so overcome with anger that he could not speak, and stood before his accuser, shaking with rage and humiliation. But Allanon was not impressed and his deep voice sounded again.

  “Hold, Shea. Do not be a greater fool! Pay attention to what I tell you now. All that I told you has come down through the ages as legend and was so told to the race of Man. But the time for fairy tales is ended. What I have told you is not legend; it is the truth. The sword is real; it rests today at Paranor. But most important of all, the Warlock Lord is real. He lives today and the Skull Kingdom is his domain!”

  Shea started, suddenly realizing that the man was not deliberately lying after all—that he did not believe this to be a fairy tale. He relaxed and sat down slowly, his gaze still riveted on the dark face. Abruptly he recalled the historian’s words.

  “You said king … you were looking for a king …?”

  “What is the legend of the Sword of Shannara, Shea? What does the inscription carved into the block of Tre-Stone read?”

  Shea was dumbfounded, unable to recall any legend at all.

  “I don’t know … I can’t remember what it said. Something about the next time …”

  “A son!” spoke up Flick suddenly from the other side. “When the Warlock Lord appeared again in the Northland, a son of the House of Shannara would come forth to take up the Sword against him. That was the legend!”

  Shea looked over at his brother, remembering then what the inscription was supposed to read. He looked back at Allanon, who was watching him intently.

  “How does this concern me?” he asked quickly. “I’m not a son of the House of Shannara—I’m not even Elven. I’m a half-blood, not an Elf, not a king. Eventine is the heir to the House of Shannara. Are you telling me that I’m a lost son—a missing heir? I don’t believe it!”

  He looked quickly to Flick for support, but his brother appeared to be completely lost, staring in bewilderment at the face of Allanon. The dark man spoke quietly.

  “You do have Elven blood in you, Shea, and you are not the true son of Curzad Ohmsford. That you must know. And Eventine is not directly of the blood of Shannara.”

  “I have always known that I was an adopted son,” the Valeman admitted, “but surely I could not have come from … Flick, tell him!”

  But his brother just stared at him in astonishment, unable to frame an answer to the question. Shea stopped speaking abruptly, shaking his head in disbelief. Allanon nodded.

  “You are a son of the House of Shannara—a half son only, however, and far removed from the direct line of descent that can be traced down through the last five hundred years. I knew you as a child, Shea, before you were taken into the Ohmsford household as their own son. Your father was Elven—a very fine man. Your mother was of the race of Man. They both died when you were still very young, and you were given to Curzad Ohmsford to raise as his own son. But you are a son of Jerle Shannara, albeit a distant son and not of pure Elven blood.”

  Shea nodded absently at the tall man’s explanation, confused and still suspicious. Flick was looking at his brother as if he had never seen him before.

  “What does all this mean?” he asked Allanon eagerly.

  “What I have told you is known also to the Lord of Darkness, though he does not yet know where you live or who you are. But his emissaries will find you sooner or later, and when they do, you will be destroyed.”

  Shea’s head jerked up, and he looked at Flick fearfully, remembering the tale of the huge shadow seen near the lip of the Vale. His brother, too, felt a sudden chill, recalling that awful feeling of terror.

  “But why?” asked Shea quickly. “What have I done to deserve that?”

  “You must understand many things, Shea, before you can understand the answer to that question,” replied Allanon, “and I have not the time to explain them all now. You must believe me when I tell you that you are descended from Jerle Shannara, that you are of Elven blood, and that the Ohmsfords are a foster family to you. You were not the only son of the House of Shannara, but you are the only son who survives today. The others were Elven, and they were easily found and destroyed. That is what prevented the Dark Lord from finding you for so long—he was unaware that there was a half son alive in the Southland. The Elven kin he knew of from the first.

  “But know this, Shea. The power of the Sword is unlimited—it is the one great fear with which Brona lives, the one power he may not withstand. The legend of the Sword is a powerful amulet in the hands of the races, and Brona means to put an end to the legend. He will do this by destroying the entire house of Shannara, so that no son will come forth to draw the Sword against him.”

  “But I did not even know of the Sword,” protested Shea. “I did not even know who I was, or anything about the Northland or about…”

  “It does not matter!” cut in Allanon sharply. “If you are dead, there can be no doubt about you.”

  His voice died away in a weary murmur, and he turned to look again at the distant mountaintops beyond the fringe of tall elms. Shea lay back slowly on the soft grass, staring at the pale blue of the late-winter sky laced with small, soft wisps of white cloud that drifted from the tall hills. For a few pleasant moments the presence of Allanon and the threat of death were submerged in the sleepy warmth of the afternoon sun and the fresh smell of the lofty trees towering over him. He closed his eyes and thought of his life in the Vale, of the plans that he had made with Flick, of their hopes for the future. They would all go up in smoke if what he had been told were true. He lay quietly considering these things, and finally sat up, his arms braced behind him.

  “I’m not sure what to think,” he began slowly. “There are so many questions I have to ask you. I feel confused by the whole idea of being someone other than an Ohmsford—someone threatened with death at the hands of a … a myth. What do you suggest that I do?”

  Allanon smiled warmly for the first time.

  “For the moment, do nothing. There is no immediate danger to you. Think about what I have told you and we will speak further of the implications another time. I shall be glad to answer all your questions then. But do not talk about this to anyone else, not even your father. Act as if this conversation had never taken place until we have a chance to work out the problems further.”

  The young men looked at each other and nodded in agreement, though it would be difficult to pretend that nothing had happened. Allanon rose silently, stretching his tall frame to relieve cramped muscles. The brothers rose with him and stood quietly as he looked down at them.

  “Legends and myths that did not exist in yesterday’s world will exist in tomorrow’s. Things of evil, ruthless and cunning, after lying dormant for centuries, will now awaken. The shadow of the Warlock Lord begins to fall across the four lands.”<
br />
  He trailed off abruptly.

  “I did not mean to be harsh with you,” he smiled gently, quite unexpectedly, “but if this is the worst thing that happens in the days to come, you should be glad indeed. You are faced with a very real threat, not a fairy tale that can be laughed away. Nothing about any of this will be fair to you. You will learn much about life that you will not like.”

  He paused, a tall gray shadow against the green of the distant hills, his robes gathered carefully about his gaunt frame. One great hand reached over to grip firmly Shea’s lean shoulder, and for an instant bound them together as one person. Then he turned away and was gone.

  THREE

  LLANON’S PLAN for further discussions at the inn did not work out. He left the brothers sitting in hushed conversation behind the inn and returned to his room. Shea and Flick finally went back to their chores and shortly thereafter were dispatched on an errand by their father that took them out of the Vale to the north end of the valley. It was dark by the time they returned, and they hastened to the dining room, hoping to question the historian further, but he did not appear. They ate dinner hurriedly, unable to speak to each other about the afternoon while their father was present. After eating, they waited almost an hour, but still he did not appear and eventually, long after their father had departed for the kitchen, they decided to go to Allanon’s room. Flick was reluctant to go looking for the dark stranger, especially after his meeting with him on the Vale road the previous night. But Shea was so insistent that at last his brother agreed to go along, hoping that there might be safety in numbers.

  When they reached his room, they found the door unlocked and the tall wanderer gone. The room looked as if no one had even used it recently. They made a hasty search of the inn and the surrounding premises, but Allanon was not to be found. At last they were forced to conclude that for some unknown reason he had departed from Shady Vale. Shea was openly angered that Allanon had left without even a parting word, yet at the same time he began to experience a growing apprehension that he was no longer under the historian’s protective wing. Flick, on the other hand, was just as happy that the man was gone. As he sat with Shea in the tall, hard-backed chairs before the fire in the big lounge room of the inn, he tried to assure his brother that everything was working out for the best. He had never completely believed the historian’s wild tale of the Northland wars and the Sword of Shannara, he argued, and even if some of it were true, certainly the part about Shea’s lineage and the threat from Brona was completely exaggerated—a ridiculous fairy tale.

 
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