Wizard at Large by Terry Brooks




  By Terry Brooks

  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 WORLD OF SHANNARA

  The Magic Kingdom of Landover

  MAGIC KINGDOM FOR SALE—SOLD!

  THE BLACK UNICORN

  WIZARD AT LARGE

  THE TANGLE BOX

  WITCHES’ BREW

  Word and Void

  RUNNING WITH THE DEMON

  A KNIGHT OF THE WORD

  ANGEL FIRE EAST

  SOMETIMES THE MAGIC WORKS:

  LESSONS FROM A WRITING LIFE

  STAR WARS®:

  EPISODE I THE PHANTOM MENACE™

  HOOK

  Books published by The Random House Publishing Group are available at quantity discounts on bulk purchases for premium, educational, fund-raising, and special sales use. For details, please call 1-800-733-3000.

  For Alex

  Who is something of a wizard at large himself…

  At that word the young man let his glass slip through his fingers, and looked upon Keawe like a ghost.

  ‘It is for that I am asking you,’ returned Keawe. ‘But why are you so much concerned? Is there something wrong about the price?’

  The price,’ says he; ‘the price! You do not know the price?’

  ‘It has dropped a great deal in value since your time, Mr. Keawe,’ said the young man, stammering.

  ‘Well, well, I shall have the less to pay for it,’ says Keawe. ‘How much did it cost you?’

  The young man was white as a sheet. ‘Two cents,’ said he.

  ‘What?’ cried Keawe, ‘two cents? Why, then, you can only sell it for one. And he who buys it—’ The words died upon Keawe's tongue; he who bought it could never sell it again, the bottle and the bottle imp must abide with him until he died, and when he died must carry him to the red end of hell.

  Robert Louis Stevenson, The Bottle Imp

  Sneeze

  Bottle

  Graum Wythe

  Darkling

  Spellbound

  Michel Ard Rhi

  Slight Miscalculation

  One-Way Ticket

  Castles and Cages

  Charades

  Button, Button

  Jericho

  Show Time

  Love Song

  Lost and Found

  Gambit

  Snatch

  Itch

  Halloween Crazies

  Dragon at the Bar

  Stopper

  Homecomings

  Ben Holiday sighed wearily and wished he were somewhere else besides where he was. He wished he were anywhere else.

  He was in the garden room at Sterling Silver. The garden room was probably Ben Holiday's favorite of all the many rooms at the castle. It was bright and airy. Flower boxes crisscrossed the tiled floor in dazzling swatches of color. Sunshine streamed through floor-length windows that ran the length of its southern wall, tiny motes of pollen dancing on the broad bands of light. The windows stood open and fragrant smells wafted in. The room looked out on the gardens proper, a maze of flower beds and bushes that spread their way downward to the lake on which the island castle rested, mixing and mingling their colors like paints run together on a rain-soaked canvas. The flowers bloomed year-round, reseeding themselves with commendable regularity. A horticulturist from Ben's old world would have killed to study such treasures—species that grew only in the Kingdom of Landover and nowhere else.

  Just at the moment, Ben would have killed to escape them.

  “…Great High Lord…”

  “… Mighty High Lord…”

  The familiar calls of supplication grated on him like rough stones and reminded him anew of the cause of his disgruntlement. His eyes rolled skyward momentarily. Please! His gaze shifted furiously from flower box to flower bed and back again, as if somewhere among all those tiny petals the escape he so desperately sought might be found. It wasn't, of course, and he sagged back further in his cushioned chair and contemplated the unfairness of it all. It wasn't that he was trying to shirk his duty. It wasn't as if he didn't care about these things. But this was his refuge, for Pete's sake! This was supposed to be his place for time away!

  “… and took all of our hard-earned berry stores.”

  “And all of our ale kegs as well.”

  “When all we did was to borrow a few laying hens, High Lord.”

  “We would have replaced those that were lost, High Lord.”

  “We intended to be fair.”

  “We did.”

  “You must see that our possessions are returned…”

  “Yes, you must…”

  They went on, barely pausing for breath.

  Ben studied Fillip and Sot the way his gardener studied weeds in the flower beds. The G'home Gnomes rambled on unself-consciously and endlessly, and he thought about the vagaries of life that permitted misfortunes such as this to be visited on him. The G'home Gnomes were a pitiful bunch—small, ferretlike burrow people who begged, borrowed, and mostly stole everything with which they came in contact. They migrated periodically and, once settled, could not be dislodged. They were regarded in general as a blight upon the earth. On the other hand, they had proven unswervingly loyal to Ben. When he had purchased the Kingdom of Landover from Rosen's Department Store Christmas Wishbook and come into the valley—almost two years ago now—Fillip and Sot, on behalf of all of the G'home Gnomes, had been the first to pledge their loyalty. They had aided him in his efforts to establish his kingship. They had helped him again when Meeks, the former Court Wizard, had slipped back into Landover and stolen his identity and his throne. They had been his friends when there were precious few friends to be had.

  He sighed deeply. Well, he owed them something, certainly—but not this much. They were taking advantage of his friendship in a way that was totally unconscionable. They had traded on it to bring this latest complaint before him, deliberately circumventing the regular channels of a court administration he had worked hard to implement. They had brandished it like a fiery torch until he was hounded to this, his last sanctuary. It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't do this every single time there was a complaint of any sort—which was every five minutes, it sometimes seemed—but, of course, they did. They didn't trust anyone else to be fair and impartial. They wanted their “Great High Lord” and their “Mighty High Lord” to hear them out.

  And hear them out, and hear them out…

  “… a fair disposition would be a return of all things stolen and a replacement of all things damaged,”said Fil-lip.

  “A fair disposition would be for you to order to our service several dozen trolls for a reasonable period of time,”said Sot.

  “Perhaps a week or two,”said Fillip.

  “Perhaps a month,”said Sot.

  It would also help matters if they didn't bring most of their problems on themselves, Ben thought darkly. It was difficult to be either objective or sympathetic when he knew before the first word was out of their mouths that they were at least as guilty of causing the dilemma as whomever their latest complaint was to be lodged against.

  Fillip and Sot rambled on. Their grimy faces twitched as they talked, their eyes squinting against the light, their fur wrinkled and worn. Th
eir fingers curled and straightened as they gestured, and bits of dirt crumbled and broke away from beneath the nails where it was caked from digging. Their shabby clothes hung on them, leather and sackcloth, colorless save for a single incongruous red feather stuck in the headband of their caps. They were bits of wreckage that had somehow washed up on the shores of his life.

  “Perhaps a tribute would help serve as recompense,”Fillip was saying.

  “Perhaps a token gift of silver or gold,”Sot echoed.

  Ben shook his head hopelessly. This was quite enough. He was about to cut them off when he was saved from the need to do so by the sudden, unexpected appearance of Questor Thews. His Court Wizard burst through the garden room doors as if catapulted by some giant sling, arms waving, white beard and long hair whipping about, gray robes with their colorful patches trailing after in what appeared to be a desperate effort to keep up with their wearer.

  “I have done it, I have done it!” he proclaimed without any preliminaries. He was flushed with excitement, his owlish face made positively glowing by whatever it was that he had done. He seemed oblivious to the presence of the G'home Gnomes, who mercifully stopped their presentation in midsentence and simply stared at him open-mouthed.

  “What is it that you have done?” Ben inquired mildly. He had learned to temper his enthusiasm where Questor was concerned, because it was often sadly misplaced. Questor accomplished on the average about one half of what he thought he had accomplished.

  “The magic, High Lord! I have found the magic! Finally, I have found the means to…” He stopped, hands gesturing emphatically. “No, wait a moment! The others must hear this, too. All of our friends must be present. I have taken the liberty of sending for them. It should only be a few, brief… This is such a glorious… Ah, ah, here they are now!”

  Willow appeared in the open door, stunning as always, more beautiful than all the flowers about her, her slender form a whisper of white silk and trailing lace as she slipped into the sunlit room. Her pale green face glanced toward Ben, and she smiled that special, secret smile that she reserved only for him. A fairy creature, she seemed as ephemeral as the warmth of the midday air. The kobolds, Bunion and Parsnip, trailed after, gnarled bodies skittering along, wizened monkey faces grinning doubtfully, all teeth and sharp angles. Fairy creatures, too, they had the look of something conjured from a nightmare. Abernathy came last, resplendent in his scarlet and gold Court Scribe uniform, no fairy creature, but a soft-coated Wheaten Terrier who seemed to think he was human. He held his dog's body erect and dignified, his soulful eyes darting at once to the hateful, carnivorous G'home Gnomes.

  “I see no reason to be present in the same room as these loathsome creatures…” he began indignantly and was cut short by the sight of Questor Thews advancing on him with arms stretched wide.

  “Old friend!” the wizard gushed. “Abernathy, the best of news for you! Come, come!”

  He seized hold of Abernathy and propelled him into the center of the room. Abernathy stared at the wizard in disbelief, finally shaking himself free of the other entirely.

  “Have you lost your mind?” he demanded, brushing at his garments to straighten them. His muzzle twitched. “And what is this old friend business? What are you up to now, Questor Thews?”

  “Something you cannot begin to imagine!” The wizard was beaming with excitement as he rubbed his hands together and beckoned them all closer. They crowded in, and Questor's voice lowered conspiratorially. “Abernathy, if you were to wish for that which you most desire in all the world, what would it be?”

  The dog stared at him. Then he glanced momentarily at the G'home Gnomes, then back again. “How many wishes do I get?”

  The wizard lifted his bony hands and brought them to rest gently on the other's shoulders. “Abernathy.”He breathed the scribe's name. “I have found the magic that will change you from a dog back into a man!”

  There was stunned silence. Everyone knew the story of how Questor had used the magic to change Abernathy from a man into a dog to protect him from the old King's spiteful son some years earlier, when that reprobate was in one of his more hateful moods, and then had been unable to change him back again. Abernathy had lived since then as an imperfect dog who retained human hands and speech, always with the hope that one day a way would be found to restore his human self. A chagrined Questor had searched in vain for that way, frequently claiming he would find it when he found certain books of magic hidden by Meeks on his departure from Landover. But the books had been destroyed while being recovered, and not much had been heard on the subject since.

  Abernathy cleared his throat. “Is this simply an over-generous dose of your usual nonsense, wizard?” he asked cautiously. “Or can you really change me back?”

  “I can!” Questor declared, nodding vehemently. He paused. “I think.”

  Abernathy drew back. “You think?”

  “Wait a minute!” Ben was out of his chair and between them with as much speed as he could manage, nearly tripping headfirst over a box of gardenias in his effort to prevent bloodshed. He took a deep breath. “Questor.”He waited until the other's eyes found his. “I thought that kind of magic was beyond you. I thought that when you lost the books of magic, you lost any way of even studying the arts mastered by your predecessors, let alone trying to…”

  “Trial and error, High Lord!” the other interrupted quickly. “Trial and error! I simply expanded on what I already knew, taking matters a step further each time, learning a bit more as I went until I had learned it all. It has taken me until now to master the magic, but master it I have!”

  “You think,”Ben amended.

  “Well…”

  “This is a waste of time—as usual!” Abernathy snapped, turned, and would have stalked away except that he was hemmed in by the G'home Gnomes, who had crowded close to hear better. Abernathy wheeled back. “The fact of the matter is, you never get anything right!”

  “Rubbish!” Questor cried out suddenly, quieting them all. He straightened. “For ten long months I have worked on this magic—ever since the old books of magic were destroyed with Meeks, ever since then!” His sharp eyes locked on Abernathy. “I know how much this means to you. I have dedicated myself to mastering the magic that would make it possible. I have used the magic on small creatures with complete success. I have proven so far as it is possible to do so that it can be done. It only remains to try it with you.”

  No one said anything for a moment. The only sound in the room was the buzz of a solitary bumblebee as it meandered from flower box to flower box. Abernathy frowned at Questor Thews in determined silence. There was disbelief reflected in his eyes, but it couldn't quite mask the hope.

  “I think we should give Questor the opportunity to finish his explanation,”Willow spoke up finally. She stood a pace or two back from the others, watching.

  “I agree,”Ben added his approval. ‘Tell us the rest, Questor.”

  Questor looked offended. “Rest? What rest? That is the whole of it, thank you—unless you expect technical details on how the magic works, which I am not going to give you, since you would not understand them anyway. I have developed a means to complete the transformation from dog to man and that is that! If you wish me to use the magic, I will! If not, I will dismiss the matter from my mind!”

  “Questor…” Ben began soothingly.

  “Well, really, High Lord! I work hard to discover a difficult and elusive magical process and I am greeted with insults, jeers, and accusations! Am I Court Wizard or not, I ask myself? There certainly seems to be some doubt!”

  “I simply asked…” Abernathy tried.

  “No, no, you need not apologize for the truth of your feelings!” Questor Thews seemed to relish thoroughly the role of martyr. “Throughout history, all great men have been misunderstood. Some have even died for their beliefs.”

  “Now, look here!” Ben was growing angry.

  “That is not to say that I feel my own life is threatened in any w
ay, you understand,”Questor added hastily. “I was simply making a point. Ahem! It only remains for me to repeat that the process is complete, the magic is found, and we can use it if you wish. Simply say so. You have all the facts.”He stopped suddenly. “Oh. Except one, that is.”

  There was a collective groan. “Except one?” Ben repeated.

  Questor tugged uncomfortably on one ear and cleared his throat. “There is one small matter, High Lord. The magic requires a catalyst for a transformation of this magnitude. I lack such a catalyst.”

  “I knew it…” Abernathy muttered under his breath.

  “But there is an alternative,”Questor continued hastily, ignoring the other. He paused and took a deep breath. “We could use the medallion.”

  Ben stared at him blankly. “The medallion? What medallion?”

  “Your medallion, High Lord.”

  “My medallion?”

  “But you would have to take it off and give it to Abernathy to wear during the transformation process.”

  “My medallion?”

  Questor looked as if he were waiting for the ceiling to fall in on him. “It would only be for a few moments, you understand—that would be all. Then you could have your medallion back.”

  “I could have it back. Right.”

  Ben didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. “Questor, we just spent weeks trying to get the damn thing back when it wasn't really gone in the first place, and now you want me to take it off for real? I thought I was never supposed to take it off. Isn't that what you yourself have told me on more than one occasion? Isn't it?”

  “Well, yes…”

  “What if something goes wrong and the medallion is damaged or lost? What then?” A dark flush was beginning to creep up Ben's neck. “What if what if, for whatever reason, Abernathy can't give it back? Great balls of fire! This is the most half-baked idea I ever heard, Questor! What are you thinking about, anyway?”

  Everyone had sort of shrunk away from him during this explosion, and now Ben found himself alone amid the flower boxes with the wizard. Questor was standing fast, but looking none too comfortable.

  “If there were another choice in the matter, High Lord…”

 
No Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]