Wizard at Large by Terry Brooks


  He looked down at her and nodded. “Yep, Elizabeth,”he said. “Matter of fact, I'm sure of it.”

  She smiled. “Me, too, I guess.”

  “That doesn't mean we can't wony about them, though.”

  “Or miss them. I miss them a lot.”

  Miles looked out the windows again, across the broad expanse of the runways and taxi lanes, into the distant gray mix of clouds and mountains and sky. “Well, they'll be back,”he said finally. “Someday.”

  Elizabeth nodded, but didn't reply.

  A moment later, the arrival of Flight 159 was announced. Miles and Elizabeth got up from their seats and walked over to the windows to watch it come in.

  Several weeks later, Ben Holiday and Willow were married. They would have been married sooner, but there was protocol to be observed in a wedding such as theirs, and it took awhile even to figure out what the protocol was, let alone to implement it. After all, hardly anyone alive could even remember a marriage of a High Lord of Landover. So Abernathy dug out his histories, and Questor Thews consulted a few of the valley's elders, and between them they finally figured out what had to be done.

  Ben frankly wasn't interested in the formalities. All he knew was that it had taken him an impossibly long time to realize what Willow had known from the very first—that they should be together, joined as one, husband and wife, High Lord and Queen, and that whatever it took to get the job done, they should do it. Once, not so very long ago, he would never have allowed himself to feel that way; he would have considered such feelings a betrayal of his love for Annie. But Annie had been dead almost five years, and he had managed finally to lay her ghost to rest. Willow was his life now. He loved Willow, had known he loved her almost from the first, had heard her speak countless times of the foretelling of her destiny at the moment of her conception, and had learned from her the Earth Mother's prediction that one day she would bear him children.

  Still he had hesitated to believe and to commit himself. He had been afraid, mostly. He had been afraid of a lot of things—that he still didn't belong, that he was somehow inadequate to be Landover's King, and that one day he would simply be gone, back again in the world he had wanted so badly to escape. The realization of the dream was greater than his expectations, and he had feared that he hadn't enough to give.

  He was still afraid. Fears such as these lingered in the subconscious and would not be banished.

  But it was another fear altogether that decided him on Willow. It was his fear that he was going to lose her.

  He had almost lost her twice now.

  It was not almost losing her the first time, when he had just come into Landover, that decided him. It was all too new then, and he had not yet put Annie behind him.

  It was almost losing her this second time, when she had come back with him into his old world and he was forced to face the fact that she had come, not because she had to, but because she loved him enough to die for him. She had known that such a journey would endanger her and ignored the risk to herself because she knew that he might have need of her.

  That was what decided him. She loved him that much. Didn't he love her just as much? Did he want to risk losing her before they had even tried to discover what sort of life they might have as husband and wife? At least he had shared that much with Annie. Didn't he want to share it with Willow as well?

  Any fool could have given the right answers to those questions. And Ben Holiday was no fool.

  So there was nothing more to say, nothing more to be decided. The marriage took place at the Heart. Everyone came: The River Master, uneasy as always in the presence of his child, still reminded too much of her mother by what he saw in her, and still searching for a way to reconcile the mix of feelings she generated within him; the fairy folk of the lake country, some almost human, some no more than faint shadows flitting through the trees; the Lords of the Greensward, Kallendbor, Strehan, and the rest, with their retainers and followers, an unsettled group that trusted no one, each other least of all, but who arrived and encamped together for the sake of appearances; the trolls and kobolds from the mountains far north and south; the G'home Gnomes, Fillip and Sot in the vanguard, proud of their part—the story varied as to what it was—in the making of this marriage; and common folk from cottages and farms, shops and villages—farmers, merchants, hunters, trappers, traders, peddlers, artisans, and workers of all sorts.

  Even Strabo put in an appearance, flying overhead during the feast that followed the marriage ceremony, breathing fire across the sky and presumably taking some small satisfaction from the fact that women and children still ran shrieking at the sight of him.

  The marriage was simple and direct. Ben and Willow stood at the center of the Heart on the dais of the Kings of Landover and told each other and those gathered that they loved each other, would be kind and good to each other, and would always be there for each other when needed. Questor Thews recited a few archaic vows of joining that High Lords and Queens might possibly have repeated years ago, and the ceremony was concluded.

  The guests feasted and drank all that day and night and into the next, and all behaved themselves relatively well. Quarrels were kept to a minimum and quickly settled. Those from the Greensward and those from the lake country sat side by side and talked of renewed efforts at cooperation. The reclusive trolls and kobolds exchanged gifts. Even the G'home Gnomes took only a few dogs when they left.

  Ben and Willow thought it all went pretty well.

  It wasn't until several days later, when things had settled back down to normal, that Ben thought once again to ask Questor about what he had done to Michel Ard Rhi. They were seated in the chamber at Sterling Silver that housed the histories of Landover, a cavernous study that always smelled musty and close, trying to interpret some ancient rules on land ownership. Just the two of them were there, it was late at night, and the day's work was completed. Ben was sipping at a glass of wine and thinking about all that had happened the past few weeks; then his thoughts drifted to Michel, and he suddenly remembered that Questor had never finished his explanation.

  “What did you do to him, Questor?” he pressed, after asking the question once and getting only a shrug for a response. “Come on, tell me. What did you do? I mean, how did you even know what kind of magic to use? I seem to remember you telling me that use of the magic was pretty uncertain over there.”

  “Well… most kinds of magic,”Questor agreed.

  “But not the kind you used on Michel?”

  “Oh, well, that magic was mostly for effect. Not much real magic was necessary.”

  Ben was floored. “How can you say that? He was… he was…”

  “Basically misguided, if you recall the story,”Questor finished. “Remember, my half-brother was primarily responsible for making him into the disagreeable kind of person he was.”

  Ben frowned. “So what did you do?”

  Questor shrugged once more. “He just needed his values rearranged, High Lord.”

  “Questor!”

  “Very well.”The wizard sighed. “I gave him back his conscience.”

  “You what?”

  “I let the poor thing out from where Michel had locked it away. I used the magic to enlarge it and to give it a primary place of importance in Michel's thoughts.”Questor smiled. “The guilt he felt must have been intolerable!” He smiled some more. “Oh. I did do one other little thing. I planted a small suggestion in his subconscious.”

  He arched an eyebrow, looking like the cat who had eaten the canary.

  “I suggested that in order to atone for his guilt, he should give everything away immediately. That way, you see, if the magic gives out before his conscience has a chance to take hold permanently, it will be too late for him to do anything to reverse matters.”

  Ben grinned broadly. “Questor Thews. Sometimes you really amaze me.”

  The wizard's owlish face crinkled. They regarded each other with amusement for a moment, sharing the joke.

  T
hen suddenly Questor jumped up. “Goodness! I almost forgot! I have some news that will amaze you indeed, High Lord.”He forced himself to sit down again, clearly excited. “What if I were to tell you that I have found a way to change Abernathy back again? I mean, really change him back!”

  He studied Ben eagerly, waiting. “Are you serious?” Ben asked finally.

  “Certainly, High Lord.”

  “Change him back? Into a man?”

  “Yes, High Lord.”

  “Like before?”

  “Oh, no, not like before.”

  “But with magic?”

  “Of course, with magic!”

  “Have you tested it? This magic?”

  “Well…”

  “On anything?”

  “Well…”

  “So this is still just a theory?”

  “A well-reasoned theory, High Lord. It should work.”

  Ben leaned forward until their heads were almost touching. “It should, should it? Have you told Abernathy about this?”

  The wizard shook his head. “No, High Lord. I thought … uh, perhaps you might?”

  There was a long silence. Then Ben whispered, “I don't think either of us should tell him just yet. Do you? Not until you've spent a little more time on it.”

  Questor frowned, then squinched up his owlish face thoughtfully. “Wellll… perhaps not.”

  Ben stood up and put a hand on his shoulder. “Good night, Questor,”he said. Then he turned and walked from the room.

  About the Author

  Terry Brooks was born in Illinois in 1944. He received his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, where he majored in English Literature, and his graduate degree from the School of Law at Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Virginia. He was a practicing attorney until recently; he has now retired to become a full-time author.

  A writer since high school, he published his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, in 1977 and the sequels The Elfstones of Shannara in 1982 and The Wishsong of Shannara in 1985. Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold! began a best-selling new series for him in 1986; Brooks presently lives in the Northwest.

  A Del Rey® Book

  Published by The Random House Publishing Group

  Copyright © 1988 by Terry Brooks

  All rights reserved.

  Del Rey is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is

  a trademark of Random House, Inc.

  www.delreybooks.com

  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 95-92545

  eISBN: 978-0-307-54959-4

  v3.0

 


 

  Terry Brooks, Wizard at Large

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