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The Druid of Shannara

The Druid of Shannara by Terry Brooks
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BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Terry Brooks's The Measure of the Magic.

In the three hundred years since the death of the Druid Allanon, the evil Shadowen have seized control of the Four Lands. If they are to be saved, the black Elfstone must be retrieved, at whatever cost to life or love....
Random House Publishing Group; October 2000
ISBN 9780345445391
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: The Druid of Shannara
Author: Terry Brooks
The King of the Silver River stood at the edge of the Gardens that had been his domain since the
dawn of the age of faerie and looked out over the world of mortal men. What he saw left him sad and
discouraged. Everywhere the land sickened and died, rich black earth turning to dust, grassy plains
withering, forests becoming huge stands of deadwood, and lakes and rivers either stagnating or
drying away. Everywhere the creatures who lived upon the land sickened
and died as well, unable to sustain themselves as the nourishment they
relied upon grew poisoned. Even the air had begun to turn foul.

And all the while, the King of the Silver River thought, the Shadowen
grow stronger.

His fingers reached out to brush the crimson petals of the cyclamen that
grew thick about his feet. Forsythia clustered just beyond, dogwood and
cherry farther back, fuchsia and hibiscus, rhododendrons and dahlias,
beds of iris, azaleas, daffodils, roses, and a hundred other varieties
of flowers and flowering plants that were always in bloom, a profusion
of colors that stretched away into the distance until lost from sight.
There were animals to be seen as well, both large and small, creatures
whose evolution could be traced back to that distant time when all
things lived in harmony and peace.

In the present world, the world of the Four Lands and the Races that had
evolved out of the chaos and destruction of the Great Wars, that time
was all but forgotten. The King of the Silver River was its sole
remnant. He had been alive when the world was new and its first
creatures were just being born. He had been young then, and there had
been many like him. Now he was old and he was the last of his kind.
Everything that had been, save for the Gardens in which he lived, had
passed away. The Gardens alone survived, changeless, sustained by the
magic of faerie. The Word had given the Gardens to the King of the
Silver River and told him to tend them, to keep them as a reminder of
what had once been and what might one day be again. The world without
would evolve as it must, but the Gardens would remain forever the same.

Even so, they were shrinking. It was not so much physical as spiritual.
The boundaries of the Gardens were fixed and unalterable, for the
Gardens existed in a plane of being unaffected by changes in the world
of mortal men. The Gardens were a presence rather than a place. Yet that
presence was diminished by the sickening of the world to which it was
tied, for the work of the Gardens and their tender was to keep that
world strong. As the Four Lands grew poisoned, the work became harder,
the effects of that work grew shorter, and the boundaries of human
belief and trust in its existence--always somewhat marginalaO"began to
fail altogether.

The King of the Silver River grieved that this should be. He did not
grieve for himself; he was beyond that. He grieved for the people of the
Four Lands, the mortal men and women for whom the magic of faerie was in
danger of being lost forever. The Gardens had been their haven in the
land of the Silver River for centuries, and he had been the spirit
friend who protected its people. He had watched over them, had given
them a sense of peace and well-being that transcended physical
boundaries, and gave promise that benevolence and goodwill were still
accessible in some corners of the world to all. Now that was ended. Now
he could protect no one. The evil of the Shadowen, the poison they had
inflicted upon the Four Lands, had eroded his own strength until he was
virtually sealed within his Gardens, powerless to go to the aid of those
he had worked so long to protect.

He stared out into the ruin of the world for a time as his despair
worked its relentless will on him. Memories played hide-and-seek in his
mind. The Druids had protected the Four Lands once. But the Druids were
gone. A handful of descendents of the Elven house of Shannara had been
champions of the Races for generations, wielding the remnants of the
magic of faerie. But they were all dead.

He forced his despair away, replacing it with hope. The Druids could
come again. And there were new generations of the old house of Shannara.
The King of the Silver River knew most of what was happening in the Four
Lands even if he could not go out into them. Allanon's shade had
summoned a scattering of Shannara children to recover the lost magic,
and perhaps they yet would if they could survive long enough to find a
means to do so. But all of them had been placed in extreme peril. All
were in danger of dying, threatened in the east, south, and west by the
Shadowen and in the north by Uhl Belk, the Stone King.

The old eyes closed momentarily. He knew what was needed to save the
Shannara childrenaO"an act of magic, one so powerful and intricate that
nothing could prevent it from succeeding, one that would transcend the
barriers that their enemies had created, that would break past the
screen of deceit and lies that hid everything from the four on whom so
much depended.

Yes, four, not three. Even Allanon did not understand the whole of what
was meant to be.

He turned and made his way back toward the center of his refuge. He let
the songs of the birds, the fragrances of the flowers, and the warmth of
the air soothe him as he walked and he drew in through his senses the
color and taste and feel of all that lay about him. There was virtually
nothing that he could not do within his Gardens. Yet his magic was
needed without. He knew what was required. In preparation he took the
form of the old man that showed himself occasionally to the world
beyond. His gait became an unsteady shamble, his breathing wheezed, his
eyes dimmed, and his body ached with the feelings of life fading. The
birdsong stopped, and the small animals that had crowded close edged
quickly away. He forced himself to separate from everything he had
evolved into, receding into what he might have been, needing momentarily
to feel human mortality in order to know better how to give that part of
himself that was needed.

When he reached the heart of his domain, he stopped. There was a pond of
clearest water fed by a small stream. A unicorn drank from it. The earth
that cradled the pond was dark and rich. Tiny, delicate flowers that had
no name grew at the water's edge; they were the color of new snow.
A small, intricately formed tree lifted out of a scattering of violet
grasses at the pond's far end, its delicate green leaves laced with
red. From a pair of massive rocks, streaks of colored ore shimmered
brightly in the sunshine.

The King of the Silver River stood without moving in the presence of the
life that surrounded him and willed himself to become one with it. When
he had done so, when everything had threaded itself through the human
form he had taken as if joined by bits and pieces of invisible lacing,
he reached out to gather it all in. His hands, wrinkled human skin and
brittle bones, lifted and summoned his magic, and the feelings of age
and time that were the reminders of mortal existence disappeared.

The little tree came to him first, uprooted, transported, and set down
before him, the framework of bones on which he would build. Slowly it
bent to take the shape he desired, leaves folding close against the
branches, wrapping and sealing away. The earth came next, handfuls
lifted by invisible scoops to place against the tree, padding and
defining. Then came the ores for muscle, the waters for fluids, and the
petals of the tiny flowers for skin. He gathered silk from the
unicorn's mane for hair and black pearls for eyes. The magic
twisted and wove, and slowly his creation took form.

When he was finished, the girl who stood before him was perfect in every
way but one. She was not yet alive.

He cast about momentarily, then selected the dove. He took it out of the
air and placed it still living inside the girlaO(TM)s breast where it
became her heart. Quickly he moved forward to embrace her and breathed
his own life into her. Then he stepped back to wait.

The girl's breast rose and fell, and her limbs twitched. Her eyes
fluttered open, coal black as they peered out from her delicate white
features. She was small boned and finely wrought like a piece of paper
art smoothed and shaped so that the edges and corners were replaced by
curves. Her hair was so white it seemed silver; there was a glitter to
it that suggested the presence of that precious metal.

"Who am I?" she asked in a soft, lilting voice that whispered of
tiny streams and small night sounds.

"You are my daughter," the King of the Silver River answered,
discovering within himself the stirring of feelings he had thought long
since lost.

He did not bother telling her that she was an elemental, an earth child
created of his magic. She could sense what she was from the instincts
with which he had endowed her. No other explanation was needed.

She took a tentative step forward, then another. Finding that she could
walk, she began to move more quickly, testing her abilities in various
ways as she circled her father, glancing cautiously, shyly at the old
man as she went. She looked around curiously, taking in the sights,
smells, sounds, and tastes of the Gardens, discovering in them a kinship
that she could not immediately explain.

"Are these Gardens my mother?" she asked suddenly, and he told her
they were. aOoeAm I a part of you both?aO? she asked, and he told her

"Come with me," he said gently.

Together, they walked through the Gardens, exploring in the manner of a
parent and child, looking into flowers, watching for the quick movement
of birds and animals, studying the vast, intricate designs of the
tangled undergrowth, the complex layers of rock and earth, and the
patterns woven by the threads of the Gardens' existence. She was
bright and quick, interested in everything, respectful of life, caring.
He was pleased with what he saw; he found that he had made her well.

After a time, he began to show her something of the magic. He
demonstrated his own first, only the smallest bits and pieces of it so
as not to overwhelm her. Then he let her test her own against it. She
was surprised to learn that she possessed it, even more surprised to
discover what it could do. But she was not hesitant about using it. She
was eager.

"You have a name," he told her. "Would you like to know what it

"Yes," she answered, and stood looking at him alertly.

"Your name is Quickening." He paused. "Do you understand why?"

She thought a moment. "Yes," she answered again.

He led her to an ancient hickory whose bark peeled back in great, shaggy
strips from its trunk. The breezes cooled there, smelling of jasmine and
begonia, and the grass was soft as they sat together. A griffin wandered
over through the tall grasses and nuzzled the girlaO(TM)s hand.

"Quickening," the King of the Silver River said. "There is
something you must do."

Slowly, carefully he explained to her that she must leave the Gardens
and go out into the world of men. He told her where it was that she must
go and what it was that she must do. He talked of the Dark Uncle, the
Highlander, and the nameless other, of the Shadowen, of Uhl Belk and
Eldwist, and of the Black Elfstone. As he spoke to her, revealing the
truth behind who and what she was, he experienced an aching within his
breast that was decidedly human, part of himself that had been submerged
for many centuries. The ache brought a sadness that threatened to cause
his voice to break and his eyes to tear. He stopped once in surprise to
fight back against it. It required some effort to resume speaking. The
girl watched him without comment--intense, introspective, expectant.
She did not argue with what he told her and she did not question it. She
simply listened and accepted.

When he was done, she stood up. "I understand what is expected of me.
I am ready."

But the King of the Silver River shook his head. aOoeNo, child, you are
not. You will discover that when you leave here. Despite who you are and
what you can do, you are vulnerable nevertheless to things against which
I cannot protect you. Be careful then to protect yourself. Be on guard
against what you do not understand.aO?

"I will," she replied.

He walked with her to the edge of the Gardens, to where the world of men
began, and together they stared out at the encroaching ruin. They stood
without speaking for a very long time before she said, "I can tell
that I am needed there."

He nodded bleakly, feeling the loss of her already though she had not
yet departed. She is only an elemental, he thought and knew immediately
that he was wrong. She was a great deal more. As much as if he had given
birth to her, she was a part of him.

"Goodbye, Father," she said suddenly and left his side.

She walked out of the Gardens and disappeared into the world beyond. She
did not kiss him or touch him in parting. She simply left, because that
was all she knew to do.

The King of the Silver River turned away. His efforts had wearied him,
had drained him of his magic. He needed time to rest. Quickly he shed
his human image, stripping away the false covering of skin and bones,
washing himself clean of its memories and sensations, and reverting to
the faerie creature he was.

Even so, what he felt for Quickening, his daughter, the child of his
making, stayed with him.
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