Paladins of Shannara: The Black Irix (Short Story)

BOOK: Paladins of Shannara: The Black Irix (Short Story)
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First King of Shannara
The Sword of Shannara
The Elfstones of Shannara
The Wishsong of Shannara


The Scions of Shannara
The Druid of Shannara
The Elf Queen of Shannara
The Talismans of Shannara


Ilse Witch


Jarka Ruus


Wards of Faerie
Bloodfire Quest
Witch Wraith



Armageddon’s Children
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph


Bearers of the Black Staff
The Measure of the Magic

The World of Shannara


Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!
The Black Unicorn
Wizard at Large
The Tangle Box
Witches’ Brew
A Princess of Landover


Running with the Demon
A Knight of the Word
Angel Fire East

Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life

Paladins of Shannara: The Black Irix
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously.

A Del Rey eBook Original

Copyright © 2013 by Terry Brooks
Excerpt from
Witch Wraith
by Terry Brooks copyright © 2013 by Terry Brooks

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States of America by Del Rey, an imprint of the Random House
Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

and the Del Rey colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book 
Witch Wraith
 by Terry Brooks. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect
the final content of the forthcoming edition.

Cover design by David G. Stevenson
Cover illustration: © Stephen Youll

eISBN: 978-0-345-53682-2



More than a year had passed since his return from the Skull Kingdom, and Shea Ohmsford
was finally beginning to sleep through the night. For a long time, that had been unthinkable.
Nightmares of what had been—and what might have been—plagued him like demon-spawn,
startling him awake and rendering him sleepless afterward. The hauntings drained him,
and for a time he believed he was in danger of dying. He lost weight, color, and spirit.
He lacked not only the energy to do his regular work at the inn, but the will to do
much of anything else.

Then Flick, his always-brother and forever-best-friend, took the unusual step of visiting
a woodswoman who specialized in potions and spells to cure maladies and who, it was
said, could divine the future. Her name was Audrana Coos, and she was neither young
nor old, but somewhere between, and she was a recluse and an object of constant derision
by all but those who had gone to her for help. Flick, never given to anything that
wasn’t practical and solidly based in demonstrable fact—and who would never have gone
to such a person before the quest for the Sword of Shannara—made a leap of faith.
Or perhaps, more accurately, a leap of desperation. And he went to see her.

There, deep in the Duln, miles from his home, he sat at a table with this odd-looking
woman with her hair braided in colored lengths, her face smooth as a child’s and painted
with brilliant rainbow stripes, and her arms encased in gold and silver bracelets
from which tiny bells dangled, watching closely as she read the waters of a scrying
bowl and determined the merit of his cause.

“He is very ill,” she announced solemnly, her voice unexpectedly deep and scratchy.
“He agonizes over what he might have done … and what he did. He is damaged by the
closeness he experienced to the Dark Lord, and he festers with the poisons released
in him due to his contact with the Skull Bearers. Long has his sickness waited for
its chance, and now it breaks free of its fastenings and seeps through him. His life
slips away.”

She paused, as if considering her own words, and then began rifling through shelves
of tiny bottles, leather sacks laced tight with drawstrings, and packets whose contents
were hidden from Flick, her slender hands closing at last on a small brown bottle
that she handed to him.

“You must give him this,” she told him. “Do so in secret; do not let him see you do
it. If he sees you, he may resist. Give it all to him in a single serving. Mix it
with a drink he
enjoys and make certain he drinks it down. All of it. Do it immediately upon your

Flick studied the bottle doubtfully. “Will it cure him of his dreams and wasting sickness?
Will he come back to the way he used to be?”

Audrana Coos put a finger to her lips. “Speak not of other possibilities, Valeman.
Do not even think of them. Do not doubt what I tell you. Just do as I say.”

Flick nodded and got to his feet. “I thank you for your help. For trying to help my

He began searching for coins to pay her, but she waved him away. “I will not accept
pay for giving aid to one who stood against the Warlock Lord. I will not profit from
one who can be said to have saved the Four Lands and all those who dwell within.”

She paused, cocking her head to one side and looking down again into the scrye waters,
which had suddenly begun to ripple anew. “A moment. There is something more.”

Flick peered down into the waters, but could see nothing.

“Be warned,” the seer whispered. “Not long after today your brother will journey to
a faraway place on a quest of great importance. You will not wish it. You will not
approve. But you cannot stop him, and you should not try.”

“This can’t be true,” Flick declared, shaking his head for emphasis. “Shea has said
repeatedly that he will never go on another quest.”

“Even so.”

“He has said he will never put himself in danger like that again, and he is staying
in the Vale with me and Father!”


Flick dismissed the reading out of hand. He rose, thanked Audrana Coos once more,
and with the potion tucked into his pocket set out for home.

When he got there, late in the day, he considered his choices. Even though he had
possession of the potion, he was not entirely convinced of its value. What was to
say it would not prove harmful to his brother in spite of what he had been told? Maybe
he had been deceived. Maybe the claims of effectiveness were exaggerated.

But he could not persuade himself that it was better to do nothing than to try
. There was about Audrana Coos a reassurance that he could not easily dismiss. There
was a confidence and perhaps even a promise in her words that dispelled his doubts
and persuaded him to proceed with his plan.

So he waited until a worn and ravaged Shea was finished with his afternoon nap, walked
his brother downstairs from their rooms, an arm about his waist to steady him, and
sat with him on the inn’s covered porch, watching the sun sink slowly behind the trees.
Flick was animated and engaging on that afternoon as he related an imaginary tale
of things he had never done, covering up the truth about where he actually had been.
He worked hard to capture his brother’s full attention while encouraging him to drink
down the tankard of ale he had given him, remembering what Audrana Coos had told him—that
all of the contents of the bottle must be consumed.

And in the end, it was. Shea, almost asleep by then, head drooping, eyes heavy, drank
the last of his ale, and Flick caught the tankard just before it dropped from his
brother’s hand.

Then he carried Shea to his room, tucked him into his bed, and went down to dinner
alone. He ate in the dining room at a corner table, keeping to himself—his father
was working in the kitchen that night—as he considered what he had just done and prayed
to whatever fates determined such things that he had not made a mistake.

In the morning, when Shea woke and came down to breakfast, he looked much better.
He was smiling and lively; he appeared to have begun his recovery.

“So you don’t feel sick anymore?” Flick asked happily.

His brother shook his head and grinned. “No. I can’t understand it. I feel like I
used to. Much, much better.”

Flick said nothing then about what he had done. He watched his brother closely for
almost two weeks, constantly looking for signs of a regression into the sickness,
worrying that the potion’s effectiveness might not last. But at the end of that time,
when Shea was still healthy and in all respects back to himself, Flick had to admit
that the medicine Audrana Coos had given him had indeed worked.

It was then that he admitted the truth to Shea about what he had done, not wanting
to keep anything from the brother to whom he told everything. He did so hesitantly,
not certain what Shea’s reaction might be and anxious to be forgiven for his deception.

But Shea simply clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Well done, Flick. No wonder
I love you so much.”

Emboldened, Flick then told him what the seer had said about Shea going on another
quest—one that Flick would not countenance, but one his brother would undertake anyway.

Shea laughed. “I’m not going on any more quests, Flick. I’m all done with that sort
of thing. I’m staying right here in the Vale with you.”

And Flick smiled and hugged his brother, and put the matter out of his mind.

* * *

Four months later, with the summer mostly gone and the first signs of an approaching
autumn reflected in chilly early mornings and leaves turning color, Shea Ohmsford
was hauling wood for use in the big stone fireplace in the tavern’s common room. He
did it by hand rather than by cart because he was still proving to himself that he
was healed, that it wasn’t a temporary cure. His day stretched ahead of him, filled
with upkeep tasks—patching the porch roof and repairing the hinges on the side kitchen
door after he finished hauling in the wood—all of it providing him with a feeling
of satisfaction at being able to do something that four months earlier he wouldn’t
have. Every day he celebrated his recovery, still remembering how sick he had been.

Flick had driven the wagon out to the miller’s to haul back sacks of grain and would
not return before late afternoon. On the morrow, they would go fishing in the Rappahalladran
River, the day their own to do with as they wished. The air was pungent with the smell
of dying leaves and smoke from fires, the sun warm on his shoulders, and the birdsong
bright and cheerful. It was a good day.

Then he saw the rider approaching. Not on the main road leading into the village and
past the houses and businesses that formed the bulk of the community’s buildings,
but through the woods behind the inn. The rider was sitting casually astride his mount,
letting the horse pick its way through the trees, but his eyes were on the boy. Shea
thought afterward that he probably knew right away who it was, but couldn’t bring
himself to admit it. Instead, he simply stopped where he was, a stack of wood cradled
in his arms, and stared in disbelief.

It was Panamon Creel.

When he had first met him, the thief and adventurer had been clad all in scarlet—a
bold, open challenge to convention and expectation alike. Now he wore woodsman’s garb,
all browns and grays, with the exception of the scarves tied about his arms and waist,
blood red
and sleek, a reminder of the old days. His mount was big and strong, a warhorse from
the look of it, with long legs that suggested it could run fast as well as far. Weapons
sheathed and belted dangled from the horse and the man, strapped here and there—some
fully visible, others apparent only from their distinctive shapes beneath clothing
and his saddle pack.

BOOK: Paladins of Shannara: The Black Irix (Short Story)
12.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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