Authors: Margaret Weis
At Joram’s command, the Druids sent the forest into battle. Giant oak trees with the strength born of centuries heaved themselves from the ground and lumbered forward to the attack. Mosiah, changing into a werewolf, knocked the strange humans to the ground With one blow of a massive paw, a were-bear caved in a helmet. Illusionists created gigantic tarantulas that dropped down out of the trees, their hairy legs twitching, their many-faceted eyes burning like flame. Skeletons clutching pale swords in their bony hands rose up out of the ground. Dragons swooped down out of the skies, bringing with them flame and darkness. Perhaps the oddest happening on the field of battle that day was the report by several wizards of seeing a ring of mushrooms suddenly appear in a glade. A band of the enemy, charging into the ring, found that they could not get out. One by one, the strange humans were sucked down into the ground. The wizards reported, not without a shudder, that the last sounds that could be heard were the raucous laughter and gibbering voices of the faeriefolk.
Bantam Spectra Books
by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
THE DARKSWORD SERIES
Forging the Darksword
Doom of the Darksword
Triumph of the Darksword
Legacy of the Darksword
ROSE OF THE PROPHET
The Will of the Wanderer
THE DEATH GATE CYCLE
The Hand of Chaos
Into the Labyrinth
The Seventh Gate
and by Margaret Weis
STAR OF THE GUARDIANS
The Lost King
e wish to gratefully acknowledge the help and support of the following people:
Our agent, Ray Peuchner, who died tragically of cancer in the summer of 1987 A kind and loving man, Ray was our friend as well as our agent and we mourn his passing even as we celebrate his beautiful life.
Laura Hickman, for advice, support, and putting up with Tracy.
Cover artist and friend, Larry Elmore, who makes our visions come to life.
Interior artist, Valerie Valusek, and map-maker, Steve Sullivan, both friends as well and both valued members of our creative “team.”
Darryl Viscenti, Jr., for portraying Joram in the cover paintings.
Patrick Lucien Price for sharing his knowledge and advice on the tarot cards and the art of divination.
John Hefter for providing us with our Latin phrases and
for insight into the nature of the quest for spiritual understanding. It is to John that we dedicate the character of the wise and gentle priest, Saryon.
Our editor, Amy Stout, who will probably remove this credit, but we hope she doesn’t because she deserves it.
And finally, to you—our readers—whose continued enthusiastic support and kind words make this so much fun.
he thirty-foot stone Watcher, posting guard on the Border of Thimhallan, had seen with his eyes of rock many strange sights over the last nineteen years. He had been here only nineteen years, this Watcher. Once a human, a catalyst, his crime had been one of passion. He had loved a woman, committed the unpardonable sin of physically joining with her, and produced a child. He had been sentenced to the Turning, wherein his living flesh was transformed to living stone. He was destined to stand forever at the Border, staring into the realm of Beyond—the realm of death whose sweet peace and rest he would never know.
This Watcher thought back to the first six years of his Turning. Six years of unendurable emptiness, of rarely seeing a human, much less hearing a human voice. Six years of mind and soul raging inside their stone prison. These six years passed, and a woman brought a child to his feet. The child was beautiful, with long black hair and large, dark brown eyes.
“This is your father,” the woman told the child, pointing up at the stone statue.
Did the Watcher know this wasn’t true? Did he know his child had died at birth? He knew. Deep in his heart, he knew the catalysts had not lied when they foretold that no living issue would come of his union with this woman. Whose child was this? That was something the Watcher did not know, and he wept for the child and still more for the poor woman he had once loved who now stood at his feet, dressed in rags, looking up at him with crazed eyes.
Long years after that, the Watcher remained standing undisturbed without, his soul tormented within. Sometimes he saw others of his Order—the catalysts—changed to stone for some infraction they had committed. Sometimes he watched as a magus of the land was sent Beyond—the punishment inflicted upon those who have the gift of Life. He saw the Executioner drag the victim to the edge of the sandy shore. He saw the victim hurled into the ever-shifting mists that marked the Border of the World. He heard with his stone ears the last horrified scream that came back from those swirling gray fogs, and then nothing. The Watcher envied these victims. He envied them bitterly, for they were at rest, while he must go on living.
But the strangest sight the Watcher ever saw had occurred only a year before. Why should it have touched him? he wondered often in the dark hours of the night that were the hardest to bear. Why should it have left a sorrowful mark upon his stone heart when none of these others had? He didn’t know, and he pondered it for days on end sometimes, reliving the scene over and over in his mind.
It was another Turning. He recognized the preparations—the twenty-five catalysts appearing from the Corridors, the mark drawn in the sand where the victim was to stand, the Executioner dressed in his gray robes of justice. But this was no ordinary Turning. The Watcher was surprised to see the Emperor arrive with his wife. Then came Bishop Vanya—the Watcher cursed him silently—and Prince Xavier, brother to the Empress.
At last they brought in the prisoner. The Watcher was stunned. This young man with long black hair and strong, muscular body was not a catalyst! And, so far as the Watcher knew, only catalysts were ever sentenced to the Turning.
Why was this young man different? What was his crime?
The Watcher watched with avid curiosity, thankful for anything that relieved the terrible boredom of his existence. He saw a catalyst arrive next. As the Priest took his place beside the Executioner, the Watcher saw that the catalyst carried a sword, a strange looking sword. The Watcher had never seen one like it before, and he shivered as he gazed upon the black, ungleaming metal.
A hush fell over the crowd Bishop Vanya read the charges.
The young man was Dead. He had committed murder. Worse, he had lived among the Sorcerers of the Dark Arts and there he had created a weapon of demonic evil. For this, he was to be Turned to Stone. The last sight his eyes would behold, as their vision froze, was the terrible weapon he had brought forth into the world.
The Watcher did not recognize the young man as the child who had crouched at his feet all those years before. Why should he? There was no bond between them. Still, he pitied him. Why? Perhaps it was because a golden-haired girl—not much older than the woman he had once loved—was being forced to stand and watch, as his beloved had once been forced to watch. The Watcher pitied both of them—the young man and the girl, especially when he saw the young man fall to his knees before the catalyst, crying unashamedly in fear and terror.
The Watcher saw the catalyst embrace the young man, and his stone heart wept for them both. He watched as the young man stood—straight and tall—to face his punishment. The catalyst took his place beside the Executioner, sword in his hand. The twenty-five catalysts drew the magic, the Life, from the world, focused it within then own beings, then opened conduits to the Executioner. Magic arced from them into him. The Executioner drew upon it and began to cast the spell that would transform the young man’s flesh to stone.
But suddenly the catalyst sacrificed himself, hurling his own body in the path of the magic. The catalyst’s limbs began to harden to rock. With his last strength, he tossed the sword to the young man.
“Escape!” he cried.
There was no escape. The Watcher felt the dread power
of the sword even from where he stood, some twenty feet distant. He felt the sword began to absorb the Life from the world. He saw it destroy two warlocks in a burst of flame. He watched it bring the Executioner to his knees, and if his lungs had been able to draw breath, the Watcher would have let out a howl of victory and triumph.
“Kill!” he longed to shout. “Kill them all!”
But there was one thing the powerful sword could not do. It could not reverse the spell of the Turning. The young man saw the catalyst change to stone before his eyes. The Watcher felt his grief and looked forward with a heart filled with hatred to the young man’s revenge.
It did not come. Instead, the young man took the sword and laid it reverently in the catalyst’s stone hands. The young man bowed his head upon the stone breast of his friend; then he turned and walked into the mists of Beyond. The golden-haired girl, calling out his name, followed him.