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Warrior (The Word and the Void)
 

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Warrior (The Word and the Void)


  Also by Terry Brooks

  genesis of shannara

  Armageddon’s Children

  The Elves of Cintra

  The Gypsy Morph

  legends of shannara

  Bearers of the Black Staff

  The Measure of the Magic

  the original shannara novels

  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

  a shannara prequel

  First King of Shannara

  the voyage of the jerle shannara

  Ilse Witch

  Antrax

  Morgawr

  high druid of shannara

  Jarka Ruus

  Tanequil

  Straken

  the dark legacy of shannara

  Wards of Faerie

  Bloodfire Quest

  Witch Wraith

  defenders of shannara

  The High Druid’s Blade

  The Darkling Child

  The Sorcerer’s Daughter

  the fall of shannara

  The Black Elfstone

  The Skaar Invasion

  magic kingdom of landover

  Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!

  The Black Unicorn

  Wizard at Large

  The Tangle Box

  Witches’ Brew

  A Princess of Landover

  word & void

  Running with the Demon

  A Knight of the Word

  Angel Fire East

  other works

  Hook

  Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

  Sometimes the Magic Works:

  Lessons from a Writing Life

  Street Freaks

  A Novella of The Word and the Void

  TERRY BROOKS

  Grim Oak Press

  Seattle, WA

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used

  fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2018 by Terry Brooks.

  All rights reserved.

  Cover design by Shawn Speakman.

  Cover and interior illustrations by Donato Giancola.

  Book design and composition by Shawn Speakman.

  E-book ISBN: 978-1-944145-28-6

  First Edition, September 2018

  246897531

  Grim Oak Press

  Seattle, WA

  www.grimoakpress.com

  Table of Contents

  Also by Terry Brooks

  WARRIOR

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  About Terry Brooks

  Pre-order Street Freaks Now!

  Chapter 1

  He stands on a hillock overlooking the old Winston home and listens to the silence of the shrouding night. All around him, from Lincoln Park to the Vashon Ferry docks, the only light comes from the hazy cones of the street lamps and the gaps in the shade-drawn windows of nearby homes. Almost no porch lights intrude, dimmed deliberately to allow for deeper sleep or simply left unlit out of habit. No one walks the streets at this hour. A few cars arrive home late at random intervals, but most of those who occupy the residences are asleep. This is a working neighborhood – few retirees or stay-at-home workers, not even that many housewives. Rise and shine and off to work is almost universal here. If you were to conduct a census, you would find almost every home consists of two working parents and an average of 2.5 young children. Evidence of this can be found in the discarded toys littering the yards, well used but still serviceable gym equipment, basketball hoops and bikes. A car or two sits parked in the driveways of homes that lack garages, which most of them do. This neighborhood is old and has survived redevelopment. Garages were not common when the homes were being built; then, more than one vehicle was considered less of a necessity. Now both parents usually work, and children grow up as latchkey kids, signed up for and fully engaged in multiple afterschool programs to keep them from going astray.

  Except they too often do go astray, in spite of the precautions their parents take.

  He studies the Winston home a bit longer, feeling the oppressive weight of its darkness on his shoulders. That darkness eclipses the night, reaches out for him and draws him to it with an irresistible insistence.

  I have her, Jack, the voice on the phone told him. I have her, and I intend to keep her until you come to me. So, come quickly. I cannot be responsible for what happens to her if you do not. Such a tempting little morsel; such a tasty little treat. I am sure she and I can find enjoyable ways to pass the time, should you delay. So many lovely things we can do while we wait. She is such a promising playmate.

  He has tried so hard to protect her. He has been so careful to keep her safe. But he has failed, and now he has no choice but to do what he can to change this fate.

  He stares at the darkened windows of the Winston house and tries to think what he can do to save her. To save countless others that will face the same fate if he fails again. Ineke has warned him. He will find her, and he will use her, she said, and you will have to answer for it if you do not act quickly enough. Ineke, a fairy creature of no more substance than a minute and gone just as quickly. He marvels at the foresight and courage she has shown, at her willingness to sacrifice herself, at her fierce commitment to the power of her belief.

  But commitment to belief is nothing new to Jack McCall. His life has been marked by sacrifices – sacrifices made by himself and by those closest to him. His life has been full of miracles, too – of overcoming impossible odds at the age of thirteen when he still lived in Hopewell. It was Pick who counseled him then, and gave him a sword and shield in the forms of a stick and a garbage can lid and told him to stand and fight back against the dragon that was threatening to steal his life.

  A dragon, but not the kind people might imagine. He shakes his head in recognition of an undeniable truth. Something really bad is never what you imagine. Something really bad is always much more insidious. You can prepare yourself all your life for the unexpected. You can imagine everything that might come for you and how you will react when it does, and still you cannot be prepared when the moment comes. You can tell yourself what you will do and how you will handle yourself, fortified by having given thought to it all. And still you will be unprepared for the reality. And you will have to face it with an inescapable recognition that you never once thought it would look and feel as it does.

  It just isn’t given to us to fully imagine and confront the worst of our fears, because until they happen they are only abstract possibilities.

  Jack McCall is forty years old. He has a wife and a daughter and a son. He is the owner of a private company offering individually designed planning, advice and resource conservation programs for public and private entities engaged in parks and recreation development and maintenance. (Or, at least, that is how he pitches it to his clients.) He is a longtime resident of his community and well liked, if considered a bit odd because of his insistence on remaining a very private person outs
ide of work. And because of the black staff he always carries with him. But those who know him well, those few who know some of the details of his life and his family history, understand. His is an odd story, one of miracles and strange events – of near-death experiences and unexplainable truths.

  Some of what makes him seem so peculiar to others he has kept to himself. The fact that he knows good and evil exist in substantive form. The fact that he has encountered both all too frequently since he was thirteen and fought the dragon in Sinnissippi Park as a boy. The fact that some of the odder creatures of the park became known to him, including the protector of the park, Pick, and the owl, Daniel, and the troll, Wartag. That fact that he once shrank down so far that he was able to fly the length and breadth of the park aboard Daniel, with Pick as his companion and guide. The fact that the reason he fought the dragon was that he had cancer, and to defeat the cancer he had to defeat the dragon.

  All that is in the past, along with much more that he would like to forget but cannot. Now he lives near Lincoln Park in West Seattle. So much has happened in the years since his miracle recovery. His life has changed in so many ways. He no longer lives in a small town but in a large city and is married with children. He has finished school and works for a living. He has been healthy all these years since his cancer went into remission; there has never been a recurrence.

  But there is one thing more, one thing that defines the nature and boundaries of his life above all others. One thing that no one knows.

  He is a Knight of the Word.

  And everything he sees and thinks as he stares down at the Winston home is happening in a dream.

  Chapter 2

  Jack McCall was twenty-two years old, standing in a campus parking lot, graduation over, parents and sister come and gone, packed up and ready to leave for Hopewell, when the stranger approached. A part of him thought it would be a good idea to turn and walk the other way when he saw the man. Well over six feet and close to three hundred pounds, he looked as if he could deconstruct someone who was less than six feet by several inches and nowhere near two hundred, just by giving him a hard look. He appeared to Jack to be Native American, with a face that might have been carved from granite. With his massive body barely concealed under patched-up camo and worn combat boots, both of which suggested military experience, he was of indeterminate intentions and wholly intimidating.

  But Jack stood his ground because he had stopped running from the things that frightened him by the time he turned fourteen.

  “Are you Jack McCall, kem’sho?” the other asked.

  Jack nodded uncertainly. Kem’sho? He brushed back his mop of blonde hair where it drooped down over his forehead. “Do I know you?”

  “You do not. I am called Two Bears – O’olish Amaneh in the language of my people. Now we are acquainted. Where can we sit and talk?”

  Jack did not feel like engaging in a conversation with this hulk, but he also suspected he could not avoid it. “What do we have to talk about?” he asked.

  Two Bears gave him a look. “That is what I wish to discuss with you. Why don’t we get on with it?”

  Chastened by the rebuke and by now a bit curious, Jack led the other out of the parking lot and onto one of the campus quads where empty benches occupied shady patches of lawn under centuries-old oaks and elms. The campus was practically deserted, the bulk of students, parents, professors and other graduation invitees departed. Jack would have been gone as well if he hadn’t stopped to help his roommates carry down their gear and pack their cars. He now found himself regretting his good Samaritan act.

  Sitting side-by-side on the bench, each turned slightly to face the other, they spent a moment in silence before Two Bears spoke.

  “You don’t have a plan for the future,” he said, making it a statement rather than a question.

  Jack nodded. “And you know this how?”

  Straight-faced, Two Bears tapped his temple. “Ethnic intuition. I have a proposition for you. One that would give you a direction in your life that you currently lack. One that would provide you with a worthy purpose and an assurance that you would be helping a world in great need of assistance.”

  Jack smiled. “You want me to become a politician?”

  Two Bears shook his head. “You are not listening. I used the words ‘help the world,’ not ‘feed at the expense of the world.’”

  “Look,” Jack said. The lack of direction or purpose in this conversation was making him impatient. “Why don’t you just tell me what you want?”

  “I want you to travel to Wales for a week and speak with the Lady.” The other’s hard face wore an impassive expression. “I have the tickets for your journey in my pocket. You would leave in three days.”

  Jack stared. “You’re kidding, right?”

  Two Bears stared back, his face impassive.

  Jack blinked. “Who is the Lady?”

  “That is what you are going to Wales to find out.”

  “But I don’t want to go to Wales.”

  Two Bears gave a shrug of his massive shoulders. “You just think you don’t want to go to Wales. You think there is no reason for it. But you are wrong. There is every reason for you to go. College is over, boyhood is finished, and what lies ahead is unknown. But you must embrace it. You must learn for yourself what it is. My explaining it to you would be insufficient. Take the tickets and fly to Wales. Speak with the Lady. Pick would tell you the same thing I am telling you. It is necessary for you to go.”

  “Pick? How do you know . . .?”

  “Once upon a time, the fairy creature Pick – who was then and is still caretaker and guardian of Sinnissippi Park in the town you grew up in – helped you to find a way to defeat a dragon. You, in turn, helped him to save the park. Yours has been a special life, Jack McCall. You have found the magic in the world and embraced it. You have fought against the worst of it and channeled your efforts to good purpose. Did you think this would be the end of it? Did you think your involvement with the magic would stop there?”

  Jack shook his head, now fully flummoxed. “But how do you know all this? How is it you know about Pick and the dragon and Sinnissippi Park?”

  “It is my business to know.” Two Bears rocked back an inch or two and then leaned closer. “Sinnissippi Park and much of the land that surrounds it is my ancestral home. It was the homeland of my people, the Sinnissippi, for centuries. Now they are all gone, and I am all that is left. The magic that was once ours and that once protected our homelands is still there, but it is threatened. So it is given to me to protect what remains of the legacy of my people and of the other Native Americans throughout this part of the world. To do so, I serve the Lady.”

  “But who is the Lady?” Jack practically shouted, his frustration reaching a new level.

  Two Bears did not react. “We’ve come full circle, kem’sho. The answer to your question is to be found in Wales. You must go there to find it.”

  Jack was about to walk away, wanting no part of any of this; he was not even sure it was true. There were all sorts of ways Two Bears could have learned of Pick and the dragon and the park and himself. To just blindly agree to fly off to Wales meant he would have to put all caution and good sense aside and throw himself on fate and blind trust.

  And yet . . .

  “What does ‘kem’sho’ mean?” he asked.

  Two Bears gave a small nod of approval. “In the language of my people, it means ‘warrior.’ It describes what I think you are.”

  Jack hesitated, suddenly uncertain. The big man’s words were persuasive and did not feel like lies or dissembling. Although wild and impossible, they nevertheless spoke to a truth he was reluctant to embrace. Once, he had not believed in fairy magic, back when he was a boy. Once, he had not believed in dragons and elves and magic of any sort. All that seemed far away now, but had he really stopped believing in things that had once seemed so real? Had he really stopped believing that he had beaten back the cancer that had riddled every part of
his body and had saved his life by doing so?

  “One thing more,” Two Bears said quietly. “The Lady knew of your destiny, back when you were thirteen and dying. She was responsible for keeping the dragon from you. She was the one who summoned Pick to act on her behalf. That was how he found you and became your friend.”

  He rose abruptly. Reaching into a pocket in his camo shirt, he pulled out an envelope. “There are your tickets. Use them if you choose. But only by using them will you know if what you’ve heard is true.”

  He began to walk away, but Jack was on his feet now, holding the envelope he didn’t even realize he had accepted. “Wait.”

  “If you choose not to go, if you decide not to seek out the Lady, you will wonder for the rest of your life if you should have. Be at peace, kem’sho.”

  He walked across the quad without looking back and disappeared between the campus buildings, leaving Jack staring after him.

  Chapter 3

  Three days later, Jack McCall was landing in Cardiff, Wales. He was still not sure why he was doing this, save for those final words from Two Bears: If you choose not to go, you will wonder for the rest of your life if you should have.

  Fair enough, he supposed. Yet he could not help but wonder if the reverse might not turn out to be true: If you choose to go, you may end up finding out it was a huge mistake.

  In any case, he had made his choice, and he was soon driving through the Welsh countryside towards Snowdonia in the north of the country. Wending his way along scenic A470 on the west side of the River Conwy, he was pointing towards the villages of Llandudno and Portmeirion without intending to reach either. His destination would not require him to travel that far, but only to just below the village of Betws-y-Coed. There, according to the instructions handed to him by Two Bears in the same envelope as the airline tickets, he was to take shelter in a small farmhouse, which was only three miles from where the Lady awaited him in an out-of-the-way tourist destination called Fairy Glen.

  Jack had never heard of it, not surprisingly, because when you came right down to it he had never heard much of anything about Wales. Since directions had been provided and he had made the commitment to see this through, he would follow the path laid out for him and save any further questions or concerns about why he was doing this for another time.

 
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