The Darkling Child - Terry Brooks


PAXON LEAH WAS SITTING ON A BENCH IN THE CORTYARD gardens of Paranor, paging through documents written more than five hundred years earlier that recorded the events in the life of the Elf King Eventine Elessedil, when Keratrix came for him. He could tell immediately from the scribe’s solemn face that something was wrong.

“She’s asking for you,” the other said without preamble. His eyes seemed tired and haunted. “She says it’s time.”

Paxon stared. On a beautiful, sunny day like this one? On a day when everything felt right, and it seemed that the world was at peace and life could go on indefinitely? How could this be?

That was what he thought as he measured the scribe’s words and let their meaning sink in. He didn’t have to ask what Keratrix meant. He knew. He had known this was coming because she had told him herself.

Aphenglow Elessedil, Ard Rhys of the Fourth Druid Order, was dying.

He rose at once, wordless and shaken, and followed Keratrix from the gardens into the tower that housed her private chambers. The Ard Rhys kept to herself these days, weakened by age and worn down by both the demands of her office and the passage of time. She was housed on the lower floors, no longer able to handle the stairs and the climb that going to her former chambers and to the upper reaches of the main tower required. She had not been in the cold room in over a year. She had not used the scrye waters once in all that time, relying instead on her chosen successor, Isaturin, to carry out her duties. She was in stasis, waiting for the inevitable. If the truth were told, Paxon believed, she was anxious for it to arrive.

And now, apparently, it had.

“Is she sure?” he asked Keratrix as they walked. When he looked at the young Druid, he was reminded of Sebec. Not because the two were anything alike, but because five years earlier, Sebec—then scribe of the Druid Order—had been his closest friend at Paranor, and the betrayal of that friendship was a wound that still burned in his memory.

Keratrix—slight and small, scarcely a presence as he wafted ahead of Paxon like a wraith in the shadowed hallways—barely turned. “She insists she is quite sure. I asked this, as well.”

Of course he would. Keratrix was efficient and thorough; he would not leave something like this undone.

“I can’t believe it,” Paxon whispered, almost to himself, though he knew Keratrix must have heard.

And he could not. Five years he had spent as the personal paladin of the Ard Rhys, as the High Druid’s Blade. She had brought him to Paranor at a time when he was drifting. She had offered him the position in large part because of his heritage as a bearer of the magical Sword of Leah. She had given him over to training and had kept watch from a distance as he struggled to find his place. When his sister Chrysallin had been taken by the sorcerer Arcannen, Aphenglow was the one who had helped him to get Chrys back and then found a home for her at Paranor—even though Chrysallin had been sent to kill her and had almost succeeded. And all the while, she had been beset by Sebec’s betrayal and Arcannen’s scheming to gain control of the order.

But perhaps even more important than that, she had taken Chrysallin into the order as a student in training, aware of the importance of the gift she possessed and the need to find a way to manage it. For like her brother, Chrysallin Leah bore a legacy of magic. Paxon’s was the ability to unlock the power of the Sword of Leah. Chrysallin’s was the presence of the wishsong, which she had inherited as a direct descendant of Railing Ohmsford. However, Chrys remained unaware of her powers. Arcannen had kidnapped her in an attempt to use her as a weapon against the Ard Rhys, but the subsequent trauma of the events that followed had wiped away any memory of those powers. Still, Aphenglow was convinced that her memory would eventually return.

So she had let Chrysallin remain at Paranor, keeping close watch over her and waiting for the moment when her magic would resurface and she could be given over to members of the order who would help her learn to master it—who would train her in its usage and teach her of the importance it held not only in her own life but in the