The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

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In the first book of this brilliant series, now expanded and revised by the author, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues the man in black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, ...
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The Gunslinger: (The Dark Tower #1)(Revised Edition)

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Overview

In the first book of this brilliant series, now expanded and revised by the author, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues the man in black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter. Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is unlike anything you've ever read. Here is Stephen King's most visionary piece of storytelling, a magical mix of fantasy and horror that may well be his crowning achievement.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Beginning with a short story appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1978, the publication of Stephen King's epic work of fantasy -- what he considers to be a single long novel and his magnum opus -- has spanned a quarter of a century.

Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is King's most visionary feat of storytelling, a magical mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that may well be his crowning achievement.

Book I
In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

This new edition of The Gunslinger has been revised and expanded throughout by King, with new story material, in addition to a new introduction and foreword. It also includes four full-color illustrations in the hardcover and trade paperback formats.

Library Journal
Though retired, King, who is receiving the National Book Foundation's 2003 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, is keeping busy. In addition to penning a monthly column for Entertainment Weekly, he is revising and expanding his "Dark Tower" series, which launched in 1982 with this title. The "Dark Tower" books were immensely popular with King's legions of fans, and he no doubt still has the Midas touch with readers, so these illustrated hardcovers are good fodder for fiction collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670032549
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/23/2003
  • Series: Dark Tower Series , #1
  • Edition description: Revised and Expanded Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen King

Stephen King, the world's bestselling novelist, was educated at the University of Maine at Orono. He lives with his wife, the novelist Tabitha King, and their children in Bangor, Maine.
Stephen King, the world's bestselling novelist, was educated at the University of Maine at Orono. He lives with his wife, the novelist Tabitha King, and their children in Bangor, Maine.
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    1. Also Known As:
      Richard Bachman
      Stephen A. King
      Stephen Edwin King
    2. Hometown:
      Bangor, Maine
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 21, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portland, Maine
    1. Education:
      B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The Gunslinger

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like eternity in all directions. It was white and blinding and waterless and without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death. An occasional tombstone sign pointed the way, for once the drifted track that cut its way through the thick crust of alkali had been a highway. Coaches and buckas had followed it. The world had moved on since then. The world had emptied.

The gunslinger had been struck by a momentary dizziness, a kind of yawing sensation that made the entire world seem ephemeral, almost a thing that could be looked through. It passed and, like the world upon whose hide he walked, he moved on. He passed the miles stolidly, not hurrying, not loafing. A hide waterbag was slung around his middle like a bloated sausage. It was almost full. He had progressed through the khef over many years, and had reached perhaps the fifth level. Had he been a Manni holy man, he might not have even been thirsty; he could have watched his own body dehydrate with clinical, detached attention, watering its crevices and dark inner hollows only when his logic told him it must be done. He was not a Manni, however, nor a follower of the Man Jesus, and considered himself in no way holy. He was just an ordinary pilgrim, in other words, and all he could say with real certainty was that he was thirsty. And even so, he had no particular urge to drink. In a vague way, all this pleased him. It was what the country required, it was a thirsty country, and he had in his long life been nothing if not adaptable.

Below the waterbag were his guns, carefully weighted to his hands; a plate had been added to each when they had come to him from his father, who had been lighter and not so tall. The two belts crisscrossed above his crotch. The holsters were oiled too deeply for even this Philistine sun to crack. The stocks of the guns were sandalwood, yellow and finely grained. Rawhide tiedowns held the holsters loosely to his thighs, and they swung a bit with his step; they had rubbed away the bluing of his jeans (and thinned the cloth) in a pair of arcs that looked almost like smiles. The brass casings of the cartridges looped into the gunbelts heliographed in the sun. There were fewer now. The leather made subtle creaking noises.

His shirt, the no-color of rain or dust, was open at the throat, with a rawhide thong dangling loosely in hand-punched eyelets. His hat was gone. So was the horn he had once carried; gone for years, that horn, spilled from the hand of a dying friend, and he missed them both.

He breasted a gently rising dune (although there was no sand here; the desert was hardpan, and even the harsh winds that blew when dark came raised only an aggravating harsh dust like scouring powder) and saw the kicked remains of a tiny campfire on the lee side, the side the sun would quit earliest. Small signs like this, once more affirming the man in black's possible humanity, never failed to please him. His lips stretched in the pitted, flaked remains of his face. The grin was gruesome, painful. He squatted.

His quarry had burned the devil-grass, of course. It was the only thing out here that would burn. It burned with a greasy, flat light, and it burned slow. Border dwellers had told him that devils lived even in the flames. They burned it but would not look into the light. They said the devils hypnotized, beckoned, would eventually draw the one who looked into the fires. And the next man foolish enough to look into the fire might see you.

The burned grass was crisscrossed in the now familiar ideographic pattern, and crumbled to gray senselessness before the gunslinger's prodding hand. There was nothing in the remains but a charred scrap of bacon, which he ate thoughtfully. It had always been this way. The gunslinger had followed the man in black across the desert for two months now, across the endless, screamingly monotonous purgatorial wastes, and had yet to find spoor other than the hygienic sterile ideographs of the man in black's campfires. He had not found a can, a bottle, or a waterbag (the gunslinger had left four of those behind, like dead snakeskins). He hadn't found any dung. He assumed the man in black buried it.

Perhaps the campfires were a message, spelled out one Great Letter at a time. Keep your distance, partner, it might say. Or, The end draweth nigh. Or maybe even, Come and get me. It didn't matter what they said or didn't say. He had no interest in messages, if messages they were. What mattered was that these remains were as cold as all the others. Yet he had gained. He knew he was closer, but did not know how he knew. A kind of smell, perhaps. That didn't matter, either. He would keep going until something changed, and if nothing changed, he would keep going, anyway. There would be water if God willed it, the oldtimers said. Water if God willed it, even in the desert. The gunslinger stood up, brushing his hands.

No other trace; the wind, razor-sharp, had of course filed away even what scant tracks the hardpan might once have held. No man-scat, no cast-off trash, never a sign of where those things might have been buried. Nothing. Only these cold campfires along the ancient highway moving southeast and the relentless range-finder in his own head. Although of course it was more than that; the pull southeast was more than just a sense of direction, was even more than magnetism.

He sat down and allowed himself a short pull from the waterbag. He thought of that momentary dizziness earlier in the day, that sense of being almost untethered from the world, and wondered what it might have meant. Why should that dizziness make him think of his horn and the last of his old friends, both lost so long ago at Jericho Hill? He still had the guns-his father's guns-and surely they were more important than horns ... or even friends.

Weren't they?

The question was oddly troubling, but since there seemed to be no answer but the obvious one, he put it aside, possibly for later consideration. He scanned the desert and then looked up at the sun, which was now sliding into a far quadrant of the sky that was, disturbingly, not quite true west. He got up, removed his threadbare gloves from his belt, and began to pull devil-grass for his own fire, which he laid over the ashes the man in black had left. He found the irony, like his thirst, bitterly appealing.

He did not take the flint and steel from his purse until the remains of the day were only fugitive heat in the ground beneath him and a sardonic orange line on the monochrome horizon. He sat with his gunna drawn across his lap and watched the southeast patiently, looking toward the mountains, not hoping to see the thin straight line of smoke from a new campfire, not expecting to see an orange spark of flame, but watching anyway because watching was a part of it, and had its own bitter satisfaction. You will not see what you do not look for, maggot,

Cort would have said. Open the gobs the gods gave ya, will ya not?

But there was nothing. He was close, but only relatively so. Not close enough to see smoke at dusk, or the orange wink of a campfire.

He laid the flint down the steel rod and struck his spark to the dry, shredded grass, muttering the old and powerful nonsense words as he did: "Spark-a-dark, where's my sire? Will I lay me? Will I stay me? Bless this camp with fire." It was strange how some of childhood's words and ways fell at the wayside and were left behind, while others clamped tight and rode for life, growing the heavier to carry as time passed. He lay down upwind of his little blazon, letting the dreamsmoke blow out toward the waste. The wind, except for occasional gyrating dust-devils, was constant.

Above, the stars were unwinking, also constant. Suns and worlds by the million. Dizzying constellations, cold fire in every primary hue. As he watched, the sky washed from violet to ebony. A meteor etched a brief, spectacular arc below Old Mother and winked out. The fire threw strange shadows as the devil-grass burned its slow way down into new patterns-not ideograms but a straightforward crisscross vaguely frightening in its own no-nonsense surety. He had laid his fuel in a pattern that was not artful but only workable. It spoke of blacks and whites. It spoke of a man who might straighten bad pictures in strange hotel rooms. The fire burned its steady, slow flame, and phantoms danced in its incandescent core. The gunslinger did not see. The two patterns, art and craft, were welded together as he slept. The wind moaned, a witch with cancer in her belly. Every now and then a perverse downdraft would make the smoke whirl and puff toward him and he breathed some of it in. It built dreams in the same way that a small irritant may build a pearl in an oyster. The gunslinger occasionally moaned with the wind. The stars were as indifferent to this as they were to wars, crucifixions, resurrections. This also would have pleased him.

II

He had come down off the last of the foothills leading the mule, whose eyes were already dead and bulging with the heat. He had passed the last town three weeks before, and since then there had only been the deserted coach track and an occasional huddle of border dwellers' sod dwellings. The huddles had degenerated into single dwellings, most inhabited by lepers or madmen. He found the madmen better company. One had given him a stainless steel Silva compass and bade him give it to the Man Jesus. The gunslinger took it gravely. If he saw Him, he would turn over the compass. He did not expect that he would, but anything was possible. Once he saw a taheen-this one a man with a raven's head-but the misbegotten thing fled at his hail, cawing what might have been words. What might even have been curses.

Five days had passed since the last hut, and he had begun to suspect there would be no more when he topped the last eroded hill and saw the familiar low-backed sod roof.

The dweller, a surprisingly young man with a wild shock of strawberry hair that reached almost to his waist, was weeding a scrawny stand of corn with zealous abandon. The mule let out a wheezing grunt and the dweller looked up, glaring blue eyes coming target-center on the gunslinger in a moment. The dweller was unarmed, with no bolt nor bah the gunslinger could see. He raised both hands in curt salute to the stranger and then bent to the corn again, humping up the row next to his hut with back bent, tossing devil-grass and an occasional stunted corn plant over his shoulder. His hair flopped and flew in the wind that now came directly from the desert, with nothing to break it.

The gunslinger came down the hill slowly, leading the donkey on which his waterskins sloshed. He paused by the edge of the lifeless-looking cornpatch, drew a drink from one of his skins to start the saliva, and spat into the arid soil.

"Life for your crop."

"Life for your own," the dweller answered and stood up. His back popped audibly. He surveyed the gunslinger without fear. The little of his face visible between beard and hair seemed unmarked by the rot, and his eyes, while a bit wild, seemed sane. "Long days and pleasant nights, stranger."

"And may you have twice the number."

"Unlikely," the dweller replied, and voiced a curt laugh. "I don't have nobbut corn and beans," he said. "Corn's free, but you'll have to kick something in for the beans. A man brings them out once in a while. He don't stay long." The dweller laughed shortly. "Afraid of spirits. Afraid of the bird-man, too."

"I saw him. The bird-man, I mean. He fled me."

"Yar, he's lost his way. Claims to be looking for a place called Algul Siento, only sometimes he calls it Blue Haven or Heaven, I can't make out which. Has thee heard of it?"

The gunslinger shook his head.

"Well ... he don't bite and he don't bide, so fuck him. Is thee alive or dead?"

"Alive," the gunslinger said. "You speak as the Manni do."

"I was with 'em awhile, but that was no life for me; too chummy, they are, and always looking for holes in the world."

This was true, the gunslinger reflected. The Manni-folk were great travelers.

The two of them looked at each other in silence for a moment, and then the dweller put out his hand. "Brown is my name."

The gunslinger shook and gave his own name. As he did so, a scrawny raven croaked from the low peak of the sod roof. The dweller gestured at it briefly: "That's Zoltan."

At the sound of its name the raven croaked again and flew across to Brown. It landed on the dweller's head and roosted, talons firmly twined in the wild thatch of hair.

"Screw you," Zoltan croaked brightly. "Screw you and the horse you rode in on."

The gunslinger nodded amiably.

"Beans, beans, the musical fruit," the raven recited, inspired. "The more you eat, the more you toot."

"You teach him that?"

"That's all he wants to learn, I guess," Brown said. "Tried to teach him The Lord's Prayer once." His eyes traveled out be- yond the hut for a moment, toward the gritty, featureless hardpan. "Guess this ain't Lord's Prayer country. You're a gunslinger. That right?"

"Yes." He hunkered down and brought out his makings. Zoltan launched himself from Brown's head and landed, flittering, on the gunslinger's shoulder.

"Thought your kind was gone."

"Then you see different, don't you?"

"Did'ee come from In-World?"

"Long ago," the gunslinger agreed.

"Anything left there?"

To this the gunslinger made no reply, but his face suggested this was a topic better not pursued. "After the other one, I guess."

"Yes." The inevitable question followed: "How long since he passed by?"

Brown shrugged. "I don't know. Time's funny out here. Distance and direction, too. More than two weeks. Less than two months. The bean man's been twice since he passed. I'd guess six weeks. That's probably wrong."

"The more you eat, the more you toot," Zoltan said.

"Did he lay by?" the gunslinger asked.

Brown nodded. "He stayed supper, same as you will, I guess. We passed the time."

The gunslinger stood up and the bird flew back to the roof, squawking. He felt an odd, trembling eagerness.

"What did he talk about?"

Brown cocked an eyebrow at him. "Not much. Did it ever rain and when did I come here and had I buried my wife. He asked was she of the Manni-folk and I said yar, because it seemed like he already knew. I did most of the talking, which ain't usual." He paused, and the only sound was the stark wind. "He's a sorcerer, ain't he?"

"Among other things."

Brown nodded slowly. "I knew. He dropped a rabbit out of his sleeve, all gutted and ready for the pot. Are you?"

"A sorcerer?" He laughed. "I'm just a man."

"You'll never catch him."

"I'll catch him."

—from The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower I by Stephen King, copyright © 1982, 2003 Stephen King, published by Viking Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 1071 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 358 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Lucky Find! 5/5 stars!

    I've never read a Stephen King book, but after two friends started reading this series, I decided I had to read it now. Everyone is always saying he is a good writer, and they are right! It is a bit slow-moving at first. That's not a surprise though since it's the first in a series of seven books. It's not a boring read at all though, it just takes a while to get attached to the characters (Like most books). King provides plenty of twists in the mean-time to keep you reading.
    I'll be sure to stop by the library when i can to get the next book in the series. King has gotten me very interested in continuing to read his works and i plan to do so. It was a mysterious plot with a dark and twisted sense of humor. Looking forward to reading more of his work! Ive never really read any books like this one so all i can recommend is to read the series yourself if you haven't.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book begins a series that is, frankly, unbeatable. I have not read any other series that even comes close to the opus that is The Dark Tower series. King creates characters that are far more than simply 'memorable,' they're real. It was seriously difficult to wrench myself from the world of the Dark Tower back into reality after several hours of reading. That being said, be wary of getting into this series, as it makes all other reading seem somewhat substandard.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2003

    Not the original

    I'm not sure these people writing reviews understand. I've been reading the Dark Tower series for around 13 years now. People are writing this review for the original book, which it isn't. This is a re-written version. Each new Dark Tower book since DT2, the Drawing of the Three becomes a little less interesting. Why change one of the best books Stephen King has ever written?

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Stevies Best Yet

    Having read the series several times, its like meeting up with old friends. The first book sets the tone for the next 7 books, its 8 total sincehe finished the Wind Thru the Keyhole. I cant say enough good things about this, it has stuff from so many other books- Father Callahan from Salems Lot, characters from The Stand, Insomnia, and many others find a home in this series. There is truly something in this for everyone.

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  • Posted June 16, 2011

    The start of an epic journey, ...

    ...the likes of which has not been seen before. This quick read introduces the main character Roland Deschaines as he follows the enigmatic 'black man' across what's left of the world. Do youself a huge favor (say thankee, sai) and follow along with Roland and his ka-tet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2011

    boring

    I really like reading Stephen King but I don't get the hype of this book. I just could not get into this book at all, currently I'm reading World War Z which is 10x better.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 8, 2010

    igor test

    igor test

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Recently discovered Dark Tower series

    King's ability to drawn you in to the strangest (and scariest) tales is a gift. Love this series!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Gunslinger, the Dark Tower series, Book 1

    Coming soon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2007

    A reviewer

    I read this book within a day and I absolutely loved it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book is the start of a wonderful series, which will leave you in awe at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2007

    Perfect

    Simply put, this is one of the greatest books in the history of literature. Possibly will be the defining novel of this generation for future centuries. Deserves nothing less than to be an all-time classic.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Dark, dangerous, and a hell of a read

    A magnificent start to an amazgin series. Any avid King reader will be able to piint out all King's allusions from many of his other works which will make it easy to feel that King's imagaination has been leading up to an epic. The first 4 books are fantastic, the fifth is good and the sixth lacks a little, but by the second half of the final book you feel King's excitement rising and pushing along your own. Take the time and read the series!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2005

    Merely ok

    If this wasn't the beginning of an epic series and not Stephen King it'd be a long forgotten out-of-print work. The gunslinger isn't very interesting in this volume and the atmosphere is a tad strained. I like that he rewrote some of the book, but it's still a dismal read even as the shortest book in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2005

    Amazing Start to an Awesome Series

    This book was awesome. One of those books that you just can't set down until the very end, it keeps you hooked the whole way through. In my opinion, it is probably one of Stephen King's best works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    The Dark Tower books are perhaps the greatest books on the face of the earth

    I personally believe that the Dark Tower books are easily the greatest books ever (these books easily surpass that of The Lord of the Rings or any others). The books display the adventure of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger of Gilead. Only a great author like Stephen King could ever write such an extordinary adventure. Every page is as great if not greater than the last, and I guarantee that you won't be able to put this book down until you've finished it and you'll be crying for more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2005

    the guslinger=greatness

    a really good book very compelling hard to put it down

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2005

    A Thought-Provoking and Intriguing Read

    I have not read too many of Steven King's works, but this one is the best. Explicit and (as is typical) descriptive, King depicts the tale of the last gunslinger--a hunter searching for an almost mythical prey--in a world unlike any other. Though such a world seems too unreal to be believable, it is deep enough, real enough, to draw you into the novel and become aborbed with the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2005

    Yeah...whatever

    I really like some of Stephen King's stuff. I loved The Stand and had heard nothing but praise for the Dark Tower books. I have to say that it was tedious and disappointing. King describes it as being influenced by the Lord of the Rings and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I found that it rang of bad and ugly...just boring.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2005

    The Gunslinger- A great book

    The Gunslingerby Stephen King shows the toils and troubles of one man on a quest, for the Dark Tower. As a child Roland, the Gunslinger, lived in a paradise. Time moves on and now Roland is the only one left of his noble race. He was trabeling a desert searching for the the Man In Black, when he meet a man named Brown. The Gunslinger was able to confide in Brown, telling him the story of the town of Tull, in which his lover and the whole town dies. The Gunslinger sets off one morning leaving Brown, to search for The Man In Black. He knows he is gaining on him. He reaches a new town, and meets a boy. He at firsts thinks its the Man In Black, and runs up to him with both guns pointed at him, then faints of heat stroke. He awakens to find the boy he threatened to kill nursing him back to health. They set off on their way still looking for the Man In Black. They travel endlessly through the desert. The Gunslinger knows that beyond the desert there are mountains, but beyong that is unknown. So they reach a little rest stop forest at the base of the mountain. It is there they boy is taken over by an oracle, who inhabits a little altar, which is the limit of her power. The Gunslinger awakens from a nap in time to save the boy, he ties him up then goes back to confont the oracle. It gives a prediction to the Gunslinger. Later they set off to pass the mountains, to meet the Man In Black. They soon met up with him, but he runs into a dark tunnel leading into the mountains, theres nothing left but to follow him. It seems the tunnel is endless, with no light, and no way to count the days. They reach some trouble when some slow mutants, glowing zombies, attack them. The slow mutants block the Gunslinger and boy's path. With a lot of trust the Gunslinger and boy get past the mutants. They eventually reach an abandoned subway station that has been running for thousands of years. It is there that the boy realizes what he is to the Gunslinger, a chess piece, a pawn that can be discarded easily. The boy refuses to go on with the Gunslinger. So the Gunslinger is about to push on even with a split in his heart, when suddenly the boy to afraid to face his challenges alone runs back to the Gunslinger.They eventually reach the daylight on the other side of the mountain. They have to be careful, a wrong step could send them plumiting to their deaths. They eventually reach the Man In Black. But again The Gunslinger is forced with two choices.

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