Bearers of the Black Staff (Legends of Shannara Series #1)

Bearers of the Black Staff (Legends of Shannara Series #1)

by Terry Brooks

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345484192
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/26/2011
Series: Legends of Shannara Series , #1
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 107,919
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.40(d)
Lexile: 870L (what's this?)

About the Author

Terry Brooks has thrilled readers for decades with his powers of imagination and storytelling. He is the author of more than thirty books, most of which have been New York Times bestsellers. He lives with his wife, Judine, in the Pacific Northwest.


Pacific Northwest and Hawaii

Date of Birth:

January 8, 1944

Place of Birth:

Sterling, Illinois


B.A. in English, Hamilton College, 1966; J.D., Washington and Lee University

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

BLACK ICE COATED EARTH FROZEN HARD BY NIGHT temperatures that had dropped below freezing, a thin skein of slickness that challenged the grip of his toughened- rawhide boot soles. Yet the Gray Man stepped with grace and ease across the treacherous smoothness, not oblivious to the danger so much as accustomed to it. He passed through the woods along the snow line close by the valley’s rim, only slightly less transparent than the wraiths to which he was so often compared. Amid the dark of the trunks and limbs and the deep green of the conifer needles, he was another of night’s shadows. Until you got close enough to realize he wasn’t a figment of the imagination, but as substantial as the rumors that tracked him in whispers and long silences, and then he was something much more. 

Through the night’s slow retreat he passed, watching daybreak lighten the sky above the eastern rim of the valley, so far away it was little more than a hazy glow. He had been walking for several hours, his sleep ended early. Each day found him someplace else, and even though he followed the same route over and over, tracking the rim of the valley from mountain peak to barren ridge to escarpment and back again, he was never bothered by time or speed; only with order. It was given to him to navigate the heights from one mountain pass to another, one valley’s passage to the next, always in search of an opening that led out—or in. The mists that had sealed the valley since the time of the Hawk had not yet receded, but that would change and it would do so in his lifetime. 

His dreams had told him so. 

The wall that kept the survivors of the Great Wars safely sealed in, and the things that roamed the world beyond locked out, would not hold forever, although there were many who thought differently. The wall was a conjuration of power unlike any he could imagine, although he wielded considerable power of his own. But nothing was permanent; all things must change. And no matter the beliefs of some and the wishes of others, life had a way of surprising you. 

A hawk screamed from somewhere high above, soaring across the snowfields and rocky promontories, and something in the sound of that cry reminded the Gray Man that time slipped away and the past was catching up. 

He quickened his pace, moving silently through the deep woods, his tattered robes trailing from his lean form. He did not stride through the trees so much as flow, a spectral creature formed of bits and pieces of color and smoke, of aether and light. He touched things as he went, small brushings and tiny rubs of fingertips, nothing more, reading from each something of the world about him. He sniffed the air and studied the look of the tiny ends of branches. Everything spoke to him. A Koden had passed here. There was fresh springwater not far away over there. Fledgling ravens had departed the nest last summer and flown off to breed families of their own. A family of black squirrels lived within that stand of blue spruce, perhaps watching him as he passed. It was all there for those who might read it, but he was one of only a handful who could. 

After all, it was in his blood. 

He was tall and rangy in the way of mountain men and long- range Trackers from the communities of Men and Elves alike, and broadshouldered and hard in the way of the Lizards, though not burdened with the armor of their skin. He was quick when he needed to be and slow when quickness could get you killed. He was dangerous all the time. There were stories about him in every settlement, every village, every safehold and way station, and he had heard them all. Some were partly true, though none told all his tale. He was one of a kind and the last, as well—unless he found the next bearer. It was something he thought of now and then. But time allowed for little deviation from his duty, least of all seeking out and training the successor whom he fervently hoped he would not need for some years to come. 

His hands tightened about the black staff that marked him for who and what he was, conscious of the deep carving of its runes and the pulse of the magic they commanded. He did not call upon the power much these days, did not have cause to do so, but it was comforting to know that it was there. The Word’s magic was given to him by his predecessor and before that by his, and so on over a span of five centuries. He knew the story of its origins; all those who carried the staff knew. They passed it on dutifully. Or when time and events did not allow for an orderly passage, they learned it another way. The Gray Man was not familiar with the experiences of those others who had borne the staff; he knew only his own. He had never been visited by the Lady who served as the voice of the staff’s maker. She had never come to him in his dreams as she had sometimes come to others. 

Ahead, the trees thinned as the valley slope lifted toward a tall, narrow gap in the cliff face farther up. There, hidden within the rocks, the pass at Declan Reach opened through to the larger world. He had stood in its shelter at the edge of his and looked past into the gray nothingness beyond, wondering what that world might look like if he could pass through. He had attempted passage once or twice in the beginning, when he was young and not yet convinced that things were as everyone claimed. But his efforts were always rebuffed; the mists turned him around and sent him back again, no matter how straight he believed the path on which he had set his feet, no matter how determined his attempt. The magic was inexorable, and it refused all equally. 

But now he had the dreams to consider, and the dreams told him that five centuries of what had once seemed forever were coming to a close. 

He left the trees and began to climb. Fresh snow had fallen a day earlier, and its white carpet was pristine and unmarked. But he sensed something nevertheless, a presence hidden below, just out of sight. He could not tell what it was yet, but it was nothing he recognized. He quickened his pace, suddenly worried. He climbed swiftly through the rocky outcroppings and narrow defiles, testing the air as he went, trailing his hands across the rocks. Something had passed this way, descending from the heights. Two, perhaps three days ago, it had made its way down into the valley. Down, not up. 

But down from where? 

His worst fears were realized as he reached the entrance to the pass and found his wards not simply broken, but shredded. The wards had been strong, a network of forbidding he had placed there himself not a month earlier. Wards of the same strength and consistency he used at every such passage leading into the valley, wards intended to warn him of breaches in the wall, wards meant to keep the inhabitants safe from the unthinkable. 

And now the unthinkable was here. 

He knelt to study the area surrounding the tattered remains that still clung to the rocks where he had attached them. He took a long time, wanting to make certain of what he was sensing. There was no mistake. Something had come through from the larger world, from beyond his valley. More than one something, he revised. Two, he judged—a hunting pair come in search of food, huge, dangerous creatures from the size and depth of the claw marks on the rocks and the apparent ease with which they had destroyed the wards. 

He stood up, shaking his head at the irony of it. Even as he had tried to measure the time allotted before the dreams would come to pass, they had arrived full- blown. In the blink of an eye, the past was upon them. 

He looked out from his vantage point high upon the snow line to the spread of the valley. Mist and clouds hid much of it this morning, and it would be midday before that haze burned off enough to permit a view of even the closest of the communities. To which of these would the intruders go? It was impossible to say. They might stay high up on the protective slopes of the mountains. Whatever their choice, he would have to hunt them down and dispatch them before it was too late. 

Which it might already be. 

He turned back into the pass and with the aid of his staff began to rebuild the wards. He summoned the magic, holding out the staff before him and using the words of power and small movements of his hands. The runes began to glow, luminous against the still- dark early morning, pulsing softly in response to his commands. He felt the power flow from the staff into his body, and as always he was transported to another plateau of sensation, one that was too close to euphoria for comfort, a warning of an addiction he had already embraced too closely. The magic was an elixir, each time giving him such fulfillment, such satisfaction, that he could barely stand the thought of letting it go. But he had learned what the lure could result in, and by now, he knew the ways in which to keep from falling prey. 

Or so he told himself. 

He layered the pass with the wards, preventing the creatures that had broken through from escaping the valley without his knowing. It took him a while to complete the task, for he understood the importance of being thorough. But when at last he finished, the wards were set. He let the magic retreat back into the staff. The brightness of the runes faded, the glaze of the magic’s euphoria dissipated, and the world returned to normal. 

The Gray Man stood where he was for long moments afterward, savoring the memories, and then he turned his back on the pass and the wards and set out along the valley rim, tracking the creatures. It was not difficult to do so. They were big and slow, and their tracks were distinct where imprinted in muddy patches on the rocks and within the snowfield. They were moving west now, opposite the direction from which he had come. They followed the snow line for only a short distance before dropping down to the deep woods and their protective cover. They were hunting still, the Gray Man guessed, but keeping close to the safety of the heights and some assurance of the way back. They were thinking creatures, though he doubted their ability to reason overrode their primal instincts. They were brutes, and they would react as such. A lack of caution did not make them any less dangerous. If anything, it made them more so. He would need to find them quickly. 

He considered for a moment the ramifications of their presence. It meant that after all these years, the wall was failing and their time of isolation was at an end. This would be difficult for many of the valley’s inhabitants to accept—Men, Elves, Lizards, Spiders, and those singular creatures that lacked a group identity. It would be impossible for some. The sect of Men who called themselves the Children of the Hawk, and who awaited the return of the leader who had brought them to the valley to protect them, would resist any suggestion of an end to the mists that did not involve his coming. Their dogma prophesied that the wall would endure until it was safe to leave the valley and the Hawk returned to lead them out again. Anything else they would call heresy; they would fight against it until the evidence stood before them, and even then they might not believe. Nothing anyone could say would change minds so settled; belief in the invisible, belief founded solely on faith, did not allow for that. 

Yet he would have to try. There was no one else who would do so, if he did not. 

He glanced downslope out of habit, recalling that the Seraphic who led the Children of the Hawk made his home in Glensk Wood. How ironic it would be if the creatures from the outer world were to somehow make their way to his community and introduce themselves. Would the members of the sect believe then? 

Bittersweet memories flooded his mind in a sudden rush and then dissipated like morning mist. 

The day brightened as the hours passed, and the sun broke through the clouds to warm the air. The brume clung to the higher elevations, catching on peaks and nestling in defiles, and shadows gathered in the deep woods in dark pools. Now that the creatures had left the snow, the Gray Man could track them less easily. But they left traces of their scent and surface marks so that following them was possible for someone with his skills. 

By now he had concluded that he was at least twenty- four hours behind them. It was too long for creatures of this size not to have found something to eat. He had to hope that whatever they had found did not walk on two legs, and that was hoping for a lot. Trappers and hunters roamed these hills year- round in search of game. Some made their homes in cabins up along the snow line; some had their families with them. They were tough, experienced men and women, but they were no match for the ones he tracked. 

It frustrated him to think that this was happening now, that the ending of the barrier had come about so abruptly. There should have been some warning, some hint that change was at hand. Wasn’t that what the Seraphic preached? But no one was prepared for this; no one would know what to do. Not even himself, he acknowledged. How do you prepare for the intrusion of a world you had escaped because it was too monstrous to live in? How do you prepare for an end to everything you had believed to be permanent? 

He smiled grimly. It was too bad he couldn’t ask his predecessors, those fortunate few who had found a way to survive the horrors of the Great Wars when it had seemed survival was impossible. They would know. 

The ground ahead had turned damp and spongy, the snowmelt trickling off the heights in dozens of tiny streams. The Gray Man studied the ground carefully as he went, seeking the tiny indicators of his quarry’s passing, finding them less quickly now, their presence faded with the changes in temperature and time’s passage. As he slipped silently through the trees, he could hear birds singing and tiny animals rushing about, and he knew that they would not be doing so if any sort of danger were present. He had not lost ground; he had simply failed to make it up. The creatures were traveling faster at this point, perhaps because they sensed the possibility of food. He increased his own pace, worried anew. 

His worry turned quickly to fear. Not a quarter of a mile farther on, he encountered a set of fresh tracks intersecting with those he followed. They were so faint he almost missed them. He knelt to study the sign, making certain of what he was seeing. These new tracks belonged to humans. It wasn’t that the makers were trying to hide their passing; it was that they knew how to walk without leaving much to follow. They were experienced at keeping their passage hidden, and they had done so here out of habit. They had come up out of the valley, perhaps from Glensk Wood, two of them. They had found the tracks of the creatures, and now they were following them also. 

He brushed at the two sets of tracks with his fingertips. The tracks of the intruders were more than a day old. The new tracks had been made less than three hours ago. 

The Gray Man straightened as he rose, not liking what this meant. 

It was entirely possible the two from the valley had no idea what it was they were tracking. They may have had enough experience to suspect the nature of their quarry, but it was unlikely they knew of its origins. 

The best he could hope for now was that they appreciated the possibility of the danger they were facing so that they would be cautious in their efforts. 

But he couldn’t assume anything. He could only hope. 

He would have to reach them as quickly as possible if he was to save them. 

He set out again, this time at a steady lope that covered the ground in long, sweeping strides. 

Time was slipping away.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Bearers of the Black Staff (Legends of Shannara Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 406 reviews.
Cinnamonbuns More than 1 year ago
Let me begin by saying that I have never read any of Terry Brooks' books nor am I a huge fan of high fantasy. I only picked this book while trying to take a break from historical novels. So let me be the first one to admit that this review will be a little biased but I will do my best to be objective. ** PLOT ** The synopsis on the overview tab summarizes the plot well enough so I wouldn't even bother with that. But without spoiling too much, this book ends very abruptly with several cliffhangers. If I knew the whole thing was just a setup for a much more epic story, I would've waited for the other books to come out before I started reading. The plot is engaging enough but nothing is really resolved at the end so the reader is left to create their own conclusions. At least until the next book comes out. ** CHARACTERS ** The characters are very likeable and readers of every age will find someone they can identify with. Their actions and motivations are believable enough and I just love how crafty the real villains are. I do find one character, Skeal Eile, a little too one-dimensional but that's just nitpicking on my part. Also, some characters may be related to people from Brooks' previous novels; but having read none of them, I really can't be sure. Definitely something for the real fans though. ** WRITING STYLE ** Not a huge fan. Very long narratives punctuated by brief dialouges. The dialouges doesn't really pick up until the final chapters and even then, they're very dry. ** ORIGINALITY ** The Shannara universe, from what I picked up from this book, is a post-apocalyptic world populated by the typical creatures from Tolkienian high fantasy novels. And it works surprisingly well. If you have always wondered who can win in a fight between Mad Max and the orcs from Lord of the Rings, then this book is for you. Well, I guess if you're a Terry Brooks fan, then picking up this book is a no-brainer. But for everyone else, I suggest you avoid it, at least until the whole series is released. As for me, I would definitely follow the series closely, not for admiration but out of sheer curiosity.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Five centuries ago the demonic Great War left humanity on the brink of extinction. Young Hawk the Gypsy Morph led a few battered human, elven and mutant souls into a sanctuary protected by a magical barrier (see The Gypsy Morph). Those inside knows that outside hell reigns. However, when he led the march to safety, Hawk never expected what has occurred recently; the barrier has collapsed allowing the demonic horde to invade. The last surviving Knight of the Word Sider Ament knows the people need new young heroes like the Bearers of the Black Staff he possesses that once was held by Hawk when he led them to safety. He rescues teen Trackers Panterra Qu and Prue Liss and tells them to warn the Hawk's descendents. However, the council complacent after hundreds of years of peace rejects Sider's belief the demons are coming while the Knight goes out to the external world to learn what has happened there and most likely in the valley. The two Trackers believe the Knight's word and seek allies. Terry Brooks continues his prehistorical saga the Legends of Shannara with the first of a twp part fantasy thriller with the story line occurring five hundred years since the events of The Gypsy Morph. Inside the once safe valley is a fascinating look at a peaceful life on the verge of pandemic collapse with leaders mostly unable to accept the demonic tsunami is coming. As enjoyable as that subplot is, fans of Shannara will especially appreciate the other segue as Sider escorts the audience in a venture outside the valley, which enables fans to see what happened after Hawk saved the band. Mr. Brooks is at his best with this tale as his myriad of fans will look forward to the conclusion. Harriet Klausner
Kenji More than 1 year ago
This is the continuation of the Shannara series, and brings us forward 500 years after the Gypsy Moth brought them to safety. It is the logical conclusion of the last series and the beginning of a new trilogy. Story was very well developed, plot line is logical, suspenseful and the character development is also very well done. The ending was abrupt and left me very unsatisfied, kind of like an essay written by a middle school English student when they reach their word quota, "The End."
John Roe More than 1 year ago
I haven't read anything by Terry Brooks that I didn't love. This book is no exception. Even if you haven't read any of the other Shannara books, you won't be lost trying to figure out who's who and what's what. I highly recommend this book and the author as well.
rustyray1 More than 1 year ago
I have read most the the Shannara series. Including the pre shannara and the genesis of shannara. All the books have a good plot and are interesting steady reading. The only this I wish is that the Author wood of put what series was first and the book titles all the way to the end. I don't like jumping around in the different series. However I did find all the series good reading. I would recommend this books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great adventure in the Shanarra tradition. good character development. Four stars though due to excessive preaching by the author regarding social, religious and environmental themes. Just a little heavy handed. Other than that though I really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the sequel.
Bearman57 More than 1 year ago
This book is a good continance of the Shannara series. It takes place 500 years after the Hawk and his ragtag band of humans, elves, and others have entered the valley. the only draw back is that it doesn't cover much of the proceeding years. Other than that it is a good starting to the bridge between the old world and the new.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a continuation of the story set after the destruction of the known world of Terry Brooks' creation. It is fascinating and I look forward to the next one to see what happens next in this drama.
Emile Sigee More than 1 year ago
I am new to fantacy scifi, and i loved it. My eyes are open to new worlds.
Donald Link More than 1 year ago
Cant wait to read more
RickCT More than 1 year ago
Bearers is right in keeping with the same high standards as the rest of the Shannara series, which I've been reading since day one. As is typical with his books you see things developing in a captivating fashion and still don't know what to expect right to the end. He's a master of making things continue to evolve. It's been a fantastic transition from the far flung future of the series to watching the future evolve here our own future.
FantasyRider More than 1 year ago
Brooks does it again in the continuation of the Shannara world. This book is a promising beginning to the new series that seems to be off to the same action packed and complex story line of the rest of the books. I highly recommend this book to Shannara lovers and even those new to the Shannara world!
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DavBod57 More than 1 year ago
Bearers of the black staff is an extremely good book. It moves at a good pace and the story line is a can't put it down, must find out what happens next. I highly recommend this book. I have already bought the sequel and am currently reading it. Really good stuff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This isn't my normal type of story, but Mr. Brooks is an excellent writer, and he writes an interesting tale! If you are into the "what if" you'll enjoy Shannara and the concept of the Black Staff!
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