Mystic Warrior (Bronze Canticles Series #1)by Tracy Hickman, Laura Hickman
An expansive new saga chronicling the world-altering changes that take place as three connected universes - the Human world, the Goblin world, and the Faery world - are slowly drawn together. In Book 1, young Galen Arvad, a human with magical powers, must avoid the ritual that puts those with such talents to death. it seems that in the eyes of the community magic is a sign of lunacy, and in a yearly ritual the local "crazies" are offered up to the Dragon Priests. Having successfully dodged the "elections" for many years, Galen is suddenly captured and hauled away with others that are deemed "insane." Now as Galen's wife, Berkita, and his friend, Cephas the dwarf, set off to rescue him, Galen learns of the fate that awaits him... a fate far worse than even his own death.
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By Tracy Hickman Laura Hickman
Warner BooksCopyright © 2004 Tracy and Laura Hickman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFar Shores
In the 492nd year of the Dragonkings, no commoner within the lands of Hrunard, nor anyone within the Five Domains suspected that their world was already coming to an end. The silent invasion moved as slowly and as inevitably as a glacier, unmarked by the busy lives of the ordinary inhabitants ...
Only the fevered dreamers sensed the initial tremblers of the Deep Magic; the vanguard of a glory and a doom they could scarcely comprehend. They were the first of the Mystics, these dreamers ...
... and they were insane.
Bronze Canticles, Tome III, Folio 2, Leaf 19
They watch me. I feel their eyes peering through the darkness at the top of the falls. Each pinprick in the dome of night burns me, unblinking in its considerations. The stars try to speak-a murmuring of stardust on a wind that I cannot feel. I ignore them. They never say anything of consequence. They babble incessantly about the past and say nothing of the future. Their concerns, it seems, are too far above the lowly place that I occupy. They watch me with eyes of fire.
The stars are not the only ones watching me. Dark eyes, holes in the night, peer at me from under the black shadows of the forest around me. Their gaze is lust and hunger. Theirs are the eyes of the hunter, and I am the hunted.
I turn from them, stumbling in my flight beneath the low boughs of a pine tree. I might hide from the gaze of the stars here, but the other, unseen eyes are still on me, burning through the darkness. The whispered words between them drift past my ears, talking about me, talking to me. The voices creak and groan like overheated metal: the hiss of steam and the taste of a forge. They are searching for me, licking their long teeth in anticipation. Their voices are more distinct now, chattering madly and incessantly.
Demons. They are dark spirits from the deep reaches of N'Kara-the belly of the world where all condemned sinners suffer unceasingly in the afterlife. They have come for me in my blasphemy and they are getting closer.
I know this place, these trees are near my home and yet so different somehow. They can offer me no safety nor solace. I plunge headlong, mindlessly through the thick woods. Home is farther and farther from me with each panicked stride, but the demons stand between me and that place of solace. I am spinning, lost and confused by trees that I no longer remember. The branches move too slowly out of the way, marking my face and clawing at my eyes. The trees suddenly part ... and I run headlong into the demons' encampment.
Four of the revolting creatures have their backs to me as I slide noisily to a halt. The demons are tearing at the flesh of a red-haired scholar, his arms and legs spread wide and staked to the ground. Books and parchment scrolls lie shredded and scattered about.
The haggard scholar looks up calmly from the tortured scene. "Would you be so kind as to help me?" he says in a quiet, patient voice despite the terror filling his eyes. "Please make them stop." The demons follow the scholar's gaze.
Only my own life concerns me. I leap at once back into the woods, fleeing heedless of my direction.
Somewhere behind me, the demons scream, spurred into the hunt by the prospect of easy quarry. I hear their panting behind me. I sense the excitement in their squealing voices. They have caught me before-at other times and in other places-but not tonight, I swear! Not tonight!
The trees, enjoying the sport, now point the way for me, doing their best to come to my aid. But the rocks underfoot are friends to the demons, and one trips me in my headlong flight. I tumble painfully, rolling across the uneven ground. Fear conquers my pain, and, panicked, I push myself up from the dirt.
I can see them now. The metal that they wear flashes dully in the starlight. Their steel eyes stare unblinking as they bound through the underbrush toward me. Their skin, too, is green, even in the faint light of the stars. Their smell is an outrageous offense.
Their long knives are drawn, dripping from the rending of a previous soul. They clang their blades against their armor as they approach. Hideous grins split their faces.
My feet struggle to find purchase in the dirt beneath me. Time stretches thin into an eternity. My legs will not move as they should. My body does not respond. The ground slides beneath me.
The demons rush forward, their screams echoing through the forest.
A massive vine suddenly lunges from the trees, wrapping around me. It jerks me upward, snatching me from the demons' out-stretched claws and flinging me into the air.
I tumble slowly through the night sky, and then I am rolling gently into a meadow. No, not just a meadow-it is the meadow, the place where Berkita and I come on holiday afternoons. It is the stolen place, the secret place, the one place in the entire world that we claimed as our own, if not in deed then with our hearts. I drink in its peace, aching to keep frozen this moment forever, but the moment does not last.
The demons are already at the edge of the clearing. I flee once more, desperate to get to the falls that I know are beyond the far tree line. My breath, labored and hollow, rattles in my ears with each thunderous beat of my heart. The rushing of water calls me from beyond the trees. I heed its tumbling voice, weaving through the dark shadows of the forest at full gait. I can feel the heat of my pursuers on the back of my neck and taste their cloying stench. Cold, steely eyes still burn behind me. The chatter of their enraged voices rises with my every panicked stride.
A silence descends like a thunderclap. The eyes and the voices that are always at the edge of my mind have vanished. The peace is more unnerving than the pursuit. My rushed footfalls stutter to a stop. I stand gulping air at the top of the falls.
My breath smoothes out and my heart slows as I gaze into the river. The water rushes past on my left. There is movement in the water now-laughing, graceful spirits dancing across the rocks. I smile timidly at them and they smile back, waving their lithe arms, beckoning me. I watch their passage down the river until they leap gleefully from the crest of the waterfall, sparkling down the cliff face. They smash against the rocks below, shattering into smaller versions of themselves; hundreds and then thousands of them caught up in the foam. They rush among the rocks and then drift out into the still waters of Mirren Bay to the south.
A gentle breeze fills my nostrils, carried inland from the sea. From my high perch atop the falls cliff, my eyes follow the shoreline eastward beyond the river and the falls. There, cradled in the gentle crescent of the beach, are the glowing lights of Benyn Village-my village and the only home I know. Strands of smoke curl up from the chimneys of the town, weaving together toward the uncaring stars. The town sleeps deeply; secure in its slumber and oblivious to any world beyond its boundary wall. I wonder at the peace that resides here surrounded by a world infested with demons.
The hair on the back of my neck rises. I know that she is near.
I turn slowly to my right to face her, at once both dreading and longing for her visage.
Across the river, at the head of the falls, floats a woman on translucent wings.
I have seen her a thousand times before. Her dark, delicate features are achingly beautiful. Her large, almond-shaped eyes gaze at me-through me-with curious questioning. Her hair is pulled sharply back from her oval face. Blue strands, two at each temple, are the only coloration in her otherwise brilliantly white hair. Her skin is dark yet lustrous, her features exotic. Yet it is her wings that are the most astonishing-long and intricate opalescent wings like a butterfly that float her above the common ground. They beat slowly, as though they were moving through water rather than air.
The river separates us. I speak to her-as I have a thousand times before. "Who are you, dear lady? Why are you here?" Her eyes narrow with effort. Her smile dims slightly. "Do you understand me?" I speak my words through a forced calm, desperate to be understood. "Can you hear me?" She blinks and opens her mouth to speak.
It is happening again. I brace myself for what is coming. The woman's voice drifts over the river as a song, and the water stops at its sound out of awe and wonder. The wind holds its breath. Even the stars cease to blink in the night sky.
The song moves through me, ringing in my mind and bones. I have heard the song before, but a thousand repetitions could never prepare me for the reality of it. The beauty of its sound shatters my being. The undeniable honesty of its feeling and passion over-whelms my mind with its grace and truth. Tears well up unbidden in my eyes from the joy and the feeling of ultimate loss-for I am small compared to this truth.
The woman stops her singing. She watches me weep and a depthless sorrow fills her visage. A great, glistening tear falls from her eyes and into the waters of the river.
The spirits of the river, now freed from the sound of her voice, see the tear as it falls. In a sudden frenzy, they fight one another for the tear as it melds into the waters now once more rushing to the sea.
I fall to my knees, weeping at the loss of the voice, wishing it would go on forever, rebounding in my soul. "Pardon me ..."
A human voice? Here? I leap to my feet in fright at the sound. My heart pounds once more as I turn.
Blinking through my tears, I confront a young man wearing the robes of a Pir monk-an Inquisitor, by the purple trim. The robe is slightly too large to fit well on his thin frame. The priest's light blond hair is wispy and short, cut in the rough manner of the Drakonic orders. His long face seems the longer for the turned-down corners of his mouth, and his pale blue eyes examine me suspiciously.
"Do you understand me?" the Inquisitor asks, his words coming slowly.
I nod, my mouth suddenly dry. I force my breath in and out, desperate to control my fear. "Who are you?" the monk asks sharply.
The question strikes me as ludicrous, and I laugh nervously. "What do you mean, 'Who am I?' This is my dream-my night-mare. You should know whose dream you are in." The monk arches his eyebrows in astonishment. "Your night-mare? It's my dream you are in ... not the other way about!"
The statement takes me aback. I gape at him, unsure how to respond. He continues to watch me.
"I'll tell you what," I say carefully after some thought. "What if we're both in someone else's dream?"
The Inquisitor blurts out a laugh. He tries to stifle it but this only causes him to laugh all the more. I join him somewhat warily in my own joke.
"Perhaps so." The monk smiles. He moves slowly to sit on a rock near the falls. "Perhaps we are all just figments of the dragon- gods' dreams. I had never really considered that idea before. Tell me; have you seen her ... that flying woman before?"
With dread and hope, I follow the monk's gesture toward the opposite bank. The winged woman considers us both as she floats in midair. "Yes ... I have seen her many times before, here at the falls and elsewhere, it seems ... but I cannot remember where or when."
"Intriguing: perhaps in this place there is no where or when," answers the monk. He leans forward suddenly, his eyes wide and desperate. "Listen, tell me, please ... are we mad?" I take a careful step back. "You are a monk of the Pir Inquis by the marks on your robe. The insane are your province. You see what I see here. If such dreams make me a madman then, perhaps, we both ..."
The monk, however, is distracted. He stands up slowly, concern in his eyes as he faces toward the east. His gaze is fixed on the village ... my village.
The smoke from the chimneys of Benyn curls over the sleepy rooftops. It begins to thicken until its darkness obliterates the stars.
The smoke twists in on itself, coalescing at last into the form of a gigantic dragon, writhing over the village. The smoke-dragon's black wings beat downward upon the homes of my friends, family, all that means anything to me in the world. With each beat of its wings, another light is extinguished in the town. Another light ... another life.
"Stop it!" I scream at the Inquisitor. "It isn't me!" the monk responds, but his voice has changed, it screeches with the sound of demons. "What is it? What's wrong?" The dark wall of the woods is suddenly alive with pairs of steel eyes. The demons, grinning hideously, advance toward me. The monk seems oblivious to the danger stalking up behind him.
I turn, plunging into the river. My bare feet splash into the icy waters, which sting them like sharp barbs. On the far bank, however, the winged woman beckons me onward, urging me quickly to cross, to save my village, to save my life.
A bitter cold grips my ankle. Too late, I glance down. It isn't the cold that stings me, but the icy grip of the water spirits. They laugh hysterically at my folly. I scream, struggling desperately to reach the opposite shore, but the water spirits are having too fine a game. More and more of them tear at my feet, my ankles. The malicious spirits foam and splash at my face and eyes and ears. I hear their voices gathering about me. "Come play! Come play!" I trip over them, panicked, then slip on a rock, crashing flat in the frigid, gathering waters of the river. The spirits shout and roar with glee, their icy talons dragging me down with them toward the falls. They dance about my face, filling my ears and nostrils, blurring my eyes.
"We dance! We sing! We revel! Come play! Come play!" I struggle for breath, choking on the waters. The water spirits, gathering in numbers by the moment, carom me against the rocks. The swiftness of the stream increases and the roar of the falls draws closer.
A hand suddenly grasps my wrist, pulling me up against the current. I reflexively clasp my hand tightly around the other's wrist, struggling to pull my head up and breathe. Shaking the water from my face, I gulp air as the water spirits rage against me. It is the Inquisitor.
"Hold on, I've got you!" The monk's other hand strains to grip a rock on the embankment, as he pulls me against the current. I frantically kick in the thunderous river, searching desperately for a foothold and trying to free myself from the hysterical water spirits.
"Come on!" the monk yells. "Hurry! I can't-" His eyes widen as he sees the look on my face. Behind the Inquisitor, and unseen by him, a silent line of grinning demons advances toward the riverbank. They creep patiently up behind the man but their eyes are on me.
I release my hold on the monk. "No!" the monk shouts. He struggles to retain his grip but the water spirits pry at his fingers, splashing between them. The Inquisitor's hand slips.
The river drags me backward. I roll among the water spirits, their voices laughing as they scurry about me.
Excerpted from Mystic Warrior by Tracy Hickman Laura Hickman Copyright © 2004 by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Tracy Hickman is a bestselling fantasy author as well as successful game designer. With his wife, Laura, he published a number of game designs for TSR. With his longtime collaborator Margaret Weis, he has written many Dragonlance novels including the original Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragonlance Legends, the Rose of the Prophet series, The Darksword Trilogy, and the seven-book Deathgate Cycle.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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... fantasy read but I liked it just the same. I really enjoyed the interaction of three separate worlds that are able to effect the others through a magical dreamscape.
This was a book I was sorry to have purchased, I thought it was extremely simplistic to the point of stupidity, I have loved other boks by this auther but this series is an unfortunate exception !!!
Sorry to say I was bored throughout the book, I kept reading hoping it would get better.....it did not. Margaret's solo 'Mistress of Dragons' was awesome, Tracy should stick with writing alongside of her and tell his wife to go knit a sweater or something.
This has to be one of the best fantasy books I have read in a very long time. It was absolutely fantastic. If you like Dragonlance or Fantasy in general, I highly recommend this book.
Three worlds exist alongside one another. While each one has its own problems, seemingly separate, in a magical way, they are all connected. On one world, magic and madness are two sides of one coin. Ruled by dragons, the world's towns are culled of the mad and the magically gifted in the rite of Election. Those chosen are taken away, never to be seen again, as if they never existed. Galen is a man whose dreams are filled with magic and madness both, so while he is horrified to be Elected, it is unsurprising. Being elected brings him into contact with other chosen people and involves him in a quest to save all three worlds. On one world, the fairys live, and their fate is tied to a princess. On the third, the goblins and their machines rule, but for some reason, the machines are being problematic. All three worlds' fates rest in the hands of 'madmen' and dreamers. ................ *** The Hickmans have created a highly complex world system. At its heart is love and loyalty. At times it may be difficult to see how the three plotlines interconnect, but it is a challenging read for the academic fantasy lover. ***
Three different worlds exist in different dimensions but what happens in one world affects the other two............................ In the world of humans and dwarves, the seven dragons rule. An annual festival is held in which those that are mad or have Deep Magic are taken away from their homes never to be seen again. Galen Arnold hears inanimate objects talk and visits other realms in his dreams and he is caught by the Inquisitor and brought to a central location where others like him are trained to fight in a war that the general populace doesn¿t know exists............................ The Titans once ruled another world but all that is left is machines that don¿t work and books that are used for burning. The goblins want to fix these machines but the only one who has an affinity for them is Mimic who rises to power........................... Queen Tatayna¿s world of faery is besieged on two fronts. In the north the centaurs and satyrs struggle to take control; while Lord Pheor in the south plans to overthrow her highness and marry her daughter to become the ruler. The faery seeker Dwynwym struggles to find a truth that will save her homeland............................. Galen¿s Deep Magic has the power to influence events in the other worlds and is strong enough if he learns to use it properly to change his own......................... Tracy and Laura Hickman have created fantasy worlds that exist on separate planes but impact each other. Just how deep they interact will be explained in further installments of The Bronze Canticles. Each world is different and fascinating with characters created specifically for that realm. Readers will care about several protagonists, hoping they survive their trials and tribulations. The Hickmans deserve an award for originality and creativity...................... Harriet Klausner