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The secret to protecting the civilized world from an ancient threat may lie in the pages of three books…and it is up to master librarians of the past and present to secure these pages of knowledge.
Set in the years after Lord of the Libraries, young halfer Juhg is still growing into his job as Grandmagister when an ally from the past, the wizened wizard Craugh returns with warnings of an ancient threat that may resurfacethe so-called "Kharrion's Wrath" which endangers the existence of the world. Juhg must now unlock the secrets contained in the journals of his now absent mentor Wick, the former Grandmagister and legendary hero known as "The Rover." He must also continue his documented but clandestine search for a trilogy of books, which brings him through many different realms of their very dangerous world…and into conflict and contact with other races (elves, dwarves, and men) whose fates are all intertwined among the pages of the great book of Time.
The Quest for the Trilogy weaves three separate quests into one as the young historian races against the clock to protect not just his world, but all others as well.
About the Author
Mel Odom is a bestselling writer for hire for Wizards of the Coast's Forgotten Realms, Gold Eagle's Mack Bolan, and Pocket's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel book lines. His debut SF novel Lethal Interface made the Locus recommended list. The Rover was an Alex Award winner. He has also authored Apocalypse Dawn, the first spin-off novel from the bestselling Christian series "Left Behind" by LeHaye & Jenkins as well as two sequels and another Christian military series. He lives in Moore, Oklahoma.
Read an Excerpt
Quest for the Trilogy
"Education Is Overrated, Grandmagister Juhg!"
"Having second thoughts, Grandmagister?" a deep voice asked from behind Juhg.
Startled, Juhg turned and faced the speaker. He hadn't even heard him approach. But that was usual for the man. Craugh had spent much of the last thousand years skulking in shadows.
He stood on the loose cobblestones of the street. Dressed in dust-stained russet-colored homespun garments, he didn't look like a wizard. Instead, six and a half feet tall and skinny as a rake, he looked like a weary traveler, days from his last meal.
A wide-brimmed, peaked hat shadowed his face from the noonday sun, but it didn't completely smooth out the crags years had left stamped upon him. Scars lay there too, from knife and sword and arrow. Still, his hawk's beak of a nose and his bright green eyes implied power and a relentless nature. He leaned upon the rough staff he carried, hand resting idly on the crook at the end of it. He drew his other hand through the tangled mess of his long gray beard.
In all the years past that Juhg had known the wizard, Craugh had only referred to him as "apprentice," as if he were the only Novice Librarian that Grandmagister Lamplighter had ever taken on to train at the Vault of All Known Knowledge. Now, with the Grandmagister's departure and Juhg's naming to the position of Grandmagister, Craugh addressed him by his title. Most of the time.
(Sometimes the wizard still referred to Juhg as idiot and buffoon, and those weren't meant as terms of endearment. Theyboth missed Edgewick Lamplighter, for reasons each their own, but that didn't mean they agreed how to proceed without their friend.)
"I'm long past second thoughts," Juhg muttered. He drew himself to his full height, still only a little more than three and a half feet tall. He was a dweller, much thinner and more wiry than most. Dwellers tended to be short and stout, and fat in their later years when they could afford to succumb to their innate selfishness. Juhg was pale at present, with fair hair and a youthful appearance. Today, instead of Librarian robes, he wore finery that he felt uncomfortable in.
"Eh?" Craugh said, holding a hand to his ear.
Juhg sighed. He hated it when the wizard pretended not to hear him because he couldn't speak tall enough.
"I'm long past second thoughts," Juhg said more loudly, curbing at least threeno, foursharp retorts that came to mind to address Craugh's hearing ability as well as his advancing years.
At the moment, though, he didn't wish to lose Craugh's support andperhaps it would stretch the very nature of the definition to call it suchfriendship. As the new Grandmagister negotiating with the important leaders of the dwarves, humans, and elves along the Shattered Coast, Juhg felt inept and very much alone these past few days.
"Good," Craugh said, and smiled grimly. "You should be of a more positive mind."
"I'm probably on forty-sixth or forty-seventh thoughts," Juhg admitted. "And that's just today. After lunch." In truth, he felt sick. Even so, he felt driven to at least attempt to accomplish the goal he'd set for himself. "I just don't want to botch this."
"Nonsense." Craugh gazed up at the town meeting hall. "You'll do fine."
Making himself breathe out so he wouldn't hyperventilate, Juhg checked his journal to make certain it was the right one and he hadn't forgotten his notes. "I'm afraid they don't like me."
"Poppycock," Craugh said.
Juhg felt a little relieved at that.
"They don't know you well enough not to like you," Craugh went on. "It's your ideas they hate."
Those are exactly the words of confidence I was looking to for inspiration. But Craugh's assessment of the situation, however true it might be, stung Juhg's pride. He stood a little straighter and looked into the wizard's insolent gaze.
"They don't know my ideas well enough to hate them," Juhg insisted. "I've barely begun speaking."
"Then perhaps," Craugh said, "we should go inside and finish what you have begun." Without another word, he stepped toward the town meeting hall.
Sighing again, taking one last look at the ship in the harbor, Juhg followed the wizard. Craugh will lead you to your doom, he warned himself. How many times did Grandmagister Lamplighter tell you about adventures he went on because of Craugh? Dozens! At least that many. And how many times did those adventures nearly get him killed? At least nearly every time. At one point or another.
In the main hallway, dwarven and human guards dressed in heavily armored leather stood watch over the door to the meeting room. They held axes and swords naked in their fists. All of them were sworn to provide security for the important people they represented. Atop the building, elven warders stood at the ready, their hawks and falcons skirling high in the sky to keep an eye on the countryside and the sea.
One of the human guards challenged Craugh, swinging the long handle of his axe to block the way. The guard was younger, taller, and broader, and evidently full of himself concerning his fighting prowess.
"Who are you?" the guard demanded.
Drawing himself up to his full height, Craugh fixed the man with his stare. Displeasure and anger clouded the wizard's face. Lambent green sparks jumped and swirled at the end of his staff.
"I am Craugh," he declared. And his voice filled the space in front of the door like a blow.
Immediately, the guard paled and took a step back, clearing the way. He broke eye contact. His hand shook on his axe. "Forgive me. Please don't turn me into a toad."
The reputation the wizard had for turning people into toads when they irritated him was known far and wide around the mainland. It was rumored that he had increased the toad populations in some areas by whole communities.
Craugh passed on without another word.
Juhg started forward as well, but was blocked instantly by the guardsman's axe. Looking up at the guard, who had seen him both days before when he'd gone into the meeting hall, Juhg blinked in disbelief.
"Who are you?" the guard challenged, sounding fiercer than ever. Evidently he felt he had to regain his status with his companions.
"You know me," Juhg said, exasperated.
"Show me your bracelet," the guard ordered. Copper bracelets stamped with trees, ships, and mountains had been issued to those who were allowed into the meeting.
"I'm the Grandmagister," Juhg began, starting to push back his sleeve to reveal the bracelet. His wrist was bare. Feeling stupid, he remembered that he'd left the bracelet in his room aboard the ship.
"Well?" the guard demanded, as if sensing weakness on Juhg's part.
"I'm the Grandmagister," Juhg said again. "I don't look any different today than I did yesterday or the day before."
The guard leaned in more closely, obviously wanting to intimidate Juhg with his greater size.
Juhg, who had grown up as a slave in a goblinkin mine, who had carried the left legs of fellow slaves who had died in the mines back to the harsh overseers to prove the hapless individuals had indeed perished, was not intimidated. He had fought wizards (though not because he wished to), battled goblinkin (only because running hadn't been an option at the time), and faced incredible monsters (drat the luck he sometimes had when he thought about it). Juhg was not impressed.
Although Grandmagister Lamplighter had freed Juhg from the goblinkin slaves and taken him back to Greydawn Moors during one of his adventures, the Grandmagister hadn't ever been able to free him from his anger. Two days of being largely ignored and sometimes ridiculed hadn't set well with him.
Before Juhg could stop himself, he caught the human's big nose in a Torellian troll nerve pinch and squeezed. Torellian trolls had at one time been known for their torture techniques. Lord Kharrion had made extensive use of them during the Cataclysm.
The guard yelped in stunned and pained surprise. Paralyzed by the grip the Grandmagister had on his snout, the burly human dropped to his hands and knees and quickly begged for mercy.
Shocked at what he had done, aware that the guard's companions were closing in on him with edged steel, Juhg released his hold and stepped back. "I am the Grandmagister," he said again.
"I don't care who you are, bub," one of the other human guards growled, "no one lays a finger on one of Lord Zagobar's personal"
Craugh raised his staff and brought it down sharply. Green lightning flew from the bottom end of the staff and shot along the hallway floor. Several of the armored guards cried out or cursed. Many of them jumped and rattled their armor. A few of them fellsplat!on their backsides.
"He's with me," Craugh declared, glaring at the guards. "Does anyone have a problem with that?"
"Of course not," the guards all replied in quaking voices. "Go right inside. Sorry to be any trouble."
Juhg heaved out a disgusted breath as he trailed in the wizard's wake. A wizard should not get more respect than a Librarian. But that was the way it had always been. After all, Librarians couldn't turn malcontents into toads.
Behind him, one of the dwarven guards took off his hat and enthusiastically smacked the fallen human guard with it. "You stupid miscreant! You could have gotten the lot of us turned to toads!"
Juhg had to hurry to keep up with the wizard. They passed through the rows of seats, most of them filled with those who had come to the meeting. They still glared at Juhg with a mixture of awe, disbelief, and resentment. Several were openly hostile. After all, during the thousand years that had followed the Cataclysm, most of them had thought all books were destroyed.
Lord Kharrion's campaign, besides taking over the world, had been directed toward the destruction of every book that had been written. During the war with the goblinkin, none of the elves, dwarves, or humans had known Lord Kharrion was searching for The Book of Time, which had been lost. The Book of Time was indestructible.
The fact that Kharrion had also been Craugh's only son remained unknown by all except Juhg.
Craugh stopped so suddenly that Juhg nearly tripped over his own feet while trying to stop. The wizard turned around and gestured Juhg to the front of the great hall.
Juhg stood for a moment. "I thought perhaps," he said quietly, "you might like to say a few words."
"No," Craugh replied.
"But you came such a long way."
"To hear you."
After two days of arguing and attempting to justify his existence, Juhg felt hollowed out. I should have run for the ship, he told himself.
Impatiently, Craugh waved him to the front of the room. Lamps lit the stage there, filled with lummin juice, which the glimmerworms of Greydawn Moors produced, and which burned more cleanly and efficiently than whale oil or tallow. That fuel had interested several of the merchants among the crowd and lent proof to Juhg's statement that he was from another place.
But a Library? When Juhg had first told them that, even though most of them had heard the rumors that had spread when the Vault of All Known Knowledge had been destroyed almost eight years ago, they had looked upon him with derision.
He was a dweller. By their standards, since dwellers couldn't or wouldn't fight, didn't produce anything worthwhile, and on the whole were known for their greedy and selfish ways, he couldn't possibly be in charge of such a great thing as the Vault of All Known Knowledge. In fact, Grandmagister Lamplighter had been the first to ever hold that office who wasn't human.
"Go," Craugh admonished, shooing Juhg along as he would a child.
Reluctantly, Juhg walked to the front of the assembly. He felt the cruel stares boring into his back. His feet felt leaden and everything in him screamed, Run! But he didn't. He was following in Edgewick Lamplighter's footsteps and forging a path of his own.
Grumbles and curses arose all around him, sounding as unforgiving and throaty as the Lost Sea, which had been trapped in an underground cave in the Krelmayne Jungles. Even though the lake and the surrounding cave systems had been filled with savage predators that had no eyes and hunted by vibration, Juhg thought he would rather be there again at Grandmagister Lamplighter's side in the sinking dinghy once more than facing the hostile crowd.
At the stage, Juhg climbed the stairs, then walked over to the lectern, which hadn't been cut to dweller specifications. He had to climb up on two wooden boxes to reach the proper height.
The audience laughed at Juhg, not with him. A few disparaging comments about short people and dwellers reached his sensitive ears. His face flamed slightly, but it was as much from anger as from embarrassment.
"Greetings," Juhg said bravely. And he smiled just the way Barndal Krunk had suggested in his book, Oratories of Those Who Would Be Listened To. It didn't work and he felt stupid standing there grinning like a loon. He also tried imagining the audience was sitting there in their underwear, but that didn't work either. He was fairly certain several of the poor sailors of the nearby Twisted Eel River didn't own underwear. And imagining the fierce Blade Works Forge dwarves in their underwear was just too horrible to contemplate.
Now, for the first time, utter silence filled the great hall.
Juhg tried to find Craugh out in the audience, hoping to find a friendly face to focus on. If that's the friendliest face you can hope to find, he told himself, you might just as well hang yourself on this stage.
"As many of you have come to know these past two days," Juhg ventured on, knowing that there were some among the assembly now who had only arrived, "I am Grandmagister of the Vault of All Known Knowledge, the Great Library that was built near the end of the Cataclysm to save the books from Lord Kharrion's goblinkin horde."
"Dwellers is worthless!" someone roared from the back. A chorus of boos followed.
Patiently, Juhg waited for the remonstrations to die away. He gripped the edges of the too-wide lectern. "I sent heralds to gather you all here," he went on, "in the hope of presenting my vision of schools along the Shattered Coast."
"Schools!" someone yelled. "Fish got schools! We ain't fish!"
"Your children and their children need educations," Juhg said. "With Lord Kharrion defeated, with the goblinkin horde in abeyance"
"They ain't in abeyance!" someone shouted. "They's down to the south! Where they always been! We need to go down there an' burn 'em all out rather than sittin' here on our duffs listenin' to a halfer tryin' to convince us he's important!"
Cheering broke out immediately.
Thoughts of war bring these people together, but peacetime divides them. Juhg couldn't believe it.
"We should all get us an ale down at Keelhauler's Tavern an' head on out down there."
And more wars have started with tankards of foaming ale. Juhg raised his voice. "You'll have your chance at the goblinkin soon enough. But if you aren't ready for them, they'll destroy you."
That declaration set off another wave of hostility.
An elf stood up in the front row. His two great wolves roused with him, growling fiercely as they stood with their forelegs on the arms of his chair and rose nearly to their master's shoulders.
He was an elven warder, marked by his green leathers, bow, and pointed ears as well as the animal companions he kept. His long hair was the color of poplar bark and stood out against the golden skin. Amethyst eyes glinted like stone. Thin and beautiful and arrogant, the elf leaned on his unstrung bow and gazed at the assembly.
"Quiet," he said. "I wish to hear what the halfer has to say."
A group of rough-hewn sailors stood up in the back. "We don't take no orders 'cept from our cap'n, elf ," one of their number said. He made the word a curse.
The elf smiled lazily. "You'll do well to take orders from me, human. Or at least not feel so emboldened in my presence. Your continued survival could count on that."
A dwarf stood up only a few feet from the elf. His gnarled hand held a battle-axe that was taller than he was. Scars marked his face and arms, offering testimony to a warrior's life and not a miner's. His fierce beard looked like the hide ripped from a bear but was stippled through with gray. "That'll be enough threats, Oryn."
Still smiling casually, the elf turned to face the dwarf. "Really, Faldraak? You should know me well enough to know that I don't make threats. I make promises."
"An' you don't have sense enough to come in from the rain," Faldraak accused. "Are you prepared to fight a crew of humans?"
"I am," Oryn replied. "The only question is whether or not I have to fight a dwarf as well."
Several other elves stood up. "Oryn won't fight alone," one of them promised.
Armor clanking, a dozen dwarves flanked Faldraak.
"Fight!" someone in the back yelled. "There's gonna be a fight between the elves and the dwarves!"
Unable to bear it any longer, Juhg gave in to his anger. "Stop!" Amplified by the construction of the stage, his voice rang out over the assembly hall with shocking loudness. Before he knew it, he'd abandoned the lectern and stood at the stage's edge.
The crowd turned on Juhg at once, as if suddenly realizing their presence and the discomfort between them there was his entire fault.
Too late, Juhg realized that he should have stayed behind the lectern. At least it would have offered some shelter against arrows and throwing knives. Still, his fear wasn't enough to quiet the anger that moved within him.
"Look at you!" he accused. "Ready to fight each other over a few harsh words!" He stood on trembling legs but found he couldn't back away from his own fight with them. "Is this the kind of world you want to give each other? One where you have to fight each other instead of the goblinkin?"
No one said anything. All eyes were upon him.
"Because that's how it was before Lord Kharrion gathered the goblinkin tribes, you know," Juhg said. "Before he came among them, they were wary and distrustful of each other. They preyed on each other, thieving and murdering among themselves because they didn't like fighting humans, dwarves, or elves. But Kharrion taught them to work together. And they very nearly destroyed the world."
The audience stood quietly listening to Juhg for the first time in three days.
"Now that the goblinkin aren't the threat they used to be," Juhg said, "maybe you can go back to killing each other over territory nobody wants or needs. Or to feel secure. Or over harsh words. Or any of other reasons people have found to go to war over since groups first gathered."
"Make your point, halfer," a human merchant said. He was dressed in finery and accompanied by a dozen armed guards. Age and success had turned him plump and soft. His hair was black but the color looked false. Jeweled rings glinted on his fingers. "For two days, you've stood up there and ranted and raved about the Library's existence, which"he turned to address the crowd"I think nobody really cares about."
A few in the audience agreed with him.
"I'd heard the Library existed only a few years ago," the human continued. "There was some mention of a battle against a man named Aldhran Khempus. Supposedly, there are two libraries, in fact."
"Yes," Juhg said, "there are." He had discovered the second while rescuing Grandmagister Lamplighter and searching for The Book of Time.
"In the past," the merchant said, "simply owning a book was enough to get you killed not only by the goblinkin, but generally by anyone who found you with one."
"The times are changing," Juhg said.
"You're only here," the merchant continued, "because you want the people here to help aid in your defense from the goblinkin. I've heard they've sent raiding parties out to your little island."
"They have," Juhg admitted. "Those goblinkin raiding parties haven't succeeded in reaching Greydawn Moors. They never will. The island's defenders will never allow that to happen."
"How many dwellers are among those defenders?" the human taunted.
"Dwellers," Juhg said, "aren't warriors. We were charged by the Old Ones to become the keepers of the Great Library."
"That's what you do?"
The human held up his hands in fake supplication. "Then why did you call us here, telling us that the fate of the world rested in our hands?"
"Because it does," Juhg said.
Leaping from the stage, Juhg opened his backpack, took several books from it, and walked to the elven warder and surveyed him. "You're a Fire Lily elf from the Joksdam Still Waters."
Oryn was unimpressed. "A number of those present know who I am."
Opening the book, Juhg flipped to one of the illustrations that showed the wide river that wound through what had once been Teldane's Bounty but was now the Shattered Coast. "But I know the history of your people. I know what Joksdam Still Waters looked like when it was whole, when it was a place of beauty and not a place of dead trees and cities."
The picture was in color, elaborately inked and designed to catch the eye. It showed an elven warder on a leaf boat sculling the waters and battling a sea troll three times his size.
Reverently, Oryn took the book. "Kaece the Swift," he marveled. The other elven warders crowded in around him to peer over his shoulder.
"Yes." Juhg had deliberately ordered the story of Kaece the Swift copied. "This is his story, Oryn. His true story. Before Lord Kharrion came among the Fire Lily elves and destroyed them." He changed his language to the elven tongue. "And it's written in the language of your people."
Cautiously, Oryn flipped through the book, stopping at several other pictures. All of them were in color, which had drawn a lot of complaints from Juhg's overworked Library staff, but he'd wanted to make a good impression.
"You know his story?" Oryn asked.
"I've read it," Juhg said.
"There have been few like him."
Oryn looked at Juhg with new respect. "You have read this?"
"Could you"he hesitated, because elves were haughty beings and didn't like being beholden to another"read this to me?"
Oryn's hands closed tightly around the book. "What do you want for such a book?"
"The book is yours," Juhg said. "It's the Library's gift to you."
"I can't just accept such a gift." Nor did Oryn seem especially desirous of returning the book. "There must be something I can give you in return."
"There is," Juhg said.
Wariness entered the amethyst eyes.
"Give me your promise that you will let me teach you to read this book," Juhg said. "And others like it. Whether at the Vault of All Known Knowledge, your home, or someplace else you might wish to meet. And promise me too that you will teach at least two others to read this book, and that they will each teach two more, and that the teaching will continue."
"I have two sons and a daughter," Oryn said. "I give you my word that I will do as you ask."
"Thank you," Juhg said. He turned to Faldraak and took out another book. "You're of the Ringing Anvil dwarves."
"I am," Faldraak replied proudly. "Ringing Anvil steel is like no other. We're known for it."
"Your people once built armor for kings," Juhg said. "And you constructed iron figureheads and rams for ships that were magically made so they wouldn't rust."
Faldraak shook his shaggy head. "A myth, nothing more."
Dwarves and magic didn't get along well. Everyone knew that. Humans and elves were more open to it, though elves held more with nature and humans tended to be more destructive.
Juhg opened the book. "The secret of that magically imbued iron was the Ringing Anvil clan's alone. They wrested the process from a dragon named Kallenmarsdak who lived long ago and high up in the Boar's Snout Mountains."
The dwarf's eyes widened. "Not many know that tale."
"I know more than the tale," Juhg said quietly. "I know the secret of how magic was put into that iron."
"No," Faldraak whispered hoarsely.
Juhg opened the book to a picture of a dwarf grabbing hold of the toe of a dragon swooping over a mountaintop with the setting sun in the background. "Drathnon the Bold. The Ringing Anvil dwarf who bearded Kallenmarsdak in his lair."
Faldraak snatched the book from Juhg's hands. "The secret of the magical iron lies in here?"
"And you would give it to me?"
"You will read this to me?"
"I will. But only at the same price that Oryn's paying."
Without warning, Faldraak gave a cry of gladness, tossed his battle-axe to one of his companions, and wrapped his arms around Juhg, lifting the dweller from his feet like a puppy. "Ah, now you are a surprise, you are! You done filled this old dwarf 's heart with gladness! I'd thought that secret lost an' gone forever!"
Juhg almost couldn't breathe. He felt certain his ribs would be bruised for days. A moment later, Faldraak placed him back upon his feet.
During the next several minutes, Juhg passed out twenty-seven other books to people who had come to the gathering. Only five histories didn't have descendants to give them to, and several others were disappointed that they didn't have anything. Juhg got all their names and promised to get them each books upon his return to the Vault of All Known Knowledge. He could only imagine the protests of his poor staff, who were dividing their time between getting the Library back into shape, teaching Novices, and carrying on their own works and studies.
In the end, he returned to the stage, though he didn't humiliate himself by crawling up to the lectern again. He spoke to them from the stage's edge.
"These books represent the worlds that existed before the Cataclysm," Juhg said.
Amazingly, the audience was quiet now, hanging onto his words. He couldn't believe how much giving them the books had impressed them.
"They also represent the worlds your children and your children's children can return to," Juhg went on. "As the goblinkin are driven back, and I believe they will be, the world will grow smaller, not larger. Our lives will become larger. We won't exist as little communities. But as we grow, we'll develop the same problems we had that Lord Kharrion was able to take advantage of in the early part of the Cataclysm."
"What are you talking about?" the human merchant demanded.
"Sit down, Dooly!" someone yelled. "I want to hear the halfer speak!"
"Don't you know what he's talking about?" Dooly demanded. "Truly?" He hurried on before anyone answered. "This halfer is intending to pick your pockets! Who do you think is going to pay for these schools he intends to build?"
That started another ripple of speculative conversation. Obviously, the merchant could smell a plea for donations a mile away.
"Tell them," Dooly snarled at Juhg. "Tell them that's why you gathered them here. To fleece them of money."
Honesty is the best policy, Juhg told himself. He tried desperately not to remember how many times he knew of that such a practice had gotten the practitioner killed.
"The establishment of schools will require help," Juhg said.
Immediately some of the good will of the book presentation evaporated. No one liked the idea of giving away gold.
"Some of that help," Juhg said, speaking over the noise, "will, of necessity, be of a financial nature. To feed and clothe the students and teachers while they are at their studies for the first year. Then they can garden, hunt, or fish to get what they need or the goods to trade for what they need. But most of the help needed will be only labor to build the schools."
"For what purpose?" Dooly asked. "To deprive farmers of their helpers? Artisans of their apprentices? To make every man and woman work two and three times as hard as he or she should have to, while their sons and daughters sit in some schoolhouse and do nothing?"
"To get an education," Juhg replied, trying to control the damage of the merchant's words. "In order to learn to do things and teach others. In order to better live with one another. We will someday live in one world again. We should live in it better than we have in the past. The children need education to do that."
"Education is overrated, Grandmagister," Dooly accused. "You stand up there today, offering your gifts and your promises, and you want only to make our lives harder. I've had just about enough of this foolishness and your empty words."
A single green spark danced from the back of the room, drawing the attention of several attendees. As Dooly continued haranguing Juhg, the spark sailed over and attached itself to the back of the merchant's head. As Dooly talked, his tongue got longer and longer, and his face broadened and shortened, till he soon showed the wide face of a toad atop human shoulders. His hair became bumps and warts.
Several of the people around Dooly started laughing. Even Juhg couldn't help smiling.
Abruptly, Dooly stopped speaking and glared at the people around him. "What?" he demanded. His tongue flicked out like a whip. Evidently he saw that movement for the first time. Experimentally, he flicked his tongue out several times. Then he raised his hands and felt his head.
"Oh no!" he cried. "Oh no! Ohribbit!" Holding onto his head, he fled the room. Before he reached the door, his gait changed from a run into bounding hops. The door closed after his retreat.
"Perhaps," a deep voice from the back of the room suggested, "we could do the Grandmagister the courtesy of listening to his plans."
"It'd be better than being a toad," someone grunted irritably.
"Continue, Grandmagister," Oryn said.
And Juhg did.
"Coercion wasn't part of my presentation," Juhg said.
"No, I claim credit for that," Craugh responded. "Once I used it, things seemed to go more smoothly."
Juhg looked around Keelhauler's Tavern, which was a waterfront dive not too far from Moonsdreamer, the ship that had brought him from Greydawn Moors. That also meant the ship was only a short distance away if things turned ugly locally and they had to run for it.
Over the years, the tavern's owners had enlarged the building three or possibly four times, simply hauling over other structures and attaching them, then laying in a floor. As a result, the floors were of varying heights and weren't always level. The furniture consisted of a hodgepodge of whatever had showed up at the door.
Although the tavern was filled near to bursting with all the extra people in forthe meeting, no one sat close to Craugh and Juhg. It was, under the toad circumstances, understandable.
"They're afraid of you," Juhg said.
Craugh preened in self-satisfaction. "They should be."
Juhg sighed. "It's difficult to get anyone to do anything charitable when they feel threatened."
"I beg to differ. After the possibility of being turned into toads was presented, they sat and listened while you droned on and on about schools and education."
"I didn't drone."
Craugh frowned. "Your elocution lacks. 'We must build for the future. We must ensure our children know about the past before they step into the future.'" The wizard shook his head. "The toad threat? That was eloquent. Short, punchy, attention-getting." He took another cream-filled bitter blueberry tort from the plate he'd ordered and dug in. For all his leanness, the wizard was a bottomless pit when it came to food. "You don't ask people for help. You tell them to help you."
"Or you turn them into toads."
Craugh shrugged. "If I threatened that, then yes, I turn them into toads. Threats don't carry much weight if you don't occasionally carry them out."
Despair weighed heavily on Juhg. "Toads can't build schools."
"Actually, toads can't do much of anything. Except eat flies." Craugh brushed cookie crumbs from his beard. "I believe that was the point."
"We need these people's goodwill."
"Over the years, Grandmagister, I have found that people demonstrate an overall lack of enthusiastic goodwill without being properly motivated. Especially when it comes to public projects. I merely provided the motivation. Had I been here two days ago, doubtless you would have already been finished."
One way or another, Juhg silently agreed.
"Now if Wick had addressed those people today" Craugh caught himself and shook his head. "Alas, but that's not to be, is it?" He smiled a little, but sadness touched his green eyes.
"I regret that I'm not Grandmagister Lamplighter," Juhg said, feeling the old pain stir inside him as well. Although he understood Grandmagister Lamplighter's decision to explore the realms opened up to him by The Book of Time, Juhg hadn't quite forgiven his mentor for leaving.
"No," Craugh said forcefully. "Never regret that. You are you, Grandmagister Juhg, and were it not for you, the possibility of giving back all the lost knowledge to the people of the world would never have come this far."
Pain tightened Juhg's throat. For all that they argued and disagreed, he and Craugh had shared a love and deep respect for Edgewick Lamplighter. They were the only two who knew most of the Grandmagister's life. They had shared his adventures outside Greydawn Moors and had gotten to see him work. None of the Grandmagister's acquaintances on the Shattered Coast had ever come to Greydawn Moors.
"Thank you," Juhg whispered.
"Your friendship these days," the wizard said, "means a lot to me."
That admission from Craugh was both surprising and touching. Juhg didn't know what to say. The silence stretched between them, crowded by the conversations throughout the rest of the tavern.
"You didn't come here today for the presentation, did you?" Juhg asked. He'd asked earlier, but Craugh had never answered him. The wizard didn't answer any questions until he was ready. But that didn't mean he couldn't be asked again.
"No, I didn't." Craugh took another tort and nibbled at the edge. "Something else brought me to you."
Silently, Juhg waited. Only trouble would bring Craugh to him. He didn't want to ask what that was. So he didn't.
"Tell me," Craugh said almost conversationally, as if the potential fate of the world didn't hang in his words, "have you ever heard of Lord Kharrion's Wrath?"
Juhg reflected for a moment. "No. Not really. There was some mention of it in Troffin's Legacy of the Cataclysm."
"I'm not familiar with that."
"Most people aren't. The Grandmagister had me read it one day, but he never explained why."
"Ah. What did the book say about Lord Kharrion's Wrath?"
"Only that it was a weapon the Goblin Lord had been building toward the end of the Cataclysm. I think the legend was eventually dismissed as a fabrication."
Craugh took out his pipe and filled it. He snapped his fingers and a green flame sprang to life on his thumb. In short order, he had the pipe going merrily and a cloud of smoke wreathed his hat.
"What," the wizard asked, "if I told you the story of Lord Kharrion's Wrath was true?"
Juhg thought about that. "Then I'd say it was over a thousand years too late."
Disturbing images took shape in Craugh's pipe smoke. Wars were fought in those small clouds. Juhg didn't know if the smoke revealed things yet to come or were drawn from the wizard's memory.
"Wick, at one time, was on the trail of Lord Kharrion's Wrath," Craugh said. "Quite by accident, though. He'd ended up in the Cinder Clouds Islands as a result of an argument between Hallekk and another ship's crew one night in the Yondering Docks."
"The Grandmagister wouldn't get involved in an argument," Juhg said automatically. "Besides, there'd be nothing to argue over. The Grandmagister would know the answers."
"No one believed him."
"And he went to prove them wrong?" Juhg shook his head. "That still doesn't sound like the Grandmagister."
Craugh coughed delicately. "Actually, Wick wasn't given a choice."
Juhg lifted a suspicious eyebrow.
"We waited until Wick was deep into his cups, then we took him back to the ship."
"You shanghaied him? Again?" Juhg could't believe it.
"It was Hallekk's idea, actually."
At the time, Hallekk had probably been first mate on One-Eyed Peggie, Greydawn Moors' only dwarven pirate ship. The crew had shanghaied Grandmagister Lamplighter from the Yondering Docks all those years ago to fill their crew, so deep in their cups they hadn't realized then that he was a Librarian.
Juhg wondered why the Grandmagister would have gone adventuring again just to satisfy Hallekk's need to win a wager.
"Did the Grandmagister believe in Lord Kharrion's Wrath?" Juhg asked.
"He did. He saw it."
That announcement took Juhg by surprise. "He never mentioned it to me."
"Wick has lived ... an adventurous life. Quite contrary to a normal dweller's desires." Craugh puffed on his pipe and a dreadful dragon sailed in full attack in the clouds dappling the tavern ceiling. Several nearby patrons sat in frozen astonishment, then carefullyquietlyleft their seats and departed. "I'm sure he didn't tell you everything."
"I've read everything he wrote."
"Perhaps he didn't write about everything he witnessed."
Juhg shook his head immediately. "That wasn't his way. He taught me the importance of keeping a journal." Reaching into his robes, he took out a journal he'd made himself.
After placing the journal on the table, he flipped through the pages and revealed the images and words he'd wrought over the last few days. Images of Shark's Maw Cove, the meeting hall, the principal attendees he'd met, as well as plants, structures, and animals that had caught his curious eye all filled the pages amid notes and monographs.
"This is just the bare beginning of this book, though," Juhg said. "I've been working on a more finished one on board Moonsdreamer." He closed the book and put it away. "The Grandmagister kept a record of everything."
"So he did. Which leads us to the conclusion that you haven't read everything Wick wrote."
Saying nothing, the wizard reached inside his traveling cloak, took out a fat book, and dropped it with a thump onto the table. "Have you read this?"
Juhg recognized Grandmagister Lamplighter's handiwork immediately. The Grandmagister had always been very exact when he built a journal to record his adventures. This one had a lacquered finish over maple stained deep red that would be proof against impact and water.
Opening the book, Juhg found the Grandmagister's hand upon the pages. Juhg knew his mentor's style instantly from the Qs. Grandmagister Lamplighter had the most beautiful Qs of any Librarian.
Several of the pages, though, showed charring. Other pages showed where pinholes had burned through.
The frontispiece showed an exquisite drawing of One-Eyed Peggie sitting at anchor at the Yondering Docks. Dwarves, one of them barrel-chested Hallekk, stood on the deck working at their chores.
"Where did you get this?" Juhg asked, astounded.
"At the Vault. I just came from there."
"You didn't know where all Wick's hiding places were," Craugh said.
"He would have told me."
"That book that you hold in your hand proves that he didn't."
Juhg couldn't argue that and didn't, though he sorely wanted to. "Why wouldn't he tell me?"
"Maybe he just never got around to it," the wizard gently suggested.
Looking at the opening pages, Juhg discovered that he couldn't read them. "It's written in code."
"Wick was very careful."
Let's only hope the Grandmagister still is, Juhg fervently hoped. Wherever The Book of Time has taken him.
"Can you read it?" Craugh asked.
Quickly, Juhg took out his own journal and tried some of the various codes he and the Grandmagister had devised over the years of their adventuring. In short order, the strange symbols became perfectly understandable words.
"Yes. It's written in one of the first codes the Grandmagister taught me." Excitement filled Juhg at the discovery.
"Good. That proves that he intended to let you know about this book at some date," Craugh said.
Relief flooded Juhg. "Why did you bring this book to me?"
Craugh was silent for a moment, contemplating his response. "Because I can't read it. I need it translated."
"You want me to translate this?"
"Can you name another more suited to the task?"
"No," he replied.
"Neither could I."
"Don't you already know what this book contains?"
Hesitantly, Craugh shook his head. "I don't know. Though Wick and I trusted each other and would have laid down our lives for each otherand almost had occasion to do so now and againwe still maintained our own counsel in some areas." He sighed and a lightning storm manifested in the smoke over his peaked hat. Green sparks danced within the storm. "I think it was because Wick knewknowsthat I have my own secrets from him."
Chief among those secrets had been Craugh's own early villainy and search for power through The Book of Time. And the fact that Craugh had fathered Lord Kharrion. Only Juhg knew that, and it had been the first secret he had kept from Grandmagister Lamplighter.
"But I was with Wick when he found Lord Kharrion's Wrath," Craugh said.
"It is a weapon?"
"What kind of weapon?"
"Read the book," Craugh directed. "I don't want to risk influencing translationsor interpretations of what you find there. When you have the book decoded, we'll compare what we know."
Suddenly a thump sounded on the tavern's roof. Then more thumps followed, as if a giant were walking across the split wood shingles. Other thumps sounded in different spots, indicating that more than one thing now walked atop the building.
Craugh stood immediately and took up his staff. His eyes narrowed in consternation. "Quickly, Grandmagister. It appears my arrival here hasn't gone unnoticed."
"Unnoticed?" Juhg got to his feet. "You were trying to arrive unnoticed?" That could only bode the gravest trouble.
Striding to the center of the big room, Craugh glared up at the ceiling.
"Unnoticed by whom?" Juhg asked, remaining by the table. He peered through the window. Outside, night had come to Shark's Maw Cove. Lanterns lit the crooked boardwalks that led through the boggy marshland to the docks and dilapidated warehouses.
"Those who would prevent me from learning anything further of Lord Kharrion's Wrath, of course." Craugh took his staff in both hands. Green sparks whirled around both ends of it.
The magic was so intense in the room that Juhg felt the hairs on his arms standing to attention. He reached down and slipped out the long fighting knife his friend Raisho had given him years ago when they had entered a trade partnership. That had been when Juhg had tried to leave the Vault of All Known Knowledge because he and Grandmagister Lamplighter had been of different views on how to proceed with the Library.
Juhg said, "Who"
Then the roof splintered and caved in, scattering shingles in all directions. Three impossible figures dropped to the tavern floor and stood on clawed feet with toes as big as tree roots.
They were vaguely human in shape, possessing two arms and two legs, and had vaguely human features that looked like ridged skulls with flat brown eyes the size of saucers. No nose and a ragged slit for a mouth completed their features. Warped ears twisted like conch shells stuck out on the sides of their heads. They had four fingers and four toes at the ends of their extremities, but those were each as large as a man's wrist. Their skin looked like cypress bark streaked with moss. When they stood, Juhg realized they very nearly reached the ceiling beams, making them at least thirteen or fourteen feet tall. Pungent and strong, the stink of a fecund swamp clung to them.
As one, they turned their gazes on Craugh.
"Get behind me," the wizard ordered.
Juhg did as he was bade, but he was thinking that since the creatures seemed interested in Craugh, maybe that was the last place he wanted to be. Still, he couldn't desert the wizard and leave him to face his foes alone. He shoved Grandmagister Lamplighter's coded book into his backpack, took a fresh grip on his fighting knife, and peered around Craugh's leg.
"Dark magic!" someone cried in warning.
"Bog beasts!" another shouted.
The Keelhauler's Tavern emptied in short order. Several of the patrons simply threw chairs through the windows and followed them outside. Only a few elven, dwarven, and human warriors remained. Most of those who had been bending their elbows were sailors and merchants, not versed in the arts of combat.
"Wizard," one of the bog beasts growled in a deep voice that seemed to erupt from within him. It threw a hand forward and a vine leaped from it like a fisherman's line. Thick and fibrous, the vine streaked straight for Craugh.
Hardly moving, the wizard attempted to block the vine with his staff. The vine reacted like a live thing, curling around the staff and tightening. The bog beast fisted the vine and yanked.
Incredibly, Craugh stood against the creature's immense strength, once again demonstrating that he was more than human. He spoke a Word in a harsh tongue. With a bamf!, green flames spread along the staff. The vine crackled, burning to ash in the space of a heartbeat.
The bog beast screamed in pain and drew back its hand.
"Get back, foul swamp spawn!" Craugh commanded.
The bog beasts surged forward. Their feet hammered against the wooden floor, shattering thick planks that had withstood the test of time till that night.
"Axes!" one of the dwarves yelled. "Don't let them black-hearted beasties tear up our tavern!"
At once, the dwarves broke up into three groups of four, standing one by two by one deep. As needed, they rotated the leader in case he grew tired from attacking their enemies or was wounded, moving into the defensive anvil formationtwo by two, with shields raisedto wear through an opponent's attack, then back into the axe formation.
The elven warders had nocked their bows. Arrows sped across the short distance of the room and feathered the bog beasts. The creatures roared in anger and pain but showed no sign of turning from Craugh.
Roaring, unleashing Words of power, Craugh raised his flaming staff and brought it crashing down on the floor. In response, Juhg thought the earth had shivered free of its moorings. He toppled and fell, striving desperately to push himself back to his feet.
Everyone in the tavern fell, including the elves, dwarves, and humans. Even the bog beasts toppled. Then what was left of the roof dropped as well, crashing down around Juhg. None of it hit him. When he peered fearfully up from under his folded arm, he saw that a green bubble surrounded Craugh and him. Sparks shimmered along the surface of the bubble. Then it disappeared.
Juhg stood. Tremors continued through the ground and he felt certain the earth would open up and swallow them at any moment.
Bellowing angrily, the bog beasts surged up from under the debris that had fallen on them. One of them threw a vine at Craugh, catching the wizard around the lower right leg. Obviously drained by the spell he had cast, Craugh was slow to react. The bog beast yanked, pulling the wizard from his feet.
Moving by instinct, Juhg scrambled after Craugh, leaping to the top of a brokentable and slashing his knife across the vine. The fibrous length parted with only passing resistance. Another bog beast cast its line, but Juhg stomped on an abandoned serving platter and caused it to leap into the air. The vine pierced the platter and was deflected from its target enough to miss, though it was only a matter of inches.
Craugh regained his feet and clapped his hat back on. He took a firmer grip on his staff.
"Scribbler!" a familiar voice yelled.
Turning, Juhg saw Raisho standing in the crooked doorway. The young sailor had become Juhg's best friend during recent years. They had become trading partners when Juhg had been determined to abandon the Vault of All Known Knowledge eight years ago; Raisho had only been twenty.
(Eight years meant a lot to a human. Now Raisho had found his true family, married a mermaid, and had one child and another on the way, and captained Moonsdreamer, the ship he'd named after his daughter. At six feet two inches tall, he had filled out over the years, becoming thicker and more powerful, but still went smooth-shaven because his wife preferred him that way.)
Blue tattoos showed on his ebony skin, marred here and there by scars from men and beasts he'd battled while sailing the Blood-Soaked Sea and adventuring with Juhg. A headband of fire opals, made by his beautiful wife, held his thick, unruly black hair back from his handsome face. Silver hoops dangled in his ears. He carried a dwarven smithed cutlass in his hard right hand. He wore only sailor's breeches, soft leather boots, and a chain mail shirt over his bare chest.
"Scribbler!" Concern etched on his face, eyes straining against the darkness inside the tavern, Raisho strode into the tavern.
"I'm here," Juhg called.
"Thank the Old Ones," Raisho said, striding over to join him and Craugh. "I thought ye'd 'ad yer gullet slit for sure this time. Especially after I'd 'eard Craugh was about an' I saw the dragon flyin' around."
"Dragon?" Juhg echoed.
Raisho nodded. "I was told it was the dragon what dropped them creatures onto the tavern. Didn't know what they was lookin' for. Till I 'eard Craugh was 'ere with ye."
"Dragon?" Juhg repeated, stuck on the possibility that one of those monsters might even now be lurking about outside awaiting them.
"Of course there's a dragon," Craugh growled. "I was going to tell you about the dragon."
"You might have mentioned it before now," Juhg grumbled.
Roaring war cries, the dwarves and humans took up the attack once more, chopping into the backsides of the bog beasts with unrelenting zeal. Shooting with their incredible skill, the elven warders put more arrows into their targets around their fellow combatants. The two back bog beasts had to turn to deal with their opponents.
The bog beast facing Craugh rushed forward, flinging both hands out so that vines shot toward him.
The wizard ducked, whipped his hat off with one hand, spoke a Word, and sent his hat spinning toward the bog beast. Inches from the creature, the hat turned into a flaming fireball nearly two feet in diameter that slammed into the bog beast's chest with a boom! louder than thunder.
The creature rocked back on its tree root toes. Dry cracks spread across its chest where the fireball had struck. Craugh pressed his advantage, ducking in and driving the end of his staff into his opponent's chest. Startled, the bog beast glanced down and started to close a hand around Craugh's staff, then the dryness spread through the creature and it fell to pieces.
One of the dwarves grabbed an unbroken lantern from one of the wall sconces. The wick remained aflame inside the glass. Yelling a warning to his fellow warriors, the dwarf heaved the lantern at the bog beast. The lantern shattered against the creature, spreading oil that quickly caught fire. Dry patches showed on the bog beast and it began struggling to move. A moment later, spreading fires throughout the wreckage of the bar, the bog beast broke into pieces.
Taking note of what was going on, the elven warders dipped their arrows in oil and loosed flaming shafts into the remaining bog beast, quickly reducing it to chunks of dry earth that tumbled across the shattered tavern floor. The combatants cheered at once, no longer divided in their goals while facing a common foe.
"Go," Craugh said, "quickly. We may yet face more opposition." He waved his arms to usher Juhg and Raisho into motion.
"Mayhap if we were to split up," Raisho suggested to the wizard. "Ye can go one way. Me an' Juhg, we'll go another."
"No," Craugh said.
Raisho gave a disappointed frown. "I thought not. But I'm tellin' ye now, if 'n ye get me ship busted up somewheres, ye're gonna be responsible for replacin' 'er."
Together, they ran out of the building as the flames leaped higher.
"Too bad about your hat," Juhg told Craugh.
"Eh?" the wizard said. Then nodded. "Right. My hat." He snapped his fingers and suddenly the hat was sailing through the air toward them. Effortlessly, Craugh caught the hat and clapped it onto his head. He smiled and wiggled his eyebrows. "This hat has gotten me out of several tight spots over the years. One day, mayhap, I'll tell you the story of how I acquired it."
Intrigued as he was by the story of the wizard's hat, Juhg glanced overhead, spotting the two moons that circled the world. Bright red and speeding on the first of his trips across the night sky, Jhurjan the Swift and Bold was full and close now, occupying fully a tenth of the sky. Farther to the south, glowing a demure pale blue, Gesa the Fair made her way more sedately, with grace and self-control.
There were, thankfully, no dragons in sight.
They ran on, racing down the hill toward the harbor, then down the steep, crooked steps, andfinallyacross the swaying bridges that connected the decrepit docks. When they reached Moonsdreamer, Raisho hailed his crew, who were already crowded at the railing with weapons to hand.
In minutes, they cast off and Moonsdreamer's sails scaled the masts and belledout from the 'yards. Juhg stood in the bow. Before he knew it, his personal journal and a piece of charcoal were in his hands. By Jhurjan's light, he quickly blocked out the shapes of the bog beasts. Despite the danger, it was what Grandmagister Lamplighter had trained him to do. He wrote his questions for Craugh in the margins while Raisho got his ship into the wind with all due haste.
Unfortunately, Craugh didn't intend to answer many questions.
Seated in the galley with a hot cup of spiced choma at the table before him, Juhg looked at the wizard. "Who sent the bog beasts?"
Craugh scowled. "I told you I wouldn't influence your reading of Wick's book. I meant that."
"Those were bog beasts," Juhg said. "I've never seen creatures like them."
"See? Even more reason I shouldn't answer your idle curiosities."
Not believing what he was hearing, Juhg said, "They tried to kill us. I'd say that I'm motivated by more than idle curiosity."
"Still," Craugh said, "your neutrality in the matter of decoding the book is important, Grandmagister. You have a duty to do the best that you can."
Using his title as he did, Juhg knew that Craugh sought to motivate him. However, knowing the wizard was a manipulator negated that maneuver. Unfortunately, Juhg also saw the truth in Craugh's words, so it may well have been that the pronouncement wasn't a manipulation. Thinking like that made Juhg's head hurt.
In the end, he knew what Grandmagister Lamplighter would have done: seek out the mysteries the book held.
"All right, all right." Juhg sighed. "I understand all that, and mayhap I even agree that you might be correct in your assessment of how things should be handled."
"Thank the Old Ones," Craugh replied with a small smile that he didn't truly mean.
"That said," Juhg went on, "what can you tell me?"
Craugh counted off answers on his fingers. "That we are arrayed against a powerful enemy. That Lord Kharrion's Wrath truly exists. That Wick was on the trail of it all these years ago. That there are secrets that no one was meant to know all those years ago that we must surely find out now." He paused for a moment. "Oh, and one other thing: The stakes are high."
"What you may find out in that book," Craugh said, "might well affect the futures of three different communities. One or all will prove guilty of some of the vilest villainies perpetrated during the Cataclysm. When others find out, old enmities might well be re-established and result in hundreds or thousands of deaths." He regarded Juhg. "Is that enough?"
More than enough, Juhg thought, suddenly feeling glum and overwhelmed.
Juhg looked back to see Raisho standing in the doorway to the stairs that led up the deck. The familiar roll of the ship across the waves rocked them.
"There's no sign of pursuit," Raisho said. "We escaped clean enough."
"Good." Juhg felt a little relief. He picked up Grandmagister Lamplighter's book and ran a finger along the charred pages. Curiosity nagged at him as it always did.
"Doesn't mean there won't be any," Raisho went on, and the statement was more of a question.
"I've laid enchantments on the ship," Craugh said. "We're protected better than most."
Raisho nodded. "I'll keep double guards posted in any case. But what 'eading should we take?"
"You've stores packed away?" Craugh asked.
"Then stay at sea."
Raisho frowned. "I've got perishable goods aboardship."
"Continue the trade route we planned on," Juhg said. "We don't want to draw any more attention than we have to. A trade ship not trading will trigger prying interests."
"We may need to travel once you have the book deciphered," Craugh pointed out. "It would be better if we knew from where."
"We'll deal with that whenand ifit happens," Juhg replied. He looked at the wizard, expecting an argument.
Instead, Craugh quietly agreed.
That let Juhg know how serious the situation was. And how dangerous. He sipped the choma and turned his attention to the book that contained one of Grandmagister Lamplighter's adventures he hadn't known anything about. In a short time, the coded entries turned into words in his mind and he wrote them down in a new book.
Copyright © 2007 by Mel Odom
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After Grandmagister Edgewick 'Wick' Lamplighter vanished while searching for rare books and fighting off evil doers, his assistant recently promoted Grandmagister Juhg wants to stay home studying how to establish schools throughout the realm. However wizard Craugh directs him to continue Wick¿s quest so Juhg searches for three encrypted journals that belonged to the missing Grandmagister. Upon completing the first leg of his literary quest by finding the journals, Juhg reads the Wick entries of seeking three magical weapons lost after the battle of Fell's Keep. Craugh says these artifacts are needed to stop an evil person from employing a weapon of mass destruction. As he goes into the field on his quest, Juhg also battles the malevolent Goblinkin who care little that the world is in peril. --- This is a terrific entry in one of the best fantasy series on the market today (see LORD OF THE LIBRARIES). The story line is fast-paced even when the plot pays homage to libraries. Especially fascinating is Juhg ¿reading¿ Wicks¿ journals as if he is Wick (that segment is worth the price of admission). Fantasy quest fans will appreciate Mel Odom¿s latest thriller in which once again the hero hopes to prove that the pen is mightier than the sword. --- Harriet Klausner