It feels like 2011 is rushing by now. Three days ago the weather in Seattle was still wintry and I was oblivious to the passing of the last five months. Then two days ago the summer sun broke through the gloom, leaving the Pacific Northwest awash in warm, colorful vibrancy.
The arrival of summer is a great thing for Terry Brooks fans. Why? Because it means The Measure of the Magic—the conclusion to the story started in last year’s Bearers of the Black Staff—is less than three months away from publication date!
That’s not all. As Terry’s webmaster the last eleven years, I’ve seen my share of book launches and the business steps that lead up to them. They’re always fun. Proofing the official pages. Finalizing the dust jacket. Organizing the tour. Getting the website ready. My favorite part though is posting new material for the fans to read before the book is even released.
Because first and foremost, I’m a fan and I know how much you all love to read excerpts early!
The first chapter of The Measure of the Magic has been posted online for several months. It features one of Terry’s best villains, the Ragpicker. It’s time for something new, though. After much deliberation, Terry settled on a portion of Chapter Two, one that does not spoil the book but features one of its most important characters, Prue Liss.
Here is that excerpt! Enjoy!
Excerpt: Chapter Two
When Prue Liss woke, she was heavy-eyed and disoriented, brought out of her sleep mostly by a sense that something wasn’t right. For a moment, she couldn’t remember where she was. She pushed herself upright and peered about in a darkness lit only by gray light seeping through a ventilation opening high up on the wall behind her. She remembered then she was in Deladion Inch’s fortress lair, cocooned away from the rest of the world, sealed off from the Drouj.
She rose and yawned, stretching her arms over her head. She had slept, but felt as if she hadn’t gotten much rest. She switched on the torch, scanned the room in a perfunctory way, and then climbed the steps to the exterior overlook.
This time when she emerged, she did so much more cautiously, crouching down so that she couldn’t be seen from below, aware that it was daylight again. The sun was overhead; it must have been somewhere close to midday. She slipped through the door and made her way on hands and knees to the edge of the overlook, keeping the wall between herself and whatever or whoever might be looking up. She found a split in the stone blocks and peered out, searching the landscape below.
She didn’t see anyone.
She kept looking anyway, and then shifted her position, moving to one of the sidewalls. This time when she peered over the edge, she saw a Troll moving up through the rocks, scanning the walls of the keep.
They were still hunting her.
She slid down against the wall, putting her back against it and staring at the mist-shrouded peaks of the distant mountains. If Grosha was still alive, he wouldn’t give up. She could feel it in her bones. He would keep looking, and eventually he would find a way inside. She needed to get out of there before that happened. She needed to be far away and leave no trail that he could follow.
She moved in a crouch back across the overlook and through the door leading to the stairs. She passed rooms filled with old furniture and large paper boxes that were battered and broken and stacked against the walls. Pieces of metal and types of materials she didn’t recognize littered the floors of those rooms, which seemed not to have ever been used by Inch. Strange black boxes with shattered glass screens and hundreds of silver discs lay scattered about one room, and in another beds filled huge spaces that reminded her of healing wards, all of their bedding torn and soiled and ruined. Remnants of the Old World, once useful, now discarded and forgotten, they were a mystery to her. She glimpsed them fleetingly, dismissed them and hurried on.
Once in the kitchen, she packed up enough food and drink to sustain her for three days, strapped her supplies across her back and started away.
She had just reached the hallway leading deeper into the complex when she saw the big cabinet with its doors not quite closed and caught sight of the weapons.
She stopped where she was, debating, and then walked over and opened the doors all the way. There were all kinds of Old World guns, explosives like the ones Deladion Inch had carried, knives, swords, and bows and arrows. She smiled in spite of herself, taking a set of the latter and adding a long knife in the bargain.
She almost left the Flange 350 behind, but at the last minute changed her mind and kept it in her pocket.
The light was poor at best within the corridors she followed, making it no less easy to read the sign markings during the day than it had been at night. But she persevered, using the torch when no light penetrated from ventilation shafts, taking her time. Because the rear of the compound was elevated, there were stairs to be climbed, and as long as she was going up she could be certain she was headed in the right direction. It wasn’t like tracking out in the open, where you could see the sky and the sun and the way ahead was clear. But her sense of direction was strong enough that even without those indicators to rely on, she could find her way.
Even so, she got lost and was forced to retrace her steps more often than she would have liked. It was oppressive being closed in like this, buried under tons of stone and shut away from the light. She thought about how people had lived like this before the Great Wars, and she wondered how they had endured it. If she had lived then, how would she have managed? She expected she would have lived her life much as she was living it now, even given the differences. She couldn’t imagine living it any other way.
At one point, she sat down and rested, the complex so much bigger than she had expected and the constant back and forth of her efforts draining her strength. If Pan were there, this wouldn’t be so difficult. Pan could read sign and intuit trails so much better than she could. He would have had them out by now. Back in the light. Back in the fresh air.
Thinking of his absence depressed her, and she got back to her feet and continued on.
It took better than an hour, but finally she found an exterior wall and a huge pair of metal doors leading outside. She could tell she had found the way out because light seeped through the seams of the doors and their size and shape and the presence of huge iron latch bars marked them clearly for what they were. She studied them for a moment, and then decided that opening something this big and closing it again was too risky.
She moved right along the wall, searching for a smaller portal. She found one another fifty feet and several storage bays further on, tightly sealed with a drop bar and slide latch. She stood at the door and listened, but heard nothing. Carefully, she lifted the drop bar, slid back the latch and carefully opened the door, just a crack.
The daylight was hazy, but visibility was good, and she could see hundreds of yards in front of her where the foothills climbed towards the distant mountains. She opened the door a bit further, looked right and left, and didn’t find anything that looked out of place. It should be all right, she thought. The Drouj were still out front. She could slip away before they knew she was gone.
She pulled the door open all the way and stepped outside – right in front of a Troll as it came lumbering around a corner of the outside wall.
She froze, stunned by her bad luck. What were the odds that a Troll would appear just now? It was moving parallel to the wall perhaps twenty yards away, studying the ground, glancing up towards the hillside as it did so, clearly believing she had already gotten clear. Against all odds, it hadn’t noticed her.
She backed towards the open doorway, slowly and carefully. She took one step after another, eyes fixed on the Troll.
Then her foot slipped on the loose rock, and the Troll’s dark eyes found her.
She had only a moment to escape back inside; the Troll was coming much too fast for anything else. It carried a war club studded with spikes, a killing weapon she could not defend against. She was quick, but too small to stop a creature like this without help. The bow and arrows were slung across one shoulder – no time to get them free. She had the long knife out, but she didn’t think it would do much good. She would have to run, but there was no time to go anywhere but back inside.
It took her only seconds to gain the opening and rush back into the building. Once there, she began to run. The Troll came after her without slowing, undeterred by the darkness. It was faster than she had thought it would be, picking up speed as it pounded down the corridors. She would have to hide or outmaneuver it. But she didn’t know her way. Where would she go? She began to panic, searching the shadows for a way out, for an escape. But there were only other corridors and locked doors and hundreds of feet of stone floors and walls.
I should have stayed inside, she thought despairingly. I should have stayed hidden. I should have waited.
The Drouj had almost caught up to her when she remembered the Flange 350. She fumbled for it, yanked it from her pocket, released the safety as Deladion Inch had instructed her, wheeled as the Troll flung itself at her and fired six times as fast as she could. She heard the sound of the metal projectiles striking her attacker and threw herself aside as it lurched past her, tumbling head over heels into the corridor wall.
She came back to her feet at once, swinging her weapon about, searching the gloom.
The Drouj lay folded over in a motionless heap, blood running from the wounds to its body. She looked away quickly, fighting not to vomit. She’d never killed anything, she realized – as if it were a revelation. Only animals for food and once a wolf that tried to attack her. She didn’t like how it made her feel. Even though it was a Drouj intent on doing her harm. Even so. She looked back, forcing herself to make certain of it. She stared at it for a long moment, but it didn’t move.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, she slid down against the wall. A shiver passed through her slender body, and she closed her eyes. She tried to think of what she needed to do. She must retrace her steps quickly and close and lock the door. She could not chance going out again now. She was too frightened, too unsure of herself. She would wait, as she should have done in the first place. If Pan were here, he would approve. He would tell her she was doing the right thing.
She stared at the body of the dead Troll a final time and realized suddenly that she was crying.
The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks will be published on August 23 in the US and a week later in the UK!