Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!

Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold! by Terry Brooks Page A

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Authors: Terry Brooks
the muted sunlight in bright splashes. Trailers of mist hung over these as well. Ben glanced about uneasily. There was in these woods a hint of the look and feel that had been present in the fairy world.
    They climbed a high ridgeline that rose above the forest trees, and Questor brought Ben to a halt. “Look down there, High Lord,” he said and pointed.
    Ben looked. Several miles off, ringed in a gathering of trees, mist and shadows was a clearing that shimmered with sunlight. Colors reflected brightly, a rainbow’s mix, and there seemed to be flags waving softly in a forest breeze that did not reach to the ridge on which Ben stood.
    Questor’s arm swept down again. “That is the Heart, High Lord. There you will be crowned King of Landover several days hence when the proclamation of your coming has been sent. Every King that Landover has ever had has been crowned there—every King since Landover came into being.”
    They stood on the ridgeline a moment longer, staring downward into that single spot of brightness amid the haze of mist and shadows. Neither spoke.
    Then Questor turned away. “Come, High Lord. Your castle lies just ahead.”
    Ben followed dutifully after.

The trees closed about, the mists came up, and Questor Thews and Ben Holiday were back within the forest. Shadows darkened the pathway anew, and the colors and feel of the Heart were gone. Ben pushed his way resolutely forward, keeping pace with the shambling figure of the wizard. It was not easy, for Questor covered ground rapidly despite his odd gait. Ben shifted the duffel from one arm to the other, feeling the muscles cramping with stiffness. He rubbed at his shoulders with his free hand and pushed up the sleeves of the running suit. There was sweat soaking through the back of his pullover.
    One would think they could free up an escort and carriage for their new King, instead of making him hike it in, he groused inwardly. On the other hand, maybe they didn’t use carriages in Landover. Maybe they flew on winged horses. Maybe Questor Thews should have conjured up a couple of those.
    He chewed thoughtfully at his lower lip, remembering Questor’s attempts at providing lunch. Maybe he was better off hiking.
    They climbed toward a new ridgeline of blue spruce grown so thick that pine needles formed a carpet on the forest earth.Boughs pushed and slapped at their faces, and they bent their heads against them. Then the trees broke apart, the far side of the ridgeline dropped away into meadow, and the castle stood before them.
    Ben Holiday stared. It was the same castle he had seen before—only now he could see it clearly. It sat half a mile distant within a lake upon an island just large enough to support it. The lake was iron gray, the island bare of everything but wintry scrub. The castle was a maze of stone and wood and metal towers, parapets, causeways, and walks that thrust into the sky like fingers of a broken hand. A shroud of mist hung across the whole of the island and the waters of the lake and stirred thickly in a sunless cauldron. There was no color anywhere—no flags, no standards, no banners, nothing. The stone and wood had a soiled look, and the metal appeared to have discolored. Though the mortar and block seemed sound and the bulwarks did not crumble, still the castle had the look of a lifeless shell.
    It had the look of something out of Dracula.
    “This is the castle of the Kings of Landover?” Ben asked incredulously.
    “Hmmmmm?” Questor was preoccupied again. “Oh, yes, this is it. This is Sterling Silver.”
    Ben dropped his duffel with a thud. “Sterling Silver?”
    “That is her name.”
    “Sterling Silver—as in bright and polished?”
    Questor’s eyebrows lifted. “She was that once, High Lord.”
    “She was, was she? Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I’ll bet.” A well of disappointment opened in the pit of his stomach. “She looks more like Dingy Dungeon than Sterling Silver.”
    “That is the result of

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