Acclaimed writer and editor Robert Silverberg gathered eleven of the finest writers in Fantasy to contribute to this collection of short novels. Each of the writers was asked to write a new story based on one of his or her most famous series: from Stephen King's opening piece set in his popular Gunslinger universe to Robert Jordan's early look at his famed Wheel of Time saga, these stories are exceptionally well written and universally well told. The authors include King, Jordan, and Silverberg himself, as well as Terry and Lyn Pratchett, Terry Goodkind, Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. Le Guin, Tad Williams, George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, and Raymond E. Feist.At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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September 01, 2001
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Excerpt from Legends by Robert Silverberg
The Dark Tower
THE GUNSLINGER (1982) THE DRAWING OF THE THREE (1987) THE WASTE LANDS (1991) WIZARD AND GLASS (1997)
These novels, using thematic elements from Robert Browning's poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," tell the saga of Roland, last of the gunslingers, who embarks on a quest to find the Dark Tower for reasons that the author has yet to reveal. Along the way, Roland encounters the remains of what was once a thriving society, feudal in nature but technologically quite advanced, that now has fallen into decay and ruin. King combines elements of fantasy with science fiction into a surreal blend of past and future.
The first book, The Gunslinger, introduces Roland, who is chasing the Dark Man, an enigmatic sorcerer figure, across a vast desert. Through flashbacks, the reader learns that Roland was a member of a noble family in the Dark Tower world, and that that world may or may not have been destroyed with help from the Dark Man. Along the way, Roland encounters strange inhabitants of this unnamed world, including Jake, a young boy who, even though he is killed by the end of the first book, will figure prominently in later volumes. Roland does catch up with the Dark Man, and learns that he must seek out the Dark Tower to find the answers to the questions of why he must embark on this quest and what is contained in the Tower.
The next book, The Drawing of the Three, shows Roland recruiting three people from present-day Earth to join him on his way to the Dark Tower. They are Eddie, a junkie "mule" working for the Mafia; Suzannah, a paraplegic with multiple personalities; and Jake, whose arrival is startling to Roland, who sacrificed Jake in his own worldduring his pursuit of the Dark Man. Roland saves Jake's life on Earth, but the resulting schism nearly drives him insane. Roland must also help the other two battle their own demons, Eddie's being his heroin addiction and guilt over not being able to save his brother's life, and Suzannah's the war between her different personalities, one a kind and gentle woman, the other a racist psychopath. Each of the three deals with his problems with the help of the others, and together the quartet set out on the journey to the Tower.
The third book, The Waste Lands, chronicles the first leg of that journey, examining the background of the three Earth-born characters in detail. The book reaches its climax when Jake is kidnapped by a cult thriving in the ruins of a crumbling city, led by a man known only as Flagg (a character who has appeared in several of King's other novels as the embodiment of pure evil). Roland rescues him, and the group escapes the city on a monorail system whose artificial-intelligence program has achieved sentience at the cost of its sanity. The monorail challenges them to a riddle contest, with their lives as the prize if they can stump the machine, who claims to know every riddle ever created.
Wizard and Glass, the fourth volume in the series, finds Roland, Jake, Eddie, and Suzannah continuing their journey toward the Dark Tower, moving through a deserted part of Mid-World that is eerily reminiscent of twentieth-century Earth. During their travels they encounter a thinny, a dangerous weakening of the barrier between different times and places. Roland recognizes it and realizes that his world is breaking down faster than he had thought. The thinny prompts him to recall the first time he encountered it, many years before on a trip out West with his friends Cuthbert and Alain, when Roland had just earned his gunslinger status. It is this story--of the three boys uncovering a plot against the ruling government and of Roland's first love, a girl named Susan Delgado--that is the central focus of the book. While the three manage to destroy the conspirators, Susan is killed during the fight by the townspeople of Hambry. The story gives Jake, Eddie, and Suzannah new insight into Roland's background and why he may sacrifice them to attain his ultimate goal of saving his world. The book ends with the foursome moving onward once more toward the Tower.
The Little Sisters of Eluria
[Author's Note: The Dark Tower books begin with Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger in an exhausted world that has "moved on," pursuing a magician in a black robe. Roland has been chasing Walter for a very long time. In the first book of the cycle, he finally catches up. This story, however, takes place while Roland is still casting about for Walter's trail. A knowledge of the books is therefore not necessary for you to understand--and hopefully enjoy--the story which follows. S. K.]
I. Full Earth. The Empty Town. The Bells. The Dead Boy. The Overturned Wagon. The Green Folk.
On a day in Full Earth so hot that it seemed to suck the breath from his chest before his body could use it, Roland of Gilead came to the gates of a village in the Desatoya Mountains. He was traveling alone by then, and would soon be traveling afoot, as well. This whole last week he had been hoping for a horse doctor, but guessed such a fellow would do him no good now, even if this town had one. His mount, a two-year-old roan, was pretty well done for.
The town gates, still decorated with flowers from some festival or other, stood open and welcoming, but the silence beyond them was all wrong. The gunslinger heard no clip-clop of horses, no rumble of wagon wheels, no merchants' huckstering cries from the marketplace.The only sounds were the low hum of crickets (some sort of bug, at any rate; they were a bit more tuneful than crickets, at that), a queer wooden knocking sound, and the faint, dreamy tinkle of small bells.
Also, the flowers twined through the wrought-iron staves of the ornamental gate were long dead.
Between his knees, Topsy gave two great, hollow sneezes--K'chow! K'chow!--and staggered sideways. Roland dismounted, partly out of respect for the horse, partly out of respect for himself--he didn't want to break a leg under Topsy if Topsy chose this moment to give up and canter into the clearing at the end of his path.
The gunslinger stood in his dusty boots and faded jeans under the beating sun, stroking the roan's matted neck, pausing every now and then to yank his fingers through the tangles of Topsy's mane, and stopping once to shoo off the tiny flies clustering at the corners of Topsy's eyes. Let them lay their eggs and hatch their maggots there after Topsy was dead, but not before.
Roland thus honored his horse as best he could, listening to those distant, dreamy bells and the strange wooden tocking sound as he did. After a while he ceased his absent grooming and looked thoughtfully at the open gate.
The cross above its center was a bit unusual, but otherwise the gate was a typical example of its type, a western commonplace which was not useful but traditional--all the little towns he had come to in the last tenmonth seemed to have one such where you came in (grand) and one more such where you went out (not so grand). None had been built to exclude visitors, certainly not this one. It stood between two walls of pink adobe that ran into the scree for a distance of about twenty feet on either side of the road and then simply stopped. Close the gate, lock it with many locks, and all that meant was a short walk around one bit of adobe wall or the other.
Beyond the gate, Roland could see what looked in most respects like a perfectly ordinary High Street--an inn, two saloons (one of which was called The Bustling Pig; the sign over the other was too faded to read), a mercantile, a smithy, a Gathering Hall. There was also a small but rather lovely wooden building with a modest bell tower on top, a sturdy fieldstone foundation on the bottom, and a goldpainted cross on its double doors. The cross, like the one over the gate,marked this as a worshipping place for those who held to the Jesus-man. This wasn't a common religion in Mid-World, but far from unknown; that same thing could have been said about most forms of worship in those days, including the worship of Baal, Asmodeus, and a hundred others. Faith, like everything else in the world these days, had moved on. As far as Roland was concerned, God o' the Cross was just another religion which taught that love and murder were inextricably bound together--that in the end, God always drank blood.
Meanwhile, there was the singing hum of insects that sounded almost like crickets. The dreamlike tinkle of the bells. And that queer wooden thumping, like a fist on a door. Or on a coffintop.
Something here's a long way from right, the gunslinger thought. 'Ware, Roland; this place has a reddish odor.
He led Topsy through the gate with its adornments of dead flowers and down the High Street. On the porch of the mercantile, where the old men should have congregated to discuss crops, politics, and the follies of the younger generation, there stood only a line of empty rockers. Lying beneath one, as if dropped from a careless (and long-departed) hand, was a charred corncob pipe. The hitching rack in front of the Bustling Pig stood empty; the windows of the saloon itself were dark. One of the batwing doors had been yanked off and stood propped against the side of the building; the other hung ajar, its faded green slats splattered with maroon stuff that might have been paint but probably wasn't.
The shopfront of the livery stable stood intact, like the face of a ruined woman who has access to good cosmetics, but the double barn behind it was a charred skeleton. That fire must have happened on a rainy day, the gunslinger thought, or the whole damned town would have gone up in flames; a jolly spin and raree-show for anyone around to see it.
To his right now, halfway up to where the street opened into the town square, was the church. There were grassy borders on both sides, one separating the church from the town's Gathering Hall, the other from the little house set aside for the preacher and his family (if this was one of the Jesus-sects which allowed its shamans to have wives and families, that was; some of them, clearly administered by lunatics, demanded at least the appearance of celibacy). There were flowers in these grassy strips, and while they looked parched, most were still alive.So whatever had happened here to empty the place out had not happened long ago. A week, perhaps. Two at the outside, given the heat.
Topsy sneezed again--K'chow!--and lowered his head wearily.
The gunslinger saw the source of the tinkling. Above the cross on the church doors, a cord had been strung in a long, shallow arc. Hung from it were perhaps two dozen tiny silver bells. There was hardly any breeze today, but enough so these smalls were never quite still ... and if a real wind should rise, Roland thought, the sound made by the tintinnabulation of the bells would probably be a good deal less pleasant; more like the strident parlay of gossips' tongues.
"Hello!" Roland called, looking across the street at what a large false-fronted sign proclaimed to be the Good Beds Hotel. "Hello, the town!"
No answer but the bells, the tunesome insects, and that odd wooden clunking. No answer, no movement ... but there were folk here. Folk or something. He was being watched. The tiny hairs on the nape of his neck had stiffened.
Roland stepped onward, leading Topsy toward the center of town, puffing up the unlaid High Street dust with each step. Forty paces farther along, he stopped in front of a low building marked with a single curt word: LAW. The Sheriff's office (if they had such this far from the Inners) looked remarkably similar to the church--wooden boards stained a rather forbidding shade of dark brown above a stone foundation.
The bells behind him rustled and whispered.
He left the roan standing in the middle of the street and mounted the steps to the LAW office. He was very aware of the bells, of the sun beating against his neck, and of the sweat trickling down his sides. The door was shut but unlocked. He opened it, then winced back, half-raising a hand as the heat trapped inside rushed out in a soundless gasp. If all the closed buildings were this hot inside, he mused, the livery barns would soon not be the only burned-out hulks. And with no rain to stop the flames (and certainly no volunteer fire department, not any more), the town would not be long for the face of the earth.
He stepped inside, trying to sip at the stifling air rather than taking deep breaths. He immediately heard the low drone of flies.
There was a single cell, commodious and empty, its barred door standing open. Filthy skin-shoes, one of the pair coming unsewn, laybeneath a bunk sodden with the same dried maroon stuff that had marked the Bustling Pig. Here was where the flies were, crawling over the stain, feeding from it.