A/N: This be my first attempt at Shannara fanfiction; I've adore the books since I was about 10 years old. This story takes place shortly after Talismans, and will revolve mainly around Walker Boh. Please let me know what you think of this – because it's a tenuous draft changes will most likely be made later on. Consider this a WIP.
It was a time of stillness, in the hours where night gradually gave way to the glow of dawn. It seemed as if the whole of Darklin Reach was in a state of suspension; a heavy mist drifted throughout, smothering the sounds of the nocturnal creatures, blanketing the thick wilderness in wisps of white. The small valley which broke the forest was awash in whirling tendrils of fog; it appeared suddenly as though they parted, eased aside to make way for the solitary figure that cut through its midst. A second later the mist closed behind him, covering him from view.
Hearthstone rose above the canopy of the forest; Walker Boh used it as a landmark, though he needn't have. His sense of direction was unerring, innate, and had been such ever since he'd become what he had once upon a time despised with the whole of his being. His strides were purposeful, determined, and he navigated through the obscuring mist without hesitation. Minutes later he drew to a halt mere feet from the shoreline of a dark lake, his robes swirling about him as he did so. The dark waters were motionless, unbroken, and twisting sinuously above them where the pale fingers of the mist, reaching ever for something unknown, something that lurked perhaps within the confines of the lake.
From within the cowl of his hood, Walker's mouth twisted. He knew better than most what lurked in the ancient depths; he could feel it watching even now. Allowing his arm to fall to his side, he became still and simply waited. He did not have to wait long. There began a movement near the center of the lake, originating from many places but never one he could pinpoint. As it coalesced into a vague shape only to dissipate again, a sound rose over the almost oppressive silence, coming to Walker in an almost noiseless whisper.
The words echoed everywhere and nowhere, coming perhaps from some void beyond this existence, coming perhaps from a purgatory older than time itself. Knowing the origin of that voice, Walker did not respond and instead continued to wait. The form he'd seen earlier shaped itself again out of mist and air, solidifying somewhat until it became a huge apparition, towering over him, man-like, as it rose from the surface of the waters. And then the apparition became a shadow, and the shadow became a person, and as it raised its head Walker waited impassively to see the face the Grimpond would wear.
It was as it had been the last time he'd come; the craggy, ominous features of Allanon stared back at him from beneath a heavy black hood. Before he had been startled by this; now he stared back, unperturbed, at the visage of the man who had, reaching from beyond the fetters of death, had set him on the path to becoming what he was – A Druid, and the last at that.
Dark Uncle, why have you come?
Rather than speaking with the voice of the Druid dead and gone the Grimpond maintained its ethereal, haunting whisper. Walker said quietly, "You know why."
I do. There was a pause then, as suddenly the lake surface began to roil and hiss as though reflecting the mind, the thoughts of the ancient shade. When it spoke again, there was a mocking lilt to its words. You are no longer a whole man.
Unseen, Walker's lips thinned into a tight line; beneath his robe, the stump that had once been his arm ached as though in response to the Grimpond's observation. "It is as you showed me."
Yes. That one word was sibilant, triumphant and gleeful; the hatred of the imprisoned shade had been somewhat justified by Walker's misfortune.
"I have become whole in another manner," the Druid said in return.
Have you? As it asked the question the Grimpond began to shift form, features melting fluidly away and reshaping into that of another person. Ebony eyes regarded him from within a delicate, fine boned face; tendrils of long pale hair with an undeniable metallic sheen fluttered gently to and fro as if caught within a slight breeze. Despite the fact he'd known the Grimpond would attempt to unnerve him, this face was disconcerting, and he felt a sharp, piercing stab of sorrow run briefly through him, reminding him of how much had been lost in order to do what was demanded.
"Come to gloat, Dark Uncle?" The shade asked him next, in a familiar mellifluous voice that seemed harsh and unreal because of the hatred hovering beneath it.
Walker Boh took a moment to steel himself, to remind himself that it wasn't Quickening now before him, that it was only a mockery meant to cause pain, to bring about regret. "Show me what I've come to see, shade," he said coldly.
The Grimpond shifted again, until it was Walker's own face watching him with a savage sneer. Very well, Druid. Watch.
Images sprang into being before him, taking life in the very air, vivid and garish, appearing so fast he barely had time to assimilate what it was he was seeing. Here there was a rush of evergreen scales, a sinuous twisting form with eyes like haggard amber; next there came a familiar sight, jagged peaks reaching, skeletal fingers, for the sky, shadowing the land beneath; last there was a girl, crouched before a river which raged, and a flash of a frightened face before all was ripped away like smoke in tempest winds. As the lake began to hiss and splutter with more intensity Walker moved his eyes again to the Grimpond.
Satisfied? It asked him with no small amount of malevolence. You do what seldom of your dead order have ever done – you come to me to try and pierce the veil of the future, to try and discern what awaits you in the years to come. Your new heritage is something you haven't accepted easily. You are shrouded with doubts – hence your appearance here. You surprise me, Dark Uncle, for after what I showed you last I imagined you would tread with a trifle more discretion. The mantle of the Druids hasn't removed from you your foolishness.
As spray from the roiling lake struck his robes and wetted his face, Walker remained silent, waiting for the captive shade to finish its tirade.
Go forth then, Druid, and experience all I have shown you. Do you suspect lies and half truths once more? You have no way of knowing. All that remains hidden I see – I have always seen.
"You are a creature of deception," Walker said softly.
I am you, Walker Boh. The shade bent its incorporeal form, and the face that regarded the Druid was indeed his own.
"You are a spirit too long imprisoned, too long having dwelt in the depths of its own hate and rage. You are a petty, spiteful thing, Grimpond, who seeks only to taunt and mislead."
Am I? There was no disguising the fury of the shade's words, and the lake began to heave in direct relation to this rage. Go from me then, Druid! Do the tasks Allanon has saddled you with, ever unwilling, and see if I what I've shown you is indeed truth. You would do wise to heed me, Dark Uncle.
Walker stayed only another moment, considering, before turning and making his way back up the incline from the shore of the lake. Behind him, almost immediately, all sounds of the water's turmoil faded, leaving him in eerie stillness once again. And as he traversed again Darklin Reach, ever beneath the shadow of Hearthstone, his thoughts were on what he had seen, and whether or not they would come to pass. Ultimately, he knew, only time would tell.
A smile, mirthless, flickered about the corner of his mouth. He had nothing but time.