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Authors: T. A. Barron

The Mirror of Fate

BOOK: The Mirror of Fate
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Enter the mirror . . .

The glinting surface suddenly shuddered, splitting along a crack. Out flowed a long, writhing tentacle of mist that reached toward the boy. The vapors brushed his chin, curled around his ear, then drew back. All at once, the Mirror snapped completely flat. Our reflections, clearer than before but more deeply shadowed, confronted us. At the same time, the sound of a distant chime rolled out of the depths, rising from somewhere far beneath the surface. My own sword caught the sound, ringing faintly in response.

“Of course it means nothing to me,” said the cat, grooming a paw, “but it might be wise to hold hands.” It paused, flashing an invisible eye at me. “And never,
ever
let go. Unless you don’t mind being lost forever.”

As the cat went back to licking itself, I linked hands with Ector. I turned, glancing back at Hallia, feeling another, deeper pain in my chest. Then, on a silent command, the two of us strode into the Mirror.

PUFFIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3

(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand

(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,

Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

 

Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

 

First published in the United States of America as
 
The Mirror of Merlin
by Philomel Books,

a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 1999, Paper-over-board edition, 2007

Published as
 
The Mirror of Fate
by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2011

 

Patricia Lee Gauch, editor

 

Text copyright © Thomas A. Barron, 1999

Map illustration copyright © Ian Schoenherr, 1999

All rights reserved

 

THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE PHILOMEL BOOKS EDITION AS FOLLOWS:

Barron, T. A. The mirror of Merlin / T. A. Barron.

“Book four of ‘The lost years of Merlin.’”

p. cm.

Summary: Through adventures involving a haunted marsh, talking trees, and the creature called the ballymag, the young wizard Merlin continues to experience both his growing powers and his essential humanity.

ISBN: 978-0-399-25023-1 (hc)

1. Merlin (Legendary character) —Juvenile Fiction. [1. Merlin (legendary character)—Fiction.

2. Wizards—Fiction. 3. Fantasy.]

I. Title

PZ7.B27567 Mi

1999 [Fic]—dc21 99-13043 CIP

 

Puffin Books ISBN 978-0-14-241922-9

 

Design by Gunta Alexander

Text set in Galliard

 

Printed in the United States of America

 

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out , or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

This book is dedicated to
M. Jerry Weiss
devoted friend of students, teachers, and wizards

with special appreciation to
Jennifer Herron

A
UTHOR’S
N
OTE

One thing never changes about Merlin: He continues to surprise.

That is true in the earliest tales, first sung by Welsh bards fifteen centuries ago; it is no less so today. It is true in Merlin’s fabled elder years, when he has become the mentor to King Arthur, mage of the Round Table, and central figure in the wondrous tragedy we call Camelot. And it is no less true in Merlin’s youth, as he struggles to find his own name, his own self, and his own destiny.

Perhaps his knack for surprise flows from the sheer depth—and complexity—of his character. (As merely one of the latest in a long line of Merlin’s chroniclers, I am struck by how much of his character, after fifteen centuries, remains still unexplored.) Perhaps it stems from the powerful magic that starts to emerge within him during his youth. Or, perhaps, from the mysterious future that awaits him—as alluring as it is terrifying.

Or his ability to surprise may flow from something far more simple, far more basic: Merlin’s own humanity. In this volume, the fourth in
The Lost Years of Merlin
epic, his surprises come less from his swelling gifts and dawning greatness than from his fundamental human frailties. For all his growing powers, and growing passions, he remains a mortal man.

To be sure, Merlin has come a long way from the fateful day that began the saga of his lost years. On that day a bedraggled, half-drowned boy washed ashore on a strange coastline. Almost instantly, death pursued him. Yet, for all the fears that filled his thoughts, he felt mainly aware of what he lacked: He had no memory of his childhood, his parents, nor even his own name. It was, in his own words, a day “harsh, cold, and lifeless . . . as empty of promise as my lungs were empty of air.”

Although Merlin survived that day, his more challenging journey had only just begun. Since then, he has discovered some of the secrets of Fincayra, a land as elusive as the mist that swirls about its borders, an island resting in between the mortal Earth and the immortal Otherworld. He has learned much about his past, though less about his identity. He has found his parents, and the truth about his birth. He has gained a few friends—and lost a few, as well.

And Merlin has succeeded on other fronts: He has healed a wounded dragon, run like a deer, spawned the Dance of the Giants, discovered a new way of seeing, solved the riddle of the Seven Songs, heard the whispers of an ancient shell, survived being swallowed by a living stone, taken the spirit of his sister into himself and borne her to the Otherworld, triumphed over creatures who devour magic, and mastered the legendary Wheel of Wye. He has built a musical instrument of his own design—and realized that its music lay less in the strings than in the hands that plucked them.

Yet despite all his successes, Merlin’s greatest challenges lie ahead. He must somehow come to understand the depth of his own humanness: its capacity for triumph, and also for tragedy.

How else can he ever become, in his later years, that mentor to King Arthur we know so well? To play his part in the Arthurian cycle—and in the even grander cycle of myth that stretches long before and after—Merlin must know humanity well. Immensely well. He must know our highest aspirations, as well as our deepest frailties. He must understand that even the best intentions may be riddled with flaws, that even promised salvation may hold serious dangers.

He must, in short, know himself. But how to see himself in the truest mirror? And where might such a mirror be found? Perhaps its reflections are seen in disparate places, if only in disguised form. Perhaps its images, whether highly luminous or deeply shadowed, hold some surprises of their own.

Only when Merlin can view himself with utter clarity can he hope to guide a young, idealistic monarch. To support him in creating a new social order, with the Round Table at its heart, even though it is doomed to fail in its time. To help the young leader, despite everything, to find hope. And, perhaps, to try again.

As Merlin reveals the secrets of his lost years, and continues to surprise me along the way, one thing never changes: I am deeply grateful to the friends who have encouraged and counseled me. As always, I owe a lasting debt of thanks to my wife, Currie, and my editor, Patricia Lee Gauch. In addition, I am most grateful to Kylene Beers, for her unwavering faith, as well as her wisdom. Kristi Dight deserves thanks for encouraging
The Tale of the Whispering Mist,
which Hallia tells her companions on a dark night in the marshland. Special thanks also go to Deborah Connell, Kathy Montgomery, Suzanne Ghiglia—and, as always, the elusive wizard himself.

BOOK: The Mirror of Fate
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