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“An epic fantasy series.” — Library Journal
“Entertaining . . . The series potential is limitless.” — Booklist
“A fantastic journey . . . The story reminded me of Eragon, yet the reading is easier and quicker. Highly enjoyable, fast-paced, and full of adventure.” — SciFiChick.com
“A nod and a wink to classics like the Lord of the Ring and the game of Dungeons & Dragons.” — Bookspotcentral.com
Two thousand years ago, the dwarf Albrek went looking for new mines in the land of Thraxon in the hopes of becoming rich — and vanished. Now the dwarves must find Albrek's magical Ring of Searching before their mines run dry, a possibility which threatens the livelihood of the entire dwarf realm.
Alexander Taylor joins a familiar company of adventurers on a quest to discover what happened to Albrek, find his mythical tomb, and locate the lost talisman.
But finding the ring may be the least of the adventurers' problems once they cross paths with an ancient, wandering paladin, Bane, who warns of a great evil working in all of the known lands. Following in Albrek's footsteps, Alex and his friends travel to the haunted Isle of Bones, where a mysterious creature lurks in a deserted village, to the cursed city of Neplee, where the dwarfs are hunted by the undead hellerash, and through the shadow of an empty oracle's tower, where a whispered legend is about to come true.
- Size: 5½" x 8
- Pages: 448
- Book on CD: Unabridged
- Number of Discs: 11
- Run Time: Approx. 13 hrs.
- Year Published: 2013
About the Author
M. L. Forman was born and raised in Utah and now resides in the foothills of the western Rockies. He tries to write as much as possible while still attending to his many other hobbies, such as fishing, camping, hiking, and almost anything that will allow him to enjoy the magic of nature. He is also the author of Slathbog’s Gold and The Horn of Moran, the first two books int he Adventurers Wanted series.
So, you’ve taken your staff,” said Thrang as he and
Alex walked toward Telous.
“Whalen thought I should,” Alex said with a shrug, “so I did, though I must admit, I wasn’t as sure as Whalen was.”
“If Whalen Vankin thinks you’re ready for a staff, you’re ready,” Thrang said matter-of-factly. “Old Vankin knows more than most.” He sighed. “Halfdan told me a little about your last adventure. I wish I’d been able to go with you.”
“How is your cousin Halfdan?” Alex questioned. “Why isn’t he coming along on this adventure?”
“Halfdan’s taking my place as minister.” Thrang laughed. “Somebody had to take over the trade agreements with Vargland, after all.”
“And is he happy about that?” Alex asked, remembering how Halfdan had laughed at the thought of Thrang as a minister.
“Not really. He’ll be in charge of the trade expedition and all the details, which he is nervous about. Still, the job will be good for him, I think—teach him a bit of responsibility. And he will get to travel to Vargland, which will make him happy.”
Alex and Thrang talked as they continued to walk. Thrang seemed completely happy to discuss the business in the dwarf realms and didn’t ask Alex about himself or his new status as a true wizard. Alex was relieved because that meant he could answer all of his friends’ questions at one time when they reached the Golden Swan.
“Alex!” an excited voice called as Alex and Thrang approached the Swan.
Alex’s young dwarf friend, Thrain, rushed down the tavern steps, but at the bottom, he suddenly skidded to a stop and looked completely unsure of what to do next. Alex could see that Thrain hadn’t changed much since he’d last seen him in Vargland, and he had to smile at Thrain’s boundless enthusiasm and excitement.
“I see that my friend the oracle told you what you wanted to hear,” said Alex.
“Oh, yes,” Thrain said happily. “I was going to tell you before, but the oracle said not to.”
“You were wise to listen,” said Alex. “And now you’re off on your first adventure.”
“Yes,” said Thrain breathlessly. “Master Silversmith has been kind enough to accept me on this adventure. He’s also been very generous by helping me prepare and buying all of my equipment.”
“Spending more of your fortune on first-time adventurers, I see,” said Alex, winking at Thrang. “Which reminds me, I still owe you for my first adventure.”
“A debt you have repaid several times over,” answered Thrang with a laugh, gently patting the magic bag at his side. “After all, we did collect a fair amount of treasure on our last adventure together. Most of it because of you, I might add. And I don’t have you and Andy to help me spend my gold anymore.”
The three of them climbed up the steps of the Golden Swan and entered the tavern. Alex looked around, hoping to see his elf friend Arconn, but the main room was empty.
“We’ll meet the others for the midday meal,” said Thrang, walking toward the bar. “And you can tell us about your last adventure once we’re all together.”
Alex relaxed next to Thrang at the bar and asked Thrain about the dwarf realm of Vargland and for news of the friends Alex had made there during his first adventure. Thrain told him that King Osrik, who was Thrain’s grandfather, was still uncomfortable with all the ceremony that went along with being king, which didn’t surprise Alex at all. Umbar and his family were doing well since Alex had returned his father’s lost magic bag to him. Thrain also told Alex that hundreds of people had started moving east now that the evil dragon Slathbog had been destroyed.
“I met your friend, Sindar,” said Thrain. “He told us a little about your last adventure. Did you really kill all those goblins?”
“We really should wait for the others,” said Alex. “But, yes, we did kill quite a few goblins in Norsland.”
Alex could see that waiting until midday before asking questions was going to be hard for Thrain. He fidgeted in his chair and kept looking toward the front door as if hoping the rest of the company would appear. Thrain’s excitement reminded Alex of his own first adventure, and he smiled to himself.
Fortunately for Thrain, the wait was not a long one. The other members of the company soon arrived, and Thrang immediately led them all to a private dining room in the back.
“Master Taylor, I believe you know everyone here except Barnabus,” said Thrang after introducing Kat to the rest of the company.
“Barnabus Martin,” a man said, extending his hand. “I’m from Neska, and I am very honored to meet you.”
“The honor is mine,” said Alex, shaking Barnabus’s outstretched hand.
Thrang seemed a little unhappy that Barnabus hadn’t waited for the formal introduction, but didn’t say anything. Instead, he simply rang the bell that would bring their meal.
“We’ll talk about our upcoming adventure this evening,” said Thrang. “For now, I think many of us would enjoy hearing about Alex’s last adventure.”
“And I have a few questions for all of you as well,” said Alex.
Alex spent most of the meal answering questions and telling stories. Thrang and Arconn had the most questions because they had known him longest, but even Thrain and Nellus asked several questions. It wasn’t until they had almost finished their meal that Alex managed to ask his friends about themselves.
“I wish I had been able to join your last adventure,” said Arconn. “I would have liked to seen Skeld and Tayo tamed.”
“As would I,” Thrang added with a grunt. “Though Halfdan has told me all about the weddings and about what you did in Oslansk.”
“I did only what was needed,” said Alex with a laugh. “And I believe it has done some good.”
“A great deal of good, I should think,” Thrang agreed.
Alex stood from the table. “My apologies, but there is another friend I would like to see as well.”
“Shahree is fine,” said Arconn with a knowing smile.
“I’m sure she is, but I would like to see her all the same,” said Alex, and he excused himself from the company.
Alex left the Golden Swan through the front doors and walked quickly to the stables. A soft whinny greeted him as he entered, and he smiled as he moved toward his horse.
“Ah, Shahree,” Alex said to his silver-gray horse. “I hope you are well rested and ready for the road once more.”
Shahree whinnied again and nuzzled his shoulder. Alex had missed his horse as much as he had missed his other friends, maybe even more. For several minutes, he stood stroking her neck and remembering their travels together. He was fond of Shahree, but he worried that she might be getting too old for adventures. She was a good horse, but Alex knew she couldn’t go on forever.
After making sure Shahree had plenty of food and water, Alex returned to the Swan. The group had finished eating and were discussing some last-minute preparations for the adventure. Arconn needed some new clothes and invited Alex to join him. Thrang, Nellus, and Barnabus were heading for the blacksmith’s shop so Thrain could buy his first weapon. Kat had already left, though she hadn’t said where she was going.
“You are a true wizard now,” Arconn said, walking beside Alex. “Whalen must be pleased.”
“And he asked you to take his place on this adventure?”
“He said he didn’t have time right now,” answered Alex. “He didn’t say why he didn’t have time, but that’s not unusual.”
“I’m sure he’s busy with other matters.”
“Whatever his reasons, I’m glad he asked me to fill in.”
Alex and Arconn continued to talk while they were shopping for clothes. After buying several new sets of clothes and two new pairs of boots, Alex felt that he was ready to go. As he and Arconn left the clothing shop, however, he saw something that made him change his mind.
“I’d like to stop at the apothecary’s shop and buy a few things,” said Alex. “Just in case.”
“Your study of potions has been progressing, then?” said Arconn. “Have you tried many of the potions from the book Iownan gave you?”
“A few. I haven’t had the time or the ingredients to try most of them.”
“Then might I suggest a stop at the bag maker’s first?”
“Why? Do you need a new room?”
“No, but you will be able to keep fresh ingredients longer if you have a greenhouse,” Arconn said with a smile.
“That’s an excellent idea,” said Alex.
“How is your dragon’s bane plant doing?” Arconn questioned in a low voice.
“It’s grown quite a bit. It seems to be thriving inside my bag.”
“The magic in the bag is probably helping,” said Arconn. “Though a greenhouse may allow it to bloom.”
“That would be good,” said Alex, remembering how useful the dragon’s bane plant had been in the past.
Alex and Arconn made a detour to the bag maker’s shop, talking as they went. The bag maker was pleased to see them both and quickly added a greenhouse and a second expanding room to Alex’s bag, which now had ten rooms in all. Arconn asked Alex about the extra room as they left the shop.
“On my last adventure there were times when it would have been very useful to have a second expanding room,” Alex said.
“Surely you haven’t gathered that much treasure already,” Arconn said, sounding serious, but smiling.
“No,” Alex answered. “Though I have quite a bit more than you might guess. My father’s bag already held a large amount of treasure, which I haven’t had time to sort and move.”
“Your father?” Arconn questioned, looking confused.
As they walked back to the apothecary’s shop, Alex explained what had happened after his first adventure and what he had learned about his father and his stepfather both being adventurers.
“I see,” said Arconn thoughtfully. “I do remember an adventurer named Taylor, though I never traveled with him.”
“He went on many adventures,” said Alex proudly. “Mr. Roberts told me about a few of them already.”
“Mr. Roberts,” Arconn repeated. “That name also sounds familiar. I’m sure I never traveled with him either, but still, they are both somehow familiar to me.”
“They are common names,” said Alex. “I’m sure there have been other adventurers with similar names.”
“I’m sure,” said Arconn, still looking thoughtful. “And, of course, there are many adventurers whom I have never met.”
Alex entered the apothecary’s shop and was amazed by what he saw. The shop was much larger than it looked from the outside, and it was filled with rows and rows of fascinating and magical items. Alex wandered up and down the aisles, collecting items that he’d only read about until now. It wasn’t long before he had a massive pile of things sitting on the shop’s counter, and the apothecary was looking happy, but a little troubled as well. Alex knew several of the items he wanted to buy could be dangerous, if not downright deadly. Fortunately, he knew how to use all of them—or at least most of them—and he wanted to have as many supplies available to him as possible on his adventure.
Once Alex had gathered his supplies, he asked the shopkeeper about live plants. The shopkeeper nodded and led Alex and Arconn through a back door into a huge greenhouse. It was warm and damp inside, and it smelled like springtime. With Arconn’s help, Alex quickly found several plants for his own new greenhouse, and he added them to the items already on the counter.
“A strange selection,” said the apothecary, looking over the items Alex had chosen. “I would say you are either a healer or a wizard.”
“Both,” said Alex.
The apothecary looked at Alex in disbelief. “Well then, you’ll know I’ll need to see your staff before I can sell you any of this.”
“As you wish,” said Alex, reaching for his magic bag.
He withdrew his black staff that had been woven with silver and gold patterns and showed it to the apothecary.
“Oh, my, yes, of course.” The apothecary’s face turned red. “My apologies, Master Taylor, I didn’t know it was you.”
“No apology is necessary,” said Alex. “How could you have possibly known who I am?”
“Master Vankin mentioned . . . I mean, I heard that you . . . um, well . . .” the apothecary stammered.
“It seems your reputation has preceded you,” Arconn said to Alex in a low voice.
“It’s quite all right,” Alex said to the shopkeeper. “No harm has been done.”
The apothecary swallowed and said, “Let me see, some of these items are a bit expensive. Would you prefer to buy them or trade for them?”
“I am always looking for supplies for my shop,” said the apothecary. “Some items are extremely hard to come by. If you like, I’ll give you a list of items that are always in short supply.”
“That would be nice,” said Alex. “I might have something to trade, Mr.—?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the apothecary said brightly. “I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Treevander Fern.”
“Mr. Fern. I do have something you might find of interest.” Alex reached for his magic bag again and extracted his dragon’s bane plant, which had grown to the size of a small bush.
“Oh! Oh, my,” said Mr. Fern, his eyes growing large.
“I don’t want to trade the entire plant,” Alex said quickly. “However, I could divide it and let you have half.”
“You are most kind,” Mr. Fern beamed. “Dragon’s bane is incredibly hard to come by, after all. I mean, a single seed is worth at least ten gold coins—if you can even find one—and a flower . . . well, I haven’t seen a flower in years.”
“Sadly, I don’t have any seeds or flowers at the moment,” said Alex. “However, with proper care, I’m sure you could coax this plant to bloom in time.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” said Mr. Fern. “Let me get a pot and then we’ll discuss prices.”
As Mr. Fern rushed off to find a pot, Alex heard Arconn laughing quietly.
“What’s so funny?”
“I fear your treasure room is about to grow larger,” said Arconn.
“The dragon’s bane plant is worth much more than all the items you’ve selected,” said Arconn. “Even a plant this small could make an apothecary rich.”
“I see,” said Alex. “I knew it was rare, but I didn’t think it was that valuable.”
Mr. Fern quickly returned, smiling and looking from Alex to the dragon’s bane plant.
Alex nodded and carefully divided his plant into two large pieces. Shaking the loose dirt from one of the pieces, Alex handed it to Mr. Fern.
Mr. Fern carefully put his half of the plant into its new pot. Brushing the dirt from his hands, he said, “I suppose a price needs to be agreed upon.”
Alex nodded, taking into consideration what Arconn had told him about the plant’s worth. After several minutes of discussion, and a few remarks from Arconn, Alex and Mr. Fern shook hands on a price. Alex stored all of his new items in his magic bag, while Mr. Fern hurried to the back to get the money he owed Alex.
“I didn’t think I’d make money on this trade,” said Alex, slightly embarrassed.
“It is a fair price,” Arconn said. “Hopefully, Mr. Fern will have success with this plant, and it will not be so rare in the future.”
“That would be nice,” Alex agreed. “The plant has wonderful healing powers and is useful in dozens of potions.”
“I know a few of them,” said Arconn. “Though I will not pretend to be an expert on potion making.”
Mr. Fern soon returned, carrying two bags with him. “One hundred gold in each. And as much again if and when the plant blooms.”
“You are most generous,” said Alex, accepting the two bags.
“Not at all,” said Mr. Fern. “A fair price and a wonderful trade. Now, let me see. Yes, here is a list of items that are always in demand at my shop. You can trade them at any apothecary shop in the known lands, but I would be in your debt if you could bring any items you find here to trade.”
“Thank you very much,” said Alex, taking the list from Mr. Fern. “I will. And when I return to Telous, I would like to see how your new plant is doing.”
“Yes, of course. You are always welcome here, Master Taylor.”
Alex returned his staff and the gold to his bag and said good-bye to Mr. Fern. He was pleased with the trade and hoped that Mr. Fern’s half of the dragon’s bane plant would thrive. As they left the shop, Arconn looked over Mr. Fern’s list of items.
“He was good enough to suggest trade values,” Arconn said, handing the list back to Alex. “Not all apothecaries are so honest.”
“You’re not thinking of changing professions, are you?” said Alex. “It looks like good money can be made by supplying apothecaries.”
Arconn laughed, but did not reply. Alex, of course, knew that Arconn had a great deal of treasure in his magic bag and that money was not a concern for the elf. The two of them walked back to the Golden Swan, talking casually.
As they waited for the rest of the company to return for the evening meal and the official start of the adventure, Alex told Arconn more about his last adventure. He told Arconn about the brownies he had met and how they had helped save the adventure. Arconn laughed at the story and promised not to mention the brownies to anyone.
“So, you’ve met Sindar,” Arconn said when Alex had finished his story.
“Do you know him?” Alex asked.
“No, though I do know about him, as he is well-known among all the elves.”
“I thought he might be,” said Alex. “I could tell that he was old, even for an elf.”
“Indeed he is,” said Arconn. “Sindar is one of the eldest who still remain in the known lands.”
Alex and Arconn’s discussion about Sindar was interrupted as the rest of the company appeared. Thrang led everyone back to the dining room they’d used earlier that day. Thrain seemed happier than he had been before, if that were possible, and Alex guessed that he had found an excellent weapon at Mr. Blackburn’s. Thrang took his seat at the head of the table and gestured for Arconn to sit at his left and Alex at his right. Once the entire company was seated, Thrang cleared his throat.
“You all know the goal of our adventure,” said Thrang. “We have one first-time adventurer with us, so I will ask you all to help him learn as much as he can. Master Taylor is also carrying a lost bag and wishes to return it to the adventurer’s heir, who lives in the city of Kazad-Syn. Since we will pass through the city as we travel, I have promised Alex time to return the lost bag.”
Thrang paused, letting his words sink in. Returning lost bags was the sworn duty of all adventurers as well as an honor and a burden.
After a moment, Thrang rang a golden bell. Servants appeared carrying pitchers. They filled mugs for the entire company, then left the pitchers on the table and departed.
“I will ask you all to drink with me,” Thrang said, raising his mug. “To the adventure, to the bargain, and for luck.”
“The adventure, the bargain, and luck,” the rest of the company repeated, and they all drank from their mugs.
“We leave for Thraxon in the morning,” said Thrang, setting his mug back on the table. He rang the bell once more, and the servants instantly appeared with their meal, departing as quickly as they had come.
“Arconn told me this is your first time as a leader,” Alex said softly to Thrang as they ate. “I’m honored to be going with you.”
“You are very kind, my friend,” said Thrang. “I never thought I’d be leading an adventure, you know, but King Thorgood insisted.”
“I suppose this means you won’t be retiring anytime soon,” Alex said with a smile.
“Perhaps not,” said Thrang. “Though I might follow Skeld and Tayo’s example and find myself a wife. It’s time I started thinking about an heir.”
“Don’t tell Halfdan.” Alex laughed. “He was very disturbed by the lovestruck way Skeld and Tayo acted when we saw them in Norsland.”
Thrang chuckled but didn’t reply. Alex turned his attention to his meal and the rest of the company. Nellus asked a few more questions about Alex’s last adventure. Kat seemed interested in hearing more about Alex’s friendship with Whalen and wanted to know about the acts of wizardry he had done before taking his staff. Barnabus and Thrain were both happy to just listen, though Thrain would often blurt out a question in pure excitement. As they finished their meal and started for the door and their beds, Alex pulled Nellus aside.
“How is Tara?” Alex asked softly.
“Much happier since she met you, my friend,” said Nellus, his eyes shining brightly. “I’ve never seen such a change in a person, and I’m very glad for it.”
“As am I,” said Alex.
The two of them hurried to catch up to their companions, who had already moved out of the dining room. Alex would be sharing a room with Thrain, which pleased them both.
“Don’t let your excitement get the best of you,” said Alex as they climbed into their beds. “Try to stay calm, and pay close attention to what you’re told.”
“That’s exactly what the oracle said.” Thrain laughed. “It’s so exciting! I hope I do well. Grandfather will be so pleased if this adventure is a success.”
“I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Alex turned down the lamp next to his bed. “And I’m sure we’ll find some success as well.”
“Do you really think so?” Thrain asked, showing no signs of being tired. “I mean, with so many experienced adventurers I suppose we should, but I’m a little nervous. What if the Ring of Searching is lost forever?”
“Sleep,” said Alex in a soft tone. “We will find out soon enough if the ring is where Thrang suspects it to be.”
“Well, yes, I suppose so,” said Thrain, turning down his own lamp. “But what if we don’t find any treasure at all?”
“The amount of treasure we find has little to do with the adventure’s success,” Alex said sternly. Then he softened his tone. “But, don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find some treasure.”
Thrain didn’t answer, but Alex knew he was still awake. Alex understood Thrain’s excitement and his hopes of doing well. He felt the same way, though he was more concerned about finding the Ring of Searching for Thorgood than he was about finding treasure. Thrang was one of Alex’s best friends and he wanted Thrang’s first adventure as a leader to be a complete success.
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