Thorn Drumheller stood in the heart of glory, yet all about him was desolation.
"Elora Danan," he breathed, in a voice so faint and broken it wouldn't have done justice to a ghost, "what have you done? What have you done?"
The air was still, but not with any absence of wind. To Thorn it was as if all life, all vitality, had been torn from it. The same held true for its scent. When he had arrived in this most sacred place there had been an edge to every breath, so keen a sensation he feared it would sear his lungs. He had never tasted air so pure, and yet so richly textured. It was a pale comparison, he knew, but he was most strongly reminded of wandering through a stand of old-growth forest, amongst trees whose lives were measured more in centuries than simple years. All that those venerable trunks had seen, all the earth that sustained them had felt, all the history of the beings that called that grove home, was wrapped up in that heady mixture.
Here, was nothing.
So simple a word, nothing. He never imagined it could be so terrible.
The sand beneath his feet had sparkled before, its grains scattered thick with shards of crystalline fire that glittered with a radiance all their own, like the embers left from a celestial hearth. The same held for the rock of the escarpment that ringed the caldera, this bowl of a volcano as ancient as it was huge. The crater was more than Thorn could grasp. He simply didn't know numbers big enough. It would take him days to walk from where he knelt to the wall of jagged, saw-toothed peaks that surrounded him, yet even so the ridgeline towered higher than most of the mountain ranges he had seen, including the fabled Stairs to Heaven.
There had been fire in that stone, pulsing as fiercely as the blood did through his own body.
Atop every summit of that promontory had stood a dragon, and the memory of that sight sent chills along Thorn's spine. He was a Nelwyn, born to one of the lesser races of the Realm of Lesser Faery, whose role in the scheme of things was said to be as modest as their stature. For most of his days he'd been a farmer, a simple, structured life for what seemed a simple, structured man. He had a wife he loved, two children he adored, and believed himself content. Dragons were the stuff of legends and adventures and that had no truck with Nelwyns.
Until one came to him fifteen years ago in the dead of night, in what he thought then was no more than a dream--for that was how dragons, creatures wholly of the Circle of the Spirit, visited those races who lived on the more physical planes of existence--to steal him from hearth and home and set his feet upon the path that ultimately brought him to this place. He had never ridden the back of a dragon before that night. Now he wondered if he ever would again.
Here was where they lived, the seat of wonder and imagination. Here, according to all the stories and beliefs of all the races of all the Twelve Great Realms, anything was possible. If Creation had a soul, this was said to be its home, and the dragons were its embodiment.
Only the dragons were no more. Thorn had seen them slain.
And now, the killer was walking straight toward him.
She didn't look the part, and that had nothing to do with her dancer's costume. Her skirt hung low on her hips, generously cut to allow the fullest range of movement, while a bandeau top covered her breasts; both were dyed a scarlet so dark it seemed almost black, the color of night-washed blood spilled in passion, that formed a stark and dramatic contrast to the gleaming silver of her skin. There was no outward warmth to her appearance. She resembled none of the races he knew, not her own Daikini nor any of the myriad tribes of Faery. It was as though someone had captured the essence of moonlight, wrapped it in human form, and given it life.
She moved with the sleek and arrogant ease of youth, propelled by muscles that had yet to suffer the touch of time or injury. Despite all she had endured in her sixteen years, there remained an air of innocence about her, the same sense of renewed hope and possibilities to be found in a highland meadow washed by the first gentle rains of spring.
There was pride to her step as she approached, and such a look of joy and wonder on her face that Thorn questioned if she was mad, or hoped in some small and hidden part of himself that he was instead, that this would turn out to be no more than the most awful of nightmares.
By his side, Khory Bannefin stirred, the timbre of each breath making plain to him how badly she'd been hurt. They had come to this hallowed ground--the Princess, the Warrior, and the Mage--to try to save the dragons from a sorcerer who'd sought to claim their power for his own and through it dominion over all the Realms, who'd set himself as Elora's sworn enemy almost from the moment of her birth.
In that, they had succeeded. The Deceiver had been driven from the field without his prize. But to Thorn, the terrible cost had made their struggle and sacrifice a mockery. Victory had burned to bitter ashes in his grasp. A battle had been won, and as a consequence perhaps all the world lost.
"Elora Danan," he called again in a hoarse cry whose passion flogged him to his feet to face her, "what have you done?"
"What was necessary," she replied.
"You killed them. You killed them all." His words described the act but they could not do justice to the enormity of the crime. Neither language, nor even emotions, existed that could properly do so.
"It was that, Drumheller, or let the Deceiver claim their souls and power."
"You were born to be the Savior of our world." The accusation tumbled from him in a torrent, like water from a burst dam, and he had neither strength nor will to stop it. "Why is it all you do is harm?"
She blinked, and staggered stiff-legged to a stop, as though he'd physically struck her. In the whole catalog of responses he expected to his indictment, there was no listing for tears. They came suddenly, without preamble, a stark reminder of just how young the Sacred Princess was, still far more girl than woman. Her eyes grew round and the cords of her neck stood out from the effort it took to keep from bursting into sobs.
Excerpted from Shadow Star by by Chris Claremont story by George Lucas. Copyright © 2000 by by Chris Claremont story by George Lucas. Excerpted by permission of Spectra, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.