Read A Wizard's Wings Online

Authors: T. A. Barron

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic

A Wizard's Wings

What lies underneath the sea?

Something stirred beneath the surface. I glimpsed a row of quivering suction cups, glowing with their own greenish light. A tentacle! I could tell by its immense length and girth that it belonged to something big—far bigger than our vessel.

Stretching out my arm, I sent a stream of water, concentrated to strike as hard as a spear, at the tentacle. Seawater sprayed in all directions. But the tentacle swiftly recoiled. At the same time, other serpentine limbs lifted out of the waves, entwining themselves with the branches. Glowing strangely, they pulled on the hat, dragging us downward.

Drawing on all the power within me, I called to the great hat.
Rise, now. Rise, O vessel of willow and vine! Rise now, up from the sea!

Suddenly I felt the vessel starting to vibrate. The vibrations grew swiftly stronger, loosening the grip of my legs on the staff. With a wrenching effort, I pulled myself back up onto the brim.

At that instant, the quaking hat began to turn, spinning slowly in a circle. The rotations came faster, and faster still. I clung to the staff, trying to keep my balance. Then, without warning, the spinning ceased.

PUFFIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

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

 

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

a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2000, Paper-over-board edition, 2007

Published as
 
A Wizard's Wings
by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2011

 

Patricia Lee Gauch, editor

 

Text copyright © Thomas A. Barron, 2000

Map illustration copyright © Ian Schoenherr, 2000

All rights reserved

 

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

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

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

p. cm.

Summary: Merlin’s fragile home on the isle of Fincayra is threatened by the attack of a mysterious warrior with swords for arms and by the escape of Stangmar from his imprisonment, as Merlin continues to move toward his ultimate destiny.

ISBN: 978-0-399-25024-8 (hc)

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

2. Wizards—Fiction. 3. Fantasy.]

I. Title

PZ7.B27567Wi 2000 [Fic]—dc21 00-027533 CIP AC

 

Puffin Books ISBN 978-0-14-241923-6

 

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
the elusive wizard himself—
and to all those who have gathered to hear him
reveal, at last, the secrets of his lost years

A
UTHOR’S
N
OTE

Almost a decade ago, I had a dream—strikingly vivid, deeply mysterious. In it a boy, nearly drowned, washed ashore on a strange, rugged coast. He had no memory at all of his childhood, not even his own name. And he certainly had no idea of the glorious destiny that awaited him.

Nor did I, in truth. For I hadn’t yet realized that this lone, bedraggled boy was really the wizard Merlin. He bore no resemblance whatsoever to the legendary mentor of King Arthur, the mage of Camelot, the greatest enchanter of all times. No, that discovery would be the first of Merlin’s many surprises.

But only the first. As those who have read the first four volumes of this epic already know, this wizard is full of surprises. He startled me, as his scribe, with the true nature of his sight, his family, and his heritage. Then he went on to introduce us all to the mysterious isle of Fincayra, unknown except to the ancient Celtic poets who called it an island beneath the waves, a bridge between the mortal Earth and the immortal Otherworld.

Fincayra has become Merlin’s home. The people he loves most are there: Rhia, Shim, Elen, Cairpré, and Hallia, the deer-woman who has taught him how to run like a stag, hearing not just with his ears but with his very bones. The brave hawk, Trouble, along with the spirit lords Dagda and Rhita Gawr, may not be physically present, but they are never very far distant.

This mythic isle was best described by Merlin’s mother, who saw Fincayra with a Druid’s eyes, as a place much like the mist swirling about its shores. She called the island
an in between place.
Like the mist—which was neither quite water nor quite air, something of both and yet something else entirely—Fincayra is both mortal and immortal, dark and light, fragile and everlasting. Just how fragile it truly is, young Merlin will discover in this book, which concludes
The Lost Years of Merlin
epic.

In this volume, Merlin will also discover some new aspects of his own spirit—aspects that are, themselves, truly in between. For the wizard he is destined to become is not really a man, yet not really a god; not fully shadowed, yet not fully luminous. When he becomes Arthur’s mentor, his greatest wisdom will spring from his essential humanity, his understanding of both our frailties and our highest possibilities. And his greatest power will arise from those elusive meeting places of nature and culture, masculinity and femininity, consciousness and dreams.

Much of Merlin’s depth as a character, I am convinced, stems from these very qualities. And something more: They make him the perfect mentor for a young and idealistic king, a king whose vision of a just society would fail in his own realm, but would lodge firmly in the realm of the heart—so firmly that Merlin’s pupil would ultimately be celebrated as the Once and Future King. Small wonder that Merlin himself, in tales stretching back fifteen centuries, has long been seen as a bridge builder, a unifier, a wizard of many worlds and many times.

The scope of his bridge building is astonishing. The very same Merlin who gives counsel to a great ruler may well, a moment later, ask advice from a homeless wanderer—or from an ancient, green-eyed wolf roaming the mountainside. The same Merlin who urges his companions to seek the Holy Grail, with its abundant Christian symbolism, often speaks as a Druid master with the spirits of rivers and trees. The same Merlin who, in traditional tales, was fathered by a demon was also mothered by a near-saint. Most remarkable of all, the same Merlin who inspired so many tales hundreds and hundreds of years ago remains wholly present in our lives today. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, he is more alive than ever.

That half-drowned boy, spat out by the sea in the opening scene of
The Lost Years of Merlin,
could not have foreseen his remarkable destiny. Indeed, looking back on that day, the elder wizard intones:

If I close my eyes, and breathe to the rolling rhythm of the sea, I can still remember that long ago day. Harsh, cold, and lifeless it was, as empty of promise as my lungs were empty of air . . . .

Perhaps I remember it so clearly because the pain, like a scar on my soul, will not disappear. Or because it marked the ending of so much. Or, perhaps, because it marked a beginning as well as an ending: the beginning of my lost years.

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