Excerpt from The Runes of The Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Runes of The Earth

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 1

by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Runes of The Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson X
The Runes of The Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2004, 560 pages

    Aug 2005, 560 pages


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"Mother." His voice shook. "It's me. Roger."

Linden bit down on her lip. All the air in the room seemed to concentrate around the bed, too thick to breathe. In the bonfire where Joan's captors had destroyed their right hands, she had seen eyes like fangs look out hungrily at Covenant's impending murder. At the time, she had believed that they held malice. But now she thought that emotion in them might have been despair; an emptiness which could not be filled.


Joan blinked several times. Her pupils contracted.

With an effort that seemed to stretch the skin of her forehead, her eyes came into focus on her son.

"Roger?" Her disused voice crawled like a wounded thing between her lips. "Is it you?"

Suddenly stern, he told her, "Of course it's me. You can see that."

Involuntarily Linden recoiled a step. She tasted blood, felt a pain in her lip. Roger sounded disdainful, vexed, as though Joan were a servant who had disappointed him.

"Oh, Roger." Tears spilled from Joan's eyes. Her free hand fumbled to his shoulder, clutched at his neck. "It's been so long." Her face held no expression: its muscles lacked the strength to convey what she felt. "I've waited so long. It's been so hard. Make it stop."

"Stop complaining." He scolded her as if she were a child. "It isn't as bad as all that. I had to wait until I was twenty-one. You know that."

How--? Linden panted as if she had been struck in the stomach. How--?

How had Roger reached Joan?

How could Joan have known anything?

"I've been good," Joan responded, pleading. "I have." Her damaged voice seemed to flinch and cower at his feet. "See?"

Dropping her arm from his neck, she flung her fist at her bruised temple. Fresh blood smeared her knuckles as she lowered her arm.

"I've been good," she begged. "Make it stop. I can't bear it."

"Nonsense, Mother," Roger snorted. "Of course you can bear it. That's what you do."

But then, apparently, he took pity on her, and his manner softened. "It won't be much longer. I have some things to do. Then I'll make it stop. We'll make it stop together."

Releasing her cheeks, he rose to his feet, turned toward Linden.

As soon as he left the bed, Joan began to scream--a frail, rending sound that seemed to rip from her throat like fabric tearing across jagged glass. As if in sympathy, the pulse monitor emitted a shrill call.

"You see, Dr Avery?" he remarked through his mother's cries. "You really have no choice. You have to let her go with me.

"The sooner you release her, the sooner I can free her from all this."

Over my dead body, Linden told his ambiguous smile and his bland eyes. Over my dead body.

From The Runes of Earth: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 1 by Stephen R. Donaldson. Copyright Stephen R. Donaldson 2004. All rights reserved.

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