Mark Anthony’s six-volume series The Last Rune
ends with The First Stone
, a novel published in 2004. Wrapping up the epic adventures of the previous books, the novel explores the relationship between Earth, where science explains the material world, and Eldh, an otherworld ruled by magic. Forced to get to the bottom of why the two realms are connected, the heroes of the series reunite once more in order to prevent the universe from being destroyed by those who would use this powerful connection for their own ends.
The novel picks up three years after the previous one ended. After overcoming the Pale King and his Dark God Mohg on Eldh, as well as the fiendish Duratek Corporation on Earth, our heroes Grace Beckett and Travis Wilder have gone their separate ways. Grace, who was originally an ER doctor in Colorado, has been ruling Eldh from Gravenfist Keep as Queen of Malachor and ushering in an age of unaccustomed peace. Meanwhile, Travis, originally a pub owner and later a powerful Eldh mage, has retired from hero work and lives in London with his partner Beltan, an Eldh warrior with fairy blood who now drives a cab.
Everything appears to be going swimmingly – until it suddenly isn’t. On Earth, astronomers have noticed a space anomaly which appears to be consuming stars. On Eldh, a similar rift in space has also formed and magic has started to fail. The dragon Sinfathisar recognizes the phenomenon as a void hole, and tells Grace that as it widens, Earth and Eldh are getting nearer to each other. Left unchecked, the worlds will both be destroyed when they touch, and the whole multiverse will cease to exist. Grace’s only hope, according to Sinfathisar, is to get Travis to use his powerful magic to find the lost city of Morindu the Dark, a place that will explain just how Earth and Eldh are linked.
On Eldh, there are several groups now vying to find the lost city: the Seekers, also known as the Philosophers, who are ostensibly good guys; and the sorcerers of Scirath, powerful magic users who want to become even more powerful by harnessing the ancient secrets of the city of Morindu.
Travis’s former lover Vani suddenly appears at his doorstep with a young girl in tow. In the previous books, Travis’s attraction to both her and to Beltan became a complicated love triangle, but now he and Vani realize that they were never truly in love with each other. Vani introduces the two men to the girl, Nim, who is somehow the daughter of both Beltan and Travis. Vani also explains that Travis must return to Eldh in order to prevent the Scirathi sorcerers from finding Morindu.
As Travis struggles to wrap his mind around all of this, they are ambushed by a group of Scirathi. Trying to repel their attack, Travis calls for help from Deidre Falling Hawk, a Seeker who has been living on Earth with her partner Anders. Just as Deidre gets to Travis’s apartment, the Scirathi manage to kidnap Nim. Deidre helps Travis, Vani, and Beltan escape into the London subways – but there, they are waylaid yet again.
Several groups are now in pursuit of one another. Grace is looking for Travis, Travis is looking for his kidnapped daughter and the Scirathi, and the Scirathi are looking for the city of Morindu the Dark. As they adventure, both Eldh and Earth are seeing more and more the ramifications of the perihelion: tempests and earthquakes, populations succumbing to listlessness and despair, and magic sputtering out and dying.
The book now explains exactly how the two worlds are connected, revealing that the Seekers and the sorcerers aren’t so very different from one another after all. It turns out that both groups attained their power from the people who founded the lost city of Morindu. Both the sorcerers and the Philosophers drank the blood of the ancient mages who eventually left Eldh in order to bring about two millennia of peace. Now, although it seems like the Seeker and the sorcerers are working against each other, in reality they are both mostly dedicated to making sure that no outsiders ever find or take away their source of their power.
Of course, in the end the good guys prevail, but their triumph is bittersweet at best since it involves the death of Deidre. In order to prevent the destruction of the universe, the connection between Eldh and Earth must be permanently severed, and with it, all magic completely destroyed on both worlds.
Characters are forced to decide where they will spend the rest of their days. Unsurprisingly, Travis and Beltan decide to stay on Earth and raise their daughter Nim there. But in what seems to have been a shocking twist for readers, Grace also decides to stay on Earth and reject the world that had come to be much more home than Earth for her. Instead of remaining a benevolent queen, Grace tries to persuade the people of Eldh to start now electing their rulers instead of having hereditary monarchy. She leaves behind her quasi adoptive parents Melia and Falken, and her chosen sisters Aryn and Lirith – all because she realizes that her vocation isn’t political leadership but healing, so she wants to return to being a doctor.