As if to challenge his declaration, the mountain that encircled Wordhaven’s valley rumbled in reply.
“A quake?” asked one of the soldiers nearby. Brasen raised a hand to quiet him, and listened. His eyes searched the distant ridge for signs of shifting stone, but all remained still, as if the mountain itself were suddenly, inexplicably, holding its breath.
Just then, a quivering thunder rose beneath their feet. One startled gasp later, a tremendous explosion sprang forth from the bowels of the mountain, shattering the entire cliff face north of Wordhaven’s walls. The sound of it was ominous and hard, like a hundred thousand mounts galloping on stone. A second equally malevolent explosion followed, much farther to the east—then a third, and fourth, quickly encircling the valley in a surreal nightmare of destruction and tumbling debris. Great plumes of rock and smoke billowed upward on all sides, filling the skies in a matter of seconds with a black cloud of foreboding.
“It is an eruption!” exclaimed one of captains, his voice booming loud across the valley. “To the Stand. Quickly!”
“No!” bellowed Donovan, his form now hidden in the midst of their ranks. “Hold your ground! Stand ready! We are attacked!”
From out of the ash of the first explosion, a wind began to swirl. Within seconds, it grew to a height and breadth far greater than the funnel Donovan had summoned. The sheer size of it took Brasen’s breath away. No sooner had it reached full height—perhaps some five hundred feet—than it turned to fire and billowed forward, hungrily consuming the land before it with each tempestuous surge of its heat. Three more of the firestorms appeared soon after the first, each rising from the ash and rubble the explosions had left in their wake, until they all towered over the valley like fiery sentinels of death.
From the shadow of the advancing cyclones, swarms of guardians poured forth, raising a thunderous cry of Worded blight upon any patch of green left untouched by fire.
“They are so many!” exclaimed Brasen sadly. “A thousand, perhaps more. Where could Lord Varia have hidden such a company from our eyes?”
“To the Words! To the Words!” came Donovan’s cry, carried on wings of Dei’lo so powerful not even the roar of four fiery maelstroms could drown them out. “War has come to Wordhaven! Arise! Arise in your strength, and let none of these invaders pass from here alive!”
Suddenly, Brasen’s world grew oddly still. He watched as his warriors, brave and sturdy to the last, rushed as if in slow motion toward the battle line now forming around the firestorm to the south. He could feel his own body moving as well, running to join them. But his thoughts were languid, liquid, curiously peaceful. His mind flashed back to an image of his home, to that final day he saw his parents’ alive. He was sitting on the pillows in the center room, his mother and father both reclining on his right. It was dusk and the meal they shared was their first together in nearly two weeks. Father was laughing, recounting the details of his recent mission with the sounden resistance, and Mother with her hand on his knee, smiled. The stories always seemed funny in hindsight, or perhaps Father always made them so, to take the edge off the reality that he had risked his life once more to reclaim some of the bounty the guardians seized each season as “tribute” for the Council in Phallenar. They called it a tax, but it was extortion, and Father refused to accept it, right from the start. Many families in the sounden survived each winter because of Father’s work, him and the others who regularly found ingenious ways to steal back from the jalen what they had taken.
He had just made a joke about one of the jalen he had encountered on his most recent raid, whose black-orbed eyes sat so close together he looked like a lemur, when the grating sounds of Sa’lei shattered the reverie and the entire house—every inch of wood all around them—burst into flame all at once. The blast of heat knocked Brasen forward onto the food, but his father’s hands snatched him up and wrapped him in the blanket that Mother always had near her for she often got a chill in the evenings. He heard a few grunts, and his father said, “Run for the forest as fast as you can! Don’t look back. We’ll find you. Do you understand?” Brasen said yes, but he didn’t really; it was all happening so fast. And just like that, his father threw him out the window in the back of the house, right through the flames as if they weren’t even there.
The landing knocked the air from his lungs, and it took him a moment to remember how to breathe. He peaked through the blanket—that was the thing he wished he’d never done. If only he’d simply run like his father had told him, he wouldn’t have had to carry for all these years the memory of what happened next.
He peaked through the blanket and saw the house fall in a ball of red. The crash sounded like bones breaking, and over it he heard Sa’lei and then his mother’s final scream. That’s when he ran. Before he could get away from them, the Words sounded again, and his father called her name, Meritha. It was an agonizing cry, and his father’s final act. Brasen had heard Sa’lei spoken enough to know what those particular Words were meant to do. They ripped a human body limb from limb.
So Brasen is an only child? No siblings or other family members to perish along with the parents, increasing his anguish? Like an older brother he idolized? It would only take a little tweaking to add that. Just a thought.
Also, what kind of time has passed since he lost his parents? It might be helpful to reference that, to put the flashback in perspective. (Of course, it might be that you tell that in Wayfarer, but I have no way of looking that up since my copies of the previous books are currently on loan in WA.)
This is cool. I’m glad you’re letting us participate. Thanks! :-)
That’s actually a great idea, Michelle. Unfortunately, it’s already been established in Waymaker that Brasen is an only child. But I guess that’s something I could change in the next edition. What may be even cooler is for him to have a sibling whom he thought had died in the fire…only maybe she/he didn’t….hmmm…
Maybe it could be a cousin, who was as close to Brasen as a sibling, and supposedly had died with the rest of his/her family but didn’t. And, maybe this is someone who had gone to the dark side so not only is there an opportunity for reconciliation but there’s an opportunity for redemption. This way you keep the continuity from the original edition and are expanding Brasen’s family network. We’re talking about a society where extended families are important, right? So…there’s a lot there that can be used to create backstory and add to the relational drama. More thoughts coming as they arrive. ;-)
the second to last paragraph second sentence and the last paragraph first sentence both read “he peaked through the blanket…..”
shouldn’t that be “he peeked through the blanket”?
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Michael D. Warden has been working professionally as a writer and editor since 1989. After several years as Managing Editor for a large publishing house in Colorado, he stepped into the adventure of writing full time. In addition to his fantasy trilogy The Pearlsong Refounding, he has written several non-fiction books, and contributed to more than 150 other books and magazines.