The Pealsong Refounding fantasy trilogy by Michael Warden. Gideon's Dawn, The Waymaker, The Word Within.

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CHAPTER 10: THE HEADWATERS OF THE WORMWOOD

0 comments | Posted: Novel-Entry-The-Word-Within, by Michael D. Warden

It wasn’t until the crow pierced my hand that I finally understood…what had happened to my parents, what had happened to Stevron over all those hidden years, what had happened to the entire Council and to our system of government. For even as I revulsed at the black tendrils crawling up my arm, a part of me also relished it. The taint of the Barrens was loathsome and intoxicating. I hated it, and wanted more. From that first fateful bite, a part of me (dare I say it?) wanted nothing more than to give myself over to its enticements. As the infection grew, so did my yearning for it. (1)

I knew instantly this was the same seduction experienced by all those who tasted Sa’lei on their lips, though perhaps in a more concentrated form. It was in those hours, when I didn’t know whether I might willingly become a riftman myself, that I felt my first true pang of compassion for my mother, and for Stevron, and especially for my father, whose conversion in the final days of his life now seemed to me all the more remarkable and worthy of awe. (2)

—The Kyrinthan Journals, Songs of Deliverance, Stanza 18, Verses 32-37

He could feel the raw terror of the crouching mon’jalen as he approached. The sniveling dog. It made Lord Stevron loathe him all the more. (3)

“Speak!” he commanded. The warrior jumped. (4)

“We’ve found no sign of him, lord,” he said shakily, “nor any of the others.” (5)

Stevron yanked the mane of the great wolf on which he sat, and the beast screeched in pain as it followed the pull, turning its back to the mon’jalen and padding toward the dull morning light in the east. The young lord lifted his head and roared a Sa’lei curse into the sky. Everything within a hundred yards before him turned black and shriveled as if scorched in the heat of a desert sun. Even the fanning tendrils of the Wormwood dried to a crusty black chalk, so that only the spring heads still trickled out their black ooze. (6)

“I wouldn’t worry, lord,” offered the mon’jalen cautiously. He was still crouching behind him, and could no doubt sense Stevron’s deep distress through the cording, “I think surely they all perished under the collapse.” (7)

“Damanoi sissacht ak curpecht,” Stevron replied. The mon’jalen’s body severed down the middle, as if cleanly sliced by a great blade. The two halves of him crumpled to the ground, dark blood gushing out of both like the black spring heads of the Wormwood gurgling all around them. (8)

But then, unexpectedly, from the corpse a black vapor arose. The sky darkened, and a bone-chilling cold swept like a wave into Stevron’s bones. His back stiffened reflexively. He still hadn’t grown accustomed to it, even after all these years. (9)

You have failed. Again. (10)

He took in a breath, and immediately regretted it as the sweet stench of death assaulted his nostrils, more demanding and invasive even than the stink of the river. (11)

“It doesn’t matter,” he said cooly. “They are badly weakened. Some of them are dead. They cannot get far.” (12)

This was your last chance. (13)

“What?” demanded Stevron. “What do you mean by that?” He turned the wolf to face the Voice. (14)

You are weak, boy. Too weak. It’s too late for your games now. (15)

“I am not weak!” Stevron spat angrily. The ground quivered as he said it. “This is no game to me. I mean to slay him. And I will.” (16)

He has the orb. You are clearly outmatched by it. I, however, am not. (17)

Stevron felt the hackles rise on the back of his neck. (18)

“What do you intend?” (19)

I will take you now. (20)

“Take me where?” (21)

No. I will take. You. (22)

Stevron rose up in his saddle. “No. I will not allow it.” (23)

A force like a wall knocked the young lord from the wolf and slapped him to the ground. The creature yelped through several mouths as it turned and fled back to the east. (24)

You have no choice. (25)

“I do!” (26)

You do not. You’ve already abandoned yourself to me many times. (27)

“That was just to learn the Tongue! I have never given you leave to take me over!” (28)

Haven’t you? (29)

“There’s no need for this!” yelled Stevron, still unable to rise. “I can do this! You know I can!” (30)

Enough. (31)

“No! I won’t allow it. You can’t take me! You can’t!” (32)

Beginning at his feet, the vapor entwined itself around him, smoothly, unhurried, even as Stevron tried vainly to beat it back with his fists. Slowly, it constricted his arms down to his sides, and with a shudder of icy cold, wrapped itself around his neck, and whispered in his ears. (33)

You failed, boy. You. Are weak. Worthless. Only I can save you now. (34)

He spat and cursed the Voice through gritted teeth. “You can’t. I won’t let you. I won’t let you!” (35)

Then he roared one last, desperate scream as the vapor slithered into his ears. (36)


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Gideon's Dawn Waymaker

"...a work of extreme depth and breadth of vision."
-Christian Fiction Review

Author

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.

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