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

Inherited Lands
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CHAPTER 12: CASTELLAN WATCH

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

Makela, High Lord of Wordhaven and the first woman to bear that title after Gideon’s Fall, took a contingent of guardians (no record remains to say how many), and went on sojourn to Castel Morstal, the ancient mountain keep, to see if she might learn more of what had happened to the Pearl by examining the site of the Dark One’s escape, and questioning the Kah who were sworn to hold him there. (1)

The few fragments of her journal that survive from that time indicate that she did indeed find the seals of that ancient prison shattered, as she expected, but could gain no insight as to how they came to be that way. Of the Kah, there was no sign at all, though she and her company sought them out for several months. She later wrote, “It was as if they had never existed, which may well be the Giver’s mercy upon them, for who of them could bear to live under the weight of what they had done, and who of us could bear to look upon them who through their dereliction had destroyed our very world?” (2)

—The Kyrinthan Journals, Chronicles, Chapter 2, Verses 65-69

At first, it was just a dull throbbing in the back of his neck. Then it spread to the crown of his head, and intensified as it stretched to his right eye socket, which sang in pain from being pressed to the floor for far too long. The chants and drumming faded into his awareness just as another ache awakened in his shoulders, pulled to their limit as they were by his hands, which he vaguely supposed were lashed together, though he could not feel them. (3)

Brasen Stoneguard smacked his lips, dry and gritty as sand, and felt a deep pang of thirst rush through him, further waking him from whatever stupor they had forced him to endure. (4)

They had placed him on his knees, wrists bound tight behind his back, his butt raised up and face smashed into the woven floor. When he toppled to the side, they whooped and laughed, and the drumming intensified. In short, careful bursts, he shuffled his knees beneath him again, and slowly rolled himself upright. His thin, blond locks, normally bound to keep them out of his eyes, now hung wetly in front of his face. He had been stripped down to his loincloths. (5)

“Wa…water,” he gasped. It came out barely a whisper. He cleared his throat. “Water!” Clearer this time.
Clear enough, in fact, that the drumming stopped. Everything fell silent. His mind was still a fog. He sensed people everywhere, but could hardly make any of them out. (6)

After a few moments, a leaf appeared in front of his face, cupped and full of water. He flung his head back hungrily and let it pour into his mouth. He coughed when it came too fast, and whoever held the leaf dumped the rest out on his head. Cold. Bracing. It woke him up a little more. (7)

He looked around and saw hundreds of torches in the night, lighting the great boughs of the bian’ar forest in every direction. Then the one next to him grabbed him by the hair and jerked his head back. Jema’s face filled his vision. She was the one who gave him the water. (8)

“You die soon,” she whispered, smiling. (9)

“Leave him be, daughter.” (10)

Her face turned briefly to a scowl. Then she released him and disappeared from view. (11)

Brasen sought out the man’s voice, so deep, and gravelly like a bear. His eyes soon found him, and he blinked his eyes repeatedly to clear his vision. The man was a giant, broad of shoulder and thickly built. He wore a patchwork cloak of animal skins, pulled back to show the many scars upon his chest and shoulders. His hands, like compact boulders, rested on the crown of a short staff. The light from all the torches glistened off his pale bald head. (12)

Brasen shifted clumsily to face him. He felt sluggish still, and slow of thought. (13)

“Ekon,” the man boomed. “I am leader here.” (14)

“Brasen.” He forced his body to sit up straight as he said it. (15)

“What are you, Brasen?” (16)

“I—” he began, but someone slapped him on the back of the head. Jema. Apparently, it was not time to talk yet. (17)

Ekon looked up at the canopy for a moment and sighed. He pulled a long-stemmed pipe from beneath his cloak, and grabbed a small torch from someone nearby. (18)

“Have you come to punish us?” he asked, lighting the bowl as he spoke. (19)

Brasen shifted his stance uneasily, but said nothing. (20)

Ekon handed off the torch, took a draught on the stem and let the smoke drift lazily over his face. “Or perhaps you are here to absolve us?” He chuckled lightly at his own question. A moment passed in silence until, with a curious flick of Ekon’s hand, two men rushed to the center and hauled Brasen closer to the big man. They dropped him at the leader’s feet. He truly was a giant. (21)

“You are young,” Ekon observed, peering down at him over his nose, “barely older than my own daughter. Young for a judge.” (22)

Everyone laughed. (23)

Ekon flipped his hand again and the men dragged Brasen back to the center. (24)

“Perhaps you are a trickster,” Ekon said, “a fraud, come to deceive us? to frighten our children?” (25)

Your children didn’t seem very frightened when they captured me, Brasen scoffed silently. (26)

“Or perhaps you are just a fool,” Ekon continued, “who has stumbled through a gate to a place he does not belong.” (27)

“I am not a fool,” said Brasen. Jema struck him again, but he let it pass, and looked up until he found Ekon’s eyes—bright amber, like Jema’s. He held the leader’s gaze defiantly, but said nothing more. (28)

Ekon seemed nonplussed by this. He nursed his pipe thoughtfully. “If you are not a fool, then what are you?” (29)

Brasen raised his voice so the whole crowd could hear. “Like many of you here, I am a warrior for my people. I was in a great battle, defending my home. But we lost. I came through the gate to escape my enemy. I barely made it out alive.” (30)

“A fool and a coward, then!” called someone from the trees. (31)

Sha, sha, sha,” yelled another. Within seconds, the entire company took up the chant. “_Sha, sha, sha, sha, sha_…” (32)

But then Ekon raised his staff, and everyone fell silent once again. (33)

“You interest me, boy,” said Ekon. “You are young, and noisy as a parrot. Yet your heart beats like that of the great cat. I see the wildness in your eyes.” He took a long draught on the pipe. “Here is my offer to you. Tell us a story. Tell us a story of the world beyond these trees. If the story is good enough, you will live.” (34)

Brasen furrowed his brows. “A story? What story do you want to hear?” (35)

But Ekon said nothing. (36)

“I am hungry,” said Brasen. “I cannot feel my arms. Let me rest. Then I will tell you a story.” (37)

But Ekon shook his head slowly. “No. Now.” (38)

Brasen sighed. Ekon wasn’t going to give him any time to think. What story could he tell that would keep him alive? “At least free me from these bonds,” he said at last, “and let me stand before you like a man.” (39)

Ekon considered a moment, then nodded lightly. Men came immediately and cut free Brasen’s wrists. The scream of his shoulders immediately faded as he brought his hands forward. They looked purple and bloated, and immediately began to throb as blood flowed through them once again. (40)

As slowly as he dared, Brasen shifted his weight to one foot, pushed his body up, and awkwardly came to stand upright. His head immediately swam as his blood flow adjusted. He was still so weak. He stomach churned in complaint at its emptiness. He skin was crusty with tree dust and sweat. He smelled. He had nothing but his loin cloths to cover himself. He must have looked like a madman before them. He felt vulnerable, and exposed.
But it wasn’t the first time he had felt like that. (41)

“I know what it is be as I am before you now,” he began, “naked, filthy, with no one to stand with me, no one to fight for me. I raised myself from the time I was just a boy, in woods not so different from these. I grew up alone. I learned to live on my own, as you have here in this Watch. I learned to trust no one, just as you do not trust me. My mother and my father were slain by guardians from Phallenar…foul warriors who fight for evil lords. They speak the Tongue of Death, a Death that has claimed their souls, though they do not know it. They rule the Inherited Lands by the power of that dark Tongue, and by that Tongue they corrupt everything they touch. (42)

“I watched as their guardians burned my parents alive, right in our very home. I was just a youngling, so small my father threw me out the window to save me from the flames. I hid, but I did not run away. I watched them burn. (43)

“They slew my father because he would not bow to them. He fought against them. He was a great warrior who believed in a power greater than the Tongue of Death. He believed in Dei’lo, a language of Life and healing and goodness, the native tongue of the Giver himself, brought to men through his emissary, the Pearl. My father believed in this Tongue of Life even though he didn’t know how to speak it. He’d never heard a single Word of Dei’lo himself. Not in his entire life. But he believed in it. And he taught me to believe in it, too. (44)

“He was not the only one. There were others—_are_ others—all across the Inherited Lands who also believe in Dei’lo. As I grew up, living on the edges of the soundens, I heard about them. They called themselves the Remnant. They fought against the Council Lords, just as my father had. Eventually I learned that some of them had rediscovered an ancient fortress, a secret place in the mountains that was once the home of the Pearl, before Gideon’s Fall. It lies in a hidden place, very hard to find. But as soon as I was old enough, I set out to find it. It took a long time, and by the time I reached it, I was nearly dead. But I didn’t care if I died, because if I couldn’t join them, then I didn’t want to live anyway. (45)

“But they found me. And they let me join them. In time, I became a warrior like my father, only better than my father, because I learned the Language of Life. I speak Dei’lo. I don’t know why it doesn’t work here. But I tell you true, it is a Language of great power, and great good! (46)

“I have committed my life to the destruction of the Council Lords…to the destruction of their foul Tongue of Death, and to the eradication of every guardian who has ever spilled innocent blood. (47)

“It was this same keep, this ancient home of the Pearl, that I was fighting to protect when I stumbled through the gate, and it was those same foul guardians and the lords who hold their leashes that I was battling against with every ounce of my strength until the moment I found myself here. (48)

“So hear me, all of you! I am not too proud to beg you for my life. I do! I beg you for my life! But not for me. Not for me! But for my cause, for the battle that I fight. Let me go, that I may continue to fight it! My people and I, we are strong, but we are few. And our enemy is vast. If you let me go, I will leave you in peace. I swear on my honor I will tell no one of you. But if I am to die, then let me die fighting the evil that has poisoned our Lands since the day the Pearl was slain.” (49)

Brasen let out one long last breath, and let his shoulders drop. He couldn’t say where the words had come from, or how they would be received, but it had taken everything he had to say them. (50)

Anxiously, he glanced up at Ekon, whom he’d intentionally avoided looking at while he was speaking. The big man’s face was hard and stoic as a rock, but his amber eyes were full of tears. (51)

Many others were also weeping. They held each other and kept their faces down. But some, like Jema, glared at him, clearly angry, and defiant. (52)

Finally, Ekon’s booming voice broke the silence. (53)

“Your story is not good enough,” he said with a cold fury. “You will die.” (54)


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Inherited Lands
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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