Embedded deep in the center of the Stand, the Chamber of the Pearl resides as both the heart of the Inherited Lands, and perhaps its most enduring enigma. Like many rooms within the Wordhaven fortress, the chamber is Worded, though even after years of study since its rediscovery, the full extent of its Wording is still not known.
What we do know, as of this writing, is this: The chamber amplifies and sharpens certain Words of place and dreaming and truth, allowing the speaker to locate specific objects or people anywhere in the world, as well as to see in detail locations for which the heart is longing or to which the heart must go. It is likewise able to reveal the deep truth of any matter properly presented to it, though these revelations are sometimes cryptic, requiring wisdom and reflection to rightly interpret.
It is written that from the chamber the Pearl ruled the whole of the Inherited Lands; therefore, many scholars believe it likely the chamber’s Wording also provides a means of communication, and possibly even direct action, across great distances, though if so the Words governing these functions are not yet known.
Mysteries also persist regarding the waters of the spring head fountain at the chamber’s center, which can heal any wound or illness, even restoring what is lost in the body, which we know is a feat the Words themselves cannot accomplish.
As for the Ring of Bright Water that encircles the fountain in a never-ending flow, its function has historically always been shrouded in mystery, even back to the first of the High Lords of Wordhaven. No one knew anything of its purpose until the Waymaker came.
—The Kyrinthan Journals, The Languages of Power, Section 5, Verses 42-50
As Seer opened the Book for the thousandth time, she noticed the smudges of dirt on the backs of her aging hands. She inspected her palms, and seeing dirt there as well, shook her head in disdain. Setting the Book aside, she gathered her old staff and shuffled her way down to the Ring of Bright Water. Too old for this, she thought bitterly again as she struggled to kneel next to the flow so she could wash the dirt away. It was probably heresy, what she was doing, but these were unprecedented times. Would the Giver really squabble over a little dirt in the water? (1)
Besides, she’d done far worse. Since the occupation, she’d been drinking from the fountain, an act forbidden even for the High Lord of Wordhaven without the express command from the Pearl itself. But what else could she do? The Remnant had emptied the Stand of all provisions when they fled. The fountain alone had kept her alive. Once each day or two, she would strip naked and slip her body into the Ring of Bright Water, dog-paddle her way in the flow until she could grasp the inner edge, then reach out and capture a single cupped hand full of the healing waters of the fountain. Just one swallow did it. No hunger. No thirst. No weariness in her bones. For a day at least. Sometimes longer. (2)
She thought the Giver would understand. (3)
At least, he really should. (4)
There was too much at stake. (5)
As she knelt over the waters of the Ring, she caught a glimpse of the wild nest of her white hair, and rolled her eyes. Until recently, her hair had been the last remaining pride of her life, a final echo of the great beauty of her youth. Now she couldn’t be bothered to care. Funny how a war puts things in perspective. (6)
She wiped her hands on her ivory cloak, which was none too clean itself anymore, then took her staff in hand and plodded her way back to her seat, and the Book. (7)
She’d spent countless days lost in it, studying it, learning it, since the moment Varia and her Sa’lei crones had moved in. By now she’d learned more perhaps even than Ajel. But it still wasn’t enough. She still didn’t know how to activate Wordhaven’s defenses. She wanted to purge Wordhaven of these interlopers. Defilers! Fools, every one of them. She’d never wanted anything more, not in all of her one hundred and forty-four years. But in all her long hours of study, she still couldn’t find the Words. Perhaps the language wasn’t even in the Book. It could be somewhere in the tapestries, or lost to time. It may be even that Wordhaven’s defenses weren’t activated by a command of _Dei’lo_—though, really, that seemed incredulous at this point. (8)
But then, if she couldn’t deliver Wordhaven, why stay? Truth be told, she would have joined the others at Songwill sounden weeks ago if she could. She didn’t know the place well enough to transport there by Word, and though she could open the Songwill portal, pass through and seal it behind her, she knew she could not get to it without being discovered. The Songwill portal sat out in the open spaces of the Inner Hall, and while the “lords” rarely came to the Stand anymore, their guardians deployed continuous patrols though all the great halls. (9)
No matter. Perhaps it was best for all that she remain here anyway, particularly given what she had recently uncovered eavesdropping on the Council Lords. (10)
As to that, she thought, best get to it. (11)
By now she’d memorized the Words for what she wanted to do, but she loved the feel of the Book beneath her fingers, and so reverently opened it again to the familiar passage, and whispered it out like a prayer: (12)
“Elo satras’avelis ya meson shabar imperi visi…” (13)
A song, at once alien and comforting, lifted softly from the floor and floated up the walls in gentle swirls. As it lit on each panel, the liquid crystal morphed, letting go whatever image it held to make room for something new. It didn’t take long for all the facets to shift until one grand image emerged. (14)
She saw Songwill sounden, more than half still razed to the ground, but covered with people like ants, rebuilding. Many were of the Remnant, wielding the Words in beautiful new ways to create great structures as hadn’t been seen in generations within the Lands. There, to the side of it all, sat Kair, staring blankly, not belonging to any of it. Seer wondered why her eyes were so full of sorrow. (15)
She saw Brasen Stoneguard, locked in a wooden cage high up in a bian’ar tree. He huddled near naked on the matted floor, knees drawn up and head bowed low. His captors were starving him to death, pretending they could remain innocent of his blood by not slaying him outright. But it was their own shame they were trying to avoid. (17)
She saw the one they called Stevron Achelli, but no longer him, riding a foul beast southward along the cliffs of the Deathland Barrens. Behind him a great host of riftmen and other despoiled creatures followed en mass, each of them consumed in a mad fury, under compulsion to his dark Word. Only the mon’jalen corded to him knew the truth of their master’s heart, and his black desire. And for this, terror consumed them. (19)
She saw Ajel and Donovan marching with a great company of Raanthan across a barren, frozen wasteland. All were armed for battle. The faces of both the Paladin and the Head of Arms were set like granite. Their hearts were determined to see this through, but neither held great hope they would survive. (20)
She saw a cave forged of boulders secreted away beneath the black waters of the Gorge. Within its Word-forged cocoon of air sat Aybel and Revel next to the underlord daughter of Balaam and Lysteria, who was stricken by a great sickness worse than death. A little girl held her, singing. To the side sat a warrior whose whole body was covered in the Words of Life. Behind them all, nestled near a pile of glowing stones, the Waymaker, Gideon, lay sleeping. His arms clung to his staff as if to a floating branch in a flood. But there on the end of it, sealed to it like it had always belonged there, Seer saw what could not be. (22)
And it, in turn, saw her. (23)
In an instant, every facet of the chamber flashed brilliant white, and she fell back on the floor, laughing ecstatically. (24)
Some time later, she knew not how long, she gently returned to herself, awakening to the moment as if from a beautiful dream. With some effort, she pushed her old frame up from the floor, and absently wiped the tears from her cheeks. (25)
Had she been crying? (26)
She couldn’t remember now. (27)
No matter. He lives! (28)
She knew immediately what she must do now. (29)
With staff in hand she passed through the chamber’s golden doors, sealing them with the Words. No guardians had yet come this deep into the Stand, but if they did they would find no door here, only an impregnable stone wall. She scurried down the narrow serpentine hall, until she came at last to the Inner Hall. (30)
Thankfully, she saw no patrols, though that wouldn’t last long. With a sudden spring in her step and strength in her body that defied her age, she forayed three times into the great Hall, each time collecting a chunk of stone rubble as heavy as she could carry, and stacking it in the narrow hallway. (31)
Once she gathered them all, she checked again to be sure was alone before speaking in Dei’lo to the air and the stones, commanding the one to lift the other, and then to follow wherever she wished. A rush of wind billowed a cloud of dust around her, and the stones rose and followed her as she walked back down the narrow hallway. (32)
She moved with new speed inspired by purpose. Reaching her goal would not be simple, but she knew how to do it with little risk of discovery. She had spent years exploring all the hidden paths and secret rooms that honeycombed the Stand. Ajel had often poked fun at her for it, but she knew now it was all part of the Giver’s will working in her unawares. (33)
At the second opening in the hall, she turned right, and in that room passed through a secret door into a darker and more narrow passage that wound its way down and under the Inner Hall. This came eventually to a crossroads, where she turned left, then right, then left again, and spiraled up to a long, high chamber that she had decided was used for storage at some distant time in the past. On the far end of it, she passed through another door, and another hall, and another, and another, winding her way through the darkness as if it were all a sunlit field, until at last she came to the sun itself—a window in a small bed chamber along the outer wall of Wordhaven. (34)
She sighed in triumph and in weariness, but then immediately set to work. She called the stones to the table there, and finding paper and ink in the drawer, tore out three pieces and wrote in careful script the following message on each one: (35)
The Pearl lives.
Balaam is dead.
The Council is divided.
She laid each message next to its stone, and searched the nearby rooms until she found some twine with which to tie it. Then one at a time she spoke to the stones and from each created a silver-winged eagle. Tying the messages to their legs, she instructed each in Dei’lo to find their chosen target, deliver the message, and afterward be set free to live as great eagles do. (36)
Then, opening the window, she let them all go. (37)
"...a work of extreme depth and breadth of vision."
-Christian Fiction Review
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.