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

Inherited Lands
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CHAPTER 2: THE HALLS OF WORDHAVEN (PART 2)

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

“We must flee now!” a woman cried. (1)

“How much time do we have?” another asked. (2)

“Why doesn’t the Stand awaken?” asked a third. A wave of murmuring flooded the hall, and for a moment Brasen feared the panic would overtake them all again. But Donovan roared at them all to quiet down and the hall fell silent once more. (3)

“There will be time for questions, and for anger, and for grieving,” Ajel boomed. “Later. Later. For now, we will remember who we are. Defeated this day in battle, yes. But not in the war. We will leave this place with order, with calm, and most of all with courage. (4)

“Each one of you knows to which portal you are assigned. We will gather again at the appointed place, and there we will lay our plans to return to Wordhaven and retake our home!” (5)

Everyone cheered at the Paladin’s assurances, but Brasen only looked on. (6)

Abandon Wordhaven? His face flushed hot at the thought. I never believed it would come to this. (7)

The roar of the crowd was nearly deafening, but their panicked thoughts were even louder. Nobody believed it could come to this. (8)

Another sharp command from Donovan, and the cheering faded into the rumble of a thousand footfalls as all that remained of the Remnant marched, stoically if not with a genuine calm, to their appointed portals. The plan was to disperse them to all the major soundens within the Inherited Lands, as well as a handful of other lands where additional help might be found. Each sounden harbored many Remnant supporters. It was hoped that upon hearing about the loss of Wordhaven and the gravity of the need, they would join the fight and travel with the Remnant to Songwill, where all would be gathered under Brasen’s command until Ajel and Donovan arrived. As for the Paladin and the Head of Arms, they would travel by portal to the Raanthan Plateau, where they hoped to convince the Raanthan to join them in their fight against the Council Lords. It was a highly risky endeavor—several of the elders called it foolish—but one that only the most prominent among the Remnant could hope to carry out. (9)

Others would be sent to a few more far flung places—the stakeholds of the Hinterland, the floating Sea Folk capital of Vaganti, even some lands beyond the Eastern Sea—but Brasen never asked who had been assigned those roles. He had been too busy worrying over how long he could hope to manage sufficient food and shelter for several thousand souls descending on a devastated sounden. Until now, a few hundred was the most he’d ever had to lead. And they were soldiers, not refugees. He wanted Donovan and Ajel’s quest among the Raanthan to be successful. But he needed it to be quick. (10)

Suddenly, Brasen was shaken from his thoughts by a long arm landing heavily across his shoulders. (11)

“Help him,” said Donovan, passing the Paladin off to the smaller man. “I have to get our supplies.” With that, he ran off through the crowd. (12)

“You’re injured, Paladin,” said Brasen, catching his first whiff of the putrid stench of burned flesh. “Let me heal you.” (13)

But Ajel shook his head. “Won’t do any good. That witch Varia sealed the injury somehow. It will take some time to work out how to break through it. Just get me to the Chamber. The portal to Setal Rapha lies just outside the doors.” (14)

“As you wish, Paladin.” As gently as he could, Brasen hefted the weight of the bigger man more squarely on his shoulders, and shuffled with him toward the nearest winding passage linking the outer and middle halls. After only a handful of steps, he stopped for Ajel’s labored breathing and the obvious pain marking his face. (15)

“Can we not Transport there?” Brasen asked. (16)

“No. Varia’s Wording prevents it. But we must hurry. It won’t be long before the firestorm breaches the outer hall.” (17)

Firestorm? Brasen asked, using thoughts instead of voice to encourage the Paladin not to try to speak.
In response, Ajel allowed his head to drop, as if thankful for the permission to not appear so strong. Then, instead of thinking a reply to Brasen’s question, Ajel shared with him the memory. (18)

Running. Sweat. Heart pounding in my ears. Run! Run! Run! Run! I hear my footfalls pound the meadow grass in cadence with my rasping breath. Beyond that, only silence. Sweet silence. Faster! (19)

The second wall of fire looms ahead. Hurry! Heat crackles through my shield, restoking the stench of ash and smoke now drenched within my leather. I must enter it again, just once more. Hold on. Hold on. Speak the Words inside the abomination. Unmake it. By making something new. Too many have perished. We’re falling too fast. Four lords! Four! We expected only Varia. (20)

Suddenly a Word—no, two! My body slams into a wall, but there is nothing there. I am falling backward through the air. I feel my body brace to hit the ground. But still I fall. Weightless. Floating. Only in the final instant before I hit do I realize that they hurled me backward toward the Stand. I crash onto the grass upon my back. My lungs implode and burning! Burning! I cannot draw a breath! But she is already on me. (21)

Varia. Floating above me in a blood-soaked sphere. But she is not alone. Is that Mattim? (22)

Black lightning slams my shield, its black claws scratching at the silent barrier looking to make purchase. I am pressed into the earth under the force of it. But still I cannot breathe! Breathe Ajel! Focus! I try to suck in air but all I hear is a hollow gasp rattling in my throat. Black lightning blast. Blast. Blast. Blast. The shield is buckling, I see it buckling and I know it will collapse if I don’t speak a Word but all of it is seeming like a dream now. I am watching from afar. My rasping throat sounds desperate. With each failed breath I feel my thinking lulled into a sleep. (23)

“The next moment I recall,” grunted Ajel, “I was being carried on Donovan’s shoulders as he ran into the Stand, that towering wall of heat and flame racing up behind us.” He winced, tears forced unbidden down his cheeks. Brasen could feel his pain, but Ajel was trying to hide it. (24)

Brasen stopped. “You should not go to the Raanthan in this condition, Paladin. Who knows how they will receive you, if they receive you at all!” He turned to head back the way they came. “Let me take you to Songwill. We can heal you there.” (25)

But Ajel raised a charred hand, and shook his head. “I must go, Brasen. We need them.” (26)

This time it was Brasen who shook his head. But he could feel Ajel’s resolve. There would be no swaying him. With a sigh he turned them back and headed for the Chamber once more. (27)

“I’ve been there once before, you know,” Ajel added, almost with a hint of a humor. (28)

“They know you?” asked Brasen, surprised. (29)

Ajel nodded. “That doesn’t mean they like me, particularly. But they know my name.” He took in a wheezing breath, and winced. “Besides, Donovan will be with me. Everybody likes him.” He tried to chuckle, but was cut short by a spike of pain. (30)

“Here we are,” said Brasen, guiding Ajel around a corner to the enclave where the portal waited. Its grand view remained unchanged, an arid high mountain slope, with views of a vast hope in the lowlands beyond. “Do you want me to go through with you? I can transport back here once you’re safe on the other side.” (31)

“No, Brasen, thank you,” said Ajel. “Just help me settle in here.” He gestured toward the floor next to the portal. “I’ll wait for Donovan. We’ll pass through together.” (32)

“As you wish, Paladin,” replied Brasen, then, as gently as he could manage, manuvered the bigger man down to the floor. (33)

“Besides,” said Ajel with a grunt, “you can’t transport back here at the moment.” He took a painful breath. “Varia’s Word, remember?” (34)

“Just so,” said Brasen. He just stood there, nodding. (35)

“I’ll be fine, Brasen,” said Ajel. “You need to be on your way. Get to Songwill. Your leadership will be needed there. Donovan and I will join you as soon as we may.” (36)

“Let me try to heal you,” said Brasen. “Perhaps it will work now.” (37)

Ajel’s face turned suddenly stern. “Go, Keeper! This is no time for sentimentality. I will be fine. Get to your post!” (38)

Brasen nodded, his eyes moist. “By your word, Paladin,” he said. “I will see you soon.” (39)

Ajel nodded, but had already closed his eyes. (40)


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Inherited Lands
Gideon's Dawn Waymaker

"...a work of extreme depth and breadth of vision."
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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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