Looking back, it is a curious sorrow to me now to have lived so many years in the Lands and not to have noticed even a tenth of the wonders it held. Where was my soul then? Where were my eyes? How could I not have recognized then what now so captivates my attention? But perhaps the magic hardest to see is that which lives within our ordinary lives.
— The Kyrinthan Journals, Musings, Chapter 24, Verses 12-13
“Jeo Roph–” The Words devolved into a scream as the spear brushed once more against the dark. Brasen could see nothing. His consciousness was falling away. His mind could not hold onto anything now, and he clutched at the two Words like vines in quicksand. Finally, in the the last breath before passing, he managed to choke them out. “Rophe…Jeo Rophe.” (1)
A familiar warmth washed through his bones, saturating his body from torso to arms to hips to legs, like cool water through cloth. He heard a slipping on his leg, and the remnant of the spear dropped with a dull thud onto the dirt. He breathed in deep, with no pain in his ribs or anywhere he could feel, and opened his eyes. (2)
There was still nothing. Or nothing much. He saw blacks and deep-hued greens, and in the heights far away, a smattering of lights that could have been stars. But the atmosphere was thick with the scent of honey and loam, and against his hand he felt the familiar thick skin of a bian’ar tree. A Watch, then, he thought. But which one? He prayed to the Giver it wasn’t Strivenwood. Or the fallen forest of the Barrens. (3)
Slowly, and with meticulous care, he performed a survey of his body. The Words had healed, but if this was the Barrens or Strivenwood, it could be deception. From head to waist, he took inventory of his body, then, when that proved well, carefully sat up and felt his legs. His leathers were torn and covered in a sticky wet he knew was blood, but the leg beneath was clear of any sign of wound. Even his hip no longer felt sore. (4)
He found the spear fragment with his hand and leveraged it to shuffle to his knees. Then he stood. (5)
And immediately collapsed again. (6)
The loss of blood must have been greater than he guessed. The Words could heal what was broken, but did not replace what was lost. The Words could not undo the need for water or food or rest, and he needed all of those in abundance just now. He could feel it in his bones. The battle for Wordhaven, the struggle to see everyone safely through the portals, the shock of his injuries and the battle for his own life at the end – all of it had left him utterly spent. It’s only now that the immediate threat had passed that he could feel it. If he didn’t find water, his body would start shutting down. And no litany of healing Words could stop it. (7)
Keep your wits, Brasen, he thought to himself. Get moving. (8)
More slowly this time, and with added support from the nearby bian’ar tree, he pulled his body to its feet. His legs were shaky, but this time they held. (9)
His thoughts felt heavy, and weighted with the longing for sleep. First thing: transport to Chara Sounden. Second: find Alec. He’d be an old man now, but he’d always been kind to Brasen as a boy. He would help. Then once his strength was restored, he’d make the journey to Songwill to join the others. (10)
He pictured in his heart the place just outside the sounden where he would often sleep when he was a boy. He liked it there because it was hidden, and because although he could not be seen he could still hear the life of the sounden. It made it feel almost like home. (11)
He spoke the Words, and opened his eyes. (12)
Nothing. Nothing but black, and deep-hued greens, and the smell of honey everywhere. (13)
He spoke the Words again. And again. And again. But they did not work. (14)
He couldn’t fathom why. Were Sa’lei lords nearby? Did Varia’s Word, or that of the other lord, Mattim, still cling to him somehow? None of that seemed likely, or even possible. But even so… (15)
He tried saying other things in Dei’lo. Words to bring peace to his thoughts, to blow wind through the forest, to set a twig on fire. None of them did anything. (16)
Sighing heavily, he let his shoulders slump into the rough bark of the tree at his back. (18)
“Giver help me,” he whispered. The Watch answered with only silence. (19)
No matter, Brasen, some distant part of him said to himself. There’s nothing for it now. You need a new plan. (20)
The first thing: Find water. The second: shelter, and food if he could. Having been on his own in the wild since he was a boy, he was highly skilled in forest lore. Given enough time, he could find a way to survive in most any environment. But the deep heart of a Watch was one of the worst places to try to survive. The canopy made a perpetual night of the forest floor, leaving it mostly barren earth. There was the occasional nightside shrub, but it was inedible even to insects. The only life in the dark lived near the streams that sometimes formed between the great trees. There he could find certain snakes and water bugs. But those were rare, as the trees gathered all the water around them up in their trunks. He could use the spear to cut through the heavy bark and reach the liquid within, but he was unskilled at harvesting bian’ar, and if you didn’t do it right, the water would come out foul enough to kill you. He wouldn’t attempt that unless there was no other way. (21)
If he could only manage to reach the heights of the trees, there was abundant life up there, where the sun still held sway, and ponds of fresh rain water captured by the leaves. But even the shortest of the trees were over three hundred feet tall. In his current state, he doubted he could climb even twenty. (22)
No. The best course was to find a stream. And the best way to do that was to head downhill. (23)
Leaving the support of the bian’ar tree, Brasen stumbled out onto the open ground. The darkness made it nearly impossible to tell, but by shuffling his feet this way then that he was able in time to discern a slight decline to the left. (24)
He began to walk. (25)
Ach! Wish this book would get finished. I’ve been waiting years.
Me too, Jesse. Me too. Hang in there.
"...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.