The fall of Wordhaven was like death to the Remnant, the loss of a dream that had fueled their faith for more than a hundred years. In those dark days, hope was a rare and precious fire, and those who managed to keep it burning in their hearts lit the way for the ragged rest. The handful who were hurled to the four corners of the world were like the final grasping prayer of a broken people, desperate for shards of the dream the Lords of Phallenar had shattered.
— The Kyrinthan Journals, Chronicles, Chapter 20, Verses 1-2
The first thing that hit him was the shock of cold air. (1)
The second was a Raanthan. (2)
They smothered them both like a terrible white mist, too fast to be seen, with invisible blows like blocks of ice, pummeling them into the hard, white landscape. Before a thought could even form, Ajel and Donovan were gagged and bound, and left writhing in the snow. (3)
It wasn’t until they stopped moving that Ajel could tell they were seven. Taller than men, thinner, with alabaster skin and a silver cloud of hair and thin spun cloth floating about them like a song on the bitter breeze. They were dressed for battle, but it was their eyes, so large and liquid bronze, that revealed the hidden fire inside. They didn’t speak, but Ajel somehow knew they would have slain both Donovan and him on the spot if one of them hadn’t recognized him from his previous visit. He actually found it surprising the Raanthan recognized him as quickly as he did, with half his hair gone, and half his body blackened by fire as it was. His injuries had bought him no sympathy, however. The Raanthan had beaten his body into the snow every bit as fiercely as they had Donovan’s. He still felt the pain of their attack, but the frigid cold of the ice had actually soothed his burns a bit. He absently wondered whether the Raanthan would allow him to be healed. (4)
It was this same Raanthan, the one who recognized him, who stepped forward now, and glared down at Ajel in what could only be felt as rage and disappointment. (5)
“You dare return? You were warned. The time is not yet come!” (6)
It is! Ajel thought, suspecting they could see his mind. The hour is dark. Our need is great. We have come to beg your help! We come to reforge the ancient alliance between your people and the servants of the Pearl! (7)
At this, all seven opened their mouths impossibly wide and howled into the frozen sky. It sounded like a mourning cry, full of rage. But also shame. Ajel didn’t know what to make of it. Nor it seemed did Donovan, who knelt beside him now, bleeding from the head but with a scowl that conveyed he was as perplexed as Ajel, and clearly frustrated they had been so easily subdued. (8)
The Raanthan said nothing more, but waved his arm in a gesture of disgust and walked away. Four of the seven locked their frigid hands on the Wordhaveners’ arms and lifted them off the ground like rag dolls. They followed the Raanthan who had spoken, while the other two seemed to disappear. (9)
The Raanthan village, if that’s what it was, was like nothing Ajel had ever seen. A distant wall of towering white rose from the arid waste in every direction, and on it silvery specks of movement numbering in the hundreds. The structures within the wall, such as they were, were laid out in a vast circle, so that the entire city—could it be that large?—no doubt would appear from the air as a wheel, with all the structures in concentric circles facing in toward the center. The structures themselves hardly deserved the name, as they were made mostly of the same wispy material the Raanthan wore on their bodies. Most were translucent, all were free flowing, so that the entire encampment seemed to live in a constant state of dance with the movement of the wind. (10)
But it was the centerpiece that truly took Ajel’s breath away. (11)
At the hub of it all a curved spire rose into the sky, so marble white it seemed to disappear against the pale shroud of the frozen landscape. The style of its design made its height difficult to gauge, but it was clearly taller than any tower at Wordhaven or Phallenar Ajel had ever seen. At the pinnacle, far above and obscured by clouds and blowing snow, he thought he could see a platform, too impossibly wide to be stable, except perhaps by force of Word. (12)
What is that tower? Ajel thought to the Raanthan who carried him. What’s its purpose? But if they heard him, they gave no sign of it. (13)
Other Raanthan passing by looked on them with what might have been curiosity, but none came close and no one spoke a word. In fact, the Raanthan as a matter of course did not appear to speak to one another at all. It may be they could hear each other’s thoughts, as it seemed of the Raanthan Ajel encountered on the mountain of Setal Rapha. There was just so much he didn’t know about this peculiar race. There was little about them in the tapestries of Wordhaven, which in itself was a mysterious thing. Were they not the first servants of the Pearl, even before the Endless Age? But there was little recorded in the Stand about them or their ways. He didn’t even know if they believed in the Pearl anymore, or in the just cause of Dei’lo. Yet somehow, he knew he must find a way to convince them to come to their aid. (14)
"...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.