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

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CHAPTER 5: THE RAANTHAN PLATEAU (PART 2)

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

After moving some distance away from the tower, the Raanthan turned down a gently curving road and carried them into one of the wispy structures that lined the street. Aside from having multiple levels, a fact which struck Ajel as pointless given the lack of any solid foundation for the upper floors, the structure was much like all the others they had passed. (1)

Upon entering, he immediately noticed two things. First, it was warm, much warmer than it should have been, or even could have been, given the translucent nature of the fabric walls. The winds kept blowing them about like untethered sails, but he felt no wind inside at all. (2)

Second, there was music. He didn’t hear it until he crossed the threshold of the entryway, but once across it filled the space like a warm caress. It was neither soft nor loud, nor like any music he had ever heard. It sung through the fabric of the walls and ceiling, alternately swelling and receding with the random movement of the wind, and yet it was coherent, as if it were a work of art previously composed, played now by an unseen intelligence. It was stunningly beautiful. (3)

Once inside, the four Raanthan pressed both he and Donovan to their knees, and then released them. They remained standing behind them, however, blocking the way out. (4)

From another room deeper in the structure, two more Raanthan entered. The first was the one who had spoken to Ajel, and whom he knew from Setal Rapha. The second was much taller, broader of shoulder, and with eyes more dangerous than any of the others. His skin glistened, or nearly glowed, in a way that made him difficult to focus on directly. It was like looking at the reflection of sunlight on water, only not quite so intense. It was quite marvelous. (5)

“You know the Words cannot affect us,” the larger Raanthan said. His voice, like all the Raanthan, was like liquid silver. Ajel nodded. “Even so, if either of you breathe so much as a fragment of a Word, the watchers behind you will decimate you where you kneel.” (6)

Both Ajel and Donovan nodded their understanding. One of the Raanthan behind them reached around and dislodged Ajel’s gag. He swallowed, stifling a cough for fear of making any noise they might find threatening. He looked to Donovan, who’s gag remained firmly in place. The big man only shrugged. (7)

“This one with you,” said the Raanthan, pointing at Donovan, “has been corrupted by the Dark Tongue. Is he your captive?” (8)

“No,” said Ajel. “He is my friend.” (9)

The Raanthan blinked. “There can be no friendship between darkness and light.” (10)

Ajel nodded. “But those lost in darkness can be redeemed from the Shadow when grace is true.” (11)

The Raanthan considered this for a moment. Then said, “His eyes are unchanged.” (12)

“It is his heart I have befriended,” said Ajel, “not his eyes.” (13)

“You stand as surety for him, then,” the Raanthan concluded. “If he turn foul, it is you we will slay first. Then him.” (14)

“I have no fear of that,” said Ajel. (15)

The Raanthan behind them then removed Donovan’s gag as well. (16)

“Thank you?” said Donovan, with a cocked eyebrow. (17)

Ajel began to speak, but the big Raanthan broke in first. “Who are you?” he demanded, “and how did you find your way into the middle of my camp?” (18)

“I am called Ajel Windrunner, Paladin of the Remnant of the Pearl, and until recently a guardian of Wordhaven.” (19)

“A guardian?” the Raanthan asked. (20)

“Like those of old,” said Ajel, “before the corruption of Phallenar.” (21)

The Raanthan blinked at this, but otherwise revealed nothing of his thoughts. “And you, black eyes?” (22)

“Dononvan Truthstay,” he replied. “fellow member of the Remnant and Chief at Arms of Wordhaven.” (23)

“You speak the Pearl’s Tongue?” (24)

“I do,” said Donovan. “Though as a child might.” (25)

“A convert, then,” said the Raanthan. “Doubtful.” (26)

Ajel rose to Donovan’s defense. “My friend speaks true—” (27)

“Who sent you?” the Raanthan demanded, his bronze eyes suddenly brighter and more threatening. “You are puppets of Yirah are you not?” (28)

“Apologies, great leader,” said Ajel. He felt the sting of his burns returning as his body warmed. “We do not know who Yirah is.” He nodded toward the Raanthan standing nearby. “This Raanthan with you knows I am who I claim. We met before, on the slopes of the great mountain.” He was careful not to say the name of the place, for it was in the High Tongue, too close to Dei’lo to risk speaking here. (29)

“So Amets has said,” replied the leader, his eyes cooling once more. “He says you have a connection with the Waymaker.” (30)

“Yes! Yes!” said Ajel, excited at the prospect of finding common ground. “Gideon Dawning has spent a great deal of time with us. Even now my brother and other servants of the Pearl travel with him on his quest.” (31)

A pause. Then, slowly, “Do you know of one called Telus? One like us?” (32)

“Yes,” Ajel replied. “He travels with them as well.” (33)

“No. He does not,” said the leader. “He is no longer with them.” (34)

“Why is this?” Donovan interjected. “Did something happen to him?” (35)

The leader was silent for a long moment. At last he said, “We do not know where he is. Or what has become of him.” (36)

“And the Waymaker and his company?” Ajel ventured. “Do you know what has come of them?” (37)

But the big Raanthan ignored the question. “How did you come to be in this camp?” he asked again. (38)

“We came through a portal in Wordhaven,” replied Ajel. “We come seeking your help. Wordhaven has fallen to—” (39)

“Those portals have been sealed since the Great Fall!” declared the leader. “You did not come by them.” (40)

“We did,” countered Ajel firmly. “We opened them.” (41)

The leader made an unusual gesture with his hand then turned his back to them. “We know of your ‘Remnant,’” he said. “Amets claims the Giver has spoken to him about you.” He turned to face them. “The home of the Pearl has fallen again, yes?” Ajel nodded gravely. “Amets says we should help you recover it.” (42)

“Yes!” said Ajel. “Yes, that is why we have come to you. We are strong in Dei’lo but few in number. You are a fierce and mighty people—” (43)

“Why should I believe Amets?” the leader said. “He is a mystic like the one called Telus, now disappeared, his mission abandoned.” (44)

“Why should you not believe him?” asked Ajel. (45)

“Because the Giver doesn’t speak to us anymore!” the leader yelled, his eyes and skin flaring up like fire. “The Giver hasn’t spoken to us since the day the Pearl was slain! We broke our vow, and we have been severed and lost ever since.” He sighed deeply, and let his shoulders fall a little. “Now we are corrupted, splintered from within and debased into factions. Like you. Why should we help you?” (46)

“Perhaps we could help one another?” offered Donovan. “I take it the war is not going well?” (47)

Ajel glanced at Donovan. What war? But in the time it took to have the thought, the big Raanthan had grabbed Donovan by his tunic and with a single silvery hand hoisted him into the air. (48)

“So you are an agent of Yirah then,” he said softly. But his eyes were fire. (49)

“I am not,” said Donovan calmly. “But I am a man of war. I know the signs of an embattled army when I see one.” (50)

The Raanthan considered him a moment, then tossed the big man to the ground as if he might a sack of old rags. “You are human, black eyes. Weak. Not like us. You know nothing of our ways.” (51)

Donovan quietly pulled himself to his feet, then continued as if the violence had never happened. “I can see your warriors are strong, it’s true, both in body and in number. Yet they are disheartened. A cloud of hopelessness and despair rests on this camp. This can only mean you are either sorely outnumbered, or else yours is the greater force and yet you are still losing. And I see now by your reaction that it is the latter.” (52)

The Raanthan said nothing. (53)

“It seems both our peoples are in great need,” added Ajel. “Perhaps there is a way we can help one another.” (54)

The leader looked to Amets, and the two held each other’s gaze for a long moment. Then the leader turned back to face Ajel and Donovan. “We shall see,” he said. “But first we will verify your claims. If your words prove true, we will speak again. For now, you will remain in the camp.” (55)


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Gideon's Dawn Waymaker

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