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

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CHAPTER 6: SOLIDARI SOUNDEN

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

I did not see it at the time, but the people of Solidari changed me. In their grotesque, misshapen bodies, I witnessed a beauty and a valiance of soul I did not know existed. For in spite of all the injustice they had suffered, even to the curse of being born riftmen and so denied the life any human soul deserved, they chose to trust in love to set them free and set things right again. (1)
In a peculiar way I felt a kinship with their story, for though I was no riftman, I knew something of what it meant to be raised under the shadow of a curse. But where I had chosen hate and judgment to rail against my oppressors, the People had chosen forgiveness, and love. My time with them awakened me to see that theirs is the better and more powerful way. This singular revelation was destined to change everything about my life. (2)
— The Kyrinthan Journals, Musings, Chapter 32, Verses 56-57

“Awake! Leave now!”
“Who speaks?” I ask. But I hear no answer.
I stand on a hillock under a black sky. Solidari lay sprawled before me in utter devastation. The trees! The trees! They are strewn like corpses across the scorched earth. Their roots torn from the ground like the raw bleeding bones of severed limbs. And beside them! Oh, beside them lay the burned ruins of the People, frozen by fire in the terror of their final breath!
“Awake! Leave now!”
That voice. Who is that speaking?
“Get up! Go east into the Fallen Wood!”
“Who are you?” I yell to the blackened sky.
Everything turns a pure and pearly white, and then…
“Awake!” (3)

Revel’s body bolted out of his bed before his mind knew what had happened. His breath, fast and shallow, beat in rhythm with his speeding heart. He scanned the room for danger. The Waymaker lay still as stone upon his cot, the Staff and Pearl clutched in his hands as usual. Revel’s own hands were raised in fighting stance. Slowly, he breathed in deep and dropped his arms, calling his body to relax. He chuckled quietly at himself. It had been quite a dream. (4)

At that precise moment, Aybel burst into the room, shocking Revel back into a fighting stance. It took her eyes half a second to take him in, note his alarm and dismiss it as irrelevant. It took him just as long to realize he was wearing nothing but underpants. (5)

“Why aren’t you dressed?” she demanded. “You saw the dream, too, didn’t you?” He nodded faintly, considering for the first time that the dream was something more than just a dream. “We must leave now. Revel!” She clapped him on the shoulder. “What are you waiting for? Get moving!” (6)

He blinked. “The others…” he began. (7)

“The priests are coming,” she explained. “They will deal with the Waymaker, and the Pearl. Get your things together. Time is short!” (8)

Just then, the three Trevail priests entered. They were dressed for travel through the Barrens, but with new packs Gideon hadn’t seen before tight and neat upon their shirtless backs. From one of them, Terebin pulled out two of the Worded cloaks and tossed one to Revel. (9)

“You’ll need this,” he said. (10)

Revel nodded. “What of the Waymaker?” (11)

“We will keep him suspended with us in a sphere. It will slow our progress, but it will be safer for him.”
Revel blinked. “Surely the Pearl–” (12)

“Revel!” Aybel interrupted. “Get your things. Now.” (13)

He nodded again, slowly awakening to the realization of what was going on. The Pearl had spoken to them! Well, in a dream, but still. Had they really all seen the same dream? Aybel seemed convinced of it. He guessed she had already quizzed the priests about it. Or maybe they had dreamed it first? (14)

His thoughts rambled along this path as he dressed and gathered his things. There really wasn’t much. Just the cloak, a little water, and a small wooden carving of a bird that Song had made for him as a gift. Within a few minutes, he was ready to depart. (15)

While he packed, the priests had taken Gideon’s cot and torn off the legs. Now it hovered above the floor, floating on the Words, with the Waymaker and the Pearl bundled up on top. Gideon slept as if in a coma. At least he wasn’t moaning now, as he often did. (16)

“Let’s go,” said Aybel, and out the door she went. Revel followed, with the priests and Gideon following behind. The night was still pitch black, so Aybel called forth a tiny glowing orb and placed it over the party to help light the way. It provided only a little light, but even so they traversed the limbs of the mighty trees with ease, and crossed several hanging walkways before they finally had to drop to the ground in order to continue east. They floated down in blue-lit spheres, the priests all sharing one with the Waymaker in the center. (17)

“What about the People?” Revel whispered once they reached the ground. “We need to warn them.” (18)

“The Pearl will see to them,” Aybel replied. (19)

“He didn’t in the dream,” said Revel. But Aybel only sighed in irritation, and kept marching toward the darkness to the east. (20)

“Our directive is clear,” she whispered, without turning around. “You are the one who said we must wait for the Pearl’s instruction before we move. You were right. Now we have it.” (21)

This time is was Revel who sighed. “I do not feel right leaving them behind. If you saw the same dream I did, then you know the devastation coming upon them. It’s Lord Stevron, I’d wager, or his servants. They’re coming.” (22)

Aybel stopped her march and turned to face him. Even in the dark he could tell she was angry. “I saw the same dream, Revel,” she whispered harshly. “I saw it! Alright? Everything. It’s not easy for me either. But we don’t have time for this. You know as well as I; we must do as the Pearl directs! If you can’t do that, then turn back. Warn them. But as for me, I will take the Pearl out of this sounden, and I will do it now! Decide!” With that, she turned and continued her eastward march. (23)

Revel didn’t say anything back. There was nothing to say. He just stood there as the priests passed him by, with the Waymaker and the Pearl floating in their midst. (24)

The Pearl. (25)

He wasn’t angry at Aybel. At least she was clear in her own conscience. But he was still catching up. Would the Pearl really abandon the People this way? Would he leave them without warning, only to let the entire sounden be devastated by Stevron? The dream seemed painfully vivid on this point, and utterly unapologetic. (26)

Aybel had been offended by the Pearl’s silence. Now it seemed Revel was offended by his voice. (27)

He breathed in deep and blew the air out slowly through his mouth. Then he took off to the east, running to catch up with the others. (28)

A handful of minutes later they reached the eastern edge of the sounden, where they were all surprised to find young Grace there waiting for them. She, too, was dressed for a journey, and clutched a small pack just like those the priests carried. (29)

Revel approached and touched her on the arm. “What are you doing here, Grace?” (30)

“I am to guide you to the river,” she said, smiling, “and beyond that all the way to the hidden stairs that lead down to the black waters.” (31)

Revel glanced at Aybel and the priests. They were all frowning. He knelt down and grasped the young girl’s hand. “That is very brave of you, Grace. But, please understand, we cannot take you with us. It is too dangerous where we are going. You must go warn the Speaker. We fear the People may soon be attacked.” (32)

But Grace only smiled. “The Teacher spoke to me, Revel,” she said. “He told me to meet you here. He told me to guide you through the Fallen Wood. He spoke to you as well, yes?” (33)

Revel sighed, then nodded. (34)

“Then we should go,” said Grace. “We don’t have much time.” (35)

Revel squeezed her hand. “Give us a moment, Grace.” He and Aybel walked several paces away. The priest Terebin joined them. (36)

“We cannot travel with a child,” the priest said flatly. “We will be slowed enough with the Waymaker as it is.” (37)

Aybel nodded in agreement, her eyes the girl. “I cannot think the Pearl put her to this. She is just a child!” (38)

Revel shrugged. “She is here. She knew we were coming. What reason has she to lie?” (39)

“You are all the reason she needs, you blind hawk!” said Aybel. “The girl is smitten with you.” (40)

Revel shook his head. “A child’s infatuation,” he said. “It’s nothing serious. Certainly nothing she would risk her life over.” (41)

Aybel snorted derisively. “How little you understand the intricacies of a young girl’s heart.” (42)

“It matters not,” said Terebin. “We need no guide. The other San’gradon and I can lead the way.” (43)

“You know this river she speaks of,” asked Revel, “and this hidden stairway to the gorge?” (44)

“We know of the river,” he said, a little defensively. “We call it Wormwood. A few of our priests have surveyed it, though I have never seen it myself.” (45)

“Go east long enough and we’re sure to come to the gorge,” added Aybel. “We don’t need Grace to find it.” (46)

“But where will we cross?” countered Revel. “How will we cross, hmm? No one crosses the gorge and lives. You know this, Aybel. Even the Sea Folk fear to drift too close to those cliffs! If Grace knows a way, are we not fools to ignore it?” (47)

“I cannot believe we’re even talking about this!” Aybel snapped. “We need to go, now! She is a child. We cannot take her with us.” (48)

“Agreed,” said Terebin. (49)

“Aybel!” The cry came from Gideon. He lay within the priests’ protective sphere, writhing on his cot, his face in a grimace of pain. “Aybel!” (50)

She raced to him. The priests had barely time to dissolve the sphere before she reached him. She grabbed Gideon’s arm, careful to avoid the staff he still gripped in both hands. (51)

“I’m here, Gideon,” she said. “I’m here.” (52)

He writhed and moaned and then he said, “Grace must go with you!” His eyes were still closed. “She must lead the way.” He strained at his neck as if each word hurt as it emerged. Then his eyes flew open and in a flash of movement he grabbed her by the back of the neck and yanked her forward. “Stop bickering and go!” (53)

Then just as quickly as he had come to life, the Waymaker sank back into his fitful dream. Aybel spoke his name and tried to wake him again, but it was no use. (54)

Quietly, Grace walked up next to Aybel and Gideon. She placed her hand upon the Pearl, which was itself bundled in a blanket to conceal its glow. “Shall we go now?” she asked, looking up at Aybel. Her face was so innocent in that moment, it seemed to Revel. And yet so knowing. (55)

“Yes, Grace,” Aybel replied, tears rising unbidden in her eyes. She brushed a stray hair out of the girl’s face. “Let’s go.” (56)

No one said anything for a long while after that. The priests reformed the sphere around Gideon, and Aybel and Revel began their long march east, with Grace out in front, quietly humming as she went. (57)

It was not quite an hour before the screams reached them. (58)

It echoed through the great trees, carried on a foul breeze from the west. The sound of them was like a great chorus wailing in the distance, screaming out in unison their final desperate grasp at life. They could see no smoke on account of the trees, but Revel was certain the People were being burned alive; not quickly as happens with certain Words in Sa’lei, but slowly, for torture’s sake. He had heard cries like that before. He’d seen the guardians murder in this way many times, beginning with the traveling band of Roamers who had been his only family as a child. (59)

The company stopped without saying a word. Grace was crying. “We cannot go back,” she said. The weight of sorrow in her eyes was nearly unbearable. Aybel enfolded the girl in her arms and pressed her head into her chest. (60)

“We cannot stop here,” said Terebin, looking up. “The forest is watching us closely now, waiting for the opportunity to strike. We must move quickly to reach its border before nightfall.” (61)

“A moment, Terebin,” said Aybel quietly. “It is a great loss, especially for one so young.” (62)

“It may only be a deception of the Wood,” Ammiel offered. “There is no way to know for certain.” (63)

That seemed a thin hope to Revel. The dream had been painfully clear. (64)

Just then, one of the great trees bent low and with its corded limbs gripped the Worded sphere surrounding the Waymaker and the three Trevail priests and began to crush it. Blue fire and lightning crackled out under the strain of it. Cracks formed almost instantly, spreading downward toward the base, but the priests paid them no mind. Instead, they turned their attention to the base of the great tree and as if with one mind spoke to the thickly corded trunk. (65)

“Elo’savare alem adaluz’lim velis delim sera atrim.” (66)

The great tree shuddered, and from its roots deep beneath the black earth a shriveling arose, crawling up the great trunk like a wasting plague. The black thick bark turned grey and dry as old ash, and the thickness of the once mighty trunk shrank away like a corpse long dead in the grave. (67)

The branches of the beast released their grip on the sphere, and the priests yelled “Run!” just as the once mighty trunk began to pop and splinter under its own weight. Aybel hoisted Grace into her arms and the entire company took off in a panicked sprint to get clear of the tree before it collapsed upon them. (68)

They did just in time, and the priests in the last moment threw up a wall of air to shield them from the dust of the tree as it shattered on the forest floor. Revel called a second wind to blow the dust away, and when the air was clear, the priests dispersed the shimmering wall. Aybel and Revel checked their bodies to make sure they hadn’t been scratched on the run. Grace had no need to do this, of course, since the poison of the Barrens had no effect on her. (69)

“It was the sphere,” Terebin said at last. “The use of Dei’lo draws the attention of the Barrens. It shines like a light in a dark place, and brings pain to every form of spoiled life here. They seek it out to destroy it.” (70)

“What did you say to the tree?” inquired Aybel. “I do not know those Words.” (71)

“We spoke not to the tree, but to the water within it,” Terebin explained. “We liberated it into the open air.” (72)

“This is a common Word among the priests,” added Ammiel. “We use it often with the spoiled plants of the Wasted Lands.” (73)

Aybel nodded and said nothing more. But Revel knew what she was thinking. (74)

Such a Word could be used on a person as well, pulling all the moisture from their bodies. Including the blood. (75)

“Restore the sphere around the Waymaker,” said Revel. “We’d best keep moving.” (76)


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Gideon's Dawn Waymaker

"...a work of extreme depth and breadth of vision."
-Christian Fiction Review

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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