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

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CHAPTER 7: CASTELLAN WATCH (PART 1)

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

The ancient Kah were said to be a race of noble bearing, fierce in countenance, faster and more dextrous than the rest of humankind. The oldest stories claimed they were endowed by the Pearl with extraordinary abilities designed to aid them in their commission to guard the seals of Castel Morstal and ensure the one imprisoned within that dark mountain remained so forever. These abilities were never explicitly named, but conjecture on the matter has engrossed many a scholar since the early days of the Grey Age. (1)

From my youth, I had always disdained such speculative debate. It seemed to me a waste of both intellect and imagination, for whatever these gifts were, we would never know, and they were apparently insufficient to the task in any case, as the Dark One did in fact escape his prison under the eye of the Kah. This was their great sin, the eternal shame that led to their judgment and utter removal from the Lands. (2)

Or so I believed, that is, until I met one. (3)

— The Kyrinthan Journals, Songs of Deliverance, Stanza 2, Verses 7-12

Brasen awoke in the highest canopy of a bian’ar tree, his body cocooned in white rope as snugly as a newborn in a blanket. He lay upon a bed of bian’ar leaves, woven to form a hammock of sorts and hung from limbs above by the same rope that bound him. (4)

The sun had just begun to spill in from the east. It was the light that had awakened him. How wonderful to feel the warmth of the sun’s touch again! (5)

He was alone in the room, if you could call it such. Huge man-sized bian’ar leaves partitioned the space into roughly five sides, about ten paces across, and the floor was a mix of thick living branches and the same mesh of woven leaves that formed his hammock. All of it was open to the sky, with only a few of the great leaves dangling from limbs above his head, providing intermittent shade in the breeze. (6)

With the entire length of his arms bound to his sides, and his legs likewise encased in braided rope, he saw little hope of escape for the moment—at least not without Words, but he felt hesitant to speak them just now. The Words had done nothing to stop his captors. It was as if he was speaking nonsense, which they utterly ignored.
He was weak when they caught him, but he doubted it would have mattered even if he’d been fighting fit. He barely saw them, so fast they moved, and silent like shadows. His Words had no effect, so he eventually quit speaking. Though he tried to fight them off in other ways, they quickly subdued and bound him with the quiet efficiency of practiced hunters, then somehow lofted him into the trees. Despite the Words, they didn’t bother gagging him, neither then nor now. (7)

It was night when they put him here, if this was indeed the same place he’d been laid. It was dark then, and he was barely lucid. They gave him something to drink, poured from a leaf like a funnel into this mouth. It was milky and sweet, and it was the last thing he remembered before waking to the sun. (8)

“You are a noisy man. Sloppy.” (9)

She appeared across the room as if she’d emerged out of the great tree itself. She was tall and lovely with a prominent nose and brow and eyes the color of gold. She leaned against the tree in thoughtful repose, twirling the braid of her gold brown hair in her fingers. She somehow gave the impression she might kill him at any moment. (10)

“Even with no chanah, we could hear you stomping about from a full day away. It’s a wonder the snake did not reach you first, and eat you. There is a big one that lives in that part of the Watch.” (11)

“My apologies,” said Brasen. “I will try to be quieter the next time I am so close to dying.” (12)

She shrugged at this. “It would have been easy if we found you dead. The dead are quiet. They bother no one.” (13)

“Again, sorry to disappoint you by stubbornly continuing to live, and so to burden you,” Brasen quipped, “but I think you had a hand in keeping me alive, did you not?” (14)

“Not me,” she said, making a strange cutting gesture with her hand. “Others. I said to leave you in the dirt. Let the snake have you. Or the maggots. You are no concern of ours.” (15)

“I’m grateful to the others, then,” he said. “Tell me, do you still hope to kill me now?” (16)

Again she shrugged, still absently twirling her braid. “Perhaps. You are an outsider. This is not allowed. Your presence is against sha. You only live because you came through the Adon’s gate, and you speak the old Tongue. Once we know why this is, perhaps then I can kill you.” (17)

“I see,” said Brasen. “If you don’t mind my asking, what is your name?” (18)

She looked him in the eye for the first time since she’d appeared, then returned to her braid. “Jema,” she said. (19)

“Brasen,” he replied. “Jema, may I tell you how I know the old Tongue, and how I came to pass through Adon’s gate?” (20)

“I don’t care,” she said. “You are against sha. To me it doesn’t matter what you know or how you came to be here. You must die. This is what I know to be right. But my father wants to hear your answers first. So he will hear them.” (21)

“I would like to speak with him, then,” said Brasen. “As soon as possible.” (22)

In a single blink she was at his throat with a blade. She pressed her face against his and whispered in his ear. “Who are you to think you can demand things of us?” Her blade sliced lightly into his skin. He could feel the trail of blood trickling down the back of his neck. She pulled back and smiled. (23)

He held her eyes in a cold gaze. “You are very bold,” he said, “with a man who is bound and helpless. Tell me, are you such a coward you only cut and kill those who cannot defend themselves?” (24)

“I will kill you,” she whispered. (25)

“Jeo di’,” Brasen replied. (26)

But she did not fall asleep. (27)

Rather, her eyes went wide and her face erupted into laughter. She leaped up from the hammock and danced around the room, her blade, stained with Brasen’s blood, twirling around in her hand like a trophy in the air. (28)

After a few moments of this, she looked to him coyly, and brushed the blood from the knife onto her finger. “You,” she said with a wild grin, “you are helpless.” (29)

“Who are you!” Brasen yelled. “Where am I? What Watch is this? What do you want with me?” (30)

She did not answer, but only laughed again. She stared at him for one cold moment, then with his blood slowly smeared a red line across her cheek. Then she dropped the knife onto the matted floor and disappeared into the leaves. (31)


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Inherited Lands
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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