For the next several minutes he scanned the trees in the fading light for any sign of the man, or any others like him. When the growing darkness made sight impossible, he listened for the slightest hint of human movement within the trees. There was nothing. (1)
He had no idea what to do. To travel at night in these heights was foolish, and without the sun he couldn’t be sure of the course. But he had been spotted, and to remain where he was would certainly mean capture. Why had the man just stood there? he wondered. Had he been following him from the start? Were there others with him? That would explain why the forest had been so quiet. (2)
But if they were tracking him from the beginning, why follow in hiding , only to reveal themselves now? Why not recapture him? Or kill him? He wondered again if all this might be sport for them somehow. Or a test. (3)
He couldn’t make sense of it, and had no insight into what they might do now. But to stay where he was was clearly not an option. For good or ill, he resolved to wait until full darkness had set in, then to keep moving, quieter, slower than before, using all the stealth his years of hunting had taught him, and hope he could elude them. He would try to move generally northward, but shift his direction frequently to throw off any who might be on his trail. The stars hid behind the canopy above, so they would be no help to guide him. The best he could hope would be to make it safely into morning and reset his course from there. (4)
With the decision made, he found it hard to force himself to stay in place a while longer. But for him to have any chance at all, he would need the full cloak of night, and though darkness already draped the trees, there was still a dim violent hue peeking through the canopy in the skies to the west. He hoped there would be no moon tonight. The pitch black would make the path more perilous, but also harder for his pursuers to follow. (5)
It seemed an eternity before the last of the purple faded from the skies, but when at last they had, he rose to his feet and began to move. His legs ached with every cautious step, but he shut the weariness out of his mind. If he lived, he could rest later. But for now, his only thought was on escape. (6)
Quietly, gingerly, like a cat he moved, feeling his way as much as seeing, being careful to follow the larger limbs where his footing was more sure. There’s a kind of vertigo that can come over a man in the dark, especially when the footing is not level and the thought of the ground hundreds of feet below can make your head flutter like a moth in a windstorm. Brasen fought to ignore the drop into darkness beneath him and keep his mind clear of any thought except the next step he must take. It wasn’t easy. Passing from one tree to the next proved the most difficult part of this, as the nature of their twining made it hard to tell by feel alone where one tree ended and another began. More than once Brasen stepped forward believing he had moved to a new tree only to find the great limb looping back around to the central trunk he had just passed. But he took these false steps in stride and vainly hoped they might further aid the intentional acts of misdirection he employed to throw off his pursuers. (7)
Time flowed strangely in those dark hours. With no stars or moon to mark the time (thankfully there had been no moon that night), he couldn’t tell how long he had traveled, or how far. At times it seemed he had barely moved as the hours passed. At others, the trees seemed to fly past him. But after what he believed had surely been several hours, he dared stop and rest a moment in a hollow of two great limbs. Taking one of the water pouches from his pack, he leaned back and drank deeply. It was cool to his throat, and clean like a mountain stream. He noticed for the first time he was sweating, and breathed a sigh of gratitude that the night was mild. Wordhaven would be seeing heavy snow by now, he thought wistfully, but then quickly rebuked himself for the thought as it brought to mind all that happened there. (8)
Wordhaven is lost, he thought bitterly, and the full misery of it came flooding back like a dagger in his chest. Whether it was exhaustion, or the exasperation of his current circumstance, he could do nothing to stop the flow of tears that began in that moment. So he knelt down low, and let them come. (9)
He remained lost in his grief until several moments later, when he was shaken alert by the sound of gleeful giggling in the distance. (10)
He shot to his feet and moved away from the sound before a thought had even formed. Was it his imagination? A monkat’s cry contorted by the trees to sound like a child’s laughter? It wasn’t the man. The voice was too high. Perhaps it wasn’t human at all. It could be delirium, he thought, born of exhaustion. He was so very tired. (11)
A few minutes later he heard it again, this time from the opposite direction from where he’d heard the first. He shifted direction again, and shook his head to clear the panic rising in his mind. It could just be animals, he reminded himself. That certainly made more sense than children! Would the tree folk really send their children to hunt him down in the dead of night? No, it had to be some creature of the wood. Even Brasen didn’t know them all. (12)
What brushed past him in that moment he didn’t see, but felt only as the faintest touch of breeze. It made the hair on his arms stand on end. He pulled out the knife just as a second breeze passed by him, this time to the rear. Overhead, he heard the laugh again. It was unmistakable this time. A child’s giggle. (13)
“Show yourself, child,” Brasen commanded. “I don’t want to hurt you.” (14)
A brief flash, bright at the sun, flared in the trees above and left of where he stood. The light of it revealed her, a girl of nine or ten, garbed and painted in browns and greens just as the man had been. She laughed when he looked at her, then quickly turned and disappeared just as the light faded. (15)
Another flash, and another, one left, one right, and two more children showed themselves, standing on limbs not twenty feet away. Both boys. Then darkness fell again, and all around he heard them laughing, dancing around him as if there were twenty or more. The after image of the flares left his eyes temporarily blinded. He tried to flee but couldn’t even make out the limb at this feet. More flashes came, one after the other from every direction. The lights disoriented him, as did the roiling laughter in his ears. His head was spinning. (16)
“Adoni’far!” he screamed. But the children only laughed the louder, and no light appeared. Then something stung him in the side. His hand barely felt the dart before a second struck him in the shoulder. A net fell on him from above and the whole mad thing became a nightmare from which he fought to awaken. But within just a little while, he dropped his hands, and let the swirling maelstrom carry him into the dark. (17)
Hello Michael. There are no dates on this blog, so I don’t know when you posted this. I know that you have a lot going on with other projects, but I would like to encourage you to continue writing this final book. Your readers are anxious for it and I know you want to finish it as well.
God bless you.
Blogging the book is such a great idea! Every time I read the first two books I fall more and more in love with the story. I have to say that the Pearlsong Refounding series is up there with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The world is so immersive and easy to get lost in.
I love the way that inner darkness manifests as black in the eyes. It brings a whole new meaning “The eyes are the window to the soul.” If only it were that easy to see in the real world. It’s nice to have evil presented so clearly in stories like this. It’s a helpful reminder that evil, while not so obvious and literal in our world, is still manifest and easily visible to those with eyes to see.
Thank you for writing these stories. I know God has been using you more recently with your leadership ministry and I hope that He continues to bless it! I can’t wait for this book to be completed and published! I plan on buying the whole series for my family members to enjoy. I also feel that these books would make amazing movies!
Michael. I hope you will finish the book. I too have been waiting years for it. I read the Waymaker early on and had to wait for the 2nd book. Now waiting for the last one. Do you have a timeline at all?
Thanks Joey. No specific timeline I’m afraid. Just working as I’m able until it is complete.
"...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.