From out of his sphere, two massive hands emerged, forged of black lightning. They reached down to toward the Waymaker, who through all of this madness had not so much as stirred. (1)
“Come together!” yelled Revel. “To the Waymaker. Join your shields!” (2)
And so they did, all except for Terebin and Magan, who remained trapped under the onslaught many feet above. Aybel feared that for all the power in their voices, they were losing the strength to move. (3)
They spoke the Words together, and the blue sphere reforged around them all, stronger and more vibrant than any of theirs had been alone. But Stevron only mocked them with a laugh that echoed all around as the hands reached out to seize the sphere. (4)
Immediately it cracked under the force of his Worded grip. Pieces of it chipped away as if the whole thing were merely glass and his Worded hands a vice. They yelled the Words again, but it had no effect at all. Even Ammiel looked shocked and utterly confused by their apparent impotence against him. (5)
But just then, the evening sun broke through the bank of clouds that covered the western skies, and a single shaft of brilliant sunlight struck the cliff just where they stood, and the brightness of it caused the riftmen and viperon to scream in pain and slink away into the shadows, and the light cut into Stevron’s black lightning hands and he too recoiled as if he had been stabbed. (6)
The light was warm and golden, and came from where the Heaven Range would be. And Wordhaven. Aybel suddenly noticed how close to home they really were. (7)
“Let’s go!” she yelled, surprised at the hoarseness in her voice. “Move! Move! Move! While we have the light!” (8)
With the Words now, Revel lifted Gideon’s pallet so that it hovered vertically close to the rock face and pressed his way down the path in a manner that could best be called a controlled fall. Aybel tracked close behind him, her eyes turning frequently upward for signs of pursuit. Ammiel followed some ten paces above, but there was still no sign of Terebin or Magan. The two priests had looked badly injured, and if their tattooed defenses against the Barrens had been breached, she understood the healing Words may not work as they were meant to. Perhaps not at all. (9)
The same would be true for Kyrintha. The underlord still led their way along with Grace at the front of the line. She had not slowed her pace at all. Aside from the wrappings covering her left hand and forearm you wouldn’t know she was injured. But that would not last. Soon enough they would all have to face what had happened to her. Without the full healing intervention of the Words, she would be overcome by the Barren’s taint, and devolve into something less than human. Maybe Ammiel had Words to save her, or perhaps Grace’s touch could do it, as it did with the riftborn. The Pearl could rescue her, of course, if only it would act. But it wasn’t doing anything to save them now, despite their dire need. So why believe it would save Kyrintha later? Perhaps none of them would live long enough to worry about it, anyway. (10)
The inhuman scream of Stevron’s rage rang down the cliff walls. His voice was so powerful, like the roar of a giant. She shifted her shield to block all Words of Sa’lei, but left her ears open to hear more common sounds. Because of this, she didn’t hear what he said next. But she saw the rock face quiver as if struck by some great hammer, and then felt her body shifting downward, along with the cliff all around her. He was plunging them into the Gorge! It was still over seven hundred feet down. Even if by some miracle they didn’t die on impact, they would be crushed under the rocks. (11)
But then she heard the voices of Terebin and Magan rise above the thundering crack of the stone severing from the earth. They were singing in Dei’lo with a ferocity she had never heard before. She didn’t recognize most of the Words, but the sheer force of it brought tears to her eyes. The impact was immediate. (12)
The earth shuddered. The stone collapsing all around them instantly liquified to molten lava. Defying gravity, it flowed upward rather than down, and began to forge itself into mighty sheets and beams of glowing metal, encapsulating and protecting the narrow winding sliver of path to which they clung, holding it in place against the cliff like a vice. Over the cacophonic tumult of it all, the voices of the two Trevail priests sang their anthem with what must have been the last ounces of strength in their bodies. Her tears were not just for awe of the power the two priests unleashed, but also for sorrow at the terrible cost. She could hear it in the song itself. They were sacrificing themselves to preserve the path for the rest of them. (13)
Aside from the path itself, however, the greater portion of the cliff continued to tumble down into the waters of the Black Gorge far below. Along with the stone fell all the riftmen and viperon, and even a handful of the mon’jalen who had apparently been standing on the ridgeline when Stevron collapsed it. But the path itself remained, projecting out a jagged thread of white some twenty paces or more from the newly sheared rock face, buttressed by massive sheets and braces of steel, still glowing from the heat of their transformation. The sheer magnitude of the work the priests had done left Aybel stunned. She had never seen the Words of Dei’lo used on such a scale. Her eyes could not quite believe it. (14)
The bright shaft from the sun remained fixed upon them, but soon enough its light would pass below the horizon and whatever protection it provided would be lost. As if with one mind, then, the group quickly rose and raced down the path once more. Even Terebin and Magan, as brutally wounded and exhausted as they were, began to shuffle weakly down the ledges far above. Ammiel started climbing back up toward his brothers to offer what help he could. (15)
But when the dust cleared at last and Stevron saw what the priests had done, he bellowed Sa’lei with a vengeful hate, and the steel the priests had forged turned once more to liquid fire. On either side of the path, the molten metal stretched far out into the open air and reformed into two mighty hammers, which with a second command from Stevron, swooped down upon the fragile path and smashed together right on the spot where Terebin and Magan struggled, obliterating everything and dislodging another great section of the cliff in the process. (16)
From that horrific moment on, everything seemed to move in slow motion. The path dissolved beneath them all and crumbled downward in an avalanche of stone and dust. Aybel saw Gideon’s pallet slip out of sight, fluttering down toward the black waters below like a leaf tumbling in the rain. A collapsing slab of cliff above carried her body downward as well, and though she felt a storm of stones hitting her back and legs and head, she registered no pain. She looked around for any sign of Revel or Grace or Ammiel or Kyrintha, but all vision was lost in the cloud of falling dust and rock. She barely had the thought to reforge her shield before the water slammed into her like a wall, and everything in her world went black. (17)
She plunged unconscious into the gorge, just one small stone lost in an avalanche the size of a mountain, and there she hung suspended in the darkness, still as death, her beautiful white hair floating about her like a ghost. The viperon came as the larger pillars dropped away, and fought amongst themselves for a time for the prize of eating her. But then a sea dragon rose from inky black below, and with one snap of it mighty jaws shattered one of the viperon’s crystalline bodies, leaving only fragments of blood and flesh and silver scales swirling in its wake. The other viperon quickly fled into the darkness. The dragon gently scooped her up in its mouth, careful not to pierce her limp form with its jagged teeth, and then dove into the deeps below. The great slabs of earth, now settled on the bottom, seemed to move effortlessly out of the dragon’s path as if by some unseen hand, and soon they were floating in an open expanse of water completely hidden within the rubble of the fallen cliff. There the dragon left her, and slipped quietly away into the spaces between the massive rocks. (18)
She hung there for barely a moment before Revel’s arms engulfed her and with strength beyond his own carried her further down toward a shimmering bubble of light in the darkness. Reaching the edge he passed through it like a curtain and the two of them dropped down onto dry ground. (19)
“Jeo rophe’, Aybel,” he whispered in her ear, “Jeo rophe’. Jeo zephi sacravelis caveza.” (20)
For the next few minutes she coughed up a great volume of water. Then, slowly, with his help she pushed herself upright. There was a fire burning in the center within a pile of stones that had no wood, and produced no smoke. Around it familiar faces huddled, still wet and cold. There was Ammiel, weeping, and Kyrintha, her eyes closed, her skin grey and streaked with black tendrils, held up by young Grace, and the Waymaker, on his pallet, still sleeping on the ground. Magan and Terebin were no where in sight. (21)
Revel smiled down at her, his wet red hair strewn madly across his cheeks and neck. (22)
“Now do you believe?!” he asked. (23)
Michael. When is the third book going to continue?!? Ive been waiting for YEARS for the conclusion to one of my all time favorite series, and it feels like almost a decade has gone by with no updates. I understand life is crazy. But as myself, and many MANY of your fans would like to know, can u give us a release date? Or at least a timeframe? Or even that you are still going to write it? Or if u are still writing it, can you continue to post each chapter on here? Sincerely, your biggest fan.
Hey Chris! Good news! You posted your comment on the continuation of the story. :) I’m posting the third book in the trilogy online as I go, with new uploads most every Friday (except for some travel weeks coming up). You can scroll back through the blog and start with Chapter 1!I understand how frustrating this has been for you and so many other readers. I’m really sorry about that, sincerely, and I’m doing all I can on my end to finish the work. I love this story, too, and I am committed to seeing it completed, however long it takes. Thanks for the encouragement. I appreciate it!
"...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.