When I first agreed to post an excerpt from Peter Orullian's much anticipated fantasy debut, The Unremembered, I was sent this one. Since I felt it was too short to convey what the book was all about, Orullian and the folks at Tor Books elected to go with a longer extract which was posted a few weeks back.
And since that first excerpt seems to have been well-received, and since the novel will soon be released, I've decided to post what was originally meant to be the first extract.
The gods, makers of worlds, seek to create balance—between matter and energy; and between mortals who strive toward the transcendent, and the natural perils they must tame or overcome. But one of the gods fashions a world filled with hellish creatures far too powerful to allow balance; he is condemned to live for eternity with his most hateful creations in that world’s distant Bourne, restrained by a magical veil kept vital by the power of song.
Millennia pass, awareness of the hidden danger fades to legend, and both song and veil weaken. And the most remote cities are laid waste by fell, nightmarish troops escaped from the Bourne. Some people dismiss the attacks as mere rumor. Instead of standing against the real threat, they persecute those with the knowledge, magic and power to fight these abominations, denying the inevitability of war and annihilation. And the evil from the Bourne swells….
The troubles of the world seem far from the Hollows where Tahn Junell struggles to remember his lost childhood and to understand words he feels compelled to utter each time he draws his bow. Trouble arrives when two strangers—an enigmatic man wearing the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far—come, to take Tahn, his sister and his two best friends on a dangerous, secret journey.
Tahn knows neither why nor where they will go. He knows only that terrible forces have been unleashed upon mankind and he has been called to stand up and face that which most daunts him—his own forgotten secrets and the darkness that would destroy him and his world.
The fourth video preview of The Unremembered will follow. . .
Later in the night, when the others had fallen asleep in their rooms after hushed talk of Vendanj, Wendra crept back to the common room.
The drinkers and revelers were mostly gone. A few late suppers were being taken in corners by people whose occupations made late their time to eat. They remained attended by one serving woman, a hot but lower fire, and the scops who she’d come to see.
Wendra took a seat against one wall and listened. The songs these musicians played were unlike any she’d heard in the Hollows. When they were bright they were boisterous; when proud, courageous; and when sad, they were piteous and plaintive. Here, it seemed, the music became more than a performance by the singer, it grew into an accusation or challenge. There was boldness in it that she hadn’t heard before. Even through the troubles and madness of this night and everything since fleeing the Hollows— and before, back as far as her rape— Wendra was entranced by this new sound and knew she must seize upon it in some way.
It made her think of where the simple, dark melodies she’d found when curled onto a cabin floor a few days ago might lead.
When the night at last found its end for the common room, the scops began to pack their instruments to leave. Wendra slid from her chair with questions she hoped they could answer.
“Thank you,” she said. “You’re very gifted. I enjoyed listening to you very much.”
The woman, still packing, looked over her shoulder at Wendra as her male counterpart turned to receive his accolades.
“You’re most welcome, my young woman. Was there a particular song you liked?” He smiled and bowed in thanks for her praise.
His companion shook her head without turning again.
Wendra decided her answers would come from this gentleman. “The songs of loss. There was something strong and comforting about them. I don’t know. It seemed—”
“They didn’t simply accept the pain, but demanded answers and retribution,” he finished for her.
“Yes,” Wendra said. “The music seemed to provide relief of a kind by not simply wallowing in grief and resentment.”
“You are an astute listener. Are you by chance a musician yourself?” The man looked Wendra over from top to bottom.
She understood then his designs, her stomach roiling at the thought. Thankfully, the woman chimed in, finally turning to join the conversation.
“If you are, don’t waste any more breath on him,” she said. “You’ll want to talk to the composer, which would be me.” The woman hefted an instrument case over her shoulder and came to stand beside her companion. “He’s quick to accept the credit, however he can get it.” She gave him a look of amused disgust. “But he’s never around to help create the music we earn that credit by. What’s your name, my young lady?”
“Wendra. And yours?”
“I am Solaena. This is Chrastof. He’s got packing to do. Why don’t you and I sit so I can rest my feet, wet my lips, and I can give you the advice my father never gave me.” She waved a hand at the serving woman, who showed attentive but weary eyes and went to get something from the kitchen.
Solaena and Wendra sat together, and shortly a tall glass of steaming tea was set before Solaena. She sipped, the warmth seeming to ease her features, and relaxed into her chair.
“You find some fascination with playing songs to a crowd like this,” Solaena said. “Well, let me tell you. If you can find another way to earn a coin, do it. Most times we aren’t paid, and patrons of a common room like this oft en think we’re paid to do more than entertain them, if you understand me. Keep your music, my girl, but don’t make it your life’s path.”
Wendra nodded appreciatively. But her questions were not professional. “How do you make them? The songs. How do you make them feel like anguish, not for its own sake but to justify revenge.”
The scop smiled. “I see. Well, that’s just writing from my own heart’s desire. I guess so late in the night it’s tolerable to admit that I don’t believe in the same things I did when I was your age. And maybe because I don’t, I write about them in my songs to remind me of a time when I did. What I mean is, the songs are a place where I can give voice to my inmost wishes, even if the world around me doesn’t hearken to my words. Do you understand?”
“I believe so. But the world does hear you. The people in the room. Me.”
A grateful smile touched Solaena’s lips. “You’re a dear heart, my girl. Thank you. And because of your gracious praise, I’ll tell you the trick of it— as I think that’s what you’d like to know.” She leaned over her tea, and spoke in a sincere tone. “When you make your sad song, you mustn’t be afraid to go to the bottom of your own pain. Any power in those tunes comes from the well of your own torment, and it’s from there that the demand for relief will come. Anything else is simply a lament, and personally, I don’t see a lot of point to that.”
Wendra had an epiphany at the scop’s words, there in the dark hours of night in an empty common room that reeked of bitter. “And one more thing besides,” Solaena added. “Those songs don’t always need to be brayed out. We do it because these are noisy places.” She looked around the room. “But what I’m sharing with you here can come with the same power and meaning in a lullaby. If you doubt it, listen to a mother singing the hope of her heart for a child born into a dangerous world.”
Wendra stared back at the woman, loss and revelations warring in her soul. The late-night instruction on songs to be sung with sadness and authority would steal her sleep that night and for many nights to come, because the woman’s words struck Wendra’s deepest fear and regret. Her own recent melodies she now realized were, at least in part, lullabies for a child who would never hear them.