Discover the fantasy world of The Seedbearing Prince…
Dayn Ro’Halan is a farmer’s son sworn to a life of plowing on his homeworld, Shard. After finding a lost artifact called a Seed, he’s thrust into an ancient conflict between voidwalkers of the hated world Thar’Kur, and Defenders from a floating fortress called the Ring. Dayn must become a Seedbearer and learn to use the Seed’s power to shape worlds before the entire World Belt is lost.
The torrent shifted again, and a thousand shards of onyx flashed to fire as Corian swept through a roiling field of ice and stone. The sheath on his worn black armor held, but would not last much longer. The stream of rock in the space between the worlds drifted slower here, and boasted several floating mountains large enough to hold a layer of air. Green ferns covered the surface of the nearest, providing plenty of cover. Corian was tempted to stop and rest, but crater wolves likely roamed in such thick foliage. The entire World Belt hung on the message he bore to the Ring, and he could rest after his task was done.
A field of red granite stretched in the space above him like the bizarre clouds of some nightmare, the individual boulders careening off each other by the hundreds. Only the hardest minerals and metals endured the endless pounding of the rock flow, and only the most foolish men would brave such a swath of torrent. They were moving the direction he needed to go, into the flow where the rock moved fastest. In the torrent, speed kills, he reminded himself. He was the best courser among the Ring’s Guardians, but the rock never cared.
Corian deftly attached a new talon to what remained of his silver wingline, then heaved it. The metal hook took hold, his wingline snapped taut, and the boulder yanked Corian into the flow. He repeated the process, each time roping a boulder moving faster, until his last guide rock pulled him along at hundreds of spans a second. A layer of white frost appeared on his armor and mask in a blink. He reeled himself in and clung to the red surface, like a flea riding a river bison in the middle of a stampeding herd. He watched every direction at once from his perch, digging his gauntlets into the crumbling surface. The boulder was actually some ancient rusted metal, not granite as he first thought. The torrent here was so thick he could barely see the stars, and it filled his ears with a distant roar.
He sped along this way for some time, until he spied a pockmarked mass of stone and iron, large as a dwarf moon. A cleft right down the middle threatened to split the entire thing in half. A tower in the northern axis had seen more than its fair share of rust, but the light strobing from it pulsed regularly, illuminating the smaller rocks orbiting around it. As a whole, the wayfinder was ugly and old, but the mass of rock was the most blessed sight Corian could imagine after a week of surviving the torrent’s attempts to grind him to powder.
His next wingline took him closer. If the wayfinder was powered as well as he suspected, he could use the array inside it to find out where he was in the torrent, and see how close the Ring lay. He might even find food and water, if peace favored him. A fellow Guardian must stop here often for such an old wayfinder to be this well preserved, he thought.
Smaller debris pelted the wayfinder’s old crust, disintegrating in flashes of light. The surface shone with hundreds of impacts, large and small. Corian chose a crater near the old tower, perhaps seventy spans deep with high walls that would offer good angles to slow himself as he approached.
As he prepared to throw out another talon, dark shapes poured from the wayfinder’s cleft. He stared for a moment, incredulous. There could be no crater wolves on a wayfinder, with no game to hunt, unless they were marooned after striking some other erratic in the torrent. No, those shapes moved with a military precision, more lethal than the deadliest pack. He could see them clearly now, massive men covered in black. “No. Not here!” Corian barely recognized his own weary voice.
The voidwalkers had seen him. A pinprick of light shone on the wayfinder’s surface, brighter than the tower’s regular strobe. He eyed it mistrustfully as he searched for a place to throw his next wingline and change his momentum. He spotted a tumbling boulder half covered with ice, moving away from the wayfinder too fast.
The light near the voidwalkers flashed. A beam of energy rushed into Corian’s path, hot as molten steel. A lifetime of coursing experience kicked in, and he curled his legs up until his knees touched his ears, rolling forward. The strange fire passed underneath him by less than a span. He could feel the heat of it through his protective layer of sheath. The beam burned past, and slammed into a rock fifty spans away. The tumbling boulder barely even slowed in its course, but the spot where the weapon struck—for there was no question that is what it was—glowed red hot at the edges. The glistening center had cooled quick as glass.
Another pinprick of light. He twisted around in the weightlessness of the void to point his feet back toward the wayfinder and make himself a smaller target. It did no good. The beam rushed straight at him, and his world turned red with pain.
An impact jarred him awake. Another. Corian opened his eyes. I’m much too cold. The voidwalker weapon had burned away his sheath. Layers of his black armor were peeling away from the metal plates like paper curled in a fire. He had been caught in a tangle of purple-rooted vines intertwined in a mile long cluster of the floating rock, what Jendini coursers called a knotted forest. The roots were nearly hard as stone in places. Dusty old bones from animals Corian did not even recognize littered the tangles. Debris from the torrent stretched around the forest in every direction, and errant stones pelted the mass of vines, which he immediately recognized. Courser’s nap, the whole forest is covered with it.
Corian reached into a compartment on his armored belt and removed his last flask of sheath. He applied the clear liquid to his ruined armor in quick, smooth motions, not leaving one inch exposed. The sheath locked together in small patches of light, and his body’s heat immediately began to warm the interior of the invisible, protective barrier. Once the sheath was gone, his armor would not prevent the smallest pebble from killing him, if one struck him moving fast enough. For the first time, Corian considered that he may not survive.
This was to be his last circuit as a Guardian for the Ring, and he held the hope that he would look into his grandchildren’s eyes back on Jendini now that his service was finished. Yet his duty hung over him, heavier than ever. In the distance he could see the world of Shard, verdant and green just beyond the torrent’s chaos. His resolve hardened.
He slipped a speechcaster into his mouth and began to speak as he worked himself free of the tangled vines. The small wafer could hold his words in secret for a few days, should things go badly here.
“I am Corian Nightsong, a Guardian of the Ring. There are Thar’Kuri warriors on the world of Nemoc. The voidwalkers have built a device that allows them to…teleport themselves at will through the Belt. They are gathering in numbers, preparing for an attack. There are captives from all over the worlds imprisoned on Nemoc. The voidwalkers have weapons unlike anything known from the Ring. They use energy and can attack over great distances. They must have been made in the age before the Breach.
If you knew where to look for this message, you must deliver it with all haste to Force Lord Adazia on the Ring. The worlds all depend on you, for I have failed them.” The admission filled Corian with bitterness, but he forced a strength he no longer felt into his words. “My sons and daughters live in Denkstone, on Jendini. Tell them…their father served well.”
One of the vines tangled around his torso began to quiver. Corian looked down, fearing a leaf, but instead he saw a voidwalker, climbing toward him. Corian was tall, but the hulking brute easily overtopped him by a head. His glistening black armor looked as if it were melted to his frame, and covered him from head to toe save two dark slits for his eyes. The vines broke like dried mud in the voidwalker’s grasp.
Corian began to climb, scrambling further into the vines. He did not bother to draw his sword, the voidwalker would overpower him in moments if they were to fight.
“So afraid of an old courser?” Corian shouted. He pulled at every vine in his path as he fled, but most of them were stiff and gray. Living vines of the courser’s nap were purple and sticky, but the true danger lay with the leaves.
The voidwalker’s gravelly voice called to Corian, cold as an orphan’s gravestone. “Come to me, degenerate.”
Corian drew his sword, and began slashing his way through the vines. They sparked as his blade struck, but gave way. He leapt through an open space nearly ten spans across. The voidwalker followed without hesitation. So strong. Corian knew the brute meant to take him alive. He could not allow that.
He landed on a solid gray swath, fleshy beneath his feet. He rolled and lunged just as the leaf stirred. A row of spikes slipped out of the edges, thick as Corian’s leg and sharp enough to cleave a horse in two. Corian barely cleared them. The voidwalker was not so lucky. His momentum carried him right into the center of the carnivorous plant, which enveloped him with a twist of blue-veined leaf. Steam issued from the folds near the plant’s edges as it fed.
More pods of the courser’s nap were coming to life, enlivened by the voidwalker’s screams. Corian avoided the leaves wherever they stirred. He climbed and lunged and dived through the vines, soon pulling himself to the edge of the knotted forest. Pure torrent lay before him, an endless landscape of chaotic rock. There was no clear flow in any direction, the individual boulders in the skyscape crashed into each other in a hundred shattering impacts. I’ll leap blind and pray that my sheath holds.
Another voidwalker tore himself out of the vines a few spans away. Peace, but look at the size of him! The voidwalker’s armor looked as chewed up as the oldest rocks of the torrent, endless dents and scratches plastered the black surface.
“I’ve enjoyed hunting you, degenerate.”
Another courser’s leaf reared up behind the voidwalker as he lumbered toward Corian. The leaf lunged and took the voidwalker up, curling round and round as the folds of leaf tightened. Corian allowed himself a moment of elation, but it was short lived. A pale hand appeared on the side of the courser’s nap, and bright green fluid poured out. The leaf whipped back and forth, emitting a piercing shriek as the voidwalker pulled it apart piece by piece from the inside. Corian needed to see no more. He leaped, and prayed the torrent would show him mercy.