The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy, however, they chained the rogue godand the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortalkindin the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that contains them has protected humankind for millennia and the monsters are little more than tales told to frighten children. But the Veil has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have come through. To fight them, the races of men must form a great alliance to try and stop the creatures.
But there is dissent. One king won't answer the call, his pride blinding him even to the poison in his own court. Another would see Convocation fail for his own political advantage. And still others believe Convocation is not enough. Some turn to the talents of the Sheason, who can shape the very essence of the world to their will. But their order is divided, on the brink of collapse.
Tahn Junell remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. One of the few who have actually faced the unspeakable horde in battle, Tahn sees something else at work and wonders about the nature of the creatures on the other side of the Veil. He chooses to go to a place of his youth, a place of science, daring to think he can find a way to prevent slaughter, prevent war.
And his choices may reshape a world . . . .
The second title in the Vault of Heaven series, Peter Orullian's Trial of Intentions is a mesmerizing fantasy epic that turns the conventions of the genre on its head
About the Author
PETER ORULLIAN has worked in marketing at Xbox for nearly a decade, most recently leading the music and entertainment marketing strategy for Xbox LIVE, and has toured as a featured vocalist internationally at major music festivals. He has published several short stories in addition to The Unremembered. He lives in Seattle.
Read an Excerpt
Trial of Intentions
Book Two of The Vault of Heaven
By Peter Orullian
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Peter Orullian
All rights reserved.
The Right Draw
Mercy has many faces. One of them looks like cruelty.
—Reconciliationist defense of the gods' placement of the Quiet inside the Bourne
Tahn Junell raced north across the Soliel plain, and his past raced with him. He ran in the dark and cold of predawn. A canopy of bright stars shone in clear skies above. And underfoot, his boots pounded an urgent rhythm against the shale. In his left hand, he clenched his bow. In his mind, growing dread pushed away the crush of his recently returned memory. Ahead, still out of sight, marching on the city of Naltus Far ... came the Quiet.
Abandoning gods. The Quiet. Just a few moon cycles ago, these storied races had been to Tahn just that. Stories. Stories he'd believed, but only in that distant way that death concerned the living. Their story told of being herded and sealed deep in the far west and north—distant lands known as the Bourne, a place created by the gods before they'd abandoned the world as lost.
One of his Far companions tapped his shoulder and pointed. "Over there." Ahead on the left stood a dolmen risen from great slabs of shale.
Tahn concentrated, taking care where he put his feet, trying to move without drawing any attention. The three Far from the city guard ran close, their flight over the stones quiet as a whisper on the plain. They'd insisted on bearing him company. There'd been no time to argue.
Through light winds that carried the scent of shale and sage, they ran. A hundred strides on, they ducked into a shallow depression beside the dolmen. In the lee side of the tomb, Tahn drew quick breaths, the Far hardly winded.
"I'm Daen," the Far captain said softly. He showed Tahn a wry smile—acquaintances coming here, now—and put out his hand.
"Tahn." He clasped the Far's hand in the grip of friendship.
"I know. This is Jarron and Aelos." Daen gestured toward the two behind him. Each nodded a greeting. "Now, do you want to tell us why we've rushed headlong toward several colloughs of Bar'dyn?" Daen's smile turned inquiring.
Tahn looked in the direction of the advancing army. It was still a long way off. But he pictured it in his head. Just one collough was a thousand strong. So, several of them ... deafened gods! And the Bar'dyn: a Quiet race two heads taller than most men and twice as broad; their hide like elm bark, but tougher, more pliable.
He listened. Only the sound of heavy feet on shale. Distant. The Bar'dyn beat no drum, blew no horn. The absence of sound got inside him like the still of a late-autumn morning before the slaughter of winter stock.
Tahn looked back at Daen. They had a little while to wait, and the Far captain deserved an answer. "Seems reckless, doesn't it." He showed them each a humorless smile. "The truth? I couldn't help myself."
None of the Far replied. It wasn't condescension. More like disarming patience. Which struck Tahn odd, since the Far possessed an almost unnatural speed and grace. A godsgift. And their lives were spent in rehearsal for war. Endless training and vigilance to protect an old language.
"I wouldn't even be in Naltus if it weren't for the Quiet." Tahn looked down at the bow in his lap, suddenly not sure what he meant to do. His bow—any bow—was a very dear, very old friend. He'd been firing one since he could hold a deep draw. But his bow against an army? I might finally have waded too far into the cesspit.
"We guessed that much," said Daen.
Tahn locked eyes with the Far captain, who returned a searching stare. "Two cycles ago, I was living a happy, unremarkable life. Small town called the Hollows. Only interesting thing about me was a nagging lack of memory. Had no recollection of anything before my twelfth year. Then, not long before I turned eighteen ... a Sheason shows up."
The Far Jarron took a quick breath.
Tahn nodded at the response. "First day I met Vendanj, I realized stories about the Sheason are true. I saw him render the Will. Move things ... kill. With little more than a thought."
"Vendanj is a friend of the king's," Daen said. "Not everyone distrusts him."
Tahn gave a weak smile to that. "Well, he arrived just before the Quiet got to my town, too."
He then looked away to the southwest, at Naltus, a magnificent city risen mostly of the black shale that dominated the long plains. In the predawn light, it was still an imposing thing to look at. It never gleamed. It didn't light up with thousands of lights as Recityv or any other large city. It didn't bustle with industry and trade. It didn't build reputation with art and culture. But the city itself was a striking place, drawn with inflexible lines. It had a permanence and stoicism about it. The kind of place you wanted to be when a storm hit, where you wouldn't fear wind and hard light. And where rain lifted the fresh scent of washed rock. Altogether different than the Hollows, with its hardwood forests and loam.
What Tahn wouldn't have given for some hard apple cider and a round of lies in the form of Hollows gossip. "Vendanj convinced me to follow him to Tillinghast."
This time it was Aelos who made a noise, something in his throat, like a warning. It reminded Tahn that even the Far people, with their gift for battle and their stewardship over the Language of the Framers ... even they didn't go to Tillinghast.
"Did you make it to the far ledge?" Daen asked.
Tahn turned and looked in the direction of the Saeculorum Mountains, which rose in dark, jagged lines to the east. Impossibly high. Yes, he'd made it there. He and the few friends who'd come with him out of the Hollows. Though, only he had stood near that ledge at the far end of everything. A place where the earth renewed itself. Or used to.
He'd faced a Draethmorte there, one of the old servants of the dissenting god. More than that. He'd faced the awful embrace of the strange clouds that hung beyond the edge of Tillinghast. They'd somehow shown him all the choices of his life—those he'd made, and those he'd failed to make. It was a terrible thing to see the missed opportunity to help a friend. Or stranger. Wrapping around him, those clouds had also shown him the repercussions of those choices, possible futures. The heavy burden of that knowledge had nearly killed him.
It ached in him still.
But he'd survived the Draethmorte. And the clouds. And he'd done so by learning that he possessed an ability: to draw an empty bow, and fire a part of himself. He couldn't explain it any better than that. It was like shooting a strange mix of thought and emotion. And it left him chilled to the marrow and feeling incomplete. Diminished. At least for a while. Maybe something had happened to him in the wilds of Stonemount. Maybe the ghostly barrow robber he'd encountered there had touched him. Touched his mind. Or soul. Maybe both. Whether the barrow robber or not, something had helped him fire himself at Tillinghast. Though he damn sure didn't want to do it again, and had no real idea how to control it, anyhow.
"Yes, we made it to the far ledge," he finally said.
He could tell Daen understood plenty about what lay on the other side of the Saeculorum. But the Far captain had the courtesy not to press.
Tahn, though, found relief in sharing some of what had happened. "Near the top, Vendanj restored my memory. He thought it would help me survive up there."
Jarron glanced at the Saeculorum range. "Did it?"
Tahn didn't have an answer to that, and shrugged.
Daen put a hand on Tahn's shoulder. "The Sheason believed if you survived Tillinghast, you could help turn the Quiet back this time. Meet those who've given themselves to the dissenting god ... in war." He nodded in the direction of the army marching toward them.
Twice before—the wars of the First and Second Promise—the races of the Eastlands had pushed the Quiet back, avoided the dominion they seemed bent toward. Now, they came again.
"Mostly right," said Tahn, "except all I've been fighting since Tillinghast is a head full of bad memories. For two damn days, I've done nothing but sit around in your king's manor, remembering." His grip tightened on his bow, and he spoke through clenched teeth. "Better to be moving. Better to hold someone ... or something, accountable for that past."
"Idleness makes memory bitter." Daen spoke it like a rote phrase, like something a mother says to scold a laggard child.
Tahn forced a smile, but the feel of it was manic. "Vendanj was the one who took my memory in the first place. Thought it would protect me ..."
"From the Quiet," Daen finished. "So you're here with a kind of blind vengeance. Angry at the world. Angry at what you believe are the bad choices of people who care for you."
The wind died then, wrapping them in a sullen silence. A silence broken only by the low drone of thousands of heavy feet crossing the shale plain toward them. Into that silence Tahn said simply, "No."
"No?" Daen cocked his head with skepticism.
"I'm not some angry youth." Tahn's smile softened, and he leveled an earnest look on the Far captain. "If I'm reckless, it's because I'm scared. And angry. Do I want to drop a few Quiet with this?" He tapped his bow. "Silent hells, yes. But when I saw them from my window in your king's manor this morning ... I'll be a dead god's privy hole if I'm going to let the Far meet them without me." He pointed to the Quiet army marching in from the northeast. "An army that's probably here because of me."
Daen studied Tahn a long moment. "It's reckless ... but reasonable." He grinned. "Well, listen to me, will you? I sound as contradictory as a Hollows man." His grin faded to a kind of thankful seriousness. "I'm glad you were awake to see them from your window, Tahn. Somehow our scouts failed to get us word."
He'd been up early, as he always was. To greet the dawn. Or rather, imagine it before it came. Those soft moments were more important to him now than ever. Because images plagued him night and day. Images from Tillinghast. Images from a newly remembered past. Sometimes the images gave him the shakes. Sometimes he broke out in a sweat.
Tahn looked again now into the east, anticipating sunrise. The color of the moon caught his eye. Red cast. Lunar eclipse. By the look of it, the eclipse had been full a few hours ago. Secula, the first moon, was passing through the sun's penumbra. He'd seen a full eclipse once in ... Aubade Grove! The memories wouldn't stop. He'd spent several years of his young life in the Grove. A place dedicated to the study of the sky. A community of science. This, at least, was a happy memory.
Does the eclipse have anything to do with this Quiet army?
An interesting thought, but there wasn't time to pursue it. The low drone of thousands of Quiet striding the stony plain was growing louder, closer.
"We'll wait until the First Legion joins us on the shale." Daen spoke with the certainty of one used to giving orders. "Anything we observe, we'll report back to our battle strategists."
They didn't understand Tahn's need to run out to meet this army any more than his friends would have. Sutter and Mira, especially. Sutter because he'd been Tahn's friend since Tahn had arrived in the Hollows. And Mira because—unless he missed his guess—she loved him. So, he'd sent word of the Quiet's approach, and slipped from the king's manor unnoticed.
"I won't do anything foolish," Tahn assured Daen, and began crawling toward the lip of the depression.
The Far captain grabbed Tahn's arm, the smile gone from his face. "What makes you so eager to die?"
Tahn spared a look at the bow in his hand, then stared sharply back at the Far. "I don't want to die. And I don't want you to die because of me."
The Far captain didn't let go. "I've never understood man's bloodlust, even for the right cause. It makes him foolish."
Tahn sighed, acknowledging the sentiment. "I'm not here for glory." He clenched his teeth again, days of frustration getting the better of him—memories of a forgotten past, images of possible futures. "But I have to do something."
The Far continued to hold him, appraising. Finally, he nodded. "Just promise me you won't run in until we see the king emerge from the wall with the First Legion."
Tahn agreed, and the two crawled to the rim of the depression and peeked over the edge onto the rocky plane. What they saw stole Tahn's breath: more Bar'dyn than he could ever have imagined. The line stretched out of sight, and behind it row after row after row ... "Dear dead gods," Tahn whispered under his breath. Naltus would fall. Even with the great skill of the Far. Even with the help of Vendanj and his Sheason abilities.
We can't win. Despair filled him in a way he'd felt only once before—at Tillinghast.
And on they came. No battle cries. No horns. Just the steady march over dry, dark stone. A hundred strides away, closing, countless feet pounded the shale like a war machine. Tahn's heart began to hammer in his chest.
Beside him, Daen spoke in a tongue Tahn didn't understand. The sound of it like a prayer ... and a curse.
* * *
Then he saw something that he would see in his dreams for a very long time. The Quiet army stopped thirty strides from him. The front line of Bar'dyn parted, and a slow procession emerged from the horde. First came a tall, withered figure wrapped in gauzy robes the color of dried blood. Velle! Silent hells. The Velle were like Sheason, renderers of the Will, except they refused to bear the cost of their rendering. They drew it from other sources.
The Velle's garments rustled as the wind kicked up again, brushing across the shale plain. Tahn's throat tightened. Not because of the Velle, or at least not the Velle alone, but because of what it held in its grasp: a couple of black tethers, and at the end of each ... a child no more than eight years of age.
"No," Tahn whispered. He lowered his face into the shale, needing to look away, wanting to deny the obvious use the Velle had of them.
When he looked again, two more Velle had come forward. One was female in appearance, and stood in a magisterial dress of midnight blue. The gown had broad cuffs and wide lapels, and polished black buttons in a triple column down the front. The broadly padded shoulders of the garment gave her an imposing, regal look. The third Velle might have been any field hand from any working farm in the Hollows. He wore a simple coat that looked comfortable, warm, and well used. His trousers and boots were likewise unremarkable. He didn't appear ill fed. Or angry. He simply stood, looking on at the city as any man might after a long walk.
And in the collective hands of these Velle, tethers to six children. The little ones hunched against their bindings. Ragged makeshift smocks hung from their thin shoulders. Each gust of wind pulled at the loose, soiled garments, revealing skin drawn tight over ribs and knobby legs appearing brittle to the touch.
Worst of all was the look in the children's faces—haunted and scared. And scarred. A look he knew. A look resembling the one worn by many of the children from the Scar. A desolate place he'd only recently remembered. A place where he'd spent a large part of his childhood. Learning to fight. To distrust. Lessons of the abandoned.
Not every memory of the Scar had been bad, though. A name and face flared in his mind: Alemdra. But the bright memory of her quickly changed. Old grief became new at the thought of a ridge where they'd run to watch the sunrise, and seen a friend end her days. Devin. Some wounds, he realized, simply couldn't be healed. No atonement was complete enough.
The Velle yanked at the fetters, gathering the small ones close on each side. The children didn't yelp or complain, though grimaces of pain rose in a few faces. Mostly, they fought to keep their balance and avoid falling hard on the shale.
Then the Velle reached down and wrapped their fingers around the wrists of the young ones.
The Far king's legion hadn't emerged from the city wall. The siege on Naltus hadn't yet begun. But Tahn knew the attack these Velle were preparing, fueled by the lives of these six children, would be catastrophic. Naltus might be destroyed before a single sword was raised.
Beside him, the Far captain cursed again and crept down to the dolmen to consult with his fellows. What do I do? His grip tightened on his bow. The tales of lone heroes standing against armies were author fancies. Fun to read, but wrong. All wrong. He could get off a few shots at the renderers before any of the Bar'dyn could react. But that wouldn't be enough to stop them, or save the children.
Each Velle raised a hand toward Naltus. Tahn had to do something. Now.
Without thinking further, he climbed onto the shale plain and stood, setting his feet. He pulled his bow up in a smooth, swift motion as he drew an arrow.
Softly he began, "I draw with the strength of my arms, but release as the Will—"
He stopped, not finishing the words he'd spoken all his life when drawing his bow, words taught to him by his father, to seek the rightness of his draw. The rightness of a kill. His father and Vendanj had meant for him to avoid wrongfully killing anything, or anyone, because they'd thought one day they might need him to go to Tillinghast, where his chances of surviving were better if he went untainted by a wrong or selfish draw.
Excerpted from Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian. Copyright © 2015 Peter Orullian. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Map: The East of Aeshau Vaal in the Age of Rumor,
Map: The Bourne in the Age of Rumor,
Book Two: Trial of Intentions,
Prologue: A Third Purpose,
1. The Right Draw,
2. Losing a Step,
3. Dark and Bright,
4. Songs of Retribution,
5. A Different Aim,
6. Hope Burns,
8. Causing Death,
9. Lamentations: The Past,
10. Lamentations: The Present,
11. Lamentations: The Future,
12. An Overdue Conversation,
13. Call for Intent,
15. Nothing More, Nothing Less,
16. Gardens of Song,
17. The Bourne: Prelude,
18. Death of a Song,
19. Some Must Lead,
21. Two Sides of the Same,
22. Given or Taken,
23. The Poison of Politics,
24. Old Friends,
25. The Bourne: Nocturne,
26. Chilled Milk,
27. The Write Words,
28. Secrets in a Vault,
30. A Fifth Man,
31. Parchment War,
32. The Bourne: Fugue,
34. Those Left Behind,
35. The Child's Voice,
36. Call Your Vote,
37. More than Scales,
38. It's Not What You Hear,
41. The Bourne: Canon,
42. The Smith King,
43. Sky Proofs,
44. Everything's a Fight,
45. The Uses of Youth,
46. First Sodalist,
47. An Illicit Diarist,
48. A Private Audience,
50. Thank You,
52. A Touch of Resonance,
53. Trial of Intention,
54. A Civil Argument,
55. Grant's Defense,
56. The Bourne: Elegy,
58. The First One,
59. A Dangerous Endeavor,
60. A Hard Choice,
61. A Widening Schism,
63. Fields of Wheat,
64. A Quiet House,
66. Just an Evening Stroll,
67. The Bourne: Toccata,
68. A Clash of Wills,
69. In the Company of Eggbirds,
71. New Alliances,
73. A Succession Team,
75. Two Ways to Serve,
76. The Bourne: Vespers,
77. What Steel Can Do,
78. A Better Parabola,
79. Gathering Old Stories,
81. Uncommon Understanding,
82. Pall Stones,
83. The College of Physics,
84. The Patience of Friends,
85. No Grey Country,
86. Old and Young,
87. The Bourne: Requiem,
88. Broken Will,
90. A Case for Resonance,
91. Throne of Bones,
92. Echoes of a Song,
About the Author,
Tor Books by Peter Orullian,