Sacrifice of the First Sheason

Sacrifice of the First Sheason

Peter Orullian
illustration by kekai kotaki

This story is also available for download from major ebook retailers.

Introduction by James Frenkel

 

The story that follows is the first work of fiction set in the Vault of Heaven universe by a new epic fantasy writer named Peter Orullian. Peter has had a few short stories published, but “The Sacrifice of the First Sheason” introduces a world of long, tragic history in which there are no easy answers, and many mysteries that will be revealed, each in its own time, many of them in The Vault of Heaven, a series of novels which Tor will begin publishing with The Unremembered, this coming April.

Following “Sacrifice of the First Sheason,” Tor.com will publish two more stories set in this universe, and another nine tales will appear on the author’s website, www.orullian.com. Each of these stories is independent of the novels and of the other stories, though they share the same background.

This first tale takes place long before the action of The Unremembered. Other stories to come will deal with historical events that helped to shape later events in the world’s development that are keys to one or another element of the narrative of The Unremembered or a subsequent novel in the series. But each online story stands completely on its own.

 

At Tor, we have published quite a number of epic fantasy authors, and I personally have edited a lot of different series, from the multi-layered epics of Kate Elliott’s Crossroads books to the early heroic tales of Terry Goodkind; from David B. Coe’s Forelands and Southlands sagas to the Long Price Quartet of Daniel Abraham...and many others equally memorable. At SF conventions, readers will often ask me which is the epic fantasy that I love the most, but that’s a question I have never been able to answer. It’s like asking a parent which is his favorite child. It’s an impossible question.

They’re all different, of course, each with its own pleasures and rewards. The other question readers ask is what attracts me to the work or one author or another. And that’s not quite as hard to answer: I like what I like. Editors are readers first, and what we like as readers is...well, like any reader, we know when we see something we really like.

When I first read Peter Orullian’s early draft of The Unremembered, I was attracted by the characters, and then by mysteries in the story that made me feel I absolutely had to find out what was going on. Then, as I read more, I realized that I was hooked on his world, which has a rich history and culture, as well as some surprises I couldn’t have anticipated.

I also was fascinated by the unique connection of music to the magic of the world, something that readers will discover in The Unremembered. And there is a passion running through his narrative that is the hallmark of great storytelling. Without the excitement of great storytelling, there is no great epic fantasy.

So here’s the very first story set in Peter Orullian’s world, a tale from early in that world’s history. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

__________________________

 

Deep in the Divide Mountains, wind and thunder shook conifers that towered a hundred strides tall. Rain fell hard, battering the village of Estem Salo and leaving it awash in the sound of rushing waters. Lightning struck every few moments, flashing the world beyond Palamon Dal Solaas’ window in stark, momentary relief before darkness reclaimed the heights around his home. Beside him, Solera slept soundly, nestled into the crook of his arm. But he could not sleep, finding the tempest in the heavens too disquieting. So, when Palamon first heard the pounding at his door over the tumult of the storm, he had a sense of foreboding about the late night caller. Who would brave these storms at this hour?

The heavy beating at his door came again, faster this time, more insistent. Quickly but carefully he freed his arm from beneath his slumbering companion and hurried to the door. He could imagine only a member of the council coming to him at this hour. He’d seen them in private chambers often lately; perhaps this visit was related to these new secrets. His visitor would likely be Dossolum, the Voice of the Council, who’d been struggling to maintain balance as the Founders labored to complete their formation of this world.

When Palamon pulled open his door, he looked instead into the dripping, strained face of his fellow Sheason, Manoa.

“Palamon, please, will you come with me? There’s trouble and I need help.” Manoa ran a hand over his face in a futile attempt to wipe off the rain, which struck his cheeks and forehead in torrents.

Palamon did not hesitate. As he pulled on a heavy greatcloak and slipped into high boots set beside his door, he asked, “What is the problem?”

“There’s a disturbance of some kind in the town of Melas Tal. They’ve sent for me as intercessor.” Manoa stood back and pointed an arm weighted by his own sodden cloak toward a figure in shadow sitting astride a horse. “This man will show us the way.”

“You usually don’t ask for help, my friend,” Palamon said. “What is this disturbance?”

Just then Solera came into the room, bearing a hand lamp that dimly lit the walls around them. “What is it, Palamon?” she asked.

Manoa explained. “This man’s wife,” he said, still indicating the shadowed man waiting several paces back in the night, “there are complications with the birth of her child. I would tend to her, but there is trouble elsewhere in Melas Tal. Palamon. Please, we must go.”

The other Sheason looked back at his companion. “I will be back as quickly as I can.”

Solera nodded, and came close to give him a brief kiss. She then shut the door behind him as he ran to his mount, which Manoa already had waiting for him. The other man came into dim view as Palamon climbed into his saddle. His eyes looked haunted, his face drawn with sleeplessness and worry. His great beard did not move when he offered a “thank you” Palamon could barely hear over the sound of the downpour.

The bearded man led them into the night. Palamon focused on the dark trail, working to keep pace with the man, whom Manoa called Efram. They slowed several times, but only to rest the horses before pushing hard again through the night and the storm. Three hours they rode before coming upon the town. Manoa bade them farewell, then veered sharply to the north on his own errand.

16 comments
Ryan77
1. Ryan77
This story looks as if it may have some potential. I will have to keep an eye open for its release.
Ryan77
2. Magentawolf
'Sheason' is just one of those words that just doesn't work for me. Every time I see it, I keep thinking it's some sort of typo.
Ryan77
3. malazan
thanks for this,when can we expect the 2nd story?
Marcus W
4. toryx
'Sheason' is just one of those words that just doesn't work for me. Every time I see it, I keep thinking it's some sort of typo.


I'm inclined to agree. It had the tendency to disrupt the read throughout.


It's an interesting story but felt rather rough and a little awkwardly told. The parallels are obvious: The Founders as Gods, Sheasons as Angels, Jo’ha’nel the Fallen angel, Maldaea as Lucifer and the Veil a boundary between earth and hell. But there's nothing at all that original in these parallels. Even the Will seems like a rehashing.

Hopefully, there'll be new ideas represented in the following short stories and especially the novels.
Ryan77
5. Foobear
There's numerous rough phrases in this story that interrupt the flow... but interesting world nonetheless.
Jeff Domer
6. jqueasy
Agreed. Sheason, a bit jarring while reading. I keep seeing "season".
Ryan77
7. Powwow
This writer releases his ideas with amazing spirit and passion, which makes his creation an exciting read! The reader is satisfied with this story, yet left curious to know more of this world in the upcoming stories and novels. Good choice, Tor!
Ryan77
8. Ubique
This was a very good story.
The begining was a little tough and I have to admit that without the also incredible illustration I might not have continued.
More specifically about the beggining there were to many names (not aided by the fact that they are necessarily bizarre fantasy names) Just saying "the mountains" and "the village" and then giving there names a little later might for instance help. Maybe the pace to begin with was just too fast (for me). Maybe a few more epic shots such as the storm and the mountains in the beggining might help. I'm so excited for these books now, and glad I clicked on this story and learned of them!
This would do so well as the prologue to one of those novels. It sets the backdrop for an epic story. The whole idea of world-builders building different worlds, and the whole way that developes is incredibly interesting. Good job, and can't wait to read more!
Max Moseley
9. mmoseley
I agree with most others--the story is rough at places, and the word "Sheason" is confusing to read, especially since the word "season" is used a couple of times as well. There were several places, like after Manoa's death, where I was lost--I did not know why Palamon was doing the things he was doing. Perhaps some more exposition would fix that. I understand this is a short story, and there's not much room for exposition, but hopefully in The Unremembered this will be fixed.

In the end, I really enjoyed this story and will be buying The Unremembered when it comes out. I can't wait for the other eleven stories to appear online. :)
Ryan77
10. JohnFrost
Like Toryx, I see the parallels, but I actually liked the story more because of them. "Sheason" is an odd word, but I can get over it. The only thing I'm sad about is that the series is going to take place long after this short story... I'd like to read more about the founding of the world!
Ryan77
11. WKNelson
I agree "Sheason" just sounds odd. As a matter of fact, my reading was disrupted multiple times by 'rocky' groupings of words and generic clunky 'fantasy' names, effectively killing all suspension of disbelief.

The initial scene does paint a very nice and vivid image. The knocking on the door growing louder and faster built a little suspense, but the paragraph-long explanation of who he assumed it was and why broke the suspense and lost my interest in the story.

Instead of introducing a non-present character and describing who he is very early on, "the voice of the council... yadda creating this world... yadda" why not sprinkle small hints at who this character is through well-placed references in conversations? When information in a story is just laid out at the reader's feet it becomes boring to them, like they're reading a textbook.

Readers appreciate when the story unfolds as the characters experience it. Sharing your character's thoughts can be a very revealing and intimate time for the reader, but delving into the protagonist's mind to make a convenient assumption before even establishing his personality is a wasted foray into a previously unknown universe. Reserve your character's thoughts for meaningful insight.

So far the characters seem to lack personality or motivation, which should be at least hinted at in the opening scene. You want your reader to get to know your characters, little by little, giving them an idea of what they're in for as early as possible. This will get the reader to empathize and build interest in the story right away.

Some things to learn from this excerpt:
1. Prose (and invented names) should sound smooth.
2. Long-winded assumptions don't build suspense.
3. Characterization should start when the character is first introduced (not after, and certainly not before.)

I probably wouldn't read the full story based on this first page, but I'm sure there are plenty who would.

Sorry if I seem a little harsh. This is mostly an exercise for my own writing skills, but I thought you all might benefit as well.
Lauren Simmons
12. LSimmons
I didn’t have any problem with the neologisms, e.g. “Sheason,” in the story. Fantasy is rife with these. And even as new coinages go, these were pretty tame.

I think this story’s real strength is the characters. You get a strong feeling for who they are, their struggles, and what they care about. If this is indicative of what we can expect in the novel—as the introduction indicates—I look forward to the book.

One of the ways this is achieved in this story is the use of interior monologue to build emotional tension and hint at the larger issues facing some of the initial offstage characters, who we later meet, as well as our main protagonist. When those first meetings takes place, we anticipate something critical is going to happen. And it does. It really helps us begin to understand who this protagonist is, too. Works very well.

I’m a published writer, myself, and one of the things I remember struggling with was writer groups and critiques and writing advice books which prescribe how certain narrative tools must be used. So, it was good, for example, to see Orullian’s short fiction not following these silly mandates, and using some of those same tools to move us quickly to the real story questions and the conflicts that matter. Nicely done.

I also really like the twists on some of the fantasy tropes. There are parallels, as others have noted, but I can’t think of a fantasy that doesn’t have them. The trick will be if Orullian continues in the books with what he starts here in the short stuff.

But what impressed me the most, I think, was that while I was reading a fantasy story, I was really drawn into the lives of the characters. Yeah, there’s some cool magic, and world-building, and there are strong hints about the conflicts in store; but the relationships of the people in the story struck me most. Strong voices, too. When you couple that with great conflict and adventure, you wind up with a tale worth reading. Like this one.
Ryan77
13. Taryntula
I really enjoyed this glimpse into Orullian's universe. It reminded me a little of the Belgariad by David Eddings...but it was still very unique in its seriousness and had very careful world building. While there are similarities to other works and mythologies, it was very engaging and I hope to read more soon!
Morgan Thomas
14. morganova
I enjoyed this, but I was a little dissapointed in how quickly the main character moved on from what was supposed to be an incredible tragedy in the death of his wife. I would have thought something better than "indignation" would characterize his retaliation. although wrath was appropriate. All things considered, I thought that the character was beautifully crafted, and it felt a little cheep to deny him such a human response, and having him so thoughrally shunt aside his deep love and loss for his wife.
Ryan77
15. TarotByArwen
I read this one after reading the second one "The Great Defense of Layosah". I have to say that I found the second one to be a far more compelling read. This one seemed to get tangled up on its self.
Ryan77
16. Adamanta
I think it's a little premature to judge the entire story based on the first page. I enjoyed this story and found it a good foundation for the new book coming out this April. I intend to read it!

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