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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.