Authors: Peter V. Brett
The Great Bazar and other stories
Peter V. Brett
Every novel is a learning process
for the author, and
The Warded Man
The Painted Man
UK) was no different. It was a real challenge, keeping the story moving along
quickly with page-turning "what happens next?" tension, despite the
book being close to 450 pages and spanning 14 years in the lives of three
separate characters. Part of the process was learning when, for the greater
good, to cut out scenes I'd already written (even when I loved them). A more
important part of it was learning to look ahead and not write some of those
scenes in the first place.
was one of the latter. It is essentially chapter 16.5 of
, taking place during the 3 year gap between Chapters 16 and 17,
when Arlen is working as a Messenger traveling throughout the Free Cities.
This was an
exciting, adventure-filled period in Arlen's life, and a very fertile spawning
ground for short stories about him traveling from town to town, touching the
lives of different people living behind the wards.
Like Caine in Kung
I have a lot of
story ideas for those three years, but there wasn't space to include all of
The Warded Man,
and even if there had been, it would have robbed
Arlen's race towards destiny of all its immediacy. So I decided to skip those
side stories and get to them some other time, putting Arlen, at the beginning
of Chapter 17 (Ruins), at the end of a long series of adventures, lightly
sketched for the reader, wherein he became worldly, and culminating in him
finding the lost city of Anoch Sun, the next true turning point in his life.
Some of those
adventures will be told in upcoming novels, but the tale of how Arlen found the
lost city itself was too big and self-contained to fit in that format, and I am
excited to be able to present it here.
shows everything I love about Arlen, and showcases one of my
favorite supporting characters, Abban the
with his own point of
view for the first time. Whether you are a new reader interested in an
introduction to Arlen's world, or a fan of the series looking for an appetizer
before the second book,
The Desert Spear
, publishes in April 2010, I
think you'll enjoy it.
Peter V. Brett
was heavy in
the desert. More than heat or brightness, it was an oppressive weight, and
Arlen kept finding himself hunching over as if to yield before it.
He was riding through
the outskirts of the Krasian Desert, where there was nothing but cracked flats
of dry clay as far as the eye could see in any direction. Nothing to provide
shade or reflect heat. Nothing to sustain life.
Nothing to make
a sane person wander out here,
Arlen scolded himself, nevertheless
straightening his back in defiance of the sun. He had a thin white robe on over
his clothes, the hood pulled low over his eyes, and a veil over his mouth and
nose. The cloth reflected some of the light, but it seemed scant protection. He
had even slung a white sheet over his horse, a bay courser named Dawn Runner.
The horse gave a
dry cough, attempting to dislodge the ever-present dust from its throat.
too, Dawn," Arlen said, stroking the horse's neck, "but we've used
our water ration for the morning, so there's nothing for it but to
again for Abban's map. The compass slung around his neck told him that they
were still headed due east, but there was no sign of the canyon. It should have
come in sight a day ago, and harsh rationing or no, they would have to turn
back to Fort Krasia in another day if they did not reach the river and find
Or you could
spare yourself a day of thirst and turn back now
, a voice in his head said.
The voice was
always telling him to turn back. Arlen thought of it as his father, the
lingering presence of a man he hadn't seen in close to a decade. Its words were
always the stern-sounding bits of wisdom that his father had liked to impart.
Jeph Bales had been a good man, and honest, but his stern wisdom had kept him
from traveling more than a few hours from his home for his entire life.
Every day away
from succor was another night spent outside with the corelings, and not even
Arlen took that lightly, but he had a deep and driving need to see things that
no other man had seen, to go places no other man had gone. He had been eleven
when he ran away from home. Now he was twenty, and had seen more of the world
than any but a handful of other men.
Like the parch in Arlen's
throat, the voice was simply another thing to be endured. The demons had made
the world small enough. He would not let some nagging voice make it even
This time he was
seeking Baha kad'Everam, a Krasian hamlet whose name translated into "Bowl
of Everam," which was the Krasian name for the Creator. Abban's maps said
it rested in a natural bowl formed by a dry lakebed in a river canyon. The
hamlet was renowned for its pottery, but the pottery merchants had stopped
coming more than twenty years ago, and a
expedition had found
the Bahavans taken by the night. No one had gone back there since.
"I was on
that expedition," Abban had claimed. Arlen had looked at the fat merchant
true," Abban said. "I was just a novice warrior carrying spears for
, but I remember the trek well. There was no sign of the
Bahavans, but the village was intact. The warriors cared nothing for pottery,
and thought it dishonorable to loot. Even now, there is pottery left in the
ruins, waiting for any with the courage to claim it." He had leaned in
closely then. "The work of a Bahavan pottery master would sell for a
premium in the bazaar," he said meaningfully.
And now, Arlen was
in the middle of the desert, wondering if Abban had made the whole thing up.
He went on for
hours more before he caught sight of a shadow creasing across the clay flats
ahead of him. He could led his heart thudding in his chest as Dawn Runner's
plodding hooves slowly brought the canyon into view. Arlen breathed a sigh of
relief, reminding himself that he ignored his father's voice for a reason. He
turned his horse south; the bowl came into sight not long after.
Dawn Runner was
grateful when they rode down into the bowl's shade. The hamlet's residents had
apparently shared the sentiment, because they had built their homes into the
ancient canyon walls, cutting deeply into the living clay and extending outward
with adobe buildings indistinguishable in color from the canyon and invisible
from any distance. A perfect camouflage from the wind demons that soared out
over the flats in search of prey.
But despite this
protection, the Bahavans had still died out. The river had gone dry, and
sickness and thirst had left them vulnerable to the corelings. Perhaps a few
had attempted the trek through the desert to Fort Krasia, but if so, they were
never heard from again.
high spirits fell with the realization that he was riding into a graveyard.
Again. He drew wards of protection in the air as he passed the homes, calling
out "Ay, Bahavans!" in the vain hope that some survivors might
Only the sound of
his own voice echoed back to him. The cloth that had served to block sun from
windows and doorways, where it remained at all, was ragged and filthy, and the
wards cut into the adobe were faded and worn from years of exposure to harsh
desert wind and grit. The walls were scarred by demon claws. There were no
There were demon
pits dug in the center of the village to trap and hold corelings for the sun,
and blockades running up the steep stone stairways that zigzagged in tiers up
the canyon wall to link the buildings. They were hastily built defenses, put in
place by the
not to defend the Bahavans, but rather to honor
them. Baha kad'Everam had been a village of
, men whose caste
made them unworthy of the right to hold spears or enter into Heaven, but even
such as they deserved hallowed ground to lay to rest, that I heir spirits might
be reincarnated into a higher caste, if they were worthy.
And there was only
one way the
hallowed ground. They stained it with their
blood, and the black ichor that flowed through coreling veins. They called it
meaning "demon war," and it was a battle waged every night in Fort
Krasia, an eternal struggle that would go on until all the demons were dead, or
there were no more men to fight them. The warriors had danced one night's
in Baha kad'Everam, to sanctify the Bahavans' graveyard.
Arlen rode around
the blockades and down to the riverbed, a mighty channel that now held only a
muddy, buggy trickle of water. Some thin vegetation clung stubbornly to the
water's edge, but further back the stalks of dead plants jutted, choked with
dust and too dry to rot.
The water collected
in a few small pools, brown and stinking. Arlen filtered it through charcoal
and cloth, but still looked at the water doubtfully, and decided to boil it, as
well. Dawn Runner nibbled at the bits of weed and prickly grass while he
It was getting
late in the day, and Arlen looked at the setting sun resentfully. "C'mon,
boy," he told the horse. "Time to lock ourselves up for the
He led Dawn Runner
back up the bank and into the main courtyard of the village. With little rain
or erosion, the demon pits, twenty feet deep and ten feet in diameter, remained
intact, but the wards that had been cut into the stones around them were dirty
and faded. Any demon thrown into one of the pits now would likely climb right
Still, the pits
gave some security. Arlen set up his portable circles right between the adobe
walls and one pit, limiting the path of approach to his camp.
Ten feet in
diameter, Arlen's portable warding circles were composed of lacquered wooden
plates connected by lengths of stout rope. Each plate was painted with ancient
symbols of forbiddance, enough to shield him from every known breed of
coreling. He laid them out in precise fashion, ensuring that the wards lined up
correctly to form a seamless net.
He drove a stake
into the clay inside one circle and looped rope around Dawn Runner's legs,
hobbling the horse and tying it to the stake with a complicated knot. If the
horse struggled or tried to bolt when the demons came, the ropes would tighten
and hold it in place, but Arlen could free the knot with but a tug, dropping
the loops and freeing Dawn Runner instantly.
In the other
circle, Arlen made his own camp. He laid a fire, but did not yet set spark to
it, for wood was precious this far out, and the desert night would grow bitter
As he worked,
Arlen's eyes kept drifting up the stone steps lo the adobe buildings built into
the walls. Somewhere up I here was the workshop of Master Dravazi, an artisan
whose painted pottery had been worth its weight in gold while he lived, and was
priceless now. One original Dravazi, lying forgotten on the potter's wheel,
would likely finance his entire trip. More would make him a very rich man.
Arlen even had a
good idea of where the master's workshop lay from his maps, but as much as he
wanted to go and search, the sun was setting.
As the great orb
settled below the horizon, the heat leached from the clay flats, drifting
skyward and giving the demons a path up from the Core. An evil gray mist rose
from the ground outside the circles, coalescing slowly into demonic form.
As the mist rose,
Arlen began to feel claustrophobic, as if his circle was surrounded by glass
walls, cutting him off from the world. It was hard to breathe in the circle,
even though the wards blocked only demon magic, and fresh air blew across his
lace even now. He looked out at his rising jailors, and bared his teeth.
Wind demons were
the first to form, standing about the height of a tall man at the shoulder, but
with head fins that rose much higher, topping eight or nine feet. Their great
long snouts were sharp-edged like beaks, but also hid rows of teeth, thick as a
man's finger. Their skin was a tough, flexible armor that could turn any
spearpoint or arrowhead. That resilient substance stretched thin out from their
sides and along the underside of their arm bones to form the tough membrane of
their giant wings, which often spanned three times their height, jointed with
wicked hooked talons that could cleanly sever a man's head when they dived.