Seeds of Rebellion by Brandon Mull, now you can read online.
A PROPHECY UTTERED
The prince entered the room. Repulsively sweet fumes pervaded the air. The mellow glow of scattered candles left most of the ancient carvings drenched in shadow. It had cost him much to reach this temple. Friends had perished. His family felt certain that he was neglecting his duties to them and to Trensicourt. But he had to know.
Hooded acolytes hoisted chains to raise the dripping slab from the fragrant pool. Her body encased in clay, only the face of the oracle was visible, the single interruption across the wet, smooth expanse. Her eyes were closed.
The prince waited. The acolytes secured the chains and departed. The room became silent as the slab gradually stopped dripping.
Her eyes opened. A milky film covered them, muting the brown of her irises and lending the whites an iridescent tint.
“Galloran,” she said.
“I am listening,” he replied, unsure whether he should have spoken, unsure whether she could hear him. Her ears were hidden within the slab.
“You are the last hope of Lyrian,” she pronounced.
He had suspected this was true. It was why he had come—to hear it spoken definitively. With her utterance, his assumptions hardened into certainty. A crushing weight of duty descended upon him.
“What must I do?” the prince asked.
“Without you, Maldor will triumph. His reign will be terrible. The realm will never recover. You must intervene.”
“Others will rise to lend aid. The way will be arduous. Many shall perish. Success is unlikely. Yet while you remain, hope remains.”
“Where do I start? Is the Word the key?”
“The quest for the Word will be a necessary part of your journey. I guard one of the syllables. The road is longer than you can guess.”
The prince nodded. “What else can you tell me?”
“Nothing is certain. Many ways lead to destruction. You will be tested beyond your capacity to endure. Should you survive the trials ahead, you will be a husband without a wife, a father without a son, a hero without a quest, and a king without a country. But take heart. Some must lose the way to find it. Some must be empty before they are full, weak before they are strong, and blind before they can see.”
On a warm August morning, Jason Walker crouched behind a young batter and a little catcher, eyes intent on the invisible rectangle of the strike zone, a mask limiting his view. Some of the umpires in this league braved home plate without the mask, but Jason’s parents had insisted he wear one. Based on the symptoms Jason had described back in June, doctors had concluded that a concussion must have initiated the mysterious disappearance that ended when he showed up at a farmhouse in Iowa, claiming he had no recollection of the prior four months.
The small pitcher went into his stretch. He glanced at the runner on third, then at the runner on first. The pitcher was in a tight spot. It was the third round of the summer league playoffs. His team led by one run, this was the final inning, there were two outs, and the count was three balls, two strikes. The pudgy kid at the plate was the second-best hitter on the opposing team.
The runner on first was taking a huge lead. The pitcher stepped off the rubber and winged the ball to the first baseman. The runner dove to make it back to the bag, then asked for time so he could stand.
The pitcher got the ball back. Again the runner on first took a greedy lead. The pitcher threw to first again, but the first baseman dropped the ball. Although the baseball did not roll far, the runner on third dashed for home. The batter backed away.
“Throw home!” the pitcher yelled as the first baseman grabbed the ball.
The ball streaked through the air to the catcher, who had the runner beat. The runner dropped his shoulder, plowing into the catcher as he got tagged before stepping on home plate. The little catcher flopped backward into the dirt, the ball dropping from his mitt.
“You’re out,” Jason called, pumping his fist.
The players on the field cheered. The coach of the opposing team, a skinny man with a dark suntan and a darker mustache, charged over to Jason. The coach was already hollering before he reached home plate, eyes bulging, spittle flying from his chapped lips. “What’s wrong with you, ump? What kind of call was that? This is our season! Are you blind? He dropped the ball!”
Taking off his mask, Jason stared at the outraged coach. Within the past six months, Jason had confronted a giant bloodthirsty crab, outfoxed a brilliant chancellor, dueled a vengeful duke, and defied an evil emperor. He was not intimidated by Coach Leo. The coach kicked dust at him and gestured wildly. Veins stood out in his neck. Apparently he was emulating the tantrum of some major league manager he had seen on television.
Matt, the first base umpire, hurried over. He got between Jason and the furious coach. “Hey, settle down,” he insisted.