Stargate Monuments

marthawells

Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus


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marthawells

Auction and Snippet Post

I'm still behind on comments, but here's some things:

Please, please, please pass this on:

The Romance Relief auction on ebay for for writer L.A. Banks ends on the 13th. L.A. Banks has late stage adrenal cancer and donations to help are badly needed.

The items being offered include signed books, ads for books on popular web sites, critiques for writers, etc. And there is a signed copy of The Cloud Roads by me.

***

Snippets:

This is another snippet post for the Clarion West Write-a-thon. And thanks very much to the people who donated so far!


Here's one from The Serpent Sea



They went down a ramp, then came out again to a dock area open to the sea. It was partly sheltered from above by woven reed canopies, and had small wooden piers snaking out into the lapping water. Round Kek boats were tied up along most of the piers, except for one; next to it was a large leafless tree, apparently growing up out of the water.

Not a tree, a boat, Moon realized, moving down the dock to get a closer look. It was round, the gray branches arching up from a thick mossy mat to form a bowl-shape. Something sat in the center, its form obscured by the branches.

Khitah pointed emphatically toward the strange boat. "Water traveler," he said. "Go long way. Know much." Moon started to step down onto the pier, but Khitah put a hand on his arm. His grip was light, like being caught by dry brush. He stared hard at Moon and said, "Careful."

Moon nodded. The warning just confirmed his suspicion. "I will."

"Why?" Chime squinted to get a better look at the shadowy shape inside the branches. "It's just a groundling in a boat...isn't it?"

"No. Stay here with Khitah." Moon stepped down onto the pier, the reeds creaking under his weight, and moved toward the water traveler.

Drawing closer, he could see root-like tendrils floating in the water, growing out from the underside of the mat. The gray branches looked less like wood and more like gnarled horn. They were connected to the being that sat in the center, growing out of its arms, legs, back, chest. It wasn't a groundling sitting in a boat; it was a waterling, and it was the boat.

A voice said, "Now what's this?" It spoke Altanic, low and sibilant. Something about it made the back of Moon's neck itch. The scent wafting toward him had a rank edge to it, odd for a water being of any kind. It was a predator's scent. "A curious groundling come to talk to old Nobent?"

"You could say that." Moon crouched on the pier, so his head was about even with Nobent's. It gave him a better view of the water traveler's face. It looked a little like a male groundling, his skin gnarled and gray like the horn structures growing out of his body; there were chips of the stuff above his eyes, down his cheeks, studding the curve of his skull. It wasn't that the growths or the gray coloring were particularly repellent; Stone was gray and a little gnarled too, though not to this extent. But this creature radiated menace. "I need to know if there are any groundlings living out on the sea, that might travel to this shore."

Nobent leaned forward. Out of the corner of his eye, Moon saw the outer branches of the boat stir slightly. Nobent smiled, deliberately revealing a toothless mouth. If he was meant to live like this, floating atop the sea, then there might be a second mouth in the bottom of the mossy-covered base that supported his upper limbs. Top one for talking, lower one for eating, Moon thought. It wasn't the oddest thing he had seen. The branches looked stiff, but he bet they could whip around, seize prey, and snatch it under water. Obviously the Kek didn't fear the creature, but there was hardly any meat on their light bones. It said, "Old Nobent doesn't hear well. Come closer."

Oh please, Moon thought. "Does that really work?"

Nobent hesitated, nonplussed, and something made Moon think that "Old Nobent" wasn't so old. Nobent's lips curled in derision. "You're not scared of old Nobent? Nobent isn't scary."

Nobent was, however, annoyingly single-minded. This could go on forever. Moon shifted, flared his spines, snapped his wings out so they were half-unfurled. "I am."

With a startled snarl, Nobent jerked back, his whole structure rocking, splashing water up onto the pier. Unimpressed, Moon flicked droplets off his claws. He said, mildly, "I'm not hungry yet."







A snippet from Wheel of the Infinite:



At twilight they lit torches around a flattened spot of ground between the merchants' wagons and theirs. The Mahlindi brought woven mats to protect their brightly patterned robes from the grass and proceeded to arrange themselves in orderly rows without having to be asked. There were only three chief merchants, identifiable by the clan markings on their cheeks and foreheads, but they had each brought at least a dozen apprentices and servants. Their guards and drivers arrived in a grumbling, reluctant group behind them.

Maskelle moved back out of the torchlight, back to the open area between the two wagon camps, where she could see the stage, the front of the outpost, the place on the bank where the boats were drawn up, and the road where it curved past the trees. She sat on the wet grass, feeling the damp seep up through her robes. The life and torchlight around the makeshift stage seemed like an isolated pocket in a night of wild darkness. The wind had risen again, tossing the tops of the trees and sending fast-moving clouds across the moon. The lights in the post were dimmed by shutters and the inhabitants had withdrawn from the balconies.

Rastim walked out to the center of the stage, made the odd Ariaden bow that was the same for everyone, whatever their rank, and the play began. Maskelle gave it only part of her attention; she was listening to the night. She had the growing feeling that it was trying to tell her something.
The Ariaden had been unable to resist including puppets, and Firac's sons Thae and Tirin each appeared with one of the big walking figures. These were elaborate contraptions that fastened to the operator at the feet and waist, and could be manipulated with rods held in the operators' hands. The troupe owned larger ones that took two operators, one sitting on the other's shoulders, but these were relatively small and only towered a few feet over the boys' heads.

The appearance of the puppets, the light wooden bodies brightly painted and the distorted heads with their clacking jaws, brought the curious boatmen over. Drawn by the laughter and applause of the Mahlindi, a party of wealthier travellers, probably passengers from the barge that was weathering the bad currents, came down from the post. Most of these people had never seen the elaborate Ariaden puppets before and there was much whispered commentary in the crowd. Someone else was drawn by the noise as well.

Maskelle looked for him, and saw him finally just beyond the reach of the torches, sitting on the grass and watching. It gave her more information about him, though it was nothing that made any particular sense. She wasn't sure how a Sitanese outcast could have seen kiradi theater before, but he got the joke that even passed the Mahlindi by, the one that appeared to be an innocuous remark about idle hands and was actually a subtle innuendo implying masturbation, to the point where he actually fell over on his side with laughter.

A burst of applause made Maskelle glance at the stage. At first she thought the figure crossing in front of Therassa and Doria's scene was a child, escaped from some parent in the audience. It was a puppet.

"Great Days in the Dawn of Life," Maskelle swore, starting to her feet. How did that damn thing get out? She circled the crowd hastily, coming up on the wagon that formed the stage right entrance. She caught Rastim as he pelted into her and dragged him behind the wagon.

"I don't know," he whispered frantically, answering the question she hadn't had the chance to ask yet. "Thae and Tirin got the Aldosi out of their boxes, but they know better, they would never--"

"I know they wouldn't." Maskelle leaned around the wagon to peer at the stage. The animate puppet was standing, staring out at the audience, the painted face expressionless. Therassa and Doria were still saying their lines, but they were casually putting distance between themselves and the puppet. The crowd still thought it was part of the show; to people unused to puppets, the one that was walking by itself was no more miraculous than the two that had been controlled by the young boys. Firac and Gardick were standing out of sight of the crowd near the wagon marking the opposite end of the stage; Firac was holding a net. Maskelle shook her head. That wasn't going to do much good.

All the Ariaden puppets had names: the Aldosi were the two big walking puppets Thae and Tirin were working. The one that was working itself had been Gisar, a clown puppet manipulated by strings pulled from above. Gisar had had the misfortune to be on stage during a performance that had offended a powerful magister in the eastern province of Corvalent. It was how Maskelle had first met Rastim and the other Ariaden.

Gisar now lived locked in a box hung beneath Rastim's wagon and sealed by all the protective symbols Maskelle knew to put on it. It had been getting stronger, the particular nature of the curse put on it making its malevolence grow with time instead of fade. It must have been able to manipulate one or both the boys from inside its box, so when they had thought they were only unpacking the Aldosi puppets, they had opened Gisar's container as well.

"You'll have to go and get it," Rastim whispered.

"I know that." It hadn't done anything yet, but possibly it was biding its time, waiting for her. Across the length of the stage she caught Firac's eye. When she had his attention, she stepped out away from the wagon.


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