Stargate Monuments

marthawells

Martha Wells

The Invisible Woman


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Raksura
marthawells

Snippet Post

I hope the snow and ice situation is better in the rest of the country. We've been below freezing the past few days but we're going back up to the 60s and 70s this weekend. Though they said it'll probably freeze again next week. Blegh.

Here's a snippet from The Dead City. It's the third Raksura novella that will be in the second paperback volume that's coming out in 2015, plus it'll be released individually in ebook at some point. (That's all I know right now.) The info on the first volume is all here and it's showing up on Amazon Canada now, so I'm hoping the other online retailers will start trickling in eventually. The title already changed once and may actually change a bit more, but the ISBN is 978-1597805353 if you want to search for it.

The Dead City is a story about Moon before he met Stone, set only a few days after the destruction of Saraseil by the Fell.


snippet from The Dead City

He went back up to the main level, where Ghatli stood in the outer door watching the short armored groundlings trundle away across the caravanserai's yard. They were heading down the path toward the lake. The sky was overcast and it made the ferns and heavy foliage around the clearing look an even deeper green than they already were.

Ghatli saw Moon and said, with a sigh, "Even the Agun-teil are afraid."

"Of the Fell?" Moon said, the words out before he could stop them.

"Ah!" Ghatli shuddered, making her sparse fur shake. "No, not the Fell. Not yet. Not ever, please." She made a complicated gesture which might be a ward against bad luck, or death, or Fell, or anything in general. "No, it's the miners. They have been attacking anyone who tries to go along the hill trade route. They haven't come down to the shore yet, but they've already frightened off a great many traders."

Moon considered leaving. The conversation, the caravanserai. If it wasn't the Fell, he didn't care. But it was a habit and an ingrained survival skill to pretend to show interest in things that groundlings were interested in, so he said, "The what?"

"You haven't heard of the miners? You must not have stopped at any of the trade camps along the Lacessian Way, I thought the word had spread--" She eyed him again. "Well, I suppose you didn't. The miners appeared here three cycles ago. We call them miners because they dig into the hills."

A vague spark of real interest stirred and Moon squinted up at the rising terrain behind the caravanserai. It was all heavily cloaked in jungle. It looked more like hunting country, or a good spot for gathering fruit and roots. "What are they mining?"

"We have no idea. No one lives up there. It's good country, and the trade route is right there, but there's been no settlements, as far as the fishers can remember. Of course there are tales of ghosts, but there always are, in empty places." Ghatli moved her shoulders uneasily. "There is obviously something the miners want up there, but we don't know if it is something natural, like metal ore or gemstone, or something buried under the ground." She lowered her voice. "Perhaps something left by some ancient species."

Moon nodded absently. One thing had become obvious in his travels was that the Three Worlds had been home to many and varied peoples over uncounted turns. The hills and the jungle might conceal anything; there were a great many things the miners could be digging for.

Ghatli had apparently been hoping for a reaction of astonishment because she drooped a little. "We thought it a good theory. It's at least the most interesting theory."

Moon shrugged, noncommittal.

"Anyway, this place is a major route for the trade along the Lacessian and the Vaganian, which cross on the other side of the heights, but the miners have frightened almost everyone off, and the trader caravans are taking other routes." She scuffed at the dirt with the horny pads of one foot. "That's Ventl's problem. He and the other fishers can't get anyone to cart his reeds and the traders aren't here to buy their fish anymore, and it's made him angry, and he thinks taking over the caravanserai from me will somehow..." She sighed. "We are friends, still, I hope. But he's afraid and it's made him strange."

It took Moon a moment to remember that Ventl was the one who had tried to attack him when he had arrived. It hadn't been much of an attack. Moon's lack of interest in the trading difficulties of strange groundlings was in danger of overcoming him, but Ghatli said, "We can't even talk to them. Trader caravans don't want to mine, they want to trade. Fishers want to fish. The miners have no reason to think anyone here might impinge on...whatever it is they're doing."

"They speak a different language?" Moon asked, looking toward the jungle again. He needed to hunt, and he could hear more groundlings plodding and stamping up the path from the lake. This place was getting crowded.

"They don't speak anything, at least not to us. The fishers who went up into the hills to try to talk to them disappeared." Ghatli quivered, a mix of anger and disgust. "We think they ate them."

Moon swallowed the urge to hiss. "They usually do," he said, bitterly.

"It's a common problem?" Ghatli asked, startled, "Because-- Oh, joy, here's Ventl again."

Ventl was coming up the path from the lake. With him were a couple of his green-gray-furred cronies and a new group of groundlings. They were taller and broader than the stocky fishers and had boney square skulls. They wore light leather armor and carried heavy metal weapons, javelins, and sickle-like curved blades slung across their backs. That was always a bad sign, in Moon's experience. Ghatli's too, evidently, as she muttered, "I hope they don't want rooms. They'll go right through the floors."

The first armored one strode up to them and looked between Moon and Ghatli, as if equally dissatisfied with both Moon's tattered half-starved look and Ghatli's appearance in general. Ghatli gave a frustrated twitch and said, "What is this, Ventl? I didn't know you knew any Cedar-rin."

Ventl moved his big flat head in a way Moon interpreted as embarrassment or reluctance. He said, "They want to see the miners."

Ghatli's ears lifted. "See them in what sense?"

"That's our concern." The Cedar-rin said, his voice deep and grating. The skin of his face was oddly pale, but it caught the light as he turned his head and Moon saw it was coated with small pearly scales, and must be as tough as lizard-hide, though not quite as thick as Moon's scales in his other form. There was a distinct resemblance to the scales on the broken statue at the old lake dock.

From this angle Moon could see the big one had horns curling out from the back of his skull and the others didn't. They were all a little smaller, their heads not as large and boney. They might be female, or another gender, or even a variant of the species. The Cedar-rin said, "Why is this one here?"

He was talking about Moon. Moon didn't answer, just continued to stare unblinking at him. Normally he believed in being more circumspect, but his patience for it seemed to have stayed behind when he left Saraseil.

Ghatli said, "He's just a lodger. If you want to see the miners, just go up that road--" She turned to point toward the wide path that curved up the hill at the far end of the clearing.

The Cedar-rin reached to grab her arm and his hand bounced off Moon's chest. Moon had stepped in front of her almost before he knew he was going to do it. He had no idea why, except that the Cedar-rin was large and Ghatli was small, even if she did seem tough and wiry. He looked into the Cedar-rin's little pale eyes and said, "Tell her what you want. Don't touch her."

The Cedar-rin stared, emotion hard to read on its boney face. The others drew their sickles. Ventl came up on the balls of his big feet and Moon could hear reeds creak as the inhabitants of the caravanserai crowded out the doorway.

His voice calm and a little curious, the big Cedar-rin said, "You're brave for a soft-skin. Do you think you can best us?"

Soft-skin, Moon thought, feeling his upper lip curl. He knew he could best them. He also knew Ghatli and the others wouldn't much care for him after they saw him do it. His back fangs itched and his fingertips hurt and his pulse pounded through his body with the urge to shift.

Ghatli peered out from behind his elbow. She said, "We're all friends here, hey? My good friend Ventl brought you here, didn't he?" The look she directed Ventl's way must have been poisonous because he rocked back on his heels from the force of it. "Do as my friend here says, and tell me what you want of us."

The Cedar-rin considered it, then finally said, "Take us to the excavation."

"It's easy to find," Ghatli said. "You take the path there up through the hills to the trade route--"

The Cedar-rin grabbed Ventl by the back of his head, drew a knife curved into a half-circle, and held it to the fur at Ventl's throat. Ghatli flinched and the other groundlings in the caravanserai gasped in dismay.

If that was as fast as the Cedar-rin could move, Moon wasn't impressed. But he would have to shift to stop them and he didn't want to do that yet. He thought they would probably end up leading the Cedar-rin into the hills and it was best to get on with it.

Ghatli held up her hands. "There is no reason to get violent! Of course I'll take you."

***



There's complete info on the whole series on my web site.

To Ghatli's dismay, I have a feeling it is going to get violent. Love the snippet! :)