Stargate Monuments


Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus

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Stargate Monuments

Snippet Post 3

This is another longish snippet post for the Clarion West Write-a-thon:

One from The Serpent Sea, second book in The Cloud Roads series. This is a bit of Raksuran gender politics:

Stone scratched his neck, and added thoughtfully, "We almost went to war with Emerald Twilight, before Indigo Cloud left the Reaches."

There was a startled murmur from everyone. "War?" Flower repeated, incredulous.

"Are you serious?" Jade demanded.

Pearl lifted her spines. "Was it something you did? Just tell us."

Stone glared at her. "I was barely ten turns old." Under Jade and Pearl's concentrated stares, he admitted, "Indigo stole Cloud from a daughter queen at Emerald Twilight. I forget her name."

"Stole?" It was Moon's turn to stare. " That can happen?"

"We can only hope," River put in, nastily. Drift snickered.

Moon met River's gaze in deliberate challenge. "Do you need another beating?"

"Quiet, both of you," Pearl snapped. She turned back to Stone. "Was Cloud taken?"

"Yes. The daughter queen took him when he was too young, and after a few turns, it wasn't working out. There was no clutch yet." Stone shrugged. "At least that's our side of the story. I have no idea if that's actually true or not."

Bone shook his head, affronted. "Is this even in the histories?"

Flower groaned and rubbed her eyes. "I've never seen it there. And I'm fairly certain I'd remember."

This sounded serious. Nobody seemed to think that maybe Emerald Twilight would have forgotten the incident by now. Moon wasn't even sure what they meant by "stolen." Kidnapped, carried off? Like the Fell did with the Arbora? He didn't need anything new to worry about.

Jade tapped her claws on the floor, impatient. "How did it happen?"

Stone said, "This was when Indigo was still a sister queen -- when her mother Cerise was still alive -- and she was visiting Emerald Twilight. She saw Cloud and just...grabbed him. Half the queens in the Reaches got together to settle it to prevent a war, and by that time Indigo had talked Cloud into accepting her and reputing his first queen. The other queens talked Emerald Twilight into letting it go." He spread his hands. "It was a successful match. Indigo succeeded as reigning queen, the court renamed itself after her and Cloud, and they led us to a new colony when this one started to fail. They had eight clutches. But I have no idea how Emerald Twilight sees it."

There was a silence, as everyone digested that. Bell and Knell exchanged an uneasy glance. Bone just looked disgruntled.

Chime cleared his throat. He said tentatively, "Maybe this would be a good time to revisit the discussion about changing the court's name?"

And one from The Ships of Air. This is aboard the Queen Ravenna, a giant steam ocean liner carrying refugees across the sea in another dimension.

Giliead stopped in the corridor, turning into one of the vestibules. "There's something here. Just a trace." He hesitated, touching the dark-panelled wall lightly.

The door he had chosen stood open and Tremaine could hear Rienish voices inside. She stepped past him and knocked on the open door. "Hello? Could we have a word?"

"Yes? Oh, hello." It was a young girl in a jumper, two little boys playing with wooden blocks on the floor at her feet. There was an old woman sitting on the couch, humming to herself and working on a stretch of cloth with thread and needle. She didn't stop working but her cloudy blue eyes lifted to study Tremaine, then Florian and the two Syprians.

"Hello." Florian glanced at Tremaine, correctly interpreted her blank expression, and managed, "We're just...oh, taking a survey. Who's staying in your cabin, and where are they now, and that sort of thing."

"Oh." The girl managed to tear her eyes off the exotic sight of Giliead and Ilias in her doorway and gestured to the old woman. "It's just me and grandmother and the boys. Lady Aviler came asking for volunteers and my mother went."

"In the laundry?" Tremaine asked, eyeing the grandmother. According to the patrols, most of the civilian activity aboard the ship last night had centered in the hospital and the laundry. If the attempt on the Isolation Ward had been made by a sorcerer and not something that had managed to get aboard from the island, then chances were it was a refugee with a good excuse for wandering the ship at night.

The girl assured her, "No, the kitchens."

"Ah." Tremaine glanced at Giliead, asking in Syrnaic, "Is it grandma there?"

"Yes, but...." He shrugged slightly, meeting the old woman's cloudy blue gaze. "She doesn't feel dangerous."

Ilias leaned against the doorframe, explaining, "When they're real old like that and not doing any harm we usually just pretend we didn't find them."

Tremaine nodded, not sure if that said something about Syprians in general or Ilias and Giliead in particular. She turned to the young girl again and mentally switched back to Rienish. "Ah...." Might as well be direct. "Is your grandmother a sorceress or a witch by any chance?"

Either the girl was an excellent actress or was genuinely surprised at the question. "Oh, no, madam."

"So she can't cast?" Florian clarified, glancing at the imperturbable old woman.

"Oh, she can cast and heal, but she can't fly or anything." The girl made an extravagant gesture, apparently indicating Great Spells, major wards and raising fayre islands.

"I see." Tremaine bit her lip in thought. "Has she been in the laundry lately?"

The girl seemed bewildered by Tremaine's fixation on the laundry. "No, do they need help there?"

"I'll mention her to Doctor Divies," Florian put in hastily, taking Tremaine's arm to steer her out of the room. "If she can heal they might need her down in the hospital."

"Oh, she'd like that."

As they returned to the corridor, Tremaine explained in Syrnaic, "Anybody with any real magical talent got recruited for something like the army or the Institute or trapped behind the barrier at Lodun. The ones who are left are going to be either a hundred years old like that woman or completely untrained children."

Giliead looked down the corridor with a preoccupied expression, not seeing their curious audience. "If it's a Rienish wizard, this isn't going to be easy."

Ilias nodded, his face resigned. "And if it's a Gardier wizard, there's a lot of places to hide on this ship."

Tremaine flipped through the map book again, thinking it over. The assigned living areas had been colored in with a pencil, not that that told her much. Lady Aviler and her minions had been keeping a rough list of cabin assignments; they would have to get a look at that too. Some of Second and all of Third Class should be uninhabited. Though, she supposed, there was nothing to keep people from taking those rooms except that they were smaller and less nicely appointed. Some of those rescued from the Gardier might very well have chosen to move there, if after months of crowded confinement underground they craved privacy and quiet more than anything else. "There's still tons of empty cabin space. We should check that first."

Giliead's brows quirked. "You mean there are more rooms?"

"Bunches." Tremaine showed him the map, pointing to a spot. "We're about here."

As they started down the corridor, Florian asked slowly, "So what if it's not a Gardier, or a creature from the island? What if it is someone trying to kill the Gardier prisoners for revenge?"

Tremaine shrugged slightly, still occupied with the map. "Then we just pretend we didn't find them."

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I <3 Tremaine, Ilias and Giliead!

I do love Tremaine's pragmatism. More, it's a treat to get snippets from Serpent Sea -- thanks!

Refuting or repudiating?

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