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Circles and Stones (update 3, excerpt)

I have completed twenty chapters of the third novel in my Sanyel series, Circles and Stones, and feel it’s time for another excerpt. The writing is still in the draft stage, so expect further editing before the final version. Here is the backdrop to the depicted scene: Having temporarily given the slip to Creet soldiers who pursue them, sixteen-year-old shaman Sanyel, her friend Izzy, the priest Borsar, and rebel leader Trayvan find themselves in an abandoned arena overgrown by a dense forest. They are searching for Borsar’s son, Porlak, a boy abducted by the madwoman Danara, self-proclaimed ruler of this corner of the world. A young boy, Sebrin, accompanies them, another of Danara’s abductees who has recently escaped from her clutches. The group has just rescued a boy from an animal attack that killed the boy’s hunting companion, and are expecting to run into more of the boys’ hunting group, all of them brainwashed Danara abductees who now claim allegiance to the madwoman. Sester—sun god Terganz—Danara's talking animal god kanser—type of tree corjal—a bird “What should we do with Kolal?” Izzy asked after I urged a quick departure. “We’ll have to leave him. We have no time for a burial.” I had nothing against the dead boy and I was not trying to be callous, but the fate of his body was of less concern to me than letting the Creet catch up to us. I did perform a small ritual to help in his spirit’s transition to the next life. That was the important thing in my estimation. The body was an empty shell with no further purpose, although if Kolal had loved ones, I knew they would not see it that way. Talak accepted that he was coming with us. That we had not harmed him had persuaded him that we were not the danger he had first supposed. We continued our trek toward the center of the arena through thick forest, still hoping to intercept Porlak along the way. Limited visibility hampered our sense of direction. I expected to run into more young hunters soon. Some must have heard the commotion in the woods. This arena was not that large. They had. Within ten minutes after leaving Kolal’s body, eight hunters had us surrounded. They pointed their spears in our direction as they approached, with one informing us not to try fleeing. I detected fright in several of them as I scanned their ranks. Not wanting to trigger an unfortunate encounter, I told the others to remain calm and not to make any threatening moves. I looked to Borsar and saw his eager eyes seeking out the boy he had come to rescue. Disappointment showed when he found no redhead among this group. No Porlak. So where was he, off hunting on his own? “Drop your weapons,” ordered a curly-headed, muscular boy, who was about a year younger than I was. He was the one who had advised us not to flee. Spotting the skinny youth among us, he said, “Talak, move away from them.” Talak hesitated, glancing at Sebrin, which caused the curly-headed boy to notice the younger boy. “Sebrin! You’ve come back to us!” The group leader eyed the escapee with a wicked gleam. “So, you didn’t get very far, did you? Danara will be pleased to have you back. Of course, we’ll first have to punish you for your disobedience, won’t we?” Sebrin clung to Izzy in fear, and my one-armed friend expressed her dislike for the curly-headed boy’s threat with a look of malice. “You there, curl head,” she addressed him. “Do you like to frighten those smaller and weaker than you?” The surprised group leader stared at the marvel that was Izzy, taking in her size, unusual facial markings, and her missing limb. The fool was not impressed. “Shut up, woman! You’ll talk when I tell you to.” Izzy, to her credit, did not take the bait. She just stood there, expressionless, offering no response. Her impassive silence and cold stare appeared to unnerve the confident youth. He turned to Trayvan. “Are you an actual Creet soldier,” he demanded to know, “or did you steal that uniform?” “I am a Creet soldier,” the rebel leader half lied. “So, we have a strange Creet soldier and women dressed as priests wandering around in our forest. That is unacceptable. Who are you … and why did you kill Kolal?” The accusation drew an instant rebuttal from Talak. “Walad, they did not kill Kolal. A spartok gored him. These people saved me from the beast by slaying it.” Walad’s eyebrows arched. “We saw no spartok,” he claimed, as if challenging the truth of Talak’s words. “You didn’t look closely enough,” I informed him. Walad aimed a sharp glance at me, and then said to Trayvan, “Why do you allow these women to interrupt? Do you have no control over them?” “Does Danara allow you to speak to her that way when she attempts to enlighten you?” I asked. The young man appeared irked that I would continue talking after he had made it clear he found it objectionable. Still, he decided to answer, even while showing disdain over my comparison. “Danara is not a simpleton girl like you. We obey her words without question, as she is wise, and her wisdom is infallible. She is the voice of Terganz.” “I thought Terganz was the voice of Terganz. Isn’t he a talking droove?” The curly-headed boy’s anger rose, his face flushing. “Terganz is not a droove! He is a GOD!” What is going on here!” demanded a new voice. A pudgy redhead appeared from among the kansers behind Walad. He balanced a spear in one hand and held a dead corjal in the other. Porlak!” shouted Borsar. The surprised spear-carriers all turned to the priest, including the one addressed. Porlak gazed upon the speaker and his eyes at last showed recognition. “Father?” Borsar moved toward his son, but several spears checked his advance. The indignant priest said, “Son, tell them who I am.” Porlak showed a surprising indifference to the request. He stood staring at his father with little expression, and then without emotion said, “Disarm them. We will take them to the sperza, lock them up, and wait for Danara to come next week. She will decide what to do with them.” A confused Borsar said, “Porlak, what are you doing? We have come to rescue you.” “You are a heretic!” Porlak responded, with considerably more emotion than he had shown up until now. “You are no longer my father. I am now a son of Terganz. You follow the false god, Sester, and for that you must be put to death.” Borsar stared at his son in disbelief, and then with anguish cried, “What has that mad bitch done to you? I should have come for you sooner.” “SILENCE!” Porlak screeched. “You will not speak of our beloved Danara in that manner.” “Please, my son, listen to me. She has warped your reasoning. She—” “STOP! I will hear no more of your blasphemy.” Porlak motioned to the other boys. “Relieve them of their weapons, as you should have done already.” I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. There’s more to come in future posts. In the meantime, be sure to check out my previous Circles and Stones excerpts, and if you enjoy action and adventure, I invite you to look at the first books in the series, Sanyel and Disrupter. You won’t come across a heroine as savvy, witty, and skilled as Sanyel, as everyone who meets her soon discovers.

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