Circles and Stones (update 6, excerpt)
I have completed writing the third book, Circles and Stones, in my ongoing Sanyel series, and have begun the editing process. I would like to offer readers a final excerpt, which is still subject to further editing. Here is the setup to the scene:
Teen shaman Sanyel and her companions, including the priest Borsar, seek to rescue Borsar’s son from the cultish control of Danara, self-proclaimed ruler of this land. They have come to the Well of the Ancients, drawn to this sacred site of purported healing waters by information they feel might help lead them to Danara. It is the anniversary of the well’s founding, and high-ranking priests from all over have arrived to participate in a ceremony. Sanyel has so far tried to blend in with the crowd and remain anonymous, but when she realizes starving victims of Danara’s restrictive food policies have come to the well seeking miracles, she’s willing to expose her identity in order to help. Due to an unavoidable incident earlier, a few people already know of her presence at the well, including the commanding officer of soldiers assigned duty there.
Creet—military caste; any member of such caste
Sester—the sun god
Terganz—animal god followed by Danara
I glanced around at the crowd and felt sorry for those still coming to the well, especially those who showed advanced stages of starvation. They were treating their condition as an illness, hoping for a miracle cure, but the well would deny them that, for it could not produce food. I wished I could help in some way.
Then I remembered the fields of grain we had passed on the road to the well.
“I need to go see the Creet commander,” I told my companions. “I’ll be right back.”
When I found the young officer, I asked if he knew anything about the fields, such as who planted them and for what purpose.
“Those belong to Relsan, a priest who is a member of the high council. I believe Danara commissioned him to provide food for both the government elite and the Creet soldiers when she realized the granaries held insufficient grain to sustain them for long. I also hear she plans to distribute some of the present grain to feed the populace and will soon start planting for them as well. She now realizes that starvation breeds rebellion. But those fields you speak of are for the elite only.”
“Is Relsan here?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. All the important priests are here for the well’s anniversary, and he is one of the highest ranking.”
“I want to see him.”
The surprised commander said, “I thought you wanted to keep your presence here secret.”
“This is more important to me than that. Could you show him to me?”
I accompanied the officer through the crowd toward the well site, where the noon ceremony was in preparation. Those who were not priests stood a considerable distance from the well, forced back so as not to interfere; we stopped at the crowd’s edge. The commander pointed to a thin, blue-robed man who seemed to be directing seating arrangements. I left the crowd and walked toward the man, and as I approached the well, I heard murmurs of alarm and disapproval from the priests already gathered.
“Get her away from here!” I heard one shout. “This is a sacred ceremony. Only priests are allowed near the well for the ritual.”
Others spoke similar sentiments in harsh tones. Relsan glanced up to determine the cause of the disturbance. As I continued to approach, the lanky, middle-aged priest scowled and signaled to someone behind me. I looked back and saw he was summoning the young Creet commander.
“I wish to speak to you,” I told the priest, “about—”
“You don’t belong here,” the man interrupted, waving me away. “Return to behind the crowd border we have designated for spectators.”
“I belong anywhere I please,” I informed the priest, which startled the man enough to force him to take a good look at me.
The Creet officer then arrived and asked the priest what assistance he required.
“Take this impertinent young woman away,” he said. “She seems to have some delusion of self-importance. Make sure she’s locked away somewhere so she can’t interfere with the ceremony.”
“Umm,” the commander hesitated, “I…umm—”
“What are you waiting for?” the irritated priest asked. “Get her out of here.”
“He can’t do that,” I told the angry man. “He doesn’t have the authority.”
The baffled priest reacted in disbelief to my words, then grew angrier and said, “I have the authority and he does what I tell him to do!” To the Creet he said, “Get this insane girl out of here now, or I’ll have you demoted.”
The uncomfortable officer gave me a pleading look. I smiled and turned to the irate priest.
“Do you know Borsar?”
The question startled the man. Everyone in the priesthood at least knew the name of the now disgraced Borsar. The former ranking priest of the high council had once been in line to succeed the late ruler Smerkas, Danara’s husband. Of course, now they all knew him as just another shunned Sester follower.
“I know him,” the suspicious priest responded. I detected fear in the man’s voice. That was interesting.
“Are you a loyal follower of Terganz?” I then queried. The priest showed anxiety over the question. I was using the tone of an inquisitor and the priest seemed uncertain how to respond. I had already told him that the young officer held no authority over me. He had to be wondering who I was and what authority I represented, as my attitude showed no acknowledgement that his held any sway.
“Are you going to answer the girl’s question, Relsan?”
A fat, redheaded priest had approached unnoticed from the crowd. Relsan’s conversation with me had riveted the attention of those at the well, so no one had challenged the man’s presence. Relsan now turned to Borsar, who had removed his yellow hood, and upon recognizing him, grew pale and shuddered.
“Your eminence,” he managed to utter, and then attempted some sort of awkward bow, a cross between bending and stepping one foot forward. Other priests watched with puzzlement over Relsan’s reaction to the redhead, as few knew Borsar, the former ranking priest of the high council, by sight.
“That title no longer belongs to me,” Borsar said. Then, with a threat in his voice, he asked, “Where is my son?”
Relsan reacted to the hard question with another shudder, and then said, “Please understand, your eminence. I did not know Danara’s plan; you have to believe me. It was only after they rounded up the children that she told me she was keeping them. Why she put them in my charge, I do not know. They are all safe and cared for, I assure you, but I no longer have any association with them. I was relieved of that duty for reasons still unclear to me, and I am now a grower and supplier of food, nothing more.”
Borsar showed a hard expression as he listened, and when the man finished he again asked in a sharp tone, “Where is my son?”
“I do not know. Truly, I don’t. Danara once held the children in rooms beneath her residence at Bandesvar. Since my dismissal as their caretaker, I have heard Danara moved them and that they now reside in a secret location. I have no idea where that might be.”
“Relsan, you remind me of how little I thought of you when you were my associate on the high council,” replied Borsar. “You were useless to me then and you still are. It’s no surprise the wicked woman realized your uselessness as well.”
“I apologize, your eminence. If there was a way to assist you, I would.”
“I’m the one needing assistance,” I spoke, “if you two are done ignoring my presence.”
Borsar turned to me with alarm and said, “Oh, please forgive my intrusion, Disrupter. I did not mean to overstep.”
Relsan’s face acquired a new degree of pale. I had his full attention now and could at last state my reason for initiating this talk.
“We passed fields of grain on our way to the well. I hear they are yours. I want you to harvest them and dispense an ample supply to every starving person gathered here.”
“You…what?” said a surprised Relsan.
“You heard me. Feed these people with the grain you intended for those who don’t deserve it. The sun god and I care about these people. We don’t care about your elitist rulers or their Creet enablers. Do you understand?”
Relsan, for a moment taken aback by the demand, stood speechless. Then, to my surprise, a smile creased his lips and with a relish I didn’t expect, he said, “Yes, yes, I do understand, Disrupter! I will be happy to comply. Danara demoted me to a food grower to humiliate me. I would love to deny her this food. To fuld with Danara! If she wants grain, she can plant it herself.”
That concludes the excerpts for Circles and Stones. I hope you enjoyed them. I expect to have the book published within the next few months. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out the first two books in the series, Sanyel, and Disrupter. Sanyel, the first book in the series, is available as an e-book FREE at various book retailers. Books in the Sanyel series are also available in paperback.