Bones of the Gods (update 2, excerpt)
I am currently writing Bones of the Gods, the fourth novel in my ongoing Sanyel series. These books are action/adventure with a touch of fantasy and include some elements of mystery, paranormal, and sci-fi. This exciting, entertaining, adventure-filled series features an astute, ass-kicking protagonist, the gifted daughter of a tribal shaman who becomes the catalyst for change in a male-dominated world. I have run into some delays in my writing schedule, and thus have completed only nine chapters to this point, but I hope to pick up the pace soon. I am posting occasional updates and excerpts as I write the story. Following, is the latest excerpt, preceded by a setup to the scene. The writing is still in an early stage, so expect further editing before the final version. A past acquaintance of tribal shaman Sanyel has requested her help in discovering the reason behind his family's recent disappearance. Kersla, a former slave Sanyel had helped free two years ago, claims that while he traveled a familiar road with his wife and daughter, they vanished without a trace. A mysterious droning sound had caused Kersla to fall asleep, and when he awakened he found his wife and daughter gone. Sanyel, her mate Javen, and Sanyel’s good friend Izzy have agreed to accompany Kersla to his homeland to investigate. Sanyel, as always, wears a bracelet made of various animal bones. These bones grant a power to her, and only her, a strange power that has served her well in the past. Thanks to Kersla, she has recently acquired a bone fragment from an animal called a tok. Sanyel had previously been unfamiliar with the creature, but will soon find its bone a valuable acquisition. Sanyel is said by others to hold a special relationship with the sun god. She uses that perception to her advantage, even while she half-doubts its validity, and she will soon need to again convince others the relationship is real. The long journey to Kersla’s homeland has brought the group to a small hamlet previously visited by the former slave, a place where they hope to water their animals and find a meal. tok—a domesticated animal raised for meat Sester, Ra-ta, Mim—all names for the sun god droove—a cross between a horse and a camel As we approached the hamlet, several people working the outlying fields became aware of our presence. Their reaction surprised. They began a hurried migration toward the main settlement. Others noticed their departure, and upon spotting us, they too abandoned what they were doing and began rushing toward the village. “What’s going on?” I asked Kersla. “I don’t know. No one reacted like this when I came through earlier.” This community was little more than crudely constructed wood buildings that lined both sides of the rutted dirt track, with the structures numbering, by my guess, no more than fifty. Before the road’s entrance to the village, a group of men had quickly gathered, armed with an assortment of weapons that included axes, spears, and swords. We slowed our approach and then stopped when ordered to do so by a tall, bearded man in the forefront of this party of about thirty men. Those men began to spread out and surround us. “Who are you,” the tall man spoke, “and why have you come here?” Kersla took the lead in answering. “My name is Kersla, of the Barala tribe. We have a settlement located a six-day ride from here. I am returning home.” “I am unfamiliar with that tribe,” the suspicious man replied. “What are doing in our country?” The question flummoxed Kersla. “Well, I had to make a long journey and it took me through here. Now I am returning the same way. One of you must recognize me. I ate at the place that stands at the end of the road.” A member of his group approached the tall man and they conferred. The leader then said to us, “Roff remembers you ate tok in his eatery, but that doesn’t—” “May I ask what this is all about?” I interjected. My voice appeared to startle the men, and they swiftly focused their attention on me. Their surprise seemed exaggerated, indicating to me that this was perhaps another of those communities where women remain silent while men discuss important world matters. The tall man confirmed that impression. “No one told you to speak, girl,” he reprimanded. “You will remain silent while we—” “Hold on,” warned Kersla, bristling. “You will not address her in that disrespectful manner.” The tall man showed disbelief and annoyance over the unexpected rebuke. Uneasy, I glanced at Javen to check his readiness in case this situation should suddenly explode. He seemed poised to act should it prove necessary. Izzy was observing with her usual serene demeanor, a mask that disguises her ability to react instantly to any trouble that might develop. Indignant over Kersla’s censure, the tall, bearded man growled, “If you don’t want your women disrespected, traveler, you should train them to keep their tongue while men are speaking.” Kersla, with a dismissive reply, said, “I’m not in the habit of training women. They are not animals. Besides, I would think it foolish of me, or of you either, to try telling the hand of Sester not to speak if she so desires.” Kersla’s statement linking me to the sun god, and in such a close association, at first took the tall man and his fellows aback. Then, as one, they roared with laughter. Their leader gave a contemptuous snort and said, “Hand of Sester? How idiotic do you think we are? Any delegate of the sun god would be a man, not some little girl, and he would have no reason to associate with a group of ordinary travelers like you. You are either delusional, stranger, or a bald faced liar.” “What is it you want?” an irritated Javen then spoke. “Why is determining who we are of any concern to you? We have done you no harm. Why don’t you just state your reason for detaining us? We have no idea why you have initiated this confrontation.” The tall man stared a moment at the muscular, dark-skinned youth. Javen’s common sense question had given him pause, and he appeared to realize it might have been better to state their concerns at the outset. He corrected the oversight. “A man and his daughter from our community have vanished in the last few days, both while traveling this road together,” he stated. “We do not know what has become of them, for neither has returned home. We must confront strangers to determine if they had anything to do with the disappearances. You are the first to come to our village since the two vanished, so naturally, you are suspects.” The man’s account surprised. More vanishings? What were we dealing with here? Did this relate in any way to Kersla’s family disappearing? The man’s words excited the former slave and he said, “You have had disappearances, too? My wife and daughter vanished a month ago, and I have just returned with these companions to try finding them and those responsible for their kidnapping.” The tall man remained skeptical. “If that is the case, why spin this ridiculous tale of the hand of Sester? It makes you appear a liar, so why should we believe anything else you say?” “He wasn’t lying,” I spoke, growing irritated over the man’s baseless suspicions. “Keep your tongue, girl!” ordered a gangly teenaged youth standing to the right of my droove. He pointed a menacing spear up at me. “You have been told once and won’t be told again.” The young man stood tantalizingly close. I can be impulsive at times, especially when my temper gets the better of me, and this was one of those times. My right hand darted, seizing the man's spear haft just below the spearhead, and with a mighty pull, I yanked the weapon from his grasp. Past evidence has shown that my right hand and arm possess the might of the sun god, Ra-ta (the name I prefer over Sester or Mim), along with enhanced dexterity and speed. I quickly reversed the direction of the spear and positioned its point firmly below the man’s chin before he could react. “No one make a move or I will pierce this man’s throat.” “No, please, no!” beseeched the suddenly terrified tall man. “Don’t injure my son!” I had to admire the sun god for again arranging an advantageous scenario. The son of the man in charge just happens to be the one standing next to me? Often, Ra-ta does seem to set things up to grant me an edge in these dicey situations even when impulse rather than reason drives me. However, now I had to think of a way to sustain my advantage. A glance out to the fields gave me an idea. “I have no wish to harm him,” I said, “but that depends on you. We are not responsible for your people disappearing. It is as Kersla told you. We're seeking those who kidnapped his wife and daughter. He is also correct that I am the hand of the sun god. I will prove it to you now.” I held the spear steadily in place beneath the man’s chin with my strong right arm while surreptitiously sliding my balancing left hand a short distance up the shaft to touch the newest bone on my wrist bracelet. I then said in a loud voice, “Toks in the fields. Lie belly down in deference to me, the hand of the sun god.” As I spoke, I removed the spear from the young man’s throat. At once, every tok within sight, on every field near and far, lowered itself to its stomach. The men witnessing this unprecedented, incomprehensible event gaped in stunned astonishment. Then with facial expressions of awe and fright, they turned to me. Several dropped their weapons. A couple went to their knees, bowing their heads, which triggered a copying response from the remainder of the men. Now, this was more like it I thought as I inwardly laughed. How many women get to experience a subservient and fearful response from men? However, my father warned me not to let such things go to my head, no matter how intoxicating. The enlightened soul never pretends he is above any other, no matter if others believe it true. “Please,” I said to those crouched before me. “You need not bow or kneel to me. I do not request or require it. Respect is all I demand, which is something all people, men and women alike, deserve until proven unworthy of it. ” I turned to the beasts in the fields and said, “Toks. Rise and return to what you were doing before I ordered you to lie down.” The creatures did as commanded. I knew that my first instructions to the animals wouldn’t have endured even without the second command because the effects of my orders last for only twenty minutes before free will returns to the creatures. However, I hoped the second demonstration of my powers would reinforce my claim that I represented the sun god. The display of total control over the animals did indeed have the desired effect. Even Kersla had gaped in awe over what I had done. He had not had a firsthand demonstration of my abilities until then, so I was glad I could give him a taste. Izzy and Javen had seen it all before, of course, and showed little reaction, although I could see they still admired how I had pulled this one off. Good thing Kersla had been correct in identifying the bone I retrieved from the grass earlier as that of a tok or this could have quickly turned embarrassing. The men of the village hesitantly rose to their feet, appearing unsure how to act in my presence, even avoiding looking directly at me. I reiterated that I did not require their obeisance, and in addition, I told them I did not consider gazing at me an offense. I smiled to reassure them, and soon the men grew less apprehensive. “What is your name?” I now asked the tall man. The village leader, no longer the confident figure he had been moments before, replied with deference, saying, “I am Dravek, your . . . Please, how do I address you?” “Won’t ‘girl’ suffice?” I said, then laughed. “Isn’t that how you addressed me before?” Dravek’s expression turned pained and fearful. “Please, hand of Sester, forgive my ignorance and any offense I might have given,” he pleaded. “I’m joking,” I reassured him. “You have nothing to fear from me. I no longer turn to stone every man who offends me. Who wants a world covered in male statues?” Of course, I had no such power over men or stone, but I rather enjoyed seeing the response to saying I had. I believed the male villagers found my visually arresting comment unsettling, for I’m sure they thought me capable of making it happen. “You can call me Sanyel,” I told them, “and don’t be afraid to speak as freely to me as you would anyone. I won’t bite. Just don’t talk to me about weaving baskets. I won’t dignify the subject with a response.” Javen laughed loudly over that, for my aversion to basket weaving was a running joke in our tribe. His laughter helped the men realize that the remark was meant to be humorous, which caused several to emit a nervous chuckle in response, even though they did not understand the joke. “My companions and I plan to rest awhile, eat some food, and be on our way,” I then said. “If we can help you solve the mystery of your vanishings while here, we will be happy to do so.” I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from the upcoming Sanyel novel, Bones of the Gods. I will post others in future updates. Sanyel, the first book in the Sanyel series, is available as an e-book FREE at various book retailers. Books in the Sanyel series are also available in paperback.