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Bones of the Gods (update 3, excerpt)

I have been posting occasional updates and excerpts as I write 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 completed about 40,000 words and felt it was time to share another sample. 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. Tribal shaman Sanyel has been investigating the disappearance of the wife and daughter of a past acquaintance. This man, Kersla, along with Sanyel’s mate Javen and her good friend Izzy, have heard accounts of other vanishings during their journey to Kersla’s country. While stopping in a village to eat, Kersla recognizes two men who he claims eyed him suspiciously when he had passed through a different town earlier, when on his way to enlist Sanyel’s help. The two men again arouse suspicion, so Sanyel and her friends decide to tail them. After an ambush by the two men, who had their own suspicions of Sanyel’s group, the group learns that the men, Jankan and Kenter, are in fact allies, investigators sent by the local governor to find the perpetrators of the kidnappings. Governor Tolkin’s agents informed us that they had been traveling the region for the past two months. Not wishing to alert those responsible for the vanishings to the investigators' true purpose, they had kept their mission masked, pretending to be investors seeking business opportunities. They would strike up conversations with people in villages or other areas, and during these general conversations, they would manage to slip in that they had heard about someone disappearing into thin air while traveling a road in the region. They would pretend to have apprehension over taking roads unsafe for travelers. If a vanishing had happened in that village or nearby, they figured people would then be eager to talk about it. “So, what have you learned?” asked Izzy. “Well,” said Jankan, “out of the twenty or so villages we have visited so far, only one knew of a recent vanishing, a man who disappeared on a journey between his town and another. However, at a meeting held a month ago with the other agents assigned to this investigation, we exchanged information on what all of us had found to that point. At that meeting, our fellow investigators reported discovering the disappearances of fifteen people in the prior month, with these occurring over a considerably scattered area. Ten were male and five female. Three of the males and two of the females were children.” “Do you have any physical descriptions of the children or their ages?” I asked. “Ages yes, but little else,” said Jankan. “Is this important?” “It might be. We’re not sure yet.” “Well, I’m afraid we didn’t get much on physical appearances. The boys were all young, all seven years old they told us. Oh, I remember someone said one of the boys had blond hair.” An excited Kersla burst out, “Blond! It looks like you were right, Disrupter!” “Disrupter?” said Kenter with a look of puzzlement. “Just a name people gave me once,” I responded, dismissing it with a shrug. “It seems quite an interesting name. I’d like to hear the story behind that,” said Jankan. “There’s nothing to tell, really. Boring stuff. Let’s get back to the children. You said one of the boys had blond hair. That might be important, and I’ll explain why in a minute. But first, was there anything on the girls?” “Both were twelve. Other than that, there was no other description. You have to understand that we were trying to be subtle in how we approached these conversations. We could casually ask how old someone was when the subject of a vanishing came up, but asking about hair color or other personal details would look suspicious. In retrospect, I feel the governor erred in not allowing us to conduct an open investigation. He should have let us state who we were and why we were there, so we would have reason to ask more detailed and intimate questions.” “He didn’t because he thought that might alert the abductors that someone was on to them, correct?” I said. “Yes,” replied Jankan. “I think he hoped one of our investigators would somehow catch them in the act, but we’d have to be damn lucky for that to happen.” “You told us the girls were twelve,” I then said. “That and the boys’ ages seem to have a connection to something we have come across. We have found, on more than one occasion, a carved or painted drawing that depicts two children and a woman. By adding your information to what we already know, it seems the kidnappers have taken several boys around seven years old along with girls aged twelve. The drawings we found show a boy and a girl who could be around those ages. The boy is blond. Have you found anything like those drawings in your investigation, either carved into trees or painted on stone?” Both Jankan and Kenter shook their heads. “We’ve come across nothing like that,” said Kenter. “That’s too bad,” I replied, disappointed. “But, even if you had, we still wouldn’t know if the picture had a connection to the vanishings unless we caught the perpetrators drawing it.” “Do you have any clue who these abductors might be?” Javen then asked Jankan. “No, but we have noticed a few patterns in how they operate. They appear to conduct this unsavory business with great planning. First, no abduction has taken place too near another. They make sure the distance between kidnappings is a reasonable one, and they all occur in remote areas, usually along a roadway.” “With woodlands nearby?” said Javen. “Yes,” Jankan confirmed. “Companions of those taken, people the kidnappers did not want for some reason, have reported that forested areas were nearby the abduction sites.” “We have the same reports,” I said, “both about the woodlands and about people not taken by the abductors. Kersla, here, is one the kidnappers did not take.” The agent’s eyes brightened over that information. “That is interesting,” said Jankan. “The agents we met noticed a pattern involving those the kidnappers leave behind. Nearly all are older individuals or children who don’t match the age range you mentioned. Younger, fit men seem to interest them and only women aged around twenty-five to thirty. There seems to be no interest in children outside of seven for boys and twelve for girls.” “They take women only around twenty-five to thirty?” I said, puzzled. I looked over to Kersla and asked, “How old is your wife?” “She is twenty-nine. We have a considerable age difference.” I had not known that, but it wasn’t that uncommon. My mother had been much younger than my father had been, too. “I’m curious how the kidnappers know the ages of the children they take,” said Izzy. “Seven and twelve are exact numbers. How would they know the age of these children unless they had done some extensive research beforehand?” I shrugged. “It’s another mystery to add to the pile.” “What about a humming noise?” Kersla asked the two government agents. “Do the people left behind, the ones the kidnappers don’t take, mention that?” Kenter and Jankan could not conceal their surprise. “You heard this humming before your family’s disappearance?” Kenter queried. “Yes. The droning came, filling the air around me. I woke up an hour later and my family was gone.” “So, you fell asleep, too,” said Kenter, musing on that. “Those who were not taken by the kidnappers all reported the same thing. What could possibly make a noise like that, one that causes people to fall asleep?” “We are as much in the dark as you are,” I said. “Despite a growing body of information, we have come across nothing that explains the droning.” “What about past disappearances?” Izzy then asked. “We've been coming across evidence that vanishings have been occurring for years. If your ruler and his ancestors have overseen such a vast area for as long as you say, the government must have reports on those vanishings.” “I believe this is true,” said Jankan. “Back when I received this assignment, I overheard a high-ranking official say something to another. They had been discussing the vanishings. He told the other that he couldn’t believe this was happening again.” “If that drawing we told you about has any bearing on this, these disappearances might have been occurring for thousands of years,” I said. Before Jankan could reply, a sudden, startling noise interrupted. It was a loud, deep droning.

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