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Bones of the Gods (update 5, excerpt)

I have reached 70,000 words in 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 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 been posting occasional updates and excerpts. Following is another short sample, 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 and her friends are helping a past acquaintance search for his kidnapped wife and daughter. While traveling a river gorge, thieves waylay them, but the two parties soon come to an understanding when the thieves discover Sanyel’s identity. As Sanyel sits on a forest stump conversing with Tolbane, a former shaman apprentice who is the thieves’ resident doctor, a disturbance draws them to Perlik, the son of a previous governor who reluctantly joined the thieves a couple years prior and who has since come down with a deadly illness that causes him to cough up blood. The thieves, especially a man named Rettan, do not respect Perlik and treat him with disdain, for he is the son of a ruler who collaborated with former occupiers of their land. Sanyel, however, has found Perlik worthy of her respect. Perlik owns a valuable sword that Rettan covets. can-rak—fierce carnivore, the most dangerous creature on the planet, Sanyel’s spirit animal starfen—squirrel-like animal Sester—the sun god (also known as Ra-ta or Mim) While conversing with Tolbane, the sound of a rough, persistent cough drew my attention toward the settlement houses. After a few moments, it stopped, and then a murmur of concerned voices began, soon intensifying. Tolbane and I rose from our stump seats to investigate the commotion. Near a house centrally located among the others, a crowd had gathered. As we approached, I glimpsed a white form on the ground. The crowd parted as both Tolbane and I urged the people to let us through. Perlik lay on his stomach, motionless upon the forest soil, an outstretched hand clutching the square white cloth I had seen him use earlier. A fresh and sizable crimson stain stood out upon the rag’s pale fabric. “Everyone step back,” I called out. Tolbane, who possessed medical training from his years as a shaman’s apprentice, knelt before the prostrate man and turned him over. He put an ear to the man’s mouth and then to his chest. “He yet lives,” he told me, “but the breathing is shallow and the heart faint. I don’t believe he has long. He has been suffering from the bite of a sakraf for months.” I had thought snakebite a possible cause of his illness. A sakraf was a slithering reptile with a lethal bite. There was no known antidote to its venom. The victim can function normally for months after the fatal bite, but eventually a persistent cough develops. Once you start coughing up blood, sudden death could strike you at any time. Tolbane said Perlik knew all this, but he refused to let it rule what life remained to him. Perlik then inhaled a cavernous breath and his eyes popped open. He tried to sit up but couldn’t, and he began to turn his head and look about wildly as if searching for someone. He sight landed on me. A weak arm gestured for me to come to him. As I knelt beside him, he grabbed my right wrist with unexpected strength, and he gazed with steady eyes into my own. “The can-rak,” he began, and then his throat convulsed as if forcing a cough, but he managed to hold it off. He swallowed and said, “The can-rak said to give you this.” He guided my hand down to the sword at his side. “Take it with my blessing. It is yours now.” At those words, his hand loosened and fell from mine. He slumped into stillness. I checked for signs of life and found none. Perlik was dead. I informed the others, and a respectful hush descended upon us. While we stood in reverent silence, the sounds of nature persisted, unaffected by the man’s passing. Birds continued to chirp and sing. Insects buzzed with their usual urgency, oblivious to the solemnity of those standing in death’s presence. Wind disturbed the forest leaves and a starfen chattered. Tolbane then spoke, breaking death’s spell and releasing us from its enchantment. “Why did he want you to have his sword?” “I don’t know.” “He said a can-rak told him to give it to you,” said Rettan. “Sounds like he was delirious.” “Probably,” I replied. A can-rak told him. What could that mean? Had he stepped one foot into the next world and briefly returned with a message? Did my spirit animal speak to him? “If you do not wish the blade, I will take it off your hands,” said Rettan, an expectant, desirous gleam in his eyes. Rettan had seized the moment, seeing it as a perfect opportunity to gain possession of the valuable item, but he was out of luck. I did not intend to relinquish the sword to him, no matter how much he coveted it. “No, I will accept Perlik’s gift. These things don’t happen by chance. I believe Sester influenced Perlik’s words. I feel the sun god wants me to have this sword.” Whether that was true or not, I didn’t care, but I was not going to give Perlik’s heirloom to one who had treated him with such disrespect. Perlik had said a can-rak instructed him to give the sword to me, and the dying man had given his blessing as well, so I felt it my duty to honor his last request.

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