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Bones of the Gods (final update, excerpt)

I have been updating interested readers on my progress in writing Bones of the Gods, the fourth novel of my ongoing Sanyel series. Due to numerous unforeseen circumstances, my writing has encountered long delays, but I am still chugging away at it. As the process nears its end, I figured a final update and excerpt were in order. As a refresher, the Sanyel series books are action/adventure/fantasy that feature an astute, ass-kicking protagonist, the gifted daughter of a tribal shaman who becomes the catalyst for change in a male-dominated world. Here’s a sample from Chapter Thirty-One, preceded by a setup to the scene. Expect further editing before the final version. Tribal shaman Sanyel, her mate Javen, her swordmaster friend Izzy, and government agent Jankan, along with others, are helping Kersla, a past acquaintance of Sanyel, search for his kidnapped wife and daughter. They have learned that a people called the Chalray are responsible for the abductions, and that these Chalray have conducted numerous other kidnappings for thousands of years over a widespread area. Sophisticated devices invented by a long-vanished, advanced civilization, allow the kidnappers to control those they abduct. These include a neck collar that blanks the minds of the abducted. When wearing the collar, the victim no longer has any personal thoughts, feelings, or memories but can respond to orders given by those who possess a control device which also serves as a medical device. For as long as the collar is attached, the wearer is little more than a machine for others to operate. Sanyel has allowed a Chalray named Balto (a man she has recently humiliated) and his men to capture her, for she knows a collar won’t work on her due to the counteracting force of an unusual ring she carries. She has been pretending to be under the collar’s influence so that Balto will lead her to where the Chalray keep those they kidnap. Two of her companions, the government agent Jankan, and Kersla (the man whose wife and daughter they seek) are with her, but they have no immunity to the collars and thus are under Balto’s control. Sanyel is surprised that Balto is taking them to a hidden city that she and her fellow searchers did not know existed. Sanyel hopes that Javen and Izzy can somehow trail her to this previously unknown place. sheek—glass sental—window Ganna—mentally challenged member of Balto’s crew Sonda—king of the Chalray Dalar and Calak—soldiers, allies of Sanyel who, along with several of their fellow soldiers, had been held captive by the Chalray The distance to the city was not as far as I had judged after leaving the tunnel. Within ten minutes, we had arrived at its outskirts. A main street paved with irregular stones cut a wide path through its center, and it seemed to have no end. Lighted torches lined the street, revealing to me that the Chalray did not have artificial lighting, suggesting that they were not as sophisticated as their use of complex machines might indicate. Few people walked the street in the darkness, so our arrival generated little interest. Buildings no higher than two or three levels bounded the street. These private dwellings and shops, all made of stone and wood, pressed against one another the length of the thoroughfare, many dark, with only a few showing actively burning lights through the sheek of their curtained sentals. We approached a larger stone structure on the right side of the street. No lights shone from within. Our escorts halted us with a nudge from a medical device and a simple command to stop. “We’ll house them here until morning,” said Balto. “After Sonda interviews them, I’m to bring them to the ceremony. You can hurry on home, Ganna. We can take things from here.” Ganna nodded and took off running down the moonlit street. Balto and the others then directed us inside the stone building, which appeared a prison of some sort but which seemed currently empty of inhabitants or guards. Our escorts lit a torch and placed it in a holder along an otherwise bare hallway. They found a cell to their liking and moved the three of us inside. The interior had no sentals and no lighting. The only illumination came from the torchlight through the open door. From it, I discerned with my inhibited view that we were in a small, seemingly empty room with a bare stone floor. The men left and closed the door, which also had no sental, so I stood in darkness listening as the door latched behind me. My keen ears sought the presence of other cell inhabitants, but I heard nothing besides the breathing of my two companions. When the footsteps of the departing Chalray had diminished and my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, I made out the figures of Jankan and Kersla. I was about to free them from their collars when a noise at the door arrested my intent. Someone was out there, lifting the latch. I hurried back in place behind Jankan, assuming the approximate position I had occupied before the Chalray departed. My back was to the door as I heard it groan open. Footsteps of softly creaking leather sounded on the stone floor, a shadow fell across the far wall, and then I sensed someone standing near me. “No one makes a fool of Balto,” Balto spoke in a low, menacing voice that seemed spoken almost directly into my ear. “I am in control now, and you will all regret your laughter and disdain. I will especially enjoy this night with you, pretty girl.” I felt his hands caress my hair, and despite my revulsion, I forced myself to remain motionless while listening to make sure no other Chalray accompanied him. Hearing nothing, I prepared to knock the pervert on his ass. That didn’t happen. An almost imperceptible footfall sounded from the doorway, another looming shadow filled the room, and then I heard a sickening clunk from the direction of Balto’s threatening words. A body toppled past me and dropped to the floor. “No one even has to try making a fool of you, fool,” said a familiar voice. “You do a fine job making one of yourself.” Izzy! I wheeled to her, astounded that she was here, and then I made out Javen behind her. Before I could speak, two other familiar faces crowded the doorway. Dalar and Calak! Behind them were Dalar’s five fellow Creet soldiers. “Are you all right?” asked a concerned Javen. “Uh . . . Yes, I’m fine,” I answered, “though a bit shocked. How did you get here? How did you free Dalar and his men?” “Deeds as complex as that are easy to accomplish when you know what you’re doing,” said Javen in his smuggest tone. “It helps if you get lucky, too,” added Izzy. “Yes, that does help,” Javen agreed with a laugh. “Is he dead?” asked Dalar, indicating Balto. “Nah,” replied Izzy. “I hit him in a good spot. I thought of kicking him in a much more sensitive area, but I figured he had nothing down there to kick.” “I think he will be thankful for just a sore head,” said Dalar, laughing.

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