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Bones of the Gods (update 7, excerpt)

I see that I am way overdue in presenting another update and excerpt from Bones of the Gods, the fourth novel of 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. My writing progress has continued at a slower pace than I had hoped since my last update, but I am, nevertheless, much closer to the finish. If things go well, I hope to publish the book by the fall of 2018. Here’s a sample from Chapter Twenty-Seven, preceded by a setup to the scene. As usual, the writing is still in an early stage, so expect further editing before the final version. Tribal shaman Sanyel, her mate Javen, friend Izzy, and government agent Jankan are helping Kersla, a past acquaintance of Sanyel’s, search for his kidnapped wife and daughter. They have discovered a mine worked by slaves, all of whom wear neck collars that have left them unaware of their surroundings. They no longer have any personal thoughts, feelings, or memories but can respond to orders given by overseers, who possess a control device. For as long as the collar is attached, the wearer is little more than a machine for others to operate. When removed, by use of a special key, all brain functions return to normal except the wearer can recall nothing of what happened while under the collar’s control. Sanyel and her friends have overcome the slaves’ overseers, know how to use the control device and key, and are about to release one of the mine slaves from his collar, a man who could have been under its control for any length of time, from days to years. We approached a muscular man of average height, who we judged to be in his mid-thirties. He had light hair that was close-cropped (all the workers had similar cuts), and he repeatedly stabbed a metal pick at a rock pile near a cavern wall. Sweat rolled down his dirty, expressionless face, leaving pale streaks upon the dark grime, residue from fine dirt particles stirred up by the incessant mining activity. We chose this man because his labor was accomplishing more than that of the other workers. He worked harder, and to me, that meant the collars did not inhibit one’s natural character when under their influence. A slothful man would remain so. A hard working man would not lose that admirable quality. I prefer dealing with hard workers, for, in my opinion, they have an ingrained sense of duty and responsibility. In addition, a strong, intuitive feeling led me to this man, though I could not say why. I touched one of the two control devices we now possessed to the man’s arm and told him to stand still. Immediately, he responded. I took my key, unlocked his neckpiece, removed it, and stepped back. The man rapidly blinked several times, and then he jerked as if someone had poked him with a sharp stick. His sight gradually focused and he saw us. His eyes widened, and they began to dart wildly about as he took in his surroundings. Confused and wary, he stepped back, his eyes still roving but now appearing to seek an avenue of escape. He spotted the pick lying among the rocks, and I could almost read his mind. “Relax,” I spoke. “You won’t need a weapon. You have nothing to fear from us.” He responded to my voice with a sharp, suspicious gaze. He stared for several moments at our group, as if internally debating what course of action to take. That the one speaking to him was a woman seemed to puzzle him. “Who are you?” he demanded. “How did I get here?” The man’s voice boomed, the voice of one accustomed to command. “You were kidnapped,” I said to ease into things. “We have just rescued you.” Kidnapped?” he said, perplexed. “What are you talking about? My men and I”—he glanced around at the shabby, dirty workers near him but seemed not to recognize any of them. “Where are my men?” he thundered. “I know nothing about your men,” I responded, “but if you let me explain, I can—” “I demand to know—” “Shut up,” said an irritated Izzy. “You will make no demands. You will listen to Sanyel explain, which she can do much better if you stop interrupting. If you refuse to listen and start demanding again, I’ll cut your tongue out and shove it down your throat. Do you understand?” Izzy’s graphically described threat left the man momentarily speechless. In spite of the threat, I think he had considered challenging again but after sizing Izzy up thought better of it, for he simply said, “Yes, I understand.” I held up the collar I had removed from the man’s neck and said, “Look at this. You were wearing it. When people wear it, they remember nothing.” “I don’t understand.” “The people who abducted you first put you to sleep, and then they placed this collar around your neck, which makes you forget. Do you remember hearing a droning noise?” That sparked recognition. “Yes, yes, my men and I heard this loud, deep buzzing that seemed to come from everywhere!” He then looked baffled and shook his head. “It’s strange, but I don’t seem to remember anything after that.” “The noise put you to sleep,” I explained. “While asleep, they put that collar on you, and you have worn it ever since. It has made you forget everything that has happened to you since the sleep.” “How is that possible? Is this some sort of dark magic?” “It may appear that way, but it’s not, at least to those who understand it. My understanding of how it works is limited, and I haven’t the time to explain in any detail what I do understand. We are trying to—” “How long was I that way?” “We don’t know. You could have been in that collar for a day—or for a lot longer. The people who took you have been using you for slave labor. Look around. Not one of these men knows that he is working, spending his hours breaking and hauling stone. Their kidnappers give them orders and they obey, but they are not aware of anything, not even the passing of time.” The man gazed out over the collared ones. Then he gasped. Calak!” he shouted, and he began racing toward a man lifting a heavy chunk of broken rock onto a cart platform. We followed and watched the man’s fruitless effort to gain Calak’s attention. “He is not aware of you,” Javen told him, “and he won’t be until we remove his collar. Is he a friend?” “He is one of my men.” “What do you mean by that?” I asked. The man turned to me. “I am his commanding officer. We are soldiers.” That made sense. He had the look and the demeanor. “In whose service?” queried Jankan. “We are Creet.” This was getting interesting. “You’re a long way from Grell,” I noted. He gave me a look. “So, you know of our homeland?” He then scanned our entire group and added, “Who are you, anyway?” “We are a group of citizens seeking to find out what has happened to the kidnapped wife and daughter of this man, our friend,” I responded, pointing to Kersla. “Our investigation has led us here. We found you and these others. The three dead men you see over there attacked us and forced us to defend ourselves. They are part of those who oversee the workers. The vacant-faced one sitting on the rock with the collar around his neck is another of their men. We had been interrogating him and his partner when the other three arrived and interfered.” “His partner?” said the man. “He escaped while we were forced to fight the other three.” The man paused to take that all in, and then he eyed us with a keen appraisal before saying, “How do you know so much about these people and such things as how these neck rings work?” I laughed. “We knew almost nothing about these kidnappers or their devices when we began this journey. We have learned a lot since then, but we don’t know all. We feel, though, that we are getting close to our destination and to learning the final answers we seek regarding the fate of our friend’s missing family and that of many others they have abducted over the years.” “You have taken this on alone, this small group?” he then remarked, incredulous. “I find it hard to grasp that so few in number would risk this but especially that two women would involve themselves in such a dangerous undertaking.” I smiled. “We two are not as helpless as we seem. Two of those three dead men could vouch for that—if they could still speak.” A hint of surprise crossed the Creet soldier’s face. He studied Izzy and me anew. He had already judged Izzy a tough character, but I think he noticed for the first time the deadly weapons we both carried. He nodded his head as if in approval. He then looked to me curiously and said, “You appear to lead and speak for this group. No offense, but why is that? I would have thought your friend would lead, since it’s his family you seek.” “Kersla purposely came to me to help find his wife and daughter. He expected me to lead the search. He did so because he felt I was the person best suited to the task.” “And why is that?” “Let’s just say that I have acquired a reputation for having certain skills that can assist in successfully helping people in difficult circumstances.”

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