Here’s a brand new excerpt from Chapter 8 of my SF novel, Questor:
Just then, Lector came back through the trees. Triena moved forward to meet him, only to stop. Her face paled and she ran forward again. Manny followed and caught up with her as she ran into Lector’s arms.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Manny asked. What else could go wrong?
Triena and Lector pulled apart. Looking into Lector’s eyes, Manny was shocked at the pain he saw there.
“Haven. I’ve been there. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t read anybody. I should’ve known something was wrong, but I was so relieved at finally reaching our journey’s end. I—” Lector stopped, raised his eyes to the skies, then slowly brought them down to look directly at Manny. “There’s no one there anymore, Manny. Unless you count the bodies. I didn’t count them. I couldn’t. When I saw them scattered there among the rubble of the destroyed village, I just ran.”
“No one at all?” Manny asked quietly. Lector’s silence was answer enough. “Let’s go.” He indicated Lector should lead the way. Lector looked toward Triena, who nodded agreement.
They walked slowly through the trees and emerged in a clearing to find a village not unlike Sanctuary, except it was larger. Most of it lay in ruins, as if it had been pulled apart in a frenzy. Scattered about at random amongst the damaged buildings were the bodies. Manny hurried about, checking how many there were—he found fifteen Rhiava and two Mideans. All the Rhiava had died of wounds from the Mideanpercussion weapons, but there was no indication what had killed the Mideans. Of the rest of the inhabitants of the village, there was no sign. Fifteen out of a population of around four hundred.
Triena hadn’t ventured beyond the edge of the village. She stood there as still as a statue.
Lector followed Manny around the village and when they were sure they’d located all the dead, they carried the bodies to a central place, where they laid them in a row. On purpose, Manny placed the two Mideansseparately at the end. Then he fetched a piece of material to place over the first of the bodies.
“What is that you are doing?” Lector asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t think. I forget these days that to you, we are alien.” He smiled a little ruefully. “This is a custom of my people. When one dies, the body is covered over as a mark of respect. I meant no offence.”
“It wasn’t that I took offence. I just didn’t understand. We don’t cover our dead in that way. Death is part of life and there is no need to hide it. We’ve a ritual to say good-bye and afterward, the dead are burned. The ash will rise into the air and fall to the land; all returns to the land of the Treasure. It’s the way of things.”
Manny nodded his understanding. “And Triena…is she all right? She hasn’t moved for some time now. It must be a shock, but…”
“Shock? Yes, one could call it that. You and I might feel the shock of one or two deaths. But she is the Spirit, so she’d feel each one.”
“Are you serious? Are you saying each time one of you dies, she grieves as for a loved one?”
“No, it’s not so personal. But…oh, how to explain? The Spirit. It’s more than just a title. It’s a mantle. Our people are inextricably linked to our world and each one of us is linked to each other, tenuously it’s true. The Spirit is like a link between all the people and the Treasure of our world. Each loss lessens the whole; each new birth increases it. When so many are lost at once, the Spirit is hit hard. She’s trying to cope with the loss.”
“I’m not sure I understand. But I suppose it’s not really important I do, is it? Is there any way of knowing what happened here?”
“I can only tell you what anyone could devise from the signs. As for Triena, I don’t know yet. She might be able to pick up something. I think it will depend on exactly what did happen here.”
“What does that mean?”
“On what is left of the emotions, the stresses that took place here; whether there is enough left for her to read.”
Almost as if she knew they were talking about her, Triena trudged forward. She approached the row of dead. She slowly stumbled from one end to the other, then back again. Then she blundered around the ruined buildings of what had once been a thriving village. Haven it was called; a Haven it was not.
Buy link: http://amberquill.com/Questor.html