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Troll Sword
The Black Ring - Book Two
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-412-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 348 Pages
Published: June 2018



From inside the flap

The five peoples of the world of winds, which always blow from where the sun sets to where the sun rises, are physically, psychologically, and culturally different from each other, more than even different species.

The cultures of all the people are sustained by the Spiral, a matrix of connection, relation, concept, and meaning, within an extramundane layer of reality. The Main Quey maintains order and balance within the Spiral, and between it and the people. When he is kidnapped by Empa Tethicho, the Chancellor of Shotoban, the cultures of all five peoples are threatened with dissolution and descent into savagery and chaos.

The Chancellor enforces a brutal rule of conformity, but there is an underground. Every attempt to rescue the Main Quey ends in failure. Property is confiscated, families are exiled, and those who made the attempt are executed.

In desperation, a group of people, more than usually sensitive to the extramundane, is trying to call a demon from another layer of reality, an intelligence which can pass through walls and locked doors, hoping that it will find the Main Quey and bring him back. What they get is Jeanete Delgado.

Troll Sword (Excerpt)


Part Five: The Arkenome

Chapter Twenty One: The Magic Circle

She finished her step into a large room.

There were people around her, but her exhaustion, and the pain of her wounded cheek, came back to her like a blow. Her vision blurred and darkened, her feet stumbled, and she fell to her hands and knees. It had been stupid to come here before she had taken the time to heal. Her head, much too heavy, dropped forward, and she caught herself just inches from a smooth but unpolished stone floor. Didn't anyone use wood or vinyl? Maybe it was concrete. She wasn't ready for this. Stupid.

People were talking. She couldn't understand them, but they sounded disappointed and frustrated, not surprised or frightened. She was intensely aware of a complexity of smells, and was distracted by the way her body felt, which was very strange, and sort of numb except for her left cheek, which hurt so badly that it made her gasp, raggedly, over and over again.

The voices went on, confused and concerned. The smells, dozens of them, were not strong, but they were clear and each was distinct. If she could clear her head, if she could think about it for a minute, she would know what they all were. But before she could follow that thought, she became aware that, in front of her eyes, where the tip of her nose should have been just barely visible and never noticed, there was what looked like a dog's muzzle projecting from her face. It was hairless, a golden brown. Not her color at all.

Her fascination with this was interrupted when hands, strong but not rough, took hold of her upper arms and pulled her to her feet. Her legs felt very strange, as if they wanted to bend in the wrong directions and places. She made an effort to straighten up, so that she could see the people around her. There were four in front, the two holding her arms, and two more behind her, whom she could not see, though she knew they were there. And now she knew what she looked like.

She was not ready for this. The word that came to mind was Anubis, though these people didn't really look like the Egyptian god. Their muzzles were wider, and shorter, and deeper, and their noses were smooth and the same color as their skin. They had a more human upper face, with a high forehead and large eyes. Their ears were large and pointed, set low and rather flat on the sides of their heads. And they had Mohawk crests, four or five inches tall, from the top of the forehead to the back of the neck.

They were long in the body, short in the leg, and only two or three inches taller than Jeanette. They wore open-collar shirts, red, or maroon, or dark orange, or shades of blue, and trousers that were black, or dark brown, or dark gray. The women were slightly broader hipped, and had four breasts. Their legs were dog-legged, but quite straight nonetheless. The shape of their shoes showed that their toes - from the balls of their feet where their shoe-heels were - were plenty long enough to give them support while walking. Their fingers were very long.

Their skin, on heads, faces, and hands, was hairless, light tan or light brown or darker brown. Some were all one color. Some were shaded darker on the tops of their muzzles and heads and the backs of their hands. Some had lighter or darker bands across their muzzles and along the sides of their crests, which were black or russet or deep yellow or other colors. But what distinguished them from one another was not their highly individualistic appearance, but was their scent. Each was unique, and she would recognize their scents again, though she didn't yet know which belonged to who. It was by their scent that she knew that there were two people behind her, and that there were no others elsewhere out of sight.

She began to relate her sense of her body to these people, and almost literally found her legs. She looked down at her feet. Her boots had conformed, coming up to the lower joint of her legs - which would have been her ankles - instead of all the way to her knees. They fit perfectly. Of course they did.

Her vision darkened again, and she became dizzy. She really should have taken a couple days off.

She began to understand what they were saying. At first she caught just a few words, or phrases, which meant, but didn't sound like, "demon," and "poor thing," and "now what are we -" and "…all over again," and "are you stupid?" which last was not directed at her. Their voices were rich and complex contraltos, each as unique as their scents. There could be no disguise here.

One of the men in front of her said, "All right, all right, whoever this person is, she's been hurt. Let's get her upstairs."

"We can put her in my room," the woman holding her right arm said.

"Good," another man said, "do that. We can't do anything more right now anyway."

The people holding her up - the one on her left was a man - turned her toward a door behind her, the only door in the otherwise empty room. Someone went to open it for them. Jeanette tried to walk with the people supporting her, but they had to half carry her. She wasn't too proud to let them.

They went into a corridor. There was polished wood wainscoting. The walls above it, and the concrete floor, were painted cream. They turned to the right, and things got all dark and blurry, and she felt herself sagging as she faded out.

#

She awoke in what looked like an almost normal bedroom. It had all the right furniture, though the proportions were a bit odd. There was an unlit frosted glass ceiling fixture. Maybe this place had electricity. The light coming from windows behind her, on either side of the bed, felt like late afternoon. There was a door beyond the foot of the bed, and another on the left, next to a dresser which had a mirror above it. Her face still hurt a lot, but her head was clear enough that she thought about getting up to see if she really did look like these people. The visible muzzle in front of her face suggested that she did.

She heard a page turning and rolled her head to the right. The woman who had held her right arm was sitting in a chair just beyond the window, reading a book in its light. She looked up at Jeanette and closed the book in her lap, with a finger to keep her place. "How are you feeling?"

Jeanette guessed her to be the equivalent of about thirty. Her skin was an amber brown, darker on the upper surfaces, and her crest was almost black. "I don't know." Her voice, unexpectedly, was several tones lower than the woman's. She stared up at the ceiling, at the frosted glass fixture in the middle. How was she feeling? Aside from wishing she could have another couple hours more sleep.

She was glad to be in bed, but she was no longer exhausted. The ache in her cheek went all the way to her teeth. She was naked under the covers. The dagger's cord was not around her neck. Her legs felt just like normal legs, even though she knew that they were not the legs that she had grown up with. Her arms were on top of the covers, cool but not chilly. Her body was different, she didn't have to touch herself to know that.

Her mouth was full of teeth, more carnivorous than her own, with canines that were definitely longer than the others. Her golden brown muzzle was something she could clearly see, but would normally not even notice. It felt like there was a bandage on her cheek. She touched it, there was. She looked at her hand. Her fingers were half again as long as the ones she was used to, with an extra joint. They had nails, not claws. She still had the ring. She put her hand up to feel her crest, the hairs heavy but not coarse, and wondered what color it was.

She was hungry.

She looked at the woman, who had put her book down on the small table under the window. Her eyes were a golden green, like a cat's eyes, but with round pupils. "I feel a lot better than when I got here. When was that?"

"Early this morning. It's nearly time for dinner. Are you hungry?"

"Very." She sat up and let the sheet and pale green blanket slide down off her chest. Her lower breasts were slightly smaller than the upper ones. She almost couldn't see the claw scars on her left side. Then she swung her legs around off the side of the bed, but kept a corner of the blanket over her lap. The scars on her left hip and right thigh were also almost invisible. "Where are my clothes?"

"Everything's in the closet. There's a lot of blood on your shirt and trousers. You can wear something of mine if you like, we're about the same size."

"Yes, thank you, that's very kind."

The woman smiled. It would have been frightening if Jeanette had been at home, but it was really a very friendly smile. "Would you like to get dressed?"

"Yes, I would."

The woman went to the door on the left, reached in, came back with a red shirt and gray trousers, and put them on the bed. Then she got socks and underwear from the dresser. "You can use one of my brassieres if you like, but I don't think it would fit you." Her figure was rather fuller than Jeanette's.

"I seldom wear one anyway," Jeanette said.

She pulled on the underwear, and found that she had a short tail that curved forward between her legs. Interesting. The trousers were just a bit large, and just a bit short, but they fit well enough. They closed with a hook and a zipper, and had belt loops.

The woman came back from the closet again, with Jeanette's belt, pouch, dagger, and boots.

"Thank you," Jeanette said. She put on the shirt. It fastened with buttons, and fit about as well as the trousers did. She tucked it in, then threaded the belt through the loops and buckled it. She pulled on the socks, over feet that were almost all toe, then the boots, then hung the dagger from its cord around her neck and put it under her shirt.

"How can you wear that without cutting yourself?" the woman asked.

"I don't know how that works. Do you know how sharp it is?"

"Yes. It's scary."

Her trousers had pockets on the sides, rather than on the front or back. She looked into her pouch, saw that everything was there. Nobody wore pouches here, but she put it on anyway, so that it hung on her right hip. "Did you look inside?"

"We did. But after Hikram cut himself on your dagger, we decided not to touch anything."

Jeanette smiled. "Probably a good idea. Thank you. What's your name?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. Lirikatli Vinados."

"Thanks for sitting with me, and for letting me use your room. I'm Jeanette Delgado."

"You're welcome. It's just about time for dinner. Do you feel up to it?"

"Yes, I do." Not really, but … "I heal quickly." Far too quickly these days.

They went out into a short corridor. There was another door on this side, and two on the other. The corridor ended on the left, where a balcony overlooked a two-story entrance hall. Jeanette paused. "Ah-hm, is there a bathroom?"

"Oh, yes, of course. It's back that way."