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SotS Official Snippet #4

Fans of Bahzell and Tomenack come on in! Let's talk about David's fantasy series and our favorite hradani!
SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by runsforcelery   » Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:20 pm

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The hradani’s bass bellow was as loud as before, and the redhaired man wondered if he ever spoke at less than full volume. Even as he wondered, however, his strange host was answered by a sweet contralto. The contrast was astonishing, but the volume of the response almost matched that of the summons.

“‘Leeana,’ yourself! What now? Another drinking bout to oversee?”

Customers moved aside to let the speaker pass. She was tall for a woman, within three inches or so of the redhaired man’s own height, though she seemed tiny beside the giant, and her red-gold braids fell below her waist. A flowing skirt of deep green wool swirled about her ankles, covered by a spotless apron; opals gleamed in the silver bracelet clasped around her left wrist; and a massive golden necklet set with a single ruby flashed about her slender throat. The redhaired man’ eyes flickered past her leather headband, then returned with a jerk. What had seemed a simple band was in fact many windings of a thick rawhide thong, and what he’d taken for large wooden earrings were carved wooden grips, instead. He eyed her with the same respect he’d shown the direcat as he recognized the Sothōii garrotte for what it was.

“And what are you and your cronies up to now?” she demanded, hands on hips as she gazed up at the towering hradani through green eyes a shade darker than the redhaired man’s own.

“No cronies this time, love . . . though Wencit did say it might be as he’d drop by for a visit.”

The hradani swept her off the floor, huge hands more than spanning her slender waist, and kissed her enthusiastically before he set her down and tucked her comfortably under his left arm. Then he turned with her to face the redhaired man . . . who noticed the matching silver bracelet around the hradani’s left wrist.

“No, lass,” he said. “We’ve a guest without the price of a pot of ale in his pocket. Surely there’s after being a place by the fire and a bit of something in the stew pot still?”

“I’m sure I can find both, if you’ll take the time from your lowborn friends to watch the bar for me.”

“To be sure,” the big hradani murmured, tugging his forelock respectfully. His dark face was alight with humor as he kissed the top of her head and swatted her behind gently — two liberties the redhaired man would never have dared with someone who carried a Sothōii garrotte. She fisted him in the ribs and spun away like a dancer, and even the roughest-looking patron moved respectfully from her path.

She smiled and gestured to the redhaired man, and he followed her through an arched doorway and down a short, stone-flagged passage into an enormous kitchen. He was puzzled by how silently she moved until the hem of her skirt swirled to show him that she wore no shoes.

The kitchen was almost uncomfortably warm, for a fire crackled and seethed in a hearth large enough for a ship’s mast. Wind roared across the chimney tops like a hunting beast, and rain hissed and spat in the flames as drops found their way down the flue. The rumbling storm was barely audible, yet he felt a warm puff of damp breeze on his neck and turned cautiously, then held very still as the direcat padded past, prick-eared head almost level with his own chest. The beast ignored him to curl neatly beneath a high trestle table, and the redhaired man drew a deep breath of quiet relief.

Leeana waved him towards another table while a half-dozen or so aproned women and a trio of men looked up briefly from their tasks, then nodded respectfully to Leeana and returned to chopping vegetables, peeling potatoes, turning the spit before the main fireplace, or tending pots and kettles on the immense stove which formed an island in the center of the room. Half of the kitchen staff were hradani, as well, he realized with a brain becoming inured to (or at least numbed by) repeated shocks. That mix was certainly odd, though not inherently impossible, he supposed. It was merely unheard of for humans and hradani to keep their swords out of one another long enough to discuss coexistence. But the girl who ran to meet Leeana, pausing in passing to lavish a rough caress on the deadly direcat, resolved any doubt as to how well this human got along with at least one hradani. Her flaming hair and fox-like ears marked her as Leeana’s daughter by the unlikely tavern keeper.

“Sit. Sit!” Leeana told him briskly. “Fetch a bowl of stew, Gwynna. And you, Sir — haul off that wet jerkin and set it aside to dry.”

“You’re too kind,” the redhaired man protested. “I can’t repay the courtesy you show me.”

“Nonsense!” Leeana snorted. “It does my layabout of a husband good to have a guest about the house. And I’d rather feed one man in the kitchen than wait bar for half a hundred,” she added with a sly smile. “You did me a favor there. It’s my night to tend bar and his to circulate, so you can see I actually stand in your debt.”

“I’m relieved to have paid my score, then,” he chuckled, shrugging out of his jerkin gratefully. Steam rose gently as he spread it across the back of an unoccupied chair before the flames, and he unlaced his tunic as well, hanging both by the hearth. He rubbed his hands, offering them to the heat and feeling the welcome warmth against his rain-chilled skin and —

Shattering crockery snatched his head towards the girl, Gwynna. She was a striking child, for all her mixed blood, with the mobile, tufted ears of her father’s people pricking piquantly through the rich red and golden hair of her mother. Her proud cheekbones were lightly dusted with freckles, and huge, dark eyes of midnight blue shone under delicate lashes. She was only a child, but her face already showed the elegant beauty to come. Yet at the moment, that beauty was clouded by shock.

He had only a second to realize that before a sound of tearing canvas ripped from his left as the direcat surged to its feet. The table under which it had lain crashed aside as the beast rose, lips drawn back, mouth gaping in fanged, bristling challenge. It bounded to the girl’s side — seven feet of midnight menace rumbling a deadly snarl that chilled the redhaired man’s blood.

“Stand, Blanchrach!”

Leeana’s voice whiplashed through the sudden tension, and the cat paused, tensed as if against an invisible leash. The redhaired man stared into its amber eyes and felt sweat on his brow, but the cat only edged forward, placing itself protectively between himself and the girl.

“Your pardon, Sir,” Leeana said more calmly. “I beg your pardon — for myself, as well as for my daughter and her friend. But I’ve never seen such scars. Not even on Bahzell.”

“Scars?” he asked blankly.

Her eyes led his own down over his chest and belly, and he sucked in wind and thudded onto the bench like a string-cut puppet. His torso was seamed and ridged, scars running in all directions across hard-muscled flash. Craggy peaks and valleys turned his body into a livid mountain range, and the firelight traced lines of shadow along their curves. He touched them fearfully, and his face blanched.

A tiny sound pierced his shock. He glanced up, green eyes stunned and confused, and adrenaline spurted afresh as he saw the garrotte in Leeana’s hands, the balls of her thumbs poised on the wooden grips.

“You didn’t know about your own scars.”

It wasn’t a question, and he shook his head numbly. Her face hardened, her eyes flicked to her daughter, and she spat a brief sentence in a strange tongue. Gwynna’s hands lowered from her mouth instantly, and she stepped back, her own eyes wide as the direcat crouched, tail lashing, and its deep rumble pulsed. The others in the kitchen — including two powerful, dagger-armed hradani — stepped back to give Leeana and the cat room.

“What manner of man are you?” Leeana’s words were courteous, but her voice was cold and her eyes bored into his. “What do you call yourself? Where do you come from, and why are you here?”

“I —“

He stared at her, his eyes half-glazed, and tried again.

“I —“

His tongue clove to the roof of his mouth and an expression of utter helplessness flashed over his face. He sought desperately for answers, knowing his life rode upon them, yet his mind spun from the surface of his thoughts into an endless well of silence. He licked his lips and sagged down on the bench, the roaring fire fingering his back with heat, and shook his head slowly, fear for his life overridden by a terror infinitely worse.

“In the names of all the gods,” he said hoarsely. “I don’t know.”

Wind howled in the chimney tops, and the flames danced behind him, laughing with the ageless malice of burning wood. His gaze locked with Leeana’s, and his voice was a cry of anguish.

I don’t know!


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Mon Dec 22, 2014 2:20 pm

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Curious and more curious.

While it does seem to be our Bahzell and Leeana, what are they doing running a tavern.

And our red-headed man doesn't seem to know his own name or know about his scars.

Very Interesting, MWW. :) :) :) :)
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by MPCatchup   » Mon Dec 22, 2014 8:09 pm

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So Bazhell has a young daughter as well as a tavern? How many other children might there be?
Merry Christmas!
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by dan92677   » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:54 am

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From the conversation, it is good that Wencit is still with us!! My guess is that the direcat was a birth gift to Gwynna to 'keep her company (and safe).'

Thank you very much for the snippet MWW!!!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by fallsfromtrees   » Tue Dec 23, 2014 6:12 am

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From this snippet, there have definitely been some changes in how the hradani relate to humans since the end of WMC, given that Belhaden is a considerable distance away from West Riding, and the Northern Confederacy.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by Tigertina   » Tue Dec 23, 2014 7:09 am

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Oh, these are the greatest Crishtmas presents fans can get! :D
Some answers, and some new mysteries!
Pretty certain the old man is Wencit thought.
I'm very happy to meet Leeana again (I named my baby daughter after her, in fact!), and hope to see a lot of her in this book ;)
Thank you mr. Weber, and happy holidays!
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by Peter2   » Tue Dec 23, 2014 7:20 am

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Hmm. That snippet explains a few things, and makes a nonsense of my previous speculations. It looks as though there has been a substantial period of peace since the events of War Maid's Choice, – long enough for Bahzell and Leeana to have at least one child and for her to grow up enough to be trusted in a kitchen – and what's a Champion of Tomanâk to do when there's no-one to fight?

Also I seem to remember a comment in one of the earlier books that hradani-human matings were infertile. Very interesting! :o I wonder what powers she will turn out to have. . .
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by fallsfromtrees   » Tue Dec 23, 2014 7:49 am

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Peter2 wrote:Hmm. That snippet explains a few things, and makes a nonsense of my previous speculations. It looks as though there has been a substantial period of peace since the events of War Maid's Choice, – long enough for Bahzell and Leeana to have at least one child and for her to grow up enough to be trusted in a kitchen – and what's a Champion of Tomanâk to do when there's no-one to fight?

Also I seem to remember a comment in one of the earlier books that hradani-human matings were infertile. Very interesting! :o I wonder what powers she will turn out to have. . .

It is not that hradani-human matings were infertile. It was that the offspring from such a mating are sterile - There will be no grandchildren for Bahzell and Leeana, unless of course the gods intervene again, and help their daughter out.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by PeterZ   » Tue Dec 23, 2014 10:19 am

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DrakBibliophile wrote:Curious and more curious.

While it does seem to be our Bahzell and Leeana, what are they doing running a tavern.

And our red-headed man doesn't seem to know his own name or know about his scars.

Very Interesting, MWW. :) :) :) :)


I am not yet convinced that this is indeed our Bahzell and Leeana. The direcat is too large an anomaly. I am guessing Gwynna to be about 10 years old as our stranger describes her as a child. That means our Bahzell or Leeana had to raise/befriend the direcat within 10 years of their wedding. While that's possible, how would that have happened given the events that ended WMC? Our two love birds would have been busier than one legged men in a butt kicking contest. Raising and training/familiarizing even intelligent animals into human society would require a huge devotion of time.

Also, in WMC I believe Phrobus mentions that Bahzell and Leeana are lynchpins that might influence many universes. I had thought the many iterations of Bahzell and Leeana would be the influence. It appears that the God's of Light aren't above introducing extra universal agents into the mix. The trouble appears to be how to do that without destroying the residents of that universe's free will to choose. The Dark can send their demons and devils much more freely as they don't really care about that. The only limiting factor is how much effort the Light wants to invest in stopping those transfers between universes.

So, I suspect that this story arc will be one that begins with Kenhodan assisting Bahzells and Leeanas who have to navigate a confluence of different choices but achieve the same result in defeating the Dark.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #4
Post by Peter2   » Tue Dec 23, 2014 4:13 pm

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PeterZ wrote:
[snip]

I am not yet convinced that this is indeed our Bahzell and Leeana. The direcat is too large an anomaly. I am guessing Gwynna to be about 10 years old as our stranger describes her as a child. That means our Bahzell or Leeana had to raise/befriend the direcat within 10 years of their wedding. While that's possible, how would that have happened given the events that ended WMC? Our two love birds would have been busier than one legged men in a butt kicking contest. Raising and training/familiarizing even intelligent animals into human society would require a huge devotion of time.

[snip]



I would agree with you completely but for one thing; we don't know how intelligent this direcat is, or whether or not somebody has been "interfering". You may well be right, but . . .
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