Sample chapter from When The Gods Are Silent

Excerpt from WHEN THE GODS ARE SILENT by Jane Lindskold.

Published by Avon Books in 1997; Copyright © 1997 by Jane Lindskold. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the Publisher. Exceptions are made for downloading this file to a computer for personal use.


sample-whenthegods


‘Ware the gaze of a one-eyed man,
‘Ware the skip of a one-legged lass,
‘Ware all things too good to be true,
A Power may be watching.

Downs proverb

      Blood beaded from the slash cut in the red-haired warrior’s cheekbone. Sun glinting off his sword, the blond warrior’s attacker spun about. Then the redhead dove clear, rolling, her own sword rising to parry. A roar rose from the crowd leaning into the ropes around the sand-pit as they urged their champion in for the win.
“Bryax! Bryax! Bryax!”
Tombstone-square teeth bared, blond Bryax slashed out again, heartened by the crowd’s feral cheers. But off to one side of the sand-pit arena, seated high in the driver’s box of a brightly painted wagon, two fat and oily men looked at each other and exchanged luck signs.
“Bryax is done for, Tambor,” said the fatter, an oliveskinned man named Rylus. He stroked the stylish curls of his chestnut-brown hair.
“I fear so,” agreed Tambor, a plump man with skin the color of old ivory, silver-shot ebony hair, and dark, slanting eyes. “Not one who has drawn our Rabble’s blood has stood after to boast of it. Good thing news travels slowly these days-before the Loss you would have been hard put to get decent odds for the betting. ”
“True,” Rylus said cheerfully. “Now, dear Tambor, would you care to wager on how many blows before Bryax falls?”
“No,” Tambor chuckled dryly, toying with an earring in the shape of a tiny gold monkey that swung from his earlobe. “Our Rabble is like a hero from the days before magic vanished from the world. The only thing that I would predict is that burly blond Bryax will fall.”
Below, the crowd’s roar was fading to astonishment as an enraged Rabble beat at their favorite. The woman eschewed all but the flat of her copper-colored blade, most of her blows coming from pummelling hands and slight, bare feet.
Burly Bryax’s confident composure vanished. His sweat mixed with the thin rivulets of blood that streamed from his nose, the comer of his mouth, the knuckles of one hand. Weakly, he waved his sword in an ineffectual parry, but his skill no more stopped his opponent than a stick waved through a fire stops the flames.
Solidly, Rabble’s leg flew out, her foot hitting just below Bryax’s kneecap. As he crumpled, she spun and brought her blade’s flat around, knocking him to fall on his back. He did not rise. As one, the crowd stepped back from the arena, eyeing the lightly panting woman with ugly fear.
“Quickly, Tambor! Bring back your bears and monkeys before we have a riot,” Rylus ordered.
“Aye,” Tambor leapt down. “I’ll distract them. You pay Bryax his silver. See what Angie can do for his wounds.”
Sparing one last glance for the sand-pit, Rylus made his ponderous way down from the wagon box. The crowd now milled near fallen Bryax. Rabble had vanished, waiting neither for the crowd’s praise nor its censure.
“Angie! Angie!” Rylus bellowed.
“I’m here!” came the answer from a tent erected a short distance from the wagons as Angie popped out.
She was slim, petite, with skin several shades darker than Rylus’ own. Her hair was currently dyed the bright gold of spring daffodils. She wore a patchwork, many-pocketed robe over a flower-embroidered tunic and clasped in her hands was a heavy case of medical supplies.
Like all Far Shore’s Healers, she wore decorative face paint. Today, a white rose bloomed on her round cheek.
“Fight’s over with and Rabble has flattened another, aye, Rylus?” she chirped. “I’ll look to the loser. How badly hurt does he seem to be?”
“Not too bad,” Rylus replied. “She’s learning our ways, getting more cautious. She barely even used her sword this time.
“Good, good!” Angie said. “She’s understanding that we want to win bets, not slay enemies. Easier for me, too.”
Angie’s chattering was interrupted when a lean, greybearded man hurried up to them, kicking the hem of his ankle-length robe with each long-legged stride. His pale blue eyes were intense and his visage equal parts windburnt and dour.
“Are you the owner of this Spectacular?” he demanded of Rylus in a voice that seemed too deep to come from such a thin chest.
“I own it, with my partner, Tambor,” Rylus replied.
“I would speak business with you,” the grey beard said.
“One moment,” Rylus turned to Angie. “Can you find Bryax on your own, Angie? Treat him and then pay him?”
He tossed her a small sack of jingling silver.
“Aye, patch and pay. I can.” Angie glanced curiously at the stranger, hefted her case, and scurried off.
“What may I help you with, sir?” Rylus said smoothly.
“I want to buy her.”
“Who? Angie?” Rylus sucked in his gut and stood taller. “Sir, I don’t know what type of business that you suppose we run, but let me remind you that trade in healers is expressly forbidden in the Downs.”
“No, no, not the healer!” the stranger snapped. “The warrior, the red-haired woman who was fighting just now.”
“Rabble?” Rylus eyed the man critically. “She’s not a slave–she’s a free woman. Nor is she likely to take kindly to hearing that someone wants to buy her as a toy. Take my advice and leave quietly, friend.”
“I am no friend of yours, fat man. You may call me Hulhc. ” Hulhc scowled. “Nor do I want this ‘Rabble’ as a bed-toy. I simply assumed that she was a slave because I could think of no other reason that such a skilled warrior would be working for a cheap travelling show.”
Cheap travelling show! Rylus burned with barely contained fury. The Travelling Spectacular was his pride and glory, his ticket–if not to respectability, at least out of the gutters.
Barely restraining a flood of profanities that would have done credit to his origins, Rylus smoothed his scented brown locks, then breathed to fill the vast pit of his stomach. When he spoke, his words were clipped but civil.
I “Well, Hulhc, you’ll need to ask Rabble herself why she stays with us, as she has since my partner found her unconscious by the roadside with naught but a tattered tunic and her sword.”
“She was alone?” Hulhc’s disbelief was evident in his voice.
“Not a human in sight,” Rylus drawled, his natural good humor returning as he anticipated Rabble’s meeting with this grey-beard. “Not even a sign of one.”
“Hrumph,” Hulhc scowled again. “How did you train her to become such a warrior?”
Rylus belly-laughed, his eyes brightening with tears, his chins shaking. Hulhc shuffled his feet uncomfortably at the noise.
“Us make her a warrior? Us?” Rylus wiped his streaming eyes. “That is Rabble’s doing and hers alone. Rabble may have had little more than the clothes on her back when Tam found her, but her fingers were wrapped around that odd blade she favors. Tambor was honestly afraid to approach her for her eyes were so fierce. And Tambor’s no coward, thin man. He works with bears and great cats like they’re kinfolk. But Rabble scared him. ”
Hulhc paused, gnarled fingers tugging at his beard as he digested the information. Reaching into his purse, he tossed Rylus a small coin.
“For your time. Where can I find this Rabble? Has she no other name?”
Rylus considered tossing the coin back, then pocketed it. The monkeys still had to be fed, no matter what he thought of Hulhc’s manners.
“Rabble’s what she told us to call her and we weren’t arguing. Usually after a show she goes to her tent–the small black one. If she’s not there, check the pasture for her horse.” He chuckled. “It’s the large grey one–you’ll know it if you see it. If you don’t see either, you’ll have to wait. We don’t keep tabs on her–it’s not like we need to worry about Rabble getting hurt.”
Hulhc nodded and started toward where the black tent was pitched some distance from the wagons. Then he turned back.
“You don’t resent my trying to take her away? I estimated what your take was when she won the fight. Your bets on Rabble must bring you and your partner a fair amount of money.”
Rylus sighed theatrically. “Speak with Rabble. If she chooses to go with you, we won’t try to stop her. Wouldn’t even think of it, actually. She’s like an elemental force of nature, that one. I’d no more try to stop her than I’d try to stop the wind.”
With a satisfied grunt, Hulhc departed. Rylus looked after him thoughtfully. He turned at the sound of Tambor’s footsteps.
“What did he want?” Tambor asked, putting a hand on Rylus’ arm. He smelled of bear and the monkeys had been tying knots in his hair. “You’re growling.”
“As if you weren’t eavesdropping.” Rylus punched Tambor gently. “He wants to hire Rabble away from us. I’ve been trying to decide how I feel about it.”
“Relieved,” Tambor suggested. “Rabble’s welcome with us as long as she wants to stay, but that one’s a storm waiting to break. I don’t fancy being around when it does.”


Excerpt from WHEN THE GODS ARE SILENT by Jane Lindskold.

Published by Avon Books in 1997; Copyright © 1997 by Jane Lindskold. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the Publisher. Exceptions are made for downloading this file to a computer for personal use.

Copyright © 1997 by Jane Lindskold. All rights reserved. This page updated Decembner 31, 2002.

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