Writing About Writing, Law, Life, and Occasionally Politics
I post news and excerpts about my novels, plus miscellaneous thoughts, speculations and occasional rants about writing, publishing, current events, legal issues, philosophy, photography, and events in my life.
Follow by Email
Wednesday, October 03, 2018
Time for another excerpt from WATER TO WATER
This excerpt, from Chapter 4, has some information you won't find in the blurb or the earlier excerpts -- but it isn't a spoiler, really.
Given how they had met, it was no surprise
that some of Terrill’s curiosity ran to matters of death. How often did Vushlu
processions come to the beach where Honnu lived? Did Vushla come there from all
over, or only from the region Terrill came from? Did anyone get to the
shoreline and refuse to go in? Did anyone stand up and declare they would
recover, that they weren’t dying after all?
Honnu was embarrassed not to know more of
the answers. He had never known where the groups came from. He had never seen
someone turn around and go home again. He had never seen anyone refuse to wade
in, and then die on the beach. Though he had seen bodies of those who died on
the journey. That got tricky: the family and friends could hardly carry the
body into the water, lacking proper protective gear. A couple of times
recently, now that Honnu was old enough, he had been drafted into the burial
party. He had been just as glad to be wearing his gloves, so that he didn’t
have to touch the dead flesh with his hands.
That tale brought more questions. “Haven’t
you ever gotten wet, at all?”
Well, yes. All the young Vushla did, sooner
or later, dared by their friends or daring on their own. In his case, his
brothers had egged him on; but he had waited until they were busy to sneak off
to the water’s edge. Careless, maybe, but he preferred the risk to having them
see his reaction if he flinched.
“What was it like?”
Like nothing, at first. No more than if he
had spit on his own hand. Less than that, at first, where the spray hit his
armor. But after a few moments, there was a tingling. Like what sparkle would
feel like, if one could feel it. . . .
Sometimes Terrill asked about Weesah.
During one rest stop, he asked, “Have you ever seen a group of Weesah show up,
or a mixed group with the Weesah dying?”
“No, never. I think they have some other
way. But I don’t know what.”
Terrill glanced around for the peddler, but
he was out of sight, rearranging something in the wagon. “Don’t you wonder what
“I suppose, now that you mention it.” And
Honnu wasn’t sure Terrill would work up the nerve to ask the peddler.
Well, Honnu didn’t mind.
He walked over to the back of the wagon and
called up, “Need any help?”
The peddler stuck his head out. “Not just
now. I’ll need something from the pair of you soon enough, I’m sure.” Then,
with that shrewd look Honnu had seen many times by now, he added, “But might
there be something you’re needing, or wanting, from me?”
Honnu tried for his most earnest
expression. “Not exactly. It’s more about what you might need from us. Not that
I’m expecting it. But we’re your crew now. We should know what to do if —” How
to put it? “If anything happens to you. Suddenly. If you should . . . where
would we take you? Would we need to get to the ocean, as soon as we could?”
“Oh, lad, I think you know better than
that. You’ve seen Weesah come and go on wagons,
but you’ve never seen one show up in a
wagon, have you?”
Honnu’s fingers went warm, and he fought
the urge to retract them into his armor. The peddler beckoned to Terrill. “Come
on, then. You may as well hear this.”
Terrill shuffled over, his fingers
retracted almost all the way. The peddler slapped him lightly on the back.
“It’s all right. Got to ask questions.” He nodded toward Honnu. “That’s how you
learn, isn’t it? You two want to know how Weesah die. Only natural. Well, here
it is. When we feel our time coming, we climb. Well, we ride, unless we live
close enough to climb on foot. We go to high places. Up in the mountains I’ve
told you about.”
Honnu opened his face plates, agreeing; so
did Terrill, who had heard about mountains by now, if not so often as Honnu
“Or if we can’t get to the mountains, we
find the tallest tree we can. Either way, we need some place out in the open,
where the wind can reach us. That’s important.
“And then — then, we just reach our arms
out wide, to welcome the wind; and as soon as we die, the wind blows us away.
As dust.” He paused and tilted his large head to one side. “I’ve seen it twice.
I’d have to call it pretty. You see how our skin catches the light?” He pointed
to the shiny bits of skin on his arm. “It’s like that, except all the bits, on
all sides. We blow away, shining in the sun.”
Terrill finally found the nerve to speak
up. “And that’s only — I mean, how does the wind feel the rest of the time?
Before the time comes?”
The peddler shifted a bit from side to
side. “It feels good, lad. It feels, well, fine.” He gazed off into the
distance for a moment, smiling a little. Then he shook himself as if shedding
something and pointed to the wagon. “Now let’s have the two of you get in there
and help me sort things out, before we get to the next town. I’ll want the
goods that sell best to be nice and handy.”