Books

Crowbones

Crowbones

Ace
March 2022
Hardcover, ebook, and audio book

Cover design:
Adam Auerbach

available as audio bookavailable as ebook

 



EXCERPT

Copyright © 2022 Anne Bishop. Used with permission.
(Suggested reading age: 15 years and older.)


CHAPTER 1

Vicki

Leading up to Sunsday, Grau 30

 

It wasn't my fault.

Okay, it sort of was my fault because I should have realized that the Crowgard who worked for me would be wildly excited about a human celebration called Trickster Night and want to participate firsthand—first wing?—in such an event. I also should have realized they would tell the rest of the Crows and other forms of terra indigene who lived in The Jumble about a human custom of dressing up and putting on masks to try to look scary. In the weeks prior to that actual night, Aggie, Jozi, and Eddie Crowgard pestered every human who visited The Jumble about how to "Trickster properly"—choice of costumes, choice of treats, what to say and what to do.

Wayne Grimshaw, Sproing's chief of police, was sparse with details whenever he dropped by to check up on me. Julian Farrow, who owned Lettuce Reed, the village's bookstore, was cautious with his explanations. Paige and Dominique Xavier, on the other hand, gleefully told the Crows about their childhood adventures and what they wore when they knocked on neighbors' doors and shouted, "Trick or treat!"

After receiving one of Grimshaw's patented grim looks, which turned his blue-gray eyes a steely gray, Paige and Dominique quickly emphasized that playing tricks was not the point of the evening.

"It won't be that bad," I had muttered to Ineke Xavier one afternoon as we waited by her car for Paige and Dominique to finish "explaining" a few more details about Trickster Night to my Crowgard employees. "My bookings for the lake cabins and the suites in the main house are all adult guests. No children."

"Have you bought enough bags of candy to hand out?" Ineke asked, sounding mildly curious.

"Mildly curious" coming from a woman who had a tattoo on one thigh that included the words "I Bury Trouble" was not to be mistaken for actual mild curiosity.

"Who is going to come out to The Jumble for a piece of hard candy?" I asked.

"Pops Davies mentioned that you hadn't come by the general store to pick up the bags of candy he'd set aside for you. Small chocolate bars."

I blinked. "Chocolate? Really?" Ever since the Great Predation—a terrifying time last year when the Elders and Elementals swept over the world and seriously thinned the human population as retaliation for the Humans First and Last movement starting a war and killing shifter forms of terra indigene—some things weren't as readily available as they used to be, and that included small bars of chocolate. I could put out some of the chocolate for my guests and keep a stash for myself for the times when I needed a reward for getting through a difficult day.

I made a mental note to call Pops and let him know I was interested in the chocolate so he wouldn't sell it to someone else.

"You're fully booked for the days before and after Trickster Night?" Ineke asked, still sounding mildly curious and calling me back from my distraction-by-chocolate.

"Yes." I had been fully booked for weeks, so I hadn't thought there was anything unusual about these reservations since we were just coming to the end of our peak tourist season and still required a three-day-minimum reservation—but I was catching on that maybe, just maybe, I had done something to earn the look Grimshaw had given me last night when he came over to play pool with Ilya Sanguinati, who was a very yummy-looking vampire and my attorney.

"So am I," Ineke said. "It's unusual to have people specifically booking a three-day stay midweek to make sure they are here for Trickster Night." She took pity on me. "The Jumble's residents are going to have the most amazing costumes."

"They don't need costumes. Most of them . . ."

I finally got it. Aggie, Jozi, and Eddie could pass for human unless they got excited and started sprouting black feathers. Robert "call me Cougar" Panthera and Conan Beargard could pass for human if you ignored Conan's excess body hair and the fact that the boys still had trouble with their teeth. They were getting those sorted out as they spent more time around humans, but the teeth were still an unnerving mix of human and large predator. As for the rest of The Jumble's terra indigene residents . . .

The between form isn't fully that individual's animal form and it isn't fully human, and it sure isn't whatever they look like in their true form, which is a form no human gets to see unless the human is the main course for that night's dinner. Maybe not even then, because the one time I asked Ilya why the Others' true forms were such a big deal, he said, very, very quietly, "You don't want to know, and you should not ask anyone else."

I took the hint and never mentioned it again.

The days prior to Trickster Night, I juggled looking after my current guests, getting ready for my soon-to-arrive guests, and approving the "costumes" of The Jumble's full-time residents. After persuading Aggie, Jozi, and Eddie that a between form that mixed too much Crow with their human forms would be bad for business, they agreed to keep their shifting to a human-size Crow head and a few feathers on their hands, which would be startling enough but wouldn't freak out the guests. I hoped. It also meant they couldn't talk to the guests or convey any messages about what the guests might want, but I could live with that for one evening. As for the rest of the Others who wanted to mingle with the humans in order to study them during this celebration . . .

Female Fox with foxy ears, foxy tail showing through a slit in her capris, and foxy front paws with elongated digits that were necessary to hold her treat sack. Cute.

Male Bobcat who looked the way he usually did when he took guests on a donkey-cart tour of The Jumble—in other words, he looked more Bobcat than human but could converse with humans. More or less. His "costume" consisted of a short cape that might have come from the large cardboard lost-and-found box I had tucked away in one of the first-floor rooms I wasn't currently using. I was certain some guests left things behind on purpose—a book, a sweater, a hairbrush—so that the Others could use it. And some things were left behind because the guest was in too much of a hurry to leave to check the closet or drawers.

Interestingly enough, it was the guests who were rude, too demanding, or "handsy" with Aggie, Jozi, or me who were motivated to leave in a hurry. I never asked who did the motivating, since there were scarier forms of terra indigene living around Lake Silence than a Panther, a black Bear, and the Sanguinati, and I really didn't want to know for sure that they were studying my guests in the same way some of my guests studied the more . . . benign? . . . forms of Others.

Back to the costumes. There were other blends of human and animal that . . . Okay, the individual was going for scary, and that included Cougar and Conan, which forced me to explain that there were degrees of scary, and if they didn't want to pour a thick layer of sand—or kitty litter—in front of the door to soak up all the pee from terrified children and adults, they needed to adjust their Trickster Night look to something that wasn't too scary.

Including the boys, I sat through six individuals "adjusting" their look until I gave them thumbs-up, no-pee approval. Then I took the key to the liquor cabinet that held Grimshaw's and Julian's private stash of sipping whiskey, chose the bottle that was open without looking at the label, and poured myself a hefty dose of courage that got me through the rest of that day.

dingbat

Check-in time is two p.m., and I was fully booked. Not that I had many available rooms. At this time of year, I didn't offer the "primitive" cabins. Out of the twelve cabins that were in The Jumble, three cabins located near the lake had been renovated and had updated electricity and indoor plumbing. Two were available for guests since the three Crowgard who worked for me occupied the third cabin. I also had two suites with private bathrooms in the main house. Sleeping arrangements for the two renovated cabins were two single beds in one and a double bed in the other. The suites in the main building had a double bed and a sofa bed in each. The sofa beds were a recent purchase I'd made for the guests who did bring a child or other relative to The Jumble, but it also worked for a variety of sleeping arrangements.

All of my Trickster Night guests arrived on Grau 30 shortly before check-in and spent the time making small talk while I got the registrations sorted out. All adults, which I'd expected. Fred and Wilma Cornley, an almost newlywed couple, had reserved one of the suites in the main house. The other suite was reserved by Ben Malacki and David Shuman, who were professors at one of the universities in the Finger Lakes. I figured they would flip a coin to see who slept on the sofa bed and who got the double bed. Jenna McKay had the cabin with single beds because she'd originally booked a reservation for two people, but her friend had canceled at the last minute. When Jenna heard that Ian and Michael Stern, cousins who had ended up with the last cabin, were going to flip a coin to see who got the double bed and who would sleep on the air mattress and sleeping bag they'd packed as a "just in case" option, she offered to switch cabins with them so that they could have the two single beds. That worked well for everyone, and assisted by my Crowgard employees, three of my guests headed for their homes away from home in high spirits.

Who slept where wasn't any of my business as long as guests didn't create a mess or draw too much attention to themselves. But I had that part covered by the sign on the reception desk that read: If your behavior attracts attention, you have to explain that behavior to someone who might eat you. Good luck.

It wasn't subtle, but most guests got the point, and no one had been eaten since that unpleasantness this past summer when my ex-husband and his cronies had tried to force me out of The Jumble in order to turn it into a posh resort.

I escorted the Cornleys and the two professors up to their suites, giving them a rundown of possible activities they could enjoy during their stay, emphasizing tomorrow night's festivities since I assumed that was why they were here and also pointing out that the TV was already reserved for the evening. Since this was the only TV available to guests, it was a not-so-subtle way of saying make out your will before you attempt to change the channel.

This being cop and crime night, I had ordered enough pizza and salads from the Pizza Shack in Sproing to feed my employees and guests. As the proprietor, I'm supposed to be available for guests, but Conan and Cougar made it clear to everyone that no one who wanted to keep all their digits disturbed me or the rest of the staff during the cop and crime shows.

Surprisingly, all the guests stayed to watch the shows with us, even the almost newlyweds. The men chowed down on pizza—wisely not touching the one called the Carnivore Special after Conan and Cougar growled at them—and fielded questions about human behavior both in the show and in the commercials. Jenna and Wilma mostly ate salad, which they almost dumped on themselves when Aggie jumped up and started yelling at one of the cops in the show when he paid no attention to the crow in the trees, who, according to Aggie, was trying to warn him that the sneaky human had just passed that way and was waiting to spring a trap.

That created a lively discussion during commercials about whether or not the cop, who didn't speak crow or Crow, could have realized he was being warned. And then everyone wondered if the crow had been just a bird that happened to be in a tree when that scene was shot or if it was supposed to be one of the Crowgard.

That led to questions of how to write to the show and suggest that they hire a Crow to assist the cops in the show in the same way the Crowgard assisted the police who protected Sproing.

My guests were fascinated by this claim of assistance. I ate my pizza and thanked all the gods that Grimshaw hadn't decided to drop by to play a game of pool and snag a couple of slices of pizza. I knew the look I would get if my guests started asking how the Others assisted the police in their apprehension of wrongdoers. Telling the truth—that wrongdoers were often eaten if the police didn't get to them first—would not help Sproing's tourist trade. Or my bottom line.

Grimshaw didn't watch the cop and crime shows, although he often dropped by because cop and crime night was also pizza night. Julian Farrow didn't watch those shows either because he'd been a cop until the Incident that ended his career, and he never knew if something in the shows would stir up post-traumatic memories. So whenever Grimshaw or Julian did turn up on that night, it was for pizza and pool. That's what they said, but David Osgood, the rookie police officer who worked for Grimshaw, had told Paige Xavier, who had told me, that Chief Grimshaw had made a passing comment about me being a trouble magnet, which was the real reason he stopped by a couple of times a week. Keeping his finger on the pulse, so to speak.

I preferred to think it was just a Grimshaw sort of justification for coming to The Jumble. Ilya Sanguinati had turned one of my downstairs rooms into something that looked like a pool hall just to give Grimshaw a private place to play pool. It could be used by my guests too, but when the Reserved sign was on the door, it was Grimshaw either playing on his own or playing with Julian and/or Ilya. A bit like an exclusive club—and we'd all learned how much trouble those could be—but the three males liked being able to discuss things in an informal setting. Keeping their fingers on the village's pulse—and their eyes on the trouble magnet, a label I thought was unfair since all I'd done that first time was call the police to report the dead man after I stopped Aggie from heating up one of his eyeballs for lunch.

And all I'd done a few weeks ago was mention Trickster Night, so everything that happened afterward really wasn't my fault.

 

CHAPTER 2

Grimshaw

Windsday, Grau 31

Even as a child, Wayne Grimshaw hadn't seen the point of Trickster Night. Why dress up in some kind of costume in order to walk down a couple of neighborhood streets and knock on people's doors in order to receive a questionable mix of candy that was, for the most part, something you didn't want to eat anyway?

Of course, when he had to participate because his parents wanted him to do an activity with other children, he'd dressed as some kind of cop. A frontier lawman. An old-time city detective who wore a suit and a bowler hat. The last time his parents encouraged him to knock on people's doors, he went out as an undercover cop, and his costume was a pair of jeans, a white T-shirt, a secondhand leather jacket, and a lot of attitude.

His career choice wasn't a surprise to anyone who had known him when he was young. His choosing highway patrol wasn't a surprise either. He was ideally suited to being a lone officer who traveled the roads through the wild country to assist people who'd had some kind of accident or needed another kind of help—or to apprehend idiots who thought they could taunt the Others and drive away, if the highway patrol officer managed to arrest said idiot before said idiot had been caught by one of the larger, more dangerous forms of terra indigene, then ripped into chunks and generously dispersed as handy meals for the smaller carnivores.

The surprise was finding himself the chief of police of the two-man police station in the village of Sproing, a small human community near Lake Silence, the westernmost of the Finger Lakes. Or Feather Lakes, depending on which species was identifying the bodies of water. His presence in Sproing had started out as a temporary assignment a few months ago, when he'd responded to the call Vicki DeVine had made to the Bristol Police Station, reporting a dead body. That body had been the first of many as a secret group of men had tried to take The Jumble away from Vicki. Her ex-husband had thought she would be a pushover, not realizing that her new friends included several Crowgard, a Panther, a Bear, the Sanguinati who were her attorney and CPA, and a couple of Elementals, including Silence's Lady of the Lake.

The loner he'd always been had found himself teaming up with Julian Farrow, a friend from his academy days; Ineke Xavier, the intimidating owner of the village's boardinghouse; and a variety of terra indigene in order to protect Vicki DeVine and, by extension, the entire village. The end result of that was the offer to become Sproing's chief of police.

So there he was, standing on the main street of a village whose population had swelled to almost four hundred residents—a significant jump from the three hundred people who had been in Sproing the first day he'd walked into the police station—wondering about a custom that encouraged children to go out at dusk, dressed in ways that might make it difficult for anyone to know, without examining teeth, if the children were humans dressed to look strangely furry, or furry youngsters enjoying a day when not being able to pass for human might be an advantage.

He had three choices for village information: the Xaviers at the boardinghouse; Helen Hearse, who ran Come and Get It, the village's diner; and Julian Farrow, the owner of Lettuce Reed, an establishment that seemed equal parts bookstore and the village's revolving library of used paperbacks.

Deciding he had a better chance with Julian of getting information and walking away in a reasonable amount of time, Grimshaw zipped up his jacket and crossed the street, steeling himself for an encounter with the Sproingers, the small critters that looked a bit like happy, bouncy rats but were a lethally venomous form of terra indigene. They were Sproing's major tourist attraction since they hopped around the village, cadging chunks of carrot or pumpkin from the shop owners while people from all around the Northeast Region of Thaisia came to Sproing for the chance to get their pictures taken with the happy-faced hoppy things before purchasing an I ♥ Sproingers T-shirt.

On the continent of Thaisia, Sproingers were exclusive to the land around Sproing and Lake Silence.

Thank the gods for small favors.

Julian Farrow stood outside Lettuce Reed with a bowl of carrot chunks he was handing out as treats.

When they'd gone through the academy together, instructors sometimes called them Day and Night because they were opposites in looks. Even then, Grimshaw was a large man with dark-blond hair and blue-gray eyes, while Julian had a lean build and finely sculpted face, gray eyes, and dark hair. In many ways, they were still opposites. Grimshaw still wore his hair short, while Julian's hair was long enough to look shaggy or bedroom disheveled or whatever adjectives women liked to apply to such things. There was a thin scar beneath Julian's left cheekbone—a souvenir of the attack that had ended Farrow's career as a cop.

Julian carried other scars too, and not all of them were visible to the eye.

Like the children Grimshaw noticed going from store to store, the Sproingers approached the businesses in small groups. A quick tally of the critters he could see put the count at around fifty, which was half the Sproinger population. He didn't want to consider where the other half was.

He stood at the edge of the sidewalk and continued scanning the street while Julian dealt with two boys who wore furry-looking hats and mittens, a length of clothesline pinned to their jeans, and hopped after the Sproingers.

"I have carrots," Julian told the boys. "Helen at Come and Get It is giving out brownie squares."

The Sproinger wannabes hopped toward the diner and a better treat.

Shaking his head, Grimshaw joined Julian.

"Carrot?" Julian held out the bowl.

Grimshaw hesitated, then took a chunk. "Why not?"

"You were almost called to break up some fisticuffs at Pops Davies's store today when two female tourists laid claim to the last bunch of carrots in the hopes of some up-close-and-personal contact with the Sproingers. Fortunately, Officer Osgood arrived before the first punch was thrown and pointed out that, since both women were staying at the boardinghouse, they could split the cost of the carrots and any candy they wanted to contribute to the goody bowl the Xaviers were using to lure costumed residents to their door."

Grimshaw sighed. "I have one officer to help me patrol three potential trouble spots." The Jumble was one; the boardinghouse was another. He considered the village of Sproing in its entirety to be the third.

"Two officers, two spots," Julian corrected. "I heard Ineke walked into the dining room this morning wearing her 'costume,' which was a long leather coat over a smoking-hot top and a pair of shorts that were just this side of legal."

"Gave her guests a good look at her tattoos?"

"Uh-huh."

He nodded. Ineke had a smoking revolver on her left thigh. On the right thigh was a big-eyed caricature of Ineke that had a miniature boardinghouse tucked in her multicolored hair and a necklace made of tombstones. Beneath the caricature were the words "I Bury Trouble."

There was nothing Other about the Xaviers. They were human. They were just potently Female in a way that was a bit scary. Sometimes a lot scary.

He wondered what it said about David Osgood that the rookie was casually dating Paige Xavier. At least Osgood thought it was casual. Personally, Grimshaw thought fish probably looked the same way when they were well and truly hooked. The only question was whether Paige believed in catch and release or if she didn't bait the hook at all unless she intended to keep what she caught.

He hadn't heard any gossip about Dominique, the third Xavier, but that could be because he hadn't asked the right person.

"So the kids are doing this little trick or treat on Main Street this afternoon to show off their costumes before sticking to their own streets?" Grimshaw asked, watching four youngsters slowly approach Lettuce Reed. Two of the boys and one girl were teenagers, although not all the same age. The other girl looked like she belonged to the under-ten crowd. The girls wore black, calf-length dresses; the boys wore black suits with pale gray shirts. They could have been young humans in costume, except they all had dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin, and that said Sanguinati.

"Wayne . . ." Julian glanced at the four youngsters, then looked at the second-story windows of the police station. Paulo Diamante, the village's lone human attorney, occupied one office on the second floor. But the occupants of the other office, the office that had no name on the door, had a great deal of influence in and around Sproing and Lake Silence—not to mention owning several of the commercial buildings and the bank.

Ilya Sanguinati met Julian's eyes for several seconds before stepping back from the window.

"You all having a look around?" Grimshaw asked, keeping his voice friendly.

"Yes. Sir," the younger teenage boy replied. "We are . . . strolling."

Definitely not a word the boy used every day, and the stilted speech gave the impression he'd had limited contact with humans.

"And observing," the older teenage boy added.

More confidence in that one—and something under that confidence made Grimshaw's cop radar hum for a moment before the feeling faded. Could be nothing more than one boy coming across as more mature because he was a few years older than the other one. But it could be something else.

Or he could just be feeling crabby because he wasn't looking forward to dealing with Trickster Night in Sproing.

The four youngsters came to attention as Ilya Sanguinati crossed the street and joined them. It was subtle, but it told Grimshaw that these youngsters were used to obeying their leaders. Or the dominant family member?

"The bookstore is open if you'd like to take a look around," Julian said.

The youngsters looked at Julian, then at Ilya.

"You may look until Boris arrives with the car," Ilya said.

Julian stepped aside.

The teenage girl's shy smile didn't match the assessing look she gave Julian before she lowered her eyes and walked demurely into the store.

Grimshaw thought, Gods save us all from girls that age, regardless of their species. Then he wondered if that mix of shy and assessing was more than her age. He knew how the Sanguinati hunted. Was he looking at a teenage girl becoming aware of her attraction to men—or was he looking at a predator who used sex as bait?

And how could he pose that question to Ilya Sanguinati without offending the leader of Silence Lodge?

"Family come to visit?" Julian asked.

"You could say that," Ilya replied. Then he hesitated, and Grimshaw realized this was one of those moments when he would learn how much trust he and Julian had earned with the Sanguinati.

"The shadow of Sanguinati at Silence Lodge is not currently raising any young of its own," Ilya continued. "Under such circumstances, youngsters from other shadows might be fostered for a time in order to further their education and gain experience that is not available in their home territory."

"Like interacting with humans the adult Sanguinati consider safe?" Julian guessed.

"Exactly. Such opportunities are unusual for the young, and Silence Lodge, like the Lakeside Courtyard, has been deemed such a place. It is an honor to be considered in this way."

Grimshaw had the impression that Ilya didn't feel the least bit honored. "If you let the girls acquire any knowledge from Paige Xavier, you are on your own dealing with the consequences."

Ilya looked startled. Julian choked on a laugh.

"I was thinking of introducing them to Victoria," Ilya said after a moment.

Oh gods. Look what happened when Vicki and one juvenile Crow became friends. The thought must have shown on his face, because Ilya suddenly avoided meeting his eyes.

"Ah, there is Boris." Ilya sounded relieved—and looked a wee bit pale.

As if summoned, the Sanguinati youngsters filed out of Lettuce Reed.

"Sir?" the younger girl piped up. "Is it permissible to purchase books?"

The adults, human and vampire, hesitated. Probably because none of them knew which "sir" was supposed to answer the question.

"Yes," Ilya said. "But not now. Mr. Farrow is closing early for Trickster Night. We will return tomorrow."

They crossed the street as Boris, Ilya's driver, opened the back door of the black luxury sedan.

One by one, the human-looking youngsters changed into a column of smoke and flowed into the back of the sedan. When four columns were inside the car, Boris closed the door. Ilya got in front on the passenger side, and Boris settled behind the wheel.

"Adults in front, children in back," Julian said. "Not so different from humans."

Grimshaw saw plenty of differences, and he wasn't looking forward to talking to Ilya about not allowing the youngsters to snack on the tourists—or do anything else. After all, one of the reasons the Sanguinati helped keep Sproing afloat was to have a supply of transient meals. And since the adult Sanguinati could give lessons in romantic seduction, most of their prey didn't connect the love bite with an extraction of blood.

It said a lot about Ineke Xavier and Helen Hearse that they served plenty of iron-rich foods at their establishments to counteract the languidness that was a natural part of the rest and relaxation experienced by some of Sproing's tourists.

They'd given him that explanation at different times and in slightly different ways when he'd observed the change in some hyperactive tourists. But only Ineke had pointed out that the languid women had a particular smile the next day—a smile she hoped that he, as a man who had enjoyed female company at some point in his life, recognized.

He had changed the subject and never brought it up again. At least, not where any Xavier could hear him.

"I'd send Osgood over tomorrow so you wouldn't be alone with the Sanguinati girls, but he's already in over his head," he said.

"I know how to be careful. With women, anyway."

He let that comment hang in the air and said casually, "You going to The Jumble this evening?"

Julian nodded. "I was invited to the party Vicki is holding for her guests, and I gather all the residents are going to participate in the treat part of Trickster Night. I heard that the academics who are staying at the Mill Creek Cabins are also invited in order to observe the Others, but their invitation came with a BYOF&B addendum."

"Bring your own . . . ?"

"Food and booze."

"Makes sense." Grimshaw waited a beat. "How many pizzas are you contributing?"

Julian laughed. "Four."

He nodded. "Sounds about right."

"You too?"

"Osgood can man the phones at the station this evening. I figure being at The Jumble is the best chance of seeing who is living around Lake Silence and might cross paths with humans. And I'm officially escorting the academics back to the Mill Creek Cabins since they'll be driving after dark."

Sproing was a human community, but it wasn't human controlled. That meant there were no boundaries between humans and the wild country. There was no longer a curfew, but no one with any sense stayed out too long after dark.

"I'll see you at The Jumble," Grimshaw said.

When he was halfway across the street, Julian said, "Are you going to wear a costume?"

His reply was an unmistakable hand gesture that earned a gasp from a couple of women he'd seen around for the past few weeks. New residents? Well, when he took this job, he didn't promise to work on his public relations skills. At least, not with the human population. Still . . .

"Ladies." He gave them a nod and walked into the police station.

The station looked outdated, but it was clean, had everything he and Osgood needed, and had enough room for one more officer now that they had shoehorned in a third desk and a desktop computer for police business—assuming anyone else wanted to work in a place like Sproing. So far, he and Osgood had been able to handle the calls, especially once residents realized that anything fanged, furry, and curious might show up to "assist."

Hopefully fisticuffs over the last bunch of carrots or bag of candy would be the worst he'd have to deal with, especially if he kept an eye on Vicki DeVine tonight. She meant well, and he couldn't dispute that The Jumble being a working concern again had improved the economy of the entire village, but she was also the reason he knew a whole lot more about the terra indigene residents around Lake Silence than most of the humans in the area. It wasn't knowledge that gave a man a good night's sleep.

On the other hand, he firmly believed that ignorance was bullshit, not bliss. Given a choice, he'd rather lose some sleep and have a chance to wake up the next morning.


The Queen's WeaponsThe Queen's Weapons, in paperback February 2022