Etched in Bone
(The fifth book in the Others series)
A novel by Anne Bishop
My thanks to Blair Boone for continuing to be my first reader and for all the information about animals, weapons, and many other things that I absorbed and transformed to suit the Others’ world; to Debra Dixon for being second reader; to Doranna Durgin for maintaining the Web site; to Adrienne Roehrich for running the official fan page on Facebook; to Nadine Fallacaro for information about things medical; to Jennifer Crow for pep talks when needed; to Anne Sowards and Jennifer Jackson for the feedback that helps me write a better story; and to Pat Feidner for always being supportive and encouraging.
A special thanks to the following people who loaned their names to characters, knowing that the name would be the only connection between reality and fiction: Bobbie Barber, Elizabeth Bennefeld, Blair Boone, Kelley Burch, Douglas Burke, Starr Corcoran, Jennifer Crow, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota, Julie Czerneda, Roger Czerneda, Merri Lee Debany, Michael Debany, Mary Claire Eamer, Sarah Jane Elliott, Sarah Esposito, Chris Fallacaro, Dan Fallacaro, Mike Fallacaro, Nadine Fallacaro, James Alan Gardner, Mantovani “Monty” Gay, Julie Green, Lois Gresh, Ann Hergott, Lara Herrera, Robert Herrera, Danielle Hilborn, Heather Houghton, Pamela Ireland, Lorne Kates, Allison King, Jana Paniccia, Jennifer Margaret Seely, Denby “Skip” Stowe, Ruth Stuart, and John Wulf.
GEOGRAPHY NAMID—THE WORLD CONTINENTS/LANDMASSES
Cel-Romano/Cel-Romano Alliance of Nations
Great Lakes—Superior, Tala, Honon, Etu, and Tahki
Other lakes—Feather Lakes/Finger Lakes
Cities and villages—Bennett, Endurance, Ferryman’s Landing, Harmony, Hubb NE (aka Hubbney), Jerzy, Lakeside, Podunk, Prairie Gold, Ravendell, Shikago, Sparkletown, Sweetwater, Talulah Falls, Toland, Walnut Grove, Wheatfield
DAYS OF THE WEEK
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As they gathered in the wild country between Tala and Etu, two of the Great Lakes, their footsteps filled the land with a terrible silence.
They were Elders, primal forms of
Humans—those invasive two-legged predators—had made war against the
As the humans in Thaisia and Cel-Romano celebrated their victory over the smaller forms of
But now they faced a problem.
<Some of us will have to watch the humans,> said the oldest male who had made the journey to this place. <Some of us will be poisoned by even that much contact.> A beat of silence as they considered taking over the task the smaller shifters had performed for many years. Then the question: <How much human will we keep?>
<Kill them all!> snarled another male. <That is what humans would do.>
<You would kill the sweet blood not-Wolf?> a female asked, shocked.
A heavy silence as they considered
The sweet blood, the howling not-Wolf, had changed things in the Lakeside Courtyard—had even changed some of the
No, they could not kill the sweet blood not-Wolf, the one called Broomstick Girl in the stories that winged their way into the wild country and amused even the most dangerous forms of Elders.
Having agreed that killing all the humans in Thaisia wasn’t the answer, they considered the problem as the sun set and the moon rose.
<If we allow some humans to remain, then what
A different question. A caught-in-thorny-vines, stuck-in-the-mud kind of question. Many of the smaller shifters who had survived the human attacks had withdrawn from human-occupied places, leaving the humans who lived there to the Elders’ sharp mercy. Some returned to the wild country, retreating from any trace of humans, while others chose to resettle in towns that had been reclaimed—places that had buildings and human things but no longer had people.
But the Elders who guarded the wild country usually kept their distance from human places unless they came to those places as Namid’s teeth and claws. They didn’t study humans the way the smaller shifters did. The teaching stories told them there were different kinds of humans, but what made one human respectful of the land and the boundaries that had been set while another killed and left the meat, or tried to take away the homes of the feathered and furred? The HFL humans had made war on the
If humans migrated to the reclaimed towns, would they fight with the shifters who were turning those places into homes for
As one, the Elders turned north and east, looking in the direction of Lakeside.
<That Courtyard was not abandoned, and it has a human pack,> the eldest male said.
It also had the Wolf and howling not-Wolf who intrigued so many of the Elders. Witnessing the stories that would flow into the wild country was worth the risk of human contamination.
All of them were curious, but only two Elders—a male and a female—were chosen to spend time on a small piece of land surrounded by humans. They had been in Lakeside before, when, as Namid’s teeth and claws, they had roamed the fog-filled streets, hunting human prey.
Satisfied with their decision, most of the Elders returned to their pieces of the wild country, while the two selected for the task of studying the human pack began the journey to Lakeside.
Eager to join his friends for an early-morning run, Simon Wolfgard, leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, hurried toward the
<It’s Kowalski,> Blair growled. It was a soft growl, but the human suddenly scanned the area as if his little ears had caught the sound.
<On a bicycle,> Nathan added.
<We gave him permission to ride on the paved roads,> Simon said, a little concerned about their focused attention on a human they knew fairly well.
Karl Kowalski was one of the human police officers who worked directly with the