Bones of the Past (Arhel)

Bones of the Past (Arhel) by Holly Lisle Read Free Book Online

Book: Bones of the Past (Arhel) by Holly Lisle Read Free Book Online
Authors: Holly Lisle
Tags: Fantasy, Magic, High-Fantasy, trilogy, jungle, archeology, Holly Lisle, Arhel, First Folk
rumbles and low growls of the lean, fast, demon-powered horseless carts. Bells and horns and voices all demanded right of way; the bad-tempered, long-horned bovines mostly got it. That was road traffic. Above the road, fliers of airboxes and carpets and a menagerie of exotic winged mounts swooped and dove and screamed at each other to make way.
    Even on the walkways, the traffic was hectic—walkers tended to be fast and rude, while the rollers in their faddish new wheelboots were bloodthirsty maniacs. Pedestrians like Roba, who found the pace too exciting, kept to the walls and tried to think thin. Still, collisions happened. Those who got hit swore in three or four languages that Roba recognized and a score she didn’t, while those doing the hitting swore back, mentioning “mudcrawlers” and “slugs” about as often as not. Roba found it all, perversely, very entertaining.
    In the outer rim of Ariss, housing was cheaper and foreigners from other provinces were common. She noted three Huong Hoos—pale, black-haired, blue-eyed—their faces cat-patterned for battle, pacing majestically forward on their lean, bell-bedecked war-horses while traffic parted and surged around them like water around rocks. A flock of ebony-skinned Ralledines from Punce dropped their light flier to eye level, watching for someone or something on the ground. Stone Teeth Hoos pushed past, and she backed nervously. One of the young men flipped his long gold hair out of his face and grinned at her, and she smiled back, faintly. The sharp points of his filed teeth glittered in the pale sunrise.
    Someone tapped her shoulder and she jumped. Thirk grinned up at her, his round face beaming.
    “People watching in this part of town always has that effect on me, too. You know not to show your teeth when you smile at a Stone Teeth Hoos, right?”
    “Ah, no.” Roba tried to remember how much she’d smiled. “Why don’t you show your teeth?”
    “Big toothy smile means you want to have sex with him. It’s a very blatant form of making a pass.”
    Roba let that thought percolate for a moment. Finally, she muttered, “Why, that little shit.” Then she thought about it further and burst out laughing.
    Thirk crossed his arms in front of his chest and tipped his head to one side. “What’s so funny?”
    Roba headed for the doors of the Crustery. “I’ll bet those horny little cannibals are disappointed a lot here in Ariss.”
    It was Thirk’s turn to laugh. “Probably not as often as you’d think. They have a reputation as legendary lovers.”
    “I didn’t know that. I might have given him a nice big smile if I had.”
    Roba stepped inside and inhaled. Behind those heavy doors, the food smelled even better than it had outside. And once the doors swung shut the riot from the street was muffled. She closed her eyes for a moment, appreciating the atmosphere.
    Thirk said, “That’s fairly common knowledge among Arissers—but you aren’t actually from Ariss, are you?” He pointed out the items he wanted to the Crustery’s shopkeeper. “Get whatever you like,” he added. “I’m buying.”
    Roba ordered a small loaf of blackbread and hard cheese, a mug of coffee, and a slice of the still-steaming mutton pie that sat on the counter. While Thirk paid, she carried both of their trays to one of the low tables next to the window.
    “I’m actually from Gornat Wilds,” she admitted. “It’s a fishing village not too far from Big Tam.”
    Thirk raised an eyebrow. “Not a very cosmopolitan area,” he said between bites.
    “Indoor plumbing came as quite a shock.”
    Thirk laughed. “I bet. At least that explains why city traffic puts you in a trance. And why you didn’t know about the Stone Teeth Hoos.”
    “I knew a Hoos once…” Roba sliced a thick slab of cheese with her belt knife and ate it with the tough blackbread. She washed it down with the scalding hot coffee and sighed happily. “
Huong
Hoos.”
    “Oh?”
    Roba sawed another

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