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Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

LALDASA: Beloved Slave


Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff


DEDICATION —

for Cynthia McQuillin


— CHAPTER 1 —


She experienced her emergence through the layers of darkness and pain as an uphill struggle through an oppressive storm. Every breath came at a price; every movement was agony.

Had she lost her breather? She didn’t remember. She gasped for air, expecting the sting of wind-driven sand on her skin, the taste of it in her mouth. But the air was too thick, too warm, too humid.

How could that be? It was autumn. Snow and ice were the only forms of moisture natives of the Kedar knew at this time of year.

Up through the muddle of sensations she climbed, groping toward light. She smelled vegetation, lush and sweet, heard the soft trill of water over rocks.

Wrong—that was wrong. Surely she was hallucinating.

Adrenaline seeped into her veins. She knew, too well, one familiar scenario that would account for hallucinations—that she had fallen through an old sink shaft into a pocket of manda gas. She willed the adrenaline to rouse her; manda fumes were slow poison. They fogged the mind, befuddled the senses, and eventually destroyed both.

She saw light and leapt after it. Made out indistinct shapes—a play of sunlight and shadow. But the sunlight was too bright, the shadows too dark.

She came to on a surge of near panic, disoriented by surroundings that made no sense. She was lying on a bed of grassy turf, overshadowed by softly waving greenery. Ferns—alien, and dripping with dew.

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