Lost Truth

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Lost Truth
ISBN # 0-441-01228-0

 

 

Lost Truth is the fourth book in the Truth Series. It was originally published in 2004 through Ace Fantasy. It has been translated into German, and is doing quite well. A French translation is planned.

Foreign and reissue covers:

Lost Truth German CoverLost Truth Reissue cover

Excerpt from

Hidden Truth
by
Dawn Cook

Copyrighted Material

One

            The half-dozen chicken eggs cradled in her ridiculously long, clawlike fingers threatened to slip.  Alissa drew them close to her body, knowing she wouldn’t be able to catch them before they hit the ground, even from this height.  She flicked a glance down.  Below, the tallest outcrops of the mountains slipped soundlessly under her, gray in the morning light.  The fog was beginning to rise with the sun, making a patchwork with low areas peeking out from under flat-topped white clouds and high crags sharp in the clear air.
            Damp and clinging, the breeze tugged at her as she flew, and Alissa felt her secondary, nictitating eyelid shut against the wind.  It was spring, and she was restless.  This was the best she had felt all week—headed west, with the rising sun sending the shadow from her batlike wings to scare the occasional deer or goat into panicked dashes.
            This morning, before the stars had vanished, she had flown across the mountains to her mother’s abandoned farm in the foothills with the excuse of gathering eggs from the chickens that remained there.  In truth, she was seeing if the snow was gone and all the passes were open.  They were, thrilling her to no end.  Now perhaps, she could convince Useless to let her leave and find her mother.
            In all his scheming wisdom, her teacher, Useless—or Talo-Toecan as everyone else properly called him—had decided that having been raised in the foothills, Alissa would adhere to foothills’ traditions concerning marriage.  Her mother needed to show favor to one of her suitors before she could wed.  But her mother had returned to her desert homeland, leaving only a tear-marked note on the abandoned stove.
            Alissa knew Useless didn’t care one whit about foothills traditions.  He was just using the situation to keep Strell and Lodesh at arm’s length from her, hoping she would lose interest and turn her attentions to a match more suitable to her new Master standing.  His scheming only made Alissa all the more determined to marry one of them.  The question remained, though, as to which one.
            Slow with only the thin updrafts the morning could support, she glided toward the Hold.  The energy of the rising air currents stained the perfect sky with upwelling shades of a darker blue, visible through her raku eyes. To her right, a stark rock face threw off a steady stream of violet, swirling heat.  Alissa’s stomach clenched as she found herself angling toward it.
            “Do you want to try rising on it?” came a thought that was hers, but not.  It was Beast, and Alissa grimaced.
            “No,” Alissa answered shortly in her mind, peeved Beast would even ask.  “You do it.”
            “You need to learn to fly,” her alter consciousness said.
            “And you need to learn to hoe your own row of beets.”
            Beast smugly withdrew her control over their level glide.  Finding herself responsible for their motion, Alissa panicked.  Immediately they stalled.  They hung motionless for a heartbeat.  Wings flailing, they dropped.
            With a snort of laughter, Beast resumed command to catch their fall in an elegant swoop.
            Alissa’s tail brushed against the top of a dew-wet hemlock.  “Burn it to ash!” she shouted in their shared thoughts, clutching the eggs close as her racing heart slowed.  “Don’t do that!”
            Beast twisted her thoughts to give the impression of a smirk in their shared mind.
            Glancing down, Alissa shuddered, knowing from experience how hard the ground was when one barreled into it at this speed.  “I’ve been stuck at the Hold all winter,” she thought, sending a trace of rueful emotion to Beast.  “Now that the passes are open, I want to find my mother.”
            “You want to go,” Beast said suddenly.  “I like to fly.  The sky is clear.  Let’s go.”
            Alissa nervously shifted the eggs.  She hadn’t known her very real—and often annoying—alter consciousness felt the same.  “I can’t,” Alissa said.  “After the fiasco in the plains last summer, Useless said I have to find her thought signature first.  My range isn’t that good yet.”
            “It’s an excuse,” Beast said shortly.  “I don’t think even he could pick one person out from thousands.  Not half a continent away.”
            Alissa bobbed her great head, and Beast easily adjusted for the shift in momentum.  “Even so, I can’t just fly away.”  Alissa’s mood turned soft and content.  “Strell and Lodesh can’t keep up.”
            “Oh.”  Beast’s thoughts were tinged with disgust and a grudging confusion.  “I understand love.  It grounds you when you want to fly.”
            “No, Beast,” Alissa insisted.  “You don’t understand at all.”  She sighed, hearing the exhalation come out in a primitive, guttural sound.  Despite the nights spent trying to explain, Beast didn’t seem to have the capability to comprehend what Alissa felt for Strell and Lodesh.  It wasn’t as if she could ask Useless for help, either.  Only two people knew that Alissa had broken the Hold’s oldest law and kept the bestial consciousness that evolves when a Master learns how to shift forms.  If Useless ever found out, he would rectify the situation with a savage vengeance that would destroy Beast and probably leave Alissa bruised and battered—and less for the lack of her alter consciousness.
            A sudden tightening at the back of her sinuous neck where it met her shoulders sent a wash of tension through her, driving her idle thoughts away.  Something wasn’t right.
            “We’re being followed,” Beast said in unconcern.  “Connen-Neute has been behind us since we left the ground.  You’re just now noticing him?”
            Vexed, Alissa snaked her neck around and saw a golden form, twin to her own, a valley behind.  Connen-Neute knew of Beast, accepted Beast, and was admittedly a little afraid of Beast.  But as a fellow student Master, Connen-Neute was her only peer.  Seeing him, Alissa spurred Beast into a faster pace.  She had no problem sharing the sky with Connen-Neute, but his skulking made it obvious that Useless had sent him to shadow her.
            “Bone and Ash,” she muttered into her thoughts.  “Doesn’t Useless trust me?”  Then her annoyance hesitated, shifting to a rising anticipation.  “Beast,” she asked.  “Can we lose him?”
            Beast made a short puff of scorn.  “Do updrafts rise?”  Still she waited.  Beast moved by instinct; all decisions were deferred to Alissa.
           Anticipation sent a shiver to set her wing tips to tremble.  Alissa modulated her thoughts so Connen-Neute, a valley behind, could hear her.  “Tag,” she sent loudly, tingeing it with expectation to let him know she wasn’t angry.  “You’re it.”
            Alissa gasped as Beast took over with a frightening intensity, dropping them into a steep dive.  A thrill of alarm struck through Alissa, mirrored by the faint excitement she felt from Connen-Neute.  In three breaths, they had raced over a valley that had once taken her two days to traverse on foot.  Skimming over a lake, she looked back to see Connen-Neute in hot pursuit.  A slow thrum in her mind told Alissa that Beast was enjoying the chase far too much.  Alissa’s feral side angled them high as if to climb, and when Connen-Neute matched their path, Beast dove to the side into a mature forest of beech and elm.
            “Beast, no!” Alissa cried, remembering the shame of tearing her wing, but Beast found an opening into the clear under story.  An ancient beech loomed before them.  Alissa cried out, her hind foot bending forward to push off it.  The barrel-sized tree snapped.  She ricocheted over a patch of wild blackberries sweet with flower.  Birds flew and branches crashed.
            Lungs heaving, Alissa looked back at the destruction.  Connen-Neute was stuck in the briars.  Scratches made red lines on his wings.  His golden eyes focused intently on her as he struggled to get free.  “Go up!” she demanded of Beast.  “The trees are too close.  Go up!”
            But Beast ignored her.  Alissa felt her lips pull back from her long canines as Beast’s excitement grew.  No one had ever brought her down but Useless.  Wings half closed, Beast jumped them through an opening and out over a fast mountain river.  Her wings sprang open.  Beast flew them downstream, taking advantage of the open space to gather speed.
            Risking a quick look behind, Alissa saw Connen-Neute hop awkwardly to the river’s edge.  His feet pushed off from the rocky ground, wedging a boulder the size of a horse into the soft bank.  She had a gap but not much of one.  His eyes widened with excitement.
            Alissa looked forward, her enjoyment suddenly faltering.  The river had grown wild.  Spray made her belly chill and her long tail cold.  The rumble of water had grown loud.  They were flying downstream to a waterfall.
            The banks closed in and the flight space grew tight.  “Ah, Beast?” Alissa quavered, seeing a dead end before them.  They might have been able to fly out over the waterfall and into space but for the surrounding growth of forest that made the river a dead-end tunnel only water could escape.  Branches and vines made an impregnable wall on every side.  Over them, the trees arched and intertwined.  The water frothed and railed against the boulders and trunks jammed against the drop-off.  And Beast showed no sign of stopping.
            “Beast, we can’t get through that!” Alissa warned.  She glanced up, imagining the pain of breaking through the thick ceiling of branches.  Her wings beat in time with her heart.
            “Then we will go under,” Beast thrummed, exalting in the chase.
            “Beast!” Alissa cried.  “You don’t know what’s under the water!”
            “Water, wind, they all move the same,” Beast said.  “He’ll go around.  We’ll gain the span of a hundred wing beats.”
            Alissa’s confidence in Beast’s abilities faltered.  “I changed my mind.  He can follow us.”  Alissa hesitated.  “Beast?”  Fear gripped her.  “Oh, no-o-o-o!” she shrieked as Beast took a gasping breath and dove them under the water to follow it over the cliff.
           A rush of bubbles carried the rumble of the river.  The thunder of water beating the bottom of the cliff pounded through her.  It was the roar of the earth’s pulse.  Her second eyelid closed to make everything green, black, and gray.  Pebbles abraded her skin.  Unseen forces buffeted her as boulders appeared and vanished behind her.  Beast swam through the currents as if they were air.  The water flung them down, and Alissa’s eyes widened.  Her stomach dropped.  They had fallen over the edge!  They would be crushed!
            “Beast!” she screamed into her mind, frightened by Beast’s savage desire to fly.  Her haunches bunched.  As they fell, Beast pushed off from the wall of the cliff behind them.
            Green light flashed to gold as Beast shoved them out of the waterfall and into space.  Heavy with water, they dropped.  Her wings sprang open, and they rose on the cold, violent updraft from the upwelling mist.  Alissa shrieked aloud, hearing her triumph come out as a savage roar.  “You did it!” she cried.
            “Burn you to ash, Alissa!” came Connen-Neute’s thoughts from above and behind them.  Alissa snaked her neck back to see him clambering awkwardly through the branches.  “Beast is going to kill you someday!” he shouted at her.
            “See you at home!” Alissa called back, finding herself doing a barrel roll.
           Beast shook them, and they flew through a rainbow.  “And we still have your breakfast,” Beast thought smugly.
            Eye ridge rising, Alissa glanced at the cluster of eggs still secure in her grip.  They still had the eggs.  Alissa puffed out her air in disbelief, letting Beast take whatever updraft she wanted on the way home.  Gradually her pulse slowed as the excitement from their flight eased.  Alissa didn’t think she would ever learn to fly.  To let go and trust the wind was asking too much.  Perhaps as much as asking a beast to understand love.

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Revised: 02/08/2010      Copyright © 2003 by Dawn Cook. All rights reserved.