QSFer David Holly has a new fantasy book out:
Dove, a young man without memory, emerges naked and nearly drowned from a creek. Lacking any past or cultural identity, Dove employs his instinct to succeed and survive in any situation. Amid a developing slave revolt, Dove secures comfort and gay sexual intimacy with his slave, Raret.
As he advances in an outlandish culture, Dove demonstrates an innate ability to overcome problems as he bounds up the rigid social hierarchy of Greenworld, an ability enhanced by his mysterious luck. Webs of treachery tighten around Dove as he and Raret seek a peaceful end to institutionalized slavery and seek to curtail the influence of the overlords who whimsically determine the fates of their fellow mortals.
In between finding passionate fulfillment with Raret, Dove acquires titles and properties, forms alliances, and battles the rebelling slaves in order to free them, all the while striving toward the final revelation of his own origins.
Panic seized me. My eyes told me that I was underwater, but I couldn’t see the way to the surface. The creek was deep. Green water streamers brushed my legs, and purplish fish circled my stomach. Air from my burning lungs was bubbling out of my mouth before I saw the skin of the water’s surface above me, and I was seconds away from breathing in the cold creek water. I kicked madly, but oxygen depletion had fatigued me, and my mind reeled with the dreadful terror. Without a moment to spare, my head burst into the air. I gasped and sputtered, submerged again, rose, blew water out of my nose, stilled my frenzy, and lunged toward shore. I crept onto the clinging mud and sand that lined the creek, drew deep breaths of humid air, and cried with relief that I was sprawled on warm ground under buttery sunlight.
I looked at the creek that had nearly stolen my life. It was a wide, fast stream and only four or five cubits deep, except for the dark pools like the one that had nearly claimed me. Past the mud lay a wide swath of ferns, dark green at their centers, and growing paler toward the edges of their fronds until they went pink at their tips. Other tiny plants poked from the ground between the ferns, in shades of green and some with odd pink leaves that struggled to exist without chlorophyll. The pinks gave a fairylike hue to the fern swath, and the green tree line beyond mounted higher as it rose away from the stream. I wondered where I was.
A fantastic chill shot through me, nearly buckling my legs beneath my frozen heart. Not only didn’t I know where I was, but also I didn’t know how I’d gotten there. I remembered nothing of my life before my breathless fight to the surface of the creek.
I tried to see my reflection, but the surface was too rippled to give back an image. When I squatted by the water, the ferns tickled my perkies so I stood up again. I ran my hands over my body and found my chest well defined and my stomach flat and hard with muscles under the thin fatty layer. I had enough fat to give me a figure, but not enough to protrude. My biceps and triceps bulged, and my lower body was more developed than my upper. Every sinew in my legs strained with power. I explored my scalp for knots or sore places, but I found none. Whatever was causing my amnesia was not a recent blow to the head.
The air was warm, but the huge sun was moving lower in a sky almost more green than blue. Darkness was not many hours away, and as far as I could tell, I had neither food nor shelter. Drawing a deep breath, I sniffed the ferns. They had a sharp, mint odor that I could almost taste, and I hoped they were edible.
I heard a whispering sound in the grass, followed by sibilant sounds. With no place of concealment in sight, I cast about for a weapon. There were a few pebbles lying along the shore of the creek, but nothing larger. Not a stone, not a stick. I clenched my fists as two spider shapes broke through the ferns. The spiders were large and rather furry, about four cubits in diameter. I prepared for attack, but ignoring me utterly, they lowered their purplish faces into the creek and drank. After a minute, they scuttled back toward the trees.
I had been holding my breath, and I let it out with a whoosh. I felt completely defenseless. I had not felt frightened before encountering the spiders, but I could feel apprehension growing within me. Also I was growing hungry. After my stomach growled several times, I wondered how long it’d been since I’d eaten. As I stooped to pluck an herb, a mumbling voice reached my ears, and I heard a body pushing through the foliage. This was no spider. Small animals rustled invisibly through the ferns and bright yellow birds took to their wings. I couldn’t flee, so I squatted in the ferns and tried to blend.
The shape that broke out of the forest was anything but intimidating. He was an aged man, attired in a tight pink skirt and a chest harness of slick animal hide. Boots of the same material rose to his knees. He had a complex tattoo high on his left arm. This singular specimen took one look at me hunkered naked among the ferns and demanded, “Who be you?”
I stood to face the old fellow. In some part of my mind, I must have hoped that meeting a person would jog my memory, but nothing about this old man seemed familiar. He was skinny, though not frail, his silvered hair fell to his shoulders, and his gray beard was neatly trimmed. His choice of clothing stuck me as odd, although his pink skirt was a covering of sorts, whereas I had none.
“Where be your clothes? Why be you naked?”
Nothing rang bells in my brain, not the surroundings, not the specimen before me, and not his manner of speech, though his words were plain in spite of his poor grammar. An annoying whine colored his reedy voice.
“I don’t know.” My voice cracked as if it were rusty.
The old fellow seemed harmless so I ventured closer. He had a mild body odor, but his most impressive feature was his breath, which bore the scent of some pungent herb. It was an unexpected smell, but agreeable. For his part, he inspected my chest and arm muscles with a wrinkled brow and puzzled eyes. He touched the spot on my upper left arm where his own tattoo was located and where I was unmarked.
“Be you a soldier?”
I shook my head, but toyed with the thought. A military career would account for my well-developed body, and it could explain my strange amnesia. Had I been wounded, perhaps? The thought trailed off. It didn’t feel right to me. I found an old scar on my wrist and another on the top of my left foot, but they didn’t look like battle wounds.
“I be Paun. What be name you bear? Paun be asking you two times now.”
I shook my head again, but when I started to say no, the word Dove came out. “Dove,” I said again.
Paun looked me over with a critical eye. I heard a distinct wheeze in his tubes, which continued after he finished speaking. “No soldier Dove.” He indicated my body with a single gesture. “Be binyam’s yummy boy?”
I searched my mind, but found only empty places, and no recollection of pleasuring binyam, whatever a binyam might be.
“Come to check traps.” Paun walked past me toward the creek’s edge, squatted, and pulled at a pair of ropes pegged into the dirt. Shortly, two traps holding big, dead, rat-like creatures emerged from the creek. Seeing the dead rodents, I heard my stomach rumble as saliva gushed into my mouth. I swallowed back my hunger.
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David Holly is attracted to odd mythologies, bizarre rituals, skewed history, alien religions, forlorn hopes, and broken dreams. Holly lives in Oregon, and when he is not creating exotic planets, he makes up twisted plots that place his characters in various regions around the state.
Slaves of Greenworld is David Holly’s fourth novel from Bold Stokes Books. Previously he authored The Heart’s Eternal Desire, a story about a man in love with a man with multiple personalities. Prior to that came The Raptures of Time, the adventures of a man seeking a way home across worlds and times. The first from Bold Strokes was The Moon’s Deep Circle, a sexual awakening as a young man attempts to solve the mystery of his long-lost brothers.
Find out more about David Holly and his numerous publications at gaywriter.org.