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Heart Fortune

Celta's Heartmates - 12

by

Robin D. Owens

To my long-term beta readers Fred and Kay. You always help.

Characters

Jace Bayrum: Adventurer, leather worker, hero.

Zem: Jace’s animal Familiar companion.

Glyssa Licorice: SecondLevel PublicLibrarian, GrandMistrys.

Lepid: Glyssa’s animal Familiar companion.

In Druida City:

GreatLord Laev T’Hawthorn: Entrepreneur. (Heart Search)

GreatLady Camellia Darjeeling D’Hawthorn: One of Glyssa’s best friends, HeartMate to Laev, teashop/restaurant owner. (Heart Search)

The Licorice Family:

FirstLevel PublicLibrarian, GrandLady D’Licorice: Rhiza Licorice, Glyssa’s mother.

FirstLevel PublicLibrarian, GrandLord T’Licorice: Fasic Almond Licorice, Glyssa’s father.

FirstLevel PublicLibrarian, GrandMistrys: Enata Licorice, Glyssa’s older sister.

Short Appearances:

T’Ash (HeartMate)

Danith D’Ash (HeartMate)

Zanth: Premier CatFam of Celta. (HeartMate)

Tiana Mugwort: SecondLevel Priestess, one of Glyssa’s best friends.

Artemisia Primross: Healer. (Heart Secret)

Garrett Primross: Private investigator. (Heart Secret)

At the Excavation of the Starship,

Lugh’s Spear:

Andic Sanicle: Adventurer, frenemy to Jace.

Funa Twinevine: Adventuress, current lover of Andic, former lover of Jace.

Trago: Healer.

Symphyta: Healer.

Myrtus Stopper: Primary cook.

GrandLady Helena (Del) Elecampane: Owner of the project, cartographer. (Heart Journey)

Shunuk: GrandLady Helena’s FamFox. (Heart Journey)

GrandLord Raz Cherry Elecampane: Owner of the project, actor. (Heart Journey)

Rosemary: GrandLord Raz’s FamCat. (Heart Journey)

Maxima Elecampane: Helena and Raz’s daughter.

Carolinia: Maxima’s FamCat.

One

EXCAVATION OF LUGH’S SPEAR, THE LOST STARSHIP,

421 Years After Colonization,

End of Summer

Adventure beckoned in the form of a girder angling down into the brown earth. The whole excavation of the ruin of the starship Lugh’s Spear was a challenge, an adventure. And Jace Bayrum was always up for one.

This project had it all, physical challenges: Yeah, he’d dug, and operated machinery to uncover that girder, along with the rest of the camp. There were intriguing mysteries: One of the three starships that had brought the colonists from Earth to Celta lay under his feet. The ground had collapsed under it only days after landing. Who knew what treasures were inside—knowledge, that data bank of the colonists’ genetic psi traits—but ancient artifacts, too. And he got a cut. The pay was acceptable, if not great.

Good people to work with, though sometimes, like now, when ten different people checked out that very intriguing beam angling down into the rough man-sized hole, they seemed too damn slow for him. They all wanted to get into the ship. He wanted to be first. He’d volunteered and won the right.

Everyone in the camp was standing around, staring at the cleared and dusty area, talking. Sweating lightly, like he was, in the hot and humid summer air, under the bright blue sky.

This job came with the spice of danger that got a man’s blood pumping.

And it came with a whiff of fame. Fame—though he wasn’t too interested in fame, at least not the go- down-in-the-history-book kind. The past didn’t matter—well, only the past he was digging up right now, the project, the adventure. The future didn’t matter much as long as he had enough gilt to take care of himself. The now, and what was happening, and enjoying himself, that was more important than all the rest. Though he did like the buy-you-a-drink-at-the-bar kind of fame.

As they opened more of the hole, he itched to walk along that wide girder, go down into the bowels of the midsection of the starship. He shifted his feet, wanting to go already, explore. See things no one had for centuries, that was a rush. Aces high. He wanted to do, not hang around with the rest of the expedition everlastingly talking.

He’d objected to the physical harness, not wanting the chance of getting tangled in something down there, but was now layered with enough spellshields that his entire body itched at the feel of them, including his eyes.

“Go!” said the owner.

Jace stepped onto the piece of metal two-thirds of a meter wide, felt the settling as it took his weight. Light-footed, he headed toward the opening.

The beam moved under his feet, threw him off balance, and he fell. Shouts from watchers. The earth giving way beneath him. Dust. Rocks pounding him. Plummeting down.

He thumped hard enough that his breath went from his body. He fought passing out and remained conscious by the skin of his teeth. He’d fallen under the beam, and rock crowded around him but didn’t crush him. Hard to tell how big the pocket of air he was in was . . . maybe enough that he wouldn’t die, even without the spellshields.

It was colder down here, and he shivered. The whole thing made him recall the first time he cheated death. Shudders racked him at the memory.

He and his father and mother had gone over to the nearest city to purchase some fancy worked metal box his mother had insisted on having—one both he and his father had worked hard to give her the gilt for. Not that his father had cared about that; he blindly adored his wife.

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