The Bloodbaths

Steve Libbey
The Bloodbaths
Book One of the Aqua Pura Trilogy
Steve Libbey

Subatomic Books

The Aqua Pura Trilogy
The Bloodbaths (2007)
The Quartz Odalisque (2008)
The Good King's Tomb (2009)
To Kenneth and Barbara,
for putting me to work on the world.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this
novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.
Copyright (c)2007 by Steve Libbey.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. To
view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to

Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco,
California, 94105, USA.
Cover photo and author photo by Giovanna Descoteaux.
Published by Subatomic Books.
1942 SE 30th Avenue, Suite D
Portland, OR 97214
ISBN 978-0-9793915-0-7
The Bloodbaths

1. Water
Crixus Oraan and his two assistants lounged downhill from the dowser
and his entourage. The water shaman chanted, anointed himself with
pungent oils, cast wild eyes about the hillock, and in general gave a
good show for the nobleman who hired him. Salty wind tickled their
hair, relieving the humidity common to Rond in summer.
"The usual wager?" Stamm produced a sestric, its silver plating
scratched from decades spent in belt-pouches. Crixus dug out a sestric.
They held the coins up between thumb and forefinger.
"Two hundred yards," Crixus said.
"You're too gentle," Stamm said, wagging the coin at him. "Three fifty
and not one less. He's got the sense of an aurochs."
The hill overlooked Restia, a coastal town beginning to bloat with
nobles and their summer households. Since the completion of a paved
road between Restia and the capital city of Greater Rond, money and

business flowed into the town like wine at a wedding celebration. In the
last two months, Crixus had made the day long journey every week to
arrange contracts for aqueducts and plumbing to the new estates. It
brought him into contact with dowsers far more often than he
For Kharrina, however, it was worth the headache.
He had been haggling with Councilman Stada over costs for running
pipes to the main house, the servants' quarters, the bathhouse, the
fountains, and the surrounding vineyard. Crixus had explained the
necessary steps so many times that he grew tired of his own voice.
Stada's gaze would wander off after ten seconds of explanation, until
the word "sestrices" came up--then he would snap back in a display of
Crixus found himself talking to the bald patch on the older man's head.
Though just a few inches taller than the average Rondan, he towered
over the councilman, who refused to look him in the eye as he spoke;
thus, the bald patch took on a life of its own as the councilman's gaze
wandered throughout the imaginary work site Crixus described. It irked
Crixus now to watch Stada gaze in awe at the water shaman.
"He may have the sense of an aurochs, but he's got the showmanship of
a trained bear," Crixus said. "Look at him. If he did that in a tavern,
we'd call him a drunkard."
Behind them, Gavri sorted the soil samples she had collected from the
far side of the hill, past the stand of trees. At Crixus' urging, the girl
wore her dark hair in a plain pageboy cut and forsook makeup. This,
along with the shapeless worker's garments, hid her femininity enough
that she might be taken more seriously in the Guild. Gavri knew stone
as well as masons twice her age.
"Ser, I know the man is a fraud, but what's the harm? Councilman
Stada has more money than wit," Gavri said. They chuckled at her
matter-of-fact tone. "It's not the Water Guild's problem if he wastes
good silver on dowsers. We know where the water is." She presented

the soil samples, arranged in rows in a wooden box separated into a
grid of compartments by slats. A metal arrow inset on one side marked
cardinal north, so that the box was a miniature cross-section of the hill
itself. "Or we soon will."
In three of the compartments, she had placed a tiny white flower. "We
will indeed! Good work." Crixus lifted a blossom. "However, our
mystical friend does more than waste the old man's money. When his
prediction turns out to be wrong, we'll have dug a well needlessly.
We'll charge the client extra then go dig where there is water to be had,
but we'll have lost his goodwill. If you really want to spend the next
year bickering with Stada, I'll put you in charge."
Gavri considered this. "Then why do we tolerate him?"
"I don't," Stamm said, spitting.
"He has ties to the priesthood. You should know by now that
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