LOL! When I posted Book 13, Lek Doe, on Amazon, that august purveyor’s system first assumed I must have misspelled the title. “What?” it marveled. “You mean Led Doe?”
How about “Lead Doe“?
Assured that the spelling was intended, it then decided I was writing in Japanese. It asked if I wouldn’t please like a machine-generated translation of the title!
Well, of course, who on this side of the Great Lacuna ever heard of Lek Doe, eh?
Lek Doe is a trading center high in the Sehrra Muns. It’s situated next to a deep, clear, pristine lake that fills the crater of an ancient volcano. And it sits atop the crumbled ruins of the all-but-forgotten Mercan city once called “Lake Tahoe.”
An affluent town straddling trade routes between north and south, Okan and Socalia, Lek Doe enforces a strict neutrality that prohibits hostilities among the many wanderers, traders, merchants, and soldiers who pass through its precincts. Arms must be set aside, harsh words are frowned upon, and fights are likely to land all participants in the hoosegow.
Its neutrality is one of the reasons the Okan and A′oan bands are force-marching their men through the mountains toward the town, trying to reach it as fast as they can. If they are being pursued (as some of the kubnas suspect is the case), the Espanyo enemy will have to stand down once the Hengliss are inside the town.
Lek Doe also embodies the highest point of culture in the world of the Great Lacuna. Locals are wealthy and as civilized as humans get during the deep ice age that has afflicted the globe. Kay and Tavi explore a town laid out like a huge medieval bazaar, filled with interesting and entertaining sights, always tempting with luxury goods and tasty foods cooked at roadside.
Marching, the men contemplate the glories that await them:
Down on the lower end of Pine Ridge Road, not too far from the lakeshore, stood a wooden shed that was one of Mitch’s favorite watering holes. The proprietor brewed six different kinds of custom potations, none of which was to be missed. Perhaps, he thought, he’d go there first, before he visited Liana’s [Mitch’s preferred house of ill repute], so as to be adequately lubricated. Later, maybe the horses. Or the dogs. These people would race anything. Once, in the downtown marketplace, Mitch had seen some guy taking bets on racing fleas. They seemed to have arenas for everything, too. Out on the Espanyo side, they had a bull arena, where slender, graceful, crazy young men confronted long-horned bulls, big angry brutes crazier than their challengers, and where horsemen from deep in Socalia—some even from Mezgo, they claimed—raced wild horses and bulls, and if you were as demented as they were, they’d let you lay down your money and ride against them. Charro, they called them.
Devey liked to go to the fights. At Doe, you could wager on bare-knuckle and gloved, wrestling and kicking, cocks and bears. He promised Porfi they would see a cockfight, and Porfi bragged to that effect in front of his friends. Devey also had his favorite cathouse, and he had about decided Porfi had reached an age when he could be introduced to ladies. He would make up his mind about that once he got to Doe.
Lhored considered cathouses far beneath his dignity. Instead, handsomely placed women came to him, when he so desired. For the prominent or the very wealthy, Lek Doe offered a type of woman who was less a prostitute than an entertainer. Some of these became mistresses or wives of favored clients. Others maintained independence, accrued considerable wealth, and retired to become proprietors of various small businesses, or simply to live out their lives in comfort. One, in particular, Lhored hoped would still be there to visit him.
Hardly a man in the company didn’t have similar thoughts, and more. On an earlier visit, Arden had learned he could rent a tiny sailing boat from the locals and let the breeze carry him over the water, the way he might ride a wind-driven ice skiff across a frozen Okan pond. He looked forward to trying that again.
Don’O had caught the finest fish he’d ever eaten in the cold, deep waters of Lek Doe. Big, too, it was, and a fighter. He intended to hook another one someday—maybe tomorrow would be the day. He knew, though, that he’d spend a fair amount of his time riding herd on Moor Lek’s young pups, trying to keep them from forking over every tahm they’d brought with them plus the clothes off their backs to the various hustlers and grifters who inhabited the streets.
He calculated: he’d spring at least two from the hoosegow. A dozen or more would have to be nursed through the consequences of having no clue how to handle their liquor. The whole idiot crew would think the cat-lady was real and the two-headed calf (or whatever marvel the sideshows that dotted the thoroughfares had to offer this summer) was worth paying to see. Three would pass out somewhere and come stumbling along, bedazed, hours after the troops had hit the road. Several would show up at the barracks-tent with hookers on their arms, and at least one fool would announce he was in love. His buddies would never manage to resist the pranks this invited. Silently, Don’O laughed at the Lek Doe antics he had gone through in the past. Had he ever been as dumb as these young kids?
And if some rustic from north or south would like to buy a lead doe, no doubt he can find one there.