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Land Singer

by grymalkyn 

Posted: 28 December 2003
Word Count: 7094
Summary: Fantasy sci-fi. The Whèr are able to communicate directly with their planet and everything that lives on it - consequently they need no technology. The Hyspanya have been colonising and improving planets for millennia, and have a superbly refined technology designed for benevolence and harmony. They land on the Whèr’s planet believing it to be primitive and ideal for colonisation. Both societies are irretrievably changed by their encounter.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

This contains some sex and fairly strong language


The Whèr

Emrys ran, the piglings squealing at his heels, darkness rushing past him and the branches slapping at his face and legs. Speed gripped him with the pleasure of blood and adrenalin rushing in his legs. His heart thundered in his head and his breath sang through his teeth like the wind.
The speed rushed on without him, dropping him, so he fell amongst a mess of wriggling pig at the foot of the apple tree. He sat up. The little pigs snuffled and grunted, wet noses against his dry skin bringing consciousness back to him. He sat up and pulled himself to rest his back against the tree, blinking his eyes, trying to focus again on the reality around him. One little piglet climbed into his lap and curled there, feigning sleep. There was a ripe apple by his hand, he bit into it and the rush of juice in his mouth shocked him fully awake.
Early morning light lit the glade. He could see the small stones sitting up in a ring around it and the pain in his left leg reminded him how he’d caught his shin on one as he ran into the open space. He remembered the joy of being free of the trees. He had won the game again, reaching the glade, holding the speed to himself, despite the beating the trees were giving him, until the final moment when he arrived at the apple tree. His body glowed now with the heat and strength the whipping branches had given him. He flung the apple core into the ring and leaned his head back against the apple tree, stroking the little pig as he dozed.

Reluctantly Elyn went round to the sleeping porch in front of Emrys’ rooms, knowing already what she would find. She stood looking at the empty couch, the tumbled rugs, the space where he had been. She had sensed it as the young moon had risen, felt the pulse in the dragon lines, known they would pull his feet into the wild chase.
It was foreign to her. Oh, she sensed the lines within the land, the water and fire lines, the threads in the air too, and the deep throb of the earth-lines themselves. But not like he did. Emrys was different, the lines seemed to pulse through his body. Where she, and all the rest, knew them as friends and guides, part of life, for Emrys they were himself.
‘He doesn’t always know where he ends and the world begins,’ her father would say.
Eudaf was wise, but he knew no way of bringing his son to an easier relation with the world.
Elyn left the sleeping porch and went down the spiral steps to the court. In the kitchen, smells of breakfast were beginning and her stomach told her it was time to eat. She turned away. Walking towards the gate, intending to go and find Emrys, but her stomach growled at her, stabbed her. She smiled wryly and turned back to the kitchen.
Eudaf was already there, sat in his usual corner with a bowl of porridge. Elyn joined him. Olwen brought two bowls of porridge and sat down with them. Elyn watched the girl’s silver-green eyes sliding sideways to look at her.
‘Yes,’ she said, picking up the salt pot and sprinkling some on the porridge. ‘He’s gone, again.’ Then she relented and put her hand on Olwen's. It quivered. ‘He’ll come back,’ she turned, meeting the girl’s eyes at last. ‘He always does, you know,’
Eudaf grunted, looking at the two women through slitted eyes.
‘The Talespinner tells of men who dream themselves out of being men.’
‘Dad!’ Elyn wanted to hit him when he got like this. Only the knowledge that he was still faster than a snake, despite his sixty years, stopped her.
‘Tis true! And you know it. The both of you.’ Eudaf glared at them. ‘He’s a wild one and the Wild Hunt will take him, as they do.’
‘But why?’ Olwen broke out at last. ‘What for? What do they want to torment him so for? Why can’t it be easy and gentle for him, like it is for the rest of us?’
‘And why did you have to fall in love with him? That’s what you’re thinking too, isn’t it? Elyn looked at her.
Olwen turned away, shaking her silver mane into a curtain between her and her aunt.
Eudaf cackled.
Olwen struck out at him, her claws unsheathed. He gripped her wrists. They sat across the table from each other, teeth bared, while spoons clattered to the floor and bowls spilled across the table.
‘Sheesh!’ Elyn spat at them both. ‘Cut it out, the pair of you! Look at the mess you’ve made.’
Olwen’s hands relaxed. Eudaf slowly let go of her, sheathing his own claws again. She got up to find cloths, clean up the spill.
‘Asshole!’ Elyn whispered. Eudaf grinned. ‘You shouldn’t goad her like that. She really loves him and she doesn’t understand what’s happening to him.’
‘Do any of us?’ Eudaf looked at her.
Elyn sighed. It was true, The Talespinners had stories of the wild ones, eventually taken by the Faer into their kers, but it seemed the tales held no remedy either for the taken ones or those left behind to grieve. This was Olwen’s fear. One day, Emrys would not come back.

Emrys started awake. The little pig was sat up in his lap, staring across the glade. In the middle of the stone ring stood a huge pig, a sow, her dugs glowing with milk.
The piglet climbed off and trotted, squeaking, to the mother. Emrys followed. The sow lay down and the piglets came, each one hanging to a nipple, sucking greedily. There was one nipple spare. The sow’s eyes smiled at Emrys and he lay down, his cheek to her flank, and sucked in his breakfast.
The food made him drowsy. When he woke again he was alone. He sat up. Straight away he could feel the earth pulsing in his backside, like the beginning of orgasm. He shut his eyes. Now, he could see the lines, red and blue and green, twisting and writhing like a knot of snakes into the energy well below him. He reached with his mind. Yes, this one went on down and down to the centre of the earth, the heart, the place where the fires roiled, where the planet’s blood pumped in and out again to feed her body.
The sensation was like strong wine to him, heady-sweet, he wanted to gulp it down but she was there, again. Suddenly he was in the hall of the great ker, the same one as before. She sat at the end of the hall on a golden throne, set on a dais. He stood in the doorway, the brightness of the day behind him dazzling so he saw her surrounded in shadows, the gold of her hair, her throne, the whiteness of her hand which beckoned to him, all he could see. He stood rooted to the spot. He would not move, would not answer her call, not yet. He was not ready.
Awake again, in the glade, the sun had climbed over the trees. It was time to go home.

The Hyspanya

Max watched the silver-blue ball hanging in the view-tank. The light from the orange sun showed the crinkles of mountains and coastlines. The blue ball was coy, wrapping her body in streams of white cloud, hiding her form from him. He reached out his hand to touch the beautiful creature and jumped back as the static field burned him. He laughed. He knew. He would never learn, nor did he wish to, that he couldn’t touch the figments of imagination hanging in the hollotank. The minds of the navigators were linked in the knospell which enabled them to see ahead, into the space where the ship was going. Their joint mindcom formed the images in the tank which the captain and first officer used to plot the ship’s journey to the next planet for inspection. The star, MW-CQ144, had shown itself to be a promising site, now its third planet was looking ideal for the team’s purposes.
‘Groping planets again, Max?’ Raol put his arm around his boss’ shoulders. ‘Proper touchy-feely aren’t you?’
Max grinned back, gently shrugging the arm off. Main Deck wasn’t the place for sex.
‘I love planets,’ he told Raol for the umpteenth time. ‘they’re alive, pulsing, glowing jewels. I could eat them!’ he laughed up into his second in command’s eyes.
‘Sheesh!’ Raol rolled his eyes. ‘You and your fantasies! That’s a lump of rock out there, a very pretty one I grant you, spinning by gravity – remember gravity? Newton? Apples? All that crap? – around a nuclear fission bomb that’s going to go supernova one day and blast your pretty jewel all to hell. Get real, Max!’
‘Yeah … I know …’ Max smiled sourly.
Was there anyone, anywhere, out there, who would ever see the same sunset as him? Probably not. Max was a realist inside, despite his optimism. He knew his crazy dreams were built out of the cradle-stories his amah had told him when his mother sent him off to bed. The psychos had done all that work with him. They had with gestalted the stones on the drawing of the world the young Max had made on the big sheet of white paper. He had mapped all his relationships, plotted their histories, explained away his dreams. Now he was a normal, well adjusted, scientist. The best on his world. Or rather, off-world at the moment, on his way to find more resources for his fellowmen of Hyspanya to colonise.
Max wanted to spit. But you didn’t spit on Main Deck, not in front of your captain, nor your junior officers.
Raol had gone over to the coms pod which linked Main Deck to the research facility aboard the ship. His fingers slid across the silver slide-controls, watching the equations forming on the plasma screen. Yes, they were well within the bounds of probability.
‘Bloody spot on!’ Max came up behind him. Leaning over his shoulder and grinning at the computations.
‘Too right!’ Raol was glad to be away from his boss’ obsession with sentient planets. Load of bollocks! Yet he’s really brilliant at finding resources and he can implement the plans after the finds, an amazingly rare quality in a scientist, so all the psych stats said. That was why his baloney was tolerated by the men in charge. Woman in charge, Raol corrected himself. Gaiterra Diego was quite definitely the top momma in the Hyspanya world government, and decorative as well as brilliant.
’72.36 hours,’ the captain joined them, ‘then you can plant your boot in the juicy mud of another Hyspanya colony-to-be.’
He put a hand on each man’s shoulder. They could feel the chill through their clothes. Chesaré Diocletian was a full captain in the Space Corps and so had undergone the transforming operations. His hands, and other parts of him, were now sentient conductive microchips, linked etherically to the main computer which was the ship. She, practically all spaceships assumed a female personality and the Innolagay was no exception, held herself together by electronic willpower. Spaceships were semi-sentient, as the Hyspanya scientist-engineers called it. It enabled the ships to be self-building and self-repairing. They maintained life-support as a human body would, though a simulated autonomic nervous system. They could think. The captain was truly wedded to his or her ship with neurosensors built into the human flesh. The crew said captain and ship had weird sex together, although no-one but captains, and psyops, knew for certain. It was a fact that no space captain ever married, or had children. There were no dynasties of space, each captain became so by work, intelligence and choice.
Chesaré watched the screen of equations growing into the life-pattern necessary for the planetary colony. Yes, Max had done it again. He couldn’t like the man, but he was very glad to have him as science officer. Max never failed to provide the stuff which kudos grows from. And kudos was lifeblood to Chesaré.

Max closed his cabin door and set the privacy light. His body was jangling with excitement but he didn’t want to waste it on sex with Raol tonight. He stripped off and stood in the hygiene cabinet.
‘Water,’ he said to the computer.
It signalled a query.
‘Yes, water, damn it!’ he confirmed angrily.
Tonight was definitely a time for wasting the precious stuff in celebration. This planet was different. He knew it. Excitement flowed through him like an electric charge, all the hair on his body stood up. The water came on, full flood, soaking him, beating at him, caressing him. Max shut his eyes, sighing in pleasure.


Elyn opened the shed doors and wound her way through the mass of sleds to her own. The sleds hung on racks and were all colours of the rainbow. The kids painted theirs with dragons and flowers and beasts as well as colours. Elyn’s was a simple silver-green. She pulled the hook, the sled came down and she put her hand on it, it glowed in recognition. She climbed in.
They slipped out of the shed, across the court and out of the gate. The green meadows of the domain spilled out from the red-earth walls with no discernable tracks in any direction. Elyn paused the sled by the gate, sensing. Red, blue and green lines showed in her minds eye, the tracks of fire, water and air, but she reached further, calling the black earth-dragon lines. She sensed a ripple, like a slinky only vertical rather than horizontal, and the black silk line was there. She whispered and the line heard her. It took her on its back and rode her across the meadow into the woods. The forest was trackless but, as the sled approached, the trees made space and a track appeared. Elyn sped on her way.

Max breathed in. It was a ritual orgasm for him, the smell of a new planet, the first breath. Now he held the air in his lungs and savoured it, sweet, spicy, tangy, citrus. The air was warm, hot. He could feel himself beginning a sweat under his tunic. He let the air go and breathed in again. Now his senses were telling him scientific facts, as a predator’s nose did on his homeworld. There were animals here, near, the trees were in blossom, it was the season before harvest. And something else, a human was near. Max swung his head, scenting, eyes near shut.
‘There …’ he breathed to Raol.
Raol could distinguish nothing by scent unless he actually put his foot in a pile of shit or his nose in a scent bottle. Most Hyspanya were like him.
‘Hsssssss!’ he smacked at an insect that was biting him.
‘Quiet!’ Max shushed him. ‘She’s over there,’ he pointed.
Raol knew his boss did this but he had no idea how. It seemed an archaic trait, a throwback to the animals. It was exotic, but Raol didn’t approve although it excited him.
‘I’m going ahead to find the female,’ Max spoke on the etheric enhancer. ‘Stay here, Captain, OK? Raol can stay outside but would the rest of you wait until I signal? She can see us. She hasn’t moved. But let’s not show her a crowd before I’ve made friends.’
Gallo, the second in command to the captain, grunted assent.
Raol nodded. Max walked slowly but confidently across the clearing and entered the forest.
Raol stood uncomfortably in the open air of the clearing, hearing insects humming around him. At home, the garden-mothers would have set up a static field to repel all insects from human habitation. Max wouldn’t allow any personal shields, not yet anyhow. Raol felt naked and exposed.

Max walked carefully, firmly, gently, aware that his manner, his walk, would be telling the unknown female much about him. Something made him stop at the edge of the trees, just for an instant. He put up his hand and touched a leaf. The slight tension in his forehead released and he took the next step.
‘I didn’t do that,’ he whispered, realising he had acted instinctively. Something deep inside had overridden the pattern he’d set up in his forebrain. Something old, ancient, pre-human had risen up and made him stop. He thought he heard a chuckle, felt as if someone was looking at him. He glanced up. There, above, within the huge tree itself, was an eye. It blinked at him. Max stopped, blinked himself, looked again. Now it was gone.
He stood, quiet and wary, slowed his breathing, tried to reach out with his senses and felt all the hair on his body stand up. A breath of wind blew past him and the hair lay down again. He shook himself and began walking towards the female again. She had moved slightly, he realised. He clicked his mind to full alert.

Elyn watched the glowing bubble land. Colours raced over its surface, like a soap bubble, as the sun caught it. It was beautiful. It was also big. She watched the trees carefully draw back, making the clearing larger, so none of their leaves would touch it, or even get within its aura. She watched the grasses withdraw most of themselves, leaving only the exoskeletons of their leaves showing. The flowers left altogether. But it was OK. Elyn could feel that, the land wanted this bubble to land, the people inside to come, even if they felt dangerous and the bubble would scorch her skin. The land had called Elyn in a dream, telling her to come to this place. She felt the land had called this bubble and its people too.
The bubble opened, like a sphincter, and two men came out. They were dressed strangely, slick grey skin-like garments covered them so only their heads and hands showed. The younger one seemed bald, or else had shaved off all his hair. The older one had his black hair long, in a ponytail. They stood looking. Elyn flinched as the younger one killed an insect which landed on him. Her eyes hardened, but the older one quieted him. Then the air shimmered and she realised they were using some sort of telepathic communication. There was something else to it though, something not human, not animal, not like the trees and plants. Not natural, she thought, wondering.
The older one was turning his head like an animal hunting. Elyn felt the beam of his mind touch her, move on, move back. He focused on her. She kept very still, realising he had found her, but there was no point in dissembling. An earth current pulsed up through her feet, into her belly. It seemed the land was reassuring her. She stood easy, watching the man come towards her across the clearing.
He stopped at the forest edge. Elyn could see the shimmering curtain the forest had put up as a shield to the bubble. Could he? He acted as if he did. Almost like one of us, she thought, watching him stop, touch a leaf as though he asked permission to enter the forest. And she saw the forest grant permission, and the man walk in. What was this? He was stranger-folk, and stranger still. She knew he was outlander, just as the tales told. A man who came from a world behind the sun. the tales usually made such folk to be unknowing, arrogant, clumsy tramplers of life which was unlike their own. This one seemed different. The other, the young one, had all the marks of outland. He had killed the insect. And, even more to the point, the insect had looked on him as food, like dead meat. That told Elyn a lot. But this one wasn’t troubled by the insects and, it seemed, troubled no-one. She waited.

He was near now. Carefully, all his senses alert, Max drew in a breath. The scent of her was very strong. Like her planet, she had a spicy, tangy smell. Max smiled, his blood sang, he was going to meet her in just a few seconds.
She was tall, nearly as tall as himself. Her brown-gold hair hung to her waist in many long braids, each plaited with coloured threads. She wore a brown tunic and trousers, loose, made of some animal skin, he thought. She carried a tall staff, twisted, bound with coloured threads from which hung bones and the feet of some large bird.
Max stopped a couple of yards from her. He opened his hands out wide, away from his sides, then brought them together again and bowed his head over them. Then he stood up straight, hands hanging loose at his sides and looked expectantly at her.
Elyn watched him bow. This must be the ritual greeting of his people. When he had done, she stood straight, the staff before her, held in both hands. She rolled her head in a circle, to all the directions, then bowed her head over the staff to the earth, lifted it to the sky, then pointed to her heart. He smiled. It seemed he knew ritual, a little. Elyn held out a hand, beckoning, and sat down under the tree. He came and sat beside her.
‘Eeeetinnnns!’ his voice came loud and he fiddled with something on his wrist, tried again.
‘Greetings,’ she heard this time. ‘I am a stranger to your world.’
‘Indeed you are,’ Elyn smiled. ‘will you tell me your story or would you come to our domain and tell us all?’
The man looked surprised, pleased.
‘I would come,’ he said. ‘shall I come alone, this first time?’
Elyn shut her eyes, the earth line pulsed once.
‘Yes,’ she told him. ‘come only yourself. I will take you. The others may come later, if your story is good.’
Max looked at her. She must be chieftain, or priestess, maybe both, he though. She has authority.
‘I may tell the others?’
She nodded.
Max clicked into the enhanced etheric mode. Nothing happened. He opened his eyes and looked at her.
‘I cannot reach them,’ he said.
One eyebrow went up and she looked at him quizzically. ‘I will escort you to the edge of the wood. You will reach them from there.’
Standing at the edge of the clearing, Max reached Raol, who promptly went into conference mode with Chesaré and Gallo.
‘I’ve met the chief, I think. She’s invited me to their place. I don’t think you’ll be able to reach me there. I couldn’t reach you from within the forest.’
Gallo began to splutter, Chesaré hushed him.
‘It’s OK,’ Max laughed. ‘They won’t eat me, I don’t think! I’m going.’
‘Max, is this safe? What will we do? How long will you be?’
Max looked at the chieftain beside him. ‘They are afraid,’ he said. ‘They want to know how long I’ll be. They would like to be able to speak to me while I’m in your domain.’ Max remembered the word she’d used.
‘Two nights?’ she asked him. ‘Are you content with that? You will return here, at sun-up, two nights hence?’
‘And can they speak to me while I am with you?’
She shook her head, her eyes slitted and half-smile on her mouth. ‘I think not,’ she said.
Max turned back to communicating with the ship. ‘Did you hear all that?’ he asked.
‘Yes.’ It was Chesaré who spoke. ‘Find out how they can block us, Max. This is more than we’ve ever known before, and from a planet which has no technology. I want to know this.’
‘OK. I’ll see you in two days time.’ He turned back to the chieftain.
‘I heard all that too,’ she looked at him.
Max’s eyes opened wide. This was some telepathy, he thought. I wonder if we could learn it? He looked at her again. She had the quizzical expression of one looking at a foolish child. Something shivered down Max’s spine.

The Ship

Raol palmed the lock of the laboratory and went in. Here he was likely to be safe from having to find answers to impossible questions, at least for a while. Chesaré would seek him out later, he knew, the captain needed information like ordinary people need food, three square meals a day and he was a comfort eater too. Max going off like this, and being out of communication, would seriously disrupt his calm. He’d be on a snack-information binge in an hour or so for sure.
Raol stared around the empty room. No technicians, for the moment. He’d sent Andrea and Giuseppe out gathering specimens and he knew they’d take full advantage of the leeway to stay out for half the day, if not more. Just as he wanted. He went over to his console and reclined the chair so he was lying near horizontal. He clicked the helmet around his head, did the breathing pattern which connected him to the computer and called up the original specs for the planet.
It was strange how they always seemed able to find a likely planet around a G2 star, like Terra’s old sun. Human life needed that near fifty-fifty iron/oxygen mix with a good wallop of silicon and a nice splash of magnesium to get the best out of themselves and the earth. This one had nine planets, the third one, Kambria as Max had named it, was so very like the history files showed old Terra to have been some five thousand years before Raol had been born. That was way back in the nineteenth century, before the population explosion which had triggered the technological and scientific advances which had eventually resulted in the three world wars and the plagues. Raol’s mother could actually trace her lineage back to that time, one of the very few who had survived to make the new humanity, the new age, which had changed human thinking to such an extent that war and disease were now unknown.
Terra had needed that. There hadn’t been much left after the wars and the plagues. Genetic engineering had modified humans and all the other life that was left into forms which could live together without harming each other. It meant that diversity was very strictly controlled, unlike here. Raol clicked to one of the spy satellite pictures of the forest, there were so many different types of leaf, of trunk, of height and colour and flower, it bewildered him. He clicked on to the map of the world and its four main continents.
The polar icecaps were stunningly beautiful. Terra had hardly any icecaps left after the global warming which had set off the plagues back in the twentieth century. Snow and ice themselves were unknown to most people, you had to go really high into the big mountain ranges in Asia to find much. Skiing was practically unknown except to mad explorers like Max who trained themselves up in the hope of finding a planet where they could do it in wild country. Raol had gone with Max into the Himalayas once, it had frightened him, he found it hard to breathe the thin air and the light was overpowering.
The computer’s voice softly in his ears saying that the two central continents were very suitable for planoforming and homogenising. One was apparently largely desert. Pictures came up of bright and dark sand waves, like a stationary golden sea lit by the midday sun. The stats said the air was ultra dry, Raol wondered if it was because of deforestation as had happened on Terra, there was no information until he and Max went out there with instruments to test.
The pictures changed to the other central continent which straddled the equator. Here were all forms of climate. The continent stretched up and down from the narrow hot and steamy rain forest in its middle through sub-tropical, temperate and what looked like tundra where it came close to the polar caps. A range of mountains ran like a spine down each half reminding him of the Americas at home, but these mountains were much higher. He clicked back to the stats and read again the heights of the peaks in both the northern and southern halves of the continent, there were half a dozen in each well over fifteen hundred metres and one, in the north, which was apparently nearly eighteen hundred metres. Raol whistled silently to himself, remembering tales of ‘Mile-High Mountain’ from his childhood, he’d never expected to actually see one.
They had landed in the temperate zone, near to where it began to go sub-tropical. Mile-High Mountain was about fifty kilometres to the north-west.
This continent was an ideal place to begin the colonisation, easy living and beautiful. He had already fallen in love with it himself although he didn’t recognise his feelings as such. Raol had never known love. He knew respect, caring, esteem and lust, but not love.
He let himself listen again to the monotonous voice of the computer telling him about Psyops evaluation of the indigenous population.
There are many small, widely spaced, collections of humanoid life, each measurable in thousands. They appear to trade with each other but there is no discernable technology. These people will be grateful for the improvements in lifestyle our colonists will bring. There may, as always, be pockets of resistance, but these will only be temporary. Psyops will – with the research teams information – design a program which will tempt and delight the indigenous humanoids, so resistance will be kept to a minimum.
Raol smiled wryly. Psyops never had to deal with insurgence, they let the ground staff implement the programs. The voice continued, describing the people, pictures came up. At first glance, they looked so like normal human beings with wild haircuts, then you noticed. The first thing was the difference in their eyes, the vertical pupil like a cat, presumably this gave them good night-vision. Then you saw the claws. Raol had watched this recording many times but his stomach still clenched when the close-up of the hand came up, with the snaking out of the claws as the fingers retracted slightly. It was scary and alluring at the same time. Raol paused the recording and moved his own fingers in a similar way to the woman, what would it feel like to have claws unsheathe themselves when you did this? He repeated the movement. Almost, almost he could sense it. He found his lips curling back from his teeth in the same fashion as the weird smile-like expression the people sometimes used. A picture of one of the humanoids apparently scenting the air came up, he clicked back into the sound again.
The humanoids appear to use the 'flehman response', normally found in the felid (cat) species. This is a grimacing look identified by a slightly open mouth, wrinkled nose, raised chin with the tongue just coming between the teeth. Its function, in cats, is to open the Jacobson's Organ located in the roof of the mouth. This allows the full strength of a scent to enter and enables the cat to test chemical scents travelling through the air. Cats use this ability to read the odour where other cats have marked their territory by spraying scent and, so identify which cat left the scent and whether or not it is a stranger entering the territory. Male cats also use flehman in determining whether or not a female is in oestrus and so ready to mate. It may also be used in an attempt to identify any unusual smell.
While the Jacobson's Organ is found in some bats and all snakes, it has never been seen in a humanoid. It will require intensive research to discover its uses, but it is likely to succumb to the stronger genes of the Hyspanic race and so die out.

Raol put the chair back to sitting-mode and unhooked the computer. He found himself wishing he could have gone with Max, seen the woman and her village, seen this beautiful race for himself. He tuned in the recording when the spy-sat had somehow homed in on a fight, between two females. Raol brought up the picture. There was a circle of villagers in an open space. He zoomed in to the protagonists. They were stripped naked but their bodies were covered in silvery-coloured tattoos. They crouched, like sumo wrestlers only slim, in fighting stance, and their claws were bared. These were about an inch long, curved and sharp. Raol shuddered at what they might do to bare skin. This must be a very primitive race if they could allow such violence, and between women.
Raol’s thoughts slipped back home, to Gaiterra Diego. The planetary leader was his idol, he had pictures of her in his quarters. She, too, was tall and slender, with full breasts. Raol could imagine laying his head on them, comforted. For active sex he preferred men, older men, but his dream was to be held by a beautiful woman.
Gaiterra and her predecessors had gradually enabled society, humans, to change so that they now found violence disgusting. It was an animal trait they had evolved out of. But Raol’s eyes went back again to the picture on the screen. He zoomed it further. The lips were wet, the teeth shone, they eyes were completely focused. He tracked down the arm, following the tattoos. They were even on the breast, he could see now. Again he shuddered at the pain that must have caused. He continued down to the hand, long fingers, splayed and curved for the fight. The muscles showed. These females were strong. And the claws.
‘Yummy!’ Gallo had come in without Raol noticing. The second in command was tuned for all the ship’s doors, like the captain. ‘Imagine those raking your back as you came down on her!’
Raol controlled himself from sitting up suddenly. He managed to make his face suitably languid as he turned to Gallo.
‘Mmmm …’ he said. ‘I don’t know. You like blood with your sex?’
Gallo grinned. ‘In imagination,’ he said. ‘I think I’d run a mile if one of them came after me. D’you think Max’ll try it?’
Again Raol refused the bait. He raised his eyebrows and gave Gallo a supercilious half-smile. ‘Max does all sorts of things for his research,’ he said, meaningly.
Gallo laughed. Max’s chief assistant was always worth a try. He came from a high-up family, was sensitive about his position and that included his relationship with Max. Gallo enjoyed baiting him. It was good for the boy to learn to parry and duck, he’d make a better officer later if he was well tried now. Gallo eyed the long jaw, aquiline nose, allowed Raol to see his eyes travel down to the young man’s neat arse, encased in slick, tight trousers. Gallo smiled as Raol’s ears went red. The boy was safe from him. He preferred Andrea, one of the engineers, a small, bouncy woman with incredible energy and imagination. He began to grin at the thought of her.
‘Captain wants to know what you think of this block these humanoids seem to be able to put on our communications. Up on Main Deck.’
Raol rolled his eyes. ‘OK,’ he said. ‘You know it’ll only be guesses?’
‘Guesses is better than nothing to Chesaré right now. He’s seriously fretting that he can’t touch Max.’

Raol stepped onto Main Deck and felt the usual zing of power, a combination of Chesaré’s and the ship’s energies. He wondered again what it could possibly be like to be symbiotic with a spaceship. He’d never wanted this. He wanted to be himself, complete, no the “other half” of a dual being. Chesaré’s hands were always cold, like a ghost or a dead thing. It made no sense to Raol. Living things were always warm. He wondered if Chesaré really was a living being, like himself.
‘Raol! Come over here.’ Chesaré called him. ‘I want you to look at this.’
Chesaré had a map picture of the clearing and surrounding forest in the hollotank, it stretched as far as the village to which they believed Max was going. The edge of the clearing flickered, twinkled, like seeing a star through the atmosphere. Chesaré pointed at it.
‘We’ve been unable to enhance the pickup sufficiently to see if there is some energy field at the edge of this clearing. Any ideas?’
Raol stared at the flickering. It was in a band, very narrow. Raol blinked, for a moment he’d thought he’d seen a slight colour change between the area inside the circle and that outside. Chesaré noticed.
‘What?’ he said.
‘I thought the colours inside and outside the circle were different. Only for a moment. I can’t see it now.’
‘I’ve had that. Innolagay has too.’ Chesaré indicated the ship herself. ‘She says she can see the forest fine, hear, it, smell it even, but not sense it. She says it’s a bit like a virtual image, not real to her. I want you to go out there and test this thing.’

Raol’s feet touched the earth again and he felt a zinging, similar to going on Main Deck. He stopped still. The technicians bunched up behind him, waiting. Raol allowed the feeling to rise up through him, as Max had taught him, not blocking it, not allowing his mind to begin analysing it. Not yet. At the same time it seemed the sensation within him glimmered. Raol’s mind jolted at the unfamiliar word but he allowed it through. Yes, the word felt right, he felt the sensation glimmering up through him. He shut his eyes, following its tracks up his legs, body, down his arms. It stopped, not entering his head. Raol wondered why.
He felt his face move into a semblance of the flehman response and found himself tasting scents he hadn’t noticed when he came outside the first time, when Max left. Again he shut his eyes but he could make nothing of it. The scents were of vegetation, many different sorts, but he no experience with which to discern them.
‘Later!’ he heard the voice in his head. It seemed to chuckle.
His eyes flashed open and all the sensations were gone. Then he noticed his arms. He was wearing short-sleeved casual gear. Looking, his arms now had silvery lines weaving down them, just like the fighting women. For a moment Raol forgot to breath, then he squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them and looked at his arms again the lines were gone, his arms looked normal. He took a deep breath and allowed his officer training to take over. Hang it on a peg and look at it later, he told himself, get on with the job now. He glanced back at the techs, smiled and waved them forward, out into the clearing. They took their instruments and set up at opposite sides of the ship, experimenting with various forms of transmission and communication.
Raol walked slowly across to the edge of the forest. Each step felt so alive, he felt so awake. He did his best to hide the change of feelings in case anyone noticed. He knew he was being watched from the ship, a natural safety precaution for any crew member going outside on a strange, and not yet verified, planet.
As he approached the trees he felt a tingling going through him, all down the now invisible lines he’d seen, just for a moment, on his arms. But not just through his arms, this wall all through his body. It was disorienting, confusing. Too much information coming into him, and in ways he’d never known before. Raol reached out a hand, the tingling increased exponentially the closer the hand got to the trees. It made him want to pee. He withdrew the hand and the tingling died down. Something, some notion, tugged at his brain but he couldn’t fathom it. He sat down cross legged and went into the zazen training. In his mind, the pictures started. He saw a shadowy, semi-transparent figure sat opposite him amongst the trees. He felt a question from it. He moved a hand to another zazen position and the figure did the same, mirroring him. He tried several other moves and, each time, the figure in the forest copied his actions. Then it laughed.
‘Do you want to come in?’ it asked.
Raol’s mind did a double-take. His instincts answered for him.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Think about it, back home in your bubble,’ came the response. ‘Then come and ask me again.’
The figure was gone. Raol was looking at apparently ordinary trees in an apparently ordinary forest. He realised he’d stopped breathing, started up again, gulped in some air.
‘The communications within the clearing are perfectly normal, sir,’ the tech told him.
Raol had enough control of himself not to jump at the voice. He’d completely forgotten about the techs.
‘And …?’ he said, giving himself space to click back into normal gear.
‘Well …’ the tech hesitated. ‘Giuseppe says he can’t get any signal to go outside the clearing. He’s tried the whole electromagnetic spectrum, radio waves, through infra-red, ultra-violet, even gamma. Not a thing. They bounce back. Like there was a mirror there. We can’t see the twinkling effect you descried from the hollotank either, but all the experiments tell us there’s something like a force-field around the edge of the clearing. We’ve found no way to discover what it’s made of, or what can be generating it. there’s absolutely nothing coming up on our instruments but organic life. No technology, no electronics, nothing. It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever encountered.’
Raol had some pretty weird ideas poking their heads up inside his brain but he wasn’t about to share them with Andrea. She was a good tech, but not a person he could talk impossibilities to. He needed Max for that. And he wasn’t going to have him for at least another two days.
‘OK. Let’s get back and report.’ He stood up and followed Andrea back to the ship. Giuseppe was waiting for them.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 18:29 on 29 December 2003  Report this post
Hi Elen,

The extract above is very long but I've read almost half, so I'll comment so far.
The ideas in the summary are intriguing and full of potential, so I began this with interest, even though sci-fi/fantasy is not my usual reading matter.

The writing comes across as extremely confident - it feels to this reader as though you know everything there is to know about the world and the characters you've invented. I did wonder whether all those names begining with E in the early section would make keeping track of them difficult, but it didn't seem to be a problem as you identified each in some way as you described their actions. I had slightly more of a problem with all the new words invented to describe things unknown to our civilization and technology, but then I'm unused to this genre and maybe one learns to accept without trying too hard to remember or understand.

I do feel that there is polishing to be done - there are a few typos and some sentences that I had to read twice, but as an imaginative creation it's pretty stunning and almost believable. Perfect escapism in fact.

Best, Nell.

JohnK at 23:08 on 29 December 2003  Report this post
Hi Elen -

What a story! This made me not just suspend disbelief, but suspend prejudice and conventional reactions too. The best part is the storytelling, which is masterful, getting inside each character and each situation, while still keeping track of the fantastic environments and communities.

But enough praise - you must be used to that. Here's a typo I spotted:
‘And why did you have to fall in love with him? That’s what you’re thinking too, isn’t it? Needs a closing quote.

And here's a 'sticking point', a place where I had to read the line over again, and lost the flow. 'It took her on its back and rode her across the meadow into the woods.' Surely the line did not ride her, she rode the line. I know the way you intended it to be read, and perhaps it is fine, but I'd prefer 'lifted' or some other verb.

Finally, right at the end, 'there was no information until he and Max went out there with instruments to test' needs, for me, a connector, such as 'but', or perhaps a separate sentence. Again, I could easily be wrong.

What I liked was the phrase 'Elyn wanted to hit him when he got like this' because it fits so well, rounding out Elyn's character, pointing up Eudaf's attitude, and letting us see accurately the relationships all in a few short words.

I also appreciated the names and references, such as the Spanish colonizing tendency ('Hyspanya'!). The neat and effective switching of POV works well too, with no confusion that I could find anywhere.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed it,
Thanks, JohnK.

grymalkyn at 09:42 on 30 December 2003  Report this post
Woof! thanks John. I'm intending to punt it out agents so every bit of help is most appreciated.

I hear you on "rode", lifted could well be better, I'll work on it. I certainly don't want people to lose the flow. I think your "but" is probably good too, again will go back and work.

I'll put some more of it up soon, also sort out the typos!


The Hyspanya come from a work-around on an old Celtic story, The Dream of Macsen Wledig. Macsen was a Spanish-Roman general who was invited to become emporer of Britain, did so, and then tried to beat Rome at its own game. Unfortunately he failed :-). I was also thinking of the US govt actions over the past 20, 50, years and especially Bush's statement that everyone should want American democracy (+ apple pie ???). so the Hyspanya have something of my take on that for what its worth.

Dee at 12:16 on 30 December 2003  Report this post
Elen, I love this sort of stuff. It put me in mind of Robin Hobbs' Farseer Trilogy in its attention to detail. I wonder how long it took you to create a new world in such depth?

I noticed a few typos but was too engrossed in the story to make a note of them and now I can't remember where they were.

One thing that's puzzling me... Is it my imagination or did this piece first appear at about 13000 words?

Looking forward to reading on...


grymalkyn at 13:08 on 30 December 2003  Report this post
Thanks Dee, hadn't thought of Robin Hobbs, nice to be thought of in the same breath. to answer your question, in one sense it took about 55 years to create this world, ie all my life and I've been living there in between stretches here :-). In another sense just a few hours, these things come out of my head like Athene, fully armed so to speak.

Yes, you're quite right, it was originally 13K+ words which is as far as I've got. Various representations made to me suggested I carve it up into bite-sized chunks. More to follow soon.

JohnK at 08:10 on 31 December 2003  Report this post
Elen, I love the extra bit you have given us. There is a typo, unless you've gone all Scottish on us: ' He wanted to be himself, complete, no the “other half” '. I think 'no' should be 'not'.

Before I forget again, is 'Innolagay' a sly reference to the plane that dropped the atomic bomb? If so, are you being judgemental towards the invaders? I did not get that impression - the narrator seems to stand well back, leaving opinions to the reader. I like that.

Just noticed 'this wall all through his body' and wondered if 'wall' should be 'was' or 'went' or 'vibrated'.

My feeling is that the approach is right, and the pace of the story right for me. If my comment was to go on the back cover of your book, I'd say, 'Full of people you'd like to meet, in situations you'd love to share.'

All the very best, JohnK.

grymalkyn at 09:29 on 31 December 2003  Report this post
Unfortuantely )as I love the accent) I'm not being Scottish - have just done that one!

Yes, Innolagay is a ref to the plane which dropped the bomb and no, I'm not being judgemental on the invaders, colonisers. The reasoning for dropping the bomb, emotional, mental and spiritual, was incredibly complex and I don't think we're near to properly understanding it even now. I use the name because that plane was a 'vehicle of change' - and I think it's too simplistic to try to say whether the change was all good or all bad. Similarly, in this story, the Innolagay is vehicle which, by its very presence, induces change. Again the change will be neither wholly good nor wholly bad. I call her captain 'Chesare Diocletian' for similar reasons :-), but you don't need to know any of that to get the story!

Yup, 'wall' is another damn typo which I think I fixed last night ... sigh! Wish I could type!

If I ever get the option can I use your quote for the back cover ??? Attributed, of course!

Thanks for all the help you've given, much appreciated - more story to come after new year. And Happy New Year.

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