Just got word this week that Quinn's Gambit has been translated into Italian! I don't know about you, but thinking about Val speaking in Italian makes me feel certain things, lol
Linkies below - I don't see the Kobo version yet, but I'm sure that will be soon:
Shadow Run - Episode 29
Davitts tried his best to keep Zie occupied. During the day, this was easier. The general tasks that came with making camp anywhere kept them busy. Gathering tubers and berries. Searching the island for firewood. Doing a little sling hunting. Fishing, though one could only eat so many of the same lake fish.
None of it was enough to distract Zie from his anxious thoughts. He chewed on his claws and was incapable of sitting still for more than a few minutes. At night, he wandered the haunted ruins, and came back to Davitts wide-eyed and shivering. What he’d seen and heard, he wouldn’t say.
That evening, they’d set up their cookfire on the beach and Zie had made a stew of the fisher bird Davitts had gotten with a lucky shot that afternoon. Full and as content as two worried people could be, Davitts sat with his back against a fallen log and Zie between his thighs, snuggled back against his chest, for once mostly still.
“Was Essenin a terrible child?” Zie asked as he traced lines on Davitts’ forearm.
“You don’t know?”
Davitts chuckled. “I didn’t know them well as a child. We grew up in the same town and our families certainly had dealings with each other, but we lived at Mama’s shop in town and Ess lived with their family nearer the harbor. Different friend groups. Different learning creches. But I imagine they were a handful. Into everyone’s business. Probably hard to keep their attention on one thing.”
“Easy to picture. And you?”
“I was a good child, for the most part. Eager to help. Reliable. Maybe not always the quickest or the brightest.”
Zie turned in his arms, frowning. “I’m sure you do yourself a disservice.”
“Maybe. But unlike Ess, I was rarely in trouble. Not until I got older and became more interested in weapons than in the family mercantile business. Mama didn’t approve of that.” Davitts wrapped his arms around Zie and gave him a squeeze. The little mahk was obviously trying to distract himself and the last thing Davitts wanted to do was ask questions about his childhood. “Weapons. That’s where I got to know Ess.”
Zie turned to lean against Davitt’s raised knee. “What does that mean?”
“We both attended Rakon’s. That’s the training house in town. Classes for all manner of combat.” Davitts blew out a slow breath as he recalled the volcanic argument his wanting to attend had set off. “Ess’s family sponsored them without question. It’s what they wanted. My Da convinced my mother that she had enough children for the business, and it would do no good to keep the few whose passions lay elsewhere. His words.”
“But they, ah, sponsored you?” Zie asked, giving the impression that he had no idea what sponsoring meant in that context.
“A couple of my aunties actually did the sponsoring. Mama wasn’t throwing money away so I could die violently. Her words.” Davitts loved his mother, but the years he’d spent training, things had been tense between them. “Ess and I were already taller than most of the other kids, so we were paired up for things like sword class.”
“But you don’t carry a sword.”
“It’s not my weapon of choice, but I can use one. Ess is better, though again, not their favorite.” Davitts couldn’t help a smile, remembering Ess huffing and swearing through fencing drills all those years ago. “Anyway, that’s how we became friends. Smacking each other with practice blades.”
Zie actually snickered, the happiest sound from him in days. “I’m sad to have missed it.”
“We can try to recreate it for you sometime—” Davitts cut off when Zie bolted straight up and stumbled toward the shoreline. The chill in his heart told him the answer, but he still asked, “Zie? Sweetheart, what is it?”
“They’re here.” Zie’s voice came out a strangled whisper. “Across the water. In the trees. They’ve come for me. And Ess is out there still.”
In the fading light, Davitts struggled to make out anything in the trees besides a dark mass of branches. He pulled out his spyglass and searched the treetops, noting how the trees bent with the breeze off the lake. Except some of the trees bent in the wrong direction, disturbed, jostled. There.. Dark shadows moving independent of any object, moving toward the lake.
“Come on.” Davitts gripped Zie’s shoulder and gave him a little shake. “We have to get on top of the tower and light our beacon. Ess will know what it means and I won’t have those things surprising them when they get here.”
We've reached Friday! Hooray! This week, I'm reading to you from a story included in Warren Rochelle's queer speculative fiction anthology, To Bring Him Home And Other Tales. This particular story, "Blue Ghosts", takes place two hundred years in the future, post alien invasion. :o Come have a listen:
To Bring Him Home And Other Tales
by Warren Rochelle
Barnes & Noble
Home, a place where we belong and are safe and loved. Home, the house in which we grew up, a neighborhood, a culture, even a country. Home is a state of mind, it is a place of the heart, and in the heart.
Finding home, coming home, and bringing home the one we love is a journey, a journey that can be a dangerous adventure. For the lovers in these stories, adventures can include quests and fighting dragons and demons, past and present, physical as well as mental and emotional. Rocket launchers need to be dodged, the Wild Hunt needs to be outrun. For some of the lovers here, home has been lost, or they have been forced to leave, as is too common for LGBT+ youth.
In this collection, queer positive speculative fiction stories explore the idea of what and where home is in the lives of these lovers. Will they survive their quests, defeat their monsters? Will they find a place to call home?
Warren Rochelle lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his husband and their little dog, Gypsy. He has just retired from teaching English at the University of Mary Washington. His short fiction and poetry have been published in such journals and anthologies as Icarus, North Carolina Literary Review, Forbidden Lines, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Collective Fallout, Queer Fish 2, Empty Oaks, Quantum Fairy Tales, Migration, The Silver Gryphon, Jaelle Her Book, Colonnades, and Graffiti, as well as the Asheville Poetry Review, GW Magazine, Crucible, The Charlotte Poetry Review, and Romance and Beyond.
His short story “The Golden Boy” was a finalist for the 2004 Spectrum Award for Short Fiction. His short story “Mirrors” was just published in Under a Green Rose, a queering romance anthology from Cuil Press. “The Latest Thing,” a flash fiction story, is forthcoming in the Queer Sci Fi anthology, Innovation.
Rochelle is also the author of four novels: The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010), all published by Golden Gryphon Press, and The Werewolf and His Boy, published by Samhain Publishing in September 2016 and re-released from JMS Books in August 2020.
For more information, please visit facebook.com/warren.rochelle.
No huge news this week, just some tidbits about where things are:
Shadow Run - Episode 28
When Ke of clan Skita arrived, Essenin had just finished a second, absolutely glorious honeycake and a cup of singe-blossom tea, and was nearly feeling relaxed and comfortable. Ke’s thunderous expression turned the tea and cakes in their stomach into stones.
She was large for a sylvas, perhaps half a hand taller than Zie, with her sleeveless shirt emphasizing her broad shoulders and heavily-muscled arms. While not as old as Ulla Tzak, white streaked her black braids and time had carved lines around her eyes and mouth. An imposing figure under any circumstances, but she was also clearly furious.
Her initial shouted flurry of words were all directed at Ulla Tzak. Essenin didn’t catch much beyond a few shockingly rude phrases. Beside him, Rolli paled and looked like he was trying to shrink into the cushions.
Ulla Tzak bore the verbal assault without a single change of expression, calmly sipping her tea. Finally, she interrupted in trade language. “The perpetrator isn’t here, Ke. It sounds as if their identity is unknown. While I agree with you that whoever summoned the shaktz should be—” For a moment, she only spoke sharp sylvas words and Essenin could only imagine what horrors they described. “—but the reality of their coming to our shores isn’t served by eviscerating some idiot we can’t find.”
Ke paced, arms wrapped tight around her ribs. “Every sylvas is in peril once the shaktz stop following their prey. Once they kill the one that escaped them, they will hunt for more. We should begin the evacuation now.”
“And what would that do, besides delay them?” Ulla Tzak sipped at her tea, the sorrow in her eyes belying her apparent indifference. “They’ve already shown they can cross the sea.”
That stopped Ke’s pacing. “How is it that they are so clever? The passages naming them always describe them as mindless.”
Ulla Tzak shrugged. “It may have to do with the summoner. One that was too clever for their own good.”
“It’s possible. The instances of summoning are so few and so far in the past, there may well have been variations in characteristics.” Ke’s voice softened from sharp to rumbling. She was a scholar, it occurred to Essenin, and her mind had turned quickly to puzzle solving. “I need to speak to this tenacious young male who has managed to keep ahead of the monsters.”
“Zie will want desperately to meet with you,” Essenin offered, thinking it might be safe to intrude on the conversation. “He’s powerful and a mahk himself, but from what I understand, he had no older mahk to teach him. He’s felt so lost.”
Ke turned to address them directly for the first time. “A tragedy, when a young one has no guidance. How did they let this happen over there?”
“I couldn’t say.” Essenin shook their head regretfully. “Though I have the impression that relations between clans were more, ah, difficult back home than they seem to be here.”
Ke’s eyes narrowed and Essenin had an anxious moment thinking she would refuse. Then she shook her head and settled on the cushions near Ulla Tzak. “Maybe you should tell me, young selak, how you came to advocate for a fugitive mahk.”
Again Essenin told the story, more carefully this time, doing their best to recall everything Zie had said, all they had witnessed since meeting him. Ke kept her intense gaze mostly on the teapot, only lifting her attention to Essenin to stop them for a question or clarification here and there. A hard smile twitched at her lips when they reached the part where Zie had held the Shadows off on the beach and again when Zie led the monsters onto the shoals.
When the story finished, she remained silent and still. Essenin was about to ask the question, would she come with them, when she smacked her palms against her thighs. Rolli twitched and jerked back at the sound. Poor Rolls. Essenin hadn’t even considered how nervous he might become during a more detailed telling.
“A resourceful youngster, your Zie,” Ke said as she stood. “And brave despite himself, apparently, purposefully leading the shaktz away from sylvas lands. I’ll come with you, and we’ll hope that his cunning keeps him alive until we reach him.”
“Thank you,” Essenin barely breathed out the words, they were so relieved. “Thank you so much. Whenever you’re ready to go, I’ll take you there as quickly as I can.”
“A double handful of minutes, no more. Get your mount ready and I’ll join you at the threshold.” Ke strode off with purpose, hopefully to procure a mount of her own. Sidle wasn’t big enough to carry them both.
The threshold was apparently the line of white rocks that marked the entrance to the compound. Essenin waited for Ke there while Rolli fidgeted uncomfortably with Bramble’s harness.
“It was good to see you again,” Essenin said in an effort to break the painfully awkward silence.
“Ess…” Rolli fidgeted a bit more and finally blurted out, “I’m coming with you.”
“Um. The fuck you are.” Essenin patted the air with both hands, trying to soften their words. “It’s too dangerous. And there’s no reason for you to. Your first instinct was the right one, the one where you ride away in the other direction.”
“Right. I know. Cowards survive to face another day.” Rolli sighed. “But, Ess. Listen. You’re my…my friend if nothing else. It feels wrong deserting you. Besides, this all feels like it would make the best ballad. You need someone to write this down for your grandchildren.”
Bards. “Probably one of the dumbest reasons I’ve ever heard to risk your neck. But it’s your neck and you’re a grown person. It’s not as if I can forbid you to go.”
Rolli’s smile transformed the weary lines of his face, the years falling away and leaving Essenin with the impression of an excited puppy. “I won’t make you regret it, promise. I won’t get in the way or cause issues with Davs. This will be so thrilling. And scary. And thrillingly scary.”
Goddesses save me, but he really is an endearing idiot. Essenin could only hope that they weren’t leading this particular idiot to his death.
The sound of hoofbeats heralded Ke’s arrival on one of the biggest, shaggiest edlaks Essenin had ever seen, its black coat gleaming in the sun. “On your mounts. The shaktz may already be ahead of us.”
On that cheerful note, they rode back down the hill while Essenin tried his best not to imagine the terrible things that might have happened up ahead.
Happy Friday, everyone! For this week's reading, I have an excerpt from the final book in James Peter's Black Swan Planet SF humor series - Black Swan Empire. Come have a listen. :)
Black Swan Empire
Black Sawn Planet 3
by James Peters
Barnes & Noble
Raka Varoule, Maven Blackheart, and Marco return for one final adventure in Black Swan Empire!
When Maven nearly starts WWIII as a result of an international nuclear incident, she and Raka are forced to flee from Earth and return to the Galactic Empire, but they aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. They are quickly drawn into a plot that just happens to involve the assassination of Emperor Caligula himself.
With the help of some old friends and a few frenemies, they face their biggest challenge yet when the entire Empire is on the line.
James Peters fell in love with Science Fiction at a young age, becoming hooked on the works of Asimov, Anderson, and Pohl (among many others), as well as the mixed bag of anything labeled Science Fiction on television or at the movies while growing up. While in grade school, he was given an assignment to write a journal about anything he wanted. He quickly filled the pages with a Buck Roger’s type adventure of robots, spaceships, and pew-pewing lasers, discovering his inner passion to write.
He writes with a gritty blend of character-driven action, wry humor, and social commentary that transports the reader through wild worlds of speculative fiction and fantasy. He’s known to cross the borders of different genres into new territory, along with an occasional ‘wink and nod’ to pop culture and other authors, then shock the reader with an unexpected turn of events.
Sit back, open your mind and enjoy the ride. Your adventure awaits.
Author Website: https://authorjamespeters.com/
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/BlackSwanPlanet
Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/james-peters/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B017TQ8VUS
We have a release date for Rarely Pure and Never Simple: Variant Configurations 1 - yay! The first novel in the series will release June 28, 2022.
We should be seeing a first look at the cover in May, too. :D
The second book should be following fairly quickly in early August, barring any disasters on my part.
Rarely Pure and Never Simple: VC1 - June 28, 2022
From the Noblest Motives: VC2 - August 2022
In All Its Tainted Glory: VC3 - tbd (but there's a title!)
Stay tuned for more news to come!
Shadow Run - Episode 27
The sylvas on this continent were definitely less reclusive than the ones back home had been. There, one might come across a sylvas merchant traveling with goods every few years or so. Here, a sylvas family had set up a vegetable stand right beside the road as they started into the hills.
For the day’s second surprise, one that nearly left Essenin’s jaw in the dust of the road, Rolli dismounted and spoke to the vegetable sellers. Not the shocking part. Rolli would talk to anyone. But he spoke in sylvas, in a particular dialect of sylvas that Essenin had never heard.
Rolli wandered back over munching on a taya fruit, the purple juice running down his chin. He stopped when he saw Essenin staring. “What? She thought I looked too thin.”
“I’m not shocked by your ability to make maternal people pity you. But since when have you spoken any sylvas?”
“Since always.” Rolli waved the taya for emphasis. “Fine. Not always. I learned early on. The merchants all speak trade, but they’re kinder to you if you make the effort in their own language.”
“Uh-huh. And what did you talk about?”
“Oh. Yes. I was asking if they knew if the Tzak matriarch was at home. She is, so we’ll head up to the compound.” Rolli took a last bite of taya, gazed at it mournfully as if wishing it would regenerate, and tossed the pit. “It’s not far.”
After a few minutes riding along the main road, they turned onto a steep and narrow track that led up into the hills. Here, the dust of the road gave way to stone and determined scrub plants that clung to every possible surface. To Essenin’s eyes, the track vanished entirely, but Rolli kept going. They had to hope that Rolli actually knew where he was going.
Around a curve in the trail, the Tzak compound suddenly appeared. Essenin knew it was a clever use of the planes and curves of the landscape, but the not-here then here of a village of stone felt uncomfortably close to magic. They’d only encountered sylvas settlements previously in drawings and stories. Neither did the architecture justice.
Southerners like Essenin tended to think of the sylvas as tribal, loosely related clans living in their isolated compounds in the far north. If the sylvas compounds back home had been anything like this? Anyone who had seen them would never think of the sylvas as half-feral again.
Most of the buildings were partially built into the hillside, stone arches both round and pointed, soaring columns that held up porticos and promenades, stepped buildings of seven and eight stories—and not a seam in sight. As impressive as the buildings were the gardens, both terraced and hanging, an abundance of fruits and flowers everywhere. Doubtful that the northern clans had managed all the outside vegetation, but perhaps they had grown indoor gardens instead.
They thought of asking Zie, but realized that would be cruel, expecting him to talk about a home that had been destroyed. I hope they’re both all right. That the Shadows haven’t caught up yet and that they’re not quarreling. Though it seemed more likely that Davs would be making sure Zie ate enough and didn’t have nightmares. Mother of waves, Essenin missed them.
When they had reached a spot in the path where a line of white pebbles lay embedded across the road, Rolli stopped and dismounted. Puzzled, Essenin followed his example.
“We can’t just barge in,” Rolli answered the question they hadn’t asked. “Rude. And we might get skewered if the young people on watch are jumpy.”
“Ah. Skewering wasn’t on my list of things to do today, so thank you for that.”
They waited while Sidle walked to the end of her reins and started munching on a bush and Bramble shifted nervously from hoof to hoof. The wait ended up being short and soon two heavily armed young sylvas were escorting them into the compound. Weapons stayed sheathed, but the message of threaten our clan and you die was quite clear.
Their silent guides took them not to one of the largest buildings, but to a modest house with a single doorway and a balcony on the second floor. Vines cascaded from the balcony, bright with pink and deep red flowers that gave the house a cheerful, welcoming face.
Rolli knocked on the doorframe and stuck his head inside. “Ulla Tzak?”
Even while standing on the front step, Essenin could’ve sworn they heard a deep sigh from inside the house. Of course, that was a common reaction to Rolli, so they weren’t shocked. Footsteps clomped toward them and soon the oldest sylvas Essenin had ever met was frowning up at Rolli. She pointed a claw at him and said something sharp. Rolli gestured toward Essenin and said something that sounded conciliatory.
Ulla Tzak—Essenin was unsure if this was a name or a title—turned her sharp eyes on them. Deep purple eyes, like Zie’s, though her hair was frost white. “Young selak. Are you his lover?”
“Me? No. He’s just a guide.” Essenin felt bad about being so dismissive, but he didn’t want anyone getting the wrong impression.
“Good. Don’t be. He is not a responsible human.” She rapped her knuckles against the hall table three times. “Now. Tell me.”
Essenin blinked at the abruptness of the demand, but he wasn’t speaking to selak aunties. He had to remember that. He told her, more of a summation than a story, about Zie and the Shadows, and the need for an older mahk.
Her expression became more worried with every sentence. When he’d finished, she stared at a point on the floor, speaking softly. “The shaktz haven’t been summoned in my memory or my grandmother’s. They were only stories. We have a mahk. Only one. But she is far too young.”
“Is there an older mahk?” Essenin asked while his heart sank to his feet. “Someone who might be willing to help?”
“I can’t promise another clan’s help, child. But Ke is here from Skita to help train our mahk. Maybe she will hear you.” Ulla Tzak snapped at the youngsters hovering in the doorway and they both ran off, presumably to carry the message. She shook her head and waved toward the interior of the house. “Come and sit. Keep me company while we wait.”
Ah, good. Hospitality. Essenin hoped that meant she was on their side. He followed her in, determined to be charming and polite so she wouldn’t change her mind.
Friday Reading Day - The Calling
Happy Friday, All! This week, we have a m/m paranormal on deck for our reading - M.D. Neu's The Calling! Immortals and dangerous visions! Come have a listen:
The Calling #1
by M.D. Neu
Being nobody isn’t Duncan Alexander’s life goal, but it’s worked for him. He has a nondescript job, a few good friends, and overall he’s content. That’s until one fateful trip to San Jose, California, where he is ‘Called’ to meet the mysterious Juliet de Exter. Juliet is a beautiful, wealthy, powerful Immortal who is undertaking ‘The Calling’ – a search for a human to join her world of Immortals. Inexplicably, Duncan’s calling is more dangerous than any of the Immortals, even Juliet, ever thought it would be.
There is more to this nobody, this only child of long deceased parents, than anyone thought. When Duncan experiences uncontrollable dreams of people he doesn’t know and places he hasn’t been, Juliet and the other Immortals worry. Soon, his visions point to a coven of long dead witches. The dreams also lead Duncan to his one true love. How will Duncan navigate a forbidden romance with an outcast Immortal? How will he and the others keep the balance between the Light and Dark, survive vicious attacks, and keep the humans from learning who they truly are? More importantly, who is this implacable foe Duncan keeps seeing in his dreams?
About M.D. :
M.D. Neu is an inclusive international award-winning Gay fiction writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to sci-fi and paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.
Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man, he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.
When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a nonprofit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric, his husband of twenty plus years.
Ryld's Shadows by Angel Martinez & Bellora Quinn
Book 4 in the AURA series
General Release Date: 8th March 2022
Word Count: 74,271
Add to Goodreads
Ryld must learn to control his dangerous shadows before they kill someone he cares about or someone unscrupulous learns how to control him.
AURA’s offices have been quiet since the mage tower incident—as quiet as they can be for an agency dedicated to policing holes in reality—and the department heads have been free to turn their attention back to mundane matters. The return to quiet bureaucracy gives AURA’s Director of Research, Kai Hiltas, the time to turn his energy to a new issue—a young drow with unusual and dangerous powers named Ryld.
Though his shadows always lurk at the edges of his vision, Ryld does his best to live peacefully and not let them hurt anyone. He has his work, his apartment and a succession of minders assigned by AURA who are, ostensibly, there to keep him safe in his new world and to prevent him from causing any scenes with his shadows. Most of the time, the arrangement works. But one disastrous incident causes Ryld’s minder to leave him unattended and lost—the precise thing he was hired to prevent.
To replace the faithless minder, Kai suggests Hank, a half-goblin accountant recently in the middle of a string of terrible luck, while Kai works out how best to get Ryld the magical training he so desperately needs. For his part, Hank truly likes Ryld and insists he would be happier working as Ryld’s companion rather than as a controlling minder.
As Hank and Ryld slowly come to terms with sharing space—and eventually more—Kai’s search for a teacher for Ryld takes them out west on the invitation of the Elvenhome’s aelfe queen and right into the lap of inter-elven feuds, ancient prejudice, conspiracies and trafficking rings. What should have been a pleasant visit soon turns into more than even forever-scheming Kai can handle.
Reader advisory: This book contains references to past trauma and PTSD, kidnapping and kidnapping of a child.
“I thought you guys were supposed to be more…buff.”
Ryld looked at the man blankly.
“Oh. Yes. Most of the aelfe are, as you say, buff. My kind, the drow, are as tall, but usually lighter in frame.”
The man took a sip of his beer. “So what happened to you? Did you miss the call when they were handin’ out the tickets for the tall and ripped lottery?”
Ryld processed that for a moment. None of that made much sense. Nothing had happened to him, he’d missed no calls as far as he knew, and he wasn’t sure what gambling had to do with anything. He wasn’t sure how, but his best guess, given the previous question, was the man was asking why he looked different from other elves he must have met.
“Simple genetics. I was bred for certain characteristics. My coloring. My…ability with magic.” Ryld took a sip of his own beer. “Those genetic traits also carry markers for a smaller height and build.” And madness. But Ryld had already learned humans had a deep fear of madness, so he kept that to himself.
“Yeah, no shit. You can’t be mor’n five and a half feet and a buck fifty, if that.”
Ryld blinked again. Five and a half feet was an Imperial measurement, presumably of his height, which, while accurate, was terribly inefficient. Since they were discussing his size, the other observation should have been about his weight, but instead he spoke of money.
“I have more than a dollar and fifty cents with me. The drinks here are known to be expensive. I made sure I brought enough.”
His drinking companion laughed. “Never mind. You’re a funny one.”
That was odd. Usually, he didn’t understand human humor and they could be more uncomfortable with his presence than amused by it.
“It’s time to go, Ryld.”
Ryld looked up from the human he’d been studying into the face of someone who had exactly the elven characteristic the human had commented Ryld lacked. Tall and broad shouldered, with dark, ash-blond hair, and a countenance that made sure all but the most inebriated of bar patrons stayed well out of his way. Ryld sighed and set his drink down half finished.
He stood without argument and bid the human good night, as was their custom, and followed his minder outside. As he crossed the threshold, a small flicker of dark caught his eye, but he ignored it and kept moving.
“The establishment isn’t closed for the evening yet,” he pointed out as they walked down the row of vehicles in the parking lot.
Cress gave his own sigh. “No, but it will be very soon. We’ve been over this, Ryld. You don’t have to stay until everyone else has gone, and they kick us out.”
“But…there were still a few humans I hadn’t spoken to.”
“Nor do you need to speak to everyone in the place in one night.”
“Oh. Did I transgress? Make a mistake?”
“I know what transgress means, and no, you didn’t. They don’t have a rule dictating how many people you should or should not speak to.”
Ryld stopped. “How do they know then? How many is appropriate? Without a rule, how do they know?”
Cress stopped too and turned to look at him. Ryld managed to meet his eyes for a moment, then shifted his gaze to a spot over Cress’ shoulder. Better to look at a point over the other person’s shoulder than drop his eyes, he’d learned. A downward-cast gaze was viewed as subservient, rather than simply respectful.
“When there isn’t a rule, they decide for themselves how many people they speak with, and who.”
Ryld caught another flicker out of the corner of his eye and swallowed. “If there were a rule, it would be so much easier to know.”
“I know, but that’s how it is. Sometimes there are rules, and sometimes there aren’t.”
Cress spoke in a low, soothing tone. The one he used when he was being extra patient. When he wanted to avoid a scene. Ryld didn’t want there to be a scene either. His head would ache for days after, and sometimes he couldn’t even get out of bed if it had been particularly bad. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t had this conversation about rules before. There was no reason to get upset.
“Okay? Are you ready to go now?” Cress asked.
Choose Your Store
Angel writes (mostly) Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around queer heroes. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head, she has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.