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Vila knows she shouldn't. The Code forbids it. Lustful acts lead us away from the Great Mother, away from the Transcendent Unity.

And yet - feeling invigorated by the warm buzz of a few cups of kala - Vila realizes that sometimes one has to see the big picture. And so, as the slender silver-haired woman puts a finger between Vila's legs, Vila understands that in the great scheme of things, perhaps this union was meant to be. And as the older woman kisses her gently but fiercely, and Vila feels her back arch, she knows that she is destined to draw this beautiful, innocent woman - what did she say her name was? - into the sacred sisterhood.

As if reading her thoughts, the other woman whispers in her ear, "Tell me about your friends, dear."

"Oh, you'd like them!" Vila begins, and then hesitates, feeling a twinge of apprehension.

"I'm sure they're very pretty," the stranger prompts. And now that it's been mentioned, Vila realizes that several of the women in the Sisterhood are quite attractive; she's thinking of Wakha, and Eristhi, and especially the leader of the local cell, Lubindi - now she's a hot one, with that little mole just above her left breast and those amazing legs. Not that Vila spends much time thinking about those sorts of things; that would be sinful.

The images of Wakha, Eristhi, and Lubindi float in Vila's mind. The stranger strokes her, teases her. Stops.

Vila gasps.

"I'd like to meet them."

Now Vila understands that she's being tested. She must not, under any circumstances, mention the meetings of the 91 members of the local sisterhood every fortnight in Room 731 of the abandoned research complex. In fact, it would be better not to think about those meetings at all. Security breaches are not taken lightly by the Sisterhood. Like that young girl not long ago; she had to be dealt with. Regrettable, but necessary.

"Tell me about the girl."

The stranger's voice is suddenly changed; it's cool and firm and deadly. Vila is just about to come, but the stranger's finger stops in mid-stroke.

Vila's face is now pure desperation. Looking into her lover's steady gaze, she knows better than to say "What girl?"

Vila can barely speak at all; she begs in a wordless whimper. Her sexual craving is unbearable; she'd reach down and pleasure herself now, if her arms weren't pinned behind her back. The stranger is calm, authoritative, and consummately in control; the kind of woman, Vila randomly thinks, who would look good in a uniform.

"P-p-please ... " Vila gasps. "Could you take these off?" The handcuffs aren't fun anymore, and they're feeling awfully tight.

"I'll take 'em off when I'm ready," the stranger says, getting out of the bed and turning her back to Vila. "Tell you what, lady, I'd start talking now if I were you." The stranger reaches into the duffel bag she's brought with her, and starts putting on a fresh set of clothes. Oddly, from the back, it does look like some kind of uniform.

Vila doesn't like the way things are going now, not at all. But she doesn't see any way out, so she just answers the question, hoping it will make something better. "Taswa," she says numbly, "the girl's name was Taswa. ... " She draws a deep breath as the stranger buttons her shirt.

"Hey," Vila says, now beginning to panic, "you're not going to leave me here, are you? What's your name, anyway?"

"Garris," the Chief says, "the name's Garris. And you're under arrest."
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The Gilkesh are star-gazers by nature, and from their earliest history have had an unslakeable thirst for the knowledge of that which lies beyond. The sciences were regarded as sacred doors to the mystical, and schools of contemplation arose to train the mind so that it is not overwhelmed by the mysteries of the Universe. These schools were the first Temples.

Every Gilkesh science student has heard of the great mathematician Zedkis, who pioneered the theory of infinity and went quite mad; or Morva, the natural philosopher who proved the existence of many universes - the foundation of hyperspace travel - and died by her own hand.

But other kinds of knowledge have their own dangers ...


In the Internal Security office of the colony on Planet 138, Chief Garris hasn't shown up for work for a couple of days. Her second-in-command, Inspector Shihar, knows her boss well enough not to ask any questions. Whatever it is, she figures she'll find out soon enough. She suspects it has something to do with that book they're not supposed to talk about.


Alone with her memories under the stars, Queen Amira wonders how it all went so wrong. Her ecstatic embraces with her young assistant Joli, now turned from a shining hope to a guilty memory - one she must forever conceal from her mate Kathris. Never again can she let Kathris awaken her passion; she cannot risk letting down her mental defenses, for fear of what the other Queen might discover about her past.

Life was so much better, so much sweeter, when she was young. And again her thoughts return to her native land of Ullari, and to her first lover, Terimi.

And to Terimi's last words ...

The Book

Apr. 29th, 2009 09:38 am
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[Click here for the story so far.]

The Book of Q'ormis was not banned in the realms of Oroven.  In Ullari to the south, however, it was banned. 

Following the exposure of the Singularity cult in the capital city of Ullari, and the subsequent suicides of hundreds of its members and of its founder Q'ormis, the Queen of Ullari and its parliamentary government proscribed Singularity and its teachings in perpetuity.  Within two or three generations, all traces of the cult's existence had been expunged from official records and histories.  The few highly-placed officials who knew the truth believed that they had eradicated the threat.

In Oroven to the north, the situation was different.  Because Singularity had not grown on their own soil, the queens, princesses, and ministers of that realm saw no urgent need to conceal its existence.  So if a scholar wished to learn the little that was known about Q'ormis and her followers, she would have to travel to the libraries of Oroven, thousands of miles from the lands where the events actually took place.

The leaders of Ullari believed they had eliminated the threat from their land, while the leaders of Oroven imagined that it was never present in theirs.  Both were wrong.

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Joli steps out of the elevator and onto the terrace, high on some remote section of the Palace Compound. Queen Amira is waiting for her, leaning against the ornamented iron railing. She looks different, somehow, this time - or maybe she just looks different to Joli.

Amira gives Joli a playful, flirtatious look - inviting the young adviser to make the first move, playing the game, weaving the great fantasy that both of them have been living. The fantasy that she, Queen Amira, isn't one of the two most powerful women on the planet; the fantasy that in some romantic and magical way, the two of them are truly equals.

The Queen's gown is light violet with a bright red trim that seems to glow in the starlight. Its low neckline draws Joli's gaze down to Amira's gentle curves. Amira's face is shadowless in the starry night.

She's irresistible - and yet, Joli can resist. Something has changed. Joli realizes, with a finality that is both liberating and heartbreaking, that the spell is broken. Suddenly she feels older than Amira.

And why does Joli think of her mother now - Lhior, her birthmother, the woman who gave her life, and who was taken from her when Joli was still a child? Growing up, Joli watched her widowed bondmother age, the time and grief deepening the lines in Khalfid's face. But Lhior - Lhior was the mother who would never age.

But I'm getting older, Joli thinks.

And she thinks: I'm not looking for my mother anymore.

She takes a step forward, no longer self-conscious about her own clothing or anything else. Absent-mindedly she runs the fingers of one hand along the polished brass rings of the giant armillary sphere that sits in the center of the terrace. The antique device shows the positions of all fourteen planets known to the ancients, its mechanism kept working with centuries of tender care by the royal astronomers.

The universe moves on, Joli thinks, and we move with it. It doesn't take an astrophysicist to understand that much. Thinking now of her friend Dess, Joli remembers something Dess once told her: "You change the future at every moment, with every choice you make in life."

There's a rustling of wings above, as a crow perches on one of the upper rings of the armillary sphere. Joli takes a step towards Queen Amira and gives a formal curtsy.

"Your Majesty," she begins, "there is something I must tell you."


Aug. 17th, 2007 08:56 am
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The Queen's Courtesan

Something's been wrong for a long time. Khalfid remembers their lovemaking in the early years, strong and passionate. Even after Joli arrived, with Lhior having to wake up at all hours of dayphase to feed her, they'd found time.

But gradually Lhior had become distant and withdrawn. She lost interest in sex, and began to pull away when Khalfid would embrace her. Eventually she would not allow her wife to even touch her. And there were other odd things, too: Lhior became more and more preoccupied with the idea of motherhood - sometimes giving rambling monologues about the angel Eve, and the Great Mother - and less and less interested in mothering the child she herself had birthed. (As Joli grew older, it would be Khalfid's responsibility to take care of her training and education, and to prepare her to enter the universe as an adult - the same tasks that would fall to Lhior when Khalfid bore a birthdaughter of her own. But Khalfid was beginning to wonder whether that would ever happen - and whether she really wanted to entrust a child of her own womb to Lhior.)

And every so often, she'd notice Lhior reading from that book ... the book that had mysteriously appeared one day, and that would, just as mysteriously, disappear.

They call it dayphase, because it's the period when people usually sleep. There's no real day/night cycle on Planet 138; the distant stars that are the planet's "suns" rise and sets every thirty days or so, but most of the colony's population live underground. So nightphase and dayphase are matters of convention, but they do matter.

Lhior has just zipped little Joli into her sleeping pouch, after turning on the bright lamp in her room for a few minutes to make her drowsy and help her sleep. Now she walks into the bedroom to have that talk with Khalfid - the talk she's been dreading, and the talk she knows she must have.

Khalfid is lying on her side of the bed, facing outward. (As adults, they have enough bodyweight to sleep comfortably in regular beds, even in Planet 138's low gravity.) Lhior reaches across and touches Khalfid's shoulder, then strokes the sleeve of her daygown.

Khalfid meets Lhior's eyes, and, without a word - for the first time in much too long - they embrace.

explicit )


Jul. 8th, 2007 04:44 pm
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The Queen's Courtesan


With the last of the bodies buried, the Chief Priestess site alone in the library of the temple.

The plague had swept through the town first. The townsfolk had watched their mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters die, and had begged the priestesses - women of learning, surely - for help. But none of the herbs and extracts in the old scrolls offered any protection; so the people had turned to the traveling witches, foolish old women with no more learning than a stone has, who made extravagant promises and offered worthless charms. And when the charms failed and the people still died, the witches were stoned or burned at the stake.

It was the priestesses' honesty - the courage to say "We can do nothing" - that had spared them that fate; a promise must be made to be betrayed. (Though perhaps, given just a little more time, the townspeople would have turned against them as well.) And most likely it was their ritual purity practices - the strict dietary codes, the ritual washing three times a night, and the code of celibacy that required each priestess to sleep in her own cell - that had spared the priestesses from the plague. For a time.

But the best dam cannot hold back a flood forever, and finally - with the surviving villagers now getting back to the business of living - the plague struck the temple, and struck it hard. The chanting and the meditations had stopped long ago. After that, there had been only the screaming and the moaning and the stepping over the bodies of the dead to comfort the dying.

In the end, the plague had taken three priestesses of every five. The Chief Priestess wonders if it is a punishment from the Universal Life Force that she has been allowed to live.

It's late. Zir, the sun, is not yet high in the sky, but already it's getting hot. Yet the heat and the sunlight are not making her drowsy. A wind blows in from the Eastern Desert, blowing dust and (so they say) madness through the doors and windows of the temple. The Chief Priestess breathes deep.

Everything in the Universe, she knows, goes in cycles. The moons, the planets, the seasons. And the lives of mortals too. She can still feel the scars on her wrists and ankles from the years she spent in Queen Derenil's prison. Hard years, those. But look how it had all ended: the Southern Realm in revolt, and Queen Derenil's head on a pike outside of a looted palace. Cycles, cycles.

And now this. Is it my turn to be Queen Derenil? she wonders fleetingly, and rejects the thought. No, there is a reason for everything, and there's a reason for this. She must have been spared alive for a reason; perhaps, to bear witness.

She turns her attention back to the ancient texts before her - the Books of the Oracles, the Books of the Sages, and the Cypher. Always that impenetrable mystery, the Cypher.

In the beginning dwells the end,
and in the end dwells the beginning.

And in the beginning dwells ... well, that's the idea, she thinks. Even now.

Even now, the townsfolk are beginning to forget. To forget the passion of the revolution and the horror of the plague. They lose themselves in decadent music and immoral dancing and bad hairstyles; they care nothing for what's real and true and eternal.

Even now, the Temple Orders are decaying. It began long before the plague, of course. People have forgotten the Great Way. There is too much faith in the wrong things: angels and saints and magic charms. We're scarcely better than those witches, she thinks, or the ancient pagans who worshiped pantheons of goddesses.

What's needed is a purification, and a return to the source. A return to the Universal Mother. It could take generations, it could take centuries. But now, as the vision of a future world grows in her mind - a world redeemed and purified - she finds the will to move forward.

She puts pen to paper and begins to write.

From one source emerge
all created things,
And to their source they must return
at the end of nights ...

Her purpose is clear as the vision unfolds upon her.

Q'ormis is forty-one years old; in Gilkesh terms, that's not even middle age.


Jun. 24th, 2007 08:53 pm
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The Queen's Courtesan

A world is a big place. On some parts of Darkhaven, the changes brought about a complete upheaval; but in most of the settled parts of the planet, they were scarcely noticed.

For the community of the Sunset Temple, located in a mountain area far from any government or military facility, it meant little more than lowering the Kathrite flag and raising a new one, and filling out a new set of paperwork for the new government. Study, meditation, and practice would continue more or less as they had since the temple was founded.

In one of the many hexagonal cells of the temple's library, two new priestesses sit hunched over a book. They passed through the novitiate together and they're inseparable, though it's hard to imagine a more unlikely pair. The younger one is tall, elegant, poised, and exquisitely beautiful. The Chief Priestess would like to sit her in the back during meditation so she won't distract the others, but she can't because the young woman is constantly winning scholarship honors and so must be seated in the front. But it's in community service and compassionate work that she really shines, volunteering at the clinic in town well in excess of her required hours, and still finding time to take on extra duties in the temple.

The other woman is only older by a few years, but the difference in their ages appears greater than it is. She is lean and wiry but could not be called graceful. She makes up in dogged determination what she lacks in ... well, just about everything else.

Now they're studying a difficult passage from one of the Books of the Oracles.

"Listen to your heart," the beautiful one is saying. "Let it speak to you. It's like the riddle we used in meditation tonight - 'What is the speed of sound in a vacuum?' It's not meant to be understood rationally."

Their eyes meet for a moment.

"So, how are you two doing in there?" It's the Chief Priestess, whose timing is impeccable, standing by the doorway.

"Very well, ma'am," the younger woman says, rising to her feet. "Atubis is mastering the material admirably."

"Excellent," the Chief Priestess says, "excellent. Keep up the good work, Sestris."


Jun. 21st, 2007 06:30 pm
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The Queen's Courtesan


She turns the pages of the printbook, gazes at the pictures, runs her fingers over the signatures. Some of the names are written in delicate, flowing characters ... those women were always the toughest ones.

There they are, in words and pictures: together for the last time. Another class completing the brutal training for the elite Shadow Regiment, Queen Kathris’ secret weapon against pirates and raiders.

En-Qhoi remembers the ceremony at the remote post of Kor Ethrim, the Shadow Regiment’s main training camp and headquarters on the planet Darkhaven. Most of the graduates had all they could do to stand upright, still fatigued and sore from endless marches and combat drills. But they stood, and stood proudly. From there, the newly inducted warriors – some barely more than girls – would be transported to critical outposts and colonies in the Kathrite domain. For En-Qhoi, herself a native of Darkhaven, it would be the beginning of several years of service in the defense of her own homeworld – years that are now about to end.

The faces and the names. The entry under her own name in the yearbook records that her training platoon voted her “most likely to bring a gun to a knife fight.” Which is ironic, because she’s always preferred knives.

En-Qhoi stands at relaxed attention in front of Captain Daria’s desk. She knows the news is going to be bad; the only thing left to her imagination is how bad. And it seems like an eternity as she waits for the CO to put her out of her misery.

“Generally, you know,” the captain begins abruptly, as if resuming a train of thought broken off a moment ago, “you’ve got a pretty good record with aliens. That joint patrol with the Errioi, and the police action out in Fao space ... very professional, very solid.” She pauses uncomfortable. “And with the Humans, too, usually. It’s just that this last incident ... well, I think we all agree that it was an understandable over-reaction on your part. But it was still an over-reaction.”

En-Qhoi knows what’s coming next. Over-reaction is one of the gravest sins in the world of Special Security; there’s no place for hotheads in outfits like the Shadow Regiment. She knows she’s going to be saying goodbye to her Shadow crest and hello to a career behind a computer.  If she's lucky.

The captain goes on. “So I think it’s a good time to give you a little change of pace. At least until this, um, unfortunate occurrence is forgotten.”

Dimly, En-Qhoi wonders if this “change of pace” will involve making big rocks into little rocks.

Suddenly, as if it had been teleported there without warning, a document on the captain’s desk seems to capture her gaze. “Now we’re in luck, because there’s something coming up that I think will be just the thing. We’ve been tasked with this mission by the Queen herself. Ever heard of Voha?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Good, because if you had, I’d have to shoot you. Just kidding.” The CO allows herself a narrow smile. “It’s a planet in an extremely remote system in Sector Nine. Its existence isn’t a secret, exactly, but it falls in the category of ‘things we don’t talk much about’. Officially it’s classed as ‘uninhabited’. That’s technically true because there’s nothing we recognize as organic life there. But ...”

En-Qhoi’s mood meter has swung from “impending doom” to “dumbfounded”. It’s now inching back towards “impending doom”, but on a much bigger scale.

En-Qhoi has been wondering if anybody upstairs is concerned about the Amirite scouts that have been appearing in Darkhaven’s system lately. Now it appears the answer is no – at least if Kathris thinks the number one priority is some obscure planetary system nobody’s heard of. En-Qhoi has always admired the Queen, and she feels like a traitor for questioning her judgment; but with the Shadow Regiment’s resources as limited as they are, this makes no sense at all.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Daria says, accurately. “I’ve been made aware of your concerns about the Amirites’ incursions into this planetary system. And to be honest with you – this is just between us – I tend to agree with you. But they see things differently back on Shakti. There’s even talk of negotiations with the Amirites ... possible joint control over some of the colonies.”

Like this one? En-Qhoi wants to ask. But she already knows the answer.

“Listen, En-Qhoi. I don’t pretend to know what they’re thinking back on the Homeworld. Sometimes I think the Supreme Council are just a bunch of crazy old ladies. But Queen Kathris – and I know you know this – she’s no fool. So if she thinks this mission to Voha is important, well, I’d take it if I were you. Here’s the data file with all the mission details – I don’t even know what’s in it. But I’m tasking you with the Voha mission, and I expect you to carry it out.”

Captain Daria, who normally looks more like a librarian than a warrior, now gets that steely glint in her eyes that reminds En-Qhoi why the CO’s nickname is “Captain Death”.

“Do it for Queen Kathris.”

“Yes, ma’am.” En-Qhoi feels a chill and a shudder as the full weight of this hits home, and she takes the data crystal from the commader’s hand with trembling fingers.

“Oh, and one other thing.”


“Try not to rip anybody’s arm off this time, okay?”

“I’ll do my best, ma’am.”


Jun. 15th, 2007 05:56 pm
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The Queen's Courtesan.

Chapter 32:  Darkhaven.

The system sits in the middle of a dust cloud, and its star is hard to locate from a distance.  The planet lives up to its name (Morg-ye-Kur in the Gilkesh language) because, though the dayside is as bright as that of Shakti, its night sky is unusually poor in stars.  Generations ago, space explorers from the Northern Realm – then ruled by one of Kathris’ grandmothers, Queen Turem – discovered it almost by accident, and immediately knew its strategic value, as did Queen Kathris when she acceeded to the Northern throne.  She saw Darkhaven as a vital bulwark against the loose coalition of rival tribes from the Southern Realm, now gathering power under a petty chieftain named Amira.


Few of the Kathrite warriors who defended the outpost from pirates expected a direct attack from the Amirites.  Those who did, generally supposed the Amirites weak (“undisciplined romantics” was the common, contemptuous term among the Kathrite fighters) and did not take the threat seriously.


One young Kathrite warrior grasped the folly of underestimating the enemy.  Her name was En-Qhoi.

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The Queen's Courtesan:  Our story so far.

Chapter 31:  They will not remember you.

If you go there now, you will see them.

Travel back in time, to the place you can't get past; come in at a low orbit around this distant world.

Maybe you've been here before.  You've watched their security ships rise to escort you, silver dots against the big night, advancing slowly towards you like travelers across an ancient valley.

They will not remember you.  You'll play your part like an actor and you will know your lines well.  For them, it will be the first time.  Always the first time.  You will introduce yourself as a visitor from their future - perhaps you are of another race, perhaps one of their own.

They will not welcome you.  They will treat you with suspicion, as they would any alien.  They're not used to seeing aliens.  They want to know what you can offer their settlement.  You must bring beads and trinkets:  a fusion reactor, a hyperspace drive.

They will not love you.  A visitor from the future does not bring them any hope, because it is their past they've lost:  their homeworld, their families. 

They will not remember you.  After you have gone, returned to your universe and its comforts, they will remain behind.  They don't want your world.  They will keep your treasures and your technology.  But they'll forget your face and your name.

You do not belong to Darkhaven.
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Or is to become one. I made that decision today. What that means is that I've finally started thinking seriously about turning this project into an actual, buy-it-at-the-store-and-put-it-on-the-shelf, book. The whole idea of Writing A Novel is so scary and intimidating that I didn't want to deal with it. But as I get more deeply involved in the writing process, I find that the scary part is diminishing and the desire to see the story in print is increasing.

Obviously, what I've been posting online is a long way from being a novel as it now stands. So this means I'll need to put a lot of work into fleshing it out, filling in the details of the setting and characters, working out the kinks in the plot, polishing the prose, and generally turning it into a respectable - and publishable - piece of writing. And when I get to that stage, I'll start looking for editorial input and suggestions.

First though, I want to get the story finished. I'm still writing TQC as entertainment and I want it to be fun to read. (I'm having fun writing it.) After that, the real work begins.

Mostly I'm happy with the way it's going so far. There are a few things I'm not happy with (the plot device where Dess "just happens" to spot the creepy bronzed egg in Sestris' apartment is *unbearably* contrived) but the freedom to do stuff like that is what allows me to feel comfortable enough to keep writing.

Anyway, here is the link to The Queen's Courtesan.

Tea Leaves

Mar. 20th, 2007 10:42 pm
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The Queen's Courtesan

There is only one Zero.

Every field office assigns numbers to its agents by seniority, from One (the operations director) down to the lowliest clerk. So there is one One, one Two, one Three, and so on, for every operation with at least so many agents. But the number Zero is reserved for the Director of Earth Central Intelligence, so there is only one Zero. And right now, he's having a bad day.

The Gilkesh have always been a headache, but never a direct threat. At least, not since ... but that's ancient history. They are a proud race, they have their own ways, and you definitely do not want to get on their bad side. But they've never been a direct threat to Earth Coalition.

Here's the thing of it, though. Someone out there in the Gilkesh region is building some very strange structures in deep space, and is taking great care to keep them from being seen. And over the past few months, there have been reports of fluctuations in spacetime over an enormous volume of space. Officially, of course, the story is that there is a naturally occurring warp in spacetime around the known inhabited region of the Galaxy - and that's partly true. But the picture painted by the intelligence reports suggests that someone, somewhere, is exploiting that warp - that anomaly - for reasons Zero can't begin to guess.

So the question becomes: What in the hell are those gals up to? And here's where it gets really thorny. Because despite all the public proclamations, the Gilkesh have never really had a unified planetary government. They are a deeply tribal and factional society - as we all are, Zero muses - and the unity government in Dharfid is only a thin glue holding the Kathrite and Amirite factions together. You can't explain all this to the windbags up in the Earth Assembly, of course - hell, the last Intelligence Minister couldn't tell you the difference between an Amirite and a Kathrite - but somebody has to stay up nights worrying about this stuff.

The word from the best sources of SENTINT (what used to be called "HUMINT" in the old pre-Contact days) has it that the Amirites are behind it. In fact, one highly-placed source in the Palace claims that the two Queens haven't spoken to each other for weeks - and that Amira may be planning a surprise attack on Kathris' forces in an attempt to take over all of Shakti, and with it the whole Gilkesh Empire.

Zero doesn't know whether to believe that or not, but officially Earth Central has to pretend it believes the myth of a single Gilkesh government. He's got an agent assigned to the party sent there to discuss the Anomaly. They'll be meeting with Kathris, although Zero suspects Amira really knows more about it.

Zero would like to talk to the local agents at the Border Planet station, but no one has been able to reach them for a couple of hours.


Baxton Coulich looks over his shoulder at the Earth Alliance issue shuttlecraft parked on the landing pad. Witt Farrow, who's finished doing whatever he was doing back there, is walking across the tarmac to join him. Witt looks awfully flustered for some reason, but this isn't the time to press him on it.

Coulich allows himself a quick look around at the Gilkesh spaceport. The area set aside for Humans is brightly lit, to accommodate the offworlders' less acute night vision. He appreciates the thought but wonders if it's really necessary; he's curious to see what the rest of their world looks like. Farther off in the distance, he can make out the buildings and other structures, glowing gently in the night, and the big illuminated signs that hover in the air. He picks out the few words of the language he can read - MAINTENANCE, REFUELING, CUSTOMS - and he thinks of the first time he ever saw that kind of writing. It was in a book, oddly enough, aboard a Fao spacecraft, with nary a Gilkeshni in sight. He never did find out how the book got there, or who was reading it, or why.

Just as Witt joins him, he sees an autocar pull up. Three Gilkesh women - two in some kind of uniform he hasn't seen before, and one in what looks like plain clothes - get out and walk towards the two men; he's not sure, but he thinks he sees a fourth figure in the car. It's a bigger welcome party than he was expecting.

"So," Baxton Coulich says, turning to the group, "I guess this is where I say, 'Take me to your leader.'"


Atubis puts the communicator away. One more time, she checks her shoulder bag: her personal items, two books, a curious artifact, and her friend. She knows she ought to be carrying protection; but Atubis doesn't like guns.


The Gilkesh have been wanderers since the earliest times. The stars are their constant friends and companions, and long before the age of space flight, nomad tribes would travel across the plains and deserts of Shakti, guided by the stars. Now, standing on the roof deck of one of the buildings in the Palace compound, Amira gazes into the sky as if this would reveal the shape of the danger to her - or else, show her the way to go.

She feels as if she doesn't know Kathris anymore. Did she ever? Kathris, once her enemy, now her wife ... and still, to Amira, the deepest mystery.

But there are other mysteries, the ones Kathris knows about but won't talk about. Amira desperately wants answers, but if she can't find answers, she'll settle for comfort. And at least she will have that soon. Joli is here - here on Shakti, somewhere out there in the Capital City below - and soon Amira will be able to see her. But it's not safe yet.

Nothing is safe. Amira shivers, suddenly cold despite the warm night air. Once again, she thinks of her first lover, Terimi - how they met and how they loved.

And how Terimi died.

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So I got up at my usual 5am after getting to sleep at about 1am. But I slept about an hour earlier in the evening yesterday. So I should get through the day all right.

Nothing quite like getting all your bills paid at 1 in the morning!

The new job is going better than I first thought it would, and the work day generally goes pretty quickly. They let you wear headphones on the job, which is nice, and it allows me to study my Arabic and Farsi while working.

Going to finally, really and truly, finish writing that new chapter to The Queen's Courtesan today. I'm taking my writing pad on my coffee breaks.

I've been getting traffic on the Stephanie tribute site, which is immensely gratifying.

Finished editing and tagging all my old entries.

[ profile] stilken's comment got me to thinking about the intersections between my LJ life and the rest of my-life-in-the-world. More later .....
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So, I've finally started writing chapter 30 of my two-page short story (ha ha) and should have the chapter finished by the end of this weekend. I'm dividing the narrative into ten-chapter sections, for no particular reason except it helps me keep a little bit of structure; so this will be the conclusion of Part III. I think Part IV may include some flashbacks, in fact the whole next section may be set "in the past" because I'm realizing I need to bring the reader up to speed on some of the backstory and it's probably most economical if I just shift scenes and narrate it directly.

Originally the story was just supposed to be about Kathris, Amira, and the affair. But then I realized I needed to give Joli a friend or two, so Dess and Atubis appeared. And then I had to create some kind of concrete external threat, and so I conjured up the Anomaly. Finally I thought I ought to add an internal threat as well, so ... Singularity.

There's an extraordinary double episode of Xena titled "Sacrifice". This is the one where Xena and Gabrielle rescue Seraphin from a cultic sacrifice and learn that she's become a devotee of Hope, the goddess of Dahak. Xena realizes that civilization may be destroyed unless Hope is killed and her nihilistic cult overthrown. She enlists the help of Callisto, who is tired of immortality and yearns for oblivion. In the end, though, an old favor is called in, and Gabrielle understands that she must sacrifice her own life to save Xena.

What makes this story so amazing is that all four primary characters - Xena, Gabrielle, Seraphin, and Callisto - all seek the same thing: death. But they all want it for different reasons. Xena understands that she may have to sacrifice her life to save the world, and Gabrielle knows that "if Xena kills Hope, Xena will die" - so she herself must kill Hope (her own daughter) to save Xena ... giving up her own life as well. Seraphin wants to give her life in order to bring the apocalypse. And Callisto simply wants to end it all. (For some reason I was weirdly reminded of the Jewish legend of "The Four Who Entered Paradise" ... but that's another story.)

This is where I got the idea for Singularity. They are a doomsday cult very much like the followers of Hope and Dahak. And this is what makes them so dangerous: because their motives are completely incomprehensible to anyone else.

This also kind of goes back to one of the key themes I'm playing with in the Gilkesh material - the temptation of the "return to the source". (I explored this in depth in the chapter on "Lilith", which presents various characters' interpretations of the role of Lilith in Gilkesh mythology.) The seductiveness of Singularity's brand of mysticism is the secret of their attractiveness to certain people.

Singularity originated on Shakti, but its membership is no longer confined to the Gilkesh. After the death of its founder Q'ormis (the Q-apostrophe is pronounced like a guttural G, by the way) and her followers, the cult was believed to be extinct but in fact it went underground. With the advent of space travel its members began recruiting converts from among the Humans, the Fao, and the other intelligent races.

The current political picture on Shakti is one of superficial stability. Kathris and Amira both emerged as clan leaders. Their marriage was intended to bring union and stability to Shakti, but it's looking pretty shaky now. Needless to say, Amira's affair with Joli isn't going to help matters. Meanwhile at Earth Central Intelligence, the Humans are watching all this and trying to "read the tea leaves" regarding the internal politics of their galactic neighbors. For this, they depend on an informant within the Gilkesh government ... but how reliable this informant is, is open to question. As we shall soon see.

The main plot of TQC still revolves around the Kathris-Amira-Joli triangle. The complications will emanate from the various major and minor characters' relationships with one another, and their responses to the Singularity threat.

Here's the link to the story. The current chapter (scroll to bottom) is still in progress.


Feb. 14th, 2007 11:23 pm
asher553: (Default)
Numero uno! Dil-e wat!*

I finally beat out AndersonGold Films.

*"Number one" in Gilkesh.
asher553: (Default)
If you're just tuning in, here's a plot summary for The Queen's Courtesan. The summary lists 30 chapters; I've only written up to 29 but I should have chapter 30 up before too long.

TQC plot summary )
asher553: (Default)
"The Queen's Courtesan" - our story so far:

Kathris doesn't look anything like Dess was envisioning her. She's poised and elegant, solemn and worried-looking ... in short, a middle-aged woman with a lot on her mind. Seated to one side of her at the circular table is an elderly, professorial-looking woman whom Kathris introduces as her science adviser; the name, when the Queen gives it, sounds familiar to Dess, and she realizes with a jolt that the same name appeared as the author of one of the standard textbooks she studied in University. (Dess prays that the subject of her grades won't come up.) On the other side of Kathris is the Homeworld Security Chief, who looks (Dess thinks irreverently) rather witchlike; Dess wonders if she has the ability to read minds.

The fifth chair is empty. "One of my senior advisers couldn't be here," Kathris explains, "she had other commitments. Now then, as to the reason we're here. I'll make it short and sweet: There's something strange happening in outer space."


In a spaceport on the outskirts of the Capital City, two Humans step out of a shuttlecraft and onto the landing pad. Baxton Coulich takes a deep breath and looks around; he wishes he'd gotten to see more of the city on the way in, but the nature of a landing from a low-orbit jump point isn't conducive to sightseeing. He looks back through the ship door and sees his partner fiddling intently with the radio.

"You go on ahead, Bax," the other man says, "their liaison is probably waiting for us just inside the control station. I'll catch up with you as soon as I finish recalibrating the radio."

After Coulich is well out of sight, the man heaves a sigh, turns back to the radio, and tries again. "Landing successful, Seven. We are on Shakti. Come in if you copy, Seven. Seven ... Seven, are you there?"


Dess leaves the meeting last, following Queen Kathris and the two officials. Her heart is in her throat. Her brain is still spinning from everything she's heard. She's been asked to come back for a second meeting - and to bring Joli! Numbly, she finds her way to the elevators that will take her back to the ground level; alone in the vast halls, she feels entombed in the enormous building.

There's a bar in the lobby of the Palace building, and even though it's early, Dess feels a nice drink wouldn't be a bad thing. And even though she only has a few credits left in her account (amid all the talk of dangers from outer space, somehow the subject of her paycheck never came up), she finds the lure of the bar irresistible. Somehow, it's the one place she wants to be right now.

"Can I buy you a drink?" At first Dess isn't sure the stranger is talking to her, but when their eyes meet there's no doubt. She's sitting in a corner, out of the way and not easy to see - like a fugitive, Dess thinks, and her sense of adventure is aroused.

The woman holds her gaze for another moment, and Dess starts thinking about all sorts of adventures. When she sits down, the stranger touches her forearm, ever so gently, with her fingertips. Dess goes weak.

"I can join you for a few minutes," Dess says feebly, grateful just to have somebody to talk to. "But I really have to leave soon."

"Well, that makes two of us," the stranger says with a conspiratorial smirk, "so why don't we just skip the drink and go back to my place?"


She lives in the Palace Compound, just a few minutes away by autocar. The view from the window of her luxurious apartment is breathtaking. Dess still hasn't gotten the stranger's name, but at the moment she's not too concerned about that. She's fascinating and exciting - from their conversation, Dess has learned that she has a very high position in the Palace, and has gotten all kinds of awards for her work in organizing disaster relief operations.

"Like the view?" the woman's voice says from behind her, and Dess turns in time to see her dress slide down her shoulders, continue reading )
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"The Queen's Courtesan" - our story so far:

Better that Amira doesn't know. Kathris wishes she could reach her, see into her soul the way she once could, in the days when Amira would heave in ecstasy under Kathris' touch. But that's gone now. Kathris feels like a thief, knowing that she can still become aroused by Amira's caresses ... she shakes her head to drive the thought away. There's enough to worry about already.

Sestris looks like an angel of grace in the starlight. She is incontrovertibly beautiful - Kathris supposes she could have any woman she wanted, if she chose; but as far as she knows, Sestris lives alone and keeps to herself. Her hands rest gracefully on the wooden table in the small, six-walled meeting room.

"So," Kathris is saying, "I'm calling two meetings tonight to discuss the space-warping phenomenon. The Humans are coming to the second one - I want to discuss the latest developments we've observed in their sector. I'm going to need a translator for that. First, though, I need to find out what's going on in Gilkesh space, and get some input from our experts. You'll be there, of course, and then that scientist ..." Kathris flips through the stack of files, her mind wandering as the colors of the displays flash across the thin plastic sheets. She spots the name she's looking for.

"This one," she says, pulling a file out of the stack, "the young specialist you recommended - the one named Dess - I think she's a good choice. She'll be at the meeting. She doesn't know about the situation yet, of course, for security reasons."

"I quite understand," Sestris says, "we don't want to start a panic."

Kathris sighs. "It's not just that." She debates whether to tell Sestris more; but seeing the look on the other woman's face - so trusting, so innocent - she decides she can't keep her in the dark any longer. She goes on.

"As far as anybody knows - that is, those who know about the Anomaly - this is a natural, cosmological phenomenon. And to the best of our knowledge, it doesn't pose a danger to any of the inhabited worlds ... at least, not yet.

"But the most recent observations show some peculiarities in the behavior of the Anomaly - that is, things that are strange, even for this. The warped region has been growing. And it's been changing in ways very different from our predictions - almost as if it were being deliberately shaped or manipulated."

"But that's impossible!" Sestris protests. "It's like something out of science fiction."

Kathris shakes her head. "It would take an enormous amount of energy - but it's theoretically possible that a party with access to zero-point technology could be behind it."

"But who would do such a thing?"

"That's the cosmic question," Kathris says. "But that has to come later. Right now I'm focusing on understanding the nature of the phenomenon."

"Well, Dess is the one you need. She's young, but her resume in applied spacetime physics is impressive." Sestris holds up a finger, signaling that an important thought has just come to her. "Did you say you needed a translator?"

"That's right - and, I might as well tell you this, given the sensitive nature of the situation, it should be somebody with a strong background in alien cultures."

"Well, there you are then! You should call in that girl from Amira's council - she's good friends with Dess. What's her name - Joli, I think ..."

Seeing Kathris' puzzled look, Sestris frowns. "You're familiar with her, right? She's one of Amira's closest advisers."

Kathris shakes her head. "The name doesn't ring a bell. Amira keeps pretty much to herself these days, you know."

After the briefest pause, Sestris says, "I'd noticed. Still, I'm surprised she never mentioned Joli to you ..." There's another, longer pause. "You know, now that I think about it, I wonder whether Joli would be such a wise choice after all. Forget I mentioned her."

"What do you mean, forget you mentioned her? What are you saying?"

"Oh, I'm not saying anything! She works for Amira, after all - and I'm sure her loyalty is beyond question."

"Joli's loyalty, you mean?"

"Oh, that too! And as far as Amira - well, I understand how things are. She gets lonely - which isn't your fault, she's never really adapted to Palace politics, you know - and she needs somebody to talk to. I'm sure that's all it is."

Kathris feels her bones tremble. It's all she can do to keep her voice level. "Get out," she says in a low hiss. "Get out of my palace, you slandering bitch, and don't ever let me see your face again. You're lucky I don't call the guards and give you a one-way ticket to orbit - with no pressure suit. Now get out - and don't ever come back."

Sestris quickly makes her way to the door and hurries down the hall. Around the corner, she sees a familiar figure.

"Mission accomplished," Sestris says.
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If you're one of the two or three people following my story The Queen's Courtesan / Space Lesbians, I've got about four or five episodes in the works now and they should be posted soon.  The story is now at about 14,000 words, which is much longer than anything I've attempted before.

The story itself is meant as entertainment, not "art", and keeping that in mind has made it a lot easier to write.  In fact, aside from the (negligible) literary value of the story itself, the project has gotten me in the habit of writing, which is something that hadn't happened before.  What I'm saying is, it was a great way to get past perfectionism and other self-defeating habits, and build momentum, confidence, and proficiency.  So if I do get ambitious in the future and aspire to writing something a little more serious, I'll be in a much better position to do it.

Meanwhile ... just in case you're wondering what language the characters are speaking, I've created a Gilkesh language home page.  Currently posted are PDFs of the 600-word core vocabulary;  in the future I'll add sections on the grammar. 

So if you were looking for conclusive proof that I have way too much time on my hands, there you are.
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Our story so far:

Dess can't believe what the message on her communicator is saying. She shows it to Joli, who can't believe it either.

"The Palace? You're going to the Imperial Palace?"

Dess just shakes her head. "It's gotta be a mistake." She knew her new job was with the Government, but she's been expecting to be sent to some minor office of the Astronomy Ministry. Not the Imperial Palace.

She reads the message on the screen again. In a couple of hours' time - this very night - she's to report to the Imperial Palace for an urgent meeting with Queen Kathris. Dess grabs her hairbrush and starts brushing furiously in front of the big mirror in the hotel room.

"So," Joli manages, "d'ya still think Kathris is scary?"

Dess thinks the whole thing is scary. "I wish you could go with me."

Joli giggles nervously. "And meet Kathris? Wouldn't that go over well!" There's an awkward silence for a moment, and Joli adds, "Dess, do you think she suspects?" Her voice sounds distant and fearful now.

Dess shrugs. "How would I know? I've never been to the Palace before. I'll keep my eyes and ears open, though, in case she says anything. Have you heard from ... from her?"

"No. Amira hasn't contacted me. I mean, she must be pretty busy, with all the stuff that's going on." Joli gazes out the hotel window at the city lights.

"Well, maybe she'll call you in for some 'special assignment', right? I mean, officially you're an adviser to Queen Amira, so she can call you in any time. You're one of the Queen's courtiers."

"Sometimes I feel more like the Queen's courtesan. I love her, Dess. And I know she has feelings for me. But I still feel like I'm being used. Like I'm a pawn in some big game. And it's horrible." She turns away from the window.


Dess meets Joli's gaze, which is suddenly intense. "Yeah?"

"Be careful."

"Listen, Joli, if me taking this job would create, you know, problems for you, I won't - "

"No, that's not what I mean. This is a great opportunity for you and I don't want you to miss it. But what I'm saying is, be careful of getting mixed up in Palace politics. Listen, most people - most intelligent life forms, everywhere in the universe - are basically good. But some of 'em are mean, and some of 'em are just evil. You remember the disaster at Fao Colony 12?"

"Yeah, it happened when we were still in school, didn't it? A power station on the colony had a runaway thermonuclear event, and it destroyed almost the whole colony. The Gilkesh homeworld sent a rescue party to help the survivors."

Joli nods. "That's true, and the rescue party saved hundreds of Fao lives, and they did good." She pauses. "But some of 'em did bad. What they didn't tell us in school ... was that some of the rescuers went through the wreckage looking for souvenirs."

Joli swallows hard before going on. "They found nurseries full of unhatched eggs, with Fao babies still inside. Had 'em bronzed."

The trip to the Imperial Palace seems to take an eternity.

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