This is not exactly the catchiest title for a post I’ve ever come up with but at least it’s serviceable. Sadly I don’t really have a title for my book yet, not even a ‘serviceable’ one so I would appreciate some thoughts from YOU out there.
The story is set on a planet called Vokhtah. Vokhtah circles an earth-like sun which is part of a binary system – i.e. two suns. The second sun is a red dwarf. I toyed with the idea of calling the series ‘The Suns of Vokhtah’ but then I thought readers would ‘hear’ the word as sons instead of suns and that would be bad because the intelligent inhabitants of the planet are all hermaphrodites so there are no sons per se. Besides, the story isn’t really about the suns, it’s about the beings who live on the planet – the Vokh and the iVokh. [And yes, the Vokh are arrogant enough to name the planet after themselves].
As you can see I’m getting nowhere fast on the whole title problem.
Another issue I’d like some feedback on is the prologue. All of my beta readers [may you be blessed for your patience and diplomacy!] commented that they were overwhelmed with the flood of new terminology and concepts I’d hit them with. They understood that I was using the ‘dump them in at the deep end and hope they swim’ technique, however they pointed out that said technique leads to a lot of drownings when everything is new and the reader has no human angle with which to orient themselves. Basically what all that means is that all of my characters are aliens and there are no humans who can ‘explain’ what’s going on.
When I first started writing the story I did have a human in there but when The Daughter read the first draft she said that the human angle annoyed her. She wanted to know about the aliens, not people.
I struggled with that for quite a while. And then one day I realised my daughter was right, the Vokh and iVokh were what I was interested in as well. I also realised that telling a story from an alien perspective has only been done a couple of times so why not do something different? I now know why it isn’t done more often but I’m not going to go there.
Back to the prologue. When I finally publish this beast of a book I will be including relevant bits of the Bestiary as well as a glossary of world facts, and perhaps a dictionary, however I thought a prologue might help as well. It’s very short and I’m hoping that it will act like the shallow end of the pool, allowing readers to ease into all the weirdness. Please read it and tell me what you think. Did you get to the end without feeling as if you had been hit by a tsunami? Did the prologue ease you into anything or did it just frustrate the hell out of you? I’m braced for the worst so please don’t hold back!
The time of endings began during the shimmering heat of late Tohoh. The temperature had been rising steadily since first-dawn however once Takh joined Takhti in the skies the heat quickly became oppressive and now even the rocks of the deepest ravines were hot to the touch.
Out on the great plains the sea of scorched grass trembled in the heat haze and the heavy seed heads hung limp on brittle stalks. Nothing moved, not even the herds of akaht that normally roamed the grasslands in search of food. They, like the other beasts of Vokhtah were wise enough to shelter from the heat.
Only on the very fringes of the grassland where rock met soil was there any movement. There, the sweating black shapes of foragers trudged slowly through the waist high grass, their long, leathery wings tucked into their sides as they harvested the seeds the akaht had missed.
As the day wore on and the shadows grew long once more, the heads of the foragers from the Settlement began to swivel from seed to shadow and back again. They longed for the day to end but feared the moment when dark finally banished light from the skies and woke the to’pak from their sleep. In this season of burning heat and raging hunger no iVokh wanted to be caught outside when the great predators began to hunt.
Deep inside the rock fastness of the Settlement itself the common iVokh had only the Master Healers to fear but on this auspicious day even the Masters were absent, all of them off on some mysterious errand of their own so the crafters and the drudges moved at a far more leisurely pace. The ordinary healers too were enjoying the lack of supervision and many were gossiping quietly as they waited for the gongs to signal true-dark and the end of the working day.
The relaxed atmosphere of the outer caverns would have infuriated the Masters had they not been so pre-occupied with their own fears. Gathered deep in the heart of the Settlement, in a cool, airy cavern reserved for the highest ranking healers, they and all the Raised Seniors were waiting to learn what the High Council would do about the Six of Needlepoint.
As the only independent eyrie on Vokhtah the iVokh of the Settlement rarely had to worry about the doings of their Vokh masters but the Six of Needlepoint was no ordinary Vokh. If the message sent by the senior healer of Needlepoint was correct then this Vokh was the first adult abomination since the time of the Rogue. And the Guild of Healers had sworn never to let such a Vokh ever threaten their world again.
None of the gathered healers knew anything specific about the Vokh who ruled at Needlepoint yet they feared it nonetheless. All had served as healers to the Vokh during their youth and knew at first hand just how vicious and destructive even the youngest and least powerful Vokh could be. Some had seen fellow healers torn apart – by Vokh as young as a One – while others had lived through Vokh matings that had left half the iVokh of their eyries dead or maimed. And all of them knew that any Vokh capable of surviving long enough to become a Six would not be easy to kill.
And therein lay the problem. Most Vokh young born with obvious signs of abnormality were killed quietly by their healers before they could become a danger. And before their deaths could arouse any suspicion. Killing an adult abomination though, especially one as powerful as a Six, that would be immeasurably harder and making its death look natural would be harder still.
Yet if the High Council did decide that the Six was an abomination then what choice would they have but to order its death?
All of the senior healers were in agreement that dangerous abominations could not be allowed to live but most were divided as to how the deed should be done and those differences were reflected in the seven powerful healers who made up the High Council.
The three Councillors belonging to the Yellow faction would be adamant that the Six must die come what may while the three aligned with the Blues would argue for caution. The deciding vote would therefore have to come from the Moderator and none of the gathered healers knew how it would vote. If it voted with the Blues then the Six might not die soon but it would die. Eventually. However if the Moderator voted with the Yellows then the three healers of Needlepoint would be ordered to kill their Vokh by any means available. They would likely die in the attempt but if they also failed in that attempt then the Six might well decide to destroy the whole Guild in retribution.
That was why even the most fervent, abomination-hating of the waiting healers secretly prayed that the High Council would decide that the Six was normal after all.
[And yes Ilil, I did tinker with the prologue just a bit more!]