Tag Archives: science-fiction-fantasy

Review no.10 for Vokhtah – Yes!

I have not been doing much promotion at all recently, especially for Vokhtah, so I was delighted to see that it had a new review.

There is always an element of fear in that moment before you start reading a new review, and I admit, I wondered if this would be the one where a reader would tell me how much they hated Vokhtah and its characters. Instead, I found a lovely 4 star review that talked about caring for the characters, despite their difference.

When you write about psychopaths and shades of sociopath, it’s hard to make them lovable.  Or even likable. Yet if a reader can’t care about your characters then no amount of inventiveness is going to keep them reading.

That was always my biggest fear about Vokhtah – could I find enough humanity in the characters to bridge the gap between them and us?

Today I am one happy scribbler. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

P.S.!!!!! Just discovered a 3rd review for the EGG too. 😀 Thanks Candy! This is turning into one of the best Sunday mornings ever. 😀


Old friends and new acquaintances on Vokhtah

This excerpt is also about the Forager and takes place a few days later. It is quite a bit longer than the first snippet so remember to make a cuppa first. 🙂

***

The Forager was standing in line with six other foragers, a bag full of fresh herbs in its arms, when the gong for true-dark sounded throughout the eyrie. They had all been held up because of a dispute between one of the foragers and the head Attendant of Stores. The forager only had half a bag to hand in and the Attendant was refusing to pay.

“But only needing one last credit for rock lizard,” the forager cried. “Bringing extra half on the morrow!”

“Pah,” the Attendant said. “And if to’pak catching again?”

“Ki! Promising-…”

“Out of way Scar!” someone else called angrily. “Missing all food soon.”

Other irate voices quickly joined the first, and the Forager gripped its bag tighter, in case a scuffle broke out. It too was just one credit short of a rock lizard, and had no intention of losing its precious herbs in a fight. Peering over the heads of the iVokh in front, it breathed a sigh of relief when it saw the desperate forager finally give up and step out of the line.

As the iVokh limped past, emaciated arms clutched tight around its half empty bag, the Forager could not help noticing the scars tracing an uneven semi-circle around its right wing and leg. Bite marks like that could only have come from a to’pak. Scar was lucky to be alive. The attack must have happened close to the eyrie or it would have bled to death before the healers could reach it.

But why had they left it half crippled? Letting it live without the means to feed itself properly was no boon…

When the line began to move again, the Forager promptly forgot all about the scarred forager, and shuffled along with the rest until it reached the Attendant.

“How knowing so much about herbs?” the Attendant asked.

The iVokh’s tone was more curious than suspicious, yet the Forager still felt its bowels clench in fright. The Attendant was one of the original survivors of the eyrie, and obviously thought it was one of the newcomers from Five Rocks. Unfortunately, the rest of the foragers still waiting in line really had come from Five Rocks. And they thought it was one of the survivors. If it said the wrong thing now it could end up betraying itself to both groups.

“Great parent teaching,” the Forager mumbled, hoping the Attendant would not question it further.

“Ah… fever balm,” the Attendant said as it picked up a twig with pale orange leaves and sniffed. “Parent teaching self. Being apprentice healer before coming to Needlepoint.”

Then parent failing apprenticeship early, the Forager thought as it nodded politely. The obvious pride in the Attendant’s voice stopped it from pointing out that the twig was actually sleep balm, not fever balm. Both were an orange colour, however sleep balm smelled sweet while fever balm had a strong, astringent scent.

“Healers being pleased,” the Attendant continued as it handed the Forager three credits. “Next!”

Clutching its credits, the Forager bowed with exaggerated politeness before hurrying towards the communal feeding area.

By the time it reached the huge cavern next to the animal pens, most of the other iVokh of the eyrie had already fed. And of course, the plumpest rock lizards were gone.

When the bored attendant saw the Forager coming, it reached into the lizard cage and pulled out a scrawny specimen with one hand. Its other hand held a large sack that bulged with credits.

As the Forager handed over its own precious credits it could not avoid a moment of bitterness. If it had only thought to keep a few of the credits it had bartered for the gem shard, it would not now be breaking its back for the privilege of drinking lukewarm blood…

Lizard in hand, it retreated to an empty spot by the wall, and began to feed. It tried to drink slowly, to make the moment last, but all too soon the body in its hand began to shudder.

Pulling away with regret, the Forager licked every last trace of blood from its mouth before going to collect its ration of dried vegetables. It was halfway through the unappetizing granules when it chanced to look up, and recognized Scar standing next to the baskets that held the used bowls.

The iVokh had its back turned to the Forager, and seemed to be transferring bowls from one basket to the other. Every so often it would stop and examine one of the bowls for a moment or two before placing it neatly in the second basket.

Strange, the Forager thought as it started eating again. A moment later its meal was interrupted a second time when an angry shout sounded from the direction of the baskets. It looked up just in time to see an attendant bearing down on Scar, who was backing away with a bowl clutched in its hands. As it retreated it licked frantically at the inside of the bowl.

Realization hit the Forager at the same moment the attendant hit Scar, and pulled the bowl from its hands.

“Cripple!” the attendant hissed in disgust.

“Not being cripple!” Scar hissed back, but it did not try to approach the baskets again. Instead it wandered over to a group of washers who were still eating, and sat down just a short distance from them. If it was hoping they would leave something in their bowls, it must have been disappointed when they got up as a group and moved closer to the attendant.

The scarred forager remained where it was, staring blankly into space, as if it did not care.

Apprentice looking like that

The Forager’s stomach seemed to turn over as it suddenly remembered that night on the Spine, when the Apprentice and the other two had been disowned by the rest of the Traders. Of the three it had managed to save only one.

Was the Apprentice still alive? Had it managed to get back to the Settlement on its own?

Despite knowing it had done all it could for the young Trader, the Forager could not help wishing it could have done more. Perhaps that was why it rose to its feet and crossed the cavern to where Scar still sat, staring at nothing.

Sitting down a short distance from Scar, the Forager made a show of eating as it watched the other iVokh from the corner of its eye.

Scar did not come any closer, but nor did it move away.

The attendants were just starting to clean up when the Forager belched, and put its half-finished bowl on the ground by its side. Then it rose and walked away without a backward glance.


Do you know this iVokh?

I thought some of you might enjoy a small snippet about an old friend. 🙂

* * *

The tall, thin Forager rose up in the air and carefully inspected the clump of boulders before landing, and plucking the fleshy pink shoots that grew in the shade they cast. Boulders and shade often meant to’pak, and it had learned to be extremely cautious when approaching either.

Moving away from the boulders, the Forager popped one of the round, succulent pink leaves in its mouth and chewed. The leaves of the lifeberry were not as effective as the fruit, and the flavour was rather unpleasant, but the moisture and small rush of energy were welcome. Spitting the remains on the ground, it popped another leaf in its mouth before it returned to the heat and back-breaking work of gathering.

When the Forager had first arrived at Needlepoint it had chosen to become a forager because, as a healer, it knew far more about the plants of Vokhtah than most ordinary iVokh. Foraging, however, had turned out to be a gruelling and hungry occupation.

At Needlepoint, every iVokh received one small bowl of ground seeds and tubers every day, no matter what their occupation. Food animals, however, had to be bartered for credits.

As one of the least valued classes in the eyrie, foragers received just one small, leather credit for every bag of seeds or tubers they gathered. By contrast, each rock lizard cost ten credits.

The small upland plateau that surrounded Needlepoint was still almost lush in comparison to the great plains, but even here, most foragers were lucky to gather three bags of food a day. That equated to one rock lizard every four days. They all grazed on whatever was edible as they worked, but a few berries, or the odd piipa fruit could not compensate for the severe lack of blood in their diets, and they all looked half-starved.

Thanks to its knowledge of medicinal herbs, which had a higher value than seeds or tubers, the Forager managed to feed on a rock lizard almost every second day, yet even so it was always hungry, and seemed to spend every waking moment thinking about food. It even dreamt about food. Strangely though, it never seemed to dream about akaht, or tukti. Despite having fed on akaht for most of its life, it could now hardly remember what either akaht or tukti tasted like. It knew akaht were supposed to be slightly salty, but it could not actually remember how the blood tasted on its tongue.

Shaking its head to dispel such futile thoughts, the Forager popped another lifeberry leaf in its mouth as it squinted up at the sky. Still another three hours to go…

…and no rock lizard this night…

The Forager’s sigh was lost in the swish of grass as it bent to its work.


Vokhtah book 2 – decision time

Okay, I need some serious feedback. Book 2 is changing rather radically. From being a story about the Triad’s Acolyte, it has now become a story about the Acolyte and Kaati [the Apprentice from book 1].  Initially, Kaati’s story was going to weave into the story of the Acolyte, but in a subordinate, sub-plot kind of way.  Now,  just as in book 1, Kaati is demanding more space.

I kind of like where Kaati’s story is going but… if I continue I am going to have to change book 3. A lot.  The following excerpt is a whole chapter because I need to know if I should let the story unwind or reel it in by making Kaati’s return to power a more straightforward process.  I really would appreciate knowing what you guys think. Oh and this is only a first draft so be warned.

***

The small group of Watchers were sparring under the watchful eyes of the Old One when the guard stationed out in the main cavern came jetting in on a whisper of air.

“Intruder!” it called softly.

The three groups of Watchers immediately broke apart, each drudge hurrying to a torch and burying it in the sand. In moments the cavern was dark, except for the one torch held by the Old one.

As the six Watchers took up their positions in the deepest shadows, the lookout returned to its position in the outer cavern.

When all was in readiness, the Old One walked to its assigned place in the centre of the cavern, and sat down with its back to the entrance. It was the bait. It would distract the Intruder, allowing the others to seize the element of surprise. If the intruder was a Teller it could not be allowed to send an alarm.

The Old One sincerely hoped the intruder would not be a Teller, but it was also relieved the long wait would soon be over. It had taught the Watchers as much as it could, and had trained them until their responses were automatic, but neither they nor their strategies had ever been tested.

As the wait dragged on, the two Watchers hidden on either side of the entrance gripped their short wooden rods a little tighter as sweat made their palms slippery. The whole group had trained for this eventuality, but as the ultimate success of the strategy depended on them, both were nervous.

When the first soft footstep sounded from outside the cavern, the Old One made the sign for calm as it sat a little straighter. It was time.

* * *

Kaati had almost reached the bottom of the winding ramp leading down to the lowest level of the Quarter when something made all the fine hairs between its cilia stand on end. It could not pinpoint what was wrong, but the very air seemed charged.

It stopped, closed its eyes and reached out with its talent. In the last ti’m’akh it had become very adept at sensing the presence of the Tellers without them being aware of its probing. That skill had saved it a number of times already, but this time it could sense no minds nearby.

becoming as nervous as an ipti

Shrugging off the sense of being watched, Kaati walked around to the western edge of the lake and sent out a soft ping. The huge subterranean lake shelved sharply, and was a dangerous place to bathe, but it knew where all the shallower areas were, and was not afraid of drowning. Nonetheless, as it scrubbed sweat and dust from its body with fine sand from the bottom, it could not shake the feeling it was in danger.

Cutting its ablutions short, Kaati waded out to dry land and stood there, shivering with cold as it scanned the area again. It still could not sense anyone with the talent, but that only confirmed there were no Tellers in the area. Many Traders only had a very rudimentary talent, and drudges could not mindspeak at all, so they might not show up at all.

But why would any iVokh be down here in the middle of the night unless it was trying to hide something?

Kaati had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep its presence in the Quarter a secret. So far it had revealed itself to just two Traders – the Elder of the Plodder Clan, and one Flyer. It would trust its life to both of them, but they had been entrusted with the task of sounding out the other Traders. Had one of the others betrayed it?

pah… if being betrayed then Tellers being here, not an ordinary Trader

But still, if there was someone down here, that person would now know that someone else was sneaking around the Quarter at night. If it started gossiping about what it had seen, the Tellers would soon hear of it too…

As the young Trader gave itself a vigorous shake, it sent a delicate ping towards the southern end of the great underground lake. That whole area was riddled with smaller caves and passages that led nowhere. If someone was watching, that was where they would be.

The echoes did not reveal anyone, but Kaati had not really expected them to; pings could not go around corners so could not penetrate far into confined spaces. An iVokh who did not want to be found would have no trouble finding places to hide.

Moving quietly, but without making any great effort to disguise its footsteps, the young Trader walked quickly towards the ramp leading up to the main level of the Quarter.

* * *

Just before the footsteps reached the entrance, they stopped and a low whistle came from the cavern beyond.

“Intruder gone!” the lookout called softly as it came through the entrance to join the others.

An audible sigh of relief came from one of the hidden Watchers, but most of the others grumbled in disappointment.

The Old One remained impassive, but it too was disappointed, and a little concerned. If there was someone wandering around the Quarter, the group would have to find a safer place in which to train. Unfortunately, few other caverns were large enough, and private enough for the whole group to train together.

Rising to its feet with a sigh, the old drudge clapped its hands for attention.

“This cavern not being safe anymore,” it said. “Will sending word when-…”

“What happening here Old One?”

The whole group froze as the Intruder stepped through the entrance, cowl raised to hide its face.

The young Watcher to the left of the entrance was the first to react. Lunging forward, it swung its rod at the Intruder’s head.

* * *

When Kaati crept back down the ramp, it held its wings off the ground to stop them from rustling, and tested each footfall before setting its foot down. Like a nightwing on the hunt, it did not intend to alert its prey until it was ready to pounce.

The iVokh watching from the caverns was skilled in the ways of stealth as well, but it still made a slight noise as it rose from its hiding place just inside the first small cavern.

That small noise was all the confirmation Kaati needed. Someone had been watching, someone who was not a Teller, yet used Teller skills to good effect. And now that someone was headed deeper into the warren of caves.

Who could it be? And what was in those caves that had to hidden so carefully?

Kaati knew that some mating couples preferred to do their fighting in private, but even so, it could not imagine why they would meet so late, and in such extreme secrecy. As it crept after the other iVokh, it also burned to know how this particular Trader had learned skills reserved for Tellers.

Despite its greater skills, Kaati did not find it easy to track its prey as the other iVokh was still being very cautious. More than once, the young Trader had to stop and listen for some time before it caught another small noise.

The iVokh was some distance in front when it suddenly stopped and whistled – almost as if it were warning someone else of its presence.

The young Trader was still wondering who these iVokh were when it heard a voice it knew, a voice it had thought long dead.

Old One?

One of the first things Kaati had done after returning to the Quarter was to try and find the old Quartermaster’s retainer. It had hoped to enlist the old drudge’s help in setting up meetings with the Traders most likely to be sympathetic to its cause. Unfortunately it had found no trace of the Old One, and had eventually learned that it had gone out into the Wild soon after the Quartermaster’s death.

Hearing that distinctive voice now was a shock. Not only was the Old One alive and well, it also seemed to be the leader of some clandestine group.

Hope and concern combined to create a slight disharmony in Kaati’s voice as it said, “What happening here Old One?”

At the sound of the young Trader’s voice, all the iVokh in the cavern spun around to face the entrance. All that is, except the Old One who stared at Kaati as if it had seen a ghost. The torch in its hand trembled, sending smoky shadows leaping across the walls.

Stepping lightly into the cavern, Kaati allowed its cowl to relax so the old retainer could see its face.

“Na-…?”

The rush of displaced air coming from behind alerted Kaati to the danger, and it reacted without thought. Lunging backwards with its left leg, it brought its left arm up to shield its head. The blow deflected off its forearm, numbing its whole arm, but the young Trader was still moving. As it completed the turn its right fist hammered into its assailant’s chest.

Both iVokh hit the ground, but Kaati was on top. Rolling to its feet, it spun back and threw a savage necklock on its assailant. Using its right knee as a fulcrum it bent the iVokh’s back into a bow.

“Move and breaking neck!” it hissed.

“Stop!” the Old One croaked, finally managing to find its voice. “Na-Quartermaster? Being truly alive?”

“Na-…?”

“Na-Quartermaster?”

“But being dead!”

As the astonished whispers flew from iVokh to iVokh, Kaati nodded its head, but did not release the pressure on its assailant’s neck. It had recognized the other iVokh as drudges almost immediately, but was still reeling from the shock of being attacked by one of them.

Who were these drudges? And why was the Old One apparently leading them?

“Begging,” the Old One said in a stronger voice. “Not killing young Watcher!”

Watcher?

The Quartermaster had never openly admitted the Old One spied for it, but it had once mentioned that it had Watchers amongst the Traders. Could these savage young drudges be the Watchers it had referred to?

“Believing this young Watcher trying to kill self,” Kaati said in a flat voice.

“Forgiveness. Thinking being Teller…”

The Old One’s words made Kaati’s mouth fall open in astonishment. This drudge had knowingly attacked someone it thought might be a Teller?

Looking around at the other drudges lining the walls of the cavern, the young Trader noticed that all of them were brandishing rods, and looked as if they knew how to use them.

“Who training Watchers to fight?”

Something like embarrassment flitted across the Old One’s features, but it kept its voice steady as it said, “Watchers not attacking again. Please releasing, then explaining all.”

Kaati was not at all sure it was prepared to trust the Old One’s word, not any more. However it was in an awkward situation. By revealing its presence, it had already entrusted all these drudges with a secret they should not know. As allies, they could prove useful, but as enemies they could ruin everything it had worked to achieve. It might be able to kill two or three of them, but not all…

“Not making any sudden moves,” the young Trader commanded as it slowly released the Watcher, and stepped back.

“Now walking to Old One.”

Nodding to show it understood, the Watcher rubbed at its neck as it trudged towards the old iVokh, head down in shame.

“Others too,” Kaati demanded.

At a small hand gesture from the Old One, the other Watchers left their positions, and joined the small group in the centre of the cave.

That hand gesture chilled Kaati almost as much as the thought of drudges knowing how to fight. It was part of the sign language all apprentice Tellers were taught, and was a closely guarded secret.

Despite having learned to hate and fear the Tellers, Kaati still found the thought of drudges wielding such power disconcerting. Why would any Teller betray its clan and side with drudges?

“Who training drudges?” the young Trader asked again, its tone uncompromising. “And for what purpose?”

“Who being self,” the Old One said with a touch of pride, “and the why being to avenge murder of Quartermaster!”

“But how…? Ki! Wait! Quartermaster being murdered?”

* * *

The Old One had lived with the knowledge of the Quartermaster’s murder for so long the rage had become a cold, hard thing. But now, seeing the shock and disbelief on the young Trader’s face, it felt the outrage welling up again, fresh and raw. Its hand shook a little as it gestured for everyone to sit down.

Speaking in a monotone to hold its emotions at bay, the Old One told how it had found the cushion that had been used to smother the old Quartermaster, and how it had realized that only Teller assassins could have overpowered the old Plodder.

“Stop!” the young Trader said. “How Old One knowing so much about Tellers?”

“Because training as Teller apprentice once too.”

“Like self…”

“S’so.”

When the young Trader said nothing further, the Old One continued its tale. It touched briefly on how it had found the Watchers, and persuaded them to join its quest to find the murderers.

As the Old One spoke, the seven young Watchers all sat up a little straighter, and nodded solemnly. However, when it began talking about all the Traders involved with the old Quartermaster’s death, every iVokh present fell still.

“Master Teller, Runner Seneschal and all of top ranking Tellers?” the young Trader asked, its face ashen.

“S’so. Together with at least five high ranking Runners, including current Clan Elder.”

“Almost third of all Traders…”

Knowing how devastating this news must be, the Old One said nothing more, allowing the young Trader to absorb the news at its own pace.

* * *

The Old One’s news hit Kaati hard. It had known the old Quartermaster as a gentle giant who had always had the Traders’ best interests at heart. It had had its faults, but it had never allowed those faults to affect the Traders.

More disturbing still was the realization that so many Traders had hated the old Plodder enough to murder it. The only other Quartermaster to ever die at the hands of the Traders was the one who had initiated the Great Unrest.

“Why Old One? Why hating old Quartermaster so much?”

“Pride and ambition for some, fear for others,” the old drudge said.

“Fear? Why fear? Old Quartermaster never doing harm to any Trader!”

“Ki. But perhaps those Traders knowing Old Master would not believe about… life-debt.”

There was no hint of accusation in the old drudge’s voice, but Kaati still felt a rush of guilt. It knew it had done nothing wrong in bartering for the healing of the young Flyer on the Spine. That healing had been a fair trade. Nonetheless it knew it was not completely innocent of all blame. If it had not been so proud, and had trusted the Quartermaster’s judgement more, the old Plodder would have had warning of the brewing crisis, and might have been able to avert it. Instead it had known nothing of what was happening, and had died because of it.

“Healing of Flyer being fair trade Old One. But blaming self for not informing Quartermaster of conflicts in caravan…”

“Hearing some rumours, especially amongst Plodders, but those rumours also saying na-Quartermaster dying on Spine. Killed by to’pak.”

Kaati knew the way rumours could feed upon themselves, growing with each re-telling until they bore no resemblance to the truth. Nonetheless the specific nature of this rumour had it baffled.

“Why saying being killed by to’pak?”

“That being what Messenger saying,” the Old One replied.

“Messenger? Telling exactly what Messenger saying!”

“Only hearing gossip,” the Old One said with an apologetic shrug.

“Just telling!”

As the Old One spoke about the conversation the Messenger had had with one of the Flyers, Kaati’s eyes grew round in astonishment. If that particular rumour was true, the Messenger had deliberately lied to save its life.

However when the Old One spoke about the Messenger fighting and killing the Leader of the Tellers, right in the middle of Needlepoint gather, the young Trader jumped up and began pacing. As it paced, memories of that last night on the Spine came back with chilling clarity.

The Messenger had asked Kaati about its plans, and it had been tempted to ask for help, but then the conversation had abruptly veered away, and the moment had been lost…

because of ‘Guild business’

And then, the next morning, when they reached that small cave, the Messenger must have done something to put it to sleep because when it finally woke up there was all that food in the cave. And those credits.

Had the Messenger planned the whole thing… just to help Kaati survive?

No wonder the Tellers had killed the Messenger. After the Leader’s death they must have tracked it, and ambushed it as it was returning to the cave.

But why would the Messenger go to such lengths to help a Trader? Even if it had hoped to create a life-debt for the future, it would have had no guarantee that Kaati would even survive to pay that debt.

Had the Messenger truly been so calculating? Or had it been motivated by the same loyalty that Traders felt for each other?

some Traders only

That thought brought Kaati to a standstill. Traders had been loyal to each other, for generation upon generation. But not any more. Now something ugly had taken the place of loyalty. Traders might still talk about loyalty but their words were empty. Loyalty, like honour, came from actions, not words.

The first signs of that rift between word and deed had occurred on the Spine, when the Tellers had tried to force the Plodder into leaving the Messenger behind. And the cracks had just widened from then on.

And now the only Traders prepared to act to avenge a foul murder were drudges…

Turning towards the small group of clustered around the Old One, Kaati stared at the old drudge, as if seeing it, truly seeing it for the first time.

“Why doing this Old One?”

* * *

The Old One met the young Trader’s eye for a long moment before it looked away.

When it had first begun hunting for Watchers, it had been motivated by rage and a sickening sense of injustice. It had seen its vengeance as being a last act of service for the Quartermaster. But now, after getting to know all these bright, passionate young drudges, it was starting to see that what they were doing went far deeper than just vengeance.

But would this young Trader understand? It had spent the formative part of its young life wanting and expecting to be part of the elite. On the Spine it had defended the Trader Way, but just now it had made no attempt to hide the contempt it felt for the Watchers. Would it just use them and discard them when they were no longer useful? Could it really be trusted?

“Quartermaster being an honourable Trader,” the Old One said. “Not deserving to be murdered. Once having enough Watchers, intending to kill all those responsible.”

* * *

Kaati could sense the Old One was not being completely truthful, but at least it was not lying about its desire for vengeance. The cold resolve in its voice was genuine. It would kill those responsible for the old Quartermaster’s death, or die trying.

But would it risk its life for the Traders as a whole? Or for a na-Quartermaster newly risen from the grave?

“Forgiveness, Old One,” Kaati began, “but Watchers being no match for Tellers. Even if training for years, rods and physical skill still not being enough against Tellers. Tellers being trained to fight as a group, using mindspeech to co-ordinate attacks…”

An expression of pain crossed the old drudge’s face.

“Knowing,” it said. “But if can catching Tellers one by-…”

“Like catching self?” Kaati asked softly.

At the young Trader’s words, all the Watchers rose to their feet, bristling with anger.

“Taking by surprise!”

“Not happening again!”

Really? Kaati thought as it half inflated its wings.

Distracted by their anger, none of the Watchers noticed what the young Trader was doing until it suddenly leapt towards them like a stone released from a sling.

Kaati flew through the air, its leap powered by the thrust of air from its jets. It barreled into the group at head height and half of them went down immediately. Rolling to its feet behind the remaining Watchers, the young Trader struck left and right with its elbows. Two more Watchers went down as it somersaulted over them.

In moments, just two Watchers remained on their feet, but the young Trader ignored them. Turning towards the Old One it grabbed the old drudge’s arm and twisted it up behind its back… but gently.

“Now imagine,” Kaati said, “what damage could doing if being a fully trained Teller.”

A stunned silence met the young Trader’s words. It had not done any permanent damage, to any of them, but all those now struggling up from the ground were hurting, and would bear ugly bruises for a ti’m’akh.

“Enough, young one,” the Old One said. “Proving point. Releasing.”

As the young Trader released the old drudge’s arm it took two steps back, and stared at the group. Its expression was still wary, but all of the Watchers looked cowed, even those who had not been hit.

When it was sure it had their attention, Kaati began speaking.

“If helping regain power amongst Clans, promising to teach Watchers better techniques.”

The Watchers continued to look surly and defeated, but at least they were still listening.

“But needing still more. Needing one member of each group to have mind-speech. That means needing help of Traders.”

None of the Watchers looked pleased by the thought of being dependent on any Trader, but as Kaati explained how it would co-ordinate these groups into a deadly fighting force capable of taking down even the most highly trained Teller, their expressions changed to looks of grudging respect. Only the Old One continued to look defeated.

Turning to face the old drudge who still sat on the ground, Kaati extended its hand as it said, “Vengeance not being possible, unless working together.”

The Old One ignored the young Trader’s hand as it pushed itself to its feet.

“Together?” it asked. “Drudges and Traders, together?”

Kaati was taken aback by the vehemence of the old drudge’s words.

What had the Old One expected? To be praised for training these young drudges to die? Some of them would still die, that was inevitable, but at least now they would have a chance to actually accomplish something!

Looking around at the circle of drudges, the young Trader noticed that their expressions were all grim again. They had had a moment of hope but now it was gone.

What in Takh’s name did they all want if not vengeance?

perhaps wanting some respect

The voice in Kaati’s head was its own, but the words felt like something the old Quartermaster would have said. It had always been strangely courteous when talking to the Old One…

“Ki,” the young Trader said, loud enough for all the drudges to hear. “Not drudges and Traders. Watchers and Traders. Together.”


New pricing for Vokhtah

I’ve just changed the price of Vokhtah on Amazon to $4.99.

I did not do this out of greed. Or arrogance. Please believe that.

Raising the price was the only way I could think of to send a message to readers that Vokhtah is not some slapdash, mistake-ridden indie novel that has been published to make a quick buck.

I want Vokhtah to be taken seriously by the kind of readers who have turned away from indie authors because of bad experiences with the quality control, or lack thereof, in so many indie ebooks. 😦 I know I’m taking an awful risk, but after the comments I read on Goodreads yesterday,  I knew I had to do something drastic.

To compensate for the price hike, I’ve decided to offer review copies free to anyone who asks.  My definition of  ‘review’ includes any kind of feedback at all.  If you want to go to town with a full-blown critique I will love you forever. If you just leave a three word comment on my blog [or anywhere else] saying “I hated Vokhtah” that will do me too.  All I really want is to have my work read.

I can provide review copies in  .MOBI format which is compatible with the Kindle. The only downside is that you will not have the convenience of Whispernet.

In my next post I will detail how to read any .MOBI file on your Kindle, including Vokhtah.

To receive a free review copy of Vokhtah, or any of my future novels, please fill in the contact form that you will find on my new Contact page.

contact page

 

 

 

 

Thank you for all your support. I really hope you will stick with me in the future too.

-hugs-

Meeks


Nunc Incipitur

Nunc Incipitur is Latin for ‘now it begins’. It is also happens to be the prologue to book 2 of the Vokhtah cycle. 🙂

I have been struggling with book 2 because I spent too long away from the story, and because I already knew what book 2 would be about. There were no surprises, or so I thought. I am pleased to say I was wrong, and now I have my excitement back.

I wrote Nunc Incipitur just this morning and I rather like it. I’d really appreciate your feedback.

Nunc Incipitur
[now it begins]

The Female endured the healers’ ministrations in silence, but her anger was as loud as a shout. She still hated them as much as she ever had, and still longed to tear them to pieces – that had not changed – but since her recovery she had learned to fear their power. That was new.

During the mating she had fought the Seven without fear because death was the natural ending to every life. However there had been nothing natural about the way the healers had fought her. Even now, whenever they touched her head, her whole body would tense up, fearing the moment of blackness, of nothingness.

They called it sleep, but it was more like a small death from which she would awake, moments or hours later, with no sense of time having passed. And yet she knew time must have passed because things would be different when she awoke, she would be different.

The first time the healers used their power on her had been during a feed. The healer offering her the tukti had been afraid, and the scent of its fear had ignited her blood lust. She had lunged for it, ready to tear its hearts out. A moment later she had awoken to find her hands empty, as empty as her spirit. The bloodlust was gone, snuffed out as if it had never been.

The healers had done the same thing to her many times before she had finally understood that they were the ones stealing time from her life. And that was when the fear had begun. And the despair.

But she had been too strong for them. Instead of continuing her futile attempts to kill them, she had focused her hatred inwards, tirelessly searching shared memories for a way out. And she had found it.

Buried in the memories of a long dead Sage she had found a curiosity ignored by most Vokh. It was a way to cross the void to a place as different to Vokhtah as day was to night.

The Sage who found this strange place had only managed to force a sharing with one of the inhabitants for a very short time. Nonetheless, even that brief sharing had been hellish, revealing a world bathed in shades of black and grey. Little wonder the Sage had not experimented further.

But she had. Every night for the last ti’m’akh, she had honed her skills until she too could make the leap across the void, and she had discovered the world had a daytime face as well. The light was always as bright as when Takh was alone in the sky, however the colours had been all wrong, with none of the soft purples of Vokhtah. The smells had been strange too, but for all its strangeness, the world had teemed with life…

The soft thud of the door closing brought the Female back to the present, and a thrill of excitement made her cilia writhe. By the time the healers returned at first-light they would find nothing but a cold, dead husk! The part of her that mattered would be gone, treading the paths of that eerie blue world in a new body.  She would have to learn how to hunt in a body without wings or fangs, but she was a hunter, and hunters always triumphed.

Taking a deep breath, the Female focused her talent into a bright, hard point, and threw her awareness out into the void.

 


Book review – Vokhtah

Today is definitely Christmas. Vokhtah has received its fourth review, and this one touched me more than I can say because it was written by someone who normally avoids science fiction!

Jennifer is a fellow Aussie who makes beautiful things with her hands instead of with words, but I think her words are pretty good too. 😀

‘We’re in a book shop. Which direction would you go. What genre would you make a bee line for?
For me, the sci-fi/fantasy section would be last on the list. Well, maybe a tie with politics, but you get the idea. Not my cup of tea.
So it was a surprise to me after reading the blurb of a fellow bloggers book that I opened the wallet and bought it. It drew me in and I was compelled to check it out.

I like my books with real life characters and places, things I can relate to. Words I can pronounce (mostly anyway). I don’t mind watching the odd sci-fi or fantasy styled movie, I am a visual person like that, but books have to be based on something ‘real’, whether it’s murder and mayhem, espionage, humour or the odd chick-lit.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Except that it had to draw me in long enough to want to finish it. And it did that…’

For Jennifer’s full review please follow this link Book review – Vokhtah.

And Jen? I loved your review.

-hugs-

Meeks


Feedback needed on prologue and book title

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!

Prologue

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!]


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