And here is the third sample chapter. I’m adding Kerrin’s scenes. And trying to write the later fight scene right now. And I’d need to finally paint the new cover for Demons. And real life work and some other stuff should get done too. And it’s getting pretty dark here now too, especially since this week has been mostly overcast.
Oh well. What would life be without something to stress about.
The bazaar covered several blocks. The streets inside the area were narrow, no vehicle traffic was allowed here, just pedestrians and smaller pushcarts. Most of the stuff on sale seemed to be local produce, there were foods, spices, cloth and clothing – mostly rather cheap looking, and definitely not handmade – and some jewelry, some of which was rather neat and did look handmade. After some thought Rahan bought a pair of silver earrings, with green stones almost the color of her eyes for his kid sister. His older sister was bit more of problem since she rarely wore jewelry. A good folding knife might have fitted her, but while he found several vendors who had all kinds of knives for sale, the quality was not as good as he would have wanted. There were also lots of bows, mostly crossbows, and bolts and arrows for them in evidence… bowhunting was popular here? Or because of strict rules regarding more advanced weapons?
He had been forced to leave his sidearm in the ship, but had assumed the ‘no-guns’ rule might be only for offworlders.
Rahan spend several hours wandering around before he decided a break was starting to sound like a good idea, and searched out one of the small cafes.
He chose one which had several tables on the outside, and picked one of the outdoors ones. Cute small wrought iron tables, with heavy iron chairs around them. His kid sister would have loved them. The tables and chairs looked clean, and the area around was not quite so heavily crowded as most of the bazaar had been, perhaps because this cafe was surrounded by others, all around a tiny plaza with a little fountain in the middle of it, and a bit to the side of the corridors where the stores were. There was no traffic to and from the stores going through the plaza, just the people who had come here to eat and drink, to rest their feet and to gossip a bit. The menu of the cafe he picked looked interesting, although there was no coffee to be had on this world. There was tea and something resembling coffee he didn’t recognize, but decided to sample. It was palatable.
Rahan sat and watched the people sitting in the cafes, and going by in the corridor next to the little plaza. There didn’t seem to be many offworlders in the the throng of people. The locals seemed to be, mostly, a very generic looking version of white people. Very dark hair, mostly black, was the norm, he hadn’t seen a single blond, nor even a lighter colored brown, during the day. Eye colors seemed to be rather dark too. Faces were the most pure examples of European he had seen for a while, making him feel pleasantly anonymous, although he assumed it was mostly an illusion. For one thing he’s skin was noticeably pale compared to theirs, and he probably had mannerism and bearing different enough to make him stand out at least some, possibly a lot, to them. And he certainly wasn’t dressed like the locals who seemed to go mostly for tunics and loose trousers, both men and women, and while his pants were relatively loose he was wearing a shirt and a many pocketed vest over it, something he hadn’t seen anyone else wearing after he had left the landing field. And the locals seemed to favor neon pastels (possibly because they didn’t have that many choices, those colors were common with some of the cheaper, easily made synthetics), he liked subdued earth tones. This time his trousers and vest were brown, the loose shirt a washed out looking green.
Who’d have thought those colors would be something to make him stand out in a crowd?
Most of the people looked poor to him. Their tunics were often ill fitting, the cloth looked cheap, and many were very worn looking. Not that many wore good shoes or boots either, thin soled cloth slippers, also often worn to the point of seeming to be getting close to falling apart, seemed to be the norm.
Then there were the occasional obvious street people, beggars and crazies, although not quite as many as he had expected. Something which had gotten some explanation when he had seen a couple of merchants call the police, who had not only actually arrived, but also had come in a reasonably short time, when a confusedly acting person (Rahan had not even been completely sure whether that had been a man or a woman, he assumed a smallish man) had been bothering some slightly better dressed customers right outside their shops. Perhaps this was simply one area which got better protection than most, either because the patrons had a bit more money than most, or because the city leaders had decided that the spaceport was important enough that also areas close to it should get special treatment. Or maybe it was like that everywhere here. Assumptions made based on the average for similar worlds were often accurate, but not always.
The way she was dressed was one of the first things which drew his gaze to the girl. She had on the same tunic and loose trousers, but while hers were not decorated and the colors were the same eye-searing bright pastels, her tunic being pink and the trousers light blue, the cloth on those fell differently, seeming not to be either clingy or stiff, and she was wearing a pair of very nice looking ankle boots made of soft red leather.
Curly dark brown hair, down to her shoulders, and a pretty heart shaped face with large dark eyes and a small mouth. With that type of clothes it was hard to tell much of her figure, except that she was rather slim.
Rahan smiled at her. Not all that impressed, he had seen women far more beautiful than this one often enough, just pleased at the sight of a pretty girl.
She smiled back, and then started to walk towards him.
“I think I have located him. The Blue Dawn Tea Shop.”
“Good. Make contact. See if you can charm him. Should not be too unpleasant, he seems to be a pretty good looking young man, if one likes the boyish type and doesn’t mind pale. You liked them tall too, didn’t you?” Kerrin’s voice was mocking. He was probably still pissed that she had rejected him. Or maybe that was only one part of it. She was popular, and Kerrin had probably only tried to woo her in order to get some of that popularity for himself. He had always been ambitious.
She had never figured out whether that ambition was because he believed in their cause, and wanted the power because he thought he could run things better than anybody else. Or maybe because he didn’t trust anybody else well enough to let them decide things which could affect his destiny.
Or whether it was just because he liked power.
The girl kept the smile, with some difficulty, and kept on walking towards the table where the offworlder was sitting.
“Hello,” she said.
A nice voice, if a bit high, Rahan thought, and gave her another smile, feeling rather blase and slightly smug about that feeling. While it was not a common occurrence in his life this still was not the first time a pretty girl had decided to talk to him. And hey, here he was the exotic guy from the big worlds. This place was, after all, very much the hick town.
“Hi to yourself,” he said, and his smugness deflated a bit. He was a talker, but in spite of that making witty small talk right off the cuff was not one of his strong suits. “Can I do something for you?”
“Offer a seat, maybe.” She spoke rather fluent Kinagt, one of the most widely spread trade languages, and one Rahan himself was fluent in. Very nice. His com had a good translator program, and during the last couple of days of listening to the locals speaking, some downloads both from the local planetary net and one of the ship’s Corps databases it already had enough to be able to feed him most of the necessary information to make him able to understand fairly well and to speak, if haltingly and no doubt with an atrocious accent, what seemed to be the main local language, but it was still something of a relief to be able to converse without any help from the com.
But Rahan knew his manners, and being polite rarely failed so he stood up and pulled back one of the other chairs. “Here.” She sat and raised a hand to get the attention of the waiter. “So, what gives me the honor of your company, fair lady?” Thinking of something to say was getting easier now, when he had had a moment to gather his wits. It always did.
“Curiosity, mostly. You don’t look like a local. Strangers don’t come here often, and I was wondering…”
Rahan raised an eyebrow, something he had needed to learn and the result of several hours of practice in front of a mirror back when he had been younger.
She laughed, a nice light tinkly laugh. “Well, I am considering studying off-world. Right now I’m interested in behavioral forensics, especially concerning the intersections between local, planetary laws and the interstellar treaties, and how to adjust the differences when we are talking about conflicts between members of different jurisdictions, and nothing like that is taught here, not past the 101 stage anyway.” She grinned. “Besides, I’ll like to travel a bit too, and studying makes a good excuse to my parents.” Rahan nodded at that, pleased to find out she wasn’t older than she looked to him. It could be damn hard to tell, sometimes. And most people didn’t really care that much. But he wasn’t most people, and the thought of dating – wait a minute, when did that come into the picture… she was pretty, but he didn’t know anything about her yet, for one thing, even that age hint might as well be a false clue, an attempt to make him think she was young, besides even if it wasn’t it was not that uncommon, in some worlds, for the children to stay as a member of their parents’ household until they married themselves, or even after, so you did get those century plus something individuals who were still under the thumb of their parents and maybe even grandparents and great grandparents… or this might be one of those century plus something ladies who got a kick out of seducing kids and – Rahan stopped that train of though when she continued.
If she was a cougar she was a damn cute one, though.
“Anyway, if I am going to go offworld for a few years… well, I’d like to be as well prepared as I can.”
“So you are data collecting?”
She nodded. “First hand data is always better. And it’s easier to find out what one wants when talking face to face. So, I have been haunting these parts, near the port, looking for… I gather you really are an offworlder?”
He nodded. “Yes. So what kind of information are you looking for? I can’t guarantee,” he grinned and then continued “that I have visited, much less spend any longer period of time in any of the places you are planning to visit, so telling you the best places to eat or party or anything like that is probably not going to be possible.”
She laughed again. Rahan was not quite sure whether to be pleased or irritated. His answer had not really been witty enough to merit that response.
So maybe she was polite. That was not a fault. Or she could be feeling as awkward as he was. Some people laughed a lot when they were nervous.
“No, I guess not. It’s more… behaviors, actually. How to avoid looking like that proverbial hick on her first visit to the advanced civilizations?”
Rahan hoped he hadn’t blushed when he, after a moment of thought, started to talk again.
“I’ve met him. We are going to meet again tomorrow morning. Perhaps spend the whole day together. I will be showing him the town.”
“Good. Perhaps we could do the extraction then.” Not Kerrin, this time. He had been busy. Something Lida was grateful about. This whole mission was distasteful enough as it was.
“No, I’d advice we wait. We may not need to do this by force. He seems sympathetic to the plight of our people. I may be able to get him to come voluntarily… if given some time. The rest of this week?” she said.
A silence. Then:”That might be less risky. If you think you can do it.”
“I can try. Some of our people might do some… playacting, to simulate some of the worse excesses, in case we don’t get to witness any actual ones. He’s young, and he seems… as I said, he seems very capable of sympathy, and he seems to have a conscience. If it doesn’t seem to work, we can go back to the original plan by the end of the week.”
“Are you regretting this?”
She was quiet, on her turn, for a while. “He seems like somebody I could like, but… It’s necessary. We need the money. And… he will not be harmed. That is the deal, isn’t it?”
The answer was quick, but it didn’t wholly reassure her. “No. He will not be harmed. Just used.”
“In that case… I do feel sorry, for him, for us too because we need to do things like this but… no regrets, I think. Just try to remember that he is not the enemy, okay?”
Again, a quick answer. Again, not a completely reassuring one. “Don’t worry, we will.”
But there was nothing she could do about that. The cause was too important.
Or so she kept telling herself.