- Sweet and sexy short story in "A Liaden Universe Constellation, volume III"
- Also published in "Cultivar: Adventures in the Liaden Universe #25"
- Set on Surebleak at Jelaza Kazone some time before the epilogue of Dragon in Exile
- Features Diglon Rifle nor'Phelium, former Yxtrang
- Features Scout Alara chel'Voyon, clan Silari, Field Ecologist.
- Secondary characters are Jeeves, Mr. pel'Kana, and Miri Robertson.
Authors' IntroEditFrom page 1
"Courtesy of a young man we didn’t expect to survive his first meeting with Clan Korval, we get to look at the interplay of the suddenly mixed cultures of Surebleak. Needing to meet his new troop’s expectations, Diglon Rifle, former enemy combatant, has been studying to become a more independent person. Noticed by Lady Anthora, he gets to work with plants, and to pursue his own individual interests—one of which happens to be card playing. What could go wrong? We had to ask this question because Diglon Rifle, much like the Taxi Driver and the Uncle, became far more of a character in the Liaden story than first expected. Enjoy -— we did!"
Diglon won an evening at Ms. Audrey's House of Joy, but has nothing suitable to wear. Alara, a Scout botanist from Clan Silari -- whose Delm stands firmly with Korval -- must bring a child to the clan.
Diglon, running laps at Jelaza Kazone:
His breath was comfortably labored, and he turned for the last of the run, preparing, and then busying himself as he usually did with a sprint to finish. The tree shadowed him now and in that shadow he felt an extra warmth, as if the tree’s very bulk forced the winds to flee before its willingness to stand firm, or else that it exuded a welcome to those who belonged. Belonging to a world was an unusual thing -- he’d grown up as a man of arms..."
___________Alara: An urgent pinbeam from her delm, old Valad Salari:
"Now that Salari had begun the slow dissolution of business and homestead to vacate Liad along with a hundred other clans, he’d issued orders to the one remaining member of his clan who had not yet fulfilled the second part of her duty to the clan and demanded her duty of her: A replacement heir for herself. That had been the first shock, but they kept coming, for his orders had included the necessity that she do this soon, without coming home to Liad, in place on Surebleak for the love of space! -- because the clan would likely relocate itself there!"
It was the kittens he thought, and the hearty Terran-style nod Lady Anthora gave, that had brought him to the work in the field: she’d turned to the Captain and the Scout and said, “This one will much prefer growing things to shooting things, once he is used to it.” And then she’d laughed, turned back, and told him to always mind the cats, if they spoke to him...
He had stood on seventeen worlds in his life, counting this one, and this was perhaps the third where he stood somewhat welcome.
He had spoken on entry, knowing that the house, in the person of the security ’bot, Jeeves, was already well aware of his presence, if not by the touch of his hand to pressure plate, then by the weight of his step on the foot mat at the door, or the sound of his breathing. It was the way things were properly done, the announcement, and few on the planet Surebleak were as happy to do things the way they were done, as was he.
Silari himself had long muttered about the Council of Clans...
She was relying heavily, in the city, on the ability of a genuine Yxtrang to guard her. Liadens were taught to fear and despise the soldier hordes, to consider them forever a threat to the universe, a menace to civilization. And here was Diglon, who a city contact not knowing his background had declared to be a pussycat of a guard: Polite, efficient, watchful, helpful, aware, respectful, honest.
"I am a Scout! Scouts are very experienced people, Mr. pel’Kana. I believe, if I may be permitted to assist, that I might be able to discover among your clothes items that, if not appropriate to everyday dress, will be all that is acceptable at a house of pleasure on Surebleak."
____________"Lady yos’Phelium was quite clear in the matter —“‘Our Rifle,’ she told me, ‘is going to a public place, where he is a winner, celebrating an earned victory. It was reported in the news. He represents the house. Surebleak runs on blocks and territories and talk on the street, and he best look fine because every local in Audrey’s place is going to notice..."
“You have a party, my friend. There’s no reason why you should not be as enticing as may be, yourself.”
“Jeeves, please bring us some morning wine if you please, and some of that spring-cheese we just got from Yulie.” Jeeves assented and started out immediately.
“Lady, I must . . .” Alara started, but found herself waved aside nonchalantly.
“How about Miri, while it’s just us and Lizzie relaxing, right? As long as I can call you Alara?"
“But anyhow, I need to thank you for helping out with our Diglon. You ’betcha Nelirikk’s going to shine your boots for you one day over this —"