Friday Snippet: Lady Wyre’s Regret

It’s been entirely too long since I shared a snippet!  Lady Wyre agreed and insisted that she should attend to the matter herself, even though the first draft of her prequel is proceeding at a snail’s pace.  However, those couple of hundred words a day are beginning to add up — I have over 3500 words now and still going strong.

First draft, subject to heavy revisions later.  No one has read this yet, not even my Beloved Sis!  I’m especially pleased to lay down the reference to Deathright, a related book in this world (though regretfully not featuring Charlie and company).

Usually only poorly brewed tea managed to shake her composure, but as Charlotte stared at the carnage, she wanted to weep.  A large screen ten paces high and wide covered the wall, rendering disfigured bodies in gruesome detail.  Alien, yes, but no less disturbing. 

Evidently Queen Majel was not encumbered with any such trivial emotions as she sued for a brutal peace with the Razari.  “We won’t permanently station a peacekeeping force on your planet as long as half of your surviving able-bodied males agree to serve a ten-year period of indenture to Britannia.”

The Matriarch of the Razari hissed at the screen, revealing razor-sharp fangs.  A mix of browns and greens, her skin tone spoke of the mostly swampy condition of her home planet.  “You leave only a remnant of my people alive and then you take half of those?  We’ll starve or be overrun by the neighboring planet.  The Shee have always coveted our crystals.”

As do we.  Charlotte hid a wince of recrimination.  It wouldn’t do at all to show any weakness, regret, or hesitation.  Let alone disgust at what my own mighty nation has wrought.

The Matriarch wore a crude necklace bearing one of the coveted crystals.  Approximately the length and breadth of an index finger, the crystal was powerful enough to fuel a Razari ship’s engines for a month.  If the small twin-engine prop hadn’t crashed so conveniently close to a Britannian outpost, and if the border guards hadn’t done such an admiral job and sent the crystal straight through to Queen Majel’s personal scientist…

Then millions of Razari would still be alive and free.

Charlotte’s throat ached from holding back her rage.  She’d researched that damnable crystal, yes, and had found it fascinating.  Who wouldn’t?  But she’d never intended for this to happen.  Dear God, an entire planet practically wiped out, and for what?  A few chunks of rock?

The Matriarch glared with righteous fury.  “One quarter of our males and only seven years.”

Without replying, Queen Majel stretched out her graceful hand toward the electronic panel.  One large red button drew the alien’s attention, her eyes slitting with alarm.  The poor creature probably thought that button would send the final blast through their planet, and it was all Charlotte could do not to blurt out the truth.  Although the button would merely end the transmission, nothing would stop Queen Majel from ordering the destruction with any of the other brutal weapons at her command.

Or perhaps she’d use more subtlety to conquer the Razari.  If she released Charlotte’s latest creation of hungry dissemblers, within a fortnight there wouldn’t be a trace of metallic technology or structure left on the entire planet.

She pressed a hand to her stomach, fighting not to be ill.  I never intended for this atrocity to happen.  Forgive me.

Gripping the intriguing crystal with one scaly paw, the Matriarch gritted out, “Agreed.  On one condition.”

Queen Majel arched a brow at the alien but gave a slight nod for her to continue with her request.

“Any male who signs a contract of indenture must be allowed to keep his deathright, or crystals, as you call them.  They possess a religious meaning for us, Your Majesty.  Taking away a Razari’s crystal is akin to damning his soul but leaving him alive, which is why so many of us are dead instead of surrendering.”  Obviously a respected and powerful leader in her own right, the Matriarch bowed her head, still gripping her crystal.  “Please, Queen.  We’ll abide by your terms, as long as we’re allowed to keep our deathright.”

“As long as you have no reluctance in allowing us to mine your crystals for less holy use.”

“No objection as long as we may keep ours along with our traditions.”

Queen Majel smiled more kindly.  “Then we have reached an agreement, Matriarch.  Expect the treaty to be transmitted within the hour.  Welcome to Britannia’s fold.”

Welcome to hell.

Reviewers and Bloggers Wanted

I have the final files of Lady Doctor Wyre in hand!  If you’re willing to review a SF erotic romance (menage and some BDSM) that’s loosely “A Jane Austen Space Opera” then please e-mail me at joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com with your desired format.  You don’t have to have an official review site — if you’re willing to rate on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, etc. that is wonderful too.  Release date isn’t until March, but I’d love to get some reviews ahead of schedule!

(Blurb)

2/12/2009

Most of my work last night was on the upcoming Character Clinic.  I’ve written up an introduction and two detailed posts so far, and I only stayed up until midnight to do it!  Needless to say, no Dark & Early writing this morning.

So all I have to share with you are the corrections to yesterday’s snippet and a few more paragraphs continuing that scene.  It’s still not finished, but closer.  I’ll start where I made the first adjustment:  when Sebastian Shah enters the room.  I also tweaked why she’s angry/frustrated with her father’s doubts.

Because of his “expeditions” in the lower realms of the decks, he’d dressed simply.  No wonder the steward ignored him.  In simple brown breeches and outdated–timeless, Sebastian would claim with a sniff, not to mention modest–cutaway coat, he was dressed poorer than the dining room’s servants.

She rose from her chair, and immediately the steward’s attention whipped to her.  She gave him a nod and pulled out the chair beside her.  The man quickly brought her father over, but it was the daughter who seated him.

“May I bring you anything, Lady Shah?”

“I’d like a fresh pot of tea, please, Mr. Whitman.  This one isn’t quite hot enough.”

“My apologies,” he bowed quickly and cleared the table.  “More of the same?”

“Golden tipped assam, yes, and bring my father a cup, please.”

She barely bit back her laughter at the strangled look on Sebastian’s face.  As soon as the steward left, he leaned closer and whispered, “Daughter, the expense!”

“It’s all part of the game, Father.  I’m sure you have numerous notes from the middle deck about the possibility of Britannia going to war.  Zijin won’t be satisfied with merely denying us trade in their ports; they’ll blockade the Colonies as well.  If we lose Sidhu, we lose tea.”

“I know all this, Morghan,” he replied testily and slammed the datapad down onto the table so loudly that the lady several tables over flinched and glared in their direction.  “That still doesn’t excuse wasting an entire pot of the most expensive tea in all the Empire, only to order another!”

She concentrated on keeping her face smooth and her hands steady, calm, and unclenched on the table, but she yearned for the privacy of their suite where she could raise her voice.  Stars, this was his dream, his plan.  She played the game for him.  Either he had little understanding of the intricate play of society’s politics, which she knew to be patently untrue; or sadly, very little faith in her ability to pull this off.

She took several deep, slow breaths before explaining, softly and kindly, which was difficult with her jaws straining to bite back a curse.  “Queen Majel’s favorite tea is golden tipped assam.  The tea is on board as a tribute to her, although no one ever expects her to take a deep space voyage.  Certainly, she’ll never take a trip to the Colonies in person.  Think of the impression my desire to drink this tea makes.  Mr. Whitman is spreading the news in the kitchen even as we speak.  Immediately, it associates us with royalty, and Her Majesty’s Royal Family certainly doesn’t give a damn how much a bloody pot of tea will cost.”

Before her father could respond, the steward returned with a fresh pot of tea, bowing and scraping so low she knew her surmise was correct.  If nothing else, she was firmly cemented as a Person of Importance in this man’s eyes, and so she managed an arrogant, albeit frosty, countenance. 

As soon as they were alone once more, her father spoke so low she had to concentrate to hear him.  “You chose this room deliberately.  You knew the steward served this room.  He’s the highest servant on board and answers only to the Captain, who will certainly hear of the wealthy strangers traveling to Londinium who drink the Queen’s own tea.  The Captain will be invited to the Tower to meet the Queen, and so you’ve ensured she’ll hear of not only our arrival but also the manner in which we traveled.  Well done, Daughter.”

The tension eased in her shoulders and her face thawed enough that gave him a quick flash of a smile.  “I wager we’ll be dining at the Captain’s table tonight.”

Sebastian poured fresh cups and they sipped in companionable silence.  They’d plotted this trip over countless pots of tea and numerous years.  For most of her lifetime, he’d thought of nothing else but returning to his homeland and reclaiming his birthright.  For her, he always claimed, but she had little interest in Society.  She’d much rather have stayed in the Colonies and overseen the harvest.  For all she knew, this tea could have been cultivated on Shaw land.

“Rather drastic measures to gain an introduction to the handsome ambassador, no?”

She arched a brow at her father’s knowing little smile.  The Zijin ambassador had indeed caught her eye last night as he dined at the Captain’s table.  How could he not?  The other gentlemen on board were insipid sheep compared to him.  Glorious in his scarlet tunic embroidered with a fantastic golden dragon, he’d commanded her interest despite his affable yet perfect manners.  His clothing screamed royal hauteur, proclaiming dynasties of tradition that Britannia could only envy, at odds with the easy way in which he’d chatted with everyone he met. 

Tian Zhong had a way of putting even suspicious, fearful strangers at ease.  A most admirable trait in a diplomat who must coerce two equally arrogant and fierce Empires into averting full-scale war.

“I might as well enjoy one last fling before we’re cooped and caged by Londinium rules.”

2/11/2009

Not much to report yesterday and Dark & Early this morning.  I started the new project, Seven Crows, and it’s slow going.  This is a new world and a new genre-blending for me.  It’s part spoof, but part homage to the very genres I love so much.  I want to poke fun at some basic tropes, but also provide a rich, detailed, compelling story.  I want you to snicker at times, but continue reading because of the character’s story.

Needless to say, it’s been challenging, and openings are always difficult.  This one, I deliberately started in a scene that should be basic and standard.  It should make you think the first part of the genre:  Regency.  Yet very quickly, there are little hints that technology is not quite what you’d expect in a true historical Regency setting.  Society in this story has a few little…quirks.  *smirk* 

So here’s a little first draft taste of my “Regency Science Fiction Spoof.”  Does it work for you? 

Watching the ship’s wealthiest guests at tea, Lady Morghan Krowe Shah decided that if her secrets were as obvious, then she and her father had no hope of pulling off this sham. 

A countess well heeled in the latest fashion of peacock silk–which the lady had surely worn to last night’s ball–slipped a ridiculously handsome tip into the virile servant’s trouser pocket.  Surely a feat indeed to lodge those coins in such skin-tight buckskins.  Somber in black and crisp linen, her husband sat beside her, either oblivious or studiously ignoring his wife’s transgressions.  Hardly more than a schoolboy, he possessed the unfortunate features of a very long-faced mule padded with lingering baby fat.

Money, no title, Morghan decided, and too recently leg shackled to comprehend the reality of his predicament.  She hoped the boy’s parents enjoyed their newfound prestige won by accepting the countess’s troth.  Whatever inheritance he’d brought to the marriage bed would soon be gone after her heavy losses at the gaming tables last night.

A winsome young man in impeccable morning dress sat with his chaperone, secluded on the far side of the opulent room.  Although closest to the massive viewscreen which served to draw its guests here instead of the other countless, equally luxurious dining rooms, they utterly ignored the display of endless blackness and whizzing stars through which their ship navigated.  Not even the darkened corner could obscure the young man’s sweaty face and trembling hands as he pulled a sparkling silver chain in an endless loop about his neck. 

An addict, she guessed, likely an opiate given the port from which they’d sailed.  According to her father, many of the fashionable bored gentlemen ended up addicted to laudanum for their “headaches.”

At the other occupied table, an older lady sat glaring pointed daggers at any woman who presumed to prance in front of her table and take note of her exceptionally attractive, robust husband.  Easily twenty years younger, the man couldn’t help but draw feminine attention.  His shoulders filled out his stylish short coat impressively.  When he jumped to his feet and rushed off to fetch some trifle for his lady wife, every female with a pulse noticed his impressive package, rippling thighs, and tight rounded ass stunningly framed in tight faux leather.  No wonder the latest styles had moved away from the longer cutaway coats that concealed a male’s assets.  The poor lady was in for quite a long trip, no matter how fantastically advanced the ship’s engines. 

Last evening at the inaugural ball, the Captain had proclaimed that Her Majesty’s [ship name] would make the jump from Kali Kata’s station on Sidhu to Londinium, Britannia in less than a fortnight.  No one had ever made the voyage from the Colonies in such a short amount of time.  In fact, when the first colonists had sailed to Kali Kata, they’d done so cryogenically asleep.

Even with her hand flattened on the pristine tablecloth, Morghan still couldn’t feel the rumble of the engines.  It would be a smooth trip indeed.  She took a delicate white china cup from the silver tray, poured a steaming cup, and took a measured sip, breathing deeply of the leaves’ smoky rich aroma.  Technology could not improve upon a fine cup of tea, no matter how hard and long the Empire’s greatest scientists labored to program the replicators. 

Surveying the room, she saw her father enter.  Sebastian Shah waited at the door for the steward to notice his presence, tapping his fingers impatiently against his hip while he scanned his datapad.  Inwardly, she groaned.  He’d talk incessantly about all his findings, from everything to how many crew manned the ship to how much the lowest berth had been sold to what the cooks and maids had gossiped about in the kitchens.

She rose from her chair, and immediately the steward’s attention whipped to her.  She gave him a nod and pulled out the chair beside her.  The man quickly brought her father over, but it was the daughter who seated him.

“May I bring you anything, Lady Shah?”

“I’d like a fresh pot of tea, please, Mr. Whitman.  This one isn’t quite hot enough.”

“My apologies,” he bowed quickly and cleared the table.  “More of the same?”

“Golden tipped assam, yes, and bring my father a cup, please.”

She barely bit back her laughter at the strangled look on Sebastian’s face.  As soon as the steward left, he leaned closer and whispered, “Daughter, the expense!”

“It’s all part of the game, Father.  I’m sure you have numerous notes from the middle deck about the possibility of Britannia going to war.  Zijin won’t be satisfied with merely denying us trade in their ports; they’ll blockade the Colonies as well.  If we lose Sidhu, we lose tea.”

“I know all this, Morghan,” he replied testily and slammed the datapad down onto the table so loudly that the lady several tables over flinched and glared in their direction.  “That still doesn’t excuse wasting an entire pot of the most expensive tea in all the Empire, only to order another!”

She concentrated on keeping her face smooth and her hands steady, calm, and unclenched on the table, but she yearned for the privacy of their suite where she could raise her voice.  Stars, this was his dream, his plan.  She played the game for him.  Yet he evidently had little understanding of the intricate play of society’s politics and sadly, very little faith in her ability to pull this off.

She took several deep, slow breaths before explaining, softly and kindly, which was difficult with her jaws straining to bite back a curse.  “Queen Majel’s favorite tea is golden tipped assam.  The tea is on board as a tribute to her, although no one ever expects her to take a deep space voyage.  Certainly, she’ll never take a trip to the Colonies in person.  Think of the impression my desire to drink this tea makes.  Mr. Whitman is spreading the news in the kitchen even as we speak.  Immediately, it associates us with royalty, and Her Majesty’s Royal Family certainly doesn’t give a damn how much a bloody pot of tea will cost.”

Before her father could respond, the steward returned with a fresh pot of tea, bowing and scraping so low she knew her surmise was correct.  If nothing else, she was firmly cemented as a Person of Importance in this man’s eyes. 

As soon as they were alone once more, her father spoke so low she had to concentrate to hear him.  “You chose this room deliberately.  You knew the steward served this room.  He’s the highest servant on board and answers only to the Captain, who will certainly hear of the wealthy strangers traveling to Londinium who drink the Queen’s own tea.  The Captain will be invited to the Tower to meet the Queen, and so you’ve ensured she’ll hear of not only our arrival but also the manner in which we traveled.  Well done, Daughter.”