As promised, a DRAFT of the first chapter is posted here. Now, it isn’t always advisable for the writers to share their work so early in the process, but as a self-published author I get to set my own rules a little bit. That being said, it is very early in the process, and the manuscript, including this one chapter, will likely undergo multiple revisions before the final product is ready for the mass market. Just something to keep in mind.
How likely are you to read this book when it’s finished? Let me know at the end.
The bite in the buttock was sudden and sharp, painful even by the local standards where high pain tolerance was the name of the game.
Clamping a hand over the spot, Adelaide Rye fought tears that threatened to pour in a hot torrent from her eyes. Frozen on all fours under the spiky Qom bush, she breathed through the nose, working through the waves of electric shocks that rode her backside.
“Go back to hell where you belong,” she cursed through her compressed lips at the offending Hicar bug that qualified as a mosquito in these parts. Her violent jerk had dislodged it, and now the gelatinous gray blob the size of a small bird hovered in the air on its ten stubby gossamer wings. The tip of Hicar’s long mouthpiece was dripping acid as the thing was scanning Addie for fleshy parts with its ridiculous googly eyes.
And where were her annoying Yuux companions when she needed them? A little advance warning would have been nice.
Groping for a rock, Addie found one without taking her eyes off the Hicar and threw it. Practice indeed made perfect, and the rock made dynamic contact with Hicar’s body. It exploded with a wet pop and splattered to the ground, the wings slowly floating down.
The bloodsucking creatures were quite slow, and Addie had become quite adept at disposing of them, typically before they had a chance to bite. In fact, she routinely used them for target practice and had no qualms about single-handedly decimating the Hicar population this side of the Olzol Mountains. Precise throwing skills, she had long found out, meant a difference between eating dinner and going to bed hungry.
Addie gingerly rubbed her buttcheek. It would be sore for days, but she was used to being sore.
Sighing, she finished pulling two twisted tubers from the ground where they nestled under the low-hanging branches and backed out from under the Qom bush, careful not to touch the underside of the leaves. Long thorns left scratches on her bare arms, but she could live with the scratches. It was the agonizing rash that Qom leaves gave her that she’d much rather avoid.
The two tubers joined a couple of dozens of others she had collected and piled onto a stiff woven pallet. Addie surveyed the amount and deemed it to be sufficient to yield enough juice for the women.
Quiet chirping drew her attention upwards. The Yuux had returned and were now circling over her head in agitation as if they could sense her pain.
“Now you’re all bent out of shape,” she grumbled as she tied the ends of the pallet together to form a sack around the tubers. “I already killed it. But it had already bit me, so thanks for nothing.”
More low-pitched, quiet chirping sounded from the Yuux before they landed on her shoulder. They squabbled a little settling down, as was their custom, then grew quiet.
Addie harrumphed and hoisted the sack over her other shoulder, reluctant to disturb the Yuux even though a small part of her wanted to shoo the pesky critters away.
Slightly larger than Hicars, Yuux weren’t bugs but warm-blooded flying animals. As ubiquitous as a house sparrow where Addie came from, Yuux were known for adopting a host to bond with. These two had taken a shine to Addie and made her their own. She christened them Ihr and Ehr, after this planet’s two suns.
She started walking, thinking how Iolanthe didn’t see any value in fostering Yuux. But Sathe, a local woman, disdained Iolanthe’s opinion. Yuux were not merely a companion species, she had told Addie. They were protectors. They alerted their chosen host to danger. They could even defend their host, although Sathe was hazy on how exactly that was accomplished by a small flying fur ball with no teeth.
Cringing from the pain in her buttock, Addie hobbled down a rocky incline that led to the city. Emerging from a thicket of tall viny bushes, she caught sight of Iolanthe’s teepee, the tallest among a smattering of similar crude structures made of twined twigs, moss and animal hides.
“City” was a misnomer if there ever was one, but Iolanthe stood firm. They lived in the City of Seraphims, and to drive the point across she had made a stuffed figure of a six-winged angel and hung it above the entrance to her residence. Sathe cringed every time she passed it for the Seraph figurine was made out of Yuux fluffy light-gray fur, and Sathe wasn’t able to get over the sacrilege.
Suddenly, an unusual sight made Addie stop in her tracks and her eyes narrow in attention. At the same time, the Yuux roused and took flight, soundlessly hovering above Addie’s head, watching.
A party of strange men carrying large packs on their backs was nearing the city. Seven of them, all tall and broad with long hair. A For trading party.
Addie held her breath, observing the warriors.
They were so human-looking from afar that it was easy to pretend they were just men, and yet at the same time, impossible. The distance that blurred their marked facial features amplified their animal way of moving, of rotating their heads in this owlish way that Addie found so disturbing. So in-human.
She readjusted her load of tubers, reluctant to approach their settlement with the strange men breaching the border from the opposite side. It was the third time the nomadic For came to their camp while she was living here, and exposure hadn’t diminished the healthy fear she experienced in the presence of males who were so potently untamed.
The people in the settlement were clearly aware of the party’s approach. The campus was unusually deserted, but as Addie watched, Iolanthe emerged from her teepee clad in her usual revealing garb that looked like strategically criss-crossed strips of woven cloth. Similarly decked-out Mot, Dannica, and Janna-Beatrix were close at her heels, and a cluster of their own warriors surrounded them. Hoban, of course, walked at Iolanthe’s side, making their formidable self-proclaimed queen look dainty next to his brawn.
The two groups came together in the circle that was their central plaza and began talking, seemingly a peaceful assembly. The trading men set down their packs.
“What say you?” Addie addressed Ihr and Ehr who hung suspended above her head, their five button eyes trained, unblinking, on the settlement. “Is it a good idea to go home now?”
The Yuux didn’t respond, but neither did they express agitation, and Addie took it as an encouraging sign. She was thirsty and butthurt – literally – and the tubers were heavy. Hefting her load, she stepped off the trodden path and went around the campsite, hiding behind the cover of large clumps of bulbous Timpho grass that grew in this steppe in thick profusion.
Finally reaching the shack on the outskirts of the settlement, she dropped the sack with relief.
Sathe was seated in the corner expertly handling snakeskin in efficient motions of her strong crooked fingers. Her strange but lovely eyes – her one eye – shot a quick glance at Ihr and Ehr. Sathe never said, but Addie strongly suspected that it was because of her Yuux companions she had earned a measure of Sathe’s confidence. None of the other women managed to acquire a Yuux.
“They come,” Sathe said in her low-pitched, heavily accented voice.
“The nomads, you mean?”
“The men from the plains.”
The men from the plains were the nomads.
Addie nodded. “I saw. To trade, I guess.”
Sathe made one of her animal-like head motions so characteristic of the For. Her short tigerish nose quivered.
“Trade,” she spat with disdain. “What is it that we have to trade? Nothing of value.”
“Your skins, Sathe,” Addie said gently. The For woman’s skill with tanning pelts was renowned, even if she herself refused to acknowledge it.
Sathe made a sound deep in her throat that passed for a scoff. “They will take the skins. Nothing else of value. That Hoban will want whatever they brought, all of it. And your women, they will try to make them stay. They always do.”
Addie didn’t reply. Instead, she fetched the clay pot and a wad of moss, and sat down cross-legged to clean the tubers and cut them into small pieces with a sharp sliver of rock. Placing the chunks in the pot, she covered them with a big smooth rock. The rock would press down on the vegetables smushing them and releasing their clear tangy juice for the women to drink.
Ah, the challenges of strange worlds. This godforsaken, backward planet lacked in so many ways that Addie had long lost count of them, but a few biggies stood out day after day. Like water. There was no water.
“This place is all wrong,” Sathe said about the city.
No shit, Addie thought, meaning the entire planet.
Sathe’s bitter disapproval of their way of life was a sentiment she expressed often. She hated it here, in this artificial permanent settlement when all she wanted was to return to her nomadic way of life. But, like Addie, she had nowhere else to go, albeit for a different reason. For custom of expelling the sick and handicapped had doomed the one-eyed disfigured Sathe and made her, who retained only limited mobility in her right arm, a pariah without a tribe. Not that she had any tribe left to claim anyway, not after hers had been wiped out by Wrennlins.
“Those men only want to trade,” Addie pointed out. “You know they will want to return to their own tribe, no matter how much Iolanthe entices them. They won’t stay here.”
Sathe didn’t bother hiding her contempt. “No. Not here. No man wants to stay. Not with your women.”
“Hoban stays,” Addie named the For male who resided in the city. “And Wynn. And the others.” There were quite a few others. Male others…
Sathe’s one working eye narrowed so that only the mossy green of her double-ringed iris showed. “They are all broken, like me. Of no value. No For female will accept their ruined bodies.”
Sathe was right. Except for Hoban, who Addie suspected was here on an easy power trip, every other resident of their settlement had some sort of a physical handicap, and their imperfections spoke to For people of failure and liability.
Addie struggled to understand the logic underlying For’s callous attitude toward their own people, but maybe there wasn’t any logic. Only daft superstition.
“Maybe the trading men will look at our city and see a haven. A safe place.”
“A safe place!” Sathe’s upper lip curled in utter mockery. “This haven of yours is doomed. Dead as rocks, all of us. Staying in one place will lead to it, mark my words.”
Addie had heard her apocalyptic predictions before. “Come on, Sathe, stop being so gloomy. Iolanthe founded this place what, eight years prior to my coming here? That’s ten years. It’s a long time, and the city’s been fine. Have faith. And let me see that hand of yours. Have you been stretching your fingers?” She reached to take Sathe’s crippled hand, but the woman snatched it out of reach.
“Mind your tubers, Addie-woman. My hand is mine to look after.” Grumbling, she moved away from Addie’s side.
Shouts rang from the direction of the plaza followed by the sounds of an unmistakable altercation.
Dropping her culinary tools, Addie ran out of the shack and halted only when she reached the back of Iolanthe’s large teepee, the Yuux in a frenzy above her head.
“Hush, you two,” she hissed, afraid the critters would give away her position.
Her command unsuccessful, she craned her neck, peeking at the plaza from behind the thick layer of prime-quality furs that covered the teepee.
The guest warriors, surrounded by the city males, were frantically trying to ward off what appeared to be a surprise attack. Addie saw Hoban rising and lowering his massive arm wielding a heavy battle ax. It found its targets with terrifying accuracy, hitting and chipping off at the defensive blocks the traders put up with short cudgels they had on them. If they had brought their own axes or spears along, as they surely must have, the newcomers clearly hadn’t been able to get to them in time.
“That Hoban,” Sathe hissed from behind Addie. “Ambushed them! It never happened while he was here.”
“Who?” Addie asked, her eyes glued to the ugly show of strength on the plaza.
Scarred Wynn, a hulking male like Hoban, expertly wielded his oversized wooden club, bloodlust showing clear in his flat werewolf features twisted as they were now, in the heat of the battle.
“The one who left. He had stayed here, broken like us, but then he left.”
“Who left?” Addie paid only cursory attention to Sathe.
“The one who led better than this Hoban.”
Addie could barely hear Sathe’s woe-us-who-have-seen-better-days wails for the din of the battle, but neither did she listen closely. Her attention was fully absorbed by the skirmish.
The defending For party, looking no less intimidating than their attackers, wasn’t going down without a fight. The nomad men’s tall bodies, heavy with muscle, were moving in a furious fighting dance. Their lips were curled in threat exposing long sharp teeth, their red-green eyes were blazing. Bathed in the mellow light of the gentle Ehr sun, the warriors looked demonic, and their animalistic growls made Addie shudder in fear and revulsion.
“This shouldn’t be happening!” Sathe’s voice broke into a hoarse screech. “And it wouldn’t have, had he stayed! He did things the right way, but then Samantha died, and he left. ”
Momentarily distracted from the fight, Addie turned to Sathe. “Samantha is a human name.”
“Who was she?”
Sathe’s lip curled, and it wasn’t in good humor. “They never told you. She came with them, with Iolanthe. She lived here, one of them.”
“What happened to Samantha?”
“It doesn’t matter. It was before. Not your story, Addie-woman. Your story is Hoban, and what comes after this fight he started.”
Sathe took off, her damaged upper body taking away nothing from the astonishing strength of her For legs. She moved like wind, her feet barely touching the ground as she ran, and in a blink of an eye, she was gone from sight.
But the questions remained. Their small young city, it appeared, had a history that Addie wasn’t aware of. An untold drama.
At the moment, though, Addie’s attention couldn’t stray too far from the plaza that had become a gladiator arena with its sights, sounds, and smells that were impossible to tune out. Forget the past, it really didn’t matter; there was drama right here, happening right now.
Two men were clamped together in a wrestling match, grunting from the effort. Others used whatever means handy to stab, hit, bash, or otherwise inflict pain on their opponents. Blood flowed freely; the smell of it reached the place where Addie hovered behind the teepee.
None of it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. She was on Earth, about to wake up, and the bloody fight would dissipate as a bad nightmare along with the two years that preceded it. She could picture her bed at home so vividly, feel the plush weight of her comforter and the downy softness of the pillow under her head. Home…
“Get’em, bitches!” Iolanthe’s throaty shout cut through Addie’s mental blocks and forced her back to the present.
It was over. The foreign For, heavily outnumbered, managed to breach the circle of their attackers and ran for the hills. Two fell behind, their injuries robbing them of speed, and Iolanthe screeched at her men to follow, to finish what they started.
Wynn and another male grabbed their hunting spears designed to kill game the size of small elephants, and threw them with a practiced hand.
Addie closed her eyes.
“Is this all there is?” Janna-Beatrix stared incredulously into her empty earthenware mug.
“Yes,” Addie couldn’t keep shortness from her voice.
It had grown late in the day, and the festivities celebrating Hoban’s dubious victory over the unsuspecting traders had thankfully begun to wind down.
“It isn’t enough. I’m still thirsty.”
“I’ll get more tubers tomorrow,” Addie replied evenly.
“Tomorrow?” Janna-Beatrix whined. “You’ve been slacking! You’re so lazy that we’re all going to die of thirst!”
By far the most capricious of the bunch, she turned sharply to Iolanthe, making her breast pop free from its barely-there binding. The For male reclining against her hip gazed at it in naked hunger. Addie hoped he’d wait to mount her until they were alone in the tight confines of the teepee, but alas, it wasn’t always the case.
Iolanthe lifted her head and looked at Addie from her large brown doe eyes, warm in color but winter-cold with their ever-present calculating glint.
“Really, Adelaide,” she chided softly. “Not enough?”
She stood up, almost six feet in height with lustrous dark hair.
Addie squared her unimpressive shoulders. “I brought the same amount as usual.”
Janna-Beatrix bristled. “Tell her she needs to work harder, Iolanthe! What are we feeding her for?”
But Iolanthe ignored her as she silently left the teepee, much to Janna-Beatrix’s obvious frustration.
The male at Janna-Beatrix’s side distracted her by saying something in his language. Addie understood only half of what he said, but the gist of it was sexual.
She quickly followed Iolanthe outside.
Hoban stood there with several other men going through the bounty of items won from the would-be traders. Wynn was resting with his back to the teepee, his shoulder wound packed with soft pads Addie had applied earlier.
Her professional nursing skills were highly regarded by the women, if not by For who didn’t believe in helping nature heal. To Iolanthe, Addie-the-nurse was far more precious than another female body for the For men to enjoy. It stalled Iolanthe’s hand from forcing her to join their harem, and Addie was pathetically grateful to all the gods of the Universe for granting her this one small mercy among the many punishments they decided to heap upon her.
“What is this?” Iolanthe asked Hoban.
“A thruster,” Hoban replied gazing covetously at the sharp knife-like tool balanced on his hand. “It is made from the Elkeks tusk. Do you know how hard it is to catch an Elkeks?”
“It is very difficult,” Iolanthe purred.
Addie had no idea what an Elkeks was, and Iolanthe probably didn’t either, but like a true strategist she hid her ignorance well.
“Only large tribes with many able-bodied warriors can afford to mount an Elkeks hunt,” Hoban spoke dreamily. “The meat is tender and will feed the tribe for months, the skins are soft and large, and Elkeks bones are strong as a rock and don’t chip. We are lucky to receive this gift.” His huge fist closed around the handle.
With her peripheral vision, Addie could see the bodies of two fallen traders in the distance with the spears lodged in them.
“It wasn’t a gift,” she said without thinking.
Hoban’s head rotated one-hundred and eighty degrees and he pinned her with his unblinking For stare. Her heart gave a sharp pang of fear. Looking up to him from this close was like looking in the eyes of a large wild tiger. An angry wild tiger.
“Go away, Addie,” Iolanthe dismissed her sharply.
She fled without argument. It was cowardly, and she hated herself for backing down, but what would standing her ground bring her? This harsh life, the primitive conditions, and the large uncivilized males who fit in so beautifully with this rugged landscape had tested Addie’s strength and convictions many, many times in the last two years, and found her wanting. Every. Single. Time.
When she got back to the shack, Sathe was nowhere to be seen, but Anne was sitting there, huddled under one of Sathe’s half-finished fur ponchos.
“Hey.” Addie regarded Anne’s gaunt face and purplish half-moons under her eyes. “I left your drink in your teepee when I didn’t find you at Iolanthe’s. I was afraid Janna-Beatrix would chug it before you returned.”
“Thank you, Addie.” Anne’s smile was tremulous and weak.
Anne looked absolutely exhausted but still ravishing. Her fragile dusky beauty made her a popular choice with the men, particularly Hoban.
“Are you okay?” Addie asked.
“Yeah… Yeah, I’m okay. I was upset by the fight,” Anne admitted quietly. “So sudden.”
“Yeah, it was, wasn’t it?”
“Do you think…” Anne licked her dry lips nervously. “Was it wrong of Hoban to hit out at them? I mean, why?”
Addie shrugged with pretend indifference, careful not to upset Anne with her concerns. “To get their stuff, of course.”
“They’ve never done anything so brazen before. There will be retributions.”
“Maybe Hoban thinks we have enough men now to get away with it. Ask him, he may tell you.”
Anne shuddered. “No, thank you. We don’t talk.”
Addie’s brows furrowed as her eyes landed on Anne’s huddled form. They didn’t talk.
He’d been screwing her for years.
Taking in Anne’s chapped lips and pruney fingers, Addie shook her head. “You need to drink, Anne.”
“Funny, I don’t feel thirsty.”
“How can you not? Go, finish your juice.”
“I guess.” With a sigh, the woman pushed away the furs and stood up. “Have you seen Dannica around? Or Mot?”
“They were at Iolanthe’s earlier, celebrating. I don’t know where they’re at now.”
Anne scrunched up her nose. “Shagging, I bet. Where else.” She went away, shoulders slumped.
“Anne!” Addie called to her on impulse. “Don’t… do it. If you don’t feel like it, I mean.”
Anne stopped and turned. Her eyes were sad and knowing. “It’s alright, Addie.”
“You can say no. You can try. Please, try.”
Anne smiled. “You don’t understand, Addie. I can’t let my sisters do all the work. With twelve men living here now, we have to share the load. We’re in this together.”
She went and Addie stayed, perturbed. The day had certainly taken a different direction from what she had expected when she woke up in the morning.
The Yuux came back from their nightly hunt and fluttered around the shack like homeowners coming back from an extended vacation. Is the family silver still in place? Have the plants survived? What about that leaky faucet, had it racked up their water bill while they were away?
“You two are trouble,” Addie pointed a finger at them.
Ihr, so light gray he – or she? – appeared almost white, landed on her finger. Its surprisingly strong toes with talons gripped Addie’s flesh tightly. She bounced it up and down before throwing the furball up. It shot up, gurgling in delight.
She extended her hand in invitation to Ehr, and the shyer and darker of her companions tentatively landed, careful not to grip the finger too tight. She bounced it with more moderation than the rambunctious Ihr before giving it a good throw. Ehr’s exciting gurgles floated from above as it did somersaults while falling down, only to swoop back up before it hit the ground. Addie laughed, the tightness in her chest releasing a little, the events of the day, by no means forgotten, temporarily taking the second place to watching the Yuux at play.
Sathe returned, hostile and uncommunicative. She made a nest in the furs and turned in for the night, coiling her body like a dog in the corner farthest from Addie’s.
Addie did the same, unfurling her moss-stuffed mattress and snuggling under a patchy blanket made of leftover fur pieces.
This planet’s two rotating suns meant that darkness never existed in this world. Before the orange Ehr set, Ihr emerged, a dim yellow with a distinct greenish cast.
She lay under the roof of skins in her bed of rags, looking out of the shack’s open side at the green dusk, at the familiar bushes and shrubs, the clumpy grass with leaves as sharp as knives, at the beautiful glowing fungi that unfolded only when Ihr came out.
Homesickness lapped at her in waves like it always did at night. She thought about Earth and her family, wondering what time of day it was at home. In her mind, she sifted through things that she used to have, activities she had enjoyed doing, replaying the sounds she no longer heard. Flowing water. A jingle of keys. A violin playing. She savored each recollection, cherishing the small details imprinted in her memory.
Recently, Addie had realized with dismay that her memories of Earth were fading, becoming more and more indistinct. She strained to remember the sound of her husband’s voice. She could no longer recall the exact motif on her tricolored puppy’s back.
Tears silently rolled down her temples. Her past life was slipping farther and farther away. She was beginning to forget. Soon, there would be nothing left for her to hold on to, not even her memories.
She slept, and instead of comforting visions of Earth, her sleep was troubled by dreams of fighting, by strong male bodies with sharp teeth and bloody eyes closing in on her.
It was the Yuux that woke her. Addie sat up in bed and watched them out of the eyes that were only half-open and still swollen from crying. The night was far from over, yet the Yuux were flying at a steady speed over her in a circle emitting low growls. Those growls had roused her from her restless sleep.
A movement caught her eye. Sathe was up, standing at the edge of their shack, peering into the open space. Her Yuux companion was exhibiting the same pattern of behavior as Ihr and Ehr.
Addie rose and pulled on her shoes which were glorified socks with the leather-reinforced sole. Her drowsiness disappeared, chased away by the sudden fast beating of her heart.
She joined Sathe by the entrance. “What is it? Have the nomads come back with reinforcements?” she whispered.
Sathe didn’t respond, but her cat-like ears twitched asynchronously, sticking up from their normal flat position under her hair.
Low male voices speaking in For reached Addie, and as she stepped outside, she was able to see Hoban, Wynn, and several others standing between the teepees with their ears pointed just like Sathe’s, looking around, listening. The area was so eerily, oppressively quiet. And the men’s Yuux flew and flew in circles.
Addie looked back at Sathe. “Is it the nomads?” she asked the woman for the lack on anyone else she could ask. “Something is wrong, even I can feel it.” A slight tremor rocked the ground under her feet.
8 thoughts on “08/22/2020”
great piece! I just read your book Homebound and it was incredible. Such great world building and character development. I am SUPER eager to read your next book. Great job ❤
I love your Homebound book. I’ll eagerly wait for a any new book from you! Love your writing. It’s amazing that authors like yourself exist in this world.
I just read Homebound and absolutely loved it. I’m thrilled to see you’re writing a new sci-fi book. Addie’s adventures look very interesting. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it. Thanks!
Yay! I love sci-fi romances that are heavy on the sci-fi and not fake sci-fi like “ a human meets a alien that looks just like a human, they have instalove, and the planet is just like earth”. This chapter sucked me in for sure. Homebound was my fave book this year, so I have a lotta faith this will be just as kickass!
LOVE and BOUGHT Homebound. Looking forward to any books you’ve got coming.
This was amazing! Almost forgot I was only reading a draft of a book and was wondering why the rest of the story wasn’t showing up as I scrolled down. You’ve got me on the edge of my seat waiting for what happens next! (Also just finished Homebound and am obsessed with your writing and stories, I was so sad to see you only have two books out! I’m going to devour Family Affair next)
I’ve just finished Homeward Bound. I enjoyed it immensely, and needed to search the author out (which I very rarely do)
This new work has me hooked. I want to read more right now!!! 😉
Oh, I love this. I just finished Homebound on KU and went ahead and bought the book too. It has been such a long time since I’ve read such a genuinely good sci-fi novel, and I greatly look forward to seeing what you bring with this one.