A Peek Behind the Curtain

It’s been a busy summer, with multiple family trips and some extra work at the day job loaded on. I’m about halfway through revising Loving A Deathseer, the third book in the Jaiya Series. It can be tricky because Deathseer was the first thing I wrote in the Jaiya universe, back in 2010, and I hadn’t worked out all the details of the world-building yet.

For instance, Marrying A Monster (written in 2013, published in October 2016) and Waking The Dreamlost (written in 2016, published February 2017), both take place in a world in which people with superhuman powers and angelic bloodlines drive cars and talk on cell phones to inhuman insect-people, in between fighting terrorists, drug dealers, and eldritch monsters who hate the human race.

I originally wrote Deathseer as having a more dieselpunk setting, with fantasy elements to offset the lower technology level. For instance, palantir-like objects called “viewglobes” served as tv sets, radios and cell phones. Here is the rough draft (typos and all) of a scene I just finished revising and expanding. The new version is about double the length, and unlike the version below, does not involve a newsreader broadcasting his report to a giant crystal ball….

The main ceremony was that evening. The chieftain thanked Lady Orinta three times- in the common tongue, and in two dialects- for her work behalf of his people, she gave a short, gracious reciprocal speech in the same three languages, and then sat down on the dais between the chieftain and her husband, while the villagers performed a traditional local dance form. There was no particular accommodation for the rest of Orinta’s party, for reasons that Erno didn’t understand but suspected had something to do with Mafala’s running feud with the chieftain’s wife and majordomo.

There were rugs laid out for everyone to sit on, but lots of people got up and wandered around. Erno didn’t- he stuck to Zeni, making sure she stayed bundled, brought her warm, sweetened milk from the chieftain’s kitchen, and generally try to fulfill his promise to Orinta to look after her niece’s health. They didn’t talk and banter the way they had before-Zeni acted constrained and uncomfortable around him, and downright snubbed him the one time he tried to make a joke around her.

Erno understood her discomfort all to well, and felt something similar himself, so he didn’t push his luck. Instead, he watched people mill around the square, making sarcastic comments about the dancers, to judge by their facial expressions, watched Bahija track Feraaz down in a determined way, only to find him talking with her brother Bassu. It looked like Feraaz managed to send her away relatively mollified while he continued his chat with Bassu. Erno wondered idly what the two were saying to each other. Was Feraaz looking for a political favor from Bassu? Some things he’d heard made him think that Bassu was not quite as squeaky clean as his mother.

“Alert! Breaking news!” The booming voice jarred Erno out of his thoughts, and he glanced towards the other end of the village, where a viewglobe as big as a man stood on a pillar. The globe showed the figure of a man in a suit, one of the newsreaders or other, Erno couldn’t recognized him offhand, and had never understood why people followed one newsreader rather than another, given that they all read from the same script and sounded like dreadfully boring upperclass snobs.

“Breaking news!” The newsreader repeated. “We have just learned of an attack on Lady’s Orinta’s main residence, located on the outskirts of the provincial capital. We repeat, an attack on Lady Orinta’s house. Firebombs were used, parties unknown. According to the police report, no one was at the house at the time of the incident. Milady’s family and one of her servants was with her for a ceremony in the hill country, and the other servants were on leave.” By servants plural, Erno guessed the newscripters had meant the undercook and the “gardeners.” The newsreader proceeded to repeat the whole thing in the two dialects the chieftain and Lady Orinta had used earlier.
The effect on the crowd was electric.
The locals stared and pointed and talked loudly at each other. Kavi turned bright red and stood up- until his wife’s hand on his arm made him sit down again. A shriek came from the crowd- it sounded like Bahija. Feraaz and Bassu exchanged knowing looks and broke apart. Without thinking twice, Erno left Zeni and stalked after Feraaz.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm,” Lady Orinta said. “This is clearly a very unfortunate incident, but it took place far from here, and no one was injured. Please let’s go on with the evening…”

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