Shan and Priscilla Ride Again
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Chapter the Third
The boy’s tone was calm, and utterly certain. Morgan chose to understand that it was also insolent.
“And it’s ‘yes’ I’ve told you this minute gone by, my boy, and ‘yes’ I’ll be having from you. Did you learn nothing on that fancy star-goer of yours about obedience to the elder?”
The reference to Dutiful Passage was unfortunate. Katy-Rose looked up from the score she was studying, face tense. Gordy’s shoulders tightened still more, but his only comment was a flat correction.
“Grandad’s the elder. Not you.”
Morgan clamped his jaw on the surge of temper.
“Nonetheless, I’m elder of you, besides being your ma’s own husband, and your father-in-law. This is the last time I’m telling you. Get into working clothes. You’re for your Uncle Edward this day. Time you did some honest labor!” He paused.
The lad stood motionless, except that his hands curled into fists at the end of his stiff arms. Morgan was reminded that Finn Arbuthnot had been a powerful man, in spite that he’d made his way by the music and the storytelling. He cleared his throat.
“Are you hearing me, Gordy? Or must I be taking you by force?”
“Morgan –” began his wife.
“You can’t,” Gordy stated clearly, voice rising so that it carried to the ceiling-corners. “Father-in-law you might be, and husband to my mother, but you’re no father to my heart and I’ll have none of you!”
“Gordon!” Katy-Rose was on her feet, bur Morgan was nearer.
“Can’t, is it? I’ll remind you, my lad, that you live as a dependent in this household and the law demands obedience from you on that count alone. Whether or not your heart is engaged!”
He grabbed Gordy’s arm.
“It’s to your uncle you’re going today, if I have to carry you every step of the way!”
And gasped with shock. It was if the child were rooted to the floor.
Morgan readjusted his grip and pulled again. Harder.
Gordy remained rooted, brown eyes squinted in concentration, fair hair slightly damp across his forehead.
“Stop it!” Katy-Rose demanded, trying to push between husband and son. “Both of you, give over!”
But Morgan was angry — and who could blame him, with the boy so intractable? And who could blame him, with his stepfather after him all the day long, insisting that Gordy be doing something ‘profitable’ instead of — instead of. . .
Whatever it was that Gordy did.
The man had shifted his grip again, preparing to lift the boy. Katy-Rose saw in a moment of clarity that Gordy had gained inches; that he was less pudgy; that his face began now to show the shadows of the lines it would wear as a man.
“Morgan, let be!” Her voice was low, urgent.
She lay a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged it off, attention all for the boy.
The doorbell rang.
“Praise be!” she breathed and hurried to let rescue within.
Her father was there, smiling — rescue enough. But Katy-Rose stood staring in consternation at the two he brought with him, until —
Gordy twisted easily from Morgan’s frozen grip and ran forward, face full of joy.
The man bent gracefully, returning a brutal boy’s hug fully, and laying his cheek against the soft hair.
“Gordy. It’s good to see you, achusla.”
But Gordy was already flinging away, wrapping his arms around the woman with no less abandon.
“Priscilla, Priscilla. . .”
“Hello, Gordy.” The woman’s voice was unexpectedly deep. A storyteller’s voice, Katy-Rose understood, and spared a moment to wonder where this woman had trained to be a bard.
She was distracted in the next instant by the elegant sweep of the man’s bow.
“Cousin. Housefather. I hope I see you in good health and in good heart.”
“Health follows a joyous heart.”
She gave the traditional response; managed a smile. “You command of our tongue improves.”
“It’s a demanding teacher your son is,” murmured Shan, expanding his range a bit to scan nuance.
The man was obviously upset, even as he came forward to stand beside his wife; and Katy-Rose gave off alternating waves of sorrow, worry, relief, nervousness. A joyous heart, indeed. To the side, he heard Gordy, pattern a mess of suppressed fury, longing, and genuine joy, speaking to Priscilla in Trade.
“I know I shouldn’t have used the Tree against him, Priscilla. But I didn’t hit him. . .”
She murmured something for his ears alone, and Shan detected the opening of a road of comfort between them, even as she began a Sort of the scrambled emotions. That was in hand, then.
“Well! Let’s not all stand in the doorway like dummies, my dears!”
Uncle Richard’s voice was loud enough to make Kay-Rose jump.
“Morgan, you’ll be remembering my sister’s own boy, Shan. And he’s brought his first mate with him, the very Priscilla we’ve heard so much about, eh, Grandson?” He gestured, and switched to Terran, apparently assuming that Priscilla didn’t have the local language.
“Ms. Mendoza, this will be my daughter, Katy-Rose Davis, and her husband, Morgan O’Clery. Come in, come in! Let’s all sit and be comfortable.”
Which was, Shan thought, a statement of optimism is ever he’d heard one. He stepped aside to let Uncle Dick show the way, noting how Morgan started and gave ground, as if the old man’s intent had not been clearly announced. But, no — he recalled that the husband had very little Terran; and little use for it, to be just. A local man, working locally, what need had he to learn Terran?
No wonder Gordy lost patience.
Seats had been found, pleasantries exchanged. Refreshments had been brought by a Gordy so eager to please that Morgan stared at him in disbelief. After serving the bowls all around, he came uninvited into the adults’ circle, sitting on the rug between the two outworlders, eyes half-closed, as if basking in the sun.
Morgan frowned, and would have spoken, but Richard Davis raised a hand.
“The talk concerns the boy, as well. Let him stay.”
Morgan subsided, though with ill grace. Gordy, cross-legged on the floor, was suddenly wide-eyed, scarcely seeming to breathe.
The hope-filled eyes pinned Richard to his chair. Tension made a nails-on-slate squeal against a Healer’s senses, and Shan narrowed his field of perception.
“It’s that your cousin says he’s willing to take you on again, should you be willing to go. Before we begin in detail, that is what I need to know. Are you willing?”
“Crelm! Yes –” He was half up, twisting around to speak to the man behind him. “Shan — please! I’ll be — I’ll study. I will! You won’t have to –“
One big hand descended, resting lightly on the fair hair.
“I gather you’re here on sufferance, Gordy; and I didn’t ask you, your grandfather asked you. Strive for some conduct.”
The mildest possible tone; one could hardly call it a rebuke at all, Katy-Rose thought. Yet Gordy swallowed and took a breath and turned with a bit of calmness to speak to his grandfather.
“Yes, sir. I’m willing — willing to go with Shan –” His voice broke and he stopped, all eyes and straining tension. Katy-Rose felt tears rising; looking to find her cousin’s silver eyes on her, lean face full of sympathy.
“It’s not unusual to foster a child into another Line — even into another Clan. There’s no reason not to offer aid.”
“Besides, I may be asking for a return of the favor soon enough, Cousin. My daughter Padi bids fair to be a hell-raiser.”
“I didn’t know,” she stammered, mindful that Morgan could not follow such a spate of Terran; “that it was as bad as that for him. . .”
“People grow. And sometimes they have needs and talents that are different from others in the family.”
He extended a hand, the big purple ring glinting in the dim room-lights.
“It doesn’t mean that love’s gone away.”
As if his words had the power of comfort, she took a breath. Another. And felt the tears recede. Hesitantly, she touched his fingertips, smiling a little as she turned away.
She caught Priscilla Mendoza’s ebony eyes on her and wondered anew at the beauty of the woman: stormcloud curls and white, white skin; she might have sest herself as a deliberate foil for her Captain, with his warm brown skin and seafroth hair. She nodded slightly, and the outworlder smiled like the sun rising. Kay-Rose gasped and instinctively sought Morgan’s face.
But he was glowering, cut off by lack of language. He ignored her smile, and her hand, eyes fixed on Richard.
“That’s settled, then, is it, Johnny Galen?”
“Yes, Uncle Dick,” Shan said calmly. “That’s settled.”
“We’ll put off the rest of this discussion until the morrow, if you’ve no objections to it. It’s getting on to local evening, and an old man doesn’t do his best trading late in the day.”
The younger man threw his head back, and his laughter overflowed the circle.
“Have me believe you beyond your prime, will you? That’s one’s older than you are by several magnitudes, sir! But, let us by all means speak in the morning, if you feel it gives you an advantage.”
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And here we are at New Dublin.
This chapter feels more solid to me than either of the first two chapters, which were kinda squishy around the edges. Finally, there’s a story going on!
I do wish Gordy would cut poor Morgan some slack — not everyone can be expected to have received Gordy’s advantages, after all. On the other hand, Gordy’s in One of Those Difficult Times of Life, and, to be fair, Morgan is apparently no Finn Arbuthnot, who had been a bard, and, one gathers, Somewhat Larger Than Life. One wonders what Katy-Rose was thinking, to go from Larger Than Life to Steadfast and Earnest. Though Larger Than Life is occasionally wearing. Perhaps she was just looking for. . .less drama in her life.
Still haven’t quite gotten control of the point-of-view/head-hopping thing, but still — a good scene, pretty much everything that needs to be unzipped is, and we get a good tight look of what, exactly, is going on in Katy-Rose’s household.
Given that we very often write material — up to a hundred pages, and no, we’ve never gotten entirely out of the habit — ahead of a book’s proper beginning, this chapter may well be the “natural” chapter one.
Oh, and I do like Richard Davis.
May 3, 2015
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