Shan and Priscilla Ride Again
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Chapter the Sixth
Priscilla glanced up from the portable screen with a smile.
“Yes, Ms. Davis? Is there something I can do for you?”
Katy-Rose hesitated, calloused harper’s hands fluttering until she wove the fingers firmly together and held them captive before the buckle of her belt.
“I was wondering if I might as you some questions. No,” she added with a hasty glance at the screen, “if you’re busy, of course.”
Priscilla laughed softly.
“My lessons. They’ll be here later. Unfortunately.” She touched a stud and the amber glow faded.
Katy-Rose drifted into the guest room and sat on the edge of the bed.
“Lessons? Are you a scholar?”
The outworld woman laughed again, shaking her head.
“No. I’m studying how to be First Mate on the Passage. There’s a lot to learn.”
“I’m sure there must be,” murmured Katy-Rose vaguely. She chewed her lip. “I — where do you live, Ms. Mendoza?”
“On Pelthraza Street, in Solcintra.”
Priscilla folded her hands atop the portable unit, face serene, watching the dance of the other woman’s emotions without attempting, just yet, to calm them.
“Solcintra?” Katy-Rose looked at her sharply. “But you’re not –“
“I’m not Liaden, no. I’m originally from Sintia, which is Terran.”
“And you studied to be a bard there?”
“A bard?” Priscilla frowned slightly. “I did learn to tell stories as part of my — education. And to chant and recite genealogies.” Another brief, bright smile. “Not precisely a bard, I think.”
“But near the thought.” Katy-Rose decided and her stress eased somewhat.
“Do you know — my cousin — well?”
“Shan and I are friends,” Priscilla said carefully. “But I haven’t known him long. Only a few Standard Months. I see him and his family often — Trealla Fantrol is just outside of Solcintra. Anthora comes by almost daily. . .”
“The youngest sister,” Katy-Rose reminded herself, nodding. “A pretty little thing, I remember. . .Shan himself is not — married — at this time?”
“No. . .”
Relief zapped through the other’s pattern.
“Well, thank Mercy for that! I think contract-marriage is — is barbaric! And that poor little girl, all alone in that huge house, with no mother –“
Priscilla nearly laughed again, caught it and controlled it.
“I’ve never seen a child more spoiled! Both of her aunts are there, and a nurse, and Shan and Val Con — she wears them all on her finger!”
“Yes, but Shan isn’t home often. And Val Con even less…”
She shook her head, obstinate.
“It doesn’t seem right. Do you know, I don’t even know the name of the child’s mother? She lived in that house for a year, gave birth and vanished. It’s unnatural. . .” She paused. “Will Gordy have to contract-wed?”
“He’s a bit young for that, surely?”
Katy-Rose was not soothed.
“Who knows what a Liaden will take it into his head to do? Here’s Shan not yet a man and sold off to some Clan of another and living there until the woman had her child and then here he comes home again. I asked him a visit or two gone by how his son went on and I’ll swear to you he didn’t know what I asked him!”
“What did he say?” asked Priscilla, paying out a length of calm to the woman.
“Why that he heard the child prospered!”
“Then no doubt he does.”
Priscilla strengthened the bond between them, added comfort, seeking to create a clear space in the storm of the other’s grief and confusion.
“Shan is not a careless person, but it’s not his responsibility to care for the child of another Clan. He loves his daughter very well — and his sisters and foster brother, too!”
“He doesn’t mean to be unkind, I know,” Katy-Rose acknowledged. “But he’s very — odd, isn’t he?”
“Gordy loves him,” suggested Priscilla softly, and Katy-Rose nodded.
“That’s true. And he manages the boy wonderfully well, doesn’t he? He doesn’t raise his voice or threaten and yet there’s Gordy running for wine and as good as I haven’t seen him since — since Morgan and I. . .”
“It’s difficult, sometimes, to love people as they are and not as you’d like them to be.”
Calm was won. Priscilla worked to expand it; to slay the mother-fears and the guilt; to shore up the sagging lines of affection.
“Gordy shows talent for trading. He has flexibility and intelligence. Why shouldn’t he be trained? Especially since he has the desire, too.”
“Why shouldn’t he, indeed?” Katy-Rose smiled suddenly, and Priscilla sealed her work into place. “It’s a good thing I came and spoke with you, Ms. Mendoza. I feel a great deal better now.”
“I’m glad,” murmured Priscilla, disengaging and leaning back in her chair.
Katy-Rose stood; leaned over to touch Priscilla’s folded hands.
“You’re a good woman. Gordy told me what you did for him. And I can see it in you, like a good, strong flame. You’ll take care of my lad, won’t you? Maybe even teach him some of the songs?”
“My songs aren’t the same as yours. . .”
“No matter,” said Katy-Rose, turning to leave. “They’re likely no different in the ways that count.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It seems like Priscilla’s done something rather more than a simple calming down of rattled nerves here, most especially given the last line. I’m not sure that Hestya would approve.
Katy-Rose had come to Priscilla, after all, partly because she was afraid of what partaking of Liaden custom — which is so different from New Dublin custom — might do to her little boy. Then she allows that Priscilla’s songs are likely no different, at heart, than Katy-Rose’s own songs. That’s a little. . .disturbing. Or, it’s hardcore Terran-centric.
I think I want to know where Priscilla got the stud, and when she has to give him back. On the other hand, no. maybe I don’t actually want to know that.
So, hey! The first mention of Padi yos’Galan, who has kept her name All This Time, even unto Ghost Ship, where she has a speaking role, and Alliance of Equals! where she has — somewhat more.
Otherwise: culture notes! Contract marriage! Anthora in a cameo role as a “pretty little thing.” And we never did solve the issue of whether Gordy will be compelled to contract-wed, which is to say, will he ultimately identify as Liaden, or Terran? Those of us who have written and read ahead in the series know that this choice, at least, has lately become much less difficult for him, if, indeed, he ever saw the choice or perceived it as difficult.
It’s not a particularly well-written chapter, but it gets the work done, I guess. Definitely building the story scene-by-scene, which is a perfectly acceptable way to do the thing, but, honest, a scene can do more than one job.
May 19, 2015
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