Chapter Eight

Shan and Priscilla Ride Again
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Trealla Fantrol
Liad Chapter the Eighth

Gordy was lost.

Well, you couldn’t precisely call it ‘lost’. Not with housecomms stationed here and there throughout the rooms he’d already explored. If he kept going, he’d probably find another one and then he could call in and whoever answered would dispatch someone of this vast household to escort him back to known territory.

But he sure would like to find his own way back.

This room gave onto a hallway: wood paneled walls and uncarpeted floors. Left or right?

Gordy chose left.

His soft houseboots made no sound on the plain floor, which pleased him.

Almost as quiet as Val Con.

It ocurred to him that he might study to become a Scout himself and he scrutinized the idea intensely for three minutes before putting it aside without regret.

I’m going to be a Trader.

That thought felt solid, like the Tree Priscilla had taught him. So, it was decided.

The hallway curved slightly and ended abruptly at a blank wooden door. Gordy had a moment of hope, quickly dashed. If it were an outside door — but no. The green glass knob set in the center testified that this was an older portion of the house. Trealla Fantrol had grown in a spiral, so that the further in you went, the older the house got. Which meant. . .

Gordy sighed around a lively flash of irritation — stupid house — and turned the knob.

Silvery bars, trampoline, tumbling mats, springboards, hurdles, one pair of rings suspended from the ceiling; another attached to the wall. . .

“A gym.”

Gordy walked slowly forward, turning around several times to make sure he saw everything. He paused by the side of the trampoline, sorely tempted.

“Housecomm,” he told himself sternly, and continued, though not without a pang.

There were three ping-pong tables at the back of the room, paddles and balls slung in a net bag hanging beneath each. Over to the far left, the wall was marked with squares, circles and triangles — targets, Gordy guessed. The floor was broken up into rectangles; four of them, each separated by a strip of colored tile.

There was no housecomm.

There was, however, a door in the back right corner, its center-knob brilliant blue.

Gordy went through.

And stopped, blinking in the reflected sunlight; gasping sodden air into startled lungs —

It was as big as Louch Skerrie, back home. The room was hot, hotter than it ever got at home, and Liaden sunlight poured like the finest yellow butter through the glass roof straight into the smooth aquamarine waters. There were plants, too, Gordy saw through his dazzle, stretching greedily upward. . .

“Well met, Cousin!”

Gordy blinked again; walked carefully toward the expanse of water, houseboots shuffing against the baked red tiles.

“Have you come for a swim?” the pool asked him.

Gordy squinted; made out a sleek dark head, and elbows resting on the pool edge.

“Val Con?”

“Ah, I apologize. Shall I opaque the window?”

“No, that’s OK. My eyes are getting used to it. It’s just that the halls and stuff are pretty dim. Compared to this.”

He came to what he considered a safe distance from the water, and took a careful cross-legged seat on the floor.

“Have you come to swim?” Val Con asked him again.

“I don’t know how to swim,” Gordy explained. “I’m lost.”

“An easy condition to attain, in Trealla Fantrol. At least on the Passage one knows that a place is either on the horizontal or the vertical and can locate it from there by the application of logic. Trealla Fantrol requires intuition, skill, and not a little luck.”

Gordy laughed.

“I guess I should have asked somebody to take me on a tour, but I was pretty sure I could figure it out by myself.”

“The tour should have been offered, I think,” Val Con commented in his soft, accented Terran. “Have you been lost very long?”

The boy shrugged.

“Couple hours, maybe. Saw some housecomms, but I kept thinking I’d come to an outside door soon. . .”

He paused, considering the face before him.

“Grandad says. . .” he began, and then blurted — “Are you a king?”

One eyebrow slid upward.

“No, a scout. Are you a king?”

“Me?” He groggled; shook his head. “Not me. I’m just Gordy.”

“An entirely satisfactory thing to be. Why do you not swim?”

“I told you, I can’t. I — Ma wouldn’t let me learn, see, because Da — my father — drowned in the louch.”

“All the more reason for you to learn,” Val Con commented. He tipped his head. “I would be pleased to teach you.”

Gordy squirmed.

“That’s OK. . .I mean — I’ll think about it, thanks.”

“No thanks owed. The teaching would grant me joy.”

Val Con put his palms flat on the floor and pushed. He popped out of the water like a cork, water sheeting off of him.

“If you can wait a moment or two, Cousin, while I dry and dress, we might walk back to the family rooms together.”

He padded off without waiting for an answer.

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Auctorial Reflections

Val Con says, “I apologize.”

Also, I had forgotten the bit about Trealla Fantrol having been built in a spiral. I don’t think we ever mention that detail again, though we do say that the house is easy to get lost in, if you haven’t been given “the tour.”

That said, does it make perfect sense to put the gym and the pool in the most protected area of the house?

The scene itself is well enough, but rather thin. In fact, I’m finding it interesting from a “how we do it” standpoint to read these chapters and note what we’d do on the next pass, and the next — partial passes of this particular scene, which we do on the fly — adding in layers and creating depth. This is one of the reason it takes us “so long” to write a book: we usually lay in the skeleton scene, then Add Stuff as it occurs to us — some the next day, when we review the work from the day before; some when we’re further along in the book, and A Detail — or, yanno, A Subplot — occurs to us. It’s something we do almost without thinking about it, in this age of computers, but it still takes time.

Sharon Lee
June 12, 2015

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