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.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
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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  1. Dustin’s avatar

    I like this scene, but it’s a huge leap from Celbridge-on-the-Louch to Trealla Fantrol. Just a tad sudden.

    I can envision a great pool area becoming enclosed by the house, as it grew, spirally, or otherwise. Building a house around a garden or water-feature is classic design, going back to the Romans, at least.


  2. Pamela Lunsford’s avatar

    If the pool is fed by a stream it could invaluable if the house is under siege. You can last without food far longer than without water.


  3. IreneHa’s avatar

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

    Of course had that continued ‘…Val Con replied in Terran’ or the ‘I apologize’ was just removed… well I’m sure that the intrepid authors would have edited during the second draft.

    I like what is here. If I at 10 had been dropped into a fabulous house, and allowed to wander wherever… Wouldn’t that have been great. Sort of like being allowed to wander the whole library that had been in two stories of a 1920’s building, when I was 10.

    I assume that it was the servants vacation day? Or that Gordy couldn’t just speak to the walls, and talk to Jeeves. Or perhaps the forgotten tour, would have covered locations of coms, should the older parts of the building not have been retrofit for Jeeves to be called from. Especially a space faring family of traders would have emergency protocols and coms in each room for safety. I assume that next to, what in our world would be, a light switch, there is an emergency com or alarm. In later books didn’t Jeeves know who was in what room and monitor? Maybe the authors hadn’t “found” Jeeves at this point.

    My humble opinion is that this is a great chapter. For now left sparse, but fleshed out with red herrings (or things hung on the wall for use in later chapters), or important locations. Things like the oven in Aunt Kareen’s Town house, used by the children as a secret passage. [Or perhaps I don’t have the right secret passage.] or the need for a location of a basement bunker com room (like in Erob’s clan house).

    I have two minds on his chapter. One of my major nightmares is wandering in a maze of shops in a Mexico market – looking for the bathrooms. One of my major daydreams is wandering in a maze of shops, and ancient homes, walking roughly toward that gate of an old city (specifically I was once ‘lost’ in Jerusalem). Sharon and Steve would know how to write, and use both of those feelings.


  4. Elizabeth Moon’s avatar

    Speculations on why the pool & gym might be in the deep interior…my mother designed houses for people who could build far bigger/better houses than we lived in. Her father had had an interesting approach to house design (though he wasn’t an architect.) His was: first build as many bathrooms as inhabitants, plus one, and around that put a kitchen, pantry, living room, and some bedrooms. Around that build a screened porch for sleeping in warm weather. As needs develop, close in the screened porch for other bedrooms/guestrooms/whatever. Mother’s observation: the rich people she designed for liked to have their houses “cradle” a private visually protected space where there might be a garden or a big deck or a swimming pool. The house would wrap partly, or all the way, around this space.

    Both these approaches could result in a spiral house design as it developed over time, with the oldest bits in the middle. A swimming pool and gym are places where people might be more vulnerable and thus putting them in a more protected location makes sense.

    Not that you asked for reasons, but there they are anyway.


    1. Sharon’s avatar

      No, no; it’s good to know how people think and design things like a houses; a subject on which I am extremely ignorant. Thank you!


      1. Jo’s avatar

        And you got that for free.


        1. Sharon’s avatar

          Yes, I did. Without asking for it. What is offered for free is a gift; one is grateful for gifts and says “thank you.”


        2. Godel Fishbreath’s avatar

          It would be so good to have those passes detailed. I am a starting writer. I have sold one short story, and am always looking for good ideas on writing. And yes, I am writing. But I admire your style, your works. Finding how you or Bujold or other quality writers creates something would be fascinating.


          1. Sharon’s avatar

            It would be so good to have those passes detailed.

            . . .and that crosses from Author Commentary to Teaching. Teaching means I have to charge Actual Money because time is limited and if I’m teaching I’m not writing.


            1. Godel Fishbreath’s avatar

              OK, thanks anyway.


            2. Jonathan Briggs’s avatar

              It might not make perfect sense, but not all houses do that.

              It seems likely that the pool and gym were built early in the life of the house and were never moved. That makes sense to me because it is difficult to move a pool.



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