Ah, summer! After a day of gardening and other outdoor fun, is there anything better than relaxing with a good book in the cool of the evening?
One book I remember reading during a summertime break from school is Andre Norton's Time Traders. What a great introduction to science fiction! Ash, Murdock and their fellow time travelers lit a firestorm in my imagination. The next book to strongly impact me was J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of The Rings.
What book has set your imagination ablaze? Answer in the comment section below for a chance to win an e-copy of my social science fiction novel Moons' Kiss. My contest is open to U.S. and international visitors. Please include an email address so I can notify the winner. For chances to win additional prizes, here's a link to other Is It Summer Yet? Blog Hop participants. Good luck, and don't forget to challenge yourself to try something new this summer . . . even if it's only sampling a genre you've never read before. Who knows what treasure you'll find?
They found him in the South Ofrann Desert, where everything evil lived. Most called him a demon. One leader thought this man-without-a-past held the key to tribal peace and prosperity. That leader’s enemies saw an opportunity to gain control of the nation.
* * * *
When Kayarra's attention returned to the moon dancers, Ryna had extinguished her globe and was circling Trys, sweeping her darkened globe past his, taking Trys through the lunar phases: waning, eclipsed, waxing, full. Twice she circled him, then both dancers turned toward Aya, knelt, and placed their globes on the stone in front of him. Their cloth-covered heads dipped in grave nods, then they sidled sideways, slipped over the edge of the dais, down the stairs, and disappeared among the crowd.
Drum rolls started and the crowd roared, drowning out the flutes and even the drummers for a time. When Kayarra could hear the flutes again, they played a livelier tune, having quit Yatra's heavy, sorrowful music.
"We're free to go or stay," Denassa shouted into Kayarra's ear.
"You leave?" he shouted back.
"I wait," he told her and stopped trying to talk above the crowd's jubilant shouts.
Denassa dipped her finger into one of the marble cups and sucked the liquid from her fingertip. Kayarra did the same before he remembered that she'd told him to eat before taking any of the amber liquid. He reached for another slice of fruit.
Even the little bit he'd taken on his finger coated his tongue and mouth in an unpleasant way. When the fruit didn't cut through the coating, he signaled for water. Denassa reached for a distant bowl, passed it to him, and smiled.
"What is?" He pointed to the marble cup.
Her reply was incomprehensible.
He had meant his question to elicit an explanation, as if he'd asked, What does it do? But that's not what he'd asked, and Denassa had answered literally, and he wasn't willing to continue a conversation that made him feel like they argued.
Several women among the crowd had raised their hands above their heads, and nearby men circled them, thrusting their hips forward. Kayarra watched until his arousal became uncomfortable, then looked toward the shecarens. What he could see of Aya's face was a fleeting profile when the shon regis leaned close to speak to Manerra.
"I leave," Denassa yelled, gave veneration neither shecaren noticed, then thrust her legs over the edge of the dais and started down the stairs in a crouch. Kayarra followed. From the corner of his eye, he saw Shurna touch Aya's shoulder.
Kayarra felt exposed on the stairs; felt safer after they entered the gyrating crowd, although he looked over his shoulder to see whether any of the men from the trail ambush followed.
A bowl was shoved under his chin, and a woman's finger dipped into the amber liquid. He followed the finger back to her mouth, and watched her lips purse as she slowly withdrew the finger. She laughed when he flinched back, then laughed harder when someone's hand passed over his groin. He knocked the hand away and lunged after Denassa, his face burning, his anger sparked.
Just as he reached her, Denassa whirled and collided face-to-chest with him. He grabbed her shoulders as she rebounded.
"We must not separate," she gasped breathlessly, caught his hand, and held tightly until they broke free of the pressing crowd. When she tried to release his hand, he held onto it, craving the warmth and familiarity of her touch.
Denassa whirled, yanked free, and took hasty steps backward.
"Dee?" He halted and watched the distance between them increase.
She turned and walked hastily away. He followed because he didn't have a choice.
"Is hand touch bad?" he shouted after her when her pace slowed. He caught up with her when she stopped walking. "I am sorry, Denassa."
"What you did followed the moons' dance."
He knew she wasn't saying that because she thought him too stupid to understand what he'd seen. "I not understand."
"The moons bring the shecarens," she said, avoiding his eyes.
"Denassa, I not Yatren."
She gasped and looked over her shoulder. Too late, he realized his mistake in saying that where he could be overheard. Denassa started walking again, her attention on the ground. "When the moons join, we are given a shecaren," she said. "Men can only duplicate that event with the birth of a child. Will you tell me that you did not feel the power in the dance and the effects of the itenyan?"
The amber syrup. An aphrodisiac? He felt as violated as he had when that hand fell upon his crotch. "I not love you. I not sex you. Why iten--" his pronunciation fell apart in his anger. He started past her, angry at what felt like trickery, angry at all the things he didn't understand.
"It's tradition that we participate," Denassa called after him, following him, because she didn't have a choice in what she did, either.
He stopped and turned. "How--" Distress shredded what vocabulary he had, brought him face-to-face with a concept he had no way to express. How do you cope? he wanted to demand, when the question was better asked of Aya. "I want you," he confessed what she could see by looking at him. "I love you."
"Please stop," she begged.
"Touch me." He held out his hand in entreaty.
She turned and started away.
He followed, careful to keep an arm's length of distance between them. "I not say love because I drink drink," he informed her.
They entered the grove of trees that separated the plaza from the orchard. Intertwining branches cast shadows across her face.
"Tell me you have no wife, no children," she demanded.
"You know I not know," he said. "You say I love you. You now hatred me?"
She stopped and turned. He stopped walking. "There are too many things we don't know, too many things I do know. None of them have anything to do with hatred. That I love you only confuses me."
His heart pounded.
"I know what Aya and Yutrenta suffer," she said.
He took a step toward her. She retreated. "I need to look upon Yutrenta," she said.