My third foray into the Dryden Universe was a little bit different. Maybe a lot different. The thing about writing a book with a romance arc is that when you get to the Happy Ever After ending, the basic ROMANCE plot is finished. That means you have to find another couple to meet and fall in love, while making sure it isn’t too quickly etc etc. I had to come up with new characters for this next Dryden book
My modus operandi tends to be powerful alpha males, usually admirals, and strong women who can match them, but this time, it seemed to me that nice, ordinary guys deserved to fall in love, too. His name is Brent Walker. (Note to self: not every guy’s name has to start with B - I seem to have had a lot of them :) ) Brent is trying hard to make his way in the slightly dodgy, cut-throat world of small freight hauling. In some respects he’s a bit like Han Solo – rough on the outside, but basically a nice man.
Now for the female main character. I wanted to work Admiral Ul-Mellor into the plot, but as a supporting character. So Tian Axmar is an Imperial agent, reporting to Admiral Ul-Mellor, who somehow involves Brent Walker in her undercover operation. Tian hires Brent and his elderly freighter to assist in her investigation of murders of Yrmaks and Humans, associated with a strange symbol left at the scene. Of course, since there’s a romance arc, they fall in love.
In that context, the Yrmaks had to be much more than two-dimensional nasty chaps. Tian and Brent would have to actually talk to them, work out why certain things happened as they did. To do that I’d have to make them much more real in my own mind, with their own culture, their own mythology and rituals, and their own reasons for doing things.
Describing Yrmak culture without having too much exposition was a challenge. I settled on revealing bits and pieces as Brent and Tian conduct their investigation. The extract is set in a local market. Looking for clues, Tian has a conversation with a Human stall holder who sells Yrmak souvenirs. He’s just tried to sell Tian a ritual knife she knows isn’t authentic.
"I'm Tian. Pleased to meet you. Tell me about the Rite of Ur Bazoon. Isn't that some sort of fertility thing?"
"No. It's a ceremony carried out when the young men are mature enough to go to war. They pledge themselves to the Great Mother by cutting their left claw with a knife like that one. Their blood drips into a bowl on the altar, then the High Priestess drinks the blood. After that, they're given their spears."
He knew what he was talking about, and his pronunciation of Ur Bazoon had been pretty good. But that dagger was no more authentic Yrmak than she was.
"Do you speak Yrmak?"
"I do. It was difficult, but I find their culture fascinating. A true matriarchy, with the females running things. It's hard to find out about anything interesting if you don't speak the language."
So very true.
"Is there anything in particular you're looking for? I have some beautiful pots, carvings." Austen put down the pot he held in his hand and picked up another. "Lovely carvings on this one. See?"
Tian stared at the jar he'd put down, dark green stone with what looked like a gold inscription. If she was any judge that was probably worth more than the rest of his collection put together. "Can I see that one?"
He picked up the piece and fondled it as though it were precious. "Beautiful, isn't it? It's not for sale. I… ah… only just got this one."
Stolen? "May I see it? Please? I'll be very careful."
"Well… okay." He placed the jar onto Tian's outstretched palm.
Heavy. Not pottery, this was deep green, flawless aventurine. The symbol on the lid had been carved, then the carving filled with gold. It was an eye surrounded by rays. She'd never seen the symbol before, but she suspected she knew what it was. "Where did you get this one?"
"Picked it up in an Yrmak's junk sale. Just came from there. The matriarch had died — that is, passed on to the Mother — and they were selling up her effects. Household goods and such."
"And they sold this?"
His eyelashes fluttered. "It was part of a job lot." He waved his hand at the counter behind him, where an assortment of jars and cheap jewelry stood next to the box. "I've been sorting it out."
There was a certain resemblance between this symbol and the other one she kept in her comm. Not the same, but resonant. "How much do you want for it?"
Austen stared at the jar, then at her, then back at the jar, his eyes widening for the barest instant. He shook his head. "It's not for sale." He tried an apologetic smile. "Sorry. I think I'll be keeping this one."
"Do you know what it means? This symbol?" Tian traced it with her finger.
"I don't think it means anything. Not everything does, does it? Look, it's nothing. Just a part of a female's dressing room. That's why it's so fancy." He almost snatched it from Tian and put it in his pocket. "It's pretty. I think the wife would like it."
He picked up another pot, the same size but made from green agate and with a silver design on the lid. "What about this one? Just ten credits."
If you’d like to know more, you could always read the book…
A distant star explodes. The ripples of its passing will rock the Empire.
When fate throws Brent Walker and Tian Axmar together, it’s strictly a business arrangement. She’s an Imperial agent with a problem to solve, he’s a space jockey with an empty bank balance and a tramp freighter for hire.
Somebody’s murdering Yrmaks and Humans, and leaving a mysterious calling card. Somebody wants interspecies war. Tian hires Brent to help her investigate, delving into Yrmak customs and beliefs to understand what’s going on. It’s an increasingly dangerous game, with more than just lives at stake. Before it’s over Brent and Tian will be faced with choices which will change both of them forever.
Buy the book at Amazon B&N Kobo iBooks