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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Imagine a world where everyone can read your emotions.

by Storass 
from the novel The Marann by 
Christie Meierz

A heart attack, the humans call it. I experienced a heart attack, when Kazryth entered the Sural’s audience room. The apothecaries say that the shock of seeing a man I had thought long gone into the dark was too much in my declining condition.

He was, in fact, the son of the man I thought he was.

My condition is no longer declining. I am stable, even reasonably well, and I have the Sural and his head apothecary to thank for that. The Sural ordered it, and his head apothecary repaired my failing organs.

I grow no younger, but I am no longer ill. I can only rage against the injustice of postponing my natural death for – I know not how long. A life already too long and too filled with sorrow. A life that is tedious beyond my ability to express, without my Suralia and the daughter she carried.

Duty keeps me tied to her family. Her grandson, the Sural, who rules the planet. His natural daughter, Cena, who is also his head apothecary. And now, the natural son of the Sural’s father. A natural son of Suralia, who is heir to Parania. How ... odd.

It is not unheard of for ruling caste bloodlines to mix. Provincial heirs travel. They are ambassadors. They meet frequently. They become attracted, commonly. They become entwined, occasionally. They produce a child – rarely, but it happens. I have heard that Kazryth’s own daughter is entwined with another provincial heir, that Brialar’s heir fathered her son. The two provinces are traditional allies. But Suralia and Parania? The two oldest ruling bloodlines on Tolar. The coldest and the hottest. The farthest east and the farthest west. Astonishing.

Kazryth’s resemblance to the Sural’s father is uncanny. The same face, the same slight upward curve of the lips, the same deadly grace in his walk. Look a little closer and, as the Marann says, “You can see the steel in him.” Steel that the Sural’s father lacked. Yes, Kazryth is the stronger man. It does not surprise me – he is the grandson of a man who sought to rule the planet and succeeded. 

Because her grandson was a threat to his rule, he assassinated the Suralia – the humans would call her our queen, but we called her by the name of our province, the Suralia.

He attempted to assassinate her grandson – now the Sural. He failed. He died. At the Sural’s hands. The Sural has ruled Tolar since.

Would that I had died that day, that I had been a guard, and not a scholar to be ignored by the enemy who killed my beloved Suralia, and with her my daughter. I lived, cursing my continued existence. From that dark day onward, I have looked forward to nothing but my own demise.

And yet.

The day that Cena requested I father her heir is the day my life began to turn on its shoulder. The woman simply would not hear me say no and wrested from me an agreement to give it thought. I had hoped she would lose interest if I delayed my response, and so I did. She was persistent. Stubborn, like the Sural who fathered her. Insistent.

Did I believe her capable of subterfuge, I would believe she asked the Marann to intercede on her behalf. But no, the Marann – Marianne Woolsey to her former people – is merely clumsy, understandably so, and she asked before witnesses if I would honor Cena and grant her request. The Marann could not know that it forced me to choose between honoring Cena or humiliating her.

Humiliate her, I would not do. I had grown fond of her. She is so very like the  Sural’s grandmother, my Suralia. Stubborn, persistent, always plotting. Had Cena been born in the ruling caste, she would have made an outstanding ruler. Instead, she makes an outstanding apothecary, the best in Suralia.

I did not anticipate that in giving her an heir, I would lose my heart. She wants me, against all reason – and against all reason, I am hers. As few years as I have left, I cannot convince her to forsake me. She will be devastated when I am gone, more than is necessary. She deserves better.

Yet I cannot convince myself to forsake her, and in truth, I do not think she would keep her distance if I asked. Stubborn and persistent, like my lost Suralia.

For good or ill, my heart is hers.

The Marann
Tales of Tolari Space -Book 1

A story that will appeal to fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Zenna Henderson, The Marann recounts one woman's experience on a world where everyone can read her emotions.

Marianne Woolsey is a high school Spanish teacher in rural Iowa, when Earth Central Command decides her linguistic talents would be better exercised if she spent 26 years teaching the daughter and heir of an alien ruler on a planet 24 light years from Earth. Now she's alone on a planet of aliens so humanlike that she has to keep telling herself her student's noble father is just her boss.

Handsome - and deadly - the Sural has ruled his province and led his planet far longer than he can admit to his daughter's human tutor. He hides much more from the space-faring races of the Trade Alliance than he is willing to reveal. What he doesn't want Central Command to know, he has to conceal from Marianne, but Marianne is concealing her own secrets from him - and as an empath, he knows it.