Sample of The Namura Stone

Here is the beginning of The Namura Stone. It may be liable to slight changes, since it is still not proof-ready:

 

SIX WAS SITTING looking at the Emerald Lake on Xiantha.  He gave a deep sigh.  He couldn’t see why Diva was so determined to go back to visit the Namura clan on Coriolis.

You already saw where they lived,” he said.  “What sort of a welcome do you think they are likely to give you, anyway?  You are still a meritocrat, remember?  As I recall, meritocrats are their least favourite people.”

“I have to go back.  I want to talk to that old woman – the one who officiated at Petra’s funeral eight months ago.  There was something about her ... something that I have to know.”  Diva gave a rueful smile.  “I am not even sure myself.”

Six stirred.  “We’ll both go.”

She shook her head.  “No.  If you go then the whole dynamic will be different.  I don’t think she will talk to me in front of a man.”

“Yes, but look here, Diva.  Last time we went back to Mesteta, your famous cousin Tartalus nearly killed me.  I am not too keen on your taking Raven over on your own.  He is still making trouble, from what I hear.”

Female eyes flashed in his direction.  “Are you suggesting that I can’t look after my own daughter?”

He held up a hasty hand.  “No, no!  Just that you might not have taken into account Tartalus, is all.”

“Tartalus will not be a problem; that I can guarantee you.”  There was steel in her voice.  “But I do have to introduce Raven to her grandparents.  After all, she will inherit the meritocracy after my parents.  And you did say you didn’t want them to come here.”

“No kidding!  Your mother still sounds like a walking dictionary, and your father can hardly bear to bring himself to look at me.  You know what he thinks of Kwaidian no-names.”

She made a face, and they sat for a few moments in silence. 

Another thought occurred to Six.  “Why don’t you take some of the other children?  If you have to go at all, that is?”  Six stared out of the open doors of the house at the Emerald Lake, contemplating all fifty of his children, who were currently enjoying their two weeks holiday with their real parents.  The screams and laughter coming from the water’s edge were deafening.  Luckily they were being supervised by six of the Donor Headquarters staff, so Six and Diva could find the time to speak in private.

“You know I can’t.  The Xianthan panchromes have taken long enough to give me special dispensation just for Raven, and allow us full custody of her.  Otherwise I wouldn’t even have been able to take her.  In any case, you know what my parents are like.  They can’t understand how we came to have fifty children in the first place.”  Diva looked over in the direction of the towering Xianthes thoughtfully.  “I wouldn’t want to overload them.  Now that we know that the heir to Coriolis is to be Raven, then she is the only grandchild they should get to know, at least at first.”

Six peered gloomily out into the bright Xianthan sun.  “I shall miss you.”

Diva grinned.  “Try to keep out of trouble while I am gone, no-name!”

“I like that!  I never get into trouble.”  He thought for a few moments.  “Well, hardly ever.”  Lazily he leaned over to give his wife’s hair a short tug.  “I love you.”

Diva retaliated with a light punch to the upper part of his arm.  “I love you too.  But stop trying to control what I do.  Just because we live together doesn’t mean you get to decide what I do, or where I go.”

“Perish the thought!  With such a cranky wife I wouldn’t dare!”  Six treated her to one of his insouciant grins. 

She gave him a look.  What do you mean, cranky?  I am so not cranky!  Not ever!”

Six raised one eyebrow.  “Never,” he agreed politely.  “You are the sunniest person I have ever met.”

Her eyebrows nearly met in the middle. “Stop fooling around.”

“You never listen to me anyway,” he told her.  “You will get yourself into trouble and then I shall have to come and rescue you.”

“I can look after myself.”  But she gave him one of her rare smiles.  “Though I know you would come if I did need you.”

He nodded, suddenly sobered by the thought of her being in danger.  “I would rather die myself than lose you.”

“Then I can rely on you.”

“Always.”

She stood up and grabbed his hand.  “Let’s go for a swim.  Race you down to the shore!”

He scrambled up.  “I’ll win,” he said laconically.

“You wish!”  And she set off towards the water as fast as her slim, tanned legs could take her.  Six stared after her, enjoying the view of her darting in and out of the trees, moving so fast that it seemed she hardly disturbed the vegetation around the house the Xianthans had built for them.  His heart swelled; he wondered if he had any right to be this happy.

She had realized he was still standing in the doorway, and stopped to shout back to him.

“Hey!  Come on!  Or do you give up?”

Six threw his head back, suddenly feeling all the exuberance of happiness on a hot summer day well up inside his body.  He spread his arms out, took a deep breath of the balmy air, and then set off in pursuit of his wife, who was already half way to the shore, but no longer, he saw, running full stretch. 

His feet kicked up the sand on the shore as he caught up with her, and he threw a Kwaidian tackle, pinning her to the ground.  They crashed down together, giggling.  She pummeled him back.  “See?  I let you win!”

“I know you did.  But I would beat you anyway.  Anywhere, anytime.”

She struggled.  “You would not!”

He held her down.  “I won’t let you up until you acknowledge that I am stronger and faster than you are.”

She tussled against him again, but he had taken good care to hold both of her hands down.  She narrowed her eyes, and transformed into the warrior she was, right in front of him.  “Let me go!”

He shook his head.  “Not going to happen.  You have to acknowledge me as a superior.”

She tried to kick out at him, twisting her whole body suddenly, very nearly dislodging him.  “Will not!”

He grinned.  “Of course, being a girl, you can’t do much about it!”

That was the last straw.  The Coriolan girl gave another enormous contortion and succeeded in unbalancing him.  The next thing he knew she was on top of him, and her Coriolan dagger was at his throat.  She gave an
exultant laugh, her white teeth glistening against the blue sky behind and beyond her. 

“You are mine!” she crowed.

“Body and soul,” he agreed.  “You waltzed into my heart with your insults and your threats when you were only fourteen.  Nothing has changed.”  He lay still, having had no intention of dominating her in the first place.

She bared her teeth again.  “Admit my superiority, Kwaidian!”

“I can hardly do anything else, not when you are sitting astraddle me like that, now can I?”  he retorted.  “Stands to reason!”  He moved, and the point of the knife pricked his skin.  “Here!  Watch what you are doing!  You nearly took a lump out of me then.”

“No more than you deserve,” Diva informed him, but she stood up and put her dagger away. Six saw that at least ten of his children had approached, and were staring at the two of them with solemn interest.

“Just playing,” he said hastily.  “Practising.”

Diva grinned, and turned to face the inquiring eyes.  “Your father is in need of much practice!” she said, and then walked smoothly into the water of the lake, and began to swim outwards, leaving Six to stare after her, goaded.

He looked around at the children surrounding him.  “What?  It’s no good looking at me like that!  Just wait until you all are old enough to find wives.  It isn’t easy to keep them happy, let me tell you!”  Then he resigned himself to be covered over with mountains of sand by twenty little hands, enjoying the sun beating down on his face.