The Iiliaevi Trilogy

Stowaway Book
Short Note
On Sequels

I would look at the heavens and marvel. There's nothing that compares to the view from a moon, and with so many fellow satellites, the effect was stunning. The world was a huge ghost wafting its trek around their sun, and the other moons made their appearances. Eclipses shuttered away more light in the Eleven than trees, it seemed, and the S'Kai-i were endowed with an uncanny awareness of their nature and periodicity. I could look at the heavens until the import of it all chased me back to the comfort of human melodies, every chord a lifeline stretching to home.

Sometimes I wondered why the situation didn't rattle me more. I think it was Falovaar's familiar presence that steadied me, plus youthful resilience and a good dose of heedless curiosity. I'd been out on my own since I was sixteen, after all. I'd ridden cross-country on a Harley before I was old enough to vote. I had tried on subcultures as frivolously as shoes. I had eaten – make that tried to eat – sannakji. I'd been to Las Vegas. Alien world? Nothing there to faze me.

But it was Falovaar who ended up shaking my new world like a snow globe and whirling stability around so crazily that if not for Mak and his insistence on darting me with tranquilizers, I would have become unstrung.

I was trying to block a bug the size of a soccer ball from coming in through the balcony doors. The huge arthropod clattered its front legs against the floor whenever I came close. There was no way I was going to pull a Falovaar and pick the revolting bogy up; projectiles were my only option.

She came in and interrupted my efforts to defend the perimeter. "Oh, a saamnai-seiun! How cute!" I put her work boot down. "You were going to throw that."

"I was. That is not cute."

She squatted and snapped her fingers at the animal. "Sure it is. Look. It's molting late, poor thing. It must be pretty old." Sure enough, the green and black velvet hung in tatters from its shell. "Koos-koos-koos!" she sang. The saamnai wandered into the wall and rubbed its plates together with a dry, scraping sound that set my teeth on edge. "You can make a pet out of these."

"Don't you people have, like, kitties and gerbils? Bleaaugh." I watched my friend pick the thing up and carry it to the bathroom. She put it in the shower stall, laid a small sandstone table onto its side on the orchid-colored tiles, and turned down the lights.

"He – no, she – can rub off all that loose skin on the table."

"Gross. You were that kid who always came home with some freaky stray pest, weren't you."

"I brought you home, did I not? Hey... Mai? I have a thing to tell you." The timbre of her voice alerted me. I knew that tone; she had an important matter to discuss.

"Sure. What's up?" She had picked up colloquialisms so well that my words didn't baffle her. We sat on the bed and I tried to tune out the sounds of the chitinous houseguest in the bathroom.

"I've found a way for you to be able to stay here."

"Stay? Like, at Iohvedi or... what do you mean, stay? You say that like there's some kind of problem. What's going on?"

Her body language was foreboding – ears low and back, upper body twisted to one side, tail tense. She had something to say that she suspected I was not going to appreciate. "Mai, please don't say anything until I finish. Just... let me talk."

I honored her request. I didn't say anything. I could think of nothing to say.

I was fazed.

The older of her two brothers, the clan's ulakei-i'uumet – "he who holds this keep" – was going to marry me. There would be no homeward journey approved, not after Falovaar had smuggled in such forbidden contraband. My life was at stake and a marriage was my only aegis. These people are insane, I thought in disbelief as she laid it all out for me. To make a green card a life-or-death issue... but I remembered the slamming hatch, the poisonous air, and I knew that she was telling the truth.

She had tried to plead for me, but she was back among the civilized lands where she had no voice in important decisions. My gender and my sketchy immigration status precluded me from even being included in the debate. Men had spoken. Of course men had spoken – no woman would condone such misogyny!

"Wh-when?" I felt dizzy. Falovaar moved close and put her side against mine.

"A one-hand… five days. Mai, he'll be good to you. I promise."

I nodded and squeezed her hand; she smiled and squeezed back.

Matrimony or the mudflats. I would be a bride.

A lifelong fan of the science fiction and fantasy genres, R.H. Montgomery has spent half of that life creating short stories for friends. Recently, that scribbler's energy has been refocused into writing novels. She lives in Colorado and is a member of Goodreads, The Independent Authors Network, and Aspiring Authors on Linkedin.