Author Jo Clayton’s sensational space opera saga continues in this fourth magnificent excursion to the universe of the Diadem as her incomparable heroine lands in the center of a devastating conflict between an insidious planet-devouring corporate entity and native forest folk and city dwellers who are facing extinction.
The planet Maeve is the next stop on the intergalactic journey of the star voyager Aleytys as she searches the universe for her son, others of her advanced human race, and the mother who abandoned her in a dismal barbarian world. Permanently enhanced and cursed by the Diadem, the stolen technology of a vengeful alien society, she is determined to find her way back to Jaydugar, where she was raised and where she hopes to reclaim her kidnapped child. But securing transport will be difficult in this world steeped in political turmoil, as the destructive machinery of a heartless and powerful Company strips the planet bare of its natural riches.
The Diadem-induced personalities who share Aleytys’s mind also experience her outrage over the greed of an insidious corporate monster that would heartlessly displace an entire forest-dwelling native population. Compelled by conscience and a hunger for justice, Aleytys will do everything in her substantial power to help the citizens of Maeve fight back. But the secret plans of the Company go far beyond the despoiling of the woodlands, and neither guerilla warfare nor the remarkable abilities Aleytys brings to the battle may be sufficient to turn back the terrible tide of destruction that threatens the future of a planet and every creature inhabiting it.
The many fans of Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, C. J. Cherryh, and other master world-builders known for their adept blending of science fiction and fantasy tropes will thrill to the fourth unforgettable installment in a much-beloved science fantasy saga that grows deeper and richer with each succeeding volume. Clayton’s Maeve enchants and enthralls, while brilliantly expanding an already breathtaking universe.
About the Author
Jo Clayton (1939–1998) was the author of thirty-five published novels and numerous short stories in the fantasy and science fiction genres. She was best known for the Diadem Saga, in which an alien artifact becomes part of a person’s mind. She also wrote the Skeen Trilogy, the Duel of Sorcery series, and many more. Jo Clayton’s writing is marked by complex, beautifully realized societies set in exotic worlds and stories inhabited by compelling heroines. Her illness and death from multiple myeloma galvanized her local Oregon fan community and science fiction writers and readers nationwide to found the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund.
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By Jo Clayton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1979 Jo Clayton
All rights reserved.
Gwynnor crouched beside his lover, Amersit. A churning distaste stirred his insides as he watched the strangers come down the side of the ship and approach the drieu, Dylaw. More of them coming to put their damn feet on Maeve's breast.
"One's a woman," Amersit whispered, his eyes glowing violet, like spring asters on the Maes. He sniffed, then wiggled excitedly. "She smells ... ha ... good!"
Face folding in a grimace of repugnance, Gwynnor stared at the smugglers. "They wouldn't come if Dylaw stopped dealing with them."
Mischief sparkling in his eyes, Amersit patted his shoulder. "Yeh, little one, and we wouldn't have any guns."
Gwynnor rubbed his cheek against the hand resting on his shoulder. "Do we need them so much?" He straightened his back, turning troubled eyes on his trail lover. "Do those guns really make any difference when we face the energy weapons of the starmen?"
Amersit stroked the soft gray curls coiling close about Gwynnor's head. "You take things so seriously, little one. Relax. You know we haven't got enough support from the people yet. Let the starmen hit the villages a bit more and we'll have them all storming the city. In the meantime, we make them pay a little anyway for their raids. The day's coming through. We'll lock them tight in that damn city and burn it down around their ears."
"Someday. Always someday." Gwynnor refused to let Amersit cheer him out of his depression.
"Hey." Amersit stared at the group sitting on the deep black tradecloth. "The woman speaks cathl maes. Dylaw looks like she hit him over the head with a rotten squash."
I don't like it." Gwynnor moved away, glowering angrily at the red-haired woman. The sun shone off the glowing mass of her hair, surrounding her head with a golden halo. He pinched his nostrils to shut out her disturbing odor. "It means she had to come from the city. What if the city sent her, knowing we're here?"
Amersit slapped his hand on his thigh. "Ah, mannh, Gwynnor, you're right I didn't think of that. We'd better tell Dylaw." He started to get to his feet, then hesitated. "If we interrupt the bargaining, he'll peel skin with a dull knife." He rubbed a hand over his gray fuzz, a rueful grin turning the ends of his long mouth.
"I'll do it." Gwynnor jumped up and walked with small, quick steps over to the bargainers. The woman finished translating the drieu's last speech to the starman and looked up at him, her blue-green eyes bright with interest. Gwynnor sank his teeth into his tongue as he knelt before Dylaw, body in question-submission.
The drieu frowned, his pointed ears twitching fretfully. Gwynnor knew he'd have a lot of explaining to do later. Trying to speak softly enough to keep his words from her, he said, "The woman speaks the cathl maes. It might be important to discover where she learned it."
He saw Dylaw's face go rigid as he digested the implications of the question. Gwynnor swallowed this further indication of his leader's stupidity. He struggled to suppress his growing sense of futility. Then Dylaw's hand moved through the ritual acknowledgment and dismissal.
Gwynnor rose and walked slowly away. He glanced briefly over his shoulder, his dark-green eyes involuntarily seeking hers ... blue-green like the sea on a bright day ... strange round pupils like small targets ... so different, so different ... He wrenched his eyes free and settled beside Amersit, thigh against thigh, drawing a little comfort from the contact.
The drieu, Dylaw, picked up one of the sample weapons. Turning it over in his hands he ran the tips of his fingers over the checked grip, then along the blue-black of the metal parts. As he put the weapon down he said, as casually as if mere curiosity prompted the question, "How do you come to speak the cathl maes?"
Aleytys spread out her hands, the fingers long and golden in the rusty light of the orange sun. "Not in the city. This is the first time I've put foot on this world." She rubbed a forefinger beside her nose. "Do you know another language?"
"I know some words of another tongue." Dylaw spoke slowly, thoughtfully. "Why?"
"I have the gift of tongues, drieu Dylaw." The corners of her mouth twitched at his look of blank disbelief. "I can prove it. That language you know — would anyone in the city know it also?"
"Why should they learn what they don't need to learn?" His mouth drew down in an unpleasant sneer. "Few of them bother to learn enough cathl maes to give a man a proper good morning."
She nodded. "That being so, give me a few words in that language."
After a moment of thoughtful silence, Dylaw lifted his head and stared at her. "Watiximiscisco. Ghinahwalathsa lugh qickiniky."
She covered her eyes with the heels of her hands, wincing as the translator's activity made her head ache fiercely but briefly. When she looked up, she was smiling. "I speak in anger. I carry the fire of my anger to the south."
He nodded. "Laghi tighyet lamtsynixtighyet."
"The best laugh is the very last laugh."
"A hunter is a man of pride."
Dylaw sat in silence, eyes turned toward the cold blue sky where the sun was a bronzed orange disc creeping toward the zenith. Then his shallow, pale gray eyes, with their narrow slit pupils, ran over her body and fixed on her face. "Remarkable," he said dryly.
"It's what I do for the Captain."
"Are there more among the starfolk who can do this?"
"I don't know." She spread out her hands and shrugged. "I've never met any."
The drieu, Dylaw, picked up the gun again, dismissing the talent as unimportant since he saw no way to profit from it. "If we bought weapons in Caer Seramdun, we'd pay only fifty oboloi. The maranhedd in one phial alone should buy five hundred."
When Aleytys translated this for Arel his dark, sardonic face expressed surprise and contempt. He spoke briefly and forcefully, then jumped to his feet and stood waiting for her to give his answer to the drieu.
"The Captain says if that is so, then he will take his merchandise elsewhere." She started to rise.
"Yst-yst, woman. No need for such haste." He tapped fingers on his thighs and waited for her to settle herself. "Why not see if we can reach some kind of agreement rather than leave here having wasted our time?" He pulled a bag made of leather from inside his gray homespun tunic. With deliberate slowness he worked the knot loose on the drawstring, then thrust his stubby fingers inside and pulled out a small glass phial. "One trom of maranhedd."
The Captain leaned forward and spoke briefly.
Aleytys nodded. To Dylaw she said, "Fifty guns. Five hundred darts."
"Four hundred guns and four thousand darts."
Arel snorted when Aleytys translated for him. He snapped out an answer, a look of scorn on his dark face.
Aleytys said calmly, "You dream, ergynnan na Maes. One hundred guns. Five hundred darts."
Gwynnor turned his back on the disturbing sight of his leader bargaining as greedily as any huckster in the market square. "I don't like this," he muttered.
"You said that before." Amersit grinned widely, his mobile mouth stretching in the quick flashing smile that usually delighted Gwynnor. "I wonder what the Synwedda would think of that red witch."
"I doubt she'd say that." He broke into a chuckle. "I daresay you've not had a woman yet, little love. Trust me. That's one fine woman, starbred or not." He sniffed then pantomimed an exaggerated ecstasy.
"I won't listen to you." Gwynnor jumped up and ran to the kaffon and stood next to his own mount, combing unsteady fingers through the kaffa's thick fur, finding a measure of calm in the animal warmth of the placid, dozing animal. He ignored the sound of voices continuing behind him.
The drieu, Dylaw, grunted. "Agreed. For three trom of maranhedd, five hundred weapons and ten thousand darts." He blinked round eyes, his slitted pupils little more than a narrow black line crossing the silver-gray mirrors of his irises. His long hooked nose twitched its mobile tip as he dropped the leather sack into Aleytys' hand. "I presume the man from the stars will test this as usual, not trusting our word."
Aleytys glanced at the Captain, then nodded. "We aren't included in your people, ergynnan na Maes. No doubt your word is good to your own. You'll trust us to keep our part of the bargain?"
Dylaw's mouth gash clamped shut; the gray fuzz patches over his round eyes slid together as he frowned in irritation. "I trust your greed for maranhedd, gwerei. To cheat me now would mean empty hands next year."
"True." As Aleytys handed the bag to the Captain, she switched languages. "He knows you'll want to test it before handing over the guns."
"Yeah." He dumped the three phials out of the bag and began peeling off the wax. Then pulled the rolled leather stoppers out and poured a few grains of the drug from each phial into the palm of his free hand. "Looks like dream dust all right." He stirred the amethystine crystals with a forefinger, then poured them back. Head twisted back over his shoulder, he called, "Vannick."
The long, pale man came from the shadow of the ship's tail, leaving Joran there. The little killer's eyes prowled the canyon, measuring the small band of natives, alert for any sign of trouble.
Arel handed the bag to his second. "Test."
"Right." Vannik scrambled up the ladder and disappeared into the ship.
The drieu, Dylaw, crossed his arms over his meager chest, dropped his head and stared at the ground in front of his crossed legs. He let his leathery eyelids sink until the silver-gray was veiled, leaving only narrow slits. He appeared to settle into a light doze.
Aleytys sighed and pushed the hair out of her face. The fitful breeze meandering down the canyon alternately lifted and let fall gouts of coarse grit; now and then it played at her hair, sending loose, tickling ends waving around her face. She touched Arel's arm. "You've got some energy weapons stored there." She nodded at the ship. "You'd get a lot more for them." She reached out and touched his knee. "Why?" Pinching the flesh lightly, she grinned at him. "Though I think you've screwed these poor ignorant creatures out of their back teeth. I can feel the cat inside you licking the cream off its whiskers. But they'd really put out for energy weapons. They want them."
"They'll have to want. If I gave them energy guns, I'd have a Company search-and-destroy mission on my tail. No thanks."
"Oh." She looked around the canyon. Dry barren walls. Small spring, its water carefully hoarded in a cistern built from rough stone blocks joined with yellow-brown mortar. A few scraggly weeds, gray with dust, clinging to the cracks of the rock. A small gray lizard ran a jagged race across the wall, disappearing into one of the larger cracks.
"This is a damn inhospitable place."
One eyebrow went up increasing the sardonic amusement in his face. "You expected me to land in some farmer's field?"
"I suppose that wouldn't be too safe. It's hard on me though, unless one of them would guide me down from here."
"For a price, maybe." Aleytys rubbed her nose.
"That one'd sell his grandmother for more guns."
"They hate us."
"Why do you think they want the guns, love?" The crow-tracks at the corners of his eyes deepened momentarily. "They don't hunt the kind of game you'd want to eat."
"Doesn't it bother you? By selling them these guns you help them kill people."
He shrugged. "Company men. If I had my way, I'd dump them all into a drone and junk it on the nearest sun." For an instant, hatred leaped from him across her sensitive nerves, along with hurt, loneliness, and loss. Something bad out of his past, she surmised, knowing she'd never find out what it was now that she was leaving him.
"I'll buy the guns from you, Arel."
"Don't waste your money, Lee. You'll need it to bribe your way onto a ship."
She grinned. "I wasn't about to give you all the jewels."
"Keep them. I'll supply the guns."
She shook her head. "No, Arel. I know how close to the line you run. I'll pay for the guns."
"You don't like owing people, do you."
"It's hard for me to take things. I ... I've learned to put a premium on my independence, Arel." She brushed her head with quick, nervous hands. "I'm going to pay my way from now on."
"Dammit, Lee. You've earned ..."
"Then pay me off with money. I expect I'll need it for living expenses when I make it to Star Street."
"What about advice? Willing to take that?"
"Don't let anyone know about the jewels. When you get to the city, use everything you've got to find a man you can trust before you let anyone see them."
"Wei-Chu-Hsien Company believes in male supremacy, Lee. Most likely the only women you'll find in the city will be streetwalkers or menials like cooks and cleaners."
"Phah!" She sniffed. "Their loss."
He shrugged, then grinned. "When you start working on those grubs, let me do the bargaining. Even with that on-off empathy of yours, you drive a lousy bargain. You give away too much."
"Well, I don't intend to set off trudging on foot across that mess." She waved her hand at the cliffs rising above the ship.
"I still think you should sign on with us." He scowled at her. "You seemed to like it."
"I did." She stroked her fingers over his arm. "And the three of you, too." Then she shook her head and sighed again. "I have a baby somewhere. I've got to find him, Arel. He needs me more than you do. And ... and there's a lot more you don't know about me. It's not pretty."
"I know your nightmares." He reached out and slid his fingers down her cheek. "We'll all miss you, Lee. Even Joran."
At that moment Vannik leaned out of the lock. "Captain."
Arel looked around, one eyebrow sailing up into the tangle of black slanting across his forehead.
"Then let down the sling." Arel turned back to Aleytys. "I wouldn't trust that bunch far as I could throw one of those four-footed hairballs they ride." Frowning at the patient, hunched figure of the drieu, he curled fingers around her hand until the pressure hurt. "Probably slit your throat the minute we leave."
She gently freed her hand. "No. I can protect myself. You should know that by now."
He was silent a minute, then swung around. "Vannik, break out another half dozen guns and a thousand more darts."
Vannik's shaggy eyebrows rose and he ran a bony hand through the white thatch on his head. Then he moved back up the ladder, his awkward-looking body agile as a monkey.
"Wake your fuzzy little fanatic." The Captain moved his long body around to face the native.
The lighter gravity of this world fooled Aleytys again as she attempted to follow his example. Her heavy-world muscles overreacting, she caught herself at the edge of an undignified sprawl.
"The weapons are ready. The Captain is anxious to leave before the city spies find him. I suppose you'd like to get out, too." As the drieu started to stand, she said quickly, "However, there's another thing. My service to the Captain concludes here and we part company."
"Why tell me?"
"Name a price for supplying a kaffa and a guide to take me to the sea."
A sudden fierce anger exploded from the stiffening figure of the drieu. Then he was on his feet, turning to leave, unable to be in her presence any longer without destroying his honor by breaking trade truce.
In the shadow of the wall, young Gwynnor's eyes stayed fixed on her with a growing fascination despite the fear which was turning his body cold.
The kaffa stirred nervously.
The gray lizard poked his head out of the crack, scuttled in a tight circle, eyes jerking from side to side. A moment later he plunged back into his hiding place.
The wind sang down the canyon with an eery mourning note, a dirge portending fateful events.
"A price, drieu Dylaw. More guns, more darts to fill them." Her voice sang in his ears, whispering temptation.
A small dust devil broke over the drieu's feet, showering desiccated leaves and other debris on his legs, breaking his mood. He shuddered and turned to face her, hating her all the more because he knew he couldn't refuse.
"I will not take you." His voice was harsh and abrupt.
"I don't expect that. You have your people to care for."
"But I'll ask those." He swung a hand at the squatting figures. "If one will do it, then we can bargain. If not ..."
Aleytys looked over scowling faces alike in their ingrained xenophobia. Then she focused on one face, a young face twisted in the most malignant scowl of all. She reached out. Touched the turmoil boiling in him. Snatched the probe back. Reeled under the impact of his confusion. The drieu stared at her, then turned his back on her.
"If one among you would take this — this person to the sea, our cause would benefit greatly. They have offered additional guns and darts to pay for this service." Aleytys could see the long muscles of his neck tighten, then loosen. "Is any willing?"
Excerpted from Maeve by Jo Clayton. Copyright © 1979 Jo Clayton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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