Nera struggled to ignore the persistent voice and the shaking of her body. She clung to the fantasy, holding her dream spouse tight, sobbing into his ruff, as he faded before her eyes.
“Reilis, no, do not leave me again!” she cried at the fading saurian figure. His greying light gold fur gleamed with health, as it had during the fateful mission that took his life.
“Mother, Mother, come on, wake up!” Alca’s voice drilled loudly into Nera’s ears, shattering the remnants of the dream. She remembered what day this was, and shuddered with revulsion.
“No,” Nera protested with a sob. “I do not want to go! No!”
“Please, Mother, you must.” Alca shook harder. Nera turned her head, meeting her daughter’s blue-violet eyes. She wanted to lash her tail, but it lay dead and motionless, like her legs.
“No,” Nera protested softly, but allowed Alca to pull her to a sitting position. She waited as Alca moved Nera’s wheelseat into position. Nera stared at the contraption, a stab of anger trembling her hands. Why had Subcommander Nethunia saved her life? Why? Nethunia should have allowed her to succumb to the suicidal coma and die, to be with her beloved Reilis. Instead, she lived, as an invalid, stuck in a wheelseat, without the spouse she loved so much. She shivered, recalling vague memories from aboard the Starship Sunpyne during its recent maiden voyage. The scene bloomed before her mind, unbidden. Sparks lit up the deck as the ship careened out of control, and the crack of her own spine, along with its searing agony, played before her inner senses. As she passed out on deck, the last image of her beloved spouse tortured her, as electrical flashes and fire surrounded him in a halo of death. The three year return trip did little to ease her pain. Her throat constricted.
“Daughter, I want to go home. I want to leave this place.” Nera choked on the lump in her throat.
“We cannot,” Alca insisted. “The old Clan homestead is gone.”
“How so?” Nera almost wailed, but held her voice down.
“Cousin Nalcus bonded and moved away, and it no longer belongs to us. Uncle Ralius and Aunt Naria followed him, unable to stand the big empty homestead.”
“That means Mother, Father, Bondmother and Bondfather are -- gone?” Nera stammered.
“Yes.” Alca’s voice quivered. “Mother, our Starship has been away twenty years. And I am sure many folks thought us lost, our Clan included. To us, it may have been a mere three years for the Sunpyne’s flight, but here on Aroriel, it was a long time. And if they thought we were lost, who could blame them for joining another clan?”
“But why can we not go to Naria’s new home? We are family, on both sides, right? Railus is Reilis’ brother and Naria is my sister! Surely it has to be better than staying here!”
“Chafk, Mother! Uncle Railus, Aunt Naria, and Nalcus wish we could, but their house is full. They cannot burden their new Clan with two more people.”
“Why not? We are not impoverished. It is not like we would be living off their credits. We have plenty of our own.” Nera argued. “I want to leave here.”
“Mother, please! They do not have the room, or the extra credits to build a new addition just for us.”
“We have the credits,” Nera protested.
“We need them for us. Besides, I will not leave my sons! Though Ara took our Clan name, she will not leave her family! They are active ship personnel, and for them, staying here is far more practical. Would you want to leave your grandsons and their spouses? And the possibility of seeing them bear children! You would be a greatmother! I look forward to helping them with child rearing! Spacefaring families always need extra Clan at hand,” Alca retorted. “You would throw that away just because you depressed?”
“Depressed?” Nera shouted. “You call this depression?” Nera wept. “It is worse than that and you know it!”
“Mother, forgive me,” Alca murmured, and hugged her. “I am sorry. I know how awful today will be. But we must have closure. And we should stay where our Clan will continue to go on through Turelis and Ara. Nalcus has taken his bonded’s Clan name. We must stay. Remember, Ship Commander Geupetus is having his home remodeled to accommodate us and his Ship Second’s Clan. Telluris’ son bonded to Elara, remember?”
“I know, I know. Telluris and Geupetus are very close, and both have treated us as Clan, but, oh, I do not know.” Nera nodded, sobbing. “I think that even an apartment or small house near my bondbrother, sister and nephew would be better than staying here.”
Nera saw no difference in moving to the Clan Darius’ homestead from here at the Complex or living shipboard. Everything here, along with that whole Clan reminded her of Reilis.
“Mother, please, it will do you good to get some closure,” Alca repeated firmly, and knelt in front of her. “You do not think seeing Uncle Railis all the time will not be as bad?”
“No,” Nera whispered. “He might do for me what Nusierus did for Io. Nusierus is Venis’ brother, and Io Listisia’s sister! It is the same situation.”
“You cannot be sure that will happen between you! It is a very rare thing! Besides, it is not likely a true triple bond, since Io and Nusierus have not consummated. It may only be temporary.”
“At my age, temporary would be just fine!” Nera snapped. “If you will not take me home, leave me to my dreams, please. My work is done now, so the dreams are all I have.”
“Mother, if you pull yourself out of this, you could still work. There are plenty of tasks around this Space Complex for one with your skills.”
“I cannot,” Nera shook her head, weeping. “This place is haunted by your father’s memory. I cannot stay here.”
“Going to a proper funeral will help, I know it will.” Alca pleaded. She reached over to Nera’s bedstand, and pulled out a vial.
“Here, take one of your tranquilizers. It will help.”
Nera gazed a moment at the small red pill, then took it. She let Alca slide her into her wheelseat.
“Chafk, Mother,” Alca muttered. “You really should eat. You are little more than a skeleton with fur.”
“I eat enough,” Nera said, and gulped the pill down, shivering. The tremors stopped at her hips, not even a hair on her tail twitched. She sighed, wishing she possessed the ability to lash her tail or wriggle her toes, but, no, all lay dead. Alca settled her in, then started the motor. The chair moved forward. Nera watched the pastel violet walls of their quarters slip by. She inhaled deeply, silencing her sobbing, hating what she had become, a useless weak old Furlite, unable walk at all, and unable to operate her own chair without assistance.
“No,” she murmured, as they wheeled out onto the Complex grounds. Weak sunshine filtered past a film of clouds. Nera stiffened as they approached the launch area where the funeral for the fallen of the Starship Sunpyne crew took place. She barely acknowledged her two grandsons, Turelis and Rosus, and their spouses, Ara and Murkuria. Nera sat in her wheelseat, surrounded by Clan, yet she felt so utterly alone.
She glanced once at her bondgrandaughter, and managed a inward smile. Murkuria’s Felakoon, Fellara, stood beside Murkuria in the same elegant stance as Fantia, the Felakoon belonging to Murkuria’s sister, Elara. Nera admired all the Felakoons, but adored Fantia, and loved whenever the huge black-striped grey and white creature bestowed attention on her. Ever since touchdown, and especially after the celebration a few days later, Fantia took the time to visit Nera. All she knew about the creatures was that Murkuria somehow genetically engineered them from an alien animal called Mane Cooncat or something like that. Nera did not care. The girl her grandson bonded to brought wondrous beings into the universe, and that was all what mattered.
Nera shivered, as the sad aura of the event invaded her senses. She wanted nothing more than to roll back into her quarters, screaming and crying. But the strength she needed to handle this machine which gave her mobility eluded her.
Nera trembled, facing the Launch Ceremony platform, watching four crew people of the Sunpyne, Ship Commander Geupetus, Head Engineer Commander Orios, Ship Second Commander Telluris, and Subcommander Sathrus march slowly out of the starship, each pushing an ornate funeral gurney. Three of the four bore the bodies of those lost in the line of duty. The fourth, handled by Commander Orios, bore a tiny body, Elara’s aborted infant. Nera shivered violently, tears filming her vision. The gold and copper glitter of the ceremonial blankets in the Sunpyne colors covered the bodies, bearing their names, birth and death dates, ranks, and Clan names. Nera’s throat constricted as she read the names and Clans. Unable to look away from the elegant black and white script, she swallowed convulsively. She inhaled deeply as a soft chirrup attracted her attention.
Iggie, the Matissia, the Felakoons’ surrogate dam, lay on Murkuria's back, silent, ears swept back, eyes mournful, tail curled around her body, wings furled tight to her back. Murkuria’s little pet gazed straight at Nera, and uttered a soft, rattling croon. Nera dropped her gaze to Murkuria’s Felakoon, Fellara, concentrating on Fellara’s golden brown black-striped coat. She tried to shut out the solemn music and the words rolling out from the Fleet Commander’s throat. Then one sound brought her out of herself. She jerked her head up and around, and watched her favorite Felakoon stand regal and majestic, tail draped behind her in a gentle curve, her mouth open to the sky. Fantia keened, a deep heartrending wail that rose and fell in eerie notes, a song from the Felakoon's soul. Telluris’ and Rania’s Felakoon, Izzilara, joined her strident tones to Fantia’s deeper voice. The Felakoons’ haunting song died away, and Nera watched, as Elara took the remains of the little baby she aborted on that fateful mission. Nera trembled and her throat swelled. Fantia turned, locking sea-green eyes on Nera, and twittered as she followed her bondmates across the Complex.
*Sorry, sorry, so sad.* The Felakoon’s mindvoice trickled into her head. A sob escaped Nera.
“Thank you, sweet Fantia,” she murmured.
“Subcommander Turus, Midshipite Reilis, of the Clan Neralcarius, of the Starship Sunpyne, your sacrifices in the line of duty will never be forgotten.” Siritus' baritone booming out her spouse’s name brought Nera’s mind back to the proceedings. Siritus stood in front of Nera’s spouse and bondson, holding an ornate tasseled Litesear rifle. Sunlight played along its gilded barrel in a kaleidoscope of metallic colors, gold being most prominent. Metallic tassels, decorating the rifle’s trigger guard, fluttered in the breezes. Nera stared at the rifle, noticing nobody held a traditional funeral torch.
Ship Commander Geupetus and Subcommander Sathrus flung back the drapes. Both Turus and Reilis lay serene, as if asleep. Nera gasped at the sight of her beloved’s body. For the first time since he died, she saw the truth she refused to believe for three long years. She never entered the Stasis Chamber, not even once, after the crash. That way she avoided seeing his body. Now, there it lay, in plain sight, lifeless, his spirit gone. Siritus raised the gilded rifle, and fired. Both bodies flared in pastel flames that licked each other before dying down quickly.
“Nooooooooooooooo!” Nera wailed, high-pitched and piercing, as the agony of bondbreak seared through her anew. Her whole insides burned, tearing open, raw, hot, full of unbearable agony.
Nera clasped her head, rocking violently in her chair, moaning and wailing as the pain engulfed her being. She took no comfort in the swiftness with which the energy beam worked. Though far more efficient than traditional cremation, and easier on the senses, it did nothing to dull the emotional agony. Alca embraced her, tears staining her face dark, but Nera held no words of comfort for her daughter. Her grandsons Turelis and Rosus hovered, hands flexing with helplessness. Her bondgranddaughters, Ara and Murkuria, stood gaping, rooted to the grass, and Nera saw all this through flowing tears of anguish. Geupetus and Sathrus scooped the ashes into the ancient silver urns of Clan Neralcarius, and, walking up to Nera, halted before the group, holding the shining urns. The polished finish reflected the sunlight in bright pinpoint stars. Alca released her mother to take her spouse Subcommander Turus' remains, but Nera totally ignored Sathrus, keening, unable to even look at the shining urn that held Reilis’ ashes. Turelis suddenly stepped forward to take his grandfather’s remains. Nera sobbed and wailed, aware of the weeping beside her.
“Murkuria! Please!” Rosus’ voice suddenly hissed. “Do not let this kill you! We need to be strong, for Grandmother!”
“Oh, Rosus! How can I help? I am the cause of her pain!” Nera recognized Murkuria’s voice.
“Stupid guilt,” Rosus snarled. “Blast! How many times must it be said? They may have died anyway, no matter what you did. We all could have! You belonged with us. Please, believe me!” Rosus shook her arm. “Siritus was right! How can you doubt his wisdom?”
*Siritus wise.* Fellara growled firmly. *Listen. Be strong! Nera need!*
Murkuria choked on a sob, and Nera heard the exchange between her bondgranddaughter and her Felakoon. Of late, all the telepathic Felakoons bespoke her, and she welcomed their sweet mindvoices into her head.
*You not go. We, Felakoons all, not be.*
“You are right, Fellara. I will be strong.” Murkuria said softly. Turelis took the urn in Nera's place. Nera rocked in anguish, unable to control the raw burning pain in her mind and body.
“She is taking this terribly,” Murkuria murmured.
“She is,” Rosus whispered during Siritus' closing words. “Come help me with her chair. Turelis must do the scattering.”
“The scattering! Oh no!” Nera wailed, as Murkuria moved to the back of the wheelseat. Nera said not a word to any of her Clan, unable to stop rocking. The haunting notes of the ancient dirge rose into the sky. The singer Tria's voice reverberated off the buildings, strong and charged with emotion. Rosus switched the controls to manual, and he and Murkuria pushed the seat over the uneven ground. Nera ignored the controls, her hands on her head. Ara walked ahead, at Turelis' side.
They halted at the base of the Sunpyne's launch pad. Turelis let the ashes flow to the ground. Alca did likewise, and the wind caught both streams, mingling them before swirling them into the gold grass under the launch pad. As the ash swirled away, Nera’s agony intensified, and she escalated her rocking. She moaned and shrieked, and the chair gyrated wildly. Turelis and Ara hurried back, holding the chair steady. Alca embraced Nera, and the contact calmed the her violent rocking, but she continued to moan and wail inarticulately. She listened to the conversation around her, unable to respond. What were they planning? Another attempt to stop a suicidal coma? Nera shrieked, the words ripping free of her raw throat. “Let me go!”
“I think she never fully recovered from bondbreak,” Ara said tearfully.
“Do you think Nethunia could help her?”Alca asked her bonddaughter.
”I am not sure,” Ara's eyes narrowed. “What of yourself, Bondmother?”
“I am fine, Bonddaughter,” Alca smiled reassuringly. “This day has unsettled me, and I do miss Turus, but thanks to your bondsister, I have a chance at a new life. I find unbonded males attractive these last few cinths and I do not doubt I will soon be vutzing around in search of a new mate,” Alca's smile faded. “But my parents had a very strong bond. Like your brother does, like your nieces do, like you do. My and Turus’ bond never was that strong. My mother is just too old to start all over.”
Nera moaned in response.
“How? How can you be ready to see other men? Do you not miss your spouse??” Nera’s voice rasped in a low rough whisper. Nobody responded to her. Nera clutched her head again in disbelief and hurt. She wept. She could never ever betray Reilis that way!
”I wish I had known both my bondfather and bondgrandfather better,” Ara said softly.
“Come. Let us get her inside” Alca’s voice turned firm. “Murkuria, will you ask your mother to help us?”
“Uh, sure . . . ,” Murkuria trailed off.
*I ask Fekluris bring Nethunia. They help Nera.*
Nera choked on a sob as Fellara’s mindvoice whispered through her head. Geupetus, Nethunia, and Fekluris trotted up behind them. Fekluris led them, purpose in his yellow-gold eyes, and Murkuria glanced down at Fellara, who wore a pleased expression. Murkuria smiled, tousling the Felakoon’s fur. Nera rocked, but eyed the big black and white Felakoon. What was Fekluris up to?
“They?” Murkuria raised a brow.
“Can you help Nera?” Ara and Alca asked in complete unison. Nethunia nodded.
“I will try,” Nethunia said softly. Nera sobbed harder, and rocked violently again.
“I-I -I d-do not w-want help! I-I-I j-j-just want to die! W-w-w-why w-will you n-not let me d-d-d-die?” she stuttered between wracking sobs.
*No die! Never!*
Fantia’s stern mindvoice, and the deep percussion reaching crescendo, stunned Nera into silence. Everyone looked back at the platform, mesmerized by Tria's potent tones. Nera shivered as Elara joined Nethunia.
“No,” Nera wailed softly. “No, let me die!”
She rocked the chair again, her entire upper body in motion. She clutched her head.
. . . .
In Memory of David Ayscue, my friend and mentor. (1953-2010)
Thanks for everything. You are missed!
This review of my THE FURLITES OF ARORIEL series is from my
mentor, friend, editor, and Literary Agent, David Ayscue, who passed away Sept of 2010. Thanks for everything, David. You are missed!
Author-Marie J. S. Phillips
The author describes these books as “an alien family saga.” These tales are suitable for science fiction readers who enjoy reading stories from the alien point of view. This book fits the niche that includes Robert Sawyer’s FAR-SEER, Lisanne Norman’s SHOLAN ALLIANCE series, and David Brin’s Trilogy which included INFINITY’S SHORE. Her books are not exactly like any of the above, but probably most like Robert Sawyer’s FAR-SEER, and its sequels. In his books, human involvement with the Quintaglios is zero, whereas the characters in ON MATISSIA WINGS have some contact with humanity. This brief contact forever changes the Furlitian people in more ways than they ever imagined possible.
Human bias generally assumes most sentient civilized alien life must be humanoid or primate-based, which may not be the reality at all. With a twist on an old theme, the author stresses in subtle ways through Furlitian culture, how real freedom and personal responsibility can help any society produce good people, without any strict taboos, religious fanaticism, and overbearing governments. I have also compared it to E. R. Eddings, though this author’s books are far more science fiction than fantasy – once you accept the premise, of course, of a world where primates never evolved, and where furred dinosaurs became the dominant species … who now have a space program … which leads them to … our world.
The illustrations -- a mix of freehand artwork, real photos, and computer-generated graphics -- include detailed hand drawings of her characters. In ON MATISSIA WINGS, the six plates, plus the cover are integral to the book. Who knows better what a Furlite looks like than their creator?
The sequel, EARTH-BRED; MATISSIA-BORN, is, perhaps, an even better story.
There is a third book in this series, EYES IN THE DARK which is as yet unfinished. The world is fully realized; the depth of characterization is … epic, wondrous, and, frankly, I think this author is a great storyteller.
Reminiscent in some respects of Military SF, in the tradition of Heinlein and Asimov, told from the point of view of the aliens -- they are PEOPLE, with their own culture, and … they are better people than we are.
Remarkable books, deserving of publication, I think, or I would not have done all that I have done to help this author realize her dream of seeing her own trilogy for sale in bookstores everywhere.