Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Angzal stared off into a darkening window. “I couldn’t quite believe it when I got the call that I was appointed to this post. I’m the runt of my litter you know? One of my brothers works with my mother in the capital, another is an arbitrator on Kai Thori and my other brother and sister are also off-world. That just left me, sort of unaccounted for.”
“Still, an interstellar posting. Not bad for a runt.”
“Yes, as our esteemed Congressmember has already reminded me.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to push it.”
Seeing the genuine concern in Rzena’s eyes and hearing an apology rather than his usual snark was far more disturbing than any moment of introspection could bring so she quickly waved him off.
“No, you both have a point. I knew the opportunities might be there if I pushed for them. So I threw myself into languages. Hatvan first, then near fluency in Standard Thorian, even though I knew Trade Thorian already.”
“You’ve certainly picked up their modesty.”
That’s more like it.
“Hey, I know what I’m good at and I’m not going to hide it.”
“And did it get you what you wanted?”
“In a way. Landed a position in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Living in the capital, off the estate, you know, thinking I’ve got independence. Mostly I was just carted in front of Thorian delegates who were amused by my fluency. A parlor trick without much substance. I thought maybe I’d have better luck with something more obscure. I’ve always found Nabak absolutely stunning so I learned their language in the hopes of being sent there but then the Insurrection hit and all hopes of that were pretty much dashed.”
“How very inconsiderate of them.”
“You know what I mean. So I decided to go really off the board, reach into some forgotten corner of civilization for my next challenge, and decided to study Standard Earth Commercial.” Angzal growled at that and Rzena gave a small snort. “Don’t know why I even bothered with StEC, given that anyone who’s anyone here knows Trade Thorian as well as anyone in the Known Reaches. Still, got me on some kind of consideration list somewhere because it wasn’t long before I was boarding a liner coming through from Vaparozh to take me almost as far away from home as possible within the Known Reaches.”
Their Human waiter, with skin a tan shade of brown so common to their species, Congressmember Reyes included, arrived to place their dessert orders and after-meal drinks before them. When it came to sugary snacks, Humans seemed to go all out, and she found the first few experiences unpalatably sweet for her Mraboran taste buds, though she continued to search for something she could more or less enjoy. Her experiment with coffee, on the other hand, was far more short-lived. After not sleeping for an entire night, she acquired a newfound fascination with the Human central nervous system, and vowed never to have another sip again. Either as a result of bravado, an aggressive commitment to assimilation, or the desire for an early grave, Rzena did not share the same predisposition and sat with his hands wrapped round a mug of the hot bitter drink.
“Do you know how excited I was when I thought I might get this position?” Angzal looked into her own steaming mug of chamomile tea.
“There are so many reasons why I can’t imagine.”
“I vowed to learn everything I could about their culture. I found a Human neighbourhood on Mrabr – oh yes, they have one now, though it’s teensy, barely two intersecting streets. I’d visit there daily, eat at every restaurant, try every dish they could cobble together from the available ingredients. I fell in love with chamomile tea, insisted they start growing chamomile at the estate. I think my mother suspected I was nuts, probably pulled some strings to make sure she could get me off-world for good. Somehow, at that point, there was no doubt in my mind this was going to be perfect for me.”
Rzena’s bemused look over his mug as he sipped his coffee prompted her to make a resigned sigh.
“The best part is? No one told me anything that could have set me straight. All I heard was ‘What a great career opportunity’ or ‘Such a nice opportunity to see the wider world’ and ‘An excellent stepping stone to advance your career’. I guess in hindsight that last one was a bit of a warning. But it wasn’t until I was on the ship taking me here that I had my first doubts. I was popped out of stasis about a week out from Earth, and went to the galley for some hot water for my chamomile tea, which, yes, I packed, let’s just move on from that, and found a lone Thorian sitting at a table.” Rzena made a little sound into his coffee and looked up at her as if to see if she was joking. “Oh yes, it was a very ‘god of the underworld disguises himself as a sly Thorian’ kind of vibe.”
“Tell me about it. He even said he was a poet, if you can believe it.”
“Since when do they have poets?” Rzena asked with a glassy glimmer coming over his eyes from the coffee, or perhaps she was imagining it based on her own experience with the foul drink.
“No idea, but whatever the reason he was on that ship, it wasn’t for leisure, that much was easy to tell. So this ‘Thorian’, you know, supposedly –”
“He tells me he’s got the actual inside scoop on these Humans.”
“Well, if there’s anyone who knows everything more than everyone, it’s Thorians.”
“Right? So he takes my newborn position and all the hopes that come with it and basically strangles it before it’s got a chance to take its first steps. He explains that Humans are difficult to work with – they’re unpredictable upstarts who hardly even know what they want and that they’re twitchy and panicky and whatever other colourful yet annoyingly accurate words he used. And it’s been like, a month now that I’ve spent among them and you know what I’ve realized?” Angzal took a small sip of her tea and set the cup down, rubbing with her fingers behind her ears. “This is just warm flower juice.”
She looked up at Rzena, who was regarding her with that air of misplaced superiority. “Seems to me at least you’re coming to your senses,” he said and then, lifting his own mug, “Soon you’ll realize that bean juice is clearly superior.” He held his cold expression for a few moments and then burst out laughing, dragging Angzal along with him.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.