Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Like the crew of the Oshken indicated in their call to Valyen, their ship suffered significant hull damage while they were prospecting the ice rings around the furthest planet in their system. By Valyen’s own estimation, even though she made it no secret that she wanted them off the landing platform outside her house as quickly as possible, it would take at least ten days to fix. In the meantime, most of the crew moved into the guest lodgings, with a few choosing to stay behind on the ship, while Kviye moved into Valyen’s room and her father stayed in the single guest bedroom.
There were fifteen of them in all, mostly a Winti crew with Samir, two Fusir brothers and a member of a species Kviye had never seen before called Mraboran.
The first evening after they landed, Valyen’s mom invited Captain Mokob and his first mate for dinner at the family table. The Captain chose to bring Samir along as well.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think we made enough for extra guests,” Valyen said flatly when she opened the door to admit the Wintis and their tagalong Human.
“Nonsense, Valyen,” her mother said sharply from the kitchen, trying to soften her tone in front of the guests, “We have plenty to go around for everyone. Please come in.”
“I have to say we really appreciate the invitation,” Mokob said. “We haven’t eaten planet-side in months and everything smells absolutely delicious.”
“You mean you’ve been only on your ship that whole time?” Kviye asked.
“Well, we did waylay at two space stations, which is a step up from floating around in the confines of our ship, but can’t compete with fresh ingredients taken right off the land.”
The Captain and Nmala took their seats, awkwardly stretching their ungainly limbs under the table, while Uncle Dekan brought in an extra chair for Samir.
“Thank you,” Samir said and Uncle Dekan grunted in return. Within the family, it was only Valyen and Kviye that were comfortable with Trade Thorian. Valyen’s mother could get by if she had to, while the others had no knowledge of it whatsoever, so the two of them served as translators during dinner to the best of their abilities.
“I didn’t think it possible,” Captain Mokob said after a few bites, “But the food tastes even more delicious than it smells.”
“You’re too kind, Captain,” Valyen’s mother said, tilting her head to the side.
“Not at all. Nmala here does most of the food prep on board our ship and he’ll be the first to tell you how astonishingly good this is by comparison.”
Nmala made a grunt that could as easily have been a declaration of a life-long vendetta as a statement of acquiescence.
“Well, second to tell you anyway,” the Captain added with a slight shake of the head.
“So that last world you’d visited. What was it like?” Kviye asked.
“Oh, it was that small Human colony on the edge of Winti space, nothing remarkable. What was it again?”
“Nkagan” Samir answered.
“That’s right! It’s where we picked up this fine lad to join our crew.” The Captain put his arm round Samir and shook him a bit.
“Is that where you’re from Samir?” Kviye asked, trying yet failing to not make her conversation sound like an interview.
“No, I grew up on another world elsewhere in the HID.”
“Right, sorry, the Human Interstellar Dependency – it’s the name of all the Human colony worlds. I grew up on an insignificant little rock in one corner of it, not that much bigger than what you have here, and ended up moving to Nkagan because they’re going through a construction boom right now. It’s a boom alright, the workers though hardly get any benefit from it. And then one day I bumped into old Nmala here at the pub after my shift and he talked my ear off about their little venture.”
“Did he now?” Valyen said, looking at Nmala who seemed to only have eyes for his food.
“And now been flying with the crew of the Oshken for the last few months,” Captain Mokob said.
“So what is it that the crew of your ship does?” Kviye asked.
“They’re scavengers,” Valyen interjected, not lifting her eyes from the fork that was approaching her mouth.
“Hmm?” Must have having sensed her daughter’s tone but not recognizing the word, Valyen’s mother leaned into Kviye for a translation. “Valyen!” she chastised when she got the answer.
“That’s alright. It’s a fair assessment a lot of the time. A little salvage here, some minor prospecting there, you know, little things to make ends meet. But it’s the comets that give folks like us our name is where the money really is. Comets are temperamental beasts. And they need a particularly bold kind of crew to tame. They’re not beholden to the confines of our stellar systems and often visit us from far outside the Known Reaches. And sometimes they bear unspeakable riches. Mostly its rare ores, sometimes organic particles used for research and medicines. And if fortune’s favour truly smiles on you,” Captain Mokob dropped his voice low and smiled, putting his hand into an inside pocket of his coat. “You may find yourself a lode of these.” Pinched between his fingers he held an instantly recognizable black orb with its shadowy halo. A little smaller than the specimen that had taken Kviye to space and now sat securely in her pocket, the sphere in the Captain’s hand called to Kviye with its familiar ominous song. Kviye glanced at Valyen and thought her friend looked like Mokob brought an actual bapa zhaga into her home.
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.