Author Visit: Exclusive Claimings short story "Slow Attractions" by Lyn Gala

Today we have an extra special treat for the Claimings fan. In celebration of the sequel's (Assimilation, Love and Other Human Oddities) release tomorrow, Lyn Gala has stopped by with an extra exclusive short story, Slow Attractions. This is a Lyn Gala fan's wet dream. This story happens in the Claimings universe before book #2. More Ondry and Liam goodness...ahh!!!

Slow Attractions

Ondry watched Liam as he unpacked beautiful forms of animals done in glass. Human art revealed much of their psychology, and a number of temples were interested in the pieces, so Ondry could trade them to the Tuk ranked traders who supplied the temple. However, the trade goods didn’t keep Ondry’s attention long.

Liam’s scent had a sour note that he didn’t recognize. Ondry studied the foreign face. While humans had faces that made them appear constantly angry with their pale skin and protruding lips, Ondry liked to believe he could understand Liam’s expressions. Right now the skin around his mouth was tight and the corners of his lips had a slight downturn.

In any other, Ondry would consider that a weakness to take advantage of, but Ondry had long ago passed the point where he could pretend any objectivity with this human. He knew what the others said. They claimed he was addled, and if it turned out that the human was using Ondry’s feelings against him, he would lose all status. However, Ondry was increasingly sure that Liam was a palteia, and it made him ache to think the man was unhappy.

True, if he was palteia, he was one who served his human officers, but still. If he served an officer, that officer should be here to stand by him when he needed it. “You appear unhappy,” Ondry said before he could think of all the logical reasons for avoiding this conversation. Technically they had not yet begun trading, so speaking was not utterly forbidden.

Liam ceased all movement.

“I am… having no strong feelings at all at this moment,” Liam said. The lie was so obvious that it would be disgraceful for a child of fifty. No adult would ever lie that badly.

Ondry paled, distressed at the idea that Liam felt the need to lie about that which was not related to trading. Some days Ondry wished that some female would leave an eggling on his doorstep. It was appropriate for a Rownt to care about a child’s well-being. Ondry would not be risking his status by showing such concern for a child’s worries, but despite the logical need to disengage from Liam, Ondry could not. Ondry cared if he was unhappy, no matter how illogical that feeling was.

Ondry had no words to counter such an obvious untruth, but after a time, Liam spoke again. “The human base has a new commander. The transition is difficult.”

That surprised Ondry. Liam was the most competent trader, so it would seem logical to ask him to take such a role, but this was one more piece of evidence that he was palteia. No palteia would ever wish to be in charge because it was in their nature to follow—not lead.

“Were you not asked to take the position?”

Liam’s scent turned sharp. Surprise. So he had not even had such thoughts in his own head. “I’m not qualified for that position,” he said in another clear lie.

Ondry smiled. Ah, so Liam was not interested in leading, and he was willing to tell Ondry as much. Ondry felt a flush of pride that Liam trusted him enough to reveal such a vulnerability. Perhaps now was the time to test how far Liam’s desire to serve really went. The Grandmothers believed humans incapable of having the instincts of a true palteia, but Ondry had his doubts. Ondry moved closer, far closer than he would ever get to another adult.

He moved slowly to give Liam a chance to take the two most logical escapes for an adult—verbal protest or retreat. Certainly a human could never physically compete with a Rownt, and Liam was no exception even if he insisted he was larger than most humans.

Liam watched Ondry’s approach with wide eyes. Ondry got so close that for a moment he thought Liam might allow Ondry to touch him, but then he took a small step back. Ondry smiled when Liam then stilled. They were so close that Ondry could feel the heat from Liam’s body, and yet Liam didn’t retreat any farther.

“I don’t lead well. My superiors like my work, but they don’t—” Liam stopped suddenly. Ondry thought he was searching for some Rownt word he could not remember, but his gaze dropped to the ground for a moment before he looked back up.

Ondry’s eyes widened as he studied Liam, searching his expression to try and decide where the deeper truth lay. Was Liam confirming his palteia nature? Ondry did the unforgivable—he came right out and asked, “You do not seek promotion?”

Immediately, Liam twitched as if he had pricked a finger on some thorn. “The issue is more complex with humans than with the Rownt,” he explained.

So likely he had been ordered to not discuss his nature the way humans avoided all discussion of their internal politics or their own motivations. Many Rownt found it unbalanced and disturbing that the humans actively sought out information about Rownt society or the Imshee, who they knew of only through the Rownt, but they jealously guarded any information about their own homeworld.

If humans were the least bit interesting, some ship would have gone into human controlled space to regain the balance in such issues. However, if Liam was palteia, he had no power over the policies of his officers, so Ondry turned the conversation to their trade.

Liam clearly suffered from great distractions because he eventually slipped and offered a trade that Ondry would have called disastrous, but when Ondry accepted, Liam flipped the Ginal coin signaling his satisfaction with the exchange. It was hardly the only time that Liam had shown great favoritism toward Ondry, though.

The trades in the plaza were to take place in silence with the moving of tokens signifying offers, but Liam appeared to welcome Ondry’s conversation, and Ondry liked speaking to Liam well enough that he happily broke custom.

“I shall buy you a meal,” Ondry said. He had earned profits enough today for many meals. Besides, with a new human commander, he might be able to get a food seller to trade them food in return for the ability to listen in on Liam’s insights on the change of human leadership.

“I have a new officer. I should report back to him,” Liam said, and he bowed as if he expected Ondry to be offended. Perhaps the new officer was offensive in some way Rownt had not yet perceived.

However, Ondry had no real reason to request Liam’s continued presence, so he bowed in return. He was horrified when his tail involuntarily twitched. Certainly he would not mind a palteia choosing to seek his touch, but to twitch one’s tail at another’s palteia… Ondry felt ill at the insult he had just offered Liam’s chilta, even if the person was not present to see it.

“I am disappointed, but I hope to best you later and use the profits from our next trade to buy you a good meal,” Ondry said more formally. Just because he now had evidence in the form of Liam’s own words to prove that Liam was palteia didn’t mean that his courtship was complete or that he had successfully claimed Liam’s loyalty. He had a reputation to attend to, and inviting another’s palteia to touch him was not the best way to achieve that end.

“And I hope next time to force you into a trade that leaves you with no meal to eat,” Liam said, but to Ondry it sounded as if he did not mean it. Ondry did find it interesting that Liam seemed to care for Ondry’s profits as much as the profits of his own people. Ondry would tempt Liam away eventually. He did not accept failure, and he would not fail to prove himself a better chilta than whatever human had claimed Liam’s loyalty.

Liam began to pack the merchandise, and Ondry moved closer. The others might call him a fool behind his back, but Ondry knew that Liam would turn to him one day, and even now Ondry felt the need to protect this trader who had shown such preference for him. Liam was a sharp trader.

He brought goods of greater value and he understood their value, unlike the other humans who would sometimes try their luck in the plaza. And he had a flexibility in thought that Ondry greatly admired. They would often have discussions and Liam would slide his thoughts inside another’s until he could understand their point of view. He certainly was the only human to consistently speak Rownt correctly. Before Liam, some had wondered if there was some mental incapacity in the humans the way Rownt had an incapacity in their mouths that precluded them from making some human sounds.

He had such strength, so to be allowed to stand so close was a little intoxicating. “Good trading, Liam Munson of Earth,” Ondry said, and then he backed away. If he did not, he was going to give in to the temptation to touch Liam. Considering that he suspected Liam would allow such contact, Ondry was finding it increasingly difficult to resist.

Liam’s scent grew warmer. In Ondry’s perfect world, that would indicate interest, but Ondry could not allow his desire to cause him to make illogical connections. So after Liam offered him a quick smile, Ondry allowed him to leave without attempting to keep him in town longer. After gaining an admission that Liam didn’t care for rank, Ondry had profits enough for one day.

And if Liam had made a trade that favored Ondry rather than his own people, perhaps that was sign enough to keep Ondry tending their relationship.

Ondry waited no more than a minute before following Liam’s path back toward the human base. Alib was on the street, and he gave Ondry an amused look. If Ondry had more rank, he would have shown the elder a tooth in warning, but he was young enough that the gesture would be seen as disrespectful. Yes, Ondry showed an unnatural interest in Liam, but many beautiful things were unnatural. Art was unnatural, fabrics were, the beautiful colors streaked through belia steel were unnatural.

Surprisingly, Ondry caught up with Liam. He stood in the middle of the street, his back stiff and his arm up as though shading his eyes, but the sun was hidden behind clouds. Ondry’s eyes widened when he spotted the other humans. The elder, or at least Ondry assumed he was an elder based on the gray hair, made a similar gesture with his hand to his head, and then Liam lowered his arm.

So it was a ritual greeting. Ondry wondered if this was Liam’s chilta—the leader that Liam would follow the way most Rownt would follow profits. “I planned to watch negotiations, sergeant,” the human said.

Ondry felt an unfamiliar flash of guilt. Liam had finished quickly because Ondry’s questions had clearly put him ill at ease to the point where he had hurried. Had that displeased Liam’s chilta? Ondry watched. This was his competition. If Ondry wished to claim Liam’s loyalty, he would have to prove himself more worthy than this human, and that was a task Ondry was willing to invest years in achieving.

A Grandmother stopped and watched him with a sort of weary resignation. Neither of them had ever said an improper word, but Ondry was well aware that this was the Grandmother who had laid his own mother’s egg. She had always stopped to listen to him, even when he’d been twenty and chafing at his mother’s insistence that Ondry not go and get himself killed with his child’s antics. Sometimes Ondry feared he was being as foolish now as he’d been back then when he’d been too young to understand that his mother had acted to protect him.

Well, she was quick enough to call him a fool when he made errors, so he moved toward her. She had her attention on the humans as well, so perhaps she too saw this as not just two random humans but a rare chance to see how a chilta and palteia interacted.

“Grandmother,” Ondry greeted her respectfully as he moved to her side.

She gave him an amused look. “So, are you chasing your butterflies again, young one.”

It was a mild enough rebuke. “I still hope to convince a butterfly to land on my finger,” Ondry answered. She huffed at him, but she watched the humans.

“How much tremanium did you secure, Sergeant Munson?” The elder asked. Despite the fact that humans appeared to value looking at the face of a speaking partner, he walked around to Liam’s back. Ondry could see how having another at one’s back could prove uncomfortable, so perhaps this was a chilta’s prerogative.

“One ton, seven units, sir,” Liam said without turning around.

The Grandmother looked to Ondry. “It was a trade in my favor,” Ondry said, and then he described the quantity of delicate art glass Liam had agreed to deliver. She darkened, and Ondry could feel the warmth of that. To have a Grandmother look at you with favor caused such a rush of pride that Ondry sometimes wondered how those of tuk rank could trade with the Grandmothers as well as they did. They were as ruthless to the elder females as they would be to a lek-ranked farmer who had just claimed his first rank. Perhaps when Ondry had more age and more status he would feel less need for such approval, but he would not deny that for now it felt good to have a Grandmother look at him with pleasure.

“You would claim him,” she said directly. It was the first time any Grandmother had addressed Ondry’s interest in Liam.

“Yes,” he said.

“It is unlikely he is palteia,” she warned. It was a great courtesy to have a Grandmother warn one off a poor trade, but Ondry refused to think of Liam as anything other than a treasure of great value.

“He tells me he does not seek rank. He also tells me that it is a complex issue he would not discuss.” Ondry allowed the Grandmother to draw her own conclusions from that. She turned and studied him with wide eyes.

Meanwhile the humans continued on as if they had not attracted the attention of a Grandmother. “We will discuss that trade when we reach base,” the elder said in a voice much softer than before. Ondry wondered if that had some cultural meaning.

Liam offered a short, “Yes, sir.”

The Grandmother turned away and ambled toward Liam. Perhaps she was going to see if she could draw her own conclusions. Ondry found himself unreasonably nervous. It had taken years to gain Liam’s trust and respect enough that he showed his true nature, and Ondry had no way of asking Liam to allow the Grandmother to see the same, not with Liam’s chilta standing right there. A fool would notice another attempting to claim his palteia if it were done under his nose.

“Sir,” the armed one said. Normally humans were not allowed weapons, but this one held a large weapon in her hands. Interesting. The gentle breeze brought the scent of fear from her, but the Grandmother ignored her entirely. She could do nothing else because to officially take note of the human would require officially noticing the way the human female broke the rules concerning weapons. It was best to ignore that which did not matter.

Liam glanced over toward Ondry and then at the Grandmother, but his chilta offered a sharp, “Sergeant!”

Liam’s scent turned so sharp with fear, that Ondry paled and felt an urge to move between Liam and his chilta. No chilta should ever inspire fear in the palteia who followed him. It was an abomination. Ondry looked to the Grandmother, not sure what he should do.

She had paled considerably, but she controlled her voice. “You are the new human commander,” she said. Around them, Rownt were reacting to the sight of a clearly angry Grandmother. Children moved to their parents, and Rownt everywhere began to shift toward makeshift weapons. A male picked up a large sickle, and another put his hand on a digging tool with a metal tip.

The armed female human shifted nervously now, and the elder human was the only one who did not smell of fear.

“Yes, ma’am. I am Colonel Richard Thackeray of the Forward Command.” He smiled at her.

The Grandmother scented the air, so perhaps she was as confused as Ondry. He could only smell the heavy scent of rotting, overly sweet fruit. There was no fear in this one, and there should be. Ondry wondered if this human had some hidden asset that would turn events to his favor. There was no other reason for such confidence.

The elder male looked around, but he did not seem to grow any more concerned. “Command is hoping I can improve the trade. I am hoping to speak to the ruling council to discuss how we can better help each other. We specialize in pharmaceuticals, and I do hope to reopen the discussion of importing them, at least those that are well-established as safe.”

Liam twitched, which was a reasonable reaction to insulting a Grandmother in such a way. Ondry wanted to twitch his own tail at this human who would question the wisdom of the Grandmother’s ruling, but to do so with a Grandmother standing right next to him would add another insult as he suggested she could not handle matters on her own.

“Such issues were previously decided.” The simple statement of fact was an unambiguous warning, one which the elder human ignored.

“Reexamining an issue can only bring more options to the table.”

Ondry wondered if this one had some damage to his logic.

The Grandmother was now pale enough with anger that Ondry would have wanted a weapon were Liam not in the middle. The Grandmother said, “Or it can upset the table.”

“I would never want that.” He had to use the human form of never, which was a common enough word that it made his own ignorance rather clear. “The Rownt people are such a dignified, powerful race. I look forward to many years of working together, and toward that end, I will work hard to prevent any tables from getting knocked over on my watch.”

The longer speech required him to resort to several human words, including saying “Rownt” in human language. Perhaps he was attempting to insult them. If he was the commander of the base, that would make him ranked equal with a Grandmother and well-able to trade in insults, but Ondry understood almost nothing of this elder human’s motivations.

The elder moved to push Liam with his shoulder. Between chilta and palteia, touch was sacred. Only a child or a palteia could be trusted so close, and their affection was cherished. However, the elder’s touch caused Liam distress. He quickly moved back into the same position and smelled of great fear.

Ondry gave a whine and was on the verge of grabbing Liam on the spot. He was hurt. The touch of his chilta hurt him. Ondry had never felt such killing rage in his life. The Grandmother made a small soothing glurble, but Ondry didn’t care. Liam feared the touch of his chilta, and that was an abomination. Ondry would not accept such a situation.

Ondry could attack. The town knew that he courted Liam as palteia, so the fear of one’s desired palteia would excuse such an act, but there were three humans in the middle of the potential battle, and human bodies were very breakable. Ondry glanced at the Grandmother, and she gazed back. Ondry could preserve his rank and his honor or he could risk it all to protect Liam. If he tried to publicly claim Liam only to have Liam reject him, the damage to his rank would be immeasurable. But to walk away would mean to live with the knowledge that a palteia lived in fear. Worse, Liam would be living in fear. This brave human who sought Ondry’s advice and showed such curiosity about the world would be condemned to live under a chilta who dishonored him.

After moving to a spot right in front of Liam, Ondry announced loudly enough for all to hear, “I had asked the grandmother if we could have a temple ceremony tonight.” She could call out his lie right now, or the Grandmother could become party to Ondry’s deception and risk some of her own reputation by allowing a palteia custody debate over a human who might not be palteia.

Fear clawed at Ondry’s guts as he watched the Grandmother. For a time she stared back, but then she gave the slightest incline of her head, and Ondry felt the relief wash through him. She would back his claim. She would speak for him at the temple and advocate for him to claim this palteia who had clearly been misused.

Ondry turned his attention to Liam. Liam knew something had changed, but he clearly didn’t understand. He looked around without moving his head, and Ondry did not understand why the human chilta would have ordered Liam to remain motionless. It was a useless order that was clearly intended to make Liam uncomfortable. Ondry ached to provide some relief from that, but he did not yet have the right.

“Youth. So impatient.” The Grandmother clucked. Ondry could hear the unspoken order to avoid engaging the humans here.

“I am, Grandmother . I apologize. I have so little patience for some things.” Ondry had no way to tell Liam that he had little patience for this human elder and the pain Liam had to endure because of him.

“I understand the feeling.” The human elder said as he gave Liam an unhappy look as though he had done something wrong. The scent of terror began to roll off Liam. Ondry paled, and he could feel his muscles warm as though for battle. The Grandmother moved forward, and Ondry had to back away to avoid touching her. No doubt she questioned his control, and right now Ondry was very close to ripping off one of the elder’s limbs, so it was a reasonable concern.

“I do want a temple ceremony, Colonel Thackeray. You and Trader Liam must come.” The Grandmother’s order allowed Ondry to calm his growing anger. She would not allow the abuse to continue.

“I would be pleased,” the elder answered. “I am sure you understand that the junior crew members need time off, so I cannot require Sergeant Munson to attend.”

Ondry tensed. The chilta was going to take Liam away and hide him before his ownership could be challenged. Ondry would kill the other two humans before he allowed that.

The Grandmother spared Ondry a look of warning before turning her attention to the elder. “I must insist. We cannot have a ceremony without your trader.”

Clearly he wished to decline, but no one refused a Grandmother. “Well, I suppose we can arrange it.”

“Good.” The Grandmother walked up to Liam and studied him. All her attention was for him now, and Ondry hoped that she was as impressed with Liam as he was. Liam remained calm and seemed to relax in her presence as though he expected to find protection from her. That would be true if he was a member of the community, and hopefully he soon would be. “Then I shall see you both there tonight,” the Grandmother said. She turned and walked away. No doubt she would need to explain this unexpected event to the other Grandmothers. Ondry did not understand the relationships within the temple, so he could only hope he had not placed her in a difficult position.

“Tonight,” Ondry said. Tonight. After tonight he would either have a palteia and earn the right to protect Liam from this dalit or he would be left with no status. The sheer magnitude of the risk made Ondry’s head swim, but for Liam, he would face far greater danger.

A big Rownt thank you to Lyn Gala for stopping by with a very big treat! Tomorrow (9/23/14) is the release day for Assimilation, Love and Other Human Oddities, and we unicorns aren't finished yet! Check us out tomorrow for our group review on the sequel.

For more information for the Claimings series,

 Claimings, Tails and Other Alien Artifacts (Claimings, #1)

Goodreads or Booklikes
Assimilation, Love and Other Human Oddities (Claimings, #2)

Goodreads or Booklikes


  1. Thank you so much for that short. It shows so very clearly how that scene is viewed by the Rownt and Ondry's interaction with the Grandmother.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Liam really didn't understand everything that was going on during that confrontation, or how much Ondry was risking.

  2. That was fantastic. Thanks, Lyn.

  3. why is the story truncated?

    1. You have to have your mouse over the window that the story is in and then you can scroll down to make the story move within that window.