Following Daetrin, we’re offered more evidence that there is some relationship between Daetrin and the Marra. We’re shown strange behavior by the Raayat. We’re given a flashback. Daetrin performs SCIENCE! During one of Daetrin’s scientific experience, he’s told something cryptic by a Tekk-human. And finally, having answered the Call to Action
, our hero sets in motion a plan to escape the Tyr. But will he succeed? Let’s find out…
We return to Daetrin’s POV. He’s still on the Longship, still where we left him, and still struggling with his sanity. Does he trust his senses, or not? Does he trust his memory, or not? Looking in the mirror he realizes that he has gray sideburns, which is, of course, impossible. After focusing on an image of himself without the gray, he looks again in the mirror and discovers he looks the way he should. This doesn’t comfort him, in fact…
The Tyr had suspected me of being extraterrestial in origin. Could it have been correct? Might that explain some characteristics which seemed bizarre by Earth standards, but were consistent within an alien context? I had clear memories of the father who raised me, the mother who left me, the sister who was lost to me after some tragic accident … but I had other memories, too, which were clearly riddled with fantastic inaccuracies. Were those images of family no more than false memories, which only seemed true when viewed through the haze of centuries? Was I, in fact, something other than human?
So, the longest Marra span is around five hundred years (at least, the longest that our unnamed Marra knows). Daetrin only remembers being alive for the last five hundred years. Coincidence, I hear you say?
Trembling, I knew that I stood balanced on the brink of madness. Insanity and longevity are a truly terrifying combination …
The whole episode reminds him of why he has always hated mirrors.
Later, the Raayat comes to wake him.
Was the Unstable One living up to its epithet at last?
The Raayat leads Daetrin to a room, some kind of multimedia processing center. The Raayat shows Daetrin photos and orders Daetrin to interpret them. After many photos, too many for Daetrin to keep track of, and much anger on the Raayat’s part, Daetrin finally begins to grasp what the Raayat is looking for.
… “A farm. Earth-farm.”
There was silence. I felt my heart skip a beat. Had I failed it one time too often?
“What do you see?” it asked me again.
Hesitantly, I answered “It looks like an Earth-farm—”
“What do you see?”
I looked up at it, into eyes that were framed in swollen red. What did I see? Or, what did I perceive? They were two different questions, I realized suddenly. And I had been answering only the latter.
The Raayat’s hand was on my shoulder, the pressure of its tension near to drawing blood. I turned quickly back to the screen and told it, “Cattle: there.” I pointed. Then, moving my finger in illustration, I pointed ou the other vital farm-signs. And explained how I had deduced that this was indeed a farm, and why it was probably not something else.
And I waited, my breath held, for a response.
Its hand on my shoulder loosened. …
The interrogation continues, but with less frustration and at a slower pace. Daetrin speculates on the cause of the behavioral shift. Finally, when the episode comes to a conclusion, Daetrin wonders how the Raayat could seem to have missed the gestalt of everything that Daetrin had told it.
I love the implications in this scene. It’s the perfect kind of dramatic scene (show don’t tell). It shows us something new and makes the reader guess as to it’s cause. Then it poses the question to frame the reader’s mind, aligning the reader towards the story goal.
… The Raayat was part of the Tyr, and the Tyr was not crippled in this manner … therefore the Raayat could not be. Which brought us back full circle …
When the pair reach Daetrin’s cell, the Raayat having decided that the excursion was over, Daetrin asks the Raayat what it sees. The Raayat responds that it sees Leyq on the walls. Guidelines of color, visible only to Tyr-sight, that codify direction and distance (to what?)
Our POVC character is captured, we assume it’s Daetrin (it fits the narrative). While the captors dictate terms, the POVC speculates. Who ordered this assault, their motives, what he might do to escape. In a moment of distraction, he makes his escape. Outrunning his pursuers, he takes to the roofs where they do not think to chase him, believing him incapable of using his abilities because of their Christian magic (prayers and holy water are magic? I guess it’s a useful summary.) Everything in Florence is lost to him, and he cannot escape the city injured until he has had time to heal.
I struggle with the purpose of this flashback. Having read the chapter, I assume it’s to reinforce the knowledge that Daetrin once shapechanged with ease, that he once was more aware of his nature. This becomes critical to the (very) next scene, so it is relevant. It also adds a bit of action/drama to the narrative, speeding up the pacing and increasing the tension. (Which might be the exact reason why it’s added before the next scene, now that I think about it. The next scene is really just a scientific experiment. I bet if you removed the dramatic/action sequence immediately prior to the science, it would have been a little flatter, a little less tense.)
Returning to the present:
Daetrin decides to perform a SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT to try to understand the conflict in his perceptions. Ah, I love this idea here as much as I loved it when someone wrote fan fiction of Harry Potter doing the same (which, naturally, the fan fiction came much later than this book did.) However, there’s two continuity errors:
Earlier in this chapter, we have three changes in Daetrin’s appearance:
- Daetrin changes his hair so that he has gray sideburns (gray sideburns are a cosmetic change).
- Daetrin restores himself to normal.
- He saw a reflection of himself, looking anything but human (but how he looks is unexplained; he’s contemplating what manner of creature fits the criteria he has for his nature).
We don’t see Daetrin’s appearance change again.
Earlier in chapter 6, Daetrin discovered the zipper on his clothing jammed (but no mention of buttons.)
In this scene, Daetrin is lining up evidence
- Evaluating the malformed buttons on his clothing.
- No mention is made of a jammed zipper.
- His hair (again) has gray sideburns, which he cuts a bit off to compare against his reflection.
- When he looks in the mirror, he sees the reflection he saw when he last looked in that mirror.
1&2: His clothing could have both, he could have lost the zipper, or, he might not have been able to separate the zipper from the clothing without ruining the clothing (whereas a button was easily removed).
3: He might have changed back to the older image after he last looked in to the reflection, before the Raayat came. This would have been done off screen.
4. Err… the last time we saw him looking at himself, he looked anything but human, and he flipped the mirror over so as to not look at himself again. Any additional looking had to happen outside of the narrative.
After attempting to alter his appearance, and failing, he sees himself in the mirror again with the gray intact. OK, let’s let that go and move on. He performs a series of experiments, trying to change his human appearance, trying to submit to the timefugues to take a non-human appearance, trying to make any change whatever… and failing. He decides that all this means he’s possibly cured of whatever madness had overcome him when he drank blood again, but he’s afraid of what the Tyr will discover when they experiment on him, and so he must complete his experiments—test himself according to the parameters of his madness. By facing this down, he hopes to rid himself forever of his mystical past and root himself firmly in the world of science. SCIENCE!
While attempting to prepare for his next experiment (something to do with the lab and mixing chemicals under the watchful gaze of the Raayat), Daetrin struggles to get the Raayat to explain its seeming individuality and how that relates to the whole. It’s a pointless conversation, one they’ve had many times, but it distracts the Raayat from watching Daetrin too closely. When that tactic fails, Daetrin inquires about his destination, Kygattra. The planet has no day/night cycle, the Raayat informs him. A planet that orbits the sun the way Earth’s moon orbits the Earth: One solar rotation is the same as one planetary rotation—one side of the planet is always facing the sun. A death sentence for radiation sensitive Daetrin.
During Daetrin’s distraction, the Raayat circles back around to the earlier conversation and essentially invites Daetrin to name the Raayat-part-that-is-separate-from-the-Tyr. Our Raayat-Tyr becomes Frederick-Raayat-Tyr. At 29% through the book, we’re presented with the Call to Action: Daetrin is willing to die to protect “his people” (which clearly isn’t the humans). He will betray his people if he allows the Tyr to land him on Kygattra. So, he must leave the Longship by any means necessary (up to and including his own death).
Planning to try to escape, Daetrin dreams of his plans; he dreams of blood. (Not clearly in the literal sense, but it’s possible.) And then the moment arrives, and he begins his escape. First, to get past the door. The mechanism that opens it is heat sensitive, but only accessible from the outside. Somehow, he guesses, he must have generated enough body heat during his delirium that he was able to activate the sensor from inside the cell. If he can do it once, he can do it again, and so he triggers the timefugue:
I relived the incident, again and again, until my body shook with the force of the repeated memory, and I was filmed with the sweat of exhaustion. My shirt clung to me, dampened by my efforts, but still I persevered. Over and over, an endless loop of memory which must eventually take control of the body that harbored it, and force whatever process had once taken place to repeat itself, here and now—
I admire the rhythm of this (short) paragraph. I’ve been studying sentences that I really like a lot lately, trying to deduce how rhythm works. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. I try to grasp the technical aspects of the sentence (and I hope I do a good job):
The first sentence is three connected clauses. The first clause (“I relived the incident”) is modified by an appositive phrase (“again and again”). The second clause (“until my body shoot with the force of the repeated memory”) is dependent upon the first clause, connected via the dependent marker until. The third clause (“and I was filmed with the sweat of exhaustion”) is independent, but has a casual relationship with the previous two clauses. That is to say, that because Daetrin relived the incident, until his body shook with the force of repeated memory, he was filmed with the sweat of exhaustion.
Second sentence is clause, appositive phrase, conjunction, second independent clause.
Technically speaking, in the third sentence just before the conjunction “and”, the comma is unnecessary. While unnecessary, its inclusion doesn’t destroy the meaning of the sentence. Its addition turns the clause “and force whatever process had once taken place to repeat itself” into a non-essential element. However, the sentence remains structurally sound if you were to remove the non-essential clause. Let’s take a look, shall we: “Over and over, an endless loop of memory which must eventually take control of the body that harbored it, here and now—”
The effect of this paragraph is rendered (less eloquently): I did something, I kept doing it until it generated a physical reaction (not the one I wanted). Despite the stress of my efforts, I continued. I kept doing it in the hopes that my memory of a past incident would control my body in the present.
I actually got the idea to do this kind of analysis from a web search I did recently for sentence rhythm which led me to Purdue OWL. Thanks Purdue OWL. They had a re-write of the Gettysburg Address; a comparison between the original speech and a rewrite using less florid [but more modern] speech. The re-write lost something in the translation. I think I’ve contained the same essential elements in the rewrite, but the impact, the essential meaning is lost. (It’s become all facts and no soul.) It provides (I hope) an excellent comparison to illustrate rhythm. And that’s the reason that I continue to love this prose.
Daetrin opens the door, escapes in to the corridor, and suddenly his plans are rendered askew: he’s encountered a Tekk woman, the dark skinned woman he met previously in the lab.
“There are no eyes,” she told me, “among the Tekk.”
Hrm? This is a curious phrase. It seems to mean that the Tekk do not report things that they see to the Tyr. (As this is a re-read, I appreciate the subtlety of this sentence. Like the seyga, it foreshadows a later event. How positively sly you are, Friedman.)
Daetrin departs the corridor, leaving the Tekk-woman behind, going to the animal penns. Once there, he tranquilizes one of the human predators and drinks its blood. Once he’s returned to his cell, before the translation (the FTL jump to the next solar system), Daetrin conducts his experiments again. This time, he feels more energetic, more alive. And there are results. His form is reverted from the aged image to the young image he had briefly before. Then, he transforms himself in to a wolf. Successfully. He’s forced to confront his real nature, but despite the shock he confronts it calmly. He now has a real chance of escaping the Longship, preventing his delivery to Kygattra and his eventual death (not to mention the death of everyone else like him who are still on Earth.)
When we return, the Tyr are delivering the caged animals to Meyaga. The narrative is remote, unemotional, and not that dramatic. There are phrases though:
[Describing the Tyr’s method of trying to establish an ecological balance on Meyaga.] A creature with limited creative capacity must feel its way through life via trial and error.
I drank it [Daetrin’s heightened senses] in until the last glimmer of twilight had faded, and the light of a thousand alien stars blazed furiously against the stark black backdrop of the Meyagan night. A thousand brilliant points of light that burned my eyes as I stared at them, and filled me with the wonder of their power and beauty—as well as my own vulnerability.
and (in closing)
Feeling a sudden hunger for human company—and for an additional kill, to strengthen me for my journey—I turned my nose into the most promising wind, and followed the scent of man into the forest.
Hrm? This is either context pollution, or Daetrin just decided to start eating humans. If you remove the interjected clause, the sentence reads: Feeling a sudden hunger for human company, I turned my nose in to the most promising wind and followed the scent of man into the forest. Which has a completely different meaning than when you consider the sentence, interjection included. But which is it? I’ll save that answer for a later post.
Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:
- Daetrin is hungry.
- Daetrin craves human company.
- Daetrin may or may not crave human blood.
- Daetrin is on Meyaga, away from the Tyr, and planning to fight them somehow.
- What are the humans like on Meyaga?
- What will Daetrin do on Meyaga?
- What will happen to Frederick-Raayat?
Stakes: Low. He’s safe for now, his nature is known to him again, he’s recovered powers he’d given up, he’s no longer held prisoner by the Tyr. Things seem to be looking up. It’s a perfect bookmark moment.