Flames of Power by Callie Bourde
Book Five in the AIR Series by Callie Bourde
Commander Som’Il HreiSaj is with a Restoration Team on Planet P’Dano which was savaged by marauders. On a break at Jump Station Gamma, he meets Artist Neela Seysqi. She’s the bright spot in his life, but can she be more?
Ornamental R’Namu Commerce Court, Jump Station Gamma, Gamma Sector, Galaxia Alia
Neela Seysqi smiled at the group of tourists. “Welcome, ladies. Feel free to ask questions or ask for help.”
A D’Ur’Uma, Neela had the luminous golden coloring of her people. Her refined features were nicely framed by her short hair. She was dressed in a fashionable jumpsuit and its earthy green print set off her warm blonde hair. She wore a necklace and bracelet set of her large hand-made glass beads, subliminal advertising for her work.
A torchworker, she created colorful and imaginatively detailed glass beads. Rods of glass were heated in a live flame. The melted glass was attached to another glass rod used as a handle, to be shaped and embellished. Once finished, the bead, still on its rod, was placed into a kiln to cool down in a controlled manner.
The work was painstaking, but the results were breathtakingly beautiful.
The finished beads could be worn alone, displayed on a simple necklace or bracelet or could be incorporated into more elaborate jewelry.
“Artist! Artist!” One of the Azorts pointed to a tray in the case, her eyestalks quivering with excitement.
Neela pulled out a lined tray of glass focal beads. The beads in this particular group were shaped like tiny amphorae — jars with narrow necks and a pair of handles framing the neck. Archaeological discoveries in the last decade related to the ‘Unknown Travelers’ had provided the inspiration… and they were among her best sellers.
She picked up an amphora bead and pulled out the stopper. “These can hold perfume, if you want.”
“These are amazing! But I’m not sure. How would I wear one?” This Azort tourist’s eyestalks were even more animated.
“Let me see.” Her three Azort female companions crowded around.
“I have soft cord necklaces. They’re made using Ch’nees Knotting techniques. The cord loops through both handles like this.” She moved a freestanding display from the shelf behind her. It held a similar bead strung from cord. From habit, she gave her standard reminder, “These are made from glass. They’ve been treated to minimize the danger of breaking, but all glass is breakable and must be handled with care.”
Another of the tourists squealed in delight. “That one is perfect for my sister-in-law. I need a Travelers Festival gift for her. She’s very picky and hard to buy for…”
Neela guided the females through the purchase process. Happily, they were from one of the high end cruise ships currently docked on the jump station. They had plenty of money to spend and were shopping for unique, so Neela’s handmade torchwork beads were ideal.
The Azort purchasing the vessel bead decided she wanted a Ch’nees Knotted Cord necklace for it. They were hand-made, but could be created ahead of time, so there were plenty of choices ready to go. Neela helped her choose the color and diameter of silica silk cord, then attached it to the flask.
By the time all of the gifts were placed in their custom boxes and the purchases rung up, it was closing time. After locking the shop door behind the females, Neela leaned back against the door and took a deep breath.
She blinked her eyes tiredly. She’d spent a productive day at her workbench and she’d worn eye protection, but still, hours staring at a flaming torch took their toll. She’d lucked out. Customer interruptions had been minimal, but the few who’d stopped by had, like this last group, purchased enthusiastically, so it had been a good sales day, too.
Now she was more than ready to head up to her apartment and relax, preferably with her brain completely disengaged.
From the open rafters above came a chirping sound. It was Doy’le, her new companion.
She patted the counter. “Come on down, little guy.” When he didn’t react, she remembered that while he understood Galaxia Alia Standard, he preferred it when she projected. With effort, she sent the image of him sitting on the counter.
That got a response. He launched his small sturdy body off the beam, his wings whirring madly. She kept from showing her concern… she hoped. Every time D’oyle took to the air, Neela was amazed that he got any lift at all.
Once he was beside her on the counter, Neela decided she’d rate the maneuver as a controlled crash, rather than a landing. Still, no one had been hurt and nothing was damaged, so she’d take it as a win.
Doy’le was covered in short, soft, brown fur, and had a proportionally large round head topped with a pair of enormous upright ears. His head was three times the size of her fist. His stocky body was supported by four sturdy legs. The wings… well, they were a wonder of physics. No one quite understood how g’oylls flew, but they did. Bright eyes and an adorable nose finished the look. Basically, he was a living, breathing, sapient stuffed toy… if you ignored the wicked, retractable claws on each foot.
Last week, when a representative of the Ministry of Sapient Companions had walked into her shop, no one could have been more surprised than she was.
She’d heard about the G’oylls, of course. Pretty much everyone in the Galaxia Alia had heard about them since their discovery in Zeta Sector a couple of years ago.
While she found them endlessly fascinating, and had hoped she might see one come through the jump station, it had never occurred to her that she’d end up as a companion to one of them.
Doy’le had ridden in on the shoulder of the MSC rep. She’d been at the back of the shop. As soon as she stepped into view, the little guy had flung himself at her. Reflexively, she’d grabbed for him, hugging him close as part of the catch. He nestled into her neck, and that was that.
The MSC rep’s big grin had allayed her fears.
Anyway, the upshot was that Doy’le was her companion. She’d fallen for him as soon as she got a good look. He was adorable and the landing thing? Yeah… They could work on it. He’d only get better… Right?