Jihan was wakened by Kash entering her quarters the next morning. She rolled over and saw the elder standing in her doorway, hands thrust beneath her robe. “You must find your own house today,” Kash said. “It is not proper that you dwell here any longer.”

For a moment, Jihan could not think why Kash wanted her to go, then it all came rushing back to her, the Hall of Decision, her very different results from the space debris analysis, the new elian — her new elian.

“Yes,” she said humbly. “The Starsifters have been more than generous in allowing me to stay this long.”

Kash turned away, already not-seeing. Three bowls of steaming sourgrain stood on the table. Gratitude filled Jihan. These elders had taken her in, taught her their craft and nurtured her development, expecting that she would do so for future Starsifters in turn. Now, all that time and careful teaching was lost to them. They would have to wait for Festival and choose again.

But she did not know what she could have done otherwise. She was right. It had been the Jao out there in that battle, along with the Ekhat. Not-seeing them would not make it any less true. They had to be ready, had to be as prepared as they could make themselves with the limited resources available.

On the floor, young Pyr stared up at the hot food. “Eat,” she said, gesturing. “We have much to do today.”

Seen in the daylight, Pyr’s aureole was definitely more gray than silver and his skin dusky, a shade that was almost pewter. No wonder he had not been selected by any of the elian. Compared to Kajin’s beauty, he was like a lump of granite beside a silver nugget.

But such things were no longer important, she told herself firmly. All that mattered now was that she organize her new elian and learn all she could about the Jao before they came back.

After they had eaten, she carried the bowls back through the just-stirring house to the communal kitchen. Early morning sunlight slanted in through the row of tiny windows below the rafters. Sayr was there, conferring with several other elders. All fell silent as she entered the homey room where she had spent so much time. She dropped to the polished wooden floor at his feet, wondering if he would acknowledge her. He was the one she had most offended against before the Han.

“You are leaving,” he said.

She looked up. He was so very tall and wise. Immanent loss overwhelmed her. “Yes.”

“This is a good thing,” he said. “New elian bring the colony additional services.”

“I did not chose this,” she said, trying not to tremble.

“Your intellect chose,” he said, “and your training. Never turn away from knowledge, no matter how unwelcome it might appear to be. Truth is always to be preferred to delusion.” He rocked back on his heels, gazing down at her with those handsome narrow eyes she knew so very well. “You may be correct in your conclusions, but be aware that you went about this thing badly. Achievements are always judged by the methods used to accomplish them. Poor form makes it harder to gain others’ understanding, even though, at the center of things you may be right. Now, go and solve the conundrum of these Jao.”

She rose, head still bowed, unable to speak.

“Walk with grace, Eldest,” he said, then turned away.

She led Kajin and Pyr out of the house, knowing she would never return. There was nothing for her here now and so very much to do.

Outside, the day was quite chill, with leaden clouds blowing in from the mountains to the west. A scavenging flock of tiny blue hoppers with their dished faces scattered through the kitchen garden as the three of them exited the Starsifters’ house. Jihan did not look back. Regret would not solve any of her many problems now.

They wandered the colony, taking note of abandoned houses. There were more than Jihan had realized. Most were very large, belonging to defunct elian such as the Shipbuilders, who had long ago known how to construct spacefaring vessels, the Watercrafters, who had once constructed fountains and ornamental waterfalls, and the Skyflyers, who had maintained a small fleet of personal aeronautical machines for the colony’s use. The majority of the deserted structures were in bad repair with gaping holes in the walls, missing windows and doors, crumbled stonework, or collapsed roofs. Such would require large amounts of time to be made habitable. Even though her new elian was authorized to draw workers from the dochaya, that would take too long. They needed a space in which to live and work now with a minimum amount of restoration.

The Shipservicers were frantically busy over on the vast landing field beyond the edge of the colony to the east where the land flattened out into a vast plain. They were repairing the ships damaged in the recent battle, refitting others long unused so that they might carry away at least a tiny portion of the Lleix to relative safety.

So that this would not be the long forecast Last-of-Days.

But even if a hundredth of their numbers survived by fleeing, the Ekhat and/or the Jao would just hunt them down and kill them somewhere else. It was a never ending cycle and the end would surely come sometime, if not now.

And it would certainly be Last-of-Days for those stranded behind here on Valeron.

Finally, she sat down to think on a bench before the Waterdirectors’ sprawling house. One of the largest in the entire colony, they were an industrious elian, responsible for the colony’s clean water supply, as well as sewage and flood control. Long ago, those functions might have belonged to three separate elian, she thought wearily. Now they were combined.

Kajin settled beside her, but only on the bench’s edge as though avoiding closer contact. His moody silence bore the flavor of recrimination. If she had not broken sensho up on the mountain, neither of them would be in this predicament. What if they never found the right house, she asked herself. What if they just wandered the colony day after day until the Ekhat and Jao came back to slaughter them all? Her aureole clung to her head in misery.

“Eldest?” Pyr said meekly, crouching at her feet.

She turned her attention to him. He was still wearing his unassigned’s gray shift. She must apply to the Patternmakers for actual robes, just one more task as yet left undone. “Yes?”

The youth’s meager aureole flared to its best advantage. “I know of a structure that might do.”

“You!” Kajin jerked his unadorned garment back as though contact with the youth might contaminate it. “You would not even know how a decent elian is run, much less what one looks like from the inside!” His fine face was scornful as he drew back a hand to cuff the youth into silence.

“No!” Jihan bolted to her feet. “Let him speak!”

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19 Responses to THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE — Snippet 31

  1. Mike says:

    Yeah, we get the point already.

  2. Mr. Masterson says:

    The Lexington is taking to long. I have a question for the rest of the comment gallery. I’m starting to run out of books to read could you guys name a few good series or read alone books? I appreciate any help you can give me. I’ve got books ranging from Eric Flint to John Ringo. Thanks.

  3. ij70 says:

    Liaden Series for sci fi.

  4. Daryl says:

    @2 SM Stirling, Joel Rosenberg, Harry Turtledove, Weber, and oldies like Niven, Heinlen. All have written excellent series and stand alones, just Google to find their web pages and they often recommend similar authors.

  5. Summercat says:

    Am I the only one enjoying this? Or could it be that I am not alone in my patience for action. Then again, I read James P Hogan’s ‘Inherit the Stars’ for the 9th time on the way to a party, and was riveted by 12 Angry Men (Orig B&W Version).

  6. Franz-Leo Chomse says:

    @2 Check

    should provide reading material until the EARC arrives, which is promised for this week or the next

  7. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Summercat, I think the problem is the slow pace of the snippets.

  8. robert says:

    @1, @5, @7 Drak is right. The last 3 or 4 snippets are a few minutes, at best, of “book-reading” stretched over a week. Most of us read the first book in the time it took to get the last couple of snippets. Anyone who hates this pace should go away for a few weeks and come back to read the intervening snippets in one sitting. I did that on Lee’s and Miller’s website with Fledgling and was quite satisfied (and, being a Liad completist, I bought the book anyway). And that is a book whose pace can make one a bit twitchy.

    @2 Take the advice of ij70 @3–BUT there is a problem. Many of the books are out of print and the used paperbacks are running at hardcover prices on Amazon. C’mon Toni W. If you can re-publish the Heinlein juvenalia (which are available in many public libraries where I read them as a kid) then reprinting the way better written Liaden books is like an imperative.

  9. Summercat says:

    @8 – Let me put it this way: Per dollar spent, I can get much more time entertained by a lot of things than a book, because I read them very quickly. Reading speed here, well, I don’t know.

  10. robert says:

    @9 You are correct if the first read is also the last read. But there are books that bear re-reading every few years (especially as one gets older and memories dimmer). In those cases the money is more than well spent. Back before publishers learned the economics of hard-cover science fiction, when all there was were paperbacks, I spent a lot of Scotch tape putting books back together so I could read them again…in bed, on a park bench, in the “husband’s chair” at the local Nordstrom’s, anywhere.

  11. Summercat says:

    @10 – Correct. However, I’ve re-read very few of the books I’ve purchased over the years. That doesn’t change my point about fast reading speed implying that the pace of snippets here are too slow. =\

  12. Dr pda says:

    @8 Baen is in fact reprinting the Liaden series.

    See the announcement on the author’s blog at, and the titles/dates at

  13. Alejo says:

    Hmm, for stand alones or a series, you might try the stuff I’ve been reading lately. Ever hear of Lary Niven? Read some of his Known Universe books or the Man Kzin War books. Hugely entertaining and really imaginative. You might start with Protector. If you want some really deep stuff that makes you think and is enormously well-written, go for Niven and Pournell’s Moat in God’s Eye. Ever hear of an author named Mike Resnick? He’s got good books too. Wrote one that was really interesting called a Miracle Of Rare Design. I’m going under the assumption that you’ve read all of Flint but, in case you haven’t, try out the Bellissarius books he wrote with Drake. They are awesome the third, fourth, and fith time you read them and simply unbelievable the first time..

  14. laclongquan says:

    I like these snippets, actually. The pace is just right. If they got any faster the book will be too instant-noodly.

    the introduction of a new species shouldnt take too little time, or too fast. The whole prequel book is just for introducing Jao and it’s not even enough. no reason to change that procedure, now.

  15. Alejo says:

    There’s a prequel to this? As in, something chronicling events taking place before the Course Of Empire? What’s it called? Have I misunderstood? I honestly hope there isn’t one. I will never forget the feeling of utter disgust and disgruntlement I experienced when Robert Jordan came out with New Spring when he wasn’t even done with the actual Wheel of Time series. Completely jaded me for any other prequels by any author.

  16. robert says:

    @15 No, no. The Course of Empire was the first book. Prequel is the wrong word. This is the second book of the series, if it is a series. If it is a series, then I fervently hope that only Flint and Wentworth do all the books. Naming no names, but Ring of Fire is going down in Flames by allowing some of the non-writers to write.

  17. Summercat says:


    B-b-b-but POPULISM!

    I’m going to go sit over /here/ now…

  18. john says:

    I think it feels slow b/c we were interested in the initial storyline with Tully and Co. Reading about a new species with new characters when we just started to get interested in the story and all the other people is frustrating.

    Also, didn’t they say that the E-ARC would be released by thanksgiving? That only gives them 27 hours from now to release it….

  19. Mike says:

    By the way, my comment was not about the pace of the snippets. My comment was about not needing to be hit on the head with Kajin’s attitudes OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER again. Maybe just one or two overs would have done the job, don’t you think?

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