Six Moon Danceby Sheri S. Tepper
It was many, many years ago that humans came and settled the world of Newholme. In the early days, the first wave of pioneers struggled to make a home on the harsh, alien planet. As others from Earth came, the humans learned to bend Newholme to their will, to set down roots and raise up cities and farms and a grand temple to their goddess. But now strange things are… See more details below
It was many, many years ago that humans came and settled the world of Newholme. In the early days, the first wave of pioneers struggled to make a home on the harsh, alien planet. As others from Earth came, the humans learned to bend Newholme to their will, to set down roots and raise up cities and farms and a grand temple to their goddess. But now strange things are happening. The very ground is shaking with volcanic eruptions, and all of Newholme is in peril. And so it is that the great Great Questioner, official arbiter of the Council of Worlds, decides to pay a visit to the isolated planet to find out what is causing the increasingly violent disturbances. It is on Newholme that the Questioner will meet Mouche, a beautiful youth of uncommon cleverness and spirit. It will fall to Mouche to discover and embrace that which makes him unique among humans. For Newholme's past is not dead, not completely. And the survival of an entire world depends upon Mouche appeasing something dark and terrible that's coiled within...and in his total surrender to the mysterious, ecstatic revelry that results when the six moons join.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- (w) x (h) x 1.08(d)
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On Newholme: Mouche
"It's all right," Mouche's mother said. "Next time we'll have a girl."
Mouche knew of this because his father told him. "She said it was all right. She said next time..."
But there had been no next time. Why the inscrutable Hagions decided such things was unknown. Some persons profited in life, producing daughter after daughter; some lost in life, producing son after son; some hung in the balance as Eline and Darbos did, having one son at the Temple, and then a daughter born dead at the Temple, and then no other child.
It was neither a profit nor a great loss, but still, a loss. Even a small loss sustained over time can bleed a family: so theirs bled. Only a smutch of blood, a mere nick of a vein, a bit more out than in, this year and then the next, and the one after that, a gradual anemia, more weakening than deadly-the heifer calves sold instead of kept, the ewe lambs sold, the repairs to the water mill deferred, then deferred again. Darbos had taken all he had inherited and added to that what he could borrow as his dowry for a wife who would help him establish a family line, to let him wear the honorable cockade, to be known as g'Darbos and be addressed as "Family Man." He had planned to repay the loan with advances against his share of the dowries paid for his own daughters. Instead, he had paid for Eline with the price of the heifer calves, with the ruin of the mill. Her family had profited, and though families lucky enough to have several daughters often gave those daughters a share of the dowry they brought in (a generosity Darbos had rather counted on), Eline's parents had notseen fit to do so. Still, Eline's daughters would have made it all worth while, if there had been daughters.
Their lack made for a life not precisely sad, but not joyous, either. There was no absence of care, certainly. Eline was not a savage. There was no personal blame. Darbos had created the sperm, he was the one responsible, everyone knew that. But then, some receptacles were said to reject the female, so perhaps Eline shared the fault. No matter. Blaming, as the Hags opined, was a futile exercise engaged in only by fools. What one did was bow, bow again, and get on.
So, each New Year at the Temple, while g'Darbos waited outside with the other Family Men, all of them sneaking chaff under their veils and whispering with one another in defiance of propriety, Eline bowed and bowed again. Then she got on, though the getting did not halt the slow leaking away of substance by just so much as it took to feed and clothe one boy, one boy with a boy's appetite and a boy's habit of unceasing growth. As for shoes, well, forget shoes. If he had had sisters, then perhaps Eline would have bought him shoes. In time, she might even have provided the money for him to dower in a wife. If he had had sisters.
"If bought no wife," so the saying went, so forget the wife. More urgent than the need for a wife was the need for daily grain, for a coat against the wind, for fire on the winter's hearth and tight roof against the storm, none of which came free. Eline and Darbos were likely to lose all.
After nine barren years, it was unlikely there would be more children, and the couple had themselves to think of. Who can not fatten on daughters must fatten on labor, so it was said, and the little farm would barely fatten two. It would not stretch to three.
On the day Mouche was twelve, when the festive breakfast was over and the new shirt admired and put on, Papa walked with him into the lower pasture where an old stump made a pleasant sun-gather for conversation, and there Papa told Mouche what the choices were. Mouche might be cut, and if he survived it, sold to some wealthy family as a chatron playmate for their children, a safe servant for the daughters, someone to fetch and carry and neaten up. The fee would be large if he lived, but if he died, there would be no fee at all.
Or, an alternative. Madame Genevois who had a House in Sendoph had seen Mouche in the marketplace, and she'd made an offer for him. While the fee was less than for a chatron, it would be paid in advance, no matter how he turned out.
Mama had followed them down to the field and she stood leaning on the fence, taking no part in the conversation. It was not a woman's place, after all, to enlighten her son to the facts of life. Still, she was near enough to hear him when he cried:
"Trained for a Hunk, Papa? A Hunk?"
"Where did you learn that word?" said Mama, spinning around and glaring at him. "We do not talk filth in this family..."
"Shh, shh," said Darbos, tears in the comers of his eyes. "The word is the right word, Madam. When we are driven to this dirty end, let us not quibble about calling it what it is. "
At which point Mama grew very angry and went swiftly away toward the house. Papa followed her a little way, and Mouche heard him saying, "Oh, I know he's only a boy, Eline, but I've grown fond of him..."
Mouche had seen Hunks, of course-who had not?riding through the marketplace, their faces barely veiled behind gauzy stuff, their clothing all aglitter with gold lace and gems, their hats full of plumes, the swords they fenced with sparkling like rippled water. Even through the veils one could see their hair was curled and flowing upon their shoulders, not bound back as a common man would need it to be, out of the way of the work. Their shirts were open, too, and in the gap their skin glowed and their muscles throbbed. Hunks did not work. They smiled, they dimpled, they complimented, they dueled and rode and wrestled, they talked of wonderful things that ordinary people knew little or nothing of. Poetry. And theater. And wine...
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