A child of wealth and privilege, Small Snow Flower is a member of a highly intelligent spacefaring species called the Rynn. Although she is young and untested, she is given a trading ship to command by her father. But just months into her first voyage there is a mutiny, and Small Snow Flower finds herself marooned on a primitive planet, believing she will die alone.
Jeremy Blunt is a bitter old man. For fifty years, hes mourned the death of his wife, cutting himself off from the world and living alone in a forest cabin, believing he will die alone.
But fate has other plans. It brings together these two lonely people in spite of their differencesage, experience, and species. Slowly but surely, the alien girl and the elderly human man find ways to work together. They must find the strength to change their destinies and those of their respective home worlds. This is the beginning of the Rynn-Human alliance.
In a story of fate, second chances, and redemption, an unlikely partnership forms between a young alien and an old human widower that will change the future of both their races.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.08(d)|
About the Author
Henry A. Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York, and spent his formative years in Long Island. Hes mostly gotten over it. He has worked as a musician, competitive ballroom dancer, banker, and a software quality assurance engineer. He has written a number of books and was at one time a popular fanfiction writer, but this is his first published novel. He currently lives with his wife in San Francisco, California.
Read an Excerpt
Small Snow Flower of the Hot Springs Clan beat her fists angrily on the door of the cell that held her. "Let me out right now, offal eater!" she trilled as her feathery head crest flared out. "This is my ship. Mine." She kicked at the door when there was no response. The pad of her booted foot impacted uselessly against the metal of the door. "My ship!" she repeated.
Underneath her outward anger, Small Snow Flower was frightened. It had been three days since her chief of security, Sun-Warmed Boulder of the Dwarf Forest Clan, had staged his mutiny. She had been stripped of her Torque and thrown into this holding cell.
Small Snow Flower was a Rynn. At a little over four and a half feet in height, she was tall for her species. She had the cinnamon-colored, finely scaled skin common to Rynn. Her face was triangular in shape with large dark eyes, an almost nonexistent nose, and a tiny mouth that, taken together, evoked her avian-like heritage. She could almost pass as a human if you ignored her paw-like feet and her long-fingered hands with their vestigial claws. However, the cockatoo-like head crest would be difficult to ignore.
The Rynn were a highly intelligent spacefaring species and had been exploring for over two hundred Earth years. Yet for all their intelligence and technology, they suffered the same failings as any less-advanced being. They were quarrelsome, ambitious, and vain. In short, despite their being an alien race, they were most human.
Small Snow Flower ran her long-fingered hand through her pinkish feather-like head crest nervously. She had been there three days without being able to contact anyone. "Someone should be negotiating for my release. Someone should have objected," she repeated to herself over and over.
She walked over to the circular concave sleeping kip and curled up into a ball of worry. "I have allies, I have friends," she thought fiercely. "Surely Gnarled Root or Dancing Water would have protested." She curled into a tighter ball as she thought of her friends and frequent sleep mates. She swallowed, her throat suddenly tight. "But what if they didn't?"
Small Snow Flower had good reason to doubt. She was the youngest Rynn ever to be given command of a trading ship, even if it was the smallest in her father's fleet. She was untried and untested, and Gnarled Root had often scolded her for her tendency to act aloof and detached. "You have to socialize more, Small Snow Flower. At the very least, invite some of the younger associates to share our kip." "Morning Mist is cute," Dancing Water had added helpfully. "And I heard Sun-Warmed Boulder is very interested."
"Anyone but him," Small Snow Flower had chirped in disgust. She remembered replying, "There is something about that male that bothers me."
"I should have listened to myself," Small Snow Flower chirped again, this time in distress. "What was it the First Teacher said about listening?" She grumbled. "No one can make you listen," she recited and briefly covered her eyes. "I should have listened to myself."
Sleep was fitful and, for the first time in her life, lonely. By Rynn standards, Small Snow Flower was somewhat introverted and shy. Rynn spent most of their lives surrounded by friends and family. It was a rare Rynn who would voluntarily sleep alone. Most Rynn had multiple bed partners, and not just for sex.
Small Snow Flower having only two partners was therefore problematic. The fact that she, Gnarled Root, and Dancing Water were not yet a breeding group just added to her problems.
Small Snow Flower spent one more miserable day in the holding cell before the door finally opened, revealing the imposing bulk and gloating face of her former security chief. If Small Snow Flower was tall for a Rynn, Sun-Warmed Boulder was, at close to five feet in height, a virtual giant.
"Rejoice, Small Snow Flower," Sun-Warmed Boulder trilled nastily. "You will not die today."
"Die?" Small Snow Flower squawked in shock.
"Why yes," Sun-Warmed Boulder returned cheerfully. "As the law states, incompetence deserves death or exile." He smiled. "I despaired on finding a suitable place for exile, but the spirits smiled upon me." His smile widened. "Of course, you still could challenge."
"Some choice," Small Snow Flower chirped despondently. Sun-Warmed Boulder was an accomplished duelist. Her father had selected Sun-Warmed Boulder as her chief of security for his skill with the blade. Her father had assumed — incorrectly, it was now apparent — that Sun-Warmed Boulder would serve as additional protection, but instead ...
Small Snow Flower's thoughts stopped suddenly. "You didn't?" she gasped in horror.
Sun-Warmed Boulder's smile widened even further. "They challenged." He shrugged. "They lost."
"Eater of week-old offal!" Small Snow Flower screamed. She launched herself at the security chief, only to be stopped by a well-placed foot. She fell to the floor. "They were my family," she gasped. "My core."
"And a better core than you deserved," Sun-Warmed Boulder sneered. He waved a hand, and two crew members entered the cell. They roughly pulled Small Snow Flower to her feet and dragged her away.
Learning of the deaths of her core broke whatever resistance remained in Small Snow Flower, and she sobbed as they dragged her to a shuttle. She continued to sob as the shuttle left the docking bay. When she found herself being chained to a partially laden supply pallet, Small Snow Flower began to scream.
"Don't let it be said that Sun-Warmed Boulder of the Dwarf Forest Clan failed to provide a chance," the chief of security laughed. "The air is breathable; the animal life might be edible. And should you escape from your bonds, you might live a long, long time." He paused. "Still." He punched Small Snow Flower in the jaw, rendering the former expedition leader unconscious.
The pallet containing the limp form of Small Snow Flower and her supplies was lifted out of the lock and onto the local short green plant life, in a clearing surrounded by tall green-topped growths. Sun-Warmed Boulder barely registered his surroundings as he checked the bonds holding Small Snow Flower. By law, the bonds were designed, with some effort, to be escapable. "We can't make it too easy, though," Sun-Warmed Boulder reflected. Seeing Small Snow Flower beginning to rouse, he started to beat his chained former commander.
Suddenly, there was a loud crack. Sun-Warmed Boulder turned his head. Approaching at a shambling run was a monstrous creature. It held a metallic object in one paw. There was another crack, and something ricocheted off the side of the shuttle.
"Oh, too bad, it looks like you will not see the morning," laughed Sun-Warmed Boulder. He quickly returned to the shuttle. In moments, it was a pinpoint in the sky, and then it vanished.
Jeremy Blunt drove his black Ford F-150 several miles deeper into the woods before running out of dirt road. Every day, he'd drive the truck along a different dirt road. In a place like Knox Gulch, there were a lot of dirt roads. It had rained the night before, and there was a chance it might rain again. Jeremy had considered postponing his walk to the next day, but old habits won. He got out and started walking. It was less exercise than it was looking for a place to die.
At the age of eighty-two, he had reached the end of a hard-worn life. His heart was failing, and recently his walks included frequent stops to catch his breath. He supposed he should head back to the city and check himself into a hospice or at least his own bed, but something — those same old habits, he supposed — would not allow him to give up and quit.
The path he followed opened into a large clearing, and he was considering turning around when he saw it. At first, he thought it was a military helicopter. The vehicle had the same general shape, but after a moment, he realized this one did not have rotors. The craft landed with a rumbling hum.
Jeremy stopped in his tracks, ducked behind a nearby tree, and watched in fascination as a section of the craft slid aside and a pallet with a tiny figure bound to the side floated out. Jeremy fought back the urge to growl. Another figure emerged from the craft and addressed the bound figure. By the gesticulations and the tone, Jeremy sensed the second being was gloating. When the second alien punched the bound one, Jeremy had no doubt.
"Why that cowardly bastard ..." Jeremy snarled. He pulled his revolver from his jacket pocket and started running toward the craft, firing as he went. Aches, pains, and age were forgotten in his rage. The distance was too great for any accuracy, but based on the alien's reaction, he had gotten close. By the time Jeremy had reached the pallet, the alien ship was not even a dot in the sky.
Jeremy turned toward the pallet and almost fell as a wave of dizziness swept over him. "Not now," he growled angrily, and he used that anger to force himself to remain conscious. Still, he fell to his knees. Many minutes passed before he felt strong enough to stand and several more before he could check on the bound being.
His first thought was how tiny the creature was. I doubt it's more than four and a half feet tall, he thought. He vaguely remembered reading of supposed close encounters. I thought they were supposed to be gray. He frowned. And with big black eyes. This creature was the color of cinnamon, and while it did have large eyes for its size, they were barely larger than a human's. The mouth was tiny, though very human-like, and its small nose seemed more of an afterthought. The creature even had recognizable, though somewhat cup-shaped, ears. A large greenish bruise discolored the reddish-brown flesh around the eyes.
He carefully touched the creature's face, and the creature gave a slight whistling moan. "Well, it's alive," he muttered. He examined the creature's chain-like bonds, and after a little experimentation, he realized that they were just draped around the creature's body. He spent several long minutes untangling the bonds before he was able to free the alien.
Jeremy had to again stop and regain his breath. He knelt down and, with a grunt, lifted the alien into his arms. "You're a lot lighter than I thought," he said to the unconscious being. He set his jaw and started carrying the alien back to where his truck was parked. Despite the lightness of the alien being, he still needed to stop and rest several times before he finally reached the truck.
Jeremy carried the alien to the passenger side of the truck and, after placing the creature on the ground, opened the door. He grunted as he bent down, and he grunted again as he stood with the alien in his arms. With a final grunt, he shoved her into the passenger seat. Again, Jeremy took the opportunity to regain his strength. Then he retraced his steps toward the clearing. He made the trek back and forth four times before the back of the truck contained all the items that were on the pallet. He dragged the pallet to the truck as well.
It was well after dark — in fact, nearing midnight — when Jeremy finally drove the truck into his garage and carried the alien into his cabin. Still out, he thought in concern. He carried the creature into the spare bedroom and placed it on the bed. After some fumbling, he was able to remove the alien's boots. He stared at the paw-like feet for a moment before attempting to remove the alien's jacket.
Aliens used something very like Velcro, he noticed. The alien wore a cream-colored shirt underneath the light blue jacket, and the two mounds straining against the fabric were the proper size and position for breasts. He left the jacket open.
He placed the boots next to the bed and covered the alien with a blanket. With a final concerned look, he left the spare bedroom and closed the door behind him.
Jeremy went back to the kitchen, made a cup a tea, and walked out onto the porch to think. He sat down and shook his head. He reached into the front of his shirt pocket and removed a pack of cigarettes. He lit one and returned the pack to his shirt pocket. "I think I've earned one today," he said, and he lit the cigarette and slowly smoked it down. When the cigarette was done, he carefully stubbed it out and placed the butt into an old beat-up coffee can that was half full of cigarette butts from previous evenings.
Jeremy stared at the night sky. "Calling today strange would be an understatement, Mei," he said to the sky. He chuckled. "There is an honest-to-god alien sleeping in the guest room."
Small Snow Flower woke in darkness, surrounded by unfamiliar odors. She flailed around, trying to free herself from the heavy bonds holding her down, until she realized there were no bonds and she was wrapped in a blanket. After a minute or two, her racing heart slowed down, and she was able to get a better look around. It was still dark, but light was seeping in through what, despite its shape, could only be a window. It gave enough light that her eyes were able to discern some of her surroundings.
The room was roughly rectangular instead of the more familiar circular, as was the lone window. What she assumed was a door was also rectangular instead of arch-shaped. "If that's a door," she whispered nervously, "then these creatures must be giants." As if the thought acted as a summons, she heard a loud rapping on the door. Then the door opened. Small Snow Flower screamed in terror as a monstrous apparition filled the entranceway.
Small Snow Flower flung herself off the pallet and scrambled as far from the creature as possible. She searched desperately for escape, but there was no way out. Small Snow Flower cowered in a corner with her vestigial claws extended to their fullest and her crest raised to its highest extent. Her brave display was marred by the fact that her eyes were tightly shut as she waited for the end.
She heard an oddly gentle grunting and hooting and then silence. It was another minute before Small Snow Flower opened her eyes. The entranceway was again blocked, and the room was dark. I still live, she thought in relief. Not that she thought she was safe. For all she knew, the creature had been fooled by her bluff and was waiting for her to fall asleep.
But you were asleep, she reminded herself. It could have killed you then. She slowly lowered her arms and retracted her claws. Her eyes had adapted more to the gloom of her surroundings, and she began to take in more details. Wherever she was, it was bare save for a large boxlike construction against one flat wall and the soft pallet she had been lying on.
As Small Snow Flower slowly stood and walked over to the pallet, her eyes kept darting toward the blocked exit. She considered putting on her ship boots but instead padded over to the exit and pressed her ear against the flat barrier. She could hear the creature as it moved around. "What do I do?" she asked herself. "Spirits, weep for me," she chirped as visions of being eaten alive invaded her overactive imagination.
It wasn't an unreasonable fear. The Rynn had encountered three technologically advanced life-forms in their two hundred years of exploration, and two of the three considered Rynn to be nothing more than food. The Rynn weren't sure about the third, as they had become more cautious about contacting other species after their earlier experiences.
Small Snow Flower huddled in the corner of the strange boxlike room. I won't cry, I won't, she told herself, even as tears ran down her cheeks. Stop it, she commanded herself. You may no longer have your ship, but you are still Bright Sunlight's daughter.
She raised her head and looked at the panel covering the exit. Spirits protect me, but if I am going to die, then I want to die on my feet. She stood and walked over to the exit. The panel was made of some brownish substance that Small Snow Flower suspected was vegetable in nature. She noticed a round knob and tried to turn it. At first it didn't budge, but then she tried turning it in a different direction and the knob turned smoothly. She pulled on the panel and it opened.
Small Snow Flower peeked out into a brightly lit room. She blinked several times as her eyes adjusted before taking a tentative step out. At first she didn't see the creature, but the musky scent from earlier became more pronounced.
She swallowed as she realized the creature was perched on a wide fabric-covered structure no more than a handful of strides away. She straightened. "If you're going to kill me, do it now and get it over with," she chirped in false bravado.
The creature tilted its massive head in response but did nothing else. To Small Snow Flower, the lack of activity was almost painful. "Well?" she chirped angrily as the silence stretched out.
The creature's mouth turned up at the corners and then it hooted. The sound reminded Small Snow Flower somehow of laughter. The creature nodded and then it stood.
Excerpted from "Redemption Song"
Copyright © 2017 Henry Burns.
Excerpted by permission of Archway Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Exile, 3,
Chapter 2 Three Blessings, 10,
Chapter 3 Torque, 22,
Chapter 4 To Ride a Unicorn, 36,
Chapter 5 Close Encounters, 51,
Chapter 6 Outward Bound, 65,
Chapter 7 Leap of Faith, 72,
Chapter 8 Impatience, 88,
Chapter 9 Forest Cabin Clan, 95,
Chapter 10 Baby Steps, 107,
Chapter 11 Chain Reaction, 111,
Chapter 12 In Other News, 118,
Chapter 13 Core Brothers, 125,
Chapter 14 Press Corp, 132,
Chapter 15 Tide, 144,
Chapter 16 Haunted by the Past, 148,
Chapter 17 California Dreaming, 158,
Chapter 18 A Good Core Is Three, 162,
Chapter 19 Interesting Times, 166,
Chapter 20 Discord, 173,
Chapter 21 Civil Actions, 176,
Chapter 22 The Oligarch, 192,
Chapter 23 Brothers in Arms, 202,
Chapter 24 Armageddon, 207,
Chapter 25 Graz'to, 217,
Chapter 26 Time Is an Illusion That Only the Dead Do Not Share, 227,
Chapter 27 Revolution, 238,
Chapter 28 Disciples, 240,
Chapter 29 The Truth Is Like the Sun, 244,
Chapter 30 Zenpathy, 248,
Chapter 31 Pact, 252,
Chapter 32 First Blood, 261,
Chapter 33 War Paint, 268,
Chapter 34 Bugs, 272,
Chapter 35 Alsoo, 276,
Chapter 36 What Was Intended, 286,
Chapter 37 Maker, 294,
Chapter 38 Snake Squad, 303,
Chapter 39 Wobble, 305,
Chapter 40 3D3B and Burl, 320,
Chapter 41 Trojan Horse, 329,
Chapter 42 To Be Tall, 350,
Chapter 43 War Paint and War Drums, 354,
Chapter 44 Jamal, 362,
Chapter 45 A New Student, 368,
Chapter 46 Battle Lines, 383,
Chapter 47 Hatchlings, 386,
Chapter 48 Sad Soul, 395,
Chapter 49 Centurions, 402,
Chapter 50 What's In a Name?, 406,
Chapter 51 Zaski, 412,
Chapter 52 The Ophelia Winslow Interviews, Part One: The Terrible Three, 429,
Chapter 53 The Ophelia Winslow Interviews, Part Two: Warriors Go to Hell, 434,
Chapter 54 The Ophelia Winslow Interviews, Part Three: Rocket Man, 440,
Chapter 55 The Ophelia Winslow Interviews, Part 4: Redemption Song, 444,
Chapter 56 And in the End, 458,
Glossary of Rynn Terms, 473,