Monday, July 16, 2007


The Day's Progress

Back on track today, and energized by the extra bit of research I did on Friday into Aztec culture. When I finished work on Thursday I knew how the novel ended but there were some blank spots between where I stood and the finish line, but now I know what happens and where straight through to the end. I'm shooting to finish by Friday afternoon, leaving all of next week for a final read-through and polish, but there's a chance I might take a day or two early next week to write a few last pages.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
71,077 / 90,000

Today's sample is a bit of narrative about the population of the Aztec asteroid base, Xolotl.
Later, when they had a moment’s peace to themselves and were able to speak freely, onboard the lift that carried them to the level where the prisoner pens could be found, Syuxtun explained to Zhuan about the castes and callings of those they saw around them on the streets of Xolotl. At first glance they had seemed to Zhuan as little different from the families found in the colonies and farms of Fire Star, or even those back in Northern Capital itself. But as Syuxtun explained, Zhuan’s first impressions had been far from accurate.

This was a purely military station, Syuxtun later confirmed, based on his discussions with the Mexica they encountered. Xolotl’s population numbered somewhere in the thousands, and included support personnel, administrative staff, priests and ritualists, student-warriors and warrior-instructors, and troops on leave--but no civilians.

There were women, to be sure, but none of them were married or, in fact, marriageable. The only females onboard Xolotl were auianime, or courtesans, women who tended to the sexual appetites of the warriors. They were easy to spot, and Syuxtun had known them for what they were at a glance. Unlike civilian women, who when unmarried wore their hair long and loose, or when married braided their hair into two plaits coiled around their heads, with the ends sticking up like twin horns above their eyebrows, courtesans wore their hair cropped in a bob and dyed a purplish black. And while most Mexic women abhorred cosmetics, courtesans lightened their bronze-brown skin to a pale yellow shade with a special ointment prepared from ocher, stained their teeth red with cochineal, and painted their hands and neck with designs.

Too, Syuxtun had been able to explain to Zhuan that the children he’d seen had hardly been the innocent and carefree offspring of station personnel, as the captain might have expected. These were young men and boys who had been trained from birth to kill. And while the hair worn in long queues at the back of their heads suggested that they hadn’t yet captured a prisoner in battle, since children were not allowed to cut their hair until they did, they were still warriors, all the same. Though technically still students of either the House of Youth, where the rank and file warriors were trained, or the House of Learning, where future priests and captains received their instruction, these boys were considered sufficiently trained and mature to be sent into battle, though typically under the command of an adult warrior. And though the hand that pulled the trigger on the fire-lance or that swung the obsidian club might have been smaller, those the student-warriors killed would hardly have cared that their attackers had been youths who hadn’t yet grown their first hair.

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