“You have me at a disadvantage, you know,” Snopes said.  He was a slight man in a homemade uniform, sitting on the hallway ledge of his ship, one of his long, skinny legs drawn up against his chest as he played lasershoot out the window.  He rested his gun against his knee and reached for Isela.  

She came to him, cool and soft as a lily.  

"What do you mean?" she said.  She pulled the gun from his hand, studied it.

“I mean, you know so much more about me than I know about you. You having studied people and all. I know next to nothing about Phyrnosians.”  His mouth curved in a sickle moon smile.  

“Ah,” the Phyrnosian countess said. She settled beside him, her tail wrapping comfortably around his leg. Her skin was the color of a sunset.  “What do you want to know?”

Theodore Snopes shrugged, smiling.  He’d made his own uniform so he could line it with pockets.  Now he fished through them and came up with a hair tie—he raked his hair back and tied it, grinning at Isela.

“You want to know how different we are from you, is that it?”  She took aim over his knee.

“All I know are stories. The kinds of stories a travelling man hears on outposts.”

Isela executed a row of twitching holograms which hung in the blackness outside the ship.  They flipped as she hit them; changed colors and disappeared.  Instantly the grid filled with pulsing neon holograms.  She shot them all.     

“Would you look at that,” he said.

“Yeah?”

“You beat the level.  I don’t know what you see in me, Isela,” Snopes drawled.  

She paused.  “Such things you say.”  She handed him back his gun, smiling faintly.  “So you want me to tell you a story. A real Phyrnosian story.” She leaned closer, her salmon-colored tail twitching against his ankle.

“Tell me your favorite one,” he said.  “The one you asked your mom to tell you when you were little.”    

“My mairo hated stories,” Isela said.  “It was my nanny that told  them to me.  My favorite is the first story ever told. I translated it a few years ago.  I hoped it would help our people understand each other.”

“Tell me.”  He kissed her carefully.  She reached for him, made his hands press hard into her skin.

“Don’t be afraid of me, bounty hunter,” she said.  He stroked her face, then let his thumb run between her lips.  She smiled at him, her sharp teeth gleaming.  “Do you want to kiss me, bounty hunter?”

“More than anything, countess.”   

She let him.  “The story is called The HuVyrnna,” she said.

The HuVyrnna

“My reader,

It is a treasured hope that this translation of the Phyrnosian HuVyrnna, or The Great Work, will aid diplomacy between our races.” -The Honble. Isela Greithing of Phayara Khado

1. In the Beginning

Once there was no time, no shape, no breath. There was only Phado. Before there was anything, there was Phado. In the beginning She only slept and was dreaming. Then one day for warmth She gathered to Herself the ghost of darkness, but Her grasp clove him in Three. Each of the Three became a Sun and Father. First was Wind, Father of Ambition, Mind, Intelligence and Ferocity, whose children are War. Next was Bile, Father of Love, Travel, Clemency and Insight. Last and laziest of the Three, came Phlegm, Father of Desire, Beauty and Glut. Immediately Phado loved them too much, and she ate them up. But the Suns and Fathers lit her body with wildernesses of delight, for the Suns and Fathers were happy there in Her, and for a time, all was good. Everything that existed was Them, and They were everything which existed. But Wind, Bile, and Phlegm grew weary. Their lights became dim, and Mother Phado, in her happiness, did not notice.

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