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You've read about them working together, solving xenopsychology cases in their office, and you've seen art of them throughout the years: one of my longest-running odd couples, the espers Vasiht'h and Jahir. One of them is a member of the Glaseahn race, stable, dependable, sensible types. The other... is an Eldritch, the essence of mystery in the Pelted universe. Xenophobic, reclusive, and almost never found off their planet, the Eldritch are the last species you'd expect to find abroad, much less working glove-in-hand with an alien, counseling people on a multi-species starbase.
Vasiht'h always thought of himself as lucky to have netted himself one of the rare and fascinating Eldritch as a friend. So when Jahir invites him home for a cousin's wedding, he is eager for this opportunity to pierce the Veil of mystery and find out more about these enigmatic aliens.
Naturally, he gets more than he bargains for. And by the end of it, he'll either know all of Jahir's secrets... or he'll be dead....
"Thank you," Jahir said. "We wouldn't mind the opportunity to wash up before supper."
"Go on then," she said, smiling. "The packs off your horse should already be there. If you wish, you can join me in the salon afterwards."
"Nothing would please me more, my lady," Jahir answered. /This way,/ he murmured to Vasiht'h and set off. Bewildered, Vasiht'h followed through a succession of ever more luxurious rooms. He caught a glance of himself in one of the mirror-lined corridors: sadly, he looked as stunned as he felt.
His partner's rooms—the plural was accurate—were up several flights of stairs, and comprised a parlor, which shared a fireplace with a sleeping chamber, a study lined with books and a bath. The entirety of the suite was hung with tapestries and impressive paintings, portraits and inevitable pictures of horses... the floors thick with rugs which, if his paw pads were any judge, were woven of some kind of silk fiber. There was a harpsichord in the parlor that Vasiht'h was afraid to ask the age of, an orrery that appeared to be ornamented with precious gems, and the bed in the sleeping chamber was a monument, large enough to sleep three or four Eldritch, be-curtained and lavish with brocade covers and mounds of pillows. It was also high enough that it came with a miniature step-stool.
Vasiht'h stood in the center of the finery, dusty with four days' worth of grime and wearing a perfectly serviceable but rather worn set of packs, and felt like the lowest and drabbest menial in a fairy tale palace.
"Ah... I... suppose I should have warned you about all this," Jahir said, folding his arms and looking down.
"Yes, you could have," Vasiht'h answered. And then, more normally, "Though to be fair, I don't think being warned would have really helped." He looked at his partner, who was leaning against the wall beside one of the windows—the panels were propped open, and they were made of stained glass. "Aksivaht'h's breath, Jahir! Why... why did you leave this? I had no idea you were... were..."
"What?" Jahir asked, voice low.
"Rich!" Vasiht'h exclaimed. "Noble! Goddess, arii, you have... you have an estate, and servants and... your private gardens are the size of our entire neighborhood on Veta!"
"Technically they're not mine," Jahir said. "They're my mother's, and will remain so for centuries, barring misfortune."
"But this is your house!" Vasiht'h said.
"Yes," Jahir said slowly. "This is my family house. And yes, it will be mine at some point. And I left it because... I don't want it, Vasiht'h."
This story is so old that I have art about it dating to the mid-90's. Probably because just getting a partnership like Jahir and Vasiht'h's together asks inevitable questions about the relationship, and that brings one to how it got cemented. Because a lot of this art is so old, a lot of it "wobbles": the faces and sizes change a lot. But the feel, I think, remains pretty similar (in particular, drawings of the Eldritch always seem to inspire a lot of intricacy, particularly in the clothing). Most of these pieces are of Jahir and Vasiht'h, but I've thrown in one of Sediryl and one of Liolesa (as a youth) in, since we get references to them in the story.
This novella has existed for years now; I think I wrote it in college, it's that old. When I went through it a couple of weeks ago to see how much editing it would need, I had an attack of artistic fastidiousness. It was imperfect.
So I threw it out, opened a brand new empty file, and rewrote the whole thing from scratch in roughly two weeks. The result is 92 pages of story, plenty enough to sink your teeth into. And thank God for the new publishing paradigms, because there's no market that would have taken this awkward-length thing: it's too short for a novel and far too long for even the longest novella market. So you get to see it for coffee money; this pivotal moment in the relationship between two deep friends. Plus, there are all sorts of little tie-in to other stories; not just unpublished ones, but "Precious Things" and some of the case studies... there's even a reference to something in Even the Wingless. Lots of interconnectivity here! I am excited!
If you've been waiting for Jahir and Vasiht'h and the case studies felt too much like an appetizer, here's your story. Enjoy it. :)
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