The Stuff of Legend‘s plot revolves around an open cluster and the legends and tales that have been told about that formation. As an analogy, consider the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. Just about every society on Earth seems to have had a legend around it – many very similar tales about maidens escaping from a suitor, whether they are Greek, Roman, or Australian aboriginal.
My two protagonists have very different views on ancient tales. History professor Olivia Jhutta thinks there’s often a core of truth; Admiral Jackson Prentiss is only interested in facts. This snippet illustrates their differences. Olivia and Jak are walking through the woods.
“How much do you know about the Ghria?” Olivia asked.
Jak shrugged. “Space demons that lie in wait for the unwary. They swallow ships whole. And that’s about it. Oh, and I’ve seen the pictures.”
Fanciful illustrations of non-existent creatures with huge mouths and slavering jaws. “That’s very likely fabrication.”
He chuckled. “You think?”
“We don’t know for certain, do we? What we do know is the Gh’ria legend dates back thousands of years. Although it pops up across Confederacy space, it has its roots here, in the Helicronian planets.”
Jak brushed an errant leaf off his shoulder. “I didn’t know that.”
“It’s because in its original form, the Gh’ria are linked to the Maidens. That thing about space demons is later, much later. The earliest stories are about maidens protecting a dragon’s hoard. ‘Cloaked in stardust, draped in shadow the maidens guard the dragon’s hoard’. From a poem written by Elivior San Brindel two thousand years ago.”
Smiling, Jak shook his head. “That’s better than space demons, is it?”
“It’s interesting. The story goes that if you get past the dancers protecting the place, you still have to avoid being swallowed up by a dragon.”
He laughed. “Oh please. A dragon? We have swirling gowns making up the dancers’ clothes, and now we have a dragon as well? That’s a first. Can you show me?”
Show him? Olivia riffled through the images she kept on her implant, including a few for the Maidens which she’d collected recently. “Can I transfer an image to your implant?”
She waited for the invitation to access his private inbox, then transferred the one with the three women superimposed over the stars. “This shows the dancers.”
“Sure. Where’s the dragon?”
His tone bristled with scorn. But then, she should have realized he’d react like that. Bracing herself, she said, “The dragon is invisible. It’s beyond the ability of humans to see it.”
Jak shook his head slowly. “Professor, I deal with facts, not made-up stories. These legends are just idiotic notions made up by ignorant people trying to understand something beyond their knowledge. I can see it now. Some kid asks the teacher what that thing up there is, so teacher tries to explain, using things he understands. But there are no star women up there. Just an open cluster with a nebula behind it. If you look at the Maidens from Rigmont or Sallazar, the stars don’t look the same. As for an invisible dragon… give me strength.”
The Stuff of Legend
When history professor Olivia Jhutta receives a distress call from her parents, she sets out into space with their business partner, her grandmother and injured Confederacy Admiral Jak Prentiss to find them. But she’s not the only one interested in the Jhutta’s whereabouts. The Helicronians believe Olivia’s parents have found an ancient weapon which they can use to wage war on the Confederacy.
Jak goes on the trip to fill in time while he’s on enforced leave, helping Olivia follow cryptic clues in what he considers an interplanetary wild goose chase in search of a fairy story. But as the journey progresses and legend begins to merge with unsettling fact, Olivia and Jak must resolve their differences and work together if they are to survive. The two are poles apart… but it’s said opposites attract. If they can manage to stay alive.