Arast was accompanied by two of his own people, and though they seemed uncomfortable about dining with him, Tilka not only insisted but went out of her way to include them in the conversation. On his home worlds, Arast would be used to elaborate ritual, formal attire, haute cuisine, power-jockeying innuendo, and deference, yet he was all affability at the meal, praising but not overpraising the natural beauty of the estate, the simple food. If he noticed that meat or fish wasn’t served, he gave no sign of it. His trace of an accent would be deemed charming by most women. The few times he addressed his companions directly, he spoke as if to equals with an ease that many diplomats took years to acquire, the wet bite of his mother tongue unnecessary to his purpose, his fluency in Kearth Standard a given, the disarming lilt and tease of the vernacular demonstrating that he had no need to assert the authority of a man who, all knew, controlled the workings of an entire planetary system. Luc didn’t trust him. A tactless offworlder might have asked about their wings. Kearthers were the only humans to have evolved them-—the only intelligent winged species yet encountered, though Luc sometimes felt that birds were decidedly smarter than people. There were several theories to account for the origin of flight, none fully backed by empirical evidence, and only the sketchiest hypotheses to link human and avian lineage. Most evolutionary biologists preferred a convergent evolutionary model but still could not answer such fundamental questions as why here? why us? Origin myths seemed almost as satisfactory, and rather more entertaining.
Another taster from Over Which Scavenger Angels, my new novel.