THE EXECUTIVE ruling body of Clan O’Teague occupied the council
chamber of the Clan’s main seat, known as the Glass Castle, on the
Southern coast of Glass Isle in the Dragon Sea. There should have been
four women and two men, but the two male members had joined the military
forces drafted by the Confederation and killed in action on a distant
planet. Their heirs were both too young to serve, and no one had yet
been elected to take their places.
Lady Genevieve, the Laird of Clan O’Teague was young for the office.
She was in her early thirties, with fiery red hair, large almond shaped
grey eyes and a tall, slim build. Despite her age and appearance, during
the attack Genevieve had showed both the leadership and strength
required to be the Laird.
It could be seen their by their coloring that the women seated around
the table were related. The three varied in age from sixteen to around
forty-five. Lady Corinne was the oldest of the three, and her red hair
was showing white amid the auburn. Her short, clipped nails drummed a
tattoo on the table as she considered the solution her First Daughter,
Lady Katherine, was proposing. Lady Corinne was Katherine’s aunt, and
as the designated heir to her property, Katherine had taken over her
place as the Clan Representative on the National Parliament when Corinne
retired to pursue her interest in writing a planetary history.
Katherine’s hair was not so fiery a color as Genevieve’s and her
eyes had more green than grey, but she shared the same slim build,
although she was shorter than her sister. Sixteen-year-old Lady Drusilla
had only just taken her seat on the Decision-making Council and she was
clearly uncomfortable with her new duties. Her pixie cut hair, a much
darker red than either of her sisters, gleamed dully in the muted light
from the crystal powered wall sconces, and her eyes were so dark a grey
they almost appeared black. Drusilla was tiny; she was half a head
shorter than Katherine and only came up to Genevieve’s shoulders. She
cuddled her agitated Quirka and glanced nervously from one sister to the
The four women were attended by Quirkas, the small native pets adopted
by most of the settlers. Quirkas most closely resembled an Old Earth
Squirrel with the pricked ears and pointed muzzle of a fox; they were
furred with a large, bushy tail and front paws that looked like human
hands. Soft flexible quills that could be ejected for defense ran along
the backbone up to the top of the head. When attacked, the quills would
stiffen and sharp, poison-tipped retractable barbs appeared. The poison
couldn’t kill anything as large as a human, but it could make one
sick. Quirkas were chameleons; their body colors could change with their
environment, but their natural color seemed to be a soft mottled yellow.
They were empathic and developed life-long friendships with some humans.
Their small size (about the size of a human hand) made them ideal house
pets and vermin hunters. They mostly hunted the variety of small rodents
and insects prone to infest homes and businesses.
"You’re going to put the cat-fox in the hen house with this one girl,"
Corinne remarked with just a hint of a laugh. "I think I’ll come to
the next Parliament just to watch the fur fly!"
"I think it’s a horrible idea," Drusilla announced. "It’s so cold,
letting a—a—program pick your husband! What about love? Don’t you
"I know it sounds cold, Honey," Katherine said. "And yes, I want my
husband to love me just as much as I want to love him, but this solves
our problem. If we don’t do something, this planet will be unpopulated
in just three generations. It’s a fact but if we want to preserve our
way of life, we need fresh DNA sources. Another fact that works in our
favor is there will be many male soldiers left homeless because their
worlds were burnt off in the War. We have to make difficult
"Don’t make a campaign speech for Heaven’s sake!" Genevieve
protested. "I agree we have to do something, and this sounds like a
practicable solution, providing the issues I see can be worked out."
"What issues?" Drusilla finally found her voice.
"The most important one is the Issue that we are inviting grown men to
become a part of our culture. Adult males who won’t have been raised
with our traditions. Issue two is these will be men who are used to
fighting and may be not readily accept our traditions—"
"That’s why you’ve been working on that old emigration selection
program, "began Corinne.
"A program! For what, pray tell? Please don’t say you’re talking
about that crap the Makers use to set up marriage matches?" demanded
Genevieve. Her Quirka chittered anxiously and she stroked her back,
growing visibly calmer as she did so.
Katherine put two fingers in her mouth and gave a loud whistle. "Time!"
Everyone turned to look at her. "If I could be allowed to finish? As far
as your first two objections go, yes, there is still a program for
selecting emigrants. We haven’t used it since the first ships, but I
do have a copy. The program analyzed genetic data and personality traits
to weed out anyone unsuitable for our culture. We use a part of it in
our Matchmaking system. Once we received the results of the bio-weapon
used on us, I realized what would need to be done. I have spent the last
year working on combining the two programs and I plan to offer them to
any clan that wants them. Who knows Genevieve? Since I did make
improvements to give more weight to personal compatibility, maybe
we’ll get lucky and our dream man will be waiting for us on Fenris."
Katherine smiled reassuringly at her younger sister. "It isn’t really
that much different than the match lists given out by the Makers when we
turn of age you know, and we already do that during the Spring and Fall
Festivals each year. The couples just won’t have met each other
beforehand. I think we can sell it to our young women if we put it out
to them as being romantic, instead of a cold business proposition."
Genevieve pointed a finger at her sister. "All right Politician, write
this up in a speech I can present to the Clan for acceptance."
Drusilla hadn’t given up. "Why would any of these ex-military types
come here? And where will you find them?" Drusilla asked.
"They’ll come because we will offer them a home to come back to. We
were hit with a bio weapon but our world is still intact. Many planets
weren’t so fortunate. Soldiers from those planets will need to find a
new home. As to where they can be found, I intend to present this plan
for accepting immigrants to the base commander on Fenris. Fenris was the
staging area where most of the troop ships from this area departed.
I’m sure he will cooperate in presenting our proposal, because he will
appreciate that he could get rid of some loose cannons by sending them
home with us. You see Fenris is where they are going to turn loose most
of the military units who no longer have a planet to return to. Even if
the base commander is reluctant, the planetary government won’t be.
Housing thousands of ex-soldiers and finding work for them will mean a
big drain on planetary resources if they stay."
"You will need money to operate. We used to do a lot of trade with
Fenris," Corinne said thoughtfully. "Might be a good idea to take along
some trade goods to build up capital and rebuild relations. I think
I’ll go with you."
Genevieve jumped to her feet. "Go with her? Then who will sit in
"You are," Katherine retorted.
"You are talking at least six weeks to get there and the same to get
back! Not including the time spent on the planet setting this up. I
can’t be away from our lands that long."
"Sure you can. Parliament only sits three times a year. You name
Drusilla as your deputy—"
"Me!" squeaked Drusilla.
"Yes, you," Katherine replied. "Genevieve will be reachable for advice
by message crystal. It has to be you in Parliament Genevieve. Drusilla
is too inexperienced to deal with that den of vixens."
Genevieve sat back down heavily. "Oh, God. I hate politics!"
Katherine nodded briskly. "Now here is what I propose we offer our new
Handfasting partners; full clan rights, that is they can hold property
for any daughters until the daughter reaches majority. If no daughter is
born, they will have lifetime privileges on the property they occupy.
Sons will automatically be full clan members; the woman those sons marry
will become holders. We will guarantee pension and dowry rights if they
marry into another clan after the Handfasting period. Because we need to
develop a viable population base as soon as possible, I would prefer to
approach a unit from the same area; I think it will be easier to
integrate them into the clan as a group. That way if there are older men
in the group who don’t find a match or unit members who don’t want
to be matched, they would receive the same benefits as those who do, and
they would be available to supply sperm for the planetary banks. The
other Clans will design their appeal as they see fit. The only thing I
plan to bring up before the Parliament next week is that the program is
available and that we intend to offer the Year and A Day Handfasting to
"What if your matching programs works so well the couples want to change
the Handfasting to the Forever and A Day?" inquired Corinne.
"Then that will be up to each couple," Katherine said firmly. "Not our
Drusilla took a deep breath and then asked, "Okay, but what are we going
to tell them about us?"
Her sisters and aunt just looked at her. "What are you talking about?"
"You know well what I’m talking about," Drusilla said doggedly.
"I don’t see why that would be an issue," Katherine said. "There have
been rumors about Vensoog people and our ‘special abilities’ for
years. It has always been up to each person what or how much she or he
wants to tell spouses who come from off planet."
"Most visitors to Vensoog conclude that some of us have psychic
abilities and let it go at that," Corrine reminded her.
"She has a point," Genevieve observed. "These men won’t be visitors.
They will live here with us. Sooner or later they’re bound to get our
talents rubbed in their face. You will have to be careful not to let any
religious fanatics who might want to burn witches past your screening."
"Are you seriously suggesting I go to Fenris and invite battle hardened
troops to come back with me to marry a witch?" inquired Katherine. "That
is not the approach I plan to make and I doubt I will be alone in that.
Can you see Clan Yang or Clan Caldwalder or DeMedici doing that?"
"Are you going to lie if they ask you about it?" Drusilla insisted.
Katherine sighed. Sometimes her little sister reminded her of a Quirka
at a vermin hole. "No. While I won’t advertise our abilities, if I am
asked directly I will tell them the truth. However, since time will be
so short before we leave for home, our new clan members will need to do
a lot of sleep learning to familiarize themselves with our customs and
the dangers of the planet itself. I included acceptance of our ways into
the subliminal programs about the planet, so I hope the issue won’t
Once assured that Katherine and Genevieve would be in the list of
marriageable women to be handfasted, about a hundred unmarried women of
Clan O’Teague between the ages of twenty and thirty-five volunteered
for the plan and started to enter the answers to questions that would
determine personality compatibilities for matchmaking into Katherine’s
Since no better solution could be found, the Vensoog Parliament adopted
Katherine’s proposal. Several of the Clans were adamant about making
their own decisions for dealing with the immigrants, but they all
accepted Katherine’s computer matching program. It was finally agreed
that each of the Clans would send their own representative to Fenris and
the other planets hosting displaced Terrans.
Katherine, Corrine and delegates from DeMedici and Yang took ship for
the planet Fenris on a recently decommissioned freighter. Now that the
war had ended, spaceships and crews commandeered from civilian sources
were being returned to their original owners. The Spaceman’s Dream had
been a free trader and was glad to take on cargo and passengers in
return for a percentage of the profit on the sale of the luxury goods
stored on Vensoog for the duration of the war. Only three of the clans
decided to approach to the homeless soldiers on neighboring Fenris. Of
the others, four would reach out to civilian refugees on the planets of
N’Jamacia and Camelot, and the remaining three had agreed to take new
applications from the Federated Worlds immigration services.
Excerpted from "A Year And A Day (The Handfasting Book 1)" by Gail Daley. Copyright © 2016 by Gail Daley. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.