I wanted to address a bit of an elephant in the room : the fact that, in this creation, Mike isn’t as ‘tough’ as in the previous books.
There’s a few reasons for that.
Most obviously, while Richard and I did our best to write in John’s style, and we think we did pretty well, we aren’t John. We approach writing differently, and we write differently. Hell, Richard and I write totally different styles; you can imagine how fun it was to make that work!
We weren’t writing a ‘we’re going to kill off all of these [fill in the hostile-of-the-book]’ stories. Yes, there are Bad Guys; it wouldn’t be much of a Paladin of Shadows book without them, would it? But that’s not the central point of the story. The focus of this book is, What is Mike going to do about Katrina? That’s why the first few chapters are focused on that aspect; the deal with the Chechens is a complication, not a focus.
In my opinion, (and this is coming from someone who has NOT read the books that came after A Deeper Blue, mostly on the recommendation of my friends) Mike was already changing, mellowing. Remember, he more or less got dragged into ADB; he was having second thoughts about the bedding ceremony in Unto the Breach. I think this marks a continuing trend. Also consider, when we first meet him, way back in Ghost, he’s trying to assimilate back into Life. Well, who’s to say that he didn’t still want to do that? He just had to find The Right Place.
I would also contend that, as the series progresses and time marches on, the Keldara are going to get tougher. That’s not saying Mike gets soft, but I suspect that at some point he stops leading from point and starts learning how to lead from behind the point (remember that Neilsen gets on his case about that after the action in Kildar?). This, being 18 months after ADB, is the continued evolution.
That all being said – I appreciate the feedback and am always willing to engage in conversation!
Before we get to the post, I’m going to ask for two things from you guys. FIRST, go to the front page of the site and sign up to be notified when a new post comes out. I know that 90% of what I post is non-Kildar, but I hope you find some value in it. I post chapters of my Cassidy Chronicles books here, I do author interviews (which Speaker has agreed to do!), and I even have one of my characters from the Cassidy books writing posts for me. Second, back on FB, wander over to my fan page – and yes, I do have one! – and join up. I know some of you have; THANK YOU! That link is through the button below.
Okay, enough folderol. Time for the good stuff.
Anastasia Rakovich, called Stasia by her close friends, was twenty-eight, tall, blonde, and gorgeous. She had been a ‘gift’ to Mike by an Uzbek sheik, Otryad, who had bought her at age twelve, wedded and divorced her, and made her his harem manager. Despite this lack of formal education, she was as extraordinarily intelligent as she was beautiful.
Multilingual, she could hold fluent conversations in a half-dozen languages and manage in who knew how many more. Her thirst for knowledge was unquenchable; since coming to the caravanserai, she had earned Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Education, and was working on an MBA. She coordinated the classes for Mike’s harem, most of whom couldn’t read when they first arrived, and saw to the smooth running of the hareem. And she was also a serious sub, relishing nothing more than her time with Mike in the dungeon he had finally installed for her, far back in the second sub-basement.
Mike was apprehensive as the silence stretched out. He knew how smoothly his household ran now, despite the complications brought on by a gaggle of teenage girls. Even though he didn’t think anything would come of Katrina’s desire – or demand – be become the Kildaran, he was still reluctant to give up the peace and serenity the harem, under Anastasia’s careful stewardship, had brought to his life. He didn’t want to give her up, either, if he was being honest with himself.
“You wished to see me?”
You can do better than this! he chided himself. Not for the first time, he touched on the fact it was truly the sub who had the upper hand in a dominance relationship.
“This is about Katrina?” he prompted.
“Yes,” she replied seriously.
“I don’t really know -” he began, then stopped.
She suddenly smiled, a full, joyous smile, and the tension in the room vanished.
“Mike,” she laughed, “Of course you don’t!” She shook her head.
“I know what you are thinking. I know what happened today, when Katrina came to see you. And I know, too, how to manage this.”
She laughed again.
“This is why you have a manager, and not do it yourself, yes? I have been through this before in Otryad’s household. It is not difficult if you can accept your role.”
Mike wondered at the sudden shift in the conversation, then caught her words.
“My role?” he sputtered. “What do you mean?”
She turned serious.
“The Master always has a wife, even with his hareem present. I was Otryad’s wife, until I was replaced.” The ghost of wistfulness crossed her face and vanished. “Whether for show, or for politics, or power, or even for love, the hareem remained. And the relationship to the hareem remained the same.”
Settling fully into lecture mode, Anastasia continued. “Let us say you take Katrina as the Kildaran -”
“Not a sure thing,” he interrupted.
“Let us say. A hypothetical, perhaps.”
“Then she will be first in the household, the Mistress, and after the Master, her words are law. She is young, though, and inexperienced. You will still need me to help manage the hareem. She will need me to teach her more of how to care for you. She is smartand is aware of this, that you will need your time and your space too. Think now. There are times when you need Tinata, or Martya, or one of the others. It changes with your mood, and the situation, and the problems of life outside the hareem, does it not?”
He nodded again.
“So how should it be different after?”
“In America -”
Her head shook vigorously.
“But you are not IN America. In truth, I doubt you will ever return there to live. You are the Kildar, now, and have adopted these people, this culture, as your own. You may try to change some aspects of it – no girls have been sent to town since you came, have they?”
Before his arrival, it was common for the locals to sell their extra daughters to slavers. It was a cultural holdover from their agricultural past. Children were the economic lifeblood of any farm, but boys were more valuable than girls, partially because boys were generally more physically capable, but also because girls would eventually marry. Marriage, especially the first year, was difficult in such cultures, so a dowry would be provided by the woman’s family as a financial cushion for that first year. The dowry was a huge drain on the family providing it.
Another custom had evolved, where post-pubescent girls who were not yet betrothed, usually around twelve or thirteen, would be sold off. Not only did it relieve the family of the burden of a dowry, but it could provide up to six months‘ income. Mike hadn’t allowed that to continue.
“But the culture, as a whole, you accept. You never sought a hareem, yet you ended up with one because the girls had already been sold and the families wouldn’t take them back when you stopped the slavers. So you adapted, and changed. You didn’t know how to handle a hareem, so you found Otryad, and me.”
“And you have given me wonderful years when I thought my future was bleak. I know you are different and won’t get rid of me when you think me too old, like Otryad would have, like he did. And because you are who you are, the Kildar, and a SEAL, and everything else, you will keep the hareem, and you will keep me, even when you take a wife.” She looked positively smug as she finished speaking.
“You still amaze me. I thought you would be upset, jealous. I guess I didn’t realize, just because this is new to me, it wasn’t new to you.”
“I won’t say I won’t be jealous. Katrina will take more of your time than any other woman you have had. But you will still need me, from time to time,” she twinkled,
“And the other girls. You will need to have your own place and time away from her, so that the time you spend with her is as joyous and pleasant as it should be.”
“I really hadn’t considered that. I wonder if Katrina has?”
“It is one of the topics we discussed. She accepts even if she is first in your heart, your bed will not be hers alone. Although,” she added, “I think she has her own ideas how to keep you in her bed more frequently than not.”
“I’m sure she does. You have been teaching her, after all.”
He leaned back. “I do have one question, though.”
“Only one, Master?” she teased.
“For now,” Mike admitted. “How is it you are so sure this will happen? I really have some problems with all this, and I still have to -”
Stasia’s laugh echoed around the room. “You doubt Katrina’s will?”
No, he had to admit as his laugh joined hers, he didn’t doubt that at all.