Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities

Lyn Gala

Ondry and Liam have settled into a good life, but their trading is still tied up with humans, and humans are always messy. When political changes at the human base lead Ondry to attempt a difficult trade, the pair find themselves ...
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Full Description

Ondry and Liam have settled into a good life, but their trading is still tied up with humans, and humans are always messy. When political changes at the human base lead Ondry to attempt a difficult trade, the pair find themselves entangled in human affairs. Liam wants to help the people he left and the worlds being torn apart. He also wants to serve Ondry with not only the pleasures of the nest but also by bringing human profits.

Ondry has no hope of understanding human psychology in general, he only knows that he will hold onto his palteia with the last breath in his body, and he'd like to keep his status and his wealth too. Unfortunately, new humans bring new conflicts and he is not sure how to protect Liam. He does know one thing that humans seem to constantly forget—that the peaceful Rownt are predators and when their families are threatened, Rownt become deadly killers. Liam is his family, and Ondry will protect him with his last breath… assuming that he can recognize the dangers in time to do so.

  • Note:
    Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities (Claimings, #2)
Excerpt
Ondry watched while Liam sat and arranged trading tokens into piles that appeared to have no logic outside his own preference. He had already sent a message to the Grandmothers that the humans and their war had shifted toward increasing levels of violence. The Grandmothers would, no doubt, soon call for Ondry and his Liam to speak to them. Before that moment came, Ondry needed to know that his palteia was well.

He watched as Liam took down one set of token towers and began stacking a new pattern on the edge of the table.

With half his attention on Liam, Ondry went into the back room and gathered up the nictel. When he came back into the public room, Liam had abandoned his game and was watching.

“Why do you have that?”

“Because I believe my palteia needs to feel held close,” Ondry said. He drew nearer, and Liam’s eyes dilated. “Am I mistaken?”

“I’m not about to run back to the humans,” Liam said. While Ondry could not understand the intricacies of Liam’s emotions, he could see the unhappiness in every line of Liam’s body.

Ondry caught Liam by the neck and then ran his thumb over the soft skin. “I never doubted your loyalty, only your willingness to value yourself.”

For a time, Liam studied him as though trying to judge the veracity of Ondry’s statement. Ondry would never lie to his palteia, so he waited until Liam gave him a crooked smile. “You might be right about that.”

“I am always right, or at least I maintain that in the absence of proof,” Ondry said with some humor. Liam’s smile grew wider.

“Then you’d better make sure you hide the evidence that might contradict you,” Liam teased.

Ondry tightened his face in amusement. From another adult, such a statement would be a clever insult, but Liam was his companion, his palteia who could be trusted to only have Ondry’s profit in mind.

“You’re determined to leash me, aren’t you?” Liam asked. He attempted to make a sound of weariness, but he was too quick to slip off his pants and too passive with any complaints. Ondry knew well that Liam could speak out loudly enough for the gods to hear him when he was truly unhappy. So when Liam leaned back in the chair in order to lift his bare ankle, Ondry began to tighten the straps around the offered ankle before adding the cuff around Liam’s knee.

He expected that when he secured the strap around Liam’s thigh, Liam’s genitals would respond to the stimulation. Ondry had sought to explain human sexuality and the focus on pleasure to one of the other traders. Other than causing Liam to blush madly, Ondry had achieved nothing except convincing the trader that Ondry was constructing some elaborate prank. Sex for pleasure seemed odd when compared to Rownt biology.

However, while Liam’s sex organs normally responded to even innocent touches, this time they remained quiescent. As Ondry closed the magnetic locks on the straps, he took a moment to run his knuckle over the underside of Liam’s scrotum. Liam grabbed Ondry’s shoulder and focused his light brown eyes on Ondry, but he still didn’t harden.

“I’m a little too worried,” Liam said, and Ondry mentally filed that with other quirks of human sexuality. Stress reduced sexual compatibility. That appeared to be one more reason for leashing his palteia and comforting him until his mood improved.

“Up,” Ondry said kindly, and at the same time, he caught Liam’s hand and helped him to his feet. That allowed Ondry to finish by locking the belt around Liam’s waist.

“You must think I’m a basket case,” Liam said. The words made no sense at all, and maybe Liam could read Ondry’s expressions well enough to recognize that, because he provided a definition. “Someone who has a very limited ability to perceive reality.”

Ondry nodded as he understood that Liam was, again, insulting himself. “I believe that someone who has been tossed aside too many times may have trouble believing the person who offers to keep him forever.”

“You’re pretty good at this human-psychology thing,” Liam said.

“I am a quick learner.” Ondry bent down and grabbed Liam’s discarded pants, holding them up. Liam quickly slipped them on over the nictel, not commenting when Ondry wrapped the end of the leash around his own wrist. It meant Liam had very little room to move around, but then Ondry intended that. Liam needed to believe he would not be discarded again. When Liam attempted to sit down, Ondry pulled Liam close and then sat down with him so they ended up in a tangle of legs and leash in the one chair.

“I’m a little old for sitting in someone’s lap,” Liam pointed out.

“You are palteia. I may spoil you how I wish,” Ondry responded. As usual, that silenced the objections. Normally Liam would fill the silence with his questions and observations, which were a bizarre mixture of incredible insight and wildly improbable speculation. Now he was too willing to listen to the silence. Ondry found it disconcerting.

“Were you aligned with these places that Craig described?”

Liam opened his mouth but then closed it without giving an answer. Ondry waited. His superior patience gave him an advantage in such contests. Humans had to urinate entirely too often in the course of a day.

Eventually Liam sighed. “The way you define ‘align,’ no. I was ordered to go there and defend the position.”

Ondry still questioned the wisdom of ordering people to defend a place they felt no allegiance toward. “Is it the news of these places that upsets you?” he asked directly.

“Yeah.” Liam’s voice was whisper-soft. “But not for the reason you’d think.”

“I do not assume I understand any of this. Rownt do not war at all as you define that term. What do you feel about this news?”

Liam looked up at the ceiling. “I spent five years of my life scared and hungry and exhausted—all to save a few miles of a moon, and now… What did it all matter? All that suffering, all the people who died… It all added up to exactly nothing.” Liam took a deep breath as his emotions seemed to overwhelm him.

“So it is as if you had worked a most difficult trade only to have the goods destroyed by storm.” Ondry could feel distress in his own stomach. To have the universe turn against you and to find yourself helpless to prevent it would cause the highest-status trader or Grandmother great anguish.

“For you? Yeah. I don’t feel trading like that, but if losing a trade hurts so much that you feel like you’ve been punched, then it feels exactly like that. What did it matter? Caro who died from an infection after she got shot in the gut, and Will who starved to death when they sent us only corn rations and he was allergic to them—all that pain, what did it matter?” Liam started to clear his throat, and Ondry wrapped his arms around his palteia and pulled him close. He used his fingers to draw Rownt symbols of love on Liam’s neck. Liam sighed and put his head down on Ondry’s shoulder. For a time they sat in silence. Ondry curled his tail around one of Liam’s wrists and pulled on the leash until Liam had to tuck his leg up under him.

Had Ondry been given the opportunity, he would have cheerfully gutted each person who had left Liam so very hurt. Since he could not, he started to softly glurble.

Liam slipped his fingers under the edge of Ondry’s shirt so his fingertips rested against the skin. “You must think humans are insane.”

“Why would I think that?”

“War,” Liam answered.

War was a difficult concept. Ondry understood fighting. He understood two groups throwing themselves at each other in the quest for resources or to defend a claim. He even understood the devastation sometimes left in the wake of two towns driven to fight. But the Grandmothers insisted those concepts translated as battle, not war as other species defined it.

Until Liam, Ondry had given no thought to such alien concepts, but now he could not help but wonder what drive must send species into a spiral of aggression and destruction.

“It is a strange concept,” Ondry said. He would not disrespect his Liam by lying to him. “To recruit others into a battle or series of battles seems less than logical.”

“Crazy,” Liam corrected him.

Ondry nodded. “However, both the Anla and the Imshee engage in warfare as you define it, so I suspect that the Rownt are the ones who could be described as crazy for their inability to understand the reality the rest of you live by.”

“Funny. Your way makes more sense,” Liam said. Ondry agreed, and he suspected Liam had begun to change into a creature more Rownt than human in his thinking. They certainly had fewer instances of utter bewilderment than in the beginning.

“I concur. However, sanity is difficult to objectively measure.” Ondry started considering the human trader’s words. “How will human responses change now that the war has changed?”

Liam took some time before answering. “They want metals.”

“The others took as much from the conversation they no doubt overheard,” Ondry said softly. If Ondry and Liam were to profit, they needed information others wouldn’t have.

“Two options. If the general in charge of this area wants metals badly enough, he’ll approve the trade, and Craig and his psychology books will be at the trading square tomorrow. The general may then have to explain his willingness to cancel standing orders, but the trade will still be done.”

Ondry blinked in surprise. That one person would make a decision without any consultation with elders made him wonder whether humans would eventually prove as difficult to deal with as the unpredictable and violent Anla. For Rownt, a major shift in policy required all the ruling Grandmothers to come to the temple. They would debate, call high-ranked tradesmen and traders to consult, and call other temples and other Grandmother councils before making a decision. He had assumed humans did something similar, because any change in policy seemed to take months, if not years.

Liam continued with his second option. “Or the general will send the request back to Command. Then the commanders and the politicians and xenopsychologists will argue about whether or not Rownt should have access to sources that might make the entire human race look less than sane. In that case, they should make a decision about the time that Vilta’s newest eggling tries to earn his independence.”

“Do your people question their own sanity?”

“All the time,” Liam said, huffing in his amusement. “However, the wrong people do the questioning. A sane person worries, and those who truly believe themselves to be the center of the universe never seem to question that view of reality.”

Ondry started mentally counting his inventories. If he could convince Nitune from the mines to sell him more metal, he could make a good trade if the human returned the following day. Hitil and the trader who had brought tech goods would not believe humans could act so quickly. They would be off planning their strategy or quietly trying to find a buyer for intel on humans. One simply didn’t move on a trade that might not appear for years. If Ondry did move, and the human didn’t come back immediately, Ondry would be dangerously overinvested with metals.

“What are the odds that the human will return to trade tomorrow?”

“Pretty damn good,” Liam said. He looked Ondry right in the eye. “What Craig told us is definitely forbidden. Things are really bad, and if they’re bad enough for Craig to risk breaking the rules, I think the officers are feeling that same desperation.”

“Then we visit Nitune.”

“From the mines?” Liam asked. He glanced at the stack of markers that represented the ore Ondry already held. Because of his status as the main trader for the Tura Coalition, he already owned more metal than most. To obtain more would be a calculated risk.

“Either we will be wealthy enough to purchase our own defensive satellite, or we will be eating poorly until I can repair the damage I am about to do to our stores,” Ondry admitted. He watched for some sign of doubt or disapproval in Liam’s eyes.

“We could buy a satellite?” Liam asked. He used his hand on Ondry’s shoulder to push himself upright.

“Someone must contribute to the planetary community just as someone must buy art for the temple,” Ondry said. He had not planned to have such wealth until he was six or seven hundred, but to make a significant contribution at his age would prove his high status.

“But Nitune will wonder why you’re buying more, and then the price is going to go up.”

Ondry smiled at the evidence of Liam’s sharp trader’s mind. His palteia was not to be underestimated. “Then we lie and tell him we are going to Pratoalta in search of rumors that one of the clans is thinking of building a new ship. We would not pay more for a trade that is only whispered in a distant town. We could offer him the kaile we have stored.” Ondry hated trading away the spice because he’d grown spoiled by spiced food, but his comfort was not material to the issue if he could secure the sort of wealth required to begin contributing to the larger planetary defense.

Liam wrinkled his nose. “This is dangerous.”

“Very,” Ondry agreed. Poor trades could damage his still-fragile status. Too many elders were slow to recognize a Rownt of less than two hundred as ka rank. Errors now could see him slip backward.

“Okay, but we should convince Craig that I have a craving for horseradish.”

“That sounds like it would make for a reasonable profit,” Ondry said as he started to calculate his potential customers. The information would be better traded in a larger town, but horseradish had a fanatical following in this town. If not for fear of revealing their cravings to the humans, Rownt would have stormed the trading squares, demanding it. Liam’s familiarity with the food would make it logical for him to ask for some comfort from home.

Putting his hands on Liam’s hips, Ondry urged him to stand. “We will visit Nitune today.”

“This feels wrong. We’re going to make a profit off the fact that my people are idiots and they’re killing each other.”

“The profit will be made by someone. Our poverty would not change their poor decisions.” Ondry stood up.

“True,” Liam admitted. He sighed as he stretched out the leg leashed by the nictel. “Are you going to take this off now?”

“No.”

“I—” Liam gave a little squawk when Ondry started toward the door and the nictel tightened so fast that Liam was temporarily unbalanced. He caught Ondry’s arm and quickly moved to his side to give himself more slack in the chain. “I’m feeling better, honestly.”

“Then you shall feel even more relaxed after a day of being reminded of my commitment to you,” Ondry said. “Now let’s leave before bad luck has Nitune hearing that the customers for his metals may be close to home.” Ondry pulled the nictel so Liam was forced close to his side, and then he curled his tail around Liam’s knee.

“Subtle,” Liam complained, but he leaned his weight into Ondry.

Ondry recognized that form of lying. Liam called it “irony.” It was comforting to know that humans had various names for the art. Some species seemed to have very little respect for the power and skill required for a good lie, not that irony was a particularly effective form of lying. It did, however, tell Ondry that Liam was feeling better.

Copyright © Lyn Gala

Reviews

Customer Reviews

Just great Review by Evelyn
Quality
I did a Snoopy-dance when I saw that this long awaited book was finally released. And it didn't disappoint one bit!
It's written just as good as the first one, but now we learn much more about the Rownt and their social system.
I really think this is one of the best mm-series ever written!
Highly recommended!
(Posted on 4/16/2017)
A fascinating read Review by T Lee
Quality
This was a much more well-rounded view of the world Lyn created, with interesting perspectives on human and Rownt cultures and priorities both. I liked how the author presented the clashing of cultures through Liam's viewpoint, while not neglecting the subtleties of Liam and Ondry's building relationship. Even though the author mentioned the first book started out as only an exploration on the ideal dominant, I have to admit that this series has left me wishing for an Ondry of my own. A very pleasurable read! (Posted on 4/3/2017)
Really good Review by susana
Quality
Liam has been living with his chilta Omry for some time now, finding a peace and he’s never known before. But when a new linguist/trader purposely endangers his life, Liam finds out that the legendary Rownt’s battle rage is more reality than myth…
The second book in the Claimings series is as refreshing and original as the first one. Omry and Liam are settled together, and live peacefully till the moment when Liam’s life is threatened. We discover then a new trait of Rownt’s personality we did not know before: The killing instinct they develop when something dear is menaced. Although the plot is interesting, there are too many explanations and linguistic descriptions, discussions about how my race and your race do not act the same… They somehow slow the pace. I still liked both characters a lot, especially Omry and his need to protect Liam above anything. Liam is still an interesting character as well, what with his affiliation to Omry despite humanity. I must recognise I’m intrigued by the end of the book and the hint at the new adventures that may come with their future plans. I’ll certainly read the next book.
(Posted on 7/7/2016)
Loved it Review by Dina
Quality
Good writing, couldn’t put id down (Posted on 3/7/2016)
Still fresh and sweet Review by susana
Quality
Liam has been living with his chilta Omry for some time now, finding a peace and he’s never known before. But when a new linguist/trader purposely endangers his life, Liam finds out that the legendary Rownt’s battle rage is more reality than myth…
The second book in the Claimings series is not as refreshing and original as the first one. Omry and Liam are settled together, and live peacefully till the moment when Liam’s life is threatened. We discover then a new trait of Rownt’s personality we did not know before: The killing instinct they develop when something dear is menaced. Although the plot is interesting, there are too many explanations and linguistic descriptions, discussions about how my race and your race do not act the same… They somehow slow the pace. I still liked both characters a lot, especially Omry and his need to protect Liam above anything. Liam is still an interesting character as well, what with his affiliation to Omry despite humanity. I must recognise I’m intrigued by the end of the book and the hint at the new adventures that may come with their future plans. I’ll certainly read the next book.
(Posted on 1/2/2016)
This story blew me away... Review by BJ
Quality
Wow, this story blew me away. Not only is it extremely well-written but also totally original and unique! It was so such fun reading that I read it all the way through in one day without putting it down! I know some people do that regularly, but I seldom can manage it. But watching these two very different men learn to communicate on intimate issues was so thoroughly fascinating.

This is a sweet, gentle romance with a unique take on submission/dominance that I just adored. I enjoy sci-fi and one of my fav tropes is alien lovers—however, so very often the alien’s anatomy disappointingly similar to human. That’s one of the things I adored about this book--Ondry is truly alien in that his physiology is completely different from our. Thus their lovemaking is unique… tender, sensual, but also hot. But don’t read it just for that. The plot is outstanding and tightly drawn, the love story is sweet and beautiful, the characters are nuanced and easy to connect to. And the structure of Ondry’s world and social system is outstanding and complex. Ondry’s Rownt world is a matriarchal society governed by older/wiser women called “grandmothers.” The way the males are treated as their seed is um… taken, is quite harsh. But overall this is absolutely stunning world building, just beyond awesome! For anyone who enjoys hot m/m sci-fi, this is highly recommended.
(Posted on 12/24/2015)
Loved Ondry's POV Review by Kristi
Quality
I love the first Claimings book, and this sequel was fantastic. I loved reading Ondry's point of view! (Posted on 10/20/2015)
5 stars = I freaking LOVED this book Review by asgoodrich
Quality
No surprise here – I absolutely LOVED Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities. As it was a full-length novel, I got to spend even more time with Ondry and Liam this time around. Not only was I treated to a front-row seat at the furthering strengthening and deepening of their palteia and chilta relationship, but I got to explore even more of Rownt along with Liam. As such, I am in awe of Ms. Gala’s ability to create such an interesting world – one which I agree with Liam on: the Rownt make far more sense than humans.

I found the action and intrigue that accompanied the introduction of Captain Diallo fascinating. It not only increased the excitement factor in this installment, but it also provided the reader the opportunity to learn exactly why the Rownt are considered predators. Had Liam possessed any lingering doubt regarding Ondry’s commitment to his position as Liam’s chilta, it would have been annihilated when Ondry killed the kawt. As the book progresses we also learn that Diallo’s introduction also lays the foundation for a sequel – a thought which makes me giddy with anticipation.

As much as I enjoyed the action and intrigue, it is actually Liam and Ondry’s relationship that I love most about this book. Under Ondry’s care and attention, Liam has flourished as a man and in his role as a palteia. The most telling example of this was when Ondry was mounted and mated by a Grandmother (that term has a different connotation in the series). The Rownt mating process is rather aggressive and from a human perspective, it looks a lot like rape – something that Liam was the victim of. Yet his time spent with Ondry had healed him to the point that he could easily detect the difference between his non-consensual experiences and Ondry’s completely consensual mating and rather than being horrified by the act as he would have been when he first arrived on the planet, he took pride in the fact that Ondry was chosen by a Grandmother and said what Ondry needed to hear in order to go through with the mating. Of course, the mating is strictly for procreation, so it has nothing on Liam and Ondry’s seriously erotic sexual interactions. Ms. Gala has again produced a well-written and highly enjoyable m/m sci-fi romance that I look forward to reading Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities again as I hope that there will indeed be a book three in the series posthaste.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Reviewed by Angela at Crystal's Many Reviewers!
(Posted on 11/25/2014)
Wow, just WOW! Review by Ann
Quality
What an amazing book. I honestly could not put it down once I started. I thought I loved Liam and Ondry after reading Claimings, Tails and Other Alien Artifacts, but reading about them as an established pair in Claimings #2 was an experience that was so much more than just loving a couple of characters. Their dynamic has matured and everything I “pretty much understood” in Claimings became crystal clear in Assimilations. Their dialogs were such a pleasure to read and they have a depth now that has grown since the first book.

While the closest human definition of Liam’s status would be that of a submissive, the Rownt definition of palteia just makes so much sense! I totally get it. I can intellectually understand what I’m told about a D/s relationship. But, a chilta and pelteia relationship is so logically and completely explained I couldn’t help but be fascinated by it. Ondry and Liam revered one another so much in every action, I could feel that they were equals and one truly complemented the other.

The world building is some of the best I’ve ever read. There was so much detail, but it was never overwhelming as sci-fi and fantasy can sometimes be. I didn’t need a flow chart, a dictionary and search party to follow along. The focus stayed on point making the information flow organically so that I was able to get complete caught up in the story instead of spending time figuring out who a character was or where they came from.

My favorite thing though, was the exchanges between Ondry and Liam when they were alone. They both became fully multi-dimensional characters to me. Ondry has a real sense of humor and Liam can be such a smart ass, I just fell in love with them both all over again, just harder this time.

I highlighted the bejeezus out of this book. Like, a book length of highlighting. Ondry’s dry observations were usually my favorite. Simple, brilliant and above all logical, I need an Ondry in my life to keep me on track. I may have used this on conversation today and will most definitely use it again:

“That fact is so true it does not require stating.”

So, according to Ondry I can't really gush about how much I loved this book, see above.
(Posted on 9/24/2014)
Amazing! Review by Ash
Quality
I've been so eagerly awaiting this book that I absolutely devoured it in one night. It's a direct sequel to her book Claimings, Tails and Other Alien Artifacts and that amazing story continued like it never left off. This book has detailed and nuanced world building and the characters still have their amazing complexity and charm. In this book you get to see into Ondry's POV and delve deeper into what's going on behind the scenes for humans as well as the rownt. Getting to see how Ondry and Liam's relationship and understanding of each other has grown and changed was very lovely as well.

I read it and I already want another sequel. The universe is amazing and it has a lot of potential for growth which I'm very excited and hopeful about. I really hope to see more of it.
(Posted on 9/23/2014)

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