Joined: 07 Dec 2010
Location: BFE, Califorlornland
|Posted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:55 pm Post subject: AfteRealms Saga #2 - A Tail of Fertility
|This is one of the stories I'm working on in my "AfteRealm Saga" series. It is the second of eight stories I have in this common world, and the story events do overlap to some degree on occasion - usually to the tune of two or three point-of-views to a singular scene.
I may be offering this world up to be shared at some point, though I'm a bit possessive of it - probably not a good thing, but c'est la vie...
On with the story...
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Few people are able to truly look upon their naked selves in a mirror. Most are appalled by what they see, and disheartened by the realization that they cannot blame their repulsion on clothing; that what reviles them is an aspect inherent to themselves. Of course, they could exercise more to correct an excess of tummy, or make different efforts to address other shortcoming they perceive. But, more often than not, they are content to simply hide these deficiencies and pass the blame onto anything other than themselves.
This attitude remains true even when the thing which upsets them so is something which cannot be seen in a mirror.
The first rays of dawn stole through a small tear in the heavy drape and crept through the room with the patience of an assassin. Down the wall and across a slumbering face. Stabbed by that slender rapier, an eye threw itself open to inquire as to what had disturbed its restful slumber. The wide dark oval iris, floating peacefully upon a sea of emeralds, quickly constricted to a narrow feline slit.
Okay, I'm up, Tavia mumbled to herself as she slipped from beneath the soft thick comforter to sit upon the edge of the bed. As she enjoyed her usual wake-up stretch in the manner that only felinoids such as herself could truly appreciate, she silently cursed herself for having slept in so late. She'd intended to have been well out of town before now.
She froze motionless when her sharp ears caught a muttering voice and the soft rustle of the covers from behind her. She twisted to gaze upon his sleeping form with bated breath, remaining tense until the prolonged silence persuaded her that he had simply rolled over in his sleep. The elven man sleeping next to her was a decidedly handsome cuss, despite his lack of fur, and he'd been such a charming gentleman towards her the prior evening… Perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing to have overslept.
Still, she wanted to be well away from here before he woke. Not that she feared him, or any man, but that he had intimated that he was interested in a continuing relationship with her. It was easier to simply vanish as a pleasant memory than to have to explain to him why she couldn't stay. She slipped to her feet, her flowing tail sweeping away a few kinks from its overnight confinement while she padded silently across to the chair where she had left her clothes. She relished a private chuckle at the soreness in her hips; it had been way too long since she enjoyed such a wild ride, and she was given to wonder if even the gods had such staying power.
As she dressed, she wrestled with herself as to why she might decide to stay. He seemed to enjoy spoiling her, as the exquisite meal they had last night and the opulence of this rented room attested to. Her eyes fell upon his bulging pouch upon the dresser; anyone who could be comfortable with carrying so much money with them was either incredibly rich, extraordinarily stupid, or both. Stupidity, she could handle easily enough, and wealth… She'd never considered herself to be materialistic, but thoughts about her lover's extravagance caused her to think that it was a lifestyle to which she could become accustomed.
Not to mention that he was also incredibly handsome. While she was naturally predisposed towards her own kind, he had an unfathomable elegance she found immensely attractive. This was only enhanced by his inviolate gentlemanly ways; even with the lusts she'd intentionally provoked, his advances towards her were completely restrained unless she acquiesced. And his technique… The very thought of the sensations he had evoked within her brought a deep resonant purr which she reluctantly had to stifle for fear of waking him. She'd always found immense pleasure in sex, but seldom to the extent of what she had experienced with him.
But, even with as much as he had meant to her during their brief tryst, accompanied by the prospect of the luxurious comfort he could provide her, she couldn't stay. The very things about his courtly manners which made leaving him so difficult would also make it hard for him to understand why she had to.
Her hand drew to her chest as if of its own volition, her fingertips gently caressing the crystalline pendant concealed beneath the sheer fabric of her blouse. It was given to her when she was twelve, barely a year after she'd run away from home. She had encountered a rather unusual fortune-teller. He was extremely tall and strong and handsome, not at all like any other seer she had ever heard of before or since. Though, as he read her fortune, she saw a glimpse of a snowy feathered wing beneath his cloak and she knew him to be an angel; perhaps her own guardian angel.
The divination he gave her was that the type of happiness she was looking for was extremely rare, and that she could never find it among her own kind. He seemed to know everything about her, including why she had run away from home, so he probably knew what he was talking about. He explained that the more precious something is, the harder it is to find; what she sought was so rare that very few people ever found it. But he knew that she would find it at the right time, and would recognize it immediately.
Before they parted, he gave her a small necklace with a milky-white crystal as a pendant; certainly nothing valuable, but quite pretty. She didn't have much money, but she wanted to pay him for the pretty necklace. He said he wanted to give it to her and couldn't accept any payment for it. He explained to her that it would glow a bright red if she should ever be in danger, and she should always keep it with her. She'd turned to leave and had already taken a few steps before realizing that she had not properly thanked him for such a gift but, when she turned back, he was nowhere to be found.
She'd grown far more jaded and skeptical during the fourteen years that had passed since then, and she had never known the pendant to have ever changed color, but she kept it still. Even if it was a just a plain hunk of stone, it remained a gift that she continued to treasure and would not part with. His prophecy to her had yet to be disproven, so she wasn't inclined to readily dismiss the supposed abilities of her necklace.
As she finished securing her small pack, her eyes flew back to the money pouch. She could so easily slip away with the entire thing, but such theft wasn't a part of her. A small handful, perhaps; with careful management, such could provide for her in relative comfort for at least two months, and he'd likely never even realize that it was missing. She gazed back upon the sleeping elf.
No . Taking money from someone she’s had sex with was far too close to prostitution for her liking, and she most definitely wasn't a whore. A slut, a thief, a trickster, and a killer, maybe, but not a whore. At least, not yet. With one last longing glance towards the pouch, she slipped quietly from the room.
She escaped the inn unobserved and meandered her way into the town's plaza. Though it was still fairly early, the market stalls ringing the plaza were already bustling with activity and many people were passing through on their hurried way to be somewhere. She leaned back upon the large central fountain, fairly amused at the way so many people scurried about with their hectic schedules as well as by their startled glances when they noticed her.
It had been years since she had encountered another of her kind and knew herself to be an exotic novelty, as much in attitude as in appearance. She had no obligations; no schedule to adhere to, no master to heed, and no allegiance to bow to. It was so perfectly natural to her that she could hardly comprehend why other peoples seemed eager to complicate their lives with countless obligations which only added stress and shortened their mortal spans. Life was too brief to not enjoy to the fullest, and anything which detracted from that enjoyment was a complete puzzlement to her.
Admittedly, kachtige such as herself had shorter lifespans than most other races. Kachtige matured in their early teens, then remained almost ageless until they died of old age in their late forties. Perhaps that was why others took so much upon themselves; their longer lives meant they had to think more about the future, leaving them less opportunity to simply enjoy today. She shrugged. While she couldn't single out any specific flaw with that mentality, it certainly didn't account for any of the countless unforeseeable events which always occurred in life.
A faint gurgling sound from her midsection reminded her that she hadn't eaten in almost ten hours. True, she'd almost stuffed herself last night but her higher metabolism meant that she generally needed to eat five or six meals a day, compared to the two or three which seemed to be the local custom. She'd managed some degree of adaptation to their foreign ways, but she was still extremely hungry and the aroma of freshly baked pastries coming from a nearby stall didn't help.
She drew out her small coin-purse and rummaged through it, only to realize that she was lower on funds than she had thought; apart from a few worthless trinkets, she only had two of the battered copper coins they used in this region. Still, it might be enough for breakfast. She trotted swiftly across to the baker's stall and eyed the fresh pastries wantonly. While her kind was primarily carnivorous and she did have a preference for rare meat, she had acquired a near-addictive taste for sweetbreads such as the ones which lay before her.
Deciding upon a smaller one that was layered in a frothy pink icing, she pointed out the pastry and offered the coins to the baker. Rather than taking the coins, he held up three fingers; he wanted three coppers for it. Such was a standard practice here. There were so many travelers through this region, speaking so many languages that most tradesmen were well accustomed to using gestures to conduct business. Well, it seemed that she would have to look elsewhere for breakfast. She was turning away when her stomach rumbled again, louder than before. She cringed tightly, her ears coloring from embarrassment that someone might overhear it.
The baker called to her and she froze. Nervously, she glanced back to see him offering the pastry to her in one hand, while he held up two fingers with his other. She smiled graciously, placing the coins in his hand and accepting the pastry in return. Almost dancing with delight at her small victory, she returned to the fountain to sit upon the rim and enjoy the soft music of its dancing waters while she ate.
She lifted the pastry, eager to take a bite, when she spied a longing pair of eyes across its frosted surface. It was a small human girl, perhaps seven years old if she was judging her species' age correctly. The girl wore torn and dirty rags which seemed almost too small for her, and her smudged face was locked upon the pastry. A similarly-dressed woman, presumably the girl's mother, hurried over to draw the girl away with her. Tavia watched in silence as the two rejoined another small girl and all three sifted through a small pile of garbage.
She glanced once more upon the pastry she'd won and it suddenly didn't seem so appealing as it had a moment before. With a heavy sigh of resignation, she slipped from her perch and strode across to the group. Seeing a stranger approach, the woman turned to face Tavia and reflexively herded the girls behind her.
Tavia smiled invitingly, offering the pastry to the woman while nodding towards the small girls. Hesitantly, she accepted the pastry, offering a rather formal curtsey in thanks before breaking the pastry in two and passing it to the girls. Apparently this small family had fallen on hard times; perhaps her husband had died and she had no skills to draw upon. Tavia waved to them all as she departed, not looking forward to the hunger pains she would soon be contending with yet pleased that she had been able to help the family out in some small way.
Well, her intended destination was a fair distance away and she already had a much later start than she had intended, so she shifted her pack and headed down the narrow road. She'd barely taken three steps when her midsection let loose with a tremendous growl of protest. She glared at her stomach, "Kanta madehra fannai!" Oh, do shut up!
* * *
Tavia rested upon a large upturned tree root, massaging her sore feet and gazing at the horizon which was now filled with the crimson splash of sunset. Apparently, she'd taken a wrong turn somewhere and had gotten herself completely lost. She simply wasn't accustomed to walking such distances, and the two rabbits she had snared around noon hardly offset the energy she'd expended to that point.
She cast a baleful eye towards the dark clouds which had seemingly been stalking her most of the day, and she certainly didn't look forward to the impending rainstorm adding to her already frustrating day. While she continued rubbing her feet, she studied the narrow road more closely. It was certainly an ancient route, though the tracks in the powdery dust indicated that it saw frequent use. She thought this odd, since she had only encountered one other traveler today, but perhaps most of those traveling this road today were headed the same direction as she.
As late as it was getting, she doubted there would be many travelers still out. But she hoped that one might pass by soon and could at least direct her to some nearby shelter, if not actually provide her with transportation for a time. She had hardly thought of this when she heard the distant sound of dray horses approaching from the north. She reflexively checked her pendant to discover its color unchanged before tucking it back into her blouse. It sounded to be a fairly large group and, warning or no, she was hesitant to be spotted with the potential odds against her. She slipped quietly behind a large tree, sliding her pack onto her back while she patiently waited to see exactly what was coming towards her.
With near agonizing slowness, a seemingly endless procession of wagons came into view. Most were the boxy sort which many humanoid races used as traveling homes, while others had flat beds and carried all manner of boxes and bundles. As they approached, she could better make out the drivers, all of whom wore bright outfits and had one or more colorful scarves wrapped about their heads. While she had never before seen such a group, she recalled the descriptions she'd heard of groups of peoples who called themselves Gitano and dressed much as those before her.
They were a people much like herself; wanderers who prided themselves upon living life for the moment and saving tomorrow's cares for the next day. They were also said to offer spectacular performances to the places they traveled, earning their way by providing entertainment to the common people, despite their supposed reputation and thieves and baby-stealers. Well, she was quite a dancer, fairly acrobatic, and certainly an exotic novelty in these regions. Perhaps they might welcome her as a companion?
She emerged from hiding and trotted ahead to catch up to the lead wagon, forcing herself to ignore the pain in her feet and ankles. "Excuse me," she called out invitingly in the common tongue of the region. She wasn't completely fluent, but knew enough she could probably communicate decently with this group. "May I please speak with you for a moment?" The driver never even turned to look at her and simply continued on as if she were not even there.
"Hello?" She pushed a bit ahead of the wagon, making herself more easily visible to the driver. "I wish to speak with you, please." She tried to maintain a pleasant tone, despite her rising frustration and the throbbing pain in her legs. But the driver still ignored her. She was on the verge of becoming hostile when her foot twisted upon a loose stone and she tumbled to the ground in agony. She cautiously examined her foot, fearing a serious injury and cursing loudly in her native tongue.
She was furious to have put herself at risk and injured herself only to be completely ignored by these travelers. And, now with this injury, she had no possible escape from the impending rain. She was so caught up in her frustrations that she didn't notice that the wagons had stopped or that a large man had emerged from the lead wagon and approached her.
"My apologies," he boomed in a rich basso. She spun in a panic to look up at him, bracing herself for as hasty a retreat as she could manage. "Please forgive my son's rudeness. Many we encounter in our travels jeer and harass us for our ways, and he mistakenly believed that you intended the same."
Her sudden surge of anxiety waned and was replaced by anger at being so ignored. "How could he think something like that? I asked politely several times, and even said 'please' which is supposed to be proper manners in this tongue!"
"Ah, I see." He offered his large hand to her and she grudgingly accepted his helping her back to her feet. She couldn't put any pressure on her left ankle, but managed to support herself adequately with her right. "My son, Delano, has been deaf since birth. He can normally understand what a person is saying by watching their lips but, having never before encountered one such as yourself, he was unable to understand your words or intentions."
She gasped from comprehension, feeling extremely embarrassed for getting so upset at such a misunderstanding. "I should apologize as well," she murmured. "I meant to inquire if I might be permitted to travel with your group and have only made a foolish impression. And by injuring myself, now I can't show you the dancing and such I meant to persuade you with."
The man beamed a great smile and chuckled, though it soon grew into hearty laughter. "Perhaps we should do things correctly." He swept into a formal bow, all the more dramatic for his colorful dress, "Umberto, Domerico of the Tamari Gitano, offers his greetings."
She quickly scanned her memory for reference to this style of greeting, but found nothing. Playing a hunch, she replied "Tavia Wintersun of Kachti tha…" Forgetting her injury, she had tried to curtsey and tumbled to the ground. She glanced sheepishly up to Umberto, sweeping the stray hair from her face, "Thanks you and offers her greetings."
Umberto laughed and swept Tavia up into his arms, "I think it best that we accept your generous offer of companionship." He turned to carry her towards the lead wagon and she was suddenly given to wonder what his intentions might be. Not that she objected to sex, and he was certainly an impressive man, but she refused to be pressured into it.
As if sensing her anxiety, he smiled genially to her, "I meant no offense, dear lady. Just that we had a part in your injury and it is only right that we help care for you until you recover." Her ears colored again, embarrassed by her misunderstanding, though she was surprised yet again when he carried her into the wagon.
While everything was compact and arranged with an eye more towards saving available space than sheer aesthetics, it was still a far more comfortable arrangement than what she had thought would fit into such a wagon. He laid her gently upon the large bed and tousled her hair playfully, as a parent might do to a small child, before excusing himself and stepping out the back of the wagon. She was growing ever more curious about these friendly people, fascinated by how they brought such comforts with them and wanting to learn more about their misunderstood ways.
After a few minutes, a human woman entered the wagon. She was a young adult, perhaps in her twenties, and wore a billowy white blouse and a colorful loose-fitting skirt. "Anya, daughter of the Tamari Gitano, bids you welcome." Almost as soon as she sat herself upon the edge of the bed, the crack of a whip from outside sent the wagon lurching into motion. Tavia nearly bolted upright from the unexpected sensation, but Anya's gentle touch upon her shoulder kept her laying upon the bed. Once the wagon's motions had stabilized into a steady rhythmic sway, Anya reached for Tavia's waist and began to unfasten her belt buckle.
Reflexively, Tavia grasped the other woman by the wrists, holding her hands away while sharp claws extended to convey that struggling would not be a good idea. "Perhaps you can explain yourself?" she half-snarled.
"Oh! You speak Malabar," she practically exclaimed. "I am sorry to have startled you so. As I possess some knowledge in caring for injuries, and am the only one among our group who has encountered a kachtige, the Domerico bade me to see to your recovery." She smiled warmly to her patient, and Tavia, again embarrassed by her reactions, released Anya's wrists. "The only kachtige I have encountered before spoke only Kach, and I did not think to realize that you would know other tongues to be in this area.
"I do not mean to embarrass you, but we must remove your leggings if I am to determine the full extent of your injury. As we are both women, there is no shame in such exposure." Tavia nodded, realizing that Anya was correct. She unbuckled her pants and, with the other woman's help, slid out of them to leave her lower portions bare. While it was exceedingly embarrassing to do so, she quelled her modesty as Anya removed the wrappings which covered her legs from pad to ankle.
With most races, modesty urged them to conceal their genitalia and mammaries which were considered to be most provocative of sexual enticement. With female kachtige, it was the lower leg (technically, the foot) which was considered most provocative and was to always be kept covered apart from mating rites and bathing; male kachtige did likewise with the base of their tails. The conventions of human clothing were simply a foolish deference to those societies. As human feet were already fully clothed and they have no tails, it was far easier for them to gain acceptance in Kachti lands than the other way around.
"Besides that, he also felt it best that another female be your companion while you are with us. Gitano men are easily taken by their passions when they encounter a beautiful woman of any race." Tavia could only nod in agreement and fought to stifle her embarrassment as Anya massaged and probed her feet and ankles. She had to consciously remind herself over and over that the human was only trying to tend her injuries and that it was not intended as sexual foreplay, yet she could readily feel the burning heat of her ears.
Anya finished her examination and glanced to Tavia, then suddenly forced herself to stifle a fit of giggles. "Again, my apologies." She drew a small throw from beneath the bed and spread it over Tavia's legs, "It seems to only be a few bad sprains, but you should stay off your feet and leave them unbound for at least two days."
She rose and smoothed her skirt, "I shall inform the Domerico and will return shortly with a meal for you." Anya turned to leave, but stopped with her hand upon the doorlatch. "I thank you for accepting our hospitality," she murmured without turning before opening the door and departing, closing it behind her.
While she rankled at the idea of being laid up for two days, particularly with her feet naked the whole time, Tavia could not help but be amazed at how this group had welcomed her so readily. She remained skeptical as to what their true intentions might be, but was relieved by their offer of food, shelter, and transportation. She took a quick peek within her blouse to examine the crystal, further relieved to discover that it remained a milky-white; while she had her doubts as to how functional the crystal might be, she still found assurance in its lack of warning.
Anya soon returned with a small covered tray and some type of colorful cloth draped over her arm. After setting the tray upon a small table, she flourished the cloth to reveal a brightly colored and delicately embroidered skirt similar to her own. "I do not know if you are accustomed to wearing such a garment, but it will provide you with apparel yet not restrict your legs while they heal." She draped the skirt upon a hanging rod and helped Tavia into a sitting position. Once situated, Anya retrieved the tray and set it in her lap then removed the cover with a flourish.
Thin slices of a variety of pungent cheeses and dried spiced meats fanned across the platter in such an artful display that she was hesitant to disturb it. While she was hungry enough that she would have far preferred a slab of raw meat, she was a guest and it would be poor manners to turn up her nose after the obvious effort Anya had gone through. Anya watched anxiously as Tavia's hand floated above the tray until she selected a slice of what seemed to be some sort of sausage, laden with enough spices to make her nose wrinkle.
She flashed a weak smile to Anya as she worked up the courage to take a small bite. The instant it touched her tongue, her mouth exploded from the powerful burst of spices and she had to suppress the gagging reflex which fought to dislodge the source of the overpowering sensations. She tried to force a contented smile as she fought to swallow the small bite she'd taken, but the shocked embarrassment on Anya's face revealed that she'd not hidden her aversion as well as she hoped.
Anya ducked her head, "I'm sorry that I could not provide you with something more to your liking. Our viands are fairly limited, as we must only carry foods which are not likely to spoil as we travel." If this was their good food, Tavia certainly didn't care to eat anything they considered spoiled. She instantly rebuked herself for such thoughts as Kachtige had much more acute senses than many races, particularly taste. And it seemed only reasonable that their stores while traveling would be salted or spiced to the point of becoming inedible to prevent spoilage. She certainly wasn't looking forward to any sort of future with this supposed diet.
"If you could but wait for this evening," Anya continued. "The camp we are approaching for tonight has a pleasant stream nearby which bears many fish. When we arrive, the men will leave to forage and fish while the women organize the camp. When they return, I will prepare one of my most special dishes for you. How does that sound?"
Dubious at best. If they seasoned all their food as heavily as what Anya had brought for her, she doubted that even freshly-caught fish would remain edible by the time it was served. Still, she remained a guest and certainly could not fault their intentions. "That sounds delightful." Anya kissed Tavia's cheek before departing, and the regular sway of the wagon in transit combined with her fatigue from long travels and little food coaxed her into a pleasant slumber.
* * *
Tavia wouldn't have wanted to guess how long she'd been asleep but, when she awoke, the wagon was silent and motionless. She took down the skirt Anya had left and slithered into it, surprised to discover that it had been tailored to accommodate her tail. Odd. She was debating whether or not to try walking to the door when it quietly flew open. Anya stepped inside and Tavia reluctantly quelled the urge to hide her naked feet but, when Umberto entered with her, she threw a blanket over herself and screamed.
Anya fell to her knees beside the bed, holding her gently and trying to comfort her with soothing tones, "There now, Tavia. Be at ease. Remember that such exposure does not mean the same among our people as it does among yours. You are safe here, and none among us would ever intend to shame you.
"Kamid eshtella machtre?" she queried with a very nervous tone. "Will you be my companion?" Tavia looked into Anya's face and saw tears forming in the corners of her eyes as she gazed upon the kachtige with an admixture of fear and desire. "Tavia, kamid eshtella machtre?"
These were humans, after all, and their ways remained quite strange despite having been in their lands for several years now. Anya's words and expression, had they come from a male kachtige, would have been akin to what humans referred to as an engagement; a proposal of mateship. This was another cultural misunderstanding which only threatened her with more embarrassment, and she could do little more than nod her head in silence. Anya held her tightly for a moment in a slow and tender embrace before carefully draping the small throw about Tavia's lower legs like another garment.
Umberto bowed gracefully, "Come then, honored guest of the Tamari Gitano. A small feast is prepared and we shall entertain you while you dine with us." Once her legs were covered, he leaned over the bed to sweep Tavia again into his large arms and carried her out of the wagon. Nestled into his powerful embrace, she felt far more relaxed, welcomed, and truly loved than she could ever remember.
As he set her down within a comfortable chaise, where she could see the entire camp, she realized: she was home. She still carried some apprehensions about what may yet lie in store, but she felt she belonged with these unusual people. They reveled in the sheer exuberance of living; the joys of song and dance, appreciation of comely women and handsome men, and embraced the reciprocal pleasures of sexual indulgence. Had she truly found what she had spent most of her life in search of? She didn't know yet for certain, but she thought so.
She was even more pleasantly surprised when the platter Anya had brought to her was filled with priella; a Kachti dish comprised of the artful arrangement of nearly-raw chunks of fish, lightly braised with mild herbs and nestled upon a bed of raw fish organs. The delightful aroma coupled with her intense hunger drove her to dive into the dish with unrivaled enthusiasm. She'd already eaten almost half of it when she realized that she may have violated one of the Gitano customs in her hunger, but was relieved to see Anya practically brimming with delight at her patient's enthusiasm. If anyone else had noticed, Tavia could hardly have cared.
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Regrettably, this is from an older copy of the story - a hard drive crash last year wiped out the latest version, taking several years' work with it. Comments and critique are always welcome, and I wouldn't even mind an occasional spot of encouragement should you be so inclined.
More to come...
"The only people who never fail are the ones who never try to accomplish anything." ~ My Grandfather