The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Twenty-Four – Part Two
Jelnaya: Work Continues
As soon as Kachevet and I stepped outside the coliseum we heard our names being called. It was late, so I was not surprised to see predators, tigers in this case, coming toward us. I felt that I had seen some before, but they all acted as if meeting us for the first time. With smiling faces they spoke of their pride in having us in their city, seeing me in action in the coliseum, and glad that we would be doing patrols.
I had actually thought of calling for my horse and just riding about town to quickly satisfy my promise to my uncle. However, I found as I started to the corral of Neselle's herd for Kachevet and me to be stopped almost at every intersection. It started out as just friendly meetings with predators, but in one block I saw a horse turn to us then loudly speak to others inside a building.
“Hey, it’s Kachevet and Jelnaya! Come on, everyone! Come see the heroes!”
A number of children rushed out followed by some deer. It seemed that they had come into town to gain some medical treatment, and the horse was a brother to one of the bucks. Of course, all the children were humans.
The conversation started with the children wondering what would be their fates should the games no longer be played. I knew enough to tell them that such was what was presently being decided. They listened as I spoke what I knew of their religion, focusing on them, their parents, and their community setting their minds on speaking to their Goddess. While the parents smiled at my words, I guess that I should not have been surprised to find the children focusing on other things.
“Kachevet, can I touch your nose?”
After translating for her, she knelt at the request. Even if I did have a cold, cold heart, I doubt that I could have refused the request from the young boy. Even with her kneeling, he showed fear at actually finding himself facing the fox lady. The head of what I assumed to be the doe that was his mother nudged him while telling him that Krachevet would not mind. He lightly felt the fur along the top of her nose, then seemed to grow bold enough to ask a question.
“Does it tickle?”
I translated, basically restated, then saw her rub the top of his nose while asking in return, “Does it tickle when I do it to you?”
“But I don’t have hair there.”
Continuing to translate, I saw her send a hand up to the top of his head then ask, “Well, how about now?”
Instead of the lad becoming alarmed, he squealed with delight. Suddenly, Kachevet became surrounded by the children asking about things of her appearance. The adults interjected questions about her hands and legs. As they looked at her fingers, the children played with her tail. Kachevet would at times speak of not appreciating some things done with her long, furry, rear appendage, although in turning her form to look behind her often had to handle questions from the adults about her legs. I would have been annoyed about the amount of personal attention, and felt some embarrassment at just handling the translations, but she handled it with grace with everyone speaking positively when the adults had the children move back inside.
Finding ourselves once again moving on our own, Kachevet whispered a question to me. “They don’t know what is going to happen to them, do they?”
“No, but they know what has been happening to them. Worse, they know something has to happen, as if things go on without anything happening, they will die. That is what their society understands. Before, they had the trust in their science. Now, they have the proof of their science truly providing an answer to their reproduction and their society. Before they only had the divine personalities to corrupt their thoughts. Now, they can actually have themselves to blind their trust in their Goddess. There is thus no telling how things will work out.”
“Will we be held responsible?”
“I hope.” I saw fear in the eyes of Kachevet, so explained my response. “I believe that we are doing good. Can we be held responsible for the people making a poor, stupid decision? I don’t see how. We are doing what we can as well as we can. I will have no shame for doing that.”
Things went quiet for a time. Another set of predators, wolves in this case, took advantage of the calm to have their own meeting with us. They had us move under a street light so they could fully appreciate the differences in our two drahabards. We spoke of the stories behind the weapons along with what it could mean for the future. No answers could be assured, but after some time the wolves allowed us to again move off.
Kachevet asked me, “Are you okay with that hair, or are you going to dye it?”
“Dye it?” I shook the locks before saying, “Since the color was bestowed upon me by a god, I don’t believe I should even if the strands would allow themselves to be dyed. I might have to do like you, and just wear a cloak with a hood when I don’t want to be recognized.”
“Well, I’m not certain that I want to stay a fox lady.”
I felt certain that Kachevet would not understand, but I went ahead and gave a response that my Grandfather Terish once gave me. “Then you don’t have a problem.” Sure enough, she glared at me, which only had me explain. “Since you have not made your mind up yet, it cannot be that bad. Thus, enjoy it, until you fully come to the decision of believing another option would be better.”
Kachevet looked at me with an odd expression, then said, “I bet you get tired of that hair.”
“I would probably already be tired of a part-fox body, especially that tail. Still, might as well learn what benefit it offers. Does it keep you warmer at night?” When she only looked at me with an odd expression, I asked another question. “Does it help maintain your balance? Have you learned to swish it in certain directions?”
I really did not know how she would respond to those questions. Honestly, considering how well she managed the children I slightly suspected that she had been asked before. I however saw her body tense, especially her face, as if trying to prevent herself from crying. Suddenly, I saw her tail suddenly begin moving.
“It comes naturally, as if I had always had a tail. My only problem is that I never had a tail, so my mind does not tap into those muscles. I can feel those connections, so I suspect that I will become used to having a tail.”
Wanting to put her back at ease, I said something that I had heard my Grandfather Terish and Grandmother Straekin say at times. “Yes, magic can be like that.” I then realized some other fact that I hoped would help. “Listen, Kachevet, Aunt Neselle was changed, and they allowed her to go off and not stay here as a unique oddity. That is why she and Uncle Althery get along so well. Aunt Neselle was originally a child like the other adult humans of this world, but then medically given certain features of us mature ladies.” I used my hands to indicate certain parts of my anatomy. “You thus won’t be forced to remain alone. Something will happen to make you proud of your change, like what happened with Aunt Neselle, or you will be given an opportunity to return to as you were. Thus, enjoy your time as a fox lady. I am not saying grow to like it, but at least give yourself good memories. Don’t let the fates get the upper hand over you.”
She turned to have her eyes sweep our surroundings as she asked, “Do these people like being animals?”
A lion stepped out. While he surely did not recognize her speech, I think by watching he recognized that she asked a question. Seeing him as if making himself available to supply an answer, I repeated her question.
It was another voice, that of a pig stepping out elsewhere that answered, “Yes, there is nothing wrong with us as animals. The forms limit us, so it helps that our society does not. Yes, the horses are given horse jobs, and us pigs have our jobs, but we really can do other things. Like I said, the forms limit us, but our society does not. That is what I am scared of. I am scared of us returning to a people constantly having to fight against the subjugation of tyrants. That is where the Goddess fails. I understand Her wanting Her respect, but we deserve ours as well. We did not become evil, or cruel, or anarchists. We stayed good people and developed a good society even without Her support. I feel we deserve our honor.”
The lion said, “Yeah. Not exactly what I was going to say, but – he’s right. We do have a good society.”
I sensed something taking an interest in what was being said. It was not a feeling that something was directly causing things to be said or done, but recognizing a chance to take action. Before honest beliefs could be twisted, I thought of something I could say to keep things from getting out of hand.
“Well, why does the society have to crumble just because you go back to being humans?”
The pig advanced as he stated the obvious. “I’m a pig, lady. We work the dirty jobs. We don’t have to, but the bodies do well at it. The body however cleans up well, so our homes are not dirty at all, unless we are just slobs. My point however is that these bodies force certain rules upon our society. The game keeps things honest, in that they are not rigged. If Lady Neselle proved anything, she proved the honesty of the game. I swear if the game is rigged in any manner, it is in a good manner as she is the best person that could have become our religious guide. I was not exactly happy becoming a pig, but it is a good life. Having a society where I can be here with a lion speaking to two adult human females without any fear of my place is something I am proud of. This is our society, and the Goddess can be damned if She does not like it.”
The lion said, “Let’s not go damning the Goddess, Vellor.” The pig apologized, then the lion said, “I however agree with what you were saying. We do have a good society, and we are mostly a good people. I can say that, because as a predator I have to deal with the worst of our society. You can say that the Goddess made us good people, and I cannot speak against that, but we have not become corrupt in our centuries without Her overt guidance – even with the guidance of those other beings. The Goddess is thus wrong if She is going to demand that we completely change everything to how She had it.”
A female voice, seeing it was a pig I assumed it was the wife of Vellor, said, “But if we change one thing, other things will change as well. I don’t see how we can keep this society and not be animals.”
The lion said, “Yeah, but what if we became half animals, like this fox lady here?”
Vellor answered, “Our own teachings say that you predators would then begin lording it over us other animals, because you have the strength and stuff. I work with your father, Dogrish.”
“You are talking about the game, not about us becoming half animals.”
“If our animal forms go, the game goes as well. It is our science after the game that changes us into animals, and the Goddess is against us using science.”
Another voice chimed in from above. We looked to see a human male sitting on a ledge. I thought it a strange place for one to be, but I knew that humans did move freely through the city as well. Considering that they stayed in the form of youngsters, I guess that they would continue to climb and go places adults would generally not chance. I thus looked up as the new voice spoke.
“And if we can make our forms into half animal, then we can all become half animals. Staying like this, is not that great at all. I would like to have a wife, a family, as well.”
The lion said, “Yeah. We need you humans to do things, but if we were like Kachevet we could do them as well.”
We turned to the sound of hooves, but the horse only galloped up enough to be seen in the street light before saying, “But how would becoming half animal help? A human pulling a loaded wagon just does not have my power to get it to move.”
The human replied, “We have vehicles.”
“Then you don’t need horses, and there goes two whole parts of our society: humans and horses.”
The lion said, “Maybe we need foxes.” He stepped up to make his words more personal to Kachevet. “Maybe that is why you needed to become a fox, to show us that we do have other options. How bad would it be being a fox if there were other fox people to associate with?”
From above, the human said, “Almost any mammal can be used, but we just have size problems with some. I mean, it is rather large thing. A tail from a real fox would not be the size of Kachevet’s tail, but would be not as foxy on a human form.”
More people began to come from the surrounding buildings. Kachevet stayed in the midst of the people. While not speaking herself, she listened as they occasionally used her form as a reference for their position in various debates. I moved back to just assure the safety of the growing crowd. Other predators noticed what I was doing, and worked with me. They made comments about also worrying about some divine entity corrupting the good transfer of ideas, so had me move about assuring that I did not sense anything or to check on something they felt they detected. In such a manner I felt the people were able to do what I felt my Aunt Neselle wanted to have happen.
A shift back to Neselle to see what she is doing.