Billy Jo slowly came to, but was still half asleep with his eyes closed. That had been a hell of a dream: plane crash, dinosaurs, giant people, and cat women. Actually that last part had been pretty nice. He opened his eyes staring up at the ceiling of the Fyrkat building. His life was so screwed up. He swung his legs down off the sleeping bunk sitting up. He foot came down on something soft and scaly. “Hssssss!” The little lizard scampered away. His life was really, really screwed up.
He wasn’t sure where he was exactly. He vaguely remembered Harfreder escorting him away from the party last night, but he had been so tired it was all kind of fuzzy. Speaking of Harfreder, where was she? He was pretty sure this was her house, area, whatever they called it. There was a crude curtain drawn around the area. He’d been too tired to take his clothes off last night, but he took his shirt off to examine his chest. He had some bruises, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as he had expected. He’d gotten worse in kickboxing and those blows didn’t knock him off his feet and send him flying across the room. It was strange, but that was pretty much his whole life now.
He put his shirt back on and drew the curtain. No one appeared to be home. That wasn’t unusual; people didn’t usually stay in the buildings during day. Not like there was a TV to watch or anything. He ventured out into the village. He saw the orange guy carrying a bucket of water from the well. The orange guy had a name, but he couldn’t remember it. There were only two orange people among the farming people and the other one was a woman, so Billy Jo just thought of him as the orange guy.
“Hey… .you. Have you seen Harfreder today?”
“She left with the hunters at day break. The elders said to let your people rest today as you all looked very tired last night.”
“I just wanted to let you know that we are all very thankful for your help. Rarely have the giant people been driven from our land without loss of life. We are lucky to have such great warriors assist us.”
Not this again. They had gotten in a few lucky shots, but the hunters were a lot better at fighting than he and his friends where. “I’m not really warrior, I’m just a carpenter. But thanks.” The orange guy nodded respectfully to him and went on with his duties.
She was gone. He really wanted to talk to her. He stopped for a minute caught in the thought. Was this what it was like? The one night stands where he left in the morning before the woman woke up, leaving them wondering what had happened or if he was coming back. This place had him so off balance; it better not be turning him into a wuss. There was no one around he wanted to punch, so he went looking for Herger. Maybe he could build something.
Herger was a gray-furred Leaping Person. He wasn’t completely comfortable with the Leaping People. They were just a little too different. Herger was a nice enough guy though. He had a good sense of humor and was a very good carpenter. It was amazing some of things he could do with his crude tools. Marcus was working with him to try to develop some better tools, but they were still early in the process. He didn’t think Herger had much faith in his abilities as a carpenter because he put him to work using an adz. He’d never used an adz before, actually he’d never heard of one. Basically he was creating smooth boards from logs by scrapping the bark and wood off until it was smooth and flat. It was hard work and took forever. They really needed a table saw, maybe Marcus could make one. Of course Marcus was still trying to get a regular hand saw made, so a table saw probably wasn’t going to be happening any time soon.
He mangled the first log while he got the hang of it and had created three other good boards. Didn’t seem like much for a couple hours of work. He sat down on a stump to take a break and drank some water from a bucket. It occurred to him that they didn’t have chairs. The houses had built-in benches along the walls and one of the weavers had a stool, but he hadn’t seen a chair with a back. He took an inventory of the tools that we available and went to work. He used an axe to cut one of the boards he had made in half and then split the halves down the middle to get four relatively uniform pieces of wood. Herger had a type of draw knife which he actually had used before. He used it to whittle the four pieces down into uniform lengths to form the basis of seat. The he cut down two more short pieces and two longer pieces that would go up to form the back. He cut joints to fit the pieces together and used some iron nails to secure it. Herger continued his worked, but glanced over in his direction frequently to see what he was up to. Once he finished he set it up. It didn’t have a wooden seat or back, he was going to get the weavers to make a cloth one that way it would be more comfortable. Herger took a look at it. “Interesting. You know Mister Grimm suffers back pain from time to time, he might appreciate a stool like that.” Billy Jo took his chair to the weavers.
The weavers were fascinated by the idea and eager to help. In no time they had created a cross woven seat and back. Once it was complete he presented it to Mister Grim who was sitting on a stump smoking his pipe. He was skeptical at first, but gave it a try. He settled down into the chair and leaned back. He let out a small sigh and took a draw from his pipe. “I think I like it.” Sitting there in the chair with his pipe and straw hat, Mister Grim looked just like his grand pappy had only furrier. He couldn’t help but smile at the image.
Billy Jo was hard at work on his second chair. Several people had stopped by inquiring about them; apparently they were a hit with the villagers. Maybe, he’d make a rocking chair next. He pounded in the last nail with an iron headed mallet and looked up to find Harfreder watching him. He had no idea how long she’d been standing there, she moved like a ghost without even trying.
“You really are a carpenter.”
He wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Was being a carpenter a good thing or a bad thing? He wanted to say something to her, or maybe he should let her talk. Damn it, he hated this place. Before too long he’d be crying when she came home late. He wasn’t sure what to do and that was the problem. He was usually confident and knew the right things to say, but he didn’t know what to say here. He’d never even dated someone from another country much less another species. Pull it together man. Now that he was more focused he could see the play of emotions across Harfreder’s face. It looked like she was in the same boat he was in, which made him feel better. She was the first to speak.
“Perhaps we should talk.”
He replied “Mmmmm” while nodding his head. At least that was an appropriate male response.
They walked for a bit passing the wall of the village. You pretty much had to if you wanted any privacy, the village wasn’t that big. She didn’t touch him or try to hold his hand; they just walked side by side in silence. Once they were outside the village she began the conversation.
“You must be confused.”
She had hit the nail of the head. “I am. I don’t know your customs. Was last night something you do all the time? Does everyone do it?”
Of course it was complicated. She might part cat, but she was a woman and things were always complicated with women.
“To answer your question: no it’s not something I do all time. Nor do most of the women in the village, though there are a few that do. It’s much more common among the men.” OK, he could relate to that. “Though, it was not my first time.” She hardly needed to add that, it was pretty damn obvious she knew what she was doing yesterday.
“Did you expect us to… make love when you asked me to go hunting with you?”
“I hoped for it, but I wasn’t sure. I wanted to see you hunt first.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I am different than most of the Hunting People. I relish the drive to hunt instead of trying to control it. It is in our blood. It is who we are. To deny it is foolish. The others look down on my… recklessness. Most will not hunt alone with me for fear of injury. I also do not wish to have a family. I would have to stop hunting for a time to care for the child and afterward I could not hunt like I do now. My duty would be to the child.”
Responsibility. He could understand that. He did a lot of stupid crap, but if he had a child things would be different. He’d seen it happen to many of his friends. Some of his drinking buddies used to be up for anything, like going four wheeling in the woods at night after six pack. Once they had kids they changed. He’d still see them once and while. They’d catch a game and have a few beers, but they usually had to get home before it got too late.
She continued. “The Farming People and Leaping people do not hold my interest. Many of them try to become hunters because they think it will be exciting, few succeed. Danger is part of a hunter’s life, not all creatures out there are prey some are predators. Most of the Farming People and Leaping People hesitate when confronted by danger. Hunters that hesitate when faced with danger die quickly or get their companions killed. I saw you in battle with the Giant People. You did not hesitate even when many of the hunters did. And you charged the Giant Man. Rarely have I seen such courage.” The intensity of her eyes and the way she stressed the last word, it was a turn on for her. He paused a second to think it over before he got distracted by that line of thought. She wasn’t that popular with the other cat people and she didn’t want a family. She wanted a real man, but the Farming People and Leaping People are pansies. He was starting to feel pretty good about himself now. You know when he thought back about it, it must have looked pretty impressive when he charged the Giant Man. Mel Gibson couldn’t have done a better job. Of course it was more stupid than brave; he thought everyone else was going to charge up there with him. But no one ever needed to know that. This was actually pretty cool. She thought he was a brave warrior that kicked ass. “I had to be sure, which is why I asked you to hunt with me. You did not hesitate; you jumped from the limb and stabbed the boar with your spear. When you lost your weapon you tried to wrestle it with your bare hands.” Wrestle it? That must have been when he grabbed the tusks to keep if from goring him. Harfreder’s tail was swishing back and forth rapidly now instead of its normal sway and he recognized the look in her eyes. The thought of him fighting with the boar was turning her on. His faith in this place was restored. He grabbed her and kissed her passionately.
Later she started the conversation back up. Billy Jo was still trying to catch his breath… she was quite athletic and flexible. He was going to have to start jogging to build his stamina up. “There was something else I was going to say before we got distracted. There is a cat person in the village named Agni who wishes to have a family with me. He is a weaver.” She practically spat the last word like it was an insult. It probably was to her. Billy Jo knew who he was. Most of the cat people were hunters, so this guy looked out of place with the weavers. The weavers were also mostly woman. Billy Jo’s first thought had been that he must be gay. He could see why Harfreder wouldn’t like him. “I have not chosen a mate to have a family with and am of the age where the elders must soon choose one for me for the good of the village. However, they will delay if I have a lover. Agni will not be happy.” Great. Jealous wanna be boyfriend. That never turns out well.
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