by Ey Stargazer
A boy finds a tunnel under his bed filled with all sorts of strange creatures
|We didn’t return to the eating area where the women were until my face had achieved a more normal color but I’m sure that even then when I saw Gemy I went a couple more shades of red than usual. She looked beautiful, she and Alera were wearing what I assumed was my mother’s cast offs, though some of them looked rather new to me. They had both evidently been scrubbed and had their hair tamed into ponytails with ribbons. The fit was much better though now I could see more the difference in my wife’s figure beside her sister. It was a rather curvy shape. Alera had the advantage in height and her hips might have been bigger considering how the fabric clung to them with little extra room for movement, but Gemy was more balanced on top and bottom, the apron she was wearing accentuating the smallness of her waist in comparison. My father saved me from staring with my mouth open by giving me a good knock to the shoulder.
“I think he appreciates you freshening up the new ladies my love. Perhaps I’d best do the same with him or he might scare them off.”
It felt a bit weird to wear my dad’s clothes they were a bit baggy on me yet, but my dad assured me that my shoulders would get broad enough that I wouldn’t notice soon enough. Especailly if I was getting enough food.
“You aren’t going to hold it against her are you?”
“Gemy or her mother?”
He shook his head, “no I have a lot of respect for what that girl did, and in her defence she didn’t know any better. Her mother on the other hand.” I could see a bit of fire in his eyes but he shook it off, “I’ll leave her be but if she ever comes down here and tries anything…”
I tried to adjust the vest tighter while looking in to the mirror. Not as shocked at my appearance as the first time I saw it when I entered the room. My hair was finaly tamed into a ponytail and free of mats. Shaving would be a new art to learn, as evidenced by the cut I HAD MANAGED to give myself shortly after my dad passed me his razor.
“I guess we’ll need to get you your own, our family is nothing if not hairy but I think we’ll be able to pass you off as civilised to the ladies now.”
Letti seemed to be enjoying having sisters. I had been a bit worried about how she would react but with the relief of me coming home she was free to be happy about everything, even working in what was a rather cramped kitchen for four ladies.
“So I figure I’ll let the people you were closer to come for a visit and then have more of an open house, that way when you go for a tour of the town you won’t draw as many blatant stares.”
I nodded around the soup I was rapidly consuming, never again would I bemoan herbs for taking so much work to grow, or salt for being such a valuble commodity. It was also nice to be able to eat my fill after so many teasing meals over the last long time. The girls were pleasantly surprised, but ate with a bit more restraint then I did.
“I’ll get you girls used to our methods of preparing food in no time.”
“How do you get it to taste like this? I’ve had lots of goat stew but nothing like this.”
“That would probably be the salt, Alera. I’ll show you the herb bed I have later, we also have a village garden, the more people you have working on it the more can be taken care of and grown. Ed is especially fond of potato breads.” The last she directed at Gemy.
“Bread? Is that a type of root?”
“Oh, I guess you wouldn’t have much for wheat up there. Well, it’s easy to pick up, once you know what texture you want you can make nearly anything.”
“I know how to make cheese,” Gemy was trying to find something to recommend herself after finding that she wasn’t as up on things as my mother.
My mother caught on quickly as only a mother can, “I’m sure you know a lot about making things go a long way. I’d be interested to see what kind of things you’ve learned to forage, with our combined knowledge I’m sure we could come up with quite a feast.”
Gemy looked releaved, Alera took a sip of milk with a very satisfied look on her face, I was just happy they were all getting along.
“Do you need me in the field tomorrow?”
My dad laughed, “you don’t change that much do you? No Ed, you take a few days to rest and regain your strength, if you went out now there would be no shortage of people to be coming out there to ask about your story and distract you from your work. I can handle them, but I will take your assistance with selecting some for you. You’ve got your own family to think about now and you’ll need a way to provide for them. The nannies haven’t yet kidded, but that should start happening soon.”
“Do you have any of the black shiny ones?”
We both turned to Gemy, who turned a bit red at our sudden pointed attention, “black shiny ones?”
“I…I’ve seen them from up the mountain some times, they have beautiful long, smooth coats that reflect the sunlight.”
My dad looked thoughtful with his chin in his hand and his eyebrows furrowed, “oh you mean an ebony landrace.”
“I don’t think we have any of those,” I looked to my dad for confirmation.
He shook his head, “we don’t, but old John, does he has quite a flock of those little things. Aren’t much good for meat when they’re outside being a kid, but they have good rich milk and as you say a lovely coat.”
“We might be able to trade for some if…”
“Oh no,” Gemy sat back even more red then she was a moment ago, “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Nonsence,” I smiled at her, “If you’d like to have some of those we can get some.”
Alera nodded approvingly and Gemy smiled, perhaps not as sure about her place as she was on our way down the mountain.
“Well then, we’ll see about talking to him once the goats kid, that is usually the best time to approach a herder about purchases.”
My dad and I slipped into familier business language, going over things I would need to do in preparation for owning the flock, we would likely still keep them together for the most part but her were going to have to find a way to mark them more particularily.
“Then again, if we just keep track of how many are yours then if we ever need to reparate them we can just count them off. If you get some of the landrace’s those should be easy enough to pick out.”
“We could go with mine are the ones that follow me.” The smile on my face belied the fact that I was joking. Any of the goats that had been around when I was the primary goatherd would follow me anywhere, and that would still likely be the bulk of the flock.
My dad laughed in reply, “maybe someday, but I still have your sister and mother to support I’ll have you know.”
The ladies had gotten up to clean up the kitchen and the dishes already. Gemy was getting a bit glazed in the eyes with what we were talking about, but then again they wouldn’t have that much to talk about business when they were up the mountain all by themselves.
Mom spent that evening teaching the girls to use the spinning wheel, and then to crochet. The next day promised to be busy.
Any time you live in a small village it is wise to assume that whatever you do is going to be observed by everyone and they are going to be curious about anything and everything that is in the slightest bit out of the ordinary. The moment it was late enough to be considered early enough to make a polite call, it seemed that half the women of the village were lined up ouside our door with some type of dish to share as an excuse to be there. When they caught glimpses of my wife and her sister through the window it just made them even more inclined to come.
Questions flowed quick and fast. My dad and I mostly sat in the entrance to the tunnel room and greeted the men as they went about their work. After I got settled in he left to check on the goats. I could hear the women in the rest of the house. I had told Gemy that if it at any time got to be more than she could handle that she should come and find me and I would take her for a walk in the back part of the country. I certainly hoped that she would take me up on it, but now I wasn’t sure if she would even get the chance if there were too many people. Perhaps I should invent an excuse to go and check on her. Did I even need an excuse though?
“Well, you’re a sight for sore eyes.” Linus startled me out of revive just before pulling me into a hug.
“You’re not at the tannery,” was all I could manage to work out.
“who can work with the whole mountain side in an uproar about you? First the boys come home last fall with news that you’d met some terrible end, then you never show up which confirms it. We had a processional for you, you know, and then you pop up out of nowhere, married and with her sister as well no less, and you expect me to get anything done.” He put me down and looked me over, “well you’ve grown if nothing else, I told you that would happen, didn’t I.” he laughed. “Well I’m glad to have you back, not many people think to visit me when they don’t need anything. Must have something to do with me being an old bachelor.”
“Bachelor or bear.”
“How many people know I returned?”
“Must be half the mountain by now. Some people noticed you yesterday and they started spreading it around, but we didn’t think to visit till today, figured you’d want to spend some time alone with your folks yet. Though I must say no one was quite sure what to think of your young ladies.” He rubbed the back of his neck with his large hand. “Married, that must have been quite a shook.”
I shrugged my shoulder but one look at his expression let me know that that was not going to fool him. I gave a quick check to make sure we wouldn’t be overheard and then related the whole story to him. He sat there in silence till I had finished. Then leaned back.
“Well, that’s quite a story, I think I understand why you didn’t make that more well known. If you’d like I could make some descrete enquiries into who that woman might be.”
“I don’t know that it matters that much, Gemy and Alera are here and I don’t believe for a second that Thea didn’t attempt to follow us. Maybe this will be what that woman needs to snap out of it.”
“Perhaps. Still… I’m sorry about your wyrm friend. We’ve all been getting so used to them now. Is there really a dragon up there?”
I noded, “and I know not what else, there are still some of the creatures from your leather that I haven’t seen but based on the evidence…”
“You think it will only be a matter of time defore they show up?”
“Am I crazy?”
“nope, but that does make me wonder about the safelty of these tunnels.”
“They know we’re here and that we’re using them. If they plan to do anything about it,” I shrugged, “that wasn’t clear. I think that the other ones need more space for manuverabilty than the wyrms so perhaps we are safe so long as we keep close to the suface and don’t get too adventurous with going further into the tunnels.”
“Have you picked up a new one yet?”
“A new wyrm has one come to find you yet?”
I shook my head, “I don’t know that I could handle it, not after what happened.”
“I see.” We stared at each other awkwardly for a moment, the distant sound of pinging in the tunnels the only noise to distract from the chatter o women in the house. “So when do I meet this fine lady of yours?”
It was even worse than I imagined it. The house was packed with women from the front door in. For all that I was supposed to be the main attraction the girls seemed to have taken a large chunk of the attention as far as the village women were concerned. When Linus and I were finally able to make it through the entry we were greeted by more strange sights of random furniture, baskets of clothes and linens and all sorts of perserves and pickles.
“Looks like they’re trying to set you up for your own house already.”
“That’s all good and fine, I’m thankfull, but we don’t as yet have anywhere to put it.”
He smiled, “when has that ever stopped the ladies from trying to out do each other in the kindness department? They’ll take one look at you and want measurments.”
I punched his shoulder lightly hopeing not to prompt him to return the gesture. We turned the corner. Alera and Gemy were seated on either side of my mother in the middle of the living room, while women fawned over them and asked them questions in such quick succestion that they were unable to answer them. My arrival did nothing to calm tha masses. If anything it made them worse, the dim of the chatter increased exponentaily as they all started to congradulate me and ask even more questions one on top of the other. Alera looked a bit relieved and sat back a bit when she saw me. Gemy let out a breath as though she had been holding it since I left. My mom tried to signal us to come in but that was easier said than done. It takes a very long time to wade though a sea of skirts and baking goods. Oh well, I guess we weren’t likely to need to cook tonight…or maybe for a week.
“Here’s the happy groom!” I didn’t get a chance to identify the lady until she landed a kiss on my cheek.
“Oh and you’ve grown so much, well that’s all for the better. Gavin has been beside himself, why if it weren’t for Alexa I’d just wager that he’d do something drastic.”
Tried my best to move past her, Gemy was looking fidgety.
“He’ll probably be here soon, they make such a cute couple, so do you of course.” And then she grabbed my arm and nearly flung me the rest of the way to where my lady was sitting. She stood instantly to steady me…or perhaps it was just an excuse to get a hug. I could work with that. I squeezed her tightly and ran a hand over her hair a few times. I felt her relax a bit but she was certainly getting overwhelmed. There was a great deal of cooing and other such sounds from our audience, but I was able to get Linus through now for a more proper presentation.
“Linus, this is Gemy,” I moved so I could indicate Alera in a sweep of my arm, “and that is my new sister Alera.”
I didn’t expect him to bow, and he didn’t, but he did give a very cordial, “pleased to meet you ma’am.”
Gemy blushed and said it was nice to meet him but was not the least bit inclined to loosen her hold on me.
“Oh,” one of the ladies in the throng, I don’t know who suddenly exclaimed in the momentary silence that followed the introduation, “we should have a party for them, a marriage needs a dance after all.”
And after that I was unable to make out any word in two. Gemy looked worried. For good reason I suppose, but Alera was clearly excited and immedialty started whispering to my mom, every chance she got that someone wasn’t before them making a suggestion. They started to move out then, most likely to prepare even more food and to sweep the hall.
“Well,” my mom stood and streatched once enough ladies had departed that she was able to do so. Gemy held me tighter. “I guess we’d best go through some of these baskets and see if they’ve provived you girls with something that is in your size that you can also go to a party in. We haven’t had much opportunity for a large gathering so I’m sure they were just looking for an excuse.”
I smiled at Gemy as I attempted to pull back far enough to see her face. “it will be your first dance Gemy, what do you think of that?”
At first she looked more relaxed and happy, but then her features were overtaken by one of pure terror, “I don’t know how to dance!”
“umm, I don’t know very well how to do it either…”
“We have to call it off, we need more time we can’t…”
Linus reached over, he was the only one not directly in the family present now, “don’t you worry, I’m sure we can whip you into at least basic shape in no time, I don’t have anything to do this afternoon and I’m sure I can get to passable at least.”
My mom looked sceptical as she looked up form one of the linen baskets, a piece of light cream colored fabric over her arm, “you dance, Linus?”
He did his best to look wounded and grunted, “before I swore off the idea of marriage, I was the most desired partner on the mountain.”
My mom rolled her eyes. Alera giggled, and joined her in looking through the baskets. “I’ve never seen so many supplies, are they sure they can just give them to us? Surely they must need them for themselves?”
“We have a slightly more mild winter here then you do on the summit, we often have more than we need and when the ladies are bored there isn’t that much else to do but to make new things in case the old ones break down.”
Alera scanned the living room, nearly buried in the new items, “where are Gemy and Ed going to sleep tonight?”
I hadn’t thought of that, Gemy and I had occupied the living room last night while Alera had bunked with Letti. “We’ll think of something.”
Linus grabbed me and Gemy by the shoulder, “should I get started with these two outside then?”
Mom shooed Alera toward us, “don’t forget this one. We can’t hae both of them refusing partners all night.”
“But don’t you need my help…”
“I have Letti here, the other women will make enough food to choke that dragon you were talking about so we won’t have to worry too much about that but I’ll finish looking through here and Letti and I will put the house back into some semblance of order. With any luck everyone will be so busy preparing that they’ll just count on seeing you there tonight.”
“Is he in there do you think?”
Voices from outside.
“I don’t know where else he would be that we haven’t already checked.”
Then we heard the knock, “come in,” my mom called not bothering to straighten herself as she started josteling some jars in yet another basket.
Gavin rushed into the room and grabbed me, nearly lifting me off the ground in his exuberance, “so it’s tur you are here.”
From my elevated position, I watched Alexa enter the room, “Alexa, what are you doing here?”
She laughed a bell like sound, definitely my cousin, “welcome back. You scared the living daylights out of me you know.”
Gemy and Alera looked at me funny so I quickly made the introductions as Gavin finally saw fit to put me down.
“This is Gavin, I believe I mentioned him, and my cousin Alexa. Gavin, Alexa this is my wife Gemy and her sister Alera.”
Alexa and Alera both regarded each other with some fascnination while Gavin made an amendment to my introductions. “Alexa is my wife.”
He slapped me on the back, “that would make you my cousin now.”
“Are we doing this dance lesson or what?”
Dancign is no where near as easy to learn as the adults make it out to be. After stepping on Linus feet several times I fianally made a pass that didn’t have the sound of crushed toes associated with it.
“How’s the ladies doing?”
Gavin laughed, “better than he is.” Gavin had taken up teaching Alera while Alexa took Gemy over the basics.
“that might not be his fault,” my cousin piped in with a smile, “Linus’ feet are a lot bigger then Gemy’s will be.”
I smiled at her though I still wasn’t so sue about the end result.
Linus grunted, “well then ma’am if you have so much confidence in my charge perhaps you’d like to switch.”
Alexa took it as a challenge. But I did progess easier by dancing with her, for one she was a lot smaller and there by easier to lead than Linus, she was also more patient with me, and let me go off time to her counting until I got the steps better.
“Alright I think we’re ready for the lady.”
Gemy was even smaller then Alexa, but in a comfortable way. With us both being so nervous we didn’t take much for steps and in short order Gavin swept by with Alera while Linus and Alexa counted out the beat from the side of the clearing. “You are going to be expected to move a bit when the dancing starts.”
We tried again.