Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/566912-Part-56--Exchange
Rated: XGC · Serial · Fantasy · #566912
Khetai is on the selling block, and Resikh finds himself with a strange new mate...
Note: This item has been rewritten and edited. All text in rose is BRAND NEW MATERIAL for this chapter of the story. In addition there are many minor changes to the original text itself. Please enjoy this new, expanded version of Part 56 and be on the lookout for updates to the next parts!

A SOFT SWISHING noise slowly faded into Meteri's consciousness. He fought against it for a moment, before realizing that he'd been sleeping; blinking and yawning, he sat up and rubbed at his eyes, trying to accustom them to the darkened room. He made certain to look down to check on Captain Fe'kheru next, only to see...the cot was empty. Fe'kheru was gone.

Meteri's ears pricked and he bolted up with a start, knocking over his stool. He gasped and grabbed at a sheet before looking around wildly. "Lord--?"

He nearly jumped when he saw a figure at the window of the room, and started to reach for his sword before noticing that they weren't even looking at him. Instead they stared outside, wings stretching and flexing, making the swishing noise that had awakened him. He let out his breath and blinked again, confused. He couldn't be seeing what he thought he was seeing.

"Lord Fe'kheru...?"

The figure finally turned its head to face him, and in the dim light he saw Fe'kheru's eyes. The captain smiled at him slightly and he felt his heart rise and start thudding hard. He approached.

"Lord...? You are awake...?" He blinked a few times and tears came to his eyes, blurring his vision; he blinked again and they cleared, and he waved his hands. "Lord, you shouldn't be out of bed! You were very ill!"

"I am fine, Meteri." Fe'kheru turned back to the window as Meteri joined him and he stretched his wings again. "In fact I feel better than I have in quite a while now," he murmured, and they looked out at the courtyard together. "Somehow...I even feel almost like I could fly over the wall, if I wanted to."

"Your wings, Lord--?" Meteri glanced at them as if expecting to see something different. He knew of the ache that Fe'kheru often felt in his wings.

Fe'kheru nodded. "They feel...better." He paused and frowned a little, looking at the lieutenant. "'Teri-Kana...what was it that happened while I slept? I have little memory, save of the fight."

Meteri grasped his arm. "You collapsed after the fight, Lord. You could not even speak! General Mahakhi ordered the physician to see to you, but he did not know what was wrong. They brought in a female then and she said it was your heart--that it had gotten weak. That you would have shown signs--like your arm hurting." Fe'kheru peered down at his left arm and flexed his fingers a little. "I told her this was so and she then left with She'hekha-Kana to go down to the river...I stayed here with you. They returned with some plants and then she pounded them into powder and gave you the drug!"

"A female?" Fe'kheru gave him a puzzled look. Meteri nodded hastily.

"Yes, Lord! I couldn't understand all of what they spoke about. The physician didn't know what was wrong with you. But the female said it was your heart. She seemed to know exactly what she was talking about. She'hekha-Kana offered to escort her to the river so she would not run away. She said that the plant could have been terrible poison if not prepared just right, yet apparently..." He trailed off and his eyes grew wet; he reached up one hand to wipe at them. "Then they took her away, and that was the end of it. The physician quit his quarters so you might rest in peace. This was just yesterday; you have slept all the night through. I have been by your side ever since."

"Where is She'hekha? And this female, while I am asking?"

"She'hekha is probably about the household, Lord. He's accustomed himself somewhat though I get the feeling he wishes to return home. The female, I have no idea what became of her...they treated her like a Moru, but for allowing her to act as a physician. She knew exactly what she was doing and she even spoke up like a Kana!" He furrowed his brow. "What sort of strange tribe have we come amongst, Lord?"

Fe'kheru shook his head absently, looking out into the courtyard again. "I have little idea, Meteri...yet now that I am feeling better, though, I suppose I will find out." Meteri's hand crept up to his mouth and he started chewing on his claw. Fe'kheru looked at him and frowned a little. "What is it, 'Teri-Kana...?"

"Well...Lord..." He had to force himself to stop chewing. "This female...ah...she also advised that you not exert yourself too much. Apparently, this medicine takes a while to act properly, and it has been only one night; you are sure you wish to be walking about so soon, Lord...?"

Fe'kheru gave him a reassuring look. "I promise I will not engage in combat, or try flying over the wall just yet," he said, and Meteri sighed. "Do not worry, 'Teri-Kana...I only plan to walk around a little, and see what this tribe is about. I must admit that they are not all that I had thought they would be." He shuffled his wings.
"We have very little business left here as it is. My mate must be lonely. And General Nahus cannot be much better off than before..."

Meteri's nod was considerably graver this time. "Yes, Lord."

"I am going to look about just a bit to see what I might learn. Please do not give me that look, Meteri; I tell you I feel fine. Would I be able to do this otherwise?" He stretched his wings as wide as he could, so that they spanned nearly half of the room; Meteri stared up at them in awe before he lowered them again. "You should go and finish what business you may have left yourself; if you have none, then see to our belongings, and the other men. I assume they must grow restless by now..."

"Actually, Lord...um..." Meteri scratched meekly at his ear. "Most have taken to the taverns lately. When they are drunk, they do not care who the enemy is, so long as they are drunk along with them."

Fe'kheru laughed. "Well, at least they are not fighting. Yet. Go see if you can find Fa'rukha and get him to round them up. They can't help but listen to him. I will meet back with you in not too long. And stop worrying. Your muzzle will stay wrinkled that way if you don't."

Meteri just made a face at him. "You have only just awakened, and already you are trying to be rid of me!" he exclaimed with a great sigh, but Fe'kheru could tell he was merely joking--or at least attempting to--and smiled again, before turning and heading for the door. He took in a breath of the cool air in the hallway as he walked, picking up his pace--his wings and arms and legs didn't even hurt, as they had now and then, he had grown so used to the aches--and glancing at the doors as he went. He made his way in the direction of She'hekha's temporary quarters, but the door stood open, and he peered inside and saw nobody within. He heard a whistle from the courtyard beyond and stepped inside, frowning slightly as he approached the window. He craned his neck to see Lieutenant She'hekha seated by the pool, and the lieutenant waved at him to catch his attention; he stepped outside and turned his head to see the female that he had bought seated some distance away, still in a harness and with her wrists tied, her eyes glaring at him evilly. He furrowed his brow as he approached.

"Good day, Lord," She'hekha greeted. "I take it you're feeling better already."

"Somewhat." Fe'kheru couldn't stop looking at the female's malevolent eyes.

She'hekha waved at her. "I thought she might enjoy a trip out of that stuffy room. It looks as if I was mistaken." He cocked his head. "There was something you wished--?"

"I was told by Meteri that a female was brought in to see to me while I was out, and that you had some doings with her."

"If by 'doings' you mean that I escorted her to the river and back, then yes, we had doings. A strange female whose name I have heard given as Khetai."

"Khetai? This is a male name. I was told she administered some sort of medicine...?"

She'hekha nodded. "I myself have been told that she was the mate of one of the lieutenants here, and was involved in some sort of deal he struck before the grand tribunal...it is all very convoluted...in any case, she once fancied herself Kana and apparently had everyone fooled for quite a while. An Antakh with breasts, you might say." He started laughing.

The female seated off to the side wrinkled her muzzle. "Shit for a head," she muttered. Fe'kheru blinked at her but She'hekha merely waved again.

"Forgive her, she is merely pissy. Anyway this female apparently knows more of medicine than that quack of a physician, and so she managed to mix you a little something to fix you up. One problem is that she has too much of a mouth on her; she actually warned that this drug could be used as poison." The corner of his muzzle wrinkled. "If I were her I would not have even mentioned that fact, and let chance play out as it may."

"Did you see what became of her?" Fe'kheru asked.

She'hekha paused to look up at him, frowning slightly, then shrugged it off and gestured toward the house. "Taken off to the Moru quarters. This is all I know of what became of her; her master will have nothing more to do with her. You will recognize her if you see her, Lord; she is that same one who passed in the hallway the day before the fight." He picked up a cup of beer sitting beside him and took a sip. "This is all I know," he said, and made a strange face which told Fe'kheru that he actually knew more, but the captain didn't press. He nodded and turned back for the house.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. If you head out into the city later this evening, please try to get your men in some semblance of order, so that we may depart, either after nightfall or tomorrow morning as time allows."

"Of course, Lord. I will see you later."

Fe'kheru returned to the household and started walking back up the hall, staring at the floor absently as he walked. When he reached the doors out of the household he expected difficulty, but the guards stepped aside and saluted him politely; he supposed he must be recognized, by now. He bobbed his head and saluted them in return, surprising them, before starting down the steps; a huffing noise from below made him lift his head, and he saw a lieutenant jogging up his way, eyes wide.

Fe'kheru halted. "First Lieutenant--?" he prompted, hating not to remember the other Kana's name; the Kana blinked at him, then hastily saluted. His sandals were dusty.

"Nehef, Lord. I take it you are feeling better--?"

"Yes, I am; I seem to vaguely remember you being there. Thank you for helping."

"This is no problem, Lord; so far you have been nowhere near as obnoxious as your brother." He turned and started up the steps again, so flustered that he didn't notice the odd look Fe'kheru got at the comment; Fe'kheru had to reach out and grasp his arm to stop him, and the lieutenant nearly spun him around, he was in such a hurry. He glanced back at the captain, shifting from foot to foot as if he had to relieve himself. "There was something you needed, Lord--?"

"Actually, yes. I was wondering if you were present when this female--this 'Khetai'--assisted me."

Nehef's brow furrowed. "Actually, Lord, I was the one who brought her to you, and she said what was wrong, but after that I was forced to leave. I don't know much more than this."

Fe'kheru frowned. "I must have said something strange--? I cannot help but notice the look you've gotten on your face..."

Nehef flushed and saluted. "Apologies, Lord, it's just--it's rather odd timing, that you ask after Khetai-Moru. I was just on my way to speak with her m--with Lord Djuta, who once owned her--to let him know what's going on."

"Going on--?"

"Yes, Lord; they are selling Khetai in the city." He saluted once more, pulling his arm free and jogging the rest of the way up the steps and into the household, out of sight. Fe'kheru stared after him for a moment, and it felt almost as if his heartbeat had picked up; he forced himself to take a breath to calm it, and looked back toward the city.

What will they do with her now?

Likely sell her...I can bet there are plenty of horny Kana hereabouts who would very much like to hump her the first chance they get. With hope, she will kick them in the balls first, at least...

Fe'kheru's ears flared. He felt at his belt to make certain that all of his pouches and belongings were in place, before trotting down the steps and making his way into the town.

* * * * *

Lieutenant Djuta paced in his quarters. He'd been pacing in his quarters a good deal today. Rithukh'het was bothered simply watching it, yet never protested; he was her master--what was the point of complaining? At least he was not beating her, or throwing furniture around. If he wished to pace, she supposed it was his right as a Kana...still, she would have preferred knowing what it was that weighed on his mind so heavily. All of that day, ever since he'd returned to his quarters, he'd done almost nothing but pace. That, and look up at the window, as if trying to see off into the distance; then looking at the floor again, and pacing.

Rithukh'het sighed and lay back on the bed to stare at the canopy. He didn't even hear the plaintive sound that she let out, which was odd. He was usually so attentive to her needs. Something truly must be bothering him.

She rolled over onto her elbows and lifted her head, swishing her tail about and debating with herself over whether she should simply ask him or not. But he chose that moment to stare out the window again, and this time didn't look back down as he paced. He kept his eyes focused not on the courtyard, but on the scenery in the distance, the city wall and the wilderness just barely visible beyond it. And for some reason she couldn't get the words to come.

He seemed to finally grow tired of pacing, turned to the door, quitting his room altogether without even a farewell to Rithukh'het; she sat up and furrowed her brow as he went, the door shutting behind him. Once he was gone she threw herself back down on the bed and let out a loud whine.

Djuta stalked down the hall with no real purpose in mind but to get out of the household for a while; after speaking with She'hekha, and after what had happened with Khetai, he found the air stifling, and felt like he would go mad staying in one place. And so he headed toward the entrance, tail whipping from side to side and claws digging into his palms. After a time he spotted a vague shape making its way toward him, and it waved, making him scowl. He didn't slow his step as Nehef reached him, turning to fall into pace beside him, his breath catching in his throat.

"Hey, Brother!
I'd hoped I'd find you, but you're a difficult one to find lately! What in the Duat have you been up to--?"

"I doubt you came for conversation, Nehef," Djuta said in a flat voice, still walking.

Nehef blinked, then blushed and lowered his head a little to rub at his neck. "Well...no then, I did not." His eyes grew and he grasped Djuta's wrist. "I came to warn you about Khetai-Moru!"

Djuta halted and frowned at him, feeing a coldness seeping up in his chest. "Warn--?"

"Yes, warn, since you are so tardy just showing up!" When Djuta did nothing but give him a blank stare his brow furrowed. "You mean--they truly did not tell you--?" he asked in disbelief, then clenched his fists and wrinkled his muzzle. "The dogs! They were meaning to go through with it without even letting you know--?"

"Letting me know what, Nehef?" Djuta echoed, getting ready to pull on his lappets.

Nehef fanned his wings and gestured wildly down the hallway. "They are placing Khetai upon the auction block as we speak! I had thought to remind you in case you forgot, yet it appears you were never informed in the first place!"

Djuta stared at him with wide eyes, his mouth hanging open. "Khetai-Moru--? They--they are selling her--?" he managed to get out after a moment.

Nehef nodded impatiently. "I took her to the auction myself! I...I did not like the look that she got on her face, but I had to leave her to see to you. The scribe filled me in and all of it is legitimate--signatures, forms, everything. She is to be sold today!"

It was a moment before Djuta could find his voice. "You mean--they had intended to sell her without me?" he gasped at last, and his muzzle began to wrinkle, his wings flaring so that Nehef cringed. "Without me?" Djuta felt a fire rising in his breast, and had to clench his fists to avoid flailing them at the air. All of the frustration and anger that he had been feeling erupted, and his voice came out shrill and cracking with rage. "She is MY property! They CANNOT sell her without me present!"

Nehef made a face, waving at him. "I know this, Brother, yet still this is exactly what they are doing--according to the note signed by Mahakhi, it is legitimate, and it is the deal that you yourself agreed to before the grand tribunal. They had set up the block and started their spiel by the time I turned back to come here. They are selling her to the second-highest bidder."

Djuta snarled so loudly that the hall echoed as if a lion had just been set loose, and Nehef jumped back. "The HELLS they are!" he bellowed, and, grasping the pommel of his sword, he whirled around and stomped off down the hall. Nehef chose not to follow, merely watching him leave, his ear twitching as he pitied whoever Djuta might run into.

* * * * *

A crowd, larger than usual, had gathered at the west side of the market square. An alley stood here, leading in between two of the businesses. A platform had been set up at the end, against the city wall; it was here that several Kana stood, talking in low tones while the rest shouted and jostled. A few of them saw Djuta as he approached and managed to jump out of the way in a great haste, not liking the look on his face; a few more were pushed aside violently. Djuta even shoved aside an enemy Kana, who nearly fell over before another grabbed his arm. They watched him silently as he headed toward the platform, though they did give each other odd looks.

The rest of the Kana had by now spotted the furious lieutenant, and likewise cleared a path for him. The Kana standing atop the platform spotted him and fell silent as he approached and stopped not too far away, fists clenched and wings flaring. Khetai sat on the platform with her hands bound before her and her wings hobbled; he looked at her with her wide eyes, then back at the Kana standing atop the platform beside her, tense looks on their faces; they wore brown lappets with the insignia of the Moru traders. Djuta spat on the stage and they jumped back as if it were fire.

"How dare you try to cheat me thus!" he snarled. "You cannot sell a Kana's property without him present! Just when I had thought the Kana had stooped as low as is possible, you surprise me yet again!"

One of the traders worked up enough courage to scowl at him. "She is no longer your property!" he snapped back. "You forfeited your claim to her as soon as it was found she could bear you no child!"

Djuta's lip curled back. "Because of one of YOUR friends! Am I to believe you have no part in any of this--? With how quickly she was dragged out of the house without me knowing? I am supposing you bastards work directly for Rik'hia-dog!"

"As it happens we do not even know any Rik'hia-Kana! This is not our argument to make, Lord! We are here only to make certain that your end of the agreement is upheld. It appears someone overlooked informing you; this has already been remedied. You are here, so the selling may begin."

Djuta snarled and grasped for his sword just as a voice warned, "Lord Djuta."

His arm relaxed and he glanced back to see Captain Ahen standing amongst the crowd. The Kana gave him a disapproving look and he wrinkled his muzzle. He turned back to the platform and spat again, then turned away. The traders let out a sigh of relief before one of them moved to the edge of the stage and held up his hands, yelling over the crowd.

"Gentlemen! Your attention please!" The loud chattering and talking which had dimmed somewhat on Djuta's arrival died down even more now, and some of those gathered craned their necks as if to see better. The trader clasped his hands and gave his most winning smile. "Today is a fortunate day for you, Lords! Today we have gathered to hold a special auction. I can tell by your numbers that you agree it was worthwhile to come! A choice female is the item offered today. She is with her flaws...yet I am certain her virtues more than make up for this!"

He turned and walked over to Khetai, taking her by the elbow and lifting her to her feet. They both approached the front of the stage as the crowd began to murmur appreciatively, and her eyes darted about nervously.

"See here! One young female, name of Khetait, also known as Khetai. She is twenty-three years of age, quite attractive--do you not agree?--and bears the most lovely wings! Please, do not hide them; show off your pretties!"

With a flick of his wrist he cut the hobbles on Khetai's wings, and as if by instinct she stretched them. The murmur in the crowd grew louder on seeing them and Khetai flushed and ducked her head. A few of the Kana in the crowd nodded at each other and licked their lips.

"What did I tell you?" the trader said, smiling broadly. "Exquisite, are they not? Excuse me, but do you see Lord K'tasai anywhere among your number...? No? Then you are indeed fortunate! If he were here, she would be gone in an instant!" A laugh rippled through the crowd, then the trader raised his hands again.

"But this is not all! Please bear with me. You can see already she is well built, and this is only verified by the fact that she passed as Kana--for three years!" Another murmur. "Yes, you heard me correctly; this is the same Khetai to stand before the grand tribunal not that very long ago. And so you know already that not only is she one beautiful Moru, but she is well disciplined and intelligent, as well!"

"Perhaps too much so?" someone in the audience retorted, and there were a few nodded agreements. The trader waved his hands.

"I beg to differ, Lord! Who better to serve as a good Moru slave than one who has been trained among the Kana to know how to obey orders? She is trained in fighting and in medicine--yes, you heard me correctly!--and she is quite physically capable...and I am certain she is capable in other areas, too!"

A few chuckles. These turned into full-fledged hoots when the trader used his knife to cut open the front of Khetai's dress, baring one of her breasts. She gasped and brought her arms up to shield herself, her face going red and an utterly mortified look entering her eyes. The crowd started laughing. Djuta took a step forward with his teeth bared, but was blocked from approaching too closely.

The trader grinned. "What did I tell you, yes? Are they not exquisite? A bit small, but nice and pert, yes?" He reached out and nudged Khetai's arm out of the way to cup her breast as if he were showing off a fresh piece of fruit; Khetai's eyes filled with tears but she did nothing. "Unfortunately there are a few drawbacks to such a female, as there always are," the trader admitted, and counted on his fingers. "Number one, is she is unable to bear children. And so she may not make a suitable breeding mate. But she would make a most excellent bedmate! We have heard she is skilled indeed at hakh'tua--albeit upon those of her own sex, and not the Kana--" more laughter and catcalls, and Khetai shrank in on herself, wings hunching "--and she has a spark of fire to her, which means she would be most exciting in the bed! This brings me to number two. Her temper can be quite fearsome, so perhaps you had best let her grow accustomed to you before demanding hakh'tua--else she may bite off a little more than she can chew!"

The crowd erupted into bellows of laughter. Khetai lowered her chin to her chest and squeezed her eyes shut, shoulders shaking. The Kana standing around Djuta slowly backed away from him; his anger very nearly surrounded him with a violent red glow. He stepped toward the stage again and this time no one but Ahen dared hold out their hand.

"You've made your point, bastard," he hissed. "This was to be an auction and not a public humiliation! If this continues then all bargains be damned! I will step up and slit your throat myself!"

The trader swallowed but managed a nervous smile. "Eh, you see...the former master himself! If this is how he feels about a female who was unable to provide him with sons, imagine how you will feel!" He pointed at a Kana standing not too far from the stage. "What do you think, Lord--? Could you make use of such a pretty mate?"

"Everybody knows he prefers males!" somebody hooted, and there was another laugh when the Kana in question slapped the head of the offender.

The trader pointed to a Yellow Sands lieutenant standing at the edge of the crowd with arms crossed and a vaguely amused look on his face. "You! Good Lord! Your name--? Surely you could make do with such a Moru of your very own?"

The Kana blinked, then snorted. "Fa'rukha. Yes, she is pretty." His ear flicked. "But she's a little bit skinny for me. Maybe if you fetch one with a little more meat on her bones, I will fatten your pockets, but not right now."

There were a few goodnatured boos. "I could use her!" somebody exclaimed, and a few more voices joined his, several Kana waving their hands in the air and winking.

"I will give you five golds for her, Trader! Even if she's pupless surely she's a nice fit between the legs!"

"Feh, I will give you ten golds. I bet her ass is even better!"

"Have you mutts no appreciation of a good female--? Twelve gold rings is what I will pay you for her!"

A small squabble arose. The trader raised his hands.
"Keep in mind, Lords, that the starting price of such a female as this is at the very lowest, fifteen gold rings." The crowd fell briefly silent, then the murmur returned, not quite as pleased this time. The trader gave an ingratiating smile. "Hold, hold please, Lords! Do not worry yet! Keep in mind all I have told you--if I did not already have more mates than I can handle, I would buy her myself, this is how much of a bargain she is. Fifteen gold rings! You need only bid this or higher, and she may be yours! Who will bid first?" A few Kana looked thoughtful. "Do I hear fifteen gold rings--?"

"Fifty gold rings."

Immediately the crowd fell silent. Everyone turned to see who had spoken, as the voice had come from the back of the crowd, yet had managed to carry even up to the stage, where both the trader and Khetai stood gawking in disbelief. The trader squinted and shielded his eyes, trying to determine the source of the voice.

"Er--ahm..." He stammered and grinned uneasily. "Perhaps you misheard me, Lord, wherever you are--? I said fifteen gold rings--"

"Fifty gold rings. This is what I will pay you for her."

Djuta slowly turned around. The crowd parted once more as the speaker came forward. Everyone's eyes widened when they saw that it was the enemy captain, striding forward with his lappets swinging. He came to a halt before the stage, not far from the lieutenant, who could only stare at him in open disbelief.

The trader's reaction was much the same. He swallowed and blinked and coughed. "Ah...fifty...gold rings, Lord...?" he echoed in a weak voice. "I hear you correctly?"

Fe'kheru nodded.

The trader coughed again and rubbed at his suddenly glistening forehead. "Eh...well. I...this is...certainly unexpected! I don't believe I can remember a Moru ever selling for so high..."

"I hear no other offers," Fe'kheru said.

Djuta gaped at him, then his muzzle wrinkled. He hissed and whirled toward the stage.

"I refuse to let you sell her to him!" he shouted. "She will not go to the enemy Kana!"

Fe'kheru frowned and looked at him. Ahen stepped forward with a similar look on his face and seized Djuta by the shoulder.

"This is the bargain, Djuta," he said under his breath. "No agreement was reached other than that she would go to the next-highest bidder! You have no say in who may or may not purchase her. She goes to he who bids highest, whoever he is!"

"I will not allow them to take her away from the tribe and do with her as they will! She is to stay where I may see to her--THIS is the deal now!" Djuta snarled, making even Ahen blink and let go of his shoulder. "You may as well sell her to that dog U'heta if this is what you will allow!" He drew his sword and brandished it high, causing the rest of the Kana, aside from Fe'kheru, to gasp and back away. "She stays IN the tribe!"

Khetai stood with an awed look upon her face, as if she had never seen this Djuta before. The trader wrung his hands in distress.

"Lord, please! You frighten the buyers away...!"

"Lord Djuta," Ahen growled, his eyes darkening. "You'd best think very carefully of your next actions, unless you should like to face the tribunal again. I do not think Mahakhi would be so kindly disposed this time."

Fe'kheru glanced at the trader, then at Lord Ahen and at the crowd in turn. He then looked straight at Djuta, and the lieutenant nearly wilted under his stare; the River Tribe captain's eyes were like stormclouds, and they drilled right through him.

"Lords," he said in an oddly quiet voice. "If I may have a moment with the lieutenant?"

Ahen blinked. Then he furrowed his brow a little, yet nodded and stepped back. The trader likewise bobbed his head, wiping his brow again with a small sigh. Fe'kheru turned and strode past Djuta, but squeezed his elbow hard as he went; Djuta winced as a pain jolted up his arm, and his first instinct was to lop off the Kana's head, before he saw that he had already continued on ahead of him. He gritted his teeth at this gesture of open disrespect, but followed. The crowd watched in silence as they departed, leaving the alley and stepping out into the open street.

As soon as they rounded the corner Djuta gasped; Fe'kheru's hand had gone around his throat, and he slammed into the side of the building. He blinked and coughed, rubbing at the back of his head; the captain glared at him, barely able to conceal his disgust.

"Do you wish for them to slit her wings and turn her into a bedslave, Lieutenant?" His voice came out harsh, and Djuta's instinct was to reply in turn. He pushed himself away from the wall and flared his wings.

"As if what you may offer her is any better?" he hissed. "At least with this I will be able to keep my eye upon her. Whereas should you be allowed to buy her, gods know what you'll do as soon as you step outside the gate!"

Fe'kheru let out a flustered sigh and threw up his hands. "Do you really think I have it in me to desire another bedmate? I already have one of my own! I have no need for another!"

Djuta scowled. "So say you. I am to trust your word when just yesterday you would have taken my general's head, had you been able?"

Fe'kheru's lip curled back and he clenched his fists. "I had no intentions of taking anyone's head, fool! No wonder your general is so exasperated with you if this is how you act!" He pulled himself up straight and took in a breath, letting it out in an effort to calm himself. "Look," he continued, lowering his voice back to normal, "I have told you. I have a mate already, and do not desire another. I have no need for another. In case you doubt me, I have not fathered any children in the past five or so years, nor do I have the intention of fathering any now; as if she could bear them anyway!"

"Dropping pups is hardly the most of her worries!" Djuta hissed. "She has been badly mistreated by others here. I will hardly allow it to happen again!"

"And this is an honorable goal, Lieutenant, yet you are going about reaching it in the wrong way. I have no intent of mistreating her. You think I would mistreat the very one who saved my life?" He waved toward the alley. "This is the reason why I had wished to spare her from the further humiliations of your tribe!"

Djuta opened his mouth to retort, then blinked in surprise. Fe'kheru pressed on before he could regain his voice.

"I speak the truth, Lieutenant Djuta. When I was ailing, your female made me well again. Lord Meteri and Lord She'hekha were witness. I would never harm a hair upon her body. However, all I can see in your tribe is how the other men wink and lick their lips and hoot at her. Do you really want her to go to one of them? When their intentions are so obvious? That idiot trader made hardly any mention of her knowledge of medicine; you would think that coupling is the only thing she is good at."

"This is not true," Djuta blurted out, and Fe'kheru nodded.

"I know this, Lieutenant. Which is the reason for my generous offer. I doubt any of your men would want her for such an exorbitant price. Which is why I am willing to pay it in full, should she accompany me back to my household. We are not all the brutes you think we are, Lieutenant, and she will be treated with respect under our general's roof. She will have other Moru to keep her company, there will be no Kana panting after her, and I will allow her to continue doing the very thing that she is best at. Yet the longer you spend arguing against this, the greater are her chances of remaining with the same dogs who will make her drop to her knees and bare her backside the moment they get back home. Which would you prefer as her fate--? A life with the River Tribe, or with the Great Red Tribe?"

Djuta stared at him with his muzzle wrinkled. "All our experience with your men has been poor so far," he grated. "You yourself came to exact revenge for that mongrel Sut'khut. Everyone knows the rumors about him. Why should I trust you of all Kana? Your brother is the very reason why our tribe is in such a state!"

Fe'kheru's stormcloud eyes darkened again, but the look in them changed slightly, so that he actually seemed sympathetic; the lieutenant blinked at this strange look. "Sut'khut was my brother," he said quietly, "yet all this is was blood. I am not him, and the greatest thing I want at this moment is to get upon my Sha, go home, greet my mate, and go to sleep. If I leave Khetai-Moru here without a fight, then I doubt I will be sleeping soundly. Do you think that you will be sleeping soundly if you are to receive your wish--?"

Djuta ducked his head and winced. "She has been mistreated here," he whispered, Fe'kheru's ear flicking. "You have no idea what she has been through...what she has given to this tribe. And for all this, they treat her as if she is nothing. I promised her I would care for her. I can't break this promise now."

"And I would not ever ask you to, Lieutenant, which is why I do ask you, to please let me make sure you keep your promise." Djuta lifted his head to meet the older Kana's eyes, and he saw no deceit there. "Let her go," Fe'kheru said, "and I will treat her as she deserves. I do not care that she broke our laws, that she stepped out of her place, that she is pupless or skinny or hot tempered. She is a good Moru, and this is all that matters to me. Trust me, Lieutenant, our tribe is hardly concerned with such trivial matters as who is Kana, at the moment. I will give her her life back, if you will only let her go."

Djuta flushed. He turned to stare in the direction of the alley, and stared for a good long time. Fe'kheru stood and waited for his answer; instead of giving one, Djuta at last let out his breath and headed back the way they had come. Fe'kheru followed him and they entered the alley in silence, the other Kana still watching.

The trader cleared his throat as Djuta approached, a strangely dead look on the lieutenant's face. "Ahm...well, Lords?" he inquired, fiddling his fingers anxiously. "You've reached a decision, I pray...?"

Djuta stopped in the midst of the clearing, not meeting anyone's eyes. Khetai stared at him with hope but he didn't look at her. He spoke quietly.

"I will not object to the sale."

He turned away as the crowd started buzzing anew, but not soon enough to miss the look of disbelief that entered Khetai's eyes. Her mouth worked as if she wished to speak, but nothing came out; the trader and his associates made certain that her bonds were tight before hustling her down the steps and past the other Kana, who whistled as she went by. Djuta started walking away.

"Dj-Djuta? Djuta?"

Khetai's voice rose plaintive over the chattering of the dispersing Kana. She was led off to his side and though he didn't look up at her he could tell that she was struggling against the traders--not to flee, but to get to him. An anguished note entered her voice as she must have realized that he wasn't going to come to her rescue; he shut his eyes to try to block it out, to no avail.

"Djuta--? Djuta! Djuta!"

Captain Ahen, not too far ahead of Djuta, paused to watch as she was carried off. He glanced at Djuta, but was also ignored as the lieutenant left the alley. Even though the female was by now long out of sight, still her screams echoed off of the walls, putting the slightest pause in his step as he turned to leave.


* * * * *

Lieutenant Resikh couldn't find Tefkha, or for that matter Djuta, no matter where he looked. They hadn't been at the barracks lieutenant's house when he'd gone to look that morning, after leaving Tefkha there; he hadn't been able to find Djuta anywhere within Mahakhi's household, and gods knew where in the world Tefkha could be. He paced about the city in mild confusion, which only grew when a large crowd of Kana came wandering out of an alley near the west side of the market. Whatever they'd been up to, he hadn't been a party to it. He ignored them as best as he could while they scattered toward the taverns, and sighed and decided to head back to his own favorite haunt. It looked like today was going to end up fruitless yet again. As he walked he furrowed his brow and wondered why he should have even liked to find Tefkha anyway. He wasn't in his house, which meant he was either awake and fine or else someone had kidnapped and murdered him and dumped the body over the wall. Resikh made a face. Either way, the barracks lieutenant was no longer his concern. He licked his dry lips and thought about a cold beer.

He had gone halfway back up the street by the time that the voice calling out from far behind him became intelligible, and he paused when he recognized his own name. "R-Resikh-Brother! Hey! Res-Kana!"

Resikh slowed to a stop, brow furrowing. The only ones who usually called him "Res-Kana" were Djuta, and... He turned to look over his shoulder. The voice was familiar, but it couldn't be who he thought it was. His confusion only grew when he saw that it was who he'd thought it was. The lieutenant running toward him, lappets flapping, he had known for a long time, ever since puphood. He'd spent many evenings sparring with this same Kana, who came up before him and slowed to a stop, leaning over to put his hands on his knees and panting heavily.

Resikh's ears flicked. "Be'shen?" He stared at the older Kana in bewilderment. "What are you doing here?"

Be'shen pushed himself back up, and his mouth twitched in that half-smile that Resikh knew so well. "W-well!" he panted. "This is hardly a p...proper greeting, considering that you haven't had word one to say to me in absolutely months!"

Resikh flushed. "I've been busy, 'Shen-Kana! You know that!"

Be'shen smiled at him broadly and let out a short laugh. "Of course, Res; I merely joked. Gods! You and your utter lack of humor comprehension." He pushed himself upright and coughed self-importantly into his hand. "Actually, I am hardly here for humor's sake. I came by request of Lord Djetef."

Resikh stared at him in silence for a moment or two. After a pause, he started walking again, only back in the direction that Be'shen had come from. Be'shen jogged to catch up as he strode rather quickly, and his mouth twitched again. He cocked his head to look into Resikh's face as they walked.

"Well, you have time to have a word with me now?"

"It is important?" Resikh asked quietly, not meeting his eyes.

Be'shen shrugged. "I assume it is, if he's decided to bother you personally. He has been waiting to see if you would merely drop in to say hello, but I told him that if he waited for that, then the moment would never come."

Resikh's ears burned. "I have not kept away out of any ill feelings! You know this!"

"Of course, of course, I know; you cannot tell a joke from the real thing, can you? Still, you're awaited. I suggest we hurry."

They both picked up their pace somewhat as they approached the better part of town. "There is not some sort of problem, is there?" Resikh asked after another moment, and a tense look entered his eyes.

Be'shen put his hands behind his head and looked up at the sky. "You have always been so downspirited, you know? Perhaps he merely wishes to speak with you, because you are always away. If it weren't for me he would probably be a lonely old man wondering where everybody went off to--"

"'Shen-Kana," Resikh said in an odd voice, and the older Kana fell silent. "Truthfully. After everything that has happened, I wish to know if there is something I might expect to hear."

"Happened...?" Be'shen stared at him for a moment, then flared his nostrils and looked forward again. "Ah, I see...the trial."

Resikh flinched. "So, he does know...?"

"Know what? That you lied to the tribunal?" Resikh practically grimaced now, his ears going red. Be'shen waved. "Res-Kana, everybody knows you lied to the tribunal. 'Hakhi-Kana knows you lied to the tribunal. Even the tribunal knows you lied!" He cocked his head again. "Trust me, if that were the issue, don't you think you would've been called a little bit sooner? That thing was ages ago."

"If he knows I lied, he's not going to be happy." Resikh's voice was miserable.

"Res-Kana, you are probably the prissiest Kana I know. When he found out, I do believe he was more surprised that you did it, than angry. Do you know what? I think it was about time." He feigned a yawn and Resikh gaped at him. "It was about time you messed up and made me look like the best lieutenant in that house," Be'shen said, and then made a face when Resikh hit his arm.

"You are absolutely good for nothing," he grumbled, and started walking faster. Be'shen blinked, then hurried to catch up once more. They reached the large household not far from the west wall and turned to make their way inside.
It was nearly as stately as Mahakhi's in both size and structure; Resikh glanced up at it apprehensively as they entered the main gate. The Kana guards standing there, spears at attention, saluted as they passed, and didn't challenge them. Likewise with each guard and servant and even visitor in the main building; all nodded and bowed and saluted as they went by, and not at Be'shen. By the time that they reached the main hall, Resikh's face had gone positively red. Be'shen snickered as he pushed open the large doors.

"Not used to it, eh, Res? Do they ignore you then under Mahakhi's roof...?"

"Mahakhi has a large household. It is easy to go unrecognized."

"I hardly see why this is a bother to you, but you have always been a strange boy..."

They entered the main hall, where stood the great chair that the lord of the house sat upon to greet visitors from. He was not upon it at the moment, instead standing at the far side of the room, staring out into the open courtyard. He turned as the two others entered, the guards at the sides of the door saluting; on seeing Resikh he lifted his head slightly. Resikh felt like squirming beneath his stare, but he merely nodded at Be'shen. The lieutenant saluted and paused beside Resikh for just a moment.

"Good luck," he whispered, and along with the guards disappeared. The doors swung shut as if they had never been there. Resikh kept his place while the remaining Kana, in the red lappets of a captain, came his way.

He looked Resikh up and down even before he stopped in front of him. He stood taller than Resikh by about a head, and Resikh had to swallow and look up to meet his eyes. They were a stormy gray, nothing like his own. Even his fur was a different color, cool slate gray.

"I heard you wanted to speak with me, Lord," Resikh murmured, keeping his voice low.

The captain stared at him for a moment, nostrils flaring; then he tilted his head and smiled slightly. Resikh let out his breath. Captain Djetef turned and gestured at him.

"Come into the courtyard for a bit. It has been ages since I have spoken with you."

Resikh obeyed and they went to look out at the courtyard together. The sun was starting on its way toward the west already, and he wondered where the day had gone. He stared at the pristine white columns, at the decorated tiles, at the numerous plants and the glittering blue water of the pool, dotted with snowy waterlilies which bobbed in the breeze. It looked exactly as it had looked when he had last sparred here, years ago.

"One would think Be'shen has been trying to frighten you, with the look you carried on your face," Djetef said, folding his arms across his chest.

Resikh stood beside him and they stared at the pool. "Be'shen has not always been the best at conveying news," he said, then let his eyes drift to the side, and lowered his head a fraction. "You had a matter of importance you wished to speak of, Lord...?"

Djetef peered at him from the corner of his eye and arched a brow. "You are in such a hurry as to get to the point so quickly? I had hoped to ask you how you are doing, firstly."

Resikh flushed again. "I am doing well, Lord."

"And Lord Djuta?"

The lieutenant paused. Djetef cocked his head with a chiding look.

"I know that you are close, Resikh. And there is no problem that I have with this. Djuta is an honorable Kana."

Resikh hesitated for a moment, then let out his breath. His wings sank. "He has been having some difficulties," he replied, and Djetef nodded slowly, looking out again at the pool.

"This I've heard...a few bad choices on his part, but nothing more, I assume."

"Nothing more, Lord. Even the general realizes this. Still...he has been preoccupied lately."

Another nod. "I suppose this is only to be expected, then."

Resikh stood in silence for a moment, yet nothing more was forthcoming. He strained to keep himself from fidgeting before biting his lip, then speaking again.

"You did not call me here for idle talk, Lord..."

"No. You are right on this much. You were always the one who wished to get straight to the point; I suppose this can be a good thing." Djetef stretched his wings. "I wished to ask you if you have yet taken a mate."

Resikh blinked. The question had been so unexpected, it caught him offguard. Djetef looked at him again when he failed to answer, and he opened and shut his mouth a few times, unable to speak. The captain raised an eyebrow again.

"I take it then that you have not..."

Resikh flushed and ducked his head. "I...I have been busy with the affairs of General Mahakhi's household, Lord; you know this."

Djetef nodded. "Yes, I do...still, I also know that this has not kept Lord Djuta from taking two mates, although his luck has not been the best...have you yet considered finding a female for yourself?"

Resikh started stammering again, completely at a loss for a response. Djetef crossed his arms and met his eyes when he dared to lift his head again, and he had never felt his ears burn so much.

"Resikh, you know I have nothing against the way you have chosen to live your life," Djetef said quietly. "This is your concern and not mine. I would have prevented this long ago if it had bothered me in the least."

"Yes, Lord," Resikh hastened to say, while there were any words left that he could find.

"However..." Djetef tilted his head again, and Resikh had to avert his eyes. "You are my only surviving son, and you have yet to have any sons of your own...I had hoped, sometime, that your interests might turn this way, so the family line would not end with you. Our forefathers go back fully two hundred years and more, far beyond the line of Lord Mahakhi's house. We are an old and proud house, and may even trace our ancestors back to the reign of King Set himself. With you, I had hoped the line might continue."

Resikh bowed his head, his ears going red. "I--I apologize, Lord."

The captain shook his head. "You owe me no apologies. As I said, the decision is entirely your own. But I wished for us to be clear on this, so there may be no more waiting or wondering. Will you be taking a proper mate? Or will you not? This is all I wish to know; then you may return to your place, or do whatever you wish."

Resikh stared at the tiles, tail swishing. He couldn't think of a time when he'd felt so embarrassed before, though it was no fault of his father's. Based on how he'd seen other Kana react toward their sons--Ri'hus's father included--what Djetef asked for was very little indeed. His father stood silently awaiting his answer, and Resikh tried to think of the right words. It was a while before they would come, and he spoke quietly, not lifting his head.

"You are right, Lord...I've been selfish."

"I did not ever claim this of you, Resikh..."

"I know...but still you are right." He took in a breath and let it out, forcing himself to stand straighter. "It is about time I sought a mate."

Djetef stood up straight as well, and Resikh could sense that he was pleased. "You are certain of this...? What with your duties, and Lord Djuta...?" Resikh's ears burned anew and he briefly wondered how much Djetef knew about the two of them, but merely nodded. "I know it may be time consuming to seek out and locate a suitable female among all the traders," Djetef said. "Would you prefer to find one for yourself, or would you prefer that I or one of my men seek one for you? We have more time at our disposal, and you would not need to bother yourself ambling through those filthy tents."

"I..." Resikh bit his lip and fiddled with his lappet. "Perhaps it would be best for you to choose one for me, Lord...you are right in that I don't have the time to peruse all the traders...and I really do not know that I could pick a decent one, anyway."

Djetef smiled broadly. "You give yourself far too little credit, Resikh, but I had hoped you would say this...for I have already been out to look at what is offered, and found a female I felt you might find suitable." Resikh's head jerked up and his father held up a hand. "I realize I may have overstepped my bounds doing this...but I had never intended to force her on you, if you did not want her. Still, it does save us the time of seeking her out. If you do not wish for her, you may refuse and we can find another; but will you at least see her? And see if she is suitable or not?"

Resikh forced down the feeling that had suddenly surged up in his breast, and let out his breath. He nodded. "Very well...where may I find her?"

Djetef gestured and turned back to the household. "Come, follow. She is with the other females. I truly do believe you will find her to be to your liking."

They left the courtyard and the main hall, heading for the back of the household. They walked in silence for a while, nothing but the clacking of their sandals filling the stillness, and it was all that Resikh could do to not start fidgeting even as they walked. He stared at the floor the entire way, chewing on the inside of his mouth and trying to force down the mild nausea that had arisen inside him.

"You know," Djetef said after a few moments of this, "you remind me exactly of your mother, back when she was still with us."

Resikh blinked and lifted his head, eyes wide. His father smiled slightly.

"She fretted about everything, just like you. I swear that from the moment you were born, she worried that she was not holding you right, that she was not tending to you properly, that she was not feeding you correctly...that her milk would go dry, that she might drop you...she always carried you about as if your lives depended on it. It was all I could do to even convince her to allow you out with me. She would have kept you at her teat until you were a lieutenant, had she been able."

Resikh lowered his head again to look at the floor. "Perhaps this is why I am an unat'e," he murmured, and Djetef chuckled.

"No, I do believe you get that from Djuta and Be'shen...one of you had to have the sensible head." He tilted his head and gave Resikh a sympathetic look. "This is what you think of yourself, truly...? Then I should remind you of all that your mother was. She is also the one who gave you your kind spirit and your good heart. Even if she did not teach you, these things you got from her. I have never known a Moru who cared so deeply for others as your mother did. In fact, sometimes I wonder whether this is why she faded away, because she cared too much." He fell silent, their sandals clacking, and looked at the wall as it passed. "Your brothers...their mothers were not quite the same as she. I loved them all but they did not quite show the same heart that your mother did. Perhaps this is why they were all so foolhardy, hm?"

Resikh continued looking down, uncertain of how to answer. "I am sorry I am the only one left, Lord," he said after another long while had passed. "I realize I am not the most ambitious Kana..."

Djetef let out a half-amused, half-frustrated sound. "Resikh-Kana! Your mother also had no sense of humor. Do you never even smile? Stop fretting about everything and stop apologizing. Your brothers all made me proud and so have you. You are a lieutenant of General Mahakhi-Kana and this is as much as I can ever hope for from a son of mine."

Except for pups, Resikh thought, but didn't dare say it aloud. "Also, if you are even half as loyal to your mate as you are to Djuta-Kana," Djetef added, "then I think you will do just fine." The lieutenant grimaced slightly, but thankfully his father didn't see it, and they reached the Moru quarters.

Like Mahakhi, Djetef believed in properly housing his Moru, and so they lived beneath the same roof, though still within Moru stables. He had always kept the prime females separated from the rest, however, and it was toward this section of the Moru quarters that they went. Resikh had not been here in years. In his youth, as a boy, he had sometimes sneaked back to peer in at the females then kept within, curious about them. They had always stared back with their large dark eyes, and a few times they had even giggled at him. He remembered one time he'd spotted one feeding her child, and just had to creep inside to see exactly what was going on; she'd spotted him and cupped her other breast in her hand, as if inviting him, and when he'd stared at her in return the women had all laughed. As inviting as that milk-heavy breast had been, he'd had to flee to avoid further humiliation, and he'd never gone back there since. Be'shen, a few years his senior, had found out and told Djetef all about it; but all that his father had done was laugh as well.

He wondered now if the captain still remembered this incident, yet said nothing. Djetef stooped to unlatch the door and opened it, ushering him forward. They stepped inside, and he pointed toward the wall. "There she is, over there." Resikh squinted and looked.

A female sat here apart from the rest, her fur coal black, her build slender and willowy. She lifted her head on noticing the men, and he saw that her eyes were large and dark green, an unusual color...but despite her exotic appearance, she did little for him. He suppressed a sigh; for once he'd rather hoped that some little bit of lust would overtake him, if merely to satisfy his father. Still, when Djetef cocked his head and inquired, "Well? Is she suitable, Resikh?" he nodded.

"Yes...she is. She looks as if she must have cost dearly..."

Djetef folded his hands behind his back and fanned his wings. "Actually, she was sold to me quite cheaply, considering her looks and talents. She has not been mated with overmuch, but she is skilled at hakh'tua and hakh'tehi."

Resikh felt his ears burning again. And so his father knew of the fabled hakh'tehi, and had never even explained it to him; he'd had to learn it firsthand from Tefkha. Added to this was the realization that his father had learned this about the female for his benefit; how much, exactly, did he know about his son's sexual habits? He shrugged off his embarrassment and nodded again, turning to look at the captain.

"I will take her with me now...if this is what you wished?"

Djetef's smile returned, even wider than before. "Of course. I truly hope you enjoy her company, Resikh. You do know that if she is not satisfactory, you may bring her back."

Another nod. "I hope that this is not necessary, Lord...she looks to be the perfect mate." He had to seek carefully to find the right words. "We will go now...Lord Mahakhi will notice me gone, before long."

"Of course. Wish you Be'shen to accompany you back? He may get her settled in your quarters, while you tend to your duties..."

"No, I may care for her; I assume she knows her place. Thank you, Lord."

Djetef nodded and stepped back to watch them go. "Please come to see me again sometime soon, Resikh-Son," he said, at which the lieutenant nodded. Resikh held his hand out to the female, indicating that she should follow. She rose and took it and he turned from the quarters, leading her after him.

They spoke not another word as they left the household...though when Resikh passed Be'shen on his way out, the other Kana winked and said, "Good luck," as if he were in on an elaborate joke.

At the moment, Resikh wouldn't have doubted that he was.

* * * * *

The rest of the evening was rather awkward, by normal standards. Resikh hadn't even been in any mind to engage in any nesakh'ai, and even if he had been, at least, not with this creature. The female sat perfectly silent on his bed while he paced around his room, trying to appear busy and wishing almost more than anything that he had tried a little harder to find Djuta today. At least the Moru wasn't chatty. He sighed and fiddled with his pectoral, debating whether to change his clothes or not. If he changed, she might take it as a hint to prepare herself. He wasn't certain what to do to get out of this one.

"To be disappointed, Lord?"

He blinked and stopped, turning to look at her. For some reason he'd never bothered to wonder if she could even speak his tongue or not, but speak it she had. He flushed and fiddled with his necklace again.

"No--no, of course not. Just...a little surprised, is all." He sighed. "My father tends to sometimes go through with things without my knowledge."

She tilted her head. "To go back to house...?"

"No, this is fine," Resikh blurted out. "There's nothing wrong." To prove this, he made himself go and sit down beside her, though his ears were burning bright red. She offered a tentative smile, and he returned it, feeling that he must look very foolish. He cringed when he realized he had no idea what to call her.

"Ah...your name," he said, lowering his head meekly. "Would you tell me your name...?"

"Heth'anet, Lord."

"Heth'anet?" He'd never heard such a curious name before. She smiled and he did so again, this time spontaneously. "My name is Resikh, then..." He flushed and rubbed at the back of his neck. "And I suppose we are supposed to...ah..."

Heth'anet took his hand and held it. He blinked, feeling his cheeks grow hot. She obviously knew why they were here, and had little problem with it, judging by the knowing smile that she gave him. How much had his father told her? "Well," he said, at a loss for words. "I suppose...um..." She tilted her head up, and he couldn't think of anything else to do to stall. So he bit his lip, then leaned forward to kiss her. She opened her mouth and allowed him to taste.

He'd certainly never heard of a female so willing to go, and so quickly, too. They hadn't touched or played with each other at all, yet he found that he didn't really care to. Would she simply let him do this and get it over with? The only way to find out was to try. He touched the side of her face, and felt her press her cheek against his palm. He trailed the fingers of his other hand down her front, and over her breast, in an attempt to arouse himself; despite his only half-willing state, he felt an instinctive stirring, and thanked the gods that he didn't necessarily have to be attracted to her to make love to her. He took her hand and brought it to his front, and without being bidden to she slipped it underneath his kilt, pulling at his loincloth and rubbing over his sheath. Resikh's breath picked up and he lowered her to the bed.

He felt guilty, nonetheless, as he worked at the top of her dress, pulling it down over her shoulders. He disliked not taking the time to pleasure his mate before coupling; many were the times when he and Djuta had spent so long simply touching and holding each other before nesakh'ai. Djuta. Why did he have to keep thinking of him--? Rather than push Djuta out of his head, however, he tried to focus on him, on his smoldering bronze eyes, even as he squeezed Heth'anet's breasts. He could hear her panting, feel the straining of her body against his, and knew she was growing excited despite his lack of attention toward her. He devoured her mouth, pretending it was Djuta's; his kiss ran down over her cheek and chin to her neck, and he pretended that the soft whimper she let out was from Djuta, for him. He gently separated her legs with his knee, running his foot up her calf; he pulled his kilt out of the way as his penis emerged, trembling and ready. Well, at least it had not taken too long.

In his head, Djuta smiled at him, and held out his arms welcomingly. Resikh growled under his breath and bit lightly at Heth'anet's neck, making her gasp and arch. He slid his hand up her thigh and into the slit in her dress; she tensed against him, going rigid, and for some reason did not relax again. In his mind Djuta arched and moaned. He trailed his fingers over her hip--over Djuta's hip--across her flat belly--across Djuta's tensed stomach--and down over the velvety soft hot mound, which only hardened as he touched it, the sac tightening and the sheath swelling--

Resikh's eyes shot open. He jerked his head up in shock, noting now the look on Heth'anet's face--she peered at him through eyes squinted nearly shut, her teeth bared. He pushed himself up and glanced down at her body. Small yet round breasts still greeted him--yet what in the name of the gods was that he had just felt--?

Hand shaking, he slowly pulled aside the edge of her dress at the part, baring her hips. And he stared in disbelief at what he saw.

Heth'anet's mound was not the soft, fleshy, furred hill that rose between the legs of most females. Instead there rose a sheath, swollen with desire, the pink head of a male's shaft just beginning to emerge from it. Below hung the sac of a male. Resikh found himself gawking in open-mouthed astonishment at Heth'anet's penis.

Heth'anet brought her arms up to cover her breasts, still cringing. "To not beat too hard...please?" she whispered.

"Wh--what--?" Resikh's gaze jerked back up to her face, his eyes goggling. Heth'anet gave him another knowing look.

"To not beat too hard...please?" Her ear flicked. "Last master to beat soundly..."

"B--beat--?" Resikh echoed.

Heth'anet nodded, and rolled her upper half--as he still straddled her lower half--slightly to the side to bare her shoulder. Resikh's eyes grew when he saw the huge ugly scars marring her back. He stared at them for a moment before he began to realize the awful truth of what he was seeing.

"W...wings...you had wings...?"

Heth'anet nodded.


She raised her hand and made a cutting motion in the air, twice. "Last master to be angry...to remove wings. To sell. Lord Resikh to buy..." She gave him the same plaintive look as before. "Please to not beat too soundly...?"

"Beat--? No! No! Of course not!" Resikh flushed and finally pushed himself off. He got to his knees, brushing himself down in flustered embarrassment; Heth'anet slowly pushed herself up as well, as if afraid that he would lash out. "No--I'm...I'm not going to beat you. I'm just...what..." He gestured at her hips, still turning red. "Ah...what..."

Heth'anet peered at him as he stammered for a moment, before answering his unspoken question. "To have both," she said quietly. "Male and female."

Resikh blinked. "You mean--you are both? Male and female...?"

"No." Heth'anet's mouth twitched, and he could have sworn that she looked ready to smile at his confused state. "To have both...male and female..." she gestured at her extra accessories "...but to be female. Female only." She dropped her hands back into her lap and waited for him to speak.

"Oh." Resikh stared at her with not a little curiosity, then slowly edged his way toward her again. "You mean...you are a...a te'huat?" he asked, hesitantly. When she nodded his eyes widened and he almost forgot his discomfort. "I've heard of your kind before," he said in awe. "But...but I always assumed it was just a story. That te'huau never really existed. So you mean...you have both? Part male, and part female? Yet you are still a woman?"

Heth'anet nodded.

The Kana stared at her for a moment more before letting out his breath. He wasn't certain whether to be relieved that the situation at least had an explanation, or annoyed by what his father had set up. Talk about a poor choice of a mate. He sat up on his haunches and ran a hand over his head. "Well...I suppose this means he will have to try harder next time," he sighed. "And look more carefully, before he buys..."

Heth'anet cocked her head, looking puzzled. "Lord?"

Resikh gestured at her. "I'm sorry...but the reason my father gave you to me was so I would give him a grandson or two. There is nothing wrong with you, truthfully...yet I had not felt exactly like nesakh'ai today."

The Moru stared at him with the same odd look, and he felt like turning away. "But to have pups," she said, and he frowned, uncertain about what she meant.


"To have pups." She gestured at her belly. "To be able."

"You are able to have children?" He couldn't believe it. "I heard this was impossible, for your kind...that te'huau cannot carry or father children!"

"Well..." Heth'anet shrugged, as if not sure how to convince him. She touched her belly, and shrugged again. "To have pups."

"Do you mean you have already had children?" As he said it his ears pricked. Heth'anet nodded. He leaned toward her, his curiosity growing again

"Truly? You have--?"

She nodded again and offered a small smile.

Resikh bit the inside of his mouth, then pushed himself up again and frowned slightly. "Hold...my father. When he bought you. Did he know what you are...?"

Another nod. "To ask for a certain female for son. Trader to point out Heth'anet. Captain-Kana to hesitate, trader to say Heth'anet exactly what needed for son." She gestured at herself and blushed. "To show him, and captain-Kana to buy."

Resikh let out his breath and felt a surge of irritation rise up inside him. Leave it to his father to pull a stunt like this. If he couldn't have grandsons by a male, and couldn't get his son interested in a female, what would he do? Buy him both...in a way. He rubbed his forehead and grimaced.

"Well...I suppose then this will make him happy." He pulled his hand away and tried not to wince. "But still...I am not much...in the mood anymore, with no offense to you..."

He nearly started when she pushed herself up now, leaning forward. "Nesakh'ai?"

Resikh shook his head. "Perhaps--perhaps tomorrow eve. All right? I don't feel I..."

"Hakh'tua, then," Heth'anet said. "Or hakh'tehi?" She smiled, a bright, disarming smile. Resikh had to swallow suddenly, feeling insects start to flutter around in his stomach.

"I don't think..."

"Oh." Heth'anet's smile faded and she looked at him closely so that his ears went red. Then her smile returned, wider than ever. "Oh! To understand. Nesakh'ai, with you--?"

"I don't much feel like taking you right now, Heth..."

"No, no." She put a hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle. "Nesakh'ai with you. To prefer males, Lord Djetef says."

Resikh's face went red this time. "How much DID he tell you about me?" he cried, mortified.

"To say to prefer males. Yet captain-Kana to desire grandsons." She slipped a hand beneath her dress and her face flushed; Resikh stared at her in bewilderment as she smiled again. "To...how to say...satisfy one another? To then wish for nesakh'ai, to have a son?"

"You mean..." He struggled to understand what she was saying. "You...want to put me in the mood...?"

His eyes grew when he saw now what she'd been doing. Heth'anet pulled her dress open at the slit and bared herself again. Resikh's voice caught in his throat when he saw her sheath, and what was rising from it. It was not as big as his own, but still impressive, considering the one who bore it; Heth'anet smiled and reached out for him and he nearly jerked away. She took his hands and tilted her head.

"Lord?" she inquired.

"Hahh..." Resikh stammered but no words came out. He had to swallow again. Heth'anet just smiled, and the look in her eyes made the insects in his stomach flutter anew.

"To be gentle with you," she said sweetly.

Resikh sucked in a breath. Heth'anet sat up and kissed him lightly on the side of the muzzle--and he could smell her musk. Strong and thick, like that of any male, only sweeter than any he'd smelled before. His breath hitched and he trembled a little. Heth'anet took his hands and kissed him upon the mouth, and, pressing gently, guided him down to the bed. She draped herself over him and they kissed, the Kana unable to keep himself from touching her face. After a moment he allowed his hands to trail to her shoulders, then her back; he almost pulled them away when he felt her scars, but the tensing of her body told him that she found something pleasurable about the motion. Well...in most Kana males, the wings were a great pleasure spot. Perhaps no one had thought to touch her there in a long while.

They kissed and touched each other for a good while, getting used to each other's scent and contours. Resikh gasped when she drew her claws lightly over his skin, and again felt the heat rising between his legs. She reached down to rub at him there and he started panting. She drew herself up from him, removed her dress over her head, and slowly rolled him over so that he lay upon his belly; he dropped his head to the pillows, chest hitching. Her hands ran up and down his body, making him shake. His tail flicked madly from side to side and he stretched his wings out when he felt her lie down upon his back, her hands caressing his hips; instinctively he parted his legs when her fingers trailed under him and over his groin. They toyed with his testicles, massaging the hot sac and sliding up his sheath; he moaned softly into the bed and arched his back. He felt Heth'anet sit upright, and heard her give a shy giggle.

"Father to be right...to do this, then to take Heth'anet, and to get a grandpup, well?"

Resikh was barely able to nod, his eyes shut tight. Even through the haze in his mind he couldn't believe how excited she had managed to make him, so quickly; he remembered then how his last time with Djuta had ended, and realized that he had not had nesakh'ai since. Heth'anet carefully parted his buttocks and Resikh stiffened to feel her go inside him, fully and deeply. He moaned louder now; it felt just as if a male mated with him, a young one, but a knowing one nonetheless; for the Moru's touches set him on fire, as if she were used to this. Resikh dug his fingers into the bedclothes as she moved slowly atop him, each thrust sending a wave of pleasure coursing through him. This was certainly the strangest nesakh'ai he'd ever had...but it felt as good as any, so who was he to complain...?

"Heth...Heth'anet," he panted, and she ran her hands up his sides to indicate that she'd heard. "Where...where did you learn this? If not...not from your master...?"

She leaned down to kiss his neck, and he could sense her amusement. "To not be iat'ah," she said. "To hope Master knows this."

"I...I rather assumed, once...once you mentioned children..."

"To have been with others before, among Moru. To have had a mate there."

"M-mate...?" One of his ears twitched. Heth'anet swayed into him, her movements slow and easy, yet deep and filling. She slipped a hand beneath him to stroke his hardness, making him whimper.

"Yes...to bear him two pups. He to be like you! Yes?"

"How...how do you mean?"

"Well...to enjoy male, and female." She kissed him again, then seized his nape in her teeth. Resikh gasped and stiffened, then went limp. She nuzzled at his ear, then at the side of his neck, and through one glazed eye he could see that she was smiling. "To like that...yes?" He nodded weakly, and she continued. "To sometimes wish for a male...and sometimes for a female. To give him both. To be happy then."

Resikh had to wait for a few moments before he could catch his breath. He tightened and moaned, and Heth'anet took the signal. She grasped his shoulders and began to move herself a bit more quickly, making him tense even more.

"What--what became of him--?" he gasped, digging his claws into the sheets. "And your children...?"

Heth'anet stopped thrusting, but only for a moment. Resikh had enough time to loosen before she began again, but her grip upon his shoulders was not as strong as it had been before.

"To...lose in raid upon tribe," she murmured, and the tone of her voice made him open his eyes, brow furrowing. "Mate, most of Moru to be killed, pups to be..." She paused, then continued more quietly, "Pups to be hurt, and taken away."

"Hurt--?" The Kana's eyes drifted shut and he arched his back to spread himself further. "They were injured?"

"N...no..." She sounded a bit at a loss as to how best to explain to him what she meant. "To be...hurt by raiders. To be...held down, and...coupled by raiders."

Resikh's eyes opened again. "Heth'anet," he said, barely in a murmur, yet his shock still showed. He twisted his head to look over his shoulder, and Heth'anet looked away. She still mated him, yet her heart no longer seemed to be in it. "Heth'anet," he said again, louder. "I'm...I am sorry. For your children." He felt foolish, offering his apologies as they made love with his face practically pressed down into the pillows, yet didn't know what else to do; he hated that he'd upset her. "I had no idea...they are dead, then?"

Heth'anet wiggled a bit, looking embarrassed. "To not know...to take pups upon the ground, then to carry away...still alive...but afterwards...to not know." She bit her lip. "To be of four years, and five years."

A pain stabbed through Resikh's heart. "I'm sorry, Heth'anet."

She shrugged a little bit, then offered him a forced smile. "To be about this, not that," she said, and leaned down to kiss his cheek, nibbling on his ear and making him shiver. "To enjoy, Lord?"

He nodded and put his head back down upon the pillows. It wasn't too much longer before he tightened and arched, moaning softly as he felt himself dampen the bed; Heth'anet took his signal and pushed deeply, and he felt her come inside him. Strange...it felt just as if a male did it. He let out his breath in a soft whistle and lay panting and spent, though he couldn't hear his mate breathing heavily. She rolled off of him to lie at his side, and when he opened his eyes to look at her she smiled and tickled his chin. He couldn't help but smile back. There was something childlike, cheerful, in her disposition that he found he liked, after spending so much time with the moody Djuta. His smile faded and he pushed himself up onto his elbows.

"Heth'anet," he said, a little more loudly than he intended; her ears flicked. "I know that my father obviously intended it already...but...are you happy here?" He flushed, feeling suddenly stupid. "Would you be happy here, I mean--? I honestly had not thought much of taking a mate, until now...I think perhaps my father finally made a proper choice for once in my life..."

Heth'anet peered at him curiously. "To ask to be mate? To live with Lord Resikh?"

Resikh felt a twinge of relief. "Yes, that's what I meant. Do you think that you would be happy living here?"

Heth'anet stared at him for a moment more before smiling almost shyly. He fanned his wings at the look on her face, it was so sweet. He was surprised to note that he was reacting as if he had a crush on her. What was he, a pup--? She giggled into her hand.

"What else to do, yes?"

"Of course," he said, feeling a little foolish now; it wasn't as if a Moru had much choice in where she wished to live, but still, he'd felt it necessary to at least ask. "And I promise you I will never beat you," he added, abruptly. Her smile vanished and she stared at him as if he'd said something incredibly odd, and he felt his ears burning. He had to say something to keep himself from looking so stupid. "And I'll look for your children!" he blurted out, before he even knew what he was saying. Heth'anet's eyes grew wide and she gawked at him. He felt like hitting himself, but managed to hold her stare.

She blinked. "To...to mean this...?" she whispered, after a moment. "To seek pups...?"

"Yes. Of course." He let out his breath. "I will never promise you something if I don't mean it, Heth'anet. I...I cannot promise I can find them...but I will look. If you help me."

Her brow furrowed. "Help--?"

He nodded. "Yes. I need to know where it was that you lived...how old they would be now...what they looked like, what raiders attacked your tribe. Things such as these." His face tensed and he bit his lip. "Will you help me with this?"

For a moment more she stared at him, as if not quite believing that he spoke the truth; then her eyes lit up and she nodded vigorously.

"Yes...yes! To help!" She started beaming. "To help Heth'anet find pups? To do anything to help Lord!"

A little voice in the back of Resikh's head screamed, Are you a FOOL? But he ignored it and smiled back at her, very much enjoying it when she laughed and clapped her hands together, bouncing lightly on the bed as if he had just given her the most marvelous gift; he'd never seen a Moru so delighted. She looked so happy, he had to laugh along with her; though he gasped in surprise when she fell down over him, still giggling, so that their bodies touched. He realized that she was still naked when her breasts pressed against him, and he could feel her nipples. He took in a breath, feeling a twinge between his legs. They'd only accomplished half of what they'd come here to do, after all.

He squirmed and flushed, feeling himself start to slide up from his sheath. "Um...Heth'anet..."

Heth'anet lifted her head to look down at him. "Yes?" At first he assumed she was ignorant of what he wanted to say, until she smiled coyly and ran her hand up his thigh, making him flinch. "To wish for nesakh'ai now?"

Resikh nodded, his voice suddenly gone. Heth'anet laughed gaily and took his arms, rolling and bringing him over her. They kissed and the Kana fumbled to run his hands over her mound, attracted to instead of repelled by what she carried there; he stroked her until she was hard and whimpering, and this excited him as well. Instead of taking her inside him, though, he rolled her over and gently parted her buttocks. She arched her back and spread her legs for him, smiling at him over her shoulder; and they were both so overcome that neither noticed anything but pleasure when he ran his hands up and down her scars, lightly biting her neck and whispering in her ear as he finally mated her.


"Part 57: Farewell

Please REVIEW if you rate.
Please DO NOT rate if you won't review.
Thank you!

This item is NOT looking for literary critique. I already understand spelling/grammar, and any style choices I make are my own. Likewise, I am NOT seeking publication, so suggestions on how to make this publishable are not being sought.

This item IS looking for people who are simply interested in reading, especially in long/multipart stories, and who like to comment frequently. My primary intent is to entertain others, so if you read this and find it entertaining, please let me know so and let me know why.

If in the course of enjoying the story you do find something that you feel could use improvement, feel free to bring it up. Just know that that's not my primary purpose in posting this here.

If you have any questions about the story or anything within it, feel free to ask.

I do hope you enjoy! :)

© Copyright 2002 Tehuti, Lord Of The Eight (tehuti_88 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/566912-Part-56--Exchange