Brian W. Antoine
November 12, 1994
That was the only comment I had as I poked my head out from under the huge comforter I was nestled under and saw my breath hanging in the air above the bed. Living in a stone castle on top of a mountain can be a royal bitch in winter. The heat in my bedroom wasn't controlled by any of the systems I'd been converting over from direct to automatic control. So for the moment, I just pulled my head back under the comforter and warmed back up as I snorted again in disgust. This was not a good start to a day that promised to be busy from start to finish.
"Cheerrrp?" From somewhere near the foot of the bed I felt Smaug moving around under the covers as he tried to take over a pocket of warmth I'd created. Apparently, he didn't think much of the conditions either.
"To cold for you too, huh. I don't suppose I could convince you to go turn the heat up?" He might be small, but stupid he wasn't. The small burst of emotion I felt from him let me know in no uncertain terms what he thought of the idea of leaving his temporary nest. "Some help you are..." I grumbled as I lay there nice and warm. "It was probably you that left the window open anyway."
Busy day or not, I was sorely tempted to spend the entire morning curled up under that comforter. I'd come back to my mountain home a few weeks back to think things out and still wasn't happy with what I'd decided. The alternatives though were even less palatable, so I'd contacted the Tipkatz embassy and 931 had made the arrangements. In something like four hours I would be handing the Tipkatz the complete plans to the Momentum Wave Drive system that had been the main drive of the Sunbeam. They in turn were going to build the Sunbeam III as per a set of plans I'd had created, before starting on construction of their own trading fleet. If nothing else lately had gone right, at least that idea had worked. The Meenzel and Tipkatz had started trading with each other and each was expanding their search for other worlds to trade with. I fully expected one or the other to show up in orbit above Velar one day soon the way they were going.
The greeting they would get when they arrived was something Kalindra and I were still working on. Local politics had turned into the equivalent of a family feud, with Kal and I on one side and the merchant family nas Zan on the other. That little mess was going to come to a boil sooner or later and Kal had been after me to let her handle it her way. Every time she mentioned it though, I reminded her about the ambush that had almost killed Lan Louis, which always sent her a little around the bend. I wasn't sure whether she was learning the human talent for being blood thirsty, or if I was mellowing because of the link I shared with her. Which ever, it was just another item on an ever growing list of things to try to figure out when I had the time.
"And here we have a rather shabby example of a Terran male in his native habitat" came a very familiar voice from the foot of my bed.
"What the hell? Kalindra ..."
"Do they all build nests like that in the winter?" asked Lythandi as I felt someone tug on the edge of the comforter.
"Only to avoid nasty females with sharp pointy claws" I mumbled from where I lay curled in a ball as I grabbed the comforter to make sure it didn't get yanked from the bed.
"Would that then make your mate a Terran Nestus Magus Grumpus?" asked yet another voice that I swore sounded like Tanindra.
"We could look and find out" snickered Wythdantis in reply.
*Kal, I'm not wearing any clothes under here!* I 'pathed desperately.
"True, I'm sure he wouldn't mind" answered my traitorous mate and with that, the comforter was yanked out of my grip and off the bed.
"Kalindra! God Damn it ... I ..." and the rest faded into a mumble as I watched the lady who was suppose to love me, laughing herself silly as I noticed we were the only ones in the room. "I swear I'm going to sell you to Jab the next time I see him. Now please give me that back! It's c-c-cold in here!" Naturally, she just pulled it further out of my reach and stood there daring me to come get it. "If you won't give me the comforter. I'll have to find some other way to stay warm" I warned her with a predatory grin.
"And just what way might you choose?"
"I'll settle for a fur coat," I said as I looked her over. "How about if I take yours?"
"Mine is not removable" she answered with a snicker and a twinkle in her eye.
"Not yet at least" I told her with a mock growl and levitating myself slightly, I jumped from the bed to grab her. If I'd been faster, I might even have caught her. As it was, all I managed to grab was the end of her tail as she turned and ran for the door. It was a hell of a ride while it lasted. I weighed almost nothing thanks to the levitation spell so as Kal ran out the door and turned, I got towed along behind her and treated to an old fashioned game of 'crack the whip'.
We were both yelling like loons as I swung out over the railing and then back towards the wall. Kal in outrage because I was still holding her tail, and I because the last thing I saw before I hit, was the stunned look on Lythandi's face as she watched me slam into her. She hadn't been in the room, she'd been waiting outside.
"Ooooooh shiiiiiiiit!" <ooooph>
"No, Lythandi" she said with a smile as she watched me trying to catch my breath. "It saddens me to find that you forget who I am after only being gone from our home for a week or so" she chuckled. I was just starting to breath normally when I noticed where she kept glancing, and that I was still cold as hell.
"Aaacck!" and I grabbed the first thing I could find to cover myself with. The fact that it happened to be her tail, just sent her and my lunatic mate into hysterics as I sat there freezing my ass off on the stone floor. "Damnit Kalindra, get me a robe!" She was laughing so hard she couldn't answer me and I almost lost my grip on Lyth's tail as she started playfully trying to pull it out of my hands. "This isn't funny!" I wailed, but they of course though otherwise.
When they finally quieted down, my ass was getting so numb I could hardly feel it. "He looks so helpless sitting there. Do you think we should help him" asked Kalindra as she leaned close and sniffed delicately. "He could use a good bath also" she added as she wrinkled her nose at me.
"I prepared the bath as you suggested" grinned Lythandi as she gave another playful tug on her tail. "The basin is full to the second mark and the water is just above freezing."
"Freeezzz-z-z-ing? Y-y-you hav-v-e to be jok-k-ing" I stuttered as I looked from Kal to Lyth and back. Joking or not, I was about to find out first hand, because Kal stepped close enough to grab my hands and Lyth grabbed my feet as they carried me screaming towards the bathroom. "God Damnit, put me down you walking flea traps! I'll sell you both to the Meenzals as mobile dust mops! When I get through with the two of you ... Aaaaaahhhhh!" <SPLASH>
I kept screaming for a good five seconds after I surfaced before it dawned on my nervous system that I wasn't standing in freezing water. In fact, if I hadn't been so busy yelling, I'd have noticed the layer of steam that had been rising from the surface of the pool I'd been tossed into. They'd gotten me twice in the same day ...
"Be sure to wash behind your ears this time" laughed Kalindra as she tossed me a washrag. "Since you insist on wearing your original ears, the least you ..." <Smack> and I glared at her from the middle of the pool, as the washrag I'd thrown back at her hung over her muzzle and dripped onto her blouse.
"He's going to be difficult about this" she muttered as she removed the dripping cloth and started tossing it from one hand to the other.
"Do we get to be difficult also?" asked Lythandi as she eyed me with a predatory grin glued to her face.
"Of course ..."
Arguing with one Velan is a hopeless cause for a Human. They are too damn fast and strong to make it much of a battle. When two of them decide you need a bath, you get a bath. I wasn't sure if it was the heat from the water, the embarrassment or the rubbing from the towel that had me turning bright red. The only victory I could claim was that they took longer to get dry than I did. A victory that was short lived as they both decided to shake themselves dry while standing next to me.
And I still wasn't safe as I discovered as I tried to get dressed. It seems my morning had been planned for me ahead of time. The only clothes available in my size were a new set of loose fitting black pants that fastened with a cord and a new silk shirt that was such a bright purple it probably triggered every UV detector on the planet when I put it on.
"Hold still please" asked Lythandi as she worked at braiding my hair. It was just one more thing that I'd been warned telepathically by my mate to sit still for if I valued my hide. I'd finally figured out that I was being thanked for the pampering I'd given Lyth a few months back on the Sunbeam. Kal had tagged along to make sure I behaved myself. When she finished with my hair, and I felt like a complete fool, Lythandi fastened the small wolf clip Kalindra had given me for my birthday on the end of the braid and I got paraded in front of a mirror so I could see the results. I wasn't sure who was more mortified, me or the wolf, but I kept my mouth shut.
*Thank God the Tipkatz are blind at visual wavelengths. One look at me and they'd tear up the contract and stuff me out the airlock as hazardous waste.*
*You say one word to her and I'll make your life miserable* came the completely serious thought from my mate. *She has been planning this for weeks and the last time I checked, embarrassment wasn't fatal to humans.*
*It isn't, but I'm going to be months living this down* I 'pathed as I caught her glance in the mirror. *We make a hell of a set though ...* I took one final look in the mirror and groaned to myself. Velans love brightly colored clothing and I was expected to keep up with the rest of the family. Not being covered in fur though, they at least designed my clothing to be thick enough to be warm. I still shuddered at the memory of trying to wear one of the feather weight shirts that was a Velans normal decorative apparel. I'd practically frozen when the sun had gone down!
With a final adjustment to the collar, Lythandi asked Kalindra, "Does he look Ok?"
"Better than normal, though it will still be embarrassing to be seen in public with him" she said with a laugh. I 'pathed her a snide comment about Velans and clothing in general which caused her to snort aloud and grab me by the arm.
"It's going to be a long day and I can hear his stomach making noises again. Do you think we should feed him?" Lythandi nodded once and took off at a dead run for the drop shaft that lead to the main floor and the kitchen.
"Kal, who's doing the cooking?" I whispered as we followed along behind her at a slower pace.
"Lythandi, who else?" and she cut off the remark I'd been about to make by twisting my arm behind my back and making sure I didn't try to get away. "Don't even think about it. She has been working on something special for you, whenever you weren't around to be curious."
"That sounded like an order from the Klizan to her mate" and I saw her wince.
"I did it again?" she asked as she gave me a look that should have formed a glowing question mark in the air above her head. "I'm am trying my best."
"I know you are" I told her as I leaned down and blew into her ear so that it flicked closed for a moment. "There are times when I just can't resist giving you a bad time anyway," I said with a snicker as her ear tried to decide if I was going to blow into it again. "Partners?"
"Partners," she answered with a nod. Of course, she then proceeded to tighten her grip on my arm and frog march me down to the kitchen. Just for appearances sake she told me as I playfully tried to escape. "We can't let Lythandi think I'm going soft on you."
"Yeah, right," I answered as we stepped into the kitchen.
"Da!" <ooophh> and Kalindra released my arm just in time to let me catch Lan Louis as he jumped up into them.
"Hi Tanindra," I said with a nod towards where he sat in the corner. "So you got volunteered for guard duty with the mobile disaster area?"
"Somebody had to watch him while your mate tried to wake you up," he said with a laugh as he watched me try to control my son. "I didn't run fast enough and your mate can be quite convincing when she wants to be."
"Tell me about it" I told him with a glance Kal's direction. "You ready to learn how to work with Hull Metal?"
"I hope so, but I'm still worried about being out in space like that. You are sure your idea works?"
"It works. Just ask fuzzy butt here about my helping her control her fear." When Lan Louis slowed down for a moment, I managed to hand him to Kalindra and sit down at the table where she was indicating. "I'll act as a sink for Kalindra and Lythandi will take care of you. She's done it with others before without a problem." Tan didn't look like he was convinced, but we'd settle that before we headed for the Tipkatz space station. As long as he or Kal had someone to act as a mental anchor, to help them deal with their fear of heights, they would be fine almost anywhere.
I was busy enough talking to Tan, that I didn't see Lythandi pulling something out of the oven behind me. My nose sure noticed though and I broke off in mid sentence to turn around and follow the path of the plate she ended up setting down in front of me. I know what it smelled like, but it sure didn't look much like an omelet, and the sad excuse for a candle that stuck up from the middle of it just confused me even more.
"Happy Birthday?" came the squeaky greeting from the terrified Velan still holding onto the plate. I think if I'd yelled 'boo', she have thrown the whole mess in the air and been home before it hit the floor. If I'd been stupid enough to do something like that, I like to think I'd also have had the guts to stand still while my mate skinned me alive.
"Thank you, it smells wonderful. It's too bad" and Tan reached around from behind me to set a bottle of Tabasco Sauce next to my plate with a snicker.
"Just don't expect me to stand very close to you after you've finished eating" he told me as he moved to sit at the other end of the table.
I looked at the pseudo omelet sitting in front of me and knew damn good and well that the ingredients needed to make one right didn't exist on Velar. Somebody had gone to a _lot_ of trouble to figure out substitutes. I just hoped the Tabasco Sauce would mask that fact because I had no intention of asking anyone what it was I was going to really be eating. "And the candle?" I asked as I waited for somebody to light it.
"That is your job, apprentice," came the soft remark from beside me. I think Tan knew what was going on, but the look on Lythandi's face made it plain she didn't.
I nodded once and then closed my eyes as I began to build the image in my mind. It would have been trivial to light the damn thing but for the fact that Kal had referred to me as her apprentice. I knew what I had to do, but also knew that I'd probably screw it up yet again, as I had done on a regular basis for the last month.
It was damn tempting to light it using the style of magic I'd learned over the last ten years, and pretend I hadn't heard Kal correctly. It was a temptation I resisted as I began to bring the image I was creating, to life in my mind. The candle was lit, would be lit, couldn't be anything other than flickering brightly to itself on top of my breakfast. It was magic so foreign to my normal methods that I had yet to master the test any Velan would have blown off as beneath them during the first week of study. It wasn't until Kalindra touched my arm that I realized I'd been holding my breath as I'd concentrated.
"You still need to work on your speed" she told me with a smile. "Now though, you need to put it out again before it melts into your breakfast." I paused just long enough to make my wish, then huffed and puffed and blew on the candle.
"What did you wish for?"
"If I tell, it won't come true" I told Lythandi as I grabbed the Tabasco and started dousing the omelet. "You're allowed to guess though if you want," and I made a point of leering at her and growling.
"What would your Klizan say though?" came Tan's laughing comment from the other end of the table. "I understand she has a terrible temper about some subjects."
As I continued to chew on my first bite, which wasn't all that bad actually, I turned and grabbed Kalindra's tail. With one hand holding the end firmly, I used the other to brush all the fur the wrong way, which generated a horrendous screech of outrage from her. "Don't worry about Kalindra, she'll be busy combing her tail for at least an hour and that's more then enough time for what I have in mind."
"That's what you think" answered Lythandi with a look that caused me to choke for a moment. Then she acted as if this an everyday occurrence, and pulled breakfast for the rest of the crew from the oven. I thought about it for a moment, then decided that it probably was an everyday occurrence around this family, and went back to eating my breakfast.
Kalindra was trying to smooth her tail out and threatening me with every stroke. Tanindra was laughing himself silly watching her. Lythandi was sitting quietly eating her breakfast, but throwing me glances that made sure I knew she intended to find out what my wish had been. And Lan Louis was trying to pull himself into my lap as he kept asking me 'go for ride now?'. Except for the omelet, the day was starting out about normal for the Family nas Kan.