Brian W. Antoine
October 1, 1993
Every time I tried to use this system I became more convinced that Velan's and Human's just didn't associate things the same way mentally. I'd been trying for two hours to figure out the Velan family structure, and had gotten almost no where. The best I'd been able to figure out was that they were Matrilineal in nature, which didn't bode well for my future. I was just starting another search through the index when a secondary window opened on the screen and I found myself staring at a male Velan that was getting along in years.
"Velan Central Library, how can ... Oh!"
"Hello, how did I get you? I didn't ask for on-line assistance."
"I'm sorry, the system flagged your link as being busy for a longer time than is normal, and suggested that manual assistance might be required. I was the next available librarian, so it routed it to me. If you would prefer, I can flag your link to prevent further interruptions."
I thought about it for a moment. If a female librarian had been the one to pop-up, I'd probably have said yes. Maybe a fellow male, even if he was of another race, might be able to point me in the right direction. "Actually, I could use a little help with my search. I'm afraid that I'm not having much luck trying to use your facilities, using what I would think the search criteria should be."
"Ok, let's see what you were doing." On the screen, I could see him pull up another window on his terminal and page through something that I assumed was the search criteria I'd been using. After a few minutes, he smiled and looked back at me. "Can I ask what exactly you were looking for? I can guess from what I can see here, but I would like to be sure."
"I'm looking for information on Velan family structures and specifically courting rituals, if any." As I said it aloud, I felt my face get warm. Christ I felt silly, and having to talk about it didn't help anything.
"Strange, our records don't show that humans are capable of changing their skin color at will. Is anything wrong?"
"Nothing serious, I just feel a little stupid asking about something like that." I could see him thinking that over before he answered.
"In your position, I believe I would react about the same. Many of us have been wondering when Kalindra would initiate something like this. It has been obvious for quite awhile that she was interested in you. I will have to remember to adjust my bets with my friends."
"Jesus Christ! People are betting on this?"
"A few of us, yes. Not many people have read all of the archives you gave us permission to place on-line in the library, but those who have are placing small wagers on possible outcomes."
"I'm almost afraid to ask, what are the bets about?"
"Given that she has not taken a primary mate yet, most of the bets are on whether or not she will ask you to become her 'klizach'."
"Right there! What does 'klizach' mean? I've been looking for hours and this is the first time I've even run across the word. You want to bet on me, tell me what the hell is going on."
"Ok, let me see if I can translate this for you. You know that our families are Matrilineal?"
"Yes, but that's about the only thing I've been able to figure out."
"Ok, let me see if I can get this right." He turned to his terminal and started accessing some database and I waited for him to finish. "Ok, this may help you understand what is happening. The custom on your world is for the male to make the advances, or at least that's what it looks like here."
"Yeah, that's pretty much correct for humans."
"Well, we do things the other way around. The female is the one that initiates everything. The male is passive in these matters until approached. Do you understand so far?"
"Yeah, it's rare, but it does happen that way sometimes here as well."
"That may be so, but the reverse does not work in our society. A male who annoys a female, is liable to loose his ears if she has not indicated that she is interested." I could see him wave side to side trying to look at my ears. "You still seem to have yours."
I had to blush again. "Now wait a minute. You don't think I started any of this. I'm trying to figure out what the hell is going on! Damnit, we're not even of the same race. How can she be interested in me?"
He turned to his terminal and called up something that popped another window open my screen. "This may help you. While it is very rare, it is not unknown for a female to take a mate outside of our race. We have been in contact with alien races for a large part of our history. Given the time involved, the odds are in favor of it occurring."
"So what's going to happen to me if this is really what's going on?"
"Well, one of three things will occur, depending upon what she thinks of you. There are three basic associations in a Velan family between the primary female and the male members. The lowest association is that of orphans that have been adopted into the family because they have no other existing family to care for them. They are cared for until they are grown and join another family."
"I don't think that's the case here."
"No. I explain it so that you will have a better understanding of how our families work. Since Kalindra is of age, but is single, she would not be taking on such a responsibility. Especially given her position."
"Ok, that makes sense given what I know of how protective your race is of its children. What else could be happening?"
"The other two choices are that of the primary and secondary males. The primary is the one chosen by the female to be lord over any and all other males in the family. That male is the 'klizach' of the family."
"Does he have any other duties?"
Now it was the librarians turn to be embarrassed. "He is also the only male that fathers the children born to the primary female."
"I don't think that's a problem here, do you?"
"I would assume not. Of course where magic is involved, the impossible is often reduced to only improbable."
"Ok, so what can I expect if she really is crazy enough to ask me to be her mate?"
"Well, the asking of a male to become one's mate is considered a formal thing by our race. If Kalindra is indeed planning on starting her family with you. She will have to ask you to do so in front of witnesses. You will at that time, have the option to refuse."
"Are there requirements on the nature of the witnesses?"
"No," and he chuckled. "In fact, they need not even be aware of the fact they are witnesses. The basic requirement is that she ask you when you are not alone. And there is something else that may be of interest to you."
"It is considered a sign of stature among males, that you not allow her to have an easy time asking you. Those who are forewarned, gain much in avoiding the question as long as possible."
"So there is a formal wording or something that I can look out for?"
"Yes," he turned and transferred a file to my screen. "This is the formal ritual that is used in the taking of a mate."
I was scanning the file I'd been sent. "She has to complete the entire ritual for it to be valid?"
"Yes. If you can avoid any part of the ritual, she is obligated to begin again."
This has possibilities. "Ok, I think I understand. Anything else I should know?"
"Let me see your ears again."
Huh, I turned my head so he could see whatever it was he was looking for. "What was that for?"
In response, he pulled open one if his ears so I could see inside past the fur. "If you accept her offer, the pact will be sealed by your exchange of what I believe your race calls an 'earring'." He was fingering a small blue stone in his ear as he spoke.
"We exchange rings instead."
He held his hand up and seemed to be imagining what that might look like. "Not as practical given our anatomy. So, what will you do if she asks?"
"Trying to get an inside track for your bets?"
"I can only ask," and he was grinning again. "Having a mate such as her would not be such a terrible think to endure, I think."
"Maybe so, if I was Velan, but I'm not. I think quite a lot of her, but getting married was not what I had in mind."
The librarian frowned for a moment. "Something else has occured to me. Based upon the information you provided the library about human culture, what you call 'married' is not a true analog to what you would be asked. Velan's mate for life, there is no such thing as a divorce as you call it. That is one reason for the ritual. Taking a mate is a very serious thing, except for the chase of course."
"This gets better all the time" I told him as I saved off the information he had shipped me into local storage so I could go over it in detail. "Thanks for the help, you saved me quite a bit of trouble. Could you keep this little conversation private until I authorize its release?"
"Of course. We would not wish to alert Kalindra that you are aware of what might be coming. That would put you at the disadvantage during the chase."
"You seem very sure that she is going to ask me."
"As I explained earlier. Many of us have been watching you since your arrival many years ago. When our Kalindra never indicated a desire to start her own family, and many males tried to catch her attention in ways that would not offend. We began to notice her behavior when you were around and compare it with other times. Wether you believe it or not, you are good for her. Her taking you as mate, while unusual to say the least, would not cause a major problem with my people. After all, when she does start her family, she will need to invite others to join as time goes by."
"Great, so once she aquires her pet human, the rest of you will get your chance at her." That had struck harder than I'd intended, but I was not in one of my better moods at the moment.
"I'm sorry. I can see I have offended you some how and that was not my intention. I am here to help those in search of knowledge, not to offend them and cause distress."
"No, I'm sorry. It is not your fault, you have given me pretty much what I needed to know. I'm just not real sure of how I feel about this whole thing. Thank you for your help." I reached over to close down the link. Before it closed, the librarian had one last thing to say to me.
"Remember, you would not be the first, nor I expect the last sentient being to mate outside of their own race. The two of you would be a good match for each other, and that belief is stronger now that I have talked with you in person. Just don't let her catch you on the first try."
"Not if I can help it."