RICK JOHNSON'S
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DRYING OUT IN A HUMID WORLD
part II


by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
Tucson, Az.
85717
RikJohnson@juno.com


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Note: this is the sequil to Drying Out in a Humid World which can be found at my ERB site.


I
The Don

Almost the entire town of As-Lur watched the dhow leave.

Yo-Bal-Lee was sad, not so much for her loss but mainly because she was thinking, “Divorced twice and not even twenty.” It didn’t matter that she had been married to Pele-Sad and only mated to Jay-Son. Really the only difference was that with one a Priestess said a few words over you, but they were both the same in the eyes of law and custom. She tried to be a good wife to both (though she carefully avoided thinking how she had cheated on Pele-Sad) even though she knew that Jay-Son would leave her someday. The man was as stupid as a rock sometimes. He never cared for the disgrace of divorce and would laugh about the women who divorced him even though he was crying inside. And he had been mated to Di-Ann and they were still close friends. But for a Ho-Don, divorce was a disgrace, an admission of failure, a letting your family down. True he had left her wealthy but possessions wouldn’t let her hold her head up in public. She’d probably have to move to another city where they didn’t know her. But damn (a word she learned from Fee-Ona) he was a wonderful husband. He actually cared for her, made her life easy and never beat her. Maybe she was missing him too?

Pan-Sad-Bu was waving good-bye to them. She’d miss those Tand-at-don. They had taught her so much and having them around made her popular. True the other Waz-Don would sometimes sneer at her as a whore, but she was mated to Jay-Son and if he could have two wives and lovers, why couldn’t she? He didn’t like it but accepted her rare affairs so long as she was discrete and washed up after. Strange, a Waz-Don husband would beat her half to death for adultery but Jay-Son simply sulked. It was Di-Ann who showed her how to deal with her new husband. For a man who was the greatest warrior in history, a man who knew more than the wisest men in Pal-ul-Don, he was remarkably insecure. She wondered if her life would return to it’s former rut or if she could somehow manage to keep the fame she had.

Ben-Sar and Mu-Lot watched the boat leave. Both missed the tailless women to whom they had been mated though it was clear that to Fee-Ona her marriage was simply convenient. Mu-Lot sometimes felt that the only reason she married him was for the passion. Ben-Sar, however, knew that Di-Ann cared for him and had cried when she divorced him so she could leave. He looked around and realized that their family would be infamous for having three divorces in the same day. From the heights of fame and glory and wealth to the depths of disgrace. Father would have to work very hard to mitigate the shame of three divorces. It would also make it hard for their younger sister to marry a decent man.

Ben-Den, chief of As-Lur had a thought. It was one of those that came to him from nowhere and it was so good that he immediately acted on it. “Yo-Bal-Lee, Pan-Sad-Bu, Ben-Sar, Mu-Lot! I wish to speak to you now!” then he returned to the palace at a run with his retinue and guests following.

Once inside he didn’t mount his throne but called them together and said to them, “Each of you and your families has been disgraced by divorce. I can remove that disgrace.

“The Tand-at-don will continue to come and if they cross the sea in these dhows, they will be upon us with guns before we can stop them. This last time we were lucky, with Jay-Son and his guns gone we may not be as lucky in the future. There is a way to protect our people.

“If you four would go with Jay-Son, you could be mated again and thus your disgrace would be gone. If you learned about these boats and guns and brought back both, we could defend ourselves. I want you four to convince Jay-Son to take you to this Brit-tan or Pal-ul-Erie and bring back this knowledge. I know it will be hard as the Tand-at-don slaves and merchants call us manu-don as if it were an insult so you must be strong enough to endure their insults. Let Jay-Son, Di-Ann and Fee-Ona help you there. Now gather your belongings and run down the shore to catch them. I will send runners to call for them to stop. The rest is up to you. Go!”

Yo-Bal-Lee ran to her father’s house where she had stored some of her belongings, all the while encouraging her brothers to hurry along. Pan-Sad-Bu needed no encouragement as she ran to Jay-Son’s former home to gather the rest of their belongings.

She burst into the house crying, “Mother, were is my extra loin-cloth, and quick, I need memories of you all!”

“What’s the matter?” A-Ad-Ro demanded.

“I go to join my husband and will be gone for a long time.”

“Your husband? Which one? I thought you were d…”

Yo-Bal-Lee broke her off. “How could you think anyone would divorce your own daughter? It was a simple misunderstanding. BROTHERS! GET YOUR TAILS PACKING! All marriages have those at times. The Recovery awaits to the west and I don’t want Jay-Son to think ill of me by being late.”

Her sister jumped in, “You’re going with him! Really! Such adventure. Can I go too?”

“No you cannot! The journey will be long and dangerous and I will not have you marry a Tand-at-don. It’s enough that your sister and brothers disgraced the family, we need one of us to be decent.” She then hugged her sister tight and then her mother, then her father who tried to be brave.

“Good bye my dear family. I will miss you terribly but my husband needs me. Think kindly of us. WILL YOU TWO GET GOING! Males!”

Outside they met guards who helped carry their belongings as they ran westward. Finally they sighted the furled sail and Yo-Bal-Lee slowed to a walk. Her brother asked, “Why so slow? I thought you wanted to see him quickly.”

“You males are so stupid. He will wait and I don’t want to see him covered with my own sweat.” She said.

“Yo,” Mu-Lot asked. “They divorced us. How do you expect them to take us back? Don’t they have any pride?”

“Very much which is why we won’t mention that word ever. We will simply act as if they forgot to ensure we were aboard. It happens with supplies all the time.”

They reached the ship at a casual walk then waded out and climbed aboard as if this were the most natural thing in the world.


II
By Jason

The Recovery was sailing west at a decent clip considering that a boat designed for a dozen or more sailors was being handled by three. Fiona called to me as I was at the tiller and said, “I think you made a big mistake this time.”

“I make a lot of mistakes, tell me which one I did this time.” I had a lot to think about right now.

“Letting us leave alone. This boat is too big for us to handle alone. Even when we had Pan and Yo to help, we barely managed. We need to go back and hire a crew.”

I thought about this for awhile. I had been thinking that same thing since before we left. Fiona and Diane had spent only a month aboard this dhow, during most of which time we had a large crew. I had been a galley slave for a year aboard a big Bagla, and a pirate aboard a Zarook, and I had crewed Booms and others so I well know the labor they required. I was glad Fiona had brought it up as though as she were vocalizing my own concerns.

“The problem is that how would they survive in England? I suppose we could buy them a decent boat and they could return to Pal-ul-Don that way.” I queried.

“You’ll think of something, you always do,” she said and left me to my thoughts. Shortly after, Fiona cried to me, “Jason, there are warriors from As-Lur on the shore waving us down!”

I looked over and snapped, “Furl the sheet! Hard a-starboard.” And turned the tiller as the girls bent to the winches. Despite their skills with the winch, that was definitely a job for a man.

Shortly after, our momentum carried us to shore where we ran aground, then Fiona dropped the anchor as Diana readied the line to give scope. I then took a line and tossed it to those on the beach who pulled and tied the Recovery to a shore-line tree. They then waded out and used the shore-line to climb aboard where one said, “I am told to stop you for a message from Ben-Den, Gund of As-Lur.”

“And what is the message,” I asked.

“I don’t know. I was only told to ask you to wait until it arrived.”

We sat there for some time until looking over the side I saw our former lovers approach. They entered the water and used the shore-line to climb aboard. Yo-Bal-Lee walked to me smiling, then she slapped me so hard I near fell overboard. I should have suspected something. “How DARE you leave without us! Have you no respect for your wives! You know you cannot sail this dhow without our aid and STILL you try!” She tossed her bags at me then said, “Carry my bags to our cabin husband. This boat is a mess, you’ve been gone less than a day and it looks like an animal pen. Di-Ann, how could you allow him to be such?”

Diane laughed at me and said, “Well, you know men. We feel we are doing good if we keep them from drinking from the toilet like any other dog.”

Pan-Sad-Bu then walked to me, kissed me and said, “I agree with my wife-sister, husband. You were very bad to forget us like that. It was humiliating to be left behind as if we were a basket of fruit. Now carry my belongings to our cabin and consider how you will apologize to us.” Then she walked away swinging her hips and tail in that way that made me loose my concentration.

“Women!” I yelled. “No wonder I’m single!”

“Not now you aren’t.” Fiona said to me. “Besides you love it. If you weren’t married you’d be miserable. Now, we can sail on with a crew of seven. Or should we stop at Lul-Lur and pick up a few more women for your harem?”

I just gave her a dirty look and carried the bags to the stern cabin.

We spent a couple days raising the forward deck a few feet and cutting holes for dorade vents and even a couple port-holes, though we had no glass yet. But with louvers, the sea was deflected and light and air entered so the bow was fairly comfortable. Then we added small decks to the stern hold and added portholes and vents and soon enough, both Diane and Fiona had their own private cabins, which made me very happy. I had insisted on dry-docking the dhow at every opportunity and scrubbing the hold clean and dry so the smell was even gone and so living below decks was now comfortable, more so than my partially exposed deck where the tiller was.

The first night I was laying with my ‘wives’ when Pan-Sad-Bu leaned over and smelled my chest, “He smells like all three of us.”

“He should,” Yo-Bal-Lee laughed. “He has the body of a child and more hair that any Ho-Don. We are fortunate that he is such a good warrior. Speaking of which, husband, I think it is time for you to teach my brothers how you fight.”

“I have no problems with that. But why do you keep calling me ‘husband’?”

She rolled over onto me and said, “Because HUSBAND, you tend to forget small details like your wives and we don’t want you to ever forget that you are married,”

“Yes dear, but you know when…” I began but she placed her tail over my lips to silence me, “I know, I just don’t want to think of it yet.”

“But I worry about you two. What will you do?”

Pan-Sad-Bu kissed me and said, “Men go to war and to fish and to hunt every day and every day some don’t return. We don’t talk about it and eventually re-marry. Our return to Pal-ul-Don will be no different. Now that you have saddened us, you must make us feel better. Tell us how beautiful we are and how much you love us. And don’t forget to tell us how empty your life would be alone.”

We finished the modifications and after saying farewell to the messengers, set sail again. We anchored just before the straight and as I was looking over the connection with my binoculars, Diane came and stood next to me and asked, “What do you think?”

“I think we go for it in the morning before the wind picks up. I’d like a gentle breeze and a slow passage. I think I see white water there.”

“No you idiot. About us and what’ll happen when we reach England?”

“We do the best we can and expect the worst they can give. We need to convince the Don to hide their gold or Pal-ul-Don will look like the Aztec Empire only worse.”

She watched the water with me then said, “You’re happy aren’t you? Married, a boat under your feet, no problems to speak of. This is exactly the life you wanted.”

“Not exactly.” I answered.

“You mean you wanted to be married to me? We were good together but our time is over. You are the most wonderful man I’ve ever known and I’ll always love you but…” I hate it when they say ‘but’. She held my hand and said, “Jason, they can’t make you happy, at least not in the way I could. BUT, you can be happy with them. Now I have to get back to my husband. It feels nice to say that word again.” She kissed me on the cheek and left. I didn’t look at her go but I heard her say, “My husband, relax, I wasn’t a young virginal bride when you married me. I have a history and Jason is a part of that. He’s my best friend who was always there when I needed someone and he always will be. Accept that we are friends or divorce me now.”

I knew it would be hard for him, just as when this was over, it would be hard for me to accept that Ben-Sar would be a part of her history. Well, life isn’t perfect and we deal or slash our wrists.

Both Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu came to me and placed their arms about my waist and I felt their tails wrap around my ankles. “What are you thinking, husband?”

“About that passage. It looks wide but the water is too fast and see that white water, rocks. We have to go slow and careful and watch every step.”

Pan-Sad-Bu hit me in the side and said, “Not that! About Di-Ann? You were married to her and still love her and now she is married to another. Are you sad, jealous, wishing you were married to her again instead of us?”

I wanted to lie but never learned how. My biggest failing I guess. “A little of all of those. But Diane said something very wise and I shall remember it because she knows me better than almost anyone else. She told me that I was happy with this ship beneath my feet and with you two in my arms so I should let you make me happy.”

Yo-Bal-Lee hugged me closer and said, “Husband, I tried to make you happy in Pal-ul-Don and I will try to make you happy here because I know that you will do everything in your power to make us happy. I wish I could make you forget her but I cannot for a part of her lives here still,” she touched my heart, “I must also remember that a part of Pele-Sad lives in me too and not be jealous.”

Pan-Sad-Bu laughed, “At least on this boat, there is no place for him to run off and cheat on us. So by the time we are anyplace where he can, we will make certain he won’t want to.”

“Like I would,” I added. “Had I known Yo-Bal-Lee was married I’d never…” She stopped me and said, “Never mention that again. We will pretend I was not … married then. Give me that much respect, husband.”

I sighed and kissed her. Then had to kiss Pan-Sad-Bu. I’ve always been monogamous, happily so and those rare occasions when I took another lover was with the blessing of my wife who considered the other woman more of a toy than a person. I had to re-learn to be married and I’d have to learn to be polygynous. Good thing for me these two were willing to teach me.

“It looks like rain. We should cover the hold and break out the laundry and bath-tub.” I suggested.

“I love making love in the rain,” laughed Yo-Bal-Lee but Pan-Sad-Bu replied, “I don’t, it makes my fur stink. You enjoy your time and I’ll have mine tonight.”

“With my brothers watching?” she said shocked! I left them to their games as I prepared for the rains.

Later, sitting in the cabin with the front panels removed, we all watched the rain and Yo-Bal-Lee asked, “Husband, tell me about your names. Yours are so strange in our language. Do they mean anything?”

“Oh god,” Diane said, laying in Ben-Sar’s arms with his tail curled around her, “Now he’s going to lecture. Yo, I love you dearly as a sister but one lesson, one of the many lessons you need to learn is NEVER ask Jason to lecture. He’ll talk your ears off and never give you a chance to talk.”

Yo-Bal-Lee said, “I love it when he talks. It makes the world open up.”

I began. “Long ago we only had one name, Jason or Diane or Fiona. Parents sometimes chose a name because it sounded nice on the tongue, sometimes to respect a relative, sometimes because it meant something. Jason was a Greek adventurer who was king of a country but driven out. He was told that if he brought back a certain treasure, he’d be king again and so he did and there were many stories written about his adventures.”

“Like you, my husband,” commented Pan-Sad-Bu. I hadn’t thought of that.

“Not exactly.” I said, then continued, “I never learned why my father named me that. It’s completely non-Irish, but then, neither was my father. Diane was the name of a famous Roman Goddess, a chaste hunter, (Fiona laughed at this) and Goddess of the Moon. Fiona’s grandparents were Irish, like me, and her name means ‘brilliant, white and fair’ and is the female version of a great Irish hero Finn MacCool.”

“Really, I didn’t know that. I was named after my Grandmother.”

“Dear,” I added. “When your grandmother was born, it was illegal by British Law to give children Irish names. Maybe that’s why my name is Greek.

“Then when the population grew too large, people added a family name to distinguish ‘Richard from the village of Holt’ from ‘Richard the barrel-maker’. So some people took their occupation for their last name, some their home and some their ancestor’s name. My ancestor was Brian Boru, the Great High King of Ireland. So his children took Brian’s name as their family name to honor him which is why I am called Jason Obrien, Jason, son of Brian. Fiona is Fiona O’Neill which means Fiona, daughter of Neill which was a famous Irish family of the kings of Ulster. I am descended from Irish kings and still titled. Diane is of English descent and probably means Diane whose ancestor was born in the Winter.

“For a long time it was customary for a woman to take her husband’s name to show she was married,”

“A stupid custom smacking of male domination,” snapped Diane as she snuggled closer to her husband, “Which is why Fi and I never took our husband’s names but kept our own.”

“So,” Yo-Bal-Lee said, “your custom would mean my name is now Yo-Bal-Lee-Jay-Son-Obrien, Friendly Golden Doe, wife of Jason, who is son of Brian Boru? It sounds clumsy and I wonder how anyone managed to find time to converse after all that introduction.”

“Which is why, my loves,” I said, “I always asked my wives to keep their own names.”

“Wives!” Pan-Sad-Bu sat up, “how many times have you been married?”

“Enough!” Diane said. “Don’t ever get him started on THAT subject. Shut up Jason. God, now he’ll be depressed all night. I’ll tell you later dear. Now lets talk of pleasant matters and watch the rain.”

Fiona changed the subject, “Husband, tell us about your names?”

“With us men always have two-word names, Ben-Sar or Mu-Lot and women have three-word names like Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu. Ho-Don men like us start and end in a consonant. Wa-Don men start with a vowel and end in a consonant. Ho-Don women start and end in a vowel but Waz-Don women start in a consonant and end in a vowel.

“We are given one name at birth that describes us usually which is why my brother was named Great-Nose!”

“I love his aristocratic nose,” Diane said.

Mu-Lot continued, “but when we do something important or notable, we often change our name to describe what we have done. Pan-Sad-Bu was being given a new name, “Ul-Jad-Dhow” but that isn’t customary because it is a reverse of Waz-Don names so she has it as a title instead.”

“I was thinking of Dhow-Lav-Za or Ben-Dhow-Za or Bal-Dhow-Za, but didn’t like the sound.” She added.

“I liked Ben-Dhow-Za,” Yo-Bal-Lee said.

“And why didn’t you change your name, Yo?” Fiona asked.

“Because I am very friendly to the man I love,” she said snuggling closer into my arms.

“With that said,” Fiona said, “Mu is falling asleep so I’d better get him to bed. Come on dear.”

Ben-Sar added, “A good idea, come wife!”

“Come! Am I some lap pet that comes to your bidding!” She looked up to him until he slapped her behind and she squealed and ran for the bow with him in pursuit.


III
By Diane

We sailed the Recovery west at a fairly decent speed when you consider that we were seriously under-crewed. I didn’t think we’d get very far. Fiona soon yelled at Jason who was at the tiller and said, “I think you made a big mistake this time.”

“I make a lot of mistakes, tell me which one I did this time.” When the man is right, the man is right.

“Letting us leave alone. This boat is too big for us to handle alone. We should to go back and hire a crew.”

Jason had other worries which is why I love him. Fi and I think about today, he thinks about tomorrow. It’s also why I hate him at times, he can never live in the present. This time he was thinking months ahead as he asked, “The problem is that how would they survive in England? I suppose we could buy them a decent boat and they could return to Pal-ul-Don that way.”

I commented to Fi, “He’s thinking it over now. As soon as he decides it was his idea, he’ll turn around.” I hate that male ego of his where he listens to us but still needs to pretend it was his idea.

Fi said to me then, “Just don’t fall in love with Ben-Sar. You divorced him once, his reputation couldn’t take another one.

“Divorce? What are you talking about?” I was lost here.

“Di, didn’t you listen to anything they said? We were married. Jason was married to both Pan and Yo, I was married to Mu and you were married to Ben. When we told them we had to go, we divorced them.”

I snapped back, “Don’t be foolish, we weren’t married, we were just living together.”

“As husband and wife with all the duties and responsibilities. Just because we never went to a temple didn’t make it any less legal. The Don have two kinds of marriage, the temple marriage where the couple is married by a priestess and a civil marriage where they simply move in together. When you asked Ben to move into your apartment, you proposed to him and when he moved his clothes into the apartment, you were married. Congradulations Di, you are now a divorcee. Welcome to the club.”

“But we never… We weren’t in love or anything. I liked him and enjoyed him in bed but…”

Fiona laughed, “And you say Jason is oblivious. Look, Di, it would never have worked out. Yo and Pan are stronger than Jason and Mu and Ben could break him in half easily were he not so good at martial arts. What kind of children could we bear? Children so weak a little girl could beat them up? Tailless or half-tailed? They wouldn’t survive in their country and in America they’d lock them in some research facility. I agree that we need a crew to help sail the Recovery, and for personal reasons I want Mu and Ben on it. And for exactly that reason we NEED Pan and Yo to keep Jason occupied. But I’m not such a fool to believe that I’ll live happily ever after with Mu-Lot. This isn’t a fairy tale, it’s real life and here, people get hurt.

“Live with him, marry him again, fuck him but don’t love him or allow him to love you. Then when he returns home, he won’t have to tell anyone that he was divorced, we pick them up, the divorce is voided and when they leave us later they simply don’t mention it. Their reputation is safe and we each go our own ways.” She finished. The woman was right. I was jealous how she could be so casual about sex and unemotional about something that was so personal.

“What will Jason do? He’s jealous enough as it is.”

Fi looked at the shore, “Why do you think we are sailing so close to the shore? This is the dangerous area and he’s risking the hull being stove in by an underwater rock.”

“He wants them back too?” Diane said.

“And he will tolorate Mu and Ben so long as he has Pan and Yo to keep him happy.” She said then she saw something and cried, “Jason, there are warriors from As-Lur on the shore. They are waving us down.”

Jason looked over and snapped, “Furl the sheet! Hard a-starboard.” And he turned the tiller as we bent to the winches to raise the sail to the boom. I’d be glad to let someone else to this job

When we ran aground, Fiona dropped the anchor as I readied the line to give it scope. Then I took another line and tossed it to the men on the beach who pulled us in and tied the dhow to a nearby tree. They then waded out and used that line to climb aboard where one said to Jason, “I am told to stop you for a message from Ben-Den, Gund of As-Lur.”

“And what is the message,” he asked.

“I don’t know. I was only told to ask you to wait until it arrived.”

We sat there for some time doing nothing until I happened to look over the side and I saw a group of Don approach. As they got closer, I recognized Yo, Pan and even Ben and Mu. I felt a pressure in my chest and couldn’t breathe until Fi held me and said, “Remember, sex but not love.” “Easy for you to say,” I snapped back. They entered the water and used the line to climb aboard. Yo-Bal-Lee walked to Jason and he had no clue at all until she slapped him so hard he almost hit the rail and fell overboard. She then yelled at him, “How DARE you leave without us! Have you no respect for your wives! You know you cannot sail this dhow without our aid and STILL you try! Carry my bags to our cabin husband. This boat is a mess, you’ve been gone less than a day and it looks like an animal pen. Di-Ann, how could you allow him to be such an animal?”

I had to laugh at this display of feminine control and at Jason’s total inability to see what she was doing. “Well, you know men. I think we are doing good if we keep them from drinking from the toilet like a dog.”

Pan-Sad-Bu then walked to Jason, kissed him and said, “Husband, I agree with my wife-sister. You were very bad to forget us like that. It was humiliating to be left behind as if we were a basket of fruit. Now carry my belongings to our cabin and consider how you will apologize to us.” Then she walked away swinging her hips and tail for no other reason than to tempt him, her hips saying, ‘look at what I might give you if you beg long enough’. The poor man was lost and drooling at the same time.

Fiona finally let Mu-Lot go from her lip-lock and said to Jason, “We need to build separate cabins.” Just sex my ass, she was as enamored of him as I was of his brother. Only I was willing to admit it.

“Women!” He yelled. “No wonder I stay single!”

“Not now you aren’t.” I said to him. “Besides you love it. If you weren’t married to them you’d be miserable and have to date someone else to control you. Now, we can sail on or should we stop at Lul-Lur and pick up a few more harem-girls for you?”

He just gave me a dirty look and carried the bags to their cabin. “That man is so whipped it’s almost embarassing,” I said to no one in particular.

We spent a few days modifying the bow to accommodate my new cabin. That meant raising the forward deck a few feet and cutting holes for vents and port-holes. Jason said we’d use louvers now and replace them with glass as soon as we could find some.

Fiona’s cabin was in the stern where there was more room so needed some decks and portholes and vents. I think he wanted me in the bow and Fi in the stern because she is quiet during sex and I’m not. Fortunately, Jason always insisted on dry-docking the Recovery and scraping and fumigating the hull at every opportunity so it no longer stank below.

That night was wonderful, it was like we had been apart for years instead of a day and I went to sleep sore but happy, laying in his arms.

When the modifications were done, the Don left, all save our husbands and wives and I had to get used to thinking like that. For some reason, Jason didn’t have that commitment-phobia most men have but I somehow felt like I was cheating on my dead husband. He had been killed in Vietnam more than six years ago and I had dated and bedded a few men since then but the word ‘marriage’ made this time different.

We sailed west to the straight where Jason dropped anchor again. He was looking it over through his binoculars when I came to him and asked, “What are you thinking?”

The fool man thought I was talking about the passage and said to me, “I think we go for it in the morning before the wind picks up. I’d like a gentle breeze and a slow passage. I think I see white water there.”

“Not that, you idiot. About us and what’ll happen to our husbands and wives when we reach England?”

He sighed and replied, “We do the best we can and expect the worst they can give. We need to convince them to hide their gold or Pal-ul-Don will look like the Aztec Empire only worse.”

I looked at the water not seeing much then commented, “You’re happy now aren’t you? You’re finally married again, you have a boat under your feet, there are no real problems to speak of. This is exactly the life you wanted.”

“Not exactly.” he answered.

For some reason that made me happy. Jason and I had been engaged until he made love to Fi. I know I sent him to her but I expected them to just fuck and instead they made love. But a part of me will always love him and wish things had been different. “You mean you wanted to be married to me?” I guessed. He was always transparent even when he tried to hide the pain. And knowing that I was with Ben hurt him. I wanted to soften the pain but he needed to accept things. “Jason, we were good together but our time is over. You are the most wonderful man I’ve ever known and I’ll always love you but I’m no longer in love with you.” I took his hand and kissed it and said, “Jason, they can’t make you as happy as I could. BUT, you can be happy with them if you let go and be their husband. Now I have to get back to my own husband. It’s strange but it feels nice to say that word again.”

I kissed him on the cheek and left to find Ben watching. He had that same pained look but this time I knew what to say. “You are my husband but I wasn’t a young virginal bride when you married me. I have a past history and Jason is a part of that and always will be. He’s my best friend and he’s always been there when I needed someone and he always will be. If you can’t accept that we are and will be friends you may as well divorce me now.”

It rained that night, again and we were all sitting in the stern cabin with the front panels removed as we watched the rain fall. I loved times like this. Jason was there with a woman in each arm not knowing what to do or how. Fi was laying in Mu’s arms and I was sitting on Ben’s lap, feeling his tail around me and his hardness under. God what he can do with that tail. Finally Yo broke the silence and asked, “Husband, tell me about your names. Yours are so strange in our language. What do they mean?”

“Oh god,” I said, “Now he’s going to lecture us. Yo, I love you dearly as a sister but one lesson you need to learn is NEVER ask Jason to lecture. He’ll talk your ears off and never give you a chance to talk.”

Yo snuggled closer and said, “I love it when he talks. It makes the world open up.” Well, she started this. Since he would be lost for awhile, lecturing was the only thing that took his mind off sex, I took the opportunity to kiss my husband in the dark. So, as I was enjoying myself, I was able to ignore most of what he said,

I recall Yo commenting that our Jason was very much like the Jason of the Argo and that Fi was named after some Irish hero that only Jason would know about. I did perk up when he said, “For a long time it was customary for a woman to take her husband’s name to show she was married.” This caused me to snap “A stupid custom smacking of male domination, which is why Fi and I never took our husband’s names but kept our own.” I remembered my friends and parents demanding that I change my name. “Don’t you love your husband,” they’d say as if I couldn’t be in love unless I gave up my own identity.

Then when Yo asked how many times Jason had been married I had to break in, “Enough! Don’t ever get him started on THAT subject. Shut up Jason they don’t need to hear your tales of woe and faithless lovers. God, now he’ll be depressed all night. Lets talk of pleasant matters and just watch the rain.” I wanted to get back into the mood and thinking of Jason getting depressed and whining about his ex-wives and ex-lovers was more than most people could handle.

Mu said something about their names describing them like Ben-Sar meant ‘big-nose’ to which I said “I love his aristocratic nose,” and kissed it to prove it.

Finally Fi said, “Mu is falling asleep so I’d better get him to bed. Come on dear.”

Then Ben said, “A good idea, come wife!”

“Come!” I snapped, “Am I some lap dog that you an call to service your?” then he slapped my behind and I ran for our cabin with him in hot pursuit.


IV
The Don

The Don waded into the water then climbed the rope that tied the boat to a tree using their hands, feet and tail. Pan-Sad-Bu wondered how the Tand-at-don ever did anything as defective as they were, yet they managed somehow.

Once on board Yo-Bal-Lee walked to Jay-Son smiling at him, then she slapped him so hard he almost fell overboard. “How DARE you leave without us!” she yelled so loud even the people on shore heard her as they should. “Have you no respect for your wives! You know you cannot sail this dhow without our aid and STILL you try!” She tossed her bags to him saying also loud, “Carry my bags to our cabin husband. This boat is a mess, you’ve been gone less than a day and it looks like an animal pen. Di-Ann, how could you allow him to be such?”

Diane laughed as she said, “You know males. We try but if we can keep them from drinking dirty water we feel we did well.”

Pan-Sad-Bu then kissed him and said not as loud, “I agree with my wife-sister, husband. You were very bad to forget us like that. It was humiliating to be left behind as if we were a basket of fruit. Now carry my belongings to our cabin and consider how you will apologize to us.” She then walked away deliberately swinging her hips and tail to tease him in a way that she was very good doing.

Jay-Son carried their bags to their cabin which was now only theirs as Fee-Ona insisted on each having their own rooms. She got used to having Fee-Ona and Di-Ann watch her make love to Jay-Son but the thought of her brothers seeing made her skin crawl. Once alone, Yo-Bal-Lee turned to Pan-Sad-Bu and said, “That should convince them that we are still married. They will carry the tale back to As-Lur and Bu-Lur about how angry we were to have our husband leave us behind on this voyage.”

“Good,” Pan-Sad-Bu added. “I didn’t like the disgrace of being divorced. Husband, now that you know we are married, I shall be faithful to you and make you happy in every way.” Then she curled her tail between her legs and stroked him with the tip.

Yo-Bal-Lee added, “You mean now that you know you are married, you will be faithful.”

“Whatever,” she shrugged. “We will be with our husband for as long as he will have us. Let us make him happy and he will make us happier.”

“ Now husband, you must convince those outside that you missed us and love us.”

“Who first?” Yo-Bal-Lee asked. “We never decided that and you know he won’t embarrass one of us by choosing the other.”

“Hello?” Jay-Son said, “I’m here listening to this.”

Yo-Bal-Lee stroked his cheek with her tail and said, “Of course you are husband and now we must convince those outside that we have forgiven you. Pan, let us just have fun and see who desires first. But the second will have more time.”

“Yes, he does that I have noticed. First is fast, second is lingering.”

“I’m still here,” He said.

“Then, husband, shut up and kiss us and let our friends outside know how much you love us.”

They rebuilt the boat to make rooms for Di-Ann and Ben-Sar in the front and for Fee-Ona and Mu-Lot in the back under Jay-Son’s cabin. Jay-Son had insisted on cleaning the inside often and burning sweet smelling herbs inside so with the new holes for light and air, it didn’t stink any more.

The first night they were together, after the afternoon romp, the three were laying together when Pan-Sad-Bu leaned over and smelled her husband’s chest, “He smells like all three of us together. Do I smell like you two?”

“He should after this day,” Yo-Bal-Lee laughed. “We are fortunate that he is such a good warrior. Speaking of which, husband, I think it is time for you to teach my brothers how you fight as you do.”

“Gladly, but why do you keep calling me ‘husband’?”

Yo-Bal-Lee rolled over and on top of her husband, sliding down to make him loose concentration, “Because HUSBAND, you tend to forget small details like how we are your wives and we don’t want you to ever forget again that you are married.” Pan-Sad-Bu agreed with that. “Husband,” she added as she stood over him, allowing her breasts to caress his face in that way she found he liked and distracted him even more. “Yo-Bal-Lee knew we were married but you did not and I acted as if I were not. This made wives and old people talk about us. Now we must remember that when you bedded us and brought us into your cabin before we found Pal-ul-Don, you married us.”

“YOU bedded me as I recall,” Jay-Son commented. “And Di-Ann and Fee-Ona shared my cabin as well.” The two Don ignored that comment as unimportant.

“But you know when…” he started to talk about Eng-Pal but Yo-Bal-Lee placed her tail over his lips to silence him and she said, “I know, my love, I just don’t want to think of it yet.”

“But I worry about you two. What will you do?” he would not cease to worry about them. It was loving and infuriating at the same time.

Pan-Sad-Bu kissed him and said, “Men go to war and to fish and to hunt every day and every day some don’t return. We don’t talk about it and eventually re-marry. Our return to Pal-ul-Don will be no different. Now that you have saddened us, you must make us feel better. Tell us how beautiful we are and how much you love us. And don’t forget to tell us how empty your life would be alone.”

Yo-Bal-Lee added, “and do so as I enjoy my husband’s body again.”

“If, he can concentrate on speech as you do that,” Pan-Sad-Bu laughed. Neither had shared a man before so they were still learning and teaching him as they learned. Some, like this, was fun, others were irritating. Despite all his experience which he denied, he was, as Yo-Bal-Lee said, ‘as dumb as a rock’ sometimes.

After the dhow was finished, they sailed to the straight between the seas where Jay-Son insisted on anchoring so he could look at the water before entering. While he was doing so, Di-Ann approached and spoke to him. She even held his hand and kissed him on the cheek which angered her husband. Pan-Sad-Bu stopped him because even though Jay-Son had the body and strength of a child, he was still a great warrior and Ben-Sar didn’t realize that attacking Jay-Son was too dangerous. “They were married but now are friends as brother and sister. She loves you and he loves us. Be not jealous.”

When she left him, she came to Ben-Sar and tried to hold him but he pulled away in anger. Di-Ann became angry with that and said to him, “My HUSBAND,” she emphasized that word for him, “I wasn’t a virgin bride when you married me. I have a history and Jason is a part of that past. He’s my best friend and brother who is always there when I need someone and he always will be. Accept that we are friends or divorce me now.” She then kissed him and he allowed that but was still angry. Mu-Lot was easier for he loved Fee-Ona but knew that their time was short so he would enjoy her with no regrets. Ben-Sar was different. He always felt more, almost like a woman at times.

Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu then went to Jay-Son and placed their arms about his waist and wrapped their tails wrap around his ankles and asked “What are you thinking, husband?”

He was still as stupid as a rock, thought Yo-Bal-Lee when he said, “About that passage. It looks wide but the water is too fast and see that white water, rocks. We have to go slow and careful and watch every step.”

Pan-Sad-Bu hit him in the side and said, “Not that! About Di-Ann? You were married and now she is married to another. Are you sad, jealous, wishing you were married to her again instead of us?”

He should have said ‘no, you make me happier than anyone ever before’ but instead he said, “A little of all of those. But Diane said that I was happy with this ship beneath my feet and with you two in my arms so I should let you make me happy.”

Yo-Bal-Lee hugged him closer and said, “Husband, I tried to make you happy in Pal-ul-Don and I will try to make you happy here because I love you and know that you will do anything to make us happy. I wish I could make you forget her and think only of us but I cannot for a part of her lives here still,” she touched his heart and continued. “I cannot replace her but I can be your wife in every way.”

Pan-Sad-Bu joked and said, “At least on this boat, there is no place for him to run off with her and cheat on us. So by the time we are anyplace where they can, we will make certain he won’t want to.”

“Like I would,” he said. “Had I known Yo-Bal-Lee was married I’d never have allowed her in my bed,” but she silenced him and asked, “Husband, please never mention that again. We will pretend I was not … married then. If you care for me, give me that much respect.” Her adultery bothered her greatly for the Don stone adulterers and they never marry again. The fact that Jay-Son loved her enough to protect her from that fate and loved Pan-Sad-Bu enough to protect her from her own deserved stoning when she cheated on him in Bu-Lur proved how wonderful a husband they had.

He then sighed, kissed them both and said, “It looks like rain. We should cover the hold and break out the laundry and bath-tub.”

“I love making love in the rain,” laughed Yo-Bal-Lee but Pan-Sad-Bu added, “I don’t, it makes my fur stink. You enjoy your time and I’ll have mine tonight.”

“On deck? with my brothers watching?” she laughed

Later they sat in his cabin with the front panels removed and watched the rain fall. Each woman lay in her husband’s arms and talked of useless things to pass the time.

Jay-Son told them how he had been named after a hero from a country called Greece and how women in his country took their husband’s name for their own, something that made Di-Ann stop kissing her husband and cry how it made a woman a man’s possession as if that were something wrong.

Then Jay-Son said he had been married before Di-Ann and immediately his wives demanded to know more. Di-Ann cried that, “Don’t ever get him started on THAT subject. Shut up Jason. God, now he’ll be depressed all night.” She promised to tell the Don later though.

When Fee-Ona asked why Yo-Bal-Lee never changed her name when she became famous as Pan-Sad-Bu almost did, she snuggled closer to her husband, slid her hand into his pants and said, “My name is perfect because I am very friendly to the man I love.” Pan-Sad-Bu was glad it was so dark no one saw. But her hand was already there anyway so the two touched tails in conspiracy.

Then Fee-Ona took her sleeping husband to bed and Ben-Sar made it clear he had no intention of sleeping yet as he chased his wife across the deck. Yo-Bal-Lee thought that Jay-Son didn’t even tense as he saw that. He must be getting over her or loving them more. Either was good.


V
By Jason

The next morning I was at the bow when the girls yelled, “Husband, it’s raining out there, come in and have breakfast.”

“The white water is gone, all the rain had raised the lake level, I think it’s safe to try the straight.”

Yo-Bal-Lee came and took my hand, “Come inside husband.”

I grabbed her and spun her around. She may be as strong as I was but she wasn’t as heavy. “Play with me in the rain!” I asked. “Pan, come out and play.”

“No! My fur stinks!”

“I said I liked to make love in the rain, I never said play!” she kept trying to pull me back under cover. Instead I lifted he onto a crate and said, “I never turn down an offer like that!”

“Stop that, what if my brothers come up! Stop! I’m warning you… stop, oh, don’t stop that. You’re forgetting my shoulders.”

Pan-Sad-Bu watched for a moment then returned to her cooking. “That man is insatiable!”

“I heard that! It’s only because you inspire me my loves!”

Later Fiona poked her head out and called, “Are you finished! I had to distract Mu because no one likes to think of his sister in that way.”

Pan called back, “Breakfast is almost ready. Jay-Son wants to sail today.”

“Is he crazy? It’s raining! What am I saying, of course he’s crazy, he’s Irish!”

“I thought you were Irish too?” Yo called, combing her hair dry.

“No, my love. I am Irish-born. Fiona is American-born of Irish descent and Diane is American-born of British descent. It makes us different. American is a nationality, being Irish is a race. All Irish are crazy, some of us just handle it better. But I DO want to try the straights today. It’s not raining hard and we can anchor on the other side until the sky’s clear.”

“Ok, but I want fresh game so as soon as we anchor, you men go hunting.” Pan insisted.

After we ate, we raised anchor, unfurled the sail moved into the straight at a slow three to four knots. I wanted to toss a drogue out to slow us more but was afraid it would catch so we had to put Yo-Bal-Lee in the mast to watch with Fiona at the bow. Pan-Sad-Bu was at the tiller where she could steer and not get wet while the men readied the lines and I ran all over the place worrying.

The straight was long as wide and shallow. In some places the lead-line showed a few dozen feet, in others we scraped bottom. With Yo-Bal-Lee on the mast pointing the deepest water and Fiona at the bow keeping watch, we made it easily halfway before I called a stop. Seven hours of this and we did about 25 miles. We were drained so I called to drop anchor at the mouth of a river which Ben-Sar said came from Pal-ul-Don because he recognized the vegetation drifting downstream. We furled the sail and settled in near the east shore to rest. The big problem I felt was our lack of keel. A good full keel would prevent sideways drift. Without one, when the wind blew from the east, we went north-west so had to constantly turn into the wind to maintain a course. But a decent keel might not have made it through some of the shallower places.

We were too tired to hunt so ate whatever was handy then fell asleep immediately.

I was nudged awake, “Jay-Son,” Pan was waking me, Yo was already awake and at the air-vent. “Something is on the ship.” I woke up quickly, then peeked out and saw moving shadows. Pan handed me my katana then lifted the rear hatch that led to Fiona and Mu-Lot’s quarters below to awaken them. I reached for my clothes and Yo whispered, “we have no time for modesty, they won’t care about your genitals if you kill them.”

I took a breath to center than as I was about to slide the wall to leave, Pan whispered to me, “Mu-Lot is readying at the hatch and Fiona passes below to awaken Ben-Sar.” I kissed them both then left and immediately ran back inside, “Shut the door!” I yelled. They tried but a head filled with teeth snaked in on a very long neck and blocked their efforts. Yo screamed and as it turned to her, I took the opportunity and lopped it in half. Rather, I removed the head and about three feet of neck. The remainder pulled back and as I looked out again, saw at least three more snaking around the ship.

“Carbine!” I commanded then saw Mu-Lot exit the hatch and attack one with his club. A stupid move as it took one strike and pulled out of the way then attacked him from another direction. He stood his ground and crushed it’s skull as it was about to grab him. Then another came over the top of the hatch and sunk it’s teeth into his shoulder.

I couldn’t wait so ran out and attacked it, killing it with two blows, then turned to face another when a report split the air and the thing fell with a bullet in it’s head. Two more rifle shots happened and then it was over. They were gone save the ones we killed.

Yo was crying over her injured brother and Fiona yelled, “quiet, fetch the med-kit!” as she ripped her blouse to staunch his bleeding. Ben-Sar arrived and between us we carried him into my cabin and lay him on the bed where Fiona and Diane went to work. “Jason, you can help us in here!” she demanded. I lay my sword aside and ordered, “Ben-Sar, you, Yo and Pan keep watch but be careful! I don’t want any foolish bravery.”

His injuries were superficial but ugly and we washed them as best we could with drinking water then iodine and bandaged them. None appeared to need stitches so once done, I examined the head still laying on the floor. As I was doing so, I heard Fiona finally holding him and crying. She had buried her feelings under stress and now could afford to release her own fears.

“Definitely a reptile. All those teeth sticking out imply a fish-eater but why attack us? It has eyelids so isn’t a snake. Yo, here’s dinner!” She hit me at that. “I can’t eat something that tried to eat my brother!” she yelled.

‘Wonderful,’ I thought as I left with sword and carbine and looked around. Pan was up the mast and Ben-Sar was on the cabin roof, both turning and searching the darkness. “Anything?” I called. Both replied in the negative and Pan added, “I’m scared!” “Then come down. I’ll take over.” I yelled back.

“Abut time, husband. It’s your place to protect me.” She said as she wiggled past.

I looked over the body on the deck, the one I had killed as it attacked Mu-Lot. The one he had killed was gone. “It was dragged overboard by others.” Called Ben-Sar. Mine had that same tooth-filled mouth only these were covered in Mu-Lot’s blood. I walked to the bow, carefully with flashlight and carbine ready and looked over the rest of the thing. The neck was long, eight inches thick at the head and some eight feet long and sinuous as a snake. The body was flat and narrow and had four flippers and a short tail. A plesiosaur, I thought, or an offshoot. There were rumors of them existing in the Congo, possibly in the Pal-ul-Don swamps then when the lake rose, they obviously spread out or migrated here.

Diane and Fiona had left the cabin with Ben-Sar between and Pan and Yo in tow. “It looks like a plesiosaur or maybe a Elasmosaur? They are normally fish-eaters which explains their teeth. Did they live in the Morass around Pal-ul-Don before they dried up?”

Ben-Sar looked at it and said, “There are legends and some smaller ones, much smaller live in lakes of the Valley of the Great God. The smaller ones eat fish and frogs but I’ve never seen one this large.”

“So, what made it attack us? Look at it’s teeth! They aren’t designed for ripping and tearing so even if it killed Mu-Lot, it couldn’t eat him.

“Does it really matter why they attacked us, they did!” Yo cried. She was still worried about her brother.

“Yes it does,” I explained. “Wolves don’t attack people. If the do it’s because they are starving or diseased. If diseased, then those they bite will become diseased. Cows don’t attack people either unless they are diseased. So, if fish-eaters are eating people, I want to know why so we can take measures to prevent that madness from spreading or infecting us.”

Ben-Sar climbed the mast, which was well out of their reach, and settled in to watch. After some time, Diane said, “Jason, who hung that lamp over the bow?”

“I did. It’s standard practice to light a ship at anchor to prevent being run over in the dark. There wasn’t any need in the bays or dock but this is a passage and if there were any other ships passing through, I wanted them to see us before they rammed us.”

“Did you know that if you hang a lamp over the water, it attracts bugs which attract fish which could attract fish-eaters?”

I looked at her then held my carbine at the ready and went forward. Yes, there were bugs all over, attracted to the light and fish were happily eating the bugs on or near the water. I shone my flashlight into the water and soon saw a snake-like head snap out from under the dhow and snap up a fish. “They are under the dhow!” I called, “eating the fish the lamp attracts.” None of them looked at me but as I moved the flashlight, the bugs followed the beam which moved the fish which caused the saurians to snap them up. “These look like babies. They are much smaller than the ones on deck.”

The boat shifted in the wind and current then as I watched the fish and saurians vanish in panic, Diane opened fire. I turned and saw another monster fall back into the water. I rushed to the side and saw it move away. There were no fish on that side of the boat.

“I think I’ve figured it out. Boats as slow as a dhow always attract fish in the open sea as the only place they can find shade and shelter from preditors or hide from prey. The lamp is attracting bugs which attract fish as Diane said then the young saurians are hiding under the hull to eat the fish.

“But, when the hull shifts, the saurians panic and scatter and their parents see the dhow as a threat to their young and respond. This implies that these lizards have some family grouping and parental instincts that most do not.

“All we have to do is raise anchor and move away and they will leave us alone. Or,” I removed the lantern and turned it off, “remove the food source and they return to wherever they came from.” Gosh, I love science. “Stay off deck until the bugs are all gone and we shouldn’t have any more trouble. You can come down now Ben.”

“That’s it!” screamed Fiona. “You trying to keep us safe almost killed Mu-Lot?”

“The gods DO have a really warped sense of humor sometimes. Watch his wound carefully for infection.”

She was so angry she wanted to hit me but then broke down in hysterical laughter. “My husband almost dies because you wanted us to be safe.”


VI
By Diane

We had breakfast which Jason rushed us through as he didn’t want to loose the water, raised anchor, unfurled the sail moved forward at a very slow speed. I could have walked faster but Jason was afraid of unknown water and sent Yo up the mast to watch and Fi at the bow. Pan asked to steer where she could stay dry because her fur stank when it got wet. She had the softest fur I ever felt but once wet, she was worse than a dog, so she kept dry and the rest of us worked in the drizzling rain. Jason, however, ran all over the dhow worrying about everything but I knew he’d get us through. The man may be pussy-whipped twice over, and enjoyed it, but here is where he shone.

It took seven hours to cross about 25 miles with us scraping bottom at times and at other we couldn’t see the bottom. Finally Jason called a stop at a river mouth simply because we were exhausted. Ben looked over the side and fished up a branch then declared that we were seeing some trees that he had seen only in the remaining Pal-ul-Don morass so this river must come from his home. Jason, of course, took notes, added to his maps and guessed that we were about seventy-five miles from Pal-ul-Don as the crow flies. “How far if we tossed one of the canoes into the water and had to paddle against the current,” I asked.

I was awakened by Fi entering my cabin and shushing us as she nudged us. “Something is on the ship. Something big and mean. Jason wants us armed and ready.” She was already partially dressed and carrying her gun so Ben and I followed and we peeked out the fore-hatch. The deck was covered with things that looked like a snake threaded through a turtle with one completely on the deck and it’s flippers were huge. Others were still in the water but their snake-like heads were weaving around, seeking prey. Then the one on the deck reached around the hatch and we heard a man cry out in pain but before we could act, the thing shuddered and fell dead, it’s short tail twitching.

Ben immediately left the safety of our position and charged but Fi and I remained behind and opened fire on the ones we could see. The things hissed then vanished over the side and we heard Yo run up to cry over Mu who was bleeding from his shoulder where one had latched on, thinking he was a meal.

Mu was laying on the deck bleeding from a horrible wound in his shoulder while Yo cried over her injured brother. Fi immediately yelled for silence and the first-aid kit as she ripped her blouse off to staunch his bleeding. Then Ben was there and we carried him to Jason’s cabin to lay him on his bed so we could clean and dress his wound. I called for Jason who kicked one of the heads aside to assist. I imagine that one had tried to enter his bedchamber and paid the price so as Jason helped us, he also yelled for Ben and the girls to go out and watch for more of the things.

Finally we were done, all those years adventuring had taught us the value of a decent medical training and we all had taken a number of classes back home just for emergencies like this. I had heard rumors that Jason was a surgeon and maybe he was for although his stitchery wasn’t pretty, it always held. As for me and Fi, we had taken EMT and Trauma Aid classes a plenty so knew what to do but as soon as we finished, she released all her stress and fear and simply held him as she cried.

As always, Jason turned scientist and examined the thing in his cabin. “It’s definitely a reptile. And all those teeth sticking out mean it’s a fish-eater but why would it attack us? It has eyelids so isn’t a snake.” He apparently hadn’t seen the entire creature as had we. Then, as usual he made a really bad joke to relieve his own stress and said, “Yo, here’s dinner!”

She hadn’t been with him long enough to understand that he was trying to relax so she hit him and yelled, “I can’t eat something that tried to eat my brother!” He was hurt at that so took his sword and carbine and went on deck to look around.

Fi and I left Mu resting and with Ben and Jason’s wives in tow listened to Jason lecture as he examined the things. “It looks like a plesiosaur which are normally fish-eaters because of their teeth.” He then turned to Ben and asked, “Did they live in the swamp around Pal-ul-Don before they dried up?”

Ben was looking around the boat in case others returned and said, “There are legends and some smaller ones, much smaller live in lakes of the Valley of the Great God. The smaller ones eat fish and frogs but I’ve never seen one this large.”

Jason then talked to himself so neither Fi nor I answered as he pondered, “So, what made it attack us? Look at it’s teeth! They aren’t designed for ripping and tearing so even if it killed Mu-Lot, it couldn’t eat him.”

Yo demanded to know, “Does it really matter why they attacked us, they did!” Jason always had a good reason. We might not understand it but you live with the man long enough and you may not figure out how his mind works, but you accept that it’s doing a good job and you learn to let it muse.

So he explained in the voice he uses when he’s frustrated with people not grasping the obvious. “Yes because wolves don’t attack people unless they are starving or diseased. If they’re diseased, then those they bite will become diseased. Cows are the same so if a fish-eater is eating people, I want to know why so we can take measures to prevent that madness from spreading or infecting us.”

I looked around, nervous to be on deck then I saw something. I didn’t want to move away from the security of a wall so asked, “Jason, who hung that lamp over the bow?”

He answered absently, “I did. It’s standard practice to light a ship at anchor to prevent being run over in the dark.” The man wasn’t a fisherman and so didn’t know. I had to explain it to him and let him see what he had done. “Did you know that if you hang a lamp over the water, it attracts bugs which attract fish? I do it all the time when I night fish. So maybe those fish are attracting fish-eaters?”

He looked at me and the light went on in his brain. So he held his carbine at the ready and went forward. Fi and I kept ours at the ready because once he got an idea he wanted to check out, the man would be oblivious to anything else.

He shone his flashlight into the water, looked around then yelled, “They are under the dhow eating the fish the light attracts. These look like babies. They are much smaller than the ones on deck.”

The boat shifted in the wind then suddenly another one reared over the deck to reach for Jason. Both Fi and I fired almost in unison and as our bullets struck it’s neck, it hissed and vanished back into the water.

“I think I’ve figured it out.” Jason called. “Boats as slow as a dhow always attract fish in the open sea because it’s the only place they can find shade and shelter. This lamp is attracting bugs which attract fish as Diane said then the young saurians are hiding under the hull to eat the fish.

“But, when the hull moves, the saurians panic and scatter. Their parents see the dhow as a threat to their young and respond. This means that these lizards have some family grouping and parental instincts that most do not.”

He was in his element now, the high-school science teacher he wanted to be but never became. “All we have to do is raise anchor and move away from their home. Or remove the food source and they return to wherever they came from.” He then removed the lantern and turned it off. “Stay off deck until the bugs are all gone and we shouldn’t have any more trouble.”

“That’s it!” Fi was screaming. “You trying to keep us safe almost killed Mu-Lot?”

“The gods DO have a really warped sense of humor sometimes. Watch his wound carefully for infection.” He was, again, oblivious to her anger and his total lack of comprehension simply caused her to break down in hysterical laughter. “My husband almost died because you wanted us to be safe.”


VII
The Don

The man was dumb as a rock sometimes. It’s raining and he stood there getting wet watching the water. Yo-Bal-Lee had to call for him, “Husband, it’s raining out there, come in and have breakfast.”

He turned and replied, “The white water is gone, all the rain had raised the lake level, I think it’s safe to try to sail today.”

Pan Sad-Bu looked at her wife-sister and said, “you’d better go get him before he decides to go swimming with gimla.”

Yo-Bal-Lee ran out in the rain, took her husband’s hand and tried to bring him into cover, “Come inside husband.”

Instead he grabbed her and spun her around off the ground. “Play with me in the rain! Pan-Sad-Bu, come out and play.” Sometimes that man was as irritating as a child.

“No! My fur stinks in the rain!” Pan-Sad-Bu called from under cover.

Yo-Bal-Lee said to him, “I said I liked to make love in the rain, I never said play!” Then he lifted her onto a crate and said, “I never turn down an offer like that!” and started to kiss her. She turned away and tried to push herself free so he moved from her lips to her neck and ears.

“Stop that, what if my brothers come up! Stop! I’m warning you… stop, oh, don’t stop that. You’re forgetting my shoulders.” She forgot about everything at that time as he undid her breast-plates.

Pan-Sad-Bu watched then for a moment then returned to her cooking. “That man is insatiable!”

“I heard that!” he cried to her. “You inspire me my loves!” Pan-Sad-Bu decided she’d need to talk to Fee-Ona and Di-Ann about this. That man wasn’t normal, though to be honest, she really didn’t know what normal was. He was her first and though he thought she had cheated with a dozen men, there were only two. And even then that was one time each and neither were as caring and gentle as was her husband so she simply returned to him. Being open and taking multiple husbands might start a fashion but it made her feel strange. The-Great-God made man to marry one or more women, not the other way around. Many wives could share the housework and child-rearing and with a number of wives the males never had to force themselves on one wife always. They could even share that duty, though to be honest, she found Jay-Son to be more pleasure than duty. With more husbands, she’d have more wealth as they hunted and farmed and worked for the family, but they’d exhaust her at night and always fight with each other for males were like that.

Jay-Son never said it but she knew he loved her and Yo-Bal-Lee and would do anything for them, even forgive her adultery. Sometimes she didn’t know if that made him special or stupid. But she also knew that even though he was as weak as a child and had the body of a boy, he could still kill any Don male with little effort, probably any three at once with his hands empty and that thought made her proud to be his wife. A great warrior, a wise and brilliant man and a caring and gentle lover. She’d have to consider giving him sons soon.

Eventually, Fee-Ona looked out from below and called, “Are you finished yet? I have to distract Mu-Lot because no one likes to think of his sister in that way.”

Pan-Sad-Bu saw her wife-sister hastily replace her breast-plates so called back, “Breakfast is almost ready. Jay-Son wants to sail today.”

“Is he crazy? It’s raining! What am I saying, of course he’s crazy, he’s Irish!”

“I thought you were Irish too?” Yo-Bal-Lee called back, combing her hair dry.

“No, my love. I am Irish-born. Fiona is American-born of Irish descent. All Irish are crazy, some of us just handle it better. But I DO want to cross the passage today. It’s not raining hard and we can anchor on the other side until the sky’s clear.”

“As my husband wishes, but I want fresh game so as soon as we anchor, you men go hunting.” Pan-Sad-Bu insisted. The meat was getting soggy in all this humidity and no matter how she tried, her fur still stank though her husband never complained. He was such a dear that way.

So Jay-Son made everyone eat quickly which would cause their stomachs to ache later in this rain but when he had an idea, he was like a gryf and never let anything stand in his way.

Pan-Sad-Bu begged to steer because of the rain and although her husband preferred her on task that took strength and she often climbed the mast, he agreed so she sat in the back watching her family work. Di-Ann had told her that in their country, families were only a husband, one wife and their young children. Parents were sent to live elsewhere to die alone and abandoned and their sons were driven from the home when they became adults. What a horrible world she came from. Here, all were her family. Yo-Bal-Lee was sister to Mu-Lot and Ben-Sar and sharing the same husband made them her brothers too. Because they were married to Di-Ann and Fee-Ona, that made them her sisters. If there were more room on this dhow, she’d like to have her own brothers and sisters and parents here too. What wonders they’d see.

Jay-Son worried like a new-mother over the passage but the women knew that they were safe. If he didn’t think it was safe to sail, he’d never put his wives and sisters at risk. She wished he could see that.

Occasionally they felt the shudder that said they had hit a rock or sand and Jay-Son would send someone below to check for leaks. Fortunately, the rain was gentle so Yo-Bal-Lee could see ahead from the mast and Di-Ann could see from the bow but still Jay-Son exhausted them with his worrying and constant demands that everything be done quickly to be ‘safe’. After almost a half day, Pan-Sad-Bu called him back and pretended exhaustion and begged a rest. Yo-Bal-Lee agreed and pretended to faint so he agreed to anchor at the mouth of a river until the next day. Ben-Sar looked over the side to avoid throwing his brother-in-law into the lake and saw a branch drifting down-river. “Look! That branch is from the Pal-ul-Don morass. This river must come from our home. I wonder how far away it is.”

Jay-Son looked and then examined his map and told them he believed that Pal-ul-Don lay some twenty-five leagues away. Di-Ann knew her husband was angry so made a joke, “How far if we paddle one of the canoes against the river current?”

Yo-Bal-Lee woke up as the boat shifted under her. She had felt it rock and shake but this was different. She felt it lean again and left the bed to peek outside then called to her husband, “Jay-Son, wake up!” He never stirred but Pan-Sad-Bu did and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Something has boarded the boat. Wake Jay-Son.”

Pan-Sad-Bu nudged him awake and said, “Jay-Son, something in on the ship. Get up now!” He finally awoke and peeked out as Pan-Sad-Bu handed him his sword. She then lifted the hatch that led below and tried to awaken Fee-Ona and Mu-Lot. Jay-son reached for his clothes but Yo-Bal-Lee whispered to him, “we have no time for modesty, they won’t care how you look after you kill them.”

He was about to leave when Pan-Sad-Bu whispered, “Mu-Lot approaches the hatch and Fee-Ona goes forward below to awaken Ben-Sar.” He quickly kissed them both then left and instantly ran back inside, shouting “Shut the door!”

A giant snake, larger than any she had ever seen entered, not on the floor as would any decent snake but floating above. It was so thick Yo-Bal-Lee knew she couldn’t wrap her hands around it and it had hundreds of sharp teeth sticking out of it’s jaws. She screamed and as it turned to her, there was a flash of steel and her husband was there, blade in hand as the head and neck fell to the floor and the remaining snake pulled back.

He called for his gun then ran outside without waiting for it.

Mu-Lot was asleep when he heard Pan-Sad-Bu calling him from above. Her face and fur were black so he couldn’t see her in the darkness but heard her call out, “Something has boarded the boat, awaken your brother.”

He was awake instantly and shook his wife until she could listen. “Pan-Sad-Bu says the dhow has been boarded. Awaken my brother and I will go above.” She kissed him, wrapped a cloth about herself and said, “Be careful,” then she took her gun and sword and left.

As he peeked out the hatch, she saw giant snakes searching the ship, biting it, shaking the dhow as if it were an enemy. He saw one reach into the rear cabin and knew that his sister and her husband needed him so he ran from the hatch with ready club, only to see the thing, headless, retreat into the water. Almost instantly, another reached for him and reflexes honed by a lifetime of living with ja, jato and gryf, strength pushed to the limit by warfare took over and he crushed the skull of the saurian with a single blow. He glanced over to ensure his sister was safe and felt teeth dig into his shoulder. Only the strap around his wrist prevented him from dropping his club as he felt himself being lifted from the deck.

An instant later his brother-in-law was there, hacking away until he had killed the thing holding him.

Ben-Sar arrived and prepared to face the monsters when thunder struck and the remaining monsters slid back into the sea. The one on the deck was stuck, entangled in it’s death throes. The thing had a huge flat body with four flippers and an incredibly long neck. He recognized it instantly but never one so large. Di-Ann came to him, her gun still smelling of the stink that showed it had been fired.

Yo-Bal-Lee knelt and was crying over her injured brother when Fee-Ona came up and screamed to her, “Be quiet and fetch the medical-kit!” She also ripped her blouse from her body, being naked underneath and used the cloth to staunch his bleeding. Ben-Sar arrived and then helped Jay-Son carry him to the rear cabin and lay him on the bed. Once there Fee-Ona and Di-Ann began to clean the wound. She then called for Jay-Son to help who ordered, “Ben-Sar, you, Yo and Pan keep watch but be careful! I don’t want any foolish bravery.”

Yo-Bal-Lee heard him call “Yo, here’s dinner!” So she hit him, demanding that “I can’t eat something that tried to eat my brother!”

Once outside, Pan-Sad-Bu climbed to the top of the mast where she hoped the things couldn’t reach while Ben-Sar climbed to the cabin roof and turned constantly watching. Pan-Sad-Bu knew that Jay-Son gave her this task because he trusted her but still, it was his job as the man to protect her.

Finally Jay-Son left the cabin and tossed the severed head to the side and asked, “Do you see anything?”

Neither did and Pan-Sad-Bu called down, “I’m scared!” He laughed and called back, “Then come down. I’ll take over.”

She was down in an instant and said, “About time, husband. It’s your place to protect me.” She deliberately gave him her most desirable wiggle as she passed and thought, ‘if he thinks I will service him now, he can shove it in the snake’s mouth.’

When Di-Ann and Fee-Ona were certain that Mu-Lot would be well, they left the cabin with Ben-Sar between and Pan and Yo to hear Jay-Son say, “It looks like a plesiosaur or maybe a Elasmosaur? They are normally fish-eaters which explains their teeth. Did they live in the Morass around Pal-ul-Don before they dried up?”

Ben-Sar looked at the head and neck then said, “There are legends of such monsters. Smaller ones, much smaller ones live in lakes of the Valley of the Great God and eat fish and frogs but I’ve never seen one this large.” He was still angry but he had to admit that his brother-in-law had killed two with his long knife and that took skill and bravery.

Jay-Son asked, “What made it attack us? Look at it’s teeth! They aren’t designed for ripping and tearing so even if it killed Mu-Lot, it couldn’t eat him.”

Yo-Bal-Lee cried at him, “Does it really matter why they attacked us, they did!”

“Yes, my love, it does. Wolves don’t attack people. If they do it’s because they are starving or diseased. If diseased, then those they bite will become diseased. If these fish-eaters are eating people, I need to know why so we can prevent that madness from spreading or infecting us.”

Ben-Sar climbed the mast, which was well out of their reach, and settled in to watch and think. Jay-Son thought too much but sometimes that thinking worked out. Maybe it was because he was so small and weak, he had to use his brains because he had no muscles.

Later on Di-Anne asked, “Who hung that lamp over the bow?”

Jay-Son replied that, “I did.” He did so out of habit for there was so much water traffic at his home, they lit their boats to prevent being struck by another. But Di-Ann knew fishing and told him that, “If you hang a lamp over the water, it attracts bugs which attract fish which could attract fish-eaters?”

Jay-Son understood her point and walked to the bow to examine the lantern and what was happening underneath. Then he yelled, “They are under the dhow eating the fish the lamp attracts. These look like babies. They are much smaller than the ones on deck.”

The boat rocked and Ben-Sar saw a large monster rear form the water to attack Jay-Son. Before he could throw his club, both Di-Ann and Fee-Ona shot it with their guns and the thing returned to the water.

Jason saw what happened and explained, “Boats as slow as this one attract fish in the open sea as the only place they can find shade and shelter. The lamp is attracting bugs which attract fish as Di-Ann said then the young saurians are hiding under the hull to eat the fish. When the hull shifts, the saurians panic and scatter and their parents see the dhow as a threat to their young and respond. All we must do is move away and they will leave us alone. Or turn the lantern off.” He then said, “Stay off deck until the bugs are all gone and we shouldn’t have any more trouble. You can come down now Ben-Sar.”

Fee-Ona got angry with that and screamed, “That’s it! You trying to keep us safe almost killed Mu-Lot?”

He clearly didn’t understand her words for he said, “The gods DO have a strange sense of humor. Watch his wound carefully for infection.” Fee-Ona then fell to the deck crying, “My husband almost dies because you wanted us to be safe.”


VIII
By Jason

We waited until morning before we weighed anchor. If they were still around, I wanted enough light to see them. An examination of the two on board showed oversize eyes which would be natural for a night-preditor so I had little fear for attack, unless the young were still under the hull.

Both of my wives refused to cook the things so we had to toss them over the side and wash the decks down with river water and by morning, we were surrounded by bull sharks. As far in as we were, I believed that these had adapted to a fresh water lifestyle. Rapid evolution in action. Some paleontologists believe that evolution happens over thousands of generations, others feel that with the right changes, it can happen much faster. These had thousands of years or more to become fresh-water tolorant so it was a simple step to a fresh water life. It would be interesting to see if they could return to the sea.

With anchor raised and the sail unfurled, we continued north and found that almost immediately, the depth increased and we had no further troubles. We did easily five knots and were in the Chad Sea within a few hours.

From here I was at a loss. “Diane, which way? The Chad is supposed to be a bit larger than Congo so IF there is a Chad River flowing north from the east edge, we can expect maybe two to three weeks of sailing to reach it. If there is a Sahara River to the west, add another week or two. Regardless, the time we save on the Chad River we loose in the Mediterranean. If neither exist and we take the Niger River, that will force us to sail north around the bulge of Africa which is the long way.

“Regardless, we need to reach Britain. So, dust off your psychics and point the way.”

“Husband,” Pan interrupted. “First you must feed your family so please anchor in a safe place and hunt us dinner.”

It seemed like a good idea so Diane tossed her lines over the rail and happily fished, an occupation I found dull but one that she loved. And as Mu-Lot was still injured, I took my carbine, bow and sword, Ben-Sar his knife and club and together we set off to hunt. I hate hunting but life isn’t always what we enjoy.

Within a mile we were treed by three veldt lions which were soon chased away by a jato. I calculated that we were about seventy-five miles from Pal-ul-Don and the more vigorous jato was expanding it’s territory and displacing the indigenous lions. Ben-Sar said as we sat in the tree, “The Jato can win against three of these brown-ja but a large pride can drive even the jato away.”

“What about the Gryf?” I asked.

“They are very rare in Pal-ul-Don. I’ve never been this far north and only saw one in the distance a few leagues north of your victory over the Sudanese. If there are any here, I hope your gun can stop it!”

A gryf was an omnivorous triceratops 75 feet long. It had a head as large as a Cretacious Triceratops and ate anything or anyone it found. So with a skull 20’ long, it must be a foot thick easily. I wasn’t certain that even this 30.06 could penetrate that much bone.

Finally I said, “I’m bored. Let’s get back on the ground and find something to eat.”

Ben-Sar simply asked, “Are you going to shoot the jato?” The way he said that implied that he’d rather I didn’t. Jato were the fiercest preditor in Pal-ul-Don, after the Gryf of course, and wearing a pelt was the mark of a special warrior who had killed one alone. A woman and child who wore jato pelts had earned bragging rights far above someone who wore simple deer-skin. It occurred to me that it bothered him that Diane and I had been an item and it must bother him to see me every day, knowing that we had been intimate. So I needed to give him back some of his self-respect. “Would you like to kill it?” I asked.

“I have no need to prove my courage.” He replied. Again that tone. Diane and Yo-Bal-Lee had told him about my past but he had never seen anything other than me killing a man at 350 yards with a carbine. This man respected strength and here as my chance to demonstrate that I deserved to be Diane’s ex. What a delima. If I killed the jato, I’d earn his respect and maybe he could accept Diane’s past. If the jato killed me, he was rid of me forever. The fact that Diane and his sister would probably throw him overboard was irrelevant when his pride was hurting.

The jato was a saber-tooth cat with stripes. Not a tiger and not a smilodon but something else. Some large cat that decided that six inch fangs were a good idea so long as they came with the attitude of a fiend. I tossed a branch as far away as I could, drew my katana then jumped as it turned away.

“Hello the Dhow!” Ben-Sar yelled holding a deer over his shoulder! “Send the canoe and hurry!” Diane lowered into the boat and paddled to the shore where she asked, “Where’s Jason?”

“You should have seen him. We were treed by a jato and he tossed a branch to distract it, then he jumped to the ground carrying only his long knife. Even before he landed the jato had turned back and leapt for him. He cut upwards as he leapt aside and the jato must have run three or four lengths before it realized that it had no head. Wife, I now realize what you saw in him and it makes me happy that you chose me over Jay-Son.”

“You let him face one of those things alone? Where the hell is he?” she demanded.

“Back there. He saw some flowers he wanted to pick. I came ahead to get the canoe ready.” He explained as he tossed the deer into the canoe.

I came up from the depression and Diane immediately started to yell at me, “What the hell were you thinking!”

“Guy stuff, macho shit. He’s your husband so I had to do it for you.” I was speaking English so he wouldn’t understand.

“What the hell do you mean!” she demanded, also in English.

“Men are insecure. He knows we have a history and it bothered him. We’re not like women, we can’t put that aside easily. He needed to respect me so he could accept us and what we were. If I were a total wouss, he’d never understand why we were an item but if I were this big, strong macho jerk, then not only would he understand why you were with me, but it would make him feel superior because he took you from me. So I killed the cat.” I explained.

“That’s bullshit! What if you had died?”

“Win-win situation for him. But this is what men are like. We just hide it and pretend to be sensitive to make you feel good.” I tossed the skin and head and claws into the canoe and said, “I need a nap before I get cranky.”

Once aboard, we paddled to the Recovery, Diane still fuming. I’d hate to be Ben-Sar when they were alone. Once aboard, I handed my flowers to Pan and Yo and said, “Happy whatever day this is.” Then as they were smiling and smelling the flowers, all women like flowers, I added, “by the way, we need to tan that pelt before it starts to rot.”

I was walking away when Pan said, “You killed this for us! You are so wonderful. But who can we show it off to?”

We spent another day at rest tanning the hides. Pan and Yo had me cut branches and build them a smoker tent, strip bark from trees that were rich in tannin and locate a salt deposit. They then scraped the backs of both hides for hours until the flesh was completely gone. All the while they chatted about how wonderful I was to bring them a jato hide and how we should turn around to show it off to their families. Then they rubbed salt and water into the skin side and rolled it to soak into a barrel which contained rainwater which was used to boil tannin from the bark. “Now we wait until it is fully soaked then we can smoke it to make it soft and supple.” Pan-Sad-Bu said as Yo-Bal-Lee added, “Before we reach Eng-Pal it should be ready to wear.” Those women fretted over that skin more than I’ve seen mothers fret over their first baby.

Diane and Fiona each took their men aside and told them that if they ever did anything that stupid, they’d be divorced and over the side. Neither sex really understood the other. To the Don, a jato hide showed courage and love that went beyond self preservation. To the human women it simply showed a stupid and useless risk of life. Finally I took the brothers aside and said, “Our standards and values are different, women like them prize other things and want a man to be around. You’ve proven your courage already, more than they would expect from any American male. Now prove you will be there when they need you… and give flowers.”

Diane was at the bow listening to the wind. “Jason, how hard would it be to sail north instead of west?”

“Irrelevant,” I answered, “I can sail wherever you direct, it just may take longer depending.”

“Then west.”

“West it is. RAISE ANCHOR! Loose the sail! Release the bow line. When she turns from the wind, release the stern line. Diane to the rudder please.” I had long ago decided that most of the really heavy and dangerous work would be done by the brothers simply because they were far stronger than any of us. Yo and Pan were as strong as me so would do what I did while Diane and Fiona, being the weakest would mainly steer and do lighter duties.

Once under way, we did a good clip and turned northwest well before dark. Now the problem was as before. Balance a good day’s sail with a safe anchorage. And this is the decision that every captain hates. Find a nice place with a good bottom and drop the hook early or sail on another hour or two and hope to find a place as good. In unknown country, war-torn before the Rapture and doubly so after, anchoring alone was often the safest thing to do.

We did a good seventy-five miles that first day and camped along a shore that gave a good view for miles. We could see any danger but they could see us as well. Well, life is a trade off and we all took turns on watch. The next day we only did fifty miles but as Diane was pulling in a fish, a croc jumped out of the water and almost snapped her up. She was on her ass staring a the thing as she scuttled away screaming, then it lost it’s grip and fell back into the lake before anyone could arrive. Ben-Sar held her until she stopped shaking then she began to get angry, “That stupid lizard took my fish! It was at least 24 inches. Come back here with my fish!” that last being yelled over the side as the croc swam away.

He next night was another fifty mile sail and we anchored off some rocks for the night as it rained. The night was gentle and calm but sunrise brought a number of canoes filled with armed men. We didn’t see them until it was too late because they were hiding among the rocks and we had gotten lax over the months. They had obviously prepared well because within seconds they had surrounded the dhow and were climbing aboard. Diane and Fiona ran for the rifles as the brothers took the sides with their clubs which never left their sides. My katana was in the cabin but I carried my wakazashi and moved in close as I yelled for Yo and Pan to get the carbine. Finally shots were heard and the attackers broke and ran. The battle was short but fierce and a number of dead littered the deck until we heard a scream over the side, a scream that was choked off. Diane had been taken and was in a canoe heading north across open water. “Drop Sail, Raise anchor” I yelled as I took a carbine and proceeded to join Fiona in shooting anyone we could, not careing that they were running away from us. They had taken Diane and the fewer left alive when we caught then, the easier our rescue would be.

The canoes were fast and had the advantage of terror bending their paddles so despite our canvas, they slowly pulled away. But before they were out of range, we had emptied at least three of their canoes then had to stop for the range made us inaccurate and we were afraid we’d hit Diane.

Ben-Sar ran about demanding we make more speed until I said, “The wind is abeam, we have no keel and are slipping sideways. We’ll catch them, they have an island nearby.”

“How do you know?” Yo-Bal-Lee asked.

“Because they are heading away from shore. I see nothing but water. Those trees can be seen eleven miles out. When we are that far in two hours, they had better see something real soon or they get lost. Their course is North-Northwest so they know where they are going. We have an advantage here, we won’t be tired from paddling when we reach their home, they will. Also with our mast, we can add another six miles visibility to their two and a half. We’ll see their home at least an hour before they do. Pan, up the mast if you please but please be careful, I don’t want you hurt.


IX
By the Don

Jay-Son insisted that we wait until morning before we left. He said it would be more dangerous to sail in the dark than to suffer the attacks of these creatures. All the Don thought he was a fool for doing so but Di-Ann and Fee-Ona had confidence in his decision. “Jay-Son makes mistakes but this time I trust his judgment.” Di-Ann said. “If we stove the hull in trying to move, we will be in the water with them, this way if he’s right, they will leave us alone and if he’s wrong, we will be safe in our cabins until the sun rises.”

Neither of his wives would sleep that night certain that they heard the return of the monsters but mostly it was their husband snoring.

Then Jay-Son had asked if his wives would cook the ones he had killed and saved but they refused so he removed it’s head carefully to preserve the skull and proceeded to boil it clean and tossed the remainder over the side. By morning, the boat was surrounded by sharks.

Almost immediately after setting sail, they found deep water and with no problems, reached the Chad Sea by lunch. He then asked Di-Ann “which way?” because he trusted her ability to choose directions in a new place. She and he talked about what to expect and then she said “West” which is where he started to sail until Pan-Sad-Bu told him, “Husband, you promised to hunt for fresh food so go before we leave. This land here is still Pal-ul-Don and I’d like meat from my own country before we leave. So find a safe place and hunt dinner for your family.”

He agreed easily as he was in no hurry to get anywhere and dropped the anchor in a small bay near rolling hills. Then he took Ben-Sar and his bow, sword and gun and they left to hunt. Di-Ann happily took her pole and fished over the side, occasionally bringing in a fish and cheering as she did so. Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu spent the day scrubbing the blood from the deck and cleaning up their home while Fee-Ona insisted on caring for her husband who was sore but mobile for in Pal-ul-Don, you heal fast or you die.

Less than a third of a league inland, the hunters were treed by a trio of velt lions. As they sat watching, a jato arrived and chased the lions away so as Jay-Son asked about them, Ben-Sar explained, “When the morass dried, the ja and jato moved outward seeking the slower and easier prey around Pal-ul-Don. Normally, a jato can win easily defeat three of these brown-ja but a large pride can drive even the jato away.”

“What about the Gryf?” Jay-Son asked asked.

“They are rare enough in Pal-ul-Don. I’ve only seen one in the distance a few leagues north of your victory over the Sudanese. If there are any here, I hope your gun can stop it!”

They sat in the tree for a time and Ben-Sar wondered about this man. True his sister had told how courageous he had been in battle against the slavers and the first Sudanese, but the only time he saw Jay-Son in action it was cowardly fighting from a distance. The story about him killing all those men with his long-knife could easily be exaggeration for all women wish their husbands were courageous. The Tand-at-don was too weak to do anything great. Had it not been for his gun, he probably would have died long ago.

Then there was Di-Ann. That bothered him. She had been married to Jay-Son and they had slept together. Often. Jay-son had been there before and now that she divorced him, she was still friendly. She still listened to him, defended him and even kissed him. Did they bed still? No matter how he felt, with Di-Ann he could only be second. Or maybe Di-Ann liked such men and if so, did she think of her husband as poorly as Jay-Son was. It would be so easy to push him. With no feet or tail to hold on he’d be jato food.

Jay-Son finally said, “I’m bored. Let’s get back on the ground and find something to eat.”

Ben-Sar asked, “Are you going to shoot the jato?” He expected Jay-Son to do exactly that too. Of course few who met a jato lived to brag about it so owning a jato-hide you killed yourself meant you were a mighty hunter. He hoped Jay-Son would shoot the animal because that would justify him being a coward.

Jay-Son asked him, “Would you like to kill it?” but Ben-Sar said “I have no need to prove my courage.” He knew he was challenging Jay-Son and if Jay-Son failed… well he hadn’t thought that far. Would Yo-Bal-Lee and Di-Ann and Fee-Ona accept his explanation or would they think he had killed the man?

Instead Jay-Son took a branch he had been playing with and tossed it far away. Then as the jato turned to see, Jay-Son dropped from the tree armed only with his long knife. Instantly the jato turned and charged Jay-Son and Ben-Sar started to jump down himself. Later he said it was because his sister and wife would be angry if he allowed this boy to die, but there was no need. Ben-Sar saw a flash of steel as Jay-Son leapt aside and the headless jato ran on a dozen paces or more before it fell dead.

Jay-Son simply wiped the blood from his blade and asked, “Can you bring my bow and carbine when you leave the tree? I think I saw deer over there. Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu will kill me if we don’t bring home something to eat.”

“How did you do that? You are not even scratched!” Ben-Sar asked, amazed at what he had seen.

“It was only a cat. I’ve faced bigger and meaner things with smaller weapons. This was easy.” Jay-Son said.

Ben-Sar tried to wrap his mind around the idea that he might have been wrong about this man. That maybe Di-Ann was settling for a lesser man when she married him. Killing those two saurians on the dhow may have actually been skill and not luck. Maybe Yo-Bal-Lee told the truth when she said he killed a dozen armed men with that sword.

Ben-Sar stood there staring then Jay-Son lay his sword aside and said, “Kill me!”

“What?”

“Try to kill me. If you succeed, Diane is yours and you can tell her the jato killed me. If you cannot, then you will understand why she loved me and why your sister loves me. Try very hard. I promise I won’t hurt you.” Then he tied a cloth around his eyes so he was blind.

Ben-Sar moved to the right, intending to tap him unconscious. The man was crazy and needed to be tied up before he hurt someone. Ben-Sar knew he moved silently and fast yet somehow he found himself on the ground. “You are noisy and slow. When Yo asked me to teach you to fight, I thought you would listen. I was wrong.”

Again he struck, this time with the intent to break a rib and again he found himself on the ground. Now he was getting angry. He stood and went into a fighting crouch. He started to spin his club faster and faster then struck without warning and… he was on his belly this time, Jay-Son doing something to his wrist that made his scream like a baby. “A child could cripple you like this. You are alive only because Diane and Yo love you. Please stop treating me like I am a lop-tail.” He let the Don go and Ben-Sar stood, Jay-Son still blindfolded. Ben-Sar tried once more but Jay-Son said, “Wait.” He turned around and placed his wrists together behind his back and said, “Bind my wrists. But this time I will hurt you.”

Ben-Sar knew it was a mistake. He felt as if a Gryf was laying down and asking him to nap on it’s tongue but he couldn’t stop. He took a strap and tied Jay-Son’s wrists then as soon as they were bound, slammed his fist into the back of Jay-Son’s head and fell to the ground vomiting. “You will be ok. Just try to breathe for a moment. Ok now? Are you satisfied or should I kick a few ribs in for you? I fought the Kumate in Malaysia and won eighteen fights with no losses. I killed four men in the ring and any one of those could have killed you as easy as I can. I am not a child nor am I a threat to you. Diane and I were lovers but now we are friends. You can be my brother and friend or I can kill you here and now and tell your sister and wife that you faced that jato alone to prove that you were better than me, and they will believe that.”

Ben-Sar managed to sit, fought the urge to vomit again then said, “Let me untie you brother. I am sorry for the wrongs I did you.”

Later, as they were skinning the jato, “Bringing this back will show my sister, your wives how much you love them. But why is such a mighty warrior afraid of women?”

“My father liked to get drunk. But he forgot that an Irish woman rules her house and only allows her husband to live there. She yelled at him for stinking like a bar so he slapped her. She shut up then and left until he had fallen asleep. She sewed him in his bedding until he couldn’t move, then she woke him up and as soon as he started yelling, she hit him with a cast-iron frying pan. She beat him near to death until there was so much blood and broken bones he almost died. Then she simply took her time getting dressed and only then did she call for a healer to attend my father.

“When she visited him in the hospital, broken ribs, broken arm, lost teeth, broken nose… she held his hand and said, ‘You are much stronger than am I but you have to sleep sometime.’ My father never touched her again. An Irish man who doesn’t fear the wrath of his wife is a fool and better off dead.

“The Recovery is my dhow. And when a decision is made regarding the boat, I make it. I will ask you all for opinion as to course and I will listen but the final decision is mine alone because I am the captain and am responsible for the safety of all aboard. But in matters of the home, even a home afloat, Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu rule. They decide on meals and cleaning and sleeping because it is their home as well as my ship.”

After skinning the jato and wrapping it’s head in the hide then placing it in a tree where it would be safe, Jay-Son said, “Watch,” then walked to a deer. He would walk forward then stop and freeze in a strange position, then walk a few paces and freeze with his arms and legs twisted. Eventually, he was next to the deer and then reached out struck it in the forehead, killing it instantly.

“How did you do that?” Ben-Sar asked. He had never seen anything like that.

“Deer can see only what is before them and they see movement best. I learned his movements, when he ate and when he looked. Then as he ate, I moved to him. When he was about to look, I stopped in a position that looked like a bush. Thus I was able to get close enough to kill him with a hammer blow to the skull. I was lucky. Usually it takes more time to get this close.”

“Mighty hunter, mighty warrior, is there anything you cannot do?” Ben-Sar asked.

“Much but I am far older than are you so have had a long time to learn these things. Do you think we need another deer?”

Ben-Sar was honored and proud that Jay-Son had asked for his opinion. It never occurred to him to remember that a few hours ago, he was thinking of murdering his brother-in-law. “One more I think.”

“Then the next is yours if you don’t mind.” Jay-Son offered.

They returned to the dhow and Jay-Son stopped to pick flowers for his wives so Ben-Sar called for the Dhow, “Hello! Send the canoe and hurry!”

Di-Ann paddled to the shore and asked, “Where’s Jason?”

“You should have seen him.” He said. “We were treed by a jato and he tossed a branch to distract it, then he jumped to the ground carrying only his long knife. Even before he landed the jato had turned back and leapt for him. He cut upwards as he leapt aside and the jato must have run three or four lengths before it realized that it had no head. Wife, I now realize what you saw in him and it makes me happy that you chose me over Jay-Son.”

“You let him face one of those things alone?” She demanded in anger. “Where the hell is he?”

“Back there. He saw some flowers he wanted to pick. I came ahead to get the canoe ready.”

When Jay-Son stood up Di-Ann started to yell, “What the hell were you thinking!”

Jay-Son said something in their own language and Ben-Sar wished he understood as well as his sister but they obviously didn’t want him to know. She was yelling and angry so perhaps he was happy he couldn’t understand.

Jay-Son handed the flowers to Pan and Yo and said, “Happy today my dears.” Then he added, “by the way, we need to tan that pelt before it starts to rot.”

Pan-Sad-Bu and Yo-Bal-Lee cried in joy, “You killed this for us! You are so wonderful. But who can we show it off to?”

Di-Ann was angry. But she avoided yelling at her husband other than to say very calmly and forcefully, “If either of you do something like that again, I will make you wish that the jato HAD killed you! Do you understand me!” Ben-Sar remembered the story Jay-Son had told and knew that Di-Ann knew it too so meekly agreed to be more careful in the future. He was also glad that they were alone.

Yo-Bal-Le and Pan-Sad-Bu were so happy with the kill they refused to allow the boat to move until the hide was ready to be moved. They sent Jay-Son into the forest to collect bark from trees to tan the hides. They scraped the backs of both hides for hours until the flesh was completely gone chatting about how wonderful was their husband to kill a jato for them. It was sad that the two Tand-at-don women didn’t understand how wonderful and important this was.

Eventually Jay-Son yelled “RAISE ANCHOR! Loose the sail! Release the bow line. When she turns from the wind, release the stern line. Diane to the rudder.” After talking to Di-Ann, away they sailed to the west.

Jay-Son dropped anchor every night and Di-Ann fished again each day and evening. Her husband would sit next to her and she told him how she would fish with her father growing up and so found this time to be one of happiness. Then as Di-Ann was pulling in a fish, a gimla jumped out of the water and tried to take her. She fell backwards screaming and Ben-Sar pulled her to safety and held her until she calmed down. Then she got angry and yelled, “That stupid animal took my fish! It was at least 24 inches. Come back here with my fish!” and she began to throw things at the gimla who ignored her and swam away.

The next night it rained so we anchored off some rocks but when the sun rose the boat was attacked by a number of Tand-at-waz-don. Within a few heartbeats they were over the side and fighting with the Don and Jay-Son who drew his shorter long knife while the Don lay waste with their clubs. The Tand-at-waz-don were driven off but not before they captured Di-Ann and took her with them.

Jay-Son yelled, “Drop Sail, Raise anchor” then he and Fee-Ona sat in the bow with their guns shooting everyone within range until the canoes were so far away that they stopped shooting for fear of hitting Di-Ann.

Jay-Son insisted that there was an island nearby and we’d catch them there.

“How do you know?” Yo-Bal-Lee asked.

“Because they are heading away from shore where I see nothing but water. They are paddling North-Northwest so they know where they are going. When we catch them, we won’t be tired from paddling but they will. We’ll also see their home at least an hour before they do. Pan-Sad-Bu, please go up the mast but be careful.


X
By Diane

Jason insisted on waiting until the morning before he weighed anchor since if the rocking of the hull brought the parents, what would moving the entire boat do?

Jason also suggested that Pan and Yo cook the dead ones but they adamantly refused and insisted that they be tossed over the side. I don’t now if he was serious or not because we’d eaten a lot of snakes and lizards in Syria and Jordan. But he did clean the skull as best he could before tossing the rest over the side. That was like him to keep a souviner of the things.

Unfortunately, the dead things attracted sharks and instead of dinosaurs eating us, we had to worry about sharks. Jason looked at them then asked, “Interested in catching a shark for some shark-fin soup?” I learned a long time ago to ignore his little jokes just in case he weren’t joking.

The rest of the morning was wonderful sailing with no bottom to the channel so we anchored just within the Chad Sea and Jason asked me, “Which way do we go? The Chad is larger than the Congo so if there is a Chad River flowing north from the east edge it’s two to three weeks away. If there is a Sahara River to the west, maybe another week or two. It doesn’t matter because the time we save on the Chad we loose in the Mediterranean. Regardless, we need to reach Britain. So, dust off your psychics and point the way.”

Pan interrupted and said, “Husband, you must feed your family so please anchor in a safe place and hunt us dinner.”

Jason and Ben-Sar took off to hunt, Fi to care for her husband and I to fish while Yo and Pan did wifely things like clean, re-arrange and plan their future.

Hours later I heard my husband yell for the canoe so I lowered the boat and paddled over while Fi watched with carbine in hand. Once on shore I saw Ben with two deer but alone so asked, “Where’s Jason?” I knew that Ben was jealous of him and would love it if he died on the hunt.

“You should have seen him.” He bragged. “We were treed by a jato so he jumped to the ground carrying only his long knife. Even before he landed the jato had leapt for him and he simply cut it’s head off. Wife, I see now what you saw in him and it makes me happy that you chose me over Jay-Son.”

I knew that Jason would NEVER do something that stupid. He could, but he wouldn’t so if he tried, then it meant that Ben had pushed him into the act. Ben didn’t push him out of the tree because if he did, then Jason would simply kill him. So I knew that Ben had goaded him and I yelled at my husband, “You let him face one of those things alone? Where the hell is he?”

“Back there picking flowers for my sister. I came ahead to get the canoe ready.”

I saw Jason walk up from a depression and screamed at him, “What the hell were you thinking!”

“Macho guy stuff. I had to do it for you.” He was speaking English and I knew it was a lie because Jason wasn’t macho. He was simply the best there was at what he did and saw no reason to brag or show off, so there was something else here.

I demanded to know what he meant and he said, “Men are insecure, you know that. Our history bothers him. He needed to respect me so he could move on with you. It was important for him to see what I could do so he could feel superior by taking you from me. So I killed the cat.”

“That’s bullshit! What if you had died?” I yelled.

He shrugged. “It was a win-win situation for him.” He tossed the skin and head and claws of the jato into the canoe and commented that he needed a nap.

I dragged my husband down below deck as Jason’s wives cried, “You killed this for us! You are so wonderful to us.”

In our cabin I reamed Ben up one side and down the other. I screamed that if he ever did anything so stupid again or allowed Jason or Mu to do anything that stupid again, he’d wish the jato had killed him. I wanted a live husband, not a dead hero. Jason must have told him about me because he just stood there and took it and promised to be more careful in the future.

Yo and Pan insisted on tanning the hides so we spent another day at rest as they sent Jason out to get whatever they needed and scrapped the hide, all the while talking like some old ladies about how wonderful he was to do that for them.

I could not understand how these women could react to that bullshit. But I’ve seen women in Chicago brag about how their boyfriends beat up someone in a bar just because they looked at them and somehow that insane jealousy was a turn-on for them. I thought it was all crap.

Finally, I went to the bow and listened to the wind then asked Jason, “How had would it be to sail north instead of west?”

He shrugged and answered, “I can sail wherever you direct, it just may take longer depending.”

“Then go west.” I said. That’s the nice thing about him. He would ask for an opinion then do what he wanted anyway but if he had no opinion of his own, he’d listen to mine and never think he was less of a man.

For days we sailed westward by day and anchored by night. I’d toss my lines over the side and fish when I had a chance and what I caught, we ate. It made me feel good to know I was adding to our lardor.

I was happily fishing and teaching Ben some new techniques of casting when he asked, “Why do you love this so much? I fished because I had to but you’d do this even if we had plenty of food.”

I tossed my hook over the side and tried to explain, “My father wanted a son but had me instead. But he did the best he could and took me fishing and to ball games and we had a good life. Dad wasn’t very religious but mom was so one day she got us up to go to church and I didn’t want to go so dad said ‘I’m sorry dear but we have plans to go fishing with the gang. Maybe next week’ and he tossed our rods into the truck and we took off. Fishing was our time and we’d drive out some road and he’d ask ‘which way’ and turn whatever way I said. Half the time we got lost but it didn’t matter because we’d find a lake or stream and fish wherever we were.

“That day he said to me, ‘Di, god doesn’t live in a church, he lives out here. You don’t need some guy in a suit and collar to tell you what god wants. All you have to do is sit under a tree, toss your line in and listen. God will talk to you here without all the distractions of the city and a church.’ Dad was very pagan I guess which is why I became one when I grew up.

“But then I matured and dad cried when mom bought me my first bra. I wasn’t daddy’s little girl anymore and couldn’t sit on his lap so the only time things could be as they were was when we went fishing. That’s why I love to fish, it reminds me of my father and the happiest times of my life.”

I got a bite and was pulling it in when a croc jumped out of the water and climbed aboard. It had teeth that looked six inches long and a maw that could swallow me in one gulp and I panicked. I screamed and scuttled away on my ass then it lost it’s grip and fell back into the lake. Even Ben was scared but he hid it and held me until I calmed down. Then I remembered and jumped up yelling, “That stupid croc took my fish! It must have been at least 28 inches. Come back here with my fish!” I would have gone over the side but Ben held me back so I threw whatever was at hand at it’s retreating back.

Ben was a wonderful husband. He tried to understand me and after that incident with the jato, was more relaxed around Jason. And he listened to me in bed and was a gentle lover and occasionally wildly passionate and so those days were wonderful and happy.

One morning I was at the bow preparing for an early catch for breakfast when we were surrounded by canoes. They came from nowhere and must have snuck up in the dark because they were over the side before we could prepare. I fought as best I could but was grabbed by some guy too big for me to stop and tossed over the side to someone who tied me up and paddled away into the lake. I managed to look back and saw Ben killing one after another, knocking them over the side with his club that I couldn’t even lift. He was magnificant and I called for him as I was taken away. Then we were surrounded by other canoes, half of which were partially empty. I suppose that my family and friends had lessened their numbers by a large chunk. Then I heard rifle fire and someone in the next canoe jerked and fell over the side. Jason had raised sail and was in pursuit and he and Fi were sniping at my kidnappers as they sailed. With every shot another man died until they paddled out of range in terror. I could see the Recovery still following and I knew Jason would find me just as he did when Fi and I were taken by those Turks in Anatolia and forced to become gladiators when I almost castrated the Caliph. We spent three days in the arena waiting and trying to stay alive and then heard screaming as the door burst open and half the Ottoman army rushed in. We thought they were going to finish us off by weight of numbers because we had killed every man they had sent into the arena after us. But they weren’t looking at us, they were terrified and into the Arena strode Jason, katana in hand and he killed every man who stood before him. I named his katana ‘Combine’ then because he treated the Turks like a combine treats wheat. He had spent three days killing an entire army to find and get to us then so I knew he’d do the same for me today. I just had to stay alive until then.

Once my kidnappers were out of rifle range, the one before me turned and said something. He was angry and when I didn’t understand, he grabbed my golden necklace and bracelet that Ben had given me and pulled them free, shaking and demanding something. He wanted the gold. We had a hold full of tons of gold bars and he had sent half his people to their deaths for a bit of jewelry.

I replied in English, then Donian but avoided Arabic in case I had to keep something in reserve so he yelled a bit more then returned to his paddling. If he kept this us, they’d all have strokes before we got anywhere. And if they didn’t, then they’d have to face Jason and Ben and Fi, none of whom would take kindly to my abduction.


XI
By Jason

I was angry and worried and terrified for Diane. The hardest part was not knowing. I was going into battle blind. Why did they take Diane? Why not any others? Where were they going? How many were they? How were they armed? I intended to rescue Diane and I was taking my family into harms way to do that. Ben-Sar and Mu-lot were born warriors and Fiona was trained but Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu were not. The abductors had known we were here and planned their ambush carefully. Had they not underestimated our individual strength, they would have won. Now they were paddling as fast as they could to put distance between us, probably hoping to loose us and escape.

So I sent Ben-Sar to the mast to keep watch, “Look for anything that Diane would drop in the water to guide us. Also look on the horizon for land, trees, clouds, anything. You are our eyes and although they have out-paddled us now, they will collapse from exhaustion soon and we can catch them.”

Fiona didn’t need instructions, she cleaned and checked her carbine, looked over her sword and bow and pretended that this was normal. “Oh yes, we do these rescues all the time. It’s become quite boring you know. Some stupid people kidnap someone, we chase them down, we kill the kidnappers, rescue the victim and go on our way. This time they were very stupid because the wind is with us. They should have waited until the wind came from the north so we couldn’t sail. We’ll be there soon enough.” The Don listened to her but still were not convinced.

About three and a half hours into the sail Ben-Sar sighted land. We couldn’t tell how far it was without a frame of reference like how tall was the mountain but we knew now where we were going.

Another four hours and we were close enough to the island to see it with my 10x50 binoculars. We had one chance, right or left? If we chose wrong, we’d have to fight the wind as we rounded the island and dhows were not designed for that.

Right! The prevailing winds came from the NE and that would bring moisture to water the crops and dump water on the mountains to create streams. Hawaii was like that. The NE coast was lush, the SW coast was desert. Any people here would be on the NE. I was about to order the change when Ben-Sar yelled, “I see a canoe to the right! Go that way!” I gave the order happy that he had spotted it so he could feel an important part of the rescue. We had a couple hours of light left and they knew we were coming so any surprise was impossible. As for weapons, we had three carbines and less than 3000 rounds of ammunition. No grenades, a few bows we had bought along the way and our swords and clubs. What I’d give for a good gatling gun on the bow or a pulse laser but I’ve fought worse battles with less weaponry so we sailed on.

“Wives,” I called. “You must sail the dhow while we fight and rescue Diane but one thing to remember, if we are trapped ashore and you are attacked, sail away. Circle the island and allow the locals to exhaust themselves chasing you but remain within sight of the island. We will steal a canoe and come to you or light a signal fire for you to come to us. Do NOT risk yourselves for us. Do you understand?”

They assured me that they did and I then demanded, “Will you obey my orders? Or will I be forced to beat you for disobeying and disrupting my plans?” They looked suitably afraid and agreed to do as I instructed. I could only hope that they were telling me the truth.

The village was close, less than an hour’s sail and the beach littered with canoes but none left shore to engage us. “They remember our rifles,” Fiona suggested. “That means we have to go to them.” We anchored as far away as we could and still find bottom.

“Toss the canoe over the far side and drop anchor. Tie a float to the line and keep the sails filled. If they attack, cut the line and sail away then return later and let the float tell you where the anchor is. We’ll paddle in as the sun sets but, wives, and I mean this, take no chances. Mu-Lot, I hate to leave you here but someone has to protect the dhow and my wives and you are the one. If you weren’t still recovering, I’d leave Fiona behind…”

“The hell you will! I’ve known Di longer than all of you together and I will NOT stay behind while she is in danger! She stood by me in that arena and I’ll do the same for her!”

“Can you control your wife for once?” I called to Ben-Sar. He didn’t get a chance to answer before Mu-Lot spoke up.

“Jay-Son, as much as I love Fee-Ona, I recognize the value of your plan. I can’t paddle or fight well with my shoulder and while you and Ben-Sar fight, Fee-Ona can rescue and return Di-Ann to the dhow. I know you won’t allow her to be harmed so please, wife, be careful.” And he kissed her and held her before he sent her away.

The sun was already behind the mountains of the island so we carefully lay low and allowed the current and wind to move us to the north of the village. I hoped that the village would be watching the dhow and not us and so we were able to beach quietly and unnoticed. Ben-Sar then moved off to spy the village as Fiona and I moved in slowly.

A few minutes later he returned and said, “There is a white man dressed differently from the blacks. Di-Ann is there before him and he is yelling at her in a language she appears to not speak. He is shaking her gold as if it has value. What next?”

“A European who wants gold. He is the main target. We kill him and it is likely that the rest will forget about us. Watch and see where he places Diane. If he tries to harm her, we act but so long as she is only being questioned, we wait until full dark.”

We waited and eventually people drifted away to sleep. The beach still had people watching the dhow on the horizon but they didn’t know we had already beached. I assumed that they thought we were waiting for dark or morning to attack. Diane was chained to a tree and ignored as the European left for his own hut. “Fiona, free Diane. Ben-Sar, make certain that they reach the dhow safely. I leave it to you as to who to kill if any. I want to talk to our friend there.

As we moved to our task, I killed the guards at the door and entered. “Good Evening!” I called and turned my red flash onto him so I’d not loose my night-vision. He started but my blade at his throat prevented outcry. “You have taken my love and the only thing that stands between you and death is your answers to my questions.” He nodded and answered them all and when I was satisfied, I slit his throat with a flick of my wrist and left him there to die. When I looked out, Diane was gone, two more guards were dead, clumsy, and so I snuck away to the north.

“I thought I told you to leave!” I demanded when I found them waiting for me.

“We were,” Fiona explained. “You just arrived as we were about to push off.”

I knew that they were lieing but so long as all went well, I wouldn’t argue. Diane had wrapped her chain around her neck and covered it with her blouse to muffle noise and seeing her there, topless, reminded me why I was still in lust with her. She, however, was paying attention to Ben-Sar and I climbed into the canoe and we paddled away as quickly and quietly as we could.

Shortly after, we approached the dhow and upon receiving the all-clear signal, boarded and pulled the anchor then sailed away to the north. No fighting, only a few dead and we were safe. My idea of a good mission.

I ordered the dhow to circle the island and head west which we did all through the night though Diane and Ben-Sar didn’t help at all. Once we got her chains removed, he took her to their cabin and left Mu-Lot and Fiona and I to sail with my wives sleeping. Then when they were tired Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu took over. I napped on deck, awaking every couple hours until Pan-Sad-Bu forced me to bed. I fell asleep at sunrise as we changed course to the west when we rounded the island.

The sun was high when I awoke and we were still passing the island but we were far enough away to prevent anyone from shore seeing us for our mast could be seen six miles out and we tried to keep a good ten miles between us and the island. Far enough to be invisible but close enough to see the mountains and so as the sun set, we were still in sight of the island whose name I had learned was ‘de L’air’.

When the sun rose the next morning, we were so far away we couldn’t see the island or it’s mountains so had no idea of when we left the visible range. Nor did we have any idea of how far to the western shore so I had lookouts up the mast constantly to prevent us from running aground. It was three days before we again sighted land.


XII
By Diane

Once my abductors realized that we couldn’t understand each other, they ceased to talk to me and concentrated on paddling as fast as they could. Their numbers had been halved by rifle fire so they were forced to transfer into fewer canoes and let the abandoned ones drift. If they continued like this, they’d be too exhausted to fight long before we reached their base and then I’d have the advantage so I relaxed, worked at my bonds and rested. Occasionally I would turn and see the Recovery further behind than before however she wasn’t build for speed but endurance so although the paddlers could paddle faster under pressure, they couldn’t keep it up and like the tortoise and the hair, the slow and steady dhow would eventually catch up as the paddlers rested.

I had no concerns for my safety as I had seen Jason cut his way through enough armies to save me or Fiona or Yo. It was just a matter of biding my time so I looked around for something I could toss overboard to mark our passage, a bread-crumb trail as it were. Unfortunately, I found nothing and focused on visualizing Fiona and Jason and hoped that they were psychic enough to pick me up.

I awoke to the sounds of surf and looking up, saw we were approaching land as the sun was setting. Jason said that this lake was hundreds of miles across so this must be an island, probably a mountain that became isolated as Africa flooded. Knowledge is power so if this was an island, then escape would require a canoe or the dhow.

I observed my captors and saw that they all wore clothing. Not the animal furs that the Don wore or that people in the old jungle movies wore but actual cotton clothing. Shirts, vests and short pants were the usual, all tan in color and all wearing sandals. Their weapons were a few bows but mostly light spears, cheap swords and long knives and strangely shaped hatchets. No firearms were evident but the fact that they hadn’t been terrified by the dhow’s carbines implied that they knew about guns, they just didn’t have any.

We passed the surf to a sandy beach and ran in surfing the waves. The Recovery wasn’t in sight but at my height of less than three feet above the water, anything three miles away would be invisible. No matter, they’d find me soon enough.

The shore was covered with more black Africans only these were wearing brightly colored dresses similar to the one worn in Kananga mixed with an occasional Arab burnoose. The women would run to the men and those who discovered their husbands not among the living would scream and then attack me. When they were driven away, they threw rocks and garbage until I was taken into a large stone and mud building that was guarded by two men with cross-bows. Inside I was made to kneel and when I adjusted to the dim light, I saw a white man on a throne holding an assault rifle. It looked like a Russian AK-47 but not being an expert, could have been any version made by any of a dozen nations. Jason mentioned that the technology to make the exotic metals needed for these had been lost a century before so these were treasured and carefully maintained by cannibalizing others though most were no longer capable of fully automatic fire. As the holder of the only firearm on the island, I could see why he was their king.

The man looked at me, spoke in some native dialect I couldn’t understand so I replied in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you.” He then tried French, “How about now madameselle?”

“Oui, merci, but I am a madame since I am married.”

“Pardonnez-moi, then let us complete our business and I will return you to your husband. My English is poor so I am pleased you speak French. You will excuse your bonds as my men have informed me of your fighting skills on the boat and I fear for the safety of my people. But no matter,” he held my jewelry that had been taken from me and continued. “Years ago I was reading the travels of an English explorer, Greystoke, perhaps you have heard of him?”

“Oui.”

“Then of course you know that his wealth came from Opar or Ophir which is also called King Solomon’s Mines. We thought that this place was lost centuries ago until about fifteen years past the English came to my village in France. They sought a way to another planet, Mars I believe and when they found it, they sent three men who vanished forever.

“A couple of years later they returned with an Irish man from the past. They sent him through also but he died and so they abandoned their efforts. Two years after an alien arrived in a space ship. He looked like a monkey, very similar to those aboard your ship in fact. This alien was, in fact, the Irishman, Jason Obrien who had died two years earlier. How strange is it not? And how strange that you suddenly are paying me a great deal of attention. Perhaps you know this man?”

This was strange. “I was married to an Irishman named Jason Obrien from the past but he wasn’t an alien but human.”

“Are you certain of that madame?”

“Completely. We were together three years and remained friends since. I’ve seen him clothed and naked and he is definitely human.”

“Comment fascinant, perhaps your husband chose to keep secrets from you? Most husbands do.”

Jason did have secrets as did I and I knew that he had been to other worlds too. But Jason was completely human. I should know as I’d bedded him often enough and you can’t hide these things from a woman in love who wished to memorize every inch of her beloved’s skin. “Is this why you captured me? To force Jason to tell you where to find Ophir?”

“Non, madame! I have everyone who passes with gold brought to me. The fact that you are or were married to he whom I seek is a pleasant surprise. Is fate not wonderful? The very man. Perhaps he is on that boat that follows? Oui! I see it in your eyes. We must arrainge a surprise for him. Well, please let me continue. It is not his appearance that interests me, it is the fact that soon after returning to England, he left for a few days and was seen traveling in this direction, over France towards Africa and when he returned, he offloaded bars and bars of gold. I became fascinated by this man and discovered from a contact in Ireland that centuries ago, before his unfortunate abduction by aliens, those same who changed him, he had discovered the location of Ophir and used the gold taken from that very same place to rebuild his family fortune. Then soon after the aliens took him so he could not enjoy his wealth. So sad, is it not?”

I knew Jason was wealthy and having been to Ophir, I now knew where his wealth came from. Hell, a good part of the gold in the Recovery’s hold was mine so I was also wealthy, assuming I managed to escape.

“So, Monsieur, all this is fascinating but could you please explain again, without detail, your actions and desires?”

“Simple madame, I came here seeking this Land of Gold but could not get past the straits between the two seas. My boat was wrecked and I cast ashore. I made my way here and became the king of these people who were but simple fishermen and doubtless will return to that profession when I return to France, a very rich man. I have my men watch every ship and caravan that passes and those with gold are captured and brought to me. I know that Ophir lies to the southeast but am unable to reach it or to even locate it properly. Now luck has given me you. Not only you but a ship that has obviously crossed the straits safely.”

He came forward, knelt and said, “When your ship arrives, and for your sake I hope that they do find this island, we will capture it and force you to take me to Ophir. There we shall fill the hold and I will return to France, wealthy beyond all dreams. I know your husband, Jason is it? No or yes, I see conflicting emotions in your eyes. Ah, yes, you love him still but he is not your husband. Interesting and so sad.”

He returned to his throne and played with my jewelry a bit more then continued. “Madame, if you or your crew tell me where to find Ophir, I shall release you on this very island where you may live happily with your husband and your lover. Perhaps they will share you with each other? All I wish is the gold and when I have that, your lives shall be spared. Take her away.”

They took me from the palace and chained me to a post by my neck then left me alone.

I had a lot to think about. Jason human yet not. Which was he and how did he change? Was he like a werewolf who transformed? If the madman wanted wealth, he needn’t look for Ophir, just into the hold but men that greedy always want more. And he knew about my feelings for Jason, feelings that Ben-Sar must never discover. I needed to kill him to keep that secret. But first, escape or rescue.

Fortunately, I had slept most of the journey so was refreshed and able to remain awake while my abductors collapsed from exhaustion. With most of his army asleep, there would be no better chance so I began to work at my chains. They were rusty so I chose two of the worst and began to rub them together until they were thin enough to snap. It took easily an hour or more and I rested often to stretch and look around. There were sentries on the beach and guards at the madman’s palace but most were exhausted which spoke volumes about the loyalty of his enforced subjects. I almost felt sorry for them but I’d seen enough unarmed populations face armies to win their freedom so if these fishermen wished to be free of the man, killing him would cost far fewer lives than they had lost capturing me.

I was about to snap the weakened links when Fi whispered in my ear, “Di, quiet, we’re here to rescue you.” I snapped the link and looking around, watched Jason kill the guards at the palace and enter. Damn! Hopefully he’d kill the man before he could speak but no matter. I removed my blouse and wrapped the feet of chain still hanging to muffle any noise and followed Fi to Ben-Sar who had just killed another guard. I loved the man without doubt but in a way different from Jason. Ben-Sar was just my husband but Jason… Jason had saved my life when I tried to jump from that bridge. He had taken an emotionally crippled woman and given her back her sanity and life, had taught me that I was special and important and although he still made sexist comments, he was more of a feminist than anyone from my time or his. I loved him and wanted to marry him and wished I had born him children but… Damn! I hugged my husband and then we three left for the north. Ben-Sar killed another guard and we let him do that for his own self-respect and soon we reached one of the canoes that we had first brought to this continent.

“Now we wait for Jason,” Fi commented and we pushed the canoe to the beach and waited.

“I wonder if that was the original plan? For us to wait for him?” I asked.

My husband laughed, “Wife, I will not leave my sister’s husband behind. We will wait as long as it takes then you will return to the dhow while I find Jay-Son and help him steal another canoe.” Wow! That talk they had over that jato made big changes in Ben.

He arrived shortly and commented on our waiting but let it go since he knew we wouldn’t abandon him regardless of the orders he gave. So we returned to the dhow that was so far out we found it more by luck than design, weighed anchor and sailed away through the night. Once safe, Ben took me to our cabin and left me panting and exhausted and I fell asleep in his arms. I’d worry about what Jason learned tomorrow.

It took a couple days to pass the island and the entire time Jason tried to stay on deck. I knew that he had killed the madman and we hoped that his death would convince his people to forget us and to return to their former lives but we had also killed enough of their men to cause them to want revenge. But for fear or respect or simple ‘good riddance’, no one chased us and that was fine with me.

As for Jason and myself, we ignored and avoided each other as much as we could on such a small boat so I knew that he knew. I also knew that he’d never do anything about it so long as Ben was around. It would eat away at him and he’d never forget that I bedded another man but I could make him forgive me as Pan made him forgive her adultery. Perhaps when this was over and Ben returned to Pal-ul-Don with Yo and Pan then maybe Jason and I could try again. But for now the tension was uncomfortable and I wonder why no one else noticed. But Fi did.

She took me aside one day and asked, “What happened out there?”

I sighed but Fi was my best and dearest friend. We shared everything, even Jason so I couldn’t lie to her. “You know how insane people see things that normal people miss? That lunatic who had me kidnapped saw that I still had feelings for Jason. Then Jason went in to kill him and didn’t come out for a long time. I think he told Jason and you know how he is about that sort of thing.”

“Fuck! What are you going to do? It’s not like you can just tell Ben, ‘I’m sorry, I still love Jason and am leaving you for him’. Does Ben suspect?”

“No, men are so stupid. But sometimes I have to bite my lip to stop screaming the wrong name during sex. And sometimes, I wish we were alone on this boat.”

She held me, looked around to ensure we were alone then said, “Di, it is killing Jason to see you two together and the only thing that makes it tolorable is knowing that eventually it will end and he’ll have you back. If you go to him now, it will kill Ben and hurt Mu and I don’t want to think about Yo and Pan. So here is what I think you should do. Think about Ben. The man loves you without hesitation so focus on that. Try to remember that this is only temporary. And remember why you two broke up and keep breaking up. If it worked, you’d still be with him but you threw him out in Jordan then again after the Sulieman incident and how many other times. I love the man dearly but he is a royal pain in the ass sometimes. At least you two have history so that will cover things a bit but if you did leave Ben and Jason left Yo and Pan, how long would it be before you threw him out again?”

“You’re right Fi. Even when we were in love and married, he was a pain. But he was my pain. I have to remember that I love him but am not IN love with him. This is just stress passion and once we reach England and settle into a normal life, he’ll get on my nerves and drive me crazy again.

“There is one more thing, Fi. When I was being questioned on the island, the madman told me something about Jason.” And I told her everything I could remember until she said, “We need to confront him on this. But he gets so defensive so we have to do it from love and not anger or fear. Tonight. The wind is dying so without any need to sail, we should have time.”

“It’s easier to talk to him when he’s relaxed.”

“How true, I’ll talk to Pan and Yo.”


XIII
By Jason

I needed a vacation.

After hearing what that Frenchman said, I had a hard time looking at Diane. All I wanted was to know why he attacked our ship. A simple ‘I’m a pirate, that’s what I do’ would have satisfied me. But he railed on about Ophir which meant that I had to kill him to protect the Don for any ship that passed the straights would see the gold the Don wore and they’d go no further, conquering and killing and exterminating the entire race, save those they enslaved. Then he told me about Diane. I hadn’t asked him but he volunteered the information. Maybe he thought it would save his life, maybe he wanted one last act of revenge but those words sealed his doom and I killed him as casually as I’d have swatted a biting mosquito.

Now I had to watch them together again.

I thought I was over her. She told me we were done. She encouraged me to be with my Don wives and she told me she was happy with Ben-Sar. So I resigned myself to my fate and pretended for her.

Now things have changed again and with nothing around us but water, there is no escape. In Syria we separated for a few days and moved to opposite sides of the city to cool off. Here opposite sides means 35 feet. Then we got together as soon as something happened even if we had to make an adventure. Here, just water and with the wind dropping we could be becalmed for days.

I know I cared for Pan-Sad-Bu and Yo-Bal-Lee but did I love them? Not in the same way I loved Kore or Lujan or Lyssandra. But I cared for them and would do whatever I could to make them happy and I knew that they loved me. So I followed Diane’s advice and relaxed and let them make me happy and it worked. Pan-Sad-Bu’s endless prattle about totally useless things sometimes made me wonder if I should sew her mouth shut or harness it to an engine. Yo-Bal-Lee’s endless careing and doing for me sometimes suffocated me. But by and large, I wanted them around.

Now if only we would be attacked by man or beast or possibly a storm to burn off this energy and divert my mind and attention. Or a good drunk.

Pan-Sad-Bu appeared with dinner. She was always there and never without a smile. The woman could find pleasure in a typhoon and I had to force myself to see her black skin and fur for to me she was simply Pan-Sad-Bu and I saw in her nothing different, physically, from Yo-Bal-Lee or Diane or Fiona or any other woman, human or alien, that I had loved. Strange, my mother was a racist who hated black people and here I was, married to one, and one covered with sleek black fur that stank in the rain and had a tail. Life is strange that way and it is good that my mother is already dead for seeing Pan-Sad-Bu would kill her. I’m just not certain how I am going to introduce the wives to my daughters.

I was sitting on the roof of the deckhouse eating dinner, watching the sail hang limp and wondering how far we’d drift before we could move again when Diane and Fiona appeared. This never looked good for they always confronted me en mas when I was in trouble.

“Jason!” they called and I ignored them for a moment while I pondered the reason for them being there.

Finally, “Yes?”

“Why does it always take you so long to answer us?” Fiona demanded.

“Maybe because I have so much to worry about, it takes me awhile to think about what I did this time to screw up.”

“Come down, I want to ask you about something.”

Drat! I hate it when a woman says that. What did I do? Call out Diane’s name when I was with Yo-Bal-Lee? Or worse? “What’s up?” I asked as I settled to the deck. Everyone was gathering now so I checked the sail, still calm. No clouds to speak of and the sun rapidly approaching the horizon. Definitely too far to swim if things got ugly.

“That man on the island.” Diane began. “He was insane, totally insane and a petty dictator the way he rules those poor people but he did know about you. He said that you came from the past, had gone through a Stargate in France, returned in a spaceship looking like an alien and had brought tons of gold from Ophir. That was why he was there, to find Ophir. So what’s your side of the story and don’t leave out the alien part.”

What a time to have a dry boat. I started to pace which I do when nervous because this was too uncomfortable. “Ok, when I was a kid in Ireland, I discovered two things that changed my life, the Stargates and the location to Ophir. I used both to recover my family lands but they also led me into slavery, yes dears, that’s where the scars on my back came from. But after settling down I was walking along a stream when a large lizard attacked me. I pulled my knife to defend myself and lost.

“I woke up on a starship a dozen light years from Earth surrounded by these six-legged lizards wearing clothing and on human-looking woman who was naked. The lizards called themselves Demons and had thought I was attacking them so they defended themselves and told me that I was alive only because it was the time of the Divine King and killing was forbidden but as soon as the holiday was past, they’d toss me out an airlock. My choice was to be good and have limited freedom or be bad and remain in the airlock. I may be a fool but I’m not stupid so I made myself as useful as I could.

“Unfortunately, the Demons figured that so long as I was around, they’d experiment on me and try to create something that would work and repair their starships. So it seemed like every time I fell asleep, I’d wake up in their med-bay with another change. I even took to piling furniture against the door but nothing worked.

“Finally after a few years they returned to Earth in the 22nd century and tossed me off and left. No goodbye, no explanation, just ‘get out’. So I activated my cloak so I’d look human again and wandered off. That’s when I met Desiree.

“She took care of me and taught me about this time period then when she left, she gave me a letter if introduction to British Intelligence so I could get a job.”

Fiona laughed at this, “British Intelligence! You! An IRA terrorist working for the enemy. ‘Hi, I’m Bond, Jason Bond. Make that martini shaken, not stirred.’”

“It wasn’t like that. The war had been over more than a hundred years and to the Brits the IRA was a footnote in a book. I was the one with the problems and if I wanted to eat I needed to get over it. So I took the job. They had discovered the Stargates and had sent three agents through the French Stargate and lost them. So they wanted me to go and find the team. They figured that since I had experience on alien worlds, I’d have a better chance to succeed.

“Unfortunately, when I went through I left my body, gear, everything behind. I appeared on Barsoom naked and Weir. That’s what the Demons turned me into, a Weir. I spent two years on that miserable planet drinking plant milk, eating potatoes and having my liver flushed every month while I coughed up green slime.

“Finally on one job I captured a Morgor Space Ship and convinced my employer to give it to me and I returned to Earth, without a cloak so I returned looking like an alien. I added more gold from Ophir so I wouldn’t have to work and left Earth and recovered another cloak, settled down and traveled around the Commonwealth like I do here.

“What you see here isn’t how I look. I’m wearing my cloak to pass and frankly I hate the thing. It itches and feels like I’m wearing lead weights, sun glasses and ear plugs all the time. That’s what that guy told you.”

“So, you were human until these Demons changed you and now you are an alien who only pretends to be human?” Diane asked. “How do you change back and forth?”

“I pull my cloak off and there I am. It’s fairly simple really.”

“Then do it!”

“Why?” I asked with some concern.

“Because, husband,” Yo-Bal-Lee interrupted. “We are your wives and family and we need to know of our husband. I want to what has bedded me.”

“It’s kind of disgusting to watch!”

“My god Jason,” Fiona exclaimed. You’ve held our hair out of the toilet, watched us bleed in that arena. We’ve seen you write your name in pee and slathered oil on your ass when you had dysentary. How could this be worse?”

I give up! I began to undress when Diane asked, “Why strip?”

“Because my tail won’t fit through my pants.” I insisted.

Pan-Sad-By brightened, “You have a tail?”

“Yes, my dear, plus other things.”

Diane leaned to Fiona, “Knowing Jason he probably had them add a couple more penis’.”

Finally I was naked on the deck and said, “Last chance to back down.”

“Go” but I could see the fear in Diane’s eyes and voice.

I took my upper lip and felt for the phasing then when I found it, pulled my upper lip over my forehead with a sticky, sucking sound. When I got it to my shoulders, I pulled my lower lip to reveal my head. The girls were cringing but finally said, “Not as bad as I thought it would be.”

Then I pulled the skin down. It was like a combination of snake shedding it’s skin and removing a dance leotard. When done I stood there embarassed while everyone looked me over. “Not as bad as I thought,” Diane commented.

“Can I get dressed now?”

“Not yet. What’s with the eyes? Can you see in the dark like a cat?”

“Yes, but I need some light to see. A half-Moon to me is like high noon to you.”

“Why the antennae? They look like a moth.”

“EM-fields. They help me detect auras and energy fields. Now I need to cut a hole in my pants for my tail.” And reached for them with my tail only to have Yo-Bal-Lee snatch them first saying, “That is a wife’s duty husband.”

“You aren’t bothered by this?” I asked.

“Well, you have a really nice tail and I wish you had done this before we reached Pal-ul-Don so my friends would laugh at me for marrying a lop-tail. Your feet are normal, it’s just your funny hands and the rest looks like an animal but I can get used to it I think.”

Diane asked the hard questions, “Do your children know? And are they human or.. Weir you said?”

“No they don’t know and telling them will be as hard as introducing my wives to them. When I look human, I sire human children. When I look like this, I can sire Weir kids.”

Pan-Sad-Bu stopped looking my tail over and asked, “You mean our children wouldn’t be lop-tails? Come with me now!” and she took my hand and tail and dragged me to our cabin.

I glimpsed the rest as she shut the door and saw them smirking then she dropped her clothes in record time, threw me to the bed and had her way. One curious thing was when she pulled the pillow from under her head, arched her back lifting me up as well and shoved the pillow under her hips and relaxed.

“Why the pillow?” I asked, still trapped but not really minding.

“Because husband, water flows downhill and now my womb is downhill from you.” Eventually she told me to, “Go to your other wife and get dressed, I will be out shortly.” Then she rubbed her belly as I left, embarassed and holding a towel around my hips.

I turned away from the others on deck and dressed, sliding my tail through the seam opening that Yo-Bal-Lee had ripped and sewn then with all watching, went forward and stared at the distant shore that was too far away to see even with my Weir eyes.

Yo-Bal-Lee came forward and placed her arm around my waist and her tail around my ankle as she always did only this time I had a tail to wrap around hers. She leaned her head against my chest and let me hold her then she spoke, “Husband, I do love you no matter if you have a tail or not, eyes of a cat or man and would love you if you were as hairy as a Tor-o-Don. My brothers love their wives even as they look so be not embarassed for we all love you.”

After some minutes Diane and Fiona approached and asked, “Jason, what are our plans now?”

“Same as always. We go to Britain, buy a decent boat, go to Chicago to find what we can and then … I guess we need to figure out how to arm the Don race to defend themselves.”

“And our Don?”

“I own an island where I’ve been living. And there is Drakonis. I have a house and farm there. Both are safe though the island is medieval and the Barony is high-tech. I only visit my house in America when I need to.”

“What about your castle in Ireland?” Fiona inquired. Diane gave her a dirty look at that. She remembered why I left home.

I shrugged, bad memories coming back. “I haven’t been back to Ireland since the Brits killed my wife and children. I like America as little as I do England but I have friends and children there so I keep a house for them... and for you.” I smiled at Fiona and Diane who didn’t like people pointing out their nation’s problems. Like most Americans, they enjoyed complaining about their own government but would become angry if a foreigner like me did so.

Ben-Sar was listening and interrupted. The rest of the Don were with him. “You came to our land by accident when you wanted to go to this Che-kah-go for some reason that I understand is very dangerous. I’ve heard you talking about it occasionally and if you fail, people will die. Does this mean Pal-ul-Don too?”

Diane looked at me and said, “Tell them. You trusted us enough to reveal your Weir self so trust them enough to tell about the Terminators.”

I sat down, noticing how easily I moved my tail aside. Just like when the Demons gave me the thing, it worked perfectly and though I had been human for years, maybe decades, a few minutes and all worked perfectly again. “Wives, brothers, before the morasses dried up and the sea formed to the south of your land, this planet was huge and filled with people. There were more people than leaves in a forest. Then…” Diane touched me and said, “Leave the politics alone.” So I switched gears. “The world was destroyed. Everyone argues as to why and who but the result was that nine of every ten people died that first day. Over the next year, nine of ten died then the people who lived started to rebuild. Had it not been for this destruction, Pal-ul-Don would have been discovered and overrun by the humans. So the destruction of the Earth saved your land. Perhaps Jad-Ben-Otho was watching over you since you gave up human sacrifice or maybe you were just lucky.

“But Jennifer banded together people who hated all who were different and with these she created a country called the Chicago Imperium and when she found she couldn’t kill everyone, she released machines and sicknesses to finish the job. These machines are called Terminator robots and wander around the country killing all they find and leaving disease in their wake.

“Diane, Fiona and I were going there to try to find a way to stop the Terminators when we got diverted to the Congo Sea. I messed up and didn’t check my sources so got lost.”

“He does that a lot,” Fiona added. “At least as long as we’ve known him he has missed more often than he reached his goal. Our first trip was to Japan but we ended in Turkey then…”

“That was your fault, Fiona, my dear.” I mentioned.

“Ok, but what about..”

“Stop!” Pan-Sad-Bu yelled. “You bicker like children. If these ro-bots are trying to kill people and it is important enough for you to risk your lives to stop them, then we must help you.” She was dressed again and even her fur was combed.

“Love, it is too dangerous for you…” I began but Yo-Bal-Lee slapped me and insisted, “Husband! Do not EVER tell us that something is too dangerous! You go daily into places that would kill a lesser man and think nothing of it. You treat Pan and I as if we would break if anyone touched us while you took Di-Ann and Fee-Ona into danger as if they were warriors. You trust those women more than you trust my brothers who are warriors and I am getting angry at that. We are your wives and your brothers and we share your boat and your food and your bed so we share the danger too! Especially if our land is endangered.”

“You don’t understand why I can’t do that. Please just accept this.” I was almost crying then so Diane took me to the bow and sat me and whispered, “Wind, my love, we need wind. Call it up for us.” Then she left to talk to the others.

“Jason was married in Ireland. He loved Kore with more passion and emotion than any woman deserved and they had children who he also loved. Then he had to leave his house and do a job for his nation. He went to war and all of his men died in battle save him. He chose to finish the mission over saving the lives of his men and he sacrificed his army who trusted him in order to do whatever he was entrusted with. When he returned home, he found that British had burned his house to the ground with his wife and children still inside. He had to bury their bodies himself and then he took revenge until he gave up killing and left Ireland. He lost everything that he loved for his mission, his family, his men and his nation and he still suffers over that.”

Fiona took over, “He is terrified of that happening again so he stopped getting women pregnant and stopped taking chances. Tears slept with him hoping for his children and when she learned he wouldn’t get her with child, she left him. Lujon did the same and so did Diane. Yes, I know the truth, Di. You said it was because he made love to me but you wanted children and he refused so you left him. It wasn’t just me, it was also that. This is why he won’t give you two children because he is terrified that his enemies will kill you as they did Kore. And that’s why I never gave him children because I knew he’d worry about our safety too much and not focus on his job.

“Yo, Pan, I love you as my sisters, more than my own sisters and you need to understand that loosing you and loosing any more children terrifies him more than anything in the world. He knows how dangerous Chicago is and he is petrified with terror that if he takes you there, you will die. He has trained us to survive but even that isn’t enough because he fears for our safety too. You’ve seen how he always stays behind, how he never lets us get into to much harm, how he is always there to protect us even though Diane was freeing herself on that island and would have escaped alone. It’s because the thought of us, or you being killed is more than he can bear.

“He is not rational here, he is just terrified and nothing we can say will calm him so we have to do what we can do to show him. That island he bought, his Barony. It’s a safe place where he can put his family and finally stop worrying.”

I stood and approached, “I can’t loose any of you. I’m not that strong.”

Over the next day, they wanted to sympathize and I wanted to feel sorry for myself and I just couldn’t make them understand how dangerous this was. Finally the wind picked up and in a few days we reached land then turned north. Another few days of coastal sailing where we would stop at any attractive place to swim and relax as Diane fished and Ben and Mu hunted and we always had fresh food. “Ben, the further north we get, the dryer it will become and the scarcer the game. I think we should worry about preserving as much as we can for the river run to the sea. I’ve never been here so I don’t know what towns or caravans or bandits we will meet and if they discover our gold in the hold, they will risk all to take the ship and sell our women into slavery. I’d prefer to buy supplies but none of us thought to bring money.”

Fiona listened and suggested, “Why not melt down a bar and mint some fake coins? It doesn’t matter if they are real so long as people accept them as real gold. Then we can buy what we need and as you know, I can bargain the burnoose from an Arab.”

I thought this was an excellent suggestion but said, “A good idea but unworkable. Coins are not cast, they are struck. We’d need to cast a hammer and anvil from iron, carve patterns into these, make blank coins and that is more work than we are capable of doing here. But I like your idea and would suggest that we melt a gold bar, drip it into water to form nuggets then trade these as placers. People will think we were panning for gold along the rivers we passed and so protect the mines, Pal-ul-Don and our own lives. It’ll be an easier job and safer too.”

So we used some of our charcoal to make a furnace, built some bellows to raise the temperature to 2000 degrees and tossed a bar into the top pan. As the gold melted, it ran down a trough, collected impurities and dripped into a pan of water to form irregular nuggets as it cooled. We then collected these nuggets and soon had enough for our needs. Plus we had to cut the ingots into smaller pieces and the filings were added as gold dust. Our story would be that we had panned along the Niger River to the south which was well known for it’s placer deposits of gold.

When we had some eighty pounds of nuggets prepared, we dismantled the forge to hide our activity and sailed north seeking the mythical Sahara River.

It was another week before we reached a coastal town called Tamenghest. I suppose a century ago it was a desert outpost along the caravan routes but now it made it’s living off fishing. We hid our gold jewelry, forcing my wives to wear cloth instead of their breastplates. Fortunately by then the jato hide was soft enough for them to make something so they replaced their breastplates and loincloths with jato hide and with their normal leathers to hold everything together, they looked every inch a barbarian. Save for their tails and feet. As for me, I was an alien so we docked an Arabian dhow crewed by three separate races, two human European women with their Don husbands, one alien man with his Don wives and four Don with their human and alien spouses.

We attracted a lot of attention and crowds followed us everywhere and we had to take turns in town, leaving a crew on board to keep thieves away. But we were able to easily trade the gold dust and nuggets for clothing and supplies and information. Maps, however, were impossible. They simply did not exist. Diane and Fiona were amazed at this but I explained, “When I was a galley slave and pirate, the captains had memorized the coasts and reefs and safe places so they felt no need for a map. It’s the way Arabs are.” I wanted a land room but looking around decided that the Recovery was cleaner and safer so we took care to not bring aboard bugs.

Diane and I were on watch as the rest went into town to look around. Diane had begged off claiming a stomach ache from the food and as we sat there watching our loved ones play tourist Diane asked, “Where do the Don come from?”

“What do you mean?”

“My period started yesterday.”

“What does this have to do with the Don?”

She looked at me and said, “Yo was right, you are as dumb as a rock. Haven’t you noticed Pan spending more time in bed than normal? It isn’t your sexual charms either. She’d trying to get pregnant. And Ben and I haven’t been celebate either. Fiona has the implant but I use condoms which I left home because you are sterile so I didn’t need birth control. But we’ve been on the water for three weeks now and another couple in As-Lur so I should be pregnant by now even by accident. Not that I’m trying. But without birth control, something should have happened. Don’t get upset, I wanted your baby but… What I mean is, Are the Don human or not? If they are, you should consider giving Pan and Yo babies. If they aren’t, then what are we doing?”

I thought about this but couldn’t come up with an answer. “Without a DNA scan, I don’t know. I recall some Weir historians visiting Pal-ul-Don about 200 years ago? Ja-Don was still King so it was after WW-I but before WW-II but they were historians and not biologists. And I think that a Waz-Don left Pal-ul-Don on a Mon freighter a couple decades ago but we meet a lot of aliens so we don’t bother to scan them all. I don’t know what to tell you. Yes, there were times when I wanted to see you grow with my child but I was, …am, …afraid of the consequences so I keep myself sterile with you and Fiona and the Don.

“Maybe when we reach England.. no that won’t work, they are still in recovery mode. Back in our time I can check everyone out. If you really want a baby, I can arrainge something for you. But I want you to be certain and not baby fever.”

“Jason, I see you looking at Pan. If it was just sex, you’d not be as anxious. You want kids again. Your first ones are dead, your next set are adults. So you want more. You are thinking that maybe you can juggle adventure and family. I’ll wait until you come up with an answer but, my dearest love, listen to your own words and do it because you want another baby, not because you are going through baby fever too.”

I spent the rest of the day cleaning the ship and updating my maps. When I found a roach, I screamed and bought a bunch of tarantulas from kids on the dock and set them hunting. Diane hated spiders but I hated roaches more. Finally the girls and their brothers returned and everyone was happy with their shopping. Fiona had taught the don how to shop and they took to it like ducks to water. Mu and Ben were loaded down with packages and once on board they insisted on showing us every purchase as Diane took Ben aside to talk. Maybe he was still jealous of me and she needed to comfort him but usually she just took him below. This time she talked to him at the bow.

“Look at this cloth,” Yo cried. “Won’t it look wonderful on our bed!” It was a statement which meant that I’d be sleeping on it and would have to pretend to like it.

Pan added, “These will decorate our walls. And look at this jewelry. It’s not a pretty as my gold but still,” I got the impression that they were buying junk just because they could. Well, let them get it out of their system while they had Fiona to bargain for them. England would be a different matter entirely. It was a cheaper lesson here.

We set sail the next morning and in a couple days had reached the mouth of the Sahara River. “Now it gets rough. This river isn’t large enough to tack well so we may have to hire camels to pull us partway.”

“How far?” Fione asked with absolutely no concern. Despite her initial anger when we get lost which was normal for her, she quickly became fatalistic and enjoyed the vacation.

“A month or more? I don’t know.” There are a lot of towns along the river, some large, some small which is a mixed blessing.

We sailed west along the Sahara for a few days until we reached Quallane where we docked to mount some lee boards to the sides of the hull to prevent us from being blown into the river bank when we turned north. It was there while we guys were supervising the lee-boards when some kid ran up and yelled, “your women were taken!”


XIV
By Diane

Watching Jason watch me and Ben together was killing me. If he had said to me, “I still love you,” I’d be in his arms instantly but he wouldn’t say that and hurt Pan and Yo and Ben and Mu no matter how much he wanted me and I wanted him. So we settled into one of those affairs of the heart you read about in the romance novels, love that cannot be fulfilled, love that must be denied. DAMN!!! I wanted him again. I wanted him on me, in me, holding me so much I sometimes thought I’d die. Why couldn’t I be as casual as Fi? When we were in Jordan and she said, ‘Di, I’m desperately horny and if I don’t get a man soon I’ll die!’ I sent my love, my lover, my husband in all but law to her bed. It was supposed to be only sex and I was doing my best friend a favor but instead of sex, he made love to her! And so I threw him out again like I did a dozen times before over the previous three years. And when Sulieman captured Tears and put those worms into Fi’s head, I knew that despite his anger, he’d come back and he did. We killed Sulieman, rescued Tears and somehow it was different between us. So different that a few months ago when we were sailing north and Fi woke up and climbed onto his sleeping body, I didn’t mind, I only wished I had thought if it first. I didn’t mind him bedding me and Fi and Pan and Yo. I didn’t mind watching him with my friends and then coming to my bed with their smell on his face or belly. But now, I get so angry when I know he is with Yo and Pan. And I am so embarassed when I talk to him, smelling like my husband as if I were cheating on Jason, not on Ben.

Damn, why is life so complicated? He never loved me like he loved Kore and never will and I’ll never love him like my dead husband but somehow, I don’t know any more. I want him so bad.

And knowing that that madman told him how I felt and he knows. It was easier when he thought we were over. I could pretend that he no longer cared for me so I could move on but now he knows. I want him so much it hurts. If only even once. I want him to slam me against the wall, hard, to take me rough and leave me sore and panting but he.. Jason is so honorable. He won’t cheat on Yo and Pan and he won’t let me cheat on Ben.

We were drifting, becalmed and Jason was thinking. The man never stopped thinking. I hated that in him. He could never stop and smell the flowers, he’s do so but analyze the fragrance and then he’d tell me how they looked to the bees so some such stupidity. Well, nothing ventured as they say so I took Fi and we approached him and called for him.

As usual, he looked at us and thought some more before he responded.

Fi looked and demanded, “Why does it always take you so long to answer us?” to which the fool responded, “Because I have so much to worry about, it takes me awhile to think about what I did this time to screw up.” When the man is right, the man is right and he always screwed up because he simply did what he thought was right and never worried about how we’d feel. It often caused us emotional pain but it always kept us alive and safe too.

“Come down, I want to ask you about something.” I yelled.

He was looking for an escape. I’d seen that look a hundred times before in Syria, Jordan, Turkey and a dozen other countries including America. He didn’t know he was in trouble but always looked for an escape just in case.

It had to be said, “That man on the island was insane, totally insane and a petty dictator the way he ruled those poor people but he knew about you. He told us that you came from the past, that you had had gone through a Stargate in France and returned in a spaceship looking like an alien and that you had brought tons of gold from Ophir. That was why he was there, to find Ophir. So what’s your side of the story and don’t leave out the alien part.” I met Jason when I was suicidal over the death of my husband and loss of my baby. We lived and loved and adventured together for years and he told me things he never told anyone before and he still kept secrets. This one he’d tell.

He looked to shore, who knows how many miles away and began, “When I was a kid in Ireland, I discovered two things that changed my life, the Stargates and the location to Ophir. I used both to recover my family lands but they also led me into slavery.” I knew that those scars on his back were from the Iraqis. “But after settling down I was walking along a stream when a large lizard attacked me. I pulled my knife to defend myself and lost.” I couldn’t imagine Jason loosing to anyone or anything. He was the best I’d ever seen and I was a black belt myself in Akaido and an Olympic quality fencer.

“I woke up on a starship a dozen light years from Earth surrounded by these six-legged lizards wearing clothing and a human-looking woman who was naked. She had a horses tail, antennai and pointed ears. The lizards called themselves Demons and it thought I was attacking them so it defended itself and told me that I was alive only because it was the time of the Divine King and killing was forbidden but as soon as the holiday was past, they’d toss me out an airlock. My choice was to be good and have limited freedom or be bad and remain in the airlock. I may be a fool but I’m not stupid so I made myself as useful as I could.

“Unfortunately, the Demons figured that so long as I was around, they’d experiment on me and try to create something that be a worker and repair their starships. So, everytime I fell asleep, I’d wake up in their med-bay with another change. I even piled furniture against the door but nothing worked.

“Finally after a few years they returned me to Earth in this century and threw me off and went away. No goodbye, no explanation, just toss the garbage out. So I activated my cloak to look human again and met Desiree.

“She cared for me and taught me about this time period then when she left, she gave me a letter if introduction to British Intelligence so I could get a job.”

Fiona and I laughed at this, “You! With British Intelligence! You’re IRA and you were working for the enemy. I can see it now, ‘I’m Bond, Jason Bond. Make that martini shaken, not stirred.’”

He panicked as he often did when he couldn’t fight his way free. Unlike other places, we knew we were safe and he’d not be violent with us so we could push him. “It wasn’t like that.” He continued. “The war for independence had been over more than a hundred years and to the British the IRA was nothing but a footnote in a history book. I was the one with the problems and if I wanted to eat I needed to get over it and fit in. So I took the job. They had discovered the Stargates and had sent three men through the Stargate in France who had vanished. They wanted me to go through and find the team. They figured that since I had experience on alien worlds, I’d have a better chance to succeed.

“Unfortunately, when I went through I left my body, gear, everything behind.” I wanted to ask about this because we always went through the stargates intact but Jason was Irish and if you got him diverted with a question, he’d never finish the original story.

“I appeared on Barsoom naked and a Weir. That’s what the Demons turned me into, a Weir. I spent two years on that miserable planet drinking plant milk, eating potatoes and having my liver flushed every month of alien toxins while I coughed up green slime from pneumonia.”

What the hell was a weir? These aliens did something to him but what? And would it affect me because I’d been sleeping with him? And what about Yo and Pan and Fi? Now I was getting scared because all of those SF novels I had read and written about alien invasions.

I pushed him to continue. Despite Jason’s insistence that Fi was American, she was so much like him at times it was scary. She’d be happy letting him talk all night and never finish the story. “Finally I captured a Morgor Space Ship and I returned to Earth, without a cloak so I returned looking like a Weir. I took gold from Ophir so I wouldn’t have to work and left Earth and settled down and traveled around the Commonwealth like I do here.” The Commonwealth? I wanted to know more but dared not interrupt. Every sentence that left his mouth created a dozen more questions.

“I don’t look like this any more. I’m wearing a cloak to pass as human and frankly I hate the thing. It itches and feels like I’m wearing lead weights, sun glasses and ear plugs all the time. That’s what that French guy told you about me.” Good, he wasn’t telling all of it so Ben was safe.

“So, you were human until these Demons changed you and now you are an alien who only pretends to be human? How do you change back and forth?” I asked. I wanted to know. Part of it was professional since I was a fantasy/SF writer and part was me wanting to now what I had slept with. I wasn’t promiscuous and could count my lovers on my fingers. My dead husband, Jason, Ben, and David. But with the exception of Ben, all were human and now thoughts of alien sex, the kind you see in Japanese anime were filling my mind.

“I pull my cloak off and there I am. It’s fairly simple really.” He said as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

“Then do it!” I demanded.

“Why?” he asked. The man was so stupid sometimes. Didn’t he realize that here were four women who had slept with him, four women who had thought about having his children and we needed to know what we had done. I looked at Fi and she didn’t see. She was just curious.

“Because, husband,” Yo-Bal-Lee interrupted at the right time. “We are you wives and family and we need to know about our husband. I want to what has bedded me and what our children will look like.” The woman was smarter than she acted but then, most were. We pretend to be empty-headed blondes to make our stupid men think that they are stronger, smarter than are we but the truth is that without a woman to civilize a man, the sex would be living in caves scratching their fleas.

“It’s kind of disgusting to watch!” he mentioned.

“My god Jason,” Fiona exclaimed. “You’ve held my hair out of the toilet as I puked and watched us bleed in that arena. We’ve watched you write your name in pee and slapped oil on your red ass when you had dysentary. How could this be worse?”

He began to undress when I asked, “Why are you stripping, and before your brother’s in law?” The man always felt inadequate before them because they were built better than he in every way. And I mean every way!

“Because my tail won’t fit through my pants.”

Pan-Sad-By brightened at that, “You have a tail?” He never realized how embarassed she was that her husband was a lop-tail which the Don see as terrible. They amputate the tails of criminals and make certain that tail-less children are ‘stillborn’..

“Yes, my dear, plus other things.”

I leaned over to Fiona and commented, “Knowing Jason he probably had them add a couple more penis’.” To which she laughed, “or ten more inches to the adequate one he has.” The man thought with his dick more often than with his brain and believed that bigger was better. He probably thought Don men were as hung as their tail and Don Women were frustrated at anything less than three feet.

Finally he was naked and said, “Last chance to back down.”

“Go on,” but I was afraid at what I’d see. Goddess, I loved the man more than life itself and would gladly give my life for him. Hell! I wanted to give my marriage for him and I was terrified at what I’d see. Fi was an actress in Hollywood and I wrote novels and screenplays so I had a good imagination.

He grabbed his upper lip and pulled it over his forehead with a sticky, sucking sound. I almost puked on the spot. When it got to his shoulders, he moved his head like his muscles were tight but I couldn’t really look at him. It was so terrifying. The he pulled his lower lip to reveal his head. The other girls were cringing at the sight but when I forced myself to look I said, “It’s not as bad as it could be. He still looks human”

Then he pulled his skin down. It looked like a combination of snake shedding it’s skin and removing a dance leotard but sounded worse. I could have handled it had it not been so, disgustingly noisy. When he was done he just stood there naked and allowed us to look him over. He was obviously embarassed but he stood there. “It’s not as bad as I thought,” I said to he group.

“Can I get dressed now?” he asked. The man wore pajamas to bed and I wonder how he ever got naked enough to be laid sometimes.

“Not yet. What’s with the eyes? Can you see in the dark like a cat?” I was totally curious now. He was almost the same and that helped. His eyes were like a cat’s, his ears pointed and he had the antennae of a moth in his forehead.

“Yes, but I need some light to see. A half-Moon to me is like high noon to you.” Fi giggled which meant she was close to hysteria. I held her hand and asked, “Why the antennae? They make you look like a moth.”

“I estann EM-fields.” Estann as a verb he used to indicate how we can feel auras and read psychic energy. I always thought he invented the word but now. “They help me detect auras and energy fields. Now I need to cut a hole in my pants for my tail.” And he reached for his pants with his tail as casually as would Ben or Pan only to have Yo snatch them from him saying, “That is a wife’s duty, husband.”

“You aren’t bothered by this?” he asked, showing his tail and hands. His tail and feet looked like a Don but his little finger was now a second thumb. She was taking this better than we were. I guess after being married to a lop-tail, having your husband normal, if even from the neck down was better than before.

“Well, you have a really nice tail and I wish you had done this before we reached Pal-ul-Don so my friends wouldn’t laugh at me for marrying a lop-tail. Your feet are normal, it’s just your funny hands and eyes and ears and antenna that looks like an animal but I can get used to it I think.” She explained.

I was the one who asked the hard questions, “Do your children know about you? And are they human or.. Weir like you?” I knew his daughters and although they didn’t approve of our affair, they were old enough to not interfere. He had given up adventuring to raise them, so fearful was he that his enemies would take revenge against them. He had never told them about me or Kore or his past.

“No they don’t know and telling them will be as hard as introducing my Don wives to them. When I look human, I sire human children. When I look like this, I can sire Weir kids. My daughters have Weir DNA though and can change if I show them how.” This was interesting. I wasn’t a scientist but the idea that his DNA changed with something as simple as wearing a biological leotard was impossible, yet if he said it, it must be true.

Pan was holding his tail and looking it over then stopped and asked, “You mean our children wouldn’t be lop-tails? Come with me now!” and she took his hand and tail and dragged him to their cabin. He had no idea. She wanted children desperately but hated the thought that they’d be tail-less and so stoned in Pal-ul-Don as different. That was why she cheated on Jason, knowing that he’d accept her children by another man and wanting them to be ‘normal’ by Waz-Don standards. Now she wanted to take advantage of having HIS children. Hell, I wanted his babies myself and had a twinge of fear that she’d bear the first one. It suddenly occurred to me that Ben might want children himself but would I have human or Don babies? Could he accept a human child and would America accept a Don?

Normally, Pan was loud in bed because she liked the world to know she was having fun but now she was quiet. I think she was more interested in his orgasm than her own. Eventually, well, too quickly, he returned with a towel around his hips as if we didn’t know what he’d been doing. Sometimes you want to be evil and if Ben hadn’t been around, I’d have said something about the smell on his loins and what had he been doing that took only a few seconds and not the half hour he usually took?

He dressed, facing away from us, then went forward and stared at the horizon.

Yo went forward and placed her arm around his waist and her tail around his ankle as a Don gesture of love only this time he wrapped his tail around her too. She sighed at this and leaned her head against his chest and spoke, “Husband, I do love you no matter if you have a tail or not, eyes of a cat or man and would love you if you were as hairy as a Tor-o-Don. My brothers love their wives even as they look so be not embarassed for we all love you.”

We let her cuddle then approached and asked, “Jason, what are our plans now?”

He didn’t turn but said, “Same as always. We go to Britain, buy a decent boat, go to Chicago to find what we can and then … I guess we need to figure out how to arm the Don race to defend themselves against the humans.” Now he was using ‘human’ and ‘don’ as if he were no longer either.

“And our wives and husbands?”

“I own an island where I’ve been living. And there is Drakonis. I have a house and farm there. Both are safe though the island is medieval and the Barony is high-tech. I only visit my house in America when I need to.” I knew about the island and had been there. When he told Tears, she had spread the word and an Amazon group had arrived to build a boat where they could find a new home away from the Ottoman Turks, the Mongols and the Russians.

“What about your castle in Ireland?” Fiona asked even as I gave her a look of warning. We didn’t need to open that can of worms.

He shrugged, “I haven’t been back to Ireland since the police killed Kore and the babies. I like America as little as I do England but I have friends and children there so I keep a house for them... and for you but mostly I live on Haven or Gaea now.”

Ben was listening and interrupted him. The others had been quiet, taking it all in. “You came to Pal-ul-Don by accident when you wanted to go to Chicago for some reason that is very dangerous. I’ve heard you all talking about it occasionally and if you fail, your people will die. Does this affect Pal-ul-Don too?”

I faced Jason and insisted, “Tell them. You trusted us enough to reveal your Weir self so trust them enough to tell about the Terminators.”

He sat down and I noticed how easily his tail moved aside. He didn’t practice or think about it any more than did Ben but he did look into the distance and switched into teacher mode. For a moment I wondered if he was a teacher on Gaea. “Family and friends, before the morasses dried up and the central sea formed, this planet was larger than you can understand and filled with people. There were more people than leaves in a forest. Then…” I touched him and said, “Leave the politics alone.” He never lost a chance to politic. He said it educated people but it only made them bored and angry.

“The world was destroyed. Everyone argues as to why and who but the result was that nine of every ten people died that first day. Over the next year, nine of ten died then the people who lived started to rebuild. Had it not been for this destruction, Pal-ul-Don would have been discovered and overrun by the humans or destroyed itself with over-population. So the destruction of the Earth saved your land. Perhaps your god was watching over you since you gave up human sacrifice or maybe you were just lucky.

“But Jennifer banded together people who hated everyone who was different, who believed different and with this army of voters she created a separate nation called the Chicago Imperium. When she discovered that she couldn’t kill everyone who was different one at a time, she released machines and disease to finish the job. These machines are called Terminator robots and wander around the country killing everyone they find and leaving disease in their wake.

“Diane, Fiona and I were going there to try to find a way to stop the Terminators when we got diverted to the Congo Sea. I messed up so got lost but we have a job to finish.”

“He does that a lot,” Fiona jumped in. “At least as long as we’ve known him he has missed more often than reached his goal. Our first trip was to Japan but we ended in Turkey then…”

“That was your fault, Fiona, my dear.” He added. That was true. It was her added and unexpected mass that threw the Stargate off.

“Ok, but what about..” The two were about to start one of their Irish fights that both enjoyed. Usually they got more and more passionate until she swung at him and they ended on the floor, naked.

“Stop!” Pan yelled at them. “You bicker like children. If these machines are killing people and it is important enough for you to risk your lives to stop them, then we must help you.”

“My love, it is too dangerous for you…” then Yo slapped him and insisted, “Husband! Do not EVER tell me that something is too dangerous! You go daily into places that would kill a lesser man and think nothing of it. You treat Pan and I as if we would break like a poorly made pot if anyone touched us while you take Di-Ann and Fee-Ona into danger as if they were warriors. You trust those two women more than you trust my brothers who are warriors and I am getting tired with that. We are your wives and your brothers and we share your boat and your food and your bed so we must share the danger too! Especially if our land is endangered.”

“You don’t understand why I can’t do that. Please just accept this.” He was about to break down so I took him to the bow and whispered, “Wind, my love, we need wind. Call it up for us.” The effort to relax enough to do weather magick would divert him and his thoughts.

When I returned to the others, I explained to them how, “Jason was married in Ireland. He loved Kore with more passion and emotion than any woman deserved. They had children who he also loved even more if that was possible. Then he had to leave home to do a job for his country. He went to war and lost all of his men. He chose to finish the mission over saving the lives of his men and so he sacrificed his army, men who trusted him, in order to save what he was entrusted with. When he returned home, he found that British had burned his house to the ground with his wife and children still inside. He had to bury their bodies himself and then he took revenge until he gave up killing and left Ireland. He lost everything that he loved for his mission, his family, his men and his nation and he still suffers over that.”

Fiona took over, “He is terrified of that happening again so he stopped getting women pregnant and stopped taking chances. Tears slept with him hoping for his children and when she learned he wouldn’t get her with child, she left him. Lujon did the same and so did Diane.” I glared at her because that was my secret. “Yes, I know the truth, Di. You said it was because he made love to me but you wanted children and he refused you out of fear so you left him. It wasn’t just me, it was also that. This is why he won’t give you, Yo and Pan children because he is terrified that his enemies will kill you as they did Kore. And that’s why I never gave him children because I knew he’d worry about us too much and not focus on the job. Yo, Pan, I love you like a sister, Hell, I love you more than my own sisters and you need to understand that loosing you and loosing any more children terrifies him more than anything in the world. He knows how dangerous Chicago is and he is petrified with terror that if he takes you there, you will die. He taught us to survive but even that isn’t enough because he’s afraid for our safety too. You saw how he always stays behind to guard our back, how he never lets us get into to much trouble, how he is always there to protect us even though Diane was freeing herself on that island and would have escaped alone. It’s because the thought of us, or you being killed is more than he can bear.

“He is not rational here, he is just terrified and nothing we can say will calm him so we have to do what we can do to show him that we are capable of taking care of ourselves. That island he bought, his Barony. It’s his safe place where he can put his family and finally stop worrying but in his mind, they aren’t safe enough yet.”

He was there with us again and said, “I can’t loose any of you. I’m not that strong.” Jason was always afraid of showing emotions. He usually did it when he as drunk so this must be tearing him apart. We tried to relax him but he was in one of his moods and wanted to wallow in his misery. I hated that in him but once he spiraled into depression, he was lost until something happened to force him awake. In Syria, we got him drunk, hired a couple female whores to make love to each other in front of him then when he noticed what they were doing, I was able to seduce him from behind and that brought him out. In Turkey, we were attacked by Janisaries and the killing helped. So Fi and I took Yo and Pan aside and explained how to help him. They thought we were joking but then, the Don were virgins when married so never had a chance to experiment as did we so sex with Jason was dull by many woman’s standards. Mostly because he was too embarassed to ask for what he wanted.

Finally the wind picked up and that occupied him and he slowly came out so in a few days we reached land then turned north. We had a few days of coastal sailing where we would stop at any attractive place to swim and relax and let our worries flow free. I fished, Ben and Mu hunted and we always had more than enough fresh food.

Jason was looking north and said to us one evening, “I’ve never been here before so I don’t know what towns or caravans or bandits we will meet. If they discover the gold in our hold, they will risk everything to capture the ship and sell the women into slavery. I’d prefer to buy supplies instead of trade for them but none of us thought to bring money.”

Fi then suggested, “Why not melt down a bar and mint some fake trade coins? It doesn’t matter if they are real so long as people accept them as real gold. Then we can buy what we need and as you know, I can bargain the burnoose from an Arab.”

She had a good thought and I could see Jason trying to work it out but sighed which meant he couldn’t figure out the proceedures and so said, “It’s a good idea but unworkable. Coins are not cast, they are struck. We’d need to cast a hammer and anvil from iron or some really hard wood, carve patterns into them, make blank coins of the same weight and that is more work than we are capable of doing here. The slavers didn’t bring anything we could use. But I like your idea and think that if we melt a gold bar down, drip the molten gold it into a pan of water to form nuggets, we can trade these as placer nuggets. People will think we were panning for gold along the rivers we passed and so we can protect the Ophir mines, Pal-ul-Don and our own lives. It’ll be easier and safer.” Fi wasn’t angry, she knew we needed to get his mind running so we often would toss out stupid ideas that he’d shoot down until either we had one that worked or we’d inspire one that worked.

So we used some of our cooking charcoal to make a furnace, built some bellows from wood and leather to raise the temperature, cut a bar into pieces, saving the filings as dust. Jason would have let them fall but Fi saved the filings. And then we tossed the pieces into the forge. As the gold melted, it ran down a trough and dripped into another pan of water to form irregular nuggets. The hissing as the gold cooled was, somehow, calming. We then collected these nuggets and soon had enough for our needs. Our story would be that we had panned along the Niger River to the south which was near Timbuktu and Jason felt was well known for it’s placer deposits of gold. If anyone left for the mines, that is where they’d go.

After another week of sailing, a week filed with fishing, an occasional caravan in the distance and love-making, mostly Pan trying to get pregnant, we reached a village called Tamenghest. We hid most of our gold jewelry, forced Pan and Yo to wear cloth instead of their golden breastplates and docked. Fortunatly the jato hide was now soft enough for them to make clothing so they replaced their breastplates and loincloths with jato hide and entered town to show off and brag about the courage of their husband.

We attracted a lot of attention. Too much for my mind. I’m blonde, Fi well endowed and both of us always attracted attention in Arab lands. But our companions weren’t human. The Don tails and feet and Jason’s features ensured that a crowd would follow us everywhere we went. Jason insisted that we take turns in town so we could leave a crew on board to keep thieves away and so while two remained on board, the rest sold the gold dust and nuggets for supplies and information. We did rent a bath since the Chad was a fresh water lake and we girls spent an entire day relaxing in a tub that was constantly being refilled with lots of hot water. They even had real soap and shampoo, not the stuff we made from fireplace ashes and egg yolk. It was expensive but Jason never begrudged our comfort. “If you aren’t relaxed, you can’t survive and what’s the good of risking your lives for money if you never spend it?” he would say. He hated spending all our cash in a bar but accepted spending an equal amount in a bath.

The second day I sent everyone into town claiming a stomach ache. I wanted to be alone with Jason. Ben gave me that look but went. I guess he figured that if we were going to screw around, we’d do it so he may as well let us have our way.

When they were leaving, I asked Jason, “Where do the Don come from?”

“What do you mean?”

“I started my period yesterday.”

“What does this have to do with the Don?”

“Yo was right, you are as dumb as a rock sometimes. Haven’t you noticed Pan spending more time in bed than normal? She’d trying to get pregnant. And Ben and I haven’t exactly been platonic either. Fiona has the implant but I always used condoms for birth control but I left them home this trip because you are sterile. We’ve been ‘together’ for weeks now, possibly months so I should have become pregnant by now by accident. No, Jason, I’m not trying. But without birth control, accidents happen. Teen girls get pregnant their first time so why am I still not? Don’t get upset, love, I want,… wanted your baby (I corrected myself quickly) but… What I mean is, Are the Don human? If they are, you should consider giving Pan and Yo babies. If they aren’t, then what are we doing? Is this beastiality? Or what is the word for screwing an alien that is intelligent?”

“Exterality! Sexual relations with a sentient species with no DNA in common.” The man had a word for everything.

“Without a DNA scan, I wouldn’t know. I remember some Weir historians from Gaea visiting Pal-ul-Don a couple centuries ago? Ja-Don was still King so it was after WW-I but before WW-II, but they were historians and not biologists and never married the locals. And I think that a Waz-Don left Pal-ul-Don on a Mon freighter a couple decades ago but we meet a lot of aliens so we don’t bother to scan them all. I don’t know what to say. There were times when I wanted to see you pregnant by me but I was, …am, …afraid of the consequences so I keep myself sterile with you and Fiona and the Don.”

“Maybe when we reach England I can.. no that won’t work, they are still in recovery from the Rapture. Back in our century I can check everyone out and see but if you really want a baby, I will arrainge something for you. But I want you to be certain and not just suffer baby fever.”

I patted his thigh and I saw his tail snake around to start to caress me, then he stopped and let it fall and grip the deck. “Jason, I see how you look at Pan and Yo. If it was just sex, you wouldn’t be as anxious as you are. You want kids again. Your first ones are dead, your current kids are adult. You want more. You are thinking that maybe now you can juggle adventure and family. Shhh, I’ll wait until you come up with an answer but, my dearest love, listen to your own words and do it because you want another baby, not because you are going through baby fever too.”

I wanted to kiss him but I knew that if I did, even a sisterly peck on the cheek, I’d not stop so instead asked, “Can you watch the Recovery alone, I have to tell Ben something?” He mentioned something about cleaning the ship which meant that he wanted to work off nervous energy so I mentioned as I stood, “We’ve been getting lazy and need to keep our martial arts up. See you soon.” Then I walked down the gangplank and looked for my husband. Husband! Keep that word in my mind. I never cheated and never did Jason, intentionally.

I found them shopping and Fi was teaching Yo and Pan some bad habits concerning spending money. "Look Di, we found a banker who bought our gold and now we have money! This stuff is amazing! Look at these patterns!” I agreed at the beauty but soon managed to take Ben aside. It wouldn’t be easy but really, not much on this adventure was.

“Honey, I have something to tell you.” He tensed up, probably thinking I was dumping him. “I started my period yesterday as you know. But are you doing something?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, genuinely perplexed. Men! Dumb as a box of rocks.

“When you Don want sex but don’t want babies, how do you prevent it?”

“I don’t understand. Why would you prevent babies?”

He had no clue. I knew that Yo actively prevented getting pregnant by Pele-Sad so they knew how. But was this a ‘woman’s’ secret? “My dear, we have been together nightly, and sometimes more often ever since I seduced you in As-Lur. Yet, I haven’t taken precautions and I’m not pregnant. Why? Is there something you are doing or are our races unable to make babies together?” If Pan or Yo got pregnant, Jason would never leave them. Hell if I got that way I’d not want Ben to leave either. If we couldn’t, then divorce would be easier and maybe attractive for Pan wanted children desperately and Yo would like some eventually when her life settled down. Most men wanted sons too and if I couldn’t give Ben any, he’d want to find a woman who could.

“I don’t know. But you and Fiona never had babies by Jason and neither are she or Pan-Sad-Bu or Yo-Bal-Lee pregnant. Maybe you are right and we cannot.”

“No, my loving husband,” and I kissed his tail tip as he tried to stroke my cheek. “My people have ways to prevent pregnancy. Fi uses something placed under her skin that prevents babies. I used to take a pill then switched to condoms. Jason can turn his fertility on and off like we close our eyes. So it’s us two alone. I’m not taking precautions so unless you are doing something I don’t know about, either I am pregnant, which I am not, or maybe we cannot have children together.”

I started to cry then and Ben held me, saying nothing which I needed. I had been pregnant once in my life and I miscarried after my husband had been killed in Vietnam. I always thought it was from grief and a few failed suicide attempts, but what if I couldn’t keep a baby? Some women couldn’t and others got pregnant when they looked at a man. If I couldn’t…

“My wife, it isn’t that important.” He tried to comfort me but I knew he was lieing. Mu didn’t care. He was like Fi. Casual about sex and sometimes I wondered if he’d mind if Fi bedded anyone else. I knew that Fi and her ex had an understanding about that and sometimes swapped and she never minded Jason bedding another woman. Hell, she’d watch and take notes. But Ben was different. He loved me and cared. If we were going to stay together, I’d have to get pregnant by him somehow!

When we finally returned to the Recovery, Yo and Pan were telling Jason how they would decorate their cabin with their purchases. The man was lost so I nudged my husband and said, “See how he is totally lost here. He doesn’t care but is afraid to tell them so he s pretending to agree. Back home we call that being pussy whipped and Jason is whipped twice over.” I was giggling at that thought. Jason told me once that today we call our wives Dear and Honey but in the past they called us Puss and our daughters Pussy or ‘little Puss’. Then someone called his wife’s genitals his little puss and it caught on.

Ben watched then commented as we walked to the bow, “How can such a great warrior and hunter allow his wives to be that way? I’d never allow you to rule my house.”

I started at him, the fool. “My dearest husband, so long as you have this (I touched his crotch) and you want these (I touched mine and my breasts) you will be as whipped as is Jason. Only I love you enough to let your friends and family pretend that you are in charge, in public that is.” Then I went below and waited. I wasn’t even undressed before he came in so I made him wait until he agreed to let me decorate our cabin in a totally garish manner.

When we finally left the town and reached the Sahara River, Jason explained, “Now it gets rough. This river isn’t large enough to tack well so we may have to hire camels to pull us partway.” At least he was right and there WAS a river here. Now another month or more sailing up the river or being pulled by camel and we’d reach the Mediterranean. From there an easy sail to England.

A few days after entering the River we docked at a town called Quallane and hired carpenters to mount some lee boards to the sides of the hull to prevent side drift. Jason should have done this a couple months earlier but it never occurred to him to change the classic lines of the dhow and we never mentioned it. But the Recovery was falling apart and required constant maintainance to even stay afloat. I knew Jason was worried and one storm past Gibraltar would sink us. But he was the captain and knew sailing better than we and his absolute terror at loosing us would ensure that he would get us there safely, even if it meant buying another boat.

So while the men were supervising the construction, we girls went into town to spend our husband’s money. Fi commented, “Remember when our husbands in Chicago would spend an entire weekend watching football on TV and working on that stupid car? God, men never change. Tailed or not, they are still guys.”

We were lost in town but I wasn’t worried. The river was south and we could walk along the shore until we reached the docks or just hire a guide. Besides, Fi and I were armed and Yo and Pan were stronger than most men. But that confidence was our undoing for slavers are experts at capturing people regardless of their skills. To our credit, we left three dead and another four so injured they’d not be doing much soon. And Fi had tossed some kid a ring and yelled, “Tell Jason!” who ran off, hopefully to earn his pay.


XV
by the Don

The Tand-at-Don women were talking together after Di-Ann’s escape. Ben-Lot knew that she had almost escaped on her own and that he had only helped her by killing a few warriors on the way to the canoe. He had mixed feelings about that. The women were weak as children and even his sister, Yo-Bal-Lee was far stronger than either and easily as strong as Jay-Son, yet, these two were unbelievable warriors. Despite their weakness, they always managed to win. It wasn’t just their fighting skills, it was other things. They had the morals of an animal. Pan-Sad-Bu was properly married to Jay-Son yet she cheated on him and instead of stoning her and killing the men, he forgave her! He even took her back as if nothing had happened. His own sister, Yo-Bal-Lee had spent a month or more with him between her capture as a slave and her return and Ben-Sar thought that she had been unfaithful to Pele-Sad with Jay-Son. Pele-Sad was too drunk to do the right thing and Jay-Son had changed everything by marrying his sister who had disgraced herself by divorcing her husband. Now… Ben-Sar didn’t know what to do other than he still had his mission from the King, a mission to bring back weapons that the Don might defend themselves against the Tand-at-Don. He did love Di-Ann though and that made things difficult.

Finally Di-Ann and Fee-Ona approached Jay-Son who was sitting on the cabin watching the water and thinking. He had been avoiding Di-Ann since the rescue. Something had happened in that hut. Ben-Sar didn’t think that Di-Ann had been disgraced while a prisoner, but still, she told him that there was a Ho-Tand-at-Don leading the Waz-Tand-at-Don. That man was insane and was seeking gold. These Tand-at-don seemed to think gold was valuable when it was just pretty and never needed to be polished like silver or steel. The hold itself was filled with gold bars. Part of this was to keep the ship upright but then, they chose gold because it was important. So important that they wanted to keep it a secret. Did this gold have something to do with Di-Ann and Jay-Son avoiding each other?

Finally the two called to Jay-Son. He looked at them, waited then answered so they called back, “Why does it always take you so long to answer us?”

Jay-son laughed at them and called back, “Because I have so much to worry about, it takes me awhile to think about what mistake I did this time.”

As Yo-Bal-Lee said, ‘the man was as dumb as a rock sometimes.’

Di-Ann called for him to come down and answer some questions and Jay-Son looked like he was a deer, trapped in a cage, waiting to be killed and eaten. How could such a great warrior be so afraid of women.

Di-Ann then said to him, “That man on the island was insane but he knew about you. He told us that you came from the past, that you had had gone through a Stargate, returned in a space-dhow but you looked like a jar-don and that you had brought gold from Ophir. That was why he was there, to find Ophir. So tell us the truth and don’t forget the jar-don part.”

Jay-Son began to tell his story, but not in the way everyone told stories as they sailed to pass the time, each person telling a story from their country, this was a strange story about his own life.

“When I was in Pal-ul-Eire, I discovered two things that changed everything, the Stargates and Ophir. I used these to recover my family lands but also became a slave.

“One day I was walking along a stream when a great lizard attacked me. I pulled my knife to defend myself but it won. Then I awakened on a star-dhow a dozen light years from Earth surrounded by six-legged lizard who wore clothing. The lizards called themselves Demon-Don and thought that I was attacking them so they defended themselves and told me that I was alive only because it was the time of the Divine King and killing was forbidden. But as soon as the festival was done, they’d toss me out the dhow to die. I could be good and have some freedom as a slave or be bad and remain chained in the hold. I may be a fool but I’m not stupid so I made myself as useful as I could.

“Unfortunately, the Demon-don thought that they’d experiment on me and try to create a new don-slave that would be a better slave for their star-dhow. When I fell asleep, they’d change my body. I even piled furniture against the door but nothing worked.

“After a few years of this, they returned me to Earth and threw me off the dhow and sailed away. So I activated my #cloak# to look human again and met Des-Er-Ray.

“She loved me and taught me about Earth then when she divorced me, she gave me a letter to friends of hers so I could get a job.”

Fee-Ona and Di-Ann laughed loud and hard as if this were a great joke. “You! With British Intelligence! You’re IRA and you worked for your enemy?”

He got embarassed and said. “It wasn’t like that. The war was over more than a hundred years and to the British I was nothing but a footnote in a history book. So I took the job. They had discovered the Stargates and had sent three men through a Stargate in France and these three had vanished. They wanted me to go through and find them. They thought that since I had experience travelling, I’d succeed where others failed.

“Unfortunately, when I went through I everything and arrived on Barsoom naked and Weir-Don. That’s what the Demon-don turned me into, a Weir-Don. I spent two years on that terrible planet drinking plant milk, eating #potatoes# and having my liver cleaned every month of jar-don poisons while I coughed up green slime from #pneumonia#.”

There were a lot of words that none of the Don understood but it appeared that Jay-son had been a slave a number of times before and had been married and divorced often and long before he had married Di-Ann. How did he live all with those disgraces? Even Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu were getting embarassed at their husband’s history.

“Finally I captured a Morgor-Don Space-dhow and returned to Earth but I returned looking like a Weir-Don. I took gold from Ophir so I would be wealthy and traveled around the Commonwealth like I do here. I don’t look like this. I’m wearing a cloak to look Tand-at-Don and I hate the thing. It itches and feels like I’m wearing lead weights, sun-glasses and ear plugs all the time. That’s what that French guy told you about me.”

Ben-Lot’s wife then asked, “So, you were Tand-at-Don until these Demon-Don changed you and now you are a jar-don who only pretends to be Tand-at-Don? How do you change back and forth?”

He explained in a way that no one, not even the Tand-at-Don wives understood. “I pull my cloak off and there I am. It’s fairly simple really.”

“Then do it!” Di-Ann demanded. His wives agreed but they were shaking their tails in fear.

“Why do you want that?” he asked. Yo-Bal-Lee thought that how could such a wise man be so stupid? “Because, husband, we are you wives and your family and we need to know about our husband. I want to who has bedded me and what my children will look like.”

“It’s kind of disgusting to see!” he said.

“My god Jason,” Fee-Ona cried out. “You’ve held my hair out of the chamber-pot as I puked and watched us bleed half to death in that arena. We’ve watched you write your name in pee and put ointment on your butt when you had dysentary. How could this be any worse?”

He gave in as he always did to women and began to undress. Di-Ann then asked, “Why are you stripping, and before us, you’ve always been embarassed to do that before?”

“Because my tail won’t fit through my pants.”

Pan-Sad-By looked up at that thought, “You have a tail?” Among Don, only criminals are lopped and children born without a tail were given to Jad-Ben-Otho until that was ended, then they simply were ‘stillborn’ to save their parents such a disgrace. He never understood how terrible it was for his wives to be married to a Tand-at-Don. That was why Pan-Sad-Bu cheated on him, not to seek other lovers but to ensure that Jay-Son’s babies would be normal. If he could forgive her cheating and not stone her like he should, he’d accept another man’s child as his own. Now, if he had a tail, as a proper one at that, she could bear him sons and hold her head up in public.

Jay-Son took his upper lip and pulled it over his forehead with a sticky, sucking sound. It was just like skinning a deer only it sounded worse. Them he pulled his lower lip down to reveal his head. All the women were cringing at the sight but Di-Ann finally said, “It’s not as bad as it could be. He still looks almost Tand-at-Don.” He didn’t at all. Oh, yes, the head was the same but his ears were pointed like an animals and his eyes looked like those of a cat and he had antenna growing from his head like a moth. Those would take some getting used to.

Then he pulled the rest of his skin down. It was like watching a snake shed it’s skin but sounded worse.

“Can I get dressed now?” he asked.

“Not yet. Can you see in the dark like a cat?” Di-Ann asked. She had gotten over her disgust and was now curious. She had said that she wrote stories like this so she wasn’t as shocked as the Don were.

“Yes, but I need some light to see. A half-Moon to me is like high noon to you.”

“Why antennae? They make you look like a moth.”

“I #estann# #EM-fields#. They help me detect #auras# and #energy# fields. Now I need to cut a hole in my pants for my tail.”

He reached for his pants with his tail but Yo-Bal-Lee snatched them from him saying, “That is a wife’s duty, husband.”

“You aren’t bothered by my appearance?” he asked. His tail and feet looked normal but he only had three fingers and two thumbs on opposite sides of his hand.

“Well,” Yo-Bal-Lee said trying to adjust. After being married to a lop-tail, being divorced and such, she could accept almost anything. “You do have a really nice tail and I wish you had revealed yourself before we reached Pal-ul-Don so my friends wouldn’t laugh at me for marrying a lop-tail. Your feet are normal, it’s just your funny hands and eyes and ears and antenna that looks like an animal but I can get used to it I think.”

Di-Ann asked, “Do your Tand-at-Don children know about you? And are they human or.. Weir-Don like you?”

“No they don’t know and telling them about this will be as hard as showing them my Don wives. When I look Tand-at-Don, I sire Tand-at-Don children. When I look like this, I sire Weir-Don children. My daughters have Weir-Don DNA and can change if I show them how.”

Pan-Sad-Bu had been looking his tail and hands and feet over very carefully. She wanted to see if they were normal and worked and saw that her husband had a normal Ho-Don tail and feet despite his funny hands with their two short thumbs. She then stopped as his words reached her ears and said, “You mean our children wouldn’t be lop-tails? Come with me now!” and she took him by the hand and tail and dragged him to their cabin.

Pan-Sad-Bu was normally very loud in bed because she had learned to relax and enjoy sex. But now she didn’t care for her own pleasure, she only wanted him to get her pregnant. So, although it was enjoyable to an extent, she was more concerned with him finishing than anything else. All too quickly, because she worked at that part, he climaxed and filled her womb with what she hoped was a baby. So she held him there, feeling the warmth inside then lifted him and herself up as she shoved a pillow under her hips to avoid loosing any of his seed. Only then would she allow him to leave.

When he wrapped a pillow around himself in embarassment and left, Yo-Bal-Lee looked at him, knowing what he, she, had done and then she held her own belly. Two pregnant women on the same boat. She hadn’t told her husband yet because she wasn’t certain who the father was or even how far along she was. There were those weeks before they returned to Pal-ul-Don but those should have been safe and with four wives, he never noticed how she avoided him at times. Then there was Pele-Sad and those times in her sister’s room which was a mistake but the timing was right which is why she had rushed to Jay-Son’s bed as soon as she had divorced Pele-Sad. She wanted it to be his but what if it wasn’t? Could he really adopt Pele-Sad’s baby as his own? If he cast her out, could she return home and tell her family that she was pregnant by one ex-husband and divorced by the other because of this? Being a woman wasn’t supposed to be so complicated. Your family chose who to marry and if your father chose the wrong man, you went to your mother who convinced your father to change his mind and chose the right one. And if he wouldn’t, well love was good but a good husband was better. She had loved Pele-Sad but he wasn’t a good husband. Jay-Son was a good husband and she loved him too so this pregnancy should be happy, not sad. Marriage as supposed to be a husband bringing home food and protecting his family and the wife making him happy enough to want to do these things.

Dressed, Jay-Son went forward and stared at the horizon as he did often. This time it was different. He looked normal from behind, his feet grasping the deck and his tail around a line. She had dreamed of seeing him that way and now…

Yo-Bal-Lee went forward and placed her arm around his waist and her tail around his ankle as a gesture of her love and this time he wrapped his tail around her too. This little act thrilled her and she realized how much she missed that. It was as if he had been mute and suddenly could say ‘I love you’ so she leaned her head against his chest and spoke to him, “Husband, I do love you no matter if you have a tail or not, eyes of a cat or man and would love you if you were as hairy as a Tor-o-Don. Someday we hope to give you many children and I promise to keep trying to make you as happy as you make me.” If he knew how hard she was working to make him happy, the news would be easier for him to accept.

Di-Ann and Fi-Ona then approached the couple and asked, “Jay-Son, what are our plans now?”

He didn’t turn to look at them, still watching the horizon and answered as Pan-Sad-Bu approached, moved under his other arm and sighed, “They remain the same as before. We go to Eng-Pal, buy a decent dhow, sail to Chicago to learn what we can. I guess we also need to figure out how to arm the Don to defend themselves against the Tand-at-Don.”

“And your wives and our husbands?” She pressed.

“I own an island where I’ve been living lately. And there is also Drakonis. I have another house and farm there. Both are safe enough. I only visit my house in America when I must.”

“What about your castle in Pal-ul-Eire?” Fee-Ona asked.

He shrugged, “I haven’t been back to Pal-ul-Eire since Kore and the babies were killed. I don’t like America any more than I do England but I have friends and children there so I keep a house for them and for you but mostly I live on Haven or Gaea now.”

Ben-Sar had been listening and was happy that his sister was happy and no longer disgraced at marrying a lop-tail. Maybe Jay-Son could do something for Di-Ann but he had something to know. “You came to Pal-ul-Don by accident when you tried to go to Che-kah-go for some dangerous reason. I’ve heard you all talking about it and I heard that if you fail, your people will die. Will their deaths affect Pal-ul-Don too?”

His wife, Di-Ann faced Jason and insisted that he talk. As much as their closeness bothered Ben-Lot, he had to admit that Di-Ann got Jay-Son to say and do things no one else could. “Tell them the truth. You trusted us enough to show your true self so trust them enough to tell about the ro-bots.”

He sat down and explained more, “My beloved family and friends, for you are all both to me. Before the morasses dried up and the central sea formed, this world was larger than you can imagine and filled with more people that you can count. Then the world was destroyed and no one knows exactly how or why. Nine of every ten people died the first day. Over the next year, nine of every ten who survived died then the people who lived started to rebuild. Maybe Pal-ul-Don would have been discovered and overrun by the Tand-at-Don or destroyed itself with over-population had this not happened. So the destruction of the Earth saved your land and your people. Perhaps your god was watching over you because you gave up human sacrifice or maybe you were just lucky. I don’t know.

“But Jen-Neh-Fer banded together people who hated everyone who looked or acted or believed different and created a land called the Chee-Kah-Go Eem-Peer-Ee-Um. When she discovered that she couldn’t kill everyone she wished to kill, she released ro-bot machines and diseases to finish her task. These machines wander around the country killing everyone they find and leaving disease in their wake.

“Di-Ann, Fi-Ona and I were going there to try to find a way to stop them when we got lost and came here but we do have that job to finish.”

Fee-Ona started to argue with Jay-Son until Pan-Sad-Bu yelled at them. “Stop! You fight like small children. If these ro-bots are killing people and it is important enough for you to risk your lives to stop them, then we must help you.”

“My love, it is too dangerous for you…” Jay-Son began but then Yo-Bal-Lee slapped him to the deck and screamed at him, “Husband! Do not EVER tell me that something is too dangerous for us! You go daily into places that would kill a lesser man and think nothing of it. You treat your wives as if we would break like a poorly made pot if anyone touched us and yet you take Di-Ann and Fee-Ona into danger as if they were warriors. You trust those two women in battle more than you trust your brothers-in-law who ARE warriors and I am getting tired of that attitude. We grew up living among ja and jato and gryf and dangers we never told you about so we are NOT helpless! We are your wives and your brothers and we share your boat and your food and your bed so we will share your danger too!”

Jay-Son tried to stand but she towered over him as he cried to her, “You don’t understand why I can’t do that. Please just accept this and let it go.”

The Don were shocked for he was never like this. They had never seen him scared. Not in that tree when he faced a jato with his sword, not when he walked on deck among the snake-turtles, not when he walked among a dozen or more armed warriors. He was totally without fear and now he acted like a coward over something that didn’t exist. Then Di-Ann took him back to the bow, sat him down and whispered into his ear and returned to the rest.

She tried to explain to the Don why he was like that, how he had been married with children and how he had abandoned his warriors to die to finish a task given by his king. How when he returned home, these Brit-Don had burned his house and killed his family.

Fee-Ona took over the talk as Di-Ann broke down, “He is terrified that this will happen again so he stopped sireing children and stopped taking chances in war. Tears tried for months to bear his children and when she learned he wouldn’t get her with child, she left him. Lujon did the same and so did Di-Ann.”

Di-Ann glared at her as if she had told a secret but they all knew how much Di-Ann wanted babies. “This is why he won’t give you, Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu children because he is terrified that his enemies will kill you and them as they did Kore. And that’s why I never gave him children because I knew he’d worry about us too much and not focus on the job.”

Yo-Bal-Lee knew that she couldn’t tell him about the baby now. Not until they were safe and it would be months before the voyage would be over and she’d begin to show soon. She already felt the baby-sickness that all mothers had in the beginning and she avoided throwing up only because it wasn’t too bad yet.

“Yo-Bal-Lee, Pan-Sad-Bu, I love you like sisters, Hell, I love you more because we share the same dangers and … well, you know what secrets we women share. But you all need to understand that loosing you and loosing any more children terrifies him more than anything in the world could. He knows how dangerous Chicago is and he is petrified with terror that if he takes you there, you will die. He taught Fe-Ona and I how to survive but even that isn’t enough for him because he’s afraid for our safety too. You see how he always stays behind to guard our back, how he never lets us get into too much trouble, how he is always there to protect us even though I was freeing myself on that island and would have escaped alone in another hour. It’s because the thought of us, or you being killed is more than he can possibly bear.”

“He is not thinking normal here, he is just terrified and nothing we can say will calm him so we have to do what we can do to show him that we are capable of taking care of ourselves and that there isn’t much danger. That island he bought, this Barony of his are his safe places where he can put his family and finally stop worrying but in his mind, they aren’t safe enough yet to satisfy him.”

Later, Di-Ann and Fee-Ona took his wives aside and explained how to relax him. They had drank all the beer they had brought from Pal-ul-Don long ago so they had to teach the girls about taking their clothes off in a sexy manner to divert his mind and how to make love to him to distract him and make him happy again. Being his wives, they were anxious to learn how to make their husband happy and if the Tan-at-Don were willing to share their secrets, the Don would gladly listen. It wasn’t easy because Don are virgins at marriage and what they knew about sex was learned by trial and error with their husbands and rarely shared among other women. But some of the things they heard were disturbing. How could a woman do those things and how could a man enjoy watching or having them done to him? But they promised to try no matter how shocking it was.

The wind soon picked up and he became busy with sailing and looking for shore and the occasional, or regular attacks by his wives cheered him up. Pan-Sad-Bu kept trying to get pregnant so she dragged him off at every possible opportunity and for some reason, Yo-Bal-Lee was growing an almost constant desire for sex. She was just too embarassed yet to ask Fee-ona about this.

Finally, they reached to coast and turned north, stopping when they wanted to hunt or fish or to just swim in an isolated bay and relax under a tree.

One day he said to his family, “I’ve never been here before so I don’t know what we will meet. If bandits discover the gold in our hold, they will try to capture the ship as that mad Frenchman tried and then sell the women into slavery. I want to buy supplies instead of trade for them but none of us thought to bring money and the trade goods we brought from Pal-ul-Don I want to save for Eng-Pal.”

Fee-Ona suggested money, “Why not melt down a bar of gold and make some fake money? It doesn’t matter if they are real so long as people accept the gold. Then we can buy what we need and I can bargain the burnoose from an Arab.”

Jay-Son thought about this then said, “It’s a good idea but not possible. You don’t cast coins, you strike them.” And he explained ho this money was made. Money didn’t exist in Pal-ul-Don and the thought that decorated pieces of gold were valuable was inconceivable to them. But he liked the idea with some changesand described how they could make the gold nuggets found in Pal-ul-Don to trade for supplies. “It’ll be easier and safer,” He explained.

Ben-Sar and Mu-Lot made a forge from rocks and mud and the women sacrificed some of their valuable charcoal to melt the gold. By the time two bars were finished, they had filings from cutting the bars and nuggets from dripping the melted gold into a pan of water. Both had learned how to do simple forging as did all Don and most had panned for gold in the streams back home so they knew exactly what to do, more so than did Jay-Son.

The dhow eventually docked in a coastal town called Tam-En-Ghest and Jay-Son and Fee-Ona made the Don hide most of their gold jewelry and forced Pan-Sad-Bu and Yo-Bal-Lee to wear cloth bras instead of their golden breastplates before they docked. It did give the women a chance to show off the jato hide that their husband had killed for them which made them very happy.

Of course, they all attracted a lot of attention. Di-Ann was blonde which was unusual anywhere in Africa, Fee-Ona liked to show of her well endowed breasts and between Jay-Son and the Don, crowds would follow them everywhere we went. Jay-Son insisted that everyone take turns in town so that a crew could be left on board to keep thieves away, so while two remained on board, the rest who went into town sold the gold dust and nuggets for supplies and information. Jay-Son, Di-Ann and Fee-Ona spoke a language called Arabic from when they were married and so could speak to the people in town. They also bought more of the Kof-fee that they both loved but Jay-Son and the Don hated. And they rented a bath and the women spent an entire day relaxing in a tub that was constantly being refilled with lots of hot water. They also bought real soap and shampoo. The value of this gold was unbelievable.

The second day in town, Di-Ann claimed a stomach ache and begged to remain aboard with Jay-Son who had to check the hull for some modifications he wanted to add. Ben-Sar gave his wife and brother-in-law a look that said ‘I don’t trust you but can’t stop it’ and left anyway. He wasn’t happy at all in town wondering what his wife was doing. Could he stone her for adultery? He knew he couldn’t kill Jay-Son for the man was impossible to harm.

An hour later Di-Ann caught up with the group and wasn’t worried at all about being alone in the town without protection. Her husband argued, “Do you know how dangerous it is for you to be alone here? You’ve been abducted once already! What if it happens again?” She smelled like herself and not him and he was so happy he allowed his fear for her to run free.

She kissed him and said, “My husband, I was taken amidst all the might of my husband, his brother, my sisters, their husband and my friend. If that could happen, with all that protection, it could as easily happen alone so why worry? Let us enjoy shopping.”

Fee-Ona showed her the money she had received for some gold and some of the materials they had bought and so they continued to shop until Di-Ann took Ben-Sar aside and told him, “I have something to say to you.” He tensed up wondering what had happened on the dhow while his wife was alone with her former husband and lover. “My menses started yesterday. Are you doing something to prevent babies?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“When you want sex but don’t want babies, how do you prevent it?”

“I don’t understand. Why would you prevent babies and how? You have sex and babies come or they don’t.”

“My dear, we have been together in our bed nightly at least since I seduced you in As-Lur. Yet, I haven’t taken precautions and I’m not pregnant. Why not? Is there something you are doing or are our races unable to make babies together?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about. Neither you and Fee-Ona had babies by Jason and neither are she or Pan-Sad-Bu or Yo-Bal-Lee pregnant. Maybe you are right and we cannot make children.” The thought saddened him a bit.

“No, my husband,” she continued as she took his tail and stroked her own cheek with the tip. “My people have many ways to prevent pregnancy. Fee-Ona places something under her skin to prevent babies. I used to take a medicine then switched to #condoms#. Jason can turn his fertility on and off as we can close our eyes. So it’s us two who are the problem. I’m not taking precautions to prevent babies so unless you are doing something I don’t know about, either I am pregnant, which I am not, or we cannot have children together.”

He took her as she began to cry and he tried to comfort her, “My wife, it isn’t that important.”

Later they finally returned to the dhow where Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu were telling Jay-Son how they planned to decorate the cabin with their purchases. Di-Ann nudged her husband and said, “See how he is totally lost and helpless. He doesn’t care for their ideas but he is afraid to tell them so he’s pretending to agree. Back home we call that being pussy-whipped and Jason is whipped twice over.”

Ben-Sar watched then commented on it as we walked to the bow of the boat, “How can such a great warrior and hunter allow his wives to control him that way? I’d never allow you to rule my house.”

She laughed at him then said, “My dearest husband, so long as you have this,” she stroked his crotch, “and you want these,” she touched her own then cupped her breasts, “you are as whipped as is Jay-Son. The difference is that I love you enough to let your friends and family pretend that in public you are in charge.” Then she went below to their cabin. Ben-Lot thought about that then stopped thinking and ran below to the laughter of his brother. She wasn’t even undressed when he entered so he stripped her himself and then began on his loin-cloth when she made him wait. “Dear, I’m not in the mood yet because I was thinking that we need new tapestries to cover the walls. He kept kissing her neck and stopped long enough to say, “Anything you want,” at which time she began to return his embrace.

A day later they left the town and reached the mouth of the Sahara River where Jay-Son explained, “Now it gets rough. This river isn’t large enough to tack so we will have to hire camels to pull us part of the way.”

The first few days it was easy sailing then they docked at a town called Qual-lane and hired more carpenters to mount and adjust some lee boards to the sides of the hull in order to prevent side drift. Jay-Son admitted that he should have done this long before they reached Pal-ul-Don but it never occurred to him to change the dhow and as no one else never mentioned it, it didn’t get done. The Recovery was falling apart and required constant repair to even stay afloat and all wondered if one more storm would sink them.

While the men were supervising the construction, the women went into town to shop and spend their husband’s money. Maybe this money was a good idea. It was certaintly easier than barter. Fee-Ona commented to Di-Ann, “Remember when our husbands in Chicago would spend an entire weekend watching football on #TV# and work on their #car#? Men never change. Tailed or not, car or boat, they are still men.”

They were enjoying the sights and spending money when one shop keeper enticed Yo-Bal-Lee into the back room with some particularly attractive cloth. Once inside, two men shoved a bag over her head and upper body but she managed to get a scream out which warned the rest. Pan-Sad-Bu rushed back and was beating them senseless before four men managed to hold her down long enough to tie her up. They took care to avoid damaging her, especially her tail then Di-Ann was there with a knife and killed one immediately and wounded two others before she was held down by force of bodies. Fee-Ona fought to the street then they lost sight of her until they were dumped into a pen inside a compound with a dozen other women and men, all chained around the neck.

“Damn!” Fee-Ona said. “Just like Ankara. Will we never learn?”

“I don’t think they want us as gladiators this time. I killed one and wounded at least two so they probably aren’t too happy with us.”

“I took out at least two and wounded a couple more on the way to the street. I also tossed a ring to a boy and called for him to find our men. If he is honest or greedy, he will and it’s now only a matter of time.”

Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu came over to them and asked if they were safe. Visions of the multiple rapes they saw on the dhow were running through their heads.

“We’ll be fine. This town is too small to hide in and Jason will cut his way through an army to find us and with your brother’s to help, they’ll be lucky to have anyone left alive.” Di-Ann said.

Fee-Ona added, “Remember how terrified he was that we’d be harmed? Now you will see him in action. You thought he was good against those Sudanese, well, now he’ll loose control and the river will run red with blood before he is done. In the meantime, we need to learn as much as we can about this place and begin to collect weapons.”

Yo-Bal-Lee was crying all the more at these words. Despite the comfort of the other women she refused to stop. “I’m afraid he’ll send me back. I don’t want to go but if he finds out, he will and Ill never see him again.”

“Finds out what dear? That we were kidnapped so easily? It happens! We’ll just remind him that every adventure needs such events and we got out easily enough.”

“No, that I’m… I’m pregnant and….”

“Pregnant! That’s wonderful! How long? you aren’t even showing yet! Does he know? Of course he doesn’t. Here, take the shade.” They held her and even Pan-Sad-Bu cared for her wife-sister even though she had wanted to be the first to bear children.

“No, it’s worse than that,” she continued. “You told us about Kore and his other children and how he is so afraid it will happen again. Now, if he finds out I’m pregnant and captured so easily, he’ll be so afraid for us that he might send us back to Pal-ul-Don and I won’t see you again.”

“Pshaw, sister. We’ll simply not tell him for a couple months and by then we will be so far ahead it’ll be too late to turn around. He’s so stupid at times, he’ll just think that you need more exercise. We can protect you for a long time. Besides, I’m going to be an aunt and I don’t want to loose my niece or nephew.”

She kept crying then Fee-Ona looked at her in the eyes and asked, “What else?”

She sniffed, wiped her nose on her bare arm leaving a trail in the dirt and said, “He will hate me.”

“No he won’t, he loves you.”

She buried her face in Fee-Ona’s bosom and managed to get out, “I don’t know who the father is.”

Fee-Ona just held her while the three stared at her and each other. Finally Di-Ann said, “Pele-Sad? I know that the only men you’ve been with are Jay-Son and Pele-Sad and you can’t be too far along so it must have happened at As-Lur and that means Pele-Sad or Jay-Son. You didn’t keep track?”

“No. I was careful before we reached Pal-ul-Don and with you three around he never noticed when I refused him. Then my mother called Pele-Sad down and he was so attentive and I felt so guilty about cheating on him I didn’t care or count and those couple days in my parent’s house. Then after the war when I divorced him and went to Jay-Son, I realized that it was that dangerous time and I so wanted it to be Jay-Son’s that I ran to him immediately hoping that if I were, it would be his. Maybe Pele-Sad’s drinking would make his seed drunk and Jay-Son’s would be faster or stronger. What if it’s normal? Then he’d know he wasn’t the father and he’ll send me away or stone me or hate me! I’m so scared!”

“There, there, you think you’re the first woman who passed another man’s baby off as her husband’s? Once Jay-Son holds the baby and looks into it’s face, he won’t care who sired it, as far as he is concerned, it will be his. We’ll eventually tell him the truth. Just make certain that you never cheat on him or he WILL toss you out.”

Then she leaned over and threw up.

Fee-Ona grabbed her hair and held it as Pan-Sad-Bu moved aside. When it was over, she wiped her mouth with her sleeve and said, “There, there, I threw up from morning to night the first six months with my first pregnancy. We’ll keep some stale bread handy so you can munch and that’ll help the morning sickness.”

“I want my mother!” she cried again. “I’m scared and I don’t know what to do and it all feels so strange and my body is changing and I want sex all the time but I’m afraid it’ll hurt the baby and my breasts are sore and I want to throw up all the time and my mother will know what to do.”

Fee-Ona held her some more and said, “I’ve had two babies myself so I know what is happening. The baby is pressing down and applying pressure on your genitals. It’s nature’s way of keeping the father around until you both get used to the baby. It’s ok to have sex and a few dozen orgasms will help with the back-aches while you change.”

Di-Ann looked into her eyes and said, “You are not alone, we are here. We three are your sisters. We’ll always be there for you so try to relax and enjoy your pregnancy.”

Even Pan-Sad-Bu hugged her and cried with her, “I wanted to give him sons but if you are first, I will still be the baby’s mother. I hope I get pregnant soon so we can grow huge together.”

Di-Ann then stood and cried out in Arabic to the guards. When they brought a bucket, water and some bread, she said, “I told them that that bag made you sick and unless they wanted to loose their investment, they’d better take care of you better. Here! Nibble on this but small bites and rinse your mouth out, your breath stinks.”

Pan-Sad-Bu asked, “Why didn’t you demand our release and tell them what our husband will do to them?”

“They won’t listen. People like that never do. If they were afraid of our men, they’d have left us alone so if they think we have been abandoned, it will make the rescue easier. Look at those trees by the stockade! Can you climb them and get over the wall if we make a diversion? Good. Pay attention and when we say ‘go’, then you RUN! Don’t stop or look back no matter what. We can take care of ourselves. Get to the Recovery and let our husbands rescue the rest of us. Now let’s see if we can pick these locks.”

It took almost a half hour to pick the first lock, the rest falling soon after when the first gunfire started.


XVI
By Jason

DRAT! I knew something like this would eventually happen. I should have checked things out more carefully. At least Diane and Fiona were there to help and the kidnappers wouldn’t fully understand the capabilities of either the human or Don women. The question would be, were these slavers or simple kidnappers? If that latter, they would send us a ransom note, if the former, they’d be rushed from town to the block.

“Ben, Mu, someone has taken our wives, get our weapons so we can strike before they get settled. Carbines, swords, bows, and don’t forget Diane and Fiona’s weapons either!” If we retaliated before they were ready for us, we had a better chance but I’d gladly pay the ransom and hunt hem down later if need be.

I turned to the kid and tossed him a gold nugget, “Find me the Watch or police or whatever enforces the law here and fast!” He ran off quickly and within a minute was back. Mu and Ben were ready by then and I was buckling my belts when the guard arrived. I called to him in Arabic, “Someone has taken our wives. Can we count on the help of your people?”

“No!” I tossed him a nugget. “Or rather, if they were kidnapped for ransom, we will though paying the ransom is always the best way. But if they were captured by slavers then there is no hope for here, it is legal to capture foreigners and, sirs, you are not really human and may be djinn so you are outside the law if this is true.”

I thought so. Slavery is legal or tolorated in many countries and in many of these, any foreigner is lawful prey. “Ok, we are going to seek our wives and punish those who took them. If any interfere, they will die too and we shall eat their souls with honey.” I tossed him the largest nugget in the bag. “Watch our boat and if all is well upon our return, I will give you more! BUT, if even a rope is missing, we will hunt you down and consume your soul and inflict upon it such agonies that only those who took our wives can imagine.” I also projected to him whatever fear, terror and horror emotions I could broadcast. Diane may be more psychic as to divination but I can send easier. The guard was paid to guard the occasional boats so what I bribed was a bonus. I felt that greed would keep him honest for an honest cop was one that remained bought.

We three then ran into town with me explaining the situation to the Don and giving them my hasty plans. Every town has some kind of square or marketplace and there we proceeded. Good, a slaver’s block used for auctioning slaves, property or whatever announcements needed to be made. We leapt to the top and I cried for attention, my brothers-in-law next to me to attract notice. Seeing two Don in lion loincloths and a Weir in European clothing attracted a lot of attention.

“Your attention please. Our wives have been captured by brigands and we are here to rescue them and punish those guilty. Someone here knows something and I will pay in gold for information!” I let the nuggets fall from their bag into my hand. Conversation increased until one large Bedouin with scimitar stood forward and called, “Infidels, neither you nor your gold is welcome here! Your animal women will be happier with a man, not a beast between their legs.”

I imagine there would have been laughter at his wit had Ben-Sar not judged his tone to be derogaroty and pulled him to the block. As he grabbed for his blade, I said, “Kill him” and the snapping of his neck silenced any comment. With the superhuman strength that Greystoke described, Ben-Sar tossed the body over the heads of the crowd and I continued. “As you can see, none of us are in a good mood. So, you can follow the teachings of Mohammad and aid us in recovering our wives, thus becoming wealthy or my brothers and I can kill every man, woman and child in this town in revenge.”

One man came forward and cried, “They will kill us if we tell.”

I leaned down and said to him in a voice that would carry, “I understand your fears and have this to say, those who took our wives may harm you but you KNOW we will kill you and second, how can they harm you when they are dead?” I let the gold pour from one hand to the other as Ben said, “These are cowards, let us be off.” The Arabs didn’t understand his words for he spoke in Donian but they saw him growl and fondle his club and that scared them.

“The slaver compound is to the north, just outside town. It is heavily fortified and protected by fifteen armed guards, most carrying bows and crossbows but some with muskets. You cannot win against them.” I tossed him a nugget for this information and stood to cry out, “Who will assist us and be paid gold? None? Then remember this, if you will not aid us and receive gold, those who hinder us will receive steel!” And I took Ben and Mu to the north.

Slaver’s compounds shouldn’t be hard to find. They are designed to keep people in while fortresses are designed to keep people out so it was a very short time to find the place. We climbed a nearby tree, the slavers not needing a kill-zone as do most castles, and looked it over.

“There, in the center under that see I see them,” Mu pointed. “How do we proceed?” He respected my leadership abilities more than his brother but Ben did have the intelligence to know that here I was his better from experience.

“See how Diane and Fiona are working on their collars and chains. She’ll have them open soon and there are enough trees and houses against the walls to allow Pan and Yo to climb over to freedom. We just need to distract them. So, I will go there, the wall farthest from the prisoners and proceed to kill the guards with my carbine. You two will go to the wall nearest them and wait. Wait! The guards will see my attack as a diversion which it will be and they will be alert for your attack. Do NOT attack, remain hidden. When the expected attack does not happen, the guards will become careless and begin to glance to my wall. With no attack, they will spend more time watching my attack and less on their posts until they ignore you completely. As I approached that deer, you approach the wall, slowly and taking your time. We have all night if need be. When the guards leave your wall, climb it and find Fiona and Diane. Help your sisters to escape first then your wives who will cover your rescue with their rifles. After the women are safe, we can return to kill the slavers at our leisure. Your wives can fight, mine cannot so although you want to save your wives, remember that mine are helpless and yours will be armed with a rifle better than those of the slavers.”

With that I left and found a thick tree behind which I could hide and whose trunk would protect me from arrows and musket balls. I made certain I was high enough to see into the compound and readied myself. This would be easy. These people are not soldiers defending a well-built fortress, they are slavers accustomed to stealing women and children from civilians and beating the helpless into submission. So I looked over the place through my binoculars and wished I had mounted a scope on the carbine and selected my targets. The ones with the muskets and crossbows were primary as would be their leader if I could find him. But I also wanted to be able to kill anyone who approached the girls. Well, nothing ventured they say so I sighted my three targets, adjusted my position to more comfort and then killed the first three slavers in four seconds. I had killed another four before they all took cover. Eight more guards to go plus the main crew. I settled in to wait and scanned the compound waiting for someone to show their head. A couple did but their shots were wild as they didn’t know my position and I allowed them to waste ammunition and gain confidence.

After awhile one ran to a dead man and dragged him to cover. I sighted him but didn’t fire and when he lived, others began to peek over their protection. Finally one guard, their captain I judged, stood, ducked, stood again and when he discovered he was still alive, ordered his men to approach the walls and gate. He mostly remained under cover, a poor shot with a carbine at this range but doable so I allowed him to gain confidence and when there were a half dozen men in the open and he was talking to another, I killed them both then four more in the compound.

I could see the far guards watching and returning fire on my position then two heads poked over the wall and within seconds, both guards were dead. Well, not exactly according to plan but I couldn't begrudge my brothers that gift. Maybe four guards left, a half dozen workers and the leader. Mu approached another guard and killed him with his club while Ben, the cautious one, made his way to the prisoners. Pan and Yo ran to him and he directed them to the wall and tossed the carbines to Diane and Fiona who escorted them to safety. Instead of climbing, they ducked and hid at the inside base. Something was wrong here then a bolt almost struck Ben-Sar. Obviously there was a crossbow-man under cover where I couldn’t see him. Fiona poked up and fired two shots then Diane moved to the right and fired once. Ben and Mu then ran for one of the buildings and, screaming to terrify his opponants, began to kill anyone he met as Diane and Fiona gave him cover. I gave up all pretense of strategy and shot anyone who came within my sights and within minutes, it was over.

I climbed down and approached the gate and called, “Open Sesame” and a moment later, the gate opened and I entered. I hugged my wives who flung themselves into my arms and noticed that Diane and Ben were behind some cover facing the big house. Fiona was behind another set of crates and was joined by Mu-Lot who had abandoned her long enough to let me in.

I set my wives under cover and called out, “Report!”

Diane replied first, “Diane here, all guards and workers dead save the leader and a couple men with rifles and handguns in that building.”

“Fiona here, All well and safe. We are unharmed and the slaves safe for now.” She nudged her husband who laughed and called, “Mu-Lot here, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to kill a few guards who were in my way.” Then Ben looked at me then to Diane who nodded so he said, “Ben-Sar here, Our wives are safe and we can leave if you wish.” She kissed him then and returned to her watch.

I looked at the building which was fortified with fireing holes and heavy shutters. This one was designed to protect the occupants, though from a slave revolt or rescue I couldn’t tell. “What do you four want to do?”

Both Ben and Mu yelled, “Kill them” almost simutaneously so I called back, “Agreed! If we let them live, they will follow us for revenge and we are trapped on the river that they know better than do we. So they can cross the desert and set a dozen ambushes that we can’t escape.” I wished I had a rocket launcher but the roof looked dry. All those palm fronds could be a lack of housekeeping but they were dry. “How about we crawl along the wall and toss more dry branches onto and around the building then burn them out. They can choose to remain and burn or exit and be shot.”

Mu-Lot thought this funny and he kissed Fiona and crawled away to gather fronds. To the Don, walking the wall carrying palm fronds was a simple matter but to a human, it would have been almost impossible which is why that part was undefended. Ben-Sar joined him and with Yo-Bal-Lee and Pan-Sad-Bu collecting dry fronds and wood for them we soon had the building covered. What the slavers thought as the branches began to fall around them I knew not but when we had the place covered, I asked, “Who?” to which Diane took a torch and said, “Me! I got us into this mess, I’ll finish it” and she tossed the brand to the building. It fell short and her attack was answered by a hail of gunfire which missed. People who carry automatic weapons are always poor shots and people who are unaccustomed to a decent fight rarely spend much time on a firing range.

But though her toss landed short, Ben-Sar, who remained on the wall, jumped to the roof and tossed a few fronds to connect the brand to the building and soon he was running from the fire.

We heard coughing and soon the door opened as those inside exited, firing in all directions. Diane, Fiona and myself shot a few but Mu-Lot and Ben-Sar were quickly among them with their clubs. There were a couple more shots from inside but these also went wild and as we backed off, I looked over the bodies. “Where is their leader?”

“Perhaps he prefers to be cooked over clubbed, Ben-Sar commented as he cleaned brains and hair from his club.

“Slavers are cowards. Ben, Diane, remain here with Yo and Pan. Mu and Fiona with me!” and we ran from the compound. “He has an escape tunnel! Search those houses!” and I pointed to a row closest to the compound but far enough away to provide a safe tunnel exit.

I entered mine, kicking the door open and terrifying the family within. The house was a one room hovel and I saw no place for a tunnel exit so apologized and left for the next. I was in my third when I heard gunshots and ran to the sound to find the slaver leader bleeding in the dirt. Fiona and Mu-Lot were next to him then she pointed to a house which I entered and saw deserted save for a grass mat thrown back to reveal the tunnel. Tunnels are dangerous. You never know what traps or assassins lie within so rather than enter and risk injury and death, I went next door and borrowed a brand from their fireplace. I took that to the tunnel and tossed it into the opening then began to cut the grass mat into pieces and tossed them down to create a cherry blaze. Soon the tunnel and room were filled with smoke so I left and watched from outside. “If any remain in the tunnel, they will be dead very soon. What of him?” I pointed to the slaver who was bleeding and promising us our wealth in gold and slaves in return for his life.

Fiona suggested, “I think that if we tossed him into the slave pens, he can discuss his business with his stock.” Both Mu-Lot and I thought this funny and after a quick search for hidden weapons, we bound his wound and carried him back to his place of business. Fiona opened the gate and Me-Lot tossed him to the ground. Diane had already unchained the slaves and was telling them where the food and wealth was then we told them all “goodbye and enjoy this gift we give you.” Then we left and heard screams rise as the slaves approached their former master.

Yo-Bal-Lee was crying, “Please don’t send me away. I promise I’ll obey your orders. I’ll do anything you want, even…. Please let me stay!”

“Why would I send you away?” I asked.

Diane piped up, “She thinks you will return her to Pal-ul-Don because of this. I tried to tell her that these things happen and it’s nothing to worry about.” Fiona whispered in my ear, “Don’t think of it. We are fine, our husbands did well and we are safe. Let’s continue on.”

I hugged Pan and Yo and said, “Well, so long as everyone is safe and your brothers did well, I couldn’t ask for a better army. Let’s see if the Recovery is still there and we haven’t been robbed for it is another month or two to the Mediterranean and a couple weeks to England.”

The police guard was still on duty, watching the smoke from the pyre we had set but all was well. Maybe he was honest enough to stay bought or maybe he realized that we could and would carry out our threats. But after a quick search to find everything still in place, I paid him the rest of his bribe and lacking wind, I hired a camel team to tow us upriver.


XVII
By Jason

With no sailing to do, the journey was relaxed and we had little to do but clean the dhow, make love at odd times of the day and night, nap, cook and sing and dance. So aside from the public view of the camel train towers which forced our more intimate moments to be done under cover, that week was pleasant and enjoyable. Even Yo-Bal-Lee settled down to domestic work and made our cabin and boat as comfortable as she could. She sang a lot, spent time with Fiona and Diane and even put on weight. Pan-Sad-Bu never ended her attempts to get pregnant and said, “She doesn’t get enough exercise here. She’ll be fine. Even I am getting fat! See how my hips are too wide for my loincloth and my thighs are almost too large to allow you between?”

Personally I couldn’t see any change and if she did put on even an ounce I was smart enough to not say so. “My dear, you are as thin and beautiful as the day I met you.” Pan liked this comment and immediately dragged me back to our cabin, insisting that I continue to tell her how beautiful she was as she stripped my clothes from my body.

A week of being towed by camel brought us to another town. We spent a day in that town then the wind picked up and we sailed north almost three weeks stopping at night or when we reached a village and every place we stopped, a crown was waiting to meet us. Fiona commented after the third time, “Our reputation is preceeding us. They want to see the monkey- people who killed so many armed slavers. This is good because they will respect us and avoid causing us trouble but bad because we’ll have no privacy.”

By the third week the Sahara turned east and followed the Atlas mountains which caused wind problems. The last week the River had gotten shallower but now with the drain-off from the mountains, it was filling again. But the morning breeze was from the south to the mountains and the evening from the north off the mountains so unlike the usual desert winds which once started, never seemed to end, these caused us to constantly change our lines and move from one bank to the other. It took a week of hard sailing, fighting winds and sand and an occasional bandit who thought we were easier prey than we were to pass the mountains. Rather, the Atlas continued to move north-east but the river changed due east and almost immediately we entered a series of salt lakes that joined the Sahara to the sea.

The villagers along these lakes made their living by drying salt and sending it south for sale and as usual, worked stopped as we passed. We were able to sail with the wind off the port and another few days brought us to the sea. We docked at Gabes, a large city and had the dhow overhauled. We had rented a warehouse and spent the night moving the gold and our belongings into the building so no one would see or rob us and in the morning, had a crew do a complete rebuilding of the Recovery. She needed a dozen planks replaced, a few more ribs added, some glass and screen put in the portholes, finally, and as the work proceeded, we took a villa overlooking the warehouse and docks. I was able to find a bank where I traded a bar for local currency and the merchants promised confidentiality in the hopes of more business. It took a week to get the dhow sea-worthy enough. I would gladly have bought another but there were none for sale that would make the journey so we were stuck. Besides, as Pan-Sad-Bu told me one night as we three lay on the balcony watching the work proceed in the usual Arab manner of work when you can, sleep when it get hot and work more when it is cool, “Husband, that boat has been our home for four months. I gave you my virginity on that boat and Yo gave you her love. She has seen us through storm and calm, animal attacks and pirate raids and the happiest days of my life are between those hulls. If we can take her to Eng-Pal, we should try.”

Yo had to run off and throw-up again. She had done that a lot lately but insisted that it was the hot dry desert to which se wasn’t accustomed. Pan sweated a lot under her fur and Fiona was always around to help both and she assured me it was just a climate change no different from when she first went from Chicago to Turkey and had problems herself. “Besides, I’d tell you if it were something serious.” She said. I was concerned and worried and suggested a doctor at which thought Yo got scared. Diane and Fiona promised to find a good one in the morning and take her there themselves to be certain that she was taken care of decently. Then Pan took me and said, “Husband, you worry too much. There is nothing wrong with my wife-sister that is serious. She is in good hands with Di-Ann and Fee-Ona so come and love me. But it’s too hot so let me be on top where I can feel the breeze from the sea.”

Fiona reported a clean bill of health, “despite the doctor never seeing a Don before, she was gentle and gave Yo a diet to follow and some vitamins to take and said that things should clear up totally in the near future. Don’t worry dear. The Don have never been out of the jungle so this dryness is affecting even Ben and Mu. Just wait until they reach London. If it snows, that will really scare them.”

“Ok, but only because you said so. I do worry about them.”

“Dear,” she said as she patted my hand. “They are not porcelin. They won’t break. Her race has survived lion, sabertooth cat, war and even dinosaurs. A little thing like this is nothing. Hell, Pan and Yo are stronger and faster than any human male on this planet. Either of them can break both Di and me easily and you trust us so try to trust them. Just because they prefer to nest and be housewives doesn’t mean that they are helpless.

“I still worry.”

“Of course you do. It’s such an endearing trait with you but you worry about us and still you manage to respect us. Do the same for Yo and Pan.”

I had to agree to try and a couple days later the Recovery was as seaworthy as she could be made. I still wanted to buy a better boat for I’d never take her across the Atlantic. But if my family could sail a dhow for these months, sailing a modern boat would be child’s play.

Se set off with the morning breeze after being towed a mile from shore to get a decent wind and headed north then west. We hugged the coast, fought off one sea-born pirate ship and stopped every night in a town or village and sometimes even a city like Tunis or Algiers and eventually reached Gibraltar. This was the opening to the Atlantic and we remained at the former fortress to allow the ocean to calm down a bit. I expected to see English soldiers there but the Spaniards told us that the English remained only so long as the monkeys did and when the monkeys fled and died off during the Rapture, Spain took it over and absorbed the British garrison.

It was at Gibraltar that they told me the news. Yo couldn’t hold it any longer and I should have guessed far sooner. Her weight gain was mostly belly with some hips and thighs but her breasts got larger and her nipples darkened from pink to brown. So the men went into town to look around, wearing European clothing, fortunately, while Yo and Pan made me a dinner and then Yo-Bal-Lee said simply, “I’m pregnant.”

I don’t remember much else. I was in shock. I recall asking where, when, how and a bunch of stupid other questions and I vaguely remember she saying As-Lur and in the normal way then I didn’t do much else. I know she wanted comfort and I tried to hold her but all I could think was, “I can’t take her to Chicago now. I have to get her a place in England or Ireland with servants to care for her and a trust fund in case I got killed by a terminator. Then I thought about Pan and her attempts to get pregnant and what if she were too? I was scared. Not for me but for them and that night I had nightmares about Kore.

We left a day later after both Diane and Fiona tossed me into the ocean and tried to drown me. “You idiot!” they screamed. “You are supposed to be happy for her! Now get back there and tell your wife how much you love her and how happy you are to be a father again. God I wish I were pregnant too.”

That’s when I fell back and thought in that hyper-cognition thing we sometimes get. “Wait! As-Lur. Pan has been trying and still isn’t. You asked me about that too. So how did Yo get pregnant when neither Pan or you haven’t?”

“Fuck!” Fiona said. “Come with us, we need to get drunk.” And they dragged me to shore and into a bar on the beach and we got sloshed. They made certain that the conversation went everywhere but around Yo and when my lips turned numb and I was slurring, they told me about Pele-Sad. “It’s not that bad. It could still be yours. But no matter who, you married her and you love her and you will raise the baby so it will be yours no matter who gave it DNA.” I had to agree then I passed out.

I awoke the next morning at sea with a raging headache, nausia and a mouth that felt like a cat box. Shanghaied, I thought. Then Yo and Pan dragged me to the deck and held me to the leeward rail as I upchucked and Yo commented to Pan as I heaved, “This reminds me of Pele-Sad. I hope is won’t be a habit.” I forced myself up, looked at her and said, “I love you no matter what. Please give me a couple things; first, give me time to get used to you being pregnant when I am so totally terrified of you being hurt and second, please never mention his name again. If I am going to be a father again, give me the respect of pretending I am the father.”

She was blurry but looked down, apologized and said, “I am trying to be a good wife to you. I will do as you ask in this as in all things my husband.” Then I kissed her and she pushed me away stating, “At least wash your mouth before you kiss me again!” Then they stripped me and helped me to wash up on deck.

Diane and Fiona approached and asked, “Please don’t scream so loud. My head hurts. We drank as much as you did only we held it better.”

“What else happened?”

“Not much. After you stripped and danced on the table naked, a couple Greek sailors offered to buy you. Something about fantasies concerning your tail.”

“I was tempted because you were being such an ass but then Fi went into way too much detail about what Mu does with his tail and we decided to ask Yo and Pan if you had that much imagination too. It got a bit fuzzy then. I think some hookers offered you a freebe to see if your tail was any good. The waitress or maybe it as the waiter nibbled on your ear points. You were too drunk to do anything else. And you tried to sing in Spanish but apparantly you don’t speak the language but that didn’t stop you from trying. I think we got into a fight with the Spanish navy too but don’t remember and I can’t find my bra. Then Ben and Mu carried you home before you made too much a fool of yourself.

“I have your bra.” Diane said. “I was wearing it when I woke up. The thing was filled with about a dozen kerchiefs to fill it out. My God Fi! I’ve never been accused of being anything other than well-endowed but somehow I managed to shove both mine into one of your cups.”

I stopped listening, “Yo, Pan, if I ever go drinking with these two again, please either tie me to the bed first or go with us to protect me.”

“Husband, I spent the night holding your head in a bucket while Fee-Ona told me about a woman you dated who was a … dom-en-ay-tricks? Dominatrix, yes that’s it. I learned more about sex from her last night than ever I did from you.” Yo commented. “When you are alive again, we are going to have some very long talks about your past.”

Pan giggled, “and about our future. Some of those things sound like fun.”

“Great, I’m married to a furry dom-in-training and the Greek navy wants my body.”

“Well dear, just remember what you told me a long time ago, ‘when rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.’” Diane mentioned as she was laughing. “You were a galley slave, it’s not like you haven’t done it before and Yo did mention how you enjoyed her tail…”

“Eeek! You weren’t supposed to tell that!” and she chased Diane around the boat screaming.

“I think she is beginning to waddle like a duck. Her center of gravity is a bit off or she’d have caught Diane by now. Pan, can you fetch me something to eat. Bread preferably. I’m going to sit by the rail for awhile and wait to die.”

“Yes husband,” she kissed me and said, “I still want to be pregnant too so think about how you will ensure that.” And she walked off swinging her hips again. Fiona looked and said, “Down boy and get some pants on, your carnal thoughts are obvious. God, you could want sex while the surgeon was removing your appendix.”

We should have reached London in a month but we had to hug the coast, take refuge from storms and play tourist. The whole time Yo got bigger and took to showing her belly off so everyone would know. Mostly we were stared at and Yo pretended it was because they admired her pregnancy. We stopped at every city and town it seemed along Spain, Portugal and France and by the time Yo was six months along, we reached the Channel. Was it so many years ago I was a kid on an English boat sailing to France to cross the Stargate to Barsoom?

Tomorrow we sail for London. The Recovery was leaking badly, her sheets were in need of constant mending, her lines had been replaced a dozen times over and once we docked, I’d empty her hold, buy a new boat and watch her sink into the Thames. Goddess I loved that boat and would miss her and the times we had.




To contact me or to request topics to be covered, send to
RikJohnson@juno.com
by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
Tucson, Az.
85717


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