family gathering (part 6)
Story by James Todd Lewis; Chapter and section breaks by Kat Miller!
An extension of the story told in The Summit (available as an eBook from Amazon)!
(c) All characters copyright of James Todd Lewis (2015)
The next morning, those at the camp were getting a late start, precisely because the festivities coming from Tallen’s proposal to Sahnassa had made everyone feel like celebrating. Van, herself, was not fully awake when the sound of two hovers entering the campground caused her ears to twitch. She awoke, stretched, and extricated herself from Buck’s embrace which she had enjoyed since falling asleep. Slipping open the flap, she looked out and saw two big enforcement hovers pulling up and stopping alongside the road closest to the camp. Carefully, her nerves instantly on the alert, Vanarra exited her tent and walked over. The first hover’s door opened, and Kest stepped out.
“Good morning, Most Honored of all Matrons,” he greeted her. “You slept well, I trust?”
“Well, Kest, but perhaps not enough,” she replied, stifling a yawn. “Is everything alright?”
“We’ve got someone on the perimeter who has asked to come into the camp. He was on the list, but we found some items in his hover we’re not quite sure about.”
“On the list, Kest? Who is he?”
“Caloinath de Vassa. He had several rather long knives in his hover.”
“What’s going on?” a somewhat sleepy Sahnassa asked as she padded up behind Van.
“Go wake Kylie. Her friend is here, but we’ve hit a snag. He brought some things that the guards aren’t too sure about.”
“Oh, right,” Sahni replied and then started making her way to Kylie’s and Liana’s shelter.
“Kest,” Vanarra asked, turning back towards the guard captain, “tell me – do you think what he brought would be … reasonable for someone going camping?”
“It’s not out of the range of normality, Matron, but the rules for this get together were very clear, and what he’s brought could also be construed in a different light.”
Vanarra tapped her chin with her paw finger. “If we were going to let him in, how would you suggest doing it?”
“I’d want to keep his vehicle on the perimeter until it could be very thoroughly searched, but with a full body search I might bring him in earlier. Then, the gear we inspect and approve would be shuttled in as we have time to go through it. The knives, of course, would be impounded.”
“Caloinath wants to come in?” Kylie asked, running up.
“Yes, but there’s a problem, kit. He’s brought some stuff which makes Kest and the guards nervous, and I’m not feeling all that great about it right now, either. They’ll bring him in, but he has to be fully searched, and his gear comes in only when they’ve cleared it.”
“Oh no!” Kylie breathed. “I didn’t tell him about the forbidden list! Crap! This is my fault!”
“Well, I’m sorry, but now that he’s here and he has those items, we’ll have to proceed as the Matron suggests,” Kest warned.
“Oh, no!” Kylie breathed. “You … you have to do a … full search?”
“We’ll be … professional about it, but yes.”
Vanarra turned to Kylie and said, “Kit, it’s up to you. If he wants to go through with it, he can come in, but otherwise…”
“Can I go and talk to him?” Kylie asked.
“I’m sorry. That wouldn’t be allowed by our procedures. Right now, you are inside the protected zone, and I can’t allow interactions between those in and outside the zone.”
Kylie looked at the ground, despondently, and sighed, “Please. Tell him it’s his choice. I wouldn’t think bad of him if he wanted to turn around and leave.”
Van patted her shoulder as Kest replied, “I will relay your message. We’ll send word as soon as he’s made a decision.”
“Oh, well,” Kylie said weakly as she watched them drive off. “There goes any chance I had with him.”
“Hardly,” a voice whispered in her thoughts.
“I know, but if you can’t come in, I don’t get to see you.”
“I don’t mind being searched,” Cal replied. “The knives I brought with me are ceremonial, and they should be very valuable to the de Gonari, once someone with a studied eye sees them. It appears the perimeter guards are not experts in history. Don’t worry, Kylie. It will not be long before I see you.”
Vanarra’s paw touched Kylie’s shoulder. “It may still work out, kit. You’re worth a little trouble, you know?”
“I hope. Thanks, Van. I’ll … I’ll be in my tent, okay?”
Sahnassa walked up beside Van as they watched the disheartened Vulpi make her way back to her tent. “Typical,” Van complained softly. “We messed it up for her. I should have told her to meet with him another time – that our lives are too … complex for a first rendezvous.”
“She’s blaming herself,” Sahni observed, “and now, you’re blaming yourself, too. Let’s just see what happens, okay?”
Van sighed, “Alright. I’m going to get Buck up and start getting us ready. Breakfast is supposed to be arriving any moment now.”
About an interval later, the camp was much more awake, with Flint rebuilding their fire – sending the smell of wood-smoke throughout the camp. Everyone was awake and in some level of preparation for the sol ahead. “Someone’s coming,” Liana noticed – her ears picking up the low whooshing sound of hovers. The two security hovers who had driven off before were returning, and behind them were several delivery hovers.
“Liana, can you please get Kylie?” Tresk asked. “We just might have an answer to her question now.”
As Kylie emerged from her tent, well brushed and in a fresh change of clothes, Vanarra was already striding towards the road to meet the approaching hovers. The first one set down, and Van walked over and talked with the driver for a moment before nodding and smiling. The delivery hovers continued past and were clearly directing their path towards a large eating shelter behind the campsite. After a final few words and a nod, Vanarra stepped away from the security hovers and watched as they followed the now settling delivery vehicles.
Turning around, Van made straight for Kylie, a big grin on her muzzle. “What’s going on, Van?”
“Come with me, kit. You’ll see,” Vanarra replied cryptically, walking fast towards the back of the camp. Kylie followed behind her and soon the two were reaching the shelter where it seemed scores of wait staff and caterers were setting up an amazing breakfast under the rustic shelter. They walked through the shelter, with Van making a quick inspection of how things were laid out. “That’s good, everyone. Carry on,” she called as she continued, leading a bemused Kylie down a short forest path. “Wisher’s rock is just back here, and that’s where you’re going to get to meet someone.”
“He … he came? He went through with the search?”
“He was in the security hover. I talked to him. He’s … really … really … keen,” Vanarra purred. “If I wasn’t joined, you and I would be clawing it out, but as it is, he’s all yours.” Van came to the entrance of the Wisher’s rock monument and stopped. “Go ahead. I asked for them to bring him here in five passes or so.”
“What … what do I do?” Kylie asked.
“Buck and I found this place, since we got here so early. There’s a stone overlook that has a nice view of the river and the mountains beyond – very picturesque. I would suggest standing with your back facing the path, looking down-river, and … do try to keep your tail under control,” Van smirked.
Kylie smirked back, but asked, “Hey, thank you. Do I look okay?”
“You look marvelous, kit. You do. Don’t worry. I would normally insist he be accompanied by a guard, but … you can take care of yourself, right?”
“I guess I can. Thank you.” Vanarra reached over and hugged her before turning on her heels and walking smartly away.
Shaking her head, Kylie walked forward and found the stone overlook. It was, indeed, very nice, and she took in the view for a few moments before she closed her eyes and called to Cal in her thoughts, “Okay, I’m here.”
“I know,” a voice from close behind her made her jump a little, and she spun round in surprise. There, in front of her, was the most amazing looking Vulpi she had ever seen. He was half a track taller than she was, broad shouldered, muscular without being overly so, and had keen green eyes which seemed to reach into her very soul. His dark, rich, red fur looked nearly black except when compared with the fierce striping on the tops of his ears. His tail was ink-dipped, an unusual trait for a Vulpi, and he had “gloves”, black fur covering his forepaws. Even his manner of dress seemed tuned to the very wavelength of her desires – his shirt open just slightly, revealing a white chest which began just below his neck. A tail which appeared somewhat longer than normal, curved gracefully to – what she saw as she stepped around him – the nicest hindquarters she had ever seen on any male.
“Oh … Cal,” she whispered.
“Hi there. I’m Caloinath de Vassa. It’s good to meet you finally – face to face,” he said with a voice that seemed so very like Cal’s aboard the ship, but slightly different since it was being spoken through a Vulpi’s mouth. So,” he asked quieter, “was it worth waiting for?”
“Oh … oh, yes! Cal, you’re … you’re … you’re beautiful,” she breathed, her heart melting inside of her. Unbidden came the thought of this powerfully strong male making her his prey, taking her in a night of exquisite ecstasy.
“Thank you,” he uttered gently, stepping closer to her. “You are, as well, you know?”
It was then that his scent came to her nostrils. “Oh … and … the way you smell, Cal. Just … it’s just … oh, so nice.” He reached out his paw, offering it to her. She took it and clasped it gently, then firmer. “Oh, and you feel … amazing.”
“Thank you. To touch you like this is wonderful for me. It’s not my first time with bone and blood, but my first with a tail and fur. I always appreciate how this feels, and, truth be known, I enjoy it.”
Not fully in control of herself, Kylie reached around him and snuggled into the nape of his neck. “We’re being watched, beautiful.”
“Who?” she managed, not truly caring as she luxuriated in the feelings of his fur against hers.
“Vanarra. She may know you can take care of yourself, but that doesn’t mean she’s not going to keep watch over you. What shall we tell her about why you hugged me so closely?”
She hummed in her throat and sighed, “I’m open to suggestions.”
“Perhaps I thanked you for how you encouraged me and helped me get a new start and how … close I feel to you just from our prior conversations.”
“Then,” she replied, “perhaps I said how easy it was to talk to you and how concerned you seemed to be about me.”
“To which I would have responded saying of course, you are a truly amazing kit, and someone who … just by existing and becoming friends with Sahnassa opened the way for the salvation of all Vulpi, including myself.”
“Then, I would have said, thank you. I would have also thanked you for going through what you went through to get here – all because of my silly mistake.”
“A mistake which you played very nicely, I might say. See, this is what I mean about not being perfect. It will make them curious, and perhaps, a little concerned. Then, over time, I can prove myself to them. Maybe, with one or two mistakes along the way.”
She stepped back and took a good look at him, still smelling his scent wafting around her. “It’s just so different, Cal. I … you are most certainly … keen, I mean like more than I can resist, but … I keep remembering those … little filaments of light in the crystal – the real you. Does this mean that I’ll never see you again like that?”
“Would you still want to?” he asked.
“I … I think yes. You are so utterly entrancing like that. If I close my eyes, I can still see you – a … a profound beauty that touched me to my soul. Seeing you like that; it’s now a part of me.”
“I’m honored and grateful that you would say such a thing,” he replied, nodding. “Kylie, you may be the most amazing female I have met in … well, more seasons than I should admit to.”
“Have you ever had someone you cared about, Cal?” she asked, curious. “Someone you loved?”
“Once. She was a Teldear of the Asteravis colony. We were … close, but not as close as you and I have become. She … died,” he offered, with pain clear in his voice, “trying to avert a disaster. It was a hard loss, and I grieved it for many seasons without being able to tell anyone.”
“Couldn’t you have told one of the other Teldear? The ones who came after?” she asked, putting her paw on his.
His head was bowed in grief, and he confessed, “No. To … to tell the next Teldear might have pressured them to do the same. I … couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
She put her paw on his shoulder. “I … I can see emotions in you this way. You … feel these things, just like me, don’t you? Loss, heartbreak, grief. Is this the only time you can show it, when you have a body?”
“Amongst my own kind,” Cal explained, “they would recognize my patterns were depressed or angry. The light that comes from me would tell them. You’re seeing a reflection of that in this body. I want you to know how I feel, Kylie, because I do feel. And I look at you, and I see your concern for me, and … it gives me such … joy.” His expression matched his words perfectly, and she smiled at him.
“Such … a wonderful, magical, special soul you are, Cal.” He put his paw on hers and caressed it, gently.
Listening, they heard the sounds of talking and laughing getting louder. “It sounds like Van’s group is gathering for its morning meal,” Cal offered. “Shall we join them?”
“Yes. Let’s go,” she said, smiling, putting her paw in his and leading him off the overlook. “Oh, I love how you feel. You are so … giving, Cal, to do all of this for me.”
“When you’ve given me your whole self, Kylie, how could I do any less?” he offered back quietly.
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