Lizard-Otter On The Prowl [5 Thory 4385]
I cornered my Native Guide in the parlor. One of the many, many parlors.
Me:"Jyondre, I am looking for, well, ..."
Jyondre:"If those clothes are intended functionally, I believe I know what you are looking for."
Jyondre:"I am no longer available! The large ursine personage wearing pink armor, upon whose lap I currently am sitting and whose well-armored bosom I am attempting to nuzzle without great success, renders such offers nugatory! In any case, I am traff -- there, I have said it! -- and you are currently of the least appealing species to me."
Me:"I am performing background research, not asking for practical assistance!"
Yerenthax: [After peering at my suitably-Orren-flat but nonetheless well-decorated chest for a moment.] "While leaping out to look for lust, she shows the shine of brown-furred bust!"
Jyondre:"I believe we are monogamous, O mighty Yerenthax?"
Yerenthax:"We are! But any Orren is a suitable subject for poetic inspiration!"
Jyondre:"You may classify any further ogling I perform of our friends or appealing strangers as 'seeking poetic inspiration'."
Yerenthax:"I shall! Of course, I shall expect staves in no great time from that inspiration."
Me: [Rescuing Jyondre] "In any case, Jyondre, do you have any advice about how ... and where ... ?"
Jyondre:"Nupyup Pond, conveniently located on Via Nupyup. There are several public ponds in Eigrach, but Nupyup is the one you want. The cafés overlooking the pond provide ample opportunity for dryfolk to watch us as we swim, or, in particular, as we sunbathe on the side of the boardwalk nearest the road, and chat with passers-by from a naked vantage point. The bushes in Nupyup Park beyond it provide an adequate amount of privacy ... or I understand some of the café's rent rooms by the hour. Most the bushes and rooms are for Orren with each other, mind you -- or, simply, the lower reaches of the pond, where mud and pondweed obscure anything you might be doing -- but neither bushes nor headwaiters are overly picky about the precise details."
Me:"Actually, I'll bring my own portable room. To store my clothes in when I'm swimming, if nothing else."
Jyondre:"Should you find an interested personage, proclaim that you must be off, either to room thus-and-so, or thus-and-such a grove. If your interested personage is truly interested -- sometimes they change their mind or become cowardly -- they will be along in a few minutes."
Me:"I suppose traff-folk here are better off not being seen wandering about hand-in-hand?"
Jyondre:"That would be heartily unwise. Ah, one other important bit of manners there. A cocked or turned hat on a non-Orren indicates interest -- or bit of sartorial imbalance. If one tries to fix their hat twice or thrice, but it always is crooked, then you may safely presume interest."
Me:"But that's not actually making an offer?"
Jyondre:"Offers are made with words -- a few words -- and then all words are dispensed with. I presume you remember how to do that part. Afterwards, a moment or two of cuddling if you feel brave, then depart separately."
Yerenthax:"Dismal and morose!"
Jyondre:"I prefer our current arrangement! Though I am not sure I am brave enough to do it in public in Strineia."
I put on Strayway livery, set my hat at a jaunty angle. I slipped a fairly powerful ring on one finger and a few other useful tools and items into the ring's pocket universe. All things I made myself, though some took a week or two of professional work, and some were haphazard nonmagical artifacts of a quilting class some decades past.
And I couldn't think of any way to put it off any more, short of admitting that I was too scared to do it.
Eigrach has some sights. I saw some of them. I think there's a statue ... maybe two statues ... and a spirally zigguratty public performance space which doesn't have anything playing at it just now. There was a church or two. And I think a government building with a spider-dome.
I'm going to have to redo all the sightseeing sometime when I'm not thinking about Nupyup Pond and its consequences.
(OK, I exaggerate somewhat. I had already scried all of these sights, and I spent a rather spectacular third of an hour climbing around on the ziggurat. But I did want to get on with the hunt.)
Nupyup Pond is a chubby S-shaped pond of a respectable size for a city pond. Rollward of it is Nupyup Road, with its row of cafés and suchlike. Then is the boardwalk and mudwalk bank of the pond. Then the pond proper, with two little islands in it -- one with a concession stand, the other with a muddy hill. On the other side, accessible by swimming or two bridges or walking around, is Nupyup Park, which is an ill-groomed tangle of very useful bushes and orchards.
In the late morning of the fifth day of summer, it's quite full of Orren: fifty? A hundred? Orren of all ages. Mostly in water-form sploshing and chasing each other and sliding down the hill into the pond. Another dozen or so were resting out of the pond, reading on the boardwalk, or lying on the mudwalk, near the water so as to stay in water form conveniently.
The first hard part was clothes. After fussing so much about putting them on, in private, I naturally had to take them off, in public, because anything else would be unusual. This is traditionally done quickly, and if anyone was particularly watching, I couldn't tell.
I put my clothes into a pocket universe for safekeeping. This was unusual. Eigrachters wouldn't need to do that -- I presume, at least, that Eigrachters don't steal from Eigrachters. Jyondre didn't bring anything valuable there, I presume. I'm from further off, and have some quite valuable devices with me, and I'm not going to have them snatched and held for ransom if I can help it. So, pocket universe. (It was either that or bring the Sleeth with me to keep an eye on them, and I didn't want kibbitzing or hunting advice.) That got a some attention, since it's a powerful Locador spell.
I left my livery-hat out: to claim space on the boardwalk; to signal my interest as Jyondre had noted; and to explain that I was from the Strayway. Presumably the local traff-folk could have paid particular attention to rumors about us, and might be expecting us to behave like ... um ... like I wanted to behave.
The Hunt (part 1)!
I jumped into the water, and felt the familiar petting of turning into waterform. I swam around the slide island. A few older children beckoned me up onto it, and so I clambered out -- fur full of water, for I am not so good at staying in waterform when I am dry -- and slid down one of the twisty muddy paths with them. And played chase with a few adults, too. And generally acted like an Orren in a public pond for a while.
Then I took a huge deep breath, and swam down to the deeply muddy parts. One of the adults I had been swimming with chased after me, swimming close, brushing my belly and legs with his tail as he zoomed under me. He rolled to swim upside-down and give me quite a nice view. I grinned at him, and he curled back to grin at me. I nuzzled his cheek, and he turned his head a bit to collect a bubbly rushy underwater kiss. (And yes, I do know how to kiss underwater.)
The water was muddy -- nobody could have seen us from ten feet off -- and the pondweeds were thick. Coupling underwater has to be fast -- even an Orren needs to breathe eventually -- and we could have accomplished it without the least bit of trouble. (I know how to do this part too.)
A long time ago, about a century by now, a dinner party at Castle Wrong turned into a philosophical discussion with practical implications. If one is a cisaffectionate Orren (say) and a friend who was born Herethroy or Zi Ri (say) comes to one with Orren fur outside and lechery inside, is it proper and moral for one to accept? Or, if your considerations are more concrete, is it pleasing or disgusting to accept? In that social circle, of seven guests, four thought it was moral and/or pleasing. A good part of my pond experience was with those four and Mynthë, over the year or so which followed.
But that was in Veshrame, which is one of the most generous cities of all about such matters. This is Eigrach, which is distinctly less so.
I'm not going to go lying to someone for the sake of laying with them.
Not even the implicit lie that I am an Orren just because I look like one.
So I turned away from him and headed to the surface. He looked a bit offended. I sloshed onto the mudwalk, then to the boardwalk under the cafés, and dripped and dripped. And tried to see who among the non-Orren was watching me.