Mirrored from Sythyry.
At which point Arfaen acquired me, by the simple expedient of scooping me off the back of the chair whereupon I had been sitting, and plopping me on her shoulder. “My soon-to-be-former concubine!”
I kissed her happily. “My soon-to-be-former keeper!”
Arfaen: “I do believe I owe you something!”
Me: “What? Oh, right! My salary!”
Greblakaan: “Your salary? But she is your cook…”
Me: “And out of the meagre allowance I pay her as her employer, she is required to set aside a substantial sum for the care and future life of her concubine. On pain of being tossed into a prison cell with dancers, prostitutes, and other such disreputable people in Hanija, if I recall properly.” The “meagre allowance” is technically correct. Arfaen is the proprietor, manager, and president of the two largest and most unusual restaurants in Kismirth. She is not yet rich, but I imagine she will be soon. It also doesn’t let her do much cooking professionally, so she does most of the cooking for our now-small household. She gets a certain allowance out of the household monies for food.
Arfaen: “No — the penalties on keepers are a bit more harsh. Remember when they beat you and broke your wings?”
Me: “I remember, in spite of diligently trying to forget!”
Arfaen: “Then — in this envelope is your salary!”
I took the envelope, which was of fairly nice white paper, with my name written in Arfaen’s uncomplicated handwriting on the front.
Arfaen: “Open it!”
Me: “As your obedient concubine for another four hours, I can hardly disobey!” So I severed the seal with a clawtip, and unfolded a sheet of paper with various account numbers for a modest trust fund on the Bank of Teleporting Hexagons. It all looked to be in accord with the law of Hanija which we were amusing ourselves by obeying.
A scrap of white paper fluttered out from the folds of the account numbers, and away. Greblakaan grabbed it, glanced at it, and tucked his ears flat.
Greblakaan: “I think this is meant for you.”
Paper: “Sythyry — will you marry me in the style of Zi Ri?”
Me: “Of course!”
Assembled Wrongfolk: “Yay! With occasional slight reservations!”
Greblakaan and such: “What?”
(We have decided, after considerable consternation and deplorable discussion, to provide eight standard forms of marriage, viz. those appropriate to the eight prime species. (People can write nearly any sort of contract that they want, but the eight forms are the easiest.) The Zi Ri form is arguably the most distant: it provides for occasional connubial visits separated by long periods of independence. I don’t personally find it that pleasing, despite being 50%-100% of the Zi Ri population of Kismirth, but it’s all of Arfaen that I have ever gotten.)
Wrongfolk: [whispered to visitors] “It’s one of our kinds of marriage here! It doesn’t auto-divorce after seven years either!”
Me: “Now pardon me for a moment, I have a suddenly urgent errand.” I attempted to flee, but my keeper and fiancée held me firmly by the tail.
Arfaen: “I’ll have none of that! For a few more hours you are my concubine, and I have need of your services! No, not like that — as a hostess to this party!”
Me: [meekly and trying not to giggle] “Yes, keeper.”
Arfaen: “Besides, I know what is waiting for me in your dressing room. Did you think you could plot to propose to a Cani without her figuring it out?”
Me: “I probably shouldn’t have. But I couldn’t propose while I was still your concubine — that would be, oh, lese-majeste?”
Arfaen: “I’m sure! Punishable by something horrid back in Hanija. Where I plan never to go again.”
Greblakaan: “Wait … did you two just have a big party to celebrate going back to the same relationship that you have had for the last seven years?”
Me: “You understand!”
I was actually going to propose a Sleeth-form marriage to her. It is a very tenuous form of marriage in many ways. It does, however, suggest that we might be living in the same building (or candelabra, in our case), which the Zi Ri form does not. Also she does go Sleething around a lot, so it seemed appropriate.
But since she proposed Zi Ri style to me, which is probably more dignified or something, I didn’t much want her to see it.