Monday, October 25, 2010

Inhuman | Epilogue [old edition]

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NOTE: This is an old version of Inhuman, which is currently undergoing extensive revisions that include a stylistic overhaul and several chapters’ worth of new content. Stay tuned for the final version, due out whenever I finally slay the procrastination demon that’s taken up residence in my brain. (The bastard.) Meanwhile, please note that the following may not be representative of my current writing skills and is kept here primarily for archival purposes.

Years go by and many things change, while many more stay the same.


Epilogue

The May evening was delightful as suppertime reached its end. The radiant warmth of the large bonfire was contrasted by the refreshing breeze sweeping in from the south. The air was filled with the smells and sounds of the nearly two hundred villagers enjoying the peaceful end-of-day, some picking at the leftovers of the feast, others lounging around, engaging in light talk and trying to avoid getting trampled by the scampering cubs who competed to see who could evade their parents the longest before eventually getting caught and lightly reprimanded. The young, blossoming trees and the earth-colored facades of the cabins and huts glowed crimson and yellow in the radiance of the fire, their silhouettes cutting sharply into the dark-plum clouds that mostly masked the heavens.

The food was delicious, and once again Sean had eaten too much of it as he did nearly every night. He leaned back, now feeling pleasantly lulled by his stuffed stomach, and gazed around from where he sat with his robe and loincloth wrapped comfily around his crossed legs. He watched as one of the running cubs’ mother finally caught up with him and struggled to restrain the energetic youth from chasing after his teasing friends. Aki chuckled at the scene, seated next to him and helping herself to his leftovers as she always did. Sean merely smiled lazily at her, having given up on trying to figure out where all that food went long ago.

Before long, she had sated her ravenous appetite and now leaned up against him; he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her arm a rub, kissing her and smiling as she grinned back with that sexy look she loved to tease him with. In response, he casually rubbed his hand up against her chest and her grin widened.

‘Now, now, you have to wait ’til we’re inside for that,’ she said in a low, sultry voice, her eyes twinkling.

‘Not that it’s stopped you before.’

Sean moved his hand lower and began scritching her soft furry belly, making her shiver lightly in pleasure.

‘Except there’re cubs around here,’ she pointed out.

‘Oh … right.’

Moments later, the volume of voices quieted out, and Sean looked up to see Wise Kovida standing before them close to the bonfire, his nearly white fur contrasting darkly against the merry flames. His feeble appearance was belied as always by the energy that seemed to emanate from his very presence, even at his unusually advanced age.

‘Another day, another end,’ he said, his voice reaching every pair of ears without trouble. ‘Thanks to the hunters, gatherers, fishers and farmers once again for yet another delectable meal. And I would like to ask of young Leyna Elani that she please try to remember to wipe herself off before running around, lest she cover us all in mud.’

A light round of laughter arose from the villagers. Aki slumped and rolled her eyes with an exasperated air.

‘Wait ’til she gets home’ she muttered, though a twitch in the corner of her lips revealed she wasn’t really upset.

‘She’s a kid, she’ll learn,’ asserted Sean, giving his lover’s arm another quick rub.

‘Maybe you could teach her the difference between dry dirt and wet dirt,’ said Hartling from his side with a wry little grin.

Sean gave her a pointed look.

Kovida waited until the chuckling and comments had died down before continuing:

‘Before this evening draws to an end, I would like to ask one final little thing from you all. As you may know, it has now been exactly twelve years since the events of Dark October, and though I know not all of you like to sing, I would still like if you would all join together in commemorating the continuation of our way of life.’

There were a few groans here and there, but they were largely drowned out by the buzz of agreement that arose as the villagers slowly clambered to their feet. Aki grinned at Sean as he began to blush as he always did on the fourth of October. Aki helped him to his feet, still feeling woozy from having eaten so much, and he stood with the others as Kovida gazed upon them all from the elevated platform at the middle of the village square. Most people occasionally glanced around at him, flashing him grins or waving, and he simply smiled and nodded back politely, unable to let go of his sense of modesty.

‘It would be fun if you sang this time, for once,’ Aki nagged him, the blue stone at her neck glinting in the firelight.

‘I will not sing my own praises,’ said Sean obstinately with a smirk.

‘Fine, then, we will,’ said Aki and Hartling, practically together. Sean couldn’t help but chuckle.

‘All right, is everyone ready?’ called Kovida.

The voices died down, leaving a preparatory silence. The ancient goat raised a hand and waved it like a conductor, bringing them all to start:

There once came a star
That descended upon the Neyrin
Though it was borne from very far,
Carried the future within
Though weakened and astray,
The god among his peerage
He at last found his way
The savior of our village

Dark October came and so did they
From us, they took and they raped
Left naught but black and grey
But from death, we escaped
And he rose up to fight
Through heart and courage
His will to their might
Restored hope to this age

And now we share this tale
And hold it as our light
From every tree, with every ale,
We give thanks to our knight
Through time we will remember
The Savior of the Aqueni
The Hero of Dark October
Sean Aki Elani!

The villagers ended with a flourish, their somewhat dissonant voices combining to create a nonetheless melodious atmosphere that seemed to permeate the village center for the while it lasted. Then the voices died down and a wave of applause rose up along with some mild cheering; most faces turned towards Sean with beaming smiles, and Sean himself looked back at them almost sheepishly, his face quite warm despite the cool night air.

‘That wasn’t too bad, was it?’ grinned Aki, clapping along with the others.

‘Would be better if you people actually knew how to sing,’ declared Sean in a tone that none mistook for being serious.

‘I know you don’t mean that, so you’ll just have to sing twice as loud as anybody else next time,’ smiled Aki cheekily.

The crowd was slowly rising around them, many of them giving lengthy stretches and yawns that could swallow the moon. Sean, Aki and Hartling followed suit, brushing crumbs off their laps and taking in deep breaths of the cool, crisp late evening air.

‘Wow, how late is it?’ said Hartling. ‘I don’t think we’ve ever eaten this long.’

‘Looks like it’s past ten,’ said Aki. ‘Crap, and we still gotta get the cubs washed and everything before bed. We’re never gonna wake up before noon tomorrow.’

‘No problem. I don’t have work, anyway,’ said Sean with a yawn.

‘I don’t see you working all that much, anyway,’ came a snide voice from behind them.

They looked around to find Krypp strolling by, glancing at them sideways with his characteristic sneer on his grizzled muzzle. His yellow eyes twinkled with mischief.

‘I don’t spend my days cooped up inside some musty old shack, Krypp,’ retorted Sean. ‘Get out and take a breath once in a while.’

‘Bah. Suppertime is enough. Besides, the village isn’t as interesting since you stole my mate.’

‘I was never yours, Krypp!’ said Aki with a daring grin. ‘Besides, you don’t have what I need. You don’t have all … this.’

With which she grabbed Sean and hugged him sideways with a cocky look. Sean grinned despite himself. The corners of Krypp’s mouth twitched.

‘In that case, just make sure you can handle all of that,’ he said in an almost wistful tone, giving Sean a look as he turned around and kept walking.

Sean, Aki and Hartling shared a look, then broke out laughing.

‘What the hell kind of a retort is that?’ snickered Hartling.

‘I’m telling you, the old yote’s been losing his edge for years,’ said Aki. ‘Ever since Dark October. I dunno if he’s just getting old or if he finally decided to stop being an ass, but frankly, I like it. Less obnoxious to be around.’

The crowd around them was slowly filtering out through the streets, and the dark windows in the facades enclosing the village square began glowing as their respective rooms became occupied. Still chatting about the day’s events and any other tangents that came along, Sean, Aki and Hartling started down the main road, absent-mindedly following the flow towards their homes. People were still turning around to acknowledge Sean, though less than in previous years, for which he was rather grateful.

‘Hey, Tailsy!’ came a cheery voice to their side.

Aki grinned as Nessi approached them, weaving her way through the slowly moving villagers and automatically shielding her expansive belly with an arm.

‘Heya, Belly,’ Aki cheeked.

‘Aww, stop calling me that!’

‘Then stop calling me Tailsy, Spotty.’

Nessi laughed softly and gave Aki a gentle knock on the shoulder. ‘I’ll get you for that, you know I will.’

‘Maybe in another month or two. You need to lose a few pounds before you can catch me,’ said Aki, reaching to the cheetah’s prominent abdomen and giving it a quick rub.

‘Oh, yes, keep doing that,’ said Nessi with a moan. ‘Crazy kit’s been kicking something horrible. I swear he’s trying to karate-chop his way out.’

‘Then I guess Sean won’t need to give him any lessons,’ smirked Aki.

‘Oh, hell no. I won’t have my cub putting me in a headlock at three years old. I wanna be able to kick that spotty little butt until he’s well out of the home.’

Oh, you get used to it,’ said Aki, sharing a grin with Sean. ‘And besides, you already have a little demon at home. Better go check and see she hasn’t burned it to the ground or something.’

‘Oh, like you did?’

Aki paused, then groaned.

‘I suppose I walked right into that one?’ she muttered.

‘Like a door with chicken on the other side.’

Aki’s eyes went round and she jumped at Nessi, grabbing her in a faux chokehold, both of them cracking up with laughter.

‘Take that back! Take that back!’

‘Never! Everyone sees how you eaaEEK!’

Nessi froze as Aki nipped the back of her neck, holding her temporarily immobilized.

‘Hey, no fair!’ she whined.

‘Hey, girls, I thought you were going to bed?’

Kira smiled brightly as she strolled past, her arm hooked around Nati’s arm, the older cheetah looking as amused as did his vixen mate.

‘Yeah, yeah, we’re going, if your crazy daughter would just unhand me …!’

‘Never! This way I can do this!’

Aki reached around and began running her fingers around Nessi’s belly; the cheetah girl immediately started squirming and laughing helplessly.

‘S-s-stop!’ she pleaded in between giggles.

‘Aki, stop that!’ said Nati, his stern tone betrayed by his wide grin.

‘Why?’

‘’Cuz if you don’t,’ said Kira, ‘then you leave us no choice but to resort to this …’

She grabbed Nati and they both sank into a deep, passionate kiss, right there in the middle of the road with several onlookers grinning and even cheering them on. Aki and Nessi promptly fell apart, their joyful smiles replaced with a look similar to one of having witnessed an atrocious crime against nature.

‘Oh, dammit, Mom!’ Aki whined. ‘That’s gross!’

‘Yeah, Dad,’ chimed in Nessi, looking equally disturbed.

Kira and Nati broke apart, grinning at them impishly.

‘We’ve been together for, what, eight years? Get used to it,’ said Kira. ‘And anyways, I don’t recall any of us complaining when you two go at it like hyenas.’

‘Hey,’ grunted a hyena guy who happened to be walking past at that moment, glancing at Kira.

‘That’s different, we aren’t your parents,’ said Nessi.

‘Well, just get used to it.’

Kira ended her quick retort with another kiss with Nati. Aki and Nessi looked away, rolling their eyes.

They eventually made their way home, cracking more jokes and fooling around until they arrived at the doorstep of the large wooden cabin where Sean and Aki lived.

‘All right, I gotta find Singar before he falls in the river again. See ya at the orchards tomorrow, Aki,’ called Nessi with a wave. Before Aki could reply, she immediately flinched, her hand rubbing her belly.

‘Damn, he just kicked again! Aki, come here, tell me yours ever kicked this hard.’

‘Oh, I bet they did,’ said Aki as she left Sean’s side towards her friend. ‘I had more than you, remember …’

Sean’s grin turned into a yawn, reminding him of the lateness of the hour. Leaving the two girls to chat about their cubs, both growing up and expected, he headed inside, leaving the door ajar behind him and stretching luxuriously, the effects of the long day present in his muscles.

He paused. He looked around, feeling like he’d noticed something vaguely unusual; his eyes then found his and Aki’s cot, which had been moved slightly out of place. He knew no-one had been in here since they’d left earlier that afternoon, and everything had been in order then.

His brow furrowed, his old instincts kicking in even after all these years of inactivity. He headed over and reached towards the bed frame to push it back against the wall –

‘YAAARGH!’

Sean gave a yelp and stumbled backwards as something large flew at him; it collided heavily against his chest and he fell back onto Aki’s side of their cot, the wind knocked out of him. He rolled over and pulled himself off the offender, getting a better look at him …

‘Haha! Got you, Dad!’ jeered Luis.

Sean scoffed, taking a sigh to calm his heart rate.

‘Luis, what did I tell you about jumping out at people?’ he said in what he hoped was a stern voice.

‘That you’d throw me in the river if I ever did it again?’ The seven-year-old kit had a grin plastered across his stubby little muzzle.

‘Hmph,’ huffed Sean. ‘Well, good for you, ’cuz you need to get washed up, anyway. And –’ he turned around towards the back door ‘– that means you two as well!’

The door quickly opened and two more younglings ran in, grinning impishly.

‘You said we wouldn’t be able to catch you by surprise, Dad,’ said Nayla.

‘And we totally did!’ added the younger Leyna.

‘Yeah, well, I had the sun in my eyes,’ said Sean in a dismissive voice.

‘No you didn’t!’

‘Dad, it’s night, the sun’s gone to bed!’

‘Yeah, and so should you, so go on down to –’

Furpile!’ shouted Nayla.

‘No, wait – stop –’

Sean’s half-hearted reprimands were cut short as the three heavy masses threw themselves at him and promptly buried him under an avalanche of pushing and pulling and fur and laughter, a fair amount of it his own.

‘Well, well. Is this what you four call washing up?’ called a strong voice from over by the door.

The group immediately fell apart as though jolted with electricity, the three cubs scrambling to sit down next to Sean on the bed, all three panting and grinning sillily.

‘Oh, thank God, backup,’ said Sean in between breaths. ‘Sweetie, mind dealing with these little disobedient rascals?’

‘Don’t I always?’ said Aki with a small grin. ‘Some disciplinarian you are, Mr. Big Tough Soldier. All right, come on, you three, get outta here and jump into the river. I don’t want a speck of dust on you when you get back. And that means you, Leyna, you mud puppy, I don’t ever want you to embarrass me like that again.’

The cubs quickly bounded off the cot with calls of ‘Okay!’, ‘Yes, Mommy!’ and ‘Sorry!’ and made for the entrance, but stopped at the doorway.

‘Mom, why do we always have to go wash up at night but you and Dad stay behind?’ asked Nayla. The two others hung behind her, eager to hear the answer their elder sibling would receive.

‘Because you’re dirty and we’re not,’ said Aki with an evasive yet firm tone.

‘Aww, but that’s not an answer …’

‘Come on, come on, off you go. Take your time, get every nook and cranny!’

Nayla pouted but turned around and started down the street, the other two following behind her as though she were the unofficial leader of the sibling trio.

Sean sat up on the cot with a stretch. Aki sighed and closed the door, making sure to lock the metal latch, and turned to smile at him with a knowing look.

‘Not dirty, you say?’ said Sean as he got up and slowly walked over to her. ‘I dunno. I see a pretty dirty girl in front of me, here.’

‘Is that so?’ simpered Aki, putting a hand on her waist and striking a decidedly immodest pose, throwing her very feminine curves into relief. ‘And just how dirty am I, bad boy?’

‘Oh, very dirty,’ said Sean, brushing up against her and placing his hands around her lower back and rubbing softly. ‘Some might say positively filthy.’

Aki’s blue eyes glinted sharply in the low candlelight.

‘Oh, you know how much that turns me on,’ she cooed before wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him in for a kiss, hard. He returned it just as vigorously, his hands exploring her back, roaming up and down and squeezing in all the right places to make her fur bristle all the more.

They awkwardly moved towards the cot, still locked in their deep kiss, and set themselves down upon the soft mattress, rolling around so that Sean was on top with the panting, excited vixen looking up at him in rapturous desire.

‘How long do we have?’ she whispered.

‘Kids are in the river in the middle of the night. We’ve got at least fifteen minutes. Think you can last that long?’

Her eyes widened and her grin turned daring.

‘Try and beat me, big fleshy monkey,’ she goaded in a husky voice.

Sean lowered in and they kissed again, their passion rising between them.

‘Well, you know what they say about dirty vixens.’

‘Well, no … as a matter … of fact, I don’t,’ she moaned. ‘Remind me.’

Sean grinned wider and they returned to their deep kiss, Aki’s hands quickly finding the hem of his robe and yanking it off, leaving his torso bare, the numerous little scars there apparent in the oblique candlelight. Neither of them paid them any attention.

They rolled over again and this time, Aki was on top, Sean pinned to the bed and putting on his best “pity me” face for the ravenous vulpine. Aki took a moment to reach behind her nape and remove her blue necklace, Sean doing the same for his emerald one, which they both set on the nearby table. Aki kissed him, occasionally nuzzling and licking his cheek, before slowly moving down his neck, nipping lightly as she went and making him wince slightly each time, never in pain.

Sean’s hands rubbed around her back and along her ears, which she twitched and turned playfully for his benefit as she kept roving down his chest. He breathed in deeply, occasionally squirming or gasping depending on what his lustful mate did to him, the mate who’d once been that innocent young foxgirl tending to him in the infirmary, who had shown him everything he knew, everything he once believed never existed, at least not for him. The mate who was his whole life, who completed him in ways neither of them could possibly understand. The mate who had given him a heavenly home filled with friends and love and comfort. The mate who had sworn to spend the rest of her life with him, through good and bad and everything in between. The mate who had brought him the impossibly great joy of having three magnificent works of art in the form of his children, all part human and part fox and all the more beautiful because of it. The mate who made the entirety of his happiness possible, who allowed him to overcome the pains of the past and enabled him to embrace the wonders of the world around him, and the promise of the future.

The mate who, in his momentary reverie, had paused in her ministrations and whose low, lustful voice now reached his ears:

‘Come on, Sean, stop daydreaming so we can yiff already before the cubs get back!’

Sean looked at her, she at him.

They grinned.