Mirrored from Sythyry.
After the soup was stirred, bowled, and set in abayance, came the cutlets stuffed with crab and peas. After the cutlets stuffed with crab and peas came ten thousand carrots braised in butter. After ten thousand carrots, there were asparagus cheese rolls, in which a stalk of asparagus is rolled in a thin slice of potent and perilous cheese. (Arfaen notes that the cheese is, in fact, a very sweet and calm mozzarella sort of thing.) And after the asparagus cheese rolls, there was the end of the day’s work.
“And, if you can face more asparagus cheese rolls and braised carrots, you could come with me to the Fucked-*P Firefly,” said Simmerene.
“That sounds like food!” said Octagons agreeably.
The leftovers from Arfaen’s kitchen had not quite made it to the Fucked-*P Firefly, so the two helped themselves to an assortment of curried cauliflower, cashew-and-gerbil stew, cold cheese pancakes, and eggs scrambled with beetle scraps.
“What’s the food in the Heaven of Mircannis like?” asked Simmerene.
“Oh, some places have fruit, and some have sandwiches, and so on,” said Octagons. “There’s not that much variety. We didn’t cook, at all.”
“You’ve learned a lot about cooking though!”
Octagons smiled. “Heaven has plenty of food and sex, but it’s missing some things. There’s usually not much purpose to anything we do. Here, I’m making soup — and Arfaen cares that I do it right — and the people who eat it care too. And you’ll never realize the wonder of having people eat food that I make until you’ve lived a hundred and eighty thousand cycles without ever doing truly anything for anyone else.”
Then she had to explain what a “cycle” was — Heaven was shaped like a ring of nine rooms, with the residents meandering around the ring (always in the same direction, not for any particular reason, they just started out that way and never had any reason to change it), and once around the ring was a cycle. So a cycle might be a few hours, or a few months, and so Octagons has no idea whether she’s younger than the oldest primes, or older, or if the question even makes sense.
Then: “Food and sex, is it?” asked Simmerene.
“Food, sex, board games, dagger-fighting, singing about how much we like Mircannis and the other gods, swimming or bathing, dancing in fountains, excreting, resurrecting, and self-torture for when all the fun things get to be a bit too much.”
Simmerene planned her approach for an instant. (Some people say that Cani are the most lustful of all the prime species, and certainly even the sweetest of Cani — like Arfaen — can get stuck in a very horndog mode. I think it’s a design feature, by Reluu, to keep the largish group marriages happy.) “Do you have a wife there?”
Octagons laughed. “Oh, there is no marriage in Heaven. We don’t even have names; it’s heretical to even try to figure out who each other are. Imagine marrying someone, and then not knowing which of the eight-hundred-ninety-nine others you were married to!”
“You have a name though, don’t you, Octagons?”
Octagons nodded. “I was a bit of a rebel there. A few of us picked names and used them in secret. ”
Simmerene said, “So you’re a refugee from Heaven? From a horrible world of endless sex and food and games and sex?”
“It wasn’t a horrible place. Just a bit bland.”
Simmerene inevitably asked, “How do you feel about the World Tree?”
“It’s a lot more interesting! And a lot more exciting. I don’t fit in terribly well.”
Simmerene circled her target a bit more, saying, “Do you have any lovers here?”
Octagons missed the subtlety. “My sisters Folded and Namie, certainly! It’s a bit strange, calling them by name out loud … but we live somewhat as we did in Heaven.”
Simmerene kept her disappointment invisible. “What species are they? I didn’t see anyone who looked like you in the kitchens.”
“Oh, they don’t work at the kitchen … they don’t work at all actually. Folded finds Kismirth overwhelming except in tiny doses, so she mostly stays home. Namie has her own plans, which I think are stupid, but she’s determined,” said Octagons. “You look like you’re done eating — Come visit! I’d like Folded to meet some more primes!”
Simmerene hopped up, and the two paid for their food with a modest handful of terch. “Have you had any prime lovers, Octagons?”
“Only three,” said Octagons. “I’ve mostly been doing other things. Like cooking!”
“How did you find them?” asked Simmerene, as if innocently.
“The Orren man was very, very strange. There are no males in the Heaven of Mircannis, so I’m just not used to the body like that. I kept reaching for his chest to be nice that way, and finding nothing there! Or trying to put a finger inside of him, like I have done many hundred thousand times with all my lovers, and there’s no way in. The females were nice though!” Octagons’ tone was utterly commonplace.
“What appeals to you in a girl, Octagons?” asked Simmerene.
“Oh, a particularly artful arch of the tail, perhaps. We never had clothes in Heaven, since clothes would tell us apart. I was always partial to watching my sisters lift their tails and dive into the water, and sometimes when they came out I’d share sex with them.”
“What do you think of Cani tails?” asked Simmerene. She flipped her tail up this way and that.
“Pretty!” chirped Octagons, without taking the bait or even noticing that there was bait to take. “Your fur is all light, and you’ve braided it. Mine is so heavy and fluffy it sometimes feels like a club, especially when it’s wet. But here we are at my home!”
Simmerene followed Octagons through the door, into one of the I-have-no-idea-how-many suites inside of Kismirth. “It’s so … so … peach, in here.” Octagon’s front door opened directly into a parlor of sorts, and the sorts were peach sorts: canopies and tapestries of peach cloth, folding over peach cushions.
“That’s for Folded. It reminds her of home, and makes her feel comfortable,” said Octagons.
“Sister? Octagons? Come to me — I’ve been alone all day!” called a voice from behind a curtain. Octagons pushed the curtain aside, revealing a thoroughly nude Elfimel splayed out on a massive pillow.
Octagons shed clothing and sat by her, touching her in ways that Simmerene thought usually would require privacy, or at least a quick check of Folded’s mood. Folded responded without any particular embarrassment or hesitation; evidently the attention was not unwelcome. Simmerene’s ears drooped, and the Cani girl noticed that she, herself, was not immune to embarrassment, nor to jealousy, nor to reflected lust.
“We follow the customs of Heaven in here, like I said. Come join us if you like!” said Octagons.
Simmerene’s ears flattened completely, and her tail brushed the floor. She almost fled, for the situation was too strange. But she noticed, hardly for the first time, the intense and monumental feminity of the two Elfimel. She kicked off her shoes and scrambled over to bury herself in it.
In some ways it was Simmerene’s favorite fantasy: her particular weakness, available in vast and eagerly compliant quantities. In other ways, there was less erotic tension than in any of her previous encounters. Whenever their mouths were free, the two Elfimel chatted about the day — what Octagons had been cooking, what Folded has been dreaming of — without any particular acknowledgment of desire. Perhaps there was no desire, or not as Simmerene felt the honeyed knout of desire that day. There certainly wasn’t any sense of urgency. At most there was curiosity: the Elfimel were as unused to Cani bodies as the Cani to Elfimel.