Monday, May 8, 2017

December 14, later

I have never had the pleasure of a Hawaiian luau. With Earth turning into a hunk of unlivable rock, I suppose that’s a dream that will never happen. However, my imagining of what one might have been like was close to realization with our night on the beach.

There was a huge bonfire that we all sat around, the soft beach sand pillowing our butts as drinks were served on the low tables before us. Nobek crewmembers gathered between us and the fire to perform one of the historical dances that consists of a bunch of stomping, chest beating, yelling, headbutting, and slapping the hell out of each other. It’s an impressive display, though I always cringe at the smacking part.

It turned out Stidmun is a part of the historical society of warrior Nobeks. He jumped up and joined in. Within minutes, his nose, freshly healed from a break during the morning and afternoon’s kurble games, was bleeding afresh after a particularly brutal swat from one of the other Nobeks. Stidmun was quite delighted, though I saw Candy rolling her eyes at the display. She sat on the opposite side of Larten, who chuckled and nudged her at the reaction.

“Which is worse; that your breed is crazy or that I’m crazy about your breed?” she sighed.

After the dance, which we all applauded wildly, the Zelt band played as dinner was served. And what a dinner. The meat of an island animal called the olrib had been roasted to perfection, the tender flesh falling off the thick bones. There were also two different fish dishes and any number of fruits and vegetables. It was a feast, made exquisite by the fact we sat on the beach with the surf rumbling nearby and the star-filled canopy of the night sky.

Maybe Candy’s earlier comment about her fixation on Nobeks had been overheard, because during the meal, Bazi brought up the subject of clan laws. “Some are petitioning the Royal Council to change the three-man clan requirement, at least where Earther women are concerned.”

Clan Orim’s Nobek Ral, a bearded behemoth who’d broken Stidmun’s nose during the kurble match, grunted as he speared a chunk of olrib on a knife. “I’m betting my breed is in the vanguard of that proposal. There are too many of us to guarantee we’ll enjoy the benefits of traditional clanning.”

“Actually, I’m hearing most of the complaints are coming from the Earther women,” Bazi said. “Their culture is based on the idea of one man and one woman.” She gazed at Candy with friendly curiosity.

Candy stared back, her eyes wide. “Will the Royal Council consider such a thing?”

Erom snorted. “Maybe in a century or two. That kind of thing takes forever to catch on with the masses. We can be pretty stubborn when it comes to changing the status quo.”

“Not if our numbers drop off to the point where we’re desperate for any configuration that will allow us to save our culture,” Imdiko Tir opined. “If the only way we can escape extinction is to give Earther women what they want, it will happen.”

“What do you think of the idea of clans not being required?” I asked Seot.

He mused. “I concede that having a clan is perhaps not for everyone. I see the happiness Stidmun and Candy have with it just being the two of them. I think their situation is right for them. For my part however, I would be saddened to see clans disappear. My life has been so enriched with Larten and Cifa that I can’t imagine not having them.”

“Not to mention having the sole responsibility of caring for someone as precious as a woman,” Larten said. He smirked at Stidmun. “I don’t envy you the responsibility that sits on your shoulders where that is concerned.”

Candy gave him a withering look. “I can take care of myself, thanks. I prefer Stidmun rather than need him. He’s around because he makes my life a little better than it would be without him.”

Stidmun scowled. “A little better?”

That got us all laughing as Candy kissed him to take the sting out of her inadvertent slight. When we’d quieted, Cifa’s sister Ila spoke up. “But who says the clan system has to be abandoned entirely? Before Kalquor mandated clans to keep the men from fighting over too few women, our ancestors had relationships that could include any number of people from both sexes.”

Candy’s eyes lit. “So there is a precedent for non-clan relationships that are legally recognized.”

“In the past. The present situation is not likely to change any time soon,” Erom counseled her. “There are still too few females are arguing for change. The Royal Council is in no hurry to take the idea seriously.”

“But if we Earthers had the option of being with one man, more Earther women might come,” Candy argued.

The conversation was lively and respectful as points for and against traditional clans were debated. Cifa whispered in my ear, “I certainly hope Candy’s views on multiple-partner relationships haven’t swayed your interest.”

“Actually,” I said, pretending to muse over the matter, “I was thinking maybe having more than one clan might be a worthwhile consideration.”

Seot choked a little on his fish. “Woman, we have a problem.”

I cracked up. “Don’t worry, big guy. If last night was any indication, I can barely keep up with three of you. No way I’m adding to the numbers.”

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