Servant of the Axe
People of the Sea-Bat
The people of the Sea-Bat met their Adobe Woman with enthusiasm, dancing, and nudity.
"Oh my." Kismet said.
"Yes, we may need a local guide for customs, as well as language." I said.
"If they try taking me by force, Narces…"
"I know. I know." But he didn't string his bow… yet.
The people of Koputiki had sworn that every settlement in the Isles spoke the same language, just with different dialects and accents. They lied.
Gamilla snorted. "I'm not sleeping with them. Someone needs to explain that to them."
"Yeah… um…" Kismet said, also taking note of the number of erections.
"Excuse me." I began. "Do you or any of your people speak Furdish?"
"Of course, we speak Furdish. We're not barbarians." The old guy nearest the shore said.
I introduced us to, I guessed, the chieftain (I guessed wrong, this was their shaman. I will refer to him as such, even though I thought of him as the chieftain.).
"Gamilla is … not… the Adobe Woman?"
"I am not. Sorry." Gamilla said.
"Would she care to enjoy one of our warriors, anyway?"
"Not just now, thanks."
The shaman made a gesture at the warriors. They began to pursue women, who shrieked and fled into the huts. The warriors followed them.
"Let me guide you to our chieftain, then. For all the time our tribe has left."
"Oh, are you in danger?" Kismet asked.
"Our tribe needs a rare herb that only grows inside the volcano. Only the Adobe Woman can gather it for us."
"What does this herb look like?" Narces asked.
He described it. It sounded like a fungus of some kind.
"I can even show you where it grows." He said, "But there is an angry spirit there that strikes down any who approach. Man or woman, old or young, it makes no difference."
"Rhishi's good with spirits." Kismet said.
"Okay, let me show him where the herb grows while the rest of you talk with our chief."
He proceeded to walk back toward the shore. "Where are we going?"
"If we're going for a walk, I need to get my clothes on." He explained.
Jungles are hot and moist and they smell like decay. They are teeming with life of all kinds.
"Have you eliminated predators on the island?"
"Of course not. The shadow-cats will eat us if they are hungry. If not, they'll leave me alone. You… you might be meal size for them. Just don't make oinking noises, and you should be fine."
I was not comforted, but saw no jungle cats of black hue.
"Who are those pygmies?" I asked.
"Pygmies? Oh, those. Haha. No, those are monkeys. Animals."
They glared down on us with palpable HATE. Stupid man-squirrels.
"So this herb, what is it used for?"
"Fertility rituals." He said. "Tasting the fire-rock powder is said to double the fertility of females."
Fertility of… These people were clearly on drugs, and just wanted to be on different ones.
I took a look with Mystic Vision, just to be sure.
"Those reddish orange things, right?" I asked.
"Yes, but the spirits strike down all who venture there."
"Okay, you wait here. Or back a bit, to be clear of the heat."
Thanks to briefings for a completely different bowl-shaped depression in the earth, I had a good idea of what was killing folks, and it wasn't a spirit. Poisonous gasses gather in low places near lava.
I flexed my lungs into crocodilian mode, and breathed deeply.
It wasn't just gasses.
[You are in a special aura of heat. You will suffer three fatigue every thirty seconds.]
Gods! So much worse than I expected. It seemed to take forever to claw the fire-rock free of the black rock. I almost inhaled on the way up, but managed to resist the urge.
After all, I didn't know if the resistances I had were enough to survive the gasses I suspected of being there.
I lay there, at the lip of the not-quite-inactive volcano. Or maybe not. What do you call a baby volcano, only four hundred feet or so high?
Whatever. Somewhere under the surface of that area was lava, so I'm calling it a volcano.
I lay there, breathing and sweating, and wondering what manner of crazed idiocy required THIS fungus. The dust must be the spores, which there should be a lot of, based on the sheer weight of the semicircular piece I had recovered.
"Here," I said. "Take it."
"I cannot. By the laws of our people, we must reward you first."
I didn't want to carry it. It was heavy, and about the size of my chest across, and fungi are notoriously fragile.
"In the future, you'll want to send pearl divers down there, with instructions not to breathe."
"Ah! I see. It is not the fire-rock that the spirits enviously protect, but the Air of Visions inside the holy mountain."
I forget my exact words, but I refrained from beating him unconscious with my prize. Didn't even hit him once. Physically, at least.
And, because I didn't explicitly tell him the fire spirits of his volcano huddled near the cracks venting hot air, he got to keep his spiritual beliefs intact.
So, before dusk even settled, I'd done something the natives considered impossible.
I'd earned a reward. A great way to start trade negotiations.
"When we get back to the village, you will pick a woman. She will be yours for the night."
"What good is a woman for just one night?" I asked.
"Well, you can get a good idea if you want to marry her." He said.
Wait, marry her? "You understand that I'm only two? I'm a child."
"Oh, good. I was worried you were from a pygmy species. We can find a female child to marry you to."
"I don't want to marry anyone." I said.
"Oh no. I'm sure you don't mean to dishonor our tribe by scorning our women."
"So that's the deal." I said.
"No fair, Rhishi. You should offer to marry me, first." Kismet demanded.
"Kismet, do you want to marry me?"
"Ew, gross! No, you go make your harem without me. I'm worth a man who doesn't want to share me."
"I don't want to MAKE a harem! I'm two! I shouldn't be considering marrying ANYONE for TWELVE YEARS!"
"Maybe they'll agree to a betrothal?" Narces suggested.
"Maybe you can threaten to burn the plant?" Gamilla said.
I rested my head in my hands. "I'd rather they just gave me a different reward."
"You mean, like, marry you to another young boy?" Narces asked.
"Ick." I said.
"Hey, just thought I'd ask." Narces said.
"Narces, do you want to marry a two-year old?"
"Ugh. No way, I'd sooner marry Gamilla."
"Go throw yourself in a volcano!" Gamilla replied.
"So why should I want to marry a two-year old?"
"Oh, do you want a mature woman?" Kismet asked. "Maybe thirty? Forty?"
"Kismet. Not. Helping."
"I know. But you have to admit it's funny if we're not you. Twenty-seven wives… You'll have to live in the Khanate. I can start you on your letters."
"Even as children," Gamilla said, "that's a lot of food. We need to figure out how to avoid these marriages now. If even one tribe gets its hooks into our ambassador, the other tribes will want the same."
"Yeah. Three kids per wife… that's two companies of kids, Rhishi. We might as well find a place to plunk down our own village."
"Snake Face tribe." Narces said.
"Not quite as silly as some of the other tribal names." Gamilla said.
"None of that is helping us figure out how not to have me not married tomorrow." I said.
"Simple." Kismet said. "Make a list of impossible things for your wife to possess, and the others just have to tag along in some non-wife capacity."
I scratched the bottom of my jaw. "That sounds like it might work."
"So, linguistic ability and cultural know-how." Kismet said.
"Eyes like mine." I said.
"Good one. Strong and durable. Athletic." Narces said.
"With a mind that can compete with an adult." Gamilla said. "No. That can out-think an adult."
"Let them top that!" Kismet said.
"Fire reveals." I said. Kismet and I bumped fists.
And so, my co-conspirators and I got a good night's sleep.
I awoke, had a breakfast of fish and lobster and fruits, and delivered our list of conditions to the shaman. He seemed shocked. "I suppose you want her to know magic, as well. Perhaps already be a strong and accomplished fire adept?"
"Sure." I said. "Why not?"
He seemed relieved. "Thank the spirits." He said.
Of course, he was relieved. How do you explain to someone's daughter that they're now married to a reptile that they've not met, and barely heard of?
"We were so afraid we'd never find a match for young Madonna. But she sounds perfect for you; let's go get you two hitched."
Be careful what you wish for.
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