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Once again this story took a lot longer than I thought it would. There were six months between Parts 4 and 5, but a whopping seventeen months between Parts 5 and 6, despite the fact that Part 6 is only a fraction of the length. Given the amount of time this story has taken and is taking to compose, you might regard the Prelude’s repeated references to the word “soon” as being somewhat ironic. I know I do.
The story so far: Ketrin’s still naked, he’s still paralysed, and he’s still horny, and fortunately for him these things have not gone unnoticed. What else do you need to know? Except that his lover Sherinel is determined to recover from his almost-death experience in order to team up with four of Ketrin’s lupinoids and find him.
There’s a scene in the story featuring that hoary old literary cliché, the Overheard Conversation - or as TV Tropes Wiki calls it, Exact Eaves Dropping. In my defence, I will say that a) it’s necessary to bring Sherinel up to speed with events in his old village while he was away, and b) it’s another scene that I stole from one of the original Mowgli stories - in this case, Letting In the Jungle. That story also has a village being trampled by stampeding elephants. I’m very sorry to say that this one doesn’t, although it does have some sex because Ketrin is older than Mowgli was then. (No, not sex with elephants. Forget the elephants. There are no elephants. Jeez.)
The story takes place several hundred light years from Earth in about AD 3501,
give or take a century or three and a few moons....
You can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the boy.
Feet in the jungle that leave no mark!
Eyes that can see in the dark--the dark!
Tongue--give tongue to it! Hark! O hark!
Once, twice and again!
“Hunting Song of the Seeonee Pack” from Mowgli’s Brothers
Prelude to Part 6
The old sorcerer sat alone in his hut, carefully contemplating his next move.
That incompetent fool Borvinn had managed to get himself paralysed as well as Ketrin. Well, it served him right. If he was waiting for the sorcerer to rescue him, he could damn well wait forever.
As for Ketrin himself, he and his pretty arse were being literally idolised by a bunch of famine-stricken villagers, and it looked as if his bond with the lupinoids was going to save them from starvation. The sorcerer saw the Maiden’s hand in that. The sorcerer wasn’t strong enough to take revenge against the Maiden and her friends - not yet, at any rate - but very soon he would have an opportunity to strike at Ketrin and his friends, both two-legged and four.
He had waited a very long time to taste vengeance.
Sherinel could feel the lupinoids’ restlessness. It had been many days since they had arrived at the village, and for all of that time they had been playing a striagon-and-vrix game with Valizen’s hunters. For the most part they had been swift and sly enough to evade the two-legs and their flying sticks, but there had been one or two close calls. One of the Twins had sustained a painful flesh wound when an arrow grazed his thigh, and Shadow had narrowly avoided being blinded in one eye by a spear. Every instinct was telling them it was too dangerous to stay, and yet Sherinel had to keep persuading them to wait for him.
It won’t be long, he kept telling them. Just until I’m healed. Then we can go and search for Ketrin.
The glowing crystal lay in the shallows of a lake. Sooner or later someone was bound to find it, but at present it was obscured by its coating of mud.
The crystal knew that it had a function to fulfil, and that happiness could only come from fulfilling it.
At the moment the crystal was unhappy. It was not fulfilling its function. But it knew it was only a matter of time before it would have a task to perform.
The distant watchers were keeping track of the situation.
“It’s all coming to a head. It can’t be long now.”
”You’re right. The sorcerer, the village, the lupinoids and the crystals...they’re all connected, of course, but I suspect there are more subtle connections that we haven’t figured out yet. And I’m quite certain that there are missing pieces that haven’t been placed on the board yet.”
“Yes. I have a sneaking suspicion about those missing pieces, but we shall just have to wait and see. It won’t be long now.
Salvation and Fornication
Ketrin sat alone, naked and inanimate in the empty square of Third Hill Village. His knife still sat in its sheath upon his chest, and the glowing crystal at its hilt constantly bathed his body in paralysing radiance.
The crystal knew that it had a function to fulfil, and that happiness could only come from fulfilling it.
It was a semi-organic artifact and possessed a degree of consciousness, even emotion. At the moment it was ecstatically happy. It was flooding its wearer’s body with energies that would keep him alive without food or water, while holding his voluntary muscles absolutely motionless.
It could never have occurred to the crystal that its wearer might not have wanted his voluntary muscles to be held absolutely motionless. As far as its rudimentary consciousness was concerned, as long as it was happy then its wearer must also be happy.
And believing its wearer to be happy, the crystal naturally wanted to keep him happy forever.
The villagers had all taken to their huts to try and conserve energy while eking out their meagre reserves of food and water, leaving their living idol “Lord Ral-ne-Sa” to wait helplessly through the baking days and freezing nights.
The hunters, accompanied by the gold and brown lupinoids, had been gone for three days. Surely they should have found food by now. But they might have been overcome by the heat, or attacked by striagons; or maybe they had encountered more sorcery and been paralysed like Ketrin, or worse. There was no telling what could have happened.
The sun glared relentlessly upon the bare soil of the village square. If he could have spoken to Tolar before he set out, he would have asked to be placed in the shade. Even a small canopy of leaves would have taken the edge off the heat. As it was, there was nothing he could do but sit and wait, feeling more exposed than he had ever been in his life, while the sun passed its peak and the afternoon grew hotter and hotter. Thunder rumbled in the distance, but it was from heat lightning, not a herald of the long-awaited rain.
But as the day wore on into early evening and Ketrin sweltered in the agonising heat, he thought he felt a faint stirring at the edge of his perceptions and his hope was rekindled.
Mere minutes later his hopes were confirmed as his mind was assaulted by a barrage of images. At first the images were a confused jumble of stripes, pointed sticks, flashing jaws, fleeing prey, shouting two-legs, splashing water and heavy burdens.
Confusing as the images were, they could have but one source. The two lupinoids who had set out with Tolar’s party had returned and were trying to communicate with him. They were nearing the Three Hills now, and their images were accompanied by a sense of elation. The hunt had been successful.
Ketrin would have wept with relief if he could. The villagers’ trust in him had not been misplaced after all.
Slow down, Ketrin told them. Show me one thing at a time.
The lupinoids projected the images more slowly, and although they still overlapped and became jumbled in places Ketrin was able to piece together the sequence of events.
The day after setting out the lupinoids had shown the hunting party a narrow tunnel set into a cliff face. The men had not spotted it before because it was overgrown with drought-resistant bushes. Of course the lupinoids had known about it for years.
In places the tunnel was less than half the height of a man. After they had spent some time making their way through it the men literally stumbled across the bones and half-decayed carcasses of several small creatures that had apparently crawled into it seeking refuge, or just somewhere to die, after something had wounded them.
Not even the lupinoids would touch meat that was that far gone, but the end of the tunnel lay only a few paces beyond, and what the men beheld there was a revelation.
Surrounded by cliffs that helped to shade it from the sun, as well as hide it from outsiders, was a green valley fed by streams from above. It was not altogether immune from the effects of the drought; its streams had shrunk to narrow trickles and its vegetation was threadbare in places. Even so, it was still big enough and fertile enough to provide food during the worst of the dry season.
Which was why the striagons had already found it.
It had not taken the men long to understand what the lupinoids’ growls were trying to warn them of, and so they had been prepared when, as they explored deeper into the valley, the first striagon had leapt out of the bush.
Here the images became confused again as the two lupinoids tried to tell him the story at once. From what Ketrin could gather, the first striagon had attacked only minutes after the men arrived, but with the aid of the lupinoids the men had been able to corner and kill it.
+With their pointed sticks, just like you said,+ the gold lupinoid told Ketrin.
+Right,+ thought the brown lupinoid. +Sticks.+
+We bit it good,+ said the gold lupinoid. +It didn’t get a chance to bite us back. Stupid stripetooth.+
+Right,+ thought the brown lupinoid. +Stupid+.
The men had spent the best part of the day hunting and gathering water from the clear streams that fed the lake in the centre of the valley. Tolar had to restrain the men from eating and drinking too much at first, but although there was some grumbling at first the men had complied.
Then, while the men were taking a short rest beside a stream, another striagon - probably the mate of the first, Ketrin surmised - had broken cover and attacked one of them. The other men came running to his aid but the lupinoids had got there first and managed to pin it down while the men vented their anger upon it.
If only the men of Borvinn’s village could have seen such a thing, Ketrin thought. They would scarcely have credited the sight of lupinoids defending human hunters.
The striagon had managed to slash the hunter in what the lupinoids thought of as his foreleg, but as far as they could tell the man could still use it, so the wound could not have been too deep. The other men had washed and dressed it, and that evening one of the men had mated with him.
There was little more to tell. There were no more striagons, and over the course of the next day the men collected as much food and water as they could carry. It took them several trips through the tunnel to get all of their bounty through. Once they had, they rigged up travois like the one Tolar had used to transport Ketrin to the village and used them to move the carcasses.
As for the water, the hunters had strapped most of the waterskins to the lupinoids’ backs, which irritated them no end, and they had spent most of the return journey grumbling about having to carry such a burden.
+Well, the sooner you get here the sooner the men will take them off you,+ Ketrin told them.
Ketrin wished he could give the villagers the news, but there was nothing he could do but wait for the hunters to return and tell them themselves.
The sun had sunk only a little lower, and lost none of its heat, by the time Ketrin finally observed a movement outside the gate.
“Hellooo!” cried Tolar. “We’re back!”
A moment later he stepped through the gate. He was pulling a sled behind him, heavily laden with meat, but that was not the first thing Ketrin noticed about him. To Ketrin’s surprise and amusement, the chief hunter was wearing a striagon’s skin, with the creature’s head perched upon his own and its front paws tied together across his chest.
Behind Tolar came Tharil wearing the other striagon-skin, followed by the other four human hunters. Bringing up the rear with their tails between their legs were the two lupinoids, still growling about having to carry the heavy waterbags.
Some of the villagers had emerged into the light and had found the strength to cheer the returning hunters. The hunters placed their spoils in the square and untied the waterbags from the lupinoids’ backs. Relieved of their burdens at last, the lupinoids leapt forward and began licking Ketrin’s face.
+Good to see you too,+ Ketrin thought at them.
“Sun! Fire! Come on, get down, now,” shouted Tolar. When they seemed reluctant to do so he grabbed them by the scruff of their necks and dragged them away. When they reacted angrily to this he snapped, “Down!” and threatened to force them.
Ketrin was impressed. It seemed that Tolar had instinctively learnt how to discipline the lupinoids by applying just the right mixture of persuasion and bullying. They seemed about to rebel, but then, just as Ketrin knew they would, they yielded and sat quietly. Tolar patted their backs and said, “Good fellows.”
+Sun and Fire,+ thought Ketrin. +Good names. I suppose Tolar thought of them as well.+
The villagers stared at Tolar in amazement. Seeing him adorned with a striagon-skin, casually disciplining a pair of lupinoids, many of them wondered if he had not himself been possessed by some jungle god.
“All right, people,” he called. “Gather round and we’ll hand out the water.”
The villagers would have snatched the waterskins if they could, but Tolar and his men held them back. “Take your time,” said Tolar. “If you drink too fast you’ll make yourself sick. Same goes for the food. To start with we’ll give you just enough to keep your strength up, and we’ll feed you up gradually from there on.”
Ketrin couldn’t help noticing that he was being just as firm with the humans as he was with the lupinoids. With such an instinctive grasp of leadership he was clearly a man that others would follow, and Ketrin prayed that all of his orders would be tempered with the same wisdom and compassion he had shown to date. Without those qualities he could begin to desire power for its own sake, just as Borvinn had.
“It doesn’t look like much food to go round the whole village,” said one man.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Tolar replied. “This is just what we could carry up the hill in one go. Sogan’s guarding the rest of it at the foot of the hill. There’s enough to last ten days if we ration it carefully, and by then we’ll be ready for another hunting trip. And with any luck, the rains will begin a moon or so after that. Lord Ral-ne-Sa has saved us.”
And with that, Tolar removed the striagon-skin and knelt to place it upon the seated Ketrin.
“Hail Lord Ral-ne-Sa,” he cried, and the villagers all took up the call: “Hail, Lord Ral-ne-sa! Hail, Lord Ral-ne-sa!”
+Noisy bunch, aren’t they?+ Thought Sun.
+Right,+ thought Fire. +Noisy.+
+Yeah, that’s two-legs for you,+ Ketrin replied. +Still, you may as well make some noise yourselves as you’re now in their pack.+
The lupinoids thought that was an excellent idea, and quickly joined their howls to the villagers’ cheering.
The striagon’s head was surprisingly heavy upon Ketrin’s, but the paralysing spell prevented Ketrin from feeling any strain. He was already very hot, though, and the heavy fur only made matters worse.
Fortunately Tolar’s next order involved erecting a makeshift tent around Lord Ral-ne-Sa so that the villagers could eat and drink in the shade. It was only a collection of old rags erected on spears, but it cut down the glare and gave Ketrin and the villagers some relief from the heat.
Once the men had passed the water around, the hunting party sat down on either side of Ketrin and began to tell the villagers about their trip. The story was very much as the lupinoids had shown Ketrin, except that he now learned the wounded man’s name from Tolar’s account.
“The second striagon took us by surprise. Must have been the mate of the first one, and as you can imagine it was pretty mad about its partner getting killed. Jumped Berran from behind and took a chunk out of his arm. Lucky for him, Lord Ral-ne-Sa’s lupinoids fell on the beast before it could tear his throat out, and while they had it pinned the rest of us finished it off. Quite an adventure, eh, Berran?”
The wounded man unconsciously moved a hand to his bandaged arm and smiled wanly. “Oh, yeah. Practically shit myself. But by the grace of Lord Ral-ne-Sa and his servants I’m still here to tell you about it.”
As he spoke, he reached out a hand and gently stroked Ketrin’s foot. Ketrin found this surprisingly erotic, and he could not help becoming aroused in full view of the entire village.
Tolar grinned. “Lord Ral-ne-Sa approves,” he said. “He has blessed our hunt and will safeguard the well-being of the village. Tonight we will show our gratitude for his mercy and compassion by worshipping him as he deserves.”
There was nothing Ketrin could do to prevent his penis growing harder in anticipation.
“You see,” said Tolar. “Lord Ral-ne-Sa anticipates our worship.“
“What does he mean, mummy?” asked one small child.
“Never mind, dear,” said his mother.
“Y’re always saying that when I ask about grownup stuff,” muttered the child.
“If you eat quietly I’ll let you stroke the lupinoids,” his mother told him, secure in the certainty that Lord Ral-ne-Sa would never allow his servants, however big and fierce, to harm a child.
Tired after their long trek and replete from their meal, Sun and Fire indulged the two-leg children as they would any noisy and irritating cubs. They didn’t mind being stroked and patted, but were forced to issue one or two warning growls when the youngsters tried to pull their whiskers.
“Pooh, this one’s just farted,” laughed one small boy.
“Nerrik!” his mother scolded.
“Well, he has,” the child insisted. “And it really smells!”
Ketrin helpfully translated this exchange for the lupinoids’ benefit.
+So what’s wrong with spreading your scent around?+ thought Sun.
+Right,+ thought Fire. +Scent.+
By now it was obvious to Ketrin that Fire was not much of an independent thinker. Not that it mattered, as long as he was content to follow Sun’s lead in all things.
+The two-legs are a little sensitive,+ Ketrin told them. +But they’ll just have to get used to it.+
+Right. Have to get used to another one now,+ thought Fire.
While this was going on Ketrin overheard Tolar speaking to the other hunters. They kept their voices low, but Ketrin’s jungle-trained ears were able to pick out their speech from the general hubbub.
“By the grace of Lord Ral-ne-Sa we have survived this crisis,” said Tolar, “but we cannot rely on divine intervention forever. The gods do not thank those who fail to learn from their warnings. We need to secure better supplies of food and water before the next dry season.”
“We have the Hidden Valley now,” said Berran. “With the help of Lord Ral-ne-Sa’s servants we can defend it against striagons, or men if necessary.“
“I hope it won’t be necessary to fight men,” said Tolar. “The last thing I want is for us to get involved in a war over food.”
“The Hidden Valley is a long way to go for hunting,” said Tharil. “Why don’t we move the village there instead? We could rebuild it in a clearing near a stream and have all the food and water we could possibly want all year round.”
“I’ve thought about that,” Tolar replied. “But it seems to me that with more food there would be more children, and so the village would grow year by year. Eventually there’d be more people than the valley could feed and we’d face starvation again. I sometimes fear the same thing may happen to the whole world one day.”
“Oh, you’re talking about something that won’t happen for years, if it happens at all,” scoffed Tharil. “We’ll be long gone by then, so it won’t be our problem anymore.”
“That’s probably just what our grandparents thought when they moved to this isolated sandhill in the first place,” said Tolar. “And that became our problem.”
One of the other men spoke up. “If you ask me we’ve been too reliant on hunting. Our fathers thought raising vorns was beneath them, and that’s part of the problem too.”
“But Sarvan, if we’d had a herd they wouldn’t have survived the drought either,” said Tharil.
“Maybe not,” said Sarvan, “but at least we’d have been able to eat them, and maybe save some calves for the next drought.”
“No way we could tame wild vorns,” said Berran. “We’d have to trade for livestock with another village, and we don’t have much contact with our neighbours. We certainly don’t have any credit with them.”
“Berran’s raised an important point,” said Tolar. “We’re too isolated from human society. We can’t go on treating our village as an island that’s immune to life outside. Sooner or later we have to renew our contacts with other villages.”
“Well, we can forget about the north,” replied Tharil. “The northern villagers treat lupinoids as dangerous vermin and do everything in their power to exterminate them. Last I heard some villages were even putting a bounty on their pelts.”
This provoked a flurry of outrage. Some of the men even proposed marching north to settle the issue.
“Out of the question,” snapped Tolar. “I told you I don’t want us to get involved in fighting. It’s not that I doubt any man’s courage, least of all my own, but there’s only a handful of us and hundreds of them. Even with Lord Ral-ne-Sa on our side, I hardly think one small band of hunters and a pair of lupinoids could win a war against all the northern villages. Besides, that would leave Third Hill and the Hidden Valley unguarded.
“No, my friends, I think we’re going to have to trust in Lord Ral-ne-Sa to deal with the northerners in his own time and in his own way. We can’t solve all of the world’s problems by ourselves.”
No, thought Ketrin, and Lord Ral-ne-Sa can’t deal with the northerners as long as he’s paralysed here in the south!
At last the children were sent complainingly to bed. The sun touched the green horizon and with astonishing rapidity sank beneath it.
The priest of Ketrin’s old village had told him a tale of how the sun returned to the east after setting in the west. Each evening, according to the priest, the god Shavna would wait in a deep valley beyond the western horizon where he would catch the setting sun and carry it through the narrow, shifting and uncharted caverns beneath the world, racing to reach the valley below the eastern horizon in time to fling the sun across the heavens once more and so light another day.
On hearing the story Ketrin had wondered whether Shavna could re-light the sun should he ever drop it, since it must be very hard to carry something so hot.
The priest had replied that Shavna was able to endure the burning heat of the sun without dropping it because he was, after all, a god and therefore not subject to human frailties.
Ketrin asked if the sun’s fire didn’t make the caverns very hot as Shavna carried it through.
Indeed it did, the priest told him, burning hot. So hot, in fact, that in places the heat could not be contained and burst from the ground, causing very mountains to belch fire and molten rock.
Then Ketrin had asked why Shavna didn’t just throw the sun back to the east instead of carrying it all the way.
The priest said that if Shavna merely threw the sun back and forth instead of carrying it through the caverns as was his duty, there would never be any night and the world would burn up from the heat.
Ketrin still couldn’t see how or why Shavna had been burdened with such an elaborate and laborious routine in the first place, but he was still learning about two-leg ways and there was much about them and their gods that he did not understand.
Now, though, he was a god, after a fashion, and he was beginning to understand what it meant to be worshipped.
The villagers’ conversation also turned to the subject of worship, or more specifically, to who should have the privilege of worshipping Lord Ral-ne-Sa.
“Everyone will get their turn,” Tolar assured him. “All we need to do is figure out who gets the honour of being first.”
+They’re still yapping,+ thought Sun sleepily.
+Right,+ thought Fire. +Yapping.+
+Don’t worry,+ thought Ketrin. +Soon they’ll stop yapping and start mating.+
After some discussion, the honour of worshipping Lord Ral-ne-Sa fell upon a young hunter named Wersgor. The other villagers watched with a mixture of reverence, envy and prurience as he shyly approached Ketrin, let his waistcloth fall, and knelt beside him.
“Lord Ral-ne-Sa,” he murmured, gingerly reaching out a hand, “Please accept my body’s worship and continue to bestow your blessings upon this village.”
His hand reached Ketrin’s broad chest, just next to where the knife with its sorcerous jewel hung motionless.
Thanks to the jewel’s continued devotions Ketrin was not able to reply in words, nor even to smile. However, he was capable of gazing deep into Wersgor’s eyes, which Wersgor correctly took for acceptance.
“Oh, you’re so warm,” said Wersgor, peering back through Ketrin’s purple irises. “I thought your body would be cool because you’re still as stone. But you are flesh and blood after all.”
While he spoke his hands played over the firm muscles of Ketrin’s chest with increasing confidence and sensuality. The wildling was rapidly and powerfully aroused.
“I’ve never told anyone this,” Wersgor whispered in Ketrin’s left ear, “But I’ve always been aroused by motionlessness. I often dreamed that one day I would have a lover who could remain perfectly still, and now you have brought my dream to life.”
Ketrin could not help but wonder if it was the Maiden who had planted that dream in Wersgor’s mind. Could she have foreseen this encounter?
Wersgor kissed Ketrin, prised his jaws apart slightly and began gently caressing Ketrin’s tongue with his own. At the same time his fingers were slowly tracing circles around Ketrin’s nipples.
Ketrin’s erection hardened almost painfully in response. He had sometimes wondered why male humans had nipples, but now he was very glad that he did. Wersgor’s touch reminded him poignantly of Sherinel’s, and he wished for the thousandth time that Sherinel could be there to share in this lovemaking.
Sherinel and Mavrida
At that very moment Sherinel was wishing for the thousandth time that he knew where Ketrin was. After the evening meal he had briefly drawn aside with Mavrida to share his concerns with her.
“The lupinoids are getting restless,” he told her. “The game around here is sparse, and they’re getting tired of constantly having to evade Dorriven’s patrols. A few days ago one of the Twins was grazed in the thigh by an arrow. The hunters are getting too close. I'm afraid they might injure or kill one of the lupinoids, and then the others would have no choice but retaliate, and that would be disastrous.”
“And the lupinoids told you all this in your mind?” asked Mavrida.
“Not so much told me as showed,” he said. “I get images and feelings from them, and I can send mine back to them. But sometimes it’s hard to make them out, and I get the feeling that they don’t come across as strongly as they used to.”
He seemed to be looking past Mavrida at his own future. For the moment he seemed almost to have forgotten her presence.
“But if the link really is fading,” he muttered, “then I suspect there may be only one way to replenish it. Only if I choose that path it will make me more like Ketrin and less like...well, me. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” said Mavrida.
Sherinel snapped out of his reverie. “No, I’m only starting to guess at some things myself,” he said. “But as long as I’m here the lupinoids won’t leave, which means I’m endangering them by staying. The sooner I can set off with them to search for Ketrin the better.”
“But how will you know where to look?” asked Mavrida.
“Good question,” said Sherinel. “From what I can gather from Silverpaw’s memories, he and Ketrin jumped into the big river to the east of here, which swept them downstream - that’s southward - for several hours. Eventually they fetched up on the shore of a big lake with a waterfall. It only took them a few hours by river, but on foot it will take a lot longer because of the dense foliage and rough terrain.”
“You told me that Silverpaw left Ketrin because Ketrin ordered him to,” said Mavrida. “Do you think Borvinn succeeded in putting his spell on Ketrin?”
“Maybe,” said Sherinel, “but if he did, then Silverpaw didn’t see or scent Borvinn before Ketrin ordered him to leave. If Ketrin is still under Borvinn’s spell it will keep him alive and frozen stiff, perhaps forever. And if anyone should find him in that state - well, there’s no telling what they might do to him, while he can’t do anything to defend himself.”
Lord Ral-ne-Sa’s Avatar
Yes, thought Ketrin. Oh, yes. Do it to me. Do whatever you want to me. I can’t stop you. I can’t do anything to resist.
Although Wersgor could not hear Ketrin’s thoughts, he clearly had every intention of doing whatever he wanted. While his tongue continued to caress Ketrin’s, his fingers were gently sliding Ketrin’s foreskin up and down his iron-hard shaft while his other hand attended to his own.
The other villagers watched with a mixture of reverence and prurience. It was not every night that they had the privilege of seeing their god worshipped so intimately. Aroused by the sight, they soon embraced their partners, regardless of gender, and began worshipping each other. Ketrin was vaguely aware that somewhere in the crowd Tolar and Tharil, their earlier differences forgotten, were locked in a passionate embrace. Even the lupinoids were caught up in the prevailing mood; Fire offered himself passively to Sun, who took the offer without hesitation and repeatedly mounted him.
+Right,+ thought Fire. +Right. Right. Right. Ohhhhh, riiiiiiight!!!+
Ketrin was thinking similar thoughts as Wersgor repeatedly brought him close to orgasm but somehow managed to hold him back at the last moment.
It was not until Wersgor climaxed himself that his hand reflexively tightened on Ketrin’s phallus, at last triggering the pent-up ecstasy that had been building for so long.
His climaxes had been getting slowly longer and stronger since Tolar had first found and worshipped him, and this was by far the longest and most powerful. There was nothing he could do but give himself up to it. And as he did so, he saw in his mind’s eye a huge, glowing lupinoid face.
+Lord Ral-ne-Sa?+ he thought incredulously. +The real one?!+
The god seemed to be laughing. Not at Ketrin’s paralysis, but rather for joy at finding such a suitable two-leg to be his living idol, his avatar.
+And what then?+ thought Ketrin. +Am I to remain an avatar, paralysed like this forever?+
The glowing image did not reply. Another burst of ecstasy swept the image, and all conscious thought, from his mind.
Ketrin’s face remained an impassive mask, but the intensity of his sensations forced tears from his eyes. Those villagers who were not currently busy with orgasms of their own saw the tears, took them as a sign of their god’s love, and prostrated themselves before him.
A little while later it was Ketrin’s turn to lie prostrate while Wersgor’s erection buffed his prostate, and his hands roamed all over his hard, motionless muscles. As a follower of Ral-ne-Sa it was only fitting that Wersgor should worship his god lupinoid-fashion, but his worship was far slower and gentler and far more sensuous than any lupinoid mating. For the rest of the night and much of the following morning Wersgor’s considerate lovemaking treated Ketrin to wave after wave of bliss. His only regret was that Sherinel was not there to share in his ecstasy.
Leader of the Pack
The following night Sherinel secretly bade farewell to Mavrida and made his departure, taking nothing but a waterskin and a knife. He took no food; he and the lupinoids could forage en route. He had considered going naked in honour of Ketrin, but had reluctantly decided to wear a waistcloth just in case he needed to liaise with other humans. However, he did imitate Ketrin by wearing aromatic flowers in his hair. The lupinoids might mask their scent by rolling in shit, but as much as he admired them there was no way he was going to do that.
Slipping out of the village through a gap in the fence, he followed the images in his mind to the lupinoids’ hiding place. He knew he had arrived when a black meteor detached itself from the bushes and barrelled him off his feet.
|Shadow leaping. A fairly basic Poser 5 image by Leem.|
His dark colouring helps disguise some lack of detail
“You great furry idiot,” he laughed, as Shadow licked his face enthusiastically and the other three waited their chance to join in. After a few moments Sherinel rolled the black lupinoid off of him and attempted to stand up, but the pack had decided to make a game of it and so once again Sherinel found himself at the centre of a writhing mass of striped fur.
An uninformed observer might have been horrified at the sight of four fully-grown lupinoids apparently attacking a defenceless youth, but as far as they were concerned it was just a bit of fun. Of course, by human standards their idea of “fun” was quite rough, and Sherinel acquired a number of small nips and bruises by the time they were done, but when the lupinoids finally withdrew he was still on his feet, although swaying a little.
“Had enough?” he said, kneeling to face them. “All right, here’s what we’re going to do.”
Sherinel’s mental link with the lupinoids was beginning to fade, which was one of the reasons why he had chosen to set out now. If he waited any longer he might not be able to communicate with them. At the moment he still had enough of a telepathic rapport left to make them understand what he was planning.
“Now: Silverpaw was the last to see Ketrin - ” he began.
The lupinoids all yipped at the mental image of Ketrin that Sherinel projected, and would have set up a howl if Sherinel had not warned them against doing so this close to the village.
“We’ll howl for him once we’re out of human territory,” he promised them. “For now, Silverpaw needs to show us where to find him.”
Silverpaw gave a whine, and projected the image of cascading water and hurtling rocks.
“Don’t worry,” said Sherinel, giving Silverpaw a reassuring hug. “We’re not going to swim. We’ll travel alongside the river until we reach the place where you came ashore.”
The other lupinoids sent impressions of two-legged figures carrying long branches - the lupinoids’ idea of spears.
“We’ll try to avoid human settlements altogether,” Sherinel assured them. “Though that might mean leaving the river if there are fishing communities nearby. Anyway, we’ll deal with that problem if we encounter it.”
Then the lupinoids sent images of stripey, four-legged figures with huge fangs.
“Yes, there’s no telling where striagons may be lurking, so we’ll just have to keep our eyes and noses alert. Anyway, Shadow and I have survived one encounter with a striagon - right, Shadow?”
The black lupinoid snorted.
“Yeah, you’re right,” muttered Sherinel, absently fingering the scar on his abdomen. “Being a hero isn’t as much fun as it’s cracked up to be. Well, we’ll just have to try and avoid striagons too, and hope they’ll be busy elsewhere.”
The lupinoids thought about this for a long moment and then gave short barks of assent.
“All right, guys,” said Sherinel. “We’re a pack now, so let’s get hunting.”
All through the night Silverpaw led the rest of the small pack in the direction of the great river. Occasionally the lupinoids caught a faint scent of striagon, but no recent traces. They skirted Sherinel’s old village and had left it well behind by dawn.
As the sun rose they settled down to sleep in a patch of dense vegetation, but some time later they were awakened by the sound of distant human voices.
+Stay here,+ thought Sherinel, and cautiously crept out of the bushes to take a look. The voices sounded familiar, and as he approached with all the stealth he could muster his suspicions were soon confirmed.
It was a hunting party. Four men from his old village.
One of the men was Jarnel, who had accompanied Borvinn on the fateful hunt when they had betrayed Sherinel to a hungry striagon.
The scar on Sherinel’s stomach burned. At that moment he would have liked nothing better than to leap out from hiding and stab Jarnel in the stomach, just to see how he liked it.
But just as he was about to fulfil his instinct for revenge, another instinct took hold of him; an instinct for stealth, secrecy and silence. An instinct that told him there was a time to rush into things and a time to watch and wait, and that now was the time for the latter.
It was a lupinoid instinct. He had absorbed it, together with the lupinoid telepathy, when Shadow had given him water from his own mouth and he had also ingested something contained in Shadow’s saliva.
The lupinoid instinct probably saved Sherinel’s life. He might have succeeded in killing Jarnel, but the other hunters would probably have killed him in return, and then the lupinoids would have killed them.
The last thing Sherinel needed was a bloodbath. Ketrin had told him they needed to find a way to prevent humans and lupinoids killing each other.
The men had stopped to eat. Sherinel watched and listened, his presence unsuspected.
“I dunno,” grumbled Jarnel. “We seem to be cursed or summat. Sangrel and Tarvik dead, Sherinel carried off by a striagon, Borvinn and Ketrin missing, and the widder Mavrida gone orf somewhere, and all on the same day.”
Sherinel’s ears pricked up. Borvinn was missing as well? Might he even now be molesting the paralysed Ketrin in some secret hideaway? This news only increased Sherinel’s anxiety to be moving on. But Jarnel was still talking.
“And as if all that weren’t bad enough, that bastard Sharavel clouts me over the ’ead and ’angs me over a tree branch. And for what did I deserve that sorta treatment, I ask you?”
That was also news to Sherinel, who couldn’t help smiling at it.
“And when I finally got back to the village, not so much as a word of apology. Sharavel announces that Borvinn’s gone missing, then he up and declares himself chief hunter until Borvinn gets back. And as if that weren’t bad enough, he keeps givin’ me them looks, like he thinks it was me what killed Sherinel and not a stripey. I ask you. One of these days I’m gonna show that Sharavel, you just watch me.”
“And you say you walked home through the forest yourself?” said one of the other hunters. “You’re lucky a striagon didn’t get you too.”
“Damn right,” said Jarnel. “When I finally woke up and managed to climb down, there was nothing I could do but walk back alone. Didn’t see any striagons - ’course, I deliberately steered clear of where Sherinel got et - but I could have sworn there was lupinoids about. All the way home I had an idea they was watching me, but if they was then they never attacked. Queer sort of feeling. I can almost feel it now, as if....”
Jarnel looked around suspiciously.
Cursing silently, Sherinel slipped deeper into the undergrowth.
“Nah,” muttered Jarnel. “Just my imagination. I’m giving meself the jitters with all this talk about lupinoids. It’s us that’re gonna get rid of them, not the other way round. Let’s finish up here and head north.”
Sherinel had heard enough. While the men prepared to move on, Sherinel crept back to the lupinoids and told them there was no immediate danger. Concerned though he was for Ketrin’s safety, he and the lupinoids had spent an entire night running and were exhausted. There was nothing for it but to sleep and continue the search at nightfall.
Sherinel slept with an arm draped across a furry back.
He dreamt that he was a god, a living idol whose body could no more move than a doll’s, but was visited day and night and given endless orgasms by devoted worshippers.
It was a pleasant dream and it seemed to remind him of Ketrin, so that when he finally woke at sunset his anxieties had abated somewhat.
The dream had left him painfully aroused, and he spent some time masturbating. Shadow and Silverpaw, feeling his arousal via their link, each mounted one of the twins, and all four lupinoids relayed their sensations back to them. It was not long before all five of them found themselves approaching climax.
+All right,+ thought Sherinel. +Together!+
Howls rang through the dusk as their bodies erupted simultaneously.
For a while Sherinel could do nothing but lie panting with his arms across his furry “lovers’ ” backs.
“That was amazing,” he sighed.
The lupinoids huffed in agreement.
“All right,” he said at last. “We’ve still got a long way to go and there’s no telling what we’ll have to face on the way.”
The small pack set out once more for the east and the canyon of the big river.
Ketrin, my friend, thought Sherinel, wherever you are, whatever’s happening to you, don’t despair. We’re coming for you. We’re coming.
And at that very moment the helpless Ketrin was also thinking: I’m coming...I’m coming...I’m coming...
January 2004 - April 2005
In Our Next Inadmissible Instalment...
Sherinel and his pack search for Ketrin.
Ketrin and Third Hill face another crisis.
The missing crystal reappears.
Sherinel finds someone totally unexpected.
The author wonders how he gets away with it.
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