“You have not had sex yet. This is a bad thing, yes?”
Erin paused with a large forkful of boiled beef and vegetables halfway to her lips. She stared open-mouthed at Krshia and then swiveled her gaze to stare at Selys. The Drake winced and avoided her gaze.
Krshia leaned over the table and regarded Erin intently.
“It has been weeks since we have known each other. But you have not mated with anyone. This is a bad thing, I am thinking. We must do something about that.”
“Hrm. Yes. That is why Selys and I have invited you. It is a matter which we would discuss.”
Erin looked around the room. They were in a restaurant. Actually, the restaurant was actually a tavern, but Erin liked to think of it as a restaurant. They were pretty much the same thing, but taverns usually included more drinking.
This was Gnoll tavern though, which meant most of the customers inside were furry. A few Drakes were present, but the staff and cooks were Gnolls. Krshia had suggested the place and Erin had happily accepted.
It was rare that Erin got a chance to leave her inn. But business had been slow, Selys had a free day off and Krshia had mentioned the tavern had good food. So Erin had locked Toren in the inn, joined up with the other two, and come here. They’d spent a fun few minutes talking and ordering food – bloody mutton for Krshia, breaded fish for Selys, and boiled beef for Erin. The food had arrived they’d begun to eat, and then sex had happened.
Not literal sex, but the thing about even discussing sex was that it did odd things to the mind. Erin stared down at her beef, sitting in a light marinade of broth. It was soft and practically fell apart on her spoon. It looked and smelled delicious, but suddenly Erin was imagining sausages. For no particular reason, of course.
That was the thing about penises. They could appear out of nowhere in a heartbeat. Erin put down her spoon and stared at Krshia. Then her eyes swiveled to Selys.
“Sex? Um. You want to talk about sex?”
The female Drake followed her eyes as she chewed her fish.
“Not just sex. Guys. Males. I was just curious and I mentioned it to Krshia, and she said—”
“You have not had sex. You should. Selys agrees.”
Krshia nodded while Selys shook her head, waving her hands as Erin stared at her.
“I didn’t say Erin should have sex. I just thought it was, um, something to talk about. That’s all.”
Erin sat back in her chair, staring hard. Sex was sex. She knew all about the birds and the bees, although they certainly didn’t look anything like birds or bees up close. She could handle a discussion about private parts, and she certainly wasn’t squeamish but—
She looked around. She was in a nearly full room full of, not to put a fine point on it, males. Some females, but lots of males now that she looked. And she and her two friends were sitting at a central table talking fairly loudly.
“Um. Should we talk about it here? I mean, sex is…is…”
Krshia and Selys stared at her blankly. Erin turned red. Selys laughed.
“Erin! We just want to talk about relationships. We’re not going to talk about, you know, how it is.”
“Unless you wish to.”
Selsys and Erin stared at Krshia. Selys cleared her throat nervously and looked at Erin.
“We don’t want to make you uncomfortable. I was just curious about whether you were you know…interested. I thought you might be lonely, and Krshia—”
“Thought I didn’t have enough sex. Right.”
Erin stared down at her food. Perhaps if she looked at that she wouldn’t have to meet the two stares directed her way.
“Well I—hadn’t given it much thought, really? I’ve been busy with the inn and all. And um, I hadn’t really thought about a relationship. With someone else, I mean.”
“But you are young. Now is the best time to be mating with others. What holds you back?”
“Nothing! I just—it’s not like people my age go around having sex all the time. Right?”
Erin looked at Selys. The Drake avoided her gaze.
“Well, I wouldn’t say all the time, but once in a while is nice, Erin. And it’s not like you have to have someone special. You could just ah, have a special night once in a while.”
Erin took a moment to figure that one out.
“You mean a one night stand?”
“If you wish to stand it would be a long night. But pleasurable, perhaps? I may try that.”
Selys choked on her drink. Erin thumped her on the back while she tried to stop blushing.
“Look, I’m no expert. It’d be nice, sure, but it’s just not something I’m looking into.”
Selys coughed and looked at Erin.
“It’s not like there are many humans around. I mean, you could meet up with one of those adventurers or merchants that come by, but there are options, you know? It’s a big city.”
“Options? What do you…oh.”
Krshia regarded Erin intently as the human girl’s eyes followed a passing Gnoll. Erin stared wide-eyed at the tall, six-foot tall furred hyena and tried to think of something as a response.
“I um, I—”
Krshia sniffed at Erin and frowned.
“Perhaps you are afraid of Gnolls and Drakes? You do not like scales or fur?”
“What? No—I don’t mind that. I just—I’ve never—”
The Gnoll brightened.
“Oh? So you would not mind mating with one of my kind? It is good.”
“Well mind is—look Krshia, I really haven’t thought about this. Mating, I mean, having sex is something that I don’t know if I’m ready for. Here I mean. I uh, where would I start…?”
“Taking clothes off is a good first step. It works for me.”
Erin turned and glared at Selys. The Drake laughed as Krshia nodded to herself.
“Perhaps it is fear, then? The first time having sex with another not of your kind is odd. I remember my first Drake. It was odd, but exciting.”
Erin looked at Selys. The Drake was staring at Krshia.
“Selys. Have you…?”
Selys jumped. She looked around wide-eyed, not happy at being in the hot seat.
“What, me? No! I mean, I’ve just stuck with—there’s a lot of fur on Gnolls. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I thought Erin would like to meet one of my friends.”
“Drakes? No. If she is to break her wait, a Gnoll is best.”
“I’m not sure that’s true—”
“I have compared the two. I prefer my kind.”
“But that’s you. I think Erin should have a fair choice, that’s all.”
“Mm. But she should know what it is she chooses. There are differences, yes? It would be good to teach her.”
Erin stared at Selys and Krshia as the two talked and wondered if she could run away. Probably not. Krshia could track her down and she’d just continue the conversation when they next met. Unless Erin never came back to Liscor. That was an option.
Was it hot in the tavern? Erin looked around. She was sure it hadn’t been this warm when she walked in.
She caught sight of a Gnoll sitting just across from their table. He was a young…Gnoll, and male. He’d probably come here for a quiet meal, but now he was front-row to a conversation that he clearly wanted to hear and not hear at the same time.
Erin jumped and looked at Krshia. The Gnoll was smiling at her.
“We think you should learn of our kind, so you may find a partner to sleep with. It would be good to learn of in any case, and you will then have many opportunities, to mate, yes?”
She nearly said ‘no, please don’t tell me anything.’ But although part of Erin was horrified this conversation was taking place in public, another part of her was curious. Curious—not committed or anything. But since they were talking about that kind of thing…
“So there’s a big difference between Drakes and Gnolls?”
“And humans. We may walk on two feet, but we do some things very differently.”
Selys cleared her throat.
“Or so I’m told. I haven’t seen much.”
“Many things are different. Pleasurably so, but it is good to be warned. If you would mate, you should be ready. I can describe them for you, if you wish.”
Erin still had yet to touch her meal, but she picked up her drink and took a hefty swallow. It was one of the mildly alcoholic beverages on offer and right now she was wishing there was more alcohol in it.
“Male parts of course.”
“Oh. Um, right. Well—okay. Actually, I have a question about that. Do you, um, what do you call them? Male parts, I mean.”
Selys and Krshia exchanged a look and smiled.
“What is it that humans call their male parts?”
Erin told them. Selys frowned.
“Penis? Vagina? That sounds so…so…ew. It doesn’t sound good. Put the penis in the vagina? Is that what you humans say to each other when you’re doing it?”
“Well, we don’t say that. We have other…words.”
“Mm. I think I understand. Males make many names for their pride, is it not so? I have heard them call it their sword, or their spear. Although it is a weak spear if it is just made of flesh.”
She laughed loudly, and Erin was aware that the other guests in the room were listening to their conversation. Selys didn’t appear to notice.
“Really? I’ve heard—um, well, most Drakes call it the ‘second tail’.”
Selys blushed fiercely as Erin tried not to laugh. The Drakes in the room studiously avoided looking anywhere at the three females. Krshia didn’t even bother containing her laughter.
“It is a good way to say it! I have heard my kind call it their small fang. Very small, in some cases.”
Erin tried not to, but she had to laugh as well. Krshia smiled.
“They make much of their male parts, do they not? But Selys, now that we speak of small things I had a question for you.”
The Gnoll nodded as she bit into her bloody meal and chewed.
“I have heard it said that your people have not one, but two lower tails among your kind. It is said often among, but although I have checked, I have never seen two, only the one.”
Erin stared at Selys over her drink. She tried to imagine it and got very odd images in her head.
“That’s a common misconception. Drakes don’t have two. That’s lizard people.”
Selys scowled around her mug. She flicked her tail on the wooden floor angrily.
“We’re nothing like those freaks. We have one. I mean, I don’t have one but guys have one. Anyways, what would you do with two?”
“I can think of a use.”
Selys looked at Krshia blankly while Erin turned beet red. The Gnoll snorted at them.
“Younglings. Never mind. If you do not know yet, you will find out. Although maybe you have tried—?”
“Um, so how is it?”
Erin changed the subject frantically. She looked at Krshia and SEyls.
“You said you’ve um, been with humans and Drakes and Gnolls. Anything uh, stand out?”
Selys snorted into her food and Krshia laughed again.
“Much stood out, but not so much with humans. It was disappointing, the one time I tried.”
“Yes. I had heard humans were not so different than Gnolls or Drakes, but there is a difference down there.”
Krshia made a gesture that would have been immediately censored on television. Erin was fascinated, though.
“Yes. Humans are regrettably small.”
This was bad. Erin had somehow gotten sucked into the conversation. She hadn’t meant to, but her sense of embarrassment and shame had taken a hike for a while and she was now horribly, definitely interested in the topic at hand.
“Um, how small are we talking here?”
Krshia spread apart two fingers. Erin frowned.
“No—they’re not that small.”
“Are you sure? I have seen them for myself. Very small, yes? Hard to see.”
“Really? That’s so disappointing…”
“No—no, they get bigger. It’s a reproductive thing. Once the guy gets, um excited, it—”
Erin broke off. Krshia was grinning and Selys shook her head.
“We’ve seen it, believe me, Erin.”
The Gnoll nodded.
“Ah. They become larger? Then that explains much. The one I saw remained small. No matter what I did.”
“I suppose the guy was just…nervous.”
“It is regrettable. But at least his tongue still worked.”
Erin sucked in her lips as Selys suddenly found she was ready for another drink. Krshia smiled at her.
“So how large to they become, Erin Solstice? Large enough to be useful, I hope?”
Now she was on the spot. Erin turned red—well, redder. She was in a state of permanent blush, but she did her best and spread apart her hands.
“Um. This big?”
Selys and Krshia looked at Erin’s hands. Krshia shook her head.
“…No. Have you not ever seen one?”
“Well, it’s not as if I could measure—is it bigger?”
“Smaller, I hope.”
Selys murmured. She showed Erin a much smaller span with her hands.
“That’s normal. At least, it is among most Drakes. Not that I’m an expert.”
“Mm. This is what I have seen.”
Erin and Selys stared at Krshia’s hands. Half of the inn’s patrons – the male half – furtively peeked around their mugs.
“Huh. So Gnolls…”
“They have the biggest, yes.”
“Size isn’t everything.”
“Is that what humans say? Drakes don’t say that.”
“Neither do Gnolls. Size is good, yes? Too much is bad. But not enough is not enough.”
Krshia elbowed Erin.
“You would agree with that, yes? A good size makes much difference.”
Embarrassed, Erin took a long drink of her drink. Alcohol was good. It made all her embarrassment go away if she drank enough. But Krshia probably required a barrel, because she was still extolling the virtues of the proper penis.
“Mm. A good one is thick. Hard, strong—”
Selys sighed happily. Krshia and Erin looked at her. Erin’s cup was firmly anchored to her mouth, but she had lost her thirst completely.
She looked at Krshia. The Gnoll made a face.
“They are not spikes. But more like—ridges? Hard parts of flesh. It is not bad. Enjoyable, given time.”
“Ah. I see.”
Silence fell over the table for a few seconds. The Gnoll server took that moment to dart in, deliver the drinks and refills and run for it. Erin stared at her food. She’d eaten a bit of her plate, although she had no recollection of doing so.
After a moment Selys learned forwards and lowered her voice.
“That reminds me. I’ve been meaning to ask you this, Erin. I have a bet with a friend of mine. She says humans do it but I never believed her…”
A thousand images flashed through Erin’s mind, a thousand clicked internet links she regretted (and a few she didn’t). She braced herself as Selys hesitated. At last the Drake asked the question.
“Do humans really put it…in their mouths?”
Erin stared at Selys. The Drake was deadly serious. Erin looked around. Half a dozen males lowered their heads instantly. The other half were too slow and pretended to be ordering a drink.
Krshia and Selys both looked at Erin in disbelief. The girl shrugged awkwardly.
“What? Yeah, we—I mean humans do. Not me, but it happens.”
“Erin. That’s really disgusting.”
“Mm. It is unusual. But perhaps not so much?”
Krshia looked at Selys thoughtfully.
“What? But Krshia, just think about it. One of those? In your mouth?”
“Yes, but I have heard it said that Drakes use their tongues very well. Is that not so?”
Erin’s gaze was suddenly riveted to Selys’ mouth. Her long tongue flicked out as the Drake covered her mouth with her hand.
“That’s different! And I certainly haven’t—but the mouth? Do you eat it?”
Krshia made a face.
“That would be disgusting, yes? Surely—”
Both Drake and Gnoll stopped at the look on Erin’s face. She stared fixedly at one wall and said nothing. After a moment Selys cleared her throat and changed the topic.
“I just don’t understand it. It’s weird.”
“Oh come on. You’re saying Gnolls and Drakes don’t do that at all?”
Erin looked from Krshia to Selys.
“Why? I mean, I’m not saying it’s great but—”
“I think it would be hard to convince males to put anything in a female Gnoll’s mouth they did not wish to lose. It would be risky, even at best.”
Krshia bared her teeth and Erin saw her point. Erin had canines. Four, to be exact. Krshia’s mouth was all canine and very sharp to boot. She had very pronounced canine teeth, which made Erin think of a dog. Which hyenas were, if she remembered her biology right. Half dog, half cat or something.
Selys had pointed teeth too, and Erin wondered how sharp they were. She’d seen Selys bite through their meal of beef without any effort. Where Erin had to grind away at the occasional gristle, Krshia and Selys had easy chewed their way through the food.
“I see your point. Um. I guess it’s just a human thing. It goes the other way, too, you know.”
“Other way? Oh, you mean guys using their tongues. That happens with us.”
“They do that all the time. It is an important first part.”
“Long tongues. Very good.”
Erin shivered. She had goose bumps and the conversation was getting even more awkward.
“I uh, okay. That’s a lot of information. So—so there are big differences.”
“Not so big. All the parts are generally the same. It’s just the details that change.”
“Indeed. But if you were to have sex, I am sure you would enjoy it very much in any case.”
Suddenly the conversation was back to her sex life. Not a topic Erin was too keen on. She raised her hands defensively.
“Look. I appreciate the concern, but I don’t really know anyone in the city. I mean, okay, I know some people, but it’s not like I’m desperate or anything. I mean, who would I even…?”
“Are you saying I should um, date someone I know? Like Relc?”
Krshia shrugged, but Selys shook her head vehemently.
“What? Of course not. I mean, not unless you wanted to. And you could do a lot better than Relc. I mean, just look at him.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
Selys looked at Krshia, but the Gnoll looked blank. She sighed and tried to explain.
“Relc? Oh, he’s a soldier, Erin. He still is, even if he’s retired. He might be good for one night, but then he’ll be chasing someone else’s tail. Besides, he’s, you know…”
Selys’ tail lashed and she looked around before lowering her voice.
“Sort of ugly, you know?”
“Haven’t you seen his face? His jaw and the way the face looks just don’t match. And his scales…”
Selys glanced at her audience and realized she’d lost them.
“Well, trust me, he’s not a looker. Now, if you were talking about Olesm, I might see your point. He’s quite nice to look at.”
“He is? I mean, he is. So you’re saying…”
“Well, maybe. But there’s a lot of competition around him.”
Selys nodded seriously.
“He’s a [Tactician], smart, and he’s a got good prospects for a better job in the future. A lot of people I know are interested in him.”
“Hrr. He is acceptable, I suppose. If Erin was interested in him. Is that the case?”
“I hadn’t thought about it. Ever.”
“Well, is there anyone you are interested in?”
Erin had to think. She only knew a few other males.
“Um, well, there’s Pawn.”
Both Gnoll and Drake stared at her. They exchanged knowing looks.
“I didn’t mean that! I just meant he’s another guy. I’m not interested in him. At all.”
“That is good. I do not know anyone who would ever mate with an Antinium.”
“I’m not sure if they even have a way to have sex, to be honest. They seem pretty…smooth down there.”
“Right. And they’re bugs.”
“And I’m not into bugs.”
“Oh, I knew that.”
Erin narrowed her eyes at the other two. Selys cleared her throat.
“Well, who else is there?”
Krshia and Selys looked relieved.
“Well, if there is no one you know that you wish to mate with, it may be good to find one, yes? And we may help. We can tell you those who would be good at sex rather than those who are deficient.”
“I don’t want to judge, but that is pretty important. My friends all say it matters to how happy they are. I’ve heard some of their tail mates are—well, I don’t want to name names, but some of them hardly last any time at all.”
Krshia nodded, frowning seriously.
“I have had the same experience. Many night unsatisfied because he was unable to last. It is a frustrating thing.”
“Really? How long—or short is it for you, Krshia?”
The Gnoll considered the question.
“Hm. A short time would be…fifteen minutes? Good sex is usually half an hour or longer, yes? Usually closer to an hour, but there is not always enough time so…”
She glanced up and saw Erin and Selys staring at her.
“What? Much of the time takes place with the end, yes?”
Erin thought she remembered hearing how dogs had sex. But if Gnolls—her eyes swiveled to Selys and the two shared a moment of shared interest and horror. Selys looked at Erin.
“Half an hour. Do humans…?”
“I don’t think so. Um. Probably not. The longest video I watched was—”
Erin tried to suck the words back out of the air, but then she realized her audience.
“…No. I think the average is around five minutes?”
“I mean, they can go longer. Why?”
“I usually—I mean, Drakes usually go for around ten minutes. At least.”
“Ten minutes. Wow. That’s pretty impressive.”
“It’s nice. I wish they spent more time afterwards, but you know males. Once they’re done, they’re done.”
“Mm. It is good to hold each other afterwards, yes?”
Erin could see that. Or rather, she could see Krshia and some Gnoll doing cuddly dog things, or even embracing like humans. But when she looked at Selys and thought of two Drakes…the closest she could get to intimacy was rubbing each other with their scales. It didn’t sound pleasant. Sort of like sandpaper grinding against each other?
“Well, I can see you two get out a lot.”
“Not that much. I’m not—we’re just saying. It’s once a month.”
“Or once a week.”
“I haven’t found anyone good recently so it’s been sort of quiet.”
“I had sex yesterday. It was enjoyable, yes?”
Erin and Selys stared at Krshia. The Gnoll shrugged.
“You’re very…open about all that, Krshia.”
“My people, we have very good noses, yes? There is no use hiding such things so we have no need for modesty. And besides, smelling is good. It tells us many things.”
“Oh? Like what?”
“Like when we are in estrus. Ah—that means when we are in our mating period. Then males come to us. And we also know when we are pregnant. It is a good thing to know.”
“Right. Oh, right! Pregnancy! How do you deal with that?”
“What do you mean, Erin?”
“Well, um, you’re having sex, right? What if you get pregnant?”
There were certainly no condoms lying around here, and Erin was pretty sure that not a lot of mages would be specialized in birth control. Unless there was an [Gynecolomancer] class or something.
Krshia cocked her head at Erin.
“It is a simple matter. There is a tea we may brew that stops such things.”
Erin felt silly. Krshia nodded sagely.
“Mm. It is a good tea. Tasty. I gave you some to drink when you visited my home, do you not recall? You seemed to enjoy it.”
“I did? I did. Of course I did. And I drank it. Which is totally fine.”
“Yes, it is good. I will give you some herbs to brew your own. Not that you would worry with a Gnoll.”
“That is good. I uh, wouldn’t want to have a litter. Or lay an egg.”
“We don’t lay eggs! Again, that’s lizards you’re thinking of!”
“You don’t lay eggs? Really?”
Erin stared at Selys. The Drake squawked angrily at her.
“No! We’re Drakes, not lizards!”
That meant they were mammals, if Erin remembered her biology class right.
“Oh, sorry Selys. It’s just you know, I thought Drakes were like Dragons and…”
“We don’t lay eggs. We’re descendants of Dragons, but only in some ways. We don’t lay eggs or hibernate. We. Are. Not. Lizards.”
Selys’ tail lashed the ground angrily and she flicked her tongue out as she glared at Erin and Krshia. The other two exchanged silent glances, but said nothing. Selys took a long, soothing drink from her cup to steady her nerves.
“So, when would you like to have sex?”
Erin sprayed most of her drink on the floor, but she still covered Selys with quite a bit.
“Oh, gross. Erin!”
“It’s just a question. And it’s not like you have to grab the first guy you see. But we could introduce you to someone, nice, you know?”
“No. I don’t know. And I’m not going to—I’m far too busy to—”
“It would take just a moment, yes? We could leave and you meet several young ones I know. I am sure they would be eager to learn your scent.”
Erin stood up, agitated.
“Look it was fu—it was very nice talking to both of y—I’ve gotta go.”
She turned, and fled. Selys and Krshia watched Erin rush out of the tavern. The Drake picked up a napkin and started wiping her face.
“I think it was the idea of smelling that got to her. Humans don’t usually sniff each other.”
“Mm. They should more often. It is good to know what your partner smells like.”
“Well Erin’s not going to be smelling anything anytime soon if that’s how she reacts to meeting new guys.”
“This is true.”
The two paused, and looked at each other over the table. After a moment, Selys spoke.
“Fifteen copper pieces says she takes a Drake first.”
“Hrm. It is agreed. But you will lose the bet. I have a good young one in mind for Erin.”
“And I know a guy. Several guys, actually.”
“Well, we shall see who she picks.”
More silence. Selys picked at her plate. She wasn’t really hungry, anymore. Being covered in spit tends to do that to even the hungriest diner.
“…So. Half an hour? Really?”
Krshia grinned at Selys and snapped the bone on her plate with her paw. She began to lick at the marrow.
“Would you like to find out?”
The first suitor Erin met knocked on her door the next day. She opened the door and found a Gnoll grinning toothily at her, holding a bouquet of strange, smelly orange flowers. She recognized him. He was Tkrn, one of the city guardsmen.
She was tempted to close the door in his face. But instead, Erin put on a smile.
“Um, hi. It’s Tkrn, right? What can I uh, do for you?”
Tkrn, the friendly Gnoll guardsman who Erin wished was a little less friendly at the moment, smiled widely at Erin.
“I am here to give you a gift, Erin Solstice.”
He held out the bouquet. Erin recoiled as Tkrn shoved the noxious weeds in her face. Erin coughed.
Tkrn looked puzzled. He waved the flowers and Erin tried not to pass out.
“These are flowers. Humans like flowers, yes? I have chosen some that are especially smelly for you.”
“And why do you want me to have them?”
“I have been told you are seeking a mate. I am here to court you. For this, I must have flowers. That is how it is done between humans, no?”
It wasn’t her [Dangersense] that went off, but Erin’s natural instincts that started clanging in her head at this point. She stared at Tkrn and wondered whether she could just shut the door. No. That would probably be impolite.
She was tempted anyways, though. Erin glanced at the flowers.
They stank. Erin was reminded of dogwood, the trees that stank of rotting fish in every spring around her neighborhood. She pushed Tkrn’s offering aside and coughed twice.
“No thanks. I don’t want—I mean, humans don’t give each other flowers that much. Not anymore. I think. Flowers are nice. These are…smelly. But what would I do with them?”
“Humans don’t eat flowers.”
Tkrn stared at the flowers and scratched his head. Then he tossed them to one side.
“Well, I have more gifts! Here!”
He dug at a pack at his side and handed Erin a ring. She stared at it.
“That’s a ring.”
“Yes! It is what humans have before they can mate, yes?”
Erin stared at the ring. It wasn’t even set with a precious gem. It was a nice ring. A wooden, carved ring one might buy as a souvenir. She knew she shouldn’t blame Tkrn, but she felt insulted it was so cheap.
She glared at Tkrn.
“Krshia put you up to this, right?”
His eyes went wide, and Tkrn adopted an expression of unconvincing innocence.
“No. I am here of my own free will.”
“Really. Krshia may have mentioned to me that you were looking for mates—”
“I’m not looking for mates.”
Erin said it flatly. Tkrn looked disappointed.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Fairly sure. Very sure. Anyways, I don’t have fur or—or any other Gnoll parts. I’m probably hideous to you, right?”
He grinned at her again. Erin was caught by his wide spread of sharp teeth. Yes, she could definitely see why oral sex only went one way in Gnoll culture.
“I find fleshy things attractive.”
Now that was a statement to give Erin goosebumps, and she wasn’t sure if it was in a good way or not. It was definitely creepy either way, though.
Tkrn smiled at Erin again.
“You have very good teeth. And your hips…are wide. Very fertile, yes?”
“If you accept my gifts, I would mate with you. Or if you wish, we could get to know each other.”
“Get to know each other? How? I mean, I’m not interested but—what do Gnolls do on their um, first date?”
The Gnoll perked up and smiled even wider.
“We could learn each other’s scent. I could smell you.”
“Smell me? Um…”
Erin’s mind flashed ahead of the conversation. She thought about dogs and where they smelled each other.
“Oh no. Hell no.”
Tkrn looked confused, and hurt. Erin raised her hands.
“No. Bad—bad Gnoll. I’m not interested. Go away.”
“Are you sure? I could lick you, too. Or—I could kill something and bring it for you!”
“What about grooming? I could groom your hair. You humans don’t have much, but I’m told you have more underneath your clothing. If you—”
“No! No grooming, no smelling, no licking, and no killing! Go away!”
“But I haven’t even—”
Erin waved her hands at Tkrn, patience exhausted. He looked hurt, but she pointed.
“Go back to the city! And tell Krshia I don’t want a mate! I mean boyfriend! Go away! I mean it!”
Tkrn stared at Erin. When he saw she wasn’t about to budge, his face fell, and his ears drooped. He looked so much like a dejected dog Erin had a nearly uncontrollable urge to reach out and scratch him behind the ears. But she didn’t. That could lead to petting, and there was petting and…petting. She wasn’t about to entertain the idea of either at the moment.
“I understand. I am sorry to have taken your time.”
“Um, right. Thanks?”
Erin closed the door, heart pounding. Why did she say ‘thanks’? It was better than saying sorry, at least. She didn’t hear anything from outside for a few seconds, and then Tkrn moved away.
Well, at least he wasn’t going to stay and howl outside her window. That was probably a racist thought, but Erin didn’t care. She was going to hit Krshia—
Erin thought about Krshia. The Gnoll looked like a basketball player on steroids covered in a carpet. She was going to yell at Krshia, politely, and at a distance.
At least Tkrn hadn’t pressed his case, though. No meant no even in this world, which was good. Very good.
Erin sighed and turned to go back to squishing blue fruits into juice. But she paused. Was something…?
The faint splattering sound was her first clue, but the smell quickly confirmed it. Erin opened the door.
Tkrn paused as he faced the wall of her inn, a few feet away from the door. Erin’s eyes were drawn to his crotch, but another, more pressing question came out of her mouth.
“Are you…peeing on my door?”
The second suitor was suave and smooth-talking, a lady’s man, except that he was a Drake. His name was Culyss and Erin liked him even if she didn’t like him.
He met her at the door with a small gift – a necklace with a piece of metal hammered into the shape of a pawn chess piece of all things – and charmed her with a few jokes. Before she knew it, he’d invited her to invite him in and they were sitting in her inn, talking.
At some point she must have asked him about his tail. Erin couldn’t help it. It was a tail, and unlike the Gnoll’s fluffy tails which she was used to, the tails of Drakes were long and flexible.
Culyss seemed surprised by the question, and even more so when Erin asked if she could touch it. She was curious what it was like. His eyes went wide for a moment, but he agreed more readily than she would have thought.
That was how she ended up sitting at a table as he faced away from her, stroking his tail, poking it, and feeling it ripple underneath her hands.
It was fascinating for Erin, not least because it turned out the tail was pretty muscular for something that Drakes dragged along behind them to keep their balance. IT could flex, twist, and even manipulate objects if a Drake put his or her mind to it.
And it had bones. Erin pressed at the tail and Culyss made an odd sound in his chair.
“Gently. Gently! Ah…”
“Oops, sorry. Am I hurting you?”
Erin looked up in concern, but Culyss had a faraway look in his eyes. He shook his head vehemently.
“No—no. Please continue.”
She did. The scales were fun to touch, and Culyss kept twitching every time she stroked the tail. It was like having a weird pet snake in her lap and Erin was fascinated when he curled the tip around her hand.
Eventually, she got bored and Culys stopped moaning. He got up hastily from his chair as she released his tail.
“Thanks for letting me do that.”
“What? Oh, no.”
HE shook his head at Erin.
“Thank you. I’m ah, I, ah, should go.”
Erin was disappointed, but Culyss seemed insistent. He was also covering his groin with his tail.
“I will return. Later. I would love to further our relationship.”
They had one? But Culyss wasn’t Tkrn and he was friendly enough. He bid her farewell at the door, smiling warmly at her.
“It was very nice to meet you.”
Erin blinked at him.
It took about two hours for Erin to realize what had happened. Her first clue was when she wondered what a healthy young male would need to cover, and then her second clue came when she wondered whether Drake’s tails were sensitive. Her third clue was when Selys practically kicked down her door.
“You stroked his tail? Erin! It was only a first date!”
“I didn’t know! I didn’t know!”
Screaming ensued. When Selys asked Erin if she’d at least enjoyed it, Erin threw a chair at her. But that was mostly to cover her blushes.
After Selys had left, Erin buried her face in her hands, ran around the inn until she tripped over a chair, and then curled into a ball in the corner and tried to will the last hour into not having happened.
Ten minutes might have passed, or perhaps an hour. Erin was brought out of her reverie by a sharp poke to the side. She yelped.
Rags poked Erin until the girl uncurled from her ball and glared at the small Goblin.
Rags pointed at one of the tables and glared at Erin.
“Oh, right, today’s chess day, is it?”
Erin sat up. Her face was still red, and she felt like burying her head in the ground. But chess was chess, and at least in chess she could forget.
That was how she ended up playing Rags, talking about the entire sorry affair as the small Goblin agonized over each chess move.
“It wasn’t like that when I was younger. I mean, most of the guys I met outside of school were in chess clubs or at tournaments.”
Rags glanced up at Erin as the other girl took her bishop. The Goblin scowled, which Erin took as an invitation to keep talking.
“Sometimes they stared at my breasts, but those guys usually lost. The serious ones and I got along fine. Chess is chess, y’know? They hit on me a lot, but I wasn’t interested.”
Erin paused. She had to be honest.
Her opponent stared down at the chess board. She was in checkmate. Rags made a sound of disgust and began resetting the pieces.
“Oh, sure, there were some guys I liked. But if I started dating them, it always became about whether I was better than they were. If a girl was better than they were…”
Erin sighed despondently. The pickings got pretty slim around the 2,000 Elo level, regardless of gender. And she wasn’t into older guys.
“I sort of thought I’d meet someone cool at a chess tournament one day, or in college. I never met anyone else really exciting anywhere else.”
Except online. Erin vividly recalled mysterio_Gamer12, who she’d had a relationship online with. They’d met through chess games and she’d been certain he was a handsome guy.
…That was until she found out that mysterio was actually a Polish girl who thought she was a guy.
“That was one awkward Skype conversation.”
Rags glared at the board. It wasn’t Erin’s inane remarks that bothered the Goblin, so much as the fact that even when Erin was chatting away she still could wipe the floor with any opponent.
Erin sighed despondently as she took another of Rag’s pawns to add to her growing collection.
“It’s all so—so sexual, here. I mean, overtly sexual. It’s right in the open. Some Gnolls don’t even have pants, just loincloths.”
She moved another piece and Rags nearly flipped the chess board.
“And now Culyss—I didn’t know stroking tails was how Drakes, um, expressed affection. Selys was saying that he’d be quite happy to show me tricks with his tail. And Krshia said that Tkrn was just marking my inn so other Gnolls knew he was courting me. Does—does that mean every time a Gnoll decides he likes me he’ll just start peeing on my walls?”
Rags took Erin’s queen. Erin checkmated Rag’s king. The Goblin threw up her hands and shrieked.
“That’s the game.”
Erin watched as Rags began slamming pieces back on the board.
“You don’t have to worry about all that, do you?”
Rags looked up at Erin warily.
“Sex, I mean.”
All she got was a blank stare in return. It occurred to Erin for the first time that Rags might not actually know what she was talking about.
“You know. How babies are made? You do know how that works, right?”
Rags shook her head slowly. Erin hesitated. Now that she thought about it, how old was Rags? Old enough to know about the birds and the bees? But then, did Goblins really tell each other about that?
Maybe she should mention it. Rags was a chieftain of her Goblin tribe, after all. That had to mean she got some advances.
“Um. Okay. Wow. How should I put this?”
Erin played one more game with Rags as she tried to explain about how sex worked. Halfway through the game, Rags looked up, dropped her chess piece, and stared at Erin.
“It’s true. That’s how it works. And then a baby pops out nine months later. For humans, anyways.”
The Goblin backed away, mouth open in horror.
“Well it’s not like you have to do that. Look, it’s perfectly natural!”
Erin raised her hand but the Goblin shook her head. She stumbled over a chair and then turned and ran towards the door.
“You can use protection! I mean—”
It was too late; the Goblin was already running for the hills. Erin stared at the empty doorway and sighed.
“Oops? But maybe it’s a good thing she knows.”
The final consequence of Erin’s impromptu health lesson came tomorrow when Culyss returned for a second date. Erin was hiding in her inn on the second floor, pretending not to be home. She’d spotted him walking up the hill, and she was dreading the conversation.
What would she say? ‘Oh, hello Culyss. Sorry, but I didn’t mean to give you a tail-job, I was just curious.’ It sounded even worse in Erin’s head, but she knew she’d have to say something.
As it turned out, Erin never had to have a painful conversation of any kind. There was pain of course, but it only happened to Culyss.
The Drake was knocking on the door of the inn when he heard the high-pitched screaming. He turned around and managed to scream once before the mob of angry Goblins overwhelmed him.
The small group of Goblins yanked him off his feet and began beating him with sticks. Culyss shouted for help as his gift of delicate soaps were trampled into the grass. The Goblins shrieked with fury as they pounded him.
Erin watched from her window. As far as she could tell, all of the Goblins were female, but it was hard to be sure. It was the small clues she picked up on. The female Goblins were a bit smaller than the males ones, usually had more clothing (although this was not a hard and fast rule), had more of a slant to their eyes and tended not to pick their noses as much. But her real instincts told her it was how savagely they were beating poor Culyss.
Male Goblins tended to fight as dirty as they could in a life-or-death battle. But the female Goblins here seemed to be aiming exclusively for the Drake’s groin. Even the most pissed-off male would probably have held off at jumping up and down on Culyss’ crotch while the other Goblins held his legs apart.
After a few minutes of hurt, Culyss managed to roll out of the mess of Goblins and run for it. Erin watched the other Goblins chase him back towards the city. Well. It looked like Rags had explained the link between sex and babies to the rest of her tribe.
“And all this time none of them realized?”
Maybe they already had known. Maybe this was just some good-old fashioned revenge on males in general. Erin wasn’t sure whether to applaud the Goblins or feel bad about Culyss. She settled for making herself a cup of blue juice and sipped at it in the privacy of her inn.
Now she just wondered how she was going to explain to Rags about the tea. Maybe pictures would help?
Culyss never came back to the inn. Erin was happily alone, and only had the occasional beat-up Goblin meekly following an indignant (and empowered) Rags for company. That state of affairs lasted for two days, until Selys and Krshia came knocking on her door.
Neither one of them was happy. There was apparently the matter of the unresolved bet, and Erin was indignant that she’d been bet upon in the first place.
“It was just for fun, Erin!”
Selys protested as she hid behind Krshia. Erin hesitated, chair still raised over her head. Krshia sighed and gently took the chair away from her.
“It is regrettable, yes? Tkrn and Culyss were not ideal, but they would have been good for a few nights at least.”
Erin glared at Krshia, cheeks red.
“I said, I didn’t want any—I’m fine where I am!”
“But you are angry. Mating would help, yes?”
“Oh come on, Erin. We just wanted to make you feel better! And Culyss did like you, even before you…you know…”
“I don’t want to hear it. That never happened!”
“I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s not like you’re a half-elf prude or something. What’s wrong with a bit of sex, Erin?”
Erin paused. She stared at Selys, who was glaring at her, half-offended. She could feel herself blushing. Erin stared down at her feet. When she spoke, it was quietly.
“It’s nothing. I know you two mean well, but…it’s just—I haven’t—I know how it works but I’ve never actually—”
Krshia and Selys exchanged a glance. Suddenly, everything clicked for the two of them.
Krshia scratched at her head, and spoke frankly.
“I made a mistake. Tkrn—he was not a wise choice. I told him of you because I thought he would be good. For relaxing, yes? He is good, but not good enough for a first time, yes?”
“And Culyss is—yeah. He’s not first time material. Sure, he gets around but that’s for experienced girls. What you need is—someone else. Someone better.”
Erin sniffed. Suddenly, Krshia and Selys were being very understanding. They left her alone.
“It’s not like I don’t want to give it a shot, it’s just…”
They came back an hour later. And this time, they brought gifts.
Horrible, horrible gifts.
Erin stared down at the object Krshia was pressing into her hands. She accepted it, only because the other alternative was to have it keep pushing into her breasts. She weighted it in her hands.
“Oh my god. This isn’t what I think it is, is it?”
Krshia smiled encouragingly at Erin.
“What else could it be, I wonder? It is for you, Erin. Until you find a mate, this will do.”
“And I have one too!”
Selys waved her ‘gift’ in the air and Erin’s eyes tracked it. It was almost hypnotic. The Drake offered it to Erin, but Erin really didn’t want to take it.
“You think I need this. Both of you?”
Selys and Krshia beamed at her. Erin stared down at the wooden instruments in her hands and tried not to look or feel them in her hands. If she had to categorize the two, she had a…a Drake one, and a Gnoll one. The Gnoll one was bigger. It was fairly heavy in Erin’s hands and she stared at it, mesmerized.
It was very realistic. Erin stared down at the large bulge halfway down the replica. She was almost completely sure that guys didn’t have a knot. But it seemed Gnolls resembled dogs in more ways than one.
Krshia smiled and nodded as Erin looked over her gift.
“It is carved well, and polished, yes? Much care has been taken so there will be no splinters while using.”
“And you can wash them.”
“Mm. That is helpful, yes? And this way, you need no one else to be happy.”
Erin stared at her gifts. She didn’t know what to say. She was literally speechless.
She looked up. The Drake and the Gnoll were still smiling at her, probably expecting her to say something about their well-chosen gifts.
Erin opened her mouth, smiled, hesitated, and then slammed the door shut. Krshia and Selys stared at the wooden door as they heard Erin bolt the door.
“Do you think she’s mad?”
“Mm. She is shy. But I will let you know if she uses the gifts. It will likely be today or tomorrow. It is not good to be stored up, yes?”
“I suppose so. But um, maybe don’t tell me. I don’t need to know/”
“As you wish. But it was a very good one you bought. Very real.”
“I know, right? There’s a great store that makes them. You have to ask because the shopkeeper obviously can’t put them on display, but they do all sizes.”
“Really? I shall have to visit this store for myself.”
Erin listened to Krshia and Selys talking from behind the door. It sounded like they were going to visit it right away. And Krshia said she’d know when Erin used—
Well, that made things simple. She couldn’t go into the city…well, ever now.
Erin covered her face in her hands. That was a mistake. The two replicas bumped into her face and she immediately lowered them. She stared at the two long, wooden, hard…she put them on a table and turned around.
Toren stared at Erin, dustrag in hand. She froze in place. His twin blue flames stared first at the wooden penii in her hand and then at her face.
Even though he was dead, the skeleton somehow managed to judge Erin with his eyes. Or maybe it was just her. Erin scowled. She threw one of the dildos and he dodged it.
“What are you looking at?”