Chapter 5.

Chapter 6: Men's talk

"I have one pressing question" says Helge-Dag gravely, "which I really hope you will answer before anything else." "We shall do our best" assures Entandil, the middle-aged mage. "OK, then. Where is the bathroom?"

Even the mage smiles. The two girls are on their feet simultaneously, saying "I'll show you" as one. Helge-Dag does not trust that eagerness; they probably have some idea for humiliating him. Besides, perhaps the technology - or a sufficiently advanced magic that cannot be distinguished from technology - is so alien that he needs a very detailed explanation. If so, he'd rather not have the girls along. "If it's OK by y'all, I'd rather have Birni show me."

The girls somehow manage to express alternately both disappointment and amusement. But the big werebear boy just nods slowly, almost hesitantly.

The bathroom, or outhouse rather, is neither magical nor hi-tech. But it has running water. Sand is used instead of soap, and a dry moss instead of paper. He doesn't need to have it demonstrated, and Birni even has the good sense to leave the room on his own accord. Bear or no, he seems more normal than the girls; well, Xarya in particular.

When Helge-Dag leaves the bathhouse, he finds Birni sitting quietly on a stone bench outside the main building, facing the backyard they crossed. He rises silently as Helge-Dag appears. "Thank you. Sorry to have bothered you, but the girls seem a bit ... impulsive." Birni grins. "They can be that. Not on assignment, but when facing food or pretty boys, yes." "So they are like that with you too?" "Well, for one thing I am hardly pretty ..." "Handsome, though. I can't imagine they don't find you very good-looking." Strangely, the young bear-boy looks down and for a moment even seems to blush. "Thank you. Not like you, though. And anyway, they would give up after they learned about ... what I am."

Helge-Dag looks at him in surprise. He has seen no hint of racism in their dealing with Birni so far. But the werebear boy seems quite serious, yet not bitter. "Uh, Birni? Would you be offended if I asked just a couple questions about ... what you are?" "Nah, it's all right, I guess." "I'm just curious. You're the first one I've actually met, you know." "I didn't know." "Well, you are. You mention that the girls treat you differently. Do most people do that? Do you feel different? Are you ever bitter about being born that way?"

Birni shakes his head. "Nah. Not bitter; not really proud or ashamed; I am what I am. Of course it really limits my romantic life, but that's pretty much it. I'm not that different, you know." "I wondered about that. In my world, you would probably not have been considered really human. Religious people would consider you an abomination, and ignorant folks - that's most folks - would probably keep their kids indoors while you were around. Some would want to kill you, others keep you locked up while they studied you like some kind of animal. I'm really sorry about that, and I sure don't feel that way at all. I just hope it's not like that here."

The brown-haired boy shakes his head sadly. "I had heard rumors about things like that in the World of the Dead God. I'm glad I live here." "Yeah. I guess this world is a richer, more varied place because of people like you." "Thank you. That's ... touching. I'm glad you see it that way. I was afraid you might find it awkward ... you know, with the Sisters too ..." "They're actually sisters?" "No, not really." "Oh. OK. Back to you. There's something I'm wondering. How do you do it? Does it just happen, or do you like concentrate on it? And ... uh, do you have to take off your clothes first?"

Birni stares at him slack-jawed. Then he bursts into laughter. "I thought you were a shy one, but you're almost as bad as them! But trust me, it won't 'just happen' unless you want it. I do recommend you keep your clothes on, though!" "Me? Why?" "Because it is the decent thing to do?" "No, I mean why would I take them off?" "Well, because you were the one to start talking about taking them off." "Sorry. I meant if you were, like, changing, would you had to take off your clothes?" "Well, that goes without saying! Would not you?" "Sorry. I'm really not good at talking. I did not mean to offend you, quite the opposite. Sorry." "I'm not exactly offended, but I am confused." "I'm so sorry. Let's just get back in, before I do anything more stupid."

"There you two are!" exclaims Xarya as they entered. "We were starting to wonder what you two were doing!" "Just talking a little."

Chapter 7.

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To the rest of my Chaos Node.