Tales Of The Foxtaur Clans #1

Malena's Choice

by Bernard Doove © 1998

Sometimes I wondered if I had made the right decision to have a child so young. The kits always looked adorable and were a great talking point amongst the vixens of my community, but the amount of time and effort needed to raise one never seemed so great until I had one of my own. I watched Blaze, my cub, play with the others in the playgroup. It was my turn to look after the pack of little terrors, trying to watch every move they made as they ran around, wrestled, climbed and generally made the innocent mischief of foxtaur kits everywhere.

I sighed. I suppose I was only feeling regrets because this had been a particularly trying day, especially when one kit had followed mine high up a tree and couldn't get down again. What the youngling didn't understand is that my cub had a certain advantage that he and his other playmates didn't have. You see, Blaze was a chakat kitten. Hir sire was my lifemate, Goldfur, who was a special kind of felitaur known as a chakat. My mate was special in many ways, but the most remarkable was that shi is a hermaphrodite, both sexes in one. My cub had all the characteristics of hir sire, being a herm also, but importantly, shi was also primarily feline and climbing came naturally to hir. We foxtaurs could climb reasonably well, much better than our non-morphic cousins, but in no way could we match a feline. Not that it had stopped Laskar from trying. I had had to call for a ladder to rescue the kit from the high branches where he had gotten stuck. Naturally Blaze didn't understand the problem. Shi had no difficulties and couldn't comprehend why hir playmate couldn't cope.

Blaze saw me watching hir and bounded over, hir arms upraised, wanting a cuddle. My heart melted with this and I gladly gave hir one and a couple of licks on the cheek. All the joy and fulfilment that shi had given me since hir birth came back to me then. I had been just over eighteen when shi was conceived and shi was born just before my nineteenth birthday. I hadn't regretted my choice at all. Goldfur continued to show how shi loved and cherished our relationship every time shi came back from one of hir space voyages. My brother Garrek, hir first lifemate, travelled with hir and gave hir all his love and attention, but when shi was back on Earth, I gave hir all the female companionship shi needed and in return shi fulfilled my needs.

Some people might think that I got the worse end of the deal, but those people aren't familiar with foxtaur society. With females outnumbering the males by about three to one, a vixen only has a small chance of scoring a permanent mate for whom she truly cares. Many others simply have to settle for the occasional tryst, secondary mating status, or even just an arranged mating for conceiving a cub. I considered myself fortunate to have co-mate status with my brother, although even I realised that Garrek came first in Goldfur's eyes. I never begrudged this because I was the one who asked hir to be my mate, and shi never stinted in hir affection for me. And on top of this, I got to keep my independence.

The playgroup started breaking up as the kits' mothers came to collect them. Most of them gave me a smile or exchanged a bit of conversation with me if they had the time. A few though, still disapproving of a foxtaur/chakat mating, basically ignored me. I didn't object to this because they kept their actions non-confrontational and didn't try to stir up trouble for me, as Ketta had. They were entitled to their views, but I hoped to eventually sway them. That was one of the reasons that I chose to remain at Mountain Glade village while my mate was on assignment in space, rather than stay at hir den in Australia. I wanted to show that the chakats were a blessing to the community and that I was proud to have such a child. My other main reason was that I wanted the freedom to pursue my own goals. True, motherhood had slowed up achievement of part of that, but I hadn't expected to find a mate so soon when I had made my plans.

Blaze played until the last of the cubs had been collected by the vixens, then shi trotted over and gave me a nuzzle, mewing for a little attention. Shi was still too young to start talking, but shi was nearly a match in most other things for foxtaur cubs a year older than hir. I picked hir up to carry hir in my arms for a little while and we shared some cuddles as I wandered off to the community centre. After a few hours of cub-sitting, I needed a break. I went to the café and ordered a big hot chocolate with heaps of whipped cream. It was my drink of indulgence and I enjoyed every bit of it. Thankfully, Blaze was tired and curled up into a little ball of fur at my feet and slept.

I was really starting to feel relaxed when another vixen plonked herself down in front of me. She was an old friend of mine, Fellana Blacktail. She was one of my staunchest supporters and was often found around my home playing with my cub. I think she might be secretly entertaining the idea of a chakat mate also. She was also my best source of information as to who was saying what about whom. Sure, a lot of it was just gossip, but I was often as bad the others in wanting to exchange that. However, she also had the knack of finding out some hidden truths about people and had warned me about a few people who had made it their business to "do something" about the ever-increasing chakat presence in the community.

Today was one of those days when Fellana wore her serious face, which meant that she had bad news. I waited until she got the drink that she had ordered and had taken a couple of swigs, then pestered her to start talking. It wasn't good. It seems that all the "concerned" citizens had finally banded together to put a motion towards the council that the introduction of chakats into the community would be potentially damaging to the pure foxtaur families. I sighed. How a few chakats could do this to a whole clan escaped my comprehension. I wished my people were as loving and tolerant as my mate's. I had honestly thought that after the conversion of Ketta to a supporter of chakat kind, we would not be having these problems any more. Now it was obvious that she hadn't managed to stir up the ill feelings all by herself. Nevertheless, they represented only a small portion of the entire population and it was one of my avowed goals to ensure that my mate's family, and now Ketta's also, could find themselves at ease here and be accepted without reservation. It was my intention to stay here until I was satisfied. I only hoped that could be achieved by the time that I completed the training in my chosen career, the other reason that I wished to stay here at Mountain Glade for now.

I said goodbye to Fellana, woke up Blaze and headed for home. On the way there, I turned over in my mind my current projects for my apprenticeship in herd management. I had chosen this field because it not only let me get out in the field a lot, much as my sister-in-law Forestwalker did, but also required a lot of skills that satisfied my thirst for knowledge. Many people thought that, just because we preferred to hunt for our food, we killed animals at random. In fact, all the food species, such as deer and waterfowl, were closely monitored. Animals were routinely checked for diseases and predation, herded into better pastures, or even culled if they outgrew their resources. It required many skills including some knowledge of veterinary science, biology and hunting ability. Herd managers ensured that all hunters had prime stock with which to feed the entire village. I had a lot to learn, but that also meant that I would be around with my chakat family for some time, and I would spend that time also working towards good relations between them and the foxtaurs.

A greeting yip announced the presence of another foxtaur. I smiled when I recognised Reskar. He was the tod who had taken my virginity. Our relationship had never grown beyond a childhood infatuation for each other though and it wasn't until I had met Goldfur that I really found myself a true mate. We were still good friends though and I was happy to chat with him for a while as we strolled in the direction of my house. Some memories were renewed, many of them quite pleasant. I had told everyone that needed to know that he had helped me celebrate my coming-of-age soon after the ceremony. What I hadn't told anyone except my mother was that it wasn't the first time that we had made love. He had been there when I had the need and fulfilled it willingly, if rather amateurishly. Neither of us knew how to make love properly and, worse yet, because I was a virgin, there had been the pain of first penetration as he ruptured my hymen. Truth to tell, the first time wasn't much fun for me, but I had been in first heat and needed the relief that only mating could bring. You see, foxtaur vixens always have a very strong first oestrus. Ignoring it is almost impossible, so there were only two courses to take: have sex or use special drugs to suppress it. If a vixen tried to ignore it, the stress could cause her to get very sick. In fact, although only in rare extreme cases, she could die from shock induced by the stress. I had had an early first oestrus, before my coming-of-age. I had been socialising with Reskar for some time and we had flirted with the idea of being lovers. I decided to ask him to mate with me to relieve my need and he accepted. Of course he wore a condom as I certainly didn't want to get pregnant yet! The first time was almost the last. His clumsiness was only matched by my naivete and I was left dissatisfied. The only good thing was that I was no longer driven to distraction by sexual need. Still, despite this, I gave the relationship another shot after the ceremony. It was a lot better for me this time, but it was all over and done with so quickly that I knew that there had to be more to it than that. We just let things die down after that, and it wasn't long after that I met Goldfur and found out how to truly make love. I had never forgotten though that Reskar had been there for me when I needed it and hadn't taken advantage when he could have done so. I cherished him as a friend and still occasionally playfully flirted with him, but purely as a friend. He too had found a better match with another vixen, although they hadn't formalised their mating yet.

We parted company at the laneway leading to my house. I gave him a hug and a nuzzle and asked him to give my regards to his vixen-friend. I got home to find that my father had arrived home early. He greeted me and then bent over to hug his grandchild who had rushed over to him as soon as shi saw him. He and Blaze were great buddies. Rikandor was a doting grandfather and spent lots of time playing with hir. I had to smile to myself every time I saw this because I remembered how reserved he had been when Garrek had chosen Goldfur as his mate. He had been completely and utterly converted to the mixed mating, so much so that, when I had asked Goldfur to be my mate also, he had totally supported my choice. Now that he had two grandchildren, he was a very happy tod. Even though Eudora was the first, Blaze was his favourite simply because shi was always home with him while Eudora was always with hir mother, wherever shi happened to be. The cub could get away with just about anything while under his supervision and I had to watch out that shi didn't end up getting spoiled.

My mother had dinner ready soon after I arrived. I nursed Blaze while I waited. Shi would be reliant on milk for at least a year before starting to be weaned, and I was going to fully enjoy nourishing my firstborn that way, but I certainly wasn't going to miss how hir sharp baby teeth nipped at my nipples! Feeding Blaze during hir first months had been a bit of a problem. As a chakat cub, shi needed some substances only produced in chakat milk. Mine was good enough for a while, but those trace nutrients had to be provided regularly. While my mate was on Earth, shi naturally shared the nursing duties, as all chakat sires do. However, while shi was on duty and light-years away, I needed an alternative. If I was staying in Australia with Goldfur's family, Quickpaw was often there when I needed hir. But as I spent most of my time in my home village, I had to arrange to get some expressed chakat milk sent to me. It wasn't as big a problem as it sounded, but it was just one of many things that I had not anticipated when I chose to have a chakat's cub. Shi was growing up strong and healthy though, so apparently we had done everything right.

Over dinner, I discussed what I had learned about the move against cross-species mating. My father was extremely aggravated and, as usual, had to be calmed down by my mother. When the matter could be calmly discussed again, we decided that we should start a counter-movement that promoted the virtues of mixed matings and would put a counter petition to the village council. We all knew many who would support our cause. Indeed, that was something that I had been working on since my cub had been born. It was time to start reaping the benefit of that groundwork. When I went to bed that night, I found that I was excited at the coming confrontation. Perhaps things had been a bit too quiet for me. I had never backed away from a confrontation and had always aired my views, even when it caused my brother to squirm in embarrassment. This had been building for a while and so had my anticipation. At last I was going to be able to do something about it. Let them take their best shot. I knew that I had both justice and common sense on my side.

After dinner, I played with my little sister, Neesha. She was now about two and a half years old and seemed to be determined to follow in my footsteps. She was bright and lively and often played with my daughter. The three of us often got a lot of exercise, working off the full stomach from dinner. The beauty of this was that they were both tired out so much, they could be put to bed soon afterwards and they would both sleep soundly until morning. This gave my parents and myself some uninterrupted rest. My father made himself comfortable on a lounge mat and I sat down beside him. He was tutoring me on some of the aspects of herd management. He was a senior supervisor and had quite a wealth of experience to pass onto me. However, where he had specialised in land management, I had chosen biology as my vocation. I rather enjoyed these times spent learning together. It brought me closer to my father and made learning both easier and more enjoyable.

Of course I also spent a great deal of time with my mother. As we were both mothers of young cubs, we frequently ended up going to many places together. I also liked to watch as she created musical instruments. She had some talent for playing the flute and had taught Garrek how to play, but her abilities were modest. Where she excelled, though, was in the creation of those flutes and other instruments. One large room of the house was set aside as her workshop and it was filled with the raw materials of all the instruments that she made. She was famous for the unique string instruments for which foxtaurs of many clans came seeking. I sometimes thought that she put so much heart and soul into those instruments out of frustration due to her inability to master playing them. She derived her satisfaction from true artists wringing the musical perfection out of her outstanding products. Many a player had given my mother a private concert of their repertoire in thanks for making their kanti or tenga guitars.

There was a knock at the front door and I heard my brother Miktar answer it. Moments later, he walked through the lounge with a young vixen who gave us both a cheery smile and a wave before following Miktar to his room. I smiled as I noted that my brother was starting to grow up and finding interest in the opposite sex. He had always been a keen athlete and loved to run and jump just for the hell of it, but now he trained for sporting events and to show off to the vixens who'd started considering him boyfriend material. He still wore his irrepressible smile but it was taking on a more knowing air. My brother was taking full advantage of every moment of the life granted to him when Forestwalker saved him from drowning. In a way, the accident did him good because it gave him a better appreciation for life and his zest for living tended to rub off on his friends and acquaintances.

After my tutoring session, I finally relaxed with a book. Time seemed even more precious to me nowadays and I seldom got the chance to read any more. I loved reading tales of fantasy and daydreamed of magicians, dragons, princesses and heroes. And no, I didn't think of myself as one of those princesses but as a dashing heroic vixen out to save the day! Ah well, we all have our private fantasies. Tonight I lost myself in one of those worlds, for tomorrow I'd need to face the real world and the challenges that I expected. I went to bed reasonably early that night. I curled up in my den with my cub for company. The one thing that I disliked about my life at home was that I had gotten used to having a mate to share my den and it felt somewhat empty without another warm furry form to cuddle up with. My cub and I slept well that night and dreamed happy dreams.

My mother woke me early so that I could have plenty of time to get ready. How she managed to wake up at the same time each day without an alarm was a trick that I had yet to master. I had plenty of time to freshen up and brush my fur and do the same for Blaze before breakfast, then we were set for the day. Today was a study day at the village school where I was learning the more complex sciences for my career. I took Blaze to my mother's workroom where a portion had been fenced off into a very large playpen which shi shared with Neesha. Jaleth liked to spend time with her child and grandchild. This way she could do that and keep an eye on them while she worked at making her instruments. I hugged and nuzzled my cub in farewell and trotted off to school. I wanted to get there a bit early and get a head start because I fully anticipated being interrupted later on.

I was quite enjoying a class on cervine biology when the summons from the council elders arrived. The official form said, "Your testimony is required in regards to an official complaint to the council with regards to the inclusion of non-foxtaurs into our society." Hmmph! What high sounding words for what was basically an attempt to bar any more matings with chakats, and perhaps even get rid of me and my brother. I made arrangements to get the data from the rest of my classes for later study, then made my way quickly to the council chambers. Sure enough, when I got there, several of the vixens who had been harassing me and Goldfur were gathered already. They gave me some smug looks , then turned away and ignored me. However, there were plenty of others there to support me, including my father as it turned out. I saw him there chatting with a human. I knew him well as he was the liaison for the G.N.A. (Greater North America) government. Brian had been dealing with my father in his role of supervisor for many years and had frequently dined with our family. I had been just a kit when I first met him, but he had seen me mature and become a mother in the years since.

The foxtaurs had not become owners of this land simply because the government had handed it over to us. It had all started generations back when they had needed people to act as land managers and park rangers back in the troubled times when society was still rebuilding itself. The foxtaurs were chosen as being the most suited to the task and were offered the use of the land in return for taking responsibility for taking care of it. Since then, our kind had refined their role so much that no one even dreamed of taking it away from us. The privilege had become a right and everyone knew that the foxtaurs were the authority in all things pertaining to the parks and reservations. We were still technically answerable to the government, but they limited their role to a supervisory capacity that kept all the foxtaur communities in line and also acted with federal authority when the need arose. It was a working relationship that had stood the test of time and both parties were quite happy with the situation. Brian only needed to drop by occasionally to keep us both up to date and deal with bureaucratic details.

Brian spotted me and came over to give me a hug that I happily returned. He inquired about Blaze and said how he had decided to hang around when he had heard about the current situation. I was glad to have him there to lend support to the cause. He, and through him the government, supported my position, which was going to be a blow to the opposing vixens. Brian, my father and myself took a place in the chamber to await the beginning of the hearing. We didn't have to wait long before the elders arrived. Amongst them, of course, was Purteshka whose grandchild Ketta was also mated to a chakat. The vixens immediately raised a protest about potential bias. It was pointed out that Purteshka had sent that very same person into exile, which was hardly the act of someone who let their heart sway their head. Despite this, Purteshka offered to leave the hearing, but the motion was dismissed.

The hearing started in earnest with the vixens making their passionate, but not entirely logical statements on how foxtaur society had run for generations in the same way. They boasted of the purity of the species, the traditions governing tods and vixens and maintaining order in society. Supporters for my side pointed out that our species was no less engineered than that of the chakats and therefore hardly pure, and that they in no way wanted to change the traditions but add to them with regards to matings outside their species. They wanted to do this in a mutually acceptable manner, but some were responding in a rather hysterical fashion, causing the disruption to society, not the chakats. The vixens said that the chakats were taking away potential mates, disrupting the balance. We said that it would also add potential mates, if their discriminatory attitudes didn't drive them away. Arguments both petty and significant were exchanged until both sides ran out. I was then asked to make a personal statement on the situation, seeing as I was the only one currently residing in the village who had a chakat mate and cub. I stepped up onto the podium and took my position on the side opposite the elders. From there I could face both them and the rest of the people at the hearing. I paused for a moment to think about what I would say.

I took a deep breath and began. "My foxtaur kin, I was summoned here today, not because I am on trial, but to state my position on mixed matings. There has been a lot of debate today, some of it serious, some of it silly. The idea was to establish a policy with regards to allowing other species, chakats in particular, to breed with our kind and become part of our society. Well, I'm here to say that this all a waste of time. This council doesn't have the right to say who can mate with whom, nor can they discriminate against chakats either by our laws, or the laws of the G.N.A. of which we are still a part. No, this all comes down to one thing. It is my choice! I chose Goldfur as a lover. I chose to ask hir to be my mate. I chose to bear hir child and I have chosen to rear that cub with my family in this village. We are due neither more nor less consideration for this and only wish to be allowed to be as much a part of this community as any other foxtaur. And if this isn't good enough for some people here, then I will choose to fight you with every fibre of my being because I will never let your bigotry corrupt this society. That is all I have to say for now, thank you." I bowed to the elders and stepped down from the podium.

I saw some faint smiles of amusement on a few of the faces of the councillors and hoped that they had taken me seriously. They looked at each other, then declared a recess and left the room. We were left to speculate about the effects my little speech had had upon them, but I noted that I had managed to shock a couple of the opposing vixens. I certainly hoped that I had given them something to think about because I had touched on one of the most basic rights we vixens had, and that was our right to choose. With males being so outnumbered by females, vixens had to have the right to ask whomever they thought would make a fitting mate to give them a child. The tods had the right to refuse, of course, but many a cub had been born to vixens who had only secondary mating status to the tod's first mate, or even had just one night of sexual intercourse. I offered a full and loving family. How could they even compare?

The elders re-entered the room after only a short period of deliberation. Ballarn called loudly for order, then the head of the council spoke up. "This council unanimously finds that cross-species matings do not pose a threat to this society. Therefore, as Malena has so eloquently pointed out, we do not have the right to pursue this any further. It is indeed her right to take whichever mate she chooses and also her right to stay in this village along with her child. The charges laid of corrupting our society and the purity of our kind are found to be specious at best and discriminatory at worst and are hereby dismissed. You have the right to raise this issue again in one year, but I suggest that if you do, you'd better have a hell of a lot better arguments than you had today. This hearing is adjourned."

There was an uproar in the chamber, most of it cheering for the decision. The opposing vixens slunk out, although I did notice one or two that remained with thoughtful looks on their faces. I could only hope that I had given them food for thought. The victory turned out to be a lot easier to achieve than I had anticipated. I should have realised that there would have been strong support for my cause merely by seeing the reactions of the general population whenever the chakats visited. I had been worrying too much, but at least it had focused me on my goal. Anyway, now wasn't the time for introspection. I joined into the celebrations. My father hugged me and congratulated me on my speech. Brian also added his congratulations, grinning and winking. We all made our way home where my mother had a meal waiting for us. She had already heard the result and had anticipated our arrival. We all celebrated that evening, even Blaze. Shi sensed the mood of the family and the excitement kept hir awake. It was fitting that shi was part of the celebrations and shi was thoroughly spoiled that evening by our visitor.

I went to bed late that night. Now, more than ever, I knew that I had made the right choice, and one day I hoped that the entire village would see that too. The mattress next to me still felt empty without my mate, but Goldfur was due home in a couple of days and then we could both celebrate. I snuggled up to my sleeping cub and soon joined hir in slumber, dreaming of times to come together.

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More Tales of the Foxtaur Clans in episode #2: Ketta's Christmas

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