Tales of the Foxtaur Clans #8: The Rival
Excerpts from the journal of Pandora & Karl, part 3
By Bernard Doove © 2005

5 April 2334

[Karl] Of all the seven deadly sins, jealousy has to be the ugliest in my opinion. Iím not blessed from birth like a chakat, unable to feel this invidious emotion except indirectly. Nor am I a foxtaur, adapted physiologically and sociologically to having multiple mates. No, Iím just a normal male human trying to do the right thing. So what does one do when the perfect match comes along for your mate?

Randan picked disinterestedly through the items being offered at the trading post. ĎWhat an utter waste of time this detour proved to be,í he mused to himself. ĎI barely made a profit on my trade goods, and I haven't seen a single thing yet that would be a sure seller at the other villages. What a hick clan!í

The black and silver foxtaur tod looked up as one of the local vixens brushed Ďaccidentallyí against his side. She smiled in what was superficially an apology, but was more an expression of interest in the handsome tod. He sighed and gave her a polite smile back, but turned again to the goods as if he was actually interested in buying something. ĎWorse yet, every single vixen in this backwater is practically flat-chested. Not a decent rack amongst them!í Of course he didnít plan for one moment to spend the night alone, even if the vixens here werenít his idea of vulpine beauty. Over the years, his stunning good looks had gained him the attention of many foxtaur vixens, and not a few bipedal ones also. He had never been slow to take advantage of that fact either. Although in this female-dominated society, a tod could not ask a vixen for a liaison, he never lacked for one or more of them inviting him over for a meal, and to stay the night. ĎI suppose if I hang around long enough, sooner or later a more worthwhile partner has got to come along.í

An hour later, he was about to give up and accept the approaches of one of the vixens when he laid eyes on a newcomer who made his heart stop. Her fur pattern was pretty common for this village Ė a bold orange with white on her face, chest, belly, tailtip and paws, and she had the same outrageously floofy tail that all the other foxtaurs had in this clan, but she did have rather distinctively red hair. However, it wasnít her hair that riveted his attention, but a pair of gorgeously full breasts seemingly barely constrained by her top. Most vixens in this village didnít bother with tops, but most didnít have much worth containing or embellishing. He had hit the mother lode, and best of all, she seemed headed in his general direction.

Randan positioned himself to best advantage, both to let the vixen get an eyeful of his bold and handsome coat pattern, and to be a seemingly accidental obstacle in her path. By standing sideways between the stalls, he effectively blocked the way through, thus giving her a reason to speak to him.

Pandora had just noticed the unusual foxtaur tod, his black and silver pelt standing out like a beacon amongst the more common colours. While she didnít have business to do with a stallholder in that general direction, she purposefully headed that way in order to have a closer look at him, just to satisfy her curiosity. Stepping up to the seemingly oblivious tod, she said with a friendly smile, "Excuse me, but I need to get past you."

Randan looked up and allowed a look of pleased surprise onto his face. "My apologies, beautiful vixen. Please forgive this visitor to your picturesque village. I am Randan Silverstreak, a humble itinerant trader."

ĎHe's laying it on a bit thick,í Pandora thought to herself, Ďbut at least it gives me an excuse to talk to him a bit more.í She gave him a look of polite interest. "Iím Pandora Whitepaw, an equally humble vegetable farmer. Iíve never seen you here before. I know that I would remember that fur pattern!"

Randan assumed a pose of studied casualness, leaning one arm against a stall, the other on his hip, and crossing his forelegs. He grinned disarmingly, and his rakish tuft of white headfur made him an almost irresistible target for the eyes of any vixentaur. "Youíre right, this is my first visit to this village, but if Iíd known that it had such a gorgeous vixen as yourself, Iíd have come here long ago!"

Now Pandora was a level-headed sort of person, not prone to being swayed by flattery, but after spending all her mature years as the subject of mockery due to her extraordinary physical assets, the forthright compliments caught her unprepared, and she found herself blushing. "IÖ thank you, Randan. And if youíd visited here some years ago before I found my mate, I would have been pleased to have shown you around personally."

Randan was momentarily nonplussed. ĎMated? Hardly a surprise, I suppose. A sexy vixen like her has got to have had half the tods in the village lusting over her. This will be a little trickier, but still attainable,í he thought. "Perhaps I could help you with whatever youíre doing here, and we can chat in the meantime?"

Pandora wasnít fooled for a moment. She may not have had the moves put on her by the local tods, but she could recognise them when she heard them. "Thank you, but no. My mate will be joining me here momentarily, and weíll be heading back to our den then. I hope you have a pleasant visit to our village though, and perhaps weíll see each other again."

Randan gave her a regretful smile. He may have lost round one, but there would be other opportunities. "I can only hope so, Pandora. Until then, farewell." He watched her pass, admiring her profile and graceful movement. ĎOh yes, there will be another meeting, sexy one. You can be assured of that!í He continued to watch her swaying rump while turning over in his mind which of the other vixensí invitations he should accept. Then he got the shock of his life as he saw a human male walk over to Pandora, give her a hug, and walk off with their arms around each otherís waist. ĎSheÖ she's mated toÖ a human? What the hell is going on in this crazy village? I can't believe that she can be satisfied with that two-legger. I'm going to give her the chance to find out what she's been missing!í

"How did your business go?" Karl asked Pandora as they walked off in the direction of the track that led to their den.

Pandora looked up at her mateís face and smiled. "I got a contract to supply my entire crop of tomatoes, lettuces, carrots and cabbages this season, and things are looking promising for a lot of my other crops too. Itís been a very good day, love."

"Excellent! If the weather continues to be kind, we could make a bit of extra money this season and get a couple of luxuries for a change. By the way, who was that black and silver foxtaur tod that I saw talking to you?"

"Him? Heís a travelling trader. It seems that I caught his eye. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is like those in my village, and it was nice to get some honest appreciation of my looks for a change." Then she hastily added, "Aside from you, Karl. You never fail to make me feel beautiful."

However, the seeds of doubt had already been sown in Karlís mind. He had more than glimpsed the foxtaur tod, and he had seen Pandoraís reaction while hanging back out of sight. Karl had no doubt that if Pandora had not met himself and become his mate, she would have accepted that todís advances without hesitation. He still felt that Pandora was going to miss not being with her own kind sooner or later, and although he felt that she deserved to have a liaison with a foxtaur tod, he did not know if he could remain emotionally distanced from that. She may have met her perfect match, and he, his perfect rival.

They celebrated Pandoraís contract by making a special dinner that night. Afterwards, when everything had been cleaned up, Pandora had to spend a little time working on paperwork for the contract. Karl took the opportunity to catch up a bit on his own business. Sales of his custom furniture were picking up, and their future was looking rosy. Then the two retired to the bedroom, and all thoughts of the visiting tod were cast aside as they made love, as deeply and enthusiastically as they had been doing for over two and a half years.

Karl was minding the shop while Tobar was meeting with a supplier, so he attended the counter when he heard someone enter the workshop. To his surprise, he saw that it was the same tod whom heíd seen talking to Pandora yesterday, and the tod seemed equally surprised for a moment. Karl was used to that though, as not too many visiting foxtaurs expected to see a human resident here.

"Howdy! Can I help you?" Karl asked, determined to keep his emotions in check. After all, this was probably a potential customer.

"Good day," Randan replied. "I presume that you are the same human that I saw at the market yesterday, unless there are more of you here?"

"No, Iím the only one. I was meeting my mate there."

Randan didnít miss the slight emphasis on Ďmateí. "So, does this mean that youíre the village carpenter? I find that rather unusual."

"Tobar is the village carpenter. I work for him, and specialise in custom furniture. So, is there anything in particular that you were after?"

Randan looked about at the samples of carpentry goods. They were all well made, but unexceptional. "I see none of this custom furniture that you speak of."

"I have a deal with a trading post out on the main route outside the clan territory. He sells my general stuff and acts as my agent for the custom pieces. Here in the village, any special orders go directly to the customer when completed, so I have nothing to show you."

"A pity. Iím looking for special goods that might be worth trading in other villages. I would have liked to have seen some of your work. Perhaps you have some in your home that you could show me?" Randan was looking for an excuse to visit Pandoraís den.

"No," replied Karl with a touch of suspicion creeping in. "Our home is not a display room."

Randan feigned indifference. "It was worth asking anyway. So, whatís a human doing with a foxtaur mate anyway, if I may ask?"

The tod was starting to get on Karlís nerves, but as he was being unfailingly polite, Karl could not bring himself to be rude in return. "When we met, we both had needs that the other could fulfil. It brought us together and grew into love. Now we are lifemates."

Randan quirked a silver eyebrow. "What? She hasnít missed having a foxtaur tod around, at least to sire children?"

That hit Karl hard. Although it was obvious that this smarmy tod thought that heíd be a good choice for a partner, it jibed with what Karl had felt for some time Ė sooner or later, Pandora would start pining to have children, and he would be unable to provide them. Nevertheless, this was his mate that he was discussing, and he wasnít about to step aside for the first tod that came along. "We have been very happy together. If she ever finds the need though, it will be her choice, not yours."

"Happy? How can a vixen ever be happy with just a human? Itís not natural! She needs another foxtaur, and since sheís apparently not a vulpamour, she needs a tod to fulfil her."

"A tod like you?" asked Karl coldly.

"Yeah," Randan replied with a smug expression. "No vixen has ever been disappointed with my company, and Iíve sired plenty of kits over the years."

This was the wrong thing to say to Karl. It might have been a safe subject for two foxtaur tods to discuss, but not with a human whose mate was the subject of the discussion. "Get out!" he ordered. "And donít bother Pandora. Sheís not interested!"

Randan frowned, set back by the sudden turn of events. "Thatís up to the vixen to decide, not you!" he insisted.

Karl leaned over until he was nose to nose with Randan. "OUT!" he roared.

The tod flinched back, both surprised and intimidated. Hastily he turned, but as he headed out the door, he flung back a parting shot. "Remember that the law says itís Vixenís Choice, human, and Iím going to make sure she makes the best choice!"

Karl stared at the closed door for a long time after Randan departed. Vixenís Choice. Those two words were what haunted him. He might not like it but, according to foxtaur law, he could do nothing about the todís intent to seduce Pandora. The vixens always had the right to choose to have a liaison with more than one male, especially if it involved procreation and, God help him, that tod was a damn attractive choice for that purpose.

Pandora needed stakes for her tomato plants, and the carpentry shop often had leftover wood that Karl would trim to appropriate size for her. She dropped in that afternoon to pick some up, and found Karl half-heartedly trying to work.

"Why so glum, lover?" she asked as she put her arms around him to hug him.

Karl desperately wanted to keep Pandora from seeing the pangs of jealousy that Randan had stirred in him. However, he didnít avoid the question as honesty between them was one of the things he held sacred. "I had a visit from that Randan fellow you met in the market yesterday."

"Oh? And what did he want?" Pandora asked curiously.

"Basically, you," Karl answered flatly.

Pandora frowned. "It seems he canít take a subtle hint. Heís cute, I admit, but Iím not interested in what heís got in mind." She looked Karl in the eye. "And donít you start thinking again about siring kits, okay?"

Karl gave her a guilty smile. "Okay, love."

"Good! Now help me load a bundle of those stakes onto me."

"Yes, dear," he replied, cheekily obedient.

He tied the bundle securely to her carting saddle, then she kissed him and headed off back to the fields. However, she was surprised to encounter Randan on the path just short of the den. He made it look as if the meeting was a coincidence, but Pandora wasnít fooled for a moment.

"So we meet again, my beauteous vixen," Randan said in his most charming manner. "How fortunate for me to be here at this time."

"Extraordinarily lucky, I would say. However, I really donít have time to chat right now. I need to get tomatoes staked up this afternoon. Work is never done when youíre a farmer."

"A vixen like you deserves much more than to toil in the fields all day."

"But I enjoy my work, and I have my mate to come home to every evening, so Iím happy." Pandora tried to subtly hint once again that she wasnít in the market for male attention.

"I met your mate today," Randan admitted. "A rather intense fellow. I wonder though if you can be fully satisfied with a human. Any tod would be happy to take care of the gaps in fulfilling your needs."

ĎAny tod, meaning himself, of course,í Pandora thought to herself. ĎHeís a persistent cock, and rather full of himself.í Pandora used the derogative term for a foxtaur tod who was oversexed and one-track minded. Then an idea occurred to her. "Perhaps youíre right but, as I said, I need to get tomatoes staked right now, and I still need to bring back another load of stakes yet."

"Then perhaps I can help you out there," Randan rushed to ingratiate himself. "My afternoon is free and I would be delighted to assist you."

Pandora smiled; he had taken the bait. Randan though thought that the smile was one of gratitude and was encouraged. Pandora said, "Then just let me drop off this load, and we can go back for another lot."

They walked the rest of the way to the den where Pandora unloaded the stakes at the workshop at the side. Then the two walked back to the village, Randan trying to chat her up, while she deftly danced around his advances. She didn't want him to be discouraged, yet she still left him an opening to back out gracefully. Karl was surprised to see Randan with Pandora, and wasnít pleased when the tod slyly smirked at him. However, when Pandora winked at him, he decided to play along with whatever she was up to.

"Randan has volunteered to help me, dear. Could you load one of those bundles of stakes onto him too, please?"

Randan was surprised that he was going to be a pack mule too, but gamely went along with the request. When they were both loaded, Pandora indicated to Randan to head off while she said goodbye. The tod thought she was going to tell the human to not expect her for a while, or some such excuse. Instead, she said as soon as the tod was out of earshot, "Follow us, but stay out of sight." Then she kissed him and hastened to rejoin Randan.

Karl hastily divested himself of his overalls, grabbed his satchel, bid a hasty farewell to a surprised Tobar who had just recently returned, then headed home. He caught sight of the two foxtaurs turning onto the path that led to their den, and then hurried to close the gap whilst still leaving a bend in the path to conceal the fact that he was close behind. Belatedly he remembered to check the direction of the breeze. Foxtaurs could notice his scent if he was too close, but the wind direction favoured him. He let the two go around the side to the workshop before he went up to the den and went inside. He moved to the window on the side that opened near the workshop, and carefully listened without letting himself be seen.

"So, what do you wish to do now, Pandora?" Karl heard Randan asked.

"Why, stake up tomatoes, of course," she replied.

"What? I thought you had something else in mind."

"No, I already told you that I need to get that done. Iím sorry if you thought otherwise."

"Now see here, you know what I intended, and donít deny it!"

"I do know, but I never agreed to anything. In fact, I have told you more than once that I am quite happy with my mate."

Randan was angry now, and his veneer of civility was slipping. "Donít give me that. No real foxtaur vixen could ever be satisfied with a furless two-legger!"

"Youíre wrong, Randan, and I advise you to leave it at that."

"No vixen has ever knocked me back, and Iíve never failed to satisfy them. Youíre not going to be the first either! Iím going to prove that a tod is a better lover than any human!"

Pandoraís voice had lost any degree of friendliness or tolerance. "I said no, Randan. Now let it go."

Karl was alarmed. It sounded as if Randan was about to go too far. He headed for the door, but heard Pandora say before he got there, "Get your hand off me, Randan!"

He burst outside and headed toward the workshop, but before he rounded the corner, he heard a loud yelp. Frantic at the thought of the tod forcing himself on his mate, he rushed to help, only to skid to a stop in surprise when he saw Randan rolling on the ground in pain, his forepaws between his hind legs, rubbing his scrotum.

Pandora was leaning over him with a look of contempt. "No means no!" She walked to the side of the workshop where a rake was leaning, grabbed it and raised it overhead. "Now get off our land! Scram!!"

Despite the pain in his groin, Randan managed to scramble to all four feet and started walking off, his tail between his legs. Pandora started following him, still menacing with the rake. "Not fast enough. Run, you cur!" Randan hastily broke into a run, with Pandora close behind, waving the rake wildly in the air. Karl stared at the sight for a moment, then sat down and burst out laughing.

He was still chortling to himself when Pandora returned, a grin on her muzzle. "So, you enjoyed that, did you?" she asked.

Karl stood up and hugged her lovingly. "Yes, and I feel a lot better now."

Pandora dropped the rake so that she could return the hug. "I thought that it would help clear up your doubts, and get rid of a pest at the same time. Seems to have worked well on both counts."

Karl drew back to look at Pandora earnestly. "But he practically tried to rape you. How did you get away from him so fast?"

"Pfft!" Pandora said contemptuously. "Foxtaur vixens and tods are virtually the same strength normally, unlike humans. However, Iím a farmer, and years of labour have made me stronger than average, especially compared to a trader like Randan who doesnít get to exercise more than his ego. You should have heard him panting after lugging that bundle of stakes up here! Breaking his grip was absurdly easy, and his surprise gave me the chance to knock him over and jump on him where it hurts the most."

"And a more deserving tod I would not know," Karl said fervently. "Are you going to get into any trouble because of this though? After all, you did assault him, and he could claim that you had been leading him on."

"Youíre thinking too much in human terms, dear. I had already told him a few times that I wasnít interested, and while males have the right to approach any vixen and make their interest plain, once they are plainly told Ďnoí, they are required to drop any further overtures. Randan is obviously too used to getting his way, playing on his handsomeness. He just didnít know how to deal with rejection, so he persisted. That action broke clan law, and I had the right to do everything that I did in response. In fact, if he tries to make a complaint to the Elders, he will quickly find himself arrested and tried on charges of attempted rape. If he has any brains at all, he will be heading out of clan territory just as soon as he possibly can."

"On to the next unsuspecting vixen, I suppose," Karl said glumly.

"Donít worry about them, love. They know what heís offering, and most are quite pleased with what they get. I just hope that he has learned to accept rejection for the next time that one of them says no."

"If you say so, dear. Now, how about forgetting those tomatoes for a little while and coming inside with me? I have something to offer you too."

Pandora smiled lovingly at Karl. She replied simply, "Yes."

[Pandora] In a way, the episode with Randan was a blessing. Although I have often tried to reassure Karl that I was not unhappy because we could not have children, he has always had a nagging doubt. I love him for his continued consideration of my needs and feelings, but I need his love more than offspring, and his happiness is of great importance to me. Only when he is happy can I be completely happy also. His doubts have been allayed now, and our relationship has never been stronger. Perhaps sometime in the future my biological urges may become a problem, but we will both deal with them when or if they do. Meanwhile, we will love each other as much or more than any two foxtaurs have ever done.

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To be continued in The Great Drought.

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