The Arbitrator gestures for Dubhe to come forward, and explains the situation. “Regardless of what I’ve said, you first have a prior engagement to fulfill, as dictated by Gaia. To that end, Dubhe will be taking you to the bearfolk’s Central Library. On this trip, you’ll need to learn about their culture.” The Arbitrator pauses and looks back at Lilia. “Because she’s inseparable from you, Lilia will also be going. Gaia has asked me to remind you to be on your best behavior, child.”
Lilia darts out from behind the Arbitrator and ducks behind me. She peeks from behind my arm coyly. “Yes, ma’am. Gaia is scary. Best behavior. Ma’am.”
That’s awfully meek of you Lilia. So now I have ‘Food,’ ‘Behave,’ and ‘Best Behaviour’ in my ‘influence Lilia to do what I ask’ toolkit. Nice.
“To that end, there is something you need to understand about the bearfolk.” She pauses and massages her forehead before continuing. “They… have unusual birth patterns. Due to this, only one out of every ten to fifteen children are females.”
Dubhe nods to confirm this. Her smile is filled with nervousness… or maybe it’s filled with excitement? Her ears are twitching, and she is fidgeting with her small, finger-like claws.
I squint a bit, trying to figure out what’s going on, but give up and turn back to the Arbitrator to continue listening.
“Part of their culture is very… er, has a strong sense of matronism. A male earns his wife by defeating other males. Another way of putting it, by killing your competition, you prove that you are fit to father children. Although this seems barbaric to humes, we have other rather odd cultures as well… like this town. Slavery or indentured servants are also widely practiced customs among humes. Where as it is appalling to bearfolk to be subjected to another’s will… Mostly.” The arbitrator is pausing occasionally, trying to word things very carefully, or so it seems.
As I listen, I also notice Dubhe is listening very closely and nodding at certain intervals to certify the statements. That last one, however, causes her to frown. “Tsk, Darling, what she means, is you have killed all of our suitors, as well as grantors. No one will take us as a wife anymore, or protect us from… well… anything… for fear of you killing them. They misunderstood the situation as you killing anyone claiming our land, and hence, our body, as protecting us and taking us as your wife. No one will listen when we told them you were just protecting your encampment. Normally, bearfolk will move when humes settle in a spot, or kill off the humes to protect their hunting grounds. We… we were foolish and thought that you humes, you and Mika, would be simple and easy prey.” She starts to mumble as she ends her statement, and then looks into my eyes, and balls her fists in resolve. “So you must take us as a wife now.”
No, no no. Nope. Can’t. Won’t. Nope. Nooooooooooope.
I furrow my brow and think about the situation. We were in her lands, and she found out, sent her husband… and then suitors… and even her children… to rid us of the place… and we killed them, thinking that they were viciously attacking us… which they were… and now suddenly that makes her my wife?
“Uh…” Still unsure what to say, I look to the Arbitrator.
“Actually, you don’t have a choice.” She shakes her head at me.
“What?” Like hell I don’t! She’s… soft and cuddly… but definitely a bearfolk… I’m not even sure how that would work? And my sense of… hell, I don’t know? Really? Why? And she’s like… a foot and a half taller! And claws! Claws are sharp! That’s dangerous!
Continuing, the Arbitrator explains: “You see, as I said, bearfolk are very much a matriarchy. Now that you’re in this position, by her culture, you don’t have a right to refuse… And if you don’t do as she says, she may punish you as she sees fit.”
I frown and start the beginnings of a protest, but I’m interrupted before I can get a word edgewise.
“Darling, do you think you can beat us in battle? Women are the stronger gender of the bearfolk, despite our size.” Dubhe wears a devilish smile.
S-she’s definitely a sadist. And a battle freak. And scary. I can tell now that I’m standing here. Why didn’t I see it sooner? I’ve just found myself in the very dangerous situation of prey without a hope of escaping. I feel a chill run down my spine. Backed in a corner, I pull out my trump card. “Lilia…”
“Nope. Can’t. I’m behaving. Gaia said no helping. Just like Mika Food and you fighting, it’s all just games, no harm.” She backs away with a nervous ‘eh he he he’ laugh.
What the hell…
What… the… I… I can’t even understand what the…
The Arbitrator clears her throat. “Now, these are definitely unusual circumstances, which is where I come in. Both of you are cultural foreigners to each other, and you must make… concessions. Dubhe?” She looks to the bearfolk woman for confirmation.
“Yes, ma’am, Gaia has does well by us, we cannot sidestep your judgment. As much pride as we have, this is our own fault.” She bows her head. That strikes me as odd, for such a race where you kill for your right to mate… but then, Gaia can be considered the strongest? Then the Arbitrator is her will in situ? I guess that might make sense.
“Finally, Tristain… Until you reach your goal, you will need to make some adjustments to your… cultural values. If you do not, as Gaia put it… ‘he will be killed by stupidity alone.’ Remember that you are not the person you used to be, nor is this your old world.”
Dubhe tilts her head at that. So do I. How much does she know? Also, I have some explaining to do now… to my… wife? I look over at Lilia. She looks up at me with a smile. Yup, only to Dubhe. I’m not even sure Lilia is listening.
Wait, that’s not important right now.
“Finally? Wait, what about Mika?” That hasn’t been resolved yet!
Thanks for the support! I am in your care! My life is hell. I hate moving. Thanks for reading!