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Friday, Dec 15, 2017
Worlds Of Lesbian Fiction

New Gaia

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New Gaia - Chapter 8 - Meeting the Natives

Halfway through October, Gabrielle was summoned by Paul to meet with one of his recently returned hunting parties. He wouldn't tell her what it was about, until after they'd arrived at the Dining Hall, the natural gathering place for the citizens of New Gaia. Once it had been explained to her, she understood his silence.

"So you didn't say anything, just had a little staring contest, and then they were gone?" she asked.

"Yeah. It was weird. They just kinda looked at us like they were trying to decide if we were a threat and then they turned tail and ran. They were gone so fast, I almost thought I was hallucinating or something," said Billy. He was one of the younger members of their group, only 21. He'd only been at the original graduation party because of his older sister, Kelly.

Gabrielle asked, "Do any of you remember which direction they went? Could you find your way back to the area again?"

Gregory, who had been sitting in a corner, watching the proceedings, said, "Yeah, we could find the place again. And I'm pretty sure they headed northwest. I was on point, so I got the longest look at them. They're definitely natives. I just can't figure out why we haven't run into them before," he mused.

"Well, it's a big world," offered Paul.

Gabrielle nodded. "But it's just gotten a little smaller. I think we should go visit our neighbors."

Gregory's head shot up. "I can lead the mission. That way if something goes wrong..."

"No. I'll be leading the delegation. If something does go wrong, I want you here to defend the village," she told Gregory. Then she addressed everyone. "But I don't think anything will go wrong. These people are biologically identical to us. They're just lacking in technology and history. I think if we arrive with a peace offering, maybe some food and skins, it should get us off to a good start. I want six volunteers to escort me. At least one of you has to take us to the area where the encounter took place."

Billy raised his hand and Gabrielle nodded her assent. Gregory stood. "I'll have five other Warriors ready for you in the morning," he said.

"Good. I'll tell Luis to pack up some food to take with us."

Gabrielle dismissed them and went back to the Main Hall to find Tristan. She explained about the hunting party coming across some locals and her plan to lead a diplomatic mission to their neighbors' camp, if they could find it.

"You sound like Princess Leia. 'I'm on a diplomatic mission...'" he laughed.

"Come on, Tris, this isn't funny. If they were to decide they didn't like us, we could end up under attack. And no, I'm not worried about any of us getting hurt; that's what the guns are for. I'd just rather not be put in a position where I had to order the slaughter of a bunch of natives in order to ensure the safety of New Gaia."

Tristan sobered up. "Okay, so what if they do end up being hostile? They could end up taking you hostage or something."

"And then you would be in charge. You would have to make sure that the colony was kept safe. I've already told Gregory he'll be in charge of defending the village against attack."

"Wait, wait. This is moving too fast. I can't suddenly be Chief. You're Chief."

"You can do this, Tristan. And remember, you won't be alone. You'll have Gregory, and Julia and Jonathan. And it'll only be for a few days."

"Unless you get yourself killed. Why do you have to be the one to go?" Tristan was bordering on whining and he tried to compose himself.

"Because, quite honestly, I don't trust anyone else to do this right. And I'm the Chief. If something needs to be decided quickly, I can do that without having to check with anyone else. I'm going, Tristan. I need to know you can handle this."

Tristan stared at her and took a few deep breaths. "I'll do my best. I won't let you down, Chief."

A slight smile made its way to his face and eventually reached his eyes. Gabrielle let out a sigh of relief. Being Chief wasn't nearly as stressful as it had been in the beginning, the changes she'd instituted to safeguard her own sanity helping to ease the strain, but Gabrielle knew Tristan remembered his short stint in her shoes with absolute terror. The pressure had nearly made him quit, Gabrielle just barely talking him out of it, when an acute fear of failure had hit him the night after his brief sojourn as leader of New Gaia.

The fact that he was accepting the possibility of being stuck with the position told her he'd dealt with his fears well enough. She didn't intend for that to happen, though. She planned on being Chief until a new one was elected, not causing the election herself because of getting killed.

"Thank you. I know you'll be fine. Just don't plan on any coups while I'm gone. You're still just First Advisor, Blondie," she grinned.

"Hey, who you callin' Blondie, Blondie?" he taunted back.

"That's Chief Blondie to you, boy," she said.

A new voice interrupted their playful banter. "Are you teasing my man again?" asked Gregory.

"No more than usual. And he deserved it, of course," responded Gabrielle.

"Did not," Tristan protested.

"Did, too."

"Did not."

"Did, too."

"Okay, children," Gregory interrupted. The two in question grinned at Gregory and he couldn't keep the stern look on his face. "You two are incorrigible."

"Thank you, baby," Tristan cooed.

Gregory leaned down and gave him a quick kiss. As he came up, he winked at Gabrielle, who smiled back at him. She was so glad Tristan had found someone again. But Gregory didn't replace John. In fact, Gabrielle thought the bond between these two men was even stronger.

Gregory broke into her thoughts. "I've got six Warriors to escort you around. They'll be ready to leave right after breakfast."

"Thanks. Well, I think it's almost dinnertime. Join me?"

They went to the Dining Hall. It was the colony's largest structure, even larger than the Main Hall, but it had been one of the easiest to build, mostly because it was just one large room with a huge kitchen running the length of one side. It could easily seat the nearly one hundred colonists it was built for.

Gabrielle always marveled at the simplicity of the design. It was built in the style of a log cabin with high ceilings, like their other structures, but because of its size, there were tall log supports at different points throughout the large room. This allowed for sconces to be attached around the support poles and the room was easily illuminated when the homemade torches and candles were lit.

Gabrielle spoke with Luis about fixing up a couple baskets of dried meat and fruits to take with her on her ambassadorial expedition. He'd already heard about 'the encounter' and readily agreed to the request. Returning to the eating area, she searched out one of the tailors and received a promise that several skins would be ready for her to take with her when the envoy left in the morning.

With all the details taken care of, she relaxed, and enjoyed casual conversation with Tristan and Gregory as she ate her evening meal.

**********************

With Billy taking point, they quickly found the area where the two hunting parties had met. A little careful tracking and Billy was able to follow where the natives had run off to. They ended up in the foraging area of the local humans. In under an hour, Gabrielle was face to face with several women and a man, dressed in light furs and skins, who were picking fruit and placing the berries on wooden dishes.

They looked up at her party and quickly gathered next to each other. There was only slight alarm in their eyes as they looked over their visitors. Gabrielle held a hand to her chest.

"Gabrielle," she said.

She pointed at the man in the center of the group. He was tall with jet black hair streaming over his shoulders. He seemed to be the one in charge. There was no answer, so Gabrielle pointed at herself again.

"Gabrielle."

The lead man furrowed his brow and looked among his own people to see if they had any ideas. There were a few low whispers that Gabrielle couldn't make out and then they all went back to staring at her again.

"Gabrielle." She pointed to herself again and then pointed at the man. She crinkled her own brow to show confusion and maybe elicit some kind of response.

"Gayahbree-elll," the man spoke the syllables slowly, trying to wrap his tongue around the unfamiliar sounds.

"Yes. Gabrielle," she repeated. She pointed at herself, then back to him.

He rested his hand on his chest and thumped once. "Kuta," he said proudly.

Gabrielle smiled. "Kuta." She gestured to Billy, who was standing next to her, to bring out the baskets of food. He whispered over his shoulder and then moved aside, so that the locals could get a look at the food.

Kuta took a step forward, but one of the women put a hand on his arm to hold him back. He looked back and forth between the woman and Gabrielle. Finally, he came to a decision and motioned for Gabrielle to follow him. The others went back to picking berries.

Gabrielle quickly signaled for her Warriors to follow her and she fell in step behind the young man.

**********************

Tristan found his second tour as leader of New Gaia to be a lot easier than the first. The routine that Gabrielle had set up greatly reduced the amount of problems he had to personally deal with. He just sent people directly to where they needed to go, instead of trying to come up with the solution on his own.

His first meeting was with Jonathan and Julia. Gabrielle had been working with all of them about building a paper mill, so Tristan finalized what Gabrielle had started. He sent Jonathan off to talk with Jose, one of their resident architects, about where to build it and whether they had enough time to finish it before the first snows.

His next meeting was with two of the leaders of the Historical Society. Trisha and Joshua reported on their latest efforts to document the colony's development. They both started out in a sour mood, but when Tristan mentioned the construction of the paper mill, he received nothing but compliments on the good work he and the Chief were doing for the community.

"It's definitely needed," commented Trisha.

"Yes, we need to be able to make copies of all the documents we have, in case there's a disaster," Joshua declared.

"You're right. I don't even want to think about what would happen if the papers in the Technology Department were lost for some reason," added Julia.

Melissa and Andrea, from said Department, arrived for their meeting with Tristan and joined into the conversation. They were absolutely ecstatic about the paper mill.

Andrea said, "You know, we could add on a printing press. It wouldn't be that difficult and it would make copying easier."

"But we've only got wood to work with. Actually, that's one of the things we came here to talk to you about." Melissa turned to Tristan. "We're having problems making some tools without the use of a foundry. We just can't get the temperature high enough to melt the copper pieces we found..."

Joshua cut in. "Hey, I think we have a couple books on that in the Historical Library. They're part of a series about Greece and Rome and the different metal Ages. You know, the Bronze Age wasn't a set time, it varied from culture to culture..."

Tristan listened to the conversation fade out, as the two groups left to work on the problem together. He smiled and glanced over at Julia. "It's really starting to come together, isn't it? I mean, everyone's working together to make sure we succeed as a group."

Julia nodded. "It just took a little time for everyone to adjust," she replied. "Well, who's next on the agenda?"

**********************

Gabrielle and her entourage followed Kuta until the sun was nearly setting. They finally came to the main encampment. It was a collection of roughly circular grass-woven huts surrounding a large central area of packed dirt. Gabrielle could see groups of men and woman, along with children of various ages, look up at her party's arrival. No one seemed incredibly surprised, but curiosity was clear on their faces. Even the large dogs that a few of the children had been playing with seemed interested in the newcomers.

Kuta yelled out what Gabrielle assumed to be greetings to his fellow tribe members. After a few minutes, a tall raven-haired woman stepped out of the larger thatched enclosures and walked towards them.

Gabrielle's breath caught in her throat. The woman was absolutely beautiful. High cheekbones accented stunning blue eyes. 'Where did the blue eyes come from?' Gabrielle wondered. That gene was considered to be a European attribute. From what she'd read, the Paleo-Americans had come down from Siberia, crossing the ice bridge to Alaska and heading South into what later became Canada and the United States, as well as South America. That made them Asian. 'Huh, must be a genetic anomaly or something.'

Gabrielle realized she'd been staring. She reluctantly tore her eyes away from the woman and looked around. Everyone seemed to be waiting. Then Gabrielle understood. This woman was the tribe's leader. One of the Warriors, who had been working on the Historical Society, had come to the same conclusion and moved to whisper into her right ear.

"This looks like a matriarchal society. That makes sense, since patriarchy didn't really catch on until the worship of male deities, like Ra in Egypt. In fact, among Native Americans, women usually had the final say in important matters. It's not all that surprising, considering that nature was worshipped quite extensively in their culture and nature has always been seen as female..." Gabrielle waved him away and focused her attention back on the dark-haired woman.

"Gabrielle," she said, and pointed to her chest. Then she pointed to the young man who had brought them. "Kuta," she said. Then she pointed to the woman.

"Tala," the woman's voice was low and almost seductive. A slight smile was playing in her light blue eyes, which contrasted nicely with the dark furs she was wearing.

Gabrielle repeated it. "Tala." She liked the feel of it on her lips and tongue.

Gabrielle continued, introducing each of her Warriors. When she was done, she waited expectantly for Tala to introduce the people standing around her. Instead, Tala spoke quietly to a man standing next to her and he left. He came back with some food and began offering it to Gabrielle's Warriors as Tala held out a hand to Gabrielle.

Tala turned to leave and then turned back around, waiting. Gabrielle whispered to Margaret, the Warrior in charge, "Stay calm, but alert. Try not to provoke anyone."

Margaret assured her, "We'll be fine. Don't worry. Just you be careful."

Gabrielle nodded and then moved to follow the tall tribal leader. She was led into the thatched hut the woman had come out of earlier. It was essentially one large room, much like Gabrielle's own cabin. There was a low table off to her left and a comfortable looking pile of furs to her right.

Tala offered her some fruit from a bowl on the table and she took it, eating a small bite as she lowered herself to sit on the floor with Tala. She pointed at the fruit and then let a questioning look cover her face. Tala continued to watch her. Gabrielle decided to try again. She pointed at herself and then the fruit.

"Apple," she said. Then she pointed at Tala and back to the fruit again. She adopted the querulous look once more. Tala remained impassive.

She went through the motions again, only slower this time. "Apple," she said, and then pointed at Tala. She pointed at the fruit and this time Tala spoke.

"Nu," she said. Her voice was strong, but quiet.

Gabrielle smiled. "Nu?" she questioned, and got a small nod from the woman.

Gabrielle pointed at a small wooden cup resting on the low rough-hewn table they were sitting at. "Cup," she declared. She pointed at Tala and then back at the cup, raising an eyebrow in expectation. Several long moments passed and Gabrielle almost started over again when she heard Tala's deep voice break the silence.

"Juba."

Gabrielle nodded, "Juba." Tala smiled slightly and nodded back.

They sat in silence and Gabrielle thought about what she'd just accomplished as she finished her apple. Tala continued to study her, her eyes never leaving Gabrielle. With the last bite of the apple, Gabrielle made her decision and stood. Tala stood immediately.

Gabrielle exited the hut to confer with her Warriors, Tala right behind her. It was getting dark outside. Through the shadows, Gabrielle could make out her Warriors standing together on the edge of the tribe's camp. She walked over to them and Margaret stood a little taller as she approached. Tala stopped several paces behind Gabrielle to give her some privacy with her people.

"How's it going out here?" she asked, her voice quiet.

"Fine. Haven't had any problems with anyone bothering us or anything. They seem to be content to just stare," she grinned.

"That's good. Okay, here's what I wanna do. I'm gonna present the food and skins we brought with us to Tala and her people. Then I want you guys to set up camp near here. In the morning, go back to New Gaia. Tell Tristan I need another offering for these people; three baskets of dried meat and fruit, instead of two, and another five skins. I'm going to see if I can't wrangle a peace treaty out of this..."

"Wait, you're not coming with us?" Margaret gave her a dubious look.

"No, I'm going to stay here as a good will gesture of faith," she replied.

"No way. I'm not leaving you alone with these people," Margaret started.

"Yes, you are. I know what I'm doing," she said confidently. 'At least, I sure hope I do,' she added silently to herself.

Margaret grudgingly nodded her head and gestured for a couple of her Warriors to bring the gifts forward. She wasn't going to disobey her Chief. Gabrielle had led them well and given her no reason to doubt the Chief's capabilities. It still wouldn't stop her from worrying, though.

Gabrielle gestured to her Warriors. Billy and a young woman, Colette, dragged the litter forward. It had two baskets, one filled with dried fruit and nuts, the other filled with dried meat. Three skins were piled on top of the baskets. Gabrielle gestured again, this time to Tala and then to encompass Tala's people.

"For you," she said, even though she knew the words wouldn't be understood.

She motioned for Billy and Colette to back away from the litter and then took a step back herself. She bowed slightly at the waist and then waited. Tala stared intently at her for a long moment and then called over her shoulder. Several people stepped forward and dragged the offering away. Tala nodded at Gabrielle and then, by some unspoken agreement, the two women turned back to their own people.

Gabrielle seemingly led the way, but was receiving whispered instructions from Margaret the whole time. About a hundred paces from the edge of the tribe's perimeter, Margaret called a halt, and they set up their bedrolls and got a good-sized campfire going. They ate their trail rations in silence and then went to sleep, each Warrior taking a turn at watch throughout the night.

In the morning, Gabrielle bid her Warriors farewell and then found a comfortable patch of dying grass to sit on underneath a tree. She was up on a small rise and it gave her a nice view of the tribe's camp. She watched as Tala's people went about their day. Doing a quick head count, she guessed there were nearly as many people in Tala's tribe as there were at New Gaia.

Some people were working on repairing garments. Others were fashioning tools by hitting one rock with another, saving the flakes for future use. Still others were taking the time to show some of the older children these necessary skills. Every now and then, people would look her way, watch her for a few moments, and then return to whatever they were doing.

Tala was talking with an older man, maybe thirty-five, when the rocks came sailing into the camp. Several people reached their hands up to their heads or around to their backs and came away with blood. Gabrielle scrambled to her feet to help the injured, but they brushed her away angrily and several others grabbed her arms to hold her still.

There were shouts coming from everywhere and then Gabrielle heard Tala's voice unmistakably commanding those around her. She turned her head to find the tall leader and ran right into piercing blue. The eyes questioned her and then turned away. A few shouts and five large warrior types followed Tala out into the surrounding woodland.

Gabrielle fought with herself not to struggle against the two men that held her captive. She was quite capable of taking down anyone there and she knew it. Gregory had performed the ceremony commemorating her promotion to black belt before they'd left to build their new society and she'd been working diligently on attaining her second degree ever since they'd arrived.

But Gabrielle knew that fighting with any of these people would probably lead to an all out war between their two settlements and it would certainly dash any hopes of peace treaties. Her guards finally tired of holding her arms and pushed her down to sit on a nearby log. She waited.

She didn't have to wait very long. Less than an hour later, Tala returned with her people dragging several bodies behind them. Cheers rang through the small village and Tala whooped in victory. Gabrielle feared the strangers were dead, but then she caught the telltale signs of breathing from a couple of them and her heart calmed down.

She stood as Tala came to stand in front of her. Tala violently flung her hand in the direction of the pile of bodies and then gently laid her palm flat against Gabrielle's upper chest. There was a question in her eyes and Gabrielle realized she was being asked if the strangers were hers.

Gabrielle shook her head and then pointed at the unconscious bodies. She drew her hand back and covered her eyes. She wasn't sure, but she thought Tala had gotten her message that she had never seen them before.

Tala spoke tersely to the 'guards' and waved them away. Then she beckoned for Gabrielle to follow her to the tangle of bodies lying on the ground. She spoke a few words of her own language, pointed at one of the men, and then laid her hand flat against her chest. Gabrielle understood she was claiming ownership of the young man. Tala then gestured for Gabrielle to choose one as well.

Gabrielle shook her head and Tala looked at her with a confused expression on her face. She didn't understand why anyone would turn down a temporary servant. It was a great way to gain information about other peoples and their ways and share knowledge with them if they returned to their home tribes.

Gabrielle shook her head again to emphasize her point and then took a chance and kneeled down to get a better look at the attackers. They were all young, not one looked to be over twenty. Gabrielle turned over the one that Tala had chosen and checked him over. He had long brown hair and appeared to be fine, except for a few cuts and newly forming bruises.

The boy, he couldn't have been more than sixteen or seventeen, started coming around. He groaned and Gabrielle tried to help him sit up. His eyes opened and then darted around to all the people standing around him. Then he caught sight of Gabrielle and just stared at her. Gabrielle smiled a little.

"Gabrielle," she said, holding a hand to her chest. She moved her palm to the boy's chest and waited.

"Kall," he said gruffly. He was in need of water.

Gabrielle looked up at Tala. She had the most amused expression on her face, as she watched Gabrielle tend to the boy. Gabrielle returned her attention to Kall. She wanted to find out why they had attacked Tala's people. She picked up a rock and placed it in the boy's hand, then grasped his closed fist and brought it to her head. She pulled the rock from his hand and then waited patiently.

Kall looked at her confused. The woman seemed to want to know why they had come to Tala's tribe. He looked up at Tala and she was openly grinning now. He grinned back. He knew she would pick him. He slowly got to his feet and the small woman rose with him, steadying him as he gained his bearings.

Kall thumped his chest and puffed it out. Tala lost her grin and stood taller, taking a step closer to tower over the boy. Gabrielle heard a low growl come from the back of the woman's throat and Kall bowed his head. Tala smiled slightly and relaxed her stance. Gabrielle decided she'd figure it all out later and bent down again to check on the others. They were starting to come around.

A cursory examination showed that none of them had received any serious injuries, just scrapes and bruises. After they were all on their feet again, Gabrielle returned to stand next to Tala. A few short words from the tribal leader and the other four intruders were led away. Tala regarded Kall for a few long moments and then nodded as if to herself. She pointed to where a group of about a dozen of Tala's people were stretching skins across several poles. Kall nodded and went to join the group.

Tala turned her head to look at Gabrielle and then strode off to her hut. She turned once to make sure Gabrielle was following her and then resumed her walk. They entered the thatched dwelling and Tala sat on the floor. Gabrielle joined her. Tala watched and waited patiently. Gabrielle finally realized Tala expected her to do something and decided to continue where they had left off the last time.

She pointed at one of the apples sitting in the flat bowl on the table. "Nu," she said. Tala nodded. Gabrielle repeated the word for cup and then pointed at the table. "Table," she stated. Then she gestured to Tala. Tala pointed at the table and named it in her own language.

They continued for about an hour, Gabrielle frequently returning to previously named objects in order to keep the information fresh in her mind. However, she was starting to get a little unnerved. Tala watched her every move, never taking her eyes off Gabrielle for more than a moment. She barely even glanced at the objects Gabrielle pointed at.

Finally, Gabrielle couldn't take the close scrutiny anymore and suggested they go outside. She stood and walked slowly to the door, then waited for Tala to follow her. Tala did and they began a slow circuit around the perimeter of Tala's village.

Gabrielle pointed at things and named them as they walked, Tala supplying the word or words from her own language that denoted whatever Gabrielle was referring to. Tala reached out and touched Gabrielle's hair, letting the strands cascade over her fingers. The sensation sent little tingles through Gabrielle's body and it took her a moment to bring back her focus to the question in Tala's eyes. It occurred to her that neither Tala, nor any of her people, had probably ever seen someone with blond hair before.

Gabrielle shrugged as if to say she didn't understand it any better than Tala. Tala smiled at her and then pointed to the sky. The sun had set sometime during their third time around the village and it was dark out. Tala pointed at her own hair in comparison. Then she pointed at Gabrielle's hair and made an exploding motion with her hands. She pointed at the sky again and then covered her eyes. Gabrielle understood the motion was symbolizing the brightness of the sun. Tala uncovered her eyes and Gabrielle smiled at the compliment and nodded her approval at such an analogy.

Back at New Gaia, the Warriors were just arriving with Gabrielle's message. Tristan was pissed, to say the least, and Gregory seemed to be having a small conniption fit.

"I can't believe you left our Chief with savages," he railed at Margaret.

"She ordered me to return without her," Margaret defended her actions. She calmly turned to Tristan. "She wants three more baskets of food and five skins. She said she plans to get Tala to agree to some kind of peace treaty, so we don't have to worry about being attacked in the night."

Tristan nodded. He was starting to calm down. It seemed to be in direct proportion to Gregory's continued growing agitation. "I'll have the supplies ready in the morning. Are you and your Warriors prepared to return in the morning or should I ask for more volunteers?" Tristan asked.

"No, we're good to go, I think," she looked around at the other five Warriors and received nods of assent.

"Good, prepare to leave at first ligh..."

"I'll lead the group this time," Gregory cut in. He stared daggers at Margaret, but she didn't flinch or back down.

"No. The argument for you remaining here is still valid. You're needed here, Greg," Tristan added softly. "I have faith in Gabrielle. You should, too," he continued, a little more loudly.

Gregory mumbled something about 'stupidity' under his breath, but finally nodded. "I'll make sure the Honor Guard is ready to go in the morning," he said.

Tristan turned to Julia. "I want you to head up the second delegation. Tell Luis what we need from the stores and then talk to one of the leatherworkers, Elena maybe, and ask for another five skins. Make sure you guys eat early, I want you on your way by sunrise. It took you a whole day to get back here from their camp. I'd rather you guys arrived while it was still light out," he explained.

"Yeah, me too. I'll go get everything ready," and Julia turned to leave the Main Hall. The Warriors said their goodnights and turned to leave as well.

"It'll be okay, Gregory," Tristan said softly. "She's a strong woman. That's why she's Chief."

"I know. It's just that it's my responsibility to keep her safe. That's how I think of it, anyway."

Tristan wrapped Gregory up in a warm hug. "Technically, your duty is to protect New Gaia, but I know what you mean. She'll be okay."

Gregory let the warmth seep into his skin through the leather tunic he wore. He hoped Tristan would always want to hold him like this. Tristan prayed Gregory would never ask to be let go.

**********************

Tala led Gabrielle back into the center of the village and sat the light-haired woman down outside her hut. She left to fetch food and came back with two wooden dishes made from bark stripped from a tree. They were piled high with nuts and berries and a few strips of slightly charred fish meat.

Gabrielle took the offered dish and began to eat. It was her first real meal of the day, having only snacked on fruit during her time with Tala, and she was quite hungry. All work ceased while the village ate its evening meal. Tala watched Gabrielle eat and Gabrielle smiled to show she was enjoying the food. It was actually pretty good. There were some flavors she didn't recognize, probably herbs she didn't know, but all in all, it tasted all right.

She finished her meal and Tala took her dish away. When she returned, she held out a hand and gestured for Gabrielle to stand. Gabrielle accepted the help up and then followed Tala back into her hut.

Gabrielle stood in the middle of the large room and waited to see if Tala wanted to continue their educational exchange. She was pretty tired and just wanted to find someplace warm to curl up and go to sleep. Tala pointed at Gabrielle and then at the furs piled up on the floor. She looked back to Gabrielle and then closed her eyes for a long moment. When she opened her eyes again, she began to remove her fur coverings. She laid her weapons next to the 'bed,' and then proceeded to pull off each layer of clothing she wore.

Gabrielle finally realized that Tala intended to have her sleep in her hut.

"Um, no, that's okay, I can just sleep.. outside..." she trailed off, knowing her words wouldn't be understood.

But somehow, Tala did seem to understand Gabrielle's reluctance to share her lodgings, though she mistook it for a lack of faith in her fighting abilities. Tala pointed to her weapons and then thumped herself on the chest, puffing herself up. Gabrielle grinned at the 'apeman' display and Tala smiled back at her.

Gabrielle reluctantly nodded her assent and removed her knee-high moccasins. Then she crawled onto the fur bed and lay down closest to the wall. She was too tired to argue and there really was no way for her to explain why she didn't want to share a bed with the native woman. Tala lay down next to her, completely naked, and pulled several furs over the both of them. Gabrielle felt a strong arm wrap around her and, moments later, heard the soft rhythmic breathing of a sleeping Tala.


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