In this excerpt, Ferra -- my elven engineer -- is on a cruise ship with her husband, Orn. She runs into a new creature and they have a chat about the horrors of imprinting and mating. There are also tacos.
Dwarves in Space 3: Finding Naja
“Do you mind if I sit beside you?”
Ferra opened her eyes and sighed. She could claim it was for Orn, but he’d wandered off in search of whatever he needed for the pool. Floaties? She hadn’t been listening. But her sharp retort softened as she looked up and then up some more at the woman before her.
Grey fur, puffed and rounded from middle to later age, coated her body. She had a long snout and orc like eyes with ears some elves would die for. A stumpy tail swooshed out of her voluptuous end in red polkadot bottoms. The torso was covered in a bikini top, six of them in fact.
“It’s yours,” Ferra said. The Rugaru sat down, turning to the side so she didn’t trap that tail. Out of the shadows, Ferra could see aged white fur decorating her muzzle and around her eyes.
“It’s a lovely day,” she said, pulling a tube larger than Ferra’s drink out of her bag. “How hot do you think it is?”
“Since we’re not near a star, it’s probably −450 out. Cooler by the pool,” Ferra said, but her smugness didn’t seem to bother the Rugaru.
“Are you unaccompanied?” the Rugaru asked, wiping vast swaths of her ointment across the fur. It didn’t soak in though. It shimmered the air a few microns before hitting the fur.
“No, my husband is off somewhere doing something. Hopefully not breaking that something.”
“Oh. My soulmate is attending to the poolside buffet.”
Ferra choked a laugh at that idea. When you live for a millennia, the concept of a soulmate was like telling an elf that once a year a fat man dressed in scarlet scales down your lava port and drops his unused junk beneath a coniferous tree.
“Soulmate? Haven’t been married long, eh?”
“Fifty three years this Octun,” the Rugaru answered, shifting the unguent to her right side.
“Fifty three…and you still believe in soulmates?”
“There isn’t much to believe in, really. Rugarus are imprinters. Tacos.”
Ferra blinked at the sudden reference to the human snack, but ignored it. Her translator could be on the fritz and plantlings only knew how it’d handle the Rugaru language. “Imprinting? Like you both have matching tattoos?”
The Rugaru smiled, showing her canine teeth, “No. It is tradition that one finds their soulmate and imprints during the bonding process. We’re ‘inked’ for life.”
“So, fresh out of apprenticeship, you spot some hot guy across the room that just smashed a keg open with his foot and you’re trapped in insta-love forever?” Ferra asked, her mind drifting back to some of her early…romances isn’t the accurate term.
But the woman didn’t sense the abject terror in the elf’s words. She sighed wistfully and said, “Yes. Long nights together. Tacos. Knowing if you became separated for too long one would die of a broken heart. Tacos Tacos.”
“Sounds like a vindictive mage curse,” Ferra muttered. If she had to be chained to Orn for longer than a few days someone was going to die of a crushed heart, a pulverized liver, and a few shattered bones.
“You get used to it after a time. Tacos tacos tacos.”
Ferra rose from her seat and raised an eyebrow at the Rugaru. “What’s with all the tacos?”
“Oh,” she elegantly smoothed down some fur rising in the high humidity of the pool deck and said, “soulmates have a psychic bond. I can read my mate’s thoughts and he can share mine.”
“What? All the time? You have to be shitting me,” Ferra shook her head, terrified of the concept. Whoever ran the universe must really hate the wolf people with a particular vengeance.
“It isn’t so bad. It’s rather romantic…tacos tacos tacos,” the honey dripped off as 250 pounds of pure animalistic rage rose from the depths of the beast. The Rugaru flew off her chair and snarled, “WOULD YOU SHUT UP ABOUT THE TACOS!”
And, as if the wolf were hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary, she dropped back to her chair. Only the spittle building under her chin shattered the image of a prim retiree enjoying a day at the beach facade. She unfolded a towel from her bag and draped it across her furry legs. Ferra’s eyes kept glancing to the side, watching to see if the woman would snap again and curse about the tacos.
“Hey! Fer!” Orn’s voice sundered the din of happy swimmers as his sandaled feet clip clopped across the squishy concrete.
She didn’t respond, still watching as the Rugaru carefully pulled a small book from her oversized beach bag and began to thumb through a small book of quotations.
Orn stopped before her, a small line of orange dotting the growing fuzz on his chin, “You’ll never guess what they have at the buffet.”
Still watching the woman she said softly, “Is it tacos?”
“Yeah. How’d you know?” he stuck a hand on his hip, thumbing the weakening integrity of his trunk’s waistband.
“A lucky guess,” she said and slowly sank back into her chair.