Tales of the Foxtaur Clans #12: Culture Clashes
Excerpts from the journal of Pandora & Karl, part 7
By Bernard Doove © 2007


18 April 2353

[Karl] If you’re an exhibitionist, you’d probably deal okay with having a foxtaur mate. In previous journals, I have mentioned how everyone in the family sleeps together, and everything that might go on in a bedroom, goes on in front of everyone. Foxtaurs are matter-of-fact about these things to a fault. Pandora and I never stopped making love almost every night as the kits grew up, but it was still disconcerting to notice Sylvia watching us as we finished one evening. I brought up the subject with Pandora in private the next morning, whereupon she surprised me by informing me that it was at least the third time that she had watched us, not to mention Jakkar. When I asked her what we should do about it, she asked me, "Why do you think that anything needs doing? How do you think that kits learn about sex anyway?" Considering the dry facts that were taught at sex education classes, and the misinformation spread by school peers, I had to admit that she had a point. I asked her, "Do kits learn everything just by watching their parents?" She informed me, "Sooner or later they will start asking questions. Then they will be ready to learn all the facts about sex, and we’ll teach them properly."

And that’s exactly what happened. One night, Sylvia asked why I put my penis in her mother’s vagina, and Jakkar expressed interest in the answer. So we gave them a thorough description of what goes where and why, complete with full demonstrations. I let Pandora do most of the talking as I felt that she would know better how to handle this situation, only leaving more male-specific questions for me to answer. Mostly I hoped that I wouldn’t suffer from performance anxiety. It went pretty well though, and the kits went to sleep satisfied. They watched us a few more times, but as they weren’t physically mature enough to do anything about their knowledge, they soon lost interest and stopped watching, except occasionally. Weird as the experience was, I was happy that our children would not have to deal with the same problems that I, and many of my contemporaries, had to go through. After that, there was just one more change. Because I felt that performing in front of my kits reduced any other embarrassment to the trivial, I told Kallista that it would no longer be necessary to wait until Pandora and I had finished making love before joining us in the bedroom whenever she stayed overnight. The first time that she did though, she complimented me on my technique the next morning! I was so dumbstruck that I was barely able to reply, "Thanks!"

I believe Pandora followed up Sylvia’s sex education on the night of her first heat, mostly with the specific methods of dealing with her heat, but also advice on avoiding unwanted pregnancies. I also had a few words with Jakkar, but basically the two were ready and responsible when the time came for them to be sexually active. That didn’t mean that there weren’t still more headaches for me however.

Another day’s work was done, and Karl was walking home with Sylvia. Neither hurried because the stroll between workshop and den was often spent in private talk between father and daughter. Mostly it was trivial family stuff, or a minor problem that needed discussing. Today’s talk started off no differently.

Sylvia brought up the next subject. "Do you remember Mellikan?" she asked.

Karl looked thoughtful, then said, "Mellikan? Son of Artena and Martan? Apprenticed to Dena the Potter?"

Sylvia nodded. "Yes, that’s right."

"Never heard of him," Karl replied with a straight face.

Sylvia punched him in the arm. "Be serious, Dad!" she said indignantly.

Karl winced. Foxtaurs were stronger than they appeared, and his daughter was no slouch when it came to hauling timber and furniture around. Nevertheless he grinned back at her. "He’s a pretty nice hard-working young tod. What about him?"

"He’s asked me to go on a picnic with him tomorrow."

Karl was silent for a while as Sylvia let him absorb the implications. She was still young, but more than old enough for a vixen to be seriously chasing tods. With the typical shortage of males, competition amongst the vixens to snare the interest of tods was often intense. Sylvia had obviously been successful. Despite his light-hearted attitude, Karl had been aware that Sylvia had been spending time in Mellikan’s company. Sylvia didn’t need to tell him that though; Karl trusted his daughter to use her head. The picnic sounded different however.

"Is this picnic with your friends, or just you two?" Karl asked.

"Just us," Sylvia clarified. "We plan to go to Lookout Bluff."

Karl was quite familiar with the place. Not only was it one of his and Pandora’s favourite spots, it was also the place that they had declared themselves denmates. More significantly, it was also the place where lovers often came to make out, as Pandora had informed him so long ago.

Karl favoured his daughter with a keen look. "This isn’t just about a picnic, is it?"

"No, Dad," she confirmed.

After two decades, Karl was finally acquiring some of the foxtaur matter-of-fact attitude about these things, yet this was his beloved daughter. "So you are going to have your first then?" he asked in his best foxtaur manner.

"That’s what we hope to do, yes."

"Your mother already knows about this, I guess?"

"I told her last night."

"And she told you to tell me about it?"

"No, that was my idea."

Karl was surprised. "I thought that the sire usually doesn’t have a say in these matters? Vixen’s Choice, and all that stuff."

Sylvia nodded. "That’s true, but I still wanted you to know and not find out until after the fact. Still, I’m of age now, and I intend to finish being a virgin this weekend."

Karl gave Sylvia a hug. "Thank you, honey. I can’t help but worry about my favourite girl though, so would you mind if your old man asks a few more questions?"

Sylvia giggled. "I kind of expected it."

"Good. You’re not in heat, are you?"

"Nowhere near that time, Dad. I deliberately picked a date a long time from it."

Karl nodded. "I didn’t think that you’d overlook that. Now what about Mellikan? What does he expect of you? Did he pressure you about having sex?"

"No, Dad, he’s been thoughtful and patient, and although I know that other vixens have offered him sex, he preferred to wait until I was ready. Then it was I who did the asking."

"This tod is racking up a lot of points in his favour so far," Karl said grudgingly. "Does he claim to love you? Don’t ever mistake sexual intimacy with love, as I did with Isabel."

"He hasn’t, but we think our relationship will grow. We need to find out if we’re sexually compatible too. And I remember your lesson about Isabel and how she used sex against you. I’ll try my best to use my head as well as my heart. But that brings me to my own question: How do you know that you are in love?"

Karl gave her a crooked smile. "Humans have been trying to figure that out for centuries. Morphs have had no better luck, although perhaps the empathic chakats might have more than a clue."

"Well, what about you and Mom? From what you told us, you pretty much fell in love straight away."

Karl grinned broadly. "It was more like lust at first sight. We were very different species, and an attraction between us would not have been normal, but your mother and I were both very lonely people, deeply hurting in different ways. When she realised that I found her big breasts extremely desirable, her needs brought her to physical intimacy with me. To our surprise, this was not only mutually pleasant, but we also started down the road of healing each other’s emotional wounds. Despite being very different physically, we found that we also had other things in common, with very similar tastes, and the sex was great. We formed attachments, and felt secure and happy for the first time in ages. I suppose that’s as close as I can say that we knew that we were in love. Apart, we were just muddling through life; together we started living it to the fullest. Making the other happy made ourselves happy. In a short time, we knew that we wanted to stay together, making a new life as partners. After two decades together, it still seems like a grand thing to do."

Sylvia nodded thoughtfully. "So you’re saying that a potential mate should be caring, fulfil your needs and wants as you fulfil his, makes you feel loved and secure, has similar tastes, and is a good lover?"

"It’s not a foolproof recipe, but it’s a damn good start," agreed Karl. "Do you think Mellikan can be like that?"

"I think that he can be, but I know of one other who is all that and would be even better."

"Oh? Who?" Karl asked, his curiosity aroused.

"You! Will you be my first, Karl Whitepaw?"

Karl realised then that he had been set up. He looked sharply at Sylvia. Whether consciously or not, she had her shoulders pushed back and she breathed in deeply, thus lifting and thrusting forward her large breasts, almost a match for her mother’s as they strained against their halter. Karl decided that it was deliberate. His daughter certainly knew his tastes and, as always, his body reacted in spite of his wishes. He deliberately looked away.

Staring forward at nothing in particular, he said, "I’ve taken up as many of the foxtaur ways as possible. I’ve even been made an honorary foxtaur by the clan. In the end though, I’m still human, and I don’t believe a father should be having sex with his daughter, even if that is acceptable by foxtaur standards. You have the right to ask however, but I also have the right to refuse, and I do. But," he added, turning to smile proudly at his daughter, "any other tod would be crazy to do so. You shouldn’t have to be competing with other vixens for males, the tods should be competing for you!"

"You flatter me, Dad, but I love you anyway. I can’t say that I’m not very much disappointed that you rejected my proposal, but I’m not surprised either. Still, I had to try. If anyone could have been the perfect partner for my first, it would have been you. However, I won’t let that spoil the moment when I finally have it with Mellikan."

"Good for you, dear. So, did your mother know that you were going to ask me to be your first?"

"Yes, I discussed it with Mom."

"And what was her opinion?"

"While she supported me, she predicted that you would say no."

Karl nodded. "She knows me well enough for that, but it doesn’t stop her from giving me the occasional nudge in a certain direction. I’ll have to get her back for that. Don’t tell her what we said," he instructed as they reached the den. "Let her curiosity drive her nuts for a while!"

Daughter and sire laughed as they went inside.

That night as they got comfortable for bed, Sylvia snuggled up to Karl as closely as they had ever done, but there was a slight change in attitude. Karl now regarded her as an unqualified adult. He no longer tried to hide his reactions to her sexuality, even if he intended never to follow through, and she respected him for both his feelings and his decision. They fell asleep fairly content with the way things had worked out.

[Karl] Unlike Sylvia, Jakkar never announced his intention to lose his virginity, so I never knew when he did it, although I’m reasonably certain that he had long before Sylvia. Once a tod is sufficiently mature, he immediately becomes a target for the vixens, all eager to get a chance at making a good early impression. Although a number of vixens were vulpamours, a.k.a. lesbians, the heterosexual and the bisexual females still greatly outnumbered the males, and it was often a case that the first vixens to show an interest in a tod stood the best chance of getting him as a mate. Naturally, sex was a powerful weapon in their arsenal. In humans, that often caused a lot of problems, including unwanted pregnancies. Foxtaur vixens however not only had a much higher awareness of their state of fertility, but even if they did get pregnant unintentionally, the matriarchal nature of foxtaur society laid the entire onus for the pregnancy on the vixen, and no tod was ever forced into a mating on that basis. Not that many wanted children at that age; they usually left that until years later.

Despite all that, I did have a very good idea about who he did it with. As part of Jakkar’s education into farming, he attended market days with Pandora to learn how to value, sell and barter the produce. There he met a trainee hunter who had to learn similar things about her trade, such as bartering meat for vegetables. Pandora tells me that he was immediately smitten. I think she’s exaggerating, but there’s no doubt that he started spending a lot of his spare time in her company, more so than others I’d seen chasing him. One day, Jakkar brought her over for dinner...

"Dad, I’d like you to meet Jacinta," Jakkar announced formally. "We’re going steady now, so I thought it best that you get to know each other better."

Jakkar and Jacinta

Pandora was already familiar with the vixen, so Jakkar didn’t need to introduce her to his mother also. Karl knew her too, but only generally as one of the many youths in the village. He recognised her as one of the many kits that he had played with at the swimming hole, amongst other places. Now though, she had blossomed into a beautiful young vixen. Her fur was a striking red in comparison to Jakkar’s more orange hue, and she had long blond hair and beautiful green eyes. Karl also noticed that her breasts, although hardly what he would call busty, were large by this village’s standard, and he wondered if his own tastes had rubbed off on his son.

Pandora finished preparing the dinner, pointedly leaving Karl to talk with the Jacinta. Karl said to her, "Tell me about yourself, Jacinta. I hear that you’re a hunter in training?"

"That’s right, sir. I’m into my second year of training, and I hope to be fully qualified in another eighteen months."

"Please call me Karl, Jacinta. So, how many kills have you made as yet?"

"Oh, I’m not allowed to actually make a kill as yet. I have to reach a certain level of proficiency with all weapons before I’ll be given the chance to take on some real game. One of the most important tenets of the hunter trade is making a clean kill so that the prey doesn’t suffer needlessly. We practice with many weapons, but the bow is our primary tool, and while I’m fairly proficient with it, I need to get even better before I meet the necessary standard."

Karl was quite aware of the foxtaurs’ skill with bow and arrow. Archery tournaments were a major part of foxtaur games, and there was a great deal of inter-clan competition in the sport. The centaurs of myth were reputed to be archers par excellence, and it seemed appropriate that centaur foxes should emulate that skill so well. Even a trainee like Jacinta was likely to make tough competition for an archer of any other species.

"So, what do you do between practicing with the bow?"

"Lots of schoolwork, mostly. Biology, herd management, ecological studies, and of course the more basic skills of skinning, butchering and tanning."

"Biology? Ecological studies? Why does a hunter need those sort of things?"

"Sir… Karl… hunters don’t just kill animals to bring meat to the clan. Herders can do that too, and possibly more efficiently, although the amount of grazing land is limited, so the herd numbers are also. Hunters serve one of the responsibilities laid upon the foxtaur clans in exchange for granting them these territories. We don’t kill indiscriminately. Like natural predators, we seek out the weak and the wounded, and where those aren’t available, we choose targets that will have the least impact on the species’ ideal population. That is one aspect of herd management. Keeping a check on the health of various species, both animal and plant, is also our concern. Moving some to areas with better resources, or encouraging predators to chase other prey elsewhere to help maintain or retain a balance is a major goal. Nature maintains its own balance, but foxtaurs try to do so without the disastrous swings in that balance, while looking after our own self-interest. We also watch out for ecological problems, map territories, and hunt for resources useful to the clan. You, yourself, get hunters to locate suitable timber for your furniture, which they do with minimal impact to the environment. Hunters serve a large and important role in any foxtaur clan."

Karl smiled as he recognised the passion in Jacinta’s voice, even as he realised that he still had much to learn despite the years he had spent in this village. "Well, trainee-hunter Jacinta, you have impressed me, and I can see some of what my son sees in you. I hope you do well in your studies, especially if you hope to land Jakkar as a mate!" Karl said with a grin.

Jacinta had the grace to blush a little, the insides of her ears pinking visibly.

Jacinta was a regular visitor after that, and even Karl realised that Jakkar was indeed quite smitten. Although he was reasonably sure that his approval wasn’t required, he gave it anyway. He just wished that he was able to be as blasé about his daughter’s relationship with Mellikan. The tod was pleasant, thoughtful, intelligent and showed real skill in his chosen trade. Against all this was that he was interested in Karl’s favourite child, and the human sometimes had to control his concerns for her. Inevitably though, Sylvia was either going to tell her father off, or simply take the tod as her mate without involving Karl at all. Not wanting either to happen, Karl did his very best not to let his human responses rule him. Eventually the day came that it would no longer matter.

Jakkar had recently successfully passed all his exams in the courses he had undertaken to be a better farmer, and Sylvia had been given her final test for journeyman status as a carpenter. She was required from scratch to design, procure materials, and build by herself a fancy piece of furniture. Emulating her father’s sense of style, she built a fancy set of drawers out of Eastern Red Cedar, incorporating a mirror, suitable for a posh bedroom. Karl and Tobar observed her progress carefully, and when the final coat of lacquer on the richly hued wood had dried and she declared it complete, they went over it in careful detail, noting how many techniques had been incorporated into the construction, and how well they had been executed, and how the completed piece matched the intended design. Then the two went off to the office to confer on their observations, leaving a very nervous vixen sweating over the verdict. She might have cheerfully strangled her father if she had realised that behind the closed door, the two males were toasting Sylvia’s excellent work with cold beers, and stringing her along in the time-honoured tradition of masters about to promote their apprentices. Fortunately, Sylvia never learned about this tradition until much later in life, and her father was relatively safe. Sylvia was overjoyed to eventually learn that she had passed with distinction, and her apprenticeship was over. She was now considered a skilled tradesman, and she received a hefty raise in her wages from then on. It was also the landmark that she had set for another goal.

That evening, Pandora and Karl laid on a large celebratory meal, and Sylvia had brought along Mellikan to help her celebrate. Jacinta was there also, a regular dinner guest nowadays. They all enjoyed the meal and a special dessert prepared just for the occasion, all washed down with Pandora’s special cider. Then Sylvia asked for everyone’s attention.

"Thanks, everyone! I’m so very happy to have finally completed my apprenticeship, and to have impressed Dad so much. Now I think it’s time for another step in my life. I have asked Mellikan to be my denmate, and he has accepted my proposal!"

Pandora padded over to her daughter to give her a big hug of congratulations. Karl was stunned. He’d known that his daughter was likely to mate sooner rather than later, but even so he had a certain amount of denial, not ever wanting his darling daughter to completely grow up. Nevertheless, he pulled himself together quickly enough to add his own hug after Pandora was done. She was not done with surprising him though.

"Jakkar and I have been talking for a while about my intention to ask Mellikan to be my denmate when I passed my journeyman test. He told me that he’d been hoping that I’d be doing something like that." Sylvia turned to Jakkar. "Your turn, big brother," she said with a smile.

Jakkar grinned and stepped forward. "Jacinta has also asked me to be her denmate. Actually she has asked me a couple of times, but I told her that I wanted to wait until Sylvia and Mellikan had set the date. You see, Sylvia and I want to have combined mating ceremony. Dad, when Sylvia becomes Mellikan’s mate, she will be moving into his den, and Jacinta will be moving into ours. I want you to realise though that you’re not losing a daughter, but gaining a daughter-in-law, and welcome her into the family."

Karl looked like a deer in the headlights for a long moment, until he shook his head and started chuckling. "I think that if you kits ever stop surprising me, I’ll be dead. Son, you did good, and Jacinta, I think that you’re a great match for my boy. Congratulations to you all. Now I think my lifemate is about to explode if I don’t let her and you two young vixens talk about arrangements for the mating ceremony. Jakkar, you and Mellikan are going to celebrate with me with a bit more cider; the alcoholic type this time!"

31 January 2354

Sylvia's mating gown

[Pandora] Foxtaur mating traditions vary hugely. When Karl and I decided to become denmates, we simply declared it, and registered it with the council the next day. Some people prefer to make a huge fuss over it, and others go for any variation in between. Both Sylvia and Jacinta had wanted a quiet family ceremony, but liked the idea of combining theirs. I also liked it because it had given me an excuse to unpack the family mating costume. This was a foxtaur tailored gown that had been passed down the family for several generations. Obviously I never wore it, although one of my sisters had done so, but each vixen who did, added their personal touch to the gown. This territory was known to be a source of emeralds, and Sylvia had discovered some small stones on her many hiking trips, while either checking out timber supplies, or just for fun. She’d had the stones cut and polished, and then saved them for this occasion. They had been carefully and tastefully incorporated into the design of the gown. Sylvia looks wonderful in it.

Today, on the day of their mating ceremony, brother and sister walked together to the dais upon which stood the council Elder, Yuni, who had agreed to perform the ceremony. From each side, emerging from their respective families, came Jacinta and Mellikan, she in a mating gown also, he in a smart foxtaur vest similar to the one that Jakkar was wearing. It was a short but heartfelt ceremony that made ties between our three families, followed by a much longer and joyful celebration involving lots of music, dancing, food and drink. I think the scene that I will remember best is when both Sylvia and Jacinta dragged Karl out to dance with them, with the enthusiastic encouragement of all gathered there. He performed most creditably, after which I took him into my arms to repeat the performance. This was a big moment in my two eldest children’s lives, and I wanted their sire to be as happy for them as I was. I think Karl will cope better after seeing how happy they and everyone else is with their mating.

[Karl] Despite what my lifemate might think, losing a favourite daughter to a new mate is not something that many a father hasn’t had to do before, and while I didn’t like that aspect of it, I was still very happy for Sylvia. I felt she made a good choice, and despite my hopes that she might put it off for a while, she was ready for a denmate. Anyway, although she would be moving to Mellikan’s den from that night forth, it wasn’t as if I still wouldn’t see her every work day, and occasionally have her stay back home like her grandmother still did. No, that was nothing compared to dealing with the presence of a new vixen in the den. Of course Jakkar and Jacinta spent their mating night alone in the spare room, one of the few times that foxtaurs prefer privacy. After that though, it was back to the practice of one family – one sleeping den. That meant that not only would Pandora and I would be making loving in front of Jacinta, but of course she and Jakkar would be doing the same in front of us! That definitely took a lot of getting used to. I think that Jacinta managed to simultaneously embarrass and relax me when she complimented us one night on teaching Jakkar to make love so well. She also took interest in how I nursed Pandora’s breasts, and Pandora made me watch Jakkar and Jacinta also. It taught us a couple of little tricks, but it also made me extra horny for my own mate. Yes, I definitely think I will get used to this!

[Pandora] Being mated meant greater responsibilities for Jakkar, and more time spent with Jacinta. He had to make compromises, amongst which was his commitment to baseball. He gave notice to the team that he was quitting even before the mating ceremony. However, there was one aspect that he didn’t give up. Xander had taken an interest in the sport at about the same age as Jakkar had, and he and Karl shared the pleasure of coaching him. Then Kalika insisted on learning also. This was hardly unusual as vixens composed three quarters of every team, once again due to the gender imbalance, and because foxtaur females were about as physically capable as males. Kalika and Xander had grown up as close companions, like Jakkar and Sylvia, but our youngest took it even further. They were almost inseparable. Anything one did, the other wanted to do also. Anything you gave to one, you had to be able to give to the other also. They have been ideal children, even better than Jakkar and Sylvia, because it seemed that as long as they were together, they were almost always happy, which admittedly made it a lot easier to raise them. It also started putting me in the mood for another kit.

Sylvia celebrated her mating anniversary by making an announcement at the family gathering at Pandora and Karl’s den. "I’m pregnant. Mellikan and I decided to try to conceive a kit at my last heat a couple of weeks ago, and we were successful."

There was a chorus of congratulations from all present. Then Sylvia continued, "What about you, big brother? Have you any plans for a kit of your own yet?"

Jakkar laughed. "Not yet. Jacinta wants to graduate as a full-fledged hunter first, and even then both of us want to leave it a while longer, probably another year, although we reserve the right to change our minds."

"Suits me," Sylvia said. "I get to give our parents their first grandkit to dote on.

Karl looked at Pandora. "Do you feel like a grandmother, love?" he asked with a crooked grin.

Pandora gave him an exaggerated lascivious look. "No, I feel like a horny teenager! Perhaps we should have another child of our own, and save the grandchild from being spoilt."

"Another?!" exclaimed Karl. "You aren’t satisfied with four?"

Pandora put her arms around her mate and looked him deeply in his eyes. "Have I ever said that I only wanted four?"

Karl opened his mouth to reply, then realised that he couldn’t recall her ever mentioning how many she planned to have. "Um, no. Honey, just how many do you plan to have?"

Pandora grinned mischievously. "Oh, at least one more," she replied evasively.

Karl groaned theatrically. By now he had learned to look for other clues for when a vixen was in heat, besides the scent that he couldn’t smell. Pandora was in heat, and the announcement had been the trigger for an inevitable chain of events. He looked at his elder daughter with mock sternness and berated her.

"Now look what you’ve done! Soon you’ll have another sibling and we’ll have another mouth to feed!"

Sylvia giggled. "You can’t blame me if Mom is a horny vixen. After all, she has one of the best tods in the world as a mate."

Karl didn’t know how to refute that without belittling himself, so instead he just grinned and rolled with the punch. "Then we’ll just have to leave the kit with his grown-up sister to cubsit, won’t we?"

Sylvia just poked her tongue out at him.

[Karl] The kit was conceived that night, or at least we’re fairly sure it was. Of course we made double-sure the following night. Truthfully, I wasn’t as discomfited by the thought of having another child as I made out. Heck, it bothered me more to be becoming a grandfather than a father again. I just didn’t feel that old yet, and Pandora looked as good to me as the day we met. Better even.

In the meantime, Jacinta graduated with distinction, and she brought her first kill back for our family. Jakkar opened up a previously unutilised field that was farthest from the den, just so that he could increase production to meet the growing needs of the family, and the village. Kalika became the star newcomer in the Foxtaur Little League, very closely followed as always by her brother. Then Tobar announced that he intended to retire, and he wanted to sell the business to me.

Somehow I had gotten used to the old tod always being there, but I had to remind myself that he had been looking for an apprentice with a view to a successor when I had first met him, and that had been many years ago. Naturally my successful furniture business allowed me to buy the business easily, but it did mean that we were going to go back down to just two pair of hands in the workshop once again, so things were likely to get busy for a while. I needed to start considering a new apprentice now that Sylvia was fully qualified. Fortunately being pregnant barely slowed Sylvia down, even when she was near full term. However, even she had to take it easy when she gave birth to a beautiful daughter whom they named Allana. So far there hadn’t been a response to my call for an apprentice, so for a couple of weeks, I had to make do mostly by myself, although Jake dropped by to lend a hand occasionally for a couple of hours, and Tobar even came back to help. Like most foxtaurs, he didn’t completely retire from active life, and liked to keep his hand in. Pressure was on to fill the ever-increasing list of orders.

All this paled into insignificance the day that our newest child arrived on the night of the new moon.

4 December 2355

"Have you picked a name for her yet?" Karl asked Pandora, hoping to distract her a little from the discomfort of labour. Neither of them had even considered for a moment that the child would be a male. Karl had stretched the odds enormously by having Xander, so the two had been considering names for vixens for a few weeks.

"I’m nngggg... waiting to see her before ahhrrr ... before making that decision," she replied.

"Nearly there," encouraged Mishi.

Karl hugged and stroked his lifemate comfortingly. "You’ll have to decide very soon then," he said.

"Push hard now!" Mishi ordered.

Pandora pushed dutifully, groaning loudly with the effort, and then she felt the infant abruptly slide out.

"That’s it! A perfect birth," Mishi commented as she began to clean off the newborn kit. "Congratulations of having yet another lovely child… oh! By the Makers! You have another son!" The shaman and midwife was utterly astonished. Karl and Pandora were flabbergasted. Every other foxtaur in the room was equally surprised, at least those of them old enough to know the significance. Springstep, the perennial godmother, was less astonished, but shi soon felt the pressure of many pairs of eyes turning on hir, looking for an explanation.

The chakat shrugged. "I think there’s something in how a tod produces sperm that is different in Karl," shi hypothesised. "If that’s the case, then it seems he has a roughly equal chance of siring a male as a female. Congratulations you two. You’re going to be famous!"

Little did Springstep know how right shi was.

[Pandora] As Karl mentioned, we had not anticipated having another son, and we had spent no time in consideration of a male name. We brainstormed that evening with the help of Springstep’s PADD, and soon chose an appropriate foxtaur-sounding name – Varen. It comes from Sanskrit and means "Gifts", and a third son was a unique gift to a unique couple.

If Xander’s birth had seemed to make a big fuss, it was nothing in comparison to the effects of the news of the third son when it leaked out. Karl and Pandora had to demand that the Council of Elders do something about controlling the fascinated and obsessed crowds. It was days before Karl could travel relatively unscathed to his workshop, and he had to put a strict ban on people disturbing him for non-work related matters. Then, a few weeks after the birth, an Elder from the council paid him a visit.

Before Karl had a chance to say anything, the Elder said, "In case you’re wondering, my presence here today is only indirectly related to your third son. In fact, this is basically a courtesy call. I wish to advise you that the council has been petitioned in regards to you, and it has been pointed out that as a full member of this clan, and an honorary foxtaur with all rights and responsibilities thereof, you have been remiss in presenting yourself for the Obligation."

Karl’s jaw dropped in shock. He tried to say something, but he nothing would come out.

The Elder continued. "Now we’re not blind to your exceptional circumstances, but I have to warn you that there’s an enormous amount of tradition and law backing the petitioner. You will be able to argue your case at the next clan meeting in two nights, at which time the Council of Elders will make a final decision. Good day to you, Karl Whitepaw."

Karl just stood there and watched the Elder leave, and then stood there for several minutes more while trying to figure out just what the hell he was going to do. Then when he told Tobar what the Elder had said so that he could ask his advice, instead he had to put up with the old tod roaring with laughter for several minutes at his friend’s predicament.

"A fat lot of help you are," grumbled Karl.

Still chuckling, Tobar finally said, "Nearly two and a half decades in this village, and you still don’t know who’s in charge? You want my advice? Give in gracefully; it’s not the end of the world. But I’m betting you’re going to get all human and stubborn, so I’ll leave it to Pandora to try to get some reality pushed in between those little round ears of yours."

It irked Karl that Tobar had no sympathy for his plight, but it really irritated him to realise that the tod was probably right about everything. He pulled off his protective apron and grabbed his coat to head home. Opening the door to the workshop, he stepped out into the snow to trudge home past foxtaurs setting up for the Christmas Festival. The irony of the timing did not escape him.

"I suppose that this was inevitable after siring three sons," Pandora said, chagrined.

Karl was stunned. "Is that all that you have to say about this?"

Pandora looked at him quizzically. "What? Did they say when you’d be expected to do your Obligation? It can’t be during your birthday as is normal because it’s too far away."

"Huh? No, I mean how can they expect me to do this? I’m not interested in having sex with other vixens!"

"Oh, are you thinking that it will bother me?" Pandora asked, seemingly understanding his objections. "Don’t let it worry you, love. Every vixen knows and understands the need, and it doesn’t bother us at all. Honestly!"

"But it bothers me!" Karl said emphatically. "I like a lot of those vixens, but as friends, not potential sex partners."

"Don’t let it worry you, hon. They’re not interested in a relationship. Anyone who taps you for Obligation won’t be after you for their First, nor any of the other reasons for using Obligation. No, I predict that they’ll only be after one thing – a son."

"But I don’t want to be siring children with other vixens. I don’t want to be somebody’s sperm injector. This compulsory sex is just one step short of outright rape!"

Pandora was shocked, and for a moment could not find her voice. Eventually she said, "I’m sorry, Karl. I didn’t realise that you felt so strongly about this. I haven’t really stopped to think about it in that light before; I’ve never had a reason to do so. I can say that the tods usually get worthwhile recompense in the form of enthusiastic love-making and other considerations from a grateful vixen, without having to take the responsibility for any consequences. In fact, many tods like to take advantage of the one of the few times when the vixens have no other claim on them. Most look forward to Obligation to add a little spice to their lives."

"Well I don’t need any spice in my life. I’m very happy with things just the way they are. I’m not interested in those compensations," Karl declared.

Pandora gave him a comforting hug before she sighed and said, "Well there we have a problem. You see, you have accepted your status as an honorary foxtaur, and lived and worked virtually as one." She held up her hand to forestall Karl’s incipient objections. "Now I realise that by itself, that might not be enough to convince you, but you’ve also accepted the laws and protection of this village, which kept you out of Isabel’s reach. However, it’s a two-way street. You cannot use foxtaur law to your advantage, then choose to ignore it when it doesn’t suit you. Along with the rights come the obligations, and in particular, The Obligation. My love, you have both a moral and legal requirement to put aside your feelings and do your duty if the council rules that you are eligible for Obligation."

Karl slumped a little, unable to refute that argument. "Then I suppose that I will have to try to convince the Elders that I should be an exception."

"That would seem to be your only course of action," Pandora agreed.

"What do you think my chances are like?" he asked.

Pandora sighed and shook her head. "Don’t count on it, love. With both law and tradition on the side of the petitioner, I think that it’s most likely that they will rule against you."

"I thought as much, but I’m going to try anyway."

"There’s no law against trying," Pandora said with a smile.

Community meetings were usually well-attended. The way the village was headed by Elders, rather than politicians, meant that there was a far larger degree of community participation in the running of the village. Most of the time, there were only a few important matters to discuss before the meeting would close and a barbecue or other social activity would begin, encouraging a great deal of community interaction. Karl quite enjoyed these occasions usually. This time, however, he felt like he was going to his trial.

The announcement of the petition caused a great deal of commotion, and conversation rose to a roar before the Elders called the meeting to order. When the room was quiet, Yuni, the head Elder, said, "Due to the unusual circumstances of the petition, we felt it was in the best interests of the community to open this subject up for comment. Karl Whitepaw, I invite you to state your case."

Karl stepped up to the podium. "Thank you, Yuni. Fellow citizens of Crystal Creek, for the past two and a half decades, I have lived and worked among you and, for the most part, been treated as an equal, an honorary foxtaur. I have tried my best to comply with what has been expected of me as such and, while it hasn’t always been easy, I haven’t tried to force my own values on this community. This time though, I must object, for although I have gotten steeped in your culture, in the end I am still human. As such, I have chosen monogamy with just one mate to whom I intend to be faithful for the rest of my life. Sexual intimacy with some other person goes against that choice. On top of that, I would feel the responsibility for any children whom I might sire, despite the fact that I am absolved of all such during the Obligation. I could not just turn my back on them, and I would want them to know who their father was. Also, I have been made aware of all the other purposes that can be served by the Obligation and, not only do I feel that I could not fulfil some of them, but I would also feel used and abused because it could be done without my consent. I do not feel that being required to stand Obligation is in my best interests, nor necessarily of those demanding my services. Finally, I would like to point out that this has been triggered by the birth of my third son. Chakat Springstep has looked into the situation and has concluded that although I don’t seem to have the factor present in foxtaurs that biases the gender numbers in favour of females, nevertheless that does not mean that I will consistently produce more males. In fact, it seems just as random as any human, so a vixen looking to me to sire a tod may be in for a big disappointment."

"I hope that you will consider all these things carefully before making your decision. Thank you." Karl stepped down from the podium.

"Would anyone like to comment?" Yuni asked the gathering.

"I would!" a tod called out.

"Step forward, Markon, and be heard."

Markon stepped up onto the podium and turned to face the others, and Karl in particular. "My lifemate and I have been monogamous since we mated 23 years ago. The Obligation has had no effect on our relationship, and I believe that Pandora would feel the same way with regards to you. As for children, even if a vixen chooses to exclude you from a direct role in the kit’s life, our society is set up so that everyone is responsible for the kits, and you could still play a part in seeing that the child is reared well, even if you are restricted to going through the council to achieve that. And as for the chances of getting a male kit, that is always the vixen’s gamble, but I’m betting that they will have a better chance with you than with any other tod. My opinion is that your objections are not only insufficient, but you are also trying to ignore your moral responsibility to do your duty to the clan. I think that some of the tods may even resent it if you were to be excused from the Obligation. We are one people, and while you may have been born human, you belong with us now, and you should do your best for our village." He had finished seriously, but now he broke into a knowing smile. "Besides, it can be very enjoyable if you let it. Thank you, Yuni." Markon stepped down.

Before Yuni could ask for anybody else, a loud voice demanded, "I wish to be heard!"

Yuni fixed the owner of that voice with a disapproving glare. "You will be heard, Akela, but that is no excuse for rudeness."

Slightly chastised but determined, Akela pushed through the crowd to take the podium. Karl recognised her as one of the very few vixens who continued to take a dislike to having a human as part of the community, and he wondered what her viewpoint would be because, as a traditionalist, she would support the Obligation, but personally would want him out of the village altogether. He was not kept wondering long.

"I think having Karl serve Obligation is a travesty of our customs," Akela began hotly. "I’ve always said that he doesn’t belong here, but I’ve been outvoted. Now you want to dilute the purity of our bloodline with a human’s? It’s bad enough that there are five mongrels already; now you want more? You vixens should be ashamed of yourselves, lusting over him just because you think you will have a better chance of getting a son! Stick to real foxtaurs!" The vixen then stepped down and stalked back to her place in the crowd.

Yuni spoke up. "Thank you for your opinion, Akela. However, any kit with schooling knows that we foxtaurs are a created species made from various genetic sources, including humans. There is no such thing as a pure blood foxtaur, and there is no doubt that Karl’s children are true foxtaurs. Now, would anybody else like to air their opinion?"

Pandora’s mother spoke up. "I would like to, Yuni."

Kallista took her place on the podium. "It’s no secret that when Karl first came to our village, I disapproved of him associating with Pandora. However, time and circumstances have changed that viewpoint, and now I am quite fond of him. Anyway, I haven’t been blindly sticking to a prejudice all these years, and I have seen him work at fitting in with us. I feel Karl would make a fine Obligation partner, but he needs to be treated a little differently with regards to his human nature. Karl, I respect your views, but I think that you have got to be prepared to cope with another change. The Obligation isn’t a perfect system, but it is one that has worked very well for foxtaurs, and much better than many human ones. Please give this one a chance." Kallista stepped down from the podium, walked over to Karl and gave him a motherly hug before sitting on her haunches next to him.

"Thank you, Kallista," Yuni said. "Anyone else?"

A vixen in her twenties put up her hand. "I would like to," she said.

"Take the podium then, Vena."

Vena did so, then started her speech, "I did not petition the Elders for Karl to undergo Obligation, but I did wonder why I didn’t think of it myself when I heard about it. I like Karl. He was a wonderful friend to us all as kits, and now that I have kits of my own, he’s continuing that tradition with them. He’s wonderful to know socially, and while I don’t find him anywhere near as physically attractive as a real tod..." she winked at Karl, "no offence meant."

Karl smiled in return. "None taken."

Vena continued, "Nevertheless, in every other way, I would find him highly desirable. I think he is a major asset to this village, and a grand catch as a mate. In the future, if I don’t have a son, and it is decided that Karl must undergo Obligation, I will be seriously considering his services in the future, and it will be an experience that I will enjoy, not endure. I’m sure that I speak for several other vixens too, Karl, so please reconsider your objections."

Vena stepped down amid murmurs of agreement.

"Thank you, Vena. I think you aired the views of many of the older vixens also." There were nods of agreement amongst the other Elders. "Is there anyone else who wishes to add anything?" Yuni paused, waiting for a response. When none came, she continued, "Pandora, would you like to add your viewpoint?"

Pandora replied, "I have already discussed this with Karl, and he knows my viewpoint. I strongly support upholding tradition, and I feel that he would be an excellent choice for Obligation. In the end though, I must support my lifemate, and if requiring him to undergo Obligation conflicts with him too much and harms our relationship, then I would vote no."

"Quite understandable. Thank you, Pandora. Anyone else?"

Jakkar held up his hand. "Sylvia and I would like to say something."

"Then step up and be heard," Yuni directed.

Sylvia and Jakkar went up to the podium together, and Jakkar spoke first. "We children of Karl have had the best viewpoint of how well our father has integrated with foxtaur customs. We know that it hasn't always been easy for him, especially as we were growing up, but he has always made great efforts to ensure that we lacked for nothing that other kits had, and kept his human culture to the minimum. Where he could not provide, he let our mother do so without interference, although," he qualified with a grin, "we did cause him a good deal of embarrassment sometimes. He's always been a good sport about it though, and I can't say that I have ever regretted for the slightest moment having a human father. So I know just how much Dad has done to fit in, and I don't think he can be blamed for desiring not to participate in the Obligation. My personal opinion is that he's done enough already, so don't demand that it he do this. Thank you."

Sylvia then had her turn. "My brother and I are in complete agreement with everything until the conclusion. I think that Dad has been overwhelmed by the magnitude of this matter that has been so suddenly thrust upon him, and if he had been given the chance to adjust, we would not be debating this today. I think my father would make an excellent choice of Obligation mate, and would reinforce how much we love and value him. Thank you."

"Well said, both of you. Has anyone anything more to add to these arguments?" She paused for a long moment, but there were no more takers. "No? In that case, this meeting is adjourned while my colleagues and I consider the points that were brought up." Yuni and the four other Elders, including the Justice & Enforcement vixen in her robe of office, trooped into the adjoining room to confer. It seemed like an eternity to Karl, but in fact it was only a quarter of an hour before the Elders returned. Yuni stepped up onto the podium, and the crowd instantly hushed.

"It is the majority decision of the council of Elders that Karl Whitepaw is eligible for Obligation."

A babble of conversation immediately started as the community started discussing the decision. Yuni banged her gavel and called for quiet. When she had everyone's attention, she continued.

"The foxtaur Obligation was always meant to serve the needs of the foxtaur clans. The requirement for serving the Obligation was fairly decided upon long ago, and enshrined in clan tradition, to the point of being punishable for non-compliance. No tod yet has demanded exemption, although to be honest, not all tods everywhere have been happy with some of the vixens who have thrust themselves upon them. Nevertheless, it's a system that has worked well for our kind almost since foxtaurs were first created. However, while we felt that it would set a bad precedent for you, Karl, to be excused, we are sympathetic to your position, and despite the fact that you have been granted, and accepted, honorary foxtaur membership, we realise that you are nevertheless still human, and it would be unfair to force you undergo the Obligation, not to mention it possibly violating the laws of the World Government. While the foxtaur clans have independent administration of their territories, we nevertheless are subject to their ultimate authority as part of the deal that ceded those lands to the clans. Mostly they don't bother us and we don't bother them, but you have managed to put us into a dilemma. Exempting you could cause real problems amongst the clans. Strong traditions have held us strong and united for a very long time. Challenge those traditions, and you could do a lot of damage to our society. Yet if we force you to undergo this against your will, you could cause equal, or worse, damage. You have enjoyed the benefits of this community for many years, and we in turn have benefited greatly from having you as a member. We have seen you adapt and overcome several obstacles over the years, and we feel that you have the character to meet this challenge also, if you only give it a chance and understand it fully. It is essential for you to realise that the Obligation serves strong social roles, as well as a procreational one, and while I can see that at the moment the latter is the most important one to several vixens, never doubt that the other reasons will play a part in the future."

Yuni paused, and seemed to make a decision. "Normally the Obligation is held within a week of your birthday, but because that is nowhere near now and you’re long overdue, we request you to start it ten days from today. That will bring you into the petitioner’s next period of heat. The council directs that you spend those intervening days talking with all the members of the community, gain a deeper understanding of the Obligation, and reconsider your stand on the matter. If by the tenth day, you still decide to forgo Obligation, we will accept that decision and deal with the consequences. We are truly hoping that it will not come to that."

Karl’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. He would not be actually forced to comply, but he'd be causing much trouble if he didn't. The only other option was to leave the community, which he realised that he found even more unthinkable than compliance. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, then asked, "May I now know who petitioned you?"

"Yes, that is only fair, and you will know soon enough anyway. It was Acacia."

All eyes shifted to the middle-aged vixen who had been standing quietly in the middle of the crowd. Knowing that they expected her to say something, she shrugged and gave Karl an apologetic smile. "I have had three daughters to three different tods on Obligation, never having had a mate of my own. I intend to have one more try at having a son, and I wanted to maximise my chances of doing so. I’ve liked you since the day that you arrived, Karl, and it wasn’t a hard decision to ask for you. I’m just sorry that it has caused you this much distress. I honestly never realised that you would feel so strongly about participating though, otherwise I would have tried approaching you in private first."

"It doesn’t matter anyhow," Karl replied. "I would have turned you down, but sooner or later, someone would have brought this up. I’m just hoping that if it comes down to it, I can go through with this properly."

"I have full confidence in you, Karl, and I would do my best to make it pleasant and comfortable for both of us. I hope to see you again in ten days." Acacia then left the meeting hall and a babble of conversation immediately started.

Karl suddenly felt tired. Pandora put her arms about him and he turned to look at her, grateful for the strength she was lending him. "I’m not sure that I’m in the mood for the after-meeting social tonight," he said.

Pandora disagreed. "I think it’s exactly what you need right now, rather than moping at home. Think about it for a moment – except for the likes of Akela, you are part of a community that feels so strongly about your part in it that it precipitated this unprecedented event. You are well-respected, and even loved by many. You belong here among them, as I belong by your side. Life is good. Let's enjoy it!"

Karl grinned at his lifemate. "Since you put it that way, I suppose there’s nothing to be accomplished by leaving. Don’t blame me if I get a bit drunk though."

"I will carry you home if I must, love, just as long as you get that way from enjoying yourself too much, and not from trying to drown your sorrows."

Karl rarely drank much alcohol, and wasn’t the type to go on a drinking binge, so he knew that Pandora was just teasing a little. He stuck his tongue out at her. "Spoilsport!" His mood brightened though. Pandora always knew how to get him out of a funk. "Okay, you have a deal. Now, are those steaks that I smell cooking?"

The next day dawned clear and bright, and the snowy scene outside was very picturesque. At breakfast, Karl asked Pandora to prepare a picnic lunch. The village meetings were always held on Saturday evenings, so this was the usual day of rest, and Karl intended to take advantage of it with his mate. Pandora was a bit puzzled as they didn't usually go on picnics during winter, but it was a lovely day. Karl dug out a waterproof sheet and a rug plus a few other items, then helped finish the picnic preparations. He made sure Varen was snugly ensconced in Pandora's saddle pack and that Xander and Kalika put on their winter jackets. Jakkar and Jacinta had already made other plans for that day, so it was just the five who set out on a hike that morning.

A fresh fall of snow overnight had covered all tracks made previously, but the route was a familiar one. The kits enjoyed bounding in and out of the mounds of powdery snow as they wound their way up the slope of the valley to their favourite spot overlooking the village. It was a perfect postcard scene from there, and the couple never tired of looking at it, but the area also had some slopes suitable for tobogganing. They had a wonderful family day, sliding down the slopes, building snow-taurs, snowball fights and everything else that makes winter fun. They soon worked up an appetite, and they enjoyed their picnic lunch before the kits ran off to do more toboganning. Pandora started breastfeeding Varen, while Karl snuggled up to her as they both watched the children play.

"This was a good idea," Pandora said. "But did you have any other motive for this picnic?"

"Yes, I admit that I did. I needed to remind myself how important my family is to me, and what it would be like for others who didn't have as much luck as we did. I need a fresh perspective on this whole Obligation issue."

"I think that you pretty much heard all the arguments pro and con last night. I think that the only sticking point is your adherence to monogamy."

"Which you think is silly. What about Randen, that black tod who was chasing after you? You liked him up until he tried to force himself upon you. You could have had him if you wanted, but you stuck with me."

"Yes, I could have had him if I wanted, but just because I'm happy with just you doesn't mean that I believe monogamy is good for everyone. Besides, that was purely on a personal basis. The Obligation is something entirely different."

Karl sighed. "I know. I'm too much the product of my repressed childhood. I just have difficulty separating the service from the relationship."

"At least you recognise that it's a service and no more unless you want it to be."

"It's the one thing that is enabling me to rethink my position. You know, as much as I like being accepted by foxtaur society, it was still a bit daunting to realise that so many people were so enthusiastic about me participating in such an important custom. It's such an intimate service, and yet almost nobody thought twice about including me in it."

"Is that it then? Are you a bit afraid of doing that duty? You accept the need logically, but you fear being put into that position."

Karl was silent for a little while as he considered that possibility. "I suppose that could be part of it. Part of it might be evoking memories of how Isabel used to manipulate me with sex. Anything outside of our relationship tends to put me on edge now."

"Fear is a terribly difficult thing to overcome, I know, but I believe in you, Karl, and while I don't want to force you into anything that causes you distress, I still feel that you have the strength of character to meet those fears and push them aside. Think of all the positive aspects instead of the negative ones learned painfully from Isabel. Think of our wonderful sons whom I would never have had if it wasn't for your unique abilities. Then think how much happiness you could give to other vixens. Once you have the right frame of mind, then the Obligation will be something to be anticipated, not dreaded. If in nine days you still can't deal with it, I will support you totally, but in the meantime, give it a chance, love."

"I think I'll give it that chance, Pandora, because you have asked me to, and I trust your opinion." He looked at his tiny new son happily nursing on Pandora's teat. "And also because I want to see Acacia as happy to have a son as I am having three."

"That's the foxtaur spirit!" Pandora leaned over and kissed Karl. "Give yourself time to get comfortable with making that decision. Right now though, I'm in the mood for some loving."

Karl grinned and realised that it wasn't too cold for some things!

The ten days seemed to fly by, and Karl spent a lot of them trying to mentally prepare himself. One challenge was to find Acacia sufficiently sexually arousing. She was one of the typical vixens of this clan – almost flat-chested – and that meant that his primary fetish might not help him very much. With only a few days to go, he abstained from some forms of sex in order to build up his supply of semen. If he was going to do this, he intended that it work the first time so that he wouldn’t have to repeat the effort. Still, that was a lot harder than he thought that it would be. He and Pandora had a very active sex-life, and it was easy to get aroused with her, even when they confined themselves to just petting or suckling her breasts. It was almost a relief when the first day of his Obligation arrived.

On the designated day, Karl finally committed himself to complying with the Obligation, and once he had done so, he felt a weight lifted from his shoulders. He went to the village’s office where he formally presented himself for the service. The Elder in charge there thanked Karl on behalf of the community, and posted his availability on the public notices board. He was issued with the traditional armband, and she made sure that he understood the significance of the blue and green feathers. At that point his mind boggled at the thought that he could potentially have to service ten vixens. He sincerely hoped that it would never come to that.

He went to work as usual, trying not to let the Obligation distract him too much. Mercifully, Tobar didn’t tease him about his situation anymore. Acacia didn’t keep him waiting too long, turning up about mid morning.

"Good morning, Karl," Acacia said.

"Good morning to you too, Acacia," Karl replied, feeling awkward.

Acacia hesitated briefly, then reached out to pluck a green feather from the armband. "I claim Obligation from you, Karl Whitepaw."

Karl nodded. They hadn’t informed him of any formal response, so he said, "Dinnertime at your place?"

Acacia replied, "That’s right. I’ll be waiting for you then." With that, she turned and walked off, leaving the bemused human to wonder for the hundredth time how this was going to work out.

Sylvia caught him staring into space a couple of times during the day, and she gently brought her father back to Earth. She fervently hoped that his night with Acacia would go well and bring him out of his funk.

After closing up for the night, Karl started on his well-worn route to his home before remembering that he was due to be elsewhere, and he turned off in the direction of Acacia’s den. She met him at the door and invited him inside. Although he hadn’t had much of an appetite, the pleasant odours of cooking reminded him that he was in need of food. Acacia asked him to sit at the table as the meal was ready to be served. Karl noted that she had borrowed a chair from the community hall for his use, although the lower table level made it a very snug fit for him.

Not much was said as Acacia served up the meal of chicken, sweet potato and corn, the latter two of which could well have come from Pandora’s fields. Finally, Karl broke the ice. "I see that we’re eating alone."

Acacia smiled. "Yes, it’s customary to have the Obligation in private, so everyone else is staying elsewhere tonight."

Karl heaved a sigh of relief. Considering how everything was usually done in this open society, he had been expecting an audience. Not having to perform in front of them was going to make things a lot easier. He ate a bit more before asking his next question.

"Why are you so determined to have a son that you have turned to a human to have one? Don’t you have enough children?"

Acacia’s forked paused momentarily as she considered his questions, then she finished taking it to her muzzle and chewed thoughtfully. "To answer the second question first, I love kits, and I’m not ready to stop being a mother as yet. Bearing that in mind, and the fact that all three of my children have been female, I wanted the best chance of having a son. Karl, I’m not mated. All my daughters have been conceived through the Obligation. Too many of us vixens have had to go without a mate because there are too few males to go around, and not all of them want multiple mates. You know how the average rate of male births is about one in four? Well lately it has been closer to one in five. You and Pandora are remarkable for having bucked that trend totally. Three sons in five births makes you even a greater target than you realise, and while I was first to raise the issue, sooner or later some other vixen would have come to the same conclusion as I did. You are a very precious resource to this clan, Karl, even if it does make you feel used, for which I heartily apologise."

Karl hadn’t known that the male birthrate had been going down. In that light, he could hardly blame the vixens for being concerned. Still, there was one thing bothering him. "So you’re doing this just for the benefit of the clan?"

Acacia snorted in amusement. "Hardly. I’m not quite that altruistic. Sure, that’s a very large part of it, but I badly want a son also. Karl, not only have I had nothing but daughters, but my sisters have also, and my mother, and my maternal grandmother. Only my paternal grandmother had one son. I very much want to break this trend for female births in my family. So it’s the combination of my wants and the clan’s needs that led me to choose you."

Karl considered this while they continued eating. Acacia’s desires were honest and reasonable. By comparison, he was looking more and more selfish by the standards of the society in which he had chosen to live. If this had been a human society, he would have garnered support from many others if the equivalent of the Obligation had been foisted upon him. Here though, he was getting perilously close to being inconsiderate and insulting. Karl felt ashamed. They had not done anything that would affect his relationship with Pandora, nor would the service oblige him in any other way. In fact, Acacia would have to bend more to accommodate mating someone outside of her own species, something that he was used to, but she definitely was not. He made up his mind to stop feeling sorry for himself and to do his duty to her and the clan without any more reluctance.

"Thank you, Acacia, I understand now, and I will do my best for you. There’s just one hurdle left to overcome – I’m not sure that I can get sexually aroused by you."

Acacia smiled. "There are some things that apply to all males and females, so we’ll concentrate on those. At least I don’t need to be brought to orgasm to conceive, so I’ll concentrate on arousing you. We’ll make this work!"

Karl realised that Acacia had been having similar feelings to him, and expected not to be stimulated enough by him to orgasm. He felt that she’d be cheated if she didn’t, so he vowed to himself that he would try his best to arouse her. He looked at his plate and realised that it was empty. He’d hardly noticed what he’d eaten. Acacia had just finished also.

"So, do we clean up the dishes first?" he asked.

"I think that they can wait for once," Acacia replied. "If you’re ready, I’d rather that we try to accomplish our purpose."

Karl nodded. "That’s fine by me."

She led him to the sleeping den, furnished with the typical mattresses and large pillows on the floor. She started reaching to unfasten the sleeveless jacket that she was wearing, when Karl stopped her.

"There’s one skill that foxtaurs never seemed to have developed well because you often walk around all day in nothing but your fur, or a token top." At the curious arch of her eyebrow, he went on to explain. "The art of sensually undressing your partner is very useful for getting in the mood. Allow me..."

Curious, she nodded her assent, and Karl took the leather ties in his hands and slowly and deliberately started unlacing them until the front halves fell open to reveal her breasts. They were small, and the nipples were completely covered with fur, but he paused to admire them anyway. Acacia was surprised to get a flush of pleasure at his gaze. He laid his hands on them, tracing the curve of each with his fingers, then finding the nipples and teasing them a bit. Her heat had made them sensitive, and she closed her eyes to enjoy the delicious sensations. Foxtaur tods didn’t seem to have been that interested in them so much before, and she enjoyed the new experience. She had a pang of disappointment when it stopped.

"Now it’s your turn," Karl instructed.

"I think that I get it," Acacia replied. She unbuttoned his shirt to reveal his almost hairless chest. She had seen his bare chest on many occasions, but this time she really looked at it. Aside from not having fur, it was not too unlike a tod’s chest, and his muscle’s showed strong definition from hard labour in his workshop. A very handsome chest, she decided. Next she unbuckled his belt, then hesitated. She had been about to unfasten his trousers , but realised that there was a better approach. She walked around him, put one arm around his chest, then slipped her other hand down his pants’ front. Finding his genitals, she gently played with them, and was gratified to feel an immediate response. Yes! This was certainly arousing him, and a little herself also. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as hard as both had feared. She continued this until he was at full erection before unzipping his trousers and pulling them down, followed by the undershorts. Karl stepped out of them and turned to face Acacia, proudly erect. She realised that he wasn’t so different from a tod where it counted, and arousing him had helped to get her into the mood also. They stepped shyly up close and put their arms about each other in an intimate hug. Karl could feel Acacia’s hardened nipples teasing at his chest. Acacia was delighted at feeling his manhood against her upper belly. To be able to feel his penis like this while in a face to face hug would have been impossible with a taur, but deliciously arousing with this human!

"Let’s do it now," she whispered, "while we are both so ready."

Normally Karl would spend a lot more time in foreplay with Pandora before actually mounting her, but he was not here to make love to Acacia, but to service her. So he followed her advice to take advantage of the mood and took his position behind her. She lifted her tail, and Karl mounted her with the ease of years of practice, and the generous amount of natural lubrication that her arousal had produced. He closed his eyes and imagined that it was Pandora to whom he was making love, while she in turn pictured him as a foxtaur stroking his penis within her. She hardly needed to bother because she discovered that the feeling was every bit as good as any tod she had been with.

Another reason that Karl had for abstaining from this kind of sex for a few days before the Obligation was so that he could be more easily aroused by Acacia. He certainly hadn’t expected this to be as pleasurable as it was turning out to be. Therefore, he not only orgasmed, but came hard. His pounding in the throes of orgasm set off Acacia too, and the den was filled with yips and moans of pleasure. The peak passed, and Karl slid free of Acacia. He sat down on the mattress, panting lightly, and looked at Acacia. She had done the same, and they regarded each other in the afterglow. Then they simultaneously burst into laughter, giddy with relief.

"I feel so foolish," Acacia said first. "I was wondering how I was going to deal with sex with a human, only I now realise that sex is sex, and the species nearly irrelevant. Thank you, Karl. I enjoyed that a lot."

"You’re welcome, but I also feel silly," Karl replied. "All that agonising over servicing someone who wasn’t my mate, and yet it was accomplished so easily. And I must admit that it was good for me too."

"Do you feel up to another session to make doubly sure?"

"Give me a few moments to recover. I’m only human. I can’t ‘reload’ quite as quickly as a foxtaur tod."

"That’s not a problem," Acacia reassured him. She was quietly thoughtful for a few moments, then she said, "Karl, did you really mean what you said about wanting to be involved with any kit that you might conceive?"

Karl looked at her seriously. "Of course. I know that it is up to the vixens whether the kits are told who sired them, but I would prefer it that he or she knows that I’m the father, and I could take some part in their growing up."

Acacia reached over to lay her hand on Karl’s arm. "Karl, I promise you that if this mating is successful, the kit will know that you are the sire, and I would welcome any help from you in raising that child."

"Thank you, Acacia. That means a lot to me."

Acacia smiled back at him, then her hand started straying over his chest, then down his leg, touching and appreciating. When she noticed his enquiring look, she explained, "This will probably be the only time that we’ll be together, and I want to remember what you look and feel like."

"I’m flattered. I’m also getting aroused again. Keep that up and we’ll soon be ready for round two!"

Acacia grinned and continued her explorations, and soon Karl took her again, this time from another position that allowed him to caress her head and breasts while he built them both back up to orgasm. The second time was even better than the first.

Acacia cradled Karl in her arms as they relaxed in the afterglow. Neither spoke while they savoured the feeling. Eventually though, Acacia said, "You have fulfilled your duty to me. If you wish to go home to Pandora, you may."

Karl thought for a moment, then asked, "Are you expecting anyone to come home to this den tonight?"

"No. Why?"

"Because I’ve gotten familiar with foxtaur ways. Are you looking forward to sleeping alone?"

Acacia cast her eyes down. "No, not really."

"When was the last time that you slept alone?" Karl enquired keenly.

"As far as I can recall, I have never slept alone," she admitted.

Karl smiled at her. "By the terms of Obligation, you may claim me from sunset to sunrise. Would you prefer my company tonight, Acacia?"

The vixen brightened. "Yes, Karl, I think that I would."

She found a blanket for him as the night was too chilly for him to sleep nude despite the fire in the den, and he snuggled up to her to sleep. She wasn’t Pandora, but the vixen was still a comfort by his side. He didn’t like sleeping alone anymore either.

Karl awoke to the smell of frying bacon. Acacia wasn’t in the sleeping den, so he assumed that she was making breakfast. He found his clothes and dressed before joining her in the main room.

"I hope you like bacon and eggs for breakfast," she said as she saw him enter the room.

"I do, but it wasn’t necessary to make me breakfast."

"Nonsense! My guests always get a good feed, and you only eat half as much as a foxtaur anyway. And perhaps you’ll enjoy this more than the awkward dinner last night."

Karl grinned. "Yeah, you’re right. It was quite a learning experience though. I’m very glad that you made my first Obligation such a positive experience. I doubt that I’ll ever be thrilled about being used as a sperm resource, or being taken away from Pandora for even one night, but if every time is like this, I’ll be satisfied that it was worth it."

Acacia served up the bacon and eggs with toast and butter. As she did so, she said, "I’d like to be able to guarantee that for you, but different vixens have different motivations, and not every one of them is going to be so understanding. Hopefully they’ll do their best though. I know you will."

"Time will tell, I suppose," Karl said with a shrug, then concentrated on eating his breakfast.

Replete at last, he sighed in satisfaction. As Acacia took away the dirty plates and cutlery, Karl asked, "How long before you know the sex of the kit if you’ve conceived?"

"Only when the kit is born. It’s our custom not to find out beforehand."

"You mean I’m... we’re going to have to wait ten months before we know?"

"Yep. Even eager as I am, I’m sticking to custom. After all, knowing now won’t affect the gender at birth."

"True. I admit that I always waited to find out, but it didn’t really matter to me whether the kit was a boy or a girl. This time, however, I really want to know."

"Why is that?" Acacia asked curiously.

"Well, if it’s a male, that will make that the fourth out of six children, and I can see the vixens queuing up for my services. If it’s a female, then I’ll be more average, and the vixens might not be so eager to take the chance, so I might not have to do this so much."

"At least you’re honest and consistent. Sorry again to add this turmoil to your life."

Karl waved his hand dismissively. "It’s obviously not the end of the world. Who knows? This might come back and bite the Elders in the behind in some way, and then I’ll get the last laugh."

Acacia shook her head and clucked disapprovingly, but there was a hint of a grin on her face.

The winter sun had still not risen by the time Karl was ready to leave. The sight of snow seen through the window made him button down his jacket firmly before stepping out into the false dawn. It was too early to go to work as yet, so he headed home. He was delighted to find Pandora was up, and they silently sunk into each other’s arms. They hugged for a long moment before Pandora finally spoke.

"When you didn’t come home last night, I suspected that it went a lot better than you had feared. I missed you, but I was happy that you didn’t come home because it meant that you had probably worked things out with Acacia."

"You’re right. I think we have a much better understanding now."

"So, do you think that she would make a good second mate?" Pandora asked innocently.

Karl looked at her sharply. "Don’t tease me like that, Pandora. You know that I’m not interested in more denmates. That much hasn’t changed. However, she has promised that I can be involved in the raising of the child, so we’ll probably be seeing more of her."

"That’s nice, but I was only half teasing you. She might actually like having a denmate at last, and you certainly have the right to take more mates."

"Enough! I’ve reached a compromise with the Obligation, and that’s as far as I will go. Now how about a snuggle before I have to leave to go to work?"

Pandora grinned. She had been quite prepared to share like any other vixen, but she loved having Karl to herself, and if this was the way he felt after even a pleasant and successful night with another vixen, it was likely that she would have him to herself for a very long time. She intended to show him just how much she liked that!

[Karl] With the unexpectedly pleasant night with Acacia completed, I thought that I had found an acceptance of the practice of Obligation. Little did I realise the full ramifications of the custom. I learned the hard way on the last day of my Obligation. The other days had passed without even a hint of interest from any other vixen. Pandora suggested that perhaps the others were waiting to see what happened with Acacia. The seventh and final day was coming to an end, and it looked like Acacia would be the only taker this time around. Sylvia and I finished work for the day, and we closed up the workshop….

"Goodnight Sylvia," Karl said, giving his daughter the usual parting hug.

"Dad, could I talk to you about a private matter before you go?"

"Of course! Step into the office and we’ll talk." They did so and Karl continued. "So, what’s up?"

"It’s simpler to show you," Sylvia said, reaching up to pluck a green feather from Karl’s armband.

Karl’s eyes grew huge from shock. "But... but..."

"Before you jump too far to conclusions, I don’t intend to have a kit by you," Sylvia reassured him.

Karl had indeed been thinking exactly that. It hardly allayed his shock though. "But why then?" he managed to ask.

"Because I love you, and because I feel a bit cheated."

"Cheated? I don’t understand."

Sylvia sighed. "I know you don’t, so this is going to require a long explanation. Dad, mother has been shielding you far too much all the time that you have been mates. For example: the Obligation. She knew from the day that you were made an honorary foxtaur that it would apply to you, but because it was so unlikely, rather than worry you about it, she chose not to explain it to you. Then when you had a son on the first try and your chances dramatically increased, she still didn’t tell you. Even after Xander’s birth, Mom chose to let you continue in blissful ignorance, so when Obligation was finally enforced, it was a total shock to you. But that’s hardly the only thing that she has shielded you from. Remember all the shocks that you had from culture differences? Mom hoped that many would not come to pass, so she chose to leave you in the dark. The worst of them involved me. Remember what happened the night that I had my first heat?"

"Pandora asked me if I intended to service you." It was a moment strongly etched in his memory.

"Correct. Dad, that was not a rhetorical question, although Mom accidentally let that slip out. That was another thing that she intended for you never to have to worry about, but in that case, it also affected me."

"Your mother explained that it was vixen’s business," Karl said with a frown of puzzlement.

"A partial truth. It became vixen’s business only after you refused, but you did not know the consequences of either accepting or refusing."

"Then what is the full truth?"

"That requires a bit more explanation. You recall that I had my first heat long before I made love for the first time. The fact is that most vixens will have their first heat before they find a companion with whom they’d like to make love. This is hardly unusual. For most sapient species, the females are usually sexually mature long before they are ready for a relationship. However, while that isn’t a big problem for humans, it most certainly is for foxtaur vixens. The first heat is so strong that it demands attention, as you found out. Worse yet, if not attended to, the vixen can get seriously ill from stress. In the very worst cases, the stress and shock to the system can even kill. It’s rare, but it can and has happened. So what does a young vixen do when she comes into heat? She can’t ignore it, and using drugs goes against foxtaur mores. No, the best and simplest way is to have sex, but Mom’s solution with sex-toys and alternative activities is extremely unsatisfying in comparison to the real thing. So she needs someone she knows, loves and trusts. Who fills that description?"

Karl was reluctant to answer, but he eventually murmured, "Her father."

Sylvia nodded and continued, "Yes, or a brother if she has one and he’s old enough."

"But what about pregnancies?" Karl protested.

Sylvia rolled her eyes in disbelief. "Honestly, Dad, even foxtaurs use contraceptives!"

Karl felt foolish for not thinking that through properly. Still, there were other things that made him uncomfortable. "So, you were expecting me to service you. However, you told me back when you had your first with Mellikan that you weren’t ready to have sex with me then."

"No, I said that I wasn’t able to make love with you as good as I wanted to as yet. I would not have hesitated to ask you to service me despite this, but Mom cut me off before I could and shocked you, so you would no longer have agreed to do it. So that’s why I feel cheated. It’s a special moment that comes just once in a vixen’s life, and I never got to experience it. Mom knew very well how you would feel, and was trying to protect you, but she had to rob me of that special moment to do so. If she had only educated you in what could happen, perhaps we would not be in this situation. Much later, I got a chance to ask you to be my First, but you refused and my disappointment was complete."

"I thought that we agreed that it was best that a father and daughter didn’t have a sexual relationship?"

"No, I did not agree at all, but you had the right to refuse me then, and I chose to accept gracefully."

"I still don’t think incest is right though," Karl said a bit sullenly.

Sylvia put her arm about her father’s shoulders. "Dad, I do understand. I’m part human, at least up here," she said as she tapped her skull. "I understand you in some ways better than Mom does, but even so I think that humans make sexual relationship difficulties an obsession. Foxtaurs have made it as simple as possible – it should be good for both participants, and there should be no unwanted pregnancies. We express ourselves very openly and physically, as you have learned. We just see no reason to stop when the one we love so much is a blood relative. Father, I love you so much! There have been times that I have ached to express my love for you sexually, but have been constrained by various factors. Now I have the right to ask, and by the foxtaur custom that you chose to accept, you cannot refuse."

"Oh? What if I do anyway?"

"But you’d have to face Justice & Enforcement!" Sylvia protested.

"Only if you told them that I refused. Would you really give me up after professing how much you love me?"

Sylvia stared at him in disbelief, tears starting to well in her eyes. "No, of course I wouldn’t. I could never do that to you!" She held out the feather. "Take it back. I’m sorry, Dad. I wanted this to be a beautiful experience for both of us. I won’t turn this into a selfish power struggle."

Karl took the feather, and Sylvia immediately turned to leave, but stopped with her hand on the doorknob when he said, "Wait!" Karl got up from his chair, walked over to Sylvia and put his arm about her.

"I still don't like some of the aspects of the Obligation, but I can no longer deny the heartfelt wishes of my beloved daughter. To satisfy my own nagging inner voice though, we’d better do this by foxtaur custom." He handed her back the feather and her eyes lit up.

"Are you sure?" Sylvia asked, almost afraid that he would change his mind.

"As sure as I can be under the circumstances," Karl replied.

Sylvia threw herself into her father’s arms, still crying, but this time from happiness. "Thank you, father! Thank you!"

They held each other for a while, and Karl began to feel happier about his decision. This time, it felt right.

Eventually he broke the moment by asking, "So, are we going to your place now?"

Sylvia was disconcerted. "Oh! I decided this at the last moment, so Mellikan will be expecting me, not to mention my daughter and the rest of the family."

"I have a suggestion. Go home, grab Allana, then make your apologies and head over to our den. I’ll let Pandora know to expect you. Tonight we can use the spare room, and maybe my lifemate will realise that I’m not a delicate flower that needs to be protected from everything that might clash with my old culture."

"That works for me!" Sylvia declared. "I’ll be there soon!" she declared as she hurried out the door.

Karl smiled as she departed, then turned off the light and headed home.

[Karl] Pandora was very surprised when I announced that Sylvia was going to be spending an Obligation night with me. She was also rather embarrassed that her efforts to protect me had backfired and all been for naught, and even been a little ashamed at how it had affected Sylvia. I didn’t take it any further than that. After all, I love her totally, and she had only been overly concerned about my welfare. I still hope though that Kalika doesn’t decide to ask me to service her on her first heat, but I think I’ll be prepared to do so if the situation arises.

Making love to my daughter was a delight. I think that she was as nervous about it as me at first, but she remembered well what I enjoyed most from watching us as she grew up. Also, she now had lots of practice with her denmate, and her delightfully large breasts were lactating for her kit, another big turn-on for me as she well knew. In the beginning, I was still not quite comfortable with the idea of having sex with my daughter, but she soothed me, then quickly built up my sexual excitement. When I finally entered her, it was a moment of triumph and joy for both of us, and we made love as intimately as we ever did with our respective mates. While sex with Acacia had been pleasant, the love that Sylvia and I shared made this so much better. She wrung the best from me, and I made sure that I more than made up for the disappointments of the past.

Finally, when we were spent, we laid together in tender embrace. No more needed to be said between us, and we drifted off to sleep satisfied with our achievements that night. In the morning, it was very pleasant to wake up snuggled warmly within the curve of her furred body. When she awoke, I asked her if she was content. She smiled dreamily at me and said, "Yes. At least for five years, anyway."

Somehow I don’t think she was just teasing.

[Pandora] Seeing how happy Karl and Sylvia were after their night together highlighted how badly I had erred in trying to keep them apart. Although he had his ideas of what was right and wrong, he had still been flexible enough to deal with the situation. Some may see him as weak-willed and caving in to the demands of our society, but I see him as adaptable, meeting challenges with determination and intelligence. Each time he has changed, we have all came out the happier for it. If this had proven to make him truly unhappy, our family would have been the poorer for it. I am so proud of Karl, and I can only hope to continue to be worthy of his love and devotion.

Ten months after the Obligation, Acacia gave birth to a healthy kit – a male. The first offer of a procreation contract from another vixen came within a week, two more before the kit was a fortnight old. Karl turned them all down flat. At the next community meeting, he announced to the entire community that he would not be accepting any offers of procreation contracts, even the ones whose terms put the responsibility totally with the vixens similar to the Obligation. However, if they were still interested in a little over four years, he would be available again by Obligation. He had no intention of being the village’s baby-maker, especially with vixens over-excited at the prospect of increasing their chances of getting a son. Four more years would help cool off those who weren’t completely serious about it.

Karl got another offer. It was a proposal of a co-mating contract from Acacia. Karl was surprised but quite flattered, and he took a couple of days to consider the offer very seriously. He asked my opinion, and I told him that I liked her, and would not mind her as a co-mate. Nevertheless, eventually he decided that his decision to have only one mate would stand, and he gently turned her down. I admit that that pleased me, but I decided it would be nice to invite her to stay overnight with us occasionally.

So that Karl could spend time with his son, of course! *Grin*

When Karl’s Obligation came up again, he had four green feathers taken by vixens trying their luck for a son. Half got their wish, but the other two weren't bitter. Their chances had been twice as good than with a normal tod, and they had no cause for complaint from the quality of Karl’s service. Both commented to me that I was lucky to have such a talented, if unusual, lover. I had to agree.

And Sylvia made good on her comment. This time however, there was no angst. I believe that they intend to make this a tradition for his future Obligations. Now I know he’s a foxtaur!


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To be continued in Tales of the Foxtaur Clans #13.

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

Link:  Return to the Forest Tales main page.

[Link to the main Den page]
Follow the paws back to the Chakat’s DenTM main page.