Katsura takes a delightful sip of hot trin from their new mug and passes it to Nick, who's sitting beside her next to a small fire.
Nick takes the mug, raises it in salute to her, and sips.
Nick: Ah. That's much better than the beer in that saloon.
Nick passes the mug to Pinecone.
Katsura: I'm so glad you managed to get us the little pot and the mug.
Nick: I have my priorities. What's the point of having trin, if you can't brew it?
Pinecone drinks a bit more than the average Sime would, but he doesn't know that. He coughs as trin goes up his nose.
Nick: Easy, there. Just sip it.
Nick rescues the mug before it gets spilled, and hands it to Kat.
Katsura takes it, and cradles it in her hands, warming her handling tentacles on it too. She's feeling ~~ good ~~. The transfer went much better than she'd feared it might, and the zlin of Nick's field replenishing itself at an accelerated rate is as delightful as the trin.
Katsura: Ah, Nick...
Katsura takes a sip and passes him the mug, caressing his hand with her tentacles as she does so.
Nick is still ~~ high ~~ from the transfer, which was a bit overwhelming for him, even if it wasn't quite up to Kat's needs.
Katsura: Good transfer.
Katsura is too well-bred to add "and good sex" in front of Pinecone.
Nick: It was great for me. But... it still wasn't quite what you needed.
Pinecone zlins Kat and Nick's entwined selyn fields. ~~ envious ~~
Katsura: It was better than I expected, and immensely better than I'd feared. You really are a Natural, aren't you?
Katsura projects a little of her ~~ contented languor ~~ toward Pinecone, to share it with him.
Pinecone feels better as the contentment washes over him.
Pinecone: Thank you, Lady Cat.
Nick: So I've been told. I'm not sure I know what a Natural is.
Pinecone doesn't know either, of course.
Katsura: I suppose a Gen who has so much Donor talent that he can do a great job just by following his instincts.
Nick: I learned by improvising, which isn't necessarily the best way to go about it. I'm not sure how much of what I learned was talent, and how much desperation.
Pinecone: You do not zlin desperate, Nick.
Nick: I'm not, now. But I'm sort of surprised that both me and Snake survived our first year together.
Pinecone remembers the story Nick told.
Pinecone: The part I don't understand is why Hajene Snake had to run away, Nick.
Nick: She never told me.
Pinecone: But you went with her anyway. That was... brave.
Nick: She was my channel, then. Of course I went with her. Where else would I go?
Nick's ~~ loyalty ~~ to Snake -- or at least, to Snake as she was then -- can be zlinned.
Katsura wishes Nick had had a more worthy object of his devotion, but outside the Householdings, attachments between channels and Donors are discouraged. The Tecton can be a harsh place for someone with Nick's need for a personal relationship with his channel.
Nick's attention turns ~~ warmly ~~ to Kat as he sets the memory aside, and he offers her the mug of trin.
Katsura smiles at him and again caresses his hand as she takes the mug, sips, and passes it to Pinecone.
Pinecone drinks a discreet amount of the trin this time. He decides that since neither Nick nor Kat will speak, he must.
Pinecone: My friends, we must form a plan. None of us can go home, so we must think of something else to do. And Nick by himself cannot provide enough selyn for both Simes. So we must go where there are Gens that Lady Cat can draw from.
Katsura: We can take you to the border, Pinecone. People in Nivet will look after you. They'll send you to a place where other new Simes from out-T learn how to live in-T.
Nick reflects that as a lucky nonjunct, Pinecone is in a better position than many out-Territory raised Simes.
Pinecone: I have no wish to leave you two. You are my People now. ~~ devotion ~~ firmness ~~
Nick: Pinecone, we must travel on this side of the border, and we don't know where we are going or how long it will take. You will be better off getting a good education, so you can make a good life for yourself.
Katsura: It's dangerous for you here. In Nivet, you'll be safe.
Nick nods and subtly ~~ reinforces ~~ Kat's analysis of the situation.
Pinecone: Oh, I think the Town People will not catch me! They are not woods wise, as the Free People are. And they cannot zlin, either.
Pinecone flashes a grin.
Nick: We won't necessarily be staying in the woods, Pinecone.
Katsura: And the Town People did find us a few hours ago, and we both might have been shot.
Pinecone: True, Lady Cat. But we were found because we had to stay in one place so that Nick could find us again, not so? Nevertheless, we must have a plan. We cannot wait for others to find us.
Nick: True. We have to find a place to stay where there's enough work for a channel.
Katsura: Nick, it's really too dangerous for me to work. We'll be back in-T before entran gets too severe, as long as you help me do outfunctions frequently.
Katsura hopes so.
Nick: I'd rather not rely on everything being settled that quickly.
Katsura: I'd like to be somewhere that we can find out what's happening, where Sectuib can write to us.
Pinecone: Then you must go where the Gens are friendly to Simes, but there are no Simes to tell your enemies about you. Nick, I know you have spent much time among Gens. Do you know any place like that?
Nick: There are some towns near the border that are reasonably Sime-friendly, although that has risks. Perhaps we should try someplace farther from the border? Someplace with a Sime Center close enough that the people are somewhat used to Simes?
Katsura thinks this sounds awfully vague, and the stakes are so high. After all, Pinecone doesn't have retainers.
Nick considers further.
Nick: What about the Geggs' home town? It sounds remote enough.
Katsura: Isn't it a bit small to pass unnoticed in?
Nick: Oh, everyone there would notice us. But who would notice them? They don't seem to have much contact with the broader world, from what Miz Gegg says.
Pinecone ~~ wonders ~~ who these Egg People are. Someone that Nick and Kat know about, evidently.
Pinecone: But they are friendly to Simes there?
Nick: Some of them are.
Pinecone: Well, perhaps we cannot do any better. At least it is a plan. Do you know how to get there?
Katsura: I'm not sure where it is, Nick. Isn't it way over the other side of New Washington Territory?
Nick: Not quite on the other side. It's on the train route, though, so we don't have to walk.
Katsura: I wonder -- do we have enough money for a compartment, for the three of us?
Nick: I don't have enough. Maybe we can hitch a ride on a freight train?
Katsura knows how dangerous that can be, and not just if they're caught. People lose legs if they jump and miss. But maybe she can toss Nick into the railcar.
Nick isn't too concerned: he's traveled the freight trains before.
Katsura: I suppose if we head east we'll eventually run into civilization and rail lines.
Nick: It can't be too far. I saw goods at the store in town that weren't made locally. That bodes well for a train depot not too far away.
Katsura thinks that's awfully optimistic -- the goods could have been brought in by wagon or pack animals, and during the warm season.
Katsura: Well, let's head east in the morning, then.
Nick: Good enough.
Pinecone: So in this place to which we are going, I will not need retainers?
Katsura: You'll have to pretend to be a child, Pinecone. I'd really rather you let us take you to the border.
Pinecone doesn't reply directly.
Pinecone: The place we are going to, what do they do with their Snake People?
Katsura: Until recently, they murdered them all. Last year, a few were taken to a channel.
Pinecone nods ~~ sadly ~~.
Pinecone: So I could be sent to the channel, then.
Katsura: You could be shot, Pinecone, if someone is afraid or doesn't understand that you wouldn't kill them.
Pinecone understands "shot" now.
Pinecone: Nevertheless, I will not leave you. You are my People. ~~ determination ~~
Katsura is post enough to be ~~ moved ~~ by Pinecone's loyalty.
Nick: If that's what you want, it's far better if people think you're still a child, at least until we've had a chance to get to know them.
Pinecone: Then I will need clothes that do not make me look different from the Town People, Nick.
Nick: I'll see what I can find when we get to a town large enough to have ready-made clothing for sale. I have enough money put by for that, at least.
Nick is glad that Kat managed to grab most of their Gen-style cold-weather clothing when she grabbed him and ran for the border.
Katsura: Let's turn in and get a good night's sleep. It's been a long hard day for all of us.
Nick: Yes, it has.
Katsura is replete and is looking forward to snuggling up to Nick, zlinning his field so steadily and beautifully replenishing itself.
Pinecone picks up on the ~~ tiredness ~~ in the ambient and yawns.
Pinecone: When you wake, Lady Cat, wake me as well, and we will work on my Simelan, if you will.
Katsura ~~ agrees ~~.
Nick spreads a blanket on the branches they gathered earlier, and lies down in the middle, leaving room for a Sime on either side.
Pinecone slips off his moccasins, puts the trin mug in a safe location where it won't be rolled over, and curls up with his back to Nick.
Nick holds out an arm to accommodate Kat.
Katsura spreads the remaining blankets and her cape over them, takes off her boots, and curls up with Nick, ~~ content ~~.
Pinecone slips quickly to sleep.
Nick puts an arm around Kat, and quickly falls ~~ asleep ~~.
Katsura lets his beautiful nager draw her in, and down.