oun D’jir’s arrival on the island created a stir among the people. Even though he wore his voluminous robes, it was evident to anyone who wanted to know that he carried kits. His midriff was round and distended, his pouch opening distinct. His golden fur had grown darker and he carried more weight.
As he stepped down the shuttle ramp to the ground, the entire colony went down upon one knee and bowed their heads. oun D’jir was taken aback, not having expected reverence. He glanced over his shoulder to Sol, who stood just behind him. The Sentinel smiled faintly and gave a nod. oun D’jir turned back to the congregation.
One of the aun Deuili stood up. He was tall and burly with muscles. His down was silver, and his blue eyes took oun D’jir in possessively.
oun D’jir stiffened.
The aun Deuil bowed deeply. “Oun Shi’ehl, welcome to Colony Xema. I am aun Deuil Sjir’phal.”
oun D’jir sniffed delicately, parting his mouth to scent the stranger. He smelled strong and intelligent. There was no question that he was attractive to oun D’jir, but oun D’jir didn’t appreciate the entitled attitude of the soldier.
“aun Deuil,” oun D’jir replied cautiously. His tail flicked behind him, slapping softly against Sol’s thigh. oun D’jir hissed at the offensive appendage.
aun Sjir’phal took a step forward. “May I show you your hut, oun Shi’ehl?”
oun D’jir looked out into the kneeling people. “Rise, please. Where are the oun Shi’ehli?”
“Here, oun Shi’ehl.”
oun D’jir ran his eyes over the remainder of his gender. He gasped. “How many of you are there?”
One of the oun Shi’ehli stepped forward. “We are al-olta, oun Shi’ehl.”
“Al-olta?” he asked, horrified. “And the aun Deuili?”
The oun Shi’ehl sighed. “Xe-shanstk-shanstk.”
“I see,” oun D’jir murmured. “Ie’teina is wise. We need labor to build our new home.”
The colony murmured a brief prayer.
oun D’jir’s ear flicked. “And the boueli? What are their numbers?”
“Unchanged, except for the civil war that killed some olta-olta,” the oun Shi’ehl replied.
oun D’jir turned back to Sol. “There are 42 oun Shi’ehli, 110 aun Deuili and some 200 boueli.” He turned back to the congregation. “One of the Sentinels is an architect and engineer. He has come to assist us.”
“We have all the information we need from the ark records. We need no assistance from Sk’oit-tu,” aun Sjir’phal spat.
oun D’jir was slow to turn to him, ears flat against his head. “You have no say, aun Deuil. You forget yourself.”
aun Sjir’phal drew himself to his full height and made himself appear larger. “Things are different now, oun Shi’ehl. The Council will be formed of aun Deuil and oun Shi’ehl.”
oun D’jir felt his tail fluff in surprise and ire. He narrowed his eyes. “Then let me make myself clear, aun Sjir’phal. The Sk’oit-tu are welcome and the engineer will assist us.”
“Until your kits are born, you have no power,” aun Sjir’phal hissed.
oun D’jir drew himself up. “Would you like to battle?”
The people rose as one to their feet. Shouts filled the air.
An aun Deuil stepped forward. “There will be no actions taken; nothing that may cause harm to the kits. The engineer may assist us, oun Shi’ehl.”
The people calmed at the words.
oun D’jir placed a hand on his pelvis. “My kits are strong. I am always aware of their health and wellbeing.”
“Praise Ie’teina!” an oun Shi’ehl called out.
“Praise Ie’teina!” the colony intoned.
oun D’jir shifted. “Has the Council been gathered?”
aun Sjir’phal sighed. “We waited for your arrival.”
“Then we will vote for a Council,” oun D’jir replied haughtily. “Is there a meeting hall?”
“Ye,” aun Sjir’phal replied.
“Then let us adjourn and choose a government,” oun D’jir said as if he spoke to a youngling.
aun Sjir’phal stiffened but sketched a shallow bow. “This way, oun Shi’ehl.”
oun D’jir turned to Sol. “Remain on the shuttle until I return, aun Sol.”
The colony moved as one, parting to allow aun Sjir’phal and oun D’jir to pass, then closing behind them.
The meeting hall was a large wooden structure with a rounded roof made of soft wood and packed mud covered with thick fronds. There were windows without shutters. Inside the wide door was a swept wooden floor and pillows were stacked along the walls. On the other side of the room were fourteen thick, brilliantly colored pillows. The smell of mud and wood dust was thick in the room.
oun D’jir turned to the congregation. “Sit, please. We will discuss who will rule.”
The congregation sat down and oun D’jir sat crosslegged on the floor in front of the room, aun Sjir’phal next to him.
“Suggestions?” oun D’jir asked.
“Shanstk percent of each gender,” an aun Deuil shouted.
oun D’jir huffed a laugh. “That will put the oun Shi’ehli at a disadvantage. I propose oi-stok from each gender.”
aun Sjir’phal shifted and oun D’jir stiffened, expecting conflict.
“Agreed,” was all aun Sjir’phal said, surprising oun D’jir.
“How do we choose?” an oun Shi’ehl asked the silence.
“Games!” two or three said at the same time.
The congregation hissed with laughter.
aun Sjir’phal looked around the room. “The Council will be chosen based on wisdom, equanimity, and a sense of justice. We do not need physical strength from our rulers. Games would be most enjoyable, but not for this.”
Nods of assent from the congregation.
“I nominate aun Sjir’phal!” an aun Deuil shouted out. “He led us safely here and has led us with equanimity and wisdom!”
The congregation pounded the floor with their fists.
“All in favor, say Ye!” the aun Deuil screamed.
oun D’jir remained quiet. He glanced at the congregated oun Shi’ehli and met their nervous gazes. He inclined his head. They were outnumbered two to one, so they had to fight this battle with cunning and not a show of strength.
aun Sjir’phal preened and inclined his head. “I accept the nomination with gratitude.”
“I nominate oun D’jir!” one of the oun Shi’ehl called out. “He represents our future.”
The congregation pounded the floor with their fists. “Ye!”
aun Sjir’phal inclined his head. “Agreed. Now, I will nominate an aun Deuil and oun D’jir will nominate an oun Shi’ehl. The colony will accept our choice or supply an alternative.”
“Ye!” the colony cried as one.
“Then I nominate aun P’ata’lyh,” aun Sjir’phal said. “He led the revolt on his ark with minimal bloodshed.”
oun D’jir stiffened but said nothing as the aun Deuili assented. He felt helpless and distressed. aun Sjir’phal would choose progressives and disenchanted aun Deuili who would change the laws and everything holy. He thought hard. If he chose only traditionalists nothing would get done. They would be seven against seven and only stalemates would be created, but he wanted at least three stolid, traditionalist voices in the Council. Coming to a decision, he named a traditionalist.
“I choose oun Enobia,” oun D’jir murmured.
“A traditionalist?” aun Sjir’phal challenged.
“Just so,” oun D’jir replied patiently. “We need a connection to the past, even as we move forward into the future.”
aun Sjir’phal raised an eyebrow but inclined his head. “Just so.”
Hours later, they had chosen the fourteen Council members. Three were traditionalist, not including oun D’jir. He felt comforted that there would be four traditionalist voices in the Council.
aun Sjir’phal rose. “Councilors! As I call your name, rise and take a place at the fore of the room!”
aun Sjir’phal walked to the fore of the room and knelt on a pillow at the edge of the semicircle of pillows. “oun D’jir!”
The congregation pounded the floor with their fists as oun D’jir rose and took his place beside aun Sjir’phal.
Once all the Council was seated at in a semicircle, aun Sjir’phal rose. “We present the Council of Colony Xema: the past and the future!”
“Hau! hau! hau!” the colony changed, banging their fists on the wooden floor.
aun Sjir’phal raised both arms to silence the crowd.
He ran his eyes over the congregation. “I have begun to form laws for the people. The Council will adapt the ones everyone can agree upon. Once the laws have been voted upon, we will present them to the people. At that point, we will adopt a High Priest and King!”
“Hau! hau! hau!”
“Disperse then,” aun Sjir’phal told the people. “Return to work now.”
The people shuffled out of the room, closing the door of the hut when the last one exited.
“You have begun the laws?” oun D’jir asked into the utter silence created by the vacating of the hut.
“Ye,” aun Sjir’phal replied. He parted his robes and pulled out a thin tome. “I have written the laws here. I will read them to you, and you will vote.”
oun D’jir listened with growing alarm as aun Sjir’phal announced the new roles for each gender. When aun Sjir’phal read the new roles for the nieh boueli, he rose with a hiss.
“You mean to educate the nieh boueli?” he demanded.
aun Sjir’phal inclined his head. “Ye. They will have the roles of educators and clerics to the High Priest–“
“So I heard you,” oun D’jir spat. “Do you think that is wise?”
“Oppression causes discontent and possible revolt,” aun Sjir’phal intoned.
oun D’jir rolled his eyes at the tired saying. “The boueli have never revolted!”
“Not on the arks,” aun Sjir’phal stated. “It might be different on a planet.”
oun Benska shifted. “How so?”
“There has been precedence in the past,” oun D’jir replied with reluctance. “In our deep past.”
“I see,” oun Benska said.
“The God Ie’teina is a just God,” aun Sjir’phal told them. “It will not sit well with the God to behave unjustly. To that end, we will refer to the boueli as ieh boueli.”
“‘Ieh’ has no meaning in our language!” oun Serphon huffed dismissively.
“It will take on meaning with use and time,” aun Sjir’phal replied patiently.
“So the nie– the ieh boueli will be taught to read and write and given new roles,” oun D’jir said. “What of the genders?”
aun Sjir’phal read from his tome. “The aun Deuili will have the roles of protectors, governors, merchants, farmers, traders, hunters, smiths, and animal husbands.”
oun D’jir inclined his head. “That is in keeping with their strengths and abilities. And the oun Shi’ehli?”
aun Sjir’phal locked glances with aun Pasia’h before returning his gaze to oun D’jir. “The oun Shi’ehl’s roles will now include that of diplomat, courtier, ambassador, nurturer, home keeper, High Priest and King.”
The traditionalist among them began shouting as one.
oun D’jir held up a hand to silence them. “One at a time: why do you oppose these roles?”
“We are not meant to work!” oun Enobia huffed. “We are meant to rule!”
“And we shall,” oun D’jir agreed. “One of our numbers will be king.” He took in a deep, bracing breath. “We should contribute to the the colony. It is shameful, how we’ve behaved in the past–“
“You are a traditionalist!” oun Benska hissed.
oun D’jir’s lips quirked. “Apparently not as much as I thought.” He hissed. “I agree with these roles. You are outnumbered, oun Benska, oun Serphon, oun Enobia. It will add meaning to our lives to work for a change.”
aun Sjir’phal looked with admiration at oun D’jir before dropping his gaze to the tome. “All Sha’jeen homes will have an altar to Ie’teina. There will be a prayer hall as well for a weekly congregation. A candle will be lit each morning and incense will be burned. All Sha’jeen will pray upon rising and upon lying down to bed at night.”
“The rituals are to be formed by the High Priest!” oun Enobia hissed.
oun D’jir was so shocked, he was unable to speak for a few minutes. He wrapped his distressed tail tightly around his waist. “We will leave off rituals until the High Priest is chosen.”
aun Sjir’phal looked like he would protest, but then he inclined his head. “Very well.”
oun D’jir released a breath and rubbed his thighs soothingly to calm himself. “We will create the civic laws.” He stood and stretched. “But we will adjourn, for it grows late. Tomorrow we adjourn once more on the morrow to create the civic laws. Agreed?”
The members of the Council acquiesced and oun D’jir turned to stalk from the hut. He was parched and hungry.
Rain fell gently onto the canopy of the nearby trees. The pattering sound, combined with the smell of wet earth, filled oun D’jir with an odd mixture of comfort and strangeness. He had been born in a sterile and artificial environment. He stood in the middle of the colony and lifted his face to the sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance. The rain clung in droplets to his fur.
oun D’jir stiffened and sighed. He turned with reluctance to face aun Sjir’phal.
“I’m sorry if I offended,” the aun Deuil stated quietly.
oun D’jir did not reply but inclined his head.
aun Sjir’phal shifted uncertainly. “I…I would like to court you.”
oun D’jir reeled back as if struck. “What?”
“I would like to court you, aun Shi’ehl.”
“And if I refuse your courtship?” oun D’jir spat.
“I will court you, oun D’jir,” aun Sjir’phal stated blandly. “In the end, you will succumb to me.”
oun D’jir hissed with laughter. He raked his gaze over the aun Deuil, hating that the soldier’s confidence and physical beauty pulled on his interest.
“Then court away, aun Deuil,” oun D’jir huffed. “We’ll see what happens.”
He spun around, intent on putting as much distance as he could between himself and aun Sjir’phal as he could.