The Character of Aslaug is Copyright Â? Joan Jacobsen
The Characters of Tigermark and TL are Â? Tigermark
The Character of Aramis Dagaz is Â? Aramis Dagaz
The Characters of Joe Latrans and Annie Latrans are Â? The Silver Coyote
Characters are not to be used without prior written permission of their authors.
No part of this story may be reproduced or placed on any website without the written permission of the author.
This story is copyright Â? Aslaug, 2007
It was one of those days.
Staying indoors was very nearly a criminal act. The sun shone and birds were singing in the trees. Overhead, a couple of sparrows were courting each other. Aslaug had a perfect view to it, too. She was lounging in the Latrans family back yard.
She had been staying with Joe and his family for a good long while now. Seasons had come and gone and she was getting to the point where she felt it was about high time for her to live somewhere else.
The problem was that she didn’t have all the paperwork required. It was one of many things that still confused her about this world. The filly adjusted her sunglasses and ran a paw through her mane. Annie had tried to get the filly to go to a hairdresser, but there were certain things Aslaug still flatly refused to do. One of them was to give up her mane.
She adjusted her top a little and leaned back in her lounge-chair, smiling. The sparrows had moved on to play with each other somewhere else. Or to make eggs. Probably the latter, the filly told herself. Such was the way of nature.
Male met female, male courted female, female swells, screams ensue.
That pretty much summed up the equine’s take on mating.
She got up and stretched. However much she loved living with Joe and his family, she felt like she was severely overstaying her welcome. At the very least, she didn’t feel like she contributed a great deal. She wanted to, but…Annie usually took care of everything at home. All the shieldmaiden could really do with her time was pump irons in the basement to keep herself at fighting strength, watch the magic picture box…or television as it was apparently called…or read. She wanted to do something useful. Maybe get a job, a home of her own…
Something along those general lines anyway. Again, the paperwork thing popped into her mind. Joe had tried to explain the concept of it all to her, recently.
“Listen, filly…without papers, without social security and so on, you don’t exist!”
That, of course, made no sense to Aslaug. She did exist. She had laughed at such a silly notion, but Joe had looked quite serious.
Annie had taken over and tried to explain the same things to the filly in a slightly different way. She had been only marginally more successful. As far as Aslaug saw it, though, it was a matter of her getting money for doing work. That seemed fair enough. But for her to get a job in the first place, she needed to prove she existed. That seemed incredibly stupid. She was sitting right there after all. Finally, Joe had managed to find the ultimate argument.
“It’s a computer-thing,” he had said.
Aslaug immediately recoiled. The big, evil C-word was something she tried to avoid. The machine still looked menacing whenever she walked by it in the house. It seemed to laugh at her and mock her. At one time, Joe had looked quite annoyed and had explained that the computer had a virus.
Having watched Annie recover from a flu not long before, Aslaug knew that word and while she had felt very bad for her hostess, she had secretly enjoyed the idea of the wicked machine being sick. It wasn’t very nice of her, she knew…but she couldn’t feel bad about it.
“Hey, Aslaug…how are you?” a voice called out.
Aslaug turned her head, adjusting her top again and smiling. On the other side of the hedge, separating the Latrans garden from that of their next door neighbors, the face of a young male lion could be seen.
“Hey Tony…” she replied. “What are you up to today?”
Tony the lion grinned and held up a football. “Nothing yet, but me and the guys are going to drop by the football field. Wanna come? We need a good halfback.”
Aslaug chuckled. “Who are you playing?” she asked and turned, folding her arms across her chest.
“Bunch of guys…don’t know them really. From another school. They think we’re a walkover…”
“Yeah, that we’ll lose big. They think we can’t play. Come on, filly. We need your help. These are big guys…or so Reuben says,” Tony went on, batting his lashes and doing his best to look ingratiating.
Aslaug groaned and rolled her eyes, trying to keep a straight face. She picked up the empty lemonade-glass next to the lounge-chair and cast a glance back at the lion at the hedge. “The puppy-eyes are best left to canids, Tony, and they certainly don’t work when you’re a seventeen year old lion with a girlfriend.”
Tony deflated. It was like someone had stuck a needle in him. “Ex-girlfriend you mean,” he muttered.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Aslaug said, realizing she’d touched a sore topic. “Anything you want to talk about? Need some advice?”
“Aslaug…no offense, but I don’t think you’re quite the right type to give me advice on relationships…” Tony chuckled.
The equine raised an eyebrow. “Oh no? Why is that then?”
Tony felt his mouth open and close a few times. He wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. The problem with the filly was that she had this annoying…and fairly entertaining…habit of asking the questions other simply kept to themselves. He shook his head and grinned.
“Well, do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.
“Nope. Is this one of those situations where you end up asking me out?” Aslaug grinned, clearly jesting.
Tony lobbed the football at her and laughed. “Behave will you? You’re too old for me.”
“So now I’m a crone, am I? Be careful or I’ll beat you with my cane, you young rascal,” Aslaug teased and headed inside. “Be right back. Just need to tell Annie where I’m going.”
Tony nodded. “Remember to bring the football,” he called out.
Ten minutes later, Aslaug was taking off her windbreaker. The football field was green and lush, and someone had actually gone to the trouble of chalking the lines recently. It had taken some time for her to figure out the rules, but Joe had been at his most patient. Mostly because he wasn’t exactly used to having a femme in the house who was truly interested in the game. It was nice to have someone to watch the game with, every week.
Two groups of young males had taken up position on the field. A small crowd of spectators were gathering as well.
Tony had already joined his friends. Aslaug waited a moment, dumping her jacket on the sidelines. She took a few moments to scan the opposition. Like Tony had warned, they were ‘big guys’. Tall and lean, several of them clearly pumped irons as well. Aslaug wasn’t too impressed, however. She’d seen bigger…and stronger.
Striding onto the field, she nodded to Tony and his friends. Reuben, a gray canid whom Tony always referred to as a traffic circle on account of his incredibly mixed ancestry, smiled up at her.
“Good to see you. Are you up to this?”
Aslaug never got to answer. A roar of laughter went up from the other group of males. A particularly wide bear slapped his thighs and looked about to double over.
“What’s this?” he roared. “They have their cheerleaders play for them? They could at least have found a younger cheerleader. Or is she your coach? We already know you play like girls.”
Aslaug shook her head. “Ignore them,” she said. “They’ll learn.”
“So how old ARE you, anyway?” a feline called out from the other group.
Aslaug sighed and turned to face him. “I have no idea,” she answered, truthfully. “Mid twenties, I’d guess…”
“And she isn’t even American,” the bear rumbled. “Listen to that accent. This is pathetic. How about we let you furs start with a three touchdown lead? That way it won’t look like we’re killing you.”
Aslaug shrugged and looked at her friends. “Do we want a lead before we begin?”
“Hell no!” Tony spat out.
“They’re big guys, Tony,” Aslaug said, crossing her arms over her chest again. “Are you sure?”
“No lead,” Reuben added, grimly. “By the way, filly, remember to take off your pendant. It took us an hour to find it last time.”
Aslaug nodded. “Thanks for reminding me,” she said and slipped the leather cord over her head. She held the pendant in her pocket. She’d drop it on her windbreaker before the game started. Last time she played, the cord had been torn and the pendant had flown off. It had taken a concerted effort by the entire team, searching the field meticulously after the game before they had found it again. One ten-yard section at a time. It had flown nearly thirty five yards.
Or more likely, it had been kicked around a couple of times during the game, although Tony still insisted it had probably flown that far in the first place.
“Ready then?” the lion asked.
“One moment, please,” Reuben called out. “Sean, did you bring the extra pads?”
A burly looking but smiling bulldog nodded and tapped a big sports-bag on the ground with his foot. “Right ‘ere…” he said and grinned. “Never leave ‘ome without’em…never know when she wants to join in, do we?”
Aslaug grinned and took out a spare set of well worn shoulder-pads and a training shirt. “Be right back,” she said and headed off the field, whistling, before slipping behind a shed to change.
“Then let’s do the coin-toss while she’s gone then,” Tony said and looked at the opposing team. “Hey, did any of you bring a coin?”
Joe came up from the basement. “Annie? Is Aslaug up there?” he called out. He had a hammer stuck in his tool-belt and a few nails in his left paw. He was wearing a very old pair of faded blue jeans and a T-shirt that had conceivably been white at some point, years ago. He looked incredibly comfortable.
Annie stuck her head around the corner. “No dear. She went off with Tony. They’re down at the football field.”
“Damned, I needed someone to help me lift something. Oh well, maybe I’ve done enough work for now. Football you say?” the coyote asked. His tail was wagging, betraying his good mood despite his attempt at an indifferent tone of voice.
Annie gracefully pretended she didn’t notice, letting her husband play nonchalant. “Sure. It’s a nice day out. Oh, by the way, I need you to pick up something for the barbecue tonight. We’re all out of A-1 and if Tony’s parents are dropping by, we need more spare ribs than I got out of the freezer…”
Grinning from ear to ear, Joe nodded. His tail wagged even harder. “You’re a coyote’s best friend,” he grinned and removed his tool-belt, before bolting out the door.
Annie couldn’t help laughing as the door closed behind Joe. “Have a good time,” she called out, knowing she almost certainly wouldn’t get heard.
“HEY…ASSHOLE! Would you like us to return the favor? You can have three touchdowns for free so it doesn’t look like we killed you,” Tony shouted.
There was no response. The other team was retreating in shame and dishonor. The lion was nearly falling over his own feet with laughter.
“God DAMNED it…that was funny!” he laughed, wiping his eyes. “What was the final score, anyway?”
“49 to 6,” Reuben grinned and wiped some grass off his elbow. “It wouldn’t even have been so horrible if it hadn’t been for the filly doing that two-point conversion just to show them that she could.”
Aslaug wiped her nose with the back of her paw, getting rid of a few blades of grass. “It’s hardly fair. I’m that much older. I feel like I’m beating up kids,” she said, dryly, shrugging.
“You ARE beating up kids,” Joe said from behind her. “But in the case of those kids, I think that’s okay. They were easily big enough to take care of themselves. That bear? He was as big as Tormod, wasn’t he?”
“Nahh…Tormod is a big, strong fur. That bear hits like a wet loaf of bread in comparison,” the equine responded without missing a beat. “You watched the whole game?”
“Just the last three quarters,” Joe answered. “I’m surprised they actually stayed the whole match. It’s just a friendly, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think there’s anything friendly about this kind of game, Mr. Latrans,” Reuben said and grinned widely. His teeth were as crooked as his pedigree. He had a good throwing arm though.
Joe tried not to stare. It wasn’t easy. Reuben was the kind of fur you couldn’t help staring at. He defied all laws of nature by his very existence. “How come?” he finally asked.
“We’ll be playing these furs next season. That’s why we played a whole game with a full team. We needed the practice. Pads and all…” Reuben explained. “It’s going to be a hell of a season…”
Joe shrugged. “Why’s that?” he asked. “You just ran those furs into the ground, and no matter how you look at it, they’re big furs…”
“Size doesn’t matter,” Aslaug said, turning her head to look at the opposing team as they got into a couple of cars and drove away. “It’s how you use what you have…”
A deathly silence fell over the group of males. Everyone stared at the equine with wide open eyes. Reuben tried desperately to keep his shoulders from shaking. He wasn’t succeeding. Tony clearly found his toes incredibly interesting all of the sudden.
“Sometimes,” Joe said, voice shaking with laughter, “I really don’t know if you do it on purpose or not, filly.”
Aslaug looked at her friend and blinked. “Do what?” she asked.
“Good grief…you seriously don’t know what you just said, do you?”
“What, Joe?? I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about!”
The coyote looked at the football team. He’d never seen a group of young males look so positively angelically innocent in expectation. Clearly, they all found the situation incredibly amusing.
“Ehh…one of these days, you might want to ask Freja about that one,” he muttered.
“Who’s this ‘Freja’, anyway? You’ve mentioned that name before, Aslaug…” Reuben asked.
“I’ll explain that some other time,” Aslaug said, disarmingly. “Anyway, you never got to answer. Why is next season going to be so awful?”
“We lost most of our offense over the summer, and coach Collins is big on defense. We’ll be able to keep most furs from scoring but we don’t have much chance of making enough points on offense to win games,” Tony said, shrugging.
“49 to 6, and you say you can’t make enough points??” Joe asked, blinking.
Sean dropped his shoulder-pads into his bag and took out a towel, wiping sweat off his face. “We don’t have Aslaug playing for us, normally,” he grumbled. “She scored four touchdowns anna two point conversion t’day…do the math, Mr. Latrans. Plus she did run blocks for Pete an’ Greg alla time.”
Joe nodded. Peter and Gregory Coon were twins. A speedy couple of felines that were set to play receivers. They would be in their first year of Varsity football. While they were fast, it was doubtful they could take the kind of punishment they’d be met with during an ordinary game. In any case, Aslaug had accounted for twenty eight points, right then and there. Not counting the three extra points from the first three touchdowns. Not bad for someone who still didn’t understand what ‘Unnecessary roughness’ meant.
“Ah well. We’d better get going, Aslaug. I need your help hauling the groceries back. I’ll see you and your family tonight, Tony,” the coyote grinned and waved, heading off the football field.
Aslaug followed, slipping the leather cord with her pendant back around her neck. She had a thoughtful expression on her face.
It was a fantastic evening. Just the right temperature to be pleasant for a barbecue, without being stuffy. Tony was chewing on a spare rib, getting himself incredibly messy, since he was using his fingers. He was the last one still eating, and the furs around the table were generally just chatting. Joe and Annie sitting on one side of the table, Tony’s parents on the other. Aslaug had left the table a little earlier. She was in the kitchen, getting the fruit and the ice-cream.
Annie couldn’t help wondering what the results of that would be. The equine wasn’t exactly at home in a kitchen, but she had seemed so eager to help. Besides, it was nice to be able to just sit there and chat.
“So…Lionel, I saw your son play this afternoon,” Joe said with a grin. “He’s not bad…”
Tony’s father almost burst with paternal pride and smiled. “He’s a chip of the old block, he is.”
“Daaad…don’t start. Please GOD don’t start…” Tony burst out, nearly dropping his food.
“Nothing wrong in being proud of my son,” Lionel protested. “It’s a father’s prerogative.”
Joe smiled crookedly. “We forgot to ask Aslaug to bring the drinks…” he said, looking at Annie.
Annie just nodded knowingly. “Yeah, yeah…I know. You have a 12 year old bottle you really want to show off. Go on, you two…shoo,” she chuckled and looked across the table. “Males.”
“You can say that again,” Tony’s mother replied, rolling her eyes with a smile.
Tony looked around. Realizing he was suddenly going to be left alone with two femmes, one of whom was his mother, he started to look slightly panicky. For all he knew, his mother would embarrass him too by saying something flattering about him, as well.
Annie put her plate aside and piled it on top of Joe’s. “I think we’d better go rescue Aslaug. She’s taking a long time in the kitchen,” she said and got up. “She’s nice but her idea of cooking is to roast everything. Preferably over an open fire…”
Tony looked confused for a moment. He’d never really found out where Aslaug came from. Somewhere far away. A distant country, obviously…with that accent. His mother looked only slightly less confused.
“Open fire?” the lioness asked, blinking. “That’s…rather primitive isn’t it?”
Annie shrugged and smiled. “It is, but you know, Pauline…where she came from, it sufficed.”
Tony paid attention. This was kinda interesting. He started gnawing on the bone to get the last pieces of meat off it, while trying to look like he wasn’t paying any attention to what the two femmes were talking about.
Pauline nodded. She started gathering up the plates and cutlery to help Annie. For a moment, she didn’t respond. Then she looked up, a ponderous expression on her face. “We rarely see her in church, you know. On Sundays? She is a believer, isn’t she?”
It was all that Annie could do to avoid dropping the glass she had just picked up. “Erh…I think that’s a given, yes. Technically speaking, she’s a priestess.”
“A what?? Oh…oh, she’s Lutheran, isn’t she?” Pauline said, her face going from mildly shocked to understanding.
Annie tried not to laugh out loud. “Pauline…she isn’t even Christian. I thought EVERYBODY in the neighborhood knew that.”
The lioness looked like Annie had just doused her in cold water. She looked completely stunned with shock. Like the very idea that a non-Christian might live in the immediate vicinity was inconceivable.
Annie didn’t seem to notice her neighbors shocked expression. “At first I was rather…uncertain about it, but she grows on you…she really does. I don’t bother her about her beliefs and she doesn’t bother me about mine. She does ask a lot of strange questions though…”
“Such as?” Pauline asked, her tone tightly controlled and clipped.
“Well, she did ask at one point if Joe and I loved you and Lionel.”
Tony couldn’t help himself anymore. He burst out laughing, dropping the bone he’d been trying to pick clean. Trying to catch his breath, he leaned over the table and sobbed.
“I could have told you that, mom,” he wheezed, between heavy breaths.
Pauline looked at her son. “What do you mean?”
Tony shrugged and wiped his fingers on a napkin, managing to stop laughing enough that he could speak. “She’s wearing a hammer pendant around her neck. I thought it was a cross until I got to take a closer look.”
“A hammer?? She’s pagan??” Pauline asked, shocked again.
“The term is heathen…according to Aslaug at least. She gets quite offended when someone uses that word to describe a non-believer,” Annie said, smiling. “Oh come on, Pauline…she’s got her right to her beliefs. I don’t share them but I can certainly respect her right to having them.”
Pauline looked at her son. “I don’t want you to let her twist your head about your faith, Tony!”
The young lion sighed and shook his head. “Mom…we don’t even talk about those things. Even if we did, I’m old enough to make up my own mind about that sort of stuff. Relax, will you? Aslaug is okay. She’s a nice femme. She’s harmless.”
Annie bit her tongue. While she didn’t know much about what went on when Aslaug and Joe went off on their little expeditions to wherever, she knew for a fact that the equine kept a sizable arsenal of axes in the basement. She knew fully well that the last thing one could reasonably call Aslaug was ‘harmless’…but she didn’t see a reason to make a problem of it.
“Pauline…please. She’s not dangerous. She just isn’t Christian…”
The lioness calmed down a bit and sighed. “I just don’t know how I feel about that, that’s all…”
Annie had been next door neighbors to Pauline and Lionel for years, and she had never expected that kind of behavior from the lioness. She was happy that Pauline seemed to be relaxing at last. She had been running out of polite ways to say ‘calm down’.
Joe and Lionel rejoined the others in the garden. Joe was holding a bottle of fine whiskey in his paw. Lionel was carrying glasses for the adults.
“Awww…you’re not going to sit here in front of me and drink that, when I can’t take part, are you?” Tony whined.
Joe grinned from ear to ear and nodded. “Yep. Probably two glasses too. You’ve got a few more years to go before you’re old enough for this. It’ll put fur on your chest, I promise you that.”
Tony pulled out the neck of his T-shirt a bit and looked down his chest. “Funny…I could’ve sworn I already had that,” he muttered, sourly. “Where’s Aslaug anyway?”
Joe looked around, as if realizing only then that the equine wasn’t present. “Oh…yeah, that’s a good question. Where is she? The ice cream must be melting by now…”
Annie smiled. “I’ll go find her, and bring dessert…”
She was about to head inside when Aslaug turned up in the doorway, carrying a tray with six bowls of ice cream and a selection of fruit. She had a strange but content expression on her face as she put it down on the table.
Pauline eyed the equine suspiciously, but seemed to decide Aslaug wasn’t any more dangerous than normal, relaxing at last. Annie kept an eye on the lioness, but seemed to be content that she wouldn’t make a scene.
Lionel clapped his paws together and sat down again. “Ahh, this looks delicious too.”
Moments later, everyone was seated, chatting again as they ate their ice cream. Tony had just answered a question about the game that afternoon when he realized that the only one not talking was the filly at the opposite end of the garden table.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
Everyone fell quiet and looked the same way the young lion did.
Aslaug blinked and looked up, smiling. “Oh…nothing is wrong.”
“Then what is it. You’ve gone all quiet,” Tony said, slightly concerned. He couldn’t help worrying if the filly had somehow heard how his mother reacted.
“It’s just that when I was in the kitchen, there was a knock on the door…” Aslaug began.
Joe looked confused. “I didn’t hear that…”
“No, it was just before you came in,” the filly explained. “It was a canid I’d never met. He said his name was Collins…didn’t catch the first name.”
Tony felt a smile start at the corners of his mouth. He didn’t say anything, just in case his instincts were wrong.
“Collins? Do we know anyone by that name?” Joe asked Annie.
“Don’t think so…” Annie responded. “What did he want?”
Aslaug smiled and pushed her ice cream bowl away. “He wanted to ask if…I would help him with something.”
Joe looked like a penny just dropped. “That was Coach Collins, wasn’t it?” he asked.
“Coach isn’t his name, Aslaug. It means he’s the fur who trains the football team…”
The equine nodded. “Does that make me Coach Aslaug then?” she asked, perking up her ears.
Tony felt like punching the air. “Yessssss!!” he exclaimed and curled up his fists.
Joe looked at the filly for a moment. Then he smiled and nodded. “Congratulations then…”
Aslaug smiled a strange little smile and nodded. “Now I exist, Joe,” she said…and got up, heading back into the house.
There was no talk around the table for a few more moments, although Tony looked about ready to jump out of the seat and run in to congratulate his friend. Finally, Lionel spoke up.
“A femme training the Varsity football team? Can they do that?” he asked, as if he’d never considered the possibility before.
Joe looked very solemnly at his neighbor. “Lionel…if you had ever stood in her way, you would know exactly what I mean when I say ‘yes…they can do that’.”
“What did she mean by ‘now I exist, Joe’?” Pauline asked.
Joe chuckled and ate a spoonful of ice cream.
He needed just a few seconds to figure out a good response to that. The ice cream would give him that.
But he knew exactly what Aslaug had meant.