Laria on Earth
A short story on Laria's exposure to Earth society,
offered for those who were curious (this was left out of the novel).
Copyright 2015 John Van Stry
It didn't take long to find the site for the old renfaire, thankfully it was still at the same place as when I'd been here last, but even if it had moved, there were enough signs posted for it, that I still would have found it easily.
When we got there, it was nice to see that they still remembered me, even if it had been about a decade since I'd worked there last. Josh was still there, and about a quarter of the current staff working it were also old-timers, like him, who remembered me as well. Surprisingly quite a few of the new staff had heard about me, even though they'd never met me, apparently my abilities and my no 'BS' attitude were something of a minor legend now.
All I know is that I appreciated them letting us crash there for a few days. I figured things here would be simple enough, that it would make it easier for me to ease Laria into the ways of the world here, seeing how this was her first time traveling to another sphere.
I got the car parked over by where the performers and the staff had their tents and campers set up. I unloaded the car and pitched the tent while Laria and the 'dogs' watched. It was funny, I hadn't put this tent up in almost a decade yet I only made a few minor mistakes setting it up, I still remembered how to put it all together. When I finally got it set up, I went back to the car and hauled out the sleeping bag, extra blankets, and a few other things. Then moved them into the tent and set them up.
Laria crawled inside with me while I was finishing up arranging things.
"So, how does all of this work?" she asked.
"Well, there is a switch on this light here," I said and showed her how to turn the small electric lantern on, that I had kept in the tent for reading and such.
"No," she said and tapped my belt. "These, how do I get them off of you?" she said and then smiled.
"Oh!" I grinned, "Here let me show you ..."
Of course I then had to teach her about the fasteners on her own clothing, not that there were a lot of them.
"Wow, you look so much different," She said running her hands over my skin. "Of course," she said looking down at herself, "So do I."
"Don't worry, it all works the same as before," I said and pulled her close.
"Of course I'm sure," I told her, and then spent some time showing her, just to make sure that she was convinced.
"Mmm," Laria said much later, sounding rather pleased. "It does work the same, though your not being as tall as before is a bit different."
"Well, let's grab a robe and I'll show you how the showers work."
"What do we need a robe for?" She asked moving over and starting to unzip the tent flap.
"Because walking around naked is frowned on here, and I don't want to draw that much attention. You already draw more than enough by being the prettiest girl around.
She smiled and nodded. "Okay, though I'd think you'd want everyone to see what you have and they can not."
"Oh, they're already seeing that," I smirked, "probably hearing it too."
I got out my robe and wrapped it around her, and grabbed a pair of shorts for myself. I think I had a second robe, but I didn't feel like digging it out. I seemed to recall it being somewhat worn and ratty.
I also found us some towels and we left the tent and got directions to the showers from a few of the staff members who were standing around. The guys all gave Laria a good looking over, while the girls were checking me out as well.
The facilities weren't terribly fancy, just a cinderblock house with men's and women's showers. I dragged Laria in with me, and we found an open stall and used it. No one complained about me bringing her inside, not that there were many people in there at the time. While the showers may have been marked for men and women, they'd been pretty mixed when I'd been here before. The people who work the Renfairs are pretty open-minded, and open-legged in a lot of cases too. Laria was more surprised by the couple having sex in one of the shower stalls than she was by how the plumbing worked.
"People have sex in public bath houses here?" She whispered to me surprised.
"Most bath houses aren't public, and are usually segregated by gender," I told her. "Normally, you wouldn't be allowed in the one for men, or I in the one for women. But here at the Renfair, things are a bit looser."
"So, it's okay to have sex here then?" She asked looking up at me.
"Well, not exactly 'okay', but people will look the other way, so to speak."
She thought about that, then nodded and proceeded to give me a rather nice bit of attention.
That of course led to some sex of our own, and then finally, a shower.
I was fairly certain that the others snuck a few looks at us, but I really didn't care, the last decade of living in Saladin and Hillshire having ground down some of my 'finer' sensibilities. Besides, I had Laria, and they didn't.
We ate with the other performers and staff that night, and when asked, Laria just told them she was from a small town in the hills. I'd given her some pointers on how to respond to questions earlier, and most people here didn't tend to pry. More than a few had pasts that they were avoiding after all.
Folks were all but fawning over Tom and Jeri, they really liked the two of them, and were impressed by how smart they were. Especially when it came to caging treats out of the people there.
The next morning I took Laria clothes shopping. When we walked into the mall she looked around surprised.
"What is all of this?"
"Clothing stores," I told her.
"All of this is for clothing?" she said looking at me surprised.
"And mainly clothing for women," I said nodding at one of the storefronts.
"Wow," she said. "Where do we start?"
"Well, let's walk up and down the mall so you can see the stores, then you can pick out which ones you want to go buy stuff at."
She nodded, "That sounds good."
When we got to Victoria's Secret however that plan went right out the window, because who can say no to a woman wanting to buy sexy underwear? Especially when you're the one who is going to be appreciating it?
When we got out of the mall several hours later, I'd managed to keep her from going overboard with the purchases. I wasn't planning on finding any laundromats while we were here to clean our clothing; I figured we'd just keep buying new outfits. There were people at the Renfaire who you could pay to do your wash, and I would do that while we were here, but once we hit the road for Boston? No, I didn't want to waste the time.
We hit a supermarket next and Laria almost fainted when she saw all the food.
"What is this?" She gasped looking at me.
"It certainly is super," she said looking around at all the food. "Where does it all come from?"
"All over the country," I told her, "we have a lot of farms."
"Is this the harvest season?" She said looking around.
"Oh no, it's pretty much always like this."
"Always?" she said looking at me stunned.
I nodded, "Always."
She leaned against me and just stared at all of the shelves full of food. I could feel her trembling. "I've never seen so much food before in my life," she whispered in awe.
I nodded and put an arm around her, it had never occurred to me that this might be such a shock, but when I thought about it, it made sense. In Hiland or Riverhead, their markets were nowhere near as big as this one store, and there really weren't that many of them.
True, the populations were smaller, but still, there was no place you could go in either land, where you could see this much food all waiting to be bought.
The things we took for granted here on Earth were the ones that were most important to the people back in those other lands: Food, water, and shelter.
It took us an hour to buy our food. Mostly because Laria just would stop at stare at all of the variety. She was smart enough to figure out what the cans were, the process of canning was known back where she'd grown up. And boxes aren't all that difficult to figure out either, but seeing racks and racks of canned goods, all by the same company, or the ten different types of beans just amazed her.
When we got to the meat section she almost fainted all over again.
The idea of chop meat was also a new one to her, so I decided we'd have hamburgers tonight.
"And you gave all of this up, this abundance, to come and live with us?" Laria said to me as we drove back to the Renfaire, after the wonders of the grocery store I think the wonders of cars and driving had lost their mystery for her.
"I think the things I've gotten in return have made it more than worthwhile," I said and gave her a quick smile and patting her thigh I turned back to watch the road.
"Well, umm ... but still ...." She said and I could tell she was blushing.
"Plus, life here can be pretty boring; there isn't a lot of excitement or adventure for most people."
"That sounds like it would be a good thing," Laria said recovering.
"For most people, that's probably true," I agreed, "but for some of us, we just want a bit more from life than three meals a day and a bed to sleep in."
"I don't know, Will, that sounds pretty good to me!"
"Well of course it does, and I enjoy giving it to you, especially as it's my bed you're sleeping in!" I said with a laugh, and she blushed again.
The next morning I ran into the manger of the refaire and was asked if I'd be willing to help out in the performances. I said yes, because I could always use the exercise, and I wanted to see if anyone might have learned something new that they could teach me. These days if I got to practice my sword-work more than twice a week, it was a lot. Doing it six times a day, eight on weekends, was kind of an attractive proposition.
Laria spent some of her time getting training from me, or from some of the other women there who knew how to fence, as well as fight dirty.
"So, see you've done rather well for yourself," Josh said coming up to me after I'd been there a few nights.
I smiled, "Yeah, it's been pretty good overall."
"She's not from around here, is she?"
I grinned, "Not surprised that you noticed."
"She is a pretty young thing. This isn't the one you were worried about last time though, was it?"
I shook my head, "No, she's not."
"What happened to her?" he asked curious.
"She takes care of our inn, and I spend about half my time with her."
"And the other half with Laria?" he asked with a grin.
"Oh, it's worse than that," I smiled, "I spend the other half with my other wife. Laria is here just to keep me from picking up any more women."
"Any more?" Josh asked a bit wide-eyed.
"I've got two wives now, and well, let's just say that I'm a sucker for a cute girl with a pretty smile."
"Well, who isn't?" Josh snickered. "So, how'd you end up with two wives?"
"It's complicated," I sighed, but I couldn't help grinning. "Basically they're in two different spheres that I go back and forth between."
"And Laria over there?" He asked nodded towards Laria who was talking with a couple of other women.
"She's from the second one, from a small town up in the mountains. They gave her to me, to get me to stay and help with some problems they were having."
"And she was okay with that?" He said surprised.
"The best looking young women were usually given as bribes to the local bandits to get them to leave the town alone."
Josh didn't even bat an eye, "I've heard of such things. Not here of course, but back where I'm from. I take it the bandits aren't around anymore?"
I shook my head, "Nope, they're all dead and gone now."
"No wonder she loves you," He said and took a sip of his beer, "Living with you has got to be a lot better than whatever they would have done to her."
"I think that's why my wife let me keep her. Well that and she treats Rachel like a goddess and does as she's told."
"Still, sounds like your wives are pretty understanding," Josh said, motioning with his mug.
"Yeah, I got lucky there."
"So, what's it like working for a god?" Josh asked and I blew a mouthful of beer out onto the ground.
"Damn, Josh, warn a guy before you spring something like that on him!" I said looking around rather embarrassed.
Josh laughed. "It was worth the expression on your face, trust me."
"You'd think after all these years I wouldn't be so easy to surprise anymore," I complained.
"Eh, you're back in old surroundings, with people who mostly have no idea about how things really are."
I nodded, conceding the point.
"So, really, what's it like?"
"It can be pretty rough at times, I spend a lot more time away from home than I'd like to. But then again, it's why I have two wives, and Laria."
"Plus a few more, I'm sure," Josh laughed.
"Well, yeah, there are a few more, but well, I do travel a lot."
"Yes, hence Laria. Which honestly? Is pretty nice, well at least so far. Traveling by yourself gets pretty old after a few years."
"So, what brings you back here then?"
"Unfinished business. Some things that I need to wrap up."
"Things for your god?"
"Not exactly. Let's just say that it's complicated, and involves a really nasty asshole that I've had to deal with more than once now."
Josh thought about that a moment, "I always thought that champions only worked for their god, and didn't do anything else?"
I shook my head, "That may be true for a lot of them, especially those of the more mundane, or garden variety. The truth is a lot more complicated. There are a lot of politics involved, alliances, partnerships, and then we do have a certain amount of free time we can use to pursue our own interests."
"So you're here pursuing one of your interests then?"
I shook my head again. "Like I said before, it's complicated. Yeah, I'm motivated by a very deep and personal need for revenge, but there's a lot more to it than that." I took a sip of my beer. "So what about you?" I asked giving him a look over, Josh had been an older man when I first met him, he was really starting to look old now.
"Eh, I figure I got a few more years of this, and then I'm just going to retire to a nice place in Florida. I'll stay involved with the winter faire down there for as long as I can, but I got my citizenship all straightened out and I qualify for social security and all those other nice programs your government has here."
"I'm sure that must have been a pain," I laughed.
"Well, just wait until everyone you know around here notices that you're not aging anymore," Josh said. "I'm sure that's not going to be easy to deal with either."
I looked at him, surprised "What?"
"How do you think I figured out that you're a champion? You haven't aged a day, Will, since you left. Yet it's been ten years. You still look like you're in your twenties."
I continued to look at him, surprised. "You know," I said slowly, "I've known for years now that I won't die of old age, or anything else, as long as I work for my god, but until this moment, I never quite realized that I wouldn't age."
Josh nodded, "Because, who'd have expected to have that happen to them, right?"
I nodded my agreement as I took another drink and thought about that. Eventually when I went home to visit, someone was bound to say something about it. Darlene would probably say something about it one day as well.
Rachel and Laria? Well they knew what I was, but still, while I'd always knew that they'd grow old, I hadn't given any thought to how my unaging, continual youth might effect them.
I guess I'd have to talk to Fel about this. Maybe he could make me appear to be more mature, to at least soften the blow?
"Sorry to give you something to worry about," Josh apologized.
I gave my head a shake, "Don't, I should have realized it sooner. Now at least I can figure out how to deal with it before it becomes a problem."
Laria came over then and parked herself beside me and leaned against me as I put an arm around her. She always made sure that she showed me affection regularly in public, I don't know if it was her sending a message to everyone else in the room, or her just seeking re-assurance that I still cared. In either case I appreciated it and enjoyed it immensely. Having grown up in a family that wasn't the best on showing affection, it was rather nice being around someone who liked to show it constantly.
"Talking about anything interesting?" Laria asked.
"Eh, just catching up," I told her and gave her a kiss.
"So, how do you like it here?" Josh asked her.
Laria looked up at me.
"Josh here is from another sphere, like you," I told her.
She nodded, "I can't believe the food markets," she told him. "All that food! Just sitting there! And the meat!"
Josh laughed, "Yeah, took me a while to get used to them, too."
I grinned and just listened to them discuss the modern wonders of life for a few minutes, until someone else wandered over to speak, at which time they dropped the subject.
During our second week there, I took Laria out to a few appliance stores, to let her experience some of the stranger things she might come into contact with, like televisions, washers, dryers, and such. She was suitably impressed, but by now the novelty had worn off a little and she just expected things to be different.
I took her out to a couple of bars and a restaurant, those really weren't all that different from bars and restaurants back home. But when I took her to a McDonald's she was positively stunned once again.
"How do they make it so fast?" she said as we sat down, "And it's so cheap! And all these people!"
I shook my head, "It's called 'fast good', they have a team of people, one handles each job, and they just know from experience how many people will come in during the day."
"But where do they get it all from? They must run back and forth to the food store, constantly!"
"Actually, they have a deep freeze under the building where they keep everything, and once a week a truck delivers more to them from the local warehouse."
"What's a deep freeze?"
"A room that's way colder freezing, they put food in there so it will keep."
Laria nodded as I explained it, "Okay, I can understand that, we used to use the cold of winter to do the same. So it's like those refrigerators you showed me, just colder and bigger."
"So, they get food from a warehouse? Isn't that a lot of space for just one restaurant?"
I shook me head, "They don't have just one of these, there and thousands of them, probably tens of thousands."
Laria got all wide-eyed again, "Thousands?" she said and blinked.
I nodded again. "People like them, they're cheap, fast, and convenient. So over the decades they've built more and more of them, and a single organization manages all of the supplies, and makes sure they're shipped out."
"So it's like a separate kingdom within the kingdom here," Laria asked, getting the idea of it. "Each of these establishments is like a little independent city."
"That's not a bad way to think about it," I said and decided I didn't want to try and describe corporations to her.
"They must be very powerful," she said and started to eat her burger.
"They have some power," I admitted, "but there are other places that do other jobs who are much more powerful than the people who run all of this."
"You know, these aren't bad. Though I do prefer the ones you make."
I smiled, "Yeah, me too. But these are easier when you don't have the time.
She laughed, "Like you have to spend time cooking your own food back home!"
"Well, I don't have any servants here," I noted.
"You don't have any back home either, they're all Rachel's," she sniggered.
"Actually, as both you and Rachel belong to me, I think it's safe to say I have a lot of servants," I said smiling back at her.
"Better not let Rachel hear you say that!" Laria giggled.
"Oh, trust me, I tell her that all of the time, just like I tell you," I smirked and gave her a wink.
"Umm," Laria blushed, I did have a tendency at times to be rather dominate with her in bed. I guess she hadn't realized that I did those same things with Rachel.
"She lets you get away with that?" she asked still blushing.
"Ask her how she ended up married to me sometime," I smiled.
"I ... I hadn't thought about that, how did you end up married?" She asked looking at me curiously.
"Ask her some time," I said still smiling.
Laria gave me a curious look, but went back to her food. "So, what are these?" she asked and pointed at the french-fries.
I then gave her a little lesson on the history of the potato.
"So, sure you don't want to stay? We sure could use you," Ted, the Renfaire's manager asked me. I had everything packed back up in the car and we were getting ready to leave. I'd talked to a few people here about Boston, finding out most of what I'd needed to know, and gone to a library to learn the rest. I'd also bought a map at the local K-mart.
"Sorry, I've got things I need to do," I told him. "But thanks for letting us stay here, it was nice to stop to visit."
"It was nice having you, if you ever want to visit again during the season, we'll have a opening for you."
I nodded and shook hands, Laria gave him a hug, and then we got into the car with the dogs and I drove us off towards the interstate.
"So how far away is 'Boston'? Laria asked.
"I think it's about six hours," I told her.
She looked at the dogs in the back, and then down at her seat. "Six hours sitting here?"
"It would take us weeks if we walked it," I told her.
She nodded, but still sighed. "It's going to be a long six hours isn't it?"
I nodded. I wish I could have brought a book for her to read, but the written alphabet was different enough from the one that she knew, that she couldn't read anything here; she was functionally illiterate.
"I'll stop every hour or so, to let the dogs stretch their legs, and so we can both take a break."
She nodded and smiled. "Thanks Hon."
I smiled back and patted her thigh. With stops and stuff, I suspected we'd probably not get to Boston until midnight, or later. Maybe it would be better to find a motel once it started getting late.
It's not like adding a day to all of this would really make that much of a difference after all.