Meet The Relatives by Lynda Williams, is the touching story of very Demish Dela's adventures in Red Reach. Illustrations are by Richard Bartrop.
Dela is shocked by Vrellish welcome.
"I could cure you of wanting Demish women," she said, pronouns dripping gender and an arm under his loose vest up his naked back.
Vras laughed. "She's space drunk!" he called to people waiting below. "Shoot her up with klin to stave a Long Night off, whether or not she thinks she'd rather do it with a jolt or two of man!"
A ruffle of lewd, Vrellish laughter floated back up.
Dela was doing more inhaling than blowing out, but Vras looked as delighted with her as if she had been radiantly composed.
"You travel like the highborn you are," he said, reaching for her.
Dela slapped him across the face, hard.
"Are you all right, Vras!" a voice called up.
"She hit me!" Vras exclaimed, surprised.
"She really is Demish!" "It's nice," Vras insisted, snagging her against his hip in a hug. "Just different."
"Well," the voice drawled, "you were warned not to mess around with Demish women."
More laughter followed.
"What was that for?" Vras asked Dela.
"Get me out of here!" Dela shrieked at him, and made that impossible by slapping at him like a mad thing when he got close.
He caught her wrists. She pounded his back. He caught her wrists. He kissed her nose, her cheek, her hairline, hands gliding over her with equal attention to sexual overture and releasing straps, which would have been nice if she didn't suspect that was how he got dealt with every trip worn woman he came across!
Their bodies pressed close as he pulled her up, his scent raw and strong, hers leavened with a floral perfume. Vras sneezed, hard.
"That stuff again," he groaned.
He'd told her, at courst, that he didn't understand why she covered her own smell up with flowers. She'd thought, for days, he'd meant it as an insult.
"Come on," he said, and dropped back down the chute.
Dela put her foot through feeling like a diver about to descend into the unknown. She found a foot hold, but couldn't get purchase on its rounded contours. After a few tries she realized that she had to push her foot against the chute's wall. She was doing okay when hands reached up and caught her by the calves. With a shriek of surprise, Dela went bumping down to land with an ungainly 'wump' on Vras, knocking him flat.
Half a dozen laughing strangers pulled her back up.
"She really is Demish!" one remarked.
She thought he meant her weight. She was a bit buxom even before her pastry binge. The speaker explained with an exaggerated, curvy sketch of her in the air.
"It's nice," Vras insisted, snagging her against his hip in a hug. "Just different."
His six attendants laughed at him, merrily.
Dela pulled free, her face heating. How dare they! Every one of them was her inferior. They spoke up to him and he spoke down. Even if they did all dispense with the niceties, she was a highborn and they were just nobleborns!
"Just because - " she huffed indignantly. "Just because you can't tell the difference between men and women!"
Someone - Dela thought she was female - froze in the act of handing Vras his dueling sword. All six looked non-plussed. Belatedly Dela realized it was quite clear who was what if you looked, first, at their groins, which was not something her life to date prepared her to do. Given that big clue, she could even made sense of the subtle facial differences, confirmed by the hint of small, firm breasts in the case of the one woman who wore her vest open over naked ones.
Dela had the dreadful sense of being cornered by a pack of wild things she'd offended. The Vrellish nobleborns broke out in spasms of laughter so violent, one actually buckled over onto his knees.
Vras laughed himself until he noticed Dela's white face.
"Cut it out!" Vras announced his change of attitude. Then kicked the kneeling man, sharply, onto his back, which had more effect. The woman with his sword handed it over fast, and he seated it in its sheath with a viscous snap. "We've got her," he said, meaning Dela to go by the peer-pronoun. "Sert's waiting."