Author Note: This chapter contains sexual content and adult conversations at the end, and I try to be tasteful, as always, with the pictures.
The early evening air chilled Gage’s arms as he walked up into an unfamiliar area of the Cherry Moon Collective. The breeze bit into his skin, reminding him that Simtember had arrived and summer was officially over. He rubbed his arms, wishing he had worn a coat.
Lè had asked him to meet her at the north side altar. He hadn’t ever seen this part of the Collective, and honestly, he was curious about Lè’s religion and her beliefs. When he approached, he noticed she was holding an upright prayerful stance and was chanting something quietly. He stood back and observed, allowing her to finish before he interrupted.
“Gage Briody, my sweet,” Lè’s face broke into a wide smile when she noticed him.
“Hi, Lè,” he flushed, unsure of how he should address her.
So far, they had been keeping things casual, and they hadn’t attached names to their relationship. He was growing to care deeply about Lè, but he hadn’t called her his girlfriend or lover yet. He didn’t want to pressure her into a conventional relationship as Lè was anything but conventional. Gage truly admired her gentle spirit and generosity in their friendship and in bed.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“What are you doing here?”
Lè cocked her head. “At the altar? Oh, I say a prayer of thanksgiving every evening. I am grateful for another day to live my life and to enjoy the beauty of this world. The statue is a representation of our mother caretaker, Nokoina.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” Gage shrugged, twisting the toe of his shoe into the mat. “What’s with all the other decorations? Like this horse for instance?”
Lè smiled. “The horse is a sacred animal in Anima. We don’t believe there’s anything mystical about the horse. It is as important as all animals, but the horse is a representation of ‘spirit’ and ‘running free.’ Freedom is very important to Nativians. We believe all of life is free to make decisions and choose how they should live, even if in physical captivity. Nativians spent centuries in slavery and indentured servitude. We are a serving race, but we wish to honor our most precious gift – a spirit of freedom in this life.”
“That’s beautiful,” Gage replied, thoughtfully. “I never knew that… I mean, I’d heard about the slavery because we studied it in school. I guess I never thought of it that way…my people…” he swallowed uncomfortably. “…have always had the privilege of freedom, but I guess we take it for granted. I’m sorry.”
“Oh Gage, it is not your fault. I do not blame Simmians for enslaving us for centuries any more than I blame my own people for being complacent and compliant. Actually, there was a period of fifty years where Nativians lost their ways and enslaved mowaho, the outsiders, in the lonely isles of the Simistral Ocean.”
“The Simistral War,” Gage nodded. “I studied that in school too.”
“It is important for us to forgive our ancestors and to live in peace and harmony,” Lè remarked.
“Will you tell me more?” Gage’s eyes lit up, intrigued by the conversation.
“Absolutely,” Lè bobbed her head. “Everything here is symbolic including my clothing. This dress is called a hono. It is dyed red to remind us of the life blood that flows through our veins. It is dyed brown to remind us of where we come from – the earth.”
“What about the side cut out?” Gage asked, gently caressing Lè’s exposed rib cage and lower back.
Lè smiled, pleased with his touch. “This absence of cloth represents our vulnerabilities with one another, and how we are all connected body and spirit. Like…” she placed her hand on her hip as she thought. “…Simdon and Eva… she came from his ribs in the Jacoban and Peteran creation stories.”
“You look beautiful,” Gage murmured.
“Thank you,” Lè surprisingly blushed before continuing. “The flower crown I wear is called kelila and represents the beauty of all life. My shoes are called toenga, and represent balance.”
“The gold coins represent our wealth and prosperity, the basket of eggs represents fertility, the candles represent light and warmth, the cornucopia represents abundance, the plate represents service and reminds us to serve others, and the jar of incense represents blessing. In the little box, we write down prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings and leave them for others to be blessed. And the flowers represent life and love.”
“What about the statue?”
“Nokoina is here to remind us that we are sacred and special. She is merely a representation of life and nature.”
“And the bags of potatoes and rice, and box of lettuce? What are those for?”
“Potatoes represent grounding and our connection to the earth and physical nourishment. The lettuce represents the need for spiritual nourishment, and the rice represents emotional nourishment. In Anima, we believe in feeding the spirit and caring for our heart. And this straw mat we stand on..” Lè tapped her foot on the ground. “…reminds us to be humble, that we don’t do this life alone.”
Lè stopped and lowered her head, speaking softly. “I’m sorry. I ramble.”
Gage lifted her chin, and planted a short kiss on her lips. “I don’t mind.”
“Will you join us for the warming ceremony?” Lè inquired, leaning into his arms.
“Warming ceremony?” Gage quirked a brow.
“Yes, come,” she said enthusiastically, reaching for his hand as she guided him to the main house.
Damon and Heather were already present when Lè led Gage into the circle. They were sitting cross-legged in front of a fire. Lè and Gage joined them, sitting opposite of one another. Lè spoke a few words in her native tongue and then invited everyone to close their eyes and call to mind the pressures of life weighing on them.
Gage stared off into space, feeling uncomfortable as he wasn’t fully sure what was going on. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to think about his so-called pressures. What is my relationship with Lè? Are we dating? Traditionally that is? Are we just messing around? I think she feels more than that. I feel more than that. Gage opened his eyes and looked at his lover.
Lè offered him a sweet smile and spoke soothingly, “Let go of your worries.”
He exhaled heavily, and rolled his shoulders, closing his eyes. What worries? What burdens? Work? Work is pretty easy and fun, but I suppose it is hard sometimes and I’ve got to make money. Pressures? Burdens? Um… figuring out this whole collective thing and religion thing.
Gage really enjoyed spending time with Lè but he really wanted alone time with her. They often spent time with the other members of the collective and when they were alone, it was usually to make love. Gage wondered what the others thought of him. Damon seemed to enjoy teasing him. And messing with my mind, Gage thought in irritation. Heather, on the other hand, seemed eager to please and she was touchy-feely, which annoyed him. She winked at him across the circle. He quickly averted his eyes.
“Allow yourself to go deep into your sub-conscious and connect with your inner soul. What burdens or pressures do you feel?” Lè was saying.
Gage closed his eyes, and tried to think. He saw the face of Constance, the beautiful librarian he had flirted with earlier in the summer. He thought about how she rejected him. That still stung. He thought about his one-night-stand with Lakshmi. He knew it would be a one-nighter, but still he had felt abandoned afterward. It’s stupid, he shook his head, keeping his eyes closed. He thought about Natalya. Wow… Natalya. Hadn’t thought about her in awhile. She was his first, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about her.
I don’t love her.
She was just a filler.
That sounds terrible.
Why was she a filler? he probed his own thoughts before settling on one word he didn’t want to think about – Jennifer.
His eyes quickly snapped open. His chest constricted, and he gasped as if he couldn’t breathe. The loss of the only mother he ever really knew was still too painful to consider. Lè reached out and touched his hand wordlessly. He felt comforted by her touch. Let go of pressures, huh?
“Now release these pressures. Say the words in your head or aloud. Release them to the universe and let your heart be warmed with love. Imagine the world is wrapping you in a warm embrace. Focus on your senses. What do you feel? What do you hear? What do you smell? Allow those things to warm your being.”
It all sounded a little hokey to Gage, but he surprisingly felt comforted. So this is what a warming ritual is? Gage took a deep breath. Lakshmi. Natalya. Constance. Jennifer. Brigit. He released each word in his mind, tensing a little more with each one. Then he squeezed Lè’s hand and did what she suggested. He focused on the heat of the fire at his back, warming his chilled bones. He focused on the scent of pinewood, reminding him of the Christmas season and the tree the family would put up in the living room. He thought about the presents, wrapped in their pretty red and green and white striped papers, decked with cheery paper and plastic bows. He focused on the sound of the wood crackling as it burned, the energy permeating the room.
When the ritual was completed, Lè served glasses of pomegranate nectar. Gage enjoyed each sip, drinking the sweet liquid as he stood and talked with the others. Heather engaged him in a conversation about art for some time before she attempted flirting with him. Gage grunted, and brushed her off, annoyed that she was so flirtatious in front of Lè. Didn’t Heather know he was serious about Lè? Didn’t she care?
Lè rescued him by announcing she had a surprise as she linked arms and steered him outside.
“Where are we going?” he asked, seeing a puff of his own exhaled air in the darkness.
“To my private room,” she winked at him.
He didn’t know she had her own room. As the leader or den moeder of the Collective, Lè had privileges the others didn’t. Still, he had only ever seen her sleep in the bunkhouse with the others. In fact, when they wanted to be intimate, they typically had to pull up the ladder into the second story to signal they wanted privacy or find a place in the woods. Gage didn’t mind either, but having a private room would be wonderful.
They didn’t waste anytime starting their own private “warming” ceremony. Gage didn’t mind stripping down as the room was already warm with a blazing fire in the fireplace, and the deer, bear, and sheepskin rugs eliminated the chill coming through the wood panels beneath their feet. Unlike the bunkhouse, the room was well-lit with an old-fashioned chandelier and maple-honey scented candles.Gage was pleased that Lè’s dress came off easily and she wasn’t wearing anything underneath – allowing him to immediately run his fingers over her skin cupping his hands over each breast before sliding his hands to her back. He engulfed the naked Lè in his arms, pressing his body against hers as they kissed, surrendering to their passions.
Once they were finished, they crawled beneath the pale yellow covers of the double bed in the center of the room. Gage was pleased when Lè released a heavenly sigh, and turned over to look at him. He stared deeply into her eyes.
I think I’m falling in love with you.
Author Notes: I added more about the religion of Anima this time. If you were curious about the representations and symbolism in this chapter, I pulled my symbolism from an online dream dictionary for fun. Also, the language Lè speaks is based on Māori, although den moeder means “den mother” in Dutch. If you recall, werewolves are the result of splitting the DNA between Sims and the alien parent race, Lykonians. The Lykonian language is a splice between real-world German and Dutch. I do not speak either Māori or Dutch, so please forgive me if I’m using the words incorrectly.
EDIT: I forgot to add Simdon and Eva are a play on Adam and Eve, of course. 😉 And you can read more about the Simistral War here.
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