Children of the Last God
(Book IV of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2001 BY

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"No!" Little Tinker squeaked, wriggling and flailing his tiny legs.

Smith rolled his eyes. "Now, come on! We have to get you dressed! Don't give me any trouble!" he chittered, trying to work Little Tinker's furry foot into his trousers.

"No!" Little Tinker squeaked again, jerking his foot free. In a moment, he had hopped away and stood on the other side of the bed, out of reach. Smith wasn't worried he would fall - the little bed was placed up against a corner of the little room in Smith's house, so there was nowhere he could fall to. Little Tinker simply stood in the corner, blinking his little black eyes defiantly at his father, a mischievous grin on his muzzle.

"Having trouble, dear?" a voice called.

Smith looked over his shoulder, spotting his mate in the doorway to Little Tinker's bedroom, and sighed. "Yes, Bootie. I'm sorry, but I can't get him to cooperate."

"No!" Little Tinker squeaked again, and grinned impishly.

Bootie smiled. "Now, dear. You and I went through the same thing when his brother was this age. The 'no' stage. He'll outgrow it eventually, you just have to be firm with him."

Smith sighed again. "This was so much easier when Farrah was helping."

Bootie nodded. "Well, now she has her own mate, and her own child on the way, Smith, and we're not going to start going over to her and Potter's house every time your son is being a little difficult. Come, let's get Little Tinker's trousers on. We don't want to be late." she said, walking over and holding out a paw. Smith gave the trousers to her, and Bootie looked at her son firmly. "Tinker! Sit," she commanded, pointing.

"Okie, Mamma," Tinker replied, hopping over to the edge of the bed and plopping himself down.

Smith watched in amazement as his mate tugged Little Tinker's loin-cloth up a bit, then slipped his legs easily into the trousers and pulled them on. With a practiced motion, she tucked her son's tail through the tail-slit, buttoned the little button that closed it around his tail, then buttoned the buttons in the front. "How do you do that?!" Smith asked, exasperated.

Bootie simply smiled as she reached for the tiny tunic Tinker would wear. "You don't play with him enough, I think. So, he thought this would be a good time to play. He knows from my tone of voice and expression I'm not playing, Smith. You need to play with him more, so he learns the difference between playtime and serious-time with you."

"Well, I've been busy, Bootie! We're still working on the library, and Lord Xaa has given us over two thousand scrolls written by mus-scholars we have to index and translate the ones that are useful - and probably half of them will be completely useless if not all of them, because we probably already know everything the mus know and more besides, but we still have to read them before we can know. Then there's the histories we've learned from Amani and some of the other horses to be recorded - and let me tell you, Bootie, that is a total hodgepodge ranging from important skills and knowledges and historically important events to completely worthless anecdotes, but we have to record all of it, because even those anecdotes are still telling of what their people are really like. Then there's the smithing work, and running the village, and-"

"I know, dear. I wasn't complaining - I was explaining," Bootie interrupted, and nuzzled her mate for a moment before picking up Little Tinker and sitting on the bed, holding him in her arms. "Still, you'll need to make some time in your day to play with him more than you do."

"Alright, Bootie, but how?" Smith asked, holding his paws up helplessly.

"Well, dear, delegate some authority. You already plan on having Farrah succeed you as village leader - start delegating some of the less-critical responsibilities to her. She could do most of the smithing, yes?"

Smith nodded. "Well, yes, she could, she's skilled enough. She can't do the heavy work, being pregnant, but she can do the light work - and that's really the majority of it. Making nails, repairing hinges..."

"Then have her do it, dear, and free up a bit of time to be with your son. He's only little once, you know, and like the New Law says - 'Keep your children short on money and long on hugs.'"

Smith grinned. "I will, dear," he replied, and held out his arms. Bootie smiled back, and gave Little Tinker to his father. Smith hugged and nuzzled his son lovingly, and Little Tinker giggled and grinned.

"Good," Bootie said, then stood and turned around. "Now, how do I look?"

Smith grinned again. "As beautiful as the day we were married," he replied.

"Oh, you!" Bootie giggled, playfully batting at his nose with a paw. Little Tinker giggled, and Smith grinned even more broadly. "I'm serious! It's very important we look perfect for this, you know. I read Tlahn's Book of Mus Etiquette - the mus marriage ceremony is extremely formal and proper. Everything must be perfect, Smith."

"Bootie, you worked on that kimono for weeks - it is perfect. Relax," Smith replied, smiling.

"Well... Alright," Bootie replied, and smiled again. "Now, I'm going to play with Little Tinker for a bit before I take him over to Potter's house to leave him with Farrah for the day. While I'm doing that, you go get changed, yourself, dear. We don't have much time left before Lord Jamat comes to pick us up on that big, ugly bird of his."

Smith nodded, passing his son to Bootie. He paused for a moment to nuzzle her before he turned to walk to their bedroom. "I love you, Bootie."

"I love you, too, dear. Now shoo," she replied, and grinned. Smith grinned back, and turned to go get changed. Behind him, he could already hear Little Tinker's squeaks of laughter as Bootie began to tickle him.

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Chapter One<<<<