We were sitting around a table in the Great Library of the Dragonhorses, when I brought up, in the course of our discussion, the possibility of sexual training for young Equi. I gave my reasons for thinking it was a good idea, and after due consideration, both Harrier and Chirion nodded.

“I think it has merit,” Harrier said. “I agree that it would remove much of the titillation of initial sexual encounters. It would let young people know what to expect, and what is expected of them. They could be trained in courtesy and courtship. I like the idea.”

Kestrel looked a little annoyed with the idea, but then I’ve come to expect that from him. “How long a gamut are you planning to run with this?’ he asked, raising one eyebrow in my direction.

I met his gaze, knowing that if I so much as shrugged or flinched, I’d be done. “I was thinking we would start sexual education around age ten, as far as the actual anatomy of it goes. Most Equi children don’t consider becoming sexually active until they are in their late teens or early twenties, so … touching, courtesy, gentleness would begin around twenty or so. Actual sexual experience, observation and training would begin at twenty-four. As our lifespan increases, we can move those benchmarks around appropriately.”

“Is this because of … what’s his name … Basuto?” Kestrel persisted.

I shook my head. “No. It’s because I think it’s one more way in which children can be appropriately educated to face life. I think it will help to level the court between males and females, and ultimately give us a more informed population.”

“What if a child has not stated a sexual preference?” Kestrel asked. It was a loaded question.

“We pride ourselves on a well-rounded education,” I replied.

“Why not do the same with sexual training? Children, young people should be allowed to observe and be trained in all sorts of sexual encounters, don’t you think?” That gave us a little silence. Kestrel hadn’t planned on having the questions turned his way.

“You’ve given this a lot of thought, haven’t you?” Lark asked, and I nodded. “I think it’s a good idea, but I also sense an ulterior motive.” She smiled and looked encouraging.

“I think,” I said thoughtfully, “that we need a tectonic shift in the way women are viewed, not just on Equus, but everywhere. Equus has always been a light in the darkness, and I think we can set a powerful example by bringing sexuality out into the open, and bringing women with it. I think having women as sexual trainers, and women as …” I trotted out the ancient word I’d dusted off for this occasion, “hetaeras, highly trained sexual companions to get men, or women through their heat cycles, would elevate EVERY role our society has to offer – none would be less, none more but the Dragonhorse himself. With complete equity comes unequaled power. If Equus can fly with both wings, she can dominate the galaxy.”

Kestrel opened his mouth and Chirion held up a hand. “Wren, you are passionate about this, I know,” he said. “We have discussed it on many occasions in various forms. I think the challenge is going to be in giving it shape and continuity. For that, we will need a test group. I would suggest that we begin by introducing the concept to the population in general and gauging their receptiveness.”

“They won’t like it,” Kestrel drawled.

“Perhaps not initially,” Chirion smiled, “but we do have time, do we not, and we have someone willing to work out the details and spearhead the … incursion, do we not?”

His gaze turned to me, and his ophidian pupils expanded just a little in his jungle green eyes. ”Ah’ren?”

I took a deep breath and nodded. “I will do my best,” I said.

He moved his head slightly to one side. “May I speak to you in private for a moment?”

I followed him into the hallway and he turned me by one shoulder and studied me for a moment before speaking. “You, and Basuto,” he said quietly. “Have you been intimate?”

I shook my head. “No. We’ve actually … drifted apart somewhat. I’m not sure why.”

“Is he the one with whom you wish to have your first sexual encounter?”

“I …” that was a stumper. “Not necessarily,” I hedged. “Why?”

“Have you been with a man at all?”

“No,” I said, studying his face in return. “A few kisses, a touch or two. That’s about it.”

“Good. I was thinking you might make a good test subject,” he smiled. “You could lay out the curriculum, and then you could follow it to its logical end. Admittedly the very first parts could be a little truncated for you, but it would give you firsthand knowledge of how it felt, and what you learned, and what it prepared you for later on.”

It was a good idea. I had to admit that. But the thought of who I might … I mean, it would have to be one of my companions here ….

I must have been telegraphing what I was thinking at the top of my lungs because Chirion smiled and said, “Me.”