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Fiddler's Rose – Chapter Nine – Landfall

Fiddler's Rose – Chapter Nine – Landfall (Updated 5/18/2018)

>>>Scene One: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. You seem... good, tonight.”

“I'm sleeping in a rich man's bed.”

“Excuse me?”

“I am sleeping in a bed that belongs to a rich man. He is not sharing it with me, nor is it even the bed in which he is accustomed to sleep. It's just a REALLY nice bed in the room Bing gave me for the duration of my stay with him. It's kind of like sexual afterglow made into furniture.”

“So your first statement was not only incomplete, but misleading.”

“Not deliberately so; it's a natural limitation of the genitive case.”

“Fancy talk for an under educated fisher girl.”

“Heh. My education was erratic, but it took place. Did I ever tell you how Drellan taught me to read Kzanti?”

“It would seem not.”

“I grew up speaking Kzanti, but was illiterate; after the first transformation, I could speak, read, and write Dragontongue. And I knew a translation spell that I could use for a couple of hours a day, at that point. So Drellan gave me a Kzanti story book, and told me to copy it into Dragontongue. When I ran out of magic each day, I was supposed to compare my copy, which I could still read, with the original, which was in a language I knew but couldn't read, and try to figure out as much of Kzanti text as I could. By the time I had finished copying the book-- it wasn't very long-- I had a basic handle on Kzanti text. And then he gave me a Kzanti book on Thaumatology, and told me to go through the same process, with the added step of trying to understand the content of the book along the way. And he gave me a book on Kzanti grammar, and a Kzanti dictionary, just to confuse things. His words.”

“Sounds... dry. Didn't you feel cage bound?”

“Are you joking? Learning things, chasing information that you WANT, is just another way of chasing the horizon. I couldn't do it forever, because every answer asks two more questions, and at least some of those questions are the “What would happen if I...?' kind, and you don't find THOSE answers in books. But when you're out in the world, eventually the sun goes down, and you have to stop chasing and sleep. When you're chasing things in a library, you can keep going until your head collapses onto the page.”

“Which is something you have done repeatedly, I gather.”

“Oh, yeah. Drellan used to growl at me about it, because then I would crash for a day and a half. But it was pretty wonderful, all told.”

“You are a very strange creature, Rose Stonecrow.”

“Said the dead unicorn from the bottom of the ocean.”

“And on that note... Enjoy your rich man's bed, Rose.”

“Count on it.”


>>>Scene Two: Darkness

“And how is the scholar tonight, Rose?”

“Ambivalent. I love the material, hate the instructor.”

“Problems with Bing?”

“No, Bing's great. His senior apprentice, Gorsheg, is supposed to be tutoring me and he's making me crazy. He has already been over all of the stuff I am working on, but he is only a late First Circle, and I'm mid-Second somewhere, so I out-rank him, and he resents it. Plus the usual junk about my ability to do transformations. Mostly, I only go to him when I can't find a book I need.”

“Not the best way to work.”

“Not even close. On the other hand, I REALLY love the work. Math is like a giant toy box full of puzzles, and every time you solve one, you get another one to play with. And the rest is almost as much fun.”

“That's a lot of excitement. For having your clothes on, and all.”

“I really ought to hate you.”

“For making you blush when no one else is looking? It's the highlight of my existence at the moment.”

“Consider my eyes rolled.”

“Do you doubt me?”

“I... am baffled and occasionally awe-stricken by the improbability of our friendship, that's all.”

“I prefer to focus on my gratitude.”

“You're being sweet again. It's confusing.”

“It is SUPPOSED to be confusing. If I made sense, I might find that I was insignificant.”

“I think that's true of all of us, Fid.”

“Well, then.”

“In other news, I might learn how to become a kobold.”

“And why would you want to?”

“Why not? I don't have any reason to believe that there is a limit to the number of shapes I can learn, and the process seems to really excite Bing.”

“Beyond just giving him an excuse to hunt down parts of intelligent beings that are still in edible condition.”

“I admit that he seems to enjoy the hunt.”

“Just be careful, Rose. Don't end up in his collection.”

“He's my friend, Fid. It will be fine.”


>>>Scene Three: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. How was your day?”

“Boring and kind of frustrating. I spent the whole day being naked at an artist.”

“That sounds stranger than usual. What happened?”

“Bing wanted to document my tattoos, so he hired an artist to paint them. And because I am a good little student, I obeyed the master's request, and spent the day in the artist's studio, lying on a board, while he made copies of the handiwork of Auntie Moss.”

“That explains the boring. Why frustrating?”

“Because it was hot in the studio, and given where my tattoos are, it was easier to just pose naked. And I might as well have been in croc form for all the interest the artist showed. It made me feel undesirable. I didn't like it.”

“Are you sure you had the right plumbing?”

“Yes. When I first got there, he showed me some of his work, which included several female nudes, two of which he pointed out as former lovers.”

“So you think it's just you.”

“I don't know what else to think.”

“I'm sorry, Rose. He has awful taste.”

“Hardly. You didn't see the former lovers.”

“Ah. I will hate him on your behalf, then.”

“No, he doesn't deserve that. He's nice enough, really. Clean, charming, cute, AND talented. I was hoping something would happen, and was disappointed.”

“You see? I was going to hate him anyway.”

“You could just hate everyone on spec; it would save time.”

“Everyone but you, my dragon.”

“Awww.”


>>>Scene Four: Darkness

“So who do I get to add to my list of hated jealousy objects tonight, Rose?”

“Trosteg. The artist I told you about yesterday.”

“I knew I should have started hating him yesterday. What changed? Did you drag him back to your rich man's bed?”

“No, we made do with the floor of the studio. And I thought you said that it was good for you when I had sex.”

“I said it was a mixed blessing, and I am choosing to concentrate on the negatives.”

“You're not being fair, Fid.”

“I'm dead and in prison. I don't have to be fair.”

“You do if you want me to talk to you.”

“Ah, but I still have a pocket full of Penance tokens.”

“Conceded. But you're still a brat.”

“Acknowledged, and with no intent to change. So what happened?”

“I took off my scales.”

“That... sounds disgusting. And painful.”

“One of my forms is my pre-transformation human self. I just have to cast the spell.”

“And how did this come about?”

“Trosteg made a comment that the pattern of the scales obscured some of the original design, and I told him that the original tattoos had been there before the scales. He said he wished he could have seen the designs then, so I did the spell and showed him. And then I helped him pick his jaw up off the floor, and then nature took its course.”

“Ah. Nature. Her again. Hasn't been around here much, lately.”

“And I learned that I can't maintain the transformation spell and have an orgasm at the same time. Which is interesting, if not particularly useful. That upset him a bit, but I calmed him down, and I did the spell again, and he went back to work. We're still on schedule to be done tomorrow.”

“You're going back?”

“The original estimate was for three days, yes.”

“I'm going to go sulk, now.”

“Fid?”


>>>Scene Five: Darkness

“Didn't you go back, Rose?”

“I went back. We finished the illustrations on schedule.”

“But...”

“I told him I wasn't interested in a second helping, and put just a touch of magic behind it.”

“Domination?”

“A little bit. There is a large ethical jump between calling a person to your bed, and holding a person at arm's length.”

“At least as much difference as between eating your victims alive, and having them butchered, broiled, and sauced first.”

“Jealousy makes you mean.”

“I don't deny it. But... Why?”

“Because yesterday he was the first opportunity I had had in months, and today he wasn't you.”

“That's good to hear. Even if I don't believe it.”

“Still mean.”

“Honest. Which doesn't mean you aren't as well. I just don't think I will ever be able to believe that particular sentiment in the pit of my non-existent stomach.”

“Do you want me to swear fidelity to you?”

“No, because you will regret it before this is over, and you will resent me for it. Just wallow in your excessively comfortable bed, and think about what a charming and generous person I am.”

“That, I can do. Good night, Fid. Until the day.”

“Until the day.”


>>>Scene Six: Darkness

“You seem smug tonight, your Grace.”

“Maybe a little.”

“And?”

“Rilla has been gradually making herself indispensable around here, and today Bing finally officially put her in charge of the household.”

“Which is something you were counting on.”

“It was. But it also means that many of Gorsheg's responsibilities, and his power in the household, have now been ceded to Rilla.”

“This sounds politically ugly.”

“A bit. There was a small power struggle, but a battle of wills between a spoiled apprentice sorcerer and a former army whore can have only one conclusion. Particularly with me AND Bing on Rilla's side.”

“I might feel sorry for the fellow, if I didn't know he deserved it.”

“Exactly.”


>>>Scene Seven: Rose's room

“Rose? What's wrong?”

“I think I am going through another transformation. It feels like it. Keep an eye on me. I may need help.”

“Of course, Rose. What happened?”

“Kobold blood.”

“KOBOLD?”

“I have no idea what, Fid, I just know it is happening. Please stay as close as you can.”

“Always, Rose. Always.”


>>>Scene Eight: Rose's room

“Keep playing, Fid. It helps so much.”

“Always.”


>>>Scene Nine: Darkness

“Getting to the end, Rose?”

“Gods, I hope so. I don't imagine you've talked to Auntie Moss?”

“You know I did.”

“And?”

“Kobolds are distant dragon cousins. So are crocs, but kobolds are much closer. And there are stories-- many stories-- of dragons taking kebold form and just... slumming, I guess. So the donor for your blood might have been a dragon once or twice removed, close enough to count as a dragon mark.”

“A kobold mark. WONDERFUL.”

“You're recovering faster than last time. You have a sense of humor. For you.”

“Brat.”

“Kobold.”

“NOT funny, Fid.”

“I concede the point. Keep healing, Rose. I will continue to play.”


>>>Scene Ten: Rose's room

“Rose? What's wrong?”

“I'm not human, Fid. I look into the mirror and I'm not ME any more. The damned kobold blood took away my face, and my hair. I'm a monster.”

“Rose... You are, and you always will be, MY Rose. You know how little appearances matter to me.”

“But... I'm a freak.”

“Rose... You are Emerald Corrosion Flower Stonecrow, and you have ALWAYS been a freak. What do you think it means to chase the horizon? You have ridden the back of the Great Monster Turtle. You have feasted with crocodilians; you have spoken to shark-folk. These are not things normal people do, but they are part of your day to day existence. You have NEVER been ordinary, and I have always known that. And if it is now a bit more obvious to the casual observer than it was, what does it matter? You are still YOU.”

“I'm a monster.”

“By what definition? Are you dangerous, and beyond the control of the society you live in? That has been true since your first transformation. Are you a threat to your society due to malice or callousness?That you are not, and NEVER will be. What's a monster?”

“But...”

“Here's what you are going to do. First, you are going to get a good night's sleep. Then, tomorrow, you are going to put on your Emma face, and get dressed as if your sister Ruby were dressing you for a party, and then you are going to go see you artist friend. You are going to tell him what happened, and demonstrate, if it is necessary, and then you are going to put your Emma face back on, kick his legs out from under him, and make him forget his name. And tomorrow night, you are going to come back here and tell me how much better you feel, and what a wonderful friend I am.”

“...Really? You want me to put on girly clothes and have sex?”

“Yes.”

“And that will make me feel better?”

“Absolutely.”

“And you will surrender all of those Penance tokens if you're wrong?”

“Only if you make it a double or nothing wager.”

“Wow. You're really that confident.”

“Yes. And it's hardly a bitter prescription.”

“You might have just revolutionized the whole medical profession.”

“Hardly. Doctors who prescribe sex too often tend to be called pimps.”

“Ah... Thanks, Fid. You're a good friend.”

“I'm a monster. But I do my best.”


>>>Scene Eleven: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. And how was Trosteg?”

“Generally pretty good, I think. When I left him, he was semi-conscious and muttering about never being able to walk again.”

“And how are you?”

“Much better, thank you. It would seem that my physician knows his business.”

“I am glad. And now I have all of these extra Penance tokens to torment you with.”

“Brat.”

“Token.”

“Yes, Master. My apologies, Master.”

“I could get used to this.”

“I could decide you're not worth it.”

“Liar.”

“We'll see. In other news... The kobold form was waiting for me the first time I shifted into Emma this morning. I haven't tried it yet. I told Bing about it this afternoon, though, so that is the first thing on the agenda for tomorrow.”

“Do you care?”

“Not much, but Bing does. I care about the fact that there seems to be another new form waiting out there that I can't quite reach. I'm hoping it will become available after I use the kobold.”

“Are you sure it's a real thing?”

“No, not really. I don't KNOW anything about the workings of the spell, other than what I have observed.”

“And it helps to eat intelligent beings.”

“Or drink their blood. I'm trying not to think about that stuff too much.”

:”Just tell yourself that it's normal draconic behavior.”

“And on that note...”

“Until tomorrow, Rose.”


>>>Scene Twelve: Rose's room

“Your Grace is unreadable this evening.”

“I'm not surprised. What do you see?”

“I think you are feeling high levels of both unhappiness and excitement, which seem an improbable combination.”

“You're getting too good at that, Fid. You're right on both counts.”

“An explanation?”

“An explanatory story, rather. This morning Bing gathered his apprentices, and I put on the kobold—which feels a lot like a minitature croc, by the way-- and Bing poked and prodded and measured, and when I went back to me... I didn't return to the same place I had set sail from.”

“That sounds bad.”

“It would have been worse if it had happened simultaneously with losing my face. Since I am more or less at peace with that, more or less...”

“You are still my Rose, regardless...”

“...This was more of an extreme irritation. But my native form has a tail, now, and I have become a toe walker.”

“Come again?”

“Humans walk on their heels, mostly. Crocs and kobs and sharks and fauns have elongated feet, and walk on their toes.”

“So your base form used to have plantigrade feet, and now it has digitigrade feet.”

“Where do you get this stuff?”

“The original unicorn information dump was full of REALLY obscure information.”

“In addition to being ethically void.”

“That, too. And I can understand your irritation. I have some small knowledge of having my anatomy involuntarily rearranged.”

“You're being sweet, again, Fid. And stabbing me a bit at the same time.”

“Ah. You noticed. But you were telling me a story?”

“When Bing saw I was in a form he hadn't seen before, there was more poking and prodding and measuring, during which Bing and I speculated on what might have caused the change, but we really don't understand my transformation spell well enough to make a decent guess.”

“Understandable. I will ask Auntie Moss. Sometime. Auntie Moss doesn't like me, much.”

“Bing suggested that I try to reset by shifting to one of my older forms, specifically the human. I started to do the spell, realized that the previously out-of reach form was now available, and went for that instead.”

“And?”

“And I turned into a kobold with wings.”

“Which is why you are excited.”

“Just a little.”

“What next?”

“Bing is putting together an overnight trip to someplace outside the city that has lots of open space, so that I can experiment with flight, and he gave me a very strange book about flying.”

“Strange how?”

“In the first chapter, the author talks about how hideously dangerous flying is. And then he talks about the fact that the standard sorcerer's flight spell, which is over my head, and that Bing has never bothered to learn, is crippled by safety features, because its forerunner was fatal three times out of four.”

“Fatal?”

“It would seem that it is really easy to get dead when you are traveling at ninety miles an hour.”

“NINETY?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“It sounds like you've found another horizon.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Don't forget about me, Rose.”

“Never.”

“But...”

“Ninety miles an hour. Damn.”

“Try to get some sleep, my dragon, and I will play you a lullaby.”

“Good night, Fid.”


>>>Scene Thirteen: Darkness

“Tired, Rose?”

“Brain blasted. Also footsore. Today was my first significant walk on new feet.”

“Why brain blasted?”

“Because I have spent a lot of time with that 'Flight' book, and it's beating me up. It would have been incomprehensible before I came to stay with Bing, though.”

“What's so difficult about it?”

“Consider it a description of an orgy involving Physics, Engineering, Thaumatology, and Common Sense.”

“Now my brain hurts. Common sense?”

“Things like, 'Get a comfortable pair of optically high quality goggles, and wear them if you have any suspicion that you will exceed 20 miles per hour.'”

“That's common sense?”

“Get a bug in your eye at 30 miles per hour, and tell me.”

“Ah.”

“Bing tells me that sorcerers in general think that old Xart, the author, was crazy, but Bing thinks that's because no one wants to take the time to test his theories.”

“Until you, anyway.”

“Not sayin'. Yet. We'll see. I intend to investigate his comments on winged flight as thoroughly as I can, though. I'll worry about the magic driven stuff when it becomes relevant.”

“After you rescue me.”

“Maybe...”

“Heartless.”

“I'm a dragon, remember?”

“You're playing my own insults against me. That's not fair.”

“It's too true to be an insult any more, Fid. I'm trying to get used to it.”

“Yes, your Grace.”

“Good night, my Monster.”

“Good night, Rose.”


>>>Scene Fouteen: Darkness

“In pain, Rose?”

“Memories of pain. It's all been healed, now; Bing talked a friend who specializes in healing into coming along today, because he suspected what would happen. So two broken ankles, a broken shin, and three various broken wing bones later, I am fine. But all of that pain jangles the nerves.”

“That must have been a really awful landing.”

“Nothing that bad. I botched a couple of dozen landings, but only broke myself five times before I got it sorted out.”

“You broke bones, got patched up, and went right back up.”

“Umm... Yes?”

“You;re crazier than I thought you were. And that's saying something.”

“I FLEW, Fid. With my own wings. By the end I nailed five landings in a row, and on my last flight I did a ROLL. You should have seen Bing's face. He was TERRIFIED. And then I did a climbing turn, came in hot, did a perfect flare, and landed flat-footed. It was AMAZING. It was... Better than sex is going too far, but a DAMNED good substitute.”

“Don't forget me, Rose.”

“Don't be stupid.”

“I'm not.”

“Fid, YOU are still the center of my life. Some day, we are going to be back in dreamspace, and you are going to cobble together a form with wings, and I am going to teach you how to fly. Because as good as this is, and it is unquestionably WONDERFUL, sharing it with you will be even better.”

“I've never given a moment's thought to being able to fly.”

“And I had never given a moment's thought to being a centaur-- among other things-- until I met you. And that worked out pretty well.”

“You can teach me to fly, Rose.”

“I can hear the grin. You're winding me up?”

“Every chance I get. Even when you terrify me.”

“I terrify you?”

“Constantly. But you wouldn't be you if you didn't.”

“I am intrigued by the idea of terrifying an indestructible immortal monster.”

“Rose... You know the old story about the sorcerer who couldn't be hurt because had taken his heart out of his chest and hidden it where no one could find it?”

“I know the story. Not sure I see the point.”

“Have you heard the story about the monster who was immortal and indestructible, and who chose to leave his heart outside his chest, out in the world where anyone could find it and damage it?”

“No...”

“You're living it.”

“Damn, Fid. There's no follow up to that.”

“There isn't supposed to be. At least until tomorrow night.”

“And I will always be here.”

“I know.”

End of Chapter Nine
Copyright 2018 by Paul Haynie
All rights reserved.
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