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Fiddler's Rose - Eleven - Silverport

Fiddler's Rose – Chapter Eleven – Silverport (Updated 5/18/2018)

>>>Scene One: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose.”

“Good evening, Fid... Have you been talking to Maelstrom again? You seem stronger.”

“I have, and I think that I am. Or at least I have more energy. My ego has taken a horrible beating.”

“Have you been playing Territories again?”

“Yes. Every time I lose, he spots me ten more stones for the next game. He says that I am bound to win eventually, and that then he will start taking stones back one at a time. And of course he looks forward to the day when we will play with no handicap.”

“And how long will that take?”

“I suspect that it will be millennia.”

“Ouch.”

“We will see. Do you play?”

“I know the rules.”

“Once you have rescued me, we will have to play occasionally.”

“Between other activities.”

“Of course. There is no possibility of 'Instead.'”

“You are nothing if not consistent, Master Fiddler.”

“As the scorpion pointed out, it is my nature.”

“Indeed. Good night, Fid.”


>>>Scene Two: Aboard “Revenant”

“Restless tonight, Rose?”

“Planning and calculating. There's a town about ten miles down the coast, and I am probably going to try to buy some supplies there.”

“And the problem is?”

“I don't know what kind of reception I will get in my true form, and I'd rather not risk it, so I'm planning to put on Emma about half a mile out. Which would be fine, but there is no way I will get into town and back out again in the single hour the spell lasts, so I'm going try to be ready to refresh the spell.”

“Which means?”

“I'm going to go barefoot, and wear a hooded robe on top of my loose vest and skirt. That way I can pull up the hood, drop back to dragon, and then shift back to Emma. With luck, no one will notice.”

“I don't like the risk.”

“I don't either, but I can play some domination games if I have to. And if I don't figure out some way to get back into human civilization, I am going to be stuck in this boat until the end of time.”

“Or the boat sinks.”

“You're a BIG help.”

“I exist to serve.”

“Play something soothing, And maybe I will be able to sleep.”

“As her Grace wishes.”


>>>Scene Three: Aboard “Revenant”

“Are you nervous, Rose?”

“A bit. Standing by to repel boarders.”

“That doesn't sound good. What's going on?”

“The trip into town went well enough. I had to recast the transformation twice, but as far as I know, no one noticed, so that was good.”

“And the problem?”

“I'm being followed. I've kind of forgotten how much social armor having a reputation gave me. This afternoon I was just a tall, skinny red-haired girl who was all by herself on a boat. Apparently that attracted some predators.”

“What do they want?”

“Rape and or robbery, I imagine, with murder as collateral. I'm going to try to talk them out of it, but I'm not hopeful.”

“But you're only nervous, not frightened.”

“I'm pretty sure I won't be able to talk them out of their stupidity, and will have to kill them instead. I'm not happy about that.”

“But you're still not frightened.”

“Something can go wrong; I could end up badly hurt, or dead. But the smart money is heavily on me, and I have no way of convincing them of that without proving it.”

“And that means killing them.”

“I think so, yes. At least some of them. With luck they will learn their lesson and run away.”

“What if they come back with friends?”

“Then I'm in trouble.”

“Be a dragon, Rose. Don't let compassion kill you.”

“You are a terrible influence. We'll just have to see. It won't be long, now. See you on the other side.”

“Rose?”


>>>Scene Four: Aboard “Revenant”

“Rose? What happened?”

“You had to tell me to be a dragon.”

“I ask again, what happened?”

“They're... I... Hell. From the beginning.”

“That never hurts.”

“They had a lantern on their masthead, so it was easy to see them coming. Sister Dragon sees a lot better in the dark that humans do; I could have killed them all with mage-bolts, if I had wanted to.”

“I would have voted for that.”

“Shut up, Fid. Not funny.”

“Sorry.”

“When they were about fifty yards away, I hailed them. I didn't say anything aggressive, just commented that it was late, and that they should anchor.”

“Reasonable. Sort of.”

“They said that they had lost their anchor, and that they wanted to raft up with me, and I said that they would be better off on shore. They kept coming, and then they got a good look at me; I was standing in the cockpit with one hand on the mast.”

“Not good?”

“No. They started shouting about monsters, and one of them apparently already had a bow in his hand, because he stood up and shot at me. I ducked and raised an arm over my face, and got an arrow through my forearm for it. I was going to.. I don't know, roar, maybe, and sneezed out a lightning bolt at the archer...”

“You can breathe lightning?”

“I can SNEEZE lightning, apparently; I was as shocked as they were, and we all just stopped for a moment.”

“Except for the archer?”

“Except for the archer, who was out of the equation. There were four of them left, and they started shouting about killing the monster, so I went over the side. I surfaced behind their boat, bit off the arrowhead and pulled the shaft out of my arm. Then someone saw my head, and somebody stood up with the bow to take another shot, and I realized that I had more lightning available, and I used it.”

“Down two?”

“Yup. And then I went back under water and came up on the far side of 'Revenant', and I could hear the three surviving idiots shouting and panicking and trying to get away as fast as they could. So I climbed back into the boat, and I thought to myself that it was well over.”

“But it wasn't.”

“No. I HEARD Sister Dragon say, 'No! They attacked our HOME!' And then I shifted to Sister Wings and flew after them, and killed them all with mage-bolts from the air. Then I landed in the water, shifted back to Dragon, sailed their boat back here, and rafted it to the 'Revenant'. “

“And THEN it was over.”

“And then I sat down on the floor of the cockpit and meditated so that you could find me, because Sister Dragon doesn't know how to cry.”

“I'm sorry, Rose.”

“I've always had a temper. I have always had a bit of the berserker in me; it helped me stay alive, back on the 'Storm Turtle.' But this... By the time the last one died, he was curled up in the cockpit, weeping and begging for mercy, and I just kept hitting him until he was dead.”

“Again, I am sorry, Rose.”

“What's happening to me, Fid? If this is part of being a dragon, I don't want it.”

“I think... I am confident... This is part of being a dragon, yes, and you will have to deal with it. But the Corrosion Flower is stronger than the dragon, and the main reason that this happened is that you were blind-sided by it, and the next time you won't be, and the next time you will be able to control it if you want to.”

“You sound awfully sure of that.”

“I know that I need you to be that strong, Rose, and therefore I believe that you are.”

“That's backwards. Or maybe sideways.”

“It's practical. One chooses the best tools available, and then believes in them to behave as they should, because doubt will destroy you if you give it a foothold.”

“And now I'm a tool?”

“You are the finest and most beautiful weapon that has ever been forged in the history of the world.”

“That's... damn you, Fiddler Centaurson.”

“Perhaps. Now put on Emma's face, and cry yourself to sleep, and I will play you every lullaby that I know.”

“I am proud to be your heart, Fid.”

“I know. Sleep.”


>>>Scene Five: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. Things are back to normal?”

“They are now. I spent the morning cleaning up from last night.”

“The entire morning?”

“I hauled the idiot's boat up above the tide line, stacked the idiots under it, and then dug out enough around the boat so that an animal that wants to eat the bodies will have to dig first. Of course I stole everything that was worth stealing along the way. And an ear from each of them.”

“And then you ate the ears.”

“Yup. Well, Sister Croc did. I don't know if they were really evil, or just drunk and stupid, and I have no idea what religion they practiced, or what idea of the afterlife they believed in, but they are NOT going to Crocodilian Hell.”

“You went to a lot of work for men you have good reason to hate...”

“I went to a lot of trouble for men that I killed for no good reason. It wasn't battle rage; you can't cast spells from inside a battle rage, even simple ones like Mage-bolt. Certainly not the transformation. What I felt last night was cold and... I'd say, 'alien', but it WASN'T. It was definitely all me, just part of me that I haven't ever seen before, and may not have always been there.”

“Sister Dragon.”

“Except I know that Sister Dragon isn't a separate person, she's still ME. I just... Did your personality shift when you became a unicorn?”

“Of course. But I was only fourteen; I didn't really know who I was in the first place.”

“Not helpful.”

“Sorry, just true.”

“I know. I've been through three of these transformations, now. I didn't really notice a change in the way I thought after the first two. I didn't notice a change after the third one, until last night.”

“You will get through this, Rose. WE will get through this.”

“I don't want to be a monster, Fid.”

“We've been over this before, Rose...”

“And you said that a monster had to pose a threat to society due to malice or callousness. What would you call what I did last night, Fid?”

“What I would have told you to do.”

“You're callous as hell, Fid.”

“Ouch.”

“Not helpful.”

“You lost control. They threatened you, hurt you, and made you angry, and they paid. And you have given them more courtesy than I think they deserve. Call it penance, get back on the path, and try to do better next time. You can't take it back, so go forward.”

“Already moving forward, Fid. But also dealing with the echoes.”

“But the echoes are things of the darkness, and you have me and my music to help chase them.”

“I suppose I do, Fid. And I think that is your cue to start playing.”

“As her Grace wishes.”


>>>Scene Six: Darkness

“Nervous tonight, Rose?”

“A bit. Silverport is on the horizon; I'll be there by mid-morning. And then will come all the rigamarole of trying to not be noticed. And the possibility of drawing more idiot would be predators. I REALLY want to just sail past, but I came all this way to ask questions in Silverport.”

“Life was simpler when you made that decision.”

“You mean I had human feet and a human face and long red hair that I really liked...”

“All of which you will have tomorrow morning when you sail into Silverport.”

“For an hour.”

“It will be fine, Rose. It will be easier in a larger town. And you KNOW you can deal with the predators.”

“I can PROBABLY deal with the predators, but it leaves scars.”

“Scars are sexy.”

“Not the ones on my soul.”

“Ah. Those.”

“Yeah, those. The ones that stay with you no matter what shape you wear.”

“Just like tattoos from Auntie Moss.”

“But unwanted and a lot less decorative. You have a strange sense of humor, Fid.”

“Solitary confinement will do that to you.”

“You can always play Territories with Maelstrom.”

“Oh, yes, an hour or two of abject terror with a side order of crushing intellectual inferiority.”

“He still terrifies you? Haven't you convinced him to like you yet?”

“He likes me fine, I think. I just can't get past the idea that he could shred me with a thought.”

“He can kill me just as easily when I am near him; I don't let it bother me.”

“But you're mortal; ANYTHING can kill you. I have gotten used to being indestructible.”

“You're whining. And it sounds cowardly.”

“OF COURSE it sounds cowardly. I'm a COWARD. Why do you think I keep you around?

“Say what?”

“I get to bask in your fearlessness.”

“That's... sweet. Kind of disturbing, and probably not strictly true, but sweet anyway.”

“It is absolutely true.”

“Or at least after you have discounted that I am willing to dedicate myself to getting you out of the mud, and that I actually like you much of the time.”

“There is no such thing as complete truth and I reserve the right to cut the fragments as it suits me.”

“Fine. But I'm hardly fearless.”

“Perhaps. But you are unquestionably courageous. You have fits of caution, but you always get over them, and charge ahead when the time comes. The safe path would have had you married and with three children in Sweetwater. If you say, 'Ninety miles an hour' to a normal person, they turn pale and look away. Your eyes light up and you say, 'When?'”

“Guilty. Chase the luck for me, Master Scorpion?”

“As my Heart wishes.”


>>>Scene Seven: Darkness

“You're drunk, Rose.”

“A little.”

“And not sleeping in either the 'Revenant' or in a bed. A hammock?”

“I'm in my hammock on the 'Storm Turtle'.”

“And thus begins tonight's story.”

“If you wish. I knew there was a big ship at anchor as I approached Silverport; as I got closer, I realized it was the 'Turtle', and decided not to hail it, but I had to get a good look at her; she was my home for two years. I was wearing Emma, and someone recognized me, and they asked me aboard, and I went, and we swapped stories...”

“And you held onto Emma?”

“For a while. The spell was going to expire soon, anyway, and I had already told them that I was a sorceress, and I had hinted that I had gone through a lot of changes. I begged them to not panic when I gave them an example, and then I let Emma drop.”

“How did that go over?”

“As well as I could have hoped. I made sure I had my back to the rail the when I did it, so that I could go over and escape if things got ugly, but about half of the people there knew me from before, and were willing to give me some leeway.”

“Lucky Rose.”

“A bit. And of course then I had to show them Sister Crocodile, and that led to a short stint with the Master at Arms, who acknowledged that I was keeping myself fit, and may have learned a few things. And then I went into town as Sister Dragon with an escort from the 'Turtle' to keep things on an even keel, and then I came back here and there was brandy and more stories now I'm in my hammock.”

“And where does the story go from here?”

“The 'Turtle' has some shallow water work ahead of it, and they have been trying to acquire some small boats for that, and in exchange for use of 'Revenant' and support on that raid, I get transport to Skytower and escort into towns along the way as needed.”

“And if they lose 'Revenant'?”

“Then I will be very unhappy, but also have her fair market value in hand.”

“And if they get you killed?”

“Then I'll be dead and you'll be lonely. The most dangerous thing in my future remains a certain utterly non-negotiable salvage dive, so please try not to be a mother hen about the other risks along the way.”

“Yes, your Grace.”

“Humph. Play me a lullaby, and try not to worry. I'll be fine.”

“As my Lady wishes.”


>>>Scene Eight: The deck of the “Storm Turtle”

“Star gazing, Rose?”

“Not really, too much moon. Just a bit restless.”

“And the why?”

“Nothing has really come out of the Silverport visit, for one thing. I found a few people who remembered Osprey and 'Sufferance'; there aren't too many female captains. And I was able to confirm that 'Sufferance' offloaded NOTHING, and took on only water and basic supplies. But I had already heard that, so this is just confirmation.”

“A small waste of time doesn't explain your mood.”

“No, I suppose not. It's the way people look at me, particularly on board the 'Turtle'. I EXPECT odd looks when I am ashore as Sister Dragon, but I used to LIVE on the 'Turtle', and now I feel alien here. Before, I was a good topmast monkey, and a decent fighter, and a fairly pretty girl. And everyone knew all three of those things, and I got variations on two parts of respect and one part of lust from pretty much everyone. And now... It's more like one part respect and one part fear. I understand that, but it doesn't make me happy.”

“I'm sorry, Rose.”

“I miss being human, Fid.”

“I know, Rose.”

“I'm not... anything, Fid. I'm not human, I'm not a dragon, I'm this weird thing that doesn't fit anywhere.”

“You're my heart. And someday I will make you forget all about this, and you won't have to CARE what species you are.”

“You're sweet, Fid. But sex doesn't solve everything.”

“It solves a lot of things, and helps you forget all of the others.”

“You're an idiot.”

“You're smiling.”

“Yeah, I am. Play something happy for me, Fid, and then I'll try to get some sleep.”

“As her Grace wishes.”


>>>Scene Nine: Darkness

“What are you up to, Rose?”

“What? Nothing. Really. Just sleeping. I'm TIRED.”

“I can tell that you're tired. But you are also grinning, even though you are sound asleep.”

“Maybe.”

“Tell.”

“I was awake at dawn, and we wouldn't have the tide until mid-morning, so I asked the Captain if I could do something kind of strange. He said yes, and I climbed onto the rail at the main shrouds, shifted to Wings, and dove off. And then I practiced landing on the ship.”

“I thought you said the risk was too high for that.”

“On 'Revenant', yes. But on the 'Turtle' the ratlines on the main shrouds might as well be a crash net. I come in low and slow, climb hard just before I hit the ship, and then skim up the shrouds and grab on just as my wings stall. It's easier than landing flat footed.”

“Did anyone know that Sister Wings existed before you pulled this stunt?”

“Of course not. That would have spoiled the fun.”

“You're insane.”

“Maybe a little. When the spell wore off, I rested for a while, then once we were properly underway, I did it some more. The timing is trickier when the ship is moving, but I am told that the effect is spectacular. Apparently it looks like I am sliding up the shrouds sideways.”

“So you went flying, and learned a new trick, and you are happy. But something else has changed, too.”

“The fear is gone, Fid. Or mostly gone. Now it's envy. And you know what? Envy is a LOT easier to live with. It's FRIENDLIER.”

“Friendlier?”

“They're curious, they want to know as much about flying as they can. I've gone from being a freak to being a celebrity. Celebrity is more fun. AND I get to fly a lot.”

“There would seem to be method to your madness.”

“I don't know about method, but there does seem to be joy. Joy and madness are a pretty potent cocktail.”

“And that is an exit line if I have ever heard one. Good night, my Heart.”

“Good night, Fid.”


>>>Scene Ten: Darkness

“You're tired again, Rose.”

“Yup.”

“And a bit brain fried too, I think.”

“Also yup.”

“So tell me a story.”

“The winds have been light, so I have spent as much time as I could flying. It's been fun.”

“Don't you have to stay fairly close to the ship?”

“Pretty much, but I have been working on aerobatics, so that hasn't been an issue.”

“Will I regret asking you what 'aerobatics' means?”

“Maybe.”

“I ask anyway.”

“Acrobatics performed while flying. Wingovers and hammerheads and loops and rolls and falling leaves and combinations thereof.”

“I am frightened by the concept. I am TERRIFIED by your joy.”

“You probably should be.”

“So your body is tired. What taxed your mind?”

“A little book called, 'Flight'.”

“Ah.”

“It's an amazing book, Fid. It's where I got descriptions of the tricks I was doing today, among other things. It's full of math and science and Thaumatology, but it's also got some amazing stories. Though most of them end badly.”

“Oh?”

“They're mostly cautionary tales, of the, 'Here is something that will make you dead' variety.”

“For instance?”

“It seems that there was a sorcerer, a landsman, who was a passenger on a ship at sea. The ship was making about 6 knots on a broad reach in a 15 knot wind. The sorcerer decided to fly up to the masthead to get a better look at things...”

“I see this coming...”

“The standard flight spell only lasts for about ten minutes, and has a top speed of less than 3 knots. So by the time the sorcerer realized he was in trouble, he was over the ocean and heading away from the ship at about 10 knots. He corrected as best he could, and the ship turned to follow him, but that only reduced the speed gap to about 6 knots.”

“And the reason he didn't just hit the water and stop getting blown away?”

“He couldn't swim.”

“I thought I saw this coming.”

“Ten minutes at 6 knots is a mile, more or less. And then ten minutes for the ship to get there. They never found his body.”

“He couldn't recast the spell?”

“He should have been able to, but he was probably panic stricken. And really, that would have only prolonged the inevitable.”

“And you wonder why I worry.”

“I'm practicing so that I know what to do in odd situations. For instance, I know that I can recast my shape shift spell in flight, if I have about a thousand feet to spare.”

“Please tell me that you didn't work that out experimentally.”

“No, I got if from Xart. But I did try it out...”

“Gods, Rose. You are going to make me old before my time.”

“You're immortal.”

“Even so.”

“And I am going to do my best to keep you company as long as you'll have me.”

“Give or take the occasional thousand foot free fall.”

“It was FUN!”

“I have left my heart in the keeping of a suicidal maniac. I'm doomed.”

“You have given your heart to the only living being who has the slightest inkling what an incredible treasure it is.”

“Damn, Rose. Point and game to you.”

“I think this calls for a forfeit.”

“Which would be?”

“A lullaby, silly Fiddler. What else?”

“As my Lady wishes.”

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