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Fiddler's Rose – Fourteen – Cinnabar

Fiddler's Rose – Chapter Fourteen – Cinnabar (Updated 6/10/2018)

>>>Scene One: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. How are you this evening?”

“You tell me.”

“I can't. I don't understand what I am feeling from you.”

“That makes two of us.”

“Story?”

“I spent the day with Nab. He showed me his collection of magic; it was amazing. Everything from nearly useless junk to things worth a king's ransom.”

“Did it give you itchy fingers?”

“A bit, but I've never been a thief. And I didn't see any of the things I really WANTED, either.”

“Ah.”

“We did talk money, a little bit. He is going to pay me something he thinks is a trifle, and is a fortune by my standards.”

“Ship chartering money?”

“Not for me. But I had the value of a ship in my hands a couple of time, if Nab is to be believed.”

“Do you?”

“I have no idea. I do seem to be unable to say, 'No', to him, though.”

“That doesn't sound good.”

“It's not as bad as that. There is a big gap between 'I want' and 'I won't', and everything he has asked for has fallen into it. But something feels wrong.”

“You had sex with him again, didn't you?”

“Yes.”

“Closer to 'Won't' than 'Want'?”

“Yes.”

“No wonder things seem wrong. Run away, Rose. You're over your head.”

“I'll be all right.”

“That's a lie.”

“No, it's a statement of groundless optimism. But I don't see a choice.”

“Be as careful as you can, Rose.”

“Of course.”

“I can't do anything to help, Rose, except tell you to run.”

“Keep holding my hand, Fid.”

“Metaphorically, but always.”

“And that IS ground for optimism.”

“Not much.”

“It's what we have, Fid. Could you come up with a melody that will calm us both down?”

“I can only try.”


>>>Scene Two: Darkness

“Good day, Rose?”

“Routine, mostly.”

“Except?”

“Except that I found something worth stealing from Nab this morning.”

“Hooray?”

“I'm not going to try to steal it. I had Nab set it aside for me.”

“And what was the premium on that?”

“Nothing, really. I asked, he said yes. When I have the money, I pay for it, it's mine. Easy.”

“And how far does this set back the 'Saving for Ship Charter' plan?”

“Not sure. Maybe six months.”

“Ouch. Is it worth it?”

“Maybe? I think so. I MIGHT be able to do the dive without it, but I'm not sure.”

“Six months for maybe. I am not happy with that trade. What are we talking about anyway?”

“A Frost-walker amulet.”

“Which does?”

“Keeps the owner warm under really absurd conditions.”

“And this is useful because?”

“Long term, it means I can wear an illusion over silk pajamas and never worry about the weather ever again.”

“Charming. And for this, I spend an extra six months in prison.”

“In the short term, your neighborhood is full of FREEZING water. Sister Shark is not bad with cold, but I don't think she can deal with that much of it. And if she can't, then the dive fails, and I have to find another one of these things, or something like it, and start saving money for another charter.”

“So six extra months for a sure thing, against an unknown chance of failure.”

“Right.”

“Damn.”

“Right.”

“Get the thing.”

“Right.”

“I would be happier if waiting didn't involve you being Nab's private whore.”

“It's not that bad.”

“Isn't it?”

“It's the road, Fid. I don't love it, I don't hate it, it just is. And at the end of the road, we'll be together, and Nab will fall off the edge of the world.”

“I'd rather push him off the Skytower.”

“That would be colorful, but also too much trouble.”

“Spoilsport.”

“Possibly. Play me a lullaby, and try not to be too impatient.”

“As her Grace wishes.”


>>>Scene Three: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. What is puzzling you tonight?”

“I had a long talk with Dlef tonight about customs among the dragon-folk.”

“And?”

“We talked about Turo and Ollie, mostly.”

“Good for them.”

“It seems that their status is basically, 'Adult but unmarried', which is the lowest adult status. They are stuck there unless they can get married, and because of all of the complications with their being twins, no one wants to marry them.”

“We've been over this.”

“The new wrinkle is that I determined that I really could get them the next step up the ladder if I married them.”

“You are insane.”

'You've said that before.”

“You keep finding new ways to illustrate it.”

“Given your history, would you really mind that much being bound to a runaway bride?”

“Put that way... Not really.”

“Didn't think so.”

“So you are really going to do this?”

“Still don't know. I'm not willing to take a vow that I am planning to break, so Dlef would have to come up with something that would convince the elders that the marriage was legitimate, and still leave me room to run. He's not sure he can do it, but he is going to work on it.”

“How do the twins feel about this?”

“Haven't asked them, and won't, until I am sure it can be done. No point getting their hopes up.”

“But you are willing if Dlef can work it out, and they want it?”

“How could I not be? They're my friends, this costs me little or nothing, and it will help them a great deal. It's not like I am ever going to get married the way my mother would like me to.”

“No?”

“Of course not. I'm not sure what species I am, I have neither interest in nor ability to have children, and I am involved in a non-negotiable relationship with a dead unicorn.”

“Non-negotiable?”

“Assuming he's not a complete idiot.”

“Damn.”

“Silly Fiddler. In the meantime, would Master Fiddler be willing to play something happy and soothing?”

“He would, and he will.”


>>>Scene Four: Darkness

“Where are you, who are you with, and why are you drunk?”

“There was some kind of big party in Kob-town, and I decided to crash it.”

“You're in bed with a kobold.”

“Maybe.”

“Gods, Rose, what is wrong with you?”

“Other than being drunk and in bed with a kobold?”

“Isn't that enough?”

“I'm chasing a little bit of transitory happiness, and it was working, at least until you started to give me grief about it.”

“Hmph. How does your human libido feel about this?”

“Confused, but satisfied.”

“And how is your partner going to feel about waking up next to someone who outweighs his original partner by three to one?”

“We've had that experience. He had sex with Sister Kobold, but fell asleep next to Sister Dragon. And things being what they are, it will likely be Dragon he tells his friends about.”

“Hmph, again.”

“You're just angry because you can't bring yourself to feel jealous of a kobold.”

“I can still hate him.”

“Don't. Please. He made me happy and tomorrow I probably won't be able to pick him out of a crowd.”

“Hmph the third time. And I am going to go sulk.”

“Fid?”


>>>Scene Five: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. What's the good news?”

“The good news you won't like is that I have learned the name of last night's playmate. He came by sometime today and left a bottle of brandy with a signed thank-you note.”

“That's... bizarre.”

“Yes, but also sweet.”

“Also expensive.”

“Well, it's that awful green kobold swill, so not exactly worth a king's ransom...”

“Sanity prevails.”

“But it's top shelf awful green kobold swill. So he was really trying. As I said, it was a sweet gesture.”

“You implied that there was good news I WOULD approve of?”

“I found a plan for a magical clock that I like in the Library today.”

“Hooray?”

“I need a clock for the dive, and this one is nearly perfect. It's an amulet, it's precise, and it's within my ability to manufacture. “

“And the time cost for manufacture?”

“Maybe six weeks.”

“Only.”

“I have had similar things I didn't like as well run through my hands working with Nab, and this won't take any longer to make than it would to earn the money to buy one of them.”

“As her Grace says.”

“Don't be that way. We need it, we're going to have it, that's good.”

“It feels like you're putting down roots.”

“No, I'm... I may be stuck in the mud, but that's not the same thing. I AM coming for you. The day WILL come.”

“As her Grace says.”

“Damn straight I do.”


>>>Scene Six: Darkness

“What's wrong, Rose?”

“Another kobold party.”

“That explains the drunkenness, but not the unhappiness.”

“My playmate from the other week is dead.”

“Say what?”

“According to his friends, he was so inspired by the fact that he had had sex with the Mighty Sorceress Duchess Red that he decided he was ready to make his mark on the world, and came up with some hare-brained get rich quick scheme, and was dead in less than a week.”

“Ouch. I'm sorry, Rose.”

“You know what I like about you, Fid?”

“I suspect that any guess I make will be wrong.”

“You were already dead when I met you, so getting involved with me won't get you killed.”

“That's... You know better than that, Rose. This is a single occurrence, not a pattern.”

“Doesn't matter.”

“This is the swill talking. You aren't cursed. This is... What's the life expectancy of a male kobold?”

“Twenty-five years. Maybe thirty.”

“And a female?”

“Maybe one-twenty?”

“And the difference?”

“Males get themselves killed in stupid ways, and females stay home and hatch eggs.”

“And the lesson here is?”

“Male kobolds make lousy pets.”

“More or less. I'm sorry your playmate is dead. But... He wasn't really even a friend, was he? You only know his name because he signed the thank-you note.”

“Yes.”

“Then mourn him as seems appropriate, but don't blame yourself. And stay away from the green swill; it rots your brain.”

“Yes, Mommy. You said you had a collection of dirges?”

“I do.”

“Play me one or six.”

“As my Lady wishes.


>>>Scene Seven: Darkness

“You seem much better tonight, Rose.”

“Time, sobriety, and kindness all help.”

“Kindness?”

“Dlef said I looked down, this evening, and gave me a present.”

“Which was?”

“About four ounces of his blood.”

“Apparently your madness is contagious.”

“It was a sweet gesture!”

“I don't deny it. But it was also... around the bend from normality.”

“Granted.”

“And are you going to drink it?”

“Already have.”

“I should have known.”

“Can you think of any drawbacks?”

“Other than triggering another metamorphosis into something less manageable than your current form? None at all.”

“Oh. Right.”

“This was reckless by YOUR standards, Rose.”

“It will be fine.”

“You have no way of knowing that. How did Dlef know to give the stuff to you?”

“We've talked about my shapeshifting, and where the forms came from. I haven't mentioned the faun, though.”

“Why not?”

“Because it breaks the pattern, and only makes sense if I tell the whole story about the unicorn ghost in dreamspace, and I am not willing to do that.”

“You still have SOME sense, then.”

“Brat.”

“Perhaps. In any case... I have nothing polite to say, but if you permit me, I will play for you, and hope for the best.”

“That would be wonderful.”


>>>Scene Eight: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose.”

“And to you, Master Fiddler.”

“Let's play a guessing game, shall we? I will guess, and you will tell me if I am right or wrong.”

“If you insist.”

“You're drunk, and in a bed not yours, and not alone.”

“Yes.”

“You are feeling some mild discomfort that is probably the result of drinking green kobold swill.”

“Yes.

“The bed is too comfortable to belong to a kobold.”

“Yes.”

“The green swill was the bottle your deceased playmate gave you.”

“Nahm. He was called Nahm. And yes.”

“You're in bed with Dlef.”

“Yes.”

“So we have 'What', but I remained baffled as to 'How'.”

“Well...”

“From the beginning.”

“There were no side effects from drinking Dlef's blood.”

“Good.”

“And the dragon-kin shape developed, just the way I thought it would. As far as I can tell, it looks exactly the way I did during those two days between losing my face and growing a tail.”

“Is that good?”

“It's interesting, that it's the same shape. And I'm glad I have it.”

“Well enough. Continuing?”

“I thought I should show Dlef the new shape, since he had been the blood donor, and I was still feeling kind of melancholy, and I thought drinking a toast or two in Nahm's honor, from the bottle he gave me, would be appropriate, and I was pretty sure that Dlef would go along.”

“Which he did.”

“Which he did.”

“And a couple of toasts turned into half a bottle each.”

“Yes.”

“And that led to sleeping in Dlef's bed while Fiddler adds another name to his hate list.”

“No! Well, yes, we had sex, but I explicitly forbid you to hate Dlef. He's been my friend, and he will remain my friend, and you aren't allowed to hate him.”

“Stop me.”

“Please, as a favor to me, do not hate my friend Dlef just because he is lonely and I have self-control issues.”

“Yes, your Grace.”

“Are you being cruel, or just teasing me?”

“I am not capable of being cruel to you on a more than momentary basis, Rose, and you know that. But I am worried about you.”

“I'm worried about me, too.”

“Then run.”

“Not yet. I'm not done here yet.”

“We have had this discussion before, and I can not win, so I am going to go sulk. Until tomorrow. Or next week. Or whenever.”

“Fid?”


>>>Scene Nine: Darkness

“Once again, you're unreadable, Rose.”

“I'm getting married, Fid.”

“The twins?”

“Yes.”

“So this isn't exactly a surprise.”

“No.”

“So what's the problem?”

“It's all a little too surreal for me to digest, I guess. This isn't a path I expected my life to go down.”

“I can understand that.”

“I've been living in their house for over a year, and we all agree that I am going to go away eventually, and may never see them again, but... I can't escape the idea that it MEANS something, but I don't know what.”

“Tell me a story while you think about it.”

“Dlef came by the evening with the vows he had worked out, and I looked them over, and then we presented them to Turo and Ollie...”

“And they jumped on the idea.”

“No, they seemed to have an objection they couldn't explain, and I finally figured out that it was about consummation.”

“Ah.”

“So I told them my idea for confusing the order, and they liked that, and signed on. They even added an extra wrinkle; they are going to toss a coin, and switch bedrooms, or not, depending on that. That way, I won't know which was first, either.”

“This is too surreal for anyone, I think.”

“But it's going to happen anyway.”

“So it would seem.”

“Fid... Don't play wedding marches. Really, please, don't. FIDDLER CENTAURSON IF YOU DON'T STOP PLAYING WEDDING MUSIC THIS INSTANT I WILL NEVER SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN.”

“Really?”

“No. Damn you.”

“I promise I will only go through the list once. And you might wake up before I'm done.”

“I'm doomed.”


>>>Scene Ten: Darkness

“You're happy tonight, Rose.”

“I found the other device recipe that I needed in the Library today.”

“I assume that that's good?”

“It's GREAT. I wanted a compass, and this is an actual navigator. It doesn't just tell you your heading, it tells you where you are in the world, and even your altitude.”

“And how much time will this take to build?”

“Three months?”

“But you really need it.”

“I really need the compass. The rest is just bonus.”

“But three months.”

“Yes. I'm sorry.”

“Of course you are. How are your studies going?”

“Well enough. I have a decent understanding, and a ton of notes, but I don't have the necessary ability yet.”

“And to get that?”

“I need to hit the road and chase Luck, mostly.”

“But first you need to save up ship charter money.”

“And get married.”

“Sure, why not?”

“I'm sorry, Fid. I am still coming for you. I AM.”

“I know.”

“THE DAY WILL COME. It WILL.”

“I know.”

“Chase the Luck for me, Fid?”

“As her Grace wishes.”

“Ouch.”


>>>Scene Eleven: Darkness

“So how did it go?”

“It happened. A ceremony, a party, two sexual partners, and three baths later, and Rose gets to sleep.”

“And how do you feel about it?”

“Other than exhausted?”

“I already know that.”

“Even more exhausted. Empty. Melancholy”

“I can feel that, too. I'm sorry. Why melancholy?”

“I can only guess. I have some great friends here, Fid...”

“Three good friends, two of whom are now also your husbands, and an abusive employer who you will not walk away from.”

“As you say. There is so much I like here. I could almost put down roots, but I know I won't.”

“Forgive me if I am glad for that.”

“You keep me honest. You remind me that I CAN'T.”

“Which means?”

“Deep down, I know that I will never put down roots, that it would kill me if I did. And being so close to being able to take root here just... hurts.”

“Ah. I am sorry for you pain, Rose. But glad you are who you are.”

“In other news... The twins paid off the Frost-walker as a present to me...”

“I approve of this...”

“And Dlef gave me... something odd and kind of wonderful.”

“Which was?”

“A glass ring pendant.”

“And?”

“It's made from the neck of the bottle that Nahm gave me, polished to have no edges, and made almost indestructible with magic.”

“So a reminder of both Dlef and Nahm.”

“Yes.”

“Dlef is a sneaky fellow. I might like him if I weren't already committed to hating him.”

“Brat.”

“But you smiled.”

“I did.”

“Then my work here is done. Good night, Rose. And congratulations.”


>>>Scene Twelve: Darkness

“You're restless tonight, Rose.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I'm scheming. And unhappy.”

“Story?”

“Do you remember Roggel, from the 'Sufferance'?”

“I remember hearing the name.”

“I made one of my monthly trips to visit 'Revenant' this afternoon, and I ran into him. He's still sailing, just happened to be in port, and recognized me. Or more properly Emma.”

“She stands out.”

“She does. So we talked a bit, and he told me that he was pretty sure he had seen Dzee in a brothel across the river last night. He hadn't spoken to her, and wasn't absolutely sure it was her, but he thought so.”

“That's... I like Dzee. She was fun. Sweet.”

“And always much too trusting. After Roggel went on his way, I went over to check the place out. I put on Roggel's face, found Dzee, and bought some time with her.”

“Definitely our Dzee, then.”

“Yes, and she's in a bad way. Not sick or hurt, but desperately unhappy, and trapped there.”

“She's a slave?”

“Not technically, but in practice. If they catch her going out the door, they'll beat her; it she manages to get away, they'll report her to the watch as a thief, and put a bounty on her head. Which results in the girl being beaten, and often hobbled.”

“Dzee has seen this?”

“More than once.”

“What happened to her?”

“She and Lyssa stayed together after 'Sufferance' paid off, found work, kept sailing. And then Lyssa was killed in a bar fight about three years ago.”

“A shame. I always liked Lyssa.”

“I did too. But that left Dzee alone, and small, pretty, kind, and alone is not a tenable situation dockside. So she ended up in a brothel in short order.”

“Ah.”

“And now I have to get her out.”

“I am tempted to ask, 'Why you?', but I already know the answer.”

“You do.”

“Do you have a plan?”

“Most of one.”

“Will I hate it?”

“Probably not, actually. And it involves leaving Skytower for Losthaven, which should make you happy.”

“What will Nab say?”

“Whatever he wants. I'm not going to tell him.”

“How about the twins?”

“That will be hard, but they knew it was coming. Same with Dlef.”

“When?”

“I think I can get her back here tomorrow, and then out to sea as soon as the weather breaks. There's a storm coming in.”

“Which matters because?”

“'Revenant' doesn't like big waves.”

“Ah.”

“Would you play me a lullaby, Fid? I have a long day ahead of me.”

“As my Lady wishes.”


>>>Scene Twelve: Darkness

“Home safe, Rose?”

“Finally. Sister Wings isn't fond of high winds.”

“How's Dzee?”

“Sound asleep, alone, in a clean bed, and with a chair wedged against the door.”

“A chair?”

“The boys have been very gracious, but she isn't used to dragon-folk. Had never even spoken to one before.”

“Ah. So, from the beginning?”

“Right. From the beginning. I taught Dlef how to look like Osprey in the morning...”

“Because?”

“You know that patience you're so bad at?”

“Yes...”

“Find some. At sundown, Dlef and I crossed the river and went to the brothel. Dlef was wearing Osprey's face, and I was wearing Gorsheg's...

“The obnoxious apprentice from Landfall?”

“Right. I went in and bought some time with Dzee while Dlef loitered in the lobby, waiting for 'Gorsheg' to do his business. Once we were alone, I gave Dzee my clothes, and gave HER Gorsheg's face, and then she went out to the lobby, found 'Osprey'...”

“Who was someone you were sure Dzee would recognize...”

“And the two of them headed back to Dragon-town. I put Lyssa's face over Sister Dragon, on the assumption that no one would ask a scantily clad woman too many questions on a busy night in a brothel, and found a top floor window, then shifted to Sister Wings and dove out.”

“And then you came home.”

“And then I got caught by the wind and blown out of town before I could find a safe place to land, and had to walk home.”

“Which is why you're so late.”

“Which is why I'm so late. Also exhausted. I checked in on Dzee before I went to bed, though, which is how I know about the chair in front of the door.”

“Ah. And now what?”

“And now we keep Dzee out of sight for a few days, until the weather breaks, and then 'Revenant' will take us to Losthaven. In the meantime, we will get some clothes for Dzee, and I will say my goodbyes to Dlef and my husbands.”

“Ah. Would the conquering hero care for some appropriate music?”

“The conquering hero would love to hear a lullaby.”

“As my Lady wishes.”

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