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Fiddler's Rose - Fifteen - Dzee

Fiddler's Rose – Chapter Fifteen - Dzee (Updated 6/10/2018)

>>>Scene One: Rose's room

“Not sleeping, Rose?”

“Not yet. I just wanted to check in with you before it got any later.”

“It's appreciated. How did the day go?”

“Well enough. Dzee spent a lot of time sleeping, and most of the rest of it trying to adapt to being around dragon-folk, including me. I spent the day gathering supplies, getting clothes for Dzee, and saying my goodbyes to Dlef, Turo, and Ollie.”

“On your back?”

“What goes on between me and my husbands is none of your business.”

“So not Dlef.”

“Brat.”

“But you are up past your usual bedtime, and not planning to sleep anytime soon.”

“Not saying.”

“Don't have to. What's up tomorrow?”

“Dzee and I walk a handcart full stuff down to the docks, get 'Revenant' in the water, and sail away with the evening tide. I'm planning to make the trip in one hop, since I will be able to leave Dzee on the helm while I sleep.”

“Won't they be looking for Dzee?”

“Let them. Dzee will be wearing Bing's face, and no one associates Emma's face with Dzee.”

“And then you will be at sea.”

“And then we will be at sea.”

“And Dzee will start worrying about being eaten by the dragon on the other side of the boat.”

“No.”

“Optmist.”

“Brat.”

“I exist to serve. Enjoy your evening, Rose. And good luck on the morrow.”


>>>Scene Two: Aboard “Revenant”

“All went well, Rose?”

“Without a hitch.”

“And the boat is sailing herself?”

“No, it's a bit too rough for that, but Dzee is on the tiller and grinning like a fool. She's a sailor at heart, and hasn't been on the water in far too long.”

“Sounds good.”

“It is. I feel like... I don't know. I miss Dlef and the twins already, but it is just SO good to be moving again.”

“I can tell. It's a good feeling.”

“Does your repertoire include anything that fits this situation better than 'Chasing the Luck'?”

“Not offhand. I'll think about it while I play, though.”

“Thank you, Master Fiddler. I wish I could share the music with Dzee, but it would be hard for her to be happier.”

“Then let us chase.”


>>>Scene Three: Aboard “Revenant”

“Eventful day, Rose?”

“You know it was, don't you? You're the one who told him I would be at sea again.”

“Maybe...”

“Dzee almost died of fright. Things had been so busy, I had never told her that the Great Storm Turtle was calling me, “Granddaughter.” He surfaced under the boat...”

“And she just loved it.”

“No, she started screaming and couldn't stop. I had to shift to Emma and hold her to get her calmed down.”

“Sorry.”

“No, you aren't. But someday you are going to get Dzee in dreamspace again, and you are going to apologize to her. And you are NOT going to use magic to get her to forgive you.”

“I have other options...

“And you are NOT going to use sex to get forgiveness, either. Or you will have to answer to me.”

'Yes, your Grace.”

“Damn straight. Anyway, eventually I got her out of the boat and up to the front edge of his shell for a conversation. Of course she doesn't speak Dragontongue, so I had to translate, and she only shook her head or nodded when he asked her questions. But she loved it. If she ever remembers how to talk again, I don't think she'll shut up about it for days.”

“So will YOU forgive me?”

“Eventually. I have no real choice in the long run. But I can make you pay for a long time.”

“Yes, your Grace.”

“And I have to admit that having Maelstrom carry us for a few hours made the trip shorter.”

“You mean I'm actually useful?”

“Occasionally.”

“I'll do my best to avoid it in the future.”

“Most likely. I'm told that you're becoming proficient at Territories.”

“I've had a good teacher, and my handicap has stabilized. I'm not sure that means I'm becoming proficient.”

“Maelstrom's actual comment was that you have finally proved that you are smarter than the stones on the board. I extrapolated.”

“That was kind of you.”

“He also told me that you were worried about me, and that made him worried about me.”

“I was worried about you. I still am.”

“But did you have to tell the Turtle?”

“He asked me direct questions. Have you ever tried to lie to him, or evade his questions?”

“Objection withdrawn. And you were actually looking him in the eye, weren't you?”

“BOTH eyes.”

“Damn.”

“Exactly.”

“Things should be better, now, though. Now that I am away from Cinnabar. I... didn't think he had gotten inside my head, but he must have. This is the first time I have gone three days without seeing him...”

“Without having sex with him...”

“Without putting on Emma, at his request, and having sex with him, in over a year. Yes. Gods, Fid, what was wrong with me?”

“I did my best...”

“I know you did, Fid. I should have listened. I'm not sure I could have, though. But now...I don't know, my mind feels clearer.”

“That is... amazing news. But I'm still worried.”

“So am I. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime... I think I need to relieve Dzee at the tiller, and let her get some sleep. If she can.”

“Does she know you're talking to me?”

“It hasn't come up yet. Should I tell her?”

“Your call. At least as long as I am on the bottom of the ocean.”

“Now THAT worries me. Good night, Fid.”

“Good night, Rose.”


>>>Scene Four: A rented room

“Not sleeping again, Rose?”

“Practicing my 'Rose Mark Two' face for wandering around Losthaven.”

“Mark Two?”

“The face they know around here. Mark One is the one you know, before any transformations, pure human. Mark Two is the one Drellan knows, after I got the third dragon mark. She has fine scales that you wouldn't notice from more than five feet away. Mark Three is what I looked like after the second tattoo from Auntie Moss, Mark Two but with more obvious scales. Mark Four is the one I only had for a couple of days in Landfall, with a dragon head and full scales, but plantigrade feet and no tail. And Mark Five is my current form, with digitigrade feet and a tail.”

“And where are you doing this practice?”

“In an inn in Losthaven; I'm sharing a room with Dzee. Tomorrow I'll pay Drellan a visit, and see what I can work out.”

“What do you have in mind? You're hardly his apprentice anymore.”

“No, I'm going to try to set up Dzee as his housekeeper. She's had enough adventure, I think, and Drellan is lonely but doesn't have a clue what to do about it.”

“He can't be THAT lonely, then.”

“He isn't; he's pretty self contained. But I lived with him for three years, and I have a pretty good idea of how his mind works. People baffle him.”

“Ah.”

“And I've already explained the situation to Dzee. I told her what I have in mind, and she's willing to try to get to know Drellan. After a while, if she is interested, I'll suggest to Drellan that Dzee might be more than a housekeeper.”

“And you need to be involved because?”

“Because Drellan will never make the first move, otherwise, and if Dzee makes the first move, he-ll be suspicious, and it might ruin everything.”

“YOU made the first move on him.”

“Yes, but I had known him for three years, and was going away, so there was no chance I was trying to take advantage of him.”

“Ah. And where does all of this scheming leave you?”

“Not quite in the cold. I am going to leave Dzee with custody of 'Revenant', which she will like, and I should be able to talk Drellan into storing the rest of my stuff; there isn't that much. And then I am going to cross Dragon Lake, spend some time getting re-acquainted with the local crocs and kobs, and see if I can arrange an audience with the Empress herself.”

“Because, having survived acquaintanceship with the Great Monster Turtle, you have no fear of lesser dragonkind.”

“No, because I need a lot of money, and she is reputed to HAVE a lot of money, and I MAY be able to provide her with some lucrative service or other.”

“Like what?”

“I have no idea.”

“You're going to walk into the lair of a major dragon and ask for a job, on spec.”

“Pretty much.”

“Damn. Gonna have to move the Crazy Bar again.”

“Say what?”

“The Crazy Bar. The, 'Rose can't possibly try something more insane than this', bar.”

“You might want to just give that up.”

“I should. But then, when the day comes that I propose something so insane that it causes you to collapse in a fit of hysterical laughter, I will be able to say, 'But it's not nearly as insane as these six (or seven, or eight) things that you have already done,' and you will have no choice but to go along with what I want.”

“No choice?”

“It's not a perfect concept.”

“You're kind of cute when you're stupid.”

“I know. I cultivate it. But you still intend to visit the Empress.”

“I do. But as always, I will do the insane thing as carefully as possible, and it will be fine.”

“Do you really think she will offer you a job?”

“Not at first, no. But it will put the idea in her head, and THAT may lead to something.”

“That almost makes sense. Almost.”

“You don't use brute force on things that are bigger than you, Fid. You nudge them, and hope they will shift to the path you want.”

“Like the rudder on a ship. Force multiplies.”

“Exactly.”

“Don't get eaten.”

“I will do my best. In the meantime, I need to do a few more experiments before I sleep.”

“Ever in my thoughts, Rose.”

“Until the day.”


>>>Scene Five: Darkness

“And where are you sleeping tonight, Rose?”

“Still in the inn. Tomorrow we will clean out my old room at Drellan's house, and then I will be back on the road, more or less.”

“So things went well with Drellan?”

“They did, though I ambushed him, a bit. I went to his house alone in the morning, with food and beer, and we caught up on the last three years. And THEN I mentioned Dzee, and then I went back to town. And I came back, WITH Dzee, and more food, and more alcohol, in time for supper.”

“And they seemed to hit it off?”

“I think so. Drellan is attracted to Dzee, and Dzee is a bit in awe of Drellan, and I couldn't have expected things to go any better.”

“And the day after that you go looking for the Empress?”

“More or less. I need to re-establish myself with the local kobs and crocs, thought that may be easier than I expected.”

“Oh?”

“Stories have been carried from Skytower to Losthaven, The locals had started to forget me, and then they started hearing rumors from the south, and now I am here in person.”

“With a dragon snout and a tail.”

“Yep. The impact I had last time around hasn't completely gone away, either. There is now a small kobold enclave on this side of the river, near the west end of the lake. The kobs don't sell in the square on market days, but they buy, occasionally, and the kobs have a market of their own where some of the humans shop. And there is still some traffic in kobolds for unskilled labor. “

“Not bad for something you did as a hobby three years ago.”

“It wasn't exactly a hobby, it was... I don't know, trying to be decent, I guess. I need more of that. I feel kind of... soiled, after Skytopwer.”

“Cinnabar?”

“Yes, but more than that. I think back over my relationships with Dlef and the twins, and...”

“You regret getting married?”

“No, that was a good thing. But I regret Nahm, and pretty much everything I did there has this... greasy feeling. But Dlef and Turo and Ollie were all my friends, and I am actually kind of proud to be married to the twins, as silly as that sounds. Am I contradicting myself?”

“A bit.”

“I'm confused, and I don't like it.”

“And I'm dead. Also on the bottom of the ocean. Not too fond of either of those, either.”

“But you aren't going to stay on the bottom of the ocean.”

“And you aren't going to stay confused.”

“Damn. Your point. That was clever.”

“I exist to serve.”

“And on that note...”

“Music?”

“If you would.”

“As my Lady wishes.”


>>>Scene Six: Aboard “Revenant”

“Stargazing, Rose?”

“Yep. It's a beautiful night, and I decided to leave Dzee to her new home, and camp out on 'Revenant.'”

“When you could have had a bed?”

“When I could have had a bed that belonged to someone else. 'Revenant' is MINE, and I neglected her while I was in Skytower, and I don't know when I will see her again, and the sky is clear, and the air is warm, and it was just the right thing to do.”

“There is poetry in that.”

“There is, isn't there? I'm not the one to write it, though.”

“Nor I, but words are never my strong suit. Would my Lady care for some music?”

“That would be... perfect, Fid. And thank you.”

“I serve with pleasure.”


>>>Scene Seven: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. Sleeping among the kobolds tonight?”

“I am, though the accommodations are a bit better than their equivalent in Skytower.”

'And why would that be?”

“These kobs are a bit more affluent, or at least a bit less desperately poor. And there, I was a strange person who showed up out of nowhere, and here I have been heralded by a legend, and may have exceeded the expectation.”

“Oh?”

“I look enough like a kobold to be considered exotically beautiful, and I'm a giant, more or less. I never really tried to just BE with the kobs in Skytower as Sister Dragon. I always tried to slip in as Sister Kobold. They always recognized me fairly quickly, but the experience is different. Today, it's closer to worship.”

“That just sounds SO healthy.”

“Which is why the Duchess maintains a Fool to keep her honest.”

“Once again, I serve a purpose. I am going to have to demand double wages.”

“Done.”

“And you call ME a spoilsport.”

“I also call you an idiot. Among other things, a few of which are complimentary. In spite of myself.”

“Yes, I've noticed that my charm was irresistible.”

“And on that note... Good night, my Scorpion.”

“Good night, my Heart.”


>>>Scene Eight: Darkness

“Back on 'Revenant' tonight, Rose?”

“Yes. The sky isn't as clear, but it's QUIET. Or at least quiet compared to a kobold warren.”

“Ah. How was your day?”

“Busy enough. Satifying enough. I brought Dzee down to kob-town and introduced her around, and found a kob willing, and able, to teach Dzee Dragontongue.”

“And the why of that?”

“Dealing with kobs is a useful skill if you live in Losthaven, and it's a lot easier if you speak their language.”

“I thought you said a lot of them spoke Kzanti?”

“Most of them speak SOME Kzanti, but when you speak their language, it tends to make them friendlier. And speaking Dragontongue-- learning Dragontongue-- will give her something in common with Drellan. He's made a little progress in the last three years, but he would be happy for more practice.”

“Ah. So tomorrow you take off into the swamp?”

“That's the plan. I think I am going to travel REALLY light, just a couple of daggers and some money. That way I can do most of my travelling as Sister Wings, and I won't have to worry too much about being ambushed, either; not too many pursuers can take to the air.”

“What I'm hearing is that you are going to go gallivanting among the sex-crazed kobolds stark naked.”

“Wow. Have you been taking lessons in obtuseness?”

“”No, it's all natural talent.”

“I'm impressed.”

“The comment still stands.”

“No, the comment falls on its face and snores drunkenly. The kobolds are not sex-crazed...”

“Could you, or could you not, have any male kobold you wanted any time you wanted?”

“Probably could, but that's not the...”

“Of course it is.”

“Male kobolds are available to me, not that I want them, AT ALL, because I am perceived as a source of status. They curry favor any way then can, and would provide sex as part of the package if I were interested. Which I'm not.”

“But you're still going to be naked.”

“But I can conjure any illusory clothes I want any time I want.”

“Still naked.”

“Everyone is naked under their clothes, Fid.”

“Most clothing has, you know, mass?”

“Fid... Why am I going to wander around the swamp in the first place?”

“To acquire more luck, so that you can become more magically powerful.”

“And?”

“To try to swindle the Jade Empress out of enough money that you can hire a ship to come rescue me.”

“Right. And what does this mean you should do with your stupid comments about my wardrobe or lack thereof?”

“Keep them to myself. Though I reserve the right to imagine you naked while I think extremely lustful thoughts.”

“I would be deeply disappointed if you didn't. Good night, Fid.”

“Good night, Rose.”


>>>Scene Nine: Darkness

“And where are you tonight, Rose?”

“In a kobold town about 60 miles north of Losthaven.”

“And how are you getting along?”

“Well enough. I have a bit of a reputation here, but not really enough to be useful.”

“Useful?”

“Yeah. Saying, 'Hello, I am a kobold friendly sorceress who is looking for an audience with the Empress, can you tell me how to find her?' just doesn't carry much weight if they haven't heard enough about me to know if I can be trusted at all.”

“Ah.”

“So the job becomes that much slower; I have to actually make friends in every town, not just be taken as friendly. I wish I knew some healing spells; healers are always welcome.”

“I'd be happy to help you with that, except...”

“Five hundred miles and two thousand fathoms. I know.”

“So what are you planning now?”

“Hang around for a few days and make friends, I guess... Wait a moment. Why 'What are you planning?' Why not, 'What are you going to do?'”

“Damn. Busted. All right, I have an alternative to suggest.”

“Really.”

“I played a game of Territories with Maelstrom last night-- I won, by the way, so I may outgrow my handicap in less than a thousand years, after all-- and he asked me when you were going to chase the sword.”

“The sword?”

“Four naked women. One of them turns into a sword and gets thrown in a lake. The other three turn into animals and wander away.”

“Oh. THAT sword.”

“Maelstrom seems to think it is important, and also that wheedling a small fortune out of a dragon may take a very long time, and that now is probably the best time to chase the sword.”

“Does he now. And how does he even KNOW about the sword?”

“I babble when I play Territories. It's supposed to distract him.”

“Sure it is. One piece of crazy at a time. Maelstrom thinks I should chase the sword.”

“Also Auntie Moss.”

“You asked her about it?”

“After Maelstrom put it in my head, sure.”

“And what did she say?”

“That there would never be a better time, and that you might get bogged down with the Empress for a long time.”

“Did she.”

“Bing and Dlef and Drellan, too, for that matter.”

“You discussed this with ALL of them?”

“It seemed important.”

“How about Cinnabar?”

“I want nothing to do with him that doesn't include him being dead.”

“Ah. Nice to know that there is some limit to your meanderings.”

“I take Maelstrom's word seriously. And since you think I'm an idiot, I though I would collect some opinions from people you trust.”

“Hmm. The last time we talked you didn't seem too enthused about that particular quest.”

“That was before it was an option to dealing with a less than friendly dragon.”

“The Empress isn't hostile.”

“She's a dragon.”

“So's Maelstom. Sort of.”

“And he sought YOU out. You didn't walk into his home.”

“I'm trying to wrangle an invitation.”

“Still.”

“I'll think about it. Come look for me an hour before dawn?”

“As her Grace wishes.”


>>>Scene Ten: Darkness

“Sleeping finally, Rose?”

“I guess so. No thanks to you and your committee of advisers.”

“I exist to serve.”

“Someday, I will find a way to make you pay for that line.”

“I look forward to it. In the meantime...”

“In the meantime you've made your point. I'll head north to Ironbridge, and then east up the Iron River. Though I am going to stop at the major kobold villages along the way. And I am pretty sure they are having a banquet for me here tonight, so I will have to stay for that.”

“But you're going to chase the sword?”

“Yes, I am going to chase the sword. It's probably what Auntie Moss wanted me to do three years ago, when she told me the story.”

“Maybe. Who can tell with Auntie Moss? And if you had turned east then, instead of completing the circuit of Hurricane Bay, you wouldn't have had Sister Shark, or Sister Kobold, or Sister Wings.”

“And if we're playing might-have-beens, I would still have been human.”

“I don't think Maelstrom would have liked that as well.”

“Probably not. And I am getting used to this, slowly. And if I can extend Sister Shark—and I need to-- I can extend Emma. So it will work out. Eventually.”

“It's never quite the same, is it? I had hands in dreamspace almost as soon as I lost my hands in the real world, but it's just never quite the same...”

“It is what it is. And I suspect I will be awake in the very near future. Until tonight, Fid. And until the day.”

“Until the day, your Grace. Until the day.”

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