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Fiddler's Rose - Sixteen - Silver Faun

Fiddler's Rose – Chapter Sixteen – Silver Faun (Updated 6/6/2018)

>>>Scene One: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. Same bed as last night.?”

“Yep.”

“And slightly drunk. More green kobold swill?”

“Yep.”

“Does it get any better with practice?”

“Maybe. It gets less awful. I can't imagine it will ever be GOOD.”

“So how was the day?”

“The usual. I play the politician and try to get the kobs to like me, and try to avoid making promises I don't want to keep. I need to get used to it; there is going to be a lot of it in my future before I get to the Empress.”

“Of course, you may win a huge fortune in the course of your sword quest.”

“I might also sprout wings and turn half-way into a dragon.”

“But you've already... That... It's a joke until you realize it's a joke, and then it's not, and then it... My head hurts.”

“And you're not the one who's slightly drunk. How long have you been talking to Bing?”

“What? Where did THAT come from?”

“Now that I am committed to the sword quest, I've had a little time to consider the interesting bit of news that you blurted out while trying to convince me. How long?”

“I wouldn't say 'blurted', it was a calculated release of significant information...”

“How long?”

“Since shortly after you started spending time with Cinnabar. I needed advice. Or at least I wanted it.”

“And Drellan?”

“About the same time. And the same reason.”

“And Dlef?”

“The first night after we docked in Losthaven. I used the fact that you were safe off the ocean as an introduction.”

“And what did you tell any of them about yourself?”

“That I was a spirit bound to an object you owned.”

“That's almost true.”

“It's completely true. It's just not the complete truth.”

“I suppose. And I really can't be angry with you, can I? Your existence is as much your secret as mine, maybe more. And I can't fault the choices.”

“Are you giving me credit for wisdom?”

“Maybe. Wow. That actually kind of hurt to say.”

“Shame on you.”

“Shame on you for fishing for compliments.”

“How long have you known me?”

“About seven years.”

“So you know that ship has long since sailed.”

“And I knew what you were... Ah, my scorpion, what would I do without you?”

“Sleep soundly?”

“Not if I keep drinking green swill.”

“I disavow all responsibility.”

“Just play me a lullaby and I'll absolve you of all of your lustful thoughts.”

“It would have to be a very long lullaby.”

“Sooner started...”

“As her Grace wishes.”


>>>Scene Two: Darkness

“Three times is a pattern, Rose.”

“Say what?'

“Travel a day and stay sober, then rest a day and sleep drunk.”

“Ah. You're on to me. But this is the last night of that.”

“I will believe it when it happens.”

“You're my conscience now? That's first class absurdity.”

“But if you had listened to me in Skytower...”

“Point taken. But tomorrow I will be in Ironbridge, and I may not sleep sober, and the day after that I will probably travel, and probably will sleep sober. And in any case, the next time I get drunk, it will be on decent whiskey. That much I can assure you.”

“You're swearing off green swill?”

“I'll be out of kobold country, and no one will be offering it. Thankfully.”

“I thought you were a fan of free alcohol.”

“Not when it's green swill. It takes social obligation to make me choke that down.”

“Which is how you ended up in bed with Dlef.”

“Will you stop? Do you want to start comparing relative culpability for Nahm and Kellarth?”

“No.”

“Then stop riding me for my mistakes. We try to learn and move on, both of us, right?”

“Right. Of course, Dlef doesn't think it was a mistake, particularly.”

'Dlef wasn't ENTIRELY a mistake. But I WAS stupid, and I was lucky it didn't end badly, and can we PLEASE talk about something else?”

“Yes, your Grace.”

“Damn straight.”

“Lullaby, your Grace?”

“If Master Scorpion would be so kind.”

“As my Lady wishes.”


>>>Scene Three: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. You're... unreadable this evening. Or rather, you are feeling something I have no reference for.”

“Really? I wonder why. Would Master Scorpion care for a story?”

“I suspect I should be afraid, and that I have no real choice.”

“You would be right on both counts.”

“I choke down my apprehension and request that you get on with it.”

“So I got to Ironbridge this afternoon, and decided that I would splurge on a real bed, because I may not have another chance for a while. And I decided to put on Nab's face, because I don't care if I get him into trouble, and it's a lot safer to be a man traveling alone on foot than a woman, and Sister Dragon's voice sounds more like a man, anyway.”

“Understood...”

“So I found a decent looking inn, and got a room, and decided to have some food and a drink or two before I shut myself in for the evening.”

“Reasonable.”

“And while I was at the bar, minding my own business, the bar maid got in a fight with a fellow, and shouted at him, 'You think you're the Silver Faun, but you're really just a tired old plow horse.' And everyone who heard it laughed, and the man stormed out.”

“Uh-oh.”

“You think you see this coming, but it gets worse. I got the barmaid's attention, and asked her about the Silver Faun comment, and she told me that there was an old story about a Silver Faun that came to women in their dreams and had amazing sex with them.”

“Is there now?”

“So I asked for more details, and she said it was just a story, but that her grandmother swore that she had had sex with the Silver Faun herself.”

“Her grandmother.”

“So I asked if her grandmother was still alive, and she is, and I told her a bit more about who I really was, and showed her Emma's face, and then I bribed her into bringing me to meet the old woman...”

“Which made the innkeeper REALLY happy...”

“He was after I bribed him, too.”

“Spendthrift.”

“Are you joking? There was no way I was going to let this go. So the barmaid took me to meet her grandmother, and I asked about the Silver Faun. She was reluctant to talk about him...”

“And then she told you that she had made it all up and that you were an idiot.”

“...until I tapped my index finger to the middle of my forehead and said, 'Ive met him.' And then she gave me a huge smile and told me that she had had sex with the Silver Faun several times when she was young, and that it was the best she had ever had, and she has been through three husbands and a couple of men on the side.”

“Really.”

“She said that she didn't know a single woman her age who hadn't had sex with the Silver Faun at least once, and most had done it several times.”

“That's... quite a story.”

“How long was the dagger sitting on Janeth's shelf?”

“Maybe fifteen years?”

“And how thoroughly did you have your way with the women of Ironbridge during that time?”

“I guess it must have been really, REALLY thoroughly.”

“It would seem so.”

“I have no idea what to say.”

“Are you at least slightly embarrassed?”

“More than slightly.”

“That's more than I hoped for, actually. I'm amused as hell.”

“You're not mad?”

“How could I be? I know what you are, and it's downright hilarious to know that I can walk up to any seventy year old woman in Ironbridge, whisper 'Silver Faun' in her ear, and see her get a dopey grin, for just a second. You're a legend. It's just... charming.”

“I guess I am pretty wonderful.”

“Don't get smug. You are what you are, and I know it, and this kind of thing is just part of being with you. Eventually, I am going to get you up into the real world, and you will have the run of every dreaming woman within whatever your hunting range is, and the Silver Faun is going to ride again. It's just part of the deal, and trying to hold you back would break your heart, so I won't.”

“That's...”

“NOT DONE. If I ever hear ONE WORD to indicate that you coerced or frightened even ONE of your playmates, I will find a way to put you in a cage, and I will find a way to punish you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, your Grace.”

“DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

“Yes, Rose. I do.”

“Well, then. And that leaves me deeply amused, and even more deeply frustrated. Does Master Fiddler have any music to prescribe for this rather peculiar condition?”

“I will see what I can come up with.”


>>>Scene Four: Darkness

“You're tired tonight, Rose.”

“It was a long day; I spent most of four hours in the air.”

“I have no reference.”

“I haven't done more than about two and a half before, with longer intervals in between. This was one up, one down, one up. I overdid it. But I wanted to get outside the cluster of civilization that stretches upriver from Ironbridge.”

“Because?”

“Because I blew my budget on bribes chasing the Silver Faun story, and I didn't have enough money to stay in an inn every night anyway, and I REALLY want to be far enough from the nearest dwelling that they don't stumble on me while I am sleeping, because being awakened by people with spears who are screaming 'Monster!' at you is no fun at all.”

“I can't argue with that.”

“Damned Silver Faun.”

“I did NOT put you up to that.”

“No, but you set up the story, sort of. And you KNOW I couldn't begin to walk away from it.”

“You mean you are a creature of impulse?”

“Sometimes. Don't rub it in.”

“Spoilsport.”

“I guess. But it was SUCH a good story.”

“I exist to serve.”

“I ought to bring you back here, come the day, and let you look up your old lovers.”

“You won't get any revenge there, Rose.”

“I don't know. The idea of you explaining your absence to a septuagenarian sounds like fun.”

“You really are tired. Why wouldn't the septuagenarian want to be young again in dreamspace?”

“You're right. I am tired. That isn't funny any more. Kind of sweet, though, now that I think about it. Giving Granny a chance to fornicate until her brain melts.”

“Or her heart gives out.”

“Tell me you haven't.”

“Of course I have. Never exactly on purpose, though.”

“I don't know if that's horrible or sweet.”

“Decide it was probably sweet and stop thinknig about it. Please.”

“That's... surprisingly good advice. Coming from you.”

“Maybe. Maybe your judgment is just impaired by exhaustion.”

“Maybe so. In that case, play me a lullaby and wish me good night.”

“As my Lady wishes.”


>>>Scene Five: Darkness

“Will I regret asking how you came by the whiskey?”

“It's not whiskey.”

“Not green swill?”

“Gods no. Pretty much the opposite. It's Dryad Brandy. It's GOOD.”

“That sounds dangerous.”

“It is. You know the stories about people who wander into dryad's groves and never come out again?”

“Yes...”

“Half a pint of this stuff a day, and permission to stay, and the dryad wouldn't need any other magic.”

“And how much have you had?”

“Twice that. Maybe three times. I'm LOOPED.”

“ROSE!”

“It will be fine. I have defenses, after a fashion, and she doesn't intend to keep me. She says I belong to Auntie Moss.”

“Ah. So how did this come to pass?”

“I was getting near to the end of my second hour in the air, and I was hurting because I overdid it yesterday, and I saw this oddly ordered grove of trees and decided to investigate, and maybe rest there. And Auntie Rowan saw me land, and saw my tattoos, and saw me shift from Wings to Dragon, and she invited me in.”

'This would be easier if you would stop giggling.”

“What would be the fun in that?”

“My inability to share your inebriation occasionally amounts to torture.”

“Poor Fid. He can service more women in one night than most men get near in a lifetime, but he has to do it all sober.”

“I will remind you that I have not been near ANY women in seven years.”

“Oops.”

“And may be losing interest in the only one who seems likely to come near in the foreseeable future.”

“Aw, poor, poor Fid.”

“STOP GIGGLING!”

“Aw, you're funny when you're angry.”

“Until tomorrow, Rose. Or the next night. Maybe.”

“Awww...”


>>>Scene Six: Darkness

“Are you sober tonight, Rose?”

“Mostly. Auntie gave me a half pint of her brandy, told me a sip or two at bed time would help with the fatigue and soreness.”

“And you drank the whole bottle?”

“No, I took one moderate sip. And that was plenty, This stuff has a LOT of kick, even when you are ready for it.”

“And how far have you come today?”

“Three hours worth. That puts me about nine hours out of Ironbridge, total, about halfway to the confluence with the Green River.”

“How long is the whole trip?”

“Fourteen or fifteen hundred miles, about fifty hours by air. I've got a ways to go, yet.”

“And you're sure you know where you're going?”

“I had enough of an idea to start with, and I have a better one since talking ot Auntie Rowan.”

“And her brandy.”

“And her brandy. Which isn't entirely brandy, and may make you really happy, but doesn't make you stupid.”

“You say.”

“Auntie Rowan says. And since she told me that when I questioned the wisdom of trying to explain things to me while I was loopy, I am inclined to believe her.”

“Really.”

“Don't be grumpy. You should try to talk to her. She isn't as grumpy as Auntie Moss.”

“I'll consider it. She'll be a devil to find, though; she's in the shadow of Ironbridge. I had enough trouble finding YOU, and I know exactly what you look like.”

“She probably looks a lot like Auntie Moss, if that helps.”

“It might.”

“Well, then. In the meantime, will Master Fiddler accept my apology for drunkenly tormenting him last night, and play me a lullaby?”

“He might.”

“And on what would that depend?”

“I don't know. I'll take your marker.”

“A small one?”

“Good enough. You're forgiven.”


>>>Scene Seven: Darkness

“Tired again, Rose?”

“I did four hours today. I think I'm getting used to it, and I have have faith in the restorative power of the Dryad Brandy.”

“That sounds dodgy. How much do you have?”

“Maybe ten doses left. Maybe less.”

“Will that get you there and back?”

“It won't even get me THERE. But it will get me past adapting to heavy flying every day.”

“You hope.”

“It's what I have.”

“Hmmm. The other day you were telling me about the shape of the journey, and never finished.”

“Five more hours by air to the Green River confluence, three more to the Damnation confluence, and then one more to the Garfish confluence. Then something like twelve hours up the Garfish, past a due north stretch, and a northeast stretch, and when it turns due east, I go north for an hour or two until I get to a BIG lake. Then follow the shore line around to the left for another ten hours until I come to a bay about thirty miles long with a peninsula that runs about halfway up the middle of it. The sword is in the lake at the tip of the peninsula.”

“And you got all of that from Auntie Moss, back when?”

“Enough of it. She gave me landmarks; I have been looking for confirmations and distances ever since. The bay is pretty distinctive.”

“And you can keep track of all of that?”

“At 250 feet up, which is not TOO bad a climb, I have a 20 mile horizon. And I have my Navigator.”

“Which tells you what, exactly?”

“Distance and bearing to the Skytower, bearing to the North Pole, and distance to the center of the world. If I concentrate on the distances, it will scale down to inches or tiny fractions of a degree.if I want it to.”

“Why the Skytower?”

“It's the way the spell was designed. It gives a unique value for every point on the planet, though, so if I kept a notebook of readings, I could make a really accurate map.”

“But you don't keep the notebook.”

“I keep track of important places.”

“Better you than me.”

“You're such a coward when it comes to numbers.”

“I'm a coward generally.”

“You're not, you know. You're just a worrier.”

“I may resent that. I reserve the right to declare my own cowardice.”

“And yet you continue to play Territories with Maelstrom. Cowards run away from their fear; they don't invite it to play table games.”

“I... am going to retreat into my music while I think about that.”

“As you will. Until the day, my Scorpion.”

“Until the day.”


>>>Scene Eight: Darkness

“I thought you were going to ration that stuff.”

“I was. I did. I just found a new source.”

“Should I be afraid?”

“Nah. I saw what looked like a dryad's grove, stopped to look, got invited in.”

“This is the beginning of a 'never seen again' story.”

“It's fine. Auntie Willow was REALLY impressed that I had more than half a bottle of Auntie Rowan's brandy left after three days, so of course she invited me to try out HER brand new batch...”

“Never seen again...”

“Just stop. Dyads like me because I am interesting and polite, but they don't want to keep me.”

“So far.”

“Why would they?”

“I would.”

“You pretty much have. For all the good it has done you.”

“It's a long term investment. Which I would prefer to not see dissolve into a puddle of Auntie Willow's brandy.”

“Auntie Willow seems to think that I am only partially soluble to bottled happiness.”

“Does she.”

“She does. She says that there are two things in my life that pull on me at least as strong Dryad Brandy ever could, and that the combination makes me safe.”

“Two things?”

“The horizon in my eyes, and the ghost of a unicorn.”

“Ah. Please tell Auntie Willow that I am flattered, and would grace her with a deep bow if the circumstances permitted.”

“I will. Bow from a unicorn, or a faun?”

“Again, as circumstances dictate, but you are needlessly pushing the hypothetical.”

“Maybe, but it sounds funny when you use big words.”

“You are well and truly looped. I think I will leave you with a lullaby.”

“Good night, my Scorpion.”

“Good night, my Heart.”


>>>Scene Nine: Darkness

“And how are you tonight, Rose?”

“Tired. Sore. Grumpy.”

“Tired because you flew how many hours?”

“Four.”

“And sore because the magic brandy hasn't kicked in yet?”

“Yes.”

“And grumpy because?”

“I'm tired of being broke. I'm tired of having to hide from civilization. I'm tired of sleeping in tree branches. And I am really, REALLY tired of charred rabbit.”

“Maybe you shouldn't have squandered your travel money chasing gossip.”

“Brat. And I regret nothing.”

“Neither do I. At least, none of THAT.”

“Brat, twice.”

“Perhaps. But I didn't char the rabbit. What's that that about?”

“It's my staple food. Rabbits are easy to catch with a mage bolt from the air, but a mage bolt is intended to drop an adult human, so I get charred rabbit meat in the middle of a circle of burning grass, most of the time.”

“Sounds delightful.”

“Emma would hate it. Sister Dragon doesn't mind, fortunately. But it gets old.”

“Didn't you have better fare yesterday?”

“Dryads are vegetarians, and prepare food that is really tasty to humans. I didn't have the energy to shift to Emma, and Sister Dragon was less than thrilled.”

“Ah.”

“But the company was good, and there was plenty of Happy Juice, so it worked out. At least until tonight, when I am back to my usual.”

“Where are you, anyway?”

“About thirty miles east of the Green River confluence. The banks of the Iron are fairly heavily populated between the Green and Damnation confluences, so I am trying to stay as far away from the river as I can without getting lost.”

“Lost is bad.”

“Lost is very bad, though I will find my way eventually. In this part of the world, every river eventually flows into Hurricane Bay.”

“Eventually.”

“Yeah, I really don't want to have to rely on that. If I get that lost, it will take at least ten days to sort things out.”

“Lost is very bad.”

“I want this to be over at least as much... ALMOST as much as you do, Fid. Trust me on that.”

“I know. What's next?”

“Tomorrow I head southeast, cross the Iron, and try to get to the Damnation confluence. The day after that, I find the Garfish, and start following that.”

“So tomorrow will be the last time you worry about dodging civilization for a while?”

“Until the return trip, as far as I know. I really don't know what to expect on the shore of the big lake.”

“Soon enough.”

“Soon enough. And for now, would Master Fiddler be willing to play me a lullaby?”

“He would, and he will. Sleep well, Rose.”


>>>Scene Ten: Darkness

“You've found another dryad.”

“I have.”

“And I take it you have escaped the clutches of civilization, and are safely on your way up the Garfish River?”

“That, too.”

“So how much longer to the sword?”

“At least a day longer than I planned on.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that I am going to take tomorrow off. I am NOT going to fly, I am going to trade lies with Auntie Apple, and I am going to sleep in something that resembles a bed two nights in a row, and I am going to go for a swim, and I am going to eat real food as Emma or maybe Sister Faun, and I am not going to worry about much of anything for a day.”

“Wish I was there.”

“So do I, Fid, so do I.”

“But that doesn't answer the question.”

“Three or four days to the lake, and then three or four more to the sword.”

“Once you start moving again.”

“Once I start moving again.”

“Until tomorrow, then. Enjoy your rest, Rose.”

“Until the day, Fid.”

“Until the day.”

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