Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena
unclehyena

Fiddler's Rose - Twenty-Three - Traveling

Fiddler's Rose – Chapter Twenty-Three – Traveling (Updated 7/17/2018)

>>>Scene One: Lakeshore

“Good evening, Rose.”

“And to you, Fid.”

“ How was your journey?”

“Long, tiring, boring, but beautiful anyway.”

“And how are your companions?”

“Winter is a bit unhappy about the amount of travel; she's concerned that we're making it harder for her sisters to find her.”

“I can see that.”

“And Amma... Amma is a pampered house cat who's been thrown into the wilderness. She's brave, she's game, she's fierce, but she's still coming apart.”

“And how about you?”

“No one has played me a lullaby for several days, and I'm responsible for keeping the wheels on the wagon, but other than that, I'm fine. I'm ME.”

“Which means that you want a hot bath and a day of aerobatics next to a reliable thermal with no responsibilities.”

“You can feel that?”

“I can barely hear you, but I KNOW you.”

“You would seem to. How have YOU been holding up though the longest blackout you and I have ever had?”

“I survived the first four years; I can handle six days. I'm not happy about it, but I understand, and I am glad that you are here now. No, that's lame. I am... stupidly happy that you are here now, and I never want you to go away again, even though I know you will.”

“I think, for everyone's sake, that once we all get to the end of the lake, and communications are more normal, we are going to find a good camp site and just rest for a few days. And then do it again when we get to Apple's grove.”

“Ah, yes, Apple who wants to keep you forever.”

“Apple, from whose grove I will be able to hear the music, and who will give Amma another kind person to talk to, and yes, a few other things as well. Which reminds me: I have a riddle for you.”

“Should I be afraid?”

“No.”

“Then proceed. Not that I could stop you.”

“What happens when two lonely, touch-starved people camp on a warm, moonlit beach?”

“Does it involve monsters?”

“No.”

“Damn. Monsters make for better stories.”

“Not if you're in them.”

“I'm on the bottom of the ocean, and we have already established that you, Amma, and Winter are fine, so I thought there might be room for one.”

“No monsters.”

“Well, in that case, I imagine that Amma got a really amusing lesson in the difference between knowledge and understanding.”

“That's... kind of poetic. Also correct. I just thought that since you were grousing about Apple, I ought to let you know.”

“Are you still coming for me?”

“Yes.”

“Do I still get to keep you forever?”

“Yes.”

“Do I get to visualize the goings on for my own lustful amusement?”

“Only if you never, ever mention that particular thought ever again.”

“Aww.”

“Really.”

“Fine. But it's all fine, Rose. I have your heart in my hand; I don't need to keep tabs on your body.”

“My heart in your... You know, I was just telling Winter the other day that putting your heart down in front of another person was a fine thing, but if you were the other person, picking it up was evil.”

“And your point is?”

“That you're evil.”

“Am I not a scorpion?”

“You're MY scorpion.”

“Well, then, Miss Dragon, we know where we stand with each other.”

“I guess we do. I'm going to get some sleep, Fid. Look for me in the morning?”

“How could I not?”


>>>Scene Two: Lakeshore

“Good morning, Rose. How was your sleep?”

“Utterly unmemorable. I might as well have been dead. Which is kind of wonderful.”

“So back up the shore?”

“No other choice I'd consider.”

“And six more days to wait?”

“No. Let's plan on four and a half, this time. Three more days of marching should get us close enough that I can get down here, and back again, in a day. That way I wouldn't have to leave Amma alone overnight. So look for me at noon on fifth day.”

“I like this plan.”

“I do too. See you then, my Scorpion.”

“Until the day, my Heart.”


>>>Scene Three: Lakeshore

“Hello, Winter.”

“Hello, Rose.”

“Does it help if I tell you that I won't be gone overnight again, and that is the last time you will have to deal with Amma in the darkness?”

“It helps a great deal, Rose. I am a sword. I kill things. I am not equipped to deal with unbalanced humans.”

“I know, Winter, and I'm grateful for you patience. In addition to owing you my life.”

“That was just a matter of being a sword, Rose.”

“A sword with an amazing volitional edge and the knowledge to direct my muscles when my brain froze up.”

“Even so. I am a very GOOD sword.”

“That you are. Maybe next time I will be able to talk Amma into continuing to walk when I visit Fiddler. That will give her something to do, and make the trip shorter.”

“We are still getting farther away from where my sisters expect me.”

“But they will find you, won't they?”

“If I am not moving, yes. But you never stop moving, Rose.”

“I'm working on it, Winter. I know I have a responsibility to you and your sisters, and I intend to keep it.”

“Thank you for confirming that, Rose. I do not like to think I made a bad choice.”

“You didn't, Winter. I swear to you, you didn't.”


>>>Scene Four: Lakeshore

“Rose?”

“Yes, Winter?”

“What's wrong with Amma?”

“You mean other than being lonely and afraid of people at the same time?”

“That's part of it.”

“She's broken, Winter. Horns hurt her, and tortured her, and then I poisoned her brain.”

“You... On purpose?”

“No, of course not. But that crazy link Cherry set up for us, that I asked for, and that Amma volunteered for, messed her up badly.”

“But not you?”

“It wasn't good for me, either, but I'm a different sort of person. I'm... Say that you have two bottles, one full of the purest water you can find, the other full of the purest alcohol you can find. Now you mix two drinks, one with one part alcolhol and twenty parts water, and one with twenty parts alcohol and one part water. You have had alcohol somewhere along the line, haven't you?”

“Yes. All of my sisters liked it better than I did, though.”

“Well, then... Will you notice the alcohol in the drink that is mostly water?”

“Yes, definitely.”

“And will you notice the water in the drink that is mostly alcohol?”

“Probably not.”

“I'm alcohol, and Amma is water. And the mix was more like two to one in either case. Being inside Amma's head has messed me up a bit, but I am lot bigger and stronger than Amma is, so I can mostly shrug it off, except late at night, when things are quiet. But for Amma...”

“She gets lost.”

“She certainly seems to. She has seen too much of my world to be happy with her sisters, but it is NOT her world, and she doesn't fit there. Though right now we aren't really in either, because we're physically in the middle of nowhere.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Make guesses and hope. Amma didn't do well in Threshold, so I am afraid to take her into another town. And the isolation we have now isn't good either.”

“But you leave her to talk to Fiddler.”

“I leave Amma in a safe place, with food, and adequate shelter, in the company of my long-suffering friend Winter. Fid is all alone on the bottom of the ocean. And I am still giving Amma hours for every minute I actually have with Fiddler. And before too long we will solve the range problem, and I won't have to leave Amma alone at all.”

“And then what?”

“And then we keep marching until we get to the Garfish River and my friend Apple, who may be able to help get Amma straightened out.”

“Why do you think Apple can help?”

“Because Apple is also lonely and afraid of people, but she lives with it much better than Amma does, and might be able to teach Amma a few things.”

“Ah.”

“And now, it is time for me to fly down and visit Fiddler. Encourage Amma to keep walking, if she seems bored; there are no towns on the next stretch of lake shore, so she can walk as far as she likes.”

“Aren't you worried about losing us?”

“No. Even if Amma TRIED to hide, I would find you. Though don't take that as a challenge; I don't want to come back from a day on the wing and have to play a game of 'find the fool'.”

“I am sure that Amma will be disappointed by that.”

“Gods. PLEASE don't suggest it. Just try to take care of her, and yourself. You're a good friend, Winter. I hope I deserve you.”

“I think that you do, Rose. I know that you try.”


>>>Scene Five: Lakeshore

“Hello, Rose.”

“Hello, Fid.”

“How was your trip?”

“Shorter than last time.”

“And how are you?”

“Crazier than last time. Exhausted.”

“From flying?”

“From keeping the wheels on the wagon.”

“Bad axles?”

“Bad everything, including the metaphor.”

“Can I help?”

“Just be yourself and talk to me for a while.”

“Which I was going to do anyway.”

“Pretty much. Do you know the difference between holding someone, and being held?”

“Apparently not.”

“Being held, when you need it, is wonderful. It's like being told all of the happy lies that you need to hear even when you know they're lies, except that it's better, because the other person doesn't actually have to tell you those lies out loud, so you can go on believing.”

“That's grim.”

“But when you hold someone who needs it, you KNOW that you are telling all of those happy lies anyway, even though you aren't saying them out loud, and if you have a soul, every second that you hold that person tears off another piece of it.”

“That's REALLY grim. Are we talking about Amaranth?”

“Yeah. That's what so wonderful about music, about your music in particular. Because it feels full of happy lies, too, except that with music it's all true. Even when it isn't exactly happy, it's always something you want.”

“You get deep when you're exhausted and burned out.”

“Maybe. Do you have any idea how much I need to be held?”

“As opposed to holding?”

“Yeah.”

“”Within the limits of my fundamental indifference and insensitivity, I think I do.”

“Winter helps, but it's not the same. I hold the sword, and I know she would hold me if she could, but...”

“I'm never going to be able to give you that.”

“Fid, if you hold me in dreamspace while my body is sleeping, I wake up with a memory of being held.”

“Good to know.”

“Someday.”

“Someday.”

“I should take to the air again, I think. I'll see you at noon in three days.”

“You made an eight hour round trip, and all I get is a quarter hour?”

“Bad analysis, Fid. I just spent eight hours of my life to spend a quarter hour with you.”

“That's... damn.”

“Until the day, my Scorpion.”

“Until the day, my Heart.”


>>>Scene Six: Lakeshore

“Good gods, Winter.”

“I kept telling her to be careful, Rose. Has she hurt herself?”

“Not that I can tell, but... Damn. I expected her to leapfrog the packs, make five miles, ten at the outside, but this...”

“She wouldn't stop, Rose. She never dropped the packs until her water bottle was empty.”

“Did she say what she was thinking?”

“She said that the more miles she covered, the sooner you would get to the end of the lake, and wouldn't keep leaving her. How far did she go?”

“Almost twenty-eight miles, with a double pack. It's insane.”

“Are you going to reprimand her?”

“For working hard and trying to be helpful? Hell, no. I may give her a SMALL lecture on self-preservation, it she's really hurting tomorrow.”

“She is trying so hard, Rose.”

“I know. I just wish she wasn't so unhappy.”


>>>Scene Seven: Lakeshore

“Hello, Rose.”

“Hello, Fid. I know I promised you more time today, but... Will you forgive me if I promise we can talk until you run out of energy tonight?”

“If you promise... Where are you?”

“About fifteen miles from the place I usually stop to contact you. We'll be THERE by sundown.”

“That's... What happened?”

“Amma has turned into a marching machine. She did most of thirty miles the last time I visited you, and we have held that pace. She REALLY didn't want to be left alone again.”

“I guess not. Get back to marching; I can wait. Just... damn.”

“I know. We're that much closer to me being... Well, back in fiddle range. Among other things.”

“Go. Until tonight.”

“Until tonight.”


>>>Scene Seven: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose.”

“Hello, Fid. How are we for feelings tonight?”

“Not much. Until you get back into music range, it's pretty much just words.”

“That's a shame. I wish you could hear what I am feeling right now. I'm in a secure place with all of my 'children' around me, and you in my ear, and I don't have to sleep with shields. I can think of a whole lot of ways things could be better...”

“So can I...”

“And even when we have only words, the lechery comes through clearly.”

“It's a gift.”

“The point is that I'm actually pretty close to being happy at the moment.”

“Only close?”

“Not sure. I may have forgotten how.”

“I can fix that. But you'll have to get a lot closer.”

“Counting on it, and working on it. But it's a good night.”

“It sounds like it. And I will get to talk to you every night from now on.”

“Gods, I hope so.”

“So now what?”

“We take tomorrow off, since I haven't had a rest day since... I'm not sure. A long time.”

“And then?”

“And then we have a hard last day on the lake shore, and then we start beating the bushes until we find the river that will lead us back to Ironbridge. The next major point is Apple's grove, and we are going to take a LONG rest, several days, there.”

“How long will that take?”

“One day by air, but maybe twenty on foot. After we leave the lake shore, we will be plowing through the undergrowth the whole way. That's slow going.”

“How does Winter feel about becoming a brush cutter?”

“We haven't discussed it. I can sell the idea, but it won't make her any less unhappy than she already is.”

“She wants you to stand still?”

“She does. As does Amma. And, for that matter, Apple when we get there.”

“Are you tempted?”

“I might be if I had a certain dagger on my belt. As it stands, not at all. And really... I can stand still for a year or two, but the horizon is always calling. And it calls SO MUCH LOUDER when you see it from the air...”

“I can only imagine.”

“We'll work on giving you a better impression.”

“That would be good.”

“I want a lullaby, Fid. But since that's not an option, I should probably just go.”

“Sleep well, my Heart.”

“Until the day, Fid.”


>>>Scene Eight: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose.”

“Good evening, Fid.”

“And how was the day?”

“We reached the river, so now we have a path to follow all the way to Ironbridge. It's still full of undergrowth, but it's there.”

“Too bad you don't have a boat.”

“I've thought about that. Between Winter, my magic, and a little judicious fire, we could make a dug out canoe in a day or two. It wouldn't be faster, but it would be easier.”

“But you won't.”

“No, Amma is terrified of boats. And being actually ON the river would open up new options for stupidity. Amma can't swim, and dumping the boat at a log jam might get her drowned. So no boat. But I love boats, and it hurts.”

“I know, Rose.”

“Until the day, Fid.”

“Until the day, Rose.”


>>>Scene Nine: A river bank

“Winter, do you mind if we talk a bit? As long as you are in my hand anyway?”

“You are the one doing the work, Rose. I am only a tool.”

“Right. A really fine, if somewhat inappropriate, tool.”

“As you say.”

“Though I'm glad you're you. We would have spent a quarter of every day re-sharpening steel blades.”

“I am, as you say, a GOOD tool.”

“I'm trying to work through this impasse that you and I have, and I thought you might help me with it.”

“I will do what I can, Rose.”

“I offered to accept ownership of the Panoply so that your sisters could come back, and I promised to do my best to see that you did not fall into the hands of an owner who would abuse you.”

“Yes.”

“And living my life the way I need to makes it difficult, and maybe impossible, for your sisters to find you, and for the Panoply to reform.”

“Yes.”

“Can I loan you out?”

“Excuse me?”

“When I get tired, Amma takes the lead, and you work just as well for her as you do for me. And when we were on the lake shore, and I left you behind with Amma, you would have worked just as well for her, if she had been attacked, as you would have for me. And you even taught her sword drills.”

“Yes.”

“Would it be legitimate if I were to leave you in the custody of someone that I trusted, who could be counted on to stay in a safe place, so that your sisters would be able to find you, and the Panoply could reform?”

“Yes, you could do that.”

“I mean, I know I could just give you away, but if I made a mistake in choosing your new master, I would have no recourse. If I remain your master, and just loan you out, there's less risk if I choose a poor custodian.”

“I imagine, Rose. This has never come up before.”

“I did not realize, at first, how much my responsibility to you would conflict with my responsibility to Fiddler.”

“Or your heart.”

“Or my heart, yes. Though I have stayed still for long periods in the past.”

“I trust you, Rose. And I am very fond of you.”

“And I, you, Winter. You're my rag doll. My rock hard, terrifyingly lethal rag doll.”

“Is that a joke, Rose?”

“Sort of.”

“But... Given who you are, I would be surprised if you would take comfort in any object that was NOT terrifying lethal.”

“That's... I have no answer for that. But I like it. Thank you.”

“You are welcome, Rose.”


>>>Scene Ten: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose. Rest day?”

“Hello, Fid. Why do you ask?”

“Because I can usually see that you've moved a bit, and you don't seem to have.”

“We didn't move much. Amma fell down a hill and hurt her ankle. I don't think anything is broken, but I have done all I can, so we need to get her to Apple for proper healing, and to make sure it isn't serious.”

“She can't walk?”

“Not well. So I'm building a canoe.”

“Expediency outweighs caution?”

“Sometimes. Necessity outweighs caution always. And the river is wider here, so I'm not really worried about log jams, and the current is a bit faster. And no one is going to try to paddle the canoe, so it should be pretty stable.”

“You're just going to drift?”

“No, Sister Croc is going to tow it. That seems the best use of resources. Between the current and Croc's ability to swim, we should move faster than we could on foot, even if Amma were healthy. And I am REALLY tired of bushwhacking, anyway.”

“So this is actually good news for certain impatient spectators.”

“Yes.”

“I'm fond of good news.”

“Are you going to play me a concert when we get to Apple's grove?”

“If you wish.”

“I wish very much.”

“Then it will happen.”


>>>Scene Eleven: Darkness

“Good evening, Rose.”

“Hello, Fid.”

“How is life on the river?”

“Better than expected. I am SO MUCH happier being back in and on the water, and finally making good time, that I am able to feed that back over the link to Amma, and SHE is almost calm about being in the boat.”

“The link still works?”

“Sort of. That mark on Amma-the-tree showed up on Amma-the-human right between her shoulder blades, just like mine. If we sit back to back with the tattoos touching, we can... It's not like it used to be, crawling around inside each other, but we feel each other's emotions. And since I'm so much stronger than Amma is, I'm AWARE of what she's feeling, and she FEELS what I'm feeling.”

“That doesn't sound like something you'd approve of.”

“Circumstances dictate. I wouldn't open the link if I was unhappy or angry. But right now I'm relaxed and pretty happy, and Amma is stuck in self-perpetuating misery cycles, so if my happiness breaks her out of it, we are both better off.”

“Slippery slope.”

“I know. And since when do YOU get to lecture ME about the dangers of domination?”

“Since you're the one with opportunity, and I'm the one with experience.”

“Yeah, but I have a conscience.”

“I have a conscience. It's in a box in the attic, and I take it out and play with it every now and then.”

“Gods, I miss you, Fid.”

“I know. And I, you.”

“Does knowing that there's only one wall left to climb make it worse or better?”

“Only one?”

“The money. I'm inclined to look at the dive itself as an afterthought at this point.”

“The dive that you have taken more than three years to prepare for.”

“If you do the prep right, the event itself is an anti-climax.”

“I know I've always felt that way about sex.”

“Damn. I walked into that one. I surrender abjectly, and request that we tear up the score book and start from scratch.”

“First tell me a bit more about this 'abject surrender' thing.”

“Good night, Fid.”

“Good night, Rose.”

End of Chapter Twenty-Three
Copyright 2018 by Paul Haynie
All rights reserved
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic
    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 0 comments