Image

Deal 1055: And here’s Raven

Raven was going to be trouble. I knew that, he’s bothered me for years. This is just a bit more extreme. While Bruce expounding on the details that did not matter, I sensed a presence looming. I turned, and there he was, strolling into our camp like he belonged all along.

He was a tall as usual, but wearing a different face today. “I see you’ve met my cat,” he chuckled.

I glared at Bruce, who glared back. Then looked away. Interesting.

“I knew that cat was sneaky.”

“And you couldn’t have found a better teacher than this young dragon. Good job.”

I looked at Gwen, she just shrugged.

“Is he ready?” he asked Gwen.

“I believe he is, sir,” she replied. “I’ve taught him all I can in the short time we’ve had available. I did everything short of hitting him with a bat.”

Hmm. She isn’t as surprised as she should be.

“I suspect that the bat might have been satisfying,” chucked the old bird.

“There were times I imagined it might be,” she noted, “but was concerned that once I started, I might not stop.”

They went on from there. Clearly they were old friends, a fact I might have guessed.

Image

Deal 1049: Fishy

This morning we set out on a test run. If it goes well, we might just press on from there, but we also planned to return to Gwen’s palace and regroup if needed. I’ve been soaking op knowledge about this world. Hopefully most of what I remember is true and useful. I also feel like my memory is about is reliable as a birdcage. It captures things, but possibly only the big, flashy, important bits. The small bits tend to find a way to be unaccessible when I want them.

We are back to the river as a start. There’s a fish here somewhere who worked with one of the last successful visitors. If we can find him and get him to talk, we might learn a few tricks. Tricky bit here is that all anyone seems to remember was that there was a fish. Not what kind of fish, how big a fish, how mean a fish… just fish. At the same time, saltwater fish are a lot fussier to keep alive, so the smart money’s on it being of the freshwater persuasion.

Our pattern at each stop on our journey is simple: first dodge any indoctrination efforts, then continue on our way in search of fish.

Image

Deal 1037: Breakfasted

Six cups of strong coffee later, Sydney was feeling rather more able to face the day. Of course, the coffee was punctuated by refills of his plate. He felt like he hadn’t eaten in days, so a chance to sleep, eat, and enjoy some coffee was certainly welcome.

When he surfaced from the first plate, Gwen was sitting opposite him and smirking a little. As before, there was a hint of smoke about her, and a faint hint of scales to her complexion. Her eyes were not the least bit human despite all appearances. Sydney had the impression somehow that others would not see as much of the dragon showing through her current guise when they looked, but wasn’t sure why.

“I hear you met the rooster? He’s rather infamous in these parts.”

“He was kind enough to break a fugue. I was at least seven layers deep in dreams within dreams when I happened on him.”

“Infamous but not always welcome. He and I have not always seen the world the same way.”

“I can respect that. But your orchard is a powerful place of its own. It tried to own me, and I resisted using what I could find at hand. I did have to seek him out.”

“Like you sought me out?”

“I—”

Sydney suddenly realised that this conversation was built on a foundation of quicksand.

“I seek the wisdom to find my way home. I hope sincerely that my mission did not interrupt your business. I’m quite sure that you are not the one responsible for my inter-universe transference.”

“Well, I knew that. Next step, lake, and fish. Several fish, actually.”

They made their way to a little lake, and spent the rest of the day fishing, with exactly as much success as you would imagine.

Image

Deal 1032: Real or not?

Sydney was the most sure about anything since he landed in this strange world. The girl sitting with him was somehow also the dragon that had blocked his travels and invited him to meet her in the garden for tea. There was tea. There was an unexpected lack of dragon. He could do the math. He could also tell that there was definitely a wrong way to broach the subject.

“I’m Sydney, and I’m sure you know that already. The tea is welcome.”

Gwen nodded. He might be off to a good start. “It is, especially on a pleasant day.”

She wasn’t going to admit anything quickly, that was clear. He looked around at the formal garden, but was drawn back to her eyes. There was an aura about them. About her, really. If he looked closer, the aura extended off into the distance and developed wings and a tail. He’d never noticed that effect before. He counted to three in his head. “I really have no idea what is going on here. I’m seeing things I never could see back home. I’m doing things that I’ve never done. I’m worried a little that I’m enjoying it too much and that if offered a way home I might turn away from it.”

“Do you have friends and family who are wondering where you are?”

“Not too many. Just a few online connections, but not many that I’d ever met in real life.”

She frowned a moment. “Is this real now?”

“I don’t know.” He paused, lost in thought. “I thought I did at first. I assumed the whole thing was some sort of technological trick that I’d unwittingly got involved in. But I’m less sure of that now.”

She smiled. “If it helps, I’m reasonably sure this is real.”

She puffed her cigar and sipped her tea.

“It helps. Thanks.”

“Well isn’t this cozy” croaked the frog.

Sydney jumped. Gwen blew a smoke ring that settled around the errant trickster and began to shrink to grip it. The frog leapt out just in the nick of time, glared at them, and hopped off to vanish under a rose-bush.