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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.

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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.

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Deal 1020: Trading or recruiting?

I’m pretty sure the crew who came through my inn were involved in a cult. They all had glazed eyes and vacant stares as they methodically unloaded their goods. Their leader seemed more interested in keeping them out of sight than in exactly what deals were made. I did pick up some fine casks of brandy before he took notice.

When he did take notice it was only to prevent further trading or interaction. He didn’t seem concerned enough to try to reverse the trades just made even if I did make out like a bandit. Not that I felt all that guilty. They were going to stay here as they usually did when they made an appearance at market, and if past visits were any example, I could expect some broken furniture, annoyed barmaids, and generally bad manners out of the bunch.

There must be something mighty powerful about their beliefs. They shrugged off discomfort and pleasure alike, approaching everything with the same blank featured stare. Staring as if they could see into the very heart of creation. And they had no interest in explanations. I tried on several occasions to get them talking. They just ignored the questions. It wasn’t as if they were sworn to silence, they would speak readily enough about most things, but were silent on the nature of their order.

Then their leader would be by, and with significant looks and glares would separate his charges from us. He never actually brought out his big stick, but its presence was always assumed.

They’ve moved on since, but their absence is welcome. We are back to our usual load of local drovers and farmers. Handling them is as easy as apple pie, as they say.