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Deal 1050: Poof

In search of fish, indeed. Well that turned out to be something of a wild goose chase. We even found a wild goose. She didn’t know anything helpful, and declined to come along, possibly out of fear that she might end up gracing our dining table. I have to admit that fear might not have been without grounds.

I know things happened the rest of the afternoon. I have the sunburn, scratches, aches, and pains to confirm it. But I don’t know what happened. And that worries me more than a little. The faint smell of perfume worries me even more. Also, we were found tied up and to each other around the base of a tree. That isn’t the kind of thing that happens normally without remembering it.

Gwen seems even more disturbed than I am. I suspect it takes strong magic to mess with a dragon, the old stories all claim that dragons are almost immune to magical attacks. Waking up to find you are literally tied up in evidence of such an attack has to be rather disorienting. Then there’s the fact that she seems to believe she has failed in her duty to protect me. It is true that she did not protect either of us. But I’m not entirely convinced that she should take the blame alone. After all, I bear an apparently powerful magical tool and did not protect us either.

Regardless of assigning the blame, nearly seven hours are completely unaccounted for, vanished into a void.

I can assure Gwen that nothing untoward happened, but the very need for that assurance is untoward. Unexpected even. And worrying.

And Dragons like to worry.

I think the event has suggested to her that we are on the wrong path as well.

My worry is that the chicken will cross us, cross the path, and get in the way of the cat. The cat who has yet to offer me a name, or any reason at all to trust him. The cat that acts like Gwen is his pet dragon. He’s been along on this ride too, and he’s not saying whether whatever happened happened to him too. Cats being 99% dignity, after all. Admitting it did happen would be nearly as hard on him as answering the question.

Cats.

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Deal 1045: Cats and Dogs Living Together

Well I’ve found one subject not to bring up to a cat.

I wonder when I’ll see him again. The look he gave me when I wondered if I’d ever see my dog again was priceless. I mean, I know the answer is never, but apparently just the idea that I willingly associated with canines was more than enough. I should probably try to apologize to the annoying creature, though. The dog in question was a childhood pet, and died at least a decade before I got sucked into this insane place.

If he comes around again, I might mention that. Or I might let him stew some more. The cat clearly is one of the many parties that want to manipulate me into doing something. Some of them seem to even want the same things. I haven’t worked out what the cat wants, but I strongly suspect he’s somehow using Gwen to get his way without being obviously involved. But what sort of hold he has on a dragon is something I can only speculate about. I promised Gwen that I would ask no personal questions. I came close to the line by asking her about the cat at all, judging from her reaction. I don’t want to find out what might happen if I crossed that line.

I had thought we were getting closer, but it might all have been my imagination. She still has not offered to show me her real form since that first encounter on the trail. Nor has she openly acknowledged what she is, just hints here and there.

I have had free run of the residence, the human-scaled parts at least. I still haven’t quite worked out how the servants come and go. I assume it is something mundane like an ample supply of service passages, dumbwaiters, and the occasional discretely placed doorway. Somehow my room does get made up when I’m out and about, and I’ve never spotted the staff at work. Even if it were Gwen doing it all when I’m not looking, I’d still expect to find some evidence of that. Nope. My room is always neat, clothes cleaned, bed made. Meals turn up on the patio, in the dining room, or occasionally in my suite. They usually turn up where I expect to find them, but again without any overt service staff.

Not that this minor mystery bothers me. I’m sure it is something no stranger than an elderly caretaker who simply does not want to be seen. I’m pretty sure it is not the cat, though.

But all of this is procrastination.

I am supposed to be spending this hour contemplating the question of the chicken.

I was given no further hints. I’m not sure if she was referring to the chicken and egg question, the road question, or the karmic question of what did the largest and meanest dinosaurs do exactly to survive primarily into our time primarily in the form of a chicken?

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Deal 1036: Awaken awake wake ake a

Despite the narrative complexity, Sydney was resting rather comfortably. He was getting enough dreaming done to last him a month.

seven worried thoughts
calm costumed clumsy chicken
left alone to dream

But he had the nagging feeling that waking would be wise before he got too comfortable. Lacking formal training in walking among the dreamlands, he had to improvise. He needed a way to disrupt the calm, but not so much that it would cause him trouble later.

Then it hit him. The perfect solution.

He imagined he’d find it just behind the next tree. Concentrating, he moved cautiously around the large trunk under the branches laden with fragrant apple blossoms.

And there it was.

A magnificent rooster, sound asleep in a sunbeam.

He snuck up on the rooster, and picked it up. To his surprise, it just snorted a little in its sleep, and ignored him as he carried it off.

Back at his campsite, he set the rooster down near his sleeping form.

Then he prodded it awake, hoping it would crow loudly in surprise.

“Arwwk?” it grumbled. “Why am I under the wrong tree?”

Sydney stepped back. The rooster was talking. “I’m sorry. I was hoping you would be startled enough to wake me from several layers of dream.”

“I suppose. What is in it for me?”

“Satisfaction? I don’t really have anything to offer you, other than this pocket I suddenly notice is full of corn.”

“One pocket of well dreamt corn sounds fair enough. You can leave the corn here. One never knows for sure which of you will wake up or what will happen next. I imagine I’ll enjoy my snack and return to my slumber, though.”

“Certainly.” Sydney emptied his pockets of corn, and even found a pocket full or worms. The dreamlands are an uncertain place, and not for the squeamish.

The rooster nodded in satisfaction, then stretched himself out, ruffled his magnificent plumage, and took a deep breath.

“squrrk”

It was just about the quietest noise Sydney had ever heard come out of a rooster that large. The rooster looked chagrined, shook himself, and tried again.

“COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!”

This time the noise shook the trees, the ground, and the very sky.

Sydney felt a lurch as his point of view suddenly snapped to his sleeping form. Then it lurched again. And again.

In time, he settled down and found the orchard looking much like it had when he had settled down to rest after tea with Gwen. Looking around, the formal garden was a few hundred feet away, with its roses in neat rows and the little table groaning under a breakfast spread. There was no sign of the rooster other than a faint echo and one large tailfeather falling slowly to the ground.

Sydney pocketed the feather and wandered back into the garden to see what had become of Gwen.