Image

Deal 1040: Gwen muses

Interesting times indeed. This latest adventurer or victim (it is so hard to tell them apart) has potential. He might yet live to prove himself.

He survived his initial trials mostly unscathed. Since that usually involved a visit to the labyrinth, that is no mean feat. There are enough deadlies in there to give even me pause.

He ignored the taunting of the frog, or at least broke away from his attempt to control him. That at least shows an innate stubbornness that will prove valuable. The frog is a slippery critter, however, so he could very well return. We’ve seen him attempt to crash my garden already. I expect more.

Sydney has not attempted to make a pass at my human form, also a sign of innate or latent capability. Or perhaps he’s just not interested, although I get the sense that he sees through my form more than is typical. I wonder how many of my forms he can recognize?

Our next few days together will be interesting. I won’t have many more days to work with him before others take an interest. So he needs his strength tested soon. After that, assuming he passes, we shall see.

But for right now, he’s getting much needed rest, and while this form needs less of it, I should take some rest of my own.

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 1029: Trapped in a loop

No matter how far he walked, Sydney did not seem to be getting closer to the distant town. As the road wandered around hills and small woodlots he lost sight of it, but always recovered it eventually. But it was no closer.

This went on for at least nine hours before he also noticed that the sun was still in the same place in the sky. It was as if time was not passing outside of the road he was on.

Then he stubbed his toe on a milestone and realized it was still marked “43”.

Something was definitely strange.

He was on a closed loop of road that was also a closed loop of time. He needed to find the way out.

Since he was at mile “43”, he had a brief snack and a little to drink. Oddly enough, but also handily enough, he still had food to snack on and weak tea to drink.

Beside the road ran a trickle of water, hardly enough to call a creek. The ground was soft and boggy close by, and sitting on a rock in the sun was a large frog. He contemplated the frog, clearly picked out by a sunbeam on a throne-like rock for a bit. Suddenly, he realized why his attention was drawn to the frog. He had to deal with it somehow to break free of his looped path.

“Ribbit”, croaked the frog. But Sydney also heard it saying “It’s about time you noticed me. Sit down. You have a lot to learn.”

By this point, Sydney had given up on his sanity, and was willing to learn from a large sunlit talking frog if that was what it took to get home again.

“The first lesson is that you can’t trust anything I say. Also, trust nothing anyone or anything says. Pretty much, trust no one. Oh, and you might want to take notes. There’s more to tell you, and I don’t want to repeat myself.”

One thing that Syd knew he lacked was a notebook. Or a pen. So he just nodded sheepishly, and listened.

“Have it your way then. Remember, I’m not to be trusted. At all. Except that everything I say was true once. Might still be true. You might even decide to trust me. But don’t. I’m not on your side.”

“The second lesson is that everything is out to get you. There is only you on your side.”

“The third lesson is important. Your goal. Don’t ask why, I’m just the messenger. To get out of this land, you must—”

At that point a giant Raven swooped down from the clear blue sky and snatched the frog, tossing it in the air and eating it as it flew away into the sunset. Perhaps it was the frog that had distorted time and space? Perhaps talking to the frog had been the key to unlock the loop?

He had no real information, but he knew he still needed to find the way out, redemption, revenge, or rebirth. Or perhaps all of those.

Sydney looked around, and saw the fork in the road. There were three paths. One was clearly the loop he had been trapped on. One was very nicely paved and clearly well traveled. The third was barely a cow track.

Sydney took the third path.