Alicia grimaces as the Council dismisses her idea out of hand as being a silly idea. Sometimes she wonders if she'll ever be taken seriously by these old @#rts. She throttles down her anger and leaves when she sees Loam giving her the Sign. Time for another meeting of . . . . . what? . . . . . revolutionaries? In a funk at the apparent betrayal of Fred, a man who was beginning to look like a good catch, has left her short tempered and moody.
After a half hour of backtracking and other little tricks to throw off tracker, Alicia enters into the small forest glen where this meeting of disgruntled Newcomcers and sympathic Native. Tonight, it is just the highest ranking members of this faction: Loam and Kayne of the Werewolves, Vanya of the Were-cats, Moran of the Were-bears, and herself.
"Glad you finally made it," Loam says, clearly relieved. "We almost had to start without you. Brother Moran has some rather, disturbing news.
Alicia's ears, despite her mood, poke in in curiousity. Any time that Moran comes to the meeting with something to say, it is always something important. Being a minor member of the ruling click and a sympathic Native, Moran had a way of worming out information that was denied to the rest of the Pack.
"I'm afraid that our hopes that Carradene was to be . . . . liquidated by Minestus has gone to pot with the coming of those . . . . golems," Moran begins. Alicia blinks because . . . . this sounds disturbingly familiar!
"What?" she gasps, the other members of the meeting look in askance at her, then at Loam.
"Hey, you know that we don't tell everything to those of the lower council members." Loam mutters. "We only just elected to elevate her to the Inner Circle . . . . and we've been a bit busy with recent events to bring her up to speed."
"Sister Alicia," Moran says in an understanding voice. "I wasn't aware that you were not aware of the real political power on the island . . . . Pack wise. Despite appearances, Carradene is still very much in charge here. He still has means to get what he wants, despite the recent tension caused by the coming of the Pirates. In fact, with the antics of your . . . . friend Lord Fred and that dragon, he stands to gain even more clout. He may even be making overtures to those . . . Golems."
"Did . . . any of your sources say anything Carradene trying to get us off the island . . . . by way of calling in old favors from . . . . . friends?" Alicia asks in a dazed voice. The surprised look on Moran's face tells Alicia all she needs to know.
"So . . . Malachi was telling the truth?" she whispers.
The Inner Circle leans forward and listens as the vixen, who is beginning to wonder if her general hatred of all draconian kind is so wise, relates in much greater detail than what she revealed to the Council.
With a sinking feeling, Alicia (now Alicia 3) realized that....she'd made a terrible mistake. And had misjudged the intent of the dragoness and former dragon slayer terrible!
"I see," Malachi says, looking off into the middle distance before looking back at the sorrowful vixen. "So at a pivotal point in time, your story ....your attitudes about dragons changed for the worse. Not that I truly blame you, dear. "After all, the average dragon of the west is not very noble or kind to humans.....on the average. Strange how it works out, how your attitude differs from Alicia 2...who's nation had a similar thing happen to their numbers....and only the actions of some angered Oriental dragons caused her attitude to change....."
Fred quietely explains about the still human Alicia 2, present vizier to the Dragon Regent of Ethiopia...and almost unwilling bride to a vampire version of Fred (re: 2234).
"Only the unlikely arrival of the female Golem/AI known as Inquirer saved her," Fred sighs. Alicia 3 shivers at the mere thought of becoming one of the undead, and nods.
"I'd....like to meet these Golems of the Alliance some time," the vixen says. "They sound.....better than the golems of the Sons of Nod!"
Malachi, wife and mate to Dragon Fred, then breaks in to ask something that is bothering her.
"I knew that Carr....my Carradene had sunk to low levels," she begins. "But it surprises me that he'd generate such a group dedicated to his overthrow, Alicia."
"Oh, I believe it though," the dragoness sighs, recalling the recounting her mate had given her of the treatment the bear clan gave him.....(and it also gave a better insight into Alicia 3).
The rivalry between the different clans was put aside as a small group of the were- people made their way to higher ground so that they could spy upon the activities of the bizarre Golem that had invaded their island. When Fred joined in with the group he was curtly told to go away. This was official Tribal business and he was not invited. Fred protested and began to explain who he was, but his exhortations were cut short when two large bears grabbed him by the arms and dragged him away. They threw him to the ground and explained that New Comers who didn't learn to obey would be taught to obey. The past was dead, they said. He was a fox now and had better learn to deal with it.
Alicia came to him and helped him up. "You aren't a Duke's son anymore, Fred," she said. Fred turned to her with anger in his eyes, "I AM who I am, and I'll be damned if I let some cursed were-men take my identity from me!" Alicia frowned at those words. "You are a cursed were-man now, Fred." Fred turned away from her, anger and frustration filling his heart. Alicia reached out and grabbed his arm.
"I understand what you feel, Fred. I was once a princess. Now I'm just another were-fox. I have no authority, no deferments, no special luxuries. Taylor is the leader of our Clan, and when he gives me an order I must obey." She sighed, and Fred looked at her. "I am of royal blood but here I am no better than a serving maid. It took much time for me to adjust. You will adjust too."
Fred set his face and answered, "I will not be ordered about like a stable boy." Alicia shook her head, "You will be no one's stable boy. There are rules here to be sure and there is the chain of authority. You are at the bottom of that chain, have no doubt about that. But you will not be abused or ordered about like a puppet. For the most part we do what we will. Most of the people on this island were commoners before Minestus brought them here. Royal prerogatives and aristocratic decorum do not sit well with them. Remember that and never try to pull rank on them because you have no rank or honor here. If you do, they will either throw you to the bears for a few days of 'readjustment conditioning' or else they will simply banish you to the territory of the Forsaken." Alicia bowed her head and added in a low whisper, "I was lucky, they gave me over to the Bear Clan. It saved my life, but I'll never stop hating them for it."
Fred stared at Alicia and a new respect for her filled his mind. He had thought that she was happy with being a werefox. And in a sense she was. But now he saw that she had struggled over it, and had finally decided that she would do the best she could with what fate had dealt her. A lesser woman would simply have given up. But Alicia had an inner strength that would overcome even the bestial curse of lycanthropy. She was what she was, she could not change that, but she would not let it defeat her.
Malachi shakes her head sadly, knowing what eventually happened.....later in this tale.
"I will remember your words, Lady Alicia," Fred said with chivalric honor. She smiled. "But if I cannot aid the Tribe as they seek to discover the truth of those demonic Golem, perhaps there is something else I can do." Alicia raised a questioning eyebrow. Fred smiled, "Follow me, there is a pirate ship anchored not far from here. I'm more than a little curious to see what they are up to."
"I think the best course of action is to bury the past," Fred says finally. "Let mistakes be learned from....and let's ...go forward in life. Lord knows I've made some terrible mistakes....suffered from prejudices. If I was to hold you at fault for your actions....they I must also hold myself at fault for my misconceptions."
"As well as I," Malachi puts in. "I realized much earlier than my Terran Prime counterpart that mankind was capable of noble things, but I still thought that those dragonslayers like my fred....were the lowest of the low. I seem to have to re-evaluate my preconceptions."
"We don't hold what you tried to do against you....now that we understand why you did it," Fred says as Malachi nods in agreement. "We may not have the same relationship that we could have had....but perhaps......"
"We'd like you as a friend, Alicia 3." Malachi puts in.
For the third time today, Alicia feels her emotions overflow....and herself crying AGAIN! She felt a stone lift off her heart, and thanked the dragons....
The ghostly mayor sits silently in the room that the threesome had exited hours ago.
He'd seen this scene of forgiveness, and kept coming back to the way he still hated the Lizard who'd eaten him. He'd grown more and more bitter towards the lizard, but....
These adventurers were far from fools....were not human....but human enough to humble the mayor.
1/5/2000 1:01:18 AM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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