The Story Thus Far Part 9

The Never Ending Quest - Episode 7013

Nor did anyone else besides a few adventurers....and the Military in general). Inside was a solid slug of lead which flew forth when the gunpowder (black powder instead of the nitroglycerin based smokelss gunpowder. The inside of the gun chamber directed the force of the explosion that caused the bullet to fly, as opposed to the cartridge of the bullet as in human guns. At least the orcs had been happy with the pieces of junk. Their dwarven creators weren't....happy at all about what they'd managed to create.

Of better news had been the improvements that had come out since then. The dwarves could not only now produce their revolvers in something appreciable, but had been able to basically "scale up" the design of the revolver and made it into a "rifle" as his artisans had put it. Basically, the dwarves had made something similar to a Colt Revolving rifle (which was just a six shooter built along the lines of a rifle). The jaming problem had been fixed by making the trigger/hammer/barrel assembly VERY stiff. However, the average dwarf....or orc, could easily fire it without a problem (considering how strong they generally were...compared to a scrawny human). Also, the new bullets for these rifles were of a more powerful variety than mere pistol bullets....

The scowl upon Lord Sithe's face had lessened considerably, but was still present.

"So...dat's nice, but.....can id punch through dis?" the orc said, slamming down the chain mail that he'd been wearing while testing his newest toys on what he'd thought would be an easy target.

Not an auspicious trail run with the....prototypes as the dwarves insisted on calling his newest weapons!

"Try it out on that target," Balok smiled, pointing at a bound, armored, and gagged feral human that a dwarven patrol had captured....for just such an occasion as this. "And be assured, that there are other....toys....we want to show you."

As Slithe smiled as he took aim, Sir Tilbert wished that he rules against him volunteering information to the living wasn't a reality for a ghost......

Now, back to the eternal "pentagon"!

From Alicia 3

It has been an....interesting week. That is, in the Chinese sense of the phrase.

It was....strange to say the least.

Strange, wonderful, and frightening.

Here, let me start from the beginning....so as to better able to convey what I'm trying to tell you.

"I'm not alone," I whisper to myself as I awaken, surprised to feel silken sheets covers me. They are so soft, that I pause for a moment to savor it.

Having spent the last two years on the damnable Isle of Moreau made me forget how luxurious the feel of silk was.

Yes, it would...wouldn't it, a voice says within my head. It sounds like me....but it's not me. It's....like a near double.

I turn and look up to see my mirror image looking down upon me, smiling a sad smile.

I'm glad you've awake, sister. the image says, and the oddest thing is....I know she's sincere....and then some. So....how is the other Leaping Stream feeling?

Upon hearing that word, it strikes a resonant chord within my being, and I'm left smiling.

"A bit....dazed by all this," I manage to finally say, blinking before asking a really non-intelligent question. "What happened?"

"My Fred mistook you for me when he saw you," the other Alicia says, absentmindedly stroking her own tail.

I...do have a habit of doing that a lot of late, I note to myself, and notice the smile upon my twin's face grow just a fraction larger before continuing.

Somehow, she and I can hear each other's thoughts with a bit of effort. All due to having the same Truename

"All that is true," the other Alicia agrees. "It comes from sharing the same Truename....a key to your spirit and heart as it were. Wonderful if your love knows it, for it deepens the emotional bond to no ends....and terrible if your enemy knows it...because they can hurt you terribly with it!"

So don't tell just anyone, eh? I quip mentally to my sister, who laughs and nods in agreement. The sensation of her laughter is wonderful, and I have to wonder....

"Where do I come in with this Truename business," I ask, puzzled.

"Something less than a lover to me.....and more than a sister," Alicia D'Honaire says. "Do you understand?"

I blink when it actually DOES make sense. Don't ask me to explain it, but it made perfect sense to me.

Soon, I'm dressed (!) in a simple loin cloth and given several silver and gold bracelets and anklets to wear....along with a set of black feather head dress that was popular back on the old Isle. I look into the mirror, and....find this outfit disturbingly.....right!

My sister explains the basics of this world I've found myself in, and even though my heart believes her....my mind is having trouble grasping it all.

"It's a bit much to take in," my sister smiles in understanding. "But being who you are...if it's vanity on my part....you'll be able to take it in...in a moment. I know that I could....."

It takes a bit longer than that, but I finally get the "lay of the land" as my sister puts it (odd turn of the phrase....but it works).

God has blessed me with kits....and a somebody to love and that loves me. That's the only thing that I can attribute all this to, even with the explanations of the slipgate system collapsing and draggin forth so many other.....Fred, Astras, and others to this world.

There was no real reason why I was brought here....along with the thirty other....manimals....that had accompanied me after we broke from those savages who had murdered my Carradene in cold blood. My Carradene may have been a son of a brown haired bitch....a coward and quisling. But for the love of God, lynching him wasn't what I wanted to happen to the Son of a bitch!

I'd seen the look in Caradene's son, and saw a look of loss and anger that will haunt me for the rest of my days. While I may have hated that old wolf, here was a young wolf who'd loved Carradene as only a son could love his father. And....he couldn't break through the crowd of the lynch mob.....

He'd gone off searing vengeance, and....crying....

Now he's here, and he's....changed. yes, it's due in part that he's found a father in this world's version of his sire (and if I may be so bold....a far better man than the boy's original father). He even now has a SECOND father in the other newcomer, Carradene 2. Lord help me, he even has forgiven me for things I'd said against his wolf clan, him, and his father!

He realizes that his real father had been something less than a....good man, and saw now that I was right. He just wished that he was still alive....so.... So his son could try to save his father from himself.

.....

That, with my new sense of empathy, moved me to tears. I cried for a half hour before I could regain my composure.

However, all this was childplay for me meeting....the man and dragon I had betrayed in my bigotry.

All this hitting me in ONE EVENING, and I now am looking up at Dragon Fred...the sire of my kits within me...

From Dragon Fred:

When I landed after the long but pleasurable flight with my love, Malachi, I had expected to only pick up some diplomatic correspondences and mayhap greet some of the dignitaries I'd heard of from the Regent. I about lost control in my landing and plowed into a house when I saw her.

The woman who'd first greeted me upon my arrival on my world's Isle of Dragon Moreau. The woman who'd, while we had been under the sway of the Moon, coupled and produced a child....perhaps (though...by the looks of her....it looks like it had happened). We'd been well on our way to something of a relationship when....

Hrmph, excuse me.

When things had gone to blazes. It looks as if the Jester has taken it again. Or, if you prefer the Military translation of what I just said.

"Oh shit," I say dully, looking down upon "my" Alicia....the one who'd in the end caused our world's Pack to turn totally against me and my lovely Malachi.

I look down, a mass of emotions running around within my heart, as she looks up at me with her vividly green eyes streaming tears.

"Uh, Fred and Malachi D'Honaire...." Fred the Manfox says nervously as I and my mate look over at him. "You're not going to believe this....but....."

From Malachi D'Honaire:

"Uh, Fred and Malachi D'Honaire...." Fred the Manfox says nervously as I and my mate look over at him. "You're not going to believe this.... but....."

Ten minutes later, I and my Fred are staring down...gaping at the manfox, trying to get our minds to understand what he's said.

Fred? I mentally project at my love. I....don't know what to think of all this! I mean, in the nearly 5,000 years of my life....I have NO idea what I should do!

We'll do what D'Honaires always do, my mate sends back, with a sudden flash of inspiration. We do what honor dictates. I...just wish that I had a clue what it dictates....for theirs a storm within my heart!

Indeed, I feel the situation causing great distress in my noble love's heart, and my black blood also cries out for....some type of justice....vengence. But....that would NOT be the honorable thing to do.... I also know that my Fred still feels that he at least is honor bound to do something to see to the care of his offspring by Alicia...and her. All in all, he's flying around on his wings in circles....trying to catch his own tail.

Suddenly, I smile, for I know just what would be the honorable thing to do! And the great thing was, it wouldn't even involve bloodshed (which would put a definite cramp in the friendly relationship between the Manimal Nation and Ethiopia....the nation I and my husband have sworn allegiance to.

Ah, but I have an idea, I send back, comforted by the word that has become my foundation to my life ever since I had come over to the Christian faith. It was honorable, and it would definitely put some matters to rest, finally. Honor. It had a way of....guiding me at the darker times in my life.

I explain what I sees as the honorable course, and he mentally smile and nod.

That would take care of the problem.....

It wouldn't solve ALL the problems present here, but it would kill the more vexing ones.

But first....I have a few questions for our little princess, I send back to the silvery dragon that was my mate and husband.

We both smile and shift into our humanoid forms, and Alicia 3 blinks in surprise at what is said, next!

"So!" Dragon Fred says with a smile, and I attempt to not laugh at Alicia 3's expression. "When's the wedding?"

From Fred the Manfox:

I pause for a second, suppressing a grin as I sense a jolt of panic from my wife's twin (and the one who now also has the key to my heart...along with the Alicia of my world). Seeing the twinkle in Dragon Fred's eyes (not to mention a quick wink), tells me he had planned for that reaction from his former.....partner.

She thinks that Dragon Fred is talking about him marrying her! Not only is this patently absurd, considering the fact that such a mixed marriage wouldn't work (if only for the fact that a dragon's lifespan FAR outspends that of a manimal), I know for a fact that Dragon Fred's heart belongs wholly to his mate and wife, Malachi D'Honaire. Never mind the waves of outrage that would cause back in Ethiopia, the news that an ambassador under the employment of the Regent would DARE have TWO wives!

"I was hoping to have our marriage to fall on the end of the month, or the beginning of the next.....on September the first," I smile....causing a satisfied smile (akin to what a cat has after eating the family canary) plays on both the dragon's human faces. "That is, if she accepts my proposal."

There is...however, no such conventions against multiple marriage partners in the Manimal Nations. See, when the Pack were still lycanthropes, the nature of their moon curse caused them to sometimes parent children from those one was NOT married to. In this kind of enviroment, and well under similar constraints as the rest of the Pack, Padre Fin had done much soul searching and come to the obvious solution. He had declared that, since those of the Pack had no control over themselves when the full Moon shone her light upon them, then what came from it couldn't be a sin. To make a long (and somewhat embarrassing) story short, it evolved that multiple marriages were permissible. The Pope of the Christian church (the Ethiopian brand of the it....considering that the Pope in Rome was dead....along with everyone else within the Vatican), had grudgingly accepted Fin's religious arguments....and had granted sanction to MANIMALS being able to have multiple wives. He explained to his stunned Council of Cardinals that since these were non-humans, though they had souls and thus were still God's children just like human beings, that some allowances must be made for the different....mindsets.

There had been distant rumbles of discontent, but finally acceptance.....

As all that is, I put it all aside and smile as I go down on one knee, in the proscribe position for proposing marriage. I feel within Alicia 3's heart a flood of emotions, shocked delight being the prominent feeling. That, and an overpowering sense of warmth and love.

"Alicia 3," I say in my best courtly voice as my tail slowly swishes back and forth. "Though we've only met today, our hearts know each other as if from birth. I know that you are a princess from the fabled land of Prestor John, and are incredibly brave, intelligent, and lovely within your beautiful vixen form...and within your soul. I know that you recently saw into your darker side, and are now truly remorseful of what you have done. I know that I still have much to learn from and of you, just as I still have much to learn from and of my loving wife, Alicia. But it 'tis the journey through live as we love and learn that makes marriage such a blissful thing."

"Alicia, though you'll be my second wife, you'll be an equal within my heart. You already have seen my Alicia...and how she accepts you as something special. Do not fear that you will be driving a stake between her and I, for we are now One. Please, Alicia 3, finish the binding by accepting me as your husband?"

She rushes forward and embraces me in a shower of kisses and happy tears.

"By the good Lord," she whisper tenderly. "I want you. I want to be your wife! Thank...you."

We entwine our tails, and suddenly find a third joining this hug. Alicia joins with her sister in this embrace, and we silently feel the love flow throughout our beings as our empathy binds us together.

My heart sings, and I give thanks that my wife was able to reassure me that I wasn't being unfaithful to her because.....it had been an accident what happened between Alicia 3 and myself....and Alicia was actually very happy with this proposed arrangement...now....

Good Lord above, I'm thankful for such an understanding vixen!

Alicia 3 then looks up, tears coming from her eyes (still not quiet....used to the impact of her empathic gift), and her eyes fall upon Dragon Fred....

A human ghost:

Alicia 3 then looks up, tears coming from her eyes and her eyes fall upon Dragon Fred.

She has a...puzzled look on her face, as if to say there was something here that struck her as weird.

I chuckle to myself, calling myself a fool! Of course not EVERYTHING has been resolved yet! There still is the fact that this shefox had lain with, and was still carrying the kits of this now dragon, Dragon Frederigo.

I sense that she still perhaps......

"AHHHH!" screams my annoying scaley companion, coming out of his catatonic trance for a moment. "They're ALL DEAD!! WE'RE DEAD!!! AHHH!"

He whimpers some more, and then grows glassy eyed again. His tail stump quivers and his yellowish eyes are extremely dialated as he stares at something only HE can see.

I give him a good swift kick in the mouth, to vent a sudden flash of anger. Not only did this bastard eat my corpse....marooning me in this ghostly state until my scattered bones crumble to dust instead of joining the rest of my town....my family!....in the afterlife Above. It's hard to look up and see such a vision of loveliness, and know that you CAN'T leave immediately to join them...up there. Compound that with the fact that this scaly bastard's race had been Hellbent on ending all human life (heck....all non-Lizard intelligent life) on Terra....on breaking the Golems under their scaly feet and eating their carcasses (as they did with me).....

No, no love lost on the one called Nine. I just sometimes wish that the blows I gave him actually hurt him! There are ways of magically making a ghost feel pain, I've heard. However, I'm not a mage (more the pity).

I turn back and try to catch up to what I missed as my catatonic "friend" whimpers to himself again.

Alicia 3 is sitting at a table with the two dragons, wondering what to say. Finally, she speaks and attempts to....articulate what she's feeling.

"I....am pledge to another...and love him deeply," she begins, trying to break the news gently to the one known as Dragon Fred. "But....I....still feel a love for....you."

Malachi D'Honaire and her mate look at each other, and then sigh.

"I was hoping that that would go away," Fred says softly. "But Jester take it, I find that we still.....still have that problem."

Dragon Fred leans back in his chair, chainmail clinking as he moves, and looks upon the shefox before continuing. There's a trace of sadness in his voice. "You know, however, that I don't....can't love you back," he says softly. "My heart belongs to my wife. And her heart belongs to me due to Eye meets Eye. I'm a dragon now, Alicia. That means....I don't look at things and do things the way I did before...as a human being."

"Dragon's have enough commonality between humans to be able to hold an intelligent conversation, dear," Malachi put in sadly. "It doesn't mean that we are humans with scales and wings....though my foray into the realm of humanity.....as that golden vixen which I turned into when my mate saved me (re: 1364).... I have a deeper understanding....have picked up some human qualities....but now I'm more of a hybrid of human and dragon....as is Fred. However, he and I love only each OTHER, and that will NEVER change."

"I....understand," Alicia 3 says in a small voice. "I love Frederigo the manfox deeper than I've ever loved another....and always will. But...." "It will fade in time," Fred said softly. "I remember my first love with this one peasant girl....it never came to anything because of my and her station in life. I grieved over it for a long time, but I moved on and the world continued for me. It will for you, also."

"At least you have somebody special to pull you through," Malachi puts in, patting Alicia's furry hand gently.

They sat in silence for a bit, only for Malachi to finally break the silence.....

The ghost of the mayor of Panaras leans in, listening.

"I would lik e to know....however....just what was in aid of you violent reaction to me back on that pirate ship," the dragoness says softly, a trace of pain still there at the memory.

So Alicia retells what happened on that fateful day....

Alicia 3

I take a shuddering breath, and with much embarassment (good Lord....I'm actually blushing!)

Indeed, the fur of Alicia 3's face has grown a more crimson color....as sometimes happens when a manimal is embarrassed (yet another delightful fact about the mystical nature of the manimal).

I begin to speak.

"I was more than stunned when you saved Malachi with that bite...." I begin, recalling that fateful day....

A pair of feet slapping the deck, and a scribbing sound tells the dragoness that she is not alone. She barely manages to raise her head to look at the two were-foxes that gasp at the fallen dragon.

"Help me . . . ." Malachi whispers. "Please . . . "

It had been a quick swim out to the strangely quiet ship out in the bay. Admittedly, the two were-foxes weren't sure what exactly that'd find, but this wasn't it.

Fred takes a step closer, to get a closer look at the injured reptile, and the dragoness makes eye contact with Fred. Through the contact, a flood of telepathic information floods the soaking wet were-fox's mind. Fred shakes his head. Somehow, he knows that this dragon had been on it's way to . . . . rescue the Pack from this island prison at the request of Carradene. The whole story seemed to be unclear, but Fred sees that this . . . dragoness is surprisingly noble.

"Of course I didn't understand that at the time," Alicia 3 mutters in self disgust. "I just felt surprised and betrayed at what you'd done. But after what you told me...and what my empahtic gift verifies within you.....What I really now am is disgusted t myself!"

Now, as to why the dragoness hadn't come sooner had something to do with Carradene himself . . . . . something like Carradene liking the way things were on this island . . . . until the whilely old wolf caught wind that Minestus was displeased with him . . . . . Carradene had called in an old debt, and the dragoness had come. She had flown into the area controlled by the golems and . . . .

"We've got to help her," Fred mutters, looking at the injuries. "But how . . . . " He snaps his fingers.

"Malachi, change to human form." Fred shouts at the dragoness. Hopefully, what he had heard about the initial transformation of human to werecreature was true! He did know, from his brief contact with the dragoness' mind that what he had in mind wouldn't upset her . . . .too terribly. She wouldn't be thrilled, but preferred to be alive than dead.

The injured dragoness' body shrinks and warps into a surprisingly ordinary human looking female, equally as injured as her first form. Quickly, Fred reaches down and nips the fading dragoness.

"Why in the name of God did you do that?!" Alicia asks Fred as they watch the dragonness slowly change from injured human into an unijured female were-fox.

"Well, it was the only way to save her," Fred mutters. Malachi stands unsteadily and finishes Fred's thought "And you two could use a bit of help . . . . against Carradene, his cronies, and maybe those golems."

Alicia looked at Fred and shook her head. His actions were, more and more, the actions of a madman. She understood his anger at having been changed, she understood his anger at having been stripped of any privileges of royalty, she understood his anger at losing his home and family and friends; but she did not understand his saving a dragon.

She thought upon her own lands, her father and mother. She remembered Trelaine and Gazi; the Town Crier was the first to find their bodies, burned to a crisp. Alicia's father, the King, was enraged that a gentleman and a gentlewoman of his kingdom would become fodder for dragon- sport. A decree was made, and soon many noble knights were scouring the countryside looking for the killer dragon (or any dragon for that matter, ALL were killers after all). Sirs Hewlett and Seigel were the first to die; Sir Ronald survived only due to the sudden appearance of a mage by the name of Belboz (who, it was said afterward, took three mules, a maidservant and the knight's favored bow in payment). These memories filled her with sadness and anger, and the anger was directed towards the dragon before her and the man who sought to save it's life.

"You are wrong, monster," she said with an unconcealed hatred towards the Dragon. "WE do NOT need your help, not now, not ever! Carradene is a coward and a mean-spirited son of a brown-haired bitch, and the Den is not afraid of him nor the other wolves. YOU are the threat, YOU are the danger; YOU are the monster!"

Alicia spit upon the creature and leaped across the deck, over the planks, and into the water before Malachi could even blink. Fred was speechless.

"You must stop her," whispered Malachi. "If she tells the others of my presence-" Her voice trailed off and she slumped onto the deck, near death after her many travails.

~~Crud!~~ thought Fred. ~~This is madness! I know what I 'saw' when the Dragon touched my mind, she IS noble, yet how shall I convince the others?!!?~~

*********

two days later

The Agreement had been duly witnessed and agreed to: all territorial boundaries would be summarily lifted until the Dragon could be found and eliminated.

"Bloody hell!" screamed out Taylor. "WHERE in God's Name could the damnable Duke of Suffex be?!!?"

"He can't be far," said Mason. "Alicia told us that the Dragon was sickly."

"But that traitor Fred," added another. "Bit the monster and gave her the only blessing of our tainted blood. The bitch may well heal up within seven days."

While the various groups of wolf, fox, bear, weasel and assorted animals were covering the countryside, a smaller group was holding Council within Towne.

"Well Carradene," sighed Moran. "Do you concur with the advice of Bonaventura?"

"It makes some amount of sense," replied Carradene. "Yet, how could the Traitor and the Monster sail an entire ship by themselves?"

"Look," began Dierdre. "The Monster may be half fox, but she still has magic in her veins. A simple incantation may have been enough. We know the ship to be gone, our Golem-Scouts informed us of this yesterday. We also know that the Traitor is nowhere in the local vicinity. He must have taken the creature to the far side of the island so she could recuperate."

The conversation had been going on for some hours now and the leaders had grown frustrated. They were anxious about the Golem, anxious about the volcano, anxious about the traitorous cur who bore the name Fred, and anxious about having a Dragon-turned-fox on the island. Finally Alicia interrupted the discussion.

"There is another possibility," she said. "He may have taken her to the lands of the Forsaken."

The group gasped at that suggestion. It had occurred to some, of course, but they had thrown out the idea without even bringing it up because of the implications. Yet there it was, on the table, out in the open.

The Council dismisses the idea as too improbable and continues the search, only skirting Forsaken territories and aimed towards the far side of the island.

"Lucky for us the Council didn't listen to you," Dragon Fred said softly. Alicia 3 and Malachi nod softly in agreement. Alicia continues...

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,

  1. ....dear. "After all, the average dragon of the west is not very noble or kind to humans.....on the average...

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