Author Topic: The Book  (Read 186 times)

Trish Cromwell

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The Book
« on: February 01, 2018, 03:59:55 PM »
Sunday, January 21st, 2018

 Trish... was at the dingy little red-brick apartment that she called home. The snow had melted and fog had rolled in, making the whole area outside seem haunted. No one was out, but ghostly figures seemed to move through the mist anyway. She was glad she had nothing going on, so she could stay inside her apartment.  It was redolent of garlic and rosemary and other savory scents, as she had a nice filet of salmon baking itself to perfection in her oven. She puttered around, waiting for it to be done. Tossing herself a salad while she waited, then washing her hands in the sink. She'd get a couple of assignments looked over, and by then...dinnertime!

The dragon couldn't see where she was going; she didn't need to. The pull was strong, practically a shining line guiding Kael through the miasmic fog. It had led her miles and miles from her hoard, across field and fen, and through this town.  Moisture beaded on semi-iridescent black scales, making tiny rainbows in them when the glow of lights came and went. The dragon padded on, silent and swift. She was close now, and as a building loomed up through the fog, huge blue eyes fixed unerringly on a window. Muscles bunched, tensed. Tail lashed and with wings folded tight Kael crashed through the glass into a small room. Wide stance. Head low and teeth bared into a snarl, ready for anything. She would have back what was hers. It had been gone so long, but she was going to take it back...

Was that salmon she smelled?

Trish let out a shriek when the thing crashed through her window, bits of wooden jamb and glass scattering their way through her small apartment. Of all the things she'd thought could come after her, a dragon was the very last thing she'd expected. Keeping a tight rein on her nerves as she leapt away from the creature. She had no idea why it was here--though she honestly doubted that Gibson would have managed to convince a dragon to bother itself with such things. Somehow managing to avoid any cuts from broken glass, she pressed herself to the wall and cringed a little behind her futon bed. She'd knocked over the end table, and her papers were strewn all over the floor, now. That was going to be a hell of a cleanup, and now she was sure her rent was going to go up...Shaking her head, and narrowing her eyes at the dragon, she poked her head up.  "What do you want? Why are you here?"

Not the best way to open negotiations, maybe, but she was crunchy and good with ketchup, and really, she didn't want to prove the truth of that!

 The dragon turned her rounded snout towards the voice, fixing the offender with a baleful glare. A clawed foot took a menacing step forward...And leapt four feet in the air at the sound of crinkled paper! Completely distracted, Kael corrected gingerly until all four feet were clear, and kept her tail raised from the floor. She felt the presence of her hoard, but couldn't turn to see it. And that salmon smelled amazing, reminding the dragon that it had been a long journey to get here...
"You have something of mine, and I want it back," she growled out, matching the traitorous growl of her stomach.

 She'd heard that echoed growl. Draconic dignity was a precarious thing, she well knew, so Trish had to be careful. Had something of the dragon's...not to her knowledge! But wait! There had been a very specific book she'd stolen from Gibson when she had left. Something that she had felt had no place in his hands--she wasn't even sure where he'd gotten it from. Hopefully not his mentor, because Trish had no desire to cross the elder mage who taught him. However...

"All right, I imagine I do have something that is yours--but I stole it from the one who had it! How about we have dinner like civilized beings? I really am quite all right with the idea of turning it back over to you." Trish wasn't about to insult the dragon by insinuating that the book wasn't hers. If she could track it here? Of course it was.  "I actually took it to keep it out of someone's hands...but I imagine that you'd make a much better guardian than I." She stood slowly, spreading her hands. It was only a studio apartment, and there were three bookshelves on the one wall. Trish gestured to them. "I expect it's where I left it, third shelf on the middle bookcase, if you would like to make sure."

"Well, it is mine," Kael snarled between her breath impatiently, frustration rising as her bulk kept her from turning to the shelves. The papers kept shifting with every wing adjustment. Screw the intimidation. This wasn't working, and the book was within reach. Black wings came up, but when they huffed down there was no wind, and there was no dragon. Instead was a woman in a drab green traveler's robe replete with pockets and a satcheled belt. She shook curly black hair from out of her face and straightened with a calming breath. "Thank you." Kael didn't turn away from the stranger whose home she had burst into. She reached behind and grabbed the book without a pause, knowing it for her own and feeling waves of relief as it went into a sleeve pocket. Human she looked, but her eyes were the same as she smiled gratefully. Though her lips turned down when a loose paper rustled beneath her hem.

"I'm sorry about that. Knowledge is precious..." Kael bent to pick up the errant papers, careful not to crinkle them. Once collected, as far as she could see, she offered them out to the other. "Peace?"

Trish couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "I'm tempted to just ask you to sign every page. I teach, you see. My kids would love to know a dragon trampled their homework assignments." Clearly she was just as interested in peace as Kael herself was. Though she looked over at the broken window with a sigh. "I hate to ask, since you were after something my ex-boyfriend *stole* from you, but...I don't suppose you have a way to fix that?"  No, from what little she knew of that book, it made her leery enough to have kept it for the few months she'd had it. And she was more relieved than she let on, that its rightful owner had shown up for it. At that moment, her oven timer went off, beeping merrily, and she went to retrieve the salmon and let it rest on the stove. She, meanwhile...set another plate.

"I tried not to..." Kael mumbled regretfully, eyeing the window. The woman fumbled through her other sleeve as she examined the mess she had made. More regret, even if it all came from the grimoire not returning.  "You're not responsible," she said as she went through some mental calculations. "A man named Gibson was the one to whom it was lent, and the one who should have returned it before it became overdue..." Her hand reemerged with a stick of blue chalk, with which Kael began marking the walls around the hole where once a window stood. "I'm sorry you're the one paying for it, so let me try..."
It was difficult to block out the tantalizing smell of fish, but the dragon woman did her best. She needed to focus. Every line had to be correct, every stroke. She went over the diagram twice, picking off any stray flakes of glass or wood. When she was satisfied, Kael raised her arms and began to chant. The blue lines turned prismatic, and began to glow. Within, the air shimmered and hummed. It built in intensity, until it almost shook the bones...
Then, with a sudden pop, like a loud soap bubble, a stained glass square was set into the wall, almost as if it had been grafted there. A small handle could open a portion of it outward, and this Kael did, to let in the fresh air. A slight metallic tang hung about, and where the old wall and new fixture met seemed a bit...melted.  "I couldn't think of any windows that looked like yours, and this was at the top of my head," Kael said apologetically, wiping chalk dust on to her robes.

 Really, for a while all Trish could do was stare at the new teal-and-white glass window that let the moonlight into her apartment. The old one hadn't had drapes or a blind, and now? Now, it didn't need one.  Her mouth worked a moment, and then she just shook her head.  "It's so pretty!" she blurted. "No, don't apologize! All I wanted was it fixed, and this is so much more than fixed!" It didn't seem to have a draft, either, apart from the very obvious opening. And it could be shut? That was more than a bit amazing to Trish. "I would ask how you did it, but." She had just watched the dragon lady perform magic and knew it was nothing she'd be able to mimic.

She ought to try to wheedle a rent discount from her landlord. Call it a building beautification project. At least she might manage a new dress out of it...

As it were, Trish gestured to the table. "Please, the least I can do for all your trouble is share dinner with you." Especially since she'd heard the poor dragon's stomach growl. And it was easier to share with her in a human shape! "I'm Tricia Cromwell, but you can call me Trish. And you are? Yeah, Gibson...he's my ex-boyfriend. As I said, I took that from him since...I wasn't sure he ought to have access to it. I'm sorry to have caused you trouble, I certainly didn't mean to. I'm going to have a glass of wine, would you care for one?" Not that that was going to be the best vintage ever, but it was white and on the sweet side and she'd had it with fish before.  "I'm not sure if you want salad too..."  But she brought rolls and butter over to the little two-seater table, and started serving the salmon as if she wasn't about to take the dragon's 'no' for a valid answer.

"Kaeldra." The woman sat down, eyeing everything on the table with hungry fervor. And it smelled amazing. Still, manners maketh she managed to contain herself until her host sat down as well. "Kael works too, I suppose...this is so very nice. I'd be rude to refuse...and wine too? Yes please..." It was as delicious as it smelled, and in between bites Kael made most appreciative (though never obtrusive)  noises of satisfaction. Still, she never spoke with her mouth full, despite clearly struggling to contain gusto.
"To be honest, I don't know your ex personally. I administrate a... library of sorts, you see. That grimoire was supposed to only be out for three days but..." she spread her hands. Here we are. "I didn't expect it to have traveled so far so fast. And certainly not to have been with someone else entirely. So again, I apologize."

"Three days?" Trish gave the dragon woman a look of stark disbelief. "Only three days? He's had it for almost as long as I've known him!" Which was at least eight years. That sort of made her mad. More than sort of. This poor dragon was searching for seven and a half years because of him, and then another six months or so because she took it from him? His fits over her dumping him hadn't made her want to take him back much. This made her want him even less.  And made her opinion of him that much worse. She'd told Markovus he was an asshole. This just fed in to that.  "You're a librarian dragon?"  Then, Trish's expression went more than a bit bemused, blue eyes bright. "That's awesome, you're a Bookwyrm!"  And she meant every word of how cool that was.  "Well. You need to keep in touch, if I run in to any other obscure and obscene texts, now I know who to entrust them to. I don't have nearly as much magic as I might need to keep something like that safe. I'm only a kindergarten teacher." Right. Kael's senses could probably tell her that wasn't entirely true, but Trish did like her secrets.

Kael's nod was painful. She had no desire to recount the years searching, the false starts and despondent returns from hunts ending in failure. Trying to maintain while that constant twinge never left her consciousness, like an itch in the brain she couldn't scratch...
But she blushed at the enthusiasm, and it dispelled any foul mood threatening to rise. It was over, her treasure was finally home... and maybe she'd found a friend? Kael warmed to this woman easily... and she seemed honestly enthusiastic about the library, and... well she was a teacher... Knowledge is sacred, Kaeldra had always believed, and that meant not only preserving it, but not letting it die.
"I don't think I have the patience to teach, especially not younglings! So what you do is even more commendable."
The dragon caught the half-truth, and considered her curiosity piqued. The call of the enigma could never be ignored. "What do you teach them?"

 "Well...I'm a teaching assistant, really, so I do some specialized stuff. Speech therapy, so they say words properly. I help them to read when they're not as adept at it as the other kids. Some occupational therapy. I'm still working on a master's when I can afford it, but I substitute teach sometimes when another teacher is out for some reason. I've had a couple friends think I was silly for choosing this line of work, but..." Trish shrugged, then. She didn't linger over her food by any means--she knew she was a good cook! And she'd noted that Kael had certainly enjoyed her share. That pleased her. She got the feeling the dragon lady's taste buds were more refined than certain others she could name. And by Seline, she loved her job. "I love the kids, and I love helping them. And we play too, sometimes. It's not all work. Mrs. Abelwan, the main teacher, thinks I'm crazy sometimes too, letting the kids crawl over me, but...I'm a good forty years younger than she is, I can handle being a jungle gym for five-year-olds." She laughed at that, but paused then. "And I guess I might be a little more good-hearted than sensible. One of my kids had a sister run away...though it seems more now that she didn't run. She's missing. I don't know the hows or whys, but I'm on the trail. As much sense as that may or may not make." Brow furrowed.

Kael had to stop herself from licking the plate, but she was listening. And already liking this woman more and more. A teacher! Another conduit of knowledge building on the past and enlightening the future, and to children no less. While the dragon woman had no plans for children herself, she liked them. As long as they behaved. She wouldn?t allow any near the hoard, heavens no! But they themselves were like books waiting to be written, and she cherished their open innocence.
And at hearing that one was missing? Kael?s brow furrowed in kind. ?Didn?t run? how does she know this? Not that I disbelieve you, you clearly have more experience with children than I!? she put her hands up soothingly to stave off any insult or anger. ?Just that sometimes they get ideas in their heads and don?t really consider passing time. But? I don?t know this town, but if there aren?t authorities already looking? I?d be more than willing to lend my aid. No one should be able to callously leave a child alone in the world.?

 "Well, you see, her sister's father--she's a half-sibling, same mom, different father--we have a no contact order for him at our school for the little one, and her brother confirms that Asphodel--that's my Larkspur's sister--wouldn't go with him, because he's scum." Sort of a snarl crossed Trish's face, there. "I don't know the details of that, but I'm not sure I want to know, either! But that's who they claim she ran off with. And so something isn't right. That's why I listened to Lark. I know she's just a child, but if things don't add up...which they do not..." She shrugged at that. "There's one person, to my knowledge, working this case. I know the paladin would accept any help she could get. She took mine, after all." With a grin. Not divulging the fact that there was more help coming than just a skinny, enthusiastic twenty-something when Trish volunteered.

She nodded, although Kael had disagreeing opinions on wanting to know things. She wasn?t nosy, per se? but she wanted to know. That was life, the pursuit of information. And the smallest piece could be so crucial? a missing letter could change an entire word, a missing piece of punctuation could change the meaning of an entire sentence, which in turn changes its context? and here, a missing child?
But there was a paladin on the case? knights tended to operate opposite dragons. Which was entirely unfair. Kael had never set out to hurt anybo- she wasn?t mali-? where her books were not involved, she was a nice dragon. She thought.
But this wasn?t like her rural home. Maybe things were different? Maybe not? experience said not so much, but this was still a missing child. A crisis. Her family must be worried sick.
?I?d like to help.? she said plainly.

 She watched the play of emotions on the dragon woman's face, considering things herself.  "Well. I don't see why you couldn't. Especially when we already have another dragon on the case. Aerial recon can be very important." Trish looked thoughtful, then. "How much experience have you had with the fae? Halcyon--that's the lady paladin--she has another dragon helping already, so I can't see why she would mind you, honestly."  As far as Trish was concerned, it was the more the merrier. These kids needed their help, and the sooner they were rescued, the better in Trish's mind.

And maybe Hally would forgive her forwardness later.  Well, she'd see.  Wouldn't she?

Another dragon. It didn?t show, but Kaeldra cringed. Other dragons tended to be much? bigger? than she was. And of course almost all dragons had hoards and if one thought they might like hers? Kael wasn?t exactly made for brawling. She was of a breed that some humans had called a night fury, built for speed and quick explosive bursts more than outright battle. When Kael was younger she had lost countless treasures to older, bigger, stronger, dragons. That was the way of the world, of course, but when it really hit home that she would never be that big or that strong?
She outright avoided other dragons. No confrontation, no problem. And maybe this other would have no desire for her hoard, and everything would be fine? or she could just make sure they never met. That would be preferable. Of course, also without being rude? this would take careful maneuvering?
?I?ve had some experience with the realm of Faerie, but not a terrible lot?" No sense in lying, but she did often regularly ask lesser faerie for information, and she knew how to deal with their kind without coming into too much harm. "But I have countless books on them, and I?ve read them all. Genus, Speciae, realms, histories, genealogies, pathways, maps, the lot.?

 "Do you know how resistant to glamour you are? Fae glamour. I don't know how resistant I am, but I didn't seem to have problems?" Which didn't mean a whole lot. Not that Trish could know, but they hadn't run into the mastermind yet, just a bunch of Lovecraftian horrors who had been either in its employ, or denizens of the lot that they'd been near. Hard to tell in the aftermath.  "I...well, I'm apparently a bit resistant, but I couldn't tell you why." Eh, in this case, that was true enough. In the wake of Gibson? Trish wasn't sure who she could trust, entirely. Though a certain half-orc was making a good case for himself.  "That might be more useful than you know. I don't think we know what we're dealing with, for sure, yet."  Trish bit her lower lip at that.  "Couldn't hurt, at least."

 "Glamour? oh! Yes, I?m familiar. With some species it?s a? camouflage of sorts. Other times a spell, either consciously or unconsciously kept up. That one is the potential history of where humans learned how to do it? Still others are just powers of invisibility, achieved by vibrating at rapid, rapid speeds?? Here the woman paused, and said wistfully, ?I wish I knew what they looked like.?
And it was true, Kaeldra had never seen a faerie glamour. All she knew was the truth. Whether that was indicative of her race, or from untold years of condensed knowledge and applied experiments and formulae? the dragon had only ever seen fae folk in their true form. She?d tried, when reading about these elfin, lovely glamours some of the Lords and Ladies employed. Asked nicely of the lesser creatures who had their own innate abilities. They told her what she was supposed to see, and in fact seemed quite put out about it, but to no avail.
?But? were there accounts? anyone who saw the child after she went missing? Something that hinted at fae folk? We know they have a fondness for children? but to presume??

Trish thought about that for a long moment. "Well...the missing girls--more than one, you see--they're all fae blooded. And the police reports that Halcyon has seen claim they all ran away or went with people they knew. But they all disappeared around this one skate park.  It's run by a fae, and has protection cantrips and wards and so on...but only on the property. If you run off..." She let that trail off.  Trish didn't know everything, but for the moment, the secrets she did know were not to be hoarded. Not when the safety of children was what was at stake. "I talked to Asphodel's brother too...and he was a bit more coherent than Larkspur was. Said she dumped her boyfriend and was supposed to be meeting another guy. It sounds weird."

She felt better knowing that it wasn?t simply blame painted with a broad brush? although that would have been easier to solve. Someone, or someones, was taking fae children. ?But? why would anyone want fae children?? she puzzled aloud. ?Is there a connection besides their all being at least partial- are they all pure blooded fae or are there half breeds? Changelings? Do they know each other?? she hummed softly, eyes introspective as her mind whirled.
It was clear why the park was a choice area. It was an island of protection in a sea of open hunting. And of course, plenty of kids came and went? but why? why why? so many questions that had no answers. Not yet anyway?
?What was weird about this last? Was the? er? separation?? she tried to be delicate, she really did? ?sudden? Out of the blue? I suppose? what did the boyfriend say??

"I don't know why they'd want them. Haven't the foggiest," Trish admitted. "But they're teenagers. I don't know." With a shrug. "They're all fae-blooded but I don't think they're pure? I think they might know each other, at least on sight, since they all disappeared from the skate park."  Trying to fill in what she knew to the dragon. Hell, even a new perspective might offer some more information, right? "He said Asphodel dumped him. Instead of him dumping her. Go figure. There's a lot of stuff that doesn't add up, but I'm not able to put the pieces together to get the whole picture." Spreading her hands helplessly, now.  And here her kind was supposed to be good at puzzles!  Awkwardly, she continued.

"Well, you probably want to get that book back to your lair, right? More protections there." Certainly more than there were at her crappy apartment, for all that she'd tried to keep it safe enough there. "I...well. You're welcome to come visit at least? Since you now know where I live." A nervous laugh, at that. "I think I can ask a shore elemental to go find you, if I need your help. " At least there were plenty of little spirits hanging around Rhydin, and she could talk to them. They'd help if they felt like helping. Or if she sweetened the deal with something they wanted.

"I am?" That simple admission had Kael brightening considerably.  "I'd be delighted, really. And yes. Yes, you're right. I would feel much better having this safe." Patting the sleeve of her robe, now, though it appeared as if nothing were actually within. The wonders of magic! Speaking of, she simply burst back into her draconic form--though perhaps more carefully, so Trish's papers weren't scattered all over her tiny apartment yet again.  She had collected them once, after all.  "Yes, that will do nicely, I think. I would be happy to help if you have need of me." The other dragon gave her pause, but...if Trish was friend or ally of this other, perhaps it wouldn't be as bad as she feared.  But she would be damned if she'd give up any of her precious treasures to another--if she could help it, that is.  "I can also send an elemental to you, if need be."

 Trish laughed at that. "Yeah, a little more warning next time would be nice..." Now, though, Trish cheerfully escorted the dragon down the winding staircase to the ground floor, and opened the security door to let her out. "And I'll try to remember that you like fish, but if you like other things, you're welcome to pop in for that, too."  Though she'd probably be keeping canned tuna in the kitchen cabinets from now on. Tuna salad wasn't as good as salmon, probably, but at least it was fish.  Kael wasted no time in launching herself into the air, doing a little pirouette spin of farewell before soaring off into the night, and Trish sighed.

What a day it'd been!

(Loosely linked to the Bad Fish SL. Written with the amazing Kael!)
"I don't look for trouble; trouble looks for me. That's how it's always been, that's how it's gonna be."  -Five Finger Death Punch, "Trouble"