Cut and Run Chapter 12
It’s been over a week since I identified Angelique.
It’s also been about a week, of my getting the run-around from the hastily thrown together Angelique-Task force.
Who are they, you ask?
They, are a small group of law enforcement personnel ‘dedicated’ to apprehending Angelique. They consist of a couple of Park Rangers, a pair of Tuolumne County police officers, and a lone Special Agent from the M.B.I., (Mamono Bureau of Investigation).
They’re just a handful of assholes, if you ask me. But no one does, ask me that is.
Once I gave testimony concerning my involvement with Angelique to those stone-faced bastards, they’ve pretty much treated me like used toilet paper since.
You know what’s really gets my goat about them? No, I’m not talking about Satyros. There aren’t any of those hanging around Yosemite this time of year.
What gets me, is that only one of them is capable of flying. The rest of them are ground-pounders.
I mean, c’mon, there’s a shit-ton of back-country to cover in the search for one little itty-bitty were-cat, and they’re supposed to locate her with only one Flying Mamono? You’d think they’d be smart enough to accept any kind of help that was offered. But, you’d be thinking wrong.
I’ve volunteered I don’t know how many times. I’ve volunteered at least once a day to help out with their search. But, what do I get?
I’d usually get nothing but a ration of shit for my troubles. Invariably it’d come from that one member of the task force that can fly.
“Lokhnarr,” Frazziss would usually start off with. The way she’d say my name, I’d know what she’d say next.
“Stop volunteering. We’ve got it handled.” She would say to me, breathing in through her nose the way she does when she’s resisting the urge to bite my head off.
“Frazziss!” I would invariably cry out in dismay. “How can you ask that of me?!” I’d demand. She’d frown and not meet my eyes, then.
Every single time I volunteered, she would do that.
‘What the Fuck? Doesn’t she care?’ I’d think.
“Well?” I would demand after a half-minute of her silence. Usually, she’d just sigh, or growl, then walk away from me shaking her head. And that, is the way it’d usually end: with both of us not speaking to each other after.
But, on the last couple of nights, it’s turned out slightly different.
“She’s not your woman.” She’d say to me in a hurt tone. “I AM!” She’s started to add testily. “Why do you keep going on about her!?” she’d almost plead. Well, as close to pleading as a Dragon is capable of.
“BECAUSE IT’S MY FAULT!!” I would shout back, quivering in outrage. “IF IT WASN’T FOR ME SHE’D N…” I would begin…
“IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!” She’d scream back, interrupting me. “No one forced her to follow you!”.
“I could’ve done something, anything, to dissuade her!” I’d angrily reply.
‘Why won’t you get it?’ I’d think to myself.
“You DID everything you could, it wasn’t enough! LET IT GO, ALLEN!”
“I CAN’T!” I’d shout back, trying to hold back my tears and failing. Tears of guilt, and shame.
When I started crying, she’d just get a frustrated look on her face and stop arguing. Or, I would say something stupid, and she’d start crying instead.
And that, is basically the script for the arguments that Frazziss and I have had the last few days.
There hasn’t been much in the way of variation between them all: Second Verse, same as the first, just as worst. So, instead of us ‘kissing and making out’ like we did after every other argument, we would just end up not doing anything.
This included not talking, or boinking each other. We’d just continue giving each other the Silent-Treatment the rest of the night, and well into the next day.
So, I took to sleeping on the couch as a result.
I told myself I did that, because Frazziss’ bladder had started bugging her in the middle of the night, gravid as she was. I felt it was too awkward to stay in her way then.
But, all it ended up doing was making things worse between us. She’d either growl loudly enough to wake me up on her way to the bathroom. Or she’d give my couch a sleep disturbing thwack with her tail. Accidentally of course, every time.
Naturally, Pirin had no idea what to say or do. So, she’d just not take a side. Which was just as well, as she didn’t deserve to get caught in the middle.
And that, was the way things were between Frazziss and I, for the better part of a week- cold bed and all. Both of us were too stubborn to admit to being wrong.
Well, she was more wrong than I was. So there.
I DID try to distract myself with that ‘waxen spider’ book. But, just as soon as I start studying it- my thoughts would turn to Angelique, and what she was having to endure.
So, a couple of days ago I took Frazziss’ advice, and stopped volunteering. Instead, I started doing, by flying for a couple of hours each morning- looking for Angelique. Naturally, Frazziss got royally pissed when she found out about it.
All of these events would’ve continued to deteriorate between us, until someone came along to change things. That change began, with a knock on the door to Frazziss and I’s rooms.
Whoever they were, they had good timing. As I’d had just stepped out of the shower after another one of my ‘unofficial’ flying patrols.
If they’d knocked a half hour later, I would have been at my regular job working with Jamal. He and I had been working together on refurbishing some park concessionaire housing.
Yeah, it was great that there was something I could distract myself with. Jamal, for his part was willing to listen to my griping. As I had always been willing to do the same for him, particularly for those times his whole ‘Monster-Poke’ hobby didn’t pay off. Apparently he accidentally let slip that whole Monster-Poke thingy to one of them, and word spread.
Now normally, Pirin would’ve answered the door for Frazziss and I. That’s because of late, she’s stepped into the role of ‘Service Maid’ for us both. Me? I was of mixed feelings for her taking on that role, as she’s also been hinting about getting a proper maid outfit to wear. Yes, she’s made herself indispensable around the joint, yet I feel like we’re taking advantage of her.
So, while I was toweling off, it took me a while longer than normal to go and answer the door. Suddenly, I remembered that Pirin wasn’t there to do it for me so I dashed over to open the door. By then, the person who had knocked had already left.
But, for some reason, instead of simply closing the door and getting ready for work, I stepped out into the hallway and listened. When I did, I heard some footsteps tip-tapping away. Leather shoes, if my scaly-ears weren’t deceiving me.
“Hello! Is anyone there?” I called out. I heard the tip-tapping pause for a second. For some reason I took a look at the wooden floor and judged its condition.
‘Meh! Time for a refurbishment!’ I thought to myself. ‘All of the claws and hooves have taken their toll. I’ll have to put in a work order, later.’
“Hello!” a voice called back, hesitantly. A human voice. “Pardonne-moi Monsieur! Can you help me?” this voice asked politely, as I heard the sounds of those leather soled shoes tip tapping back towards me.
“I don’t know if I can, but I’m willing to give it a try!” I returned. When I finished, I saw him come around the corner.
Not surprisingly, the first thing I noticed were his wingtip leather shoes. They were in good condition, and nicely polished. The rest of him was just as snappy, as he wore a grey tweed three-piece suit and tie.
He wore the tie with a half-windsor knot, and there was an actual, honest-to-Maou carnation sitting on one of his lapels. He was gripping his coat at the sides, similar to the way you’d see a Danuki doing when she was sensing a possible sale.
He was clean shaven, and had a ‘short-back-and sides’ haircut for his lightly grey hair. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have guessed that he was selling vacuum cleaners door to door.
He looked young, but I got the impression that he was older.
‘Incubus’, I thought automatically, as he stopped about ten feet away from me.
“So,” I began, “what can I do to help you?” He looked back at me curiously for a second.
“I am hoping that you can help me in regards to finding someone. I am looking for an Allen Belushi.” He inquired in a French accent.
“Oh!” I exclaimed, surprised. “That’s me. What can I do for you?” He frowned at me then, I got the impression that my answer didn’t make him happy.
“I wish to ask you a few questions, Monsieur Belushi.” He stated crisply.
I invited him in to Frazziss and I’s rooms, as it was the polite thing to do. He accepted, stiffly at first.
“Under the laws of Hospitality, I offer you food and drink.” I began politely. “Would you care for anything, Mister….” I said, leaving it hanging. His eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“Forgive me my lack of manners Monsieur,” he replied gruffly, “I have been under considerable strain of late. My name is Armand Poirier. Would it be too much to ask for some coffee?”
“It would be no problem at all Mister Poirier. I believe I have a French-press somewhere in my kitchen, would that be sufficient?” I quipped, smiling.
He frowned at me for a second, then seeing my smile he returned it, ruefully. He followed me into the kitchen, and watched me begin the preparations for making some ‘French-Press’ coffee.
Normally, Frazziss refused to drink coffee period, and I stopped drinking it because I thought it would taste like shit. That was because a lot of things plant-based, started tasting like crap after I changed into a Dragon-Incubus.
But after Pirin showed up and started making it as part of her ‘maid making breakfast routine’, I discovered that it still tasted just as good as it always had. For that, I was most grateful to her.
“So,” I began, not facing him as I started boiling the water. “what are the questions you wish to ask of me, Mister Poirier?” Glancing over my shoulder, I noticed that he seemed to be intent on watching the way I was preparing the coffee.
‘Am I doing something wrong?’ I silently didn’t ask aloud. His eyes went from watching my hands/paws to my face as if he’d heard my thoughts.
“I am given to understand, Monsieur Belushi, that it was you who identified Angelique from the ‘critter cam’, was it not?” he asked me, staring up at me intently all the while.
“Uhhh, yes.” I replied, curious, looking back at him momentarily. He stepped closely to me then, and laid a hand upon one of my arms. What he said then, caught me totally off guard.
“How is it that you, a Male Dragon, knew my daughter?” He asked me suddenly. I then fumbled at the pot of water that was just then starting to bubble, and spilled the contents all over the burner and stove top.
Needless to say, I was more than a little surprised by that revelation. It left me so shaken, that he volunteered to take over the making of that coffee.
Which was just as well, since I needed a cuppa at that point too. I didn’t answer him, nor did he press me on that matter, as I watched him start. There was something odd about the way he did it all. Like he had a dab hand at making food.
When he finally handed me a cup and kept one for himself, we both ambled over to the living room couch. There, I was most surprised at discovering that that cup, was the best damned coffee I’d drunk from even before I turned Dragon.
I guess my delight showed on my face, for when I looked back up at him I saw that he was smiling with something akin to pride. I was about to ask him what the questions were that he wanted answered, but he beat me to the punch.
“No, no!” he said, waving a finger at me. “Finish your coffee Monsieur, I make it a point to never discuss important matters over food.” Finally, after we both finished our respective cups did he begin.
“Without further-adieu, Monsieur, I believe you owe me an explanation.” He prompted me sternly. I looked away momentarily, in guilt.
“Well,” I began. As I looked back at him, I noticed that he wasn’t smiling anymore.
‘He noticed my guilt.’ I realized. ‘Best not to mince words.’
I then proceeded to tell him about the first time I encountered her at the Mamono-Man prison. I kept going until I recounted the last time I’d seen of her: Her tumbling onto the railroad tracks, behind me on that train.
When I was talking, I noticed that his attitude had changed from one of stern politeness, to a livid outrage. At the end of my telling, his lips were in a thin hard line, and his eyes were open far enough for me to see the blood vessels in his eyes.
“How?” he whispered hoarsely at me then, as he quivered angrily.
“HOW could you!?” he continued, as he raised his fists as if to strike at me. I could see the blood in his fists being pressed away, turning them both into white balls of fury.
“Do! Such a thing?” he shouted then, as he started to hit me. “Even in the here and now, I can tell that she loved you!”
I stood my ground, but neither did I try to ward him off. I could tell right then that he was definitely an Incubus, strength wise at least. But, his fists didn’t hurt me, not physically anyways.
“How could you?” he shouted/demanded of me time and again as he continued to strike me in his fury. Finally, after the umpteenth time, I decided that I had enough.
“Because I wanted to spare her the pain!” I erupted back at him. He stopped hitting me, then he reached out and grabbed me by my scaly ears, pulling my head down to his.
“What pain?!” he screamed into my face.
“The pain of being a widow!” I roared back at him thoughtlessly.
He didn’t talk for several seconds, but I could hear him getting his breathing under control.
“What?” he asked me quietly. I looked at his eyes then. Slowly at first, but with his patient prodding I explained what my reasoning had been at the time.
“I could tell that she loved me, YES” I admitted. “But, even though I wanted to get out of that prison, I wasn’t going to abuse her feelings to accomplish it!” I panted.
“I kept my standards!” I shouted. “I did everything I could to get her to hate me!”
“WHY?!” he demanded, shaking.
“Because, I didn’t want her to get too attached to me! Because, I was going to off myself!” His mouth turned into an O. Then his eyes flared.
“Yet you are still alive!” he replied scornfully.
“I’d be dead if it wasn’t for Frazziss. My woman now,” I explained, “she’s the one who saved me from killing myself.” I whispered. I felt his grip loosen. Then it tightened on me once more.
“Look at me!” he demanded, as he tightened his grip on my ears. I couldn’t do it, even then.
“LOOK-AT-ME!” he shouted into my face. Finally, I did as he bade. I looked back at him.
I locked my eyes with his, and for a second, just for a second, I Sensed him. I could tell that he was Sensing me too, somehow.
“Truth.” He gasped, shocked. “You speak the truth.” His voice rasped as his angry face melted into one of sadness, letting go.
“My,…my apologies Monsieur, my emotions get the better of me when it comes to my treasure. It is a hard thing to face, the possibility of losing a child.”
“I understand.” I replied. His head shot up at me then, anger blazing in his eyes once more.
“Do You?!” he shouted. “Do you truly understand, what it is like to face the thought of losing a child?”
“YES!” I screamed back at him then, “I already KNOW what it’s like!” I replied, as I quivered with anger, and the loss. He stared back at me once more with his Look.
“Oui! I see that you have! When?” he replied. “Tell me! Who was it? A son? A daughter?”
“Daughter.” I said simply. I watched his face soften at the news. After he indicated for me to do so, I went ahead and told him all about her.
I told him of the time from when she was first born, without her brain. Then, all the way up to the last moment I saw of her in the Seventh Path. I don’t know if he believed me or not, but at least he listened.
We were silent for the longest time then. Eventually, we ended up both sitting alongside each other on the couch. Comrades in pain, I guess.
“Do you think you will you ever see your daughter again?” he asked me out of the corner of his mouth. I thought about it for a while and replied.
“I don’t know.” I sighed. “I just hope that she ended up with a good set of parents, like she deserves.” He didn’t reply to that. So, we were silent for a while more.
“What was Angelique like as a child?” I asked him suddenly. For the first time since he arrived, I saw him smile with his eyes.
“Ah, Angelique. Le Pomme de mon Coeur!” he said, then noticed my confusion. “The Apple of my Heart!” he whispered. “She was the first and only born of my first wife, Chloe.” Looking over, I caught the pain in his eyes, and his voice.
“Like you Monsieur Belushi, I too am widowed.” He sighed, heavily.
“Chloe was a student in one of the cooking classes I was teaching. We were alike in so many ways, and yet so different in others. Yet we both cherished said differences.”
“She pounced on my heart, and I was loath to struggle.” I could hear the echoes of the joy he felt in that moment. “But,” he continued with a sigh, “our love was obviously not meant to be.” I looked over at him full on.
“She was almost to term, when the Order made one of their vile, final attacks on Royal Makai.” He closed his eyes in remembrance.
“They had finally learned how to safely import explosives from the human world. Those Bastards used them to terrible effect. Chloe was gravely injured in the attack that destroyed much of the building that we were in, along with many, many others of her kind.”
“She was bleeding out, and there was nothing I could do to save her.” Poirier closed his eyes, he blinked out some tears and then continued.
“But there was something I could do for our unborn child. I was a Chef, was I not? I had my knives.” He added quietly, looking at me in my eyes. I nodded, understanding what he meant.
“I pulled our daughter from my beloved’s belly, and our daughter lived! Despite the best efforts of those,…those…” he stopped, unable to continue.
I laid a paw on his shoulder, and he slumped. After a second he turned to me and grasped that paw of mine.
“I would’ve moved Hell itself, to save my family Monsieur. Would you not do the same?” he asked me in a shaky voice.
“Yes.” I said, quietly. It was the truth. We both knew it then without Looking.
“I think I can understand where you were coming from, Monsieur Belushi.” He sighed, “In your desire to spare my daughter still more of the pain that you caused her, I am willing to forgive you for it.” He then stood up, turned around and faced me.
“But.” He stared at me balefully. “You must earn my forgiveness.” He replied evenly.
“How?” I replied earnestly, locking eyes with him.
“Bring her home.” He said simply.
“What?” I asked, perplexed.
“Bring her home.” He said again. “I have talked with the local gendarmes, but they will not listen to me anymore. Will you?” He asked, with his chin up.
“Yes, what is it you wish to say?”
“They are going about their search for her, in the wrong way.”
“They asked me for my voice. They recorded me asking her to turn herself in.” he shook his head sadly.
“They are trying to trick her into a trap. But, ‘it will not work’ I have told them.” He replied, shaking his head. “I and my beloved Kitsune know her too well.” He licked his lips, then went on to explain.
“Even when she was a kitten, we could never catch her when she got into trouble. So, we gave up trying.” He smiled in reminiscence.
“Instead, we would wait until the evening meal, and make up one of the dishes she loved.” I smiled in wonder at his craftiness, and nodded. “Which lured her in,…” he began.
“Ah, then when she was at the table…” I continued for him.
“NO!” he shouted his eyes flaring, waving a finger at me. “Never that! We would never confront her, or any of her sisters at the dinner table! Both of us had had quite enough of that as children!” He inhaled, then smoothed out his suit.
“Uma and I,” he explained, “would simply pretend to not notice when she showed up for her meal, and we would all engage her in polite conversation. For you see, I felt, and my second wife agreed with me, that our dinner table should be seen as a refuge by our family. Not as a place for an Inquisition!” he admonished. I was taken aback by his vehemence then.
But, I had to admit though, I rather liked that idea. It was something I decided right then and there, that I was going to emulate.
‘Once I have a house built, that is.’ I thought guiltily, as I remembered that I had let my efforts in that regard lapse during the last week.
“Only then, as we were clearing the table for washing, did we ask if she was willing to discuss her behavior.” I smiled at him and his wisdom there. He seemed to appreciate it.
“Invariably she did. Seldom, did she make a second kind of mistake that required our intervention.” He said proudly.
“I guess then, that instead of trying to ‘lure her out’ they should be trying to draw her in.” I stated, thinking of some ways. He seemed thoughtful at that.
“Oui.” He nodded. “That might work. But since you at least are willing to entertain my thoughts, let me tell you more about her.” I nodded back, happy to listen.
“All of her life, she brought home injured animals.” He began, then he noticed my shocked expression.
“NO! NO! NO!” he half shouted. “NOT for that! Let me assure you! She would find them, and try to nurse them back to health instead!” he hastily added.
“Oh.” I silently said, closing my mouth, embarrassed by my evil thought.
“She was always like that, it seemed like every week she’d sniff out an injured bird, or some other stray animal that was abandoned and hungry. Always she would attempt to nurse them. Then she’d free them, once they were well enough to do so.” He smiled proudly at the thought of her. Then his face fell.
“And when those she brought home couldn’t be healed, she would be inconsolable for days afterwards.” he looked at me then.
“Now, do you understand her, Monsieur Belushi?”
“I don’t know.” I began, “You said that she loved me. How can you know that? Surely in her mind, I was just another stray?” He smiled at me with sad eyes.
“I know that she did, because you yourself said that she’d sleep on your bunk.”
“What has that got to do with anything?”
“Because, Monsieur Belushi, that was one of the biggest complaints her step sisters had of her, while she was growing up. The only times she wouldn’t sleep in her own bed, was when she was in love with someone. Then she’d sleep on their bed.” He smiled. “That’s because those were the only times she’d feel safe enough to do so.”
What could I say then? Nothing. I could say nothing. I was left speechless.
“I will be staying at the hotel Charlotte in the town of Groveland. Earn my forgiveness Monsieur Belushi. Will you do that for me?” He asked me with a stern expression.
“Will you bring my daughter to me?” Looking back at him, I made my decision at once.
“I will,” I said, firmly. “I promise.”
“A Dragon’s word is her…HIS bond.” He corrected, giving me a smile that met in his eyes once more.
Later, after he left. I went and got ready for work, silently. Not once did I utter a word. But, just before I left, I called out.
“All right you two, I know you’re both there. Show yourselves.” I spoke quietly as I faced the door. Nothing happened for a second.
“Come on already. I’m not fooled anymore, I’m a Dragon now too, remember?” I said as I turned around. When I did, there they were, Frazziss was standing next to the bed, glaring at me with her scaly forearms crossed over her ample chest, her wings held tight to her back. Pirin was standing on the other side of the bed, not looking at either of us.
“How long?” I asked Frazziss.
“Long enough.” She replied after a few seconds, sullenly.
“So, now that you’ve heard him, are you going to continue to demand that I don’t help?” I hissed. She answered by remaining silent. We frowned back at each other for several more-long seconds until finally, I got tired of it.
“Fine then.” I growled, as I turned around and left, slamming the door behind me as I went. Just before I stomped my way out of the building, I thought I heard her sniffling. But I ignored it.
That day was a bad one at work. I complained, and got all snippy at each and every little thing that went wrong. Until finally Jamal called me out.
“Hey Allen! Enough of this shit already!” he barked at me, his teeth flashing. “I ain’t any of your women, so leave me out of it!” he replied, furious enough at me to point a finger into my face. I was all set to put him in his place for that crap, when he spoke again.
“And even if I was one of ‘em, I sure as hell wouldn’t put up with this kind of shit from anyone, no matter how many dicks he was packing!” he finished with a grimace. I don’t know why, but what he said or the way he said it, made me laugh.
I just started busting a gut. When he caught sight of it, he started laughing too. It didn’t last long, we both stopped after a couple of breaths.
“Sorry Jamal.” I replied, feeling better for some reason. He waved his hand around for a second, in dismissal.
“Forget about it, Allen. We all have bad days.” He smiled back at me. Then I noticed something on his hand that I thought I’d NEVER see. Quick as a flash, I reached out and grabbed his left hand.
“Hey!” he shouted, “Let go!” I didn’t, instead I just brought his hand close to my eyes and stared at his fingers for a second. What I saw on his ring finger surprised the shit out of me. I looked at him up at his eyes after a second or three.
“What the fuck, Jamal?!” I demanded with a raised eyebrow. He stopped struggling to get his hand back, and gave me a shit eating grin in return.
“Is that what I think it is?” I demanded, he nodded.
“When the fuck did YOU get engaged?” I asked, surprised as all get down. His grin got even wider, as I finally let go.
“Remember Teal?” he asked.
“What? Teal the Unicorn at the Majestic’s Front Desk?” Jamal nodded. “How in the fuck did you manage to seduce a Unicorn?” I began, half in outrage, half in admiration of that accomplishment.
“I didn’t man.” He replied, shaking his head sadly. “However, she did introduce me to her sister: Travesty.”
“Travesty? What kind of Unicorn name,…?” I began. He interrupted.
“That’s the name she adopted after she went Bicorn.”
“OH!?” I felt my eyebrows rise up over my horns. “I don’t suppose you had anything to do with that?” He grinned, shaking his head again.
“Fraid not Allen! I wouldn’t do such a thing, no matter the temptation. I still got standards.”
“Yeah, uh-huh, Mr. Monster-Poke ,…” I stopped, and thought about it. “I don’t suppose that,…Travesty is it?” He nodded. “Is inclined to help you with that Hobby of yours?” Somehow, I don’t know how, his already Cheshire Cat grin got even wider.
“Shit man, I envy you that.” He looked surprised.
“WHAT? You’re envious of me? What are you talking about? I’m not the one who’s got a shit ton of Dragon booty stomping around the park, stalking me!”
“Wait, what?” I asked, confused. “What shit-ton of Dragon booty? What are you talking about?”
We talked a bit more, but according to him he’d been encountering quite a number of different Dragons everywhere he went, at least when I wasn’t around.
Invariably, they’d all ask him questions about me: Where I was, what time I got off of work. Where I could be found when I wasn’t working, etc.. It was all suspicious sounding to me.
Yet, Jamal didn’t believe me when I told him that that was the first I’d heard about them all. So, I changed the subject and asked him about when he and Travesty, were going to tie the knot.
“Soon enough Allen, just wait and see. Neither of us are in a hurry! We both got some wild oats to sow.” The only thing I could think of by way of reply to that, was a sidelong look and a roll of my eyes. He just laughed as we both got back to work.
Later at home after work, Frazziss and I had our dinner together, yet we were still apart. As usual, the first course was: Angry Glare, served with a side of Folded Arms, and topped with a garnish of incoherent Muttering Under One’s Breath.
After the pre-dinner entertainment-staring contest, Pirin would usually serve something nice. Of late, she’d been taking lessons in cooking at the kitchen she’d been working at. The result of which, she invariably would rustle up something delicious.
For all of this I was grateful. Unlike Ms. Dragon-Grumpy-Pants.
As Frazziss and I finally settle on pointedly ignoring each other at the dinner table, I catch the smell of whatever Pirin’s cooking up this evening, and it smells Great! I could feel my mouth watering in anticipation. It’d been a long stressful day, and I was looking forward to some downtime.
Finally, after much clanging and banging in the kitchen, Pirin silently comes out holding a metal tray with a pair of oversized Calzone sitting atop of it. She then served one each to Frazziss and I. We both give our ‘thanks’ to her and for the food, then we dig in.
It’s only after a couple of chews that the taste catches up with me, and I spit my mouthful out.
“What the fuck?!” I exclaim. “What the hell kind of meat is that?” I ask, as I look towards Pirin in dismay. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice that Frazziss has done pretty much the same, only she’s wiping her mouth with a cloth and giving Pirin the stinkeye.
By this time Pirin is standing across the table, and glaring at us both with her arms folded.
“It’s Crow.” She says quietly, flaring her wings out slightly while looking out at us both beneath her scaly eyebrows. “Crow-pie, to be precise.”
“Why did you serve us Crow, Pirin?!” Frazziss demanded of her angrily, as she stood up and flared her wings in response.
“Because I couldn’t find a recipe for Humble-pie! Which is something BOTH OF YOU NEED TO EAT RIGHT NOW!” she squeakily shouted, as yet another one of her blonde locks fell into her face. This time she didn’t draw it back.
“Pirin,…” I began.
“Shut up!” she yelled at me, loudly enough to both surprise and silence me.
“Pir,…” Frazziss started then, but Pirin interrupted her as well.
“You shut up too!” Pirin shouted at Frazziss, who looked quite surprised at her outburst as well.
“Both of you have not been staying true to the Tenets of our House! Now, I’ve been more than patient waiting for you two to work it out!” she yelled. She then leaned forward onto the table and glared at us, daring us to defy her. I couldn’t. Not then. I glanced over at Frazziss and she seemed similarly cowed.
“You!” Pirin pointed a claw at me, “Need to get over the fact that there are some things you cannot change! Angelique is one of them!”
“But,…” I began.
“Shut Up Lokhnarr! I’m not done yelling at you yet!” Pirin snarled. I shut up. She continued.
“Angelique is neither your woman, nor your responsibility!” she stopped and breathed in for a couple of seconds. “Frazziss is your woman, AND your responsibility, yes?” she asked, after a few seconds I nodded, sheepishly.
“Very well then,” Pirin nodded back, “isn’t she also gravid with your babies, yes?” I nodded again.
“When Dragons get this far along in their pregnancy,” Pirin explained to me patiently, “they start to get moody and anxious, it’s called Brooding for a reason. This means it’s incumbent upon Frazziss’ mate, which is YOU,” Pirin glared at me, “to cater to her needs. Is it not?” she ended. I nodded again.
“What’s our House name?” Pirin demanded.
“Karrakthel.” I said quietly.
“What does it mean?” I sighed in resignation. I think I could guess where this was leading.
“Nest-Haven.” I whispered.
“And how much work on,..” she began, I interrupted.
“All right! All right! I know where you’re going with this!” I shouted back, with my eyes closed in shame. “I’ve not done a single thing on working on building Frazziss her nest, or a home for her!” I replied, not looking at either of them.
“Why?” Both Frazziss and Pirin spoke at the same time. Somehow I managed to look both of them in the eyes before replying.
“I can’t,…I mean,…” I tried to put my problem into words, but each and everything I came up with, just sounded so lame.
“I can’t seem to get past a certain point no matter what I do, or how hard I try!” I said all in a rush, my paws clenched with frustration. Neither of them said anything, instead they just kept silent looking at me expectantly.
“My continued failure in Stone-Molding, makes me feel,….impotent.” I replied at last with a hoarse whisper, as I felt my wings droopily touch the floor behind me.
“I was thinking that if I could, you know, maybe help out with the Angelique task-force, I might be able to help. Maybe even get a success or help move something forward, some kind of progress.” I muttered loudly enough for them both to hear. I heard Frazziss give a snort then, which pissed me off. I guess it pissed Pirin off too.
“And you!” Pirin shouted, turning her attention to Frazziss. “What have you done to support your Drake?!” Frazziss looked quite surprised then. Eventually, after several short snipes and barks from Pirin, Frazziss admitted to what she’d been feeling.
“Yes, I’m uncomfortable about Allen’s, I mean Lokhnarr’s, focus on Angelique. I just want him to do something. Anything on building me a nest instead! We’ve got the plot of land, and we’ve got the permission to go ahead, and yet he does nothing!”
“Also,” she continued, not looking at me. “Angelique is a law enforcement matter. He’s done what he needs to do, we’ll take it from here! There is also the matter of the Law that I swore to uphold! I can’t just allow anyone to come along and help out, no matter how much insight they think they might be able to give.” She sighed, almost in frustration. Then she looked at me.
“When you keep asking to volunteer, I see it as an insult to me.” She admitted with a hurt look in her eyes. I was surprised enough by that, to start to protest.
“Let me finish!” she demanded fiercely. After a second, I calmed down and nodded for her to continue.
“You don’t have the training, nor the experience in these matters! I do. When you keep harping on volunteering, you make it sound like I’m not doing my job.” She sighed, then she came over to me and took my paws in hers. I allowed it.
“I’m sorry.” I started. “I didn’t know.” Pirin was all happy then.
“All right you two! You’ve just gotten started.” We both turned and looked at her. Pirin put her paws on her hips, almost as if in exasperation.
“You can both help each other, if you let it! I want each of you to give in at least a claw’s width!”
“What do you have in mind?” Frazziss asked.
“Would you be willing to at least, let Allen know some of the details of the Angelique investigation?” Pirin asked Frazziss, who then frowned at that demand, but she looked over at me, and gave a quick nod.
“Allen? If she does that, would you be willing to start working on overcoming your stone-molding problem, again?” I nodded.
“All right then you two! Get started!” Pirin cheerfully squeaked. Frazziss and I looked at each other and nodded once, not quite looking at each other’s eyes.
We then let go of each other with a small smile on both our faces. Pirin was all smiles herself then.
But those smiles of hers turned to dismay, as I picked up my serving of Crow-pie and took a bite out of it. Then, as I started to chew it, I ambled over to my Stone-mold corner of the living area.
“Lokhnarr!” she shot out, surprised. “That pie is made with Road-kill crow!” she exclaimed, all disgusted.
“So?” I replied. “It’s still good enough for me.” I smiled. “Though it could use some more pepper in the future.” I added thoughtfully, as I took another bite. I looked over at Frazziss.
“Are you going to finish that?” I asked around a mouthful of crow, glancing meaningfully at her portion. She looked at me for a second, then reached down and picked hers up, then she took a bite out of it. After a few chews, she swallowed, smiled and took another bite.
“Don’t lose the recipe, Pirin!” I added, after spitting out a black feather.
Pirin just looked at us both with her mouth hanging open, all aghast.
Well, after chowing down on that pie, I kept my promise and started working on stone again, for all of the good it did me.
While I was getting started doing that, Frazziss excused herself and went off somewhere.
After about an hour, and a half-dozen failures of my following the manuals’ instruction for a practice piece, I cursed and threw my paws up into the air.
Pirin was watching, and sympathetic enough to give me some encouragement.
“Lokhnarr, would it be too much for me to ask, if you demonstrated the process for me?”
“What good would it do? You can’t mold-stone.”
“Plllleeeeaaaassse?” she begged with a tilt of her head, giving me her puppy dog eyes. I gave up, and started going over the instructions with her, explaining them out loud, step by step. As usual, I ended up making a mess out of the practice rock.
Pirin, instead of accepting my continued failure, kept looking over the manual and tapped each of the instruction paragraphs. She then asked questions for each of them. I answered patiently as best I could, even though we went over the instructions several times.
“Lokhnarr? What about this sentence, up at the top? I notice that you keep skipping it.”
“Oh that?” I answered wearily. “That’s a nonsense phrase. It’s at the start of every instruction, in every manual.” Pirin got a thoughtful look on her face.
“So what does it say? I can’t read Olde Dragon.” I rolled my eyes and spoke it aloud.
“It says, that I should: ‘Infuse Your Spirit into Your Work’.” I quoted. “I have no clue what that means.” When I looked up, I noticed that Pirin was giving me the fish eye.
“What?” I asked her.
“Allen? Are you really that much of an idiot?” she asked me, incredulous.
“I guess so. I assume you know what it means?” What she did next surprised the shit out of me. She smacked me over the head with one of her fists, not hard. But it was still a surprise.
“WHAT?!” I growled at her. She made a dramatic sigh as she rolled her eyes.
“It means that you’re supposed to Sing, you Ninny!”
“Huh?” was the most intelligent thing I could come up with then.
“Dragon Magic is based on Singing! This is something every Whelp is taught as she grows up, Allen!”
“But I never got those lessons, I was human born, remember?” I groused at her. She blinked at me in surprise.
“Oh yeah, I forgot.” She frowned. “I was wondering why I never heard you singing. I thought maybe that you were a silent singer. I guess not.” She replied, pursing her lips.
“Singing?” I asked, embarrassed. “How?”
“Just pick a song, and sing it!” She started, then paused blinking her eyes. “Wait!” she said suddenly. She then moved herself and climbed onto my lap, facing me.
“Uuuuhhhh, Pirin. This isn’t a,..” I began. She narrowed her eyes at me, all annoyed.
“Hush!” she commanded, looking at me straight in the eyes. She then hugged me close enough for me to feel her tiny boobies press up against my chest. She inhaled and started…I don’t know….vibrating. That was the best way I could describe it.
I drew my head back and looked at her. She had her eyes closed and was,…I think she was chanting silently. After a few seconds, she opened one of her eyes and peered back at me, then she stopped chanting.
“Didn’t you hear it?” she asked with a confused look on her face.
“Hear what?” I replied, describing what I just saw her do. Her confused look turned to one of frustration. She slouched back, and got a thoughtful look.
“Hmmmm.” She said. “Let’s do this different.” She turned her eyes back to me. “Sing for me.”
“What?” I exclaimed, she sighed in exasperation.
“Just pick a song, let it fill you, then sing it! Once I’ve got the melody down, I’ll start singing it with you. Then hopefully you’ll start hearing like every other Dragon can.” She huffed. “I’m surprised that I have to explain this to a former human!”
“Why is that?” I asked. Now that I thought about it, I did remember hearing her singing aloud almost all of the time she was cooking. I just thought it was because she had a cheery personality.
“Because that’s what Dragons taught humans to do, before we taught them how to use fire!” she explained to me as patiently as she could.
“Just pick a song that stirs your soul, and sing it aloud!” she told me.
So, after getting over the embarrassment, I did what she instructed. For some reason, I picked an oldie from when I was a kid: K. Flay’s: Blood in the Cut.
“The boy I love’s got another girl. He might be fucking her right now. I don’t have an apartment.” I began. I ignored her perplexed look and let myself sink into the melody.
“Thought if I was smart, I’d make it far. But I’m still at the start.” I continued, imagining the video’s beat-clap starting.
“Guess I’m contagious, it’d be safest if you ran. Fuck, that’s what they all just end up doing in the end!” I was nodding my head in tune now with my eyes closed.
“Take my car and paint it black, Take my arm, break it in half. Say something do it soon, it’s too quiet in this room!” I could feel it then.
“I NEED NOISE!” I sang/yelled to myself.
“I need the buzz of a sub, need the crack of a whip, need some blooooodddd in the cut. Blood in the cut! Blood in the cut!“ I half-shouted, hearing the cymbal crash in my imagination. Which, like always, gave me goose-bumps. Well, on the parts of me that wasn’t covered with Dragon-hide that is.
After that chorus, Pirin started singing with me as best she could. At first we didn’t have the tempo down. But it got better. I opened my eyes when she did.
“That’s right Lokhnarr!” she crooned. “Now close your eyes, and keep singing. Feel the song! Let it infuse your soul!” she instructed, and I did as she said.
Then, something strange happened. I could still hear her with my ears, but I also started hearing with another part of me.
It was fantastic! I didn’t just sing the song. I was the Song! I don’t know of any other way to describe it!
After a couple more stanzas, I was singing it WITH Pirin and I opened my eyes. Looking at her, I knew that she was still singing. But not with her mouth. She was doing it with her soul! Then I realized something else. I was totally doing the same!
She climbed off of me and placed another practice rock in front of me. I knew then what I had to do.
I kept singing that song, and I felt my paws reach out and take ahold of that rock. I could feel it flow in between my fingers like water, allowing itself to be molded in ways that nature never intended it to.
It was weird, it was like I could feel the soul of the stone then, and it was singing with me like we were singing a duet! Even with my eyes closed I could feel the stone, forming, becoming something else. I didn’t have to force it this time! It just came…naturally! I just kept at it for several minutes.
“Blood in the Cut!” I finished aloud, and opened my eyes. I was astonished by what lay before me in that moment.
It was the practice archway that I was supposed to be making. But it was different, it looked…well, it looked like something creepy. Like a Gothic Archway a foot and a half in diameter! Logically, it should have collapsed within a second- it was so thin in spots.
But it didn’t. It just held its form like it was natural for it. I reached out and tapped it with a claw. It didn’t fall apart immediately like everything else I’d done before! Instead, it remained solid, and gave off a ringing tone.
I sat back in awe of what I’d created. I couldn’t recall then just how happy of what I’d done before.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Pirin. She was beaming with pride. I reached out, grabbed her, and drew her in for a long sloppy kiss. She was surprised enough at first to resist, but she stopped after several seconds and melted into my arms.
“Thank you.” I breathed into one of her scaly ears, after I had to come up for air. She hugged me back.
“About Gods-damned time Allen!” she half-growled at me. “I’ve been horny as fuck the last few days.” she replied, as she dug her claws into my shoulder and tried to pull me towards the bed.
But, we stopped when we heard someone clearing her breath behind us both. It was Frazziss, she had a wry look on her face, she seemed to be carrying a manila folder in her paws.
“Before ALL of us get started on that!” she began with a sly smile. “I’m here to tell you,… oh my!” she began, then stopped as she saw my newest stone creation. She clomped over and marveled over it for a bit, then demanded to know what had changed. She was most happy with Pirin and I then, once everything was explained.
She then told us what it was she was carrying.
“I demanded, and received, permission to talk about something relevant. Apparently, the higher ups aren’t happy about our lack of progress.” She said, as she opened up her manila folder, then drew out a number of items, placing them onto the dinner table. These included a list of places and a map of the Northern area of Yosemite Park, and some places outside its borders.
“These,” she began, “are the known places that Angelique broke into or robbed. What she targeted to steal, along with times and dates of the events.” I smiled my thanks to her. She smiled guardedly back.
I immersed myself in the study of them all. Both, Frazziss and Pirin thankfully left me alone.
At first, I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything. Then, I blinked and sat back a bit, as something began to seem to make sense.
“What?” Frazziss asked me after noticing my reaction. I pointed to a spot labeled “#1”.
“What’s the date that this occurred?” She gave me a sheet of paper, listing each of the marked spots on the map. I studied them and double checked the times with the robberies.
“Holy shit.” I said quietly, shaking my head.
“What?” Frazziss and Pirin asked then, concerned.
“Two-thirds of these instances? I think I see a pattern.” I replied. Frazziss looked surprised, then came to lean over my shoulder.
“Show me.” She said flatly into one of my ears. I indicated several spots, and spoke.
“This spot here?” I pointed to one place, she nodded. “This was about two days after we went camping there, remember?” She turned her eyes up into her head and thought about it.
“Yeeeesss, I think so. Why?” she looked at me with a side eye.
“Here, here, and here!” I indicated several other spots, and made note of the times. She followed along and nodded. “Each of them too. We were both there camping at those spots, within two to three days prior.” Frazziss’ eyes widened in realization at what I was saying.
I could see her follow along as she looked around the map and double-checked. After a moment, she sat back and looked at me.
“But not all of them match. She’s stolen from several other spots that we never went near.”
“Yes,” I agreed, pulling out a sheet of paper that listed what she’d stolen. Sure enough, I saw what she’d been targeting.
“At those other spots, she always takes a pair of items if she can find them: Men’s Underwear and Chocolate bars.”
“So?” Frazziss asked, perplexed at where I was going.
“Were-cats can’t eat chocolate, it’s like poison to them.” I explained patiently.
“So why is she taking them?”
“I believe that she’s taking them, for me.”
“Preposterous! What makes you say that?” Frazziss scoffed. I thought back.
“There’s one thing I’ve never told anyone Frazziss, not even you.” I saw Frazziss’ eyes and her wings, flare open in outrage.
“It never seemed relevant, until now.” I explained. Her outrage evaporated, but not her questioning eyebrow.
“Back when I was in the Mamono-Man Prison, there was always just one item I would treat myself with, from the Canteen. It was also the very same item that Angelique would leave on my cot for me to find,…” I said, leaving my sentence open.
“Chocolate Bars.” Frazziss finished for me. I nodded.
“Angelique is still looking for me, Frazziss.” I concluded.
“But if that’s true, then why hasn’t she come down into the Valley? Right where you’ve been almost for the entire time since?!” Frazziss half-growled.
“I don’t know. Maybe she’s afraid to. She’s been through a lot in her life. Who knows what her thought processes are like now?” I answered, speculating.
“Well, the valley is where I threw myself into, and it’s the spot that a big gruff Dragon went, after wrestling my backpack from her.” I said, looking meaningfully at Frazziss. Who looked stunned at the realization.
“She’s still looking for me, tracking me. So, I need to be the bait.”