The weather was beautiful. Not that it ever really seemed to change much. Enjoying this fact, Calvin took the opportunity to take in the surroundings. Sitting in front of Kanya's tavern, open sketchbook in his lap, Calvin sat with his hands behind his head resting against the front wall.
"Hey, Calvin? You got a minute?" Jonathan Roberts, accountant from Virginia turned anthropomorphic ‘furry,’ looked at him almost nervously. He was dressed now, in breeches that ended at the knee and a long-sleeved hip-length tunic, and looked far less miserable. A meal and a bath had had a lot to do with it.
Calvin gave the newcomer a sideways glance. "Uh... sure. Something on your mind?"
“Yeah....” Nodding his thanks, Jonathan sat down. He looked positively scrawny, and was by far the shortest person Calvin had met so far in this strange world. He stood just a little over five feet in height (if that) and probably weighed no more than 110 pounds. He also looked just like a humanoid fox, except with a thick head of black hair. Calvin felt it was like talking to a Disney cartoon.
"Ah... I gotta ask... do you have any idea where we are?"
Calvin chuckled. "Definitely NOT Bermuda. And if I understood any of that science babble coming outta Marcus, it's most likely not even Earth, if ya can believe that."
Jonathan turned back from watching Durudee bring water up from the stream. "Oh, no problems there...." He jerked a thumb at the Hunting Person's tail as it disappeared through the tavern’s open doors. "I mean, back home you'd only get stuff like her on the web." He paused, then continued in a more serious tone of voice. "Speaking of which... where'd you find Vilgerther, and are there any more like her?"
"Who? Marcus's girl? Yeah, they call those 'Leaping People'. We met a bunch of 'em in a place called Fyrkat. Nice people. Very... uh... friendly." Calvin's expression shifted slightly as a minor realization dawned on him. This boy could be trouble. Reminded him of someone he knew. "I'm sure we'll come across more eventually. This place is full of 'Peoples'. We've even seen mermaids."
"Mermaids? No fucking kidding? Jesus, what'd they look like? Women with fish tails?" Jonathan's eyes went wide at the thought.
Calvin's thoughts seemed to drift for a moment as he let out a sigh. "Yeah. Fucking mermaids. Some things are beyond words, bud." He wasn't sure if he should show off his Big Black Sketchbook at this point. Taking the pencil from behind his ear, Calvin began sketching the erstwhile fox. "So, Jonathan... tell me, what do you think of this place. Nothing like back home, eh?
"Hell no." The fox-man waved his hands animatedly in the air. "I mean, look at this place. It's like... like... Avatar, but for real. And the blue people ain't ten feet tall... and got bigger tits." He paused and then looked over at Calvin with an almost conspiratorial expression. "That Captain... Captain...."
"Yeah, her, she's one tall drink o' water, ain't she?" Jonathan shook his head. "Jesus, I came down stairs yesterday, and she was in that big tub in front of the fire taking a bath. Nearly shit myself. You could fuck those tits for hours!"
"Yeah, she's something alright." Classy. At least he's focused, Calvin thought to himself with a smile. "First time I saw her bathing she wasn't much of a conversationalist. Had her mind on something. Kinda wondered what it was. Ah, never mind. Not important. So, ah, what do you plan to do now that you're a... well...? " Calvin motioned at the fox with his pencil.
“I have no idea.” Jonathan shrugged and looked out across the crossroads in front of the tavern. “I mean, it can’t go home looking like this... even if I could figure out how to get home. And these guys?” He indicated Jayanama with a wave of his hand, “They don’t even know what an MBA is, much less need someone with one.”
"Heh, looks like it's time for a change in professions, my friend. You mentioned something about 'magic' once before. Couldn't hurt to give it a shot. You might surprise yourself." Calvbin was only half-joking about this. There were enough weird things going on around here, he'd believe anything at this point. "Of course you could always take up farming. Or adventuring. Hell, we're gonna go overthrow an evil empire, just like in the comic-books."
"I dunno... Jonathan Roberts, esquire, is a magician. I'm not. He went to school for it, y'know? In 17th Century London and Paris. Then shipped out for the New World and was captured by pirates." The fox grinned, which displayed some rather pointed teeth, "So I was able to mash up Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter all in one. With a little Dresden Files thrown in." He paused, then blinked as his ears tilted forward. "Wait... what?"
"In all seriousness, dude. You. Are A. Talking. Fox. Might wanna put some thought into that reality for a moment." With that, Calvin finished his drawing of said fox. Revealing the picture to his subject, Calvin looked at him with a somewhat bemused expression. "For what it's worth, you and your other self are one and the same it would appear. Before you attempt to disbelieve, imagine the possibilities."
"That with a piece of chalk I can foretell the future and astrally project? Man..." Jonathan stopped and shook his head. "No, no... go back. What evil empire?"
"Ah, I'll spare ya the details, but basically, we ended up in that village named Fyrkat I mentioned. A bunch of alligator-looking dudes stormed in in the middle of the night. I'm sure Billy Jo would say we 'stomped a mudhole in 'em' and kicked the crap outta like 30 of 'em. Turns out the guys in charge are somewhere near the ocean and we are gonna finish what they started. Like men. Look, I don't even know if I should be telling you all this, but you seem like an alright kinda guy." he said, putting his sketchbook back in his bag. The scent of lunch began to creep out of a nearby window.
"Wow..." The fox-man gazed up into the sky. "You guys really did all that? I mean, you took down the bandits well enough..." Suddenly he stopped and his brows narrowed. "Is that where Macrus got that laser gun from?"
"Yup. Spoils of war, man. Same place I got my pig-sticker!" To emphasize, Calvin hefted the hilt of the two-handed sword he carried with him. "I figure, if he gets some practice, Marcus'll be a crack shot in no time. If he practices, that is. That boy is all over the place."
“Yeah, no kidding. It’s like he’s trying to fix everything he gets his hands on. Him and Vilgerther. Busier than... than...” Jonathan paused, as if trying to come up with the right description. “I think my favorite is ‘a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.”
"I'd have said ' two squirrels in a tube-sock' but that's something different entirely." Calvin replied in his best dead-pan.
Jonathan chuckled. "Makes me wonder if he's done it with her y'know? And what's it like."
Calvin's turn to chuckle. "What? Those two? Pfft. I doubt it. If he's ever even seen the act, I'd wager Marcus would try to reverse engineer the process, strip it down to base fundamentals, and then optimize for efficiency. As for what it's like, not much different. Just more... um... fuzzy. Kinda soft, too. Hunting girls on the other hand. Whooooo... careful what'cha dangle in front of 'em." Calvin made some hissing noises and clawing motions for emphasis.
There was a long moment while the fox man started at him. "You need help," he uttered in a deadpan tone.
"Says the talking fox."
"Point." There was a moment while Jonathan stared across the town 'square.' "Y'know," he started in a sober tone of voice. "it could be worse."
"I could have created my on-line persona as a woman."
Another silent moment as that thought entered the equation. Good timing, Calvin decided, as the scent of lunch caught his nose again. He suddenly realized how hungry he was. "Come, my vulpine companion. Let's continue this over a hot bowl of whatever soup they be cooking in there." He gathered up his belongings and motioned for Jonathan to follow him inside.
The inn was surprising spacious, with a hard-packed dirt floor, stone walls (made from the ruins to mountain-ward), and thick columns of timber supporting the ceiling and upper stories. In the back was the bar, and behind that was the kitchen and cellar access. To the left were stairs up to the rooms and on the right was the wide fireplace (where Captain Jiranee was wont to take her baths—the tall elf had a cleanliness fetish that Calvin whole-heartedly approved of.) At the moment, Durudee was by the fire, tending to the logs and stirring a steaming cauldron, while Kanya was behind the bar, placing dishes of food on a platter.
Pausing by the door, Calvin placed his hands on his hips and dramatically inhaled. "Man, that smells good." He set his bag on a table near the fireplace and pulled out a sketchbook. "Afternoon ladies. How are we today?"
"Just preparing lunch for the Captain," Kanya replied, "Would you and Master Jonathan like some as well?"
"I can't speak for my friend here, but any chance for a good meal and I'm there." he said with a smile. "How is the Captain today?"
The green-skinned alewife gave a slight shrug. "It's not my business to pry into the doings of my guests, Master Calvin. Especially not the doings of the King's Justice when she's about her duties." She then leaned forward slightly, "But between you and me, she seems to be a bit troubled. I blame the bandits. It must be difficult to decide the fate of so many."
"Well that won't do. Let me guess, she's upstairs in her room? Would you like for me to take her lunch to her, and save you the climb?" he said, pulling a rolled up piece of paper out of his bag.
"Well..." Kanya nodded to one of the tables on the common room. "She usually takes her supper there. But if you want to bring it to her when she comes down, I doubt Durudee will mind."
Jonathan nodded his agreement at the idea. "Lunch with the Captain sounds like a great idea."
"Splendid. I guess we just wait for the Captain then."
Under Kanya’s direction, Calvin and Jonathan quickly laid out cups, plates, and utensils. Lunch consisted of slices of meat (goat, apparently), wedges of cheese, bread, some butter and honey, bowls of savory stew, and a pitcher of ale to wash it down with. Calvin and Jonathan had just taken their seats when Captain Jiranee came down the stairs. She was dressed in leather boots that came up to her knees, woolen hose, and her arming jacket, which buckled down the front. A long knife hung from the belt around her waist.
"Good afternoon, Master Calvin... Jonathan. I see you have decided to join me for lunch. I welcome your company."
"Good afternoon Captain. Hope your day is going well. Me an' Jonathan here were just shooting the breeze. Apparently he's a big admirer of your... uh... prowess." Calvin gave his best shit-eating grin with that last part while Jonathan rolled his eyes. He handed the Captain a roll of paper tied with a bit of string. "Also, I've been meaning to give you this. It's nothing important, I just thought you might like it."
Sitting down, Jiranee brushed her long slivery hair back over her shoulders. She held the scroll in her hand for a moment, as if weighing it, then undid the knot. Slowly rolling it open, she held the drawing up and examined it silently.
What Jiranee saw was an image of herself with her chin resting contemplatively in her hand and a faraway look on her face. Although she was nude in the image, it was done with a certain measure of taste. Overall it had a serene, if slightly troubled feel to it. Well at least that's what Calvin thought.
"I hope it meets your approval, Captain." Calvin said, taking a quick drink.
"It is a fine illumination," she answered at last, before rolling it back up and setting aside, out of Jonathan's reach. Pulling her plate to her, she nodded at the two men. "Let us eat, and then we may speak of other matters."
The food was good. Not nearly as good as what Hildigunnr made back in Fyrkat, but Calvin enjoyed it nonetheless. He scarfed it down quickly, intermittently scribbling in his sketchbook as usual. Meanwhile, Kanya refilled Jonathan’s plate. She seemed to have taken him under her wing after he was pronounced innocent of banditry, and seemed to think he was far too thin. Once everyone was nearly finished (even Jonathan), Calvin leaned back in his chair. "Did you know cats have 32 muscles in each ear? Sorry, I don't why that popped in my head. Was there something on your mind Captain?"
The tall elf raised an eyebrow at that, reminding Calvin of Mr. Spock. She took a drink of her ale, then nodded at the two men. “I have been thinking it would be best if Master Jonathan came with us, at least as far a Virava.”
Calvin turned to the fox. "Hear that Jonny? The Lady would like to take you to the city." His smile then turned to a more puzzled expression. "Care to elaborate on that one, Captain?"
“Yeah,” the fox added, “What’d you have in mind?”
Resting her elbows on the table and lacing her long fingers together, Captain Jiranee assumed a pose that Calvin immediately associated with CEOs, high school principals, and guys in scary glasses. “It is much the same as with the bandits. Despite their statements that he was not part of their band, there are some here who resent him still. In Virava, no one will know of his past and there are many who can use someone who knows the science of numbers.”
"Well there ya go, Jonny boy. Looks like someone has need of your talents after all." Jonathan gave him a thumbs up in response, grinning around a mouthful of goat and cheese.
Calvin took another drink before turning to the Captain. "That's very gracious of you Captain. You could have just left him to fend for himself. Err... not to say that we'd have left him for dead, but... Well, Cyan might have, but you get the idea."
“Yes... I think I do.” Jiranee dabbed at her mouth with a cloth napkin, then stood. “Gentlemen, I have much to consider before we start on our return to Virava. So, if you’ll excuse me?”
"Your company has been appreciated, Captain. If there's anything I can do for you, you know where to find me. Have a good one!" Calvin gave her a slight nod and a smile as she rose. He somehow wondered how often he sounded like an idiot. Moreover how often anyone noticed. At least he and Jonathan could agree on one thing: They'd hate to see the Captain go, but they'd love to watch her walk away.
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