The Most Exasperating Woman
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Part 1 appears
in this issue.
“Are you sure there is coffee here?” I said suspiciously. We were climbing the mountains behind the town of Arbeth Dactyl, which is flanked to the west by the Don, to the east by the manor, to the south by the Golgonix Woods, and on the north by mountains.
“Absolutely sure. Have I ever led you astray?” the Terran said.
“Jean-Paul, I only met you today, and you thank my kindness by stealing my horse. I think that counts as leading one astray.”
“Then you haven’t lived, m’lady.”
“Bugger off.” My sword hand was twitching, as where we were going looked more like a dragon’s lair than a source of coffee beans.
“I think we’re here,” he said. I started. Before us, by a cavern, in a canyon, by an excavated mine, was a blue, white and red dwelling. It had windows, and within were seven smallish men, in the garb of miners. They were singing songs, the lyrics of which I could not make out. They were entertaining a raven-haired girl in peasant’s clothing. Odd, where I come from, one girl alone with seven men would be the one doing the entertaining. Outside and guarding the house was an enormous dragon, its tongue lolling.
“And we’re supposed to get past that to get the coffee?” I placed my hands on my hips and gave him a nasty look.
“Do you have a better idea?” He said, obviously annoyed that I would dare criticize his great idea in coming here. “Well, if you don’t want to,” he said. “It’s your butt.”
“Literally,” I thought somberly, and rubbed the part of my body which would be outraged if I failed my mistress. “So what’s the plan?”
“Plan? Why must I come up with a plan?”
“Men. You can’t live with them and you can’t just skewer them.” I got off my horse, sat down by a rock and thought deeply for a while.
“Rosalyn, are you all right?”
“Huh?” The giant bunnies were gone, and there was Jean-Paul staring at me with concern.
“You fell asleep.”
“Oh.” I stood up, still groggy. “That’s why the bunnies are gone.” He looked at me like I had gone quite mad.
“Here, you might want this.” He handed me a flagon. It had an oily, swirling dark liquid in it that looked like the pupils of a leviathan. On the surface of the liquid was a slight film.
“What the blink is it?” I eyed it suspiciously.
“Try it and see,” he said smugly. I took a sip.
“It’s coffee! Coffee!” I did a little dance. “What, where?”
“My secret,” he said smugly. “Suffice it to say, there will be one hung-over watch dragon tomorrow, and more than one grumpy dwarf.”
I grabbed him by the collar. “If you drank it all—”
“Nope, I have this little bag full of it. About two days’ worth. Enough to tide your mistress over until the boats arrive.”
I reached for it but he held it higher than I could reach or jump. I replaced my right hand on his collar with my dagger. “Gimme!” I demanded.
“Kiss me, first.”
“Not a chance, buster.”
“Oh, look the little draw strings are loose. It would be a real pity if those little beans were to blow away in the wind.”
“Jean-Paul, if you do this dastardly thing, your voice will change, and not for the better.” I patted my steel friend menacingly.
“Kiss me, Rosalyn, and the bag is yours. Oops. There goes a bean.” To my back, I heard the watch dragon roar. I had no choice. I swore no man would have me without setting a price ever again. But he had me over the proverbial Terran barrel. Like all his kind, he would take what he wanted. I closed my eyes, and puckered my lips, bracing myself for the inevitable and the shame that would follow.
The kiss never came. After a couple of minutes I realized that I had been had. I opened my eyes, and he was gone! With both horses — Wynne’s and the one he had me buy for him in town. Once again I was stranded, and once again without Rhiannon’s coffee.
It was approaching first dusk by the time I had walked back to town, feeling defeated and sorry for myself. Rhiannon would already be mad at me, as my long absence that day meant that she would have missed her mid-morning foot massage, her mid-afternoon all over body massage, and her perfuming. She would be aching all over, stinking from not having bathed all day in this heat, without odor-absorbing garments, and of course it was her time to be blessed by the moons. She usually has me follow her around at this time performing special duties for her.
And of course, when the tiger is away, the spiders will play. The staff, sensing my absence, would probably be sleeping, making love to each other, or just plain being naughty. Aaargh! Without me, the palace routine falls apart, and then the whole kingdom suffers.
But I had no choice but to continue in my quest. If she woke tomorrow without her coffee, in the state she is in, then it could even lead to war with a neighboring kingdom. I was entering the town by the mountain side, and went to the nearest saloon. Where I spotted the Terran. To my horror, there were several cups at the table he was at, and several women, prostitutes from the way they were (or weren’t) dressed. They were sipping from the cups. “Oh, God, you didn’t!”
“Get away from us, bitch,” said one of the whores.
“Yeah, get your own billy,” said another.
“Hi, Rosalyn,” Jean-Paul smiled. “You look tired and you stink of the road. Your feet must really hurt from your long hike.” I glared at him. “Would you care to share a beverage with us?”
I shot him another hateful look. The bartender was looking nervous as I pulled my sword. “Give me the beans!” I said, in my sinister voice.
“What’s left of them,” he laughed. He pulled the little bag out and then, to my horror, dropped its contents on the floor. Before I knew it, I was on my knees gathering up the six remaining beans. Sobbing, and knowing that they would not be enough. I was lost! Lost!
I made it back to Caer Rhiannon by second dusk. Rhiannon came out of her office, looking haggard, her hair the consistency of straw. She probably had had audiences all day, which she hates, and without her coffee, too. Even though I felt depressed, sorely put upon and defeated, I still pitied her that.
“Rosalyn! Where have you been all day? I missed my rubs and anointments.” Her voice was a mixture of worry and anger.
“You sent me for coffee, remember,” I said sullenly.
“Oh, oh! That’s right. But I sent Elfrod after you hours ago.”
“I found an extra bag of coffee. So we could have waited for the morrow, after all. Well, at least you’re in time for my evening rub. Rosalyn! What are you doing!?” she shrieked. “No, no! Don’t! I don’t understand. Why are you doing this?”
I had knocked her down, and was now tickling her unmercifully; a very easy act of revenge when your target is naked and you know her body intimately. “I bathe you in the morning, Rhiannon.” She squealed. “I rub you in the afternoon.” She squealed some more. “And I worried all day about your revenge on me when I failed you in this quest. That’s why I’m doing this. Say you’re sorry for putting me through all this.”
Still squealing and gasping for breath, she said, boldly I thought under the circumstances, as I had pinned her legs with my knees and had my hands on her tickle spots, “I will not, I am your queen and your mistress!”
“But you are now at my mercy. Beg, woman, for my forgiveness.”
“Why don’t we discuss it, Rosalyn — over coffee?” The outrageousness of that remark got to both of us and we stopped our wrestling with uproarious laughter.
My mistress is the most exasperating woman on the planet. But I do love her dearly and she is my very best friend. I have killed for her, as she has killed for me.
Copyright © 2005 by Rachel Parsons