On the Bower of Madness
by Rachel Parsons
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
“And what is that to me?”
“It is your forest, too. Can you imagine a world without world trees? Isn’t that a little like a donut without a hole?”
“I have a good imagination.” I pride myself on being a tough negotiator.
“I will leave your foster child alone if you save our forest.”
“Hmmm,” I said, putting my hand to my chin, as if I was really considering this.
“I won’t laugh when your bosoms jiggle and you scrape your skin on barbed vines as you walk back to your home naked.”
“All right, done.” So he made me a good offer. So tie me to a post and shoot me full of arrows. “But how am I to save your forest?”
“You are known as the fairy female whose brains are as big as her bosoms. I’m sure you will reckon something out.”
Oh, thanks for the support.
“My back is going to break, wench. Simply break.”
“Tiamat, put sealing wax on your teeth and squeeze hard.”
“He has a point, Rhiannon. I lost count of how many bugs, fungi, and moss you have put in little baskets and strapped to the poor lizard’s back.” Rosalyn was jerking this way and that avoiding the jungle’s barbs that threatened her skin. She is such a baby.
“I am not a lizard, I am a cockatrice,” Tiamat huffed at Rosalyn’s remarks.
“By randomness,” Rosalyn answered.
“Little Mistress Morgan, if anyone should be complaining about a backache, it is I.” I had been bending over, scooping; bending over, scooping. This had earned me admiring glances at my ass from both Rosalyn and Tiamat, but no help.
We were meandering through the jungle, seeking out any tree with wood rot. I was scraping anything offensive, painting it on a branch, and putting the little branch in baskets. I was not being unhinged; I was going to bring this to Vivienne, my court physician, and Arianrhod, my court witch. This had been Rosalyn’s idea. Before her father had abandoned her to her harlotry by his suicide, she had been the daughter of an apothecary. She explained to me that as medicines come from the jungle, so does jungle rot.
“Like what is in our garderobe when my lady-in-waiting is too proud to scrub?” That had earned me a finger with a sharp nail up my ass.
But when we came to our first specimen, something that could only grow in wet, dark, hot spots without sunlight, and we all stood staring at it, Rosalyn had said sweetly, “Oh, thou proud woman; not so proud as to not go about naked, but too proud to pick moss off the stumps?”
I commented on this.
“Why, Rhiannon, among us, only Tiamat could do that,” she trilled.
“I don’t see you jumping at the chance, and you are my servant. Your job is to do the disgusting things.”
“I do them for you every night. Is that not enough?” She rested her hands on my shoulder. “Besides you are the heroine here; I think I’ll just watch.”
She stood back and crossed her arms over her bosoms. When she is naked, she is always covering herself in some way. Placing her hands in hiding ways, stepping behind a bush, or kneeling and placing her mouth to the ground. Since losing her girdle and pantaloons, she was doing all of these things and more. Sometimes I hate her.
It had to be done, and after all, she was right. I am the heroine. But even Eligor seemed to balk at such rude use as I sliced through the slime.
Rosalyn had produced the little boxes from her purse, which she had strapped around her shoulder, using some snakeskin from one of Wyrmwood’s knights who had not survived the fall. It looked stylish. She had reclaimed her buskins, complaining bitterly about them having fallen into a sump. She has everything from bodkins to bottles of whisky in that purse, but no clothes. An oversight she was paying for now.
Buskins and a purse, even a bottomless one, and a war belt that looked like it would fall off her pelvis at any moment, causing her to endlessly adjust it, was not exactly jungle attire. But then I should talk. At least her feet would not be shredded by traipsing along the conifers.
Next to Tiamat, for whom it was home, only Zusanna seemed comfortable among the giant bower. She would bark at small rodents that would rush up to the upper atmosphere. She would climb after them, with the speed of a lightning bolt and then come down, expecting a treat. She was taxing even the capacity of the bottomless purse, but who could refuse her?
We had been at it for a day and two nights. It was dark, as only it can be when trees blot out the light of the moons and stars. Zusanna and Tiamat, whose eyes could see in such darkness, made a clearing for us to rest in. We then bedded down on the hard dirt for our bedtime.
Rosalyn and I were sitting, hugging, our arms and legs intertwined. Our hands on the other’s rib cage; our feet scissoring the other’s hips. She was blowing into my armpit, making me giggle.
“Don’t you two ever give it up?” Tiamat shouted. “Some of us need our beauty rest.”
We looked at each other, and spoke to the other on the wind. A dragon needing beauty rest? We were saved from having to answer that by lassos yanking us from the clearing.
* * *
Our captors were the rogue darklings. They had slithered through the bower silently and relentlessly. They had us strapped, side by side, to one of their own, a servant I should think, from the use to which he was put. The war belt, with Eligor, was uselessly below us; as were Rosalyn’s boots. My mouth gagged, I couldn’t even whistle for my sword.
They were heading to a high perch; one they had set up in advance it looked like, from the tools, the weapons and the curtains that were made of grass and moss. I saw saws, swords, and vines with barbs that they were using to whip one another. They were determined and evil but they were also stupid.
They had tied me up. Vines at hard as any steel were biting into my flesh. I was strapped face down on the back of one, with the cords used to tie my hands knotted together on the wyrm’s underbelly. He was spanking my ass with his barbed tail and laughing.
Until he gasped for air. Once started, the apnea consumed him. He was writhing, thrashing, and clutching his throat. They had gagged me so I couldn’t tell them.
The curse had been activated. I was covered. Unless I was exposed to the whole world and soon, the whole world would die.
I felt the teeth cut into the ropes, barely missing my flesh. I then felt the gag being torn off. A mouth clamping down on my hair, what little there was of it, and pulling me up. My bosoms dangled freely as I stood, wobbly, on the back of my captor, who was unconscious and banging against the trees. This was entirely impossible, but I managed it. I managed it.
Zusanna, who had been my rescuer, nipped at my heels, as the darkling finally landed on the ground. I crouched, centered to the earth, so as to not fall off. I shook for a while, trying to comprehend what happened.
“Gimmeoffofhim; gimmeoffofhim; gimmeoffofhim.” Rosalyn was mumbling indignantly. I went to her, crouched as Zusanna tore her bindings off.
“What happened?” I heard the almost childlike hiss of Tiamat, who was speaking roughly with a throat full of phlegm.
“We were abducted by the rogue Nithhogr,” I explained.
“I kind of reckoned that, but what happened afterwards?”
“It’s the curse,” I said between breaths into Rosalyn to help her revive. No, we weren’t tongue kissing, as has been reported. She needed my breath; that is all.
“I don’t understand, and could you stop that? That requires privacy, doesn’t it?”
“You all right, Rosalyn?” I asked before complying with the request.
“Uh huh,” she replied dreamily.
“When I am covered, or not displaying my nakedness to my audience, everything I love starts to perish. Graymulkin meant it to mean my death by suffocation. When first cursed, I tore off my own clothes to the metronome of her cackles so as to be able to breathe. But as my love went beyond myself, finally to the whole world as its queen, it means the whole world will die, with me the last victim. I will watch, gasping for breath, as everything I care about suffocates. They activated the curse when they strapped me down.”
“But how was Zusanna spared?”
“A werewolf can only be killed — “I stopped as Zusanna bit my thigh. She did not want her weakness revealed. “Werewolves, suffice it to say, will survive the catastrophe.” I bent down, observed the teeth marks, and mouthed my displeasure at that to Zusanna.
“Well, as tired as we are, we’d better break camp; they will learn from their mistakes, will tie you up with your legs spread and bosoms exposed next time. They won’t dare go up against Midgard’s knights, not with Wyrmwood at their back. We will be safe when we are home.”
Rosalyn moved around to my back; put her arms around me, dangling her crossed hands between my navel and my womanhood. She whispered in my ear.
“What is she saying?” Tiamat asked.
“She’s agreeing with you about the need for us to be home. And in our own bed.” Rosalyn moved to my right shoulder, just enough that she could stomp my foot. She did so.
Vivienne and Arianrhod were working around the clock to find what the source of the rot was and a cure for it. I was playing with Baby, who liked to waddle, flapping its immature wings, and run as fast as it could to get a discus I would throw. This was a thrill for the wyrmling and good exercise for me, and I have to exercise as much as I can. When your only adornment is your muscle tone, you work on it.
We hadn’t been gone that long, but he was already twelve feet tall, and had a wingspan that was eight cubits if it were a span.
“They grow up so quickly,” Midgard said, watching this while sprawled on the lawn. He was sewing a body sock for his charge, which I would have been shocked about before I learned of his hermaphroditism. Above the western grounds, next to the forest, wyrm knights were flying, playing dart and run games.
“You would know, general.”
Baby had just jumped up above me, thinking that I was tossing the discus. I thought I’d better do it. Up into the air, with the wyrmnet levitating after it. I was getting a lot of respect for the sheer physical prowess of these magnificent beings. It would be horrible if their aeries were to vanish. Not to mention what that would do to our medicines, and the other beasties in the jungle. Property values might plummet as well when dragons moved into people’s back yards.
I pretended to put the discus behind me, and then back in front of me, making Baby squawk in frustration. Midgard looked at me through the roots of his eyes. All six of them, from all three of his serpentine heads. I hastily threw the discus.
“I won’t be much good to you as court physician if you hit me with one of those things,” Vivienne said as she ducked. She was spun around by Baby’s tail wind as he ran past her, squawking in joy.
“Vivienne, how fares the world?”
She grinned broadly. “It fares well.”
My eyes widened. I grabbed her. We locked eyes and jumped up and down together, her blue gown, which was cut to show her legs, exposing them in the offworlder fashion. “The cure for the jungle rot?” I cried.
“Uh huh,” she answered as we bounced in unison.
Now all we had to do was find a way to spray it.
* * *
The cure was a mineral that, once cooked in enough grease, would go right through a dragon. It was a heartwarming sight, both Nithhogr, Wyrmwood’s people, and Jormungandr, Midgard’s people, flying together, swooping together, pooping together, dropping their milky turds on the jungle. Terrans use a milky white, chalky substance to cure their indigestion, which they must get all the time, given what they eat. Give me toadstools and the ooze of limestones any day over lettuce and undercooked cow meat. Dragon poop reminds me of that.
I was watching the flow from Midgard’s aerie. One of the advantages of being general, is you don’t have to have diarrhea to save the world. I was perched on his enormous knee.
“You did it, little sister. Wyrmwood is a dark one, but he is a wyrm of his word.”
“Not of his wood?”
He mock-glowered at my levity. “As I was saying, before the fairy queen herself interrupted me, Wyrmwood is a wyrm of his word; if he said he will not abduct Baby, then he will not. And you have saved the forest with your discovery of the magic laxative.”
“Well, Arianrhod and Vivienne have to take some credit.”
“Oh, they will,” Rosalyn said from behind me. She was back in her girdle and light armor; but her buskins were tied to her belt; she was barefoot. We had found that mead is a good remedy for thin-air madness and she was busily applying the cure. One flagon at a time.
Baby was hopping from branch to branch, with Zusanna barking and leaping after her.
“She will soon be old enough to leave her foster mother,” Midgard said. “That will be good.”
“Easy for you to say. I will miss her.”
He smiled, exposing his incisors. “You will have a first born of your own, soon enough, little sister.” He then frowned; he was watching Rosalyn toe my butt. “Although I don’t see how, as you fairies and humans aren’t hermaphrodites.”
“What are you implying, sir knight?”
“Only that women of your races have a choice, and that it looks like you will have to choose between having babies and having love. That is all.”
And that was enough. We did not talk to each other for the rest of the reforestation.
Copyright © 2007 by Rachel Parsons