The road yet traveled


Morning came like a hurricane, a landslide, and a tidal wave all crashing into your body all at once.  You try to open your eyes but everything is so blurry you can’t see anything discrete.  Your body aches as if you lifted 20,000lbs over your head more times than you can count, but there is no headache.  Every joint in your body feels as if it were being ripped apart, and your skin feels as if it’s being blasted by water all over, from all directions. All you can hear is the mottled landscape of your breathing, the sound of someone rubbing crumpled paper together, and this incessant ringing.  All you can do is clutch your aching body… After a few moments the auditory and visual side effects subside, and your skin only tingles now.  You can start to see things coming into focus though you are in a great deal of pain still.  It’s in this moment you wonder if last night had been a dream, if when your focus returned you’d be in a hospital, or your own bed.  You hope and wish that it was all just part of some sort of illusion, a hallucination, or a dream.  The surrounds start to feel familiar as the static like roar of your overwhelmed senses start to come through.  It feels as if you are in your own bed, in your own room, in your own world.  The hope wells up in your chest.

That is until the cold hard reality hits you… There is a warm bodied female with her body wrapped around yours, and her breast pressed against you.  It takes only a second for your eyes to focus and find Aurelia moaning in pain clutching you as if it was all she could do to stave off the pain.  The pain is starting to dull, but you are still racked by it.  Amazingly the warmth of her body seems to make the pain go away where she touches it.  So you work and push to get her to move up a little so you can wrap around her until the pain subsides.  After a few moments of wrestling with her in her sleep you manage to get her up even with you and you can already feel the relief of her warmth.

You hear her wake up a bit… “Anna… Anna, is that you.”  Clutching each other tightly to ease the pain of perhaps the weirdest hangover ever, you respond, “Yes, it’s me… I’m here.”  “Okay“, she mumbles and passed off to sleep again.  It’s weird that you can sleep through something like this, but this is the first time this has ever happened to me… I don’t know what to think.  It hurts so much, yet somehow I slept till morning before the pain woke me.  Strange world strange rules you think to yourself.  You yourself start to feel extremely tired and you go back to sleep.  The strange arthritic pain induced by this beverage is eased with warmth and not with cold as a hangover would be.  And as I drift off to sleep, I notice my head feels fairly clear, but perhaps because of the pain elsewhere.

The afternoon sun touches your face through Aurelia’s window, rustling you from your slumber with it’s blinding light.

Aurelia is still sleeping beside me, but curled up in a ball under the blankets with her back towards me.  She’s kind of adorable like that, and I can’t say I could resist the urge to lift the blankets to look at her.  As I did, the light touched her face causing her to pull the blankets back over her.  She doesn’t seem to be awake, and the action seems to be a reflex to the light.  The pain is much less than it was, only a dull tingle in my extremities now.  It’s similar to the sensation of waking up from certain anesthetics. I hear a knock at the door, and thrust the sheets up over me.  I then realize I’m still fully clothed in that nightgown from last night.  From the cracked door I here Fitzgerald murmur, “Ladies, we have things to do, so I need you two to get up”.

“I’m awake”, irks from my lips, and as I do Mr. Prump comes through the doorway wearing a white button up, with white slacks, and black suspenders.  “Well, you two diddles didn’t wake up when I tried to rustle you a b’tago, so I wen’ an’ warmed m’self some lunch and ‘cided to give you some time.  How ya feelin’?”, he asked as he walked to the bed.  “Strange.  I’ve never drank anything that made me feel like that”, I respond to his questioning.  “First time drinkin’ Paruha I take it, Lass?”, he says while sitting on the end of the bed on Aurelia’s side, “You r’covered mighty fast if Ight say.”  I glance at him with a bemused face, “What do you mean?”, I inquire.  “Spirit Users are the ones who can safely imbibe Paruha.  It’d be toxic to them freyja (fray-ha).  Mer’over, a spiritus, or another werd’fer spirit users, will recover from use of ‘is substance wit regards to their power level.  Yous just downt the strongest Paruha I mated, and you look like yus just woke from a nice nap.  Tho, I’m sure yus felt the ache when you woke earlier’ when I first heard ya stir.”  Upon finishing Mr. Prump gently chuckles to me.  “Pull the blinds will ya, just reach ya hand fer it and it’ll move on it’s own”, he continues.

Reaching my hand towards the blinds they abruptly shut, startling me a bit and shutting out the light.  I let out an “Eep!” when it happened.  “Oh dear, m’dear.  You aren’t what weres written on the label, are yas?”, he chuckles again.  He reaches out with his arm and repeatedly slaps my thigh through the blanket and says, “Well, yas gonna lie there all day?  I’ll show you some Octolindt hospitality with some ol’fashioned recipes.”  A gravelly voice emerges from under the covers, “Dadda, wha’ I tell you about your lazy tongues?”  Fitzgerald laughs aloud once before haughtily retorting, “Wha I tell you about sassin’ ya daddy?”

She groans from under the sheets, rolls over towards me, and pops her head out from the blankets to rest her head on her pillows.  She winces while looking at me with one eye open murmuring, “You suck”, before closing it again.  “Don’t be foul now just ’cause yas had more ‘an your share a forenight ago”, he speaks to her while scooting up closer to her head along the side of the bed.  With his large, warm hands he pets her hair which seems to ease her face that is crinkled with pain.  She can’t respond, she just groans at him.  Her breathing becomes deeper and it appears she has taken to sleep again.  “She always was a fussy youngun'”, he says while smiling warmly down at her as a Father would.  He turns his gaze to me, “Lemme look at ya.”  He pulls a pair of very old fashioned looking spectacles from his pocket, and walks around the side of the bed to me, while also pulling out what looks to most certainly be some type of stethoscope.  It doesn’t have any ear pieces though, it’s just the listening part with a strange part on the back with what looks like a pin sticking out of it.  He sits on the bed and has me sit forward while stating, “I’m going to listen to your heart.”  He places it at my chest, and immediately notice the pin pulsating outwards ever so slightly in rhythm with my heart.  Mr. Prump, whom I’m now assuming is actually Dr. Prump, places his thumb against the pin to sense the rhythm of my pulse.  His brow crumples a bit sensing it.  He places it elsewhere, then pulls out his pocket watch and appears to be counting while watching the time.  “Hmmm.  Well, that’s odd.  Do you take any medications for that?”, he asks.

“Yes”, I reply, “Where I’m from I have a condition called tachycardia.  My heart beats faster than normal, so I take a medication that slows it down a bit for safety reasons.”  He puts away the pocket watch, stethoscope object, and looks at me with a concerned face.  “That’s not what I mean, Lass.  An’ that’s not what I found.  I’ve never, in all my years of practicing heard a heart with such slow, but intense ramping beats”, he continues.  “Slow, but…”, I stop and take my own pulse.  Placing my two central fingers against my wrist I wait for a moment for my pulse.  After a second a strong but intense ramping pulse throbs in my vein.  Shock and confusion overcomes me as I think about the strangeness of this.  I had health and biology class, and even I know this isn’t a normal pulse.  It’s less than 60 beats per minute, without doubt, but there is no way it’s less than 30bpm.  I look at Dr. Prump with a shocked look as he chimes in, “Ey, now it would seem you are baffled by this phenomenon as well.  It seems that you are riddled wit mysteries, Lass”, he adds while pulling his pocket watch out, “See this ‘ere is a time piece calibrated to the seasons, and times ‘ere.  The little fast moving arm is armas, the long thicker arm is the dammas, and the short slow moving arm is the hammas.  These measurements are similar to this device I found in with your wet garments from the forenight.  ‘Ey’re called seconds, minutes and hours.  (He hands me my wristwatch back), Sorry, Imma curious man after-all.  From the motion of that ‘ere time piece, I’d say that som’in is off.  First off, your rammas or days on your watch, are 29 hammas long.  Your minutes have 60 armas instead of 100 armas, your years have 365 rammas, while ours have 191 days.  We have 3 naurums, and 10 and a half undulations ‘r so a year.  ‘Ey’re like small naurums, an usually ‘is is the only time it snows ‘is far otto in the posisphere.  Though will say when it snows it stays for all 5 ta 6 days Serpentine’s Rings completely eclipses Domna, ya see?  It blocks much of the spectra from Domna like the arms of a loving parent, ‘r some sorta celestial shade tree.  ‘Ese undulations are what keeps us fer burnin’ up with as close as we’re to Domna.  Serpentine’s rings are why this world stays habitable, and we cycle round him every 18 days.  Our sister emberdorma called Emberly, meaning “burning star” weres not so lucky.  Emberdorma is an astrological body similar to our little piece of ‘e pie.  It means glowing sleeper.  He lies just beyond the pitch boundaries of Serpentine, an’ her atmos is all but stripped, and ‘er surface scaldin’ an’ untouchable.  Lavia, our little nook in the universe, spends 6 days above The Serpents Belt, and 6 days below an’ 3 in limbo either way.  An’ I’ll tell you, those 6’days… All it does is rain and run-a-muck.  More than two-triparts for our world is covered in oceans, so that’s also our other savin’ grace.”

He stops to clear his throat and put away his watch.  “But what does all this have to do with me?”, I ask.  “Sorry, forgive an old man from ramblin’ on. Nothin’ about you makes sense. Why if I’s I bettin’ man, I’d say you aren’t from ‘is world”, he says to me while leaning his head forward, looking at me through his suspicious brow.  His gaze makes me retracted to my blanketed safe space against he pillows that are touching the headboard.  His face relaxes and he burst into laughter, while also repeatedly patting my thigh with his open hand.  “Oh, ho ho ho ho!  The look on yer face was so ‘musin’ I couldn’t resist.  C’mon, Sprite.  Le’s get you some bartea (bar-t).  Though Ight say you’d not be needin’ it”, he says to me while getting up to leave the room.

“Doan keep a man waitin’ now”, he says popping his head back into the room just after leaving.  I slip out of the sheets gently working to not wake up, and place my feet on the bitterly cold floor.  The air is very brisk and smells very strongly of spearmint.  Aurelia moans because of the covers sliding off her, and she then slides into the warm spot left by my body, and completely wraps herself in the blankets.

I slide off the bed, and put the blue over-gown from last night back on.  Looking in the mirror as I pass, I put my hair back up into a proper ponytail and straighten myself out a bit.  The steps creak ever step of the way down these stairs, and walking down them unaided this time they seem steeper to me than they did before, though I know they aren’t.  The living room, unlike Aurelia’s room is warm and basking in the smells of rewarmed food from last night, but especially the minty scent I smelled before.  Mr. Prump is sitting on a couch on the opposite side of the fireplace, with a couple of large tea cups on saucers on the table in front of them.  “Oh ho.  Look whose finally up an’ about.  I thought you’d keep me waiting forever.  Have a seat, an’ a sip of your bartea”, he says to me with a warm and gentle face.  Sitting down, I notice plants growing out of my tea cup, little clover-like sprouts.  “Um, why is there stuff growing out of my ‘bartea'”, I ask him.  “Well, that’s what makes bartea special.  It’s brewed with the use of those little buggers.  They grow in hot water at a phenomenal rate out of special sponges we put in the bottom of the cup.  I used hot honey water to grow them, an’ when them plants sprout leaves like that, they give the water a special medicinal quality as well as a cool nip.  We also ‘fine the by products to make toothpaste, an’ other breath freshin’ stuffs”, he looks at me intently waiting for me to try it.  With everything else, I’m concerned about how it may taste or what it may do to me.  As I lift the glass its then that I realize this scent is more like that of eucalyptus than of mint, or perhaps a combo of the two.  As I drink, I’m rather impressed by the “Ordinariness” of it’s flavor.  It just tastes like mint tea with honey.  Utterly plain and normal.  This place is such a strange shock to me, that I guess I find it weird to find familiarity in the flavors.  And after the booze of last night, I’m almost expecting it to be weird.

As it goes down, it feels a little like the sensation of swallowing cough syrup, or toothpaste accidentally.  It tingles on my tongue as I drink it, but I soon notice that what pain and tingling in my extremities was fading.  A moment later and it was gone.  “Wow, that actually works.  I’m surprised”, I say to him and he lets out a jovial chuckle and reaches over to put his arm around me.

“You know, it takes a lot to pop a kretz tube?  I’ve only ever seen a handful of people do it on purpose, much less on accident”, he says to me with a strange tone in his voice, “Don’t worry, I’ll not hold that against ya.”  I breathe a sign of relief, and sit back a little, though it makes me uneasy that he has his arm around me.  He retracts his arm when he realizes my reaction to it.  I ease back even farther and actually start to relax.  “By the way”, he says while easing back in his seat away from but turning towards, “You can call me Fitz, since it’s easier than Fitzgerald.”  I just respond with an okay and watch him quizzically while he pulls one of the buds from his tea and puts it in his mouth.  It looks a little like a bean sprout.  He turns his head away from me, looks up to the ceiling a bit and closes his eyes.  He appears to be thinking about something while he suckles on the minty bean sprout.  Without moving his body at all but to breath, he smiles and gazes off to the side at me, “Have a thing for my daughter?  If you do, no big deal.  If not, well, I can’t make you like’er.”  I can feel the blood welling up in my face and a hesitant, embarrassed feeling welling up in my chest, “Well… I, um… Um… Ha.  Ha ha… It’s not that I don’t like her”, I stutter.  He nudges me on the shoulder with his balled up fist and laughs at me.  “HO HO!”, he chuckles at me, “Well, so you know, my Aurelia never sleeps in the same bed as anyone, not since her mama passed.  She only sleeps next to people she likes, an’ only women.  Her auntie was the only other woman she’d spent the night with, an’ she’s been…  Well, lets just say she doesn’t come around no more an’ leave it at that.”

“Auré is right moth’rly for a girl her age.  She’s always commandin’ and ord’rly.  Only woman she’d ev’r listen to was’er mama.  She’s too much like’er if you arse me.  Her paps was a tinkerer.  Always fiddlin’ wit stuff.  He build this here domicile, and all ‘e teck that be in ‘im.  Shed’s a 14 different colas because he’d used to blow stuff up all ‘e time, ‘en rebuild it with whatever scrap wood he could get on ‘e cheap.  I weren’t livin’ here back in them days”, he continues.  We hear a creaky sound from behind us and a gravelly, agitated voice, “What kinda nonsense you ramblin’ on about now, Dadda!”  Fitz puts his arm over the back of the sofa to look at her, “Well, seems some still be intoxicatin’ about the house”, he chuckles at her.  She just grimaces and puts her pinky finger to her to her nose and gives it a flick, a gesture that seems akin with flipping someone off.  He turns back to me with his arm resting on the top of the sofa, while she staggers into the kitchen.  “She always ripens quite foul when she drinks Paruha ’til the wee ‘ours of the aftnight”, Fitz chimes.

He turns his head to the kitchen towards Aurelia, “Don’ forget ‘e lass in heres be needin’ some illarimontations later.”

“Ilari-whats?”, I ask him.

“Well yas can’t exactly be traipsin’ round lookin’ like that, can ye?”, Fitz says at me with a smile and turns back to the kitchen again, “An’ don’ forget wes be needin’ta head out before the foreday is o’er.”

I immediately picked up on a pattern.  They don’t say evening, night, morning or afternoon, so I tested my hypothesis about what they say for times of day, “So, where we going and when will we get there?”, I ask the old man.  “Well, Ight say we be gettin’ there ’bout the aftday, an’ if we get a move on”, he says gesturing to Aurelia in the kitchen by clearing his throat,” we’ll be done before the forenight.  We’ll be stayin’ in town and then be headin’ home the next foreday.”  His statement confirms what I had earlier wondered.  “So wait”, I inquire, “It’s still morning?  Err, um… Foreday?”  “Yah?  What other time would it be?”, he says to me with strong confusion on his face.

“Wells, I better be gettin’ to the loadin’ lest we want to take till forenight to get done”, Fits says while getting up and heading into the kitchen.  He pats me on the shoulder as he passes me, and from around him I catch a glimpse of Aurelia moving back towards the stairs with a large bowl sized cup of bartea.  She stops at the stairs and waves for me to come with her.  I set my cup down on the saucer and follow her up.  We walk up and immediately turn to the right and go up another set of stairs.  I enter what appears to be an attic storage place for food, clothing, and it even has a telescope facing out a window with a simple cot next to it, and a simple desk covered in books and journals.  Wooden wardrobes cover the wall on one side, and each is a different style and color.  Aurelia is standing next to me when I reach the top of the stairs, taking a chug of her steaming bartea.  She walks over to a wardrobe that is painted baby blue, but starting to chip and flake its paint.  She holds her over-sized mug with one hand, pulls open each door, and thrusts her arm inside.

She feels around vigorously, but doesn’t slosh a drop of her tea.  She yanks out a really fluffy looking layered skirt that’s top later is black and red pleated, with a white petticoat built in.  Setting it on the old night stand next to her, it looks a bit like a flower like that.  She thrusts her arm in again, and slides the clothing on the rod, and pulls how a white top that matches and is equally ruffly, that has a black and red tie tab, and a long sleeve jacket of a similar coloration with white ruffles at the ends of the sleeves.  She turns her back to the wardrobe, and puts her free index finger against her chin to think.  She sets her bartea on the top of a dresser on the other side of the old nightstand and walks over to a pitch black wardrobe that looks like it was charred by fire, sanded down, and re-lacquered. The wood that didn’t seem to have been burned was a dark burgundy color.  She opens it after a moment of rattling with the doors to get them to come free.  Inside the wood is a very light, unstained/unburned color and there is tonnes of shelves for shoes inside.  In the front row not on a shelf but in front of the other shoe shelves there is a tall, thigh-high pair of boots with red trimming, buckles and belts, and white ruffles at top.  All of the clothing in the wardrobe is like something you’d buy at Anime Gothic clothing store (an anime inspired gothic clothing store where I lived), and seemed more fit for cosplaying than wearing.  However, the quality of this clothing was unparalleled by anything I ever saw shopping at AG with a friend one time.  I remember it clearly, because I never saw so many cute girls with kitty ears in one place before.  It was a woman’s clothing store, but there was even a few men there dressed as lolitas.  There was even on I thought was a girl until he asked me to move out of the way.  I thought the clothing was adorable, but I didn’t like to draw the kind of attention this “Splash Style” Gothic clothing would draw.  Being 5 feet 9 and a half inches also didn’t allow me to wear about half of their stock back then.

Hell I wore a size 10 when I was still working for the government, and that was back when my fatigue made me unable to eat some days without vomiting.  I had this sneaking feeling that I’d be unable to wear any of the clothing here, but there was still a chance.  I was 1.5 inches shorter than I used to be because of a injury that resulted in major back surgery.  I don’t remember how it happen, only that I woke on the ground outside of a 2-story building laying on the pavement bleeding out.  I had sporadic retrograde, post-traumatic amnesia as well as significant source amnesia.  I couldn’t remember how or when I learned to play the guitar or piano, but I could, and I couldn’t remember any of my school I attended, but somehow I knew everything I’d learned.  The smell pervading the room from the freshly stirred wardrobe made my memories flutter, and there was something stirring deep in my brain that I couldn’t quite recall.  It made me feel nostalgic.  Aurelia ended my smell driven nostalgic trance by slamming the thigh high boots on the ground besides me.  “You okay, Anna?  You were spacing out, like you were remembering something”, she says while sitting on a trunk next to the boots she got out for me.  She motions me to sit down next to her, “Sweetie, you’re pale… Have a seat.  What were you remembering anyways?”

I sit next to her and begin, “Well, that smell from when you opened the wardrobe… It reminded me of a store I went to once with a friend, and then I started thinking about whether the clothing would fit, and I ended up thinking about my accident.”

“Accident?  Were you hurt?”, she asks me then getting up to grab her bartea again.  On her way back she brings the clothing she set out to the trunk I’m on.  She snaps her fingers in front of my face as I space out again, “Hey, you okay, you’re even more pale than you were a moment ago.”  I respond with an murmured apology and continue, “Sorry, I get like this when I recall the event.  I don’t remember what happened, but apparently I feel from a two story window flat onto my back.  Ordinarily that would kill you, but I survived.  But my life is full of holes… I remember most of the people I knew, but I couldn’t remember the times I spent or how I met them other than things we said to each other.  I knew them intimately, but all the sensory information about those experiences was just… Gone.  And well, I get dizzy all the time now, and there is the matter of how I fell.  There is security screen around the balconies, and I was pushed through it.”

“Wow.  Um… Sorry, but how did you fall then?  I mean, not to be insensitive, but…  It just seems strange”, she asks me with a concerned look on her face.  I breath deeply to calm my uneasy stomach and dizziness then continue again, “Well, I was apparently living with a woman at that time, a roommate.  But we apparently started dating sometime recently.  I don’t know when.  After I fell from our apartment her clothing, laptop, car and other personal belongings were mysteriously missing.  The found her a week later intoxicated in a bar 5 hours drive from where we lived together.  When questioned she denied anything had happened, and because of my amnesia and the lack of physical evidence they couldn’t prove she’d done anything even though they had credit card records of her buying fuel off the highway 45 miles from our apartment 30 minutes after I fell.  My auntie took power of attorney from me because of my amnesia for a bit, and filed a restraining order against Natalia so I could get her off the lease, and she had her motorcycle left in my garage impounded.  That whole period after is hazy because I also had anterograde amnesia for a while after my accident, and I had almost complete amnesia for 2 weeks after I was put into the hospital.  They said I was lucky that my fall was dispersed over my body, instead of on one point.  I found some of her clothing around the house before my auntie came to burn them, and when I smelled them I’d get scared and sick to my stomach.  I couldn’t remember anything about this woman, not even at the trial, but when I smelled her or saw her face I just felt terror.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to drop that on you.”

“Obviously it’s just speculation, but it’s pretty clear to me what happened.  And it’s no biggie, you just looked like you were going to fall over thinking about whatever it was.  I’m sorry to pry.  I don’t know you, so I don’t have a right to get so personal with you.  Well, sweetie, you’re too good for the likes of that woman, and you’re better off without people like that in your life”, Aurelia says to me while she holds onto me around my waist.  “Well, I need to get ready myself, we’ll leave in 25 dammas.  Get dressed and come down when you’re done.  You’re too bashful for me to help you, and while it’s cute, I’ll try not to turn you 50 shades of red again”, she giggles at me.  “See you in 20… dummas?”, I say to her as she descends the stair, now only a head above the floor.  “Dammas.  And see you in a few”, she says disappearing from view for a moment, then peaking out again, “And if you are feeling unsteady and need help just give me a shout.”  She disappears again after I nod to her and say “Yes”.

I stand up and first slide the nightgown and overgown over my head.  As I grab first the skirt and slide it up I’m at first expecting the cloth to be itchy and uncomfortable.  The AG store clothing I tried on was all like that, and was actually quite painful to wear, so I was expecting just that.  Now that I recall it was Victoria that took me to that place.  She liked playing dress up with me as her model all the time, after which she’d pay for my clothing which I used to adamantly ask her not to do.  She’d usually take me out that night, get me wasted and laugh at me in the morning.  Sometimes, though I knew later that she genuinely cared for me, I wondered if I was just her entertainment.  Why’d people like getting me drunk so much… Sigh.  If only I knew the answer to that.  Perhaps I was just too reserved and high-strung, so they just wanted to see what it was like when I let loose.  But the clothing was, although being a little form fitting in some spots, was actually rather comfortable.  It was almost a perfect fit, though I must admit the skirt was a little short, the shirt too tight around my boobs, and the boots and whole outfit a little too fancy for my tastes.  I slid up the boots, and was surprised that they had speed laces like those on combat boots.  Now that I think about it, the entire outfit had a “combat” feel, though being very stylized.  The jacket had a feel like kevlar, with extra padding over the vital organs, and everything, even the boots had plating.  The neo-Gothic, red and black boots were even steel-toes it seemed.

I stood up in front of a tall Victorian style vanity mirror and look over the outfit.  No matter how much I tug at the skirt I can’t make it longer, must to my chagrin.  The boots are thigh-highs, and the skirt and petticoat beneath are only long enough to just meet them.  The skirt and jacket have a dove tail like style threading down the back of the dress, so it covers more from the back than the front.  No one would see my panties when I bent over, but I don’t think I felt any more secure in this outfit than I did before.  Affirmed that I was wearing it right, I clasped the garter straps in the skirt to the sock-like fabric that extended from the top of the boots.  This outfit appeared to be very much like a uniform in someways, though I had no idea what affiliation or such.  As I headed down stairs the thick soles of the boots made it awkward, as the attic stairs were so steep.  It wasn’t much easier as I clunked my way down to the first floor.  I walked out into the kitchen as I saw Aurelia packing a picnic basket with bread, cheese, blue wine, and leftovers from last night.  She pulls a strange hair tie out from her pocket, that also appears to belong to what I’m wearing.  She walks over to me and puts it over my head.  It looks to be a small bonnet, styled like something I’d expect would belong to a Gothic Maid cosplay outfit.  She pulls it down, and ties it under and behind my head, and it appears to cover my ears with a scarf like material on them.  “There you go”, she says returning to the picnic basket of food.  She also packs what looked like a hotplate which had a power receiving plate on the side much like the lights in this house had.  Given how she’s handling it, the hot plate and basket now seem very heavy.  “Gave her your old uniform, did ye?  Surprised she fits in’er, considerin’ she’s a good 2 secals taller ‘en ya”, Fitz says, startling me from a door besides the fireplace, “Com’on ladies, we need to get a move on now, it’s almost serpent’s eye which’ll mean we be gettin’ ‘ere quite late.”

Aurelia yanks the basket down from the counter and walks over too me, “Here, you’re the newbie here, so you carry it.”  She smiles smugly at me, and appears to be straining from the weight of food in this very large food basket.  “Okay”, I say to her as she hands it to me.  As I grab it the basket seems strangely light, very strangely.  I make a confused face at her, and she appears to be annoyed, “Well then, perhaps we need have her carry the armage boxes too, Daddy.”  I look to Fitz for solace, but he just chuckles at me.  The basket seems to be as light as if to be empty, and I move it around demonstrating that’s how it feels to me.  “Full of surprises, are ye lass?  Get on now, we don’t have time for chatter ’til we get on the road”, Mr. Prump commands.  Aurelia grabs a really pretty parasol from by the doorway, and walks out the door to open it.  Remembering something, she sets the parasol against the door and grabs a long jacket from the closet by the door.  The Jacket matches what I’m wearing and it’s as long as the skirt in back, and slightly longer in the front than the front of the skirt is.  She takes the basket from me, and allows me to put the jacket on, which buckle under the bust just like the bustier top.  The collar of the jacket can actually be fastened across my cleavage, and I attempt to do so, but Aurelia stops me.  “Tch tch, it looks better opened”, she says smiling warmly at me.  She picks up her parasol again and walks away from the door.  I walk out and see what looks like a strange wagon with a trailer behind it loaded full of very long rectangular boxes.  The vehicle looks something like a vintage automobile of the early 1900s in the US.  It has only a canvas roof over it’s bed, and the drivers seat itself is unprotected from the elements.  As we walk up to it Fits says, “He isn’t much, and he’s quite old, but he still runs like a turré cat.  No worries lass, he’ll get us where we’re going.”

“Okay, if you say so”, I mumble to him as he helps me and Aurelia up into the bed of this steampunk style coach.  In the bed there is wooden benches on either side of it.  Aurelia sits on the opposite side of me and closes her parasol.  As he hops down from the bed, the wagon springs up a little from being relieved of his weight in it.  I can see him climb into the drivers seat through a hole in the canvas facing forward in the bed area.  I can hear what sounds like an electric engine spooling up, and the craft begins to move.  I’m totally baffled by all of this.  As we pull out of the covered park where the wagon and trailer were, I can finally see the world as I hadn’t been able to last night.  The trees were all turquoise-green, and a few had dying leaves that looked bright red, purple and blue.  The hills had bright turquise grass, and literally everything had a bluish tinge to it.  If I were to take a photo of it people from my world would think that I had my cyan up too high, or think I printing it when the magenta cartridge was low.  As I looked up, Serpentine, the gas giant planetoid was directly over us, and the sun was shining partially through the edge of the “emberdorma’s” thick Saturn-like rings.  There were spots in the hillside where the inclination was too steep for grass to grow, or wear water had worn the soil away, in which you could see swirls of browns, tangerines, blues and violets in the layers.  The sky was blue, but seemingly more deeply blue than the skies on Earth, and the part of the star eclipsed by the rings looked orange white like the sun does an hour and a half before sunset.  The star seemed bigger and brighter than the sun I remembered, and the clouds had a radiant hue that was more green than I could recall clouds being, although still being white.  The sky near the horizon looked nearly purple.

As we pulled out to the road, it was composed of hexagonal dark blue bricks that looked like the kind of thing you’d use in your garden.  As we accelerated the electric engine noise grew louder and higher pitched, and you could hear the road and tile noise against the rubber wrapped iron and wood wagon wheels.  It was a strange sensation.  The road appeared to have been machine made, as no human construct could have made it so smooth or even, nor planted the bricks so perfectly.  Every brick in the road seemed equally indistinguishable from the others, aside from the occasionally light blue brick.  The slow and gentle undulations of the wagon started to make me feel sleepy as Aurelia chimed in, “It’s a long trip.  There is pillows under the bench if you’re sleepy.  I’ll sleep when my body stops aching.  Thank goodness we’re entering our 6 day albeto, it’ll snow tomorrow and it won’t melt until next week.  It’s trinaurum near eunaurum so the snow won’t melt during the day like it does from middle eunaurum though duenaurum into middle trinaurum again.  Well, except in the mounts just dona etta of here.”

Noticing my confused look she begins again to explain, “Oh since you may not be from this world, or time, otto is that way (she points to a direction perpendicular to the motion of the sun in the sky.)  That way is dona, she points in the opposite direction.  From the equistis the posisphere is otto, and the negisphere is dona.  Etta is that way (pointing to the east of otto respectively), and that is seta (pointing the opposite way).  Also, I don’t know what world you are from and this may not be much consolation, but if I can I’ll try to find a way to send you home.”  I just smile uncomfortably at her, and she turns her head and looks out and the road we are passing over, quiet and sort of unsettled in a way.  I’ve been struggling with what the world is.  In that moment of awkward tension, I almost felt like the bad girl.  I felt like I wanted to apologize to her.  She was only just trying to help by comforting me, but it was a lost effort.  And now she seemed in a foul mood, and I didn’t know what to say.  I primed my lips and voice once, as if I was going to speak, but nothing came out.  He mood seemed to whole grow more grey as the miles stretched out behind us.   Aurelia’s hair is dark, but this is the first time I’ve noticed that it’s black, with a bluish hue.  And her eyes are also blue, but a strange blue I’m not accustomed to.  Her face is so full of vibrancy, even through the cool hues of the tones around her face, but she seems to be growing unnaturally cool.

Suddenly, and totally unannounced she doubles over the tailgate and begins to vomit.  I’m shocked, I thought she was in a foul mood, but it would appear she was trying to put on a strong face while ignoring that she was getting motion sick.  And we drank last night, and after she finishes relieving that urge I say, “Are you okay there?”  Reaching out my extended hand, I grab her hand and pull her over to sit on my left side.  I unbuckle my jacket, and I put my arm around her with my jacked to give her aided warmth and hold her hand with my free hand.  I was smart to give her the outside seat and she, now able to compose herself says, “I’ll be fine in a bit, I just got a bit woozy is all.”  Even though when buckled this jacket has a form fitting underbust, it’s actually quite large, and flairs out a bit as I’d expect a jacket of that style and era vintage would.  The boots are well lined, with both leather, fur and stockings built in (though from the feel they could be removed).  For as much skin as this outfit allowed air too, it was actually very warm.  Aurelia leaned herself against me and began to relax as if to fall asleep.  I just spaced out off into the countryside, trees, forests, hills and bridges over rivers as we passed.  The styles of the houses we passed all had that “Victorian Manor” feel, and the colors of this world were still rather jarring, like my eyes were messed up seeing all the blue hues.  The road transitioned a few times, from paved to gravel, currently on gravel.  I even once caught glimpse of an Airship in the distance.

Aurelia seemed to clam up a bit at times, but she stayed generally okay.

What seemed like several hours into the trip, I heard Fitz going, “Whao, whao now mister”, as he braked very abruptly and suddenly.  I slide down the wooden bench in the back a bit, but quickly restrained myself.  Aurelia who’d been leaned up against me ended up falling over on the bench, partially laying across my lap.  She looked up at me, and those bright blue eyes of hers shined with astonishment, “Good reflexes.  What happened?”  I gazed back into her eyes and said, “I don’t know.  We just stopped really quickly there for no reason.”  Aurelia snaps up to a sitting position and shouts to the driver’s seat, “Daddy, what the hell was up with that kooky stop of yours?”

“You should stay put… I’ll handle things here”, Fitz says through the opening in the canopy.

Aurelia impatiently kicks down the tailgate, and jumps down from the bed and walks around the side of the vehicle.  “Why’s there a Hawker stranded in the middle of the road”, she squelches.

I’m getting a little scared, but the impending situation outside the care has me on the edge of my seat.  I hear Fitz’s dress shoes hit the graveled surface of the road, “You may be my daughter, but you listen like a freyja.  What’d I tell ya jest a armas ago?  Girl, ya be needin’ some street smarts.  Yer too quick to jump inta things you need’t be so hasty ’bout.”  I hear a few sets of footsteps in the gravel in the distance, and the distant voices of a man talking and a woman laughing.  I hop down from my seat, and I’m sitting on the tailgate unable to move from fear.  I here Fitz murmur “Bandits”, under his breath to Aurelia.

I hear her stomping foot steps in the gravel, and see her appear from around the side, and grabbing her parasol from under the seat she was sitting when we first embarked.  Much to my surprise, she twists the hand violently and unsheathes a sword that had been concealed in the pole of the parasol.  She looks at me for a moment with a stone cold face that makes me tremble deep inside still holding the blade, “Stay here.  We’ll handle this”, she says to me.  I go to the front of the bed and peak through and see 2 men and a woman dressed rather outlandishly standing in front of Mr. Prump’s vehicle about 10 meters away.  They are dressed it what appear to be rather colorful outfits which seem to be a blend of something which is a mishmash of garments they stole, and or stitched together from other things.  They look like patchwork, steampunk bandits.  The woman is wearing what almost looks to be burlesque make-up, and the two men with her have rose ovals made up onto their cheeks.  If these are truly bandits, they are the hyena’s of bandits, the lowest brand their is.  We’re still far away from anything recognizable as civilization.  Aurelia is standing out in front of Fitz by a bit, holding onto that blade still.  I hear  the man in the front begin to speak, as a woman brandishing what looks to be a gun-sword shoves him out of the way.  “Well, well now… Seems we has a feisty one ‘ere.”  The men beside her chuckle as if it’s a rehearsed response.  “Leave us be, we are but humble merchants”, Aurelia says to the ragtag bandits.  The low hanging sun shining through the trees blotches their clothing with light.

The woman whips out a blue flower that looks like a blue Sweet William flower and says, “If you give us all your spiritabon stock, I’ll give you this flower and leave you in piece.” She walks forward arrogantly still fiddling with the flower with her fingers, “But if you ought to resist… Well, Ight be layin’ yas out, and dec’ratin’ yer graves with ‘is ‘ere flower.  She raises her sword blade and shoots out the tire on the trailer causing it to go flat and me to fall from the tailgate as the vehicle lists to the side.  I roll off onto the gravel with the pull of gravity into the grassy ditch.  I hear Aurelia murmur, “Shit” as she turns and sees me toppling into the ditch.  Pulling myself up and brushing off the grass, I walk back upon to the road, and then look to the bandits with a terrified face.  “Well, ya’lls is full of surprises”, the female bandit says but is then even more intrigued in me as the sunlight hits my auburn hair through the trees.  She whips out a blue bottle, much like the paruha we had last night and takes a chug of it after ripping the cork out with her teeth and spitting it out.  Handing the bottle to her cohorts she approaches me in an almost comical manner, passing a terrified Aurelia with her blade trembling pointing at her feet.  “Tha’s a mighty strange a colas you got ‘ere, Lass?”, she says to me as if inspecting me.  She suddenly gasps as she gets even closer to my face, “‘Is sassy has verdant eyes”, she laughs maniacally.  Her men clap their hands together and one shouts, “Mighty good find, M’lady.”

“You’t pull a ‘ight fine coinage at the Urgyle Brothel”, the bandit woman says to me, “I think we should tell the lassies that we be takin’ ‘ere spiritabon an’ ‘ere woman.”  She laughs even more maniacally than before, and as she does I can smell that she wreaks of mead more intensely than one swig can cause.  She corners me against the vehicle and motions to her men, “Taker, an’ as many crates yas can carry on the Hawker.”  The men run past Aurelia and have my pinned against the side of the wagon-like car.  I’m terrified that this is my second day and I still don’t even have my bearings… I don’t even know where I am.  I can hardly breath of the fear and tension in my chest, and I turn to Aurelia and her face is not ablaze in rage, her blade steadied.

With one scream, “GET AWAY FROM HER!”, she screams and charges at the bandits.  The male bandit nearest her draws a dagger and positions it to parry her strike with both hands.  He is wearing a glove with a metal palm to hold the blade at tip and hilt.  She swings her katana-like blade with such force that he flies into the ditch and it knocked unconscious by the force of the blow.  The female bandit stands up and looks to provoke Aurelia whose gaze is not firmly and viciously transfixed to the bandit now.   “Come at me, if ya thinks ya can take me, Lass!”, shouts the bandit.  Aurelia charges at the bandit, and the bandit raises her gunblade and parries Aurelia’s strike as if swatting a fly.  The parry sends Aurelia flying back a little bit, and as she looks up to strike again the bandit aims and fires shooting Aurelia in the arm, causing her to drop her rapier and fall against the vehicle from the pain.  The listing to the truck with trailer attached causes one of the boxes to fall off and fly open, nearly 6′ long blades of metal that look like something from an old RPG game I played as a child wield by a spike-haired blonde kid.  The two conscious bandits surround Aurelia.  I’m so panicked that I look around for anything that can help… And unfortunately the only thing I see is the giant over-sized blades on the ground.

Slowly, I creep towards them as they encircle Aurelia.  Now positioned over on readying myself to lift what I assume will be a very heavy object I hear Aurelia call out to me, “No, you fool… You can’t lift those… Run… Save yours…. (Umph).”  She is interrupted by getting kicked in the gut by the male bandit.  The female bandit turns and sees what I am attempting to do, “Well, ya won’be as pretty once I git done wit’ you, but ya’ll be my prize either way… Yer worth ‘most as much, even if I ruffle ya up a bit.”  Unable to move I am trapped in between that “Flight or Fight” response, staring on in terror at this bandit who is a crack shot.  Believing that running is not an option with her excellent aim, I grab the handle of the blade and put all my might into lifting it.  Strangely though, it feels no heavier than the picnic basket earlier… It’s like holding a tube of X-mas wrapping paper after the roll is empty.

Everyone’s jaw drops except the female bandit, who is gritting her teeth instead, “Sprite, aren’t ya!  Perhaps yer more trouble ‘an ya worth.”  She raises her gunblade towards me, trembling, and fires.  But it’s as if it were in slow motion, and out of reflex I deflect the bullet with newly acquire blade.  While I’m touching this blade, I feel a tremendous power coursing through me.  My fear is all but gone now.  Even Fitz is totally stunned, “Well, Ight think it was quite queer ‘e other things ya done, but now it all makes sense.”  The female bandit charges at me, and with little more than a flick of my wrist I hit her with my blade.  She’s quick enough to parry, but the force of my attack is enough to take a large chunk of metal out of her blade, and make the backside of hers hit her in the face with enough force to split open her eyebrow.  Blue, slightly glowing blood flows down her face and begins to dim.  The other bandit now awakened, and the one standing their in terror rush in to retrieve their leader her limp off towards their Hawker with her in tow, who is not unable to walk without staggering.  The gimp down the gravel road at a quick pace and hop into a steam punk looking car with a balloon like a blimp on the top.  I hear fan engines power up and as I do the vehicle take aloft and flies away with a low propeller buzzing sound. Sticking the blade in the ground I run to Aurelia who is leaning against the truck, bleeding.  Mr. Prump grabs her around the waist and lifts her into the bed of the truck.  The sun is now behind the hills, and it’s starting to get dark.

Setting her on the bench, he uses a pair of scissors to cut off her bloodied dress sleeve, revealing fairly luminescent blue blood pouring from the wound.  However, it appears that it clean exit.  He pulls a roll of bandages and a gauze from his pocket.  Placing the gauze over the wound, he quickly and efficiently wraps the wound while Aurelia grimaces in pain.  He rubs his hands together causing them to glow blue again, then places them against the bandage.  There you go, good as new.  The bandages appear to have crystallized, or melted into a single material around the gauze on her arm.  I stare at the bandages in shock, “Their spiritabon fiber gauze.  I used my spirit to seal the wound and disinfect inside it.  Do they not do this where you’re from?”, he asks.  “Not like that they don’t”, I respond.

“Well, she’ll be fine now.  But we need to get her into town so she can rest”, he then hops down and turns to me, “We’ll talk more about yer abilities when we getter to down.  ‘Kay?”  I just nod.  He turns his attention to the boxes of goods.  He turns over the box, and places the blades back inside with considerable more effort than it took me to move the one.  He places it back on the wagon after affixing the top to it again, but it’s causing him considerable strain now.  He pulls out a tube of some sort of blue substance and appears to apply it to his tire.  Much like the bandage, he rubs his hands together and places it on the tire.  Putting the tube away he stare to pump a foot handle on the side of the trailer.  After a few moments I notice the tire re-inflating and the trailer coming even with the road again.  He brushes his hands off and looks at the repair job with confidence and pride.  He now turns to my blade whose shape has morphed a little compared with the others.  He heaves at it, and finally gets it out of the dirt.  Dragging it along the ground, he sets it against the tailgate, “This one’s yers now.  No one else can wield ‘im now but you.  We’ll take him into a proper smithy before forenight ‘morrow, ‘kay?”  I pick it up, and it’s still as light as a feather.  “I reckon if you hadn’t been ‘ere, my might of been in trouble.  Fer what it’s worth, thanks”, he says to me then disappears around the side of the truck again.  Setting the blade under my seat, I can hear the old man get in, restart the vehicle, and resume our trip.  “Thanks, for saving me back there.  I was in no shape to fight today, and if naught for you, I don’t know where we’d be now.  But, I have to say, you aren’t at all what you appear to be.  I’ll be keeping an eye on you”, she says to me but appears to be teasing me with that remark judging from the smile on her face.  We both look out to the road stretching out behind us and wonder what this new, and strange journey will bring us.

To be continued…