Like an uprooted daisy, your heart feels detached and unsecured by the upheaval. Mind twisting in strange emotions bound by the gentle coldness of the serpents coil of air gusts. The noose-tied heart in your chest burns with an uneasy anxiety that makes your stomach feel simultaneously hot and cold. It feels like the winter herself is flowing through your veins and coursing you with a chilling burn like swallowing a methylated substance. But strangely as well, it’s not like death by poison, but rebirth by fire as a burning sensation in your belly that is both hot and cold at the same time. It hurts and feels pleasurable, and confusing. As your heart tosses in the drifts of this strange new sensation, you stare off into the speckling cosmos of the fleeting dusk-light and gaze into eternity as a reborn being of unknown cause or effect. Deeply burning, you feel yourself being sucked in by the growing, sparkling abyss before you when suddenly a hand on your shoulder draws you back.
Aurelia’s hand and arm across my chest are the only thing stopping me from walking out the back of the truck. Reeled back to my senses I stare at Aurelia in a daze. I feel aback by the strange sensations, and I’m having trouble controlling my own senses. Aurelia pushes me back to the bench, and then gets very wide eyed as the electric lamp shines in my eyes. “Papa… PAPA!… Anna is hypercyanic! How far from town are we?!”, she shouts at the driver’s seat. Fitz says back through the opening, “About a second thirds of a hammas, Aure-dear. What’s going on.” Aurelia gets really flustered and shouts back, “She’s going hypercyanic, Daddy!” The vehicle veers a little then straightens as a the shock of her statements hits Mr. Prump. “Flattas!”, Mr. Prump curses from the front seat, “Keep an eye on the load, Aurelia! I’m going to floor it!” I feel a sudden burst of acceleration from the truck but my equilibrium makes it feel really strange. I feel disorientated, almost severely medicated. My vision is blurry and I’m having trouble just understanding what is happening to me. That burning in my belly is spreading through my arms, and extremities. I look down at my fingernails and they’ve grown about a quarter of an inch since this morning, and they are cyan colored, and glowing slightly. I look and see my hair out of the corner of my eye and it is also turning blue, but not glowing as my fingernails are.
“Aure… lia… Wha… What’s happen…ing… To me?”, I ask her with difficulties and shuddering as if I was suffering from hypothermia or in shock. She pulls off her jacket and puts her jacket around me to keep me warm, while also laying me back on the bench. “Shhh, just lay down sweetheart… You’ll be fine”, she says to me but somehow I’m not at ease by it. The cold burning in my body and veins is now at an all time peak, and I ‘eek’ out a bit in pain. Moaning and squirming a bit, Aurelia pulls flat safety belts from behind the bench over me and fastens them around me as I lay there. Reaching under the bench (which does have minimal padding on it), she pulls out a pillow and a blanket. She stuffs the blanket around me and puts the pillow under my head.
Calmly and gently she lifts me up to tuck the blanket in. By this point I’m starting to feel warmer, but my equilibrium is completely fucked. I feel as if I’m inclined almost upside down, though all my senses tell me I’m laying flat in the bed. I look at my fingers again and my fingernails have grown by another 8th and inch. Aurelia shoves my arms back under the blanket while now crouched next to my bench. I turn to my side a bit, and curl up into a ball a bit.
“Wha…t’s go…ing… on”, I say to her.
“Just stay put. I don’t understand why, but your undergoing hypercyanosis. It’s caused when the spiritabon in your blood reaches levels that causes toxicity, and it acts like a poison. The thing is that you’ve consumed relatively little of it in the past day or so, and you used a great deal of power earlier, so I don’t understand why you’re bluing so badly. This makes no sense. Right now, you just need to stay like that and keep you warm till we can get you into a warm cyan bath. A bath made by pouring effervescent spiritabon salts into a hot bath. It returns circulation, vivabon absorption, and eases cyanic cooling. Which is why we need to get you to town as soon as possible. DADDY! How long?”, she explains, shouting to her father at the end. I look up towards the cab and hear Fitz, “I can see the lights just over the hill, we’re almost there.” I feel lethargic and my perception of time is very skewed. Laying there, it feels as though my equilibrium just floats about. I can feel the perturbations of the road make my body weightless for moments at a time at the speed we are traveling. Eventually I can see powered street lamps streaking by, and I’m noticing some photo scotopia. The lights just seem too bright, and the passing lights streak my visual field with after-images.
I feel the vehicle slow, as it comes to a stop by some old Gothic brick building. I see Fitz face come around the side of the truck, “Get her unfastened. Quickly, quickly!”, he commands. Aurelia quickly undoes the buckles and lifts me up handing my limp, cold, blanket-clad body to Fitz who cradles me in his arms and begins walking towards a doorway into the building. Aurelia proceeds ahead of Fitz into the building where she shouts, “W’ronné, we need a hot-blue, and quickly.” My vision is even more blurry and I can barely hold up my head. The strangely feminine looking, bearded person at the bar hands Aurelia a flask with bluish salts in it as she walks by. W’ronne shouts at Aurelia, “You’re going to owe me double this time. By the way, darlin’ the pompa is already hot, all yas has ta do is pour it on. And them salts ain’t cheap either!” W’ronne has an androgynous voice, and I can’t tell if it’s male or female in any sort of way. My vision jerks about as Fitz briskly carries me down the stairs into a stone brick walled basement bathhouse. Aurelia, who’d proceeded a head of us, is pouring the salts into the water which glows for a moment as they dilute into it. Aurelia hikes up her skirt and pulls ties from under to keep it around her waist a bit.
She walks down the steps into the bath which is mid-thigh deep and stirs the water causing phosphor like glowing where ever she waves her hand. “Hand her to me, Daddy!”, she commands and Fitz who lowers me into her arms while pulling away the blanket. Still fully clad, she lowers me into the bath and immediately I feel pain like electricity shooting through my back into the water, and I can ear electrical discharges. I let out a distinct moan in pain, and Aurelia continues to lower me into the bath, and as the warmth hits me more and more, and permeates my clothes she relaxes her grip as the water begins to more support my weight. The burning in my chest begins you subside as my body absorbs the heat from the water, and the strange salts cause mild electrical shock.
Now floating in the bath, still in pain from the cold burn inside me, Aurelia is holding my head gently above the surface. The pain now subsiding, my body is overcome with extreme weakness. I’m at Aurelia’s mercy now. My vision clears more and I am not completely relaxed, though barely able to move on my own power. Aurelia gives Fitz the ‘it’s time for you to leave’ face, and he speaks, “Well, I’m going to secure our room and board for the night, Ladies. If you need anything, come and get W’ronne. I’ll be in the bar.” He wraps the blanket up with his arms, and walks up the stairs closing the door at the top behind him.
I glance back up at Aurelia who stares down at me and shakes her head, “Helpless as a little baby, you are.” She smiles gently at me. She begins to disrobe me in the water, made slightly slippery by the salts. I begin to try to say ‘wait’, but trying to talk makes me feel like I’m going to pass out. She unbuttons, my top and pulls it away, then does the same with my bra causing my breasts to grow more firm from the fabric being tugged across them. I can’t believe I’m so weak that I can barely speak, and too weak to cover my own body. “Wait”, I irk out so softly that she just goes, “Hmm? Just relax, I need to get you out of these garments as soon as possible.” She continues, and takes off my shoes and socks throwing them out of the water like she did with my top. I take a few deep breaths, and finally get out a noticeably audible stop as she slides her hand down under the waistline of my skirt to pull them off. But, alas, it’s too late to stop her… She now knows what I was afraid to tell anyone. Her hand was now hovering over my genitals, and in sufficient contact that she may have stopped there completely without my command. She looks shocked, feeling my unfortunately phallic genitals, and I feel a sense of shock, anxiety, shame and fear overtake me. She looks back up at my face from her hand, and says “Oh.” The most awkward way anyone could have found out about what I am you could imagine. I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety as she retracts her hand, and sets me onto a submerged bench in a sitting position. She grabs my skirt and gently pulls it down my legs and off my body and throws it over her shoulder. “Well… That was interesting”, she says then walks up the steps and out of the bath.
“Will you be okay sitting there like that for a second?”, she asks me. I just nod as anxious terror as stolen my speech. I look down at my crotch and cry a little, and entertain my fears as I wonder what the response will be to my phenotypically hermaphroditic body. I look female in every way, as far as the world I’m from is concerned, but I have male genitals. I know nothing about this world, and already my secret is known to someone through no intention of theirs to find out, or mine to explicitly state it. I fear of death, and panic races through my mind, as my pulse begins to race, and adrenaline revives my once weakened body ever so slightly.
She walks up the stairs, and closes the door. I wait there for what feels like eons, in terror that seemed to go on forever, though it may have only been 1 minute. I hear the door open again, and the sounds of a different set of footsteps comes down the. W’ronne is coming down the steps, and they say to me, “Well, sweetie, you don’t need to worry about me. Aure, was just a little flustered, so she went up to her room. But in her stead she asked me to help you bathe and recover. By the way, my name is W’ronne. But most of my matrons call me Nene. You can do the same.” They tie up their skirt and it’s at this time that I can tell, aside from the beard, that this person is mostly female. She seems to be trying to comfort me, and seems to be talking now in a voice that is distinctly female. She begins to disrobe to get into the bath, but there seems to be a very purposeful nature to the gesture. She tosses down the overdress, and then pulls the straps of the under-dress off her shoulders revealing an elegant bodice beneath it. She reaches behind her and unlaces the bodice revealing her body is not unlike mine. I breathe out a little sign of relief.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost, baby? Are you okay now? I don’t know where you’re from, but Aure saw the terror in your eyes when she found out. She didn’t know what else to do, so she asked for my administration on this matter”, Nene says to me. “I’m scared. I… Hadn’t told her about me. That was the first time she found out”, I say to Nene.
Nene walks into the bath and I’m now a bit uneasy. Her body is very attractive, belied by the garments she wore beforehand as the apparent owner of this establishment. On both cheeks of her face, there is two tiny blue tattoos, just under the outer corners or her eyes. The beard is jarring, but she has very delicate, but also androgynous features. She walks up to me with her long hair draped over her breasts as she looks at me how a mother might, “I don’t know where you’ve been, but it’s clear you were afraid for anyone to find out about you. I’ve heard of sects outside the Octolindt that shun all forms of sprightliness, and anyone who represents power in our system. I’ve even heard of them burning spirit users at the stake as witches. Frightful bunch, but they are a stunning minority in Varevia. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were from such a frightful place, but then we’ve just come to know each other.” She lifts me up to make room for her to sit next to me. She may have the body of a woman, but she has a very strong physique not unlike Vic back in my world. “So, I’m afraid I’m a bit confused by what you’re telling me”, I say to her as she sits next to me.
“Well, it’s simple, darlin’, yas have nothin’ to fear from me. Heck, I’m spritely amused that you’d come to my rundown little chunk of real estate. But, it would appear ya aren’t registered, and you seem a ‘ight bit bashful to go ’bout flashing your glory for all a world to see. Either way, I’m happy to have a sister stayin’ in my abode tonight. I ain’t like them up-class joints who has ‘eir own houses to stay in. I live where’s I work”, she adds.
“Now I’m even more confused… Why would I go around flashing people to begin with?”, I say to her clearly bemused.
She giggles at me heartily, “‘Ere’s no one ’round here like them bunch, so ya don’t have to worry. Is all I’m sayin’.”
“Thanks”, I say to her meekly. As the adrenaline in my system slowly diminishes, I start to feel the fatigue of my condition again. Nene turns my back too her and from the central seating pillar in the bath she pulls down a bucket. She quickly douses the bucket into the water and dumps it onto my head making my vision blurry for a moment. Clearing the water from my eyes I notice that my fingernails are no longer glowing, nor is my hair a blue color. By this point my fingernails are nearly half an inch long. “So, what happened to me? I’ve never experienced anything like that”, I inquire to Nene. “Well, we call it hypercyanosis, or cold bluing. It happens when your body is unable to cope with the amount of spiritabon in your system. Generally speakin’, lass, it’s quite uncommon in anyone who isn’t a freja”, she explains.
“People go from near absolu’e tolerance of the substance, t’none a’ all. ‘Cordin’ to Fitzy, yas had your first taste a paruha an aftnight ago. Paruha can be rather toxic if you’ve ne’er have it before”, she adds
“That stuff knocked me on my butt quite fast, I’d have to say. I’ve never had anything that had such an immediate impact on me. Hell, the whole world looked different”, I respond crumpling my brow recollecting it. “Soun’s like ya first time was a rather doozy. Well, if yas goin’ to sit in ‘ere then ya mights well bathe. Alas, I guess I’ll have to helps yas. Just hold still, lass. Not like ya really has a choice”, she says while grabbing something of the stone ledge next to me that looks like soap. Also grabbing a brush I can hear her lathering the brush. She takes the brush to my skin and it tingled strangely, but is fairly non-abrasive. “Where I’m from… Well… It’s not like I know where here is, compared to where I’m from. But, this place is strange and new for me. I am at a loss as to how things work here. It sort of defies my conventions about everything I thought I knew. Like, people have blue blood… And I picked up a 7 foot long sword and swung it around like it was nearly weightless. And I get sick, and find myself in the state I am now. With a beautifully bearded lady scrubbing my back… It’s a little too much”, I say to her nervously, leaning against her grip in my weakness while she scrubs my back and then begins to lather her hands to wash my hair.
“Well, lass, I’ll take ‘at as a complement. Fact, I mays well give you duly special treatment”, she says back to me. As she shampoos my hair I fall back against her a bit, to the point I can feel her fairly large breasts against my back. The sensation makes me a little nervous has her gentle soaped bosom is sort of slippery, but at the same time I find it sort of relaxing. “Close ya eyes, darlin’, don’ want yas gettin’ soap in ya eyes”, she says as I close my eyes and relax myself against her even more. I feel the fight in me to stay conscious draining fast, and as I pass out I can feel her completely wrap her arms around me to keep me from sinking into the tub.
I don’t know how long I slept, but in my brain I could hear speaking that sounded like little more than murmuring. As I come to the murmuring taste the shape of an angry Aurelia arguing with Fitz, and it seems to be about me. The anxiety sets into my chest as soon as I hear their bickering, Aurelia shouting “Serpent’s damnation, DADDY!”, and I lift myself off the bed to take a look. I nervously creep towards the door, which flies open suddenly as I approach it because of a wet garment being thrown at it. Fitz has his hand on his forehead scratching trying to calm Aurelia. “Aure, sweetheart, ‘is ain’t a big deal. The poor girl just got here, tis not like she’s had much time an’ to be honest, she’s had a roughen”, Fitz pleads with Aurelia. She is comforted naught by his statements as is clear in her exasperated tone. “Daddy, we’re sitting in W’ronne’s Bar, just like always when we come to town, and while I don’t spite Nene one bit, you know this part of town gives me frightful feelings. If she’d just told us she was… that she was that beforehand we’d would’ve been across town somewhere, likely sipping on Tolce instead of bottom shelf bartea that taste like it’s grown from the sole of my shoe… And don’t go defending her, I… uuhhh ha…..(She turns and sees me and stops immediately turning a notable shade of red)… Sorry, I… Uh… Didn’t see you there. You should be really still be laying down”, Aurelia finishes her rant, clearly embarrassed. Fitz shakes his head and then takes a seat in an armchair, “Sweetheart, I doubt she could sleep wit all the racket.” Aurelia turns to me and bows, saying “I’m sorry. But, why didn’t you tell us before hand?”
“How could I have? I mean… It’s a tough thing to tell a person, you know?”, I say to her to which she responds with confusion. “Why would you have difficulty sharing that? What’s wrong with being a tradei?”, she inquires as if I’m being unreasonable. “Uh… What?”, I say to her utterly bewildered by her response. “Tradei… A person who is neither male nor female, who is either both, neither, or has gone from one to the other. What planet are you from, Anna?”, she asks growing more and more annoyed with me it seems. I take a deep breath and begin again, “Where I’m from, what I am is not acceptable, and not endorsed. People like me are even killed for being what I am.” Aurelia goes pale and then takes a seat on the arm of the chair that Fitz is sitting on. He pushes her off and she then sits on the sofa next to it in this strangely Victorian inn suite. “You’re from Yiratus Island then, I presume”, she begins to speak appearing much calmer now, “I’ve heard about such things happening there, and in fact, the antama, aranma and freja rule that place with a sprite fist. The antamic and aranmic peoples of those lands torment, imprison, and generally mistreat bintamic and ranmic people.”
I stare on at Aurelia in confusion, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never been to this island, and I have no frame of reference in your statements other than freja. What exactly are these groups of people?”
Aurelia stops and takes a breath placing her face in her hands for a moment then sitting back. She begins again, “I’m a binatamic aranmic woman. This means I’m attracted to women, men, tradei, fratrei, donei, and so forth. Antamic people are a very low social order minority of people who are only attracted to the opposite sexes, and only those who are aranmic as well. You are ranmic, and I am aranmic. I’ve been the same gender my whole life, and am content to remain that way. However, not everyone does. Most people are bintamic, and a sizable amount of people are somewhere between partially and fully ranmic. Also, there seems to be a link between a person’s sprightliness and their degree of ranmic, bintamic tendency. Generally this is attributed to fluid thinking, or the ability to envision one’s self as being more dynamic, and malleable. However, we know it’s at least partially genetic and it afluences someone’s ‘tendencies’. That malleable thinking allows a person to put more and more of their will into spiritus, and thusly increases their ability to manipulate spiritabon. In our culture and everything, and I mean everything in the most fixed sense, depends on your ability to use Sipria, or any device made from and powered by spiritabon.” Fitz sighs as if he is bored, “Always have ta explain everything as if ya were a Skeptologist. She can’t be from so far away that she doesn’t know some of this. Right?” He looks at me as if he is unsure about that last statement now. “I really don’t know any of this. The world I’m from is nothing like this. Everything is totally new to me”, I say staring directly at Dr. Prump. He looks a little either confused, annoyed, baffled, or a combination therein, “Ye must be from far away ‘en.”
Aurelia seems to be perplexed and intrigued by my support of her. “But, I don’t understand what all this has to do with me”, I say directly to Aurelia. “Well, Anna, it’s quite simple really. Your ability to work, as well as your worth and capacity is derived strongly from the currency you hold in the form of your ability to use spiritabon, and the amount of work you can do with it. Our currency is made of spiritabon, and only certain types of users can produce currency from the raw substance that can be used or carried by the average member of society. And as you’d guessed, freja are unable to carry this currency, or only very small amounts of it. While currency making decreases it’s weight and apparent density, it’s still quite heavy to a person without the vitapermean that grants the trait. Tepto-2 is the vitapermean which we discovered that infers a protomobius that acts as a catalyst to allow you to use spiritabon using only physical energy and thought”, Anna explains then grows annoyed at the end as me and Fitz stare at each other in utter confusion.
“Ight quite enjoy your dissertation, but we needs to get our tab settled before aftnight, an’ we ain’t had much sus’nance other than your basket all day. An’ no ‘fense against yer cookin’, Aure-darlin’, but day old bread an’ soup ain’t ‘xactly satiatin’. Aurelia stands up and violently shin-kicks Fitz, hard enough that he pulls his leg and cups his aching shin with his hands. Arms crossed, she stands in front of, but facing away from Fitz with an angry grimace on her face. Her face transforms into a ‘now that that’s dealt with’ face she turns to me, “Well, lest head down, settle our tab, and thank Nene for her kindness in the baths earlier. Shall we?”
“Oh but first, let’s get you some dry, and appropriate garments”, she says while tugging me back into the bedroom where I was laying previously. This is the first time I had time to notice I was wearing a bathrobe this whole time. She flicks an electrical arc at the metal plate by the door turning on the overhead light and fan, while also closing the door behind us. Already laid out on the beds where sets of evening/sleepwear. They look similar to the gowns I wore last night, except the underwear part is like a sleeveless, shaping unitard made of something that resembles cashmere. The gown and overgown are a lot more ruffly, formal and cutesy than the ones I wore at Aurelia’s house. On the floor by the bed there is a pair of lace up shoe/sock hybrids that look to be high calf in length. They are like socks with laces and a bit of rubber affixed to the bottom. “Well, get dressed quickly, the food side of the bar will only be opened about another hamma or so. You’re still a little unsteady, so I’ll keep an eye on you. Go go”, she gently commands. I just look at her, still strangely uneasy about getting dressed in front of her. “Fine, I’ll look away”, she says getting a little annoyed again. I take off the robe, and quickly get dressed. Though the outfit has some definitive elasticity in the cinched waistline, overall it’s incredibly secure feeling, and even has built-in shaping girdle in it to keep ‘certain other things’ nicely in place. “I take it Nene picked this out for me?”, I asked her.
“How’d you guess?”, she asks in response to which I reply, “Just intuition, that’s all.”
“Hmmm. Interesting”, she says.
“Anyhow, you done yet”, she says as she turns around just as I’m pulling the overgown down and into place. The skirt on it is notably shorter than I’d like, but it’s cute enough that it’s a forgivable offense. But, I feel uneasy in really short skirts, dresses or gowns. I look at Aurelia and notice she is already dressed in a similar outfit, but in different colors and patterns. “Wait, isn’t this sleepwear? We’re going to wear this down to the bar?”, I say to Aurelia with concern in my voice. “Yes, yes… It’s not a strange thing, you’ll get used to it. Can we go now?”, she says to me with a firm and impatient air to it. “Yes”, I say, and as I do she grabs me around the arm, locking arms with me we walk out of the bedroom. In the living room now, Fitz says to us, “Well, you ladies head on down, and I’ll lock the suite behind me.” We walk out the doorway, with Aurelia pulling me out by my hand before locking arms again. She leans into me a little, “He just doesn’t want me to see him limping down the hall from that kick I gave him.” She giggles quietly so only I can hear him. As we walk down the hallway, past several other suites, the light scent of paruha, other spirits, and vanilla flavored cigarillos bellows invisibly into our faces from down the stairs of the end of this short hall.
As we descend them we can see the lighting levels had changed from earlier, and it felt more like a bar/lounge than before. Aurelia lets go of my arm and moves around to the left side of me, as if to go to the truck/trailer. But that wasn’t as much what caught my attention. Nene was standing there in an elegant dress, completely clean-shaven. Aurelia stops dead in her tracks upon seeing her and walks backwards towards me while saying, “What in serpent’s…”. There is ambient, multicolored light coming up from the floor behind the bar, and the lighting gives the feeling of a ball room melded with a modern lounge. From behind us, Fitz emerges placing one hand on each of our shoulders, “Com’on girls, seems she’s celebratin’ our return to Varevia. We should live it up, even if fer only one forenight.” Fitz chuckles and walks us up to the bar. Aurelia seems resistant to the as seems to resist Fitz a bit.
“Fitzy, yas goin’ to settle up ya tab now, eh?”, the now quite stunning Nene says.
“Ight believe I might, lass”, he chuckles. Nene reaches under the counter, and Fitz starts to panic and reach for the photo. Nene escapes his grasp and taunts him by saying, “Well, where’s ever did yas get this photo… By serpent’s belt, I wonder.” She strokes her chin while grinning tauntingly at Fitz, who suddenly slumps over and takes a seat on a bar stool. “Fine, Nene. You win”, he chagrins, “Give me a moment.” He gets up and walks to the trailer out in front of the bar. Aurelia presses herself to the bar to get as close to Nene as possible, “So, Nene, what is that photo about anyways… You always get Daddy to settle his tab with it, so what gives… Woman to woman? Eh? So what says you?”
“As if I’d give up me leverage so easily, lass. You’ll has to pay me dearly or pry it out me cold death fingers to get it, I’m sayin'”, she says to Aurelia who plops down on to a bar stool with arms and legs folded, looking frustrated.
Nene smiles wildly and pulls out a tall glass container of a brown fluid, which is secured by a metal clasp and a wide lipped cork stopper. Aurelia immediately unfolds her legs, and relaxes her arms a little while still folding them, with a stunned and intrigued face on.
“Is that what I think it is, Nene?”, she inquires to her.
“Wha’d yas think, lass. What kinda bumpkin barkeeper don’ know her barteas. An’ when weres the last time you saw a tea in one ‘ese bot’les”, Nene says with a smirk of confidence knowing she’s won her over already. Aurelia unfolds her arms and scoots the bar stool up, and examines the bartea bottle closely. On the side the bottle has a gold embellished label that says what appears to be “Tolce” like a brand.
Leaning back, and sitting up very straight and proper she clears her throat into her balled fist, “I’ll take one Tolce, please.” She crosses her legs again, and places her hands on her lap with eyes closed waiting to be served this beverage. Nene lets out a light chuckle, and unfastens the metal clasp then the cork, and begins to pour. The substance turns a greenish brown after being poured over the ice-cube that Nene put in the glass. Nene glances over at me for a moment, then makes a warm but suggestive smile before putting a second glass down and doing the same. Aurelia opens one eye and presses her lips together peculiarly when seeing the second glass then closes them again. The bottom of the flask that Nene poured from has the little seedlings growing in it, but they look significantly more grown than the ones in regular bartea, and also pickled in the substance. I can only assume at this point that it’s a fine, branded version of bartea. Nene motions me to approach the bar and have a seat, as she sets the glasses in front of the Aurelia and the bar stool to her immediate right. Aurelia opens her eyes and picks it up as Nene watches her with arms folded, and a still confident smirk. She takes first one sip, then two… She seems to be thinking about the taste, then suddenly she chugs the rest and slaps the glass back down on the bar. Nene laughs and pours her another, then refastens the cork and metal clasp to the bottle/jar.
She now turns her attention to me, and she walks directly across the bar from me. She scoots the glass closer to me, leans over the bar, and rests her face on her elbow and hand. “You goin’ try it, baby?”, she says to me. “Well, if it’s good enough for her, then it’s good enough for me”, I say to Nene. I pick up the glass and notice that the liquid is brown again until my movement of the glass causes the single, large, irregularly round ice to list in the substance. As the cold water of the melting ice in it touches the substance it causes the brownish liquid to take on a greenish hue, before returning to brown.
I put my face up to the edge of the glass and it smells almost exactly like spearmint tea with a touch of alcohol to it. Taking a sip, it tastes almost exactly as I’d expect, accept it’s missing the “metallic bite” that I remember from the paruha last night. Again, like most things in this world, it’s only similar, but not identical to things I’ve tasted before. I begin to drink it, rather than sip it. Nene smiles and leans a little bit more forward, until I have a rather interesting view of her cleavage. I have begun to think she is doing this purposefully and that makes me nervous. I don’t know her, and I have yet to, in any way, think of her as anything other than the owner of this establishment, and the woman who helped me in my time of need. Her behavior and body language appear to be suggesting interest, on some small level, in me. “Well, sweetie, I hope yas enjoy them there spirits I gave ya. Ain’t got any spiritabon in ’em, ye trust thee there. ‘Signed and created back last war fer the general populace. An’ everyone, from the chap ina’ corner to ya sitting ‘ight if fronna me. Spiritabon is filtered out so any one can drink. Enjoy, lass, ‘ats the finest we got”, Nene says to me with a confident tone.
“But, if I’d bin knowin’ both yas was comin’, ‘ighta bin stockt wit’ more an’ two bot’les”, Nene continues while glancing over at Aurelia who is still sipping and enjoying her second glass.
“If yas didn’t be knowin’, all barteas have thinile. ‘At makes Tolce different is ‘at it’s grown in sunlight fineries, ‘ere they lets ’em bartle plants inside grow for a few evolutions. Aye, an’ a best Tolce flowers 3 times ‘fore it is stored and sold”, Nene explains to me.
I look at the decanter of Tolce, and notice the process of which she referred. The plants inside look pickled, from not being in the sun, and growing anymore,and the petals of the flowers look like liquid saturated tea grounds at the bottom of it. Much like the earlier bartea I’d had, there is a spongy growing pad affixed to the bottom which the plants rooted to. I finish my glass, and already I’ve begun to notice the alcohol-like feeling the substance is imbued with. I take it “thinile” is likely ethanol. Fitz returns with one of the blades from the trailer, and holds it over the bar. “Aye, babe, you know I ain’t be takin’ raw blades of spiritabon in me fine establishment”, Nene says to him while walking to wipe the bar under the blade Fitz is holding.
“Jest gimme an armas, Nene, stop bein’ so impatient”, Fitz says. He holds the sword with both hands how, and closes his eyes. He seems to be concentrating, but on what I don’t know. Suddenly the surface of the metal starts to look like it’s melting, and bubbling up a little bit. As the metal heats, it turns blue, instead of red. I blob of molten metal falls to the table and forms into a unminted coin. Suddenly the entire mass of the blade begins to turn to slag, and then to coin and fall to the bar into a pile of silvery blue coins, with nothing printed on them. Some of the slag just forms tiny, aluminum-foil-like shards, or almost glitter like, and all that’s left is the handle and a small amount of metal attached to the handle. Fitz opens his eyes and looks a little disappointed. He now holding the handle with the little bit of metal blade left with both hands on the handle, he begins to concentrate again. Slowly the metal all melts and begins to form into some sort of dagger with a metal scabbard. He twists and turns his head, as blue energy and electrical arcs begin to etch elaborate designs into the hilt, scabbard and newly forming hand guard. Strange bluish to greenish gems begin to bubble up to its surface, encrusting the very beautiful engravings. Now shooting off sparks like a plasma global, he uses energy to remove the remaining slag, and jagged edges from the dagger.
“‘Ight ‘magine he’s done. Beautiful piece, ain’t he?”, Fitz says proudly handing the dagger to Nene.
“I’ll be the judge of that”, Nene says in her blended country/Irish sounding accent.
She looks it over, as if inspecting it. She runs her finger across the surface, then rubs her two fingers together to see if there is any residue on them. From her cleavage, she pulls a part of square, silver framed spectacles and puts them on to give a closer look. From above the normal lenses, she flips down a tiny pair of magnifiers, like on a pair of jewelers glasses. She firmly grabs the hilt and scabbard to begin to pull them apart. She seems surprised when they slide apart with buttery smoothness. The blade is very elegant as well, with a very Arabic like design. It’s incredibly shiny and smooth as well. Nene seems satisfied, and with a nod she sheathes it.
“Fine work, as always babe. An’ I suppose ya want me to set’le yas tab from ‘is an’ a forenight or so ago?”, Nene inquires to Fitz. “I recon’ that’ll be enough to satisfy ya, Nene. If I owes ya more an’ ‘at, ‘en just lemme know. M’kay”, Fits responds. “I believe it’ll be enough. An’ ya know I’m not a sort ta squabble about a pence’r two. Yas always were one a the finest spiritus crafters around ‘ese zona. Why don’t ya take a seat, Fitz. Bin a while since ya ran ’bout last, eh?”, Nene says while turning back to the bar and grabbing some other sort of spirit that is sealed with a cork in a wooden, small, bottle-shaped barrel. Nene shoves a small blade into the cork and pops it out, then sets it in front of Fitz who takes a generous swig. “Aye, not ‘ats the stuff. Not ‘eir finest tepest, but always hits the spot. Gimme another, an’ a glass to pour them”, Fitz says joyously. Nene set down another bottle with a cork knife sticking out of it and a glass beer mug. He pours out the remaining contents of the first bottle, and the liquid looks like a purple beer. “Why don’t ya ladies come o’er to a booth wit’ me”, Mr. Prump adds. I just shrug and look at Aurelia, who is having Nene pour her another Tolce before she goes to the booth herself. As I slide into the booth, I can feel the cold leather of the seats chilling my thighs, and I lose myself to thinking about familiarity, and strangeness, and trying to remember what my life was like before all of this…
To Be Continued…