Ugh, my back! It feels like I’ve been sleeping on a… huh. I am sleeping on a rock. How’d that happen? And a sheet made of pebbles? Ow.
It’s nice and soft on top of me, though… aww crap. Another nymph?
Something felt wrong, but I was only half-awake. The sounds of the forest around me sounded subtly wrong, as if all the expected sounds were there, but my ears weren’t quite…
I reached up groggily, feeling around. My hand brushed against something hard and rough nearby, and I couldn’t reach out too far or I’d scrape my hand on it. Then my fingers felt the nymph’s hair, my cheek, my hairline… no ear!
That shocked me fully awake. I felt higher, up on top of my head. Cat ears. Gah! Then that was no nymph… how in the world had I fallen asleep, naked, on a stone out in the middle of the forest, with Sarah, without my ring?!?
…where’s my ring?
Then it came back to me, all at once. The ring had been in my trousers, and they were gone now destroyed right before…
We did what?!?
I tried to sit up all of a sudden, push her off of me. Her body got caught against something solid, and I felt something tug at my arm, almost as if we were tied together!
Her eyes opened. She looked down at me, then smiled. “Good morning,” Sarah purred. Literally; I felt her abdomen vibrating subtly. “Mmmm…” She turned her head and gave me a soft, tender kiss on the lips.
OK, deal with the amorous naked catgirl later. Right now, independent movement is the most pressing concern. Especially since I had just woken up and I had to pee. “Sarah!” I whispered urgently. “I don’t know what’s going on, but we’re tied together or something.”
She wiggled a little, which was very distracting, especially in my current state. Whatever-it-was tugged at my back and shoulders, giving a very soft, subtle rattling sound. It was still too dark to see what was going on; I could just barely make out Sarah’s face, inches from my own.
Then she gasped with sudden realization. “Dragon scales!” she giggled. “From our hides yesterday. They’re all wrapped around us, sealed tight, except up top where our heads are.”
OK, shedding our skin when we changed I could sort of understand. Maybe the dragon form was special like that. And having it be open at the top, sure, that’s how snakes did it. But having mine and hers split open in front–because I could clearly feel her skin against mine–and merge together into some sort of… sleeping bag shape? “That doesn’t even make any sense,” I said.
“Maybe one of us wanted a nice, warm blanket while we were changing back?”
Whatever. It was as good a theory as any. “Ngh. I wish whoever it was had wanted a nice, warm, soft blanket! Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Sarah frowned a little, and nuzzled against me. “Can’t we stay here where it’s nice and cozy for a little longer?”
She leaned in and tried to kiss me again. I grumbled and turned my head to the side. “Sarah, I’m laying on hard dragon scales, over a stone, and I’ve got the weight of another person pushing me against it. You may find this cozy and comfortable, but my back and my head beg to differ. Plus, I have to pee, so let’s get up.”
I made a face. “It’ll be a lot grosser in five minutes or so if we don’t get out of here…” I could hold it, of course, but I wanted to instill some sense of urgency in her, before the warm softness of her body got to feeling too good. I’ve got a lot of self-control, most of the time, but I am still a guy.
She wiggled a little more, then shook her head. “This is too tight.” She closed her eyes. “Dol tosat!”
My skin tingled, and she moaned, and not in a happy, pleasurable way. Not sure what the Twist did to her, but it sounded mildly painful.
“…seriously?” I muttered. “Conjure your way out of being pressed against me?”
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “Force of habit.”
“There’s enough room to move,” I said, “but just barely. I’m basically pinned down, but I think you could get free first.”
She nodded. “Well, I’ll try.” And then she did. It took a few minutes, but it worked. Having her slowly crawl up and out over me in the tight, enclosed space was… an interesting experience. That’s all I’ll say on the subject.
Once she was free, I climbed out and went around behind the nearest tree to relieve myself. “So now what?” I asked. “We’re stranded out here in the middle of nowhere, no horses, no clothes, no food, no–” She walked around the tree, wearing a sky-blue blouse and a bright yellow skirt, with a hole in the back for her tail. “Where did you get those clothes?” Come to think of it, I hadn’t actually seen her hauling around her big heavy trunk of clothes for every occasion. Where was she getting them? “And turn around; don’t look at me. I’m naked.”
She giggled salaciously. “I can see that!” But she did turn around, at least. “I got the clothes out of my bag.”
Well, that makes about as much sense as anything else lately. “Do I even want to ask?”
She held up a simple canvas bag, about half the size of my pack, which dragon-me had apparently abandoned a couple hundred miles away. There’s no way it could store much in the way of clothing. “Mom came up with the idea. It fits a lot more than you would think, and stuff inside doesn’t make the bag as heavy as it should be.”
…what. “Are you telling me that your mom actually invented a Bag of Holding?”
Sarah giggled. “That’s a pretty good name! She just calls it a travel bag. It takes a horrendous amount of magical energy to keep the enchantment running, so I don’t use it very often, but it really comes in handy when I do need it!”
I hated even having to ask this, but… “I don’t suppose you have anything in there that would fit me?”
She started digging around in the bag. “I have things that fit all different shapes and sizes of me. Let’s see…” After a few moments, she pulled something out and tossed it over her shoulder in my general direction. “This should fit!”
It was a pair of trousers, cut for a woman who was more or less my size, at least around the waist. But it was still Sarah’s, which meant it was kind of baggy around the hips and too tight in the legs, and several inches too short. And it was dyed a sky blue, almost pastel color. But hey, it was better than the alternative, and I wasn’t going to complain… at least I wouldn’t if I didn’t run into a mirror before I found something better-fitting!
It also didn’t have any accommodations for my tail, which meant that something that was essentially an extension of my spine, meant to continue flowing generally downwards, ended up bent upwards once I got the trousers pulled up far enough to be decent. Ow.
“Thanks. You got any belts?” I didn’t want to take my chances with something as ill-fitting as these trousers.
“Right here… oh, belts?” Sarah had been rooting around in the bag some more, and had quite helpfully produced… a blouse. It was very frilly and blouse-y, the same sky-blue as the trousers, with expensive-looking carved ivory buttons up the front. It would probably have looked very nice… on her. But a guy’s gotta have some dignity.
“Yes, a belt. And a shirt, if you can find one. If not, I can go without for a while.”
She turned and looked at me over her shoulder, and I swear she licked her lips just a little. “Nope, no man-shirts here,” she giggled, entirely too cheerfully. “But…” she stuffed the blouse back in the bag, and almost immediately pulled out a belt. “Here you go!”
It was a long strip of tooled leather, with what I can only describe as a cowboy buckle on one end: big and oval-shaped shiny metal. I put it on and felt a little bit more secure in those pants. “All right, that’s better.”
“And… boots, right?” Sarah asked.
“Do I even dare to hope?”
“Hang on.” She leaned against a tree, then pulled her own boots off. “I’ve only got the one pair, but I can fly and you can’t.”
I blinked. “Not to look a gift horse in the mouth or anything, but… will those even fit? My feet are bigger than yours, and ill-fitting footwear can prove more harmful than helpful.”
Sarah nodded. “Come over here.”
I did, wondering what she had in mind. When I came close, she said, “Raise your foot up.” She crouched down a little and held out her hands.
I wasn’t quite sure what she was doing, but I rested my foot in her hands. She slowly ran her fingers over it, tracing the lines and curves, then nodded and let go of my foot. “All right. Now stand back. This next part is tricky.”
Did that mean magic? I stepped away, about twenty feet off, and she stuck her hands in the boots and chanted something-or-other. I was far enough away that I didn’t feel anything from the magic she was working. Then she tossed them over to me. “They should fit now. But stay back, I’ve got one more thing.”
I slid my feet into her boots as she raised her hands over her head, and… wow. She oughtta go into business with that alteration spell of hers; they fit really well! She was making it really hard to be annoyed at her over what happened yesterday!
Whatever she was casting, I felt this one. It sent a shiver up my spine, from the tip of my tail to the base of my neck. “What are you doing?”
“Getting my bearings.” She pointed. “There’s a lot of people, maybe two dozen or so, and a strong magical nexus off that way, maybe two or three miles.”
Yeah, that’s the next point I was about to bring up. “Great. So we’ve made it to the Treasury. Now all we have to do is drop the lute off there…”
She nodded. “Right. Why are you saying that all sarcastically?” She looked confused.
“Well, we’re here. Where’s the lute?”
She turned and pointed. “Right there.” Argh. It was. I just hadn’t looked over that way. “Did you think you’d left that behind too? It followed you the whole way.”
I sighed, my shoulders slumping forward a little. “Well, I lost everything else. My clothes, my ride, the letter I was supposed to deliver–that was in Wyntaf’s saddlebags–my pack with all my gear, my travel rations, my money–”
Sarah’s giggling broke me out of the litany. “Money!”
“Sarah,” I said as calmly as I could, “there’s really nothing funny about having no food, no horse, and no way to purchase either.”
She snorted a little. “What did we wake up in?”
Wow. I hadn’t even thought about that; my mind was too frazzled this morning. She was right, but also very wrong. Yeah, dragon scales were rare and highly sought after by both wizards and armorers–and pretty much by definition we had enough here to cover two people in dragon scale armor–but on the other hand… “Yeah, that’s worth a small fortune to a wizard or an armorer who can afford to trade a small fortune for it. Are there any around here?”
She sighed and shook her head. “I suppose not. But we’re definitely taking that along with us! I’ve got some cash; I’ll cover your expenses and then you can pay me back out of your half when we sell this.” She went over and tried to pick up the scale “sleeping bag”, then grunted a little at the weight. It wasn’t quite as heavy as if it were solid metal, but pretty close. So she used her magic to fold it up a few times, then stuffed it in her bag. I wasn’t sure it would even fit, but apparently it did! “All right, let’s get going.”
She set out in the direction she had indicated, floating up about a foot off the ground. I went over and retrieved the lute, then hustled a little to catch up with her. “OK, I’m not complaining or anything, but I have to wonder. These boots are a perfect fit for me. If you can do that, why didn’t you even try to fix up these trousers?”
“Boots are bulky and solid, full of material,” she explained. “It gives me something to work with. If I tried to reshape cloth that way, it would probably tear it to pieces.” She smiled. “I’m just glad I learned how to do that. Carrying around all those clothes is bad enough, but having to have ten pairs of boots and ten more of nice shoes! Can you even imagine that?”
I fought back the urge to make a snarky comment about girls and shoes. I didn’t know if they even had that stereotype here anyway. “Yeah, I guess that would really suck.”
She stepped closer and tried to take my hand as we walked. I pulled my hand away, and she looked up at me, a bit confused. “What’s wrong?”
“Just… everything!” I said. “The whole ‘let’s turn Paul into a dragon’ thing seemed like a good idea at the time, but it kind of turned out all disastrous, didn’t it?”
She looked even more confused by that. “What do you mean? Sure, you lost a few things that can be replaced, but–”
I cut her off. “I lost my ring, Sarah. You have no idea how precious that ring is to me.” Ugh. That sounds really cliché.
“But Gerald made that, right? He likes you; I’m sure you can get him to make another one. And we saved several days of the journey, and we got to fly like that, which was awesome, and we ended up making love! What’s the disastrous part?”
Hoo boy. Well, I was gonna have to face that sooner or later. Might as well get it over with. “Where to even start? First off, I’m sorry, but there was no love there; we were lost in the dragon instincts–that was nothing more than two mindless beasts in rut. Second, even if you and I understand that… your dad’s still probably going to kill me if he ever finds out. And third…” I took a deep breath. I really didn’t want to have to ask her this, but, “did you know that would happen?”
She looked crestfallen, her lip trembling slightly. “W- what do you mean?”
I sighed. “I have to know.” It was hard to word this without it sounding a lot like something else, but that was kind of what I was wondering anyway. “I’ve been rebuffing your affections at every turn. Did you intentionally get me dragoned, knowing that it would lower my inhibitions, so you could have your way with me?”
Sarah looked horrified as it dawned on her what I was asking. “Paul!” she said, shocked. “How can you even… wait.” She started thinking over what I had said, then she gasped. “You really weren’t in control there?” Suddenly she threw her arms around me, hugging me tight as the tears began to flow. “I’m so sorry! I thought you had finally–oof!” She probably shouldn’t have touched me while flying; the Twist broke her spell and she landed kind of hard on the ground. She yelped and jumped back half a step, almost pulling me off-balance because her arms were around my neck. “Ow!” I looked down, and right where her foot had been was a sharp-looking rock.
“You all right?” I asked.
She sniffled a little, then raised her foot and touched the sole with her hand. Her fingers came back clean, no blood. “I think so. But… oh, I feel so horrible. Here I am, still floating, thinking we had done this wonderful and amazing thing, thinking how wrong everyone was when they said it’s supposed to hurt and be painful and it was nothing but wonderful, thinking I might finally be winning your heart, and you–”
“–wait. Supposed to… Sarah, are you telling me that you’ve never been with a man before?” This just kept getting worse.
“Before… well, before you met me, really, I was… I told you what my parents were like, raising me. And after that, they finally started to loosen up a little and see me as an adult, but then I was like I am now, and who would want someone who might be someone completely different the next day?” She sniffled again. “Apparently not you either!”
Then a chilling thought struck me. “And about that… aren’t you worried now?”
“Worried? Paul, I’m horrified! And crushed! I thought you had–”
“No, I mean about what we did.”
“That’s what I mean!”
I sighed. How to even put this. “Umm… Sarah, you do know where babies come from… right?”
Dead silence. For a few long moments I was totally preparing for the worst. Then she suddenly burst out in an uncontrollable fit of giggles. “Oh! You’re worried about that?”
That was so not the reaction I was expecting. “Umm… yes. Do you know something I don’t? Because you really shouldn’t be laughing like that.”
She just giggled more. At least she stopped crying! “After my transformations began, the first few months were a real nightmare, because on top of everything else, it played all kinds of havoc with my…” she blushed slightly. “You know.”
I was totally lost. “Sorry, I really don’t.”
She blushed even more. “My… feminine cycle?” Oh. Well, I figure it would be a real nightmare even having one of those in the first place, but OK. I nodded, and she continued. “So Mom helped me work out a potion that would calm things down, but at the cost of my fertility. She said I would have to find something else when I wanted children, but for now, that’s not a concern.” Then she snerked a little. “Wow. And we were both dragons. How would that even work? Can you even imagine if I conceived and bore… an egg?” That set off another giggle fit.
“That was exactly what I was imagining, Sarah, and I don’t find it funny.”
She grinned. “And don’t worry about my dad. If he found out, he’d probably say ‘it’s about time!’ Mom’s the one who would be angry.”
Yeah, because that’s so much better. “Why would your dad approve? He was the one who warned me to stay away from you, even if you were coming on to me.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. She stepped back and floated up into the air again, and I started walking. “That was two years ago, Paul, when he still didn’t know you. But why do you think he told me where I’d be most likely to find you? You’ve gained a lot of favor with him; he approves, and I think he was kind of hoping something like this would happen. Except… probably not like this.” She sighed. Then she looked at me strangely. “Wait. Is that why you keep turning me down like that?”
“Well, partially,” I admitted. “But also because…”
“Aylwyn,” she said flatly. I nodded, and she sighed. “And finally seeing her again just made it worse?” Another nod. “I see. And now she’s going to be all mad at you, because I scared her horse?” She blinked a few times, and it looked like she might cry again. “Paul… will you ever be able to forgive me?”
That was a really difficult question, and I had to think about it for a while. “Probably,” I finally admitted. “But right now, things are still all raw.”
She closed her eyes, took a slow, deep breath, and nodded. “All right. I… I’ll try.”
She didn’t say what she’d try to do, but it sort of made sense anyway, in context. And she seemed sincere. I suppose that’s all I could ask for.