Inconsolable Chrysanthemum, Inebriated Cockatrice

by Lurking Wolf

It is generally recognized that you must never become settled into a routine in Metamor Keep, as the strange, random nature of the Keep always seems happy to shake any sense of normalcy as soon as it appears. It is every man's nature, however, to let their guard down if they are given any excuse, and such was the case with watch officer Shane Reuben on his patrol through the streets of Metamor one quiet afternoon.

Though Shane had once been Sherry, he had allowed himself to slowly grow used to his new life, and walked about the Keep whistling and slinging his rather dull sword about like a baton. His shift always seemed quiet, and so he had achieved some small measure of the normalcy all else in the Keep seemed to have lost since the Curse.

That was, of course, until he heard a voice call to him from beside the road.

"Watch! Over here, sir, I require assistance!"

It was a small voice; recognizably male but higher than Shane would have expected. Shane expected an age regressed Keeper, and so lowered his gaze. He found, however, that his gaze fell farther than usual to find the source of the voice.

What first he found was a flower bed, looking quite lovely with the exception of a strange, winding trail of crushed plants through it's midst, accompanied by an equally winding set of clawprints. Shane tisked; his mother would not approve of such disregard for flowers. Before he could return to his routine, however, the voice came again.

"Sir, down here."

Shane's eyes happened across a certain flower, a chrysanthemum, that turned its head towards him. As the voice came again, he could tell that it was the flower speaking, and found that his voice caught in his throat as he tried to speak. Truly, he had seen nothing like this in all his years.

Finally, he managed to speak. "Sir?"

"Yes, it's me, the flower," the voice came again. "Please, there is a criminal on the loose, you must help!"

Shane cleared his throat and looked about before carefully stooping beside the bed. "The Watch is here to help, sir. Um... Can you tell me what it is that happened here?"

"Oh, it was horrible! Some great oaf came through this bed. He tore through everything, and when I tried to stop him, he laughed at me and poured his ale on me!" As if for emphasis, the flower somehow shrugged into petals and let drops of amber liquid drip onto the dirt. "If we little people can't be protected, how can Metamor be safe?"

"Calm down please," Shane said, still not believing he was talking to a flower Keeper. "I'll do whatever I can. Can you... Describe him, at all?"

"I can't see, but my roots feel the ground very well. That's how I knew you were a Watchman."

"You could tell I was from the Watch by feeling the ground?"

"I can't explain it! Still, the creature was some sort of strange reptile, but I also felt feathers. He left through that way," the flower turned its head towards the end of the path through the flowers. "Please, stop him before he hurts anyone else. Also, please avoid the bed for now. I will tend to the other flowers as much as the Curse allows, but I need time to work."

Shane nodded and carefully stepped around the flower bed until he was in the alley the trail led down. He walked down the path, glancing back at the flower Keeper for a moment. Only in Metamor could such scenes be found.

He followed the trail down the alley, which was fortunately somewhat damp because of liquor. His trek was fortunately somewhat short. At the end or the pathway, the trail ended at the tail of a strange creature, who cackled drunkenly as he slumped against a wall. Shane recognized it as a cockatrice; a dragon's body led abruptly to the head of a rooster, one dragon wing pinned between the creature's body and the wall, and the other wrapped around a mug that the creature continually resorted to, only to find it empty. It was still cackling intermittently when Shane arrived.

"Excuse me, sir!"

The Cockatrice turned and saw the watchman. "Hello problem, what seems to be the officer?" He let loose another string of cackles, making Shane unsure whether the switched words were intentional. The smell of the liquor was clear, though, as was Shane's duty.

"Sir, I've had a complaint about your conduct tonight. I'm afraid I need to escort you home for your own safety."

"I'm not as think as you drunk I am!"

Shane rolled his eyes, then averted his gaze as the Cockatrice turned to look at him. "Sir, I have to insist that we get you home. You can either cooperate, or I can take you in for an evening in the dungeons."

"I could just turn you to stone," the Cockatrice commented. He bobbed his head around, trying to make eye contact with the officer.

"I'd rather you didn't, I'm allergic to being stone," Shane offered. The Cockatrice burst out in peals of laughter, apparently amused by Shane's lame attempt at joking.

"I like you, chief. All right, I'll let you take me home. I don't want any trouble."

"Fine. Also, watch any flower beds you come across. I almost had to charge you with manslaughter because of your carelessness."

"Manslaughter? Oh, the flower? Don't worry about him, I know the guy. I just thought he'd like a drink, that's all. The ale was really good tonight."

Shane shook his head. He'd heard everything now, he was sure. Flowers being friends with cockatrices, and cockatrices thinking flowers wanted a drink of ale.

"Whatever," Shane said. "Let's get moving, I'll need to file a report on this, and I'm already getting to the end of my shift."

The escort trip was uneventful, and Shane was able to sign off on a report before his shift was over. Still, he learned his lesson, never to fall into a routine in Metamor. With luck, his memory of that lesson would last at least until the end of the week.

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"Inconsolable Chrysanthemum, Inebriated Cockatrice", copyright Lurking Wolf