October 3rd, 707 CR
I'm sitting on a bench near a fountain, in a secluded corner of the Keep's gardens.
The sun is setting and temperatures decreasing to a more tolerable degree. Although I'm probably the only one to believe the weather hot. Heh, in my diary I even used the word "summery", in late September! My fur with its full developed winter coat is beautiful to look at and would keep me warm enough to sleep in snow. And that's the problem exactly. However, not the only one.
This is the first time in days I'm on my own. No appointments, Dustin is out on patrol, Kiba working and Hiram vanished— not unusual for the solitary fennec. The last few days were a breathless chase through the Keep and back again.
First the grand tour. Dustin said he would go easy with me, because Copernicus' infamous whirlwind-tour would certainly break my mind in two. Well, if that's been "going easy"... I only remember arriving finally in the Deaf Mule, him chipper and all smile, continually introducing me to men and women I forgot the next heartbeat, me exhausted, head spinning.
Don't get me wrong, I'm very fond of Dustin. Besides of being my life saver, he's a great guy and able to raise my mood every time. I'm even living in the apartment of his family, another nice bunch of people. But I felt relieved when Brian Coe ordered my age regressed friend to wait outside and find another amusement for the time of my examination.
The healer had noticed that I was in need of a moment of silence. So he examined me mostly quiet. I suppose he took more time than necessary. My lost memories were the problem after all, and no bodily malfunction.
As expected, he couldn't find a physical reason for my amnesia. My body was— except from the stab wound in my right arm— in immaculate condition. If there were any tattoos, scars or signs of former fractures, they all had vanished during the change. Thus, another potential link to my former self was cut off.
Coe said memories are never entirely gone; they should be still in my head, only inaccessible for the moment. Almost everything could bring them back: pictures, scents, sounds, time. He advised me not to loose patience. They could return in the next blink, or in months or even years.
No one could force it.
Shortly after that, I borrowed a couple of coins from Dustin and bought a small notebook. I can't force my brain, but I can go hunting. I'm hunting the echoes since, writing down everything that comes to my mind. Additionally I'd run from appointment to appointment.
Some when between my first awakening in this new life and the grand tour, I became aware of the fact that, although my mind was blank, my body recalled bits of skills I'd learned once.
Until now I tried my luck in the kitchens, a smithy, the workshop of a crafter, the writers guild, a really weird alchemist, the trainings ground, the archery range and so on.
The results so far are filling a dozen pages in my notebook.
I open it in the middle. There, I summarized my insights in a row of short lines.
- Handwriting bad -> blame the paws, need practice
- Judging my language I'm an educated man.
- Speaking of: Common probably first language -> I think in it
- My Sathmoran is good enough to make conversation with Hiram in it -> Not first language
- Not a medic -> Don't understand most of the things healer Coe made during examination
- I can draw! Not a painter, Illustrator?
- I like to read, Hiram said I read fast
- Better never expect me to cook anything more complicated than scrambled eggs, Gods, look at the mess I made!
- Table manners acceptable but in need of improvement, they said -> Clue? I'm probably not nobility.
- Not a smith
- Not a potter
- Not a crafter
- On second thought, it would be easier for me if I wait until I can use my right arm again.
- Screw the last line, I cope!
- Trained in armed and unarmed combat // Balance still off, feet won't do what I want
- Fairly competent with daggers and swords
- Should I worry about the fact I like brass knuckles???
- Shields are supposed to be my friends the coyote said... I'm not convinced, besides I'm waiting for the day I can try it with weapon and shield at the same time.
- The sling is off! I got my right hand back!
- Alchemy was a total bust.
- Pretty incompetent with bows -> Claws tend to get caught in the bowstring anyways.
- Actually I'm able to stitch wounds. The scar opened up again. Siren made me mend it myself. And cursed me, cursed me, cursed me.
- I can play piano (not good, paws too clumsy)
My handwriting on the last one is worse than usual. I don't even remember when I wrote that line. Must have been sometime after I'd noticed there is a pianoforte in the Deaf Mule.
I suddenly knew I can play it. I think I didn't even feel that giddy when I discovered the abilities of my altered body out there in the forest.
A happy melody danced through my mind. I was eager to let everybody else hear it— And couldn't.
Short and thick fingers, lumbering and slow. A few awkwardly, horribly off-beat notes were all that came out, until I pulled back my paws.
I sat there for... I don't know how long, staring at the keys and a music sheet someone forgot there. On things I believed myself so familiar with, on things now useless to me. Drops fell onto my fingers. Only then I realized that I was crying. I cried for hours that night.
Dustin and Skylark helped me to my room and brought me to bed. Not even the boy was able to comfort me. And within my misery a part of me was glad that I still had the ability to shed tears.
Everyone goes through a breakdown like this, Dustin explained me the next day. The degree of the crisis varies from keeper to keeper, but it comes as unavoidable as the curse itself. He'd been worried about me, he confessed, for I seemed to take my entire situation just in stride.
In stride. Possibly. I experienced the last few days practically like a newborn child. There was nothing to compare this life to. Or so I said to me continually.
Now the box is open. Emotions I shut away are welling up. Wheels in my brain I jammed are currently in fast motion. And it's so hard to stop thinking.
Below the list in my notebook are five words written. Almost engraved into the parchment from the sheer pressure of the quill. The letters are big and bold, the words underlined, several times. Five words:
TELL ME, WHO ARE YOU???
What would I offer for an answer...
The hand holding the book is shaking. No, I'm shaking. Nothing to compare it. I almost was successful in convincing me that this is a good thing. It's not, it's horrible. I can't believe I'm feeling so lost.
"It's an evening too beautiful to spend it alone, wouldn't you agree?"
I jerk my head up and let go a startled huff. I'm both parts relieved and irritated, being pulled out of my depressed daze.
A woman has appeared by the fountain, seemingly out of nowhere. Half sitting, half leaning against the railing, with her strategically opened cape she grants me not only an almost un-obscured view on her delicious curved body (aren't these silks a little thin for the cold?), but an inviting smile, too.
Her appearance is best described as a "rainbow of colors". Her garbs a gleaming display of red, gold and blue, each fingernail varnished different, like every strand of her shoulder-long hair. If I have to describe her make-up, I wouldn't even know where to begin. Surely no great indication for taste, nevertheless, you have to give her credits for the guts it takes, walking around like that.
I might have some troubles finding out for what I'm good at all, but there's no doubt about her profession.
Slowly she detaches herself from the railing and moves toward me. Her cape and skirt gaping with each step, revealing long, elegant legs. "I noticed you looking lonely. Care for a little company?"
Her pick-up lines aren't the most original. They don't have to, though. Encounters like the current one generally only circling around getting a mutual agreement about the price.
If I'm honest, the prospect of an hour of sweet oblivion without attached strings is a tempting one. That is, until the wind turns and I get a whiff of her.
Her heavy perfume isn't capable of obscuring the stench of sweat, beer, cheap wine, weed and countless other men. My heightened senses are a curse in moments like that. Every trace of arousal I might have is instantly evaporated. It almost makes me gag.
My ears, pricked up by her sudden entrance and out of interest in her exotic guise, falling back at half-mast. "Sorry, I'd rather stay solo for now. Besides, I haven't money to spend."
Wrong answer, don't ask me why. The indicated empty purse doesn't seem to discourage her in the least. Her smile is now more amused than sultry.
"Aww, fluffy, you really are new here. For someone as handsome as you..." A hand of her settles with feather-slight touch on my inner thigh, high enough to raise my heartbeat by a measure. "The first night is for free. Actually, some of us might pay you."
Obviously she's not good at reading body language of animorphs. That or she's simply ignoring my growing disgust. "Listen, woman, I have no intent to either give myself away or selling me. So would you please leave me alone?"
That as well is deflected by her ignorance. She's laughing softly, on a not so stressed occasion definitely a melodic sound. At this moment it only adds to her annoying features. "Such a one-sided view. You could receive so much more than mundane things."
The hand on my thigh slides upward, diving down under my kilt... and I snap.
My leg coordination is a mess to this day. Well, I'm sitting, so that is of no concern and I never had problems managing the arms.
I hit her square in the face, felling her immediately.
Why is it, that the birdsong appears merrier all of a sudden? Do they laugh at me? Or her?
Grrrrreat! A whore upsets me and I have nothing better to do than smashing her! She's still out cold. I better bring her to a physician...
"What's going on here?"
A guy in light armor approaches. He's bearing the heraldic of the Keep. Of course, the first time I see a guard today must be in this very moment. I watch him as he's marching nearer, motionless. At least I'm smart enough to not start running. I guess that means dungeon for me, a couple of days if I'm really lucky.
I have to look at the upside: At least it's cool down there.
Naw, doesn't working...