Story (c) 2000 by Hikaru Katayamma/Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. The character Sheila Vixen (c) Eric W Schwartz. All other characters are (c) Hikaru Katayamma.  This story contains adult situations and language. By reading it the viewer agrees not to hold this or any other person responsible for any content they may find objectionable. If you don't like it, don't read it.

Identity Crisis
Act II
Chapter 14

"Bio Warfare" or "How I learned to love the Pheromone"

  After giving us suitable time for dinner to settle set, we retired to a large commons room. Besides being filled with tables and chairs, the room also had a stool positioned in front of the dark fireplace. The Duchess had arranged for a bard to come and entertain us after dinner.

  The bard was a younger looking woman, in her early twenties. Tall, with fine silver hair that almost haloed her head, her alabaster skin gave her the look of an albino. The only things with any color were the vivid, golden eyes that appeared to float on a pool of white. She also had the sharp, upturned ears that ended in points that so reminded me of Tolken's elves. The guitar she played had eight strings; not the kind we're used to, but with eight separate tonal strings, which made for a quite wide neck on the guitar. Had her fingers not been so long, I couldn't see how she would ever reach them all.

  As I was enjoying the entertainment I became aware of the fact that Gwen was no longer amongst us. Curious, I peered around to see where she might have gone, finally spotting  her silhouette. She was standing, looking out off of a balcony that gave a view of the commons, taking care to stay out of the light. Curious as to what was up, I excused myself and set out to find my way up there.

  I did my best to quietly sneak up behind her, hoping to discover whom she was observing. "You know," she spoke softly as I approached, "My daughter couldn't sneak worth a damn in that dress, either," and she peered at me as I gave a sheepish smile.

  Joining her, I watched the festivities for a bit before my curiosity finally got the better of me. "Beg pardon, Gwen, but just why are you up here spying on folk?"

  She shushed me and pointed to the Duke. "Watch his eyes. Watch who he exchanges looks with," she directed coldly.

  As I watched the Duke I saw him coyly look over at a young blond sitting at a table, facing him. She was blatantly playing up to him. "That's who he's going to bed tonight," Gwen said darkly.

  "How long?" I asked.

  She let out a mournful sigh, "Too long."

  "Well," I ventured, "I presume that, if this were war, our objective would be to eliminate the competition and get the Duke in bed with you, right?" Gwen just nodded, watching the exchange. "I also presume mayhem is out of the question," I said, smiling as her head whipped about at my comment.

  It was time to gather intelligence. Over the period of the next twenty minutes I managed to draw out Duke Butthead's system for cheating on Gwen. Apparently the young lady would pick some out-of-the-way location for their rendezvous. She would then send a page with a message to fetch the Duke.

  As she described their system I continued looking over the crowd, a plan formulating in the back of my mind. I just needed a decoy for this little misadventure. To my surprise I spotted just the unlucky target. It was Darrin, the supervisor from the mews who had come to take me from the cats that fateful day.

  A large grin covered my face. "Gwen, my dear, you just leave this up to good old Arden. I'll see to it that the Duke spends his night with you," I said, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.

  This was going to be fun.

  I waited in the hallway leading from the commons room towards the mews having sent a page in after Darrin, my first target for this evening's endeavors. The page was to tell Darrin that he was needed in the mews immediately. That should send him running.

  It wasn't too long before I heard him coming and readied myself, waiting for him to round the corner. He stormed around the corner, intent on finding out what was so important only to see me standing there, ready to take his head off. The man never had a chance to make a noise. I grabbed an arm with one paw and his neck in the other, using my leg to block his feet as I threw him to the ground.

  With a snarl I put my muzzle next to his face and breathed in the smell of his fear. "Well, well, well. What do we have here?" I asked, squeezing my claws into his throat.

  He lay on the ground, frozen in fear. "Please. Mercy, my lady," he begged.

  "Mercy?" I asked, perking my ears up. "Are we talking mercy like the cats you killed when you took me from the mews?" I laid back my ears and snarled again. "Or maybe the mercy you showed me as you raped me along with the others?" I asked as an alternative.

  "Please, my lady, you can't do this!" he whimpered.

  I laughed in his face. "As long as I get rid of the body, I can take my revenge anyway I want too," I said with a low chuckle.

  "Please, my lady, don't kill me," he continued to beg, "I'll do anything you ask. I'll give you anything. Please!" He knew he was dead. Step one was now complete.

  "How would you like to earn your life back?" I asked quietly, giving a small humorless smile

  "My life?" he squeaked out.

  "Yes," I said, drawing the word out. "I'll even let you keep all your parts intact, too." I glancing down at his crotch for a second before looking back at him, snapping my jaw shut. He tried to swallow a couple of times.

  "What do I have to do?" he asked.

  Phase one was complete.

  Darrin and I stood just outside the commons in the hallway. "I don't know about this," he said, "The Duke's as likely to kill me as you are."

  I gave him a sweet, sugary smile and batted my eyes at him. "Yes, but he won't dine first," I said, watching him swallow again.

  "OK. You know what to do, right?" I asked, making sure he knew the plan.

  He nodded. "Yes, my lady. I'm supposed to watch the minstrel until she leaves and follow at a discrete distance. Then I wait till she sends a page for the Duke before I move in and seduce her. But I don't see how that's going to work. She's never paid any attention to me before," he whined.

  I gave a quiet laugh. "That's because you never had me giving you a hand before," I explained with a light laugh. 

  "Now kneel," I ordered, my voice again hard. When he hesitated, I used a leg to knock his knees out from under him, forcing him down to where he would be convenient. "Now just hold still," I directed. I moved around behind him and began rubbing my muzzle around and over his neck and face.

  "Whoa. Hey, what are you doing?" he asked.

  "Just shut up and keep still," I commanded. After a few seconds I had layered him pretty good. I figured I had reached my stopping point when he tried to paw at me with his hands.

  "Enough," I said, smacking the back of his head. "If she doesn't go for you now, she's dead. Get yourself together and go do your job. Fail me and I will dine on mountain oysters tonight." With a shove I pushed him out into the commons and watched as he headed over to a table.

  Phase two was now complete.

  "So," the Duchess said. "What's next?" I smiled as we watched our target leave the commons before the end of the show.

  "Right on time," I commented, watching Darrin follow her out of the room. "Have you picked a location yet?" I asked, smiling at Gwen.

  "The war room," she said with a sly grin. How appropriate.

  "Fine. I'll intercept the page and then meet you there," I said with a wink, fading back into the shadows.

  I caught up with Darrin a few minutes later. There was no problem tracking him as I had really laid it on thick. I'm amazed that the first female that happened along hadn't sidetracked him. Of course my threat may have had something to do with it. He didn't know it was a bluff. It was a good thing he hadn't had the balls to call me on it.

  I followed them around until they had gotten almost to the barracks. She had apparently chosen one of the armories for her rendezvous with the Duke. As I watched, she stopped a page, spoke to him and then sent him off to find the Duke. After the page left, I watched Darrin make his move.

  Following my instructions perfectly, he got very friendly. Although she resisted at first, I watched as my musk took over and her attitude slowly changed. Satisfied that my plan would work, I hightailed it out after the page. I had a message to change.

  Phase three was complete.

  I got lost twice on the way to the war room. Heck of a time to get turned around in those stupid halls. "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike." The phrase came to me from that old dungeon game. Slightly out of breath, I skidded to a halt in front of the door to the war room, then pushed my way in.

  I heard the door slam shut behind me. "What took you so long? I was getting worried!" Gwen exclaiming.

  "Sorry, I got lost on the way here. For some reason they don't have big signs saying 'War Room this way' posted all over the castle," I quipped.

  Hurrying to complete my task before the Duke arrived, I saturated Gwen with my musk the same way I had Darrin. Unfortunately, threats of dismemberment weren't going to keep her hands off of me in the process. "Gwen! Please! Let me finish so I can get out of here. You don't want your husband walking in on us, do you?" I asked.

  She gave me a look that scared me. "It could be interesting," she said with a glimmer in her eye.

  I decided to cut the treatment a little short. Lord knows I didn't need to deal with the Duke as well as the Duchess. Batting her hands away with my paws I skittered out of her reach. "Enough, wench," I said with a wink, blowing her shocked face a kiss before ducking out the door.

  I barely made it around the far corner of the corridor before the Duke came into sight. As I watched he slipped into the room. Quietly I padded back over to the door and used the small dagger that Gwen had given me to wedge the latch so it wouldn't open. He was trapped.

  I could hear his angry curses as he tried to get the door open. He was pissed that we had tricked him. As I leaned against the door I tried to keep from laughing as he slowly changed his tune. Once I heard them getting into it, I removed the dagger and walked away.

  I love it when a plan comes together.

  It was a glorious night out. I had wandered around for a bit after helping Gwen, and had wound up on the roof of the castle. Strolling along the ramparts I came to a spot that showed off the lights of the city as the river divided them, the stars floating above in contrast. I had climbed up on one of the blocks that leaned out somewhat from the wall and sat down, spreading my dress out around me.

  I sat there, looking at the stars and enjoying the panorama of lights. They weren't our stars. None of the constellations that I knew were there. To add spice to the mix, there were three moons. It showed just how far from home I really was, not that being trapped in Sheila's body didn't do that for me. It had been fun to use my scent for something positive, but that only reaffirmed just how much danger I was in at the moment. I'd have to be careful.

  I closed my eyes as a breeze blew by me. The cool wind combined with the color of the leaves told me that fall was on its way. I wonder what the winters would be like. I doubted that I would suffer much, but I worried for Sheila. That was assuming we were trapped here that long.

  I knew the amulet I wore still had power. It had given me access to return to my body, though it was still cool to the touch. I suppose it hadn't yet recharged sufficiently. Who knew how long it would take? We could be stuck here for years, or even decades.

  "M'lady?" I heard behind me, breaking my musings. Turning I saw Theolin standing several feet behind me. He wore a worried look on his face. "M'lady, please come down from there," he asked. I smiled at him. "Hey Theo, good to see you. Come on over here and enjoy the view," I said as I patted the stone beside me.

  He took a step forward, arm outreached and then hopped back as if I was going to bite him. "M'lady, please! I beg of you. Come down from there," he pleaded, his face filled with anguish. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with the guy. "Please, m'lady," he beseeched.

  "All right," I answered quietly as I climbed down off of the stone. Theolin was breathing hard. Pale and shaking, he looked like he would collapse. I stepped forward, reaching out to him but stopped as he flinched away. "What's wrong?" I asked. He just stared at me, trying to find his voice. Again I stepped forwards. This time he didn't flinch, allowing me to touch him.

  I looked up into those haunted eyes and saw my reflection in the flickering torchlight. "Theo, please tell me what's wrong," I begged.

  He swallowed. "I'm sorry, my lady. Sitting on the stone, you looked..." he stopped, trying to control his emotions. "From the back like that, you resembled the Lady Elaine. She... That...that was her favorite spot, m'lady," he explained.

  He had lost someone close to him, someone who enjoyed the view as I did. "She... It was..." he said, forcing the words out. "Two winters ago, m'lady, she threw herself from that spot. When I saw you there... You look so much... For a second..." he broke down, crying for someone he obviously cared a great deal about. I stepped up and embraced him, trying to take some of the pain.

  I thought about what he had said, that this Elaine had died two winters ago. Gwen had said the same thing of her daughter. Could Elaine have been Gwen's child? They both talked about how I resembled this other person, but the ramifications of this were beyond my immediate scope. Was Gwen trying to replace a lost daughter? Was she trying to find a way to endear me to the Duke? Maybe I was reading too much into this.

  "I'm sorry, m'lady," Theolin said as he broke from me.

  "There's nothing to be sorry for," I replied, knowing the pain of loss. "This Elaine you spoke of---who was she?" I asked.

  Theolin sniffed, wiping a tear while trying to compose himself. "She was the daughter of the Duke, m'lady," he said stoically. So it was her daughter. She had killed herself as I had done.

  "Why?" I asked. He looked at me, uncertain as to answer. "Please, Theo, tell me why this happened." I begged, "Make me understand."

  He turned away from me for a second, scanning the roof of the castle. "She had just witnessed of the death of her...lover," he said, looking for the last word. So she had lost love and thrown away  her life in response.

  I put my paw on his shoulder and gave it a small squeeze. "I'm sorry," I said quietly, "I didn't know. I grieve for your loss. She obviously meant a lot to you." 

  He turned his head, looking at me for a second.  "Obviously not enough," he said cryptically and walked away. What did he mean by that?

  I found my way back to the stairs leading down while thinking about what I had learned. This was going to make my life more complicated than I ever wanted. The last thing I needed was to try and fill the shoes of Gwen's daughter.

  On my way back to my room I spotted the little shit as I was on my way back to my room. There, strolling nonchalantly down the hall, accompanied by an overgrown goon who looked like Hulk Hogan's evil twin brother, was the curly-blond-haired fop who had ordered my capture.

  "You!" I shouted as I broke into a charge, my ears laid back, snarling. I really need to control those outbursts as it warned the little bastard I was coming. He turned and ran as his bodyguard moved to intercept me.

  I ran straight for the goon, fangs bared, trying to convince him that I wanted to run through him. At the last minute I dropped and slid between his legs, smacking his hands away as he tried to grab me. Sucker!

  The only problem came when I tried to pop up. Planting my feet to the floor, combined with my momentum, gave me the leverage to pop back up to my feet. The only drawback to this plan was the dress. The damned thing was so long that I was now standing on it. Of course I immediately fell flat on my face. The next thing I knew, that blasted gorilla was sitting on me, pinning me to the floor.

  "Get off of me, you son of a bitch!" I ordered as he pinned my arms safely away from his face.

  "I'm sorry, my lady, but I can't do that," he stated, having safely immobilized me.

  "Look, one way or another I'm going to hunt that bastard down and clip him. You're just delaying the inevitable," I snarled.

  He let out a sigh of exasperation. "Please, my lady. You don't want to say such things about him. That can get you in rather serious trouble," he warned.

  "Oh ya, like I'll get in trouble with the Duke or something?" I replied with all possible sarcasm, trying NOT to sound a valley girl.

  "Not him, my lady; the Emperor," he stated emotionlessly.

  That got my attention and stopped my struggling. "Why does the Emperor care about him?", I asked, worried that I already knew the reason.

  "He is the Crown Prince, my lady. The Emperor would be most put out if someone killed the little bastard," he explained. 

  Little bastard? That was a new title of respect.  I turned my head to get a good look at the guy pinning me. "Little bastard?" I asked.

  "Truce?" he countered. 

I thought about it. It was kind of fun being under him, but I didn't want to get him too worked up.  I nodded. "Truce."

  He got off of me and gave me a hand up. Carefully checking the gown for damage, I was relieved to find it only dusty. I had gotten lucky and not ripped anything. With a flick of my head I tossed my hair back over my shoulder, then I faced my opponent. Placing my hands on my hips, I sized Giagantor up. "You were saying? About the little bastard, that is," I prompted.

  He glanced down the hallway to verify that nobody was around, and then decided discretion was the better part of valor by gesturing for me to follow him. As we walked along the hallways he explained, "The Prince is a disgrace to the Crown, my lady. I loathe having to guard him but it is my duty."

  I could understand this man. For duty and honor he must protect this offensive piece of filth. "So if I kill him, you get in trouble, right?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

  "Aye, my lady. I would be in it up to my neck. Most likely I would be transferred to a frontier fort on the border of the iced lands," he stated rather flatly.

  "I know!" I said with mock cheer. "How about I just maul him a little?" I begged. "All I want are a pair of plums---honest. You can keep the rest." Sadly, I already knew the answer.

  Laughing he patted me on the back, confirming it. "I would love to permit that, my lady. However, as a warrior I know you realize my position. Should harm befall him I would hate to have to hunt you down. I think that neither of us desires such a conflict."

  Well, wasn't that just ducky. If I take out numbnuts then I have to deal with Gonad the Guard-barian here, and I was realistic enough to realize that I probably wouldn't win that fight, not as a vixen. Hell, I'm not sure I could win it in my old body. You don't get to be the guardian of the Crown Prince by being a pushover.

  I suppose I would have to change tactics. I may not be able to kill or maim the little bastard, but I could think of a few ways to make his life a living hell.

  Once I got back to our room, I found that Sheila was already in bed, asleep. Careful not to make any noise, I managed to get that dress off without having to use the dagger on it. I slipped under the covers, snuggling up close to Sheila, happy to be with my mate.

  For a few moments I had considered waking him up the way he used to do to me when I was a "he" and he was a "she". (Did I get that right? Yep.) As pleasant as those memories were, I decided to let sleeping dragons lie. Maybe I'd give him something to wake up to in the morning, if he didn't beat me to it.

Chapter 15