Story (c) 2000 by Hikaru Katayamma/Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. The character Sheila Vixen (c) Eric W Schwartz. Throckmorton P Ruddygore, Poqua, Lakash (c) Jack L Chalker. 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
Chapter 13

A victory of sorts.

A high-pitched scream of terror pierced the air as Sheila reflexively threw up her arms in response to the dragon's strike. Its long, sinuous neck straightened as the fanged mouth shot towards the hapless vixen. The dragon's head veered suddenly to the side as its body convulsed violently, sending the jaws slamming into the wall behind its intended victim. Stunned, the head arose slowly and shook itself, blinked twice, then screeched in agony as the entire body again convulsed violently, as if it were being electrocuted.

Rathsmon peeked his head around a corner of a tunnel and cursed at the sight of the vixen cowering with her head buried under her arms. He hobbled out as quickly as he could and grabbed her arm. Reflexively, Sheila tried to pull away until she saw who it was. "Get up, damn you! We've got to get out of here!" Rathsmon whispered in a hoarse voice.

"What have you done?" Hecate asked weakly as she propped herself up on one hand, the other holding her stomach. "What have you insane lunatics done?"

"Quit lounging around and help me out," Rathsmon urged as he tried to haul Sheila to her feet.

The Imir let out a combination low growl and groan as she got her knees under her. Snarling at the necromancer, she sat up, holding her stomach. "In case you hadn't noticed, asshole, I just got impaled! I need a few minutes to concentrate on regenerating."

Before Rathsmon could respond, the dragon's tail whipped around and struck a huge bolder, demolishing it and sending chunks of rock flying. One piece about the size of a small car passed in front of Hecate, missing her by little more than inches. For a moment she stared at the path of destruction it left on the ground before coming to rest against the wall. She then climbed hastily, if not painfully, to her feet. "On second thought, I'll do that outside."

"Glad you could join us," the necromancer quipped as he helped the Imir lift Sheila. "Now, I suggest that we make our way out of the cavern before we get hit by any debris." He gestured with his free hand and deflected a large stone that had been bouncing in their general direction.

"We could always crouch down and put up a shield to stop this crap," Hecate grunted as they moved towards one of the exit tunnels. Both glanced back at the sound of the dragon's tail slamming down into the granite, pulverizing several inches worth.

"I don't think so." Using both hands, Rathsmon grasped the vixen's belt to help encourage her along. All the while, she simply stared back towards the dragon, half-heartedly moving her feet as she was being dragged.

The trio proceeded down the large tunnel until they reached the mouth. Once outside, Hecate led the small group towards a cluster of rocks. Halfway there, Sheila unexpectedly jerked free of the two and drew the wakazashi.

"Whoa!" Rathsmon said, holding his hands up and backing away from the frazzled, sword-wielding vixen. "Calm down there, Sheila. We're all friends here, right?"

"What went wrong?" She demanded angrily. "Why the fuck did he just try to kill me?"

Hecate gave the vixen a nervous laugh. "You just stabbed a dragon in the neck with a weapon and you wonder why it's pissed off?" She, too, put her hands up and backed away a step as Sheila's glare shifted in her direction. "Wouldn't you be pissed?"

"Arden would never hurt me. NEVER!" Sheila shifted her gaze back over to Rathszmon. "So what went wrong? Why did he try to kill me?"

"It's not that simple," he replied, backing up another step. "I told you that it would take a while for him to fully win control of the body. He didn't strike at you; it was Sha'kull."

Hecate let her hands drop as she turned to the necromancer. "What are you talking about?" She shot the vixen a confused look. "What have you two nutcases done?"

Rathsmon shifted his attention between the two females that faced him. "It's all part of her quest to restore her lover and my chance to regain my humanity," he explained rapidly, wincing at the continued sound of destruction within the cave. "The stiletto she struck the dragon with had a soulstone in it that was spelled to release its occupant upon striking a target."

"A soulstone, eh?" the deamoness nodded as she thought about it. "And now your boy, what, Arden is it? Now he's fighting Sha'kull for control of the body, is that it?"

"Well…yes." He shot the glowering Imir a weak smile.

Hecate rubbed a spot on her forehead as she counted to ten. "You two FUCKUPS," she shouted, empasizing the last word, "have just released a demigod---who, by the way, has sworn to lay waste to all of Husquahr---on the off-chance that her boyfriend will be able to possess its body?" She turned to the startled vixen and took a step forward. "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

Sheila let the sword tip drop and took a step forwards herself. "It wasn't my idea, God damn it! I just want to go home, and that bastard is the only hope I have to get out of this insane asylum!"

"Oh, right!" Hecate shouted back. "For your information, the only way you're likely to get out of this now is in a body bag!"

"Wait a minute!" Rathsmon said, pushing himself between the two women. "Wait!"

"WHAT?" the women yelled in stereo.

"Shhhhh," he said, holding a finger up to his leathery lips. "Listen." All three paused to listen.

"What? I don't hear anything?" Sheila said.

"Exactly," Rathsmon said, smililng. "I believe the battle is over. Now all we have to do is determine who won."

"I sure as hell ain't going in there," Hecate replied immediately, crossing her arms over her still-wounded stomach.

"I'll go," Sheila said, sheathing the wakazashi.

The Imir grabbed her arm, preventing the vixen from going back in. "Are you crazy? What if your boyfriend lost?"

Sheila pulled away and straightened her tunic. "Then I guess the dragon will kill me," she replied rather sourly. "If Arden lost then I have no way home, and I might as well be dead, anyway."

"What about your child?" Hecate asked, giving her swollen belly a concerned look.

"What about it?" Sheila replied before turning and walking back into the cave.

The demoness shook her head and sighed. "Now that's fucked."

Back inside the large cavern, Sheila took a deep breath and steeled herself to approach the dragon. It was sprawled out on the floor, lying on its back with its legs stuck up in the air. For a moment she was worried that the dragon was dead, but as she watched, it sucked in a lungfull of air and exhaled.

Slowly she picked her way over to the head, stopping about ten feet away. The entire time she had been in the room, the dragon had done nothing more than take the occasional deep breath of air. That was about to change. "Hey, you!" she shouted at the imposing form. "Wake up!"

Eyelids slowly opened, revealing a black pupil set in a yellow iris floating in a sea of red that was its eye, which was almost as large as Sheila. The iris expanded and contracted as the dragon focused its gaze on her. The two stood facing each other for several minutes before Sheila spoke again. "Well?" the vixen demanded. The dragon only blinked, and continued to gaze at her. "God damn it! Either kill me or talk to me. I don't have time to stand around and wait for you to make up your mind!"

"I could never hurt you."

The voice resonated within her skull, causing the vixen to grab her head for a moment. It wasn't a spoken word. It simply appeared within her mind and echoed painfully around for a moment. She looked up at the dragon, her face, ears and posture a conflicting picture of emotions that were playing out within her. "Arden?" she asked quietly. "Is that really you in there?"

The dragon blinked. "Yes. It's me in here."

Sheila visibly slumped as the tension left her body. "Thank God."

"Thank you for bringing me back." The large eye closed as Arden let out a long, slow, breath.

"Don't get the wrong idea, asshole," Sheila said, straightening up. "I didn't rescue your ass from that jewel because I wanted to. I did it because you're the only chance I have of getting home."

The eye opened again, only this time it was but a slit. "What do you mean?"

Sheila crossed her arms and scowled at the scaled creature. "I don't give a rat's ass about you or your quest any more. I'm sick and tired of jumping through hoops just because you've got some holy crusade going on." She took several steps backwards as the head suddenly rose from the ground. Twisting around, Arden rolled over on to his feet, and looked down on the vixen, who stood her ground, giving him a hard look in return. "That's right," she said, raising her voice. "You're not going to intimidate me any more. All I want now is to go home. To hell with you and your quest!"

The head dipped closer. "What's gotten into you?"

"What's gotten into me?" she repeated sarcastically. "I've just spent the last six months getting screwed over by some bald asshole who only pretended to help me locate you and contact Ruddygore. I've been chased, captured by an army of undead, stuck in the rain for days and almost killed while trying to stick you into that body." She spat on the ground then looked back up at him. "I think that gives me the right to be pissed."

"Is that all?" The head dipped a little lower forcing the vixen to back up despite her resolve. "While you've been running around, interacting in the real world with people, I've been stuck in that fucking gem, alone, with nobody to talk to and nothing for company but my memories, shame and regrets."

Sheila put her hands on her hips and glared up at him defiantly. "You wouldn't have been stuck in that damn rock if you had shown even a little common sense. But NO, ve to go off and try to kill the prince in the middle of a bloody sorcerers' convention, and get yourself and MY BODY almost killed as a result!"

He turned his head away and closed his eyes, as if to deny her harsh words. "Don't you think I know that?" Arden opened his eyes and looked back down. "Don't you think I haven't spent every moment of my time in that prison thinking about what I did and how wrong I was?" Sheila's expression changed to something akin to embarresment as she looked away. "Hasn't it occurred to you that while you were out there screwing Ross that I might have spent my time, locked away in a gem, thinking about what I had done?"

Sheila's head had shot up at the mention of Ross. "How do you know about Ross?"

Now it was Arden's turn to look a little embarressed. "Maybe I overstated it when I said that I was alone. The dragon gave a small shrug with its wings. "I had a friend who dropped by once in a while to keep me up to date on the outside world." Again the head lowered to stare at Sheila. "He told me everything."

"Hey! What happened between me and Ross is none of your business," Sheila spat back defiantly. "You had no claim on me."

"True. Of course I should have expected it." He reached up with a truehand to scratch at the spot where she had stabbed with the dagger. "After all, Bjorn was barely cold before you seduced me again."

"You bastard!" she screamed. Reaching down, she picked up a long bone and threw it at his head. Arden didn't even flinch as it bounced off his jaw. "You know I couldn't control myself then, because I was in heat!"

"Yes, I do. A fact you failed to point out to me, even after we had swapped bodies." He pointed a taloned finger at her chest. "An act which, if you will remember, drove me to try to kill myself after it got me gang raped." The finger withdrew as he made a fist and rested his head on it. "So, what's your excuse this time, humm? Somehow I don't think being pregnant was making you overly horny."

Sheila scowled at him, her ears pinned back and fangs barred in raw hatred. "Fucker," was her only parting comment before she turned and stormed from the room.

Arden slammed his fist down into the bones that lay scattered around the room and then absentmindedly began to plink them at the walls. "Why in the hell did I just do that?" he thought.

"It feels different, doesn't it," said a voice from the shadows. The figure of a short, mangy looking rabbit using a scythe for a walking stick strolled out of the shadows. "Not quite the same as when you were a man, eh?"

"Oh, it's you." The dragon glanced at the newcomer before lying back down on the floor. "Of course it does. I'm a bloody dragon now. Nothing feels the same."

"Including your anger?" the figure asked as it leaned on the scythe about fifteen feet from Arden's head.

"Anger?" The eye on that side of his head focused in on the rabbit.

"Yes, anger." It shifted the scythe in front of its face as it got more comfortable with the stance. "That's what you were feeling, wasn't it? Anger?"

Arden thought about it for a moment. "I guess you're right, but it was so cold and calculating. I didn't even realize I was mad. I just wanted to strike out at her in some way."

The rabbit nodded. "That's the difference between men and dragons. A man is hot and passionate. His anger burns." He stepped forward and held a clenched fist up. "A dragon is cold and calculating. Its emotions are primal and more devious in their influence. Only your rage still burns hot. Remember that."

Arden gave a small nod. "Thank you. I will." He shfted his head slightly towards the rabbit. "No hard feelings I take it?"

"Eh?" the rabbit replied, confused for a moment. "No. You have friends in high places. Besides, I'm used to crap like this in my business, especially on worlds like this one with its screwed up rules." He gave the dragon a predatory grin. "Besides, you will be mine eventually. No matter how long you live as a dragon, the day will come when we meet again."

A small smile fluttered at the corner of the dragon's mouth. "Glad to hear it."

A brief smile exposed the rabbit's yellowed and cracked teeth. "Now if you will excuse me, my duties call." He turned and walked towards the shadows, his scythe echoing in the chamber as it tapped on the floor.

"Jack?" Arden lifted his head and looked at the rabbit as he stopped. "Thanks for stopping by while I was in the gem."

The rabbit gave a small nod and faded into the shadows, his staff echoing in the darkness long after he was gone.