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. Jack (c) David Hopkins. 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 23

Female Troubles

Sheila stretched her body for a second or two before curling back up on the large bed. For the first time since coming to this world, she'd slept soundly, in comfort and without the nightmares that usually haunted her. Lazily she rubbed the sleep from her eyes before looking around the room. A glance out the window showed the sun low on the horizon. Disoriented by her surroundings, she wondered if she'd slept the day away or all the way through until morning.

Another quick stretching session backed by a large yawn interrupted her train of though as she luxuriated in the pleasant feel of the soft sheets and comfortable bed. She would have been satisfied to laze about in bed indefinitely if her bladder hadn't demanded attention. Grunting and groaning with the effort, she maneuvered her legs over the side of the bed and sat up. Taking in the room fully for the first time, she saw that there was an ornate chest of drawers with a mirror back that had a basin, pitcher that probably contained water and a towel sitting on it. A small table sat next to the window with two fancy looking chairs next to it. On the table were her three swords, which she hadn't remembered putting there, along with a brass key. There was also a large armoire and what appeared to be an oversized gym bag on the floor.

She heaved herself off the bed and walked over to the gym bag and gave it a glance. Prominently stitched into the side was the name "Sheila" in large letters. "Well, well, well," Sheila muttered as she picked up the bag and set it on the bed. "Somehow I don't think you came from one of the locals." She unzipped the bag noting that the leather tab on the zipper had the Nike logo. Inside she found several pairs of loose fitting pants, some pull over shirts and a couple of what appeared to be maternity dresses. Although all of the items looked to be of modern manufacture, they were made to resemble clothes that someone would wear around here. She also found a large, hooded robe that felt like it would be a heck of a lot more comfortable than what Hecate had given her in the buggy.

Another twinge reminded Sheila that she really needed to relieve herself. Putting on the robe, she used the silk sash from her gi as the belt so that she would be able to properly tuck in the swords. A quick flip of the hood completed the dressing process, hiding her muzzle. She examined the effect in the mirror and was impressed. Even though the hood wasn't that deep, it created plenty of shadows to hide her face. Unfortunately, as with the other cloak, it also tended to make her ears itch, though not nearly as badly.

Taking the brass key from the table, she examined the lock on the door. A simple flip-latch locked the handle. Opening the door, she played with the key and lock, making sure she knew how it would work. Satisfied she understood the mechanism, she flipped the latch and then pulled the door shut behind her, rattling it once the latch hand clicked to ensure it was actually secure.

Now standing at the top of the stairs, she looked over the inn. There were several more doors on this level with a railing that looked down into the commons. The railing extended half the length of the hall, where it ended in a wall where rooms appeared to start. She walked down the hallway noting the symbols on the doors. Her key had one that matched her room, and from the way they progressed, she assumed they were a form of numbering. At the far end of the hall, there were two doors with pictures on them that told Sheila they were just what she was looking for. Trying the one on the right, she found it was unlocked. Slipping in, she locked the door then quickly relieved herself. Overhead there was a chain with a grip, just like something out of an old Saturday Evening Post. Giving it a quick pull, she was rewarded by the sound of rushing water and the feel of cool air under her. "I'll be damned. Working indoor toilets," she muttered as she finished straightening the layers of clothes. "Who would have thought it in this place."

Making her way back to the stairs, Sheila headed down to the commons. Although the entry area had a few benches and a fireplace, she could easily see that there was a much larger room towards the far end of the inn where people had gathered. As she crossed the open area, she noticed the man behind the counter frowning in her direction. She considered finding out what his problem was, but her stomach quickly vetoed it as the smell of cooked meat drifted by. Inside the room she saw a dozen or so circular tables scattered around in a pattern that optimized seating while making life miserable for the staff. Sheila picked one over in the far corner that although it was near a window it was situated so that nobody would be able to sneak up behind her. Arden may have been an asshole, but he had managed to drum some sense into her about watching her back.

Within a couple of minutes after sitting down, one of the waitresses came over. "Welcome, stranger. What can I get for you tonight?"

Keeping the lip of the hood relatively low, Sheila spoke in a husky voice, "I'd like a pint of ale and something to eat. What are you serving tonight?"

"We have chabak stew, ox steaks and some roast chicken for the mains. We've also got some various greens and other vegetables on the side if you like 'em." Sheila had the feeling that the waitress would be popping gum right now if she had it. "Personally, I like the chabak stew the best. It's what Gordy's best at making."

"Chabak stew, eh?" the vixen muttered. "What the heck is a chabak?"

"What's a chabak?" The waitress looked a little taken back by the question. "I guess you ain't from around here, are you. Chabak are big lizards that live up in the foothills. Some of the farmers use 'em for draft animals. They can be kind of tough, but Gordy really knows how to fix 'em up. You should try some, I'll bet you like it."

"Right," Sheila grunted. "OK. I'll have the stew and a pint of ale. Bring me out some bread and cheese, too, while you're at it."

"Yessir," the waitress responded cheerfully and zigzagged off towards the back. After a few minutes, she returned with a tray and transferred the food off onto the table. "That'll be six silver, please."

Sheila took her room key out and set it on the table. "Put it on my room."

The waitress let out a small gasp as she saw the key. "Oh, dear,' she said quietly as she took a step back. "So you're the one."

"I'm the one what?" the vixen growled.

"Umm. You're the one that came in this morning." She swallowed before continuing. "Whatever you need, you just let us know. Anything at all. Just say the word."

Taking a taste of the stew, Sheila nodded. "Hey, this is good," she commented quietly, taking another bite. "Not bad at all," she nodded to the waitress, "If I need anything else, I'll let you know." She watched the waitress make a hasty retreat to the kitchen and thought about it. Having people skitter in fear wasn't anything new to her, only she'd never had them do it before they'd pissed her off. The rest of the time spent eating the stew was devoted to wondering just why the hell everyone was already afraid of her.

Teyah stood by the smashed-in doorway to the house where Jack had left her. Her clothes were ripped and torn in places, and in her right hand she held a large, wooden stick that glowed with an odd white light. Scattered around here were the bodies of various creatures that had once been living souls, but had since been reduced to their base essence. A large mass of people and creatures made a semi-circle out side the house, watching and cheering on the carnage.

"All right, which of you losers wants to be next, huh?" Panting heavily from the exertion, she held the stick like a baseball bat, menacing the crowd. "Well? Either come get some or leave me the hell alone!"

Along the edge, you'd see someone get pushed forward, only to skitter back into the anonymity of the crowd. Suddenly she heard the name Shakul begin ricocheting through the crowd. Slowly the scattered exclamations transformed themselves into a chant as people repeated the name over and over, stomping to the beat of the name. The fact that they all were now looking away from Teyah was enough to unnerve her. Anxiously she waited for whatever was coming. The first indication that something was happening was when she saw pieces of bodies flying. The crowd tried to split and make way for the enormous, fleshy monstrosity that was making its way towards Teyah's house, but pressure from the outside inward prevented it. The mob reveled as Shakul continued to sweep the mob from his path, the claws on his hands slicing everyone in his way into small chunks and scattering them. Soon the creature broke through the outer edge of the mass of dead souls and paused to look at her.

Standing easily twelve feet tall, it was a brutish lump of flesh, all muscles with virtually no head to speak of. Its mouth was filled with sharp teeth, framed by two large tusks that jutted up from the lower jaw and two beady little red eyes perched over a pug nose. The creature laid back its head and roared, sending a wave of putrid air over Teyah and making her gag. On it's shoulder, a tiny form cackled. "See, Shakul? See? Mikos tell you true. Pretty, pretty, pretty. Shakul like?"

The hulking creature brushed the small, cackling form off its shoulder with one hand, then stepped towards Teyah, crushing its miniscule sidekick and reducing it to a smear. "Shakul like pretty," it announced in a barely understandable grunt. "Shakul eat pretty."

'Aw, shit," Teyah said quietly taking a step backwards. "Hey now, big guy. How about we just talk about this, eh?"

"Shakul no talk!" the creature said, reaching forward for the girl. Her stick flashed out, striking the hand with an audible crack that made the creature howl. It yanked its wounded hand back, shaking it.

"This is not going to be pretty," Teyah muttered. Looking around, she tried to find some way out; unfortunately the corner of the building that had insured nobody was going to sneak up on her now prevented her from escaping. Resigned to having to fight, she pumped her remaining mana into the stick, causing it to glow brightly.

Although Shakul wasn't the most intelligent of demons in the underworld, it was smart enough to learn from pain. It wasn't used to being on the receiving end of pain, and was not at all enamored with the experience. Reaching out to the side, it grasped a telephone pole from the ground, snapping its base and hefted it like a baseball bat. "Shakul SMASH!" it announce, swinging the pole overhead at Teyah. The young girl dove to the side, narrowly avoiding the pole. Wood splintered and flew as the top four or five feet of the poll snapped off, sending shards flying. Teyah rolled to her feet and squared up in time to avoid yet another swing by Shakul, only to trip over a chunk of wood lying on the ground. She started to roll over as she felt something rip itself free from her right wrist.

Once back on her feet she turned, ready to dodge Shakul, but instead watched as the creature tried to swat a small form that was buzzing around his head. A tiny flying serpent spat a small ball of fire, catching Shakul squarely in the face, sending the creature reeling. The small snake then seemed to change and grow as it flew up and away from the group before then banking back towards the mob taking on the appearance of a rather formidable looking dragon with silver and gray scales. The mob scattered as enormous gout of flame shot from the dragon's mouth, carving a path of incendiary destruction through the crowd, including Shakul. Unlike the other creatures in the crowd, Shakul was not consumed by the fire but merely wounded.

Again the dragon banked and made another pass, its flame burning a swath through the crowd. This time, Shakul leapt out of the way, landing on several spectators just out side the corridor of flame. The dragon's attack was not to be so easily avoided as its tail lashed out to the side, slicing through Shakul's knee and dropping the creature to the ground. Leathery wings creaked and popped as the dragon pivoted hard, turning around in amere couple of body-lengths. Before the giant creature could recover from the dragon's attack, the wyrm struck it from behind with all four clawed legs, driving it into the ground. A terrible roar drove the remaining spectators from the area as it proceeded to shred the body of the mighty demon.

Confident that the demon wouldn't be making a quick recovery, the dragon casually approached Teyah who stood with the stick hanging loose in her hands, a look of utter defeat on her face. "If you're going to kill me, go ahead and get it over with," she stated in a resigned tone of voice.

"Now why in heavens name would I want to kill you after going to all the trouble of saving you?" the dragon asked before making itself comfortable on the ground near her.

The girl blinked a few times then looked at her wrist, realizing that the charm wasn't there any more. "You're the guardian dragon!"

"Brilliant deduction," the dragon replied. "Simply awe-inspiring powers of reasoning. No wonder you humans are masters of all you survey."

Teyah threw the stick at the dragon with an inarticulate shout. The glowing stick simply bounced off the creature, its magic designed to harm an entirely different manner of entity. "God damn dragons!" She shouted towards what she assumed were the heavens before looking back at the one in front of her. "First I get one that's all sweetness and light while it secretly sets me up to be a human booby trap, getting my family killed off, and now I get one that's got a God damn superiority complex."

Before the dragon could reply a hollow, rasping voice intruded. "Would the two of you mind keeping it down?" Both heads turned towards the ratty looking rabbit carrying a scythe. "The last thing we need is to have him take an interest."

"You!" Teyah growled, pointing at Jack. "Where the hell have you been? You said I'd be safe here."

Jack sighed and leaned on his scythe. "I've been working, and if you hadn't opened the door, nobody would have been any threat to you."

Teyah rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in the air. "Nice of you to tell me now. How was I supposed to know? Some asshole bangs on the door claiming to be you, what was I supposed to do?"

"Ignore it," the rabbit calmly replied. "However, that's all a moot point." He turned towards the dragon. "Would you mind making yourself a little lest conspicuous so that we can get out of here?"

The dragon exhaled, shrinking in size until it was once again a small, winged snake. With a visible flash of its scales, it flew towards Teyah, wrapping itself around her wrist. "And I was just getting comfortable," it sighed in a voice that now matched its size.

"Am I really getting out of this hell-hole now?" Teyah asked as she followed the rabbit away from the carnage.

"Indeed," Jack replied, picking up the pace some. "Your patron has delivered on his end of the bargain and now I will deliver on mine."

The young magi smiled as her pace quickened. "So I'm finally going to heaven?"

Jack let out a bark of laughter that broke the girls mood. "Heaven?" he echoed in disbelief. "No, my dear. I'm afraid you don't qualify for heaven. However, I will be delivering you to some place considerably better than where you were destined."

"That son of a bitch," Teyah muttered. "He said I'd go to heaven when this was all done."

"No, he didn't," the tiny dragon interjected. "He promised that your ultimate destination wouldn't be hell, and it isn't."

Jack stopped in front of a glowing blue sphere. "Here is where we part company."

"What's on the other side?" Teyah asked warily while eyeing the sphere.

"I don't know," Jack replied. "I'm not permitted to enter. This portal connects with many different realms."

"Wait a minute," she demanded, "I am not getting into that sphere unless I know where I'm going to wind up."

A derisive snort left Jack's snout. "As you wish. Either enter the sphere, or you will be trapped in hell forever. The choice is yours." With that he turned and walked away, fading into the shadows.

"Crap." Teyah put her hands on her hips and studied the sphere for a minute before shaking her head. "Aw, nuts," she said as she took a running leap into the unknown.