Story (c) 2000-2003 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.Mary the Mouse © Mary Minch. 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 34

Putting on a Happy Face or Marry Kay Gone Wrong


Arden wound the buggy through the back streets of Kathem, a small town with only a couple of hundred people living there. Situated on the river, it was the last stop for many river barges until they reached the River of the Dancing Gods near the castle Terrindel. Sheila lay in the back seat, watching the stark shadows created by the moon as they silently moved through the streets. When Arden had told her that they would sneak into town, she was skeptical, but after seeing how efficiently he could silence the sounds of the horses hooves and the buggy, she'd understood what he meant.

Pausing at the intersection of two alleys, Arden looked around as if confused before turning the horse to proceed down the right side alley. They got about twenty feet when he stopped and backed the horse and buggy up, then turned them around and headed down the alternate alley.

"Do you have any idea where you're going?" Sheila asked in a hoarse whisper.

The sullen man growled in a low voice, "I would have if Hecate had marked the path better." His ebony eyes scoured the walls for faint magic clues as the buggy silently crept between the buildings. "It's not like I can just stop and ask directions, you know."

The vixen propped her muzzle on her hand as she leaned against the side of the buggy. "Yah, that's what they all say," she commented in a low voice.

Arden ignored the comment as he concentrated on navigating the horse and buggy down the narrow alleyways between buildings. After several twists and turns, including a few wrong ones, he pulled the buggy to a stop. "Here we are," he announced quietly as he looped the reigns over the front rail of the buggy.

Sheila leaned forward and peered out into the darkness. "How can you be so sure this is the place?"

"Because Hecate's hiding in the shadows," he replied, helping the pregnant vixen down from the buggy.

"Huh?" she grunted, glancing around. "I don't see anyone."

With a flick of his wrist, Arden sent a small blue ball of light into the corner between two buildings where it seemed to burst, outlining the standing form of Hecate in a ghostly aura before fading away. "See?"

Hecate stepped out of the shadows, frowning at the man as she approached. "It seems you've learned a trick or two while I've been gone," she commented as she stopped before them. Pausing for a moment, she squinted as she studied his face, then cocked an eyebrow at him . "What the hell did they do to you?"

"They've helped to open my eyes," he replied with a smile.

The Imir frowned at him and crossed her arms. "I wouldn't get too cocky about having the sight. I've known several mortals who gained it and went mad as a result."

"Speaking of going nuts," Sheila interjected, pushing her way between them, "I gotta take a piss or I'm going to explode. Should I just pick a convenient puddle and add to it, or is there something approaching a real bathroom around here?"

Hecate nodded and gestured towards the door she'd been lurking near. "In that door and immediately to the right. There's a small, private apartment that I've arranged for you to stay in. As long as you don't leave the room, nobody should know you're staying there."

"What about food?" the vixen asked, eyeing the large, two story structure. "I gotta eat too, you know."

"They'll bring you food and drink three times a day," the ebony woman replied, taking the vixen's arm and ushering her towards the door. "These people won't talk about you being there, but that's no reason to risk being spotted by their patrons."

"Yah, yah," Sheila muttered as she made her way up the steps to the door, "I get locked in a room while y'all get to run around and have all the fun…" Her grumblings faded as she turned the corner.

"I thought you were going to get her fixed?" Hecate asked, glancing at the man.

"I thought she was," he replied with a shrug.

"I heard that!"

Slipping from shadow to shadow, the short dwarf made his way to the back of a small warehouse. He examined his surroundings for a moment to ensure that he hadn't been followed before slipping inside the door. The entry way was a short, narrow hallway that was covered with a large blanket, preventing any light from leaking out when the door was open. Pushing the door aside, the dwarf paused at the sight of a dozen or so men, all with their weapons drawn and aimed at him.

"Damn it, Thumper," another dwarf grumbled as he sheathed his weapon, "where the hell have you been?"

"Out," the new arrival replied, making his way over to a table with some food and drink on it.

"Out?" A female dwarf came out from a side room, scowling at Thumper when she saw him. "Care to elaborate on that answer?"

Thumper looked down into his cup as he swirled the wine, watching the pattern of light as it was reflected off the surfaces. "Nope."

"Damn it thumper," the first dwarf shouted, getting back up again, "You were supposed to be here hours ago. Now you better have one hell of an excuse, or you'll be on watch at the south end of the docs for the next week."

Swirling his wine some more, the surly dwarf cracked a small smile. "All right," he replied, taking another drink. "I found them."

"You found them?" the female echoed. "What do you mean, you found them?"

"Which part of 'I found them' did you not understand," Thumper shot back angrily.

"Enough!" the first dwarf shouted, putting himself between the two. "No more bickering." He turned towards thumper and crossed his arms. "Now, explain yourself. How'd you spot them and where are they?"

"As you know, I've been keeping tabs on Hecate for the last few days," the dwarf replied, pausing to take a bite of some cheese.

"Amazing how you're the only one who spots her," the female grumbled.

Thumper snarled at the woman, "If you went outside once in a while, you might actually see something for yourself rather than relying on these longlegs to do all your work for you!"

"Stop it," the first dwarf ordered, turning to the female, "the both of you." He turned back to Thumper. "Now continue."

"As I said, I've been keeping an eye on Hecate." He glanced at the female, ensuring that she wasn't going to comment again before continuing. "Tonight I saw her sneak out the back door of the inn, trying to use that Imir trick to stay hidden, so I made my way around to the alleyways and went looking for her. She hadn't gone far, just lurking in the shadows by the door." He took another bite of cheese and followed it with a drink of wine. "Anyway, I figure she's waiting on someone, so I find myself a good niche to hide myself and settle in. Round about an hour ago, I'm about startled out of my skin as this horse and buggy pass by where I was hiding."

"Fell asleep did you?" the woman prompted.

"No," he growled back at her. "The damn thing was all silent like. Not a sound came from it. Even the horse's hooves didn't make a sound. It was a mighty fine magic, if you ask me. And what do I see poppin' out of the carriage but a big human guy just covered with scars."

"Hmmmmm," the first dwarf grunted, "Interesting."

"That it is," Thumper agreed, nodding. "But that ain't the half of it. He reaches up and helps a pregnant female down."

The female let out a bark of laughter. "What makes you so sure that it was the bitch?"

Thumpers hand slid down to the weapon at his belt, but passed it by as he wiped his hand on his pants. "I'd have to say the fox head and the tail were a good clue. The fancy duds she was wearing didn't hurt either. The thing fairly glowed."

"Finally," the leader growled with a predatory smile. "Our patience is paying off." His head snapped around as he looked back over at thumper. "You're sure that you weren't seen?"

"No way," thumper replied with the shake of his head. "Hecate followed the bitch inside while the human took off in the buggy. Neither one could have seen me. If they had, well, do you really think I'd be here now? This is Hecate we're talking about."

"Good point," he conceded, wringing his hands together, the predatory grin returning to his face. "We know where they are, now all we have to do is arrange a distraction for those two who are guarding her and snatch the bitch. When that's done, we'll be filthy rich and famous to boot." He turned back to Thumper, his grin somehow growing larger as he did. "And if we have to kill someone in the process, the more the better."

Together the two dwarves laughed as they toasted to their soon-to-be-found fame and fortune.

"You've got to be kidding," Sheila grumbled as she looked around the sparse room. In one corner was a twin-sized bed with a straw mattress, some sheets and something that resembled a pillow but she wasn't sure about it. Next to the bed sat a small crate that held a large oil lamp, which illuminated the windowless room. Next to the crate sat an old, unfinished rocking chair with a pillow that looked new sitting on it. The only other things in the room were a duffle bag, table with a candle, two stools and a chamber pot. The bare, unadorned plank walls had never been painted or stained and the floor was covered with sawdust. "You expect me to stay in this shit hole?"

Hecate pulled one of the stools away from the table and sat down on it. "Hey! It's the best I could do, OK?" She leaned back against the wall and rocked the stool back on two legs. "It's not easy finding a place to stash you in a town this sized without everyone knowing about it."
"How do you know they won't talk?" the man asked, pulling out the other stool and sitting on it. "The idea is to make it look like we snuck into town."

Sheila cocked a ear towards the table as she settled awkwardly into the rocking chair which creaked at her weight. "Beg your pardon? What do you mean by making it look like we snuck in. If we didn't sneak in, then what was all that about tonight?"

"It's all part of the master plan" he replied, leaning on the table. Pressing one finger against the side of his nose, he exhaled sending a small burst of flame out which lit the crude wax candle. "By now, they know that we're in town and that we're hiding you here, only they think that we don't know that they know. You follow?"

"No, I don't," the vixen replied, rubbing the bridge of her snout with her hand, "but don't let that stop you from continuing on with this master plan of yours."

Chucking at the vixen, Arden leaned back against the wall and clasped his hands across his stomach. "Even as we speak, they are no doubt deploying people to watch the building in case you go anywhere, therefore tomorrow, we're going to give them exactly what they want." He gave her a rather sinister smile that sent a shiver down the vixen's back. "We're going to have me leaving the building with you wearing a heavy cloak, supposedly to disguise you."

"Wait! Just hold it, buddy," Sheila said, holding up a hand. "I thought you said I'm not allowed to leave the room?"

"You're not," he replied, nodding.

Sheila shook her head and blinked at him. "Then how can I be seen leaving the building with you?"

"Simple. Hecate's going to shape change so that she looks like you." He nodded to the ebony female.

"Oh no I'm not," Hecate replied, shaking a finger at Arden. "There's no way I'm going to shape change into that!" she replied, pointing over to Sheila. "No offense"

"None taken," the vixen replied.

"Besides," the deamoness continued, "even if I did, anyone with the sight could see the illusion. The only way to make it stand up to close inspection would be transmutation, and I'm not that good."

"No," Arden replied, pulling a gold coin from the pouch at his belt and popping it into his mouth, "but I am."

"Hell no!" Hecate stood and backed away from the table. "There's no way I'm going to let you transform me into her! If anything happened to you, I'd be screwed!" She continued to back away as the grinning man pushed his stool back from the table and stood. "No no no! Oh no! Please! No! NOOoooooooooooo…….."