Previously: After saving Pagewyn several times, from xlurps, blurghs, and an exploding couch, Nadec decides to stick with him until he’s back in his kingdom, Paralelo. He shows her why he is ‘the master of the Squares, defender of the Triangles, chief of all Lines’. A darkness rams Nadec while alone in the woods and she passes out.
Upon waking, she experiences what it’s like to have a concussion, and finds herself prisoner to a zlurp and his vegetarian dragon, Blackie. Nadec finds herself being rescued by Pagewyn. Blackie and Kitty, Nadec’s cat, appear to get along, but the zlurp wakes up and tosses Wyny aside. Blackie turns against the zlurp with Dragon’s White gas, burbing him to unconsciousness. Wyny got hurt in his fall, but Nadec’s concussion is much more serious. She wakes up a week later in a cave.
Read all the previous chapters here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The sound of dripping water echoed in the cave while Nadec stared at Wyny. She’d only just awoken from a week-long recovery slumber, and he wants to get into the serious stuff straight away, wake the zlurp? She wasn’t certain if she could handle it. Her face remained neutral; there was no need to show her uncertainty. Ever.
‘Where did you get these clothes?’
‘I can show you that later,’ he said hesitantly. ‘It is hardly important at this moment.’
‘Were there more?’ A faint cramp in the belly reminded her of the urgency. ‘Were there more clothes? Show me.’ She managed to put a sense of command in her voice, but cursed inwardly at the pleading undertone. Had he noticed?
He regarded her with a slight frown, almost seemed to study her, then narrowed his eyes, apparently coming to a conclusion.
‘I suppose we can wait until tomorrow. In any case, Blackie can keep him unconscious as long as we want.’
At the mention of her name, the dragon lifted her head and blinked a few times in their direction. When she saw there wasn’t anything going on, the head went back down. The black scales of the large animals moved with the large intake of breath, reflecting the blue of the cave’s illumination in rippling, scattered iridescent tones. The sigh drooped with contentment for being curled up with Kitty in the middle. Nadec vaguely wondered why the black had seemed all-consuming before, outside of the cave.
‘You do not like the clothes I gave you?’
Gave me? GAVE me? Those words made her blood boil instantly. He hadn’t given them to her as they hadn’t been his in the first place! Ignoring the embarrassment she felt at knowing that he’d dressed her while she’d been passed out, she opened up her mouth to give him a piece of her mind.
‘Bloody heavens dude, you really have some nerve, claiming you—’ the tirade slowed down when she looked at his amused face. Why was he amused? Had that been a joke? She wanted to think that uncharacteristic of him, but then realised she didn’t know him that well just yet. She cursed again as she understood what that meant. He must have guessed she’d have a more profound reason to want to check the clothes. That man was too good at reading her.
‘What is a dude?’
Nadec couldn’t help the amused snort before explaining that a dude is a synonym of man. He didn’t appear to know what a synonym was so she told him synonyms are different words with the same meaning. They stood up and started walking toward yet another of the side tunnels.
‘I understand.’ He nodded. ‘What is a synonym’—he pronounced this in an odd way—’of a woman then? Wodude?’
The way he asked it, delivered in a tone, showing how serious he was about the question, made her break out in a loud and belly-deep laugh.
‘You, sir, have made me laugh more often and more genuine than ever in the past three years. Thank you for that.’ She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes while they walked through the bio luminescent-lit corridors of the cave. The strange light—produced by a combination of some sort of moss or algae and worms, she saw now—made his facial features look regal. She wondered if she thought that way because she knew he was a ruler, or because he did look it. The stubble he had when they first met had turned into a scruffy beard. At least that validated his claim about her week-long slumber.
‘Now that we’re exchanging… knowledge, let me ask you a question. You obviously know something about cleanliness and hygiene, as you knew what to use the waterfall in the little room for.’ She scraped her throat roughly, surprised at how much of a taboo this felt like.
‘You mentioned garderobes in your castle before. They were like a bathroom, right?’ She didn’t give him a chance to reply, rushing on and talking quickly before shame took over. ‘So how do you wipe your butt? We use toilet paper, and some use water, but I’d be surprised if you have easy access to water in all of your rooms. I always wondered about that, but I’ve never thought about googling it. On the internet.’
He stopped in bafflement, his face scrunched up in confusion.
‘Bathroom? Googling? Internet? Toilet… paper? Why would you use paper? It is incredibly rare, not to mention rough. I do not see that working very well. Never you mind. If you need to know, we have strips of linen to take care of our business. And, as far as I am aware, people outside of the castle use leftovers leaves from food they’ve prepared. I assume they have other ways as well, but I can not say for certain what they are. I do not mingle often with people on the street, I am afraid. It is fairly smelly. Here, this is it.’
His hand outstretched toward a smaller opening in the end of the cave’s tunnel. Smaller was a matter of perspective, as the tunnel was still large enough to fit herself at least three times in height and multiple times in width. She marveled again at the sight of the natural irregularities in the dark rock’s surface. The uneven illumination worked to bathe it all in a magical, and even mysterious, glow. She decided she liked this place.
When she entered the room, the change in atmosphere was palpable. The air was much drier here. Nadec barely registered that. She could only gape at the huge pile of clothes in front of her. The size reminded her of a tv-show she once saw, not too long ago, where the tv-people—had it been called the war on waste?—wanted to illustrate what the amount of clothes people threw away looked like. That pile had been about six thousand kilos of clothes, and represented what got thrown out every ten minutes. After seeing that, she’d changed her attitude towards clothes and commissioned fighting suits made from mushroom leather.
Hence why she again felt anger rising towards the Zlurp for destroying them. None of the clothes she saw here were damaged much, they all seemed fine. She was suddenly very much looking forward to the morning. That creature will answer her questions, and if not, she’d gladly toss him around the room!
‘Do you need help with anything?’
The concerned look on Wyny’s face replaced the anger with tears forming in her eyes. He did care, she was sure of that. Despite that, she shooed him off. This was something she had to do by herself.
She tried to pick out the most shabby looking pieces of garment, ripping them in large strips. A woman’s period doesn’t wait on anything, not even being in the Other Realm, away from civilisation. The cramps were getting worse. Nothing she could do about those. She counted herself lucky to have such a massive stock of fabric. It would make things easier.
They weren’t going to budge from this cave for the next days, of that she was sure.