Writing sample: A Druid in the City
Updated: May 21, 2018
I've been asked for several projects for writing samples. In almost all cases, this answered their request. This was written as an experiment in fleshing out a setting. Consider it the written version of concept art.
“A Druid in the City”
I had known it was going to be a bad day when I saw the elf lying in front of my clinic. He was bleeding from a wound in his left arm. From the amount of blood on his jacket, he had been doing it for a while. My first instinct was to turn around, take the day off, and go shopping. The problem was that I didn’t have enough money to actually buy anything. The thought of my bills screaming for payment kept me moving up the street. When will I ever learn? When you’re a veterinary druid, always follow your instincts.
He was pale, mostly from blood loss, and wore the colors of a Highrunner. From what I had heard, most of them were the kids of local elves that didn’t keep them under tight enough a leash. This one looked like he’d bit off more than he could chew. As I looked at him, his gray-green eyes locked on mine.
“Hey, Lady...” His voice was slurred. “You the druid?” He looked like someone decided to beat him with a pipe after they shot him. “I’m hurt’in pretty bad...” Well, duh! What kind of moron comes to a vet for healing? I wondered if he’s any smarter when he’s not in shock. Probably not...
I knelt down next to him and placed my hand lightly on his chest. Closing my eyes, I used a small rite to find out how bad his wounds really were. Hmmm... Fractured ribs, mild concussion, and the hole in his arm seemed to be from a clean slug wound. The slug had passed right through him, leaving minimal damage to the surrounding tissue. It had probably been an armor piercer.
Deciding he was going to live a few more minutes, I got up.
“Hey? You gonna help me?” His voice sounded like a squeak.
“Yup! I’m gonna call an emergency medical clinic and get a minister to take a look at those wounds. You need real attention for those cracked ribs. I’ll bring out a couple of blankets and make you comfortable until they get here.”
“NO!” His shout startled me, but I refused to show it. Keeping my face impassive, I listened. “You’re a druid! You can heal! Right? If a temple clinic gets me, they have to report the slug wound!” The kid was panicking, trying to get up.
I grabbed him and spoke calmly and quietly in the same voice I used for wild animals. “It’s ok... Fine... I’ll take you inside and you can rest on the couch... We’ll get all of this taken care of...” I continued to drone my voice as I helped his stumbling form to the front door of the clinic.
It was a challenge to remove the wards, unlock and open the door, and hold onto the kid all at the same time. Good thing he was light.
By the time I had him in the waiting room, I had his blood all over me. I set him down on the couch and walked into the office. Wendy, my assistant, wouldn’t be in for another half-hour. Grabbing a couple of blankets, I began covering him. He was out cold by this time, and I was seriously considering calling the medical clinic when I realized he had started breathing erratically.
Grabbing him, I focused the rite that allowed me to monitor his body. He was unable to breathe properly due to the damage his ribs had taken. I shouldn’t have moved him.
I was unlicensed to practice medicine, but had all of the paperwork for an emergency medical healer. All druids are expected to take the class as soon as they get past the basics. I wasn’t up to brain surgery, but this I could work with. I didn’t bother with removing his jacket, and laid my hands on the flesh above the damaged ribs. I could hear his breath coming in shallow pants, and could sense the dangerous situation he was in. My eyes closed as I gathered energy for the healing I was about to perform. As the power built I began pushing it into the damaged area around his ribs. He groaned in pain as his ribs shifted in his chest. Once, I even heard a meaty, popping noise from beneath my hands. Finally, after what seemed like minutes, I opened my eyes. He was looking back.
“Don’t move.” I warned him. “The healing has started, but I only knitted the bones back into place. Any real stress will re-break them.”
“No worries,” He whispered. He seemed afraid to breathe too hard. “But it still kinda hurts. Can you help that?”
“Sorry, no. If you had let me call a medical clinic, instead of nearly killing yourself, you would already be better. As it is, you could have died on my couch.” I looked down at my outfit. “Oh, and thanks for the new clothes.”
“New clothes?” His face blanked.
“Yup. The new clothes you’re going to buy me for ruining these.”
“Sure, no problem. I have money.” His voice sounded tired. “Just have to call my dad.”
“Good.” I smiled, and immediately changed my voice to razor sharp ice. “Now, if you would be so kind as to tell me why you were sitting on the walk in front of MY animal clinic?”
It was a good thing he actually had the courtesy to look embarrassed. I might have tossed him out otherwise. “Sorry ’bout that...” He sighed, always a good sign. “Somebody had told me that a druid lived on 6th street. When the ’oinkin Gnashers thrashed me, I figured you would know how to heal an elf. You guys work on fey creatures, right?”
I couldn’t help it: I laughed. He scowled as I held my sides and tried to get control of myself. Then I looked at him: I started laughing all over again.
“What’s so funny?” The look on his face made it worse. All that petty pride mixed with confusion. I decided to tell him.
“You think you’re fey?” I wiped the tears from my eyes. “You? Born and raised in the city? Your parents probably born and raised in a city?” His face blushed a bright red. “You wouldn’t know a fey if she bit you on the...” I couldn’t finish. It was just too much.
“Hey! I can survive in the wilderness! I go camping every year!” His voice squeaked again. I was laughing so hard at this point that I fell out of my chair.
He left without even paying for my outfit or the healing. That’s gratitude for you.
I cleaned myself up with a sweep of my hand, and then did the same for the couch. Walking from there to the street, I held the cleaning rite until it reached the spot where I’d found him. I wondered if he would get the healing attention he needed, or if he would run back to his gang and try to hide out again. I decided to swab up a sample of his blood from the spot so I could check on him later. I swept the rest away and released the rite.
After checking the office for any notes, I went about the process of morning inventory. I found nothing amiss. Never do. Wendy was an exquisite assistant. I decided not to tell her about the elf. Why worry her? She never liked me coming down to the clinic this early, and would use the morning’s adventure to drive the point home again. I sighed and setup a pot CoCaf in the machine.
Wendy got in a little late. She looked irritable about it.
“Sorry. The UDFers were protesting about something again.” She scowled at me, as if I had put them up to making her late.
“Don’t give me that look! I can’t control them anymore than you can. If they want to protest,” I paused to look at the calendar and read it aloud, “ ‘The inhumane use of an endangered species for experimentation’, let ’em.”
“Squirrels.” She replied.
I blinked. “What?”
“They are protesting the hurting of squirrels.” Her face was completely straight.
I felt I had to say something, like a dog biting at a wound. “Squirrels are endangered?”
“Only in the city.”
“Uh?” I was totally at a loss this time.
“Seems the Shocker Lizards that people keep buying as pets are eating them.”
“Oh...” I gave up and started looking for something else to discuss.
Wendy would have none of it and continued with a sadistic grin. “And you call yourself a druid.” Her grin got wider. “Leaving all those poor, poor, squirrels to suffer at the claws of the evil corporations.”
“All right! What were the ‘Evil corporations’ doing to the ‘poor, poor, squirrels’?”
“They were using them to show the effect of WeaveRift power transmissions on living creatures.” Her grin took up her entire face now.
I shook my head and rubbed my eyes with the palms of my hands. “But WeaveRift transmissions have no effect on any living thing. Right?”
About this time, I thought the top of her head should fall off. There was nothing between it and her jaw but teeth. “Right! But the druids are protesting it anyway!” I groaned and poured myself another cup of CoCaf.
I wish I could say that the day got normal from there. Goddess... I wish it had only been half as weird. As it was, my first three cases of the day consisted of some near dead shocker lizards. Seems the children who owned them decided that putting them into small containers and throwing them at people while yelling ‘Go Shocker!’ was a good idea. I would like to strangle the Crystalvid executive who came up with idea of putting not-so-harmless animals, trained for mortal combat no less, into a kids show. I felt good about being able to save all three. Then I taught the parents about the responsibility of helping children to understand that pets are NOT TOYS! Perhaps I went too far in making them relive the experience that the lizards were forced to survive. Regardless: The parents paid; the children cried over their poor pets suffering; and I even convinced the lizards to forgive the children.
For a while, it seemed that things might calm down. I worked on four dogs, seven cats, one very contrary pseudo dragon, and four more shocker lizards. Did I mention I hate CrysVid?
As I started to leave for lunch, Wendy gave me a message about a house call at Hetra-Hydra. They’re a large technical corporation with money to burn. While I’d never really liked money, as such, I still had to pay the bills and purchase supplies. This one was willing to offer over four times my basic house call fee just to come down and take a look. When I looked back at Wendy, she nodded.
I remained dubious. “Do they even have animals?” They design and manufacture Hetra-chips. The chips are found most commonly in data processors, but were finding use in everything from weapons to CoCaf machines. But I never heard of them having animals for anything.
“They must, or why call us?” She went back to her paperwork and I left. This would be worth skipping lunch for.
“I want to thank you for coming down on such short notice.” He was friendly and well groomed. His stylish business jacket and short cloak were a polite shade of earth-tones I approved of immediately. His good looks helped.
“Not a problem, I usually eat on this side of town, and the Gates aren’t too bad this time of day.” We were walking down a beige hallway that looked like every other we’d been down so far. I no longer had any idea where we were, but that was fine. I could always get home with the ERD that Wendy gave me last year. Also known as an Emergency Recall Disk, it could teleport you to a designated spot as a one-time-only self-defense. It cost her a fortune, and I couldn’t refuse. I gave her a raise instead. She was worth it.
“You solve this problem, and I’ll buy you lunch myself!” His grim humor was a pleasant change from my usual customers. Most of mine had trouble making ends meet, let alone paying a druid to heal their family pet. “It was just brought to my attention today, and it seems to have been going on for a while now.”
“Did I really need to sign all of those non-disclosure forms? And where are you keeping animals? I thought this was a Hetra-chip factory.” I looked at my timer, we had been walking for about 8 minutes. We must be at the far end of the factory by now.
“Yes... down this hall... and we are. We are also a research lab. So, in case someone slips and says something about a project, you have agree not to blab it to the BNN prime time news.” It was hard to take offense with the friendly tone he had, so I didn’t.
“I take it that it’s some kind of guard animal? Kind of a primitive way to secure a place.”
“Depends on the type. Here we are.”
I looked around and saw nothing. He just smiled and waved at a scryer that was watching us from a nearby wall. Someone must have been monitoring us, because suddenly the floor in front of me disappeared. It revealed a pit of brown, rippling water. The smell was less than pleasant. I frowned. “An illusion,” I asked?
“No.” His voice was firm. “An illusion covering a generated force wall. Perfectly safe.”
“And if the power goes ou...”
He cut me off for the first time. “Then backup power crystals keep it running, and we can slide the floor shut.”
I was not very confident about that. Seems it would be better to leave it open as a defense if the power did go off. Even I know a trap when I see one. Kneeling down, I could see nothing in the sewer water.
“Please be careful. It can be very dangerous if you’re careless.” I did not ask how he knew that.
“Where is it?” I still saw nothing.
“Right in front of you.” I still saw nothing but the water rippling. The smell was overpowering. Then I realized what I was looking at, and it was not sewer water.
“Where did you get it?” I backed up despite myself. At least I did it calmly.
“We have all the appropriate licenses for it.”
“Right. Where did you get it?”
“Madam, I can show you any paperwork you need.” His voice had become more professional and a lot less pleasant. I got the distinct feeling that being between it and him might be a bad idea. I moved.
“Fine. But would you mind telling me what a Gel Cube is doing in a pit trap below your HALLWAY floor?” If he noticed the edge to my voice, he ignored it masterfully.
“It is for the ‘disposal of hazardous biological waste materials’. It is in the hall because we use it to filter the sewer line leaving the secured area, and could find no other way to bring it in. Putting it outside where someone might accident upon it was too careless to even consider.” He looked down at it. “It seems to have been having trouble lately.”
I gave up. “Really?” I looked at it while staying out of arms-reach.
“Yes, over the last month, it has been unable to filter the fluid coming from the labs. Since we also use it to clean the normal sewage too...”
“Hence the smell...”
“Right.” He wrinkled his nose. “Any ideas what may be wrong?”
I looked it him. “There’s a ten foot cube of slime in your hallway floor, and you’re asking me ‘What’s wrong’?” He sighed. I raised my eyebrow in response.
“All right.” He carefully rephrased the question. “What is causing it to not filter the sewage?”
“Do you feed it anything besides sewage?” I looked at it again. It was impossible to see anything that might be considered a physiology in the thing.
“We throw it some meat on occasion.” I looked up at him sharply. He didn’t match my gaze. “Mostly, it seems to absorb anything we throw into it. Chemicals, even toxic ones, have no effect on it. Lately, though, it seems to have stopped keeping up with it. It just lets it flow through.”
“Started about a month ago? And just kept getting steadily worse?”
“Right. Never had a problem before. It just keeps filtering less and less waste.”
“How much goes through here?” I fought down the urge to poke it with a stick. It might seem unprofessional.
“No idea. We don’t meter it, since there is no cost for running it.”
“And because documenting it would be a possible liability.”
“Right.” I looked at it. It seemed straightforward enough. “You’re overfeeding it.”
“What? It eats everything!”
“It’s not a hole. It’s a living thing.” I thought about it. “Actually, it’s a colony of living things. The point is, it will filter everything it CAN. It has limits. Seems it just started reaching them.” Thinking some more, I figured it out. “Have you hired more employees? Added more bathrooms, or started using them more?”
He looked down at it again. “Actually, yes, we have. Makes good sense. Sure it isn’t sick?”
“I have never heard of a cube dying of anything but fire.”
“Ok then. Let’s go write that check.” He smiled again as the floor reappeared and he walked over it. Turning around, he saw me still on the other side of the false floor. I hadn’t moved. “You coming?”
I smiled at him. “You write the check, and I’ll wait here.” He laughed out loud and left me there.
I walked out with a very, very, VERY good check.
“And you’re not even going to tell me about it?” Her voice held a hint of pout to it.
“Can’t, signed a contract not to tell the Great Mother herself. I tell you and break contract, they shut me down.” I thought about it and shivered. “Or throw me in...”
“Never mind. How was lunch? I skipped mine.” The smell was still fresh in my mind. I went home and showered twice before taking the Gates back to the clinic.
“It was ok. Shouldn’t skip meals.”
“Not hungry. Anyway, what’s with the little girl in the front office?”
“She says her cat’s hurt. Wouldn’t let me see it. Said she wanted ‘the nice lady’.” She tried to look hurt, failed, and grinned instead. “I thought about telling her there was no one here like that...”
“Watch it.” Her face straightened. “All right, you get me some CoCaf, and I’ll look at the kitty.”
I went out into the waiting room. It was empty except for the girl and the cat. The girl was well dressed, and looked like she belonged in a better section of town. Her face was sad, but she smiled for me when I knelt beside her chair. The cat was a longhair, and not a very healthy looking one. In fact, it looked kind of dead. Come to think of it, it looked VERY dead.
“Honey, what happened to your cat?” I couldn’t keep the sadness out of my voice. I knew what I was going to have to tell her.
“He fell out the window again.”
I touched it, it was cold and still. I felt tears form in my eyes. “Oh, Honey, I’m sorry but...” Wait a moment? Again?
The cold dead cat turned its head and looked at me with cold dead eyes.
To my credit, I did NOT scream. I only jumped back two or three steps, tripped over a chair, fell down and crab-crawled back until I hit the wall.
“Can you fix him?” Her face was pure innocence. I don’t want to think what mine looked like.
“Honey.” Somehow my voice stayed level, if a little forced. “What happened to your cat?”
“I told you, he fell out the window.” Her voice was patient, as if SHE was the one speaking to a small child.
“After that.” My voice cracked while my back was trying to crawl its way up the wall.
“I came here.” She was starting to annoy me. Not only had she brought a kitty of the damned into my clinic, she was being obtuse.
“What I mean.” It was taking lots of effort to keep my voice kind. “Is what happened to make the kitty like it is now?”
“Oh, the other clinic fixed him.” She was petting it as she walked toward me. I felt the bile rise in my throat and I slid along the wall toward the office door.
My voice squeaked as she got closer. “Oh, honey... That’s NOT fixed!”
“I know. He walks funny now, and he sounds sick when he meows...”
I interrupted her. “Honey, could you take it into the first room over there. I’m going to help him, but he needs to be in there.” I was starting to babble. I didn’t care. I was just glad to have an idea that didn’t involve screaming and running away.
“Ok.” It was that simple. She just took it and walked into the room. I shut the door behind her.
I was still shaking when Wendy walked in with the CoCaf. She noticed immediately and set the cup down next to me. I tried to straighten my clothes and head in the same action, and failed. I gave up and wrung my hands instead.
“That bad?” Her voice was as sad as mine had been. I looked at her and made a single harsh bleat of a laugh. “It’s dying?” I continued to stare at her, unable to think of what to say. “It was already dead?” Her voice was starting to whine as she began realize that it was somehow worse than dead. “The girl is dying?” I couldn’t listen to her anymore. I pointed at the door and nodded for her to walk into the room.
“Oh. All right.” She opened the door tentatively and walked in, looking around. “Hello, sweetheart. I just want to see if there is any...” Her voice suddenly went off like a blaster. The shrill sound of her screech sent my nerves from on edge to near calm. I never have understood why I deal better with stress when others panic, but I do.
She came out slamming the door shut behind her. I could hear the little girl scolding Wendy and cooing to her ‘kitten’.
Wendy’s back was against the door, even though it opened into the waiting room and could not be blocked from this side. Her face was pure venom. “I hate you.”
I smiled weakly and stood up on shaky legs. “Any ideas?”
“Lots of them. Most deal with strangling you with my bare hands.”
“Focus. We can’t let her leave with that...” My mind fought for something to call it. “Thing! We have to get her away from it.”
“How about getting it away from us?”
“Wendy!” My voice was harsh. “That little girl needs our help!”
Her face twisted into a snarl. “She needs a cleric, not us.”
“WENDY!” My voice held awe for a split second before I recovered. “That’s a GREAT idea!”
“You get the cryscomm and call a cleric. I’ll get the girl to leave the cat here for an hour.”
“What religion?” Her face looked unsure. Druids were not well liked by clerics. They see us as a religion. As far as they’re concerned, we’re competition.
“The Temple of Light. They tend to be good at this kind of thing.”
“On it.” She ran to the office desk and began looking up the comm code of the closest temple.
“Don’t forget to ask how much they charge.” Clerics can be expensive, especially if they don’t like you.
I took a deep breath, let it out, and opened the door to the waiting room. The little girl looked up and frowned.
“She scared him.” Her voice was scolding, and I smiled in spite of myself.
“She gets that way around cats... Sometimes. I’m sorry.” Her frown lessened some as her hands went back to petting the thing on her lap. It stared at me with those dull yellow eyes. I had the weirdest sensation that it knew what I was going to do.
“That’s all right. He’s fine now.” She looked down at it happily.
“Good. We wouldn’t want to upset him. Honey, I need to keep him for a few hours for examination. He looks kind of...” The thought, DEAD, screamed in my head. “...sick.”
She looked at me with a wary look. “You’re not going to hurt him, are you?”
“I can’t promise that. I may have to do something he wouldn’t like, or may even hurt, in order to help him. Has a minister ever healed you before?”
“Uh-huh.” Her head nodded as she thought about it. Healing can get fairly painful sometimes, depending on what had to be repaired in the body.
“Then you understand. What I want you to do for me is to take this money.” I handed her five small silver coins. “And go get something to eat.”
“I’m not hungry.” Her face showed stubbornness.
“I know... But if I have to heal him, I don’t want you here in case he gets mad at the people present for it. So if you’re not here, he’ll be glad to see you when it’s over.”
“Oh. Will he be alright?” Her face was hopeful.
“I don’t know, Honey...” I knew what was going to happen to the little monster, but I’ll be damned if I was going to tell a 9 year old girl. “I may have to use strong magic if he’s really sick.”
“I understand.” She put him on the stainless steel table and walked out with me. Outside the door, she spoke to it. “Be good, and do what the nice lady says.”
I shut the door and walked her out the front. After telling her to come back in an hour, I went back to the office and sat back down in the chair. Wendy came in and smiled.
“I hate it when you smile like that. Will a cleric come?”
“Yup. Better yet, when I told the priest on the phone about it, he said ‘I have to see this’ and refused to charge me.”
I groaned. “They’re going to make us pay. One way or another, mark my words, it will happen.”
“You’re just being a pessimist.”
“No, just a realist.”
“You have no...” She was interrupted by the front door chime. I stood up and walked into the front commons. A young man, about twenty-ish, stood in the doorway wearing a short white cloak. His clothes were conservative, yet comfortable. The most striking thing about him was the medallion he wore of a sunburst with a cross in it. He smiled at me with a look of open friendship that made me worry about what I said before.
“Greetings, Madam. I am Father Patros.” He smiled as the recognition lit in my eyes. “Yes, Patros is the word for ‘father’ in olde common. It is something of a joke about the temple, or so I hear.”
I rallied my thoughts and replied with an answering smile. “A proud name, and one that any cleric would envy.”
“You’re kind, and I thank you.” He speech was formal, as if reciting from rote.
“I’m sorry for calling you on such short notice, but we seem to have a problem.” I caught my hands fidgeting again, and let them fall to my sides.
“Ah. This would be about the call I just received. Where is the other lady? The one that advised me of the problem?”
“Here.” She appeared in the office register window. She looked embarrassed about something.
“It is very nice to meet you. Are you feeling better?” His voice was kind, and yet sounded somehow amused.
“Yes.” She barely seemed to whisper the word.
“Good, then all is forgotten. Is the child safe?” I nodded. “Very good! If you could allow me to see the creature?”
I walked him to the door and opened it while Wendy followed along. All three of us looked in the room at the cat. It looked back.
“You’re right, it IS undead. Who in Creation would do that to a little girl’s cat?” He seemed more confused than angry.
Wendy piped up. “Someone with a really sick sense of humor?” I looked at her. She fidgeted and moved toward the back. “I’ll get some more CoCaf. Father?”
“Yes, thank you.”
We looked at it again. “Madam, since this seems to make you feel so uncomfortable, why don’t you wait out here.” The look he gave me said it was not a question.
He walked in and closed the door behind him.
Wendy came back in with three steaming cups. And looked around. “He already in there?”
“Yes...” I kept looking back at the door. For some reason, worry gnawed at my nerves.
“How long has he been in there?”
“About a minute.”
We waited silently, drinking from our cups. As I moved the cup to my mouth for the tenth time, we heard a scream from the room. I was quite sure it was the priest.
I put down my now empty cup and used a cleaning rite to dry my outfit. Looking at Wendy, who was standing with her own cup empty, I gave a tired sigh. “Does our insurance cover undead cats attacking visiting priests, or is this considered an ‘Act of the Gods’?”
Wendy looked at the door with her eyes wide. “Do you think he’s hurt?” Her voice had a tinge of panic.
I mumbled my reply into my hands.
“What?” The panic sounded worse.
I looked up and carefully phrased my reply. “No. I don’t think he’s hurt.”
Her face relaxed and she inhaled again. “Thank the gods...”
“I think he’s dead.”
You could have heard a pin drop for nearly five seconds.
“WHAT?” The panic in her voice had returned with reinforcements.
I looked her in the eye with my best condescending look. I toned my voice to match. “He hasn’t come back out, has he?”
This seemed to deflate her completely. “Shouldn’t we do something?”
“What you mean is, ‘Why don’t YOU go look at the carnage’?” I raised my eyebrow. “Am I right?”
Her arms folded across her chest. “Your office. Your rules. Your job.” She sounded positively petulant. I smiled and shook my head. She WAS right. It was my office.
“Fine.” I stood back up and walked over to the door. Placing my ear against the wood, I listened for anything at all. Nothing. Zip. Nada.
I frowned and glared at her. “You want to be a human shield?”
“Then shut up.” I considered. “Please.” I braced myself and opened the door. Everything was as I left it.
But no cleric... And no cat... The room was completely devoid of living, or undead, creatures.
“Well. That takes care of that.” I began walking to the kennel in the back of the clinic.
Wendy looked confused. “But what about the cleric?”
I picked up the cryscomm without activating it and placed it at my ear. Looking at her, I smiled and began to speak. “Hello, is this the temple of light? Good! We just had a cleric come down here... Yes... Well, he won’t be coming back... No... You see, he was vanished by an undead kitten. No, you can’t see the kitten. He vanished too. Really? An Inquisitor? Will take care of everything? Thank you! Our address is...”
Wendy threw her hands into the air and yelled. “FINE! I get it! You can stop now!”
I put down the cryscomm and continued to the back.
“But where are you going?”
“To get a cat for a little girl.”
“No. I’ll use some rites I know to change it so it looks the same.” I began looking for a similar sized cat from among the ones in the room.
Wendy piped up from the office. “Hopefully a LITTLE better...”
I remained silent and continued looking. After about five minutes, I was able to find one that looked pretty close. It was the same breed and was male. Looking it in the eye, I spoke the rite that would let me speak with it.
“Hello, Cat.” I picked him up.
“Hello, Human.” His voice was a comfortable rumble. “YOU’VE been having an interesting morning, haven’t you.” It was not a question.
“Listening in?” I carried him to the waiting room where the monster had been. I took another look for it, just to be safe.
“No, you and the other female were loud. Hard to get a good nap in with all the noise.” His nose wiggled and he bared teeth. “What’s that smell?”
“A dead cat.”
“Smells worse then dead.”
I set him down on the table. He quickly began smoothing his fur. “I need you to do something for me.”
“Why should I?”
I smiled, or rather, I bared my teeth at him. “Because I’M the bigger predator here.”
He was attentive at once. “I meant: How can I help you?”
“Better. A little girl has lost her cat companion, and I want you to take his place.”
He looked at the door. I think he was estimating his chance for escape. “Did she have anything to do with her cat becoming ‘lost’?”
“No, he jumped out of a high window and died in the fall.”
“Is she really THAT bad?”
“LISTEN YOU! I have had it up to here with this. You are going to be her faithful, loving baby. You will do this either through the kindness of your heart, or fear of me. I don’t care which. Do we understand each other?” I was screeching and hissing. Cat hunkered down and folded his ears back. Wendy even walked by to see what was going on. I ignored her.
His reply was wary. “All right, you aren’t giving me a lot of choices.”
“But won’t she figure out that I’m not her...” I began chanting the rite of shifting forms. “...Hey! I don’t understand you. What are you...” His form suddenly shifted to match the other cat, abet in a much healthier form. He sat stunned.
“There! You look great!”
“You used magic on me!” He curled up into an even tighter ball on the table and yowled.
“Kitty!” A child’s voice broke through the yowling and caused the cat to start. The little girl came into the room. Wendy looked at me from behind her and shrugged.
“Hello, Honey.” I said quickly. “I was just trying to calm down your kitten...” She picked him up and laid him backward across her arms so she could rub his belly.
Cat growled at me. “Can I back out now?”
“This or the dog kennel.” I cooed back at him.
“Can I have a few minutes to make up my mind?”
The little girl hugged Cat lightly and smiled at me. “You fixed his voice!” Her voice was pure sunshine. “Thank you! Daddy can pay you...”
I cut her off. “No, Honey. It’s fine. You just take him home and show him how much you love him. I’m glad you brought your cat in for help. He needed it.”
“Thank you.” And she left happy, with Cat in tow yowling for the dogs.
After closing the shop, Wendy and I looked at each other for what seemed like several minutes. Finally, I broke the silence with a single, firm word. “Dinner.”
Her head tilted as she consider it for a moment. Rubbing her eyes, she replied with a word of her own. “Fine.”
The animals were already fed, and the cages cleaned that morning. The paperwork could wait. As she got her jacket, I threw my cloak over my shoulders. I shook my head as I thought about the way the day had gone. “Short day today.”
She laughed once and smiled. “Was too long for me, girl.”
“Same here.” I looked at the check that Hetra-Hydra had written. It was really good to have extra money for a change. A LOT of extra money. I made a decision. “Tonight we eat at Isgold’s.”
Wendy looked up and gave me her best, insolent grin. “Are we up to their standards?”
I picked up the check and waved it at her. “Tonight, the question is, are they up to ours?” Grabbing up my hip purse, we walked out the door.
I was surprised to run into Wendy on my way to the clinic the next morning. She was never up this early, let alone walking the streets. I stared at her with mocking, wide eyes and gave and exaggerated gasp. “Who are you? And what did you do with Wendy?”
Her reply was defensive, and given with a small smile. “After the feast from last night, I decided to sack-out early.” The smile expanded into a grin and a shrug. “I just couldn’t sleep any more this morning.”
“Fine.” I began walking again. “So, what do you think? Aren’t the gates wonderful this time of day?”
“Not as crowded, that’s the Light’s-own-truth. Now I know why you always get out so early.”
“Nice and Quiet, too.” I began to say more, but was interrupted by the sight that greeted me in front of my clinic. The elf kid from the day before was speaking to the young cleric who had disappeared from my waiting room. The cleric seemed to be trying to heal a slug wound in his RIGHT arm. I felt my stomach churn.
“On second thought...” I grabbed Wendy and turned us both around. “Let’s take the day off and go shopping. I don’t think I’m ready to go back to work today...” Wendy, grinning like a madwoman, placed her arm in mine and fell in step without another word.
It would be hard to find another friend like Wendy...
“A Druid in the City”
By John Bowden, of Foolish Designs