tagSci-Fi & FantasyA Night at the Dancing Dog Inn Ch. 03

A Night at the Dancing Dog Inn Ch. 03

byollraigth©

The sun was just over the tips of the trees, and the scent of pine was thick in the air. Birds sang and water splashed as a frog hopped into a pond. This was the tail-end of summer in Þickbaum, when the air was cool but not as frigid as it would be in winter, the snow was just a thin sheet on the ground, and the lakes and ponds hadn't frozen over yet.

This was her favorite place as well, though there was nothing special about it, really. It was just a small clearing in the forest, mostly filled by a large, clear-watered pond. There was a large, flat rock a ways out into the water, which you could walk to if you didn't mind getting your knees wet. Ferri had spent many a summer's day sitting on that rock. She could, and had, stay there for hours at a time, watching the sunrise and sunset, listening to the sounds of the forest, smelling the clean air...

Walking into the clearing with her sheaves of paper and bundle of charcoal sticks, she stopped for a moment to take it all in. Just the sight of this place made her relax. It was almost enough to distract her from the squirming in her belly. Vasha's children were strong, like her, and prone to moving. In the past few months Ferri had been woken up on several occasions with what felt like an all-out brawl going on in her stomach.

They were big, too, and Ferri's middle had gotten... Enormous. She'd started showing early, before any of Vasha's other conquests. By the time six months had passed Dima mentioned that Ferri was as big as she'd been at her biggest with Signi and Sigrun, and now that she was past seven months gone Ferri's belly had surpassed even that. Every morning she woke up feeling that she couldn't possibly get any bigger, but bigger she got, and it wasn't just her stomach either. As she waded out to the rock it felt like every part of her jiggled with each step. Her butt was big even before she got pregnant, so the wobbling she felt back there wasn't unfamiliar to her- there was just more of it now- but gods, her tits! They hadn't yet reached the size that Vasha's had been, but they were coming close, and on Ferri they looked and felt enormous. They itched constantly (along with her belly), jiggled constantly, and leaked constantly.

Before, when Ferri would come here to draw, she would set her paper down on the flat surface of the rock and lean over it. That didn't quite work anymore. There was just too much in the way. She had started bringing a plank of old wood with her, which she rested against her breasts and used as a sort of desk. It worked alright, though they were squishy and soft and tended to move a lot, so she had to use her other hand to keep it steady as she worked. It was an inconvenience, yes, but it was worth it. Ferri didn't know what she would do with herself if she couldn't draw.

And draw she did. She did the trees first, as sort of a warm-up. She'd drawn them many times before, and so they were old friends to her now. When she finished with them, she held her drawing up and compared them to real ones, then she frowned. She could never quite get the branches right. They looked like trees, certainly, and a stranger could probably even work out exactly where she was sitting when she drew them just from looking at it, but something about it was just... wrong, though she couldn't say exactly what it was.

She had once spent an entire day just drawing the trees over and over, furiously trying to copy what she saw perfectly onto the paper. Every time, there was something wrong with them. Her mistakes were growing smaller and less noticeable over the years, but she couldn't bring herself to stop until she had them down perfectly.

Still, she couldn't just spend all of her days drawing the same old trees. She drew the pond then, as she saw it, and a frog as it hopped out of the water with a set of twitching transparent wings in its mouth, just to see if she could recreate that brief moment from memory, then held that up as well. The frog's eyes were in the wrong spot, just a little bit..

Next she drew a fox that came to drink, and a squirrel as it sat perched on a log. Her mind began to drift. A woodpecker with its beak in a tree, but she gave the tree an angry face, because who would appreciate being pecked like that? A pine branch hanging over the water, but she made the needles look like long, thin fingers. Soon enough, the world around her began to fade into the background, supplanted by the pictures in her head that she wanted to- no, needed to put down on paper, to make them real. She started to draw things that weren't there in the meadow. Things that she could see only in her memories, and things that she had only seen in her dreams, or in the tales of travelers: The great, lofty peaks of the Thunderhead. The endless beaches and jungles of Vishanatar.

The sun was starting to set when she was finishing up her last sketch: A mountain of a woman wearing leather and furs, with an odd bulge between her legs. It was becoming too dark to see what she was doing, and besides, it was a long walk back home. She needed to leave now so that she would be back in the town, with its streetlamps and torches, before night truly fell.

She rolled up her drawings and stood up with a grunt. She had become so engrossed in her drawing that she had ceased to notice the stirring in her belly and the growing pressure in her breasts, (Indeed, that was part of why she drew nowadays- so that she could ignore her pregnancy for a little while and pretend that things were as they used to be.) but it was impossible to ignore their weight as she rose. With a long sigh, she began to walk back.

--

Kvana found herself sitting in a chair that was much too small for her, in a corner of the inn's common room near the stairs. Her rear hung over either side, and the wooden legs creaked and groaned under her weight. She finally had her honeybread though, baked fresh just for her, and three fat, juicy turkey legs. Some time after Kvana had made herself presentable and took her seat upstairs, a mousy, brown-haired barmaid with a Lonian accent had brought the food up, still steaming and warm, on a tin platter. "Dima said she's indisposed at the moment, but she hopes that you enjoy the meal."

Half an hour later the sun was low and orange, almost completely over the horizon, and the barmaid was busy lighting the oil lamps that lined the walls. Dima appeared from the lower staircase looking flushed, her hair and dress tousled. She bustled over to Kvana's table and smiled nervously. "The food is to your liking, I hope?"

"It is excellent, thank you."

"I'm glad to hear it. I want to apologize again for the way my girls treated you. I remember what it was like to be their age, and I know how pregnancy stokes the fires between your legs first-hand and twice over, but that's no excuse for what they did. Is there anything else I can do to make it up to you?"

"Really, it is no problem," said Kvana through a mouthful of turkey. "Speaking truly, it wasn't particularly unenjoyable. Are you sure that you won't let me pay for the room?"

Dima held her hand up and shook her head. "I won't hear of it! I don't care whether you enjoyed it or not, the point is that they forced themselves on you. A man does that, he gets branded a raper and goes to the stocks, so why should it be okay for a woman?"

"Try to lift my bag," said Kvana.

Dima blinked, and looked down at Kvana's traveling sack, which was beside the table at her feet. "Eh. Why?"

"Just humor me."

Dima raised an eyebrow, but she bent down (Kvana noticed that she bent at the knees and lifted mostly with her legs), and tried to pull it up by the strap. She couldn't even get it off the ground before she had to stop. "Oof! What do you keep in here?"

"Books, mostly. I have a lot of them." Kvana picked the bag up with one arm, easily, lifted it up above her shoulder, then set it back down again, looking pointedly at Dima the whole time. "I mean no offense when I say this, but your daughters could not have forced me to do anything I truly didn't want to do."

"Hrmph. Okay, I see your point, but I still don't think it's right. My offer still stands."

Kvana studied Dima for a long moment, chewing her turkey slowly, then she shrugged. "Very well, I will accept your offer, and your apology, though I do not feel either are warranted in my case. I am curious though, about this Vasha. She is the sire of all three of your children? How did this come to pass?"

Dima's face reddened, just a little bit. "Aye, she is. We're not even the only ones she got, either. The very first was one of my barmaids, Ferri."

"Fairy?"

"That's her name. She lives up to it, too. Tiny little thing she is, just a smidge over five feet tall, and she's cute as a pixie as well. She got it the worst of us, in fact. Vasha only put one in me. Sigrun got one as well, and Signi got twins, but Ferri, the midwives say she got three! Poor girl isn't ready to be a mother, either. She says she is, but she isn't. 'Course, I'm going to do the best I can to help her, but with a little one of my own and a whole inn to run I can only do so much."

"I think your daughters mentioned her. I, er... Thought that they were talking about a cow."

Dima clicked her tongue. "Ferri and my girls have never gotten along, though I can't rightly say I understand why. She's been living here for, oh, about eight years now, since she was just a little twig of a thing, so she's practically family to them by now. And oh! Speak of the sun and it shines, here she is!

There was a wave of cool outdoors air, and Kvana heard the inn's front door open and close behind her.

Dima was right- Fairy did live up to her name. From the neck up she was like a pixie, with a cute little nose, a round face, freckles, and long blonde hair, but from the neck down, well...

In Felu Shala, where the trees were the color of the ocean and the people were the color of the trees, they worshiped strange gods- gods of dreams and starshine, of rain and wind, of love and sex. There was one in particular, Kvana could not remember her name, but she was told that she was the goddess of mothers. They prayed to her for easy pregnancies, easy births, strong children, and abundant milk. The priestesses had shown her a picture, in one of their scrolls, of this goddess. She had the kind of hips that drove men to poetry, fat, swollen breasts that leaked abundantly, and a belly so swollen that until this moment Kvana had thought it impossible for someone that pregnant to really exist.

And Fairy looked just like her. Her skin wasn't blue, and she was wrapped up in a woolen coat that was much too big about the arms, but even that couldn't hide her magnificent fecundity.

It took Kvana a few moments to realize that she was staring, but it was okay, because halfway through taking off her coat Fairy spotted her and then they were staring at each other. Luckily, Dima broke the silence before it gained that unwieldy momentum that awkward silences tend to build.

"Hoy there, Ferri! Been out drawing?" She hurried over to help her with her coat. "This here is Kvana. She's from the Thunderhead, same as Vasha. We were actually just talking about you. Oh, you've got mud all over your shoes! Did you go all the way out to that meadow again? Goodness, that's over two miles away! I keep telling you, you need to take it easy! You'll be getting plenty of exercise once the little ones arrive, chasing them around all day. Are you going to be able to work tonight? If you're not feeling up to it you can just tell me, you know. Let me get you some food, you must be hungry after walking all that way!"

Fairy, for the most part, ignored Dima's fussing, but Kvana was struck by how much they looked like mother and daughter in that moment. Though they differed in stature (Dima was as tall as her children), they shared the same pale skin and freckles.

"Hello," said Fairy. She approached, looking at Kvana like a cat at a mouse. "Do you mind if I sit with you?" She gestured to the empty chair on the other side of the table.

"Of course not. I welcome the company."

She sat down heavily, spreading her legs wide to make room for her fecundity. "Ah... I may roll my eyes at Dima's fussing, but my feet are very sore."

"I can imagine."

"I couldn't. I thought I knew exactly what this," she patted her belly, "would be like. I didn't. Have you ever been pregnant?"

Kvana could tell from the pointed way that Fairy looked at her that there was more to that question than what she had asked, and she had a hunch as to what she really wanted to know. "No, I haven't. I can't. I don't have the parts for it."

From the way Fairy's eyes lit up Kvana knew that she had been correct. No matter where she went, that seemed to be the way of most smallfolk the world over. When it came to matters of sex and bodies, they spoke indirectly, and rarely said what they truly wanted to say. The twins had been an odd exception, but even they had started out with their charade about private dining rooms.

"Ah. Well, I can tell you, it's not easy. Forgive me for assuming. If I can be blunt for a moment, you have fantastic breasts. Biggest I've ever seen, for certain, but you're taller than me even sitting down, and they look right at home on you. I thought that they might have been made that way by motherhood."

"Oh."

"Sorry, was that too forward?"

"No, not at all. I just never expected such bluntness from you. I have been among you smallfolk for a long time, and I have grown used to the way you don't speak about such things among strangers."

"Did Dima tell you how this all happened? Me, and her, and her daughters?"

"Aye, you met one of my kinfolk."

"That's the short of it. I'll spare you the long, but it turns out heartroot doesn't work near as well as most of us here thought. Vasha, her name was. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have bedded her if I'd known she'd go on to knock up half the town after me. Probably."

"Half the town? She impregnated more than you four?"

"Oh, aye. You didn't know? There was me, Dima, the twins, Guðrun, who runs an apothecary down the street a ways, two of Orvar the smith's three daughters and also his wife. She claims that it's his, but she's not fooling anybody. There's a widow about Dima's age who visits the inn from time to time, and Brynhild- she's a farmer that Dima buys her vegetables from. Those are the ones I know about, leastways. Might be there's more."

"Goodness! She was busy. You say her name was Vasha? Did she know about heartroot powder when she met you?"

Fairy shook her head. "I had to explain to her how it works."

"Ah. That explains it then."

"Explains what?"

"I think I have some idea of what happened here, with this Vasha. Tell me if I am correct: This stranger showed up in your inn, very tall, to you at least, and very strong. You seduced her-"

"Hey, that's awfully presumptuous of you!"

"But not incorrect?"

Fairy smirked at that, and it became clear that her offense was feigned. "No, it's not incorrect. How did you know?"

"It was mostly a guess, but an educated one. You're rather forward for one of the smallfolk. That would make you stand out to one who was raised on the Thunderhead, and unless she came from a tribe with ways that are very different from mine own, she probably turned you down at first as well, if you hadn't already told her about heartroot."

"You're right there as well. It was only after I told her about it that she came to bed with me."

"And the heartroot powder didn't work. You were pregnant, but neither of you knew it yet. Still, Vasha believed you and went on to lay with several other women, all of you secure in the knowledge that it would prevent you from becoming with child. Then she left, sometime before any of you started showing the signs. What she clearly did not know was that her magic, the spell that let her fit inside a woman of your stature, renders heartroot completely ineffective."

Fairy's eyebrows went up. "Is that was it was then? Dima and me suspected as much, but we were never certain. Hey, you're a clever one though! How much of that did Dima tell you?"

"Not much. I was able to glean a little from her and her daughters." The corner of Fairy's mouth twitched downward. Kvana decided to ignore it. "But I know my people. We all have the magic that she used- all of us with manparts, anyway- but not many know that it nullifies heartroot. In Vishanatar they use the juice from a special fruit to do the same thing, and the spell nullifies that as well. I suspect that it simply guarantees pregnancy, for I've never heard of such a coupling that didn't result in a child, unless the woman was already pregnant.

"And she couldn't have known that, because nobody from any tribe on the Thunderhead would knowingly get a child on a woman and then leave her. By all of our rites and customs, she is bound to serve and protect you until you give birth to her children, and then she is required to ensure that you are well-provided for until they are old enough to hunt for themselves." Kvana shrugged. "Of course, it would be impossible to do that for... how many women did you say that she got? Nine? Ten? Unless she was wantonly ignoring our laws she'd never have done that. No, she must have believed that the heartroot would work."

"If it was that important you'd think that she'd have waited to make sure I got my monthly blood before swiving every halfway good-looking girl in town..."

"That is what I would have done, but, well, not all of my people are as clever as I am."

That got a small giggle out of Fairy. She leaned back in her seat and crossed her arms under her breasts. "I've only known you for a few minutes, and you've already given me a great deal to think about," she said, staring furrow-browed into her bulging cleavage. "If I could find her again, would the laws of your people still bind her to take responsibility? For all of us?"

"Of course. I imagine that she will be quite surprised to find out how many sons and daughters she has left here. It might be an impossible task, but she would still be bound to try."

"And what's stopping her from simply ignoring your laws?"

Kvana thought for a moment. "Well, if we were on the Thunderhead, her tribe would not stand for it if she tried to shirk her duty. She would be exiled, or perhaps killed. Here though?" She shrugged. "Honor, I suppose, but not much else."

Fairy fell silent, for too long, and Kvana began to fidget. "Um. Dima mentioned that you draw? Are these your work?" She indicated the rolled-up sheaves of paper that Fairy had carried in with her.

"Hmm? Oh, yes. They're just silly little doodles I make sometimes. They're not very good- I'm not much of an artist." She stood and stretched. "Dima's taking her time with that food she mentioned. I think I'm going to see what's holding her up, but I'd like to continue talking to you, later, after I've had some time to think about what you've told me. Would you be willing to meet me in the center of the Garden, say, in an hour? It's right up the lane from here, you can't miss it, just a few minutes' walk away."

"Certainly." Kvana didn't much fancy the idea of more walking- she'd been doing that all day- but if Fairy could handle it in her state then there was no reason that she couldn't do it too. And besides, there was something in her voice- something about her tone- that told Kvana that Fairy would be very disappointed indeed if she didn't do it.

Fairy disappeared down the stairs, and Kvana unrolled the papers that she had left there.

Her eyes widened. The first sheet was filled with a landscape- a pond in the middle of the forest. It was rough and sketchy, but drawn with a practiced and steady hand that almost rivaled the Great Masters of Lonia in skill. She looked at the next one- a frog rendered with such incredible lifelikeness that she half expected it to jump right off the page. With every sheet the drawings grew more fantastical but no less skilled- a tree with a face, a fox on its hind legs dressed in pantaloons, a snowy mountain peak with spires of stone that jutted up like trees- until the last one.

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