Disclaimer: Bruno, Fiona, the RIG, etc are (c)Ian McDonald. Maria, Cap'n
Crunchbones, this story's plot, etc are (c) Amanda Crick a.k.a. Mysterious
Starlight (MS) a.k.a. Kuzuye.

Are We Having Fun Yet?


"Fiona?"
"Boss?"
"I... love-"
"*gasp*!" A dream. Thank Ailix, a dream! Bruno moved gently next to her
body, causing droplets of sweat to move down her face. Fiona hated dreams.
They tended to be about strange things and such like.... *shudder*. Anyway,
that was all in the past. Two minutes in the past, but in the past, anyway.
Next to her, her boss moved. "Lizard?" he muttered. "Lizard!!!!"
Fiona shook his shoulder. "Shh, Boss. I'm trying to sleep."
"Lizard... NO, you TWIT! Come back!"
Fiona pressed her frilly ears against the side of her head and burrowed
under the blankets. "Shut... UP!"
"Lizard..." he still continued.
The micro-dragon climbed onto his chest and jumped. "Boss! Wake up!"
"Oh, gods! She's dead!"
He was quiet for the rest of the night.
 

The Next Day...
 Bruno walked across the mountainous landscape, carrying his backpack of
"necessities" behind him. What a looong way down, he thought as he looked
over the sides of the cliffs cascading below. He'd sure hate to ever fall
down there. For some reason, he couldn't take his eyes off of his
surroundings. No need for himself (or Fiona, the subconscious interrupted,
but he roughly pushed it away) to be getting SHOT in these parts, after all.
Not, of course, that anyone would wish to shoot at his handsome facade (he
thought). Of course, Maledict was always on his case... and that geek from
the Rothland Imperial Guard probably had not forgiven him for getting his
nose hairs plucked... and perhaps all the people he had stolen from had not
forgiven him either... and... okay, maybe a few people had a bit of a bone
to pick with him. But he wasn't worried. He was, after all, BRUNO the
BANDIT: far too clever to fall into any traps those wiley dogs dared lay for
him. He fell, all too quickly, into a sense of security.
"Boss...? Why exactly did you come here?"
"We have a new job, Lizard: find the medallion of Pandorez!"
Fiona flew ahead of him a bit, eyes lighting up with the opportunity to show
off her hard-earned knowledge.
"The medallion of Pandorez. I've heard of it- 'tis supposed to give the
owner unlimited strength and youth. According to ancient legend, it was lost
here, in the forest of Pandorez, by a forgetful old wizard," Fiona narrated,
"But afraid that someone would find it before he did, he cursed this forest,
that anyone who goes in, hardly ever comes out."
Bruno scoffed, happy to have something to say to that, "That's what--" he
waved a faded map triumphantly in front of her face, "--this is for. You're
looking at the map of Pandorez, Lizard, and as soon as it gets us out of
this hell hole, it'll bring in a few sovs as well!"
 Fiona studied the map. It seemed like gibberish to her, with lines crossing
confusedly all over the place, and no proper scale. Finally, Fiona looked up
at Bruno, addressing the fact that the map was unreadable.
"Ah, Fiona, that's the beauty of it," he responded.
"Huh?" asked Fiona.
Bruno looked even more triumphant. Holding a round, golden object that may
have looked like some sort of pocket watch, he proclaimed, "This compass'll
get us out of this dump as soon as we find the medallion of Pandorez!"
Fiona nodded, impressed. "Wow! You've really prepared for everything! Now,
all we have to do is watch out for traps-"
"Traps! Fiona, Fiona, Fiona, don't you know I am an EXPERT at dodging traps?
Even at-"
"BOSS, WATCH OUT!! Don't step on that--!!!"
"<FLING!>" All that was heard was the sound of an arrow, and all Bruno felt
was something ramming him in the side at top speed. The next thing he knew,
he felt himself being thrown over the edge of the cliffs.
"YAAAH!! Lizard! Help me!!" he shouted, but Fiona did not appear. Ah, poo,
who needed her? He took that back as soon as he saw how far he still had to
fall.
"FIONAAA!!!!" Still no help. He only barely managed to grip onto an
overhanging cliff-face and pull himself up. He checked himself. He had been
greatly battered in bouncing down the cliff, but  nothing was broken, and he
could still move. He checked himself a hundredth time. Still no injuries.
Okay, then, he could go. But go where? Fiona (worthless @#%@#$%@@%$
micro-dragon!) had the map, and was probably grinning cheekily at him in her
mind while high-tailing it back to the Belching Hydra for a drink. As soon
as HE returned, he'd slap her silly! She'd never consider deserting him
again! It seemed just a bit out of character, this desertion, but still, she
had made him lick a barrel of dragon vomit (euch!) while she enjoyed her
lunch in some stupid pub. If she didn't do the chores in his house...
 Either way, she could try as hard as she wanted to read the map. Without
his magic compass, she was stuck here, same as he was. He might as well find
her, he decided, and get out of this hell hole before he ran out of
Campbell's condensed soup.

 On a steep mountain-side some distance away from Bruno...
 Fiona looked up from where she clung for life to the muddy mountain-side.
Her wings were useless; the arrow which had pierced her wings had properly
ripped though them and pinned them nicely to the flesh on her back like a
green dress in the making, pinned after it was measured. The falling and
tumbling had managed only to make her injuries worse: her wings were now
twisted and broken, and she had then had the joy of watching warm, sticky
blood drip from them onto her arms.  At least her injuries weren't as
painful as they looked; the limbs had numbed, and had been devoid of any
feeling for some time now. Loose stones slipped past her, and her arms began
slipping from the mud. She gulped; without the gift of flight, she would
die; the fall would surely kill her. Fiona began the climb back up to the
top of the mountain, but stopped as a stone that she had been holding
slipped out of place, and dropped into the river far below. Suddenly, the
other rock was loose as well. Fiona groped for anything- a plant- another
foothold- anything that would prevent her from falling. No such luck. Fiona
half slid, half rolled down the cliff, land in the river. The currants in
said river were growing. Fiona found herself underwater, and an undercurrent
crashed her body into something hard.
She couldn't even fight back as the river swept her downstream.

That Night...
 Once again, Bruno found himself missing Fiona. He had never appreciated the
seemingly useless facts and information, and never thought he'd actually
yearn for the dragon's company. Finally, after the fifth attempt to make a
fire, Bruno cursed loudly at the smoking, but unlit, pile of wood. His angry
grasp reached the lighter, and flung it as far as he could: over the cliffs
to land far below. WHY hadn't he gotten a new lighter BEFORE he was stuck in
the middle of nowhere, with both night and hunger fast approaching? Oh,
yeah. Because with one blast of Fiona's flame, the wood would  have been
alight. Ah, but Fiona had deserted him. He didn't care to think of why she
had done so; who cared? All that mattered was that he was going to find her,
get the map back, and snap her scrawny little neck. Finally, he gave up
trying to get the damned fire to light, and lay himself down to sleep on the
hard ground. As the sun finally set, his eyes were glued, for some reason,
to the ground next to him. Fiona would have been sleeping there, he thought.
He could see her now: curled in that back-breaking roll, with her head
meeting her tail and her hands rested beside her body, wings folded on her
back in what seemed to be the most back-breaking and uncomfortable pose he
had ever seen performed so naturally. With these thoughts in mind, sleep
took him...

 He was in a field. Surrounded by the beauty of the flowers, he sneezed; the
pollen was getting to him. And there, in front of him, was Fiona. In her
hands, she held the map which he needed to get out! Bruno came stalked
towards her, full ready to grab her little body and crack each and every rib
in it. Fiona saw him, but seemed intent on escaping him, much to his
surprise and displeasure. "Lizard!" he cried, "Lizard, get back here! Ailix
help me, if I grab your--!"
"Boss! What're YOU doing here?!" she shouted. Slowly, as if anticipating
something terrible, she approached him. "Boss, you-- you followed me! I-"
"Lizard, I don't give Maledict's ass about you. The map!"
Fiona grabbed his wrist and spoke firmly. "Boss, listen-"
"Twit, I don't know if you're coming or not, but-"
"Boss..." began Fiona.
"-don't want to follow orders-"
"Boss..."
"-then just-"
"BOSS!!" She attempted to lead him out of the field with great urgency. "We
HAVE to
get out of here before-"
"Lizard, when we get back to-"
"Well FINE! Have it your way," she shouted, "If you want to stay here and
die, then-- DUCK!"
Bruno had seen only an arrow coming straight to his face. Then a green flash
came, and the arrow disappeared. Bruno looked up from his cowering position.
"Ailix! Did you see that, Lizard?!"
No answer. "Lizard? If you've run off again-- Oh, gods. Fiona!"
She was lying on the ground, where she had fallen, fresh blood dripping from
her wound. His hand turned her over on her stomach. An arrow jutted out of
her small back. "Fiona?"
"Boss?" Bruno touched the arrow gently. His fingers held the arrow near the
blade, and forced it out of her. "How about... that raise, now?"
Bruno slapped his face in reflexive exasperation, before lifting her in his
arms. "I... I always wanted a micro-dragon. And..."
"And what?"
"I'm glad I had you as a partner."
"Not that you were a good one..." she grinned, "But I'm glad I had you as a
boss." She pulled herself up, and wrapped her small arms tightly around his
neck. Then, she was gone.

 Bruno awoke violently, hitting his head on an adjacent rock, and cursing
even more violently. His eyes caught the place where Fiona would have been
sleeping. It was empty. Bruno sighed. No use worrying about it now; at any
rate, she had gone and left, so even if he did find her, she'd probably
leave again. Having successfully missed the point of any of his dreaming, he
shut his eyes and went back to sleep for the second time.

 At the bottom of the mountain, in a river...
 Fiona slowly opened her eyes. The first thing she noticed was that she was
no longer underwater. She couldn't breath! She coughed, and water flowed out
of her mouth into the river near her.  She was alive. She was cold, and
numb. Her right leg wasn't moving right, and a stab of pain came every time
she tried. Oh, so her leg was broken, which would not have been so bad if
her wings weren't bleeding, mangled and twisted around a painful arrow. She
was still returning some of the river back where it belonged, as well as
most of her lunch. She was near-defenseless, without even her boss nearby
(or was that a good thing, she wondered), cold, wet, coughing and without
feeling in most of her body. Still, dragging her wet body away from the
riverbank was an easy enough task, and starting a fire was something which
she had been undoubtedly born for. In the light of the fire, something red
and mauve glittered. Fiona picked it up, and recognized it immediately as
Bruno's lighter. So her boss WAS somewhere around here! And if he was, she
had to go find him!
...in the morning.
Something rustled in the bushes, startling her. "Boss?"
The rustling stopped. As tired as she was, sleep wouldn't come, and the idea
of sleeping with all the rustling annoyed her. Ten minutes passed, and no
other sound came. At least she knew it was safe- <WHOOSH!>
...Or not, she thought, struggling futilely in a large, canvas bag.
"He-Mmmph!"

 "Hmmph," thought Bruno, angrily trudging through rough landscape in the hot
sun to an unknown destination. "As Fiona is my VERY good friend, she can
choose between having her limbs slowly pulled off, or having her entrails
ripped out through her nose. Just imagine her, sitting around, relaxing
while I'm out looking for her like a dog!
Ailix, just wait..."

 On awaking the next morning, the micro-dragon found herself alone in a
stone cell. One main iron door stood at one side of the room, and at the
other, stood a tiny window, its bars casting a zebra-like shadow on the
prisoner's surroundings. Fiona limped across the room and managed to half
push, half drag, a wooden chair to the window. She then climbed on it, and
observed the outside. The window was at ground level outside, meaning that
she was partially underground. Outside, all that could be seen was
wilderness, wilderness and more wilderness. Unless, of course, one counted
in the wilderness. All the "variation" in landscape got her thinking. There
was nobody to be seen for miles around. The air was so still, one could hear
Bruno admit he was wrong from twenty miles away. And to make it worse... she
looked at herself. She was hurt badly. She knew it. It was only a matter of
time before infection set in, and death soon to follow. The nearest hospital
was miles away. Of course, the fact that she was most likely closer to an
Archio's than a hospital was as comforting as the aforementioned
realization.
 Might as well lie down and rest, then. No need to speed up the inevitable-
wait a minute. Why be so pessimistic? So she was stuck in a prison cell, so
what? There was still hope, after all, Bruno was out there! He would rescue
her!... of course, the odds of him managing to pull of a rescue mission
without her careful guidance and hard work... and the probability of his
getting off his ass to look for her at all...
...all of a sudden, Fiona found herself scribbling her will on the prison
walls.

 Bruno's voice echoed far and wide throughout the quiet mountain range, and
every living creature in hearing range covered its ears against his violent
language. All day yesterday, and no Fiona. All morning, and no Fiona. No
map, either, or he would have left this place long ago. Too bad the forest
was protected by magic. And, naturally, there was only one anti-magic- the
map, which, by the way, Fiona had taken. Somewhere in the distance, smoke
rose from the ground. Heading towards the source of the smoke, he saw it:
some fool had gone and left a campfire burning. Putting it out, the bandit
surveyed the area. Foot prints and bloody dragon prints led up to it, and he
recognized the red and mauve (and pretty useless) lighter he had flung off
the cliff. On it, a tiny hand-print (or paw-print, whatever) was painted on
it in a dried, brown substance. Fiona must have held it at some point, Bruno
thought, looking at the lighter. The signs of a struggle were present near
the fire. There could be only one conclusion: After cleverly avoiding him,
Fiona had come to this place, built a fire, and had a barbeque! Then, she
had invited everyone (except him!!!) and they had killed a cow and had
steak! (Hence the blood). Everyone had gone home, and left him there, and
were laughing at him right now! Or, there was always the chance that she
could have been kidnaped, and could be sitting in a stone prison, sick and
bleeding, waiting for him to come rescue her at some time this millennium.
...but let's face it, he thought, what are the odds of THAT?
 The only sign he had of the map, however, was to follow the footprints..

 Fiona counted the blocks in her cell. Well, what do you know? Exactly five
hundred and seventy three, just like the last... ten... times. Well.
Exciting being kidnaped, wasn't it. A bulky jailer approached her. Okay,
perhaps, she figured, that was about to change...
 "WHERE IS THE MAP OF PANDOREZ?!?!" he shouted. Tall, fat, and with a smell
that almost rivaled her boss's, Cap'n Crunchbones's overlarge teeth, and
squat, bulldog-like face became the perfect(?) crowning glory on him.
Fiona looked up. "'Tis-"
"Refuse to tell?! Prepare to face unthinkable torment! This torment is so
painful, so awful, so evil! You'll scream and howl in agony, wanting only-"
"Really?" asked Fiona, "What is it?"
"Well," he began, "'tis.. well you see, um... err... that is..."
"Ooh, how painful," quipped Fiona, dryly. "What do you want the map for,
anyway? Do you want to get the medallion of Pandorez and have unlimited
power? Do you want to escape from here to wreak havoc on the innocent people
outside?"
"Actually, I just want it to endorse my cereal. Cap'n Crunchbones cereal: a
crunch-boney part of this complete breakfast!
"T’would probably be more painful than anything you have planned for me
right now."
Several hours had passed before he realized what she was implying.

 At last, something seemed to be going right for the bandit. The footprints
had brought him to a medium-size stone building, adorned with peeling
light-yellow paint, and with its walls continuing right into the grass-less
dirt ground as if only half of the building were above the ground. On the
lower parts of these wall, neatly and evenly spaced out, small windows with
iron-cold bars were just pressed against the ground, and around a few, hands
of all shapes and sizes curled, perhaps hoping to tear the bars away, or to
pull the owners of those hands up and away to freedom. Inside, the building
was transformed: the building would have been pitch-dark if not for the dim
light of a few torches which lined the walls, but from what could be seen,
the building split off into corridors, which were lined with doors; heavy
iron doors with iron handles. Bruno walked quietly through the corridors,
and looked and listened for any sign of a guard, or whoever was keeping that
prison.
 The footsteps continued. Occasionally, they disappeared under doors, only
to reappear again. He figured that soon enough, he would find that person,
grab the map (oh yeah, and that dragon- what's her face) and leave. But not
before soundly doing a dance on that person's face. When he was done, that
person would be annihilated, toast, no more, de- uh, oh. While the good news
was that he had found the person, the bad news was that person was
smallness-challenged. Weakness challenged as well. His ragged clothing
served as a foil for his weakness challenged body, as well as his fondness
of the culinary arts. Bruno drew his sword, but the giant stopped him. As he
spoke, he spoke with a perfect British accent.
"Welcome to the Tort Chure Hotel. Your room, sir?"
"Where's the map, dog?!" responded Bruno.
"Right this way, sir."

 On hearing the conversation, Fiona relaxed against the wall, mouthing,
"Four... three... two... one-"
"GET IN THERE!" thundered Cap'n Crunchbones. Something heavy hit the ground
in the cell next to Fiona, and that something sounded familiar. The micro
dragon covered her ears to Bruno's stream of blistering curses. A window,
the size of an average encyclopedia, formed part of the huge stone wall that
helped separate the prisons. Cold, hard, iron bars helped keep the prisoners
apart. Slowly, limping greatly, and feeling weak, Fiona crossed the room.
"Boss...??"
 As Bruno heard this simple word, his eyes turned to the barred opening, and
spotted the smaller, green, hands gripping the bars. Even though that was
all he could see, as the cells were both enshrouded in darkness, Bruno knew
exactly who it was. "Fiona... Lizard! What do you mean running off like
that?!"
Fiona's eyes widened. "Ran off?! I SAVED your behind! You should be THANKING
me!"
When Bruno failed to respond, Fiona added non-chalontly, "Considering I
saved your life, I think that I deserve a-"
And then the door was slammed, causing the room to shake. No doubt, from the
look in his eyes, he had come for information about the map, and he would
get it, too, from the micro-dragon, at all costs... including torture.
"This," thought the micro-dragon, "oughta be good."
Cap'n Cruchbones reached into his pocket and brought out a small, brown
book. In white letters, it read, "The Reign of Terror Handbook." Underneath
read, "Great for interrogators, megalomaniacs, and international
terrorists."
"Let's see... Chapter 1: Striking terror into the heart of your victim. The
way to begin is by..." They would have a long wait.

 After Fiona had just been asked if she had any eight, and  she had
responded, "Go Fish," while holding cards from a pack of
glow-in-the-dark-cards that came with the latest purchase of an Archio's
super saga meal,  he began, "Okay, you! Hand over the map of Pandorez, or
else! The female sex-symbol who's supposed to marry the hero at the end gets
it!"
Bruno became suddenly alert. "What?! Where?!"
"Oops. Wrong page."
"I'm suffering, no really, I am," thought Fiona to herself. Finally, after
an eternity of the annoying sounds of page-turning...
"Hand over the map of Pandorez! Or your friend gets it!"
Bruno actually laughed. "What are you going to do, bore us to death? Oh,
help," he mimicked, "you're gonna turn us into book worms- HA!"
Almost immediately, Bruno found himself face-to-face, or rather,
face-to-fist with the good captain. Fiona finally livened up. She had never
thought Bruno's face also doubled as a punching bag for oversized
interrogators... well, then again, she had.  As Cap'n Cruchbones was beating
the stuffing out of him, Fiona eagerly placed a hand through the bars. "Good
one, Crunchbones! Want to borrow my mace?" Cap'n Crunchbones stopped.
"Uh, oh. This doesn't bother you?"
"Nope," replied Fiona, attempting to calm down, but hyper with adrenaline.
Obviously, this was not having the effect he thought it would have. Bruno's
body made a clump on the stone as he dropped it.
"You have one day to think about it- I'll be back!" And then, he left.

 Hours later, Fiona was still trying to explain herself. "C'mon Boss. You
can't stay mad at me forever! Talk to me!"
Bruno crossed his arms. "I can and I will, Twit! That slobbering mascot for
a cheap sugar rush did a tap dance on my handsome face!"
Fiona fought the urge to roll her eyes, and sighed. "Boss, don't you see
that I was using reverse psychology on him? Think about it: he wanted me to
hand over the map. If he saw that all that was bothering me, he'd still be
using you as a punching bag!"
"'Tis your fault we're here in the first place! If you hadn't disappeared-"
"But Boss-"
"Shut up!"
Fiona was quiet the first few minutes. 'Twas times like this she wondered
why she saved his life like she did, even more so, now.
After ten minutes, Fiona began to muse, "Actually, I'll be surprised if we
don't get out of here soon."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"According to a book I read, there's a famous volcano here that erupts
everyday at exactly four p.m., causing large scale earthquakes strong enough
to destroy entire buildings."
"WHAT?!"
"Relax... We should be safe from the magma." At this, Fiona backed away from
the wall, as two hands attempted to grab her neck. In the sudden movement,
she was reminded of why she was lying down previously, and immediately went
back to lying down, as feelings of light-headedness washed over her.
Strange, she hadn't noticed how much blood was on the floor of the prison...
maybe it'd be best just to close her eyes and...
 Bruno suddenly felt a great shaking from the ground. There was no place to
go if the walls collapsed. Nothing to do but plaster himself to the edge of
the cell and wait.

 Eventually, the rumbling stopped. Well, the building was still standing. He
was still alive, and light flowed in though the large cracks in the walls.
To the left of his vision, he noticed that the partition between the cells
was rubble, cheap Sep-a-ration's prisoner partitions (guaranteed to keep any
prisoners who could build a plot against your rule, mind you, or your full
money back!). Among the rubble, he spotted a familiar person... but with
much more colour than when he had last seen her. "Sweet Ailix, Fiona! What
the hell happened to you?!" At his voice, she got up from the ground. Her
injuries forced her to slowly limp to him on all threes, dragging her fourth
limb behind her. The blood that began to flow from her wings even more now
covered her bruised body. And, through her wings, a single arrow had
embedded itself though her wings and, and deep into her back. The arrow had
ripped them so badly, they looked mutilated, and not a bit like a part of
the micro-dragon.  Her walk slowed, and it looked like she wouldn't even
make it to him; she could hardly even hold up her head. Yet she did, and
collapsed from pure exhaustion at Bruno's feet.
 Now what should he do with her? He was still as angry as heck with her, and
he had a good mind just to leave her there. Besides, she wasn't moving, and
she looked quite dead. It wasn't exactly ABANDONING her if she was dead
already, just leaving her body to do whatever it is that dead bodies do.
Right. Exactly. As he was about to turn and leave, Fiona flicked her tail.
She seemed to be making some attempt to move occasionally, he noticed.
Great, so she was alive, now he couldn't leave her. His mind was burning him
for even thinking about leaving his partner; after almost thirty years of
being completely amoral, why did he have to go and develop a conscience?
With a gentleness he would have never shown had she been awake, he picked
her up and placed her over his shoulder. Dammit, as sleeping people always
did, she looked so innocent. Fiona and innocent, that was a real antithesis.
Careful not to disrupt the walls, he picked up his backpack and left, Fiona
barely moving on his shoulder.

 Some hours later, Bruno managed to find a clearing where he could sit on
flat, dry ground minus all the weeds, rather than having his rear-end
pricked by small, hard, plants. Big help she was to him, now; she was still
unconscious, and the spectrum of colours in the sky from bright orange, to
gold, to pink, all the way down to navy blue was a constant reminder that
there were only a few minutes of light left. But anyway, perhaps he could
stand another dinner of (euch!) cold tinned soup? Perhaps not. But, as there
was nothing better to do,  he might as well try to bandage her; she was
making a huge mess on his favourite cloak. It had been Fiona's idea to pack
the First Aid kit in his pack in the first place, and he figured it served
her right when she found herself having to lift the pack. Not that he knew
HOW to use it, for all the good it did him. Fiona probably did. Maybe
something in this so far worthless white box could help... let's see, there
were smelling salts- hmm...  Bruno waved the salts in front of the
micro-dragon's nose. She stirred, coughed a bit, and made some attempt to
awaken herself. A vague mumble came from her which sounded something like,
"Hiya boss. Miss me?"Fiona opened her eyes and moved, but she moved, looked
and acted like one who had been drugged. Despite Bruno's shouting, shaking
and slapping, Fiona shut her eyes and lay still. It was times like this when
he honestly thought that she was doing this on purpose. In fact, had the
situation not been so serious, and had Fiona been awake and well, she most
likely would have been on her back, laughing hysterically.
 Bruno picked up a small booklet marked, "First Aid". Ah. Well what d'ya
know, a manual!  He looked through the booklet, trying to  understand the
complex diagrams. First thing's first: he pulled out the arrow, and then
looked through the booklet index "Arrow wounds"  to see what to do next. It
read, "IMPORTANT: NEVER REMOVE ARROW- CAUSES SEVERE BLEEDING." Oops. In a
few minutes, the ground was covered in blood, and so was just about
everything else anywhere near the whole operation. "The book continued: If
the arrow has already come out (or if the person administering First Aid is
Bruno Bunkleyutz), follow the instructions on page 8."
"I resent that," thought Bruno, but still continued to flip the pages to
page 8, reading "first, fold the bandages and apply to wound. Next, wrap
other bandages around wound, making sure to apply pressure. Isn't that
easy?"
 Now for the hard part: actually doing it. He managed to fold the bandages
into a good-size wad, and pressed them onto Fiona's  back. And he pressed,
and pressed, and  <CRACK!>, a noise came from both from her rib cage and her
mouth as she howled in pain. Even in sleep, she definitely knew four letter
words.
"Damn!" Okay, that was proof that there was more than enough pressure. He
wrapped the bandages around her body, sticking the whole thing down with
tape. Okay. That was easy. Next, he had to bandage her wings, which was
easier said, than done. The arrow had ripped everything, and pulling it out
had only made the wound worse. Trying to bandage it was like trying to
closely gift-wrap a delicate star without damaging it and without a box. He
managed to do it, but ended up spraining one wing and cutting the other, not
to mention that wrapping them in bandages managed to leave them both
extremely swollen. And yet, it stopped blood from leaking out, which was
what it was supposed to do. And now, last but not least, her twisted,
abnormal-looking, broken leg. He read the manual briefly, before muttering
about how simple the whole thing was. All one had to do was hold it there,
like so, and then hold the other part there, just like that, and brace it on
the ground, yeah, that looked right, then--
"YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!"
"NB," said the manual, "The patient may experience some minor discomfort. "
 Well, Fiona looked more white then green in more ways than one, and she was
groaning in pain, but by Ailix, she was bandaged. Gently, he picked her up
and placed her away from where the spreading pool of blood could reach her.
He had done all he could for Fiona, and in any court case, that would be
enough.

 The next morning...
 Fiona opened her eyes, seeing only vague, blurry images at first, which
then began to gain sharpened,  actual, distinguishable forms. She tried to
get up, but pain sparked from all over her body, especially her side, leg
and back. Letting out a small groan, she allowed her body to sink back to
the ground. The pain hadn't been so bad yesterday... and she didn't remember
feeling so weak. But the smell of blood, and the raided First Aid kit
nearby, told, in not so many words, the story of the night before. Fiona
took a slow and shaky breath, exhaling a breath of fire that made the stack
of dry twigs and wood alight. That small task done, Fiona painfully moved
the four feet to the river bank, and allowed her hands to dangle into the
water. A small swoop brought a handful of water up to her face, and a gentle
motion scrubbed the dried blood and dirt from the micro-dragon's face. The
blood-drops disappeared in the river's currants. Fiona took a small drink
from the river. For some reason, she felt extremely thirsty, as though most
of her body fluids had been lost. Then again, that was probably the case.
After she had quenched her thirst, she began to scrub her arms, and
everywhere else that had not been bandaged. The river turned red again,
before returning to its original colour. Now, she felt as least a bit
cleaner, not to mention fresher. In fact, she felt like a whole new
micro-dragon! Ouch, or she would, if she wasn't feeling pain everywhere.
 Fiona finally made it back to the fire, and managed to open a can of soup.
When Bruno awoke, as least he wouldn't be yabbering at her about his
breakfast, which he was bound to do, even though she looked like one of
Numth'kul's cronies.
 Bruno awoke groggily, trying to get his bearings as the hard ground pressed
into his side. Fiona, he saw, was already up and about, surprisingly enough.
He hadn't expected her  to even be alive after last night, and she did look
both weak and pale. Yet, it was her body, and she knew what she was doing,
so who was he to question what she did with her own body? Besides, she
hadn't finished making his breakfast, yet, and he was starving. As Fiona
banged the pot on the ground, she lay down, and curled up in pain, as if she
were suffering. Bruno watched her grab her side as the wave of pain seemed
to be getting worse. He actually felt sorry for her, grabbing herself like
that.  "Lizard, what are you doing?"
"Boss! I thought you were still sleeping."
"Well I'm not," he answered impatiently. "Where's my breakfast?"
Fiona, without speaking a word, pointed to the pot beside her. Bruno
immediately began to scarf it down, and therefore, Fiona  had no time to
warn, "'Tis hot!" before the bandit began choking and spitting out anything
in his  mouth at that time. Fiona let out a snicker, but stopped midway to
clutch her side and wince. Bruno looked at her again.
"Lizard, not that I care, but why are you up if you're in pain?"
"Well, you were just going to wake me up, for starters."
"I'm your boss, not a slave driver! How dare you accuse me of such a thi-"
"That's not what you said when you gave me the to-do list last week."
"That's different!"
For a moment, they both just glared at each other, before Bruno continued
scarfing down his food, and Fiona put on a kettle to boil. Just minutes
later, she was taking in gulp of steaming coffee, and staring at the map.
"Err, Boss? According to the map, the medallion of Pandorez is three days'
hike away."
"So?"
"BOSS!" Fiona cried, half in shock, and half in exasperation. "That's what
we came here for in the first place!"
Bruno snapped out of his half-slum. "Let's get moving, then!"
"No, way! Nuh, uh, there's no way I'm going ANYWHERE in my condition! We
should rest here a day."
"A day?! Lizard, even if I was in any mood to stay here a day, we're running
out of food supplies!"
"Well there's a grocery store..." She stared at the map, and instantly gave
a sigh, all while whispering, "A day's hike from here."
"Oh, well. G'bye, Lizard."
"No, wait! You can't!"
"I can, and I will, Lizard. You-"
Fiona traced the map. "Well, technically, you can, but you'll just have to
go without fire for the rest of the journey. And *ahem* according to this
map, you're heading for the 'Cave of Plot Twisting Horrors' (which is where
the medallion is) and (as much as I'd like to see you get eaten by
whatever's inside there...) you're gonna need some kind of light. Besides, I
have a better idea..."
"Oh, wonderful," said Bruno.

A few minutes later...
 "I just love the view from up here!"
Bruno poked at the micro-dragon he had perched on his shoulder. "Shut up,
Twit! The next time you have an idea, I'll wring your little neck like so
many sponges!" Fiona nodded solemnly. She really didn't need to have her
neck wrung at this current moment. In one hand, Fiona held a small notepad,
and in the other, she grabbed Bruno's shirt for balance. A strange-looking
rock face jutted out from above them. What was strange about it was the fact
that it was shaped like a heart with a darker shade of colour stretched
across it, and continuing out of the rock was a length of rock that looked a
bit like an arrow which had been shot through the "heart". Fiona, staring at
the rock face, mused, "There's a legend that says that every hundredth
couple to pass by this rock will be  in love forever."
"Twit, I've heard some ridiculous trash from you before, but this one wins
the trophy!"
Fiona studied the rock closely. "According to this counter," the
micro-dragon continued, "toiled make us destined to be in love forever."
Bruno stopped and looked at Fiona. Their eyes met. "That can only mean one
thing..." she whispered at last, "that 'My Encyclopedia of True Legends' is
a phoney, and I'm getting my money back!"
"Damn straight," muttered Bruno.  Fiona, finding the effort of sitting up
exhausting,  leaned against him, eyes still glued to the rock they had just
left.

That afternoon....
 The cool light of the setting sun was a relaxing break for Bruno, who,
after carrying Fiona for sometime in the previously blazing hot weather, was
just about ready to take a rest, have a drink, and generously offer to make
Fiona some supper. In fact, it was his speciality: Campbell's soup with a
side of ground glass. The only thing that cheered him up was the fact that,
after all that walking, there was finally the sight of a single shopping
mart, way out in the wilderness. It was here that the bandit and the
micro-dragon decided to set up camp, as  it was just about sunset, anyway.
 Fiona reviewed her checklist of what she thought was needed at the shopping
mart. She had intended the list to be as simple as possible. Even a four
year old could have understood it.... unfortunately, Bruno, she decided,
sometimes had all the mentality of a three year old. No matter, since they
had just used the very last can of Campbell's Condensed Soup, and Bruno
could either go buy the groceries, or starve to death. Perhaps she just
needed to simplify the list just a bit more, just in case...
"Lizard, while you sit there playing with  a notepad, I'm going shopping,"
said Bruno, dusting himself off.  It was times like this when Fiona was
happy that she wasn't making her list out loud. Bruno- always a new
experience. But anyway, just in case... "Hey, boss! Could you pick up some
canned soup?"
"Whatever."
"And some beef jerky?"
"Whatever."
"And some Fig Newtons?"
"Eh heh..."
"And some pumpkins,  tomato sauce, nuclear devices-"
"Lizard, DON'T push it," said Bruno, beginning to crack his knuckles. Fiona
shut her mouth.
 Well, what do you know. Bruno had actually willingly gone to the
supermarket, without requiring that she do anything in return. He had even
agreed to buy her own secret pleasure, Fig Newtons. There were times,
sometimes, when Bruno was smarter than he seemed, even kind- like this time,
for example. In fact, it was times like this that Fiona sometimes began to
think that maybe, just maybe, there was hope for him yet....
A group of the local RIG officers, suddenly appeared, dragging Bruno out by
the collar.
"Bruno Bunkleyutz, you're arrested for shoplifting, assault and battery,
resisting arrest and trying to stuff beef jerky up someone's-"
"Take it and shove it, slime buckets!"
 Of course, Fiona thought to herself, I could be wrong...

 Some time later...
 "Boss! Somehow, I knew I'd find you here," said Fiona, pulling herself to
the top of the pillory.
"@#%%^%...!!!" was the response from below her. Fiona took in a deep breath
of fresh, mountain air and commented,
"Isn't it great that even out here, in the middle of the wilderness, there
are some things that seem just like back home?"
"Aye, just 'wonderful'," Bruno grumbled, "Now forget about home and get me
out of this thing!" At this, Fiona only lay down in a more relaxing
position.
"But Boss, I can't fly anymore, remember? How'm I supposed to reach the
lock?"
"You better find a way, or I'll be having fried micro-dragon tonight!"
"But you wouldn't want me to hurt myself even more, now, would you?"
"Lizard, I'LL hurt you even more if you don't stop fooling around and pick
this lock!"
"Especially," she continued, ignoring Bruno's comment, "since you went and
broke my rib yesterday..." Fiona touched the injured place tenderly.
"(Too bad that's all I broke...) You can't hold that against me! I was
trying to help!"
"But you didn't!" she countered.  Fiona observed the black-blue sky that
signaled that the night had already come, not to mention the fact that she
was not feeling as well as she should. "I would free you, Boss, but 'tis way
past my bed-time." She yawned, and shut her eyes.
"What?! You don't even HAVE a bedtime, Lizard! ...Lizard? Wake up!
LIZARD!!!!" But Fiona was already in a place where Bruno's voice couldn't
reach her: dreamland.

 The next morning...
 Fiona yawned, but her stretch was cut short by the stab of pain her broken
rib sent her. The micro-dragon smiled brightly. "See, boss? Wasn't it much
better to wait until tomorrow?  I'm well rested, relaxed, and I had a GREAT
night! Now, I'll be able to undo the lock and free you from the pillory!" As
promised, Fiona's tiny hands reached down from the top of the pillory,
grabbed the lock and did their duty. The lock was on the ground soon after.
Bruno got out of the pillory, and stretched. Oh, sure, SHE may have been
well rested, but the same could not be said for Bruno, whom had spent an
entire night in one hunched over position, and had barely gotten a proper
night's rest because of that, not to mention the heck of a back pain he was
feeling right about then. Bruno approached Fiona, cracking his knuckles.
"NOW, my little casualty, let's discuss your injuries," he growled, seizing
her neck and giving it a good, hard shake. Fiona gulped, and tried to pry
his fingers from her neck, to no avail. "Don't worry, my POOR, little
micro-dragon. I wouldn't dare harm you- not like this. In fact, I want to
help." Bruno set her on the ground, even insuring to gently pat her head.
"But, Fiona, dear! Are you bleeding again?" he asked, with a dangerous air
of sarcasm. He took a step toward her. Of course, the micro-dragon often
found she had good reason to dislike that certain look in his eyes...

 Bruno strolled contentedly through the forest, now beginning to see how
right Fiona was in two matters. Firstly, yes, it was a WONDERFUL morning.
The sun was bright and warm, the air was clear, and he was surrounded by
beauty. He had even managed to find all of his old items- the things he had
left behind when the RIG had dragged him off to the pillory. In Bruno's hand
was a small flower that he had picked in his high spirits. On his back, he
carried his backpack, which amazingly, also contained a few stolen items the
RIG had missed. On his shoulder (and this was the best part of all the
morning) well... on his shoulder sat a nicely bound and gagged Fiona. "You
were right again, Fiona- 'Twas  really a GREAT idea to bring bandages!"
"Mmmph!!" Fiona cried, struggling against the bandages.

 Some time later...
 Bruno plucked Fiona off of his shoulder and reached for the map in his
pack. Fiona was sleeping, which was unusual for her, since she wasn't
normally one to sleep on the job. Poor Fiona: she looked bushed- pale,
swollen and bruised. Despite this, however, he wasn't really that worried
just yet. Fiona was a tough micro-dragon, after all... but the specks of
blood that were beginning to appear on her bandages signaled that something
was not quite right. Still, he almost didn't want to wake her... well,
almost. Bruno nudged her awake. "Check the map, willya?"
"Hmmfff."
"What?"
"Hmmmffff fmm!"
Bruno removed the bandages from Fiona's mouth. "What?"
"I said, untie me first!!"
Bruno also cut the bandages from her wrists, before handing the micro-dragon
the map. "Where are we now, Lizard?"
"Hmm... We're..." Fiona fingered a compass, and turned the map before
nodding, "About ten miles from the Cave of Plot Twisting Horror. 'Tis about
due north of here." Bruno looked to where Fiona was pointing, but he didn't
see anything that even remotely looked like a cave of any sort. In fact,
there was a clear river which spread out into the distance- and unless there
was a cave in the middle of the river, there was nothing there. Behind him,
Fiona suddenly grabbed herself. More waves of pain were coming, and they
were even worse than yesterday, only this time, they seemed to be getting
worse and worse. Bruno, completely unaware of what was going on behind him,
turned around, palm outstretched to Fiona.
"Okay, Lizard, give me the compass."
The micro-dragon clenched her jaws before painfully replying, "I'm kinda
busy right now..."
Bruno sighed in exasperation. "'Tis always some excuse with you, Lizard! Now
what?!" His eyes caught Fiona's pained body. "Fiona? NOW, what are you
doing?"
Fiona didn't answer. In fact, she just went limp. She wasn't asleep, or even
unconscious, however, but she looked absolutely exhausted, despite the fact
that Bruno had been the one who had been walking all day. The bandit knelt
to one knee to inspect her. Now, she was wet, although she hadn't been
anywhere near water, and her body was still swollen, although Fiona acted as
if she didn't feel it. Unsure of what else to do, Bruno slung Fiona over his
shoulder and headed off into the direction of the river.

 At last, it was approaching the evening, soon to mark the end of the fourth
day that they had been in the forest of Pandorez. Something stirred on
Bruno's shoulders; apparently, Fiona was finally beginning to wake.  She was
stiff, dizzy and still in pain, but still managed to focus on the world
around her. A clearing where all the trees had evidently been cut down long
ago signaled that at some point, someone had been nearby. A rushing river
sounded a thunderous announcement nearby. Fiona stared at the trees, and
suddenly cried, "Hanth'kai, Taeku!" Bruno looked up at Fiona, about to ask
her if her blood-loss was finally getting to her brains, when the river
suddenly disappeared, leaving a bone-dry riverbed, through which a huge
tunnel stared blatantly up at them. Ancient stone steps lead down into
darkness. Bruno looked up at her, curious.
"Ailix! How did you know the river was a fake?" Fiona stared at the compass
in her hand, then to the river, and finally, to Bruno.
"Easy- If this were a real water source-" Fiona pointed to a small, round,
thorny, hardly significant plant on the ground. "-no cactus would be growing
here. That, and the fact that the map points to an underground tunnel
here..." she pointed, "right where the so-called river was."
"Good job, Fiona! I'm impressed!"
"Impressed enough to give me a raise, Boss?" The micro-dragon asked
hopefully.
"No way!" Bruno pointed to the large, brown stains on his cloak. "'Tis the
second time you've ruined a cloak of mine, Twit!"
Fiona let out a deep sigh as she and Bruno entered the cave.

 The huge caverns spread out around them as they entered, showing pointed
stalactites reaching down from the ceiling, and twin stalagmites stretching
to reach the white, spiky portions grabbing down. Giant pillars where
stalactites and stalagmites had touched each other set the cave into a scene
looking much like a royal throne room, that is, minus furniture, fittings
and a roly-poly idiot, also known as the king of Rothland. Fiona, having
been on the ground collecting what she needed for her fire, blew a stream of
heat onto the dry bush, and the fire sprang to life, casting eerie shadows
on the cave's surroundings. Only the sound of the fire crackling caught her
attention, when Fiona began to muse.
"Hey, Boss. Those stalactites and stalagmites only grow about an inch every
few hundreds of years. That's why 'tis illegal to--"
<Crack.> Just like that, Bruno had a piece of stalagmite in his hand, and
was trying to use it as a nut-cracker.
"Boss! That stalagmite took thousands of years to-"
"Quiet, Lizard. I don't want to hear about some stupid piece of
stalac-thing-"
"The stalact-"
"Lizard, I said quiet!"
Fiona refused to. "Just listen to me, will ya? The sta-"
"You listen- I-"
"Boss! WATCH OUT!"
<CRACK!> At Fiona's warning, Bruno looked up, to the point of a huge
stalactite coming down to greet him. There was only time to leap out of the
way, as the mighty stalactite crashed down, causing a huge vibration
throughout the cave. Fiona looked up at the ceiling. The stalactites were
shaking horribly, and one crashed down from the ceiling, causing even more
vibrations. Fiona grabbed onto Bruno's backpack. Bruno didn't need to be
told to hi-tail it out of there, and he ran through the caves, stalactites
trailing behind him.  Bruno took a quick look into a narrow passage and
ducked into it. As the apocalypse continued outside, Bruno looked down the
passage. There were only two ways to go: back out into the shower of
stalactites, or further into the cave. Bruno continued down the cave, as
Fiona slowly whispered, so as not to disturb any more stalactites, "I told
you should've listened to me."
And Bruno, not in the mood even for Fiona's mild accusation, gave her a
poke. "Shut up, Twit."
"Aw well, at least the worst is past us..."
A heavy breathing began rising up the hair on Bruno's neck. "Listen, Lizard,
will you quit breathing on me?"
The heaving, wet breathing continued. "Twit, willya breath somewhere else?"
There was no verbal response, but a heaving breathing one. Bruno repeated.
"Lizard?" No response. All of a sudden, Bruno did NOT want to know what was
behind him. It was at least twice Bruno's size when on all fours, and its
bright yellow colour and black spots signified that it could probably run
much faster than Bruno could: 120 miles per hour at full speed, to be exact.
On each of its six, long, flexible, spotted tails, it had tied a single,
razor-sharp knife. Its claws were no less sharp, only they were not seen in
its velvety paws. A fine-tuned, feline body lead up to a fierce spotted
countenance, complete with three inch fangs, a pink nose and eerie yellow
eyes. The cat-monster growled at Bruno, who began seeing his life in review.
Then, it did something very surprising: it turned around, grabbed Bruno by
the collar and shook him fiercely. Then, while the world was still spinning
for our 'hero', the bandit, it trotted off with him.
 Bruno struggled against the cat monster, but it refused to drop him, and
every struggle was met with an intimate relationship with the cave-wall,
courtesy of the cat monster. It was a very short walk, which ended up in a
disjointed cavern deep inside the cave. There was a simple table set for
tea, and in one corner of the "room" in the cave stood a huge nest. The
cat-monster tossed Bruno into this nest, before hopping in itself. It let
out a loud purr at the sound of a voice that was soon to become familiar:
"Tabbits? Back already- oh dear!"1-

 "Oh, dear, this WILL not do at all, I say!" a short, squat woman muttered.
The greying hair in the bun crowned her chubby face, and her simple brown
dress only made her seem even more fat. "A pussy cat who lives in a nest
underground! *tsk* What next?" The 'pussy cat' turned around and licked
something hidden in its nest- something that apparently knew four letter
words. The more Bruno protested, the more the cat-monster licked his face.
"Hey you, old woman!" Bruno sputtered at the cat's licks. "Get this mangy-"
he sputtered, "flea devil-" but the cat had licked him again. The old woman
saw this, and began giggling.
"Oh dear," she smiled, "I do believe my Tabbits has made a mistake!"
Bruno almost died of heart-failure. "He's your PET?!?!"
Now, she burst out laughing. "SHE'S my dear friend, yes. Her only kitten got
lost, poor dear, sweet thing... and I think she's found a substitute!"
"WHAT?!?!?!"

 A short distance away...
 Fiona rubbed her head and looked up from where she had landed, amazingly
unhurt. Well, that is, any MORE hurt. Her ears picked up a familiarly harsh
language, one that could only come from one person: the bandit she had come
to know and... well... know, Bruno. Carefully, she approached the sound of
his voice... and saw a very amusing sight. A cat monster had cornered Bruno,
and was trying to get him to eat a regurgitated morsel of what used to be a
large fish. Bruno spotted Fiona, and reached towards her. "Lizard! Distract
this hairball so I can get out of here!"
Fiona, eager for a chance to bait Bruno, rubbed her chin. "It's not that
easy, Boss! Cat-monsters are very passionate about their children, and she
apparently thinks you are one of them."
"Well, DO something! Talk to that old crone over there- she knows
something!"
"But you look SO adorable!"
At this, the cat-monster puffed herself up with pride, and shoved another
piece of the mush up into Bruno's face.
"Not half as 'adorable' as you'll look when I rip off your limbs, Lizard!"
"Aw chill, Boss. I'll talk to her."
Bruno didn't answer, for the cat-monster had begun trying to suckle him. All
that could be heard was a single scream.

 Fiona approached the woman carefully. "Do you really know something about
that cat-monster, Ms...?"
The woman smiled brightly. "Marie. Why, yes, Tabbits and I have been friends
for years now. Tea?"
"Aye, and your Tabbits has bandit-napped Bruno! I'll have a cup."
"Oh, but Tabbits wouldn't hurt a fly! She's just lonely's all, and wants a
son. Cream?"
"But he CAN'T be her son! Tabbits would only be disappointed that Bruno
can't do the thinks other cat-monsters do. Nay, thanks."
"I was planning to move out of this old cave and set up my psychiatric
practice somewhere else where Tabbits can be with other cat-monsters.
Sugar?"
"But how do we get her to let Bruno go? Two teaspoons."
"I'll talk to the poor dear. In the meantime, could you two darlings do me a
favour? I need to brush up on my psychiatry skills- could you help me? I'll
give you free psychiatric services in return..."
Fiona sipped the tea. "What do you do, Maria?"
"Oh, some bits and pieces here and there. Mostly partnership counseling..."
"You mean like Doctor Mariana?"
Maria snarled. "Doctor Mariana?! Ah, so there is... DOCTOR MARIANA in
Rothland, hmm? I will feast on her charred flesh and feed her blood to my
cat! Her carcass is MINE!!! Mwa HA HA HA HA HAAAA- *ahem*. Doctor Mariana,
how is the dear?"
Fiona's eyes were still the size of Bruno's ego. "What did she do to get you
so mad?"
"Well..." Maria began, "It was a long time ago... I was a practising student
in Suna- young, adventurous and curious. Then came Mariana, and we were the
best of friends. One day, there was an assignment in class on profiling
micro-dragons who can't stand their bosses." Fiona perked up as Maria
continued, "I thought I could trust her..."
"Let me guess," Fiona said, "She betrayed your trust, broke into your secret
files, stole your assignment and handed it in as her own."
Maria smiled. "Actually, we had a fight over who would date the psychiatry
teacher."
Fiona stared at her.
"Hey! He was a CUTE psychiatry teacher!"

 Maria has lulled Tabbits into giving up Bruno...
"...and now, it's time to play the piper," Maria pointed out.
"HAH!" Bruno laughed, "I only agreed to this to get away from that ugly ball
of lint- Let's go, Fiona."
Fiona only watched in amusement as Maria said, "But dear, Tabbits'll only
track you down with her keen feline senses-" Too late. Tabbits had grabbed
Bruno and was busy knocking him on the cave wall.
"Oh, dear! Tabbits, NO! Tabbits!" Maria pointed to the dizzy and bleeding
Bruno, "Now look what you've done!"
"I know," Fiona said, "Blood isn't easy to get out of carpet, y'know!"
"I know! the stains- *tsk* simply horrors-"
"You two've had your tea party already! Now let's get this over with," Bruno
snapped.
 Maria led Bruno and Fiona into a quiet part of the cave. There was a,
small, yellow, wooden house there, with only two rooms separated by a door.
The woman handed each a paper, quill and a jar of ink, and set a bottle of
something clear in front of them. "Now listen. I've seen the way you act
towards each other, and I'd like to try something out. In this jar is deepin
syde juice. It causes you speak your deepest subconscious thoughts and
feelings. Now, the paper-" she pointed to the stationery she had given them-
"is for you to write a letter to each other, on how you truly feel about one
another. When you're finished, swap them."
"Doctor Mariana always made us talk about our problems before she treated
us," Bruno said.
"Boss? I don't think it's a good idea to compare her to-" Fiona began, but
it was too late. Maria leapt onto Bruno's chest, grabbed his throat and
squeezed it until Bruno turned blue. "You do not mention her name in my
presence. If you do, I shall be forced to destroy you. IS that understood?!"
Bruno nodded. Maria let him go, and smiled sweetly. "Now drink the juice and
go into the different rooms."
 Fiona scrutinized the juice, and drank from it. Bruno, however, simply
gulped his half, and they both entered the different rooms and began their
letters.

 Bruno looked at the paper. He didn't feel any different. Everything was the
same. Ha, so the deepen side juice was a fake! He knew it! Now, he'd just
scribble down a few lines of some stupidness, hand it to Maria and be out of
the dump within the hour. He didn't see the hand hovering over his shoulder-
"YIPS!" Bruno cried. Behind him was a man who had appeared, it seemed, out
of thin air. That wasn't the worst part, however. The worst part was that he
looked EXACTLY like Bruno!
"Remember me?" said the man.
"Did I ever steal from you?"
"So you don't. I'm your conscience and inner intuition- you know, the one
you tied up, then locked in a box, then you cut the pieces, then you..."
(Four hours later) "...then you sent the molecules into space?" Bruno's
look-alike said.
"Oh yeah- you. What do YOU want, dog?"
"Well..." he said, "I'm supposed write what's in your deepest mind about
Fiona."
"That all, pig slop? I'll tell you- she's a lying, greedy, little twit!"
"Sure?"
"Aye!" Bruno shouted.
Bruno's conscience shrugged. "If you say so."
Bruno felt an unusual abundance of thoughts and ideas in his head at that
moment, and while they were all familiar, some of them were uncomfortably
surprising. Bruno's conscience scoffed. "Can't even keep your head straight,
can ye? Well, let's get this over with."
Strangely enough, Bruno never remembered losing consciousness, yet, his
conscious's comment was the last thing he could remember.

 The next morning...
 Fiona awoke slowly, quill still in her hands from yesterday. She either
didn't know or didn't remember what was written on the letter in the neat
envelope in front of her. The micro-dragon stretched and picked it up,
walking outside with the letter in hand. Bruno was there as well. "Morning,
Boss," she mumbled sleepily. She felt, after all, as if she hadn't slept a
wink the night before.
Bruno rubbed his eyes. Maria, however, seemed wide awake. "Morning, Dearies!
Ready to read each other's utmost thoughts?"
"Shut up and let's get this over with!" Bruno snapped. Maria smiled.
"Well.. switch letters, and read!" Maria said. The bandit snatched Fiona's
letter and was about to tear it open when Maria added, "Let me warn you-
with most of those I've counseled, your deepest thoughts are surprising.
After all, Deary, we all have some doubt in our minds, don't we?"
"The only doubt I have in my mind is your sanity," Bruno remarked.
 Fiona rubbed her hands together. Not that she was suffering from nerves
(nerves? Why would she be nervous?), but although Bruno often confided in
her, there were some things he kept to himself, she never asked, and they
were both much better off. She'd never come out and ask what he thought of
her, one, because that would sound the wrong way, two, because he'd only
tell her to bug off.
 At that point, both felt extremely nervous. They were about to read each
other's deepest thoughts, and it had been an unspoken agreement that they
really wouldn't care about that. Maria still had her expectant grin on her
face.
 A whistle suddenly blew across the scenario. Everything stopped. The water
stopped dripping from the ceiling, Tabbits the cat-monster stopped moving,
Maria's grin was plastered on her face, and Bruno and Fiona were frozen in
the process of opening their letters. In other words, time had stopped. A
girl appeared- she had deep brown skin and braided black hair. She wore a
beige jumper and a white buttoned shirt, and brown, flat shoes complete with
white socks. The girl may have been in her late teens. In her hand was a
bright red amulet, which she placed on the table. "And I'll be taking
THESE," the girl said, grabbing the letters. Before she left, she emptied a
satchel of dust into the air. As she left, she muttered, "Hagen Ovrirpor,"
and disappeared. A huge, green anomaly opened, a portal and on the other
side stood the familiar sight of Suna.
 Time began again, and Bruno jumped, startled. "Lizard! What are we doing
here?"
"Err.. I don't know- wait! I remember! We came to get the amulet of
Pandorez- there it is!" Fiona grabbed the amulet, and Bruno grabbed Fiona,
and the two high-tailed it through the portal. "WAIT!" Maria cried. "Come
back! Oh," she asked, "the poor dears. They don't even know that amulet of
Pandorez lost its magical properties many years ago, and reverted to cheap,
red glass." She asked again. "Poor things."

 Bruno stopped just behind huge building, Fiona perched on his shoulder. "We
being followed?"
"I don't see her... or her cat-monster. I think it's safe," Fiona sighed in
relief. Then, she fainted.
Bruno tried everything, including slapping her. "Oh, just peachy," Bruno
sighed, slinging her over his shoulder. The micro-dragon had a fever, she
was deathly pale, as she had been for the last few days, and it was too
obvious that she was deathly sick. Now what? She needed a doctor, and fast,
and the last time he had tried that role... well.. it hadn't turned out
well. Either way, maybe he could find a hospital somewhere, like right
behind him. Waitaminute. Yes, the Suna Hannaria Memorial Hospital was right
there behind him, the huge, pretty obvious metallic words shining in the
bright morning sun. Bruno pushed through the doors, and deposited Fiona at
the desk. As the doctors took her away, he sighed, not particularly sure why
he hoped that she would be alright.

 Either way, he had the medallion- now to get down to business. A yellow
cottage with a white roof greeted him. Bruno approached the house. At last!
After ALL that, he would be able to deliver the cursed medallion, which he
had searched for on this star-crossed adventure, and be done with it! On
reaching the house, Bruno pounded on the door. After what seemed an
eternity, a young, black girl with braided hair wearing a beige jumper and
white buttoned-up shirt answered. "Yeh?"
"Where's Kuzuye?"
"I am she," the girl answered. Bruno's eyes widened in surprise- he hadn't
expected her to be so.. young! She was fourteen, fifteen the most. "And you
are Bruno. You have the medallion?"
Bruno shoved it into her hands. "Take the damn thing! Now, about my fee--"
Kuzuye shook her head. "The medallion looks like it's been through some
metamorphosis. The magic's gone, and the medallion's useless! A pile of
glass is all that's left of it!"
"WHAT?!?!?!" Bruno looked as if he could strangle Kuzuye right there and
then. However, Kuzuye sighed. "Still... you HAVE gone a long way, and the
damage of the medallion is no fault of yours." Kuzuye slipped out a paper
from her pocket. "Five thousand sovereigns, fifty silver eagles and one
copper. Good bye."
"Wh-wha?" Bruno studied the cheque. Yes, signed and everything. "YAHOO!!"
Bruno was in a very good mood, that second. Too bad it only lasted a second,
as Oswald and Co. appeared.
"Ah HAH! There he is! Arrest him, men!"
"Now what, dog?! I haven't done anything since I arrived in Suna!"
"You're under arrest for breaking into the Museum of Ancient History and
stealing: the map of Pandorez, and the compass of Tan!" With that, Oswald
lead Bruno off to the stocks, but only after wrenching the compass and the
map from him.

 So, maybe it wasn't such a good day, Bruno thought. The bandit had been
thrown in the stocks, Fiona was nowhere around to break him out. On the up
side, though, he still had the cheque, Fiona's absence meant that she
couldn't torment him while he was in the stocks, and his sentence had only
been for a day and a night. He could stand a day and a night, right?

 Bruno had been in that stock for several hours, now. It was afternoon, and
the sun was causing him to sweat. A tall, thin, sleepy-looking man
approached. On his shoulder, he toted a huge bag, and his messy, blonde hair
waved in the wind. "Hello, are you a Mr. Bunkleyutz?" he asked in a whiny,
tired voice.
"Aye, what of it?"
"Some micro-dragon named Fiona sent you a letter." The man opened the letter
and handed a paper, and what seemed like a receipt, to him. Bruno read:
"Boss,
 I've just woken up. The doctor says I'm lucky- 'another day and I would've
been a goner. Anyways, they broke the fever and I'm taking medicine for the
infection. I just need a little blood. I'll be out in about two weeks, but
the doctor recommends a month's paid vacation when I get out. See you,
 Fiona."
"A month's payed vacation," muttered Bruno, angrily, "After I've been
lugging her butt around, that's the thanks I get?" Bruno then looked at the
other slip of paper. It was a receipt for money paid to the Suna Hannaria
Memorial Hospital, and it was made out for the amount of exactly five
thousand sovereigns, fifty silver eagles and one copper. "Hmm...." thought
Bruno, I wonder where she's getting that kind of money." The receipt showed
that the money had been payed by credit card. Bruno looked at the credit
card number. "That number looks a lot like mine," Bruno stated.
"Waitaminute- it IS mine!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!"

 Meanwhile, in the small yellow cottage where Kuzuye lives...
 Kuzuye slipped the medallion around her neck. "That was Bruno," she said. A
grin came over her face. "...and guess what I got today."
A brunette man, perhaps in his late teens, ambled over. His hair was messy,
his eyes were wild, and he was jumping on the couch, drooling. "Durgh, a
one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple, people-eater?"
A small ball of golden light with wings who called herself Mysterious
Starlight (or MS for short) appeared. "A life?"
Kuzuye ignored her. "Oh, please, MS. I got... (drum-roll please)..." The man
began beating his head on the wall. "Oh, well," Kuzuye sighed, "good
enough." Kuzuye held up two, small envelopes and a triumphant grin. I got
these!"
MS flittered towards her. "Huh?"
The man began trying to eat the couch. "Mmph?"
Kuzuye grinned, "Their letters! They wrote letters about their true thoughts
about each other! Get ready to hear the TRUTH!" The girl began to open a
letter. However, the faerie, MS, grabbed the letters from her.
"NO!"
"Huh?" Kuzuye asked.
"That is wrong! You can't read that stuff out loud!"
"Why not? Our esteemed readers are DYING to know... y'know... the QUESTION."
MS turned to the man. "Crazy, quit trying to eat the couch, willya? Anyway,
Kuz, Kuzu, you CAN'T read that letter. For those of us SANE people who
believe that Bruno and Fiona could NEVER be a couple--"
Crazy added, "Bruno loves Fiona! Fiona loves Bruno! Grrr- snort- when's the
marriage?!"
"Shut up, Crazy," Kuzuye snapped.
"Like I said," MS remarked, "for those of us SANE people, we know we want to
open that letter, you know, just to have proof. BUT... I wouldn't if I were
you. Why? Because it's their thoughts. Whether there's a romance, or a
friendship, or neither, nobody's ready to have that exposed just yet. One
day, there'll be hard and steady proof, but until then, some mysteries (even
the obvious ones- c'mon. They try to KILL each other for cryin' out loud!)
are best left unproved, and unsolved.
 Kuzuye thought about this, then sighed. "Ah, phooey. Alright, alright, I
promise I won't tell--"
"No way!" MS yelled. "Last time YOU tried to keep a secret... Crazy, how
many TV shows did it appear on?'
"Durgh, 23 burgers, 9 cents and Tuesday!!! Love Kazooie!" responded Crazy.
"Eh, never mind. Either way, you can't be trusted. I'LL keep it."
Kuzuye sighed deeply, muttering, "Ragga fragga butt-kissing faerie wanna
ragga fragga-"
"I heard that!"
"So? Wanna make something of it?"
"Bring it on, mortal!"
"My pleasure, lampie!'
 While MS and Kuzuye were locked in a battle of cosmic proportions, Crazy
decided to host...
 


Author's Notes: Dkurg, flipper, flicker, love Kazooie!! Hrunn, grrrnnn-
AaAAAaaAAAHHhhHH! Give me that. Sorry about that, folks, this is Kuzuye with
the Author's Notes. I've thought about it, and MS's right. Only one person
can say anything for real, and that's a man named Ian McDonald! Let's give
it up for Ian! *cheers* Ahem. Anyway, who'm I to say anything? Things'll
conclude themselves, and whaddya know, taranta, tarantula, life goes on.

If you enjoyed this story, e-mail Amanda, and say thanks! :-)


[HOME]