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April 15, 2024

The Rubiyaat of Ozzie 11

By Alexandra Queen

Episode Eleven - I got yer 'fishwife superstitions' right here...

I paused before answering. "... like what?"

"Like there's something eerie going on."

I have been accused of being a little unimaginative. And I had been drinking, though nowhere near enough. All I'm saying is that maybe I could have been a little more sympathetic than to snigger in his face and say, "You want to snuggle in with me, little guy?"

"You're a jackass, Osgun, you know that?" He took the extra blanket and stomped back to his cot. I tried to say something apologetic, but all I could do was giggle into my own blanket in an effort not to wake Minerva up. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him frowning down at his pillow. "Ozzie?"

Even half asleep and half drunk, I had known better than to think he'd talk to me again before I did some apologizing. Or at least, I thought I had. I bit back my snickers enough to say in a reasonably respectful manner, "What?"

"Didn't you see me put my mirror away before I went to sleep?"

With Minerva on her knees at the fireplace? Was he stupid? "Didn't notice, man."

"Huh," he said quietly and reached down to pick something up off his bed. Looked like the mirror. I saw him glance down into it, then jump like something bit him and throw it to the floor. "Gods preserve us!" he muttered and wheeled around.

I sat up, concerned. "Riordan?"

He was looking around nervously. "It's ...okay. I'm just a little tired. Thought I saw something. Musta caught your face in it at an angle and startled me." He picked up the mirror and moved back to his cot, rubbing at his arms a little nervously, like he had a chill.

I heaved a deep breath, thinking for a minute. "You want me to keep a watch or something? I can sleep in the wagon tomorrow during daylight. I didn't have that much to drink."

"No. No, I'm okay."

"All right, man. Holler if you need something." I meant to listen for his breathing to make sure he fell asleep, but I got distracted on a sweet dream where I was saving Minerva from some rough types who had her cornered outside the bar. In fact, I had just punched one when his buddy kicked me in the ribs and said, "Shhhh..."

I opened my eyes. Riordan was kneeling by my head, looking at the rest of the room with wide eyes. He had his finger over his lips. When I frowned and didn't say anything, he gave me a quick glance to make sure I could see him, then mouthed, "There's someone in the room."

Laying still, I glanced around for possible hiding places. It wasn't that big a room. There weren't very many. Laying on the floor like I was, I could see under both beds. Lack of light had never been an issue for me, so it wasn't like anyone was lurking in the shadows. Well, if there was someone in here, they were hidden well enough that they could see us better than we could see them. "Get the lamp," I mouthed and prepared myself. If there was some thug lurking about, they would make a move as soon as Danny stood up. My chain was beside me. I was ready.

Riordan stood up, then lunged for the lamp and turned up the wick. I was on my feet as he did so, squinting against the sudden brightness. This was the risky part, because an oil lamp wasn't, in my experience, enough to hurt a human's eyes, so there would be a few seconds where I would be a little vulnerable. But the only thing that jumped was Minerva. "What's going on?" she cried. A blink or two and I was able to see the dagger she had low but ready.

"There's somebody in here!" Riordan was looking around with his own dagger out. "I heard footsteps and a voice. And someone touched me."

"Danny, I don't see anyone," I said, cautiously kneeling down to double check under the beds. Still nothing. "You sure you weren't dreaming?"

"Look beside my pillow." His voice sounded a little strained.

Since I was over there anyway, I glanced that way. On the sheet lay his little hand mirror. "I don't see anything but your mirror."

"I put it away the second time before I went to sleep. It was in my pack. Which was under my pillow."

"So it slipped out," I shrugged as I went to check the window. Hmm. Shutters were shut tight and dusty. No recent fingerprints. I opened them and hmmed again at the scraping of wood on wood. We'd have heard that.

"It didn't slip out, Osgun. I know where I put it. It was wrapped in velvet and buckled tight into a side pouch."

"Well, check the walls," I was over at the fireplace now, taking a breath and squinting against the heat of the coals to take a quick glance up the chimney. Too hot. Nobody would have got out that way. I coughed a little and wiped soot on my tunic as I ducked back out and saw Minerva walking purposefully over to the head of Riordan's bed. Giving him a reproachful look, she smoothed out the sign he had blurred and retraced it.

"Oh, no, you are not attributing this to some old wives' tale," he protested as she started the process over at the foot of the cot. "What are you saying, Minerva? The room is haunted?"

"Lower your voice," she said calmly, finishing the sign. "It's the ring I found on the body in the bandits' hiding place. The spirit who led me to it is bound to the ring. It will follow us until I can give the ring to the proper people - then the spirit will be able to rest."

He glared at her for a long moment, then turned to me. "You," he said, voice full of accusation. "You are an ass hole, Osgun." He said it like it was two separate words, for added emphasis.

"I told you, if asking nice didn't work I was gonna let you know in the wagon tomorrow." He was going to be really pissed with me when he found out about the demon stuff. I should probably fill him in on that sometime.

"'In the wagon tomorrow'," he mimicked, then looked at Minerva. "This is why you had to leave? A spirit came and told you to find this ring so it could rest?"

Sitting on her cot again, she opened and closed her mouth once, then folded her hands in her lap and looked him square in the eye. "Yes." You know, it was a lie low enough that I would have honestly thought less of her, except for the fact that I couldn't figure out how to tell Riordan about the rest of it either. I would reserve my judgment until after I had a chance to talk with her a little more. If she or I could come up with a good angle and she still refused to tell him after that, then I would think less of her. And that wasn't just her cleavage talking to me.

"Go back to sleep, Danny. I'll stay up for a little while, make sure everything is okay."

"What the hell does it want with my mirror?" he grumbled, crawling back into bed. "The little curvy thingy on this sign is kind of woogly, is that okay?"

"It will suffice, Master Seawolf. You have my word. And I apologize for not being more up front about this earlier."

"So, uh, you talk to ghosts, or what?"

"I... have visions in dreams."

"That's gotta suck. So you have to take this ring ...where? West?"

"To Waymeet. Rest peacefully."

"Okay." Riordan paused. "You, too." He was silent for a few moments, then shifted a little. "Ozzie? You're gonna be up for a little while, right?"

"Yeah. I'm gonna leave the lamp turned up a bit, too."

"Okay. Hey, sorry about calling you an asshole."

"No problem, man."

A stretch of silence. Then: "...so do ghosts not like light, or what? I mean, you never hear of hauntings happening during broad daylight."

Over from Minerva's side of the room, I thought I heard an impatient sigh. She tugged her blankets up around her ears and settled deeper into the straw filled mattress. "Absolutely," I told Riordan. "Lamp light, daylight, ghosts hate that shit. Hey, you ever see a ghost and a moth in the same place? Eh? What'd I tell you."

There was a brief pause. "Ozzie, remember when I said I was sorry for calling you an asshole? I was wrong, man. You are an asshole. I just wanted to let you know that."

"Sweet dreams, Danny. Just don't call my name out too loud in your sleep, huh? It's embarrassing."

"Yeah, I'm not the one who moans all night in their sleep," he muttered into his pillow, rolling over.

"It ain't me either. It's the ghost."

"Ass. Hole."

Minerva cleared her throat. "Good night, gentlemen." She sounded like she used the term loosely. Mollified, we both fell quiet. Before the embers in the fireplace cooled too much further, however, Riordan broke the silence with one last whisper.

"Too bad you don't have any chalk drawings that ward against assholes."

"I was thinking exactly the same thing," she snapped, causing me to have to stuff a blanket over my mouth to quench a snicker.

Next Week: Episode Twelve - The Fellowship of the Ring
Article © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2002-09-14
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