370: Flight of the Phoenix

A fairy had been the first thing I’d encountered when I arrived in this world. It was small and looked a bit like Tinkerbell, how you’d expect a fairy to look. Until it opened its mouth and revealed its piranha teeth.

The women who arrived in the small village pretending to be priestesses of the One True God (but were in fact flunkies for Joshaya — or so we were told) were also fairies. Bigger and more naked, but without the wings.

Now, apparently, Richina was yet another type of fairy. At this rate, I’d be able to put together my own compendium of fairies from around the world.

I swung my sword and hit Laney on the arm with the flat side of the wooden blade. “Get off her.”

Initially, my swing was aimed at her butt, which was sticking up as she wrestled to keep Richina on the bed, but luckily I came to my senses. A sharp smack on the bum was likely to give her completely the wrong idea, and I would rather not have to deal with a Laney that was both bra-less and aroused.

As it was, the tap on her arm made her eyes flare with interest as she looked over her shoulder at me. I took an involuntary step back, ready to defend my manhood from attack.

“We have to kill it,” she said, as though the sooner we got rid of Richina, the sooner we could get down to other business.

“We can’t kill her, it’ll send her back to Arthur or Peter or Joshaya… whoever the fuck she’s working for. Have you not been paying attention?”

She could be forgiven for losing track, it was hard to know whose side anyone was on — not mine seemed to be the only consistent answer. But Richina, whatever variant of fairy she was, had already shown she couldn’t be killed, at least not in the normal way. I had yet to try coming at her with a fly swatter.

“We still need to—” Laney, like most people, insisted on her point being right despite the facts.

I gave Laney a sharp knock on the top of her red-crowned head to cut off her blabbing — and of course regretted it when she gave me an intensely violent look that suggested she was about to let go of Richina and mount me instead. See? I could make mistakes. One day I hoped to not only acknowledge them, but also learn to stop repeating them.

“Just get off her. You, too,” I said to Biadet. She looked terrible, but she had still leapt into the fray when required. It was the sort of selfless act you could easily be fooled by. Not that it wasn’t a sign of her good intentions, but that didn’t mean she would do the same in other circumstances. If the fairy on the bed had been Peter, she might not have come to the rescue quite so readily.

Biadet gave me a doubtful look, and then lifted the pillow off Richina’s face. She looked flushed and a bit dizzy. I didn’t trust any of these women, all a bunch of freaks if you ask me. I prefer a woman to act demure and graceful, like… wait, give me a moment, I’ll think of someone.

Biadet backed away, wobbling like she might fall down.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to heal you?” I asked her. She shook her head, and then put her hand against the cabin wall to steady herself.

“Damicar, can you…” I only then saw where Damicar was. He was standing in front of Flossie and Dudley, arms spread out to protect them from any flying viscera, or maybe even from dynamite and laser beams. I didn’t know what he thought he was doing, to be honest with you, and the wincing expression on his half-turned away face suggested he didn’t either, but it was meant well.

Flossie was probably stronger than anyone here, and Dudley was no slouch, at least when it came to keeping his bird safe, but they both seemed okay with being shielded by the ship’s cook. I think they were impressed by his attitude, probably thinking about offering him a position in the grotto B&B business they were planning.

Again, don’t be fooled. Just because he stepped up to the plate this time, didn’t mean he could be counted on to do the same every time. Character is not as inflexible as movies would have you believe. It’s not that hard to take off a white hat and try on a fedora. Evil is only a matter of mood and timing.

“Damicar, do you think you could get us some food? I think this lot could use a bit of refuelling.” Biadet at least might be able to stand up straight if she got some protein in her — not a euphemism. Not that I’d ever seen her eat anything. I assumed she didn’t subsist on starlight and solar winds.

Damicar lowered his arms, looking a little embarrassed, and nodded. He quickly left, not really liking the feeling of being the momentary hero, which only made me like him more.

Flossie was grinning with her eyes glinting. “Did yo’ hear him? He said ‘Ah’ll protect you,” and jumped in front of us.”

“Good man,” said Dudley. Some people are easily impressed. And some people overlook true bravery. But not those two.

Richina had managed to stop gasping for air and slowly rose off the bed, hovering in the air. I took a step forward and cut off her wings.

Now, it might seem a little cruel to cut a fairy’s wings off — judging by Richina’s howl, she certainly thought so — but in my defence, fuck her.

The wings came off in single slices, one on either side. The floated down onto the bed, curling up as the fell, still glowing with a faint light, beautiful in their diaphanous splendour.

“You piece of shit!” screamed Richina as she fell somewhat less gracefully. Ruined the moment completely.

“Very good,” said Laney through a vicious smirk, her eyes taking notes. The one thing she enjoyed more than a firm hand on the tiller was being taught a lesson in advanced malice.

There was no blood, by the way. Fairies were like flies, they didn’t bleed when you pulled off their wings — don’t ask me how I know. Richina got to her knees, wingless, ready to accuse me of war crimes and reporting me to the UN.

“Give it a rest, Richina. I’m not in the mood for your meaningless threats. Someone tie her up.”

Treating an angry person dismissively is hardly going to endear you to them, but then I had the advantage of still holding the doll Mrs Somya had made. Richina was contractually obligated to do what she was told.

How far could I take it? Would she be forced to follow my orders no matter how abusive? Lucky for her, I was not the sort of person who enjoyed tormenting people in my power. Maybe one day…

“Please,” said Richina, her voice strained and fighting to get out from behind her lips. “I’m sorry. Let me go and I won’t bother you again, I promise.”

Sorry is a strange word. We all know what it means, obviously, but rarely is it used the way you’d hope. A genuine, all-encompassing apology that’s sincere and without caveat or excuse is a rare creature. Already extinct, I’d say, but you never know, there might be one hiding in a loch in Scotland.

There should really be a bunch of different words for sorry to cover the different circumstances, the way Eskimos have fifty words for snow. Sorry, the OG, should only be used when a person wholly accepts responsibility for their actions (so hardly fucking ever), and the rest would cover all the other disingenuous shit people think they can get away with by saying sorry when they’ve been caught red-handed.

“I’m sharry you think that.”

“I’m sooray you had to find out this way.”

“We’re  swoffry for the delay.”

How much better would it be if the apology reflected how the person actually felt about being exposed as a giant douche? We would both know where we stood, then.

“We can come to an understanding. We can find common ground.” And then her dress fell off.

I mean, okay, sex is a key part of the feminine arsenal, but we were in a crowded room with plenty of women who weren’t going to put up with this kind of nonsense, including me. Wait, that didn’t come out right.

“Are you trying to seduce me?” It was hard not to laugh. Don’t get me wrong, she was an attractive girl with all the bits in the rights places, but there’s nothing as unarousing for a bloke (yes, I’m calling myself a bloke) than a deliberate attempt to dangle sex as bait. “Put your knickers back on, we’re about to have something to eat. I hope it isn’t scampi.”

I might be the type who gets flustered when a woman starts breastfeeding in front of me, but that’s normal. Nothing against breastfeeding in public, it’s just hard to know where I’m supposed to look without coming off as a perv. But nothing chills the prude in me like a manipulative pair of knockers.

“I said I was sorry.” Richina didn’t seem to understand why someone wouldn’t take what was on offer.

“And I don’t accept your apology.” I wasn’t even clear on what she was sorry for. It didn’t matter, it wasn’t sincere whatever it was for. I threw the doll on the floor, Richina slammed into the bed again. “I thought someone was going to tie her up.” Honestly, you just can’t get the staff these days.

Laney grabbed some sheets an began ripping them into strips with her bare hands, which was impressive in itself. Dudley made to help hold naked Richina down, thought better of it and left it to people who were better suited and less well equipped for such matters.

Flossie pinned Richina to the bed with her foot on her neck and Laney tied her to the bedposts. At least the sheet strips covered most of her body. It’s a wonderful thing, the female form, but people will insist on using it for evil.

Damicar returned with a bunch of sailors carrying trays. They came in, gave the scene a look of astonishment and me a look of wonder, left the trays and went back out, all in a fluid motion.

Here I was surrounded by women, all ages, all states of undress, every guy’s dream, right? They say don’t knock it till you try it, but I have and I can assure you, by then it’s far too late.

Now that we had food, we ignored the fairy and focused on the array of delights Damicar had whipped up. I couldn’t tell you what any of it was, other than delicious.

“So, how did you turn into a dragon?” I thought I might as well get some of the necessary explanations out of the way while I was doing something actually useful.

“It were awful,” said Flossie, tears in her eyes and eating steadily. “Ah don’t know if yo’ really want to know. It’s a little bit sexual. It started when Dudley’s penis started to go all scaly.” She looked at Dudley who went beetroot red.

I had experienced many horrific things in my time in this world, yet somehow the thought of hearing how Flossie got fucked into being a dragon by Dudley’s scaly dick filled me with more dread than anything that had come before. Maybe I was overreacting. Don’t knock it till you try it, right?”

“Okay,” I said, “maybe we’ll save that story for another time.” Perhaps there was a detail in her tale that would reveal some weakness in the enemy I could exploit… I decided it was worth the risk to miss out on the lizard erotica. “Can you call your dragons now?”

“We’re too far away. Maybe if we get closer to land.”

“You can get them back from Claire?”

Flossie gave me a shrug and a smile. I guess that was about as much as I could hope for.

People were happy enough to stuff their faces, throwing compliments at Damicar at every opportunity. He didn’t seem to react to the praise, but if anyone asked him how something was made or what was in it, watch out. He would get all enthused and excited, rattling off recipes and detailed instructions. Maurice would have taken notes.

I finished first, never one to waste time enjoying the taste of things, and took a closer look at Richina’s wings, unfurling them — they were bigger than the cabin. She was bound to the bed and firmly gagged, as was her doll. Can’t be too careful.

The wings felt alive and like they were ready to take off. There was still light coming off them, and the part where they’d been cut seemed like it could just be stuck back on.

Could they be attached to someone else? I could use a pair of wings to get me out and about. I tried putting them on my shoulders, to see if they suited me. Giant, luminescent butterfly wings, no reason I couldn’t pull off that look.

“Looks a bit gay,” said Flossie, still shovelling food into her unrepentant gob.

“Please keep your intolerant views to yourself.” Some people are so narrow-minded.

“Ah think it would look good on a gay guy,” she insisted on adding, “but yo’ don’t really have the cheekbones to make it work.”

“What the fuck have my cheekbones got to do with it?” It had been nice to see the old crew again, for about five minutes.

Sartorial advice apart, I didn’t fancy stapling these things to my back. Plus it would be a bit tricky with me being untouchable.

“What do you plan to do with them,” said a voice in my head. “They aren’t really stable in our hands.” Wesley had been quiet since I’d left her in my little-self’s care. People often get the idea I am weak and unable to hold on to what I want, and for understandable reasons, but they’re wrong. I’m unable to hold onto things that I don’t want, because who cares? And it just happens ‘things I don’t want’ covers pretty much everything, so I’m always giving control away.

But my mind was still mine, and I’d spent a lot of time in there, even before I came here. I was honest with myself in there, which made it hard for anyone to make me see things their way. Out here, I was cringe, but in there, I was king. Wesley never had a chance once I decided to deny her voting privileges.

“I’m going to make some modifications. Don’t worry, you won’t have to stay in there for much longer. Once we get back to Gorgoth, you can go back to where you came from.”

It wasn’t meant as a threat, just letting her know she was going to be released. She’d be as free as she was before she met me.

I went back up to the deck, the others waiting below. I had some stuff I needed to try, and they’d only get in the way. Which was what I told them, to their offended faces.

The only things I took with me were the wings, which hung from my hands like a cloak Liberace would turn down as too ostentatious. There still wasn’t any wind, whether because that was just the weather for today or something more nefarious, I didn’t know. The crew were lounging around, watching me. They had heard about my decadent cabin full of nubile women and jumped to all the wrong conclusions. I could tell by their admiring glances.

I placed one wing on each side of the ship and left my body. There are a lot of things I could do with my power that I hadn’t even bothered to try, mainly because I hate having to go through the laborious process it requires. It’s tedious and fiddly and completely reliant on me. It’s just a shitty power. Imagine if Superman could fly, but first he had to knit himself a suit out of spaghetti to get himself off the ground.

Sometimes, though, I just had to grit my teeth and do it. Which only made me less keen the next time. Practice makes unbearable.

I attached the wings to the boat. Yes, it was dumb, but if it worked, the wings could act as self-propelling sails. And even if they only flapped about in the water, it would still get us moving.

It took a long time — a really long time — but I did it, hating every second.

Once the wings were attached, I returned to my body. For everyone else, no time had passed. My brain felt like fudge.

Now I just had to work out how to make them work.

A sailor from above us called out a warning. Everyone looked out to sea, where another giant wave was coming towards us. The Council had decided on a rematch, it seemed, and we didn’t have a dragon. We did have a boat with wings, though.

“Come on,” I said. “Start flapping.” I had connected the wings to my hands, but it was a bit of a botch job. They were more tied on than implanted. “Lezzgo!” I shook my hands like I was holding reins.

The wings stretched out, extending on either side, and then they fell, flopping into the water. We couldn’t outrun the wave with normal rowing power, but maybe the wings could produce a doggy paddle of incredible speed.

“Will you fucking flap you fuckers!” I shouted.

The ship shuddered and rose into the air. We floated up into the sky, over the wave, the wings filled with light, stretching out on either side. Welcome to Fairy Airways. I’m Colin, fly me.

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Afterword from Mooderino
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