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Short story snippet: “Rowan’s Change”

Another short bit of character study for my upcoming NaNo project, this one features my other main character. (There are a few supporting characters and if there’s time I might have studies up for them too.)

***

Even in the smoky darkness of the tavern, the hunger in the young serving girl’s eyes was plain to see. Rowan tried to make herself seem smaller, which was harder with the extra inch or so she’d grown since her transformation, though even before she’d been taller than average. Normally she might have enjoyed these admiring looks, the short gazes stolen as the girl went about the room chatting up the usual customers, but Rowan knew she didn’t really see her, only the body she currently inhabited.

She moved herself further down the bar, hiding behind a large, stocky man who smelled like pig dung and quaffed his beer like he’d been out in the sun the entire day. His stench hid her like a cloak and it also dulled her own hunger which she so desperately wanted to suppress. It wasn’t only out of respect for Lily, wherever she might be at the moment, but it also disturbed her to feel that new member, stuffed in her trousers moving about. Though she could get over her flat chest, the fullness in her pants was something else entirely to deal with. The barman gave her a puzzled look as she tried to drown herself in her own pint of ale, the only thrill she would allow herself.

“Shy around the girls are ye?” the men said and grinned. “Like my youngest son you are, he was always sneaking off into the stables, claimin’ to have some thing or other to take care of there when the girls teased him…only that made their teasing worse!”

Rowan peered up at the man, wondering if he expected her to answer him, but to her relief he moved over to the far side to serve a new customer, a cloaked man with the sigil of the town guard embroidered on his vest.

She continued to mull over her ale, hoping that she’d be left alone for the rest of her stay here. The tavern was crowded, the steam rising into the air from warm bodies and damp cloaks, which made the candles on the tables and the torches along the wall stutter. Every time the doors opened a gust of wind blew out the nearest candles and made those nearest the doors curse and yell at the newcomers to not leave the damned door open so long. Rowan was glad she had already secured a place to sleep for the night; a small room over the bakery, for it looked like the rainfall would continue for some time yet.

If she had been more poetic she might have ruminated that the skies were still mourning her parting from Lily.

Yet, she knew it had to be done. Though their task involved the both of them, as they had both been affected by the crone’s curse, it had become evident that solving it together would be a fool’s errand. Even if anyone they encountered might trust Rowan enough to listen to her, one look at Lily sent everyone running and if they were lucky they did not return with torches, pitchforks and a licensed Hunter in tow.

But now it occurred to her that while she would be spending the night warm and snug in her room, Lily would be forced to sleep out of doors. Lily, who never complained, who did her best to help out though she had not been trained to fend for herself like Rowan, Lily who had not openly wept when she had also been transformed, though it was a far more cruel manner than Rowan. At least she could trust Lily to fend for herself now, unless…Unless a Hunter showed up.

But that way lay madness, Rowan knew. It was far better for her to trust Lily, like she said she would, like Lily in turn had put her trust in her and to let her focus on her own problems, though they might seem small in comparison.

Suddenly she felt a pinch in her side, which made her twitch and she had to bite her tongue to prevent herself from crying out. Her nose, which she had thought was numbed by the stench of the pig man next to her, was suddenly flooded with a fairer scent of rose oil and honey. Behind her she saw the serving girl with a coy smile on her face, fingers reached out in a teasing manner and as she stretched over to collect a tray from the grinning barman she made a point to brush her bare arm against Rowan’s. As hard as she tried she could not stop herself from blushing, or even stop her new member from awakening from slumber within its cloth confines.

“That Merry, she is a cheeky one that lass”, the barman said and grinned. “She’s the one that finally made a man out of my youngest, made him forget his shyness mighty fast!”

Rowan bit her lip and stared into her ale.

“Don’t you worry, lad”, the barman continued. “Anything Merry does on her off time is up to her and all in good fun so don’t worry about it costing you any!”

The barman let out a hearty chuckle which sent his hairy yowls shaking.

Rowan watched Merry navigate the busy tavern until she located the right table to deliver the content of her tray, all the while her hips seemed to sway back and forth seductively. When another customer tried to touch her, he was awarded with a hearty slap, which made him cry out, and his friends laugh and hoot. It did comfort Rowan to see that Merry was a girl who could look after herself.

But it also did make Rowan wonder, whether *she* could really look after herself. Her accursed loins seemed certain of what *they* wanted at least. Perhaps she would have been better off sleeping outside in the rain.

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