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He got a nasty start a few hours later, when he came in to check on her.

He’d tied her hands, her feet, thrown a loop or two around her waist, and roped everything to the bed, the chair, and the fire iron, just for good measure, He’d done everything short of hog-tying. She wasn’t going to get loose in a hurry.

He wasn’t sure why he was bothering, really, since he had a horrible feeling that if she said “Will you untie me?” he might do it, and if she said “please,” he’d definitely do it.

Still, she didn’t seem to be a threat conscious, so maybe that was okay.

Then, because his feelings were still churning and there was nothing for emotional turmoil like hard work, he’d gone off, fed the chickens and the gargoyle, picked peas, turned the compost heap, washed his hands and made soup. By the end, he was really quite exhausted, and ready for at least a nap in his chair.

Then he came back in to discover that her fever had vanished and she was shivering violently with cold.

“…hell…” he rasped.

He dragged every blanket he owned out of winter storage and began piling them around her. They smelled of mouse nests and cedar. She practically vanished under stacks of patchwork and flannel, but he could still hear her teeth chattering.

“…bloody hell…”

He built up the fire. He didn’t have near enough wood, because it was summer, and the fire was basically for cooking things and heating water, not for trying to turn the cottage into a sauna. He got some hot tea into her—her teeth, particularly those big lower canines, clicked madly on the rim of the cup—and ordered Fleabane inside.

Fleabane slunk into the house, looking decidedly uncomfortable. He knew he wasn’t allowed in the house, and while this generally did not stop him, being invited in felt like a trap. He definitely wasn’t allowed on the bed, and when the elf—whom Fleabane thought of as a kind of dimwitted but benevolent god—actually heaved him onto the bed and dumped blankets on him, the coyote was convinced that something horrible was in the offing.

“…stay…!” whispered God.

Fleabane whined.

“….I said…stay...!”

Like many religious types, Fleabane obeyed God only when it was convenient, particularly since God in this case was not particularly vengeful and would only yell and occasionally throw cold water. This time, however, God was acting weird, and somewhere in the dim reaches of the coyote brain, which was quite sharp about things like food and rabbits and female coyotes, but murky on theology, Fleabane decided that he had better do what God commanded, or some heavy duty smiting might be in order.

Possibly if he obeyed God, there would be chicken from heaven. Chicken was worth a bit of existential bafflement.

The coyote settled rather heavily over the orc woman’s legs, exuding a strong and pungent odor of male coyote, which did not combine particularly well with mouse-nest. However, he also radiated heat like a furry stove, and that was all to the good as far as Sings-to-Trees was concerned.

There was a large wooden chest at the foot of the bed, which Sings-to-Trees used mostly for stacking clothes that he hadn’t gotten around to putting away yet, and tossing clothes he hadn’t washed yet. The chest had the gnawed look of all the elf’s furniture, but it was a big, solid piece of work that could have resisted a safecracker, or at least an interested raccoon.

He cleared the clothes off and put the lid up with a creak.

Fleabane made a doggy muttering sound and chewed on the corner of a convenient quilt.

Inside the wooden chest were books. Sings-to-Trees had a small medical library, some of which was actually useful, and a few of which were at least entertaining.

He had several herbals, full of small, neat drawings of plants and careful notes (most of which he’d written himself.) He had Sleestak’s Guide To Common Farmyard Maladies, and Diseases of the Goat, (it was amazing how many of those showed up in trolls) and Thee Goode Elf’s Alamanack (which contained many, many ‘E’s, and not much useful information) and the exhaustive Herbal Remedies, which was six inches thick and full of bookmarks. There was the Bestiary, which had been written by a lunatic wizard, and was both exhaustive and mostly useless. He even had a dog-eared copy of Medica Magica, which wavered between hearsay and outright lies, but every now and then had something worth paying attention to.

He pulled out Herbal Remedies, Sleestak’s Guide, and for good measure, Diseases of the Goat. He settled down in the chair with yet another cup of tea and hoped for something useful.

There wasn’t much. He got through three cups of tea and a trip to the outhouse. His throat felt better after all the tea, even if his bladder was starting to protest, but strain and work were catching up with him and his eyelids kept sagging as he read.

Everything said to keep her warm and keep pouring fluids into her, unless she was a goat, in which case she probably had milk fever, found in goats who had just kidded, and he was supposed to give her calcium and molasses in warm water.

Nothing said what to do with orcs specifically. He looked up from his reading and met Fleabane’s gaze.

“Do you think she’s kidded recently?” he asked the coyote. He was pleased to find that his voice was hoarse but no longer completely destroyed.

Fleabane gave him a look indicating that God had better be generous with the chicken at the end of this.

He didn’t think she’d kidded recently, or orked, or whatever you call it when they had little orcs. For one thing, she’d been wandering around in full armor with a sword and…well, no, that probably wasn’t diagnostic in orcs.

He peeled back a blanket. No stretch marks on the stomach. (There were a few across the hip, but he chalked that up to none of us being as young as we used to be.) Surely if she’d just had another orc…err…an orkling?...she’d have some visible signs. It wasn’t like orcs just hatched.


No, she was definitely a mammal. No questions there.

Of course, she might have been an egg-laying mammal, like a platypus—he’d never seen a platypus, but there was one in the Bestiary—so in theory—

It occurred to Sings-to-Trees that he was standing and staring fixedly at an expanse of green stomach and thinking about platypi. He obviously needed sleep desperately. He wasn’t going to get it any time soon. He dropped the blanket hurriedly and felt her wrist.

Her skin was still clammy, but starting to heat up again under Fleabane’s somewhat odorous influence. Her pulse was good, she just seemed to be cold.

He consulted Diseases of the Goat again for any other useful suggestions. It suggested checking the udders to make sure there was no blockage. Sings-to-Trees scoured the rafters for smoke again, put the book down, and kicked it under the chair for good measure.

He settled on more tea, with a dollop of molasses just in case. Fleabane turned up his nose at the tea but was happy to lick the molasses spoon.

An hour or two passed, with the only sounds the turning of pages and Fleabane snuffling around under the blankets. The coyote was not keen on the blood-smell coming from the orc’s shoulder, but had swiped his tongue across her hands a few times and found them acceptable.

Sings-to-Trees was very, very tired. He heaved himself out of the chair and went to go liberate more tea.

When he got back, her eyes were open. Fleabane had spread out until he took up two-thirds of the bed and was washing her face and grinning hugely.

“Sorry—“ said Sings-to-Trees, darting forward. “Sorry, sorry…” He hauled the coyote to the foot of the bed. Fleabane suffered divine intervention patiently, his tail making at least a good quarter of a wag.

“It’s okay,” said the orc woman hoarsely. She wiggled under the blankets, apparently testing the ropes.

He held his breath. He wasn’t sure what he’d do if she yelled at him or demanded to be untied. He might actually do it. He’d almost certainly do it.

Instead she gave him a crooked smile. “Waking up all tied up with a hairy animal in bed with me…almost reminds me of my first marriage.”

Then she laughed.

This was much worse than yelling.

Sings-to-Trees felt that he was handling this all rather well, all things considered. He hadn’t had a nervous breakdown, he hadn’t killed her, and he hadn’t climbed up on the roof with the gargoyle, whimpering. He was doing great.

But dirty jokes from an orc woman he’d tied to the bed was just too far. It was like patching up a wounded boar and then having it turn around and tell you the one about the clergyman and the deaf milkmaid. He didn’t know whether to laugh or turn purple.

Anyway, laughing at orc humor was probably treasonous in some fashion.

“That was a joke,” she said, after a moment, while his cheeks burned and he busied himself tidying up the stack of blankets. “Don’t try to tell me elves don’t joke, because I’ve read your poets.”

“Err. We joke, yes.” This was getting worse and worse. He tried to divert the conversation to a safer topic. “Do you feel cold?”

“A bit, yes. Your friend here is helping.” She peered down at Fleabane, who yawned.

“His name is Serethong. Um, that means ‘Fleabane,’ in my language.”

“Good name.” She nodded, and moved as if to extend a hand, but ran against the ropes again.

There was an awkward silence. He approached the bed diffidently and laid the back of his hand across her forehead.

She eyed the hand coming toward her, seemed to nod almost imperceptibly, and looked back to Fleabane. Sings-to-Trees had the oddest feeling that she had decided to allow him to monitor her temperature, which should have been funny, since she was trussed up like a roast, and somehow wasn’t.

He had a distinct impression that if she hadn’t allowed it, she could have stopped him. He wasn’t sure how.  Possibly she would have bitten his hand off.

“You seem cool still,” he said, and then, apologetically, “but I don’t have much experience with orcs.”

She appeared to digest this.

“You haven’t, um, kid…err…given birth recently, have you?”

The orc woman’s eyebrows climbed, rather slowly, giving him plenty of time to turn red again.

This was ridiculous. She’d tried to kill him. She was the one who ought to be embarrassed, damnit.

“Not that I know of,” she said, and looked suddenly rather terrifyingly thoughtful. “At least, not that I—no, I’m pretty sure I’d remember something like that. Was I hit on the head, do you know?”

“I don’t think so. Just exhaustion and blood loss, I’d imagine. I think someone stabbed you.”

“I’d sort of gotten that part, yes.”

“Err.” He twisted his hands together. He was astonishingly tired. “Probably not milk fever then. I don’t think you’ve had a—that is—no stretch marks, you see—and anyway, you’re not all that much like a goat—“

Funny, Sings-to-Trees thought, I don’t remember being a gibbering idiot.

The orc woman’s gaze went through him like a metal pin through a butterfly. He squirmed on it. Sings-to-Trees could almost see the little white card. Sylvanus tooinquisitivus, or possibly Sylvanus wontshutupus.

“Well,” said the orc woman after a moment. “That’s…quite a relief. Now what?”

“I have to sleep,” he said, deciding that honesty was the best policy. “I’ve been awake for nearly two days and I’m obviously losing it. Will you be okay?”

“I really need to use the facilities,” she said.
Author's Note: Milk fever, characterized by a sudden drop in body temperature, is an actual affliction of goats, and the old cure, which probably didn't work too well, really was to give them molasses in water. It used to kill a lot of goats, but then somebody invented calcium injections, and now it's a lot better.

See? Come for the love story, stay for the antiquated goat medicine!

As always, if you haven't read the other installments, I suggest starting with the first one, which can be found in my gallery (just click around.)
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Wyrdhaven Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
Reading through these. Can't believe I missed them before, but they're marvelous. I did discover that you have to search by the title, because for some fracked up reason DA is not making them show up if you filter by Literature.
Nahcima Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2010
Sylvanus tooinquisitivus, or possibly Sylvanus wontshutupus.

Omg. I almost died laughing. xDD
Pyridoxine Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
I'm growing more and more fond of your short story here. I love it when a writer inputs little factual details, such as the milk fever. I enjoy the comical tension between the orc and the elf now that they're talking. I can't wait to read the next. On to it!
angevar Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2007

Don't mind me, I'll just stay over here in this corner laughing my silly, blonde arse off at Sings-to-Trees getting all ruffled and flustered. Wonder what's gonna happen when she tells him she's a poet. XD Oh, that will be a kicker... I imagine it'll merit a whole three pots of tea all to itself.
DreamingPixels Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2007
I am fascinated with your story. I highly recommend you think of publishing (though i've only recently stumbled on this ONE chapter and even forgiving that, have yet to finish).

Encore, my good (wo?)man.
hinIthil Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2006
I laughed extraordinarily hard at the coyote-god part. That was brilliant. Well done.
AsThingsFadeAway Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2006
Is milk fever anything like mastidus? (not real sure on the spelling) I used to raise goats and I lost on to it. it was really sad. but I was just wondering.

Its a fantastic story btw. Would be great if it was a movie. I can totally see it.
MerianMoriarty Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2006  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
LOL. i love Fleabane's little bit of philosophy/religion. i rather think that's what goes through the minds of most semi-domesticated canines. ^_^
Flashgriffin Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2006  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
ooh, poor Sings-To-Trees... yes, sounds like he needs sleep. T'is a great story, I'll keep reading, if you keep writing!
tsunami-umi Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2006  Hobbyist Photographer
Oh no, my animal nutrition class just started studying calcium &.... milk fever. XD

Entertaining story, as always
maverick-decadence Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2006
I'm so in love with this story.... more more!
zeltgeist Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2006
"He consulted Diseases of the Goat again for any other useful suggestions. It suggested checking the udders to make sure there was no blockage. Sings-to-Trees scoured the rafters for smoke again, put the book down, and kicked it under the chair for good measure. "
This part of the story has to be the funniest! This line, in particular, was my favorite.
I love how sings-to-trees is just so awkward around her.
AuroranWings Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2006  Student General Artist
Hah hah! That's pretty funny. I'd like to see the next chapter of this soon! :)

I really love how their conversations are... a lot less awkward. Still a little bit, but at least they're talking now! And is it bad that I think that Celadon's joke was funny? =P
yukikousagi Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2006  Professional Artist
Milk fever... *can't comment further due to incoherent giggling*
darknesswthn Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
I must say this story is very amusing and entertaining. I can't wait to read more.
If I could, I would definately get this published for you.
Lluhnij Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2006  Professional General Artist
Oh my, I just don't know how I can wait until you post another piece. Really.
ElcyionCoire Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2006
hehe, funniest one yet ^^
TNHawke Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
*giggles with glee* Picking up again! I'm so loving this.
PockyPuck Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006

Oh, boy. This had me giggling... and the prospect of those two getting together makes me giggle even more. XD I quite like Sings-To-Trees... he's adorable. And everything concerning chicken, god, goats, and platypi made me snort. Seriously. It was rather scary to behold.

I really must read the previous installments. And the next ones, too. More, please? I'll wait patiently, I promise. *hides riding crops* No, really. I swear.
erratikassassyn Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
"See? Come for the love story, stay for the antiquated goat medicine!"

Thumbs up to the goat medicine :) Working on a farm makes all sorts of things interesting.

This story is the highlight of my day whenever it shows up on my watch list! You have such an awesome gift--your turns of phrases are amazing. <3
Shinsha Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006   Traditional Artist
lol what a cute way to end the chapter... wonder how he is going to handle the facilities part :blushes:
Fru Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
What happened to his sore throat? o__o I guess the tea fixed it.

Anywho, still absolutely awesomely glorious story you have here ... I can't wait for the next part, write it fast! ... please ^___^
Hymenomycotina Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
This is like Christmas every day.
MalikaCharis Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
... is it sad that I read that and went "Oh, -that's- whats wrong with my goat!" and immediately called the vet? XD

Awesome writing, by the way, fascinating enough to keep even an avid fantasy reader tied up for hours!
ursulav Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2006
Whoa, really? Was it really milk fever?
MalikaCharis Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2006
Really really. XD
Ordaka Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
I whole-heartedly agree ... these two characters are new to me. I was first introduced to them in chapter one. The story just keeps getting better. I loved Fleabane's perspectives, they were very amusing. I've fav'd every chapter :D
twiligne Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
this is almost too good. i loved sings-to-trees since he was first introduced, celadon toadstool was also an ingenuous character. reading 6 chapters (and still counting) of well-written fiction about them brightens up my day. thank you, miss vernon. :aww:
GaleforceRin Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006  Hobbyist Digital Artist
<3 <3 <3

I love this story and look forward to the next installment!
willdrawforfood Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
I love this series so much! Totally makes up for Gearworld disappearing. ;) Keep it up! We're addicted.
NaraTaree Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006  Professional Writer
Ah... goats. Silly little bleaters they be. I love goats only cause they have silly eyes and the ability to steal the souls from children
effine Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
so brilliant! How can you be such an amazing all round artist?
Anyway, I really hope this carries on, cos it's fantastic!

I'm going to fave it and just imagine the fave's for all the chapters...
GinevraDeSilva Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
Sylvanus Tooinquisitivus!


Made up words are THE best.
Servitor2152 Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
I love it. Particularly the chicken from Heaven, the dirty orc jokes, and the staring at expanses of green stomach while thinking about platypi.

Wonderful stuff. Please keep it up.
lotus-kid Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
Yet another excellent chapter. Heh, "chicken was worth a bit of existential bafflement," very nice. Keep it coming, please!
CraigInATin Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
Joy! More elf 'n' Orc action!
Panther-Nora Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
Thank you so much for this latest installment. Every time I see a new deviation in my folder I hope it's another one.

lol, I'm such an adict.
chiachrome Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006  Hobbyist Photographer
when i see your stuff in my watchlist inbox i get sooo excited. and i'm never disappointed.
Catwiz Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006

hehe... didn' *grins uneasily*

But still awsome.
shinigaminoryuu Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
Yay! What a thing to wake up too on this way-too-cold morning :)

awesome, as ever.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go make use of the facilities ;)
Undercover-Superhero Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006  Professional Photographer
As a vet student I'm finding your goat medicine very useful, thank you. As an artist, I love the imagary and as a human being I love the humour.

It appears to me that this story is made mostly out of win and gain.

Love it..
Gorpo Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
He should have checked her udders. Just to be sure. *rrowr*
lvenok Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
Ranubis Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006   General Artist
I'm addicted to this. You have to keep writing, don't give me cold turkey!
Bungdeetle Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006   Interface Designer
-extracts your essence-

Hey, are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? (National Novel Writing Month, it's where you spend November writing a 50,000 word novel.) You seem very capable of that. I think it would be totally wickedly sweetly awesomely freakily bollocks-squeezingly awesome if November wasn't looking too busy for you and you did it. If so, is where you should go. Myes. Quite.

P.S. I haven't been paid a buttload of cash to tell this to you or anything. It would just be nice to read a novel written by Ursula.

P.P.S. No, really. I haven't been paid at all.

P.P.P.S. Seriously.
CreatureSH Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Now, I am no expert... But I have the feeling that making medical diagnostics and treatmen entertaining like this probably is a sign of a really good writing.
Fox-the-Kitsune Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2006
Poor guy.

“Waking up all tied up with a hairy animal in bed with me…almost reminds me of my first marriage.” And this line wins, big time. :rofl:
Inkthinker Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2006  Professional Digital Artist
Good stuff.
paradox-operated Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2006
Your details are what makes this so great...I mean, the story and characters are well-realized, but the details just so much icing...not those gaudy nasty-tasting flowers, but the sweet little swirls...oh god this metaphor sucks..
x-livius Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2006
Ahaha, that's hilarious.
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