English: A rubber duck. Français : Un canard e...
A rubber duck. (Wikipedia)

“Twelve, Grandpa”.

“Sorry?”

“Twelve.  I’ve noticed you give me better stories when we get certain things out of the way first.  So, Twelve, and that’s not a moral.”

“I’m not sure how to respond to that, child. It’s almost as if you are having a conversation in advance and are waiting for me to fill in the other half.”

“No need – but it means you need to give me a story now.  I have disarmed your snares and tricks, old man.”

“Yes.  Very clever.  Did I ever tell you the one about the giant duck?”

“No.  A giant duck?”

“Yes. I’d just returned the jewels to the submerged lair of the shadow psiloses, and on the way back I encountered a giant duck.”

“Although a giant duck is remarkable, I think you may have missed the core of the story, just there.”

“How do you mean?  I had quite an adventure with the giant duck, you see…”

“Let’s come back to the duck.  Submerged shadow psilos lair?  That sounds interesting.”

“It’s not part of this story though. This story is about how I flew via giant duck to a mystical land, and what I did there.  So, I swam under the water toward this duck…”

“Wait, wait…Was there a lot of violence at the shadow psilos lair?”

“That’s not the story I’m telling.  I grabbed the feet of this duck, as they swept up and down underwater, and I gripped on tight.”

“So, there was!”

“And as it left the water, I stayed clinging to its feet, as it flapped south, toward Africa and the Ring of Fire.”

“Ring of Fire?  No, no, forget I mentioned it. So, lair…violence…knives and shadows.”

“So, the duck became tired, from carrying me, and stopped to rest in a desert oasis.  My arms, which had suffered terrible fatigue, also needed rest, so I let go, and splashed into the waters.  This scared the bird, and I was unable to recapture it. It kept swimming out of my reach.”

“So, who hurt whom?  Your friend’s not in this new story, is she?  Did she die?”

“That’s not the story I’m telling.  So, then a creature, half woman and half crocodile came near to me, and in her dread, coughing voice she demanded to know who I was. She had teeth like slivers of glass, and a spear tipped with the barbs of stinging rays.  Her matted hair was like weeds, and in the depths of the pool I could see the bones of men who had come before me, to her lake.”

“So, she did die. You’d bought back the things you’d stolen, but because she’d sided with you, the other psiloses killed her?”

“So, this crocodile woman…Rosa, please pay attention…she demanded to know who I was.”

“Was she a crocodile from the waist down and a woman from the waist up?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, ha.  So, you said?”

“I said “I am Marco, who has conquered the sky on his giant duck!””

“And what did she do?”

“She said ‘Giant duck?’ and I said ‘Let me tell you about it…'”

“Oh. Is this a recursive story?”

“For you, no. For six months I shared stories with her strange people, and they fed my duck so it was contented and did not fly away. Then when the summer came, and my duck was restive, I mounted it on a special saddle they had made for me from the skins of one of their enemies, and I rode back to Venice.”

“And the moral is?”

“You always tell me what the moral is.”

“But I haven’t worked it out.”

“The moral is, always have a story to tell.”

“So, about the shadow psilos lair…”

“Some other time, child. I need a nap.”

* * *

“Grandmother.”

“No, child.”

“I don’t think you’ve ever begun a conversation with me that way before.”

“I’m sure I have.”

“What did he…”

“No.  It’s terrible.  You don’t need to know.”

“But, a sunken lair. What’s that like?”

“It’s as a it sounds: an airproof dome raised by the Tremere, as somewhere to hide from the Diedne if worst came to worst. The psiloses can travel there because they can simply walk through the dome.”

“And they killed his friend?”

“Yes. ”

“And you won’t give me any details?”

“No, child. Eat your supper.”

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