This is the tenth story in a series. Click here to read all parts from the beginning.

Dragons wheeled and dove in a clear sky, their mouths open as if screaming in anger, but producing neither sound nor flame. Following the flight of the nearest, I turned my head to the left, and something crinkled under my ear. I was just lucid enough to notice it wasn’t a pillow as the dream faded. The thick fur that had been put over me wasn’t exactly a blanket, either.

I sat up, finding myself still on the bearskin (or whatever kind of animal it was) rug in the cabin where I had fallen asleep. Embers still flickered in the grate, but there wasn’t much heat or light, either from the banked fire or from the sun coming through dirty windows. On second glance, the windows were not only quite dirty, but looked as if the streaked and yellowed glass might be hundreds of years old.

When I became uncomfortably aware of bodily needs, that didn’t come as a surprise after last night’s rodent stew dinner. The cabin evidently had no plumbing, and I didn’t see anything that might be intended as a chamber pot. Presumably Ira, being a Sasquatch or caveman or whatever, didn’t mind going outdoors in any weather when nature called.

With a sigh, I reached for my shoes and started putting them on. Ira, who was sitting at the table sewing some kind of white fur garment with a bone needle, gave me an inquiring look.

“I was just looking for a toilet,” I muttered, feeling rather foolish.

After that uncreative sentence came out of my mouth, I realized that I hadn’t been speaking in English. The words rumbled in my throat like Ira’s mysterious chanting yesterday.

Putting aside his sewing, Ira obligingly opened the door, gesturing toward a line of tall conifers just past the snowy clearing. He replied calmly in the same language. “The necessary is over there, behind those trees.”

Photo of trees in winter.

Taking that to mean an outhouse, I stepped onto the porch, shivering a little in the wintery chill. It wasn’t nearly as cold as last night, though. The wind had died down, and the snow was already starting to melt in the midmorning sun. Slush splattered over my shoes.

Had I really slept that long, or were the nights here shorter than on Earth? A warbling melody interrupted my thoughts, and I saw what might have been a flutter of wings behind the nearest tree. No birds were in sight, however, when I found the narrow path into the woods.

Unfortunately, there was nothing as civilized as an outhouse. There was only a shallow trench, half filled in. A heap of dry leaves, some loose dirt, and a rusty shovel provided the bare minimum for sanitation. Not having any better alternatives, I did my business and shoveled some dirt over it. With a little luck, the makeshift T.P. wouldn’t turn out to be the local equivalent of poison ivy.

Turning back toward the cabin, I considered what I was going to say to Ira, now that he had contrived for me to speak his language. If Ira had anything to do with the sorcery that had literally snatched me out of my world, then it was high time he started explaining himself.

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