Posted by Jennifer
Rosie headed down to bed, but stopped when she heard some peculiar whimpering sounds coming from across the way. Mystified, she crept closer, then realized where they must be coming from. Someone must be tormenting Owlbear again. Not sure whether she wanted to witness the fun or chase the tormentors off, she hurried toward the giant’s usual haunt, only to discover him lying on his side in a whimpering ball with Feruzi hunched over him.
“Watcha doin’?” Rosie asked, shocked at this sight. Feruzi looked up, brandishing a smooth length of sanded wood.
“Getting this tar off.” She demonstrated with the scraper and the turpentine. Owlbear whimpered in pain as more reddened, blistered-looking skin was revealed, but remained where he was.
“Oh,” Rosie said, not sure if she was relieved or appalled. “I thought ye might . . . I dunno what I thought, really. I’m fookin’ amazed he’s holdin’ still fer it, though. He’s a cussed brute. By rights he should be wringing your neck after that drubbin’ ya gave him.”
“Why?” Feruzi asked in an idle tone.
“Why?!” Rosie demanded, baffled. “‘Cause ye beat him up, that’s why! Made him look a fool—an even worser fool than what he is—in front o’ all the crew! And I’ll not be surprised if Plugg gave ‘im a few choice marks fer losin’!”
Feruzi seemed startled. “I doubt he would be so foolish.”
“Ye do realize he’s an idiot?” Rosie grumbled.
“He may be simple-minded, but he is wiser than most on this ship. They strike out from fear and rage, like wounded animals. He understands that I have no fear, so he does not fear me.”
“Yer a fool too, if ye don’t fear what Plugg and Scourge an’ all them might do to ye.”
“I do not. Oh, no doubt they could do Feruzi great harm or even kill her if they tried, but that is not reason to fear them. They are small men with small minds and smaller souls. They do not have the power to make Feruzi other than what she is. So she does not fear.”
“You think you could take ’em in a fight?”
“No. They would defeat me. But they cannot make me into what they are.”
“I don’ understand. They’re stronger’n ye are, so ye have to do what they say.”
“But I choose how to do it. I could have beaten Owlbear until he was pulp at my feet, laughed and cursed and paraded about how strong I was.”
“Aye, and be better off for it—the crew would leave you alone.”
“Would they? Owlbear is strong, and they fear him—individually. Together, they pull cruel pranks and make his life a misery. One who seeks to gain from the cowardice of others must ever watch for the viper in his sleep-mat.”
“We got a few vipers around here ye should watch for.”
Feruzi smiled. “Yes, but they must attack from the front.” She scrubbed at the last bits of tar clinging to her hands. “All finished, Mr. Hartshorn. Better?”
“Hurts,” Owlbear whined.
“I know, but this way it will heal and stop hurting.” He sighed and laid his head against her foot, like a loyal dog.
“Tank. You.” he grunted.
Rosie shook her head. “I won’t ever understand yer way o’ thinkin’, but I admit, it gets results,” the halfling said.