[Over Choinxeia; 4 Hispis 4385]
So, there I was, having a fight with a couch. Not a bite-and-breathe kind of fight, which I might have won on account of the couch being unable to move and rather flammible. An emotional tearstorm kind of a fight. I'm usually terribly outclassed at those, except with Vae, even when I'm the one crying. (That's probably the real reason I haven't dated anyone for decades.)
The couch had just said, "And my very creator despises me and sides with my enemies against me! Oh, I have no friend in the entire universe, from port to starboard, from bow to stern, from sub-basement to observation deck! No friend, no ally, no consort! Deliver me to the embrace of the flames, merciful Rassimel!"
I tried to use logic. "I don't despise you. I made you because I need you." That usually works, with created beings.
"But you do not! You have never asked me to do the slightest thing, never! Me, who would, if it were set on coasters, roll the entire length of Choinxeia if it would save you the inconvenience of crossing the room!"
I used more logic, because I am a very foolish lizard. (Actually, because it often works on Vae, who is the person usually crying at me.) "That would take a long time, rolling a hundred thousand miles."
"Behold! Again you scorn me! I offer the vastest effort -- vaster than I am capable of, vaster than any couch has ever done for any prime before! And what do you do? A spurn, a scorn, a fleer, a flout! You make it nothing! What must I ever do to win your good regard? What? Must? I? Ever? Do?
"Remind me to be a lot more accurate with Spiridor spells," I snapped. Technically, the spell giving the couch its unwanted life is a Spiridor spell. A beautifully-cast Spiridor spell will make a living thing that is eager to do what you want. (Actually I think I got that part right. The problem is patience.)
(Technical aside. The other problem is permanence. I don't make many permanent mindful servants, so I had kind of forgotten: they tend to get eccentric over time. Usually "over time" is decades. But that's for spells cast the ordinary way, not with the crystallization technique.)
Which reminded me, a bit too late, of the first rule of tearstorming emotional combat: zie who snaps at the other one first, loses. The couch started wailing, "Mismade! I am mismade! I am a botchery! A disaster from my time of first fabrication! A doomy, doomy failament! Alas! I envy the very firewood: immediately useful, soon destroyed!"
Lithia flicked her tail. "You've got a point there."
"Kind Rassimel! You understand! You, alone in the cruelly-constructed universe! You alone have heard the language of my heart!" squeaked the couch.
"Stop pestering Lithia," I told it. "You're a perfectly fine piece of intelligent furniture. We're still sort of exploring Strayway, and there aren't so many of us here, so you haven't had any visitors yet. I'm sure that you will, and I'm sure that you'll give good directions."
The couch ignored me. "Mistress! Sweet Rassimel! What, oh, what is the woe that troubles you now?"
Lithia whined. "Don't worry about it, it happens from time to time to me. I'll live. For a while." The natty black and white stripes in her fur were deliquescing, slipping away into plain brown. "Actually, may I sit on you? I sometimes fall over if I'm standing when I change."
"May you? May you? My queen -- if you were eighty thousand tons of jagged metal, you could sit upon me! You could fall upon me from the height of the Silver Moon -- I would be crushed to splinters happily for you, to save a single scratch on your nigh-invulnerable hide!"
Lithia curled up in the curve of the couch, eyes squeezed shut. She crammed her tailtip into her mouth and chewed on it, which she says helps to take her mind off the shifting itself. I'm used to watching it, and more. I used to hold her when she was an infant, and clean her up and give her a bit of babywine afterwards.
The couch is not used to shifter hybrids, not that it's used to anyone. It squealed, "My mistress, my mistress! Wizard, you must save her! A horrible thing is occurring to her -- her, my only friend in the universe forever!"
I was rather annoyed with the thing. "I've done what I could, long since."
"O, cruel Zi Ri, to leave her to writhe and die upon my cushions!"
"She's not going to die there."
The worst of the change had passed. Lithia was scratching her now-Orren face and arms with blunt now-Orren claws furiously.
Being a surrogate-parental sort of person towards her, I had to warn her, "Careful, Lithia. You'll cut yourself, and you'll rip your clothes." Because, you see, her sleeves were rather tight; she's nearly a foot taller as an Orren than she is as a Rassimel.
She glared at me. "I know how to handle a shapeshift, Sythyry. I've done it a thousand times."
(A thousand times? She's thirty years old. At 243 days a year, and 27 hours a day, and about one change an hour, she's shifted some two hundred thousand times. And she's got some sixty or seventy thousand more to endure.)
But she did unbutton her sleeves, and adjust her vest and skirt so they lay properly on her Orren body. Grinwipey makes her clothes with much care. She doesn't generally need to go change outfits with every shift anymore.
"I know. I just don't want you to rip anything," I said.
"I'll be fine, Sythyry." She poured over the back of the couch, and back to the parlor to get her sketchbook. "Couch, may I sit here and draw for a while?"
"Mistress! If there were ten thousand of you, and the fur of each one were ten thousand pairs of sharp snipping scissors, you all could sit upon me! So great is my love for you that I would gladly be snipped to bits in an instant of a twinkling, to cushion your ten thousand posteriors even for the briefest instant!"
Lithia laughed. "I don't change that much, just Rassy to Orren and back. How about, I sit here for an hour and draw?"
"Mistress --- nothing could give me a greater joy than to serve you in whatever way I am capable of. As furniture, as a guide ... When the assassins come, I beg that you hide behind me, so that my stiff wooden structural elements may shield you from their poisoned arrows!"
Phaniet poked her head in at the door. "Goodness. Are we expecting assassins, Sythyry?"
"No, but you never know what might be lurking in the far reaches of Strayway. I probably should have been a bit more conservative when I made it," I admitted, conceding a technical disagreement that we had been disputing for some months.
"Yes, you should have," she said.
Lithia peered at me with big brown eyes. "Could I have some privacy to sketch, please?"
"Certainly you can, Lithia," said Phaniet. "I need Sythyry, or at least, I need a spell or two."
Thoroughly defeated by my assistant and my furniture, I slunk after her to keep bits from falling off my new and far too complicated sky-yacht.