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~:: What's in a Name? - Chapter II ::~

She was drifting off to sleep when he walked back into the living room bearing a tray laden with sizzling meat, a salad, and two tall glasses of amber fluid.

"I forgot to ask you if you drank. Do you like beer?" He sat the tray on the coffee table and lifted a glass towards her.

"I... I don't know." She took the glass, and sipped gingerly. The liquid was bitter, and slightly sweet at the same time, with a slightly fermented overtone. She'd had wine, as a girl. This wasn't as fruity, but had a similar bite. The taste wasn't an unpleasant one. She lifted the glass again and took a deep draught.

 "Easy there! You should put some food in that stomach first," he said gently.

The steak smelled wonderful, as he held the plate out to her. She cut off a tiny bit, and chewed it slowly. "Thank you. This is wonderful."

He nodded and smiled. "I am glad you like it."

He could tell by the way she voraciously devoured the food that she had been terribly hungry. The poor girl probably hasn't eaten in days, he thought.

With her belly full, she began to feel a numbing fatigue creeping over her. He gently suggested perhaps she should get some rest, and directed her towards the guest room.

The room was spacious and clean. A large bed graced the center, wrapped in a thick comforter and topped with soft pillows. Two small doors were placed at opposite ends of the far wall. He motioned to the one on the right. "That's the door to your bathroom. The other door is just a closet." She nodded. "Feel free to make yourself at home. There are clean towels in the bathroom, and plenty of soap and shampoo. Use whatever you need."

 She turned to him. "I don't know how I can thank you."

"No need to worry about that," he said, quietly. "Pick out a good hero name. That will be all the thanks I need. Tomorrow, I will process your ID while you go meet with Azuria. She will give you plenty of work, and introduce you to some influential people around town that will be a big help to your career!"

She nodded. "Thank you for all your kindness. Someday I will find a way to repay you."

"There are extra blankets on the shelf in the closet. Feel free to lock the door after I leave. I'll knock in the morning when breakfast is ready."

Smiling, she turned around and placed the t-shirt on the bed. As he walked from the room and closed the door quietly behind him, she moved towards the bathroom. It was small, but sparkling clean. True to his word, there were several kinds of soap, shampoo, and even lotions. A cup on the sink contained a handful of individually wrapped toothbrushes and some small sample sized tubes of toothpaste. She surmised that he had a frequent habit of taking in newcomers to the city.

She eyed the sparkling shower stall with great interest. She instinctively knew that it was some kind of water basin. In the tiny village she'd grown up in, they didn't have such luxuries. Her bathing was done in a stone cistern build upon the roof of their small hovel, where the water was warmed by sunlight and the tall house walls gave privacy from all eyes save the occasional bird flying overhead.

This basin was smooth, shiny and white. There were three protrusions coming from the lower part of the wall and one far above the rest. Two looked as if they were designed to turn, and one was curved and pointed down. Another higher spout was thin and curved with a small bell shaped head at the end. Gingerly, she turned the closest handle. A steady stream of icy water flowed from the lower spigot. She giggled softly.

There was a tiny knob on top of the lower spigot. She turned it around several times before she noticed the word "Pull" in worn engraving. She leaned in and gently pulled up on the tiny button.

The bloodcurdling shriek brought her host running. She hadn't bothered to lock the bedroom door, nor even close the bathroom door. He found her crumpled, trembling form dripping on the cool tiles of the bathroom floor. The chuckle escaped him before he could regain his composure. She looked up at him with a mixture of shock and embarrassment.

 "You aren't used to the modern facilities, I gather?"

She shook her head slowly, her eyes wide with shock.

"It is customary to remove your clothing before showering," he said gently. Reaching into the tub, he pushed the lever, redirecting the flow to the spigot. He adjusted the showerhead for her short stature and added hot water to sufficiently warm the flow, before engaging the shower once again. He pulled the curtain closed, and turned to his damp house guest.

"You can very gently turn those knobs and make the water hotter or colder to your tastes. 'H' means hot, and 'C' means cold. You can leave your outfit on, but most people shower without their clothes. If you want to hang the clothes up to dry, hang them over the towel rod at the back of the shower."

She started to tug at the jeweled clasp on her belt. Jody smiled and turned away. He ducked out of the bathroom pulling the door closed behind him.

Pulling off her boots, she slid out of the skin hugging bottoms, and gently peeled the pliant metal from her chest. She felt cold and vulnerable standing naked in this strange room. Slowly she inched her way into the shower.

This time the spray was directed away from her face, and was pleasantly warm. Taking a deep breath she eased herself under the brunt of the flow. The pulsing spray pattered gently against her soft skin. Closing her eyes, she basked in the sensation for a few minutes before she chastised herself for taking advantage of her host's generosity. She found a cake of sweet smelling soap and rubbed it in her small hands until she'd worked up a rich lather. Stepping from under the spray, she spread it all over herself and used her talons to gently scrape her skin until it fairly glowed. She rinsed in the warm spray, taking care to insure the lather was well rinsed from her hair and around her horns.

Once she finished, she remembered the small lever, and gave it a gentle push, diverting the flow back down to the spigot inside the tub. Turning first the hot handle, then the cold, she shut off the water, and reached for a towel from the rack between the tub and the sink.

The towel was huge and thick. She wrapped herself in it until she stopped shivering, and then carefully dried her hair, horns, and face. Drying the rest of herself, she once again wrapped the towel around her small body and slipped into the bedroom. The t-shirt lay on the bed where she'd left it.

Slipping the soft cotton over her head, she marveled at how smooth it felt against her bare skin. She took the towel back in the bathroom, and dutifully dried the water from the floor, wrung her costume the best she could, and hung both of them from the bar in the shower to dry.

A soft knock at the door brought her running back into the bedroom. "Come in," she beckoned towards the unlocked door.

Jody opened the door slightly. "I wanted to make sure you knew where everything was. I'm not sure where you come from, or what kind of customs you have, but there are plenty of lotions for your skin, and toothpaste and fresh toothbrushes. Make use of whatever you need."

She smiled. "I cannot thank you enough."

"Get some sleep. Good night," he called softly as he closed the door.

To Chapter III