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Story: Hotel Fiera

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Rain pattered off the wind shield, the constant faint drumming stopping abruptly each time the wipers swiped it away, the repeated motion having a sort of heartbeat like rhythm, quite hypnotising when there is nothing but an open road and hundreds of miles between you and your destination.

"Thunk thunk, thunk thunk, thunk thunk"

Repeating the sounds his wind shield wipers made Fox whittled away the time and boredom of the drive, wishing that his radio hadn't been stolen the previous day. "Fucking bastards" he found himself muttering as he thought about the person or persons that had broken into his car, there still being the bin liner taped into place where his passenger side window was meant to be.

"Well this was a wasted trip." He sighed, taking a moment to stretch his aching body into the seat but not to much avail, his shoulders ached, his back was sore and his tail was cramped and starting to go numb.

"Concert was rained out and cancelled, and because I don't have any charge in my phone or a charger for that matter I didn't get the call telling me so." His tone low and it would have been angry were he not to weary to be anything more than disappointed and annoyed. He let out a heavy sigh, he had driven all the way from his home near Edinburgh all the way to Lincoln for a performance he'd give playing the soundtrack of the "Da Vinci Code" at the cathedral where a lot of the film had been filmed only to find nobody there apart from a few drunken roadies. Oh the organiser was there and he could still remember the look on her face to see him arrive, wide eyed and bushy tailed, his precious Roland-X8 in its secure case hanging from his back, ready and eager to make his first major public display of his talents, his big break. She had simply given him her apologies, explained the situation then turned and left before his face had chance to drop. He'd have enjoyed his trip anyway but he had been unable to contact an old friend he knew in the area due to a fault that occurred with his previous phone which had lost him all his contact numbers. Recalling her name and face the grim look of defeat that had been fixed to him fell away and a smile finally graced his lips.

"Fiera..." He heard himself say over the sound of the rain, the squeaking wipers, the constant drum of tyres on tarmac and the stuttered purr of a half decent engine. Since the roads were straight and empty he let himself relax and think back, recalling memory of the half breed panthress wolf he had met at a post concert party in Liverpool, he had been with his Jazz band back then "Fuzztime Funk", heck even remembering that cheesy name he couldn't help but laugh to himself. But again his thoughts were drawn to the magnetic personality that was Fiera, and every little detail he had tried to dedicate to memory that night started to re-emerge, the faint cinnamon like smell of her fur, the rose scented perfume she wore with it, her black fur and the contrast it had with the soft violet markings she had. He had never thought himself a great ladies man, sure he was a talented musician, known by many on the websites he posted his music on, and not un-attractive he had to admit (he reckoned it was the sunglasses he always wore that really gave him style), but he seemed to get attention easily and was always a little uncomfortable with it. But with her it seemed so natural and easy, she spoke to him with the respect one holds for the talented but she had soon dropped that and they had talked as easily as friends who had known each other for years, it was amazing. He had told her about his thoughts about his own music and she was both kind and sincere when she told him he judged himself too harshly, he could still remember what she had said to him "A man with no talent who thinks himself to be great is blind to himself, a talented man who thinks less of himself despite what he is told by many is blind to the world".

Just as those words drifted round in his head something bright caught his eye and a feeling like waking from a dream came over him, when the world crosses over with what is in your head in that bizarre deja-vu like way. It was the word "Fiera", so clear in his mind but he had seen it, in big letters on a passing sign. Brushing it off as coincidence he put his attention back on the road, "Best not crash mate, that'd be the perfect end to a perfectly shit day" he thought to himself.

But then the word flashed by again and he could barely believe his eyes as he saw written as if plucked from his thoughts on a sign at the side of the road with "Fiera's" written on it, okay he hadn't thought of the "500 yards" bit below it but it was the first part that was important. This had to mean something and he said aloud "This can't be coincidence...I wonder what this place is..."

So like a moth to a flame he was drawn to look at the signs and each time that name was there, now he was paying them attention he noticed the stylised italic writing like from an American diner sign. He started to count the numbers on the sign now each time they passed. "Four Hundred....two hundred....one hundred....this turn you fool...wait, this turn you fool?" Having been so distracted by counting the signs and his own anxiousness to find out what was going on he had missed the bloody turn! Feeling somewhat silly he stopped his car and pulled a U turn, okay that was quite a silly thing to do but the road was empty and he was finding his patience left wanting at the prospect of finding out what this place was. So he turned down the offshoot road and felt the car jolt slightly to the right. "Pothole." He muttered and resumed going down the tree lined road, winding through the pitch blackness of the night till the distinctive sound of driving on pebbles came to his ears and he figured he was in a car park. Leaning over the steering wheel to get a better look Fox wondered how he could have missed this place at first glance, it was huge! Not to mention the broad neon lined sign that read "Fiera's Bed and Breakfast, room and board to die for".

The house loomed out of the darkness like a monolithic testament to Gothic architecture, its high archways illuminated below by large white floodlights giving it an almost ghostly appearance. It seemed to contrast quite horribly with the neon sign posted outside on stilts as tall as the house, though if one put common sense and taste to the side for a few years they might think the combination quite charming. Fox spent a while admiring the place though more out of suspicion than anything, something at the back of his mind bugging him but he couldn't quite place it, the thoughts of that mysterious yet charming femme drifting across his head as her name paced through his thoughts again and again. "Could you be the same person?" He asked himself, but he knew that just sitting in his car wasn't going to get him his answer, or the nights sleep he desperately needed.

With a groan as he slipped from the car his legs woke up, reminding him of how poorly they had been treated by the eight or more hours spent driving that day, his tail flicked round, the bushy length tingling with pins and needles so much that it made him tremble up his spine. Now stretched and ready for his nights sleep he checked the wallet, a few notes, enough for a night he hopped but it wouldn't leave much to live off till he managed to get another gig sorted but hell he needed the break so he thought he might as well treat himself. Hitching his precious keyboard onto his shoulder he did his best to tidy himself and look more than something dragged in by the proverbial cat then headed up the tall stone stairway to the main door which seemed to open before he even had chance to knock on it or peek through a window. "Oookay...creepy but it's probably just automatic." He thought to himself and headed in, looking around for the reception desk.

Inside the house seemed large, matching the outside and its décor was like something he had seen in brochures advertising national heritage sites, a Duke would feel at home in a place like this. The ceiling was covered in ornate plasterwork in the shapes of Roses and tulips, possibly meaning something but he was no historian so to his eyes it was just pretty as were the many pieces of art, the twelve foot tall Grandfather clock that loomed like some ancient and aged family member, radiating its age and wisdom with each slow tick of its heavy brass pendulum. The one thing he did know was music and his keen brown ears perked up when he heard what must have been the beloved song Greensleeves, oh it was beautiful. It was coming from a phonograph by the sound of the slight crackle to the higher notes but it just seemed to eventuate the authenticity of the four century old song. The instrument playing it was a harp by his ear and he was sure he wasn't mistaken, a soft background of flute with it so delicate and precise it made his heart want to sing and he felt his fingers twitch as part of him tried to move his paws to play each note pitch perfect and with impeccable timing. But then something new touched his ears, it was singing, elegant, angelic, perfect, so clear that it must have been live. Someone somewhere in this place had the voice of an angel divine, the feeling put into those words of the aged love song touched his soul like a lovers caress and all the stresses he had endured through the day, the irritation, aggravation and disappointment were whisked away in these feelings of hope and love and though he was Scottish he had English blood in him and it was this blood that was stirred and calmed at the same time. He started to drift towards the origin of the sounds stirring such feelings of pride and adoration in him and he'd have been totally drawn in were it not for the sharp ring of a bell, a desk bell in fact that snapped him out of his trance and left him feeling rather foolish.

"Well it's good to see someone appreciate the Boss' singing though it's usually customary to call for assistance when you arrive." It was a woman's voice who had taken him out of his trance and now he had chance to get a look at her. Smiling and laughing softly was an average sized tabby girl dressed in a smart black jacket with matching skirt and a white shirt pleated in a style which would have been recent and popular in the late 1700s. She spoke with the stereotypical London accent though she seemed to add a flourish of a more high class, refined accent to it as not to sound quite so course. "Uh...sorry, I just couldn't help but...I'm a musician you see and erm..." Pointing to where the music was coming from Fox seemed to stumble over his words much to the Receptionists amusement. Just before the clock struck eleven the music fell silent and silence fell over the hall, broken only by the low ringing of the old bell within the clock. With a sigh Fox walked over to the desk and put his bag down. "Sorry about that." He dipped his head to the Receptionist and seemed to smile, still feeling a little tingly from the entrancing music, she just smiled and nodded understandingly as she opened the leather bound book.

"It's quite alright Sir, a musician eh? Well the Boss would be glad to hear that, as you can hear she rather likes music herself." That was the Boss singing?! It had finally sunken in now, could the Fiera who owned this place and sang so beautifully be the same Fiera that he met from a year ago? His mind swam at the thought as he tried hard to remember how she had sounded and if it matched the sound of the voice he had heard just moments ago. He was so caught up in his own thoughts he missed the Receptionists question and looked to her, seeing her head tilted curiously as if waiting for something. Hardly quick thinking but he managed to blurt out absent-mindedly. "I'm sorry what was that? I'm rather tired you see....long day." She simply smirked softly and turned the heavy leather tome listing dozens of names, dates and room numbers, there was a fresh line with the date but no other details on it.

"I asked if you would you like a single or double room? It's thirty pounds for the single forty for the double both come with a breakfast buffet or if you are still hungry we can offer a late evening meal, the house special in fact. Boss likes to keep late nights so we often have a meal near midnight." At the mention of meal his stomach growled and a soft blush came to his cheeks, almost showing through the creamy white fur.

"How much is the house special? I just realised that I haven't actually eaten today." He asked and reached for his wallet and his ears fell as he opened it. "I've only got enough for the single...I'll just take that thank you."

She took the money as he handed it over and filled out the necessary details and put the money into the till. "Very good Sir, if I can just take your name and I'll have your bags taken to your room." She turned to the wall of pigeon holes each labelled by a brass number plate with a hook for the keys, nearly all of the keys were there in fact, must be a slow time for them.

"Fox Amoore. And thank you." As she passed him his key from hook number eight she dipped her head to him and offered another radiant smile.

"Yours is room number four Sir, now I'll just take your bags to your room." Stepping round the desk she lent down and took the case from his paw and offered to take the Keyboard bag but he held it tight, he only trusted himself to carry his beloved keyboard. As she rose he got a good view of her and noticed that she was quite lovely, not much younger than he was so perhaps just past twenty and despite the odd mix of modern and Gothic clothing she carried it off well and she was quite shapely now he had chance to notice. And so she turned and lead him away, gesturing to either side of the grand stairway before leading him up it. "Left is the dining hall and to the right is the smoking room and bar as well as the gardens. We're rather quiet this time of year, hence why I'm doing the job of bell girl." Winking to him over her shoulder she chuckled softly and guided him through the corridors to his room.

As she unlocked it and put the key in his paw he reached for a tip and realised he had nothing to offer, now feeling rather embarrassed and ashamed that he couldn't tip her for such excellent service. So he simply smiled as best he could and took his bag from her. "Thank you very much, I hope you have a good evening. Give the Boss my compliments on her singing." The girl just nodded and giggled.

"Oh you'll have plenty chance to give your compliments to her in person, I'll let her know we have a Musician staying. Enjoy your night Sir and I'll see you in the morning, Goodnight." With a formal curtsy she closed the door behind him and went to her duties.

Admiring the decoration of his room it was quite spacious, single bed with cosy looking sheets and big fluffy pillows, carved of dark oak with the same pattern of roses and tulips on it like in the ceiling of the foyer. Fox peaked through an extra door he had noticed and he had an en-suite shower and bathroom, he was so going to need those after the day he had endured. So he simply tossed his stuff onto the bed and showered, using the complimentary shampoos and soaps sparingly, feeling guilty about abusing the hospitality even though he was paying for it. The shower was hot and it hit him with enough force to soak his fur at once and even give a rather nice massage, which worked the tension from his shoulders, washing it away as easily as it did the dirt in his fur. When he finally got out, dried himself off and brushed (God he hated how much like a fluff ball he looked after blow drying his fur!) he got chance to look at the clock and realised it was half past midnight.

"One and a half hours?! How the hell did my shower last that long!" Surprised yet that would certainly explain the fact that he could have sworn he daydreamed whilst showering and why he felt so awake, like a new person. Usually hot showers made him sleepier but that one had invigorated him and he noticed his hunger more so than before. Sighing heavily he got dressed into some fresh clothes, just a smart red shirt and black Armani pants (okay so maybe his musical career so far was more lucrative than he like to admit) and headed out to take a look around.

Humming to himself as he strolled down the corridors he casually looked over each of the paintings he saw, each one standing out in their gilt frames from the burgundy coloured surroundings. The carpet was plush and the colour of a fine Port and the walls were papered with a similar burgundy striped vertically with cream coloured and gold edged stripes. Once at the main stairs he could better see the great chandelier that hung from the ceiling, it was huge, a good six foot across and it shone with a soft yellow light through its hundreds of glass prisms arranged in a three tier structure. His paw found the handrail, a long oak affair supported by intricately shaped polished bronze supports repeating the rose and tulip theme, "I really do have to find out what these patterns mean" he thought to himself. Just as his foot rested on the floor after the last step his ears flicked up again and once again he could hear that phonograph, it was coming from the direction of the bar and this time it was playing what must have been "Doctor Jazz" but this was the Original! "Oh sweet Jesus on a stick!" He hadn't heard this played so well for years, not since he was but knee high and his uncle sat down with him, strumming his old banjo and sang it to him, it was then he fell in love with the idea of Jazz and set out to become a musician himself. As he headed towards the bar his foot tapped to keep the time, he bobbed from side to side slightly and his fingers snapped with the beat, this was right up his alley and he felt right in the mood after that shower for something like this.

The bar was split down the middle, forming an L shape with the corner facing the door, the side to his right for non smokers it seemed and the side directly in front of him for the smokers, he could tell by where the ash trays were placed. All the furniture was large and heavy armchairs upholstered in red leather set with brass studs, all looking straight from the Edwardian age and they were arranged in threes, each set of three facing a green marble topped table where there was space for some small plates and some glasses, all having felt based glass coasters on them.

It all seemed classy, even the bar which hugged the far wall and it was lined with beer pumps, all sporting pictures representing the various stouts, ales, ciders and beers they served, oddly enough there wasn't a "Guinness" or "Carling" or even "Coke" tap to be seen anywhere. Over the bar top at head height was a shelf that rang the length of the bar, filled with glasses of various kinds, all meticulously arranged by size and type. As he walked to it over the emerald green carpet he could see all the bottles arranged behind the bar, nearly covering the three shelves that covered the back wall amongst various knick knacks such as statuettes and cigar cases. There must have been a good hundred bottles on those shelves and nearly all of them were different, the bar was clearly stocked with a huge variety of whiskeys, ports, rums, sherries, gins, brandies and what was that one? Oh no, it's not that...oh hells yes it was, there before his eyes he saw eight bottles of mead, all different and in the pride of place at their centre was a full bottle of Moniack mead. His mouth started to water and he found it hard to believe that a place this far south stocked one of the best things to come out of Scotland since Haggis and kilts. But once again he remembered his sheer lack of funds and he swore to himself that he would come back here as soon as he could and live it up like a king, one could certainly manage it with a veritable treasure trove of choice drinks like this.

"No I didn't come here for this..." He reminded himself and he looked for where that music was coming from and it seemed that the phonograph with its huge horn like speaker and clockwork handle was sat in the corner, playing its music as if of its own accord. Fox moved closer to it and closed his eyes, now precisely six feet away from it, the best place to hear the music from in his opinion. So with the sweet sweet music filling his ears he slipped to another daydream, following the beat and rhythm of the music with taps of his foot and snaps of his fingers like before.

That was until someone came up behind him and nearly made him leap from his skin as he felt a sharp tap on the shoulder. Shouting out with surprise Fox could feel his heart race and he heard a woman giggle, then he knew that he had again that night just made a fool of himself. "Story of my life." He said to himself.

"Oh? And what story would that be mister Jazz man?" Asked the person who had come up behind him and for a moment he was too distracted by his racing heart to notice but then he froze and slowly looked up. As his gaze moved up the woman's form his mind as if catching up and trying to verify something went "Curved hips, check....smartly dressed, check....full chest, erm...very check....canine face with feline ears, check....yup this is Fiera." Then he caught up with himself and the confusion made him blurt out what he was thinking. "Fiera?! It can't be."

Fiera simply laughed and put a finger under his chin and guided his eyes to her own, politely forgiving him for the gawping he had just so clearly been doing. "Yes Fox it's me, you like my little place?" Waving a paw in a broad gesture over the bar and the house in general she laughed again and lifted her finger up to put his dropped jaw back into place. "Fancy seeing you here of all people, I thought you'd not have come down to my parts due to the rain out of your concert. I'm sorry for that by the way."

He managed to salvage himself quickly from his surprise and he smiled to her as well, man this was his lucky day! A total contradiction to how he felt earlier but it must have been her, she did seem to have a near magical presence. Taking her paw he kissed the back of it and dipped his head formally, getting a giggle from her for doing so. "I love it....and thank you, I didn't find out about it until I drove all the way here."

She just tutted softly and gave him a hug of sympathy. "Well it's not a totally wasted trip. Come and sit with me, I was about to sit down to an evening drink, if I had known it was you visiting I'd have gladly given you the room and the evening meal." She turned and went to sit in one of the leather bound armchairs nearer the bar, a wave of her paw signalling for the Receptionist girl who had been stood un-noticeably behind the bar in the corner. The girl came over with two short tumblers and poured out some of the uncorked Moniack Mead into them both, as if knowing Fox would not have wanted any other drink. Though Mead was good warm it was also fine chilled over ice and this was how it was served, on two rocks with a quick stir.

"So what brings you to my neck of the woods Fox? Last I saw you was that show last year in Liverpool, I'd have gone to more of your performances once you had gone solo but my responsibilities here left my hands tied." Fiera then sipped her drink and reclined into the seat, crossing one leg casually over the other, dressed in a modest yet elegant red evening gown that matched her fiery hair, quite the change from the t-shirt and jeans he had seen her in when last they met.

Fox took a long sip of his own drink and shivered as the contradicting feeling of cool liquid and warm flavour slid down his tongue, sweet nectar and the taste of honey rising up and covering his palette leaving the after-taste to linger on his breath. "Well I was on my way home and decided to get some rest." Placing his drink on one of the coasters he laughed and confessed. "I was in fact thinking of you before I saw your signs and it just surprised me so much I thought to see if it was just coincidence and here I am talking to you. You must have done awfully well for yourself to land a place like this, it's amazing!"

Caught by surprise she would blush and put her own glass down also. "You were? Well that is certainly a coincidence, perhaps Fate wanted you to come here, or you were just lucky, though I must say that I'm the lucky one. I have my music here and I enjoy it but you, you make music live and I loved what I heard from you when I saw you live a year ago. Perhaps if you aren't so tired or busy perhaps either tonight or tomorrow night you could grace me and any visitors we have with a recital? I'll gladly refund what you've paid for your room, upgrade you to a double bed suite and let you enjoy every meal for free."

Her generosity surprised him and he couldn't help but flick his ears up and open his eyes in surprise, the only tell being how his eyebrows moved since his Ray-Bans covered his eyes all the time. He waved a paw frantically as he moved to sit forwards. "Oh I couldn't possible accept that much payment Fiera, but you would be right, I'm not so busy for a while, that Lincoln gig was supposed to have been my big break but as you know it didn't happen. And as for dinner well..." His stomach growled again, not content with just the mead and judging by the way her left ear twitched she had noticed it and she smiled that beautiful and kind smile she had as she lent towards him.

"I insist, and it seems like you're hungry, well why don't you take up your glass and I will treat you to a midnight snack, how does that sound? Oh and this is a rhetorical question because I won't take no for an answer, as romantic an idea as the starving artist is it's not suitable for you." Fiera then rose from her seat, setting her dress straight as she got up and emptied her glass in one smooth motion, tipping her head in a nod of gratitude to the Tabby behind the bar. "I'll see you tomorrow Shaleen, go get yourself some sleep, got the usual morning waiting for us tomorrow. I'll take care of Mister Amoore from here myself."

Fox rose as Shaleen bowed to her employer and headed off, nightcap in hand, waving her farewells before disappearing round the door. Looking around and finding it hard to find something to say in the silence that now filled the bar he eventually finished his mead and set the glass down then cleared his throat. "So what's this midnight snack going to be? I got to admit that I am starving, I can't stand the food available at services and well, I was in no mood to eat after the gig thing."

Fiera just chuckled softly and tapped the side of her nose in the international sign of "It's a secret" then went to gather the glasses and put them in the glass cleaner. With that taken care of she approached Fox, a definate sway to her hips and her tail though bushy and wolf like twisted through the air like a feline tail does, another mark of her twin breeding. Once close to him she hugged his arm and gave it a soft tug. "Well I have my own dining table at my room, if you'd care to join me I'll prepare the meal there, and don't worry about me trying to seduce you either, as charming and handsome you are I'm old fashioned enough to restrain myself on the first date." That last word left her lips in a slightly raised tone as to draw more attention to it, she was toying with him just to get him to loosen up, able to feel his nervousness and tension in his arm.

Nodding slowly Fox tensed up a moment at what she said, the blush on his cheek returning with a vengeance, tainting the fur of his cheeks with a subtle shade of red. He managed to calm himself and just smiled to her and hugged her back with the arm she held so tightly. "I'm sure even without the flirting if any man were to know what my situation is and what treats you have in store for me they'd be envious of me all the same. In fact I bet every man alive would kill to be in my shoes right now." In his head he was cursing himself for being so cheesy but she seemed to laugh heartily not at him but in a modest...well in fact it was quite hard to place the way she was laughing, he just smiled and knew a good thing when he had it.

Fiera still so close on his arm rested her cheek on his shoulder and guided him up the stairs and to her room, on the way she looked to him and said. "You're such a charmer Fox, I could just eat you all up..."
Absolutley Bursar

The end....for now.

Absolutley Bursar is a dragon from Liverpool, who spends most of his time writing, LARPing, playing Warhammer and browsing Fur Affinity.

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