To Increase One's Standing
"The letter began with: 'Esteemed Doctor Mirabilis—'"
"Never in our years as colleagues at Oxford did she refer to me as such. The message went on to say—"
I have made an exciting discovery that I would like you to observe.
"'To observe!' She undoubtedly refers to my gift for empirical observation."
"Oh, but there is more!"
My home is in north Beckwood, opposite the forest near the cliffs. Should you require lodging, I am happy to accommodate. -L
Darunis made no reply.
"I do not imagine this is a social visit. Letitia was most unpleasant in our last meeting. I presume out of jealousy since I'd bested her for the Lecturer position at Oxford."
Darunis snorted again.
"Well, for one, she is young—barely old enough to celebrate a Saturn Return. Yet despite her immaturity, she is a gifted researcher and a respectable alchemist. However, she did herself no favors, passing over countless opportunities to increase her standing by promoting her work to those with influence. I tried to advise her, but she rejected my tutelage."
Darunis shook his head. "Pppphhhf."
"And that, Darunis, is why you will sleep outside tonight." Frater Bacon led his horse to the stable at the west end of the large brick home, just as the evening sun vanished over the horizon. Carrying only his parchments, Rogerus walked up the path towards the house, where he found Letitia standing in the open doorway. In many ways, she was as he remembered—short, with dark olive skin, chestnut hair, a full bust, and broad hips. As he drew closer, however, he noticed she'd markedly improved her posture and lost weight. Her now square jaw, combined with her short hair, gave her face a more masculine appearance.
"I extend my warmest welcome to the Esteemed Doctor Mirabilis," she said, bowing.
Rogerus fought the impulse to stare into her cleavage. "Don't patronize me, I would prefer my full title but, given that we were once colleagues, I would abide 'Frater Bacon.'"
Letitia sighed. "Come in, Rogerus."
"I said, I would—"
"And I said, I am willing to provide you lodging. We are neither at the university nor the monastery, so I will address you as I please. Now, my caustic cleric, please step inside."
Rogerus forced a cordial expression as he entered the spacious yet sparse living room, furnished with a table, a single shelf of tonics and tinctures, a stack of parchments, and a desk. Leaving his parchments near the door, he sat down at the table. "You look quite different from when I last saw you."
"Taking sole ownership of my father's estate after his death has led me to explore my identity, outward and inward. Though, if you're referring to my weight, I would attribute that to laboring in my own fields."
"Your father passed?"
"A goat murdered him two years ago."
"My condolences," Rogerus said, lowering his head.
"It was found guilty, hanged, and eaten."
"But it must be arduous to maintain such a sprawling property as this by yourself. Did your father not employ servants?
"I dismissed them in favor of handling the estate through my own means." Rogerus expected an explanation, but she offered no more. "I recall you often spoke fondly of the humility instilled by solitude."
"Indeed, I have had many profound and brilliant epiphanies while traveling alone. The desire for such liberation inspired my current exodus."
"Oh?" Letitia asked, amused. "I had assumed it was because your ostentatious Opus Majus failed to charm the new Pope."
"I am on a pilgrimage."
Letitia snickered. "Romanticized vagrancy aside, I admit I have looked forward to your visit. As I mentioned, I have recently made a marvelous discovery that would benefit from your empirical observation."
"I am flattered, but could you not observe it yourself?"
"Ordinarily, yes, but not in this case." Letitia lit a candle and headed toward the door. "Would you join me outside?"
Rogerus leaped to his feet. "Of course. My curiosity is most aroused!"
"How lovely," she said, leading him outside, back to the stables. Rogerus waited as she hung her candle and positioned herself near his beloved Galloway, patting its back. "I must say, Deer Anus has grown into a respectable pack mule."
"Darunis is of excellent breeding. His muscularity and temperament make him an ideal travel companion, particularly given the many parchments he must bear on his back."
"Now, Doctor Mirabilis," Letitia said, shutting her eyes and taking a deep breath. "I ask that you observe and report."
Rogerus placed his hand on his chin, studying the scene before him. "You stand in an overly familiar manner with a well-maintained Scottish Galloway—to its side, one hand on its back, your other on its belly. Falling into what would seem a deep meditation, you take a series of slow deep breaths and…" Rogerus' eyes narrowed. "What is this?"
"Observe and report," Letitia muttered.
"It would appear that, with no apparent discomfort to himself, Darunis is steadily shrinking! My fourteen-hand Galloway has reduced to twelve, possibly eleven hands in height. A most remarkable illusion!"
"Indeed, I performed similar alchemic displays for King Henry to secure his patronage. However, the nature of this spectacle eludes me. Perhaps a trick of perspective, or a hidden machina?" Rogerus took a step towards her before halting when he noticed her eyes now met his own. He then watched, awestruck, as her head crept upward. "My God! You are growing!"
"Observe and report."
"Your head rapidly climbs higher while your broadening chest and shoulders pull your robe taut across your collar." Rogerus crouched down. "Your lengthening legs have lifted the hem of your dress from the ground, exposing your calves and ankles. A miraculous sight!"
"If I were to postulate, it appears you have engineered the transfer of strength and size from Darunis to yourself. Where he stands barely nine hands high, you have grown to at least eight feet and rising. I can even hear the straining and groaning of your tunic as your expanding body fills it to capacity, causing great stress on the seams."
With Darunis now the size of a miniature pony, Letitia removed her hands from his back and stood up straight, her head bumping against the ten-foot stable awning. "Do you have any final observations, Doctor?"
Rogerus circled her, utterly captivated. "You are near twice my height and likely several times my weight. Your arms and shoulders absolutely erupt with power and brawn. Each of your magnificent breasts outsizes my entire skull. Your legs are as thick and sturdy as stone pillars. Your bountiful hips blossom from the sides of your dress, the remaining scraps of which barely covering your, um..."
"A compelling report, Doctor Mirabilis," Letitia said, opening her eyes. Delighted by her new perspective, she arched back and stretched, eliciting an explosion of rips and tears from her robe's remaining shreds. "I do say that some of your details seemed overly familiar in their delivery."
Rogerus raised his hands. "I certainly meant no offense! These are simply my professional, empirical observations."
"But what is empiricism without all of the senses?" Letitia purred, dropping to one knee and casting him in her shadow. "I can see in your eyes, Rogerus, that you wish to conduct a closer examination."
Letitia waited, amused by the small man trembling below her. Despite teetering between wonder and terror, Rogerus reached an unsteady hand towards her leg. "May I?"
Letitia nodded. "You may—for science, of course."
Gently placing a hand on her calf, Rogerus marveled at the heat radiating from her body as well as the density of the muscle supporting her lofty frame. "Impressed?" she asked, startling him.
"Extremely!" Rogerus said, running his fingers along her skin. "This event alone will easily inspire an entire written volume!"
"That would be welcome. Alchemy relies on careful records, and I am not fond of writing such reports." She raised a giant hand. "I doubt I can even handle a quill at this size."
"When I return to Oxford, my telling of this phenomenon will pale only in comparison to the awesome sight of your eventual arrival in person."
Letitia grimaced. "And why would I return to Oxford?"
"To verify my account, of course. My name will be greater than Aristotle! Pythagoras! Pope Gregory, who condemned my writings, will see you as nothing short of a miracle—undeniable evidence of the power of our divine creator. Soon, all will know of the renowned Doctor Mirabilis and his breathtaking giantess!"
Letitia erupted in booming laughter. "I do not know what is more absurd! That you think I would return to Oxford…"
Rogerus felt the weight of her large hands on his shoulders, followed by a hollowness in the pit of his stomach.
"…or that you think I'm letting you go anywhere."
The reduction sensation came quickly, as if a vacuum opened within his body. His cloak grew heavy. Rogerus tried to speak, but his words caught in his throat as the world seemed to expand around him.
"It's okay, Rogerus," Letitia said. "I can observe this part myself. As for returning to Oxford, I left that nightmare because there is nothing more insufferable than being surrounded by men who believe they know everything and never stop talking."
Rogerus held up his hands, but they had disappeared into his sleeves. "What are you doing?"
"I am finally heeding your advice: leveraging my talents to increase my standing." Letitia cooed with delight as her breasts surged outward. "Also, my bust."
"This is witchcraft!" Rogerus shouted up to her, surprised by the increasing pitch of his voice. "It defies God!"
"Not what you said a few minutes ago when I was letting you gape at my growing body." Her hips and bust swelled outward at the expense of her shrinking companion. "It is also a puzzling declaration from a man who believes in both the transubstantiation of bread and astrology."
"No, Rogerus, alchemy. You know, the 'displays' you employ to impress the nobility?" Letitia tried to smirk down at him, but her swollen bust obscured her downward view.
A satisfied Letitia released Rogerus from her grip, leaving him two feet tall and struggling to free himself from his now-oversized cloak. Stepping out from beneath the stable, she straightened to her full majestic twelve-foot height and flexed one of her massive arms, enchanted by the sheer size of her muscles. "This will certainly make it easier to maintain my property."
Finally free from his cloak, a panicked Rogerus gazed up at the titanic figure looming above him, then across the dark field to the forest line that now seemed miles away.
"I'd think twice about trying to escape," Letitia cautioned. "Even if you slipped away without my noticing, there are a myriad of predators in the woods, not to mention hawks patrolling the fields from above. Do not worry, I will restore your size...eventually. In the meantime, however, I wish to employ your transcriptive services for the foreseeable future. I'm sure I can fashion you a tiny quill. You should be pleased that your parchment will last much longer at your size."
"But why? Why do this to me?" Rogerus pleaded.
"Because you need to learn humility." she replied, beaming with pride. "Also, because I want to."
His mind flush with panic, Rogerus turned and sprinted up the path back to her house. Letitia considered following him, but remained outside, savoring the cool air on her bare skin. Darunis trotted up beside her, brushing against her ankles, the top of his head no higher than her knees. She crouched down and patted him on the side.
"And that, Deer Anus, is how you mark a Saturn Return."