Thursday, August 28, 2008



“Lassie, I’m nae a performing dog what’ll sit up and do tricks on command for ya,” Flavius growled. “Nae matter what ya ken of me, with all this talk about ‘lesser sentients’ and the like, I’m more than a plaything for the women of the Eternal Dominion. I’m descended of Bellona's bridgroom and Sajal be damned, I’ll nae jump to when ya snap yer fingers. I’ll thank ya to remember that!”

The color’d drained from Anacaona’s face as Flavius raged, her eyes casting furtive glances left and right at the other diners who’d interrupted their conversations to stare at the commotion. When she spoke, her voice was a timid squeak.

“I... I apologize for my affront to your dignity. You shame me. I will not bother you anymore.”

Flavius rolled his eyes. “Are ya daft? I’ve been marching with Bonnie Prince Charlie for six months, down to Derby and back up through Glasgow. I wore out two pair of boots chasing around with him, but dinnae chase a single lassie the whole time.” He leaned back, crossing his arms. “I’ve gone so long without, I’d say ‘Aye’ to yer blind gran if she offered. Of course I’ll have a go at ya, but it’ll be on my terms, nae yers.”

Anacaona blinked at Flavius, struggling to process what he’d just said.

“I hope ya ken what yer in for,” Flavius said, popping the last few spondl into his mouth. “A stout Scot is nae to be trifled with.”

The tables abruptly split apart, carrying the uncertain Anacaona away. On cue, one of the aerial waiters swooped down to gather the empty plate.

“Aye, beastie. Take it away and bring me something savory,” Flavius muttered.

Through the crowd, Flavius spotted Parric. Remembering the mysterious featherscale, he waved as his table drifted along.

“Hoo! Parric! Over here!” he shouted, drawing startled stares and whispered comments throughout the dining hall. “No, nae that way, ya stupid table. How do ya steer this damned thing? Oh, bugger it.”

Flavius grabbed the side of the table, planted his feet on the floor and threw all of his weight to the side. The table groaned, a piercing, hollow echo of metallic agony that reverberated through the dining hall. But it slid toward Parric.

“Excuse me. Coming through here,” Flavius said, grunting as he shoved the table along. “Sorry about that. I dinnae ken it’ll stain. Was that yer foot? My fault. Out of the way, now.”

Finally, Flavius shoved his table into Parric’s. They neatly merged together. Parric stared at the fused seam, then looked up at Flavius. “Well,” Parric said, “you’re nothing if not subtling.”

“Watch it, beastie,” Flavius said, waving a finger. “I’m in nae mood for yer--”

An aerial waiter interrupted him, setting a steaming plate before him of thick, ropy coils drizzed with a translucent blue sauce and a stylish garnish of what looked like garden weeds. The waiter rotated in place, setting before Parric a dish of what looked like boiled eggs, except for the fact they were a startling purple in color and stood about a finger-length above the plate, supported by nasty looking red spines that radiated out from them.

“Egh,” Flavius said, prodding his entree suspiciously. “I ken the lot of ‘em are barking mad, what with this food they expect us to eat. D’ya ken what that last dish--that spondl stuff--they served the rest of us was?”

“Peq testicles,” Parric said, scooping up several of the spiny eggs in his beak. The spines made a satisfying crunch as they splintered.

“Right. And so I-- bastard!” Flavius’s face twisted in horror. “Yer having me on!”

Parric shrugged his antennae. “They grow back.”

Flavius slumped in his chair, face buried in his hands. He moaned pitifully before peeking at the current course in front of him. “Tell me, beastie. Is that one of them aphro-whatsits, too?”

“I’m believing so. The Empress Malinche is making many changes to the menu,” Parric said. “She is watching you closelying. She is seeming pleased with your appetite for spondl.”

Flavius groaned. “Just throw me to the wolves now, and get it over with.” He grabbed his drink and emptied it with a single gulp. The taste was bitter and woody, but it burned nicely on the way down. The edges of his vision flickered in a way that promised more to come. “I dinnae suppose yer plate there’s filled with the spiky balls of some exotic beastie as well?”

Parric shook his head. “No, these are... well, they’re not having a name. Or rather the name is a descripting of the preparing process. I’m finding this most curious, actualling.”

“How’s that?”

An aerial waiter refilled Flavius’ flute. It only made it halfway back up its thread before Flavius drained his glass, forcing it to return for another refill.

Parric leaned over. “It’s not a foodstuff widely knowing outside of my home. The first two courses, they are commoning. I’m eating them here previously. But this...”

“Parric, by ‘home’ do ya mean--”

“My home cosm.” Parric crushed the last spiny egg in his beak, gulping it down with relish. “It is actualling something of a delicacy. I’m at a loss as to how they are learning of it.”

“I ken I might have an idea how,” Flavius said, pulling up his sporran. “Open yer maw.” He reached in, and with a flourish pulled out the crimson featherscale. “What do ya think of this?”

Parric’s antennae sprang straight up. “I’m thinking three things,” Parric answered slowly. “And two of them are bad.”


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