Sitting by the hospital bed, Captain Prescott spoke softly, “don’t worry. The situation is contained. General Tomlyn will not be pursuing charges.”
“Well, that’s fortunate,” Goldie replied, flicking her blonde bangs away.
“Goldie,” Captain Prescott stated, “I’m not going to apologize and I don’t expect one from you, either.” He couldn’t help but look at her with pity; his heart hurt to see how her sunken cheeks highlighted the bags under her eyes. If only we’d met in some other place, he ground his teeth trying to shake the thought loose. Once again speaking softly, he said, “considering everything, you’ll have to stay under observation.”
Whipping her head around, she snarled, “no one’s observing me, until someone’s arrested me.”
“Calm down,” Captain Prescott ordered. “I can have you detained indefinitely. Do you actually want that?” He sucked in his right cheek, pushed out his lips, and exhaled. “Damn you, Goldie. All you had to do was wait.” Standing up, he turned away from her and paced down the length of the bed.
“Wait? WAIT!” She grabbed the hair on her temples pulled it out and screamed, “the worthless cuntbucket was in my bar!” Dropping her hair, she rolled her eyes up slowly to bore into Captain Prescott’s eyes with all the force of her rage, and stonily repeated, “my bar.”
He blinked as if she hadn’t just freaked him out. Shrugging and shaking his head, Captain Prescott said, “I know.”
“I had to do something,” she whispered.
Still shaking his head, he said, “I know.”
“He deserves worse.”
“He bled…” she confided, “a lot.”
“Do you see it?” Archel asked while spinning around in front of his mirror.
“If you’d stand still!” Cassie chastised.
“It itches,” Archel whined.
“I don’t see anything,” she said.
She grabbed his shoulders to stop him from spinning. Then pulled his head over by the hair to get a better view. “Don’t move,” she said as she shoved her face toward his neck. Finally she spotted the tiny bump. Shoving her finger in it, she asked, “there?”
“Ow. Don’t touch it!” He glared at her reflection. “What is wrong with you?”
Smiling, she bowed. Standing back up, she put on her best doctor voice and pronounced, “it’s a whitehead.”
“So, I’ve got a zit?” He completely relaxed, looking at his reflected knees. When he looked up again, he met Cassie’s befuddled expression with profound relief, and confessed, “I thought it was another feather.”
Like Vesuvius, Cassie unexpectedly erupted, “fe-fea-fea-oh-mercury-feath-feath-ha-ha.”
Even though he was horrified by her laughter, he caught her delirium and fell into his own uncontrolled fit. They stood side by side chortling at their reflected selves and doing so into a mirror that’s royal lineage was less questionable than their own. Their laughter devolved into the two of them leaning against each other for support, while crying and snorting. As they were finally calming down, Archel slapped his own shoulder, crying out.
Instantly serious, Cassie straightened up, and pulled Archel’s hand away. Horrified, she watched in abject fascination as a feather slowly ripped out of his zit. Carefully, she used a fingernail to gently scratch the skin around the barely protruding feather. The act caused Archel to sigh in relief. “Oh, that’s not a zit,” she pinched his cheek, “you’re getting your baby feathers.” Holding her breath for as long as she dared, she exhaled as another round of uncontrollable laughter bent her over.
Whatever had earlier possessed him to laugh with her vanished the instant the feather poked through his skin. He stormed away from the mirror. Tripping over the forever long rug that ran the length of the chamber, he cursed, “oughta burn you tonight,” then he kicked the offensive carpet.
“Don’t get mad,” Cassie called in between bursts of laughter. As she contemplated the best way to quit the now painful chortling, she flashed on the Tragedy of Rex Gryphus. She followed Praeceptor Archeleus through his chambers, cackling like a mad woman.
Unable to contain his anger, his spun around on her, bellowing, “it’s not funny!” At which point, he cried out as a couple feathers inched out of his chin.
Seeing the suddenly sprouting feathers, Cassie pushed the young regent, “oh! A feather beard! That’s better than a featherbed!”
“WHAT’S YOUR TRIP?” he screeched at her in the language of the birds. The very act of changing languages seemed the catalyst, for he fell to his hands and knees, screeching. His body contorted as it grew lion-esque and his feather-filled face morphed into a curiously blinking eagle’s. He squawked, “damn you!”
To which Cassie continued snorting and crying. Holding her side with one hand while wiping her eyes with the other, she hiccupped, “you have to control it.”
Setting the plate on the table, Ensign Balin cautiously walked further into the Bard’s Quarters. Expecting to hear the easy and regular breathing of an unconscious Kent, the chattering shocked Balin. He followed the sound into the guest wing where he found Kent and Fulco facing off again. They twerped and tittered, sometimes violently. Balin couldn’t understand, but recognized the motions when Kent shouted and pointed at his eye.
Fluffing up his neck feathers, Fulco huffed, “it’s beside the point.”
“It is the point,” Kent snapped.
“I don’t see why,” Fulco said defensively.
Holding up his freshly burnt hand, Kent said, “I met Iphi.” He let that sink in for a moment, then said, “she’s a bitch.”
“How dare you!” Fulco burst out.
“Didici omnia,” Kent responded.
Both, Bard and bird froze staring at each other, heads cocked slightly to the left, and their shoulders lifted in a seemingly permanent shrug. Taking that momentary silence as an opportunity, Balin made some noise by stomping his feet twice and coughing. The Merc watched them simultaneously ignore him; their staring competition rated way higher than the all too familiar bodyguard.
“Video,” Fulco said sullenly.
“Faciebasne?” Kent asked.
“Fac,” Fulco conceded.
Holding up his burnt hand, Kent said, “why didn’t Fintan’s hand look like this?”
“He wasn’t a disrespectful douche bag,” Fulco replied.
Kent closed his good eye, took a deep breath, and then said, “am I really the only one she’s ever bitten? I’ll ring her neck! I bet she’d be tasty with gravy and potatoes.”
Abhorred, Fulco stepped forward, opened his beak and screamed, “you’ll do no such thing!”
Grinning, Kent closed the distance, “watch me,” he threateningly raised his burnt hand up to Fulco who promptly bit into it. The Bard bounced around his quarters desperately trying to dislodge the vicious falcon from the still sensitive meat between his thumb and forefinger where Iphi’d also bitten. “Get off! Get ‘im off!” While Kent and Fulco flapped about uselessly, Balin jumped in for the save by grabbing Kent’s flailing appendage, holding it under one arm and using both hands to directly assault the bird’s vice-locked beak. When Kent was free, he screamed at Fulco, “she’s a worthless wench and you know it.”
“Show some respect,” Fulco warned from where he landed on the floor.
“Not to you. Not to her. Not now. Not ever.”
Flapping his wings, he squawked, “praedicator!”
Quickly crossing the room, Kent ripped back the curtain, struggled with the window, and then ordered Fulco, “cede!”
Taking a few steps forward while flapping, he launched himself at the open window. Fulco screeched in Kent’s face as he flew passed. Kent slammed the window closed, it’s glass panes rattled. “Stupid fucking bird!” Turning from the window, he angrily met Balin’s confusion with a growl, “what?”
“Celatrix Verna will be here soon. I put lunch on the table,” Balin stepped back, lowered his head, and then spun around to leave.
The Merc froze mid spin, altered directions, and returned to his original position, “sir?”
“Do you ever feel like none of this is real?” Kent asked.
“I don’t know,” Balin shrugged. He thought about it a moment, before saying, “I don’t think anyone knows what’s real, sir.”
Returning to the window, Kent said, “I need to be alone.”
Promptly kicking a toe back, Balin about-faced, and strode out of the Bard’s Quarters. Outside the door, he addressed the posted Merc, “Ensign Ford, ensure no one enters until I return.” He then headed for the Templus Ministrae, where he hoped to stop the Celatrix from wasting her precious time on the Bard today.
The dull beige walls and the excessively bright LED overhead lighting were their own sweet version of the special hell that Adonis had fallen into after…he sighed, after what? I don’t know so quit asking me. Look around. Something happened. I feel sick. Oh sweet mother of Iphigenia, all thoughts left his brain as he gripped the metal bedrail with his cuffed hand and the liquidy remainder of his stomach exploded from his lips. “Did you see that? I think he made three feet. How far d’ya think he’ll get next time?” The high-pitched voice asked from Adonis’ right. Down by his feet, Adonis heard, “he’s got nothing left.” When the spasms subsided, he felt a new pain—or was it an old pain?—in his groin, his hand, his leg, his face. He struggled to touch his own face with a steel chained hand from the bedrail, but his shackles were too far down. What happened? He writhed in the bed like the snake he was, but couldn’t understand why he was chained up. From right above his head, Adonis heard a deep voice wonder, “you know who this is?” Frantically, he shimmied, shook, and strained for his freedom.
“Don’t!” the high-pitched voice ordered.
Hot breath hit his burnt ear when the deep voice said, “you’re mine, sweetheart.” Adonis screamed.
“What’s going on in here?” the guard asked as he fumbled with the keys to the solid steel sliding door. Slinging the door aside, the guard held his baton at the ready, “get away from him, Gorrie!”
“Aw, come on, boss,” the deep voice whined, “you know who that is.”
“Get back on that rack,” the guard ordered. “Doc says you’re on bed rest.” He looked around the small medical holding cell, four of six beds were full. The former Chief Justice of the Antigone Courts, Oathbreaker Fraunx Adonis had the second bed across from the door. On the left, they’d placed the two unknown men injured while fleeing from Sentinel Cemetery. And, in the upper right-hand corner bed was the owner of the deep voice, an unusually short man with a penchant for losing prison fights. “I know the lot of you,” he paused to glare at each occupied bed before spitting out, “prisoners!”
“I’m innocent,” Gorrie said. With his back to the guard, the injured prisoner gingerly climbed onto his hospital bed.
“Everyone’s innocent. That’s why I have a job. Now, leave him alone. Or, so help me, I’ll bust your skull with my p-gobber,” he shook his baton at Gorrie.
“Alright, boss,” Gorrie conceded.
The guard gave each prisoner another stern look and then stepped out of the room, closing the steel door slowly as he glared at Gorrie.
When the bolts sounded, Gorrie groaned, “way he’s acting you’d think I killed the Kaiser.” With his attention on himself, Gorrie did not see the swift current that coursed through the other three hospitalized prisoners. If he had, he might have beat on the door and begged to go back to population. An opportunist who used prison regulations to improve his quality of life, Gorrie’s frequent fights were staged to get him hospitalized. Accustomed to the easy life, Gorrie had no intentions of slinging hash in the mess or a sledge in the pits. In the medical ward, the prison atmosphere was a bit relaxed and the food a smidgeon better. He sat back in his hospital bed, intent on dreaming about hot beaches and hotter bitches. Once he was comfortable, he leaned towards Adonis and whispered, “I know you.”