Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dinner Time

“No, not really.” Alex deadpanned, shaking his head slowly. “I don’t particularly care what people are saying behind my back.”

Eleya gave him a narrow look, her ears and antennae pressing down against her head with an almost exasperated huff. “You may not have, but you are not who you were before, young prince. What others think is far more useful than you yet understand and it is important that you learn that.”

He thought he understood what Eleya was getting at. He wasn’t just some guy anymore, not here, anyway. Didn’t make him feel any different. “Fine, I’ll listen. Happy?”

“No. I do not yet know how well you will do.” She touched his arm, urging him towards the open hallway. “But your promise will suffice for now.”

“All right.” Alex shrugged and waited until he had turned away to roll his eyes. He got that it probably was important, but just couldn't get into that mindset.

“Sir.” Tashen looked as apprehensive as he ever had when Alex was around, sucking in a breath when he noticed the eye-roll. “Please, wait at the end of the hall, you will be announced-”

“Carbon explained it to me all ready, thank you.” Alex smiled and resisted the urge to pat him on the shoulder. He didn’t suppose that it would be appreciated. “It’s good to see you again, Tashen. Healing up well?”

He seemed taken aback by that. “Yes, sir. Thank you for enquiring.”

“Good.” Alex nodded and continued on his way. He wasn’t sure why he liked Tashen. The short Tslao had been standoffish when they’d previously met, but had still helped him - albeit by Eleya’s orders. Could just be that it was nice to have someone more uneasy around.

A soldier at the end of the hall nodded at him as he drew to a stop before a heavy green curtain. She leaned into the curtain and whispered through it, someone on the other side loudly announcing him a moment later: Lord Alex Sorenson, Crown Prince. The soldier then reached across the curtain and pulled it open for him.

Alex was unaware that Lord was actually part of his title. Still, he stepped through the portal and bowed as he had been instructed, his face serious despite his surprise. The table was a wide, low oval, the surface dark and glossy with place settings that seemed familiar at first glance. There were about thirty people already seated around the table, of which he was sure he recognized four, at most.

There were only two spaces open at the far end. The walk was just twenty seconds long, if it was even that, but being the focus of attention to the entire room made it seem like hours. There was a pillow to sit on, which he quickly found out left him too far off the ground to slide his legs under the table.

Carbon looked him over as he slid the pillow out from under him, stowed it beneath the table and scooted forward, his legs barely clearing the dark lacquered wood now. “Where is your translator?”

“Give you one guess.” His eyes darted back to the green curtain resting between a pair of intricate tapestries.

She sighed and shook her head, voice lowering. “Of course. We cannot just have a nice dinner, there must always be subterfuge.”

“Why so surprised?” He started to reach for the narrow glass of water out in front of his place setting but stopped himself when he noticed that no one else had touched theirs. Have to wait for that, too. “I barely know her and finding out she’s got a scheme feels like par for the course.”

Carbon got that look she has when he uses a phrase she doesn’t know. Before he can explain, their conversation was cut short by the guard announcing the Empress.

Eleya looked entirely comfortable with the room watching her. She moved with well practiced poise before settling down on Alex’s right, at the head of the table. When she spoke, it was with an easy grace that seemed rare in any personal interaction with her.  “Thank you all for attending. I am pleased to have the the young prince here with us, now that he has had time to fully recover from his grave wound.”

She gave Alex a nod and without looking he felt the room watching him again. Much to his relief and before he could do anything stupid, she gestured to Colonel Lhenan and the Sergeant. “I am sure many of you have not yet met these two soldiers. Given his experience working with Humans, I have placed the Colonel in charge of handling the day to day operations for the ongoing exploration of the alien artifact discovered during the scouting mission.”

Alex caught a few glances being exchanged, but had no idea what part of Eleya’s statement caused that or if they were just wondering when she’d stop talking. He was hoping she’d stop talking, anyway, they hadn’t eaten much for lunch and he was hungry. That reaffirmed his assumption that he was going to be bad at espionage in a very thorough manner.

Mercifully, she did stop. A gesture brought a dozen servers out of the woodwork. They appeared from passages hidden behind several tapestries that decorated the walls. The first wave was just wine, the server filling a pair of short glasses and setting the crystal decanter between Alex and Carbon before disappearing.

A second wave brought a shallow corrugated plate with an odd bowl perched on top, steam wafting from fresh green soup within. It smelled like coriander, warm and savory. Still, he waited, trying to look casual while watching Eleya out of the corner of his eye. “So, what is this?”

“Soup.” Just a hint of humor in her voice.

He glanced over at Carbon, a sly smile on her face again. At least she was having a bit of fun. “I figured. What kind of soup?”

“Forest spider.”

Alex looked down at the unevenly shaped bowl in front of him and then over at Carbon’s. A faint brown-red pattern covering the side of the bowl resolved and then he noticed the tiny hairs on the raised part of the plate. “This is the entire spider... right?”

“No, not the head. The head is poisonous. The rest of it is quite delicious.”

Eleya crunched into something, presumably one of the glistening legs surrounding the camouflaged carapace and everyone else started in on theirs.

He could do this.


  1. FOREST SPIDER SOUP? OUT OF THE SPIDER ITSELF? EW. EW. EW. EW. lol Oh, I get it. They're aliens. ;o) But ew ew ew.

    I kinda want to give Tashen a hug. lol


    Yeah, I sort of feel sorry for him. He's just so tightly wound.

  3. Reminds me of the monkeybrains scene in Indiana Jones. hehe

  4. Me too! Well, after I got done freaking out about the spider part of it. Hate. Spiders. So. Much. GAH.

  5. I'm sure that scene provided absolutely no inspiration...

  6. Oh, no. Of course not. I'm sure it was really inspired by the slimy evil mushroom things from Mom and Dad Save the World. Or, as those in the know would call them: lub-lubs.