Uncalled for Actions (2/?)
Days 8-14 of the sentences experiment.
When Tarvek made no comment, Violetta shifted her weight nervously. “Do you really think something bad is going to happen?”
“With the various branches of our family involved, it’s almost a given.” He removed his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. “Just keep your eyes open and stay out of sight, okay?“
Violetta didn’t answer, and when he replaced his glasses, he found himself alone again. She was getting good. She was going to need to be better.
* * *
The deck shuddered slightly as the steam winches kicked in, slowly tugging the airship closer to the landing tower of Sturmhalten Castle. The castle itself looked like the dozen others Gil had visited in the months since officially becoming the Baron’s apprentice, if not a little more war-torn–almost as if the residents failed to repair the century’s old scars of battle as a matter of pride. Knowing what he did of the Storm King myths, it probably wasn’t far from the truth.
“Gilgamesh,” the Baron called without looking up from his paper, “stop fidgeting.“
Gil winced, dropping his hands to his sides before he worried the buttons right off his new greatcoat–a habit he thought abandoned years ago. It was this place–Sturmhalten and all it represented–that was twisting his insides into knots. “I knew this was a bad idea,” he mumbled to his reflection in the porthole.
Across the compartment, the baron sighed, snapping his paper shut with the flick of a wrist.
The expected lecture was interrupted by a flurry of fur and velvet bursting through the door.
The Jäger guards darted out of the way of the diminutive human-canine hybrid the Baron had picked up from an ousted Madboy in Vienna–something about wanting minions as loyal as his dogs.
“Herr Baron,” he called, waving a paper.
“What is it, Barkley?”
Barkley bowed, his snout nearly touching the floor. “Initial reports from our spies inside Sturmhalten, sir. Already five assassination attempts thwarted.”
The Baron took the paper and scanned it. “Only five? I would have expected more.”
“The delegates from two of the Fifty Families have fallen to a mysterious illness producing bizarre symptoms,” Barkley continued.
Barkley’s ears flattened against his skull. “Apparently they cluck now.”
That got a raised eyebrow from the Baron. “Cluck?”
“Yes, and they’ve grown feathers, but only when a bell rings.”
“Sounds like early-stage Oxfam’s Hypnotosia–very contagious. They’ll need to be isolated before the entire summit is laying eggs.”
Barkley nodded. “There have also been rumblings of monsters under the village.
“Well, it is Sturmhalten–I would expect nothing less.”
The Jäger next to Gil clapped his hands. “Monsters? Now hyu iz talkink.”
“No, Skurzi,” the Baron interrupted sternly. “No Jägers at the summit–that was the agreement.”
Skurzi sulked, shoulders hunched. “Hyu say dat now, but just hyu vait until a monster iz chompink on hyu head then hyu vill be all like, ‘why Hy not listen to Skurzi. Oh, howz Hy vish Skurzi vas here to fightz dis big scary monster.’”
The other Jägers nodded in agreement, but the Baron didn’t look at all swayed by the argument.
Gil watched the entire exchange with interest–he’d only recently been taken on as an apprentice, and found the day-to-day running of the Empire predictably tedious but also exceedingly fascinating where personnel was involved. Especially the Jägers. As much trouble as they caused, Gil wasn’t quite sure why his father kept them around but hadn’t found the nerve to yet assuage his curiosity.
The Jägers continued to grumble as they all followed the Baron through the decks of the airship but veered off when they got to the hatch to keep out of sight. Barkley hurried over to the rest of their party, leaving Gil alone with his father.
His anxiety ratcheted up with every clank of the gangplank lowering into place. He’d been excited months ago when his father took him on as an apprentice–some new Empire program to ready the next generation of rulers–but this assignment was going to kill him. There was absolutely no way it ended well.
The Baron suddenly reached out, slapping Gil’s hand away from the button of his coat. Gil cradled the injured appendage to his chest, shooting his father a withering glare. “You could have just said,” he muttered.
“You will be on your best behavior and none of this moping.”
Gil’s glare intensified. “I’m not moping–I have genuine misgivings about this meeting, and you aren’t listening to me.”
He hadn’t meant to say all of that, but his boldness seemed to soften his father’s characteristic sharp edges. “I know you’re worried about seeing the young prince again, but time marches on, Gil.”
Time marches on? An electrifying anger built in Gil, filling his chest and spreading outward like lightning until the tips of his fingers and toes burned.
“That kind of betrayal isn’t something you just forget,” he spat through clenched teeth. How could he think Tarvek would ever be over it when Gil still hadn’t forgiven himself, and he wasn’t the one betrayed?
A hand clamped down tightly on his shoulder. “Control yourself,” his father commanded.
Gil seethed, eyes blazing, electricity crackling around him. Everywhere colors popped extra saturated and bright; sound returned more crisp and clear. Thoughts bounced around his head at supersonic speeds yet his brain didn’t struggle to keep up, and at the same time, reality seemed to slow down allowing for enhanced clarity. The increased harmonics of his voice finally registered, and he blinked, resetting the world around him.
He took a deep breath, letting it out in a shudder. “I’m sorry–I didn’t mean to.”
“The same passion that fuels the Spark often intensifies other emotions, and you must learn to restrain them lest they overwhelm your reason.”
If triggering his Spark was that easy, this trip just got a whole lot more complicated.