Days 71 – 77 of the experiment.
Everyone at the table turned to him nervously. Damn, I said that out loud again. He tilted his head, waiting for someone to say something before he realized that he didn’t say that out loud this time.
The Smoke Knight–that’s what he’d been trying to remember.
He found Tarvek amid the blobs of color which was considerably difficult when 90% of them had the same bright red hair. “You have really strong genetics,” he told the red blob across from him.
Gil shook his head, not helping clear it in the least, but it did manage to jumble some words into a coherent sentence. “This is your fault.”
“My fault that you’re drunk,” he said with more than a little hint of smugness.
“Not drunk; drugged,” Gil slurred pointing his finger at Tarvek except it wasn’t his finger; it was a sprig of mint from dessert, and he was actually pointing it at the small girl sitting next to Tarvek who seemed unfazed by Gil’s absurd behavior.
He cleared his throat, dropped the mint then directed his attention back to his original target. “Why did you do this to me?”
Tarvek scowled back; at least Gil thought he did because he was still just a blob–probably a pretentious, smug looking blob but still a blob.
The room was too bright and too loud and too quiet–little whispers everywhere–and too hard and too spinny. Gil stumbled to his feet, his chair slamming into a waiter who dropped his bottle of wine with a loud crash that got even more attention.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Gil mumbled then tripped over his own feet, landing in Seffie’s surprised lap. He gave her a goofy, lop-sided grin. “Oops.”
Seffie smiled back, running her fingers through his now sweaty hair then her smile disappeared. “You’re burning up, Gil.”
“Sir,” the waiter said, “are you all right?”
“He’s fine, Fenton,” Anevka told him as she appeared on Gil’s side of the table, “he just needs some air.”
A moment later Tarvek was dragging him to his feet while Anevka supported his other side, and Seffie followed behind giving polite excuses to concerned adults.
“My father is going to kill me,” Gil mumbled. “Crap, said that, too.”
Anevka pressed her hand to his forehead then his cheeks and neck, a frown growing on her pretty face. “He really is burning up, Tarvek. We should take him to the doctor.”
“No,” Gil said, “no doctors.”
“What are you seeing right now?” Tarvek asked him.
Gil leaned against the cool stone wall, trying with all his might to make sense of the colors around him, but the harder he concentrated, the less sense anything made. “Butterflies,” he finally answered with absolute certainty then started to giggle. “Pretty red and purple butterflies.”
Tarvek smacked his hands away from where he’d been petting Tarvek’s head. “You’re hallucinating. I don’t think this is the wine.”
“No, probably not,” Anevka agreed. “Maybe he was allergic to something he ate.”
“He didn’t eat anything,” Tarvek said. “He just picked at his food.”
Seffie glanced around the hall then stepped closer, wringing her hands. “He was saying someone drugged him.”
“He said a lot of stuff–he’s delusional.”
“Why would someone drug him?” asked Anevka.
Gil poked her cheek with his finger, getting a gentle smile from her and a growl from Tarvek. “That’s the wrong question.”
Tarvek yanked him away from his sister, taking most of Gil’s weight on himself in the process. “Then what’s the right question?”
“Ooh,” said Seffie, waving her hand in her excitement. “Who drugged him–that’s the question. Right?”
Gil placed his finger on the side of his nose then pointed at Seffie before he doubled over and vomited on Tarvek’s shoes. They were really nice shoes, too.
* * *
“For the love of-” Tarvek grabbed the back of Gil’s jacket, hauling him upright.
Gil wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Double oops.”
Seffie giggled while Anevka sighed then slid under Gil’s other arm again. “Maybe we should get him back to his quarters–I’m sure the Baron can take care of him.”
Tarvek had to admit that in the circumstances it was the best course of action then they could send for the doctor and the Baron–let them sort it out. “Fine, but next time, he pukes on your boots,” he muttered, dragging Gil down the hall.
They turned a corner then ducked behind a tapestry just as some guards came out of a side room. Tarvek found the loose block, sliding it a centimeter to the right and pushing it in with a click. “This will be faster.”
“Ooh,” said Gil, “a secret passage. Neat.”
Tarvek sighed as he ushered everyone into the dark passage and closed the door. Someone struck a match, lighting the small space and nearly set Seffie’s hair on fire. Tarvek knocked the match from Gil’s hand as his cousin started screaming which was cut off quickly, presumably by Anevka.
“Who gave him matches?” Tarvek hissed.
“I don’t know,” Anevka answered somewhere behind him, “he just had them.”
“Sorry,” Gil said sounding defeated as he slumped against Tarvek. “I made a mess of things.” He hiccuped. “And I don’t mean your shoes although I did make a mess of those too which I can totally fix.”
He leaned over and started cleaning Tarvek’s boots with the corner of his jacket until Tarvek yanked him back up by his collar. “Knock it off.”
“Let’s get you back to your room before Tarvek murders you right here,” Anevka cooed, taking some of his weight.
“Okay. You’re really pretty in the dark, you know that?”
“Really?” Anevka said with a snort. “You can tell that even in the dark?”
Tarvek got the impression Gil was nodding vigorously even though none of them could see him.
“Oh, definitely,,” Gil said finally. “But not as pretty as Tarvek.”
Both girls dissolved into fits of giggles that left Tarvek very glad they were in near total darkness because his skin was so hot he’d never hear the end of it.
Several more minutes of listening to Holzfäller babble about nonsense found them finally at the end of the passage and stumbling into a large atrium at the intersection of the guest wing with the rest of the castle.
Above them, the stars twinkled in the clear night sky while the moon held center court directly above. Tarvek might have stopped to consider the poetry of the vision as it was framed by the iron and glass of the atrium dome if he didn’t smell of vomit and stale wine and Gil’s cologne that made him want to gag and take a deeper breath all at the same time.
What even was that smell?
He guided the group through the doors into the wing where it sounded like most of the summit members were either in their own quarters or in the guest dining hall. They snuck past the rooms and to the more prestigious quarters until they found the one Gil identified as his door.
Not sure if Gil was even in his right mind, they quickly discussed what to do, but before a consensus was reached, Gil banged on the door.
“Barkley,” he half shouted, half squeaked, “I’m home.” Then he collapsed against the door face first, siding to his knees and snoring.
Tarvek and Anevka barely got him to his feet again when the door popped open to a disheveled looking dog standing on two legs wearing reading glasses and a velvet smoking jacket.
He glanced around the group before settling on the lump between them. “Master Gilgamesh!”
Quickly, he escorted them in, alerting the Baron’s other attendants before directing them to the smallest bedroom at the end of the hall where they dropped Gil face first onto the bed.
“What happened?” the dog-man asked.
“Nothing, fine,” Gil mumbled into the bedspread before rolling onto his back and throwing an arm over his eyes. “Just your average poisoning, Barkley.”
“Poison!” Barkley yelped. “Who would do such a thing?”
[ Part 12 ]