Uncalled For Actions (13/?)
Days 85 – 91 of the experiment.
He was saved from the internal struggle by the rear door opening, attracting the Baron’s attention.
“Ah, Aaronev,” he said, getting up, “I trust you had a peaceful rest.”
The Prince huffed and headed straight for his seat. “Tarvek, get me a coffee,” he grumbled then started going through his papers giving the Baron a belated, “good morning, Klaus.”
His father sat back next to him, raising an amused eyebrow as he sipped his own coffee. Gil bit back a smile because he was sure they were both thinking the same thing–the Prince was obviously not a morning person.
He watched as the servants settled pastries around the man but otherwise gave him a wide berth as others nervously gave morning reports on castle-affairs. Tarvek returned with the coffee and waited for further instructions while being mostly ignored until the man spit the coffee back into the cup.
“This is cold!”
Everyone in the room froze as the man’s face grew redder.
“I’ll get you another cup,” Tarvek mumbled, but his father snatched the cup away from him and marched over to the coffee engine where Arabeth began fiddling with the machine.
“Is this not working?” he demanded the terrified girl.
“It was fine a moment ago, Your Highness.” She fiddled with a dial, hands shaking then bumped into a knob that clattered to the floor. “I- I’m so so- sorry,” she mumbled, bending to get the knob and nearly knocking a tray of cups from the table.
The Prince sighed. “Do you even know how to work this machine–it’d delicate, perhaps beyond your scope of office.”
Gil was on his feet before he was even thinking which explains ninety percent of the catastrophes he found himself involved in. “It’s my fault, Your Highness,” he said, snatching the knob up and easily fitting it back into place. “It’s just such a magnificent engine–I couldn’t help taking a closer look even though Arabeth warned me–I just never listen when it comes to brilliant machinery; did you build this yourself, sir?”
The Prince stared at him a moment as if trying to decide between indignation at being interrupted while reprimanding his servant or delight at the flattery–the flattery apparently won. “It is one of my designs, yes. Do you like it?”
“It is rather elegant, but-”
Oops, Gil thought as the delight morphed back into indignation and quickly spilled over into annoyed distrust.
Across the room, the Baron simply raised an eyebrow, apparently entertained by Gil’s foot launching squarely into his mouth again–he probably thought it another test. Just beyond him, Tarvek vacillated between outrage and shock, eyes narrowed dangerously at Gil.
He swallowed hard and dragged his attention back to the Prince who was quite possibly considering ways to imprison him for his impertinence and get away with it. Gil sucked in his pride and every bit of sparky energy snapping to be let loose then let out a slow breath. “But I think I might have knocked something loose when I was checking it out.”
He started flipping switches and removing dials despite the Prince’s huffs and squeaks of distress. “It’s totally my fault–I’m really klutzy.”
“What are you doing?” the Prince squawked when he knocked the entire front panel loose.
“Oops; see what I mean?” Gil fumbled with the panel with one hand while quickly replacing pieces he’d noticed ill-connected earlier all while babbling on about being an idiot to distract the Prince. For added effect, he accidentally dropped the panel into the Prince’s outstretched arms then snagged his sleeve on a set of springs, sending them bouncing everywhere.
While Arabeth and some of the other servants darting around picking them up, Gil got a chance to completely rewire the interior, making the entire engine at least thirty-three percent more efficient by his estimates. Once the springs were returned, he squeezed them back into place, snatched the panel from the befuddled prince and snapped it back into place with a loud, “ta-da!”
Everyone just stared at until he reached over and flipped the switch to turn it back on. The engine began chugging softly. A moment later, a cloud of steam puffed from a pipe in the back while a whistle played a jolly tune indicating the machine was ready.
Arabeth shakily placed a cup beneath one of the spouts and pressed a button, allowing the steaming coffee to dispense.
She added several sugar cubes and a generous dollop of cream before handing it over to the Prince.
He eyed it, sniffed it, then set the cup gently to his lips. The entire room seemed to wait on bated breath for his first taste and only relaxed after he’d sipped and replaced the cup on the saucer with a satisfied sigh.
He glanced at Gil, smile fading from his worn face. “Be more careful next time.”
With that, he headed back to the table leaving Gil to slump against the engine. That was close.
“You forgot some pieces,” Arabeth said, sliding several cogs and a slightly unwound spring his way.
Gil shot her a lopsided grin as he stuffed the loose pieces into his pocket before filling two more cups of coffee and returning to the table, passing one to the Baron while placing the other in front of his own chair which now sat next to a very disgruntled looking Tarvek.
“Morning,” Gil said as brightly as he could muster knowing full-well it would annoy Tarvek who had never been a morning person either.
As expected, Tarvek only grunted a reply then proceeded to ignore Gil completely while they went through notes from the day before–most of which Gil had missed.
Despite his raging headache, still mostly-fuzzy memories of the night before and exhaustion, Gil kept up the jovial attitude as the morning progressed, often humming or whistling to himself as he worked until Tarvek finally snapped, slamming his hand down between them and spilling coffee all over his notes.
“Ugh,” he shouted, hopping up to get a napkin while Gil bit back a smile.
When he glanced up, his father was watching him with a less-than-amused expression that sobered Gil some–he was in enough trouble as it was so time to call a truce. Or at the least, be less annoying. He picked up Tarvek’s mug just as he got back with a napkin and refilled it, letting Arabeth add the correct sugar and cream.
Tarvek only glared at it suspiciously once Gil set it in front of him.
“It’s not poisoned or anything,” Gil said just to see what kind of reaction he would get.
Tarvek just moved his glare from the coffee to Gil but said nothing so Gil shrugged and went back to work.
Can’t say I didn’t try. And why should I even have to try? He was the one that drugged me int he first place.
Gil frowned, reaching for his cup just as Tarvek’s arm bumped his, sloshing coffee all over Gil’s neatly transcribed notes.
“Hey, you did that on purpose.”
“I did not–you’re just a big klutz.”
It took every ounce of control to not toss the remains of his coffee in Tarvek’s smug face. “Very mature,” he muttered, blotting the mess with the sleeve of his thankfully-dark brown jacket getting a snort of derision from the immaculately pressed and dressed Tarvek.
Fine if that’s the way he wanted things–Gil could be as petty as the next spoiled prince. As soon as Tarvek’s back was turned, Gil slipped Tarvek’s napkin from the edge of the table and used it to wipe the grease from the cogs in his pocket, quickly replacing it before Tarvek returned to his papers.
Sure enough, as soon as Tarvek took a sip of coffee, he wiped his mouth with the corner of the napkin. Gil refused to look at him until Arabeth came over to refill their coffees, stumbling to a stop in front of Tarvek and nearly spilling coffee down the front of her.
Her eyes went wipe before she found something else to look at, filled their cups and scurried away, shoulders heaving with suppressed laughter. Tarvek watched, brows furrowed then turned towards Gil setting off a burst of giggles that got his father’s attention.
The Baron’s eyebrows shot up while the corner of his mouth twitched. He tapped his cheek until Tarvek frowned then touched his own mouth, his fingers coming away greasy.
“Tarvek, what is on your face?” the Prince said suddenly. “Go wash up before anyone sees you like this.”
“Yes, Father.” Tarvek trudged out of the room, head down.
Arabeth returned to collect the dirty napkin and empty cups, replacing everything just as Tarvek returned.
Gil licked his thumb and tried to press it to Tarvek’s cheek. “Missed a spot.”
Tarvek smacked his hand away so hard he slammed his arm into the back of his chair, cracking his funny bone. Both the Baron and Prince looked up as Gil fought the pain lancing up and own his arm.
Gil sucked in a breath, forcing a smile on his face then tried to concentrate on his paperwork again until the adults looked away except he couldn’t find his pen.
“I think you must have dropped it while you were flailing like an idiot.”
“I’m sure,” Gil muttered, leaning under the table for the pen which Tarvek conveniently kicked just as Gil reached for it then set his foot down on Gil’s fingers.
“Ow! Son of a bi-” He sat back up, banging his head on the table in the process and shoved his sore fingers in his mouth as he glared at Tarvek. His outburst got his father’s attention again, though, so he just got up quietly to pick up his pen that had rolled across the floor on the other side of the table.
Arabeth bit back a smile as she walked past with a tray of coffees and pastries and Gil snagged a couple sugar cubes as she passed before returning to his seat.
They managed to work a solid twenty minutes without incident before the other summit members began to arrive and things got busy again. When Tarvek got up to run a paper to another table, Gil pulled the sugar from his pocket and scraped it into a tiny pile of granules that he quickly added to Tarvek’s inkwell,
Tarvek sat back down, dipped his pen in the ink then paused at a bit of sugar on the table before swiping it away with the back of his hand and filling his pen.
At that moment, the Baron stood, calling the meeting to order. Gil fidgeted in his seat while he tried to pay attention to the speech, but once you’ve heard one, “I’m so honored to be here among these great rulers of Europa,” speech, you’ve heard them all. It seemed like an eternity before his father sat down and the Prince took his turn to give back-handed compliments the Baron ignored and talk himself up some more.
How do people even stand it, Gil wondered like he did every time he had to sit through proceedings like this. How will I ever stand it? I’m not cut out of this kind of thing.
It was the one thing Gil was absolutely sure about but his father had other ideas so here he was pretending to be something he wasn’t and being something he didn’t want to be and doing it because what choice did he really have?
He glanced at Tarvek out of the corner of his eye, noting the faraway expression and mild boredom in his face and wondered if he ever felt the same way. Probably not since Tarvek had been born and bred to be the successor to his father–it was all he ever knew and was probably really good at it.
As if he needed another reason to dislike him.
Finally, the Prince brought the meeting to order and Gil prepared to actually pay attention and take notes like a good little apprentice. If this is what he was meant to be then he would do it the best he could as always so no more fooling around.
Everything stopped as Tarvek screeched, reaching for his napkin that wasn’t there anymore. His hands were covered in dark black ink as well as splotches all across his paper and trickling unimpeded from his pen.
Prince Aaronev huffed then motioned a servant over to replace the pen and paper. On Gil’s other side, his father sighed, giving Gil the impression that he somehow knew this was all Gil’s fault so Gil went back to rewriting notes as neatly as humanly possible while Tarvek’s mess was cleared up.
When things were back on course, Gil glanced over and the dark look Tarvek gave him made no mistakes–he knew Gil was to blame. Gil just shrugged like he didn’t care if Tarvek thought he did something and went back to his notes.
Tarvek started to dip his new pen into his ink but paused then reached past Gil forcing him to sit back and pulled the other inkwell between them. Neither said anything as they went to work, but Gil could feel the tension growing and knew it was only a matter of time before Tarvek blew up.
The key was going to be making it look like Gil had nothing to do with any of it–tricky, but he could figure something out. Several times over the next hour, Tarvek attempted to knock into Gil to make him spill his drink or smudge his notes, but Gil was waiting for it every time.
His childhood had the benefit of always keeping him on his toes and expecting the worst from people all while managing to appear like he was completely in control if anyone cared to look. He could tell Tarvek was growing aggravated though which thrilled him more than it should.
Another hour passed and Gil forgot all about his feud with Tarvek as he concentrated on his notes and the Baron’s required commentary and code in the margin right up until recess was called and Tarvek leaned back with a sigh. He stretched, his arm bumping Gil’s shoulder and sending his pen sliding all the way across his paper and smearing the line of text he’d just written.
He scowled at Tarvek but didn’t get a chance to say anything before his father was sighing over the paper. “This is unacceptable work, Herr Holzfäller.”
Gil sunk down in his seat, biting back a scathing retort that would only land him in more trouble. While everyone took a short break to stretch their legs, Gil sat at the table, copying his notes onto a fresh sheet of paper. He glanced down at Tarvek’s empty seat with a grin then set about copying the floral pattern with his black ink, finishing just before everyone returned.
Tarvek came back, setting a glass of water on the table far from Gil then sat in his pretty blue suit, checked his papers, pen, and ink for tampering then stared straight ahead, ready to work.
Gil bit his lip and hurried to finish his copies before his father sat on his other side to inspect the notes piled in a less-than-tidy fashion.
The morning meeting continued in boring agony after that, both Gil and Tarvek too busy to consider their ongoing feud. When lunch was finally announced, Gil dropped his pen and shook out his tired hand. His stomach growled at the thought of anything more substantial than coffee, but before he could make his escape, one of the Prince’s assistants hurried over and began whispering.
“Problem, Aaronev?” the Baron asked as he sorted his own papers into labeled folders.
“It appears two more of the transcribers have fallen ill–it’s going to set things back most of the day unless I can find some more translators.”
“Holzfäller knows French,” Tarvek said as he straightened the last of his notes and set his pen on top of them.
Gil froze as both the adults turned towards him.
“Really?” asked Prince Aaronev suspiciously, setting Gil’s pride on edge.
“Among others,” he said before he could stop himself and regretting it immediately because he just made things worse as always.
The Prince’s smile morphed to something a lot less friendly. “Really?” he said again. “That would be most helpful, if you don’t mind, Klaus?”
“Of course not–I’m sure Herr Holzfäller would be honored to help, and I’m sure he could use the practice.”
Gil shot his father a look that was of course ignored but managed to get his emotions under control before turning back to the Prince. “I would be most honored,” Gil said through clenched teeth.
“And I’m sure,” the Baron continued, “he’d greatly appreciate the help of your son in his endeavor.”
Tarvek’s head snapped up while the Prince considered the request.
Gil was sure there were about fifty levels of politicking going on that he didn’t understand at the moment, but if it meant Tarvek had to suffer with him than he didn’t care.
Finally, the Prince nodded. “You know, Klaus, I do believe Tarvek could use the extra practice as well, and maybe the two of them will be in a much more agreeable fashion this afternoon then.”
The Baron smiled slightly. “Agreed.”
Gil groaned but accepted his fate with as much grace as his growling stomach could muster. Tarvek was less tolerant of the situation as he got up, shoving his chair back with a screech and grabbing his stack of papers rather violently.
“Show the boys to the library, please,” the Prince said to one of the guards then went back to discussing something with the Baron.
Tarvek stomped off ahead of Gil giving him a great view of the pretty floral pattern now inked into his expensive trousers. Several other servants, including Arabeth, giggled as he walked by, but none pointed out the problem so Gil kept his mouth shut.
This time he managed to keep track of their path to a large, functionary library–two lefts, across a courtyard, a right and down a flight of stairs–as they walked. He was sure he must have seen most of the castle by now with all of his wandering and secret passage tours, and yet, he could barely remember any of it which worried him.
Stuff always happened when you were least prepared–or maybe it seemed like that because when you were prepared, you didn’t notice everything going wrong. Either way, Gil was sure he was being set up for a really bad day which all started the moment he was told about this stupid summit.
They were led to a long table set with books, papers, and wells in the corner of the library. Several other tables were already occupied by at least a dozen other people, furiously scribbling translations.
Gil dropped next to a frazzled looking young woman who had a pen sticking out of her bun and ink smeared across her nose; Tarvek took the empty seat next to him. Across the table sat twin dark-haired men with matching streaks of shocking white at their temples. They passed papers back and forth between them without speaking.
Gil glanced at all of them then at the pile of papers at the center of the table. “Um, so what are we doing here?” he asked the girl who screeched, snatched the pen from her hair and nearly impaled his hand with it before returning to her work.
Gil lurched away from her, landing in Tarvek’s lap. Tarvek shoved him off just as one of the twins grabbed a paper from a stack and slammed in front of Gil before passing the one in front of himself to his brother who then took a different paper from another stack and handed it to Gil.
“These here need to be translated to those languages,” the second twin said while passing his paper back to his brother.
That brother added, “when you’re done you put them over there.”
Gil glanced at the sheet in front of him–a transcription of part of the morning meeting currently written in Romanian–then at the paper handed to him which just had a list of languages with different ones crossed off.
“Okay, seems simple enough.” He handed the translation sheet to Tarvek to look over then grabbed a pen.
“I’ll take the French,” Tarvek said, crossing something off on the list then set to work on a section of notes.
“Really?” Gil said, rolling his eyes getting a snort from Tarvek. “Fine, I guess I’ll do the Russian then.” It was the only language without any names next to it.
All four faces at the table looked up at him then the girl mumbled something in several languages about being crazy before going back to work.
“What? I like a challenge,” Gil said with a smirk.
“Show off,” Tarvek muttered as they all got to work.
Gil was on his second page when his stomach made an urgent and very loud noise. “So, are they going to, like, serve lunch in here or-”
“You eat when you’re done,” one of the twins said, tapping the pile of untranslated papers in front of Gil that was quite a bit taller than the others.
Tarvek snorted. “How’s that showing off working for you?”
Gil dragged another paper over as his stomach continued to protest. “You know,” he said quietly, “not all of us got to have a jaunty morning snack today–some of us were too nervous to eat all day before being forced to this summit and didn’t get to eat lunch while being dragged around for a castle tour and were drugged at dinner so they couldn’t taste anything and missed breakfast because someone smeared ink all over their paper.” The words tumbled out, and by the end, he was spitting them out through clenched teeth while everyone stared.
He ducked his head. “I’m just saying.”
They worked in frantic silence other than Gil’s growling stomach for a good hour. He’d made a significant dent in his pile, but there was no way he was finishing in time to find any food before he had to return for the afternoon meetings; and to make that very clear, someone came in and dropped another pile on top of Gil’s stack.
Gil groaned, letting his head hit the table repeatedly–maybe it would knock some sense into him for next time he wanted to show off. Someday he might actually learn a lesson, but for now, he sucked it up, reaching for another paper to translate at the same time Tarvek pulled one from the top of Gil’s pile.
Gil frowned then noticed Tarvek’s pile was empty and several of the other translators had already left to lunch.
[ Part 14 ]