Alice asked, I’m delivering. 🙂
In the live version of this photo, Zelda is shaking herself off after having gotten wet in the splash from the ocean. But somehow the picture that the computer decided should represent the entire series of photos is this one, where she looks… well, ridiculous, to be honest. My dog is not often ungainly, but she is definitely charmingly ungainly here.
And the other thing that Alice asked for:
The eyes of the dead fish staring up at her looked reproachful.
Fen scowled down at it. In her runaway days, she’d gone dumpster diving, chowing down on half-eaten burgers without even blinking. Food was food when you were hungry.
But she wasn’t hungry enough for eyes.
“Does your fish displease you, love?” The queen gestured to the platter in front of them. “Shall you try something else? The sea cucumber is delightful this evening.”
Fen averted her gaze from the platter and plastered a smile on her face. “No, no, this is fine, thank you.”
The platter contained… creatures. Snails in their shells; open flat shells holding gray slimy goop; white tubes with dangling tentacles; slices of a bumpy yellow flesh that looked squishy; curved pink bodies with teeny tiny legs and antennae.
Sea bugs, basically.
Even eyes were better than eating sea bugs.
When Fen had been invited to the formal banquet celebrating the opening night of the Great Council, she’d pictured something medieval—gray stone walls and long wooden tables with the queen on her throne at the head of the room. Or maybe she’d been imagining Hogwarts. Either way, she’d been impossibly far from the truth.
Instead she sat under the star-sprinkled twilight sky, in a garden lit by thousands of tiny floating lights. Tables were placed under the trees, in nooks and alcoves created by hanging vines and waterfalls, while winding paths led from one grove to the next. People flowed along the paths, waiters in blue and silver with platters of food hoisted high scurrying between the strolling Sia Maran elite in their most glorious attire. In the background, music played, tendrils of melody winding around the rhythm of waves.
And behind them, in a view that Fen was trying hard not to think about, the ocean loomed, up, up and up. It would have been beautiful — it was beautiful — except that nothing at all seemed to separate the garden from the overwhelming weight of seawater next to it.
The water wasn’t the worst part, though.
The company was as terrifying, and much closer. Somehow, she’d wound up seated between Her Royal Majesty, Queen Ellinora of Syl Var, and the Lady Cyntha, Mother of House Del Mar.
The queen wasn’t so bad, apart from being, you know, a queen. But Lady Cyntha was beautiful and elegant and powerful and stern. And she called Fen, ‘Lady Felicia.’
Sitting next to Lady Cyntha while staring at a dead fish felt a lot like a bad dream, the kind where you were naked in math class and desperately needed to pee but couldn’t find a toilet. Oh, and you’d forgotten to study for the final exam that was happening at exactly that moment.
“Breathe,” a voice—chocolate and honey, warm and smooth, the sound resonating deep within her bones—whispered in her ear as Kaio leaned forward and refilled her goblet.
Obediently, Fen took a breath.
And then she frowned at him. What was he doing here?
I would say, “Your wish is my command,” but you know, I think we both probably wish that I was writing a lot faster! So that would be a lie. But I hope the snippet is at least evidence that Fen will be back someday soon!