10 - Keeping Songbirds

I wake up the next morning to a knock on my door. I freeze in the bed, locked in the middle of some half-forgotten nightmare's struggle. I open my eyes, collect my thoughts as best as I can. They march forward in rank and file, each more urgent than the last, like a list of things to do for the day. Gerald is captured. Keep his guns hidden. Faun must be saved. Look for the other daughter. And most importantly - and the last before the door opens - act as I should to avoid the Peacock King's suspicion.

I hear a key slide and click through the latch before the door swings inward. My eyes snap to whoever is entering. The Peacock King smiles at me, faintly amused.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were a late riser." He enters anyway, walks to my bed, and sits on the end rather primly. His hand idly smoothes over a crease in the blanket. "Did you have a fine rest? I hope the trouble didn't keep you awake. You're safe in this room, you know. I made certain that it was secure."

I smile up at him, pulling myself to a sitting position. "Thank you for your concern. I...didn't sleep my easiest, but I do feel safe here. I'm just still adjusting to living here now." I fidget a little. He's staring at me while I'm in bed, barely dressed. That's not nearly as dire as the fact that I've not had any chance beforehand of taking care of my hair. It must be a mess after a night of tossing and turning like that!

He nods, relieved. "Let me know if you need ever need some company to ease your mind." He looks out to the balcony, smiles. "It's a beautiful day today. I think it would be nice if you spent it nearer the outdoors than my Faun-doe's current residence, yes? And I have a few adjustments to make to that area. It's important to put any safety precautions that come to you into action, when they happen. Sometimes it takes a pest getting into a house to remind the denizens to clean it." He rises, then, and nods to me. "I'll let you ready yourself for the day, then. You can spend it in the gardens I showed you through yesterday. I'm appointing you a guide while I see to today's matters. She'll be outside by the time you are ready."

I think that the Peacock King must have appointed me a slow guide.

I give my own nod, unable to bow properly and unwilling to force the indignity of trying while sitting in a bed with my hair mussed. He smiles, just a bit of smirk to it, and then gives me a wave and leaves.

I go to the bath and make some sense of my hair, constructively applying my fears and aggressions into fueling my efforts towards achieving today's look.

* * *

The guide is sunny and cheerful. I actually make a bit of pleasant conversation with her as she shows me to the gardens from yesterday. I finally have someone to pretend around that doesn't present any difficulty in fooling. I feel a little bad for gloating about that, but not too bad.

I don't see the King's daughter there today. I ask after her, and the guide cheerfully informs me that she has her own suite. I'm pretty sure that the King had her stay there, then, with the new danger that's been presented to his Court. He did seem protective of her, and I understand that. It's even a little hard for me, because of that. It's hard to think about the fact that he might genuinely feel endangered, that he wants to protect things that are precious to him.

...And I don't like thinking about the possibility that I am now one of those things. It hurts a little. I could ease his worries, but that would just indict me, and ruin whatever mission Gerald is on.

...Come to think of it, I don't know what that mission is. I've just been taking it on faith that he's up to any good here. It's a valid assumption, though. The Poets and the Armeds are both good folks, as far as I've known. Dangerous to evildoers [or sometimes understaffed restaurants], but beneficial to those that the Law protects.

So I know he can't be here for something nefarious, like the King fears.

I pass some time talking with the nymphs the King has collected, learning about them. Making my mental notes on how they are caged, what restrains them. Wondering how he could have ever thought to do such things, and then thinking that it wasn't something I could really wonder about, because I wouldn't find an answer. Maybe Gerald could, if he were free. Wondering after that avenue of pursuit was fruitless.

...But maybe Faun would know.

I make a note of it, then exchange some makeup tips with a dryad who recommends local flower pigments.

The rest of the day is pleasant. I don't see the King again until the evening, when I'm on the way back to my suite. He strides into step with me, hand falling behind my waist, prompting me to speed my pace just slightly until we arrive at my room.

He smiles. It's not as genuine as when he looked so concerned. There's something behind it, some ulterior motive or secret hiding in the corners of his mouth. "I trust you enjoyed the gardens, Lotus?" He lingers outside my door. I nod.

"It was very useful to visit again. I'm eager to learn, and it was as educational as it was gracious to the eyes."

His smile becomes a bit more sincere at the compliment. "Why, I'm quite happy to hear that, Lotus. Faun-doe is eager to see more of you, I imagine. Perhaps you can apply your learnings to him tomorrow." His hand presses a little firmer behind my back. "For now, time to retire, yes?" Something lingers on his voice.

It's the hope that he'll recieve an invitation now.

I'm not sure why I have to fight something in myself, but I smile up at him and nod. "Yes. Goodnight, my King. May you rest easy after a day of ensuring your home's safety." With that said, I reach to open the door.


He raises an eyebrow at the look I direct up to him. "My pardon. I have yet to give you a key." He slides one from his sash, unlocks the door, and directs me inside. "I'll see about finding a copy for you. It may take a couple of days, but I'm sure you can get along well without, for now." Without another word, he closes the door. I hear the key slide in, hear the lock click shut.

...I have a certainty come over me now. I can lock my doors from the inside. I can unlock them as well. But I can't unlock them if he turns that key in the outside lock. I doubt I'll recieve a key for it, ever.

Why give me a room he can lock me inside of?

I sigh, then turn towards the bed, shedding my robs as I do, letting my hair down from its knot. I shake my head, letting my hair fall down and gently brush my shoulders. It's a comforting touch.

I've just realized that he has me just as caged as Faun or Gerald.

No comments:

Post a Comment