THEN A PENGUIN WALKED IN #21
Eventually, Dominick had been shown to the bath where he currently soaked. Up to that point, he had waited in the small room. It had been made entirely of stone — walls, floor, and ceiling — with no decoration other than the blue carpet beneath the high backed chair upon which he’d had the privilege of resting his aforementioned sore bottom. A small window had been set in the wall just above the chair, which let in plenty of light and fresh air, but was so high that Dominick hadn’t been able to look out on the town.
The chair, as previously stated, was, not to put too fine a point on it, very very big. It was, in fact, the biggest chair Dominick had ever seen outside a Jack and the Beanstalk movie. The chair could have slept three in complete comfort with room to spare for Rover, the family dog.
Dominick, while trying to occupy such a vast expanse of plush, blue cushion, had felt more than a little insignificant, like the chair was trying to tell him where his place was in the grand scheme of things. It was as if he were a mouse sitting among a great herd of elephants. A drop of water in the middle of a vast desert. A Barry Manilow fan in the mosh pit of a Metallica concert.
Frankly, the chair made Dominick feel more alone than he’d ever felt in his entire, ordinary, small little life. And yet, he surely had to admit to himself that he’d never before sat in such comfort.
After about an hour in the waiting room — he couldn’t be sure of the time as his watch had stopped working the moment he’d stepped through the portal into this world — a man in a blue doublet and hose had poked his head into the room.
The man’s face, which had been preceded by the kind of nose one might want to peel, slice, and then serve over a bowl of cornflakes in milk, was a shade of red that would turn most beets green with envy. He hadn’t said much, only that he was called Herbert, before he shuffled Dominick off to the bath.
And what a bath it was.
It hadn’t been until he’d seen the giant tub of steaming water that Dominick realized that he’d still been covered in lizard man innards from out on the battle field. It had taken him barely ten seconds to strip, lean his sword against the wall in a corner, and drop himself into the invitingly hot water.
It was now nearly thirty minutes later and still he soaked, eyes closed, smile on his face, and mind free of the annoying encumbrances of thought. The water, amazingly, was still just as hot now as it had been a half an hour ago. Dominick would have found that odd, if not a little curious, but as mentioned, he was too busy not thinking to give it much account.
A polite knock at the door brought Dominick back from the dream state the warm bath had put him in and he opened his eyes.
“Yes?” he said.
The door opened and Herbert’s nose entered, followed closely by the man himself.
“I brought you a fresh change of clothes,” said Herbert. And sure enough, he carried with him a bundle of clothing which he placed on the table next to the tub.
“There isn’t any hose is there?” Dominick asked. Normally, he’d be uncomfortable being in nothing but his skin in front of other people, but the entire surface of the water was covered with a thick layer of bubbly suds.
“Hose,” said Dominick. “You’re wearing hose. Will I have to wear hose?”
“No," Herbert said, looking a bit confused. “I brought you no hose. Would you like some hose? I can get you some hose,” he turned to leave.
“No!” Dominick nearly stood and the water sloshed about in the bath. “I don’t want any hose, please.”
“I brought you pants,” said Herbert.
“Okay, great,” Dominick said, settling back in the water. “I like pants.”
Herbert smiled and collected Dominick’s old clothes, which he’d left strewn about on the floor.
“How is this water still hot?” Dominick asked. “I’ve been in here for a while.”
“Why, the tub is made of dragonstone, of course,” Herbert replied.
He’d said it in such a way that Dominick was sure that Herbert had expected him to know what dragonstone was. Dominick was about to ask when Herbert continued.
“Would you like a little something to eat? It won’t be time for another two hours.”
“Time for what, exactly?”
“To meet the Triumvirate.”
“Okay, yeah, right.” Dominick splashed about a bit. “And who are they?”
“You don’t know who the Triumvirate are?” The man’s face lost all color.
“No?” Dominick said. “I’m sorry. Should I?”
“You are the One, are you not?”
“That’s what they tell me.”
Herbert only looked at him, his mouth hanging open as the color crept back into his face.
“Look,” Dominick said. “I don’t know what they told you about me, but I’m new here. I don’t know much about anything about this place.”
“New? To the palace?”
“No, to your realm,” Dominick said. “I come from Earth.”
“Earth?” Herbert said, his expression changing to one of amused distrust. “What’s that?”
Dominick wasn’t sure how to explain. “Earth, my world. I had to step through a rip to get here.” He held up his hands to show the man the two rings.
“Ah,” Herbert said as understanding washed over his face. “You are from the Ancient World. We get visitors from the Ancient World now and again, though you are the first I have met personally.”
Dominick tried to respond, but Herbert continued.
“The Triumvirate are the five men and women who rule the lands of Gund. One from each nation. Each nation but one.”
“Our world,” Herbert pointed at the floor. “This world.”
“And Haven is what, the city we’re in?” Dominick said.
“That is correct. Haven is the seat of power for the Triumvirate. Each member of the Triumvirate rules their own nation. They come together in Haven once a year for the Conclave.”
“Where the Triumvirate discuss how each nation fares and to deal with legal matters.”
“Wait,” Dominick said. “The Triumvirate? I’m not the most educated of men, but I believe that means three. You said it was five?”
“Well yes, it was just three but following the war it became five.”
“Were you not told any of this before you arrived?” Herbert asked.
“Not really. Just that I was this One person and stuff.”
To be continued . . .