THEN A PENGUIN WALKED IN #26
“So . . .” Dominick said, anxious to be out from under Herbert’s gaze.
“Yes, the Triumvirate,” Herbert said, snapping to attention. “This way please.”
Herbert quickly shuffled Dominick from the room and the two made their way down a long, stone hallway.
Torches crackled in brackets along the wall, spaced a few steps between each, lighting their path in a flickering, bobbing sort of way that made their shadows dance along the stonework around them. Tapestries depicting great battles were placed at random intervals between the torches. Where there were no tapestries there were statues of mighty warriors or suits of armor among which the torchlight flickered and made to look as if the suits were made from gold.
Dominick, however, saw none of this. His head wasn’t among the stone or the torches or the artwork. His thoughts were busy working their way around his situation, probing for anything, any possible solution that would help him see his way out of his problem.
The problem itself was simple enough to wrap his mind around: The sword was gone. The solution was a bit more elusive. Actually, to tell the truth, the solution was also quite simple: Get the sword back. The difficult bit was finding the path that led to said solution. He wasn’t even sure how to get started. Back home, he’d go to the police, file a report, and then walk away with a clear conscience.
But here? In Gund? Who did you tell? What organization handled crime? Was there such a group in Gund? Dominick was supposed to be this One person. He had to assume that the people around here would look up to him, would put a lot of faith in him to be able to get stuff done. Which was, of course, the primary reason he couldn’t let anyone know what had happened.
Yet, at the same time, he had to tell someone. There was just no way he’d be able to handle this issue alone. Maybe he could talk to Vivian. She might be sympathetic and willing to help.
Yeah, Vivian was the way to go. After all, it wasn’t like he was going to turn a corner and walk right into the very person he needed to track down the woman that had stolen the sword.
At that moment, Dominick turned a corner and walked right into someone coming in the opposite direction.
Dominick fell in a heap, jarring his left elbow into the stone floor.
“Where’d you learn to walk?” said the someone he’d run into.
Except, as Dominick lay sprawled he looked to the source of the angry voice and found that it wasn’t a who. It was an it.
It was a dog the size of a small horse, and on all fours it towered over Dominick, looking down on him with teeth bared.
“Blind Jack’s School for the Rude and Unaware?” continued the angry dog.
“You’re a dog,” Dominick said, from the floor.
“Yeah I am,” said the dog. “You want to make something of it?”
“No,” Dominick said as he got to his feet. “Not particularly.”
The enormous dog, which looked like a cross between a bloodhound and a wolf, looked almost disappointed.
“You can talk?” Dominick said.
“What’s wrong with you?” said the dog. “You got a problem with the way I talk? You want to step outside?”
“No, sorry, it’s just,” Dominick wasn’t sure how to continue.
“Look, just watch where your’e going,” it said. “If I see you again I may just bite first and ask questions as you bleed.”
“Sure,” Dominick said. “Sorry.”
“You certainly are.” The dog then turned to Dominick’s companion. “Herbert.”
“Bob,” the long-nosed man said, a look of disgust on his face.
The dog only chuffed in annoyance and loped off down the hall.
“What was that all about?” Dominick asked.
“Oh don’t worry about him. He was born cranky and has only gotten worse with age.”
“Are there many giant talking dogs in Gund?”
“A few. There aren’t that many left, unfortunately.”
“Don’t judge them based on Bob. They aren’t all like him. Come on.” And the two walked on. “When we arrive you will be made to stand before the Triumvirate,” Herbert said as they walked.
“Okay,” Dominick said, hurrying to keep up and nursing his sore elbow. “What else can I expect?”
“There may be a reading of the Prophecy,” Herbert said. “Other than that I will expect you will be asked to pledge your life in the protection of Gund for as long as you draw breath.”
“Wait,” Dominick stopped. “What?”
Herbert had gone half a dozen steps before he’d realized that Dominick was no longer following. He turned back.
“Why have you stopped?” Herbert asked. “We will be late, we must go.”
Dominick did not move. He looked at Herbert, his mouth hanging open.
“What?” Herbert said.
“No one said anything to me about this being a lifetime gig.” All thoughts of the sword fled from this new information.
“Well . . .” Herbert said, spreading his hands.
“I mean, I agreed to get rid of this Hob guy, but beyond that . . .”
“Beyond that is between you and the Triumvirate, I am only a simple clerk and I do what I am told, and what I’ve been told is to make you presentable and then take you before the Triumvirate. Once that is done I can go back to my small desk. Until then, you need to come with me.”
“Well,” Dominick said, his head thrown back in defiance. “I don’t know if I want to now.”
Herbert crossed his arms and tapped his foot.
Dominick put his fists on his hips and puffed out his chest.
Herbert did not look impressed.
Dominick threw the clerk his most stern of looks.
Herbert continued with his unapologetic arm crossing and foot tapping.
Dominick practically wilted.
“Done?” Herbert said. “Can we go now?”
“But, I’m like, the One and stuff. Shouldn’t you be afraid of crossing me or something?”
Herbert cocked an eyebrow.
“Yeah, okay,” Dominick said. “I’m coming.”
To be continued . . .