Dominick’s mind continued to wander as they made their way through the palace.

The missing sword. Pledging his life to the defense of Gund for as long as he lived. A giant talking dog. He didn’t know which was worse.

Eventually Herbert stopped before a pair of arched, wooden, steel banded doors.

“Wait here, please,” Herbert said. “When the doors open, go on in.”

“Hold on,” Dominick said before Herbert could walk away. “What do I do, you know, after the doors open?”

“You go in.”

“Yes, but after that?”

“After that, I don’t know. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Then the red-faced man with the banana nose walked away down a side hall, leaving Dominick alone with his thoughts.

He tried to dismiss the sword from his mind. There wasn’t anything he could do about it at this point, not until he could talk to Vivian. Until then he felt he should be able to stall. At least he hoped. He’d always been good at stalling. But he’d never before been such in the public eye. Still, he could do nothing, so he pushed it down.

That left his brain to dwell on the total and complete change his life had come to in such a short amount of time.

Just this morning the most pressing challenge Dominick had had to face was which gas station to use to top off his tank on the way home from work. There were two choices, both of them with their own separate issues.

First choice was the Gas Guzzler, which was normally three cents a gallon cheaper than everyone else in town. But it was on the left as he was heading home, meaning that Dominick would have to cross traffic, both ways, to get in and out, a thought that struck fear into his heart. Dominick always tried to avoid left turns if he could, but only when it meant crossing traffic.

Second choice was the Shop-n-Gas, which was on his right, so he’d have an easier time getting in and out, but they only had two pump islands, and all the pumps were normally in use. Combine that with no real parking to wait for a vacant pump and they weren’t the best alternative.

Dominick had been wrestling with that particular dilemma all morning. Had he not been running late, he could have stopped at the Gas Guzzler on the way to work, all right turns. Now it didn’t really matter.

The thought of gas and his nearly empty tank meandered into that of the car itself. It was still sitting in the Happy Hamburger parking lot. What would happen to it? Would Raymond, the pixie who’d been standing in for him, take it back to his apartment? Could Raymond even drive?

And what about his apartment? Rent was due tomorrow. Who was going to pay his rent? Raymond?

Dominick was suddenly finding it difficult to breathe when the doors opened to a fanfare of trumpets.

He couldn’t move and realized that he was shaking like of those coin operated motel beds. Sweat broke out all over and he involuntarily swiped at his forehead.

Dominick inhaled deeply, let it all out in one slow exhale, and then stepped through the doorway.

The room beyond was like an amphitheater, but not the type of place you’d catch Bon Jovi playing. This was more like the kind of room where he imagined Shakespeare was performed back in William’s day.

He estimated that the theater seats, benches that wound about the perimeter of the room like a horseshoe, seated about five hundred or so, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

Dominick had entered the theater from under the top of the curve of the horseshoe and now stood in an open area with wood floors in which the horseshoe surrounded. Like a Bon Jovi concert, it was standing room only on the floor, elbow to elbow, except for a path through the center of the crowd that had been held back by two rows of soldiers. Fortunately the crowd was somewhat docile, unlike a Bon Jovi concert, and the soldiers needed only to stand to form the barrier between the Dominick and the motionless masses. In fact, the entire hall was silent, neither a buzz nor a murmur of voices greeted his entry.

The path the soldiers had cleared was wide enough to allow four of Dominick to walk along side by side without worry of anyone crowding anyone else’s personal space. But he stood in the path alone, a fact that only made him feel like bug under a microscope as all eyes turned to him.

The open end of the horseshoe — the area in which the path ended — sat not a stage as one would see if we were to continue with the Bon Jovi analogy, but a dais. Though what is a dais really but a stage? On the dais sat five large chairs, thrones to be exact, and each one of them was occupied.

The Triumvirate.

Dominick swallowed and moved forward at a cowardly shuffle, taking in the faces around him, smiling politely each time he caught a pair of eyes in his own. It appeared that all five of the races of Gund were in attendance today, and they all watched him closely, but with varied expressions.

Some of the faces showed excitement and joy. Some beamed with hope and resolve. Others were the more clinical examinations of the undecided. A few even radiated disbelief and anger. Those he flinched away from as he continued his way across the hall.

Dominick had reached the midway point between the doors and the dais when a shudder ran through him as something buzzed loudly in his ear.

“Dominick Hanrahan,” said a high pitched voice, cutting through the sound of buzzing wings.

Dominick jumped and spun, his hand going instinctively over his right shoulder as if to pull free a sword that no longer rode on his back. He found his reaction much more surprising than the sudden voice, but thinking on it only reminded him of his failure to keep the sword secure. So he focused on what had startled him in the first place.

There, hovering just inches away, her form almost lost among the crowd behind her, floated a fairy in a green ball gown.

“Vivian,” Dominick exclaimed as relief flooded into him.

To be continued . . .

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