THEN A PENGUIN WALKED IN #28

THE WELL-DRESSED LIE - PART FOUR




The pixie smiled in a way that touched Dominick’s heart. It was familial. Like she was truly pleased to see him. Something he couldn’t recall ever seeing on either of his parent’s faces all that often.

“What are you doing here?” Dominick asked in a choked whisper. “Please tell me you’re here to tell me what to do.”

“I have come to guide you through the ceremony,” she said.

“Thank God,” he said. “I was about to have a heart attack or something I’m so nervous.” He stepped in closer to her and lowered his voice to the merest of whispers. “Look, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“There is no time for that, Dominick Hanrahan,” Vivian cut him short. “I will prepare you as we walk.”

She buzzed on toward the dais.

“But,” Dominick needed just one step to catch up. “I have to tell you something.”

“Do you see that mark there on the floor ahead?” Vivian, hovering just above his right shoulder and speaking softly in his ear, gestured casually with one hand as she ignored him.

There, on the floor, about three feet from where the Triumvirate sat, a glowing white circle appeared, about the size of a basketball.

“Yeah,” he said as the mark disappeared. “But—”

“You will walk to that spot and go down on your right knee, your head bowed.”

“Okay,” he said. ‘It’s just that—”

“Rest your left arm across your left knee, and keep your other hand at your side. It is important that you keep it away from Arakis.”

“Arakis?”

“Your sword.”

“I thought it was Arkonus?”

Vivian sighed. “The name of your sword is Arakis, not Arkonus.”

“Okay, not Arkonus, got it.”

“Can you do what I have described?”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I really think you should know that—”

“Repeat the instructions back to me.”

“We’re almost there,” he said. “I have to—”

“Repeat them back.”

“Okay, fine,” he said. “I go down on one knee—”

“You’re right knee,” she interrupted.

“My right knee,” he said, letting a bit of irritation into his voice. “And I bow my head, my left arm on my left knee, and my right at my side and most especially away from Arkonus.”

“Arakis,” she hissed.

“Arakis,” he said. “Right.”

“Good,” she said, sounding satisfied. “It is important that you not stray from ceremony.”

“I’ll do my best,” he said.

The pixie flew circles around him as she looked him over. He continued forward.

“I see Herbert did an excellent job making you presentable,” she said. “I’ll have to remember to—” she froze, both in her speech and in her circumnavigation. “Where is Arakis?”

Dominick sighed. “That’s why I’ve been trying to tell you.” He too stopped walking.

They were just a few yards from their destination. The crowd stirred.

“It’s been stolen,” Dominick whispered, his head down, eyes on the floor.

“Stolen!?” The room, which had begun to fill with the murmuring buzz of those in attendance, went silent at Vivian’s exclamation.

“Is there an issue, Vivian?”

The voice had come from the dais. To his right, on the end, a woman sat in one of the five thrones. She wore a gown of deepest blue and had a simple crown of beaten gold perched atop long red curls.

“No, Your Grace,” Vivian said, bowing as she floated. “No issue.”

“In that case,” the woman said, doubt in her eyes. “Shall we begin?”

“Yes, Your Grace,” Vivian said, bowing once again. Then, turning to Dominick she whispered, her lips barely moving: “Just do everything as I have said. We’ll worry about Arakis later.”

So, as he reached the spot on the floor where the circle had appeared, he knelt, his arms and hands going to their prescribed places. He waited, head bent.

Nothing happened.

He could hear murmurs from the crowd behind him.

“What do I do now?” He whispered between clenched teeth.

“You wait,” Vivian said.

“Wait for what?”

Suddenly there was a pounding that reverberated through the wood floor beneath him.

“That,” Vivian said.

To be continued . . .



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