Had Dominick been sober, he would have noticed that the chest in which he had poked moved inward at his touch not even the slightest. Imagine jabbing the tip of your finger into a slab of concrete. That’s about as close as you’re going to get to what Dominick had done.
The ale, however, kept his brain from noticing how the man’s pectoral muscles showed no resistance to the poke. The alcohol also kept hidden from him the pain that now shot through his index finger from its encounter with the immovable slab of meat.
“Did you just poke me?” The man, for the first time, looked almost amused, though it would have been hard to tell beneath all the aggression.
“Yes,” Dominick said. “You did. Mind that you don’t do it again.” With that, Dominick smiled. Then, standing on his tip toes, patted the man’s cheek.
Well, really. There wasn’t anything left for the man to do at that point. With the condescending pat of the cheek, Dominick had given him no other choice. So, as Dominick smiled stupidly up at him, the man made a fist and punched Dominick on the jaw.
As the man’s knuckles made contact with Dominick’s face, the force of the blow knocked the inebriation right out of him and he sobered up just in time to realize what was happening, but too late to do anything about it other than fall. The pain wouldn’t register till later. It would take up with inevitable hangover, move in together, eventually get married, have kids, and purchase a summer home off the southern peninsula of Funt. In other words, Dominick had a rather uncomfortable morning not to look forward to.
For now, however, the only thing Dominick was able to feel was confusion. As he fell backwards, as the dirty tavern floor rose up to meet him, as unconsciousness reached out to take hold of him, all Dominick could do was asking himself what brought him to this point in life?
For some reason, the memory was fuzzy. There was something in there about food and a lizard. Then a penguin walked in. It made no sense.
Did he meet Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber?
The blackness enveloped him as it all came flooding back. He had been given a sword. The Sword. Capital T, capital S. Then he’d let it get stolen. The guilt set in once more. The Triumvirate had not been happy.
He dreamed then of what had taken him from standing before the Triumvirate, admitting his shame, to being knocked onto his backside in the Laughing Parrot tavern a few hundred miles to the west of Haven.
HE WAITED. HE PACED. He paced as he waited, and he waited as he paced.
Following his confession regarding the loss of the sword, the Triumvirate had sent him to his room so that they could retire to discuss what steps to take in private. When he’d explain to them that he didn’t have a room, or more importantly that his room was back on his world, a pair of Ovati’s guards had escorted him back to the room with the giant chair.
He had no idea how long he’d been waiting. Only that he’d grown tired of the pacing. So he sat.
He was, in fact, exhausted. Who wouldn’t be after the day he’d had? But the cold lump of anxiety that had taken up residence in the pit of his stomach kept him from sleeping.
Yet, he had to admit, the chair was quite comfy. So, after a few more yawns, a stretch or two, some shifting around to find an even more comfortable position, and another round of yawns that brought tears to his eyes, Dominick nodded off.
Ten minutes later he was wide awake, the cold lump in his stomach practically throbbed.
What were they going to do to him?
Would they put him in jail? The stocks? Would torture be involved?
He rolled off the chair and paced the room. Back and forth he went. Worrying. Running his hands through his hair. Beating his fists against the side of his head. Stopping every now and then to try and breathe. Eventually the exhaustion took over once more, and he retreated back to the chair to sleep again.
Ten minutes later he was wide awake.
This was Dominick’s life now. If he wasn’t sleeping he was pacing with worry. When he wasn’t pacing with worry, he was sleeping.
Eventually, the fatigue won out and he slept uninterrupted for more than ten hours. The sun set, then rose as he slept. Eventually the door opened and Vivian entered.
She glided over to Dominick’s sleeping form on gossamer wings. She woke him with gentle care, like a mother waking her sleeping babe.
Her soft touch, however, didn’t stop Dominick from bolting upright as if the klaxon call of a submarine on red alert sounded throughout the room. In his startled surprise, Dominick swatted Vivian from him with the back of his hand. She cried out as she sailed across the room and bounced off the wall.
To be continued . . .