First Intermission 13
Turns since TBfGK: 2
The second leg took them down a long river valley that led to a bayside city called Aqua Velva. It was a pretty little Level 2, its garrison made of blue slate stonework sealed with black tar, in crazy patterns. It had a defensible harbor with a complement of three black galleons with white sails, bearing the red and black bat emblem of Transylvito. The ships were manned mostly by men, but the ramparts were guarded by festive-looking scarecrows. It was the first indication Jillian had seen that Transylvito might have a Dollamancer.
The city had a regent warlord named Al Frappacino, an enormous, tanned man in a beige toga with gold garlands. He greeted Caesar with theatrical respect. Their stack stood in the courtyard while Big Al kissed everyone's cheeks and made flowery small talk and everybody ignored Jillian completely.
Jillian ignored them back. She wandered to the center of the slatework courtyard where a huge circular stone fountain stood, pouring water from the four sculpted mouths of a tentacled beast she had never seen before. Orange spotted fish the size of her forearm were swimming up to the edge of the fountain where she stood, as if expecting to be fed.
In two quick motions, she drew her sword and speared one of the meatier looking fish through the spine. The rest lacked the sense to scatter. It thrashed only twice on the end of her weapon as she drew it from the water, then fell still. Her strike had been clean through the heart. She jerked it from the blade, sheathed the sword in favor of her dagger, and sat on the edge of the fountain to gut and fillet it.
"Hey, HEY!" The four warlords in her stack were flying quickly in her direction. Big Al, who apparently did not fly, was waddling angrily behind them. "What are you doin'? What is she doin'?"
An agitated Vinny got to her first. "Commander? What the flip?"
Jillian did not stand up. She angled the dagger to pry the head off the fish and let it plop to the ground. "What? I'm taking on provisions."
"We got provisions set out for you!" shouted Al as he trundled up. "Titans' tonsils, Lady! These fish are my pets. They have names!"
"It's 'Princess.' If we're usin' titles," said Caesar quietly. He was addressing Al, who suddenly stared at him in confusion. Vinny also cocked an eyebrow at him. "Crazier'n a jug of bugs. But a princess. Don King tells me we're supposed to care about that now." Caesar punctuated this last statement by raising his own eyebrow.
The regent's face went slack at the mention of their sovereign ruler. "Well... arright, Princess. But please. We have plenty of stores you can stock up on. Leave the fish alone." He sighed and clapped his hands, trying to recover himself. "C'mon, let's everybody go inside. Leave the fish."
Jillian shrugged and stood, wiped the dagger clean, and followed along. She saw herself as a prisoner of Transylvito and didn't feel any need to apologize, but she walked up beside Big Al as the group headed toward the tower.
"You give names to fish?" Her voice was a little phlegmy from lack of use. She cleared her throat and spat a wad, placing it a respectful distance out of their path.
"Yeah. I do," said Al, a little sadly.
"That's weird," said Jillian. "I don't even name my mounts any more."
"So I'm a weird guy," shrugged Al.
Jillian looked at the flat stones underfoot as they approached the dapper scarecrows guarding the tower steps. Something made her ask him, "What was the name of the one I croaked?"
- ^ A reference to "Aqua Velva," a brand of aftershave/fragrance.
- ^ A pun on the name of Al Pacino, an actor famous in part for his portrayal of gangsters, particularly Don Michael Corleone in The Godfather. A "frappacino" is a brand of iced coffee beverage sold by the Starbucks chain.
- ^ A reference to musical parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic.
- ^ A reference to the movie A Fish Called Wanda. Also, a possible metaphor for the state of the relationship between Jillian and Wanda Firebaugh.