First Intermission 20

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Book (First_Intermission)
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Turn Number:12 AW
Side's Turn:Transylvito

Turns since TBfGK: 3

Two Dolls brought an elegant tea service, arranged on a little cart with a silver platter. Jillian stared at the table as the saucers, cups, sugar bowl, cream, lemons, spoons, and assorted paraphernalia were set down on a new lace serving cloth. The Doll scooped up a lump of sugar with a tiny spoon which existed for that purpose alone, and said one of the words in her limited vocabulary.

"Sugar?"

Jillian's lips were tight. She didn't know how to say this. "Actually... No tea at all for me, please."

The Doll seemed unsure. She looked at Don King, who made a dismissive wave with his hand. The Doll put the spoon back in the sugar bowl and they both scurried away, taking the cart and leaving the King's cup empty.

Jillian tried to recover the conversation. "So, what else am I missing?"

Don King looked at the empty cup and saucer in front of her, tilting his head slightly at it. "Why don't you like tea, Jillian?"

Jillian glanced down briefly, her brow wrinkled. "I dunno." She looked back up at her host. "Does it matter?"

"I feel it may." The King grunted and sat forward with some effort. "I must ask something of you. Something Vinny thinks will be hard for you to accept. But first, I would like to understand you. Could you please explain to me why you do not take tea?"

"Take tea," Jillian sneered. "That's exactly why. You 'take tea.' There's a ritual. Etiquette. It's stupid." She sat forward and pointed to the steaming teapot. "It's a beverage. Hot dirty water in a cup. You pick it up and drink it."

Don King said nothing, but his gaze never left her. With his lips closed, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "So tea is like 'Princess.'"

Jillian felt her cheeks get hot. "Yes."

The King put his hands on the edge of the couch. "Jillian, do you believe in the Titans?"

The question was crazy, like asking if she believed in air. "Of course."

"Why?"

She opened her mouth, then closed it, shaking her head. "Who else built the world? Who creates the stuff that pops? Who makes cities...and people? We don't just come from nowhere." These were weird questions.

"I believe in the Titans, too," said Don King. "I believe they made things...everything. I believe they had a purpose in mind. They made everything the way it is for a reason, including you, and me, and even Stanley." He was leaning forward and his habitual squint was gone. "I think they made cats and mice and wolves and eagles and gwiffons and dwagons and us. But..." He sat up straighter, and put his hands on his knees. "Wolves, they made stronger than mice. Mice do not hunt wolves. That is not how the Titans created them. Do you understand?"

Jillian folded her hands in her lap and said honestly, "I'm not sure."

"Stanley," said Don King, with the slightest hint of vehemence showing below his calm, "is a mouse who tried to hunt wolves."

Jillian understood him at last. "Royals are wolves."

Don King smiled weakly. "In many ways."

"But I thought your side didn't care about Royalty. Vinny said titles and stuff didn't matter to you guys as much as getting the mission done."

Instead of beckoning the serving Doll, Don King leaned very far forward, reached an uncomfortable and rude distance across the table, and picked up the teapot. With deliberate carelessness, he sloshed tea into his cup, spilling and dripping all over the white lace. As Jillian watched him, he banged down the pot and picked up the fine china cup in his whole fist. He raised it up high, spilling more of it.

"To hot dirty water in a cup!" he shouted loudly. Bunny sort of snapped out of her reverie and leaned away from Don King on the couch, looking slightly alarmed. He put the cup to his mouth and gulped it down, spilling some down his cheeks and onto his shirt. Then he held up the half-empty cup again and bellowed, "To etiquette!"

He hurled the cup backhand, hard, and without a glance at where it might land. It struck a column and shattered against a marble mantle. Jillian stood up sharply.

"What was that!" she demanded.

Don King shrugged. "Me not carin' about Royalty." He wiped his dripping face with his sleeve, exaggerating the slovenliness of the gesture. "Ugly, ain't it? Siddown."

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