Yep, back again!! This week's flash update was inspired by the prompt pic below.
Fortitude Part 20
Gut-churning rage consumed me as I watched several nobles watching Teddy and me with avarice naked on their faces. Pure greed motivated them, and now that I wasn’t blinded by my need to be one of them, I could see it. It was glaringly obvious, from the tips of their carefully curled hair to the toes of their pointy, useless shoes encrusted with jewels.
Every painted face was a mask I’d never penetrated before, but was now paper thin.
And what they wanted us for… I would never let that happen.
“Did you see these, Will?” Teddy gestured with his chin toward his plate. “I never saw shrimp in person before.” The city was essentially landlocked, and there was very little free flowing water in the area—and of course it was reserved in parks and private grounds the unprivileged masses rarely were allowed to tread. But someone had cultivated the rare delicacy.
We really were being given the white glove treatment. I clenched my hands in my dove grey gloves and then forced myself to relax and extend my fingers; we couldn’t afford any screw ups. “Well, enjoy them.”
My stomach was far too upset for exotic fare, so I stuck to a few dainty rolls spread with a soft, delicate cheese. It was good, but I would’ve enjoyed it more in less contentious locales. The nobles parried and thrust with every comment. Each bow and flick of a fan meant something.
I was hopelessly out of my depth.
“Are you enjoying the repast, William?” I turned to face the speaker, the fresh cup of wine cupped in my hand would fortify my nerves—hopefully. We’d been carefully courted, a few nods and how-do-you-dos, but nothing overt; after all, we weren’t supposed to know we were coveted for what our powers could provide: more control.
My plate and goblet didn’t even wobble. “Yes, thank you….”
“Pleased to meet you.” He knew my name, but I didn’t know who he was. Someone on the gentry circuit then, but not one of the nobles who lived about the king’s home, most likely. Still, it was best to seem naïve and awestruck by any title—as I would’ve been just a few weeks prior. I bowed, deeper than necessary, and bit my tongue when I saw his not-so-hidden smirk.
Teddy stepped into the gap before the silence could become awkward, bowing as well. He tucked his hand in his jacket like I’d suggested as soon as he finished eating, so his bow was a trifle lopsided, but that didn’t really matter. “The food is quite delicious, but I can’t wait to get back to the concert. The earlier arrangement was lovely.”
“And you are?” Sir Varket asked.
“This is my friend, Theodore. He is staying with me during my brother’s fete, though we hardly thought we’d get to attend such a concert. The music is nice; that is partly the acoustics in the Royal Pavilion,” I said. “They allow for a swell of music that is far better suited for the many instruments of the orchestra than the smaller halls, but I still heard a slight echo.” I was known as a bit of a sanctimonious jerk, so my critical assessment of the evening’s entertainment would be in character.
“Still, the music has been played quite skillfully.” I inclined my head toward Sir Varket, as if acceding him the point. “I believe the call to resume our seats is about to end the social part of this evening’s event. I’m glad I had a chance to introduce myself; I’ve become friends with your brother, Michael, and he has spoken of your abilities as a Beta. I was quite impressed with the things I’d heard.”
I waved my hand casually through the air, brushing aside his compliment, as if I were feeling modest. “In the days when there were a lot of Betas, I’m sure my power would’ve been quite commonplace. I’ve been thinking on studying why there haven’t been any others in so many years.”
“Oh!” He licked his lips. “Well, I think that is a very valid concern.” Varket recovered quickly, but his shocked exclamation let me know I’d struck a bulls-eye before he could smooth his tone. “How do you think you’d go about it?”
“I’m not really sure; there’s not much information to go on.” Time to soothe the worry I’d created. “I haven’t really given it that much thought, but with my coming of age so close, deciding the path my life should take has had me pondering Betas of the past.”
“Of course, of course. Oh, the valets are ushering everyone back. It was nice to meet you, young William. And you too, of course, Theodore.”
Teddy and I made sure we filtered in to the concert hall several steps behind my family. “Do you think he’s the one who got the tickets?”
“Perhaps. Or he was an envoy of someone more powerful.” That was far more likely. Whoever was sucking up the power of Beta and Gamma pairs wasn’t new to the crime. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit of the monarchy was behind everything.
This evening was nothing more than a waste of our time. The second half of the concert featured very soft pieces, light and airy. I couldn’t stop fidgeting in my seat. The tunnel ending in a cell with the corpse wouldn’t leave my mind, and the contrast to the music grated on my nerves.
“Sit still, Will. At least your friend has decent manners; try to follow his example,” my mother hissed.
I went rigid in my seat and made a conscious effort not to react. “I apologize, Mother.”
Seemingly satisfied, she leaned away from me. I glanced at Teddy out of the corner of my eye, then oh so slowly tapped his foot with mine.
He must have fallen into another fugue.
Sooo... Mr. Hoity Toity is up to bad things or just a random noble? And what is Teddy lost in thought over? Find out more next week... but first go read more Briefs!