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             KINGFISHERVERSARY / HALLOWEEN BONUS 2013                           Take me home, delicious heart.



Art by Christopher Shelton and Kelly Martin

Written by Kelly Martin








The air in the old scullery smelled like hot, fetid meat and was even more humid than normal as the cauldron boiled. Water pooled around the stone floor from Aubrey's hurrying back and forth with the kettles. This room, along with others on this floor had long fallen into disuse. Bringing them to modern building standards would require human access to the the intimate heart of the abbey. So they remained as they were.

Aubrey felt comforted by the archaic technology. He was able to make as much of a mess as he pleased, the stones were forgiving. The carefully covered stove had been specially designed with mirrors so he could light it himself without seeing the flame directly. That was back in the days when handymen could be trusted to ignore the eccentricities of nobles.

The water had at last come to a rolling boil, its contents sunken to the bottom. He wished he'd gathered some fresh rose petals to scatter on the surface, but perhaps this was better. After all, the act was about purity, cleansing.

As simple as it was, It had been a difficult chore. Arranging the elements, heating the water, keeping everything hidden from that terrible girl, even the vermin kept interrupting. At least they were trying to help, in their way.







      Ellen didn't need to look far to find her father, the stench wafted all the way to the ground level, even with the thick stone construction.
Meat, fat, blood. Nothing unusual really, but for a strange detail--
It was cooking. She wondered at first if Aubrey had some human guests over and was making them some kind of... food. Did he even know how?

As she drew closer, she decided that humans could probably not stomach rotting meat. Who was she to ask though? At least he was keeping himself busy.


She peered around an arch, he had been so touchy lately and today was a special day for him so he was likely to be worse than normal. He stood over the iron cauldron, and stiffened at her voice.

      "Dad, you need to get ready for the party."

      "What would you imagine I was doing..." He muttered plainly, and stared into the murky black water.

      "Okay, but there's only four hours left and I know you need time to do your hair and--"

      "Enough of your castigation! If you have the time to lambaste your very own and beloved father, surely you have time to ensure the arrangements are in order!"

      "Well, yeah, they are. I just know that sometimes you wait too long and then you regret that you don't--"

      "ENOUGH! If you're done with your chores, do something about... that." He gestured distastefully at Ellen herself. "I'd not even have my lowest servant wear those rags."

Ellen looked down to see her usual work shirt and jeans. The stains weren't even visible in the faint light.

      "...'Kay. Just take a bath after you finish, uh, cooking."

      "HOW many HUNDREDS of YEARS do you think I have lived without a damnable charwoman to tell me to wash myself!? BEGONE!"

Ellen rolled her eyes to the vaulted ceilings, and turned away.

How many hundreds of years have you needed a charwoman to help you wash yourself...




Aubrey threw himself against the rough-hewn masonry. Luckily the pot weighed a hundred times more than his attenuated frame, or it would have gone flying with his dramatic turn. He hated being criticized and it seemed these days he was receiving more than ever. He was stuck here with this shrew until this dreadful war was over. It seemed he had just reemerged to the scene a few years ago, and it was already over? Sometimes he needed a couple decades away to recharge, but this soon?

He slid to the slimy stone floor, and looked upon the sturdy cauldron which sent out gentle wisps of steam as it rumbled. He was entranced for a moment. Perhaps those tendrils which cleansed his friend could cleanse his soul as well. That awful girl did speak a word of truth-- there was a grand party tonight, and there were many things to prepare. If it had been any other time, he could have depended on seeing Tomasz, Angela, Inka... At least Angela sent her warm regards, but she too was trapped. He wondered if Helen had received her invitation, she had not yet sent her RSVP. It had been so long since he'd seen her cheerful smile, how long since they'd gone arm and arm to be seen among the beautiful ones?
Then he was crying again.

No, he couldn't do this now. He would weep tomorrow. There was someone depending on him. He stood with determination. Those others, those disapproving infants, they didn't believe he could even take care of himself.
Ellen, Vito, Denny, that one with the hair... to hell with all of them. If he couldn't be out on the scene, the scene could come to him. Tonight was not just for himself though, but for the Prince as well, and there was still much work to restore his beauty.

Aubrey walked to the cauldron and plunged his uncalloused noble's hands into the boiling water. Ah, it made him feel... alive, for lack of a better descriptor, he was sharing an experience with a close friend. His skin was assaulted by the greasy stew, as he rooted around. Indeed, it seemed his plan was working quite well. The meat was coming off the bone easily. The exterior had been scorched but it had proved stubborn in its removal. He sloughed the stringy flesh away, revealing the pure, smooth bones beneath. How clean and lovely he would be tonight!

   "Prince Nicholas, awaken from your black slumber! Tonight we will dance and laugh once more!"


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