We all stood on the bridge the following morning, just staring at each other. Euclid, trembling uncontrollably, was held tightly between Tanith and I. The misunderstood creatures stood in fright of the knights and the knights stood in fright of the misunderstood creatures.
“Release my daughter!” King Adam said authoritatively from astride his clearly trembling stallion.
“We have a proposition for you,” I called back when Eva kicked my heel. It was a hard kick, too, and it left me wishing I had worn my armor so her foot would hurt instead of mine. “We would like to negotiate a treaty with you.”
I glanced over at Tanith to make sure I had used the right words and she nodded encouragingly.“I will discuss no treaty with you until my daughter has been returned.”
“Father, you need to negotiate a treaty before I’ll return,” Tanith said crossly. “Otherwise I’ll just stay here forever.”
“Over my dead body!”
“We can arrange that, you know,” Ferguson said silkily. “You might not want to forget what we are.”
We could see King Adam’s grip on the reins tighten. “All right. Well discuss this at Bottlecreek Castle right now.”
The seven of us assigned to negotiate the treaty parted from the others and followed the army of knights back to Bottlecreek Castle. The people of the small town had flooded the streets once they heard the knights approach and they promptly vanished when the misunderstood creatures made their presence known.
Once we were at the castle, King Adam called for his councilors and we all gathered in the council chambers. A huge oval table sat in the middle, surrounded by chairs of the same wood. Unfortunately, it was one of the woods that Drago adored.
“Can I eat it?” Drago asked eagerly the moment he saw the table.
Lord Brett, a muddled grandfather, looked up in fright, clasping his papers to his chest. “Dear heavens!”
“No, Drago,” Tanith said patiently, moving to take a seat at the table. “Maybe later you can eat the table. For now, just settle down.”
“He wants to eat the table?” Lord Thane, a pompous idiot, screeched. “Of all the ridiculous things I’ve ever heard, eating the table. Hmph!”
“I do believe that is what I said, Lord Thane,” Tanith said calmly, arranging her papers before her.
“Let’s all have a seat,” King Adam said, sitting at the head of the table. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can send everyone on their way.”
We all sat, the councilors on one side and the misunderstood creatures on the other with Tanith and I. Drago, though, was too big to sit on a chair and settled for curling around the table and propping his head on the surface. He stuck his head between Euclid and Bede and grinned at the councilor across from him. Lord Paris, the youngest and most flamboyant of the four councilors looked about ready to jump up in fright.
“Are you certain this is necessary, Your Majesty?” Lord Colin said, his features permanently twisted into a sour expression.
“Absolutely, Colin,” the king replied. “I want my daughter back where she belongs and if this is the only way, then so be it.”
“Shall we commence then?” Bede asked.
“Certainly,” King Adam said.
Manny awkwardly shuffled the papers in front of him with his paws and Euclid jumped at the sound. The zombie turned to look at the manticore, who didn’t notice his friend’s frightened look.
“Would you please stop that?” Euclid said shrilly.
Manny looked up. “My apologies, Euclid.”
“It’s bad enough there are five of them,” Euclid said, gnawing at his fingers. “I can’t deal with you right now!”
“You’re doing very well, Euclid,” Tanith said soothingly.
“Now then,” King Adam began in a booming voice.
Euclid screamed and leapt up. Drago immediately closed in around him and sheltered the smaller creature. Euclid grasped one of Drago’s wings and refused to let go. Lord Paris stared at the two in fright.
“If you wouldn’t mind, Father,” Tanith said, “I must insist that you don’t speak so loudly. It frightens him. Now, we are the representatives of the creatures in the Black Castle. We have come to you to negotiate a treaty that will benefit all of us. Virgil, would you please begin?”
The basilisk turned his head in Tanith’s general direction. “Begin? Oh, yes, of course.”
“And you can put your papers on the table,” Tanith said.
“Table?” Virgil said, peering through his glasses. He leaned forward until his nose was practically touching the varnished surface. “Dear me, it is a table. I hadn’t noticed. And here are my papers. Yes, here they all are.”
The councilors glanced uncomfortably at each other, unsure of what to think. I just sat there, impatiently tapping my foot, waiting for this to be over and done with. Tanith gave me a sharp look and I instantly stopped tapping my foot.
“We don’t want them to think were anxious or anything,” she whispered to me.
“I just want this to be over and done with,” I whispered back.
“We have to wait until Virgil can see what he needs to see.”
“I say, is anyone there?” Virgil asked, blinking across the table at Lord Thane.
“Of course there’s someone here,” Lord Thane snapped. “I’m here.”
Euclid jumped, and Drago was there for him. Manny took charge of Euclid’s papers and began to shuffle them in with his own, neatly putting them into order. Bede simply sat there, patiently waiting for his turn to speak.
“Who is there?” Virgil asked. “If you would come forward so I could see you, that would be marvelous. Just like in a poem I once wrote. Forward here/So I may see/What can be so clear/What is to be.”
The basilisk chuckled and then cleared his throat. “Pardon me. I do get so carried away. Would you mind stating your name? I cannot see you, but I can envision you in my mind if I know your name.”
“Lord Thane,” the councilor snapped.
“Very good, very good. Lord Thane. A bit of a pompous one, always in a rush. Yes, I have it. Very well. What exactly do I do now, Tanith?”