As the Sky Bitch rumbled across the twilight sky, four men sat at a table within one of its three small recreational rooms. One wore chains on his wrists.
“So,” Logan said, fiddling with a wooden coaster. “This is… awkward.”
To Logan’s right sat his father. Jeffrey was looking much buffer these days, his muscles considerably larger thanks to a rigorous training regimen prescribed by Antonio the Gypsy. On Jeffrey’s right, still much larger than the former king, sat Cedric, a hulking mass of semi-undead fur and messy stitches hidden beneath a large cloak. Logan knew that half of Cedric’s body did not belong to him, and he was glad not to see what it looked like. And on Cedric’s right, isolated from the rest by a fair margin, his bandaged hands folded neatly on his lap, sat The Baron.
“Don’t think ‘awkward’ quite does this shit justice, kid,” Cedric snorted.
Logan sighed. He began to wonder why he’d arranged this little ‘meeting’ in the first place. The four men sitting at the table all shared a sticky past, thanks largely to the oldest of their number, but if The Baron was to work with everyone else…
“You all look well,” The Baron commented, his tone surprisingly even. A sardonic smile curved the front of his cloak. “Perhaps not you, Cedric. I suppose I should apologize for that.”
“Gee, don’t put yourself out over it, none.” Cedric picked at a plate of carrots, breaking one in half with wolfish claws and popping it into his mouth. “Only got me killed. ’n brought back. ’n fuckin’ tortured for, like, two years. No big, old man, no fuckin’ big.”
“Kierkegaard ordered your death, as I recall,” The Baron said, his voice small but officious. “And Emmett picked up the pieces. So to speak.”
Cedric’s fists tightened, slamming against the table and leaving sizeable cracks in the wood. His plate of carrots went flying. Logan suspected that the former captain held back, however, and Cedric’s hands trembled with restrained force as they hovered in front of him.
“Try not to wreck that, Cedric,” Jeffrey said, his expression dark and focused. “Libby will have a fit if you ruin her ship.”
“I ain’t bound to listen to you anymore, my lord,” Cedric barked. “Was a life of service, wasn’t it? Kinda ended when I fuckin’ died.”
“Just some friendly advice.” Jeffrey glared at The Baron. “Wouldn’t want you to get dumped overboard. Though I wish Dragomir would dispose of some of the trash on this ship. Preferably while we’re in flight.”
The Baron rolled his eyes, apparently unintimidated. “My, Jeffrey, you’ve lost your sense of creativity. What happened to the elaborate death traps and ridiculous decrees? I know Kierkegaard was behind some of it, but you were quite ridiculous before he showed up. It’s almost sad to see that you’ve been reduced to a level of, I don’t know, actual sanity?”
Jeffrey rose to his feet, rocking with the movement of the ship and nearly tipping into Cedric. “Don’t you talk about my sanity, you lunatic - “
“Enough.” Logan grabbed his father’s arm and pulled him back into his seat. He struggled more than he would have liked, admitting that his father had quite applied himself to his boxing. “Shut it down, dad. I didn’t bring us here for this.”
“Then why did you bring us here, Logan?” The Baron raised his useless hands, chains clinking. “You all hate me. I’m well aware. Did we need to congregate around drinks and food to establish the fact? You could have simply come to my cell and hurled insults at me. Given the company, I would have found such a choice much more intimately familiar.”
“I miss the ol’ dungeons,” Cedric said, scratching at his cloak with nails so sharp that they tore the fabric. “Right beside the treasury. I’ll give ya that much, Jeffrey, puttin’ all the prisoners beside the gold was a funny-ass idea. Not smart, but funny.”
“Thank you.” Jeffrey stared into his drink, a foamy beer he’d barely touched. Half of it had spilled onto the table. “I’m with the bastard, here. What’s the point of this, Logan?”
Steepling his fingers, Logan looked around the table. “We’re here because we all have the same boss, these days, though he was too busy prepping for later to show up here tonight. I figured we’d better establish an accord before it gets in the way of being productive. For his sake.”
“Meanin’ what? You want me to shake hands with you guys and call it even?” Cedric shook his head, his shaggy hair swaying. “I don’t mind you, kid, ‘specially now that you got rid of that fucking werewolf you called a kangaroo. I’ll even admit the ol’ king, here, ain’t doin’ too bad for himself. Can tell you’ve gotten inta boxing. Good exercise, innit?”
“Quite,” Jeffrey said, rubbing his arms.
“But this fuck?” Cedric jabbed a finger at The Baron. “He’s the reason we’re out here. I don’t ever intend to get along with him. Put me in a room alone with ‘im and I might just turn his intestines into wall decorations. Sounds festive, don’t it? A real Jeffmas miracle.”
Jeffrey grimaced. The Baron flinched, retreating an inch into his cloak. Cedric took advantage of The Baron’s show of fear, throwing more threats at the old man, his hateful glowers promising even worse than his mouth. Logan’s attempts to stop the bullying were largely in vain, and it took several moments of floundering before he hit upon an idea.
“Captain! At attention!”
Cedric immediately went rigid in response to Logan’s crisp words, his back military-straight. His hand travelled halfway to his head before stopping, and a slow scowl spread across his face. “Fucking… old habits.”
“They’ll do.” Logan grinned, then sat forward. “Look. We’re all here because this guy - you, old man - did something. He did something really bad. He got you killed, Cedric; he used you, dad; and he possessed me. Right? That’s how it worked?”
“Something like that,” The Baron mumbled.
“He also set a whole gods-be-damned race of things loose on the planet, ’n now they’re bein’ commanded by a penguin with a chip on his shoulder.” Logan rapped his knuckles on the table. “That’s bad shit. Real bad. Even you know it’s bad, The Baron. Otherwise you wouldn’t be on this ship. Right?”
Slowly, The Baron nodded.
“Right.” Logan sat back. “As far as I can see, we all have an obligation to set this situation right, ‘cause we all contributed to fuckin’ things up. Yes, Cedric, some more ’n others. And the only guy we can rally behind to do that is our boss. We all know he’s in charge, even if he won’t take a military title, or whatever.”
The rumble of the engine filled the gaps between Logan’s words. The other three men were all silent.
“I’m not a fan of worldwide messes, personally,” Logan continued. “I’d rather hop from town to town, conning people. It’s a lot more fun. That’s why I’m not in charge of this shit. Dragomir is. He’s the one that’s gonna set things right again, or at the very least he’s got the best chances of doing the deed. ’n if we wanna help, we need to support him. That means not being at each other’s throats constantly.”
“You want us to leave this guy alone, in other words,” Cedric growled.
Despite the disparity in their sizes, Logan stared Cedric down. “That’s exactly what I mean. And if Dragomir asks you to work with him, you work with him. Understood? You, too, dad.”
Cedric’s body seemed to shake at the prospect of heeding Logan’s words, and for several terrible seconds Logan thought he would reach across the table and pop The Baron’s head off his body with one strong squeeze. Instead, though, Cedric nodded, and with a soft pound of his fist he got to his shaggy feet - he looks like my bloody Kangaroo, Logan thought - and stalked away. Adopting a slightly quieter stance, Jeffrey did the same, omitting some of the bluster.
When Logan looked back at The Baron, the old man was smiling at him. “What?”
“You’ve grown up, young man,” The Baron said. “And despite what you say, I think you would make a fine leader. You have much of Dragomir’s casual charisma. With more experience in politics, you could be an excellent king.”
Logan rolled his eyes. “Don’t start. I put up with enough of your preaching as a kid. The last thing I want is a crown on my head.”
The Baron leaned forward on his elbows, grunting at the pain in his hands. His expression, at least from the nose up, looked mischievous. “And what if Dragomir asked you to put a crown on your head? What if he thought that could bring stability to the world? Would your pretty speech to your father and Cedric suddenly ring hollow? Or could you set aside your aspirations of a low life for something greater than yourself?”
Logan opened his mouth, ready to argue, but The Baron’s words cut through him like a knife. Shaken, he rose to his feet without another word and returned The Baron to his cell, unwanted mental images of himself sitting on a throne threatening to overwhelm his senses. He clicked the cell door closed, and was about to leave -
- when the Sky Bitch suddenly rocked to one side, forcing Logan to reassess the situation, as well as his orientation with the ground beneath his feet.