“Perhaps we should start by learning your name.” Though the Queen only took a single step forward with outstretched palms, the man yelled another round of gibberish while crouching and covering his head.
V nodded at the wailing ball before them. “None of us have been able to understand him, your Majesty. The tongue he speaks is unknown to us.”
“To myself as well,” she agreed. “But that won’t do at all, now will it?” Keeping her distance from the stranger, the Queen whispered to him in a tone so low even someone standing directly beside her would have been unable to decipher her words.
Sylvia shook her head, wondering if this supposed mighty ruler of the vampire city had suddenly become as daft as her house guest. Surely the queen couldn’t expect anything she said to be heard, much less understood. While everyone else stood about like statues, Sylvia stamped her foot in confused frustration. “Why are you—
Deigen and everyone else immediately snapped attention to her with stares that demanded silence. Not being one to usually obey requests for her to be quiet, whether directly said or not, Sylvia opened her mouth to speak again. She opened it wider upon realizing the stranger’s nonsensical words could now actually be understood.
“Don’t eat me, don’t eat me, don’t eat me, don’t eat me!” Though this fearful chant did little to clarify who their visitor was, it at least made it clear why he still remained in a protective huddle.
“No one is going to eat you,” assured the Queen, stepping closer and kneeling beside him. “You are among friends.”
“Among friends?” muttered Sylvia, scrunching her face again. No one even knew yet if this person was a potential friend or foe to them yet. Then again, the man was still whimpering like a puppy and wearing a string of garlic around his neck so the possibility of him being more dangerous to those surrounding him than vice versa were considerably slim.
“I, I”—the man lowered his arms, staring at the Queen—“I understand you.”
“And I understand you.” The Queen spoke to him as though he were a lost child. “Now, can you tell me your name?”
“Ian!” squeaked the man.
The Queen nodded at him. “And I am Gwendoloena, pleased to meet you, dear Ian.”
Sylvia pouted at this charming round of introductions. She’d been to the Kingdom of Fools twice now with important matters to speak of with her Majesty and had never once been told the queen’s name. Now here the woman casually shared it within the first few minutes of being able to speak to an unintentional intruder.
“Now Ian, I know you have many questions regarding your current whereabouts and quite frankly so do we,” continued Gwendoloena. “But it is also quite late and I believe all of us would do well to get what sleep we can. Let’s continue our discussion in the morning.”
Ian shook his head. “Sleep? How could I sleep, I’m not even remotely tired, I-”
Gwendoloena rose a single finger to her lips and let out a long “Shhhhhhh.” Contrary to Ian’s assertion he was far from being ready to go to bed, the man’s eyelids dropped down while he slumped to the floor. Gwendoloena rose, turning to V and Deigen. “Please see that quarters are arranged for our guest.”
Both men bowed in unison. “Yes, your Majesty.”
As everyone else began leaving the room as though random people showed up in the kitchen all the time here in the Kingdom of Fools, Sylvia found she now had both Uncle Albert and Gwendoloena’s full attention. Suddenly, running up to her room seemed like a really good idea.
“Sylvia, what nonsense is this you’ve started?” Without a doubt, her zombie uncle was more disappointed in her now than he had ever been while living. “You said you summoned this individual here, just what were you thinking, young lady?”
“She was not responsible for this Ian fellow arriving here but”—Gwendoloena extended an open hand to Sylvia—“she did attempt something she should not have. I believe you have something for me?”
Face flushed, Sylvia looked down while dropping the almost stolen puzzle pieces into the queen’s hand.
“We will discuss your actions after tonight’s confusion has gained more clarity.” Gwendoloena closed her hand over the stone fragments. “For now, you still do not look well and could benefit from additional sleep yourself.”
“Sleep?” Despite already being in trouble, Sylvia couldn’t help talking back at the suggestion of going to beddy bye. “But, your Majesty, with all due respect, I seriously doubt I could even begin to-
As Gwendoloena rose a finger to her pursed lips, Sylvia knew she was about to go back to bed one way or another.