Thursday, July 12, 2012
"Was he really a troll?" She asks as we slide our trays forward. We had appeared around the corner from the soup kitchen and joined the twenty some-odd of the other unwashed masses in line
I laugh and wipe a stray curl of blonde hair, dirty blonde by necessity, from my forehead. "No." I leave it at that. We will get nowhere if I indulge her every curiosity. A scoop of lumpy looking mashed potatoes was dumped on my plate with an audible gloop. I flash a yellowing smile at the man behind the counter, "Thanks Sam."
He smiles back and gives Mary a scoop as well. She responds with a smile of her own, her still white teeth looking out of place amongst the rest of the dirt on her face. Veggies were next, asparagus or green beans. I have the beans, she the asparagus. Finally the meat. It looks tough, but is still steaming so I take some. I reach into my pocket and withdraw a crumpled dollar bill, dropping it into the pot labelled donations.
While Mary searches through her wallet, a man's black velcro affair, I step up to the billboard that lines one of the walls. It is littered with the usual trash about where good places to get handouts are and which properties actively kicked transients out. Occasionally odd jobs are posted on the board, but those posts usually went fast. This was the case today and I glance back to see Mary toss a handful of coins into the pot.
"What's this?" She asks as she approaches the cork board.
I begin to explain the purpose of the board when she shoots me a look that makes me bite my tongue.
"Isn't this your Sigil?" She asks, pulling a folded piece of yellow paper from the board.
I reach for it, nodding my assent.
She pulls the paper away from me. "You can have it once I know what the hell is going on." She slides it into the back pocket of her black jeans.
I start to protest but feel a pair of eyes looking at me. I turn to find Rush standing behind me.
"Shall we," he asks, motioning to a nearby empty table with his own tray.
We ignore the looks we got from the other patrons as we take our seats. At least he and I did.
"Why are they staring at us?" Mary asks in a whisper, leaning forward over her food so we can hear her better.
"It's rare to see two Princes together." The Russian tells her around a mouthful of potato. "Now eat and let us finish tale."
She nods, and I find myself glad that was all she had done.
The Russian slips into the role of storyteller, and in between bites, begins again. "As I said earlier, it was a long time ago when Twelve Princes showed up. Where Spheres came from no one ever found out, or if they did, they never managed to share. You see, is those very orbs that give us Princes our power." He pauses to tear a chunk off of the slab of meat on his plate.
I jump in. "Neither of us is a first generation, or even second generation Prince. We were both given our orbs by a Prince that was near death."
"What if a Prince dies without giving away his Sphere?" She asks
"There are only seven Princes left, the other Orbs are lost to time and the grave."
She nods again.
"Is this seat taken?" An African American man wearing a filthy over-sized green jacket asks. He tips his sun-faded stovepipe hat to Mary, winks. All that was missing was a squirting flower and face paint and he could have been a circus clown. Well that and a bath. I laugh, as I often did when I saw him on the street. I think that was the reaction he was going for.
I could hear the whispers start around us as I stand up and extend my hand. "It's been too long. Mary, this is Freak Beans."
He takes my hand, pumps it, and then turns to Mary. "Please, call me Benny."
She looks around, noticing the glances that were being cast our way as he takes the final seat at our table, setting down his own tray. "You're a Prince too," she states.
He winks at her again by way of admission.
"We were just telling her about about curse." The Russian says, glaring at Benny.
"Then by all means, continue." Benny says as he takes a bite of his green beans.
The Russian's eyes do not leave Freak Beans, but he continues. "Despite the power the Spheres give us, they hold in them a curse. Should a Prince take one of the newly fallen as his queen, it is said that they will gain control over other Princes, but more importantly, darkness will fall over the realm."
"What's that mean?" Mary asks. "I mean, the newly fallen part?"
"I think that refers to you, you have not been among us," Benny extends his arms, indicating the other patrons around him, "for very long. As for the rest of it, I hope not to find out. And now my friends," he glares at the Russian, "And I mean that term very loosely, I think it's time we parted company." Scooping up the remaining mashed potatoes on his plate, he shoves them in his pocket.
I was prepared for the flash and have my arm covering my eyes as he winks out of existence.
"I must concur," I tell the Russian as the whispers began to reach me. I grab hold of Mary's arm, and the two of us leave the soup kitchen as Cyrus appears in the doorway.