Disclaimer: Not for anybody under the age of thirteen. Fourteen-year-olds are iffy. I myself am sixteen, and some of the stuff I write I generally wouldn't let myself read. Just use your discretion. The following contains violence (of the spoon variety), sexual implications, some offensive language, as well as some slash and femslash (same-sex relationships) which may make some people uncomfortable.) Everything hereafter belongs to me, Alexis Malloy. Any likenesses to people, places, or written works are completely coincidental or accidental, and if you would politely contact me I would be very much obliged. I allow posting (and encourage it!) but only if you tell me where you're posting it. Though likely I'll say yes, as long as I have full credit. Finally, do your best to leave a comment if you read it, alright? I'd do the same for you.

Ibis and the Jaded

By Alexis Malloy

CHAPTER ONE

Gil let himself into the tavern called Ibis Askew on a late Tuesday evening. When he inquired, as Bards are apt to do, Gil was told that Ibis and Askew were the two men that ran the place.

"But Mister Ibis, he ain't been seen for… gawd, must be years now," said the loose-tongued servant girl that Gil questioned.

Filing this tidbit away for later perusal, Gil then asked, "Shouldn't it be 'Ibis and Askew,' then?"

The girl looked at him oddly. "Ask Mister Ibis," she said. And that was the end of that.

Gil found a seat far enough away from the fireplace to benefit from the warmth and light without roasting like the dinner special and sat there, watching the room. To anybody experienced in the nuances of expression and the ways of men, it seemed as if he were looking for somebody.

Actually, it was completely obvious. The thing was that, Bard or no, Gilnaryn Nightlark was practically an open book. He was so utterly convinced of his importance that he thought all attention to himself was unavoidable. Was he not the great Gilnaryn Nightlark, master of a thousand songs and tales? (Technically 723, but that just didn't have the same ring to it.)

He would just wait, he decided, until the one he sought came to him. They all did, in the end. He settled back in the not-so-comfortable chair and continued to look expectant, though a tad less high-strung.

Across the room:

"Eh, you, boy!" slurred Really Askew, the no-good brother of the very proper and respectable Nil Askew, tavern proprietor, as he grabbed the wrist of one of his many nephews. The boy in question was one of the younger Askews, and looked none too pleased at the attention. "Get me 'nother beer, tha's a good boy!" He smiled, revealing a handful of black teeth dispersed unevenly across his mouth.

His nephew frowned, lips puckering into a sour expression of distaste. Removing his uncle's sticky fingers from his arm, the boy – who possessed the unfortunate name of Lemony Slightly Askew – started across the floor, weaving through customers, hired hands, and the occasional sibling with practised ease.

He was stopped, yet again, by somebody's hand on his arm. About to ream them out and run his mouth on personal space, Lemony stopped, finding himself very close to a tanned, long-nosed face. Said face was framed by glossy black hair streaked thickly with white and silver, shiny hair that screamed 'rich!' just as much as the man's heavy jewellery and the feel of soft gloves on his arm.

Lemony didn't know this man with the serious eyes and the beaky face. All he knew or cared about was that the man was very close. Entirely too close. WAY TOO CLOSE, thanks.

"Get off!" snapped Lemony so quickly that it all slurred together to become a growl that sounded more like 'geroff!'

"What?" asked the man, looking faintly perplexed.

"I said get off!" Lemony repeated, taking a quick step backwards and wrenching his arm away.

"It's a kind of long-necked foreign animal, I think," said the peculiar man.

"What?" said Lemony.

The man raised one groomed black eyebrow. "A giraffe," he said. His voice was soft and melodic and intense, and it got on Lemony's nerves. "You said giraffe. It's a kind of long-necked–"

"I know what a fucking giraffe is," interrupted Lemony. His eyes flashed.

The man looked at the boy. The boy looked back.

Then Gil smiled. "I've been waiting for you."

Lemony frowned. His countenance seemed very sharp, Gil noticed, which was extraordinary considering his utterly commonplace rounded features. "What?" he snapped again.

Gil held Lemony at arms' length – not like he had any other choice – and looked him up and down slowly. Lemony wasn't quite what he had expected, truthfully, but Gil knew it was the boy he was looking for.

Lemony's eyes were big and purple and slightly tilted. His shockingly blond hair was cut jaggedly and seemed to stick out at absolutely impossible angles, randomly rebelling against gravity with apathy and defiance. He wasn't very tall, or very short, and he was hovering on the fine line between 'soft' and 'plump.' He wore a plain black shirt and black pants and a creamy splattered apron around his waist. He looked vaguely irritated.

"Good evening, Lemony," said Gil pleasantly.

Lemony's tilted purple eyes narrowed further in consternation. "LeMOny!" he snapped. He had a pretty, fluid voice that was currently scathing and utterly hostile. "Leh-MO-nee. Accent on the O. Not like the fucking fruit. Lord. Can't you foreigners get anything right? What do you want? How the hell do you know my name?" This was all said with scarcely a beat between each word, as if it were a personal goal of Lemony's to cram as many words as possible into the smallest time frame and use as little air as humanly possible to do so. Giraffe.

"My apologies, LeMOny," Gil told the boy. Lemony glared. "I'm Gilnaryn Nightlark."

Lemony arched a pointy eyebrow. "Am I supposed to know you? Maybe, drop on my knees and swoon in your fantastical presence?"

"Well, no," admitted Gil. "I mean, you might know me. I am a Bard, after all. World-renowned," he added.

"That's cool," nodded Lemony, as if it was something distasteful, "I'm down with that. We don't hire Bards around here, though. Sorry. Try somewhere lower class. The Twin Dagger, maybe."

He turned to go. Gil grabbed his arm again. Lemony nearly had a hissy fit, so Gil let go, and then said, "Actually, I'm not looking for a job."

"Some 'fine company,' then?" Lemony interjected with a slight leer. "Sorry, pal, but we prolly don't have the kind of 'company' you're looking for. Just girls, y'know? Again, try the Twin Dagger."

"No, actually, I was looking for you," Gil blurted, seizing the momentary pause where Lemony took a quick breath. This wasn't going well.

The boy looked at Gil warily. "What'd I tell you about the company?"

"I have to tell you," said Gil. He was moving onto plan D, or so. Not as dramatic and historically appropriate as A or B, or even C, but he didn't expect Lemony to... well, to talk quite so much. "You're a Prince. The Crown Prince" Blunt, but effective. Gil was pleased.

Lemony snorted. "Yeah. Okay." And he walked away.

Gil blinked. That didn't go at all as planned. He stood up quickly. Maybe the boy just didn't hear him correctly.

He caught up with Lemony near the door to the kitchens and grabbed his shoulder.

"Would you stop touching me!" shrieked Lemony, grabbing a long metal soupspoon as he wriggled away, snapping it down smartly on Gil's knuckles.

"Sorry! Ow!" said Gil, cradling his stinging hand to his chest. He was wearing gloves, but still, the kid packed quite a wallop. "Listen to me, please, Lemony…"

The boy brandished his spoon dangerously, tilted eyes narrowed in a menacing fashion. "I think you're crazy. You know that? You're crazy." He stretched the word out in satisfaction. "Either that or you're making fun of me. Or trying to get into my pants," he added as an afterthought, mouth twisting distastefully. "I don't care for any of those options, personally."

Gil was shocked. He was a Bard! He was a Mentor! And this child suspected him of – of – "Ow!" he said again as Lemony dealt him a sharp blow to the shoulder. "What was that for?"

"You were staring," said the blond with a sniff, still looking like some suspicious feral animal. "Now you'd better be leaving, or else I'll get Noire to show you to the door, so to speak."

"You don't understand!" Gil said in frustration. Barely into the bulk of his quest and already his carefully laid plans were being foiled? Unacceptable!

"I think I understand quite well," the brat child told Gil, his pointy nose tilted up in annoyance. "Now get lost!"

Gil counted silently to five in Arention. This took longer than one would expect because the language of the Arents possessed no word shorter than eight syllables, except for 'malfunction,' which was, in their syntax, only three letters long.

Serene and in control once more, Gil smiled at Lemony. "I'm sorry for having to do this, but it's for your own good, you know. Glorious destiny, and all that."


He clapped his hands, once.

Lemony looked at him like he had grown antlers, and then said, scathingly, "Mew."

He stopped. His eyes widened, his lashes fluttered, and he looked confused. And pissed off, but that was basically the way that Lemony always looked, so it wasn't worth mentioning. Then, with a soft clicking noise Lemony was gone.

A tiny fluffy kitten stood in his place. It was a violent shade of yellow.

It fell over. Gil picked it up.

"I'm dreadfully sorry about this," Gil told the kitten, not looking very sorry at all. "But you're not very co-operative, you know."

It mewed plaintively.

"I'm glad I'm forgiven," said Gil. (Although what the kitten actually said was something kittens really oughtn't know how to say, nor should fourteen-year-old boys, but both Lemony and the violently yellow kitten were a little precocious.)

Gil picked up Lemony's spoon and left Ibis Askew. It was still late evening, perhaps inching towards an extremely early morning.

Really Askew turned to his neighbour, a self-styled Lady of the Night named Toora, and said, "Hey there, did'ya see that, eh?"

"See what?" asked Toora.

"That foreign chap took Marble's best soup spoon. An' 'e turned Lemony into a cat," he added. "A yeller one."

Toora pursed her magenta lips together. "It's LeMOny," she corrected. "Can't you pronounce your own nephew's name right?" And she turned away.

Really looked sadly down at his empty cup. "Didn't even bring me another drink, 'e didn't."

"Where's my spoon?" yelled Marble from the kitchen.

Really shrugged.