Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth.
If you are new to The Only City Left and want a quick catch-up, you can read a synopsis of Parts 1-21 and then start from Part 22. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 23, Tumble was telling Allin something about how gerrybrook juice is produced from a poisonous flower, but Allin didn’t really pay attention once Tyena showed up. Together, they headed off to breakfast with Emperor Banshee.
The Only City Left: Part 24
As with dinner, breakfast began when Banshee arrived and took his seat. Tyena and I sat on his left-hand side, Tumble on his right. Unlike dinner, no other cats were in attendance besides the ones serving us. It seemed that I was no longer a star attraction, which was fine with me.
Breakfast was such a feast that I quickly forgot my headache and queasy stomach and just tucked in. There were tiny hard-boiled eggs, breads with strange fruits baked in them, smoked fish laid out on a bed of leafy greens, flat cakes topped with jams and creams, and chunks of fresh fruit in all the colors of the rainbow. How the cats managed to produce such a meal, I had no idea, but it was another reason for me to re-think my intention to leave Pudlington. I could get used to this kind of living.
Which of course was exactly Banshee’s point, I was sure.
He wasted no time in pushing his advantage, either.
“I see you have been reacquainted with the beautiful Miss Branch,” he remarked.
“Yes,” I replied. “Curious that you didn’t mention she was here when I shared my story last night.”
“I did not want her presence to sway your decision,” he said.
I didn’t believe that for a second, but I didn’t want to call him on it.
Tyena set down her glass of something called orange juice (non-alcoholic, Tumble had assured me), and looked between Banshee and me.
“What decision would I have swayed?” she asked, her expression at once amused and sharp.
“It seems that despite our hospitality, young master Arcady does not wish to remain in Pudlington,” Banshee allowed.
If that isn’t putting his own spin on it! I thought. He’s making me sound like an idiot, wanting to leave all this.
Banshee seemed to want Tyena to be in the dark about why I was really leaving. I wasn’t having that.
“What he’s not telling you is that he wants to send me into the werewolves’ den.”
Tyena dropped her fork onto her plate with a loud tink of metal on china.
“Why would you risk sending Allin there?” she demanded of Banshee, leaning over me to get right in Banshee’s face.
“He seems to think that they want me alive,” I told her, putting my hand on hers.
She turned to face me, still half in my lap.
“But why would you give yourself up?”
“Allin,” cautioned Banshee.
“He wants me to kill their leader,” I told her, still unwilling to share all the details about my uncle. “The man who had my parents murdered and your family taken.”
Tyena sat back on the floor and returned her attention to Banshee.
“That sounds dangerous,” she said. “Why send Allin to do something you’re not willing to?”
“Fighting our way into the Garden would be a waste of catpower,” Banshee scoffed. “It’s as well defended as is Pudlington. But they want Allin there. They would let him in past all their defenses. What an opportunity! Alas, Allin has declined and chosen of his own will to leave.”
The anger Tyena had displayed toward Banshee was now redirected to me.
“Yes. No. I mean, I was going to, but that was before I knew you were here,” I said, flustered. It suddenly felt ten degrees hotter and I wondered if the environmental systems in this sector were failing.
To save myself, I turned to Banshee and said, “If it’s all right with you, I would like to stay in Pudlington a little longer. I was… angry last night. I could use some more time to make up my mind.”
Truly, I had no intention of going along with Banshee’s plan no matter how long I thought on it, but I was afraid that if I didn’t at least pretend to consider it, I would no longer be welcome. Now that I had a reason to stay longer, I didn’t want to be on Banshee’s bad side.
“Pudlington is yours for as long as you like, Allin,” Banshee declared. “It was never an either/or proposition. Tumble will continue to assist you with all your needs while you remain here.”
“Thank you, sir.”
I felt more than a little bad to be abusing Banshee’s hospitality, but not bad enough to refuse it.
Tyena remained quiet and I noticed that although she pushed food around her plate, she had stopped eating.
“I wouldn’t have left without telling you first,” I told her.
She shook her head as if to clear it and turned to me. “No, Allin, it’s not that. Talk of the Garden. It reminded me of my mother is all.”
“I’m so sorry. Your mother and your brother. Do you think, I mean, might they still be alive?”
Tyena looked stricken and I felt like the world’s biggest fool for being so blunt about the fate of her family.
“It’s hard to have hope after all these years,” Tyena replied and then fell silent.
Banshee and Tumble held their tongues during this exchange, so it was on me to salvage the situation.
The problem was, I couldn’t think of an encouraging word that wouldn’t ring false, so I finished my breakfast in silence and the others followed my cue.
Banshee was called away on business toward the end of the meal and soon after that the servers cleared the plates and trays from the table, leaving the three of us in awkward silence until Tyena spoke up.
“I’m sorry for my dark mood, gentlemen. If you’ll excuse me, I need some time alone.”
Tumble stood and bowed, so I followed suit, feeling even more foolish as I mimicked his courtly behavior. Once Tyena had left, Tumble asked me how I intended to spend my time now that I was staying.
I had thought I would be spending it with Tyena, so now I was at a loss. Then a thought occurred to me.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a workshop I could use, would you?”
* * *
7/29/12 Notes: The Only City Left is now listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!
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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.