Disclaimer: I don't own DP. All I own is the universe of The A.N.I.E.L. Files. Speaking of which, if you haven't read them, get out now! This will make no sense if you haven't read at least Kith and Kin.
Bimini: The land of the Fountain of Youth. I changed it to a person because the name was too cool not to use.
"What we really should do is go up to an Observant and-" My sister punctuated her suggestion with an ecto-blast the size of her head (ponytail included). The goop monster which had been trying to eat her exploded in a shower of… well… goop.
"Danielle!" I yelped, scandalized but amused. Another goop monster tried to chew on my hair, but I froze it into a chunk of ice before it could even nibble at me.
She grinned at me. "You have to admit, Danny, it'd be a lot easier than this." She gestured at the long line of goop monsters, tree monsters, and bunny-sharks on steroids that was charging towards us.
"Yeah," I admitted, sending a bolt of lightning through the army's ranks, "but there'd be too much of a size difference. Besides, I think he'd notice if one of the Observants- Hey!" One of the bunny-sharks had broken loose from its line and was charging me directly. "No budging! Bad mutant!"
? Ammut, the family hippo-lioness-crocodile thing, was confused. And a bit hurt, if I was reading her mind-message correctly.
"Not you, girl," I assured her. "These guys."
If the army of monsters had had the decency to stay dead (well, dead-er- they were already ghosts), Danni and I would have made short work of them. But guardianship of the Great Fountain had its perks.
"You have got to be kidding me."
The vanquished goop monsters, tree monsters, and bunny-sharks had reassembled into a single monstrosity with all the charming traits of its predecessors: shark jaws, woody arms, goopy bodies, and an incongruous little bunny tail. It turned with a growl, tail flicking in a way that would have been menacing if it wasn't so funny.
"I hate it when they do that," Danni groaned.
"Yeah." I nodded, not taking my eyes off our new adversary. "Next year, we're going with a shirt and a tie."
Danni looked ready to protest. Then the monster roared, nearly deafening us, and she became a lot more agreeable. "Shirt and tie. Gotcha. But for now, I think we need a new plan. Do you want to talk with their- um, its- whatever- crazy hermit master or deal with the crazy hermit monster?"
The crazy hermit monster spat a ball of fire at us. Great. Now it was part dragon.
"Rock, paper, scissors. Loser faces this guy."
"You're on. Ha ha! Scissors beats paper."
I groaned, but fair was fair. "Just hurry back, okay? And don't be afraid to use my allowance too."
"Sweet." She zoomed off, followed closely by Ammut. The chimera still hadn't recovered from her last enormous meal, but not many people knew that. Certainly not the insane hermit who, despite owning a fountain that could heal any wound, restore any missing limb, give sight to the blind, grant hearing to the death, cure paralysis, etc. etc., had created an army of mindless constructs to keep desperate people with otherwise incurable diseases away. His logic? According to the books we'd dragged up, he wanted everyone to pay the equivalent of a million American dollars per mouthful of magic water and got mad when people pointed out that no one could afford that. He'd retaliated by… well… building the aforementioned army of monsters that was currently trying to murder me.
I hate it when monsters do that.
But though it had been a while since my last serious if-you-lose-you-die fight, I'd kept in shape. Father, Roland, and even Vlad were great sparring partners, as were the other knights who hung around looking for favors.
My ghostly wail slammed through it, sending blobs of slime everywhere. It might look scary (and it did), but obviously it wasn't that tough. Good for me, bad for it.
We got into a pattern, me and Blobby: I would wail, it would disintegrate, it would reintegrate, I would wail. Rinse and repeat.
After about five or six rounds of that (I lost count), Danni returned with a grumpy little green man. No, not one of the aliens. He was a ghost, just over five feet tall, with a mustache and a scowl. He and my sister were arguing.
"Hi, Danni," I called. Blobby was still regenerating, so I had enough time to chat. Blobby always took a while to pull himself together. "Hi, Master Bimini. You realize that my sister and I were planning to talk with you before we actually took anything from your spring."
Bimini scowled. Well, actually, he'd already been scowling, but now he scowled a lot more. Ignoring me, he continued his argument with my sister. "But there WILL be a maximum, you understand? No more than twenty sips per day."
Danni snorted. "Now you're just being selfish, All the lore agrees that the fountain regenerates itself too as long as there's a drop of water."
"Fine. Thirty sips."
"Thirty sips from a fountain that has got to produce thirty thousand gallons of magical healing water each day? Yeah right." Danni folded her arms in front of her chest.
Technically, we had the power to confiscate this fountain in the name of the Crown, but we tried not to use that or our other royal perks. Not that anyone would complain if we opened the Great Fountain to the public- there were quite a few ghosts who would like to use it- but Father disapproved of stealing. So did we, as a matter of fact. Which meant that instead of just taking the fountain from a selfish jerk like Bimini, we had to negotiate with him.
And Bimini was very, very good at negotiating.
Danni and I were both slightly dazed when the gleeful full-ghost left. "That was…."
"Yeah." I nodded.
Blobby laughed. I glared at it. "Shut up, you."
Master going be happy, Ammut contributed. Master sad subjects hurt from bad-not-master-Djall. And master sad subjects hurt not from bad-not-master-Djall too.
"Yeah, the Ghost Zone- sorry, Kantara- has way too many permanent injuries," Danni muttered.
That bad. This good. No more owies. Yay!
"No more owies is always good," I agreed. "But Ammut? Please don't tell Father that people still have to pay to get here." Only the equivalent of five American dollars, but still.
The deal we'd struck with Bimini was simple: a huge down payment now (huge enough to wipe out both our bank accounts) would allow whoever felt like it to sip from the fountain for just five dollars. Bimini couldn't raise the price except to compensate for inflation, nor could he create tollbooths or stuff. Gift shops were okay (and I had no doubt that he was already plotting to build one, the miser), but nothing could raise the price of the water itself.
Tell master now, Ammut decreed. You want make master happy for day of daddies, yes? Day of daddies almost done!
"Huh?" I checked my watch, a gift from Clockwork. Sure enough, Ammut was right. Father's Day was almost over. "Crap! Come on, girl, back to the Keep!"
Danni and I grabbed the chimera and zoomed off at our top speed, well over two hundred miles per hour. Even so, it took us almost two hours to get home. Then, of course, we spent another half hour hunting down our father. He wasn't in the throne room, he wasn't on the training grounds, he wasn't in the-
Found master! Ammut cried.
Sure enough, Pariah Dark, High King of All Ghosts, Prince of the Five Rivers, blah blah blah, was sitting in the library petting his pet when Danni and I finally presented our present to him. "Happy Father's Day!" we cried, holding out the gift.
Father just looked confused. "Are you bleeding, Daniel?"
"Well, yes. I had a disagreement with a blob monster. But-"
"Do you need a healer?"
"No, I'm fine."
Father's confusion changed to suspicion. "What kind of disagreement with a blob monster?"
"It was about your Father's Day gift," Danni explained.
I groaned. "You don't know about Father's Day, do you." Not that I blamed him- he'd been locked in a sarcophagus for three thousand years. I don't know much about Father's Day, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't celebrated three thousand years ago. It's kind of weird that he hasn't heard about it since waking up, but we really shouldn't be surprised that there were still gaps in his knowledge of modern culture.
"It's a day for… fathers," Danni explained. She looked crushed. This was her first real Father's Day, and she'd wanted to make it special. "For honoring them and… stuff." She fidgeted. "Um, we brought you a gift."
Pariah glanced at the plain plastic water bottle we'd brought him. It wasn't even half-full, more like only a quarter. In other words, not the world's most impressive present. At least not on the outside.
But politics and parenting are more closely related than most people think, so he hid (most of) his confusion. "Thank you," he said solemnly, as though he were receiving tribute from El Dorado instead of what looked like ordinary water. "I was getting rather thirsty."
He drank it, using the plastic to hide the befuddlement in his one remaining eye. He was big enough that he only had to swallow once before the bottle was empty.
Danni and I waited with bated breath. Our father just looked confused. Then he looked astonished- so astonished, in fact, that both his eyes went wide: the eye he'd always had and the eye he'd lost in the War of Power.
He lifted a hand, felt the skin around his once-empty eye socket. Then he shut that eye, felt the lid. He rested his fingers there for a long moment as the king-smile broke out across his face.
Father isn't exactly the most physically demonstrative parent in the world. Danni and I are okay with that- we're not the most touchy-feely kids, either. But since none of us are prone to hugging each other for no reason, our rare group hugs are a lot more precious.
He opened his arms, silently asking for an embrace. The amazing kingly smile was still lighting up his face. His eyes- both of them- were bright with affection. "Thank you," he said simply, but the world was in those words.
My sister and I leaned into our parent's embrace. "You're welcome. And happy Father's Day."
...And now I just need to actually finish Monarch or Monster? And get images to act as covers, but mostly finish the next chapter of MoM? Unfortunately, the stupid thing has been fighting me every step of the way. It doesn't want to get written, argh! *glares at Word document*