It has been 2 years that Merianna had been working in the Phantomhive estate now, and her role had grown from a little girl stumbling onto the estate by accident. She took care of cleaning the whole front hall, fetching water, dusting and other common chores. After her hurdle of struggles, her friendship with the other servants deepened, even with Sebastian. They politely stayed out of each other's way, but could work together when it was depended upon. It seemed that Ciel too, was warming up to her. He would bring her along some of his missions and she met more of his acquaintances, namely Agni and Prince Soma (she especially loved the elephants and stories from their country).
She was especially surprised when her Master gave her the first pay. She was confused and stumbled over how and why she received it. Ciel explained that her debt was fixed, but that she could continue working there if she wished. He also asked her to practice her tarot card summoning ability, just in case she was needed in battle. Merianna didn't understand what he meant by battle- except for the bugs that found their way into the home or pesky thieves, but she practiced anyways. Usually it was Finny she battled against, although certain things came to her advantages and certain things ensured her defeat with him. Out of her twenty-one cards, only seventeen responded to her. She never had more than seventeen voices in her head or seventeen imaginary friends to speak to. But she resolved that she would grow stronger as she grew.
Perhaps her heart was starting its healing process. She hadn't heard of Jake since he had left, but there was a small hope in her that he would be well. Oh well, there was work to be done. And he would come back when he came back.
The Queen had asked the Phantomhives to investigate a manor. Supposedly the owners had died a long time ago, but nothing confirmed it. Ciel had brought Sebastian and Merianna with him to investigate, leaving the rest at home. The funny thing was that the 'manor' was run down already, nothing more than rubble. After writing a quick report, they boarded the carriage and Sebastian willingly took the reins. Merianna felt adventurous today, so she stayed outside the carriage, boarding on the back as footman. Ciel scolded her for laughing too hard as the wind brushed her face, but she didn't mind. In fact, there was a hint of childish envy in his eyes. It was a pleasant morning that turned into a soothing afternoon as they rode along the country road back home.
There was no one around, and the wind felt so nice, so Merianna unfurled her strange wings. Unlike normal angels, she had an abnormality that caused her to have four wings instead of two. The force of the wind suddenly pushing against her wings almost knocked her off, but she held tightly onto the carriage. Suddenly, the horses buckled from the extra force and almost sent the carriage tumbling sideways.
"Merianna!" Ciel snapped. "Cut that out! Don't you understand the forces of physics?!"
She apologized profusely.
"Sebastian! How much longer until we arrive back home?"
"It shouldn't be too long now. Should we take a break?"
"No. The Count of Barton is visiting to discuss some business deals. I want you to be there to properly take care of everything."
That was Ciel's way of saying 'I want you to clean up whatever mess the servants made before he arrives.' Merianna hummed a little melody to herself, when suddenly the carriage sharply swerved right.
"Ah, my apologies, Young Master. I had to avoid a turtle crossing the road."
He gave a smirk to Merianna, who was clinging to the back of the carriage in fright. She didn't like the idea of being a footman anymore.
After they had returned, the servants helped Ciel back into the house, taking up his luggage and preparing his bath. Meirin and Sebastian were going to take care of him then, so Merianna went out back to the yard to help Finny with his chores. But where was he? She opened the shed, but he wasn't there. She also checked the storehouse, the gardens and all around the hedges, but he was not to be seen. Suddenly, there was a small chirping from inside the hedges. It was loud and clear, yet Merianna had trouble finding the source. Thinking it must have been deeper in, she combed through the branches, seeing a small baby bird lying on its back. Carefully, she picked it up and placed it in her palms, removing it from the hedge.
The little bird was covered in fluffy down feathers, squeaking pitifully. Merianna looked around, but there were no parent birds near and no nest to return the bird to. Its head was much too big to be supported by its tiny neck, this unsightly being. Any other person would turn their head away, but no, she couldn't abandon it. It was cold and lost in the world. She held the creature near her warm chest and carried it inside. The little bird nipped at her fingers; surely it was hungry for something to eat. She entered through the front door, careful to walk as gently as she could.
Something moved underneath her feet. She stopped and looked down, but there was nothing there. She felt something brush her left boot, but then there was nothing there either. She shuddered as she continued on but suddenly a strange noise sizzled behind her. When she turned around, there was a long creature with a giant mouth sizzling at her. She stepped back and fell on her behind, screaming out in fear.
When the entire household rushed into the front house, there was Merianna, backing away from a tiny snake crawling around the carpet.
"Wah! Snake! Get that snake away from her!" Finny cried out.
There was a rugged man who walked towards the creature and bent down towards it. The long scaly thing slithered up his arm. When she met his gaze, she noticed that he looked like the scaly thing. The chirping bird continued to protest, yet she shook with such ferocity that it paralyzed her.
"W-W-What is…that thing?" she uttered.
She held the tiny bird close to her. Finny was the first to rush to her side.
"Meri! Are you all right? It was just a snake…don't worry…it won't attack you if Snake doesn't tell it too, right Snake?"
"She was just hungry…said Emily."
Meirin also came to Merianna's side.
"Is that a baby bird you have there? I can take him, I will prepare a nest."
Merianna shakily gave her friend the tiny bird, still trying to hide from the Snake person. He turned away from her.
"Wh-Wha…s-snake…? That was…a snake?"
"Have you never seen a snake before Meri?" Finny asked as he helped her up.
She dried her tears and sniffed.
"Oh dear…I feel…kind of foolish now…"
"If you must feel sick, I suggest you feel sick somewhere else." Sebastian suddenly cut in, placing a hand on the snake-person's shoulder.
"Merianna, this is Snake, the new servant. He is appointed the footman which of course…"
The words struck her like a lightning bolt. Whoever said that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice obviously lied. She curtseyed to the man when she calmed down. Just because she discovered her new fear of snakes didn't mean she could be rude to the man. She greeted him with a 'nice to meet you' and he replied with a nod. Finny took hold of her arm to steady her as the adrenaline subsided. She excused herself hastily and made to the servants quarters, where she saw Meirin take the little bird.
Meirin had fetches towels and lined a wooden box with it, gently placing the baby bird inside. Merianna thanked her and presided near the box, peering inside warmly. Thankfully, the little bird seemed unhurt from the incident, although he was still chirping hungrily. Bardroy brought out a few bread crusts left from yesterday's dinner, and Merianna fed them to the baby.
"It will be okay…if we keep him…right?" she asked gingerly.
Bardroy shrugged. "I don't see why not. If Sebastian won't let you keep it around the house, I'll keep it in the kitchen."
"Don't you…cook chickens there…though…" Meirin commented.
"Ow! He pecked me!" Finnian cried out, dropping a few bread crumbs. "Well, he doesn't seem to be too far from an adult. Sparrows usually grow into adults in 14 days."
"So it should be fine, Snowy." Bardroy smiled.
"We can all help take care of this little bird!" Meirin suggested. "For now, I guess we can leave him here. We'll check back on our break."
"Everyone," Sebastian addressed the staff, "we have an important guest coming over tonight, and the Young Master and I are going into town. I expect that when I come back, everything will be in tip-top shape and if anything goes wrong…"
He pointed at Merianna, who squeaked in panic.
"ALL FAULTS WILL FALL ON YOU!" He threatened dramatically.
He continued on: "The curtains and drapery must be redesigned as well. Please use the purple set instead and prepare a guest room for Mr. Breton. I expect you will all help Snake with his duties…as he will be staying here instead of joining Young Master and I. Ah yes; it appears Mr. Breton has a dislike for nut products, so please refrain from that. He also asks that we do not prepare land-meat meals for his dinner, so I expect the finest fish dishes…Bardroy... Lastly, the hedges and grass must be cut and trimmed as I am sure he would like to see the potential of the Phantomhive servants!
Waving off their Master, the servants got to work. Bardroy took charge of preparing the food and Snake assisted him, although he had much to learn about etiquette and refinery. Meirin took to the laundry and pulled out every kind of purple fabric they had. Merianna set to preparing the guestroom while Finny was doing the usual gardening. Merianna made sure to wipe every surface until it was devoid of any specks of dirt or dusk. She opened up the windows to air out the room and swept the balcony. She then fetched some coals to fill the fireplace and a poker. After rearranging a few minor chairs and tables, she brought fresh linens and sheets from Meirin to the bedroom. The last touch was a vase of sweet-smelling flowers to brighten the room.
By then, it was late afternoon as she made her way to the kitchen. Bardroy needed help peeling fruits and vegetables as the rest of the staff were still busy. They chatted lightly for a while, although when Merianna finished peeling the potatoes, her hands were cut all over. She didn't seem to have much talent in the kitchen. She had to excuse herself and go fetch some bandages. While she got them from the cabinet in the hall, she resolved to take her break and check up on the baby sparrow while fixing herself up.
Standing over the box was a black cat, with its paw raised up.
"Ah! La merde!"
A sudden pair of creatures launched themselves at the cat, causing it to hiss and jump away, and stumble off the table. Merianna ran over to the little bird, grabbing the box and cradling it in her arms. She gasped when she saw two snakes entwining the cat, stepping away until her back was against the wall. Snake was in the room as well, watching both of them. Merianna was shaking while she stepped away, tightening her grip on the box.
"Are you scared of snakes...asked Wordsworth."
Merianna looked at the man, and he directed her gaze at the snakes, which were letting go of the cat.
"We won't eat the little sparrow…said Bronte. Not if you don't want us to…"
She turned her gaze back at Snake himself. If Master Ciel had trusted him, then so will she. Snakes or no snakes. The cat got up and quickly sprinted away. When Merianna felt safer, she let the box back on the table, sighing as she watched the sleeping little bird inside.
"You don't want to…Do you?" she mumbled.
She had no idea what snakes ate, after all. Snake shook his head as he bent down towards the ground, calling his snake friends back inside his sleeve. Merianna noticed his abnormal skin and his white hair, although his hair was a more even tone than hers. She braced herself. The last other white-haired person turned out to be a deranged angel. Perhaps his hair and skin was even a different texture. She was quite curious; except she wouldn't want one of his snakes to launch itself at her should she draw near. He flinched at her staring, snapping her back from her thoughts.
"W-Would you like some tea?" she asked, going on ahead to fetch some.
She came back with the set, pouring them both a cup and sitting down. He stood at the end of the room, eyes downcast. Merianna was not sure what to say. Something slithered past her boot and she instinctively jumped up from the chair. Nothing was there, and she quietly sat back down. Two quiet minutes later, and she heard a hissing sound beside her ears, jolting out again and spilling some tea on her apron. She heard a quiet chuckling in front of her and turned her gaze to Snake, who was covering a grin with a hand. She puffed her cheek in annoyance, but didn't say anything. At least one of them was enjoying themselves.
A few minutes later, she felt something scaly against her leg, but she ignored it. Snake finally sat down, taking the cup of tea. Merianna closed her eyes tightly when she felt something else slither around her foot. Her hands were shaking, but she refused to let out any sound. When she opened her eyes, there was a small green snake right in front of her on the table, sticking its tongue out and in.
She slapped a hand over her mouth, replaced the cup on the table and covered her entire face, touching her head to her lap. This is just another bad dream…she told herself. She was shaking a lot in her seat, although nothing had yet to attack her. She could hear the hissing around her, and it made her paranoid.
"Miss? Are you all right?"
Scaryscaryscaryscaryscarysca ryscaryscaryscaryscary her mind repeated.
"Ah…I…I'm sorry. I didn't mean…to take it that far…"
She didn't move, but she didn't want to worry him. She didn't want to come off rude either, so she braced herself and lifted her body back up, a crooked smile on her face. All the snakes were gone now, but he had a frown on his face.
"…sorry." She apologized. "I've never seen snakes before…"
Despite this, there was an innate instinct in her to draw away from snakes, that they would hurt her or trick her in some way. She excused herself and hurried out of the room, not bothering with the tea or Snake anymore, until she reached the other end of the servants' quarters, near the cleaning supplies cabinet. She sat down here in the corner and buried her head, scolding herself for being so afraid and rude.
"Welcome, Mr. Breton." The servants greeted, bowing with respect.
The stout man sniffed and flung his coat at Finny without as much as a greeting. Ciel and Sebastian entered after, a weary look on their faces. Meirin guided them to the dining table where the drapery was a lovely shade of purple and the table wear was warm and sparkling. Merianna went into the kitchen to bring out the meals while Sebastian seated the gentlemen down. Mr. Breton and her Master talked about various business deals, local and international. They seemed to have a disagreement on something, but they kept their anger passive. Mr. Breton didn't seem to have much for manners, as he talked with his mouth stuffed and guzzled the wine down like a madman. He even tried to make a grab at Meirin, who shyly backed away. Merianna stepped in for her friend and refilled his glass when he tapped it noisily with a dripping spoon.
Soon, the meal was over and the dishes were bussed to the kitchen. Bardroy had set up the servants' dinners while Sebastian went to guide the Master and Mr. Breton to the parlour and offer desserts. Over dinner, the servants were especially talkative towards their newest addition. Merianna smiled to herself when she remembered when she was in Snake's spot, listening to how special her friends were. Bardroy and Meirin told him where they came from and their specialties, of course. Finny only had to demonstrate it by lifting the entire table. Merianna felt their gazes on her for her turn.
"I…uh…read cards. Tarot cards." She said nervously.
Bardroy burst into laughter. "You're just gonna stop at that, Snowy?"
Merianna blushed. She didn't know how to introduce herself as humbly as she would've wanted.
"I've seen tarot cards before…said Faust." Snake replied. "Fake fortune tellers at the circus."
Before they could continue the conversation, a small bell was ringing, calling them. Meirin stood up, telling Snake that as footman, he should come with her as well. There was still much for him to learn. Bardroy, Finny and Merianna finished up their dinners and Merianna collected the dishes to wash. The work progressed late in the day until finally; the servants bade each other good night.
Snaaaakes….Snakes…. Merianna mumbled.
In her dream, everything around her slithered around the room like a snake. The ribbons and tassel from the drapery came alive and swayed in the air. The carpet and teapot slithered around her feet. Suddenly, the floor gave out before her.
"Ouch!" she cried as she opened her eyes.
In the dim light, she saw the outline of Snake peering over her. Crap, she thought. I sleep-walked again. She groggily sat up, rubbing her eyes. It was definitely still night, the only light streaming from the windows.
"Miss? You started walking around calling for us…said Oscar. Are you feeling all right?"
She rubbed her head and looked down at the ruffled carpet. The fall must have awoken her and snapped her back from her dream. She was just about to reply when a creaking sound was audible, forcing them both to look towards the stairs. There was more creaking as someone with a candle was coming down the stairs. Merianna quickly tapped Snake's shoulder and put a finger to her lips. No one in the household was that heavy to cause the stairs to squeak that much. They backed against the pillars of the front hall until the stout figure came into their view. It was Mr. Breton of course, in his nightgown with a small bag in his hands.
Mr. Breton slowly made his way towards them, making them both hide away in the shadows. He turned around, expecting someone following him, but then returned to his business. His hands reached out towards a near ornament on the table, then quickly swept everything into the bag. Before he knew it, Snake was tapping on his shoulder.
"Guests should not do-"
A flash of bronze and red and Snake's body fell to the ground. Merianna gasped as she saw Mr. Breton brandish the bloodied bronze decoration, until the candle went out. She stayed silent, listening for the thief's breathing while controlling her own. He was unaware of her presence still. She whispered.
"Risado sirscunus…Xis…bring everyone to me…"
She stayed, plastering herself against the pillar until there was the sound of movement. The cards were all sliding over to Merianna. She heard a small yelp before she snatched the closest ones at her feet.
"Risado sirscunus!" She yelled out, wanting to catch Mr. Breton by surprise, "Dris-Nafuru!"
All the literature in the entire estate began to glow and emit a low hum. Merianna, too started to glow orange with heat. Dris-Nafuru taught her many things, even without showing her how or lecturing her. Dris-Nafuru seemed to know everything, even if he couldn't prove it. He allowed all things written to glow and be able to be soaked into Merianna's memory. It worked as a sudden light for Merianna to pinpoint her enemy.
"How dare you steal from the Phantomhive household!" She said, fiercely protecting her Master's possessions.
Mr. Breton turned to run, only to run into the Phantomhive butler himself.
"Dear, dear, what have we here?" He asked.
Mr. Breton was given a well deserved hit in the stomach, rendering him unconscious. Sebastian grimaced as he took the limp body in his arms.
"Good work, Merianna. But next time, try limiting your glow to the books that are not in Young Master's bedroom. He has been having difficulties sleeping recently…"
Merianna, again, apologized profusely, sending Dris-Nafuru quietly back to her deck. The whole house lost its orange glow and returned to night.
"Also, would you please take care of Snake? He seems to be suffering a heavy head injury and as well…the snakes he talks to seem to be…restless…as their master had gone unconscious. Please take care of gathering and containing all the snakes in the area. I'm sure that you can…handle it. Oh, and try not to wake anyone else up."
Merianna shivered like the devil had taken possession of her.
Merianna had no tarot card to take care of someone else's wound. That was as simple as she could put it. However, she did forget to put the bandages back into the cabinet and thankfully fell asleep while washing dishes and therefore, still had them in her pocket. She praised her own short-comings. However, she wasn't sure of how to properly take care of an injured person. Not wanting his head to be hurt by the ground, she flipped him onto his back (carefully, just in case any snake was still on his body), and put his head on her lap for leverage and comfort. Not that he could feel anything due to being unconscious. She would have to wash her blood-stained apron tomorrow.
Merianna started to unravel the bandage and wrap it around his head, supporting it when she had to go under. She realized that his skin was actually scaly-like to the touch, unlike a normal human's. Did snakes feel this way too? Still, she only had bandaging in her mind and she finished up with a nice bow on his head. While she took off her apron and made a small pillow for his head to rest on the floor, she thought of how she could ever charm the snakes to gather near her.
She brought out her cards after moving Snake off of her lap and to the folded apron. Most of them could kill or harm people. And she didn't like the idea of killing off someone's friends. She could use Dris-Vit to read their minds, but that wouldn't help with her capturing them.
If it's animals you need…
She took out Fortitude, hearing his voice. When she was younger, she would play in the field and forest while Vit entertained her by morphing into different animals. Sometimes beasts, sometimes cats, except he had a much harder time replicating things like giants, elves and the mythical animals in Merianna's books.
"Oh no…You can't be serious…" she muttered. "Risado…sirscun..us…Vit…I suppose you'll turn me…half-snake now…!"
Merianna closed her eyes and let Vit complete the transformation for her. She felt the heat suddenly stolen from her feet, her fingers and then her whole body. But she started sensing the heat from everything else too. There was heat coming off of Snake's body, as well as beyond the walls to the servants' quarters. There was also a sudden influx in the smells around her. They seemed to tell her more than just what Bardroy had attempted to make as a dessert that evening. When Merianna opened her eyes, the room was much lighter than it seemed to have been before. She scratched her arm, surprised to see it between scaly and smooth.
She felt cold, and shuddered from the loss of heat. Also because she was part-snake now. But this meant that she could find the snakes more easily. She sniffed the air, and she could sense wriggling underneath the carpet. She located the edge, where a snake was curled up underneath. She bent down and lifted the carpet up, almost crying when there was a snake underneath. She could sense something else too, from the snake.
It was cold too.
Merianna suddenly saw the little snake as the small, downy bird she found in the backyard – cold and lost, possibly hungry too. That's right, even if it did nip at her, she would do her best to save it. Merianna let the carpet back down while she quickly jumped over to the closet that contained all the towels and sheets for use. She came back to the snake under the carpet and scooped it up into the towel. Even though Vit could not communicate with animals, Merianna found herself consoling the animal while she carried the towel around, looking for more.
Her newly acquired snake-ness led her everywhere in the house, toilets, fireplaces (not lit of course), bedrooms, carpets, and the list seemed to go on forever to find snakes. When her towel was almost full and they started to entwine around her (I'm not your momma! She cried), she rushed back to Snake's body and placed them there. Surprisingly, the snakes started to hide back in his sleeves, calmed down and having found their master. How many more were there…?
She sensed something further down, near the basement. She worried that the snake would find its way into the piping of the house, and she quickly brought another towel and headed down the steps. She was surprised that she didn't need a candle to light her way, seeing perfectly fine in the dark.
The basement seemed quiet and unmoving. She was sure she felt something moving about though. Suddenly, something dropped in front of her. She looked down to see a small tail. She looked up to see the body. And through the piping in the ceiling of the basement the body continued on. She felt a cold sweat breaking while her eyes traced the body of this enormous snake.
When Snake awoke, he instantly sat up. He was surprised to feel his companions slithering all over him, wanting to feel warm inside his clothes. He almost squished them sitting up so fast. Now he was suffering the wrath of an angry throbbing wound on his head. He touched it and was surprised to see gauze wrapped around. Who put such a fancy bow? It looked kind of ridiculous, but he couldn't complain. He looked around, counting his companions up. Some were still missing, of course. He suddenly smelt something strange in the air.
"S-S-Snake….!" He heard a small voice cry out.
He saw the scullery maid slowly walk from the basement, arms outstretched and pace slow. One of his bigger friends was wrapped around her. He was surprised she wasn't constricted yet.
"Please…get him…off me…!"
Actually, it was a she. He nodded and came to pick her off. She was wrapped around Merianna's head, shoulders, torso and twisted around her waist. When he approached, he suddenly was able to trace the strange scent to Merianna. Her face seemed mortified, but still too terrified to run around and fling the snake off her. She smelt just like a female snake would, and when he came in contact with her skin, he felt the familiar touch of scales. No wonder the snakes seemed to be friendly with her.
"You…! You feel…! You feel and smell just like a snake!" He muttered.
She nodded, finally free from the snake's grip, and shuddered.
"Are snakes always this cold…?" she asked.
"But you don't feel as cold." She stated.
"I'm only half-snake."
She shuddered again, trying to warm her hands by breathing on them. Obviously that didn't work as well.
"We should the others…before they freeze to death." She whispered.
"You aren't scared of snakes anymore?...asked Bronte"
"Well..." but she wasn't sure herself.
She was sure that she could get over it…someday… In the meanwhile, Snake took off his jacket and offered it to her. He insisted that he wasn't cold, so she gratefully took it. They figured that they would check upstairs for anymore snakes, provided that Merianna didn't have to handle the bigger ones again. Without having to enter Ciel's bedroom, they scrounged up a few more snakes, but Snake insisted that there were still more. The only area left to check was outside. Merianna led the way out while Snake got a bright lantern from his chamber.
"Can you call the snakes?" Merianna whispered.
He closed his eyes and focused on something. Merianna braced herself for a couple hundred slithery things to all rush at them. The night air was certainly cool, and she sat down for a while. Snake sure was taking his time, and she was getting a bit sleepy. She yawned, trying to stay awake, but her eyes kept closing. The cold air seemed to be pushing her deeper and deeper into sleep. She figured that she could just close her eyes.
"Ah…Miss, don't fall asleep!" she heard someone say.
She was trying not to. She felt her body go numb. It was such a bother to move any more.
"Miss! Wake up! You should-…it must be too cold for you here…"
"Justleaveeeeeit…." She mumbled, curling up on the ground.
Snake had forgotten how susceptible snakes were to the cold, or at least how much a snake-transformed-part-girl was. He had no idea how to wake her up, as she wouldn't respond to his shaking or yelling. Emily suggested she slither around her, because that would make her jump, but Snake doubted that would do much if she were unconscious. Two snakes were outside, but that's all who answered his call. There were still three more missing. He couldn't leave the scullery maid behind, especially if the most part of her was snake.
He had difficulty hoisting her up onto his back and making sure that his friends could get comfortable, but once she was on, he found no problem with her weight. In fact, she was much lighter than he expected. Even Doll or Wendy seemed to bear more weight than her. Snake took the lantern in his mouth, holding the handle with his teeth. His friends helped, especially Sheila, who wrapped herself around everyone to keep everything secure. He made his way back inside the house, carrying back a ton of snakes and a part-snake. Something dripped on his face. At first, he worried that it was the girl drooling in her sleep, but when he looked up; he saw the cloudy skies starting to break and rain down.
The air suddenly was windy and cold, and all the snakes on his squirmed uncomfortably. He asked them all to stop, when the rain really started pelting down. His clothes got damp and it was harder to hold onto the scullery maid, and she was in risk of falling off if he tried to run. The snakes inside started to fall silent and unmoving. Soon they too, would fall asleep from the lack of heat.
"Dammit…!" He spat, still trudging on.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of multiple cracks, like a thousands ghosts cracked their knuckles at the same time. He turned back to see white wings behind him, giving him a small shield from the cold rain. He took this blessing as a chance and continued walking into the house. He was just at the steps when he heard the girl starting to mumble something. It was gibberish to him, but she mumbled constantly, like she was giving a speech or rant.
He dragged himself over to the parlour, where there was sure to be a fireplace. He opened the door and slipped her down. He saw shocked to realize that the feathered wings came from her back. He set the lantern down and poured some of the oil out onto the fire before lighting a small part of the fireplace.
"Dammit…Dammit…light up faster…!" he snarled impatiently.
Even though the room was warming up, everything was still wet from the rain. He let his snakes down and onto the warm carpet by the fireplace while he took off his wet shirt and he slapped it down on the floor. Anything wet would become cold soon. He suddenly realized that was probably why the scullery maid wasn't waking up as well…
He escaped to the servants headquarters, banging on the door he was sure was the housemaid's. What was her name again?
"Meirin! Miss Meirin! Please wake up! It's an emergency!"
The door creaked open and a dishelleved face peeked out.
"Snake? At this time of-"
She suddenly gave a small gasp and brought her sleeve up to her nose, which suddenly started bleeding.
"What's the matter…?" she asked.
"Merianna is in the parlour…but she needs to be undressed…says Keat. Or she won't wake up properly. Says Dan."
Certainly Meirin read the situation wrong, requiring a large handkerchief to stop the bleeding in her nose. (Dear god…what have I written…)
Snake had woken up the rest of the servants, a bit unwillingly, while the gardener…Finny it was...was called over. He also put on a new shirt after the cook had told him that if he kept going half-naked, that the first thing 'Snowy' would do when she woke up was to faint again. After Meirin had changed the scullery maid, she helped with drying her hair. The only thing left was the feathered wings. Snake could not help but stare at them. The girl had woken up by then and cast away the snake skin and smell when the boys re-entered.
"Are you all right? How do you feel?" Bardroy asked.
"Better than before." She said shyly.
She shivered a bit, looking a bit of a mess.
"You might be running a cold…is there a way to dry your wings? It might not be a good idea to errr…fold them in while they're soaked."
"Ah, please don't worry about me." She replied. "I'm sorry for waking you all."
She took a towel and began rubbing the feathers on her wing to dry them. She frowned, apparently not very experienced with how to take care of them. Snake, meanwhile, explained the situation to them.
"If it's something in the house to find, leave it up to me!" Meirin said, pulling off her glasses.
She burst out the doors, assuring Snake that she would find them. Bardroy went with her with a fishnet to hold them, promising to be gentle to the snakes. Finnian also grabbed a towel and helped dry the other wings.
"If you needed help finding them, you could've just asked us, Snake!" Finnian said brightly. "We'll all help you!"
He flushed a bit before looking away, although he nodded. He, too took a towel and went to the only wing left unworked on. He seemed unsure of himself when he reached out to touch a wing.
"Are these…these…real?" he asked.
The scullery maid nodded, looking a bit embarrassed. He touched a feather with a finger, just to feel it. It was soft, but clumped together from the rain. He watched how she dried herself, and copied her movements.
"Uh…does this hurt?"
She shook her head. "Thank you, Snake."
"Merianna! I finished this wing!" Finny said.
Oh, so that was her name. He had forgotten it, but was too shy to ask her again. She politely thanked him as Snake finished the wing he was working on. The doors opened with Bardroy the cook, who carried the fish net with 3 snakes inside and Meirin, who had a tea set with her. They hissed, but calmed down when they entered the room.
"We found them!" Bardroy announced proudly.
"And since we're all already up, why not have a break?" Meirin added.
Snake reunited with his companions and set them beside the fire too. All the snakes there had curled and entwined around each other, resembling a big ball of slithery creatures. It seemed that everyone was safe and warm now. Meirin served him a cup and they sat down by the fireplace.
"So you aren't scared of snakes anymore?" Finny asked.
Merianna almost choked on the tea, but quickly took a refined pose.
"Well, whether a creature has scales or feathers or skin, it doesn't really matter…I guess I've learned that."
That still didn't stop her from jumping when Bronte decided to give her a tiny kiss on the cheek as thanks.
Snake accompanied Merianna outside to let the grown-up sparrow free. He had yet to properly thank her for helping him rescue his friends.
"Finny said that we have to give him lift before he can fly up." She explained. "I think your arms are longer, so perhaps you would give him a better take off."
That made absolutely no sense to Snake, but he sighed at her misunderstanding of physics and she placed the little bird in her palms. Her hands were smooth now and not scaly at all. The little bird flopped over in his hands and picked at his scales. With a strong movement, he swung the bird up and it took off, flapping its wings and heading off east.
"Do you fly too, Merianna?...asks Wilde."
She scratched her cheek. "Actually…I've tried to. But I can't do more with these wings than glide down or go straight up. I can't see air currents, and the way I have this…abnormality ...makes it near-impossible to really do much…"
So she wasn't part-bird after all.
Later, Ciel called him up to the study.
"So have my servants taught you much these few days?"
Snake didn't have to lie at all. "Yes, sir. Plently."
He seemed satisfied, returning to writing in a notebook.
"I suppose it was more than just setting tables and etiquette?"
"Yes sir. That feathers and scales are just the same."
Ciel smirked at the bit of nonsense biology, and dismissed the footman.