The creatures of the Dunsany descended upon the table like a chaotic summer thunderstorm, all wanting to be first to reach for plates and helpings before settling into a ravenous silence; inhaling anything of sustenance. Tepic wasted no time working his way through his own bowl with it’s generous portion. It was only a matter of minutes before he leaned back from the table and let loose with a belch.
Tepic noticed that the morlocks were changed since he’d last seen them. In place of the loincloths they wore fancy costumes—like lords of the olden days with gilded thread and puffy sleeves. He wrinkled his nose, trying not to think of where they might have acquired the clothing—especially given the near proximity of the catacombs.
Tepic counted twenty-eight morlocks, but what struck him as odd was the lack of females.
“So is this the lot of you?” asked Tepic, breaking the silence that had commenced with the first round of feeding.
“Except for trouble-makers like Tobias; and the sisters,” Leviticus spoke between swallows.
“Oh, you have sisters?” said Tepic.
“The sisters do not eat with us,” Thomas explained. “They are unruly and hard to manage.”
“This meat is foul!” Mortimer turned his head and spat. “It’s overcooked!”
“Mine was fine,” said Tepic.
“It was the fancy french cooking that ruined it,” said Leviticus, picking a stringy shard of worm gristle from his teeth. “Leaves one feeling unsatisfied—”
“I thought it were great! Just lovely….” Tepic sounded less sure than he had just a moment earlier.
“—wanting more,” agreed Mortimer, reaching for his chalise.
“Couldn’t eat another bite,” said Tepic. ”I’m pretty stuffed.”
As though of a single mind the morlocks’ heads swivelled to contemplate in perfect unison the ‘stuffed’ boy. Tepic regarded them warily, their eyes glittering darkly in the torchlight. The exception was Thomas who looked around the table in annoyance.
“What’d I do?” Tepic asked, swallowing hard under the scrutiny.
“Well done, Prince Thomas,” said Mortimer, apparently ignoring Tepic’s question as he sat back and clapped—a mocking, exaggerated show of applause. “Well done. You fooled us all. The worm soup was just the appetizer.”
“Stuffed and scrumptious, I have no doubt,” Leviticus grinned. “I can hardly resist the urge to tear into it.”
“Um…” Tepic stood from the table.
“WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING!” Thomas slammed his wine bottle down upon the table top.
“I just need to, er, use the facilities,” said Tepic.
“You have NOT been excused from the table,” said Thomas, his eyes wild and black. “NO ONE LEAVES THE TABLE WITHOUT BEING EXCUSED!” The prince lowered his voice, though his tone remained one of severe reprimand. “Now, sit down and ask to be excused.”
Tepic sat down at once and raised his hand.
“Er, excuse me, yer Principality…”
“What is it?” Thomas asked.
“May I be excused from the table to er, attend to business, yer Worshipfulness?”
Thomas arched an eyebrow.
Tepic recognized at once his error and hastened to correct it.. “May I please be excused from the table to attend to business, yer Highness?”
“Be quick. There is dessert.”