Dinner with Darigan
The Darigan Scorchio flopped onto his Hewn Stone Sofa as if it were a cloud. He was used to the sofa and he was too tired to care. That’s when he heard a tread on the stair, leading to his one room home. He sighed, knowing what was coming next. An electric Blumaroo leapt lightly over the back of his sofa and plopped beside him.
“Have you ever met Lord Darigan, Afzal? Well, we’re having dinner with him tomorrow at six o’clock.”
The electric Blumaroo smirked, rose to her feet and paused at the head of the stairs. She was purposely not giving Afzal time to react.
“Oh yeah and my family will be there, too.”
The slam of his front door announced Amalia’s departure. To that first bit of news, Afzal had only given Lia a withering look. He was a Darigan Scorchio living on Darigan Citadel. Of course he hadn’t actually met his ruler but he had certainly seen the Darigan Korbat on numerous occasions. Had he reacted any other way than he had, Lia would have taunted him unmercifully.
It had been Lia’s second statement that Afzal reacted to. He had never met her family! He knew they were royal, having a duchy in the vicinity of the Haunted Woods but that was all. He shot straight up, in reaction to the news, as if Lia had physically shocked him (as she was wont to do). Lia had dumped the news on him and then left him, alone, knowing what he would do.
The Darigan Scorchio leaned forward, elbows on knees, staring intently at his unlit fireplace. While his body still ached from his long day as a mason’s apprentice, his mental fatigue vanished. He didn’t know how long he stayed that way but eventually, he made his way to his Hewn Stone Bed, sleeping as soundly as he always did.
The next day after work, Afzal got cleaned up and met Lia just as she was coming in, a suit in hand.
Afzal glowered at Lia. “Ruffles? You want me to wear ruffles…and hearts to dinner with Lord Darigan?”
Lia met Afzal’s gaze unflinching. “You’re saying you can’t handle wearing ruffles and hearts?”
That was enough; Afzal snatched the suit and put it on, careful not to tear the delicate material with his piercing black claws. Then, they were off to the castle. Afzal had been there before, studying the architecture and technique used to build it. Though, this was the first time he would actually go inside it. At the entrance to the castle, the Torches were waiting.
Right away, Afzal felt the difference between Lia and the rest of her family. She made a statement in her Black and Red Promenade Dress. Her father had a regal bearing while her mother had an understated elegance. Her brother only stood out because he was rainbow in color. As for her younger sister, she seemed incredibly mature for her eleven years.
“You told me you had two sisters. Where’s the other one?” Afzal questioned with a sidelong glance at Lia.
“Angela is only seven years old. She is at home, like children should be,” Lia responded a little snappishly with a glared at her younger sister, Ana.
The young blue Bori turned away, walking between her mother and older brother.
“Amalia, Ana has given your father and me no reason to exclude her from this special occasion,” Duchess Torch said in that gentle but firm way of hers.
“Yes, it isn’t every day that we are invited to have dinner with another royal, especially where we can invite our children and one guest,” Duke Torch said, with a firm nod at Afzal.
Taken aback at the acknowledgement, Afzal looked away from the royal Kyrii. He was extremely uncomfortable around the entire family, except for Lia. The two of them had hit it off immediately, if one saw their constant bickering as an easy friendship. He wasn’t sure what to make of the Torches. They seemed so stiff and formal, as unlike Lia and him as Neopets could get.
The Darigan Aisha and Poogle guards allowed the group of six into the castle. A Darigan Gelert servant showed them to the modest dining hall. A long table claimed the center of the room. They stood at the table and Lord Darigan entered. Duke Torch and his son Marc bowed deeply to the Darigan Korbat while Duchess Torch, Lia and Ana curtseyed just as deeply.
“Good evening, Lord Darigan,” Duke Torch said.
“Thank you for inviting us to share this repast with you,” Duchess Torch said.
“Good evening to you as well. You and your family are welcome,” Lord Darigan responded, with a slightly less deep bow of his own.
The Darigan Korbat seated himself at the head of the table, Duke Torch on his right, Duchess Torch on his left. Marc sat beside his father and Afzal sat beside Marc. Lia sat beside her mother and Ana sat beside her oldest sister. As soon as they were seated, the first course of the simple three course meal was served. First came a broccoli and cheese soup, fresh salad with a variety of chopped berries and soft, thick, warm loaves of white bread with fresh butter and a choice of grape, strawberry and Florange jam (for Ana) with Braku Berry Juice to drink.
For Afzal, he was not used to such overabundance but he conjectured correctly that for his dinner companions, this was rather modest fare. Marc and Ana opted for the salad while both he and Lia went with the soup. The only times Afzal had ever eaten with others was during lunch with his coworkers or meals with Lia. For the former, they were intent on eating, not socializing. For the latter, he and Lia were rather casual in their conversations.
Lia was not an overly kind individual. She thought her brother was a complete pansy and her sister a perfect, prissy princess. Afzal was rather at a loss as what to do since Lia was sitting diagonally across from him. When he looked at the electric Blumaroo, she made a face at him. He was uncomfortable with the silence and his best friend knew it.
The question was: what was Afzal going to do about it?
The Darigan Scorchio took the plunge. “So, Marc, Lia tells me that you’re an artist. So, you just sit inside and draw all day?”
Marc ignored Afzal’s question, studying him for a moment. “You call my sister Lia? No one else has ever given her a nickname.”
“That says that you really do care for her, Afzal,” Ana interjected.
That comment received a glare from Afzal and Amalia.
Afzal gave a derisive snort. “Not hardly. I’m just not going to waste my time saying Amalia when Lia works just as well.”
Neither Marc nor Ana seemed offended by the reaction they had received. They exchanged a small smile before returning to their salads. Now Afzal saw for himself just how aggravating Lia’s siblings were. He looked at Lia and saw she had a knowing look on her face. He looked away, all too often unable to give a sharp retort.
The first course was removed while the second, main course was being served. There was a whole roasted chicken, corn on the cob and mashed potatoes. Again, not something Afzal was used to. He carefully observed the others to see how one actually ate corn on the cob. He ate clumsily, trying to eat neatly and failing.
The mashed potatoes were soft and creamy but Afzal found he did not like the texture.
“This is no better than the soup we just ate!” Afzal complained to Lia.
Lia gave the Darigan Scorchio a dry look. “Don’t eat it then. Feel free to insult your ruler. I’m certain he has an empty cell available.”
Ana gasped. “What a cruel thing to say to a friend, Amalia!”
The electric Blumaroo only rolled her eyes and turned back to her meal. Afzal cast a swift glance at Lord Darigan. He was far down the table and fully engaged in a conversation with Duke and Duchess Torch. Afzal was impulsive but had learned to suppress that part of his personality…until he had met Lia. He had gotten used to saying whatever was on his mind to her and not offending her.
The extra company at the table made Afzal feel stiff and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. His elbow accidently bumped Marc just as the rainbow Ogrin was going to take a bite of food. It jolted him enough to send his fork flying from his grasp, landing smack dab in the center of Lord Darigan’s plate!
“You klutz!” Lia hissed across the table though it was unclear whether the comment was directed at Afzal, Marc or both.
Duchess Torch had seen the flying fork and immediately looked down the table. She saw that her son looked like he wanted to sink through the floor and that Lia and Afzal looked like they were about to burst with laughter. Ana looked distraught, unsure what to do. Duchess Torch pinned her oldest daughter with her gaze. Amalia only managed to bring herself down to a smirk while Afzal smothered his own mirth knowing if he didn’t, he would get an unpleasant shock later.
At the head of the table, Lord Darigan had swiveled one ear, hearing the sound of the fork sailing through the air and then landing on his plate. He hadn’t immediately reacted because he was listening intently to what Duke Torch was telling him. At the next moment, there was a pause in the conversation. Lord Darigan looked down at his plate, picked up the offending fork and quickly located the one plate that was now sans fork.
“If you wanted a second serving, Marc, you should have just said so. No need to throw a fork at your host to get my attention,” Lord Darigan said, his face quirking into a quick smile before handing the utensil to a nearby servant while another handed Marc a clean fork.
“Yes, sir,” Marc managed to say, meeting Lord Darigan’s gaze for a moment before looking away.
“For a moment there, Marc, I thought you had turned white,” Amalia said with a snicker.
Marc gave his sister a pained look but did not otherwise respond. Over the years, he had decided the best way to handle Amalia was to ignore her. She was only looking for a reaction. When she didn’t get one, she snorted and turned her attention elsewhere.
“I know I dragged you here for some reason,” Lia said with a wry grin.
“I came because I wanted to. Lord Darigan is a great ruler and besides, this place of his is pretty nice. My coworkers will be so jealous when I tell them tomorrow,” Afzal chuckled.
The second course lingered. Afzal hadn’t really touched his food. As a result, he was ravenous after a hard day of work. He was utterly bored and pitied Lia. She had to do this all the time!
For the first time, the Scorchio truly understood where his friend came from. It was no wonder that she tried to get away from it all as often as she could. She visited Darigan Citadel at least once a week and often stayed for the weekend. While she was certainly different, Lia fit right in with the citizens of D.C. With her family, she was as restricted as Afzal for he could see it in every move she made.
At long last, the second course was cleared and the third and final course was served: dessert. This was Blackberry Gateau, Brightvale Berry Pudding and Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. There was also fresh, cold milk to go with it all. Afzal almost gagged. He hated sweets!
Lia knew this and her grey eyes glittered with amusement. Thankfully, this last course was quick and they were soon taking their leave. Afzal breathed a sigh of relief as they stepped outside. Lia looped her arm companionably through his.
“Hated it much?” Lia asked.
Afzal glared at Lia. “I will never do that, again.”
“Whatever. Are we going to get some real food now?”
The two friends shared a mirthless laugh, walking away from their dinner with Darigan and relishing in their regained freedom.