You do not say goodbye to him, and you definitely do not wish him good luck. He’s a professional, and to do so would imply that he’s incapable of successfully decapitating a sleeping child. Frankly insulting.
Instead, you look up briefly and blandly tell him that he’d better not be late, because you’d rather not spend an hour playing solitaire again tonight.
As you expect, he rumbles back that you’ve insulted him, but you can tell he’s secretly glad you said anything, rather than ignoring him for the paper.
(Despite the reputation you cultivate, however, you are not actually heartless.
Well. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say you haven’t been for a while now.
But you still won’t claim to have a working sense of humour.)
Once the thunder of his footfalls has faded away, you go back to reading the paper.
Although to actually call it one is generous - the writing is execrable, and the articles themselves are little more than steaming piles of rubbish churned out by the monkeys at the typewriters of the Dersite propaganda machine.
It’s not as if you expect the quality to be any better (there is no way that particular troupe of geniuses could come up with a work of literature, even if they mashed at the keys in random sequence until the end of time itself), but it frustrates you that paper rationing means the better publications have had to shut their doors.
(You happen to have the entire print run of The Grey Ladies hidden away, and if no-one ever finds out, it will be just as well. You’d rather not be court-marshalled because you ran some poor idiot through to stop your collection getting turned back into pulp and used for issues of unreadable tripe.)
You manage to get a solid half hour from enumerating the tabloid’s failings, but finally fold it away as the fenestrated wall hisses to life. Her Majesty’s face hovers into view, filling the panes with a familiar kind of grin, though the details themselves are alien. (The matte texture of her “skin”, for one. At least from this close you don’t have to look at the unruly mop of strands crowning her head, or the sartorial disaster of her jumpsuit. On the other hand, she stares at you like she’s trying to make you sweat. It almost works, but you are the Dignitary, after all, not some common conscript.)
She orders you to investigate the commotion in the square, and you comply. You could say you were glad for something to break the tedium of waiting for things to begin, but you retain some level of suspicion about the inexplicable deposition of her predecessor, and it colours your opinion of her. Jack supports her 100%, but he’s a single-minded idiot with the murderous instinct of a mink where most people have personalities. (And you say that with an appreciation of his ability to get things done.) You, however, prefer to reserve judgement until you see the results of the Queen’s “methods”. You suppose that if they get the war over before it even really begins, and hence the better newspapers open again, you’re generally for them. Still, though. You were loyal to the previous Queen. (Notwithstanding the fact that you’re loyal to every monarch Derse ever has, as a matter of rule.)
These are your surface-level thoughts as you step outside into the cool of the evening, which seems unremarkable as it ever was aside from the far-off susurrus that denotes the gathering of a crowd of pawns. You can’t imagine what has them so worked up, although it could be anything as simple as that dreamer girl floating off over them in her sleep again. If not for the fact that you’re under direct orders to investigate, that is.
You stride smoothly down along the avenues and streets, ignoring the odd carapace who cowers as you pass. The commotion grows as you approach its source.
As you enter the square, aside from the mass of rubberneckers, the first thing you notice is the pike that’s been erected in the centre, impaling what looks like a lump of... Chitin, and... Blood.
The crowd shrinks back from you as you near it, and.
It’s definitely what it looks like.
It’s a severed head.
One that looks familiar.
(You think you may be experiencing shock for the very first time. You would rather not be doing so. It’s interfering with your ability to process the information right in front of you.)
You would feel a sense of deja vu, if that were at all possible. But it can’t be. Since this has never happened before. And you don’t dream to even have nightmares to remember.
There’s a puddle dripping down and gathering redly beneath the head (you do not, you steadfastly do not think of it as the Brute’s head) as you rip the note down from above it.
A heart that you'd know better than the diamond pinned to your own uniform.
“The Prince is Awake
Your Shit is Wrecked.”
You crush the note in your fist so forcefully that your fingers almost grind together. You look up and can’t disguise how your eyes narrow.
You're going to make that brat squeal like a stuck pig before you're done with him.