An angry hen is a fearsome thing. (1184 wds)
Hatching Day on Earthenwok
Gloriana snored, shifted her plump body on the divan, over-balanced, and rolled – plop – onto the ceramic-tiled floor. Shocked awake, she squawked in alarm and unfurled her copper-colored feathers in an indignant ruffle. When she recovered enough to peer over fluffy feather-tips, she saw cast-iron struts encircling the room. Stained glass tableaux featuring heroic hens using fluorescent eye-beams to vanquish historical enemies, circled the room. Pink ape-like monsters cowered at the clawed feet of their conquerors. Alternating with the images, openings revealed a wide sapphire meadow and the crisp contours of a topiary garden. Slender slivers of saffron sunshine fell from the reed-ceiling, making a crosshatch pattern on the tiled floor.
The gazebo! What on Earthenwok am I doing here? Gloriana pondered. She gathered her claws underneath and levered herself up, stretching out iridescent wings for balance. Swaying on golden-taloned feet, she scrutinized the flower strewn floor, the gutted candles, and the tiny side table overflowing with glazed worm-cakes and other delicacies. Then, it all came back. She had invited her newest husband, Roger, to the gazebo for the night, hoping that he’d do his husbandly duty. She’d even brought a bottle of Oombrie-oil, the most expensive aphrodisiac made. All to no avail. No matter which way her enticing tail feathers waved during the mating-strut, his masculinity remained un-moved. Tired from the preening and prancing, she’d settled onto the settee to nap for just a moment.
Now, Gloriana listened as morning breezes crossed the meadow, coaxing crystal-fronds into a tinkling melody. She heaved a self-pitying sigh and perched her pudgy rear on the divan. She’d fallen for Roger the first moment she’d laid eyes on him, struggling to his feet after he’d fallen out of his Tollen tree. He’d been so cute, flapping his stubby wings and squalling in annoyance. His liquid violet eyes had met hers, and she’d known he was the one. He would father her future fledglings. Very impressed with her pedigree, he’d been married her at the next full moon. But since then, he’d been a dismal disappointment.
She craned her neck and snapped a worm-cake up with her beak.
No sense letting them go to waste. Her watch cheeped an alarm, and she stretched out her leg to read its dial, then gasped in surprise. It’s time for the hatching promenade! She hoisted herself off the divan, and scrabbled across the room, claws clicking against the tiles. Suddenly skidding to a halt, she reversed herself, and waddled back to snap up another two cakes. Then she skittered across the room and out into the meadow.
The time approached to take her latest egg from the nanny and transfer it to the hatching chamber. The beautiful oval orb would rest in its warming creche for a few days before it hatched. She trembled with excitement, wondering whether she would be blessed with a boy or a girl. Her last three eggs had been boys. Useless things, she clucked to herself. She was desperate to achieve another egg-layer and that’s why she’d been so intent upon Roger. Usually, she had already laid a new egg by the time the previous egg hatched. She was behind schedule – What will the neighbors say? I won’t be this year’s Queen Egg-layer!
With her short wings whirling ineffectually, she came to the cobbled pathways. Myrmidons tended to crystalline flowers, and used shears to fashion shrubs into fanciful sculptures. They leapt out of her way, uttering squeaks of terror, blundering into one another to avoid the winged cyclone. Gloriana’s bulk dwarfed the whimsical wonders created by her horticulturalists. Ignoring the gardeners’ genuflections, her spindly legs pistoned past
The smell of fresh, clipped rose-crystals greeted Gloriana, as she bounded through the entrance of her palatial villa. Giant urns filled with flowers lined the entryway, but the grand hall lay in shuttered silence; interior shadows swallowed up the sun’s radiance. She concentrated and sent streaks of fire at the wall-sconces to light her way. The candles illuminated portraits of plump predecessors, and shelves overflowed with egg-producing prizes.
After leaping up the first few steps of her staircase, Gloriana felt faint. Heart thumping, panting, with tiny beads of opalescent sweat dripping from her facial plumage, she paused before ascending the rest of the stairs with a more dignified decorum.
As she rounded the hallway to the nursery, she heard voices. It’s Roger! Despite herself, she flicked a wing across her opulent orange breast-feathers, and smoothed them into order. She drew herself up to her full majesty and stalked into the nursery, crest plumes bobbing behind, a dainty minuet to her symphonic glory.
Her egg nestled on its satin-pillow in the center of the room. The nanny, the best that money could buy, huddled over it, stroking the delicate shell. Roger hovered near her, a happy, bemused expression turning his violet eyes into shining pools.
Look at Roger, Gloriana thought, He’s as proud of that egg as I am. Mayhap, I’m pushing him too hard. He’ll settle down and become a good breeder soon.
Gloriana sailed up to her precious egg and caressed it, while the nanny cringed with uncharacteristic humility.
That’s when Gloriana smelled it. Oombrie-oil! Her Oombrie-oil. She hesitated, pointing her beak at Roger and then the nanny. Roger’s fond expression vanished, replaced by a look of cagey cleverness.
“My most glorious, Gloriana! We’ve just been waiting for you to arrive, my precious darling!” Roger cawed in an over-effusive tone. He darted a glance at the nanny, who crept back to the wall.
The nanny couldn’t hide the rosy blush from her down-covered cheeks, any more than she could have hidden the lingering smell of the exclusive aphrodisiac, Oombrie-oil, emanating from her private parts.
Gloriana’s eyes changed from golden-yellow to umber, and then began to glow crimson. The nanny whimpered and ducked her pink-crested head under a shaking wing. Gazing from the one to the other, Gloriana felt her blood boil at the shame of being made a fool of in her own home.
“It’s not what you think! I … uh … I … ” Roger averted his head from Gloriana’s ominous eyes.
Golden claws curled deep into the rug, and Gloriana focused all her anger on the agent of her dishonor. A bolt of crackling fire split the air, and Gloriana’s eye-beams lashed out to incinerate the guilty one. Flames lit the room as feathers blazed and flesh burned. Frenzied wing-spasms thrashed the air. Consumed by the fiery inferno, twisted bones collapsed into a blackened bundle. A few feathers floated down onto the putrid pile of roasted fowl that had been Gloriana’s forty-third husband, Roger.
Gloriana commanded the groveling nanny to ready the basket to take her egg to the hatching room. The nanny jumped in fear and scurried to the task, studiously avoiding the sooty lump on the floor.
Brushing a tear from the corner of her eye, which she told herself was just a reaction to the smoke, Gloriana thought that her decision had been a prudent one.
Good nannies were hard to find, but new husbands grew on trees.