Oct 8
Day one of the Pumpkin Gala: the feast

It sends shock waves throughout my whole body. This feeling I have has put my whole body on high alert. My body doesn’t know whether to be incredibly elated or horribly nervous, so instead it is just ready for everything, which is incredibly exhausting. And I just woke up. The Earl has come over early so that he could join our arriving party. He’s chatting away with the Steward next to one of the spiral staircases behind me. I faintly hear him talk about how last year there was a sibyl who was imparting her prescience for free. We’re waiting for Amanda to get dressed for the day, who has been busy changing with her groupies for about half an hour.
    I remember telling the Steward about her coming. I made it sound like my decision so that he would not argue. I told him she should be allowed to come as my new fiancee. 
    “Bring Amanda along?” he asked, “What a brilliant idea. Of course she should be allowed to go with you as you are practically married! You’ll be scoring big points with her for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has you ranked a bit higher in her marriage meter.”
    I am still surprised that everyone seems to know about Amanda’s marriage threat against me and takes it so lightly. I would never think of holding a girl to a certain standard! Other than whether I like her or not, and that has very few specifics involved, and right now she annoys me, which is not liking her. 
    Then I see a wisp of white come around the corner onto the Eastern cascading staircase, which fills the staircase from wall to handrail in brilliant white. It’s Amanda in a lavish dress. She has on an undercoat of pure white fur brushed down into a shiny pelt from her neck to just above the waist. There the undercoat blends seamlessly into a creamy dragonskin skirt that fans out just past the knees. Then she has on an overcoat that looks like white bat wings that beat slowly consecutively wrapping around her and opening up. Then on top of an intricately braided set of hair sits a fluffy ear muff that gives her the appearance of having the cute ears of a flying fox. 
    She looks like something out of a dream, her face shinier than the shiniest trophy and her countenance bright and fairylike. She looks so happy to have this opportunity to dress up. I look down at what I am wearing as her escort and realize that my kingly robes are going to look so depressing and dark next to her radiant gown. I certainly look awesome and decorated, but my outfit is not going to leave an impression like hers is. She was probably counting on me dressing in dark colors, and that makes it even more annoying. 
    Yet I can’t get over how she looks. She looks like a woman, a fullygrown, bonafide woman. A feeling I have rarely felt sweeps over me and all of a sudden I’m even more nervous than before, something I thought was impossible. I must be red in the face, thank goodness I wore red. She approaches me as if she’s won something, and at this point I wouldn’t dare disagree with her.
    “Aren’t you going to dress up for the theme?” she asks with her eversmile.
    She has caught the attention of the two as well as they have come up behind me to meet her at the base of the stairs. 
    “Well! If you had told King Jess you were going to dress for the occasion, I’m sure His Highness would have whipped up something to match you, My Beauty!” the Steward kisses her hand. 
    “The theme is gargoyles is it not? Why are none of you dressed for the theme?” she wonders.
    “Ma’dear, the theme will be apparent in the decorations, the servants, the activities and in the overall impression of the summit. No one needs to dress up to fit the theme. I would even be worried you won’t look like an attendee dressed up like the waiting staff, but seeing you as you are . . . you won’t blend in for a moment,” explains the Earl. 
    I try not to look at her because it makes me lose my ability to think. 
    “Shall we be off?” I manage to get out.
    With that the Earl magicks us to the head of a roofed pathway with two giant gargoyles standing guard on each side. They don’t even turn to acknowledge our presence, the slimy, hogfaced behemoths. A smallish creature about half my height but easily four times shorter than the guard appears before us and motions for us to follow him down the path. As soon as I step foot on the path the roof starts to come to life. Thousands of grey and black wings ripple amidst ghostly grey and black lights, causing a slight dry breeze to blow along the path by their collective movement. The eerie light makes the day feel as though it is ending even though it just started, a welcome feeling to be sure. I then see hundreds of others making their way down the pathway, everyone dressed in their finest clothes. 
    The little creature leading us unravels a set of beaten wings full of holes and hovers off the ground, bouncing up and down as if it can’t hold its weight, all the while continuing to gesture that we follow him at a leisurely pace along the path. It is then that I realize music is being played, a low, almost violent sound coming from both sides of the pathway. Through the gaps as wide as windows through the wings I see concourses of gargoyles cheering, yelling and playing strange instruments. One gargoyle sits on an instrument larger than himself blowing into a pipe and drumming on the instrument’s large shoulders. I look behind us and more have arrived and started down the path as well. 
    At the end of the path it opens up into a large grassy field busy with entertainers, fireworks, kites and dining tables before a giant gold mountain. The field slopes up towards the mountain and at the top of the festival grounds stands Pumpkin Head talking excitedly with a select group at the head table. Most of the fireworks lingers high above, continuing to shroud the bright sky so that it feels like early evening. I am offered a cup, which I sip casually. It is some kind of bitter liquid which I do not particularly appreciate. I continue to walk along as our escort leads us to an empty table closer to Captain than to the end of the path. In the center of our and every table is a severed hog’s head rest ing on a bed of bark and cranberry branches. I smell cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in the air. 
    I turn to find Amanda as she is suddenly not with us. I look around until my eyes lock with hers some ten yards away being approached by many creatures and men. The one next to her kisses her hand and appears to be introducing himself to her. Like a true peacock, she doesn’t even look at the man as he introduces himself, but smirks at me instead. Her smile is nicking a nerve within me now.
    After about half an hour of nonstop exploding fireworks, kite in the shape of a dragon swooping in just over our heads, a troll breathing fire onto our hog’s head, and balancing acts from spindlyboned creatures, everyone seems to have arrived because Captain silences all the activity with his hands. Amanda rushes over still gloating and then we sit down as a giant anthropomorphic lizard with severelycolored scales is shown to the table along with his friends. The monster looks ready to rip out my heart and eat it raw, he looks so intense. It might be the sharp features, or the giant claws. 
    “Welcome to the Decimal Pumpkin Gala! This is the tenth proud year that we celebrate the coming of Autumn with a feast and games! The gargoyles of my kingdom gladly celebrate along with you in what we are deeming the year of the gargoyle! You have all been given a drink. Let us toast to this year’s harvest!” announces Captain. 
    I lift my cup along with everyone else but as I go to take a drink I hear the strangest voice.
    “The big showoff,” says the voice. 
    I look around and realize that not only can I not find the person whose voice it is, but no one else is looking either. I feel quite odd indeed until I see Amanda too is looking for some voice.
    “Did you hear that?” she asks.
    “Yeah, I distinctly heard a voice,” I concur. 
    Eventually I give up.
    “Must have been a ghost,” I relent.
    Food appears at our plates and even though the portions are small, as soon as I finish a dish it disappears and is replaced instantly with another one: warm coffee cake with almost overpowering cinnamon swirls, savory carrot reduction swimming in gravy, sweet vanilla pudding with a dollop of cranberry jam, buttery turkey shank encrusted with herbs, gold potatoes with rosemary and tomato gelatin, pint of malt, cup of eggnog, mouthwatering blackened baconfilled brussel sprouts, delightful portabello mushrooms filled with red pepper puree, exquisite greek chili and tender beef filet. One after another, the meal is endless.