I chewed slowly before swallowing the abhorrent soul. It was only partially black, but still tasted a lot on the puke side. I took in a deep breath and exhaled. I always thought this would be the fun part, but sometimes the taste made me almost reconsider. Suddenly, as I raised my hand for my people to send in the next one, I felt a weight on my head. I let my hand drop and looked up to see the stubby little ends of baby fingers at the edge of my eyebrows. A smile spread across my face and I shook my head a little. The fingers retracted, gripping my scalp and I heard a soft giggle.
“I wonder who’s on my head?” I asked teasingly.
More giggles fell from over my head, making me laugh a little more. I made eye contact with the servant at the doors, and waved them out with a slight twitch of my fingers. They left with a bow and shut the doors behind them. Once they were gone I reached my hand up and tickled something soft. Louder giggles reached my ears right before something sharp punctured the back of my hand.
“Ouch!” I exclaimed.
I pulled away quickly and held the sore wound. Whatever she hit me with left a small hole in my hand. It healed rapidly, but it made me wonder what exactly she had gotten ahold of. In one quick motion, I snatched her off my head by her sides and held her upside down in front of me. Her eyes met mine and she burst into laughter. I shook my head and turned her right side up. Protruding from her back were a pair of wobbly and shadowy wings. They would retract and jut out almost randomly behind her.
“You’ve got your wings!” I shouted, “Daddy’s little girl is an early bloomer! Sure they look unstable right now, but you can fly! Wait. Why aren’t you with your nanny?”
As if on cue a young human girl came bursting into the court holding her dress up away from her feet. She knelt down and subtly tried to catch her breath before speaking.
With her head still down in respect she blurted an apology, “I’m sorry, Milord! I only turned away for a moment and then she was in the air! I tried to catch her, but she took off! I don’t know where she went, but I will assist in every way I can. Please forgive me!”
I laughed and cradled my daughter in my arms. Her wings faded as I brought her close and she started rubbing on the fabric of my suit.
“Look up, Ani,” I said.
Ani looked up and her jaw dropped, “Oh. She’s here. Thank your highness.”
I shook my head and then looked at my daughter, “Elizabeth, you know you’re supposed to stay with your nanny. Go back to her while daddy works.”
Elizabeth looked up at me with wide eyes and feigned ignorance.
I gave her a stern look and pushed her hands from my suit, “You know you understand me. Keep playing dumb and we won’t go to that Earth amusement park you love so much.”
She cried out like she was yelling at me and curled her tiny hands into fists.
I stared her in the eyes and said, “I mean it.”
Little baby Elizabeth rolled her eyes and babbled a bit before letting her wings out again and drifting into Ani’s arms. Ani hugged her close and looked back up at me.
“Once again, I am so sorry, Milord,” she said, “I was reckless and—”
I cut her off, “Ani, you’re human and she’s a devil. I don’t expect you to handle everything. Just keep an eye on her, alright?”
When I said 'eye,' I waved my hand and placed a soft, subtle screen over the corneas of her eyes. Ani nodded and made no comment about what I had done.
“I will see what you see now,” I said, “Watch my girl and I’ll collect her when I am done here.”
“Yes, Milord,” Ani replied.
She then took Elizabeth and exited the court. I bowed my head and sighed. I almost didn’t have the stomach for another soul, but the vat was overflowing. I’d have to do something about Ani’s kind. They seemed to get more distasteful every day and the numbers were innumerable. But, my little girl got her wings! My heart swelled at the thought. I couldn’t wait to take her flying. I just hoped she didn’t kill Ani before the end of the week.