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I smiled contentedly to myself, and stroked my soft little lamb. His name was Baby Lumpkins. I named him. Isn't that just the most adorable name for a lamb?
Of course, BO calls her sheep "Little", "Tiny", "Small", and "Mini". Disgusting. I WOULD pity her sheep, in light of their hideous titles, but they were just so stupid and lazy, it was rather difficult to allow them to arouse any emotion but disgust.
How stupid were they, you ask? Well, at the moment, the hideous animals had lost themselves again. Of course, it may have been due to the lengthy conversation Bo and I were having. And I GUESS I could have warned Bo that they were heading over the bridge. But she had been going on and on and ON about how adorable her hideous excuses for sheep were, and I could hardly help smirking inwardly as the "adorable" and "brilliant" beasts meandered moronically across the bridge.
So, I was sitting by myself on our shepherd's rock with darling Baby Lumpkins. Bo was out searching for the abominations, and I was awaiting her return, when Vermin showed up. I sighed, and my gorgeous Baby Lumpkins bleated uncomfortably. Why did this petulance always show up?
Vermin was the swineherd. He had once been a king of the Hyrene people. Roughly translated into our language, it means "rat." So, when he had been captured, our own king, King Dashing IV, had laughed aloud and dubbed him Vermin. Bo thought that it was cruel to demean a person with such a title. But the stupid boy does not even know what it means. I find it amusing, because I am simply disgusted with him. Although he has never said or done anything particularly vilifying, he is so incredibly DIRTY. He had mud and dung all over him, and his stringy dark hair clung to the back of his neck with sweat. There were bloody scratches littering his stick legs, bestowed upon him by the agitated pigs.
I shuddered at the very sight of him. He smiled brightly at me, but all I could see was the gaping black hole where his tooth was supposed to be. My light blue dress shuddered with me, its revulsion as evident as mine.
"'lo there, Mary!" he cried, waving. I forced myself to hide my utter revulsion. "Hello, Vermin," I replied, smiling as brightly as I could. He grinned foolishly in return.
"Bo with you?"
"I am afraid her sheep have wandered off again; they are such stupid beasts. In fact, they remind me quite a bit of her, now that I think of it."
Vermin's face fell. He was obviously crazy for Bo, though I had no idea why. But at least his adoration gave him a reason to leave. I could hardly stand him.
"Oh," he murmured, eyeing his mud-encrusted bare feet shamefully. "I - I only wished to give her some news." My eyebrows perked. We shepherdesses spent nearly all our time out here in the fields. We had very little knowledge of the recent goings-on. And neither, so I thought, did a pig boy.
"What news?" I asked sweetly, appearing quite interested. Vermin smiled, glad at my unexpected attentions. "Prince Charming is throwing a ball to find his lady love, you know. He's inviting the twelve sisters from the neighboring kingdom, and he's inviting almost all the ladies here, too. Rumor is he'll marry anyone, even a peasant or something."
Before I could stop myself, I blurted, "How did a vermin like you find that out?" Vermin's face twisted with emotion. "I -I - sometimes the king calls me in and laughs at me, talking about how low I have been brought. I always have to sit there and listen." His fists tightened with rage. "I have to stand patiently and listen to his drunken, jeering guffaws. So afterwards, I wait outside the throne room and listen to the swine talk, to avenge myself. I'll have the word spread round before his messenger comes, and then won't the beast look stupid!" His eyes flashed mutinously.
"Vermin!" I screeched, and gave him a back-handed blow across the face. He staggered and fell, staining the green grass with his filth. My voice lowered to a hiss. "Please, if anyone were to hear you, they should imprison you." I could only imagine how he would look if he were to languish in there for a few months.
I guess my blow had jarred him back to reality. He nodded humbly. "I apologize," he murmured, eyes downcast. Now I felt guilty. "Oh, Vermin, you need not apologize," I replied, "I was only - only worried for your safety, you understand." I visibly winced when I said that. Eugh! Ah! Eek! Ugh! Blech!
He smiled with only his chapped lips. "Thank you, then," he said. I allowed a slight smile to spread across my face. "Quite welcome, dear."
A white flash burst onto the scene. A horsewoman's brown curls spilled from her red hood as she pulled up beside us on her white steed, breathing heavily, and quickly dismounted. "Mary, dear, consorting with vermin is not good for your health."
I grinned despite myself. "Good day to you as well, Scarlet." Scarlet grinned, forcing a stray curl behind her ears, and then turned to Vermin. "Shoo, rat!" she cried, pushing him roughly. He nodded and trailed away, searching me with his dark eyes. I pretended not to see him.
"So," Scarlet began, "Seen anyone odd lately?" I sighed inwardly. Scarlet had a freakish obsession with strangers. It was her fantasy to have a complete unknown come up and introduce themselves to her, instead of her rushing to them with greetings.
I shrugged. "Besides Vermin, no." Scarlet shuddered. "Those Rats killed my father," she hissed, glowering mercilessly at Vermin's starved body.
"Well, Scarlet," I pointed out, "You need not take it out on someone who was not nearly of age to murder during the war. It is no fault of his that the rat people's warriors killed your father."
"He is the only one left!" she screamed, "He is the one who must pay!"
"He has paid something, I suppose. He is worse off than the pigs, you know. He eats what they leave."
Scarlet shrugged. "I want him dead. I want his limp form to swing in the wind every time I pass the square, so that I may spit upon it!"
I actually glared at her. "Leave him alone, please! It is very unladylike, and your mother always knows when you have been unladylike," I cried. Scarlet nodded. "He is no stranger, anyways," she replied dismissively, waving a hand through the air.
I smiled as she went into a lengthy description of the latest strangers she had seen in the city square. I closed my eyes, hugging my knees, and listened to her vivid caricatures.
"You'll see many strangers at the Prince's ball," I told her absently. Scarlet's face lit up. "A ball? The Prince is having a ball? Heavens, why did you not warn me earlier? Oh, how many unknown souls to discover!" She squealed with delight. "I must attend! Oh, I must!"
"Well, Vermin claims that nearly every girl in the kingdom is to be invited! I am quite sure that you will be given an invite."
That was when Bo appeared over the crest of the hill. And, much to my displeasure, she was leading those accursed sheep.
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