On my way back from the town hall, I spotted a few members of the Vulture Corps in their permanent encampment outside the gates of the Orange Palace.
A couple of them looked downcast, like naughty schoolchildren caught dunking beggars in the fountain. They were being berated by Jerrycan, the King’s Assistant Spinmeister. As I drew near the gate, the subject of the altercation became clear.
“You’ve been at the King’s birdie post again!” Jerrycan raged.
“No we ain’t, Miss Jerrycan, honest.”
She shoved the hapless wretch aside and pointed to a glowing brazier the two of them had been trying to hide. Suspended over it on a spit, the unmistakable carcasses of two pigeons browned and crisped.
“Aww, c’mon Miss. We got these from the town square.”
Grim faced, Jerrycan pointed to the small brass message capsule still attached to one blackened claw.
“We got to make a livin’ somehow,” the other one pleaded. “Times is ’ard, what wiv King Grump declarin’ us a Public Nuisance an’ all.”
“In times past,” the first one mumbled, “we used to get invited inside t’Palace and looked after proper like.”
“Please don’t be ’ard on us, Miss Jerrycan. This is all we ’ave to live on nowadays.”