Bonnie had to admit, the food at the ball was good. It looked good, but how something looked and what it was were often entirely separate from one another when dealing with fae.
To tell the truth, a large part of her had expected something more grotesque. A banquet of rot, perhaps, where there was more mold than food and roasted humans laid atop rusted platters. But then, the fae were fair, as they so readily called themselves, so it made some sense that their own food was the stuff of delicious beauty instead of gore and rot.
To be further honest, a part of her had considered trying to take a bite of the huge pig that took up the center table, but then she realized it was made of metal, not pork, and that put a damper on that plan. It did look strangely delicious though.
Still, the steak was great and they had some nice chocolate, so she just moved along for the moment, wandering past the dancefloor where Grace had found a partner and was dancing along quite pleasantly while Gloria watched with a protective eye. It was cute that the heiress was so protective, though Bonnie was fairly certain Grace was the more dangerous of the two, at least physically speaking.
They were idle observations though, not much more than that. She had investigations to do, and that brought her walking along, looking for things of interest in Castle Aurora.
And the first thing of interest she spotted was another person wearing a wolf mask. A red wolf, in contrast to her black.
His name was Ramon, and he was not a hunter. Neither, though, was he a Hound, and he admitted some amusement at hearing the title.
He could, however, offer information.
Ramon was a fixer, well-informed and willing to aid, for a price or two. In this circumstance, that price was entertainment.
Everyone who came to Castle Aurora was hoping for entertainment. Or, at the very least, the people who understood why the castle existed were hoping for that. Those who didn’t were the entertainment for those that did.
Which led to the reasonable question of where entertainment could be found, and what games were played in the Castle’s halls. The ballroom and buffet were merely one part of it, an opening act for most, and one wolf followed another into the second act, though she was not entirely sure just how many acts there would be.
When asked, Ramon laughed, and pointed out that there were too many plays going on for there to only be three acts. But if she wished to see one, she could always follow him to the stage.
There were lounges in the castle. Lounges, parlors, places to rest and relax and beat each other bloody. The Bear’s bar catered to all three of those activities, though the third came with consequences. Not for violence, no, that was encouraged, but the sin of losing required punishment.
The bear had always been fair. Never once was she foul like the pig, nor did she have a fascination with such things like the frog. Really, the foul irritated her, as did a great many things, but foul things wrinkled her nose like little else and the reek of wolves entering her abode earned a growl.
The bear was fair, but she still had sharp teeth. A predator by nature and nurture, a hunter in a sense, yet she was not mere violence, not like that. Retaliation was allowed, attacking was allowed, offense and defense were not matters of morality but of practicality. Soulless pragmatism held a gorgeousness all its own, yet most of the fair were not pragmatic, not in her sense.
The bear cared to be fair, and that was why she allowed the stage. Her lounge filled with cigar smoke. Seats of leather surrounded tables clothed by fur. Blood red wines and amber whiskeys poured at the hands of hares, those willing to follow in hopes of avoiding teeth, yet the bear did not devour.
The bar was lined with wooden statues. Figurines, essentially, small and distorted. Perfectly carved, beautifully crafted, yet distorted all the same for there were no mere animals in a place like this.
Chimera was the word, harkening to a beast of lion, goat, and snake. New meaning granted the idea of fused creatures, of monstrosities made manifest through separated shapes slapped together, molded like clay.
One statue was of a stag with half a human face. Both sides were screaming, terror etched permanently in place. The chest was not yet stag. The fingers of the right arm were twisting into cloven hooves, yet the left remained. The legs were snapping, trying to twist and fit shifted hips, leaving the half-beast struggling as braying hounds charged after him. One had managed to sink its teeth into his half-turned shoulder, and it looked a great deal like the deer would be brought down by the hunting hounds.
Bonnie asked the bartender if she knew of a Hound. The woman, tall and broad in a coat of fur and a gown of bloodied scarlet, stared with eyes of brown like pools of mud, deep and threatening to drown. Beautiful in a way clear crystal blue could only envy.
She did know of a Hound. He was not hers, however. Hell held his fury. He was foul, not fair.
It wasn’t much help, but Bonnie thanked her nonetheless and asked if there was a tribute like gold or food to be given. The woman in the bear mask explained, quite simply, that there was:
Spilled blood was what the bear wanted. She was fair. She just liked the sight. The fair did not bleed the same as the faint or the foul, so there was a rarity to it, a gory glory that caught her interest and attention.
It did not need to be Bonnie’s own, of course. Anyone’s would do, and fortunately for her, Ramon was willing to provide.
Not his own. He wasn’t that generous. But he did provoke a lion sometime back, and the brute had no qualms about swinging for the first wolf he saw.
The fist crashed into Bonnie’s face. Her guard had been lower than it should and then there were hands around her throat. A snarling visage of an enraged lion filled her eyes as the gloved grip tightened.
She kicked out, hitting something solid and the lion stayed firm, demanded recompense, demanding her death. Not her death, really, but the death of the wolf he hated and while Bonnie wasn’t sure if he even knew she was the wrong wolf, she had a feeling he would not care.
So without qualm, she shoved her thumb into his eye.
Pain echoed in a scream, and the brawl began in earnest as she was thrown over the counter.
Alcohol rained in showers of glass and broken bottles became implements of violence. Crashing, smashing, shattering as they were used as bludgeons and knives depending on degradation.
Lions were as proud as they were wrathful and being stabbed in the throat scarcely stopped the brute, who sought to crush Bonnie’s skull under fist or boot. He did not care which. Both were his claws.
His hand clutched her mouth, grasping to hold as he drew a knife, only to scream yet again as she bit through his thumb. A knee slammed into his groin and he tried to slice only to find a bottle shoved into his bloodied eye.
Glass did not shatter, though something else did.
There was no howl of rage as Bonnie took the lead in their bloody brawl. She simply slammed his head into the bar again and again, driving the bottle deeper and deeper. When the lion fell, she stomped until his skull broke beneath her boot.
There was no place of panache in a brawl. It could not be called pugilism, nor fisticuffs. It was vicious, unrelenting, and ended with blood pooling on the stage as the guests applauded and cheered the spectacle.
Bonnie stared out in the crowd, confusion rising up through her adrenaline, before she noticed hooked lines descend from the stage’s ceiling. They pierced into the man’s skin, stabbing in deep, then hoisted him up and puppeted him to the stage’s edge, where he took a bow and then began to clap, looking towards her expectantly through a pulped face and destroyed eye.
Bonnie walked to the edge of the stage and bowed as well. No strings needed to carry here there, she was a good sport about it.
Blood had been spilled, and the bear was fair.
Really, she was delighted. Certainly, the foul were foul, but violence was violence, and the enactment was, in a word, glorious.
A new statue adorned the bar. One of a manticore, a lion with a human face, beaten, broken, and bloodied beneath a hunter’s boot.