The magician at St. Agnes Hospital did not have time to rule the city. The lion kept him busy. They filled the hours with poker, a welcome break from chess.
“A game of luck, more than strategy,” the magician mused.
“We’ll see,” growled the lion. He won nearly every hand — a misfortune for the staff, since nurses were the stakes. The magician made his winnings disappear, or sawed them down the middle. The lion ate his share.
The hospital director was displeased, and so he came to grouse, a risky venture with that pair. He’d always been a fool, too willing to stick his tongue on ice, run with scissors, or ride without a helmet.
“We must have law and order,” he professed, hands clenched behind his back.
The magician studied him. The lion’s gaze was lazy. He licked his lips.
“Very well,” the magician said. “Make some laws. A Declaration, a Pronouncement.” He waved his hand, already bored. “Call it what you will.”
Dizzy with excitement, the director built a scaffold stage. He was a Grecophile who had spent long hours with the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. “A model society,” he muttered late at night. “Perfection.”
But the citizens would not assemble. “They refuse to listen to my summons,” he complained. By now, the magician’s dragon burns had healed. He was back in Menagerie Square, in a chess game with the lion. “No one fussed this much when I ate the baker,” the lion grumbled. “Ah, well, nurses save people. Fat Charlie just . . . made them fat.”
The lion swiveled his mammoth head towards the director. “A roar usually works well,” he said.
“But I cannot roar.”
The lion sighed. On the Square, the armadillo cheer squad froze. The magician intervened. A few words chanted, a complicated gesture and he had a tall column made of stone.
“Roar into this, will you?” said the magician. The lion did. “There,” the magician explained. “Push the stone lion’s nose and the roar comes out these slots.” The director gushed his gratitude.
“My nose?” the lion snarled. “I should eat you for less than that.”
The magician snorted. “You’d get bored.”
They went to see the First Pronouncement, something about speed limits. In rapid order, there were laws against street soiling, overdue library books, and public grooming. The lion licked himself. The magician scowled. “Blather. Too many rules.” He twirled a finger, said a rhyme, and turned the hospital director into stone.
“My nose button?” said the lion.
“Gone. I always preferred Dionysus to Archimedes, in any case.”
“Ares wasn’t bad.”
“Shall we play at knucklebones?”
The lion’s eyes gleamed a tempest. That week was a bad one for architects and chickens.
In the Square, clouds passed above the stone director. The roaring cage became a pigeon-house. Birds perched on the director’s head and pooped along his toga. Inside the living stone, the director’s silent curses made a distant Ares blush.
Learn more about Wing-Feather Fables here,
or just read the first installment of Leonine.