“She’s not going to wake up, Dragomir.”
Dragomir nudged Bora anyway. The white-capped lump of a woman did not respond beyond a gentle, gurgling snore. Her face looked horribly withered by daylight, a sharp contrast to her usual, exotic beauty. She’d aged a hundred years overnight, and would probably continue to age until her body crumbled away into dust. It seemed the inevitable fate.
Dragomir glanced at The Baron. The older man’s eyes looked puffy behind his thick glasses, either from crying or a lack of sleep. Dragomir could relate. He hadn’t slept overnight either, too busy exploring his fragile new limbs, watching the unsteady rise and fall of Bora’s blanket, and wondering how long his newfound, precarious health would last. He thought he might just crumble away himself if he dared fall asleep, a heap of tar-black ashes no different from the residue left behind by their campfire. A bit greener, perhaps.
Only Traveller had slept. After a few minutes of careful, wondrous exploration he’d dropped onto the ground and snored loudly for almost seven hours, the diary curled up beside him. Dragomir had expected Traveller to get up and walk away at some point, his purpose fulfilled and his body restored, but he was still in camp come daybreak. His two human eyes blinked at Dragomir now, too perfectly symmetrical for Dragomir’s liking.
But then, Dragomir thought, scratching his oily head, I wonder if I should even be calling him that anymore. Traveller, y’know. He’s not. He’s just Dragomir again. Which means I’m… I dunno. Maybe I’m the Traveller, now. Nameless, aimless, and… well, not near as strong, can’t even shift forms anymore… but… yeah, the theme fits. Fuck me, the theme fits.
“Help me get her in the back of the cart,” Dragomir insisted. Settling on his knees, he slid his hands under Bora’s head. She didn’t respond to his touch, though her breathing lightened a little.
“But - “
“Now,” Dragomir insisted. The harshness of his voice hurt his ears, but he maintained his tone. “Come on. We don’t have much time. This… whatever it is she gave me… won’t last long. I’ve gotta see Eve before it happens.”
The Baron nodded his head sadly, and he moved to lift Bora’s feet - but Traveller stopped him. Stooping, the bare-chested man gently tugged Bora up into his arms, without Dragomir’s aid, and lifted her easily off of the ground. Dragomir suspected he still had his incredible strength - not that Bora’s emaciated form would be difficult for anyone to lift anymore. She appeared, too, to have lost almost a third of her bodyweight overnight.
He could crush her, Dragomir thought, watching Traveller set her down in the back of the cart. I thought he would. She ruined his life. He was terrified of her. By all rights he should just squash her flat. He doesn’t know she’ll never recover from this. Unless…
Traveller cut into Dragomir’s thoughts by turning to The Baron. He cocked his head to one side, then, without speaking, he opened his mouth - and unleashed an earth-shaking belch. The Baron, surprised, staggered backward so awkwardly that he hit the ground. Dragomir was tempted, rather violently, to turn away - until he noticed green fumes wafting out of Traveller’s mouth. They swirled around his lips for a moment and disappeared into the sky.
“Don’t put a ghost in me again,” Traveller said to The Baron, helping the older man back to his feet. “It kept me in place, so thanks, I guess. But don’t do it again. I don’t like people controllin’ me anymore. It sucks. I’ll punch you in the nose.”
So that’s how they did it. Dragomir thought back to the previous night. He’d never noticed The Baron implanting one of his ghostly controllers into Traveller’s mouth. During story time, maybe? Doesn’t matter. Guess if one of those is good enough to hold Eve it can do the same to this guy, though.
The Baron’s pale cheeks flushed a sickly red, and he turned away. “S… sorry. She asked. Last favours, I guess. I won’t do it again. Probably to anyone. I don’t like it very much. They do strange things to people.”
“That’s putting it lightly,” Dragomir commented wryly.
They set off half an hour later, Dragomir and The Baron up front, Traveller in the back with Bora and the diary. At some point after lunch Traveller began to tell stories to Bora, though she didn’t respond, and it took Dragomir almost an hour to realize Traveller was reading out of the diary. Paraphrasing in many spots, perhaps, but Dragomir recognized it as a series of entries from his time in Pubton, during the trial of Former-King Jeffrey.
Man. Dragomir looked up at the sky, imagining the past on its blank blue canvas. I thought I had it bad back then. Leading a community so split by shit like that was rough, even when it seemed like everybody wanted the same thing. Daena sure didn’t. I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into past that point, did I? Thought I’d seen the worst, but… hrm. Everything always seems to roll further and further downhill for me, to the point that shit like that… just doesn’t seem so bad anymore.
“Dragomir,” The Baron muttered, tapping Dragomir lightly on his arm. A tiny bit of Dragomir’s clothes, which were now solely a part of his body, flaked away like dried mud. “Oh. Shit. Um, sorry.”
Dragomir waved his hand gingerly. “Who cares. Doesn’t hurt. What is it?”
The Baron flushed regardless. “You were telling Traveller a story last night, right?”
“Yeah. What, did you hear through your little ghostie? You weren’t even there.”
“I did. And it was… well, it was a familiar tale,” The Baron admitted. “But you started by asking Traveller something. Do you remember what?”
“Can you read?” Dragomir asked.
Traveller cocked his head to one side. “No. Mom ’n dad didn’t know how to read, and… that other guy… well, I think he knew, but maybe I don’t remember…? I think he liked to eat more.”
Dragomir’s mouth went dry as he listened to Traveller reciting from the diary. The words, though often truncated and commented upon by the mind of a dullard, were definitely Dragomir’s.
“Yeah,” Dragomir admitted. “I remember.”