And then some...
As yesterday's entry hinted, Grylock, Logan, and Antonio had no luck tracking down the Dauphine. They returned separately to the farm not long after Traveller and I finished our walk, and each offered their reaction to our kittenish new recruit. Logan thought Laura was cute, though he sneezed violently after touching her; Antonio scratched under Laura's chin and offered him some peanut butter; Grylock mused that kitten would go well with red sauce and a side of chicken. I'm just glad that Traveller didn't catch on to the implications of the goblin's suggestion.
We all bedded down for the night a few hours after the sun set, occupying the house and the barn outside, and I eventually dropped off to sleep after finishing my diary entry. Even Traveller's snoring from the living room wasn't enough to keep me up for long.
I dreamed. And in my dream, I saw an eye. At first I thought it might be the eye I'd dreamed of in the door, the door at the bottom of the hole, but this eye was different. It was... stupid. And honest. And trusting. And afraid. That eye was a lot of things, but most strikingly it was familiar. So damned familiar.
I suppose a dream about an eyeball could've been creepy, or scary, but this wasn't. It was just... contemplative. As if my mind wanted me to consider something for a while, something I wouldn't normally notice when I'm awake. Sometimes I think my dreams are smarter than I am, and, boy howdy, I think I'm right. Based on what happened next, that is.
We awoke at day break to a rumbling. The farmhouse began to shake, waking us all. A decorative plate in my bedroom bedroom smashed to the floor; that was enough to get Libby and I on our feet and staring out the window.
"It's a dragon!" I cried, looking up at the sky. "They came for us!"
"It's the Non!" Grylock called from the hallway. "Fuck me! Arms, everyone, te arms!"
"No! No! The Imperium! The army must've survived!" Logan jumped off of the roof in front of us, landing in the yard. Bits of corn yellow thatch clung to his boots. "C'mon, we gotta go!"
"It's an alien!" Traveller clutched to Laura, his face aglow with ecstacy. He pointed at a nearby tree. "I knew it! They're coming for you, Mr. Tumbles! You're going home!"
"Oh, fuck off, all of you!" Libby grinned, though she cocked her head at Traveller's suggestion. "I know that sound! My baby's come home!"
She was right. As we gathered on the front lawn the Dauphine burst into view, rolling mightily up a hill and ruining the farm's rear field. We cheered and hooted as it pulled to a stop, and I waved up to Morris, who was saluting us happily from the observation post. By the time we had our things together the landing ramp had plunked out of the Dauphine's hull, and Lisanna the Gypsy was worming her way towards Traveller with both wooden arms extended.
"My boy!" she exclaimed, hissing happily as she wrapped Traveller in her embrace. "Ohhh, Traveller, ye little fool! Where'd ye go this time, eh? Worried me half to death!"
Traveller lifted his (hopefully adoptive) mother into the air and kissed her snout. "Hi, mom! Look, I made friends! This is Laura! She's an ocelot!"
"Very nice, m'dear." Lisanna very clearly knew it was a kitten. "Ye canna go runnin' off anymore, Trav. Ill tidin's from the east say as much. You stay with me from now on, ye hear?"
"Sure, ma. I'll - oh hey, it's the duck!" Scooping up Laura and slipping the kitten into his hair, Traveller rushed off into the throng of people gathering at the entrance of the Dauphine. "HEY, DUCK! DO YOU LIVE IN THAT THING? WHERE'S THAT OLD MAN? DO YOU STILL HAVE THAT VOICE IN MY HEAD?"
The reunions were happy and tender. Celine ran to her father and hugged him, asking strange question after strange question. Logan ducked into the Dauphine to greet his mother. Grylock fist-bumped his drinking buddies in the crew, promising each a solid contest later in the day. Libby greeted her mechanics, and, grudingly, introduced them to Traveller, who'd woven over to kiss his 'girlfriend'. (Fuck that guy.) And I -
A soft hand touched my shoulder. I turned. "Hm?"
Bora smiled back at me. "Hey. You've been gone a while. Get tired of life in the clouds?"
I rolled my eyes, trying to cling to my irritation at the sight of the woman, but I couldn't quite hold bitter feelings. It was nice to be home. "Yeah. Less boozers up there. More dragons. I like dragons more than drinkers."
Bora laughed. "Dragons don't tip as well. Not that you lot give me much coin t'go on. That's the problem with gettin' room and board - the spending money is shit."
I shrugged. "The life of the cook. You been feeding my crew properly?"
She saluted. "Aye, cap'n. They're fatasses, the lot of 'em."
We shared a nervous titter. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel so bad in Bora's presence. It was like the old days, back in Pubton, though with a great deal less heat. She almost felt like... I dunno. A chum? A compadre? Certainly not a love interest. I can live with another friend, even if I don't completely trust her.
That's not an option anymore, though.
Based on his professions of love for my wife, I expected Traveller to act pretty much the same with every other female on the Dauphine's crew. Don't get me wrong, I still wanted him gone, but a biiiiiig part of me expected to stick around. If nothing else I figured the other women aboard the Dauphine would take some of the pressure off Libby. Give her space to breathe, you know? Hell, maybe one of them might actually like him back. The world is a crazy place like that. So when he first noticed Bora, I figured Traveller would freak out, fall to his knees, and declare his undying love.
He did freak out. But not in the way I expected.
Traveller's scream silenced the throng at once. It was a sound of absolute terror, a shriek that declared, in no uncertain terms, that Traveller was distressed. I followed the noise and found him staring at us - nay, at Bora, at Bora - and jabbing his finger in resolute accusation.
"SHE! SHE SHE SHE!" he bellowed, his whole body quaking. "SHE TOOK MY EYE! SHE TOOK MY EYE! OH MY GODS, SHE TOOK MY EYE!"
I turned to Bora, hands already splayed in apology, figuring it to be another of Traveller's idiotic mental burps. But I stopped, because the look on her face was as horrified as the look on Traveller's - only her expression, her wide eyes and drooping mouth, dripped of guilt rather than fear. She backed away a step, looked to me, looked to Traveller, mumbled something I couldn't hear -
- and nimbly leapt out of the way as Traveller crashed down where she'd been standing, his fist half buried in the ground. The impact was sufficient to put me on my ass, and I skittered away from the man.
"My eye," Traveller said again, tears pouring down his face. "My eye, my eye, my eye, you lured me and you tried to sex me and you STOLE MY EYE, WHERE IS MY EYE?!"
Bora stammered, words caught in her throat. She backed away from Traveller, though he was already backing away from her as well, shaking so violently that I thought he might be having a stroke. I was dimly aware of Plato running up behind Traveller, Plato's rat leaping from platypus to broken man and burrowing into Traveller's hair. No doubt the rat was confused to find a kitten living in there, probably scared shitless by Traveller's outburst.
I was only dimly aware of these things, though. Because I was more concerned with Bora.
Bora's face twitched. I don't mean a normal twitch, the kind you get when your kids do something bad, or when you're serving a customer and you just can't put up with their shit for one second longer. Her cheeks spasmed, twisting and churning, the bones beneath growing and reconfiguring themselves into a huge, insectile grin. Pincers slid out of her mouth, her hair ran long and wild into her face, her eyes grew into enormous, buglike slits, and her body... oh, gods, that sensuous, lithe body...
"I'm sorry," the thing that was once Bora hissed, raising long, slender hands to shield its face. It was speaking to me, I think. "I'm so sorry."
People screamed. A few, the more martial amongst my crew, jumped into action with bows and arrows. The creature turned to flee, pausing only a moment to spare me a glowing green glance before its spidery legs launched it onto a nearby road. Arrows followed in its wake, as did wild cries of confusion, anger, and sorrow.
I considered following the thing. I'm not sure why. Maybe I wanted to ask it what was going on. At the very least I wanted to know what the hell it was, because if Bora is a Non as I've long suspected... if she is... she is something very, very different from the ones we've already met.
I didn't follow. Instead I buried my head in the ground and tried to cleanse my mouth with dirt. Because, gods help me, I kissed that thing. I kissed it, and I hated the result, and now, oh, my lords and stars above, now I know why.
The crew couldn't find Bora. The creature. Whatever the fuck you wanna call it. I suspect our hesitation and shock gave it the chance it needed to get away. Who knows if we'll ever see it again. If we do, though...
If we do...
You took his eye? Why?
Dragomir the Wanderer