Remind me not to put things like 'king hater' in you, diary. Nobody saw it, but it's still not a great idea. I, uh, love King Jeffrey.
Today. Today was the day, the last day of 'preparation' for New Years, and the official day OF New Years. I was visited by The Baron again, and he told me only one thing: "Get him drunk. Very drunk."
Seemed a hell of a lot safer than tangling with mammoths.
I went to Grylock's room, fully expecting him to launch a full-on pee barrage the moment he heard my voice, but he was already gone, and gone to the first place I checked: the Beefiary. Stinking drunk in the middle of the mess hall. According to good ol' brother Robert, he'd been there for an hour already.
I was leery about going near 'im, but as soon as Grylock noticed me he waved me over with a laugh. "Dragofuck," he yelled at the top of his lungs, "move your pasty tush this way, boy! Drink with me!"
What could I do? I sat down with him. A few seats away. "Hi, uh, ambassador, I just wanted-"
"Shut yer gob." Grylock slid a mug my way, spilling half of it on my pants. "Drink. I'll forgive ya if you drink. Wasn't your fault noways."
I drank. Alcohol's never had much of an effect on me anyway, and it was part of the job, so why not? We drank, and he talked, and before I knew it we were joined by a LOT of other people, all drinking and laughing and carrying on. I'd forgotten all about the constant parties on New Years.
I'd figured that Grylock would be dead to the world after several hours of drinking, but by midday he was still at it, up on the tables and belting out goblin songs while everyone around him cheered. He was the centre of attention. Then, after a particularly rousing serenade of burps, he came back and sat next to me, so close that the amount of alcohol on his breath offended my nose.
"Dragofuck," he slurred, slumping against my arm, "yeeeeeer a good bastard. Ye know? I know that wasna yer fault. Tha, that stupid king of yours been settin' me up all week. I'm not blind, e'en with glasses the size o' a fat woman's teets."
He leaned in really close. "I trust ye so much, Dragofuck, that I'm gonna tell you a secret. Big secret. You ready, you ugly mug?"
I nodded, but he'd already started talking anyway. "I'm… I'm on a mission. BIG mission, King Gok sent me on. He wants… s'cuse…" He paused to vomit. "… there we go. BIG mission, wants te find out…"
Now I was interested. A secret mission from the goblins? No surprise, that, though knowing WHAT the secret mission was seemed too valuable to pass up.
But he was having trouble talking all of a sudden. "Te… find… the… you seen… a hole…?"
Hole. That one word made the entire day of drunken stupidity worth it. But before I could say anything, Grylock slumped, squashing his face against the table, drool and rejected booze flowing out onto the wood. Goblins are gross little creatures.
And that's where it all went wrong.
As soon as Grylock fell asleep, King Jeffrey came out of hiding. He'd been sitting nearby with a hood on the entire time, watching, and when he did all of his royal guards did, too. Gods only knows how I missed those stupid-looking helmets under their cloaks, but I guess I can chalk it up to too much beer.
"Aha!" he yelled, motioning for his guards to grab Grylock and carry him away. Then he stood on the table. "Right! Are you all ready?"
The drunken crowd, awed by the king's sudden appearance, cheered and listened.
"Good!" He jumped up and down, nearly upending his table. The royal guards kept it steady. "Then it's time this damn fortress lived up to its name! Long live Castle GoblinPaddle!"
The crowd streamed out of the room in the king's wake, following the guards who were hauling Grylock away. I didn't join 'em, 'cause I already knew what was happening, and I was thoroughly ashamed of my part in it all.
You see, this castle has a tradition. Every year on New Years Eve, a captive goblin is taken up to the top of the king's tower, stripped of his breeches and paddled mercilessly by the king with a tennis racket. He's then locked into a stockade and left there, his bare bum pointing out the hole in the tower, pointed towards Goblinoster. It's all meant as a slight to King Gok, who, as you know, is the king's friend.
As I write this, Grylock's up there, probably sobering, definitely freezing, with his ass aimed at his homeland, his only company a stony-faced royal guard and Barrel the Dragon. I suspect Barrel, a kindly soul, will keep Grylock warm through the night with his drool.
I don't know what all the prep was for. Likely everything Grylock did was meant to humiliate him, and though that didn't work so well with the smithing, the rest went according to plan. Either way, I'm an awful person.
Today was a DISASTER, diary, an utter disaster. For me AND for Grylock. Cripes!
I got a visit from The Baron in the morning. He'd overheard Grylock saying he wouldn't do this anymore, and DEMANDED, in his polite way, that I get the goblin out for the third day of prep. The king insisted. And when the king insists, well… he's the king. Royal prerogative, or something? Kings are bosses, long story short, and you don't disagree with the boss.
So I went to Grylock's quarters. Knocked on the door. No reply. Knocked again. Still, nothing. Knocked a third time, and a few seconds later I felt something warm seeping into my boots. Looked down, and gods help me, he was peeing on my feet! Under the door! Sick little bastard, that goblin.
"Ambassador," I said, trying to keep an even tone and stepping out of the firing zone, "this day's important. Real important. It's not like yesterday, promise."
Lemme tell you now, diary, that I had NO IDEA what was planned for today. So that promise was, uh, yeah, biggest lie yet. If I'd known, I probably woulda joined Grylock in hiding. But I didn't, so things happened the way they did.
"Bullshit!" he yelled, along with a few more imaginative curses in his mother tongue. Scary language, that. "You're all just picking on the foreigner! Well, you sons of whores, you won't get me! No sir!"
I was in a pickle. I had no choice but to lie. Again. So I said the first thing I could think up: "But, ambassador, today's… uh… today we're… having a picnic with the king?"
Quiet. All I could hear was the trickle of urine, and, after a second, the zip of pants.
"Think I'll get to ask any questions?"
"Oh!" I hadn't expected him to say anything. "Yeah, yeah! Of course! Look, you just get ready, and I'll come get you in twenty minutes, okay?"
Grunt. That was good enough for me. I heard him shuffling away from the door, and I retreated, too, mainly to change my shoes. I'm used to my own pee fouling my clothes, not someone's else's.
Before I got back to my room, though, The Baron was waiting for me with one of his men. "Deft lying, Dragomir. Terrible lie, but good enough."
I apologized profusely. "Can you, uh, get that arranged? What IS supposed to happen today, milord?"
He smiled. I didn't like it, 'cause it looked way too apologetic. "You'll see, Dragomir. King's orders. Go, get some fresh stockings, then come back and escort the ambassador to the front of the castle. Royal guards will be waiting."
So I did. And we went. And, sure enough, there were royal guards, and they took us out of the castle, through a secret back entrance I'd never known was there, through the offices of the castle's scribes and tax collectors. (I managed to filch a couple of fresh quills. That was the one bright spot of the day. Gotta keep writing, diary.)
At the rear the royal guards ushered us over the frozen moat and through a thicket of trees, into the snowfields near the Great Chasm. And when we got to the other side I'd expected a bunch more guards, and a blanket, and food, and the king, 'cause by then I'd forgotten that this was all a LIE.
Then I remembered the lie when we saw none of those things, but instead, a herd of grazing woolly mammoths, kicking up the snow to get at the grass underneath.
"Get rid of them," the royal guards said, and they fled into the thicket. And once they did, Grylock swore at me with the foulest tongue I've ever heard and ran after them. Me, too, after I recovered from my shock and realized that a big male was charging at me.
Trees flew. The herd came rampaging after us, the both of us screaming our guts out, and before we could get to the secret door at the rear of the castle the bloody royal guards had locked it shut! Those assholes! I was pounding on the door, crying for somebody to let us in, and Grylock was beating on my leg with his tiny fists, 'cause, really, I deserved all the blame.
We turned, after fighting for a few moments, and realized that the entire damned herd was staring us down. The male was in the lead, and boy howdy, he did not look happy. I dunno why mammoths are so vicious - I guess 'cause they're related to elephants? - but he was clearly ready to charge across the moat and rip us to pieces.
And he did.
Charge across the moat, anyway.
But the ice broke. Of course it broke, he's a freaking mammoth. The bastard smashed through the entire layer of ice encasing the moat, and when he did all of the evil critters kept IN the moat jumped to life and started biting him to death. Ever seen a crocodile latched onto a mammoth's rear end while a dozen angry piranhas nibble his eyes? It's not pretty.
The rest of the herd joined the fray, and more and more ice kept smashing, releasing more and more moat monsters. By the end pretty much everything was dead 'cept us, 'cause we'd edged around the wall, faaaaaar away from the fight, and back to the Neck. Came in the front doors.
The Baron, waiting for us, congratulated us for so thoroughly amusing the king as well as dealing with the threat of the mammoth herd, which had apparently been lingering behind the castle for several weeks.
Grylock left without a word. So did I.
Expecting a certain goblin to stab me to death in the night,
Another day of goblin prep, diary, and today we were somewhere I KNOW Grylock's never been: the sparring range in the barracks. Yep, same place where Eve… stabbed… me… with a freaking lance…
She was there today, too. I suspect she's always there, flailing away with those weapons of hers, beating up a dozen soldiers at once. Even the other guys in the Omega Corps, who are supposed to be THE BEST of soldiers, can't hold a candle to her. I'm so proud of my baby. And a little frightened.
Okay. A lot frightened. But if this is what she's gonna do with her life, then I should support her, yeah? Yeah. Wish I could talk to her about that whole wedding thing with Logan… can't even talk to HIM, 'cause he's been avoiding me, I think…
Enough about that. Needless to say, Grylock wasn't so good with weapons. He couldn't figure out why the hell we were practicing soldiering to celebrate New Years, and all I could say was "You'll understand on Friday". That was a COMPLETE lie, diary, and I hate to lie like that, but… orders…
I also hate to laugh when somebody's trying their hardest, but I couldn't help it with Grylock. I'd been told to make him practice with a spear, and our spears aren't exactly goblin-sized. The one we were given by the attendants was easily twice Grylock's height, and made entirely of metal to help build arm strength. Musta weighed fifty pounds. Grylock himself doesn't weigh much more than that. Add in some leather training armour that's too big and you've got one goofy-looking midget of a soldier.
Well, he tried. I have to give Grylock that much, he tried. It didn't turn out so well, though, and when the little goblin wasn't scraping the end of the spear in the dirt, he was whirling around in circles. Spent most of the time falling on his butt - though to his credit he DID manage to spear one of the practice dummies. Once.
And then he poked himself in the eye with the end of the spear. Pure accident. Almost broke his glasses. Funny stuff, diary.
And, yeah. We went to the Beefiary for booze afterward. Grylock swore at me after two drinks and left, saying he was done with this preparation nonsense. Dragged his arms all the way down the hall to his quarters. After that weird sleep digging I did last Friday, I can sympathize - my biceps still hurt.
Gah. The guilt grows, diary - especially since I know the king was secretly watching the whole thing in the barracks, probably laughing his ass off. Don't like this, don't like it at all.
Ack. Last night didn't go so well, diary. Not so well at all. I'm unhappy.
Turns out that my, uh, 'duties' in regards to Grylock are… not… what I'd expected. I mean, they are kinda, but… there's… well, I'm not supposed to talk about it, or even write it in you, diary. How'd The Baron even know about you? Shit, I should
Anyway. Yeah. Don't like what the king's ordered me to do, but I have to do it anyway. Er, wait
WELL YEAH, so, the festivities kicked off today, and I officially presented myself to Grylock to take him on his 'Four Days of Preparation'. He has to get into the spirit of living in the castle, which I'll admit he doesn't really DO by hiding in his room with bottles of booze all day, so The Baron ordered me to take Grylock out to work with the smithies.
I've always liked the smithies. Ever since they moved out of the east wing - and don't think for a second that I've forgotten about that hole, diary, but I have other things to do - they've been working in the bailies, hammering away all day on tons of stuff. Weapons, armour, tools, candlestick holders, chains, book ends, these weird cylindrical things that are only bought by noble women… dunno WHAT those are, diary, but I'm afraid to ask Libby, 'cause girly stuff scares me… you get the gist. They do a lot of metalwork.
Grylock wasn't very happy about having to leave his room, but when I mentioned that he'd be serving his kingdom by joining in the festivities, he agreed. He's still pretty pissed at me for getting him sick all those weeks ago, and it took him a lot longer than everyone else to get better, so I had to promise him a lot of alcohol. Good thing he's a patriot and drunkard or he probably never woulda agreed to join me.
Grylock took to smithing with unexpected skill. He's quite good with a hammer, and the smithy we were workin' with - same guy who made Eve's 'special' bassinette - admired the goblin's sense of timing. And when I asked, it turned out that Grylock was a smith's apprentice when he was young! Quite a surprise, that. We, uh, also needed a box to help Grylock reach the anvil in the first place. I think that embarrassed him. He hides embarrassment behind swear words and spitting, though, so it's hard to TELL he's embarrassed. But I could tell, 'cause, y'know, I'm sensitive like that.
Then Grylock made me take him to the Beefiary, where he got nice and drunk. I doubt he coulda smithed anything after that, box or not. Had to drag him back to his room after a couple rounds.
I'll be honest, I'm not sure how this prepares Grylock for New Years. The king didn't really describe that. I just do what I'm told, diary, and makin' Grylock work all week is the way to go. I'll find out what else he has to do each day.
Sigh. I feel really bad about all this, diary. Grylock's gonna hate me when he finds out the current name of the castle, which the king's keeping all secret 'til Friday.
Guess what, diary! Today's a day of rest for dang near everybody in the castle! King Jeffrey got such a massive haul of presents from Jeffmas that he's in a really good mood, and he's said that everyone can take some time off.
… 'course most people need to keep working to make money to survive, since we earn so little, so things are kinda the same as usual in the bailies. And, uh, essential services like guards and servants and stuff are still on duty, 'cause the king needs help sorting through his massive pile of presents, not to mention protecting it from raiders.
And, uh, I guess the army is still on shifts. REDUCED shifts, true, but… they're training.
I guess you could say that I'm really the only person who gets the day off. That makes me feel pretty damn special. For once I get to lie in bed and watch LIBBY go to work, and not the other way around! Take that, wifey, you douche. (Glad she can't read. So glad.)
Though I have to admit that I don't reeeeeally get the day off. I mean, I'd normally be with the other guards, but today I've been given a special week-long task that's pissed off the captain, since it's, like, the epitome of my slacking: I have to teach Grylock, our goblin ambassador, about New Years Week in the castle. I don't know WHY I need to teach him anything, since it's just parties along with a little ceremony at the end, but there you go. I suppose this will make him a more effective ambassador.
I'm meeting with King Jeffrey and The Baron later tonight. They're gonna fill me in on what I need to do with Grylock to get him prepared for New Years' Eve. Which, yeah, is on a weekend, but we always move the eve forward or back so we're all awake to celebrate. Doesn't really matter.
Now that that's done, I'm gonna nap. Talk to you later, diary!
I survived Jeffmas, diary! And I got the king a present, possibly his favourite! And I found Apocalyptor! And I thought up a NAME that's BETTER than Apocalyptor!
And I… discovered something that's vaguely unsettling! Big day. Crazy and pants-drenching overall.
I managed to get into the east wing of the castle early this morning by, uh, 'accidentally' knocking one of the king's Jeffmas banners onto the guards watching the hallway. They took so long getting untangled - the banners are HUGE, and they're always falling over - that I had lots of time to run through. Take THAT, Omega Corps.
The east wing is really weird these days. It used to be like the rest of the castle, but now all the work areas are covered in thick layers of dust. I can tell nobody's been in most of the rooms for ages. That's not true of the main corridor, though, and I got so curious about the floors that WEREN'T dusty that I followed the path -
- and eventually came across this huge hole! It was so weird! The spot where it's dug used to be a storehouse, only now all the supplies have been cleared out and the floorboards ripped up. Now there's just scaffolds and digging tools and wheelbarrows and all that sorta stuff. The hole is pretty damn deep, deep enough that it's got a ramp built along the outer edge so workers can get to the bottom, but I can at least still see the bottom in the torchlight.
I probably woulda thought more about WHY it was there, but something strange happened, diary. I got… drowsy. REALLY drowsy. The more I looked at the hole, the woozier I got… until, eventually, I blacked out.
Didn't collapse, though. That would have been bad, since I was at the edge of the hole. But when I woke up?
Had a pick in my hands. I was at the bottom, working away, chipping through the ground. Trying to go straight down.
You have to understand, diary, that this freaked me out pretty good. Wouldn't it scare YOU? To, like, mine in your sleep? I was so damn tired, too, so I must have been doing it for HOURS. My arms felt like pudding. I wonder how much longer I would have worked. Maybe forever…
… 'cept something interrupted me. A little nibble on my backside. Woke me up in mid-swing. And after I shook off the feeling, the buzzing in my head, I looked around - and there was the dragon! Just a tiny little thing, hovering in place and watching me. I swear he looked concerned for me!
Then I decided to go back to work again. It seemed like such a good idea, and I started to black out.
Nope. Dragon wasn't having that. Before my vision could fade I felt a tugging on my shoulders, and I heard an ungodsly screech, and then I was being lifted into the air! The pick fell, I howled, and when I looked up I saw Apocalyptor above me, flying, growing to his full size, me dangling from his front claws.
We went up. I still wanted to dig, to pass out, but the dragon kept going, screeching as loud as he could, and then the ceiling collapsed as he burst out the top of the castle. I just barely had enough time to recall The Baron saying that Apocalyptor's wings were useless before we hit the cold air.
And then? Whirling. I don't think Apocalyptor's wings work terribly WELL, diary, 'cause once we were up and over the castle he was swinging all over the place, doing all sorts of crazy cartwheels and flips and such. I'm pretty sure my vomit formed a nice spiral pattern during one barrel roll; hope it didn't ruin anyone's day.
He had a hell of a time staying up, and I couldn't do a whole lot in his claws, so we both watched the ground come flying up towards us. He did one last, wide loop to avoid slamming into the snow head-first, bringing us low over the Neck and sweeping out over the plains -
- and right over, and into, the middle of the Jeffmas gathering around the queen's tree. The whole castle had formed a big line in front of the king's throne beside his queen, and they all scattered when they saw a dragon with a mullet zooming in towards them. Tossing me on his back, Apocalyptor stretched his wings, came in close -
- and slid to a stop, a giant snow furrow around him, in front of the king. I went flying into the snow, so I didn't get to see his expression, though at the time I was afraid he'd be ordering my head removed once his royal guards got me out of the snow.
Far from it. The king was absolutely giddy. He said that was the best trick he'd ever seen, and that it was his favourite Jeffmas gift of the season. He even patted me on the back! Never been touched by royalty before.
Well. Actually. I guess Logan's touched me. And the queen stole my diary that one time, so… and I remember King Gok came into my cell once, back in Goblinoster, and poked me with a stick… does that count…?
But yeah. I'm alive, and I've been lauded by the king, and I helped bury half of the Omega Corps in snow, and I've been removed from dragon duty - the king has renewed interest in his pet, and will be leaving one of his royal guards to keep watch from now on - and I've thought up a name for the dragon! Ready?
Y'know, because of all the barrel rolls. That spinning tunnel vision is all I can see whenever I look at him now. So he's… Barrel.
Sounds lamer now that I've written it down. You won't judge me, though, diary, so what do I care? Barrel. I like it.
I'm back home, now, snug in bed. The king gave me the day off. He also said he's giving me a 'special duty' next week to reward my good work with Barrel. I hope it's warmer than standing in that damn tower, though I will admit that I'll miss my scaly friend. Maybe he'll transform into a tiny dragon again and come visit? I wouldn't mind that. (Also wouldn't mind the thought of a royal guard freaking out when his dragon goes missing.)
Enough from me. I plan on sleeping the rest of the day. Maybe that way I can forget about that hole in the ground…
… 'cause gods help me, I can't get it out of my mind when I'm awake.
Checked the Neck and the barbican. The Neck is frozen solid and safe, so there's a lot of people coming through this way these days. None of them are dragons, and Herbert the Guard looked ready to report me. He's never liked me. I might be in deep shit for abandoning my post, diary.
Checked around the bailies. Everything looks normal, though I had a hell of a time avoiding Captain Cedric while he was patrolling. Had to pretend I was a nutty old woman under a cloak, rambling on about walruses… this is great for my self esteem…
The rats have no idea where the dragon went. Apparently some dragons can shapeshift. That's really bad news, diary. It could be ANYWHERE.
Slightly better news? The RATS can shapeshift. A huge mound of 'em transformed into the dragon before my eyes while I was talking to them… more like at them… in the rat farms. Scared the crap out of me, but that's damn nifty. They're all gonna take the dragon's place while I look. Nice, nice rats.
The problem? They can't do it for longer than a day. They'll start to freeze if they're in the tower for too long. So I have to get looking RIGHT NOW. I have an idea, too - I'll take a bunch of yak tarts with me to try and tempt Apocalyptor out of hiding. He loves 'em.
I hope this works. I'm gonna look crazy, wandering around and talking to nothing while waving treats in the air…
When I said I needed to get the king a present I DIDN'T HAVE THE NEWS OF HIS DRAGON'S ESCAPE IN MIND
Okay. Okay. Calm down, Dragomir. Just have to ask the rats! They're obviously the ones who wrote in you, diary, so they probably know! They know, and they'll tell you, and everything will be alright. You'll find Apocaylptor.
… and somehow force him to go back to the tower. Yeah. THAT'LL work.
I'm gonna freak out if I'm not systematic, so, uh, I guess I'll keep you with me while I do my rounds today, diary. I'll keep writing in you as I go along.
Okay, the changing clothes plan didn't work so well. Everything I brought up yesterday was frozen stiff. A few licks from Apocalyptor thawed 'em out, but… more dragon drool…
I'm really tired tonight, diary. Apocalyptor kept bugging me yesterday, so I didn't get any sleep while on guard duty. I can't blame the poor guy, since I think he's alone most of the day, but I can't keep him entertained for eight-hour stretches. They really need to let him go if he's just gonna be stuck up here, alone, forever.
What a sad thought.
Happier subject, diary! I've been thinking of a name for Apocalyptor. Like, a real name. The gift hunt is still unsuccessful, so why not try something else? Unfortunately I haven't had much headway with a name, 'cause even though I criticize Apocalyptor, I don't have any better ideas. Here are a few possibilities:
- Mullethead (he does have a mullet, I swear!)
- Leroooooy Jeeeeeenkins (not sure why I would stretch out the vowels, but it seems… right…)
- The Neckster
Looking at this list, I'm amazed Eve wound up with a normal name.
Sigh. I'll keep thinking. He definitely needs a new name, even if it's only used in secret.
Sneaked a change of clothes into the tower today, diary. Now I can get all dressed up without Captain Cedric seeing me, then change back to normal when I leave! Perfect plan.
The castle's looking right festive these days, diary. The servants are busy putting up huge banners covered in King Jeffrey's face, usually accompanied by a picture of a gift box. And a plus sign. And a heart. So, like:
Jeffrey + Gift = Heart
I don't know my math, but that seems pretty simple.
I still don't know what I'm getting the king, diary. I've been thinking it over, but whenever I come up with something it's always a gift idea that somebody ELSE has. For example, I told Libby this morning that I'd decided to whittle a little wooden statue of the king, but she said she's already doing that! And full-sized! I can't compete with a freaking carpenter, let alone my wife! (Mine would probably look like a shapeless lump of wood anyway. I suck at whittling.)
And when I ask around on my shift? Everyone else either has a good idea, or it's… just… standard. Food, or specially-made weapons, or money, or weird stuff from other lands, or… or… or. Apparently one merchant's gonna give the king a stuffed unicorn head he picked up while abroad. That's too awesome to beat, diary.
I hope you're not cold, diary. You're up here with me and Apocalyptor tonight. I needed the company, and I figured I could use the time to figure out why I can't write in all those blank pages in the middle of you. Y'know, the ones that appeared during my trip to Goblinoster? The ones that reject my quill? You know. They're in you.
Don't have time for that so much, though, 'cause Apocalyptor is active! I've been bringing him rat snacks every night, and he's really warmed up to me. Perks up whenever I come in and gives me a few licks after I toss him some tarts. I smell awful for the rest of the evening, but it's nice to have a pal. (Besides you.)
He needs a new name, though. Apocalyptor is awful.
That weekend flew by too quickly, diary. They always do, yes, but this one was especially quick. I swear I only got in a single wink of sleep before it was Monday, and then I was, y'know, still guarding the stupid dragon.
I don't mean that. He's a nice dragon. Nice in that he hasn't eaten me. That's pretty nice of a massive predator whose kind is reputed for destroying cities single-handed. This one looks a little too frozen to do that, though, so…
Anyway. Jeffmas begins this week! It's normally on the twenty-fifth, but we'll all be asleep and the king refuses to miss his day of giving, so we're having it on Friday instead.
Maybe I should explain about Jeffmas. I called it a 'day of giving' on the king's part, but he doesn't really GIVE us anything. On the contrary, we're all supposed to show our appreciation of HIM by giving HIM presents. Those who please him with their gift come into his favour, true, but… he usually forgets who they are by the next day, so I don't think it really matters if you get him something great or not. (Though I have heard that he'll kill you if you get him nothing. That's just a rumour, diary, but I'm not gonna test it.)
So I need to find something. And that's a problem, 'cause when the hell do I have time to look for a present?
Here's my schedule. Wake up at 7:30. Be on my rounds by 8. Stay on 'em until 8, 'cause Captain Cedric automatically takes into account that I'll screw around while I'm on duty. (He's right, but that's still mean.) Get a quick dinner, then head to the tower and watch Apocalyptor for eight more hours. By the time I get home it's, like, 5 a.m. the next day.
Then it starts over again.
… how am I still alive? I only get a couple hours of sleep a night… guess that snooze time while guarding really helps… no wonder I'm the worst guard in the castle, Captain Cedric makes me that way. What a vicious cycle.
But, yeah, how am I supposed to fit getting a present into all that? I'm too busy guarding and freezing my butt off and screwing around. And even if I DID have time, what would I buy?
There's a presentation of gifts on Friday, right by the queen's tree. I have 'til then to figure it out.
I'm told that I'm now in Castle Jeffmas. It was officially renamed for the upcoming holiday. Shows how tired I've been this week, I don't even know the name of the castle - I just wander around on my shifts like a zombie. I bet so many damn thieves have gotten past me.
But, hey, today was more interesting, 'cause I finally had a decent conversation on top of the tower. Wasn't a GOOD conversation, from what I learned, but it was more interesting than watching a dragon sleep for hours and hours, only to wake up and eat my snacks.
So. Was on the tower. About three hours in. Door's locked, as usual, and I had to pee, so I did what I've done the last two nights - ever since I learned that the dragon doesn't mind me so much, y'know - and went off the edge of the tower. I like to think I'm getting one of those smarmy royal guards right in the head.
Yesterday, this went fine. Tonight, though, I got caught, 'cause The Baron came through the door in mid-stream.
"Hello!" he said behind me. "Ah, I see the castle's worst guard is still at top form."
And, well, what could I do? I flustered, sure, but I finished. Damage was already done. Laced myself and spun around to stand at attention. "Sir! Um! Uh! My lord! My lord, right? I'm, ah, I'm, ah…"
He laughed. "Get away from that ledge, Dragomir, before you fall to your death. That would be most unfortunate, given that this big fellow seems to have taken a liking to you."
The dragon. Who else? I walked over to The Baron, admiring his nice, furry clothes. (The captain caught me getting all dressed up, so I got in trouble. I was really bloody cold in my normal outfit last night.) "Um. Yeah. He's… he's not so bad. Doesn't do much."
"Indeed not!" The Baron patted the dragon's foot. "King Jeffrey won't allow him much freedom to roam, either - it turns out those wings of his are useless. I think his majesty is tired of the beast already. Such a shame, he cost a lot of money."
I couldn't help it, diary. I had to ask, after seeing all those scars. "Uh, if, you, uh, don't mind my asking, how did the king… y'know…"
The Baron laughed. "Get a dragon? Excellent question." He paused. "I'm not entirely sure. I don't have the king's full confidence, you know - he has other advisors. I imagine Driscol the Count or Lady Evangelina helped him. From what I've heard, however, the dragon's a purchase from Imperium hunter-trappers. They're experts, you know."
I knew. I grew up on the border. We saw Imperium hunters in the area quite often, even if they didn't dare come near my village. I also knew that The Baron was underestimating his importance to the king - he's always near either Jeffrey or Logan - but I guess that's a political thing. Don't get me started there. I was happy just to get an answer.
The Baron walked to the edge, not at all afraid of the dragon, even patting it a few times and saying that 'Apocalyptor' has settled nicely. I guess that's its name. Sounds like something the king would invent - he's really flashy. Not sure I like it, but…
"What, uh, brings you up here tonight, m'lord?" I asked, 'cause the silence got kinda awkward after a while.
"Oh, nothing. I just like the view. I like visiting this old boy, as well." The Baron grinned and pulled a cigarette from his coat. "Don't tell Queen Daena. She wouldn't approve. Anything that sets her son on a path towards corruption doesn't agree with her stomach, gods preserve her."
Couldn't blame her. I wouldn't wanna see my daughter smoking. Which brought me to something I'd wanted to ask for days:
"Why is Eve getting married to the prince?"
I'll give The Baron credit, he didn't try to sugarcoat. He looked me right in the eye and explained: "Lord Knight Eve is essential to the defence of this kingdom. We've never had a stronger warrior, and I doubt we ever will. The marriage will ensure that she remains here… and, perhaps, result in a line of similarly powerful kings and queens in the future." He laughed. "King Jeffrey loves the idea of his grandson being able to smash a catapult with his bare hands."
Didn't know what to say to that, other than stammering for a minute. I must've looked like an idiot.
The Baron was sympathetic, though, and he patted me on the shoulder. "We all do our duty, Dragomir. Yours is to let go of your daughter. And don't worry - I'll make sure you're amply compensated."
I didn't realize little girls were worth money. It sounds so… skeevy.
The Baron finished his cigarette, told me I'd be back here again next week because I was so good with the dragon, wished me a good night, and left. I spent the rest of the evening in thought, so it went by fast.
Yeesh. Five more days here? I have to screw up somehow and get relieved of duty or the cold's gonna start claiming body parts.
I… I think I need to reevaluate my relationship with the dragon, diary. Just a smidge.
So. Last night, I'm at the top of the tower. Dragon hasn't moved a hell of a lot - it's still on its belly - and I'm at the door, half frozen and hungry. I've been pulling shifts-and-a-half lately and I haven't had a ton of time to eat, and there isn't exactly a snack bar at the top of the tower, so I filched a bag of yak tarts from The Beefiary. Helps to have a brother as a cook.
I'd edged my way around the tower the other night without the dragon caring, so I figured, hey, why not give eating a shot? So, with a reeeeeeally slow motion, I dipped into my bag of tarts and pulled one out. I don't think a snail coulda matched me.
But as soon as the tart hit the air? The dragon opened its eyes. I mean, its eyes had always LOOKED open, but the milky film COVERING its eyes slid back, and it was watching me. REALLY watching me. And oh buddy you better believe that as soon as THAT happened I was ready to fill my trousers. Or run screaming off the edge of the tower. Or both.
But the dragon didn't dive at me or anything. It sniffed the air a bit and watched me, those big, yellow eyes stuck on the yak tart like a dog looking for table scraps. Saliva dripped off its fangs and froze on the floor in lumpy pools. Then, lowering its head like it was ashamed, it dipped in close and sniffed at the bag, moving as cautiously as I had.
In that instant, I knew I didn't have to be afraid of this dragon. Not really. It was, like, one of those moments in those cheesy stories where the main character is confronted by some big, scary monster, but then he discovers that it's harmless despite how it looks, and he was ACTUALLY dead wrong. You know?
I hate those kinda stories, 'cause in those stories the friendly people always end up being the villains. I don't wanna start distrusting friendly people, 'cause that means I'll have to hang out with assholes. Because, you know, they're actually nice. S'implied.
Uh. Lost track.
I knew I didn't have to be afraid, but I didn't want to freak out the dragon - it could still squish me if it panicked, so, so easily - so I let it sniff the tart a couple more times, then held it out on the tips of my fingers. And, wouldn't you know, the big thing took the tart.
Then it licked me. Was probably just trying to get at the rest of my tarts, 'cause a little thing like that to a dragon is like a human eating a piece of dust, but I still appreciated the lick. Dragon drool is really warm. Great for winter nights.
So. Yeah. I guess… the dragon's… not so bad…? I still don't wanna spend TOO much time up here, it's cold. And dragon drool smells like dead animals, so using licks to keep warm shouldn't be an option too often.
Same thing as yesterday, diary. In the tower. With the dragon. Freezing cold. At least I knew to bundle up today… though I'm afraid that Libby's wooden scarf with just set my neck aflame if the dragon decides to breathe fire… please let it not breathe fire, diary, I LIKE my neck.
But, well, that didn't happen tonight. It wasn't AS bad, assuming babysitting a dragon can be considered not bad. If you'd asked me that at the TIME I wouldn't have said as much, of course, 'cause about an hour into my watch the dragon decided to move. For the first time since, well, ever, as far as I can tell.
It was scary, diary. There I was, minding my own business, trying to hide behind my scarf and pretend that I was just a heap of clothes with eyes, when the dragon rolled! All the ice and snow built up on it cracked and flew, and the floor creaked like crazy as the dragon rolled onto its back! I woulda been fully justified in FLINGING myself out the huge hole in the wall and dying on the castle below.
… which I almost did. The dragon moving freaked me out so much that I ran right for the hole. Just barely managed to control myself. But I did not pee myself this time, diary! No sir!
An hour later I'd managed to slooooooowly inch my way back to the door, where I'd been before, away from the cold and snow, and I got my first good look at the dragon's belly.
And, uh, I was surprised. 'cause its belly is covered in scars.
Growing up I was told that dragons are invincible. You don't screw with a dragon, or they'll eat you and spit your bones across the countryside. NOBODY kills a dragon. Sure looks like somebody tried on this guy, though, 'cause he's got really big gashes in his underside. I guess whoever caught him in the first place made 'em. (How did I THINK the king got a dragon? It just flew up here and offered to be chained to the tower? Doi.)
The dragon didn't move after that, and eventually I went back downstairs. Frozen, yes, but not as bad off - the captain didn't come for me today, and the royal guards dogged me the whole way out of the nobles' quarter, so I got a bit of a run. Warmed my legs.
I should bring Libby up here some time just to freak her out,
Logan's right. It was worse. I'm guarding the king's dragon.
I get the feeling I did something wrong, diary. Maybe the king's still blaming me for wrecking the castle when I tried to heal everyone? Maybe he doesn't like me 'cause I was part of that goofy thing with Logan wanting to be a knight? Maybe somebody else doesn't and they suggested I be stuck at the top of the castle's tower with a FREAKING DRAGON?
I'm panting. Gah. My head hurts. I need to calm down. I found grey hairs on my head this morning, diary, I SWEAR. And don't just say I'm mistaking my blonde hair for grey, 'cause I know the difference! I KNOW, diary!
I also know that the captain is an ass and a hole, because he didn't TELL me what I was gonna be doing. He led me personally to the king's tower, up the stairs, past the royal apartments - I've never been closer to the king's quarters, and gods do they look nice from thirty feet away - and then up, up, up to the top of that bloody spire, until I was face-to-face with a door.
He told me to open it, and cuffed me on the back of the head. He seemed so merry. I should have known what was coming.
Then I was by the dragon, and Captain Cedric slammed the door and LOCKED IT, saying he'd be back in the morning. I just had to look after the dragon for a while. A few hours. Eight hours.
The dragon is massive, diary. It's not like the king went out and bought a tiny little thing. IT'S AN ADULT. Green, scaly, wings brushing the walls, just small enough to fit in the huge castle attic… bigger than a house, easily… as soon as I got inside it just stared at me, and I stared back, 'cause I couldn't move. Could not move an inch, diary.
And I did that for eight hours. I was afraid to look away in case it took that as a dangerous move and tried to eat me. And, yes, I peed myself, as usual - which kinda helped, 'cause the top of the tower is open to the world on one side, and the wind and snow kept blowing in. I needed the extra warmth, lemme tell you.
The dragon didn't move. It just stared with those weird, milky eyes, and eventually the captain came up and told me to go home. I couldn't move, though, and he had to chip me out of the ice. At least he did THAT much.
I'm not sleeping yet, diary. I'm in the communal baths, writing in you. I needed to warm up something fierce. I'll probably get another cold at this rate.
I dunno why the dragon didn't eat me. Maybe it couldn't move 'cause of all the chains keeping it in place. Hell, maybe it's frozen solid and already dead. But I saw it breathing, so…
Yeah. I'm gonna be dragon poop by the end of the week. You just watch.
I spent the weekend in the medical ward, diary. The doctors didn't seem too happy about it, but Prince Logan gave me the okay, so they couldn't say much. He even brought me my diary. Nice kid.
… and possible son-in-law. What the HELL is THAT?
I tried asking the doctors, but they wouldn't tell me anything. Just ushered me out as quick as they could. Tried asking the royal guards on the way out of the nobles' quarter, but they kept booting me along without saying anything. I asked Captain Cedric, who happened to be passing by, and he clubbed me in the head and told me I had a new assignment. I went back home to change and drop you off, diary, and I wanted to ask Libby, but she was already out in the bailey working.
I want to ask the prince. I want to wring the info out of his scrawny little neck, bless his generous soul. He proved that Eve wouldn't kill me if ordered. He's also MARRYING HER.
She's still a baby. Not even one! Not even half of one! How could she be getting married?! Don't I have a say? Is this some weird form of paedophilia? But does it count if the prince is underage, too? They're close to the same size now, and he didn't say WHEN they're getting married, but… like… isn't this a bit FAST? DON'T I HAVE A SAY?
Shit. I dunno, diary. My family life isn't going so well. You'd figure Jeffmas would be a happier time of year.
Better find out what I'm guarding this week. At least all the dumb bodyguarding stuff is over - a new assignment couldn't be any worse.
I got stabbed by my daughter today, diary. And then again, metaphorically, by the prince. His felt like a stab wound, anyway, which is… is that a simile? Simile is like or as, isn't it…?
It hurts to think about this too much. I'll ask Robert the Librarian. Eventually. When I'm healed. On with the story.
After Eve took off on us yesterday, the prince was pretty flummoxed. He'd expected a BIT of a reaction to my questions from Eve, given all the time we'd spent together during the week, and he said he was disappointed that I'd always been asleep or beat up or whatever when he came to the sparring field in the morning.
"What?" I'd said, feeling irate, "Of course I was, I've been running around that stupid track all week!"
"But didn't you ASK her anything? That's why I made you do those laps, lunkhead, so you could talk to her. You weren't supposed to run the WHOLE time."
"I tried, but… she just, just, kept pointing, so, y'know-"
"Agh!" He heaved a snowball at my head and tossed a flaming log on the picnic blanket, setting it on fire in an instant. "You twit! You were supposed to talk to her! Of course this isn't working, we're still at square one! I figured by the time we got to the picnic that she'd be talking to you, but nooooo!"
"Be there same time tomorrow!" he yelled as he ran off, leaving me to deal with the flaming blanket. "We're gonna try and speak her language this time!"
I still didn't get WHY he was doing all this, and I didn't wanna deal with a fire, so I ran off. The emergency teams didn't manage to put out the fire (which got pretty damn big) for a couple hours. I, ah, probably shoulda done something about that before I left, but I was frustrated, diary!
Spent the night in the rat farms, got fetched by the kangaroo, you know the routine. Dragged myself back to the sparring range and ran. I tried to talk to Eve, but no go. More cryptic nonsense.
Then the prince showed up, with the Omega Corps, and it all went to hell.
"Listen up!" he yelled, pointing at Eve. "I'm tired of this kids' stuff. If we're gonna fight, we're gonna fight like we're gonna kill each other. Otherwise I'm never gonna be a knight. Sound right?"
I'm sure if The Baron were here he'd object to that, but he's skipped all of these knightly training sessions, so I tried to speak up instead, 'cause I knew what was coming. Logan didn't let me interject, though.
"Can it, pops!" he barked. "Right. We fight with weapons. And I'm calling my bodyguard to do it. If you don't fight to kill, Eve, I'm not gonna learn to be a knight from you anymore."
Ten minutes and a lot of screaming later I was standing in the middle of the sparring range, a spear propped over my shoulders since I can't hold one, facing my daughter in mortal combat. She had a freaking lance, diary, and she was swinging it around with one hand.
You need to understand my perspective, diary. I didn't just not want to fight my daughter because she's my flesh and blood. I didn't want to fight her because she KILLED A FUCKING MAMMOTH WITH A DAGGER. She mowed down an army of goblins IN HER PYJAMAS. She's easily the strongest creature in the castle, and I knew that if we fought to the death, it would be MY death, and I had no reason to think that she wouldn't murder me.
So when Logan yelled 'BEGIN', well, I figured, why not, and I pooped my pants. I'd been holding it in for some time. Then came the lance, and everything went dark.
When I woke up, I had full trousers and a lance tip in my shoulder. Never been lanced before, but the bandit I've been stabbed before, and the feeling is close to the same.
Logan was peering down at me, grinning. "Hey, progress! We did it, pops! She didn't kill you! That's, like, a sign of love! Why do you stink so much?"
Couldn't answer. Arm hurt too much. Still does - I'm lucky she didn't get my writing arm, or we wouldn't be having this conversation, diary.
Logan ordered his royal guards to pick me up and take me to the nobles' medical ward to get patched up, which was nice of him. What wasn't so nice is what he said next, which answered WHY he'd been trying to help me out with Eve all this time:
"Make sure he lives, boys. He's gonna be my father-in-law when I marry Lord Knight Eve."
Told you. Metaphorical stab.
I'll talk about this more on Monday. For now, I wanna sleep.
Ugh. The 'bonding' continues, diary, and it's no better today than it was yesterday. Doesn't help that I slept in the rat farms… they're happy to run across me, all night long… at least they haven't been talking to me, lately.
I tried to apologize to Libby this morning, but that was no go, 'cause I came too early after being woken up by that damned kangaroo, so the animal was smacking me on one side and the wife was yelling at me on the other. I think I'll avoid our apartment until tomorrow. Maybe I should use Prince Logan's shed in the west bailey, it was pretty comfy…
Anyway. When I got to the sparring field Eve was waiting, and she pointed at the track, as usual, so I started running. (Really don't know what jogging has to do with being a knight, they're usually on their stupid ostriches.) I tried to talk to her a few times today, but her responses were either stony silence or her spooky proclamations:
"I dip my sword in the souls of the defeated."
"The First Ones will fall, and I will drink from their lifeless bones."
"The fires of Hell will rend this earth."
I don't know where she picked 'em up, diary, I really don't. From what I've heard she spent her time while I was away IN the castle, mostly holed up in her room 'cause she was sick like everyone else, so… maybe she's been reading some weird books? But I thought books for kids were usually about, y'know, going up hills. And stuff.
The prince showed up with his entourage after a while, and ordered a change of pace after what happened yesterday: we were going to have a picnic. I thought this kinda weird since it's the middle of winter, but he insisted, so I followed everyone out of the sparring field (hobbling like a 75-year-old) and up to the roof.
And I was surprised! Turns out Logan had ordered his servants to shovel away the snow and lay out a blanket covered in food, much of it fresh and raw, the kind Eve likes to eat. Even had a few fires going around the blanket so we would be warm.
We sat. Logan ordered the royal guards to take off, then he grabbed some grapes and started eating. Winked at me, and I figured this was the point where he would 'interpret' for me, or whatever. I grabbed a yak tart and asked Eve a few questions about her work as one of the knights, including the tattoo on her arm.
She didn't answer. She didn't pick up the food, didn't eat anything. She just looked out, beyond the walls of the castle, and spotted a lone mammoth crossing by the perimeter in the distance. Then she leapt - I've never seen someone jump so HIGH - and landed atop the mammoth, attacking it with a dagger.
Logan and I watched the fight. It didn't last long, 'cause she stuck her blade in its brain. Then Eve started to eat. I guess she likes to kill her own meals. She ran off after that, and I didn't see her again that day.
Feeling a little smarmy, I asked Logan, "You're the interpreter. What's she saying there?"
It's tough to have two ladies in your life, diary. Even tougher when one of them seems to hate the other. So, while I was lying broken in bed last night, listening to Libby snore, I concocted a plan: I would bring my wife and my daughter together.
(Why I thought that when I don't even really get along with Eve mystifies me now, after the fact. I shoulda known better.)
The kangaroo came to get me again today, and even though it managed to land a punch on my cheek I was still ready. I'd heard that it likes meat, so I had some leftover rat from last's night's dinner waiting. It stopped in mid-punch, sniffing the air, licking its lips at the sight of the meat.
"Kangaroo," I said, "take me to the prince and the meat is yours." I've seen the prince talk to the kangaroo before, so I KNOW it understands English. And I guess it did, 'cause it DID take me to the prince…
… though he was in a weird spot: a shed. Sleeping on some hay. I'll give the prince one thing, diary - he may seem spoiled, but he knows how to live like a commoner. Though he, ah, wasn't too happy when I woke him up, 'cause the moon was still out, surrounded by stars.
"Dragomir, you boob, I'm sleepin'," he said. "How'd you find me?"
And I said "Well, Prince Logan-"
"Logan, I had an idea for today. Rather than me getting, you know, beaten to hell for no reason."
"What do you mean, 'no reason?'" He shook his head. "Get on with it, I'm tired."
So I told him. And even though he was still crabby, the prince liked the idea. He only ordered his kangaroo to kick me once on the way out.
Hours later, I was on the training grounds, as usual. This time, though, there was a big tree in the middle - made by one of the carpenters, of course, we couldn't bring in an ACTUAL tree - and Libby was sitting at the top. The prince had ordered her up, and like me, she can't go against the prince.
Doesn't mean she can't mouth off, though, and she did. A lot. "What the hell is the point of this, you nimrod?!" She was lookin' right at me, so I guess I know who the nimrod was.
I couldn't say anything, 'cause Logan cut me off, addressing Eve, who was, as usual, staring off at nothing in particular. "Teacher! Knights are supposed to be gallant and stuff. Show me how by rescuing that woman from that tree!"
Eve looked at the tree. Libby glared back.
"Go on, Lord Knight!" Logan called. "Or are you not a true knight?!"
The plan, diary, was for Eve to clamber up the tree, gently take her mother in her arms (I've seen Eve lift a cart covered in fruit over her head, so I knew she could do this) and bring her safely down. Show her gentle side. I KNOW she has a gentle side.
Instead, she grabbed a war axe from a weapons rack and cut the tree down with one big swipe. I've never heard such foul words come from Libby's mouth as the tree went crashing down.
I'm sleeping in the rat farms tonight. It's not safe to go home right now.
I've discovered what they did to me yesterday: they made me duel Eve. In Prince Logan's place. One of the soldiers in the field today said they picked me up and moved me around like a puppet. Eve beat the snot out of me. Hence the sore arms.
And today? Another early start. Not quite as early, but pretty damn early anyway. And I was riding an ostrich for Logan, who again couldn't be bothered to do any of the squiring himself. Stupid bird nearly killed me when it tossed me off into a wall. I wish our kingdom could be normal and use a REGULAR riding animal, like a horse or a giant frog or something, but nooooo
I guess Eve heard my prayer for something else to ride, 'cause after I'd been flung off the ostrich's back she killed and ate the bird. Must've been hungry. I've reconciled myself to the whole my-daughter-is-a-ruthless-killer-and-raw-meat-eater thing, so it disturbed me less than I woulda thought. (There are lots of rotting animal corpses around the castle these days.)
Still. I don't get this kid. Which? Take your freaking pick, diary! If the prince had something in mind to help me get closer with my daughter then he sure as hell isn't doing much to put it into play, and Eve keeps quietly pointing to tell me to do stuff! And when she actually does speak, she says things like "My fist is the apocalypse" and "I will drink the blood of the immortals" and so on! The hell, diary! The HELL!
It's no better when I get home. I told Libby that all this is supposedly part of a scheme to bring Eve and me closer, but she keeps saying that it's dumb to try and reach out to our daughter. She's the mother and she can't be bothered trying to talk to Eve? What's her damn PROBLEM?! WHY IS THIS CASTLE A HELL HOLE ALL OF A SUDDEN, AND WHY IS MY WIFE A DOUCHE LIKE THAT? I ACTUALLY MISS DEALING WITH CAPTAIN CEDRIC, HE'S
Sorry. Sorry. That last bit was out of line. He's a jerk. I don't regret not having to deal with Captain Cedric. Feeling, uh, passionate. Yeah. I'll calm down.
I'm in the same shape as yesterday. Broken, beaten, bloody. Libby had to drag me home again. It's only Tuesday. I can't survive… um… can't… how long is this training supposed to last, anyway? I never asked. I've been through so damn much, diary, so how the hell can I die being 'trained' by my daughter? Is she even teaching Logan anything?! GAH!
Oog. Today was not a good day for this bodyguarding business, diary. Not at all. And not because I wasn't ready - I knew it would be tougher than just standing around and watching - but because the prince is being a royal pain. You reading this, Logan? YOU'RE A PAIN. I DON'T CARE ANYMORE.
Friday had forced me into a long, almost overnight shift, and I only got back to our apartment a few minutes before the usual weekend blackout. Flopped down, fell asleep…
… and then, as though I'd only slept for about a minute, I was woken up by pounding on my door. Got up and groggily went to the door… and when I grabbed the handle, it was knocked inward by a big kick. Squashed my head flat against the wall.
What was waiting there? The prince's bloody kangaroo.
I've mentioned the kangaroo before, diary. I know I have. It stole Captain Cedric's, er, 'bits', in an unfortunate accident - though I still suspect the prince of having orchestrated the thing. Either way, the kangaroo is undeniably nasty, and when I got my first good look at the bastard it punched me in the nose. Punched by a damn kangaroo!
It had a note in its mouth, so I snagged the parchment between jabs and read. It told me to get to the sparring ranges in the barracks immediately to run laps in the prince's place. He wanted to sleep in As bodyguard, I'm beholden to take up any duty the prince doesn't want to perform.
Last thing I heard from Libby as I pulled on my breeches was "You're so good at your job these days, hon. Close the door, it's cold." Because she's a damn douche like that, and even though she was half asleep I could tell she was laughing at me.
Off I went, followed by the kangaroo, to the barracks. Eve was waiting for me.
I tried to hug her. She pointed at the rough dirt track running around the middle of the sparring area, which is bigger than I remembered (I don't jog often, that's just not my thing). I tried hugging again, and she smacked me in the nose. My own daughter! She wasn't going for the hug, so after suffering another bad head wound I stretched, took a deep breath, and ran.
… four hours and way too many laps later...
By then I was unconscious on the ground, and Prince Logan showed up with an escort of guards, no less than the Omega Corps. One of them kicked me awake and pointed to a wall, and I rolled over to the side and let the prince begin his lessons with my daughter. I don't remember much of what happened after that. Way too dehydrated for my brain to function.
Libby came to get me a while later. I couldn't move. My legs were too sore, and they still are. Thank the gods your hiding place is in my apartment now, diary. I wouldn't wanna visit the rat farms in this state. And why the hell are my arms so sore? I didn't do anything with them! What did those Omega Corps assholes do to me while I was asleep?! Must have been something, I just know it.
Prince Logan is a damn scary little kid, I gotta say.
I woke up this morning, checked you, diary - Libby always tries to peak at what I'm writing, but she can't read so I can say whatever I want - and was about to head out when somebody knocked on our door. (Yep, Libby made us a door while I was gone. Can't wave at anybody passing by anymore. Kinda makes me sad.)
"Hello?" I opened the door, rubbing the gross sleep stuff out of my eyes. (Remind me to clean that up, diary, it's on the ground somewheres.)
Shit. A royal guard. My lungs stopped for half a second.
"Come with me," he said.
The royal guards creep me out these days. They're not like the other guards, or even the knights. They're always completely emotionless, without even an expression on their faces. Not that you can see much of their faces, what with the tiny slits they have in their new helmets, but… were they always like this? Don't THINK so…
You don't really argue with a royal guard, not if you're a normal guard like me, so I followed. We didn't talk, and I couldn't have talked if I wanted to, 'cause my mouth just kept getting' drier and drier as we got closer to… yeah… the king's hall. I thought for SURE that I was in for another stay in the jail.
I was led in front of the king, watched by eleven more of those damn Omega Corps buggers… and The Baron, scowling… and the prince. I felt like such a putz, kneeling on the carpet beside the prince, looking up at his dad on the throne. Please forgive me if you still read this diary, Prince Logan, but I KINDA wanted to throttle the little jerk for getting me in hot water.
In the tense quiet of the hall, the prince told the king exactly what he had in mind.
"I wanna become a knight."
The king cocked an eyebrow, then looked at me. "Isn't this the idiot who screwed up my castle? Why's he still alive?"
"He's gonna be my bodyguard." The prince patted me on the shoulder. I waved.
The Baron stepped forward. "Now, now, Prince Logan, be-"
"Shut your trap, old man!" the prince barked, driving The Baron back to the king's throne in an instant. "Knight. Now. He's my bodyguard. And Eve's gonna teach me."
THAT got the king on his feet. "What?! You can't use my best knight as a common teacher! She has better things to do, you little brat!"
"Don't call me a brat!" To my utter astonishment, the prince pulled a lump of mud out of his pocket and heaved it into the king's face.
The silence… dear gods, the silence… I could feel the guillotine on my neck…
Then the king jumped. He jumped right off his throne and dove for his son, arms out, ready to strangle Logan. The prince dodged and the king got me instead, but once he felt my stubble I guess he realized his mistake and kicked me in the gonads. Down I went, and the fight continued while my vision, uh, faded.
Getting kicked there really hurts, diary. We don't have armour down there. (I should petition for crotch armour. Maybe just a cup? That'd be awesome.)
By the time I'd gotten back into a kneeling position the king had driven his son up onto the sides of his enormous throne. The prince was heaving pebbles at his dad's head. Nobody seemed to know what to do, so we all watched the fight…
... which the prince won. You really can't battle a kid with perfect aim and the evasiveness of a bird. I guess I'm a bodyguard next week while the prince becomes a squire? (Is Eve qualified to be a teacher? She's months old!)
Winter has arrived, diary. You probably felt it last night - I was assigned overnight duty 'cause Bernard is sick, and once the day turned over the nice weather immediately switched to snow. Lots and lots of snow.
It's really frightening to watch the seasons change. One second you're looking down at a clear, grassy land, and the next it's absolutely coated in white. It hurts to get smacked by the first volley of snow, too. I got buried in the middle of stretching. Gave me a headache for the rest of the night.
Rain in Goblinoster all year 'round, sudden blizzards here. If you can call huge globs of packed ice and snow descending from the heavens a blizzard. The weather's so weird.
Anyway. Double shift today, and I was back on the walls, so I spent most of my time clearing the battlements of ice with a shovel. Libby gave me a nice new scarf - made of wood, unfortunately, 'cause she's a carpenter, so now my neck is full of splinters - and my guard outfit kept me warm. I'm glad the king insists on baggy uniforms for the normal guards, 'cause those poor royal guards are dressed in stupid flimsy fabrics that don't keep 'em warm at all. Their sleeves are about as menacing as my socks. What happened to their old Omega Corps armour? I'll never understand royalty.
Met up with the prince again today, diary, which I would have preferred to avoid, 'cause he just reminds me of the meeting with Eve the other day. He was upset when I told him that things didn't go well, though he says he knows why:
"You don't know how to talk to her. You don't get her language."
"Huh? I do so. What other language is there?"
"Lord Knight Eve's weird. She doesn't talk like us. You just gotta read between the lines."
"I don't understand what you mean, majesty."
The prince heaved a snowball at me in the middle of a backflip. "Don't call me majesty! I'm Logan! I hate it when people call me 'majesty'."
I brushed the snow away. "Yes, sir."
"LOGAN!" he yelled, and hurled another snowball. This one spun me around, and I nearly fell off the battlements. "I'll be your interpreter. We'll set up a date or something. It'll be great fun."
"Wh… huh?" I was too busy watching the frozen alligators and piranha and whatnot in the moat to get what he was saying. (I feel sorry for 'em. Gods know how they stay alive all winter, but they do.)
"You, me, Eve. Next week. You'll see. Dammit, The Baron! Bye!" And off he went.
I tried to grab the prince, but he leaped down into the bailey and disappeared. All I could do is uselessly call out and ask what he meant. Then The Baron went hustling by, and, well, that was the end of the conversation.
I don't get it, diary. Why's he care? Doesn't the prince have better things to do than play matchmaker between me 'n Eve?
... wait. That sounds wrong. I meant a father-and-daughter kinda matchmaker. But wait, that doesn't sound right either, 'cause... we're not a match, you know? She's my KID oh, forget it.
Ho. Ly. Crap. I was speechless today, diary. Absolutely floored.
I… I met my little baby. Eve. It's been a while since I last saw her. Didn't even get a chance to say goodbye before I left the castle. And now… today… the prince brought her to see me.
She's not a baby anymore. She's a little girl, standing on her own, with lots of messy blonde hair, kinda like mine, and fierce green eyes, just like her mom. Almost as tall as the prince.
… what the hell? Did I miss something? Since when do kids grow up so fast? I seem to recall taking, oh, THREE OR FOUR YEARS to get to this point. WHY DOESN'T ANYONE ELSE FIND THIS WEIRD?!
… after I picked my jaw up off the turrets, Prince Logan hummed and skipped away, leaving me with my daughter. She watched me the way she used to, calm, quiet, unsmiling. I couldn't even tell if she recognized me.
Eventually, deciding to take the first step, I ran forward and hugged her. I was crying.
She flipped me on my back.
I tried again. She nearly tossed me over the edge of the castle. Again, and she heaved me down into the bailey. (The pointy bits on her armour HURT, by the way. Got an edge right in my freaking forehead.)
By the time I came back up she was leaving, and I called to her. "Eve!" I cried, stretching out my battered arms, "Don't you know me? It's your papa! Dragomir!"
She turned, and fixed me with that cold glare, and she said, in a high-pitched, girl-of-her-age voice, "I am the killer of gods."
I didn't know what to say to that. I know I get dumbstruck a lot, and I'm usually at a loss for words, but that, that was a real zinger.
She turned away again, leaped down into the bailey and ran out of sight. On all fours, no less. Last I heard, she was killing a cow outside the castle walls and supping on its guts. Still voracious, I guess.
Back by the latrines again today, diary, so went for a walk. A long walk. I haven't seen the castle in ages, so why would I miss this chance to meet everyone again when they're NOT emptying their bowels? It's tough to carry a conversation when the air smells of a butt!
Castle Longjohns doesn't look much different from when I left, though the magical tornado cure thing wrecked it up a bunch. (Sorry to everyone. I thought I was doing good!) The merchants, smiths and craftsmen are still workin' away in the bailies, the guards and the royal guards are still patrollin' their guts out, the Neck is still chewing up people dumb enough to walk on it, and the prince is still causing trouble.
Yeah. The prince. He, uh, snuck up on me today and gave me a wedgie. Haven't seen him in weeks and the first thing he does is give me a wedgie! His mom said he was nicer than he seemed, but I think when he's away from his retainers he's just a brat. Better not say that about the prince of the realm, I could get my head chopped off. Anyway!
I did, after getting wedgied, have a little conversation with Prince Logan:
"You were gone a long time," he said, balancing on the outer wall with one leg. "Still can't pick up weapons?"
"You're weird. Wanna see me do a backflip?" And then he did one without waiting for an answer. Showoff.
"You should, uh, be more careful on the wall. Your majesty."
"The Baron tells me what to do, not you." He nudged me with his foot while standing on his hands.
One finger. Gods, how does he do it? I've never seen anyone as acrobatic as the prince. Not even acrobats!
Eventually he got bored and left (flipped over the side of the wall), but he told me to come back to that spot - overlooking the western plains, 'cause it's emu season and he likes watching the birds running - tomorrow. He's the prince. What choice do I have?
No, no! Don't say otherwise, diary! It's all normal. Perfectly normal. Yes.
And I have proof! I'm back on duty! Duty's great. Boring as hell, but great. They've got me watching the toilets in the residential buildings today. Captain Cedric has already given me plenty of painful lumps, bless his soul, and the latrines smell as foul as ever. (I wish they had something more efficient for getting rid of poo. Really. Like that tent irrigationg-esque thing back in Goblinoster.
... though I guess that means feces would be tumbling along the tops of tarps. Gross. Especially if a tent pole collaps
I'll just end that bracket right there. Home!
Very little happened on my shift today. I stood. I loafed a bit, wandering around 'n talking to people. Most everyone's happy to see me again, 'cause I'm everybody's favourite guard… even if I am bad at my job. A lot of people have thanked me for goin' out to find a cure for foulfungus, even if it wasn't needed. They're happy I came back alive.
(I guess it's not common knowledge that I, uh, caused that whole thing in the first place? Wonder if that's The Baron at work again. Such a nice guy, if it's true. Bloody well saved my life, after all.)
Once work was done - had to do a double shift - I went home and found Libby waiting. It's weird seeing her skinny again, 'cause all her fat from the pregnancy is gone. I can put my arm around her waist! Not that I would, 'cause she'd smack me, but y'know. The option's there.
Though I'm not sure if she WOULD smack me. Libby's been really nice since I got back, bringing me stuff in jail and hardly ever swearing at me, and she smiles a lot. Tons of hugs. She even said I can keep you in our cupboard, diary! That's great. It'll be so nice not having to hide you in the rat farms. Don't wanna repeat of that trip, no sir. No more ledger hiding for me.
… though I still have to be a guard. She says she'll beat me if I loaf too much. It's nice to see that some things don't change. It'd be weird if she DIDN'T hit me now and then.
Ahhh. Stretching out in bed, my wife next to me, resting… life is simple.
Ow! Why'd you snap on my nose like that, diary! And… are you…?
Look. Outside the bars. And don't talk. Write in the diary. We will hear you.
Oh. A rat. How do you keep messing with my diary? It's mine! Stop it! Making me think it's alive or something. You should be ashamed.
… we do what we must, Dragomir. Just as you do what you must.
O… kay… do we have to talk like this? Can't I just
No! You must not open your mouth. Your guards can't think you're insane. You can't remain locked up here. This is important.
But it's weird! Who the hell carries on a conversation by writing down messages, one after the other? (How are you even doing this without a quill?)
We fear that you might try to escape your destiny, Dragomir, as we have watched you pacing in your cell today. You must not leave this castle.
I didn't want to, you bloody rat! And what's with all this 'we' stuff?
We are we.
What's that mean?
Don't you use an ellipsis on me!
Anyway. You must stay here, and resume your post. And in doing so, you must watch, and learn. You must not be blind to what is happening.
Well if somebody could TELL me what's happening without being so damn AMBIGUOUS, I mean I just wanna be a normal guy with a
We know! We know! And perhaps, one day, your life will be as you wish. For a while, it will quiet. You will enjoy things as they once were. But trouble is coming. Your king is getting in over his head, and there's nothing you can do to stop him.
Then why am I supposed to watch? What am I supposed to do?
Watch. Wait. Look for the one who stands ready to betray you all. Then run.
Guh? What's that mean?
Wait, where are you going? Come back! You gods-be-damned rat! Talk to me!