Friday, March 30, 2012

Day One-Seventy-Five: You dirty bureaucrat


Welp, it's official. I'm assistant to The Baron. I have slightly less reason to trust the guy, but I'm his assistant nonetheless.

After the debacle yesterday, I kinda feared for my life. Driscol's one scary dude when you piss him off, and unlike King Jeffrey I get the feeling that he has a long, long memory. So I wanted to make a reeeeeally good first impression on The Baron… by showing up a couple minutes early.

The Baron lives in the nobles' wing of the castle, just like the rest of them hoity-toity aristocrat types, but he lives close enough to the entrance that none of the royal guards along the way gave me any grief. Guess they were told to expect me. I didn't take any chances trying to explore the rest of the quarter, however - I don't care enough about fancy draperies and plush carpets to risk a brow-beating.

The Baron's door was slightly ajar when I arrived, and the guard was preoccupied… staring… at himself in a mirror… so I took a little peek in to make sure I wouldn't be disturbing The Baron. The last time I tried to approach a nobles' quarters without being welcome, the little bastard peed on my boots. (Grylock. Sigh.)

There was no pee this time. No, just The Baron, sitting at his desk, a quill in one hand, parchments in front of him… and, sitting on top of the parchment pile, a rat. What's more, it was waving its arms around, and The Baron was nodding! They must have been having a chat! He's in league with the bloody rats, diary!

It was almost 9, so I stepped away from the door and knocked lightly. After a moment The Baron told me to come in, and when I did the rat was gone. Didn't see any rat holes as I walked up to The Baron's desk, but he owns a lot of shelves covered in books, so there could be one hidden somewhere.

He greeted me nicely enough. "Worst guard! Welcome! You're a little early, aren't you? If the sun's any indication, I still have five minutes to muddle over these reports."

I shrugged bashfully. "Sorry, m'lord. I… figured I should be punctual, is all. You saved me yesterday. Only right I show you some courtesy, yeah?"

The Baron grinned, stood and walked around his desk to shake my hand. "I appreciate the sentiment, Dragomir, I really do. I may call you 'worst guard', but I trust you more than the average person in this castle. That's why I arranged for this position."

He motioned for me to sit in a chair in front of his desk. I couldn't bring myself to touch it for almost a minute; it was just so POSH compared to the junk I usually sit on. My bottom was in heaven, diary, I kid you not.

The Baron went to his door and closed it. Then he sat on the edge of his desk and sighed. "I might as well come clean, Dragomir. I don't really need you as an assistant."

"You… don't?"

"No. The repairs are going well, as I'm sure you've seen, and everyone will be back to their old jobs by Wednesday next week, if my projections are correct. Besides, I made sure that my various aides continued working for me throughout this… unfortunate… whatever it was." He threw up his hands. "SOME day I'll get the truth. I hope. I can't claim to remember much about last week."

And I can't claim to have seen The Baron among the werewolves, but, to be honest, there were a loooooot of people Antonia and I had to uninfect, and a lot of 'em didn't look like themselves with snouts and fur. Bet he spent the whole week trying to do paperwork with his claws.

The Baron adjusted his glasses. I could tell he was nervous. "This isn't about the castle. I need your help for something else, Dragomir… something more important than repairs. It's about that blasted man."

The Baron pounded his fist on the desk, and a tiny vein popped out on his forehead as he gritted his teeth. I figured out who he meant pretty fast. "Driscol?"

He cringed at the name, but nodded. "Yes. Driscol. That bloody count is up to something, something that I'm sure will be counterproductive to the stability of this kingdom, and I want to find out what."

Wasn't surprised a bit. Driscol's struck me as a slimy weasel since day one. Still, I wanted to play it safe. "What makes you think so, m'lord?"

The Baron stood, walked behind his desk, opened it, reached in and grabbed something. Then he came back and placed a small, rounded rock on the desk in front of me. It bore a dusting of chalk, though I didn't recognize it at first.

He brought me up to speed in a hurry. "The vote. There are plenty of other, compelling reasons, but the vote regarding the queen got my attention the most. Do you remember what it was all about, Dragomir?"

"Sure. Driscol wanted to protect the queen by buildin' a big, stupid fortress, like, five feet from the castle."

"Exactly!" The Baron picked up the rock, spat on it, and hurled it across the room. It caromed off the wall and hit a small sculpture of some monstrous thing sitting on a shelf. "Oh, bother and fiddlesticks. I'll have to get that repaired. You see the aggravation that man brings to my life?!"

After composing himself, The Baron continued. "Yes. A fortress, just outside the castle, constructed entirely by Driscol's men. He doesn't have as many as he would like, of course, but he could always hire mercenaries - and if he had a sufficient force, not to mention the queen held captive, what do you think he could do to this kingdom?"

I drew in my breath and stared. "M'lord, you don't mean to say that he's planning to - "

The Baron waved his hands around crazily. "No! No! Not insinuating anything, Dragomir. Not a thing. Nothing that's going to leave this room, anyway. You understand? All this is kept strictly confidential."

I nodded. Everything was flying over my head a touch, but I understood secrecy quite well.

"I don't know WHAT Driscol has planned, exactly. All I know is that he's vying for power, and I want to know how he's going to GET that power. He's dangerously close to achieving some end that could undermine not only my authority, but the king's. I HAVE to discover the extent of his schemes."

He laid a hand on my shoulder. "I need your help, son. I can't do this on my own, and I've seen enough of your exploits to know that you're loyal to your kingdom, even if you DO occasionally make a mess of things. Such as helping Ambassador Grylock shave the king."

My eyes bulged and I bit my lip. "Y… Y…"

The Baron laughed. "Don't worry, lad. I found it hilarious, even if it signalled a week of civil war between father and son. It was nice to watch somebody else take the brunt of Logan's pranks. Though that doesn't leave this room, either, understood?"

"Yes, m'lord. Absolutely."

"Alright." He went back behind his desk and plopped down in his chair. "You will help me, then? You will aid me in rooting out Driscol's plans so I can bring them before the king and put that bastard behind bars?"

Didn't even have to think about it. I stood and saluted. "You can count on me, m'lord! I'll do anything you need of me!"

He clapped. "Excellent. It's good to see another patriot. Come back on Monday, Dragomir, and I'll give you further instructions. For now, you can take the rest of the day off. I suggest you remain in your quarters, or at least well away from any nobles, as Driscol was quite angry that you stained his family crest with soup."

"Yessir!"

He thanked me again and dismissed me, hunching back over his paperwork. I left, and raaaaaan my ass out of the nobles' wing, happy to be rid of the place. I'm uncomfortable in posh settings. Remind me never to become a politician.

Despite my enthusiasm, I'm still not one HUNDRED percent convinced of The Baron's part in all this, diary. I mean, if he's shacking up with the rats, then… well, I don't trust THEM, but… I trust HIM… but Antonia told me NOT to trust him… but I only just MET her, so I don't know if I trust HER… especially not now that she's stuck in the dungeon, struggling against her chains while people toss her raw meat to eat…

Eesh. There's another reason not to enter politics: it's too bloody confusing. I almost miss the days of walking from here to Goblinoster - at least my goal was straight and true.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Spy? Maybe?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day One-Seventy-Four: Splooooooosh


Oh, just stick a stork in me. I'm done.

Helpers or not, I've been officially fired from the Beefiary. Most of my jobs at least last until the end of the week, but… no, today's my last day. And why? Because I spilled stuff AGAIN. AGAIN, DIARY. MAYBE I AM BAD AT THIS, AND MAYBE I SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ALL COCKILY. At the very least I shouldn't be serving nobles anymore.

And I wasn't! Not today. No, today Robert told me that I'd be limiting myself STRICTLY to the commoners. I'm good with my own people, and they all seem to like me. Only one who gives me a hard time is Captain Cedric, and that's 'cause he's Captain Cedric. I've come to appreciate that he COULDN'T be anybody else.

Anyway. I'm apparently not bad at cooking rat stew or prepping yak tarts, so at lunch today Robert had me doing that while he cut the veggies and handled the prep work on the meat products. He managed to filch one of his assistants from clean-up duties elsewhere - which, by the way, is going very well; I guess we're used to tidying up after disasters these days - and that dude was handling the noble orders. So all was good.

That is, until I had to deliver a big batch of soup to the jail.

Prisoners need to eat, too. Y'know that, right, diary? They might have done wrong and bad and nonsense, but they need to eat. So after the lunch rush was done for the commoners and everybody was sitting and munching, I grabbed a cart, loaded it down with soup, and headed off to the dungeons. With everyone in the Beefiary it SHOULDA been easy.

Assuming I got outside the Beefiary.

But you know how cafeterias are, diary. Or maybe you don't. If you don't, I guess I'd best describe 'em as chaotic. People are laughing and moving around a lot, and you can never tell what's gonna happen. So when one of the guards leaned back on his stool and elbowed my cart, I probably shouldn't have been surprised and let go of the cart.

Probably.

But I was. And I did! I The cart rocketed out of my hands, zipping straight down the aisle - and making a beeline for the nobles' section, a subset of the Beefiary with nicer accommodations for the nobles who actually deign to eat with the common folk. The cart blasted right through the velvet and plowed into the first table it could find.

Sitting at that table was Driscol the Count and Lady Evangelina, his consort. After the cart hit the table, they weren't so much 'sitting' as they were 'sprawled on the ground and covered in cooked rat remains'.

I wanted to run. My legs COMMANDED me to run. But the same flight-or-fight frozen expression that comes across animals when you shine a light in their face seemed to hit me, and before I could react beyond prepping myself for a good self-soiling Driscol had crossed the room and grabbed my collar.

And, gods help me, he was half smiling.

"This was the last straw, dog," he whispered, leaning over me and dripping soup on my chef's hat. "This was the excuse I needed. Now I will see you flayed in the dungeon, and that fucking Baron -"

"- will come to the rescue?"

We both started. The Baron was standing right behind Driscol, tapping him on the shoulder.

Driscol kept a tight grip on my collar. "What do you want, cur?"

The Baron smiled. "To thank you. For finding my new assistant for me. I've been looking all over the place for Dragomir. Isn't that right, young man? Haven't I been combing the castle for you all day? And here I find you, at entirely the wrong job, dousing yet another noble! At least it wasn't the king again. You're not just the worst guard, you're the worst everything!"

I nodded. Vigorously.

Driscol sneered. "Well, he's mine, now. And I intend to keep him occupied for the rest of his very short life. Isn't that right, dog?"

I shook my head. Vigorously.

The Baron moved in close, probably aware that eeeeeeveryone in the Beefiary was watching the exchange, and whispered in Driscol's ear. "Is this really how you want to start, Driscol? Fighting over spilled soup? You're not ready to take me on yet, my boy."

Driscol's sneer deepened. I didn't really know what The Baron was talking about, but I could tell that all the rumours about Driscol and The Baron hating each other were totally true. There's something big coming between the two of 'em, I just know it, and Driscol was loathe to let me go and give The Baron wiggle-room.

Eventually, though, he released me. "We'll see," he muttered, and stalked back to Lady Evangelina. They left.

The Baron patted me on the shoulder. "Exciting day! Come see me tomorrow, Dragomir. How does 9 sound? That will give you some time to sleep in. Good man. I'm off! Have a lovely rest!" And he left too.

I stood in place for a few moments, shivering, confused as hell. Eventually a tap on my shoulder brought me back to reality.

It was Robert. "Dragomir? You there?"

"Y… yeah."

"Did you pee yourself?"

"You betcha."

"Okay. Um."

"Yeah, I know, I'm fired."

"That's m'bro."

I took the rest of the day off, quivering in my apartment. I've come close to death many times, diary, but I don't think anyone's outright threatened me like that before. 'cept the king, and he threatens everybody, so it's not QUITE as serious.

I didn't like Driscol before. Now I hate him. And I fear him. He would have killed me on the spot if he'd had a dagger, I bet. What's he planning?

Well, guess I don't need to worry right now. I'm under The Baron's wing. He'll keep me safe. Sure hope what Antonia told me isn't true, 'cause now I trust the guy more than ever.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Ex-Cook

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day One-Seventy-Three: Sploosh


OW. MY BUTT. I may have deserved it but MY BUTT.

After a night of reflection and bad sleep, I decided to stage a little rebellion at work today. I have earned SO MUCH RESPECT over the last few months, but nobody gives me nuthin'. You know? I'm tired of being taken for GRANTED, and I want somebody to KNOW it.

So that chat Robert had with me yesterday? About getting everything right for the nobles? NOPE. I was determined to serve 'em just as I'd served the peasants. Hell, if anything I served the peasants BETTER than usual today, which confused a bunch of 'em 'cause they actually GOT what they ordered, which, in many cases, wasn't what they wanted. We're all used to lying about what we want to better ensure that we GET what we want.

Understand? Yeah, makes no sense. That's Castle Drippy for you.

Anyway. I decided to make a stand this afternoon. I wasn't about to let some stupid noble push ME around. So, after preparing a batch of fresh rat soup - yep, I know how to boil rats now, and it's kinda FUN given the grief they shower on me, though Robert kills 'em before he hands 'em over - I took it to the first customer to walk in, and, without listening to his order, I splashed it ALL OVER HIS HOOD. RIGHT IN HIS FACE. Pretended I tripped, I did.

… then I noticed the faint line of a faded, drawn butt crack on his forehead, just underneath his hood.

Yeeeeeeah. It was the king.

I stood there in horrified silence for a moment as that fact sunk in, watching him curse and toss his cloak off, and before I knew it his royal guards - who had hidden themselves off to the side - threw me to the ground, their pikes scraping my temples. An attendant helped the king clean himself, though he was still pretty soggy by the time he brought his wrath to bear on me.

"LET US SEE HIS FACE!" the king bellowed, and the royal guards forced me to tip my head back. "WE WOULD KNOW WHO IS GOING TO DIE!"

I eeped. I honestly thought I was about to be marched over the Neck. The king has ordered people dead over less than a bowl of soup to the face.

When he saw who I was, however, the king stopped short. "Oh. It's you. What the hell are you doing in our kitchens?"

He knows who I am? I thought, some of the tension draining away. "I… um, your majesty, I was… ordered…"

"Ordered to drench us with SOUP?! You have RUINED our NEW GOATEE! Perhaps we should order the COOK EXECUTED!" He glared over at the kitchens, and I just bet Robert ducked out of sight to avoid trouble.

The king fumed for a while, continuing to mop soup off his face and clothes, and my fate dangled perilously by the thinnest of threads. Once he'd cooled down, however, he seemed to see reason.

"Very well. Given your… UNIQUE position within this castle, services rendered in the past, and your daughter's betrothal to our son, we will forgive this indiscretion. THIS TIME. Foul up again, however, and we will see your skin flayed from your bones and HUNG FROM A FLAGPOLE, ALONGSIDE OUR DIVINE FACE, AS A SIGN NEVER TO HARM THE KING. YOUR REMAINS WILL FLAP GRACEFULLY IN THE BREEZE FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY. DO YOU UNDERSTAND US, DRAGOMIR THE GUARD?!"

Never have I nodded so rapidly. My neck's sore now, so I mighta given myself whiplash.

"But you still deserve a paddling," the king said, rubbing his hands together. "BEAT HIS ASS!"

And they did. Both of the guards used the flats of their pikes to slap my rear end silly, one of them even going so far as to kick me and knock my face into the floorboards. I think I may have chipped a tooth. Gods do royal guards hit hard! They look like pansies with those stupid flappy arm coverings! Stupid Omega Corps!

"Ahahahaha, that was precious. I'm finished. Off we go!" the king ordered, and the guards left me to grovel on the ground. Then Jeffrey stormed off, yelling at his aide to change the castle's name to 'HotHotHeat'. (Drippy came after that. Dunno what else that whacky king's been doin' today.)

I'm pretty certain Robert would have fired me on the spot had he any other helpers. And I've no doubt that I am, for certain, out of a cooking job by the end of the week. That's fine, I'd rather not be smacked about again for screwing up.

This is twice the king's yelled at me now. He's praised me an equal number of times, true, but I bet scorn outweighs praise ten to one. ESPECIALLY when it includes a butt beating. That's not good for poor 'ol Dragomir.

Oh, and you're probably wondering if I wet myself while he was screaming at me, diary. Answer is: YOU BET. I need new breeches, these ones smell perpetually of pee. Libby hates getting into bed with me now.





But he remembered my name…!

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Cook

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day One-Seventy-Two: Why does he even bother


You know what? I don't care what other people say. I'M A DAMN FINE SERVER, AND IF THEY THINK OTHERWISE THEY CAN JUST GO TO HELL. TO HELL, I SAY.

huff

huff

So today was not a great start to my temporary career as a worker in the kitchens. I think I did a GREAT job, but SOME people argue otherwise. So they're labelled 'dicks' in my book. DICKS, diary.

I arrived in the Beefiary at 7 this morning, just as I'd been told, and Robert was waiting. He gave me a quick breakfast, then told me to put on an apron (did) and a hat (did) and bade me serve people as he prepped the food. Said he'd start teaching me how to cook during the lull between breakfast and lunch.

So I served! People came in… by the droves, I might add, never really noticed HOW many customers they have in the Beefiary… and I served. Started off behind one of the counters, handing people their tarts and veggies and such, then eventually I was out among the tables, delivering food to the nobles.

And, by the gods, I was GOOD at it. All the peasants were happy with my work! I tossed their trays at 'em and they accepted everything with a nod and a wink. Lotsa rough talk and happiness when the workers were the only ones coming up to get their breakfast.

… but then I had to feed the nobles. And THEY, diary, are the DICKS.

See, whenever I get served in the morning, three things typically happen:

- The server gets my order wrong
- The server spills some of my meal on my clothes
- The server swears at me

And I FIGURED, y'know, that that's standard procedure. And with the commoners, it was! Every time somebody ordered something I'd just give 'em whatever was on hand, tossing it into their arms and saying 'Have a fuckin' good day, lad!' or something similar, and off they'd go! Happy times.

Not with the nobles. Noooo, I knew as soon as I got started that THEY expected something different. Take, for example, Lord Cumberland, the head of the castle's accounting departments. He ordered a tray of finely-prepared tarts, garnished with thinly-sliced vegetables.

So I brought him soup. And spilled a healthy dollop of it on his robes. And called him a fuckwit. That's just what you DO in the Beefiary, diary!

BUT NO. No, Cumberland got into this righteous rage, saying that 'a peasant should know his place' and that he'd see my head shoved in a hole somewhere while he paddled my bum with a mace. Then he splashed the soup in my face and told me to try again before he called the guards, and when I said I WAS a guard, he hit me with the tray.

No respect.

Didn't get much better after that, either. All of the nobles were arses to me. 'It's too hot', 'It's too cold', 'There's a hair', 'I think it's pubic', 'This tastes like feces', 'You have a stupid haircut', 'I feel more inept having met you'… UGH. What a day.

It was all made even worse when ROBERT yelled at me for getting so many damn complaints. Said I was the worst server he'd ever had, and that I'd have to improve ON THE DOUBLE if I didn't wanna be shitcanned! And when I said I would LOVE to be shitcanned, he hit me with a ladle! Full of hot soup! NO RESPECT, and he RUINED MY APRON!

Ugh. He taught me a few things about cooking, but not much. Barely remember what he said now. Bugger that anyway, I'm tired and I wanna go to bed. Enough talking about today.

Rrrrrrggghhgrgrrr,

Dragomir the Cook

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day One-Seventy-One: Enlisted


I say this an awful lot, I know, but everything's more or less back to normal, diary. I mean, sure, the whole castle is wrecked to hell and back, but we're slowly restoring things to order - and that means doing jobs we're not necessarily MEANT to do in the service of cleanliness. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

I wanted to mull over two things, and first is the explanation of the whole incident. See, everybody who managed to escape the werewolves has buttoned up. They won't talk about what happened, and they seem to be scared of everybody who WAS a werewolf. So it's basically like half the castle had a big party last week, and they trashed the place, and they all got so drunk that they don't remember what happened, and it was so socially awkward that everybody who WASN'T invited isn't willing to discuss it now.

Which means I get no credit for saving the castle. Poo. I'm always freaking gypped out of credit. And there aren't even any gypsies around to do it!

The second issue is what Antonia said on Friday before she turned into a full werewolf. Remember, diary? "Vatch out for zat man? Ze prince'z tutor? I do not truzt him?" Yeah, that. It's troubling, more so than if ANYONE ELSE had said it.

I like The Baron. I RESPECT The Baron. He's been nice to me where every other noble has spat in my face. He kept me out of jail, he's given me money as apologies for the actions of other higher-ups and we've had a fair number of chats. Sure, he always calls me the 'worst guard in the castle', but I know he's just kidding. Or if he ISN'T, he doesn't hold it against me. I can appreciate a dude like that.

So why, then, should I heed the word of some orc woman I've met once? Or multiple times, if you count the kangaroo, which I don't because a) she's not really a kangaroo and b) she used to hit me a lot back then? Why listen to some woman I barely know, whose only trustworthy action… has been… saving the castle… and selflessly sacri…

Okay, she has pull. Still. She can't know THAT much about The Baron. She probably knocked the guy around a lot, too. I'm hoping to prove her wrong, diary, yes I am.

… but she got to see a lot of The Baron when she was a kangaroo…

Enough about all that. You're probably wondering what's going on today. Well, diary, I'll be happy to tell you: I've been drafted to work in the Beefiary. Why me? I don't know. I have an idea, but I don't know for certain.

I suspect that it's Robert's doing. Castle WhatTheHellHappened is in ruins, and everybody's having to help each other clean up. A slightly cheerier Captain Cedric informed me that I'm to work in the kitchens, starting tomorrow, 'cause most of Robert's assistants are helping with repairs elsewhere. Why they didn't just leave the assistants in the kitchen and tell ME to do the repairs, I dunno. Guess it's the whole can't-pick-up-a-weapon bias at work. (I can use a damn hammer, guys!)

Anyway. Tomorrow, I am a server and assistant cook. I already know it'll go badly, but it can't hurt to acquire another new skill, eh? Never had the chance to cook before.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Cook

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day One-Seventy: Bite Night


Ahhhhhhh. A normal bed again. Sweet gods, it's good to be home.

Which… isn't to say the plan went off PERFECTLY, of course, but… well, when do my plans ever go PERFECTLY… werewolves are gone, at least? Kinda? Time to explain.

After a hearty breakfast of snow - Daena's attendants weren't exactly delivering her usual assortment of scones and sandwiches - the queen wished us 'good luck' and saw us off. I thanked her for all her help, and promised to set her husband and son and kingdom and stuff back to rights. (I doubt Logan even got infected, truth be told - he seems way too quick to be caught by werewolves.)

Once Antonia, Barrel and I were out of sight of the queen's tree, I told her the real plan, including all the details about the hole. She didn't seem surprised.

"I'm not zurprized," she said. "You vere too shifty ze other day. Ze queen noticed it, too, but she let it go. I zuppoze she trust you, ya? Iz you trustverthy, Dragomir?"

"Uh, I hope so?" Comedic collar tug. "I did it 'cause I don't think she's meant to know. S'not like the queen can do much to help anyway."

Antonia chortled. "She is queen! She is beloved by all the people of zis castle! If anyone could do something about ze hole, she could. Perhapz you are not zo wary of zeez hole az you zay? Perhapz zomething beyond you wantz it intact, ya? Perhapz we go now to our deathz?"

I grimaced. Sure as hell hoped not. "Look, she shouldn't know. Okay? I can tell. It's better."

"Vatever you zay. I only hope she iz not left to fend for herzelf. Even a mighty opponent zuch az ze queen cannot hold off hundredz of verevolves forever."

Barrel quietly lifted us up onto the barbican when we got to the castle, after confirming that no werewolves were waiting on the ramparts, and we scanned the bailies from a distance. The werewolves were relatively active, some of them playing in the snow, most of them prowling around and snapping at each other. They didn't seem to notice us hiding on the barbican.

"You ready?" I said, kinda hiding behind Antonia. (Don't you dare say anything about 'hiding behind a woman's skirts' being cowardly, diary, all the women I know are obscenely strong.)

"Ya." She brushed her hair out of her face and smiled, watching the snow fall. "Iz waz nice to be orc again while it lazted. Clear mind, clear body, clear zoul. You vill look for way to heal me, ya? In thankz?"

I hadn't actually thought about that. I'd only been concerned about Antonia dying in the process, and even then I was more concerned that we wouldn't solve the problem of the werewolves. I felt rather ashamed that I'd not stopped to consider her predicament.

I shook her boxing glove. "Yeah. I'll figure out something."

The operation began without secrecy. There was no way Barrel could get us inside the east wing on the sly, not unless we tried to sneak in, and the werewolves were way too active for that to work. Instead, we took the direct route: Barrel picked us both up, flew to the (nearly patched) gash in the roof that he'd made a few months before, and burst through. Flimsy boards clattered down into the hole.

The hole. By gods, the hole. I've thought about it a hell of a lot more than I've actually discussed in you, diary, because there's no easy way to visit - and despite my curiosity, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back. The need to dig was too powerful for me to enjoy. Too overbearing. And now, close up to it again, I felt just as flabbergasted - and more dismayed than ever.

"My gods!" I yelled over the beating of Barrel's wings, "It's so deep! Almost twice as deep as the last time I saw it!"

Indeed it was. The bottom was lost in darkness until we descended further down, though I could tell that new scaffolds had been built to allow workers easy access to the bottom. There were tools everywhere, and I recognized a lot of 'em as at least half the work of Libby. She ain't in on this whole thing, obviously, but she's providing a lot of carpentry help to this… whatever it is.

As soon as we got within spitting distance the compulsion started to set in. Digging sounded fun. Great! The best thing in the world. I wanted to grab a pick and dig, dig, dig until there was nothing left to do but burst through the other side of the planet. One look at Antonia told me that she was feeling the same.

Then Barrel nipped us both in the butt, and we were okay after that. He had to keep doing it, too - that was his job, 'cause the hole doesn't seem to bother him. Still didn't look happy about being back there, though, and I can't blame him, as he DID rescue me from the thing the first time I came down.

Once we were secured at the bottom, Barrel grew to full size, hovered over the rock, and let out a magnificent roar that shook the castle. I was afraid he might bring the scaffolds down around us, but they held, and within minutes werewolves were streaming down the pathway towards us, snarling.

But not for long. We'd gone to the bottom for a reason: we wanted to give the spell of the hole time to set in. And if that didn't work, Barrel would have a few moments to get us outta there. By the time the wolves got to the bottom, though, they were staggering about, limp-eyed, and the whole lot either dove to their knees and started digging or looked about for picks and shovels. Guess human memory drove 'em to do things proper.

Once the last of the werewolves were in the hole - and, thank the gods, EVERY LAST ONE of the bastards had come running - we set to work, Barrel occasionally nipping at our buns. There were well over a hundred werewolves, and it took quite a while to do.

This was the general idea behind our plan. I would grab a werewolf as it was mindlessly digging and set its teeth on Antonia. I would then gently close its mouth on her skin so it would nip her - and then keep nipping her. Just a tiny wound, you know, but one that lasted long enough for all of the lycanthropy to drain out of the wolf's system and into her. (Still not EXACTLY sure how that works, but whatcha gonna do, eh?)

And that's what we did. Once. Twice. Three times. Seven times. A dozen. Over and over and over, I forced these compliant, half-conscious werewolves to drain their disease back into Antonia's flesh. Causing her that much pain was easily one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, and the first few times she had to ease me into it.

Antonia was marvellous. She flinched as the teeth were going in, sure, but she never once held back, and she never cried. I'd have been blubbering like a baby after one bite, let alone over a hundred. When we were done, two exhausting hours later, she was covered from head to toe in tiny bites - not to mention thick, brown fur. Yep, she was a werewolf again.

And everybody else? Half naked and working away, all of 'em human. ('cept Gylock. He reminded me of a schnauzer in werewolf form.) There were a lot less werewolves than I'd expected, given the population of the castle, so I guess a lot of people managed to hide? Good for them, if they did - I doubt Antonia could've handled much more abuse.

My butt numb from Barrel's bites, I collapsed onto his back as he turned back to normal and began shuttling people out of the hole, two handfuls and two footfuls at a time. Once they were all outside I called for help, and a few humans who had managed to stay away from the werewolves came out and helped me drag everyone else indoors. These helpful folk didn't comment on the dragon, and I sure as hell didn't try to explain.

So yeah. After that, everything was… kinda… back to normal. Emphasis on 'kinda', because the castle was confused as hell, and when there was a demand for an explanation I had to lie. Again. Said everybody crowded into the castle, and when we found 'em they'd turned back to normal. Couldn't explain what happened - though I suspected that it had something to do with the kangaroo. Tried to play Antonia up as a hero.

She wasn't treated like a hero. Not at all. After recovering from her hundred plus bites she became more feral than ever, thrashing and snarling like crazy. I think she's just a plain ol' werewolf, now, and so violent that she needs to be locked up and chained up in the dungeon at all times. Which is pretty sad, considering everything she did for this castle. Sigh.

So that's that. Tale over. Next week, I guess we'll have to work on cleaning up. I'm getting the cold shoulder from Libby, too, who said I 'took advantage of her' while she was sick. I'd say she took advantage of ME, but, either way… guess fun time is over. Oh well.

There is one other thing I should add before I go, diary. Before Antonio turned fully back into a werewolf - she was pretty damn resistant, so it took about thirty bites before that happened - she said something to me that I can't get out of my head:

"Vatch out for zat man. Ze prince'z tutor. I do not truzt him."

But she wouldn't explain, and I, I guess I'm stuck wondering what's wrong with The Baron as I fall asleep tonight.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day One-Sixty-Nine: Deus Ex Dreamina


(Author notice: Check out the Newsbox on the side before, during or after reading this entry! Big news!)

Shit. SHIT. IT CAME TO ME IN A DREAM, DIARY. I KNOW WHAT WE HAVE TO DO.

I was snoozing away last night, just after my watch, when my vision of two hippos dancing in a field of daisies was BLOWN APART by something new: a vivid mental picture of the hole. The hole in the ground. The one in the east wing of the castle. The one where you feel the sudden compulsion to dig.

Do you get it, diary? Do you see? All we have to do is lead the werewolves into that massive room, wait for them to get hit by digging fever, and then force them to bite Antonia while they're working! It's perfect!

Okay, not perfect. She's still faced with the probably-going-to-die-from-bites problem. But this is the best solution I've got, and by the gods I'm gonna stick with it.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the dream. Nor is it the end of this diary entry by a long shot.

See, after I got the vision of the hole, I also got one of me talking to Queen Daena. I couldn't hear what I was saying, but there was snow on the ground and I was still dressed in commoner clothes so I figured that it was some kinda mental warning - 'cause shortly after I'd been talking to her, the scene shifted…

… and she was dead. Still pinned to the tree, but hanging limp. Had a sword through her stomach.

(Legs were still kickin' up a storm, though. How's that work?)

I got the impression that this might happen if I told Queen Daena about the hole, and by the gods, I wouldn't allow that. I LIKE Queen Daena. She's the second best woman I've ever met, and I only SAY that because I'm forced to admit Libby is number one. We're married. If I say otherwise, I'll probably be arrested. I bet there are wedding police in the Imperium. Buncha weirdos over there.

Dead. The queen. Couldn't let that happen.

So, after a few more hours of mulling over what to do with Antonia and Daena (I stayed quiet while they talked, pretending that I was out of ideas but ACTUALLY thinking up an alternate plan I could use to trick 'em), I came up with something else. A biiiiiiig faaaaaaat liiiiiiieeeee.

"Barrel!" I said, motioning to the tree above. "C'mon down here."

An owl swooped down onto my shoulder. Antonia and Daena were surprised, to say the least.

I motioned for them to stay calm. "Okay. You two? This is Barrel. You've both met Barrel before, I think. Go ahead and change back to normal, Barrel. SMALL normal." I added that last bit so he wouldn't crush me horribly and render all the scheming moot.

Barrel shimmered. The feathers receded into his body, replaced by scales, and his tiny beak flipped upward and lengthened into a snout. A big puff of hair exploded out the back of his head as a final touch, which I thought was great 'cause I love Barrel's mullet.

Daena gaped. "Dragomir, is that… Apocalyptor?! But he's so small!"

"Yeah. Magic. I'll explain later." I took a deep breath. "Can you keep a secret, your majesty? So your husband won't go nuts?"

The queen nodded. Not a hint of hesitation. She was too busy goggling Barrel, I think, to much register what I was saying.

"'kay. See, Barrel's been my buddy for a while, now. Follows me around a lot. And… and in that time, I've learned that he can perform some magic. Ain't that right, Barrel?"

He looked at me, about to shake his head. I pinched his toe. He yelped, gave me the stink eye, and nodded.

"Right. And, well, I was… talking… to Barrel… because I can kinda understand what he's saying, see -"

"Ven ver you doing zis?" Antonia asked. She scratched under Barrel's chin, and he purred. "Awww, zo cute. I've alvays vanted to see a dragon."

"Um. Earlier. While you two were talking. He can turn into stuff. He was a fly. Anyway -"

"How can you talk to him, Dragomir? How did you learn to understand him? Can you teach me? Oh, I'd love to have a dragon as a conversation partner! All those boring days - "

"I learned in school!" A complete lie, 'cause I hadn't ever set foot in a school. "Look, can we -"

"They teach dragon language in commoner schools?

"Erm… no, just… just mine."

"My gods, I must visit this school!"

"It burned down!"

"Well then we must track down the scholars who worked there - "

"Your majesty!" I slumped. "Please, this is important! Barrel can help us, I think!"

She went silent, waving at me in apology. I think she'd forgotten that her castle was full of werewolves in all the excitement of seeing a micro dragon close up.

I cleared my throat. "So. Anyway. Barrel can use magic, right? And I've seen him, um, catch animals to eat. With a spell. This sort of net thing. Anything stuck under it falls asleep, then he… sneaks under… 'cause dragons are immune, I think… and eats. And it's all good from there. Yeah?"

They both blinked at me. I doubt queen or boxer knew much about magic, so who were they to judge what I was saying? I've been trustworthy in the past!

"So, like, if Barrel can cast that spell… a bunch of times… we can trap everyone in the castle. Maybe lure 'em somewhere large where we can block off the exit, then heal a bunch, then let more in, then keep going. And if you start to go a bit crazy from the lycanthropy stuff, Antonia, Barrel can use it on you, too! How's that sound?"

They looked at each other. I looked at Barrel. He looked back at me, eyes wide with alarm. He clearly couldn't cast any such spell. I bit my lip and hoped he wouldn't turn into a giant dragon and eat me for lying, wondering at the same time when he'd gotten such a good grasp of English.

After some quiet debate, Antonia turned to me. "Zis iz best you got?"

"Y… yeah?"

They exchanged sceptical glances again, then Antonia nodded. "Zen it vill have to do. Ve must work quickly for zis. We discuzz more, ya?"

Ya. The three of us sat down and smoothed out a plan that, overall, sounds like it would have worked fantastically, had I not completely lied about what Barrel could do. I used a quick pee break to explain the situation to him, and he calmed down a bit, though right afterward he flew off. Hadn't a clue where he'd gone.

Just prior to this entry, diary, he came back, ushering me out into a small wooded area. I used another bathroom break as an excuse to leave, grabbed a candle, and followed him out into a cluster of trees.

Where a rat was waiting for me. Barrel must've brought it out.

It pointed at you, diary, and I opened you up. This message slowly wrote itself on one of your loose sheets:

"Dragomir,

We have been informed of your plan. We do not approve. We can say nothing of that hole, other than to warn you of the danger it represents. We urge you to find another way to rid the castle of werewolves!"

So I wrote: "If you want me to listen, try explaining for a change. Why's it dangerous?"

The rat scratched its head. Then it underlined 'We do not approve' and 'We urge you to find another way to make this work'.

I gave it the finger and stalked away.

Danger-shmanger. It's a bloody hole that makes people dig. How is that POSSIBLY more dangerous than a castle full of werewolves? I'm so done with rats, diary.

Anyway. The plan goes off tomorrow. On the way to the castle, once Queen Daena's out of sight, I'll tell Antonia about the real plan. Hopefully she won't freak out on me or nuthin'.

This better work,

Dragomir the Guard

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day One-Sixty-Eight: Aye, ya look like a boxer


As promised, the kangaroo came back. As promised, it's a girl with green skin. As promised, she can, indeed, talk. Hell of an accent, but she can talk.

Queen Daena and I were playing chess in her little enclosure (and she was beating my ass BADLY) when we heard the steady tread of feet on snow. Look up, and sure enough, there's an orc wandering across the snowfield towards us. Considering she was wearing boxing gloves and covered in muscles, I figured, yeah, must be our girl.

I got up from my stool and introduced myself, though perhaps not as politely as I might've. "Hey, orc lady! Remember dislocating my jaw a couple times? Thanks for buggering up our castle!"

"Dragomir!" The queen looked scandalized.

"What? She has. Damn kangaroo, I never liked you!"

The orc nodded. "I… apologize for zat. As wolf, I… I no can control everyting zat I do. Iz nice, be orc again. We shake on renewed acquaintance?"

She took off her gloves and held out her hand. I eyed it suspiciously for a few moments, then shook it. Carefully. "We'll see about that. Who are you really? Other than the prince's pet?"

The orc, wincing under the strain of sore muscles - she'd been fighting werewolves for hours by this point - settled down into the snow and sighed. "Iz long story. You vant to hear?"

Nod.

Her real name is Antonia. She was born in the Imperium, raised by a band of gypsies to perform in an acting troupe. Apparently she sparred with her brother to the general amusement of the crowds, the both of them acting silly to get some laughs - though she's more than capable of serious fights, as well.

Eventually Antonia tired of living poorly, and she took off on her troupe to join a professional boxing league in one of the larger cities. I doubt human boxing would allow men and women to fight each other, but apparently orc males and orc females are just as strong and durable as one another, so she earned a reputation for herself by smacking the tar out of any species that dared to face her in the ring.

Her ring name? Crotch Smasher. That was her finishing move. Yeouch.

Eventually that oft-repeated tactic got her expelled from the league, despite her popularity with the female fans, and she went on an expedition of self-discovery. She figured roughing it in the wilderness for a year would not only toughen her up, but it might give her a less controversial set of moves that would allow her to return to the ring.

You can probably figure out what happened, diary. She was bitten by a werewolf. Beat the crap out of the thing in return, but the damage was done.

Antonia managed to resist the effects of the lycanthropy for nearly two years, but by the end she could barely control herself anymore. The transformation completed itself, and she wandered across the Imperium border and into our lands. Eventually she came across Queen Daena's tree, and the rest of the tale has already been told.

"Was ztruggle every day, not to bite people," she concluded. "But I managed. Your zun helped vith zat. Gave me thingz to do. People to hit. May not be popular in castle, but I did not zpread ze dizeaze."

"But you did," I said, sniffing. "You did. Captain Cedric got infected."

She bit her lip. "Yeeeeeeeezzzzz, ze… ze Cedric. Zat vas unfortunate accident. He iz ztrong opponent, you see, and he… he did not like zat I kick hiz chair over. Ve fight, ve get rowdy, I… I revert to old vayz."

Old ways my butt. 'Crotch Smasher' is not the same as 'Crotch Gnawer'. "So… if he was gonna change into a werewolf, why'd it take so long?"

Antonia shrugged. "I guezz verevulf taint go into… zevered… member. Only a touch into Cedric. Took time to bring him to zis point. Zat iz nature of curse, ya? You should see ze member now, in jar. Iz very hairy indeed."

Queen Daena shuddered. "My gods, he actually kept the thing. I'd heard rumours, but I didn't think Logan would… would… we will discuss this."

"Ya. Have verds vith boy. Iz little dizturbed, though ztill good boy." She turned to me. "You haz plan? I know, we can no leave castle like zis."

I'd been pondering that for hours. The rats had told me that we needed to use the original werewolf as a repository for the lycanthropy. Which meant that we had to, uh, 'drain' the disease back into her somehow. Which meant… getting them all… to… bite her? Seemed like a rather fatal move, and I didn't want to inflict that on Antonia. She's a nice lady when she's not pretending to be a kangaroo.

I told her all this, and she nodded. "Yez, I know zome of theze tingz from experience, and zome from reading. I vill accept ze burden of ze wolf again - I know how to control it. Even if it meanz my life."

We discussed the problem long into the night, though none of us had satisfactory conclusions to offer. Eventually we decided to sleep, each of us taking a watch to make sure nothing snuck up on us.

I'm worried, diary. We're safe here, yes - especially now that I know Barrel is hiding in the tree above us as an owl, though I'd rather not tell Daena and Antonia about that, they might freak out - but the castle is in a hell of a state. Can this woman really contain a spreading disease on her own? More, can she do it without dying? I'd rather she not die.

If she doesn't, though… or if it doesn't work… my family will consist of a werewolf wife, a werewolf brother and a daughter who will, eventually, kill them both. Even if she doesn't, I'll be cut off from everything I knew and loved. No wonder I got snippy with Antonia when she first strolled up.

Don't know what to do, diary. There has to be a solution… some kind of solution… but what?

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day One-Sixty-Seven: Barrel the Distracto-Dragon


Welp, I'll give this plan one thing. It got me out of the damn tower. My new location is a liiiiittle warmer - and now I have company that can speak! So there's that.

After the meeting with the rats yesterday, I sent out Barrel in his tiny form to confirm something. And, fortunately, confirmed it he did: there was still one person in the castle… okay, outside the castle… who hadn't been turned into a werewolf. And we needed to get to her, because she MIGHT have known where the kangaroo was hiding.

(In case ya hadn't figured it out, diary, I'm talking about Queen Daena. Amazing how much important stuff revolves around that tiny tree of hers - and it's a really good thing she hasn't been moved inside the castle grounds.)

We had a big problem, though, diary, and I mean that in a literal sense. Barrel is really dang sneaky when he's an itsy-bitsy dragon, and the werewolves don't notice him flitting about at all. Problem is, they're not scared of him at full size anymore, and when we've gone out for flights over the castle the wolves have followed us around like otters chasing a butterfly. I doubt they could best Barrel in a fight, but if I'm stuck in the middle… what happens?

Well. We didn't take the chance, concocting a plan that would get me safely to the queen without jeopardizing her OR me: we used Barrel as bait.

With Barrel in micro-mode we snuck out to the castle ramparts during midday, careful to move only when the werewolves were at their sleepiest. Once we were at the guard's bridge to the barbican, above the Neck (not the Neck itself, I'm hardly THAT desperate), Barrel turned into a fly and buzzed his way over to the barbican to see if there were any werewolves. Came back, motioned that there were. Great.

There are lots of old casks lining the walls that're used for storing animal guts to feed the moat monsters during fair weather, and I hid in one of those to mask my smell. (Don't worry, it was empty.) Then I propped up the lid and watched…

… as Barrel, growing to full size, appeared over the east bailey and roared, hovering as best he could with those ragged wings of his. He breathed fire a couple times, too, which I thought was a nice touch… though I'm pretty sure he set a house on fire. Whoops. Hope no normal humans were in there.

That sight was more than enough to entice the werewolves. Every damn creature with fur woke up and ran for the east bailey, snarling and snapping, and after less than a minute three werewolves - all former guards - came leaping across the bridge to the barbican and down into the main thoroughfare. Within minutes the east bailey was teeming with wolves, climbing onto the houses and apartments to try and get at Barrel as he swooped overhead.

I'll admit, I chuckled. Animals do the craziest things.

ANYWAY. As soon as the barbican was deserted I raaaaaaan my ass across the bridge, heedless even of the icy patches, and onto the barbican. Luckily, it was, indeed, deserted, though there was a lot of wolf hair strewn about the snow. I guess they like sleeping in the cold.

… unfortunately, as I was drinking in these details, I neglected to remember that we guards seldom bother to CLEAN ice off the barbican, as it's fun to skate around when you're bored. So, running full speed, I… kinda… hit a big patch of ice, slid to the ramparts and collapsed over the side of the wall. Whomp! Right into a snowdrift.

(Sorry about getting' you soggy, diary. It was kinda fun, though, so I regret nothing!)

Once I'd extricated myself from the drift I bolted for the queen's tree, praying to the gods that nothing would intercept me on the way - and, for once, the gods listened. Straight line to the tree.

The queen, as I'd hoped, was fine. Chilly, bored, maybe a little grumpy from being attacked by werewolves, but fine. Apparently her own husband had come for her that morning, with a band of followers, and she'd been forced to kick him in the face. That was enough to drive the rest off and leave her in relative peace, though she told me that the occasional wolf comes out to test their luck.

Judging by the flecks of blood in the snow, I'd say their luck is bad.

"Has the kangaroo been out here?" I asked, getting to the point of my visit.

The queen nodded, though tentatively. "Yes… it has… and no, it hasn't. Should we still be calling it a kangaroo at this point? Clearly it was a werewolf all along. She told me as much."

So it was a she! "Well, call her whatever you like, I guess. Just, where is she? The ra… er, I read something in a book that, uh, might help us stop all this, but I really need to talk to her. She can understand English?"

"Yes, perfectly fine." The queen pointed to the castle. "She's in there, somewhere. When she discovered that the castle had been overrun by her former kind, she went charging back in to do… something. The gods only know what. She said she would be back, however, so you're free to stay here until she returns. What was that roar a few minutes ago, by the way?"

So we waited, and chatted, and I told the queen all about what had happened. I guess she didn't get all the details from the kangaroo. She seemed rather miffed that her son would arrange a boxing match, or that I would encourage him into doing it (which I didn't, but, you know - mothers), but all in all she took the potential destruction of her castle rather well.

It's night now, diary. The queen lit a candle, and I'm writing in you while she keeps watch. Kinda shameful that a guard lets his queen take point, but there you have it.

Gods. I hope this dumb kangaroo werewolf girl comes back soon. I wanna get this all over with so I can snuggle with Libby again. Though... if she's not a werewolf anymore… will she let me touch her at all…?

Hrm,

Dragomir the Guard

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day One-Sixty-Six: The entry where not much happens


Ohhhh man, the castle's a mess. A damned bloody mess. And, sadly, some of it IS blood.

I don't know what happened during the weekend's big blackout - I can't imagine werewolves roam about any more than the rest of us - but when I peeked out of the tower's big hole (after de-thawing, of course - my legs felt like they'd fallen clear off), I was amazed by just how much the werewolves have mucked with things.

Most of the castle's non-stone goods have been destroyed. The marketplace is a complete write-off, and the workshops in the bailies aren't lookin' much better. There must be thousands of gold worth of products laying in pieces, and if that's not a recipe for fiscal disaster, I don't know what is.

Uh. Maybe I shouldn't worry so much about finances. But when/if we get out of this mess, we need to get back on our collective feet, right? So all this stuff is important.

I think the big problem for me, though, is the territoriality of the werewolves. I've been watching 'em from the walls, shuttled around in Barrel's claws, and I've noticed that they're splitting up into larger packs led by, uh, leaders. I know there's a word for it…

Alpha. They're called alphas.





Gods! Don't do that, you bloody rat. As you can tell, diary, the rodents have come calling again. Whaddya want this time, you filthy little pest?

Your insults are not welcome, Dragomir. We are trying to help you.

Well bugger you! Fat lot of good you've done me in the past, tricking me into visiting some damned swamp and nearly gettin' killed by some cosmic hand thing! I know you were behind that, you little

DRAGOMIR. PAY ATTENTION. As we told you last week, you need to focus on finding the original werewolf. Have you done that?

um

We can tell by your expression that you haven't. This is crucial, Dragomir. If you don't hurry and find the original werewolf host, the infected people will begin splitting into highly concentrated and vicious clans. They'll fight for territory, and do so to the death. At best a quarter of the werewolves will survive these battles, and at worst…

I get the picture. Whaddya want me to do, though? I dunno where the kangaroo could be. Hell, for all I know she hightailed it outta here after those royal guards carted her away. Or they have her locked up somewhere.

We doubt they would bother, given the outbreak. There's no point.

Why do you say that? They love lockin' people up.

Trust us. The royal guards will have set her free.

Well, shit. Then where could the kangaroo be? I mean, it's not like the damn thing had any regular patterns, sooooooooohhhhhhhh wait, I have an idea.

Oh?

OH. That does make perfect sense.

Sorry, diary. You probably don't even know who's talking anymore. Gotta go - we need to plan. All… several dozen of us.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day One-Sixty-Five: Kangaroo come home


Okay. I think we have an answer. Just a slight answer, and it's more a possibility than an answer, but it might work. Assuming we can find someone: the kangaroo.

Werewolf.

Possible naked green woman.

I don't know, diary! I really don't. I'm so used to thinking of the kangaroo AS a kangaroo, let alone as a male, that I'm hard pressed to change my perspective. But there you are, either way - we need the bugger, according to the rats, and without him/her/it we're probably screwed.

I continued my recon today, but that didn't prove useful at all, and I liberally sprinkled my breeches every time we came in spitting distance of a werewolf. They're getting more active and ill-tempered during the days, and I'm wondering if even Barrel's presence and whatever's wrong with my meat will stop 'em from tearing me apart when they get bad enough.

(Seriously, what is it about me they don't like? Do I taste that bad? I eat well, y'know. It's kinda insulting.)

After I got back from the last scouting run, I found one of the rats waiting for me. I'm not sure where they've been the last few days, but I guess they have to be more skittish with several hundred werewolves roaming about the castle. Anyway, this one motioned to you, diary, and I opened up to the last page to watch its message embed itself slowly in the parchment:

"Dragomir, you need to find the original werewolf, the one that started this whole mess. We long observed the creature, wondering if something of this manner might happen, but we never acted because it showed amazing restraint. Your captain aside, it never bit anyone in the castle, restricting its attacks to punches and kicks. We believe this hints at enormous willpower."

I'm not sure I agree. I just figured the werewolf was more of a biff-boom-pow sorta guy/gal than an om nom nomer.

"The nature of lycanthropy demands that we find a repository to contain the disease until it can be cured once and for all. We believe this individual, whomever it may be, can act as that repository. It is vital that you track her down for us and find a way to contain the disease inside her body once again.

Also, we have no idea where she is, so don't ask. We're having enough trouble keeping the werewolves out of our domains.

The Rats"

That last thing makes me think that the rats don't find all of this to be as terrible as they let on. Otherwise they'd be more inclined to help me search. Little ingrates.

So… that's where we stand now. I have to find the kangaroo, which isn't a kangaroo, and is probably a he, somewhere in this castle full of crazed werewolves. But I can't now, because it's getting late and the werewolves are waaaaaay too active.

Yeesh. Gonna be a long week starting on Monday. I'd like to think that I could get everything solved ON Monday, but… y'know… all the important stuff happens on Fridays… so expect a week of living on the edge, diary… sigh.

I'm so cold in this tower,

Dragomir the Once-Again Saviour… hey, maybe I can leverage this into a promotion? No, no, when has that EVER worked in the past...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day One-Sixty-Four: I Spy


Well, recon work hasn't helped me narrow down and/or eliminate the problem in ANY way, but at least I feel kinda useful. And a little less like rat dung for abandoning my wife. (In fairness, she DID try to kill me. Or maybe it was more aggressive cuddling? The world will never know.)

After spending another frozen night with Barrel - none of the werewolves dare come near his tower, which allowed him to sneak out and nab me some food from the Beefiary, bless his draconic soul - I decided it was time to get over my fear and explore the castle. Just a smidge. I mean, if the werewolves don't wanna eat me then I have a natural advantage, and besides that I still need to find a way out of this mess, 'cause the population of the castle seems quite happy in their new, hairier forms.

(Which isn't to say EVERYONE got changed, of course. I've noticed a lot of barricaded doors and blocked windows. There must be plenty of survivors holed up in buildings all over the place… I just dunno how to help 'em. Or if I'm even right! All guesswork at this point.)

From what I could tell when I slunk down the stairs and into the common areas, Barrel hovering at my side for support, the werewolves are much less active during the day. They lounge about a lot, moving sluggishly in the light and not caring much about anything. Some of them even looked downright normal, going about general routines like washing clothes, feeding themselves, talking, that kinda thing.

'course, that changed ANY time one of 'em saw me walking along. I guess they can tell from a glance that I'm not a werewolf, 'cause they'd hunker over and growl at me. But then Barrel would grow a couple notches, and, hey, no attack. Have I ever mentioned how nice it is to have a dragon as a pal?

It's really weird, seeing all these people I know coated in fur. They look the same, enough so that I recognize 'em, but they're so different at the same time. On the way down the tower I spotted:

- King Jeffrey, chewing on a banner in his throne room
- Captain Cedric, sleeping in a hallway with a jar in his arms; given that he wasn't far from the prince's room, I get the FEELING he's reclaimed his thinger
- Bernard, licking himself down by the treasury - I bet that's the cleanest he's ever been
- Both Roberts in the library, fighting over a bag of… something; all I could tell is that it squeaked every time they bit in
- Libby in the courtyard, beating up one of her assistants with a plank of wood - old habits die hard

And, most dangerous of all, Eve.

But not a hairy Eve. A perfectly normal-looking Eve, strolling around with her usual blank stare, watching the werewolves with little interest. Didn't look like there was a single mark on her, and the werewolves kept a safe distance whenever they saw Eve on patrol. I tried talking to her, to get her to come with us, but she gave me the usual line:

"Apocalypse now."

Which is, y'know, at least recognition of an attempt to communicate. She's an odd one, she is.

You're probably wondering why Eve wandering about is dangerous to me. It isn't. What's DANGEROUS is that she might wind up killing everybody ELSE 'cause she thinks they're monsters. I'm frankly surprised she hasn't done it already. What's going on in that head of hers that says werewolves don't count as targets? And will it last forever, or just until one of 'em gets too infected and gives her the wrong look?

Don't know. Don't care. It's a blessing for the moment, and one I shouldn't dwell upon. Gotta find a solution to this problem, and soon - if any merchants show up they might get attacked, and spread the disease elsewhere. That'd be extra bad.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Stumped

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day One-Sixty-Three: The excrement discovers a fan-like structure


CLEARLY I HAVE NOT BEEN GIVING THIS SITUATION THE ATTENTION IT DESERVES

CLEARLY I SHOULD NOT HAVE NAPPED AFTER FUN TIME YESTERDAY

CLEARLY I'M STUPID

CLEARLY

Okay, so, diary, here's the situation: I'm in the king's tower, with Barrel, freezing my butt off. No warm bed, no… happy time with Libby, no ANYTHING. It's the middle of the night, and the freaking castle is OVERRUN WITH WEREWOLVES

deep breaths

calm, deep breaths

huff

huff

Why did I write that? Was there any point?

After I last wrote in you, diary, I lay back and waited for Libby to come home. I knew I shoulda done more to deal with the mounting situation in the castle, but… but… I mean, I've been so distracted! This physical stuff is GOOD, diary, it's really… well, bitey as hell, but so damn…

Yeah, Anyway. You don't need to hear 'bout that side of my day, diary. It's super personal. Like, Libby could write about it if SHE had a diary, and maybe she will some day, but here? No details.

Getting off track.

So there I was, waiting, when Libby stalked through the front door. And when I FIRST saw her I was all "Hey, baby," 'cause that's what slick dudes say to girls, or something, but then I caught a good look at her face, and I REALIZED that her cheeks were COVERED in hair, and she reminded me of Captain Cedric, and that, lemme tell you, was a real buzzkill. I don't think about Cedric when it comes to this sorta thing.

Then she jumped at me, not in a happy way, and I knew I'd screwed up. Big time.

I rolled onto the ground, grabbed my clothes (don't judge me, it's my own room) and slipped under the bed, listening to Libby ripping the sheets to shreds and cursing in some weird language I couldn't understand. Then, before I could react, she slid under the bed WITH me and bit my arm! Really freaking HARD!

I figured I was done for at that point, diary, but no. No, the moment Libby got a taste of my blood she started spitting like crazy, as though she'd just eaten a piece of poo, and while she was rolling around I jumped out from under the bed, wrapped my pants around my bleeding arm, grabbed you, diary, and FLED as fast as I could.

Things weren't much better in the hallways. No Libby, true - I could hear her retching back in our room - but there were people running around everywhere, either biting or getting bitten, growling or screaming or a combo of the two, and hair, gods, there was hair heaped in big piles wherever I went! I ran and peed myself from fright, and for once I didn't have to worry about soiling my breeches, 'cause I wasn't wearing anyway.

Feel sorry for that poor man who slipped and fell in my wake, tho.

Every time a werewolf got close to me it would take a sniff and back off, so I managed to get to the upper bailey without a ton of trouble. Even pulled my pants on at one point. Things weren't much better outside, though, 'cause the werewolves were tearing ass around the place, destroying everything they could.

So I hid. I hid in Prince Logan's shack - he wasn't there, dunno where he is, probably running around as a WEREWOLF - and prayed, gods, diary, I prayed like I ain't ever prayed before, that everything would be alright. I can't fight a horde of werewolves. Everything WASN'T alright, though, 'cause after maybe twenty minutes of hiding I heard a scratch on the door, and then a few more, and then the door BURST DOWN, and I was staring at one of the smithies.

He didn't look happy. Looked ready to tear me apart, in fact. But I'd learned something already: they don't like my blood. So I got up, undid my bandages a bit (I'd grabbed some scraps of discarded cloth while I was on the run) and WAVED MY ARM in his face, and whaddya know, he stumbled away. I dodged past him and out the door again.

And out into a crowd of werewolves.

I'm sure if I'd stayed still they woulda done the same, everybody staring at each other, seconds before the inevitable rushing forward and tearing and stuff. I wasn't about to endure that, though, no sir, and by the gods, I RAN FOR MY LIFE, and they ran right after me. And I'm certain that, weird blood or no, the whole pack woulda torn me apart right there in the bailey.

But then I was flying. Flying, and staring down at a flock of very angry werewolves, most of whom were jumping and trying to grab my ankles, but none of which were successful. I'm quite certain I liberally sprinkled the lot with urine.

Yep. Who else but Barrel, my faithful dragon, come to save me AGAIN! I'm a very lucky man, diary.

So yeah. Here we are, in Barrel's tower, staring down at a castle full of werewolves. It's noon right now, so they're not quite as active, but I can tell from yesterday that they get really rambunctious at night. I'm not prepared to face that kinda grief right now.

Honestly. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. How do you face a castle full of werewolves? Did ANYBODY survive all this?

At least I'm taking it seriously now. No more fun for Dragomir.

Sincerely,

I Just Said My Name

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day One-Sixty-Two: The best day ever


I'm so tired now, diary.

SO tired.

Okay. In retrospect, I should not have waited until today to go looking for Captain Cedric. What can I say, I really like my bed!

And I really, REALLY liked it when Libby came charging in, after work, and tackled me!

And I really, REALLY, reeeeeeeeeally liked it when she KEPT doing it!

We did things. Things I think adults regularly do. Things involving… things. You know. Things.

(ers)

SUBTLE! Yes, very subtle. But Libby was more passionate than ever last night, gods only knows why, and I couldn't hold her back. So I didn't go looking for Captain Cedric like the rats said, because I was occupied in a way that I'm not even gonna share with you, diary. It was just that special, and not special in the way Libby's pies are special, because that’s a bad kind of special. This was good.

SO GOOD

Anyway. On to other topics.

I found out, real quick, that Captain Cedric isn't missing. People have been seeing him all over the place - he's just a lot hairier and much more aggressive. Aggressive as in he's biting a lot. And biting… everyone. Damn near everyone, at least, and given what the rats told me that's worth some concern, don't you think? I sure do.

So there are a lot of people walking around today with bandages. And they're really snippy, to put it lightly. Take, for example, this little exchange I had with Robert earlier:

Me: "Hey, bro, can I have some yak tarts?"

Robert: "Snarl."

Me: "Is that a yes or a no?"

Robert: "Snarl!"

Me: "You need a haircut."

And he threw a pan at me. It's the little stuff, diary. And given how people seem to be getting rowdier and hairier as the day goes on, I fear for the future. But what am I supposed to do? Will finding Captain Cedric even matter anymore? I doubt it.

I'm waiting for Libby in our apartment. Yeah, I know, she's probably turning into a werewolf too, and the happy moments we had yesterday… and this morning… and once this afternoon… are proooooooobably from being wolfish, but why not take advantage of the situation while she's not biting me?

Not biting me hard?

It's playful nipping!

I have some teeth marks on my arm. And bruising. She doesn't break the skin? It's still lots of fun! How did I never know about this adult thing before?

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Expectant

Monday, March 12, 2012

LIBBYYYYYY

OH MY SWEET GODS I THINK I DON'T MIND THIS PREDICAMENT AS MUCH AS I THOUGHT I WOULD

OH

MY

GODS

I SUDDENLY LIKE BEING MARRIED

DREAMS OF WOMEN MAKE SENSEEEEEE

Day One-Sixty-One: So what do kangaroos look like?


Well, the rats came to see me today. Things are NEVER good when the rats come to see me.

Life for the guards has gotten chaotic since Captain Cedric went missing. It's not so much that we don't know what to DO, 'cause it's easy to pick a wall and stand near it for eight hours… it's just that we don't really WANT to do that, if we can avoid it. Turns out Cedric was the only thing keeping us focused.

So. Hey. Why not take a day off?

A few of the guards stuck to their normal routine, but me, I figured I deserved at least half a day off. So after Libby left for her shift I snuck back into our room and hopped in bed. I was worried about Captain Cedric and the way he looked a lot like a kangaroo, of course, but I'm always so drowsy on Mondays…

Anyway. Turns out my attempt to misbehave didn't last long, 'cause I felt something tickle my feet in mid-dream, and I figured it wasn't the line of women who'd been dancing through my head. (Still not sure why I'd dream about women. Guess it's something men just do.) And when I peered down at my toes, yeah, a rat was peerin' back at me.

I'm used to the rats tailing my every move now, so rather than freaking out I just asked what it wanted. It motioned for me to sit up, and when I did I discovered a whole SWARM of the little bastards on the floor, staring at me. And pointing at you, diary.

I opened you up, and here was the message I found:

"We don't normally interfere in matters that do not concern us, but this situation has escalated beyond control. And your foolish boxing match tipped matters over the edge, so YOU, Dragomir, must help us set things right.

You, and everyone else in this castle, have been under the impression that Prince Logan's pet is a kangaroo. We presume this is the result of never having seen a kangaroo before, because you would have known that it looks nothing LIKE a kangaroo. It is, in fact, a werewolf.

Your captain has, therefore, been nursing a mild case of lycanthropy over the last three years, thanks to the werewolf biting off his… 'thinger', as you usually put it. We suspect that it has not advanced until recently because the limb in question was severed from his body. Now, however, Cedric has been exposed to many more bites, turning him into a full-fledged beast.

Lycanthropy is a tricky ailment. It works like a slowly-replenishing glass of water: every time a werewolf bites something else, it transfers a portion of the disease into that creature. In doing so the werewolf is drained of some of the disease, to the point that it is, eventually, no longer a werewolf - though if any of the werewolf taint is left over in the body, it will, eventually, expand, changing the creature into a werewolf once again.

We suspect this odd behaviour is the result of a glitch in the code a mystery that will never be explained. Ever.

The only known cure for lycanthropy, beyond extreme forms of magic, is a suffusion of wolfsbane laced with silver powder. Unfortunately, your kingdom has never stockpiled wolfsbane, and your king stupidly decreed that all forms of silver are banned, as they're too reflective and hurt his eyes. We have no easy solution for your problem…

… and it will be a BIG problem. Soon.

You had best get out of bed and search for your errant captain, Dragomir. This is your fault - and besides that, you're the only one who can suffer a werewolf bite and not worry about the effects. Don't ask why, we won't tell you. (You can, of course, still get ripped to pieces, so be careful.)

We will keep watch over you during this trial, and help however we can.

The Rats"


When I finished reading and looked up, they bowed, hissed at me in a tiny, creepy chorus, and scampered from the room.

So… find Captain Cedric, eh? That… that doesn't sound like my idea of a fun time, diary. Even with rats helping me out, which isn't comforting, since they don't look like they can do a hell of a lot against a WEREWOLF.

The werewolf thing does explain a lot, though.

I should get started. Better make sure NOTHING distracts me, this is too important to ignore.

Be safe, diary - I fear for both our lives.

I really wish I could carry a damn weapon,

Dragomir the Hunter

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day One-Sixty: War of the Fuzzies


Boxing match: complete. Winner: Cedric. Actual winner: I wish I could say me, but I get the feeling NOT A SINGLE PERSON IN THE CASTLE won this round. Something's terribly wrong.

The prince must have been a busy little promoter bee in the last two days, 'cause damn near everyone in the castle turned up to watch the fight between man and kangaroo. I suppose I was too busy worrying about Cedric to notice all the posters and banners going up everywhere; only just noticed 'em today.

Needless to say, the practice range was packed by the time I got there after my shift, and I knew there wasn't a chance that I'd get a seat in one of the three stands set up around the wooden ring in the middle. Damn near overflowing with excited people. Fortunately Prince Logan had told The Baron to keep an eye open for me, and he pulled me through the standing crowds and up to the nobles' section at the far end as soon as I entered the training range.

"Did you mastermind this, Dragomir, worst guard of them all?" he asked with his usual puffy smile, leading me past a group of guards with 'KANGAROOS ARE CHUMP' signs.

"Uh… kinda? Not all this… are those vendors…?"

"Yes, yes, the prince put them on commission. He's delighted by the spectacle. I am… less so, though it's better than his usual antics, and we're making money for once. The king is pleased; who am I to argue?"

I could tell he was a little annoyed, though. "Uh. Sorry if I screwed things up. I didn't think it would get so big."

He smiled. "It is of no concern. What's done is done… and I am interested to see how this will turn out."

The Baron took me to the prince's box, and though I'd spotted him from a distance I hadn't realized just how strange Logan's setup was until I got close. The prince had a large, cylindrical funnel propped in front of him, the front of it so long that it stretched out over three rows of nobles and ended in a huge O. It stretched to a tiny mouthpiece near the prince that made it look like a musical instrument.

When I got to the box, the prince greeted me and told me to say something into the funnel. So I did, saying 'Hi', and the word was AMPLIFIED by like a hundred times. Everyone in the place turned to look at me, saying 'Hi' back and waving.

"What's this, my prince?" I asked, as far from the mouthpiece as I could get.

"A loudspeaker, of course! We're gonna be commentators!" Logan pushed me aside and grabbed the end of the funnel. "Welcome, welcome, welcome! Thank y'all for being here on this, the first annual boxing championship of Castle IWantSomeBlood! Everyone be seated or stop moving around or whatever, we're gonna get started in a moment! I'm Prince Logan, and this is Dragomir the Guard! We're going to talk you through this epic bout! Sound good, dirty subjects?"

A rousing "AYE" rose up from the crowd.

"Good! Before we watch some man-on-beast action, I just want to thank my father for putting this together on such short notice! Give your good king a round of applause!"

The crowd raised their hands to the king, who stood in his box, at the top of the nobles' section, and accepted their applause. Then he yelled something at Logan, and though I'm not sure EXACTLY what he said I'm pretty sure he was telling his son that he wanted to be announcer for the next boxing match.

"Alright! Looks like it's gonna be a great match. What do you say, Dragomir?"

"Ye-"

"Damn skippy! Fine match. Let's bring out the boxers! First, in the red corner - see, look, it's painted red - we have the hoppiest sonovabitch you've ever seen in this fair land! He ducks, he jabs, he weaves, he's the greatest pet I've ever owned, possibly because he's killed all the others! Ladies and gents, I give yooooooou - the KANGAROOOOO!"


The kangaroo bounded into the ring out of nowhere, performing a rather neat flip in mid air and landing on all fours. Then he growled at the crowd, stood tall and howled. Rather… unusual behaviour for a kangaroo… but people booed anyway, because no one likes the kangaroo.

"That's my pet down there! Lookin' good, eh, Dragomir?"

"Ye-"

"AND IN THE CHICKEN CORNER! We ran out of paint so we nailed a chicken to the wood! In the chicken corner we have the grouchiest guy I've ever had the pleasure of not knowing very well! Weighing in at some grotesque number of pounds and covered in more hair than should be allowed by law, I present you with our one and only captain of the guards! Put your hands together for Captaaaaaaaaaaaain CEDRIIIIIIIC!"


Captain Cedric bounded into the ring out of nowhere, performing a rather neat flip in mid air and landing on all fours. Then he growled at the crowd, stood tall and howled. Rather… unusual behaviour for a captain… but people booed anyway, because no one likes Captain Cedric.

I get the feeling most people showed up because they wanted the kangaroo and the captain to kill each other. Neither are popular. I thought Captain Cedric looked spiffy in his clipped breeches and hair shirt, at least… though it turned out that was just his CHEST hair…

As the pair sized each other up, Logan announced the rules. "You know how it goes, fellas! There will be ten rounds, two minutes apiece! Only punching, no-"

That's when it began. No bell, no 'FIGHT', no nuthin' like that. Cedric, completely ignoring the rules, dove at the kangaroo with his mouth wide open, clearly trying to bite the thing. The kangaroo dodged, but barely, and the rest of Logan's explanation died as the crowd roared.

The battle carried on for a full fifteen minutes without rules, because I'm pretty sure nobody wanted to try and enforce anything, least of all the referee (Bernard). The pair kept circling each other, occasionally wading in to deliver punches or kicks or bites, and for the first while the kangaroo had the definite advantage. Cedric couldn't keep up, and no surprise - he's a damn big dude, and not terribly fast.

As time went on, though, things started to change. The kangaroo kept nipping Cedric's stomach muscles, but rather than slowing down Cedric seemed to speed up, his attacks becoming more and more ferocious. He also seemed a great deal more… bitey, I guess… as the match wore on, and by the end he'd torn big clumps of fur out of the kangaroo's hide. The ring was coated in hair.

And then, suddenly, as if somebody had whispered in his ear that it was time to leave, Captain Cedric looked up. His face wasn't that of a man anymore: hell, if anything he was looking a lot more like the kangaroo on the other side of the ring, and he snarled up a storm. Then he let loose another howl, one loud enough to rock the range, and he leaped out of the ring and ran for the door. People scurried out of his way in droves.

And the kangaroo, well, he just collapsed. Poor thing looked terribly tired. And, uh, a great deal greener. And his snout was gone, along with a lot of his back hair. And I could have sworn, just before he got spirited away by a pair of royal guards, that he had… breasts…?

The match kinda dissolved into panic after that. The remaining royal guards shuttled the nobles away, out a back passage, leaving the commoners to flail about amongst each other. I went with the nobles, and when I got home that night I earned a beating from Libby for not inviting her up to Prince Logan's box. Apparently she almost gotten flattened by one of the castle's bakers, and I sympathize - he's a biiiiiig duuuuuude.

Nobody knows what happened to Captain Cedric. Like I said, though, something is very wrong, and I fear what's gonna come of next week.

What have I done,

Dragomir the Anxious

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day One-Fifty-Nine: Hungry like the boxer


Today was weiiiiiird, diary, super weird. Can't describe it as anything else.

Most of the day was fine. Did the usual: guarded stuff, slacked a bit at work, waited for Captain Cedric to come around on his inspections so I could tell him about the fight tomorrow. I was hyped, 'cause I figured he'd be turning up for sure.

But he never did.

I've known Captain Cedric for two years, diary, and I know him better now than… well, better than I probably ever wanted. He's a dude who likes routine. He hates when things don't go the way he's planned, and I don't think I've ever NOT seen him on his normal inspection route.

But he wasn't today. I didn't once catch him wandering the corridors, or hulking over in the Beefiary, or yelling at one of his subordinates (usually me), or… anything. Even Bernard couldn't tell me where to find the captain, and Bernard's a suck-up.

After several hours of waiting and worry (and boredom), I decided to go looking for the captain. Even skipped dinner so I could cover as much as the castle as possible. And, whaddya know, I eventually DID find him - in the barracks' training range, where we're planning on watching him fight.

By himself.

With no shirt.

Covered in sweat.

Awkward moment.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that Captain Cedric is a hairy fellow. Always has been. Lately, though… it seems like he has a lot more hair than usual, like it's creeping up his face and sticking out of the links in his chainmail. And when I got a look at his chest… boy howdy, diary, he is a HAIRY BASTARD. Seen brown bears with less hair.

He was breathing hard when I approached him, and it was obvious that he'd been working out, his eyes bloodshot from exertion. I'm… not sure if eyes GO bloodshot from exertion, normally, but there you go.

"The fuck do you want?" he mumbled, his voice really low and gravelly. More than usual.

"Hi, uh, hi, cap'n." I wished I'd stayed near the door so I could run, but, no, I stupidly stood five feet away from the guy. "Could… could we talk?"

The captain straightened. Then, without warning, he started… clawing… the air in front of him. Like he was practicing, as he usually does, but… different. Bestial. "You talk too much lately. Whaddya want?"

"Well… you weren't on patrol at all today, so, like, I figured… I just wanted to see…"

He stalked over beside me, the sweat from his forehead dripping on the top of my helmet. Gods is he big. "Cut to the point."

You don't argue with a sweaty, hairy man. "I wondered if you might wanna have a fight with the prince's kangaroo because it bit your thinger and stuff and please don't hurt me I have a wife and a child and I might wet myself?" The sentence ended in me cringing on the ground. I am a proud man.

Cedric laughed. "This have anything to do with that?"

I followed his outstretched finger, peeking from under my cap. He was pointing at a big banner hanging at the end of the range, the words 'CEDRIC VS. KANGAROO - WHO WILL WIN?' painted from end to end.

"Oh. Yeah."

He spat. "Gimme the details."

I did. Ten rounds of boxing, two minutes per round. Straight punches, no biting. Try not to kill your opponent too much. Winner… wins? Not much more to it. I didn't want to tell him straight out that the match was meant to make him feel better, though he probably got the gist of that on his own.

Cedric didn't say anything for a while after I stopped talking. He kept clawing the air, grunting and panting and snorting. I slowly inched away on my knees, hoping he'd gotten the message, 'cause he was scaring me pretty good by that point.

I was almost halfway to the exit when he turned around. "Dragomir, you - hey, get back here, y'damn wuss."

I crawled back. Sigh.

Cedric tipped my helmet off my head with one finger, and as he pulled away I could have sworn that his fingernail was sharpened. (Or maybe he doesn't trim. I dunno.) "Dragomir, did you set this all up?"

"Um." I fidgeted. "Kinda?"

Cedric grinned. It wasn't the same smile as the one he gave me during our little dinner, though - this one looked better suited to a wild animal, all toothy and vicious. Fit his face quite nicely. "Thanks. Fuckin' poems only help you cope so much. I'm lookin' forward to beatin' the shit outta that thing."

He turned away, back to his exercise. I ran. Being near him was much too intense an experience, and besides that, he smelled like the ostrich pens.

By the gods, what has happened to him, diary? Cedric was always an unpleasant fellow, and I've been scared by him before, but never like this. I felt like a rabbit staring into the eyes of a wolf.

I have no clue what's going to happen tomorrow. I'm suspecting that the match may not have been the best idea after all. The kangaroo's a mean customer, but Cedric… Cedric freaked me out today…

I say again: weeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrdddddd.

Anxious,

Dragomir the Guard

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Day One-Fifty-Eight: Time to start taking bets


I think I might have an answer to my Captain Cedric problem, diary. And, weird though it sounds, the kangaroo's the one that gave me the idea.

I don't know squat about magic - lotsa people think it doesn't even exist, though I know better, I've seen things - so I had to stick with giving Captain Cedric his old thinger as a gift. Weird as hell gift, I know, but he might be touched by the gesture, and I really need that leverage, you know? And since the prince has it in his quarters, I had to go visit Logan and have a little chat. Maybe convince him to give the thinger up once and for all.

When I went to his little sleeping storage shed, though, I found the kangaroo waiting. And, as usual, it didn't look happy to see me.

The kangaroo's a rough customer, I gotta say. Even though it's covered in muscles it's quite sinewy, and it moves with the swiftness of a leaf on the wind. (Getting that quotations sensation again…) And when I tried to get past the bouncing bastard to see the prince, it punched me in the face.

And then again.

And then three more times. (I guess if I'd not been wearing armour it might have hit me somewhere else.)

Then it kicked me to the ground and bounced off, disappearing into the west bailey. I lay in the snow for a good five minutes, my face bloodied to hell, before I could shake the haze out of my head.

That's where Prince Logan found me. He'd been fetching some food from the Beefiary, and he looked genuinely concerned when he found the snow outside his shack stained red. Said my face resembled a burst strawberry, and since I could still barely see I had to accept his assessment.

"Sorry about him," Logan apologized, helping me to my feet. "He doesn't like strangers. Or familiar people. Or anybody who surprises him. Or… anybody but me and my mom, I guess. Sorry?"

I stuck my cap back on my head. "Printh, ah'd weally luv to beat tha thing with a mathe."

"A what?"

"A mathe. Big thing with thpiketh."

"Still don't."

"A mathe! A mathe! Okay, fine, my fithtth."

"Come again?"

Didn't answer him, though, because I'd worked past my broken face and withdrawn into my brain, a burst of inspiration pushing for my attention. The answer was so simple, so pure and easy, that I couldn't believe I hadn't thought it up days ago.

The prince waved a hand in my face. "You still there?"

"Yeth!" I spit in his face, then immediately wiped it away with my sleeve. "Thorry. Um, quethtion."

"We should probably get you to a doctor. Your nose looks like a bloody waterfall."

"Ladah! Ladah. Your kangaroo (it sounded more like 'kn-graa-roof'), he liketh to fight, right?"

Logan pulled me into his shack and slopped a wad of rags on my face to quench the bleeding. "Are you simple? Of course he likes to fight. You wouldn't be in this state if he preferred to talk things over."

"Yeth," I said through the rags. "Anb Captain Thedric liketh to fight, yeth?"

Logan hesitated. "Yeeees… you'd know better than me, but I suppose so… what are you getting at?"

I'll cut through the stumbly talk and get to the suggestion. Cedric likes to fight. The kangaroo likes to fight. The kangaroo bit off Cedric's thinger. Cedric can't get his thinger back from Logan - but he might feel better if he had the chance to fight the kangaroo again, and maybe even beat it.

And they're both great at punching. So… boxing match?

Logan loved the idea. "I love the idea!" he cried. "Yes! Yes! I want to see that. That captain's a dick, and so's my kangaroo. They'll make a great match. Yes, set it up, right away. Talk to your captain, I'll set my kangaroo up for the fight. We'll hold it on Friday in the barracks' training space."

Of course Friday. Everything happens on Friday.

Don't you agree, though, diary? Cedric's a violent man. He likes to beat on things to relieve his frustration. Usually that thing is me, but now… now he has ROYAL PERMISSION to attack the creature that robbed him of his manhood and made his life miserable! It sounds like a damn good idea.

Now I just have to pitch it to him and hope he accepts.



And, y'know, if Cedric dies, I move up the guard chain automatically as he gets replaced…

Ugh. That's a terrible thought. Sorry, diary, I shouldn't have gone that route. I will talk to Cedric tomorrow, and he will fight, and he will win, and we will be the best of pals, and at the very least he won't beat me up as much from now on! Maybe!

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Kinda Boxing Coach