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."


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.


Dragomir the Spy? Maybe?

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