Monday, April 30, 2012

Day One-Ninety-Six: Suspicious kin


You know, I never noticed the coolness level of our castle. Its awesomeness has suddenly been revealed. I'm not sure what's changed: maybe it's because we have a house, or because there's something sweet about a nice, clear spring day, but, yeah. Home is suddenly great. Nobody else can compete with us in terms of sheer awesome.

Of course, it could be 'cause our queen now rides around in a giant mobile fortress. Who knows?

The peasants have been hard at work for the last two days (Saturday and Sunday never count, y'know) clearing big paths in the bailies so Queen Daena can roam around the castle. She's never been inside the walls, and it's only fair she get a chance to observe her kingdom first-hand.

Even with the lid on the Matriarch closed, it's a damn impressive sight. Kinda like a giant clam on wheels has invaded our castle. And when that clamshell pops open, there's the queen, kicking away on her tree, happy as can be. Most people are still wary of comin' close 'cause they don't wanna get run over and diced to bits by the blades on the bottom, but it's a hopeful sight to me. Things are back on track.

Also, another woman in my life has become an unstoppable physical force. This is a weird trend I've got goin'. Sure, I know a couple strong dudes, but they're outnumbered by the gals. Maybe I should go to a gym to catch up? Don't wanna get emasculated. We men need to maintain our pride.

But hey! House! House house house. I have a hoooooouse, and it's wonderfuuuuul, and it's got its own toileeeeeet, and even though I have to empty the toilet and toss the yucky stuff in the streeeeeeet it's still pretty cool. We get three whole rooms! That's better than most nobles get! Truly awesome, diary, truly.

Though it could… maybe… use some touching up. A lot of the floorboards are cracked. And the furniture's… kinda… well, we don't have any, though I think Libby's working on that today. And we still don't have glass windows, so people can kinda look in through the sides of the house and bug us… which reminds me of the no-door days, which ain't SO bad, but now that I have a bonafide house it feels like more of an invasion of privacy…

Hrm. Guess owning a house changes your perspective.

Problems. Minor problems. Fixable problems! I'm cool with fixable problems. Especially since I can fix 'em instead of attending to my guard duties. This'll be a GREAT place to hide when I'm bored of guarding, lemme tell ya. I'm gonna have so many naps during my shifts, it'll be criminal.

Everything's great today, diary. Really damn superb neato. Except - because there's always an except in my life - for my brother. Something's up with Robert.

During a lull in the day he dropped by the house to have a look. He doesn't have a house himself, and since Robert USUALLY gets things that I don't, I figured he would be jealous. He's always been the favourite of our folks, so me coming out ahead made envy inevitable. And I was totally looking forward to that moment.

Oddly enough, though, Robert seemed kinda detached from admiring my new digs. He oohed and aahed in all the right places when I was givin' him the grand tour, but once that was done he kept trying to drag the conversation in a different direction. He started out with a buncha general questions:

"Whaddya think about the castle, Dragomir?"

"You figure King Jeffrey's doin' a good job?"

"How 'bout the workers? You see them all the time. Think they're bein' treated fairly? And yourself? How they treatin' you, bro?"

"Any idea what the kill count is this month? Hmm. Pretty high, eh? Think we should be tryin' to lower that?"

"Don'tcha think we should get a say in the name of the castle every now and then? I kinda do. What do you think?"

After a dozen of these weird queries, I asked him, straight out, what was up. He didn't answer, but moved on to a much more direct question:

"What would you like to see served in the Beefiary, bro? If you had the choice, I mean. Go on, say anything. Just for kicks, like."

So I gave him a list. I gotta admit, I am a LITTLE sick of soup and stew and veggies and tarts all the time. Lesse, what'd I tell him again:

- Beef
- Roast beef, 'cause I know there's a difference
- Turnips
- Mashed potatoes
- Coleslaw with a bit of gravy on top - mmmm, colegravy
- Pigeons
- So much chocolate - I don't care if this sounds racist or something, but ever since Edmund showed up two weeks ago I've been craving sweets

I got so caught up in listing things off that I kinda lost track of where the conversation was headed. When I emerged from my slavering, Robert had a tiny grin on his face, but a dark expression in his eyes. He had his hand held out to me.

"So if I ask for your help, will ya give it? I probably won't, you bein' a guard 'n all, but just in case?"

I scratched my head. "Huh?"

No answer. Robert took my hand, shook it without asking, and left. Didn't say another word. I was too baffled and hungry to follow him.

He's got me confused, in short, diary. He's planning something. I just know it. He had the inventive gleam in his eye. What lay in the middle of that gleam, though, I'm really not sure.

Maybe I should try and find out…

Hey. Hey, Logan. You stepped in that little pile of dust I left by the cabinet the other night. I know you're still sneaking in to read my diary. Mind meeting me tomorrow? I have a job for ya.

Enough of that, it's time to sleep in MY OWN HOUSE,

Dragomir the Guard

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day One-Ninety-Five: Now THAT'S a solution

My wife had the BEST PLAN EVER, diary. BEST EVER.

Lemme jump back in time a bit, 'cause Libby finally filled me in on a few things after we were all finished.

Months ago, during that whole fortress-or-no-fortress voting fiasco, Libby visited Queen Daena. Libby her a pie to eat, they chatted, and apparently Daena got all upset over the uproar. She was super frustrated that she was stuck outside the castle, and even though she liked the outdoors she REALLY wanted to move around.

I guess that struck a chord with Libby, 'cause then my wife promised, she PROMISED, that she would find a way to free Daena. That very night she started brainstorming ways to go about helping her friend.

Jump ahead a week. Libby couldn’t come up with any feasible ideas. She needed something to spur her creativity - and she decided, after listening to me jabber on about the library, that she should go to Robert the Librarian. Robert knows a whole lot about everything. Maybe he could help.

And he could. Robert offered to come up with a plan for freeing Queen Daena. Even more, he offered to teach Libby how to read, so she could research his books. And, for several weeks, that's just what he did. Apparently Libby studied basic books even when she was workin' away at her bench. Guess she can do her carpentry stuff without having to pay attention. Kinda scary, that.

So yeah. My fears were founded. Libby can now read. And write. She promised not to go looking through my diary, and I reeeeeeeeally hope she sticks to that promise. I'm sunk if she doesn't. Bet she'll even count the number of times I called her a douche…

Robert eventually had Libby reading some book about super-intelligent sloths, and while she was goin' through it she came across something that gave her an idea. A great idea. An idea that would be hellish to put into practice, and would force her to learn all new things, but because she'd promised Daena for a solution, Libby had no choice. So she started studying a whole NEW branch of books: anything to do with metallurgy.

And mechanics.

Technology, diary. Science. Those things I was mocking the other day.

She studied and planned for ages, only taking a break during the werewolf stuff a couple weeks ago, and eventually come up with a set of plans that she figured would work. Problem was, she didn't know whether her method would hurt the queen or not. So she went and asked for a second opinion, and that's when the king overheard, and this whole competition-that's-just-a-way-to-make-Libby-hurry-up started.

And now we're back to the present. Libby, an inventor disguised as a carpenter, has used all of her skills to create something that will allow Queen Daena to enter her castle. Not the fort, so it's not like she can join her husband in bed, but…

Hm. Maybe we should try and force this thing into his bed with him anyway…? That'd teach the bastard.

We were all waiting for Libby to show up yesterday, and most people were gettin' antsy. I did my best to keep them distracted with jokes and stupid stories, and Prince Logan ordered everyone to stay (yep, he was there too), but I could tell the crowd would start to leave if Libby didn't hurry the hell up.

That's when it appeared. Rolling over the crest of a hill, up towards the queen's tree. Damn near blocked out the sun at times, it was so huge. The rumble of its wheels shook the ground, and in moments everyone was on their feet, watching as it came closer, closer, closer…

When it screeched to a stop, Libby slid open a port and scowled at us. "Whatcha waitin' for? Start diggin', dammit!"

She gave us instructions. We dug. Very, very carefully. Took us hours, and we weren't done until the early morning. Using a giant bag and the arms of dozens of people, we lifted. Once the new owner was settled and beaming, we set off towards the castle's secret entrance. Was a damn tight fit, but Libby built her machine just small enough to get through.

The rhino was VERY surprised, gotta tell ya.

Word got around quickly, I guess, and by the time we managed to wriggle the thing up into the main thoroughfare everybody in the castle had gathered, peasant and noble alike, all watching Libby's glorious monstrosity roll to a stop at the fortress gates.

The king came out to see. He was standing on a balcony when the thing's lid popped open. The look of astonishment on his face when he saw his queen smiling back at him was priceless.



Yep. Libby built a giant, rolling transport for Daena. And it is BADASS.

From the outside, it looks kinda like a clamshell with wheels, and that's more or less what it is: a container. Libby figured the best way to avoid harming the queen would be to avoid harming her tree, so she had us dig all the way around the roots of the tree (AND THERE WERE A LOT OF ROOTS) and transplant the entire clump of dirt into the shell. An apparatus covered in lines and gears drops down in front of Queen Daena whenever the shell is closed, allowing her to pedal and steer the thing. There's even a hole in the roof to let in sunlight for the tree, and chutes for dumping in water to wet its roots.

How does this monstrosity open and close? I have no idea. Mechanics. Automated stuff. Whirling thingamabobs, diary. Shit, my wife's the inventor. Ask her.

Moving about isn’t the only thing it can do, though. The shell is the queen's transport. It needs protection. And, sure, Daena can protect herself against invaders, but Libby would prefer they not get that far. She mounted cannons along the sides of the shell, with telescopes that Daena can look through to aim, and a system of funnels along the sides of the shell that will automatically reload any fired cannons. The queen can also press a button and activate a ring of spikes along the bottom of the transport for ramming any enemies who get too close. Add in the capacity for soldiers and guards to ride along on the queen's patch of grass inside the shell and you've got a vehicle that can wage a war on its own.

Its name? The Matriarch. AWESOME.

The king loves it. He thinks it's the coolest thing he's ever seen. And, yeah, it's way too big to fit anywhere but the largest courtyards, but Jeffrey plans on using the Matriarch whenever he has to go on a trip. Daena's constantly-flailing legs will allow her to pedal wherever they want. Jeffrey's also gonna have the secret entrance expanded to make it less of a tight fit. Good thing - even with Libby's measurements, I think the Matriarch nearly brought down the roof a few times.

I don't know where Libby got the parts for the Matriarch. It musta needed an insane amount of wood and metal to build. I also don't know how she managed to put the thing together in ONE NIGHT, though that's my wife for you. If she can build a table in seconds, she can create a giant, moving contraption in less than twenty-four hours.

You shoulda seen the look of relief on Libby's face when she realized Queen Daena was okay, diary. She was so happy.

I'm so proud of Libby. Scared of what she can do, sure, but… proud.

This has been a long entry, diary, I know. But there are just two more things I should mention, two little strokes of luck that are purely thanks to Libby.

First off, we've moved! WE'RE OUTTA THAT DINKY LITTLE APARTMENT! As thanks for what Libby did, King Jeffrey gave us our own HOUSE! Granted, it's not very big, and it's across the street from where we used to live, but it's a HOUSE! More than one room! That's plain amazing, it is.

Though it's… kinda… empty, so far. We don't own much. We'll have to work on that. Now that she's gotten the knack of building mechanical stuff, I bet Libby'll be filling it with her weird inventions. She can go right ahead, she's earned it.

Second, as we were goin' to bed tonight, Libby thanked me for all my help. Said she was the brains, but without my people skills she wouldn't have been able to dig up the queen. Guess she figured nobody would want to help her 'cause she's so gruff and unlikable.

Just before we snuffed the candle and went to bed, she added one last thing that made me realize, yeah, I do love this woman:

"I read your story. The one you wrote for the king. Y'know, the… one he fed to an animal. I thought it was real good."

Maybe life ain't so bad after all.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Homeowner

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day One-Ninety-Four: The Grand Project


Today was… humbling, diary. For the first time, I saw my wife looking sad.

I stumbled home after a loooooong shift of wandering around the castle, ignoring the cockroach cupboard, and found Libby… not home. At, like, four in the morning. That's damned irregular. Libby likes her sleep.

Before when she did stuff like this, I got nervous 'cause I figured she was cavorting with another man or something. Yes, truly and honestly, I figured that might be the case. I mean, if she's snuggled with ME, even as a werewolf, then isn't it possible she could snuggle with someone ELSE? Behind my back? I dunno who she'd do that with, since Libby seems to hate damn near everyone, but there you go. Call me an insecure little twit, I probably deserve it.

This was different, though. I thought she might be in trouble, 'cause extra-marital snuggling or not, Libby ends her day in her bed. Period. Doing anything else is not an option for my wife, not if she has anything to say 'bout it. So I decided to go lookin' for her and make sure she was okay.

Turns out she was. She wasn't snuggling with someone else. She was done studying - and had gotten down to work.

I found Libby at her carpenter's bench in the west bailey. She had a big pile of metal that she'd snagged from gods' know where, and she was tinkering with a couple pieces in a way I did not at all understand. Looked like she was makin' some kinda contraption.

I called to her from a distance, not wanting to get beaten, and she actually waved me over. Looked annoyed, but she didn't hit me, so that's progress. She told me she wouldn't be home for a while, 'cause she was busy doin' something. Wanted to be finished by Friday. Wouldn't tell me what it was, but she DID tell me why she was workin' so hard making the thing:

"Daena's my friend, Dragomir. I know YOU never see it, but I go out 'n visit her all the time. Been pals ever since we met. She helped me through a lot, 'specially when you were… y'know… gone. Didn't think you were comin' back. I owe her, 'n I'm gonna come through by gettin' her out of that damn field."

Which I thought was quite touching. I'd honestly never known that they were THAT close of friends. Guess my wife is willing to go the distance for the ones she loves.

(Not sure if dragging me across the east bailey, attached to her leg, counts as 'love' and 'distance'. Sure FELT like a hell of a distance.)

"But," she continued, "I don't know if what I've got planned is gonna hurt her. Or whatever. So… y'know… I'm… kinda…"

"Scared?"

"No! Apprehensive was the word! Apprehensive!"

Then she hit me, and she didn't look sad anymore. I knew better, though. She was damn scared. And, I think, a little upset, 'cause she figured freeing Queen Daena would prevent Libby from ever seeing her friend again. Aristocratic elitism and all that.

After all my paranoia the last couple weeks, I felt bad. I really did. So I offered to help her, if she wanted - and though Libby turned me down at first, she eventually got this little spark in her eye.

"You know a lotta people 'round the castle, right?"

"Yeah. 'course I do. Why?"

"Could you round up a bunch of 'em for later today? I need, like, forty or so. For a favour. A big favour."

"Uh…" I did a mental count of the people I knew. "I don't know if I know THAT many. Not that many who don't… like… hate me."

"Ask the ones who hate you anyway," she said. "Say it's for Queen Daena. And it's a surprise for the king. That'll get anybody on board."

We chatted a bit longer, but Libby still wouldn't say why she needed all these people. All she did was tell me to get 'em together for five o'clock - and to let 'em all know to bring a shovel.

So I did. After a quick nap and checking in at my post, I went around to everyone I knew - 'cept the guards, I figured I'd wait until lunch to ask them, so I wouldn't look like a slacker - and looked for volunteers. Kinda sucked that I couldn't give 'em any details…

… but they signed on anyway! Hell, they were all happy to help! Turns out most of 'em like Libby as much as they do Daena, which is a BIG surprise to me, 'cause my wife is such a douche! Must be a gruff-exterior-hides-a-heart-of-gold type thing. Even Captain Cedric agreed to help, 'cause of the whole boxing match thing, though he warned me that he'd turn me inside-out if helping was a waste of his time.

Which is a possibility. It's 5:30 now, and we're all sittin' around Queen Daena's tree, waiting for Libby to show up. No sign of her yet, and Daena's right curious 'bout why we've all come out to visit after work. Happy to see us, sure, but curious. None of us can




Wait. Wait. What… what the HELL is THAT…?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day One-Ninety-Three: Conundrums


I'm out of my hospital bed (pretty luxuriant name for a blanket and a cot harder than a rock, but there you go) and back in my own apartment. I'm more nervous here than in the hospital, 'cause one thing keeps going through my mind:

Libby might be able to read.

How else could she study? You don't study with a person. You learn from a person. You glean knowledge from a person. You don't study with a person, you study a book. And to study a book, you have to be able to READ.

You may not think this is a tragedy, diary, and under normal circumstances I wouldn't either. I'm all for literacy. When I write my awesome novel in the future, WELL away from our stupid king who feeds stories to farm animals, I will NEED literate people. They will have to read my book, and then make me rich. And, hell, one of 'em might as well be my wife. I'll even give her the book for free.

But if Libby learns to read, she'll be able to read you, diary. YOU. And then she'll know about all the times I complained about her, or lied to her, or called her a douche, or… or… expressed excitement at 'cuddling'… LONG STORY, MADE SHORT, SHE CAN'T READ YOU, DIARY

But… I can't STOP her from learning to read… assuming she hasn't learned already… and she already knows you exist, diary… so what am I supposed to do? Hide you again? That'll earn me a beating, 'cause she'll think I don't trust her! Which I don't! Gah!

See, this is what happens when wives hide stuff from their husbands. Everything goes down the toilet. ALL HER FAULT

The contest to free Queen Daena continues, at any rate. There's a station set up just outside the throne room for people to submit their ideas. The king's gonna gather everyone on Friday and see what's in the box. Best idea gets a prize. Worst idea gets… well, nothing, which is better than the 'something bad' King Jeffrey would normally give for wasting his time.

Thing is, not many people are submitting, from what I hear. One of the other guards is set up to watch the station, and he told me that almost nobody is daring to give ideas. Either the people living here are all dolts (and that would include me, 'cause I don't know what to do about Queen Daena) or they've learned that King Jeffrey isn't to be trusted. I bet it's a mix of both. Either way, the presentation of ideas on Friday is gonna be… pretty… pathetic.

Whatever. Don't care. Though I really like Queen Daena, it'll be nice to see the expression on Jeffrey's face when he realizes nobody's helping him. He deserves it.

Sigh. That's enough writing. Back to the cupboard. Captain Cedric insisted I pull a double shift tonight. Hope there aren't more stupid cockroaches in that stupid cup. Stupid posting. Stupid stupid stupid.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day One-Ninety-Two: Pantsed


WELL. Today was violent and ill-tempered in general, and not because I found more cockroaches in the cup. That wouldn't make me upset. Just puzzled me. Is it a cockroach graveyard or something? Do they go there to die? Or does somebody figure that's an appropriate place to bury 'em? Something fishy's going on with that cup, diary, I'm telling you right now.

Um. Right. Anyway.

I came home from my shift and found the apartment empty. Biiiiiig surprise, these days. Well, after watching a cupboard for eight hours I was in a pretty foul mood, so I plopped on the bed and waited for Libby to get home, ready to confront her on her dang secret. And why shouldn't I? She's my wife! I have a RIGHT to know what she's doin'! There aren't meant to be secrets between spouses!

'cept for the time I made you and hid you from her, diary. Or the time I told Libby I was going to work when I ACTUALLY had the day off, and I spent five hours playing with ants. Or the time I 'ate' one of her pies by tossing it into the moat. Or the time I promised Libby that I would get a hair cut, when all I REALLY did was slick it into my helmet with some grease and leave it like that for a couple You know, this isn't productive at all, so I'll stop. Nothing I just wrote ever happened. 'kay? 'kay.

Point is, I lie. But that's not the same as what Libby's doing. She's, like, withholding the truth. You know? SHE DOESN'T KNOW I'M LYING. But I know she's withholding the truth! So she's doing the bad thing here. She's being the jerk. It's BETTER to lie, because then you don't make the other person feel left out. And by gods, diary, I feel left OUT.

So when Libby came harrumphing through the doorway, tossing her work gloves on the floor and collapsing on the bed, I was ready. As soon as she got clear of the doorway, I jumped in front and barricaded the way out.

She tried to be so innocent. "Dragomir, what the hell are you doin'?"

I was on to her, though. "I'm on to you, Libby. Where you goin' every night? I KNOW you don't work that late. And I'm not moving 'til you give me an answer!"

Libby hadn't planned on leaving. I discovered that seconds after I jumped in front of the door. Telling her she COULDN'T, though, made her pretty damn cross, and she expressed her discontent by throwing YOU at me, diary! Went in the cupboard and everything!

I caught you right in the stomach, and after I'd gotten my breath back I started yelling. "What'd you do that for, ya crazy douche?! Leave my diary outta this!"

"No!" Libby crossed the room (easy to do, only took three steps) and PUNCHED you! Straight into my abdomen! "What I do with my time is my business! You don't force me to tell you NUTHIN', ya useless sack!"

"Oh… oh yeah?" By now I was on the floor, but I heroically refused to move! "Well… well… you're gonna have to kill… KILL me, then! 'cause I won't get away from this door… this… urp, that really hurt… this door, 'til you tell me what you've been… been… doin'!"

I thought I was pretty awesome in this moment. Steadfast. Cool. Layin' down the line. Unfortunately, I forgot that Libby's a lot stronger than me, and all she had to do was kick me out of the way. Then she stormed out, even though she wanted to stay home. I think she did it to spite me.

I wasn't giving up, though. I followed. Grabbed her leg and held on while she tore down the hallway of our apartment building. She swore at me, and I swore back, and we kept this up 'til we were out in front of the building. Clunked me down every step. I might have cracked my jaw. It hurts a lot right now.

By this point I'd almost pulled her pants all the way down to her ankles, and a little crowd that had followed us was hootin' at her, so I agreed to let her go if she would stop fighting and talk. She did. Up went her pants, off we ran to a quiet spot - but only after she told everyone to fuck off. They did. Nobody messes with Libby.

We used a little back alley between two houses to yell it out. I'll tell you what we said without going into the physical details, though I'll add here that there were more than a few gut and crotch attacks:

"You've got me here. I'm still not sayin' shit to you, Dragomir."

"Why? What's so important that you can't tell your husband? I'm dyin', here! Details, you hag!"

"Don't you call me a fucking

Okay, maybe I should skip ahead. I forgot we went through another dragging contest and a move to ANOTHER alley before we got to the actual conversation. By this point Libby was actually sorry for hitting me so much, 'cause I was bleeding a lot. Her boots are probably a little red today.

"You should really give this up. I don't wanna hurt you anymore. You usually stop after a few hits! What is with you?"

"This's… this's… important… I just… bet…"

"But why? Why do you care so much that I'm a little late getting' home?!"

"'cause… 'cause… I like… socks… martini socks…"

(My brain wasn't workin' so well.)

"Ugh." She sat beside me, propping my head on her lap. "Fine. You probably won't remember 'cause of brain damage, so why not? I was lookin' for a way to help Daena."

"Th'… th'… marigold…?"

"The wha?"

"Nursery butters…"

"I'd better get you to a doctor after this. The queen, you twit." She stroked my hair. It felt much nicer than the jabbing pain in my pancreas. "Been… studyin'. For an idea I had. Wanted to keep it a surprise 'til I was done."

"Jab wrenches?"

"Just shut up. You keep spittin' blood on my overalls when you talk." She sighed. "I kinda gave the king the idea for his contest. Was talkin' to one of his fancy 'experts', 'n he overheard. Guess he figured givin' me competition would make me hurry up."

"But that's enough." She heaved me onto her shoulder. "I'll get you to a doctor. 'n I'll bring you your stupid diary. I know you like writin' in that thing."

So here I am, in a hospital bed, still in pain, but not doin' too badly. (I knew Libby would go nuts, so I padded my armour to soften her blows. Helped a little bit.) And I have an explanation, so my plan worked.

Kinda.

Not really. My pee looked like cranberry juice. I'm glad my head cleared before I went to the washroom. Mighta tried to drink the stuff. I get weird when I'm knocked loopy.

Libby gave me a couple answers, but she raised more questions. What's she planning? How is she studying? Why's she wanna help the queen? And why did she have to beat me so harshly in order to keep her secret? Yarrrr, things to ponder.

It was nice of her to bring me you, though, diary. I know Libby's harsh whenever she talks about you, but I think she'd have fun writing in you. If she ever learned to write, that is. Or read.



Studying…

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day One-Ninety-One: Enough with the contests


The king wants more, diary. The king always wants more. Hell, his stupid contest last week was basically just a giant job interview. He never gives back, he just wants things for he, him, and his majesty. Bah, what a third-person prig.

Yep! You heard me, Logan! Your dad's a prig! You go ahead and tell him I wrote this, if you're reading! I know you are! I don't even care anymore! Let him execute me! He's a GRADE A PRIG! AND AN ASSHAT, EVEN THOUGH THAT WOULD BE REALLY GROSS TO SEE, 'CAUSE ASSES ARE ALL FUZZY!

So yes. WHAT DOES HIS REGALNESS WANT THIS WEEK? Well, it appears that Jeffrey wants to expand his court, now that he has a jester. He wants it to be all proper and stuff, and that means having a second throne to sit alongside his own. Yep, he wants a solution to Queen Daena's problem, at long last.

(In case you'd forgotten, she's stuck in a tree.)

It's not like people haven't tried before. A think tank of nobles has been mulling over the problem for, like, two years. Problem is, they don't know what will happen if they try to dig up or move Queen Daena's tree. If it dies, what happens to her? For that matter, will harming the tree hurt Daena? Has the tree basically turned into her butt?

Science should have an answer for these questions. But it doesn't. No wonder I talk about gods so often, they have nothing to do with that technology claptrap.

The king, as usual, is impatient. He wants to be able to move about with his queen at his side. So he's offering a reward to anyone who can come up with an idea for moving the queen's tree, if not outright extracting her from the thing.

(Gods only know what the reward is. Maybe the stupid jester needs a backup jester. Jeffrey's gifts are SO GLAMOUROUS, after all.)

Unlike the king's other contests, this one's open until somebody comes up with a good idea. And he's promised not to imprison anyone with a BAD idea, probably 'cause he got an earful from Daena last week. She seems less tolerant of his crap these days, and good on her for it. Getting her out of that stupid tree will only help the castle, I have no doubt.

Assuming she CAN get out. So here we are, full circle. Y'know?

I'll think about ways to help her. Might as well. I owe Queen Daena for her support. And for saving my life against those goblins, waaaaay back in… September? October? I think it was raining… could always skim you for the answer, diary, but you're gettin' pretty chunky. Besides, I wouldn't wanna see how bad a writer I was way back then. Yuck.

Anyway. That's all for now. I'm guarding a cupboard this week. Captain Cedric is pissed that I keep getting weeks off. Don't expect to hear much about the cupboard; I looked inside and all I found was a cup full of dead cockroaches. I might have tipped them out a window when no one was looking. If somebody finds out and complains, I will HAPPILY reimburse them.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day One-Ninety: A merry jig


I.

Hate.

Our.

King.

The contest went ahead today as planned. It took place outside the castle, like Jeffmas, so Queen Daena could watch. Giant stands for the nobles surrounded her tree on all sides, and merchants brought out their wares in carts to sell people food and stupid little trinkets that nobody wanted.

Everyone participating in the contest had to form a big line. And because every entertainer who'd shown up wanted the prize, whatever it was, it was a long line. I snuck in somewhere in the middle with Edmund, and we nervously watched everybody before us.

King Jeffrey, sitting on his throne beside Daena, was a brutal critic. He had a ranking system with his royal guards: whenever he yawned, the entrant got dragged away. Whenever he put his thumb down, the entertainer got dragged away to the DUNGEON. And whenever he pounded his fist into his knee, the entertainer got beat up, dragged away, and THEN put in the dungeon. The dungeon got reeeeeeal full, reeeeeeal fast.

The guy before Edmund left Jeffrey in a particularly foul mood, 'cause he was doing his miming stuff and accidentally spoke when he stubbed his toe. Since the dungeons were already full by that point, Jeffrey ordered the poor man banished from his realm. Guess we'll never see him again.

Edmund went next. He wished me luck, then strode up in front of the king, bowed, and removed his necklace, a little wooden lute. With a wave of his hand it became a full-sized instrument, and he began to strum out a jolly tune with more skill than I've ever seen in a musician. He was a hell of a lot better than any of the minstrels before him, and managed to couple his music with a huge poem that I'd be incredibly hard-pressed to recite here.

The nobles were awed. Half of 'em clapped before Edmund was even done. Daena, too, looked utterly delighted.

King Jeffrey, though…

Our noble monarch rolled his eyes as the final note faded. He yawned, and the guards dragged Edmund away, dumping him near a cart of onions. The expression on his face damn near broke my heart. I felt so bad for him.

So when I walked up to King Jeffrey and handed him my story, printed out on a tidy bundle of parchment, I should've expected his reaction.

"Reading?!" he roared, waving the story around. "We're not here to read! We came to be amused! You continue to vex us, Dragomir! Why are you even here?! We should imprison you for abandoning your post!"

I wet myself. In front of royalty. So much warmth.

"Now that," Jeffrey said, laughing and pointing at my crotch, "is funny! But not funny enough. Guards! Take him away and deposit him on top of that boring bard over there."

They flung me on top of Edmund, who was still recovering from his own failure. Then they took the story I'd spent all night writing and fed it to an ox while the king watched and clapped. Queen Daena argued violently with him over this, but she couldn't do much, so…

My story. Gone. Missed a night's sleep to get it all fixed up for the king. Now it's probably manure.

Edmund and I, both of us VERY depressed, sat on the sidelines and watched the rest of the entrants filter through. We didn't pay much attention to who was performing for the king… until Edmund pointed at the very last entrant.

"Penguin ho!" he cried, "I know the blackguard! / 'tis the villainous fiend, Kierkegaard!"

The penguin bowed before the king, tipping his hat and twirling one of his mustachios. Then, adjusting his pointy little mask, he opened his bill and said one word, in a low, cultured voice:

"Fuck."

The king sat forward on his throne. "Fuck?"

"Fuck," the penguin agreed. "And balls."

"Balls." The king looked to the sky, repeating the word. "Baaaaalls."

"Fuck and balls and shite!"

"Fuck and -"

But Kierkegaard cut King Jeffrey off, dancing forward on his tiny legs, twirling in the grass, doffing his hat this way and that. With every movement there was a new swearword, the curses becoming more and more intricate as Kierkegaard's dancing picked up in pace. Eventually, it became a deep, sonorous, vulgar song, and the king, clapping his hands and stamping his feet, joined in. It didn't seem to matter that he wasn't saying the same things as the penguin.

After five minutes of awkward penguin ballet and a rousing crescendo on the word 'twiffershat', which is so weird that it's barely offensive, Kierkegaard dropped to his knees in front of the king. Assuming penguins have knees.

Jazz hands.

The king stood. He roared his approval, clapping and cheering and swearing. He was the only one in the entire area; everybody seemed shocked into silence. Until the king turned around and glared at the stands, that is. THEN the nobles went crazy over the penguin. Damned suck-ups.

So that was that. The king found his winner, because, apparently, all he'd ever wanted out of life was a singing, dancing, swearing penguin with a top hat, a pointy mask and funny facial hair. As his prize, Kierkegaard was given a job: he's the king's new jester. No doubt he'll spice up court by shouting random words like 'domblewank', 'cockalockalocka' and 'pansydiddles'.

Great.

That was the end of the contest. The king took his new jester back to the castle, ordering everyone back to work on the spot. The entertainers who escaped imprisonment gathered up their things and left, and that, sadly, included Edmund. I shook his hand, thanked him for giving it a try with me, told him his song was excellent, and apologized for my king.

He took it in stride, friendly chap that he is. Told me he'd met lots of weird nobles like the king, and that he'd been tossed about more than once while trying to earn money. Guess that's the way of the bard. He did, however, give me a warning that put me on edge:

"I travelled with that penguin there, for many moody days, / And in that time I learn-ed well his tricksy, crim'nal ways. / He will not halt to lie, or cheat, or sin, or steal, / And now he has in his new post a power quite unreal. / Watch you well, friend Drago, this flightless little bird, / He hides a sly evil under count'nance absurd."

So Kierkegaard's an asshole. Just what we needed, another one.

Truth be told, I don't care that much about the stupid penguin. Or losing. Or even Edmund leaving, even though that was kinda sad, 'cause I like him. All I care about right now is the strong mental image of an ox eating my story.

My story.

I worked so fucking hard on that story, diary. I put so much care into it, so much depth and feeling, that… I…

I don't even have… any of it left to… to put in here, or… I can't even remember what it was about anymore, so I can't…

That son of a bitch…

Dragomir

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day One-Eighty-Nine: Eureka!


WOW. Wow, diary. I was right. Edmund gave me the perfect idea for winning the top prize. It's so simple! I can't believe I didn't think of it before! And it's right up my alley!

I met my bardy chum again in the Beefiary at lunch today, sitting with a bunch of other minstrels. After a quick meal and some chatting the rest of the guys and girls (entertainers are SO NICE), I asked if he wanted to go for a walk. He said, in more words than this, 'Sure'. So off we went to the bailies where Captain Cedric wouldn't catch me goofin' off.

The bailies are a wonder now, diary, they really are. Everybody's still working hard at their jobs, but everything they do is mixed in with fun. Deliverymen have to weave around dancing jugglers, streamers trail from the ends of hammers, and lots of people are dressed up in patchwork animal outfits. Everybody sings and laughs as they work. Jeffster is the best non-holiday EVER.

We were watching a bunch of kids hit each other with sticks (I miss playing street hockey, I really do) when I asked Edmund if he had any other ideas on what I could do for the contest.

He pondered that, laughing as one child knocked another into a trash can full of rotten fruit. "Before ye can do anything well, / Know ye must where ye excel." Which was long for 'What are you good at?'

I shrugged. "I don't really excel at anythin'. Ask anybody and they'll tell you I'm a lousy guard. Even I'LL tell you that."

Edmund shook his head. "Nay, nay, t'was not my intent. / Guarding does not amusement invent. / I've listened here long, to your sobering tales; / Have you a story in your writhing entrails?"

"Story? What good's a story for winning a contest?"

He grinned and patted my on the shoulder. "Drago, my friend, a story's the goal! / Without any story, entertainment's a hole! / 'ere singing or dancing or traipsing's of use, / There must be a story to set all to loose!"

That's when it came back to me. As a kid, I used to tell stories to my friends. They would listen, and laugh, and, well, enjoy. That's the solution, diary: I need to write the king a story. And I have! Kinda! I mean, it's still a work in progress, but it's well underway, and I just bet I can have it done for tomorrow!

I'm actually quite excited. It's been a really long time since I wrote a story, diary. (No offense, but you don't count.) My parents pounded the habit outta me for years. I'm so glad I have the courage to go back to it now! I don't know if it'll be enough to win, but…

Aw, hell. Who cares if I win. As long as I get a single smile out of King Jeffrey, I'll be happy. Can't wait to watch him read my story. It's gonna be fantastic. I'll even let you read it after this is all done, diary.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Writer

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Day One-Eighty-Eight: Innocent Racism


I made a friend, diary! Like, a new one! And, by the gods, he has different-coloured skin! Like tree bark without the roughness! Fantastic, that.

I was wandering about the castle today, still wondering what I should do for the contest, when I got a hankering for some chocolate. So I abandoned my patrol route (which I'd already done to watch a juggler anyway) and went to the Beefiary to see if Robert had some secreted away. Kingly mandate or not, he's a tricky bastard.

He didn't. Or if he did, he wasn't giving it to me. We fought for a minute, then he slapped a couple vegetables on a tray and told me to stop holding up the lunch line. I walked off in a huff with the tray, 'cause dammit, diary, I just BET he has some chocolate somewhere in his kitchen. Been so long since I had chocolate…

It might've been my desire for chocolate that led me to sit beside a stranger in the Beefiary. By the gods, he looked like he was made of chocolate. And it took me almost a full five minutes of chewing on a carrot and staring at him to figure that out!

He spoke up first. "Pray tell, dear man, why do you stare? / Have I a nettle in mine darksome hair?"

And I was all like 'Oh my lords above, chocolate men speak in rhyme! I wanna live in his delicious country!' in my head. Said something else, though: "No! Nope, not a nettle to be seen. Um, are you made of real chocolate?"

He edged away from me. In retrospect, I understand why. "Made of sinew'd flesh and bone am I, / So moveth now your roving eye." (Hey, that was a triple rhyme! Awesome.)

I held up my hands in apology. "Sorry! Sorry. But… are you sure, though? I mean, like, your skin… it's all… brown… does it still taste good even if you're not chocolate?"

I earned his shudder. "To reveal your ignorance as such, / You must not get out much."

The man explained, in long, awkward poetics that people where he comes from have darker skin. I find that absolutely fascinating, diary, because I've never seen any HUMAN with skin that wasn't pasty. Goblins and orcs are greeny, sure, and I've heard the snake people in the Imperium are a dusty red, but brown me-people? Weeeeeeeird.

Anyway. We kept talking, and after an hour of stumbling over his odd rhymes I learned that his name is Edmund. He's a traveling bard who, after getting separated from a friend, wound up wandering on his own for a long time. He came here with a bunch of other minstrels when he heard about the contest and the prize. (Word travels really quick, I guess.)

Once you get what he's saying, Edmund's a really nice guy. He laughed at my attempts at jokes, gave me a couple pointers, and even shared some food he brought from far outside the country! Not chocolate, but crunchy little cheese things. Good enough for me. Entertainers are friendly folk, is my conclusion. And they have cheese.

That… might not be true of them all. It SHOULD be, 'cause cheese is great, but I guess it's possible not every entertainer LIKES cheese. Though if they're entertaining, they should like cheese, because cheese gives you gas, and farting is funny. Why rob yourself of such an integral comedic device? Why, diary?!

Probably dwelling on this too much.

After a long chat with Edmund I went back to my work, 'cause Captain Cedric caught me sitting down and shoved my face into a bowl of soup. Before I left, though, I told Edmund that I'd see him tomorrow. I need his help coming up with something I can use in this contest. I know he can help me out. That's what he's here for, after all.

Unless…

Unless he tries to sabotage me to up his chances… could that happen…?

Hrm.

Man, all that spying business last week has made me so paranoid. First with Libby's night-time excursions, and now with a brand new friend. I wanna go back to blindly trusting people. Life was easier back then.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Wary Chum

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Day One-Eighty-Seven: Improv is harsh


This winning-the-prize thing might be tougher than I thought, diary. Turns out I might not have any entertainment skills.

This comes as a surprise to me, I gotta admit. I'm a witty guy. I can make people laugh. I know a few good jokes. I guess these skills only come out when I'm not trying, tho, 'cause every time I TRIED to tell a joke today, I… mostly… got shot down.

It started with Libby this morning. I waited 'til she woke up, then I tossed this awesome joke her way:

"Hey. Hey Libby. What do you get when you mix a rat with a soldier?"

"Shut up, I'm putting my pants on. I need to concentrate."

"A Mousekateer!" Jazz hands.

"What? Stop bothering me. I'm so tired."

I kept at it, though. "Hey. Hey Libby. What do you get when you mix an elephant with a traveller?"

"Fuck off!"

"A Pack-A-Derm! Because it probably has a toothbrush! For those huge tusks, y'know. Get it?" Jazz hands.

Judging by the jab to my stomach, I think she missed the punchline.

… get it? Punchline? 'cause… she TOTALLY… punched me.

Aha.

Well, after that I went about my shift, telling people I met along the way any jokes I could think up. Y'know, to test the waters. In case my douchey, always-crabby wife just wasn't the best audience. Turns out I wasn't any better off with the rest:

Grylock: "I've seen horses crap out better jokes than that. And I used to be a stable boy, so I know my crap."

Cedric: "Get back on your patrol, y'stupid arse. I don't like funnies." What a surprise.

Robert (both of 'em, coincidentally): "Yes, yes, that's very nice. Go on, I'm busy with my b/cooking."

Morris: "M'da always said jokes were th'devil's work. Sorry, Dragomir, but you'd better leave."

Eve: "The skulls of the forefathers line my victory pikes."

Random Peasant: "Who are you again?"

The only person who laughed at one of my jokes was Prince Logan. Hell, he laughed at all of them, which made me feel good about myself - until he told me he thought they were so bad that they were funny. Which is… a start… but not a good enough start, I'm afraid. Gonna hafta look for a new angle.

Other than that, it was a normal day. Work is for chumps, so I wandered the castle looking at the attractions that are either set up or in progress. Lots of bobbing for porcupines and Kick the Clam and barrel rolling going on. You know, the standard stuff. Even saw a little troupe of actors putting on a play about a tyrant king. Hope they're not dumb enough to show it to King Jeffrey, or they're liable to be feeding moat monsters before the end of the week.

Oh, and I tried to talk to Libby about why she's been so late. Lately. She hit me and told me to mind my own business. I thought her business was my business, and vice versa…? When I made a joke of it, she wapped me over the head with a piece of wood. Sigh.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Failed Jokester

Monday, April 16, 2012

Day One-Eighty-Six: Party on, Dragomir


Yay! Zany antics time, diary, zany antics!

After I finished writing in you last week, the word went out that Casimiro the Butcher had been driven away from the castle. Word was that he'd been spotted on the toilet, reading a book he'd stolen from the library. He made a break for it, jumping over the wall of the barbican, and the last anybody saw of Casimiro was his bare green bum as it disappeared over the horizon.

Personally, I would have had him pull up his pants before he ran. Guess The Baron isn't an amazing storyteller. How could he jump over the wall with breeches wrapped 'round his ankles? Logic, The Baron, logic!

Casimiro's grand escape put everybody in high spirits, and though a lot of nobles demanded that soldiers be sent out to kill the guy, the king overrode their demands. He declared that next week - which is to say, this week - be a week of festivities. I think he was just lookin' for an excuse to have a big party, personally, but far be it from me to question King Jeffrey!

And the name of these festivities? Jeffster. A week-long celebration of life, love, and how we owe both of those things to King Jeffrey. Huzzah. The king is awesome. What a surprise.

I don't care why we're celebrating, or the fact that we owe the celebrations to the king, despite his seldom ever doing anything good for us all. It's nice to see people happy again, after the werewolf thing mixed with the murderer thing. Lotta fear in those days. Now? Smiles everywhere! Gapped, browny-yellow smiles!

Understandably so, too, 'cause there are ENTERTAINERS everywhere. Folks of all sizes and stripes have come out of the woodwork and invaded Castle PartyTime with their tip cups and crazy, colourful clothing. On my patrol route today I saw no less than twelve clowns, eight mimes, twenty-two jugglers, six storytellers, twelve jesters, and a penguin! Wearing a top hat! It even had a curly little moustache. I love celebrations.

That's not all, though, diary. The king has declared that he's gonna be holding a contest at the end of the week, with a big prize for the winner. All you have to do is amuse the king more than anyone else. No wonder all these entertainers are here, 'cause they're probably poor as sin and looking to win.

But they won't. Not if I have anything to say about it…!

Gotta go, diary. Have super-secret projects to work on that involve laughter and awesomeness. And, uh, I guess I have to go guard the manure shed. That's less awesome. Or funny. It DOES promote growth, however.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Jokester

Friday, April 13, 2012

Day One-Eighty-Five: So much for that murderer thing


Welp, that's it, diary. I am spy no more. And for once, I'm the one who quit. Go figure, eh?

I had trouble sleeping last night 'cause I felt bad about reading that letter. I couldn't get it outta my head. And after Libby beat me for flopping around so much and I passed out from sheer pain, I had nightmares. Nightmares filled with nonsense words like 'wakka wakka'.

(They were also accompanied by visions of bears with hats. Don't… don't get that.)

As soon as I woke up, I knew what I had to do. I had to give up the job. I couldn't keep going with this spy business. I mean, I know it's important, but I don't have the conscience for it. Or I have too much of a conscience for it. Or something like that. Conscience bad here, ya? Ya. No conscience for spy.

Surprisingly - perhaps not that surprisingly, he's such a pleasant chap - The Baron didn't seem to mind.

"That's fine, Dragomir," he said, chewing on his breakfast tart as he spoke. "You can go back to guarding if you wish. I should have known you were too honest a man to maintain your cover for too long."

I sagged in relief. I'd been prepared for The Baron to chew me out. "T… thank you, m'lord. I thought you might be… upset. With me."

He laughed. "No, no. I'd been thinking it was time to end my little lie anyway. We couldn't have us nobles hiding from a fictitious criminal forever."

I blinked. I distinctly remember blinking. "Fictitious, m'lord?"

"Casimiro the Butcher. Remember?" The Baron pointed at the Wanted poster on his wall. "I suppose it's not fair to say that he was fictitious, since he is a real man, but - "

"Wait wait wait." I held out my arms as though a pair of stagecoaches was passing through The Baron's office, and I desperately needed 'em both to stop. "Fic… you mean to say… do… " Waver. "You… what do you mean to say, exactly?"

The Baron leaned back in his chair and rubbed his belly, smiling. "He was never here, Dragomir. I simply used the news to get you close to Driscol for a while. This whole affair was smoke and mirrors… albeit minus both smoke and mirrors."

My jaw dropped. "No mirrors?!"

"No…" The Baron scratched his chin. "Yeah, sure, no mirrors. You do get what I mean, don't you?"

I did. Of course I did. It meant, diary, that The Baron had ordered somebody to attack a noble. On purpose! And that wasn't cool with me, and I told him so on the spot!

The Baron tried to placate me. "Pfft, Leonard the Noble is a whiner. I made certain that he wasn't hurt. He got knocked down and threatened with a knife. Big deal. It happens all the time to commoners. Only fair one of us faces the music for once."

I could appreciate that. But… "But you messed up the castle! For days! Everybody's been afraid, 'cause… 'cause… and you…"

The Baron stood, swept around his table, and grabbed me by the shoulders. "Calm down, my boy, calm down. Yes, I scraped the bottom of the moralistic barrel on this, but it was for the good of the castle. We need to stop Driscol. He could destroy us. I can't let that happen, you understand? I will do what's necessary to prevent that. Even if it means…"

He glanced at one of his walls. "… cavorting with less-than-pleasurable types."

I got suspicious there. "Like… like who, m'lord?"

"Oh." The Baron backed off a bit, one hand still on my shoulder. "You… you know. Vermin. Criminals. That sort of thing. Sometimes loyalty demands talking to the wrong kinds of folk, yes? Low folk. It's all for the good of the castle, however, I assure you."

I wasn't very assured, diary. Not a bit. Hard to trust a liar. (And shut up, I know I've lied.)

"Anyway!" The Baron went back to his desk and plopped down in front of some reports. "I shall have to straighten this all out. Casimiro will escape to fight for another day, though he will, verifiably, have left the castle. Everything should calm down, and you can go back to guarding. Will that satisfy your guilty conscience, Dragomir?"

"N… not really, m'lord. It's just another lie."

The Baron shrugged. "Lies make the world spin, my boy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have correspondence to write." He flicked his wrist to dismiss me.

I wanted to complain. I wanted to bitch about The Baron having put everyone in danger, even if it was illusory danger. He's been so nice to me, though, that I could only get out one thing: "Was there anything important in that letter, m'lord?"

"Hm? Which letter?"

"The one I gave you. Yesterday."

"Oh!" The Baron pulled the letter out of one of his drawers and waved it around. "This? The one from Driscol? I'll… have to analyze it. Give it to a code breaker or something. Decyphering will take time, I'm sure."

"Does it make any sense to you at all, though?"

The Baron looked at the letter. Back to me. Back to the letter. Down at his desk. Then he shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not. It's a bundle of gibberish. For all we know, Driscol was just using it to test your trustworthiness. All the more reason to stop the royal guard charade."

"Oh." I saluted. "'kay. Guess… guess that's all, then. Bye, m'lord. Pleasure workin' for you."

He smiled. "Pleasure having you around, Dragomir. I'm sure we'll cross professional paths again in the future. I still need your help with Driscol, after all."

I left. Took the day off, spent it in bed, stewing over what'd happened. After long consideration, two things stuck out - beyond, y'know, the whole 'The Baron faked news of a murderer' thing:

- 'Vermin'. He works with 'vermin'. And he looked at the wall. The rats? Seems likely.

- He paused over knowing what the letter said. Was he lying about that? Did The Baron see something in those nonsense words that I didn't?

Bugger. This is all too complicated.

I sure hope we go back to normal, zany antics next week. Political shite makes my head hurt.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day One-Eighty-Four: Nothing's sacred anymore


I feel very uncomfortable with myself today, diary. Very uncomfortable. I'm still working in the service of the realm, or whatever, but... like... I read somebody else's mail. That's harsh.

It's one thing to steal into your captain's room and root around in his junk, looking for a poem. Okay? That's totally different, and I feel bad about it, but I was trying to help him. Okay? Okay? Okay. So it's not as bad. We're settled. Done deal.

Reading this piece of mail… it didn't help the person. It didn't help me, either, even when I copied down the contents. It's just not RIGHT to steal glances at someone else's correspondence! OR copy stuff down! There's private stuff in letters! I mean, if I sent one to my mom, and it was about my weird dander phobia

Better explain. I'm starting with the end of the story. That's dumb. Most books don't work that way. And if they did I wouldn't wanna read 'em, 'cause I'd get all confused. Don't need a brain cramp as a memento of reading a backwards book.

After the investigation of the nobles' apartments yesterday - which, I should add, didn't turn up a DAMN THING about this stupid murderer, though maybe I'm just impatient - the majority of the castle's aristocracy wanted to lay low in their quarters. There was a hell of a lot less movement in the hallways, and not much got done.

Same couldn't be said of Driscol. He stayed in his apartment, sure, but he had people going in and out of his place all the time. Whenever he peeked out he looked more and more suspicious, and not in the I-don't-trust-him-sense, but the something-is-up-I-can-smell-it-in-the-air sense. He was on to something.

For a solid five hours he had nothing for me to do. I stood outside his quarters and slept. The paintings in the nobles' wing aren't so interesting that I could stare at 'em and NOT fall asleep, 'cept maybe some of the nudes. I got woken up, though, when Driscol came out and tapped me on the arm. (Good thing he did that before seein' me, too, otherwise I'd have gotten an earful.)

He handed me an envelope. "You. Take this letter to Lady Evangelina."

I turned it over. No seal. "What is it?"

"That's none of your damned business! Get on it!" Door slam. Didn't even give me a tip.

I'd seen plenty of Evangelina's front door by this point, so I wandered through the corridors for a couple minutes 'til I got there. Nobody in sight, not even a guard. Guess she's not important enough to be protected.

And that's when the idea hit me. The compulsion. The ugly, despicable suggestion that I… I… look in the envelope. Because that's what spies do, and by gods, diary, I am currently a spy. It's my job!

But...

But it's also so wrong.

But I did it anyway. 'cause, y'know, I didn't wanna disappoint The Baron, and I knew we had to find out what was up, and I was absolutely sure that this letter could be the key to unravelling Driscol's sinister plot. So I hid, and I made sure nobody was watchin', and by the gods I slid open the envelope and gave the letter a gander.

And what did it say…? Well, here's a little tidbit from the beginning:

'Gling Flobber,

Wakka wakka hey, the long shaft of flobberdeegoo is winging wong upon swing sets of yonder. Still walketh to shore of yalla poo poo, ting mouchi hoo blartz and a package of zing. Raid the cupboards all love, and the maze of ooooopraminium.'

It goes on like that for five paragraphs. It's signed 'Robertomoondeesquib' at the bottom, in a huge, dramatic flourish.

...

That's one hell of a code, I gotta tell ye, diary. One HELL of a code. I'm sure it means something, but what? Got me. Gave me the same headache as the jabbering from the day before, so I guess I'll never be a codebreaker. I figured The Baron might be able to decipher it, so I copied the whole thing down and stowed it in my pocket to give him.

When I handed the real letter over to Evangelina, she seemed much more polite than Driscol. Not, like, super polite or anything - still gave me that upturned aristocratic nose most nobles seem to have - but she actually said 'thank you'. No insults or nuthin'.

(Shame she's shacked up with that arse. Maybe she can teach 'im some manners. The proper kind, not useless stuff like the fork you need to use when there's a winged pig flying around the ceiling of the dining hall.}

Evangelina did seem a little surprised that it wasn't sealed. She even asked if the seal had just dropped off somewhere between here and Driscol's apartment. Maybe it made her suspicious, thinkin' that I'd opened it? Can't blame me, I certainly did NOT.

...

Not... not in the unsealing sense, anyway. And isn't that more important than opening an already open letter? I mean, doesn't the lack of seal, like, make it public property? That makes sense, doesn't it?

Yeah, keep bullshittin' yourself, ya guilty bastard. Sigh.

Anyway. I went back to Driscol's room to check on him again, but he refused to open his door to anyone. Eventually I gave up and took my stuff back to The Baron, and came home to sleep. No Libby. Really gotta confront her on this constantly absent stuff - I don't wanna sound sexist, but it would be NICE to at least see my wife when I got home late at night.

Blech. Secrets revealed, but I don't know what they are. All I got out of today was a lump of feelin' bad, diary. Maybe I should put a stop to all this…? I already know much more than I think I ever wanted to know about this castle.

War. War in the future. I don't wanna go to war. What the hell good would I be in a war? They might as well make me a general, 'cause I sure as hell won't be any use on the front lines.

Ugh. See? See the funk opening a letter that doesn't belong to me has brought?! This is why it shouldn't be done! Mail is sacred, diary!

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Filthy Correspondence Thief

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Day One-Eighty-Three: Brrbllbrrrblll


I FOUND STUFF OUT TODAY AND IT'S PROBABLY IMPORTANT

DIARY

I’M GONNA SHARE THINGS THAT I PROBABLY SHOULDN'T BUT I WILL 'CAUSE I GOTTA 'CAUSE STUFF AND THINGS

Okay. Settle down, Dragomir. You're gonna hyperventilate. 'least Libby ain't here to catch me going nuts with your quill. Still out, still worth worrying over… but I think what I heard today is more important than an errant wife. I think. I hope.

Today started out just like Monday and Tuesday. Orcish murderer hasn't been caught, investigation is underway, nobles need guards. Right? Right. And for about two hours, everything with Driscol went as usual: he insults me, I say nothing back, we run around the castle and he chats with dang near everyone. He's a pissy social butterfly, that one.

Then, out of nowhere, a shit storm hit the castle, courtesy of The Baron: thanks to new evidence brought to light by his investigation, every noble was to leave their quarters open for inspection. Something about suspicions that one of the nobles might be Casimiro in disguise. And when people objected, the king himself decreed that The Baron's orders be followed to the letter.

In other words, no privacy. In OTHER words, I would have the chance to listen in on Driscol's conversations with his noble buddies. IN OTHER WORDS, I might actually be able to get some work done. I have no doubt in my mind that The Baron did all this so I'd GET the chance to do some proper spying, and while I question his methods, I gotta tell ya, diary, I am impressed.

Driscol was livid. LIVID. He bitched for almost an hour after hearing the news, and he ran back to his apartment while it was being checked by soldiers to make sure they didn't steal anything. They had the authority to kick 'im out, though, and they did. With relish. Made me wish I was a soldier, just for a few seconds.

Then I looked at the spear taped to my arm, and, uh, that opinion changed. I'd make a right silly soldier.

After that argument Driscol went about his business, talking to nobles crawling out of every corner of the castle in hush tones. The hallways were so crowded that this was damn hard, however, and eventually he led me to the Beefiary so he could chat while sitting at a table. Guess secrecy in plain sight is as good as secrecy behind closed doors.

The first couple conversations weren't that interesting. Lady Evangelina showed up for a few minutes, and they bitched about the state of affairs in the castle. A couple clerks with cost projections for the investigations and the disruption of business came after her. Lotsa numbers flying about that I didn't understand, and I spent most of the time eying the yak tarts Robert was laying out at his counter. (Even managed to sneak off and grab one. Wouldn't try it twice, though - Driscol wouldn't appreciate lax security. He would probably have lax security flayed.)

It wasn't until well into the day that somebody of interest showed up to talk to Driscol the Count. He was a dirty little man, with grimy hands and a squinty left eye, and even though I'm not always the most observant dude on the planet I could tell he did not belong in Driscol's company. Not a single part of his wardrobe was poofy.

But Driscol welcomed him. Gruffly, of course, but he offered the man a seat, and they chatted. And this, diary, is where things got REALLY weird, because they were deeeeeefinitely not speaking English. Or ANY language I could understand.

It was bizarre. When they greeted each other, fine, no problem. Once they got down to business, however, everything they said became a mess of letters and sounds, with only the occasional word making any sense at all. Their jabber sounded so strange that it hurt my head to listen to 'em.

My conclusion? Code. A secret language, meant to keep others from listening in. Worked damn well, too - by the end I wanted to rip off that stupid helmet I was wearing and clonk Driscol on the head. But I restrained myself, and by concentrating hard I managed to overhear a few words and phrases that registered as damn peculiar:

- Hole
- Pit
- Dig
- Make 'em all stop
- Invade
- Cheese corn dogs
- Demolish
- Fortress should've
- Mercenaries
- Coin, lots of it
- Bottomless

After a solid twenty-minute discussion the man got up and left, taking a small packet from Driscol with him. Then Driscol, back to his normal voice, ordered me to get him some food. I did. (Avoided spilling it on 'im this time, too. But the temptation… oh, the temptation.)

Once Driscol retired to his quarters and dismissed me, I ran right back to The Baron, dropped off my uniform - SO NICE to take that helmet off - and told him what I've just told you, diary. Wrote all the words down for him and everything. He thanked me profusely, gave me a couple gold for my troubles, and told me to report back in the morning. Said I made a much better spy than a guard, which he found very funny, 'cause I'm pretending to be a guard while I spy. Then he shooed me away.

First, though… I had to ask. I had to officially ask.

"He kept mentioning a hole, m'lord. And digging. Like, a lot. What… what did he mean by that?"

The Baron didn't miss a beat. "Probably the king's pet project."

"Pet project?"

"Yes." The Baron knocked on the royal guard helmet a few times, setting it on his desk. "One of the reasons the king decided to build his castle here was to take advantage of the rich metal veins buried beneath the bedrock throughout this region. If you go north or south of here you'll find a lot of mining operations tied to various kingdoms, all along the edge of the Great Chasm, and they're well-renowned for the quality of the extracted ore. Unearthing and processing the ore would make this kingdom very rich and very powerful."

"So the king… built on top of all this ore?"

"He did. And to keep his mines a secret from potential rivals, he began digging in secret, in one of our warehouses. He'd originally planned to let everyone know about it, but after the goblin invasion and the foulfungus infestation…" The Baron shrugged. "Surely you've wondered why the eastern wing of the castle has been closed for so long?"

"I suppose I have, m'lord." I figured I would try and pry one more secret out of The Baron. "Um… so who works in these mines? If nobody knows about 'em? Do the workers, like, live in 'em, or something?"

The Baron scratched his head. "That's an excellent question, Dragomir, one for which I have no answer. The king... doesn't tell me much about the mine, to be honest. Its operation is coordinated by other nobles. Jeffrey wants to keep its existence hush-hush until we strike it rich and build up enough of a weapons' stockpile to attract new soldiers."

"And… then what?" Couldn't resist.

"What else?" The Baron smiled, though sadly. "We go to war."

So that's it, then. The secret of the hole is solved. It's a mine. And, judging by the weird compulsion people get whenever they come near the thing, I bet the workers are US. Peasants. We just don't know it. And we've probably been doing it for so long that it doesn't even tire us out anymore.

Driscol supports the hole. The Baron doesn't, or he probably wouldn't if he knew more. And the rats, who seem to be on The Baron's side, REALLY don't like the hole. But… they haven't told him much about it yet, assuming they know more than they're letting on, which is PROBABLY TRUE…?

And the hole could cause a war? Or the stuff from the hole? But why/ What will the king do with all that metal?

Man. My biggest problem used to be avoiding elephants.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Spy

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day One-Eighty-Two: Respect your local buckethead


Same, same, SAME! Driscol's a douche, I haven't learned anything, and my feet are sore. This spying business is getting us nowhere, diary, damned near nowhere!

And when I ask The Baron whether it's worth it all the effort or not? He says it is. He tells me that spying is an art of patience, something that needs to be fostered and loved over time. I shouldn't rush myself. If I stick with Driscol long enough, he says, I'll discover something that'll uncover the bastard's plans.

If he has plans. I only have The Baron's word on that. And should I trust him anyway? He's in cahoots with the rats, and I don't trust them… and Antonia told me to watch out for the guy… gah, who DO I trust anymore?! Is there even a REASON to be paranoid like this, or am I running around in physical and mental circles for no reason?

Yeesh. Family reunions back on the farm were less painful than this. 'least there I got some food along with the beatings and the confusion.

Since I don't have anything new to report on the spying front, I guess I can talk about the life of a royal guard instead. Gotta say, the stuuuuupid uniforms aside, it's pretty awesome being a royal guard.

Not around nobles, of course. Nobles don't care if you've got a spiked cap or a giant honking steel building on top of your head. They'll order you around no matter what. Only difference is, they're less likely to hit me in the face as a royal guard, 'cause I'm better covered. (Get lotsa wrist slapping, though.)

But the commoners? The simple folk like myself? They're generous. They're respectful. When they ask you something, they're a hell of a lot more polite than if you were a normal guard, and they give you free stuff if you walk by 'em in the marketplace. For no reason, to boot! I love it! I mean, they were nice to me BEFORE this, but now? Super nice.

Not that the other royal guards seem to care either way. Whenever I try to engage 'em in conversation, which isn't too often, they're all as stony-faced as usual. Don't have anything to say unless they're givin' or takin' orders. You'd figure they would open up to one of their own, but nooooo

Oh well. The hunt for clues continues, whether The Baron's legit or not. It's this or guarding a bucket somewhere, and if there's even a chance that Driscol might be up to something nasty, I'll take this nonsense over the bucket.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Still Clueless

Monday, April 9, 2012

Day One-Eighty-One: The Three Subterfuges


Man. Driscol the Count is a dick. I knew he was before, but now I REALLY know. He's a bonafide dick.

My third day as a royal guard and my first as Driscol's bodyguard didn't start off well. I reported to his quarters a little after sunup, and when I knocked on the door Driscol banged it open in my face. No apology afterward, just a complaint that I was fifteen minutes late, and that I wasn't being paid to be late. If I was ever tardy again he would have me crucified on the secret entrance rhino's horn.

Chipper fellow, Driscol.

He told me to wait outside his quarters. I did.

Waited.

Waited.

Waaaaaaaaited.

Two hours later, he finally came out - and told me he'd had a nap. Made a big point of saying that it wasn't productive at all. And when I said I wouldn't mind a nap, he poked me in the eyes! Right through my visor!

I think that made him feel better, and he settled down and went about his business. Driscol's a busy dude, running all over the castle in a constant pell-mell of order-giving. I hadn't realized how often Driscol talks to Captain Cedric, and I had to hide my face every time we came near the lumbering beast. Couldn't have either of 'em finding out who I am!

(Speaking of which, NOBODY seems to recognize me in this getup. It's actually kinda fun, 'cause I can unnerve people I don't like by standing near 'em. Like Bernard, the other day - he damn near wet himself when I wouldn't stop starin'. Nobody messes with the guards of the Omega Corps, no sir.)

There are two problems with trying to spy on Driscol that have me really frustrated:

- First, whenever something goes wrong with his scheduling, he uses me as a verbal punching bag. As though I'm the one to blame. That was only true once, 'cause I had to go to the bathroom and I made him wait. You just hold your ostriches, buster, not everyone has a bladder of steel.

- And, second, he always orders me to stay out in hallways while he's discussing important stuff with other nobles in their quarters. Meaning I don't reeeeeeally get to listen in. What a pain.

Anyway. All I learned today is that the hunt for the murderer continues, Castle FunTimes is in an uproar, the unprotected nobles are hiding in their rooms, and Driscol does a lot of talking. Way too much talking. I think he figures his voice is sexy.

Which it… well, yeah, it kinda is. BUT DON'T TAKE THAT AS ATTRACTION, DIARY.

Oh, and Libby came home late again today. REALLY late. So late that I, the bodyguard who's only allowed to leave in the evenings, got home first. What's up with her, diary? Should I be concerned?

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Clueless

Friday, April 6, 2012

Day One-Eighty: Spy vs Guy


Well, it's Friday, diary, and you know what that usually means: the end of an occupation. Cook for a week, got canned. Guard to the queen for a week, got canned. Librarian for a week, got canned. Ambassadorial aide for a week, got canned, then sent out into the wilderness to search for a foulfungus cure. It's like my life is laid out in sets of five, you know? Kinda?

Well. Not today. Today, I was told that I would be keeping my role as spy into the next week, and in a sense I'd be getting a promotion. I would become Driscol the Count's personal bodyguard during this murderer thing that's going on.

As you might have gathered, Casimiro the Butcher hasn't been caught. Nobody's seen him since he attacked that noble the other night - but that doesn't mean he's not here, either. Probably just waiting for the chance to strike. And The Baron obviously feels the same, because he's allotted a royal guard to follow each of the more important nobles as they go about their business.

That didn't happen, however, until I came back from another day of listless, useless wandering. Had a hell of a time keeping up with Driscol, 'cause he kept disappearing and reappearing. Whenever I DID see him he seemed to be on official business all the time, organizing patrols and whatnot. He's efficient, if not terribly interesting.

I gotta admit, too, that this spy stuff has me feeling a little antsy. Not only am I intruding on this dude's private life, but I'm seeing that he's not doing anything wrong. Hell, he seems genuinely concerned for OTHER people, and not just himself… though, granted, he's only concerned for the nobles.

Not that commoners have anything to fear, I guess. I don't know much about this Casimiro, but his reputation DOES SUGGEST that he only attacks nobles. One must've hit him a few too many times or somethin'.

I kept my concerns about spying to myself, and when I reported back to The Baron in the evening he seemed frustrated by my lack of progress. He didn't blame me, of course, but he really wanted to know what Driscol was up to, and I couldn't give him squat.

That's when he put out the order to have a royal guard appointed to the higher-ranking nobles. All of the bigwigs came out for a big discussion in the throne room, and everybody was squabbling over who should get a personal guard, and eventually the king told them all to bugger off 'cause he was tired and wanted to go to bed. He always has guards, so why should he care?

Either way, yeah, I am Driscol's bodyguard next week. Gonna keep a close eye on him, keep my mouth shut like The Baron warned me (my voice will probably give me away, giant bucket helmet to hide my face or no), and see what he does. Driscol was surprisingly on board with the whole bodyguard thing, so I guess I won't get any grief?

Gah. These days are so confusing. I'm not into this political intrigue stuff, diary, I really ain't. I thought spying would be fun, but trying to keep track of what everyone's doing gets on my nerves. I say again: remind me never to become a politician.

Maybe I should just ask The Baron to put his rats on the job instead. I mean, if he IS talking to them, then maybe he can have them spy for him? But what if they already ARE and he STILL needs me? And do I want him knowing that I know that HE knows that rats are intelligent, and good for more than food and clothing and stuff?

Life is complex.

Oh yeah, one other thing: Libby keeps coming home late. I dunno what she's up to, and she hits me if I ask, so I'm not sure if I should feel suspicious or not. It's not good to distrust your own wife, y'know? And it's not like her to sneak around behind my back…

Assuming she is sneaking…

Which she probably isn't, but how should I know?

LIFE IS COMPLEX

Dragomir the SpyRoyalGuardHusbandDude

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day One-Seventy-Nine: Complications


Jeez! I get up this morning, ready to start with the whole sneaking about as a royal guard thing, and what's the first thing that happens? There's an announcement about a freaking murderer in the castle!

Here's how it goes, diary. Last night, one of the nobles got attacked while walking from the library to his apartments in the nobles' wing. The guy got away safe and sound, but he said that even in the dark he could tell that his attacker was an orc! Another freaking orc, and this one not very polite indeed!

After the noble reported the incident they had him go through a bunch of wanted poster pictures, and the one he picked out as the culprit was an infamous dude called Casimiro the Butcher. He's wanted for over a dozen aristocratic killings in the Imperium, and a bunch more out here in the kingdoms. Which means I'm safe, bein' a guard and all, but this is bad, y'know?

At the same time, though, it wasn't the worst thing in the world, 'cause it gave me a chance to parade around the halls like all the other royal guards without anybody bein' suspicious. Which, I guess, is exactly what The Baron wanted: I have an excuse for tailing anyone I come across, to ensure their safety. That includes Driscol the Count. The Baron wants me to keep track of where he goes, and by the gods, the murder stuff is the perfect alibi for doin' just that.

(Though if there is a murderer about, I'd rather Driscol, y'know, get killed. That's so mean of me, but judging by The Baron's concerns, the count probably deserves whatever he gets!)

After visiting The Baron to pick up my outfit (not allowed to take it home) I set about finding Driscol and following him wherever he went. That wasn't hard, 'cause he's got some stake in castle security, and he spent most of the day running around and coordinating with the guards and soldiers. Even gave me orders a couple times, though as soon as he went out of sight I'd keep following him again. Thank god he doesn't recognize me in this giant-ass bucket helmet.

Which brings me to another point! This outfit is STUPID! It's so top-heavy. The armour is loose as hell, the sleeves are made of some gentle, flowing, pinky fabric that's not protective AT ALL, and the helmet weighs, like, fifty pounds. It hurts my neck after a while. And to make things worse we've had to tape a spear to my wrist to make me look more natural, and if I even THINK of using it as a weapon, it drops right off! What the bugger!

Damned royal guards. Nothing's good about 'em.

Anyway. Following Driscol didn't get me anywhere 'cause he was on 'official' business the entire day, as far as I could tell. The only time he appeared to be gettin' secretive was when he disappeared into Lady Evangelina's quarters for a couple hours, and I bet they weren't so much talking as 'snuggling'.

If ya know what I mean.

Sigh. Libby's so mean. I keep suggesting, she keeps hitting. Don't adults just, like, DO this sort of thing? Sigh… seems like I never see her anymore.

Anyway. Nothing to report today, long story short. I'm back at it tomorrow. Hope nobody gets murdered in the meantime.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Royal Guard

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day One-Seventy-Eight: Manly Me


Yeeeeep. That's… that's the picture The Baron drew of me. My gods, my chin is HUGE

But enough about that. I'm really not sure how to respond. On to something else? On to something else - like the plot. The plot thickens, diary. It's so thick that even my mom's oatmeal goop wouldn't be able to compare. Thick.

As instructed, I went back to visit The Baron this morning and see what was up. No more duties with the prince, it turns out, but something much closer to his original intentions. Yes, tomorrow I begin spying on Driscol the Count. It's about as official an order as orders can get without revealing that there's a spy in the castle, which I guess… in a sense… isn't official at all…?

ANYWAY

When I came into his office, now hole-free, The Baron ushered me into the chair in front of his desk and offered me a bit of spiced mead. He told me I needn't worry about getting a little drunk, 'cause I'd have the rest of the day off, which is just plain awesome, y'know? So I spent most of today in bed. Huzzah!

First, though, I had to answer his question from the previous day:

"What do you think of my drawings?"

"Oh. I figured you would, y'know, ask about Driscol, and…"

"That?" The Baron waved the suggestion away. "Later. Satiate the artist, Dragomir!"

"Um. They're very nice, m'lord. You're good at drawin' stuff."

The Baron narrowed his eyebrows. "You don't sound very convincing, Dragomir. Did you not like my picture of you? I tried to make it as true to life as possible."

True to life? My neck was thicker than an elephant's unmentionables! "Of course I did! It's, uh, hanging on my wall now! Yeah!"

"Is that so. So if I were to send a royal guard to check, he'd find the picture pinned to your wall?"

"Y… yeah." Truth be told I used the piece of parchment to blow my nose last night. That's all that white stuff. Probably thought it was HIS work, didn't you?

"Framed?"

"Well… no, m'lord, I haven't had time for that."

"I suppose that's fair."

"And I'm poor. Can't afford a frame."

"Couldn't your wife make you one? She is the head carpenter, is she not?"

"Ah… well, yeah, but we don't have glass to put it behind, m'lord."

"Ah. That is also fair. I will have a complete frame sent down to you. It will be big enough for the picture of the dodo, as well."

I bit my lip. I used the dodo doodle to wipe my butt this morning. We're short on toilet paper, dammit! "That's… so very kind of you, m'lord."

"And I will come down, personally, to inspect the results. I hope you're not fibbing, Dragomir!"

I get the feeling The Baron is an under-appreciated wannabe artist, trapped in a bureaucrat's body. I'd feel sorry for the guy, but now I have to find somebody who can re-draw both sketches! Or do it myself! Fuck my life, as it were!

Not right now, though. Once we were done with that silly interlude (learned that word from Robert, I did) The Baron moved on to more pressing matters, and asked me the question he SHOULD have asked first:

"What was Lord Driscol doing during my lesson with Logan? I brought you in to watch him so I could focus on the lesson and not look suspicious."

Easy answer, and I grinned as I gave him my first piece of intel. "He kept looking at a piece of paper!"

The Baron sat forward. "A piece of paper? What kind of paper?"

"Well, I guess it was parchment, actually, now that you mention it, kinda yellow - "

"No, no, no. What was on the paper? Did you see?"

"Nope!"

Silence. The quieter the room got, the more my confidence ebbed away.

"So… he was looking at a piece of paper. It could have been anything."

"Y… yes."

"I endured his stupidity…" The Baron stood and turned to the wall, his arms crossed behind his back. "… and forced the king to make Driscol attend the lesson… and went through a bucketload of red tape… all so you could confirm… that he looked at a piece of paper."

I suddenly felt very small. It was the same feeling I got back home, as a child, whenever I did something stupid and my dad caught me. If The Baron was anything like my dad, a hearty spanking was soon to follow. "He… he looked at it numerous times, m'lord…"

"Is that so."

"Yes, and…" I took off my cap and played with the spikes nervously. "And… like… he kept his hand in his pocket whenever he wasn't looking at it, so… it must have… been… important - "

The Baron turned back to me, and even though his glasses obscured his eyes I could tell they were blazing. He brought his hands down on his desk, curled back his lips, and unleashed this angry retort:

"WELL DONE, DRAGOMIR!"

I was halfway under the desk by this point, so when I jolted to a halt I also smacked my head on the wood. Ow.

The Baron laughed and helped me up. He hadn't expected me to catch anything, it turned out - Driscol's a slick customer. The diversion into the dining hall had given The Baron an excuse to tear Driscol away from other business, as well, which The Baron had on good authority was very important. The paper, he suspected, must have been somehow involved, though in what way neither of us knew.

"So what's our next move, m'lord?" I said 'our' because I was totally getting into the spy stuff, and I still am.

"Your next move, Dragomir," he said, moving to a cupboard, "is to keep an eye on that bastard. And you'll do that by wearing this and following him around for the next two days. I hope it fits."

And it does, diary. Oh, does it ever.



(but what is iiiiiiiiit, you won't know 'til tomorroooooow)

(suspeeeeeeeense)

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Royal Guard BAH, I FUCKED UP THE SUSPENSE

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Day One-Seventy-Seven: Fork Me


No running today, diary. Today was all about subtlety. Panache. Protocol. So, naturally, I was left out of the loop until the veeeeery end - though at least I didn't have to worry 'bout doing much.

When I showed up at The Baron's doorstep this morning, I found a repaired roof, a half-filled hole in his floor (which I fell into - sigh) and a note on his desk:

'Hello Dragomir,

We're conducting lessons in the king's dining hall today. It's on the far side of the nobles' wing, just past the entertainment lounge. Ask the royal guards posted throughout the wing to lead you there, they've been alerted to your presence. And don't worry about having to chase Logan, I corralled him early!

The Baron

P.S. If you're reading this, then the rumours that you've overcome the illiteracy barrier are indeed true. If not, then I suppose we won't be seeing you this morning. Have a doodle of a dodo.'


Which was much better than I'd expected. I suppose The Baron is an artist! Go figure.

I followed his instructions and asked the first royal guard I found (who was about to kick me out of the nobles' wing before I spoke up), and before I knew it I was standing in the king's dining hall. I didn't even know he HAD a dining hall!

And what a dining hall it is, diary, I must say. It's about as long as the Neck, though without the booby traps, and it's at least two stories tall, with a ceiling covered in crystal chandeliers and ornate torches. There's a biiiiiig rectangular table in the middle of the room, surrounded by cushy wooden-and-leather chairs, and a servant stands at each corner of the table, ready to accept orders that they deliver on silver platters. I dunno where the food comes from, but I don't think it's Robert.

(Apparently the king doesn't like the room that much. Explains why he eats in the Beefiary, I guess. I dunno why, I'd LOVE having people serve me in a place like this. I'd love having people serve me at ALL.)

There was no dinner to be had today. Instead, The Baron was brushing up on Prince Logan's dining skills, and when I scurried over to their spot at the table they'd already started. Logan was staring blankly at a set of knives as The Baron told him what each one was for.

And sitting across from them?

"Lord Driscol!" I cried, saluting at once. "I, I, I, I did not know you would be here!"

Driscol the Count didn't look at all pleased to see me. After the soup fiasco, I guess I wouldn't be too happy to see me, either. "You bark entirely too often, dog. Shut your mouth, or I'll order somebody to wire your teeth together."

The Baron was more cordial. "Hello, Dragomir. Go on, have a seat over there and keep watch, like you always do. I'm just explaining to the prince that the third knife from the left is only used after having one's salad, but only if…?"

"Only if the castle is under attack," Logan replied, his voice a dull monotone. "Otherwise, use the fourth knife."

"Very good, very good. Now, the fourth knife brings with it a secondary requirement, in that…"

I tuned The Baron out. I'll never get the chance to eat with more than one knife. Why would I care? One knife is as good as the next in my world. (Except when I try to use it as a weapon, of course. Whenever I do THAT, the knife drops right out of my hand, and I can't pick it up again. I don't GET it!)

The Baron continued his tedious lecture for a while, and as he rambled I let my attention wander. I began to notice the little details in the room that I'd missed on the way in: flat, intricate, colourless frescoes painted on the walls, little carvings decorating the wooden ceiling supports above, side tables for buffet-style gatherings, a fresh water well in one corner, a piece of paper in Driscol's hand -

That last one caught my attention more than anything else.

See, I'd been doing my level best to avoid Driscol's attention by not looking at him. He's mad enough at me already, and after that threat last week I didn't wanna piss him off. He was so fidgety that eventually I HAD to look his way, though, and every time I did I noticed him pulling a scrap of parchment from his pocket. He'd study it, scowl, and then hide it again.

What was ON that scrap of parchment, diary? Not a clue. But it was clearly important to the guy, enough that after fifteen minutes of sitting quietly he spoke up, interrupting The Baron's lesson, which had turned to the improper uses of spoons.

"Is this really necessary?" Driscol barked, standing away from his chair. "You had me ordered here, disrupting my day completely, and now that I'm here you haven't asked me a single question! I was under the impression that I was meant to be used as an example, not part of the bloody scenery!"

He kept his hand in his pocket with the piece of parchment while ranting. Hm.

"Oh!" The Baron stood and bowed at the waist. "I apologize, Lord Driscol. I suppose I got caught up in my lesson. I should remember to implement teaching aids whenever possible. Would you like to continue in my place?"

"Only if you remove this stain from his room," he growled, pointing at me. "He's dirtying that chair with his filthy clothes."

It was nice while it lasted. Rather than start a fight I shambled off to the side and watched from a distance.

The lesson continued with the two nobles vying for the prince's attention, The Baron's gentility eventually cracking as Driscol argued with his every point. They nearly got into a fist fight over the fifth fork from the left and whether it was meant to be handed to the lady three seats down or to the lord at the head of the table in celebration of his Tuesday birthday. Driscol stormed out while they were discussing napkins, his hand still in his pocket.

After that, the lecture was damn dull. The Baron resumed his chipper explanation of all things etiquette, and Logan, deprived of a vital source of entertainment (he'd been causing most of the fights by asking all the wrong questions), got up and left. The Baron dismissed me for the rest of the day. Last I heard Logan had gotten The Baron arrested on suspicion of sexual relations with goats, though I know he's out now, because he had a note sent to my apartment:

'Dear Dragomir,

Thank you for watching that debacle of a protocol lesson. When you arrive at my office tomorrow, we can discuss what you saw. I'm very interested to know why Lord Driscol was in such a huff.

The Baron

P.S. Since you took the note from earlier, I'll assume you liked my picture of a dodo. Here's another doodle to match the last. It's nice to have a fan! Let me know what you think.'

… I'll show you the next doodle tomorrow. Maybe. Kinda… embarrassing… to stack up against the real thing… ahem.

So, in summary, I was a spy today. And I didn't even know it. Go figure!

Sincerely,

Dragomir the So Secret Agent He Doesn't Even Know He's A Secret Agent