Friday, May 11, 2012

Day Two Hundred-Five: Capitulation


Yeesh. The castle is a mess. Again. This seems to be happening a lot, lately. A literary type-person who isn't familiar with Castle GetBackToWork might call it foreshadowing for something far worse.

Me? I call it business as usual.

After I, um, judiciously made the decision to entrench myself at home, The Baron came calling. He appeared at my door well after midnight, and though he looked pretty tired he was smiling. I thought for sure he'd get mad at me for abandoning my post, but, no, he completely ignored that:

"Hello, Dragomir." He helped himself in. A crowd of strikers ran by in the background, all chasing Bernard and pelting him with cabbages. "Truly brutal days out there, aren't they?"

"They are." I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. "What brings you here so late, m'lord? Can I get you anything?"

He pushed past me, scanning the walls. "Where's that portrait I did for you?"

"Huh?"

"The portrait." The Baron looked pained. "The one I drew a few weeks ago. I also drew a dodo. Remember? I sent you a picture frame for both of them…?"

My heart sank. I'd completely forgotten about the pictures - and how I'd used both doodles to clean my, er, unmentionables. "Oh! Oh. Oh? Those! I remember those. Yes!"

His frown grew. "Remember? You sound as though they're gone, Dragomir."

"No!" I waved my arms frantically. "No no no! I, ah, um, they're being fitted! Those, those, those frames you sent were… they were too big!"

"They were?"

"Yes, m'lord!" I swept around the living room, pointing at a few other pictures on the walls. "Far, um, far too big. For your pictures. I, ah, I gave the frames to Libby to adjust. She'll get right down to them when the strike's done, yessir, that's the ticket, sir. Totally the ticket."

We watched each other across the room. Very tense. He looked so conflicted, caught halfway between belief and miserable acceptance of the truth. I felt so bad for snotting on his one picture and, uh, doing something else with the other. Truly I did.

Duty eventually won out, and he smiled. "Yes. That must be it. I look forward to seeing them on your walls, Dragomir. And I'll be sure to bring a more appropriate housewarming gift next time. Tonight I only have an envelope." Which he handed to me.

"An envelope?" I turned it over. Gasped. I recognized the seal.

He grinned. "Come with me, Dragomir. We have work to do."

Libby kicked us out of the house for talking too loud, and The Baron's royal guard led us back to the fortress through a secret tunnel, built into one of the walls. Undisturbed by the violence outside, we planned long into the night - and did so with none other than King Jeffrey himself.

… sigh.

I'm not allowed to write exactly 'bout what we said. The Baron knows you exist, diary. He put a ban on everything. Gotta tell you, though, King Jeffrey was SCARED SHITL no, that's probably banned too. The king was a beacon of confidence and hope, that he was. Yes.

Ahem.

After a number of late-night parleys with Robert's representatives in the little tent city - they wouldn't let him come forward PERSONALLY, lest The Baron try and poison or bribe him or somethin' - everybody agreed to have a for-final discussion the next morning. Which is to say, THIS morning. Right in front of the fortress, where everybody could watch, to settle the whole strike thing.

I really wish Robert hadn't started this whole fiasco, diary. And not just because of the inconvenience to everyone. He may have a good point, but his cause dragged ME into everything - and forced me to stand in front of, like, the entire castle, on the side of the king. The most unpopular dude imaginable.

And I mean that literally. I was standing with the king during the big meeting, apart from everyone else. Was him and The Baron right up front, and me just a liiiiittle bit off to the side, an envelope in my hands. I got so many dirty looks from the workers that I'll be surprised if I'm ever invited to a party again.

Robert approached with a couple of his advisors, all of whom, as far as I know, are just run-of-the-mill shmucks. Same as me 'n Robert, I guess. None of them did any talking, though, and I think Robert just wanted them with him for show.

The king greeted his cook with a middle finger as Robert approached. "You dare fail to bow to your lord?!"

Robert grinned. "I'll bow t'you when you compliment me for all those omelettes I made ya over the years, y'majesty. Did you miss them the last couple days?"

"We did!" Jeffrey roared. He stomped and sneered. "We demand you halt this foolishness at once! By order of your king!"

Robert conferred with his associates. Then he shook his head. "Not if that's gonna be your attitude, m'lord. That's what got you in trouble in the first place, y'know? We common folk just wanna be respected a 'lil bit. Won't take much."

"It shouldn't take anything!" Jeffrey waved his sceptre in the air. "You should show fealty to your king! That means us! We don't need to give you any respect, we are of royal blood!"

The nobles, arrayed in a long, protected line near the gates of the keep, oohed and cheered. Every commoner in the place booed.

"And what does that mean? Eh?" Robert swept away from his entourage. They tried to follow, but he waved them back. "I'm tryin' for drama, fellas. Bug off. Anyway… what does that mean? Eh? That you royals're somehow better'n the rest of us?"

The king broke off from The Baron. He began to circle with Robert, as though the two were about to get into a fist fight. "Of course it does! Those born of a noble line have certain inalienable rights over the common folk! That includes NOT BEING HIT BY FLYING TOMATOES!"

"But you're not born a king, are ya?" Robert skipped merrily at the end of his sentence. "You're the kid of some nobleman! Born in Wickeeford! There ain't even a touch of kingly acorns on your family tree! You gonna deny that, m'lord?"

The peasants hooted. The aristocracy remained deadly mute. At least a few of them disappeared from the line up, perhaps hoping to avoid a messy insurrection over the king's lack of legitimacy. Or maybe they just felt as awkward as the rest of us and couldn't take it no more.

King Jeffrey blanched. His steps became stiff and unbending. He reminded me of a nutcracker. "That… that doesn't… that doesn't matter at all! One gains kingly blood when one builds a castle! We do believe that we are standing in a castle RIGHT NOW, and we DO BELIEVE THAT IT IS OUR CASTLE!"

"Quite right!" Robert's smile was so wide that the glint of the sun on his teeth blinded me for a moment. "It's OUR castle! We built it, we nurtured it, we live in it! We are th'castle's lifeblood, 'n if you want it te keep functioning, ya gotta agree to some changes! Else we'll be bootin' yer ass into the moat!"

The king was so shocked that he dropped out of third person. Flecks of spit decorated the dirt wherever he went. "You dare threaten me? You… the moat?! How DARE you! D… DARE you!"

Robert spun. He pointed at his mob, which, by now, had grown to encompass almost everyone in the castle who wasn't a noble. And possibly a few who were. I spotted a couple fancy ruffs in all those rags. "I dare 'cause I'm backed up by good people. Who ya got on your side, kingy? A couple dozen fancy-pantsies, a handful of guards, 'n my brother? Not sayin' much, that lot, compared t'us."

"But hey!" Robert turned back to us. "If you wanna kick us out, s'okay. We can leave. You can all handle th'castle yourselves, right? No big deal? I hear your man Bernard makes one hell of a rat soup…!"

The mob laughed. King Jeffrey, still circling, sputtered. Thick streams of spit ran down his chin. He was utterly lost for words. I don't think he'd ever faced such stiff resistance, and he probably didn't know what to do with someone who didn't fear him at all. Chances are good if we'd let it go on any longer, he'd have broken down completely.

We didn't. The Baron nudged me and nodded. My time to shine. Gripping the envelope nervously, I skittered out, between the combatants, and approached Robert.

He laughed and waved me over. "Look, folks! My bro's come to give me somethin'! Bet this is gonna be great, eh, Drago? Whatcha got for your bosom-buddy Robert? Whatever it is, it ain't gonna stop this strike."

I handed him the letter, giving it to him upside-down so he'd see the seal: the waxen imprint of a severed arm.

Robert stopped laughing immediately. He puckered his lips, and his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets from spasmodic twitching. He looked at me, and I shrugged.

Inside, he discovered, was a letter. He held it up to the light and read it carefully, the raucous merriment around him gradually cooling. When Robert reached the end of the letter, he handed it shakily back to me.

"So…" he stuttered, watching the sky, "what's it say? Y'know I can't read."

"You know what it says, bro."

He sighed. No, more than that - he shuddered. "This was a dirty trick. Tell me what you want."

I waved The Baron over. They spoke in hushed tones for a few minutes, and The Baron led a catatonic King Jeffrey back to the fortress gates, me following close behind. Robert appeared to be composing himself, refusing to look at anything other than the sky.

Then, turning back to his mob, he spread his arms and grinned. "The strike is over! We've won! Scream it loud, m'friends!"

They did. Every dirty and exhausted worker in that square erupted into crazed cheers, hurling their makeshift weapons into the air. Then, when all those weapons came back down again, a few people probably died. Point is, yes, the strikers won. After five days of mucking about with the natural order of things, the strike is over.

And what did they win? Weeeeell… Robert told them that shortly after, in a giant gathering at the front gate of the castle. He stood on the ramparts and screamed out everything they'd gained from the king and the aristocrats. Here's what he promised them all:

- Gradually increasing wages in the coming months
- Greater respect from the nobles - the castle bigwigs vowed to try and not be so snobby
- A few holidays each year not dedicated to Jeffrey, providing actual time off for workers
- Increased self-respect - how the hell do you deliver THAT?
- The right for royal decrees to go through Queen Daena before ratification - that should help SO MUCH
- No more green socks
- A cap on yearly executions
- And, most important to Robert, a less restrictive meal plan - he can make up to seven different dishes now, and… one… has been banned…

Yeah. That's a lot of changes. Hell of a lot. Some of them will probably collapse as people forget about all this, and some probably won't be as great as they sound, but… the last one… diary, it actually has me a bit worried. Surprisingly.

One of Robert's biggest gripes has always been cooking rats. People order rats more often than anything else on his menu. Not only that, rats are HUGE in the materials market. So much stuff is made out of rat leather. I never in a million years thought rats would be on the outs.

But…

That's exactly what happened…

Rats are now banned in Castle GetBackToWork. Completely. By the end of next week, every rat in the castle is to be vacated or killed. I doubt most rats will accept a notice of eviction, so that means they all have to be tramped.

Their replacement? Guinea pigs. Apparently somebody in Robert's mob purchased a couple dozen breeding pairs. They should completely overrun the rat farms by the end of next month. I don't see a huge difference between rats and guinea pigs taste-wise, but Robert says they're a delicacy in the Imperium, so… shrug?

Rats. The tiny, all-seeing, all-knowing vermin that have been plaguing me ever since I found out they were intelligent. And even before then. Banned forever.

Why do I get the feeling that this will turn out to be a very bad thing for all of us?

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

5 comments:

  1. Viva La Revolución!

    I don't imagine much will change with the rats. They didn't seem to fuss much over being a source of food and hats. They're pretty chill for skittery little vermin.

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  2. Tis' is a good conclusion for the 'Revolt' arc of the Dragomir Saga (makes it sound epic by saying Saga).

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  3. So the rats will be gone. I'd love to see how they react to this news. Also, came up with a thought: If Dragomir feels thought using a razor to shave was meant as a weapon against his stubble, that should mean that if he were to have a thought of an axe to chop wood as an attack against the wood, he'd drop the axe. As well a shovel or pick axe would be attacking the Earth or ground. So if he were near the Hole again, he would become an ineffectual digger, could that mean that the compulsion to dig may not apply to him? Could that be his way to defeat the Hole and unlock its mysteries to put an end to it? But then again, in the Hole he could just be a wheelbarrow pusher, I imagine it would hard to convince himself that pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt as an attack of some sort to prevent him from doing it. I love this story because never would I ever really put this much thought into a story like this unless it was this intriguing.


    By the way, the Robot check in order post has me conflicted. I would love to be a robot, due its very beneficial metal casing and its cold and calculating decision making skills. I'm honored you think I may be a robot but also really hurt that you would discriminate against me so I wouldn't be able to post a comment if I were to be one. I just hope you're at some sort of final conclusion to the story before they come up with the technology to dump my brain into a robot body, because I really don't want to end up having to sue you for discrimination because you work hard to be a good writer and make a living off of that, so I want you to succeed. I don't want you to have to spend all your hard earned money on legal fees when its just not necessary....

    PS, can't wait for the next update!!

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    1. Ah, to make a living off Dragomir... one day, maybe...

      Rest assured, though: if you ever become a robot, I will make the story available to your mechanical shell.

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    2. I'd have a program hitting the refresh button in the background at all times...

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