Monday, May 28, 2012

Day Two Hundred-Sixteen: Let's-a Go

I woke up this morning with two things on my mind, diary, two very important things:

- The caravan to the city of Bottomless, of which Libby 'n me are a part;
- And the protection of said caravan.

That second point is particularly crucial. It took me many long hours to convince Libby that it would be safe to join in the fun. As soon as she heard that Eve was going along, she was QUITE adamant about avoiding the trip. Said she'd just as soon gouge out her eyes than spend a whole week in close proximity with her daughter.

I'd point out the twisted nature of that, diary, but I think you understand by now.

From what I understand, it's actually surprising that Eve's going on this expedition. I heard from Morris, who was guarding the throne room on Friday, that The Baron petitioned long and hard to have her stay in the castle. Said she might hurt somebody if she went anywhere else. I'd argue that 'hurt' is an understatement when it comes to Eve, but that’s just me.

And that wasn't The Baron's only reason. I'll get to that in a minute, though.

Needless to say, I eventually persuaded Libby to go along, using a lot of empty promises that we both know I won't follow up on. Buy her a dozen new sets of tools when we arrive? Good luck, m'darling. Either way, she's coming, and that's a good thing for our little family.

Which brings us back to the subject of…

PROTECTION! Yes, protection was big in my mind. I've never been to Bottomless, but from what I hear the land between here and there is pretty rough. It's not far from the borderlands with the Imperium, and there's a lot of lingering, vicious animals on the path. There have even been reports of sloths. Damned scary. I don't wanna fight a sloth.

My fretting was all for naught, however, as I discovered something AMAZING when I went out with Libby to meet the caravan: Queen Daena is coming for the trip.

Which means the MATRIARCH is coming for the trip.

You wouldn't believe how much of a load that takes off my mind. The Matriarch? A giant death machine, escorting our caravan safely across foreign territory? Guided by the queen, who can kick anyone's ass? Literally? Dang skippy that's awesome! It also means I get to RIDE in the thing, 'cause Queen Daena wants Libby to stick with her for maintenance checks! Score!

And… because the queen's coming… Eve HAS to stay with her. HAS to. So it'll be a week's travel with me, Libby and Eve in close proximity. YEEEEEEES, BONDING WILL HAPPEN.

Or death. One or the other. Either way, the family will be interacting. The nature of the interaction may be questionable, but the presence? Undeniable.

I am curious as to WHY Queen Daena's coming along. When I greeted her in the morning and found out what was up, she told Libby 'n me that she wanted to experience the countryside first-hand. She's been stuck in one spot for a couple years, now, and with the castle explored (as much as she can explore in the Matriach), the queen's itching to get out on the road.

I… don't totally buy that. Judging by the looks Daena kept giving Evangelina, she has other motivations. I'm quite curious, gotta admit, so maybe I'll work the queen for some answers during the trip. Can't be enforcing GLORIOUS FAMILY BONDING all the time, now can I?

(Family time! Weeeeeee!)

Speaking of Evangelina: I happened to overhear a little conversation between her and Driscol the Count, shortly before we left. Not the whole thing, mind, but just an accidental, final snippet of secretive chattery between the two:

"… as long as you can," he said. "We need time to prepare. You understand?"


He took a deep breath. "This is extremely important. Everything we've done comes to this. Are you sure you understand?"

"Stop…" And she did just that. "Who's there?"

They were huddled close to one of the wagons, and I guess they'd heard me skulking around a corner. So I figured, the hell, might as well show myself and not look like I'd overheard anything big. I'm tricksy like that. "Lady Evangelina?"

Driscol scowled. I haven't seen him in a while, but I could tell he still recognized me. "Ah. The dog. What in blazes are you doing? Following us for that bloated master of yours?"

Who else could he mean but The Baron? Who else, diary? "I'm… sorry, m'lord. The queen's ready to get underway, and the king's coming out… I… just thought you might - "

Driscol stalked in close. His oniony cologne hit me first, and I must've wrinkled my nose at a bad time, 'cause once he saw my lips curl he grabbed me by the chainmail and pulled me into a toe-to-toe faceoff.

"Listen to me, you mewling prat," he growled, eyes dark as coal, "I know you're spying for him. I'm not stupid. I suggest you keep your distance from the lady during this trip, as my men have my eye on you - and even though I can't separate The Baron from King Jeffrey, yet, I will be more than happy to see you gone. Do you understand me?"

That raised any number of questions. If I was supposed to keep away from Evangelina, then why go on the trip? What had I done to make him so suspicious of me? Why did he think I was in such deep cahoots with The Baron? And why, by the gods why, did he have to wear such AWFUL cologne?

The last question proved the most potent, and I quickly agreed so he would let me go. I scuttled away, back to the Matriarch, where the king and his entourage were just arriving. Libby didn't ask why I looked upset; she just pushed me away 'cause I smelled so bad. Cologne is like a virus.

"Our lady!" the king beamed, treading up the Matriarch's patch of grass towards his queen, "We will miss you. Are you certain you wish to go abroad without us?"

Queen Daena smiled, though wryly. "Certain, my love. Take care of Logan for me, will you? And would you knock off that third person? Royalty doesn't need to act priggish."

"Absolutely not, our darling. We are third person. It is a distinguished practice." Jeffrey carefully sidled around Daena's flailing legs to give her a peck on the cheek. "Be careful. We look forward to the cementing of many a new alliance. If Lady Evangelina fails in her trade talks, feel free to roll into town and forge friendships at cannonpoint."

"I will do no such thing, Jeffrey."

He pouted. "But that's boring. Please forge friendships at cannonpoint? We WILL be going to war EVENTUALLY, after all…"

The delight in Daena's face died, and their argument turned low and heated. The rest of us weren't privy to the remainder.

The Baron used their royal squabbling as a chance to approach Libby and I. He had Eve at his side, and he looked emotionally mixed.

"Greetings, Mr. and Mrs. the Guard. Care to have a daughter?" He patted Eve on the shoulder, and, surprisingly, she didn't flip him onto his back. She must have a slight respect for older dudes with flubby bodies.

Libby snorted and turned away to inspect the Matriarch. I bent down on one knee and enthusiastically grabbed Eve's right hand; she used the leverage to twist me into a painless, but debilitating, headlock. Once The Baron stopped laughing she let me go and walked up the Matriarch's ramp.

I rubbed my wrists, even though they weren't hurting. "She's got quite a grip, my daughter."

"She does at that." The Baron helped me up. "It's a shame she has to go with you. And worrying."


The Baron leaned in close, whispering in my ear. "Driscol is on the move. The number of messages he's sent out have doubled. A lot of gold has changed hands in the last couple weeks. He's planning something big, and I fear that he'll get away with it now that Lord Knight Eve is leaving the castle. Even worse that the Matriarch is leaving, though perhaps it is best that Queen Daena be safely out of harm's way."

I've been out of the spying loop for a while, so this took me by surprise. "Whaddya think he's up to, m'lord?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. His messages have been consistently coded, like that one you intercepted for me, and I have no cipher for breaking them. I fear he's planning an insurrection."

I yelped. He shushed me. "What… should we not be leaving, m'lord?"

The Baron shrugged helplessly. "You must. I have no concrete evidence proving Driscol's foul play. I can only suggest one thing…"

"What's that…?"

He pointed, slyly and cautiously, across the castle thoroughfare. At Driscol. And Evangelina.

"They are in a relationship. If need be… capture her. And use her as leverage against her lord. Driscol is cold-blooded, so it might not work, but… it's the best I've got."

Kidnapping. Yeesh. I've been brought down to the level of a kidnapper. But, if it's for the good of the kingdom… "I… yessir, I'll… keep that in mind."

"Good." The Baron smiled. "Your friends have failed, I'm afraid, Dragomir. Our friends. It's up to us to pick up the slack."

That comment took me aback. "Huh? What's that mean, m'lord?"

The Baron squeaked. Then he nodded at Driscol, and squeaked again. Even make little finger whiskers around his nose. Pretty obvious what he meant.

I turned to inspect Driscol. He's an imposing man, diary: much bigger than the average noble, and a lot tougher. He could probably give Captain Cedric a run for his money. But it's the eyes, those cold, unfeeling eyes, that always get me… and as they watched the king fighting with his wife, I knew, I somehow knew, that Driscol was responsible for a lot of things.


Libby came back, half-drenched. She'd been feeding water into the Matriarch's watering tubes to keep the tree healthy. "Think we're underway, now, husband. C'mon, grab your things 'n let's get this over with."

The Baron slapped me on the shoulder. "Good man. You take care of him, will you, Mrs. the Guard? I still need to stop by and check out those nicely-framed pictures of yours!"

I froze. Shiiiiit. Those stupid sketches.

"What pictures?" Libby drained water out of her goggles. "We ain't got no pictures."

I woulda peed myself, but only fear brings on the golden showers.

The Baron barely reacted. His smile didn't waver at all. As I watched him, however, I noticed the slightest droop in the skin around his eyebrows. That tiny change made him look like the saddest man in the world. "I see. My mistake."

So that was that. Ugh. I'll have to apologize when I get back.

We debarked shortly after, waving goodbye to long lines of peasants and soldiers and nobles and guards and such. We've been travelling ever since - and nothing's really happened! Boring trip thus far. That's why that EXTREMELY long entry was allllll about this morning. Sigh.

I'll talk about the convoy tomorrow, diary. We'll have lots of time - we're not slated to arrive in Bottomless 'til Friday. Right now, I'm tired from watching Queen Daena pedal. Probably more tired than her.


Dragomir the Guard

1 comment:

  1. Poor baron, it's always depressing to see a jolly fat guy who is sad...