Friday, May 18, 2012

Day Two Hundred-Ten: Smoke on the Daughter


The rats are gone.

I'm injured.

And a certain penguin is very, very happy.

I stayed the night in the rat city, curled up against a wall near the entrance. The rats all gave me lots of space, so I guess I can be thankful for that much. Sleeping with a horde of vermin 'round you is a creepy prospect. Though I… guess I've done it before…

Barrel slept right in front of the entrance. He grew several sizes, too. Made it plain I wasn't leaving. You can't argue with a dragon. Dragons eat people if they're feeling cross.

When I woke up in the morning, which I had to ASSUME was morning 'cause the only light source down there was the usual magical glow that defies any logic I understand, my stomach was growling pretty fierce. I hadn't eaten for hours. Toss in an extremely stiff back from sleeping on dirt and you have a snarky Dragomir.

I asked the rats for food. They offered me… themselves. Crawled over to my feet, lay down, and waited for me to eat 'em. I few pantomimed me picking 'em up and putting 'em in my mouth.



Let me get something straight, diary. I am a meat eater. I like meat. I will never say that animals should NOT be harvested for their delicious, delicious flesh, especially if topped by cheese. That does not mean I wish to eat uncooked, still-living, intelligent animals for my breakfast. I'm not a weird interspecies cannibal, y'hear me? Even if that made no sense, I am not an interspecies cannibal.

Rats are strange. They don't seem to value their own lives, but they have funerals. I don't get the little bastards, I really don't.

That left me with no food and no water, and given how weak the rats look I think they're all starving, too. Probably trying so hard to avoid the extermination efforts elsewhere in the castle that they can't get food for themselves. So I had to look to entrance-guarding Barrel for help.

He wouldn't let me leave. Refused to guide me back to the Beefiary for a breakfast break, the little-ish bastard. He DID, however, agree to zip through the tunnels to the kitchens and bring back a few morsels for me to eat. A couple yak tarts, say, or even a nip of that octopus nonsense. I'll eat land octopus if I'm starving.

While I was waiting, I watched the rats. Toyed with the idea of running away a bit, true, but I mostly just watched the rats. The lot of 'em looked worse than ever, lacking the usual swiftness and chittery energy that makes rats, rats. Hell, one dropped dead out of one of the overhanging buildings and landed a couple feet away, and the rest didn't even bother to bury 'im.

I couldn't help but think that they were on the verge of extinction. Which is a really weird thing to say about a species so prolific as rats. Guess it can happen to the best of us?

After about twenty minutes of listless watching, though, I noticed… a difference. A change. An attentiveness, I guess you'd call it. The rats heads were held a little higher, their beady eyes more alert, and every little nose was twitching in the direction of the entrance tunnel. I looked down it, too, and the darkness suddenly seemed a bit more forbidding.

Then hell broke loose.

The rats began to screech. Their coats bristling they rushed out of their buildings en masse, converging on the central square of the city and jamming together in a giant mass of gnashing teeth and thrashing limbs.

I thought, for sure, that this was the moment of death. They were done for. Something was happening to 'em, something bad. But that wasn't quite it.

Every rat in that square, large or small, brown, grey or any colour in-between, raised its tail. They curled and lifted, knotting together into a massive network of tangled strands, growing to an outrageous height that heaved their tiny bodies into the air. The unnatural glow that lit the city shrank, collapsing around them and creating an absolutely pure beam of white light at their epicentre -

- and in that light appeared the screaming face of Philip the Guard.

You might not remember Philip by now, diary. He's the poor bastard who, months ago, died during one of Robert's stupid schemes. Had his head knocked clean off his shoulders by an elephant. Then he became a ghost, and he followed me on my trip to Goblinoster, and last I saw him he was, like, the avatar for some otherworldly being that told me a lot of stuff I really didn't wanna know.

I hadn't seen him since then. And here he was, his wavering image surrounded by writhing rat tails, and he spoke to me. His voice, like before, was that of my dad.

"WE HAVE RUN OUT OF TIME," he said. His face wavered, his mouth stretching unnaturally large. "THIS IS THE LAST OF OUR POWER. WE WILL SOON BE DRIVEN FROM THIS PLACE, AND THOUGH WE WILL BE FREE, WE WILL ALSO HAVE FAILED. BUT THAT WAS ALREADY A GIVEN."

I had trouble standing to face Philip. I'm partially responsible for him dying, and, besides that, it's mentally tough to chat with a ghost who talks like your dad and is surrounded by a convulsing mass of floating rats. I opted to wet myself and remain seated, cringing against the wall of the tunnel.

"IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO ASK, DRAGOMIR, YOU MUST DO SO NOW. WE DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR WRITING IN YOUR DIARY. OUR DOOM IS ON ITS WAY."

This was it. The moment. The time to get some questions answered at long last. What were the rats? What had they done to Philip? What was the hole really meant for? Who was behind everything bad going on? WAS something bad going on? Was my house going to burn down? And what, by the gods, was with the door with the eye that continues to haunt my dreams, the door I see at least once a week but never mention in you, diary, because it scares me too damned much?

I didn't say anything. I had so many questions that I couldn't ask a single one. My tongue turned to sand and crumbled into the bottom of my mouth. Not literally, mind, 'cause that would've been the first thing I mentioned in this entry, but… anyway.

But Philip did receive a question. It slipped out of the dark, shrill, amused, and very, very cruel.

"I've got a poser. Whaddya get when you mix a pack of smelly vermin with a couple dozen torches?"

A hand dropped onto my shoulder. My heart stopped. The dim light of fire lit the entrance of the tunnel, and I turned, my ear brushing against a long, thin, mustachio…

"Hiya," chirped Kierkegaard. "I'm your partner ALL week, remember?"

A lot of things happened at once. Philip vanished. The light expanded, filling the room. The mess of hovering rats collapsed and separated, fleeing for their buildings. Barrel, looking badly beaten, tumbled into the city and flattened a tiny house. And in his wake, expertly juggling a quartet of blazing torches, came Eve.

The rats ran. For many of them, it was far too late.

Kierkegaard helped. He had his trident ready, and he pounced on many a scurrying rat. Eve was by far the more destructive of the pair, however: the first torch she hurled sliced through the unfortunate rats still caught in the middle of the city, setting dozens of ragged coats on fire. The rats screamed and flailed, trying desperately to get away and failing, failing, failing. Those that did avoid her first attack fell under the sweeps of her remaining three torches, the gentle light of their bodies replaced by amber flames. Eve's merciless attacks left few survivors -

- and those rats, a mere handful, cowered at my feet, watching helplessly as Eve and Kierkegaard advanced on us all.

The penguin sneered and licked blood off of his trident. "Yummy. Best step aside, now, Twatomir - don't want yer own flesh 'n blood to set fire to ya, do you? From the looks of it, she's like to cut you down."

I didn't need convincing of that. Eve shows about as much emotional attachment for me as a lion for its dinner. And now, backlit by the rising flames, striding towards me, Eve looked positively hellish. A demon in child's form.


My child's form.

My daughter.

And I still love her, because she's my daughter. I know I shouldn't, because she sure as hell doesn't love me, but I can't help myself.

Daughters don't tell fathers what to do. At this age, it's the other way around. And gods help me, much as I think they're horrible little wretches, I couldn't let the rats die. Not totally.

I stood. The rats scrambled behind my legs. I inched towards the entrance, arms spread, keeping myself between the rats and the hunters.

"You…" I stammered, grateful that I'd not had enough liquid to piss myself again, "You can't… can't kill them. Leave them alone. Let them go."

Kierkegaard laughed. "Let 'em go? Don't think so, chief. We got strict orders t'see 'em gone, once 'n fer all. Besides, I love the smell of roasting trash. Move."

I shook my head, and sidled a little closer to the exit.

I'm not entirely sure what happened next. Kierkegaard jumped at me, I know that much, and I tussled with him and his stupid trident. I wound up slammed into the dirt, and… something whizzed over my head… there was a screech… then darkness. Sleepy time. A curious few words, only half-remembered, probably from Eve:

"The abyss will swallow your hopes, and I am that abyss."

I'm sure she meant "Nighty-night, daddy. I love you lots. Thank you for being such a caring and understanding daddy, and not judging me for setting fire to all these rats."

Or maybe not. Maybe Kierkegaard said that line, in which case he probably wouldn't be secretly calling me 'daddy'. I hope.

I woke up in the doctor's office a couple hours later, 'round dinnertime. The nurse on staff said I'd been dropped off a little after lunch, along with you, diary, and an injured raccoon. (Barrel, of course. Bless his shapeshifting.) I had a few mild stab wounds, nothing serious, and the raccoon… well, it was gone. Slipped away.

(Don't worry, diary. I've seen him since then. He's fine. Looks… very… sad, but he's fine.)

Once I'd received a stern lecture about getting into fights in the streets, 'cause I TOTALLY lied about why I was in the hospital, I went home. Libby fretted over me for a few minutes, in her own way ("Why the hell would you get into a street fight? Are you an idiot? I should stab you for getting stabbed, stupid"), and I collapsed in bed. I wanted to drain my failure with some sleep.

But I hadn't failed. Not totally. When I opened you up to write, diary, I found a message waiting for me, lightly and messily scribbled just after my last entry:

'see you soon'

The rats must've gotten away. I don't know how, and I don't know where they'll go, but they got away. Even if it was only a dozen or so.

That was a long story, and it left me with a lotta questions. But I'm too tired to ask them, and my eyelids and drooping, so they'll have to go unanswered for now.

Bye, rats. Bye, Philip. The castle won't be the same without you.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Guard

6 comments:

  1. I think I has a sad...

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  2. Dragomir? Acting with courage and bravery?

    I guess he can only wet himself once in such a short frame of time.

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  3. Rats, gone. Ghost of headless Phil, gone. Stained pants, possibly lasting. Just another day in the life of our hero.

    How would a penguin look on a stick? He's quite the bastard really.

    Drago the brave? I suppose he could level up eventually.

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    Replies
    1. Leveling through training on other skills, I guess. Especially if we're going an Elder Scrolls route with this.

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    2. This story is based on dwarf fortress.

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