Friday, July 13, 2012

Day Two-Fifty: What happened to the lighthearted hijinks?

Wow. WOW. I am REEEEEEALLY EFFING LUCKY, diary. Really really really. Yet… at the same time… now I'm feeling rather ominous. If that makes sense.

It will in a couple minutes. Just wait.

I woke up this morning expecting Harold to fetch me. Today was our last day of training, assuming he didn't extend the training period to NEXT week, and I was kinda anxious to see it done. I'm tired of pretending to be a noble, tired of wandering into opulent spaces where I obviously don't belong. Not a noble now, not a noble ever.

Harold wasn't waitin' for me at my door. Instead, I found two royal guards. I had a sudden flashback to their attack last week, and before I knew it my body had thrown itself back into the house. Y'know, lest they drag me out into the streets again.

They didn't move, didn't try to storm in and haul me away. Instead, one of 'em called in through the door: "The king wishes to see you now."

After a few seconds of flinching, I pulled myself out of the heap of stinky clothes I'd used for cover and stared out at the guards. "Say what?"

"The king. You and your wife are to be presented." He chuckled. "It doesn't appear that you're quite ready, yet."

I'm not sure if it was the same bastards who attacked me last time or not. Brock aside, the royal guards all look alike to me. Buncha static stone statues, all with the same personality, shady agenda, and cruel sense of humour. Either way, I wanted to punch the guy in the face.

Didn't. Woulda broken my hand on that dumb visor they wear. But wanted.

Libby hauled herself out of bed and glared at the guards. "The hell you talkin' 'bout? Presentation?"

"Yes." The left guard sneered. I could see it even through those thin slits in their helmets. "Weren't you told? King Jeffrey wants to see the results of your… training. BOTH of you."

Libby paled. "But I don't even -"

"BOTH of you. Ma'am."

That was one of the biggest 'oh shit' moments in my life. Judging by Libby's facial expression, she felt the same way. By the time we were dressed in the best clothes we owned… which were our NORMAL clothes… we looked as though we'd been consigned to a death sentence, our faces thin, gaunt, and terrified.

The guards led us to the keep, up the main hallway and into the throne room. It was fairly sparse - maybe half the usual nobles - but the king was there. So, too, was his jester, the haughty penguin, slouched merrily against his majesty's throne.

King Jeffrey regarded us lazily. "Ah, the guard. And his wife. What were their names again…?"

Nobody answered, and the king's expression twitched. Eventually he knocked Kierkegaard on the hat, and the surly jester grunted an answer. "Dragofuck, your denseness. And… Libido. Heh."

Libby started forward to punch the penguin. I held her back. Barely.

Jeffrey frowned and searched his memory. "Dra… Dragofuck? That… doesn't quite sound right… nor does Libido."

"It's LIBBY, your majesty." My precious Libertine wasted no time setting the record straight. (Woulda been even worse if she'd known what 'libido' meant.)

"Ah, yes!" Jeffrey clapped his hands. "Dragofuck and Libby. That sounds better. You are Eve's parents, yes? You've been trained in the noble arts over the past week, yes? I believe that's right, isn't it, Baron?"

"He's deeeeeeead," Kierkegaard reminded the king. The mood of the entire room fell.

Jeffrey bit his lip. "Oh. Um. Yes, of… of course. Died right down there, didn't he? Damn… damn shame, that… anyway… you're here to demonstrate your prowess in being all nobley. So you don't humiliate us at the upcoming party. That's correct, right? B… Kierkegaard?"

"Yeeeeeeeep." Kierkegaard took off his hat, rubbed his forehead, and made two little circles over his eyes with his chubby fingers. "Just call me Baron Mark II, y'all."

The court laughed politely. I wanted to strangle him.

"Heh… yes…" Jeffrey motioned for us to approach. "Let's start with etiquette. Somebody bring us a damned table, already! You should have anticipated our needs!"

Two servants disappeared. Moments later they came back with a table and two chairs, probably filched from someone's quarters. They quickly laid out silverware and backed away.

"Very good." The king pointed at us. "You two! Sit as though you're refined. Give us some brass, would you, trumpeters?"

Horns blew to announce our, um, 'arrival', and Libby and I glanced at each other. Swallowed. Pulled back our seats, inched towards the wooden bottoms, and sat.

Then I remembered that I had to pull Libby's chair out FOR her. I promptly got up, circled behind her, and tugged her chair away from the table. She protested, momentarily forgot where we were, and punched me in the arm. I swore and punched her back, earning a second, more painful punch on the same arm.

I froze. Libby froze. The court gasped and froze. The king looked at Kierkegaard; the penguin laughed. The king also laughed. Then, predictably, the court also ALSO laughed.

Jeffrey clapped. "Ha ha! Good, that's it, show some vigour. We like that in a couple. We certainly don't want another boring and stuffy party, do we? No! There will be cannons and rudeness everywhere! Now, show us what you will do with your forks. Pretend that it's Wednesday, and there's a full moon in the sky. Surely you know the protocol for such days."

Libby looked at me, completely lost. I shrugged. There are so many stupid etiquette rules in this castle that it's impossible to remember even a handful of 'em. So, as if on cue, we picked up our forks… and tossed them over our shoulders.

Jeffrey applauded, again waiting for Kierkegaard's go-ahead on the action. The entire room joined in. Not a single noble face looked TRULY impressed, but they were good enough fakers to blend into the background.

"Dispense with the table!" the king announced. Servants appeared and snatched our table away from under us, practically dumping us on the floor as they stole our chairs. "Very good. Now, elocution next, we think? Let's hear your pronunciation. Say 'I hope this will be a very merry party indeed.' Go on, alpha male, you first."

I was getting the gist of Jeffrey's tastes by now, so I boldly declared "Fuck me, this'll be a grand soiree, or me mum's a dead tulip!" in the most mangled accent I could conjure. Jeffrey howled with laugher, alongside his protégé.

Libby followed suit. She curled an invisible moustache and got all stuffy, puffing out her belly and strutting. "I better ain't not eat much at this party, lord, or I'll get e'en fatter than I am! A bulbous fuck am I! Ooooooooohohohoho!"

Hysterics. Jeffrey fell off his chair, nearly squashing Kierkegaard. The penguin punched his liege in the head, and they both laughed even harder.

You can probably guess how the dancing went. By the time Libby and I were done disentangling ourselves from each other, Jeffrey had dubbed us 'The Second Coming of Funk'. Not a CLUE what that means, but it sent him into a fit of choking. We ended our tiny, miserable dance with jazz hands, earning enthusiastic (but sarcastic) applause from the nobles in the room.

Jeffrey was elated. He told us that he'd feared for our presence, as he fully expected his stupid castellan to drum all the bad manners out of us. To see that the man had SPECTACULARLY failed, and somehow transformed us into a weird variety act, lifted Jeffrey's spirits -

- to the point that he invited me up to see his pet dragon. ME. He wanted to speak to me personally, father to father, 'bout his expectations regarding the marriage. ME!

You know my opinion of King Jeffrey, diary. I haaaaaaaaate hiiiiiiis guuuuuuuuts. That doesn't mean I can't still respect his position, however, or feel jubilant when he praises me. That's how I felt as we left Libby behind to be escorted back home: totally and utterly jubilant.

Flanked by his royal guards and Kierkegaard, all of whom laid off the sinister sarcasm in the king's presence, Jeffrey and I wandered side-by-side through the castle. He told me a great deal of his history, and how he hoped to hand it all over to Logan, some day. (Not too soon.) He also confessed that he knew I was a writer, and he wanted to know my opinion of the AWESOME THEME SONG he'd written for himself.

You remember the theme song, don't'cha, diary? Here's a quick reminder:

Oh Jeffrey!
Slick King Jeffrey!
With fists made of gold
And a spine made of brass
With a brown mane so bold
Yet more hair on your

Ahem. Okay. I may have written that myself. Stopped short of going the full monty, as it were. Pretty good, innit? Innit? Certainly better than Jeffrey's slop, his didn't even rhyme.

So yeeeeeah. I, uh, lied. Lied hugely. I told him it was the best damned thing I've ever heard. And that I visit the library almost every day, and read ALL KINDS OF BOOKS (another lie, I've read MAYBE three), so I'm, like, an authority on good writing. That put Jeffrey in even higher spirits, and he was so happy that he accidentally began referring to himself in the first person again! Go figure.

Our conversation led us up the tower, to Jeffrey's chambers, where he ushered everyone in. Guards, Kierkegaard, me… I found that strange, to be honest, as a king wouldn't NORMALLY hold the door for other people…

… but then it hit me. I knew what he was doing. Mainly 'cause he grabbed my arm and yanked me back out the door. He slammed an ornamental spear over the handles and stuck his tongue out, yelling "Ha ha! Foooooooled you! Try 'n get outta THAT, ya bloody penguin! C'mon, Dragofuck, let's hide."

I discovered later that King Jeffrey and Kierkegaard have an ongoing, friendly feud. Whenever they get the chance, they lock each other in any container they can find: cabinets, closets, wardrobes, anything that can keep the other penned in for as long as possible. Harold, of all people, told me that Kierkegaard almost always comes out on top in these little confrontations, as he's much more slippery than his lord.

Not this time, though. This time, Jeffrey gleefully grabbed my arm and pulled me up the stairs to the top of the tower, towards Barrel's cell. There was nobody sitting outside the door when we arrived, so I assume the royal guards have given up on watching over 'Apocalyptor', the king's mighty dragon.

As we ascended the steps, my surprise quickly turned to dread. I mulled over the reasons WHY Jeffrey might be doing this, beyond his usual idiotic antics. One reason, and one reason alone, offered itself up as a feasible conclusion:

"He… he wants you here, Dragomir. He… he… wants… he wants to thank you. You can't… stop… him… so you should go…"

Remember those? They're some of the last words I heard from Logan's mouth before the royal guards dragged him away. The final, possibly prophetic thing he managed to utter before King Jeffrey put him under house arrest.

Unfortunately, by the time I came to the conclusion that the king might be wanting to 'thank me', and that he might have had more of a hand in The Baron's death than I suspected, we'd burst into Barrel's giant attic chambers. The big dragon looked more than a little surprise to see the king, and ESPECIALLY surprised that I was with him.

(And, uh, I was kinda surprised to see Barrel. He's usually teensy when he comes visiting, y'know… forgot how big he can get…)

King Jeffrey laughed and let me go, striding over to his pet for an inspection. "Ahhhh, that'll teach the worm! Always impersonating me, telling me I'm worthless and stupid and such… ha ha, jester or not, that'll teach him! What was this thing's name again?"

"A… Apocalyptor, your majesty." I plastered myself against the far wall. I was, amazingly, far more afraid of this tiny, fragile lunatic than I was of the giant fucking dragon he was patting down.

"Right, right." The king snapped his fingers. "I remember! You rode him for Jeffmas, right? That was the best present! The way you swooped in, waaaaaay over the castle… swoosh! Weeee! I've… I've never gotten him to do that, myself. Shame."

I grinned nervously and inched closer to Barrel. My dragon buddy offered no protection, though I'm sure he would have happily knocked Jeffrey out the giant crack in the wall without a second thought. (Not even sure why Barrel sticks around in his dingy prison, for that matter.)

"Yes… yes… too bad." Jeffrey patted Barrel's left leg a few times, then slid past and up to the hole. He swept some sweat from his brow, set his crown aside, and looked out over his castle. "Too… too bad."


It could've been a painting. Jeffrey, standing tall over his kingdom, fully decked out in his robe and mantle, the light of the morning sun silhouetting man and crown alike. The slight hunch in Jeffrey's shoulders, growing by the second, gave him a defeated look that was miraculously foreign to the man. I didn't know what to say, didn't know how to rationalize this weird moment of weakness with the tyrant who'd driven his castle to the brink of ruin.

The brink. I thought about that word as I watched Jeffrey. Brink… very close to edge. As in, the edge of a building. Like… the edge Jeffrey was standing on at that very moment. That very… very… very, close, edge.

Very.

The king's castle stands about a hundred feet above the main keep. It dominates the landscape. To fall from that height… would be to die. No normal human could survive a crushing drop onto solid rock parapets.

With one… teensy… tiny… little push… I could have ended all the misery in Castle AlmostTime. I could have brought an end to so many bad things in this world, with just a push. Nobody would ever have known it wasn't an accident.

Except me.

The temptation passed. I went back to being a decent guy. As much as I HATE King Jeffrey, I don't think I could ever do that to him.

… shit. Now I REALLY have to make sure nobody reads this diary. Thank the gods Logan isn't getting at it, what with his house arrest and all.

King Jeffrey stared at the landscape for a while. Then, turning back to me, he frowned. Deeply. Sadly. It reminded me of that strange moment with Captain Cedric, and his beaming, drunken smile. Some expressions just aren't meant for some faces.

"Dragomir," Jeffrey said, his bottom lip trembling, "don't make me go back there. Don't make me go back. Please?"

The door burst open. Kierkegaard charged inside. Within seconds everything was back to normal: the king and his jester were wrestling on the ground, watched over by twin guards, and the king proclaimed victory when he managed to kick Kierkegaard into a wall. The penguin sped out of sight, and the king followed, laughing and vowing a quick death for his nemesis.

The guards looked at me, pinned against the wall. They turned and left, following their liege. The door clanged shut, and, cruelly, locked.

I looked at Barrel. He looked at me. We were utterly flabbergasted. I tried to reason my way through what had happened, but Barrel's not so good at conversation, so we didn't get anywhere. Eventually he flew me home, and Libby beat me up for abandoning her.

I went about my day. Guarded the Beefiary, now that I was off noble duty. Came home, played Libby's board game, went to sleep. Dreamed dreams I don't want to discuss here.

Throughout it all, one thing really stuck out, more than what had happened, more than everything sinister that I've learned in the last few weeks, more even than the king's feeble plea: He didn't call me Dragofuck. He called me Dragomir.

4 comments:

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    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, I'll be damned. What did that fucker Kierkgaard did to the king?

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  3. HOLY WALL OF TEXT BATMAN! Today's entry was LOOOOOOOOOOONG...which I can't really complain about. It was pretty dang interesting in terms of foreshadowing and creating some theories about the Penguin and King.

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  4. I really hope I'm not the only one who thinks this, but.... What the fuuuuck is going on in that castle?

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