Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day Two-Seventy-Four: Deep Darkness


Crumblies! Hello, crumblies. You are so white light, and I, I am so diary. And diary, we, you, me, we is also kinda white light. And Drags light. But white!

So white Drags light white.

We, diary, you and I, dropped off on banks. Peoples of the wetness, they taken way by rats. Little floating ratties, pop in and out, whiz around wetness. Above. Weeeee! Looks so fun. Diary, you should learn the flying ways. Sometime. Please? Then we could Drags on our own!

Find!

FLY! weeeeeeeee

Ruins. In ruins. Big lizard many, friendly fellowchap, he sets us down on bank. We thank, we say, "Thank you for diary shuttling, for we is the awesome," and in we go. Run, run, into ruins things. Run run.

They go here. The hair. And the Libbers. Drags too? Seeing. I will be seeing. WE will be seeing, diary. Just watch and wait and watch.

And wait!

In. In in in. The ratties, their old homes is this. I am walking, walking, walking, and is so warm. The little ratty ghosts, they flies over my, and we are like "Phil? You is Phil? No, Phil tail is not."

And they says, "No. We are not Philip. We're simply here to let you in, as only the dead may lead the living within these walls."

That? Memory. So I writes, "Diamond-eyesies? Saw. In here, in hole. They's no dead."

A little floaty ratty is say, "The normal rules do not apply to them, little one. Fortunately, they can still join the dead… and we made sure they did. But there are more… many more… and we must be ready for them."

Diamond-eyes bad? Meh. Dononono. Men, helmets, bad. Theys diamond-eyesies in disguise. Me, diary, saw through so many long ago. Would tell Drags, but Drags, he ask? No.

Diary walks. Diary, I sees the bad things in here. What called… ratties… what… TRAPS. Traps, says I! Pointy thingers fly out, 'n big thingers tumble rumble, 'n pit thing is all 'yoooooou shaaaaaalllllll nooooooot paaaaaaaaaasssssssss', but I don't's fall.

Scary? Oh yes. If, like Drags, was I? Pee. So much pee. But not, because diary, we are the brave. BRAVEST! So super bravest, we come out here on selves.

Plus… don't know how pee is. What pee? Don't know. Yellow, smells. Like Drags? So good. But Drags, smell baaaaaad. Good smell, Drags smell, but smell baaaaad. So much con-tra-dic-tory, is the pee.

Almost there. Me, diary, led by ratties. They show secrets. Tunnel thingers. Past trapsies. Past bad stuff. Places only ratties can go. I don'ts always listen - sometimes, floor? Spike things? No big. Diary, you, by which I's mean I, are too awesome. Too awesome for dirty tunnels. Run straight through!

Ratties, floaty ghost ratties, they say we's a big word. Ir-re-spon-si-ble. They's dead, so who's they to be critique? Diary don’t know get skewered. Too good. Silly ratties.

Soon, I catch up to hair. And Libbers. And Drags. And we's be family again.

Drags.

Hi, Drags. Whatchoo doin' down here, Drags?

Drags, come home, write in me, Drags.

Drags.

You no dead.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Day Two-Seventy-Three: Happy Trails


People in wetness is SO. NICE. Diary happy, be part of this big menagerie thinger.

Life. Funny. So helps, are these people. They nice, helps me get back to Drags. Then I clomp self on Drags' nose. Is for leave me behind with Libbers. Then I clomps Libbers' nose for leaves behind with crawly.

No clomps crawly. Might squishes his face. Is nice, that crawly! Decent peoples.

Wetness? SUPER WET. I, diary, never thought. Would never no knows. I mean, Drags, he walk through here. But IIIIIIII noooooo geeeeeeeet weeeeeet. Drags, he takes care of diary. Shoves in big bag. On own? No care. No care t'all.

Sigh. Sad diary is sad.

But care! I lies. Many, many people cares. All polite! All help. All so nice, and generosites, and helps diary, which is I, who is GREAT, get through wetness. Is slow, is bore, but is happen. We, says I, makes it happen.

EXAMPLE! Big wriggler. Not wriggler with little wiggly thingers 'n wings 'n scuttly legs 'n screechy voices, but line. Line thinger. I sees them in moatwaterwet, 'n they say nothing. Just glow, green eyes, all scaries. No help.

Here? Nice! Friendsly! So polite. Happy times. I say, "Diary! You ask thems to take me places!"

And they say "Hello, little rat. Are you retarded? It appears so. Just look at that warped cranium. Where are you headed? The ruins? Yes, you must be going to the ruins. I can't take you the whole stretch, as I'm about to give birth, but I can scoot you some of the way. And I have friends! Don't worry, we'll get you where you need to go."

And they do! So, so much, they do. I is carry in scaly palm, and teeth mouth, and big old talon things, and on back of swimmer. Gets little wet in last, but not bad! Smelly now, being the wet, but Drags will clean. Diary? He and she and we will live. Experiences are good, says they alls.

These swamp peoplies, they chat with diary. They tell I many things, how their grampies and grand grampies and grand grand grampies and grand grand grand grampies and grand grand grand grand grampies and grand grand grand grand grand grand grand grand GRAND grand grand grand grand grand grand grampies is all friends of ratties. They say, so many grampies, they like rats. So they likes diary. So they helps diary.

Ruins, they says. Look for ratty ghosts. And diary is all, "Phil? He is no ratty. He is man. Don't you ratty Phil, diary."

Still go. Ruins, says they, still ways aways away. Soon. Tonight? Diary is sleep with furries with furriers tails. Squash diary in, and he, who is I, is all saying "Sweet."

So warm.

But, holies of the luck, theys tails are so smell. Like BUTT.

Sinceres,

Diary

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day Two-Seventy-Two: Eight-Legged Leak


HA! No keep I's locked in! Old woman, you not reckon with force that is DIARY!

Recap? Woman. Libbers. Leave I behind. Me? Miffed. Out! Want see Drags. No been away this long, and I, Drags, buds. No dude left behind! That is style, diary. You see.

I look in room. Wrigglers creep, and I move away, away. No like wrigglers. They screech at I. Big crawly, though, he is help. I find him, sleeping, desk. Look likes big grossing thing in watermoat, but this, much nicer.

"Yes?" says he, all watchin' me with eyesies. Many eyesies. "Can I help you?"

I, diary, not so much on the talking. I scurry, I open, I say with the writings. "Out," says me, which is I, diary. "Out. Open the thinger."

He stretches his legs. He so fuzzy. "Oh, you want to leave? I'm not sure that was the plan. That young woman left you behind for your protection. Master June might be upset if I let you go. She can be a trifle frightening when she's upset."

"Out. Go. Out. Drags." I underline. Em-pha-seeeeeeees.

"Yes, I remember him. And the last time you were here. I was very sorry to -"

Underline. Em-pha-seeeeeeeeeeeeees.

"No, I'm - "

Hop. Underline underline. Em-pha-seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees.

"I really - "

Hop hop underline underline underline em-pha-seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees bang desk hurt head fall over ow. Diary, you so crazy.

"Oh dear. Calm down, calm down." White thingers comes out his butt, and he falls all slow to diary. "I can understand the bond between a familiar and a master. Assuming that's what you are. Yes, fine, I'll let you out. If anyone asks, though, you found your own way. Agreed?"

Nod. Yes. Certainly. Own way? Primo. Diary, I am so awesome like that. Help? PSSSH-awwwwwww yeah.

Crawly goes up. Four legs. Other four? Waves. He just don't care. He waves, he grooves, and pop! Big wood door open. Wetness smell comes in and I pee-yew, and crawly, so he does too yes. He waves all goodbye, and offs I go!

And trip.

And falls in wetness.

But I is on going! Go, go, to Drags, diary!

Sinceres,

Diary

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day Two-Seventy-One: Book Covers Gone Bad


So here, diary, is what happens when you, diary, is abandoned. AGAIN. Damn Libbers.

For weeks, many billions of weeks, I is tolerate the Libbers. Nice lady! Wife. Drags make good pick. Like Libbers. Don't like Libbers be diary's owner thinger, but nice. Good woman. Take cares of the diary, me, while Drags off doing his stuff and things.

Libbers say Drags die. I? No. Libbers is in-corr-ECT-icus. Drags can't no die, because… Drags… is… Drags. Is Drags!

Drags.

DRAGS. Period discussion has been ended finito finale taking the seats you ladies and GENTS.

Libbers, she be put in cagey thing. Close to same place where's I, diary, save Drags from the shorties. This time, I, diary, be there with her, so rescue? Hard. Harder. Harderest! Very difficult, you might be saying.

But Libbers, she breaks out. How? Crazy hair. CRAZY. It comes, it opens the door so fast, and some lady in hair is say "Come. Hurry. We have little time." Then POOF! Off is we run, fleeing from scene of the great crime.

Crime being, that Drags once be imprisoned here. In-fam-ous. They write books about this, one day. Cool as me? Inconceivable.

Hair lady, she sweeps us all big pretty like to the huuuuge wetness thing. I's been here before. Ratty here before, he hide me in tree, tells me to stay put. I not, ands I go boldly into big building area, filled with shorties. Find Drags. Now? We go deep. So deep. Then, hey, we's in home! Old smelly home, full of weirdness. Stuck in tree. Familiar. Is good.

Except bugs on walls. So many wrigglers. Gross. Remind me of guy, ugly man. I pinch his nose. That? Fun. Wrigglers still gross, even when nose pinching be fun. Gross and fun, crossing is no.

Libbers leave me. Old woman say things, and Libbers say things, and both be all excite, and off they go. And me, diary, you and me, we stuck. We STUCK in smelly old house, full of wrigglers and toaders and books. Books no near cool as I. Don't hang out with thems books.

Want leave. Follow Libbers. She takes me to Drags. Then he writes in me again, and we be good.

How… how diary gets out of here? This I ask.

Sinceres,

Diary

Friday, August 24, 2012

...?

Where wifey go?

Libbers? LIIIIIIIBBEEEEEEEEEERS



Oh balls. Why is this always the happening in city of stupid green men?

Day Two-Seventy: All Kings Are Abnormal


THAT LITTLE SON OF A BITCH.

Robert told me not to write in big letters like that, because that was something he'd been trying to drum out of Dragomir, but Gok has earned it. THAT LITTLE SON OF A BITCH, I say again.

I went back to my room to 'rest', like I said, and waited for Gok's attendants to come get me. Sure enough, they appeared shortly after all the other humans had vamoosed and brought me back up to the throne room. Everything had been reassembled and looked normal again -

- only Gok's table, to the side of his throne, was now covered in food. And drinks. And cutlery. And linens. And candles. You know, fancy shit. That don't impress me much, but I was hungry, and so was the baby, so I greeted the king and took a seat.

I don't know when Gok had the time to change, but he looked much different. He'd swapped out his kingly robes for a suit, complete with bow tie, and his moustache was waxed into curled crescents. Reminded me of an ox's horns.

He grinned at me across the table, which, I realized, was now much smaller than before. "Greetings, lass. Intimate, eh? More t'my liking. I hate crowds, they jangle everythin' up."

I ignored the silverware and dove into the buns fists-first. Fuck that etiquette garbage Harold taught me, it doesn't get results. "Yeah, sure. Crowds suck. Thanks for the food."

"Aye!" Gok sat back and rubbed belly. "Gotta feed two, now, hey? Can't do to give you the same garbage I be feedin' to yer friends down there. Ain't t'say they aren't deservin' of a good meal, of course, but… VIPs get the best treatment. Hey?"

I shrugged. Food first. Banter second.

Gok watched me eat. I didn't notice, at first, but soon I was keenly aware that he'd stopped talking and started gawking. I was halfway through a big piece of corn before I called him on it.

"What?"

He waved his hands. "Nuthin'! Nuthin'. Just, ah, like te… see… my guests eat. Yeah. Makes me appreciate m'own cookin' a mite more. Logic, that, innit?"

"Not… not really." I dropped the corn. "Be better off if you'd have somethin' to eat too. Or, maybe… y'know… tell me why I'm up here, insteada down with everyone else?"

Gok sniffed. He turned and looked out the giant window surrounding us, watching the rain in silent contemplation. Then he slid off his chair and tottered over to me on old legs, laying a hand on mine.

"Lass," he started, "I… I lost someone precious t'me, too. Like I, ah, intimated. Last time. Ye remember?"

I nodded, stuck between compassion and not wanting him to touch me. "Y… yeah. The picture. What about it?"

"It's…" He sighed, gathered his strength, and fell to one knee. "Look. I, ah, I just want ye t'know that I'm here to help. There isna anything more tragic in this life than a babe without a father t'guide 'im along. 'specially if he died doin' the right thing, 'n it sounds like your man went out bravely. Yeah?"

I nodded. A spark that could have blossomed into tears burned in my breast.

"So… I'm here for ye. Life 'n limb." He hesitated. "Ye're getting' big. Can… can I listen in, maybe…?"

I cocked my head. Suspicious.

"Just a quick glimpse," he assured me, flicking his ears. "We goblins, we've got somea the best ears in the lands. I wanna see if the tyke's tickin' like he should. Ye've got enough tragedy in your life; best make sure this lad's naught more but a miracle. Please?"

I thought it over. All my past instincts told me, 'No, this is a terrible idea'. But Gok had been so nice, and his words so soothing, that I gave up. I slid my shirt back, over my belly, and let him move in to listen.

Gok pressed his ear against my belly, gently, breathing hard. He gasped and cooed. "Oh! Ach! I can 'ear 'im! Strong beat on that boy, aye. He'll be just fine. Ye should be proud, lass."

I relaxed, and not just because my fears about Gok were unfounded. The baby was alright. He was healthy. I'd been afraid, since the dream, that it might turn out all wrong. What if Eve's strangeness had been my fault? What if I'd fouled up? Could that same fault carry on to this next child? Would I be doomed to never have a normal kid?

I felt better. Much better. I slumped in my chair, smiling a little, a tear slipping out of my eye, as I watched the rain.

I was so relaxed that it took me a minute to notice the lap of wet movement against my belly button.

Eyebrows furrowed. I glared downward, jolted into inaction. King Gok had his tongue in my belly button, wiping it clean. I'm fairly positive I saw a piece of lint enter his mouth, and that, little diary, was enough to bring back the old Libby.

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING," I bellowed.

Gok's eyes bugged. He stared up at me, grinning nervously. "Um… ach… whoops, didna… didna… oh bugger."

Surprisingly nimble, Gok avoided my attack and rolled under the table. My fists followed him, and so did I, trying hard to slide beneath the low surface and throttle his scrawny neck. He evaded me time and time again, though, his age obviously just a front to hide his abilities. Don't underestimate the elderly.

"Shit, I hafta stop doin' that." Gok knocked a fist against his forehead as he swept behind an old clock. "Y'ruin more dates like that, Gok, 'ol boy."

"THAT was a DATE?!" I picked up Gok's globe and hurled it at him, swearing as it bounced harmlessly off the floor. "MY HUSBAND JUST DIED, YA LITTLE FUCK! YOU SAID YOU UNDERSTOOD ABOUT LOSIN' PEOPLE AND SHIT!"

Gok peeked out from behind his hiding spot. "Aye, I did! See that fur on the portrait? That's m'old pet fox, Mitsy-Boo! M'bitch of a sister skinned poor Mitsy 'n turned her into a fashion statement, damn her!"

I looked at the portrait again. Sure enough, there was a fox-skin fur around the female goblin's neck. Howling, I picked up the portrait and hurled it at Gok.

He dodged, hopped on top of his clock, and jumped to the ceiling. With a spryness I seldom see in people my own age, he hung from the rafters like a monkey. "Guess we ain't givin' that tyke 'o yours a little goblin brother, then? C'mon, ye should always have more 'n one kid! We could try 'n make it happen, at least! Several times!"

Most of me wanted to murder King Gok. It still does. A tiny, rational part of my brain flicked on, though, and it pushed questions that needed to be answered through the haze of anger. "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT WITH US?!"

"You? Specifically? A night 'o lovin', lass, if ye be up to it. I think I know yer stance." He shrugged sadly, hiding behind one of the rafters. "If ye mean the whole lot, well… not much. Answers. Think I got 'em from listenin' in on your room. Much easier than tryin' te pry info out of ye durin' interrogations, yeah?"

I attacked Gok's throne, storming up the steps and kicking it over. It clunked off the glass but didn't break through as I'd hoped. "LISTEN IN?! YOU LITTLE FUCK! YOU'VE BEEN SPYING ON US!"

"'course I have. I'm a goblin. S'what we do, lass." He scuttled overtop of me and leered down. "Bah. Ye need to dress more promiscuous-like. The top view could be a whole lot better."

I jumped at him. My fingers fell well short of grabbing his leg. Stupid baby belly.

"Whoops! Nice try, lass. Listen, hey, while we're bein' honest, I have te confess. I might've imprisoned yer bonnie boy Dragomir the last time 'e came through. He got out, so no hard feelin's, right?"

At the sound of Dragomir's name I grabbed Gok's abacus and ripped it apart. Beads flew in every direction.

"Dammit, woman, ye're makin' this date worse than it's worth! Bugger. GUARDS! YE HAVE PERMISSION TE RESTRAIN THIS BLOODY HARPY NOW!"

I began to build a ladder out of the broken pieces of wood so I could get at Gok, but it was too late. Five guards charged into the room and scrambled up my body, pulling me down and away from the half-finished steps. I cursed and flailed, but the goblins proved surprisingly strong.

"WHERE IS BARREL, YOU SON OF A BITCH!?" I shook my hand at him as they slowly dragged me away. "AND ROBERT?! YOU TELL ME OR I'LL RIP YER BALLS OFF!"

The last I saw of Gok was a quick, annoyed shake of his head as he tumbled back to the floor. He didn't give me any answers, and my questions turned into rage. That rage was shortly directed at the wall of a prison cell.

Fuck.

I swore for some time, and when the threats of the guards proved ineffective, Grylock came for a visit. He peered at me through the bars and snickered, proving once again that he is, in fact, a bastard.

"I warned you," he said, rolling his eyes behind his glasses. "I told ya he was a pervert. Should listen, next time."

"I DIDN'T HEAR YOU!" I screamed through the bars.

Grylock swore back, though he did it while clutching his ears. "Bah! Crazy-ass woman. Gods know why Dragomir put up with ya. Y'sound like a freaking banshee, and you're so damned ugly that I'd be surprised if a swamp dog wanted to mate with you. 'course, that's… just how King Gok likes 'em, so…"

I roared and gripped the bars. Grylock rolled his eyes again, shoved you through the door, diary, and retreated. So I guess he's not totally bad.

I guess.

FUCK. I'm in jail. You're my only company, diary. I've had nothing to do all day, and no word of what's going on with anyone else. Gok's come to visit a few times with 'invitations' to 'discuss the matter', and I've driven him away each time. There isn't a chance in the many hells below this planet that I'd get intimate with a fucking slimeball like him.

Fuck. FUCK. This is why sex is so damned stupid.

I dunno how long I'll be stuck here. It better not be long. I have shit to do, like have a baby, and get out of this city, and maybe, just maybe, take a few hours to mourn and bury my fucking husband.

Libby

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-Nine: Recon Deconstruction


We know what's happened to the castle, now. At least to the extent that we can know without risking the lives of a bunch of goblin mooks.

After a horrible night of cramps and cravings for more bacon, me and the rest of the escapees were shuffled up into King Gok's throne room. Gok's attendants offered to carry me up in his royal litter so I wouldn't have to climb the stairs, but I turned them down. I'm not so pregnant that I can't handle some damn steps.

Plus, uh, the litter was… very… small. And the goblins… also… small. Don't think it would have turned out well for any of us.

Gok was surrounded by his court when we got to the throne room, and they'd moved all his knickknacks out of the way so we could have a proper meeting. He greeted us, bade us have a seat on a giant heap of pillows on the floor, and hopped into the pillows himself. He edged up next to me and asked me in hushed tones how the baby was doing, and whether or not I'd considered the name he'd suggested the previous night.

The, uh, name was Manfred. I doubt I'll be calling the kid Manfred.

Gok described the situation as it had been reported to him by his spies: the castle, our castle, is a smoking ruin. The walls have crumbled, and most of the moat has been filled with mortar and stone. The king's tower crashed down into the main thoroughfare, wiping out most of it, and there's a massive hole where the east wing of the keep used to be. The west wing isn't much better, though there are some walls still standing. All of the wooden structures appear to have burned down. There's no sign of human life anywhere.

Note that I said 'human' life. There is lots of life. It's… just… yeah.

The spies couldn't identify what they saw, because most of the time the smoke issuing from the castle was too thick. Hiding in the smoke, though… moving through it… they saw things. Huge, black, rumbling things, most on the ground but some flying, with bodies the spies couldn't classify as anything but endless shade. They might not have even spotted these creatures if it weren't for their eyes, which Gok described as 'shockingly green'. That sounds familiar.

What are they? Don't know. What were they doing? Don't know. Are they friendly? Don't know. Are they hostile? Don't know. The nobles asked many questions, and they got almost no answers, because Gok knows very little about what happened. He suggested that the things probably came from the mining operation Jeffrey had set up under the castle. Told us that Grylock had been spying on Jeffrey's operation to learn if the hole was actually a threat.

Did Jeffrey release the things on purpose? Don't know. I bet he did. I hope they killed him for it. Better that Daena not have to suffer him as a husband.

Gok asked a few, more pointed questions of all of us to clarify some points, then announced that everyone was invited to a grand welcoming feast in his tower's great hall, on the bottom floor. He'd been skimpy on the welcomes when we'd first arrived, and he wanted to remedy that mistake now.

With… one exception. Me. He said he wanted to speak with me in private. Even went so far as to invite me when everyone else was already shuffling out of the throne room. I agreed, 'cause he seems like a nice enough guy, and the look in his eye told me that it's something serious.

And, possibly, something I shouldn't bring up with anyone else.

I begged off on the invitation to dinner with everyone else when we got back to our chambers, saying that I wanted to rest instead. Edmund and Harold looked concerned, but the bard shoved the pimply noble out the door when I made it clear that I'd be punching anyone who got in my way.

Because… because… I wonder if Gok's spies found more.

I wonder if I was wrong.

Maybe…

Maybe he's alive…?

Libby

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-Eight: Your Benevolency


Harold's been interviewed.

Edmund's been interviewed.

And, now, so have I. I've officially spoken to two kings in my life. I like this one a lot better than the last.

I was the last person to be ushered into King Gok's presence out of everyone from the castle. Edmund went before me, and he returned with a less-than-favourable opinion of Gok. Apparently the king is a fan of neither bards nor dark-skinned humans. I'm not sure why a goblin would be racist against a particular breed of human, and I don't really care, either.

After Edmund was safely back in our three-room enclosure, the goblin guards motioned for me to follow them. I'd been inspecting a table and wondering how I could disassemble it using only a toothbrush and a comb, and I think the goblins were uncomfortable with my close scrutiny of the furniture.

Also, more sneers. I held myself back from lashing out this time. I don't need more lectures from housekeeping. They have no imaginations.

The soldiers led me through the low-ceiling corridors of King Gok's tower, guiding me up spiralling staircases to the very top, where Gok's throne room sits. It's an opulent space: the whole room is encased in glass, allowing Gok to look out on his city from every angle, and the plush carpet leading up to his throne is lined with an assortment of antique knickknacks that are probably from all over the world. I spotted a globe, a telescope, a harp, a free-standing abacus, a bronzed sculpture of a cheetah, and, flanking the cat, a stuffed sloth. Among many other things.

Gok sheepishly confessed that the sloth is fake. I'm not surprised. There are no recorded sloth kills, and if anyone has performed the deed, they're probably not a goblin.

Gok was speaking to Grylock and several other advisors when I entered, and he waved them all away to speak with me in private. Grylock mumbled something cheeky at me as he walked down the steps and out of the throne room, though I'm not sure what he said. It was his tone of voice that caught me more than anything.

The king motioned me to sit at a table beside his spiky throne, and he joined me after a quick handshake. It's strange to get that kind of treatment from a noble - only one who's ever been polite to me before is The Baron, rest his soul - but goblin society could be flip-floppy enough to allow for more equality. Or something.

"Well!" King Gok began, stroking his beard. "Glad 'n well met, young lady, glad 'n well met. I've heard a lot about ye from yer contemporaries, 'n I've been much anxious te sit down 'n make yer acquaintance. Save the best fer last, as they mumble, eh? Eh?"

I didn't bother to laugh. It was a dumb joke, if it was even a joke at all. "Okay. You, uh, wanted to ask me questions? Or something? Your majesty?"

"I did! But first." Brushing back his eyebrows, Gok removed the crown from his head and tossed it onto his throne. "T'ain't no royalty here. Just us wee folk, talkin' 'bout important matters. How's that sound, lass? Think ye can call me Gok, 'n treat me like ye'd treat onea yer own?"

I smiled. Half-hearted and sarcastic, sure, but it was a smile. "Sure. I can handle that. Whaddya want, ya little bastard?"

Gok beamed.

The conversation went much as it had for everyone else. Gok asked me a lot of questions about who I was, where I'd been born, how I'd come to the castle, how I made a living, what I thought of Goblinoster, that sorta thing. He ever peppered me with questions about the baby, and made a bunch of suggestions that I never woulda considered. I'm still in a funk about everything that happened, but Gok's upbeat attitude made me feel a hell of a lot better.

Not positive, of course. I'm far from positive. But… better.

Conversation wasn't the only order of the day. Turns out Gok's a cook as well as a king, and he's got his own kitchen in his throne room. When my stomach started to growl, he stepped right up and prepared a nice meal of ostrich eggs and bacon, with pancakes and buttermilk on the side. The goblins haven't been starving us, but Gok's food made our other servings look like puke on a plate.

Throughout it all, Gok didn't press me much on details of what happened back home. He dropped a few subtle queries, but that was all. That's fine - I'm not that ready to talk about it yet.

Except in here, I guess.

Yeah. I… I suppose I did that already.

Three hours after our first meeting, Gok patted me on the back, wished me a good day, and sent me back to my room with the guards. Before I left, he assured me that we wouldn't be there much longer - and he further assured me that the pain of losing a loved one gets easier with time.

When I asked how he knew that, he pointed at a portrait leaning up against the freestanding abacus. It was of a stately goblin woman, dressed in furs and smiling. That was all I needed.

Libby

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-Seven: Goblin Standards


The trickle has begun. King Gok is talking to us… one at a time. Interview-style.

It began this morning with one of the nobles, a woman wearing a torn paper mache dragon's head on her noggin. (She's been wearing it for two weeks now. I don't know why she doesn't take it off. Weird-ass upper class.) Two goblin guards came into our apartments and ushered her out for a question-and-answer period with the king in his private chambers. She looked frightened, but she didn't protest…

… and by the time she came back, she was much happier. Apparently the king, despite grilling her for details, had proven a most cordial and polite host. That's a bizarre thing to hear when you're used to an idiot who murders for sport, but I guess not every monarch is like Jeffrey.

Seriously. I hope he got eaten by a crocodile. If I ever see him again, his genitals will be lodged somewhere in the back of his own throat. For starters.

More nobles came and went during the day, and all of them returned with beaming reports of Gok's hospitality. They also said that he asked most of them similar questions, many of which had little to do with the catastrophe at the castle: what's your name, where were you born, tell me about your childhood, what was your relationship with King Jeffrey, that sort of thing. I don't know what game Gok's playing, but unlike the rest, I'm not fooled.

… maybe because I haven't talked to him yet. Still, I want to be cautious if I can. We shouldn't assume he's our buddy because he's letting us shack up in his kingdom.

All that shit aside, something else is bothering me that I think has something to do with the hormones of being pregnant: nobody here thinks I'm attractive. At all.

Let's put aside the humans for a second. I don't give a shit about 'em. I know Harold's got a thing for me - he tries to hide it, that coy little prick, but he sucks at subterfuge - and Edmund, well, his eyes roam. Guys are like that. I might be a widow, but that won't stop roaming. And if they try to get fresh or some shit, I'll pound them down. No worries.

No, not humans. It's the goblins that bug me on this.

I'm not a superficial lady. I don't give much of a damn if people don't find me attractive, and I don't give a damn if the people around me aren't attractive. How else could you explain Dragomir? He had kinda boyish good looks, but he turned homely whenever he freaked out. His face stretched into some weird shapes. And he smelled bad. No, I loved him because he was…

Um…

Well, an idiot. I guess I have a thing for idiots. Or just one idiot.

So it's not that I care about being called attractive, or even being considered attractive. I'm fine with not standing out. It's just… these goblins seem to actively consider me ugly. Whenever they come into the rooms and see me they look repulsed by my face, and they spend the rest of the time avoiding eye contact. One even sneered! What the hell?

This shouldn't bug me. At all. Which is why I think it's biology at work. I wouldn't normally care. It's a species difference thing. The little fuckers are ugly to me, so why wouldn't I be ugly to them? It makes perfect sense. I shouldn't care one single bit.

But I still punched the bastard who sneered at me. Right in the jaw. He asked for it.

Ugh. I need to get out of here. I wish this captive shit would end already.

Libby

Monday, August 20, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-Six: Belly Come Back


Fuck me. I didn't miss being pregnant.

It's not the same as it was with that asshole Eve. Everything about that first pregnancy was pain, every little movement or urge something of fire. I'm an angry person by nature, but that… I was pissed almost all the time. Even going outside and visiting Daena didn't do a hell of a lot to make me feel better.

Daena. I guess I don't have to call her 'Queen' anymore. She's probably out a kingdom. I wonder where she went…?

But, yeah. Fire aside, this pregnancy still sucks in its own way. I'm much calmer this time, but that makes it a sad experience rather than an angry one. It's hard to move around, I can't do as much busy work with my growing belly in the way, I get tired quickly, I have weird cravings, and… yeah. Overall, not a great way to spend a dull week in a posh goblin dungeon.

That's what this is, too. A fucking dungeon. There's lots of room for all of us, but even when you're always tired and want to lay down most of the time, a space like this is boring as hell. And restrictive. I can't make anything here, and by the gods, I miss doing that. Whenever I make things, I can let my mind focus on the task, rather than… you know… other stuff.

Bad stuff.

Hm. Maybe I could tear apart the cabinets and turn them into different cabinets. Or… maybe a battering ram… we could use one to knock down the doors and escape… but, no, the fucking nobles wouldn't be able to lift a battering ram, they have the arms of newborn babes.

Gah. A baby reference. My mind is stuck on that subject. Something else, something else…

Our only visitor, aside from attendants who ignore us, is Grylock. He shows up a few times a day to ask us questions about what happened, and to assure us that an audience with King Gok is 'coming'. But he can't tell us when, because the king has other, more pressing concerns… namely locating Barrel the Dragon.

Yeah. Barrel. I'd passed out before this happened, but Edmund told me that, once everyone was off his back, Barrel turned into a… something small… and flew off. Nobody knows where. The goblins are panicky over this fact, 'cause dragons are fucking scary. King Gok is focusing most of his efforts on finding Barrel. Grylock says that Gok likes to join his search parties, so most of his time is being whittled away in the swamps, where they suspect Barrel is hiding.

Why he's hiding, I have no idea. Barrel's the fucking hero. He saved us. He shouldn't have to run away. But… dragons… go figure.

Sorry. I'm done writing. I'm tired, and I need to yell at Edmund to stop playing the same songs over and over. He knows a lot of them, but after a week of constant serenading, his collection is pretty stale. Love songs just don't appeal to this gal.

Hm. Wonder if I can get the goblins to make me horseradish sandwiches. That sounds delicious right about now.

Libby

Friday, August 17, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-Five: Widow'd Mama

I knew we were getting close to Goblinoster when the rain began to fall. I've heard that rain follows goblins like deer flies follow supple flesh, and the city, even from a kilometre away, didn't disappoint.

Sheets of water lashed us on Barrel's back. He landed and tried to form shelters that could keep us out of the wet, but his skin could only shift so much, and we were all soaked by the time we saw the edges of the city. I think Barrel enjoyed the water, as it cooled him down and allowed him to fly further than normal, but the rest of us were miserable.

More miserable.

Goblins are sneaky little bastards with spies everywhere, so I wasn't surprised when we spotted a welcoming committee of sorts, waiting on the outskirts of Goblinoster: a squad of trolls and goblins. The goblins, almost all warriors, stood and waited for us around the legs of their massive beasts-of-burden, ordering their trolls to remain steady and ready their massive boulders for an aerial bombardment if the dragon winging towards their city tried anything funny. That's what I imagine they said, anyway, based on the greeting we got when we landed.

"Welcome to Goblinoster, ya pack of bedraggled, pasty-faced humans," hailed Grylock the Ambassador, standing safely beside one of the trolls. He raised an eyebrow at Edmund. "Well, 'cept you, son. You could use a bit of time indoors, the looks of it."

Edmund countered with poetry. I can never remember what he says. It was something witty about Grylock looking a little too green and maybe needing a doctor. They had a moment.

Grylock turned to me. "Mrs. the Guard, I think? Only met ya a couple times. Where's your hubby? Wouldn't mind riding him around again, he makes a good steed."

My eye twitched. I opened my mouth to say something. Instead, a fire erupted in my brain, all of the fatigue and accumulating sickness and… other things… jumping out of me at once. A headache about as big as the earthquake that demolished my home split my skull. I wobbled, my vision darkened, and I heaved three days' worth of grass onto Grylock's head. Then I passed out.

Dreams. Dragomir always used to complain about bad dreams. I woke up a few times, in the early morning, and found him talking in his sleep. I never really have dreams, myself, but for once I did.

I dreamed I was in a white room, surrounded by white furniture, white blankets, white curtains, white white white. I was laid up in bed, and when I tried to get up I rocked back into the sheets, because I couldn't rise over the swell of my belly. It was too big, too bloody round and heavy to let me up. I struggled, but nothing worked.

The room brightened. Now I was trying to look over my belly, to see if there was something in there with me, but that damned pot grew and grew and grew, and before I knew it all I could see was my own tubby flub. It pinned me to the bed, not letting me see there was somebody else in the room, but I could hear them - and they said something that chilled me, speaking in a low, formal, even voice:

"You have given them a weapon. It is time we balanced the scales."

I couldn't say anything back, because then my stomach burst, splitting open and pouring white light everywhere. It didn't hurt, mind, but it was a damned shocking sight, and I was so surprised that I couldn't even cover my eyes. A good thing, too, because I got my first look at what's in my belly: a little baby boy.


He looks just like his daddy.

As the boy smiled at me and the light faltered, I woke up. I was in some goblin doctor's office, watched over by a bunch of ugly, midgety, green nurses. One of them hailed me when he noticed me opening my eyes, smiling his hideous goblin smile and pointing out that, yes, I was awake. Must've been educated for years to come to that conclusion, eh?

They reassured me that I was safe, told me my companions were in the next room, and then joyously informed me that I was pregnant. They must have figured, since my belly was still flat, that I hadn't known. No wonder they looked so weirded out when I didn't seem to care.

One of them called in Edmund when they found me awake. He told me what's happened: we've been detained until King Gok and his advisors can find out what went wrong in our old castle. A lot of things are happening back east, most of them potentially not good, and Gok needs us to fill him in on the details.

Eventually. Little bastard is taking his time.

After apologizing for not being able to do more - as if he could have done much of anything - Edmund handed you over, diary. He said Dragomir had entrusted you to him, but… he figured I would be better suited to taking care of you. He's illiterate, so I guess that's a good idea.

You're all I have left. I'll take care of you. Promise.

I've been in the same three rooms ever since waking up. A week has gone by, and there's a tiny little bump in my stomach, a knot that continues to grow. It doesn't hurt me like it did with the first monster, though: this one is cool, and calm, and… orderly, I suppose is the word. I don't think this birth will be bad at all.

But… the boy… he has no father. My Dragomir is dead. I know he is, I don't know what I'll do, because my life has fallen apart, and even though I can put it back together on my own, I'd rather he was here to help me.

I miss you, my sweet idiot.

Libby

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-Four: Partake of some monster mash


We travelled.

There's not much to say about travelling. I've done it before. Kinda had to. I wasn't born in that damned castle. I grew up in lake country, to the south, where my dad taught me to be a lumberjack and carpenter. He taught me to love the outdoors, to respect all the things I cut down. "Don't swing an axe," he'd say, "unless you really mean it."

I might not have meant it for every swing in my life. But most of them, I thought about it long and hard.

Not that long.

But hard.

And then our house burned down. That was shitty. But I'm getting off track. I've travelled, and I'll probably travel again, and though I doubt I'll be travelling to meet a new husband the next time I hit the road the point still stands. Or something. Yeah, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about anymore.

Barrel wasn't doing so great. He's a fast flyer, but he couldn't go very far with all of us on his back. We made frequent stops, usually near little lakes and streams so he could gulp down a drink, or surprise - and eat - casual grazing animals. One of the nobles managed to whip the rest into a tizzy by mentioning that he'd seen a sloth along the way, though we eventually established that it was just a brown bear.

Then we watched Barrel eat a brown bear. That made everyone feel better.

We also ran into some unexpected company during one of our stops: a band of nomadic zombies. Barrel was dead-set on coming down to greet the lot of them, despite everyone's frantic protests, and when we hit the ground the dragon immediately proved that the zombies wouldn't be a problem. The whole dang tribe came out of their makeshift village and bowed in front of Barrel.

He bowed back. I don't think he really had to do that, since he could have set every one of those rotting fuckers on fire, but that's just my opinion.

The zombies welcomed us into their camp, assuring us all that they wouldn't eat us in the presence of an 'honoured' creature like Barrel. That, coupled with their impeccable manners, won over most of the nobles. They joined the zombies for a feast, which, judging by the smells coming out of the camp later that night, I doubt any of the nobles enjoyed.

They also moaned. And danced. And… did… other… things. I don't know, I stopped paying attention after I spotted Harold arm-in-arm with some undead chick in a dress. Something about her made me feel instantly furious, though I don't know why… poor bastard, that Harold, he had every right to look scared…

But I don't know why…

I really hate that chick. Hope she falls apart in a hurry. Fucking zombies, making me irrationally dislike them for no reason.

I spent the evening with Robert, mostly in silence. The poor bastard was in shock, and still is, as far as I know: he's barely said a word since waking up from my punch to the face. All he does is rock back and forth, his cane propped against his shoulder, clutching a hunk of stone in his hand. It took me an hour of prying and threats to figure out that it was the last bit of his old library he had left. He's afraid he'll disappear if he drops it or puts it down.

For some weird reason, I believe him. Don't ask why, I don't know.

We continued travelling the next morning, and I was quite happy to say goodbye to the zombies. I don't trust rotters. The rest of our company was equally glad to be on their way, for though they hadn't been touched by the zombies, most of them figured they would be eaten the moment Barrel ever went out of sight.

Also, they smell like shit.

We didn't arrive in Goblinoster until Friday, and since tomorrow's Friday I'll talk about it then. There's just one other thing I want to mention before I put you down, diary, one thing I realized while I was staring down at the Indy Plains from Barrel's back:

Dragomir has walked this way before.

You walked with him.

As soon as I realized that I began to picture him far below us, on his stupid journey to save us all, gawking at everything in that stupid way he always gawks at new sights. I could see him ambling along, tripping over rocks and running away from angry beasts, his head shoved ass-deep in the clouds of his own imagination.

My Dragomir. Walking forever.

Libby

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-Three: Draconic Express


We flew for a long time, and without stopping. Whether anybody spoke I don't know, because Barrel wouldn't put me on his back until I stopped screaming.

I'm pretty sure I fell asleep for a while when I finally made it into the big bastard's seating section. One minute I was staring at endless plains far below; the next I was flopped onto the grass, watched over by Edmund and Harold the Pansy. They both looked concerned and a little terrified.

Might've had something to do with the spider blood on my gloves and overalls. I don't know. Stuff like that doesn't really bother me. That didn't stop me from vomiting all over Harold's shoes, but the vomit had nothing to do with monster guts.

After I'd cooled down and my headache broke, Edmund filled me in with his stupid poet language nonsense: we'd set down ten kilometres away from the castle. Barrel didn't speak English, but everyone was convinced from observation alone that he was exhausted. Even a dragon would have trouble flying with a horde of flabby nobles on its back, and I know better than most that Barrel isn't great at flying.

Argh. Lost the training obstacles I'd made for him. Guess I'll have to build him some new ones, get him back into peak flying shape. Assuming I care enough to do that, at this point… and… assuming… meh, I'll get to that.

The nobles were busy talking with each other in hushed tones a little ways away, and once I got my bearings I joined in. They didn't have much to offer, of course - the bunch of them were confused and scared shitless by what had just happened… along with, you know, the rest of the week's events. Being stuck in a hole for five days will freak out anyone.

The problem with nobles is their need for a leader. The bastards have to have somebody to lead 'em around by the nose and tell 'em what to do. Up until last week, King Jeffrey had done that for the pompous pricks, even if his leadership had sucked unholy testicles. Now they didn't know what the hell they were gonna do, and they wanted somebody to take charge and take care of them.

You probably figure that I stepped up, diary. You're wrong. I didn't give a shit about leading. I lead work teams, not namby-pamby twats in puffy shirts with fake hair. Nobody wanted to take responsibility, just in case something went wrong and they got blamed for it going wrong, and that would have been a major problem -

- if, uh, the dragon hadn't stepped in.

Yeah. Barrel. Of all people, it was the giant fucking dragon that took the reins of our expedition. Dragging his tired-ass body into the midst of the meeting, Robert still flopped in a scaly seat on his back, Barrel grunted something… dragon-y… and motioned for everyone to sidle back a few paces. No argument there.

Wriggling his fingers, Barrel dug one of his claws - his pointer claw, I guess? - into the grass and dirt. He carved a shape in the soil, one that we couldn't see at first, but one that Edmund easily deciphered when he climbed up Barrel's neck for a better view: a picture of a goblin.

Then Barrel pointed. West. Towards Goblinoster. The message was pretty damned clear: we were going to visit the goblins, because, hell, we had no other choice. Where else could we really go? Especially if our mode of transportation would probably abandon us otherwise? Even if the goblins took us prisoner, they likely wouldn't kill us. Immediately.

Not that night, though. Barrel flopped back down a few seconds later, shaking the ground, and loudly snoozed. He looked exhausted and battered, and when I checked Barrel over I noticed a lot of small, crusted wounds. Edmund and I think that Barrel might have had to fight his way into the castle to come down into the hole, even if he could turn into a bug. Which means that something there can tell he's a dragon no matter what. Who knows for sure, though, because he's… well… well. You'll find out.

I didn't have much time to inspect Barrel. Midnight struck without much warning, catching even the sole Weekendist in our company off-guard. We woke up the following Monday prone in the grass, chilled by the absence of the sun and covered in dew.

After a quick breakfast of… grass… and some plants… we were on our way. And I still didn't give a shit about any of it.

Libby

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-Two: Enough Latin, let's punch stuff


I think I'd just slugged a spider in its fucking eyes. Is that right? Yeah, it is. Okay, let's keep going.

The spider squealed. This wasn't a human voice, now: this was a screaming, hideous, angry, confused and frightened thing, and for a few seconds the green in its eyes fizzled and faded, only to come back strong and green again as it rose from the floor.

"That," it hissed, "was a baaaaaaad -"

So I punched the fucker again. And kicked it. It told me to stop, and tried to jump me, but I really didn't give a shit. Moments later I'd stomped on its head. The green went out for good, and the spider hissed and flopped, its body vibrating under the power of the earthquake.

I ran past the corpse. Edmund followed me, despite being more scared of me than the now-dead spider. (I can tell. I know when people are afraid of me.) We ran down the main hall of the keep, Edmund pointing out falling debris, and I grunted as small stones tumbled down around my head.

There were more moat monsters waiting as we approached the library, slithering out of rooms and hissing or roaring or speaking to me, all in that disgustingly familiar voice. I attacked any of the bastards that came close, kicking crocodiles in the nose, smashing weirdly floating piranhas into walls and body checking giant snakes as they tried to heave up and wrap around me. It felt really good to crush the green out of their eyes.

The library was a ruin when we charged in. Half the roof had collapsed, destroying many of the shelves, and hundreds of books lay scattered and ripped amid the debris. Robert, precious, stupid-ass Robert was stumbling over the stones as best he could, shouting for help and trying to put his wasted collection back on its shelves.

I didn't bother asking him for permission. I waded into the library, caught him by the shoulder, and slugged him in the face. He went down immediately, and I slung him over my shoulder. Edmund grabbed his walking stick, and we ran out of the library through a growing hole in the walls. The rest of the ceiling caved in seconds later, burying what was left of Robert's library.

Thinking back, that collapse was a little too conveniently-timed. As if it was done to be dramatic or action-packed something. Meh, maybe it was just me.

More moat monsters appeared from around the sides of the castle and hurtled towards us, but they aren't so fast on land, so we had the upper hand. Minutes and a lot of rock-jumping later, we were in front of the keep again, running towards the dragon. It looked panicked and urged us on with its front claws, possibly because those wussy-ass nobles were pissing their breaches all over its back.

Gah. I have to stop talking about piss. It keeps reminding me of Dragomir.

I threw Robert, unconscious, on the dragon's back. Edmund followed the old man up and made sure he was sitting square in his seat. Then the dragon motioned for me to follow.

I didn't. I ran back towards the keep. There was still someone else to save in there, even if it meant running all the way back to that fucking hole, down all those ramps, beating up the royal guards at the bottom, and dragging his stinky ass back with me. Even if all I was bringing back was a dead body.

Barrel didn't give me that option. Before I could get five feet away from him the scaly bastard had one of his massive claws wrapped around me, pinning my arms and legs. I screamed and tried to bite him, calling him a fucking coward for leaving my husband behind, telling him to let me go help him, but Barrel shook his head.

He took off, holding me securely in place. I'm pretty sure that's when I started to cry.

Barrel took us all up and away, far from the keep, and as I struggled to look back I'm pretty sure I saw the king's tower collapse. I didn't really give a shit about that, and I still don't. As far as I know, this is all Jeffrey's fault. Him and that penguin. May the gods damn their black souls.

The rumbles of the castle grew, but I heard them less and less. I was getting numb as I screamed, only registering the hard beat of Barrel's wings as the muted pounding of a covered drum. Far, far below, I spotted the Matriarch blasting its cannons at a group of giant black figures, but by then I was too far gone to really care.

Like I said, my life has fallen apart. And as a massive, white symbol appeared in the sky behind us, shattering and fading while all the nobles watched, I ceased to give a fuck.

Time for another break.

Libby

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day Two-Sixty-One: Effugere ex Inferno


My life has fallen apart.

My idiot husband is missing. His kid is… I don't know where she is. My house is a pile of ashes. I'm out a job, and an employer, and a bunch of assistants, and… I don't even have my friend here with me… she might be able to make me feel better…

My life has fallen apart.

I'm in that damned goblin city. Surrounded by a bunch of ugly little pricks who won't let me go anywhere. I've only seen three rooms since they captured us, because we're all stuck in the same three rooms. Sealed in. We're not prisoners, the ambassador tells us, but it sure as hell feels like we're prisoners.

My life has fallen apart. I don't know what to do. So I'm writing, because, after a week of sulking, hoping, raging and swearing at the doors, it's all I have left. Dragomir's diary. Edmund suggested it, and I think it's a good idea.

I haven't written in you in a week, diary. He always wanted someone to write in you, to not miss a single day. I guess I have to catch up on a few things.

Sorry. I hope tears don't stain parchment too much.

Edmund told me that Dragomir's captain knocked me out. Konked me hard from behind, down in that fucking hole. I guess I should thank Cedric, or something, but I'd rather have died down there than be stuck up here by myself.

I'm not really by myself, I guess, but I feel like it. I don't like most of these people. Edmund's nice, and Robert's okay… though I haven't seen him in a week… but the rest are snobs. Frightened snobs, but snobs. Won't even give me the time of day when I threaten to punch 'em. Harold will, but that doesn't make him any better than the rest, because he's just as snooty. Ass.

Sorry. Getting off track. I didn't mean to slam you on the desk, diary. Don't take it personally. That's the way I am.

When I woke up, which wasn't long after I'd been hit on the head, all the pain was being washed away by wind. A lot of wind. I was sitting on a dragon, Dragomir's Barrel, pushed into a weird leathery seat sticking out of his back. Edmund told me that dragons can change shape, so I guess they can make seats from their bones and turn themselves into flying carriages or something. That's really gross, but Barrel saved me, so I shouldn't judge.

Torch after torch whizzed by us, and pretty soon the rock walls penning us in disappeared. For a few seconds we were inside a dusty warehouse -

- and then the dragon burst through the roof. Crushed the stone in front of his nose like it was paper. We hit cooler air immediately, and all the nobles with me on Barrel's back screamed. I nearly peed myself as we soared over the castle.

Note that I said 'almost'. I'm not like Dragomir. I can hold my fucking bladder.



Dragomir…

Sorry. Sorry. Keep going.

The castle below was a wreck. I hadn't realized it at first, but the ground was caught in a massive earthquake. Strong enough to bring the outer walls crashing down. It would've been insane to go back down into all that… so, naturally, that bastard Edmund decided to speak up and tell us that we had to go back. For Robert.

I've never seen Robert outside his library. Not that I spend much time wandering around in the keep, but I know he's not one to leave where he lives. Dragomir's told me that Robert gets pissed whenever someone suggests he leave. So, yeah, I immediately figured that he must still be down there.

First thought? Leave him behind. Fuck the old man. I want to live. Second thought? Much stronger than the first, and more like me? Nobody else is gonna die. That's exactly what I said, too: "Nobody else is going to fucking die." I joined Edmund in yelling at Barrel to take us back down.

The nobles protested. Loudly. Even that little ass Harold spoke up. I told them all to shut their ugly mouths. The look on my face must have been damned scary, because they did. In a hurry.

Barrel, without any hesitation, swooped low over the west bailey. The castle shook violently, and a painful thrum of grumbling earth hit my ears. Even with that monstrous noise, though, I could hear something else: cannon fire. From cannons I'd designed. I hadn't spotted it from overhead, but I knew the Matriarch was somewhere nearby. That made me feel good.

Barrel landed in the courtyard, amid the shitty, tattered decorations from Eve's bullshit wedding, right in front of the doors to the keep. Edmund and I jumped off the dragon's back and bolted for the open doors, fighting to keep our footing as the ground heaved and pitched beneath us. It wasn't as bad as I would have figured, but it was bad enough.

The earthquake wasn't the real problem, though. It was what we found inside the doors that freaked me out the most: a leering, fuzzy, dripping-wet spider, its dozen eyes all glowing green and trained on me. One of the moat monsters. It didn't have teeth or a proper mouth or anything like that, but it still managed to smile at me through those big-ass leg things on its face, and as it did it spoke to me with a sizzling voice I half recognized:

"Hiya, ma'am. Nice to see ya again." It tipped an invisible hat with one of its legs.

Edmund screamed behind me. I haven't known him to be especially courageous or anything, so I was kinda surprised he came along for the ride… and since a spider had just greeted us all cordial and such, I can't blame the bard for acting the part of a pansy. Spiders don't usually do that. So I knew Edmund was out for the count on this fight.

I should've been scared. Should've known it was a bad idea. But my brain wasn't working that way, it was busy with the fact that my husband was dead, and gone, and my whole body knew it. And even though that same body wanted to live, it also wanted to beat the shit out of the person that took my Dragomir away from me.

"Fuck that noise," I said, not knowing what the words even meant. I ran forward, raised my fist, and punched the spider right in its fucking eyes.

That's enough for now. I'm gonna go argue with one of the nobles for a while. That will make me feel better.

Libby

Friday, August 10, 2012

Suspense Week, Day Five

One last time. If you haven't seen what happened at the end of last week, the finale of Dragomir's Diary, now's your chance. (Not that it's gonna magically disappear after this or nuthin'. I'll just shut up about it.) Click!


And, lest I be neglectful, Mindless Walkabout completes its Baron-esque cameo today! Iko also disappears for a looooong time. (I think I milked his character too much as it is.)

ALSO ALSO ALSO! I took some time yesterday to create a handy summary of season one of Dragomir's Diary! As I told my girlfriend: "It's succinct and covers the salient points, yet explains nothing." Perfect. Check it out below!


We've reached the end of suspense week! Regular updates will resume on Monday. Yaaaaaay. I'd... better start writing...

But much is planned. Oh yes. Unlike season one, which congealed as it ambled along (seriously, I more or less winged the first four months), season two is ready to spring like a freaking tiger. EXPECT THE FOLLOWING:

- An answer to you-know-what (lookit the poll)

- A big change in setting - sorry, folks, the castle's out of the picture for now

- New character designs for most of the cast once they get settled in - here's Libby as an example:


- New characters, like these guys:



- Reappearances of old characters, some of whom you may not expect

- More webcomic-y days - though not too often, 'cause they take freaking forever to do

- More answers for your many questions - a lot of 'em were left hanging at the end of last season, and I relish that fact

- And, most deadly of all, AN ENCOUNTER WITH A SLOTH omgggggg

Ready? I am. LET SEASON TWO COMMENCE!

... on Monday. Not now. I'm going to play Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion right now. It's a good game.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Suspense Week, Day Four

You know the drill by now, folks. If you haven't read the gripping finale to Dragomir's Diary season one, click the image. It'll shunt you to the important bits.


Let us also not neglect Mindless Walkabout which has its own little wrap-up of Dragomir's Diary... as well as an impending finale of its own. (The comic will continue, but the story... eh... more or less done for quite a while. One-shots all around! Matt needs time to do other stuff!)

Today on Suspense Week, we look at something ambitious that never quite made it off the ground: a Dragomir's Diary video game. Specifically, a text adventure created using the Quest software.

For those of you who are much younger than me (that number seems to be increasing every day... I guess, technically, it is) a text adventure game is one in which prose plays the dominant storytelling role. You're given a description of a scene, you can move around the scene, manipulate objects, move to other locales, talk to people, and so forth. Zork is the premier example of a text adventure.

And, yes, I decided a while back to take a stab at developing a Dragomir's Diary game. I got decently far into it, as well! I had fleshed out the eastern bailey, Dragomir's apartment building, the main thoroughfare, the walls of the castle, hell, even the Neck and the barbican. The plot involved a rash of thefts and a sneaky goblin who'd managed to infiltrate the castle, and it was up to Dragomir to find him. Exciting stuff.

I spent more time concocting ways for Dragomir to die than setting up the plot of the game. You could:

- Take him to the communal toilets, have him drink some of the water therein and kill him
- Peek into one of the toilets and have something far below grab him and pull him in
- Light a match and toss it into one of the toilets and blow up the bathrooms
- Have Dragomir try to steal from someone in a crowd, thus attracting the ire (and fatal fists) of the nearby Captain Cedric
- Have Dragomir try to steal FROM Captain Cedric, with the same result
- Jump off the wall and into the moat
- Walk onto the Neck
- Try to steal a banner near the main gates, thus activating a falling rock trap that would smush Dragomir's head

And various other things. I'm mostly running off memory, here, as the current state of the game takes a while to play, and I hadn't the time to tinker with it too much.

That, ultimately, was the big problem with the game: time. It took too much time. As with all video games text games are incredibly fiddly, and you need to connect every teensy tiny piece in order for it to work right. Even a straightforward game requires a ton of planning, and I lacked the hours to make it happen.

Also, the will. I salute you, programmers.

Will I go back to this game some day? Perhaps. It was a fun project, and if I mysteriously earn a small fortune that will allow me to work on fiction full-time (each of you buying dozens of copies of AFK would be splendid) I may just return to the game. At the very LEAST I will try to puzzle out a way to post the current game so you can all wander around Dragomir's world and get yourselves killed.

Oh, yeah, one last thing: this would've been one of the songs planned for the game. Not an amazing tune, but it sounds like it belongs in an old-timey game, doesn't it? I think it does.

Tomorrow: Suspense Week wraps up with a brief look at the future of Dragomir's Diary! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Suspense Week, Day Three

The week that's surely annoying the hell out of the lot of you continues! Yes, you don't get to learn the fates of your precious characters juuuuuuust yet. Did Eve really kill Dragomir? What are those shadowy things coming out of the door? Is Libby really preggers again? Many questions, and the answers will come soon. Until then - or if you haven't caught up with the plot - hop back to the beginning of the grand finale of season one!


And don't forget Mindless Walkabout, which, today, features a particularly gruesome revelation. (Okay, so one of the questions above might have been answered. Or has it?)

But enough about other things. Today we begin with some more old art, including a certain little penguin that you shouldn't like one little itty bit. (Sorry for the dark picture. New scanner is a bastard to configure properly.)


Kierkegaard was not originally a Dragomir's Diary character. He was actually one of two characters in a stupid webcomic on my FIRST website, Weird Stuff We Found Online, which I run alongside my girlfriend. (Okay, she submits most of the content these days. I still do all the designing, dammit.) Kierkegaard began life as a villainous foil to poor Plato, our mascot, and that element of their relationship more or less remains today. You'll see it eventually, once Plato gets the chance to confront his nemesis in Mindless Walkabout... or perhaps on Dragomir's Diary.

(Gotta admit, I never thought Kierkegaard would become as important as he has. Participating in the planned-genocide of the rats? Controlling King Jeffrey for several months? Ordering the deaths of Bernard and Cedric? Harsh, man.)


First up on this shot is Robert the Librarian. Though I mentioned him early, I didn't contemplate how he looked until Dragomir's stint as Robert's assistant. This first shot kinda made him look like E.T.

More prominent on here is the picture of The Baron. His original conception - which actually came through notes in the First Ten document rather than a straight-out entry for the man himself - was that of a more traditional villain. Nice on the outside, rotten on the inside, totally in it for himself. His transformation into a weird, undead skeleton thing with swirly eyes would have captured that, as depicted above, and I drew a few more sketches similar to this one that I can't find.

The Baron didn't stay true to the villains' archetype for TOO long. Once he became prominent in the story - and the backstory of everything was fleshed out - The Baron quickly turned into a more sympathetic character, a man with an evil agenda who is, nevertheless, not so evil himself. I think he's MUCH more interesting this way. You'll all see more of this aspect of his character soon.


Aaaaaaaand last we have a picture of Dragomir and Eve that I TOTALLY don't remember doing. At all. How adorable. (Though Dragomir's left hand has MASSIVE fingers... which might explain why there are only four. Doi.)

Now that I've rambled at great length about these shots, much more than I FIGURED I would (I get the feeling I've earned a 'tl;dr' comment), it's time to look at the actual topic of today's Suspense Week entry: the castle.

During the first three months of Dragomir's Diary, I wrote up a document outlining the layout of the castle. Keeping track of where everything went was a damned pain, and I needed the help to make the story more accurate. I kinda stayed with what's written here, particularly in regards to the defensive details, though things got shuffled around and changed as well. It doesn't contain any huge spoilers at this point, so I've copied and pasted the whole damned thing, and included comments in brackets.

"The castle is an impressively large edifice carved into the plains, fairly far from other civilizations (suspiciously far, in fact). Because it’s located in a relatively hot climate and in the wilds, the castle is constantly subjected to strange migrations of varying types of exotic animals (elephants, cheetahs, poltergeists, cougarmen and so forth)."

(Cougarmen? Poltergeists? Interesting.)

"The castle is well-protected against threats that are both natural and militaristic, and is never invaded. The outer walls of the castle are patrolled day and night by the guard corps, and three guards (though often just one) keep watch over the barbican at the front of the castle. If there’s a hint of an invasion or animal troubles the guards will pull up the drawbridge crossing the castle’s moat and archers will attack from the barbican walls and its tower."

(The castle as we left it had no drawbridge, just the Neck. More on that in a second. Historical fun fact - castles back then often DID have a neck, used to force enemies into a tight corridor. I just, ah, warped mine horribly…)

"If trouble gets past the barbican, the neck leading to the main castle (which is surrounded by a moat filled with piranhas, alligators, forum trolls and other such dangerous beasts) is temporarily opened – and then sealed once the troublemakers are crossing, with a stone sheath covering the top. It’s then filled with a deadly series of spinning blade traps that make mincemeat of intruders. The floor drops out to dispose of the remains, and a team of janitors comes in to clean the mess. This trap is unfortunately known to malfunction on a fairly regular basis, so the normal residents usually just swim through the moat and use a door on the wall of the castle."

(More bizarre beasties. Forum trolls? Not sure where I was going with that. I also see a major discrepancy here that I must have subconsciously addressed and rectified: why in the hell would the castle's residents SWIM across the moat if it's full of dangerous animals? Insanity. I changed this up, creating a bridge OVER the neck for some travel, and a secret tunnel leading into the castle for the rest.)

Inside the outer walls the castle opens into a series of bailies – one main one and two smaller ones to either side – that lead to the various workshops and buildings. The main bailey is home to an expansive marketplace that’s typically quite empty (because few merchants are willing to come across the neck of the castle), and is therefore usually used for recreational activities. Jousting tournaments are usually held here, though they’re often quite boring as most of the knights have lost their productive combat limbs. This also leads to the inner fortress, sitting in the middle.

(There wasn't once a jousting tournament in Dragomir's Diary. I might have a chance to rectify that in the future, as I kinda regret not doing so during season one. There were many dumb and useless weeks in season one…)

"The eastern bailey is home to the apartments of most of the citizenry, including Dragomir and his wife. There are a few houses for notables, though most of the folks live in a wide, squat building filled with rooms that aren’t much better than closets. Consequently, a lot of people live in a rather confined area. There are constant battles for toilets. There are also eating areas, though these are mostly ignored in favour of the main mess hall."

(The toilet thing didn't come up often - a shame, as there could've been some funny situations there. More on the toilets in a bit!)

"The western bailey is a spot for workshops. Leatherworks, blacksmiths, bone carvers (especially bone carvers, since people die a lot in the castle, especially crossing the neck), candle makers and wood workers live here, using an expansive hole in the ground to go back and forth between the outside world to collect wares and ply their trades. The hole is sufficiently deep to go under the moat, and the discovery of precious metals inspired King Jeffrey to dig as deep as possible under the castle to find more and make himself rich and powerful. This tunnel stretches under the moat, is regularly subjected to cave ins and leakage, and is protected on the other side by a tame, chained rhino. Few people outside the castle know of its location."

(Altered a bit in the final story, though the tunnelling and discovery of precious metals would've made perfect sense in the establishment of the hole. As it stands now… well, you'll discover why Jeffrey chose to dig in that particular spot some day.)

(One other thing? I have no idea what happened to the rhino after the events of Ad Infernum. I like to think he'll come ambling back to the main characters some day.)

"Beneath the western bailey are the rat farms, an expansive section of the castle where the thousands of rats eaten and used by the citizenry are bred, milked, killed and used for leathermaking. The rats escape regularly, though they always come back because food here is plentiful, made mostly out of grain and their own tails. The rat farm is actually a commune unto itself, with an extensive network of small buildings and a village located in the depths of the dirt (the rats are all magical, and actually the smartest creatures in the castle)."

(Magical rats! Wooooooo! How cheesy that sounds. I don't know if I ever established exactly WHERE the rat farms are in the story, and I doubt that it really mattered.)

"The primary castle starts by opening up into the barracks area where the guards and soldiers live and congregate. This is also home to the mess hall, where virtually everyone (even the king) eats on a regular basis. Weapon and armour stores are kept here by decree. The mess hall leads into the hall of the king where he issues his royal decrees from his throne daily, and over the entrance to the hall is the castle’s current name and motto (constantly changing – Libby always has to create a new plaque to accommodate the king’s whims)."

(I really wish, in retrospect, that I'd bothered to change the castle's motto along with its name. One of the first things I'd planned in Dragomir's Diary was a rickrolling joke, delivered via the motto, that would unfold over several weeks. Never managed to fit it in… ah, late regrets.)

From here the castle branches off in two directions, to the east and west:

- To the west are the apartments of the nobility. These are typically much nicer than those of the normal folk of the castle, and constantly patrolled by soldiers. Most workers aspire to get an apartment here, though very few ever do.
- To the east are more workshops, primarily dedicated to stocking the castle itself. Weapons and armour are regularly forged here, as are traps to keep the castle safe from intruders. This is also the primary dig spot for The Hole to Glory, and consequently is patrolled at all times. This hole gets deeper and deeper as the story goes on, and is regularly inspected by the king."

(Yep, the Glory Hole joke existed THIS EARLY in development of the story. Shame that name only got mentioned once or twice.)

And… that… is… it! Apparently I got bored of the document and moved on to other things. Didn't bother talking about the king's tower, or the throne room, or, hell, much of anything else. These details nevertheless helped me keep sense of the castle's general layout, though I'm sure I mucked up location placement more than once. No big deal, right?

The castle received a much more thorough treatment in tomorrow's behind-the-scenes segment: an unfinished Dragomir's Diary text game. Stay tuned!

(Good god, this was way too long. I'm sorry, internets, I ramble.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Suspense Week, Day Two

Behind-the-scenes time again! If you're looking for the latest bits of story, click on the image below for the gruesome finale of season one:


Otherwise, prepare for an early sample of Dragomir's life as I give you... art.


THAT, my friends, is the first Dragomir I ever drew. The other sketches I did of him have since been lost to either the trash or the depths of my closet, but this stupid picture somehow managed to sit on my steamer trunk for the last year without being moved.

And y'know what? I don't like it too much. His outfit is weird, the helmet goofy, and he promised to be way too tall. The original character sketches also lacked personality: they all had a wide-eyed, vacant look about 'em that doesn't appeal to me at all, now. Libby got in on the act, too:


She looks more like a dwarf in this picture. I do not approve. (Don't ask whose floating angry expression that is beside her, I have no idea.) King Jeffrey's preliminary sketch was the exception to this weird rule:


It also added a sinister, scheming dimension to the man, rather like Dick Dastardly. His little moustache eventually got shunted to Kierkegaard, and Jeffrey turned into a dangerous idiot rather than an outright villain.

I have a few more sketches from the old days, but I'll save those for tomorrow. Let's look at the last five members of the First Ten instead!

Queen Daena

Daena's one big change from concept to fruition came with the creation of the Matriarch. She was originally going to sit it out in her tree throughout the story, even after the events of Ad Infernum, beating off the… things… until somebody came back to rescue her. Possibly years later. Daena proved a popular character, though, and as she got more and more screen time I decided to give her some measure of freedom.

The result was a medieval armoured carrier. I don't hear anybody complaining.

Like Jeffrey, Daena was originally going to be 'Daena the Queen'. Didn't sound right, so I nixed the title swap.

Prince Logan

Logan started life as more of an idiot scamp, getting into areas he wasn't supposed to be able to access and requiring Dragomir to get out of his prepubescent debacles. I quickly realized that Logan was NOT an idiot, though, and letting him act as something of a benevolent puppetmaster for Dragomir proved much more enjoyable.

Another title swap here. Surprise!

Captain Cedric

Cedric changed drastically between the vision in my brain and what came out on paper. He began life as a fussy, strict, clean-shaven fellow who took his job way too seriously. That last part survived, but Cedric ultimately transformed into a beefy, hairy bastard - part of a conscious decision to set his name at odds with his appearance. Cedric just sounds like the name of a clean-freak.

I love this line from the original document:

"Will have to die at some point, as he’s not quite interesting enough to last forever as a character – stuck as he is, and won’t be changing."

I guess Cedric moved away from this idea, because he turned out to be quite interesting with the whole secret-poet part of his personality. Yet… he still got ripped in half. Poor Cedric.

I love THIS line even more:

"Had his testicles bitten off by Prince Logan’s pet kangaroo under mysterious circumstances – has caused a constant loop in the game that has him perpetually upset, no matter how things are going in the castle."

Which makes sense from a Sims point of view. Guess I wanted Cedric to suffer from the very beginning. I hadn't even envisioned the kangaroo as a werewolf at this point! I just wanted somebody to be sans-thinger. I'm sick.

Robert the Librarian

Dragomir's writing mentor was going to be much more prominent than he turned out in the final product. Robert was planned to act much more like a typical NPC, simply handing Dragomir books and waiting until Dragomir hit another level of reading and writing capacity. Their relationship eventually grew into an amiable friendship… though it may have stripped Robert of some of his importance, as he usually gets little more than cursory mentions. Poor Robert.

I'd also planned to have Logan bedevilling Robert's library much more often, back when Logan was less of mastermind and more of a spoiled brat. Aside from Robert's chapter in AFK, I don't think they've had any interactions. Go figure.

One last thing:

"Has a pet emu named Vincent that also serves as a rapid-speed mount whenever Robert needs to get around the library in a hurry."

… apparently animals were much more prominent in my mind back then…

Philip the Ghost

Yep, Philip was ALWAYS going to die. Poor, poor, POOR Philip. He was meant to become a more prominent character, with a buddy-buddy relationship between him and Dragomir eventually forming, but that went in the wood chipper. I like ghost stories, so expect Philip to get more screen time in the future.

The Rats

These little Machiavellian bastards started out as a mere food staple in the castle. Deeeeeelicious. That didn't last past the first thought, of course, and I quickly took a page from Douglas Adams by turning them into highly-intelligent, hive-mind schemers.

Over time, the role of the rats subtly changed. They were envisioned as the consummate allies for Dragomir, able to flit about the castle and bring him the information he needed to survive what happened in the hole. They turned OUT to be more self-serving than that, holding back information in the service of their agenda and causing Dragomir a great deal of aggravation. I like 'em much better that way.

Tomorrow: some more old pictures, and the layout of the castle!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Suspense Week, Day One

Howdy, folks! Author here. After last week's blockbuster finale that left the fate of Dragomir and his pals in the icy claws of uncertainty, you were probably gripping your seats in anticipation of what was going to happen THIS week.

The answer is: you have to wait five more days. Surprise!

Yep, break time for me. Dragomir's Diary has been running non-stop since its inception, and the story could use a little reprieve while I gear up for season two. There are many and sundry exciting things on the way, and I hope you stick around to watch them unfold. I also hope many more readers will join your esteemed ranks. (Hint hint, tell your friends!)

In the meantime, you can go back and read (or re-read) the epic finale of season one by clicking on this fantastically-bloody logo that I created after the series was already complete!


Oooo, blood. The story also continues in a brief but gruesome cameo in Mindless Walkabout, so don't forget to go visit the webcomic.

I'm not one to leave this blog without content so for the next week I'll give y'all a sneak peek into the development of the first season of Dragomir's Diary, including some preliminary drawings of the characters and details of what might have been. But wasn't. Yay!

Today we'll begin with a document I wrote riiiiight at the beginning of Dragomir's life called 'The First Ten'. I decided that ten characters would make for a good start, and fleshed out their personalities in notational form. Let's begin with the main star!

Dragomir

Personality-wise, Dragomir was originally envisioned more or less as he turned out: a lazy, goofy, friendly slacker. He got hit with more bum luck in the final product than I figured during the draft process, but that's inevitable in an interesting story.

Physically, Dragomir was to be somewhat different: because he couldn't use his hands, he was actually an excellent hand-to-hand combatant. Years of not being able to pick up a weapon bumped up his unarmed combat skill. That would've turned him into a less interesting character to me, however, and eventually he became an all-around wuss.

Also? Three brothers. Dunno what happened to the other two.

Libby

Libby started out as she ended up: bossy and strong. She's always been physically dominant to Dragomir, though at first they were more of a match. Now... now she can beat his ass like nobody's business. (Same goes for most people.) The big difference with her was a penchant for using a sword and shield, both of her own design, when fighting. No fists.

End result? Much better. Libby looks badass when she's punching stuff. She's the resident fighting game character in the wrong place.

Eve

was going to die near the end of the first year. She started out as more of an all-powerful defence system for the castle. Fortunately, I liked her too much to kill her off. She'll get up to plenty more shenanigans. She was going to be a BOY at first, though... a fact that I changed mid-document... go figure.

Robert the Cook

Roughly the same personality as now, but more gruff; he would have bossed his workers around a lot more. He also would've been more like the other Robert in that no one has ever seen him outside his kitchen, as he's an NPC tied to his post. This inevitably got canned - he and Dragomir couldn't have been born in a distant village if Robert had always been inside the kitchen.

Also, elephant antics within, like, two weeks of the beginning of the story. Broke the unused rule of Robert in no time flat. Doi.

Last on Robert's slate, he would have been nicknamed 'Bob' most of the time, to help tell him apart from the many other Roberts in existence. That got slashed. Dunno why.

King Jeffrey

King Jeffrey, Jeffrey the King. Which sounds better? Despite the regular naming conventions, I went with the latter.

Jeffrey would have been more scarce in the drafts, issuing his decrees via a multitude of criers. After Jeffrey made his first appearance, though, I knew he should be a more up-front antagonist. He may be an utter asshole, but he's good enough at it that he deserves some spotlight now and then. He was also planned to have a pet turtle, for some reason, one that got carried around on a satin pillow all day by one of Jeffrey's servants.

There was originally a storyline planned where Dragomir would have taught Jeffrey the rudiments of unarmed combat. When Dragomir's strength fled the poor lad, so too did the potential for this story.

That's all for now. Tomorrow: a few old character scans and more about the original ten characters! Stay tuned.