The camp awoke this morning to the sound of a hideous beast, yawning loudly in our midst.
Everyone was instantly on alert. The nobles, either asleep or prepping for breakfast, immediately ran for their wagons and refused to come out. Grylock cursed and rolled out of bed, Edmund shouted "By my eye, now we die!" and crawled under his cot, and I pissed myself. Promptly and enthusiastically.
Everybody knows you need to pee in the morning. It's standard. I had a lot to drink last night, we were up late playing War with the tarantula! (He's a good guy, by the way. His tea is AWESOME.) So, for once, it's forgivable. And it wasn't in my bed, nor in a bed ANYONE uses. I care not. June can change the damned sheets if it smells.
Right. Monster. That's more interesting.
The tarantula was on the ball. He leaped from his bed and skittered to the wagon's front flaps, throwing them aside with his tiny arms and staring into the mist. He shrank back as the monster roared again, but his immediate bravery was enough to put sleep-bedraggled me to shame, and I joined him.
Nearly stepped on him, too. Whoops. Don't worry, he's fine.
I scanned the camp, watching as the nobles fled for their wagons. The monster roared again, loud and deep, and I had to bite my tongue not to run and hide. I held… watched… waited… remembered that I was mayor… remembereddddddd…
A normal man, confronted by that sound, would’ve screamed and run into the fog. I, however, did not, because this fourth outburst registered as faintly recognizable… almost feminine. BEASTLY feminine. VICIOUSLY feminine.
"Oh, right," I muttered, all the pieces fitting together. "Preggers."
Discarding my pants and donning a fresh pair I leaped from the wagon and ran to my own, cringing as it rocked from side to side. The roars grew in intensity and frequency, and as I got closer I could hear June yelling back, though with far less gusto than my wife.
I dove into the wagon from the rear, taking a splinter to the boob - the BOOB, I say - as I slid into Libby's curled feet. I'm not sure why I attempted such a dramatic approach, and it certainly didn't help the situation, because three bad things came immediately thereafter:
a) June SCREAMED at me to get out of her way, and stomped on my hand
b) Libby ROARED at the sudden touch of moist hair on her foot, and she kicked me so hard that I sailed out of the wagon
c) I saw things no mortal man is meant to see
Seriously. Childbirth is gross. I don't know why I regretted missing Eve's birth.
The 'procedure', or whatever you wanna call it, only lasted for a couple minutes. During that time I held my OWN birthing ceremony of a sort as Grylock helped me yank the splinter out of my boob. I'm sure my yells were ALMOST on par with those of Libby, and they certainly outlasted hers, because I'm a whiner. Yay for Dragomir the Wuss!
Once all extractions had been completed, June threw back the wagon's enclosure, scolded me for being an idiot, and ushered me in. June's horrid face aside, the scene painted therein was… beautiful.
I have a son. Grayson. He smiles when he sleeps. So unlike his sister, yet… just like her, at the same time.
I'm gonna do the father thing right. Nothing's gonna stop me from being a daddy. And when we get Eve back… life will be even better than it already is.
But that's not the end of today! MORE good things happened!
Libby was exhausted, so she spent most of the day sleeping. I took the chance to introduce little Grayson to everybody, carting him around to each noble in turn. He's a precious bundle, he is, and even the manliest of men (rare among these dandies) melted before his splendiferous babiness.
Grayson is incredibly well-behaved. He never cries, regarding each new sight as a blessing. No piece of food or dollop of milk is rejected, every stranger instantly becomes a friend, and his eyes… they are the most beautiful little drops of blue. This kid is GODLY, diary, simply godly.
I played with him the whole day. Relegated all my duties to Harold. He'll make a good assistant, I think, 'cause that's probably what he'll be in the future.
Meals passed, we paused to allow Libby a day of recovery, and night fell. The night of the tournament. Grylock, Libby and Robert, fighting it out for a mystery grand prize that Libby has not specified. Said she'd keep it secret 'til a winner is announced.
I figured Libby might forfeit, as she was exhausted, but sure enough she came tromping out of our wagon - with a new haircut and outfit, I guess that's part of the childbirth process - to eat her dinner. I immediately surrendered Grayson to her burly arms, and the peace in her face deepened.
She loves this kid soooooo daaaaaaaamned much. I guess he's vindication, given that Libby thinks Eve is… well… y'know.
Libby wolfed down her food, not once putting Grayson aside. He cooed and squeaked, and she laughed and coddled, and even after the plates were gone and the War board was in place Libby refused to relinquish her son. It was a one-on-one-on-two game.
The final match proved fierce. Robert, a good player but not on the same level as the competitors, fell out of favour after the third turn, mashed by one of Libby's Quasi-Neophyte Foretellers. Grylock screened his side of the board much more thoroughly, and by the fifth turn they were deadlocked.
Seventh… slight lead for Libby.
Eighth, definite lead for Libby. Grylock looking confused and panicked.
Ninth and tenth, huge gains. Libby well in the lead. Almost impossible for her to lose, and, predictably, she won. Stomped out Grylock's final Neophyte with a well-placed shoehorn manoeuvre to his second trimester. Glorious moment, everybody cheering, Libby holding Grayson up and slathering his face with kisses.
The grand prize was a kiss from Libby. She didn't wanna kiss herself, so she assaulted the baby with her love. It was perfect. (Harold looked disappointed when he discovered that he coulda earned a smooch, and Edmund joked that he 'Most certainly would have participated, / Had a kissy-kiss been anticipated.' Pair 'o letches.)
Everybody celebrated but Grylock. He skulked off into the night, sitting himself on a rock at the edge of camp. I joined him, ready to both sooth his anger and revel in my wife's victory.
There wasn't anger in the goblin, however. There was confusion. "How did she know?"
"Huh? Libby? You mean Libby?
"How did she know what?"
Grylock stroked his nose, fiddling with his glasses. "My tell is in my eyes. I know it. I wince whenever I'm in a tight spot. That's why I like glasses. They hide m'tells from opponents. Logan… bless his soul, wherever that little bastard is… Logan always hated playin' with me, 'cause I didn't have any tells. So… how…?"
I shrugged. "I… don't get it?"
Grylock explained. During the first trimester of the sixth turn, Libby had anticipated one of Grylock's moves. He'd meant it to be a bold strike, a Neophyte straight to the heart of Libby's troops that would dissuade her from attacking his lines. He'd never meant to move any closer into her territory, despite all appearances…
… and she caught him on it.
There was more. Libby managed to outplay Grylock on many subtle levels, completely undoing all of the strategies he'd formulated - sometimes before he had a chance to put them into play. By the end he was so mixed up and confused that his moves became sloppy, and he offered his final piece up as a sacrifice to avoid further embarrassment.
"She knew," he repeated. "How did she know? She never… played that well before…"
I had no idea. Maybe pregnancy gives newly-minted mothers excellent gaming skills. Maybe she was inspired. Or, perhaps…
"Maybe my kid is good luck?" I offered, with no small amount of smug satisfaction.
Grylock didn't like that answer.
But I did.
Dragomir the Father