Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day Three-Hundred-Two: It split the heavens







Remember what I said yesterday, diary? How I was gonna change the course of the caravan for a little while? I did it. I totally did it. And I paid for it in spades and diamonds and hearts and ogres and porcupines and lipids and poltergeists. Maybe even any other card suits you can concoct. I dunno, I only know the seven.

After a restless night of fighting off raccoons in the darkness - little thieving bastards won't leave us alone - we all woke up where we'd parked the night before, at the edge of a scenic lake. Robert got up to cook raccoon meat for breakfast, and everyone began packing up their gear so we could get moving.

June, as always, emerged from her caravan, jabbed a gnarled finger to the north, and went back inside. She never sticks around for long. Lets her tarantula buddy do the steering and socializing and stuff.

(His name is Julius, by the way. Asked June when we left Villeinville. Julius the Spider. I love it.)

I waited a few moments for June to disappear into her hut (I KNOW IT'S IN THERE, SOMEHOW), then stood up on the front of my wagon and called for everyone to gather 'round, like I do most mornings. It was time for three things:

- Status report
- Airing of grievances
- Plotting a course

The status report is pretty basic. Everyone tells me if anything has changed since the last day, how their food is holding out, if their wagons are busting, yadda yadda. The airing of grievances is the natural extension of the status report, allowing people to bitch openly about their troubles for a few minutes. Good way to ease tension and work out problems, I find.

The status report today was irksome. Though we managed to sack a few of 'em for breakfast, the remaining raccoons made off with ten pounds of butter (why did we have so much in the first place?), several sausage links, a few tools, some candles, a packet of spare strings for Edmund's lute that I picked up in Villeinville, and the tarp off one of the wagons! Industrious little pricks, those raccoons. There were also reports of diarrhoea from eating Robert's seafood stew concoction the previous night, though that's regular.

Ha. Regular. Get it? Diarrhoea? Regular? I'm awesome.

The status report led fluidly (HA, DIARRHOEA, so gross, best mayor ever) into the airing of grievances, whereby the nobles and the peasants blamed one another for their problems. The nobles accused the peasants of not doing their jobs in watching over the caravan, while the peasants accused the nobles of not doing ANY job. Only one of 'em who ever volunteers is Harold, and he gets the cold shoulder from the rest for standing out.

Poor Harold. Nobody seems to like him. He'll probably make a great public official, when I get 'round to naming a few…

After twenty minutes of whining and moaning on both sides, I brought an end to the airing of grievances by asking Libby to give everyone 'the eye'. Her icy stare and flexed muscles shut up the lot. Works better than a gavel in a courtroom, I warrant. That left one thing: plotting the course.

Everybody watches June when she points out our new direction, so this part is normally a formality to make me feel important. I'm the official leader, so I 'approve' her new heading. We all get that June's the navigator, and though most people doubt her ABILITY to navigate, there's no argument. We universally fear her.

But today was different. I pointed in a DIFFERENT direction, around the lake and to the west. Towards the border to the Imperium. Clapped my hands, told everybody to get their stuff sorted, chop chop, all that.

Nobody moved. Nobody made a sound. They looked in the direction I'd pointed out… then back at me… then in the direction we were SUPPOSED to go… and then back to where I'd pointed.

I sneered and motioned again, more emphatically. "What? By my floppy hat, I'm the mayor, here! You all elected me or somethin'! There's less brush that way, so we're goin' that way! Sick of grass getting' tangled in the spokes of our wheels and stoppin' every five minutes!"

That was true. Everybody hated stopping the caravan to deal with long grass, and the path I'd chosen was much smoother than June's, which curved around what looked to be a swamp. Harsh terrain, that, and something I'd prefer to avoid.

I pointed again and again, staring them all down. Gradually, impressed by my forceful optimism and long socks, they began to orient their wagons and head out. Libby patted me on the arm, a crooked smile lighting her face, as I took the reins -

- but she was the only contented member of our little family, as Grayson, peering towards the head of the caravan as it pulled away from our camp site, began to scream.

I had not heard Grayson make any unfavourable noises prior to today. He's a genial little soul. Never cries, never sobs, never fusses or grumps. Even his poops come wrapped with a silly, sheepish grin, as though he's everyone's favourite rascal. (Which is true. Grayson's super-popular in the caravan.)

This sound was not accompanied by a grin. Nor was it a coo, a laugh, a burble, a squeal, any of the things Grayson usually does to get attention or delight onlookers. This was a full-on howl, an ear-piercing, brain-exploding, earth-shattering, universe-quaking wail so deep and so angry that it probably should have come from the lungs of a dragon, not a baby boy.

I fell off the wagon and whizzed all over my breeches. Libby dropped Grayson so she could clutch her ears. Everyone else within fifty miles probably did something similar, and every eye was drawn to Grayson, his eyes pinched shut, laying on Libby's lap.

The wagons stopped moving. Grayson stopped crying. He was not happy, but the sound, mercifully, only lingered in our heads, not in reality.

Jaws dropped. People ran from the wagon once their stupor had worn off. Libby carefully wrapped Grayson in her arms, trying to soothe him, but she spoke way too loudly as her head lolled back and forth. She'd been deafened and stunned at such a short range, and I wasn't much better off - perhaps worse, because my mayorly pants were stained with pee. Sigh.

After a few minutes of investigation, people shrugged and went back to their wagons. No explanation for why Grayson had screamed, not a scratch on his skin or evidence of poop in his swaddled rags or gas troubling his tummy. The lead wagon set off on my course again.


Libby left Grayson with me and went to another wagon to lie down. I consulted with those brave few who dared approach the wagon - 'least I think I consulted with 'em; chances are good I wasn't making much sense at that point - and we agreed that Grayson must be taking exception to our new course.

We tested. I left Grayson sitting on my wagon, stumbled up to the lead wagon (Grylock's, he's good with directions), and ordered him to inch his wagon forward a teensy bit.


Then we backed the caravan up and pointed it a different direction. June's direction.

Delighted cooing!

I shambled back to my wagon after ordering the caravan to change course. We were heading towards the swamp after all, and any lands beyond. Prepare for a lot of tangled wheels. Everyone groaned, but they seemed to prefer minor discomfort to another assault on their ears.

Setting the restored Grayson on my lap (yes, I changed my pants first), I ordered the caravan onward. We left, waded past the outskirts of the swamp, and enjoyed a day of shade, bugs, and buggered wheels. And though June never once came out of her wagon to see what was happening… never offered a helpful opinion…

She was there.

I saw her. As we travelled. Leering out of the darkness, behind her eight-legged driver. Her smile was so wide, so irritatingly joyful, that I wanted to punch her in the face.

So much for carving our own destiny.


Dragomir the Mayor

1 comment:

  1. I dunno...I think I'd be willing to stuff my ears with candle wax and keep going...just to see what happens...