This is Robert. Dragomir's brother?
I wouldn't go out today. I don't know how to fight. I figured, why bother, if we're going to die anyway? Why not make it fast and painless? We'd get eaten double-quick, and that would be the end of it. No more Pubton, no more cooking, no more anything.
Dragomir yelled at me. He called me a coward. When I still refused, he shoved this diary in my hands and told me to write stuff down. That, he said, was the least I could do. And I guess it is.
I'm not a fighter. I'm a cook.
Bora broke up with me. She also called me a coward. It was weird - she sounded like she didn't wanna fight any more than I did. Like she was just using this as an excuse. And that's okay. He tells me that she's not right, that she'll be dealt with in time. He didn't tell me what that means, but I'll take his word for it. I kinda have to.
Everybody who didn't stay behind practiced. They practiced with their sticks and spears and fists and whatever most of the night. I think a lot of them slept outside, if they slept at all. Looked as though they expected the barrier to come down at any time, and they'd best be up for when it happened.
I watched them. I didn't feel any shame. I'm a cook. I don't fight, I cook. The only thing I really felt bad about was losing the chance to make a dish out of sloth meat. The final frontier of culinary achievement, they say.
He wishes I had the chance to make a dish out of sloth meat. He wants to try sloth. He even says this gives him an idea. I'm glad it gave him an idea - it makes me feel warm.
I slept behind the counter. I was tired of watching Dragomir punch the air and sweat into the snow. I dreamed of only one thing, and that was a ground-shaking pop that actually belonged to reality. It ended a sleep that lasted ten seconds to me and six hours to everyone else.
I looked out the window. For the first time in days I saw glimmers of sunlight as vast sprinkles of fresh snow rained down on half-melted fields of battered white. The dull purple of the barrier cracked, the bubble of sizzling purple retreated into the golden tree, and the things that destroyed my old home came charging in, rushing towards Pubton.
I swallowed and watched as everyone turned their eyes skyward, probably realizing that their final hope for survival had broken. I saw courage falter, spears droop, fists fall, would-be soldiers lunge for the ground and hide their faces in the snow, probably praying for a quick death, because the sight of the abyss rushing towards you will make any man piss his pants.
Wonder if Dragomir pissed his pants? I'll never know. Probably did, though. That's my brother - worst bladder in the world. Wasn't like that as a kid, I don't think.
I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see. There was nothing to see that was good, and when nothing is good, you close your eyes. That's my motto. But a flash of harsh light forced my eyelids open again, and this didn't come from the golden tree or the sky above.
As the shadows fell and galloped towards the centre of Pubton, bounding and charging and sliding over the fields, they were countered by bursts of energy. I couldn't see much from my window, but I saw enough to know that something was attacking the creatures. One burst, then another, then another, driving straight through beast after beast after beast. Each blast was lightning, lasting only a second but leaving a harsh imprint on my eye.
I ran outside. It was a stupid move, but I did it anyway. I wanted to see what was doing this, what insane twist of fate had arrived to save us this time. What I saw confounded me, because it didn't make any sense at all, it just couldn't be that my nephew, my nephew, could do things like that.
Then I remembered my niece. Memories of her slaughtering armies didn't quite make me feel better, but they helped. He tells me not to think of her, now - she is bad. She is wrong.
Grayson was floating maybe ten feet off the ground, surrounded by a small, controlled snow tornado. He moved slowly between the houses, the whipping snow barely touching the wooden frames, and with each flourish of his arm he unleashed a blast of white light. Crack, crack, crack, one by one the things fell under Grayson's one-man onslaught.
Only it wasn't a one-man onslaught. Grayson wasn't alone. He had a lot of help.
Most people, like I said, had fallen to their knees, clutching their weapons and crying for mercy or forgiveness. But as Grayson moved past them streams of light flowed out of his whirring enclosure and touched each person, seeping up their limbs and into their spears and swords and sticks and fists. Almost as one, they rose -
- and charged. Old men, young women, farmers and lawyers and hunters, all brandished their glowing white weapons with surprising expertise, hurtling themselves fearlessly at the faltering enemy lines. Black mixed with white, light with green, and the things were driven back by slashing blades and deft stabs from limbs that should never have been so skilled. My own mother, a farmer to the end, decapitated one of them with nothing more than a ladle.
Mom. She was such a good cook. She'll have to be even better, now, he says. And he apologizes for that.
Despite being hopelessly outnumbered, the people of Pubton drove the enemy back in a matter of minutes. The sun blazed through as the creatures retreated into the forests. Grayson settled down in the snow, gathered everyone around him, raised his hands and snapped his fingers. The light in the weapons died, and everyone, save Grayson and myself, collapsed into the snow.
I realized that Grayson was now the size of a young teenager. They grow so quickly.
He turned to me. He smiled. He walked towards the pub, and I walked with him. I couldn't help it. He pushed open the door and let me enter first, and when I went inside I found everyone who'd stayed behind, slumped over chairs and sleeping comfortably. Peacefully. They all looked so content.
Grayson led me upstairs. To the prisoner's room. She always liked shrimp, back in the Beefiary. I tried to slip her some the other day, but she's been refusing food lately.
The door opened on its own. Inside was my brother, lying unconscious on the ground. I don't know how he got there, or why he wasn't outside with everyone else. His gloves had been burned away. Evangelina was similarly unconscious, still trapped in her cell. Tears stood out on her face.
Greyish-green fluid slid down the wooden bars separating the two bodies. Grayson assured me, without speaking, that this was blood. He didn't tell me what it came from.
Grayson ordered me to carry Dragomir into another bedroom. I did. I laid him out on a bed, removed his breastplate, and tucked him in tightly. Grayson ordered me to do the same for his mother. Libby was heavier, but with some help from my nephew I guided her to the nicest room in the pub. I wondered why Grayson wouldn't let me move her to Dragomir's side, but he was adamant.
"Keep them apart," he said, stroking his mother's cheek. "I haven't yet decided if they should be together or not."
Grayson guided me downstairs. He sat me down in front of this diary and told me to write. He told me to write everything I saw, because he wants to read about it all. He wants to know what this battle was like from my perspective. He wants to know how glorious he looked, how majestic he was in driving back the evil things in this world, because he doesn't know how to write. Not yet. But he's learning.
He also wants to show this entry to Dragomir. Some day. But not yet. He's going to hide it for now. There's a lot hidden in this book, Grayson says, and a surprising amount of it is important. I never would have thought as much.
He's done with me, now. And he apologizes, most sincerely, for having delved so deeply into my brain. He apologizes for going too far, for damaging me with his experimentation, for replacing such huge segments of memory and motor skill with his own knowledge. He apologizes for corrupting the code that babysat him so many times, that fed him chilled peas on cold nights when children shouldn't want chilled peas.
He does so like chilled peas.
Robert the Cook