Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day Four-Hundred-Four: Obsession

I'm sitting in the dark. Alone. Only you and a lamp provide me with company, diary.

Alone. No one helping me. Only I care about Robert, I guess. Only I give a crap what happens to him. Only me.

I approached the Weekendists this morning, eager to get to work. Sure, the mason said to wait 'til spring, but it's only a short ways off. Why wait? Surely there's something we can do now. Work on the foundation, maybe, or fetch some stone.

They shook their heads. What's the point? The mason knew what he was doing. Working now would only be inefficient. Apparently he even told them there might not be much point starting until the summer - spring rains would mess up the mortar if we decided to build on wet days, especially if he had to make it out of lime. Which was probable.

"SUMMER?" I howled, counting on my fingers. "But… that's… that's like three months away! Three! I thought you guys hated threes!"

"We don't hate three," one Weekendist replied. "It's just not a holy number. Though I suppose if you want to go the blessed route, we could begin in… two months?"

"TWO MONTHS!" I threw my floppy hat on the ground and stomped on it. "No way! I need to get Robert into a library NOW! You want two? Fine! We'll start in two hours! Two MINUTES! TWO SECONDS!"

They grumbled and turned away. Most, I already learned, had been contracted by Harold to help put up a bare-bones skeleton for the wall. Sure, help HIM build something, but not ME. ASSHOLES.

I didn't care. I was determined. I would set up a freaking library for Robert even if I had to do it myself. I went out to the build site, cleared a bunch of snow away, and began assembling a wall. Rocks are hard and heavy, they don't need freaking mortar to stay together.

So, yeah, maybe the wall collapsed.

I tried again. This time I packed snow between the rocks as I built. Who needs mortar when you've got snow? Packed snow turns to ice if it's cold enough. Ice can be mortar. Totally can be mortar.

Fell apart again. Cracked a bunch of the rocks, too.

I tried again. And again. And again. After enough attempts I'd earned myself a small crowd, watching nervously, NOT HELPING, as I struggled to build a library for my friend. For EVERYONE'S friend, who's been in BONDAGE for MONTHS.

They came to me. As the sun waned and night fell, they came to me, one by one by one. 

"Dragomir, cease and desist," asked Edmund. "This we all must now insist."

"Your rhymes are crappy," I muttered.

"You're makin' a racket out here," complained Grylock. "Hurts my ears."

"Go plug 'em," I muttered.

"We need that rock for the wall, Mr. Mayor," murmured Harold, "so could you please -"

"I've got a better hat than you," I muttered.

"Dragomir? I made you some eel cookies," Mom asked politely. "Would you like one?"

"Eels are gross," I muttered.

"You made your mother cry, ya damned ingrate," Dad growled. "Now I gotta listen to her all night."

"Then go listen to her," I muttered.

"Aren't you hungry?" pleaded Bora. "I've got some great soup on the stove, 'n garlic bread's cookin' -"

"Garlic makes my nose bleed," I muttered.

"You're doing a great job, dad," said Grayson. "Keep it up."

"Fantastic," I muttered.


For the first time in hours and hours of pleas, I turned. Libby was watching me, all but her big, white eyes swathed in darkness.

"Come inside," she asked, more polite and vulnerable than I've ever heard her. "Please. I'm not mad anymore. Dunno why I was mad in the first place."

I turned back to my work, staring at my hands. They were slick with sweat, melted snow, and flecks of blood.

"Go away, Libby."

Eventually, she did.


Dragomir the Failure

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day Four-Hundred-Three: The worship cube

I had roughly no part in making the pub. I followed Libby's instructions and moved stuff around, sure, and occasionally when I wasn’t thinking of them as weapons I used hammers, but the architecture of it? The design and planning and shit? NO part. At all. Same goes for all the other houses in Pubton.

Consequently, I had no idea what to expect when I agreed to make a church alongside Pubton's newly-arrived Weekendists.

We decided to set up the church in the northern part of town, a nice, flat area on a bit of a rise that hadn't been stolen for housing or farming. While some of the Weekendist acolytes set to work clearing the snow away from our intended build site - difficult, considering it's been snowing all day - a few of the upper echelons and myself got together to draw up some rough plans.

The Weekendists are all over the world. Imperium to Indies, orcs to goblins to snake men, lush paradises to daunting deserts, there is no place to which they will not travel to spread their non-word. I personally think it's kinda dumb that they even need a place to worship gods for which they have absolutely NO identities, a place they'll typically never use since everyone's asleep on the day's of worship, but the Weekendists insist. If there's a community, there has to be a church.

If nothing else, they assured me that it could be used for any number of things. I could live there, if I wanted. Would make sense, me being the mayor: the seat of government in the stone building. I'll admit to finding that rather an interesting thought - assuming we ever get the damned thing built.

Because Weekendists move around a lot, they're required to understand at least a smattering of building construction. A group like this could put together a small stone building with little fuss. Putting one together in the dead of winter that's supposed to be the size THEY want, though? Slightly more difficult.

"200 feet," they said.

"200 feet what?" I replied.

"200 feet. That's how wide we want to make it. The length has to start with the number two."

I peered at the acolytes struggling to clear away the snow. They were, indeed, getting rid of a lot of the stuff over a rather huge area. "Why?"

The head Weekendist, the one I've known the longest, sniffed. "The number two is holy to us. Two days to a weekend. Therefore, the proportions of the house dedicated to the weekend must include a two."

"Oh." I scratched my head. "Couldn't you reverse it and make it, like, 102 feet wide? Or 52?"

"No. The two is more important. It goes first."

"Okay… how about just twenty feet?"

He shook his head. "You said you wanted to include a library. Twenty feet is far too small for a library."

"Ah." This spurred a memory, or lack thereof. "You know, I don't remember a church back in the old castle."

The Weekendist paused. "There was one. It was… two feet long. That was the most space Jeffrey ever granted us."

"Yeah, that sounds like him." I thought it over. "Okay, so tall does it have to be?"

"200 feet."

"You gotta be kidding me."

"No. The proportions must be equal."

"Come on! Do you have any idea how big that would be?"

The Weekendist shrugged.

"Well neither do I, but I'm pretty sure it's huge. Wait here a sec."

I ran to the end of the cleared ground and planted a foot in the snow. "Let's imagine that a foot is the length of my foot. That make sense?"

"Yes," they yelled back.

"Then it would take…" Counting my steps, I walked approximately two hundred feet. I fell over a few times and may have severely fudged my math when I got tired of counting. "That many. That's how wide it would be."

They nodded.

"That's also how TALL it would be."

They nodded.

"Can't we just make it, like, forty feet wide and forty feet high?"

"No," they called back.

"But that's twenty feet plus twenty feet," I argued. "You've got two twentys. That's THREE twos right there."

"Blasphemy! Three is not a holy number!"

"Dammit! Why not?"

"Because it's not two."

This whole argument only got worse when I learned that buildings come in more dimensions than two, and it would also have to be two hundred feet long. A big 'ol cube towering over tiny little Pubton. On the plus side, there's no time limit to building it, so I might be able to postpone completing the full thing and get away with a half-finished, serviceable building with a great deal less effort.

Stupid religion. I'd complain to the gods if I knew who they were. Who comes up with these silly rules?

Grateful for my help, the Weekendists agreed to begin with a library. They're big on reading, and the guy I knew was fond of Robert. We took their accumulated stones, which they'd been gathering for several days in long, laborious shifts, and began to create the first wall.

Predictably, it fell over.

One of the acolytes mentioned mortar. We'd forgotten mortar. The other Weekendists agreed, we needed mortar. I asked how to get mortar. One of them said you have to make it. I asked how; they didn't know. I asked who would, and they agreed that a mason would be the best person to ask. We don't have any masons right now, so that put a kibosh on the whole project.

… until a mason showed up in town later that evening. We live in a weird, endlessly-convenient world.

We discussed our plans with him, and he agreed to stay in Pubton and help us work - though he said we shouldn't start until Spring. The Weekendists were fine with that. I was not, having hoped to get Robert out of June's hands by the end of the week at latest. The mason urged me not to rush things, and the Weekendists backed him up, saying they didn't care if they got their nave in one day or one millennium, so long that it happened eventually. I asked why they would want a knave, they said "No, there's no k in it," and I wondered what it mattered to a bad person if they had a k in their title or not. Eventually I was corrected and I left in a huff.

I need a library, dammit.

I need one this week. As soon as possible.


Dragomir the Non-Mason

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day Four-Hundred-Two: The power of names

I got signatures. Dozens of signatures. Signatures from people who knew Robert, signatures from people who didn't, hell, signatures from people who can't read and barely know what a library is. I even got a signature from Libby, through Grayson, who acts as her beaming little messenger boy these days. Dozens and dozens of signatures, one from virtually every person living in Pubton. Didn't even have to include my own to bolster the list.

All June said was "No."

"No?" I waved the petition in her face. "NO?! You can't say NO! It's a bloody petition! Lookit all the names!"

June, seated in her chair by the fire, Julius on her head, crossed her fingers. "D'you have a library where he can live?"


"Then the answer is no. Don't be an idiot, Mr. Mayor, he needs a library."

"Y'don't know that!" I pointed at the wall where I could faintly hear Robert humming quietly to himself. "You've never even tried! He needs a chance to live outside a dank 'ol library for a change!"

She shook her head. "You don't get it. He's a librarian. Much more 'n you were ever a guard, or Libby a carpenter, or even me a witch. He's bound to his post. Leaving it like he did his old library drove 'im nutty. It's in his kowde, his blood, his… his… his very soul, I guess. If he doesn't have a library, he doesn't leave here. That's final."

I smacked the parchment covered in names, most of them misspelled. "But the signatures!"

June rose from her chair, eyes as wild as her hair. The arm I knew inhabited her mad tresses twitched into sight for a second before disappearing again. "I don't give a shit 'bout your signatures. I'm as much a medical professional as you're like to find 'round this town, Dragomir, 'n I know what I'm saying when I say he is STAYING IN THERE UNTIL YOU BUILD HIM A LIBRARY."

She waved her hand. I flew out of the door of the hut and landed in the forest, far from where I'd entered. It was a long, cold, lonely walk back to civilization… 'least until I ran across a small group of shivering pilgrims, led by a hunter with a fox launcher strapped to her shoulder.

She had little to say, being on the prowl for animals at which she could launch foxes. (How Libby came up with that thing I will NEVER know.) The pilgrims, however, greeted me rather warmly, inviting me to join them for a conversation regarding their new church. Yes, these were the Weekendists that arrived the previous week, and they had finally hunted down a nice source of stone: a small quarry secreted in the bowels of the forest, close to where Barrel had been living. They suspected that the original owner of these lands had used it for buildings far from Pubton's current home. Each Weekendist had a rock of middling size, and they were struggling to get them back to their build site.

Inspiration took very little time to strike me on the noggin. I offered to help them build their church, a solid thing of rock and mortar, in exchange for outfitting it with a library. And a librarian. They heartily agreed, having already contemplated installing a library.

It's settled. We will build a Weekendist church and a library in one go. Robert will have his new home, and I… I will feel useful again.

Stupid petition. What a waste of a morning.


Dragomir the Builder

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day Four-Hundred-One: Unplanned obsolescence

Pubton is a big town. I hadn't noticed, but, yeah… we're getting pretty big…

Despite the setbacks, the sieges, the fights and arguments and loss of much of our food, Pubton is prospering. We now have eight complete buildings, the foundations of five more, a bunch of constantly-cleared roads, the beginnings of a sturdy wall around the town, a few traders with portable shops on the streets, and a bustling economy. People buy and sell all the time. A lot of us don't even live in the pub anymore. It's fantastic.

So, yeah, I'm REALLY not needed.

I know this is an old complaint by now, but it stands. Nobody needs me to do anything. Pubton is fully automated. Everyone knows their jobs, and they're willing to take on more duties whenever needed. There's plenty of action and excitement, and even the nobles, who grumbled so damned much about getting their hands dirty at the start, are willing to contribute to the energy. Harold does a great job of administrating the lot of 'em.

I, by contrast, struggle to find things to do with my days. When I'm not buggering up my marriage or fighting unfathomable monsters from beyond time and space, I'm… bored… so bored… to the point that I've taken overnight watch many times, just to feel useful… it's like my old guard days all over again…

Worst part is, nobody bothers me to help 'em out anymore. Hell, if anything, they go to lengths NOT to ask me to help. Not just because I'm liable to screw up whatever they're doing, but because they think I've done enough. Consider my list of accomplishments, diary, and you have to admit they're kinda right:

- I negotiated the survival of the nobles by offering up myself - and died in the process
- I came back from the grave and led a bunch of aimless vagrants to a new home
- I helped them establish said new home
- I worked my fingers to the bone at every job imaginable trying to get that home set up and running
- I successfully negotiated peace with the lord of the lands
- I stopped a witch (who's now one of my friends, go figure) from destroying the town
- I goaded everyone to optimism when the dark things came, led by Kierkegaard, and gave them a reason to keep on living by swearing vengeance on The Baron
- I sent away a dragon that might have destroyed everything
- And, to top it all off, I faced down a sloth and survived - though, granted, they don't know it wasn't real, even though I constantly argue that it was

Quite a list. I don't blame them for letting me take it easy. And, hell, maybe I should. I've been through more than most people suffer in an entire lifetime, and I'm still alive. Somehow.

But I can't take it easy. It's not IN me to take it easy. I feel antsy for work, I WANT to work, because I've been doing it for so long now. I wanna contribute. If Pubton had more to do I might not feel so crazy about this, but dangit all, this town is BORING if you're not working.

So I've set myself to a new task. A task which I know I can accomplish, with a bit of elbow grease and persistence: the release of Robert.

Not my brother. He's, y'know, buried under the Beefiary, bless his eternal soul. No, I mean Robert the Librarian, who's still trapped in June's hut, believing he's in a full-blown library when he's actually stuck in a closet. She's convinced that he'll go mad without a library to inhabit. I have to prove otherwise.

How? By a petition. I'm gonna go around town and ask people to sign a document demanding that June set Robert free. And, hell, if she still refuses, I will MAKE HIM A LIBRARY where he can bloody well live. The poor guy taught me how to write; it's only fair he has his own library again. Even if it's not as good as the one back home, it'll be a damn bit better than the smoke and mirrors he lives in now.


Dragomir the Petitioner

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day Four Hundred: The day of capital letters

I had a speech prepared. My history of prepared speeches isn't so great, but I went ahead and wrote one anyway. It made me feel better.

My speech of complete apology turned to mush the moment Libby set eyes on me. 

"What the HELL were you thinking?" she bellowed, dragging me around the back of the pub where no one could see. Naturally, at least a dozen brave souls ran off to the side to watch. "Singing? SINGING?! WHAT'S WITH YOU THIS WEEK?"

I cowered. "I… I… I just… I… wanted to show you…"

"WHAT? THAT YOU'RE AN IDIOT?" She picked me up and shook me about, grabbing at my floppy hat and hurling it onto a nearby rooftop. "I KNEW THAT ALREADY!"

"- that I love you -"


"- but I thought -"


Libby threw me into a snow bank. To add insult to my slight neck injury, Grayson, who I hadn't noticed was present (though of course he was, he's Libby's freaking shadow), pegged me in the noggin with a snowball. 

Eve never hit me with snowballs. She may have killed me, but not once did she hit me with a snowball.

"Good shot, kid." Libby tousled her son's hair and motioned for him to vamoose before turning back to me. "You've got one chance to explain yourself. ONE. I wanna know WHY you're BUGGING ME SO MUCH."

I straightened, brushed the snow from my clothes, and sneered at her. My love, my attempts to make Libby see how much I cared and therefore redirect some attention back to ME, instantly soured. "Me explain? What IS there to explain? I'm TRYING to be a GOOD HUSBAND! YOU'RE being the dick here, NOT ME!"





The gathering crowd in the background nodded agreement, though they shrank behind a house when Libby glared at them.


A shiver of fear wrapped around my spine and forced my mouth shut. It had jumped into my body through Libby's cold stare, which grew icy and brittle the moment I mentioned 'another freaking woman'. 

"You what?" she muttered.

"He ate dinner with another freaking woman, mom," Grayson chipped in.

"Quiet." She waved him away. "Explain that, Dragomir."

I suddenly remembered why I usually lie to Libby. She's scary most of the time, but when she's actually MAD, she's, like, scary. Almost Kierkegaard-in-weird-skeletal-form scary.

Well, yeah, not many things are THAT scary. But an angered wife just learning about possible infidelity comes close.

I cowered. All the strength of my argument dripped out my boots and into the snow. "I… I… like… after… after you…"

"After. I. What?" With each word she stepped closer, her voice rising into severe danger zones.

"You… you… I made… dinner… 'n… you…"

"I think I apologized for that," she whispered. The heat of her breath scalded my face.

"Y… yeah… you… but… still… was before… 'n she's… just… a… friend…"

"Uh huh." Her fingers tightened. "Who?"

I bit my lip so hard it drew blood. "E… E… E…van… ge…"

I woke up a few hours later with the words "THE FUCKING PRISONER?" dancing in my head. Somebody had moved me into the pub and put a hot water bottle on my forehead, bless their soul, though it wasn't enough to abate the incredible headache. Or the pain of a chipped tooth.

Libby's kicked me out of her bed. She doesn't want to see me right now. She's also suggested, via Edmund, that if I EVER want to get back in her good graces, I'd best stay away from Evangelina. I'd argue that we've never done anything beyond eating dinner together, but, yeah, I doubt that'll help at all.

I think I'm done trying to show my wife that I love her. It made things so much worse.


Dragomir the Mayor

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-Nine: Lyrical wonderment

I shouldn't have kept doing this. Everyone in Pubton will agree to that.

I was in desperate straits after yesterday's pie fiasco. Three days of doing right by Libby, only one success - and a marginal one at that. Moreover, I'd probably wiped out any memory of my cleanliness by insulting Libby with the pie. Stupid, stupid, STUPID! Why couldn't I have anticipated that she'd be insulted by the DAMN PIE?!

I needed instant romance. Romance in a jar, as it were. And there's no one more romantic, despite my earlier reservations, than a bard.

Edmund was busy helping with the walls today, as he has the entire last week. Harold is desperate to get some defensive fortifications up and running, and he has Edmund, of all people, managing the site while Harold's off administrating other projects. Turns out Edmund's surprisingly good at keeping people motivated with his constant background music.

Today the workers - who have done a hell of a lot on creating a framework for the wall, even if we still need, you know, stones and such - had to go without. I made the executive decision to pull Edmund off the project and help me with something.

I needed a song.

"You wish to win your lady fair / With dreamy words that speak of care?"

"Yeah. She's pissed, 'n I'm only making things worse. C'mon, Ed, I need some help. A song'll do it, I'm sure it will. She always likes when YOU play music… mostly…"

Yeah. Mostly. Ed told me in confidence once that, while she was pregnant, Libby made constant threats on his magical lute. Probably 'cause they were stuck in a goblin apartment for over a month and he had nothing to do but PLAY said lute.

"Want you lyrics? Want you song? / One you can sing all day long"?

"Yeah. Yeah. Lyrics. That's good. I can sing it, you can play in the background. C'mon, let's get to work. We'll make something AWESOME."

And we did. We worked for five hours, straight through to midday, writing and composing a delicate love ballad that I would perform for Libby. And not just for her, but EVERYONE. I would show the whole TOWN how much I loved my wife by serenading her at dinner.

That's just what happened, too. Standing on a table, dressed in the finest clothes I own (which, ah, is my basic mayor outfit, I guess), my chest puffed out, Edmund standing to the side with his lute at the ready, I waited for Libby to walk in -

- and the moment she did, perhaps a little too quickly, I began to sing.

"Greetings, oh greetings, my wife, 
My love, my laugh, my life,
You are to me
What love could be
In times of perilous strife!

Hello, oh hello, my dear,
I would now catch your ear,
And hold it close
With words verbose
Which make my meaning so clear!

Bonjour, bonjour, my friend,
Your day is at an end,
And with your musk
I lend you my tusk -"

That's all I managed. By then everyone in the pub was laughing so loudly that my voice, my horrible, screeching voice got drowned out by the din, and the horrifying look of anger and revulsion and utter embarrassment on Libby's face forced me to stop. The first thing that came to my lips in the aftermath was an apology -

- and it came WAY too late, as it didn't even manage to bypass Libby's fist as she leaped onto the table and crushed my face. I flew from my pedestal and hit the floor, followed by more laughter and the roar of my darling wife as she yelled for everyone to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

They did not. Apparently my melody was just too funny. Libby stormed off after punching a few more people, and only Edmund showed much concern for my crumpled body.

"Musk?" he yelled, pulling me to my feet. "Musk?! I told you not to say freaking musk! You don't talk to a woman about her musk! We trashed that stanza, remember? What the hell were you thinking?!"

"Ugh." I spat out some blood. "Y… you…"

"Gods, I'm ruined as a bard… musk… I'm detaching myself from this project immediately, I didn't contribute, I didn't, oh gods…"


He shook me lightly. "What? WHAT, DRAGOMIR?"

"You're not… rhyming…"

Edmund's eye twitched. A big, sickly vein popped out on his forehead. "This is a bad dream. Forget it. Good night."

I passed out. But I remember. I know.

Three failures. Libby didn't even come to bed tonight. She slept somewhere else, presumably with Grayson. I was very cold.

I have some explaining to do tomorrow, I think.


Dragomir the Bloody

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-Eight: Nuclear cookery


Libby is infamous for her pies.

I know I've mentioned Libby's pies to you before, diary. They seemed a natural subject, as pies constitute one of the few things Libby's attempted that she's never managed to get right. Pies are her Achilles' heel, whomever Achilles may be (no one's ever explained that to me before, and I don’t think anyone knows), and a lofty goal Libby may never reach.


Libby's pies are grotesque. I don't know if it's the ingredients, overcooking or her own unwashed hands, but every pie Libby's ever made has turned out bad. Trying to eat one is like trying to gnaw on a brick. You can't do it, you shouldn't do it, and, ultimately, even if Libby's standing over you with her fists primed, you won't do it. Libby will maim; trying to eat the pie will kill.

It seemed only natural to me, therefore, that I try to make up with Libby by baking her an awesome pie.

I didn't know how to make pies. They were a mystery to me. What constitutes a pie, after all? Crust, wrapped around succulent innards. How do the innards get inside the sealed pie? Are they teleported there during baking? Do they grow naturally out of the dough? Is it horrible dark magic?

No, in fact. It's none of those things.

Bora has some downtime when people are out working, so I went to her and asked her how I might go about making a pie. A delicious pie. A pie that would rock the heavens. I've never had her pies before, but I've had ROBERT'S pies, and they rocked, maybe not the heavens, but most of the earth. Bora's almost as good as Robert was at cooking, so I figured she might have a secret pie specialty up her sleeve. Lack of sleeves. Whatever.

(Seriously. She goes about in the same dress all year 'round. I won't, uh, complain, but… doesn't she get cold…?)

She was happy to show me how to make a pie, and though she admitted less proficiency at it than Robert, she still knew exactly how it was done. There are three steps to pie-making:

1.) Make the dough
2.) ???
3.) Profit!

No, wait, that isn't right… what the hell…?

Sorry. There are FOUR steps to making a pie.

1.) Make the dough
2.) Put the stuff IN the dough
3.) ???
4.) Profit!

There. That's better. (I didn't get to see what Bora did during the third step, she hustled me out of the kitchen to prep for lunch.)

So we made the pie. She got out a tin pie plate, we rolled the dough, we made a cap for the ingredients, and we got a bunch of fresh blueberries from a passing merchant. Then we stuffed 'em all into the dough and, well, out I went, feeling a bit heady from being in close proximity to Bora for so long. Eventually, an hour later, profit!

Libby sat down to lunch a bit late, followed closely by Grayson. I ran to the bar, asked for the pie, and personally delivered it to my wife. She stared at the thing with no small amount of surprise.

"You made me a pie?"


Her eyes narrowed. "It… it smells good."

"I hope so! Try it!"

Cautiously grabbing a fork, watched at every step by Grayson, she dipped into the top of the pie, inspected the chunk she pulled from it, and offered it to her son. She sniffed the piece and took a bite.

His eyes lit up. And, oddly, he frowned - but only for a second. Then he smiled brightly.

"Go on, mom, have some pie. It's great."

Libby dipped her fork in a second time, accepting a helping for herself. Then, her eyes lighting in the same fashion as Grayson, she took another bite - and another - and another - and several more. Grayson joined in, and soon the pie was reduced to crumbs and an empty tin.

Libby sat back, burping. Yet she didn't smile. Hell, if anything, she looked pissed.

"You made a great pie," she breathed.

"… thanks…" I said, suddenly uncertain.

"You know… I always wanted… to make a great pie…"

"… yeah…"

"And you…" She burped. "You beat me to it…"

"… uh…"

"… gods… damn you…"

With a sudden flurry of vicious movement, Libby swept the pie tin from the table, stood up and smacked me in the face. I hit the ground, stunned, confused, and a little hungry. I'd hoped to get in on the pie.


She turned to leave. Hesitated. Dipped down, grabbed the pie tie, and licked the remaining blueberries out of the bottom. Then she hurled it in my face and stormed out of the Beefiary, Grayson prancing in her wake.

I had no words. No words at all.

Two days of failure. Tomorrow… ugh… should I keep doing this tomorrow…?


Dragomir the Stymied

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-Seven: Artistic genius

The onslaught of kindness to the wife has officially begun! I spent last night mentally prepping a dozen ways I could win her to my heart, and today I set that plan into proper motion. Like I said, bodily hygiene was just the START.

Granted, today's attempt didn't work that well. BUT I'M STILL GETTING WARMED UP.

I reached into my many memories of Libby since we got married, and for some reason one of the most prominent was her creation of a sculpture for King Jeffrey's Jeffmas. You were here, diary, you remember: she made a life-sized representation of the king out of wood and presented it to him. And he loved it! Set it in his throne room, he did. And, hell, if SHE can be all artsy-fartsy, why can't Dragomir? Eh?

Not being a sculptor in any sense of the word, I decided to render my wife somewhat different: through a sketch. I spend a lot of my down time doodling, and though my previous attempts at drawing Libby didn't turn out so well, I also spent very little time on them. Today's drawing would be DIFFERENT.

And not only would it be different, it would be framed. (That's the only good idea The Baron ever gave me.)

I spent hours, HOURS, crafting the perfect sketch. I went looking for books with pictures in 'em, and I used almost a dozen different references to help me in drawing my wife. Hell, occasionally I even looked at her, as I could see her through one of the windows in the pub, yelling at her carpenters not to break the water wheel. (Honestly, those guys. She coulda been done by now if she'd been working on her own, but noooo, she has to teach these nincompoops how to build stuff all proper…)

I poured everything I feel about Libby into the picture. All the love, affection, thankfulness and, yes, grief. Libby gives me grief. Wives do that to husbands, just like husbands do to wives. I'm not onea those guys who idealizes his partner in every situation, diary, in case you'd been thinking that. I take Libby as she is: an ornery woman. Lovely and kind and generous and stuff, but ornery. I totally took that into account.

And, ah, maybe that's where the picture went wrong. Maybe I shoulda stuck with idealized.

I presented the nicely-framed-and-finished product to Libby at dinner. I beamed at my accomplishment; Grayson pointed and laughed, the little prick; and Libby… Libby… well, Libby asked what it was.

Looking at it again now, I can see why she asked.

"It's you!" I insisted, pointing at the nose. "Can't you see? It looks just like yours! I spent half an hour getting' it perfect!"

Libby tweaked her own nose, then squinted at the picture. "… I don't see it."

"No, no, serious! Look closer, c'mon, look closer. Think of it, like, ah, onea those 3D mural things. You just have to concentrate on the right part for a while."

She did, thoughtfully chewing on her bowl of minced winterweed. After a while she shrugged. "Dunno. Whatever it is, it's ugly as hell."

"Ugly," Grayson agreed. "Don't know what that's supposed to be, daddy."

"Quiet, you." I shot him a dirty glance. "C'mon, you… you really don't see yourself?"

"If that's how you see me," Libby said, sneering, "then ya must be blind. Or I must be the sorest sight ever spat out a womb. Go on, get that outta here, it's foulin' my appetite."

So, yeah, that didn't work. I sadly set the picture aside and set upon my own bowl of winterweed, half-listening as Libby complained about the fare. She'd gotten used to eating from our meat stores, which, regretfully, are running low now that we've run out of Antonia-tenderized animals. Bora's cut down on our meat portions. Sigh.

But I'm not giving up. I will SHOW LIBBY MY LOVE, and she will RECOGNIZE IT, and she will FORGIVE ME for that thing I did which she knows nothing about, namely having a meal with another woman.

She will. Just watch.


Dragomir the Mayor

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-Six: It begins

Man, Lord B.T. is even worse at romantical stuff than me. Here's his response to my letter:

'Hello Dragomir,

It is good to hear from you after so many months. I've been much preoccupied, and you doubtless the same. The young woman I previously mentioned has, um, well, suffice it to say that she is no longer my burden to bear. Thank you for asking about her regardless.

As for your line of inquiry, I must shamefully admit that my life has been spent as a bachelor. I have yet to meet a kindly soul with which to share liaisons, thanks to a combination of work, duty, and, er, a lack of proper partners. That has recently been remedied, though I nevertheless remain a stolid soul, quietly on the lookout for the right person.

In short, I have next to no helpful advice to offer you in… wooing… your wife. I do not see why you must woo a woman who is already your wife, and it sounds that she is more in the wrong, not you. Having dinner with a friend is not a sin. Perhaps we, too, might share a meal some day; would that prick at your conscience? I certainly hope not!

I can but offer you good wishes, and hope all goes well with Libby. If not, well, there are many more fish in the proverbial sea.


Lord B.T.

P.S. I sent you no letters recommending that you vacate Pubton. They were surely penned by some sort of madman. I will look into it.'

Great. So according to B.T., if Libby's annoying, I should look somewhere else. Yet MORE great advice from the pen pal. (And what's up with that bit about US having dinner? What a weird guy. At least he's polite.)

Lacking better advice, I have resolved to spend this week doing SUPER NICE THINGS for Libby. Like, all of the nice things that a man can do, I shall do. I don't have any big stuff planned, YET, so I started today by cleaning myself as thoroughly as I EVER HAVE. Dipped myself in freezing stream water 'n everything. Libby complains about the urine smell in my clothes, and I made sure it did NOT exist when she clambered into bed this evening.

She immediately sensed that something had changed. "… what's up with this?"

I grinned but said nothing.

She rolled over and stared at me. "Something's off. Wrong. What've you done?"

I flashed my pearly teeth and tugged at my smooth hair.

She grabbed at my face, turning it this way and that. "Something's… what the hell…"

I breathed on her. For once, she did not recoil.

"Huh." A few confused blinks. "You're weird."

Another smile.

Watching me cautiously, she slowly turned over to her side of the bed and went to sleep.

This is just the start, baby. Juuuuust the start.


Dragomir the Paramour

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-Five: Feelin' sheepish

Don't be surprised if I end this entry with 'Dragomir the Dirtwad'. Because that's how I feel. I'm a dirtwad.

I was pissed yesterday. No two ways about it, I was pissed. I spent all day making a nice, cultured meal for Libby, and not only did she kinda insult my cooking, she couldn't even be bothered to sit down and eat with me. Not for a single damned second! How'd she get up the stairs that fast?! GODS was I mad! Grayson's snide little comments didn't help.

Pissed. So pissed. So pissed that I decided to eat with someone else, because after that HUMILIATION - from my WIFE, of all people, my WIFE! - I wasn't going to charge after Libby. I wouldn't stop for a single SECOND to get her to understand how badly I felt. So what did I do? I offered the meal to someone else.

Another woman.


(Honestly, Bora had been my first thought, but she was busy.)

At the time I barely stopped to consider what I was doing. I was too mad. I wanted companionship, my partner SPAT IN MY FACE, so I went to someone else. We ate, we talked, she drank two glasses of wine, and I ended the evening feeling much better than when it had started. Getting in bed with Libby when she got home was tough, as she barely acknowledged me upon returning from June's home, but I wasn't fuming. I was merely irked, thanks to Evangelina.



Never thought about how close her name is to Eve's. A longer version, but close. The sound is there. As if Eve is the male version of the name, 'n Evangelina is the female. Kinda like Edward and Edna, or Benjamin and Benjamina, or Jasper and Jasmine, or Dragomir and Dragomir… mina. (Might've made that last one up.) Evangelina's certainly more feminine than Eve.

Yet that's almost how I think of her, now. As a family member. 

It's weird. I haven't known Evangelina for long. I've been aware of her for a couple years, true, but AWARENESS ain't the same as KNOWING. And, sure, she's attractive, and, yeah, men ogle her, but… that seems kinda wrong to me. That's never how I've looked at her. She's like… a buddy. Or a brother.

… maybe a sister. Yeah. That makes slightly more sense. Sister. Whenever we squabble or talk or laugh she gives off that sisterly vibe.

When I woke up this morning, though, and Grylock slapped me on the arm and called me a 'dog' for spending an evening with another woman, I knew I'd fucked up. If Grylock thinks it's cool, it ain't.

It got worse, 'cause shortly after lunch, Libby hunted me down. To apologize.

"I'm sorry," she said, pushing me behind a building and nearly snapping my back with a bear hug. "I'm sorry. I was a bitch yesterday. I was distracted."

"Ugh." I struggled for breath.

"You made a nice meal for me, 'n I blew ya off. This thing with June, it's… complicated… 'n eatin' up my time. Didn't think about it at all."

"S… s'okay…"

She patted me on the head. "I just wanna make sure this town's as good as ya think it can be, dummy. You inspire people all the damned time; we gotta make your words look good. You know what I mean? What's wrong with you, anyway?"

"Ah… bug… in my throat…"

"Oh, sure." She cleared her own throat, then leaned over and kissed me quickly on the cheek. "Anyway. I gotta go to work. Next time you make me a meal, I'll sit down. Even if it's kinda crappy. No offense or nuthin'. Ya deserve better from me."

She left me grasping at air. Eventually, when my windpipe righted itself, I found an opportunity to feel shame - possibly because I spotted Grayson watching me from a distance and waving a finger in disapproval.

That little shit.

I'll show him.

And I'll show Libby.

Next week, I'm gonna be the most loving husband EVER.

But, currently, I am just Dragomir the Dirtwad.

I've sent a letter to Lord B.T. asking for some advice. I haven't talked to him in a long while, and being a lord I'm sure he's had his share of romance. Surely he can offer some suggestions on how to get in good with my wife. I can't ask 'round here so much - not only will it spoil the surprise, the best people I know to ask are women. That got me in trouble in the first place.

Oh, and Edmund.

… I'm bad at poetry. So much for him.


Dragomir the You-Know-What

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-Four: The new Saint Valentine's Day Massacre

When we were playing Rookery last night, Evangelina offered me a bit of advice on reaching out to my wife:

"Make her a meal," she said. "Something nice. Something that shows her you care. Haunting her shadow and pestering her all day won't do. You have to woo the woman to get her attention, and the stomach's a good place to start."

"Really? Have guys wooed you like that?"

"Pfft, no. I'm not a peasant. I have more refined needs."

"Yesterday you'n I had a burping contest after chugging down root beer. That wasn't very refined."

"Shut up, Dragomir."

So that's what I did. Not the burping contest, we already proved I'm the king of that, but the meal. The nice, steaming, delicious meal, all prepped and ready to WOO Libby and win myself some attention, even if it only lasted for twenty minutes in a crowded room of noisy people.

… but first, I had to learn how to cook.

I've prepared food before. I had to cook for myself the whole time I was wandering to Goblinoster. Granted, I often ate already-prepared stuff straight from my pack or snagged grass right off the ground, but I have COOKED. It has been DONE, and it will be done again. I just… don't know how to cook terribly WELL.

If he was still, y'know, around, Robert would've taught me the basics. Hell, for a couple gold I could've convinced him to make a meal for us but have it look like I made it. Lacking his master chefery, I had to turn to the present owner of the Beefiary: Bora.

Bora took Robert's death hard for a couple days. Wouldn't talk much, just languished behind the counter and served people their meals. She's recovered admirably, though, and she manages to both prepare and serve the food most nights. Robert's former staff live in Pubton, but most of 'em have other, more important duties these days, and none of 'em are as good at cooking as Bora anyway. Second only to Robert, she is.

Unfortunately, a master is only as good as their student. "Let me get this straight. You want to make Libby a meal."


"And you want it to be romantic."


"But you don't know what to make her."


"And you haven't put ANY thought into it."

"Y… yeeeeeeep."

"And you pretty much want me t'do everything."




"And make it look like you did it."


"Grab a damned spoon, ya oaf."

We cooked. Knowing a basic meal wouldn't cut it, Bora quickly settled on dipping into Robert's private stocks, usually maintained for cooking experiments, to whip up a delicious meat soufflé and steamed vegetables combination. She worked with me most of the day, correcting me when I went wrong (which was most of the time) but letting me do all of the work. She showed me how to stir, how to mince, how to set the stove and, most important, how to sit back and wait.

(Her touch still sends tingles up 'n down my whole body. Gods, and that smell! Mostly Bora smells like a kitchen, which is good enough on its own, but under that! Ah! Some kinda heaven.

Err, uh, forget I said all this. Still need that damned button that erases words. Get to work on it, diary.)

We timed the meal so it would be ready for dinner, 'n Bora helped me set up a table in one of the private rooms upstairs. Had candles, two glasses of wine, forks, the whole shebang. I waited downstairs for Libby to come in for her meal -

- and she did. Early, in fact, ahead of the workers. She had a voracious eye, keen to track down and target any food it found for consumption. I smiled and waved her over, trying (and failing) to extend the smile to Grayson, who tagged happily along behind his mother.

"Got a special meal," I said, pointing upstairs. "Made it 'n everything."

She cocked an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? Since when do you cook?"

"Since today."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah! C'mon, I'll show ya." I peered around her shoulder. "You stay here, Grayson."

He pouted. Smilingly. Freaky little bastard almost never stops smiling. "Why? I'm hungry, too. Didn't you make me any food, dad?"

Biting my lip, I stabbed at civility. "It's, uh, a special night, kiddo. Go see Bora, she'll fix you up. I wanna spend time with mommy alone for a bit, 'kay?"

"But why?" Grayson batted his eyelashes innocently.

"… 'cause."




"Lay off, kid! 'cause!" I didn't quite shout it, but I was rather irate.

"Oh." Grayson beamed. "S'okay. Mom should have the best food, after all. And look! She's got it!"

He pointed. Libby was tromping down the stairs, gobbling more soufflé with each step. She favoured me with a single look and grunted "S'okay. Could use more squid" as she passed.

I flailed, trying to stop her. "Hey! Wait! We're supposed ta have a fine meal! Togetherness! Things! STUFF! And there's no squid in - "

"No veggies next time." Libby dropped the soufflé cup on the ground, spitting a bone out as she opened the door and left. "Y'know I hate veggies. I'm goin' to June's."

"She does hate veggies," Grayson agreed, following his mother. "You might know that if you spent less time with other women."

The door clicked shut. I gaped, staring first out the window at my wife as she headed to the forest, then at the wobbling soufflé cup, then at the bone. Window, cup, bone, window, cup, bone, around and around.

Flabbergasted, largely ignored by the slow stream of incoming, famished workers, I went back upstairs. 

My first stop was to Grayson's room, which I systematically rearranged so everything would be asymmetrical. He's already balanced everything out again, but damn did it feel good at the time.

My second stop was to the dining area. I snuffed the candles, grabbed the table, and slowly yanked it out of the room.

My third stop was to Evangelina's room. I parked the table in front of the bars, put my soufflé and veggies closest to her, and beckoned her over from the bed.

"… and what's this?" she asked, eying the wine. "I've never been propositioned quite so boldly."

"I dunno what that means." I grabbed a fork and stabbed at Libby's vegetables. "Eat up. I want a dinner partner."

So we ate. Gradually, with enough conversation, she made me laugh.

But I'm still mad.


Dragomir the Snubbed

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-Three: Stuff

In the old days, Libby and I used to do stuff.

And I don't just mean the stuff with the thinger, 'cause that barely ever happened. I mean, like, stuff. Fun stuff. Sure, she could be a naggy douche a lot of the time, and she did lock me in a cage and let people throw rotten fruit for her general amusement, but she was also a bit of a buddy. Buddies do that. We went out, we had dinner with friends, we made fun of people, we played board games, we argued over whether or not Eve was an evil little cow… you know, STUFF.

We don't do stuff anymore. Maybe that's part of my general boredom: when I'm done work each day, I expect to come home… to the pub, I guess… and do STUFF. Particularly with Libby. But she's too busy to do stuff these days, between her project with June and building up the town and all. She's always fiddling with this and that and has no time for me. Plenty of time for GRAYSON, yeah, but not me.

Same goes for everyone else. Even Edmund, who, as a bard, should be DEDICATED to having a good time, is wrapped up in his own STUFF. No time for MY stuff, he's got his OWN stuff. STUUUUFF FRUSTRATES MEEEEEE.

Today I decided not to take no for an answer. I would do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, with my wife. Even if our STUFF consisted of nothing more than sitting down together for a simple meal. Preferably something more complex than that, but… STUUUUUFF

Libby's been working 'round town during the day and visiting June's hut in the evenings. That leaves precisely no time to do stuff, though I'm not a huge fan of June, so I opted to try and steal her away from her daily duties. I'm the mayor, I can make it happen. Right? Nope, wrong.

"I'm busy," was all she said when I approached her in her half-built workhouse, crouched over a cracked water wheel. "Dammit, Fledger, I told you to be more careful with that hammer."

"Sorry, mum."

"Don't call me mum, either."

"C'mon, Libby, you must have a bit of time. You keep comin' up with board games. Wanna go play one?"

"That's parta my duties," she grumbled, three nails dangling from her mouth as she grabbed for a mallet. "It's not even lunch yet. Go do work."

"But nobody needs meeeeee!" I tugged on the sleeve of her coat. "C'mon, you never get a day off. You deserve a half hour. An hour. A whole DAY, if you want. C'mon, you just gotta want iiiiiit."

"I don't!" She reached back, without looking, and knocked me across the room. "I'm tryin' ta put your stupid town together! Gotta work on traps after this! Stop buggin' me!"

I didn't. Even after Libby kicked me outta her workshop, I stuck around and waited for her to emerge. I pestered her as she moved from place to place, attempting to convince her assistants to find something else to do. Libby's too, uh, 'persuasive' to be outdone by me when it comes to managerial force, however, and they stuck by her. I got so annoying that she knocked me out and left me dangling from one of the lower boughs of the golden tree.

Now I've got a cold. Stupid Libby.

Dejected, I shambled into the pub, sneezed a dozen times, and went up to see Evangelina. She's the only person who's got a moment to spare, probably 'cause her only other option is reading books, staring out the window, exercising (she does that surprisingly often - didn't think nobles cared about keeping fit) or grimacing at the weird bloodstain left behind by her brother. We can't seem to wash it off of the bars.

"Evangelinaaaaa," I whined, slumping down in the visitors' chair, "nobody wants to do stuff with meeeeee. What're you reading?"

She looked up from her book and cocked an eyebrow. "Lord Dandylion's Ode to a Lost Sheep. It's stupid. Shouldn't you be acting the part of a mayor?"

"I TRIED, but nobody wants my help!" I sneezed and slapped the back of my chair. "Bein' mayor's stupid."

She shook her head and sat up on her bed. "You have more mood swings than a pregnant cow. Just yesterday you came in complaining that you'd nearly been disemboweled by a werewolf. Now you moan about being bored. Your memory for your fantastically-eventful life is so small."

"Oh yeah, the werewolf…" I mulled that over. "Did you get bitten durin' that whole thing, Evangelina? Last year, I mean."

"No, I was off on some mission for my brother. I can't remember what. That was a busy time."

"I guess so." Sniff. "It sucked. Everybody wanted to eat me. But at least it wasn't boring."

"Go back to the mountain, maybe the werewolf will give you something to do."

"Antonia? No way, man, she'll beat me up. Better at it than Libby, she was, what with all her boxing finesse 'n such. Hey, wanna play Rookery?"

Evangelina closed her book and sighed. "Do I have much choice?"

I grinned. "Nope. 'least I can still tell YOU what to do."

And that's what we did.



Dragomir the Mayor

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-Two: Workplace blues

Today was the first day in a long time where somebody didn't ask me to do something.

I got up with everyone else at daybreak, feeling rather grumpy at the prospect of helping around town. I was sore, I was tired, I was distracted - but I was, and still am, the mayor. It's my duty to help out my constituents however I can. I'd been out of touch a few days, so I started off by asking Harold what was on the itinerary. He had a full listing of things:

- Work on the wall
- Hammer out more weapons
- Harvest the last of the winterweed before the snows melt
- Start building the base of a mill for grinding grain with Libby's up-and-coming water wheel
- Work on the water wheel
- Assist the newly-arrived Weekendists with finding a source of rock for their new church (yes, I forgot to mention, a bundle of them showed up Friday, looking to settle down here - our resident member of the sect has already taken control of 'em, I've heard)
- Normal daily chores

In short, lotsa stuff. I asked Harold where I would be needed most.

"Er…" He looked the list over a few times, comparing it to the workers trudging out of the pub under my dad's watchful eye. "Hm. I think all of these jobs are handled, actually. A lot of new workers have been showing up, almost to excess."

"Huh." I tapped my chin. "There're no shortfalls in labour anywhere?"

"Not… really…"

"Huh. Well, I mean, I could still HELP, right…? Like, harvesting… could help there…"

Harold fidgeted. He, along with everyone else, knew quite well that I was bad at safely pulling winterweed out of the ground. I have a tendency to wreck more plants than I successfully cultivate.

"Okay, well, how 'bout the Weekendists? I should help 'em out. They're newcomers 'n all."

"They'll… probably be gone already. I sent them with a few hunters. Won't be back for most of the day. Sorry."

"Oh." Pause. "Isn't there anything I can do?"

Casting his eyes about, Harold eventually settled on a shovel propped near the door to the pub. He grabbed it and handed it to me. "You could clear some of the roads? The horses have trouble in the snow…"

Irked, I took the shovel. Then the irrational desire to bop Harold on the head with it filled my brain, and it slipped out of my hand. "No, apparently I can't."

It's strange. When we began building Pubton, I prayed for the day it would become self-sustaining. People wouldn't need to look to me for everything! Arguments would fall apart in favour of getting shit done! Progress! In short, less work for me! That was a glorious, secret desire of mine, selfish though it sounds… and now it's happened. People find their own work, all directed at the betterment of the community, and Pubton continues to grow. Hell, even the constant battles between the peasants and the nobles have settled down significantly, with both sides sharing the bulk of the work.

And you know what? It kinda sucks.

I was a lazy guard in my former life. I avoided work. Work was a sucky thing you did at a job, and jobs are lame. Being mayor, though… that's a career. As much as I've bitched about it in the past, I liked to feel needed by people. I enjoyed helping out, even if I sucked at farming and building and stuff. I was leader of a community, I made decisions that swayed the community, hell, I founded the community.

And now it's not mine anymore. It belongs to everyone else. I'm just a figurehead. It's like King Gok said, all those months ago: "Ye just need to be a symbol for yer people. They'll do all the hard stuff." Sure, he was talkin' about me being a king at the time, but it still seems to apply. Everyone else does the hard stuff, all the working and legislating and decision-making… I'm just the symbol.

It's boring being the symbol. Real boring.

I realize now that it kinda snuck up on me over time, as well. Didn't just happen today. I've been talking less and less about work stuff over the past few months because I've had less of it to do. Sure, I've had to deal with a bunch of OTHER crap that dominated my time, but my absences haven't mucked with the construction of the community much. Hell, in some cases my not helping out probably made certain jobs easier.

Behold. I am Dragomir, mayor of Pubton. I am superfluous. I play board games with a prisoner and doodle all day. What a boring job.


Dragomir the Mayor

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day Three-Ninety-One: So ends the roadtrip

Pressing on through some unusually nice weather and in almost absolute silence, our little party made significant headway towards Pubton last Friday. We stopped to rest on the outskirts of the forest, and by the time we parted ways with little Julius it was Monday. Got back to Pubton proper 'round lunchtime.

I don't know what to make of Julius. He never once offered to write anything in you, diary, or even explain himself with his flailing little limbs. He showed up, he came along, he somehow controlled Antonia with those glowing orange eyes, and he left again. I've never seen him work magic before, aside from being an intelligent spider, so I wonder if June's behind it all. Maybe she was spyin' on us, or something? Eh, who knows. He saved us, guess that's the important part.

Pagan went home. Took the little entourage of slaves he'd left behind in Pubton and vamoosed, still nursing a sore face. I finally got around to asking him if he'd like to move his manor closer to town; he countered by sourly suggesting that maybe we should move Pubton closer to his manor. Not a terrible idea, that, though I shot it down. He said he'd think about my proposal, collected his rent money, and left. I doubt I'll get far on that count.

Dad went home. He had little to say to me. Still thinks I'm a coward for trying to take off on him 'n Pagan in the cave. The hell did he think I could do against a werewolf when a knight and the strongest farmer ever born failed to beat 'im? Nuts, I say, utterly nuts.

And that comment about Robert was out of line. That's all I'll say. Not unexpected, coming from Oswald, but out of line. Gods, what a dick of a father.

I'm not sure what to think about what happened on the mountain. Antonia's gotta be there for a reason, 'n that reason's gotta have something to do with that giant symbol. The rock wall it was on wasn't natural, probably hinting at something behind the wall. Or under the mountain. Or… hell, I dunno. More rat business. I bet whatever's there is what the shadow things want - they're all about digging for shit, it seems. I'd ask the rats, but, hey, they're useless, you know? Completely useless. Might be time to follow through on that threat.

I'll think about it.

I was feeling tired and downtrodden when I got back, and I went looking for companionship, but everyone's too busy to keep me company. Libby's setting up new houses and buildings, including a water wheel in preparation for spring; Edmund was conscripted by Harold to help plan and build the wall; Grylock is on smithing duty, and I hear he's planning some new armour and weapon designs for our eventual force of guards (not that I'd wanna hang out with him anyway); Bora's serving people day and night, the tireless hostess of the Beefiary now that Robert's gone - might have to get her an assistant; and Grayson, well, he's Grayson. Most of the time I don't see him, and when I do he creeps me out.

That left one person to turn to. Evangelina. 

We chatted. I told her what I'd seen at the mountain, as well as little Julius and his weird powers. She couldn't comment on the mountain, though she did offer some insights into the spider, saying he's June's familiar. Whatever that means. They live together, of course they'd be familiar with each other. Either way, she says June could possibly grant him some of her power - and, yes, she might be able to use him as a spy. Evangelina wouldn't know, she never had a familiar.

Then we played a board game. Rookery. Libby made it up during the shadow thing invasion to calm people down. It's much simpler than some of her other board games - there are only five rounds to the punt this time, and the score is less than, equal to, or greater than 56. Yeah, I know, she's probably losing her touch. Thinks we're all too dumb to handle real board games.

Sigh. Sleep now. My body is broken from all that walking. Back to mayorly duties tomorrow, I guess.


Dragomir the Fatigued

Friday, February 8, 2013

Day Three-Hundred-Ninety: Also known as an Orange Julius

Yeah, so, I slept. So sue me. I woke up when the important stuff happened.

I was told after the fact that Pagan stayed up all night. He's accustomed to long, sleepless watches from his soldiering days, and he can remain awake for three days straight before needing a rest. I doubt that, given that he's an old man, but he obviously kept himself conscious this entire night, patiently waiting for signs of a slumbering werewolf.

Antonia, both bestial and unsoldierly, dropped off to sleep around five in the morning. Pagan waited another hour for Antonia to get comfortable, then quietly edged towards her so he could put his sword cane through her brain. He didn't know we were acquainted at the time, and I doubt it would have made a difference to his attack anyway.

It didn't work. Pagan got two steps away from a good killing distance when Antonia's nose caught wind of him. Her eyes flew open, she snarled, and she rolled out of the way of Pagan's killing stab as his sword cane whistled towards her snout. Pagan whirled, trying to track her, but Antonia's animal instincts and boxing reflexes brought her to his side too quickly -

- and with a horrifying SMACK that woke me up, she slammed Pagan in the face with her massive fist. He flew backward and hit the ground, unconscious.

Dad came next. Lumbering to his feet he roared and charged, head down, aiming for Antonia's chest. He was too concentrated on the battle, however, and his still-twitchy limbs got the best of him, tangling his legs and slowing him down. Antonia had more than enough time to slide up to him and hit him in the side of the head.

And again.

And again.

And again.

My dad, as you well now, has a damned hard skull. It's incredibly difficult to knock him out, even for an ex-boxer-turned-werewolf. They struggled, Antonia pinning him, leaving a clear path to the entrance of the cave.

A normal person, a person with a loving childhood, might have remained behind to help their father. I had no such childhood. Without a speck of remorse I got to my feet and ran for the cave entrance, hoping the speed of my legs might carry me past danger before Antonia could react.

I thought poorly. Without much effort she extended one of her arms to stop me. I hit it, my legs flew forward while my neck pivoted like a wheel on the axle of her forearm, and I went down, coughing and sputtering.

Walloping my dad's bloody forehead one last time, forcing him into unconsciousness, Antonia loomed over me. She growled and sniffed, cocking her head as I struggled to regain my breath, her drool leaving white, foamy stains on my face. I braced myself for the killing blow, knowing that she couldn't possibly restrain herself after such violence, knowing the lycanthropy in her veins must at last force her to acknowledge her horrifying bestial instincts -

- and then, bizarrely, her eyes went orange. Bright, surprised orange.

Antonia reared back, clutching her head with massive, shaggy claws, roaring her frustration. Still bleary, I only vaguely noticed the hunched shape of the spider on my chest, its eyes equally aglow, staring intensely at its mammalian prey. Antonia careened off a wall, roared again, and pinned herself against the massive white mural at the back of the cave, growling and hissing and spitting.

My dad, who was apparently only out for a few seconds, struggled to his feet. Watching Antonia warily he ran to Pagan, lifting the knight to his legs and pulling him out of the cave as best he could with his tiny wooden arms. Eventually, still woozy and supporting a spider on my shoulder, I helped him carry the old man away.

Julius didn't scuttle back into my bag, which I'd wisely grabbed before leaving, until we were out of the cave. The moment he hid, Antonia howled loudly - but she didn't pursue. Nor did we see any further sign of her during our trip, as we kept well away from the cave.

We set up camp in our old spot, sharing what few supplies I had left in my bag. Pagan spent the rest of the day with a vicious headache, which, to his credit, he mostly kept to himself. We kept quiet out of respect for his attempts to get us out of trouble.

My father only had one thing to say to me for most of the long trip back through the foothills, after our decision to return to Pubton:

"Ya woulda run out on us, ya fuckin' coward. Ya woulda left us ta die. Here I was thinkin' a bit better of you; more the fool, me, I guess. Wish you'd died 'n left Robert here t'do me proud."

Another fine day for my family.


Dragomir the Mayor

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day Three-Eighty-Nine: Trapped

We know what was beating up the animals. I'm surprised I hadn't figured it out before. Hell, in retrospect, I hadn't thought about it… in a long time…

I was, as usual, the last to awaken. Dad was drinking beer, because there's no point of any day that's too early for beer, and Pagan was off scouting on his own. Julius scurried out of my bag with a jam-laden bagel on his back, and after dusting off the bottom I scarfed it down.

"Sleep well, ya shit?" asked dad between chugs. He grinned with each lift of his travel tankard. I think he was tired of dipping his face into mugs to drink, and he refused to use a straw. Not manly enough.

"Yeah, I guess." I shivered and scooted closer to the fresh fire burning in the small fire pit in the midst of our camp. "Cold today."

"Want some beer? Warms me up. C'mon, have some."

I shook my head. "Beer doesn't do anythin' for me, dad. No point."

"Peh." He spat into the fire. "Gave ya beer as a kid 'n it always knocked ya for a loop. Great for puttin' ya down when ya wouldn't sleep. You'n Robert both. Pair of squallin' little tits, you were."

"Guess I grew out of it." I munched moodily on my bagel, wishing Pagan would come back.

"No man should grow outta drinkin'. It's our god-given right t'drink 'n get drunk. Somethin's seriously wrong with ya if a healthy dose 'o yeast doesn't burn your bones."

I shrugged, staring up the mountain.

"Robert woulda had a drink," my father growled.

"Yeah, well, he's dead, dad."

As the words flowed unthinkingly and irrationally from my mouth, I expected Oswald the Farmer to put his boot heel through my face. I regretted each syllable, having loved my idiot brother, but I spoke them anyway, almost wanting my dad's merciless foot to do me in. But he just grunted and dropped the subject, lapsing into moody silence.

Pagan mercifully came back with evidence of life on the mountain that distracted us from the subject of my brother's death: a wad of shaggy brown hair.

"Found it latched onto a rock," he said, warming himself in front of the fire. "Was under a heap of snow. I wanted a drink, I ate some snow, and poof! There it was, caught in my teeth. A vile method of tracking, but there you go."

That wasn't all. Now taking freshly-fallen snow into account, Pagan put his amateur-but-better-than-ours tracking skills to work and noticed the presence of half-filled footprints littering the part of the mountain he'd been exploring. After an hour of tracking, backtracking and false starts they'd led him to two places: a cave he hadn't dared enter -

- and back to our camp.

"So somethin' was watchin' us." Dad grabbed a handful of fur and inspected in closely. "Don't recognize it."

"It's dog fur. Canine, anyway. I had a few hunting dogs with fur just like this when I was growing up." Pagan shrugged. "I'm just glad it's not sloth fur. I took it on good faith that a sloth didn't actually live here; this is encouraging evidence to support your claims, Dragomir. But if it's not a sloth, what could it be?"

Only one way to find out. We put out the fire with handfuls of snow, packed up our gear, and set off along Pagan's trail to find the cave. It only took half an hour of searching before we discovered the half-hidden hole cut into the icy rock of the mountainside, one we'd probably walked by a dozen times the previous day without noticing. Snow is wondrously good as camouflage.

Sliding his sword cane from its sheath Pagan took the lead, handing off his gear to me. He brushed aside much of the snow to give us easy access to the cave and stepped cautiously inside, squinting at the darkness. He was probably asking himself the same questions I had in my head: 'How long is this tunnel? Can we go far without needing a torch? Is the thing with the fur in here? Does it like to eat meat?' Are we going to be trapped if it comes back while we're inside?'

All of those questions were answered after only three breathless minutes of silent sneaking. The back of the cave was maybe a hundred straight paces away from the entrance, just barely hidden away from the light of the outdoors. The further we got the wider and taller the cave became, expanding into a large chamber that ended with a flat, smoothed wall. On the wall was a huge, white symbol, seemingly painted on, which looked something like this:

I didn't recognize it. Pagan and my dad, however, did.

"The symbol in the sky," Pagan murmured. "Gods. It's the same thing."

"You saw it too?" Dad stepped up and touched the wall. "Guess most people did. Nobody ever talks 'bout it, but sure as hell we all saw it. Means you saw it, too, right, Drago?"

I shrugged. "Uh. No? Not even sure what you're talking about…"

"C'mon!" My dad snorted and shook his head. "Blocked out the sun 'n everythin'! Middle of the day! Musta happened, oh, a couple months ago?"

"The end of July," Pagan agreed. "I was in my fields when it happened, inspecting the harvest. Caught me by surprise. Sent most of my slaves into paroxysms of religious fear."

"Yeah! Same here!" Dad shook me by the arm. "C'mon, you're not so dense that - hey, what the hell's the matter with ya?"

I'd blanched. My brain had lined up the dates with absolute certainty. I hadn't seen the symbol because I'd been underground, watching The Baron open a massive door, begging my daughter to come with me, feeling the twist of her blade in my gut, and I saw and relived all these things as a gruesome collage of disjointed imagery overlapping real life, staring at the entrance of the cave, the jagged oblong of light, which was now slightly smaller because something big and black and vicious was moving in towards us, all these things happened at once and only I noticed them, but I was too stunned and mentally fucked to say anything.

Pagan caught on first. He swept in front of us, sword drawn and poised expertly. Dad took up a threatening position behind the old knight, leaning forward as though ready to bash the thing with his skull. I remained frozen in the back, watching it come closer, realizing with each smooth stride that it looked horribly familiar. I had been one of the last humans to see it, after all, been tasked with keeping it contained.

Keeping her contained.

Antonia the Werewolf stopped maybe twenty feet away from us, settling on her thick haunches and inspecting us with rabid red eyes. Thick foamy spit slid down her hairy chin, and the fur on her too-large back bristled and rose, agitated and betraying her desire to attack. She looked even bigger than the last time I'd seen her, now utterly unmistakable as a wolf, and I wondered how I'd ever been so stupid to think that she was a kangaroo.

She didn't come any closer, though. She showed no fear of Pagan's sword, but she nevertheless held back. We watched, she watched, and thus began the stalemate of the century.

It continues. We've been backed into this cave for almost six hours, now, and only in the last two hours have we shown any inclination to move. Pagan refuses to take his eyes off Antonia, and dad is little better, though he's at least willing to eat while he watches. Julius and I prepare food for the other two. Antonia has retreated slowly to a more comfortable sitting position, though she continues to growl and bristle.

I don't know how she got here, or why she's here. I'm guessing the symbol behind us, which, I've noticed, looks a hell of a lot like a rat's head, has something to do with it. I only know that she's not letting us leave, and we can't sit here forever. Someone has to make a move eventually, and when they do, there's going to be a lot of blood.

No sleep tonight, diary. No sleep at all.


Dragomir the Trapped