Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day Four-Thirty-Seven: The rest of the story

If I can say nothing else about the arrival of the Matriarch, it's that we now have a fortress on the edge of Pubton. A ramshackle, bare-bones fortress badly in need of repair, true, but a fortress nonetheless. If this town's to survive more attacks from those shadow bastards, I guess it needs all the help it can get.

Still. The Matriarch's taken quite a beating. The royal family of Castle… whatever has been through a lot over the last seven or eight months, not the least of which was the disappearance of their son. Hell, given all the stories I've now heard, I'm surprised the Matriarch made it back to the Indy Plains with four wheels to its name.

I visited Daena's tree after breakfast, bringing with me a peace offering of eggs and toast. Daena accepted them graciously, her natural charm ever-present, though there was an edge to her thanks. Can't blame her - the last time she saw me, her husband was being carted off in chains. Celine was as neutral as ever, and she munched on her own plate of eggs from the boughs of her mother's tree.

Both sides seemed to sense that the subject of Jeffrey required some delicacy, so I started by asking where they'd been for the last year. That question alone ate up most of the morning.

During the fall of the castle Daena had remained outside the gates with her daughter, driven away from the castle by a sudden surge of moat monsters with glowing green eyes. She'd waited for an entire week, waited as we'd waited in the hole, hoping against hope that her son, her daughter-in-law and her husband would come out. She knew something was wrong inside, but she didn't dare send Celine in to check, and any attempt to enter the castle with the Matriarch was ferociously rebuffed by the beasts protecting the walls.

The odd stalemate ended with the symbol in the sky. We all know the rest, I think. What I didn't know is that Eve, my precious, lovely Eve, helped escort Logan and his unconscious father out of the depths of the hole. She fought off emerging shadow creatures by the dozens while Logan hauled his father to the surface, and she helped her near-husband carry Jeffrey to the Matriarch. The last they saw of her was a tiny wave to Logan as she went back inside the crumbling castle.

(This kinda makes me wonder why Eve killed me to get me out. Maybe she knew it was the safest, surest way? I dunno. In retrospect I might have preferred taking my chances with climbing back up the hole, even if it meant braving rickety walkways and a collapsing castle.)

With her son and husband on board Daena rocketed into the hills, watching as Barrel flew away with the rest of the survivors on his back. Unlike Barrel the Matriarch didn't get away cleanly, though, and a horde of fast-moving shadow beasts pursued them for the better part of a mile before giving up and slinking back to their new home. By then Jeffrey was conscious, and the family was reunited in their misery. Daena said they had a great group hug.

Well. As great a group hug as you can have with a woman who kicks all the time.

Friendless, confused and banished from their castle, the royal family wandered for months. The events of that week turned Jeffrey paranoid, and he ordered Daena to steer the Matriarch as far from his old home as it could go. He had nightmares for more than two months, all of them about penguins with curly moustaches and top hats. He seemed to know if they weren't heading directly away from the castle, as well, and would collapse into screaming fits if Daena changed course even a little bit. 

After three months of heading almost straight west they were hopelessly lost, far beyond the borders of the Imperium in a faltering war machine that was seldom allowed near towns. That's when Logan disappeared. 

"We were shopping," Celine cut in, sliding her emptied plate neatly onto my head. "Mom sent us into a town incognito to grab some supplies. He gave me all the money, apologized, and took off. I couldn't keep up with him."

"But why?" I took the plate off my head and fidgeted with it. Crumbs tumbled onto the grass at my feet. "Why'd he take off?"

Daena sighed. "He hates his father."


'Hate' didn't sound like it covered the extent of Logan's loathing. He was ashamed of his father. As far as Daena or Celine could tell, Logan despised Jeffrey for letting his kingdom slide into ruin. Anyone could have been a better king, and no amount of manipulation from The Baron or Kierkegaard could really excuse Jeffrey's years of mismanagement and bullying. Three solid months of whining and whimpering over the loss of his realm pushed the son to abandon the father, even if it meant leaving mother and sister behind as well.

So they searched. Travelling from town to town, they tried to track down their missing son. Celine and Jeffrey would leave the Matriarch well away from the walls and head into each and every hamlet, village and city they came across, a picture of Logan in hand. They found scams and anger and mockery in each new territory, but they heard nothing of Logan. Eventually their aimless wandering brought them back to the Indy Plains… and while spying on the patrons of a tavern, hoping to find Logan, Celine heard whispers of a town called Pubton, a witch with crazed hair, a bard who spoke only in rhyme, a massive woman with a ferocious temper, and a politician with broken hands.

Had they known what would happen to Jeffrey when they'd arrived, they might not have come.

"What did you expect?" I snorted, cross-legged on the ground with two plates on my lap. "Everything's forgiven? C'mon, your majesty -"

"I told you before, Dragomir, just Daena will do."

"That doesn't sound right, though."

"Nevertheless, my kingdom's a hole in the ground. Literally. Just Daena."

I tapped my chin. "Err… fine. Daena. Anyway. Really. Jeffrey was screwed. You must've known it. Before everything went ta hell, you were even planning to dump the guy!"

Celine clucked her tongue at that. "Is Mud telling the truth, mom? Were you going to leave dad?"

Daena bit her lip and looked away, out at the town. "Um… maybe…"

"I mean, I can see why. He's kind of a lout. Always pushing people around." Celine kicked her feet up and stared at the clouds. "I've never been part of a broken home before. I wonder what it's like. Would I still have my ninja squad?"

Something flashed at the corner of my vision. Damned ninjas.

"Yes, dear, you would still have a ninja squad. Regardless, I didn't break up with him, and Jeffrey has changed a lot since he was king. He's… back to his old self, almost. Almost."

"Almost," I echoed. "There was an 'old self' to that guy?"

"Oh, yes." Daena smiled. "When I first met Jeffrey he was a quiet, well-read young fellow. Educated… charming, in a… bookish sort of way…  knew a thousand quotes…"

That didn't jive with my long-standing perception of Jeffrey as a war-mongering nutbar one bit. "Ooookay. What happened?"

Daena's expression twisted slightly, storm clouds gathering in her eyes. "I assume The Baron happened."

"Ah. Yeah. Right." I coughed and waved my hand, as if dispelling the anger that threatened to cloud the issue. "No offense, but he couldn't have done it all. From what I heard, 'n what you've told me 'bout Logan, The Baron kinda sucks the life outta people he controls. Jeffrey was… always… lively. No life-sucking there. He still made all the bad decisions that put the lot of us way out here."

Daena sagged so deeply that she nearly booted herself in the face with one of her flailing legs. Old girl's not slowed down one jot since I last saw her, I'll give her that. "I… well, that may be true, but you can't just…!"

"Lock him up?" I stood. The anger was coming back, and this time it was directed at the right person. "Give him a trial for ordering executions and expulsions and wars and silly decrees that made no sense? You probably don't know how bad it got for us normal folk sometimes, Daena, 'n I don't fault ya for that. You have a good excuse for missing out on Jeffrey's shitstorm. Problem is, he doesn't have an excuse, or not a good one. If I was as bad as him I woulda tossed 'im off a bridge 'n seen him chewed up by a whirring blade trap straight out of Hell. Him being stuck in jail right now is proof that I'm gonna treat him fairly. He'll only get what he deserves."

"But he doesn't stand a chance if he goes to trial," Daena whispered, deflating.

"Yeah." I shrugged as I stood to leave. "'n that's his own fault."

I'd planned on telling her what's going to happen, that there will be a judge and a jury and lawyers. Fair decisions and all that. But the look on Daena's face drove me away, because as much as I hate Jeffrey, I hate making a nice woman cry just as much.


Dragomir the Mayor


  1. Day 446 is coming up...don't forget your promise!

  2. Oh yeah...don't think you fooled me for a second...

    ...Now you know the rest of the story. Good day.