Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day Four-Sixty-Four: This is your life

Great first impressions.

I am bad at them.

Information: check. Fortifications: check. Pubton's defences only need one more thing, and that's a crop of young, dumb soldiers and guards to watch over the town's walls. We now have a bunch of those, too… only they probably think their new mayor is retarded. And justly so.

Harold's still busy touching up the wall (the thing is his baby at this point, and his claim to fame) so Evangelina did the honours of presenting me to the recruits we've scraped together to defend Pubton. She brought me out to see them by the golden tree, as good a landmark as we have in town, and I hoped to present an air of confidence.

The recruits, a squadron of fifty-odd farm boys and assorted bumpkins from the neighbouring districts, stood in four rough lines that would make Captain Cedric furious. They displayed no semblance of discipline: they lounged and chatted, most of them facing away from the golden tree, laughing and joking and fighting. None of them had been issued weapons, thank the gods, as I suspect they would've playfully gotten into duels and killed one another.

In short, way too excited to be guards. Kids these days. They don't take martial duties seriously until the enemy has a knife to their thingers.

Stopping in front of the lot of them, standing under the boughs of the golden tree, I waved and called for attention. A few of them waved back, but that was all.

I glanced at Evangelina. She shrugged. "I'd help, but this is your job. Make them respect you."

"How the hell do I do that?"

"Scream at them?" Evangelina smirked. "You bellowed quite expertly when Jeffrey rolled into town. I heard you freaking out from my cell."

"I can only scream like that when I'm mad," I replied, slouching slightly. "See, watch. HEY! HEY! PAY ATTENTION! I'M THE MAYOR AND STUFF! I'LL ONLY BE PAYING YOU IF YOU LOOK AT ME! LISTEN, LISTEN!"

The same heads as before turned. They waved me away. A larger fight broke out in the midst of their ranks, and the recruits formed into a cheering circle around two brawlers, a burly farmer and a lanky labourer.

"See? My voice doesn't project when I'm calm. Or mildly exasperated. Or whatever."

"Ah." Evangelina shrugged again. "I suppose we'd best leave, then, and let them wander back to their huts. We don't need guards anyway. Right?"

Rolling my eyes, I looked around. I needed something that would get their attention, something that would prove more interesting than a tussle in progress…


More than a handful of eyes looked away from the fight, up to the golden tree.


The rest followed. The two fighters broke off, one with a bloody nose, the other a bruise on his cheek.


The crowd parted for me. I walked up to the combatants, my arms over my head.

"Here's one for you… and here's one for you. There, that's more like it."

While setting up this meeting of the recruits, Evangelina had procured a crate of newly-made helmets and spears (good ol' Horace works damned fast, he does) to show off during my speech. Originally they'd been a part of the speech itself, not the attention-getter, but when I placed helmets on the heads of the two brawlers the gathering immediately became the meeting it was supposed to be.

"These're your helmets," I said, motioning to one of the spike-topped metal domes. "They come with breastplates, and a bit of chainmail for your neck, and a spear. I'da brought the spears down instead, but… uh… nevermind that."

The recruits stared at the helmets, oohing and aahing.

"You're gonna be guards for Pubton!" I raised my arms, trying to look excited. "It's a big responsibility! We've got more 'n five hundred people livin' here now, last we counted, and we've got one hell of a wall to man. We need strong fellas watchin' our backs. You guys think you can handle that?"

A loud 'hell ayuh!' rose from the crowd. A few of the farmers raised their pitchforks in salute. (Why did they bring pitchforks? Seriously.)

"Good!" I cheered a bit, grabbing the helmet off of the lankier recruit. "That's good. 'cause it's, you know, a huge responsibility. HUGE. Being a guard's no laughing matter, lemme tell ya, and we need us some good guards."

That's when it went bad.

I hadn't really looked at the helmets before, but… they're the same. They're the exact same helmets as the ones we used back at Castle BlahDeBlah. Makes sense, since Horace made all of those helmets, as well. Same curved horns, same unadorned, slightly-polished finish, same dome top, same leather interior… same everything.

"I used to be a guard," I said, staring at the helmet. "I used to do this job."

The clamour around me settled down. All eyes on me. Captive audience.

"It was… a boring job." I spun the helmet on one finger. "Most days I'd sit around doin' nuthin'. My old captain, he'd yell at me for goofin' off, y'know. Standard sorta stuff. Can't help it when the dude sets you in one place all day, guarding a cupboard full of dead cockroaches."

Nervous murmurs. Many sideways glances. I sensed Evangelina's approach, her confusion and mounting curiosity.

"Boring job… but it's the best one I've had, all my life." I set the helmet on my head. It didn't feel quite right, but it was… more right. Righter. Whatever. "I loved bein' a guard. Even if I died while I was doin' my job."

Somebody yelled "That's a lie, right? 'e's lyin'?"

I couldn't help it. So many memories… emotions… feelings… good times… it all flooded back when I put that helmet on my head. I suddenly missed my old life, living with Libby in a cramped little apartment with no door, living in a crazy-ass castle where anything and everything seemed possible.

"Take care of your helmets," I said, clutching the spikes of the one I'd stolen. "Take good care of them. You hear?"

I began to bawl. I fell to my knees and I bawled as though I was three years old and somebody had stolen my portion of eel pie. I bawled until Evangelina lugged me to my feet and led me to my house, and there, once Eve was clinging to my leg, I bawled some more.

The recruits are under Harold's command for now, much like The Baron had issued orders to Cedric and the rest of us back in our old home. He says he's hired someone to whip them into proper fighting shape, along with fifteen of Pagan's slaves. They'll comprise our defence force.

I was originally going to be in charge of the guards. But I can't do it. It's just too weird.

The trial starts tomorrow. I've tried not to mention it much, because there's a shitload of stuff on the horizon that seems much more important than the fate of a jackass, but it has me feeling ample amounts of nervous. I spent the evening playing with Eve to calm myself down, and it worked a little bit, but…


I really miss that helmet.


Dragomir the Crybaby


  1. Wow...I actually had to stop at the crying part and let it all sink in...

    DAMMIT MATT! WHY DO YOU WRITE SUCH A LOVEABLE CHARACTER! You're making me...feeeeeeel...those...ugh...emotion things...

    Almost like kicking someone when they're down, you kidney punched me RIGHT in the conscience. (Otherwise known as "I like today's entry"). OH! Also...that guy on the left of the picture looks abit like Duke Nukem if you were to give him shades and a red shirt XD

  2. I usually write Dragomir as though he's suffering from mild PTSD. Which he probably is. Poor guy.

    Also... yeah... he really does look like Duke... man, I miss the OLD Duke Nukem. Like, DOS era Duke. Those were great games. God I'm old.

    1. Yeah dude. I feel the same way when I talk to kids who are like "What's Legend of Zelda?" or "I don't know who Samus is".

      Like...I know I wasn't the first generation of gamer, but by age 3 I was playing Contra on Nintendo with my mum. I LEARNED the Konami code by heart, before I knew the Alphabet. So it KILLS me to see/hear kids who make Mario or Zelda jokes/references and yet have never played the games before (a crime that should be punishable by death).

    2. My kids know and play Mario, Zelda, and Metroid because I'm a badass mother.

      Oh, Matt, Drago seems to be experiencing some serious PTSD, but you'd think it's understandable, but it's really because of the bandit/hand thing that he won't talk about. Still, he's handling it quite well. One of these days, though, he'll have to face it all if ever he wants to hold a weapon.