Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Behind-the-Scenes, Part Three.

Howdy, y'all. Hiatus week continues. Lookin' for the storyline? Start below.

Lookin' for some behind-the-scenes goodness instead? Then don't you dare click that Latin. Don't you dare. 'cause today, we have character concept art to peruse.

When I started Dragomir's Diary, I was often drawing on the fly. I drew up concepts for a FEW characters - Dragomir, Libby, Jeffrey and Logan are the only ones I can recall - and the rest just kinda developed while I was creating the early comic panels. 

The... terrible... early... comic... panels. God they're ugly.

I decided to remedy this a little in the second season by drawing up a concept sheet right at the beginning. Let's have a look at what I wrought.

- Dragomir's look was already dictated by one of his earlier dreams, so all I had to do was fill in the blanks. For some reason remembering to draw the hole in his breastplate proved difficult - but I remembered just fine once I covered it with a patch. His skullcap look was supposed to come into play when he was tending fields or doing other physical work, but I guess in the end I just couldn't be arsed.

- I struggled hardcore with Libby's hair this year, for some reason. I like how it looked in this concept picture... but for some reason, I didn't abide by this picture. The front flip was all over the place. Forgive me.

- Aaaaaaand Edmund is Edmund. No changes there.

- Poor, poor Jeffrey. All I did later on was add his crappy little cardboard crown. It made him look all the more pathetic.

- CeDrisArd was problematic, as I've never sewn together three characters. Cedric looks fine; Driscol is meh; Bernard is wimpy. (In other words, more or less spot-on.) A few stitches didn't seem like enough to really convey the torture of their existence, so I added weird pulsing purple under their skin. For kicks. (Don't ask what's up with Bernard's hand. I have no idea.)

- I have yet to show Kierkegaard's transformation in its entirety, and I don't think it quite looks like this. Especially not his head. I do like the limbs, though. 

- Doc is roughly based on two characters. The first is Herr Doktor from Reboot. The second is the little Decepticon doctor from the second Transformers movie. He appears to have a high-collared coat in these pictures; I dunno if he'll be sporting that in the future. Fast trivia: his real name, Emmett, is taken from Emmett Brown of Back to the Future. Possibly obvious, but, meh.

- This shot of Titan Blue is mainly just to show how huge she is compared to Doc. Very big girl. More fast trivia: my girlfriend wanted a character named after her (she has blue hair), and this was her choice. Yep, she went for the towering black Non.

- June hasn't changed much, and I doubt she'll change much in the future, either. I like her cloak. Little Julius doesn't much look like a tarantula in this shot, because I hadn't bothered to research what tarantulas look like at the time. (He also wasn't planned on being important. Funny how things change.)

- Evangelina's sporting a very Piccolo-esque look in this shot. She KINDA had this appearance near the end of the year, but I got rid of the breastplate and made her hair a bit less ragged.

- Ahhhh, Eve. I played around with her look more than this, though I can't find any of the other pictures. I had long planned on continuing the fully-armoured look, but by the time I reached this year's webcomic week I kinda realized that Eve barely NEEDS armour. It just gets in her way. She'll probably continue to wear gauntlets going forward, but that's all for protection.

- Bora is another of those characters whom I'd drawn previously, so all I did was change her outfit a bit. And, uh, muck with her hair and eyes. This picture of her is definitely not the greatest.

- Tobo. Poor Tobo. He never even showed up in a comic. Not in this shape, anyway. Oh well.

- I was still drawing Mindless Walkabout at the beginning of the second season, so you get some of these guys as well. I don't know what I was thinking with that first headshot of Traveller. He looks awful.

- Plato! I honestly didn't plan for him to show up in Dragomir's Diary until next season; he just kinda wormed his way in at the end. His little bandana flower has proven most annoying, as I constantly, CONSTANTLY forget to draw it in. I think he's just lost it somewhere at this point. Also, my god, his arms are so short here.

- Another Eve shot. I kinda like the short hair. (This picture also reminds me that I completely forgot to put her Omega Corps tattoo on her shoulder during webcomic week. Guess the Non burned it off, or something. I dunno.)

- Nagi, from Mindless Walkabout, has not appeared in Dragomir's Diary! She will eventually. I don't know if she'll have the hammer. Her look is inspired by Leela from Futurama, hence only one of her eyes appearing in most frames.

- And, last but not least, Logan. Just as Plato was NOT planned on appearing this season, Logan WAS supposed to appear, showing up with the rest of his family. Instead I shunted him into the Mindless Walkabout cast for a few months. Worry not, he'll return in season three. His outfit was inspired by Dragomir's original guard look, as Logan looks up to his 'ol buddy.

EDIT: Here's another test shot of Eve that I just discovered while hunting for something else.

It's an okay look. Maintains the light armour feel. I think I was trying to make Eve's hair resemble Libby's. But, yeah, the hell, I drew her shoulders way too low... what happened there...?

That's that. I'm outta art. Tomorrow: I'm not sure yet! I'll come up with something. Stay tuned.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Behind-the-Scenes, Part Two.

Welcome back to hiatus week on Dragomir's Diary! We're between seasons at the moment, and that means a week of stuff from the development of season two. If that's not what you're looking for, here's a handy jump back to the beginning of the webcomic week that ultimately terminated the season. Fun!

If you ARE here for behind-the-scenes stuff, then you're in luck. Today I actually HAVE some, in the form of notes I took when developing the new season. I keep a little notebook nearby for writing down ideas, and I distinctly recall jotting down a bunch of ideas while doing some research at the library. (Yes, there's a soupcon of research in Dragomir's Diary. Admittedly not much. I like making up random gibberish more than historical accuracy - might be why I decided to set it in a video game.)

As with any story, a lot gets changed during development. Below, therefore, are some samples of random ideas which never got used in season two. A shame, in some cases, as a few of them are rather interesting. Perhaps in the future...? Who knows.
  • Originally, Dragomir was going to propose the creation of some ridiculous cash crop which would earn Pubton money, as well as turn the village into a viable competitor against some rival villages. neither the cash crop, nor the rival villages, ever developed into anything. (Thinking back, I'm not even sure what cash crops actually developed in Pubton. The whole village-building dynamic got admittedly dull after a few months.)
  • Most of the animals of Pubton were going to forage in the forest, and their disappearances - as well as the whole black eye thing - were going to be the focus of an arc of the story. That eventually developed into Barrel's animal rebellion.
  • Pagan started out as a 'physically imposing knight getting on in his years; jovial, but only if you agree with his opinions'. I pictured him as a barrel-chested bruiser similar to Oswald at this point. By the next page, though, his concept had changed to a sketch which I've quickly recreated, since my scanner is not working this morning.
Lookit those feeble arms. He couldn't swing a sword if he tried.
  • The dispute over the land was going to be solved by the Weekendists, who would claim the land in the name of their order - and then hand it over to Dragomir. Poor luck, Pagan. The Non had been out of the story for quite a while by then, though, so Kierkegaard's little invasion brought them back in and stopped Pagan's harassment.
  • I'd planned on maintaining a map of Pubton as it was built, and have another rough sketch of the town's layout. Eventually the settlement just turned into an amorphous collection of buildings, and I gave up trying to make sense of its layout when Pagan's bunch moved in.
  • Speaking of 'Pagan's bunch', I was going to delve more deeply into slave rights vs. their treatment at Pagan's hands, which is actually quite good. Maybe in season four I'll come back to it.
  • Grayson was much less of a dick during development. His primary function was to defend the lock under the mountain from the Non, June, and the villagers. His whole thing with his mom... yeah. He became quite a twisted little boy.
  • There was going to be a moat at one point? Huh. Don't even remember that.
  • Dragomir was going to give in to 'the good life' for a while, becoming one of the nobles he'd disliked for so long. This ALMOST happened, but I ultimately decided that Dragomir is too uncouth, slobby, and smelly for the nobles to accept as one of their own, regardless of how much they might want to schmooze with the mayor.
  • The town was going to have an ale-taster. There was going to be a competition to fight over the post. Wish I hadn't lost track of that one. Oh well.
  • Aaaaaand the rats were going to play a stronger role in this season. Grayson took a great deal of wind out of their sails, because, frankly, he's more fun to write. (But they'll be back. Oh yes.)
That's all for today. Tomorrow, you get a look at the enormous concept art sheet that I drew up for season two! Woo.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Behind-the-Scenes, Part One.

Season two of Dragomir's Diary is officially wrapped! Lotsa crazy shit went down, and I believe the story's sufficiently prepped to segue into season three. This of course means that Dragomir's Diary is on hiatus for a week while I prep the initial stages of season three. The story will be back in full force next Monday. In the meantime, you may wanna skip back to the beginning of the mad, mad events which brought the season to a close by clicking the image below!

Everybody loves Latin, yo.

I still like to post every day, so this week will consist largely of behind-the-scenes nonsense for season two. I'm still unearthing all my material from my recent move, so today's entry isn't so much behind-the-scenes... as it's a response to the winner of the little popularity poll.

Who won? Eve, of course. As if you couldn't predict that everybody's favourite blood-letter and daddy's little girl would take the majority vote. In celebration, here's a nice, big picture of Eve in her natural environment.

Yep. She sure do like to kill people. (Screw that helmet I put on her during the webcomic week, though. I HATE that helmet so much.)

Tomorrow: probably some scans from a little notebook I use to write down ideas when I'm bored, including some preliminary sketches. Stay tuned!


Friday, July 26, 2013

Day Five Hundred: In Foramine Mundi, Finale

Hundreds of miles away, where there is no rain, no blood, no carnage, no shadows, a man takes his dog for a walk. 

It is a gorgeous day. The sun is out, partially obscured by a light dusting of clouds across the sky. The grass is just warm enough and just dry enough that the man can justify taking off his shoes. He enjoys the tickle of grass between his toes, the scurrying of willow-ants around his ankles. They blow by him and away, carried on the wind to some other business.

His dog, a muddy old hound, strains on the end of its leash. The man is far too strong for it to get away, but he gives the pooch some slack nevertheless. He is the master, but it is still a proud, strong beast. The man would not want to break its spirit.

In time, as the sun comes out again and beats upon his uncovered head, the man seeks shelter under a tree. He's almost a mile from home, now, but he knows this area - and he knows that this spot, this tree, is the best place to sit outside his own bed. It's a gnarled oak, and its roots form a funny little divot that makes for a comfortable perch.

He plops down onto the old wood and pulls a sandwich from his knapsack. His hound is tied beside him, its leather leash looped 'round one of the roots. The man trusts his dog not to fall off the side of the world of its own accord, but… things happen.

The Grand Chasm. The man stares at it. Into it. He dangles his shins, both wooden, both lost in a logging accident, into the abyss. 

He chews on his sandwich. Egh, he thinks. Corned beef. I thought she packed me ham. She knows I hate this crap. Thirty years o' marriage 'n I still get corned beef.

The substance of his sandwich is his most pressing concern. He hates the dryness, the toughness, the sharp flavor. He hates the butter she slathered on top. He hates the stale bread, the flecks of wheat grain stuck into its brown-white flesh. The man wishes his wife would learn his tastes already. She still remembers his daughter's favorite dishes, but never his, no, never.   

The man thinks almost nothing of the chunk that has been taken out of the world, the black, bottomless pit that spans almost a quarter of the globe, a pit that swallows all things unfortunate enough to fall into it. He thinks nothing of the water paradox, nor the history of the Grand Chasm, nor even postulates how it came to be. He is like everyone who lives along this freakish quirk of nature. It is there, and he can dangle his wooden legs off of it, and that is enough.

Presently, tired from the walk, the man falls asleep in his nook, leaning back against the roots of the oak. His dog does the same. It has corned beef on its breath.

The man is extremely lucky that he has wooden shins, because when the Grand Chasm is slowly but suddenly filled in with land, those shins are cut off and forever lost.

(Let me know if the .gif doesn't play.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day Five Hundred: In Foramine Mundi, Part Ten

A penguin soars across the world. Within minutes, he and his halved army return home.

He steps out of the fading green light, rubbing his chest. The force of the blast yet lingers, even though the mark is gone. His breath does not come as easily as it should. He will mend, with time, but for now… pain. Slight pain.

I'm fuckin' lucky, he thinks. If I was a normal Non that kid would've blown right through me. Small favors, 'n all that jazz.

His troops, battle-worn, surprised and tired, slink into the ruins of a once-mighty castle. They will seek out their respective nooks in the rubble and nestle in, content to use their own bodies for comfort. Soon they will need food, but for now… for now, they can rest.

The penguin is hungry. He wants flesh. He regrets not dragging one of the prisoners along for the ride. He wishes he could sup on the brat, or perhaps his glitchy father, but… no. Not today.

Not yet.

He walks through the ruins of a thoroughfare, nodding at bulbous shadows as he passes. They nod back, reverent and afraid. He is small now - 

- shunt -

- but at any moment he can be bigger than any of them, stronger than any of them, and this cows them. This forces respect. He may have been forced to retreat, but still. Respect.

The penguin licks his beak with a too-long tongue. Jagged teeth slip in and out of his jaws. Very hungry, very hungry indeed.

A balding man waits for him by a massive hole in the side of the castle. He lifts a gloved hand in greeting, though it is tentative. Shaky. The penguin knows there is no respect here, but there is fear. And fear is good.

"Howdy, teach." The penguin bows, doffing his hat. "All done. The last lock is gone."

The balding man nods. "I know. I noticed a faint outline twenty minutes ago. There are more details appearing every second. We did it."

The penguin cracks his fingers. "I did it. Your fat ass stayed here every time we went on campaign. Though I gotta thank you for the toy. She can take one helluva beating."

The balding man peers over the penguins shoulder. No doubt he is looking at the warrior, the woman who should still be a child, freshly released from the penguin's prison. She walks fearlessly through the shadows, bleeding in a dozen places, not caring about her wounds. They will heal. She is the most feared.

The penguin does not like this. But he will abide by the fact. For now.

"Is Pubton still standing?"

The penguin hesitates. He wants to frame his answer in such a way that he will come out on top. "Yeah. 'n your boy-toy is still alive, which is what I'm sure you were more interested in. Didn't feel the need to slag everybody."

A curious eyebrow rises. "That's uncharacteristically generous of you."

"Yeah, well…" The penguin puffs out his chest. It burns. "I'm saving 'em for later. Didn't wanna accidentally kill Litobora, either. She's still hangin' out there."

"I doubt you could kill her."

The penguin grins. "That sounds like a challenge, fatty."

The balding man does not take the bait. "It isn't."

They exchange hostile glares. The penguin has flashbacks to his final class with this man, so many years ago. He always hated art class. It was so… orderly.

After a few moments of intense study, the balding man shrugs and turns. "I'm going to watch it all reappear. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time. Join me if you like."

Skipping forward, ignoring the tingle in his lungs, the penguin joins his mentor. "Sure, teach. I've been waiting' too, after all. 'n while we watch, we can have a little chat 'bout what we're gonna do next."

The balding man's shoulders slump. "Next? You know what happens next. We consolidate. We have our old territory back, minus a few small areas. We need to rebuild our society. And after that…"

But the penguin isn't interested in this man's future. He's interested in a self-crafted destiny. He shakes his head. "Nope. Nope nope nope. That's what we need to chat 'bout. 'cause your plans and my plans… they aren't gonna survive together in the same world."

The balding man doesn't stop walking. He doesn't turn his head away from the staircase ahead, formed of shifted rubble and fallen walls. "Then… what do you have in mind, pray tell…?"

The penguin smiles. His teeth glint. There is a flash of green light as his body grows, muscles emerging from holes in the air to replace his stubby arms and legs, his cutesy face slowly and grotesquely shifting into an ivory skull supported by a thick, knotted neck. 

"Blood," the thing whispers. "Let's start with blood."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day Five Hundred: In Foramine Mundi, Part Nine

A man stands alone. He, too, is in the rain, drenched and cold. Even his hands, so recently blazing, are now chilled.

He doesn't notice this. He only notices what's left of his little girl. Or what he thought was his little girl. 

It is propped on one ear, partially buried in mud, in an emptied field. There is no blood on the stump of a neck, and he realizes, dimly, that its shorn hair has grown back. Hair that was so recently cut by an executioner's axe. An axe wielded…

Wielded by…


He speaks to a head. The head should not react. But he know it will, because something is not right here, something is very, very wrong, and this suspicion is confirmed when the head's white, staring eyes roll towards him. The mouth, so sweet and gentle in life, twitches into a sick, sheepish grin.

"Hi," it says, its voice now old, masculine, and wise. There is no hint of a little girl. "I suppose you caught me."

The man shudders. "What… what are you…?"

The head chuckles. "I'm your daughter. Eve. Obviously. I thought I did a great job of acting her out. Weren't you impressed? You must have been - you bought it for months."

The man's stomach burbles. He wretches and collapses to one knee. Visions of so many happy times fill his head, and all of them, he realizes, are fake. Shared with a stranger.

"Whoa!" The head grimaces. "Quite a reaction. I'm sorry. I'll admit, this isn't how I'd planned on, erm, 'outing' myself. Not quite sure what I'd planned, but… well. Anyway."

The man falls back on his rear. He stares at the head, dimly aware that somebody, something, is now standing behind him. He doesn't care who or what it is.

The head smiles. "My name is Iko. I've been hoping to meet you for almost a year, Dragomir. There are… things… we need to discuss."

"So discuss," the man mumbles. His voice sounds small, tired, and frightened to his own ears.

"Ahh, not here." The head clucks its tongue. "No. In person. Face-to-face. I live on the other side of the world, I'm afraid, so it will be quite a trek… but trust me, the revelations will be worth the trip. And, hey, I sent a guide along to ease your path. That is you, back there, isn't it, Plato?"

An affirmative quack. A heavy hand falls on the man's shoulder. He flinches away from it. The platypus disgusts him.

The head tuts. "Don't be so harsh, Dragomir. Plato's a good lad. You can trust him. Though I do wonder what's come of his companions."

The man doesn't care about this. It's all fluff, all insubstantial bullshit. "And what if I don't wanna see you?"

The head leers and laughs, rolling merrily in the mud. "Trust me, you do. That weapon of yours? That crimson thing hiding in your hands? I can show you how to use it. And once you've learned…"

The head pauses, eyes narrowing, grin small and mean. "… you can use it to kill me for imitating your daughter. And I know you want to kill me."

This is true. The man feels murder boiling in his chest.

Eyes flash, one white, one green. As the light ebbs, life slips away. The head crumbles to dust. 

The man does not notice, long though he lingers, but there are matchsticks stuck into the mud.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day Five Hundred: In Foramine Mundi, Part Eight

A child ringed in light sinks to the ground.

To him, flying is second nature. He's been manipulating the winds since he was a babe. The air is his plaything. He can twist it howsoever he chooses: in one moment he can carefully blow a piece of parchment off of a desk, and in the next he can pull the air out of a man's lungs. It is all so easy.

Just as easy as killing things that slink about in the night. Just as easy as tweaking your uncle's brain.  Just as easy as reclaiming the one you love most. Just as easy as -

But something's wrong. Something is off. Moments before, he was mighty. He held the world in his palm, spinning in place and never tilting. But now it tilts, and skews, and wobbles, and when he plucks the world from his brow and looks at it -

- it's gone. The world, the remains of the world, the thing he was supposed to protect, fades. It falls away into squares of useless dust and vanishes into the rain.

He should care about this. It was the child's duty, his sole duty, to protect that world. That lock. With one lock still in place, the edge of the map would forever remain a pit. A curiosity barely noticed by those living near it, despite its grotesque enormity. With that lock gone, the pit will be filled. 

But he doesn't care. The child is barely phased. So I used the lock's power to kill Non. So what? It doesn't matter. I'm strong enough on my own. I can take out the rest of them under my own strength. And if I fall short, well, I can always fall back on my fathers for more power. I'll do whatever it takes -


The boy's head lolls, peering over his shoulder with a broad smile. "I'll do whatever it takes to save you, mother."

She is there, waiting for him. The falling water drenches her clothes, matting her hair. The boy suspects that she stinks. He, too, probably smells - they haven't changed in weeks. They've been asleep together.

He misses that time. He will thank the witch for tricking him into sleep. It was the kindest gift she could ever have offered him.

Still invigorated, the boy turns to his mother and shambles towards her, arms outstretched. He wants a hug, an embrace that will never end. A mother's love, her tender, unquestioning affection. The planet can go to hell, he thinks, this silly old game can burn, so long as I have this, so long as this one special person -

In his rapture, he misses the growing horror in his mother's face. So, too, does he miss her incoming fist. It catches him in the cheek. He flies back and falls, slipping into the grass and mud, so bewildered that it takes several seconds for his dopey smile to leave his face.

Love. Affection. Is this a new way of expressing these things?

As his head rings and his body aches she looms over him, gloved fists clenched, the rain mixing with the tears that fall from her eyes. There is so much pain, the boy realizes, and he's sure that her pain is mirrored in his own face. Surely, now, it is breeding in his heart, clawing at his emotions.

"NOT AGAIN!" she screams, pointing down at him. "NOT ANOTHER FUCKING FREAK! IT HAPPENED AGAIN!"

She falls to her knees. Still off-balance, he tries to rise and comfort her. Instead he falls back, head slapping against the ground. The ringing in his ears won't go away.

"AND YOU WERE EVEN WORSE!" She picks up a small heap of mud and throws it at her son. Her sobs shake her entire body. "I KNOW! YOU FUCKING TRIED TO SPLIT US UP! YOU… YOU… YOU FUCKING…"

Yes, he thinks. I did that. I may have been on orders to bring out the weapon, but yes. I did that. And I will do it again, if I get the chance.

More mud. More sobs. More pain. She screams at her child, rising angrily to her legs and assaulting him with frustrated kicks. He deflects the blows with small gusts of wind as best he can, but one gets through… and another… and another… his ribs…

She towers over his broken body at the end, her face ugly and contorted. "GET OUT OF HERE! I NEVER WANNA SEE YOU AGAIN!"

The word 'never' nips at his soul.

She leaves. He stares at the sky, crying quietly, wondering where it all went wrong. A voice in the back of his head whispers vicious suggestions, but he ignores them. He can't ignore them forever, but today… yes.

A bat swoops overhead. It has orange eyes. Even in this pain, the boy finds this curious.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day Five Hundred: In Foramine Mundi, Part Seven

A king bereft of crown slumps against a slick rampart.

He shivers. He is cold, but that's not why he shakes. He has stared an old evil in the eye, one he'd hoped he'd never see again, and he still lives. A promise hangs over his head, one of terror… but for now… he lives.

The penguin, he thinks, recalling the sudden, grotesque twist of features before the puff of departing green. The penguin. How can something so stupid chill me so much?

Peering through the rampart, the king watches. The dark ones flee the field, leaping over the walls of the town in droves. A ball of light tags their every jump. Soon, it, too, fades from view.

The king staggers to the edge of the wall. He is tired. So tired. He needs a bed. The comfort of a good woman, of his woman. She is somewhere nearby. Perhaps, if they permit him, he will go to her. To her, and to his daughter, and to…

But no. The last one isn't here. He's elsewhere. The thought saddens the king. For what, after all, is a father without his son?

The king stumbles away from his still-smoking cannon. Neglectful and clumsy, he trips over a hunk of rock. He tumbles. He falls. He lands, comically and conveniently, in a bale of hay stacked at the base of the wall.

Humiliation. Degradation. He's used to these things. Because he's not a king. He's a puppet on strings, screaming for the amusement of others. What is one more pratfall to a man like that? To a monarch better labelled a jester?

Don't think about jesters, he urges himself, clawing for calm. No jesters. Fuck jesters.

Head ringing, mouth full of straw, he rolls out of the hay and into the mud. He is tired. So tired. He wonders if he should bother getting up, because if he gets up he'll have to find people, and people will lock him away again. They'll turn him into an even greater spectacle, and in time he'll be killed. Not on his terms, but theirs.

He is strangely okay with that. But he would prefer to be drowned by the rain. It seems gentler.


He closes his eyes. Maybe, he thinks, that was simply the nudge of death.

Nudge. Nudge.

No, no. Just go away.

Nudge. "Hey. Jeffrey. Are you alive?"

The king shakes his head in a negative. The motion confirms the opposite of its intent.

A hand, unseen but felt, reaches down and grips the king's arm. It pulls him, unwilling, to his feet. He groans and grumbles, not wanting to see the world again, knowing it will judge him for things he could not control but which he nevertheless regrets. 

Regrets. He could build a new kingdom with his regrets.

The helping hand moves from his arm to his shoulder. And, strangely, it offers him a small pat. It's a gesture of comfort that the king hasn't felt in a long time. He opens his eyes.

A man in green with a soggy white frill around his neck is standing there. He has an ugly haircut. "I saw what you did."

The king nods dopily. What did he do?

"That was…" The man in green coughs into one mud-stained fist. "That was a good shot. You probably saved the mayor."

The king nods again. This he remembers. Faintly. It was one of the few things he'd ever done of his own volition.

The man in green extends his fingers. "Thank you. For… not running away. I suppose."

Yes. That's true. I didn't run away.

The king accepts the handshake. Then, unceremoniously, as though the weight of the world is suddenly crushing his shoulders, he faints. That's enough free will for one day.