Monday, September 30, 2013

Day Five-Forty-One: He's a big boy now


So.

… sooooo.

My kid… is… chocolate.

Made of chocolate. Infused with chocolate. Like Edmund. And Bora. And that Jim fella.

I… I don't know why. It doesn't really matter to me, but it is rather confusing. I mean, when two vanilla people have a baby, it usually turns out vanilla. I imagine if Edmund and Bora had a baby, it'd be chocolate. And if some other skin variation had a baby with another skin variation, it'd be… y'know… skin variation.

So…

Why is Fynn chocolate?

Whatever his colour, he's a healthy boy. Slept most of Friday, so I didn't get much of an acquaintance with him, but today he's been awake and gurgly for hours. Already up and walking around on his own, laughing at things, walking into things, pestering people… strong kid. No grasp of language, but strong.

(Though not Eve strong. I… think. Not that I'd be adverse to it! There's nothing wrong with that!)

Despite his size… which is, I gotta admit, pretty big, being roughly three feet tall… Fynn is more a normal child than I've seen before. He acts exactly as I'd expect a kid to act: he laughs, he cries, he whines, he's needy. He's expressive in ways that Eve and Grayson were not. It's the crying that really gets me - Eve never bothered with it, and Grayson apparently only used tears to manipulate us into steering our caravan towards that damned mountain.

Fynn? Fynn cried because I took a cookie away from him. And then promptly wet himself. Seems like my kid, alright.

Fynn ain't the problem right now. Everybody onboard loves him, now that they know I haven't rejected him. No, the problem comes from two adults: Libby and Edmund.

Libby has locked herself in our cabin. She refuses to come out. She's been acting like that ever since she woke up and first laid eyes on Fynn. Same for Ed: nobody's seen him out of his room since he ran away from me on Friday. I suspect Bora's been bringing him food on the down-low. He's a skinny bugger already, so I doubt he can go too long without chow. 

I've tried to get into Libby's cabin without success. All I've heard in response to my cries is something about 'afraid' and 'divorce'. I can put two-and-two together, and I assured her that I wouldn't divorce her over barricading herself in a cabin, but… no dice. She's still in there, and though she's let one or two other people come and go, I'm not allowed in.

Sigh. Can't any of these pregnancies go smoothly?

Oh well. At least I've got an awesome little baby.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Daddy

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day Five-Hundred-Forty: Born unto the world

I missed the delivery.

Again.

But, in fairness, so did everyone else.

Libby sent me away. She said she wanted to be by herself for a little while. I can understand that, I guess - I'm pretty annoying when I'm nervous. And, well, I guess I went back to our cabin, and the whole day of running around, attending to Libby's needs, must've caught up with me…

And the bed, boy, it looked so comfy…

Yeah.

I woke up in my cabin. Sigh.

At first I wondered if it was all a dream. Libby had never been pregnant. An enormous, ungodsly belly? Laughable. Nobody's stomach gets that big unless they eat their way into extreme obesity, and Libby's too active a gal for obesity. Stout, yes, but obese? Hell no. Nope, no preggers, just another lazy day on an enormous rolling transport.

Then I left my room. And in the corridor, I caught sight of Morris. I raised a hand of greeting to him, and though he returned the gesture, he also skittered in the opposite direction. No mistaking it - he'd avoided me. Me, specifically. As though we were back in the castle and I'd suddenly turned into Cedric.

Reality crashed down hard. Libby had been pregnant. More, she'd been in mortal danger from a vastly oversized baby growing beyond the limits of her body. And, if Morris was any indication, she'd lost the battle.

Suddenly weak in the knees, I stumbled to Command's main deck. The Dauphine was back underway, apparently repaired in the night, though the deck was largely empty. Only Grylock stood vigil, apparently steering in Queen Daena's stead.

I staggered over to him. "G… Grylock… is she…?"

Turning away from the wheel Grylock squinted at me through his thick glasses. "Mornin', shit-for-breath. Do ye ever brush your teeth?"

I grasped him by the shoulders. "What fucking happened?"

The goblin pulled away, adjusting his glasses. "Peh! You're in a right mood. Best clean that attitude up if you're gonna be a daddy."

A daddy. I collapsed. "So… the baby…?"

Grylock raised his snout and grinned. "Gotcherself another baby boy. Congrats. Though, ah… he's a trifle… well, I'll letcha see him for yourself."

Possibilities whirled in my brain. He's got four arms. He's a mutant. He's a dog. Libby gave birth to a marmoset. The boy's a small, localized sun. He's a she and she's an it and they've got pimples for eyelids and top hats for teeth. He's a NON, for fucks' sake, he's probably a NON, all black and rubbery and shit. Oh gods, oh gods, it all went wrong, and Libby -

I grabbed Grylock's shoulders again. "LIBBY. IS LIBBY OKAY?"

Grylock opened his mouth, eyebrows raised angrily. Then, after a second of silence, he seemed to change his mind. He reached up to a communications tube dangling over his head. "Ma'am?"

"Yes?" Daena's voice floated back a few seconds later.

"Cut power for a few minutes. The proud papa's up 'n he's throwing a hissy fit. I'm gonna take him to see the missus."

Daena's pause was far too long. "Is… is that a good idea?"

To my horror, Grylock grinned wickedly. "Hey, he's gotta find out sometime. I wanna see his reaction."

The Dauphine rolled to a halt. Without another word, Grylock led me down to Engineering.

We passed through the Neo Beefiary. The majority of the Dauphine's crew sat at the tables, all wearing grim expressions. Those expressions deepened when they spotted me. Nowhere was this more evident than at the table closest to the stairs, where Edmund, Bora, and another chocolate fella named Jim lingered. As we approached the stairs, Ed got up from his seat and stood in my path.

"Dragomir," he said.

"Ed," I replied. "Couldya move, please? I'm… kinda… on the way…"

"I know." Edmund fiddled with his dreadlocks and stared at the floor. "Look, um, Dragomir -"

"No rhyming today, Ed?" Grylock piped in. His voice was far too gleeful. "Somethin' the matter?"

Ed whacked Grylock's nose and turned back to me. "L… l… look, Dragomir, we've known each other a while, now, 'n… well, I… I… um… I just wanted…"

I stared at him, at least momentarily distracted from my destination. "… why aren't you rhyming, Ed?"

He took a step back, almost rolling down the stairs. His whole body trembled as he gripped the banister.

"Why aren't you rhyming, Ed? What the hell is going on?" I grabbed the front of his tunic. "What the hell happened with my wife and my kid?"

That broke the moment, as well as Ed's nerves. He tore away from me and ran for his cabin. I almost followed him, wanting to demand an answer, but Grylock reminded me that actually seeing my child would answer my questions. I agreed, and pounded down the stairs to Engineering.

She's dead, I kept thinking. She's dead, and it's a monster, and it killed her, and now I have to kill it. I have to kill my son. Two boys, two evil, evil boys. Kill… kill my son…

But no.

I do NOT have to kill my son.

Nor did he kill Libby.

She's alive, he's alive, and everybody's healthy.

But…

Huh…

Huh.

Grylock led me to the rear of the Dauphine, where they'd been keeping Libby. She was asleep on a cot when I arrived, her chest rising and falling as healthfully as I could have hoped. Her massive belly was gone. I tried to wake her, but the wet nurse told me that she'd been asleep for almost twelve hours. She's since woken up, and has a massive scar on her stomach, but is otherwise perfectly fine.

The baby…

Fynn… named after Libby's father…

Fynn. My… not-so-little boy.

They had Fynn wrapped in a custom-made bassinette when I arrived. It's a damned big bassinette, I gotta admit, big enough to hold a seven-year-old. Fynn was swaddled in all manner of blankets as I approached, and he, too, was snoozing. Peaceful, calm Fynn, roughly the size of Captain Cedric's old dog. My angelic son.


My angelic son.

So…


… why's he look like Edmund?


This is one helluva head-scratcher.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day Five-Thirty-Nine: Lucky Number Three


Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit.

Libby's in labour.

The day started out ominous, I gotta admit. With Libby stuck in a mostly-broken hammock for several weeks, we've all been forced to soldier on without her technical genius constantly watching over our shoulder. The Dauphine's been okay thus far… but, well, somebody must've missed something, because it broke down this morning. A dozen cogs popped loose while it was in motion, and the whole thing skidded to a halt. Crushed a small cliff in the process.

The hiccup got Libby in a tizzy. She immediately demanded that she be escorted to the trouble spot to scope out the damage and direct repairs. We managed to get her there, with five strong arms holding the massive woman aloft, but… well… I guess something snapped partway, because suddenly Ed's arm was sopping wet. He was so surprised that he dropped her leg, and the rest of the preggers convoy gave way shortly thereafter, dumping Libby on the floor.

"My gods!" the poet cried, stripping away his tunic in disgust. "My word! My lands and my deeds! /  The baby, the baby, the wet nurse it needs!"

I was going to ask what the hell he was on about, but then Libby began to groan and shift, and people started to freak out, and, well, I puzzled out the problem rather quickly. The break in the Dauphine forgotten, we carried Libby to a worktable, got her a ton of pillows and blankets, and called in the wet nurse. Thus began labour.

When Libby was pregnant with Eve, I missed out on the birthing process completely. When Libby was pregnant with Grayson, I was shoved out of the way by a surly witch. Nevertheless, I got the impression that giving birth doesn't take that long. An hour, tops. 

Sooo… why is Libby still groaning and crying and ranting and raving almost seven hours after her water broke?

It's been a gruelling slog. I've barely left her side since it began, and there's been a steady stream of well-wishers moving in and out of Engineering to see how Libby's faring. We lucked out and plunked Libby on a table near Queen Daena's elevator, so she's been within arm's reach at all times. She's been an incredible comfort to Libby.

Libby. My wife. She's… well, she's not doing so hot. She's in an incredible amount of pain. She keeps saying that it's not the same, it's not the same, and more than once I've heard her mutter that it's gonna have to burst out of her stomach. She's not been willing to discuss the baby with me at any great length since becoming pregnant, but she's obviously been harbouring many of the same concerns as I. She's just too fucking tough to express 'em to me.

She did express one thing, though. One thing, when the wet nurse was away getting fresh towels and Daena briefly playing lookout on Command deck. One thing that haunts and horrifies me.

"Dragomir," she said, pulling me close, "this… ungh… this ain't normal. You know it ain't. I know it ain't. Everybody… knows, it's not fuckin' natural. Yeah?"

I've tried hard not to express my fears too much to Libby. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure my curt nod betrayed me.

She nodded back. "S… so… I want you to… to promise me somethin'."

I swallowed.

A few tears welled up in Libby's eyes. She's had plenty since labour began, but these were born sadness, not pain. "If… if I have… another monster… if this thing isn't… and if I… if I die…"

"You're not gonna -"

"Shut up," she urged me, clamping a gloved hand over my mouth. "Just shut up. If… if monster…"

I shivered. I hate using that word about my children. Even Grayson.

She bit her lip so hard that a small bead of blood ran down to her chin. "If… if it's a monster… and I die… you kill it. You fucking… you fucking kill it… before it does something horrible."

I blanched. I stopped breathing for close to a minute.

"Kill it," she urged, the tears flowing ever stronger. "I don't… don't wanna see… this curse… we share… hurtin' anybody else…"

That said, Libby pushed me away and concentrated on her breathing. I don't know that it'll help, since the baby hasn't really moved in the last three hours, but… whatever works for her.

Kill it. Libby wants me to kill my newborn baby. If it's not normal. And the chances are excellent that it won't be normal. I don't think it's gonna be in the same league as Eve or Grayson, but… normal… no. Not happening.

Fuck.

Labour continues. Most activity on the Dauphine has ceased. Everybody's too interested in the birth to attend to their duties. I'm too busy to force 'em back to work.

Libby.


If you die… if you fucking die, me and that baby are gonna crawl down to hell to save you. Personally.
























Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Day Five-Thirty-Eight: The soap might help


I've spent the last twenty-four hours trying to puzzle out a way to remove my kid from Libby's stomach without hurting her. I've been working on the assumption that it's gonna come out roughly the size of, say, Logan, and all of my strategies have hinged on that size.

Half an hour ago, I presented my ideas to Libby. She was… unimpressed. Indeed, I believe her exact words were "None of that shit's gonna work, stupid. Stop being stupid. So stupid."

What was stupid, you ask? Well, here's a brief list of some of my more ingenious ideas.

- Somebody heavy jumps on Libby's stomach. The force will temporarily deform the baby into something smaller and thinner and launch it out of Libby's thinger. A third party will stand by to catch the baby as it emerges.
- We feed Libby a big bucket of either soap or oil. This will coat the baby in the respective substance and grant it easier passage out of the thinger.
- Conversely, we have someone ready to coat the baby with oil or soap as it's emerging from the thinger. We can even pour some of the liquid into and around the… area… to expedite passage.
- IN ADDITION to the last point, we tie a rope around the baby's leg when it comes out. Then a few strong members of the crew yank it out with one good tug. Catcher is again required.
- We hunt down June and force her to teleport the damned baby out. Or something. We need to prosecute her anyway. (I asked Plato if he could use his teleporting trick to get the baby out, but, no dice. He said that was a one-way deal. Rats.)
- We invent a new type of laxative that works on your thinger instead of your butt. Maybe it's real easy to cook up. You don't know.
- Or… uh… we cut her open. Yeah.

I hate how the last one is the only real alternative. The rest… I think the rest were just so I could make the situation a bit goofy. Take some of the pressure off, as it were.

It worked. Libby smiled. But she's worried, too. She never talks about it - hell, she acts as though the belly's not pinning her down, most of the time - but she's worried. The baby is kicking more and more often. It wants out, and it's gonna come out soon.

The Dauphine is making tracks for the nearest town, no less than Bottomless. We're hoping to find a proper doctor there who can perform some kinda preggers surgery on Libby. But Bottomless is more than a week away. The wet nurse onboard assures us that Libby will give birth in the next two or three days. Not enough time, there, not nearly enough time.

I work to keep myself from thinking about it too much. The Dauphine's crazy engine always needs a bit of maintenance, and I've learned a few things from watching Libby. Still, though… there's only so much you can do to push the worry away before it starts to push back.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day Five-Thirty-Seven: Dragomir gets eddicated


When Libby gave birth to Eve, I was out guarding the Neck. Pretty sure I was on the Neck, anyway. By the time I got to her, the birth was over. Eve was born.

When Libby gave birth to Grayson, I was… not welcome in the wagon. I can't remember if it was Libby or June who kicked me out, but one of them did. I have vague recollections of seeing things that cannot be unseen, and I'm pretty sure my brain managed to unsee 'em. Grayson's birth is now just an unpleasant haze.

There's no adequate reason why I can't be present when this baby is born. That begs a rather important question for me: How ARE babies born? What's the process? How does child go from stomach to not-stomach? I was never taught how it's done, and despite not really wanting to know, I think it's important for the wellbeing of my wife.

Soooo… I went and asked.

I wish, now, that I hadn't.

I was too embarrassed to ask Libby herself, as I knew she would make fun of me, so I went to the other mother figure in my life: Queen Daena. She's always been a kind guide in times of trouble, and I reckoned she could help me out with this without smart remarks.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn't asked. Approaching her and saying "How do babies come out?" was remarkably silly.

Daena froze in the midst of chewing on a piece of cantaloupe. Her eyes widened, and for the briefest second her legs slowed as they spun. "Say what?"

I coughed and shuffled my feet, suddenly very embarrassed. "B… babies. How do they come out? Of the tummy?"

After a few more seconds of red-faced silence, Daena had to stifle a laugh. "Oh, Dragomir, you're adorable. You sound like a five-year-old."

I nearly ran away. Daena had to call me back as I stormed across the mound of grass towards my cabin.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Daena patted me on the shoulder as I slouched beside her tree. "With all you've been through, I sometimes forget that you're still young. Please forgive me."

"Not that young," I grunted, scowling. "Got two kids 'n 'nother on the way."

"Another reason why I'm surprised. I'd have thought you'd know how this works already."

"Yeah, well, I guess I don't." I pouted, but there was no real anger in my voice. Just petty petulance. "Soooo… yeah… how… how's it work?"

Daena's mirth turned into a frown. "This is about Libby, isn't it? I haven't seen her in a while, but I've heard stories. Is she really as big as Jeffrey tells me?"

"Yeah, probably." I wondered when Jeffrey would've visited Libby. She doesn't hate him, but she's not his biggest fan, either. "Can't get up, can barely move. The baby must weigh sixty, seventy pounds by now. It's a very strange situation, 'n it has me worried."

Daena patted me on the shoulder. "She's tough. She'll make it through."

"Yeah…" No enthusiasm. "Yeah."

We stood and watched the world roll by for a few moments, scrolling past the windows in time with the pumping of Daena's feet on the pedals. Amazing what a few simple leg movements can accomplish.

"So…" Daena bit her lip. "You… want to know how it works, eh?"

"Yeah. I figure… I figure maybe, if I know how it normally goes, I can puzzle out some OTHER way for it to happen."

"Ah."

"Yeah."

"… good idea."

"Yeah, I thought so."

"…"

"… um…"

"Yes?"

"So…"

"…"

"So… so how do babies come out?"

"Ah… yes. Well, um… that's… well, it's a bit complex."

"How so?"

"… mmm…"

"Do you need… tools…?"

"I… well, sometimes, I guess…"

"Like what?"

"Ummm… let's see… tools…"

"Like a hoe?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"A hoe. You know, for preparing fields." I mimed using a hoe.

"OH. Yes, a hoe."

"So you do use a hoe?"

"No. No, of course you don't. That would be silly."

"Oh." Pause. "Well, okay, then, what is used?"

The awkward dance probably would have continued for several minutes, I becoming more and more confused with each ambiguous statement, had a more graceful waltz not suddenly dropped out of Daena's tree in front of us. I knew the moment I saw that bland little smile that I was in for one hell of a ride.

Curtseying politely, Celine began. "When you impregnated your wife, Mud, you inserted your penis into her vagina. After what was doubtless an ample amount of thrusting, you ejaculated semen into her womb. The semen carried tiny sperm that, with a great deal of effort, fought their way to your wife's egg. One of those sperm fertilized the egg, thus creating a new life. When the baby is ready to be born it will travel out the same way it came in, emerging from your wife's vagina. The process may take several hours, and is typically accompanied by intense discomfort."

Daena's complexion glowed a fierce red. I, however, remained puzzled. "… what's a… va… vagina…?"

Celine laughed. "It's the female version of that thing you have between your legs. I believe you call it a 'thinger'."

"Oh," I said.


Oh.

Cue a mental image of me squeezing a full-grown child out of my thinger.

Also cue me, fleeing from Daena's tree as she yelled at her daughter.

After several hours of… mulling it over, I suppose, yes, that makes sense. It comes out of the… thinger. The girl-thinger. I've seen a girl-thinger before, and… yeah, I guess that could be true. It must be true, because, hell, where else would a baby come from?

This knowledge has not done me any good, sadly. All it has done is reinforce the idea that Libby can't give birth to this baby normally. Not if it's as big as her belly is hinting it'll be. If it… comes through her… thinger… it'll rip her in half.

I can't let that happen. I can't let my wife die. But… baby needs to be born… so…

Fuck. What're we gonna do?

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Confused

Monday, September 23, 2013

Day Five-Thirty-Six: Trauma


I haven't had a knife held to my throat since the thing with the bandit.

I'm… I'm still a little freaked out about it. And the more I think about what happened, the worse it gets.

It's not even that I was on the brink of death. I've been there before. I've died before. It's just that specific action. A knife on my throat. I… it brings back some really painful memories. Painful, scary memories. Being in the damned hole wasn't even that scary.

Maybe it wasn't as bad at the time. Maybe I've built up an impenetrable wall of horror 'round it. Maybe… maybe.

Fuck. The bandit. Maybe I'll be able to talk about it some day.

Some day.

Enough about that. There's a new horror facing me, one I've kinda glossed over since we left. I haven't wanted to talk about it, but it must be addressed. Any day now, my wife is going to give birth. And when she does… I don't know how it's going to work.

Scratch that. We. WE don't know how it's gonna work. We being the whole of the Dauphine. Including our medic and the one wetnurse who's helped with births before. None of them have any experience with pregnant women whose bellies are anywhere near as big as Libby's.

And when I say big, I mean BIG. I've made reference to Libby's precarious situation in previous weeks, but none of my past entries do her situation justice. She is huge. She is so huge that her stomach is roughly as large as the rest of her body. And then some. She is so huge that her hammock has long since drooped to the ground, forcing us to set up pillows on the floor beneath her to keep her comfortable. I fear that the bolts holding the hammock up won't last much longer. Hell, I fear that when they inevitably give out, Libby's going to break through the damned floor and land in Engineering.

I haven't heard any feasible methods for getting this baby… if it's gonna BE a baby… out of my wife. Everybody's too afraid of how I might react to give me honest answers. Only person who really suggested anything was Grylock, and his was plain and simple: "Cut the thing outta her." Might be we'll have to do that.

But…

If we cut it out… if we slice open my wife's belly…

Is she going to survive…?

I really wish I had an answer to that. Because as much as I fret for the health of my throat, I fear for Libby… and my baby… all the more.

Gods. She's close. We both know it. What the hell are we gonna do…?

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Friday, September 20, 2013

Day Five-Thirty-Five: Farewell to Legion

We've ditched the thing that was living in our recovery room.

Gods. I… I came so close.

When we began construction of the Dauphine, Libby and I planned on building a cabin for ourselves. Until tonight, though, neither one of us had actually slept in it: Libby's too fat right now to fit in the thing, and I'm content sleeping on a cot at the foot of her hammock. Best way to attend to any night-time needs or cravings she might have. But the baby kicked her butt last night with constant thrashing, and she wanted uninterrupted sleep tonight. That meant having her pregnancy quarters to herself.

I snore sometimes. Sue me.

Our cabin is a nice little thing. It's basically the same as the other cabins in the Dauphine, though with one fun caveat: it's the only cabin built on the Command deck. It's also right overtop of the Neo Beefiary, so if I'm feeling peckish I can get in touch with Bora via a sound tube and order some food. There's a dumb waiter built into the wall that she uses to send the chow up to me.
(I've given her late night orders a few times. I bet they annoy her. I hope they annoy her.)
It's been a long while since I last slept on my own, and I gotta admit that I found it rather daunting at first. I'm used to SOMEBODY sleeping beside me, whether they're a wife, a faux daughter, a freakish son, a rat, a ghost, or… anything else I've slept beside. (Barrel, once. He singed my facial hair with his flame breath. Last time we ever did that, lemme tell you.) There's a feeling of comfort when you can hear another person's bed farts, even if they are kinda gross.
After an hour of fidgeting, though, I began to relax. I quickly realized that my bed, which would normally be just big enough for two people, is quite large for ONE person. I spread out of my cramped corner and stretched my arms and legs, and soon I was very much enjoying the extra space. No stolen blankets, no filched pillows, no bed farting, no interruptions. Just blissful sleep.
Which may explain how I failed to hear the dumbwaiter creak to life.
I remember the moment quite vividly. I was stuck in the middle of a dream. It started off with a normal day of guarding 'round the castle. That quickly turned to a parade in my honour, wherein a large, floating hamster nearly chewed my head off. I managed to escape it, after which I found myself in a card game with a group of mice. Not rats, mice. I was doing quite well, winning pot after pot, but their squeaking kept throwing me off my game, and eventually it was so incessant and annoying that I threw down my cards, tore off my clothes, and started to accuse the mouse across from me of cheating.
Apparently I'd sat up in bed at that point and was gesticulating into the night air, because when I woke up I was vertical, not horizontal. And I only woke up because I sensed the touch of cold steel on my throat, pressed against my adam's apple.

"It's better this way, better, better, so much better," Kara whispered into my ear, shaking from nerves or excitement. "It wants out. What's black and white and red all over? You, you, only and always you, just without the -"
A lot of things happened very quickly at this point.
As Kara continued to whisper into my ear, the knife perilously close to biting into my skin, the door to my cabin slammed open. A small form with long hair slid into the room, accompanied by three larger figures. There was a blur of motion, a flash of moonlight off something incredibly fast, a squeal, pressure, oh gods, pressure -
- and, when I regained my senses, a little dead girl flopped onto my lap.
My scream woke up most of the Dauphine.
It turns out that Kara had broken out of the recovery room in the night, using a kerosene lamp to put a massive bruise on Morris' head while he watched over her. Sneaking into the Neo Beefiary, she'd grabbed a steak knife, noticed the dumbwaiter, and climbed into it. Somehow she'd reeled herself up to my room, which was locked, and prepared to cut my throat.
My saviour? Celine. One of her ninjas had spotted Kara out of her room. Breaking into my cabin, Celine disarmed Kara with an extremely-precise knife throw… and then slit a throat of her own.
We've agreed not to tell her mother that Celine's okay with killing. I don't think Daena would be happy to hear that.
So that's that. Kara is gone. Dead. No more disturbing girl, 'least beyond the one we already had. Somebody dumped her burning body out the back of the Dauphine, and we've left it far behind… but not before getting a good look at her. Not before checking over her corpse, in particular her head, and discovering a small web of purple veins in the roots of her hair.
I've seen purple veins before. A certain three-headed former colleague has purple veins. These lead me to some definite conclusions as to who's behind Kara's freakish behaviour.
I feel bad for not digging a grave for Kara. She was probably a lovely little girl before the Non came to Vacia. But we can't take any chances, because shortly after Kara died… as her cold, twitching body lay on the floor of my cabin… I swear I saw something shoot out of her. Shoot out, and flee to the wall, and disappear into the woodwork.
Today was a long day, though nothing of note happened. I've spent most of my time shivering over the events of last night. They were… too… similar. Too similar by far to something… gah… nevermind.
I'm not going to sleep alone again, I can tell you that much.
Sincerely,

Dragomir the Wanderer


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day Five-Thirty-Four: And then it got disturbing


"They came in the night, yes, the night. They were night."

Yeah. She's suddenly talking.

The girl's name is, as far as we can tell, Kara. She's not too clear on that point. Sometimes she calls herself Lloyd, or Sandra, or Tim. She's all over the place. Most of the time it's Kara, so we're sticking with that.

She started talking sometime this morning. Celine was keeping an eye on her overnight, and she was the first to report to me that Kara had finally opened her mouth to say something halfway intelligible. Not much, mind - she was outright demanding that someone bring her water, and it was in a weird language that Celine only partially understood - but that was the beginning.

The news that the rabid little girl who'd given people so much trouble overnight was suddenly speaking brought just about everybody out to peek into the recovery room. This was the payoff, the gem to justify putting up with Kara's abuse… and everyone was rewarded with some very strange behaviour. Very, very strange.

Though her language has normalized over the course of the day, Kara herself is anything but normal. It's clear that she's traumatized: when not restrained she paces back and forth constantly on all fours, rather like a rat, and her movements are quick, clipped, and unnatural. She twitches all the time, as though she can't relax, and she refuses to look anyone in the eye. When she's not talking or mumbling to herself, Kara hums a tuneless lullabye that she's probably making up on the spot.

She's crazy. Kara is utterly, stark-raving mad. And it's beginning to scare people. I think they'd prefer she turned back into a beast. At least then she was consistent. Now… now you never know what she's gonna do.

I had a fair amount of work to do during the day, so I had to wait until the evening to sit down with Kara. By then I'd already heard lots about her strange behaviour, so I thought I knew what to expect when I entered the recovery room, Plato at my side. I was very wrong. The look on Morris' face as we relieved him from watch duty told me just how wrong I would be.

Kara glared at me over her shoulder when I opened and closed the door. She was crouched on the bed, in front of the room's single porthole. Her arms swayed in an unnatural wriggle I found most disconcerting.

"Hi, hi, hi," she said, wrapping her hair around her face. "We're Tim today. Tim, yes, Tim. Tim is the boy down the street. Hello, Tim, hello."

I took a seat on one of the chairs by the door. Plato flopped down beside me, content to sit cross-legged on the floor. "Hi, Kara. My name is -"

"TIM!" Kara dove at the blankets on her bed, digging into them frantically like a dog trying to uncover a bone. "We're TIM, Tim, Tim, Tim lived down the street, Tim is a boy, Tim has a thiiiiiing, mommy told Kara that boys have things, and that's a thing. Thing? Thing. Does Kara have a thing too?"

Rolling upside down, Kara tried to peer up her pants. Plato and I averted our eyes. The girl cackled after a few seconds of whirling about on her bed, then went back to looking out the porthole.

"Tim," I said, starting over, "I'd like to ask you some questions. D'you mind that?"

Kara abruptly flipped onto her back and lounged, staring at her fingers. "No, no, Tim doesn't mind that, Sandra doesn't mind that, no, mommy doesn't, doesn't, they came, and mommy's dead now. Mommy's dead."

I glanced at Plato, shivering. He shivered back.

"Did you live in Vacia, uh, Sandra?"

Kara smiled, the glint of her teeth shining out of the mass of hair over her eyes. "Nothing lives in Vacia, no, nothing, nothing. Not even Sandra. Live? No, not nothing, not in Vacia, no. Tim lived down the street."

"Okay." I scratched my head, struggling to keep up with the names. "Why… why doesn't Tim live down the street anymore, Sandra? What happened?"

Kara's hands spasmed. She rolled off of her back and onto the floor, holding herself up on her fingers and toes. I might have felt threatened if she wasn't facing the wrong direction, and she addressed her next statement to the underside of her bed.

"They came in the night, yes, the night," she whispered. "They were night. The clawed their way out of Kara's nightmares and oozed into the streets. They were Kara's nightmare. Kara saw them… they… they were there… the black, the black, the things…"

Plato fidgeted nervously beside me. We both understood. The Non had visited Vacia. This only confirmed what I'd already suspected. "And… what… what did the things do to Tim, Kara?"

Kara swayed, turning around to face us. Her eyes juddered in their sockets, focusing on nothing. "They… they… nothing. They did nothing to Tim. He did."

"He?"

Moving slyly forward, her limbs suddenly smooth and careful, Kara crept over to my feet. Her chin rose, her hair fell away from her face, and she licked her lips as she glared at my forehead. "He. What is black and white and red all over? It has nothing to do with the sun, no, the sun is nothing when there is no sun. What is black and white and red all over, and the red is blood, yes, Tim's blood? What is black and white and red all over and ate Tim? What is it?"

I blanched. I didn't need to look into a mirror to feel the red rushing out of my face. Plato shivered so violently that I'm surprised he didn't bolt from the room.

Kara gripped my knee. She used it to rise to two feet. For a brief second, she looked like a normal person, standing erect and steady. Then she sniffed the air, and the veneer of normalcy broke.

"You smell of nightmares," she concluded. "You both do. Kara doesn't like you at all."

Kara went back to her bed, curled up in the blankets, and recited pointless riddles to herself for the rest of our shift. When Grylock took our place, she promptly vomited on his feet.

On the one hand, Kara needs help. She's been horribly traumatized. She's going to need years of rehabilitation. I feel so sorry for her.

On the other hand, we need to ditch this thing that's living in our recovery room. Now.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day Five-Thirty-Three: I have yet to create a well-mannered child


We're seven hours' travel from Vacia, making good headway to the west. Not much to report on the travelling - which is good, 'cause we've got another problem on our hands. If you read yesterday's entry, you can probably guess what it is.

I've had the pleasure of watching over the little girl we found only once. The hour long shifts are pretty tame, and a few workers looking to capitalize on the ease of the duty have 'volunteered' to take longer shifts. Grylock remained at her side for no less than three hours, and that's only because he was taking naps whenever others were out of earshot. Little bastard.

I've been using the present tense to describe watching over the girl. Two hours ago, I would not have been grammatically incorrect. Ever since Edmund came charging into the halls, though, her comatose status has changed dramatically.

I was digging into dinner, sitting by Libby's hammock as she slumbered, when I heard a shout in the hallways of Subsistence. It was loud enough to wake up Libby, and she lazily kicked me in the head to send me on an investigation. (Her kicks have a lot less power these days. Guess her muscles are all going into her enormous stomach.)

I emerged to find a small knot of people gathered down the corridor. Still munching on a scrumptious meal of corn and cooked field grubs (seriously, they're GREAT), I jogged over to see what was the matter.

Ed was sprawled out on the floor, rolling wildly and clutching at his arm. I immediately noticed small specks of red on his chocolate skin. (I figured his blood would be milky white, to be honest. Is that racist? I only recently learned that racism is a thing. Not sure if I'm doing it right.) Despite the obvious pain Ed remained lyrical in his explanations, and it took a few stanzas for him to reveal that the little girl had woken up and attacked him.

"She's rent, she's rent, she's rent my skin apart!" he cried, raising his arm dramatically into the air. "What pain! What pain! That saucy little tart!"

"Go bandage yourself up, ya baby." I nudged at Ed to get him out of the doorway into the recovery room. "Now, where… ah. Hi, there."

Peering into the room, shouldering past the crowd of onlookers (must there ALWAYS be onlookers?), I spotted the girl at once. She'd wedged herself under the bed in the room and was staring out at me, her wide, white eyes filled with suspicion and fear. I stooped to my knees and beckoned her forward, but she growled and refused to move.

Sigh. I scratched my head. At least old men masquerading as little kids are well behaved.

It took us three hours to coax her out of her hiding spot, and by the end I don't think 'coax' was the appropriate word to describe the situation. We used gentle words; we used accepting gestures; we used bribes of food, water, and shiny things; we used veiled threats wrapped in happy tones, as though speaking to an unruly dog. None of the above worked, and eventually we had to go in and remove the girl by force. As much for her safety as for ours. Took five grown men and one wussy bard, but we got the job done.

The girl remains hostile. Awake, which is a start, but hostile. If she understands our words, she shows no sign of comprehension. Maybe she doesn't care to comprehend? Maybe the whole world is now an enemy? No clue. She's currently restrained, at any rate, and those lucky souls watching over her now have to put up with constant snarling and incoherent curses. They also get to wipe the spittle from her mouth, which is a dangerous and gross job.

I have no idea what to do with this girl. If she's gonna become part of the crew… well… hell. I just don't know.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day Five-Thirty-Two: The Gob with the Golden Nose


Thank the gods for Grylock and his nose. He might be a belligerent, insulting drunk, but I'll be damned if he's not useful.

Our resident goblin has some of the best eyes in the group, despite his thick glasses. I've theorized that he doesn't have bad eyes, but that the glasses actually magnify Grylock's vision. He tends to notice things that other people miss, and loves pointing out how goblins are superior to humans in that respect. (And most respects. Grylock's pretty racist, isn't he?)

In this case, Grylock caught slight, slight movement in one of the buildings.

We were prepping to head out after a day of fruitless searching when the little green bastard came charging up to me on his boar. "Oi, fearful leader! I think I've got something!"

I winced as the boar skidded to a stop and promptly began to lick my boots. It has a bizarre fascination with my footwear. "Dammit, cut that out. What's up, Grylock? Find anybody?"

"Maybe." Grylock pointed over his shoulder, towards the row of empty stores. He winced a little as he made the gesture - the countless bruises peppering his skin haven't quite cleared from his shoulders. "Saw a shadow movin' in that general shop over yonder. I tried to be sneaky, but it must've seen me. Up and scurried off when I moved in too close. Care to go for a look-see, m'lad?"

I nodded. Calling over a few more bodies, all lightly armed in case of trouble, I followed Grylock through the front door of the shop.

I don't think 'shop' is quite sufficient a word for the place, really. It was a grocery store, and quite a large one at that. Only scarcely lit by a pall of misty light from the broken windows, the space was filled with rows of nondescript wooden shelves. Most of them were at least partially tipped over, if not outright smashed to pieces. I'd assigned Edmund to survey the place yesterday, and he came back to me with a negative report. Nothing of value or interest inside.

Grylock hopped off of his boar and took the lead, sliding through the runs more easily than anyone else. His nose rose into the air, sniffing tentatively, guiding him on a track none of us could see. He muttered to himself as he went, and his voice only rose to audible range when he reached the rear storeroom. He waved us over.

"S'in here, Dragomir." Grylock pointed into the vacant back room. "Somebody's in here. I can smell jam. Strawberry, maybe. And… hell, they had chicken in here at some point, but not anymore…"

I rolled my eyes and stepped inside. It was not a large space, maybe ten feet deep, and there were few hiding spots. I checked them all and found no one.

"Well?" I asked, turning back to Grylock. "Where's this mystery shadow o' yours?"

Scowling, Grylock dropped carefully to his knees (gotta love bruises) and sniffed at the floorboards. His thin fingers ran along the wood… stopped briefly as they met a splinter, which he's been working at ever since… and collided with a thin, almost imperceptible seam in the floor.

I waved my fellow travellers forward, into the storeroom. They took up positions around the seam, which, we quickly realized, was part of a small trapdoor set into the floor. I stepped out to give everyone more room, as well as to block the door, and Grylock used his poisonheart short sword to discretely pry the latch open.

Tension. Quiet. Poised weapons. My bladder, ready to flood should something horrible pop out.

The door clanked open.

Nothing came out.

Grylock looked first. Rising slightly, he peeked his nose over the gap in the floor and tilted his head. Those fantastic eyes of his stared down into the darkness.

"C'mon up, kid. Nobody's gonna hurt ye."

At the sound of 'kid' I stepped back into the storeroom. Shouldering past one of the labourers, I peered into the trapdoor. At the bottom, huddled amongst a small stash of crates, was a small girl, her dirty face almost buried in a thick mane of dark hair. She cringed when I came into view, her eyes wide and uncomprehending.

Memories. So many memories came back when I saw her. It's not her, I know it isn't, but… but…

But.

Getting the girl out of her little hideaway was no easy task. She fought like a caged beast, struggling and screaming and biting as friendly hands tried to gently restrain her. After five minutes of one-sided abuse we managed to haul her out of her hole, and when the light hit her she fainted dead away. We've taken her, and the small stash of supplies we found her with, back to the Dauphine.

According to our onboard medic, the girl's in okay shape. A little malnourished, maybe, but her body's working the way it should. Her mind's quite fucked, though, and at the moment she's trapped in a wide-eyed stupor. Each person aboard is taking a one-hour shift to keep an eye on her while she recovers in the Dauphine's little medical hold. (I'm just hoping she doesn't come to again in the middle of the night and go on a rampage through the ship.)

We're leaving Vacia tomorrow. Grylock's personally been through all of the buildings, and he's confirmed that there are no more recent traces of human scent. My hope is that we can get this little girl to tell us what happened, but at this point, I won't hold my breath.

Little girls.

Kinda tired of little girls.

They're always more than meets the eye.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer