Friday, October 18, 2013

Day Five-Fifty-Five: You can never go home again

(Note: Second image coming soon. I didn't have time to draw it today.)

Villeinville is a remarkably insular town. So insular, in fact, that it often takes months for merchants to pass through. Anyone else who shows up is usually a bandit, look to make easy coin off of an isolated community. So Cannonbottom's paranoia is well-founded.

Unfortunately, 'insular' also means that they're blocked off from news of the outside world. Which means that they'd never heard of the Non - and when news DID trickle in from our small visits, most people disregarded the info as bogus. A new fad, or something. Nothing to pay attention to. Cannonbottom will protect as he always has, blasting away from his tower.

It wasn't until said tower went down that people started to pay attention. By then, it was way too late.

We moved the Dauphine to the west side of Villeinville early in the week, practically inching it across the landscape so Cannonbottom wouldn't notice and open fire. It was strictly a safety precaution - and a wise one, apparently, as it put the town between us and the massive pulse of green light that suddenly erupted in the east, early this morning, as we were preparing to leave.

I was at the bottom of the loading ramp when the Non appeared. And I, like everyone else, was frozen for at least five crucial seconds.

The Non erupted out of the clearing green like a noxious cloud of ink, hitting the ground and bounding towards Villeinville with horrid intent. They surged over the walls in a frenzy, heedless of the wooden spikes, heedless of the single guard waving his spear, heedless of the abrupt roar of cannons from the tower. All this with barely a whisper, a hint of their battle frenzy.

My daze broken, I began to shake shoulders, pointing up the ramp. "GO! GET IN THE FUCKING THING! GET TO THE DEFENSES! SOMEBODY TELL DAENA!"

They ran. Some tripped, some fell, all fled. Libby, standing nearby, a bag hoisted over her shoulder, Fynn at her side, gawked at the town. "B… but aren't we going to…?"

I watched a second longer before forcing son and wife up the ramp. "NO! YOU SEE GRAYSON 'ROUND ANYWHERE? I SURE AS HELL DON'T, 'N WITHOUT HIM WE'RE FUCKED! GET FYNN SECURED!"

Though she flinched angrily at the mention of Grayson, Libby wasted no time. Heaving Fynn into her arms, she ran for our cabin. Fynn cried, cradling his head at the sound of explosions from overhead. 

Once everyone was aboard I darted up the ramp and hit the release. Weight and counterweight brought the ramp up, closing us off. Somewhere far above, Daena's ever-moving feet hit the pedals. The Dauphine roared to life. 

Dashing through Subsistence, I dimly noted gunners moving into position, entering niches in the walls where cannons waited. Good, strong people, not soldiers, but friends. I prayed they would be enough. The guns fired towards the wave of Non as the Dauphine began to move -

- and when I reached Command, I realized that the cannons, aimed by untrained combatants, were largely doing the Non's job for them. Most of the cannonballs were flying through Villeinville's walls, turning age-old wooden spikes into clouds of shrapnel. I can only imagine what was happening to the farmers within those walls. 

A crowd of Non broke off from the main group, pursuing the Dauphine with dogged persistence, bouncing across the landscape at a hideous speed. I ordered the rear gunners to focus on the ground behind us, to chew up the greenery and slow the Non down, but it was no use. Their erratic moves brought the Non onto the Dauphine's still-slow tail in no time, and as dirt flew two dozen gangly black forms leaped onto the hull.

Far in the distance, as I watched the last of the Non jump and cling to our backside, Cannonbottom's tower crashed down. Villeinville disappeared into a sea of black and emerald. Grylock swears he watched one of the Non pluck Cannonbottom out of the air and eat the old man whole.

Gritting my teeth, still stunned, I lurched up to the observation deck. Morris was already up there, a spear shaking in his hands, jeering nervously at the Non as they clawed their way up towards him. They were on the windows surrounding Command, some pounding on the glass, others merely punching small holes with their nails as they climbed up to meet us.

"Dragomir?!" Morris yelled to me, over the sound of cannonfire. "Dragomir, the hell we gonna do?! C'mon, man, TELL ME!"

I remained silent, clinging to the edge of the deck, watching the Non wind their way up, up, up, ants climbing on a carcass to collect well-earned meat. I could see no fangs for chewing, but I knew they were there, lingering in flat black faces, anxious to perforate softer flesh.

I wasn't thinking of much at the time. 

I thought of my son.

My sons.

My daughter.

My wife. 

My home. 

My homes

Two destroyed. One attacked repeatedly.

The first thing I did was kick Morris down the stairs, back into Command. He bounced backward with a yelp. Last I heard, he has a bit of a concussion. Otherwise, fine.

The second was to raise my hands, let my anger get the best of me, and unleash the greatest torrent of swear words I've ever conjured into the air.


Red lightning.


I don't remember much after that. 

When I woke up I was in bed, watched over by a drooly little boy, my head aching worse than it has in years.

The Non left us alone. I did something, and they left us alone. Jumped off the back of the Dauphine and bolted. Ed found me shortly thereafter, slumped over the railing of the observation deck. I'd almost fallen to my second death. On Libby's orders I'm spending today in bed, recuperating. I'm fine with that - my head still aches like a bastard. 

I guess I'm not going back to Villeinville. That vital thing will remain a mystery. Whatever it was. A clue, an object, something somebody could have said… it's gone for good, now. Another sacrifice to the advance of the Non.

But you know what? Memories… memories don't matter that much, in the grand scheme of things.

I'm Dragomir the Guard. Dragomir the Mayor. Dragomir the Wanderer. And today… even though I failed a town… I protected my friends.

I guess that counts for something.

Not much, though.

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