Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day Six-Hundred-Seven: Gonna be a great year


Wow. Amazing how year-changing events just kinda sneak up on you. I hadn't even considered that today is New Year's Eve. Not a major note in our lives, really, but something to bear in mind.

Our first day in Trademore was mostly about settling in. Thanks to Traveller's path of destruction we managed to finagle some discounted rooms at a local tavern, and we've spent today and yesterday bopping back and forth between the tavern and other local establishments. We're hunting for information. We found nothing about Logan, but we did learn a lot about the world around us.

First, Traveller. The dude's considered a national menace. He's been quite busy of late, trashing towns right, left, and centre in the pursuit of... something. Nobody knows quite what, but apparently he spends his time with his eyes on the sky, a look of wonder on his face. Might explain why he mauls everything in his path, 'cause he's not paying attention to where he's going. The Imperium's not happy with him, but their army's kinda powerless to stop him.

They're also largely powerless to stop the sloth in the west. Yes, an honest-to-gods sloth. The reports of its exploits are more scattered and embellished than those of Traveller, but word is that the sloth has utterly razed two major centres of trade, a city, several farming communities, and a mountain. No one knows why it's so pissed off, either, and all anyone out here can hope is that it settles down eventually. Yikes.

The last bit of info regards the troubles at the border. These stories form sort of an ominous periphery to everything else, as there's not a hell of a lot to say from a commoner's point of view. The Imperium's throwing a ton of troops at the eastern edges of its territory, and nobody really knows why. Speculations as to their intent range from penning in the sloth to creating a dragnet to catch Traveller to a massive, pointless 'training exercise'. A training exercise which may ultimately end in conscription.

We all know better, of course. It's the Non. They must be making a massive push for territory. The Imperium's waging a war, and they're keeping it a secret from their citizens. I ultimately find the Non more worrisome than even a sloth, so I can understand the Imperium's standpoint.

It's not like these are idle rumours, either. Tucked safely in our tavern, we watched a massive contingent of roaming troops leave Trademore's front gates and wander east. Troops and war rabbits and cannons, the whole shebang. I was worried they might come across and destroy the Dauphine, but we heard no cannonfire over the plains, so I suspect everyone we left behind is safe.

Info dump aside, we had a little party! I mentioned the whole New Year's Eve thing earlier, and we took advantage of the fact by getting crazy on the upper floor of the tavern. Everyone got moderately tipsy and supped upon a combination of tavern fare and Bora's food (she came along to hunt for new ingredients) while we all told silly stories and mucked about. It was a lot of fun, and it gave we weary travellers a chance to bond.

It's now 1 am, and I'm the only one still up. I'm writing by moonlight while everyone else snoozes in their beds (or, in Grylock's case, under a nearby table). I'm watching a few late-night revellers wind through the streets below as I inscribe this, and, hey, one of them appears to be stopping to take a pee.

No.

Wait.

That's... that's not a pee.

Ew.

I think I'm done for the night. Happy New Year's, little diary. It still doesn't feel quite right to say that, but, hell, I'll do it anyway.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day Six-Hundred-Six: Return to Civilization


A few weeks ago, we determined that we'd be skipping settlements on our trip to see Iko. We figured jumping into towns and cities would not also be dangerous, it would also slow us down.

Now that we've all decided to simultaneously look for Logan... well, that determination has gone to the wayside. Sigh! And, hey, a settlement already! So much for progress!

Don't get me wrong. I love Logan. He's my pal. We had some... kinda... good times back at Castle Nostalgia. He may've been a brat, a swindler, a prankster and a quasi-stalker (wouldn't stop reading my diary uninvited, y'know), but he was a pal. I look forward to tracking him down again. 'specially now that his dad is also kinda my buddy. Maybe some fences can be mended there.

It's just... my gods. This could take a really long time. We're on a bit of a timetable, y'know? We haven't heard any news of the Non back home lately, largely because we've been avoiding Imperium towns, but I can't imagine The Baron and Kierkegaard and Doc and eeeeeveryone else they've got on their side is sitting dormant. 

Maybe we can get news of Pubton. Maybe it's still untouched. I really, truly hope so.

At any rate, settlement. We caught sight of one of the Imperium's infamous walled towns in the early afternoon, and, true to our words (and under the harsh glare of Grylock, who's made it his holy mission to find Logan), we stopped to have a look.

... several thousand feet away.

... and we approached in carts.

... aaaaand we may have buried the Dauphine in a giant snow bank. 

(What? You want us to get caught by the Imperium's army? You would be a cruel diary, had you a personality. And not just... feet. Maybe I should ask somebody about that while we're here.)

The settlement, name of Trademore, has seen better days. It looks as though it's been through a siege: the walls are cracked and broken, the front gate is badly cracked, the houses are full of enormous holes, the streets bear craters... it's not a happy sight. Imperium workers buzz over it all day and night, toiling feverishly to restore order, and I'm sure the local builder's guild at least is happy for the money they're making.

It's quite difficult to get into an Imperium walled settlement without a set, obvious purpose (usually trade or other forms of commerce), so we approached under the guise of travelling merchants in a small caravan. Turns out we needn't have bothered being so intricate.

"Hail!" I yelled to the guard standing in front of Trademore's busted entrance. "We come from the east, bearing precious metals! We seek refuge that we -"

"Yeah, sure, go on in." The guard grunted out a sneeze and ordered the front gate open.

I faltered, urging my cart's ox (Morris has picked up a few on our travels) to slow down. "Uh... oh. Huh. Don't you wanna know...?"

"Know what? That you'e a merchant? Pretty obvious, innit? Go on in."

"Huh." I scratched my head, peering back into the cart at Libby and Fynn. They both shrugged. "Uh... this is... usually... harder."

"It's harder when your town ain't busted ta shit." The guard spat into the snow at his feet and sighed. "In case you hadn't noticed, we're a bit broken right now. Any money or materials comin' in is good. Don't cause any trouble 'n I don't give two humbugs what you're haulin'."

"I... seeeeeee." I might have mopped my brow at this successful infiltration, but the amount of effort put into it... so minuscule. Not worthy of the gesture. "So, uh, might I ask why everything's looking so bad?"

The guard pointed up and over the wall. A large, blue flag flapped lightly in the winter breeze, on it the cheery face of a shaggy, one-eyed man. His face was covered with a big, red 'no' symbol.

Plato, who was also in the cart (Fynn insisted - he has a thing for Plato's rat), quacked and jabbed two fingers at the flag. The rat did more or less the same on Plato's shoulder, though with a bit more dignity.

"That's Traveller? Hum." I turned back to the guard. "What'd he do, exactly? This place is a mess."

"What he always does," the guard growled. "Rolled in, acted all friendly, got in trouble with the local garrison, ran amok for the better part of a day, destroyed damn near everything in his path. I personally watched 'im hurl a cart full of polished stone statues through a pub. Terrifying, that idiot, terrifying."

'Stone'. The word tickled my mind with unease. I'd already heard that Traveller is the infamous rock hurler of the Imperium, but seeing what he can do with stone firsthand... terrifying indeed. "He's... not still here, right?"

"We're still standin', ain't we?" The guard snorted. "Naw. Took off two weeks ago. No word of him since. Between that guy, the sloth rampagin' in the west and all the trouble at the border... dark times, folks. Very dark."

I wanted to ask more, but the guard forcibly waved us in, as it was time for his break. Trouble at the border... a sloth, somewhere in the direction we're headed... and Traveller on the loose... yikes. Shaping up to be a dangerous trip.

At any rate, we're now in Trademore. The few savvy traders amongst us acually are trading with the local populace while the rest of us take in the sights, visit the remaining pubs, and look for signs of Logan. Unlike Traveller Logan's calling cards are subtle, but surely we can find 'em if they're out there.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day Six-Hundred-Five: A Genial Chat


Today's highlight was a simple back-and-forth between two aggrieved parties. Might as well write it as such. (And maybe turn it into a short play. That intense, it was.)

Jeffrey: H... hello, Grylock.

Grylock: Greetings, stutterin' wonder. Have a seat.

Jeffrey: These chairs are kind of... small.

Grylock: So'm I. Ye'll make do.

Dragomir: I'll just sit on the floor. I've broken a few of these already.

Grylock: Indeed ye have, you great fatass.

Jeffrey: Ah. That's... that's real comfy.

Grylock: Aye. No doubt ye sat in one while servin' tea and crumpets to your big dolly back home. Remember that, Dragomir? Logan told me aaaaall about his mannequin fetish. Cold nights while yer missus is latched to a tree, and all that. Wonder if the doll had all the right hol -

Dragomir: That's enough, Grylock. No need to dig up shit like that.

Jeffrey: It's... it's okay. Let him say his peace. Even if it's disgusting.

Grylock: Oho! Big man. Can appreciate that much, at least. Willin' to take his due licks. 'course that also makes ye a spineless, worthless dog, but ye canna please everyone.

Jeffrey: I know. And I apologize for that. I... I learned pretty early on that pleasing everyone is impossible.

Grylock: So ye set out to please only yourself? Smooth strategy. Makes me wanna piss on yer head.

Dragomir: Don't worry, Jeff, I've made sure he hasn't had anything to drink yet today. No pissing to be had.

Grylock: Better hope you're right 'bout that, Dragomir, or I'm liable to hit ye next. Not that ye need my help when it comes to fouling your britches with urine.

Dragomir: Oh, shut up. Jeffrey, I think you had somethin' you wanted to say to Grylock?

Jeffrey: ... yes.

Dragomir: 'n Grylock? You wanted to talk to Jeff, here?

Grylock: Surely did.

Dragomir: Well. One of you, go on, then.

Jeffrey: I'll go first.

Grylock: Selfish to the last.

Jeffrey: I... I'm... I'm sorry, Grylock. So, so sorry. I never should have stuck you up in that tower, nor should I have bared your behind to the winter cold. That was reckless and selfish of me.

Grylock: Don't forget havin' Dragomir, here, bug the shit outta me for a full week. 'n nearly gettin' us both killed by mammoths. Wasna too keen on that either.

Jeffrey: Er... yes. Also those things. I am truly, deeply sorry to both of you. And... Grylock, if there's anything I can do... or if there's anything you wanna do to me... um... I throw myself at... your... wrath. Your considerable wrath.

Grylock: ...

Jeffrey: Unrestrained. Do... do anything. I... my life, is... forfeit. If you wish.

Grylock: ...

Dragomir: Oh, hells, not this again.

Jeffrey: Really. If... if that's what you want, you can take that poisonheart of yours -

Grylock: Shut up.

Jeffrey: Okay.

Grylock: You're a married man.

Jeffrey: Yes.

Grylock: Shut up. I'm talkin' now. You just listen.

Jeffrey: ...

Grylock: You're a married man. Ye have two children. Yer wife's stuck in a tree, yer daughter hangs out with assassins, 'n your son... ye have no idea where your son is, do you? Not a damned clue.

Dragomir: You can't blame him for Logan running off -

Grylock: OF COURSE I FUCKIN' CAN! Who else should I blame?! Why aren't you looking for yer son right now, you twat? That should be your number one priority! Instead you're out cavortin' with this floppy-hatted asshole -

Dragomir: Hey!

Grylock: - gettin' lost and havin' adventures and tryin' to get others to kill ye so you won't have to commit suicide yerself! Don't think I'm blind, ye great git! I've seen ye temptin' death dozens of times! Ye blame yourself for all the world's ills, and ye think the best way to get out of it is to see yourself offed! Well you know what, King Fuckin' Jeffrey? That is not the way out of this!

Jeffrey: ...

Dragomir: ...

Grylock: Ack... cough... I'm too old for this shit. Strainin' my voice. Ye deserve it, though. Ye deserve every tongue lashin' ever known to goblin or man or orc or creepy-crawlin' nasty ever to leap out of a hole in the ground. Ye're scum, Jeffrey, and ye'll remain scum 'til you do right by your son and bring him home. Everyone else forgettin' Logan, I can understand; his own family... that's just not right.

Dragomir: They did look for him, in fairness. Jeff's told me they searched the Imperium for several months in the Matriarch. They only turned 'round 'cause their ride was falling apart.

Grylock: I don't care. If the Matriarch falls apart, ye turn it into carts and get some horses. If the carts break down, ye ride the horses. If the horses die, ye walk. If ye break yer legs, ye crawl. If yer arms go numb, ye beg for help where you lay. Ye don't ever stop until ye've found yer son again. No turning around, no giving up, and no fucking killing yourself. Won't find me doing the deed, either. Hell, I'll make sure ye don't die from now on, 'cause ye deserve to face Logan's judgement. Expirin' before that happens is cowardly.

Dragomir: ...

Jeffrey: ...

Grylock: Get out of here, both of ye. My throat hurts. I want a nap before I go drinkin' tonight.

And drink he will. Grylock's been released from imprisonment. Daena's not happy about it, but Jeffrey insists that he rejoin the rest of the crew. From now on, he, Jeffrey, and anyone who's willing to help will search for signs of Logan in any settlements we cross. Sounds like Grylock's been doing it already, but the more hands we have, the better.

Grylock's right, too. Jeffrey should've been looking for Logan. We all should've been looking. Best we rectify that wrong.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer



Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day Six-Hundred-Four: The ways of poison


Jeffrey finally stumbled out of bed today. His appearance changed everything.

Up 'til now, as I've mentioned, Queen Daena has guarded her husband like a hawk. No one gets in, no one gets out. Consequently, we've heard nothing from Jeffrey himself, gurgles and vomity sounds aside. Those horrid noises finally ceased 'round 6 pm today, and much relieved was Daena for it.

I heard through the grape vine (it's a small, highly-informative grape vine on the Dauphine) that Jeffrey was up and about again, so I abandoned a frisky wrestling match with Fynn. A good thing, too, as the old man was gettin' his ass handed to him by his much-stronger son. I'm pretty sure wrestling with him in the first place was a bad idea, but, hey. I'm not a wise man.

Jeffrey was sitting against Daena's tree, still looking rather weary and ashen, but otherwise mobile. They were chatting about something, and Daena looked much, much relieved. I greeted them both and sat cross-legged in front of Jeffrey.

"Hey, man. How you feeling? Last I heard you weren't doing so well."

"That's an understatement." Jeffrey burped out a cough. "Ugh. Pleasant. Why isn't Grylock sick like this? He had as much of that wine as me."

"Built up an immunity." I shook my head. "S'one of the few things I've managed to tease out of him. Apparently he's been licking a tiny drop of poison off of his poisonheart each night for months. Makes him very mildly ill, but it's improved his resistance to poisons dramatically. Not sure if he was building up to this stunt or if he just thought it was a wise precaution, but..."

"My lord." Jeffrey swallowed. "Wise. Insane, but wise. Now I'm really wishing I hadn't bared his ass to the western world. Really paying for that one."

"You did what?" Daena asked, peering suspiciously 'round the side of her tree.

"It's a long story. I'll tell you eventually." Jeffrey waved her off, grimacing, and turned back to me. "Where is he? His cabin?"

"Yep. House arrest. Best we can do 'round here, really. Can't get at you. Though -"

"I'd like to talk to him, if I might."

I froze. Hadn't expected that. "You... wanna talk to him? Really? I figured you'd wanna avoid him completely. Thought I'd have to coax you into communicatin'."

"No, I'd like to chat." Jeffrey cleared his throat. (Literally. Phlegm on the ground. No manners. So gross.) "I've put off sitting down with Grylock for a long time. I... owe him. And I'd like to see what this has to do with my son."

That key point which had me curious all week. "Fair enough. What're you gonna say to him, though? Might take a lot to stop him from going after you again. Might not've noticed, but Grylock holds a hell of a grudge."

"We noticed," Daena murmured. I could hear the disapproving frown.

"There's only one thing I can say to him." Jeffrey shook his head. "I'm going to apologize. I'll beg his forgiveness."

Jeffrey was a monarch. He built, led, and brought down a nation. Nor was he a benevolent ruler. I once watched him pitch a guard off of the ramparts for sneezing on Jeffrey's mantle. For someone so tyrannical to fall so far as to beg forgiveness of a would-be assassin... yikes.

The apology comes tomorrow. Jeffrey's asked me to 'adjudicate' the meeting, because he fears what Grylock might do if they're alone together. Hopefully this will set all this shit behind us so we can move on to something more productive.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day Six-Hundred-Three: Game Night


Well, today didn't solve anything. Even if it was unusually festive for no particular reason I can discern.

The Grylock / Jeffrey conundrum doesn't feel like it should be a conundrum. Get one guy talking to another guy! Maybe over a cool, refreshing brewsky! Simple as that! Yet drawing Jeffrey away from his wife is like drawing water from a stone (stones don't have water, y'know), and any suggestions that Grylock might be able to pay him a visit are rebuffed with equal certainty. Daena's equal parts immovable object and unstoppable force.

As I often do when I'm stymied, I went looking for help. In retrospect I needn't have bothered, because in this case, everyone 'round here is useless.

"Grab the goblin by the neck 'n drag him to Jeff's bedside," Libby offered. We were playing four-man Pygmy Sticks, and she was leading with five debutantes. "Wring an apology out of 'im."

"Peh, you try it, see how well you do." I countered Libby's rock-and-roll combo with a clumsy cul de sac, then scored twelve for the crossover. "Grylock ain't apologetic. He wants to chat 'bout Logan. Squared. Your go, son."

"Er... five pygmys, please." Fynn moved his piece across the board, committing two rather egregious fouls. We all let it slip. He's slow on the uptake with board games. "Couldn't you invite them over to a picnic? Get 'em together? Then they'd have to talk. Bora could make some soup. Her soup's great."

"'tis true, the maiden brown boils soup of great renown." Edmund shoved two sticks into the Bol de Fromage, scoring a Quadra-Dutchman. We all whistled. "But need our goblin green appease a man obscene? What 'pologies are owed to his untimely foe?"

"I'd say a 'sorry' for poisoning is high on the list." I growled and threw three cards into the Bol de Fromage. "Cromulance Declared. Who's up first this round?"

Libby raised her fist, smashing the Bol de Fromage. We replaced it with a new one and began the next round, Libby going first. (Fynn looked shocked, as always. He's questioned that rule a few times.)

"A sorry ain't gonna cut it, I say. We should get Grylock outta here." Libby tossed a card into the Bol de Fromage, hooting as she did. "He's dangerous."

I scratched my head. "Huh. I thought you liked Grylock."

"Sometimes. When he's not being an ass."

"So... never, then?"

"Pretty much. Ya gonna play, or what?"

I jabbed a stick into the playing field and circled the table once. Ed and Libby gave me high fives; Fynn just barely missed. "Ahh, double negative scoring. Sorry, kiddo. Gotta be faster."

"Darnit," Fynn murmured. He shuffled his cards nervously.

"To toss aside a longtime friend / Is to start an ugly trend." Ed tossed two cards into the Bol de Fromage and stole one replacement from Fynn's hand. "To coin a phrase / Your callous ways / Will spark a phase / Of glad betrays."

"Stick to one rhyming scheme, will you?" I scored a third Pygmy, though grimly. Three is a bad number. "So confusing. And I've never heard of that phrase. Pretty sure you made it up."

Ed bowed. "At your service, lords and ladies."

Libby rolled her eyes. "Whatever. You just want him 'round so you'll have a guilt-free drinkin' buddy. You two get sauced so often it's tough to tell when you're drunk or sober when you stagger into work in the morning."

Ed's eyes narrowed. "Methinks your wifely maiden fair / Is pregidous 'gainst those of greenish glare."

When they first met, Libby couldn't understand more than two or three words out of Ed's mouth. Since then, though, she's gotten pretty good at translating. "Hey! You callin' me a racist, ya fancy-pants ditz?"

Ed smugly tossed three sticks into the Bol de Fromage, scoring a quadra-Dutchman. "Nay nay, Libby the Loud! / I know that thee / So content be / With skins of diff'rent crowd!"

Libby reached across the table and grabbed Edmund by the collar. She jabbed a finger towards Fynn. "My son is a different colour, motherplucker. You don't tell me I'm a damned racist 'cause I wanna ditch an asshole."

"C"mon, now, c'mon, this is just a conversation." I stood to interpose myself between them. "Friendly conversation. We don't need to have another fistfight over a board game."

"Like hell we don't!" Libby shoved me aside. "Take it back! I ain't a damned racist! Racists are too dumb to be engineers anyway!"

"Might explain why my heating vent isn't working," Edmund growled. No hint of a rhyme.

"HEY! THAT'S AN INSINUATION! I'LL FUCK YOU UP -"

And so it went. They fought for a few minutes, I struggled to restore order, and I'm pretty sure I heard Fynn say "I really don't understand this game." I'm a little disturbed that he's able to ignore a brawl erupting in his face, but, hey, he's a stalwart kid.

That's that. Another day down, no communications established. Sigh.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Wanderer

Day Six-Hundred-Two: Don't want no steenking goblins


"Under no account will I allow that little scumbag anywhere near my husband."

That sentence pretty much sums up today. But, hell, I'll expand anyway.

For a while, now, Jeffrey and Celine have been wanting to move their 'living quarters' out with Queen Daena. We finally managed to accomodate 'em two weeks ago by installing beds and cabinets on the patch of grass surrounding her tree. Now they can sleep by their wife / mother as much as they wish, and can even stop the lift the tree is on halfway between levels if they want some privacy. 

It's on this patch of grass where Jeffrey's been resting for the past two days. Behind his wife. And unless you wanna administer some loving care to the guy, you don't get to see him without her consent. Even I have to check in before chatting with Jeffrey, and I'm arguably his best friend on this trip.

(What a weird thought. I hated him not six months ago.)

"But, Daena, c'mon. He won't explain himself otherwise." I scratched my head, knocking my puffy hat off accidentally. It fell in front of one of Daena's constantly-kicking legs and was booted across Control. "Whoops. My bad."

Daena laughed lightly, then reassumed a serious expression. "Apologies. But, er, no, that will not happen, Dragomir. Grylock stays away from Jeffrey. Poison during festivities? Unacceptable. Barbaric! I've never liked goblins, and Grylock has justified my dislike. No, I want him off of the Dauphine at once."

I shrank away from the queenly demeanour. Daena knows how to give orders. "That might be an issue. He's, er, kinda... useful... best scout we've got -"

Daena cut me off with a chop of a hand. "Anything he can do, Celine can do better. Relegate his duties to her instead."

Wow, I thought. Committing her daughter to dangerous missions in the field. She IS pissed. "Well, yes, I've thought about that, but we also have to consider that Grylock knows a lot about what we're doin', and if we just cut him loose..."

"Then perhaps you should consider corporal punishment," Daena uttered, tone icy. "Permanent corporal punishment."    

I recoiled, surprised. "Daena! What the hell!"

Daena paused a moment, eyebrows knitted, then took a breath and sagged. "... yes, that was spoken in haste. And anger. Apologies. He does deserve a sturdy whacking to his rear, nevertheless. I personally volunteer to give him a few boots."

"You do that and it probably will be permanent." I laughed, but I wasn't kidding. Daena's kicks are serious business.

I continued to bicker with Daena a while longer, but it wasn't much use. She remains adamant that Grylock be banished from the Dauphine for poisoning Jeffrey. I suspect that Jeffrey may have wanted to add a word or two, but he was too busy gurgling and occasionally vomiting over the side of his bed to add much to the conversation. (I assume, anyway. The sounds coming from behind Daena's tree... and the smells... were unpleasant.)

I've decided not to banish Grylock from the Dauphine. Not yet, anyway. Though he's got something of a poor reputation 'mongst the crew, everyone dislikes Jeffrey about as much as they dislike Grylock. One is a former dictator, the other pees on his drinking buddies. Kinda split the middle, y'know? At the very least I want Grylock and Jeffrey to clear the air, 'cause I'm quite curious as to how Logan factors into Grylock's actions.

Sigh. Travel continues. What a dainty band I lead.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day Six-Hundred-One: Wouldn't be a normal day without a prisoner or two


"What did you use?"

"I forget."

"Will it have lasting repercussions?"

"Not a clue."

"How long will he be sick?"

"Good question, that."

"Why did you do it?"

"Because."

Questioning Grylock is akin to prying information out of a child. He's a stubborn, irate little asshole, and gods know he loves getting his way. Even if that means poisoning a man. Especially if it means poisoning a man.

I thought we were past all this shit. Grylock had his fun with the pranking, and when he got caught, he gave it up. Hell, Jeffrey indirectly saved Grylock when we were dealing with those poodle spider things by sacrificing himself to let me get away. Why dredge up old grudges again? Is Grylock really that petty?

Yes, apparently. Yes he is. Though he has more of a reason than I'd anticipated.

As I mentioned before, Grylock's under house arrest. I don't want him sneaking around. Problem is, Grylock's very very good at sneaking around, and so I've had to not only post a constant menagerie of guards at his doorstep, we've had to secure the porthole on his cabin so he can't slip out onto the hull of the Dauphine. I've also made a point of pestering him non-stop about poisoning Jeffrey, 'cause gods does this irritate me.

Must irritate him, too, because after a solid two hour session of 'interrogation' he snarled and threw up his hands.

"Ye're shit at this, ye know, Dragomir? Pure shit." The goblin lay back on his bed and sighed. "Pressure without threat isna good enough to pry info outta me. Ye need some torture devices."

I leaned against the door of his cabin, scowling and rubbing my eyes. "I don't torture people, Grylock. All I want is answers. 'n maybe a reason why I shouldn't boot you offa the Dauphine right now."

Grylock laughed. "Go ahead! Go right ahead. Your pilgrimage, boss man. I dunno why I'm here in the first place. Ever since ye plucked me outta my hometown as a 'representative' to Pubton I've been playin' things by ear. Life, ah, life is so odd..."

He whistled for a while. I planted fingers in my ears. Grylock has no musicial ability whatsoever. (Or he was being deliberately awful.)

After regaining some of my arguing voice, I yelled over the discordant tune. "Shut UP! Gods, you're such a brat. How I've put up with you for this long without strangling you - "

"As if ye could 'fore I stuck a knife in your gut," Grylock added with a tiny grin.

" - I don't know," I concluded, glaring coldly. "You're an asshole, Grylock. Pranks, threats, cavorting about with some unruly beast... that damned boar of yours stinks up the Neo Beefiary every time you take it in to feed. People want you out, and I don't know that I can stop 'em from tossing you into a gutter somewheres. Maybe with a knife in your back."

"Might help my posture," the goblin murmured. He stared out the window of his cabin. "'n maybe the kid'll find me in said gutter."

I paused, the mechanisms of my mind grinding to a halt at the word 'kid'. "What kid?"

Grylock straightened his glasses. The rebellious humour in his face narrowed into bitter anger. "The kid everyone forgot. The kid people might start rememberin' if I put his behaviour back into their minds. The kid who went missin', whose parents should be lookin' for if they were halfway decent folk. The kid who always gave me a damned good game of chess."

The answer was pretty obvious. "Oh. That kid. Uh... what's he got to do...?"

He shook his head, but wouldn't elaborate. "Lemme talk to Jeffrey. That's all I have te say."

I slumped. "I doubt he wants to speak to you, Grylock. Highly doubt."

Shaking his head again, Grylock continued to stare out the window. He wouldn't say anything else. He's never looked so old.

Logan, eh?

Logan's the reason Grylock poisoned Jeffrey.

Hm.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day Six Hundred: Spite


So much for a cheery gift-giving celebration.

Thanks to the accommodating (and costly) people of Cheem, we managed to turn the base of the Stalk of Cheem into a wonderful little party, emulating the bash we had last year 'round the golden tree of Pubton. We set up tables and chairs, Bora and a few in-town chefs cooked up a wonderful meal, Edmund led the music-makers in song and verse, Daena bantered with guests from the docking bay of the Dauphine, and Celine topped it all off with a fantastic dance number on the icy pond. The girl knows how to spin on her toes, lemme tell ya.

Everyone showed up, including the residents of Cheem, who decided to have a little gift-giving fun amongst their own ranks. We welcomed them with food, drink, and no small amount of merriment. Within an hour of starting most people were on their way to smashed, and I'm pretty certain the collective noise carried on the wind to towns a hundred miles away in every direction.

I knew I didn't have much time to retain order, so I stood on a table and yelled for the crowd to PAY ATTENTION FOR ONE DAMNED SECOND, YA LUBBERS. They turned to me, raising ther mugs, many of their joyfully cursing me for tearing them away from their hot, hot homes. I cursed them back -

- and then decreed that Allofusmas was now, officially, underway. We needed to get the gift-giving over with before the night devolved into too much booze-related carnage.

Surprisingly, this managed to somewhat sober the crowd. Everyone seemed quite excited to exchange gifts, and they put on their best faces while walking up to the surprise recipients. The results were, in general, fairly awesome:

- Libby received a set of whittling tools from Jeffrey's old bannerman
- The bannerman received socks from me, these depicting Jeffrey punching me back - a little reference to last year, y'know
- I received a big wheel of smelly cheese from the hat lady, with a little note again apologizing for losing my son - no worries, ma'am, wasn't your fault
- The hat lady received, duh, a new hat from Morris, this one a big, goofy-lookin' cow
- Morris received a jug of milk from Celine, which I'm pretty sure he chugged on the spot
- Celine received a year's supply of hugs from Plato, because he's apparently broke
- Plato received a big bite on the butt from his rat for being so cheap
- Aaaaand the rat received a dollop of cheese from my cheese wheel, because, well, the rat wasn't included in the drawing, being a rat and all

In addition to all this, Libby, Fynn and I all exchanged presents of our own. I got Libby a shiny new axe and Fynn a snake person action figure; Libby got me some new underwear and Fynn an orc action figure; and Fynn got me a human action figure and Libby a sky dwarf action figure. (Pretty certain he'll be playing with our action figures. Sly boy.)

Everything was goin' just peachy for about ten minutes. Then the crowds began to part as everyone was admiring their gifts, and I noticed two revellers still on their feet: Jeffrey and Grylock.

Jeffrey had a present. Grylock had a present. They watched one another at a distance, clearly unsure how to proceed, neither looking terribly happy about the situation. Worst random luck ever.

I was on the verge of bringing the two together, as, y'know, some kinda mediator, when Grylock broke the ice first. He strode across the snow, thrust out a bottle-shaped package, and turned up his nose.

"'ere," he said, sniffing. "For ye."

"Th... thank you." Jeffrey accepted the gift. He handed another bottle-shaped package to Grylock. "For you. Happy... Allofusmas."

"Yeah, I know, damned silly name. Gimme that." Grylock ripped the paper from the bottle of liquor and barked a laugh. "Ha! Near the same as what I got ye, ponce. At least ye've good taste."

Jeffrey removed the paper from his present. It was, indeed, almost exactly the same wine, though from a year earlier. "Heh. Maybe... maybe we can try it out, some time. Together, you know."

Grylock grinned. Setting his present in the snow, he grabbed the bottle out of Jeffrey's hands, popped the top, and poured a healthy dollop of bubbling white into two mugs from a nearby table. "No time like the now, eh? 'ere, we'll try mine first, then break out yours. Go on, majesty, to yer health."

As I watched man and goblin clunk their mugs together and take a long drink, I felt a stirring of pride in my throat. Pride and happiness. If Grylock can forgive Jeffrey, I thought to myself, then maybe Jeffrey can start to forgive himself as well.

That's when Jeffrey began to cough.

And gag. 

And wretch.

And then he fell over.

But Grylock did not.

The crowd pressed in around Jeffrey, their fun forgotten. Celine got there first, impassive but attentive, leaning over her father and rolling him off of his back so he wouldn't choke on his vomit. Jeffrey's eyes goggled in their sockets, veins popping, and he cried out constantly for 'Water, water!'

Everyone was so focused on Jeffrey that they did not notice Grylock edging away from the scene. But I did.

Tearing across the snow at the goblin I grabbed him by his collar and lifted him, fully aware that he could use the poisonheart at his side to run me through. "You green FUCK! WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?"

Grylock grinned, coughing a little but otherwise fine. "I drank to his health. Didna say it would be good health, did I?" 

Lords above.

Grylock's under house arrest. Celine's watching over him. Jeffrey's in the infirmary, and he's expected to make a full recovery. Apparently the poison was only enough to give him the equivalent of violent nausea. Nevertheless, Daena's calling for Grylock's head on a platter.

Yay. Happy Allofusmas, everyone.

Sincerely,

Dragomir the Incredibly Irritated


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-Nine: Q & A


Last-minute gift purchasing continues. The button-down people of Cheem simply love us. We're probably funding several months' worth of salaries.

I probably haven't done a great job describing Cheem, the massive Stalk aside. Cheem is, for the most part, your average town: there are houses, there are stores, there's an inn, there are a few workshops, there's a barracks for the Imperium's army (whih isn't currently here, bless our luck), and there's a small town hall. I had tea with the mayor yesterday, bless his charitable heart. Boring, boring man, but charitable.

What sets Cheem apart is its focus on keeping tourists in town. Though closed right now, there's an entire museum dedicated to the Stalk of Cheem, as well as an attached gift shop. A few abandoned stalls at the base of the Stalk claim to sell 'Stalk Stalks', a local, flavoured brand of celery, and there's a big man-dug pond in the centre of town for swimming. Though, uh, right now it's mostly used for skating.

We've been enjoying Cheem. The few people who stuck around for the winter are pleasant folk, and they haven't once expressed any distrust of us or our enormous war machine. Hell, we took a couple merchants on a tour of the Dauphine earlier today, just for something to do. Managed to strike a sweet trade for some Stalk Stalks in the process. Dunno if they're any good, being some five months old, but I'm sure Bora can whip up something.

Doubtless the most popular venue in Cheem is the pub. Don't get me wrong, our crew still loves the Neo Beefiary and its massive collection of booze from back home, but there's no sight more welcoming to weary travellers than foreign ale and drunken fun with the locals. From what I can tell through the porthole of my cabin the fun continues, doubtless in full-swing party form.

It was in the pub that I had my most interesting conversation of the day. Which isn't to say it was amazingly interesting, but it's the best you're gonna get in a place like Cheem.

Leaving Fynn to make a snowman with his mom, I plonked myself on a bar stool in the pub, ordered a hot chocolate, waded my way through some confused looks, and greeted the soul on the next stool over.

"Hi," Jeffrey said in return. He was nursing a small mug of turnip ale. It smelled foul. "No alcohol?"

I took a big swig of hot chocolate, grasped my throat as it burned my insides to cinders, spent a few minutes recovering, and, eventually, replied. "Y... yeah... alc... alcohol... doesn't... doesn't do... anything... for me..."

"Doesn't look like hot chocolate does much for ya either," Jeffrey noted, smiling wryly. He raised his mug. "Cheers. To, uh, the holiday season."

"Ch... cheers."

He took a swig. I didn't. We sat in silence for a few minutes, watching everyone around us get terribly, terribly drunk. Grylock ordered an entire case of wine from the bartender and raised a bottle in our direction.

"Cripes." Jeffrey shook his head. "At least I made the right call."

"Hm?"

"Oh, nothing." He changed the subject. "You'll find out soon enough. So, uh, Dragomir... there was somethin' I wanted to... maybe... ask you."

I piled into a plate of squid crackers that had just arrived, courtesy of the bartender. "Yeah? Mmmph, good. Wad one?"

"Uhhhh... yeah, sure. I like calamari." 

"Damb good. Ahhh. That's the stuff. So, go on, what's up?"

Jeffrey slowed in mid chew, carefully considering his words. "Mmm. Those... those are pretty good."

"Yep." Crunch.

"Should... maybe I should get the recipe."

"Doubt he'll give it. Restaurants're stingey like that."

"You don't say."

"Yep. Happens. Makes people come back again, you know? Give out the recipe 'n everybody 'll just make the tasties on their own. Bad for business."

"Ah. I guess that makes sense." Jeffrey grabbed another cracker. "Mmmm. Tasty."

"Yeeeep."

Sip.

Tentative sip.

"So."

"So?"

"I... guess I'd better get home. Promised Daena I wouldn't be late. Soooo..."

"Sooooo."

"See ya." He got up to leave.

"I pushed you outta the way 'cause you were gonna kill yourself."

"... what?"

"S'why I did it, stupid. Whether you know it or not, that's what you were gonna do."

"... wh... what..."

I took another sip of my hot chocolate, focusing on the bar. I knew I'd picked the answer to the question Jeffrey couldn't quite bring himself to ask.

Jeffrey verified my suspicion by leaving. I'm pretty certain his face was beet red. He certainly didn't waste any time running out the door. I suspect he wanted to avoid any probing questions from others around us, even though, in the crazed din of the pub, no one could possibly have overheard what I'd said.

Poor bastard. Who knows what's going on in his head.

Allofusmas tomorrow. Hopefully that'll cheer ol' Jeffrey up a bit.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-Eight: There's a first time for everything


I have to say, this giant floppy hat of mine is good for name draws. Even if it does get into my eyes constantly.

Stupid floppy hats. I miss my non-floppy helmet.

Anyway. Name drawing! If you're gonna do a gift-giving holiday you gotta do it right, and so I ordered a three-day break for people to rest, relax, enjoy Allofusmas, and, most importantly, track down a present for the person whose name you picked. Everyone lined up in front of me, everyone reached into the hat, and everyone now has to buy, find, or make a gift for someone else.

This is easy for most of us, because most of us have done it before. Yet it remains alien for three people: Jeffrey, Daena, and Celine.

Back in Castle Uncharitable (I should've been the one to name that place each day, I'm so on the ball), Allofusmas did not exist. Instead we were forced to endure Jeffmas, Jeffrey's selfish 'holiday' equivalent. Jeffrey and his family get presents and they give nothing back. Aside from currying favour with the ruling family, everyone beneath Jeffrey and his kin got nothing out of Jeffmas. It was entirely self-serving...

... so I wasn't the least bit surprised when Jeffrey approached me, entirely confused as to what he should do for Allofusmas.

He tapped on my shoulder. "Hi, Dragomir. You got a sec?"

I started, surprised. I was shopping in one of Cheem's tiny shops with Libby and Fynn at the time, my mind fixated on three jars of jams, wondering whether my person would prefer raspberry, blueberry, or marmot. Tough call. "Ack! Hey! Don't sneak up me like that."

Jeffrey shuffled backward nervously. He's been skittish since the 'incident' with Plato. And the scythe. And, well, you know. "Sorry. Just... needed to talk. Some advice."

"He's useless." Celine weaved out from behind her father, a bland little smile decorating her face. "Doesn't know what to get his person. I don't know that he's ever bought anyone a gift."

Jeffrey lightly swatted his daughter on the arm. "Hey! I bought you things all the time, back when we had... a treasury."

"You ordered The Baron to buy us things in your stead, as I recall. You couldn't be bothered."

"That's..." Jeffrey tugged on the collar of his coat. "Well, I distinctly remember purchasing you some toffee when we fled into the Imperium. At least once."

Celine waved a finger. "I asked you for money. You dropped it in my hands and continued staring out the window of the Matriarch. You only know I bought toffee because I gave you a piece."

"And, er, tasty it was."

"Indeed." Her expression not flickering for an instant, Celine whipped a package of toffee out from behind her back. "All this is a way to guilt you into purchasing this for me, of course."

And he did. Oh, how he did.

Libby, Fynn and I all helped Jeffrey and Celine with their shopping, though truth be told it was only Jeffrey who needed assistance. (Celine even got something on behalf of her mother, who for obvious reasons could not fit inside the shop.) We guided Jeffrey through the delicate process of breaking down the tastes and hobbies of his Allofusmas target, made some general suggestions as to what people might like to receive during the holiday season, and lent him a bit of money to see the transaction through. Toffee is expensive, y'know.

Jeffrey ultimately bought something. I don't know what that something is, or to whom it will go on Friday, but it is indeed something. I look forward to witnessing the fruits of his purchase.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-Seven: I Dream of Cheemy


"I thought you said we would go 'round settlements. You do know what 'round means, right, Ed?"

"'It is a much peculiar thing! / 'tis that stalk 'bout which bards sing!"

"... you didn't answer my question. Why are we approaching a settlement?"

"Its size! Its weight! Its mighty girth! All do dictate its solemn worth!"

"I get the feeling you just wanted to come here."

"I must confess a lifelong dream / To stand beneath the clouds of Cheem."

"You're lucky 'dream' rhymes with 'Cheem', bastard."

Translation: We've arrived at a town. Cheem. Ed assured me that we'd bypass any nearby settlements, aaaaand he lied. Because he's always wanted to visit Cheem. Guess I can't trust him for navigation tips anymore. Sigh...

We rolled up to Cheem 'round dinnertime. What we found was lightly-plowed rural sprawl, a dusting of houses half-buried in the snow. Most of them are dark, abandoned for the winter, though a few remain lit year-round. These belong to those few who dare live beside the Stalk of Cheem when it's coated in ice.

Ah, yes. The Stalk of Cheem. Guess I should talk about that. It's kinda the standout feature of this tourist's town.

I don't know if I've ever brought it up in conversation before, but the clouds in the Imperium are a little different than back home. They're, ah, thick. So thick, in fact, that you can walk on 'em. Travel along 'em. Live on 'em. There are plenty of stories of entire communities hunkering down on clouds and living above the world, only coming down to ground when they need supplies.

How do they descend, you ask? Simple: They climb. 

The Stalk of Cheem is an enormous vine, stretching near-vertically out of the earth and piercing the sky. Perhaps half a kilometer in circumference and ringed with green, natural walkways that wind to the top, the Stalk is big enough that you can... could... see it from Villeinville on a clear day. Clouds get stuck on the thing all the time, and if you're quick enough you can use it to climb to the sky. There are at least six other such stalks in the Imperium.

Why have I never mentioned them, you ask? Same reason as I never much mentioned the Grand Chasm, I guess. Never thought of it. Just a marvel of life that people take for granted and forget.

At the moment, of course, the Stalk of Cheem is not safe for travel. Though it happily survives each winter the Stalk is currently encased in a thick layer of ice and snow, and though you can try to get to the top you're likely to slip, fall to the ground, and kill yourself. There's a reason a cemetery encircles the base of the Stalk of Cheem.

We've stopped for the moment, at any rate. Though we ain't gonna climb the thing, the Stalk of Cheem - and Cheem itself - seems a good place to relax for a few days and prepare for our annual gift-giving tradition: the mighty Allofusmas! WOOOOO! 

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Monday, December 16, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-Six: Next Gen


Well, that's that. My boy's all growed up. Kinda.

After enduring the quick transition of both Eve and Grayson to adolesence, Fynn's jump isn't that much of a shocker. I kinda expected he wouldn't stay a baby for too long, what with his ridiculous growth spurt, and I wasn't disappointed.

Unlike Grayson, my second son's personality has not changed drastically between infancy and boyhood. He might be speaking now, but Fynn is every bit as cheerful and spastic and friendly as you'd expect. Hell, he's still something of a crybaby -  when I told him not to eat so much ice cream at breakfast this morning he threw a temper tantrum and had to be hauled off to his room to cool down. Not easy to do when your son is as tall as you and a fair bit stronger.

Which, of course, brings us to the subject of Fynn's, er, strangeness. You know, the whole lifting-up-the-Dauphine-which-probably-weighs-more-than-a-packet-of-peanuts strangeness. Difficult to forget that.

I get the feeling that Fynn is somewhere between his sister and his brother. Eve is a ridiculous brute, but displays no real aptitude in magic. Grayson, by contrast, could whirl entire armies around by conjuring up wind - but hand him a heavy bowl to lift and you'll see sweat standing out on his brow. 

Fynn... Fynn is strong. There's no denying that. Today I watched him lift a skid full of barrels, unaided, with one hand. He struggled a teensy bit, though, and I think he would've been more comfortable with two hands. (Kid likes to show off. Kinda like his mom.) Clearly he can't lift something as large as the Dauphine without some amplifying aid...

... hence, magic. Or that brownish aura he exuded. Whatever you wanna call it, that, I believe, is what did the trick. Without that, Fynn is just abnormally strong. Not Eve level, but strong. With it, though... who knows what he's capable of. And maybe he can do things like Grayson, as well, like... um... making you excessively angry at your wife...?

...

Let's just hope he can't do that.

At any rate, Fynn remains a favourite 'mongst the crew. I couldn't hide his feat of power from anyone, and they warmly thanked him while admiring his new grown-up stature. Even Libby seems okay with what happened, though, er, she does seem to be throwing more sideways glances at Fynn. Hope she doesn't freak out about him too much.

All that aside, the journey continues. The snow isn't so bad as it was last week, and with Fynn as backup muscle we can get out of any sudden jams. We're all feeling a whole lot cheerier, and I plan on capitalizing on that cheeriness with a happy event that I think everyone's forgotten about. Maybe it'll help me forget all the shit that's happened in the last few weeks.

Yeah. I'm looking at you, weird diary. Don't think I've forgotten about those legs.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-Five: They grow up so quickly

Well, that's that. Fynn is flat-out, bonafide, completely weird. Just like his brother, just like his sister. Only this time, I think we can use his weirdness to our advantage.

The intial snowfall that buried the Dauphine - along with the rest of the world, given the nature of nature - has since been bolstered by flurries. These damned flurries make getting across country more difficult than before. And it only got worse today when, this morning, we woke up to a damned blizzard. 

Libby anticipated snow. She anticipated snow so hardcore that she installed heating systems in the wheels which could, in a pinch, clear them of obstacles and allow the Dauphine to keep moving. Unfortunately, it was so damned cold today that the boiling water flowing through the tubes in the wheels simply created sheets of ice when we activated the system. Consequently, the Dauphine was stuck in snow AND had no traction. Good times.

We couldn't move. Nobody wanted to go outside because of the intense cold. Hell, it was damned chilly inside, let alone beyond the bay doors of the Dauphine. We had to seal the observation deck to prevent snow from flooding Command. No one knew what to do beyond watching the nose of the Dauphine as it slowly, but surely, disappeared under a thick blanket of white.

Like everyone else, I watched the progression. There's no greater spectacle than that of nature. Unlike the rest, though, I couldn't bear the gloomy sight for long, and I eventually took Fynn down to Engineering to play. The bottom floor of the Dauphine was largely clear of life, what with the current uselessness of the mechanisms, and Fynn was eager to muck about with the rhino. So I let him.

It's marvellous how children can cleanse a foul mood, it really is. The way Fynn bucked about on that rhino... funny as hell. They're great friends, those two.

After twenty minutes of watching Fynn gamble about on the rhino's back, I noticed a strange expression on his face. The rhino must've noticed, too, because it stopped playfully bucking and peered at its adult-sized cargo.

"What's up, Fynn?" I called, picking at some dirt under my toenails. "Wanna come down?"

Fynn shook his head. His curls neatly masked his face. Quite a set of hair on that boy. "No go?"

"What'd ya say, m'boy?"

He pointed at the ceiling. "Go. Daauphhdinei. No go?"

I smiled, rolling my eyes. "No, Fynn. No go. We're stuck. Stuuuuck."

"Stowk?"

"Yeah, stuck." I helped him off of the rhino and pointed out one of the portholes. "See? The snow. It's 'round our wheels. We can't move. Stuck."

"Stowk." He considered the word as he tapped on the glass. "St... sto... stoww... stuwk."

"Stuck. Good lad." I sighed. "We'd need your sister to pry us free now, I'm afraid. Or your... bro... eh, nevermind. Point is, we're stuck here for now. Might as well play with the rhino a while longer."

"Snort," said the rhino. I passed it a sock from the sock tree, potted and growing nearby.

"Stuwk." Fynn tapped on the glass a few more times. "Stuck. Stuck."

"Hey, that's right. Prime pronunciation, me pint-sized... uh... peregrin. Maybe you'll make a good writer some day, Fynny, 'ol boy. Got the language down even... faster... than..."

"Stuck."

My sentence died. I stepped back, away from Fynn, bumping into the nose of the rhino. I'm sure I might've been more fearful of getting the horn up my butt, but I was preoccupied.

So suddenly that I had no time to process it all, Fynn was changing before my eyes. His limbs, previously so plump and awkward, shrank and toned themselves. His face, full of baby fat, became more naturally rounded. His tresses, so shaggy and long, receded into a neat, trim haircut. For a second he grew to almost double his normal size, but then his body folded in on itself and virtually matched mine in height. A light dazzled my vision, two colours mingling into a gentle, brilliant brown.

Then I saw Fynn. Not the Fynn of today, mind, but another Fynn. A Fynn in adulthood. A Fynn a long time from now. A Fynn with battle scars, a Fynn with a cloak and a sword, a Fynn looking grim and determined. A warrior, much like his sister... but not a killing machine.

Heroic. Yes. That's the word I'd use about my son. He looked absolutely heroic.

The light faded. I staggered onto the rhino's head, and it tactfully brushed me to the floor so I wouldn't impale myself. Recovering, I looked to my son - and found him gone. No Fynn.

But the Engineering bay door was open. 

Alarmed, I grabbed a coat beside the bay door and waded into the white of winter, emerging near one of the Dauphine's front wheels. The cold nipped at my face, my ears, my lips, my everything, but I managed to pry my eyes open just far enough to see what was happening.

Fynn was standing between the front wheels of the Dauphine, surrounded by a faint aura of brown. Looking an altogether more immature and naive kind of heroic, but no less determined, he dug his hands into the front of the Dauphine, bashing straight through the wood. Within seconds the aura surrounding him extended to the hull of the Dauphine -

- and when Fynn began to trudge backward, the Dauphine went with him. It took several minutes of painful labour, but Fynn pulled the whole damned thing free of the ice and snow. Whenever he tugged the aura surrounding him blazed all the brighter, as though amplifying his ridiculous might.

Yep. He's related to Eve, all right.

After yanking the Dauphine to a clear area, Fynn slowly set the transport back down, wiped an ample amount of frosted sweat from his brow, and looked at me. I'd followed his progress the whole way, disbelieving, hardly aware of the horrible cold chewing at my body.

He grinned, though sheepishly. "Sorry, dad. Mom's gonna have to fix that hole. I did good, though, right? Not stuck anymore?"

Yes, son. You did good. Not stuck anymore.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Stupefied

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-Four: Fly, ugly bird, fly

I'll let this exchange speak for itself.

"Hey, there, Fynny boy." I'd found him buried headfirst in the snow, as usual. "You gotta put your clothes on, Fynn, how many times do I have to tell ya? C'mon, you love your mitts."

"Dah! Daabha! Bbbbrrprorpollbbb!" He emerged with a giant snow beard.

"Ha ha! You look like 'ol Cannonbottom, rest he well in a Non's belly. Here, here, let's cover that big boy's belly you got. Put your coat on."

"Aaaaapoof!" Fynn leaped away into the snow, one mitt on, one mitt flying.

"Hey! Get back here, you rascal!" Pursuit. "I'm gonna get yoooou ackkbbhgh, ha ha ha! Damn that's cold. Fynn, get back here!"

"Eeeeeeeee! Cun cat maaaaa! Thnow, thnow!"

"Now I gotcha, you vagabond! Not fast enough to escape your old man, eh? Not half old enough yet! Get that coat on 'fore your mamma skins me! C'mon, stop flailing your arms, that's my -"

"EEEEEEE!"

"WHOA! HOLY HELL!"

Laughing so hard that his cheeks had gone rosy red, Fynn grabbed both ends of my breastplate and heaved me into the air, over his head. He danced around with the slightest bit of effort, waving me about as though I were an ugly, ugly bird taken flight.

"FYNN! FYNN! HOW IN THE... GODS, C'MON, KID, PUT ME DOWN! DOWN!"

He threw me into a snow pile. My son's laughter echoed loudly enough to bring a large group of spectators.

"What's the matter, Dragomir?" Grylock yelled. "Get beat up by yer brat? Real dignified, eh!"

"You shut up!" I yelled back. "Everyone, back to work! Pffffft! Damned... ack, snow... damned Dauphine won't undig itself!"

Eventually, Fynn settled down. The slightest bit chilled after being knee-deep in the snow in his diaper and nothing else, he went inside. Last I saw, he'd cuddled up with Libby at her workstation and gone to sleep.

This kid. This kid's gonna be the death of me.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-Three: Like Sister, Like Brother

Hummmmmm.

Maybe I should be worried now.

Libby may have tasked me with watching over our son (she was quite emphatic about the watching part), but I do have duties above and beyond digging. I'm kinda the leader of this expedition, like it or not, and I have to consult with Plato on our route.

The route has changed a little bit since we hit the Imperium. Ever since I granted Plato a reprieve from his house arrest he's been especially eager to keep me happy, and to that end he's provided as many details as possible about the lands between here and Iko's desert. What was once a direct route trek, thanks to some additional help from Edmund, turned into a wiggling detour past most centres of trade.

Why? Several reasons, but they largely boil down to avoiding the Imperium's roaming armies. We haven't seen any troops since crossing the border, but Ed has repeatedly driven home that the Imperium's military is enormous. Enormous, and, as we already know, well-armed. We don't want to bring 'em down on our heads. I'm sure they're more worried about keeping the Non away from their borders, and I'd like their priority list to remain as is.

Consequently, we need to keep a strict eye on our supplies. Resupply trips are gonna be few and far between, and though we do have lots of food and drink, I don't wanna press our luck. I've already curtailed some of Bora's more extravagent dishes, and when she insists on a particular meal, I send hunters out to tackle migrating herds. Just this morning three hunters took on a group of wandering kangaroos (actual kangaroos, not bloody werewolves in disguise), and though we may be eating kangaroo burgers tonight, it was a grim spectacle.

This is all meant to preface a visit to the storage rooms in Engineering. I went to check on supplies; I stayed to worry about my son.

Ed at my side, a clipboard in his hands, we entered food storage during a discussion about how we like our kangaroo burgers, both of us salivating.

""'tis much far better still, / They be heated on grill."

"Grill? We don't have a grill. Settle for a cauldron patty, man. Cauldron patties are the best. Form 'em up, stick 'em in a mould... mmmmm. Damn."

"Far too sloppy a treat! / Never douse such fine meat!"

"Obviously you've never had a good cauldron patty. See, you take the burger and you... turn it... into... a... sword...?"

We stopped, gaping. Sitting in the midst of storage, a dripping scimitar in his hand, was Fynn. He'd formed the sword out of densely-packed feta cheese, and was in the process of adding a crude hilt with his pudgey hands. Plato jittered at his side, the rat on his head, both of them waving for Fynn to stop with virtually zero success.

When he saw me, Fynn raised the delicious blade in salute. "Daaaaah! Wook swod! Wook swod!"

I goggled at him, only somewhat aware that Ed was gone from my side. 

The sword was harmless, of course, and did not last long. After a single swipe a large portion of the blade flew off and exploded, and two swipes later the rest of the sword disintegrated in Fynn's hands. He bawled for a solid twenty minutes, and it took candy bribery to calm him down.

Fynn's back to normal. Hasn't shown any further proclivity for swingin' swords around, or anything else. 

But... still... 

When Eve was born, I took her to the market at Castle LongGone. She showed an inordinate interest in sharpened weapons. Shortly thereafter, her interest turned to a bloody love of killing.

Fynn is not Eve. Fynn has the temperament of a child. I'm not blind, not like I was when I had Eve.

But...

This is worrying. Very worrying.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-Two: Not all days are bad days

When I tried to play with Eve... which wasn't very often... she just kinda did her own thing. Which included murdering mammoths and devouring their entrails.

When I tried to play with Grayson, albeit once he'd grown into a boy, he dictated the terms of the game. He tormented me. Fun was not fun.

When I try to play with Fynn... well, hell. We play. We play like the dickens.

Fynn is absolutely fascinated by the snow. Whenever we have to stop the Dauphine to dig out its wheels or defrost the gears he bolts outside, leaps into any available snowbanks, and giggles his guts out. Doesn't even wait to be dressed in a coat or pants when he does, which is a bit distressing... though I have to admit that Fynn doesn't seem to care much about the cold. Tough one, like his mom.

And I join him. Libby told me to watch over my son, and after the rather traumatic events of the last two weeks, I'm doing it. I follow and leap into the snow with him, usually trying to pin more clothes on him, but otherwise just enjoying myself. We make snow angels and have little snowball fights that, I'm sad to say, Fynn usually wins. He's got some speedy arms, and his projectiles pack quite a punch.

It's fun. It's... it's so damned fun.

And I'm not the only one who'll play with Fynn. Everybody (save perhaps Ed, who tries to avoid my boy at all costs for some reason) has taken a turn mucking about with Fynn. Whenever you hear his gurgly, giggling beckons, you come running. I don't care who you are or how busy you may be, you come running.

There's only one problem playing with this boy: he's big. Oooooh is he big.

From the moment Fynn was born, I knew he'd be a tall lad. He weighed more than a wagon wheel when he came out of his mom, and he's quickly blossomed into a baby that's almost as tall as his dad. Give him three or four more weeks at this rate and Fynn will be hard pressed to move around in the Dauphine. So you can imagine what it's like when he pitches himself on you in a fit of glee and nearly crushes you.

I should probably be more worried about Fynn than I am. He's obviously not normal, and I don't just say that because he resembles a chocolate bar with my hair. But... I mean, aside from his height, and his growing strength... he's just so healthy. And happy. And mentally normal. He outstrips Eve and Grayson by a landslide in the normalcy category, despite appearing quite irregular.

So, yeah. I'm not worried. Not really. I fear he'll get caught up in more drama, such as wandering off and being held hostage by ghosts (I think that's what happened, anyway), but as far as kids go, I got lucky. Third time's the charm, and all that.

We continue to dig. Try though our mighty rhino may, the Dauphine likes to get stuck. At least I'm developing a nice knot of muscle on my arms after all this shovelling.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Monday, December 9, 2013

Day Five-Ninety-One: Suicide Watch

Jeffrey the king. Jeffrey the prisoner. Jeffrey the father. Jeffrey the wanderer. Jeffrey...

Jeffrey.

I don't know what it is that allows me to see... things. Things that haven't happened. And I don't know why I was hit with an image of such clarity last week. All I know is that Jeffrey was going to get himself killed, and I stopped him.

He was going to die. He was going to let Plato kill him. He would've turned Plato into a murderer. I can speculate why - hell, the reasons why Jeffrey may no longer want to live are pretty obvious - but... but he seemed to be doing so well. Why this sudden, selfish turn?

Maybe it was spur-of-the-moment. Maybe he didn't think about it at all. Maybe Jeffrey's body pushed him into it, not knowing or caring about the consequences. 

Yeah. And maybe he's being mind controlled by Kierkegaard from a thousand miles away. I have no idea why Jeffrey did why he did. Point is, this is a worrying development, and one I'll have to keep an eye on.

Nor will I be alone. I decided not to tell Daena about Jeffrey's brush with mortality, as she's a bit... emotional, about such things, but I did go to his daughter. Celine has a penchant for remaining balanced and detached about almost everything, and I figured she could be counted on to keep an eye on her father. (And no, I didn't tell her about, uh, seeing the future. Or whatever. That'd be awkward.)

Turns out... hell, turns out Celine's already been watching her father. Ever since Grylock's pranks against Jeffrey, the ex-monarch has spent his alone time brooding. He may put on a brave face to everybody else, but Jeffrey's apparently been caught by Celine in a number of questionable positions:

- She found him with one leg over the edge of the observation post at the top of the Dauphine
- She stopped him when he 'accidentally' tripped and almost fell into the churning gears in Engineering
- She spotted Jeffrey fiddling with a butcher's knife in the kitchen, though nothing came of it
- She found him with a pillow on his face during one of his naps - he claimed the light from the porthole was bothering him, even though he was sleeping in the middle of the night
- And she once noticed Jeffrey trying to mouth off to Libby about the quality of her workmanship, which, I must admit, is tantamount to suicide

Regardless, I'm glad that Celine's keeping an eye on her dad. Celine and her ninja crew. Makes me wonder if she watched Plato and I risking his life on Thursday and Friday, but, what can ya do. Everyone watches everyone in this bucket of bolts.

Speaking of the Dauphine, we're in a bit of a rut. We cleared the jungle last week, true, and were back on track - only to be bombarded by the onset of winter. The snow fell last night, absolutely burying our home away from home, and we spent most of today digging the Dauphine out. We're moving again now, but there's more snow than anticipated, and the going is slow. Damned white crap keeps clogging up the gears.

Libby's dedicating most of her time to keeping us at a reasonable pace, which means I have to keep a closer eye on Fynn this week. Consequently, you'll be hearing a lot about my enormous son. Stay tuned, o diary mine, stay tuned.

Sincerely,


Dragomir the Wanderer

Friday, December 6, 2013

Day Five-Hundred-Ninety: Puncture

As we breached the jungle and returned to the fields, something I've suspected suddenly seems to be fact.

Still very much of the opinion that I need to gain control of the Crimson Catastrophe lurking somewheres in my body, I cleared out Engineering during Libby's nap once again and had Plato and Jeffrey come down to help me practice. The rhino rolled, our quiet conversation echoed, the trip continued.

We tried again with Plato's weird Non scythe, using different, unpredictable attack angles and swings while Jeffrey kept me from running. Each time I cringed in fright, trying to summon up the desire to block Plato's feigned attacks; each time the Crimson Catastrophe would not come. Plato stopped short, and practice remained stymied.

After a solid hour of attempts, my fright turned into sour irritation. "Well, fuck me, this isn't working. I've crapped m'pants so many times that I think I've doubled my body weight, but no weapon. What're we doing wrong?"

Jeffrey, whose brow was beaded with sweat from the exertion of holding me in place, shrugged. "Maybe you do have to be angry to make it appear. Or perhaps it won't come out because you know you're not really in trouble?"

I glanced at Plato. He'd retracted his scythe and was drinking from a small cask of water. Dunno how he managed it, but he dropped the thing three times and spilled most of the water before managing to raise it to his bill. And then he... dumped the rest of the water on his shirt.

"I'm pretty sure I was in trouble most of the time," I replied. "Butter fingers over there ain't inspiring confidence in his scythe-swingin' abilities."

Jeffrey grimaced. "Yeah, I guess. Well, think back. What happened to bring Crimson Catastrophe out the first time?"

I didn't have to consider that for long. "The clone. Eve beheading the clone. You know, when I... thought... well. You know, right? You know."

Awkward pause. Very awkward.

"I suppose I do." Jeffrey cleared his throat. "In that case, um, you responded because somebody else was under threat. Perhaps that's how we should bring it out, then: by having someone else stand in front of Plato's blade."

Libby, Fynn, and Eve all flashed through my mind as the candidates most likely to get a rise out of me. "No, no, I can't do that. We can't do that. First off, I don't wanna tell anyone -"

Jeffrey waved his hands. "Not anyone else. Me. Try it with me."

I took a step back. "Uhhhh... you... sure, about that? I... I don't... I mean, it's not very fun, man. Trust me."

He rolled his eyes. "I already know. He's been swinging at me, too, you realize. The danger isn't much greater."

I considered the proposal. He was right, for starters: Plato's scythe is long enough to go through two grown men latched together. Might even be less dangerous if one of them's not struggling. And if it worked... if it worked...

Nevertheless, I paused. "You could get hurt."

"I know."

"You could die."

"I know that too."

"'n what if it doesn't work, and Plato accidentally comes at you for real? I won't be able to save you. Don't even know that I can save you if it does work."

"What, do you mean to say that you don't like me enough to save? I'm wounded, Dragomir."

"You did toss me in jail, once."

"You tossed me in jail once. And punched me in the face! I never did that to you."

"Maybe, but I never forced you to wrestle a walrus."

"I never made you do that! Why would I even ask?"

"Your memory's fucked up from back then, Jeff. Lotsa stuff you don't remember, or remember correctly. Like that time your head got shaved? That was pretty funny."

"That wasn't funny. My son drew a buttcrack on my skull. What's funny about that?"

"Maybe the fact that I watched 'im do it."

"You helped him draw a butt on my head?"

"It seemed poetic at the time!"

We squabbled jokingly for a while. At length, I threw up my hands. "Okay. Okay! We'll try. We'll give it a shot. Hey, Plato!"

The platypus, who by now had dumped two full casks of water onto the deck of Engineering, quacked inquisitively.

I stood back, giving Jeffrey some room. "You're up. Swingin' at this fool for a while. Don't ask why, he's got a death wish or somethin'."

Plato asked why anyway. I explained. He shook his head disbelievingly, probably wondering why two people would be willing to risk their lives under his blade, but powered the scythe up regardless. It slipped through a fleeting hole in space and blazed in his hands, shaking slightly as the platypus steeled himself for what was to come.

Jeffrey did much the same. The laughs faded to silence as he planted his feet, forcing himself not to move, not to run. I might've done the same pinning motion as he had for me, but I had my own job to focus on. The Crimson Catastrophe.

Plato took a practice swing. It stopped several feet short of Jeffrey. All three of us nevertheless jumped. The room suddenly seemed much more intense.

Plato took another practice swing. We didn't jump this time. Nevertheless, my mouth went dry. I felt inexplicably nervous, in a way that hadn't hit me even when the scythe was aimed at my belly.

Plato took a deep breath. He pulled the scythe back over his shoulder a third time, spread his legs, and let it fly.

Jeffrey sighed and smiled. Just a little. 

Time slowed.

When I sleep, I see things. I see events that have yet to transpire. I saw the castle on fire. I saw the door beneath the castle. I saw that I would be a mayor. I saw that Grylock, some day, will be skewered by a darkened tendril. I saw, albeit in a sentence, that someone would die. Someone would die.

But always in dreams. Not when awake. Not as a vision. Not as I saw this.

I jumped forward and pushed Jeffrey out of the way. We hit the ground, hard, the both of us cursing and sweating. 

Plato's scythe stopped well short of hitting Jeffrey. At least a foot. He would've been completely safe.

"Why?" I yelled, grabbing at Jeffrey's shirt. "Why in the hell would you even consider that?"

Bewildered, Jeffrey threw me off. He stumbled to his feet, looking around the room as though doped out of his mind. He ran towards the stairs and up to Sustenance without a word.

Shaking, trying to collect myself, quite aware that, yes, pee was present, I stood. Nearby, Plato shut down his scythe and squawked loudly for an explanation. His eyes were bugged out and terrified.

I couldn't tell him. Couldn't tell him what I'd seen. Couldn't tell him that, in those few, slow seconds as the scythe came forward, I saw an image of Jeffrey superimposed over the real thing, moving at normal speed. Jeffrey, stepping forward, arms out, smiling so sadly, allowing the scythe to plunge into his belly.


Jeffrey dying. Jeffrey committing suicide.