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."


"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."



Tentative sip.



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


"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.


Dragomir the Wanderer

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