Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day Six-Forty-Two: The Worst News

Bloody hell. We're heading into a metaphorical thunderstorm, I can tell right now.

Lisanna and her gypsies - they don't have a name for themselves, surprisingly - have been searching for Traveller for months. He has a penchant for getting into mass amounts of trouble wherever he goes, and consequently he leaves a bit of a trail. It's a random trail, mind, but it's a trail nevertheless - and since Lisanna's group is full of gypsies, it stands to reason that they can afford to follow him. Itinerants following an itinerant. They make their living in the wake of his rock throwing.

My first thought was that we'd accidentally, or perhaps not that accidentally, stumbled onto Traveller's path. I'm surprised to say that I wish I'd not been wrong in that regard.

Rodentia is a kingdom amongst kingdoms. Though the city itself is part of a rather concentrated cluster of huge buildings far from where we are now, the province of Rodentia stretches for many mlles in all directions. Most of that territory is farmland, and we'd laboured hard to avoid even the smallest and sparsest of these farms. I have no further interest in engaging the people of the Imperium, and Lisanna did her best to accommodate my wishes.

She miscalculated. We crossed Rodentian soil about five hours ago. What we found... well, at least we didn't run afoul of immediate trouble...

Morris was, as usual, on watch atop the Dauphine. He was the first to spot the rising smoke in the distance. He bellowed the notice down to us, and when the message made its way to me I ordered an immediate stop. Grylock took his boar out to investigate what lay beyond the hills of snow -

- and what he found was devastation. Complete and utter devastation.

Early in the trip, we came across the town of Vacia. It was a dead town, empty of all signs of life. Not destroyed, not on fire, just empty. I remember feeling quite creeped out by the lack of bodies or blood, creeped out by, indeed, the absence of evidence. I wanted to know what had happened.

I figured out pretty quickly what'd happened on the severe outskirts of Rodentia. Yep, Grylock didn't have to expand on his findings at all.

"It was a sloth," the goblin explained, ushering me down the ramp of the Dauphine to explore the ruined landscape. "Nay a doubt. Nothing I've e'er seen before has caused this much destruction."

I grimaced. The scene that lay before me was horrifying: a close-knit collection of farmhouses, ripped apart and smouldering, their occupants strewn about the snow in many, many pieces. Nothing had been spared, neither home nor barn nor farmyard animal. The trail of destruction carried on far to the west, beyond a lumpy hill that separated one farm from another. 

I called Lisanna forward, apologizing in advance for the scene. "You, uh... you sure this wasn't...?"

She shook her head immediately. "It wasna him. Traveller would never do somethin' of this... no. No."

"Okay, okay." I traced the trail with my finger. "Is it headed where I think it's headed?"

Lisanna scanned the horizon a moment, slithering up a blood-smattered tree to get a better look. I heard her curse as she came across something foul. She made it to the top, though, and she shouted out a confirmation. "Aye! To Rodentia proper! I can see the Stalk of Rodentia risin' inte the clouds!"

"Joy." Turning away from the carnage, I pulled the few people who'd been willing to come out of the Dauphine into a huddle. "Okay. Ideas?"

"We keep goin'," Grylock offered. "Willna get a better opportunity. Bet every soldier in the region's headed te Rodentia right now."

"We're not going to alert them?" Jeffrey breathed deep, slow breaths. I'm surprised he had such trouble - he's watched many executions in his day. "I would think that the honourable thing to do, here. Myself."

"Ye're free te take a horse and go tell 'em yourself, Kingly Kingerston." Grylock spat on Jeffrey's boot. "Don't expect me te come with."

"I wouldn't," Jeffrey replied, some of the grey in his face flushing red.

"Do we know it's a sloth?" Logan, who looked little better than his father, scratched his chin. "Could be something else. What's your proof, Grylock?"

The goblin, unperturbed by the gore, turned away from us and picked about in the snow for a few moments. He came back with two pieces of evidence: three-toed animal tracks... and a small handful of brown-and-white fur.

"... that could be anything." Logan poked at the lump of fur, clearly unconvinced by his own lame argument.

"Aye, it could. But it's a sloth, sure as not." Grylock looked back to me. "We heard stories 'bout one roamin' these parts, ye mayor in transit. Y'know it's gotta be the culprit."

I grabbed the tuft of fur from Grylock's hand and sniffed it. I didn't expect to learn anything, as my nose is not the nose of a goblin, but somehow that one motion told me enough. 

"Sloth or no sloth," I concluded, "we keep going. It's not our problem."

"But there must be thousands of people -"

"They already know, Jeff." I shook my head. "We're not goin' up against a sloth. Not even the possibility of a sloth. I have people to look after, and I don't want 'em sacrificed so a bunch of no-faced nobodys will have a slightly improved chance of survival. Understand?"

Jeffrey straightened. Hell, everybody straightened. They all seemed surprised. Truth be told, I guess I was a little surprised myself. But I turned away from the blood and broken fences, and I got on the Dauphine, and our war machine with its gypsy-steered wagon tail continued on its way. I considered telling Lisanna that we wouldn't need her help anymore, but the timing didn't seem right.

A sloth. That's the last thing we need. Hopefully it and the Imperium can keep each other busy until we leave this area. If a sloth attacked the Dauphine... that would pretty much end our trip right there.


Dragomir the Wanderer

1 comment:

  1. Fourth paragraph: "the province of Rodentia stretches for many *mlles in all directions".

    Other than that, FINALLY a sloth!!!