Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day Six-Eighty-Eight: Bargaining chips

"Hello, goblin. Ye've moved up in the world a little."

"Aye. And ye've moved down, old hag. Caterin' to a bunch of hillbillies? Tisk."

"Well, anything to earn some coin."

I confess that, during this conversation, I was holding a blade to the witch's throat. Not the poisonheart - I didn't want to accidentally kill her, and poison drips off that sword every now and then - but something sharp enough to get her attention. 

Five minutes in 'May's' clinic convinced me that, aye, we were dealing with June. I've not told the rest of the crew, but I visited her once or twice to deal with common and uncommon ailments in Goblinoster. Right terrible swamp she lived in, there, but even its putrid scent wasn't enough to mask the stench of wrong 'round the woman. I'd recognize it anywhere.

I knew if I told everyone else on the crew there'd be an uproar. They'd want to leave and find Dragomir a healer somewhere else, at the very least. So I paid a visit to her alone, a few hours before our 'appointment'. She was sitting in one of the clinic's back rooms, a bit of parchment shaking in her knobbled fingers. Sneaking up on her was a piece of cake.

"Where's yer doggy?" I lifted the dagger half an inch, pressing it hard against the bottom of June's chin. "Gonna spring from the shadows 'n rip my throat out?"

"He... she... they... are out shoppin'." June's voice remained calm, though tired. "I needed some supplies. S'not easy to keep up with sick people."

"I know." I peered around the room. Truth be told, the werewolf was not my number one concern. "And your blonde boy toy? I don't smell 'im."

"You wouldn't." June sighed. "He's, ah, a little different these days. Growin' up can be hard on a lad."

"Puberty doesn't change a man's scent." I twisted the dagger enough that it drew blood. "Talk. Where is he?"

June lifted a finger, pointing to an adjacent hallway. I pushed her out of her chair and, dagger poised at her crooked back, I ordered her to lead me to Grayson. I also assured her that any funny business would get her shanked. She only chuckled. I soon discovered why.

Dragomir's older son was laying on a bed beneath a heavy, woolen sheet, his head propped up by a lumpy pillow. His breaths came in subtle gasps, so infrequently that I might have thought him already dead were his eyes not fluttering. He seemed to be whispering something, but even my ears couldn't tell what he was saying. His scent was so slight and so alien that I ne'er could have noticed him without tripping over his damned body.

"Huh." I motioned June into a corner where I could keep an eye on her. "He looks... sick."

The witch coughed out a bitter laugh. "Oh, you've no idea, goblin. 'e's dying, that one. Bet he'll be gone within the month. Probably be a corpse already, if I hadn't forced 'im to settle down in this tepid little burg."

"Shame." I kept my distance, wary. "What's he got? Pick something up in that fucking jungle?"

June lightly tapped her head against the wall. "No. He's been sick longer than that. This boy has a bad case of possession, and I canna lift the damnable spirit out. It's tryin' to take him over, he's fighting back, they're at an impasse. Ruinin' a perfectly good body in the process, too..."

One eye still on the witch, I crept over to Grayson. He took no notice of me, though his limbs jittered and spasmed when I jabbed his cheek. As his head lifted off the pillow I noticed a faint, white outline moving with it, peeking out of his body for the briefest second. It floated through my finger, leaving it icy cold. I pulled back immediately.

"Heh. Cool." I sucked on my frozen digit, watching Grayson settle back to normal. "That's a fun trick. Should charge the locals a gold piece te come in and poke 'im with a stick. Ye'd be rich in no time."

June coughed. I noticed later that she'd left a few flecks of blood on the wall. "Hilarious. You'd be my first customer. Are ye done? Ready te leave us in peace?"

"Much as ye left us in peace, hag." I turned back to the witch, the dagger dancing between my fingers. "I've met worse people in my life, but ye've fucked with me plenty. Should do you for that... though I think I'll be content slittin' Grayson's throat and goin' on my way. We can always find another healer for the mayor..."

June's eyes widened. She took a step forward, raising a hand; I brought my knife up faster. She immediately backed off. "You can't - "

"Oh, I can. And don't think your magic will put a damper on my sword arm, missy." The dagger danced more rapidly, from finger to finger and hand to hand. "No reason I shouldn't. One less worry on this stupid trip. Dragomir needs to kill his enemies more often anyway."

"No reason?" June hesitated. A little smile crept onto her face, though she couldn't take her eyes off my dagger as it flitted from knuckle to knuckle. "Oh, I think I can give ye a reason, little goblin."

I pressed the point of the dagger to the side of Grayson's neck. He shuddered away, the ghostly outline of his unwanted occupant immediately chilling the handle. I tried my best not to flinch. "Heh. This should be good."

And then she told me.

Gods bless Goblinoster,

Grylock the Bargainer

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day Six-Eighty-Seven: Status Compromised

Ahhhhhhh, small town life. Gotta hate small town life.

I'm used to cities. I was born in a city. Raised in a city. Worked in... many cities. I suspect I will probably die in a city, because I'll be damned if I'm going to pass on in this heap of a transport. I want to be surrounded by buildings. Even a castle will do. I think it has something to do with finding places to hide, because you can hide everywhere in a city.

Pubton isn't a city. It was a shithole. Not bad by the end, and if it's not destroyed now I suspect it'll be more of a city when I get back. But I didn't much enjoy my time there. Pubtwon was better. Also not a city, but I was in charge, so...

Fareach is not a city. It's not a village, but it's definitely not a city. Therefore, I don't like it a whole lot. The people are boring farmers.

We arrived on the outskirts of Fareach as I was chewing on my breakfast bagel. It's one of the last in our stockpile, as Bora isn't around anymore to bake new ones, and I demanded first dibs since I was on watch. Everyone else was too tired to argue. Score one for the old man. I munched, and I spotted, and I ordered one of the cannoneers to unleash a volley into the hills surrounding the town.

Fareach had a few guards. The guards were pansies. Diplomacy is too easy when you're sitting in a war machine.

Fareach is one of the Imperium's famed walled towns, though it looks rather neglected. The mortar is cracking in key areas, there's a big hole in the western wall that desperately needs patching, and the soldiers are scant. They look like they've been posted here for too long and don't give a shit about the town. I'm fine with that, as their fear and apathy gave us easy entrance and access to Fareach's facilities.

... a shame the facilities are shite.

While a few other members of the crew set about collecting new supplies, possibly at a significant discount, I coralled a nice little posse consisting of Logan, Jeffrey, and Plato to escort me to the local healer. Not quite a doctor, I guess, but healers can do just as well against status ailments if they're properly trained. That, of course, assumes said healer is in their clinic when you visit.

This one was not.

"Ah," said the attendant, face shrouded by an enormous hood. Hell, his whole body was covered. I could've been speaking to three thousand intelligent cockroaches standing on one another's shoulders and not known. "I'm sorry, but the... mistress... is unavailable today. She is making house calls. You'll have to return tomorrow."

"Oh yeah?" I leaned against the assistant's desk, cleaning my fingernails. Bits of grime dropped onto the wood. "Ye suggesting we make an appointment? We've got a dying man, ye know. Very sick. Yer mistress wouldna want him te die, now would she?"

"No, of course not." The attendant shrugged. "But Madame... er... May... is not here. She won't be back for the rest of the night."

"Saaaaaaad." I spat on the floor. "Ye'd think a well-established clinic would offer better services 'n this. Eh, boys?"

My posse nodded, though I could tell all of 'em felt sorry for the poor bastard. No wonder none of them are ambassadors - they don't know how to throw their weight around. You'd figure Jeffrey, at least, could act the bully.

The attendant flapped his sleeves. "We've only been operating for a few weeks, you understand, and, ah - "

"Tell me where she is."

The sleeves drooped. "Excuse me?"

"Your mistress! Madame May! Whatever! Where is she? if she's off tendin' te patients, we'll find her on our own."

"I can't tell you where - "

"Confidentiality, eh?" I flashed two coins at the attendant. "My friends here hate secrets. Y'know? Maybe you could let them know where your mistress is lurkin'."

The attendant shook his hood violently. His back seemed to hunch and tense under his cloak. "I will not be bribed - "

I rolled my eyes. "Loyalty. Fuckin' hate loyalty. Could ye at least tell us what she looks like? This place ain't so big that we canna find her just peerin' about the streets. Whaddya say?"

He would, in fact, not say. Nothing I did could force the slightest tidbit out of the tightass, not even lying about the severity of Dragomir's injury. Left with no choice, we made an appointment for our comatose leader and departed the clinic.

Truth be told, I'm kinda glad we didn't get in today. Dragomir's unconscious, not dying, and he can stand to wait a day or two before receiving medical attention. The gap between now and tomorrow's afternoon appointment leaves me with ample time to come up with a plan for dealing with the 'healer' and her fucking buddies.




One of whom smells of soiled dog hair and arachnid?

Living in a house reeking of an old woman who forced me to work for her for several months?

Yep. We need a healer. But we also need a plan. And part of that plan may involve disabling a witch. Not to mention our patient's psychotic son.

This trip just gets more and more interesting, you know?

Gods bless Goblinoster,

Grylock the Shrewd

Monday, April 28, 2014

Day Six-Eighty-Six: Hostile Takeover

I continue to reign supreme! All hail the goblin king!

Dragomir is still out of the game. His head injury has him stewing in bed, forcing his wifey to feed him while he snores and farts up a storm. The Dauphine's doctor - who is, in fact, not really a doctor - believes the bump on the noggin led to a concussion, and while Dragomir isn't in life-threatening danger, he does need a proper physician before he'll wake up. Something about a 'status ailment'. 

I don't know. I'm not a medical man. I don't fix; I rip apart. I'm good at that.

The gypsies are on a bridge made of sticks and held together by honey. Their happy whittle boy knocked our captain for a loop, and Libby wants them gone. Problem is, the perpetrator of the crime doesn't wanna go. He knows he's responsible, and he nae wishes to leave while Dragomir is ailing. He also doesn't wish to ditch his girlfriend before they've, ah, 'embraced'. The very thought gives me shudders.

So! An impasse. An impasse that I will ne'er be a part of, as I have a different duty. I have to find Dragomir a right proper doctor before his brains leak out of his skull and muck up the carpets. And since the Imperium's fucking guards no longer seem to be on our trail, I'm confident we can approach any old town we like and requst the services of a friendly physician. Our guns will be our passport.

The platypus tells me we'll be reaching a town tomorrow. I canna wait to see if brutal threats work. It's been way too long since I flexed my diplomatic muscles. And speaking of that platypus...

This diary is a fascinating read. Far more than I'd ever suspected.

I've had to smell this grungy thing near every day for far too long. It's a pungent blend of moss, spunk, piss, and grave dirt. Dragomir adores it beyond measure so I've ne'er filched it before, nor put up a contest as to its presence (let's be fair, some of the piss smell is probably my fault), but... hell, I wish I'd stolen it ages ago. Ages. So many things have happened of which I was only partly aware...!

Yep. That's right, Dragomir. I know you dislike me. (Feeling's soooooo mutual.)

I know you killed Edmund. Or you think you did. Don't blame you for it. But I'll remember.

I know the poisonheart was not a proper gift. Your boy stole it from Pagan. I approve all the more, and I'll thank Grayson by using the dagger to dig out his heart.

I know you snogged Bora. Ohhhhhhhh, I wonder just how disgusting it was. How sick are you, man?

And I know about the platypus. I know he is a Non. And I know that fantastically few others are aware, even those who are stupid enough to write in this diary but not read it. Fools, the lot.

Plato comes with me to find a doctor for Dragomir. Hell, if I can swing it, he'll be going eeeeverywhere with me from now on. And if he acts up... well, I assume my poisonheart can locate his kidneys quickly enough. Even Non must have kidneys.

I love life. It's so much more interesting since I met these rancid humans.

Gods bless Goblinoster,

Grylock the Informed

Friday, April 25, 2014

Day Six-Eighty-Five: A Bad Idea

That was right hilarious, it was. I've ne'er seen a thing funnier in my life. And I've lived a looooong time.

Aye. Hello. My name is Grylock. I've not written a thing in this diary before now. I'd say today is a good day to start.

I've taken an interest in watching Mr. Mayor and King of the Shitheads box. It's one of the better sports on the docket, though I'm more a fan of jousting, and their wibbly-wobbly way of trying to smack one another about is right hilarious. Always have to hide myself in the rafters of Engineering to get in on the fun, but it's worth every bit of discomfort.

The first day was funny, watching those two get knocked about by the orc. The second day was a trifle tedious, though better than staring off over endless fucking plains. The third was fun, and it got me on my feet a wee bit. The fourth, though... today... ah, it took the cake. I'm so glad I came along on this pointless trip. Better than dying to those darky assholes back in Pubfuckton.

I've been feeling a mite patriotic of late, so, as Mr. Mayor noted yesterday, I've been humming Goblinoster's regional anthem a lot. For the record, it goes like this:

'There's ne'er a city on the roster
That's better yet than Goblinoster,
There's nay a foe who will accost 'er
Or goblin town with better posture!

Her fields flat, her warrens wide,
Her bitchy face is e'er our pride.
And when the bars are fully dried,
Our streams of piss the rain will hide.

There's ne'er a place ye could foster
That's greater than ol' Goblinoster,
And with the luck the gods have tossed 'er
Our goblin town will always prosper.

We do our duty to our king
And spit upon most everything
That won't abide our mighty wing
This in the gloom we now do sing!

There's ne'er a city on the roster
That's better yet than Goblinoster,
There's nay a foe who will accost 'er
Or goblin town with better posture!'

Questionable rhyming, but I like it. Better than the drivel Ed used to spin out, bless his dead ass.

Anyway, I've been humming that anthem a lot. It reminds me of the old country, for obvious reasons. I've hummed it so much that it has practically become the theme song for the boxing lessons, though I have to keep it down so I'm not discovered. I like to imagine a full brass band playing away in the corner of the loading bay while Dragomir and Jeffrey slap at each other like a pair of hairy girls. It was most definitely the theme song for Dragomir's 'accident'.

Ever since we came back from that fucking cloud land, the gypsy question has hovered over the Dauphine. Will they stay? Will they go? Will we have to kill 'em and bury 'em somewhere on the way from Point A to Point B? I rather like them, myself, so I'm no advocate for murder. I am, however, an advocate of the rock-slinging asshole travelling with the gypsies leaving the Dauphine. I don't like that Traveller, nor do I trust his stupidity. He's just too stupid. It has to be an act.

And I may have proof. He provided a touch of it today.

Dragomir and Jeffrey were practicing their hooks when Traveller wandered into Engineering. He's been a mess of late, poking his head aimlessly into every compartment on the Dauphine as though he's looking for something, but he seemed quite chuffed to leave the boxing ring alone 'til that moment. More surprising, his cat and his rat were nowhere to be seen, 'least so far as my nose noticed.

"Traveller?" The orc flashed a rare genuine smile. I'm sure most of them are fake. "A zuprize. Vat bringz you here?"

Jeffrey and Dragomir stopped punching the air. They seemed happy to have a break, though both tensed a little at Traveller's appearance. Dragomir hates Traveller.

"Nuthin'," Traveller replied. His frown curved into a half-convincing grin. "You... you boxing? I like boxing. Can I box?"

Dragomir grimaced and didn't even attempt to hide it. "N... no. You'll knock our damned heads off. G'way." Jeffrey's frantic nods suggested agreement.

"No, no." The orc waved his 'brother' over, handing him a pair of boxing loves. "Iz good. You go on defenze, ya? Let zem hit you? Do not hit back?"

"But that's what you do in boxing." Traveller frowned, but he laced on the gloves.

"Remember ze timez vere ve zpar, brozer. You hold back and block my zhotz. Iz zame here. Do not attack."

Traveller stared at his fists, sheathed in shoddy leather. "Do... not...? I don't remember that."

"You barely remember vrum which end you pee. But it doez not matter. Get into ze poze."

As if by instinct, Traveller assumed a serviceable boxing pose. A little smile appeared on his face, this one far more convincing than the last. He bobbed up and down, throwing a few light jabs. Dragomir and Jeffrey glanced at each other, their nerves thick.

"Iz vine," Antonio assured them. He urged Jeffrey forward. "You. King. You danze around. Try to hit him. Do not hold back. My brozer iz rezilient. He vill barely veel your blowz."

Jittery, his legs wobbling as though they wanted to go any direction but forward, Jeffrey stepped up to Traveller. He nodded; the scruffy cyclops nodded back. I practically got an erection as I imagined Traveller knocking Jeffrey's head right off his shoulders.

Sadly, that didn't happen. The moment the nods were exchanged Traveller bounded backward, fists flying upward. He slipped from side to side, surprisingly swift, hair whipping about at his back like a cape. He made no motion to engage Jeffrey, instead prancing around the nervous king and forcing the newcomer to make the first move.

Eventually, Jeffrey did. His exploratory jab went wide. Traveller laughed, sideslipped, mimed a little punch at Jeffrey's ribcage that didn't even come close to landing, and slid away again. Jeffrey lunged a second time, more confident; Traveller avoided him easily. Again, no serious retaliation.

"You are too quick to attack, king," Antonio commented from the sidelines. "You muzt be more cautiouz. Approach zlowly next time or I vill make you run fifty laps."

The next twenty minutes of sparring went well for Jeffrey. He landed perhaps half a dozen solid blows, none of which seemed to harm Traveller but all of which boosted the former monarch's confidence. By the end he was smiling and laughing as he lay on the floor, utterly wiped of energy. Traveller skipped around him in a merry circle, his fists in the air, and eventually he dragged Jeffrey off to the side of the room.

That was not the fun part. That was the disappointing part. The fun came next.

"Iz good," Antonio declared. He pointed at Dragomir. "You. Hit him."

Mr. Mayor looked calmer about the situation. He'd anxiously watched the entire mock battle, and for each minute that passed without incident his posture eased a teensy bit. By the time his turn came up he looked ready to give Traveller a try, and he crept into the invisible ring and nodded at his opponent. Traveller stopped dancing and did the same, his fists rising.

Then came the expression.

From my vantage point I couldn't see Dragomir's face, so I have no idea how he reacted, but I could see Traveller plain as day. One second he had a goofy grin stretched from ear to ear; the next, as his eye settled on Dragomir... something changed. Something developed.

"Traveller?" the orc said, voice suddenly anxious. "Iz zomezing vrong?"

Traveller didn't answered. His smile disappeared. His posture, previously so loose and calm, tightened. He crouched the tiniest bit, muscles tensing, leg sliding back. And his eye, his eye, oh, my lords, his eye shone with actual intelligence for the briefest second, just long enough for me to see a completely different person in that shaggy body.

Dragomir gulped. His hands dropped. "T... Traveller?"

The punch was so fast that I barely saw it snap into Dragomir's chest. One second Dragomir was stationary; the next he was flying across the room, propelled by a ridiculous amount of force straight into a wall. The echoing CRASH nearly shook me from my secret roost in the rafters; Dragomir's pained shout nearly made me piss myself.

No one moved.

Traveller broke the silence. He was still in his boxing position, fist outstretched, and the vapid look was back in his eye. "Huh? I was swatting a fly. Did I get 'im, Tony?"

Antonio responded with a hard smack to the back of Traveller's head as he passed. That said it all.

Dragomir is in semi-serious condition. The punch itself didn't cause lasting damage so much as the buffet he took to his head when he hit the wall. Dumb bastard's out cold, 'n nothing seems able to knock him back to life. Last I checked his crazy wife was threatening to kill each and every one of those gypsies, and to use their skins as a sail for the Dauphine.

Heh. Skin sail.

Heh heh heh.

Possible brain damage. As if he needed any more of that.

Heeeee hee hee hee.


Well, I found it funny.

Gods bless Goblinoster,

Grylock the Amused

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day Six-Eighty-Four: I see you

Jab. Jab. Jab. Ow.


Now that we've 'perfected' jabbing, Antonio set Jeffrey and I on one another today. He jabbed; I blocked. I jabbed; he blocked. Jeffrey continues to improve at a greater pace than I, and his jabs more often managed to catch me in the face than mine caught his. (Though I did land a good one on his chin. Left a nice bruise. Take that.)

We did this for about an hour before Antonio, noting our overall lack of stamina (whaddya expect after three solid days of ruthless boxing lessons?), sent us off to jog 'round the Dauphine. I complained loudly about this, as I didn't want to get in the way of the Dauphine's workers, but Antonio insisted. He has a way of demanding your compliance without raising his voice that's rather disconcerting. The big dragon-killing fists probably help.

Soooo we jogged, side-by-side, for two hours. We jogged 'round Engineering; we circled the cabins of Subsistence a billion times; we weaved in and out of the Neo Beefiary, which is looking rather sloppy these days; we went up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs to Command, annoying the hell out of Libby as she tinkered with the Dauphine's controls. We stopped doing it after she gave me a fat lip.

We were panting too hard to talk, so Jeffrey and I spent the time drinking in the Dauphine's many sights. A lot more happens on this transport than I could've imagined:

- We found the rhino napping in its wheel - and beside it, curled up against its leg, was Fynn. D'aww.
- We discovered that Morris maintains a collection of 'Interesting Debris', his personal chronicle of our trip 'round the world. When we came across him he was cleaning a chunk of Rodentia's outer wall, picking away hard-packed grime with a knife.
- We came upon Grylock singing Goblinoster's regional anthem in a surprisingly fine voice - though as soon as he saw us tromping down the hall he turned all screechy. Little bastard.
- We discovered Jim, the only chocolate member of the crew left to us (damn, what happened?), reading one of Libby's technical journals. He was even writing notes in the margins. I didn't know the dude could read.
- As we jogged 'round Daena's tree we learned that she is dizzied easily, and she ordered us to go elsewhere. We also learned that Logan and Celine play chess in the tree's branches when they're bored.
- Multiple times when passing Traveller in the hallways we found him to be unusually withdrawn, almost contemplative. Even Plato's rat, which seemed to persistently linger in Traveller's hair along with kitty cat Laura, didn't seem enough to boost his mood.
- To my glee we managed to spot Libby slacking off in a back area of Engineering near the end of the jog, fast asleep while her workers toiled away elsewhere. I have never seen my wife slacking off.

A lot happens in two hours is what I'm getting at, and despite the repetition of our activity we found new things in old haunts constantly. It was interesting enough to maintain our vigour for the trek, and we only collapsed a few times. One of those times came riiiiight near the end - so near, indeed, that we figured it was the end.

Antonio had ordered us to jog 'round the Dauphine 100 times. We could take any route we wanted, so long as we made a full circuit of the beast. We were two trips short of our number when Jeffrey tripped on an errant wooden board, and I used his collapse as an excuse to hit the deck myself. Our sweat left damp silhouettes on the ground.

"I... I... I... can't..." Jeff groaned, each word a hoarse whisper. "Lost... all... my... water..."

I gurgled a response. I can't remember what I said. I'm sure it was inspiring and witty.

We'd lain prone for a solid ten minutes, no longer caring whether we would be kicked about for our failure by Antonio, when I heard a noise. A low thud, nothing more, but enough to get my attention.

I flopped my head up to peer down the corridor. We were somewhere in the rear of Engineering, away from the clanking cogs and swarthy engineers. "H... h... hell... hello...?"

Another faint thud. Something rustled in the distance, the gentle flap of liquid silk. I don't know what the hell 'liquid silk' is, but it's the best descriptor I've got.

Jeffrey rolled an eye towards me. "Hah... hah... what... what was...?"

Raising one shaky hand, I pointed. The corridor ahead was empty... save for what appeared to be a splotch on the deck. It was black, bubbly, and moving.

"The... the..." I struggled for saliva. Wihout saliva my jaws refuse to move. "Ack... the... fuck... is that...?"

The splotch wiggled, as if waving at me. Then, just as abruptly as it appeared, the splotch disappeared. Before Jeffrey could even turn his head to see it.

In my halting speech I tried to describe the splotch to Jeffrey, and we crawled our way over to the spot where I saw it. There was no sign of the stuff, however, and I had a difficult time convicing Jeffrey anything was there to begin with. We then promptly forgot all about the splotch as Libby found us, complained that we're sweating all over her precious deck, and reported us to Antonio.

Bad times followed.

I dunno. Maybe Jeffrey's right. The splotch could well have been a hallucination brought on by dehydration. Maybe it's just my paranoia flaring up, warning me to beware anything that could even remotely resemble the Non. Oily goo might be going a little far, but I guess you never know.

Still. We both heard a noise. And, sure, it could've come from a cabin overhead... a mechanic wiping his or her brow with a silken rag... but I somehow doubt it. Perhaps I should investigate.

But... not right now.

Sleep. I must sleep. I'm so damned tired. My muscles are on the verge of committing suicide. I do not condone suicide. It is a bad thing.


Dragomir the Wanderer

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day Six-Eighty-Three: Drillin'

Jab. Jab. Jab. Jab. 


Jab. Jab. Jab. Jab.


Jab. Jab. Jab. Jab.


"We... we ever... ever gonna mix it up?" I asked, growling at a stream of sweat as it rolled down into my eye. "This is... kinda..."

"Do ziz." Antonio kicked my left leg back into place. "You vill drill until you verk your vlabby muzclez into zhape. Zey are too zmall for a proper boxer."

"I've... I've seen small boxers before," Jeffrey gasped. He dared to droop a little, earning him a swift smack to the ass. "OW! Fuck! Quit it!"

"Yez, zome boxerz are zmall," Antonio agreed, clearly unphased by the anger. "But they ztill have muzcle. Zey are lean, und virey, und compact. You two are vlab. You may remain zmall if you vizh, but you vill be taut und dangerouz. And until you are..."

Jab. Jab. Jab. Jab. 


Boxing sucks.

Antonio kept us practicing for five hours today. He didn't add a whole lot to the previous day's lessons, instead focusing on honing what we already knew. Stance is important; jabs are important; covering your face is important. I stood in the same posture for so long that I fear I'm fuckin' stuck like this for life.

Yet for all the irritation, I can see why martial skills would be helpful. I've been caught up in so much dangerous shit in the last three years that being able to fight back would be, on occasion, nice. I usually just run away from trouble and let other people deal with it. Granted, boxing isn't exactly the kind of training I'd pursue to use something like the Crimson Catastrophe, which kinda resembles a two-handed sword, but... better than nothing, right?

Jab. Jab. Jab. Jab.


At least Jeffrey seems to be enjoying himself.

Lessons aside, our journey continues. I've made a point to implement greater security measures so as to avoid unpleasant surprises in the future. Someone is always on watch atop the Dauphine, no matter the time of day, and we now regularly conduct inspections of the transport's hull and living quarters to ensure that no one unwanted has slipped into our ranks. Doc sticks out in this sense, 'cause the little bastard keeps finding us somehow... I don't think Bora was tipping him off, but... who knows. 

Should probably think up a way to root out Non saboteurs, as well. They clearly have long-lasting transformative abilities. Maybe if you cut 'em they bleed green blood, or something...? 

Jab. Jab. Jab. Jab.


We're closing in on our destination. I can feel it. Iko... that bastard... you're not far off. And when I find you... will you teach me what I need to know? Or are you just going to tell me things I'd rather avoid...?

Jab. Jab. Jab. Jab.



Dragomir the Wanderer

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day Six-Eighty-Two: Lace up

"Come vith me."


"Come, come. I have zomezing uv a propozal."

"I'm busy. Can this wait?"

"No. I do not zink it can."

Today and yesterday have been rather tense on the Dauphine. Everyone just returning to the vehicle is still settling back into their old roles, while those who remained with our home-away-from-home are feeling ansty 'bout the Dauphine's longevity. With Libby gone the other mechanics were left to puzzle out the big machine's guts on their own, and they fear it'll break down again. Libby's supervising further repairs as we travel. So, yeah, tense.

I've been doing my best to stay busy. Helps me keep my mind off my troubles. I was in the middle of cleaning gears when Antonio walked up and brazenly pulled me away from my duties, insisting I accompany him to the rear loading bay.

The gypsies remain a weird issue. Lisanna wanted to stay with us while she looked for Traveller, anticipating that our antics would somehow draw him like flies to poop. She obviously wasn't wrong. Yet her band seems hesitant to leave us, even with Traveller returned to the fold (and traumatized, so traumatized!), so good 'ol Antonio remains a fixture of everyday life. 

Despite my mild irritation I was curious as to his intentions... and that curiosity blossomed into interest when we came upon Jeffrey, waiting for us in the loading bay, his fists tucked into battered boxing gloves. Antonio tossed me a pair as he laced on his own.

"You vill be learning how to zpar," he said, raising his fists in front of his face. "Do ziz."

I dangled the gloves from one hand, poking at them, a little excited and a little daunted. "Uhhhh. This is... sudden."

Jeffrey, standing in a reasonable immitation of Antonio's usual style, punched the air a few times. "It was Libby's idea. She heard I wanted lessons and insisted you get in on them too."

Ah. Yes. Libby. Of course it was Libby. "Ooooookay. So... you're gonna teach me... how to... punch...? I'm surprised Libby didn't ask for her own lessons."

Antonio took the gloves from me, shaking his head, and shoved them onto my hands. "Zat vun vuld not benevit from lessonz. Zhe haz a natural ferozity zat vurkz vell for her. It vuld take much training to override her inztinctz, und I do not know zat zhe vuld come out ze better for it. Laze und do ziz."

For the next three hours Antonio led us through the basics of boxing. How taught us how to jab, how to cross, how to uppercut, and the rudiments of blocking. More than anything he drilled us on our stance, roughly tapping our arms and legs into a thin, hunched profile whenever we dared to ease up. Jeffrey picked up on the lessons a bit faster than me, though we seemed equally stiff by the time Antonio let us go for the day.

"I vill zee you zame time tomorrow," Antonio called as we left the loading bay, three sets of gloves strung over his shoulder. "Do not be late, ya? Elze I give you black eyez."

"Among other things," I growled, rubbing my arm. Antonio had used it to demonstrate jabbing. "Yikes. Gonna be sore tomorrow."

"No kidding." Jeffrey rubbed the back of his head. I suspect a purple bruise was forming under his hair, a souvenir from a nasty fall against the deck plates. "It's fun, though. Boxing. Never had much time for fighting back home."

"Yeah, it's... something." I thought back to the boxing match between Cedric and Antonia, seemingly hundreds of years ago. Then the memory burst as more recent images of a disgusting kiss burbled to mind. I shuddered. "Something."

Jeffrey crooked an eyebrow. "Everything okay? You look spooked. I'd have thought getting the chance to punch me in the face again would appeal to you."

That made me laugh. "Naw, once was enough. I'm just tired."

"Okay. Sure." Jeffrey jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. "Food? I'm starving."

"Why not." I wiped sweat from my brow, hoping the gesture might also wipe away the obvious question: Who will cook for us? 

It didn't really work.

More boxing tomorrow, I guess. It's better than brooding over current events.


Dragomir the Wanderer

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day Six-Eighty-One: All the questions

Jeffrey: "Okay. What do we know about Bora?"

Fynn: "She's a cook. She cooks things."

Grylock: "Aye, she makes a right tasty duck stew. Burned the devil outta the shrimp that one time, though. Ruined it, like."

Jeffrey: "Not what I meant, guys. What do we know about her other than her cooking skills? Where'd she come from? I know she wasn't working in the castle..."

Libby: "We picked her up in Villeinville. She was doin' Robert."

Daena: "The librarian? Oh my."

Libby: "No, no, Dragomir's brother. Cooks boff cooks, I guess."

Grylock: "Did 'e know she was a big fuck-off beastie? Ye'd think he'd notice that while jumpin' her nethers."

Fynn: "Mom, what's he mean - "

Libby: "Go lift some weights, hon. Or play with Traveller. He might need the attention."

Jeffrey: "There's another point to raise. He says she stole his eye? Any signs she would do something like that? Anybody? Did she mention, say, a criminal past?"

Logan: "Who the hell would mention a criminal past?"

Celine: "You did. Several times. Seemed quite proud of the fact."

Logan: "Quiet, brat. You ain't innocent. I've seen you pursuing some questionable agendas in the past."

Celine: "Tee hee."

Jeffrey: "Hush, you two. Anyone else? Criminal past?"

Libby: "Gonna toss in your two cents, Dragomir? You've been awful quiet."

Me: "Huh?"

Libby: "C'mon. Everyone knows you got all comfy with that whore for a while. I'm not stupid. You probably know her better 'n any of us."

Me: "Shit, you think I knew she was... was..."

Logan: "What?"

Me: "That? A giant... spindly... fat... spider... thing? No, sir, I did not fucking know she was that."

Jeffrey: "Fair. But did she hint at a sordid past? Ever?"

Me: "Errr... well, I sorta... had... suspicions..."

Jeffrey: "Tell us. We need to know. For our own protection."

Grylock: "Yeah, Dragomir. She might come back 'n sit on us with that big behind 'o hers. Man alive, did ye see the size of her ass when she changed? I swear she's more attractive now than as a human - "

Libby: "Are you ever helpful, goblin?"

Grylock: "Didna hear ye complainin' those thousands of times I went scoutin' for ye, woman. No appreciation 'mongst you pink folk, I tell ye."

Jeffrey: "Hush! This isn't getting us anywhere. I don't care about Bora's body - "

Daena: "Oh, come now, I saw your eyes wander a few times."

Jeffrey: " - SO MUCH AS, speaking of, her eyes. C'mon, the rest of you must've seen them. Didn't the colouring remind you of something? Many somethings?"

They surely did remind me of something.

I pulled Plato to one side after the meeting disbanded. He came sullenly, though willingly, as I led him into the empty Neo Beefiary. We have no idea who is going to take over as cook now that Bora's gone, and everyone seems to be avoiding the place when they're not picking through the food stores.

"Okay, 'duck'. Spill it." I glared at Plato. He fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat. "I've seen you two gettin' all cosy before. Betcha know what she was more 'n the rest of us. I want what you know."

The platyNon turned oily black for the briefest second, eyes flashing green, before settling back into his usual disguise. I think it was nerves. He quacked a single word.

I slapped my head. "Teacher? Her, too? Fuck me, Plato. Lemme guess, same school as The Baron?"

He nodded. Another quack.

"Of course Iko worked there too. Of course he did." I beared my teeth at Plato, as if making to chew on his head. "I'm gettin' real sick of you Non, you know that? The Baron betrays me... Kierkegaard kinda betrays me... Bora betrays me... you betray me, in your own way, by not telling me she''s not fucking human... she's not even fully Non, is she?"

Plato squeaked an uncertain negative. He couldn't expand beyond that, and, quite frankly, I don't think he knows what Bora is. Maybe she was fully Non, at some point... but... now...? Damned if I know.

Despite our happy reunion, the mood on the Dauphine is distinctly unhappy. Tense. Slightly miserable. We're continuing west, leaving Rodentia in our tracks, with the hopes that our days of standoffs against the Imperium's armies are over. The sloth saw to that. 'least we got that much going for us.

Of course, that leaves us with a different problem. The Imperium was, as far as I can tell, the only military force capable of holding back the Non. With a huge portion of their troops and equipment now destroyed... or at least badly mauled... what's to stop the Non in the east from spreading west?



Non. Non. 



My lips burn,

Dragomir the Wanderer

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day Six-Hundred-Eighty: Reunion Spoiled


Suspicions confirmed...

And then some...

As yesterday's entry hinted, Grylock, Logan, and Antonio had no luck tracking down the Dauphine. They returned separately to the farm not long after Traveller and I finished our walk, and each offered their reaction to our kittenish new recruit. Logan thought Laura was cute, though he sneezed violently after touching her; Antonio scratched under Laura's chin and offered him some peanut butter; Grylock mused that kitten would go well with red sauce and a side of chicken. I'm just glad that Traveller didn't catch on to the implications of the goblin's suggestion.

We all bedded down for the night a few hours after the sun set, occupying the house and the barn outside, and I eventually dropped off to sleep after finishing my diary entry. Even Traveller's snoring from the living room wasn't enough to keep me up for long.

I dreamed. And in my dream, I saw an eye. At first I thought it might be the eye I'd dreamed of in the door, the door at the bottom of the hole, but this eye was different. It was... stupid. And honest. And trusting. And afraid. That eye was a lot of things, but most strikingly it was familiar. So damned familiar.

That eye.

I suppose a dream about an eyeball could've been creepy, or scary, but this wasn't. It was just... contemplative. As if my mind wanted me to consider something for a while, something I wouldn't normally notice when I'm awake. Sometimes I think my dreams are smarter than I am, and, boy howdy, I think I'm right. Based on what happened next, that is.

We awoke at day break to a rumbling. The farmhouse began to shake, waking us all. A decorative plate in my bedroom bedroom smashed to the floor; that was enough to get Libby and I on our feet and staring out the window.

"It's a dragon!" I cried, looking up at the sky. "They came for us!"

"It's the Non!" Grylock called from the hallway. "Fuck me! Arms, everyone, te arms!"

"No! No! The Imperium! The army must've survived!" Logan jumped off of the roof in front of us, landing in the yard. Bits of corn yellow thatch clung to his boots. "C'mon, we gotta go!"

"It's an alien!" Traveller clutched to Laura, his face aglow with ecstacy. He pointed at a nearby tree. "I knew it! They're coming for you, Mr. Tumbles! You're going home!"

"Oh, fuck off, all of you!" Libby grinned, though she cocked her head at Traveller's suggestion. "I know that sound! My baby's come home!"

She was right. As we gathered on the front lawn the Dauphine burst into view, rolling mightily up a hill and ruining the farm's rear field. We cheered and hooted as it pulled to a stop, and I waved up to Morris, who was saluting us happily from the observation post. By the time we had our things together the landing ramp had plunked out of the Dauphine's hull, and Lisanna the Gypsy was worming her way towards Traveller with both wooden arms extended.

"My boy!" she exclaimed, hissing happily as she wrapped Traveller in her embrace. "Ohhh, Traveller, ye little fool! Where'd ye go this time, eh? Worried me half to death!"

Traveller lifted his (hopefully adoptive) mother into the air and kissed her snout. "Hi, mom! Look, I made friends! This is Laura! She's an ocelot!"

"Very nice, m'dear." Lisanna very clearly knew it was a kitten. "Ye canna go runnin' off anymore, Trav. Ill tidin's from the east say as much. You stay with me from now on, ye hear?"

"Sure, ma. I'll - oh hey, it's the duck!" Scooping up Laura and slipping the kitten into his hair, Traveller rushed off into the throng of people gathering at the entrance of the Dauphine. "HEY, DUCK! DO YOU LIVE IN THAT THING? WHERE'S THAT OLD MAN? DO YOU STILL HAVE THAT VOICE IN MY HEAD?"

The reunions were happy and tender. Celine ran to her father and hugged him, asking strange question after strange question. Logan ducked into the Dauphine to greet his mother. Grylock fist-bumped his drinking buddies in the crew, promising each a solid contest later in the day. Libby greeted her mechanics, and, grudingly, introduced them to Traveller, who'd woven over to kiss his 'girlfriend'. (Fuck that guy.) And I - 

A soft hand touched my shoulder. I turned. "Hm?"

Bora smiled back at me. "Hey. You've been gone a while. Get tired of life in the clouds?"

I rolled my eyes, trying to cling to my irritation at the sight of the woman, but I couldn't quite hold bitter feelings. It was nice to be home. "Yeah. Less boozers up there. More dragons. I like dragons more than drinkers."

Bora laughed. "Dragons don't tip as well. Not that you lot give me much coin t'go on. That's the problem with gettin' room and board - the spending money is shit."

I shrugged. "The life of the cook. You been feeding my crew properly?"

She saluted. "Aye, cap'n. They're fatasses, the lot of 'em."

We shared a nervous titter. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel so bad in Bora's presence. It was like the old days, back in Pubton, though with a great deal less heat. She almost felt like... I dunno. A chum? A compadre? Certainly not a love interest. I can live with another friend, even if I don't completely trust her.

That's not an option anymore, though.

Based on his professions of love for my wife, I expected Traveller to act pretty much the same with every other female on the Dauphine's crew. Don't get me wrong, I still wanted him gone, but a biiiiiig part of me expected to stick around. If nothing else I figured the other women aboard the Dauphine would take some of the pressure off Libby. Give her space to breathe, you know? Hell, maybe one of them might actually like him back. The world is a crazy place like that. So when he first noticed Bora, I figured Traveller would freak out, fall to his knees, and declare his undying love.

He did freak out. But not in the way I expected.

Traveller's scream silenced the throng at once. It was a sound of absolute terror, a shriek that declared, in no uncertain terms, that Traveller was distressed. I followed the noise and found him staring at us - nay, at Bora, at Bora - and jabbing his finger in resolute accusation. 

"SHE! SHE SHE SHE!" he bellowed, his whole body quaking. "SHE TOOK MY EYE! SHE TOOK MY EYE! OH MY GODS, SHE TOOK MY EYE!"

I turned to Bora, hands already splayed in apology, figuring it to be another of Traveller's idiotic mental burps. But I stopped, because the look on her face was as horrified as the look on Traveller's - only her expression, her wide eyes and drooping mouth, dripped of guilt rather than fear. She backed away a step, looked to me, looked to Traveller, mumbled something I couldn't hear -

- and nimbly leapt out of the way as Traveller crashed down where she'd been standing, his fist half buried in the ground. The impact was sufficient to put me on my ass, and I skittered away from the man.

"My eye," Traveller said again, tears pouring down his face. "My eye, my eye, my eye, you lured me and you tried to sex me and you STOLE MY EYE, WHERE IS MY EYE?!"

Bora stammered, words caught in her throat. She backed away from Traveller, though he was already backing away from her as well, shaking so violently that I thought he might be having a stroke. I was dimly aware of Plato running up behind Traveller, Plato's rat leaping from platypus to broken man and burrowing into Traveller's hair. No doubt the rat was confused to find a kitten living in there, probably scared shitless by Traveller's outburst.

I was only dimly aware of these things, though. Because I was more concerned with Bora.

Bora's face twitched. I don't mean a normal twitch, the kind you get when your kids do something bad, or when you're serving a customer and you just can't put up with their shit for one second longer. Her cheeks spasmed, twisting and churning, the bones beneath growing and reconfiguring themselves into a huge, insectile grin. Pincers slid out of her mouth, her hair ran long and wild into her face, her eyes grew into enormous, buglike slits, and her body... oh, gods, that sensuous, lithe body...

"I'm sorry," the thing that was once Bora hissed, raising long, slender hands to shield its face. It was speaking to me, I think. "I'm so sorry."

People screamed. A few, the more martial amongst my crew, jumped into action with bows and arrows. The creature turned to flee, pausing only a moment to spare me a glowing green glance before its spidery legs launched it onto a nearby road. Arrows followed in its wake, as did wild cries of confusion, anger, and sorrow.

I considered following the thing. I'm not sure why. Maybe I wanted to ask it what was going on. At the very least I wanted to know what the hell it was, because if Bora is a Non as I've long suspected... if she is... she is something very, very different from the ones we've already met.

I didn't follow. Instead I buried my head in the ground and tried to cleanse my mouth with dirt. Because, gods help me, I kissed that thing. I kissed it, and I hated the result, and now, oh, my lords and stars above, now I know why.

The crew couldn't find Bora. The creature. Whatever the fuck you wanna call it. I suspect our hesitation and shock gave it the chance it needed to get away. Who knows if we'll ever see it again. If we do, though... 

If we do...



You took his eye? Why?


Dragomir the Wanderer

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day Six-Seventy-Nine: About face

I don't like having to reevaluate my opinion of people. I really don't. Not when I'm dead set on disliking them.

It has been a month... more than a month, now, I guess... since I last laid eyes on the Dauphine. And when I did, it was a fleeting glimpse over my shoulder as I was being led away by Imperium soldiers, off to an uncertain fate. Not cool. At the time it was wrecked, partially flooded, and seemingly immobile. I didn't think it would be difficult to find again, especially with Libby not on hand to repair the brute.

Unfortunately, all we found of the Dauphine upon returning to its former resting place was a huge set of tracks dug into the dirt. At some point it has been repaired, obviously, and after being repaired it was moved. But to where? And by whom? These are important questions.

As a group we're not terribly covert, so the majority of us took shelter in another farmhouse while Grylock, Logan, and Antonio scoured the outskirts of Rodentia for signs of the Dauphine. I can't imagine it would go terribly far, under the circumstances - just far enough that it wouldn't get caught by Imperium soldiers. (Or, uh, if it was commandered by soldiers, just far enough to stay away from the fucking sloth.)

We'd heard no news from the scouts by supper, and I was both restless and bored. So bored, in fact, that I decided to go for a little walk - and to my everlasting irritation, Traveller demanded that he be allowed to join me. Kept claiming that "Libby's boyfriend and Libby's husband" should know each other better. Bond, even. Libby suggested this was a fantastic idea, as she wasn't invited on the walk, and thus would be spared Traveller's attention for an hour or two. Traitor.

So we walked. And talked. Mostly he talked. I gritted my teeth at every moment, attempting to make sense of Traveller's endless drivel and not getting very far. Conversations with the guy seem to run as such:

1.) He makes a comment. It is stupid.
2.) He offers observations on the comment. They are stupider.
3.) He gets distracted by something nearby. He runs off to see what it is, and usually gets in trouble.
4.) Eventually he returns, and will invariably ask who you are. His memory is awful. (Though he always seems to remember Libby.)
5.) New conversation. New observations. New distractions. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I don't know how to relate with such a man. I really don't. It's obvious he has some issues with his brain, some twitch of biology that doesn't allow him to operate on an adult level, but I can't figure out exactly what's wrong. I suppose the bandages on his face are a telltale sign of past trauma - his eyesight kinda sucks, so he must only be able to see out of one eye - but I can't figure out what, exactly, happened. Nor do I necessarily want to know.

Traveller was meditating on the medicinal benefits of pine cones when my view of him was forced, forced, to change. Just a little bit.

"And this one time I ate a pine cone, and my stomach was better! So much better!" He raised his hands above his head, forming a triangle out of his fingers. "But later that night I had the worst case of gas, which I'm pretty certain is why I woke up with no boots - "

I grimaced. He mentions boots constantly. Obsessed with fucking boots.

" - but I shrugged and decided it wasn't so bad, but man, pooping hurt a lot after that pine cone, which I figured was a sign of health. I'm not sure, but I think. And hey, what's that noise? Hello!"

He paused his diatribe, raising an ear to the air. We were walking through a small copse, lined with quiet spruce trees, and the only sounds I caught were chittering birds and mewling monkeys. I pointed this out, but Traveller shook his head, insisting it was something 'smaller' and 'cuter'. Before I could stop him he latched onto my hand and pulled me through the copse, complaining loudly.

"You always sound so mad!" Traveller commented, grinning stupidly as he dragged me along. "I think it's you. Could be my brother. Have you met my brother? I'm not sure he exists! I only just remembered him!"

"He probably... ow, watch where you're walking... he probably abandoned... you... FUCK, OW! NOT THROUGH THORN BUSHES, YOU BASTARD!"

"I'm not a bastard!" he insisted. "My parents are married! I think? They might be dead. That would be sad, you know? My dad was a yeti!"

At length he released me, stopping in front of a spruce that looked the same as the rest. I angrily questioned why we'd bother coming this way, rubbing away the wrenching pain in my wrist; he put a finger to my lips and shushed me. His ear tested the air again, his smile growing, and abruptly he dropped to one knee.

"The hell are you on about?" I crossed my arms and tried to get my bearings, not sure which direction we had to go to return to the farmhouse. "C'mon. It's getting dark. We might get rain. S'kinda cloudy. I don't want rain."

"Rain is the gods' piss, my dad used to say." Traveller's hand snaked under the tree. "So it's kinda lucky if you get caught in it. I think he said that. Maybe it was grandpa? I dunno. One of them is pretty original."

"No, they aren't. My dad used to say that all the time." Curious despite myself, I hunkered down to get a look beneath the spruce's low-hanging branches. "What are you doing?"

Traveller shook his head, freeing his long hair from the bite of the tree's needles, and said nothing. His face did enough talking on its own, though, his smile growing with each needle that pricked his skin, and abruptly the quiet of the early evening was filled with a cacophony of hisses and yowls and spitting. Laughing over the din, Traveller pulled his arm back -

- and when he did, there was a kitten attached to his hand. It was a small, feisty thing, its tiny claws and sharp teeth dug into Traveller's skin, yet I could tell at a glance that it was not doing so well. Its tawny coat looked matted with dirt in places, and its eyes held a glazed, shocked look.

"You can be my new voice in my head!" Traveller proclaimed. He passed the kitten from one hand to the other, cradling it against his chest, not minding its assault on his clothing one bit. "The last one was a rat. It had a cage. I think the duck has it. Or was that a marmoset...?"

I grimaced, watching as the kitten latched its teeth onto Traveller's thumb. "Cripes. Uh. Shouldn't you maybe... leave that here...? It doesn't look so happy..."

"Oh, it just wanted rescuing. Everybody wants to be rescued when they're in trouble." Traveller stroked the back of the kitten's neck, as gentle as an old woman with a lifelong pet. "Shhhh. Ow! Shhhhh. Ha ha, I think he likes me."

I thought otherwise, but my view gradually changed as we headed back towards the farmhouse. The kitten's death grappling turned to a small fight... and then to the occasional hiss... and then, by the time the farmhouse was in view, it was purring uncertainly in Traveller's palm. It looked utterly exhausted.

"I will name him Laura," Traveller decided. "I had a girlfriend named Laura. She stole my boots."

I opened the door for him, ushering Traveller inside. "Laura's a girl's name."

"Well, I don't know he's a boy, do I?" Traveller wandered inside, nearly tripping over a pair of shoes inside the door. "I just don't. So I call him Laura, but also a he, and then I don't have to worry about being wrong. Right? That makes sense, right?"

"... yeah. Sure."

Traveller spent the rest of the evening cleaning up 'Laura', with some help from Antonio. They clipped the grime out of the kitten's tangled fur, gave it a bath with some water from the farm's well, and fed it a few pieces of dried meat from the house's remaining stores. By the time the moon was in the sky the kitten had moved into Traveller's hair, and was looking significantly healthier. Blind as a molebat, to be certain, but healthier.

"Laura musta gotten lost," Traveller told me shortly before bed. "He musta lost his family. That's pretty awful. You shouldn't lose your family. Family's important."

I did my best to repress a flicker of warmth. "Yeah. Yeah, it is."

"Yeah." Traveller scratched Laura's belly. The kitten purred contentment. "You've got a new family now, Laura. I'll take care of you."

We had a moment. I wasn't really part of it, but I absorbed a fraction of the camaraderie between Traveller and his new pet.

"Mr. Libby?"

"Yeah, Traveller?"

"Can I have sex with Libby?"

"No, Traveller."


Fuck that guy,

Dragomir the Wanderer

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day Six-Seventy-Eight: At least it's gone

Weeeeeell, this is troublesome. To our advantage, perhaps, but... troublesome.

Rodentia has long reigned as the center of power for the Imperium. It is here, Jeffrey tells me, that the seven nations of years past banded together into a single power to fight the great war of the last millenium. It's here that armies were commanded, battles directed, and troops prepared. Rodentia is one of the oldest surviving cities on the planet, and therefore, one of the most famous.

Until now, I guess.

Rodentia is an utter ruin. It wasn't looking too hot when we left, mind, but it got a lot worse in the last three weeks. Every building of significant height has been knocked over, and those squat hovels the sloth did not deign important enough to touch were apparently crushed under the weight of collapsing towers and falling walls. The palace, the mighty seat of power, appears to have simply fallen apart under its own ponderous weight, leaving a massive heap of rubble in the center of Rodentia.

The city is empty, save for a contingent of soldiers left behind to keep an eye on the remains. They all look bored and forlorn, so we had no trouble sneaking past any of them once we made it to the bottom of the Stalk. Yes, even with bubbly, annoying Traveller on our side, we managed to sneak past the guards.

My first fear upon entering that ragged city was, of course, the sloth. Is it still around? Could it be lurking in the stone somewhere, simply waiting for a chance to pull some hapless passersby down to their doom? Such is the stuff of nightmares - and, naturally, it's not the case. The sloth is simply gone. We don't know where it went, or how, or why, but it has left.

Not dead. Gone. After crushing the might of the Imperium's army. At least that's what Logan heard while listening in on a mumbled conversation between two soldiers. I pray to the gods I never have to confront such a beast head-to-head in my lifetime. It's not a way I'd want my second death to go.

Despite the sloth's swathe of destruction through the city, the farmlands surrounding Rodentia remain relatively untouched - though by all accounts they, too, are currently deserted. Looks as though everyone living here has up and fled. I don't blame them a bit - if the most powerful army in the world can't defend their capital city, what chance do a bunch of farmers stand? Time to pack up and get the hell outta harm's way. 

Sooooo, y'know, we may have occupied a farmhouse or two on our way back to the Dauphine. Seems only fair. Had a hell of a time separating Libby from Traveller, and we ultimately had to convince him to sleep outside our bedroom window, but I guess that's... better than nothing.

Ngh. Traveller. He's latched onto Libby like a fruit fly to a hamburger tree. There're no signs that he plans to leave with the gypsies when we get back to the Dauphine. That does not bode well for our expedition. We can't take him with us. I don't want to take him with us. I will be horribly horribly annoyed if we have to take him with us. And the worst part? We may have to, because no one can really say no to the guy if he decides otherwise.


I'm going to sleep, now. I've got bits of parchment wadded into my ears to drown out Traveller's snoring, which is loud enough to float right through the wall.... and, uh, through the parchment as well. Not a great situation, y'all.


Dragomir the Wanderer

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day Six-Seventy-Seven: Weeeeeee


let me kill him please


I gritted my teeth, refusing to turn. I knew the voice all too well. It hadn't shut up for hours.

"Hey! Hey! Hi!"

My eye twitched. Libby grabbed my hand, either in sympathy or warning. Maybe both.

"Hey! Mr. Libby! Hey, can I hold her hand for a while? She's my girlfriend!"

Libby spun. "I am not your fucking girlfriend. How many times do I have to tell you that?"

Behind us, flanked by a sheepish Logan and an amused Antonio, trailed by Fynn, Grylock and Jeffrey in their own conversation, Traveller grinned at the pair of us. He shook the sleeves of his oversized tunic playfully. "A few more! I don't remember things so well, my mom always told me. Or was that the duck? Ah, who knows."

The duck. Traveller had referenced 'the duck' many times. Knowing what I know, I assume he's talking about Plato. "Leave her alone. She's had enough of you for one lifetime."

Apparently not content to drop the issue, Traveller danced away from his brother (and a very relieved Logan - he confided later that Traveller smells like stale cheese, though I think he's closer to old bird poo) and joined us. He wormed his way between Libby and I, taking our hands with an innocent strength neither of us could ever hope to overcome. 

"There!" He swung his arms and skipped, dragging us along down the path of the Stalk. I flew perilously close to the edge, and my stomach gobbled my intestines in fear as my feet left the ground. "She's your wife, right? But she's my girlfriend! So it works! We can share her!"

"NO!" Libby pounded at Traveller's arm. He didn't seem to notice. "LET ME GO, YOU FUCKING IDIOT! HUSBAND COMES BEFORE BOYFRIEND!"

"Oh!" Traveller began swinging me around in front of him. A package full of dried meat fell out of my pack and tumbled off the side of the Stalk. "Like this? See, he's in front of me!"

"Traveller, I zink you are upzetting zem," Antonio called from behind us. "Perhapz you zhould zet ze Dragomir down, ya? On ze ground? Carefully?"

Traveller paused to stare at his brother. His unbandaged eye blinked slowly. He said something in reply; I'm not sure what, as I was too busy pissing my britches. He'd left me hanging half off the Stalk's path, my feet wriggling for purchase where there was none. 

"No, no, zat iz very far down," Antonio chided. "Zis ground. Vat you ztand on now. Zat iz much zafer. You do not wizh harm to Libby'z husband, ya?"

Apparently not. Traveller dropped me back on the path with the grace of a dopey child. Libby, prying free of Traveller in his confusion, ran over and helped me up. She wrinkled her nose at the waft of urine, but she didn't pull away. Yet that same scent seemed to set off Traveller again, and, assuming it was time to empty our bowels, he pulled down his pants and began whizzing off the side of the Stalk.

It's windy up here.

Golden showers.

You get the picture.

I can't stand this man. I've known a lot of dumb people in my time, but none have been so inanely vapid as Traveller. He probably wouldn't even realize he was dead if someone shoved a spear through his heart, he's so thick. Hell, I'm sure the only reason he's still alive is his ridiculous strength, which, I'm grateful, he hasn't used to hurt anyone.


Stay strong, Dragomir. Have courage. You're almost at the bottom. And when you get there? Whoop! No more fucking Traveller. He goes one way, you go another, and that's that. Back to the journey.


Yeah. It won't happen that way. Will it? I just know it fucking won't.

Perhaps flying off the edge would've been wise after all,

Dragomir the Wanderer

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day Six-Seventy-Six: A troubling individual

I dislike this.

I dislike this a whole lot. 

A great deal is how much I dislike this.

After the debacle that was last week, we departed the Valley of Thorns and headed back to Evan's cabin to sleep away the weekend. It was, of course, empty, and the absence of the oversized Dragon Researcher left those of us who knew him in a melancholy state. Fynn in particular clammed up, only slightly cheered by the return of his mother to his side.

We set the cabin aflame when we left this morning. There'd been nothing left of Evan that we could find, aside from a bloody patch of cloud, so a funeral pyre of his belongings seemed the best way to honour the man. It seemed something of a waste to get rid of all he'd left behind, but Fynn insisted, and given his raw strength and poor mood I decided not to argue much with my son.

My mood was not improved by the presence of Traveller. It was very much dampened by his fucking presence, in fact.

Traveller is an idiot. He's simple-minded, flirtatious, forgetful, utterly lacking in common sense, and NAKED. It took us two solid hours of cajolling to get him suited up in some of Evan's old clothes, and they managed to mysteriously slither off of him way too often thereafter. Only Antonio could cajole his brother into putting his clothes back on, and the stupid orc seemed to enjoy our discomfort at Traveller's nakedness too much for him to ask it of Traveller that often.

"You think that's bad?" Libby hissed as we watched Traveller prancing about on the clouds, nude and scarred and flopping about. "Try spending weeks with him like that. My gods, it brushed me too many fuckin' times."

"It?" I asked dubiously, raising a hand to shield my face as Traveller turned to grin lecherously at my wife.

"It," she spat out. 

Yet for all his advances, all his physical might, all his obvious desire, Traveller had not once forced himself upon Libby. He'd suggested, yes, he'd made constant gifts to her, he'd kept her secluded on a mountaintop for long periods of time, but not once had Traveller actually tried to demand anything of her. He'd also protected Libby from many of the beasts of Above The Sky during their time together, for which she was... moderately thankful.

That doesn't mean she likes him. Thank the gods, she detests the asshole. I can understand why. But she can travel with him at least a bit further, as far as the bottom of the Stalk of Rodentia, where we can ditch him and the gypsies and get back on our merry way.

We're proceeding down the Stalk now. We reached the bottom of the clouds just before setting up camp, and I'm very pleased to note that the snows far below have abated. The path back down is relatively clean, though a teensy bit wet. I look forward to the return trip a great deal more than getting up here.

Now, if only I can find an excuse to pitch Traveller off the side of the Stalk...


Dragomir the Wanderer

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day Six-Seventy-Five: Green

We're going home.

I awoke this morning to another explosion. Not a good start to a day under any circumstances, though during a siege... worse. Far worse.

Though the aerie had held out admirably under the circumstances, by this morning the Valley of Thorns was absolutely surrounded by sky dwarves. The little bastards had penned the dragons into the deepest part of the Valley with their flaming spears, and their aim seemed to be getting better. Five dragons had died to explosive gut gases by the time I was up.

The mood as we ate breakfast was grim. Logan and Antonio, who'd stayed up all night on guard duty, seemed very much the worst for wear. I ordered them both to get some sleep; only Logan obeyed. Antonio doesn't recognize my authority when he doesn't want to recognize my authority, I guess. No doubt worried about his 'brozer'.

The sky dwarf attacks came in waves. Every twenty minutes or so a concentrated mass of the bastards would rise up on one side of the aerie's lines and attempt to batter through the defenses, slipping through the thorns in incredible numbers and lashing out with their fucking spears. The dragons retaliated with flame and claws and a multitude of alternate forms, but each time the sky dwarves came the dragons lost a little ground. I'm certain squabbles over who was in command, Barrel or other male dragons, helped the situation not a bit.

I, uh, I'm not proud to admit that I ordered Grylock to find a safe path out of the Valley of Thorns that we could use in an emergency. I don't like to say that I'd abandon Barrel and his brood... but... yeah. Contingencies.

The dragons' defensive lines crumbled just in time for lunch.

Third-place Contest loser Lemonade was the straw that broke the proverbial Gutgnarl's back. He's provided some of the stiffest resistance to Barrel's leadership, as far as I can tell, though his persistance in proving his own worth led the yellow-orange dragon to remain on the front lines constantly. This made him sleepy, which made him sloppy, which, ultimately, got him blown up. Never yawn near a sky dwarf.

The swarm buzzed angrily through the hole Lemonade left in the lines, passing through our defenses far too quickly for the dragons to react. The Valley of Thorns quickly devolved into thirty-on-one skirmishes as squads of purple, puppy-sized demons engulfed the draconic defenders. Chaos reigned supreme.

Grylock hadn't returned with news of a safe route away from the Valley of Thorns, so I ordered my group (sans Antonio, who was picking sky dwarves apart with his precision punches) into the cave sheltering the young, the old, and the injured. Fynn kept us protected with his magic, grim and determined, while Jeffrey and I stood guard over the cave's entrance. As if we could do a hell of a lot to stop incoming sky dwarves.

It was in this role of guard - like the good old days - that I heard something which nearly got me killed: a voice.


My ears pricked up.

"Dragomir! Help!"

I looked at Jeffrey and Fynn. Jeffrey was nervously polishing a battered shortsword, and clearly hadn't noticed. Fynn, however, was as attentive and startled as me.

"Dragomir! I'm here! Here!"

Fynn stepped out of the cave's mouth and stood beside me, scanning the forest of vines and thorns that partially obscured the cave's entrance. "Dad... is that...?"

"What's up?" Jeffrey peered at us, confused.

I cupped my ears and waited, wondering if it might be a hallucination of some kind. I was more than a little sleep-starved, and my stomach was a roiling pit of hunger. Yet... the voice sounded so genuine... maybe...?

"Dragomir! I'm in here! Help me!"

"LIBBY!" I screamed back. "WHERE ARE YOU?!"

"That's her, isn't it?" Fynn grabbed my arm. "Dad, that's her, isn't it? Right? That's mom?"

"I'm here!" Libby called, though I couldn't see her. "I'm trapped! Help! The thorns! I'm caught in the thorns!"

I bolted from the mouth of the cave. Fynn and Jeffrey followed after me, scanning the thorns for signs of my errant wife - and her idiot captor.

"Fynn! No! Stay here!" I pointed towards the cave. "Go back! Stay there! Keep watch on it, okay? We'll just be a minute!"

Fynn faltered. "But - "

"NOW!" I commanded. "GO! PROTECT THE DRAGONS! C'mon, Jeff, we'll find her."

Fynn drooped, but he did as he was told. Given what happened next, I wish he'd been more rebellious.

Taking the lead with his shortsword, Jeffrey followed Libby's voice into the thorns. He hacked away at the vines in our path as I followed behind, cursing my inability to hold a weapon and the Crimson Catastrophe's utter unreliability. Libby's voice grew stronger, and closer, with each swing.

"Dragomir! I've missed you!" Libby seemed almost ghostly, a weird, over-exhuberant version of herself... but it was definitely her voice. "Here! Here!"

"I'M COMING!" I rasped, cursing as a cluster of thorns ripped at my shirt. "Are you okay?! He hasn't hurt you, has he? TALK, Libby!"

Jeffrey hacked at another vine. A huge mass of them slithered down in our path; he jumped back with a curse.

"I'm fine!" Libby reassured me. "Just stuck! Here! You're almost here! Help me!"

"Dragomir," Jeffrey breathed, blood trickling down his hand from a dozen tiny cuts, "are you sure about this...? It's kinda..."

I pushed past him. Wadding up my floppy hat, I used it to protect my fingers as I brushed away vines. Thorns pricked my skin through the fabric, but I didn't care. I wanted my Libby.

"Yes... that's it..." Libby urged me on. "A bit further... almost here, now..."

Almost there. Almost there. Sweat coursed down my forehead. The noise of combat on all sides seemed to fall away, completely replaced by the gentle caress of Libby's reassurances. I felt... soothed.

And that's when it hit me.

Libby doesn't soothe people. Not unless you're her kid.

I'm not her kid.

That's also when something else hit me. Something hard, and blunt, and heavy. So much pain.

I woke up some time later in a dark place. A pair of green, leering eyes hovered over my face.

"Hellooooo, Mr. Mayor," a sickly familiar voice hissed. "Did you miss me? Eh? Eh? It's been so long since you gave me the slip. I, ah, I thought I might never catch up to you."

The ache in the back of my skull blurred my vision, but I recognized the speaker anyway. He was tapdancing across my bare chest, his six tiny legs pinching my skin with each step. "F... fuck you... Doc..."

"Eeeeeheehehee." The Non roughly caressed my cheek. "Didn't think I'd given up on you, did you? You'd be mistaken. You were mistaken! Very! Here I am! It was the best trap, oh, yes, the best distraction! I've been waiting for this for a loooong time!"

I strained, hoping to throttle Doc, but my arms and legs were bound by vines. Every time I moved, more blood trickled out of my wrists and my ankles. I bit back the pain as best I could, but my struggles were useless, and I quickly gave up. "Where's... where's Libby...?" 

Doc waved a hand. A pair of much larger green eyes appeared above me, part of the giant shadow nearly eclipsing the sun above us, and Libby's voice rang out from nowhere. "Sorry, Dragomir. He's my boss. Gotta do what the boss says."

"Do you like my voice modification?" Doc jumped, tapping at the rubbery, pliable hide of Titan Blue. "I listened for such a long time! I knew it would come in handy eventually! She can mimic almost all of you, thanks to me! I'm such a damned genius!"

"Yeah," I grunted. "You're great. Real great. Stop yappin' and do what you wanna do."

Doc leered at me. He'd removed my breastplate while I was unconscious, and his needle fingers explored my chest and abdomen greedily. He poked at my ribs, my stomach, my throat, my cheeks. I grunted each time his claws left a tiny hole in my skin.

"You're so unique." His voice seemed almost loving, the happy chimes of a little girl playing with a new doll. "I can't believe, ah, oh, I can't believe... ahhh, I should have been first, I'm so much smarter than her... if only I had her power... I wonder if this will hurt...?"

I considered asking what the hell he was on about, but my words caught in my throat as Doc's claws suddenly grew by at least two inches, his smooth Non skin forming a series of tiny razor barbs that looked horribly sharp even in the dark. He tapped my skin lightly with one finger; the barbs pulled away a thin strip of flesh. I screamed immediately.

"Kierkegaard will be most interested by the results, I'm sure," Doc purred. "He will want to know how much it hurt her - "


Two things happened.

First, the dark shadow over me disappeared. Blue's wail of surprise almost made me want to laugh. My eyes were instantly blinded by the sun. 

Second, a stocky, burly figure kicked Doc off of my chest. He shouted, flew into the thorns, and disappeared. I haven't seen him since.

A new face hovered over me. This one was familiar in the best way possible. "Dragomir?"

I blinked away tears of pain and relief. "Oh... oh, Libby. H... hi."

Then another face hovered over me, silhouetted by a long mane of shaggy brown hair. "Hi! What was that big black thing? I threw it!"

It's amazing how that man can ruin a perfectly good tender moment. I rolled my eyes and passed out.

By the time I woke up, the battle was over. The sky dwarves had retreated, seemingly without good cause. They were on the verge of overwhelming and killing the aerie. That makes me think they'd been under Doc's control all this time... and with his prize snatched away, he had no reason to press the offensive.

Green. They like the colour green. Fynn, you may have been right all this time.

The aerie is an absolute mess. More than half of the dragons are out of commission, either dead, dying, or so injured that they can't even fly. Barrel himself is hurt pretty badly, though his war wounds seem to have earned him undisputed leadership over the aerie. That and the fact that he's one of the few dragons who can still take to the skies. Good on ya, buddy.

Of course, with Traveller now counted in our merry band, we were forced to flee. I suspect we're no longer allowed anywhere near this part of Above The Sky. The dragons didn't chase us, what with their horrible injuries and all, but if we ever come back... yeah. Bad times will ensue, I have no doubt.

We got Libby back. She's safe and sound. Didn't leave my side for a single second while I was writing this entry. Jeffrey's fine, too - just received a nasty lump to the back of the head. So, all told, this was a successful enterprise.


A man died.

Many dragons joined him.

I had to say goodbye to a friend, again, this time without even a farewell.

And I was left with... questions.

But I'm too tired to ask 'em, and the only creature who could answer got punted by my wife anyway.

I can accept that for now.


Dragomir the Wanderer