Oh, balls. Balls balls balls.
Things haven't changed much on the Dauphine. Our westward journey continues through sparse terrain, and according to our navigator we're headed towards a city called Desert's Edge. It's the nearest major population center, and the most likely to have a doctor that can treat Dragomir.
Problem is, we've been sidetracked. Might play out to our benefit in the end, but... definitely sidetracked.
My role on the Dauphine changes constantly. Everyone who started out on the transport has a set job; everyone who joined up along the way (ie me) is in a state of flux. Most often I'm sent off in advance of the Dauphine with Grylock to scout, but I also receive a bundle of odd jobs. Today I was cleaning cannons. We haven't had to fire at anything major in a while, how lucky we be, but the damned things still accumulate a lot of grime.
The Dauphine's second floor is ringed with cannons, each one assigned to a small latch that can be popped open for broadsiding, and I was cleaning out one of the cannons on the left side of the ship when I decided to open its latch. We use some horrible-smelling chemical to clean the guns, and it was making me quite light in the head. I figured a bit of spring air would clear the haze and help me concentrate.
That was a mistake. One look at the landscape gave me yearnings. I wanted to shimmy out the hole, slide down the side of the Dauphine, and run away again. The open road is a great deal more carefree when you're not embroiled in a war. I'm still glad I opened the window, though, 'cause I would've missed something completely otherwise.
"Purple," I murmured to myself, squinting. Something... something in the distance... "Purple. Purple?"
Curious, I wandered away from my cannon and headed for Command. I figured my mom would be willing to stop the Dauphine so I could investigate. I needn't have bothered, as the machine was already pulling to a halt.
I found my mom speaking to Grylock, her flailing feet pulled away from the pedals that propel the Dauphine. She hates the goblin, so, predictably, she had the look on her face. I hate the look. "This had best not be a waste of our time. Dragomir needs a doctor."
"Dragomir's needed a doctor for weeks," Grylock shot back. "He can wait a few moments more. Drop the cargo hatch."
"Please," mom insisted. "Drop the cargo hatch please."
"I would, but ye've got the controls." Grylock showed her a long line of teeth. "Silly human."
Patting mom on the shoulder as she grumbled and cursed, I pulled Grylock away. "Hey. What's up? I was just gonna order a stop myself."
Coughing, Grylock straightened his glasses. "Oh yeah? Might be we've a shared purpose. Did ye hear the voice?"
"Voice?" I cocked my head. "No, no voice. I just spotted something outside. Wanted to check it out."
"Ah." Grylock frowned, ears twitching. "Might be I'm losin' it. I did see somethin' of mine own, though. Let's go look."
"Something wrong? You look spooked." I've seen Grylock enough times to notice when his green skin isn't as green as it should be. "What kind of voice - "
"The kind that shuts up," he snapped. He motioned for me to take the lead. "After you, ma'am."
Uneasy, I tromped down the stairs to Engineering and off to the aft of the Dauphine, where the rear hatch sat open to the world. A lovely spring breeze greeted us, perhaps a little warmer than usual, though not at all unpleasant. Somewhere along the way Grylock's boar joined us, and he crawled atop the oinker and took the lead into the field.
The effigy we'd both spotted, Grylock apparently with a little help, was perhaps half a mile south of the Dauphine. It was tall and lanky, its limbs formed of wood, and it hung from a tall, rough pole. A length of rope held its sandbag head aloft. It had no legs, only a long, awkward tail, and a bright purple wig adorned its smooth brow.
Pinned to the effigy's chest was a note.
'I am tired of chasing you. Now you will chase me. Bring me Dragomir or the half-snake becomes my next pet project. I can assure you that she will not look near so pretty as she does now.
There is a small town four days' travel south of this spot. By the time you arrive it will be empty. Be there on Friday or I will strip every inch of skin from her body.
Do not attempt to flee. If you do, I will know. I will find you. And I won't be happy.
Logan the Very Troubled