Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-Nine: Let's get outta this joint

“Psst. Logan.”

Logan grunted. He rolled over on his cot, trying to find a spot that wasn’t lumpy.

“Logan? You there?”

“Fgggrblr.” Logan snored, burped, farted. Had he been awake he might have been impressed.

“Logan. C’mon. Wake up.”

Logan didn’t wake up. Not until somebody poked him in the face.

It was the middle of the night, as far as Logan could tell. The prison was not below the ground, as in most fortified structures, and light filtered through the occasional window during the day. There was no light now save the distant twinkle of a torch, somewhere down the corridor. He sat up, suddenly alarmed - 

- and a big, smooth hand slapped over his mouth. A finger rose in a ‘shhh’ motion.

Forcing calm, Logan looked into the face of his cell’s fellow occupant. It was Fynn, towering, clumsy Fynn, his face illuminated by a ball of light so minuscule that it took Logan a second to even notice it was there. A faint aura danced at its edges, but it was so slight that Logan couldn’t discern its colour. 

He pushed Fynn’s hand away, peering behind the stooping boy. The wall between their cells had, somehow, been removed, neatly formed as two big piles of bricks on the floor of Fynn’s cell. Logan goggled at them, noticing that the bricks were utterly undamaged even in the dark.

“I got out,” Fynn whispered, pointing to a heap of metal near the bricks. “See?”

“Yeah, I see,” Logan whispered back. “Huh. I thought your magic… and your muscles…?”

Fynn shook his head, his long hair flopping about crazily. “It stopped. Whatever was in those cuffs sealin’ my magic, just… poof! It went away maybe ten minutes ago. I think it was ten. I’m not so good at counting.”

Shit yes. Logan patted the boy on the shoulder. “Won’t ask how you did that with the bricks, dude. We gotta get everyone out of here. Think you can bend the bars? Without making noise?”

Fynn nodded, but he seemed to fold up into himself, crouching away from Logan. It was a startlingly juvenile gesture, and reminded Logan just how young Fynn really was. “I… yeah, I can, but…”

Biting back impatience, Logan forced himself to remain calm. Just a kid, just a kid. “What is it, Fynn? C’mon, tell me quick. Before someone notices.”

Fynn rubbed his arms for a moment, eyes darting back and forth, obviously conflicted. Then, swallowing hard, he pointed at the pinprick of light. 

“It should be brown,” he said. “It was always brown before. Not now, though.”

Logan narrowed his eyes, staring hard at the light. “I… I’m not sure I get it, Fynn. You mean the edges?”

“Yeah. It’s… I think it’s a bad colour.”

Logan’s heart sank. He waited for Fynn to get to the point.

Fynn’s finger wiggled the slightest bit. In response, the hovering orb expanded, shedding more light on the cell. It ballooned to the size of an apple, and as it grew its indistinct aura grew with it - a subtle, but instantly-recognizable, Non green.

Logan’s eyes widened. “Oh.

And that’s when the dragon crashed through the wall.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-Eight: Let's rap

The guards took Libby away in the night. They probably thought to cut down on the panic by doing so, but Libby’s outraged yells destroyed any chance of a quiet getaway. No one could do anything about it, and though a few prisoners called for the guards to let her go, most people watched as they dragged Libby, struggling, down the hall and out of the prison.

Logan did his best to console Fynn from the next cell over. The boy cried anyway. Logan understood his feelings better than anyone else in the prison.

Logan spent much of the next day speaking to Fynn in a hushed whisper, trying to coax the should-be toddler into conversation. Attempts to cajole Fynn into healthier conversation only turned to sobbing, however, and soon Logan gave up on a back-and-forth. Instead he settled for stories of the old days, and these seemed to bring Fynn out of his sobbing, though he remained largely silent.

“Yeah, your sister was a hellhound, man,” Logan continued. “Bet she still is. Your dad ever tell you that we were supposed to get married? That was a weird experience, lemme tell you.”

Fynn’s chains clinked a little.

My dad was nuts back then.” Logan fiddled with the curl of hair dangling from his forehead, a staple of his appearance since his birth. “Batshit nuts, ‘scuse the swearing. He’s a bit better now. Anyway, your sister Eve was the Lord Knight of our kingdom, ’n dad wanted me to make her part of the family. I said no, of course, but nobody listens to me, so they set up this bigass wedding - ”

Nagi, half asleep in her cell across the hall, snorted. “Shoulda robbed the treasury ’n run, kid. That’s what I woulda done.”

You aren’t royalty, missus,” Logan shot back. “Probably get caught in a fortnight spendin’ it on expensive booze in some tavern anyway.”

“Up yours,” Nagi yawned. She went back to sleep.

“So anyway.” Logan reached through the bars so Fynn could see his hands gesticulating, thinking it might help the boy feel less lonely. “They set up this wedding, ’n my dad hires mercenaries for the catering. Buncha big, burly dudes, moving cakes around, setting up chairs, stringing up decorations… wouldn’t believe how ridiculous it looked, Fynn. Really was something. Granted, I was kinda sick at the time, but I remember it well enough to be ironically impressed. Or something. Your sister, though, she barely - “

“What is she like?”

Logan clamped his mouth shut. He hadn’t expected a question, and it kicked him right off his train of thought. No ticket, no service. “Huh?”

“Eve.” Fynn clanked a little more loudly. “And… and Grayson, I guess. Mom never talks ‘bout either of them, and dad… well, he’ll say stuff about Eve, but I can’t tell… if…”

Logan jumped back on the train. “If he’s romanticizing her?”

A clank. Logan suspected it was a nod. “Uh, I guess that’s what… what I mean. I think. He won’t say anything bad about her. And, uh…”

Logan smiled. Classic Dragomir. “I get ya. Um… lesse… Eve, Eve…”

Memories. Logan thought back to all the times he’d interacted with Eve, which, he realized, weren’t that numerous. She’d come and gone as she’d pleased, seemingly ignorant of anything outside slaughter. Her only words heralded destruction. Yet on some rare occasions Eve had revealed small hints of other thoughts: Watching ants drag food to their colony, staring intently at a rose in the royal gardens, watching a sunset, looking at her father and mother’s house from afar… only Logan ever caught these moments, and he knew they hinted at a little girl hiding beneath the warrior.

“Eve…” Logan shook his head. “Eve’s a complicated lady. Far as I know, though, she loved her mom ’n her dad with all her heart. I owe her my life. Hell, my whole family does. So in my books, Eve is pretty awesome.”

Fynn didn’t answer for a long time, so silent that Logan couldn’t even hear him breathing. “I hope I meet her some day.”

Logan slumped against the wall of his cell. “Me too, kid. Me too.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-Seven: The rest of the gang

“We get captured too often. That seems to be our thing.”

“Yeah.” Logan ruffled his hair, sighing. “Yeah, and what a thing it is.”

He was leaning against the wall of his cell, speaking through the bars. Across from him, in a cell just as small, lay Nagi. She was curled on a moth-eaten cot, tail beneath her, looking fairly comfortable. Logan envied her extra support - his legs were full of cramps.

They were stewing in a sizeable dungeon, somewhere in the Imperium. Logan recognized the stonework from his previous stay in an Imperium cell, though he could also tell that he was not in Rodentia. Nor were he and Nagi alone in this, as the entirety of the Dauphine’s crew had been taken prisoner, forced into bondage by a massive squadron of dragons. There’s just no negotiating with dragons.

“You sure you don’t have a lock pick?” Logan asked.

Nagi rolled her eyes. Freeing her tail, she pulled a flap of scales partially free. The small pocket of tough skin inside bore no occupants. “How many times are you gonna disappoint yourself?”

He shrugged. “As many as it takes.”

“I have no idea what that means.” Nagi cradled her head in her hands. “I knew you idiots were bad news, I just knew it.”

“Pffft. As if that wasn’t obvious the moment ya met us.” 

Logan peered around the corner of his cell as best he could, trying to see the next cell over. All he saw of its occupant was a pair of brown gloves, tightly clenching the bars. “You’re such a pessimist, Libby.”

“Shut it, brat.” Logan could practically hear her scowl. “How’s my son doin’? He’s been quiet for a while.”

“Not sure. Lemme check.” Logan moved from one side of the cell to the other, noting, not for the first time, how sadly empty it was. “Fynn? You in there?”

A mournful little sigh floated back. Fynn had not taken to imprisonment lightly. Last time, at least, he’d had company in his cell; now he was sitting alone, arms and legs cuffed to prevent him from using his magic. It probably didn’t help matters that Fynn was rapidly growing too big to even sit comfortably in his cramped cell. Logan wondered how tall the boy would be when they finally let him stand.

“Sad but hearty, I think, Libby.” Logan injected false cheer into his voice. “Don’t worry, eh? Dragomir’ll get us outta this, I bet. He’s good at shit like that.”

Libby grunted but didn’t answer. A few voices down the corridor - Morris, Logan thought, and maybe dad - added their agreement. Logan smiled at the glow of camaraderie, even in the most dire of circumstances, though the yells of guards silenced everyone. Nobody wanted to get beaten for a stupid reason.

They sat in silence a while, listening for the subtle clink of the guards’ armour. Eventually it receded into the distance, and a door far down the corridor clicked shut.

“Ready to play?” Logan asked, though he kept his voice low.

“Fuck off,” Libby said. She shuffled away from Logan’s side of her cell, perhaps to talk with someone else.

“Fine.” He turned to Nagi. “You?”

She shook her head. “It’s a stupid game. Dunno why you came up with it.”

“Boredom. That’s why and how. C’mon, it can’t hurt. You’re bored too.”

Nagi lifted her tail in a sign that Logan knew was offensive to at least snake people. He persisted, though, and eventually she gave in. She always gave in.

“Traveller,” Logan began.

Nagi snorted a derisive laugh. She usually did when Traveller was a subject of conversation. “Probably tryin’ to jump into some farm girl’s pants back in the Indy Plains. No success, either. Won’t even try and guess how he got there.”

Logan nodded. “Well… I’ll bet he’s off lookin’ for boots. Always with the boots. Maybe… I dunno… south of here. Yeah, south.”

“Why south?”

“‘cause it’s random, and so’s he.” Logan folded his arms and grinned a little.

“He’s sure as shit that,” Nagi agreed. “Next?”

Logan pursed his lips. “Plato?”

“Chasin’ Traveller. What else?” 

That was always her answer, and, a little sadly, Logan agreed with her. He didn’t bother to provide his own guess. She knew what it was anyway.

“Kay.” Nagi took the lead. “Your mom.”

Logan coughed lightly, bowing his head. He hadn’t seen it firsthand, but he knew enough from outside accounts. His mother, released from her years-long captivity in the tree by the rats upon their capture of the Dauphine, had immediately and uncontrollably dashed off into the desert. The dragons had failed to capture her, so great was her speed, and no one had seen her since. The thought of his mother sprinting across open terrain without food or water made Logan’s mouth dry.

“Probably steered herself through a market ’n picked up some cold cuts,” Logan mumbled. “Bet she’s having a hell of a time. Totally healthy. Let’s leave it there.”

Nagi nodded, clearly taking the hint. “Right. Well… uh… next…”

“Dragomir.” Logan finished for her. They always ended the game with the same name, and at this point, the game was definitely over. Mention of his mom had soured Logan’s mood. “How about Dragomir?”

Nagi could only shrug. “That’s a great question, right there.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-Six: It's the end of the world as you know it

Plato suffered through interrogation after interrogation for more than three weeks. More than twenty people died interrogating him. Plato lost track of the number after twenty.

Plato could no longer maintain his regular platypus shape. He was, at all times, a blobby, nondescript Non. The only remnants of his former appearance were his thick, stubby fingers. He took very little pride in the fact, as he missed the rest of his features more than his fingers. Stubby fingers always got in the way.

The regulators noted as much as Plato could teach them. Kierkegaard was an ace student. He’d learned how to use and manipulate his powers far more quickly than anyone else. Iko had once said that Kierkegaard possessed the potential to be the most powerful pure Non in history. The son of a Non colonel, he’d known the good life for many years - until the regulators had taken it away from him. 

Plato didn’t know much about Kierkegaard’s powers. They seemed so much more potent than their time in school, where Plato’s had barely developed at all in the last thousand years. But he could tell the regulators many stories of Kierkegaard’s cruelty, and those spilled out of Plato’s mouth with fierce rapidity. Most of the time, especially after the first ten interrogator deaths, they emerged from Plato as plain English.

The time Kierkegaard had peed on Plato in the changing room.

The time Kierkegaard had stuffed Plato into a garbage can.

The time Kierkegaard had sabotaged one of Plato’s school projects, earning Plato a zero and Kierkegaard an 85.

The time Kierkegaard challenged Plato to a duel, in front of the entire school, and then ‘accidentally’ killed Plato’s pet hamster.

The time Kierkegaard stole Plato’s girlfriend. She disappeared several weeks later, victim of a boating accident that Kierkegaard escaped uninjured.

The time Kierkegaard confessed to Plato, in a whispered, happy frenzy, that he’d eaten Plato’s girlfriend. His first recorded act of cannibalism, and far from his last.

The time Kierkegaard assaulted Plato because the regulators had sealed their home away…

… and the time Kierkegaard shoved Plato into a pocket dimension, to stew for a thousand years, simply because Kierkegaard wanted ‘company’ while he travelled.

The regulators seemed content with these stories for a while, and their interrogations were not so cruel. But Plato could not provide concrete information as to Kierkegaard’s specific powers beyond imprisonment, and so, eventually, regulator cruelty returned full force. They tortured him, sometimes because he did not provide adequate answers, sometimes because he wasn’t paying enough attention, sometimes, simply, because he was a Non, and therefore unworthy of existence.

In his final interrogation, Plato screamed a string of obscenities at his latest interrogator, even as the man gasped out dying breaths. Plato cursed the regulators, cursed the Non, cursed the world. Then he passed out. Somehow this brought the line of torture to an end.

The next day, back in his cell, Plato received a visitor. It was not his usual guard with the usual meal. It was, instead, an old woman, dressed in fine robes and walking on a cane. She nodded a cordial greeting to him as she entered his cell. Plato did not return the nod, instead looking her over for signs of a rat. He didn’t see any, and indeed, her eyes looked normal.

“Hello. I’ve been wanting to see you for a while, now. My name is Arabella.” She tapped her cane against the flagstones. “I apologize for the accommodations. The masters insisted that you be separated from everyone else.”

Plato stared blankly at the woman. Her words didn’t mean much of anything.

“I come with bad tidings, though… judging by the state of your person, you may take it as a blessing.” Arabella looked at Plato from amorphous head to amorphous toe, grimacing. “You look like hell. Can you take your original shape anymore?”

Plato shook his head, feeling his flat black skin sag in a dozen places.

“A pity. I thought you were quite adorable when they brought you in.” Arabella cleared her throat. “Enough banter. I have come here today to announce your sentence, as handed down by the masters of the Imperium. Plato the Platypus, I hereby - “

“Reaper,” Plato mumbled.

Arabella stopped. Then, taking a step forward, she stooped on her cane to listen. “Pardon?”

“Reaper,” Plato repeated, voice thick and quirky but otherwise understandable. “My… my teacher… named me… Plato the Reaper. Reaper. That’s… that’s my name.”

“Oh.” Arabella bowed, plainly confused why such a creature would earn so ominous a name. “Very well. Plato the Reaper, then. In any event, I hereby decree, on the authority of the masters of the Imperium, that you are to be executed for crimes against the republic. You will be held, and interrogated, until such a time as the masters of the Imperium no longer have a need for you. Do you understand?”

Plato thought he should be enraged. He didn’t have the power for it, though, and croaked “Sure.”

“Very well.” Arabella straightened, adjusting her robes. She pursed her lips. “I am sorry. I can tell this is an unjust sentencing. I didn’t want to bring you the news… not of my own volition, anyway… but the masters… insisted. I don’t know why. I’m… I’m truly sorry.”

“Whatever.” Plato’s wide, green eyes stared at the floor. “Can I be… alone, please?”

“Of course.”

The door to Plato’s cell slid shut. Once the sounds of Arabella’s footsteps disappeared into the distance, Plato began to cry. He cried for almost an hour, long after his tears had dried up and his face was wracked by dry, painful hiccups. It was not the end he would have imagined, and especially not the end he’d planned.

Somewhere far away, a dragon crashed through a wall.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-Five: The Interrogative

Plato screamed as a thin jolt of white-hot energy pulsed through his body. His limbs flopped and gyrated beneath his cuffs.

“State your name,” the interrogator said.

The pain continued. Plato’s scream did not end. He couldn’t force it to end, couldn’t even will his limbs to thin and slip out of the restraints. Regulator magic compelled him to endure.

“State your name,” the interrogator said, more forcefully.

Plato tried to speak. The current running up and down his spine, into his fingers and toes, through his head and bill, wouldn’t allow him to say a damned thing. He screamed, and screamed, and screamed.

“State your name,” the interrogator said. 

Eventually, Plato did. The plaintive quack was the closest to proper English that he’d ever gotten. Satisfied, the interrogator shut down the current. The rat curled on his head, too, seemed rather satisfied with the answer, its tail tucked neatly around its body.

“Good.” The interrogator folded his legs, jotting a few notes down on a piece of parchment with a quill. “Very good. The masters are pleased. When they are pleased, you will remain unharmed. Do you understand?”

Smoke rising from several spots on his body, Plato flopped out a nod. He was bolted into an uncomfortable iron chair, arms, legs, torso and neck held in place by thick metal bands. The room around him was dark, the only source of illumination a pair of candles on the interrogator’s side table. Despite the lack of light, Plato could see a thin, dark wire running from the man’s foot and into Plato’s chair.

“Excellent.” The man folded his fingers and sat forward. “My masters know what you are. You understand this?”

Coughing, Plato nodded. His fingers spasmed.

“And you know that they want answers from you?”

“Y… yes.” The word took a great deal of effort.

“Oh, tut, that vile language of yours.” The interrogator shook his head, and the rat atop it bristled. “We need to cure you of that habit.”

Magic coursed through Plato again. He screamed, straining so hard against his cuffs that his Non skin wrapped up and around them for a few seconds. This pulse of pain only lasted for ten seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

“Speak English or nod from now on,” the interrogator demanded. Plato noticed, despite his hazy sight, a pronounced quaver in the man’s hand as he wrote something down. “No quacking. No symbols. Do you understand?”

Plato nodded. He forced his eyes to close. Looking at the light of the candles hurt too much.

“Good. The will of the masters is all.” It was the interrogator’s turn to cough. Something wet hit Plato’s knee. “You are acquainted with the one known as Kierkegaard, correct? You went to school with him?”

Plato nodded. Fear overrode his pain for a moment, fear and memories.

“And, if our intelligence is correct, you were entrapped by him. Correct?”

Another nod, slow, tentative, horrible.

“According to our reports, he is the current leader of the Non.” The interrogator sat forward, putting his fingers under Plato’s melting bill and forcing him to look up. “We want to know everything there is to know about this Non. You will tell us of his powers.”

Plato thought of running through empty, endless halls, followed by phantom terrors. His only living companion mocked him from somewhere above and beyond, often leaving Plato alone for long, lonely years.

“Tell us,” the interrogator insisted. He forced Plato’s eyes open with his fingers, and when Plato looked, he saw that the man’s face was thin and stretched, as though deprived of water. “Tell us.

Plato tried. He knew the consequences of not speaking English. He also understood English perfectly fine. But when he opened his mouth -

- stupid little Plato, quacking the day away, what a fuckin’ freak -

- symbols and stutters came out.

The pain was exquisite. Not enough to kill, not nearly enough, but Plato suffered mightily for almost five minutes. By the end he was a horrifying wreck, skin sunken and sagging, churned into a mixture of deep black and runny grey-and-blue. Plato fought to sustain his normal shape, but his bill half collapsed into a runny mess on his neck.

The interrogator was in worse shape. He lay slumped on Plato’s lap, twitching. Through the chaos of his nose, Plato detected the fecal stench of death. 

The rat, shaking its head, jumped from body to desk. Its eyes glimmered, and a door nearby opened. Two guards entered and dragged the interrogator’s corpse away. A third man, dressed identically to the interrogator but looking much healthier, sat down. The rat settled on his head.

“Now,” the interrogator said, picking up the quill. “I believe you were telling us about Kierkegaard?”

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-Four: You belong to us

Plato shivered. He did not like the cold. He’d never particularly liked the cold. His cell was very cold.

“May I have a blanket?” he asked the guard.

The guard grunted, but otherwise did not reply.

“I said, may I have a blanket?” Plato urged sadness into his voice, not a difficult task.

The guard turned to look at him, eyes glowing white, pupils eclipsed. “Shuddup. Stop yer quackin’. Don’t speak freak.”

Plato rustled his chains as best he could, though his hands, bound to the walls, couldn’t move a whole lot. “Please… I’m so cold…”

The guard’s heavy frown grew heavier, and his brows narrowed beneath his helmet. “I just fuckin’ told you, I don’t speak freak. Ye deaf as well as a monster?”

Stopping his speech, Plato shivered violently while the guard was peering into his cell. Just to illustrate his point. Surely the man would understand, surely.

If the guard understood he didn’t show it. What he did do was pull a heavy set of keys from his pocket, open Plato’s cell, and punch the Non in the stomach eight times. Plato screamed out his pain, but the guard was relentless, gauntlets leaving deep impressions in Plato’s malleable gut.

“Freak, freak, freak,” the guard whispered when he’d finished, drool sliding down his chin. “They say yer a freak so yer a freak, freak. All for my masters. Now shut up.

The guard went back to his post. Held up by his chains, Plato drooped as comfortably as he could. His stomach, a blotchy black field of indents, slowly settled back to his usual clothes-covered paunch. Plato suspected that traitorous green blood was oozing out of his bill, but it hardly mattered now anyway. These people knew what he was.


Plato had never loved himself. He knew, almost from the moment of his birth, that his species was somehow wrong. The Non weren’t supposed to exist for some fundamental reason, some quirk of existence that Plato’s teachers understood but wouldn’t reveal, and on a sad, terrible level, Plato agreed with the regulators. The Non should be shoved back into captivity forever.

But at the same time, Plato abhorred captivity. He’d lived in a limbo for far too long to enjoy being penned up. His release from imprisonment… such joy! Such rapture! He didn’t like himself, but he didn’t want to lose the freedom that had, until a week ago, been his to enjoy.

A week ago the regulators had come. A week ago, riding atop a fleet of dragons, they’d surrounded Iko’s home and forced everyone inside into imprisonment. A week ago they’d separated Plato from the rest, putting him in a solitary dungeon with only a string of guards as company. A week ago they’d begun the process of beating Plato down, destroying his defences one-by-one with harsh words, poor, inadequate food, little water, uncomfortable accommodations, chains, and, yes, cold.

So cold.

Plato spat a glob of blood onto the ground, inspecting it with hazy eyes. It glowed a faint green. He hung his head, shivered, and went to sleep. Sleep was the only place where they could not get at him.

I wonder what happened to that rat. His final thought as he drifted off to sleep. I hope he’s okay. I liked that little fella.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-Three: Dragons can be lame too

Goranth the Dragon was two hundred and fifty-three years old. 

A rut-winged greenthompson approximately thirty feet long in his draconic form, Goranth weighed in as one of the runts of the dragon community. Under normal circumstances he enjoyed cruising the thermals near Rodentia, picking raspberries from raspberry bushes while disguised as a bipedal dog, and attempting to court orcish males. He did not transform himself while courting, and, thus, enjoyed remarkably little romantic success. Most dragons dismissed Goranth as a friendly, if odd, member of their brood, and he accepted that label willingly enough.

When the rats first appeared, surging up the Stalk of Rodentia in obscene numbers, Goranth had been on guard duty. Barrel’s orders. Consequently, he was the first dragon anywhere to fall victim to their mental charms. In a normal state of mind, Goranth might have worn this distinction as a dubious badge of honour.

A month after the abduction of the dragons, Goranth stood sentry on the edge of the desert, his stubby head relentlessly scanning the horizon for any signs of trouble. The regulators had decided, probably wisely, that he was not the fittest of the dragons. Goranth did not belong on the front lines of their war unless there was no alternative. They left him, accompanied by a dozen controlling rats, to watch over an abandoned Imperium outpost. 

The rats lounged and slept within the outpost’s decaying walls while the dragon watched. An inequitable situation, but Goranth didn’t mind. The moment the rats took command, he recognized - and yielded to - their authority. Life was easy when pressed beneath the thumb of a leader, especially a leader with such repressive charisma. ‘The rats are right,’ the voice told Goranth. ‘Listen to the rats. Obey the rats. Heed the rats.’ And so he did.

Or so he had, until the second voice entered his head.

Goranth liked to play guessing games while he guarded the outpost. The rats allowed him that much, giving his mind just enough free rein that his personality poked through their control. The game Goranth played was simple: Guess the next thing to come out of the desert. If Goranth guessed correctly, he gained a point. If he guessed incorrectly, he gained five years of unquestioned servitude to the rats. Goranth suspected the rats may have installed this rule in his brain, but he didn’t mind that, either. ‘The rats are right,’ after all.

Goranth had two points. He owed the rats three hundred and fifty-five years of servitude. 

A windmill, Goranth guessed, eyes narrowed to slits against the gleam of the receding sun. A balloon. Ten pygmies. A tumbleweed. Sand. Oh, I’m not sure which I should guess.

YOU SERVE US, the rats replied from somewhere in the outpost. The tight fingers of their dominance sank gently, but inextricably, into Goranth’s psyche. WE ARE RIGHT.

Oh, yes, no question, thought Goranth. But what is it? What will it be? I think it might be sand. What do you think, masters?


I think I will guess sand. That seems fair, doesn’t it? Ohhh, but it could be a fair orcish lad…


Yes, yes, of course. But… well… I’m not sure… could it be…?


Goranth blinked, at first not sure what had disturbed him. He snorted, and a thick plume of sand burst from his huge nostrils and floated away. Wh… what did you say, masters?

WE ARE RIGHT. DO NOT CONTRA I think a wormy’s a-comin’ YOU SERVE US.

Goranth snuffed more loudly. Stirring from his nest of dirt and dust in front of the outpost, he stretched his wings and peered back at the crumbling walls behind him. The grip of the rats commanded him to stare at the desert, and he obeyed… but he looked at the walls long enough to see one of the rats looking through the ramparts at him, its normally inscrutable expression oddly pinched.

DO NOT DARE DEFY US, WE ARE THE stoopid heads they is AND YOU WILL OB I still bet it’s a wormy, whaddya say? WHY DO YOU DEFY OUR STRENGTH, LESSER BEING?

The mixture of signals, one domineering and the other vaguely sarcastic, pricked at Goranth. He growled, irritated, and slapped his tail against the ground. Despite his diminutive size for a dragon the outpost quivered, and one of the western walls collapsed. The rats emerged in full force upon the ramparts, their tails locking together.


Goranth’s left eye twitched. He nodded. Yes. I serve you. I believe a wormy will come over the horizon next.








… yes?

Yay! I wins!

The rats were right. The wormy did not appear over the horizon. Instead it smashed up through the middle of the outpost, its titanic head splitting a small tower neatly in two. Stonework collapsed everywhere, and though the rats reached out for protection, ordering Goranth to shield their fragile bodies, all of them died as their wall buckled and fell inward. Goranth watched, too conflicted to move, the pressure of the regulator presence on his mind relaxing.

Wriggling its upper half to free itself of age-old masonry gone bad, the sand worm regarded Goranth. Its wan smile expanded, revealing a small, green square perched on its tongue. 

Oops. The square wiggled. I thinks I, diary, may have squashied ratties. Sorrow.

Goranth cocked his head. He moved in close to sniff the green square, noticing in the process that it was, in fact, a book. Are… are you saying these things?

The book smiled, dancing on the tips of four tiny feet. Flecks of worm spittle flicked onto Goranth’s nose.

Oh. Clearing his throat, Goranth bowed his head. Are… does that make you my new master…?

Danged skippy, yo, the book said. I’s make you mine army of two. Youse, wormy, my troops. We’s rescue Drags from ratties. Cap-eat-chay? 


Youse like him, the book whispered, feet flailing. He is pee self aaaaaaall the time. Might be bad reason for likes, but I, diary? Not picky.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-Two: Rough riding

“I’s no like drool.”

The diary attempted to communicate this to the sand worm. The sand worm, neither educated nor capable of reading anything riding in its mouth, didn’t seem to care.

Sighing a sigh that smelled of must and libraries, the diary lay back on the worm’s tongue and stared at the roof. It was, as with everything in the worm’s mouth, very, very dark. Dark as a cat of black, the diary thought. Dark as an ugly person’s ugly beard. Dark as Edders and his her its skin. Dark as… 

As… um…


New, current Drags.

That thought gave the diary pause. It had known, longer than most, that Drags was not ‘normal’. The diary could always see the smattering of green lines sliding through Drags’ skull and into his left eye. But ‘normal’ is relative, and the diary had seen enough strange things to more or less disregard ‘normal’. ‘Normal’ didn’t matter. Or, rather, ‘normal’ only mattered if ‘normal’ was a positive. Otherwise, you ignored ‘normal’. 

Or somethings. The diary scratched its cover with its tail. Too difficult thoughts for I, diary. Need simples. Simples! Stops hurting diary brain!

Yet simple, too, was elusive these days. Simple was a precious commodity hoarded by the past, prisoner to a jealous, happy age. Simple had died on Drags’ journey to invade the kingdom of the goblins, far too early in the diary’s life. Since then… oh, everything had been so complex…

The sand worm shifted abruptly, nearly spilling the diary down into its guts. The diary attempted to wail, but, again, the worm could not see its written cry. Precariously perched on the worm’s tongue, the diary sent a mental command for the worm to go a little more slowly. The worm obeyed, at least in part, by stopping dead.

“Where’s we?” wrote the diary. It punched the sand worm in the brain. Metaphorically. “Demands! Answer them! Speak to I, diary!”

The sand worm said nothing. Instead, after a thoughtful pause, it rose up and out of the sand. A thin shred of light cut across the diary’s cover as the worm’s mouth opened, and the diary peeked through the curtain of drool at the desert beyond.

The Dauphine, or what remained of the Dauphine, lay half-buried in an enormous bank of sand. The apparent victim of wind, grit, and some powerful hands, the Dauphine’s tunnel-like innards oozed great drifts of sifting yellow. A sizeable furrow in the ground hinted that the sand worm must have smacked its rounded nose against one of the remaining wheels, though neither the wheel nor its kin would be travelling any further. The diary could tell at once that the Dauphine must be abandoned, as Libbers would never allow her vehicle to get so dirty.

Jolting the sand worm into lowering its head, the diary hopped out and scuttled up the Dauphine’s boarding ramp for a quick look around. There was little to see inside save leftover supplies, most swallowed by the desert, and the occasional half-filled footprint. Even the kickster’s tree had gone to waste, its bark split and its branches bare and dead. Not a soul lived inside, and the diary gave up after half an hour and returned to the sand worm.

“I likesed that there places,” the diary wrote, climbing back onto the worm’s tongue. “Did you know, wormy? I, diary, by which I means I, likesed it much. Even if the beard kepts me all locked whilesomes I live there. Drags carried me thrus it enough to likesed it. Nice ven-ti-mi-la-tion. Ya?”

The sand worm didn’t reply as it dove back into the ground, arcing around the wreck of the Dauphine. It carried on to the east, wiping away a dozen of the deep footprints surrounding the transport’s corpse.

“Is no brokes,” the diary wrote. “Is no Libbers fault. This? This, says I, diary? This is work of ratties.”

The sand worm’s eyes flashed a deep, fearsome white.

“I’s must deal with ratties. I, diary.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day Seven-Forty-One: Drags, you jerkbottom

The diary slept for too long. By the time it woke up, everyone was gone.

The diary was a strange little creature. Born of prose, personality, and a pilfered jacket of rat skin, it did not neatly fall into any class of creature. The diary lived, but it did not eat; it slept, but it did not tire; it sighed, but it did not breathe. The diary existed as a part of the regulator collective, yet it lived apart from its kin, sometimes as a servant, but never as part of the whole. The diary didn’t give much thought to any of this, instead enjoying its life as an outlet for one man’s pains and pleasures.

That man was missing when the diary awoke. That fact miffed the diary more than a little, as it had spent so much time waiting for things to get back to normal. And just as they had? Poof! Gone. What a pain in the ass.

Wobbling off of its table and onto the floor with a loud thunk, the diary peered around the bedroom. It looked much the same as when the diary had last closed its eyes: opulently appointed, covered in silks, generally tidy. A heap of smelly rags lay in one corner, the only betrayal of the room’s otherwise clean nature. The diary recognized them as the castoffs of desert travellers.

Stretching its tiny feet, the diary tottered out of the bedroom, fell down the stairs - it had never learned how to climb down stairs, and falling was so much easier anyway - and landed painlessly in the living room. It expected a grand welcome, or at least a great deal of surprise.

It received neither. No one was home. Ingrateful fan-peoples, thought the diary, and it scribbled a few swear words in itself.

The irritation quickly turned to shock. Far from clean, the downstairs was a ragged mess. Books, cooking utensils, cookware, pottery, even furniture, all and more lay strewn about the home’s main floor. It looked as though a tornado had broken down the front door, gotten angry about one thing or another, and thrown a tantrum to end all tantrums. 

The diary wondered if the tornado might be willing to give it a lift to its master, but it dispelled the thought after a moment’s hesitation. Tornadoes are too ill-tempered to grant favours.

Skittering around the remains of a fallen wall, the diary poked its cover outside to scout the desert. A hot wind swept across its face, but the diary barely flinched. It scanned the hazy horizon, checking the property for any signs of life beyond the occasional buzzard. It was, by and large, disappointed - 

- until someone tapped it from above. It whirled around, startled, and promptly fell into a heap of sand, unbalanced and lacking in arms.

“Whoa!” The voice was deep, aged, and amused. “Sorry, there, little fella. Let me help you up.”

Tiny legs wiggling even harder, the diary struggled to right itself without aid, blindly aiming its kicks to knock the man’s fingers away. The resigned ‘Okay, okay’ that followed assured the diary of its victory, and after a few minutes of crazed wiggles it stood face-to-cover with the voice’s owner.

“Hi,” said Iko. He coughed, clearing his throat. “ Ack. Ahem. Sorry. Feeling better?”

The diary glared furiously at the old man. Iko looked like a lopsided mess, his beard and hair abruptly sheered in several spots. He wore a shabby, flat cap, and his baggy clothes looked utterly undignified compared to his old robes. Yet he smiled down at the diary as he cracked his neck, and eventually he settled down, cross-legged, into the sand.

“I suppose you don’t like me very much,” he said, tightly tucking his hands into his capacious sleeves. “That’s to be expected. I jailed you for a year. Many apologies.”

The diary kicked sand at Iko. He laughed.

“Yes, I deserve it. I’m a bastard.” The old man winked, and for a brief second his eyes changed colour - one pure white, the other Non green. “You’re just so full of spoilers. I didn’t want to ruin his trip. You understand?”

The diary kicked more sand, though less forcefully. It popped open to a blank page, and the words “Your face is much stupid” appeared on the parchment.

Iko laughed again. “Yep. That’s me. I won’t mess with you anymore, though. My part in this story’s done for now. I suppose you want to be returned to Dragomir?”

The diary perked at the mention of its master’s name. It nodded so vigorously that it tipped forward and fell face-first onto Iko’s foot. He helped it up, earning a vicious scowl from the diary.

“Yes, yes, you’re the most independent book I’ve ever met. You don’t need nobody, no how.” Iko rolled his eyes. “I’m afraid Dragomir is gone. He contracted a bad case of the dragons. They raided my poor little house and plucked up everyone inside. Doubtless they’ve made for an Imperium outpost, what with the rats riding on their heads and all.”

The diary winced. It had a good idea of what that meant. Though initially friendly to its semi-kin, the diary had learned long ago not to trust regulators. Not only because Dragomir said so on a regular basis, but because rats tended to look out for rats first and foremost. Throw dragons in the equation…

The diary turned away from Iko, wandering out into the sand. Curious, Iko followed it a short distance, watching it totter away from his oasis and off to the east. It made poor progress, collapsing constantly as its oversized face and undersized legs battled gravity.

“You aren’t going to get far,” Iko commented. “I can call you a ride, if you like. You deserve at least that much for all I’ve put you through.”

The diary stuck a two-dimensional tongue out at him, then it turned away again. It did, however, stop walking, and for a moment Iko thought he had won. Reaching deep inside himself, searching for the power that would allow him to summon wild beasts, he prepared to call out into the desert for aid - 

- but he was cut short. The ground began to rumble before Iko completed his spell, and he realized that it had been rumbling for some time, the vibration growing stronger and stronger with each footstep. He hadn’t noticed because, after living in the desert for over a hundred years, Iko had grown quite accustomed to the comings and goings of sand worms, so much so that he barely noticed their presence unless he was calling for one.

The sand worm burst out of the desert and reared high into the sky, its dopey face awash with glee. Thick streams of sand cascaded from its back, creating massive hills around its exit point and nearly burying the diary. Even so, Iko could see enough of the little book to finally notice the faint tendrils of white-and-green energy pulsing around its leather-bound body.

“Son of a bitch,” he mumbled, awed. “The little bastard learned a few things from me, I guess.”

The sand worm dipped, massive head eclipsing the diary, and gently picked the wriggling tome up in its mouth. Then, blinking against the brightness of the sun, the sand worm moved in close to peer at Iko. He didn’t move, having long ago learned that sand worms are generally harmless.

The diary faced him, held firmly in the worm’s gums, drawn eyebrows furrowed and defiant. It popped open, and a new message appeared on its pages: “If you comes nearsome Drags again, I make wormy sits on you.”

“Fair enough,” Iko mumbled.

The sand worm’s mouth closed. Performing an expert loop with its coiled body, it dove expertly back into the sand and burrowed away, towards the east. A gentle line of gritty yellow bumps announced its passage to the aboveground world. Iko watched it go until the bumps disappeared behind a massive sand dune in the far distance.

Eventually, someone tapped Iko on the shoulder. He didn’t turn. “What?”

“I heard noises,” Celine replied. She peeked around him. “What was that, Crap?”

Iko pursed his lips. He wasn’t sure if he should grin or grimace. “To be perfectly honest, my dear, I have no idea.”

“Oh.” She clucked her tongue. “Doesn’t that make you a terrible teacher? Not knowing something?”

“Quiet, you. I’ve been teaching since before your entire family line was born.”

She considered that. “Wow. You’re really old, then. I suppose I should call you ‘Old Crap’ instead. Or ‘Aged Crap’. Or ‘Wrinkly Crap’. Or - “

Iko clasped Celine gently by the arm and led her back to his house as she continued the insults, though he peered over his shoulder, imagining that he could still see the bumps of the sand marking the worm’s progress in the far distance.

That diary, he thought, may prove more useful than I ever would’ve imagined.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I'll just leave this here.

You'll find out what this means next year. 

Enjoy the final season of Dragomir's Diary, y'all. The story's back on next week. 'til then.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dragomir the Demon.

So as the up-to-date regulars have discovered by now, the third season of Dragomir's Diary revolved around a quest of self-discovery for our protagonist. He travelled the world, met a smarmy old bastard, and found out... that...


Needless to say, new readers, there are major spoilers ahead. I'll create a nice gap between here and the rest of this post before I start talking. Go no further if you want to learn about this stuff on your own. Ready?

Okay. If you're still reading this, it's your own fault.

According to the metadata, I drew this picture on August 13, 2012. The first season of Dragomir was either in the process of ending or had already ended. By then I more or less knew what Dragomir was, though I hadn't fully fleshed out all the details. (I apparently also still thought he'd be in his guard outfit when he got outed.) I hadn't even given the Non their name at this point, and the picture's name is 'dragdemon.jpg'.

When the story began, Dragomir was not a Non. He was just what he appeared to be: a luckless, bored peasant enlisted as a guard. The story, at first an homage to Dwarf Fortress, would have ended with Jeffrey's drilling team breaking through the earth, releasing a horde of demons from Hell, and getting themselves killed. Dragomir would've been on the front lines, because that tends to happen to your favourite folks when you play a game of Dwarf Fortress. They die horribly.

Obviously, things didn't turn out quite like that, and during the development of Mindless Walkabout I decided to convert Dragomir into a semi-Non copy of Traveller, partially because my first drawing of Traveller looked so much like Dragomir... just with brown hair. (As I mentioned in the comments, Traveller is a Metal Gear Solid joke in disguise. Clones? Different-coloured hair? Missing eyes? Yar har har.) Ever since then I've been trying to drop subtle hints as to Dragomir's actual lineage without being too obvious, and I think I was successful in not letting the rat out of the bag too early. Feel free to disagree.

Dragomir's true nature has long been of less interest to me than what he'd do when he'd discovered the truth. His decisions, more than his existence as a Non, will drive the story of season four forward. I'm as interested as anyone to see what he'll do, as my characters still occasionally surprise me even when I'm in the middle of writing a paragraph.

On Friday: A teaser that won't come into play for another year. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Season Four!

Howdy, folks. We've come a long way together, and Dragomir's Diary is almost done. There's only one season left to go, beginning next week. Hopefully it will jive with your expectations and provide a satisfactory conclusion to the story. Thanks a lot for joining me on this weird, silly, sometimes dark journey.

Season Four of Dragomir's Diary is going to be a little different.

- From now on, I'll only be posting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. A three-entry format will allow me to cut down on the 'filler' material that permeated the previous seasons. You can only bullshit so much detail five days a week before you start to run low. The new format will also allow me to expand on each entry, which, given the amount of stuff I have to cover in the final season, should be to the story's advantage.

- Dragomir's Diary is no longer first-person. I'm switching to a third-person narrative. (But don't worry, the diary will still be around.) This will allow me to hop from character to character more easily, though Dragomir will still get more screen time than anyone else. It'll also give me a chance to polish my descriptive writing.

- I'm going to make an effort to post the instalments at the same time each day. Unlike intelligent writers, I don't prepare my posts in advance. I copy and paste from a document and post right away. This has, especially of late, resulted in a weird posting schedule (4 am some days, 12 pm others, 4 or 5 pm yet others). I'd prefer this not happen, so I'll try to schedule my posts for roughly 12 am EDT. No more waiting through the day.

I have a crapload of loose ends that need to be tied, so this will be an interesting, fast-paced season. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I'm sure I'll enjoy writing it.

On Wednesday: an eeeeearly picture of Dragomir, transformed into a you-know-what. Stay tuned.