Friday, November 28, 2014

Day Seven-Hundred-Ninety: Reunion

“Hey, Blue.” Dragomir raised his hand in return. “You’ve looked better. Why the hell did you let that little nutball attach himself to your tummy?”

“Orders,” Blue grumbled. She launched another, precautionary kick at the zombies near her legs. “Always orders.”

I’ll show you orders, you fucking wretch,” Doc hissed from Blue’s belly. “GET US OUT OF THIS. FREAK? FREAK! JULY! DAMNABLE WITCH! YOU USELESS SACKS, YOU, YOU, YOU! ARGH!”

Dragomir cocked his head at the name ‘July’, but he waved it away. He’d spent the last week penned up in a massive settlement of zombies, his every move scrutinized and drooled over by the walking dead, and becoming absent-minded over unrelated matters in their presence was not a good idea. Even with a rat hiding under his hat, ready to display itself and its unearthly credentials at a moment’s notice.

“He was here, Dragomir,” Evangelina said, seething. She stepped off of her column raised earth as it slowly sank into the ground. Three tightly-wadded dirt clods floated behind her, and a squadron of sparrows seemed to follow her every move. “He was here. I don’t know where he is now, but he was.”

“Who?” Dragomir took a stab in the dark. “Your brother?”

Evangelina nodded. She pointed to Doc’s writhing head, then ran a finger across her neck. The sentiment was clear enough.

Dragomir sighed. Turning, he addressed his ‘aide’, a shambling horror of an attendant who’d been assigned to him by one of the clan leaders upon arrival. The zombie - he had no name - regarded Dragomir happily with one dangling eye, the pronounced hunch of his boney back giving Dragomir a case of the shudders.

“Get some zombies searchin’ for a three-headed… thing, I guess.” Dragomir scratched his chin. “One head’s really gruff, ‘nother’s kinda suave ’n has a goatee, the third is kinda mousey - “

“Actually, I think I… blew up the third one,” Evangelina added, her terrible tone dipping into mild regret for just a moment. “I got a bit pissed.”

“Oh.” Dragomir winced. So long, Bernard. You were always an asshole. “Uh, make that two heads. You can do that?”

The attendant nodded and began to shuffle away, but Evangelina, one eye still on Blue, waved him back. “Wait, wait. He’s… not the only one. I got really pissed, because, uh, I saw…”


Dragomir whirled back, angry. “SHUT THE FUCK UP! You’re not in a position… to… to…”

The world muted.

She stepped through the crowd of zombies with the predatory grace of a panther, the ridiculous top hat on her head and the parcel tucked under her arm not detracting from her aura of deadly competence one bit. The sea of zombies surrounding Blue parted instantly in her presence, a school of helpless fish fleeing from a shark, and her brilliant green eyes latched onto Dragomir’s with the force of two super magnets, forever attracted, forever bonded, no matter the distance.

Her mouth twitched. Otherwise, she was the same, the eternal, the silent, Eve.

Dragomir trembled. The tremor started at his toes, worked up through his calves and thighs, flooded into his belly, catapulted and split into his arms, and wormed up his neck and into his face. His brain shuddered with thoughts and possibilities, and a million stored-up images of a happy family life, conjured in moments of idleness and despair, blew away his plans, schemes, and deceptions. He was, for a moment, the same guard who would screw around on his shift, piss himself liberally, fear his wife, and yearn for his daughter.

Then the world fell back into place. The green eyes did it. They reminded him of who she really was. More, they reminded him of who he was, and Dragomir fought to keep his skin a pale pink. If he turned an oily black in this moment, everything he’d built would fall apart.

“Go find the three-headed thing,” Dragomir mumbled, taking a step away from his nameless attendant. 

“But the lovely woman said - “ the zombie rasped, arms creaking.


The attendant shied away instantly, scuttling off into the growing crowd of zombies at the fringe of the ruined marketplace.

The remaining zombie warriors moved away. Evangelina, at first stepping in Dragomir’s path, weaved aside when she saw the focus in his face. A clear path between father and daughter appeared, a line Dragomir had long hoped to draw himself, one so clear and so ridiculously easy that Dragomir wondered how he’d missed it for the last three years. He walked towards Eve, and Eve walked towards him, and Dragomir wondered, half-laughing, if she would stab him in the stomach when they met.

This is all I wanted, Dragomir realized, arms opening to embrace his daughter. This is all.

The moment nearly went to hell. Nearly.

Somewhere far in the rear of Dragomir’s consciousness, Titan Blue roared. Her arms spasmed and contorted, a thick web of purple veins abruptly spiderwebbing across her skin and forcing her joints into motion. She bellowed a protest, but Doc’s leering face made it obvious, too obvious, that she had no choice in the matter. Blue’s massive hands darted forward -

- and grabbed Eve. Blue’s fingers wrapped around Eve, yanking her off of the ground and holding her secure, five feet off the ground. Eve did not look one bit surprised, and her legs dangled uselessly in Blue’s iron grip.

“THAT’S… THAT’S THE FUCKING TICKET!” Doc yelled, triumphant. His voice sounded strained, and purple-and-green power seemed to ooze from the edges of his face. “You… you… let us… let us go… and if you… don’t… I will… will… crush… your bitch… of a daughter… fucking hybrids, always getting in my way…”

Had Blue grabbed any other son or daughter in the world, Dragomir might have panicked. He knew even Fynn might have some trouble with Titan Blue. In this case, though, his focus on his daughter broken, he simply shook his head. “Sorry, Blue. You’re in for a rough time.”

Doc frowned. It was the last Dragomir would ever see of the little demon.

Seeming to tire of dangling, Eve flexed. Her thin, well-muscled arms parted Blue’s fingers as easily as a knife parts butter, and Doc began to wail as Eve dropped into a crouch in front of him. Blue’s arms flew at Eve, trying to reclaim her, but she battered them aside with casual flicks of her hands. The purple veins on Blue’s skin ebbed in power, and Doc soon gave up, his puppet Non body slumped uselessly in front of a half-human a fraction of her size.

“You,” Eve began, wrapping an arm around Blue’s left leg, “bore me.”

Titan Blue, the largest Non Dragomir had ever seen, soared comically high into the sky and disappeared into a cluster of tents half a kilometre away. The epic shudder of her impact with the ground nearly put Dragomir on his butt, and he fought to remain standing. 

“That’s my girl,” he whispered, sniffing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day Seven-Eighty-Seven: Battle of the secondary characters

The roar of the smaller woman caught Blue by surprise. Not because she’d never heard it before, or because it was intimidating - the witch was maybe a twentieth her size - but because it was, somehow, behind her. This prompted Blue to peek over her rolling Non shoulder, because, even though the witch was clearly standing on a pillar of dirt in front of her, it wouldn’t do to get caught off guard.

There was, of course, nothing behind Blue. So when she turned back and got caught full in the face by an enormous clump of dirt, she could blame only herself for being so stupid.

The rumble of Blue’s body hitting the ground shook the entire zombie encampment, knocking over tents and upending undead for almost a kilometre. Despite the impact Blue was relatively unhurt, save for the sting of pain in her cheek, and she bounced back onto her feet with abrupt agility. She threw a quick punch at the witch, but it wasn’t quick enough to catch the woman before she vanished with a pop.

“YOU’RE TOO SLOW!” Doc howled from below, his anger a roiling pain in Blue’s gut. Her stomach had been a point of particular displeasure ever since surgery had bound the two together. “TOO FUCKING SLOW! MASH HER!

“I’m trying!” Blue insisted, shifting her weight to look for the witch. “Fuck… ow, my head… where’d she…?”

“You stole my brother,” an angry voice hissed from behind Blue. “Give him back.

Blue whipped around. The witch was not behind her. Something hit Blue in the back of the head, and she stumbled - but, anticipating the blow, she allowed her skin to loosen, then tighten abruptly. The projectile flew back the way it came, propelled doubly fast by elastic force.

“Nice try,” the witch said, this time from above Blue. “But not nice enough. Give him back.

“YOU CAN’T WIN!” Doc gibbered, teeth clicking in an impotent threat. “WE’LL FIND YOU AND, AH, WE’LL CRUSH YOU, AND… I WILL FEAST, OH YES, I WILL FEAST ON YOUR FUCKING BRAINS - “

“It seems to me that she’s the one doing all the work,” the witch commented, now from Blue’s feet. “You aren’t in the position to make threats. Give him back.

Blue did not look down, which, this time, proved to be the mistake. An eruption of dirt heaved up around her legs, catching her in place and sinking her almost five feet into the ground. She fought and kicked against the suction, but before she could free herself a squadron of small birds - Birds, fuck me, why is this fight so random? - launched itself at her head, its collective eyes blazing orange as it dive-bombed her cranium. Blue waved impotently at them, her arms too slow to catch a single feathery body.

"Shit," Blue muttered. She kicked against the dirt, making only a little headway in freeing herself. "Will you shut up down there? I'm trying to... ngh... work."


The witch popped into view atop the wreckage of one of the stalls. Her cape flapped almost casually in the breeze, and though she continued to look contemptuously at Doc's tiny head, her gaze was much more sympathetic when it regarded Blue.

"You need a new line of work," she said, grimacing. "I still hate your guts, but you need a new line of work."

Don't I know it, sister, Blue thought, but she kept it to herself. Doc didn't have much power, but he could make her stomach feel very painful indeed.


Freak did not come to the rescue. Instead, the disoriented zombies seemed to be making a comeback, the droll, market-going crowd replaced by a much sterner, tightly-knitted group of soldiers. Each was dressed in finery, of course, but the ragged armour placed under and around their doublets and jackets hinted at a warrior caste. They encircled Blue, each clutching a spear, their jaws salivating. Blue wondered if Non could be converted into zombies, and she shivered.

I don’t wanna be a zombie, she thought, knocking away a clump of dirt that rose too close to her left eye. I don’t even wanna be a soldier, for fuck’s sake. I wanna go home. Even if that home is a stupid star-filled abyss. Codespace was much better than this shit. At least in goddamned codespace I didn’t have to put up with stupid fucking - 


Yeah. Him.

Twisting free of the dirt, kicking away two zombies who’d poked her legs with their spears, Blue turned to face her newest aggressor. He was not a she, and so he was probably not the witch. Probably. Genders didn’t seem to matter much to witches.

Blue raised a hand. “Hey, Dragomir. What’s up? You look well.”

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day Seven-Eighty-Six: Freak No More

The last thing that went through Bernard’s brain - aside from a compacted clump of grass and dirt - was “Oh, mercy be, thank the gods f’this”. It was the only time Cedric shared a consciousness with his former subordinate, and it made him sad - but only a little - to know that his fellow Freak was, at long last, dead. Bernard’s horned helmet flew off into the sky, forever lost to the zombies.

Then another clump of dirt, smaller and looser, hit Cedric in the side of the face. Purplish-red blood sprayed from his mouth. His head did not explode, however, and Cedric found himself curiously okay with not dying. Though the dull pain erupting in his temple did a great deal to irritate him.

As a third of Freak slumped, suddenly bereft of control from Bernard’s mushy brain, the marketplace erupted into chaos. Somewhere nearby The Baron leaped beneath a stall, pulling his manacles out of Freak’s limp fingers and disappearing. Titan Blue, expanding abruptly to full height, ripped free of her bandaged disguise and unleashed a mighty swing of her right arm. Three carts flew into the air, now splinters of breaking wood and clumps of bedraggled goods. Doc screamed something unintelligible.

Cedric shook his head. Driscol, beside him, seemed to be doing the same. Bernard’s sudden disappearance had left them stunned.

“Shit,” Cedric grunted, slouching. He couldn’t quite reach out and take control of Bernard’s half of Freak, and the left claw and legs dipped dangerously low. “Agh… ah… yo, Dris, can you…?”

Driscol shuddered. “N… no… and here I thought I’d be happy… when he left…”

Shambling off to one side, Freak slumped against a stall, leaving a long streak of oozing purple blood on the wood. Bernard’s body shuddered, apparently wanting to unravel from the rest of Freak, and Cedric struggled to will it back into place. He didn’t like being Freak, but he didn’t want to fall apart, either. Between himself and Driscol they managed to keep the remains of Bernard’s body in place, though it was ponderous going.

The ground rumbled. Looking up with considerable effort, sweat pouring down his face, Cedric watched as a massive column of dirt rose out of the grass beneath Evangelina, putting her on almost-even ground with Titan Blue. The massive Non took one more swing, sending a huge group of zombies flying, and squared off against her opponent. A dozen more dirt clumps flew at Titan Blue, but the Non swatted them aside with relative ease.

“Your… sister, right…?” Cedric asked, panting.

“Yeah…” Driscol allowed himself a crooked smile. “Yeah. Fuck me, she’s… she’s gotten good. I was always… terrible… at manipulating soil…”

“You plain sucked at the whole magic thing period, kiddo. So disappointing…”

Cedric couldn’t bring himself to turn, but Driscol’s head whipped around. July was crouched next to them, dabbing at Bernard’s blood as she watched Evangelina scream something at Titan Blue. She was grinning so widely that the sewed scars on Grayson’s pale cheeks seemed ready to split open and join the fun. A zombie stumbled over beside her, shrieking, and she casually swiped its head from its body with a flash of orange energy.

“Guess she got her magic back when my old body bit the dust,” July commented, licking a dribble of red from her fingertips. “Ach, seals. So unpredictable, eh? Remember that lesson, m’boy? You sucked at seals, too, so’s I recall.”

Bitch,” Driscol hissed, though after Bernard’s decapitation the word seemed to lack enthusiasm. “You… you… you - “

“Me, me, me,” July confirmed. She cupped Driscol’s chin in one hand, smearing his crusty stubble with gore. “Your boss over there makes a lot of noise when he’s in trouble, doesn’t he?”

Cedric rolled his eyes. Beneath the sounds of combat - perhaps even eclipsing it at times - he could hear Doc shrieking for help. He could also feel the faint tugs of his master’s influence on his mind, but with Bernard gone the urge to assist Doc… to give up control… it almost didn’t seem to matter, anymore. The pain was so dull as to be laughable.

July seemed to see as much, and she chortled. “‘e’s tryin’ to get to you, isn’t he? To pull you in? No worries. He tried to do the same to me, as well, but it didn’t work. ’n now I think he’s too weak to force you two t’do anything. That’s what happens when you’re a fuckin’ head, I guess… which means I’d best be splittin’ from his little group, while the gettin’s good.”

Rising to her feet, July cracked her knuckles and pointed at both Cedric and Driscol, one finger per head. At first her hands were held tightly together, but as her eyes began to glow she pulled her arms apart, slowly, deliberately - 

- and Freak cracked in half as she moved. The tight, tentacular sinews binding Cedric and Driscol creaked and unravelled, seeming almost to scream deep in Cedric’s chest. Both men howled in sudden pain. They’d separated before, they knew how to do it, but this process… this seemed much more permanent, somehow. 

“D… Dris…” Cedric groaned, his furry arm grasping at Driscol’s chest as it pulled away.

“Ced… ric…” Driscol groaned back, head waggling, unable to remain upright. Bernard’s portion of Freak’s body sloughed away and slopped noisily to the ground.

It took a full minute for the last of the strands binding Cedric and Driscol together to snap completely. Cedric fell onto the grass, panting hard, vision hazing over. Driscol remained upright… but only for a few moments, apparently, because when Cedric got his eyesight back, Driscol was no longer sitting beside him. He realized, in a flush of pleasure and surprise sorrow, that Freak was now dead for good.

July still stood over Cedric, dusting her hands. Something large - a door, maybe? - stood vigil behind her for a brief second before disappearing. She nudged Cedric with her foot. “Good for you, too, big boy?”

Cedric raised a shaky middle finger at her. He was too exhausted to speak, though his energy seemed to rebounding slowly, filling his limbs with an odd sort of second wind.

“Tut. So vulgar.” July blew him a kiss. “Say goodbye to yer boss for me. Hope he gets his revenge on Libby, or whatever. Ain’t no big thing t’me.”

July turned and walked away, vanishing behind one of the only remaining stalls. Over the sounds of zombie screams, flying wood, and vengeful sisters, Cedric thought he heard the distinct ‘pop’ of air rushing in to fill a void.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Day Seven-Eighty-Five: His plans always suck

The plan did not go as planned.

When Doc caught sight of the airship, he was ecstatic. He’d never seen such a thing himself, but he’d heard of them in stories and songs from the old days, during the first great war between the regulators and the Non. Even as a child, trapped in a starry abyss, he’d found his father’s stories of the machines quite fascinating, and he’d hoped one day to see an airship of his own. Thus his childlike glee of the transport’s very existence forced him to concoct a plan around capturing it, even if fitting Titan Blue’s malleable bulk inside was a questionable endeavour.

His plan was simple enough: masquerade as zombies. Doc’s group had tried the disguise route before, even while employing bounty hunters, and they knew what it was to play dress-up. They also didn’t have to dress up much as usual, as their numbers greatly resembled zombies already - Freak with its scars and sewn-on heads, The Baron with his skeletal jaw, the blonde man with his stitched face. Titan Blue needed only don her usual wrap of bandages and they looked the part of zombies quite nicely. Eve silently resisted any attempts to dress her up, though once Freak managed to raid one of the clothing tents on the fringe of the zombie encampment she accepted a dapper top hat without comment.

The zombie encampment buzzed with activity. Thousands of undead mingled constantly with one another, clinking teacups filled with half-dead beetles and muddy water together while discussing the weather, politics, social niceties, and the consumption of brains. From what little The Baron managed to catch he concluded that the Non attacks on the Indy Plains had severely depleted the number of victims available to the zombies, though they took such losses in stride. They did not, after all, really need to eat people. It was simply a done thing under the proper circumstances.

The Baron also concluded, after a half hour of tiptoeing through the zombie camps, doing his best to hide his manacles under a ragged silk cloak, that he rather liked the zombies. He might have enjoyed being one. They truly enjoyed their afterlives.

The enormous zombie camp was, in truth, a conglomeration of some forty or fifty zombie clans. Where one camp ended the next began, and the clans happily mingled with one another without a hint of resentment towards differences or competition over hunting territory. The only way to tell the zombie clans apart was to observe their garments: the Monoculars, for example, wore monocles over their eye sockets, while the Phoenixians bore dyed-orange feathers in their ears. Some clans confused The Baron - the Edifiers differentiated themselves by swapping body parts with one another every five hours - and he wondered if metaphor played a part in naming.

The Baron could not figure out why the clans had come together, however, until he spotted a too-familiar face walking amongst the zombies. The face spotted him, too, and matters ballooned violently from there.

They were walking through what appeared to be a market when their cover was blown. Doc’s group had, to this point, managed to avoid much scrutiny thanks to their crude appearances and filched finery. The zombies took more interest in Eve than anyone else in the party, but her green eyes and fearless glare drove any salivating passers-by away. The Baron suspected she could dismember every zombie in the amalgamated camp with little trouble.

“Civilized folk,” the blonde man observed, poking at a neatly-heaped stack of rotting beef cutlets on sale, in the back of a dilapidated cart. “This is fine meat, it is. Or, er, was.”

“Shut it,” Doc hissed from beneath Titan Blue’s bandages. Despite shrinking her size to something more reasonable, Titan Blue still towered over everyone else. “We’re not here to shop. How far?”

Titan Blue shaded her eyes, peering over the tops of the ripped tents to the airship in the distance. “Maybe twenty minutes. Hard to tell with all these people in the way.”

“If I had my body I could make them mine,” Doc grumbled. “Fuck. Fuck it. Ah, let’s… let’s hurry. Hurry, you fools, before anyone asks - “

As if on cue, a portly zombie in a moth-eaten petticoat stepped in the group’s path, her boney fingers clicking ghoulishly against her hollowed cheeks. “My word! Beg pardon, but does your torso speak, my large friend? That is a true rarity! Do you have a gentleman stuck in your gullet? I would much appreciate knowing how you managed such a stylish feat without crushing his vocal chords!”

Stepping back a pace, Titan Blue looked around nervously. “Uh… it… comes… naturally…?”

“We don’t have time for this!” Doc barked, teeth so viciously bared that they poked out from beneath the bandages. “Out of my way, woman! I’m busy!”

“Well that’s rude,” the zombie declared, sniffing. A worm crawled out of her empty eye socket and waggled disapprovingly at Doc’s half-revealed face. “Really, now. You should be more forthcoming with style tips at a gathering such as this! They’re so rare, old chap! Oh, my living friend would love to see this, I think… where is she…”

Doc continued to growl complaints, ordering Titan Blue to force past the woman and keep walking. Only The Baron seemed to catch the one word in the zombie’s chatter which hinted at disaster, and the discovery was rendered moot moments later anyway when one of the stalls to the left of The Baron erupted, showering their group in a torrent of mouldy, questionable mouldy undergarments.

Once The Baron managed to slap an old pair of panties off of his face, he got a brief look at his attacker. Her glaring orange eyes told him all he needed to know. 

“You son of a bitch,” Evangelina snarled, cloak billowing in the chill autumn wind. “Give me my brother.

A few moments later, Bernard’s head exploded. The fight was on.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day Seven-Eighty-Four: Is that a metric fuckload or an imperial fuckload?

“That,” Cedric said, risking the wrath of his master, “is a fuckload of zombies.”

His dislike of his former captain’s potty mouth notwithstanding, The Baron was forced to agree. The row of ragged tents stretching from one end of the horizon to the other daunted the eye, decorating the gentle curves of the fields and hills like a diseased, withering banner. Worse yet, the zombies had decided to settle in the exact direction Doc and his band were trying to travel, as though they’d known they would have unannounced company and wanted to set out a few thousand dinner plates.

Luck isn’t with me, The Baron thought, though he was grinning beneath his cloak anyway. Eaten by a penguin or eaten by a limitless mob of the undead. Now I’m not sure which fate is worse. Maybe I should have stayed in my cell all those months ago…

Forcing Titan Blue into a crouch… and, eventually, onto her back, as he thought she was still too tall to hide… Doc heaved hissing epithets at the sky. Every swear word The Baron had ever heard, and a few he was certain Doc invented on the spot, flew from the tiny Non’s angry jaws. He swore viciously for ten minutes, countering any attempts to calm his rage with a fresh round of swear words. Eventually Titan Blue gave up trying to talk to the gibbering cyst on her torso, the blonde man settled down to pick at the grass, and Freak quietly talked amongst itself. Even Eve seemed to get bored, and she wandered a short distance away to stare at the zombies from a different angle.

Once Doc calmed himself - and ‘calm’ was still a sketchy description of his state of mind at best - he ordered Freak to bring The Baron over for a chat.

“We need to get past them,” Doc said, bluntly. “I want ideas.”

The Baron shrugged, waggling his useless fingers at Doc despite the pain.

Don’t give me that,” Doc hissed. His head twisted 180 degrees to leer at The Baron upside-down. “This is as much your problem as it is ours, cur. We, ah, we wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t, hadn’t, ah, hadn’t run the fuck away.

When The Baron refused to say anything, the black strands of connective tissue binding Doc to Titan Blue began to glow a fierce purple. A similar glow stood out around Freak’s three necks, and, no doubt ordered, it smacked The Baron in the back of the head. His vision faltered as his glasses flew from his face, and he collapsed to his knees with a pained grunt. His fingers useless, The Baron struggled to put his glasses back on as his stomach roiled in a combination of anger and general discomfort.

“Order her to attack them,” Doc commanded. “Her. Tell her to kill them.

“They’re… they’re already dead… I think…” The Baron choked out a laugh. Freak kicked him in the side, and his laugh turned into a harsh cough as he rolled onto his back.

Tell her,” Doc insisted again. “You may not be able to force her, but you’re the one she’s, ah, most likely to heed, yes? Yes? Tell her.

Not wishing to press his luck, The Baron slowly rose onto his elbows. He looked around at the assembled party, though it took his hazy eyes a few moments to locate his long-time travelling mate. The green glow of Eve’s eyes let The Baron know that she was watching him very closely indeed, though she hadn’t moved to help him.

“Eve,” The Baron rasped, feeling dizzy and weak. He realized he hadn’t eaten anything in over a week, a long time for even a Non. “Could you… maybe… do… something… about them…?”

Eve’s head swivelled towards the tents, then back to The Baron. “I can purge their kind from existence.”

Doc squealed, but The Baron wasn’t convinced. “Will you?”

Eve took longer to answer this time. Even without his glasses The Baron could tell that her wide eyes were moving from one person to another, lingering longest on the blonde man. The Baron wondered if they might have some sort of connection, wondered, perhaps, if the man’s resemblance to Dragomir was not so coincidental after all, but he didn’t get much further than that thought before Eve cut in. 

“I would rather rape your brains with a pike, old man.” She turned back to the tents.

The blonde man cackled, throwing tufts of grass into the air. All three of Freak’s heads let out chortles of varying laughter, though they all quieted when Doc expressed his fierce irritation with a flash of purple. The Baron couldn’t help but smile a little, despite his agony. The mental picture of her suggestion was… vivid, to say the least, and almost comedic. Morbid as hell, but comedic.

“It’ll take a good day to get past ‘em without raisin’ a stink,” the blonde man estimated. “Maybe two if you wanna be really careful. ’n that’s only if they decide not t’move in the meantime. Might be you’ll have to sit here ’til they decide to disperse. Wouldn’t that be right fun, eh?”

Doc flew into another tantrum, this more violent than the last. He invented more curses, these cruder and less clever than before. The tantrum was shorter, however, because one third of Freak noticed something that they’d all missed - and he had the poor sense to say something about it.

“Hey,” Bernard said, stretching a clawed hand to point towards the tents. “What’s that big balloon thing?”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day Seven-Eighty-Three: Whoopsie


The Baron clapped his manacled hands over his ears in a vain attempt to drown out Doc’s screeching voice. It didn’t work as well as he’d hoped, and the flop of his limp, pained fingers against his skull only reminded him of his injuries. They were an element of his already terrible life that he’d worked hard to ignore.

After two days of slow progress, Doc’s team of misfits had managed to carefully coax Eve out of the ashen remains of the valley. The Baron had awoken after the breaking of his fingers - all twenty of them - to find himself in a cliffside cave, staring out at a wildfire that licked dry brush and engulfed entire trees. He’d recognized the foliage at once, and he’d wept, despite Doc’s crazed demands that he shut up. Eve had remained in the forest almost the entire time, and when she’d finally found them in the superheated cave, boiling near to death in a far corner, she seemed utterly untouched by the fire.

“She’s a gem, that one,” the mystery man with the blonde hair commented. He reminded The Baron of Dragomir, but only a little. “Miracle of life. Fuzzy bastards make ‘em tough.”

Doc hadn’t been happy waiting for Eve, naturally - being a face plastered to the side of a peon hadn’t improved his disposition one bit - but he had waited, despite the dangers of the fire. The Baron suspected Kierkegaard had ordered Doc to retrieve her, as well, though as far as his mission parameters went Doc was unusually quiet. It nevertheless seemed a natural conclusion, given Eve’s power - and her importance to, say, attempts at world domination.

Once the fire had burned away, leaving a vast field of black-and-grey ash, Doc decided the terrain was stable enough to risk using a fast track. Using Titan Blue’s body to handle the tiny green orb, Doc initiated transport, and The Baron, along with everyone else, was whisked back to his former home.

At least, that’s where he expected to end up. Instead, though, as the mesmerizing effects of the fast track faded, The Baron realized that he was instead standing in an open field, presumably in the middle of nowhere. Freak stood on his left, holding The Baron’s manacles; Eve stood, unchained and apparently unconcerned, to his right.

The Baron grinned, despite the pain in his fingers. Oh, what a wonderful predicament this is.

Doc’s face wriggled and gnashed on Titan Blue’s midsection, shifting so much that his massive host squirmed in discontent. His green eyes blazed anger. “WHERE ARE WE, BLUE? WHERE THE FUCK ARE WE?”

The big Non shrugged. She’d been holding the fast track on the tip of one of her huge fingers, and it was fading fast. “Dunno. I guess you missed?”

“Guess… you… you guess… eh, ah, ha, ha ha ha… HA…” Doc snarled canine laughter. “You GUESS?! DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG WE’VE BEEN GONE? Kierkegaard… oh, Kierkegaard, he will… he… he will devour us, because… oh, oh, ah… because you missed…

“I’ve never used one before! And anyway, you were the one controlling me!” Titan Blue crossed her arms, casting an enormous shadow over Doc’s face. “You always insisted - “

“SHUT UP!” Doc barked, silencing Titan Blue. “Shut up shut up shut UP, we need… oh… we need to… oh… oh, god, we are fucked…”

The blonde man, stepping out from behind Titan Blue and looking a little queasy - The Baron realized at once that this must have been his first time using a fast track - cut Doc off. “Urp… don’t worry ‘bout it none. I… agh… I have an idea where ‘bouts we are.”

Doc tried to turn to face the man, but he had to yell instructions to Titan Blue to get the job done. “Speak up! Answer! Tell me! Give me information! NOW!

“You’re such a classy little creature.” Sighing, the man knelt and probed the browning grass at his feet. It took a moment before he found what he was looking for: a small plant with tiny, triangular leaves. “We’re not far from Goblinoster. What’s left of Goblinoster, anyway. I’d say… erm… a day and a half south. At most. Urp.”

Doc’s expression, already ferocious, grew positively frantic. “Gob… Gob… GoblinOSTER?! But… but we’re… we were… he told me to… to… to be back in a week, and… and - “

“… and it’ll take ‘bout three days to walk home from here. Maybe four,” the man concluded, smiling pleasantly. “Yep. Hope your leader ain’t hungry, Doc, ‘ol pal. He might gobble you right off Blue’s stomach for takin’ so long.”

Doc did not waste any time after this pronouncement. Moments later, they began to walk. For his part, constantly pushed along as he was by the vindictive Freak, The Baron hoped they would run into zombies and get eaten along the way. He knew they frequented these parts at this time of the year, and their civilized teeth were much preferable to whatever fate waited at the hands of Kierkegaard.

At least she still has my package, The Baron thought, casting a quick look back at Eve as she walked by herself. The package was tucked securely under one arm, and looked only a little singed by the time spent in the fire. It’s my only chance for forgiveness, however small.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day Seven-Eighty-Two: Freak Out

When the group of Non refugees approached The Baron about creating their own village, he’d gently rebuffed the idea for some time. It had seemed a foolish notion, as they risked discovery and execution at the hands of Kierkegaard, the grand dictator. The Non had followed him anyway, and, eventually, he’d given in.

When The Baron found the valley and determined it to be an excellent hiding place, he’d felt a faint sparkle of enthusiasm for the idea of a village. He suddenly understood how someone so low on the food chain as Dragomir could want to create a settlement of his own. The parallel in their two roles made The Baron feel a little closer to his former subordinate, and that made him glad.

When The Baron helped lay down the foundation of the first house in the village, a house the rest of the Non insisted be his, he’d enjoyed the pain of exertion. Despite wandering the world for a millennium he’d not engaged in intense physical labour that often, and the pain from hammering nails and sawing logs felt good on his flabby arms. For the first time, he loved the idea of a village.

And when The Baron felt the harsh pinch of bristling werewolf fur through his cloak, irritating the skin beneath, he knew that his village was finished. He grieved for his people before fretting for himself, and that, he realized, meant that his soul was not wholly beyond redemption. Though the thing pinning him to his chair and holding him aloft would argue otherwise.

“Dr… Driscol,” The Baron grunted, struggling to speak through an absence of breath. “I… ah… he sent… you… you guys…?”

“Sure did, boss,” Cedric said to The Baron’s right, his husky voice flat but satisfied. “Be happy he wants ya back. Or not. Take it either way. Doesn’t matter a fuck to us.”

The chair dropped, but Freak did not relinquish its grip on The Baron, and soon he was pressed hard into its grotesque form, dangling against two of the thing’s four legs. Driscol’s hot breath warmed the top of The Baron’s bald head, and The Baron wondered if the man hated him enough to try and gnaw through his skull. 

Eve watched, passively seated. Her expression didn’t crack once.

She saw him coming, The Baron thought. She must have. She was watching the rear of the cabin. She knew they’d come in while I was away… she watched them sneak up on my chair… and she didn’t say a damned thing.

“Stand up,” Bernard barked, though his voice trembled. “Or we rip ‘im apart.”

Eve remained seated, unflinching, eyes now on Bernard. She seldom blinked.

“Uh…” Bernard quavered, the temporary bravado in his country boy tone instantly breaking. “Please?”

“She doesn’t give a fuck ‘bout you, Bernard, so shut up,” Cedric said dryly. “Bet she’ll follow us all the same, though, if we try ’t leave. Ain’t that right, kid?”

No response. Eve’s eyes flicked to Cedric, but she didn’t move from her chair until Freak was slowly edging out of sight, towards the bedroom. So deprived of breath that he was virtually unable to speak, The Baron noticed with dulled anger that Freak had torn a hole in his bedroom wall to get into the cabin. 

No wonder it’s so cold in here, he thought, vision faltering. Or maybe that’s the lack of blood to my brain. It could be either. My god, I can’t even begin to use my powers…

Stepping noisily out into the leaves behind The Baron’s cabin, the man himself shuddering painfully in the thing’s grip, Freak weaved clumsily through the pines and back into the forest. The Baron wasn’t aware of any conversation in the meantime, but since his consciousness kept fading in and out, he realized he wasn’t the best judge of such things. Wondering how Freak had quietly ripped a hole in his home’s wall kept The Baron’s fading faculties preoccupied enough.

Eve followed, nimble, light, and almost soundless. She held a parcel, tucked tightly beneath one arm. 

A half hour later - or an hour, or two, or ten, or, hell, maybe a day, The Baron couldn’t really tell - Freak finally released its grip on The Baron. He spilled out onto the ground, gulping in lungfuls of air, head buzzing with pain. He coughed and gagged, vomiting up his dull breakfast at a pair of massive Non feet. Something above him tittered, amused, and he recognized the laugh well enough.

“H… h… hell… hello… Em… Em…” The Baron tried to choke out a strong greeting, but he couldn’t manage it.

The laughter rose, almost a shriek. “Kick him, Blue, kick him!”

The Baron tried to raise his head, but his vision was immediately eclipsed by rubbery force as something enormous booted him in the side. He knew it was a relatively gentle attack, given the Non’s mass, but he howled and rolled regardless, smacking hard into a half-buried, mossy log. The Baron clutched at his sides and his back, his rear arms stinging with the pain of the collision.

“Tie him up!” the tittering voice commanded. “And snap his fingers! So long as he can issue no commands, we are in no immediate danger! I want her peaceful on the trip back to clear ground!”

The Baron attempted to resist, but his body was wracked with too much pain. The sensation only intensified as, one by one, Freak broke each of his fingers. It was a slow, excruciating process, and he passed out after the third snap. 

By the time the first of the Non villagers awoke, called to consciousness by the faint screams of her elder, the forest surrounding the village was already on fire. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day Seven-Eighty-One: Mayor Numero Deux

“So, did you spot anything out of the ordinary?”

“Your eyes will boil in a pit of my raging spittle.”

“I suppose that’s a no. How did you pass the time?”

“I dreamed of bathing in your bloody guts, beneath a dripping, scarlet moon.”

“Lovely. What do you have planned for today?”

“Your death.”

“Fair enough.”

The Baron sighed. In the last three years he’d spent a great deal of time with Eve, and aside from the very occasional, cryptic bit of gibberish that made not a bit of sense, all he’d ever received from her was a string of horrifying death threats. Even though she’d been a third his size, the comments had chilled him when she was a child; now, after so many hours with the stoic woman at his side, The Baron took them as mere pleasantries. She would never act on anything she said.

So long as you keep her on her leash, old boy, he reminded himself, as he had almost every day since Eve’s conception. Muck that up and you’re done for.

The Baron walked back into his kitchen, Eve keeping pace behind him. He knew she was checking the cabin’s angles, scanning for signs of intrusion that he would almost certainly miss. She said nothing, however, and he took that as a good sign. Eve had saved his life a dozen times with her keen eyes and preternatural senses, though it always came at the cost of someone else’s existence. The girl loved to spill blood, that much was for certain.

Seating himself in a beaten chair covered in rough quilts, The Baron waved for Eve to have a seat. She remained steadfastly on her feet. The Baron tugged on the strings binding a part of his soul to her central nervous system; she quickly sat. Her glower reminded him of the thin ice he perpetually skated while in her presence.

“My god, it’s colder here now than it was before. I swear I feel a breeze.” The Baron tightened the blankets around his waist. “Winter’s coming. You must get a fierce chill, sleeping in the trees.”

“I will pierce your thighs with icicles and ram great heaps of snow down your fat throat.”

“Charming. Seriously, did you get any sleep last night?” The Baron eyed the faint outline of dark bags above her cheeks. “You look tired.”

“I will ravish your face with - “

The Baron tugged again, and his tiny doppelganger inside Eve tweaked her heart. She shut up and shook her head.

“Tisk. You’re allowed to sleep occasionally, you know.” The Baron wrapped a blanket around himself, shivering despite his cloak. “I know you can go a lot longer than the average human, being half Non, but even we can’t remain on our feet forever. It’s not healthy. I need you healthy to keep us safe out here.”

Eve said nothing in reply. Her eyes slid away from his face, fixating on something behind The Baron in the cabin. He knew the gesture as subtle rebellion, something he’d faced daily since Eve’s birth, and it irritated him.

“We don’t have to be like this, you know.” The Baron coughed. “If you cooperated, we… we could almost be friends. We’ve certainly spent enough time together to qualify for friendship.”

But The Baron knew that was a lie. He knew that Eve would never consider him anything less than loathsome. He’d used her since day one, since before day one, preventing her from forming any normal relationships with the rest of the world. It was The Baron’s own tweaking that had turned her into a supernatural monstrosity, one meant to lead her people as an example of sheer military might. In that, at least, she had succeeded.

I should have given her a personality, though, he thought as he looked at her, lingering on the silver-grey of her long braid. I should have let her be a little girl. I should have… I don’t know, maybe I should have treated her as a person, not a weapon. Then she could have been a leader, not just a general. Then, maybe, she wouldn’t have…

The Baron glanced down at his gloved hands. They weren’t the same ones he’d worn on the day he’d finally opened the door, but they looked so similar that he couldn’t help but imagine blood on them. Dragomir’s blood. He thought of the tied parcel in his bedroom, waiting to be delivered.

… hells. I’ve made so many mistakes. The Baron stared at his lap, tucking his hands beneath his blanket. You would think, with a thousand years of planning, that I might know what the hell I was doing. Instead I’m in the middle of a forest, wishing I could find a way to apologize to a girl who will never accept anything I have to say unless it’s in the form of an order.

“May blood spill like a waterfall between your shoulder blades,” Eve commented, face as cruelly neutral as ever.

The Baron shook his head, deciding for forego a proper segue from thought to speech. It’s not like Eve would call him on it anyway. “I should at least apologize for the way you talk. My god, if I’d been forced to travel with only you for company - “

The remainder of The Baron’s witty retort never made it out of his mouth. A pair of massive, hairy, clawed arms wrapped around his chair, grappling him hard into the wood. He huffed, the breath squeezed out of his lungs as an arm pinned his gut, and pain flooded into his joints as something pulled the entire chair off of the ground and hoisted it into the air.

“Apologize to her later,” a husky, refined voice hissed into The Baron’s ear, the tone so sharply familiar that the old man gasped. “I think we deserve some sympathy first.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Day Seven-Hundred-Eighty: Dat feeling

The Baron got out of bed that morning with the vague feeling that something was not quite right with the world.

It wasn’t a sensation he could define, exactly, and at first he chalked it up to a need to pee. The telltale burning wasn’t there, though, and after sleepily consulting his powers, he decided it was simply ‘a feeling’. He hated ‘feelings’, because they were vague, generally unhelpful, and, sometimes, dead wrong. Nevertheless, the sensation had woken him up, and that was irritating enough on its own.

Grunting under the weight of his body - he’d spent far too long in his human form to easily change back into a lithe, sinewy Non, and these days he seldom ever tried - he stepped gingerly out of bed. His joints popped and groaned as his feet slapped the floor of his two-room cabin, and he shivered, pulling his blanket around his shoulders. It took several long minutes of useless fumbling to locate his glasses, as they’d somehow wound up on the floor, and they couldn’t quite dispel the glaze on his eyes.

I’m too old for this, he thought, sneezing. I need a stone house again. This place isn’t near warm enough. Perhaps Hector could be persuaded to help me build a chimney…

Shuffling out of his tiny bedroom, The Baron made for the kitchen. It was small, like everything in the house, no more than a quarter of his living room. Using a spark of Non magic he kindled a fire beneath a battered kettle, and a few minutes later the water inside burbled loudly. While he waited The Baron munched on an old biscuit, bartered off of a trader a few weeks prior, and a fistful of greens. He watched the sun slowly rise through the trees outside his home, wincing as the rays pierced his crude front window and illuminated his glasses.

Maybe Iko was wise to move to the desert. The Baron sighed through his chewing, stopping only to curse as crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his blanket. I’m sure it’s cold at night, but the weather is constant. Here… here it’s always something different. Though I doubt I could persuade everyone to walk across the world and relocate in one of the harshest climates known to Non-kind. I would be a lunatic.

Nor was the small village of Non that The Baron had established a particularly inhospitable place. As far as settlements went, it was quite comfortable: two dozen cottages, a mill, a soon-to-be smith, a carpenter, and several small vegetable patches for growing food. Having spent many years alone on the road, The Baron knew just how unfriendly the open land could be, and he reminded himself not to take the little pleasures for granted.

Like biscuits, he thought, taking another bite. The kettle whistled behind him. And tea, for that matter. Musn’t forget tea. Oh, I wish I had some company to share it, though… I doubt anyone’s awake at this time, but…

Within ten minutes of finishing his tea, despite the creak in his bones and the nagging sensation of unease, The Baron had strapped on a pair of warm boots, donned his purple cloak, and left his home. He wrapped a scarf securely around his mouth, the clicking of his exposed jaws a blow to his vanity that he still didn’t want to share with the world too often. The world seemed to appreciate his sense of propriety.

That stupid brat. He ruined my so-so looks. The Baron gazed down the row of cottages, hoping to spot the other villagers but seeing no one. I should have kept him for my personal whipping boy, rather than handing him over to Emmett. At least that way I’d have someone to make me tea.

The Baron strode politely from one cabin to the next, peering casually through front windows and checking the porches for signs of life. Drying leaves crunched under his boots, and he hoped the sound might ‘accidentally’ rouse the villagers. His hopes were dashed in the end, however, and when he reached the final ramshackle cottage and found no one in the adjoining vegetable patch, he gave up on willing company. The rest of the village would not be awake for a few more hours.

Oh well. The Baron sighed. Guess I’d better go with unwilling. I need a status report anyway.

Bundling up more tightly against the slight - but brisk - breeze whipping between the houses, The Baron closed his eyes and raised his hands. His gloved fingers worked the air, twisting and turning in unnatural rhythms, and soon a pair of writhing lumps had risen on his back, matching the tuneless tune spun in his mind. He searched for the strings, the invisible, connective tissues of the world that only he could find -

- and, grasping at an impossibly-thin strand that one of his rear arms abruptly located, he suddenly knew where his guardian was located. He tugged gently, and she got the message.

Letting his hands drop, The Baron walked back towards his cabin. He knew he should get an early start - chop some wood, perhaps, or tend to the winterweed shoots that had only begun to pop out of the soil the previous day - but the relative warmth of his cottage proved much more attractive. The hint of a threat that had woken him yet lingered, as well, and The Baron always paid attention to his intuition. It had kept him alive for over a thousand years, even if it was, occasionally, wrong.

He didn’t make it halfway to his house before a lithe, well-muscled young woman vaulted silently over one of the houses and landed beside him. A splash of orange and gold autumnal glory flew up into The Baron’s face, and he spluttered, brushing the leaves away.

The young woman straightened, flipping her head so her long, rough braid fell to her back again. She planted her gauntleted arms on her hips and watched him recover, not offering to help him clean the leaves from his cloak. He didn’t expect as much, either - if not for the part of himself lingering inside her, The Baron suspected she would have gutted him a long time ago.

“Pffft… stop doing that…” The Baron slapped away one last leaf, glaring at his sudden companion. “I told you to stop doing that, Eve.”

Her brilliant green eyes narrowed, the only outward sign of her half-Non heritage, Eve shrugged. “I will engulf your future in darkness.”

Friday, November 7, 2014

Day Seven-Seventy-Nine: Freak Sneak

Driscol started to yell. Bernard didn’t know what was going on.

July started to laugh. Bernard still didn’t know what was going on.

Freak lurched into action, Bernard’s control over his right arm apparently overridden by Driscol’s rage. Bernard still didn’t know what was going on.

Then, abruptly, the familiar pain coursed through the remains of his tortured body, and Bernard caught up with current events. Pain he understood all too well.

Joined in body and spirit by their shared experience, Freak collapsed. It had been hunched over the fire, its clawed arms reaching out to throttle July, when Doc’s control blazed fiercely. Freak’s body went rigid, and it collapsed onto the fire. All three heads screamed horrid agony as the flames set its cloak ablaze and crisped its skin, but Doc’s enhancements protected Freak from anything beyond aesthetic harm.

I want m’sisters, Bernard thought, yowling. I want m’momma. I wanna go home ’n eat sandwiches ’n fuck around on the farm. I wanna wank ’t Ellie May in the next field over, bendin’ to scoop up toobers. I wanna be normal again. Why can’t somebody just kill me already?

Doc lingered behind Freak as it burned, smiling happily from Titan Blue’s enormous torso. Titan Blue reached to pull Freak from the fire, but Doc barked a negative, leaving Freak to suffer. The sizzle of crusted hair on Bernard’s side of the body hurt him the most, and he wished he could piss himself as the fire licked at his reddened eyeballs. But he couldn’t move, couldn’t flee, and so he simply waited for Doc’s lesson to end.

It took almost three minutes. By the time Titan Blue plucked Freak from the fire, Bernard had simply shut down. He didn’t return to sensible consciousness for almost half an hour, and by then, they were back on the road.

The valley, now filled with a dull light filtered through the thick bank of clouds overhead, was slowly widening into an honest-to-gods forest. The brush had intensified, thickening enough that Bernard’s wake-up call was a pine tree to the face. He squealed and complained, though he was at least happy to see that he was no longer on fire. (The poncho, burnt away by the flames, was no great loss to any of them.)

“Shut up,” Driscol hissed, nudging Bernard’s head with his own. “We need to keep quiet. We’re almost there.”

Tilting his dented helmet back into place - it had somehow slid over one of his eyes - Bernard looked around. There was no indication he could see that they’d arrived anywhere other than some random forest, filled with needle-covered trees and smeared with a liberal coating of sap. His thick, rubbery skin felt equal parts sticky and moist, and what little fur remained on his arm and legs felt even grimier than usual.

“Where we going?” he whispered back, trying to peer around Driscol’s head to see Cedric. He liked Cedric more. “Hey, cap, where we goin’?”

“You know where we’re goin’,” Cedric growled. “We have to grab the asshole. Be quiet ’n stop trying to move your own legs, you’re makin’ us stumble.”

As if on cue, Freak walked straight into a tree, guided by Bernard’s sudden thought of their forward momentum. The three heads cursed and argued, their four legs tangled, and it took them several minutes to extricate their Freak body from the needles. They didn’t dare pause to pluck the needles from their skin, however, each of them reasoning that Doc’s punishment for tardiness would hurt a hell of a lot more.

“He… he not with us?” Bernard gulped. “The, uh… you know… the guy. The master.”

“You see Titan Blue stumblin’ around in here with us, stupid?” Cedric shook his head. “‘course not. We have to get the drop on ‘im quietly. Elsewise she’s gonna rip us apart.”

All three fell silent. Bernard thought back to the few times that he’d watched her fight. He didn’t relish taking her on now, even if he was currently a hideous, three-headed man-beast with enhanced strength. No sir.

“How do we know we’re goin’ the right way?” Cedric eventually asked, hoping to change the subject ever so slightly.

“His bitch-face momma,” Cedric replied, head-butting Driscol. “She says there’s a village in here somewheres. Sensed it through her animal spies, or some shit. Maybe twenty houses. ‘bout as big as you’d expect.”

“Oh.” He turned to Driscol. “Is she right? You can do that stuff, too, can’tcha?”

“You know I can’t anymore,” Driscol grunted back. “Do you pay any attention?”

Bernard considered the question as another branch caromed off his helmet. He realized, perhaps for the first time, that he really hadn’t been paying much attention for the last two years. Hell, he hadn’t paid much attention while working at the castle. You missed out on a lot that way, but…

“I think I’m better off,” he admitted. “Lets me forget shit. Maybe forget that things used to be better. You know? Easier to be what I am that way.”

Bernard expected derisive reproach. Instead, Driscol thought it over… and hummed appreciatively. “That might be wise.”

It took twenty minutes of continued stumbling to break through the thick foliage, and the uneven terrain wreaked havoc on Freak’s shambling steps. By the time Freak reached the centre of the forest, it appeared to be a massive, hairy pincushion, and Bernard wondered if resembling a porcupine might raise their attractiveness level. Couldn’t hurt, at any rate… though the folks living in here weren’t the kind Bernard wanted to attract.

Seen enough of these assholes, he thought, relinquishing control of the body to Cedric and Driscol while he kept an eye on the thinning lines of trees. Never wanna fuck one. Even if they bent over right in front of me. I ain’t that desperate. Dunno if my pecker works anymore anyway. But yeah, they’ve done plenty. Not interested. Nope. None.

Somewhere above the tree line, just barely visible as the ground dipped into the centre of the valley, a plume of smoke curled out of an unseen chimney. Freak followed the signal, all three men wondering how they would react when they met their former comrade.

I’m gonna rip his lungs out, Cedric thought.

I will pitch him from a cliff, Driscol thought. And order roaches to crawl down his gullet.

I wanna ask him why, Bernard thought. ’n then maybe I’ll beg him to help.

Somehow, amazingly, the crunch of their collective feet did not wake the hidden village of Non in the centre of the valley. Only the village’s guardian noticed, hidden in one of the trees, and she was so disinterested in helping her wards that she didn’t say a word.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Day Seven-Seventy-Eight: The happiest family

Driscol and Evangelina were born in a magical hut, embedded in a cliff wall a half hour’s walk from the Imperium city of Largesse. Raised by their mother, the twins had never known their father. Driscol suspected he had no father, and that July’s pregnancy was the result of some twisted magic. He didn’t much care either way.

By age three, the twins had learned the rudiments of magic, forcing a pair of cockroaches to dance a small jig for their amusement. This pleased brother and sister alike - but when she’d seen their auras to be a brilliant orange, their mother punished them both. She never explained why.

By age six, June had secretly enrolled them in a local school, ensorcelling and seducing a teacher to sneak Driscol and Evangelina into classes for free. They were educated as aristocrats - yet every day they returned to the hut in the cliff, equal parts dank, dark, and permeated with evil magic. June seemed to think that they would change with age, but nothing the twins did ever satisfied their mother.

By age nine, June turned to small medical experiments, using her extreme knowledge of herbs and biology, to tamper with the twins. They ran away in the night, fleeing their mother’s crazed eyes and crazier fingers after drugging her with a sleeping potion.

By age twelve, June found them again. They’d ingratiated themselves into a position with an aristocratic family, working as servants to a pair of bratty children. For reasons neither twin quite understood, June murdered the noble children, then magically forced the household to believe that Driscol and Evangelina were the true inheritors of their estate. She disappeared shortly thereafter, still disappointed.

By age twenty-one, Driscol’s new parents died when a pair of pet snakes he’d charmed broke loose from his still-fledgling magical powers, slithered into their bedroom, and bit them. He and Evangelina jointly inherited the estate. Driscol never told his sister how her adoptive mother and father had died.

By age thirty, Driscol had become acquainted with a young man named Jeffrey. He also met an older man named The Baron. The two hated one another on sight, though for his part Driscol never quite understood his dislike of the bespectacled bureaucrat. It took many years more for Driscol to truly figure it out.

By age thirty-five, Driscol and Evangelina were living in a castle with no set name. They had a plan. The plan did not work.

Now, at age thirty-seven - possibly thirty-eight, as he no longer remembered his real birthday - Driscol was back with his mother. Only now his mother was a young man, a slight, blonde creature women might find attractive, if not for the horrible scar across his torso - and the perpetual, ugly sneer on the young man’s face.

“How ya feeling, buckaroo?” July leaned back on a rock, smiling. “Haven’t checked up on ya lately. Still piss your bed? You used to stink up the hut somethin’ fierce back in the day.”

Bernard chuckled thuggishly. Driscol rocked his head to one side, smacking his fellow Freak, ignoring the blossom of pain and the shriek of irritation. He liked head-butting Bernard. Bernard was an idiot. Cedric was, too, but at least he knew when to shut up.

“Never were good with the other kids.” July cackled. “The complaints I got from yer teachers. Tisk, tisk. Such a temper. Ach, remember that time you forced that one boy to eat a live salamander? I was so proud of your magic that day, let me tell you - “

“Shut up,” Driscol hissed, voice low. “I don’t have to put up with this from you.”

“Not so loud!” Bernard warned, casting a look over his shoulder. The tug of the motion on their shared stitches hurt. “Doc’ll hear ya, stupid! Be quieter!”

“You’re one to talk, you damnable loudmouth,” Driscol replied. He turned back to his ‘mother’. “Making you proud was never high on my wish list, by the way. I had other plans.”

“Oh, yes, and look how they’ve turned out.” Sweeping her hands to encompass all of Freak, July tittered. “A failed revolution, a botched escape, a horrifying death, bondage to one of the most annoying creatures in any world… yes, I’d say your plans have been top-notch quality, my boy. Top notch.”

“Must run in the family,” Cedric cut in huskily. “You don’t look like you’re doin’ much better, asshole. Can’t even keep track of your damned gender.”

July shrugged, inspecting herself. “It’s better ’n what I had. That old body was withered to shit. Should’ve ditched it ages ago, but, ah, sentimentality…”

Driscol shuddered. Living with his mother as long as he had, he’d quickly come to grasp, even as a child, that she was fundamentally insane. Her ambitions - whatever they were - led her to do and say things that would make even the most hardened criminals cringe. Yet her insanity was highly functional, and Driscol knew that July could easily be counted as one of the most dangerous people on the planet. The fact that she’d apparently lived for centuries, travelling from one body to the next, was evidence enough of the threat she posed. Yet even now, he still didn’t know what she wanted, and that frightened Driscol more than anything.

Perhaps sensing this line of thought, July jumped to her feet, rounded the burning fire between herself and Freak, and approached the remains of her son. She yanked his chin to one side, inspecting the long scar that ran down his face.

“This’s quite a wound,” she commented. “The Baron do that, or Doc?”

“Doc,” Driscol said, refusing to elaborate. The memory of Doc’s merciless surgeries had no place in the present.

“Quite a sicko,” July concluded. She slapped Driscol’s face lightly. “‘least you don’t have to shave anymore, eh? Hair follicles are dead? Must be convenient. I’ve had ta shave this brat’s mug a few times, now. Had ta go and inherit his parents’ fuzziness…”

Lingering in front of Freak’s hunched bulk, apparently unconcerned with the fact that Freak could rip her apart with its powerful claws, July inspected each of the faces. Cedric looked away; Driscol matched her gaze; Bernard put up a tough front, but ultimately cracked and groaned when she kissed his cheek. He said something about being “Gay, so gay,” but Driscol tuned him out. He’d put up with too much griping as Freak’s central head not to have learned how to ignore Bernard by now.

“Y’know,” July eventually continued, hopping lightly from one foot to another, “it occurs to me that you ’n him are related. Kinda.”

Driscol cocked an eyebrow. “What?”

July slapped her skinny chest. “Half brothers, I’d say. Sounds about right. Man, those rats… such randy buggers.”

Confused, Driscol forced composure. He had no idea what she was talking about. The body, he knew, belonged to Grayson, the first-born son of Dragomir. Driscol didn’t know exactly what had happened to Grayson, given his mother’s penchant for secrets, but she’d somehow ousted the young man’s soul and replaced it with her own… with some help from Doc’s surgical skills. 

July paused in front of Driscol again, pulling a mirror from one of her ragged pockets. She forced Driscol to turn his head to one side, then to the other, occasionally comparing her own face to his. She didn’t seem to find what she was looking for, though, and eventually gave up with a shrug.

“I don’t see ‘em,” she said over her shoulder, returning to her rock in front of the fire. “Not even a hint of whiskers. Though I guess if I’d seen a big, fuzzy rat face pokin’ outta my cooch, I might’ve set it on fire, y’know? Boy, Doc named you right. You really are a freak.”

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day Seven-Seventy-Seven: Quoth the Chimera

“This, this, this, is the greatest of indignities.”

They thought otherwise.

“This is ridicule at its peak! Its tip-top! Its apex! Its climax! Its… it is… ohhhh…”

They disagreed.

“We are far too important for this. We are worth more. We deserve more. I, I, I should have my claws buried in that thing’s stomach… dissecting him… not, not, not searching for some bastard traitors…”

They would have argued this point, but they could not. Their mouths were, metaphorically, sewn shut. 

Cedric sighed. It was the most potent form of discontent he could express without getting in trouble. Anything larger - a grunt, a yell, a verbalized complaint of even the slightest caliber - earned him a painful jolt and the loss of what little motor control he still possessed. He’d lost control often in the early days, while still learning his lessons, and consequently he’d been subjected to some rather horrendous punishments from his master.

Master, Cedric mused, lip curling. Little fuck ain’t no master of mine. Call ‘im a captor at best.

Something smacked Cedric’s left ear hard. He knew what it must be at once, as one of their legs was dragging a little. He clonked his head in the opposite direction. “Hey, wake up, dipshit.”

The head next to his, heavily-scarred yet still handsome and sinister, snorted and straightened at once. It shook a few times, then turned to glower. “I’m awake. Don’t tell me I’m not awake.”

“You’re usin’ my fuckin’ ear as a pillow again, Dris. You know I hate that.” Cedric sniffed. “Lean on Bernard. You never bug him.”

“He does so,” Bernard complained from the other side, whiney as ever. “All the time. I bet I get it worse ’n you, asshole.”

Cedric growled, but he didn’t bother with verbal retorts. He knew he couldn’t do anything to stifle Bernard. The three semi-corpses could separate, but they only did so when Doc relinquished mental control of his science experiment. Any attempts to maul Cedric’s former subordinate would get no further than raising Cedric’s hairy left arm a short distance past his waist.

The creature known as Freak bickered back and forth for a time, though quietly. They were plodding through a narrow valley, thick with browning foliage and falling leaves, their every mangled footstep crunching loudly. A sparse, ripped cloak lay across their misshapen shoulders, barely covering the spider web of glowing purple veins that pulsated under their ashen skin. Two years ago, the three men might have cared about the lack of clothing; after so long together, though, they didn’t give a shit anymore.

“Be quiet!” The voice, coming from the massive Non in the lead, was high-pitched and imperious. “We’re talking, Freak! Do you need a reminder that you keep quiet in my presence?!”

Three heads swivelled as one, immediately silenced. The bulk of the Non shifted, apparently satisfied, though Cedric knew Titan Blue was anything but satisfied with her condition. Being attached to Driscol and Bernard was bad enough; being joined to Doc would be absolutely terrible.

No doubt wriggling in impotent fury, merged as he was with Titan Blue’s torso, Doc continued his tirade. Cedric did his best to drown the little tyrant out, instead focusing on the sky. There wasn’t much to see, as dark cloud cover had eclipsed the early morning orange of the sun, threatening rain. Cedric tried to craft a poem from his surroundings, but they weren’t quite inspired enough to rouse his inner muse.

I need my quarters, he thought. I need my desk. I need my quill. I need my bed. I need my fuckin’ mutt. I need to sit down, for fuck’s sake. I need this shit to write. Maybe then I could stop churnin’ out drivel. Man, who thought I’d ever miss that shitty-ass job…

Cedric smiled a little, thinking of his former home. Yet, as ever, his memories soured almost immediately when he considered what had happened there - and how his body had been cherry-picked to create a monstrosity.

“I need some practice,” the Non said, caressing Cedric’s bloody torso as he died. “I’ve been cooped up far too long, yes? Aha, yes, practice…”

Cedric shuddered. He shut the memory away. He’d always been good at locking down shit he didn’t want to consider.

Eventually, Doc ordered a break. Despite not doing any work of his own, the tiny tyrant had apparently grown weary of the long walk to their destination. Freak gathered wood for a fire, the three heads arguing over which twigs were best suited to a dry, warm blaze, and soon Doc’s foraging party was seated around a modest, impromptu fire pit. Untouched by the cold, Freak sat furthest from the fire.

Carefully fed scraps of dried meat from a side satchel by Titan Blue’s enormous fingers, Doc snarled complaint after complaint while biting ferociously. He was nothing more than a face, now, a small but vocal blemish on Titan Blue’s otherwise smooth hide. Cedric swore that the Non’s griping visage sometimes moved, occasionally inching to the left or right, but Titan Blue was so large that it was difficult to tell.

“Bullshit, I say,” Doc rambled. “Bullshit! If I still had a body we wouldn’t be out here. I’d be, I’d, ah, I’d be knee-deep in that hybrid’s guts, I’d be finding the source, ah, yes… yes…”

“Of course ya would,” the final member of the party replied, voice cool and modulated. “But you don’t have a body. So it’s moot, innit?”

“It’s never moot to complain!” Doc declared, quavering. “It’s, it’s, it’s a pastime! A privilege afforded the truly intelligent, yes, intelligent! Don’t you understand that? I thought you were smart!

The man sighed. He stretched his wiry arms towards the fire, warming his fingers, content to not speak to Doc. The Non raved a few moments longer, but when no one would engage his complaints he ordered Titan Blue to move away from the fire, as it was now “too warm”. The lumbering giant rose from her awkward hunch, snapped a dozen branches overhead, and wandered off to find shelter away from the orange glow.

“That thing is a brat,” the man commented, to no one in particular. “I don’t know how you put up with ‘im for so long.”

“We didn’t have much choice,” Driscol answered, surprising Cedric. “Have you seen us lately?”

The man chuckled. Brushing his shoulder-length hair aside, he offered Freak a long, appraising look. The ugly slyness of his sneer angered Cedric, but the captain remained quiet. He knew any outburst would attract Doc’s attention, and that meant pain, pain for all of them.

“I suppose that’s true, kiddo,” July replied. “Ya look like shit. But we folk with dead bodies shouldn’t lob insults too casually, eh?”