Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Seventeen: The Day of All-Caps

“YOU,” Kierkegaard yelled from his side of the battlefield, “HAVE BALLS. I WILL GIVE YOU THAT.”

Dragomir bowed lightly. He was now entirely Non, his body an opaque oil slick that appeared to be on the wrong side of the fight. He was standing with his legs clasped tightly together, looking far more poised and controlled than the gangly man Kierkegaard remembered from his days in Castle HaHaWeGotYouChumps. 

“I’VE GOT MORE THAN THAT,” Dragomir replied. Reaching into a pocket, he pulled out a folded sheet of parchment. He unfolded it, smoothed it with one hand, and waved it at the Non. “CARE TO LET ME TALK, OR ARE WE JUST GONNA FIGHT ALL DAY?”

Kierkegaard waved a hand. He was honestly interested, and that surprised him. He enjoyed warfare just fine. It never really got old. Killing itself could be dull - he couldn’t count the number of human, orcish, and snake person soldiers he’d decapitated with his portals, for example - but warfare was usually fluid and exciting. He supposed a little speech from the opposite side could nevertheless be considered a form of warfare, and he would let it happen, even if it was a trap. He suspected he knew where Dragomir was going, and soon speeches wouldn’t matter a hell of a lot anyway.

“OKAY,” Dragomir began, voice echoing loudly enough that Kierkegaard assumed it reached just about everyone nearby. “THIS WAR - “

Someone from his side of the battle threw a rock at him and yelled something Kierkegaard couldn’t hear. The rock pinged off of Dragomir’s helmet, and he glared at the army behind him. Several more soldiers looked ready to do the same, but their commanders seemed to hold them back. Kierkegaard assumed they were one or two wrong words away from full-on rioting against Dragomir. He wasn’t their commanding officer, after all, and they had no obligation to listen to him.


Kierkegaard cackled at the hesitation. He knew just how angry that would make everyone else on the battlefield feel, and sure enough, more rocks came flying at Dragomir. Several soldiers from the Imperium tried to advance on him, spears and swords ready to strike, but he leaped nimbly away, onto the chunky barrel of one of the Imperium’s few remaining tanks. He balanced on the tip of the barrel effortlessly.


Kierkegaard narrowed his eyes. It was not a surprising declaration at all, at least in one sense. He knew Dragomir would try to convince his Non that he was the baddie from the start. He had not expected Dragomir to point the finger at two people, and started to wonder how much the man knew. Dipping into a portal briefly, Kierkegaard knocked on the tops of two of his nearby Nothings, and they began to rumble slowly towards the front lines, away from their original flanking positions.


Dragomir pointed at the werewolf that was tied up between the two armies. Everyone had looked away from the beats, but now all eyes shifted towards it, watching it writhe. Its movements, once ferocious, had suddenly become crazed and erratic, and its body spasmed as it flopped up and down on the ground. Its wide yellow eyes bulged in their sockets, and it chittered and laughed crazily… and its body parts began to dissolve and fall apart. Kierkegaard felt the Non on all sides of him tense up, and realized that he, too, was clenching his teeth, because the werewolf’s movements could only mean one thing.

“K… Kara…” the werewolf burbled, flopping and twitching as it died. “Kara… I… K… Kara… eeeeehehehehe…”

The werewolf wasn’t alone. Everywhere in the Non army, Emmett’s hybrids were undergoing massive organ failure as their master died. Their bodies, now bereft of a controlling consciousness, began to fall apart and die almost immediately in the most gruesome fashion imaginable. Kierkegaard himself had the pleasure of watching a burly, ochre-eyed rhino fall apart on the front lines, its heavily-armoured body collapsing by segments into a heap of yellow-grey. The Non near it jumped away in surprise and disgust as the beast reached out to them, either for help or for shock factor, Kierkegaard wasn’t sure.


“HE’S NOT LYING!” a third voice joined in.

Kierkegaard wheeled around. One of the titanous Non was stepping out into the small no-man’s land between the two tense armies, its body changing from a mass of grouped muscles to a plainer, but still enormous, form. The Non stood near the werewolf’s body, though not too close, as if fearful of what physical contact might mean. And sitting on her left shoulder - 


“AND I,” the figure on the Non’s shoulder yelled, his voice a hoarse quack that caught Kierkegaard completely off guard, “AM PLATO! I’M ONE OF YOU TOO! AND I CAN TELL YOU THAT THAT PENGUIN OVER THERE ONLY WANTS TO SEE ALL OF YOU DEAD!”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Sixteen: Coming Out

When Kierkegaard appeared inside the Imperium tank, sitting on the lap of the tank’s commander, he suspected the man might wet himself on the spot. He was therefore pleasantly surprised when the guy immediately tried to put a dagger through Kierkegaard’s face.

Creating a dimensional hole in the space an inch in front of his eyes, Kierkegaard dug his trident into the man’s ribs. The officer howled pain, pitching Kierkegaard off of his lap and onto the floor of the cramped control compartment. Kierkegaard was only on the ground for a moment, though, before he started to grow, pulling segments of himself out of codespace and growing so large that the bleeding man was rammed into his seat.

“Always wanted to try this,” Kierkegaard chortled to the commander. “Bet it’s gonna hurt. See ya on the other side, fuckwit.”

The Imperium tank exploded, raining bits of wood and metal down on the battlefield, and Kierkegaard’s enormous body lay in its place. He was curled up in a ball and bleeding in a dozen places, but the fierce grin on his beak hinted at a complete lack of concern. The soldiers near the tank dived for cover, and Kierkegaard swept his arms and legs out to catch them and knock them down. Three, four, possibly five more men died, and as the other tanks reoriented themselves to track this new, unexpected threat, Kierkegaard abruptly shrank himself and disappeared into a portal.

He reappeared among a cluster of Non troops, dropping dramatically to one knee. He tried to do it with a flourish, but in truth his body was damaged enough from the stunt that he felt like a good kneel. Better not do that shit again. I was right about that hurting bullshit.

The battle, so far as Kierkegaard could tell, was fairly routine. The Imperium were good at establishing defensive lines, even after losing so many of their troops in previous skirmishes, but they’d never managed to adopt different tactics for dealing with Kierkegaard’s troops. Given several more years of practice and re-organization that might change, but Kierkegaard had no intention of allowing the Imperium that much time. He would crush them soon, then move on to slaughtering the remaining cities, towns, and villages of the war-torn country.

What’s black and white and red all over? Kierkegaard peered at his troops. None of them seemed to want to look at him, giving their leader a respectable distance even in the midst of battle. He hardly needed their help anyway. Me, me, me, boys and girls, me, me -


The echoed, familiar voice caught Kierkegaard off guard, and his head shot up. His smile returned in full force, and he looked around greedily, scanning the Imperium’s battle lines in the near distance. It took him a few seconds of searching to spot the face of his old ‘friend’ among the grimy soldiers and battered artillery. He was standing atop the ruins of one of the tanks and carrying a conical object, dressed in his old uniform and wearing a spiky cap Kierkegaard recognized as the real deal at once, even from this distance. 

“THERE’S THE BIG MAN,” Kierkegaard screeched, pointing towards Dragomir. “BRING ME HIS GUTS, ME PALOS!”

The larger Non, already pinned down by artillery fire, fought on without much thought for Kierkegaard’s command - but he hadn’t been speaking to them anyway. A trio of werewolves erupted out of the Non front lines and dashed across the small no-man’s land separating the two forces, snarling and chittering as they bunched themselves up and prepared to hurtle at their target. Dragomir visibly braced himself, probably knowing that the soldiers around him wouldn’t be fast enough to save his life - 

- “WATCH THIS,” Dragomir insisted through his cylinder, voice floating around the battlefield -

- and, as the first werewolf came at him, Dragomir almost casually whipped it away. His arms became far longer than was possible for a human, and with Non-born speed he knocked the werewolf back at its two mates. Two hit the dirt; the third kept going. It got a little closer to Dragomir, but he again knocked it aside, and through sheer bad luck it flew into the path of an active cannon and exploded as a cannonball zipped into its forehead.

I wonder if he timed that, Kierkegaard mused. He was no longer smiling. This’s gotta be calculated. He’s never shown what he is before. What’s his game?

Kierkegaard wasn’t the only one to catch this spectacle. The Non lines had fallen conspicuously silent, and many of the Non who’d previously been rushing the Imperium pulled back, regardless of their orders, to stare at Dragomir. Even Emmett’s hybrids seemed suddenly uncertain, their mangled bodies put on pause for a few moments as they took in Dragomir’s odd, distended shape, with arms that were five, maybe six feet longer than they should have been, dangling down the front of the tank. He pointed one of them at the pair of werewolves scrambling to get to their feet, yelling something to the nearby Imperium troops, and a cluster of armoured men rushed the beasts, stabbed one to death, and wrapped the other in ropes.

The whole battle stopped to watch this. It was one of the odder moments in Kierkegaard’s life. His mouth was suddenly dry, but he let it all happen anyway, because he wasn’t often treated to interesting surprises.

Dragomir’s arms retracted to their normal length, but they looked faded, as though Dragomir had stepped into someone’s shadow. His pale pink skin dimmed to a charcoal shade, then pitch black. His clothes followed suit, though his helmet remained as shiny steel grey as ever atop Dragomir’s blackened head. A pair of green eyes glittered at Kierkegaard from across the battlefield, and Kierkegaard was surprised that Dragomir could focus on him. Everyone else, after all, was staring pointedly at Dragomir, and all of them looked confused, frightened, and possibly angry.

Well, well, well, Kierkegaard thought. I do believe I’ve just run into the showdown to end all showdowns. This oughta be fun.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Brief Hiatus

Dragomir is on a break for this week due to unforeseen circumstances. We'll be back on September 28. (Yes, it's almost done.)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Fifteen: Brother


“It’s been a long time.”

“Not long enough, Eva. Not long enough.”

Driscol charged.

Pulling all of her magic to her aid, Evangelina created a huge, grassy barrier in front of herself. It was almost not enough, and Driscol’s spiked arms, writhing grotesquely, ripped the dirt to shreds in moments. Evangelina catapulted herself almost twenty feet away, riding on a carpet of grass and landing smoothly on top of a hill, cloak billowing.

Brother and sister faced each other.

“That’s an uncharitable way to greet your sibling, I’d say,” Evangelina commented, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face. “Almost as though you don’t want to see me. I thought we had a better relationship than that.”

Stripped to the waist, covered in criss-crossing scars, ugly purple veins bulging into sickly, squirming arms that weren’t even close to resembling that of a human, Driscol shrugged. “What can I say. I’m slightly embarrassed. I belong in a grave, not on the battlefield.”

Evangelina brushed away a sudden tear. He was, of course, right. This encounter seemed more like a prolonged funeral than anything. “Maybe. I suppose you can’t help yourself?”

By way of response, Driscol charged again. The purple-grey flesh of his arms abruptly expanded, hurtling towards Evangelina at a breathtaking pace as a pair of deadly spikes. Evangelina called upon her magic again, batting both arms away with a pair of grassy spikes from the ground, but they seemed to snake around the obstructions, and one of the spikes cut through Evangelina’s left arm. She gasped and fell back - 

- but held on to enough presence of mind to trigger a column of dirt beneath Driscol. It sped upward, into his jaw, and sent him flying. His arms retracted so quickly that the air cracked.

Breathing hard, blood flowing freely from her wound, Evangelina rose to her feet. She clenched one hand to her arm to staunch the bleeding - My gods, it’s deep, it’s so deep, she thought - and gritted her teeth, watching as the mangled heap that was her brother shambled to his feet. Driscol looked like a nightmare from the neck down, but that face… that grim, dark, chiselled face…

Driscol grinned. “So what was the plan? Divide and conquer? We tried that ourselves. It didn’t work so well, as I recall.”

Evangelina winced. She caught the reference. “Well, this time we have Eve on our side rather than against, so I think it will turn out a little better. Besides, all I have to do now is stall for time.”

Driscol began to pace towards her, and Evangelina responded by back up the hill. She kept as much space between them as possible, but the cut in her shoulder was too deep, too painful, and she found herself staggering to maintain any sort of pace. Driscol’s face fell as he walked, his careful mask crumbling into deep, pained concern, but he couldn’t do anything to help it, not this time. Soon he was less than ten feet away, and his arms sharpened into lethal points again, prepared to kill.

“Stop stalling,” he insisted, gritting his dead teeth. “Finish me already. We know you can. You were always better at magic than I was. You don’t have much time left, so just get it over with.”

No,” Evangelina snapped back. 

“Twerp,” Driscol said, voice low. “You can’t save me.”

Evangelina drew upon the earth, summoning a huge clod of dirt up and around her as a shield, crafting as much armour as she could with as little time as she had. Driscol didn’t care, however, and with murderous zeal his body ripped into the dirt, bursting through as easily as a child pops a bubble. Evangelina tried to retreat into the ground itself, but she wasn’t quick enough, and her wound hurt too much, and soon her brother was pulling her bodily out of the soil, a third arm now growing out of his chest, holding Evangelina aloft by her throat.

Kill me,” he insisted, squeezing the life out of her, his face full of suffering. “Do it or you’re going to die.

Evangelina tried to swallow, but she couldn’t. Driscol’s grip was too tight, and by degrees it seemed to be getting tighter every second, the grotesque third arm crushing the air out of her lungs and drawing blood with its fetid fingernails. She clawed at Driscol’s chest, as though she could somehow disconnect the arm, but she wondered, dimly, if even that would be enough. The monstrosity of her brother’s body held no guarantees of letting up.

But she still couldn’t do it. “Y… you… you’re… you… l… let… ach…”

Evangelina’s eyes blurred, and her vision went dark. The last thing she saw was her brother’s unweeping face, frowning so intensely that she wanted to cry on his behalf.


“Well aren’t you just a spoiled twat.”

Evangelina looked up. Her mother was staring down at her, her wrinkled face full of all the disappointment and loathing she’d expressed so often during life. “Oh. You. I guess this means I’m dead, then?”

June shook her head. “Not yet. Give it a few seconds, though, and it’s bound to happen. What are you waiting for?”

Evangelina bit her lip. “They said if they kill his master he might go back to normal. I’m waiting on that.”

The older witch snorted. “‘Might’ go back to normal? Ye little fool. ‘Might’ is a poor thing to wish on. Surely as shit, if you wait for ‘might’, he ‘will’ kill you. Hell, I’d say it’s almost too late, now. Even if ye break free right this second, he’s crushed your windpipe. There’s no one ‘round to save a pathetic dog like yourself.”

Evangelina covered her face. She brushed her fingers across her neck, feeling the tightness in the skin, the slight gush of blood as inhuman fingers dug into her throat. “I… but we saved that other one, so… maybe… maybe, if we… if we just stalled long enough…”

“deice fir”

“Evangelina the Diplomat!”

Evangelina’s head snapped up. Her mother was gone, replaced by the strict, wizened face of a much better person. Even if he was a slave owner. “Oh. Hello. I never got to say goodbye to you. Or to thank you properly.”

Pagan shook his head. “I’m not here. This is you, convincing yourself to do the right thing. When have you ever waited for anything? You’ve always taken what you wanted. You’re not a waiter. Do what needs to be done.”

“But… but he’s…”

“Yes. He is.” Pagan smiled thinly through his beard. “All the more reason to end it, little girl. You can’t really save him, and you know it. You’ve known it for a long time.”

Evangelina hiccuped. She tried to sputter refusals, to argue the point as eloquently as she’d argued so many treaties, laws, and state policies over the years, but she couldn’t. This was not a trade commission, or a bureaucratic snafu, or a will, or anything other than what it was: her brother’s life. Her brother was already dead, he’d been dead for a long time, and she needed to throw the final spadeful of dirt onto his grave.

“deice fir i us”

“I don’t want to,” she protested.

“Then you doom him,” Pagan replied, voice flinty.

He was right. Of course he was right. Evangelina knew it. She’d known it from the moment she’d decided to fight Driscol personally. Hell, she’d known it long ago, when he’d burst into her jail cell in Pubton, armless and horrifying, asking that she support a man they’d both considered an enemy for months upon months. She couldn’t save her brother, and she’d always known it, and she was just waiting so she could do the job herself, because she couldn’t trust anyone else to do it properly.

“All I wonder,” Pagan muttered, eyes not unkind, “is why you’ve killed yourself in the process. It didn’t have to happen this way.” 

“deice fir i us deuce if iris uric edifies”

And as he said that final line Pagan transformed, his old eyes replaced by sharper lines, far younger, his aged armour shifting and changing into a familiar, boxy face. Evangelina gasped, but was not surprised, as her brother stood before her, restored, fully human, his face as healthy as it had been in his prime. He was smiling at her, but he was also crying, and she could tell he’d waited a long time to enjoy that honour again.

Evangelina had many reasons. But there was only one that really mattered to her. “We’re twins, stupid. Born together, we ought to go out the same way.”

“… cr… cruised… fi… fie…” Evangelina muttered, her final, strangled words. They were just barely enough, and her eyes blazed - but for the first time in her life, they blazed blue, not orange.

Driscol smiled, and as the world around them erupted, his body was, finally, purified.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Fourteen: Zizter

Everyone else handled the monsters.

Libby’s army, such as it was, appeared from nowhere. They were hidden beneath tufts of grass, behind trees growing out of the hills, under rocks, and anywhere else that cover could be had. They were goblins with crossbows, zombies with jagged swords and decaying fingers, soldiers with light armour and pallid faces, and all of them struck first, taking advantage of the sudden confusion created by Evangelina’s magic.

“I have something to deal with,” Evangelina muttered, and with a swipe of her hand she lifted into the air, buoyed by a sudden surge in the ground. “You handle the rest.”

Fynn threw Evangelina a surprised look. The plan had been to draw as many of Doc’s forces here as possible, to deal with the side effects of killing the mad doctor with a minimum exposure to the rest of the Non, and to work together. Fynn needed Evangelina to do that, or so he thought, and he raised a hand in protest… but Evangelina was already launching over a hill, followed closely by another figure, fired into the air in a similar fashion. Fynn suspected he knew exactly who it was.

Fynn looked down at his mother. She was panting hard, grasping her chest. Strong, yes, but not much use at the moment. Then he looked down at the sea of monsters below, a writhing cacophony of snarls and snaps and giggles and screams, facing off against a surprise attack as arrows flew at them from all directions and zombies waded in to fight.

How old am I again? Fynn shook his head. Seems like kids my age should be playing with toys and getting in trouble. At least I’ve got the second half of that down.

Stretching out with his magic, drawing on Julius for an extra boost of power, Fynn extended a series of bubbles over every one of his comrades in the vicinity. This was no easy task, as there were several hundred of them hiding in the hills, and the zombies blended in with their enemies a little too well, but Fynn did what he could. His arms shook slightly as the strain of bolstering the defences of so many people took hold, and he could feel every little smack against his shields draining at his reserves.

We have this, Julius assured him, the little spider’s voice a comforting warmth in Fynn’s mind. Relax. This isn’t the first time, and it’s not even the worst time.

I know, Fynn replied, shaking his head. But… they keep… tugging… at me…

Julius soothed Fynn with a projected smile. It looked absolutely bizarre, coming from a spider with no proper teeth to speak of. Ignore them. They’re not yours anymore. Focus on your friends. You’ll still get her.

It was hard, though. Fynn had spent months with his mind constantly attuned to the werewolves, poking them in the right directions, trying to convince them that they were making the proper decisions when attacking this target and avoiding that target. Even with the strange, befouling influence of Kara attached to their minds Fynn could still feel them, their pain and their fury, and the lingering bond between boy and pack made his concentration waver.

It also drew wanted attention, because as Fynn focused while parts of his mind and his magic tried to wander, a vast, lumpy head snapped to attention and stared right at him, up the ruined side of the hill. It saw him, knew him clearly as a threat, and roared a shrieking challenge at him. 

“There is is,” Fynn whispered, mostly to himself. “Here she comes.”

Antonia reared up and over the remains of the dirt wall Evangelina had created at the bottom of the hill, digging her enormous claws into the soil and pulling herself free of the pit of snarling, confused creatures caught in a crossfire of arrows and melee combatants. Her huge, misshapen hide was full of snapped arrows and deep, purple cuts, yet she seemed completely undeterred, and her wild yellow eyes fixed on Fynn as she scrambled up the side of the hill, rushing towards her target with lethal intent.

Libby, still gasping for breath, tried to rise to her feet. She was in the way. Fynn gently wrapped her into a bubble shield, watch her tired eyes snap open to the reality of the situation, smiled apologetically, and hurled his mother out of the combat zone. She slammed on the bubble as she careened through the air, mouthing words Fynn couldn’t hear. He hated to think it, but she would just get in the way. If he survived the fight he would be in for one hell of an argument when they got back on the Sky Bitch.

“You guys ready?” Fynn muttered over his shoulder. “She’s on her way, like we figured.”

The two figures hiding on the other side of the hill nodded. They rose to their knees, offered each other a shaky glance - though one of them was as inscrutably calm as ever - and tightened their fists.

Antonia leaped high into the air ten feet before she reached Fynn, claws grasping for him, foul, blackened teeth snapping for his flesh, and it took all of Fynn’s effort not to redirect his attention from the battle below. His forces needed their shields. Fynn gritted his teeth, closed his eyes, felt the rush of wind in his face, smelled the foul beast hurtling toward him, concentrated

- and took a deep breath as Antonia’s mad rush was abruptly redirected, when, swooping in from one side, Cedric body checked the werewolf and changed her trajectory. The pair slammed into the side of the hill, digging a deep furrow in the grass and dirt.

“Got ya, you fuckin’ bitch!” Cedric cried, his mangled face stretched wide in a feral grin. Undead muscles pumping, he slammed a fist into the side of Antonia’s head, and the werewolf cried out in almost girlish surprise. “Bite my fuckin’ manhood off, eh? We’ll see about that! We’ll just fuckin’ see!

Cedric was big and Cedric was strong, but Antonia was larger, and more lethal, and she was so driven by her primal impulses that the death of Doc in the distance made almost no difference to her urges whatsoever. Even as the Kara parasite in her brain shrieked out and began to wither Antonia fought on at full strength, howling as she dug her claws into Cedric’s right arm and slammed him into the ground. Cedric grunted, the wind knocked out of his lungs, his strength ebbing as the might of his former master’s enhancements abruptly waned. He tried to fight back, but Antonia threw him around like a rag doll, plunging her claws into him again and again.

They’d anticipated this. They’d virtually planned this, suspecting that Doc’s death might also affect Cedric. He was prepared to go down fighting, the way he’d always wanted. He was, after all, just a distraction.

“Hurry… the fuck…” Cedric grunted loudly, purple blood spraying from his mouth as Antonia raked her claws across his chest and into his abdomen. He almost bit his tongue off as she brought him down onto the ground with a thunderous crash. “Hu… hurry… the.. fuc… fuck… up…”

Slipping into the fray with quiet, coiled precision, Antonio waited for an opening. It came easily, because his sister was not thinking about defending herself anymore, she wasn’t thinking about anything, she was just a mad machine that would, eventually, break down and crumble on its own. But there was so much suffering, and so little of the orc Antonio had loved, and so when Antonia grabbed Cedric and raised him into the air, perhaps intent to rip him in half, Antonio sidestepped over to his sister and punched her, as hard as he could, right in the throat. 

His precision could not have been more masterful. Antonia’s eyes widened, and she swayed in place with Cedric held over her head, her frenzied assault nullified. She took a step back, then a step forward, dropping Cedric to one side as though he were no longer any concern of hers. The veins running through her ruined body bulged and slackened, the purple light in them fading away, and the ugly ochre in her eyes dissipated, leaving red-and-white orbs behind. She coughed, and coughed again, and her shaking arms went to her throat, as if scratching at it would somehow reopen her windpipe.

“I’m zorry, zizter,” Antonio said. He frowned deeply, and, stepping out of Antonia’s way, he offered her a small, polite bow. “Ve vill meet again in ze next life, ya?”

Antonio collapsed. Her body spasmed, and as Doc’s influence and the lycanthropy riddling her body both died off in tandem she began to change, her thick, mangled hair receding into her green skin. But the corpse left behind was hideous, an insult to the former boxer, and Antonio was the only one who refused to look away.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Thirteen: Snare

Libby ran for her life, and the beasts pursued.

She did not particularly like this plan, but she knew it would work. She knew how much Doc hated her for shoving him into a cannon and blowing away his body. She’d sincerely hoped that little stunt would be the last of the wretched psuedo-physician, but here she was, caught in his crosshairs again, running for her life. She was by far the best bait, and the bait had worked. Now she just needed to cover a little ground.

The moment when Dragomir transformed into her was one of the most surreal in her life. She coped, and somehow hid the fact that her husband could change his shape - not that it would matter much longer anyway - but it was surreal regardless.

Sprinting down the side of a steep hill, gravity and the fear of death carrying her at a speed she never could have imagined, Libby listened as the pack at her back closed in. It was massive, much larger than she’d even anticipated, and many of the creatures were gaining fast. She could tell by the frantic, heady rasp of their breathing in the distance, the snarls and snaps and, my god, the creepy little giggles. The giggles were the worst, and they were getting louder.

We don’t know what’ll happen, she’d said, back when this plan seemed intelligent. We need to get as many of them away from us as possible. For all we know they’ll fuckin’ blow up in our faces. Pull ‘em away and have people ready to take them down if we need.

So she was pulling them away. Step by step, breath by breath, she was pulling them away. But not nearly fast enough.

Huffing, her lungs screaming for her to Stop, you crazy bitch, Libby hit the bottom of the hill and continued sprinting as the land began to incline upward. She groaned, peering at the top of the hill, wondering just how much further she had to go before she found a friendly face waiting. She knew they were in hiding, knew there were probably people waiting all around her, but right now there was no one, no signs that she was anything but hopelessly alone. Her eyes burned as sweat trickled down from her brow, and she wiped furiously, only half succeeding in clearing her vision.

Despite promising herself that she wouldn’t, Libby took a quick look over her shoulder. A mass of mangled fur was cresting the top of the hill she’d just abandoned, resolving and separating into the ugliest herd of woodland critters she’d ever seen. The werewolves came first, jaws open and ravenous, but there were lions, too, and what looked like a cheetah, and several boars, and before Libby could catch any more of the details she turned away, because even her stout heart was beginning to falter, falter and burst from fright and exhaustion, and she knew that if she looked back again she was the stupidest woman on the planet. Given that she’d suggested and approved of this planet, perhaps she already was the stupidest.

Libby’s faltering footsteps and burning thighs carried her halfway up the hill, and her desperate sprint turned into a tired wobble. She’d done this five times already, up and down and up and down, and she was quickly losing ground. That got even worse when, during one of her gasping staggers, she snagged her foot on the root of a tree, growing out of the side of the hill.

Shrieking, Libby went face-first into the grass. The ground, cushioned by grass, nevertheless knocked her for a mighty loop, and she saw stars dancing before the blackness in her eyes. Pain blossomed liberally in her head, and she felt blood trickling down the side of her face. She cursed, heart racing, and tried to push herself to her feet, but she was too tired, too sore, and, she realized, too late.

The first of the werewolves reached the bottom of the hill, and as Libby, stupid Libby, turned to face the werewolf, she realized that it was the first werewolf, the biggest werewolf, the one she’d thought was a kangaroo for several years, because she had no other frame of reference. It was big, and nasty, and when it leaped at Libby, blotting out the sun, she raised one shaky arm to ward it off, she knew it was about as good as trying to fight an army with a stick. 

Stupid plan, she thought, pinching her eyes shut. See you soon, Grayson, you little fuck.

The werewolf did not land its deadly blow. It did not even land, not properly, because before it reached the apex of its jump an enormous, twining vine stretched out of the ground and smacked it aside. The werewolf howled and giggled as it smacked into the rampaging pack of creatures at its back, bowling over dozens of its fellows with its bloated purple-and-brown body. The rest of the pack surged past -

- but they, too, were rebuffed, as the bottom of the hill suddenly rose up in front of them, grass and dirt mixing to creature a natural wall. The creatures spilled into the pit this created, and the wall fell down upon them, snuffing out dozens of mutilated, suffering lives in seconds. The rest of the pack, suddenly wary but still giggling and burbling to itself, slowed down and backed off.

Libby opened her eyes. There was, she noticed at once, a faint, sparkling barrier stretched over her head, brown in colour but tinged with flecks of green. 

“Well, shit,” she spat, sitting up. “You sure took your damned time.”

Fynn stepped up beside his mother, helping her to her feet. His cheery tarantula familiar waved to her from his shoulder. Behind him was Evangelina, her eyes sparking a strong, dangerous orange, and she had her arms up as she manipulated more of the landscape, forming more barriers to keep the creatures back, more vines to whip them and occupy their fragile, crazed minds. But her gaze was focused on a single target, somewhere in the pack, and she gritted her teeth.

“Stupid bastard,” she murmured, a tear dripping out of one eye and down her cheek. “Why’d he have to go and get himself caught?”

Libby followed Evangelina’s gaze. Standing in the midst of Doc’s pets, his calm, upright posture a stark contrast to the panic around him, was Driscol. He smiled up at her… and his arms, raised, formed into fleshy, wicked spikes. He shrugged, and as the rest of Libby’s forces emerged from their hiding spots, the battle was on.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Twelve: Go for the head

A lot of things happened in a very short span of time.

A man, a man who looked very much looked like a pigtailed woman for a half a second, stepped out to meet Kierkegaard on the battlefield, disregarding his own safety. He began to talk, and many people on both sides of the fight listened.

Another man, propelled by a compulsion he could not control, raced out into the hills surrounding the battle to chase a woman he only tacitly recognized. An entire contingent of werewolves and hybridized creatures went with him, expecting an easy capture - and finding only slaughter.

On the fringe of the fight, a little girl in the form of a combat-hardened death machine cleaned her blade with her tongue. It was stained with the blood of one of her foes. Part of her abhorred this practice, but she couldn’t help it. She was programmed to be this way. She hated that.

Far away, a woman completed her final affairs. She knew she would be dying soon, dying with her son, and she was fine with that.

And at the centre of it all, outside a strange, wobbling, crawling, living tent, a soldier and a servant stepped up behind her commanding officer for the last time. He did not know she was there until it was far too late.

Blue had first met Doc in the void of codespace, shortly after their respective births. They were not brother and sister - Blue was loathe to consider Emmett even an acquaintance, let alone a family member - and he’d struck her as boorish, piggish, easily-distracted, and downright slimy. Even though they did not possess fully-corporeal forms in that inky blankness of the void, Blue divined a great deal about the man that would one day be her commanding officer.

When Blue was eventually assigned to Doc’s command, he did not remember her at all. She didn’t expect him to - her personality was far less bombastic, and therefore far less memorable - and it wasn’t as if it mattered anyway. He forgot her name for the first three months, consistently referring to her as ‘Titan’, her class of Non. She only managed to slip ‘Blue’ into his mind by attaching it to the class, hence ‘Titan Blue’.

She hated Doc. No, she loathed him. No, even that was not enough, there was probably no word for how little she liked the Non, because he’d made her watch and do things that were utterly abhorrent to any living being with even a shred of conscience. He’d stained her soul in profound ways that she’d never could have considered as a child. Her life would not be the same, having lived it in tandem with Doc for two years.

It was time to wipe away the stain. It was time to claim that house she’d always wanted.

Blue tapped Doc on the shoulder. He whirled around at once, the expression on his tiny face already irritated and dismissive, and he had two hands up to ward her away. His eyes widened, however, as Blue’s body began to change, shifting away from the hugely-muscular physique of most Non and settling back to the smoothly-lined blankness that she normally preferred. It wasn’t difficult for a Non to hide among her own kind.

“Oh,” Doc said. It was his last living word.

Grinning, Blue clapped her hands together, palms compacting Doc’s tiny head. It was a small target, an easy-to-miss target, but she’d dreamed of doing this very thing so many times that Blue couldn’t possibly have missed. She felt Doc’s head burst like a smashed grape against her fingers, and though the thought of brains on her palms filled Blue with a deep disgust, the incredible sense of satisfaction overrode the churning in her stomach. Doc’s chimeric body, still twitching, collapsed to the ground at Blue’s feet.

Blue wiped the remains of Doc’s head on the ground. No one seemed to have noticed her, or if they had, they didn’t like Doc enough to comment on his demise. Her job done, she crossed her arms, changed back into a non-distinct Titan again, and waited for the fireworks to begin.

The results were not immediately apparent, and Blue wondered if their hypothesis - that Doc’s death would bring so many of their troubles to a close - was, in fact, wrong. But then Doc’s tent began to sag, its fleshy folds losing their tenuous stability, and by the time the first gasping, pained burble floated out of the tent’s horrid interior, Blue knew they’d chosen correctly after all. 

She was only half right. Less than a minute after the tent fell to the ground, Doc’s minions went berserk.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Eleven: Divide...

As the battle raged, Doc hunted.

He was not one to enter the fray. He’d never really enjoyed large-scale conflicts, and when they broke out Doc preferred not to be on the front lines. He didn’t like to be anywhere near the lines, for that matter, but his lower rank and grudging devotion to the Non cause forced him to do what was necessary. There was also nowhere particularly safe he could put his tent during the fight in Rodentia, besides right in the middle of the Non, where it would be safe. So as he cast about, looking for Libby, he had to push past his own soldiers as they milled restlessly in the throes of action.

It was not difficult to find Libby. She kept appearing. But at the same time, she kept disappearing as well.

The first time Doc spotted her, she was standing behind one of the larger titan Non, staring up at the great beast with indulgent curiosity. The moment Doc yelled at her, however, she seemed to vanish, slipping behind the Non. Doc’s spindly legs carried him over to the Non - and then spotted Libby again some fifty feet away, standing amid a group of slimmer Non who weren’t paying her the least bit of attention. She smiled and crooked a finger, inviting Doc to follow.

Doc knew he shouldn’t. He knew it was a trap. This was stupid, and he was not. But rage - long unsatisfied, long denied, long festering - burst from his wicked heart, and he ignored logic. He followed, four arms raised and clasping, seeking to pick up his tormenter and tear her apart. She’d stolen his body and she would not get away with it.

Libby was almost caught once. Though she thought she was crafty, Doc was craftier. He knew she was driving him towards the edges of the battle - but he, too, was driving her, and when she reappeared between two clusters of Non, still smirking, she was three paces away from the enfolding, unnatural arms of Doc’s enforcer. Her smile vanished as two pulpy hands reached for her -

- but she slipped away, far too quickly, and said enforcer allowed himself a little smile.

Doc raged. He stabbed into the man’s mind, punishing him for his insolence, for daring to congratulate a foe, and the balding widow’s peak on the man’s forehead abruptly dipped as he doubled over in pain. Undead were immune to many types of damage, but Doc could still strike at the brain, oh yes, the precious, palpitating, ever-circulating organ that Doc had repurposed to serve as heart and mind both, simply because he could, because it was weird and strange and fun. He stabbed, and the man faltered, and when his head came back up it was with a submissive glare towards Doc.

Doc pointed. Libby was another forty feet away, in a clearing, near the edge of the Non vanguard. “GET HER YOU MORON!

The man tried. The man failed. His clumsy arms were not up to the task. Libby was too quick, and as Driscol lumbered after her - yes, Driscol, that was his name, although Doc preferred Freak, always Freak, even if he was only one third of that once-glorious whole - she slipped away, displaying a grace and speed most humans did not possess, should not possess. She seemed to slide into the shadow of a larger Non and vanish -

- and, a hundred feet away, clear of the battle, she stepped out from behind a tree and raised a middle finger in Doc’s direction. Then, turning, she sprinted off towards a hill.

Doc looked around. He was surrounded by his comrades here. He had no problems with safety. Even if the Imperium to the west suddenly started to break through, or if Dragomir and his band suddenly appeared from nowhere and assaulted the Non’s left flank, Doc would have plenty of time to return to the safety of his tent. He was secure here, and there was no reason to change that. None whatsoever.

Somewhere in the distance, between the Imperium and the Non, someone called out for a halt in hostilities. But Doc did not hear, and if he’d heard he would not have cared.

Determined to remain safe, ever safe, Doc called. He pulled on his puppets with his mind, calling a third of his beasts to his side, praising and beckoning Kara. They scrambled out of the battle lines to enthusiastically greet him, their wicked little smiles soothing to his mind as they curled up around his feet and licked at his innumerable legs, ever praising their father. Yes, he was their father, and he would make sure everything was all right for them.

The last of their number was also the greatest: a massive, shambling werewolf, with a huge hump for a back. Doc stroked her chin briefly, then pointed into the hills where Libby had disappeared. “Hunt. Bring her to me. Get her.” 

The gophers, the squirrels, the bears, the werewolves, the oozing masses, they surged forward at Doc’s decree, rushing out of the fray and into the hills on the edge of the battlefield. Doc watched them, grinning triumphantly, secure in the knowledge that he’d not only saved himself from danger, but he’d captured his prey. Everything was going to be just fine.

Just. Fine.

He was so secure in his win that Doc did not notice the large Non stepping up behind him.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Ten: YOU

They made first contact on the plains of Rodentia, twelve miles from the edges of the ruined capital. 

The Non were making a strong push against the forces of the Imperium. Backed up against the rubble of their once-mighty throne of power, the Imperium’s soldiers had formed a long line of their remaining tanks, sky platforms, mobile carriers, and soldiers, creating what they obviously hoped was enough of a defence to hold the Non back. Cannons roared, spears rose into the air, and footmen swallowed, fearing this battle might be their last.

The Nothings came at them first. The Imperium’s cannons, for all their might and sparkle, could do no discernible to the massive orbs of liquid and malice. Their screaming harpoons tore the defensive lines apart, ripping an enormous gash in the Imperium’s defences. Then, thrust forward as a massive spearhead, Kierkegaard’s Non, werewolves, and hybridized animals rushed in, dividing the Imperium in twain. From that point on it was just a matter of time before the Imperium split - and crumbled.

The first of the Sky Bitch’s cannons rumbled to life shortly after the division of the Imperium’s forces. Had Dragomir taken any longer to get his army into place, they might have been too late.

The Sky Bitch, now equipped with a full, experienced crew again, chose its targets carefully. It demolished hybrid animal after hybrid animal, targeting rhinos, lions, elephants, and plenty else, all tainted by Doc’s foul handiwork. Creatures exploded everywhere, forcing the Non at the rear to reverse course - and find themselves staring at an army full of rotting zombies. The zombies rushed forward, and the Non did the same, both sides moving at a somewhat bedraggled pace.

Plenty of zombies were torn apart. Plenty more moved into their place. The Non were, steadily, forced backward, and their once-cohesive line was split in half, despite still standing side-by-side, one confidently staring down the Imperium, the other surprised from the rear. Yet not a single Non was killed by Dragomir’s forces - injured, yes, and often incapacitated - but none of them died. Death was not on the agenda for the Non.

Not all of them, anyway.

Doc’s tent bobbed precariously in the midst of the carnage, and its sharp-toothed occupant watched from the shadows, safely tucked away in the fleshy confines of his laboratory. He knew his was perhaps the largest target in Kierkegaard’s army, but it was also the safest place to be, as the flesh could repel just about any cannonball at this range - and besides, it wasn’t doing anything.

Doc was fine with that. He was perfectly fine with that. Especially since he was given ample opportunities to join in the fun via his pets. He could feel them, thousands of little dots battling away in his mind, each controlled by a whim to please him. And, oh, yes, little ones, little pets, little Karas, Doc was very pleased indeed.

Turning away from the battle for a moment, Doc steepled his fingers and retreated into the darkened confines of the tent. The sounds of combat were suddenly muffled, drowned out by Doc’s will that they should be drowned out, because he had something else to attend to at the moment, something more important than watching two sides pound endlessly away at one another. Something that was scientific, and, therefore, much more interesting in the long run.

That something was a body. An unconscious, limp, oil black, skinny, trapped body, clamped into a fleshy operating table in the middle of Doc’s tent. Doc wasn’t sure of the Non’s name - perhaps it started with an S? - and he supposed it didn’t really matter. The Non was soon going to be another Kara, if Doc had anything to say about it. Oh yes.

Skittering over to the table on hundreds of tiny legs, Doc leered over the Non, hands reaching into folds at his sides for surgical implements. Scissors. Scalpel. Tongs. Hatchet. Hammer. Test tube. All the necessary stuff to rip into flesh, pry past bone, and take samples. He needed samples, he wanted samples, because his precious Kara just couldn’t infect the Non, and he needed to know why. He needed to know soon, because unrest was growing, and if he wanted his own army, his own compliant mass of murderous, happy fiends, he had to act quickly.

He wanted to infect Kierkegaard. He was eager to infect Kierkegaard. The puny penguin had underestimated Doc for far too long, and Doc would make him pay for that. They would all pay for that.

Giggling, Doc laid the blade of his scalpel against the Non’s skin. A thin trickle of blood slid out of the shallow wound like a teardrop. Warmth blossomed in Doc’s heart as he watched it meander down the Non’s chest. Yes, this part was always the best part.

The flap of the tent opened.

Doc paused. His scalpel drooped. The flap of the tent had been so slight as to be almost imperceptible - but Doc felt everything that was necessary to be felt by the tent. It was a part of him, in all ways but pain, and so he never missed an entry. Someone was in the tent, and it was someone who was not meant to be there, because anyone else would not have been stupid enough to come in.

Staring briefly at the line of Non piled at the side of the room - they were all failures, all dead and all failures - Doc turned to look at his guest.

She was a short woman, but Doc’s standards, short and pale and pink, but with thick forearms and a stout build. Her nose wrinkled in disgust - yes, the tent was smelly - and her dark ponytail swished in the breeze from the outside world. There were gloves on her hands, familiar gloves, and her eyes were narrowed, and humourously humourless, and the expression on her face was one of utter contempt, as though she’d just caught sight of a bug, a mere bug, and, of course, she was watching Doc, which, combined with that damnable expression, was enough to drive Doc to an instant, uncontrollable, insatiable RAGE.

“Hi,” the woman said, waving briefly. “Thought I killed you. I’ll have to do better this time.”

Roaring, Doc ordered the tent to slap shut behind the woman. He was too late, however, and she’d already stepped back through the flap and out of the tent, disappearing into the battle. And Doc, all other priorities forgotten, all past indignities remembered, called out for his enforcers with his mind.

“YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, LIBERTINE,” Doc promised aloud, his shrill voice screechy and breaking. “YOU’LL FUCKING WISH I’D STUFFED YOU INTO A CANNON WHEN I’M DONE WITH YOU!”

Friday, September 4, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Eight: The Package

It took three weeks of waiting before the chance to strike came.

Logan eventually agreed to Dragomir’s plan, and Blue, too, was on board - though it took some coaxing to convince her to go back. Dragomir supposed that she needed the backing of an entire army to persuade her people that they were following the wrong person. The rest of Dragomir’s hodge-podge alliance needed less convincing, as everyone was pretty damned tired of the war. Still, they needed for Kierkegaard’s army to stop moving, and that moment came after a sizeable encounter with the Imperium on the outskirts of the still-smouldering remains of Rodentia.

The news came to Dragomir not as he’d expected it - a messenger bursting into his room, brimming with excitement - but as a quiet note, passed to him by Evangelina in the middle of a meeting. He used it as an excuse to leave, as he’d wanted to take off anyway. The urge to cough up blood was strong, and he didn’t want to show it in front of the commanders of his rag-tag army. The chief of the zombies at the very least would think him a wuss for wanting to politely cough up his lungs in private.

Now, feeling much relived, he was standing on the deck of the Sky Bitch, listening to the clatter of mechanics below the floorboards. They were still refining the great machine, now at a frenzied pace, and Dragomir could hear his wife barking orders at her techs with a mixture of anger and utter glee. Libby had almost completely withdrawn into her old mechanics habits since the death of Grayson. Dragomir couldn’t blame her - the spot in his heart torn open by Grayson’s loss was still raw, especially since this was the second, far more final time it had happened. There would be no ghostly return this time.


Dragomir’s was so absorbed in the sounds of the ship and the view of the setting sun through the bubble covering the bridge that he didn’t notice the soft pad of feet coming up the stairs. Even if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have noticed that there were two sets of feet, not one, and he jumped when a hand touched his shoulder. He spun around, swore, and twitched when he caught sight of the person behind him.

“Hello, Dragomir,” The Baron said, looking pensive behind his thick glasses. Eve was standing behind him, expressionless as ever. “I’m not interrupting you, am I?”

Dragomir narrowed his eyes, wondering if he should reprove the older man, but he eventually shook his head. He’d given up on hating The Baron a while ago. There was too much hate in the world already, and the guy hadn’t done anything really bad in ages. “Meh. What’s up?”

The Baron stepped up beside him, Eve staying behind the two men. He clasped his hands behind his back and rocked back and forth on his heels. “Just wanted to admire the view. It’s quite beautiful outside, don’t you think? The orange of the land and the yellow of the sun mix wonderfully with one another. Nature is never garish, you must admit.”

Dragomir shook his head. “It can be. But yeah, it’s pretty. Very... artsy. I always forget you used to draw. Still keep up with it at all?”

The Baron sighed. “No. Not as much as I would like. The guards seldom provide me with pen and paper. I can move more or less as I please, but written correspondence is a no-no. I don’t suppose you could loosen the rules in that regard…? I have drawn you some wonderful pictures in the past, after all.”

“What, you mean that picture of a dodo?” Dragomir barked a laugh. “Y’know, I tried to draw my own dodo, once. Probably in the diary somewheres. Looked like crap.”

“I’m sure it looked just fine. I do have over a thousand years of experience by contrast, after all.” The Baron paused. “I also drew you, Dragomir. Don’t forget. I, ah, may have made additional sketches of you in my time, as well, though that’s beside the point… could you…?”

Dragomir cocked an eyebrow at ‘additional sketches’, but he let the matter lie. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Turning to his daughter, Dragomir offered Eve a small smile. She didn’t respond in kind. “And what about you, kiddo? You, uh, you need anything? I know we haven’t talked much - “

It was at this point that Dragomir noticed Eve was carrying a package. It was a brown parcel, wrapped tightly in twine and covered in small rips and unsightly stains. He’d seen it dozens of times, usually held in the crook of Eve’s arm as she moved about her business, though occasionally sitting around the Sky Bitch unattended. No one dared touch it, because it belonged to Eve, but now she was giving it to him. The vaguest hint of a blush crossed her face as she shoved the package into Dragomir’s hands, so vague that could have been the cast of the fading sunlight outside the ship.

Dragomir blinked. He turned the package over, inspecting its many flaws with careful consideration. It was heavy, but a familiar, almost friendly sort of heavy. He shook it, and something inside rattled around. Dragomir looked up to thank Eve, but she’d already gone back belowdecks, slinking away as quietly as a panther on the prowl.

That,” The Baron said, “is actually my gift to you. I carried that around for more than a year before Eve stole it from me. So, ah, I suppose you can say it comes from both of us. We were waiting for the right moment to give it to you, and this seems as good as any.”

Dragomir looked at the man skeptically. The Baron smiled, nodding towards the package and rubbing his hands together beneath his cloak. Lips pursed, Dragomir tugged at the strings binding the package together, and the disgusting brown paper surrounding the gift fell away to reveal a cleaner, but still battered, wooden box. It was covered nicks and scratches from what looked like a lifetime of travel, and Dragomir had no doubt that it had been more places and seen more things than the average peasant.

“Go on,” The Baron whispered, smiler broader than ever. Dragomir suspected it to be somehow malevolent, but the expression on the old man’s face was kindly. “I’ve been waiting to give this back to you for three years, almost to the day.”

Dragomir pried the box open, letting the lid fall to the ground as soon as he caught sight of the box’s contents. Reaching one trembling hand inside, he gripped the sharpened edge of a horn, nicely-cleaned and shining brightly in the sunlight. Without thinking Dragomir reached up and brushed his general’s hat away - so generic that he barely ever gave it a thought - and set a familiar friend in its place. The smile on his face rivalled The Baron’s in sheer delight as the old weight of his guardsman’s helmet squashed his unruly hair flat against his skull.

“My… my helmet…” Dragomir sniffed. “You… you kept it…”

“It was the only thing left of you when you vanished,” The Baron said. “I guess if I’d left it on your body it would have gone with you. I, ah, as soon as I heard you were alive, I knew I had to get it back to you somehow. Does it feel right - “

Dragomir cut The Baron off with a gesture neither man could have expected: a quick, happy bear hug. The Baron grunted as Dragomir lifted him almost an inch off of the floor, Non strength asserting itself at random, but he didn’t object. He seemed to relish the moment, despite an obvious shortness of breath, and he blushed fiercely when Dragomir planted a quick kiss on his pudgy cheek.

Eventually, after one quick swing, Dragomir let him go. Gleeful, Dragomir knocked his knuckles off of the helmet, revelling in the metallic thunks. It was it was helmet, it really was, and no one could convince him otherwise. “Damn. Damn. This… oh damn, man, this is so awesome. Thank you so much. It almost… well… hell, forget that. Thank you.”

It was The Baron’s turn to sniff, and he wiped a tear away quickly. “You’re welcome. Now, will you wear it?”

“You kidding? This thing’s not even coming off for bed. I don’t wanna lose it again.” Dragomir nevertheless took the helmet off to inspect it, though it was back on his head within moments. “Oh man oh man oh man. Wait ’til Libby sees. She hates this stupid general’s hat. Or I think she does. I assume she does. She’d better, ‘cause I’m gonna lob it into the chest in my quarters and never look at it again. Never.”

“I’m glad.” The Baron forced a more serious face, though he was still smiling. “I’m glad, because that should be one of the last things Kierkegaard ever sees before you stop him. I think that is only fair.”

And Dragomir, brought back to the situation but still gleeful, agreed. He didn’t say so, but he agreed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Seven: Maybe it's not so bad

“This is what we’ve been waitin’ for.”

Logan cocked an eyebrow. “I’m not sure I follow.”

Dragomir pointed out the window of his home. Blue was sitting outside, covered in bandages and surrounded by a retinue of ten of Pubton’s guards. Despite the obvious hostility she seemed more or less at ease, quite content to be in enemy territory, and she appeared to be trying to chat - unsuccessfully - with one of her captors. “Her. Her. She’s what’s gonna end this war. Or what she told me is gonna end it.”

Logan peered through the window at the Non for a second. His brow furrowed. It was obvious that he didn’t like the idea of a twenty-foot-tall Non within the walls of the city. “Okay. Obviously I’m missing something. What did she tell you?”

“That Kierkegaard and Doc have turned on the Non. Or it looks that way, anyway.”

Dragomir quickly ran through the story Blue had provided earlier that day, once she was conscious again. The Non were being driven hard to ravage the Imperium, almost to the point of insurrection, and only fear was keeping them under Kierkegaard’s thumb. What’s more, one of their commanders - one answerable only to Kierkegaard - was attempting to test a new weapon on the Non, one that apparently needed testing on the Non themselves. Given what Blue had seen of Doc’s other test subjects…

“Okay,” Logan eventually said, when Dragomir fell quiet. “That jives with what Fynn saw a week ago. And with what happened with our werewolves. How does that turn into dead Non? If anything it means we’ll have worse problems.”

Dragomir cringed. He hadn’t spoken to his youngest son in what felt like months. The situation with the werewolves wasn’t good, either - the abrupt abandonment of their entire frontal assault force really hurt. Bad times. “You’re lookin’ at it wrong. We need to make the Non into allies. This is the way to do it.”

Logan’s expression changed from mild puzzlement to hostile skepticism. “You’re right. I am lookin’ at it wrong. You probably are, too. They’re not our buddies, Dragomir. They’re the enemy. Don’t forget what they’ve done.”

“I haven’t.” Dragomir took another look at Blue. She’d managed to engage one of the guards, a stout goblin, in conversation. The goblin was laughing merrily. Given goblin attitudes toward other races, this surprised Dragomir - he would’ve expected the guard to treat her like a troll, given her size and appearance. “But anyone can turn into a friend, with the right coaxing. And if we can persuade the Non that Kierkegaard’s not got their best interests in heart, maybe they’ll kick him out and put someone more reasonable in charge. I’d say it’s worth a short, if it means less bloodshed.”

“I… suppose,” Logan admitted. He frowned. He looked almost identical to his father. “How do you propose we pull somethin’ like this off? Spread a rumour, maybe…?”

“Nuts to that.” Dragomir slammed a fist onto the kitchen table for emphasis, wincing as one of Libby’s cups bounced off the table and tumbled onto the floor. He’d catch hell if it was broken. “We take ‘em head on. Get into a full battle, then bring out Blue and have her expose Kierkegaard to all of his troops. If we’re lucky we can bring a shotload of ‘em over to our side, and…”


Dragomir paused. ‘And’. That was a good question. And what? They would turn on him? Tear the penguin apart? Or perhaps simply flat-out not believe Blue, as she was no doubt branded a traitor in the Non ranks by now? ‘And’ needed to be more specific than it already was. If nothing else they could be exposing Blue to the risk of an attack by her kindred, something she’d obviously been fleeing by running to Pubton.

“And… well, we can talk about that.” Dragomir swallowed. “We’ll figure it out. Hell, if it’ll help our case, I… I suppose I could… y’know…”

“What?” Logan’s eyes narrowed. “Change? Show ‘em they’ve got somebody on our side? Do you really want to out yourself as one of the fuckin’ enemy, Dragomir? You really think that’s smart?”

It was, of course, exactly what Dragomir had been thinking, and it was perceptive of Logan to pick up on the hint. Yet in his shrewdness Logan had immediately betrayed something Dragomir hadn’t fully noticed before: bias. Suspicion. Generalized hate. He didn’t even want to consider the possibility of making the Non into friends, because they were, now, Logan’s enemies. It struck Dragomir as a very immature way to view the world, and reminded him that Logan was still a young man, despite his thickening beard and gaunt expression. How Logan reconciled his dislike of the Non with his friendship with Fynn, Dragomir had no idea. Perhaps being either one-half or one-quarter Non somehow made a difference.

Suddenly, Dragomir wasn’t ashamed of his race. He wanted very much to defend them. And that, despite the widening gap between himself and the man sitting at his table, was an odd source of pride. It lightened his mood.

“Maybe it is,” Dragomir said, tone almost defiant. “If we want to end everything, maybe it is.”