Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day Nine-Thirty-Eight: Of days past

Oh, what the hell. Maybe if I talk he’ll stay on the other side of the fire.

Dragomir reached into his bag and pulled out the diary. It stared up at him, huffy and expectant, and for the first time in a long time he gave it a little smile. The diary seemed to consider this, then flipped open at his touch. A feather quill was clutched in its coiled rat tail, and it slid up to him; he brushed the quill aside. He could feel the diary shudder with discontent, but he brushed that aside, too, flipping idly through the pages.

“Can you read?” Dragomir asked.

Traveller cocked his head to one side. “No. Mom ’n dad didn’t know how to read, and… that other guy… well, I think he knew, but maybe I don’t remember…? I think he liked to eat more.”

Dragomir pursed his lips. “Yeah. Yeah, he liked to eat more. Okay, so much for Plan A. I’ll do vocals.”

Traveller cocked his head to the other side. “Vocals? You gonna sing?” 

“No, no, you… ugh. Stupid.” Dragomir straightened as best he could and cleared his throat. “Once upon a time, there was a man.”

Traveller’s demeanour changed instantly. The vague threat in his voice disappeared as he whooped, and he threw his hands into the air, flopping onto the ground with the enthusiasm of a rowdy puppy. His glee was so great that he almost set his long hair on fire, and Dragomir had to stop his story short, on the first sentence, to yell at Traveller to watch out. 

“Once upon a time,” Dragomir began again, scowling, “there was a man. ’n he got a job at a castle. He was a guard.”

“You don’t have to tell me like this, y’know,” Traveller mumbled, but he looked thoroughly engrossed nonetheless. “You can just say it straight, or… something.”

It’s like he’s one part grown-ass man and one part four-year-old. “He got the job because his parents arranged for him to get the job. He wasn’t sure if somebody else had a hand in it, too, and he didn’t really care. It meant leaving the farm, and though that frightened him, he was okay with it. He wanted to try something else. Something different.”

“And he had a wife, right?” Travelled kicked at the dirt with enough vigour to leave deep gouges in the ground. “A really hot wife? Did they do it? Tell me they did it.”

And he liked his job well enough,” Dragomir gritted out, ignoring the sexual comments as best he could. “He was lazy, but he did his job, and he was the worst one at it, but that was okay. And, yes, he had a wife, and a year later he had a daughter. A really tiny daughter, who was quiet, and thoughtful, and who liked to… uh… anyway. She was nice in her own way.”

Traveller pointed into the distance, seeming almost unaware that he’d done so. Dragomir had no doubt that he was pointing straight at the ruins of Castle FinalDestination.

“He had adventures.” Dragomir continued to flip through the diary, staring down at the scrawls of handwriting within. There were so many different styles, from so many different people. “He went to a kingdom full of goblins, a kingdom that’s now long gone. He got stuck in a swamp. He found an underground city, a really small but really big city, and discovered… things. Things he didn’t want to know, because they made his simple life less simple.”

“Oh, I know what that’s like,” Traveller cut in, sitting up. “This one time I was all ‘I wonder what happens if I touch the dangly thing at the back of my throat?’ And then I did, and the stuff that came out of me - “

Dragomir ignored Traveller. He realized, dimly, that he was starting to tell the story to himself, to relive all the things he’d done since the beginning of… everything. “There were werewolves. And boxing. And a dragon, a really friendly dragon that could change shape. And his daughter got engaged to a little boy, a wicked, clever little boy… and the kingdom celebrated, I suppose, by digging a big hole. Or maybe the hole was happening regardless. The man didn’t know, exactly - he just knew that something bad was going down, and he got scared. He got really scared.”

“Really scared?” Traveller shuffled a little closer.

“Really scared.” Dragomir shuffled further away, around the fire. “But, on the… eve… of his daughter’s wedding, or, uh… actually, I guess it was the day after, but… anyway… he entered the hole. He went down the hole, into the centre of the Earth, practically. And then he did the bravest thing he’d ever done, facing down a big… door… a really big door… and it got him killed.”

Dragomir’s stomach began to hurt. Most of his body hurt these days, of course, but this sensation was not the dull ache he’d grown to associate with his failing form. It was an acute sensation, a burning, twisting sting, as though an enormous wasp had happened on their campfire and lodged its stinger in his gut. But this wasp had blonde hair, and narrowed eyes, and a suit of armour, and when it looked at him it offered the most loving smile he’d ever seen in his life. Dragomir’s stomach hurt, but it was an ache filled with love, a gesture meant to save, and he hugged himself. It was not easy, having only one arm, but he tried anyway.

“He doesn’t look killed.” Traveller’s enthusiasm seemed to die a little, his voice hollow and shocked.

“He was. Trust me.”

Dragomir’s eyes flew open, and he turned. There was a third person by the fire, sitting cross-legged on a hunk of wood and staring at Traveller. Her dark skin glowed a muddy orange in the firelight, and her white hair, more scraggly and unkempt than Dragomir remembered, identified her at once. Traveller looked at her, eye widening, and with one shaky hand he pointed at her, mouth working silently on words it couldn’t pronounce.

“Hi, fellas.” Bora coughed into her hand, and Dragomir noticed a thin trail of dull green dripping down her fingers when she spoke again. “Hope you don’t mind if a girl gatecrashes your all-boys club.”

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