Monday, November 16, 2015

Day Nine-Thirty-Seven: Tell me

The trip took three more days from the point that Traveller joined Dragomir and The Baron. By the end of it Dragomir’s eyes were puffy and red, utterly bloated from a lack of sleep - yet, somehow, he stayed awake. He couldn’t help himself, because he feared that Traveller might pluck out his eyeball if he dared to close it.

The trip, already awkward, became even more awkward. Unlike Dragomir and The Baron, who understood social niceties enough to remain silent, Traveller babbled constantly. He made note of everything: the blue of the sky, the heady, sometimes overwhelming scent of the trees, the passing migrations of reindeer, even the way the clouds looked like misshapen breasts, both male and female. Dragomir wanted sorely to punch Traveller whenever he mentioned Libby, and it happened often, but he felt too weak and too frail to put up even a token fight. He let the comments slide, and, eventually, elected to ignore Traveller.

“You aren’t talking to me anymore,” Traveller said, perhaps an hour after Dragomir had taken an internal vow of silence. “This is boring. Talk to me or I’ll get even more bored, y’know? Tell me about our family.”

Dragomir snorted. “Don’t have to. Don’t want to. And it’s not our family, it’s my family.”

“Nuh uh,” Traveller insisted, head cocked. Even he looked confused, but he kept talking anyway. “It’s both ours. How else could whatserface be so strong? What’s our daughter’s name again? Evelyn? I think it’s Evelyn. I mean, obviously she belongs to both of us, so - “

Dragomir punched Traveller. Or he tried, anyway. His fist rebounded uselessly off of Traveller’s jaw, knuckles bruised. Traveller barely seemed to notice. Dragomir tried again, with similar results, and gave up. He’d never been a strong puncher, for sure, but missing two of his limbs made him even weaker than he’d expected. He sighed, and Traveller gabbed, and they wandered onward, three fellows jammed into one tiny cart. Only the giant toads leading the way seemed unaffected by the awkwardness.

The trip to Castle FinalDestination seemed to take a fraction of the time it had taken to travel to what would become Pubton, and that made little sense to Dragomir. True, he’d never gone this route before, and true, he was in a cart, not on foot, but he’d still expected a journey that would last several weeks. Perhaps even a month, given how often Traveller had to stop their trip for pee breaks. Yet the world seemed utterly bent on dragging Dragomir to his destination as quickly as possible, compressing itself in such a way that mountains became hills, valleys became potholes, dirt roads became tiny footpaths. Within a week and a half they arrived in familiar lands, and Dragomir knew, just by scanning the horizon, that the castle was only a few hours away.

He called for a halt. The Baron complied quietly, tugging at the reins of the toads to stop. Dragomir expected either resistance or questions from Traveller, but the cyclopian nuisance simply smiled cheerfully and hopped off of the cart, exclaiming as he did that the flowers in these parts looked absolutely stunning. Then he ate several, and Dragomir’s scowl grew as he rubbed his tired eyes.

The Baron set up a campfire. He also offered to go looking for wood in a nearby forest, insisting - unnecessarily - that he would be safe on his own. Dragomir waved him away, curled himself up in a blanket, grabbed a branch from the ground, and poked at the fire in gloomy silence. He only dared crack a tiny grin when Traveller tried to grab at the fire and it burnt his hand, but the grin vanished quickly, quelled by unease and dislike. Dragomir wasn’t sure if - or when - Traveller might make a forceful grab for his lost eye, and he wasn’t sure how much he cared anymore, either. Dragomir was a dead man either way.

He only kept going because his daughter needed him. Nothing else.

“I always wanted to be a guard,” Traveller mumured.

Dragomir’s head shot up. He stared through the licking flames of the campfire, drinking in the expression of the man seated across from him. Traveller seemed to have dropped his spastic routine, folding himself into an awkward crouch, his two strong arms folded across his legs. His one eye calmly studied the flames, not seeming to see them, but something in them, something beyond. Dragomir supposed he was staring into his past.

“That rat… kept me confused… for a long time,” Traveller continued. He reached out to the flames again, far less comically, and didn’t pull away as a stray flame kissed the tip of his finger. He held it in place for several seconds before slowly pulling it back and sticking it in his mouth. “It hid in my hair. Made me forget… a lot of things. All those rats did that to me, you know? So I forgot. I got all messed up. But I’m remembering a lot, now.”

Dragomir swallowed. He pulled his blanket around his shoulders more tightly, hoping it might swallow him up and send him somewhere completely different. The early October wind howled around him, and despite the warmth of the fire, Dragomir shivered. It was too cold out here for this conversation, far too cold.

“But I don’t… remember… everything.” Traveller touched his eyepatch. “Enough, but not everything. So… I’d like if you… told me. You need to tell me what I missed. Because I always wanted to be a guard, but I never could. You took that away from me. So you owe me.”

“I didn’t take anything away from you,” Dragomir muttered. “Other people did. They took just as much away from me.”

“Maybe,” Traveller replied, after a moment of consideration. “But maybe I don’t care. So start talking, please. Tell me everything. Please.”

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