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Story Time: How I Met Your Mother

Wow, I regret that title already.

Anyway, have a little Rashomon for your Thursday! Remember, if you have a story idea to suggest, you should definitely join our Patreon, and for a mere $20 a month you can bend my ear as much as you like.

*

KILLIKER
Ah, you want to know a tale about lost love? I have a sad story I can share, and unlike many of my stories, this one happened to me.

 

DARIA
Yes, I suppose it’s time I told you the rest of the truth. I won’t go into details, mind.

 

KILLIKER
You don’t want details? Ah, fine then, we will keep things…family friendly. It all began when I was traveling over hither and yon, seeking stories and fortune.

 

DARIA
It began much like any other day. Every day was the same at the time. Samuel was…particular about how the household was run, which meant that even in his absence, there was little for me to do. It was more than just boredom, I was…terribly lonely. And sad, I’m afraid.

 

KILLIKER
I entered Larkdale without a care in the world. Lovely little town, although the inn there didn’t look like much. It was odd, a local told me there was another one “sometimes.” Now I wasn’t sold on the inn that was permanent, but wouldn’t you know it, there was a beautiful castle up on the hill, the Castle Whitetower.

 

DARIA
The castle is lovely, but it didn’t feel like home to me. Not until you came along. How can a place feel like home when there’s nothing there for you?

 

KILLIKER
I could tell right away that this was the place for me. I’m no snob, you see, but it’s hard to pay money to stay somewhere mediocre when there is the possibility of staying in a beautiful castle for just the cost of my bardic services. So I set out up the hill.

 

DARIA
Reevis told me there was some sort of…I believe the exact words he used were “elvish clown.” Yes, there was an elvish clown who sought audience with the liegelords of the house.

 

KILLIKER
Would you believe I’ve actually been there before? It was years ago, though. Maybe three or four decades? I had heard there was a new lord and lady of the house, but I don’t usually have any trouble with first impressions.

 

DARIA
What can I say? It wasn’t as though I had plans.

 

KILLIKER
The butler—frightfully proper man, absolutely no fun at all—led me to a drawing room, where I had the honor of meeting Lady Daria Whitetower.

 

DARIA
Now Reevis is a bit fussy, so I knew “clown” had to be an exaggeration, but even so I wasn’t expecting—that is to say—he caught me off guard. He was…

 

KILLIKER
Never in my life had I encountered such beauty. She was immaculate, pristine…nearly fragile, as if she was porcelain you would be afraid to break. This was just at first glance, of course, her posture and bearing…but a second glance, deep into her eyes, showed her steel, her will. Such eyes. What a beauty.

 

DARIA
Well, after all, you take after him, don’t you? I don’t need to tell you that you’re handsome.
(beat)
I admit to being rather taken aback.

 

KILLIKER
She spoke immediately with such authority and confidence that I knew: this lady of so noble a bearing was unlike anyone I’d ever met before. I pledged my services to her immediately, without condition. I would have slept in the stables if she’d asked me to—it was a privilege just to be near her.

 

DARIA
You must understand, a handsome stranger promising me his undivided attention was not something I had experienced before. Samuel never lied to me, but he was also not what you’d call attentive. Or loving.

 

KILLIKER
Daria was kind enough to offer me proper lodging, but rather than stories asked for conversation. I got the impression that she wasn’t very intellectually challenged by that husband of hers. I was glad to oblige, of course. It was at this point she mentioned a crucial point: Lord Samuel Whitetower was not home.

 

DARIA
It was just good manners to say so.

 

KILLIKER
I don’t go out of my way to be a homewrecker, you understand. Whatever decisions people make with their lives are theirs, and it’s not my purpose to change their minds. But I will admit that I was glad.

 

DARIA
And so we talked. For a week or so. I liked him.
(beat)
Oh, don’t give me that face. I mean it. The…emotional crux of our time together was a consequence of several days’ worth of getting to know each other. My decision was neither impulsive nor rash.

 

KILLIKER
I could tell she was chewing on something while we talked, her mind working out a problem. Little did I know that the problem was me. Though she needn’t have worried, I would have done anything she asked me.

 

DARIA
When I actually made the decision…now what was the final tipping point?
(beat)
I remember. He made me laugh.

 

KILLIKER
And when she finally decided, I did everything she asked.
(beat)
What, too much?

 

DARIA
He left it up to me, you know. It was clear enough what he wanted, but he made no move until I let him. I was…unused to people not taking what they wanted, with little regard to the consequences. It was refreshing.

 

KILLIKER
Coerced? How dare you, sir, I would never use my magic to coerce someone into sex. What kind of a monster do you think I am?

 

DARIA
He didn’t need to convince me with magic. Not hardly.

 

KILLIKER
How fondly I remember those days. Our time together was short—we decided it would be wisest that I not cross paths with Lord Samuel, and I left before he came back.

 

DARIA
I admit I toyed with the idea of leaving Samuel and going with Killiker, but the political situation was still such that my family was counting on me to stay. I do wonder, sometimes, what might have become of us, if I had chosen to go.

 

KILLIKER
I thought of her often after that—I still do, though less so now. I did try to visit a few years later, but alas, she would not see me.

 

DARIA
I couldn’t have Samuel seeing you and seeing Killiker and making connections. Samuel had many faults, but he was not dense. I felt awful to do it, but the risk to all of us was too great. I couldn’t even write a note.

 

KILLIKER
The stories of our lives are winding and strange, and it is to be expected that some people would come and go. It is of course a matter for grief, but I wouldn’t want to avoid getting to know people on the off chance I might lose them. That course of action leads to such lonesomeness.

 

DARIA
No, I don’t regret it. Not at all. It’s the reason I have you, isn’t it?

 

KILLIKER
I do not regret it in the least. Say, why so interested in this story, young sir? Have we met before?

Story Time: The Mean Streets

March is my birthday month, and so this month I thought it was only fitting to write about the character in the Crew who is most like me personality-wise, Knowles. Content warning for usual policing nonsense, but no violence or corruption.

(Remember, Patreon supporters get first dibs on Story Time every month, and $20 patrons can even suggest prompts!)

*

“Let me go,” the child said, struggling mid-air, throwing punches in vain.

Knowles rolled their eyes. They were holding up the child by their vest, which was the only piece of clothing Knowles was certain was sturdy enough to hold the kid’s weight. They were ragged and dirty and looked like every kid Knowles had known growing up. “This is what happens when you steal.”

“No it ain’t,” the kid spat. “This is what happens when you get caught.”

Knowles had to concede this point. “And what do you think happens next?”

The child stopped their struggling, face falling. Their expression wasn’t even anger or petulance, it was…resignation.

It was the saddest thing Knowles had ever seen.

They sighed. Being a guard was supposed to make things easier, but the work was thankless. The people from their old neighborhood understood why they did it, but those people also didn’t talk to Knowles anymore. Of all the calculations that had gone into this decision, Knowles had forgotten to account for how much the guard was disliked. Turned out that Knowles was not past caring about such things, even when they were past caring about so much else.

“Look,” Knowles said to the kid suspended in their hand, “why were you stealing bread?”

“Why do you think, guard, I’m hungry,” the kid growled.

“Right, you’re coming with me.”

 

The kitchen had given Knowles an extra bowl of thick, hearty stew without question. The stew came from the king, and the king always had food to spare. The child’s resignation had turned into bewilderment when, rather than being tossed into the cell in the corner of the guardhouse, they were sat down on a bench and given something to eat. And they ate, furiously, without so much as a thank you.

Knowles puttered around the guardhouse for a few minutes, straightening things, tidying up, watching the kid out of the corner of their eye. After a bit, they settled on the bench too, far enough away to give the kid the security of distance, and started picking the mud out of their boots with a knife.

“What is this?

Knowles looked up to find Captain Brindle, pointing one long finger at the kid. The kid, for their part, was frozen, spoon suspended in mid-air. Everyone knew about Captain Brindle, the ruthless watchdog for the king.

Knowles stood up without much urgency, falling into a respectful posture with ease. Captain Brindle didn’t bother them. She was terribly predictable. “Just a stray I picked up, Captain. Thought I’d give them a meal.”

Captain Brindle would try a power play next. Knowles watched their statement click into place in her head, followed by a deepening scorn. She was highborn, and had little sympathy for her peers and none for those she considered below her. She stepped forward, standing too close to Knowles. Power play. “Does this look like a poorhouse, Knowles?”

“No, ma’am,” Knowles said, and didn’t add that the dinged-up armor most of them wore could have fooled them.

“How about a debtor’s prison, does it look like one of those?” She took another step closer.

Knowles didn’t budge, except to blink slowly. “No, Captain.”

She leaned in. “Then get this street garbage out of my guardhouse.”

Knowles stood their ground. “Yes, Captain.”

She stared at them a little longer, waiting for them to break, and then seemed disappointed when they didn’t. With whatever dignity she thought she had, she whirled out of the room, muttering something under her breath about new recruits.

Carefully, Knowles wiped the spit off their face. “You can finish your stew, kid. She won’t be back for a few more minutes.”

The child shoved the still-suspended spoon into their mouth and swallowed it immediately. “Then what?”

“What do you mean?” Knowles said, sitting back down on the bench.

“What are you gonna do to me once I finish this?”

Knowles shrugged. “You heard the captain. You’re free to go.”

The kid revealed the tiniest, crookedest smile Knowles had ever seen before shoveling the next bite into their mouth.

 

Knowles proceeded with leisure down the street. They didn’t spend a lot of time here anymore. It was just a block over from the flea trap where they’d grown up. Most of the shops and booths had changed over. They wondered, idly, who had died and who had just left.

They arrived at their destination, a bookseller’s stall, and stopped to peruse. The bookseller saw their armor and the stripes painted on it first, and said, “Sergeant.”

“Morning,” Knowles said, taking a book off one of the shelves and flipping through it.

“Oh, it’s you.”

Knowles looked up at the bookseller. They had a small, crooked smile, which rang a bell… “Have we met?”

“You probably wouldn’t remember,” the bookseller said. “It was years ago. But you caught me stealing and gave me something to eat.”

Knowles had done that a few times, but the first time did tend to stick in one’s head, didn’t it? Which of course made what they were about to do all the worse. They put the book back. “I do remember.”

“You know, I looked you up after that day,” the bookseller said. “You grew up not far from here, didn’t you? It was Teric, right?”

Knowles tried not to draw back in revulsion. Their mother was the last person who’d called them that. It had been years since the name had even been spoken. They swallowed. “That’s right.”

“Back home for a visit?”

“Not exactly.” Without much ado, Knowles rested their hand on their sword, hanging at their side. “I’m here about some reported counterfeiting.”

The crooked little smile disappeared off the bookseller’s face. They licked their lips, suddenly nervous. Knowles waited.

“I heard you grew up in the same tenement as my cousins did,” they said finally. “Heard that your whole family died. Everyone. Mother. Siblings. A twin, even.”

Knowles swallowed back whatever reaction was trying to come out of their throat. This wasn’t the time.

“So you remember what it’s like,” the bookseller went on. “You must remember. I mean, you know what it’s like to be hungry. Or else you wouldn’t have helped me, years ago.”

“I remember,” Knowles said quietly. “But the law’s the law.”

The bookseller’s expression hardened. Now they resembled the child they once were, struggling mid-air in Knowles grip. Furious, petulant. But not resigned. “What do you want from me?”

“We just have some questions, to start.”

The bookseller nodded. “Do you mind if I grab my coat?”

“Of course not.”

“It’s just back here.” They slid aside the curtain at the back of the booth and slipped behind it.

Knowles waited. Odds were the bookseller wasn’t getting their coat…

And there they went, fast footsteps taking off; Knowles caught glimpses of them disappearing behind the other booths.

And Knowles started counting down from five. Because for someone from the old neighborhood, for someone who had already been through so much, the least they could do was try and even out the odds.

Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

Story Time: Adventures in Babysitting

A little light AU for your reading pleasure! For those of you who are unaware, it is 100% canon that if Tode and Cybilene grew up together, they would be Creepy Twins. We get to explore that through the eyes of their cousin/babysitter Augie. Enjoy!

*

Bartholomew and Cybilene aren’t normal.

Yes, obviously, “normal” is kind of an insulting concept, I know, Kibs. Like yes, the big folk are the weird ones, and definitely need to get their priorities straight about creativity and community and joy, yes, blah blah blah—

But that’s not what I’m talking about, okay? Bartholomew and Cybilene. They’re just…strange.

All right so for an example—I’m babysitting them last week. Auntie and Uncle had some errands to run and needed an extra set of eyes. So I’m making them some dinner and I call them, like hey Cyb and Bart, come eat. Now they don’t answer, but I figure they’re just playing and I turn around.

And they’re right behind me, being completely silent. Holding hands. And they say—in unison, mind you—“Yes Augie?”

Why are you—no it was creepy, Kibs, I’m telling you!

Maybe you had to be there.

Okay but then I’m tucking them into bed, right, and then I say good night to Cybilene and she says—and this is verbatim— “Will you tuck our friend in too?” And I’m of course like, what friend? I’m thinking she’s talking about a teddy bear or something. But no, Kibs. She points to an empty corner and says, “The Shadow Man.”

The Shadow Man, Kibs.

And then Bart says, “He doesn’t like you.”

Like.

What am I supposed to do with that.

No, Kibs! No! It was not a joke! They are too young to do pranks! Their idea of pranks is coloring something with the wrong crayon!

All right fine, you want the kicker?

I closed their door. Their parents told me to and they have a night light, it’s fine. And then I sit down in the kitchen and make myself a snack and read my book.

And then.

I hear a noise outside. And you know how it is when you’re babysitting, you get paranoid. So I grabbed a cricket bat from the umbrella stand—

No, Kibs, I don’t know why they have a cricket bat in the umbrella stand.

Anyway, grab the bat, and then I open the front door.

And Kibs. I swear to the gods. They’re standing there on the porch.

I don’t know, I said the first thing that came to mind! How did you get out there! And Cybilene says, “He’s sleepwalking.” And mind you, his eyes were wide open.

Yeah, I put them back to bed immediately, and just for funsies I check the window. It’s locked from the inside, Kibs.

All I’m saying is that Cybilene and Bartholomew are creepy. They are not normal.

…I’m gonna ask Aunty and Uncle for a raise next time.