Running Shoo – Episode 93

Back in Footfall, there was a city guard named Gordy D’Ton who had a lazy eye.

Some folks were, as some folks always are, complete dicks about it and made cruel remarks about his appearance. Gordy however developed a remarkable response. It was a huff of disbelief, followed by almost a sneer which became a look of pity.

Now, that doesn’t sound like much, but it was withering. I saw it in action more than once. It deflated people; you could watch them sag. The way he did it clearly said, “By the gods, I never imagined someone could be so unutterably pathetic! It makes me hurt, in my heart, to know that a creature as wretched as you exists.”

The stories went that he had made people re-evaluate their entire lives using facial expressions alone. We got on with Gordy, me and Mondey did. He never chased us or beat us (without reason), he often gave us food, even coins occasionally and if ever his eye was distracting, I politely looked at the bridge of his nose and never mentioned it.

Which brings me to Lady Brattler, the owner of the boarding house we have found ourselves in. She has a similar condition, though I’m unsure of the etiquette for not being a dick about it

Because Lady Brattler has a lazy third eye.

We first encountered it on the way to her premises. We were walking up the hill to the side of the stream (just a trickle now, though the bed was freshly gouged deep by the floods) when Nom shrieked.

“What?” I asked, levelling my spear and looking for something to stab. “What is it?” I was sure this town had finally revealed its true colours. A bit relieved even.

“Eye!” said Nom.

I couldn’t see anything immediately threatening, “Yes, you…” I prompted for her to finish her sentence. “Go on, Nom.”

“What?” she asked, confused.

“You said ‘I’ just then.”

Nom nodded, “Eye,” she said again.

“Yes, go on, you can tell me. I what?”

The little worm headed girl looked at me funny.

“What?”

“I… what? You what?”

A confused expression scrunched up her face for a moment, then she realised something, and it became one of sympathy. She put her little hand on my forearm, “Has your brain gone wibbly, Shoo?” she asked. “It’s okay, it happens to me sometimes too.”

I raised an eyebrow, “Your brain goes… wibbly?”

At that moment, a spectral eyeball appeared in the air a few feet away from me. It was just an eyeball, but it blinked at me as if it had invisible eyelids that were themselves little invisibility cloaks.

“Arrgh!” I yelled as it popped out of existence. “Eye!”

“That’s what I said,” Nom said, sternly.

Shakily, I pointed the spear where it had been. The eyeball didn’t seem to be coming back so I jumped and pointed the spear behind me, sure it would be sneaking up to do gods knows what to us. It wasn’t. It was probably back in front of us! I jumped back the original direction.

No spectral eyeball, but there was a middle-aged, blue couple there. They were walking by arm in arm. The man chuckled at me in a gently mocking manner.

I didn’t stab him.

“What’s funny?” I asked.

“You must be going to Lady Brattler’s,” he said, jovially.

I exchanged a glance with Nom. “Yes, actually we are. How did you know?”

The couple didn’t stop, but he smiled kindly as he went, “her eye is nothing to worry about, you’ll see.”

And we did.

Lady Brattler’s house was another rope-woven, teardrop-shaped building about half the size of the food hall.

As we stepped in, we saw a woven wall hung with pastoral pictures with a woven desk in front of it. A woven corridor disappeared off to the right while to the left the stairs were woven too. They disappeared up into the ceiling which was, you’ve guessed it, woven.

There was a frankly silly amount of weaving in this building, no wonder the other ones were just open spaces inside.

Behind the woven desk, there was a woman. She wasn’t woven (thankfully; that would be terrifying.) The unwoven lady in question was tall for one of the little blue locals and powerfully built. She had very dark blue skin, a midnight blue, and grey hair in a bun, for which her face seemed too young. One of her eyebrows was perpetually raised and she had a half smile, giving her a wry, faintly smug air.

This, I assumed, was Lady Brattler.

“Welcome Shoo and Nom to my boarding house,” she said as we entered. “Wipe your feet.”

I entered cautiously and wiped my feet cautiously (because you never know when a foot mat might be a pit trap) there was quite a lot of river mud on them along with some gunk from the field critters we had to kill.

“How do you know our names?” I asked.

She sighed. “I heard myself say it,” she said. On the floor in front of the desk was that spectral eyeball, looking up at us. It made me jump. Creepy ruddy thing. I stared at it. “My other eyes,” she said pointedly. “Are up here.”

“Sorry,” I replied, raising my gaze. “Um… is that your eye?”

“Yes, but it’s not polite to talk about it,” she said, wearily. “I have a condition.”

“Right, sorry. It’s just that…. No, never mind, sorry.”

“I’ve prepared room five down the hall there. Two cots. You’d quite like your own room, you’ll um and arr about it, but decide it’s better not to leave the little one on her own.”

Gods, she was right. I would love my own room. I could afford it too, what with being rich. Imagine it: somewhere I could stop, relax, not have to deal with anyone, not be attacked by anyone. A safe space with a door I could close on the world. I almost drooled at the thought.

But Nom would be lonely.

And she’d probably get into some bother without me.

“Yeah, give me the key,” I said.

The eyeball vanished again. I found myself looking around for it nervously. Lady Brattler sighed again.

“You won’t see it,” she said. “It’s gone further into the future now. I have no control over it. It can be quite embarrassing. I see all sorts of things I don’t want to.”

“That must be very difficult,” I said sympathetically.

“You get used to it,” she said. “You’ll just have to get used to it.”

“Hey, I’ve got used to it already,” I said, trying to be nice, but I think it came across smarmy.

I haven’t,” Nom muttered.

I bumped her with my thigh to shut up.

“Oh,” Lady Brattler said suddenly, and her eyes widened like she was seeing something somewhere else, no doubt through that roving third eye of hers. “Gosh.”

“What?” I asked.

She blinked as she came back to the room and forced a smile at us, “Nothing, nothing,” she said. “Saw a thing… completely unrelated to you.”

“Nothing?” I squinted at her. “You sure?”

“No, nothing at all,” she replied, very politely.

And very unconvincingly.

“Um… Is there anything we need to know?” I pressed. “For instance, is there anything alarming coming our way that you should probably tell us about?”

“It’s best not to tell people the future,” she said, sadly and with resolve, then quickly added. “Not that I’ve seen anything anyway. No.”

Hmm. I wasn’t getting anything out of her. I figured she did see something, but I also got the vibe that she’d learnt the hard way to keep it to herself. There was no point nagging, it would just get awkward. Plus, I was already expecting something alarming to happen to us, so her reaction just meant it was business as usual.

“Right, okay, well-” I began, about to thank her and leave when she added:

“But… one thing, girls.”

I stop and turn back to her.

“Yes?”

“Rent in advance please.”

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