A Hartford Day's Knight - RPLOG
There is a soft tap tap tap on the door to Brutus Blackback's private rooms. "Mister Brutus?" comes the muffled voice of Hartford, "Can I come in? I wanted to talk to you for a minute if you are not busy."
Brutus pricks his ears at the knock and hail.
"Eh? Hartford? Of course! Come in, my boy, come in!"
The rotund Skunk turns his chair about with a mighty groan about to face the door--though it's tough to tell whether it was him or the chair creaking in protest. "I thought you had gone to town for the evening. Is something wrong?"
The door opens and Hartford slips in. Well, as best as Hartford can slip anywhere. The big reindeer ducks his head a little to get his antlers through the door. The big blue lug is wearing his "civilian" clothes, meaning he has forgone his full parade plate in favor of a light tabard with the Blackback insignia. "I was sort of hoping to talk to you about Thera'Dor," he says with a little cough, "Nice to see your stripe all nice and white again, Sir."
"Thera'Dor?" Evident in Brutus's voice is more than a hint of...well, amusement, regret, and trepidation, all rolled into one. There were vast swathes of time unaccounted for, and the things he could remember were a bit...disturbing in their implications. Flora had just greeted him with the smug smile of a cat that knows too much, and he didn�t feel right asking his boss exactly what sins he had committed during those momentary lapses of reason. Nor was he eager to ask Samira or Hartford how he'd gotten repainted or why they had woken up together... "Well...my memories of there are somewhat...foggy...but I shall endeavour to answer what I can," he nods to Hartford, a little nervous about what unknown memories this might dredge from the depths.
Hartford coughs and rubs the new silver cuff in his ear with his thumb. "Well, uh, y'see," The reindeer stammers, "I sort of maybe did some things that one night in Snowhame. . ." As if it wasn't obvious. The black and white stag had become a blue and white reindeer! Even his tail had changed! It was a bit more skunk-like and longer. It seemed silly to dance around the subject.
Brutus's heart leaps into his throat. Snowheim was one of those gaps that plague him. Hartford was a dear, deer friend who trusted him blindly, and...well, he was wracked with guilt at the notion of taking advantage of such trust. Even if it was such an exemplary model of masculinity... "Er...ah...hm. Well...I do not remember the night so much as the following morning," he murmurs, rubbing the back of his neck in shame. "You look...er...handsome today..." the Skunk adds awkwardly. That's probably not helping the situation, is it?
"Thank you, Mister Brutus," Hartford says, "So, um, I kind of did some things and, well. . ." The reindeer bites his lip for a minute. "I guess I should just show you," he says. The big guy undoes his belt and starts pulling his tabard carefully over his head and antlers, revealing his broad, chiseled torso. His thick fur does little to hide his thick muscles. On the reindeer's briliantly white chest is a perfect, blue snowflake. Hartford stands there, shirtless for a minute, looking sheepish.
Thank the Creators for the fur everywhere--especially his face--because as the muscular young Buck unbuckles and strips, Brutus can feel the blood rushing to his cheeks, and he's blushing quite severely. Mouth agape slightly, Brutus gawks quite unreservedly for a moment, before collecting himself and shaking his head. Using the Stag-horn staff, the Skunk levers himself to his feet, stammering in search of a reply. Although... "Erm...that pattern...that is a Snowmark symbol, is it not?"
Hartford flaps his ears in embarassment. "Y-yes, yes it is," he stammers, "Um, so we were all kinda tipsy at Lord Snowmark's party and there was all kinds of things going on and there was the whole Fleshcrafter thing for entertainment and Lord Alexander maybe sort of kind of knighted me as a Snowmark and then I used the fleshcrafter and they told me that you said it was okay even if I don't remember any of this and. . . and. . . and. . ." the reindeer trails off and drops to his knees and holds his head in his hands. "Don't make me leave, Mister Brutus!" he sobs. Hooboy.
'Kinda tispy' was an understatement--Brutus had been to some of the finest, most plush parties Sweetwater had to offer, where wine flowed like water, and he still wasn�t sure he had ever drank so much before, or seen so much alcohol consumed by so many before--and the rotund Skunk was no...er...lightweight, either. And dragging out a dangerous creator artifact for kicks at a bacchanalia like that?
The Skunk�s tail puffs up in alarm as Hartford prostrates himself. With nervous hands, he gently hugs the sobbing Stag, patting him on the back gently, murmuring as comforting words as he can find. "Er...well...um...there there. No need to cry, now, Hartford. �Tis no shame in being a Knight--they must have found you a worthy sort, and you earned us no end of goodwill on this trip..." He really wasn't sure how to do this whole 'kindly paternal figure' thing...
Hartford snuffles and sobs. "B-b-but I want to stay with you and House B-b-blackback!" he moans piteously, "I d-d-d-don't want to have to l-l-leave!" The big lug flings his arms around Brutus, burying his muzzle in the skunk's plush belly. "D-d-don't make me go l-l-live with the Sn-sn-sn-snowmarks!" he sobs into Brutus's expensive suit, "I'm s-s-s-s-sorry I messed up!" Good heavens! The reindeer seems to think that since he was knighted a Snowmark, that the Blackbacks will kick him out!
"Wha...? M-make you leave?" the great Skunk stammers, cradling Hartford�s head against his soft middle. "I would never!" he finally replies, a bit wounded at the notion. "I suspect it was simply a gesture of bonhomie by them--you are still on our retainer! And...well," a grimace crosses his chubby face, "despite my advocacy on your behalf, I...am unsure I could persuade House Blackback to knight you."
Hartford's sobbing starts to subside at Brutus' comforting. The brawny reindeer looks up at his employer and idol. "I d-d-on't need to be a knight M-mister B-brutus!" he says, cheeks wet from his emotional outburst, "I j-just want to stay with you!" His snuffling subsides a bit and he wipes his broad nose on the back of a meaty hand. "S-so I can stay?" he asks hopefully, "I can s-still work for you even if I am a Sn-snowmark now?" The relief on his cervine face would be funny, if it wasn't so sincere.
Brutus hugs Hartford's head close to his squishy belly again. "Of course you are staying with me! You are still on our books, and..." he gulps, nervous at this maudlin display, "you...well...I would never trust another but you to keep me safe, and...erm..." he clears his throat nervously, "I...consider you my dearest companion," he finally equivocates, not even noticing the terrible pun he made. Regardless of what may have happened in Snowheim, something still seems to stick in his throat at calling his manservant a 'friend'...
Hartford barely suppresses a cry of joy as he wraps his arms back around Brutus and squeezes affectionately. "Thank you Mister Brutus" he says, overjoyed, "I promise you won't be sorry! I promise!" The reindeer releases Brutus for a moment so he can stand, then smothers the skunk in another huge embrace. "You're the BEST, Mister Brutus!" he says, crushing his friend against his thick, furry chest, unaware of the awkwardness of the situation.
If Brutus was blushing before, it was nothing compared to this. It almost felt like his skin was on fire with awkwardness, shock, and...yes, maybe a bit of excitement. He did rather enjoy the ridges of muscle up and down Hartford's torso...and he does return the hug after a moment, enjoying the firmness against him. Now that the outpouring of emotion was over, though, there was something that bugged him still... "Er...Hartford...this might sound odd, but...did something happen to your antlers?..."
Hartford steps back and bites his lip. "Um, Yes sir, Mister Brutus," he says, rather embarrassed, "You remember I mentioned the Fleshcrafter? Well, I'm sort of a reindeer now." He reaches up and rubs the base of one of his large, white antlers.
Brutus puzzles it over for a moment...before a wry grin crosses his face. "That's how you earned your stripes in the first place, isn't it?" It falls into a look of concern as he wraps an arm around the side of the Reindeer, stumping along with the cane in his other hand, eager to catch up over a nice, sumptuous dinner. "Most beings are loath to be reshaped even once...do you not like what you are, Hartford?..."
Hartford flaps his ears in embarrassment, leaving his shirt on the floor where it fell as he is led away by Brutus. It really has been too hot since he got back to Firmament. "Well," he admits, "I sort of thought of being made into a skunk like you, Mister Brutus." The reindeer wraps his own arm around his employer, mentor and friend. "But I would miss the antlers too much!" he says with a grin.