Miscommunication By Request

Miscommunication By Request

It’s an odd title. It’s an odd story. Most of the scenes I’ve posted that relate to my table top RPG group have been things my characters did off camera. The results of things that happened during a session but didn’t warrant diverting game time. But I’ve also been on the lookout for striking session moments I could immortalize. When I mentioned that to my game group, they all responded with one universal request; that I immortalize this scene.

Some background: the character Domerin is interacting with here belongs to our GM. Because our GM runs most sessions, he doesn’t get to play the character often. Which is a shame because he’s an amazing character. He’s an aquatic creature who gets around on land via an armored environmental suit. Because he relies completely on a translator for communication, and because of injuries he has sustained which make it difficult for that translator to pick up all of his words, he is hard to understand. Also, he’s just downright odd.

I orchestrated this scene during a session I was running to give our GM a chance to further develop his character ‘on camera’ and, apparently, it was a big hit. I just hope I’ve managed to do the hilarity of the situation justice. (Apologies about some of the hard to read dialogue, but this is literally how our GM voices this character. I don’t even know how he does it!)

Incidentally, this will be my last writing prompt posted this year, as we’ll be off to visit with family for the holidays this weekend!
. . .

Somewhere in the station, as the lights dimmed to their night-simulating brightness, two drunken friends curled deeper into unfamiliar couches, two dranfel bodies slid through water illuminated by the youthful glow of a hundred newborn stars, and a single lonely cetanui wandered the steadily darkening hallways. It may have been that last that ultimately drove Domerin to rise from his long-occupied seat at the bar; his ears were certainly sensitive enough to identify Bamberfrink’s approach through the ambient buzz of conversation between what remained of his drinking companions. But mostly it was some deep-seated need to enact a nighttime ritual even if nothing came of it. Lying in bed staring at a shadow-shrouded ceiling was as much a part of his daily life as three cups of morning coffee to dispel his lingering fatigue.  Though the comfortable intersection between his sleepless nights and the cetanui’s restless wandering was probably the catalyst that caused him to wave in greeting.

Their earlier attempts to explain to Bamberfrink the difference between real and pretend were still quite vivid in Domerin’s mind as he fell into step with the distinctive thunk-thud of the cetanui’s armored suit. And given how disappointed Bamberfrink had been that the hit-list in his inbox was actually just a cast of characters his friends were meant to play, he wasn’t surprised to find the mercenary roving aimlessly as the staff packed it in for the night. He imagined the poor woman who had tried to explain the distinction was halfway to another system by now after having basically quit on the spot.

But Domerin was strangely familiar with Bamberfrink’s particular kind of circular logic and he couldn’t help wondering if he could do a better job clearing it up.

“Having trouble sleeping?” he asked after a few moments of what he gauged to be comfortable silence. Neither of them were known for being particularly talkative, after all. “I could always keep you company,” he added without waiting for a response, just in case it was the sort of question Bamberfrink wouldn’t like to answer.

When his companion stopped and turned, Domerin thought little of it aside from mirroring the gesture. He wasn’t familiar enough with cetanui to read Bamerfrink’s expression. As an aquatic species, they seemed to rely on sound cues more so than visual ones. And besides, the thickness of his pressure suit tended to distort his appearance. Which may have been why Domerin was completely unprepared for his companion’s response.

“Areyoucomin’ontame?”

Domerin blinked several times in rapid succession while he waited for his brain to catch up with the odd speed of the cetanui’s translation program. If he thought about it too hard, he’d never catch all the words.

“Excuse me?” he managed after a moment, disoriented by the unexpected nature of the query. He had been propositioned in a lot of strange ways over the years, but he wasn’t sure how Bamberfrink had mistaken a simple offer of friendship for an invitation to share beds. Especially considering the well-known nature of Domerin’s relationship with Crescent.

“Areyoucomin’ontame?” Bamberfrink repeated, though Domerin could make no more sense of it the second time around. The monotone nature of translators meant that it was impossible to tell if this was spoken as an earnest demand, a statement of confusion, or a joke. But given what Domerin knew of Bamberfrink, he thought he could safely assume it wasn’t the latter.

“No?” The single word came out at a higher pitch than Domerin anticipated, likely indicating a question where he hadn’t meant to insert one. “You know I’m with someone else, right?” Not every species had a concept of monogamy, so perhaps that was the cause of the confusion.

“Ah. Whatsamatter? DidyouandEddiebreakup?”

“Eddie?” Domerin was mighty glad he hadn’t decided to bring a drink with him, because if he had been drinking when Bamberfrink said that, he would have choked. If he lived to see a thousand years, he would never have considered Eddie and himself to be compatible romantic partners. Eddie was a good mercenary, sure, and a riot when it came to some of his plans. They made great drinking buddies. But they would probably strangle each other if they ever tried to spend serious time together. “You know the two of us have never even remotely been a thing, right?”

“Don’tneedtakeepitsecret. Heardyoutalkin’earlier.”

“At the bar?” Domerin replied, still trying to keep up with the brake-neck pace at which this conversation had gotten away from him. He couldn’t think of anything either himself or Eddie had said that could be remotely construed as romantic. Though he also wasn’t sure just how drunk either of them had been at the time.

The sound that Bamberfrink made must have served as confirmation, some sort of centanui nod, but it didn’t help Domerin get his bearings.

“We weren’t breaking up. We were never together in the first place. We were just-“

“Whatdidheturnouttabetoobigferyouorsomething?”

Slowly, deliberately, Domerin turned and scanned the hallway behind him. Was someone filming this? Someone had to be filming this. This had to be a joke.

He turned back to the cetanui and considered his response carefully, pursing his lips as he did so. “Eddie and I have never been a couple. I’m dating Crescent. You remember Crescent, right?”

Domerin thought, for a moment, that the slight widening of the cetanui’s eyes indicated the dawning of understanding. At least until the translator’s rushed monotone once again proved him wrong.

“Soyouweretoobigferhimthen?”

“What? No! Where… where is this coming from?”

“I’mafraidI’mjustnotinterestedinyouthatwayDomerin.” The cetanui’s armor-encased hand was heavy when it came to rest on Domerin’s shoulder. “Butifyouwant,Icouldwatch.”

“That’s-” With a soft, strangled choking sound, Domerin darted backward, neatly removing the cetanui’s hand from his shoulder. What in all hells had just happened here? He’d never seen a simple greeting go so spectacularly wrong.

“Look. Listen. Let’s… let’s start this conversation over, okay? Shall we? I don’t sleep a lot.” He laid a hand on his chest, as if this was going to help illustrate his point. “And I get the impression that you don’t really either.” He pointed at the cetanui for a moment, but then worried this was going to indicate some sort of connection he wasn’t trying to make and quickly lowered his hand. “So I thought, maybe, we could talk instead. We could talk about fun. You remember the conversation we had earlier about the murder mystery?”

“Ah. I’mnotsupposedtakillpeople.” Bamberfrink recited, seeming somewhat pleased with himself.

“That’s right. But I thought maybe I could shed a little more light on the concept of fun than our intrepid host managed earlier. I’m a bit more used to viewing things from your perspective.”

“Allright. Whatisfun?” Bamberfrink shrugged when he said this, as if to express the futility of repeating a portion of this conversation.

Domerin was starting to wonder why he had bothered in the first place, considering how disastrous his first attempt at this conversation had proven. But he was in too deeply now to back out. There was nothing to do but forge ahead.

“Fun is more than just something you do when you’re not working.” Domerin chose each of these words with care, repeating them in his head before he said them out loud to make sure there was nothing remotely resembling innuendo in any of them. “It’s a feeling. A feeling you have when nothing is wrong. When no one is trying to kill you and you get to do something you enjoy. Like earlier, when I went to the bar.”

Domerin wasn’t entirely sure, but he thought Bamberfrink was narrowing what looked like his eyes, perhaps with skepticism. “Youlikedrinkingpoison?”

Domerin barked a laugh. “That’s not how I usually think of it. But yeah, pretty much.”

“Idonotlikedrinkingpoison.”

“That’s fine,” Domerin insisted. “Everyone gets to choose for themselves what they think is fun.”

Bamberfrink made the sound that Domerin took for a nod and, while he contemplated this revelation, the two of them turned and resumed their trek down the hallway. Domerin could almost sense the gears turning in his companion’s brain, but he dared not say anything, for fear he’d once again lead them down a strange path.

“So…” Bamberfrink said at last, “nooneistryingtokillmerightnow.”

“Er… That’s right,” Domerin agreed, not sure where this was going.

“SoImustbehavingfun.”

“Well, sure. If you consider randomly accusing your friends of cheating on their partners to be fun,” Domerin replied before managed to swallow his sarcastic impulses. The moment the words slipped past his lips, he regretted them, and he lifted a hand to forestall further response.

“What I mean is, let’s look at this from another angle. What did you do before you started working for the Immortals?”

This, at least, seemed easy for the cetanui to answer. “Mymastermademefightinhispits.”

“Okay.” That explained a lot, actually. “Well, how did you feel when you weren’t forced to fight for your survival?”

“Alive.”

Domerin froze his face in the act of cringing and forced his expression back to something neutral. Before he had a chance to say anything further, however, the cetanui had already swept on.

“Ah. I understandnow! It’sfuntobealive!”

“Uh… Well, yes. But-“

“AndI’malivesoImustbereallygoodatfun.”

“You know what…” Domerin replied, relenting. “Yeah, you are. You’re the best at fun.” Did he sound as tired as he suddenly felt? Would Bamberfrink even notice if that was the case? He didn’t seem particularly keyed in to social or emotional cues. Though for a fleeting moment, Domerin wondered if this was how other people felt when they tried to talk to him about this sort of stuff.

“I think I’m going to give sleep another try,” he added after a moment, desperate to be finished with this monstrous conversation and uncertain now why he had even started it in the first place. “You uh… You enjoy yourself, okay?”

“I’mverygoodatstayingalivesoI’mgunnakeephavingfun. Enjoyyourpoison!”

Domerin paused only long enough to make sure Bamberfrink wouldn’t try to follow before he fled down an adjacent hallway.

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