To my readers,
Sorry to disappoint, but since I'm trying my hand at short fics and this is a short fic this one must end. I may write some more Lloyd+Dirk warm fluff stories later on, but this part of the tail(er tale) has wound to it's close for the time being. There's a curse word, (I think Dirk swears all of twice) but I don't think it cause enough to bump up the ranking of the fic. Just a warning so the mod's don't delete the story.
Father Tylor was a priest, the most unlikely type of priest around. He was ancient, claimed his flock, sporting a walking stick and pronounced limp at the age of twenty that he just as swiftly discarded on whim and would act his true age of five or so. He was on the outside a man or warm smiles, sporting wild red hair that always fell into his cat green eyes. People could have called those eyes piercing, his temperament hot, if he had any of those traits. If any of his flock in Tiret were to ask him why he wasn't like all the other people in the stories, all fiery and hot he'd either say it was hot enough outside and they needed no more heat or that he was just trying to annoy the people who made that rule up. Normal that would set his group of children that were always trailing along behind him to laughter, as it was supposed to.
Tylor loved the sound of children's laughter, loved to laugh himself, and would go out of his way to make someone smile of laugh be they adult or child. Half the people in Triet were offended by him because he scorned the "proper" traditional distance a priest was to maintain from the populace, the more sensible other half laughed at his jokes and forgot the fact he was a priest, which Tylor often did himself.
He liked wind chimes and bells, not those huge clanging bells that some poor acolyte would have to ring every hour on the hour, he hated those bells -rumor held he had to ring them himself when he was a acolyte and that's where he developed that hate- but the cheerful bells that would jangle on the fancy tack of a horse were the ones he favored. So much so that when a stable owner gave him a handful of those bells for the winter festival as a gift he sewed them into the topmost fold of his boots and only wore those boots from then on out. His pattering jangling feet would go up and down the dust choked streets of Triet, those in good condition and ill, and any child who followed the priest would be lead to the towns little hidden chapel. There he would offer water, bread, and tell stories of the old days, faithful and non faithful left their children with him so that they could work or tend to tasks underfoot and thanked him graciously on their return to pick up their off spring.
At least that's how it was in the beginning. After a year's time the children came all on their own, the common joke was that the roosters could all be cooked because the priest came at suns rising more loyally then the sun itself. For a span of two hours he would be in the chapel by himself to pray -that's what he told the younglings the wiser knew that he would slip off his robes and boots toss on a common man's garb and go to a tavern and strike up a game of darts or cards with some of the more friendly and sober patrons- then preach formally one a day at sunset.
So it was the one afternoon when he did not come to cards that the patrons grew worried, the whole tavern grew worried, and tavern and half the people on that street tromped down to that small little white building to find the door locked. Fearing the worst they broke down the door and scared Tylor and an elder priest who was visiting senseless.
"Oh boy I'm in trouble now..." Tylor muttered to himself, staring at the citizens then at the priest to catch the old man's reaction.
"We were worried father, you weren't there to umm bless the card game at the Sun's Roost Tav- er Inn."
"Don't bother Jhaun I'm in trouble, no getting around it."
The town could hear the older man's howls that replaced the relaxed sermon that night. "Cards, gambling, drinking... oh you don't touch the stuff hmm why do I doubt that! You're being transferred in a fortnight's time and someone more...You have no right to protest I have seniority in this, I'm a Voice of Martel, you a mere pastor and if you don't sober up and act accordingly that's all you'll ever be! You're going to Iselia to serve under Phardia, and that's final!"
So it was the next night that Tylor informed the unsurprised but angry people of Triet of his superior's decision. He didn't bother to hide it, did not seem bitter over the arrangement, and his last days there were more an attempt to sooth the bitterness of his congregation then anything else. He left the town as he entered it, on foot, black cloak obscuring his white robes, his walking staff taping a little ditty against the sands. What was different however was the flood of people who looked forlornly after him, already missing their Martel priest, then they turned on the man who had replaced their Tylor with a certain maliciousness as if to blame him on the young man's dismissal.
Tylor sighed, looked back only once so that his flock would feel obligated to not maim the new priest while he was in sight, then picked his way to Iselia. He traveled at first in the cool night, but when he passed into the green lands beyond Triet spent his first day up and his night sleeping. That made him so out of sorts he decided he was ill suited to travel. After all travel was supposed to be enjoyable but how could you enjoy it half asleep? So he spent a day... or three days -who was counting?- on the road watching the spring time world beyond the dessert with a wonder suited to someone not seeing it before in a years time. On the fourth day he gave himself a mental kick in the pants, packed up his tent, and began to jingle down the road to Iselia, and at the soft sound cries of pain he stopped, looked around, and found the saddest looking child he'd ever seen in his life nursing a swollen ankle. Frowning, a sight that would have stunned the people of Triet, Tylor picked up the youngster and carried him to the, thank the Goddess, nearby house of salvation.
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Lloyd hopped out of bed when he heard the dwarf's first snore. He yawned, it was night and he was sleepy and the bed looked really nice. No, he had to do this! Grimacing Lloyd swung his feet over the side of the bed. Quiet as a mouse he slipped out of the room, tip toed down the stairs and snook into the kitchen. Spotting the jar with Noshy's treats Lloyd pulled out the chair and climbed up onto the table. He popped open the lid, picked out all the jerky he could and managed to get outside with a bit of difficulty. He went to Noshy's room and "shushed" his doggie. Noishe was very quiet, especially when a small rain of jerky fell from Lloyd's hands. Giggling Lloyd watched Noishe eat every piece of "non-dog food" with enjoyment. He patted his doggie's fluffy head whispered good night, than went to see Momma. He hugged Momma, though she couldn't hug back no more, and said bye-bye. He gulped down his tears then seeing that Noshy was going back to bed tip toed not to the house but to the bridge and into the forest.
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There was a thump, a loud thump, and at that sound he hopped out of bed expecting to see the walls fall down or the earth shaking. Another thump, a howl, and Dirk was on his feet working on his clothes that he set aside for the day. He ran out of his room, calling for Lloyd...
And there was no answer. He ran around the ground floor checking every place he could think the boy would and could hide, even opening up the oven, and he wasn't there. He took the steps two at a time, no mean feat because his legs were so short, and at the top his blood went to ice. The ladder was down, and he scrambled up it to find the bed empty. There was another howl, a louder thump, and Dirk jumped down forsaking the ladder and ran outside.
And what a sight awaited him.
Mane bristled in anger; teeth bared in fury Lloyd's dog did not look like a dog anymore. He looked like a monster. Howling, no roaring, he kicked at the door to his pen. The three locks Dirk had put on the door, to keep the crafty beast in at night and not wondering as was its want, shuddered under the force of the kick. As a matter of fact those locks were the only thing keeping the door from flying out into the creek. Another howl, more of a scream really, and there was another heart stopping kick and thump.
"Where is he!" Dirk bellowed, all but ripping out his beard in worry. "By the Gods if you hurt him I'll.."
"BARK!" Noishe slammed his shoulder into the door, then gave the dwarf a very firm look as if to say "do something about this!".
"Where's my boy?" Dirk growled, and Noishe growled back baring very impressive teeth in what was not a smile.
"Whine bark!" Noishe turned and kicked at the door again, and Dirk stared in shock for bits of wood went flying under those paws, and the paws themselves were bloody due to splinters caught under the claws. Still Noishe kick and kicked at the door, trying to open it, oblivious to the pain in his terror.
"You saw something, what did you see you damn flea ridden mutt?"
"Howl!" Noishe kicked at the door, looked over his shoulder at Dirk and then kicked it again as if he was imagining kicking something else that hard.
"Stop you'll warp the locks, I'll let you go but we have to go after him!"
Noishe paused, one paw raised in a pre-kick pose. Then he smashed it into the door, but with none of the force that had set the wall the pen was attached to, to shaking. Dirk left the dog, who was picking out the bits of wood under his claws with his teeth, to gather some supplies and the keys to let the dog out. All the while the dwarf was wondering if this was such a great idea. Yet what choice did he have? The dog could follow scent where he on the other hand could follow only tracks and where tracks could mislead from what he knew of dog's smell did not.
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"Alright, easy... easy there dog." Dirk's hands were shaking as he slipped in the last key in its slot and turned. "You growl at me like you were a'fore and you and my axe get to know each other well, understand?"
Noishe, a dog, who he Dirk who was a grown dwarf was talking to like he'd talk to another dwarf, glared bloody daggers at him.
As the lock fell Dirk snatched up his axe, waited for the rabid beast's charge. Nothing came; Noishe pushed open the door and met his eyes. Suddenly Dirk felt a strong urge to put the axe down, had a feeling that those eyes were thinking him stupid. Sheathing his weapon he gave the beast a wide birth, but trailed behind it loyally as it sniffed the ground. It walked, from the pen to the grave, than continued to the bridge. For a second when the monster stopped to sniff at the very edge of the bride Dirk's heart plummeted, thinking that the boy had fallen in...
Dirk managed a sigh of relief when Noishe padded off across the bridge and began to wander around the beginning of the forest. Promptly imagine of monsters and Desian's hurting Lloyd began to play in his head and what little relief he had gathered flew to the winds. As Noishe began to pick up pace and go deeper in Dirk ran along side him, his axe thumping against his back and his packs of food and jells rattling behind him. He ran alongside the beast for hours, and then perhaps moved by pity the creature stopped and lay down in the center of the path.
"No... No I can keep going... I'm not done in yet..." No he wasn't done in just very out of shape.
Noishe growled, and then looked at the dwarf then at his furry green back.
"You're out of your mind..."
"Whine." Noishe shrugged, picked himself up and looked as if he was going to brake into a real run not a half trot he'd been keeping for Dirk's sake. Suddenly faced with the idea of being left behind, Dirk stomped down his revulsion for the animal.
"Wait, I'll get on, don't leave me behind, he needs me!"
Noishe only looked at him, and his eyes seemed to contain doubt in them, and suddenly Dirk could almost here a man's voice mutter. "He needs you? You're the one clinging to him."
"Shut up," Dirk growled, awkwardly hopped on the beasts back. "Let's go." He gripped the monster's mane as tightly as he could and it was a good thing he did. Because those 'run's that had so scared him at his house were nothing compared to a full out run. Those runs were mere jogs to the dog. Dirk closed his eyes, and it was all he could do to hold on for dear life.
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"Do you know his name?"
"Lloyd I think... Venom's muddled up his brain though; he thought I was his father... Did you give him the anti-venom?"
"Yes, I did, thank the Goddess you saw him on the side of the road."
Tylor nodded, stroked the wild brown hair out of those glazed brown eyes. There was a sheen of sweat on that small little forehead, the effects of the venom and anti-venom waging war in the child's body.
"I'll stay with him; I can put off going to Iselia a few days since I wrote to the head priestess of that region to expect me late anyhow."
The elder priest nodded, left only a candle burning by the bed, and Tylor took that small hand in his own, and to his wonder those small fingers clenched, held onto him like they would hold onto life. If that was the case, and he was the life for this little child then so be it, he would stay up all night if need be. There was no chair, so he knelt by the boy's bed for the night, holding that small hand and ignoring the other priests attempts to talk him into seeking slumber.
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They ran through Iselia, the guards chased after then, but the Noishe wasn't one for lingering. He ran faster then the winds, seemed to glide over the earth, and the ride was smooth as if they were flying. Dirk who was mortally afraid of heights however could take no comfort in that comparison. He dared to open his eyes and look down once, the ground was a blur of color, motion, and he wisely closed his eyes before he got ill. At that point he resolved only to stare at the back of Noishe's head if he was to look anywhere at all.
"Are we close yet?" He yelled, fighting to be heard by the panting dog like creature. Noishe skidded to a stop, and it was all Dirk could do to hold on. "Is he here? I don't see any traces of him!"
"Whine?" Noishe was paying his rambles no mind. He sniffed at the ground and well... a dog couldn't frown but this one seemed to.
"You lost the scent?"
They had already had a scare like that, where Noishe had halted and sniffed at the ground. It was Dirk who had spotted the tracks of a wagon, had suggested that Lloyd may have gotten a ride from some wandering pilgrim of Martel. Noishe had checked the area twice, Dirk alongside him, and they had followed the tacks praying that they were right. And perhaps they were, for there was a point there the tracks split off from the main path, headed in a roundabout way to Triet yet Noishe had started walking in the different direction. Then all of a sudden he stopped. Night had fallen, it would be pointless to check for tracks, and if Noishe had lost the scent then there was no way that they could press on until light came. Though he was tired the dog did not seem content to lie down and rest, ignored Dirk's protests and began to pick his way back to the road. Dirk walked along side the dog, was able to keep pace with the huge beast as he walked, they were going that slow.
"You won't do him any good if you kill yourself getting to him, the scent won't be gone in the morning, and even if it is there will be tracks to follow."
Noishe turned to him, grunted, and then went down the road without a farther glance. He managed all of twenty steps before his twitching paws gave way.
Still the dog tried to get up, and kept trying. Not willing to admit defeat, not willing to give up until he was certain Lloyd was safe. Dirk could understand that, felt that, but what could he do? It's not like he could carry the thing, it was twice his size and...
And the 'thing', the 'monster', was in agony, it's legs were probably cramped, when it walked he could see hints of blisters under the paws, and it was all but crawling forward now. And it had carried him for hours without complaint. Flushing in shame Dirk went to Noishe's side.
"Easy." The dwarf said to the dog as it weakly growled at him. "I'm going to work this out..." He frowned, looked at a nearby tree then at the dog. He might be able to work some slabs of bark and push or pull the dog along, it wouldn't be comfortable, but they'd get somewhere at least. Dirk un-slung his axe from his back, and went to work.
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"You're heavier then a half ton of stone you know that?" Dirk panted, to the dog when they stopped. Lights from the house of salvation bobbed above him like disquiet spirits. He ignored the lights, ignored the dog for a moment, and went to the door. He pounded into the wood, fully intent on taking out his axe if someone didn't open up after ten seconds. The door did open and a young woman answered him. Her features were blurred in his fatigue clouded mind.
"My son... I need help to find him..."
She froze, which was exactly what he didn't need right now. He began to shove his way past here when an authorative voice cut through the fog in his head.
"Human, brown hair, brown eyes, about four...Name Lloyd?"
"He's three..." Dirk swayed, or was it the world swaying around him. "You've seen him... Where's he?"
"He came here with a priest, he's sick but more or less sa- What in the Goddess' name!"
Noishe had scraped up the energy to stagger through the door and Dirk could see that the dog was swaying.
"H-He's with the boy..." Why did his voice sound all distant and rough, that wasn't like him at all. "Where is he...? I have to see..."
His legs decided that what he was going to have was the floor, up close and personal. He collapsed at the feet of the high priest of the temple, and was only vaguely aware of another massive presence that collapsed besides him.
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Dirk woke to a person, a human, standing by his bed.
"Good morning or night... I'm not to certain what it is anymore." One lone candle sputtered weakly besides him. It illuminated a pale long face with green eyes. A matted mane of red hair framed the long and thing face of the man before him, and the white robes were touched with gold highlights. "I've been watching over your little boy... I never knew I looked so short and pudgy, nor did I see myself as a beard person."
Dirk stared at the man stupidly, not comprehending.
"Ah me, ignore that... little sleep it muddles my brain and makes me try to joke. Come on, the priests say you're not to be up till morning, but I think your boy needs you now."
Dirk rolled out of the bed, landed with a grunt, and flinched as his arms and legs screamed out with every movement. Luckily all they had to do was walk across the room to another cot. Lloyd lay under a blanket, his young face pale in the star light. He looked like a ghost, but if he was he was a tormented on. He cried out softly in his sleep, curled into a tight ball even as the dwarf watched.
Reaching out, pain forgotten Dirk meant to stroke that mess of brown hair that poked out from blanket shell Lloyd had pulled over himself. His arm, too short, fell short its mark. He was not so easily defeated however; he fought his way up to the side of the human built bed, and sat on the edge stroking Lloyd's hair.
"A dwarf with a human child..." The priest muttered. "In all my years I've never seen such a wonder."
Dirk lifted his head, glared at the man in defiance.
"I mean no insult, you don't mind do you?"
Dirk didn't know if he minded because he didn't know what was being offered. He shrugged and the human took that as invitation to sit at his boy's feet.
"It's a long time till dawn good sir, and long way from here to Iselia which is where I imagine you are headed, as am I. My name is Tylor Aruu-valen Sancrest, an honor." Tylor offered his hand and the dwarf took it in his own. "What a right mess we both are eh?" It was then that Dirk noticed that his hand was shaking, and at the same time he noticed how pale and drawn the priest looked.
"Aye to that." Dirk looked to his charge, a small smile on his lips. "I'm just glad he's safe, that's all that matters."
"Then you have your heart in the right place. I'm up to a bit of tea, if you are I can make us both cups and then a pair of sentimental old men can split a kettle and gossip."
"Sentimental?" Dirk croaked, managed a smile of his own.
"What else would a dwarf be doing with a child who's not his blood who dragged that thing behind him?" Tylor shrugged, managed to get out of his chair. "Or matter of fact a priest who's been holding that little guy's hand for five or six hours now with no thought of going to the privy?"
"A fool, and that thing is our dog."
"Sentimental sounds nicer." Was Tylor's parting response and Dirk managed his first laugh in a day at least.
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They left for Iselia three days later, Noishe was possessive of Lloyd, not allowing Tylor nor Dirk anywhere near the boy for the first day or so. They both were bit, but not mauled to death as Dirk figured they all would have been a few days ago when Noishe hated his guts. Eventually the dog allowed Dirk to go near Lloyd, but growled at Tylor until Dirk called the young man over and explained to the dog that the human was a friend. And friend they were after the long watch over Lloyd. They'd split more then a kettle that night, both being sentimental fools as Tylor termed it, had stood watch over Lloyd while he slept and spent that time in conversation.
"There are differences between a human and a dwarf, there always will be and you'll both have to understand each other if you don't want this to happen again and again. You can't replace Lloyd's father with yourself, he has to see you like that and you will have to be patient, but you have to be a father while you wait for him to decide that he'll accept you as his adopted father." Tylor had said sagely, sipping his tea. "The key word is adopted, I never accepted my adopted family as my own, that's why I wear these." Tylor shook his robes meaningfully.
"Then you understand a little of what he'd going through?"
"A little, the events of his parents leaving him were obviously traumatic, he probably nightmares about it all the time. My own just left me at someone's door step. I was lucky that the merchant was willing to take me in, but I had no love for business so they dropped me off on another doorstep and well." He looked down at himself and chuckled.
"He wants his old family though." Dirk sighed. "I guess I don't have any choice but to find them, if they're still alive, and give him back."
"And if they're dead? You thought that they were, that's why you haven't been looking isn't it?"
"Aye, yes, but perhaps distant family..." Dirk told his stinging eyes to sting on their own time. It was wrong for a dwarf to cry, weakness, and he wasn't going to bawl like a child in front of this man. Dirk looked up, startled when the human put a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't lose heart I've seen a handful find room in their hearts for both their families. Expect Lloyd to keep looking, help him look every way you can when he does so, and don't pressure the boy, he's got enough on his plate right now as it is."
"And how am I doing that now?"
"You're hesitating." Tylor said calmly. "Back and forth you hop, you have to make up your mind and confirm it with your actions even though he may never call you father. From what you've told me hesitance and impatience seems to be the problem."
"And if it is?"
"Find a way to fix it, do I look like a holy vessel of knowledge to you? I can't answer all your questions Dirk. Hellfires I can't even talk my superiors into thinking a sense of humor's a good thing!"
"Your brand of humor I wonder..." Dirk mock scowled and the man laughed.
"It's catchy, see you've just caught it."
Dirk snorted, drowning his laughter in a mouth full of tea.
"Here's what I can do for you, you tell me of what a dwarf is I'll tell you what a human is, and we'll see if you can't put it together somehow so it helps you out in understanding yon scamp before he drives you absolutely mad. Now hand me the kettle, my cup's empty."
Dirk did so, poured the priest a cup and himself one then they went back to talking, all through the night and a goodly ways into the morning.
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"You aren't in trouble." Dirk said calmly as they walked down the dusty road back to their home. He'd been calm and quiet all the time while they'd been with Tylor, made a quick stop in Iselia to get some food for the last leg of the journey. He'd let Noishe and Lloyd stay with each other with no protest, and it might have been Dirk's imagination but the dog wasn't giving him glares of death anymore. "You did nothing wrong except not tell me you were leaving; all I want you to do is tell me when you want to look again. I won't be angry with you because you're looking for your family, I'll even come with you next time and help, alright?"
Lloyd stared up at him, his expression saying that he could not believe Dirk's words.
"At the very least take you're flea bitten mutt with you next time, since he seems to have some wits in that thick skull."
And there was that glare of death; Dirks world was now back to normal. Growling Noishe padded up to him, glared down at him from his very impressive height and bared equally impressive teeth. Dirk decided to take one of Tylor's suggestions on the matter of the mutt.
"You bite me, smack me, or so much as growl and you get half of supper for the night." The dog's face became the most meek and submissive face in all the worlds. "Good, and stay that way."
He stomped down the path, crossed the bridge all the while talking to Lloyd and Noishe who were standing on the edge of the forest.
"You will stay here the night, and if it's your wish you can leave come morning, poor man I'd be if I let two youngin's starve on my threshold, so you'll have to stomach my cooking as well. That priest fellow says that if you want to leave he'll send letters to the temples of his order so that they'll help you out any way they can and I'll give you whatever you need for your journey."
There was a long pause, a long silence, and Dirk swallowed down the words of how he'd hope they'd stay with him, how staying was an option. But if he did that he'd be pressuring again, and look what his earlier pressuring had done and he'd not even seen it!
"I talked to the priests at the house of salvation, where we met up… and asked them to talk to all the pilgrim-ers and see if any of them it your pa. If he goes to the temple then he'll know to look me up, and he'll know where to go because Tylor, the priest fellow, will take them here."
He shivered, though the sun shone with a brightness and cheer he could not feel he shivered and waited for the blade to fall. That pause stretched on forever to the dwarf then at last he heard little feet pad out of the forest.
"Could me and Noshy stay a little while Mr. Dirk?"
Dirk sighed, part in pain part in relief. He expected it now; it wasn't so much like a knife twisting in his gut as it was before.
If he stays he's giving you a chance, you'll only get it once so don't fail. Tylor had said on parting.
"Aye, I won't." Dirk whispered, then twisted his lips into a smile and turned. "Course you can lad, seeing as my cooking's enough to not kill you you should be safe enough with me for a while! Pen's broke though so I'm afraid the dog's going to have to share room with you."
"All right, can we go in now Mr. Dirk? My tummy's rumbling lots."
"Of course," He stepped aside and Lloyd crossed the bride, as Noishe went to cross Dirk stepped in front of him. "Here's the rules of staying with me dog, no pouncing me, no growling at either me or the boy, and no biting, and no, absolutely no carrying me anywhere ever again! Is that clear?"
"Whine." Noishe stared at him then nodded.
"Good, and if you break any of those rules, mainly the last two outside you go and stay, understood?"
Seeing the head bob up and down and the cowed expression Dirk mentally declared himself master of the house. He'd have worried had he seen Noishe turn about and look over his shoulder. As it was the dwarf was too wrapped up in smugness and thinking fondly of toasted bread with melted cheese and a slab of meat as a side. So it stands to reason he missed how Noishe winked to Lloyd, missed Lloyd's giggle, and received a very firm shove over the side of the bridge. Sputtering and cursing Dirk floundered to the bank of the river and glared daggers at the dog. With a whine Noishe licked Lloyd, was hugged by the boy, then with a parting bark ran into the woods.
The End (I remembered to put a "the end" Homicidal Snowbunnies !)
MoonCannon: Yeah Short Stories are very very OOC for me, but I'm trying to pick up the knack of doing shorter pieces as well as longer.
GameCubeGirl1: I didn't plan on going all the way to the opening of the game. Kratos' epilogue fic will do that.
Laistira an eas: Noishe isn't exactly "hell spawn" in this fic but he seems pretty close doesn't he? Well your wait is over, with this I have updated.
Mizz Darkness: Thanks, I was enjoying it! Thanks for the praise, and I kind of feel a bit bad for Lloyd too…