Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 3

October 19, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

The trio had to find a safe place to wait for the Wicked Witch of the West. None of them wanted to involve the general public in this fight. Of course, all three knew that human authorities were of no use. Sabrina came from a society where such things were strictly forbidden. Nancy’s mother had tried to appeal to the police and psychiatrists to no effect. Lydia and her family had never had the chance to call for help but it was unlikely normal humans could have done anything.

Besides, human authorities either did not want to deal with these sorts of things or they were not really capable of keeping up. Either way, it was best to fight fire with fire and it was easier to cut loose when innocents were out of the way. To facilitate that, Lydia and Sabrina worked on weaving a cloaking spell which would keep people away from the warehouse they had chosen. If all went well, the Wicked Witch would be cast back to Hell and nobody would be the wiser.

While they prepared, the other girls told Nancy in detail the story of Dorothy’s first trip to Oz during which the encounters with the Wicked Witches had happened. They told her of falling houses, a scarecrow, a tin woodsman, a talking lion, and all sorts of other wonders. They told her of subsequent trips and what Dorothy had learned. They talked about when they met and some of the other girls in their circle. After hearing the stories, Nancy very much wanted to meet Dorothy and the rest of the circle. Lydia promised the two of them would somehow make that happen if they got through the next fight. Maybe Sabrina could come back and meet Rob, too.

When the spell was in place, Sabrina snapped her fingers and a small black cat appeared. Nancy leaned down to pet the cat with a smile.

“Is this your cat, Sabrina?” Nancy asked. The cat quickly crawled up Nancy’s arm and draped itself across her shoulders, purring.

Sabrina laughed. “That’s my familiar, Salem,” she said. “He’s not exactly a cat. Not really.”

“What does that mean?” Nancy asked.

“Like you, Salem is more than meets the eye,” Nancy said. “Familiars are otherworldly creatures usually in the shape of Earth animals.”

“Salem will be good in the fight,” Sabrina said. “He is way tougher than he looks. Let’s finish getting ready for her.”

It was an hour later when they started to hear banging on the outside of the corrugated metal walls of the warehouse. It started slowly at first with what sounded like the occasional tennis ball hitting the wall. Then the sounds started to surround the girls and they got faster, louder, and more numerous. The three of them stood their ground and tried to stay calm.  The sounds began to get more rhythmic and synchronized, signalling a small army outdoors. As the sound climaxed, the sliding doors of the entrance slid open. Standing in all of her glory was the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West, just as Dorothy had described her. She carried a broom etched with wicked-looking runes and there was a twisted smirk on her face.

“Well, my pretties,” West said. “Time to go to Hell!” Her voice was thin and high-pitched but somehow compelling and forceful. Her clawed hand flexed and she gripped the broom tighter. She grinned, revealing incredibly sharp teeth. Her face was impossibly angular and she was instantly identifiable as something no longer human. From the stories Lydia remembered, the Witch had ceased to be human before her death.

“Back off, West,” Sabrina said. “Nobody’s going to Hell but you and your stupid monkeys.” All of Dorothy’s girls knew the stories almost by heart and who could forget flying monkeys as villainous henchmen?

“Is that what you think they are?” West asked. “No. No more winged monkeys, no more Winkies. I have new friends now.”

“What are you talking about?” Nancy asked. “What are they?”

Creatures started to make their way through the door, they had orange-red skin, sharp teeth and they behaved like feral animals. “The goblins from down below,” West said. “You must be my prize, the one called Nancy.”

“Leave her alone!” Lydia called out, moving slightly in front of her best friend. The two of them glanced at each other and there was no need to say anything. They were in it together until the end.

“It’s best to give up now and save me the trouble,” West said. “Then I can go back and finish off that troublesome Dorothy.” She was having fun drawing out the anticipation and trying to get the three girls to squirm. All three bravely stood their ground and glared at the wicked witch.

“Back off, witch!” Lydia yelled. “Let’s get this over with.”

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Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 2

October 12, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

It was hours later when Sabrina showed up. She had bone-white hair and she was incredibly attractive, it made Nancy feel somewhat self-conscious. She shook off the feeling and moved on. She saw the worried yet happy look in Lydia’s eyes and wondered if she was not keeping her best friend from making other friends. Although she was cute, Sabrina had a cut across her cheek and a visible burn mark on her hand. Both had been properly treated but they were clearly fresh. They had met in front of the town library since neither Nancy or Lydia thought that Rob would agree to the risk of inviting a stranger to the bunker, even if Sabrina was a trusted friend of Lydia’s. As soon as they met, they moved quickly to a back room in the library so they could talk privately.

“Are you alright, Sabrina?” Lydia asked. “You look a little banged up.”

“I’ll live,” Sabrina said. “And luckily so will the others but it was a really close call.” She looked more relaxed now that she was sitting down but she still looked keyed up about something. It was definitely something really bad.

“Maybe we should start from the beginning,” Lydia said. She glanced over at Nancy in the corner. Nancy’s t-shirt had morphed back into a floppy sweater which was a clear sign that she was nervous. “Sabrina, this is Nancy, my best friend. Nancy, this is Sabrina, my old friend and classmate.” Nancy visibly brightened at the mention of her being Lydia’s ‘best friend’.

“Nice to meet you,” Sabrina said to Nancy. “Any friend of Lydia’s is somebody I can trust.”

“Thank you, Sabrina,” Nancy said. “What happened to you?” Nancy healed really fast so she was more likely to fuss over other people’s injuries. She had certainly fussed over Lydia and Rob enough.

Sabrina’s expression darkened and she shuddered. “That’s why I came here. She’s back, Lydia. The Wicked Witch of the West has returned and she’s in our world this time,” she said.

Lydia’s eyes went wide. “She’s dead!” she shouted and then remembered they were in a library. “Dorothy killed her in Oz.”

“Yeah,” Sabrina said. “but all worlds lead to the same Hell and they brought her back. There was a huge burst of hellfire and there she was. She caught us all off guard. Dorothy and I were the only ones left standing and we only kept everybody alive with a desperate defensive spell. Dorothy and the rest are safe in a hospital but I had to come and warn you.”

“Warn me?” Lydia asked. “What could she want from me?” and then her brain caught up with her and she shut her eyes with a sigh. “Oh.” She looked at Nancy.

“Not another one!” Nancy cried out and buried her face in her sweater sleeves. The rest of what she had to say only came out as mumbles as she was muffled by the fabric.

“What’s going on?” Sabrina asked. “What does she want?” The mystery had been eating at her the whole trip and now she was so close to figuring it out.

“She wants Nancy,” Lydia said. “Not me. The King of Hell wants Nancy.” She could feel the fear and anger rising inside. Nobody was going to take Nancy anywhere.

“Why?” Sabrina asked without knowing how loaded that question was.

Lydia and Nancy locked eyes and then Nancy nodded slowly. She literally trusted Lydia with her life. “Nancy’s dad was a demon,” Lydia said. “She inherited a lot of his powers and maybe even more.” Nancy watched Sabrina nervously.

Sabrina took that in for a moment. “That’s alright, Nancy,” she said. “A lot of my family worshiped the Devil for a while. Also, I’ve heard a lot of weird stories from our circle so I’m a little jaded at this point.

Nancy smiled and her sweater changed back into a t-shirt. “So who is this evil witch?” She asked.

“The Wicked Witch of the West,” Lydia said. “She clashed with our teacher Dorothy but died almost by accident from getting wet. It, uh, sounds sillier than it was.”

“Sure,” Nancy said. “but what is her name? You keep saying the Wicked Witch of the West.”

“She and her sister sold their names a long time ago in exchange for more power,” Sabrina said. “They have gone unnamed for a long, long time.”

“That’s pretty twisted,” Nancy said.

“They were some pretty twisted sisters,” Lydia said. “They ruled over large sections of the land of Oz and warred with the admittedly ineffectual government. Dorothy took both witches out and ended up helping with a regime change too. She’s gone back and visited some but that first trip was pretty rough.”

“So what are we going to do?” Sabrina asked. “We need a plan.”

“I think I have some ideas,” Lydia said. “Which I’ll need your help with, Sabrina. Nancy, think about what you can bring to the table. I know your powers take a lot out of you so we can’t rely on just you. We’re in this together.”

“As usual,” Nancy said with a smile.

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 1

October 5, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

“Oh dear sister,” the West said. “My mistake last time was getting fixated on you and that little girl. This time, I’m going to stay focused. So, I’m not bringing you with me.”

“Damn you!” East said. “You can’t leave me down here.”

“Oh dear sister,” West said. “I have the stamp of approval from the King himself. I’m about to do what I could not do before. I’ll get that little girl and then I’m off to capture the King’s prize.”

*                *                 *

It was summer vacation and Lydia and Nancy were left to their own devices which mostly meant just hanging out in the bunker or swimming down at the local pool. Rob had reported at the start of summer that his parents were making him go to summer camp and he would not be around. Demon activity had been strangely quiet but the girls knew that something would be back. They had interfered three times with demon plots and the one that had started it all, Ley, had said something about the King of Hell wanting Nancy. Lydia was not about to let that happen. So, they spent a lot of time studying whatever books they could get their hands on. The Bunker also had a remote link to a database from something called the Men of Letters which had been very enlightening so far.

It was on a hot July afternoon when Lydia had gotten a text. She was honestly surprised, she had been caught in that belief that overtakes people that once physical and temporal distance separates us from our past, it is gone forever. There were parts of her life that she had not told her best friend Nancy about. She never imagined she would tell Nancy about any of it but they had both been open books otherwise. They both had horrible pasts but that had bonded them together. Now their future did not look exactly bright but there was hope if they stayed together. Important to that was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“Nancy,” Lydia said. “I just got a text.” She felt nervous. They had faced down demons and ghosts together on several occasions. She had had her own encounter with a deadly ghost. Her best friend was some sort of demon offspring. Still, she was nervous about not telling her friend something from her past. The words did not slip through her lips easily.

“Oh?” Nancy asked. “I didn’t think Rob was allowed to have a phone at camp.”

Lydia paused at that. “Is it troubling that he is our only other friend really?” she asked. The two of them ate lunch together at school, hung out together all the time, and had only recently started to hang out with the much younger boy who had shown up in their lives in a car with a trunk full of weapons. He had introduced him to the family bunker, a family he revered like kickass saints.

“No,” Nancy said. “The teen years are supposed to be awkward, right? Also, we’re totally weird.” She was not wrong, a witch and the daughter of a devil.

“True,” Lydia said. “but no. I got a text from an old friend. We’re going to be getting a visitor.” She slid her finger along the edge of her phone over and over, a nervous tic.

Nancy looked curious. She had changed since Lydia and she had met. She had started to blossom into a young woman who was less scared of the world and, most importantly, less scared of herself. Lydia had assured her over and over that she was not her father and that her admittedly fantastic powers were not a sign of evil. Nancy looked less like her usual muppety self without her trademark sweater but she had somehow used her own internal magic to turn it into a t-shirt. Those familiar red and green stripes were something that Nancy was rarely seen without. “Who’s coming?” Nancy asked. “I’m interested to meet one of your other friends.”

“When everything happened to me and my parents were killed I felt lost,” Lydia said. “My foster family just did not understand. I met a bunch of girls like me who were being tutored by a wise older lady named Dorothy. Like us, she had been the victim of magic. She had experienced another dimension and had come back changed from the experience. She had set out to learn witchcraft to make sure it never happened again to her or anybody else. I brought what little knowledge I had to the circle and they taught me so much. Eventually, my foster dad got a new job and we moved. We lost touch and I started off on my own journey and met you.”

“Wow,” Nancy said. “so you were part of an actual coven? I’ve only seen that kind of stuff in movies.” She looked so intrigued. She had such big wide eyes that made her look so innocent.

Lydia shrugged and smiled. “I’d hesitate to call it an actual coven,” Lydia said. “We never used that word. I’m sorry for not telling you about all of this until now.”

Nancy shook her head. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “We’re friends. Best friends and I trust you more than anybody in the entire world.”

“And beyond,” Lydia said with a smile.

“And beyond,” Nancy agreed. “So who’s coming? Are they riding a broom?”

“My old friend Sabrina,” Lydia said. “and maybe. You make fun but some of us learned to do that stuff. She’s on her way now. I can only imagine this will lead to a new danger for us.”

“We’ll face it together,” Nancy said.

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 2

September 28, 2019

The Mayor, Deputy Wescott, and Ben Hoscut reconvened with the stranger in the back of the Sheriff’s old office. Word of the woman’s claims was already spreading through the town like wildfire. They shut the door on the townspeople but the damage had already been done. An exotic stranger had walked into a desert town and declared herself as the sheriff. Mayor Brown was especially irritated. In contrast, the stranger was completely calm but she had covered the tattoo up again. She moved with a lazy sort of swagger. She did not seem to notice that people noticed her. She glided along with a determined yet aloof manner. She stuck out like a sore thumb in the more reserved town of Sunwood.

“Who in the Hell are you?” Mayor Brown asked. “While we’re at it, how did you get our symbol?”

“Now be nice, Mayor,” Ben Hoscut said. “I don’t think she means any harm.” His voice was reassuring. He had kept his position on their small council based on his use of the symbol and his even-keeled determination.

“How do we know that?” Deputy Kyle Wescott asked. He had remained loyal to the old sheriff until the end and was still not at ease with all of this hocus pocus. The presence of the symbol was not a good sign, especially on an outsider.

“Maybe let her talk, Deputy,” Hoscut said. “Let’s start with introductions. We can be hospitable and civil at the very least.”

“My name is Afa,” the stranger said. “I come from an island far away. I’m sure you have never heard of it here in the desert.”

“My name is Ben Hoscut,” Hoscut said. “This is Mayor Brown and Deputy Westcott. We’re the leaders of this town since the incidents started happening.”

“We can be hospitable,” Deputy Wescott said. He walked over and grabbed a bottle of beer which the Mayor looked disapprovingly at. He set it in front of Afa. “Now how about that story?”

“Well,” Afa said. “Firstly, you called it ‘your symbol’. It is not your symbol. That symbol belongs to my people as well.”

“Did your people have the same problem?” Hoscut asked. He leaned in, very interested.

Afa smiled and shrugged. “I don’t know the problem you had here,” she said. “In our island village, people started to disappear without a trace save for some blood on the dirt or sand. We sent out search parties to find them. I lead one of them. We never found any of them.”

Westcott looked remorseful, pitying. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s the same problem. More or less.”

“While I never discovered any of the missing, I did discover something else,” she said. “I found a long-forgotten cave. There we discovered the symbol. We could not understand all of the symbols in the cave but when I touched this symbol, I felt like it would protect us. I guess I was right. I guess it protected you as well.”

“It has,” Hoscut said. “But it didn’t stop what’s still out there. Did you ever catch sight of whatever was out there?”

“Once,” Afa said, her eyes growing dark. “but only a glimpse. Really, all I saw were four bright eyes in the darkness. I heard something inhuman.”

The Mayor shuddered. The mood in the room had changed now that the three men believed that Afa was a kindred spirit of sorts. They had no idea whether they could really trust her but at least she had gone through the same fire they had. If she was telling the truth, of course. But why would she have that symbol? What would she gain from lying? Her words felt like the truth.

“Maybe we were too quick to anger,” Mayor Brown said. “Maybe you can help us figure this thing out.”

Afa nodded. “Where did you get the symbol from in the first place?” she asked. Her eyes burned with curiosity. “Maybe we can learn more from your source.”

The three men all looked at each other. One by one they nodded and shrugged. “We got the symbol from the Sisters,” Hoscut said. “They got the idea from a vision.”

“Who are these Sisters?” Afa asked she reached out and grabbed the beer and drank. “I want to talk to them?”

“We haven’t heard from them in years,” Mayor Brown said. “They’re probably dead.”

Deputy Westcott got a strange look on his face. “I remember my mother saying the same thing when I was a boy,” he said. “What’s that about?”

Afa stood and swept her coat back, exposing two onyx six-shooters. “Let’s go find out, shall we?” she asked with that same confident smile.

Deputy Westcott stood up. “Just because I’m backing you up doesn’t mean you’re the Sheriff,” he said. “With your permission, Mayor.”

Mayor Brown nodded. “I suppose it’s something,” he said. “We have lived in fear for a long time. Be careful.”

Deputy Westcott led Afa over to the Sister’s house. It looked quite ordinary. The Deputy knocked on the door and they waited for a long time. Westcott shrugged and started to turn away when Afa lunged at the door, slamming her foot hard into it. The door jamb cracked and the door opened inward. Before the Deputy could complain, Afa had slipped inside. When he followed, his mind could not immediately grasp what he saw. It looked a castle inside. A great big castle, much bigger than the house on the outside. Something was indeed strange here.

Possession

September 23, 2019

“Don’t do it,” a little voice in Renna head said but Karen was not really listening. Her eyes looked unfocused as she finished tying the gnome to a table. She swayed a bit and her unnatural movements might have scared the gnome if the guy was awake. She finished securing his wrists and ankles and then she walked toward where the knife was.

“Please don’t do this,” the little voice said. “You don’t want to do this. This isn’t you!” Once again, Renna disregarded the voice and picked up the knife. Something made her mouth smile but it was not her. This was not like her at all. She was a healer, not a butcher. All of her oaths and faith seemed to be lost in a fog. She raised the knife and prepared to cut. It had to be precise.

“Do not do this!” the voice screamed. “You can stop. You can stop now.” Renna shook her head and started to lower the blade. The gnome, Calba Halfstone started to wake up. He saw the knife and started to try and scream and squirm. He could not get away and all he managed to do was slide the knife’s blade against his skin, marking it. It was not precise. Renna frowned. This would not do. She tried to refocus on making the correct mark. That internal voice was screaming wordlessly in fear and frustration. It was kind of annoying.

She drove her elbow into Halfstone’s face, trying to subdue him. The blow made a sickening noise but Halfstone did not stop moving. So frustrating. She briefly contemplated using the knife but that was not what the plan was. It was at this point that Renna heard and then felt music surrounding her. Such pleasant music. She felt herself begin to fade, dropping to her knees. The voice inside was elated, cheering wildly. As she unwillingly laid down on the floor, she heard the gnome yelling something about a necklace. Renna was wearing a necklace. Was there a connection there? Then she fell asleep.

She had no idea how much time passed but when she woke up Renna was tied to a chair. She squirmed, trying to get out but the ropes were too tight. She flashed back to Calba squirming against his restraints on the table and she was horrified. What had she done? Somebody removed her blindfold and Renna blinked as the harsh light stung her eyes. It was a little like a hangover. Standing in front of her was Nika Beltloud and Calba Halfstone. They were her friends but she felt guilt stabbing deep to the core of her being.

“Oh gods,” Renna said. “are you alright, Calba?”

Calba crossed his arms across his chest. He was bandaged cleanly. “I’ll survive,” he said. “It got pretty close there, though.”

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” Renna said. “I don’t know what happened. I remember being taken captive by the Drow. Then I kind of remember being stuck down in a well and then I could see myself trying to hurt you.”

“It was the necklace they put on you,” Calba said. “It charmed you, filled you with a dark presence.”

“We’d release you but we’re waiting to see if it has fully left your system,” Nika said. “We don’t want to have to put you down again.”

Renna nodded. “I’m alright with that,” she said. “Keep me tied up. I’d be fine with staying this way forever.” A tear slid down her cheek.

“It wasn’t you, Renna,” Nika said. “We know it wasn’t you. We’ll make sure you’re better and then we’ll solve this Drow problem.”

“I hope this teaches you not to go off on your own,” Calba said with a smile.

Renna almost laughed but it came out half sob, half happy noise. “I was doing it to keep you two safe. The Drow are dangerous,” she said.

“See how that worked out?” Calba asked.

“We’re a team, Ren,” Nika said. “You can’t ditch us and we can’t ditch you. We’re stronger together.” She stroked Renna’s hair and Renna was grateful for the comfort.

“Where do we go from here?” Renna asked. She felt hopeful for the first time since she had been captured.

“We go to war,” Calba said. “We burn them down.”

Beastly Kingdom

September 21, 2019

The other day, I posted on here and lamented that when Disney’s Animal Kingdom was built, they decided to nix something called Beastly Kingdom. It had been planned as an area of the park dedicated to magical and fictional creatures. I have done a lot of studying recently and I have realized a few things. One, I have more details on what Beastly Kingdom would have been. It was actually two attractions based on good creatures (centered around the unicorn) and evil creatures (centered around a dragon). Two, I found out that Animal Kingdom was created because Michael Eisner was jealous of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. This is disappointed. Anyway, I decided to create my own version of Beastly Kingdom as a ride/attraction. My version is based on the common thread in Disney Parks called The Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

The ride would be set on a river. The boats would float (naturally) but they would also be on hidden tracks under the water similar to The Jungle Cruise and other water rides in Disney parks. The boat would carry up to twenty people and would be sized to be comfortable. The boats would be styled as modern boats with chrome detailing. The boats are also decorated with symbols and drawings meant to mimic runic symbols. Each boat is decorated with a family crest with a large B. The boats are named after famous heroes like Siegfried, Perseus, Pecos Bill, Roland, and others.

The ride begins in the queue which is decorated to be welcoming with a smooth stone building with polished brick floors. Displayed prominently are large portraits. One of them is of two young kids, a girl and boy who are obviously twins. They are Penny and Kyle Beastly. They are proudly standing next to their parents Sadie and Karen Beastly. There is a picture of Aleister Beastly standing with Lord Henry Mystic, Charlton Taboret, Mary Oceaneer, and Dr. Albert Falls. There are portraits of other members of the Beastly family. Passengers are loaded into a small room with a large television screen on one wall. After a short burst of static, it shows Penny and Kyle Beastly in their office. (Really just a scrim with animatronic puppets similar to Henry Mystic behind it). Penny is facing the camera while Kyle is mostly focused on a laptop behind her.

Penny: Hello! My name is Penny Beastly

Kyle: And I’m Kyle Beastly

Penny: Welcome to Beastly Kingdom! Our family has been involved in the care and preservation of magical creatures for a long time. Since the late 1800s. It all started with our great grandfather Aleister Beastly who discovered the remains of a wyvern while on an expedition with the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Many of Aleister’s contemporaries sought magical artifacts.

Kyle: You know, like Lord Mystic and Dr. Jones.

Penny: And others wanted to explore destinations.

Kyle: Like Dr. Falls and Ms. Oceaneer.

Penny: Exactly! But our family was more interested in creatures.

Kyle: Ghosts were taken.

Penny: Right. No ghosts. No thank you. Our family seeks out and protects supernatural creatures. We only relocate them if it is absolutely necessary. The vast majority of creatures are very capable of keeping themselves hidden and safe. We relocate and protect those creatures negatively impacted by humanity.

Kyle: We’re basically a rescue but for really big and dangerous creatures instead of dogs and cats. Most of them are really intelligent too.

Penny: Kyle! Don’t scare our guests! Honestly, we’ve taken every precaution.

Kyle: It’s literally impossible to take every precaution.

Penny: Hush, Kyle! You’re going to be fine. You’re all going to have a great time visiting some fantastic creatures. Now calmly exit the theater and board the rides. Thank you.

Kyle: Good luck.

The monitor shuts off and the doors open leading to the dock where passengers board their boat. The boat starts up and moves to the center of the river before proceeding.

Guide: Welcome to your ride on our little river. The Beastly family artificially created this habitat to accommodate as many creatures as possible. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky and see most of our current residents. While we are in route, please keep your hands, feet, and the rest of your body safely in the boat. Do not engage in flash photography as it upsets some of our residents and there’s plenty of light out don’t you think?

The boat continues on a bit.

Guide: Now I’m going to have to ask you to keep a little quiet in this first section. If you look to our right, you will see a cave where we have an actual dragon. Dragons sleep most of the time and it is a really bad idea to wake them up. Relax, that fire is just how dragons snore.

The riders see a cave with smoke coming out of it and the occasional flare of light from a large flame. The boat glides by peacefully.

Guide: Alright. We’re good. On the left, you will see one of our Bigfoot. Bigfeet? Anyway, they were displaced by deforestation. They are mostly secretive creatures who would never harm a fly. The only reason I can think of that would bring one this close is their fascination with the faeries. Oh, see! He found some pixies. He would never hurt them but it is hard to resist those pretty lights.

In the shade, the riders see a bigfoot approach a large bush and reach out to it. The faeries light up like lightning bugs and fly away in multicolored lights and then vanish. The bigfoot looks out at the boat peacefully.

Guide: On the right, you can see signs of goblin culture. These little guys are our most antisocial residents. I don’t see any goblins around, though, so maybe we’ll get lucky and it will stay that way. Well, I spoke too soon. There they are. Remain calm, you’re perfectly safe. We did lose one boat before we figured out the protection runes but we have it now. Just let them tire themselves out.

The goblins lined up on the bank and some in the trees start throwing rocks which the riders can hear hitting the roof of the boat and can see them landing in the water. Nobody is harmed. The goblins screech at the boat. The guide shrugs and laughs.

Guide: See? All safe.

On the boats left, there is a large waterfall. The guide seems to notice something odd about it. Within the waterfall, huge eyes light up. A large sea serpent pokes its head through as it spots the boat. It dives forward into the water. After a moment, bubbles start coming up behind the boat, trailing it.

Guide: Well, that’s the sea serpent. Relax folks, it gets curious. It cannot harm us but it does look like it’s following us. Let’s see where this goes.

The boat shakes a bit as the serpent bumps it as it moves ahead of the boat. The sea serpent rises from the river in front of the boat and sprays a mist of water at the boat. The guide rotates the wheel and the boat turns sideways on the river and stops. Suddenly, in the chaos, the dragon flies overhead blasting fire and the serpent looks after it and then returns to the water.

Guide: Looks like our friend the sea serpent was scared by our dragon. I’m a little nervous about them both being out and about but the Beastly twins have assured us that we are perfectly safe. Let’s keep going, huh? Everybody alright?

The guide rights the boat and it continues down the river a little bit further. Gradually, beautiful singing can be heard from around the bend.

Guide: Beautiful music, huh? Those are our sirens. It’s rumored that they used to make sailors crash their boats but that’s just silly. We haven’t had any incidents like that here. I think they were just bad sailors.

The boat rounds the bend and there are some sirens sunning themselves on some rocks by the shore. They barely seem to notice the boat. Out of nowhere, a large bird appears in the air. It cries out and lightning comes from it and lands among the sirens. They scatter with a huge splash.

Guide: Looks like the thunderbird is not a big fan of their singing. Oh well. Alright, on the right we need to remain still. We do not want to disturb the gargoyles. They track their prey by movement but mostly stay completely still day and night. I’m sure you’ve even seen some of them in cities.

The boat glides by some rock outcroppings where gargoyles are perched. Their eyes slowly track the boat. Suddenly, a deer appears and then seems to run back the way it came. One of the gargoyles swoops after the deer. The faerie lights are seen again trailing the gargoyle.

Guide: Oh that poor deer! Run! It’s alright, the faeries will protect the poor girl.

The boat rounds the final curve and the riders can see the sea serpent at the shore of the river. Except, it is no longer interested in the boat. It is hissing at the dragon which is now clearly in sight, smoke coming from its nostrils as it calmly glares at the serpent and beyond at the boat.

Guide: That. That kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it? These two just need to get the aggression out of their system. Let’s just slide on past and go home before this gets a little too rowdy, huh? Well, thank you for joining me on this little trip. We got really lucky and saw some of our most awesome residents. The Beastly family gives their regards and wants me to leave you with this final thought. We need to consider our impact on the environment in this world. We not only impact our magical friends here but all of the non-magical creatures all over the planet and we hurt ourselves. We need to do better. Have a good rest of the day and come back soon to check out Beastly Kingdom.

The boat docks and the riders exit to the gift shop.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Internet Presence

September 16, 2019

WILPW

Obviously, the world of professional wrestling preceded the Internet and existed without it for a long time. In fact, the way pro-wrestling used to work was because there was no Internet and the communication within the community was really slow. Promotions could run the same exact matches in every town without worrying about spoilers. Everybody was shrouded in mystery because it was hard to trade notes on rumors and scraps of information that people could get. Everything was divided into territories and you had to constantly reintroduce characters from across the country to people. With the advent of the Internet, the business had to change and evolve. They struggled with it at first with particularly embarrassing segments seen in old WCW and WWF pay per views.

Nowadays, things have advanced to a whole new level. Companies like WWE use services like YouTube to put out extra content that occurs during commercials or after events are over to further storylines or highlight characters. However, what I am interested in here is how individual performers can use the Internet to further their own presence and improve their careers. The first example of it happening that I can think of is Zack Ryder who created his own online show called Long Island Iced Z where he produced his own content and was allowed to be goofy. It forced WWE to briefly accept his Internet popularity and use him more on the actual television shows. Stars like The New Day (through Austin Creed) have used YouTube to get their brand out better when they felt ignored by the WWE.

However, what really sparked this post is that I recently started binging the YouTube show Being the Elite. BTE was created by Matt and Nick Jackson who are collectively known in the business as The Young Bucks. The two brothers had joined a group called The Bullet Club (thankfully they have abandoned this name) and created a subgroup along with Kenny Omega called The Elite. They created their show on YouTube at first as a travelogue as they traveled back and forth from Japan and across the United States. It allowed fans to see a filtered version of who they were in real life and it often included their friends as well. They started showing segments of them goofing off in their hotel rooms, backstage, or going out on the town. They also used the show to get their catchphrases and character quirks out into the world better.

 

At one point, the Bucks had gathered together a group of good friends that included Kenny Omega, Adam Page, Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll, and Adam Cole. This is the point where they first started to further major storylines in the show. The Bucks and their friends were working across several separate promotions between New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and others. They used their YouTube show to knit together and flesh out their storylines between their various appearances. Their first major storyline was the infighting between Adam Cole and Kenny Omega who was the leader of the Bullet Club. It ended with them murdering Adam Cole which gave an in-universe explanation for his disappearance since Cole had signed with the WWE in real life. At that point, the show really took off as a travelogue, a sketch comedy show, and a platform for the furthering of storylines.

As time went by, new regular castmembers joined the show as they would regularly send footage to the Bucks to edit into the show. They added Brandi Rhodes, Scorpio Sky, Frankie Kazarian, Christopher Daniels, actor Stephen Amell, Joey Ryan, and Flip Gordon. At some point, they even made a celebrity out of their translator/gopher in Japan who is named Masa. Flip Gordon, in particular, benefited from the show as he was new to the business and it allowed him to get his brand out there better. The show evolved further and they were able to solidify a lot of regular bits and running gags. I think my all-time favorite regular bit involves the members of So Cal Uncensored (Scorpio Sky, Frankie Kazarian, and Christopher Daniels) who regularly talk about every town they visit is the worst town they’ve ever been to and how much they want to get back to Southern California.

More recently, the show was used to launch the largest independent wrestling show in history called All In which included a lot of storylines started on Being the Elite. They rode that momentum and left Ring of Honor and New Japan to start their own promotion called All Elite Wrestling. Backed by billionaire Tony Khan and TNT, they are poised to create a huge splash in the business. Sadly, this meant that they had to leave behind their friends Marty and Flip who are still signed to Ring of Honor and Joey Ryan who decided to stick with independent wrestling. The prevailing thought is that Marty and Flip will join them once their contracts are up. In the meantime, Being the Elite has been flooded with the future stars of AEW like Sammy Guevara, MJF, Britt Baker, The Librarians, Chris Jericho, and so many more. Television for AEW stars up on TNT in October and the Bucks still don’t know whether or not they will continue BTE. They and their friends are executives in the new company along with their on-screen performer duties so the show might have to end out of necessity.

Until then, it is exciting to see where the show goes and I continue to binge past episodes. I also need to watch some of the spin-off show The Nightmare Family (starring Cody and Brandi). If the show continues to stick around, it will continue to innovate and entertain. It has done wonders for the careers of its cast and introduced future stars to people who may have never heard their names. It is a positive movement on a medium that can be very negative.

Death and Rebirth of Love

September 14, 2019

Cappio placed Harro’s shield on his grave and wiped the tears from his face. He felt Annabel’s hand rest on his shoulder and it made the burden just a little bit lighter. He sniffled and then stood and finished wiping his face. He looked out over the hills of Harro’s homeland and then at Annabel and Zalania.  Zalania was hard to read because she was always wearing the mask from her home on the streets of Koshain. She also rarely talked. She usually let her fists do the talking. Annabel on the other hand was a picture of compassion, even though she was tall and willowy, she always looked motherly. She was a full three feet taller than Cappio and even had almost a foot on Zalania.

Cappio had worn his best clothes for the funeral. It just so happened to be a costume from his days as an actor. He rarely liked to dress up. In fact, most of their little crew rarely dressed up except for Harro. He rarely went anywhere without wearing his armor. He was a knight of renown before he had fallen in with them. After a while, Cappio had felt guilty about roping him into their criminal enterprises. Cappio was the conman, an ex-actor who had moved smoothly into telling lies for profit. He had convinced Zalania to accompany him as his muscle. She was a monk who had lost her way. Annabel was a street musician and mother of urchins. She had jumped at the chance for a better life and had sort of adopted Cappio and Zalania. She also brought along some of their urchins who often came in useful for schemes.

They had ripped off the noble who Harro owed allegiance to. Harro had pursued the trio, hoping to bring them to justice. He was like a wolf with a scent and would not let the trail go cold. He pursued them through three nations and even across the Crystal Sea. Then something happened that neither Harro nor Cappio had expected. When Harro arrested Cappio in the jungles of Oochar, the two of them had a chance to talk as they made their way. The two of them had fallen in love. Harro had seemed lost for a bit but forsook his master and joined the gang. When the fighting happened, Harro and Zalania were good to have around. Cappio used much of their take to show Harro the finer things he had missed while living under the heel of his master.

Life had been good, easy, and fun. Then something had changed. They got wind of a deadly plot from an evil cult and Harro begged the rest of them to help. The quartet was in the best position to do something and if they saved the day, there might be the biggest profit ever. Cappio had known this was probably not true but he also felt the tug of conscience and thankfully everybody else did as well. They had worked their magic and had stopped the cult’s ritual. Except in the ensuing climactic battle, Harro had been mortally wounded. They tried everything they could but Harro passed away. They had attempted a resurrection but it had failed. Cappio had to believe that wherever he was, Harro was happy and did not wish to return. He hoped they would meet again.

“What’s next for us, Cappio?” Annabel asked. “We have enough money left to be comfortable for a long time. We can take a break.”

“No,” Cappio said. “I don’t want to take a break. We’ve been living the easy life for too long.”

Zalania grunted and growled.

“What does that mean?” Annabel asked.

“It means that we should live by Harro’s example,” Cappio said. “We should be saving the world, not lining our pockets off of the idiot rich.”

“Why can’t we do both?” Annabel asked.

Cappio smiled for the first time in weeks. “Exactly!” he said, appearing almost like his old self for a fleeting moment. “Let’s save the world, shall we?”

“Where do we start?” Annabel asked.

“I have no idea,” Cappio said. “Maybe we should recruit somebody to help with that. We don’t have a lot of experience with this.”

“What do we need?” Annabel asked.

“Well, we do need more muscle,” Cappio said.

Zalania folded her arms across her chest.

“You are plenty strong, Z,” Cappio said. “We just need more. Maybe somebody magical, maybe somebody powerful.”

“I may know where to look,” Annabel said. “Do you want to go to Oskia?”

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been there,” Cappio said. “Let’s go.”

Pirates of the Crumbs

September 7, 2019

“You’re a coward,” Caelan said, staring hard at the back of Captain Frostgrip’s head. “Think of what we’re giving up if we don’t try. We need to follow up.” The sea was calm and the door was shut to the Captain’s Quarters so they had as much privacy as you could get on a ship out to sea. It was hot so the Captain had taken off his coat and Caelan had taken off her overdress that the Captain usually made her wear.

“When I left harbor,” Frostgrip said. “I promised your father that I would keep you safe. That section of the Crumbs is not safe.” He stayed at his desk looking over the maps and charts, scribbling down notes.

“Did you also tell him that you had turned pirate?” Caelan asked. “I doubt he would have approved of that.”

“You forget your place, girl,” Frostgrip said bitterly as he turned away from his work to face her. “You should be grateful. I brought you on as my cabin girl. You get your own room. That’s rare on a ship like this. It keeps you away from the rough characters below deck.”

“I don’t need your protection, Captain,” Caelan said. “I can take care of myself.” She raised her chin proudly.

“Is that so?” Frostgrip asked. “I have heard you feel very free to draw your knives on my ship.”

“I’ve never used a knife on anybody who didn’t deserve it,” Caelan said, folding her arms across her chest and looking away. The knives were tucked into the folds of her dress but she had cut hidden access points so that she could draw them quickly. She had a lot of practice doing so.

“I’m sure,” the Frostgrip said without much conviction. “Look, if it offends you to be among pirates, I can drop you off at the next harbor and you can find your own way. It’s not hard to book passage.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Caelan said after an exasperated sigh. “I don’t want to just be among pirates, I want to be a pirate.”

“I don’t think I’m comfortable with how into this you’re getting,” Frostgrip said. “I’m only supposed to deliver you to Suma-Jo.”

“And I’m supposed to make myself useful,” Caelan said. “If you didn’t have me, nobody would have gotten that one chest open last week.”

“I’m not sure I know where you learned lockpicking of all things,” Frostgrip said. “Nobility should be less criminal, no?”

“I did all of this back home too,” Caelan said. “That’s why I petitioned to train in Kusura in the first place.”

“Kusura!?” Frostgrip asked. “I thought we were headed to Suma-Jo.”

“That’s because that’s what I told my father,” Caelan said. “My skills are way more suited for one of the ninja schools but now I think I want to be a pirate. I don’t necessarily want to kill but high seas adventure and a life of crime are attractive to me.”

“No. If I allow this, I will never hear the end of it from your father,” Frostgrip said. “I can’t allow this.” He turned from her back to his desk as if that were the end of it.

“What are you going to do?” Caelan asked. “Throw me off the ship? I’ll just find another pirate ship. If you want to protect me then keep me here and show me the ropes.”

Frostrgrip sighed. “You won’t give this up,” he said. It wasn’t a question but a weary statement of fact.

“Never,” Caelan said. “A girl wants what a girl wants. I promise to listen to your orders.”

“We’ll see how long that promise holds,” Frostgrip said. “I guess I have no choice but to acquiesce. You know, if a member of my crew disobeys my orders, they get thrown into the sea, right?”

Caelan swallowed hard. “I guess I can live with that,” she said. “but no more dresses. I want to wear shorts or pants.”

“I’m sure I can find something more suitable for your new job,” Frostgrip said with another sigh. “I have a trunk belonging to my former cabin boy.”

“Great!” Caelan said. “Now about this mysterious island.”

Frostgrip waved in front of his face as if fanning her words away, dismissing them. “I am no dungeon delver,” he said. “There is so much else we can do safely and still profit.”

“We could sell the information to somebody at the next harbor?” Caelan asked.

“Yes,” Frostgrip said. “That is a much better idea. We can leave the danger for some other poor soul. If there is a treasure, we can take it from them down the line.”

“But shouldn’t we check that it’s there first?” Caelan asked with a sly smile on her face.

Frostgrip stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose,” he said.

In Fear of Sundown

August 31, 2019

The town of Rosewood had a problem. During the day, everything was fine and everybody’s life went along easy. Well, as easy as life in a pioneer town in the west could be. Rosewood was a cattle town and not much else so life was simple but rough. The problem was at night. It started with the cattle on one moonless night years ago. There had been no sound during the night but one of the cattle was gone the next morning and there was a lot of blood in the dust. When guards were posted at night, they started disappearing too. Nothing was safe outside at night. When nothing was outside at night, people found scratch marks on windows and doors. Everybody lived in fear of sundown.

It was The Rule that had eventually kept everyone safe. The Rule was that when reaching the age of ten, everyone in town had to receive the brand. The symbol of the brand had been foreseen by the Blind Sisters in a vision that they only vaguely spoke of. Nobody could remember the Sisters’ names. Everybody was too embarrassed to ask and they would most likely not have shared them. Nobody had asked the sisters but one day they had been screaming that they had the solution outside of the tavern. Many had not seen the two of them outside of their house in years. Some had thought they were dead already.

Of course, nobody had actually listened to the Sisters and they were eventually shooed back to their house. After that, the two of them had begun painting the symbol everywhere. The scratch marks stopped appearing. As an experiment, the ranchers left a steer outside after branding it with the symbol. The steer was untouched in the morning but a little spooked. It had nearly pulled the post down. Still, it was alive. Suddenly, the next cattle drive seemed like it might be possible. The deep dread that lived in the town’s hearts began to lift. The Reverend Sawyer was bitter that his prayers and crosses had done nothing when these arcane symbols had seemingly solved the problem.

It had been Ben Hoscut, the town blacksmith, who came up with the idea of branding the skin of humans with the symbol. People had thought the idea was barbaric at first and were content to wear makeshift amulets. Old Sheriff Williams had outlawed the practice and the wives of Rosewood had backed the decision. He and his deputy had tried to enforce the ruling but they could not watch everybody at all times. Bit by bit, people still received the brand. Hoscut had been thrown in the jail and the Sheriff had confiscated all of the branding irons that he could find. He had gotten the evil eye from some folks for it but it was his job to protect the town, even from itself.

Hoscut’s son, Angus, had solved the argument by getting the brand and branding the sheriff’s daughter, Rebecca. The two of them walked out into the desert at night. He was gone all night and nobody, not even the sheriff, was willing to go out and look for him. In the morning, he came back untouched. Even the sheriff had to admit that the brands were the right way to go. As soon as the practice was widespread, nobody mysteriously disappeared anymore. For the first time, there was a feeling of hope in Rosewood. There was still something out there but the people could now just push it from their minds and carry on with their lives.

After the second cattle drive, Williams passed in his sleep and the town started to decide who would be Sheriff next. Everybody looked to Deputy Westcott to step up but he turned the offer down, not wanting the responsibility. Besides, he might have felt some residual resentment from his backing of the Sheriff’s plan to block the Rule. Everybody argued over who it should be. When people said they should ask The Sisters, Reverend Sawyer had objected strenuously. When they knocked on The Sisters’ door anyway, there was no answer. The town became divided over the choice with various groups backing various candidates. During these days, a young woman with long fiery red hair and dark skin walked into the tavern. She ordered a drink and sat down.

It was Billy Hampton who approached her. “Ma’am,” he said. “You might want to move on from here. This town isn’t safe.”

“I don’t want to leave,” the woman said. “I heard this town was in need of a sheriff.”

“To be honest,” Billy said. “I don’t think you’d understand this town enough to have a prayer.”

The woman laughed. “Prayer is for the weak,” she said. “I think I’m exactly what this town needs.” She brushed her hair from her neck and there was the symbol, tattooed on her neck.


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