Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Undead Reckoning Pt. 3

September 26, 2020

Talbot arrived at the shop the next morning and was surprised to see a light already on inside even though the sun had yet to rise. He had thought he might have at least a few moments to himself to collect himself, but it could not be helped. He would have to tear the bandage off eventually so it might as well be right away. He pushed the door open and took off his jacket and hung it up. He turned and there was Cara Moonweaver standing there with a slight smile on her face. She always looked so fragile with her thin, willowy limbs but Talbot knew that she was sturdy and strong. She was the senior partner, having started the carpentry shop while Talbot was still in the military and before Silas had arrived from Corria. She was holding two cups of tea.

“Join me for a morning cup?” Cara asked. “It’s still a little chilly out there especially before the sun comes up.” Cara really did not complain about much but she did consistently complain when it was cold. She was very thin so it made sense.

“Thank you, Cara,” Talbot said, taking one of the cups. “It is a relief on an early cold morning.”

“It is early for you,” Cara said, narrowing her eyes. “Is something the matter? Could you not sleep?” Cara had always been extremely perceptive. There were times when Talbot wondered if she might have a slight psychic gift. Her keen insight was why Talbot often came to her for counsel.

Talbot sighed. “To tell the truth, I did not sleep well,” Talbot said. “I was wrestling with something last night.”

“Bad dreams?” Cara asked. “You haven’t had those since your early days here when the war was still fresh behind your eyes.” Over many years, Talbot had probably told Cara the most about his life. His emotions had been more raw when they met and her friendship and the routine and art of carpentry had eased his pain.

“Funny you should mention the war,” Talbot said. He rarely mentioned the W-word. “I received a letter yesterday afternoon that made my thoughts turn dark. My trouble continued into the night.”

“You’ll never truly be at peace until you leave the past behind,” Cara said. “time only heals wounds if you allow them to close.” It was something she had said many times.

“I know you’re not wrong and I thought I was past it,” Talbot said. “but some things tend to reopen those wounds. Like this letter.”

“Tell me about this letter,” Cara said and sat in a chair gracefully.

“Have you ever heard of a Lord Blackrance?” Talbot asked.

“I have not,” Cara said. “his influence has not spread down here. My family would have heard about them but I could put in some inquiries if you want.”

“Thank you but I don’t think that will be necessary,” Talbot said. “I’ll explain that in a minute. He sent me a letter trying to recruit me to take up arms again against a necromancer out in the wastes.”

“You’re not actually considering going out there are you?” Cara asked. “That sounds like a really bloody affair to get involved with.”

“I don’t plan on fighting anything or anyone anymore,” Talbot said. “but I do want to give this Blackrance a piece of my mind. I would like to do it in person. It only involves going to Fallshield so it would be a relatively short trip.”

“You feel that it’s necessary to turn this man down in person?” Cara asked.

“I do,” Talbot said. “If I simply turn away, I feel like I am running from my past again. If I go and talk to him, I will confront everything. It is not something I look forward to but, through our discussions, I think I need to do it.”

“A confrontation instead of merely sending a letter back, though,” Cara started, sounding like she was trying to be careful. “It is a big step. Do you think that it might be an inordinate response?”

“I don’t think so,” Talbot said. “You know me. I consider myself to be a man of honor. This Blackrance drug up a lot of dark things from my past but he also paid me several compliments. It is only right that I refuse him face to face. I could give him a few tips as well.”

Cara took a beat and then spoke calmly and even. “What would your brother think?” she asked. The question hung in the air. If it had been anybody other than Cara who asked, Talbot would have been angry. However, it was an astute question. Cara was incredibly wise.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Talbot answered. “Barrold was always seeking adventure. He would have jumped on a chance to hunt down a necromancer.”

“You would have jumped on it as well decades ago,” Cara said. “You have an instinct to protect people and a necromancer threatens society itself.”

“Those days are gone,” Talbot said. “Besides, I made a promise to Barrold’s grave that I would give that life up and I would live for the both of us.”

“He never asked you for that promise,” Cara said. It was true, Barrold would have never tried to control Talbot’s life. He would have supported any decision that Talbot made.

“I still intend to keep it,” Talbot said. “I’m done fighting. I’ll go and close the door and then I’ll come back. It should only take a week at the most by train.”

“Do you need my blessing?” Cara asked, a small smile creeping onto her face. “You have it if you want it.”

“I don’t need it but it is appreciated,” Talbot said with a smile. “All I need is for you and Silas to watch the shop. I promise to pick up the slack when I return.”

“I do not think he will be as understanding,” Cara said. “but you will have to explain things to Silas.”

The shop door opened during that last moment and Silas walked in. “Explain what to me?” he asked. Cara and Talbot looked at each other for a beat.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 2

September 19, 2020

Talbot put down the letter and leaned back in his chair. He took a couple of deep breaths and then stood up from his desk and started pacing. Astonishment quickly turned to anger. Who was this Lord Blackrance? Talbot did not recognize his name but there were so many lords and ladies in the Eastern District and especially in Silvershore. He was more focused on the nerve of this Lord raking up Talbot’s past. The only thing keeping Talbot from flying into a greater rage was the question of whether Blackrance was being purposefully incendiary or just ignorant.

Either way, he certainly should not have referred to Talbot Hawkwing, of all people, by his military title. Talbot had decidedly soured on the military at the end of his involvement in the Great Elf Wars. In fact, the Battle of Snake Bend was his last major conflict for a reason. Talbot’s only brother had died in a volley of fireball spells. Talbot himself had been burned intensely in the attack and had only been able to cradle his brother before support could put out the fires.

After he was free again, he personally executed eleven wizards and sorcerors. He shot them dead like rabid dogs and never felt a moment of remorse. Well, not until later. He had wondered who he had killed. He had wondered if the cause he had fought for was nobler than the cause of those he killed. He and his brother had been recruited to kill Dark Elves because they were evil. Then at the end of the war, a historic truce was reached and leaders from both sides were found to be corrupt and many were imprisoned or allowed to fade into obscurity. The whole thing had turned Talbot’s stomach and he knew he was not alone. A lot of the old racial enmity had evaporated decades after the truce.

Talbot had put down his rifle forever. In fact, he had sold the damned thing a long time ago to help fund his new life as a partner in a carpentry business. He liked his quiet life. He had no wish to return to a life of adventure. However, he had to admit that curiosity was starting to rear its ugly head. He returned to his desk and picked up the leather pouch and opened it. There were certificates worth three hundred gold. Far too much money to just consider an offer. He looked at the wrapped package and suddenly knew what the special gift must be but shook his head.

He finally sat back down and started to unwrap the package. He cut the string and opened the long wooden box and then started to pull aside the cloth. It was a rifle. He dropped it back into the box. It was not just any rifle, it was his rifle. The one from the service that he had sold ages ago. How was this possible? Who was this Blackrance? How connected was he? Perhaps Talbot would travel to Fallshield if only to tell this Blackrance to stuff it. He did not care about money. It was not his job to take on a necromancer in the wastes.

He would have to make preparations. He would notify his partners that he was taking a short vacation. He would be back in a week. He would talk to this Blackrance in loud tones and then return home. It would hardly take any time and he would be able to satisfy his curiosity and then get back to it.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 1

September 12, 2020

Lord Callum Blackrance
Blackrance Manor
Silvershore, Eastern District

                                                    4th Orombre 2168

Sgt. Talbot Hawkwing
Cragrock Apartments
Flatdale, Northern District

Dear Sgt. Hawkwing:

You do not know me but I am not naive enough that you may recognize my name. In my life, I have been fortunate enough to have found the opportunities to bring me great wealth. As I have aged, I have tried to use the advantage of my wealth more charitably. Gone are the days of excess and mindless luxury and now I am most focused on justice and peace. To that end, I have funded mercenaries and adventurers on missions for the greater good. You may have heard of campaigns I funded to capture Korag the Mad Mage, to sink the river pirate Killi Sharkmaw, and to sack the stronghold at Riverden. However, I have not written to you simply to shower praise upon myself.

In fact, you may be wondering at this point why this letter was sent to you. You may also be wondering about the large sum of gold included with this letter. I will endeavor to explain in text what I wish I could explain face to face like true men of honor. I have come to you because of your success in the Elf Wars. I gather that you especially acquitted yourself well in the Battle at Snake Bend. I gather that you have since left the service of the military and you may be free to take on one of my missions.

I recognize that you have laid down your arms and may be reluctant to return to the fray. However, I would not ask if the situation was not dire. In short, I propose a quest to the magic wastes to the south in order to hunt a necromancer. As you know, necromancers cannot be tolerated to exist in this world. I feel that a marksman of your caliber would be necessary to the success of the mission. In truth, I have been assured that this is the case. I implore you to take up arms and join my expedition.

If you accept this offer, I promise a large sum to be paid to you upon completion of the quest. If you decline this offer, please keep the money that I have sent you as payment for your time. If you accept, please take a train to Fallshield and await further instructions. Your presence or absence in Fallshield will be taken as your response. Be well, Seargeant.

Sincerely,

Lord Callum Blackrance

P.S. I have accompanied this message with a gift that may be useful in this mission.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Atlantica Pt. 6

August 29, 2020

The kitchen had calmed down by the time that Esmeralda dropped her off at the kitchen although it showed every sign of the work that had gone into the meal. Esmeralda had impulsively handed Belle a tarot card before they parted. Belle was studying it as she ate her late breakfast ravenously. She felt a bit like Adam the way she was shovelling food into her mouth. The card was labeled as The Hermit. She had no idea what it meant but the art was pretty. She supposed Adam had been a bit of a hermit before they met, though. In a way, she had been a hermit when she buried herself in her books and shied away from people. The card depicted a supposedly wise old man with a lantern. He looked solemn and maybe a bit lonely.

“She gave me one of those too,” Tiana said as she walked up, wiping her hands on her apron.

Belle quickly chewed and swallowed quickly, just barely avoiding choking. “Oh?” she managed to get out.

Tiana pulled a card from the waistband of her dress and held it up. The card said The Chariot at the bottom and depicted a long-haired man being carried on a litter. Adam had long ago given up most of his royal trappings and it looked absolutely extravagant. It looked much more lively than Belle’s Hermit.

“Any idea what it means?” Belle asked. “I’ve never read about the tarot.”

“I have no idea,” Tiana said. “I knew a man who traficked in such magicks and it turned me off of learning anything about it. I don’t think this is really the same thing. Esmeralda is a nice woman, I am sure it does not mean anything bad.”

“Sure,” Belle said. “I’ll have to look it up when I have a chance. When this is all over.”

“Tell me before we return to our worlds,” Tiana said with a smirk.

“You could just ask Esmeralda,” Belle said. “We could both do that, actually.”

“There’s fun in the mystery,” Tiana said. “The journey is just as worth it as the destination even if it is hard.”

“That’s true,” Belle said. “Most of my life I sat around waiting for change but it didn’t happen until I made it happen.”

“You’re my kind of woman, Belle,” Tiana said. “I think we might have a lot in common.” Belle was starting to realize that this was probably true. Though their personalities were different, they might have gone through similar adventures.”

Belle smiled. “Did your fiance magically transform leading you through a chaotic adventure where you learned a lot about yourself?” she asked.

Tiana laughed and tucked her card away. “Actually, he did,” Tiana said. “He and I both transformed into frogs and got lost in the swamp.”

Belle was intrigued. “My fiance was cursed and transformed into a raging beast,” she said. “He changed back to human, though.” The events still felt fresh in her mind. The fear, the curiosity, and the love were still all mixed together. She and Adam were just starting to really connect now that the chaos had stopped. Of course, the chaos had started again.

“With true love’s kiss?” Tiana asked. Belle was surprised. Was true love’s kiss a common thing? It was something to weigh in her upcoming studies, she supposed. She wondered if the research should go beyond books. Books were always a good place to start but there seemed to be a lot of magical experience connected to everyone involved in this crisis.

“More or less,” Belle said as she blushed. “Oh and all of his servants had been transformed into furniture.”

“Alright, you got me beat there,” Tiana said. “That is absolutely wild. We’ll have to compare notes at some point.” Belle was amazed at how easily Tiana could talk to other people. Belle was still working on that aspect of her life. She and Adam were both working on it in different ways.

“I get the feeling that this place is full of people with interesting stories,” Belle said. “I wish I had more time but I need to be in the library to study how to beat this thing.”

“Good luck on that,” Tiana said. “As much as I like cooking for all of this royalty and fine folk, I miss my husband, my mother, and my home.”

“I miss my husband and my father,” Belle said. “We’re still figuring home out. We’re still figuring a lot of things out.”

“So are we but we were settling in. Again, I tell you good luck,” Tiana said. “I won’t keep you here. It looks like you enjoyed your breakfast, though.”

“It was so good,” Belle said. “I hate to rush off.” She pocketed her tarot card quickly.

“We all have our jobs to do,” Tiana said. “You’ll prove your worth when you help solve this thing.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Hawaii Pt. 5

August 15, 2020

Thankfully, Maui did not climb onto the golf cart for the return trip. His enormous weight would have probably caused the cart to drag on the ground. As it was, Adam could feel the cart sag when he sat down. Instead, Maui transformed into a hawk and flew high above the cart as it traveled the paths back toward the ramshackle houses where they had come from. It was the closest thing that the three of them had to a home at present. They were lost in this foreign land of Hawaii and confused by all of the modern trappings. Moana seemed to be adapting but Adam felt as lost as Maui looked when he thought nobody was looking.

Moana had grabbed up one of the snakes and had handed it to a startled Adam. He had the thing in a death grip as they drove back to town. He never really dealt with snakes even when his father used to take him hunting. There were certainly snakes in France but he had really only seen snakes in pictures in books. Suddenly having one in his hands was an absolutely mind-blowing revelation. He had long considered himself brave but he could feel his heart beating hard and fast as he stared at the snake. It was even weirder to think that the struggling snake was actually a transformed human being. He wondered who they had been. He also wondered if he was more scared now that he had something or somebody to lose.

“Are you even listening?” Moana asked and Adam looked up surprised. Moana was smirking at him but she had some concern in her eyes. Adam tried to smile but knew that it did not come off as genuine.

“What?” Adam asked. He blinked up at Moana and got the sun in his eyes. The snake squirmed a little but Adam kept hold.

“You haven’t heard a single thing I said on the whole way back,” Moana said. “We’re back, by the way.” Adam looked around and saw that the golf cart had stopped and they were back to where he had woken up that morning.

“Alright,” she said as Maui landed and transformed back to his demigod form. “Let’s get that to the lab so that you can let go of that thing.”

“You’re fine, aren’t you Adam?” Maui asked with a smirk. “A brave guy like you.”

“I’m fine,” Adam said. “I’m not used to snakes is all.” They climbed out of the golf cart and started walking. He was not entirely sure that he was fine. He had nearly drowned the day before, had woken up in a brand new world, his curse seemed to be somewhat back, and Belle was nowhere to be seen. He was stable but barely. He wondered how much of that Moana could see and how much Maui cared enough to notice.

“There are a ton of snakes back at the islands,” Maui said. “I once fought a snake that was twenty feet long.” He flexed his amazing biceps and Adam could swear that his tattoos actually moved. Tattoos were also something he had only seen in books.

“I’m sure,” Adam said. “I guess that’s a reminder that things could be worse.”

“No,” Maui said with a laugh. “It was awesome.” He rested his giant hook on his shoulder.

“Maui,” Moana said with an exasperated sigh. “Stop teasing people. What have I said about bullying? What has Te Fiti said about bullying? What about bragging? Hasn’t bragging gotten you in trouble?”

“Alright, alright,” Maui said. “Go on down to that ‘lab’. I don’t like those guys, I’ll stay up here and keep watch.”

Moana reached down and pulled up a trapdoor in the ground, the dust cascading to the ground. “Are you ready?” she asked with a bit of a teasing smile.

“Should I be worried about what’s down there?” Adam asked.

“If anything goes wrong, you can just go beast mode,” Moana said. “but seriously Jumba and Pleakley are harmless. They’re aliens so they’re very weird but they are harmless.”

“What’s an alien?” Adam asked.

“Something from another world,” Moana said.

“Like us?” Adam asked.

“Yes but completely different,” Moana said. “You’ll see.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Atlantica Pt. 5

August 8, 2020

Belle fell asleep in the library which was not exactly a novel experience for her. Milo gently woke her when Tiana came for her and Tiana helped her to a bed. Belle felt so sleepy and barely noticed that there were four beds in the room, all of which were empty. She had no idea who they belonged to but they looked slept in. Her head hit the pillow and all of her worries were knocked out of her head and she fell into a deep sleep. She dreamed of being back in the castle but for some reason, all of the servants were back in their transformed states. The curse had been lifted but everyone was back to the way they had been. Worse, nobody would look at her or talk to her. Were they ever anything more than ordinary objects? Then the place started to crumble around her. Where was Adam? She screamed out his name and then suddenly she was awake and sitting upright in bed.

“Who is Adam?” a dark-haired beauty asked, propped up in her own bed. She looked so exotic and she had the tiniest smirk on her face.

Belle blinked and felt herself go red and shook her head. “My husband,” she said softly. The marriage was still fairly new and she had almost said ‘boyfriend’. She blinked, rubbed her eyes, and tried to shake away the dream but she realized that escaping into the present was not much better. Adam was long gone. More accurately, Belle was long gone.

“Do you want me to go get him?” the woman asked. She swung her feet off of her bed, ready to run. She had a grace about her that Belle could see instantly.

“He’s not here,” Belle said, holding out her hand to keep the woman from running off. “At least I’m pretty sure he’s not here. He’s not from here.”

“Oh,” the woman said softly, her smirk disappearing. “That’s right, you’re new. Where are you from?”

“A little village named Conques south of Paris, France,” Belle said, reaching up to tie her hair back. She must have been an absolute mess.

“I was born in Paris!” the woman cried out and laughed. “Sorry, that was a little loud. I’m a performer. I’m French Roma from the Court of Miracles, my name is Esmerelda.”

“My name’s Belle,” she said. She smiled, trying to return to her normal sunny self. She knew that she was naturally a little shy and she had to fight against that.

“I know,” Esmerelda said. “Aurora told me to look out for you this morning. It can be rough for new arrivals. It was for me.”

“How long have you been here?” Belle asked. She was not sure if she wanted to know the answer. There were a lot of questions whose answers she was not sure she wanted the answer to. At that moment her heart ached for Adam, her father, and all of her new friends back home.

“I’ve been here for days,” Esmerelda said. “I think this thing started about a week ago. Maybe longer. The days kind of blur together.”

“What do you do?” Belle asked. “I mean when you’re not watching me sleep.” It was a joke and Belle hoped that it had come out that way.

Esmeralda obviously let that one slide by. “Well, I’m an entertainer,” she said. “but there’s not much call for that. I’ve been teaching my tricks to the soldiers to make sure we don’t kill the brainwashed zombies out there.”

“Tricks?” Belle asked, starting to get out of bed.

“Fireworks, illusions, sleight of hand,” Esmeralda said. “These zombies are way dumber than my crowds back home.”

“Wow,” Belle said. “I wish I knew how to fight.”

“If this thing goes on much longer, you’ll have to learn,” Esmerelda said. She saw Belle’s face go a bit pale. “but we have some great teachers here so don’t even worry about it. You’ve got library duty?”

“Yes,” Belle said. “I’ve always been a big reader and I remember just about everything I’ve ever read.”

“I’ve got a mind for tales too but my friend Clopin is much better,” Esmeralda said. “It’s a valuable skill. Are you hungry?”

Belle felt pleased with the compliment and nodded. She looked down as her stomach growled. “Yes,” she said. “I feel like I haven’t eaten in weeks.”

“I’ll drop you off in the kitchen before I go out on my rounds,” Esmeralda said with a smile. “Tiana will get you fixed up. That girl loves to cook.”

“Thanks,” Belle said with a grateful smile.

Koshain

August 1, 2020

(I thought I would update information on one of the fictional lands of my fantasy setting which kinda sort of is still a D&D campaign setting.)

Koshain is a desert nation in the middle of the continent of Aldona. The land of Koshain is cursed with a desert climate due to the fallout from the events that occurred in what is now the neighboring nation of Khull. The magical fallout created a harsh atmosphere full of sandstorms and cloudless skies allowing for oppressive heat. Lesser nations might have been driven out but Koshain adapted their way of life several millennia ago. Many residents of the nation fell back to live in the more stable city centers where they could find shelter from the wind. Farming moved underground where magic helped sustain a lot of agriculture. However, in the transition, insects native to Koshain went on the menu and remain a delicacy for the rich and a necessity for the poor.

Others set up a system of nomadic life where people keep moving to keep ahead of the sandstorms. The constant movement helped in establishing a massive trade network that was needed to obtain foodstuffs and goods that were no longer readily available in Koshain. Dwarven stone-cut outposts set themselves up as outposts and shelters for trading caravans. The dwarves also found rich deposits of jewels and ore that became very useful for trading, allowing the nation to have a chance of survival and eventually led to success. However, the trade-based economy led to a large gap between classes. City trade barons and aristocrats (often the same thing) became richer and their workers were stuck under their collective thumb. This eventually led to a large criminal contingent who view themselves as freedom fighters and revolutionaries instead of villains.

At some point, the Koshani people adopted specially formulated face paint to keep their skin from burning. The lower class just slathered on one color while the rich often painted their faces in ostentatious multicolor art pieces. Face painting has evolved into an elaborate social status ritual with different classes and families following different patterns. A millennia ago, Koshain suffered from a horrible plague that killed many of its citizens. To combat this respiratory sickness, Koshani people adopted face masks as protection. The lower classes strapped on cheap masks and soldiered on. Once again, the rich went in an artistic and showy direction and had beautiful masks designed to hide their faces away from the world. When the plague subsided, the poor discarded their masks (except when traveling in sandstorms) but the rich kept their tradition. Criminal leaders adopted masks that are almost parodies of the masks of the wealthy.

Because of the large criminal population in the cities, the capital of Corren is also the home to the world’s greatest lock designers (and consequently the greatest lockpickers). The criminal element is broken down into different guilds who have each declared themselves as autonomous factions separate from the governance of the rulers of Koshain. The various thieves guilds compete with one another but are definitely also aligned with each other against the upper class. Alliances are common between the guilds and crews often encounter each other while out on the job. For example, a second crew might show up during a heist and would decide to distract law enforcement to obtain a later favor from a guild. The enemy of their enemy is often their friend.

Speaking of the rulers of Koshain, there is a Koshani King that passes through generations through biological children (legitimate or not). The King is the ruler, never the Queen although the Queen is revered as a celebrity. The truth is that it does not matter as much who is King. The King often consults a council in order to make decisions which is made up of the heads of the most profitable trading empires. Aristocrats often buy their titles and pass them down through the generations. These titles are much less restricted by gender as it is recognized that women and nonbinary people can be shrewd in business. The King rarely makes major decisions without economic input.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 4

July 25, 2020

The Imperial Palace had burned halfway to the ground and little gray creatures were scrambling all over the place trying to put things back together. A lone figure stood on the roof looking out over the land. She was gaunt yet imperious and green eyes shone brightly set in her grayish-green face with blood-red lipstick. Her black cloak had purple accents and her headdress had curious-looking horns. She carried an ornate gold staff with a yellowish crystal. The staff had been recently reconstructed and the fractures had been filled in with silver. The enchantments were even stronger than they had been before. The woman was brooding as she glared over the countryside.

“Mistress Maleficent,” a deep, gravelly voice suddenly sounded beside her. She turned and saw one of her minions, carrying a spear and wearing a spiked helmet. The thing looked timid yet puffed up its chest to try to appear brave. “The rebuilding process is going smoothly.”

“It’s Empress Maleficent now,” Maleficent said. “Is that all that you came here to tell me? Go back down and get back to work.”

“There was a question of the dragons, your imperialness,” the creature asked. “They are all over but they don’t really look like you do in all of your magnificence.”

“Yes, yes,” Maleficent with a sigh. “They have different ones here. Tear them all down, replace them with images of me.”

“Um,” the minion hesitated. “in your dragon form or your most beautiful and splendid um fairy form?”

“Do I have to tell you everything?” Maleficent said, practically spitting the words at this lowly creature. “Put both up. This country is now mine. Remind the people of this.”

“Yes Empress,” the minion said, groveling and bowing. “May you reign forever. I will go make sure that your orders are law.”

“And make sure that any military or any so-called heroes are eliminated,” Maleficent said. “String them up as an example to the rest. I will not have a repeat of earlier events.”

“You mean with Aurora and Phillip?” the minion asked.

Green flame erupted around them in a perfect circle. “Do not utter those names again or I will roast you where you stand,” Maleficent said. “Spread the word. I will rule this new world.”

“Yes, your wonderfulness!” the minion managed to stammer. He ran away as soon as the fire receded and started yelling out orders for rebuilding.

Maleficent smiled to herself. It was good to inspire such fear again. Now all she had to do was continue to conquer this land. She would not leave herself open to the same vulnerabilities this time. She had meticulously worked a spell to banish all magical creatures besides herself and her minions from the land. She sensed very little magic left in the land that was not her particular brand of darkness and fire. She could devastate any army with her dragon form with the support of her magic and her idiot minions. They may have been stupid but they were good muscle and loyal. This time, no other fairies would meddle in her affairs or dull her curses.

She still did not know how she had gotten to this place. She remembered the stabbing pain of Phillip’s sword in her chest. She remembered her own green flame erupting everywhere around her as she thrashed and tried to tear the prince apart. She remembered the ground falling away under her and then blackness. When she opened her eyes she was floating in the void, her shattered scepter floated in front of her. She was confused. Was she still alive or had she returned to life? Was this something else entirely?

As these thoughts had been rushing through her mind, she heard a voice from the darkness. It presented her with an old oil lamp made of some blackened metal. She could sense a great, dark power inside of it. There was some horrible curse on it. Some creature was trapped inside of it or had been trapped inside of it. The voice told her to consume it. She tried to argue but the voice was insistent. The lamp would restore all of her power and add to it as well. The allure of more power was enticing. She transformed into a dragon and easily swallowed the lamp whole. She could feel it burning inside of her and she grew stronger. Wounds closed, her staff reformed itself and she felt like she could swallow the world at that moment.

She was briefly introduced to two other women, vastly inferior to her but powerful in their own right. One was underwater and an octopus monstrosity and the other was a bony looking witch. She sensed they shared her ambitions for their own worlds. A door opened and the voice called on her to conquer. She had. However, now that the flurry of violence and destruction had abated, she was left to wonder who her benefactor had been. Was there a grander plan? Maleficent did not like feeling like a pawn but first things first, China would burn.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 3

July 18, 2020

Mulan was a little surprised when Yao hugged her when she entered the hastily assembled war room of the fort. The usually grumpy Yao pushed away after only a moment but was still grinning from ear to ear. Mulan found herself smiling even though Shang was still down in the medical tent. Mulan, Shang, Yao, Chien-Po, and Ling had been through a lot of adventures together. It made Mulan’s heartache and worry about Khan and Mushu who were still missing in action. Still, it was good to be in a stable environment with a friend in front of her although they were not always exactly friendly.

“Mulan!” Yao croaked out in his somewhat raspy voice. “I am so glad to see you. I was worried about a lot of our friends and the Emperor’s forces. I made it here with some of our soldiers but I am out of my element in command.”

“You seem to have done pretty well,” Mulan said. “The soldiers looked orderly and the fort is running smoothly and is fortified.”

“Do you know where Shang is?” Yao asked. “He could take over. He could even counterattack through this chaos.”

Mulan took a deep breath. “My husband is in the medical tent,” she said. “He is injured and unconscious but I am hopeful that he will recover.”

“I’m sorry,” Yao said. “I have great respect for General Shang.”

“We all do,” Mulan said. “Is that white healer really any good?” She instinctively looked over her shoulder back toward the medical tent. Her husband had been in pretty bad shape but she had thought him dead before and had been glad to have been wrong. Shang was a fighter and she had to count on that.

“Yes,” Yao said. “I wouldn’t have put her in charge there if she wasn’t. Rapunzel has magic when it comes to healing and she’s so damned perky it’s hard to beat her optimism. It kind of gives me the creeps. We rescued these foreigners and they have come in useful. They all claim to be royalty so it made sense to let them make themselves comfortable. In return, they have helped us operate more smoothly without trying to take over. Believe me, I tried with that Aladdin.”

“He seems capable but I’m not sure if we can trust them that far,” Mulan said. “As far as we know this is the last major holdout after the attack on the Imperial City.”

“Then you should take over, Mulan,” Yao said. “You’d be a much better leader.”

“I’m not even officially in the military,” Mulan said. “I don’t know if that’s proper.”

“You’re an advisor to the Emperor!” Yao said.

“I turned that post down. Remember?” Mulan asked. “I’ve helped out in an unofficial capacity but I don’t really have the skills to lead here.”

“Who cares?” Yao said. “You’re a hero of China. They’ll accept you. Your country needs you Mulan and I know you have always stepped forward.”

“That’s hardly fair,” Mulan said. “I’ll do what it can but I’m not sure if that isn’t too far.”

“It’ll work,” Yao said. “You’ll be better at it than I am.”

“Fine. If the soldiers agree then I will lead until Shang can take over,” Mulan said. “He is much better in command and I am much better at doing my own thing. It’s how we work.”

“It’s a deal,” Yao said excitedly. “I’m sure you won’t have to shoulder the burden for long. Shang will be up on his feet quick. Where should we start boss?”

Mulan sighed. “I guess I should meet with these foreigners and get the lay of the land,” she said. “I have to admit to being very curious. How many are there?”

“Only four so far,” Yao said. “Rapunzel is a healer and spends most of her time in the medical tent although she’s handy elsewhere. Anna is a really hard worker and apparently really well-read and is always there with a helping hand. Aladdin is an accomplished fighter and he and his carpet have been going on scouting missions to bring back more survivors.”

“What about the one up in the tower?” Mulan asked. “The one whose speech I can barely understand.”

“Merida is a wild woman but is a crack shot with a bow,” Yao said. “She’s better than anybody I saw in the military and that includes you, Mulan.” He caught a look in her eye. “But not by that much.”

“She needs to learn more manners,” Mulan said. “but it is good to have an accomplished warrior keeping a wary eye on anybody who approaches.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 2

July 11, 2020

The carpet approached a large fortress far outside the outskirts of the Imperial City. Aladdin was determined and Mulan just held tight to Shang, trying to keep him still and stable on the fluttering fabric. It was at this point that an arrow whizzed past them, managing to nick Aladdin’s ear making him wince in pain. It was a good thing he was not the one actually controlling the carpet. The carpet slowed down and approached the guard tower where the arrow had come from. A young woman with striking, frizzy red hair and shockingly white skin came out of hiding carrying a massive longbow. She had a fierce look in her eyes as she leveled the bow toward them and drew back an arrow halfway and held it.

“Halt and declare yerself,” the woman said. “I cannae let you pass.” She had a thick accent and the posture of a warrior of some renown. Mulan sensed that the woman was used to people watching her, something Mulan was just starting to get used to.

Aladdin slowly maneuvered between the woman and his passengers. “Stand down Merrida,” he said. “You know me. It’s Aladdin. We just saw each other a little while ago.”

“Oh. Yer back from scouting too quick,” Merrida said, squinting a bit at Aladdin. “Can you blame me for getting a wee bit twitchy?”

“I guess not,” Aladdin said. “I’d probably be angrier if you had actually aimed for me.”

“Nae,” Merrida said coldly. “You wouldna feel a thing. You’d be dead.” Then she smiled and shrugged.

Aladdin smirked. “Tough talk,” he said. “I came back early because I spotted these two. One of them is injured.”

“Who do ye got there?” Merrida asked and Carpet rotated slowly to reveal Mulan and Shang.

“My name is Mulan,” she said. “This is Shang. He’s bleeding out. Please let us go.”

“If yer good with Aladdin here then yer good with me,” Merrida said. “Go on to the healers and give my best.” She relaxed her draw on the bow, un-nocked her arrow, and slipped back inside the tower without another word.

As soon as she was gone, Carpet floated over the fort’s walls and down toward a small building toward the rear. As they descended, there was shouting from below. Another white girl came rushing out of the building. She had light brown hair that was cut very short in a style that Mulan kind of wished she could adopt. The girl had big, beautiful eyes full of optimism even in grim surroundings.

“Get the injured inside and on a table!” the girl called out. “We need to stop the bleeding immediately. Bring bandages and herbs.” She clapped her hands and everybody started running around. Mulan and Aladdin helped carry Shang inside but then the short white girl pushed both of them back outside. Mulan fumed and was about to head back inside when Aladdin caught her by the arm. She almost took a swing at him but backed off.

“He’s in good hands with Rapunzel,” Aladdin said. “You’d do best keeping out of her way. I need to scrub the blood out of Carpet before I do anything else.”

“Who put you people in charge?” Mulan asked. She was still on edge and she was tired of having to trust absolute strangers in the midst of danger.

“We’re not in charge,” a young woman said, walking toward Mulan and Aladdin. She swept her hood back and Mulan could see that she was also white and had a long braid with a single shock of white hair running through it. Mulan had seen more white people on this day than she had seen during her entire life to date. Something very strange was going on even beyond the destruction of the palace and a strange gray army swarming over everything. “My name is Anna. We’re just trying to help out since the soldiers took us in. If you’re looking for who is in charge, that would be Lieutenant Yao.”

“My name is Fa Mulan,” she said. “Yao’s here? I know him. Where is he?”

“I can take you to him,” Anna said. “I’m sure he’d be glad to see a friend. We’ve been trying to help but this land is very foreign to us. It’s weird.”

Mulan shrugged. “It’s all I’ve ever known,” she said. “Lead me to Yao so we can start getting to the bottom of things.”


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