Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

The Summoning

January 15, 2022

Life as a knight of Lamora was not as grand as one would think. It was a day of summoning at the castle of Lord Urnar, one of the greater lords of Lamora. Zelia woke well before dawn and she had to find somebody to help strap her armor on. She was familiar with the castle and its staff but she had to find who might be available. The meeting she was summoned to was to happen before breakfast so Zelia got waylaid in her search passing through the kitchens. Breakfast smelled so good that she could not resist a bit of a preview tasting. She flagged down Onelle of the kitchen staff and then spent time leaning against a counter and eating a biscuit with ham and cheese, watching the workers as she did. She spoke a bit at Onelle but the young woman was busy and Zelia had to repeat herself often. She did not mind.

After eating, there was still plenty of time to get ready but Zelia did not have all day. Zelia had to take her leave from the kitchens and resume her search for somebody to armor her. She physically dragged young Arne out of bed. He was a good lad but he had a tendency to be a bit lazy sometimes. The boy complained at being roused from bed but stopped when Zelia gave him The Look. It never failed. The boy straightened up and saluted.

“Knight of the Iron Hand,” Arne said. “How can I assist you?”

“So formal,” Zelia said. She had known the boy a little before being knighted. “I need somebody to help me with my armor. Follow me.”

“Lead on, lady knight,” Arne said.

Zelia turned and walked back toward her quarters with Arne following behind. After a few moments, Arne set to work. The sleepy boy struggled to strap the pieces of armor to her body. She grew impatient.

“Boy, you had best wipe the sleep from your eyes and get this armor on straight,” she said firmly, trying to keep most of the crossness from her voice.

“Yes, m’lady,” Arne said. “I’ll try, m’lady.” The boy’s almost painful politeness softened her bad mood. He was pitiful.

“You had best stop blushing as well,” she said with a soft smile. “You would think you had never seen a woman’s body before.” That only made the boy blush more.

“You know, that’s entirely possible that that’s the case,” Anneslie said. “What woman in her right mind would show him her delights?”

Zelia glanced over at the beautiful Anneslie, Knight of the Golden Bloom. She was standing there in her own armor, ready for the summoning even earlier than Zelia had wanted to be. Perhaps that was a sign of a more experienced and accomplished knight.

“I have so seen a lady!” Arne shouted, turning to face his accuser but then he immediately backed down. “Begging your pardon, Lady Anneslie, Knight of the Golden Bloom.” He cast his gaze down at the floor in contrition and embarrassment and saluted.

“Relax, little fish,” Anneslie said with a laugh. “No need to stand on ceremony. Return to your normal duties. I’ll take over here.”

It was Zelia’s turn to blush at the thought of the older woman touching her.

“You will?” she asked Anneslie and then turned toward Arne. “Go about your business, we’re fine here.”

Arne bowed and left quickly, leaving behind a sudden silence between the women. Anneslie worked in that silence comfortably while Zelia’s gut turned itself in knots. Anneslie expertly assembled Zelia’s armor and tightened the straps tightly. Finally, Anneslie finished her ministrations.

“There,” she said. “The Knight of the Iron Hand in all of her glory.”

“You do good work,” Zelia said and fought back a blush to establish eye contact with Anneslie. “You should put on my armor more often.”

“You’re very silly,” Anneslie said with a smile. “I’ll see you downstairs.” Then the Knight of the Golden Bloom left the room abruptly.


Zelia looked up above the fireplace as she entered the meeting room and her gaze lingered on The Sword of Storms which was also known as The Sword of Heroes. As the story went, the sword could only be held and wielded in times of great chaos and need by somebody pure of heart. If the sword allowed itself to be held, things were in a very dark place. The last person to use the sword had been a scholar who had been subsequently elevated to the role of knight before his death years ago. Zelia dragged her eyes away from the sword and moved quickly to her seat, the chair bearing her emblem.

“Knights of Lamorra,” Lord Urnar said, his voice loud and commanding. “You do yourself credit to drop everything to report here in the name of the Queen. I do not summon you lightly. I brought you here to deal with a threat worthy of your talents which our scouts have brought to my attention. I will cut to the chase. Goblin bands are threatening the nearby lands in several locations. We need you, good knights, to eliminate this threat. You will ride out after breakfast. You are dismissed.”

Zelia blinked a bit at the abruptness but stood up in order to head toward the breakfast table. She looked for Anneslie but felt herself get dizzy and then, as she reached for her chair to steady herself, her vision went black.

Suddenly, she came back to herself and she was standing on her feet, grateful that she had not fallen down in her dizziness. She felt a weight in her hand and looked down. It was the Sword of Storms. Smoke was drifting in from another part of the castle but nobody else was visible. What had happened? What did she do?

The Bureau

January 8, 2022

John remembered the knife plunging into his gut. He remembered staggering through the alley, unable to ask for help loud enough to draw anyone. He remembered falling to his knees and crawling, trying desperately to find anything or anyone who could help him. All in vain. He remembered the warmth leaving his body before everything went black. He remembered all of that which meant that he had reached game over. There should have been no continue, no option to put in more tokens. Yet, here he was sitting at a table in a barren room.

He took a deep breath to prove that he could and then tapped his fingers on the table. Sight, hearing, and touch were all still working. At that moment, he could not smell anything but there did not seem to be anything especially fragrant in the room. He was not about to taste the table, of course. Still, it seemed that he was alive. Why he wasn’t patched up in a hospital bed was not exactly evident. The mystery nagged at him. He should be dead or at least severely injured.

He reached down to his side and felt no wound. There was not even any tenderness at the site of impact. Still, touching it was making him remember the attack more vividly which made his anxiety levels rise. He jerked his hand away. He spent time doing the customary checks one does after misadventure. He counted his fingers. He checked to make sure his limbs were intact and moved around. He checked his head for any bumps or contusions. He seemed to be in full health as far as he could tell. He stood up.

There was a sudden smell of a mix of peat and blood that strangely did not smell too bad. Any displeasure was offset by the realization that his sense of smell still worked. Another test passed with flying colors.

“Please have a seat, Mr. Caldwin,” a woman’s voice said. He looked back at the table and there was a woman sitting in a chair that had not been there before. She was wearing a wide-brimmed hat in such a way that he could not see her face. He had not seen or heard her come into the room. He sat down. As soon as he did, he noticed a steaming cup of coffee that had also not been there before. He drank without hesitation and without consideration even afterward. His anxiety lessened. The woman was looking at some sort of file folder.

“Thank you,” John said. “I mean for the coffee, of course, but also for whatever you did to keep me alive.”

“You’re not strictly alive,” the woman said without looking up. She wrote something quickly.

“I beg to differ,” John said. “Everything seems to be in working order and I’m not a bleeding wreck on the ground in an alley.”

“Well yes,” the woman said. “We are responsible for that. So you’re welcome.”

There was a long silence after that little exchange. John slowly sipped his coffee and watched the woman’s hat bob a bit as she read and wrote in the file folder. He was uncomfortable with the silence. The woman seemed to be just fine with silence.

“So you know my name,” John said, waiting for the obvious answer.

“I do,” the woman said. She kept her focus on her file folder without fail.

“And you are…” John said, trailing off to let the woman fill in the blank.

“Very busy,” the woman said. She finally looked up and John was taken aback to realize that she had no face. Where a face would have been, there was a blur that was uncomfortable to look at. John found himself staring at her hat rather than trying to establish eye contact with non-existent eyes.

“I don’t mean to be rude but you seem to be missing your face,” John said, trying to be helpful. “It’s just not there.” He managed calm words but he felt the cold stab of fear.

The woman sighed. “It’s not missing,” she said. “I just don’t have one. I’m not a human. I’m more of a concept. Please focus on the important things.” She closed her file folder and it ceased to exist.

“Is this the part where you explain things to me?” John asked. “I really need it to be the part where you explain things to me.” A headache was slowly forming behind his eyes.

The woman sighed again. “I don’t have time for that,” she said. “This book will explain everything.” She placed a leatherbound book on the table and then she vanished into thin air. At least she left the coffee behind.

Festival of Gifts

December 25, 2021

The city of Kante was covered in decorations for the Festival of Gifts. Extra torches and lanterns were strung up everywhere, making the city bright and warm even at night. Red, Gold, and White ribbons and cloth banners were hung everywhere. Statues in honor of the sun god Lathander and the demigod Tall Winters had been placed in prominent places. People were in the markets buying food and gifts for their loved ones or bustling off toward the temple district to make offerings to the lords of light to bring back the sun during the darkest and coldest part of the year. There was a lot of love and good cheer flowing through the city.

Sabina was indifferent to it all as she shuffled through the city. Sure she had tied some tinsel to her horns but that was more to blend in than actual celebration. She was wrapped in a patchy yet warm fur coat and a big furry hat. The coat was a little long for her so that the hem of it trailed across the wet pavement. Yet she pulled it off gracefully, moving effortlessly through the crowds. Nobody even realized that she had a knife slipped into the sleeve of the coat. They were so distracted that they did not notice that knife flashing in the torchlight as she liberated people’s coin purses. However, now her night was over and she headed home.

She slipped into an alleyway and sidled up to a nondescript doorway. Hardly anybody would have noticed the minuscule writing in Thieves’ Cant. She tripped the secret catch on the door and it popped open safely. Opening the door incorrectly would have locked it completely with twelve different deadbolts. At least it was better than the door had been in her youth. The mechanism had been potentially deadly back then. She stepped into the small room and brushed off what snow she could. The rest had melted and she felt uncomfortably damp and cold.

The room was empty except for a table and a mirror. She headed straight for the mirror and stepped through it and felt the surface of the mirror tugging at her a bit before she made it through. Then came the disorienting feeling of the teleportation enchantment a little bit like standing up too quickly after waking up. She was face to face with a huge portrait of Laverna, the Goddess of Luck. She smiled when she saw the portrait. It meant she was home and home meant warmth and relaxation.

“The real reason for the season,” a voice behind her said. “Our Lady Luck.”

Sabina turned to see the one-eyed visage of Jole. Out in the world, Jole was a lieutenant in the city’s law enforcement but secretly he was part of Sabina’s found family. He fed the thieves information and in turn profited off of their scores. He was so rarely in their subterranean hideout out of necessity. Still, he did manage to come around now and again to connect with his friends.

“What are you doing here?” Sabina said. She tried to act cross but could not fight back the smile from her lips.

“Busy night, eh?” Jole asked. “Out plucking your fair share from the revelry?”

Sabina frowned. “Don’t tell me that somebody saw me working out there,” she said. “I’m too quick. Their eyes can’t be trusted. How could they accuse somebody of that during the holiday season?”

Jole laughed. “Nobody saw you as far as I know,” he said. “I just assumed that’s what you would be doing. Looks like my hunch was correct.”

“You’re a very good detective,” Sabina said sweetly. “Sorry for acting so hostile right away.”

Jole shrugged. “I’m not down here often and almost never unannounced. To answer your question, I wanted to wish you and yours a happy Festival. I just happened to swing by when nobody was home.”

“Nobody?” Sabina asked and snapped her fingers three times and a small kitten crawled out from hiding. “Diamond is hardly nobody.” She took off her coat and hat and felt a lot better. She dumped her sack of coins into the bin before bending down to pick up the cat. “I’m sure she’ll forgive you.”

“A weight lifted off of my heart,” Jole said. “Forgiveness is good for the soul.”

“It is,” Sabina said although there were moments in her life that she felt she could not forgive. She pushed those invasive thoughts from her mind just as quickly as they came. “Happy Festival to you too. May the light return to us all.”

“Amen,” Jole said with a smile. “I brought you a gift.”

“Me?” Sabina asked and she was thankful that her red skin would hide her blushing.

Jole stuttered slightly. “Not just for you,” he said. “I brought everybody gifts.”

Sabina smiled. “You’re a very generous man,” she said.

“But I am glad that you were here when I came to deliver them,” Jole said.

Sabina smiled and smoothed her dress a bit to keep her hands busy. “Well, I do love a present.”

Jole held out a small package wrapped in colorful cloth. “Hopefully you love this one.”

She quickly opened the package and gasped at the silver pendant necklace that she found. “It’s beautiful, Jole,” she said and wished she had gotten him a gift in return. The Festival was not over yet so there was still time. “I love it. Would you like to stay and have a drink with me?”

“I would love nothing better,” Jole said with a smile that only made Sabina’s smile brighter.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Hawaii Pt. 11

December 4, 2021

Moana drove the golf cart into the jungle with Adam in the passenger seat and Maui hanging off of the back. They roared down the paths with Adam struggling to operate the tracking device that Jumba had given them. He shouted directions to Moana when they needed to turn and Moana drove expertly. The vehicle was very different from the boats she was used to but she had definitely adapted to it. She was a born navigator after all.

“I think we’re getting close!” Adam called out. “It’s blinking faster!” The little box might as well have been magic to Adam. He still was not accustomed to this technology. He knew that his father in law was an inventor but not even Maurice’s most outlandish creations came close to the things from this world.

Maui was absolutely excited and was whooping and hollering on the back of the golf cart. He had his hook at the ready and was itching for a fight. Moana always hoped for a peaceful solution but she was always glad to have the muscle at her side. She had no idea if Adam would be ready for a fight. The man looked uneasy and out of his element. Moana never met an element that she would back down from.

“Through there!” Adam called out and pointed.

Moana aimed the golf cart over rough terrain and jumped it over a small gap. Adam barely held onto the device. After a few more yards, Moana brought the cart to a stop. In the path were several tigers and they did not look peaceful.

Maui whooped and turned into a big cat himself and ran into battle. Moana grabbed an oar from the back of the cart and rushed after Maui. Adam froze, unsure of what to do. He had been taught some swordplay as young aristocrat but those years were well behind him. He had let everything decline in his beastly years and now when his new friends needed him, he was having trouble reaching for The Beast. He tried and tried but he looked at his hands and they were still human.

Moana and Maui were outnumbered but they did not falter a bit. They were used to working as a team and they were handling the tigers well. Adam watched as the two worked in tandem, keeping the tigers at bay. He also watched as four more tigers showed up. They did not see the new tigers. A bolt of fear shot deep into Adam’s core and he felt the change happening even as he bolted into the fight. Before he knew it, he was fighting like an animal again. He flashed back to his fight with the wolves to save Belle. Maybe The Beast could be used for good. With the three of them fighting together, the tigers were sent running into the jungle. None of them wanted to kill the tigers since they assumed they were more transformed locals.

Adam had some trouble climbing back into the golf cart in Beast form but he managed and soon they were off again, the device in Adam’s furry paws. They drove on, heading deeper into the jungle. They were soon traveling underground and by that time Adam had reverted to human form. It made it easier to follow the tracker in the dim light of the cave. They kept going until they entered a large chamber. Sitting on a throne was a spindly woman holding a wand. There was a handsome guy chained to the wall.

“Who the heck are you?” The woman called out, standing up.

“I’m Moana of Motunui, that’s Maui of well, everywhere, and Adam of France,” Moana said. “Who are you? Are you responsible for all of this?”

“I am the great Yzma,” the woman yelled as if that meant anything. “Now what should I change you into?” She raised the wand.

Before anybody could do anything, the man chained to the wall got loose and hit her from behind, sending the wand flying. Maui turned into a hawk and caught it.

The man smiled at them as he tied up Yzma. “Hello, the name’s Flynn Ryder,” he said with a dazzling smile. “I was just waiting for a distraction after I picked my locks. Thanks for helping out.”

“Well, that was anticlimactic,” Adam said.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 11

November 27, 2021

The dragon’s gigantic face rose above the edge of the building and the heroes were prepared for the last stand. Those reptilian eyes filled with bright green fire. The dragon had new bleeding wounds across its face, near the right side of its mouth. As they watched, the dragon erupted into purple smoke and green flame and that green flame formed itself into a woman’s form. The woman stood imperiously tall and carried a large staff. She looked at them with absolute disdain in her eyes.

“Heroes,” she said dismissively. “When will you accept that this land is mine now. Any resistance will be met with death.” She spoke like royalty, her diction impeccable.

Mulan stepped forward, anger flashing in her eyes. “China belongs to its people,” she called out. “Who are you to say otherwise?”

The woman laughed. As her mouth opened wider in that laugh, blood dripped from the wound on her face. She did not even react to the obvious pain she must have been in. “I am Maleficent, child,” she said directly to Mulan. “You will say my name with respect before you die. If you say it now, your deaths will be quick and relatively painless.”

“None of us are dying,” Aladdin said. “We’re going to save this land.”

“Then we’ll find our way back to our worlds,” Rapunzel said.

“And our families and friends,” Anna said.

“For China,” Mulan said. “and for all of the worlds. It’s time to slay the dragon.”

“So be it,” Maleficent said. “Your deaths will not be quick if I can help it. I gave you your chance.”

“No more talk then,” Mulan said. “Time for action.” She raised her sword. Her new friends readied their weapons as well.

Maleficent slowly reformed into her dragon form, towering above them in no time. The battle began in earnest. The heroes had to keep moving to avoid the sheer volume of Maleficient’s dragon form and the occasional fire-breathing attack. They darted in with their swords when they could. Out of them, only Mulan and Merrida had any combat training and only Mulan and Aladdin had real combat experience. The others were holding their own, though. They had to or they would be dead.

Merrida fired arrows from a little bit of rubble she had climbed up on, nailing Maleficent with bullseye after bullseye. Maleficent eventually got tired of it and swung her tail. Merrida barely avoided the attack, tumbling down from her perch and landing hard. The string on her bow broke. Rapunzel ran to help her up as quick as she could.

“I’m out,” Merrida said. “My bow is broken!”

“I’ve got an idea!” Mulan called out. “Rapunzel! Use your hair!” She rushed toward the dragon and Aladdin ran with her. “Aladdin, both sides!”

The two of them dodged a lunge from the dragon.

“What!?” Aladdin yelled. “What does that mean?”

“Like a pincer,” Mulan said as she dodged a blast of fire.

Meanwhile, Rapunzel had plucked a long hair from her head. She wrapped that hair around one end of Merrida’s bow and then the other. As soon as she did, she closed her eyes and focused and the string glowed with golden light and tightened itself. Merrida knocked an arrow which also turned bright and golden.

Mulan and Aladdin drove their swords into the dragon’s neck at the same time from the right and the left. Merrida aimed her shot. Maleficent cried out in pain and Merrida fired into her open mouth. The arrow traveled deep into the dragon and then that arrow exploded. Maleficent exploded in green fire and cried out. Mulan swung her sword again and decapitated the dragon.

The battle was over and the exhausted heroes sat on top of a burning palace in the middle of the Imperial City. The flames surrounded them. There was no way out but they had slain the dragon and China would be free. Mulan saw Maleficent’s staff and picked it up and desperately tried to work it. The flames were so close now. She focused on the staff and it lit up. There was a sudden loud sound and a blast of cold air spread out over the palace quickly.

“It looks like this place needed to cool off,” a voice called out.

Anna sprang to her feet and hugged her sister. “Elsa!” she shouted. “I knew you’d come!”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Atlantica Pt. 11

November 13, 2021

Belle turned to her host, Ariel, her eyes wide. “We can’t listen to her, she’s a vindictive fairy,” she said. She turned to Aurora. “Can we arrest her?”

“Fairy?” Aurora asked. “I was practically raised by fairies. They’re not all bad.” Yet she eyed The Enchantress warily, fingers just touching the hilt of her sword. She had known three wonderful fairies but also one truly horrible one. She was not so naive to trust this stranger right away.

“She cursed my husband!” Belle said. Adam, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts had told her a lot about the night that this strange woman had transformed everybody in the castle. Her curse had almost reached maturity which would have kept everybody from regaining their human forms. It seemed overly cruel to Belle.

“People can change,” Tiana said. She thought of her own husband and her own personal journey.

“I can at least be a gracious host,” Ariel said. “Welcome to my castle, Enchantress. Can I get you anything?” She gave her best smile, trying to do what she thought Eric or her father would do. She had had such little time to train in the etiquette of human royal life and had been in battle so long that it was hard to remember when things had been normal.

“A spot of tea would be nice,” The Enchantress said. “Thank you.”

“I’ll go make some real quick,” Tiana said. She kind of wanted to get out of that room. Tensions were high and she was pretty sure that Belle had not blinked since The Enchantress had appeared. She walked toward the kitchens.

“Please, have a seat,” Ariel said, gesturing toward a chair. She sat down herself and looked at Belle who begrudgingly sat down as well.

“See?” The Enchantress said with a smile. “If your husband had been this kind, things would have been much easier.” Belle tensed at that. “A joke, my dear.”

“I’m not laughing,” Belle said crossly, folding her arms over her chest.

“The truth is, I have owed your husband and his servants an apology for quite some time,” The Enchantress said. “That curse was probably a bit much. I was looking for somebody to punish and I unleashed on the first person to anger me. If that also harmed you by extension, I apologize.”

Belle blinked in surprise. She was not sure what to say to that.

“Please excuse me for cutting to the chase,” Ariel said. “What is your intention in coming here? We’re sort of in the middle of a crisis at the moment.”

“Yes. I saw you slay the Sea Witch. Well, I came to offer my assistance,” The Enchantress said. “I could feel magical turmoil through the planes. Worlds that were once separate are now connected. The citizens of those worlds have been shuffled like so many cards.”

“We suspected as much,” Belle said. “Although, I suppose that confirmation of that theory is appreciated.” She offered that last statement reluctantly. She was still on her guard and appreciated that Aurora had not relaxed either.

“How can you help us?” Ariel asked. “We managed to open a portal through our own research. We were on the verge of reuniting with our loved ones.”

The Enchantress shrugged. “You have done well on your own, I must admit,” she said. “However, without a guide with power, it will be like groping around in the dark. I am a minor power. I can improve your travel options a thousandfold.”

Tiana brought in the tea with some beignets she had whipped up. Ariel gestured for her to sit and she did. Ariel trusted Tiana not only to cook but as an ally who knew a lot about logistics.

“What do you get in return?” Belle asked.

The Enchantress waived the question away with a laugh. “I’m not asking for anything,” She said. “I’m not the type to ask for first-born children. In truth, you have done me a great favor already in killing Ursula. The possibility that you might take out more rivals has me very willing to offer my assistance.”

“Rivals?” Ariel asked, a little taken aback. “Ursula was your rival? A rival in what?”

“She was a minor rival,” The Enchantress said dismissively. “Anybody who wields magic on her level or above has the potential to cause trouble for me. I would not oppose those who use magic sparingly or benevolently but Ursula and her new allies are unpredictable. If they got hungry enough for power, they could try and steal mine. I can’t have that. I already know that their little coven has imprisoned several of my kind. I will not let that stand.”

“Do you think we can trust her?” Ariel asked the room but looked pointedly at Belle.

“I think it’s worth a shot,” Tiana said.

“We’re kind of at her mercy,” Aurora said. “We’ve already seen how powerful she is compared to us.”

Belle sighed. “Aurora has a point,” she said. “and I actually trust her this time.” She had a hunch that The Enchantress was telling the truth. It was the same feeling that led her to befriend The Beast who had become her husband.

“I guess we’re accepting your help,” Ariel said. “Let’s get down to it. Our friends and loved ones are still out there.”

The Kids of Barrie Park Pt. 2

November 6, 2021

Liam grinned at Chantal from across the table at Bev’s Diner which was most assuredly not Dona Habana. Chantal frowned and gave him as mean a look as she could summon but it was not as mean as she could get. It just made Liam’s smile wider as he leaned back and sipped his coffee. Chantal had tried to stop him from pouring some whiskey from his flask into it but eventually opted to have him pour some in hers as well. Funerals gave her a chill and she felt like she needed to be a bit number.

“Don’t give me that look,” Liam said. “It’s not my fault that Dona Habana was closed for the day.”

“I am going to go ahead and blame you anyway,” Chantal said. “There’s not much you can do about that.”

“I suppose there’s really not,” Liam said. His fingers twitched, ready to grab a cigarette but it had been banned inside of restaurants. He would have waited outside and smoked a quick one but he was hungry and he really wanted to talk to Chantal all of a sudden. “I’ll take the heat.”

“You’ve always played the villain,” Chantal said. “You’re not as bad as you pretend to be.”

“Time will tell,” Liam said with a shrug. “Look, about what we were talking about earlier. I was trying to make a point.”

“You did not make it, then,” Chantal said. “I heard a lot of talking but not a lot of sense. Want to try again?”

“I’m serious, Chant,” Liam said. “I think we might actually be in danger.”

“Elaborate,” Chantal said. “I want to hear this conspiracy theory now. Dazzle me with your bullshit.”

“It’s not bullshit,” Liam said. “What got me started thinking was that the two of them died really young. Very sudden. Sometimes things just happen but what if it’s not a coincidence?”

“What do you mean?” Chantal asked. “

“You’ll recall that night, right? When those people kidnapped us and the other kids and brought us to Barrie Park. You know what they were trying to do right?” It had been decades since the event but some of the emotions and memories were still rattling around in Liam’s head. Terror and trauma had certainly made sure some of those imprints remained while some other stuff was washed away.

“Nobody knows what they were trying to do,” Chantal said with force. “They all died in the shootout with the police. There was nobody to question. They were all just crazy.”

“No doubt they were crazy,” Liam said. “but you must have heard the whispers just like I did. There are a few things I overheard while we were tied up and from the cops talking that I only recently remembered. Some bad dreams brought them back. I think that it was some kind of ritual. I think they were trying to sacrifice us to something.”

“Sacrifice us to what?” Chantal asked, a worried look creeping over her face. “and why? What’s worth killing children for?”

“I don’t know,” Liam said. “but my guess is power, money, or both. They obviously didn’t get it done.”

“Get to the part where we’re in danger,” Chantal said. “So far I’m not impressed. Those creeps are all dead so it’s long over. i don’t play with ghost stories.”

“What if it isn’t over?” Liam asked. “What if that’s a mistake the cops and our parents made? Maybe we should have been investigating this the whole time. Maybe the members of that cult weren’t all killed or maybe something else is starting to hunt us down?”

“Something else?” Chantal asked. “You don’t believe that some boogeyman or evil spirit is actually out there?”

“I don’t know what I believe but have you ever experienced anything weird since that night?” Liam asked. “Nothing out of the ordinary?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Chantal said. “After all the reporters got bored, my life returned to normal.”

“Bullshit,” Liam said. “Ever since that night, I’ve felt something strange. Sometimes when I touch things with my right arm, I get sort of thoughts or impressions. I used to think they were hunches but there’s no way I would have made some of the leaps I’ve made. I think it’s mind powers or magic or something.”

“Really?” Chantal asked. “That’s what we’re going with?”

“That night the one thing I remember really clearly is a bright blue-white light,” Liam said. “It was brighter than anything I saw before or since then. It felt otherworldly. I think that was something. I don’t know what it was but when the cops started shooting, something big exploded and the light was gone and my arm was injured.”

“I do remember the light,” Chantal said softly, voice trembling slightly. She was suddenly looking through Liam before she shook herself from what almost looked like a trance.

“Tell me you never experienced anything weird then,” Liam said. “Tell me honestly.”

Dave Made a Maze (2017)

October 27, 2021

When my brothers and I were kids, we definitely built a lot of pillow and blanket forts. When you are small enough to do so (and I was tiny) it feels so good to climb into a cozy little makeshift world of your own. A fort was always a great place for great bursts of imagination. My brothers and I often had different interests but sometimes we united in this one thing. Of course, this was not solely for pillow forts. Any playground equipment became a centralized place for imaginary adventures. We could also roughouse more on the playground. Pillow forts were cozier. It was always easy for my friends and I to create our own worlds out of very little physical matter. One person would declare something to be real and everybody else would have to “yes and” it and continue. This is something that I have carried forward into my adult life. First with theater, then with writing, and again with tabletop gaming. Worldbuilding is so much fun but it can get out of control quickly.

Just now, I remembered a fundraiser that my school held when I was a tiny tot. The day was called the Quaker Quick Quint. I am not sure whether “quint” is actually the word to use but it was a day of foot races for kids and adults. However, one year somebody built a huge maze out of cardboard boxes. I vividly remember crawling in that maze on my hands and knees. Mazes can be great fun and are good tools to teach kids perserverance and navigation skills. The problem with a maze is that once you start and keep exploring, you have to finish one way or another. I have heard countless stories of people in seasonal corn mazes who are just completely physically and emotionally exhausted after a period of time in the maze. That is one of the elements in probably the most well-known maze movie, Labyrinth. When you have no idea where you are going, it is hard to know when and where the end is.

The first thing I noticed was the animation in the opening sequence was interesting and immediately set the movie apart from other fantasy horror movies. That animation carries forward in a way as the actors basically walk around a practical animated set. The whole thing feels very surreal as we see everyday materials become insane creations. The special effects are not realistic looking but that does not make them less terrifying. In fact, they feel even more terrifying. The maze is a character in itself as it constantly moves and reacts to everything. Sometimes it even taunts the characters. The set design really plays with perspective and the camera actively messes with you. There are some really fun sequences done with puppets, what looks like stop motion, and other forms of animation.

The actors are so good at portraying the perfect mix of quirky comedy coupled with astonished horror. The star of the movie is undoubtedly Meera Rohit Kumbhani who does a really great job of being the terrified but determined girlfriend while still keeping an air of humor. Nick Thune plays the titular character, a loveable goofball and daydreamer. Adam Busch plays the quirky comic relief sidekick character. The funny thing about the cast is that I felt in my bones that I had seen them before but I have not watched any of thier previous projects. They all need to be going places and soon. The acting was part of what made this movie great and they all deserve credit.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was seriously one of the best movies I have seen all year. It is not your traditional horror movie but it definitely has a lot of horror elements mixed in with the fantasy and comedy. Kudos to Bill Watterson and Steven Sears for creating a hugely imaginative movie. I hope they all do well in the future. Bonus: all of the cardboard was fished out of recycling dumpsters and was returned back to those dumpsters. I recommend this movie.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 13

September 25, 2021

Supper continued without Talbot getting any more clues as to the agenda of Lord Blackrance. At least, nothing more than had been in the letter. There was a necromancer in the wasteland. A wasteland that the Dragonborn Rahj was familiar with as their guide and presumably their tracker. The Cleric Ana was obviously along for the ride to counter undead threats. Talbot assumed that he and Clarity had been invited as damage dealers to fight back whatever henchthings that the necromancer had. Of course, Talbot still had no intention of going anywhere closer to the wasteland. He was going to take his rifle back home and hang it over his mantle. Forever.

After a nip or two of Drown brandy, sent by the good Lord Blackrance himself, they all retired to bed. All of them except for Rahj who stayed up drinking heavily of the cheapest ale available. He took a keg out behind the inn so he could be with his pet, Sandor. They all left the dragonborn alone. Talbot paused outside of his door and looked at the door currently belonging to the mysterious Mr. Seneca. How did he fit into all of this? Talbot had a sudden urge to go over and knock on that door. Just beyond, a question could be answered. But trying to answer that question could raise a lot of hell. It was best to just wait until morning.

Thanks to the good meal and the brandy, Talbot was just about out when his head hit the pillow. He came to when the sun was up but it felt like just a moment later. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and got himself together. A change of clothes and he was ready to descend the stares once again. Luckily, the smell of good food once again wafted up from the kitchens. It made Talbot take the steps a little quicker. It would not hurt him to have one more good meal on Lord Blackrance’s coin before he went back home. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he saw three people in the sitting room. The halfling Titus Talbot already recognized but there was also a masked figure and a drow sitting there as well. The masked figure got up and walked past Talbot without a word.

“You must be Sergeant Hawkwing,” the drow said with a sly smile. “As you might have gathered, my name is Lord Blackrance. Have a seat, won’t you?” He gestured toward the fourth chair.

“I no longer go by my rank, Lord Blackrance” Talbot said bluntly but not unkindly. “You may call me Talbot if you wish.”

“Fair enough, Talbot,” Lord Blackrance said. “If you wish to dispense with formalities, then you may call me Callum.”

“That’s a little forward when dealing with the aristocracy,” Talbot said. “but sure.”

“I had a feeling that you would want to talk,” Blackrance said. “I’m glad you’ve come down before breakfast.”

“I have a feeling you’ve already divined what I want to talk about,” Talbot said. “I might as well get to it. I have no intention of going on your expedition. There are plenty of hired guns even around here that you could take with you.”

“But I singled you out, Talbot,” Blackrance said. “I assembled my team carefully as I have assembled all of my teams. Your record speaks volumes and you are uniquely suited for the mission ahead.”

“How am I uniquely suited for it?” Talbot asked, more than a little curious at that statement.

“I’m honestly not sure yet,” Blackrance said with a shrug.

Talbot was a bit shocked. “You don’t know?” he asked. “I thought you had all of this figured out?”

“I have an ace up my sleeve when planning a mission,” Blackrance said. “The secret to my success.” He gestured to a young girl sitting peacefully in the corner.

Talbot blinked in shock. It was the young woman from his dream on the train. What the hell was going on?

Undead Reckoning Pt. 12

September 18, 2021

Pepper and a young man that Talbot did not recognize started carrying a veritable feast into the room on platters. It all smelled very good and it was far finer food than Talbot had expected this far out in the frontier. There were several whole roasted chickens, steamed carrots, toasted mushrooms, brisket, and mashed potatoes. Rahj immediately reached out and palmed one of the chickens, whistled, and then threw the chicken out of an open window. Something very large and hairy jumped up in the window and snagged the chicken. There was a deep growling sound from beneath the window. Everybody stared at Rahj who shrugged.

“They won’t let me keep Sandor inside but he still must be fed,” the large Dragonborn said. He then set about devouring whatever food he could reach.

“Um,” Clarity started, seeming to be at a loss for words for once. “Is Sandor your dog?”

Rahj grinned and began to speak with food in his mouth. “Ha!,” he cried out, letting out a single barking laugh. “In the desert, we have pets far superior to your dogs. It’s an insult to call Sandor a dog.”

Clarity seemed to think about that, almost as if she was deciding which part of the statement she was most interested in. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Did you say ‘out in the desert’? Do you mean to tell us that you have lived out there? Is this a recent occurrence or have you lived out there when it was still dangerous?”

Rahj frowned and looked at Clarity as if he was deciding whether or not she was being ignorant or insulting. Talbot immediately realized Clarity’s mistake and he looked around and saw that Clarity was the only one not in the know. She had an innocent look on her face which must have convinced Rahj that she was merely ignorant.

“Your government has always hated my kind,” Rahj said, his voice a low growl that almost harmonized with the growl from Sandor outside. “They made it real hard to find land of our own. Our scales are resistant to magic and we went out into the desert to settle where other mortals were too scared to go.”

“That is impressive, Mr. Blackscale,” Clarity said. “I apologize for my ignorance, I had not known that the government had dealt you such a poor hand. It is shameful. I am sure that everybody in this room does not share in such prejudice.”

Rahj grunted. “Thanks,” he said. “We made it work out there but the government and all of the business types want back out there now that it’s safer. I’m sure they’ll take our land too.”

“I hope they don’t,” Talbot said. “I never did cotton to how that worked out. You all should get first dibs, of course.”

“Blackrance is going to go to the government about it,” Rahj said. “He understands what it’s like since he’s drow. It’s the only reason I agreed to guide all of you out there.”

“You’ve talked in person to our illustrious patron?” Clarity asked. “I have only communicated with him via correspondence myself since I was out of country.”

“He sent me a letter too,” Talbot said. “I haven’t met him.”

“He came out into the desert,” Rahj said. “Faced me like a man alongside that one.” He pointed at Titus who nodded.

“I accompany Lord Blackrance on most occasions,” Titus said softly. “This is a rare moment when I am not by his side.”

“He came to see me at church,” Ana said. “He vas very polite and convincing.”

“So only half of us have met him,” Talbot said. “Wait, that reminds me. What about the other one? The person across the hall from me? What is their deal?”

“Mr. Seneca has a complex situation so he and Lord Blackrance agreed that he would not meet you until Lord Blackrance could be present,” Titus said. “Everything is going according to plan.”

“You do realize how suspicious that is don’t you?” Talbot asked, his eyes narrowing.

“I am very aware,” Titus said with a smile. “I can only operate according to Lord Blackrance’s wishes unless there is an emergency.”

“A lot of rules go out the window in an emergency,” Talbot said with a sage nod. “I remember that.”

“I’m sure you do,” Titus said.


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