Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

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.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 10

September 11, 2021

Mulan was able to lead her team since she had been to the Imperial City several times before. They crept down several alleyways. The place was crawling with those shadowy creatures and the dragon was raging, stomping around everywhere and large parts of the city were burning with green flame. This whole thing was coming to a head and Mulan knew that she had to end things soon or there would be no China left to protect. They broke a window in the lowest floor they could reach and they all snuck in carefully.

“Which way do we go?” Aladdin asked, crouched against the wall.

Nobody seemed to have an idea right away. The city was chaos and the palace was not much better. Everybody was relatively unscathed from the cart crash. They still had their gear and weapons but there was no way to know which way was the solution to their problems. They could not stay still for long. The longer they stayed still, the more likely it was that they would be found and cornered.

“I’m not sure,” Mulan said. “I feel like logic would dictate that we’re heading to the throne room but that could be wrong.”

Suddenly, Rapunzel’s short brunette hair started to pulsate with bright white light and momentarily became blonde before growing down to her shoulders. Everybody looked surprised and Merrida opened the door a crack to make sure the sudden blazing light had not attracted attention. Rapunzel had taken hold of her hair and was marveling at it with a mixture of awe and worry.

“What is going on with you?” Merrida asked. She came off as gruff but everybody was concerned at the surprising turn of events.

“Are you alright?” Anna asked, taking hold of Rapunzel. Anna definitely wanted to fix everything for everybody and she was beside herself.

“I think so?” Rapunzel said. “This is actually sort of how my hair used to be. There is a lot of magic floating around this place.” She tied back her hair with a bit of string she found on her person.

“Do you have a feel for where the biggest mass of it is?” Mulan asked. “Where are we headed?”

Rapunzel closed her eyes and thought. “The highest point,” Rapunzel said softly. “I think.” She pointed upwards toward what Mulan knew to be the top floor of the palace. The Emperor’s living quarters were up there. It made sense.

“That’s good enough for me,” Aladdin said.

“I can lead us there,” Mulan said with a smile, her confidence returning to her. Everybody else looked bolstered by this news as well. “Follow me.”

They set off again and crept through the palace. Their pulses were pounding so loud that they thought somebody would hear them. Their stealth could only last so long and soon they were having pitched battles in the hallways and on the stairs. The shadowy creatures were all around them but they fought bravely. The fighters fought and the more peaceful people supported as best they could. They all knew that it was only a matter of time before this fighting would attract the dragon. If that happened, their time might really be up.

They fought to the top of the palace except that much of the Emperor’s quarters had been burned away and that level was exposed to the open air. Mulan hoped that the Emperor and his family were safe somewhere. They looked around and there was nothing too obvious. There were what looked like they could be magical objects of some sort but it was all foreign to the adventurers.

As they stood trying to figure it out, a massive claw hooked onto the edge of the roof and green flame erupted. The adventurers gathered their weapons for a fight.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 11

August 21, 2021

Clarity thought about that statement as they started down the stairs. “Very interesting,” she said. “I suppose if the stories are true and the gods were destroyed, all of that energy would have to go somewhere. There is no way to destroy energy like that and the Riders were at least semi-mortal and they could not absorb that much energy. What vessels are the gods in now? Maybe they have no vessels. Maybe that means they are more powerful than ever.”

Ana shrugged with a small, unbothered smile. “I have not given it much thought,” she said. “It is enough zat I have faith, no? I am more focused on doing good in the vorld.”

“Now that’s an attitude I can get behind,” Talbot said. “You’ve just got to leave the world better than you found it.” He could guess that Clarity’s intellectual curiosity was not satiated but then again how did she expect to test any theories when it came to deities from the beyond?

“Vat do you do for ze vorld, Talbot?” Ana asked with a curious smile. “How do you make it better?”

“I’m a carpenter,” Talbot said. “I share a shop with two partners back home.”

“A noble profession,” Ana said. “Vhat brings a carpenter all ze vay out here for zis endeavor?”

All three of them stopped outside of the dining room as Talbot turned toward Ana. He was not about to get into it with a complete stranger even if Ana was a woman of the cloth. His past was painful and he still did not know why he had discussed it with Clarity. Something about her inquisitive eyes, maybe.

“I wasn’t always a carpenter,” Talbot said. “I’ll leave it at that for now. Lord Blackrance wanted me to come out of retirement but we have a difference of opinion. I came to tell him no face to face.”

“I tried to change his mind,” Clarity said. “It didn’t take.” She shrugged and shot a mischievous smile at Talbot. The look irked him for a heartbeat.

Ana’s smile was more beatific and kind. “I respect that you are a man who has left violence behind,” she said. “A man of peace. However, peace is not alvays the answer.”

“It’s my answer,” Talbot said. “I’ve already lost enough to battle. I support the mission, of course, but I don’t have the heart to join in.”

“Perhaps your heart may yet change,” Ana said with a smile. “Only you can decide your path.”

“Maybe,” Talbot said. “Anything is possible but I just don’t see it. You’ll just have to take care of this without me.”

The door to the dining room burst open and Titus was standing there looking frustrated and a bit desperate. “Could you come in to eat?” he asked. “He’s getting impatient and I really don’t want to piss him off anymore.”

“Who?” Talbot asked. As soon as he asked he knew it was a stupid question. It had to be the Dragonborn from earlier.

“You’ll see,” Titus said. “Quickly, please.” He held open the door and the three all looked at each other and then entered the dining room. Seated at the head of the table was the giant Dragonborn who practically glared at them.

“Finally!” he yelled. “They said they would not serve the food until you came. Sit down.”

“Such manners!” Clarity said. “We were having a lively discussion. We apologize if we kept you and Mr. Mapleburrow waiting.” The four of them moved to seats around the table. Talbot made sure to sit closest to the angry dragon man. He was sure Clarity would disagree but he did not want either lady to be harmed if it came to a fight. He had a feeling it would not and that the Dragonborn was more bark than bite.

As they all sat down at the table, the Dragonborn slammed his fist on the table. “Food now!” Titus flinched a bit at the sound and Ana got very still. Neither Clarity nor Talbot reacted and Talbot fought the urge to roll his eyes. No need to rile the guy up any further. There was definitely movement in the kitchen.

“What do we call you, sir?” Clarity asked. “We haven’t been formally introduced yet.” Titus was not about to make any introductions in that moment. He was rattled.

“The name’s Rahj,” the Dragonborn said gruffly and when Clarity arched an eyebrow at him he looked remorseful for a moment. “Rahj Blackscale.”

Genshin Impact

July 26, 2021

I have been playing this game on mobile and I have meant to talk about it. Now that they have recently added both a lawyer character and a warrior poet, I feel like it may be time. A lot of people thought that Genshin Impact was just a clone of Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. In all fairness to those people, the game does have several similarities. The animation style feels similar although the designs are a bit sharper. The hack and slash style of combat feels somewhat similar on the surface. Both games also use a glider for transportation. Still, I feel like they were able to make their own thing.

The game takes place in the fantasy land of Tevyat, a magical place. You play as an outsider, an interdimensional traveler. You choose whether you play the brother or the sister. Your sibling and you are attacked by a godlike figure and are separated. You are joined with a cute little impish character named Paimon who names herself your guide to Tevyat. In Tevyat, heroes are chosen by fate in intense moments. They are granted gems called Visions which grant elemental superpowers. Those powers are divided into seven elements: Pyro, Hydro, Electro, Anemo (wind), Dendro (plants), Cryo, and Geo (Earth). Your main character is able to use elemental powers without a vision which is strange.

You are almost instantly swept up in a crisis in Mondstadt, the City of Freedom. Mondstadt is a land that seems to be inspired by a pastiche of European cultures. It became the City of Freedom when it liberated itself from the nobility that ruled it. Now the city seems to be governed and managed between four groups. The church, the Favonius Guard, the Winery, and the Adventurer’s Guild. They worship a god of wind who is missing but there is a bit of a dragon problem. Luckily, you resonate with the power of wind and quickly make friends with the defenders of Mondstadt. Together, the dragon problem seems a bit easier to handle. You go through many missions to help to purify the dragon from corruption rather than kill it, winning the hearts of Mondstadt.

Your search for your sibling leads you far afield and you end up crossing into the land of Liyue, a pastiche of Asian cultures. You start getting involved in things when you witness the death of Liyue’s God of Geo. You start learning more about Liyue which is the City of Contracts and thus a more rigid and formal society. Liyue is ruled over by a combination of human bureaucracy and a group of demigods. You start ingratiating yourself with both groups and figuring out how they can help you. Along the way, you find yourself combatting the enemy forces from a land called Snezhnaya (probably based on Russia). You help save Liyue from a massive attack from Snezhnaya and forever ingratiate yourself to the people of Liyue.

That is kind of where the story is now. There is more investigation into your sibling and their connection to a sinister cult but that is really just getting started. The game is kept busy with constant updates of events and new characters. The game is a “gacha” which means you are constantly rolling the dice for new characters and upgrades. You can pay to get ahead but I play completely free. A lot of the gameplay derives from assembling a team of four characters. Combat strategy comes from combining their elemental strengths for more damage.

My current favorite characters are:

Razor – A young man who was literally raised by wolves and gained an animalistic Electro Vision to protect his adopted family. He wields a great sword and speaks in broken English since he mostly speaks wolf.

Qiqi – A zombie girl who spends everyday trying to keep her body and mind from regressing into true death. Her day job is at a pharmacy. She uses a sword and heals with her Cryo Vision.

Yanfei – A legal advisor who acts as a constant champion for the people of Liyue by using her vast knowledge and keen observational skills to settle disputes in favor of the vulnerable. She uses a Pyro Vision and hurls fire with the help of her spell focus.

Barbara – A nun/idol of Mondstadt who heals with the help of her music and her Hydro Vision. She is somewhat naive but caring and optimistic and is in high demand.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Hawaii Pt. 9

July 3, 2021

Maui led the way back down the stairs to Jumba and Pleakley’s laboratory. Reluctantly, he was carrying his hook, a literal gift of the gods. He had rejoiced in the hook’s power when it was first gifted to him. It allowed him to take so many forms and travel the world freely and do whatever he wanted. When he lost it to Tamatoa in Lalotai, he had been devastated. Then he was marooned on that island. When Moana helped him win it back and then Te Fiti fixed it, he felt joy in his heart again. Part of that was the lifting of the weight on his conscience from stealing Te Fiti’s heart in the first place but part of it was also regaining that freedom. Now he was risking that by handing over his most prized possession. Of course, he was doing it for his best friend in all of the worlds. Moana had that effect on people.

“He’s down here!” Pleakley said excitedly. “I thought he didn’t come down here anymore.”

“Things must be pretty bad up there,” Jumba said. “Big man is desperate.”

“I’m not desperate,” Maui said defensively. “I’ve fought giant monsters.” He paused. “But it is pretty bad up there. So could you please…” He trailed off.

“Maui,” Moana said softly.

Please look at my hook.”

“We are looking,” Jumba said, almost teasing the demigod. “It is impressive.”

“Focus, Jumba,” Moana said. “We need you to do your ‘science’ thing and see if we can change all of the people back.”

“We have been studying the snake gentleman that you brought back earlier as well as signals in the air,” Jumba said. “I believe that I have more of a grasp on this so-called magic.”

“So you don’t even need to touch my hook?” Maui asked.

“No the hook is the key,” Jumba said. “Please hand it over.”

Maui hesitated.

“Maui, you tower over them,” Adam said, placing a hand on the big man’s shoulder. “If it came to it, you could just take your hook back. Besides, they are trying to help you. One thing I’ve learned lately is to accept when people want to help you.”

“He’s right,” Moana said. “Stop being a baby.” She smirked but her eyes showed she knew how important this moment was.

“No, you’re being a baby!” Maui said reflexively and then relaxed. “You’re right.” He held out the hook. “Please be gentle.”

It took both Pleakley and Jumba to hold up the giant hook and carry it to a piece of equipment that looked like it was attached to the snake’s cage. Maui, Moana, and Adam watched them work, trying to stay out of the way. Everything the two aliens were doing was absolutely foreign to them but it involved a lot of flashing lights, ominous hums, and mystifying actions. After a while, the three heroes were tired and the two scientists were still working. Lilo and Stitch brought in supper and they all eight together but still the aliens kept working, caught up in what must be very intriguing. At last, Jumba turned to them.

“We are still working,” he said. “Go to sleep and we will talk in the morning.”

“But I have to leave my hook here?” Maui asked.

Moana started pushing him up the stairs. “It’s going to be fine, Maui,” she said. “I promise. We’ll get this solved tomorrow.” She turned to Jumba and Pleakley. “Tomorrow, right?”

“Don’t rush us!” Pleakley said.

“Science takes how long it takes,” Jumba said. “Go.”

Adam followed Maui and Moana back up the stairs, carrying an already sleeping Lilo and Stitch on his shoulders. He dropped the two youngsters off with Lilo’s sister and walked toward his bed. He was tired but now that he was alone, he started to think of home and Belle. He hoped she was safe wherever she was. He hoped they could figure things out when they were reunited. He had barely had time to think after the incident with Gaston and he had a lot to make up for. He loved her and he knew she loved him but that was not always enough. He had to be better for her.

The lights in the lab stayed on all night as Jumba worked feverishly with Pleakley’s help. He had created many fantastic things and creatures but this ‘magic’ was all new to him. It was exciting and aggravating all at once. Eventually, Pleakley fell asleep in his bed and Jumba kept working. He felt he owed it at least to Lilo and Stitch to help them save their new world.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Atlantica Pt. 8

May 29, 2021

Belle pointed excitedly at a page in the book she had been reading. “Come and look at this, Ariel,” she said. “It’s like Milo said from one of his interviews. There are all sorts of things in here about Hades.” It had been days but the two women had continued to study with the support of Milo and the Professor. Tiana had brought meals directly to the library eventually. It had been a long road but finally, there was a glimmer of hope in the book sitting on the table in front of Belle.

“Hades?” Ariel asked, walking over to look at the page Belle was pointing at. “The God of the Underworld that a few of our guests mentioned terrorizing that place called Greece?”

“Exactly,” Belle said. “I actually remember reading about him back in my world as well. He presides over all of those who have passed away. It’s his job to keep them forever.” She had read every book in her village and every book in the library that Adam had gifted her. So many fantastic tales that felt much less fantastic now.

“It seems he let Ursula slip by on his watch,” Ariel said. “and whoever Ursula is working with as well.” They knew at least one of her cohorts. Maleficent, the fairy that had tormented Aurora. There were probably others. Not to mention the new tricks that Ursula had picked up, like that hideous shadow she had tortured Sebastian with.

Belle pointed at the page. “I think they could have done it with this,” she said. “The Ring of Hades. It can open up the gates of the Underworld. After that, they would just need to walk back to the land of the living. I think.”

“It seems like a good enough theory to me,” Ariel said. “If we can zero in on that ring, maybe we can find whoever is responsible for all of this.”

“That makes sense,” Belle said. “We’re not going to get much farther in this siege that Ursula has the castle under. Right?”

“Right,” Ariel said. “Our forces are tired and outmatched. We need a new path.”

“So we invoke the ring and we go wherever it leads us,” Belle said. “The problem is that I have no idea how to do that. I’ve been reading about magic but I have no talent for it myself.”

“I’ve practiced some,” Ariel said. “I studied under my father and I researched Ursula’s things when she was dead. I wanted to make sure I was ready if it ever happened again. The magic I learned is the only thing keeping this castle fortified against Ursula’s magic and the Unfortunate clamoring at the gates.”

“I’m thankful that you learned then,” Belle said. “Magic was nothing but trouble in my world but I suppose if the Enchantress had used her power more positively and less spitefully, we would have been better off.”

“Who is the Enchantress?” Ariel asked, curiosity shining in those big blue eyes.

“Oh!” Belle said with some surprise. “I got a little lost for a moment. The Enchantress was a woman who cursed my husband before I met him. I never met her but she had to be very powerful.” She had transformed an entire household with a single curse, she must have been impressive.

“I wish she was on our side,” Ariel said. “We could use her right about now.”

“I’m more than confident relying on you,” Belle said. “No more wild cards. Please.”

“I guess I can’t disagree with you there,” Ariel said. “So, maybe I can conjure up some sort of path or gateway out of here.”

“Using the ring as a focus maybe,” Belle said. “and we can get to the heart of the matter before things go any further.”

“We’ll assemble a group in case we actually manage to succeed in leaving this world,” Ariel said. “Aurora and Esmerelda will suffice, I think.”

“Agreed,” Belle said. “I’m not much for fighting and those two seem to be much better in a physical fight.”

“Then we’ll make an attempt tomorrow after lunch,” Ariel said. “In the meantime, we need to design the ritual and get the research completed.”

“You had me at research,” Belle said. “I’m at your service.”

The Kids of Barrie Park Pt. 1

May 8, 2021

Liam flicked his lit cigarette into the dirt and brooded. The funeral had ended about twenty minutes prior but Liam had hardly noticed it start and end. Sure he grieved for the deceased, John and Tereza Ganton, but he had really come out of a sense of obligation. He had known the two of them since he was a small child. There was shared history there but especially shared tragedy. Being there and watching them get lowered into the ground made it all so real and it set his mind racing. Everybody just faded away while he thought about the implications. Maybe it was just a coincidence but maybe it meant something.

“Pick that cigarette butt up,” a woman’s voice said from behind him. It shook Liam from his fog but it did not make him jump. He turned to face Chantal. Even though it had been over two years since they had spoken directly, he still remembered her voice.

“Sorry, Chant,” Liam said and bent down to pick up the now cool butt. “I wasn’t thinking. Maybe I was thinking too much. Forget it.”

“None of that’s too uncommon at a funeral,” Chantal said. “Do you want to talk about it?” She reached out to comfort Liam but he moved away without really meaning to. He had the grace to look apologetic and Chantal let it go.

“You have to know what I’m thinking,” Liam said. “You were there that night.” He looked into her eyes with purpose. He spotted the scar across her left eyebrow that would never allow it to grow back again. She had gotten off light. Liam ran a hand over his own arm where a scar ran nearly from shoulder to wrist although it was covered by his cheap suit.

“I get it. They’re dead, Liam, and we had a connection to them,” Chantal said. “It hurts. It’s big but it is just a part of life.”

“It’s not just normal funeral stuff. Besides, you know that it doesn’t really hurt,” Liam said. “You know that both of us didn’t actually talk to them much. Most of us do not talk to each other. It’s weird.”

“And yet you and I both attended their wedding,” Chantal said with a sad smile. “We didn’t really know them but we were connected to them.” Chantal had a kind heart, it could be inspiring but it could also be annoying.

“We were connected,” Liam said, nodding in agreement. “We are still connected. That’s what I worry about. That connection. I’m worried this means something.” Liam knew he had that look in his eyes. That crazy look. He could see it in Chantal’s reaction. He was used to that reaction. As a freelance researcher in journalism, he was used to getting that reaction when he had a wild theory. The problem was, he was usually right.

“It means that the Gantons died, it’s sad, and nothing more,” Chantal said. “Now buy me dinner before you blow town again.” She took his hand and started pulling him toward the cars. Everybody else had pretty much cleared out except for the grounds crew of the cemetery. Liam went with her, walking toward his rental begrudgingly.

“We drove separately,” Liam said. “We’ll have to drive separate again. I don’t want to have to come back here, do you?”

“Hell no,” Chantal said. “I would never come back here if I had my way.”

“I think we’re agreed there,” Liam said with a nod. He almost reached for another cigarette but thought better of it. His fingers made a frustrated kind of motion as if they were disappointed at his change of heart. He shoved his hands in his pockets and shuffled toward his car.

“We’ll meet at Dona Habana,” Chantal called out. “No arguments.” She gave him her version of The Look which was meant to shut down any conversation for the moment.

“You know I hate Dona Habana,” Liam said. “I really hate Dona Habana.” It was an Afro-Cuban fusion place that Liam knew that Chantal loved. It was noisy and bright and the food disagreed with Liam’s stomach.

“I know you do,” Chantal called out with a big shit-eating grin. “That’s where I want to go and I said no arguments.”

“Fine,” Liam said. He stopped before getting into his car and watched Chantal drive off. He sighed and thought about that cigarette again when he thought he spotted something move in the distance. He narrowed his eyes in the gathering dusk and tried to decide if he had seen what he thought he did. What he thought he saw was a very tall person. He rubbed his eyes and decided that either way it was time to leave the cemetery. He needed food in his stomach and he needed to explain himself to Chantal.

The Muppet Show Season 6 Pt. 1

April 15, 2021

This started out as a Top 11 list of performers that I wish had been on The Muppet Show before it ended in 1981. The project has since expanded a bit and I decided to write a few ideas on my fantasy Season 6 of The Muppet Show.

S06E01 Elaine Stritch

Long before she was “just” Jack Donaghy’s mother, Elaine Stritch was a true legend. She started her Broadway career on stage in 1946 with a role in Loco. She got her big break when she understudied for Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam at the same time as she was starring in Pal Joey. Before that, she had already gotten into television in 1948. Both careers flourished and she became one of the venerated names in theater circles especially. She could sing, she could joke, and she could do drama. She was a consummate performer. In her later years, she proved she could basically be a stand-up comedian doing a one-woman show called Elaine Stritch at Liberty.

Her self-deprecating humor proves that she does not take herself too seriously and would have been a great fit for The Muppet Show aesthetic. She was also consistently working in England at the time which is where the show was filmed. Her schedule was probably pretty tight but I am sure a deal could have been worked out to allow her to film an episode.

Cold Open: Scooter comes in to give Elaine her 25 second warning. Elaine is not sure about her makeup artist as Bunsen and Beaker aim and fire a “makeup cannon”.

Guest Arc: Miss Piggy is made to be Elaine’s understudy. She pays Gonzo to sabotage Stritch but keeps getting hurt by his efforts.

Guest Acts:

“Zip” (Rodgers/Hart) with Rowlf on Grand Piano and the Electric Mayhem
“It’s Today” (Jerry Herman) solo with Gonzo’s traps going off
“Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch” (Sondheim) – A duet with Ms. Piggy

S06E02 Christopher Lee

Since they already had Vincent Price on the show, I am shocked that they did not contact the man who was basically his British counterpart, Christopher Lee. Like Price, Lee exuded a powerful aura of charisma that made him perfect for roles like Dracula, Scaramanga, and Saruman. In fact, he still holds the record of playing Dracula the most times on film at 10. He lent his rich, deep voice to voice-over work starting with a German dub of a Danish animated film. He continued to work in animation and eventually added video games to his resume. He was more than just an actor as he could also sing. He sang for the soundtracks of movies he starred in and he would later put out several metal albums that often mixed opera with heavy metal.

He would have been a natural for The Muppet Show and his deep baritone would have been a change from the usual higher-pitched guests. He has the ability to go dark and spooky (like Price or Zero Mostel) but also the abilities needed for comedy.

Cold Open: Christopher Lee arrives backstage and doorman Pops quickly hides from him. Lee remarks on how odd it is for backstage to be so empty.

Guest Arc: The Muppets are afraid of Lee backstage but he does not do anything scary. Eventually, he does The Monster Mash to give them what they want.

Guest Acts:

“Man of La Mancha” (Leigh/Darion) with rat townspeople and Rizzo as his Sancho Panza.
“Ghostriders in the Sky” (Johnny Cash) with Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers
“The Monster Mash” (Bobby Pickett) with assorted monsters

S06E03 Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor began his career as a stand-up comedian in New York City in 1963. He performed alongside luminaries like Nina Simone and Bob Dylan. He started as a clean comic and achieved some success, appearing on Ed Sullivan, The Tonight Show, and Merv Griffin. He had regular gigs in Las Vegas. However, he was not creatively fulfilled because he decided to evolve his act. He started lacing it with profanity but also being more honest and with higher energy. In the 1970s he was writing for television shows like Sanford and Son and The Flip Wilson Show. In 1972 he appeared in his first film (Lady Sings The Blues). He co-wrote comedy hit Blazing Saddles and had several memorable movies alongside Gene Wilder. He continued to star in movies, proving how brilliant of a comedic actor he could be.

Pryor’s manic energy made him a great candidate for The Muppet Show. His very expressive face also lent itself to delivering hilarious reactions, something that would serve him well among jokesters like Frank Oz and Jim Henson. While he was not really known for it in his later career, he actually started his career briefly as a singer. He had a jazzy sound and a good voice and it would have been amazing for him to be able to show that off again. He also had a cameo in The Muppet Movie.

Cold Open: Kermit is dealing with a packed backstage full of people who want to meet Richard Pryor. He clears them out in time for Pryor to arrive. Kermit meets Pryor and asks him to keep it clean.

Guest Arc: Kermit is nervous because of Pryor’s reputation as a dirty comic. He tries to keep Fozzie, Robin, and Sam away from him but in the end, Pryor proves he’s a professional.

Guest Acts:

Pryor and the Electric Mayhem try to teach Fozzy and Gonzo to be cool
“Having a Party” (Sam Cooke) with Janice, The Electric Mayhem, and a crowd
Stand-up (Clean)

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Agrabah Pt. 6

March 20, 2021

Jasmine, Naveen, and Kuzco stepped back with Jasmine and Kuzco hugging their arms close to their bodies against the sudden gust of cold in the space. Naveen nervously ran a hand through his hair. Mattias stepped forward, seemingly unafraid, and reached to help Queen Elsa to her feet. He helped her up gently but authoritatively, a man of service for sure.

“Your majesty,” Mattias said. “You have been held captive. Are you alright?” He was protective, almost instinctively keeping his body between Elsa and the others standing outside of the cell.

“I’m fine,” Elsa said politely and Mattias instantly withdrew his support and Elsa stood steady. “Is my sister here?”

“Not to my knowledge, your majesty,” Mattias said. “We have both been transported magically to a foreign land. One that I had never heard of. Apparently, they thought you dangerous enough to actually imprison you.”

“That was a smart choice,” Elsa said with a sarcastic smirk. “Who did this?”

Mattias shook his head. “We haven’t really figured out who they are yet,” he said. “We fought them but they have not identified themselves yet. They are clearly not friendly, though”

“They will be held accountable whoever they are,” Jasmine said. “I promise that, your majesty.” Jasmine stood as tall and as regal as she could considering she was an inexperienced warrior who had just been through the wringer. She did have a lifetime of experience standing with her father and she could strike a pose with the best of them.

“Mattias, why haven’t you introduced us?” Elsa asked with a slight smile. She stood a little straighter, drawing on her own royal training.

“My apologies,” Mattias said. “Queen Elsa, this is Jasmine, the ruler of this desert kingdom Agrabah. Behind her is Prince Naveen of New Orleans and Emperor Kuzco of Inca.”

“It’s actually ‘former queen’ but let’s dispense with the honorifics for a while until we’re out of this,” Elsa said. “Do we have a deal?”

“I like you already,” Jasmine said. “Are you sure you feel alright?”

“I’m sure,” Elsa said with a smile. “It’s nice to meet all of you and I’m grateful for the rescue. Agrabah, New Orleans, Inca. I have never heard of these places but let’s set that aside. If these people are threatening Northuldra and Arendelle, they will answer to me. To us.”

“Agreed,” Jasmine said. “Nobody invades Agrabah.”

“Yes, I agree as well,” Naveen said. His face was kind but his voice was stern, something nobody was used to in the short time that they had known Naveen. He almost always had a joke. To hear him being this serious was jarring.

“What about all these other cells?” Kuzco asked. “Shouldn’t we free them too?” He gestured around, master of the shortcut at work.

“Yes!” Elsa said. “Fortunately, I know what happens when locks freeze. We’ll free them all.” She suddenly looked much stronger than she had looked after standing up earlier.

“I assume that we will find only allies in these cells,” Mattias said. “At least, I hope so.” He seemed less than completely sure but he trusted Elsa with his life and she obviously felt the same. Besides, it was a logical assumption to make. If these people would imprison Elsa and held malicious designs for Agrabah, the other prisoners would at least be more likely to fight their captors than their liberators.

“We’ll have to take our chances,” Jasmine said. “We can’t handle them on our own. We have to rescue our loved ones.”

“I agree,” Elsa said. “Anna is out there somewhere and there will be no mercy for anybody who gets between us.”

An involuntary shiver ran through everybody but Elsa. She slowly walked past them all and into the hallway of cells.

“I checked,” Kuzco said. “This is only one hallway. There’s a lot of them.”

Elsa seethed with anger for a moment and her footsteps were outlined in ice for a moment. “Let’s open that big one on the end first, shall we?” she asked through clenched teeth. She pointed her palm toward the door at the end of the hallway and ice flew from her hand and slammed into the rough metal. The door shuddered and then large cracks started to form in the metal. Finally, the doors expanded, shuddered, and fell apart. The hallway briefly filled with mist.

Suddenly, a blue blur moved through the mist and enveloped Jasmine. Everybody drew their weapon but Jasmine waved a free hand even as she floated off the ground.

“It’s alright!” she yelled out, tears of happiness flowing down her cheeks. “It’s just my friend Genie.”

The blue man turned to look at everyone else. “Hey everybody,” he said. “Are we having a party?”

“More like a fight, Genie,” Jasmine said. “I’m so glad we found you. We need your help.”

“You name your wish,” Genie said. “I’ll make it come true.”


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