Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

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.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Agrabah Pt. 4

March 6, 2021

Kuzco had been in the basket for what felt forever. He had felt the strangers pick the thing up, load him onto the wagon and he had tumbled end over end. He had landed in a very uncomfortable position but because of the produce around him, he could not easily move. The basket had been still for a long time and no light was seeping into the basket. He wiggled and squirmed and somehow reached up to the edge of the basket and used it to right himself. He burst out of the basket, sending the lid flying and then he looked around. It was very dark with a single torch lighting the room and everything was very silent. This would be the best moment to make his move. Somebody would eventually come back to distribute or organize the food and supplies, right?

He wiggled his legs, trying to find firm ground to push off of as he leaned to reach to hold the handle on the side for leverage. This only led to him tumbling out of the basket, barely avoiding tipping the basket over. Instead, he flopped hard to the stone floor below and tried to groan as quietly as possible. A melon bounced on the floor next to him and he reached out to grab it. As he stood up, his knees wobbling, he clutched the melon close as if he would use it as a weapon should anybody burst in on him. He moved toward the door and pressed himself against the wall next to the door and cracked it open. The coast seemed to be clear or at least he thought it was. He walked timidly into the hallway and started to stumble down it.

He had tried to do what Naveen had suggested and tried to guess how many turns they had made and when but he was upside down and he had no idea. He thought he might have fallen asleep at one point due to all of the blood rushing to his head. He felt a little dizzy at that moment and he could not see perfectly straight. He had had more fun as a llama. He tried to figure out which way the door might be but it was hard to tell. He moved down the corridor, pressed to the wall. He was in luck that the lighting was so dim but he worried about what sorts of people could exist in this low-lit place. Maybe they were not human.

Somebody or something came around the corner and Kuzco tried in vain to push himself through the wall. However, he did find some sort of chute that he promptly fell down headfirst. He did not hear any astonished cries so he hoped he had at least avoided detection. He landed in what appeared to be a pile of mud. He briefly considered just staying there. He felt the mud soak into his clothes. He then considered that it might be mud and then he was worried that it was not mud. He pushed himself to his feet and tried not to breathe in through his nose. Then he worried about breathing through his mouth. Then he figured he should start moving again.

It felt like hours while he stumbled around the building, avoiding patrols and dodging obstacles. The whole time he still clutched that melon as if it would save his life. He finally came upon a lever that looked promising and he tried to pull it. It did not budge. He jumped up and pulled on the lever and it did not budge. Finally, he crawled up onto the lever and finally it began to sink. The wall next to the lever started to slowly slide open and it was so loud. Kuzco looked wildly around, hoping nobody heard. He fell back to the floor and then stumbled into the opening. Thankfully, he saw the desert and a few moments later three camels carrying Jasmine, Naveen, and Mattias. Kuzco fell to the ground.

“Kuzco!” Jasmine called out. “Are you alright?”

“I’m just gonna lie down for a bit,” Kuzco said, cradling the melon to his chest.

“What’s with the melon?” Naveen asked. “Did you need a snack?”

“Melon weapon,” Kuzco muttered. He had a thousand-yard stare.

“Uh,” Mattias said as he looked at the others. “Is he alright?”

“Seems our friend has had a time,” Naveen said. “You did a good job, Kuzco.”

“You rest here, Kuzco,” Jasmine said. “Come join us when you’re ready. It’s time to fight.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Agrabah Pt. 3

February 20, 2021

Naveen pulled Kuzco along as they stuck to the shadows on market day. The two of them were on their own as Jasmine, Mattias, and the guards would not dare watch over them in case their observation drew the attention of the strangers. Naveen was trying to keep Kuzco in a good mood, nobody wanted the Emperor to lose his nerve and force them to delay and rethink their plan. The two moved quickly with Naveen making sure that Kuzco did not have time to be reluctant. He had dressed Kuzco in a dark cloak even though the Emperor had complained that it was not his style. He was more of a red and gold kind of guy. Naveen had told him that actually appearances really don’t matter.

“Relax, Kuzco,” Naveen said with an easy smile. “I did this once to get a free ride on a steamer ship and the plan succeeded flawlessly.”

“What’s a steamer ship?” Kuzco asked. “and if it’s so easy for you, why aren’t you doing it?”

“Forget the steamer ship,” Naveen said and waved his hand as if he was shooing the idea from their conversation. “You’re the man for the job, I promise you. All you need to is hide and then open a door. Piece of cake, right?”

“I’m not sure,” Kuzco said. “I usually have somebody do these kinds of things for me. I mean, I had an adventure once but I kind of hated it.”

“That’s the spirit,” Naveen said with heavy sarcasm. “You’re going to do a great job.”

“The old me would have had you tortured for speaking to me like that,” Kuzco said. “I guess I need to do this. The sooner I do it, the sooner I get back on my throne and somebody’s feeding me and somebody else is fanning me.”

“There’s more to life than that,” Naveen said. “Believe me, Kuzco, I used to have it all. I had women hanging all over me and servants and everything.” He thought in particular about his servant Lawrence with a mixture of anger and regret. He knew that he had been a brat and it had come back around to punish him.

“Used to?” Kuzco asked. “What happened? Did you get turned into a llama too?” People rarely seemed to believe in Kuzco’s adventure as a llama.

“A frog, actually,” Naveen said. “but before that I had it all taken away by my parents, the king and queen of my country.” Of course, Naveen was barely fazed by talk of magical transformations. He had his own wild adventure in the swamps of Louisiana as a little frog.

“That’s terrible!” Kuzco said. “Did you win it back?” He had been miserable when his unfortunate transformation and banishment had kept him from his own life of luxury. Everything had been pure torture but then again he thought of his friendship with Pacha, the one pure friend he had ever made.

Naveen smiled and shook his head. “I let it go with the help of my wife,” he said. “When I let it go, it lost its power over me. Now we have enough to be happy and comfortable.” Naveen smiled to himself, thinking of Tiana wherever she was. He and Tiana had really helped each other adjust the course of their life along with Ray and Louis. He enjoyed helping Tiana with her dream restaurant and he could work on his music on the side. It was a good life, one he desperately wanted to get back to.

“Well,” Kuzco said with started with some reluctance. “There is this one girl I have my eye on.”

“There you go!” Naveen said excitedly but quietly as they were still sneaking. “If you help out, you can get back to her and tell her this story. She’ll see how selfless you were. She’ll be very impressed.”

“She’s very smart,” Kuzco said. “I think it would take a lot to impress her.”

“We’ll work on it,” Naveen said. “You’ll charm her when you get back. Look! Here we are!”

Naveen shoved Kuzco into a basket before he could say anything else. He secured the basket lid and then moved away as casually and quickly as he could. He really hoped this plan would work. The boy was not exactly a hero but, then again, neither was Naveen.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Agrabah Pt. 2

February 13, 2021

Jasmine sat in her seat and took a deep breath. “I propose that we cannot wait any longer,” she said. “The longer we wait, the more likely it is for the Obsidian Tower to take over this town. I will not lose Agrabah to these people. I also strongly suspect that they know what has happened to our worlds and our friends. They may be counting on us and I will not fail them by delaying. Taking a leap of faith changed my life for the better once upon a time and that is my position now.”

Mattias coughed politely. “You know that my position is to exercise caution until we know more about our situation,” he said. “Our forces are dwindling and we don’t have the operational intelligence to ensure that we will be victorious.”

“I tend to agree with Jasmine,” Naveen said. “My wife is a planner but even she would admit that sometimes sharp wits and dumb luck mean more than all the knowledge in the world. We should make our move before time runs out. I don’t want to end up regretting leaving things too long.”

“Dumb luck has always worked for me but I’m awesome,” Kuzco said between shoveling food into his mouth. None of the other three knew how Kuzco managed to lead his country. He came off as an arrogant doofus but there was something else there behind it all. He complained but they all noticed that he had never walked away from these meetings and actually did listen.

“It appears that I am outvoted,” Mattias said with a slight smile. “That’s alright. I’m used to playing things by ear when I have to. I suppose I even have a plan.”

“Very resourceful,” Jasmine said. “I am very excited to hear it.” She knew that Mattias had a keen mind and was unquestionably loyal. This was something that Jasmine was still getting used to.

“As Naveen has no doubt noticed when the strangers come to market they use large baskets which they load onto their wagons,” Mattias said.

Naveen nodded. “I’ve definitely noticed,” he said. “I regularly play music down in the market when they arrive to keep eyes on them.”

“I watch from a hidden place,” Mattias said. “I suggest that one of us climb into one of those baskets and open a door for the other two in the dead of night.”

“Other four,” Jasmine said. “Rajah and I will be coming along as well.”

“I’d advise against it,” Mattias said. “You’re the ruler here and if something happens, and something is likely to happen, Agrabah may be completely lost.”

“If we do not succeed, Agrabah may well fall anyway,” Jasmine said. “I’m going. I know how to handle myself in a fight and I will never sit idly by and be the damsel in distress ever again. Tell me, would you be able to keep your Queen from entering the fray?”

Mattias sighed. “I would not be able to hold back either Queen from doing anything,” he said. “They’re both very headstrong. I think they would like you very much.”

“I apologize for causing your upcoming headaches but I will not budge on this,” Jasmine said. “Maybe I can meet your Queens when this is all over.”

“If I can make it happen, I will make it happen,” Mattias said. “I’m sure Anna especially would like to meet all of you and your loved ones.”

“My Tiana will cook us all a good good meal,” Naveen said. “We’ll have a big old party.”

“I look forward to it,” Jasmine said. “Now who will be the one to sneak into a basket?” She looked around at the three men, ready to volunteer herself. It would not be the first time that she went undercover.

“I think it should be Kuzco, actually,” Mattias said. There was a stunned silence following this bold statement.

“Me!?” Kuzco squeaked. “I don’t think so.”

“He does have a sort of harmless manner that might keep him safe,” Naveen said. “If he’s caught he would be alright.”

“I could be caught?” Kuzco asked nervously. He glanced at the door for a moment but he did not run. He was no adventurer but he was also no stranger to adventure.

“There’s something to that,” Jasmine said. “Are you ready to test your ‘dumb luck’?”

Undead Reckoning Pt. 7

January 30, 2021

Talbot tried to keep his face passive but knew he was failing at it. “Fallshield?” he asked. “I’m getting off there as well. What brings you to Fallshield? It is not really a bustling academic town.”

“I received a job offer that I hope will be able to fund my research,” Clarity said with a pleased smile. “I am very pleased to take a few risks in order to pave the way for the advancement of magic.”

“Your family can’t fund your work?” Talbot asked. “I don’t mean to pry but I gather that your family is fairly wealthy.” He had a sick feeling in his stomach about where this young lady was headed and he felt he had to make an effort to head her off at the pass.

“Again, a little forward,” Clarity said with an indignant little sound punctuating her objection. “If you must know, my family is not as well off as we have been in the past but that is not the issue. I want to be self-reliant so I can make my own decisions and get out of the shadow of my family.” She seemed to let out more than she would have since she was so miffed.

“I don’t mean to offend, Miss,” Talbot said holding his hands up a bit in a placating gesture. “I just suspect that we were summoned for the same thing by the same person and I feel that it may be too dangerous for you.”

“So it is too dangerous for me but not for you?” Clarity said. “I can take care of myself, Mr. Hawkwing. Besides, Lord Blackrance has a very good track record for his expeditions.”

“I didn’t mean to comment on your readiness in the face of danger,” Talbot said. “I just wanted to offer a word of warning. For my part, I am planning to turn Blackrance down. My fighting days are behind me but he paid enough for me to tell him no to his face.”

“That’s actually rather forthright of you, Mr. Hawkwing,” Clarity said, starting to calm down. “I am sure we will be lacking for whatever specialty you might have brought to the table.”

“I was a soldier,” Talbot said. “I suppose I’m a bit of a crack shot.”

“Oh!” Clarity let out in a bit of squeak. “My guess is that you were supposed to do the deed.” She said that last bit with great solemnity and a knowing glance.

“Do the deed?” Talbot asked. “I am not sure I catch your meaning.” He was sure that he actually did understand but wanted her to say it. It was part of why he wanted to turn down the job. He could not look at her as he waited for her answer and instead looked past her and watched the scenery go by through the window. The vegetation was gradually dying out as they headed toward the desert.

“You would be the executioner,” Clarity said. “Since you can pull the trigger. I mean, I have never killed anybody.” There was deathly silence after she said that as if everybody in the train car was holding their breath.

“And I have,” Talbot said with a nod. “but I don’t want to anymore. I laid down my rifle. In fact, I sold it in a pinch. Blackrance found it and sent it back to me.” Talbot gestured up toward the luggage rack where his old rifle was wrapped in cloth. The word ‘executioner’ had brought up memories of that fateful battle where he had shot and killed eleven magic users on his own. He could still see their faces when he closed his eyes.

“Perhaps fate is trying to tell you something, Mr. Hawkwing,” Clarity said. “Perhaps you must go on this adventure because you cannot escape it.”

“I don’t believe in fate, Ms. Havenwood,” Talbot said. “I do believe that it was money that brought my rifle back and not fate and I’ll leave adventure to those who are actually seeking it.”

“Suit yourself,” Clarity said. “We’ll see if Lord Blackrance can persuade you.” She smirked as if she had possibly won something.

“I doubt it,” Talbot said. “I have a life to get back to.”

“Your life is what you make of it, Mr. Hawkwing,” Clarity said. “If you want to return to your quiet life that’s your choice but a greater calling is out there.”

“We shall see,” Talbot said.


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