Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

Mercer Holliday

February 26, 2018

Mercer Holliday was an android assigned to cleaning up sector 7G of the Haverford Complex for the Titus Corporation. Of course, that was not something that he had any interest in doing. Mercer was loyal and would never abandon his duty but he had different ideas. He knew that he had been constructed for this purpose or a purpose closely related to it. He knew that he owed his manufacturers his life. He had been happy to be a janitor for a long time, never doing a bad job and never leaving a single spot uncleaned if he could help it.

The question was posed a long time ago that if androids dreamed, what did they dream of? The cute answer had been electric sheep. Mercer could tell you that he dreamed of being a hero. After an efficient cleaning of his area of the facility, he would go back to his small home. He was an android and he did not need much which was good because he had very little. Still, when he returned to his abode, and before he powered down to recharge, he always watched a movie. He watched a lot of different genres but he had fallen in love with the ‘Western’ of the American Southwest of the planet Earth. He had never been there but he loved the tales of gunfighters who took on crowds of ne’er-do-wells with nothing but their grit.

He wished that was him. He did not want to be a war machine like those war droids who had been programmed for fighting. He wanted to be a defender, a seeker of truth like the gunfighter, the superheroes, and the knights from the stories he liked so much. He did not know if it was possible but he spoke of it whenever he had the chance to whoever would listen. He wanted to be the guy that people called on when they needed help when nobody else could help them. The dream burned within him and it perhaps once again raised the question whether androids had a soul and what that soul might be imagined as.

“Mercer!” A voice called out that broke Mercer from his reverie. He had been mopping on autopilot, an ability that made it obvious why you would utilize androids as workers instead of biologicals. It was Dr. Toma Wright, the young rebellious prodigy who had arrived a few months earlier. Unlike many, Toma did not ignore those around her and excitedly discussed whatever with the menial workers in her sector. That included Mercer.

“That’s my name,” Mercer said. He tried to blink realistically and Toma laughed, appreciative of his efforts to appear lifelike.

“Yes it is, Mr. Holliday,” she said. “I’m glad I caught you.”

“Holiday is not part of my official designation, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said. His official designation was Mercer-2547 after the scientist who had designed him, Victor Mercer. Most androids had no need for an original name.

“No, of course not,” Toma said. “However, I think it suits you after you recommended Tombstone to me. Doc Holliday was one of the most famous historical gunfighters of Earth.”

“I am aware, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said. “I admire him very much although he had many ethical failings throughout his life. In the end, he was very loyal to lawman Wyatt Earp.”

“That’s what you want, isn’t it?” Dr. Wright asked. She watched Mercer as if his face would give away some emotion. Of course, he did not even blink.

“Yes,” Mercer said. “If I had my way, I would be a hero like Mr. Holliday or Mr. Earp or Mr. Eastwood in his many roles.”

“Yes,” Doctor Wright said, cutting off a rant she knew might be incoming. “I’m aware you prefer Mr. Eastwood over Mr. Wayne.”

“I just find Mr. Wayne’s dialogue so stilted,” Mercer said.

Toma choked back a laugh and shook her head. There was something profound there perhaps but it was not worth pursuing. “Maybe I can help you achieve your dream.”

“How so, Doctor?” Mercer asked.

“Come with me,” she said. She led him back to her lab and she pressed a button and opened a few compartments. She pulled out a few chips and loaded them into a gun-like device. “Please expose your upper port.” Mercer trusted the Doctor and so he reached up to his neck and worked loose a panel and exposed a communication port.

Toma took up the device and plugged it into Mercer’s neck and pulled the trigger on the device. Information flooded into the construct that was analogous to Mercer’s brain. He suddenly knew how to operate weapons. Guns, knives, and hand to hand combat were suddenly second nature to him. He also suddenly knew more about computers and he had the first inkling about how to perform a ‘hack’, something he would never have even thought of previously. If androids could smile, Mercer would be grinning ear to ear. This was indeed a great gift.

“I’ve also included a program that modifies your hazardous materials containment device,” Dr. Wright said.  “It will now create a protective shield that will allow you to protect yourself and others.”

“Why have you given me these things, Dr. Wright?” Mercer asked.

“I want you to go out there and find some way to protect people,” Dr. Wright said.

“But my position is here,” Mercer said. “I must clean Sector 7G. Forever.”

“Somebody else will fill your position, Mercer,” Dr. Wright said. “I think that your passion will help you be a better hero. I think there are heroes out there without half of your passion. Besides, I have another gift for you.” She opened up another compartment and there hung a long brown duster. Mercer instantly grabbed it and put it on, a little unaccustomed to wearing actual clothes instead of panels that simulated clothes to make humans more comfortable.

“Thank you, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “I have a few contacts that I can hook you up with and soon, you will be on your way. Meet me back here tomorrow and I will have your ticket to your first job. Once you have your foot in the door, nothing will be able to stop you.”

“I will be here as you say,” Mercer said.


When It All Ended Pt. 6

February 3, 2018

The dragon had left Cora alone in her bedroom. The door was not locked and she had not posted any of her lizardmen for guards. She had simply threatened Cora with death if she wandered too far. Otherwise, she could move around the castle to feed and entertain herself as long as she did not make a move against Khandara. She knew she needed help but so far, she was still alone. The remaining Guard members of the castle had been chased off or killed. It was only a matter of time until the dragon got bored and consumed her as it had promised.

“Princess Cora?” A voice echoed in Cora’s head. “This is Cassandra Oakspring of Moonglow’s Raiders. I don’t know if you remember me but we’re here to help.”

“Cassandra?” Cora asked in her head. “Didn’t I meet you at New Moon? I appreciate the help but there is a small army between you and me.” Cora summoned an image from her memory of Cassandra but she could only envision a gawky teen girl from way back when.

“We’re working on that,” Cassandra responded. “We will be at the castle soon and I promise you we will take out that dragon or die trying.”

“I like the former option better,” Cora said. “but this dragon is very deadly. She has me prisoner alone in here. Is there anything I can do?”

“We want you safely out of the way when it begins,” Cassandra said. “The roof! Can you lure the dragon up there when the time is right?”

“I can try,” Cora thought. “She certainly likes playing with me and the longer she’s interested, the more likely she won’t eat me.”

“Think on it,” Cassandra thought. “Keep hope alive. We’re on the case.”

“Be careful,” Cora thought. “I honestly can’t wait to see you again. If you pull this off, my parents will give you anything you want.”

“Let’s focus on the fight first,” Cassandra thought. “Try to sleep tonight and conserve your energy. This is the last message I can send tonight.”

“Thank you and good night,” Cora thought. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” And then the connection was dead and Cora was alone again. But she was not completely alone. Somewhere out there was the gawky teen who had given her a tour of New Moon Wizardry School along with the renown adventurers group Moonglow’s Raiders. The thought was both comforting and exciting but now Cora had a mission. With that new purpose came a new strength that she had not known she had left inside of her. She was going to get that dragon to the roof.

* * *

Cassandra took a few breaths after using the Sending Pendant. It had limited uses per day and it took a bit of her energy for a little bit whenever she used it. She lay back on the soft bed in her little corner of Percival’s mansion. She had not thought that Princess Cora would remember her. She had imagined that the letters that Cassandra had sent were answered by some servant or something to spare Cassandra’s feelings. Instead, the connection was real and it kind of blew Cassandra’s mind. She was even more determined to save the Princess than before. It was not just her duty but her desire as well.

Now, Cassandra turned her attention to the other task that had been given to her. She sat up and rummaged through her pack and pulled out a cube. She had carefully constructed the cube alongside one of her old teachers at New Moon for a very specific purpose. The party had been trying to figure out what to do with it for a few months. It was not the object itself that was so tricky, it was who was inside of it. Months ago, the party had encountered a wandering Djinn that some students had accidentally released from the Elemental Plane of Air. The party had defeated the Djinn and trapped it in Cassandra’s trap, earning Cassandra a special accolade from her old academy. Now, Cassandra finally had an idea.

She held the trap up near her mouth. “Can you hear me in there?”

There was a long pause and then a whispery voice answered back. “I can hear you, Cassandra,” Monela answered back.

“You know my name?” Cassandra asked with some surprise. When the event had gone down, the Djinn had been uninterested in talking much. It had been more interested in playing tricks and pranks and property destruction. It sounded like it had calmed down some.

“I can listen all the time from inside this box,” Monela replied. “I have learned much about you and your compatriots.”

“Oh?” Cassandra asked. “I’m curious about what you think, then.”

“You are powerful yet kind,” Monela replied. “You bested me and tricked me into this trap. I have much respect for you.”

“Kind words,” Cassandra said. “Pretty words, too. What would you say to a deal which included your release?”

“Well,” the Djinn said. “I would not be adverse to hearing more of this deal. I mean, I am your captive audience so go ahead and speak.” Monela’s voice betrayed her and Cassandra could hear a tinge of excitement there and definite interest. She knew that Monela must be going crazy in the box and Cassandra actually felt sorry for her. She knew that Monela was a spirit of wind and freedom and was not meant to be in one place for long. Still, she also knew that Monela could be a mischievous creature and care was needed.

“We are having a little bit of trouble with some lizardmen, some wyverns, and a dragon,” Cassandra said.

“Nasty sorts,” Monela said. “They never want to have fun. Not my kind of fun. It’s no fun if people actually die.”

“Exactly,” Cassandra said. “I’m so glad we’re on the same page. My friends and I are going after the dragon. Can I ask you to help take care of the rest?”

“Ask?” Monela nearly shouted. “Not order? That is interesting and I find your phrasing pleasing. Speak your deal and I will consider it.”

“The simple deal is as follows,” Cassandra said. “I release you and in return, you fight alongside the Guard but especially target the wyverns. Once the battle is done, you will leave this place.”

“Leave this place?” Monela asked and it was clear she was surprised. “Gladly. If you survive the dragon, you could try and trap me again. I do not wish to be in here again.”

“Understandable,” Cassandra said. “Of course, I make no promises that we or some other group won’t try to catch you again if you make trouble.”

“That possibility makes the thrill of making trouble all the sweeter,” Monela said and laughed.

“Well, then,” Cassandra said. “We have a deal. I will release you inside the city gates tomorrow.”

“Rest well, Cassandra,” Monela said. “I do not wish to hear of your death.”

Elorian Education Services

January 29, 2018

<A robed man enters frame and smooths his robes before realizing that the camera is already running>

Greenwood: Hello, my name is Hynan Greenwood and I am the minister for education here in the land of Eloria. I wanted to take a few moments of your time to highlight some of the specialty schools here in Eloria. Some children and young adults have aptitudes beyond basic schooling and trade apprenticeships. These children may have aspirations for highly specialized fields such as enchanting or becoming members of the Guard. Others may wish to become Adventurers, our land’s unofficial second line of defense. Whatever the reasons, Eloria has set up educational opportunities to help present a more educated workforce so we can all contribute to society in our own way. Let’s meet some of the teachers you might have.

<The shot cuts to a hunched-over tiefling woman in a stereotypical witch’s hat who looks like she has been dusted with soot. She speaks awkwardly as if she is not comfortable with attention>

Woodrow: Hello. My name is Cinna Woodrow and I am the Director of New Moon School of Wizardry. We are situated in Braddish in the District of Coppin, the north side of town. Oh! You’ve just caught me trying to create a new enchantment. <She dusts off her spectacles> I won’t go into detail but it should be a nasty exploding trap to ward off thieves. So far I have the exploding part down but I have yet to lock in the not exploding part. That is what you can expect here at New Moon. We will teach you the beginner and intermediate levels of magic and then we will encourage you to find your own path in high level magic. When you leave New Moon, you will be ready for whatever magical path that lies ahead of you. Our staff includes alumni includes Arcanist Gar Braddon and famous adventurer Cassandra Oakspring.

<The shot cuts to a scruffy-looking man with red hair in plate armor and leaning slightly on a longsword. He smiles broadly at the camera>

Harefoot: Hello! <He raises the sword straight up in the air in salute as he shouts> My name is Donovan Harefoot and I am an instructor at True Cross Swordfighting School where swords cross daily. We are situated outside of Hurlock in the District of Stull at the Battle Arts Academy. Here at True Cross we are dedicated to a lot of things but first and foremost is how to fight. You will leave True Cross knowing how to succeed in any combat situation and you will have mastered at least one weapon. Despite our name, we also have teachers on hand who can teach you all sorts of martial weaponry techniques. We also specialize in a variety of styles and I guarantee we can find one that fits your body and personality. Personally, I came here as a weakling and I left here as a fierce warrior in the last Great War. After some successful time in the Guard, I came back here to whip you young people into shape so we can keep this great land safe.

<The shot cuts to a blonde woman with a few sticks and leaves tangled in her hair but a beaming smile on her face>

Trickfoot: Hi! My name is Harria Trickfoot and you’re lucky enough to get this message about Sunny Valley Ranger School. I became the director of this school after my father passed away a few years ago. Sunny Valley doesn’t exactly have a fixed location. I’m sure you’ve heard what Rangers are like. Wherever we are currently camping is where the school is. This school is incredibly hands-on as we will teach you to excel in hunting and tracking. This is not like normal hunting. We will teach you how not to lose your quarry whether it is a stag, an owlbear, or even a nasty orc. When we set out after a target, we do not stop until we find it and neutralize the threat. We are at home in any kind of terrain and tracking any kind of creature or person. In fact, I always say that a ranger’s home is where they lay there head at night. When you come to Sunny Valley you will be assigned to a squad and we will teach you how to track and fight any target that you need to. Guaranteed.

<The shot cuts to a serious-looking man with a nose that looks like it was previously broken and did not quite set right. He talks with a quiet intensity>

Cole: My name is Harkan Arnell and I am an instructor here at the North Star Dojo. We are situated at the Battle Arts Academy in near Hurlock in Stull. We are solely dedicated to teaching students to center themselves, unlock the chi within, and use that ability to learn how to fight with honor and discipline. Do not apply to this dojo if you are just looking to go around beating people up. That is not what we do. Our students go on to happy, productive lives who only use combat as a last resort. We work to unlock an inner peace inside of our students so that they can use the skills we teach them responsibly. That means that if you come to this dojo, you will take it seriously or you will be gone. Probably off to a school that might tolerate that sort of behavior. While our work is serious, we are not emotionless creatures and we do know how to smile. Many of our students have gone on to successful careers in the Guard and some have even started their own small dojos across Eloria. Please consider North Star if you are serious about becoming a fist against injustice.

<The shot cuts back to Minister Greenwood>

Greenwood: Well, there you have only a few of our land’s brilliant instructors. Eloria supports any teacher of any level who seeks to educate and train each upcoming generation. As usual, any family that seeks beginner level educations will be accommodated at no charge. Trade Apprenticeships will still get young people to their chosen professions such as blacksmithing, ranching, or shopkeeping. These more specialized schools are necessary because what they do is either complicated, potentially dangerous, or both and we need to place those students in a safe, stable environment in order to learn. Most of these schools require applications so send them off as soon as you can. While some schools can be expensive, scholarships are offered every year so don’t be discouraged. Get out there and learn something today. Good luck!

The Singing Sword

January 8, 2018

The sword was singing. It was not humming like it had been struck by metal. It was full out singing mezzo-soprano style. Actual words were coming out of it, pouring out of it while it sat on the blacksmith’s workbench. Of course, the sword was singing in Gnomish which nobody really spoke anymore. So, the blacksmith had to fetch somebody who could actually speak the language because he had not the heart to melt it down an try again. It took two days for the boy who ran errands to find somebody who would come over and check it out. It was a third-string assistant to an honorable wizard on the other side of the city.

The bespectacled young woman scurried her way all the way across town to see the sword. They informed her that they could have brought the sword to her. It would have been disruptive to the flow of the town’s traffic but they still would have done it. Instead, Aricia the Enchantress shoved everybody aside and started yelling phrases at the sword as soon as she arrived. Of course, the sword did not seem to respond and nobody watching understood her or the sword. The sword just kept singing. It was quite close to the strangest thing anybody had ever seen.

“It didn’t seem to respond to you, noble Aricia,” Arik said. At this point, he just wished the stupid sword would stop singing or be removed from his shop. He wished he knew who had dropped it off but nobody could remember who had dropped it off or when. Arik was starting to forget a time when the workshop was not filled with song.

“I think the sword may be stupid,” Aricia said. “It will not listen to reason.”

“I’ll take your word that you were offering wisdom,” Arik said.

“Insolence,” Aricia said but her heart was not in it. “The sword is a mystery. I have never seen such magic before.”

“Too complicated?” Arik asked. As a master blacksmith, he knew very little about magic. It was not in his wheelhouse. He knew that some of his finely crafted weapons were taken to enchanters like Aricia or her boss now and then.

“Too stupid,” Aricia said. “Who would want a singing sword?”

“It does not make much sense,” Arik conceded with a shrug.

“No,” Aricia said. “It is pure frivolity. An enchantment with no purpose.” There was a long beat of silence.

“So what is it singing?” Arik asked.

“What?” Aricia asked. She adjusted her spectacles as if that would help her hear the question better.

“I mean it’s Gnomish, right?” Arik asked. “What is the song actually about?”

“Oh just some ancient treasure,” Aricia said and waved her hand dismissively.

“Treasure!?” Arik shouted and then he looked around the shop wildly. Thankfully the curious crowds had dispersed due to the sword’s obnoxious song looping. “Um, what sort of treasure is it?”

“Whatever it is, it’s dangerous. Guarded by a dragon of all things,” Aricia said. “Something called The Treasure of Bast.”

“Bast, eh?” Arik asked, taking a moment to mop his sweaty and sooty face with a damp cloth. “I’ve never heard of it.”

“I suppose nobody has,” Aricia said with a shrug. “I’ve never heard of a single singing sword.”

“Nobody?” Arik asked with growing excitement. “Suppose we inform a group of adventurers and maybe we could get a share of the treasure.”

“Adventurers would never bring back a share,” Aricia said. “Adventurers rarely look behind them and they would not for us even if we were on fire.”

“What if we went with them?” Arik asked.

“Do you have a death wish?” Aricia asked, for the first time looking directly at the blacksmith and actually seeing him. She sized him up for a moment.

“I can swing a hammer,” Arik said, a little bit hurt by the assessment. “I’m very strong.”

“Well, suit yourself,” Aricia said with a sign. “I have a million things to do for my master. I can’t go on an adventure.”

“But we need you as lore mistress,” Arik said. “We’ll never find our way without an accurate translation.”

“That makes me valuable,” Aricia said with a crooked smile. “They have to protect the valuable ones whether they want to or not. You? Not so much.”

Arik grunted and shrugged. “So we just need to ask the next group that comes in,” He said.

Aricia pointed at a group coming in the door. “What about them?”

“Oh crap,” Arik said. “Not them again.”


When It All Ended

December 23, 2017

Hamm Stoutfire walked along the avenue with an armload of firewood in the satchel on his back. The Capital was freezing but, because of the war, the shipments of firewood were slowing down. Hamm had thought about closing his shop and joining the crews searching for fresh lumber. He would be saving lives as the temperatures dropped and there was probably some good coin in it. Also, it never hurt to get a little credit for civil service. His shop was sometimes frequented by less than favorable citizens and tourists as Hamm had never been picky when it came to less savory individuals. ‘Coin is coin and coin is good’ was Hamm’s personal motto. The Guard rarely came around to hassle him so he figured he must not be doing anything too wrong.

He could see his breath puff out before him as he walked down the street. He playfully pretended he was blowing out smoke like had done so many times as a no good kid. He wondered if he would get any customers today. Between the cold and the war along the border, people might just continue to huddle in their homes. Most of the day, only members of The Guard seemed to walk the streets. It made the city’s criminals cautious as there was no crowd to slip into and no pockets to pick. Picking a Guard officer’s pocket was often too risky even for a city whose belt was starting to tighten due to the war effort. If something did not get better, people would start dropping like flies.

Of course, the news from the war front was terrifying. The latest news was that the Sherans had joined their army with the forces of the ancient demon Vistra. Vistra was a name that most Elorians did not speak and barely dared to think. Now the demon seemed to have returned and things looked grim for the Elorian military. Hamm shuddered at the thought of the demons winning the war. He had made his peace with the possibility of the Sherans winning and taking the place over. He imagined that things would not be much different. There was no telling what the demons were capable of. He might end up getting skinned alive or they might all burn for eternity. Not to mention that one of the armies had apparently raised the dead en masse. It kind of felt like the end.

“Hey Stubby!” A voice called out. Hamm turned to look at an open doorway, a woman silhouetted by the candlelight behind her. He frowned. He had never liked how some people made fun of his Dwarven height. It was generally something not done in polite society but, of course, Hamm had never been a

“Moira,” Hamm said gruffly. “Kindly fuck off.” There was a long beat of silence. “And happy solstice.”

Moira laughed, putting her cigar out with the tips of her finger so she did not waste any while she was talking. The warmth of it still filled her lungs along with some illegal magical residuum. Hamm noted the telltale red, wispy smoke. “Give me one of those logs, Hammy.”

“I’m sure you don’t need it,” Hamm said. “You’ve got plenty of wood to keep you warm, don’t you?”

“Very funny,” Moira said. She spat on the cobblestones between them. “I haven’t gotten many customers these last two weeks and besides you know I specialize in female customers.”

“I am not sure I can spare anything, Moira,” Hamm said. “I didn’t get anything out of the last shipment and I’m freezing my ass off in the back of my shop.”

“Well, you know what you can do with those logs then?” Moira asked with a smirk.

Hamm couldn’t help but mirror that smirk though it was mostly hidden by his bushy beard. “What?”

There was huge cracking noise from somewhere in the air. By the time that Hamm realized that it had actually come from the palace, large stones fell and slammed into the homes he was standing next to. In the devastation that followed, Moira was nowhere to be seen. Hamm rushed forward, not wanting the last exchange between them to be disgruntled sniping. Dimly in the back of his mind, he realized that the stones he was scrabbling over were actual pieces of the palace. That thing was the sturdiest building in Eloria. He tried to shove aside wooden beams and smaller rocks as he moved.

When he shoved aside what appeared to be Moira’s wooden door head, he saw the horrible thing that was left of Moira’s body. He staggered back into the street without remembering taking a single step. He retched and unleashed his meager breakfast onto the cobblestones. She had been alive just moments ago. He felt dizzy, weak. Somebody bumped into him as they ran by. The empty street was now full of people running away from something. Hamm shook his head to try to shake away the dizzy feeling.

A flash of green caught his eye and he looked up as the crowd barely moved around him. He ignored the impact of elbows and shoulders as he tried to keep his stance, clutching his load of firewood as if it mattered anymore. He tried to look for the green thing he thought he saw and then there it was. It was a dragon. A huge green one and it had demolished part of the castle. It was not a Sheran, a demon, or a zombie and yet here it was the end at last. The dragon looked around as it crawled over the palace roof and for a moment Hamm thought it looked into his eyes and fear overtook him. He ran in a blind panic for the rest of the day.

When he came to it was because of a firm hand on his shoulder. He looked up at an elf woman with long blonde, almost green hair.

“My name is Morgan,” The elf said. “What are you running from and how can we help?”

Redcross Pt. 11

November 25, 2017


Sarah got up early the next day even if she wished she could at least sleep in until noon. She put some breakfast on the griddle and she got a lecture from Doctor Marion about how unhealthy the breakfast was. Even with the lecture, the thick cut bacon, eggs, and black coffee felt good and she began to feel like herself again. After that, she asked Marion to stay put for her own safety and got an argument there as well but it was just for show. Sarah strapped on her gun and grabbed her coat and hat and walked out the door, locking it carefully behind her.

She moved over to Chip Hendley’s door and pounded her fist on it until the door unlocked and Chip was blinking at her through bleary eyes. The man was huge so Sarah had to look up to talk to him and Sarah was fairly tall herself.

“Good morning, Sheriff,” Chip said and the smell of beer and whiskey drifted from his sweat and breath.

“Been drinking, Chip?” Sarah asked.

“I have, Sheriff Redcross,” Chip said. “Last night was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. After those things left last night, I took one drink and just didn’t stop.”

“I don’t blame you, Chip,” Sarah said. “I don’t blame you at all. You said ‘things’, Chip. Do you not think they were wildcats of some kind?”

“Do you, Sheriff?” Chip asked. “I saw you shoot one of them take six bullets and it was still moving. No wildcat on Earth does that, to my knowledge.”

“On Earth? Where do you think these things came from?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t really know,” Chip said. “But I don’t think they’re from here. Just a feeling I have.” He shrugged. Chip was smarter than he looked and Sarah did not discount anybody’s ideas out of hand.

“I don’t either,” Sarah said. “But you may be right. I plan to get to the bottom of it either way. For right now, I need your help.”

“Me?” Chip asked. “I don’t know what I can do but I’m happy to help out where I can.”

“You’re the best carpenter in town,” Sarah said. “I need you to go and replace Doctor Schaefer’s door. One of those ‘things’ broke it down and I would like her to have a good sturdy door to protect her again.”

“For sure I can do that,” Chip said. “I’ll get some coffee and eggs down and go right over there. I’ll try to have it done well before sundown.”

“Great, Chip,” Sarah said. “I’ll have somebody bring by some lunch and water to you later. When you’re done there, please replace the back door of my office as well.”

“I’ll build both of them stronger than before,” Chip said. “I’ll get right on it.” Chip seemed to come to life as soon as he had a purpose for the day. His eyes looked clearer and he smoothed his hair out of his face and smiled.

“Thanks, Chip,” Sarah said. “I’ll check in with you later.”

Sarah moved on to her next destination, walking across the dusty main thoroughfare of Essex. There were spots of black here and there where bullets had spilled blood from the creatures. She wondered if they had red blood that merely dried black or if the blood was black in the first place. Too many mysteries and Sarah felt more lost than she ever had. She had a feeling that, had this happened in her father’s time as Sheriff, her father would have been just as lost. This thought was not exactly comforting but it did bring up a resolve to fix this problem from deep inside of her.

Sarah found Holly Dawson peeking through the window of her family’s house and waved at her. The sound of a heavy deadbolt being unlatched preceded Holly slowly, cautiously stepping out into the sunlight.

“Sheriff,” She said softly. “I’m glad to see you survived. I saw you standing out in the middle of it all before mom and I hid under her bed.”

“Thank you, Holly,” Sarah said. “I’m not gonna sugar coat it. That was bad. But I could use your help today if you can muster up some courage for me.”

“Anything for you, Sheriff,” Holly said and her face hardened and her chin tilted up, summoning courage from somewhere.

“I don’t need you fight a battle or anything,” Sarah said. “Although I should teach you how to shoot at some point the way things are going lately. Today I just need you and your momma to cook some lunch and dinner for Chip who will be at Doctor Marion’s place and for Doctor Marion who is at my place.”

Holly just grinned.

“Did I say something funny?” Sarah asked but could not help but smile even as she put on her best confused face.

“You’ve never asked me to cook for you before,” Holly said. “You always just give in when I bring you food.” Her face was so sunny at having this victory. It was a small victory in Sarah’s eyes but apparently not for young Holly.

“I’ve never wanted to trouble you or your family, Holly,” Sarah said.

“You’ve never been trouble, Sheriff,” Holly said. “I don’t think you could be if you tried.”

“Thanks, Molly,” Sarah said. “And thanks to your mother as well. You have good souls.”

“And where should I deliver your lunch and dinner, Sheriff?” Holly asked.

Sarah smiled, at last realizing what this would mean to the girl. “Hopefully, my office but I might be all over the place today.”

“Alright,” Holly said. “I’ll see you later.” She smiled and slipped back into her house, the deadbolt sliding back into place. Better safe than sorry. In fact, the street was mostly empty and, although it was hot, the place should have had at least a little activity. It was not the worse thing for people to hide inside of their houses and shops for the moment.

Sarah made her way further down the street and found herself at the old, ragged church. She paused at the door and then she pounded on the door with her fist. After a long moment, Reverend Simmons opened the door. He looked just as fresh and ready as he usually did. He smiled when he saw who was at the door, those blue eyes twinkled.

“Sheriff,” the Reverend said. “What can I do for you? Come for spiritual guidance?”

“I came to ask you some questions,” Sarah said.

“Questions?” The Reverend asked. Sarah was not sure but she thought he might have looked nervous for a small moment.

“Like, what are you?” Sarah asked.

Company of Wolves (1984)

October 20, 2017

95 minutes – Rated R for some gore, body horror, near constant dread and surprising sexual undertones.

Dreams can be very frightening. At least, the ones that I remember are usually very scary to me. I still remember very clearly several dreams I had when I was little where I was chased. One of them was a dream where I was lost in the woods and I came upon a civilization of purple-skinned people stuck in some sort of pre-colonial lifestyle. I stumbled upon the fact they ate humans and, of course, they chased me through the woods. I also clearly remember a dream where I was running from some sort of unseen monster but it was close behind. Along the way, I gathered up my mother and we ran to a barn. We climbed but the monster was so close behind and we went to zip line away but mom fell behind. Of course, I had a dream where I was attacked by a swarm of bees again and I woke up still feeling their stings all over my body in the form of a tingling sensation. The point is: dreams are so scary because our brain tricks us into thinking they are real. We believe so hard that it is hard to swim out of that alternate reality without completely jettisoning it, quickly forgetting what was bothering us.

There are also predators out there in the real world. I am sure you may have noticed but I identify deeply with the wolf but I know what I am. I am not a predator. I gravitate toward the image of the wolf because of my family history and for its positive traits of loyalty. However, I know that the wolf is also a creature that kills. If you work on a farm or camp out in the woods, a wolf is not a friendly, natural image. It is a danger that you must defend yourself against. In the city where I grew up, the worst you would encounter would be a mean dog or an aggressive rat. So when I went camping as a kid, I was terrified because I only had stories of wild predators. In the city, we had different predators we were warned about. Human predators. Stranger danger was something shouted from the rooftops by parents but I was an indoor kid for the most part so I never really feared getting snatched off the streets. When I got older and walked freely around Fells Point, I started to get a little more wary but the worst was somebody asking me if I had any cigarettes. Still, I knew that things could happen at any point.

The first thing that was clear while watching this movie was that this movie would have suffered greatly if the effects budget had been lower. Right off the bat there is a great mix of puppetry and live animals that immediately caught my eye. The puppetry was really unsettling but that was clearly intended. The lighting was really good. I have designed lighting for horror before and the light and shadow can really make or break a good story. The movie made really good use of shadow in particular. It gave the movie more of a Grimm’s fairytale feel. As we all know, those original tales are dark and full of thinly veiled, brutal lessons so shadow really suits this adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood. Beyond that, the visual effects and camera tricks were absolutely brilliant and mind-bending. The makeup effects were really great as well, including really good fake blood. All of it added up to some really dark body horror that was literally like something out of a nightmare.

Speaking of nightmares, the movie does such a good job of creating a world out of dream imagery. The world of the dream seems to have internal logic but, like Wonderland or The Labyrinth, things can come out of left field to change the story. There is a constant level of dread under every single scene so even the non-scary scenes had me a little worried. There are not a lot of jump scares, there is more psychological horror which seems to be a running theme this week. One of the themes is female sexuality and the fear of male sexuality and also the justified fear of the abuse of women by men. It reminded me of a fear that I did not have while I was growing up since I was a boy who did not have to worry so much about being mistreated in that way. This movie awoke a vicarious worry for women that I have thought about more in recent years. And yet, I know there are things that I cannot possibly protect the women in my life (and beyond) from. The movie did a good job of stirring up those societal fears in addition to fears of more literal wolves.

Overall, I thought this was a very good and chilling movie. While it was definitely not a traditional horror movie, it had a lot of horror elements mixed with fantasy elements. It definitely filled me with a feeling of horror at times. Its dreamlike, disjointed nature kept me guessing as to what might happen next even though I have read and seen so many other versions of Little Red Riding Hood. There was so much subtext in this movie that I felt like I was watching two movies at once at times.

Sabin the IV

September 16, 2017

Cordell and Edmun were helping Sabin into his armor. This was nothing really new as Sabin had put on armor almost every day since he had turned twelve. Before that, he was often caught trying to wear his father’s armor or his older brother’s armor which was met with amusement and only a tiny bit of annoyance. His father had custom armor made with the family crest put on it and, as he grew, new armor was often given to him on his birthday. It was a comfortable second skin just as a sword was a natural extension of his arm. What was different today was that Lady Elena was trying to talk to Sabin during the process.

“Elena, please,” Sabin said, trying to turn his head to face her which made the rest of his body move which made the job of putting on armor more difficult for the servants. “It is immodest for you to be standing there while I am getting dressed!”

“But Sabin,” Elena protested. “You must speak to me. I have heard that you are going on a journey. Why must I learn of this secondhand, my love?”

“I apologize,” Sabin said. He walked to her, his armor half on and hanging off of his body. He ignored the frustrated sighs of the servants. “I did you a disservice but I have only recently resolved to go on this quest.”

“What quest pulls you from your home and my side?” Elena asked. She pressed her hand to his cheek and he placed his hand on her hand gently.

“It is a quest for you, my love,” He said. “You are the only thing that truly matters.”

“A quest for me?” Elena asked with a quizzical look on her face. “Why, I am right here, my lord. You did not have to travel far to find me.” She smiled sweetly and Sabin knew it was a joke but it was also partly earnest.

Sabin laughed softly. “No, my love. I am journeying for your hand, by which I hope to have the rest of you. Your parents have forbidden our marriage unless I prove myself worthy.”

Elena frowned. “And how will you prove yourself worthy? As if you were not already worthy.”

“Through adventure!” Sabin said with a smile. “Only through great deeds can a man (or a woman) be truly great. I will return with such tales that will spin the heads of your parents on their shoulders. They will beg me to marry you.”

Elena remained frowning. “As attractive as that sounds, could we not merely elope? I desire you as a husband and you cannot do that if you are carried back here a corpse.”

Sabin shook his head, his long brown hair shaking a little as he did. “Have a little more faith than that, Elena,” He said. “Besides, I want to do this the right way. I want your parents and my parents and all of our family to proudly stand by while we exchange our vows. I do not want our bliss to be a point of contention between our families. Moreover, I do not want to drive a wedge between you and your family.”

Elena sighed. Her blue eyes studied Sabin de Lesartesse carefully. Elena Loncroft was of a noble bearing, one of the richest, well-bred, and well-respected families in the area. Her family obviously had its doubts about most who pursued their crown jewel as such a marriage would be immediately advantageous to the suitor and those advantages would only increase after the natural death of Elena’s parents. Sabin was a young man in the prime of his life, a man who eagerly heeded any call to adventure. At a tournament, he had met Elena by chance and the two had talked so long he had nearly missed his turn. He dedicated the subsequent victory to her but in private so as not to put her on the spot. Since then, they had grown fond of each other and that fondness had turned to love.

“There is wisdom in that and it touches my heart,” Elena said. “However, I also surmise that you are eager to go on this adventure.”

“I cannot lie,” Sabin said. “The idea of the wide open world does excite me. My mother used to read me tales of epic adventure. I always hoped that one day I would be the one they wrote stories about. Perhaps, a bard will write a song.”

“My nanny also read me those stories,” Elena said. “Very well, if your heart brings you elsewhere then I cannot keep you here.” She turned away, reaching to wipe away a tear from her cheek.

Sabin wrapped his arms around her from behind and hugged her close. “My heart does draw me away but it will also be what brings me back to you. I swear it.” He smiled and leaned over her shoulder, his hair falling against her hair, blonde mixing with brown. They stayed like that for a moment.

“I am proud of you, my lord, my Sabin,” Elena said. “As much as I hate to see you go, and that hate is considerable, I know that your journey will benefit us. You will come back stronger so you can protect me and, perhaps, our future children.”

“Elena, I would very much like to have children with you,” Sabin said. “As long as they take more after you than me.”

“You are beautiful to me, Sabin,” Elena said. “I would request that you remain beautiful. Make sure the brigands and monsters do not harm your face. I cannot stress this enough.” She smiled brightly at her own joke.

“I will do my best to make that request, each and every battle,” Sabin said. Both of them laughed softly. The sound was a little sad. “Go back to your chambers while I finish getting ready, my love. I will come and say goodbye when I am ready.”

Elena nodded and then turned in his arms and kissed him. Sabin kissed her back, his arm instinctually supporting her lower back as she went on tiptoe. That moment would be burned into Sabin’s memory along with a whole chain of similar memories. She broke the kiss eventually and stroked his cheek before leaving him to put on the rest of his armor.

Redcross Pt. 10

September 9, 2017


Sarah poked her head through the door to the street and saw Reverend Simmons on the roof of the church carefully unloading his rifle at even more beasts that were running in the streets. There were a few others firing from their windows in the night. She watched as a bullet landed on one of the beasts and it slumped to the ground but then it got back up again in a moment. She aimed her own rifle and started to fire but she worried it would not do any good. Still, she managed to land a few hits of her own which at least slowed the things and kept them from attacking anyone.

A single wolf’s howl rang out in the night and then a chorus of howls answered it. A pack of wolves ran into the town and before Sarah could aim, she watched one of the wolves slam into one of the mountain lions. The wolf sank its teeth into the hide of the big cat and there was a spray of blood onto the dirt. Sarah was astonished. Why would a pack of wolves run into town to fight a pack of mountain lions? That was stepping around the odd thought of why a pack of mountain lions would randomly storm a town like Essex.

Sarah raised her hand high and shouted. “Hold your fire! Don’t hit the wolves!” She could almost feel the confusion in the air but the gunfire stopped after a moment. She could feel the Reverend’s gaze all the way from on top of the church. She chose to ignore it at that moment and instead watched the wolves and the mountain lions fight. The fighting was fast and bloody as animals almost moved faster than the human eye at times.

After a few tense minutes, the mountain lions decided to turn tail and run out of town. The wolves gave chase, nipping at their heels. One of the wolves stopped in the middle of the town, a few feet from Sarah and looked at her. Sarah stared back into the eyes of the wolf, stunned. She held her hands up, knowing that accidentally looking it in the eye could be seen as aggressive. She tried to look as innocent as possible, holding her rifle above her head. The wolf cocked its head and then ran to catch up to its pack. Sarah let out her breath and looked around the town.

“Is everybody alright?” Sarah called out.

She could see a lot of the men and women of the town filtering out of their homes. They looked rattled but nobody looked injured. It looked as if the town had been very lucky. She scanned the buildings and saw that the door of the doctor’s house had been torn apart. She jogged over and made her way past the broken pieces of the door. She kept her rifle ready.

“Doctor?” She called out. “Are you alright?” Her heart hammered up against her rib cage and she took two deep breaths to calm herself as she made her way up the stairs. The doctor appeared at the top of the stairs.

“I’m alright,” She said. “The thing had just about gotten through the door when somebody shot it in the back. My guess is I have the Reverend to thank.”

Warren made his way through the door behind Sarah slowly. “Is everything alright?”

“We won’t be needing your services, Mr. Chilton.” The doctor said. Sarah had to smile at that little joke.

“I’m glad of it, ma’am,” Warren replied with a smile. “I don’t really want my skills to be in high demand.”

The doctor descended the stairs now that she knew that things were as safe as they were going to get. She was in her nightgown, her spectacles balanced on her nose. “Are you alright, Sarah? I can see the sheen on your forehead.”

“One of them attacked me outside of my home,” Sarah said. “It broke the back door of my office when I ran. I scared it off.”

“With that famous Redcross marksmanship, I suppose?” Asked Warren.

“Yes,” Sarah said. “But after I shot it, it had the nerve to get back up. It was not natural. I have never seen anything like it.”

“Curious,” The doctor said. “Healing of that magnitude is definitely not natural.”

“Do you not also find it curious that these beasts tried to get into the both the doctor’s office and the sheriff’s office?” Warren asked. “I have long scratches on my door that would seem to prove that these animals had an agenda.”

“What kind of agenda would a pack of mountain lions have?” Sarah asked. “And why would a pack of wolves have an opposite agenda?”

“There is more at work here than is normal, I believe,” Warren said.

“Are you actually considering he supernatural, Mr. Chilton?” Marion asked.

Warren waved the question away with his hand. “Ridiculous. There is still no proof.”

“I don’t know about that, Warren,” Sarah said. “Things are getting really strange around here.”

“And do you recall the wounds on our mystery body?” Marion asked. “I told you that I thought they looked feline in nature. Now we are invaded by wild cats. Is that merely a coincidence.”

Warren was about to say something but Sarah cut him off. “No, it can’t be,” She said. “I believe those animals are the same ones that killed the man. Now, what that means is still up for debate.”

“I agree,” Warren said. “Surely we must gather more evidence before making a conclusion.”

“Of course, I agree as well,” Marion said. “However, even though my hypothesis would have me laughed out of several universities, I still believe that we are dealing with the supernatural.”

“I don’t know whether I want you to be wrong or right, Doctor,” Sarah said with a shiver. “Either way, we better be on our guard from here on out. You should stay with me until we can get your door fixed.”

“You’ll get no argument from me, Sheriff,” Marion said. “I promise to be a good house guest. I know you have your rounds ahead of you, I will meet you back at your home.”

“Goodnight ladies,” Warren said. “And be careful.”

The Symbol Pt. 2

September 1, 2017

“You!” Victoria yelled out as she jumped from the stool she was sitting on and backed up. She slipped some iron knuckles onto her hand. She stroked some runes along it and it suddenly blazed with a bright white light and there was a crackling sound in the air. She also ripped her blouse from her shoulder and placed her palm on the family protection symbol.

“Whoa!” Solantria yelled out. “I mean you no harm!” Her eyes looked panicked for a moment but her face slowly calmed and a warm, charismatic smile formed on her lips. The words made no sense but they did sound nice to Victoria’s ears. Almost comforting.

Victoria shook her head. “Bullshit!” She went to take a swing at the demon with her blazing white fist. Solantria barely stepped back and out of the way.

“I swear it, Victoria,” Solantria said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to prove it to you.” She had her hands up in her best attempt at placating Victoria.

“You killed six of my family members!” Victoria yelled out. She poured will into the symbol on her shoulder.

“Oh shit,” Solantria said before she was repelled and she hurtled out through the door and tumbled into the street. She got up and steadied herself before taking a breath and counting to three. She calmly walked back into the tavern. “That was well over two centuries ago. I think it’s almost three. I’ve changed.”

“The Heathrow family will never forgive you for those deaths,” Victoria said. “I will use everything in my power to end you.”

“Um, I’m immortal,” Solantria said with a smile. She still had her hands up.

“Then I’ll do what I can to make this a very bad night for you,” Victoria said, her eyes narrowing.

“I need your help,” Solantria said. There was a long silence. Very carefully, she reached over and grabbed her glass of whiskey from the bar and downed the whole thing. She kept her eyes on Victoria the whole time.

After a few moments of stunned silence, Victoria actually started laughing despite how angry and afraid she was. “You need my help?” She asked. “You know what I say to that? Suffer.”

“I need your help to save the world,” Solantria said. She sat back on the stool and poured herself another glass of whiskey. Another confused and stunned silence came after that statement. Victoria’s brain seemed to halt for a moment or two.

“What?” Victoria asked finally.

“I need you to save the world. With me,” Solantria said. She sipped her whiskey and smiled. “It’s kind of imperative at this point. It’s also getting rather urgent.”

“I don’t believe you and, even if I did, why would a thing like you want to save the world?” Victoria asked. “Everybody knows demons live in one of the Hells. Just go home.”

“Have you ever been to Hell?” Solantria asked. “It’s brutal and boring. Brutally boring. Besides, I’ve grown quite fond of this world over the last century. I have my reasons for wanting to save it.”

Victoria scoffed at that. “My family’s greatest enemy is asking for trust and yet it keeps secrets. It’s almost funny.”

“Can you not call me an ‘it’?” Solantria said with a pout. “I may be a demon but I am all woman.” She punctuated that with another sip of her whiskey.

“Tell me your secrets,” Victoria said, completely unamused. She still had her hand on the family symbol, ready to repel the demon again and again.

“All of them?” Solantria asked and then tilted her head back to let out a laugh. “That would take more time than we have. More to the point, after the sordid business with your family ended with my humiliation, I would not dare show my face in any Hell. After a decade, I left my grudge against your family behind me and started to explore this world. For once, my focus was not on the deal but was instead on pure exploration. I had a lot of fun. I grew attached to this world. I changed.”

“Wait,” Victoria said. “You don’t want to kill my family?”

“Did you notice I haven’t shown your kin my face for a long time?” Solantria asked. “It’s not just because of that symbol. Oh and nice tattoo by the way. It is because I decided to drop the issue. Neither side was blameless but I definitely overreacted. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Victoria asked. “My parents raised me with stories about how you might come back one day. I had to sleep with the light on until I was fourteen. I had nightmares. Actually, I still have nightmares. And you’re sorry?”

Solantria looked embarrassed and said weakly. “I’m very sorry? I had no idea how badly I had affected you. Maybe even ‘infected’ would be a better word. I really am sorry for that. I was born among beings with no conscience. In fact, the one I have grown is still pretty new to me. What can I do to make it up to you?”

“Nothing can be done now,” Victoria said and then she sighed and took off her spectacles. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes for a moment. She replaced her glasses and eyed the demon quizzically. The immortal centuries must have been rough on Solantria, she did not look as majestic as Victoria had imagined. She just looked more ordinary than Victoria had always imagined after studying the sketches her ancestors had drawn. “However, you said earlier that you need my help to save the world.”

“Yes!” Solantria said excitedly, a dazzling smile forming on her face for a moment before she turned it down a few notches. “I consulted with a seer who told me that I needed to go to Heathrow’s Victory to start my quest and here you are. Victoria/Victory. Get it?”

“I get it. I’m recognized by several academies and universities as a very intelligent woman so I definitely get the not so subtle wordplay there,” Victoria said.

“Will you help me?” Solantria asked. She looked hopeful and sincere to Victoria.

“I don’t think I could ever help you,” Victoria said. “However, I may be willing to help our world.” She paused and looked around. “Wait, did you do something to my bartender friend?” She looked suspiciously at Solantria.

“Oh, of course not,” Solantria said. She pulled a small stone out that kind of looked like the top of a sundial. “The enchantment on this stops time for those I choose. I gave him a break.”

“Unfreeze him,” Victoria said. “Unfreeze him and I will consider your proposal. Meet me at my apartment tomorrow afternoon.”

Solantria smiled and pulled out a small cloth bag and set it on the bar and it made a little jingling sound. “For the whiskey.” Then she held out the little stone sun dial. “And this as a sign of good faith.” She put the stone on the bar next to Victoria and walked out of the tavern.

“Here’s your sausage, Victoria,” <> said with a smile and set down the plate.

Victoria swept the stone off of the bar and then pocketed it. She took a sip from her glass of whiskey. She did her best to cover up her shoulder quickly. “Thank you, so much.”

“What happened out here?” He asked.

“Just somebody with sticky fingers,” Victoria said. “I encouraged her to pay up.”

“Are you alright?” He asked, a concerned look on his face.

Victoria took another sip of whiskey, eyeing the empty glass still on the bar. “I will be.”

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