Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Atlantica Pt. 7

November 14, 2020

Belle was absolutely in love with the library when she walked into it again. It reminded her of her library back in Adam’s castle a bit. That made a lot of sense seeing as how they were both royal libraries. Still, it was always stunning to walk into a huge room filled to the brim with books. It had a very particular smell and feel to it that you never saw anywhere else. Although she was still lost, she still had a giddy feeling deep inside. She could not wait to start absorbing all of the text, all of the stories contained in that room. This was a whole new world to Belle. There had to be stories here that she had never heard before. She wondered for a moment if she could take some of these books back to her world. Would she even get back to her world?

“Can I help you?” a redhead stood up from the book she was reading and put hands on her hip. She blew a stray strand of hair out of her face. “Oh! You must be the new researcher.”

“Yes, my name is Belle,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you.” She held out her hand and Ariel took it graciously although a little awkward as if she did not really know a lot of protocol. Belle only knew how to act in a palace based on the books she had read and some instruction from Cogsworth.

“Thank you for lending a helping hand,” the woman said. “My name is Ariel.” Ariel’s blue eyes shone brightly as she displayed a winning smile. She acted like such a statement was no big deal.

“Oh!” Belle exclaimed. “This is your castle.” She had remembered Aurora saying the name Ariel the night before even though a lot of that was a blur.

“Mine and Prince Eric’s but right now it belongs to all of the refugees until we beat Ursula again,” she said. “but you’re here to help with that.” Ariel was definitely excited although Belle could tell that she had not really slept well in a while if at all.

“Ursula?” Belle asked. “Who’s that? I have no idea what’s going on.”

“Ursula is a sea witch,” Ariel said. “She and I both come from under the sea and she tried to trick me and take over my father’s kingdom but we beat her in the end. She was supposed to be dead but now she’s back. I confirmed it last night.”

“How did you confirm it?” Belle asked. “If I understand correctly she’s under water, right?”

“My father’s spell allows me to turn back into a mermaid when I touch the water,” Ariel said. “I snuck down and did some spying. I also brought back a prisoner.” As soon as she said this, a crab scuttled from behind a stack of books.

“It is definitely Ursula,” the crab said in a thick accent. “I was up close and personal with her horrible face. I thought she would eat me.”

“Belle, meet Sebastian and Sebastian meet Belle,” Ariel said. “Sebastian is my father’s most trusted advisor. Belle is a princess.”

“Your highness,” Sebastian said with a little bow which caused Belle to blush. “A pleasure to meet you. Forgive my hiding, the last time I was in this palace, it did not go well. I’m feeling a little exposed.”

“Nobody is going to try and eat you, Sebastian,” Ariel said with a little giggle. “Tiana has been informed that you are off the menu. In fact the castle has stopped serving seafood altogether.”

“Thank you, your highness,” Sebastian said as he scuttled off.

“So we’re dealing with somebody coming back to life,” Belle said. “It obviously has to be magic and I don’t think it was Ursula who cast the spell. I wasn’t really there but I have to assume that it wasn’t an ally to Ursula because she would have called on them to fight you during the first coup.”

“Is there anybody from your world that could pull off a resurrection?” Ariel asked. “It sounds like it would be a crazy big spell.” This was an understatement, Belle believed.

“Not that I know of,” Belle said. “but there are so many different worlds represented here, one of them might know something.”

“That’s very smart!” Ariel said with enthusiasm. “We’ll have to question the likely prospects. That may be a task for Milo to tackle.”

“So we’ll tackle the books and the others will handle the interviews,” Belle said. “It’s a plan.”

“I like this new direction,” Ariel said. “but we still need to find a way to counter Ursula’s mind control magic. Maybe the professor will have some luck on that. Let’s dig in?”

“Please,” Belle said. “Reading will help me find some balance here.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 6

November 7, 2020

“So do we have a plan?” Aladdin asked. “We haven’t been here long but we have to do something before that monster army comes and smashes this place. I’ve been out there. I’ve seen it from above and it is really bad.”

“I’m familiar with how big the army is,” Mulan said. “Shang and I dodged a lot of patrols getting out of the palace. I’m open to suggestions. I’ve got plenty of soldiers but I’m short on advisors.” Mulan was not too proud to accept help and, from the sound of it, these people all had

“Obviously, there is some sort of dark magic afoot,” Merrida said. “What do we have to counter that?” Her eyes showed that she knew the pain of magic gone awry.

“I am not actually that familiar with magic,” Mulan said. “Just a little bit, really.” She knew that her family had guardians and that her ancestors helped from beyond but magic was not in her everyday life. It showed itself in little ways in big moments.

“My sister has a lot of magic but I have no idea where she is,” Anna said. “I only know a little how magic works. It just kind of works. In my world you usually have to be born with it. I wish the trolls were here.”

“I was born with magic,” Rapunzel said. “A lot of it is gone now.”

“When I messed with magic it went poorly,” Merrida said. “I really blundered my way through it. It has to be done by the experts or it all goes wrong.”

“If only my friend Genie was here,” Aladdin said. “He can do just about anything. He used to grant wishes but he’s still pretty powerful without all of that.”

“Come to think of it, my magical companion Mushu is missing,” Mulan said. “He’s a dragon. A family guardian.” Mushu’s absence was really glaring as he rarely let a moment go by without offering comment on the situation. The talkative little dragon had hurt things as much as he had helped but he had behaved himself more recently. Mulan found herself missing him.

“We could really use that kind of firepower,” Anna said. “We need something to fight back with.”

“Last time I used fireworks to finish the fight,” Mulan said. “If we could get a hold of enough of that we could surprise the army.” She thought back to wiping out Shan Yu’s army with fireworks in the mountains.

“If we could reverse whatever happened to send us here or keep our friends away, Genie and Mushu could come help make things even.”

“And Elsa too!” Anna said excitedly. “How do we make these things happen?”

“I’m totally on board with whatever we’re doing!” Rapunzel cried out. Mulan could tell that Anna and Rapunzel were both very excitable people and would need somebody to rein them in. They were like lit fireworks ready to explode. She needed that passion but she also needed cooler heads to prevail.

“With proper planning,” Mulan said, trying to invoke calm in the room. “We have to obtain the fireworks and we need to get into the palace. I have a feeling that whatever needs to be done is in there.”

“I agree,” Anna said. “If we can just sort of open the door, our friends can come help us.” It sounded so easy when she said it and that optimism was refreshing.

“And we can help them,” Rapunzel said. “I hope everybody back home is alright.” That gave all of the visitors from beyond pause. Mulan felt grateful that she knew where Shang was but it did make her worry about her family. They were smart enough to go to ground if things got dangerous but they were far far away from the Imperial City.

“I guess I could scout for fireworks,” Aladdin said. “Somebody will have to tell me what they look like.”

“I can do that,” Mulan said. “I can also ask around the camp to see who might know of some.”

“I can help with that!” Rapunzel shouted happily.

“Actually, I can help with that,” Anna said. “You’re much more valuable as a healer.”

“Agreed,” Mulan said. “Please do what you can to heal Shang and any other injured. We will need everything we have to win this fight.”

Aftershocks: Dark Carnival Pt. 4

October 24, 2020

Frustrated laughter rang out over the public address system. “You know what? I shouldn’t have left all of this to my idiot friends,” Killjoy said. “I’m motherfucking Killjoy. Time to get my hands dirty.” A spotlight went on and a twisted-looking clown jumped down from somewhere and landed hard on his feet. He was carrying a huge hammer which grew as he flexed it. He chuckled.

“Finally,” Lydia said. “We were getting tired of your voice.”

“Ha ha,” Killjoy said with a withering glare. “You’re so funny. I’m gonna have so much fun squashing your skull, killing a couple dozen people, and then dragging little Nancy back to Hell with me.”

“We keep hearing that same line,” Nancy said. “You’re not getting an opening night and my dad is going to be disappointed again. I hope he punishes you.”

“Big words,” Killjoy said. “It’s hammer time!” He raised the hammer high and brought it down and it shook the Earth beneath their feet. The three struggled to keep their footing as Killjoy lunged forward. He suddenly disappeared midstep. He reappeared behind them and Rob fired his shotgun into the clown point blank. Killjoy shrugged off the blow and laughed. He seemed to concentrate and his cheeks slowly filled with something.

“Run!” Lydia said and the three scrambled for cover.

Killjoy started to spray shotgun shot from his mouth, the pellets slamming into everything in the immediate area. Everybody had managed to find cover and barely avoided being maimed by their own ordinance. Killjoy laughed again and stalked toward them with his hammer. He swiped the hammer and smashed apart the cart that Lydia was hiding behind.

“Time to make some goth juice,” Killjoy said with a chuckle. “You know who is going to be so jealous.” He raised the hammer.

“Hey Killjoy?” Lydia said with a smile.

“What?” Killjoy asked, frustrated.

“Ice to meet you,” she said with a gesture.

Ice quickly formed under Killjoy’s feet and he started to slip and slide uncontrollably, finding it hard to keep his balance but not falling.

“That was terrible!” Killjoy said. “Leave the jokes to me, kid.”

The ice spread out in a line. Rob ran at Killjoy and shoved him as hard as he could, making the clown slide along the ice. Killjoy picked up speed and slammed right into Nancy’s outstretched claws. She was grinning happily. He was instantly impaled but did not die. Instead he started to squirm and try to get himself free. Just as Nancy withdrew her claws, Rob hit the back of Killjoy’s right knee and sent the clown sprawling to the ground.

“You’re the joke,” Rob said. ” and nobody’s laughing.”

As Killjoy writhed on the ground, Nancy grabbed up Killjoy’s hammer and held it out to Rob with a smile. Rob nodded and took it and raised it over his head. His invisible angel wings flashed into existence for a moment and then he brought the hammer down with a vengeance on Killjoy’s head. Nancy actually laughed and jumped up onto the hammer, driving it harder into the clown who vanished in a burst of confetti and hellfire.

The tent started to fall apart around them without Killjoy to hold it all together. The three of them ran toward the exit in a sprint and were left catching their breath in an empty parking lot.

“See?” Nancy said. “I told you clowns are funny.” The other two shook their heads but had to give Nancy a smile in return.

  • * *

Killjoy landed in Hell and clutched his head.

“The worst headache I’ve ever had,” Killjoy said. “Outside of that one hangover back in clown college.”

“Can’t you do anything wight?” Batty asked. “Now we’we stuck hewe again.”

“Lay off, Batty,” Killjoy said. “Can’t you see I’m tired. I don’t need nagging. Let’s just lay low so the King doesn’t get on our case.”

“You guys really screwed up,” a voice said from the shadows. “If you wanted Showtime, you should have gone with the master.”

“B..” Batty started to say before Killjoy clamped his hand over her mouth.

“You don’t work well with others,” Killjoy growled. “and you’re not a clown.”

Betelgeuse laughed. “I’m not a clown,” he agreed. “I’m the main event. My turn is coming and I’ll show you all what the ghost with the most can do.”

Aftershocks: Dark Carnival Pt. 2

October 10, 2020

The three of them arrived at the fairgrounds and looked up at large tent that had appeared only two hours previously. They had taken the time to gather their weapons and get ready for whatever or whoever they would be facing. They had faced a handful of threats together but who knew what the future might hold? Lydia had recently enchanted a baseball bat which she had gotten pretty good at wielding. She had inscribed runes on its surface and then she had applied a finish to protect the writing. When she had reconnected with Dorothy and her friends, she had also reconnected with her mystical training. She was trying to embrace that. It was silly to handicap herself considering all of the threats they were facing lately.

Rob had a shotgun slung over his shoulder and a makeshift scabbard that held his angel blade. Lydia was still not entirely sure what Rob was. The first night they met she had seen him grow a glowing set of wings amid an explosion. He kept talking about family that he had not elaborated on them but she knew that they hunted monsters. Rob had somehow inherited a bunker from them. There were books on all manner of creatures and she kept seeing the word “hunter” everywhere as if that had a specific meaning. Lydia had worried that he might object to Nancy now knowing about her demon heritage. He had never once backed down from his support of Nancy.

Nancy was wearing her familiar striped sweater that changed shape based on her mood. It usually got baggier and looser as she got more nervous so she could hide inside of it. At her most confident, it could become a t-shirt. It was currently only a slightly loose knit sweater. Her hands were balled into fists but Lydia had seen those hands form into vicious claws. She had seen Nancy do inhuman things. With her own history with he who literally should not be named, she should have been repulsed but she loved her friend even more. Despite the demon heritage, Nancy was so vulnerable but she was still defying the forces of Hell. Lydia could never walk away from that. They were in this together.

A heavily painted female clown stepped out of the tent. She had green hair and a curious design painted on her belly that looked like a vertical mouth with sharp pointed teeth. She also had a smirk on her face.

“Oh look!” the clown said. “It’s little miss daddy issues.”

“Go to Hell,” Lydia said. She looked over and saw Nancy tensing in anger.

“Oh we awe going back but not without you little demon missy,” the demon said. “Come with me and you won’t get huwt.”

“Get ready for a fight, clown,” Nancy said, her look fierce.

“The name’s Batty Boop, pintsize,” Batty said. “You awe a little eawly but we awe weady for you. Step right up!”

The three adventurers charged forward, Nancy at the front with claws extending from her hands. Batty laughed and disappeared in a shower of confetti. The three looked around and then entered the tent. They were immediately met with a blinding spotlight and they all had to adjust for a moment. As soon as they did, the spotlight went off which absolutely ruined their night vision.

“Welcome welcome ladies, gents, and pipsqueaks to the greatest circus on Earth or in Hell, Killjoy’s Psycho Circus!” a voice rang out. “Nancy! You have won an all-expenses paid trip to Hell! The rest of you get a lovely parting gift of death. I think we’ll kill a whole bunch of people before we leave town. What do you think?”

“Come down here and fight us!” Rob yelled out.

“Hmm no I don’t think I’ll do that,” Killjoy said. “I think you should say hello to my friends instead!”

A large shape moved through the darkness and hit Nancy like a bus, sending her sprawling. A spotlight hit the shape and revealed a large hobo clown with comically big boxing gloves. He advanced on the girl with a grunt. As Lydia moved to stop Punchy with her bat, she was cut off by the sudden appearance of Batty Boop. Batty almost sliced into Lydia with a nasty-looking sword. Rob turned to face the last figure which was an odd mime conjoined with what looked to be a robot baby. The baby detached itself and leapt at Rob who was forced to wrestle it to the ground. The three of them were forced to struggle with the three killer clowns. The laughter of Killjoy could be heard from somewhere up above.

Nancy made it to her feet just as Punchy swung down at her. She dodged to the side and had to keep dodging his brutal strikes as she shook off the earlier blow. She was so angry all of a sudden and she wanted so badly to hit back. She balled her fist up and jumped into the air and landed a heavy punch right on Punchy’s chin, sending him stumbling backwards. She punched him again and again and finally wound up and hit him with an uppercut. She punched him so hard that her fist went through his jaw and out through the back of his head. Punchy exploded into confetti.

Lydia dodged wild sword swipes from Batty, the sword clanging off of her baseball bat. Lydia hung in there as Batty got more and more sloppy. The demon clown was not used to prolonged fights. She was more used to seduction and surprise attacks against more helpless prey. Still, she was definitely giving Lydia a lot of trouble. With a tongue foreign from Earth, Lydia lit the runes on her bat. Lightning arced from the bat through the sword and into Batty’s body. She fell to her knees smoking. Lydia tried to think of a pun on Batty’s name and using a bat but just swung for the fences. Batty’s head and then her body exploded into confetti.

Rob wrestled with the little machine as it gnashed its teeth and tried to strike at him. Eventually, he was able to grab his angel blade and stabbed the little baby in an explosion of confetti. The mime swung downward with a pickaxe but Rob rolled away. He recovered his shotgun and one shot sent the mime to an otherwise silent death.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 3

September 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Undead Reckoning Pt. 2

September 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Undead Reckoning Pt. 1

September 12, 2020

Lord Callum Blackrance
Blackrance Manor
Silvershore, Eastern District

                                                    4th Orombre 2168

Sgt. Talbot Hawkwing
Cragrock Apartments
Flatdale, Northern District

Dear Sgt. Hawkwing:

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Lord Callum Blackrance

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

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 5

August 22, 2020

Mulan sat at the table sipping a cup of tea. She had made the tea herself, not willing to flag down a soldier or other refugee during such a tense time to make the tea. She had been taught to make tea by her mother and she really needed a cup to calm her nerves. Seated around the table were the foreigners. Mulan had called a meeting with them because she trusted members of the Emperor’s army but these people were mysteries that Mulan would need to solve before she could effectively lead what may be the only resistance left in China. The fort was out of the way but this monstrous army would eventually find it.

Anna was sitting directly to Mulan’s right with her hands folded neatly and trying to look professional. Aladdin was sitting to her left, relaxed and slumped back in his chair a bit. Rapunzel leaned heavily on the table, obviously exhausted from working hard in the medical tent. Merida sat on a windowsill nearby, looking half at the room and half out the window. Mulan could not really catch her eye because the redhead was wearing a hood to keep the sun out of her eyes and presumably to hide her shocking red hair. Merida had also declined a cup of tea when the others had accepted. Mulan was not offended but curious.

“Thank you for meeting with me,” Mulan said. “I am Fa Mulan, agent of the Emperor and formerly of the Chinese army. The soldiers here have chosen me as their leader temporarily.”

“Temporarily?” Aladdin asked. “Until what happens?”

“My husband is General Li Shang,” Mulan said. “I am much more comfortable with him leading.”

Merida snorted. “A woman can lead just as well as a man,” she said. “Sometimes better.”

“I agree,” Aladdin said without explaining further.

“I agree with you,” Mulan said. “but having my husband lead is a matter of logic rather than tradition. He has much more experience leading and I am much better when I have time to myself to think.”

“Of course, too much time alone can be bad for you,” Anna said pointedly, glancing over at Merida. Merida either did not hear the comment or chose to ignore it.

Mulan took a sip of tea for serenity. “Why don’t you tell me again who you all are and what you are doing here at the fort.” She gestured to Anna who seemed most excited to speak.

“My name is Anna,” she said. “I come from Arendelle. My parents were the King Agnarr and Queen Iduna of Arendelle but they died on a trip to solve the mystery of the source of my sister Elsa’s magical ice powers. My sister Elsa became Queen of Arendelle and she accidentally froze our kingdom. I had to go on an adventure with my current fiance and a snowman to stop a wicked prince who happened to be my fiance at the time. My sister and I reconnected and then she unfroze Arendelle. After that we journeyed to the Enchanted Forest and the not-so-mythical Ahtohallan to solve the mystery of the Enchanted Forest and our parents. After that, Elsa made me Queen of Arendelle.” Anna looked around and then tensed. “Sorry, sometimes I talk a lot when I’m nervous.”

“That’s alright,” Mulan said. “What are you doing around the fort?”

“I’ve just been making myself available,” Anna said. “I had been learning to cook back in Arendelle so I have been helping in the mess tent a lot. I don’t have a lot of experience in battle but I’m ready to help however I can.”

Mulan nodded and gestured to Aladdin.

“My name is Aladdin, I am a Prince of Agrabah,” he said. “I have been using my friend Carpet to search for surivors and supplies. I know what it feels like to be chased and to be hungry.”

Mulan nodded and gestured to Rapunzel who sat up and rubbed her eyes.

“My name is Rapunzel and I am from the same world as Anna although we first met here,” she said. “I am a Princess of Corona although I spent a long time lost in the woods so I am new to the whole royal thing. I used to be able to heal magically but when I lost that ability, I tried to learn as much as I could about other magics and natural healing. My, um, godmother’s journals taught me a lot about herbalism. I have been trying to heal the sick and wounded.”

“How is that going?” Mulan asked.

“It’s going well,” Rapunzel said. “The forces here are almost back to full fighting force.”

“And my husband?” Mulan asked with as much patience and calm as she could conjure.

“Your husband will recover soon,” Rapunzel said. “However, his wound was really bad. Oh by the way, I am pretty good in a fight.”

Mulan nodded and breathed a sigh of relief.

Without prompting, Merida climbed down from the windowsill and pulled her hood down. “My name is Merida of DunBroch and I suppose I’m a Princess too,” she said. “I’ve been up on that tower shooting innae thing that moves. It’s my job to alert everybody when they finally find us.”

“I feel that you have been up there too long on your own,” Mulan said. “When do you sleep?”

“I sleep in bits here and there,” Merida said. “I make it through.”

“I’ll take a turn above,” Mulan said. “You consult with Rapunzel and get some rest and at least one proper meal.”

“Nobody’s a better shot than me,” Merida said. “I can’t take a break for too long.”

“Trust me, I am a pretty good shot myself,” Mulan said. “I’ll call you if there is an emergency. Get some rest. That’s an order.”

“I don’t do well with orders,” Merida said. “but I suppose I’m a guest here. Fine. I’ll play along.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 3

July 18, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hesper’s Web Pt. 8

June 13, 2020

Mariel, Asher, and Luther walked into the light coming from overhead. Directly in that light was the black crystalline form of the Thing that Had Not Been Gwendolyn. It was wrapped in heavy chains. Each link of those chains was carved with warding runes that would guard against magic and would limit the shapechanger’s abilities. The three surrounded the Thing with Mariel facing it directly. She smiled peacefully pretty self-satisfied. The Thing regarded her with malice so strong that one could sense it even though it had no face.

“I think you will find that you cannot move,” Mariel said.

The Thing tried to struggle regardless of Mariel’s warning and confirmed it. There would be no easy escape from this predicament.

“It doesn’t like being told,” Luther said. “Listen to her, she’ll only tell you the truth.”

“I think this discussion will go a little more smoothly if you have a mouth,” Mariel said. She waved her hand and the Thing’s surface ripple and it changed shape. It became a young girl, one who had teased and bullied Muriel back in school. It gave her some satisfaction to see the girl in such a bad way.

“Where am I?” The thing asked with a snarl.

“You are in my mind now, Devilspawn,” Muriel said. “You’ll find it is a lot stronger than the mind of a child. My mental defenses were well-trained by good education and experience. You are at our mercy.”

“You think I am afraid of you?” The Thing asked. She spat. “I’m not afraid of you, little elf.”

“We’re not particularly concerned with how you feel,” Muriel said.

“We’re more focused on your boss,” Asher said. “Hesper.”

“Hesper would devour you in but a moment,” the Thing said. “Do not look for what you do not want to find.”

“Oh we’ll find Hesper,” Luther said.

“With your help,” Muriel said. “Whether you like it or not.”

“You’ll get nothing out of me!” the Thing screamed. It spat and hissed.

“Oh? Is that so?” Muriel asked and then she laughed. “We already have the information we need out of you. You’re in my mind. I whittled down your defenses hours ago without you realizing.”

The Thing looked confused. “Then why am I still here?” it asked.

“You tortured a little girl,” Luther said. “You took days of her life for yourself and tried to take over her body and make it your own.” Images of Gwendolyn and her suffering floated in the air around the Thing. It looked at those images and felt pride at a job well done. Rage flitted across Muriel’s face but she maintained control.

“We wanted to make sure you died,” Asher said.

“And not quick,” Muriel said. “Slow and painful.”

“Do your worst,” the Thing said softly, staring defiantly into Muriel’s eyes.

“I will,” Muriel said. She walked forward and touched the Thing gently on the forehead. The point where she touched burned with green flame. A single candle-sized point of combustion and the Thing shuddered but remained defiant. Slowly the flame started to grow, surface skin started to flake and blow away. As its false face floated away, the Thing finally gave in and started to scream. The sound quickly went from human into something more shrill and inhuman. Muriel waved her hand and Luther and Asher disappeared. Muriel stood there and watched for quite a while as the flame slowly consumed the Thing and then she disappeared herself.

Gwendolyn was out of bed two days later. Everybody voted to stick around and make sure that she was going to recover and regain her health. She was able to walk to the gate where everybody was waiting. She had thankfully forgotten a lot of her experience in her long nightmare but she remembered the more recent positive memories of Muriel and her friends. She had asked them all a million questions as she started to recover but now it was time to go.

“Where are you going?” Gwendolyn asked. “Will you be back?”

“We’re going to go find the devil that hurt you,” Muriel said.

“We probably won’t be back,” Dina said before being elbowed in the ribs by her brother.

“Never say never,” Asher said. “You just focus on getting better. Alright?”

“OK,” Gwendolyn said. “Please get rid of the bad thing. Make sure it can’t hurt anybody else.”

“I promise,” Muriel said. “I promise you we will.”

And then they got onto their horses and they rode away.


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