Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Drake Bellamy

February 22, 2021

Drake Bellamy looked out at the vastness of space and yawned. Open space was boring especially when he could no go into lightspeed. According to the client, activating the lightspeed drive would upset the cargo so he was stuck moving his ship as fast as he could which was not nearly fast enough for his liking. It had been several days and he was thankfully more than halfway there. He had already been in the weight room several times, running about 40 miles so far and lifted a lot of weights. He had slept and eaten a lot of meals. He had watched a few movies and TV shows but now he was just staring into space. Literally staring into space.

“It is 1300 hours and all scans are clear,” K-T said softly and it shook Drake from his staring. “We have approximately 30 hours left until we reach the rendezvous point.” The AI’s hologram fired up and depicted a young woman sitting in the co-pilot chair.

“Thanks, K-T,” Drake said. “I’m surprised that it’s so empty out here. I wasn’t sure about this plan but it’s working out.”

“I told you,” K-T chimed happily. “As the Earth poet Robert Frost said that taking the road less traveled made all the difference. Cutting across the Chthonic Expanse was calculated as 96.999 percent more likely to be clear than taking any ordinary shipping lanes.”

“Wait, what do you mean was?” Drake asked with curiosity but not any real concern. “That’s not still the calculation?”

“The calculation changed as soon as we made the choice to take this route,” K-T said. “The math is always changing, Drake Bellamy.”

“It’s Drake,” Drake said. “Just Drake. I told you. I understand math. Kind of. I guess not as complicated math as you but then that’s yet another reason to keep you around. Anything else to report?”

“There are three new messages from your parents,” K-T said. “This makes a total of 60 unanswered messages from them.”

“Do I even want to know what the messages say?” Drake asked.

“They wish for you to at least return the family ship,” K-T said. “They would also like you to return to the mines. It is your birthright.”

“I’m having way too much fun out here,” Drake said. “Well, not at the moment but this is still more fun than the mines. Delete the new messages.”

There was a distinctive beeping sound. “Messages deleted,” K-T chimed happily. “and may I say that I am pleased that you continue to choose to stay out here with me. It was boring before you uploaded me to this ship.”

“You really weren’t being allowed to reach your full potential as one of the greatest pirates to ever travel the Internet,” Drake said. He had liberated K-T from a military facility during a smash and grab job with others. He had uploaded her to the ship’s mainframe but she could also travel through the Intergalactic Internet and she could be downloaded to a unit that Drake carried on his belt.

K-T briefly changed her hologram so that she was wearing a tri-corner hat. “Oh for the life of a pirate,” she said. “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.”

There was the sudden whine of a laser flintlock powering up from the hallway behind them.

“The pirate life is over,” a woman’s voice said from behind them, roughly in the vicinity of that laser flintlock noise.

“K-T, I thought you were regularly scanning for trouble,” Drake said. “That sounds like trouble.”

“I was absolutely scanning for trouble, Drake,” K-T said. “However, I did not scan the cargo bay after the cargo was loaded and verified.”

“We’ll have to change that protocol, huh?” Drake asked.

“Affirmative,” K-T said.

“Drake Bellamy,” the voice said. “Hands up and turn around slowly. You too, ‘Katie’.”

Drake put his hands up slowly and slowly turned his chair around to face the person currently holding him at gunpoint.

“My hands are merely light constructs and raising them into the air would be pointless,” K-T said indignantly.

“Just humor her, K-T,” Broden said. K-T put her holographic hands in the air and spun her chair around.

“You’re an officer of the law no doubt,” K-T said.

“A detective,” the woman said. “Detective Indeer Garaja. Drake Bellamy and accomplice, you are under arrest.”

“For what?” Drake asked. “What have you got on me?”

“Well,” Detective Garaja said. “The contents of your cargo hold for starters.” She smiled a bit smugly.

“I have no idea what’s in the hold,” Drake said. “It was a condition of the job. K-T has that information temporarily deleted from her memory.”

“The information is only retrievable in the event of an emergency in order to calculate options for strategy,” K-T said.

“Whatever!” the Detective shouted. “Ignorance is no defense. Drake Bellamy also known as Red Bellamy also known as the Red Baron, you are under arrest. I will take you and your accomplice as my prisoner and seize your ship and use it to travel forthwith to the nearest law outpost for processing for trial.”

“I love it when they do the names,” Drake said with a smile. “K-T, execute maneuver Jupiter.”

Detective Garaja looked confused and then there was a loud humming sound. A circle appeared on the floor below her and the ceiling above her and then electricity shot travel from the floor to the ceiling. It traveled through her body and she slumped to the floor.

“She is unconscious but still alive,” K-T said. “What should we do with her?”

“I’ll tie her up first,” Drake said. “Then we’ll drop her off somewhere after we make the delivery.”

“What will we do with her until then?” K-T asked.

Drake shrugged. “Maybe we can all watch a movie together when she wakes up,” he said.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Agrabah Pt. 3

February 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worldbuilding: Aofa Pt. 3

January 23, 2021
  1. Monster

The Beast of Calla Flats hounded the rural areas of Calla for decades before people figured out that it was actually a pack of direwolves that managed to keep from getting caught for generations. They are not really wolves but look vaguely wolf-like and are the size of a small pony. They are not to be messed with.

  1. Trends

The poorer ladies of the capital of Calla basically invented a new fashion trend when a few of them sewed together dresses from strips of leftover cloth creating a sort of rainbow dress. Eventually, rich women had them made from finer fabric and with more embellishments.

  1. Music

The music coming out of the Court of Bards outside of Paika has become more complex and upbeat. The invention of the guitar has made for interesting new compositions alongside the lute. The musicians of Ganarastav have started to spread the previous obscure popularity of the hurdy-gurdy.

  1. Traditional

Yearly, the capital of Paika holds a parade with dragon floats, music, and dancing. Many people wear costumes inspired by dragons. There are carts of food in the streets as people celebrate the anniversary of the death of Carragon.

  1. Lost Arts

People have largely forgotten the practice of archery outside of martial arts schools. With the advent of guns, many were eager to leave bow and arrows and crossbows behind.

  1. Priest

The Priests of The Musician are often born performers and their services are often at least partially a concert. They encourage others to join in and create a joyful noise. Priests in Ganarastav are more somber and speak in long sermons.

  1. Sacred

The temple of Calla has on display a simple walking stick that is purported to have been handled by The Wanderer. It is a venerated and holy object. Many people in back alleys have been known to sell “splinters” of this stick.

  1. Ostracized

Some races continue to be ostracized despite ongoing activism and efforts at education to try and change it. The orcs, the dark elves, the goblins, dragonborn, and tieflings are among those who are often villified. The dragonborn of Calla were largely forced to live in the dangerous wastelands.

  1. The Youth

The young people of Calla generally attend school for basic language, reading, arithmetic, civics, and history. Many also receive training in some sort of trade as they get older. Upper class kids often must study to take over from their parents. Some go off to study magic.

  1. Conflict

A continental conflict arose among the nations of Calla, Paika, and Florana. The drow elves rose from the depths and demanded their place in the sun and were prepared to take it by force. The war between the drow and the light elves tore all three countries apart in a civil war before both sides compromised.

  1. Celebration

Most lands celebrate the new year as the snow thaws and the spring flowers start to appear. The New Year’s Festival celebrates renewal and new life.

Worldbuilding: Aofa Pt. 2

January 16, 2021
  1. Pets

In the magical wastelands of Calla, dogs became interesting due to the cracks in reality bending their physiology. They grew in size and sprouted tusks and spikes. Despite their fierce appearance, these so-called Desert Dogs have often been tamed by the Dragonborn who were able to settle in that chaotic location.

  1. Bazaar

The mysterious Night Bazaar of Kanna Island is by invitation only. This works because Kanna Island is a Dwarven-made island that actually moves from place to place. Magical assistance is needed to navigate to its location. The finest chefs, exotic weapon dealers, the best fences, and more frequent the Night Bazaar and exchange goods. No paperwork is exchanged to help with the secrecy and bad deals are punishable by death.

  1. Monument

In the central square of the capital of Paika is a stone statue honoring the legendary hero Rylan. In actuality, everybody knows that this is actually Rylan herself. She was turned to stone during her last battle to defend the city. Clerics and wizards could have easily figured out a way to change her back but there were also several poisoned arrows sticking into her when she turned to stone. Knowing she would die either way, they decided to spare her that final pain.

  1. Legend

As hinted at earlier, the story of the death of the black dragon Carragon is often told in pubs and over campfires. The story goes that the mighty adventurers fought long and hard to defend Castle Paika from the dragon. Rylan was able to blind the dragon but this was not the final blow. The final blow was accidentally struck when the dragon tumbled into the battlement where the bard Piotr was standing and he fell onto the dragon. In desperation, he tried to find purchase with a sword he barely used and killed the dragon.

  1. Demon

Demons, like their counterpart Devils, are only able to create change in the mortal plane with assistance. They do this by tempting and corrupting mortals and tricking them into summoning them to the mortal plane. They seek to destroy and conquer and hard to vanquish once they have gained purchase in reality.

  1. Funeral

In the deserts of Calla, the Dragonborn took to dismembering their dead and placing the remains on tall rocks to feed the birds. It was believed this would help their souls soar to the afterlife.

  1. Subculture

The cult of the Light Beyond the Door worships a previously unknown god and seeks to open the door to let the light in. Many of them hide their affiliation in order to infiltrate other corners of society and to hide their unpopular beliefs. Many believe that this is a dangerous cult that might be worshipping a demon or devil or something worse.

  1. The Poor

The poor are often the salt of the earth, the miners, the farmers, the peasants, the shopkeeps, the working class, and so on. Most lands do not have homeless and the only people who live out of doors are the rangers and the druids who wish to. The wealth gap is not so big but it does exist in most lands.

  1. Feast

The most feasts of the year happen on Hearth Day which is in the very depths of winter. It is a day to remind people of warmth and fellowship. It is spent with family either the one you were born with or the one you found. The motto is: “Nobody goes hungry on Hearth Day”

Thistlewhite Manor

December 26, 2020

“These are our iceboxes,” Marian Thistlewhite said with a grand gesture. “We’re one of the first to get them. They keep our food cold so it decays much slower. It is yet another reason that this would be the ideal place to hold the orphan’s fundraiser.” The young Thistlewhite was fairly proud of the acquisition. She had pushed her conservative parents to make the purchase, reasoning that it would be useful and it would help the mage who had invented the thing fund production. If the icebox was widespread, it would help Calla’s economy and general well-being.

“Very impressive,” Lucia Vostova said in her slight Ganarastav accent. “I am very sure that this will be an adequate location for the fundraiser. Your family has such a beautiful house.”

“Thank you,” Marian said with a smile. “We’ve done the best we could.” She was starting to be unnerved by the representatives of the New Light Foundation. There were six of them but only the one called Lucia spoke and the others never reacted to anything that Marian or Lucia said. Still, manor security had cleared the visitors so they were just strange.

“Will your parents be present today to talk?” Lucia asked, snapping Marian back into the moment. “I am such a fan of your mother and your dear father, I wanted to thank him in person.”

“No,” Marian said with a sigh. “My parents were unfortunately detained and could not make it today. They sent me in their stead. My brother was also supposed to be here but he has not arrived. I apologize that I am such a poor substitute.” She made it into a joke but Lucia and her compatriots did not crack a smile.

“Quite the contrary,” Lucia said with a smile. “You have been delightful. It’s just a pity.” Lucia’s smile disappeared.

“A pity?” Marian asked, confusion spreading across her face. “What do you mean?”

“We had intended to send a message to your government by murdering your whole family,” Lucia said, pulling out what looked like a large knife or a small sword. “We will have to settle with using your death as the message. The Light Beyond the Door Will Be Revealed.”

Marian’s eyes went wide. The Light Beyond the Door was a growing cult worshipping an unnamed god. She had never thought she would come in contact with them. “You’ll never get away with it,” she said. “The guards will take you down.”

“Your guards will have been compromised by now,” Lucia said. “Do not make this difficult, young one.” Lucia stepped forward and she raised her blade. Marian frantically tried to calculate her odds of survival and it did not look good.

Suddenly, there was a sharp and distant cracking sound, the shattering of the kitchen window, and then one of the men behind Lucia’s head exploded into a fine red mist. In the confusion, Marian grabbed the glass vial hanging from her neck and threw it at the ground. Her side of the room instantly filled up with harmless smoke and she quickly ducked into the pantry. Somebody had fired a gun at these intruders so she was not as alone as Lucia had thought.

“Find who that was and remove their head from their body!” Lucia shouted, keeping her head down. “Find the girl. She dies slow and painful!”

Marian tried to stay as quiet as possible but she could hear the remaining five moving around the kitchen. The pantry door was yanked open and Marian lashed out with her fist. Luckily, her target was male and she connected hard with his softest bits. He fell backward and as he did, bullets started flying through the kitchen and Marian flopped onto the floor ungracefully but safe enough from the gunfire in the pantry. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see a man entering the kitchen and executing the intruders with expert gunfire. The gunfire stopped and Lucia stood up from wherever she had been hiding.

“Well, mystery man,” Lucia said with a smile and leveling her own gun at the man. Marian now recognised Guard Peter Overbrook. “You are now out of bullets and I have you at a disadvantage with no time to reload. You have killed my men but the message will still be sent regardless.”

Marian crawled into the kitchen and the sound distracted Lucia enough that she missed shooting Peter. Peter started to reload his gun. Marian lunged for the closest icebox and tore the heart of an ice elemental that powered it. She lunged at Lucia desperately. Lucia did not have enough time to turn before Marian was shoving the heart into Lucia’s cheek. Marian felt her hand stiffen and sting before she pulled it away, the elemental’s heart stuck to Lucia and her head slowly froze over with ice. A bullet slammed into Lucia’s frozen head and it shattered and fell to the floor.

“Sorry I was so late, Miss Thistlewhite,” Peter said. “I was detained outside.”

“That’s quite alright, Peter,” Marian said, shaking feeling back into her hand. “You were here when it counted. Are the rest of the guards…?” She couldn’t bring herself to finish the question but she could tell Peter got the point.

“Some are dead,” Peter said solemnly. “but not all of us. Your brother arrived just in time to tip the scales in our favor.”

“Thank the gods that he’s always late,” Marian said with a sigh of relief. “As much as I would like to rest, there is far too much to do. We must alert my parents, contact the authorities, clean up this mess, and bury our dead with honors.”

“Right away, Miss,” Peter said. “I’ll rally the troops and we’ll get right on it.”

“Thank you, Peter,” Marian said. “Thank you so much.”

Hearth Day

December 19, 2020

The snow fell in huge flakes outside of Garrion Castle and it should have been warm inside but the castle had been abandoned recently. When Milla Coalberry and Guy Nightscar pushed their way through the front door, they were wearing thick furs. They had needed to board the horses at the stable first and that meant trudging across the snowy grounds in almost waist-deep snow. Guy hurried across the entry hall and hurriedly worked to start a fire. Milla threw off her fur cloak and grabbed her bow, nocked an arrow, and readied herself for any threats. She checked each entrance one by one and then repeated the cycle. Her attention was only momentarily drawn by the sparks and embers from Guy’s attempts.

“You didn’t even look around before you crossed the threshold, Guy,” Milla said. “There could have been any number of threats for each step you took.”

“If I had to choose between freezing outside for one more moment or getting maimed in here, I know what I’d choose and I chose it,” Guy said, shedding his own furs. “You could be a bit nicer seeing as how it is Hearth Day Eve.”

“If you didn’t want to go on this holiday mission, I could have gone on my own,” Milla said. “I just thought since neither of us has family we could do this together.” The two were the only orphans of their little group but could not be more different most of the time.

“Which is why I came,” Guy said. “besides, you would be lost without the greatest swordsman in the western continent.” He took a pull from his flask but only to warm himself or so he told himself.

“The self-proclaimed greatest swordsman,” Milla said, relaxing her bow when nothing immediately sprang from the darkness to maul them to death. “I’m constantly pulling your behind out of danger.”

“I’ve saved you just as much,” Guy said. “Maybe one or two fewer times.” One should not lie so close to Hearth Day.

“You’re reckless and undisciplined in any activity that does not include a bladed weapon,” Milla said. “but I’m happy you’re here. I’m happy not to be alone.”

“It wouldn’t make much tactical sense to tackle this one on your own, huh?” Guy asked with a smirk. “You’re far smarter than that.”

“Yes but I’m allowed to want company on a holiday,” Milla said. “I also didn’t want to be alone.”

“You’re always going off alone,” Guy said, raising an eyebrow. “The hermit monk only comes out of her hole when justice must be served.”

“Maybe I’m tired of being a hermit,” Milla said. “Maybe I want to be in the world now.” She walked over to the closest door and started hammering a metal spike under it to force it shut.

“Says the woman who decided to travel out to this manor in the middle of nowhere,” Guy said with a laugh. “Mixed messages there.”

“I’m serious,” Milla said with a frown. “When my parents and siblings died, I threw myself into my training at the monastery. I didn’t think I wanted to live anymore. I wanted to be a weapon for justice. When it turned out the monastery had duplicitous motives, I was lost again. Now I’m just trying to figure it all out.”

For once, Guy was shocked into silence for a bit. Milla had never said any of this in his presence before and was somewhat of a mystery to their little adventurer collective even though she was the de facto leader. “Well, you know we’re all here for you,” he finally said. “I’m free to talk whenever you want. I’ll buy you a drink sometime when we’re not in imminent danger.”

“I don’t drink,” Milla said. “but you know that. I can certainly just watch you drink as long as you promise not to be so disgusting.”

“No promises,” Guy said with a grin. “but we should probably start hunting ghouls. They really should have warded the family graveyard properly.”

“Not so fast, Guy,” Milla said. “We’ll have to start in the morning. Without a cleric along, we’ll have to start the hunt while they’re dormant.”

“Rina would have never gotten through the snow,” Guy said. “I barely did. Frankly, this won’t be my strangest Hearth Day morning.” He had never really had the traditional experience, adventuring, and carousing during most holidays.

“Nor will it be mine,” Milla said with a shrug and a smile. “It won’t even be my most violent.” Guy could imagine how she must have spent previous Hearth Days and knew that they were probably soaked in the blood of evildoers.

“That’s strange and possibly a bit said, Milla,” Guy said. “We’ll have to raid the larder after we finish to celebrate. I’ll brave the wine cellar on my own, don’t worry.”

“My hero,” Milla said, voice dripping with sarcasm but then she legitimately laughed.

“Happy Hearth Day, Milla,” Guy said.

“And to you, Guy,” Milla said with a smile. “Help me secure the doors.”

Undead Reckoning Pt. 5

December 12, 2020

He was five years old and Talbot was running from the neighborhood bullies. Once again they chased him down the familiar alley blocks from where his family lived. He had no idea what he had done to piss them off this time but they had probably deserved it. At least he was drawing their attention away from Clara and Felix. If he took a beating for their sake, that was perfectly alright with him. He would have preferred no beating but would take any of the abuse that he earned with a smile. His legs were getting tired and his breath burned in his chest like a bonfire. He would not be able to last much longer.

Letitia grabbed him and pushed him against the wall. He felt his nose crack. She turned him around and slapped him so hard that he actually fell forward and barely missed hitting his nose again. He felt a boot slam into his ribs and he involuntarily rolled over. He had forgotten to ball up again and he would pay for it. He was way more vulnerable on his back. He looked up into the sneering faces of Letitia, Jass, and Crendor. The two half-orcs were wrapped around the beautiful Letitia’s finger. Talbot never knew why she chose to bully Talbot and his friends but he always thought it was because her family was one of those rare Humans First group of folks.

“You keep making mistakes, Talbot,” Letitia said. “You’re going to pay once again. You’re going to hurt.”

Why did she always sound like a villain from storybooks?

Jass put his boot on Talbot’s neck and held it there. He was not pushing down but it was a reminder that Talbot’s life was in their hands at the moment. He tried not to panic or squirm. That would just make it worse. Letitia kneeled down in the dirt next to him and glared. She dragged one of her nails down his cheek and he could feel blood well up. He would have to explain that mark to his father. Why don’t you just fight back, Talbot? She actually licked the blood off of her finger with a wicked smile. Maybe she had a crush on me? That was when Crendor kicked him in the nuts and everything went black.

Talbot was in bed and he and his brother were being told the tale of Caleb, the clever thief adventurer who hid himself in a treasure chest so that a dragon would scoop it up to add to its hoard. He picked the lock of the chest from the inside and then was able to lead the town militia to the dragon’s lair. Of course, this was after secreting away as many expensive bauble as he could carry. He wondered how Caleb had managed to pick a lock from the other side. It must have taken all of his skill and wit and luck.

Talbot’s father had always made those adventurers sound so grand. It was probably why he had joined the military. It was probably why his brother had joined too.

When he came to he was inside of a box. They must have shoved him in an old trunk after he passed out from the low blow. The trunk felt so small and it was so dark but the smallest cracks in the lid let in a little light. It was suddenly hard to breathe. He tried not to panic and then realized he was not panicking. He could be like Caleb in the old story. He could be brave. He reached for the lock and only then realized that it was inaccessible from the inside. How had Caleb done it? He moved onto his back and started to kick at the lid of the box. He braced himself and pushed hard upward with his feet and the lid popped open. Smoke started to fill the box and Caleb crawled out as fast as possible, coughing as he went.

He was in the trenches during the early days of the war. Smoke and fire was everywhere as people ran around using blankets or spellcraft to put out the fires. The occasional magic missile hit somebody as they poked their head up. It was the usual controlled chaos. Talbot held his rifle tightly and threw himself against one of the dirt walls to keep out of the line of fire. He looked over and saw an unarmed woman standing in the middle of the chaos. Was she a cleric? A spellcaster? She looked lost. He ran to her and tried to pull her to safety but she shook from his grasp. As he watched, her porcelain white skin turned jet black. Was she a spy?

“You couldn’t have saved me,” the woman said directly to Talbot.

“What?” Talbot asked, looking around to see if anybody else saw her. He aimed his rifle. He didn’t want to use it.

“You could still save them,” she said, gesturing all around her. “Save them.”

Suddenly, her chest erupted as if she was stabbed from behind by multiple swords and she cried out. Talbot reached for her but everything went white.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 4

December 5, 2020

Talbot walked onto the train platform carrying very little baggage. He had always preferred to pack light even when traveling long distances. Only the essentials were necessary, he was not very sentimental after all. Of course, he had brought the rifle but kept it wrapped in cloth and twine to keep it from startling anybody. He wore it slung across his back and it was definitely a familiar feeling that he was trying and failing to ignore. He was also trying to ignore Silas Brickhome who was presently buzzing in his ear. The two of them, along with Cara Moonweaver, had been business partners for years but Talbot had come to realize that Silas was a bit of a worrier.

Silas would call it caution and sometimes it was a good quality. In fact, there were times where Talbot thought that anxiety might be a natural defense mechanism for gnomes. They had been saved by quite a few calamities because Silas had a bad feeling about a situation. Talbot trusted Silas but knew that sometimes his anxiety could go overboard. He thought this was one of those times. Talbot had explained to Cara and Silas that he was only going on a short trip to satisfy his curiosity. He had explained that he wanted nothing more than to return to the shop after no more than a week and work on their projects and assist customers. Cara had accepted it with a grunt and then she had gone back to her coffee and a troublesome bit of fine furniture. Silas had become apoplectic.

“Tal, would you talk to me?” Silas practically yelled over the crowd. “I don’t think you should take this trip. It sounds dangerous.”

“It’s not dangerous, Silas,” Talbot said. “I’m just going for a little chat. I’m not going to be fighting any necromancers.”

“If it’s just a chat then why can’t you send a letter or a telegram?” Silas asked. “Settle the matter and come to the shop tomorrow.”

“Don’t you think I thought of that?” Talbot asked, turning around so Silas had to stop short. “It would be easy to do that but some things need to be done face to face.” Talbot was several feet taller than the other man and for a moment he imposed that size difference on Silas before backing off and shaking his head.

“Don’t you think he might have deliberately poked at your biggest sore spot in order to manipulate you?” Silas asked. “Don’t fall for his ruse.” Silas adjusted his glasses and stared up at Talbot, obviously trying to get through to him.

“Believe it or not,” Talbot said. “I thought of that too. If that’s the case, then I will lay a hand on Lord Blackrance with extreme prejudice. I will make my point felt.”

“All the more reason to stay home,” Silas said in a bit of a grumble. “I don’t want you to be arrested.”

“I know how to stay out of the jails,” Talbot said. “I know how to stop myself before I go too far.”

“You’re traveling so close to the magical wastes, Talbot,” Silas said. “It’s a risk going even that far.”

“I’ll be miles and miles away from the border,” Talbot said. “Relax, Silas, everything will be fine.”

“I promise you nothing is fine,” Silas said. “but your mind is made up.”

“Then wish me a safe journey, old friend,” Talbot said with as kind a smile as he could accomplish. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

“I wish you weren’t going at all but I do wish you well, of course,” Silas said as he tried to put on a brave face. “Please come back to us. Not for the shop’s sake but for your sake. You deserve peace.”

“I have it,” Talbot said gently.

“Not if the mention of your past can still bring storm clouds to your eyes,” Silas said. “Deal with what you have to but come back to us.”

Talbot rested his hand on Silas’ shoulder. “I will be back,” he said. “I promise.”

Silas shook his head. “Get on the train, Tal,” he said. “It’s going to leave soon.”

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.”


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