Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

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. “Aurora mentioned her name but I still have only a few thoughts about 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 if I choose it,” Ariel said. “I snuck down and did some spying last night. 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.


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