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Offline Last Active Feb 06 2015 11:13 AM

#410211 Harry Monster's Monstrous Sketchbook: In Glorious Technicolor!

Posted by Semiautomagic on 05 August 2013 - 03:06 AM

ohmigosh. New drawings are just super awesome, Harold of Creation, if my use of omigosh didn't make that abundantly clear. I wish I was all artsy so I could go into detail about how neat they are but instead all I can say is they make my eyeballs happy.


Ironclad's a perfect example. What makes him so awesome? Iunno he just is. If you make any changes, be sure to keep the jeans and bandanna. The bandanna especially. But I think it's awesome that he's like a suit of armor or robot or whatever he is but he still wears pants and boots. Can't beat that with a stick. And I love the shading on him, too. He reminds me just a bit of Alfons but I'm sure you were expecting someone to say that. He's far from a rip I can just see a bit of him in there, particularly the mouth area.


Dark One's intense though I agree something must be done with that name. Looking at him he looks like he'd have a crazy, elaborate name. Not like a persona but his parents just gave him an awesome name because they knew he'd grow into it. Or maybe something very unawesome so he can make it awesome like Lesley. Oh, yeah, Lesley's the ticket. Food for thought. Some may say he's got a generic look, especially the coat, but I say keep him the way he is. Love the hair in particular, maybe trim the goatee/mustache just a touch. And are those robot hands or just fancy gloves? If I had to pick something to leave behind I'd say the wand. It's different and that's awesome but, c'mon, a wand? Really, though, the best thing about ole DO is that he's drawn amazingly. And I mean that sincerely. The detail, shading, how his hair actually moves like hair, SHIRT WRINKLES?! Seriously, you're the man now. I also like the fire effect you've got going on.


Ugh, I may have come on a bit strong there but I'm impressed. Maybe I'm easily impressed but... still. Neat pictures.

#409778 untitled fanfiction

Posted by Semiautomagic on 26 July 2013 - 10:31 PM

Howdy, guys. Not much to say about this little short here other than I woke up with the case of the feckarounds and channeled them into this. And no, I'm not going to tell you what it's a fanfiction of because that would ruin the surprise. And yes, that's why I oh-so cleverly didn't think of a name. So read, enjoy, have a laugh.




Rubber squealed and metal crunched. Something rattled in the background, drowning in the noise. Concrete grinded beneath them and they were in the air. One one-thousand, two one-thousand. And they returned to the earth. His body surged against the seat belt, knee cap hit the steering wheel just hard enough to send a ghost of pain through his shin and into his feet. Stayed clamped to the accelerator all the same.


Stanley's body had shifted in his seat during the hop over the curb. Made him feel his dark jeans stick to the upholstery, hear the sick suctiony sound of fabric pulling away from fabric stuck together by blood. Reminded him that Les Jenner had been sitting there. Should've still been. Stanley had just met him that morning. Had breakfast with him, gave him a hard time for being named Leslie. Didn't mean nothing by it, just needed a laugh. Told him that his middle name was Curlington to make it even.


Next time he saw Les' face all the most important parts of his brain were flying through the window. The bullet had gone straight on through, shattered it entire. Made the sirens sound so much closer. Right beside him, in the car with him. But they had to have still been a good distance behind them. Someone would've started shooting otherwise, Heth definitely would have. Stanley glanced up at the mirror and angled it slightly to see into the backseat. Heth was sitting in the middle seat, assault rifle and seatbelt across his lap.


He was far too calm. True, Stanley couldn't see his face through the mask but he was perfectly still. Whether it was sense of humor or staight arrogance was beyond Stan but Heth had decided to cover his face with Batman's cowl. The flimsy kind volunteers wear when they go to children's hospitals and such. Stanley wondered if those kids knew the Caped Crusader dangled people off rooftops and broke bones with his bare hands but figured they didn't.


The vehicle and everyone therein winced as it lost its driver's side mirror to a mini van. A SUV was not the proper vehicle to navigate the dense hell that was traffic in this city. Heth should've known that, out of town or not. He seemed to know everything. Hank had actually said those exact words when he came to Stanley weeks ago. "This guy here knows everything there is to know about this, literally. It ain't gonna be a thing."


Stanley looked over to Hank in the passenger seat, clinging to his compact machinegun with white knuckles and maybe muttering under his breath. He had just went with a simple ski mask like Stan. The kind they always used, that could be found just about anywhere with no identifying marks or anything like that. They had known each other for a long time, Hank was there in his earliest memories. Some of the more distant ones of two nine year olds sneaking candy into their pockets and running like hell, laughing all the way, echoed in his mind.


It was a natural progression from there really. Broke into a few houses, mostly old folks with far too much as is. Then a few convenience stores, liquor stores, pharmacies. Pharmacies were always good money, especially now with the demand for pills being what it was. It got hot once or twice but nothing they did ever seemed to catch up and past experiences defining perception as they did a bank didn't seem like such a bad idea. Hank was the only reason Stanley would entertain the notions of a fellow like Heth.


Heth. That's all he went by. Stanley didn't know if it was his first or last name or if it was even his name at all. Hank didn't seem to know either but swore that they went back. Had met in jail once upon a time. Jail: where they send criminals to meet other criminals and work together to better themselves as criminals. Heth didn't look like a hardened criminal, though, well, who did, but he didn't fall into the public perception Stanley thought. He was a pretty boy, really. Dimpled chin, cheekbones, almond eyes, thin but not scrawny. Even wore his hair all spiky and feathery.


He made it sound good, though, he was good for that. Knew a lot about the armored car company in particular. Schedules, policies, even knew the guards on duty. Said he'd done work with the company before. Heth never went into detail about what he did at any point in his life, not around Stanley, at least. Made some comments here or there, some more unsettling than others, but Stanley knew better than to ask a guy like that about his personal life.


Heth had Stanley and Hank stake out the place. They were at it for near three weeks and in that time they never earned a second glance. It was rare they got the first. Hank even sprayed on a tan and put on a pretty damned good wig, walked in and acted like he was interested in an account, maybe a safe deposit box as well. Drew a map of the interior. Hank had a talent for that sort of thing, took drafting classes in high school. Was told by more than one person he had the makings of an architect or engineer.


They must have seen the guy walk in there a half-dozen times Just a normal guy. A bit chubby, cheap haircut maybe even cut it himself, more days than a few he'd neglect to shave. Always drove the same crappy old rabbit. But that day he walked into the bank in his uniform. Heth saw him first. They locked eyes. The cop jumped behind one of those small counters with the brochures and the pens on the chains. Immediately started into his radio, didn't even reach for his gun.


Heth kept his assault rifle at his hip, grabbed the handle under the barrel, and let out a long burst. The bullets ripped through that wood and cop like paper. If paper splattered blood everywhere when you ripped it and wheezed and gagged and sobbed quietly as it dies. People screamed and cried and cursed but Heth calmly explained that he didn't like noise. Showed them the grenade in his hand and they covered their mouths with their hands, bit their tongues, whatever they had to. Stanley still couldn't believe the guy had a full belt of grenades.


Hell, he wouldn't be surprised to hear Heth had raided an armory. He'd never seen a rifle as flashy as his outside of a video game or movie. His body armor looked like what our troops should be wearing with pockets upon pockets of ammo, a compact machete of a knife on one thigh and a pistol just as decorated as his rifle on the other. They should've left right then and there, better part of valor, live to fight another day, any cliche would've been fine by Stanley but Heth needed to get into the safety deposit boxes. Wouldn't hear any other option.


The bank manager was a woman on the wrong side of middle age, covering up spidery and discolored veins with expensive pantyhose and an empty scalp with a wig far too colorful to be natural. Heth tightened the strap on his rifle so he could grab the back of her neck with one hand and pull his knife free of its sheathe with the other. He spoke directly to her as he led her into the back. Stanley couldn't hear what was said but he recognized the tone. Calm and polite and rational, telling her how it was and what would happen.


Hank shouted for Stanley's attention and told him to watch the crowd while he went through the tellers. Called him Dan, though, for their benefit and he was John. Stan-Dan kept his breathing quiet and regular despite screaming inside. He'd practiced this a thousand times in his head but he was beginning to think his head was biased. He tried not to move too fast as he swept the customers, now lying on their bellies on the floor. Tried not to seem so jumpy. Tried to remember if he took the safety off but didn't want someone to catch him checking it.


Heth was back with a smile on his face before Hank had finished clearing the drawers. Stanley didn't see the manager. Told John not to worry about paper and told Dan to get the door. It took Stan a second to remember who was who. The first patrol car pulled up when they were halfway to the SUV. Hank fired blindly in their direction, made the car swerve. Gave them time to throw everything into the backseat. But when the police returned fire Les was gone and Heth made Stan throw him on the ground and hop behind the wheel. Les' blood and something else fairly covered Stanley's boots, his sleeve.


And here they were. Praying to God to find an opening to get back in their lane before they slammed head on with a wrecker. Stanley jerked the wheel right into the back tire of a Fiat. Poor little thing spun like a top into a parked Hyundai. Stanley didn't keep watching to see if the driver made it.

"Okay." Heth had leaned up to speak in Stanley's ear. "You're going to want to take this left up here and then keep on straight and- Well, wait a minute. Just go ahead and turn into that strip mall. Yeah, their lot loops around and you'll miss the intersection. Hard left, Stanley. Come now, hard left. Okay, and now you just bank around here. Don't worry, they'll get out of the way if they want to live otherwise it's out of our hands. Know what? Go ahead and hop the curb there, get us back on the street. Yeah, those bushes are hideous. And it'll be the first parking lot on the right hand side."

Heth was leaned into the front seat the whole time, pointing the way over the windshield. Never once raised his voice or paused or moved. Like he was showing Stanley the way to the airport. Another hop and jerk and they were back on the road. Stanley saw the sign. School Zone. They skidded over a colorful crosswalk. Thankfully empty.

"Where are you leading us?" He asked but Heth had settled back into his seat.

"On the right." He reminded.


Stanley looked to see what was on the right and saw a bland, blocky U of a building. Built with bricks of a mellow cream color with a green roof, large windows on the side facing the street. A parking lot on each side of the U, though one was filled with buses, with a large lawn in between dotted with small trees, bushes, and a boulder smeared with every shade of paint there was.


"A school?!" Stanley shouted, he pumped the brake.

"Yeah, park by the main door if you will."

"Like hell." The sirens caught up with Stanley's terrified mind. Then he remembered the assault rifle sitting in the backseat.

"C'mon, brother," Pleaded Hank, "we gotta get out the road. We can't just be debatin' here in the middle of traffic."

"Debate? What the hell are you talking about?!" Yet still, God forgive him, Stanley smashed back down on the accelerator, dodged an Eclipse, and veered into the parking lot.


They came to a screeching stop by a wide sidewalk that seemed to surround the entire building. Heth was out of the vehicle before it had fully settled. Walked to the boot like a man just looking for a leisurely form of exercise. Grabbed his bag of ill-gotten gains and looped it over his neck. Grabbed a duffel bag that was heavier than he remembered and hoisted it over a shoulder. Went to push his fingers through his hair and felt the mask. Thought what was the point and pulled it off.


"What are we doing at a school?" Stanley demanded as Heth walked back around the vehicle.

"Hold this for me, would ya?" Heth tossed him the bag. It hit Stanley's side hard enough to leave a bruise and he heard metal shift.

"The hell is this?" Sweat stung Stanley's eyes. "The hell are we doing here?!"

"First, calm yourself. Dramatics have not and never will resolve anything. The answer's simple but we need to walk and talk." Heth hadn't broken his pace for Stanley's inquiries, leaving his accomplices to jog to catch up. Either that or wait for the sirens. "Now how often do you hear of robberies turned hostage situations? Outside of movies?" He didn't give them time to answer. "That's right. Because it never works. They either give up or get taken down before they clear the property. Negotiations and such are all for show. Just empty words to give the schemers on that side of the law time to outsmart the schemers on our side. The whole cliche of a getaway car or a fueled jet is just nonsense. They don't entertain notions like that. Maybe they send in a pizza. No what it all comes down to is how much are these people's lives worth against the reputation of law and order? Law and order wins. They figure these civilians can handle a dose of tear gas and that the city can handle a few lawsuits so long as criminals know the law cannot be trifled with." He opened the door to the school. "So what do we do? Give them lives whose worth cannot be measured. The city can take a lawsuit but what about a national tragedy?"

"This is crazy." Stanley said and yet he still followed Heth into the building. The air conditioner felt like God's own mercy. "I'm not- we can't... Christ, Heth, we can't kill any damn kids."

"Whoa, feller, you've got a sick mind and I love it but keep your spurs checked, cowpoke. We aren't hurting any kids. Not hurting anyone if we can help it." Heth paused to look into the main office, a wall of windows set around a steel door. Locked eyes with a chubby cheeked secretary. Her's widened to saucers and Heth held a finger to his lips before resuming his pace.


The entry hall was what you'd expect. Main office on the right as soon as you walk in, entrance to what Stanley assumed to be a gymnasium on the left. A lengthy and ornate trophy case lined the left hand wall, interrupted twice by bathrooms. Doors to smaller offices fairly covered the right wall before it turned a corner to rest of the building. The walls were white, the floor tiles brown and green with multicolored specks.


One of the doors on the right hand side, marked resource officer, opened and out stepped a block of a man well into his fifth decade. He wore the brown and khaki uniform of a Sheriff's deputy, side arm at his hip. He was laughing to himself until he saw a man staring at him with a lopsided smile on his face. Saw the two men behind him in ski masks, the guns in their hands. He became completely still. Hand on his belt, not even an inch from his weapon.


"Hey, guy." Heth said. "Want to slide that thing out for me? Two fingers, you know how to do it. What's your name, deputy?"

"Riggs, Denton Riggs." He replied, assessing Heth with narrow eyes. He gingerly raised his left hand but kept his right where it was, by his gun.

"Well, Denton, I am Heth and if I have to be I will be your murderer this afternoon. That doesn't sound pleasant at all does it?" He paused until Denton shook his head. "Right. And I am a really pleasant guy. I really am, unfortunate you have to see me in this light. So howsabout you don't make me step outside of my own nature and just pull out your pistol there." Denton undid the strap holding it, pulled it out gingerly and just as requested. "Now hit the mag release."

Denton stared at Heth for what seemed like far too long. Looked over the man's shoulder and caught Stanley's eye. Stanley looked away, distracted his mind by wondering why this school was so damned quiet. Had no one in the office thought to hit the alarm? Had the cops still not caught up? Had they really only stood here half a minute and not a hour? The deputy adjusted his grip on the weapon, though he kept his index and middle fingers far from the trigger, and thumbed the release.

"See? Pleasant." Heth relaxed his rifle slightly, pointed the barrel down and slightly to Denton's side. A very subtle motion but one Denton saw plainly. "Know what? Pop the chamber, if only to set my mind at ease."


Now Denton stared directly into Heth's empty eyes, blacker than black, and realized what he had done. He had a round in the chamber, he always did. Most resource officers didn't. What was the need? But Denton had given twenty-five years of his life to the Marine Corps. He'd killed men before. From a couple hundred yards away, from the inside of a tank, but never a handful of meters away. It'd never been just him, another man, and their guns.


Would've been easy just to pull that slide, jog out that door and to the other side of the barricade. But what about those kids? Those stupid, cocky, disrespectful little asses. He remembered being hailed as the best shot in his company. Despite his age he was still good enough to put that round between this pretty boy's eyes. Slowly, he moved his gun hand to meet his empty hand. As the gun crossed his chest he tightened his grip, extended his arm, and felt three holes open in his chest.


Heth was already walking before the deputy's body hit the ground. "And we keep it moving." He turned to the dumbstruck pair, twirling his free hand in an impatient circle. "And we keep it moving." Stanley wasn't even sure he knew what had happened. The silencer on Heth's rifle turned a clap of thunder into a pop. He tried not to look at the cop's body and cringed at the little splashing sound of his boot in the man's blood.


"I thought we weren't hurting anyone?" Hank asked Heth.

"If we can help it, that's what I said." Stanley stared at Hank's back with pleading eyes but he didn't turn around.


They walked to the end of the hallway and reached a pair of double doors. Heth walked through one while Stan and Hank walked through the other. They were outside now, standing on a walkway composed of old cement tiles with a metal awning overhead. Directly in front of them was another set of doors that led to the other side of the U, Heth turned to the left instead, leading them down the longest part of the walkway toward a mishaped triangle of a building with flat points that Stanley hadn't seen from the road.


A fire alarm sounded. About damn time Stanley thought, relief he didn't understand entirely sweeping over him. Heth quickened his pace slightly but only slightly. Stanley noticed Hank was talking and judging from his tone had been but it was mostly incoherent. The triangle had a single set of double doors, steel doors painted dark green opened with a simple pull. Heth pulled it open and held it for his accomplices before stepping in behind them.


They stepped into a hallway not unlike the entrance hall with a smaller hallway lined with doors branching off to the right, ending in a dark auditorium.

"Stanley, the bag." Heth said. It took Stan a second, he'd forgotten all about the bag over his shoulder. He let it fall to the ground with a clang and unzipped it. Inside was a length of chain with a thick padlock, key in the hole, some handcuffs, and two grenades that were just loose in there. Something else he didn't recognize hid beneath the coil of chain, like a black box with some numbers printed on it.

"What the-" Heth interrupted Stanley, pushing him aside and grabbing the chain. In a manner of seconds he had it wrapped double tight around the door's handles, turned the lock and slid they key into his pocket. "You were planning this weren't you? You son of a bitch. Rob the bank and make our getaway to a wonderfully blessed by Sully's mustache SCHOOL?!"

"Okay, now. This is not the first time you've raised your voice to me. It's going to stop. Have I raised my voice to you?" Heth paused, actually looking for an answer. "Have I? At any point in the time that I've known you have I raised my voice? Ever?"

"No." Stanley fairly mumbled. "But I've never led you on an armed occupation of a damn elementary school!"

"It's a middle school. Well, they do have some elementary school classes. And, yes, that's the section of the school we're in. But I've told you, we aren't hurting any kids. But we need them to think we will. Especially the cops and the teachers. We don't need any heroes, right?" Heth said. "Right?" Stan nodded. "Yes, I did have something in mind but how odd would I have sounded if I told you I chose a target for a robbery due to its proximity to a school? Very odd, that's how. But my plan was just to get my things, get the money, maybe even some jewelry, but things didn't work out like that, did they? So we need a plan B." Stanley blew out a long breath, Heth put a hand on his shoulder. "It's easy to yell and kick your feet, isn't it? Harder to be a big boy."

"Heth!" Hank turned their attention back to the hallway. Three teachers, a black man who clearly loved his sweets, a blonde woman just a triscuit away from being a broomstick, and a homely little toad of a redhead, led a long line of students toward the door. Heth gave them time to close the gap before taking a few steps toward them and aiming his rifle at the blonde.

Laughter died abruptly. A scream was caught in the redhead's thick throat. The black man raised his hands and started muttering a prayer. The blonde's eyes widened and she opened her mouth but didn't scream. She started breathing heavily, near hyper-ventilating. Some kids shouted and cried, others just stared either out of fear or pure ignorance.

"Stay calm." Heth said gently, looking into the blonde woman's eyes. "You wouldn't want to start them panicking, would ya? They scatter and I'm going to hold down this trigger until I hear a click. Do you understand what I am saying to you?" A sob creeped out of her mouth and tears streamed from her eyes as she nodded. "Good." He looked past her. "Hey, kids!" His voice took on a new quality. Something almost like laughter or Heth's imitation of laughter was in it. "We're just going to take a break from class today, how's that sound?" Some kids nodded, some kids stared at their feet, one or two cheered. "So what's your teacher's name here?" He gestured to the broomstick with his rifle.

"Missus Leften." A curly haired girl hiding behind a giant pair of glasses supplied immediately.

"Missus? Just had to go and break my heart?" Heth licked the points of his teeth. "Now, Missus Leften, why don't we lead the kids out of the hallway? We shouldn't teach them to loiter. It's unbecoming and sometimes even illegal." Mrs. Leften nodded tersely and started moving back to the front of the line. "Heh. No, you stay right back here with me." He tapped the space between her shoulder blades with the barrel, making her whimper. "You too, Mister?"

"Green." The man said.

"Mr. Green, want you right there." Heth said. "You." Pointed to the red-headed toad. "Walk up there very slowly and do everything I say the second I say it. Or I will kill her." Another whimper. "Then him. Then a few of these kids. And then? I'll let you go. You can be a survivor. Write a book about how you let children die. Sound good?" Every inch of the woman was shaking. "Keep an eye on this one." He told Hank and Stan.


Stanley looked to his partner in crime but all the man did was shrug and point his machinegun at the back of Mr. Green's head. Stan asked someone, anyone, to forgive him under his breathe before raising his gun though he didn't point it at anyone in particular. Heth pulled out the little black box, pushed somethings on it, and ran a thin wire from it to the chain on the door. Left it sitting where it could be seen plainly by anyone on the other side of the door.


"Alright, let's move along." Heth said, turning back to the group. Ms. Toad slowly moved to the front of the line, tripping over her own feet. What a day to stuff herself into those heels. When she stood in the front she told all the kids to turn around one at a time. They moved down the hallway as one, Mrs. Leften setting their pace and Heth's assault rifle setting hers. They walked past bulletin boards littered with various projects, classroom doors covered in drawings, a wall that displayed the school's "Shining Stars."


Heth led them directly to the other side where he said the only other entrance was located. Three separate doors, older ones with chipped paint and push bars, with only a thin strip of wired glass to serve as a window in each. To their right was another decorated hallway of classrooms. On the left were bathrooms, a boy's and girl's. They didn't have doors but open hallways that made you turn a corner.


Heth locked all three doors. A flimsy defense, he knew, but he also knew they would check the other door first. They'd see the landmine he'd left for them and they'd assume this door was similarly fortified but they just couldn't see it. The power of ignorance.

"Sad to say this is where we part ways." Mrs. Leften sobbed and a few kids joined her. "Don't get dramatic now." He whispered against her neck. "All I'm going to do is leave a few of your charges with my friends here. Let the rest of us get to know each other better. Keep it cozy. That sound alright?" He pressed against her back and leaned his head over her shoulder. "Alright?" She sniffled and nodded.


Hank kept his gun on the group while Heth walked down the line. When he found a kid he wanted. he put his hand on their head and pulled them away from the pack. Reminded Stanley of watching duck-duck-goose. He noticed Heth was picking the older kids, the tall, gawky, generally less adorable. He chose a dark-haired boy in a red shirt to lead the line down into the boy's bathroom.


"Now you two stay here and watch them and these doors." Heth said, looking directly at Stanley when he said it. "Oh, yeah, before I forget." He reached into the seemingly endless pockets of his knee-length coat. "Take a grenade." He handed one to each of them. Stan didn't want to touch the thing but then Heth tossed it underhand and took want out of the equation. "If there's any trouble, I'll give you the word and you pull out the pin, count to three, and toss those into that bathroom." Ms. Toad started to cry quietly.

"What?!" Stan couldn't help himself.

"Stanley." Heth gave him an even look. "The rest of the class and I will be right down that hall. In shouting distance. Now I need both of you to be calm and know that I trust your judgment."


With that Heth pushed the rest of the class down the hall, leaving the pair of would-be bank robbers to stare and wonder. Their destination was the largest classroom in the building. It was a science lab. The teacher's desk sat just to the left of the door in front of a pair of dry erase boards. A black topped counter covered in a nearly impossible amount of containers and broken in places by sinks lined the left hand wall and turned the corner before giving way to large windows opened by the twist of a handle. Dark green cabinets covered every bit of available wall space. There was even a chemical shower in the corner by the door.


"Perfect." Heth said, enjoying the view. "Alright, kids you all go sit against the counter. Indian-style, you know how. Be neat about it, don't make Missus Leften worry." It took a minute for the kids to get sat and settled against the left wall. Some kids that truly didn't understand their situation complained about having to sit next to this kid or that kid. "Now I'm guessing both of you have a bad back." Heth said to Mr. Green and Ms. Toad. They nodded. "Get a chair and sit in that corner right in front of the kids. Keep your hands on your knees and don't move them for any reason. I mean any." They immediately complied.


"This is cozy isn't it?" Heth asked no one. He hopped up on a desk and let his rifle sit across his lap. Mrs. Leften kept her spot standing in front of him. Her chest heaved and occasionally her entire body shuddered. "I get that you're scared so I'm going to explain the situation to you. Understanding vanquishes fear, right? My friends and I have run into some trouble and we need a little help getting out of it. You guys don't mind helping, do you? You all look like good helpers." He watched the kids stare and a few nodded. "So what we're going to do is wait for the police to get set up and then I'm going to show them something. All you have to do to be good little helpers is sit right there. Then a few of us are going to go on a little field trip. Missus Leften will chaperone this trip. Now I'm not going to lie. You guys don't lie, right? No, you're all good boys and girls. This may be a long ride but after you get to go home and tell your mommies and daddies all about your adventure."

"You sick bastard." Mr. Green didn't even know he was saying it. He had thought it so loudly that it slipped out of his mouth. Heth looked into his eyes. Held the contact longer than strangers should before looking down at his rifle.

"I realize how inconvenient all this must be. I do, sincerely. And I realize I have no right to impose all of this upon you but," he stroke the trigger ever so gently, "this rifle holds fifty rounds. Rounds chambered in seven-sixty-two, full metal jacket. Now I spent six rounds on a police officer not a whole ten minutes ago. Another three can be found in the chest of your Deputy Riggs."

"You shot Denny?" Ms. Toad asked. Her voice was hoarse from silent crying. Heth thought it more befitting her appearance.

"I killed Denny." He corrected, her crying grew hysterical.

"He was a good man." Mr. Green said, staring at his hands.

"Everyone was a good person, no one ever is." Heth looked back to his gun. "So that leaves forty-one rounds. Enough to shoot all of you. Some of you twice. Full metal round will go straight through bone. Straight through a body sometimes, I've seen it happen."

"Do you really think you're going to just walk away from this?" Mr. Green demanded, eyes still on his hands.

"But, aside from shoot you, here's what I'll do if any of you try anything I find unseemly." Heth paused and looked around him. He walked over to the desk and picked up an ancient and clunky microscope. "I'll take this and cave one of these kid's skulls in and I'll make sure you live long enough to see every second of it."

"I have to go to the bathroom." A tiny black girl pleaded.

"Hold it or wet yourself."

"But it's a number two."

"Second verse same as the first."


"Ever play the quiet game?"


What had to be the most intense round of the quiet game in this school's history ensued. The only non-participant was Heth who was humming to himself. Mrs. Leften wasn't sure but it sounded like the tune to "The Sweet By and By." He watched the cars speed by on the road, smiled slightly when he saw another squad car pull into the lot. He could faintly hear the sirens. Checked his watch and decided now was as good a time as any. Pull out his prepaid and dialed the number to the main office, put it on speaker.


"Yes?" A man's voice, deep and scratchy, answered.

"That's no way to answer the phone, officer." Heth reprimanded. "I'm right, right?"

"Who is this?"

"This is a well-armed man sitting in a classroom filled with kids." He winked at the students. "Who is this?"

"This is Lieutenant Jimenez. And you should know we have the entire grounds surrounded and that if you walk out now-"

"I'll stop you right there, Jimenez, we've all seen this movie. And I know you don't nearly have the grounds surrounded or else I'd be looking right at you."

"There's only more cars on the way, along with best damn SWAT team in the state. How many men do you have?"

"It's how many children I have that you should be worried about."

"Now listen here you will n-" Heth rolled his eyes.

"Clearly you're more of a talker than a listener." The murderer said. "And I'll guess the negotiator isn't on the scene as you're still on the line, giving me the business. But that's just fine, we don't need one. Because, you see, this is not a negotiation. Your boys puzzle out where we are?"

"They're performing an extensive search of the grounds and they'll find you and what-"

"Okay, neato, but we're all cozied up in the elementary building."

"We already figured as much." Jimenez said in a tone that led Heth to believe he was meant to be impressed with the statement.

"Yeah, well, tell your boys not to jiggle those chains too much. Actually, it'd be best to knock first. But why don't we just get right on down to business? What I need you to do, Lieutenant Jimenez is-"

"That's not how this works." Jimenez barked. Heth took a long breath.

"That's exactly how this works." Heth's voice was the devil's itself. "Why don't you just ask Missus Leften?" He held the phone by her face. "Go on, don't be rude."

"Please, officer." The teacher said, her voice thick with tears she wouldn't let fall. "He has a gun. So many guns and he keeps looking at the children like-" She paused to take a shaky breath. "And he's going to kill us. He said it. Said he would b-ba..." she sobbed, "bash the kids' heads in." She started to cry and bit her lip.

"Got a comeback for that one?" Heth asked. "Thought you wouldn't. Now I need you to come over here and take a look at something. It's a surprise but don't try to guess, that just ruins it. Come over to the south side, that's the side facing the little two lane road back here, the one with the big windows, yeah. Oh, and keep a reasonable distance. I'm sure you know that but a reminder never hurt anyone. Call me back as soon as you're in position."


Heth hung up and led Mrs. Leften over to the kids. He scanned the line up and down a few times before settling on a cute little redhead with freckles and curls.

"I love My Little Pony." Heth said, nodding at her T-shirt covered entirely with colorful anime ponies. "My favorite one's Pretty Pies."

"You mean Pinkie Pie?" The girl asked.

"Probably. Want to lend me a hand, sweetness?"

"No, don't do this. I'll do anything you want. Anything, I mean it, just leave her alone." Mrs. Leften pleaded. Heth used his rifle to push her into her fellow educators. When she tried to step back he pushed the barrel into her cheek until she sat on the floor, indian-style.

"What do I need to do?" The girl asked.

"Not much." Heth tightened the strap on his rifle to keep it in place. He took the girl's tiny hand in his own and pulled out his sidearm. "Just walk with me to the other side of the room." He led her toward the windows. He turned his head to be sure the teachers saw him raise his gun and put it to the back of her head. He'd like to think he'd already made himself perfectly clear but some people had trouble keeping perspective where fear was involved.


He hopped onto the windowsill and opened it. He could see two squad cars cutting furrows into the lawn, turning sharply to a stop so that the driver's side doors were away from the school. Two fair-skinned officers stepped out along with a dark skinned mustache of a man whom Heth accurately guessed was Jimenez. Heth pulled the little girl into his lap, so that she mostly covered him and bounced his knee a little to keep her entertained. A second or so after the police squatted behind their cars, Heth's phone rang. He answered, put it on speaker and set it beside him.


"What is it?" Jimenez demanded, anger and other things fighting to control the pitch of his voice.

"Straight to the point and I commend you for it. So I know you haven't had time to get any snipers into position out there. Don't waste time denying it, this girl doesn't have any left to waste. But you have binoculars in your cruiser, yeah?"


"Well, pull 'em out, man, want to make sure you see every bit of this." Heth saw movement on the other side of the cars and watched it carefully. Retrieved his gun and put it against Red's ribs just in case.

"I've got them." Jimenez said. Heth could see him standing upright now, still on the other side of his cruiser, with glints where his eyes should be.

"Okay." Heth holstered his sidearm. "Don't blink." He slid a grenade out of one of the pouches in his belt. He held it high so it could be seen clearly. Then he pulled out the pin and threw it out the window, kept a tight grip on the rest. One of the women, couldn't say which screamed, and Mr. Green beseeched the Lord for mercy. "So there you have it. You try anything cute. Try to sharpshoot me. Try to breach. Any of that call of duty nonsense and I will drop this grenade. This lever with detach. Half these kids will be paste, the other half otherwise injured and scarred for life." Some of the kids finally caught on and started crying. "And if you decide these children do, in fact, deserve to die, I've got friends, also with grenades. They've got kids herded into the bathrooms. An explosion in a concrete box. Think about that." Heth wished he'd brought binoculars just to see the look on Lt. Jimenez's face.

"What do you want?" Heth smiled at the crack in the cop's voice.

"I want a school bus fully fueled and ready to go. I want traffic well out of our way so that we can make it to the one-eighteen. Before you get any bright ideas, these kids will be riding with us. And this grenade will still be in my hand. I won't be putting it down, right? If the bus so much as rattles I'll drop it. If a car that looks funny tries to merge, I'll drop it. You see where this is going right?"

"You expect me to believe you'll just kill yourself along with those kids?" A little cackle had returned to Jimenez. Heth imagined him saying I have you now in a James Earl Jones voice.

"I've never expected anyone to believe anything. That's how belief works, right? But I do expect you to understand that my perception of death and yours are two very different things." There were oceans shallower than the conviction in Heth's voice. "Now, if I was you, I'd go ahead and get a jump on that. You can wait for the SWAT or the federales, turn this into a proper standoff, but keep in mind that my grip may very well falter. Don't call us, we'll call you." With that Heth hung up and turned off his phone. "I think that went really well." Heth told the little girl. "How about you?"

"I don't know." She said.

"Sure you do." Heth said. "Alright, get up and go join you classmates."


Heth watched the cops spin their gears for a while longer before closing the window. He moved over with his hostages and pulled up his own chair. The teachers stared at the grenade in his hand, quickly averting their eyes when his would come around. They wondered how strong his grip was. Both on the grenade and his own damned sanity. The kids were whispering, some were crying, some proclaimed they were scared. Heth reminded them gently that they were playing the quiet game and that he didn't like rule breakers. Not a bit.


"It'll probably take them some time to get our little field trip ready." Heth glanced toward the windows. "How about a story? Silence is a terrible way to pass the time, right? You guys want to hear a story?" The teachers cursed and prayed under their breath. Most of the kids wouldn't look at him, the other half shook their head. "No? Well, I'm going to tell you anyway." He beamed at them without teeth.

"It really all started back when I was in Elementary School. Yeah, just like you guys. The school wasn't as nice as this one but my hometown is nowhere near as nice as this one, either. Actually, this whole elementary and middle school together bit is a new one for me. Must help with the transition, though, huh?" Nobody was sure who he was asking and so no one responded. "Anyway. In those days I was a very heavy child. I ate a lot of candies. Pop-tarts every morning along with the most sugary of cereals. Sometimes I'd even drop another scoop of sugar in there. You guys do that? Add a little sugar?" Red nodded. "My parents did not instill nutritional values in me. People say blaming my parents is just an excuse but I was just a kid. I didn't understand the concept of fat or insulin, all I understood was that blueberry pop-tarts covered in sour patch kids are delicious. They didn't instill proper dental hygeine in me, either. Truth be told my parents weren't around to instill much of anything in me. You couldn't cram me into a pipe and smoke me so I wasn't worth the time, obviously. But, yeah, my teeth were all yellow and crooked and jagged. I've got new teeth now, though, see." He smiled broadly to show them his perfect pearls.


"But back then they were awful which means I deserved to be insulted, right? What else could it mean? On a daily basis. Hourly basis, half-hourly basis, whichever. Snaggletooth was a common one. I know, not very clever but we were just kids. Fatty, of course, and all the variations thereof." Heth paused for what looked like a silent laugh. "There was this one guy in particular. You all know this guy, you've known dozens of this guy. In fact I see a couple of him right in this room. He was the biggest and his parents were divorced so that gave him the right to do or say whatever he wanted, of course. His name was Taylor. He bothered everyone, guys like him do such things, but I was a special project. He was always coining new terms, at the cutting edge of being a bully. One he loved to call me was hunchback. All my excess mass really did a number on my posture, you see. Really I was just a bit more stooped than the others, quite a bit south of being an actual hunchback but he was very proud of it." This time Heth chuckled audibly. "The crazy part? He was just as heavy as I was. If not heavier. No, definitely heavier. His posture was also terrible, nigh-scoliosis, but he was just so much taller and broader. Evened him out."


"Needless to say I didn't have many friends. Or any. Even after I left elementary behind I'd built up such a guard that I hardly talked to anyone. Taylor was there year after year. Though I was granted a few reprieves in high school when he was suspended. Then, one day, he was just gone. Nobody said where he went. Nobody mentioned him at all. It was almost like he never existed. But he had. I was proof of that." Heth smiled the smile of a storyteller who knew the good part was coming up. "Years and years went by as they tend to. I shaved all that weight off, got my new chompers, cut my hair different, the whole nine as someone said. One night I was walking down the street. I remembered having a real skip in my step, don't remember why, though. And who would be walking down the street, heading my way? Why, it was Taylor, who else would it possibly be?"


"He wasn't half the giant he used to be. He was just another skeleton with skin pulled across, bloodshot eyes ready to pop out, scabs that had been picked far too many times dotting his fesh. He smiled when he saw me, called out my name, jogged up to meet me. I'll be honest it took me more than a second to process what was happening." Heth shook his head. "I realized, then that he hadn't thought about the way he treated me for a second. Not once in all this time. In his mind I was just another old acquaintance, a former classmate. But I'd thought about him. Every time I tried to start a conversation but couldn't find the words." He scanned the crowd to make sure no one was taking advantage of story time. He was surprised to find all eyes on him, though they immediately looked away. "We went through the usual pleasantries but he wasted no time asking me if I could find some horse. That's heroin, kids. I've never used drugs in my life and have no intention to. I could have told him that. Sent him on his way. But instead I said of course and follow me."

"I led him on a decent hike, his voice buzzing in my ear all the while trying to play catch up. I noticed he didn't mention my past as a snaggletoothed, hunchbacked, retarded, fatass. I waited until we were a few miles into the wrong neighborhood. I really can't think of a way to convey it to you tads. It was a very bad place filled with very bad people, including the two of us." Heth stared at his right hand for a time. "I waited until we were under a streetlamp then I turned around and shot him in the head. Hit him right here." Heth pointed to a space just above his left eyebrow. "Funny enough, he didn't die right away. He laid there for a few minutes just rattling around, eyes rolling back into his head, odd grunts that may've been supposed to be words. I squatted down beside him and covered his mouth and nose, just helped him along his way. He died with eighty dollars, a half empty pack of marlboro menthols and a gas station lighter in his pocket. I stayed there for a second, looking into his empty eyes and watching everything that once was Taylor ooze out of the back of his head."


"Then I was struck with an epiphany. From the very first second I met him, Taylor was dead. Our story, Taylor's and mine, had its beginning and middle and then its end. That first time Taylor made fun of the way my face looked, he was practicing to catch that bullet. As soon as something's beginning is determined, so to is its end. The middle is all just a comedy too clever to be funny. So I leave you with this thought, when I walked into this school today did I walk into your middle or your end?"


Stanley had to peel the damn ski mask off his face just about. The cool air turned his face into a sheet of ice but it didn't bring any relief. He tried to wipe some of the sweat off with the mask but it was far too soaked already. Couldn't imagine how it must have been for Hank with that thick beard of his and stringy hair that covered his ears, matted to his face now. They'd both reached the conclusion to pull off their masks without speaking. Tried to remember how to breathe.


Stanley didn't know what to say all he knew is that there was plenty to say. He found himself just staring at Hank, Hank avoiding his eye. Kept walking back into the bathroom and checking on the kids. They were all sitting in the floor, apparently as Heth left them. They would stop whispering as soon as they heard Stan's boot hit the tiles, making him nervous. The grenade was starting to feel heavy in his hand. Hank said it was safe, told him to put it in his pocket. But Stanley would be damned if he was going to put an explosive in his pocket.


"Stop looking at me like chat, God dammit." Hank finally said. "This ain't on me. You can't put this on me."

"This ain't on you?!" Stanley couldn't help but shout. Took a breath. "You said this wouldn't be a problem. All I've heard for the last two weeks was that when were going to get paid. Not just enough to get by but really live with. Remember that? Remember how no one was supposed to get hurt?"

"Well, both of those things was supposed to happen wasn't they?" Hank snorted and shook his head. "A cop in the bank. I can't remember any jackboy, meth-head or tweaker dumb enough to run into something like that. And, y'know what? We're lucky Heth ain't said nothing about it, yet. Be damn lucky if he never did."

"Heth." Stanley ground his teeth. He'd been trying to stop, felt like he was going to file the things down to nubs if he kept on. "How the fu-" Realized he was yelling again and caught himself. "Why would you ever even want to be in the same room as a guy like that?"

"Hey, now, Heth's always done right by me." Hank said. Stanley's expression could only be described as stupefied, felt like slapping the stupid out of that sentence. "Before all this, I mean. And, hell, he's doing right by us now. We ain't arrested is we?"

"No, we're in a school with grenades in our hands."

"Mine's in my pocket." Stan wondered what an annuerism felt like. "All I'm saying is if he didn't have this here plan we'd be in nine man playing spades for honey buns by now."

"If we'd left as soon as we saw the cop, we'd be home by now. Les'd be, too. What was in those boxes?" Hank shook his head. Stanley had a thought. "Did you know about this? Your boy Heth tell you plan B was a grade school massacre?"

"What?" Hank couldn't believe what he just heard. "How the- What? How the hell you gonna ask me something like chat? Like we ain't known each other our whole damned lives? You think I like this -BLAM!-? 'Cause I don't, not a squirt, but we've got to deal with it."

"Or we can dip out now." Stan said, Hank immediately shook his head. "The cops are busy with his crazy ass. Sneak out the side, run through the woodline, jack a car at the Target and we're gone."

"How you think Heth'll take chat?" Hank asked. "Hmm? Don't think he'll like it."

"Let the cops take care of him. -BLAM!-'s sake, guy like that probably loves prison."

"Well, he doesn't and what if this works?" Stanley was exasperated. "I know it's just 'bout unthinkable and before you say it, no I'm not throwing no grenade at no damn kids. But what kind of cop is going to risk that? More important, you want to risk crossing Heth? I know I damn sure don't. So let's just ride this out, see where it goes, and do what crazy ass says."

"Damn it, Hank. Just damn it, damn it, dammit, dammit."


They heard the sound of a metal door creaking open behind them, heard a girl shout for someone to stop. Stanley whipped around just in time to see a red shirt disappear through the threshold. His first instinct was just to let the kid go but the thought Hank planted in his head whispered, what if it works? How would Heth take it?

"Go, man!" Hank shouted.


Stanley wanted to ask him why he couldn't go but instead he cursed at the top of his lungs and ran through the door. As soon as he set foot on the cracked sidewalk, he heard, well, he heard a clap of thunder. Close, too. Close enough to make his ears ring, make all his hair stand on end. Like it was just around the corner. Was certain he heard a boy's wail drowned in the sound. Christ almighty did that boy just get struck by lightning? Looked up and didn't see a cloud in the sky.


Not sure what to think, Stanley hopped off the sidewalk and ran around the corner, nearly tripped all over himself. He didn't see the boy in the red shirt. What he did see was a man. A very tall and wide man. Easily six-six, with a sixty inch chest, and arms that made trees look tiny. He had dark hair whipped back and piercing eyes. Was dressed completely in red and gold, what had to be a lightning bolt was blazened across his chest. A short white cape covered one arm.


"H-ho-holy -BLAM!-." Stanley's mouth just dangled open. "Are," he swallowed, "are you Superman?" Captain Marvel grinned broadly and shook his head. "Well." Stanley tried to pull himself back together. "You get the hell out of here!" Raised his pistol. "If you don't I'll sh-" The World's Mightiest Mortal turned into a red blur. Stan felt something he wouldn't have doubted to be the hand of God grab the front of his coat. The next second he was off his feet, the schoolhouse shrinking beneath him.


The Speed of Mercury carried them heavenward. Stanley's scream was forced back down into his throat. He lost his gun and grenade somewhere in the ascension. Probably not long after he completely lost his wits. All he could see was the Captain's grin or endless blue swirling everywhere around him. They came to a sudden stop, just standing on nothingness. Stanley looked down and wished he hadn't. The school was at least ten stories below. He felt himself get light headed, forgot how to breathe, his heart was beating too fast.


"You were saying?" Captain Marvel asked, voice resonant yet somehow soothing. Stan stared at the hero, lip quivering like a schoolboy, chest heaving. He made a yelping noise that was meant to be a shout before his eyes rolled back into his head and he went limp in Marvel's hands. They were back on the schoolgrounds in the next second. Captain Marvel held Stanley's unconscious form in one hand like he was a pillow. With one firm press of his foot, the steel door fell completely off its hinges.


Hank turned his head just in time to see his friend flying through the air, felt Stan's bony shoulder slam into his chest. The impact knocked him completely off his feet and the gun from his hand. He landed flat on his back and his wind left him in a rush. Stanley's body pinned him down but he couldn't move regardless. Something was broken, had to be. The worst pain he ever felt echoed through his chest. It tripled when Captain Marvel put a knee in Stanley's back. Hank looked up at the hero with wide and helpless eyes. Watched him curl his index finger behind his thumb, lean down and hold it by his temple. Then, he let it go. The thump hit Hank like a crowbar and he lost consciousness on impact.


Marvel doubted they'd be getting up any time soon but grabbed their guns just to be safe. The Strength of Hercules made metal feel more like paper in his hands and he literally ripped the weapons down to the tiniest pieces he could. The Wrath of Zeus hammered in his chest as he flew down the hallway. The door to the lab was locked but Marvel gave it a light push with his palm and the mechanism immediately snapped, hinges groaned and the door just swung open.


Heth jumped out of his chair so fast it fell to the ground with a crash. He immediately stood in front of his hostages, grenade outstretched and ready to drop. Captain Marvel took a a long step in but stopped in the doorway, fists at his hips and chest swelled. As soon as Heth saw him he laughed. It wasn't anything mocking or manical or cold but a genuine, heart-felt belly laugh.


"The Big Red Cheese." He said, wiping a tear from his eye. "Did not expect to see any of your kind here. I should be flattered, I suppose. But." His smile faded. "I'm not."

"Just give it up, Heth." Captain Marvel ordered. "Hand me that grenade, drop your weapons, and step outside with your hands up."

Heth took a deep breath, made a face like he was mulling it over. Exhaled in a rush against his closed lips, making them flutter with a funny sound accompanying the motion. "No." And with that he tossed the live grenade onto the little MLP fan's lap.


Heth took off for the door. Captain Marvel turned into a red blur. They crossed paths in the middle and the momentum nearly knocked Heth off his feet. Caught himself on a desk and pushed off through the door. Marvel grabbed the grenade and jump through the window, shattering it. Lt. Jimenez dropped his binoculars and his jaw, staring at the World's Mightiest Mortal flying over his head. As soon as he was clear of the school he threw the grenade up as hard as he could. Didn't stay to watch the fireworks.


He flew back into the room and paused just long enough to make sure all the kids were unharmed. They cheered and laughed and applauded, the teachers thanked God. Captain Marvel didn't stay to bask in their praise, he was flying down the hallway the next second. Turned the corner a second later, just in time to see Heth tossing another grenade into the bathroom. He thought of Mary and Freddy. Followed the grenade while Heth ran through the doorway Marvel himself had emptied not two minutes ago.


The grenade echoed through the entire school as it hit the blue tiles of the bathroom floor. The kids all screamed and cursed and fell over each other trying to run away. Captain Marvel nearly slammed into the quickest of the children as he dashed in. The Courage of Achilles forced his hand. He seized the grenade with both hands, ran into the stall and bolted the door behind him. Held the explosive against his chest and tightened his body into the smallest ball he could, his back to the door.


The children screamed and gasped at the muffled explosion. The stall's door whined as it fell to the ground. The Stamina of Atlas preserved Captain Marvel, maybe a hair was out of place. He flew out of the building before the kids could even process what had happened. As much as he liked a good game, this was not the kind he liked to play. Decided to end it. He flew above the school and saw Heth sprinting off toward the woodline beside the school. Away from the parking lot, the road, and all the police officers waiting for him.


Captain Marvel landed directly in Heth's path and brought the murdering to a grinding halt. He didn't waste a millisecond grabbing another grenade and throwing it. Marvel caught and tossed it high, high into the air above them. Heth had shouldered his rifle as soon as the grenade left his hand. He fired a long burst at Captain Marvel's chest but the mighty mortal was at his side the instant the bullet left the gun. He seized the rifle by its silencer and put his fist through the side of its barrel.


Heth immediately let the destroyed gun go and jumped back, already drawing his sidearm. If you asked him, he wouldn't be able to tell you what his plan was for besting the Big Red Cheese. But he couldn't go down without a fight, right? The gun roared out two shots before Captain Marvel grabbed the barrel and gave it a squeezed, crushing it. Heth swore one shot had to've hit home in the hero's midsection but it didn't seem to bother him.


Heth let Captain Marvel keep the gun and reached for his knife. He was bested on the first stab, Marvel catching the blade between his index and middle fingers and twisting his hand to snap the blade clean off. Heth threw the hilt aside and reached for the pins of two grenades on his belt. Captain Marvel decided enough was enough. All Heth could see was red and gold swirling around him, felt his body getting pulled in a dozen different directions at once.


When the whirlwind stopped, Heth was standing there in just his t-shirt and jeans. Captain Marvel held all his weapons and explosives balled up in his big coat. "Not bad." Heth said, wagging a finger at the hero. Marvel responded by punching him in the gut. Saliva and a bit of blood expelled from his mouth as he bowled over. Hadn't meant to punch him that hard but he figured that Heth could take it.


"Just one more thing." Captain Marvel said, seizing Heth by the scruff of his neck and flying back into the building. He stopped in front of the chained door. The Wisdom of Solomon guided Marvel's hands as he disarmed the mine. Then he snapped the lock off with one hand and snatched the chain free. Dropped Heth on his belly and used the chain to hog tie the man. Took a second to double check his handiwork, standing in his typical pose, before flying out in search of a place to call down Zeus' Power. He had a lot of homework to do.


When Billy Batson returned to school the next day it was all anyone could talk about and would be for quite some time. The kids that had been in the bathroom asked him what had happened after he tried to run, told them a story about how the bad guys had caught him but Captain Marvel showed up just in the nick of time. Mary and Freddy grinned knowingly at him every time he told it. Captain Marvel occasionally got letters from the State Penitentiary, mailed to the Hall of Justice and forwarded to him by a disgruntled Bat. Heth seemed pretty sure he'd be free any day now and that he would find a way to kill him and soon.


All Billy could think to say to that was, "Shazam!"


So be honest with yourself and the internet, who saw it coming?


Warned for swearing.


#405296 SSLF Monthly Writing Challenge!

Posted by Semiautomagic on 02 June 2013 - 07:53 PM


Pretty sure if you google 'word count' you could find something online that'd let you copy + paste into it for the word count.

Lol, right after that post I did exactly that and found one immediately. Thanks for looking out, though.

#405280 SSLF Monthly Writing Challenge!

Posted by Semiautomagic on 02 June 2013 - 04:01 PM

Now this one sounds great, I'll get started on my entry right now. I've got a neat idea that's bounced around my head for a while but I've never done anything with it. Haven't even thought about it really but it'll be perfect. Maybe something a bit different than you had in mind for poison but I'm sure you'll all enjoy it. The only thing is that word limit. Idunno if you've ever read any of my writerings but I tend to ramble. Quite a bit. =P I need one of those word processors that counts your words for you. All I have right now is Wordpad. Ah, well.


Also, El Taco, I'm a bit of a reader. And a handful of people round hereaparts think I'm good at this whole writing thing so I'll be happy to be a judge. Obviously, I can't do it this month but whenever I'm not participating and you need a hand just send me a message. My internet is a bit spotty so I can't be on everyday but I can read pretty fast and I have this very rare ability to think while I read instead of staring at perty words. =P

#403751 Harry Monster's Monstrous Sketchbook: In Glorious Technicolor!

Posted by Semiautomagic on 12 May 2013 - 12:00 PM

First of all. Been a long time Harry. How ya doing, how's your family? Second, really pretty pictures. Been flipping through these pages for a while now so I can't really even remember where to start. =P I'll settle for you've definitely gotten better and you were filthy good to begin with so there's that. Good stuff. I'll come back when I have something else to say.

#403646 Batman: Arkham Origins

Posted by Semiautomagic on 11 May 2013 - 04:51 AM

Well. All I can say is they had me at Deathstroke. Especially if they get Ron Perlman.


It really does sound pretty good. We actually get to go to Gotham. Side quests are back and joined by new kinds of side quests. I'm a sucker for side quests. And it looks like they aren't just doing the Joker again. I'm a Joker fan and all but he isn't Batman's only villain. Guy's got lots of those. Months ago when I heard it was a prequel I just thought it was another Joker story but I guess not.


Eve if this isn't Rocksteady good, I'll probably still get it. Like Ocelot said, beating up guys as Batman is fun and there aren't enough opportunities to do so.

#328416 He is altering the films

Posted by Semiautomagic on 30 August 2011 - 11:14 PM

Dude...I have, so don't make it sound Like I haven;t I just find funny you guys get ALL CRITICAL ABOUT THINGS LIKE THIS, can't you just enjoy it and move on..

Have you really? Then tell me, who shot first?

I just noticed this topic didn't have a "who shot first" joke and felt the need to oblige. =P As for the actual topic at hand. Well, I'm not surprised. Some people feel the need to preserve the integrity of their past work, especially works that have made them considerably wealthy and built up their reputation. George Lucas does not.

#317818 UNCHARTED: A thief's end to a series he didn't create

Posted by Semiautomagic on 08 July 2011 - 03:14 AM

You know, looking at that picture with Dub-N's hair like that and that bit of stubble I reallly don't get when people say he doesn't look like Nate. That's pretty spot-on, in my opinion. He's got the slight makings of a double chin but that's because he's a real guy and not a vidja game man. I know he'll probably never even be considered for the movie but still, I'm just realizing how extensive the resemblance really is.

Moving on. I really need to put some more time on that Beta. I think the main reason I haven't been fiddling with it is because I want to play the single player before bothering with the other. I beat the living hell out of Uncharted 2 before even considering multiplayer. I did a normal playthrough, a hard playthrough, a second hard playthrough using the cheat code dealies (why buy 'em if I never use 'em, right?) and then Crushing before I got on multiplayer. Also there's the fact that the Beta is ultimately incomplete. We've got 'til November before the full game, this just feels like a tease more than anything. I am going to try to get on some this weekend, if only because Fate asked so nicely. ;)

#317248 Creepy Uncharted fan-fic scene type thing

Posted by Semiautomagic on 05 July 2011 - 08:02 AM

Nice scene, definitely. As everyone has said, you definitely have the characterization down but that's expected from the Queen of Uncharted. I could picture it perfectly, voices, inflections, everything. The atmosphere reminded me a bit of the bunker from the first just because of the creepiness. Very well written and interesting, I'm sure no one would mind if you built on this. I've got to admit, though, having werewolves in Uncharted just sort of rubs me the wrong way. Not sure why after the Spaniards and the Guardian from both games but it's just odd to me. But if anyone could pull that off it would be you.


Posted by Semiautomagic on 28 May 2011 - 03:11 AM

Muppets make the movie about 20% cooler, but that only makes it's overall coolness about 3%

Scratch that, I don't even want to think about this movie

Posted Image

This movie could star Megan Fox playing all the main character roles in a grotesque fat suit and the Muppets would still make it awesome. Well, maybe not. Point is muppets are great and I am excited.

#305334 Justified

Posted by Semiautomagic on 02 May 2011 - 10:24 PM

Argh cliffhangers! Who's the new creepy old lady who convinced what's-his-face to recant his confession? Is she Grandma Bennett, Mag's even more terrifying mother we haven't heard anything about? I must know!

His name was either Jeb or Jed. It was hard to tell, though, because I swear Dickie pronounced it different each time. Now that you say something, I have no idea why I didn't give that a second thought. I just thought she was a random proxy the Bennetts used to send a message or a granny hitman or something. That certainly is a thought, though.

Another thing from the new episode I forgot to point out. Jeremy Davies is without question the best cryer on this show. He went straight infantile, blubbering over his words until you couldn't understand a thing. I thought DONTCHOOHURTMAHBROTHARAYLAN was gold. Give that man an award.

#301561 Justified

Posted by Semiautomagic on 17 April 2011 - 08:22 AM

Bo tried to saw him in half by means of shotgun in the season finale because he told Boyd about the truck. Did it right outside Ava's door with her own shotgun to frame her but, well, they didn't end well for him at all.

#287424 Glorified

Posted by Semiautomagic on 06 February 2011 - 08:49 AM

I meant for this next to part to stretch all the way to their arrival in Caltha but decided to repurpose as an introduction to one of the major characters, or deuteragonist of sorts, Nikias. The next part will cover the arrival in Caltha and the start of the tournament. That's where the story really picks up. Along with the action. So red, let me know what you think, and enjoy.

Part II: Nikias

Blandus awoke before the sun, his eyes slowly fluttering open to behold the blackness that had overtaken his bedroom. He was lying naked, fairly sprawled across his mattress with his quilts awkwardly covering him, straining decency in places. The straw from his mattress poked into his bare skin in places, making him yearn for the father mattress he had once had. He had traded it from some manner of nobleman who passed through the village but just as quickly gave it away to the oldest woman in Caelius The first thing he became aware of was that he was alone. He wasn’t surprised, his darling Aemelia always seemed to awake before him. She’d go awaken their children and get them ready for the day, then she’d try to make whatever semblance of a meal that she could for her husband. If he still was still asleep by the time she was done with all of that, she’d wake him with a kiss and a smile, something he always found preferable to breakfast. The second thing he noticed was just how very tired he was, though he knew he had only himself to blame for that.

With a yawn that made him sound much older than he would’ve cared for, Blandus arose from his bed. He saw that the tub in the corner of his room had been filled with fresh water, steam still rising from it. He wasted no time moving toward, cleaning himself as best he could while the warmth of the water soothed his tired muscles. Once satisfied that he was as clean as he could hope to be, Blandus dressed himself in the finest clothes he boasted. He wore a cotton shirt or pure white under dark vestments with a matching pair of trousers, along with his tattered leather riding boots. Fully prepared for his journey, Blandus exited his bedroom and stepped into the main room of his home. An oval-shaped wooden table much older than he rested in the center with five chairs, which were just as old, surrounding it. He could see Aemelia rummaging through the cupboards in what amounted to their kitchen. He occupied his customary seat at the head of table quietly, admiring his wife in silence.

A few minutes passed before Aemelia turned around and saw her husband watching her. With a broad smile, she walked to the table with a cup of water in one hand and the remainder of a loaf of bread in the other. She set both down in front of Blandus, taking a moment to knock some dust away from his glass, before sparing him a long kiss that reminded him of the passion they shared last night. Aemelia took her customary seat at Blandus’ right hand and allowed her husband to eat in silence. The bread was old, already well on its way to going stale but it had to contract mold. Blandus considered that a blessing as he bit into the bread. Some days he began with a nice, hot meal and others began even worse than this. As long as his family didn’t starve, however, Blandus was grateful. He took his time with what little food he had, knowing Aemelia would berate him like a child for eating too quickly. He stood as soon as he was finished and Aemelia quickly cleaned the table.

“All of the village is waiting for you.” Aemelia told her husband, leading him toward the door. “Aulus made all the arrangements.” Blandus only nodded at his wife’s words as the pair made their way through the village. “Everyone’s been frantic gathering together what supplies they could for you and Crispus. You’d think you were crossing the Jagged Edge.” She smiled dimly at her humor. “I certainly hope it won’t be so dangerous.”
“There are no mountains where I’m going, love.” Blandus assured her.
“A man can kill as ably as any mountain.” She reminded. “And Caltha has never been a safe place what with all the rioting and the thievery and the whores and-” Blandus’ laugh cut Aemelia off.
“I’m well aware, Aulus and I have been there many times.” He rethought the statement as he felt his wife’s eyes on him. “Not for the whores, of course.” She shook her head.
“I know you’re aware of the dangers and I trust that you will keep yourself whole but…” Aemelia paused to fret at her lip, staring forward. “You’re a very good man, Blandus. The best I’ve known and it would be easy for someone to take advantage of you.”
“My mother said the same when I agreed to marry you.” Blandus said with a chuckle, earning himself an even look from his wife. “You needn’t worry, love.” He punctuated his statement by kissing Aemelia’s cheek. “The thought of what you’d do to me should I perish is enough to keep me alive.”

In spite of herself, Aemelia laughed at her husband which brought a smile to the man’s face. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close as they walked the remaining distance. All of the people of Caelius had gathered around the outskirts nearest Caltha. Two horses stood restlessly at the head of the crowd, one pure white while the other was a mixture of brown and black. Both were well equipped for the journey, their saddlebags packed with various supplies. They were undoubtedly the best horses in the village. Which didn’t speak much to their ability, Caelius was home to only a handful of horses and donkeys. Crispus stood with one hand on the brown steed’s hide, beaming proudly at the crowd. Aulus was at his son’s side and speaking frantically to the younger man, no doubt attempting to impart some last minute wisdom that Crispus was content to ignore. Blandus saw Aulus’ old sword from his days as an Imperial soldier sheathed at the horse’s side along with a shield.

The crowd grew silent and parted as Blandus approached, allowing him to take his place at Crispus’ side. Aemelia remained under her husband’s arm until he placed a hand on his steed’s leg, prompting her to move to the front of the crowd. Blandus took a moment to examine his horse before turning back to the people of Caelius. His people. He looked into their eyes, reading the conflicted emotions that raged behind them. Hope and fear intermingled with indignation and pride. The latter dashing to the forefront of their gaze when they locked eyes with their leader. A man willing to fight the oppression that had plagued them for so long, set about by a man most of them had never met or seen. Blandus could feel the weight of their burdens on his back, the intensity of their silent gazes reiterated the importance of his task, reminding him of how crucial this one moment would be for their entire history. What did Blandus do in the face of this responsibility? He laughed. A reaction which earned him more than a few odd looks.

“I’m sorry.” He said, recovering from his laughter. “I had been telling myself the entire night that I would say something impressive. That I would lay your worries to rest and ride off as some sort of hero.” A toothy grin split his face. “Only now do I realize that I have nothing at all to say.” He laughed again, a few villagers joining him this time and others smiling. “In the time that I have led you, I have gone through great pains to ensure that I never failed you and when I did, I did all that I could to make it right.” Nods and sounds of agreement swept through the crowd. “I ride now to Caltha with the greatest man from our village.” He gestured to Crispus who basked in the subsequent cheers. “We ride in attempt to right the worst wrong we have ever face as a village. We ride to earn the recognition we deserve from Duke Flavius and all the people of Caltha.” More cheers sounded through the crowd. “I cannot guarantee our success but I can assure that we will do everything in our power to achieve our goal. If I achieve nothing else in my life then I pray to the gods this by my final and greatest achievement!”

Blandus pulled himself onto his horse as the entirety of Caelius sounded one final cheer. Crispus followed suit but was unable to bask in the glory as his father pulled him down to whisper more advice in his ear. Blandus smiled at the sight before turning back to the crowd, finding his wife standing toward the front along with their three daughters. He nodded to his family and blew them a kiss before raising a fist to the sky, the gesture bringing more cheers. He rode away from Caelius with Crispus not far behind him. The two men rode for hours, passing the time with idle conversation, before stopping sometime around midday for lunch. Crispus insisted that he could have rode for days without stopping, leading Blandus to lecture the young man on the importance of a good meal and rest. Crispus accepted this with what little grace youth bestowed on him, reminding Blandus a bit too much of himself at that age. Truly, Blandus was coming to sympathize more and more with Aulus for having to contend with the boy so often.

They didn’t stop for long, possibly an hour or less, before they started riding again. The further they moved from the village, the more questions Crispus had to ask. Youth always making up for its lack of grace with insurmountable curiosity. The young man had never been to Caltha himself and had only left the village before to hunt with his father. Blandus answered the young man’s questions as ably as he could, always ready with a story if his explanation wasn’t enough for the younger man. He even retold the story of his great-grandfather, the story of a slave who won his freedom when he took the Cup of Caltha. Crispus admired the thought of a warrior fighting for glory, but questioned why the man would give such a thing up to start a farming village of all things. Blandus could only laugh at how easily peace could be taken for granted and didn’t bother explaining its importance. The love of peace and quiet was something one achieved through age, Blandus knew that well enough.

Sundown came before too long. Blandus took a moment to admire the view before speaking to Crispus.
“There’s an inn not too far from here.” He said. “Your father and I have stayed there many times, it’ll be the best place to stop for the night.”
“Stop?” Crispus asked, as if the concept were ridiculous. “I could ride to Caltha and back without a moment’s rest.” As it had the entire duration of their journey, the audacity of youth brought a smile to Blandus’ face.
“You’ve nothing to prove to me, Crispus.” He assured the young man. “Caltha does not make a habit of opening its gates to nightly visitors. Besides that we’ve no idea what manner of welcome we can expected when we arrive, regardless of the hour. It’s best to be well rested for such things.”
“I could handle any of those city folk.” Crispus said, swelling his chest.
“Not without a goodnight’s rest.” Blandus said with a chuckle. “Just join me, I’ll buy you a pint and see if that calms you down.”

The thought alone seemed to be enough to calm Crispus, who endured the duration of their journey in silence with a smile on his face. Blandus was thankful for the reprieve. The inn came into view after maybe a half hour’s ride. Blandus wasn’t quite sure what it was called as its sign had fallen long before he had even set eyes upon. He even doubted that its current proprietor even knew its name, everyone always calling it ‘the old inn’ or, if they needed to be specific, ‘the old inn by Caltha’. It was a two story building built on stone foundations, the wood composing its walls old and splinted. By the inn stood a small stable which was poorly constructed to say the very least. Blandus led Crispus over to the stable where they were greeted by an overweight man with patchy hair and just the one eyebrow. He grunted something and Blandus, having dealt with the old horse hand before, dropped a few copper coins in his hand. Satisfied, he took the reigns of their horses and led them into the stables.

Blandus took what he would need for the night from his horse’s saddlebags before making his way to the inn, Crispus lagging behind as he insisted upon keeping an eye on his horse. The two men stepped into the inn’s barroom, a place filled with mirth and smoke from various sources. The place was fairly packed by Blandus’ estimation, though he was able to spot a table mostly separated from the debauchery the room was devoted to. Before he made his way there, however, he stepped up to the bar with Crispus lagging behind once, seemingly unable to keep his eyes off the shamelessly drunken patrons. The bartender was a tall and lanky man with murky brown that reached his shoulders and a beard so unruly one could get lost in it. He smiled when he saw Blandus approach, putting down the mug he was cleaning to shake his favored patron’s hand. Blandus knew him as James, a man who hailed from the further reaches of the Empire with a love of tomatoes.

“Blandus!” James nearly shouted as he pumped the man’s hand enthusiastically. “What brings you here?”
“Riding to Caltha.” Blandus replied. “Was hoping to find a bed clean enough to sleep in.”
“I can get you a bed but I make no promises regarding cleanliness.” The barkeep said. The two men shared a laugh. “And who’s this with you?” He asked, noticing Crispus.
“This is Crispus.” Blandus introduced, struggling to wrap an arm around the younger man’s broad shoulders.
“Aulus’ boy?” James asked, earning a nod. “By the gods, you’re a big one, aren’t you?” He shook Crispus’ hand. “I’m James and anything you men need is on the house just as long as the next batch of tomatoes is as good as the last.”
“Well, if that’s the case give us a couple pints.” Blandus said, James rushed to make the drinks.

With their drinks in hand, Blandus led Crispus over to the table he had noticed earlier. There was only a single man sitting relatively close to the table. He had propped himself up on the windowsill, one leg on the floor and the other bent against his chest. He rested his elbow against his bent knee, holding an ornate pipe to his mouth. Blandus noticed a long strap of leather or some similar dark material wrapped around the man’s hand which went down to wrap around a sheathed sword, tethering it to his right hand. He was a fairly short man, several inches shorter than Blandus, though every inch of his frame was lined with lean muscle. His chin length, ash-blonde hair had been tied into a small ponytail that he had folded against the back of his head. He wore a shirt of red silk along with a pair of white, loose-fitting trousers, clothes that reminded Blandus of those worn by Southerners though this man was clearly Imperial. He was isolated from the rest of the room, his gaze never moving from the window.

Blandus spared the man a wary glance before taking a seat on the side of the table opposite the window. Crispus occupied the seat across from him, putting his back to the man. The two men took a moment to sip their ale, though Crispus took more of a hearty pull, before speaking.
“So what’s the grand city like?” Crispus managed to ask before pouring another gulp down his throat.
“You may want to slow down a bit.” Blandus advised. Crispus nodded his understanding while simultaneously swigging more of his ale. Blandus only shook his head. “I thought your father would have told you of Caltha.”
“Had he the time, maybe.” Crispus said. “He was far too busy drilling me. Telling me to watch my opponent’s feet as much as his eyes. That the sword was one with my soul.” Crispus paused to scrunch up his face and fan away the smoke from the stranger’s pipe with one large hand. “Hey!” He called. “Watch where you’re blowing that filth!” The man didn’t so much as turn from the window.
“Easy, Crispus.” Blandus warned. The young man nodded before taking another gulp of his ale, the older man decided to join him. “Well, the city is grand. That much is certain. Very… active place. It’s not uncommon for the citizens to take to rioting and the guards are usually content to let such things work themselves out. The coliseum is easily the finest architecture I‘ve seen in my years.”

Despite Crispus’ nodding along with his words, Blandus grew increasingly aware of the young man’s distraction. The smoke from the stranger’s pipe was still drifting into his face, every whiff of the acrid stench compounding his anger. He attempted to cool himself by drinking heavily of his ale until his mug was empty but that only left him with no other distraction.
“Hey!” Crispus shouted, pivoting in his chair to stare at the shorter man. The barroom seemed to instantly quiet, all eyes moving toward Crispus. Blandus could only shift uncomfortably in his seat. The stranger slowly pulled his pipe from his mouth and turned to look at Crispus. Hazel eyes that reminded Blandus rather unsettlingly of a hawk’s examined the young man from head to toe. “I’ve already warned you to watch yourself. I won’t ask again.” The stranger mimed a laugh in response, allowing smoke to billow from his nostrils. Crispus shot out of his chair, so quickly that the old wood slammed against the floor. “I’ll beat you like a slave, you little bastard!” He shouted, prompting the man to take another long hit of his pipe and blow out a smoke ring to frame Crispus’ face. The hot-headed young man let out a shout of incoherent rage before swinging one meaty fist at the stranger. The short man’s hand moved so fast that Blandus didn’t ever see it and, judging from the look on Crispus’ face, he hadn’t seen it either. The stranger easily intercepted Crispus’ sloppy punch with his left hand, his right still keeping his pipe firmly in place, and grabbed his wrist.
“You are just adorable.” The man said, his voice as inviting as the grave. “I could just pinch your cheeks. Tousle your hair. Put you in my pocket.” He slowly set his pipe down before rising, tightening his grip on Crispus‘ wrist and twisting the appendage. Standing, he was just eye level with Crispus’ chest but stood as if Mount Olympus rested in his shadow. “If I had a spoon I think I may just eat you up.” The stranger looked up to meet Crispus’ eyes.
“Please, good sir.” Blandus said, stepping to the men’s sides but not daring to place as much as a toe between them. “We’re not looking for any conflict here.” At first, the stranger didn’t appear to have heard Blandus’ words as his gaze continued to bore into Crispus.
“Of course you aren’t.” He finally said, releasing Crispus‘ wrist. He shifted slightly to look at Blandus, while ensuring that Crispus remained in view. “We’ve only just met, after all. There’s plenty of time for us to make friends. A bit of advice, however.” He turned back to Crispus, the young man struggling to resist the urge to rub at the pain in his wrist. “It’d be best to keep this one on a tighter leash. Lest he get bitten.”

Crispus’ knuckles grew white as his balled fists shook with every word the stranger uttered, his lips pealing back to reveal gritted teeth. The short man wasn’t intimidated in the slightest. If anything he seemed mildly amused, clearly uncaring of the damage he was doing to this young man’s pride. Blandus’ eyes shifted nervously between the two. He knew this wouldn’t end well unless someone put a stop to it but if spending the past day with Crispus had taught him anything it was that the boy’s skull was hard enough to shatter diamonds. After a few long moments of looking up at Crispus’ face, the stranger seemed to grow bored. He turned his back to the young man to collect his pipe, pressing his finger into the bowl to be sure it was empty. This proved to be the final insult Crispus could endure. With a sound some may call a battle cry, Crispus stepped into a punch aimed at the back of the stranger’s head. The short man did something of a spinning step to the side, easily avoiding the attack while simultaneously turning to face his attacker.

Crispus couldn’t stop his fist from going forward and through the window. “That’s a window.” The stranger commented, leaning against the wall with his arms folded in front of his chest. With a shout of frustration, Crispus pulled his arm from the window and sent it flying for the man in clubbing blow. He easily ducked the blow and stepped under it just as effortlessly. The young man’s forearm cracked against the wall. “Now that one was a wall. If your goal is vandalism, you are off to a stellar start.” Crispus let out another shout, any pain he was feeling completely secondary to his rage. The stranger’s eyes seemed to light up at the sight. With a quick motion of his right hand, he wrapped the strap tethering the sword to his hand around his wrist twice so that the sheathed weapon ran parallel to his forearm. In the time it took him to do that, Crispus had already surged forward with a series of blows. The short man evaded them all, of course, making it appear completely effortless.

“Don’t throw your shoulder so much.” The stranger advised as he sidestepped a straight. He took a quick step back to avoid an uppercut and the immediately ducked to avoid a hook. “Your footing is all wrong.” He demonstrated this by stepping on both of Crispus’ feet twice in the time it took the young man to swing another punch. “In a fight your footwork must be constant, deliberate, and subtle.” Crispus ignored this in favor of stepping heavily into another straight, roaring with the blow. “You’re no bear, boy, don’t announce your attacks.” It was almost painful for Blandus to watch as the stranger danced circles around his charge, forcing him into tables and chairs while evading every blow as if it were an after thought. Crispus seemed convinced that his strategy of swinging blindly would eventually bear fruit. He put both of his hands together and swung them down at the stranger’s head, a blow the shorter man hopped back to avoid. “Remember to be mindful of your surroundings.” The stranger advised.

Crispus spat at the man’s feet before surging forward again, his right hand already pulled back for another punch. The stranger sidestepped the blow and watched as Crispus’ momentum carried him through the inn’s door. “See, that was an open doorway. Had you taken a moment to look you would’ve known and you wouldn’t look like a complete ass.” The stranger said as he followed Crispus into the night. The majority of the bar’s patrons followed him as well, Blandus struggling to squeeze his way through the crowd. He arrived in time to see Crispus stumbling back to a vertical base, the stranger simply watching him. As soon as Crispus caught sight of the shorter man, he charged at him with another shout. “Oh, what a surprise. You’re shouting and rushing.” He blew some hair from his eyes. “This strategy of yours is beginning to bore me.” He didn’t avoid Crispus this time. Instead, he waited for the young man to get close enough to punch. When he did, the stranger grabbed the young man’s forearm in both of his hands.

He continued the motion, using Crispus strength against him, and rolled the young man over his back. Crispus slammed onto the ground on his back with a loud grunt of pain. The stranger was far from done, however. He gave Crispus’ arm a firm, deliberate twist before stomping on the man’s shoulder. A loud and distinct pop intermingled with Crispus’ shout of pain. Blandus winced at the sound. The stranger yawned before stepping back into the inn, the crowd completely moving out of his path as if no one dared to get near him. Blandus stared at his back before moving to Crispus’ side. The young man had his entire face contorted in pain with one hand against his shoulder. Blandus spared the wound only a glance but it was enough to make him wince again.

“I’d stay with you and talk you through the pain but I doubt your father would ever forgive for not letting you learn this lesson.” Blandus said. If Crispus heard him, he didn’t acknowledge it in anyway. “You just, uh, lay there. Think about what you’ve done and come inside when you’re ready. Or you can lose consciousness for the pain, whichever suits you.” He spared the young man a worried look before moving back into the barroom. James and some of the more sober patrons were already setting the tables back in their proper places. Blandus put a hand on the barkeep’s shoulder to get his attention. “Sorry about the mess, James.”
“Oh, don’t be.” James replied, jamming a leg back into a chair. “Those boys from Caltha make more of a mess than this and I don’t even like the bastards.” Blandus chuckled.
“Think you can give the boy something for the pain? I’ll gladly pay for it if you want to resend your offer.” He said, bending down to pick up a chair himself.
“No, no.” James said, shaking his head. “Though I may need more than a few tomatoes this time.” He took a moment to laugh. “I’ve got something for the boy, too, should have him feeling nothing.”

The barkeep moved back to the bar while Blandus scanned the barroom. He didn’t have to look hard, the short stranger had returned to his spot by the window. Not wishing to alarm him, Blandus began walking his way slowly and deliberately. As he approached, the man’s sword caught his eye. It was a finely crafted weapon, judging from the hilt alone. It appeared to be crafted from solid gold with leather wrapped around the slight curve of the grip. The guard was shaped like a serpent’s head with emeralds serving as the eyes, its mouth opened. White, curved crystals rested in the snake’s mouth, two on the lower jaw and two on the upper, curving around the base of the blade to cross over to the middle of the blade‘s width. Blandus took his eyes of the blade to watch the stranger pull out a leather patch. He pulled out a pitch of some odd looking herbs and packed them in before lighting a match in the inn’s fireplace.

“Excuse me, sir?” Blandus asked as the stranger took his first breath of smoke.
“Oh.” He said, looking up to Blandus. “Sorry about the boy’s arm, childish thing of me to do.”
“Yes, well, he was certainly asking for it.” Blandus said, the man grinned around his pipe.
“He most certainly was.” He took another draw of his pipe. “I can set it back in place if you want.”
“That’d be greatly appreciated by myself and his father.” Blandus said. He paused for a moment, thinking. “My name’s Blandus Caelius.” He offered his hand. “What’s yours?” The stranger eyed the appendage for a few seconds before shaking it.
“Nikias.” He replied.
“You seem to be quite the capable warrior, Nikias.” Blandus complimented.
“So I’ve been told.” Nikias puffed on his pipe, clearly indifferent.
“Have you ever been to Caltha, Nikias?” Blandus asked. The question seemed to grab the warrior’s attention. He turned to Blandus slowly and stared, silently considering the man.
“Yes, long ago.” The man finally said.
“Are you returning?” Blandus asked, the question earning him another long stare.
“The winds may take me back there someday.” He replied, turning to stare through the broken window.
“I only ask because the boy and I were heading toward Caltha.” Blandus began, praying that he wasn’t trying the man’s patience. “He was to compete in the Grand Tournament-” Nikias’ gravelly laugh cut Blandus off.
“Trust me, Blandus, there wouldn’t have been any competing to it should he have entered.”
“Yes, I am well aware.” Blandus said. “But our village desperately needs the victory and the boy was our best hope. Which is why I’m coming to you now.” Nikias eyed the man. “Would you consider riding with me to Caltha and entering the tournament on our behalf? My village hasn’t much money but should you do this for us I would not rest until you were repaid in full.”
“My sword and time are worth more than any man could pay.” Nikias replied, staring into the night again. Blandus cursed under his breath. He doubted it would work but felt the need to try all the same. He was about to leave the man in peace when he spoke up again. “Though, I suppose it is my fault the boy can’t enter.” He thought aloud, not turning away from the darkness. “And I have much business left unfinished within those walls.” Nikias took a long, thoughtful draw from his pipe. Then he turned to Blandus, once again measuring the man. “Why does your village need this victory?”
“Duke Flavius uses our village as his personal garden.” Blandus said, unable to keep the resentment from his tone. His anger seemed to impress Nikias. “His men descend upon us nearly every harvest. They take what they please and pay for less than a fraction. If they pay at all.”
“So you seek the Cup to earn liberation?” Nikias asked, Blandus nodded. “Very noble of you. I should warn you, though, true nobility has been lost on Caltha for years.” Silence overtook the two men again, Blandus considering those words while Nikias’ thoughts fixed on Caltha. His memories of the city and the emotions they brought relentless. “I think it’s time I returned to Caltha.”
“Are you saying you’ll join me?” Blandus asked, Nikias nodded.
“Don’t start celebrating just yet.” Nikias advised, taking one final puff from his pipe. “Until we are done and the city’s gates firmly at our backs, you do as I say. It's the only way to ensure we both survive."

#286338 Glorified

Posted by Semiautomagic on 31 January 2011 - 12:44 AM

So here's part one of my entry for the Wulfgard story contest. It's mostly a rough draft at the moment which was the point of me posting it in parts. I want to get some feedback and such right at the start so I have time to change anything. I'm aware there are some errors and I intend to go over it with a fine tooth comb well before the contest ends. I appreciate any feedback you can give me, especially pertaining to the characters and the setting. I'm pretty new to Wulfgard so any tips in that regard would be great. I know this may seem like a slow start but I wanted the village and the people therein to feel very real, especially Blandus. Also let me know what you think of the length here. Scorp was pretty open with the limit but this is the first of 3-4 parts which will be at least the same length. So, uhm, yeah. Read, tell me what you think.

Also, I'd like to get opinions on these quotes. I couldn't pick which one I liked more and I felt both fit the overall story. I like quotes.

"We are all motivated by a keen desire for praise, and the better a man is, the more he is inspired by glory."

"Glory paid to our ashes comes too late."

Part I: Blandus Caelius

The city of Caltha, one of the grandest cities to be found in all of this great Empire. Throughout this land of wolves and shattered steel, all have heard stories of this place at one time or another. A place that is home to warriors, to heroes. A place where glory was defined by being the last man standing and achieved by slaying all who dared to interfere. These glorious actions were confined to the grand coliseum at the city's center, the largest to be found in all the Empire after the Emperor decreed that the Imperial City needed a marketplace more than it needed to have its thirst for violence quenched. Truly, the arena was the heart of Caltha. None within its walls dared to think of what would become of the great city should that storied field of violence and death fade into another old man's tale. The arena provided the commoners with entertainment; a way to make the monotony of their lives more bearable. Watching countless men be slaughtered, their blood shed on the sand, somehow made their lives more meaningful.

But crops could not grow from all of that blood. None knew this better than the people of Caelius, a village named after a man long dead, its own entity in name only. Often times, the people of this close-knit community could forget this fact and take pride in the home they were all striving to create. It never lasted, of course, as the bitter reality of their situation never waited long to reveal itself. While the village was more than a day's ride from Caltha, barely lying on the grand city's outskirts, it was still considered a part of the metropolis. As such, it found itself at the mercy of the Duke's rule and a constant victim of the soldiers' whims. Caelius was the only source of crops within close proximity to the city. As such, the two traded often. Trading, that's what the Duke and his men called it. In truth, the more noble Imperials paid the villagers less than the agreed upon price and that was only when they didn't simply take the crop. It was a dreadful, parasitic relationship that the people of Caelius could do nothing to end.

The morning was nearing its end when the cloud of dust rose over the horizon. The people of Caelius had been up since before dawn, following long-storied traditions to never allow the sun to best them. The villagers wasted no time getting to work in their fields or carrying out any other duties assigned to them. Some cooked in the center of the village, their leader having concluded that making one large meal for the populace was more efficient given proper rations. The village's militia, a small group of the hardest men to be found in Caelius, ran various exercises and drills in between their work in the fields. Every man, woman, and child old enough to work did their part while the younger children stayed in the center where the cooks could keep a watchful eye over them. It had started as a good day, all in all. This latest crop seemed more bountiful than ever, more than enough to feed village and still fetch a hefty sum for trade, at least at a glance. Such fortune did not become Caelius, however.

It was Aulus who saw the dust first. Aulus had once been an Imperial soldier, his skill with a blade and sheer, unbridled toughness well renowned throughout local ranks. Those days were behind him now, however, and he was steadily declining deeper into age's murky depths. The injuries he sustained in service of his Empire should have earned him a hero's welcome but it seemed the Emperor had little need for heroes. Now he was simply an old man with a sword at his hip. His skin, tanned into leather by the sun, betrayed this fact with the abundance of lines and wrinkles. The muscle he had earned in combat was losing its tone and his once dark hair had faded mostly into grey. Despite this, he was still a capable man and took it upon himself to train the village's militia; a group of inexperienced and ill-equipped farmers. That is why he was standing at the outskirts of Caelius, watching men of varied ages try to land a blow on their opponent with their dull blades and pitiful technique.

There were times when Aulus would become frustrated with this group of men and their complete inability to show any improvement. They could swing steel, that much was certain, but all aspects of a true warrior seemed lost on them; despite Aulus' extensive tutelage. Other times, however, Aulus found their lack of combat skills commendable. They were raised as farmers, lived as farmers, and would probably die as farmers. Aulus, on the other hand, had come from a long line of Imperial soldiers and had even thoroughly convinced himself that he would die in his armor. Having been denied the fate of his ancestors, Aulus decided it was time to find peace. His search led him to a small village with a man's name, a place where no one citizen was better than any other. Aulus found a wife in this village and raised a beautiful family, far more than he ever accomplished in his service to the Emperor. At least, from his perspective. He had fond that his perspective on life above all else had changed the most when he found peace.

Aulus' thoughts of peace were to be short lived as he glanced to the horizon, his dark eyes narrowing to inspect the only blight on an otherwise perfect view. The cloud of dust was close now, easily under an hour away and probably considerably less. The old soldier gnashed his teeth in ill-tempered recognition, knowing fully well who was riding toward this village. For once he actually wished they were common bandits or thieves, anything they could conceivably fight. But no, these villains were anything but common. "Crispus!" Aulus called his oldest son, who had been engaged with two sparring partners. Crispus was taller and broader than his father, though his skin was just as tan. Aulus saw a lot of his mother in the boy what with his fair, curly hair and emerald eyes. Crispus was regarded as the most capable young men in the village, at least from a physical standpoint. His strength was unmatched in Caelius, as was his speed, and his only superior in the sword was his father.

"Yes, father?" Crispus asked, still engaged with his two older sparring partners despite looking at his father. Aulus shook his head in the face of his son's arrogance. Crispus title as strongest in the village had certainly gone to the young man's head, prompting his father to constantly remind him of how small a place Caelius truly was. A reminder his son ignored.
"Enough, get over here." The older man demanded, beckoning with one hand before turning back to the horizon.
"One moment." Crispus said before disarming both of his opponents in one quick and careless maneuver. Everyone else, especially Crispus himself, seemed impressed while Aulus could only roll his eyes. "What do you need of me, father?"
"Find Blandus and bring him here." Aulus said, not taking his eyes off the dust. "And do it swiftly."
"As I do all things." Crispus said as he took off at a run into the village.

Blandus Caelius certainly didn't look like a man with any sort of authority as he carried a large basket of perfectly ripened tomatoes over one shoulder. He didn't dress in anyway that would separate him from the other villagers, his clothing not absence of patches and filth he acquired whilst working in the fields. He was a man of moderate stature, perhaps an inch or so under six feet, with broad shoulders complimenting the muscle he had earned from his time in the fields. One glance at the man told of intelligence, from the solid structure of his face to his eyes which had stolen their color from a thundercloud. He kept himself well-groomed, his dark hair cut short to display his shallow widow's peak hairline and his beard immaculately trimmed. The color had yet to start leaving Blandus' hair, even as he entered his fortieth year. Blandus' great-grandfather founded this village so many years ago and, ever since, the men of the Caelius clan had found themselves leaders of the land that bore their name.

Even so, every member of the Caelius family worked in the fields as their patriarch demanded. In keeping with tradition, Blandus carried his load without complaint to the largest and most well constructed building in the village: his home. It was a house far older than Blandus himself, built by his great-grandfather and the first villagers. Greater Caelius never wanted a house more extravagant than those of the other villagers but his people insisted. Blandus moved around to the back of the house, gingerly placing his basket at the end of a row with maybe a dozen others. The leader smiled as he looked at the baskets, filled with crops from tomatoes to cabbages, and silently thanked the gods for smiling upon this harvest. It wouldn't be long before caravans began arriving, stopping buy to purchase produce before moving on to Caltha where there were far more exotic items purchase as well as people with money to spare on some of the more ludicrous items some caravans boasted.

"Where is Blandus?" The familiar voice of Crispus carried to Blandus' ears from around the front of the house. Blandus walked around the house and smiled at the site of Crispus towering over a young lady with a face as red as the sun. Her name was Corinna, the second eldest of Blandus' daughters and the only to favor him strongly, she even had his eyes.
"The most handsome man in Caelius seeks me?" Blandus asked as he approached, a laugh in his eyes as well as his voice. "All the young girls will be distraught." Blandus spared Crispus a smile before kneeling down to kiss his daughter's hair. "Go help your mother, Corinna." Corinna accepted the task with a silent nod and ran off to the fields, not sparing Crispus a glance. The smile on Blandus' face spread as he watched his daughter join her sisters and mother, the eldest siblings whispering amongst themselves while trying to seek coy glances at the young man standing with their father. "How is this day treating you, Crispus?" He asked, offering his hand.
"Fine, sir." Crispus replied, shaking the offered limb. "My father needs to speak with you, he made it sound urgent."
"Everything's urgent as far as your father is concerned." Blandus said with a chuckle, "Take me to him." Crispus nodded and fell into step in front of Blandus, leading him to the outskirts. "Doing more exercises, were you?"
"Yes, sir, father insists on perfection." Crispus replied. Blandus had noticed over the years that he seemed to be the only one Crispus went to great lengths to show respect toward. No doubt a lesson taught by his father.
"That's what we need, I suppose." Blandus commented, "I haven't seen your mother in the fields today, has she taken ill?"
"No, sir." Crispus said, shaking his head. "Father and I killed a bear in the late hours of the night. She's been skinning and cleaning it while we trained."
"A bear?" Blandus asked, earning a quick nod from his young guide. "By the gods, I haven't seen a bear around these parts since the cutters from Woodshadow visited us." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I assume you got the kill?"
"Of course, sir." Crispus replied, a proud smile on his face. "I wanted to keep the head as a prize but father insisted that it would fetch a hefty price from the Deshreti when they visited us."
"Oh, indeed." Blandus agreed, "And I'm safe in assuming you'll be sharing the beast with the rest of us?"
"Of course, sir. Father plans on having a feast to honor the harvest. He asked me to keep it a secret but he also told me never to withhold anything from you." Crispus said, earning a chuckle from his leader.

The two men had reached the village's outskirts by the end of their discussion. Blandus spared the militia men a nod and a smile of approval before moving to Aulus' side. The old soldier hadn't taken his eyes off the horizon the entire time his son had been gone and didn't seem to notice his friend's presence at his side, leading Blandus to follow his gaze. The approaching cloud of dust forced a sigh through Blandus' lips and he gazed briefly to the heavens. He knew their fortune wouldn't last, such was the life of a commoner. The sound brought Aulus' gaze to his leader, his eyes questioning. "Crispus!" Blandus called, bringing the young man to his side instantly. "Tell everyone to get inside as swiftly as you can." Crispus accepted this task with a nod and nary an arrogant comment. He ran through the village, repeating their leader's command to all with his boom of a voice. The people were quick to comply, leaving Blandus and Aulus standing at the outskirts as the sound of beating hooves drifted into the village.

The two men stood in silence as the only bandits Caelius had ever truly fallen victim to rode into the village. They wore armor made from dark steel with golden accents, leather adornments comprising the rest of their uniform. The golden seal of Caltha rested in the center of their breastplates, identifying the soldiers as the guards of Caltha. A title that, to the people of Caltha, simply made them entitled bandits. A man Blandus had come to despise rode at the head of these soldiers. He wore armor more extravagant than the others, his already bulging muscles exemplified by broad shoulder pads, with no shortage of gold accents and various seals. He was a man of strong, noble features, particularly his broad chin and squared jaw. He wore no helmet to conceal his chestnut brown hair, which reached his chin. A look into the man's dull, brown eyes told his story. They were empty eyes. The eyes of a being that lived only to take and were completely incapable of any emotion one would describe as human, at odds with the toothy grin Blandus had never seen the man without.

"Hello, commoners!" The man greeted as he slowed his horse to a trot in front of the two villagers.
"Lieutenant Gordianus." Blandus replied, "How have you been keeping?"
"Well, I was just fine until Captain Domitianus had me come here." Gordianus said, snorting at the sight of the village. Aulus visibly tensed in response but Blandus calmed him by placing a hand on his bicep.
"I can't imagine why he would send you here." Blandus said, approaching the lieutenant. "We have nothing to offer at the moment until our harvest is done." Gordianus leaned forward just so that he could laugh in the older man's face.
"You do not tell the Duke to wait." He said, pulling his reigns to the side. The sudden motion of his horse forced Blandus to take a quick step back. "The Grand Tournament is fast approaching and Duke Flavius has gone through great lengths to ensure it is the grandest of all." Gordianus' steed paced before Blandus and Aulus as he spoke. "He has offered a grand prize of royal concessions, sent out invitations to some of the greatest warriors across this land, and has planned a feast that will match his tournament in scale." He leaned forward so that he looked Blandus in the eye. "Care to guess as to what portion you'll be providing?"
"Well," Blandus began, struggling not to falter in the presence of Gordianus' unsettling gaze, "if it is for the Duke then I suppose we can sell you whatever you need. For the agreed upon rate, of course." Gordianus responded with a humorless laugh, so close to Blandus' face that spittle impacted with his sun-damaged cheek.
"Duke Flavius will not pay for that which is rightfully his." The lieutenant replied as he steered his horse back to the front of his men. "Load up all that the Duke asked for!" He called to them, "And if you see something you like, take it too!"

A mirthless boom of a laugh sounded from deep within Gordianus' throat as his men rushed to carry out their commanding officer's orders. All Blandus knew was helplessness as he watched the soldiers dismount and rush into the village. They stomped through the fields with a complete lack of care and respect, a few completely uprooting plants for no other reason than pure pettiness. Or, perhaps, they did so to entertain their lieutenant who was happy to oblige any act of wanton destruction with another peal of unsettling laughter. A few villagers cracked their doors and their windows to catch a glance of the mayhem, only for the soldiers to slam them closed with a swing of their swords. Anger made every inch of Aulus' body shake as the soldiers' descended upon Blandus' home. The home of his best friend, a home he shared with his loving wife and three daughters. They circled around the house to where the produce they had gathered thus far was stored.

Not unlike a swarm of locusts, the soldiers descended on Caelius' harvest. They took basket after basket of freshly picked produce and brought them back to their horses. A few of the men complained about the weight, going so far as to spill some of the crop on the ground and crush it under foot. The chaos didn't last long, it never did, but it felt like a lifetime to Blandus, as it always did. Satisfied that his men had pillaged enough to appease his Duke, Gordianus addressed the pair on final time. "Duke Flavius thanks you for your continued loyalty and service!" With that, Gordianus started riding back the way he came and his soldiers quickly followed suit. Blandus didn't think to look around him until the soldiers were well on their way. They left only what they could not carry on their horses, it seemed, and damaged what little they left behind. The fields had yet to be thoroughly picked but Blandus knew they wouldn't find enough to replace what they had just lost.

"Aulus," Blandus' voice was quiet, "fetch Crispus."
"Crispus!" Aulus shouted immediately, unable to keep the anger from his voice. Crispus broke into a sprint to answer his father's call.
"Tell everyone to come outside and return to their work." Blandus said, fruitlessly rubbing at his forehead. "Complete the harvest and salvage what else you can." Crispus nodded slowly, his handsome face a somber mask, before dashing to carry out his task. Blandus and Aulus walked the village in silence, trying to estimate just how much they had lost. The thought only intensified the fires of Aulus' rage. With a shout of frustration he slammed his fist into the wall of a nearby home, then again, and again, until the old wood began to splinter under his hand. "Enough, Aulus." Blandus said, gripping his friend's shoulder in one calloused hand. "Breaking your hand will do us no good."
"Breaking their necks certainly would." Aulus said, wiping the blood from hand on the grass at his feet.
"Oh, yes. Your son and I were just talking about what a joy it would be to bury his father." Blandus said, Aulus grunted in response.
"I could take at least five with me." He growled, "And Crispus could take double that."
"Leaving us with what? Four hundred more?" Blandus asked, shaking his head. "Our militia is no more than thirty strong. They're great at warding of bandits or felling the occasional beast but I doubt any one of them could kill a single soldier. This is just your anger talking."
"I suppose it is." Aulus said with a sigh. "What would you have us do?"
"The soldiers couldn't take all of it, what they left should still fetch us a decent price." Blandus thought aloud, scanning the fields.
"Yes but what would we eat?" Aulus asked.
"You see my dilemma." Blandus said. "I've put a lot of thought into leaving this place behind, migrating to the east. Anywhere, really, as long as we are far from the heart of this Empire. But it couldn't be."
"We couldn't leave the lands of your father." Aulus said, tone adamant.
"While I appreciate your devotion to my family." Blandus said with a grateful smile. "That isn't what I meant. Flavius wouldn't allow it, without us he would have to pay for his food and men of wealth can't be bothered to spend it." He sighed. "His men would run us down in days, if not hours."
"So you're saying we're hopeless?" Aulus asked, Blandus' expression grew more thoughtful.
"I've been considering Gordianus' words." He said. "The Cup of Caltha has always been a precious object. It is how my great-grandfather earned the freedom to found this place. But the promise of royal concessions certainly sounds interesting." Aulus' eyes widened in recognition.
"You don't intend to enter that tournament, do you?" Blandus could only shrug in silence. "My dearest friend, you are certainly a man of strength and heart but you wouldn't stand a chance. And I," He sighed a sigh of an old and tired man, "I can't even wear my armor anymore, it hurts these decrypted joints of mine too badly."
"A dim hope is better than no hope, Aulus." Blandus said, "Perhaps you can train me or we can ask the other men of the village to volunteer, see who is best suited."
"Crispus." Aulus said, almost to himself. Blandus turned to his friend with an eyebrow raised. "Take Crispus. He's easily the most capable man in the village, if a bit foolhardy."
"No." Blandus said, "Aulus, I can't take your oldest son from you."
"If he's my son he will not fail me." Aulus said, though skepticism was heavy in his tone. The two men stood in silence then, neither looking at the other nor at anything in particular. This carried on for some time until Blandus broke the silence.
"Do you think he can win?" He asked, staring into the middle distance.
"Impossible to say." Aulus replied, "The games are brutal, a subject of the Duke's whim but, regardless of what should happen, I know my so will make us proud." Blandus blew out a breath. He didn't like this, he didn't like this at all, and he knew Aulus, whether he would admit or not, didn't like it either. Blandus recalled something his father had told him then. He always said that the only way to measure a man's greatness is by counting the sacrifices he has made in his life. He had never doubted that Aulus was the best man he knew.
"Our backs are not breaking under the weight of our options." Blandus finally said, Aulus nodded in agreement. "Talk to your son, see if he agrees." Blandus continued, knowing fully well that Crispus would. "We'll ride out first thing in the morning." His eyes drifted toward his home. "I'll tell the rest of the villagers then."

Aulus' reply didn't reach Blandus' ears, he had already started walking toward his home. As he walked he kept his eyes forward, having gotten his fill of seeing his village in utter disrepair. He didn't want to look into the eyes of his people working in the fields, witness their enthusiasm shifting into misery. This wasn't the first time the soldiers of Caltha had brought misfortune upon them and it wouldn't be the last unless he did something soon. Even so, there was one other person Blandus had to consult before he made his decision. A woman much smarter than he, who could win any argument regardless of the subject. He caught sight of her in the fields stretching out before the home they shared. He took a moment to admire her from afar as she tended the fields with his three daughters. She displayed no weakness as she worked, apparently immune to the despair that had overtaken the village. She even took moments to laugh with her children, doing whatever she could to bring a smile to their faces as well.

Blandus said nothing as he approached his loving wife, Aemelia, a portrait of strength and beauty painted by the gods themselves. In his humble opinion, at least. She was a woman of broad shoulders, her arms lined with toned muscle, with curves that made even the ratty clothes she wore look terrific. Her face was round and youthful, the slight upturn of her nose easily her most adorable feature. Her auburn hair cascaded down to rest on her shoulders, strands constantly crossing into her face and partially covering her light green eyes. Every time he saw the women in his life, Blandus couldn't help but notice just how much his oldest daughter, Lysandra, favored her mother. Truly, she looked just as his wife had when he married her. A reminder that Lysandra would soon marry herself, though Blandus did his best not to entertain such thoughts. Albina, their youngest daughter, had all the adorable features of her mother but her father's dark hair. It was she that noticed her father's approach first.

"Father, father!" Albina called as she barreled into Blandus' gut and tried desperately to wrap her shorts arms around his middle.
"Daughter, daughter!" Blandus replied with a laugh. He took his youngest child in his calloused hands and held her against him with one arm, much to the girl's delight.
"Mother tell father how much I've been helping!" Albina's voice bubbled with pride.
"Oh, is that what you call it?" Lysandra asked, ever quick with her tongue. Albina responded by making a face at her older sister but quickly buried it when she saw her mother rising behind her. Aemelia gave one of Lysandra's ears a hard tug, earning a startled shout from the young woman.
"Enough of that." She said, punctuating her statement with a hard look. "And, yes, Albina here has been such a help." She stroked the young girl's hair. "She has her father's heart." She added, staring into her husband's eyes. "It's just a shame Lysandra got her father's tongue." Blandus accepted that with a laugh and gently set Albina down.
"Your mother and I need to talk." He said as he tousled her hair. "The three of you keep working and making me proud." He turned to Lysandra. "Be mindful of your sisters."
"Yes, sir." Lysandra said, taking Albina's hand and pulling her to her side.

Blandus beamed at his daughters before wrapping an arm around his loving wife's shoulders. They walked away in silence, Blandus enjoying the moment despite how fleeting it was. They didn't say a word until they were in their bedroom, safely behind closed doors.
"What in Zeus' name happened?" Aemelia asked the second the door was closed.
"Do you even have to ask?" Blandus replied, falling into a seat on the edge of their stained straw mattress. He patted the space beside him and Aemelia moved to occupy it.
"Gordianus?" she asked, earning a quick nod from her husband. "By Aphrodite's girdle, what must we do to be rid of that foul man?"
"I was hoping you'd ask that." Blandus said, Aemelia cocked an eyebrow at her husband. "Aulus and I have what the generous may call a plan."
"Judging from your skepticism, I'm not going to like this, am I?" Aemelia asked, Blandus twitched his shoulders. She placed one strong, calloused hand on the side of her husband's face, the touch still gentle despite the damage work had done to the appendage. She turned his face so that they were eye-to-eye.
"Before he left, Gordianus mentioned the upcoming Grand Tournament. He told me that, in addition to the Cup of Caltha, the Duke would be awarding concessions to the victor." Aemelia's gaze immediately hardened and she pulled her hand away.
"You're not thinking of entering are you?" She asked, her voice just as hard as her eyes. She didn't give Blandus a chance to answer before she rose. "No, don't even think of it, Blandus. I love you too much to let you kill yourself." She was clearly far from done but Blandus managed to silence her by taking one of her hands in his.
"While I appreciate your support." He said, smiling in spite of himself. "I will not be entering." Aemelia responded with an immediate sigh of relief and returned to her seat by her husband.
"Then who is?" She asked after calming herself. "Oh, no. Not Aulus. I'm not sure he has another fight left in him."
"No, but I'm sure he would." Blandus said before blowing out a sigh. "Crispus."
"Crispus?" Aemelia asked, Blandus nodded. She mimicked her husband's sigh. "Does Aulus support this?"
"He insisted, actually." Blandus replied, "I wouldn't have even considered asking the man to part with his oldest son." He put an arm around his wife and pulled her close. "What say you?"
"There isn't much to say." She replied, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I think it is foolish and suicidal. But I don't know how much longer we can live like this." Her voice was quiet and somber, a rare moment of weakness.
"Indeed." Blandus agreed. "You know I wouldn't do this if I felt we had any sort of choice."
"I know." Aemelia said. "And you know that I'll support you if you feel that this is what the village needs." She closed her eyes. "Just remember the people of Caltha are not to be trusted. Shake no hand you haven't kept an eye on and accept nothing from no man, no matter how kind he appears. And you'd best stay clear of the women altogether." Blandus chuckled lightly. "When will you be leaving?"
"We ride out first thing in the morning if there are no objections." He replied. "Which is why I was hoping we could enjoy this afternoon together." He pulled at the neckline of Aemelia's dress, exposing bare skin. He gave her a gentle kiss on the side of her neck. She made a quiet, pleased sound through closed lips. "Maybe the evening." He said before leaving a trail of quick kisses on the side of her neck. "Perhaps the night as well." He added. He made his way up her neck, over her jaw, and across her cheek. Aemelia moved her lips to intercept her husband's.
"Was this all just another of your clever ploys?" Aemelia teased between kisses, pushing her husband onto his back and straddling him.
"You're still too clever for me, love." Blandus said before pulling his wife into a long kiss.

Blandus Caelius enjoyed one more night with his wife before he set out to a city built on the corpses of those considered weak and nourished by the blood of the fallen.

#286325 Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Posted by Semiautomagic on 30 January 2011 - 11:14 PM

I'm holding out for the Megas XLR movie.