Month: April 2016

Heroic Classics: The Blood Lottery

Hello and welcome. This is the first installment in a series of tales which will cover heroes from around the globe and across the ages who helped shape the world as we know it today. The first subject of this new series will be Ghilly Markov, brother of legendary King Markov, co-founder of the Kingdom of Glasteel and the establisher of a great many laws and institutions, the most important of which without a doubt would be the Blood Lottery.

It is said that Ghilly Markov was born under a red star and indeed, Mars had a heavy influence on his life. His mother died giving birth to him, something his father and brother never quite forgave. Unlike his gregarious and boisterous brother, Ghilly was quiet, standoffish, and preferred being alone. What he lacked in social acumen he made up for in brilliance. As a boy he read voraciously, consuming the works of many of history’s great geniuses. But the quiet placidity of his life would not last. When his thirteenth summer had barely begun, his father was strung to a tree and ripped apart by wild folk while on campaign and the Markov clan suddenly found themselves leaderless.

Normally this would have signaled the end of a clan’s dominance, but the Markov brothers had something else in mind. Ghilly’s genius and his brother’s glowing charisma kept the clan unified and even drew other clans into their fold. Less than a decade later, the brothers found themselves rulers over all the lands between the Green Sea and the Silverback Mountains. Again, lesser minds would not have been able to hold such a domain together, but Ghilly was more than up to the task.

And so it was, on the plain where their greatest battle took place, that the Markov brothers founded the Kingdom of Glasteel and set the first foundation stone of the new capitol on the hill where they slew Wurgoten Kesselnacht, the Worm King. Glasteel quickly grew into a formidable power under the brother’s co-rule. While King Markov was an able statesmen, it was Ghilly who set up the vital institutions that would let Glasteel not only survive, but flourish. These included the Postman Guild, the Fighters of Fire, the Apothecary’s Union, whose headquarters in the capitol would become the first hospital, the Office of Public Works, which was a cult dedicated to the god of infrastructure, a reworked brothel system run by the Virgins of Lesba which essentially made prostitution a church sanctioned activity, and the School of Records where teachers from around the world gathered in order to instruct eager Glasteelians on the fine art of bureaucracy.

But one of Ghilly Markov’s greatest achievements by far must be the Blood Lottery, a fine institution which exists to this day. The practice of the lottery dates back to time immemorial, but the official founding of the tradition is marked by Ghilly’s own attempt. The story of the Blood Lottery is well known, and surely many of you fine readers have given a loved one to the Lottery, but what isn’t known is that the Lottery was established in order to solve a problem. The problem known as Ghilly’s quandary. Yes the very same! It began one night when Ghilly was ruminating on the shape of the cosmos while wiling away the late hours in his study. The story goes that Ghilly burst from his quarters, startling his Chief Advisor who was showing the Bodyguard in Chief how to ride senior advisors.

“IT is here!” Ghilly sang out.

“What is?” the Chief Advisor asked, picking up his staff as he tucked his other staff away.

“IT. IT who would turn the Sun the other way across the sky. IT who would eat the stars to calm a hunger pang! IT who would make love disappear from the world with a thought. IT!”

“No harm will come to you. I swear it,” the Bodyguard in Chief said as she hastily slipped her breastplate on.

“There is no hope! No solution. The stars have shown me the future! IT will come to feast on the all sweet meats our souls generate and fling through the aether so carelessly. We draw IT here. Damn you, listen to me!” Ghilly shouted.

The Chief Advisor tried his best to calm his master, but no amount of back, neck, or groin rubs would put Ghilly’s mind at ease. Finally, as the servants mopped up the Chief Advisor’s latest attempt to calm Ghilly, an idea took hold. Yes of course! Tension demands release! Release demands action! IT would be appeased and so stave off the evils of this world.

Great King Markov, rest his noble soul, was the first to give to the Lottery. Screaming merrily as he was dragged from his bed, the king cried tears of joy as the priests slowly, arduously prepared his body for the ritual until he passed out from screaming so much happiness. Once the ritual was over, night turned to day and the whole kingdom saw that the world did not end and praised Ghilly for the heroic deed of saving all life. Thus was the Blood Lottery born.

Ghilly ruled Glasteel as King for twenty years before dedication and perseverance consumed what was left of his vast and powerful mind. Ghilly passed peacefully in his sleep, with only three daggers plunged into his heart, a sign of great respect at the time. As he was incapable of siring heirs after the events of the third great Blood Lottery, rule of the kingdom went to his nephew, Bilderbonne Markov, also known as Bilderbonne the Simple and Bilderbonne the Fuck-up. It is a testament to Ghilly’s genius at urban planning and institutional development that Glasteel was able to weather the suckitude that was Bilderbonne’s miserable two year reign which ended in a Blood Lottery so intense that Bilderbonne had to be buried fifty separate times. Ghilly’s stern visage still watches over the capitol in the form of a statue dedicated to the Bloody King, judging all who pass his gaze.

This concludes today’s Heroic Classic. Join me next time for another tale of heroism. Stay safe and have a happy Blood Lottery!

The Forty-March Punch

What is the Forty-March Punch? That’s the question that’s gone through my mind for almost a year now. Everyone’s heard of it, but no one really knows what it is. Some say it’s a secret martial arts technique that can cripple a person and make them lose pleasant memories. Others say it’s an experimental mixed drink laced with all kinds of hallucinogens that screws you up so bad, it makes people’s heads explode. A lot of people have heard of it in passing, referred to as an object, a place, an organization, even a person. This is the mystery that’s driven me so far. So far…

But after months of cold leads and dead ends I managed to catch a lucky break. It turned out one of my friends in the crime beat of the local paper had gotten a tip from an anonymous source’s aunt’s roommate, you get my drift. The tip pointed to a local bar near the International Airport where hotels, motels, auto shops, fast food joints, clubs and other establishments grew like fungus on the rotted bark that was air travel.

The bar was dirty, smelly, falling apart. It felt like home and I didn’t like it. I asked for Jim, said a friend told me I could find him here. The barkeep frowned and told me to wait. A minute of waiting later, a round figure plopped down next to me.

“Heard you were looking for something,” he said, cheeks red and jolly.

“You Jim?” I asked.

“I’m your ticket to the answers you seek. Follow me.”

He led me to the back, past the storage room and broom closet next to the restroom. He pushed through what looked like a manager’s office and kept going to the end of the room. He removed a panel off the wall behind the coat rack and punched a combination into the key pad. The wall creaked, shifted, inched backwards and slid away and right then I knew I was way out of my element. I didn’t sign up for secret doors that led to secret staircases lit by secret torchlight down into secret darkness. But the mantra behind a majority of my bad decisions turned its volume way up in my mind. That mantra being; you’ve come this far, might as well keep going. That was how I ended up at the bottom of the staircase, against my better judgment.

“Just so we’re clear, I’m looking for the Forty-March Punch and not a creepy sex dungeon,” I said. The unspoken how do you know that’s not what it is? rung in the silence behind my ears.

“You’re lucky we live in a day and age were profaning the sacred is met with a shrug rather than a stoning,” said Jim, though he never told me if that was his name. This whole thing was seeming like more of a bad idea the longer it went on. “Keep up.”

He led me through a narrow tunnel that he could barely squeeze his girth through. Several times I thought he was going to get stuck and I would have to awkwardly shove him to get him through, but he managed surprisingly well. The tunnel opened up to a massive chamber which I wasn’t sure was physically possible down below these streets. Where were the sewer mains? The optic fiber cable networks? We hadn’t gone down that far. The chamber was lined with stones with runes etched on them in a language that hadn’t been spoken naturally in an eon.

Inside the circle of stones, another circle of people, standing around a pool of liquid. Next to each person in the circle were terrified looking people wearing looks not too different from my own.

“Welcome back, Brother Jimothy Timopher Jones,” said one of the people in the circle.

“Oh shit,” I said under my breath, though I swore it echoed in that place.

“This one wishes to learn the secret of the Punch,” said Jim. Er, Jimothy.

“Step forward,” said the people in the circle in unison.

“Oh shit,” I said louder this time.

“I can’t! I’m out!” one of the terrified onlookers yelled. She ran toward the exit, a different one than we had come through, and was zapped by arcane forces emanating from the circle of stones.

“Your charge was… unworthy, Brother Jamden Gris Pennywicker,” said the one of the people in the circle. Someone, I assume Brother Jamden, shrieked and tore his clothes and hair off, then his skin, then just everything until there was nothing left but sputtering gibbets of meat and clothing.

“Oh shit,” I was practically screaming at this point.

“Come, Brother Jimothy. Enter the circle.”

Jim went forward and so did I, into the circle of stones, which sparked as we crossed the threshold.

“We may now begin. Charges. When the chant starts, you will disrobe and enter the pool. Then the secrets of the Forty-March Punch will be revealed.”

“What if we we’re allergic to magic water?” I asked.

“Begin!”

The people in the circle started chanting, the rest of us looked at each other for one dumbfounded moment before we started taking our clothes off like we were having an orgy race. I was proud and a little ashamed of the fact that I was one of the first to get stark naked. Others had opted to keep their bras and underwear on but I wasn’t risking anything, just following commands to the letter. The chant grew louder and I waited to see who would jump in first. No one budged. Then the mantra kicked in.

“Oh well,” I said to a life not well lived.

I took the plunge into the mirror like stillness of the pool. It was icy cool, then warm. I felt great. Better than I’ve ever felt. I opened my mouth and drank it in, breathing, gasping like I’d never had air before. This was it. This was the point of it all. Forget Paradise. Forget everything. Now I am a complete person, thanks to new Forty-March Punch, from Aple-Aid! A drink so smooth it goes down like syrup! Healthy and nutritious, it’s like I’m Punching the fat away! This isn’t a soft drink. It’s a lifestyle drink. A miracle in a can. Eight hours of energy, zero calories, one thousand grams of sugar. One thousand grams of fun! Forty-March Punch! Don’t let life get you down. Punch it!

 

Get it at your local soft drink dispensary or wherever Evil World Ending Elixirs are sold.

The Arsonist’s Flywheel

“Okay, folks, stay close. Our next stop is Techno Wonderland,” the museum guide said. He was a scruffy guy with a greying bushy mustache that belonged on a failed 70’s cop show. Lindsay wondered if perhaps that was the reason he looked so scruffy and dejected.

“Oh wow,” someone on the tour said as they entered the exhibit. All around them in glass cases were artifacts from the villains of yesteryear. The aluminum jetpack and asbestos pantaloons of Jet Hawk, the lightning gun invented by Mega Tesla, Ghost Bandit’s see through revolvers, and in the center of the room an incongruous little display with a single round metal disc in it. The plaque on the case read: The Arsonist’s Flywheel. Lindsay took a picture of it.

“Take a look around,” said the museum guide, his voice scratchy, his eyes heavy. “What you see before you is fifty years of Wonder Tech, so called because the incredibly deranged and gifted minds that created them were years, even decades ahead of modern science. Their gadgets and gizmos almost seem to operate *yawn* on magic rather than science, so advanced. Are they. Ahem. Why don’t you folks go explore a bit and we’ll meet up on the far side of the room.” The museum guide left the tour, presumably to go find a closet to nap in.

Everyone separated to gawk at the wonders of mad science. Some snapped pictures. Some were trying to snap pictures of themselves, something called a “selfie”, even though there were plenty of people around to take the picture for them. Lindsay didn’t understand it and she didn’t care to. She went to snap more pictures of the flywheel.

“Hey cutie.”

Oh God, Lindsay thought.

“Hello,” she said, still focused on taking pictures.

“I saw you were hanging around by yourself,” said the guy.

“Uh huh,” she replied.

“All alone,” he said.

“Yup.”

“No guys.”

“What do you want?” Lindsay asked. Her accoster was a pudgy bastard with a five day smattering of peach fuzz on his face and a T-shirt with an Atari game cover on it. At her questioning, his face suddenly went blank, erasing the creepy grin from before.

“I want to get into your panties and fuck you on my bed with my penis,” he said in a dull monotone.

“How about you leave me the hell alone,” Lindsay said.

“Yes, my Queen,” said the guy. He turned and walked away, leaving the museum and catching a taxi home, locking himself in his room and lying under his bed until his parents found him a week later.

Crap. She hadn’t meant to do that. Lindsay checked her watch. She would have to deal with that later.

“Yawn, okay every people,” the museum guide said, stumbling back into the room. “Let’s see if we can’t find the food court for some yummy, delicious…”

The ceiling exploded and a man in a yellow costume rappelled to the floor, yelling, “Butter!” Everyone in the room screamed, ducking out of the way and hiding behind whatever they could find. The smart ones tried to run, but they were corralled back into the room by angry teenagers wearing yellow uniforms.
“Greetings, ladies and gentlefolk. It is I, Lord Butter, come to claim the Arsonist’s Flywheel to fuel the meteoric growth of my criminal empire! Henchmen and henchwomen, begin with the raiding and the pillaging.”
“If you do that, the alarm will go off and the American Hero Society will be notified,” said the museum guide.
“As if those has-beens even matter anymore,” said Lord Butter.
“And like, three SWAT teams,” said the guide.
“Oh. Well turn off the alarm then!” Lord Butter commanded.
“Sure, pal,” said the guide.
“It’s Lord to you. And why are you being so calm about this? This is a once in a lifetime event for most people,” said Lord Butter.
“Eh, I don’t care. None of this stuff is real anyway,” said the guide.
“What! A deception? Where is the real Arsonist’s Flywheel?” asked Lord Butter.
“What makes you think it’s here?” asked the guide.
“A museum wouldn’t just set up a bunch of fakes for no reason. This is an exhibit, not a house of props!” Lord Butter exclaimed.
“What do you want me to say, huh? Nothing here is real,” said the guide.
“I will not be made a fool of! I am Lord Butter! Criminal mastermind and genius inventor of the artificial butter enhancement formula! Leader of the Margarine Men!”
“And women!” one of the henchwomen said.
“Yes of course. Now, tell me where I can find the real Arsonist’s Flywheel before I drown you in deadly soy butter equivalent!” Lord Butter commanded.
“Can’t help you, boss,” said the guide.
“Is Lord Butter gonna have to shoot a bitch?” Lord Butter said, drawing a stick of butter with a pistol grip attached to it from his hip holster.
“Guys, where are we on security?” Lindsay asked.
“Almost done cutting feeds. We are live in five seconds,” said the voice in her ear.
“I will count to three,” said Lord Butter.
“Crap,” said Lindsay.
“One.”
The guide swallowed nervously.
“Two.”
The hammer on the butter gun clicked back.
“Th…”
“What the what?”
Everyone turned to see the museum guide walking back from the hallway, a half eaten Twinkie in his hand.
“Do you have a twin we don’t know about?” Lord Butter asked the guide he had at butter gunpoint.
“Mission is go.”

Lindsay commanded the room to sleep. The pheromone mixture spread, causing everyone to slump to the floor. The henchmen saw this but didn’t know what to do. Suddenly their heads and chests began to explode as elite black ops soldiers came from behind and above. Two, three, now four of them, gunning down the henchmen with precise aim.

“Eat trans fats, motherfuckers!” Lord Butter shouted. The fake guide’s head became a massive set of jaws and bit Lord Butter’s hand clean off. “AAAHHH!!!” Lord Butter screamed.

Lindsay waited for the shooting to stop. When it did, she got to her feet. One of the soldiers approached.

“Nice work, Collins.”

“Thanks, Wasp man,” said Lindsay.

“You idiot! We need him alive!” another soldier said to the hugely jawed guide.

“He was threatening me. I don’t like when people do that,” the guide said as he morphed back into his true body.

“God damn it, Centipede!” the solider yelled.

“This is Boar. We have target,” said another soldier.

“Evac already en route,” said the voice in everyone’s ears.

“What are you people? Government spooks come to stop my crime spree?” asked Lord Butter.

“We are going to be your new best friends for the next few hours. Or until you’re dead. Whichever comes first. I guess it depends on how cooperative you are,” said Boar as Wasp patched Lord Butter up.

“Shit. Shit. What do you want?” Lord Butter asked.

“You’re going to tell us who your friends are. Your colleagues in the Evil League of Evil. Names, aliases, and other personal details. We also want your suppliers and contractors, who you hire out to for all these fruity minions you employ,” said Boar.

“Used to employ,” Centipede corrected him, rifling through several henchmen’s pockets.

“Holy shit. What the fuck is this? I’m nobody. I’m just a guy in a butter costume.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Lindsay. “You’re the illustrious, suave, overly hyped Lord Butter.” She motioned with her hand and Lord Butter drifted off to a coma like sleep.

“Bleeding’s under control. Let’s move!” Wasp ordered. The team left. Lindsay took one more picture of The Arsonist’s Flywheel before lying down and commanding everyone to wake up.

An hour later, the police had gotten the last of the crime scene tape up and finished taking witness statements. A representative from the American Hero Society, a guy called Super Sleuth, had shown up but there wasn’t much to look at. Just an ultra violent crime scene with no witnesses and no surveillance footage to examine. Lindsay’s interview was a breeze. She asked the officer to give her easy questions and he complied, like everyone did when she asked nicely. On the bus ride back to the safe house, as she tapped on the grimy window glass, she wondered what someone could possibly want with a flywheel.