Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Gloom Modifier Prompts: The Magnificent Marriage of the Sinister Ringmaster and the Illustrated Lady - Chapter 3: A (Somewhat) Jolly Jaunt

One in a series of stories inspired by the modifiers in the card game "Gloom" - which is an awesome game that I highly recommend!

This is the tale of how Darius Dark found himself Married Magnificently, while Elissandre DeVille was likewise Wondrously Well-Wed - and the events that brought the pair together.

"Gloom" remains the property of Atlas Games and Keith Baker.

__________

Modifiers that influenced this chapter:

Darius Dark: Found Love on the Lake, Was Trapped on a Train
Elissandre DeVille: Was Pursued By Poodles, Was Delighted by Ducklings, Had a Tryst on a Train

In the spirit of the game, I tried to add some alliteration here and there!
__________________________________________________________

About a week later, Elissandre was sat outside in the morning sunlight - her spare dress laid across her lap as she stitched up a tear, needles and thread on a small wooden stool to her side. 

As she sewed away, humming gently, she was interrupted by the sound of someone coughing. 

Looking up, she spotted Darius walking towards her. He was limping slightly, and had to use his cane to support himself rather than sheer decoration, but otherwise, he was certainly in a far better state than he had been a few days prior.

The two were alone. Samson was making adjustments to the big top tent, Thumbelisa was still dressing in her caravan, and God only knew where Giggles was... he always had kept himself to himself.

"Good morning, Elissandre," Darius said warmly.

"Hello, Mr. Dark," came the gentle reply. "Are you feeling better today?"

"Yes, thank you. I am much recovered."

Elissandre put her sewing to one side as the ringmaster moved closer, giving him her full attention.

"May I sit down?" he asked. "Walking still exhausts me."

"Of course, sir," she replied - collecting up her needles and reels to offer him the stool, which Darius lowered himself upon slowly with a heavy sigh.

He seemed nervous.

"I... wanted to thank you," he told the modest maiden. "For the kindness you showed me the other night. I... I much enjoyed your company."

"You're welcome," Elissandre replied. "I enjoyed yours too."


A brief silence followed. It weighed heavily on the shoulders of them both, although neither one cared to admit it.

"I... I was wondering if you'd care to... step out with me today?" Darius continued. "There's a beautiful spot we passed whilst were travelling here - a park, beside a lake. We could catch a train there."

Elissandre's eyes widened.

"You - you would have me escort you? In public? A circus freak? Wouldn't you be terribly ashamed?"

"Of what, my dear? Being seen with a beautiful young woman? I daresay the shame would lie with me. I know I am no Adonis!"

Darius laughed light-heartedly, but stopped sharply when he noticed the fear in Elissandre's eyes. This wasn't some elaborate lie she was concocting in order to turn him down politely. Her fright was genuine. Carefully and cautiously, he reached for her hand.

"I've no intention of forcing you," he stated clearly. "Just say no, and nothing more shall be said. But, if I may - I... I would greatly enjoy it if I were able to give you this. A day of delights, to repay you for everything you have done."

Elissandre looked up at Darius. A change in her eyes revealed an otherwise hidden smile, and she grasped his hand tighter in her own.

"I'd be honoured."
_______________________________________

The next few hours were sheer bliss for Elissandre. After walking to the station, staying close to the ringmaster's side, she was able to enjoy the first train ride she'd had in years. She practically rushed on board in order to seize a window seat, and spent the journey staring at the picturesque scenery unfolding before her - her hand forever resting on the glass.

It brought back long-forgotten memories of childhood trips to the seaside - one of the few happy times she could recall from her life before the Den. Her history was a complex one, tinged with tragedy. It was something she had never discussed with Darius, and he had never asked any questions. For that, she was grateful, and she would forever respect him - despite his many failings in his chosen profession.

Darius, happy to see Elissandre's excitement, sat back in his seat contentedly - cherishing an opportunity to rest and relax, his work momentarily forgotten and beyond care.

Neither of them noticed the shadowy figures who followed them at a distance... and who had boarded the same train only a few moments later.

The park was indeed a place of beauty - the vast lawns and gardens elegantly circling the icy blue waters of the lake. After walking through flowerbeds and feeding ducklings some old bread crusts they had brought, the pair sat together side by side close to the lake's edge. 

The sun was high in the sky by this time. Darius, sweltering in the summer heat, removed his jacket so that he might lay upon it, pulling his hat down over his eyes as he began to doze. Elissandre, meanwhile, merely pulled her own coat closer around her. True, she was enjoying herself, but she still felt nervous about being around other people - people she didn't know. She dreaded what may happen if her "deformity" was to be revealed for even a second.

However, as she watched the lake waters gently rippling back and forth, and felt the gentle breeze blowing across her face, even she began to feel a bit more at ease. Sighing contentedly, she turned towards her companion.

"Mr. Dark?"

"Hmm?"

"Mr. Dark, I just wanted to say - "

"'Darius.'"

"I'm sorry?"

Grinning, the ringmaster sat up, pushing his hat back onto his head with a smooth swiping gesture.

"Call me "'Darius'", he said softly. "We're not at the Den now, after all. Although you could call me "Darius" there too, if you wished to. I wouldn't mind."

Elissandre was aghast.

"I... I can't call you that!" she stammered.

"Why not, pray? It is my name. And I use yours."

"Indeed, but... well, it would be improper of me. You are my employer."

Saddened, Darius turned his face away - a frown forming on his lips.

"I had rather hoped that you might consider me a friend by now," he muttered.

Seeing Mr. Dark upset concerned Elissandre even more. Immediately - almost instinctively - she reached for his hand, tugging it gently to regain his attention.

"I do, Mr. Dark," she told him. "I promise you - I do."

"Then call me 'Darius'," the ringmaster pleaded. "At least here. Today. Please."

Elissandre blushed. Stifling a anxious giggle, she did as he wished.

"Very well - Darius."

It felt strange to her. Bizarre. Incorrect. And yet, somewhere, in another part of her mind... it was completely right.

Simply being with Elissandre lightened Darius' heart, but hearing her say his name caused it to skip a beat. The recent days he had spent confined to his caravan had given him a great deal of time to contemplate things... but repeatedly, he had found himself recalling that night Elissandre had spent by his side. 

It had felt like Heaven. And now he wanted more. 

He had always considered her to be beautiful - even with heavy veils and cloaks concealing her face and figure. She was clever and caring, her voice melodic and sirenesque. Seeing her here before him now, happy and calm, with the sunlight illuminating her, confirmed a notion he had long suspected.

He was in love.

Suddenly, his mind was hurled back into the present moment when he realised he had interrupted Elissandre mid-sentence.

"Sorry - what were you going to say?"

"Oh, I... I just wanted to tell you that - "

The rest of her words were replaced by a blood-curling scream as a poodle shot forth from the nearby bushes, plunging its teeth into her thigh. More hellish hounds of a similar ilk followed - snapping at her viciously and tearing her clothing in a frenzy attempt to pierce her flesh.

In the shade of a nearby tree, unseen, one gentleman turned to scold another.

"No! Not the broad, ya moron!"

The terrified Elissandre fled across the grass, lashing out at the poodles and kicking them in her attempt to escape. Darius, outraged by the sight of her suffering, joined in the chase - using his cane to beat the beasts. After a few sharp strikes from both parties, the deadly dogs whimpered and scurried away - leaving Elissandre exhausted and injured.

Upon seeing the crimson blood flowing from her wounds, Elissandre's legs buckled beneath her - leading Darius to dash forward and gently catch her in his arms.

"Please take me home," Elissandre whispered weakly.

Darius nodded. Ignoring the pain that was coarsing through his own body, he helped Elissandre stand by laying her arm across his shoulders, before hobbling slowly back towards the train station.
_________________________________

The journey back, it seemed, was not going to be as pleasant as the one they'd had on the way there. Upon seeing Elissandre's condition, the train conductor had immediately ushered the pair into a private carriage, placing some bandages into the ringmaster's hands - giving them a safe haven away from prying eyes, where Darius could discover the full extent of the illustrated lady's injuries.

Unfortunate though it was, it was time to repay the favour.

Elissandre, deeply distressed by what had happened, sat in the carriage quietly - her head hung, her eyes downcast towards the floor. Darius was equally silent as he looked at Elissandre's hands and wrists... but soon, he realised that a more thorough examination would need to be done.

"Elissandre?"

His companion turned towards him, wordlessly.

"I... I need you to... to show me your legs."

Whatever colour remained in Elissandre's face flooded away sharply as she considered this shocking notion.

"Please," Darius insisted. "I have to see where you are injured."

She knew he was right. Blinking back tears, Elissandre nodded - and slowly took hold of her skirt, pulling it up gently over her knees.

Darius immediately knelt at Elissandre's feet in order to bandage her wounds... but once that task was done, and he allowed his eyes to wander, he found himself stifling a gasp at what he could now see.

Not being one to ask questions, Darius had never actually known whether or not Elissandre really had tattoos. He had simply chosen to believe her. In his experience, the majority of people who joined freakshows were rather desperate - eager to escape their current situation. Who wouldn't take pity on someone like that? Besides, with his feelings for her growing day by day, it broke Darius' heart to consider the possibility that she had lied to him.

It brought him great relief, then, to learn that she hadn't.

The ink markings gracing Elissandre's legs were like a marvellous tableau - an interlocking tapestry of serpents, flowers, and other fascinating shapes. With childlike amazement and wonder, Darius gently traced the dark lines with his fingertips, marvelling at the masterpiece that had been revealed to him.

Incredible. Was she like this all over? If so, why would she hide something so wonderful? She wasn't "deformed" or "monstrous"... she was utterly exquisite.

Alas, Elissandre mistook his lingering as gawking... an expression of disgust. Her worst fear had been realised. Darius, a man she greatly cared for and respected, would now see her as nothing but a scarred, sullied freak. Trembling, she softly pushed him away from her, quickly lowering her skirt once more.

"Please don't," she whispered, sobbing. "I know how hideous I am."

Darius looked at her, stunned. Resting his hands on her knees, he raised his kneeling form up towards her - bringing his face close to hers.

"No, Elissandre," he replied in hushed tones. "You are more beautiful than I ever imagined."

Then, in one quick movement... her veil was brushed aside... and his lips were on hers.

The sweet ecstasy of this first kiss was quickly shattered by notions of shock and shame. After a few blissful moments, Darius, suddenly aware of what he was doing, immediately pulled away.

"Oh God - Elissandre... I'm sorry - forgive me - "

The lady shushed him gently, placing her finger upon his lips to silence him. Slowly, she removed her veil, tossing it into the corner of the carriage. Smiling, she moved her finger away from Darius' mouth, and replaced it with her own.

Suddenly, in the midst of this passionate union, Darius was thrown backwards across the carriage floor as the train shuddered to a halt. The pair looked around, confused, before hearing the voice of the conductor calling from a neighbouring car.

"Ladies and gentlemen... a tree has fallen on the track ahead of us. I'm afraid we may be here for some time."

Brushing himself off, Darius picked himself up off the floor, and took a seat at Elissandre's side.

"Oh dear," he muttered. "How unfortunate. Whatever are we going to do now?"

In response, Elissandre placed her head on Darius' shoulder - leaning forward slightly to nuzzle and kiss his neck. Groaning, Darius threw his head back and pulled Elissandre close, enfolding her in a loving embrace before returning her kisses with a mischievous grin...

___________________________________________

Soon enough, the track was cleared, and the train was able to go on its way. When it arrived at the station nearest the Den, the conductor was most bemused when he once again saw the top-hatted gentleman and the veiled lady. Clearly, they were in much better spirits than when they had boarded, as they emerged from the carriage laughing and smiling. Their hands were rapidly fastening up buttons and smoothing down clothing. The examination must have been very thorough indeed.

As he approached them to ask them how things were, he would be left scratching his head in puzzlement when the gentleman merely raised his hat to him in greeting, then eagerly pulled his female friend out onto the platform and whisked her away into the sunset: the pair of them giggling like excited children.

As she fled with her companion, the lady's skirt briefly flew up in the breeze, exposing her ankle for a mere moment. The conductor swore he could have spotted a tattoo upon it, and wondered if the the top-hatted gentleman knew about it.

He would never know that yes, the gentleman did... as well as several others besides.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Gloomy Drabbles: Samson and the Siren

Another work in a planned series of one-offs and drabbles inspired by the characters and modifiers in the card game "Gloom".

Darius acquires a new addition to the Den of Deformity, and entrusts Samson to take care of her. However, the bearded man grows much closer to her than the ringmaster ever expected...

"Gloom" remains the property of Atlas Games and Keith Baker.

Modifiers that influenced this drabble:
Samson O'Toole - Married a Mermaid

Please note that I do not know any Irish Gaelic, so all phrases are guesses using online searches. Corrections are welcome.

___________________________________________

Within a purple linen tent at the Den of Deformity, Darius Dark grinned as he examined the newly-built ten-foot-tall fish tank before him. The timid-looking creature within it pressed herself up against the glass - a sadness shining in her eyes, her forlorn face showing a longing for freedom.

It almost brought Samson to tears.

“They caught her in a fishing net off the coast of Galway,” Darius explained. “Got her for just ten pounds. What a bargain - she’ll have paid for herself in a week. They’ll all be rushing here to see her. I mean, a real-life mermaid! Even that charlatan Barnum only managed to get his hands on a fake one. This is completely unique.”

Samson didn’t respond. He had no idea what to say.

“Pretty little thing, isn’t she?” the ringmaster added.

The bearded man had to concur with that, and thus he nodded. He’d seen pictures of mermaids in the fairy tale books Elissandre sometimes read to him, but none of them could have matched the beauty of this one. The scales of her fishy tail were a dazzling shade of green - like emeralds shining in bright sunlight. As for her human aspects, she was a very pretty maiden indeed: snow-white unblemished skin, a mane of brunette hair that was the colour of autumn leaves, and the same emerald glimmer within her eyes.

“I need to help Thumbelisa rehearse,” Darius suddenly piped up. “She keeps forgetting the lyrics to Habanera. I tell her to just sing anything she wants, it’s not like anyone will understand it, but she insists on being professional. You keep an eye on my new treasure here. Give her some food, keep her company. I’ll be back later.

As Darius strode out, Samson approached the tank. The mermaid, curious, swam towards him - putting her hand against the glass, fanning her fingers.

Samson raised his own hand up towards hers, and did likewise - looking at the Den’s newest addition with a gentle, welcoming smile.

She smiled back.

A few moments passed. Then, Samson suddenly remembered he had a job to do.

Food. What in God’s name did mermaids eat? Fish? No, probably not - that would be a bit like eating your own pets, wouldn’t it? Then again, maybe not. Ah, well, it didn’t matter - he didn’t have any fish to give her anyway. So what did he have?

Reaching into his pocket, Samson took out a biscuit he’d been saving. It had crumbled slightly, and was a tad stale - as was most of the food around here - but it was still edible.
He held it up to the mermaid for consideration. She looked at him with a puzzled expression.

Ah. So she wasn’t used to biscuits. Still, she seemed intrigued by it, and was rapidly swimming up toward the top of the tank.

Slowly and steadily, Samson climbed an old wooden ladder that was carefully balanced against the glass tank, in order to reach a viewing platform that had been built above it. This allowed him to open a small hatch in the tank’s lid, where he could speak to the mermaid directly and pass items to her.

As the hatch opened, the fair siren, desperate for some fresh air and light, swam up into the gap, bursting out of the water like a jack in the box. After composing herself, she looked up at Samson - reaching her arm up towards him. The bearded man held the biscuit out to her.

“Biscuit,” he said, bluntly. “Food. To eat.”

The mermaid took it, and examined it within her hands, intrigued by it.

“Cad é seo?”

Samson’s eyes widened. It had been many years since he had heard the old language of his homeland. The ringmaster had said the mermaid had been found near Galway. She and her people had probably spoken Irish Gaelic for hundreds of years. Thankfully, he was fluent. Darius and the others, he knew, were not… and the mermaid didn’t seem to know English. No wonder she look so terrified: when Darius had brought her here, after making his various deals, she probably had no clue what was happening to her.

Perhaps hearing someone speak in her native tongue would calm her a little.

Briosca ,” he told her, pointing to the biscuit. “ Ith .”

“Tuigim. Go raibh maith agat.”

“Ta fáilte romhat.”

The mermaid raised the biscuit to her lips tenderly, before slowly taking a little bite of it. After chewing and contemplating for a few moments, she made an appreciative humming noise, and smiled at Samson.

“Tá blas maith!”

Hastily, she chomped the rest of it down, whilst Samson chuckled. Once she’d finished, and had licked her lips happily, she turned back towards the bearded man with a warm smile.

“Is mise Muirín,”   she said, placing a hand on her chest.

“Samson is ainm dom.”

“Tá áthas orm bualadh leat.”

The conversation went on for quite some time. In fact, Darius got back far too soon for Samson’s liking. By then, he and Muirín - as the mermaid called herself - had been talking for well over an hour, but to him, it had only felt like a few moments. When Darius informed him that he was needed to help set things up for the next show, he found himself biting his tongue to avoid answering him back. The ringmaster was his boss, after all.

So, with much regret, he closed the tank lid - doing his best to ignore Muirín’s frantically shaking head as he did so - climbed down the ladder, and sloped off out of the tent.


 
As the days went on, Samson began to spend more and more time with his new aquatic acquaintance. He constantly volunteered to feed and care for her, and given that his particular “act” wasn’t one that had to be rehearsed, he went to visit her during his downtime, too.

Talking in a language no-one around them knew made their conversations seem more secret, more private, more… intimate . Both parties felt able to share things with one another that they wouldn’t do in usual circumstances: stories about their families and childhoods, what their respective lives had been like before the Den.

Samson had been a simple farmhand, who’d joined the circus out of desperation when hard times had hit, rather than being a natural seeker of the spotlight. Muirín, meanwhile, was a noble-born lady within mermaid society: not quite a princess, but certainly a solidified member of the underwater aristocracy. She had approached the fishing nets when they had been catching creatures within her family’s part of the sea, resulting in her accidental capture, and she sorely missed the marvellous city where she and her fellow sirens had been sired.

One night, Samson climbed up to the platform to give Muirin her dinner: a cheese and lettuce sandwich. Through trial and error, the bearded man had learned that she wasn’t keen on eating fish or animals, but anything vegetarian was sure to get her tastebuds tingling. For a special treat, Samson had even saved her a slice of cake the troupe had shared for Mister Giggles’ birthday.

After the mermaid had eaten, she splashed around happily in the open hatchway for a while, enjoying the limited freedom it gave her, and the feel of warm light upon her face. As Samson watched her, lying down on the platform and leaning into the hatch to get a better view, a similar warmth began to grow within his heart.

Upon noticing Samson gazing at her lovingly, Muirín stopped suddenly - looking up at her friend with a troubled expression, snapping him out of his daze.

“Tá rud éigin mícheart?”  he asked.

Slowly, Muirín towards the edge of the hatch, reached up her arms, and wrapped them around Samson’s neck.

“Samson… mo ghrá thú.”

With those words, she leapt up like a dolphin, and kissed him.

Seconds later, Samson had entwined his arms around the mermaid’s delicate frame, gently lifting her up out of the water as he returned the kiss with all the passion he could muster. When Muirín finally broke away, she cupped Samson’s cheek with her hand, moving her head so her shining eyes stared deeply into his.

“Le do thoil ... scaoil amach mé.”

Please… set me free.

Samson nodded in response. As he pulled Muirín closer for another kiss, the lovers were suddenly interrupted by a sharp cry from the tent opening.

“What the hell is going on here?!”

The pair turned their heads, and saw the agitated figure of Darius Dark stood before them, horrified by what he had just witnessed. As Muirín leapt back into the tank, the ringmaster ragefully charged towards the bearded man, roaring like a wild animal.

Later that evening, neither Darius nor Samson turned up for the troupe’s evening meal. After waiting for a good while, a concerned Elissandre headed towards the mermaid’s tent, wondering if they’d simply lost track of time.

As she stepped inside, she was met by a horrifying sight - with the bloodcurling scream that followed it being heard for many miles around.

Samson and Muirín were gone. Bobbing up and down in the closed tank was the body of Darius Dark… his eyes staring blankly from behind the glass, his face ghost-white, and his final breath having long since left his lungs.



One summer sunset, on a shore of Galway Bay, a man sat at the edge of the water and stared out to sea, his soul calmed by the beautiful scene before him. The small wooden shack in which he lived was only a few steps behind him. Within the water, half-submerged and laying peacefully in his arms, was his mermaid bride.

They had arrived here a few weeks ago - Samson having filled a washtub with water, stolen a cart, and driven himself and Muirín away from Dark’s Den and back to her aquatic homeland… committing one of the ultimate sins to ensure her freedom.

They were never to speak of it again.

During the day, the pair were forced to live apart. Samson combed the beach for items and did odd jobs to earn a living, whilst Muirín spent time with her fellow mermaids in the beautiful city beneath the waves. But when night began to fall, and the pair were safe from prying eyes, Muirín returned to the shore to be with her husband - the bearded man having longed all day for the sun to set faster in the sky.

Samson knew he had done a wicked thing. But here and now, he had no regrets. The woman he loved was happy, and he was here beside her - making things work as best as they could. True, they were from two different worlds, but so many couples before them had been, too… just in a slightly less literal sense.

As he embraced Muirín that little bit tighter, his beloved sighed contentedly.

“Mo ghrá thú, Samson.”

“Tá mo chroí istigh ionat, Muirín.”

Yes, they were a bit of an odd couple.

But if there was one thing Samson was used to, it was oddness.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Gloomy Drabbles: Any Other Part Belonging to a Man

Another work in a planned series of one-offs and drabbles inspired by the characters and modifiers in the card game "Gloom".

Whilst helping Prof. Helena with her ongoing work on Lord Slogar, Elias contemplates the possibility that her devotion to a dead man is robbing her of a loving bond with a living one.

"Gloom" remains the property of Atlas Games and Keith Baker.

Modifiers that influenced this drabble:
Elias E. Gorr – Found Love on the Lake
Prof. Helena Slogar – Stole from a Stiff
Melissa Slogar – Slept Without Sorrows


___________________________________________

As he rowed the small vessel across the grim, grey waters of the vast lake, heading back towards Castle Slogar, Elias released the oars momentarily – having caught a glimpse of his employer out of the corner of one eye.

Prof. Slogar was sat at the other end of the boat in a posture that could only be described as regal: bolt upright, but with a calm, focused composure... like Cleopatra making her great entrance into Rome. Two things rested softly in her lap. The first was the head of young Melissa, who, worn out from the journey, had fallen asleep beside her mother. The second was... a fresh acquisition, wrapped up tightly in a white handkerchief.

A new piece for Lord Slogar.

Normally, Elias would go on these moonlit journeys alone - having long been trusted by the Professor to retrieve high quality “materials”. Tonight, however, she had made an exception. The next part she needed, she'd said, was one that she would have to choose for herself. It would, allegedly, be of great importance to the continued relationship of herself and her soon-to-be resurrected husband. Their happiness would very much depend on it.

Unable to leave Melissa unaccompanied, the Professor had brought the young girl along on their late night excursion – the child amusing herself by playing hopscotch amongst the gravestones whilst the adults did the dirty work. Or rather, as Elias did the dirty work: Helena gave the orders, the gravedigger carried them out.

After a good hour spent considering several specimens, Helena settled on the perfect part, and instructed Elias to take them home. As Elias watched her, the Professor's hand gently brushed against the wrapped-up artefact, and she allowed herself a small, knowing smile.

Unintentionally, the sexton sighed. Startled, Prof. Slogar looked at him with a cold stare.

“Elias? You are still rowing, aren't you?”

“Huh? What was that?”

For the first time, Elias became aware that he had let go of the oars. Muttering a minced oath (what with Melissa being present, albeit asleep), he quickly grabbed them once again.

“Sorry, Professor. Won't happen again.”

“I should hope not,” scoffed Helena, turning her head aside.

Groaning quietly with embarrassment, Elias picked up the pace – now eager to reach the shore and escaping this embarrassing situation, losing himself in thought as he rowed on.

The gravedigger knew all too well that two key forces drove the Professor: ambition, and grief. Working in a field where men dominated almost every aspect, Helena was determined to prove herself by discovering some the greatest scientific breakthroughs known to humankind. And indeed, she had. She was able to resurrect the dead. However, for the time being, this great ability of hers had to remain hidden, out of fear that harm may come to Melissa. After all, the girl was not only the proof of her victory over mortality, but her only child: her dearest and most precious treasure.

That said, Melissa's “reawakening” had gone relatively smoothly. She had died following an illness, which, whilst incredibly tragic, had mercifully left her body and brain intact. In the case of Helena's late husband, only the latter remained. It would take all of Helena's cleverness and craftsmanship, and many months, if not years, of hard work, to create a new human host for it to dwell within.

And that was what confused Elias.

The Professor going to extreme efforts to resurrect her only child was totally understandable. There was no word in the English language to describe that grief – horrific as it was. Anyone in that terrible situation would do whatever they could to bring them back. But marriage was a rather different matter. Many widows married again, once they'd given themselves time to grieve the loss of their first spouse.

Furthermore, it wasn't as if Helena was “past it”. She'd married Jonathan Slogar at the age of eighteen, with Melissa being born about a year later. Even after spending several years on her scientific pursuits, she was still not yet forty. Were she to wed a second husband, and soon, they would most likely spend several happy years together. She might even be able to have more children: not to substitute Melissa, of course, but to fulfil her dream of having a large, happy family.

But no. Instead, she was spending what were arguably the best years of her life handling corpses and buying herself in calculations. As smart as she was, even the Professor was unable to stop the passage of time. At this rate, by the time Lord Slogar was back in a body and back on his feet, Helena herself would be on the verge of death – a wizened, wretched wench. This image reminded Elias of the murderous old bitch who lived over at Blackwater Watch, and he shuddered at the thought.

Hell, Helena wouldn't even have to look far for a devoted lover.

From the day he'd arrived at Castle Slogar – a formal appointment to bury the limited bodily remains of the late Lord Jonathan – Elias had considered Professor Helena one of the most beautiful women he had ever laid eyes on. As time went on, her wisdom and determination only tightened her unknowing grip on his heart. Elias was all too aware that he himself was hideous, and as such, he was willing to do whatever he could to keep this goddess in his life: performing her various dubious odd-jobs, and essentially becoming her live-in servant.

Thus, as the Professor pined over a dead man, there was a living one close to her that utterly worshipped the ground she walked on. She was a genius... and yet that was the one thing she didn't know.

She was far too good for the likes of him. And yes, Elias knew that.

Still, he lived in hope.

After beaching the boat onto the shoreline, Elias escorted the Professor back to the castle, carrying the sleeping Melissa gently in his arms. After they had tucked the girl up in bed, he and Helena made their way to the laboratory.

Grinning, Helena placed the handkerchief-wrapped package on her worktable, and peeled away the cloth slowly... like one opening a precious gift. She clapped her hands together proudly as she once again witnessed its contents.

The face of a young man, freshly dead and buried... chosen due to his striking resemblance to the former Lord Slogar.

As Helena tenderly stroked the dead man's cheek, Elias felt his blood run cold. Excusing himself, he hastily fled from the room and retreated to his cell-like quarters: pommeling his pillow with tightly clenched fists in a vain effort to relieve his jealous anger.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Gloomy Drabbles: 'Til Death Do Us Part

The first in a planned series of one-offs and drabbles inspired by the characters and modifiers in the card game "Gloom".

When his financial troubles leave him in dire straits, Darius is forced to do something truly terrible - get married. And it seems that his new bride is even worse than most...
"Gloom" remains the property of Atlas Games and Keith Baker.

Modifiers that influenced this drabble:
Darius Dark - Was Badly Betrothed

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The wine had been drank, the food had been eaten, and the loud cries of revelry had slowly faded into silence as day turned to night at Blackwater Watch.



Darius Dark sat alone at a table amongst the soiled glasses and stained plates, watching the dying light of the candle before him as it flickered and danced.


Today had been his wedding day. And it had been the worst day of his life.

It had been a union of necessity, not passion. Shortly after Darius and his Den of Deformity had rolled into town, they were paid a visit by the Blackwater clan - led, naturally, by their fearsome matriarch. As he announced the acts and entertained his (very small) crowd, Darius couldn't help but notice how the old woman's eyes forever remained fixed on him.

After the show, when he'd headed into his caravan to retire for the night, he was interrupted by an unexpected knock on the door. Upon opening it, he was stunned to find that the crone had followed him. She asked him for a quick word, and naturally, being a gentleman, he permitted her to enter.

"It's not too bad, your little carnival," she'd told him. "Still, it's a bit small and shabby for someone of your talents. You've a lot of potential."

Darius was flattered.

"Thank you," he'd replied. "I had hoped to build this up into something much greater, but sadly, funds have been something of an issue for me."

"I thought as much," the Old Dam said. "What you need is a partner."

"A partner?" Darius answered. "I doubt it. I like to run things around here my own way. I'd struggle to work with anyone else."

"Oh, goodness, no, I didn't mean a business partner," the Old Dam added hurriedly. "A man of your gifts has every right to work solo. I was thinking more along the lines of someone who would offer you financial support without interfering in your affairs."

"But what would I give them in return?"

Smirking, the Old Dam had reached out her clammy, wrinkled hand, and stroked Darius' cheek. The ringmaster's blood turned to ice in an instant. Perturbed, he backed away against the wall, as the old crone watched him and laughed.

"Oh, come now, Mr. Dark!" she cackled. "You're a handsome young man. You'd make a fine husband to someone such as myself. And with a fortune such as mine, it would hardly be a worthless endeavour on your part."

"But - but I..." stammered Darius, "I - I could never - "

"Love me?" The Old Dam laughed even louder. "How sentimental of you! Love and marriage are not the same thing, young man. Love may indeed be a precious thing, but it's not going to keep you out of the poorhouse."

She paused for a moment, still smiling evilly.

"Then, of course, there is the matter of social class," she added. "Being wedded to me would certainly raise you up the ladder, would it not? Influence is a key part of fame, and being seen with me will ensure you have plenty of that. You'll be one of the greatest figures in society today. Not bad for a man born and raised amongst circus freaks."

"That's enough, you wicked hag!" Darius snapped, outraged. "Get out of here, and stay out! I never want to see your wrinkled old face again!"

A chuckle erupted from the mouth of the sinister matriarch.

"Play holier than thou all you like, Mr. Dark," she whispered, heading towards the caravan door. "But I advise you to think carefully about my offer. The wolves won't stay away from your door forever."

Sadly, she was right. As the weeks went by, Darius' situation became more and more bleak. The already-low attendance figures continued to decrease. Creditors and loan sharks threatened to take away everything he had. And soon, even his beloved troupe members were forced to go hungry, with no food remaining in the stores to fill their stomachs.

That treacherous witch had been right. He had no choice. If he wanted to keep those he cared for safe and alive, there was only one thing he could do.

Thus, one tragic night, Darius gave Samson a note he had written - the bearded man being the most trustworthy as he was unable to read - and instructed him to deliver it to Blackwater Watch. When the Old Dam received this missal, she was thrilled to see it was signed "D.D.", and that the body of the message consisted of only two words.

I do.

And so, here Darius was: a married man, joined in holy and legally binding matrimony to a woman he despised. As he watched the candlelight flickering - like a prisoner trying to break free of its bonds - he was interrupted by the entrance of the grizzly groundkeeper, Willem.

"Evenin', Mr. Dark," Willem said to his new master. "Pardon the intrusion... I just wanted to pop by and wish yer good luck."

"Thank you, Willem."

"No, sir - seriously," the handyman told him, in a gruff, matter-of-fact tone. "Good bleedin' luck."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, yer do know yer not her first husband, don't yer?"

"Of course. I assumed she'd been married before."

"Well, let's just say the last few didn't exactly die of natural causes."

"The last few?!"

"Four. Mebbe five. Yer lose count after a bit."

"And she...?"

"Yep - every one of 'em. Even the fathers of her kiddies. Never proven in court, of course. Too clever for that, the old bitch."

Darius sank back into his chair, shaking... his face chalk-white.

"Still," Willem added, in a brighter tone, "she's getting on a bit now, and yer a young healthy fella. Keep yer wits about yer, and yer'll be fine. Probably."

With these words, Willem walked out. Knowing he was once again safe in his loneliness, hidden from prying eyes, Darius threw his head into his hands, and wept.

He'd had everything planned. Fritter away any money he could get his hands on to the Den, to make sure his wonderful pseudo-family of curiosities stayed safe, and then, when the old cow finally kicked the bucket, he'd run back there, inheritance in hand, and create the carnival of his dreams. Now, it seemed like she was going to be the one who ended up widowed - for God knows what number time in a row.

As he contemplated this, a steel-like strength took hold of the ringmaster's heart.

No. No - it would not be that way. He was going to survive this god-awful marriage and see the bitch buried. He'd outrun her. Outlast her. Or maybe... just maybe... beat her at her own game.

After all, he had four good reasons to do it. Three of them were named Samson, Mister Giggles and Thumbelisa. And the fourth was the most special of all.

The woman he had loved from the moment he'd met her. The woman that his affection for would keep him strong throughout this taxing trial: her face entering his mind in the sweetest of his dreams. The woman whom he would ask to become the second Mrs. Dark once the first one was finally in Hell where she belonged.

Elissandre. His beautiful illustrated lady.

With tears staining his cheeks and a sinister smirk crossing his lips, Darius Dark blew out the candle.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Evil Minions Union / LAFTAW Agents: Indy Claus

A Christmas sketch featuring the LAFTAW Agents and Evil Minions. 
Indigo's red suit lands him in trouble during a Christmas Eve mission.
Contains some mild swearing.

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1) EXT. ROOF OF GREAT ONE'S HEADQUARTERS, NIGHT


A snowy winter's night.

INDIGO and MILES stand together on the rooftop beside a chimney. Both are wearing communication earpieces. INDIGO has a rope around his waist that connects to a similar rope around MILES' - like a climber and belayer. INDIGO has also grown a shaggy, unkempt beard since we last saw him.

MILES shivers, clutching himself for warmth.


MILES:
Christmas Eve. Who in their right feckin' mind makes your work on Christmas feckin' Eve? I should be on my third mulled wine by now.

INDIGO:
Oh, shut up moaning - you have the easy job. I'm the one who's climbing straight into God knows how many death traps they have down there. Besides, if we don't find that raygun prototype, this may be the last Christmas Eve you ever see.

MILES:
Well, at least you'll be indoors. I'm freezing my arse off up here.

Beat. MILES looks at INDIGO'S beard.

MILES:
Jaysus, have you still not shaved that fuzz off your face? The moustache was bad enough.

INDIGO:
Hey - I like it. Besides... I think it suits me.

MILES:
Speaking for myself, anyone with eyes, and common feckin' decency... it doesn't. It really doesn't.


Beat. INDIGO starts to climb into the chimney.

INDIGO:
Right - I'll go in and find the raygun. You keep lookout - I'll call if I need you.

INDIGO starts to climb into the chimney, but loses his hold and tumbles down, screaming. As INDIGO falls, MILES is dragged forward and slams into the chimney's side. He groans.

2) INT. GREAT ONE'S OFFICE - GREAT ONE'S HEADQUARTERS, NIGHT


The office is empty, illuminated only by shallow lamplight.

INDIGO lands in the fireplace with a thud. Dust and ash flies up and lands in his beard and exposed hair, giving it a greyish tinge. Moaning, he starts to get up.


MILES:
(via earpiece) Indy? You all right?

INDIGO:
Yeah, I'm fine. Just a bit of a bumpy landing.


He produces a torch from his pocket, and starts to look around the room.

After a while, he spots a wooden box on a side table. He approaches it carefully and opens it slowly.

Inside it is the ray gun - a small, toy-like pistol.

INDIGO picks this up gently. Suddenly, he is interrupted by the door creaking open. Panicking, he dashes towards the fireplace.


A little voice pipes up in the darkness.

CHRISTIE:
See? He's come! I told you he'd come!


INDIGO looks towards the door, frozen to the spot in surprise and still holding the pistol in one hand.

Three child MINIONS in miniature versions of the standard masks and uniforms - a girl, CHRISTIE, and two boys, DAVIES and MUNDY - have scurried into the room excitedly.


DAVIES:
That's not him! He's too thin!

CHRISTIE:
It is him! Look! He has a red suit and a beard and everything!


MILES:
(via earpiece) What's going on down there?


INDIGO is still too stunned to reply.

MUNDY, excited, snatches the pistol from INDIGO'S hand.

MUNDY:
Look, he brought toys!


This finally triggers a reaction from INDIGO. He grabs the pistol back, swiftly.

INDIGO:
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on, there! That's not for you!


CHRISTIE:
Then, who's it for, Santa?

INDIGO:
Look, kids, you need to - wait, what did you just call me?

DAVIES:
Santa. You are Santa, right?


INDIGO thinks for a moment.

INDIGO:
Can you kids keep a secret?

CHRISTIE:
Yeah.

INDIGO:
Promise you won't tell anyone you saw me? Like the Great One?

MUNDY:
We promise.


INDIGO:
Then yes - I'm Santa.


CHRISTIE:
See? I told you!

INDIGO:
Right, now that you've seen me... go to bed. Now. Please.

He ushers them towards the door.

DAVIES:
But why?

INDIGO:
Santa's busy. Now go.


MUNDY:
Do we get presents?

INDIGO:
Yes, yes - if you've been good.


All three children groan sadly.

INDIGO:
What?

DAVIES:
Ashworth was right. We won't get any presents.

INDIGO is moved by this revelation. He stops.

INDIGO:
(softly) What?

CHRISTIE:
Minions have to be naughty. Only nice kids get presents from Santa. That's why Ashworth said you wouldn't come.


INDIGO sighs. He knows he's too nice for his own good - but he's the hero in this story, after all. He speaks into his earpiece.

INDIGO:
Miles? Call HQ. I need a favour.


3) EXT. ROOF OF GREAT ONE'S HEADQUARTERS, NIGHT /  INT. GREAT ONE'S OFFICE - GREAT ONE'S HEADQUARTERS, NIGHT


On the roof, MILES struggles to shove a large, laden sack down the chimney.

MILES:
(muttering) Him and his god-damn ideas...


The sack lands in the fireplace, much to the children's delight. INDIGO takes it out and hands it to the children. It is one of various sacks that are scattered around the office. They are all filled with toys and gifts.

INDIGO:
(to self) Some say "The sins of the parents should be placed upon the children." I say, "Screw that."


CHRISTIE:
Is that your elf up there?

INDIGO:
Well, he's more of a leprechaun.

MILES:
(via earpiece) Watch it.

DAVIES:
So, these are all for us?

INDIGO:
For all of the minion children. Share them out.

MUNDY:
We will.

Another sack lands. It is smaller and green in colour. MUNDY goes to take it.

INDIGO:
No, no - that one's for someone else.

MUNDY:
Oh - OK.


The children grab as many sacks as they can, and drag them towards the door.

CHRISTIE:
Thank you, Santa!

INDIGO:
You're welcome. Merry Christmas!


Once the children have gone. INDIGO picks up the green sack, grinning.

INDIGO:
Well, someone's definitely on my naughty list this year...


4) INT. GREAT ONE'S OFFICE - GREAT ONE'S HEADQUARTERS, MORNING


Christmas morning. THE GREAT ONE, clad in a dressing gown, enters the office singing.


THE GREAT ONE:
Deck the halls with blood in folly, fa la la la la, la la la la. Drown the world in melancholy, fa la la la la, la la la la...


Chuckling, he approaches the wooden box.


THE GREAT ONE:
Once every one of my minions is armed with this little baby, world domination will be mine!

Laughing, he opens the box... and is horrified to find it has been filled with coal. Amongst it is a small handwritten note bearing the LAFTAW logo - "MERRY CHRISTMAS, JACKASS!"


5) INT. CENTRAL CONTROL ROOM, GREAT ONE'S HEADQUARTERS, MORNING


As MINION CHILDREN happily run about the halls with their new toys, the anguished scream of THE GREAT ONE echoes through his Headquarters.