FICTION: Apt. 3C

Let me start by apologizing to Sven Olafson, my one and only reader. Sorry Sven, I’ve been busy and distracted, and distressed and unable to write for a bit. I apologize and I’m working on it. Sven, you’ve been many things to my over the years and I apologize for how I’ve treated you.

Hey, At least I didn’t murder you like my Last imaginary friend!! Ask Herman what that was like, he got beheaded by Pirates and left on my pillow. I slept in his imaginary blood for weeks. It was very distressing.

But I digress. ( when i’m done I will Egress. Hopefully though I will not regress, because I didn’t like that guy)

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, My Second Fucking Book should be god damn fucking done by now! But it isn’t. I need a proof reader and to finish the last story. The last story is fun little tale called APT 3C. It’s about a Witch who wants to eat a little boy. Just for fun I thought i’d share the opening with you guy. (Sven. Sven Olafson my only fan).

I hope you enjoy and If life doesn’t get in the way, it proably will, I will have book two out in the summer and then I can start working on my next book. After this i’m going to take a break on short stories and try to write something a little longer.

Wish me luck.

In the mean time, I hope you Like Apt 3C.

 

APT. 3C

A short Story by Joseph L Zbiegien.

 

School was David’s favorite part of the day. He wasn’t a particularly good student, and he didn’t have a lot of friends. He hated his teacher and the food in the lunch room was subpar at best. He sucked at Gym and was all thumbs when it came to art. Recess was okay, but he didn’t really like going outside all that much. He was more of an indoor kid.

Library was nice, time to sit back and read and be by himself. All the other kids were still reading kids books, but he was taking a step up. He had just finished reading Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and was a quarter of the way into Bram Stokers Dracula. He loved Frankenstein, but honestly was a little bored with Dracula. The writing style just wasn’t sticking for him. Instead of a story, it was just a string of notes and journals.

But at least it kept his mind off the Witch that was trying to kill him.

Or at least, he assumed he she was trying to kill him, he thought to himself as water seeped into the torn seams of his left shoe while he hurried across the road towards the old red brick apartment building he lived in with his parents and sister. It was a five-story building, they lived on the third floor. Apartment 3C, its windows facing the street and the row of identical dead tenement housing they called home. His building was a red brick square box that sat in a row of identical red brick square boxes all in various states of disrepair.

This one was different though, because this one was his. Not only did it have all his things in it, but it also had his mother, his father, and most importantly, his sister, all of which had promised at one time or another to keep him safe.

Most importantly, it didn’t have a Witch. She lived across the street.

And she wanted to eat him. Because that’s what Witches did in every story he ever read about a witch. They tricked little boys and girls with houses made of candy, or poisonous apples, or they pretended to be kind and beautiful like his mom. What ever it took to get the little kid to drop his guard, so they can throw them in the oven and eat them.

When they first moved in, their had been lots of people in the buildings. But that was years back, before he started school. Then the people started leaving and the witch showed him. His dad said the plant left, what ever that was, and when it left it took all the other kids he used to play with, with it. Left behind were only people like his parents who either didn’t know no better or didn’t have any other options.

The once proud apartments fell kicking and screaming into the gutters taking the people with it. Now danger and trouble hid around every corner. Dangers David could feel every time he closed his eyes.

Dangers Like that Witch.

Supposedly, if you went in the bathroom in the back of the apartment and stood on the edge of the toilet and craned your neck to the left, and if it wasn’t to cloudy of a day and the smog index was low enough, you could almost fool yourself into thinking you could see the city they lived in the shadow of. David was only eight, he wasn’t tall enough to see the city yet, but his sister Cyndi told him he could, so he chose to believe her. She said lots of things that weren’t true, but sometimes she was sincere.

Besides, his mom and dad said they saw it too, and they lied to him way less than Cyndi did.

Dodging pot holes and the pounding rain drops, he hurried across the single lane, one-way street with parking on both sides, and jumped up onto the uneven side walk. He tried to run, but his left shoe kept squishing and sliding thanks to all the water that had gathered inside it during the long walk back from school. He was hurrying just in case, just in case she was their again…

Watching him from the darkness.

The Witch.

As he jumped up into the air before splashing down into the puddle, he launched a quick look over his shoulder towards the dark alley across the street. That was usually were she hid. Just out of view in the darkness between the buildings. She watched him from a broken yellow and green lawn chair she had found in the rubbish. She sat just far enough back that you wouldn’t notice her if you weren’t paying attention.

David was always paying attention.

Even though she was the one who told him about her Cyndi said she wasn’t real. She said she was a play ground story that the kids used to scare each other. Like the goat sucker or the mothman, or those melon headed kids he read about from Ohio. She said they were all fake and there wasn’t a Witch hiding in the darkness across the street from their apartment waiting until he was alone, so it could eat him.

He didn’t believe her. She never saw her. She never saw her yellow eyes watching from the darkness. He had seen the Witch. He saw the Witch almost every day. He could feel those yellow eyes dripping off his skin.

He didn’t know who she was, and honestly, he didn’t even know for sure that she was a witch, but he strongly suspected it. Especially after Cyndi told her that one of the Witches from Salem fled here after the trials, again, assuming Cyndi wasn’t lying. She had to tell the truth sometimes, didn’t she?

He saw her almost every day, the little old lady with the crusty grey hair and the crazy scar that seemed to cover half her face. It started just under her hair line and ran down over her right eye before turning drastically towards her nose. Her right nostril was gone, and her lips were split. It disappeared about half way between her chin and her mouth.

Sometimes, at night when he was trying to sleep, he could see that scar floating in the darkness.

He tried to tell Cyndi how scared he was of her, but she wouldn’t listen. Instead she made fun of him and laughed at him for it. “You’re a cute kid, but you aren’t abduction cute.” He wasn’t sure though, his mother always told him he was pretty damn cute.

The last two blocks of his walk home from school was always the hardest. Stella’s dad worked nights, and always met the kids at the school right around last bell. He walked the lot of them home, every few blocks, every few feet, another kid would disappear down a side street, or into the maw of what ever building they called home.

But Stella lived two blocks back. So, once she disappeared into her house with her dad, it was just him, all by himself… Except for the little old lady watching him from the darkness between the two empty buildings.

Except for the Witch.

It was easier last year when he was in the same school as Cyndi. But she switched schools and was now with the older kids. Her school was farther out, so not only did she come home an hour later, she got to take the bus home. He was supposed to spend the hour by himself doing his homework, but instead he usually stood at the front window watching for Cyndi to come down the street, or his parents to come home early. He hated being alone, the building was so dark, and the hallway was so long… Sometimes he thought the shadows moved.

And sometimes, when he was alone and could taste the darkness… He could hear her moving, in that closet at the end of the hallway… The one right next to the bathroom.

When his mother was home it was a linen closet, the place where she kept the towels and sheets. She had a lot more towels and sheets then they would ever need. When she wasn’t around though, he was pretty sure the closet at the end of the hall turned into something else. He was pretty sure that if he opened it up at night, or when he was alone it would be empty, empty except for a crack in the back wall the shape of that scar…

And if he stood in the doorway long enough, eventually the crack would begin to open, and she’d be their… Waiting for him. Waiting to eat him.

Ghost and Magic doors and Witches were only in books. He reminded himself as he walked down the street, the rain slowly soaking its way into his back pack smudging the B- spelling test he was brining home to show his parents and putting permeant stains in his copy of Dracula from the library.

Witches weren’t real, Cyndi told him so. But you know what is real? He wanted to tell her. He wanted to yell that Psychotic old ladies who hung around alley ways and hurt little kids were real. He read the news, he knew what could happen to him, and despite Cyndi’s protest, he was pretty sure he was indeed abduction cute.

He paused. His feet grinding to a halt as the rain pounded into him. One more step. One more step and he’d be able to see the edge of her chair, and maybe the edge of her leg, or her hand on the arm rest. One more step and he’d be able to see her.

He took a deep breath and balled his hands into fists and stepping out with his left leg took one tentative step forward. Somehow, his body relaxed and tensed all at the same time. Her chair was their, but it was on it’s side. It had blown over, meaning she wasn’t in it.

He took another step, and a second, and a third.

Her chair was empty, rocking gently in the wind. He leaned forward and let his eyes drift down the alleyway. Nothing but the puddles and an empty chair.

Surging forward, he hurried to the brown metal door of the apartment building, being mindful that his waterlogged left shoe didn’t fall off. Not seeing her was almost worse then seeing her. She could be anywhere. She could be in one of the apartments watching him. She could be on the street behind him. She could be….

As his fingers brushed the cold steel handle of the brown corrugated metal door, he realized she could even be on the other side of the door. Waiting for him. Waiting in the darkness to eat him. She got into the apartment before. She could do it again.

Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to stop. He could see the scar floating at the edge of his vision. He clamped his eyes tight and wished it all away as he tightened the grip on the handle. One last look, he allowed himself one last look back towards her hiding space as he started to pull the heavy metal door open.

Still empty. He could still see the empty seat waving slightly side to side as the rain and wind pushed it, battering it about.

The door used to have a lock and a buzzer so only certain people could get in. That was long gone though, someone had pried it open leaving nothing but a bent plate and empty socket. He leaned forward and peered into the hallway through the socket that once held the lock. He expected to see her yellow eye looking back at him, but he didn’t. It was clear.

As soon as the heavy metal door was opening, he slipped through it as quick as he could, being careful to not catch his foot in it. The door was heavy and sometimes it came flying closed so quickly you didn’t have time to move your foot and it would slam shut so hard you’d think your ankle was broken.

As a matter of fact, Ms. Smith up on two, actually did break her ankle in it a year or two ago, but David didn’t remember that. It was just a vague threat hovering in the back of his mind. He tried not to think of Ms. Smith that hard. He wasn’t convinced that she and the Witch weren’t the same people.

When the door closed he shook it a couple of times, trying to latch it, even though he knew it wouldn’t latch, even though he knew the mechanisms were gone. Finally, he gave up and stood on his tippy toes, so he could look out the window in the door and check on the old lady’s hiding space one last time.

It was her cursed smile he saw first, ragged, dragged across her pale skin like an open wound. Blackened teeth poking through out between the cracked and bloody lips.

Somehow, he managed to stifle a scream. The Witch. She was standing at the edge of the rain-soaked street her twisted hand pointing towards him and an evil glee slinking across her mangled face. It took everything he had not to scream and run.

That twisted right hand began to undulate as she gestured towards him. He could hear her fingers popping and cracking in the back of his mind as it moved in a dark parody of a wave. She was calling to him. She wanted him to join her.

“Come out and play with me,” He imagined her voice in the back of his head and started to cry, just a little.

That same, plain white dress she always wore fluttered in the breeze and seemed to resist the rain falling around it. The dress was tattered and stained with dirt… and darker things. Her arms were rail thin and bags of skin hung off them. Her eyes were set too far back in her head, making it impossible to tell her true eye color, but a yellow glow oozed from the darkness. The nose was like a razor, jutting out of the center of her face, surrounded by cheek bones that looked like you could use them to cut paper.

And that scar… All puckered and blackened, oozing with dark red puss. That scar that pierced the darkness and etched itself into the back of David’s mind, oozing sickness into his subconscious as he slept.

When he failed to come to her, she slowly started to shamble towards him, calling his name in a voice filtered through molasses and grit. “David… David…”

And for a moment, he wanted to go. For a moment he wanted to see what she wanted so badly that it almost hurt. Her fingers seemed so long and thin, and despite the knobs and twists, they moved so fluidly, drawing him forward, pulling at his body. Drawing him out of the safety of the apartment building. A blank stare came over his face and he began to sway slightly from side to side. His fingers reached down and started push the door open. As the crack of light appeared in the door jam, a gust of wind hit his face and broke the old witches magic spell.

Letting the door slam shut he turned and sprinted up the steps two at a time, his heart racing. As he rounded the second-floor steps and started to run towards the third, Ms. Smiths door whizzed open and she leaned out.

“Slow down!” She angrily yelled with such force it almost knocked him over. “No running, the play ground’s around back!”

It wasn’t, and she knew it. The play ground had been torn down a year and a half ago to discourage teenagers from hanging around and doing teenager things. A good three quarters of being an adult was worrying about teenagers and what they might be doing when your back is turned.

“Sorry,” He coughed out as he forced himself to slow down. He turned away, so she couldn’t see the tears. Was she coming? Was the Witch at the door? He could feel her in the darkness around him. “Go back inside Mrs. Smith, I’ll be Good. I promise.”

“You better.” She literally spat the words on the ground between them. “I’m going to have a talk with your parents when they get home. Maybe call in the state and see why an eight-year-old is home alone so much!”

He could barely hear himself over the beating of his own heart. He forced himself to take the steps one at a time until he heard Ms. Smith’s door close. Once it latched, he hurried again, albeit much softer and quieter.

When he reached his door, he half expected it wouldn’t open, or that she’d be on the other side, but she wasn’t, and the door opened easy. He locked it behind him and thought about putting the chain on it but decide against it. If he chained it, Cyndi wouldn’t be able to get in. Cyndi would save him. She always did.

Cyndi was his hero, and the strongest person he knew.

Tossing his book bag to the side by the door, being careful not to make too noise, just in case something really was hiding in the darkness, he hurried over to the window. He should be able to see her from the living room window.

The apartment was shaped like an L. You walked into the apartment through the kitchen, and to the right was a small closet that hid away a broken washer drier unit and the fuse box. It wasn’t a big room, especially with the units only table sitting smack dab in the center of. Directly ahead was the living room. To the extreme right a long hallway leading past his parent’s bedroom, the room he shared with his sister, and finally the bathroom at the end.

Sometimes, At the end of the hallway sat the linen closet, watching him from the darkness. Sometimes it was something else. Sometimes it was a doorway to somewhere else.

He was sure of it.

Standing at the living room window, looking out into the world, the hallway with the sometimes closet was directly behind him. All that darkness lurking beyond never failed to make him nervous. Outside the window, a row of apartments that looked exactly like his glared back at him from the other side of the road. They were all empty and within a year and a half would be demolished to start construction on an upscale housing project, but no one knew that yet.

At least no one who lived there knew it yet.

His eyes followed the flat, dirty red surface to the sidewalk and the road beneath it. The rain was finally beginning to slow. She had been standing to the left of the building, at the entrance to alleyway that ran between the apartments. He expected to see her, looking up at him, still waiving him forward, but he didn’t. She was gone. Instead of calming him, it had the exact opposite effect, he began to panic. Had she followed him in? His eyes searched the outside as he pushed up against the window.

The glass strained under the pressure he was putting on it.

She was gone, she was nowhere… That meant the Witch could be anywhere!

His heart raced as he climbed up onto the back of the couch, fully leaning on the window. She had to be out their she had to be… Just as he relaxed and went to turn away from the window, he saw her. She was standing in the building across the street. She was on the third floor, in the third apartment looking out the living room window. A hallway in the darkness behind her, with an empty closet in the back.

Something told him that closet wasn’t always a closet either.

Her eyes were wide, and she leaned forward against the window, mimicking him, the palm of her hands as flat as she could make it against the glass. Her lips peeled back from her face as she attempted to smile at him. The image finally made the tears flow for real.

Turning away, she began to move through the apartment, slowly, almost floating. The door in the darkness behind her shuddered as it began to creek open. Even though he couldn’t see it, he was pretty sure there was a crack in the back wall the exact dimensions of her scar.

She moved deliberately down the hallway and disappeared into the darkness of the closet. At an impossibly slow place, the door swung back closed behind her, he was sure he heard it latch even though it was an apartment away and across the street.

He wanted to scream, he wanted to just let it all go, but he couldn’t. Before he had time to react, her arms came flying out of the darkness behind him and seemed to wrap themselves around him like a snake. She shoved the middle two fingers of her left hand down his throat to keep him from screaming as she clamped her other hand tight around his neck.

For just a moment, she paused just long enough for her tongue to slip from between her lips and lick the side of his face. She was tasting him, she was tasting his fear.

Her arms yanked him backwards, dragging him across the floor, the heals of his shoes bouncing along the floor boards. The darkness of the hallway closed in around them as the bedrooms flashed by. He tried to reach out for the door handle but couldn’t. Instead She kept pulling him backwards, he heard the hinges of the closet door squeak open in the darkness behind him.

They slammed backwards, against the back of the closet as the door the slammed shut in front of them, blocking out the light. He wanted to scream, but she wouldn’t let him.

Trapped in the darkness, the last thing he felt before passing out was the witches cold breath on the nape of his neck.

 

To Be Continued…..  In My Book. That you will buy. Because I am awesome and you want to support me.

 

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Movie: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot

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Wow. A lot to process on this one. Let me start by saying I’ve wanted to see it since it was first announced how ever long ago that was. I saw a little blurb in a side panel in a magazine or on a web page that said “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot Starring Same Elliott”. That was the only information on the plot and honestly… Did I need any more information? Isn’t that enough to make you want to watch this film? That title builds the whole movie in your head. It creates an action packed perhaps grindhouse style film full of over the top insanity!

Now that I’ve finally seen it, let me start by saying it is NOT the movie I saw in my head. It was a very, very different movie and not at all what the title built, even though the title was perfect for the film. It’s not Action packed or remotely grindhouse, and while it’s chocked full of insanity, but perfectly reasonable insanity.

Lets temper your expectations a bit by talking about the title first. The title of the movie is The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, and that’s literally what the movie is about. It’s about THE MAN who killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot. It’s not a film about Killing Hitler and the Bigfoot. YES! Those things happen in the film, but it’s not the focus of the film. Killing Hitler unfolds before us in flash back sequence as the we travel through the story and Bigfoot comes into it towards the end. So those things are in the movie, and they’re great, but they aren’t what the movie is about.

The movie is about THE MAN who did those things. It follows Sam Elliott’s character, Calvin Barr. As part of a secret mission in WW2, Calvin hunted down and killed Hitler. Later in the movie, due to his amazing military record and a rare immunity to a dieses the Bigfoots carrying he is recruited to Kill the Bigfoot. The story is what happens between those events. The story focuses on Calvin and his day to day life. It’s a very somber movie about a man dealing with PTSD over what he did in the war and the results it had on his life when he came back.

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Calvin is clearly a bad ass. It’s set up that he knows at least five languages and has an almost mythical military career, but very little of that plays into the movie. It’s all backstory that merely gets hinted at. Instead we have a guy with a very strong Moral center living his life. The movie has a defined story line, but it feels like we are just watching another couple of days in Calvin’s life. Killing the Bigfoot (not a spoiler it’s in the title) isn’t the defining moment of his life, it’s just another day, it’s just another mission, it’s just Sam Elliott stepping up to do the right thing so no one gets hurt.

The movie is simply fascinating and I adored it. It was a very heartfelt experience that illustrates the loss of growing old and the importance of letting things go and moving on. The films pacing was very laid back, and instead of feeling slow, it felt comfortable. They really fit a lot of movie into an hour and thirty seven minutes and I look forward to visiting it again. I can easily see how this could become one of those comfort films, like sitting down with an old friend.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot wasn’t the movie I saw in my head… It was so far beyond anything I could have expected. Fantastic film.

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Movie: Next of Kin 1982

This was a first time viewing for the 1982 film, Next of Kin. Out of New Zealand, Next of Kin tells the tale of a young woman brought back to her family home, which also serves as a retirement home, after the death of her mother. It had some minor pacing issues and dragged slightly in the middle, but overall I really enjoyed this one. I found all the characters early on to be really endearing and that really helped pull me into the film. At moments the story almost got in the way of my enjoyment of the characters.

Our heroine, Linda, is played by Jacki Kerin who does an excellent job. They tease a history of Mental illness between her and her mother and she does a great job portraying it. Her “boyfriend” is played by non other than Wolf Creeks lead John Jarrett. It’s weird seeing him play “young and handsome”, but he’s good in the film as well.

The Severin Blu Ray looks excellent and has some great special features. They have a short film from the director that was pretty good. They also have one of my favorite special features, a “then and now” location visit. Alongside the normal commentaries, which I have yet to listen to, I also really liked the “House of Psychotic Women” intro. Really interesting and informative.

All in all, i liked it. It was an interesting story with a nice atmosphere and a cool setting.

Very worth watching in my opinion.

Status Update.

I’ve never been the most reliable when it comes to Blogging, but i’m trying. It’s been a hectic year already and I have a lot on my mind. At the end of last year I found out I was diabetic, so my entire life has been centered around losing weight and getting my health under control. I’m doing a passable job at it so far and hope to get even better.

I am so close to finishing my second book it hurts. I just have so much going with everything else, it’s hard to find time to sit and write. Writing should be the easiest thing in the world for me to do, but my head space has sucked lately.

Don’t worry, i’ll get it all back in line and get the train moving again.

Promise.

Movie: Natural Born Killers.

Natural Born Killers.

Natural Born Killers is easily my favorite Oliver Stone movie. It was so maligned and misunderstood when it came out, just as much by its fans as it’s detractors. Natural Born Killers is a toxic love story. Much like people’s misread of the love between Harley and the Joker, this is not a relationship to be venerated. This is a cautionary tale.

Natural Born Killers does not celebrate violence. I don’t know how anyone could look at the destruction and revel in it. The violence is so over the top that by the end of the film it’s uncomfortable. Like a roller coaster you’re almost happy the movie ended. It’s a relief that it’s over, but at the same time you want to ride it again and again.

I’d be interested to see what this movie would have been today with the introduction of social media into the disconnected lives of Mickey and Mallory. We already have such an over the top portrayal of the two of them that embraces media to such a degree, I wonder what level Twitter could have added to the story.

We’ve all heard the stories of what filming the movie did to Woody Harrelson, and it shows. Before this we knew him as the goofy idiot from Cheers. It was jarring seeing the change in him as he slide so easily into the role. You can feel his characters psychosis oozing out of the screen.

Juliette Lewis plays off of him so well. She slips so easily from the out of control little girl playing around behind her parents back to the vampish sexual predator when she’s away from Mickey. Juliette plays Mallory like two different people. Her character is so much stronger without Mickey, but when ever he’s around she reverts back to that abused girl, falling under his power.

If I could get a tad spoilery for a moment, I think it’s important to note that by the end of the movie, they both grow up. Just like the audience at the end of the film, they are over the violence as well. They leave the movie better people than they started, they go out into the world changed.

Natural Born Killers has such a powerful cast. This isn’t the movie that introduced me to Robert Downey Jr, but it is the film that showed me what a power house he can be. Tom Sizemore and Tommy Lee Jones both elevate the film and manage to pull off stand out performance in a movie full of stand out performances.

Also just need to mention how good Rodney Dangerfield is as the abusive father. I’m a huge Rodney fan and and he’s simply chilling here. It’s scary how comedians can draw out that dark place.

I saw Natural Born Killers at least five times on the big screen when it first came out. The movie stuck a cord with me like so few other movies. Beautiful movie with an amazing soundtrack. If I could describe the 90’s in two films it would be Natural Born Killers and Scream.

Fiction: Doubt. A Short Story.

This is the first four parts of a multi part story I’m putting up on my facebook page. I’m trying to play around a little bit and see if I can come up with something interesting. After writing each section, I’m letting myself read it once to make any changes before cementing it for ever by placing it up on facebook. The goal is to try and quickly write something wihtouth letting my own self doubt ruin it to much. Hopefully it works.

Doubt.

A Short Story.

By Joseph L Zbiegien.

 

1.

If you asked Dwight’s mother, or any of his high school friends, they would have all told you what a confident Child Dwight was. He was on the debate team, he was the captain of the football team. He graduated in the top ten percent of his high school class with a 3.8 GPA, and he did amazingly well on his SAT’s, his ACT’s and a myriad of other tests with similar acronyms. He walked right up to the smartest, prettiest girl in his class and asked her to prom with nary a breath of hesitation.

Naturally she said yes, and years later she would tell the police, before recounting the date on several national talk shows, that it was his confidence that made him seem so attractive. She’d go on to say she had planned on marrying him some day… That was before he disappeared mind you. Everyone had all sorts of plans for Dwight Wainwright and his future before he disappeared.

On one of the same talk shows Karl Hofstetter, Dwight’s best friend growing up, would say that Dwight’s pressure to perform was insanely high, it’s no wonder he broke. Dwight, he’d say, did not want to disappoint anyone. Least of all his parents. He’d continue, Dwight wanted to do everything for everyone, and had placed so much pressure on every one of his decisions, that when that first one went wrong…

Well…. It was inventible, he’d finish.

Inevitable indeed.

 

2.

“Hey, look at this guy,” Dave motioned Joan over to the window. They were on the second floor of a bank in downtown Barrettsville. The town was a Midwest two street special. The main street was all of a quarter mile long and featured the aforementioned bank, a grocery store, a small diner, a movie theater that went out of business about three years ago and was now standing in for the first Presbyterian church after their building down by the highway burnt down due to a short in a kitchen electric plug, and several assorted mom and pop stores that were all one bad season from drying up and blowing away.

“He’s been standing her for like….” Dave looked up at the clock, counted backwards in his head a moment before finishing, “forty-five minutes or so….”

“Is he back?” Her voice tingled with a twinge of excitement. “He is isn’t?”

She rushed up next to him and looked out the window. She leaned forward, putting both hands on the glass so she could lean forward and get a better look.

“Oh god he is!”

She pressed so hard against the glass that Dave became momentarily worried it would break.

“You’ve seen this guy before? Who is he?”

“I don’t know his name, but I think Tereasa down stairs may have gone to school with him, He comes by every day and just stands here watching the bank.”

“Is he dangerous?”

“No…. I don’t think so.” She shrugged. “He doesn’t look dangerous, just dirty.”

“Is he casing the bank?”

“No,” she pointed back down the road towards old townhouses south of town. “He lives down their somewhere. He walks down here about twice a month, but when he goes to cross the street, he just freezes up. He stands there for a couple of hours looking at the clock on top of the bank before he disappears at five.”

“Where does he go?”

“I don’t know,” She pointed over her shoulder with her thumb, “Steve in security was convinced he was a terrorist, so he followed him home one night. The guy realized Steve was following him and hid in a bush until he went away. He’s really weird.”

“Has anyone tried to talk to him?” Dave watched the man closely. He hadn’t moved an inch the entire time he stood there. His lips moved quietly, but he was too far away for Dave to tell what he was saying. If it were anywhere else, he would have been convinced that he was a homeless, but Barrettsville didn’t stand for that sort of thing. If he was homeless he would have been escorted out of town a long time ago.

He had to belong somewhere. Maybe escaped from a mental hospital?

“God no!” She laughed, “I mean, look at him, he looks like he hasn’t taken a shower in weeks. His hair is gross, and I think his shoes are actually duct tapped to his feet! I’m not going to talk to him, feel free if you want.”

Dave paid no attention to her as she walked away laughing. Instead, he focused further on the man in front of him. His shoes were indeed duct tapped to his feet, but they didn’t look worn, in fact they looked to be in pretty good shape. Despite the stretched-out collar and torn Pocket, his brown shirt looked like he had just walked them out of a K-Mart as well.

His blue Jeans were covered in dirt, but somehow didn’t seem dirty.

Dave found himself seriously considering going down to talk to the man, but before he could the clock on the top of the bank rang five o clock. The man across the way started stomping his left foot as he slammed his fist over and over again into his leg. Finally, he turned and started to angrily walk away from the bank. Every so often he turned and spat a string of vial insults back at the unassuming stone façade of the bank.

Dave turned and ran towards the stairs. He had to find out what was going on, but by the time he hit the street Dwight Wainwright had returned to the nothing that birthed him.

 

3.

While history may remember Dwight Wainwright as a monster, it’s important to note, that he started out with the best of intentions. If you take a look at his childhood, you find a far different picture than the one the Media has tried to force down your throat. You won’t see the cold-blooded killer you’ve been trained to believe Dwight Wainwright was.

 

Instead of a monster, you’ll just see a man. A good man, who should have had a bright future before him.

Dwight was raised Catholic, and as a young boy he was very active inside his church, and by the age of twelve he was a leader in his local youth group. He was an altar boy on Sundays, ran a prayer group at school, and at age fourteen organized a trip to New York City to pass out bibles in front of a homeless shelter. They try to pretend it never happened, but at the time the story made national news.

 

You may remember the Mayor even came down to the Shelter and took a picture with Dwight as he stood proudly with all his friends. It was in all the papers. I’m sure you saw them, or at the very least you saw the picture of him standing there in his pale blue jeans, his white WWJD tee shirt, as he handed then Mayor Giuliani a bible, the biggest grin you’ve ever seen plastered across his young face.

 

After the incident, after Dwight Wainwrights name hit the news, that picture was trotted out again for all the world to see. In fact, that picture was on the cover of his father’s biography, “Where Did We Go Wrong”. If you didn’t read it, I’m not surprised. It was a tawdry little tell all Guaranteed to make a mint before Adrian Coslow’s parents sued them and kept the book from getting out. A few copies slipped out though and go for rather a pretty penny on eBay.

 

Dwight Wainwright was a bright, likable boy, who should have had the whole world in the palm of his hands

 

4.

 

Dwight snapped the fingers on his right hand three times before slamming his fist into his right leg three times. He lifted his left leg and pawed the ground like a cat digging in its litter three more times. Taking the tip of his tongue, he flicked it across his top teeth three times. Twelve in total, because as he remembered from his childhood, twelve is a magic number.

It didn’t work though, he still wasn’t able to decide if he should cross the street. He coughed into his right hand before doing the whole routine again. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

He was stuck. He could see the bank across the street from him, and he could see the clock on the roof slowly counting his day away. When he got to the sidewalk it read Twelve Twelve. He looked both ways, desperately wanting to cross the street. He wanted to put one step forward, and rush through the admittedly light traffic so he could finally finish all of this.

Traffic was light, but speeding was sometimes a problem. Best to be careful crossing Main Street.

While his right hand started the routine again, his left hand toyed with the plastic gun in the front left pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. It wasn’t real, and no one could mistake it for real. It was only real if he decided it was real. Right now, it was only plastic, really more rubbery, maybe foam? One of those Squishy things the kids played with.

“Damn it!” He swore out loud for all to hear. His mind was so focused on the object in his pocket that he lost track of his routine. He’d have to start over again. But would he have to start over at the beginning? His eyes widened as his forehead broke out in a cold sweat. This was his eight time through the routine and he had to do it twelve times. Twelve times twelve because after all,

Twelve was the magic Number.

If he had to start over from the beginning…. Would he even have time, or would he have to come back in twelve days again? He didn’t want to come back. He wanted it to finally get it done today, he had waited so long. But he was unsure. If he could just let himself decide, if he could just close his eyes and let it all go. Right or wrong he had to do something.

And this was the right thing to do wasn’t it? This was important.

“It’s the right thing to do,” He sighed with relief as a smile spread across his face. The number twelve may be a magic number, but he had made a decision. He was ready. He lifted his right foot forward to step out into the lane, but before he could his heart started to beat faster, and he felt that familiar buzzing in his left shoulder. It felt like what he always thought a heart attack would feel like, but it wasn’t.

The doctors called it an anxiety attack. They had given him medicine that was supposed to stop them, but his mother told him she wasn’t sure if he should keep taking them.

It all used to be so much simpler. He could hardly remember what it felt like. Before the doubt crept into his soul. Now he could hardly bring himself to decide what he wanted for dinner. He’d spend hours sitting in the kitchen, starring at the wall trying to force himself forward. Snap, Pound, Paw, Flick, Wash Rinse and Repeat, Twelve is a Magic Number.

He couldn’t do it.

He wasn’t ready. Under his breath he started to curse his stupidity. Of course, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do anything anymore. He was worthless, and he knew it. “As a matter of fact.” he whispered so softly no one around him could hear, “I hate you just as much as the rest of them…”

The first of the five bells from the clock tower rung out across the small town. It was five o clock. He had wasted another day.

Dwight began to angrily stomp his feet as he jumped up and down in the place that he had been standing for the last five hours. A stream of profanity broke from his lips making passerby’s pause and stare at him.

“Some one should do something” One of them absentmindedly commented as the continued on, but they never do anything. None of them.

As Dwights eyes swung back towards the bank, he was alarmed by the man walking across the road towards him. He seemed good natured enough. Blue suit, red tie. Bright smile. The man raised his hand and called out toward Dwight, beckoning him to stop.

“Excuse me,” Dave yelled out, “I just want to talk to you, Come here for a moment.”

Dwight started to come over, causing the man to pause momentarily, but Dwight stopped. Should he come over. Who ever this was, maybe he knew what was going on, maybe, he couldn’t decide. Should he stay and talk to the man, or should he go. He should probably go, but the man looked so nice.

Panic took over, Dwight didn’t even realize he was running away from the man until it was to late. He was gone. Dwight had run for almost a mile, not paying any attention to where he was going. When he finally stopped he cursed himself for his fear and his inability to make a decision. His doubt, his doubt was just so strong. He’d go back though, in twelve days he’d go back and try again.

Snap, Pound, Paw, Flick, Wash Rinse and Repeat, Twelve is a Magic Number.

Fiction: Gall Quicktemper and the Pipe Weed War

As a die hard D&D player, one of my favorite things in the world is making characters. Any player worth his salt has a back up character or two in his back pocket. Gall Quicktemper is a Halfling Berserker, and here is his back story. It takes place in a world of my setting on the continent of Velouria.

Enjoy.

 

Gall Quicktemper and the Pipe Weed War.

  • By Joseph L Zbiegien

 

In the kingdom of Velouria, the burrow of Snapfire Hollow was known for two things, Halflings, and Pipe Tobacco. I know what you’re thinking, neither of those two things sound particularly interesting, and Halflings and Pipe Tobacco have gone together for time before man. What makes the Halflings in Snapifre Hollow different and what’s so special about their pipe tobacco that I’d want to hear about?

Well to start, the Halflings of Snapfire Hollow are not your normal Halflings, and the Snapfire Tobacco is not your normal tobacco! The Burrow itself was named countless generations ago after a bizarre and unheard-of property that all Snapfire Pipe Weed possesses.

I’m sure you’ve seen pipe weed growing before, in the times before it would grow everywhere, now not so much. But in the Hollow, pipe weed is the only crop. The soil has been specially treated so that they can grow it anywhere, and do it year-round! As a matter of fact, during the winter months the Leafbelly farm grows a special wintergreen strand that leaves your breath minty fresh!

Most tobacco plants grow green. Snapfire tobacco though, it grows in a literal rainbow of colors and beyond! Reds, Yellows, Blues, Greens, Violets, the afore mentioned Wintergreen strand is actually white! Unlike the plain old boring green variety everyone else sells, Snapfire Pipe weed keeps it’s vibrate colors long after they’ve been dried and delivered to their customers.

And it always stays fresh! It never goes stale. Supposedly in the vaults of Castle Veloruia sits a bone pipe filled with the freshest Snapefire Weed you’ll ever lay your eyes on. That is of course, unconfirmed.

The pipe weeds real magic though, isn’t in the color of the leaf. Nor is it in the color of the smoke, which is always the purest white. The pipe weeds real magic is in the spark! As soon as you light your pipe, and pull in a couple of puffs, the magic begins. Little tiny sparks, like fireworks, shoot out of the end of the pipe! The weed crackles and glows while little a tiny harmless light show hovers inches above the bowl!

In the hands of a competent smoker, the show can be absolutely stunning! The deeper the smoker inhales, the stronger the sparks. Whatever the color of the weed put in the bowl, that was the color of the sparks. Red, Green, Purple, Yellow, Blue, Burnt Sienna, Rainbow if you’re into mixing your strains. I wouldn’t recommend it though, each strain has its own unique taste and texture, all mixed together like that it can leave a rather unpleasant after taste in your mouth.

Burnt Sienna has a particularly pleasant nutty taste and sells quite well on the open market, it mixes rather well the chocolatey taste of the brown weed. Just stay away from the Black weed… Supposedly they carry all sorts of nasty side effects…. Probably an unfounded rumor though. No one was ever able to link any of those deaths back to the Black Pipe Weed, and believe me…. They tried. Why, Nutter Tom smoked black tobacco weed every day until he died from the cough, obviously perfectly safe.

The towns whole economy was centered around growing, selling, buying, shipping, Snapfire Pipe Weed. Unlike most Halflings, Snapfire halflings took to economics like no other. They just seemed to have a knack for it. They were very good at balancing supply and demand to maximize profits in a way unheard of. They were the smallest Burrow in Veloruia and they were by far the richest, not that they flaunted it mind you. They were uptight rich snobs, but in a charming easy going halfling sort of way.

When the burrow first took shape, it was a happy place, a place of families that loved their craft and tended the soil out of a devotion to the land, not for money. Once the town folk realized the demand their product took when it was introduced to the rest of the world, that all changed. The Larger farms, and families, started to buy out and consume the smaller ones. When money wouldn’t do they created arranged marriages that would cement one family as the leader over another until eventually, only two families were left in control of the weed.

Small halfling houses were slowly replaced by larger, multilevel homes designed to both embrace nature, but also show off their wealth and status. The Larger farms began to bring in outside workers and guards, soon a bustling human community sprouted up on the southern shores that supported the Hollow. The halflings though, were very guarded against their much taller counterparts and quickly used their wealth to keep them at bay.

It didn’t take long for the smaller farms to die out, one by one blowing away on the wind until only two families left, the Leafbelly’s and the Woodhearts. Well, we also had the Quicktempers, but I mean come on… They were a joke. If they had been considered a legitimate family, it was well before memory. Their fields only grew the Brown and Black Snapfire Pipe weed, as well as a sort of yellow ochre that the called their own. Local economists felt that maybe the Quicktempers would have put up more of a fight if they had called their only viable weed something other than Yellow Ochre.

It was cheap, Angry, and smelled unpleasantly like peasant feet, much like the Quicktempers themselves. They were the loan hold out between the two families whose last names were on every other halfling in the Burrow. It’s comical though, how little of a threat they were. Their land was useless and neither family really wanted to burden themselves with that albatross.

Which was sad really, because Finnian Quicktemper, the patriarch of the Quicktemper clan, was ready to sell out, and was ready to sell out cheap. He had been ready since he was a boy. He hated the farm, he hated the Burrow, and unlike most halflings, He HATED pipe weed. It got all up in his whiskers and made him sneeze.

Every day at the Quicktemper farm was a new battle. The gods below seemed to push new stones up from the depths to chip his plow on every row. Locusts, Grasshoppers, Rabbits all liberally raided his stocks. Interesting fact, they all leave the black weed alone.

The farm made just enough money to exist. No matter how hard he tried to muss things up so badly that the bank was finally able to foreclose on the land, he always managed to squeak through at the last minute by the skin of his teeth. Little did he know, he had already defaulted on any loans he had taken out three times over but the banks were afraid to tell them least they end up the less then proud owners of what the locals called Black Death Farms.

It really isn’t his fault though, Finnian never wanted to be a farmer. He liked to paint and he liked to draw. As a child he was developing this new method of storytelling in which he would paint little pictures in an affordable paper book that would tell stories of local heroes. He had this one he drew about a halfling from another planet how could fly. It was a stupid idea that never caught on.

He wasn’t good at being a farmer, he didn’t like being a farmer, and he made sure that everyone knew it. Especially his only son, and heir to the lack of a Quicktemper fortune, Gall. Gall was named after the feeling Finnian felt towards his wife Hagatha after she dared to become pregnant. He loved his wife, but he wanted to be a father even less than a father.

As a farmer he could still drink himself to sleep every night and play his favorite game, “where will I wake up this time”. As a father though… Well… Let’s just say that behavior was frowned upon. Especially by Hagatha.

The families bad luck, as well as the Quicktemper named, could be traced back twelve generations to Oslo Quicktemper, the first of his name. Oslo was famous for his ability to eat. He came from a people built to eat, so his propensity to stand out as a serious eater among a race of serious eaters is astonishing to say the least. The actual story of how the Quicktemper name was formed has been sadly lost to time. What we do know is that it involved a Donkey, a Tree, and a Blueberry Pie eating contest.

The tree, which stands in the center of the hollow still shows scorch marks of the incident. The old timers babble on about the story in the incomprehensible gibberish their age, drink and pipe weed has lost them to, the punch line that floats out of the nonsense of unconnected syllables is always the same, “The Donkey went down with one PUNCH! And that’s why they called him Once Punch Quicktemper!”

At that point said senior usually fell off their rocking chairs laughing at a story only they understood. Studies have been done to examine the long-term effects of exposure to Snapfire Pipe Weed. The studies were performed by the Burrow of Snapfire Hollows mayor for Life Phineas Bosco Scaggwurth, so needless to say, they came back clear.

The burrow of Snapfire Hollow was literally littered with the scars of the infamous Quicktemper temper. From the scorch marks on the gathering tree in the center of town, the cracked window in the door of the old Pub Tavern, the missing railing on the Alabaster bridge, or even the missing left hand on the statue of the towns founder Horatio P Petalpot.

Now, I don’t want it to sound like the Quicktempers were dangerous. They weren’t. No matter how angry they got, they were still Halflings. They never beat their children or abused their spouse. At the forefront they were quiet, simple, peaceful folk who sometimes just got so fed up with their life that they lashed out at the world around them. Typically, they ended up the butt of some joke.

The local townsfolks found them to be a source of amusement not something to tip toe around.

Local school kids liked to follow them home and annoy them, because they thought their swearing was funny. Dilly Grasswrinkle, the proprietor of the Carriageless Horse even put up an ebony frame around a hole in the bathroom that was made two generations ago when Daven Quicktemper lost at cards and got so mad at himself managed to fall off the commode and put a very sensitive peace of himself through the bathroom door.

Legend says that the size of the hole made Daven very popular with the more open-minded town folk. To this day you can still peak through the framed hole and watch the men do their business in the small room…. For the life of me though, I don’t know why you would want to.

I would like to step back for a moment, and tell you a little bet about the Woodhearts and the leafbellys. Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about the youngest Quicktemper, Gall, and his father Finnian in a few moments. I feel you need to know a little more about the lay of the proverbial land to properly understand how a peaceful, fun loving race of people ended up participating in one of the dirtiest, and bloodiest wars the land of men had ever seen.

Maybe not ever seen…. But for little people it was very bloody!

The Woodhearts and Leafbellys were Snapfire Hollow’s oldest families, and both families were willing to fight to their dying breath to prove that they were the ones who original came up with the idea to Monetize Snapfire Pipe Weed. Truth be told, it wasn’t either of the families. The first batch of Snapfire Pipe Weed was sold completely by mistake to a lost gnome named Woodson who thought he was buying some shingles for a barn he was failing at building for a cow he had fallen in love with thanks to a curse by a bored minor deity who had lost a bet, and now had nothing better to do then screw with the life of a poor gnome and his favorite bovine companion.

The two families fought metaphorically and physically for countless generations. In the beginning it was the Woodhearts that had the bigger farm and were not afraid to lord it over the lesser farmers around them. Not that a Woodheart ever farmed their own fields, didn’t want to get their hands dirty. The Leafbelly’s though were more than happy to get their hands dirty. They always tilled their own soil, and they were the first family to “Suggest” another family deed their farm over to them so that they could lord their wealth over the vile Woodhearts.

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about halflings being a peaceful bunch, and Usually they were. Maybe it was the unusually high humidity in Snapfire Hollow, maybe it was it was something in the weed itself, or maybe it was just good old-fashioned greed. Either way, as time went on, the families grew more and more violent with each other. Eventually the Leafbelly’s turned into nothing more than well-dressed thugs and the Woodhearts turned into cold hearted sociopaths.

Meanwhile, everyone in town that wasn’t named Woodheart or Leafbelly slipped away in the night to live in a or less hostile environment, or they gave up and picked a side. The Quicktempers though, they could see what was happening. They could smell the trouble coming on the wind, and they didn’t like it. Like their name would suggest, they grew angry and they grew mean.

You know…. For Halflings.

The Pipe Weed war started off a long time ago, it started out as a cold war between two families who just didn’t like each other. Neither one of them were able to outright attack the other family, so instead they hired thugs from outside the hollow to do their business. They’d hire thugs and assassins to burn fields and steal crops.

It was on the third moon of the New Year that the war went from missing carts or roughed up merchants to outright physical violence. It all started, late at night, and what would follow would be the bloodiest war in the history of halfling kind. By the time it was over the town of Snapfire Hollow would be burnt away, the remaining inhabitants who didn’t flee would all be dead, and two families would have seemingly caused it all.

Truthfully though, unbeknownst to both the Woodhearts and The Leafbelly’s, they weren’t the ones who started it. The Violent war, the end of the cold war, that took almost exactly one month to wipe an entire burrow off the map was started, rather by accident, by none other than Gall Quicktemper and his father, Finnian.

Well… Maybe not so much by accident, at least where Finnian was concerned.

Life on the Quicktemper farm was hard, and life as a Quicktemper wasn’t a happy one. Sure, like all halflings they took great solace in their creature comforts, food, drink, that sort of thing. But it didn’t matter. Life always seemed to come down harder on a Quicktemper then it did on the rest of the world. The only thing that seemed to keep them going, was that stupid farm that they spent their day tilling.

Gall’s mother, Hagatha, was not born a Quicktemper, (I mean… Obviously, it would be weird if she had…) but she grew into the role quickly, but she loved that farm and she loved the hollow, she was from a place outside the burrow, far away and across at least a sea or two. She didn’t know how ugly the real face of the people could be. Thankfully, due to a sickness caused by an odd pain in her gulliver, she didn’t live long enough to see her beloved hollow destroyed and her farm burnt to the ground, she never got to see what the people really looked like.

She died three days before the third moon of the New Year. They Buried her behind the farm on the second day before the third New Moon. On the day before the Third New Moon Finnian walked into town and began to drink. The morning of the Third New Moon of the New Moon, the local tax processor finally decided it was time to put the Quicktemper family out of its misery and delivered a foreclosure notice on the only home that Gall Quicktemper ever knew, all while his father slept in a ditch somewhere between the bar and home.

Not that Gall liked the farm anymore then his dad, but his mother loved it, and if it was good enough for her, he supposed he would have to put up with it. Four days ago, he had been able to see his future before him, like a straight line. His schooling was finished, he already knew a trade. He’s find a handsome halfling that he could settle down with. They’d work the fields together and eventually adopt a wayward child. They’d grow old together. He always assumed his father would die early of the drink, he was honestly surprised that it hadn’t happened yet, and they’d take care of his mother until the end.

It would be a nice life.

That was before his mother died though and changed everything. Without her, he was a different person. Gall never realized what a calming effect she had on his life. His temper took over and he cursed the gods. Gall was glad to see him walk away into the town, even if he knew he’d have to pull him out of a ditch somewhere, just so to have a few minutes to grieve without him though.

Still though, he had a plan, and he’d find a way work through it. That letter though, that changed everything. He no longer had a farm to take care of. Now it would just be him and his angry drunk dad. Boy, that’s sounded like fun. Gall always tried his hardest to avoid the famous temper that gave his family their name. He was a nice kid, a happy kid, or at least he did an amazing job of faking it.

As the sun set and the third Full Moon of the new year began to crest the horizon, after spending far too long sitting in his mother’s favorite drinking chair and reading the letter repeatedly, Gall finally broke. He grabbed a flail Morningstar that had hung over the fireplace as long as he could remember and headed out into the night, intent on trouble.

Sometimes, when the crops grew too big, or demand waned, the locales had a way of keeping supply down to help drive up demand. They would do controlled burns to lessen the crop, and the soot always ensured the next crop grew strong. The burns, called Snap burns, usually attacked a party atmosphere due to the beauty of the fireworks created when the fire would hit the plants.

Gall had attended several of these events. That being said, he never really paid attention to the logistics of said event. He never realized that they wetted down surrounding crops to keep the fire from spreading. He never noticed the piles of dirt and the men ready to throw it on any errant fire that threatened to do more than it was asked to do.

So, when Gall Quicktemper tossed a torch into the Woodhearts southern field, he thought it would burn out quick like the fires he always saw as a kid. Had he stayed to watch the damage, things might have gone differently. But he didn’t. Instead he snuck off towards the Leafbelly’s farm and tossed a torch into their northern most field.

It had been an unusually dry year, so both fields went up in flames relatively quickly. Instead of staying to watch the damage, Gall hurried home in hopes that no one would notice him, and that he wouldn’t get caught. Thankfully, they didn’t, and he didn’t.

By the time the alarms were raised, both families were way too busy to realize the other family was going through the same thing. It took all night and most of the day to stop the fires. By the time it was done about Half of the Leafbelly’s crop was destroyed and about a third of the Woodhearts. Each group assumed that it was the other group that started the fire. In a fit of exhaustion both families issued orders for their guards to march upon the other.

The families, and their guards met in the middle of the alabaster bridge. Matron Woodheart took the lead and spat verbal poison at the eldest Leafbelly in attendance. They bristled back and forth for a while, but Matron Woodheart refused to swing first, and Dabby Leafbelly refused to punch an old lady, lest his cousins mock him for it.

After the heated exchange, the families parted unsatisfied. No one was sure who made the first move, but as the parties just began to disappear from the bridge, someone on the Leafbelly’s side picked up a stone and three it towards the Woodheart clan. The stone connected with the back of Matron Woodhearts head with such force, that it cracked her brittle skull and spread her brains across her husband’s boots.

Well! As you can probably imagine, Poppa Woodheart, did not take kindly to seeing his wife’s brains slipping out of her head onto his kobold leather boots. Just in case things went south, he had the forethought to station a few of his hired archers in the trees on their side of the road. He yelled at them to fire, and they did.

BUT! As the arrows flew towards the Leafbelly’s they let their own archers that they had also hidden in the trees let their arrows fly. Within moments Leafbelly’s and Woodhearts were running around willy nilly screaming for their lives as hired help, family friends, and brothers and sisters all died around them.

The casualties were immense. Neither family expected the other family to draw first blood. Word of the fracture spread across the Hollow and soon neighbors were killing neighbors and friends killing friends due to decade old family alliances.

The survivors ran back to their homes and rallied their troops around them. Calls went out to some of the greatest mercenary troops the land had ever seen. Within a week the town was overrun by hundreds of trained killers! Things were so confusing that the groups didn’t know who they were supposed to be fighting so they just took turns fighting themselves! The common thinking was, whoever was left would share the gold.

Some of the local Humans though, they decided they were tired of curtailing to halflings and started to turn on their masters. Killing them in their homes and taking their gold as the houses and fields burnt around them. It was abundantly clear that the Snapfire Hollow way of life was over. Sparks jumped and flew into the skies from the burning fields as the roving hordes moved across them, killing everyone in sight.

The blood shed was astonishingly beautiful as the colored sparks danced through the air like fireworks. It was utter chaos that threatened to spill out of the hollow into the world around them. Surrounding burrows set up guards at the border to keep the fighting and the fires from spilling out into their lands. Soon the violence was posing a threat to Veloruia herself!

The war came to an end almost exactly one month after it started, at the crowning of the fourth moon of the new year. Snapfire Hollow was a small burrow at the southern tip of the land of Veloruia in the kingdom of Shattuck. King Weston was a wise man, and peaceful man. Unfortunately for the people of Snapfire Hollow, his son, Prince Franklyn was not.

Prince Franklyn was a cold petty man that his people Greatly disliked. That is until several years later, when after a failed attempt on his life, Prince Franklyn had a softening of the heart, but that was years down the line.

King Weston was on sabbatical monitoring the war at the great river wall when the request for help came in from the people of Snapfire Hollow. If King Weston had been on the throne that day, many lives may have been saved. Instead, Prince Franklyn declared the entire Hollow a war zone, and sent his personal troops in to clear the hollow of every living soul. The March was quick, the march was bloody, and the casualties of the hollow were almost absolute.

They came so quickly, that the people of Snapfire Hollow were not able to mount an offense. In the end members of both the Woodhearts and Leafbelly’s fought side by side against the Princes privately funded army. They put their differences aside to try and survive another day, but it was not to be. Both family lines ended abruptly in a dark pool of blood.

Handfuls of mercenaries and Hollow residents snuck away during the fighting and managed to find lives other places. The Quicktempers though, they were not among them. You see, Gall was unaware of two very important things. He knew he stated the fires, but he didn’t know he had started the war.

The other thing, and the more important thing, that he didn’t find out until exactly three minutes before his father closed his eyes forever, was that it was an angry Finnian Quicktemper who had been watching the argument between the two families, drunkenly from a ditch, who had lobbed the stone that took out Old Matron Woodheart, thus beginning the hostilities.

While most of the townsfolk fled, and died, the Quicktempers holed up in their fruit cellar. Finnian’s thought was that eventually the fighting would end, and the all the charcoal and ash left behind by the fires, would make excellent fertilizer. They’d be able to seize the land with everyone else gone and finally make a go of this and live the good life!

The Princes soldiers though, they had other ideas.

The fruit cellar itself wasn’t so bad. It was cool, and comfortable and had plenty of good pipe weed and food that they had stolen from other families during the chaos. It enough food to keep the two of them going for months, which is a lot of food for halflings. What it didn’t have though, was ale. Hagatha Quicktemper liked to drink, but only at night, and only after Gall had gone to bed. As such it was kept in a shack out by the outhouse. Every night, once Gall went to sleep, Finnian would sneak out to the shack and sneak some ale.

It was on the eve of the crowning of the Fourth full moon of the new year that Princes men finally found the Quicktemper farm. They crested the hill and saw the unburnt house and the pristine field, untouched because no one cared enough to riot over it, and through the moon light they saw the angry little halfling scurry across the yard and disappear into a shed.

It was a small group, only seven. They descended quickly upon the shed and waited for Finnian to come out. One of them called to him, and as he came out shot him in the leg with a crossbow bolt. Another shot him in the side. Still a third buried one his left shoulder, pinning him to the shed’s door.

His screams of pain awoke Gall, who, without thinking, grabbed his flail and ran out towards the guards. They laughed at the angry little halfling spitting blood and anger at them. Had one of them just shot him with their crossbow, things might have gone differently. Instead they got off their horses and decided to have some fun with him.

They drew their swords and started to advance upon him, catcalling him as they did. They expected him to back away, but he didn’t’. Instead he leaped forward so quickly, and with such surprising ferocity, they didn’t even register that Carl’s head had been bashed in until his body hit the ground.

Even after that, they were so shocked, they barely registered the blur of motion fly into the guard next to him and take out his knee with the flail. As the Guard, Dave, Hit the ground Gall twisted around him and chocked the life out of him with the chain of his flail, spitting incomprehensible words of anger at him.

At the point the remaining five started to pull together, realizing they may have made a mistake. Before they could react though, Gall jumped up and ripped off another guard’s ear off with his teeth before plunging his thumbs into the man’s eyes and brain, killing him.

Whatever Gall yelled at the other four guards before rushing at them was lost between the group of them. His voice was a grizzled knot of unintelligible gore, the guard’s eyeballs dripping from his thumbs and blood splattered every inch of his face.

It was at this point the guards noticed he was naked. They were being destroyed by an angry naked Halfling.

When he charged the four remaining guards, the guard in the rear did what was really the only sensible thing to do. He dropped his sword and shield and ran. The guard in front of him turned to run as well, but tripped on his friend’s shield. Gall jumped through the air and bashed the guards head over and over onto the ground until he was dead. One of the other three guards finally caught his footing enough to take a swing at him, but it was too late.

Gall impaled him on his own sword.

The last guard though, the last guard he took his time with. The less said about that the better. It’s fun to note that the guard who survived ran away and kept running. To this day he moves from bar to bar, lost in a haze of cheap wine, telling stories of the Angry Demon that wore the Halflings face and spit fire from his breath.

When all was said and done, Gall went to his father. Finnian used his last words to admit he may have lost his temper and tossed the stone that caused all this. As he died remarked that he felt really bad about what he had done and that maybe his mother was right and he should see a therapist.

Gall buried his father next to his mother and fashioned the guard shields into a tombstone for them. With both his father and mother gone, the farm held nothing for him anymore, even if his father’s theory about the weed was confirmed.

Gall realized that the farm had never been the right place for him. He didn’t want to stay in one place, he loved to travel, he wanted to see the world. Instead, he would leave the farm behind him, for someone else to find and hopefully do better than the Quicktempers ever could.

Unfortunately on his way through the kitchen, his sleeve caught on cabinet door and he angrily lashed out, knocking the oil lamp to the ground which set his rug ablaze, which quickly spread to the curtains and up the wall. The house burned down in minutes as Gall walked away into the world….

Angrily muttering under his breath.

Side note, Finnian’s theory was indeed eventually confirmed and the ash added an excellent smoky flavor to the weed that the new customers really appreciated. Prince Franklyn annexed the whole area and built his summer home upon the land, actually a few feet from where Galls parents used to be buried. A few years later he mysteriously had a change of heart and gave the land back to the residence and relinquished his hold on the weed production