The Scout Movement is like a loose network fo colleagues, like a family, or a market place, united by history, by a belief in its fundamental principles sharing a unique indefinable ‘spirit’ and a common purpose.
Could I please get a Head-Canon for the Defenders dealing with Girl Scouts. I think it’d be funny, especially with Jessica -Frank too maybe???- thanks in advance 😊
This is so cute omg!!! I love this request.
Jessica is a hardass. She admires the kids who make the trek into her dusty ass apartment building but she refuses to buy cookies from them. Most of the girls are annoyingly sweet and she really doesn’t care for the false peppiness. Now don’t get me wrong. She is never intentionally rude to these girls. As much as she just wants to close the door and be done with it she spends a few minutes gently telling them no.
However! There is one instance where she crumbles. A small girl knocks very forcefully on her door and asks if Jessica wants to buy cookies. Jessica tries her normal tactic of a gentle no and a firmly shut door, but this little girl is persistent. She knocks again and this time when JEssica opens the door she finds a little girl who is taking no shit. This girl gives Jessica the short and skinny of the competitive world of cookie selling and has such a sarcastic and dry view of the world that Jessica can’t help but relate. She buys five boxes of shortbread cookies because she knows she’s just gonna eat them all while she’s drunk.
Matt Murdock looooovees girl scouts!! He doesn’t actually like the taste of the cookies. In fact, he thinks they’re kind of trash, and just stores them away. But he can literally feel how nervous these little girls are and so he feels determined to make them feel better. He tells really dumb jokes to make them feel more at ease and is very patient and supporting if they mess up their sales pitch.
He doesn’t buy a very large amount of cookies. Maybe one or two box for every girl scout that knocks on his door and one box from girls that are brave enough to intercept the blind man in front of the grocery store. In the end Foggy eats every single one of Matt’s girl scout cookies. It’s a fantastic symbiotic relationship.
Matt sometimes thinks about what would happen if he ever runs into a blind girl scout who is selling cookies. IN all honesty he’d probably buy like five boxes from her and spend extra time making sure she knows that she can do everything she wants to do.
Luke knows the name of every single girl scout that stops at his place. He’s very in touch with his community so he is actually pretty aware of which families have girl scouts in the family. So every time a little girl knocks on his apartment door he greets them by name and asks about their family. If they have their mom or dad with them he might talk with them briefly. He tries to give the most attention to the girls. He asks them about the cookies and let’s them talk for ages about how great the cookies are and how he should totally buy a box. And then he asks about what kind of competition they can win and Luke loves seeing the girls get excited about being a part of a scout group.
He ends up buying at least one box from every single girl scout in his community and sometimes from girls that are just set up in front of stores. He has gotten so into the routine of buying cookies that he has a special jar of money that goes towards girl scout cookies. It’s just another way for him to support his home.
And yes he does eat the cookies. Actually he likes them a lot and sometimes craves them at random times.
Danny doesn’t have any experience with girl scout cookies at all so the first time a cute little girl in pigtails shows up at his door with her mom standing a few feet away he is very confused. But the little girl puts up a very admirable sales pitch and Danny falls in love. He is so impressed by this little girl’s bravery and cookies don’t sound like such a bad idea. So he ends up buying ten boxes from this one little girl, because he has no concept of how much money he has and how many cookies are in a box. Actually the mom asks over and over again if he’s sure he wants ten boxes. And Danny is like “Yes? Why wouldn’t I buy ten boxes of cookies.”
Well this isn’t the last time this happens and Danny ends up flooding the girl scout cookie market and it causes a lot of confusion? The leader of the county shows up at his door and is like “Sir are you sure? you’ve ordered a hundred boxes of cookies. We’ll have to get you an individual truck.” And Danny is just question marks all over the place because to be honest he kind of lost track of how many boxes he bought because he got too caught up in how good it felt to see the little girls so happy to sell cookies.
He sets up a table at Rand Enterprises that’s filled with Girl Scout cookies for a few months. He isn’t a huge fan, but he continues buying cookies by the pallet.
Frank doesn’t come across many girl scouts. The places he sleeps are not places for small girls and he’d be very concerned if they showed up at his door. BUT! There are rare occasions when he’s in the right place at the right time to come across a girl scout selling cookies. He’s a scary looking dude so many girl scouts and their parents stay far away from them. But he actually has a very special place in his heart for girl scouts. Sometimes he thinks that his daughter would have been a girl scout if she was still alive.
So whenever he get’s the chance he buys a box or two of the shortbread and he snacks on them until they run out. But ultimately the cookies kind of make him sad? They remind him too much of the life he could have had so some years he just has to avoid the scouts all together.
There is one very memorable moment when a small girl walked straight up to him and started giving him a sales pitch. Her parent is preoccupied with something else so this little girl gives her speech uninhibited for five minutes. For some reason this hits Frank hard and for the first time in maybe a year he feels his throat tightening up and the corners of his eyes start tingling. He doesn’t want the cookies, but in that moment he can’t stand the disappointment in the girls eyes so he pulls out a twenty dollar bill and hands it over. By the time the girls parent turns around, Frank is long gone.
I heard the impossible sound of Larissa Ulrich's soul
You will never see Larissa Ulrich, and you will have a very hard time hearing her music. You can’t find it on the web. You can’t find it in any store. And I know what I’m talking about — I’m a talent scout for EMI. No one knows where she is except for me.
Look, I know what you’re thinking. And no, I’m not a murderer or a kidnapper. Actually, I almost wish I was. That would be easier to process than the morbid madness of Larissa’s last performance.
The first time I saw her was at the Old Maribor on Battery Street, an old community hall here in San Francisco that had been converted into a kind of night-café. It’s not a popular place, but it houses a small stage within its old Edwardian walls where a lot of indie musicians play. I’d been scouting around for talent; the market had been pretty dry for us that year, and when that happens we like to look around in the nooks. Well … I found talent at the Maribor, alright. Talent that kept me awake that night. It still does.
She was the last performer after a slew of sleep-inducing, four-chording, bullshit guitarists who you just know are trying to get laid. Then here she came, solemnly taking the stage and holding a Baroque guitar of all things. She held it to her bosom like it was her only child, and then sat in a lone bentwood chair, centre stage. A circle of focused light from a floodlight above swept across the hardwood stage and then stopped at her. I have to tell you: she was a siren-like thing, a young Scandinavian with straight, 18 karat blond hair that reached her elbows. She wore a black A-line dress and black jump boots. But her real beauty? The sound of her soul, brothers and sisters, the sound of her soul; the strange and captivating music she played with her uncommon instrument.
She positioned the guitar nearly vertical in her arms and held it the way you’d hold your lover in a deep tango dip. The guitar itself looked old … it was a fading beige with Celtic inlays and dragons carved in on either side of the bridge. She gently placed her long, unpolished fingernails on the strings over the sound hole, and I noticed she wore a bracelet on that wrist. It was a coil of large, grape-sized wooden beads.
Fingerpicker, I thought, yawning. Here we go. They think they’re so special.
She let out the first notes … and …
Blew us the fuck away.
I … we were stunned with a weird mixture of both sadness and inspiration and … pure mystery. It was definitely a requiem — or started like one. But then it became fast, high-tempo, passionate. The way she used the beads on her wrist to create a kind of deep scraping sound against the hollow body of the instrument as she raked the strings with those hard fingernails brought to mind the most powerful rainfall ever. At times it was almost like she was playing drums on that guitar, frantically plucking and striking the strings, bobbing her head in a way that bordered headbanging. Then these passages would fade and blend into crazy solos. She held long vibratos that were — I can tell you — impossible without an amp. And at certain times it sounded like three guitars playing at once. I even thought I saw the lights dim and brighten to the sound of her odd tonal bends, flicker to her hammer-ons and pull-offs.
The longer I listened to her play, the more fascinated I became, and the more I got a sense of this kind of haunting desperation. It filled with overwhelming imagery of riding a horse through a dark forest during a thunderstorm, being chased my something I didn’t dare name.
As she played I saw some of the other ten or so patrons there. Some had their hands over their hearts, some were slack-jawed with a dreamy look in their eyes. A few others were holding their phones up — no doubt recording her — in trembling hands. By the time Larissa was only two minutes into her piece, I placed my fingers on my cheeks to find they were wet with tears.
Suddenly she struck a sour note.
Her movement and the music completely stopped. She had a look in her expression … a hint of fear. She looked all around with wide blue eyes that gleamed like star sapphire in the harsh yellow of the stage light.
Some people stood up and started hollering in a nearly frenzied clamour:
“Hey! COME ON!!”
More people started fumbling with their phones now; I guess they were so enthralled they’d forgotten to get them out initially — I sure did, and this is supposed to be my god-damn job. I took my phone out, too.
But she just stood up, knocking the chair back as she did so and it clattered to the wooden floor which in the old hall sounded like bones rattling in a crypt. She looked over her shoulder and I thought I heard her let loose a quiet gasp. Then she speed-walked off stage, clutching the neck of that old Baroque guitar in one hand.
The people groaned in discontent. Even I had half a mind to jump up onto the stage and chase her. But more overpowering was the sensation she’d left me with — and I probably everyone else. My heart was fluttering all up and down my chest, and my head felt light as air. We all hung around there for a bit with spacey looks in our eyes, and I listened to murmurs of annoyed confusion from people fiddling around with their phones … I wouldn’t know exactly what was wrong with their phones until later.
Eventually we all trickled out of the stage house, and I went back to my hotel. I lay in my bed the entire night, trying to hum those haunting notes I’d heard. But there was just no way I could reproduce that sound sound — that feeling — for the life of me. And before I knew it rays of sunlight began to enter my room. That’s how god-damn enthralling this tune was, brothers and sisters.
There was no question.
She needed a label.
And I’d make sure it was ours.
I left the hotel at noon that day, and then got to doing a little reconnaissance. It wasn’t too hard. I of course started with the manager of the Maribor and he tipped me off. Apparently his Scandinavian guitariste lived in a small and rather dilapidated Italianate house on the other side of the city, at the edge of town, near Lake Merced Park. Beyond that he really knew nothing else about her.
By sundown I parked my car in front of her place. I was shocked at the condition of the neighbourhood. I walked over some potholes to her front door, and as I climbed the rotting wood steps I winced at the thick smell of cigarette smoke emanating from one of the other houses squeezed close to Larissa’s — or all of them. I knocked on her door. She opened it.
“Hello,” she said. She was even prettier up close, even though she was wearing raggedy old beige pyjamas that looked about two centuries old. And she looked … tired. Very tired. Dark half-moons under the eyes.
“Hi. My name’s Mark Burton.” I smiled and held out my hand. “I’m a talent scout for EMI.”
“Not interested.” And then she slammed the door in my face and I heard the bolt-lock click.
Of course I was surprised at that. Why would any musician living in a shitty place like this turn down this opportunity? I gently knocked again. “Larissa? I’m not here to trick you into anything. I heard your music last night. It’s got a hell of a lot of potential. You could make your own contract.”
“I know how good it is,” from the other side of the door.
I blinked. “Well, we could work out a deal. Don’t you have a website or something?”
“Then, please … won’t you let me record a few minutes of your stuff? Just on my phone. So I can show it to my manager.”
“I don’t think so.”
Again I was thrown off by this refusal. But I couldn’t just leave and let someone else pick her up. That happens all too often.
We went-back-and-forth for a while: would she prefer to meet somewhere else? No. Could I give her my phone, so she could record it herself? No. Would she play anywhere else again? No.
And listen, you’ve got to have a certain amount of charm in this business, but even with all my honeyed promises of fame and fortune this chick would not open the door.
I gave it one more shot; not the one I like to use because it means you’ve got to give them The Spiel afterwards. But I had to try.
“Larissa, you’ll be able to reach more people with your music. Other’s will hear your soul.”
The door lock: click!
The door swung open and she gave me a good glare from under her brow. “One song,” she said. “And not a long one.”
Now — you’ve heard the expression starving artist? Well, this woman was destitute. Almost barrel-and-suspenders poor. Her house was a creaking, rickety, bare thing. No pictures hanging on the walls. No rugs or decorations or houseplant. There wasn’t even any furniture except for a foldable table in the kitchen, where a few empty plates with forks on them rested, and two plastic chairs. I wondered how she survived as I looked at the rows of empty soup cans next to the sink, and I didn’t dare think for long of what kind of dusty mattress she might be using to sleep on.
“Don’t mind this old place,” she said. “It’s just temporary.”
“Housing market is pretty damn bad nowadays. You’ll upgrade.”
“It’s not that. I just can’t ever stay in one place too long.” Then she mumbled something about how she’d have to move again soon after this … and that they would come for her.
Quite a character, this Larissa Ulrich.
But people also said John Lennon was ‘a character’, didn’t they?
She pulled a dinged up chair for me in the kitchen and motioned for me to sit. I did, and took my phone out. I have to say she seemed suspicious of me. But more than that … she looked incredibly scared. In a sort of distracted fit she kept looking out the windows and peering inside cupboards, once, twice, three times. I couldn’t hold back a chuckle when she checked the inside of her oven.
“You looking for something?” I asked.
“Could be anywhere,” she said, in complete seriousness, as she locked the bolt on the front door once again.
I could only shrug.
Soon she took her guitar out of its case — the case seemed to be the only thing in that place that looked pristine, the only mark on it was a silver Icovellavna. She pulled another chair out from under the dining table and sat down. I pulled my phone out … opened the sound recorder app … than held it up and nodded to her in affirmation.
“That won’t do anything,” she said.
Before I could make any kind of rebuttal to this odd remark, she placed her fingers on the strings and strummed. I quickly hit record.
Once again right from the first chord she totally nailed it, and continued to nail it for another ten minutes. It was incredible, but again — so difficult to explain … maybe like a mixture of Eastern and Mediterranean and Celtic. This one started as a sort of nocturne, with passages that seemed to warp and bend, and she used many of the same techniques I’d seen at the Old Maribor. The tempo picked up again, and at one point she scratched the strings with her fingernails, and you’d think what would come out would be incoherent … but instead it produced perfectly pentatonic notes sounding weirdly similar to a ehru.
As I listened a sense of dreadful insignificance came over me. Her music was truly from beyond; no amp, no tricks, no ploys. It was a spell. As if God was speaking through her. I had to fight back more tears.
Just as the music was getting even more rich than it had sounded even the first time I saw her, that sense of anger and fear intensified on her face, and a crease appeared on the smooth skin between her eyes as her upper lip twitched. She threw a startled glance at the oven again, as if some thing was just about to crawl out of it. Her tempo wavered slightly. Then she cast a glare at the door. Then the window …
And the next thing that happened had me questioning my sanity.
I’ll be damned if those forks didn’t rattle against their plates. A couple of the soup cans did a jitterbug and then tipped off the counter. I even heard glasses chattering from behind cupboards. I thought that it was an earthquake … but I felt no vibration.
Suddenly — the sour note.
The music ceased.
No more clattering plates, dancing cans, jingling glasses.
I blinked and took a long breath in, recovering from both the weird event I just witnessed, as well as the lack of that amazing sound which had so abruptly ended. My chair creaked as I leaned back in it. I was confused … but also scared … and so my rational mind took emergency control: had to have been a miniquake. Had to.
I asked Larissa if she was okay, but she didn’t respond. She looked sad, now. Not scared. Not angry. Sad. She glanced out the window one more time and then shook her head slowly. I got the distinct impression something was preventing her from playing — exactly what was stopping her, I couldn’t even begin to guess. But it tore my heart a little to see her that way.
“Go ahead,” she said. “Play the recording.”
I checked my phone, found the play button with a shaky finger, pressed it.
I stared at the thing in utter bafflement. I fast forwarded through, paused, replayed … no use. I let out a quiet kind of cough in frustration.
All it produced was silence.
“See?” she whispered.
I looked up at her. It was at the tip of my tongue to ask her to try again but as soon as I saw her I bit it so hard I tasted blood. Her face was downcast and her tears pattered onto the floor. Her arms were limp at her sides, neck of the guitar held in one of them. The epitome of defeat.
“All I want is to speak my music,” she muttered. “That’s all I want. I want people to hear it and love it and gather together to listen to it. But I can’t. I — I can’t.”
This was a complete outrage, that she couldn’t seem to go on, and that I didn’t have proof of her talent. I could almost see the money flushing down a toilet. “Yes you can, Larissa,” I said. “Of course you can. Listen … I’ll get a new phone, this one’s just busted — and I’ll get one of those sound recorders, too. We’ll show it to my manager. You can —”
“It doesn’t matter,” she snapped. Her face contorted in pained sadness. “I thought if I went to the Maribor and there were enough people, maybe … maybe it would be okay. But it wasn’t. I’ve tried before, you know, to record. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where I go. They’ll come for me.”
At this I gently placed my phone on the table and slowly approached her. I didn’t know what affliction she had, and I now very much wondered if she might be a little unwell upstairs. But she was too good to throw away. I could make a fortune off her and make her rich. I got on one knee and took her shaking hand, trying to make an appeal to reason. “Larissa,” I said in the softest tone I could manage, “I can make you a millionaire over night.”
“Money’s not the issue,” she whispered.
“But the money will help you. You could afford any place you want. You’d have security and you could have lots of different guitars.”
More tears trickled down her round cheeks. “I just want to play … I want people to hear …”
“I know, I know. So then think of how many people you’ll reach once you’ve got a record and a label. And an album, or two, or three — and concerts. Have you thought about any of that?”
She wiped her wet cheeks on her shoulders. Now her sky-blue eyes were showed she was thinking frantically, searching …
I went on: “Trust me, Larissa. Trust me. You have a skill no one else has. People will hear you. They’ll be listening to you for … all time. You know? Like Mozart, Beethoven … your music will even last long after you’re — well, you know … gone. It’ll last forever.”
“Forever,” she repeated in a whisper. Now her expression softened, the tears ceased. Her eyes were gazing into some kind of beyond, a place infinitely far. She shook her head and took a shaky breath in, and for a moment I thought I might have come off the wrong way. But then her lips parted slightly and I just barely noticed a smile. “Yes!” she said. “What have I been thinking?”
“Yeah!” I chuckled, relieved. “See?”
She stood, floating upwards as if she were weightless and held the guitar to her chest, rocking it left and right, again like it was her baby. “Give me a few days. I’ll come up with the greatest music anyone’s ever heard.”
I couldn’t hold down a massive smile. “Oh, that’s great. Thank you, Larissa. Thank you.”
We said our goodbyes and I was completely relived for this change in her attitude and the security of knowing I was sitting on a goldmine.
I went out and grabbed a brand new phone, tested the recorder (it worked fine), and then bought an Olympus sound recorder with a good mic and tested it all, too. I booked a night at the Old Maribor (I wanted the acoustics to be just the same as when I first heard it), where I would see Larissa Ulrich play her music for the very last time.
It was evening later that week when Larissa came out of her ramshackle building with her guitar in its case, wearing the same dress and jumps she’d worn the first time. I let her into my car, and we started the drive. I’d visited before hand and let her know we’d be recording it at the Maribor, with better equipment for a better sound. She had no issues.
During the car ride I tried to get to know her a little better. She was honest enough with her responses. Turned out her parents were musicians, too, but they were dead (she wouldn’t impart how), and that she’d been left with the guitar and some of their money. But not enough money to live the highlife, that was sure as shit.
Eventually she touched on the subject of her music, and as I write this now I know I should taken her much more seriously. She told me that she practiced so much that she sometimes didn’t eat … that when she got the Baroque at a young age she was told it had been infused with her mother’s essence, kind of like certain armours and swords in fantasy novels. I had to chuckle at that, not because it was cute, but because if that was true then we weren’t talking toys in the attic anymore; we’d be talking about some kind of fucking black magic. And while I was very aware of her special abilities, there is such sweet comfort in denial. She’s just that good, that’s all. Besides, through history we thought all innovative musicians were kinds of magicians. It’s just something new. Technique.
She maintained firm seriousness, though, despite my reaction, and her rebuttal was eerie: “Many people believe that music is a conduit. All religions use music, right?” She looked out of the car window, gazing at the lights streaking past in orange, gold, yellow.
She was so innocent at that moment, and I hated myself for what I was about to do … but it really did seem like the best time to give her The Spiel:
“Listen, Larissa. That’s good that you think that. That’s really good. But you’re going to find out very soon that music — any art — is a business. When you get down to it, it is. You make things people want. You’re going to have deadlines. People are going to expect performance, important people will want you, and you’ll have to watch out for people trying to fuck you figuratively and literally. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, it’s just the truth. And you’re going to need me to look out for you. And I will.”
I gave her a sidelong look. She was still looking out the window.
“I used to think the same way,” I went on. “Oh, art is this thing and that thing and no one understands it. Stay true to my vision and all that. Nah. End of the day? Marketing. Money. You’ve gotta start thinking about that — not fairytales. Or you don’t get paid, and you don’t get food, and suddenly you’re another dead-too-soon unknown. I mean, look at how you’re living, Larissa. It’s sad but true.”
I looked at her.
Still looking out the window like a cat at the sill.
I wondered if she heard me at all. “Larissa?”
Without even looking at me she spoke, then … but it was just more prattle about feelings and essences and morbid fantasies regarding her music. It was no use. She was out there, alright. So out there that my mind only registered what she said by storing it away in a mental folder labelled THINGS THAT ARE NOT POSSIBLE. Later I’d discover just how possible things were, but at the time I only nodded and smiled and did my best to hide my poignant pity of her for actually believing in things so stupid.
But it was no big deal.
She would learn.
They always did.
Now I parked the car in the Maribor’s small lot, and I brought her to the yawning old concert hall with ideas of tangible things filling my head: Larissa’s well-being and the future of her music — and, yes, the financial gain as well. I had all my things already set up from earlier in the day. I triple-checked the Olympus, and the phone, and both were perfectly operable. After a moment’s preparation, she took the stage with her violin — no chair this time — and standing in the middle of that Edwardian stage with her black dress and her blond hair she looked like a virgin offering in the maw of some giant mouth. I pressed record on both my devices which I had on a dining table next to me, and propped the phone up so it would get her in frame. Satisfied, I gave her the thumbs-up, allowing her that much closer to her strange death.
It’s useless to describe Larissa’s playing on that dreadful night. It started as a sonnet, the notes just as strange and wondrous as ever. Again — it was as if this music wasn’t meant for Earth.
After the five minute mark her tempo quickened, and the sound erupted into and even stranger, more alien tune than ever before. Some faraway sound.
Once again her eyes went wide with a sharp fear. I cranked my arm in a keep-going motion, even as an inexplicable feeling of paranoia filled me.
Louder and louder, she kept going. I raised my fist to my mouth but couldn’t cram back an ecstatic gasp. This music was utterly incredible. Her notes filled the hall like light, notes bouncing off the walls and reverberating inside my mind, resonating in my heart like love.
And then once again things started to shake.
Empty tables slid across the floor and chairs literally hopped on their legs. The glasses and booze bottles at the bar at the side of the room were shaking, though any clattering they may have produced was drowned out by that haunting music. Two of the stage lights popped, casting sparks around Larissa as she played. She didn’t even blink. Her eyes were fixed. On the beyond.
I called out and she didn’t respond. Dripping with sweat now, she just played wilder and wilder, the guitar literally shrieking out the chords. Her body twisted like she was being tugged by something, left, right … and still she maintained a focus into a forever-place and continued with the frenzied strains.
The windows cracked. All of them. They began to rattle from a wind which had sprung up outside as if to answer the call of the guitar. Larissa’s notes became even more deliberate, purposeful, powerful. The windows rattled loudly, then were blown inward from that wind, shards of glass whirling all around the place insanely. A chill rushed in, and brought something else with it.
A malevolent white fog. A fog that didn’t roll in — no. It crept in from all openings like slithering snakes … like tendrils.
A sudden gust, stronger than the others, slid my phone off the table. In a panic I grabbed the Olympus with both hands just before it too was taken.
“LARISSA, STOP!!” I screamed. “STOP PLAYING!!”
But she didn’t. Still she continued with that wild playing and those wild eyes. Her guitar now made sounds I can’t even describe. Notes lower than the lowest bass, higher than the highest treble. Some notes were imperceptible to my ears, but still somehow indentified by my mind. The sensation stiffened my body just about the way it does during a nightmare. I watched on in that near-catatonic state, the Olympus gripped vice-like in my hands.
My suit ruffled in the maddening wind, and my skin grew cold as ice as the tendrils of fog oozed through the windows and flopped onto the floor, gathering into an enormous, single heap in front of me. I saw frost crystallize on the hardwood floor beneath it. An inky darkness played deep within the core of the fog, and my jaw almost touched my chest when I saw — just barely perceptible — a number of humanoid shadows in its depths stretch and bend against hidden contours. One of them appeared to swivel its head on its hunched shoulders and I knew it was looking straight at me. I knew because I swear to you I saw eyes in it as white as the mist, like blurred paper cut-outs.
Larissa looked insane. Her blue eyes were bulging, glassy, and sightless, and the frantic playing had become a multilayered, echoing blast of unrecognisable riffs.
With the song the fog shifted and spread across the floor in a perfect, fearful symmetry, the shadow-figures splitting into liquid as it did so. The patterns they created mixed with the fog resembled something of a tiger’s mask. It was a sight that pierced my heart with pure, living horror.
I wanted to go and grab her, pull her offstage, take her somewhere safe. But sight of that crawling mass and the sound of that music paralysed me statue-stiff. I could only stand there, watching in pure dread, the Olympus still held up against my chest. Terror flew through me on dark wings as the fog lunged up onto the stage and proceeded to swirl around Larissa’s ankles.
She didn’t even respond to that hideous fog. The violin shrieked on. Her skirt fluttered like a flag and her hair blew in all directions. Her glassy eyes only stared into a void. And soon I saw tears ooze out from those eyes, but to my horror they were not normal tears.
Her tears were red.
They rilled down her smooth cheeks down to her chin as her eyes rolled back, her lips parting to form an O, bringing to mind grotesque beauty, like the Bloody Mary.
And still she played on, her entire body shaking and convulsing as the fog wrapped around her waist now. In a matter of seconds that great fog swelled around her, engulfing her in white mist which contained those insane, unknown shadows. All through the place that cold wind danced around, and the fog now bulged into an enormous cloud on the stage. The shadows within it flitted about, skittering, crawling … stretching …
My mind nearly tore off its moorings when a portion of the cloud parted. There are certain things that your brain simply doesn’t allow. I now know that there are things of such darkness, just as Larissa’s music was of such beauty, that they will not fit through the tiny tunnels of human understanding.
The cloud revealed an endless abyss, and colours I’d never seen — colours literally not on the spectrum. Just seeing it gave me such a crazy sense of hopeless doom that by writing it down now I have half a mind to stop here just at the fucking memory of it. I called them ‘colours’ but that’s only pure metaphor. I literally can’t think of any other way to put down the terrible tones and shades I saw working inside that creepy globe of mist.
I think I went a little crazy, right then.
Suddenly there was a sound, a sound even louder than the guitar’s song: a sigh. Yes, a sigh so loud and ominous that only a mouth the size of the San Pablo Bay could produce that sort of death knell.
Then, all at once, the fog plunged over my head, in a perfectly ovular shape, leaving nothing behind on that stage but a Baroque guitar twirling like a top on its strap pin. The fog above me split once again with that same frightening symmetry and slipped out the windows, carrying in all directions with it the furious music until it faded … faded … faded away.
The spinning guitar finally lost momentum ant tipped over with a clunk!
And with that, the whole place fell still and silent as a tomb.
My legs left me and I fell to my knees, breathing heavy and unable to blink, still clutching the Olympus to my chest. With shaking fingers I managed to hit the stop button after two or three attempts. Then I crawled over to where my phone lay on the floor just a few feet in front of me, and curled up beside it, weeping, gasping, shaking.
I don’t know how long I was like that, but I do know it took a while for my sanity to string itself back together. As soon as I was able, I frantically stuffed the phone into my pocket.
Then I ran.
I flew out of the dark concert hall and ran like a lunatic out into the narrow, steep streets of San Francisco. There was a crowd of people standing outside and some of them pointed at me. I didn’t give one fuck. I simply sprinted down the sidewalk and hopped over curbs to the lower streets, ignoring these idiot pedestrians unaware of all the terrible horrors that lingered with me now.
And as I ran down the familiar streets towards my hotel, it occurred to me that the autumn air was unseasonably warm. And there was a full moon.
Worse than that, though, was that the street lights were flickering.
Back at my hotel, I checked the recording on the Olympus. My could feel my face melt into a scowl.
What I heard on the recording was the same thing I heard in her apartment, and the same thing I am sure the others at the Maribor heard on the first night.
And when I say ‘nothing’, I’m referring to the music itself. Oh, you could hear glass shattering, tables sliding, my own voice screaming out to Larissa … yes, indeed, brothers and sisters … but not the music.
And on the phone? Despite a crack in the screen, there was Larissa, perfectly in frame, manipulating a bow to strings that made no sound. There was a jump cut. I want to think it was due to the damage of impact. I want to. Then she was just gone. Popped out of existence like a burst bubble and leaving her instruments behind.
They took it away.
Larissa’s music wasn’t meant for this world. She told me that she was given that gift and now I know that they wanted it back. That’s what I believe, not just because of what I saw, but also because of what she told me that night, in the car:
“You don’t know about the nature of music, do you? Mister Big Business? There’s a philosopher — Susanne Langer — she was specialized in the effects of art and the mind. I studied her a ton at the library, after I realized I had a gift. She said that music has ‘forms of human feelings, the tensions, ambiguities, contrasts, and conflicts of our feeling life’. That’s what I remember best, anyway. Music sounds like emotions feel. So if that’s true then that attaches music to the very core of our beings. It’s nothing to do with material things. It ties it up to our most important experiences and feelings … our memories … So now imagine how the dead feel about my music. You know? They’re made up of nothing but memories. Just wait. You’ll see.”
Do the dead hear our music?
Does it warm them, as it does us?
I’ve pondered these questions and others when I lie awake at night, running the Olympus over and over again and not hearing any of the only music that could help me out of this damn dejected state. If I do continue working for EMI, I’ll never, ever, give anyone The Spiel again. I’ll tell them what Larissa told me. I’ll give them a copy of this account.
There is some comfort, though. I guess.
Larissa got what she wanted. She’ll play forever … she has her eternal audience now, who’ll hear the sound of her soul for all time.
I know that because if you stand outside at night, particularly when the moon is full, and a certain kind of fog slides in … you can hear her music.
A trainer’s ace is the Pokémon that they are able to create the biggest impact with in battle. This impact may relate to the number of opponents it can overcome, the amount of game-changing status effects it can introduce, or even the numerous ways in which it can exacerbate the performances of other party members.
Not all trainers have ace Pokémon, as some prefer to raise a balanced team in which no one member is more pivotal than the rest. However, those who wish to enter the battle industry - especially the League or Frontier - are encouraged to establish an ace for the sake of their public image, if nothing else. By defining yourself as ‘the trainer with the super fast jolteon’ or ‘the one with that awesomely tanky bronzong’, you carve out an identity for yourself, and that makes you more likely to be noticed, called to audition, or even scouted. It makes you more marketable, in short.
Some trainers dislike the idea of being defined by their ace, as they feel it puts too much pressure on them to use it in every match. A trainer who wishes to experiment with new strategies and new Pokémon may be discouraged from doing so if said strategies don’t incorporate their ace, purely because their manager or agent may not wish them to compromise their public persona. One might liken it to being typecast.
Fortunately, most trainers are so close to their ace Pokémon that they take no issue with being defined by it.
Kanto League Aces
Lt. Surge: Electabuzz (given its ability to handle strong opponents despite never reaching its final evolutionary stage, it would be a particularly iconic ace)
Janine: Crobat (the media would push for her venomoth, but she would fight against it to show that she was a different trainer to her father)
Blue: Arcanine (would be less pivotal to his team than most aces, as he would be such an all-rounder)
Johto League Aces:
Morty: Two Gengars (although having two ace Pokémon is uncommon, it can happen if they form a complimentary pair. One of Morty’s gengars would specialise in attacking, the other in status, and they would never be so effective as when they fought in tandem).
Clair: Kingdra (although her dragonair would be also be a cornerstone in her team)
Indigo Elite Four Aces
Will: Two Xatus (similarly to Morty, the two would’ve been trained together since birth and thus would battle harmoniously together)
Red: None (I know that, bearing in mind the canon, it should be his pikachu, but my personal headcanon is that his team would be perfectly balanced)
Hoenn League Aces
Tate and Liza: Solrock and Lunatone (the latter would be Tate’s, the former Liza’s)
Hoenn Elite Four Aces
Steven: Metagross (capable of mega evolution)
Sinnoh League Aces
Crasher Wake: Quagsire
Sinnoh Elite Four Aces
Unova League Aces
Unova Elite Four Aces
Alder: Volcarona (after this volcarona died, he would lose his flair for battle and eventually be replaced by Iris)
Kalos League Aces
Olympia: Two Meowstics (a male and a female, mated pair)
The party, having finished essentially buying Phandalin, took the final days leading up to the excursion to The Under to try to restock what they could. One of the players unfortunately had to leave the party for personal reasons. She may come back, but until then the group is without her and with Zhong (their cleric.)
Johan Phaulkon, their current employer and arranger of the excursion, met the party to inform them on their mission (go to The Under and buy/steal as many slaves as possible with the express goal of freeing them afterwards) as well as present them with people who will be recognized as guards for the people they will be bringing back.
Some complications arose when the party got to the dock to find that a few members of Stormshield’s elite (the head of security for the city, a human by the name Naoki Ishida, as well as a few random people that just appeared to be book keepers.) Naoki explained that he wouldn’t interfere with whatever the party was doing as long as they left whatever it was that he and his people bring back alone. It was the party’s understanding that they were just there for rare goods. Basically, as long as any thieves in the party just didn’t mess with what they were bringing back, everything would be fine.
Upon arrival they were told that they had one week to do what they came to do. Slave auctions last a week (and, just to drive the whole evil wealth sort of thing, I made them silent auctions) and Nalu had a plan going into this mission of who she needed to kill. Basically this whole arc is devoted to her backstory. Anyway, the party found themselves in a tavern called The Broken Wheel where they met a contact of Phaulkon named Aeowyn Windlancer. Formerly a pirate captain, as the party found out, she was left in Rat’s Mouth Bay (the name of the little pirate town they’re in) by her former crew after she made the full transition to being a woman. Misogyny and all that. The party paid her to scout the market, to which she found that there was heavier guard than normal. Additional Mind Flayers and two of the three higher ups within the slavers ring were present. One, a duergar fighter named Seamus Ironjaw. The other a female drow priestess. Seamus had additional slaves with him for backup if a fight broke out.
Nalu, knowing her way around Rat’s Mouth Bay, also knew of a drug den/brothel nearby. She and Kya disguised themselves as pirates looking for pleasurable company. They ended up paying for a Tiefling woman who they promptly made go to sleep for the hour while they scouted the building. Nalu felt a strange presence and then heard footsteps coming up from downstairs. Upon trying to leave they were ambushed by the third member of the ring, a Mind Flayer named Mindbreaker Izzinoth, and his four crazed slaves. Kya and Nalu called for help as combat began.
I treated each slave as a level 3 Berserker Barbarian. They Frenzied immediately and used Reckless Attacks every turn. I also made them resistant to everything and immune to psychic damage (which the party never got around to finding out) because they were heavily drugged. Using tactics I had them all attempt to gang up on Barakiel (which the player did not like but eh.) Nalu really hurt Izzinoth with a combination of sharpshooter shots and the additional damage granted by my Monster Hunter class.
The fight ended with Crugar making a reckless attack which killed Izzinoth by denting a helmet he was wearing in such a way that it split the illithid’s skull. I pretty much ended the session there as it was getting late.
Next session (May 27th) is set to be probably the darkest of all the games as the group explores just how evil The Under truly is. There’s gonna be content warnings and some potentially triggering stuff. This is stuff that even I’m uncomfortable with. Keep in mind they’re still in the brothel so if anything along those lines is a problem I implore you to let me know. Heck, if this post itself needs content warning tags tell me. I want all of you to be comfortable and enjoy yourselves here.
[Veldt had been hired to investigate an ancient temple. Job seemed easy enough. Just scout it out for black market goods and supernatural disturbances. The usual fare. It looked Myan, almost Aztec in design he thought to himself as he arrived. They were known to have a lot of weird and sacrificial religions after all.]
[As he trekked through the tunnels of the stone construct, the familiar *pat, thud, pat, thud* of his legs could be heard echoing to every corner and crevice of the place. He was surprised to find nothing at all in the temple, until he made it to the final door….]
[There were bones, old ones, stacked neatly outside of the door. No way to tell what they were from. At least they didn’t look human. He had to be on his guard. He slowly pushed the large stone door open, shining his flashlight into the central chamber. He saw nothing at first, and then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. He flung around to see something shifting in the shadows.]