The lights dim.
The curtain lifts.
You are a member of the audience now.
The stage is set for you to witness a fantastical tale of magic, friendship, hatred, secrets, injustices and love. Grab your pointy black hat, click the heels of your red shoes, hop onto your broom, sing your favorite song and hang onto a monkey's wing… It's about to get Wicked.
No matter human or troll, seer or mage, lusus or ancestor, keep in mind... it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside. A notion once thought to be completely true may turn out to have been deceiving all along. The most wicked member of society may be the one most deserving of our praise.
Things aren't always what they seem.
Wickedstuck: Begin ===+
"Good news!" A chorus of voices rang throughout the Lands of Oz. The noise started with a rumble and rushed over the hills, spreading far and wide. All over the message was repeated, first in hushed whispers as if the ones hearing it didn't dare believe it were true, but then the cry grew louder, surer, more joyous with every new member added to the buzzing crowd. Trolls and humans alike rushed from their homes and into the streets full of people laughing and embracing. Goodness had triumphed! From human to human to troll to troll to human and back echoed the same announcement: "He's DEAD!"
"The Knight of Blood is dead!" The people rushed around all hurrying and shouting and hoping at once. Many laughed. A few had tears of happiness in their eyes. Complete strangers slapped each other on the back in congratulations. "The Wickedest one there ever was, the enemy of all of us here in Oz, IS DEAD!"
The capital of the Land of Wind and Shade was filled with townspeople cheering from their rooftops. Others shouted from their balconies and from their windows. Could it really be? Were they finally rid of the scourge upon their world?
"Good news!" It was amazing! Wondrous! Sublime!
And then a new voice was added to the squall. It rang out loud and clear, emanating from a young man descending from the sky. He was dressed in blue robes that contrasted greatly with his bright yellow shoes. He floated slowly down to the celebrating crowd surrounded by a large bubble. A symbol of the Breeze he commanded graced the front of his T-shirt. Over his short black hair a blue hood flowed perpetually in the wind. Square-rimmed glasses rested on his boyish face. He gave a grin to reveal a slight hint of buckteeth. A yellow salamander accompanied him inside the glassy sphere, happily gurgling more tiny bubbles out of its mouth.
"It's Good to see me, isn't it?" He said to the people below. The young man's eyes were as kind as the sky.
Their combined voices stopped proclaiming delight over the "news", and instead just screamed in delight at his presence. If anyone had thought that the previous amount of joy was high, then they were now proved completely wrong.
"It's the Heir of Breath!"
"John the Good!"
"Oh please, you don't have to answer," John laughed. "That was just rhetorical."
However, the crowd below continued to voice how very, very good indeed it was to see him. Just like he knew they would.
John cleared his throat and composed himself. "My fellow Oz dwellers…" he began, raising his voice for all to hear.
Let us be glad.
Let us be gracious.
Let us rejoice-ify that Goodness could subdue,
The Wicked workings of You-Know-Who!
He spread his arms out, as if a gesture to calm the people's hearts. The young man paid no mind to the dull threat of tears behind his eyes.
Isn't it nice to know,
That Good will conquer evil?
The Heir of Breath managed to bring a convincing smile to his face. He had to stay strong…none of them knew what he knew. It wasn't their fault. None of them knew any better… He took a shaky breath.
The truth we all believe'll by and by,
Out-live a lie,
But what was the real lie here? If only they could see behind the happy mask he felt plastered onto his face…
"For you and…"
"John Eggbert!" A male voice interrupted him from below. John trailed off, surprised.
"Exactly how dead IS he?" At these words, the people began to murmur. That was a Good point. They had only heard one small scrap of news after all. He might still be out there. And that troll was notorious throughout the Lands as a liar—it was easy to imagine him crawling back out of his watery grave, or simply lying low and then leaping from the shadows to strike again, his nubby horns red with rage.
"Well," John began, trying to get the attention of his adoring public. "I know there's been a lot of speculation and theories going around. Innuendo, out-uendo…" He waved a dismissive hand, grossly misusing the words. "But let me set the record straight."
"According to the Judgment Clock it was a Just death, and the melting occurred at the Thirteenth Hour, or midnight in human terms, as a direct result of a container of water," He was careful to avoid offending the trolls in the audience by using the word bucket. "Thrown by a young human female."
John straightened up in his bubble and tried to face them bravely. He took a deep breath to steady himself for what he was about to say. "Yes. The Knight of Blood we all fear is dead!"
The sentence had barely flown from his lips when the crowd erupted in renewed vigor. The sea of celebration and elation resumed. Humans and trolls now hugged each other and shouted with certainty. A few individuals absconded from the fray, carrying the happy news to those who weren't yet blessed with the gift of confirmation. Many more were now crying happy tears. The group continued their celebrations while their hooded guardian watched with a practiced smile and aching heart from above.
"No one mourns the Wicked!" came a shout from one particularly exuberant troll.
A pair of human women agreed, "No one cries 'They won't return'!"
No one lays a lily on their grave!
"The Good man scorns the Wicked!" Shouted another troll.
"Through our lives, our children learn," said a mother, gathering her children close. "What we miss when we misbehave." A few more people joined in on the last words, creating a chorus.
"And Goodness knows," John spoke to the people below in a voice like wind chimes. "The Wickeds' lives are lonely…" He had to remain strong. He was a public figure, respected, admired. A hero, just like he had always wanted to be.
Dave would have appreciated the irony.
"Goodness knows, the Wicked die alone," John gasped at the emotions that struck his heart as he said that line. He squeezed his eyes shut. He would not think of that troll, or what had happened to him… Or that it was his fault in a way.
John opened his eyes to see some friendly villagers reaching up to help him down from his ride. The bubble had almost reached the ground. John smiled at their Goodness and allowed himself to be welcomed into a whirlwind of kisses and handshakes and bows. "It just shows, when you're Wicked, you're left lonely, on your own."
And Goodness knows, the Wickeds' lives are lonely,
Goodness knows, the Wicked cry alone,
Nothing grows for the Wicked, they reap only,
What they've sown
"John?" A child's voice spoke. The Heir of Breath looked around and then down into the large brown eyes of a youth hiding behind their father's leg. "Why does Wickedness happen?"
John smiled. "That's a Good question." A whiff of Breeze ruffled the shy child's hair, eliciting a giggle. "And one that many people find confuse-ivating."
John turned so that he addressed the majority of the people gathered. "Are people born Wicked? Or do they have Wickedness thrust upon them?" He questioned, posing for effect. "After all, he was once a wriggler…"
John: Narrate the past. ===+
"He had a father, who was once the mayor of Lowblood Hills…"
Somewhere far in the past, a troll with small, almost nubby horns bid goodbye to his green-blooded matesprit. Her blood was just yellow-green enough to classify her as a permanent resident of the Lands reserved for those not high on the hemospectrum.
At first they seemed an unlikely match—his occasionally explosive temper coupled with her cat puns and wild ways. But anyone could soon see that they clicked. They had their healthy instances of hate. They kept each other sane and in line. He had a remarkable skill with diplomacy and could often serve as a temporary auspistice for their problems. And it was all built on a basis of pity. According to rumor, their love went beyond the four quadrants…or whatever trolls called them.
"I'm off to work, dear," he said while adjusting his Righteous Leggings and putting his trusty sickle safely in his strife specibus. Being mayor of Lowblood Hills wasn't an easy job, but some nooksucker had to do it.
Times had changed. For instance, humans and trolls and the creatures called lusus naturae now lived together in an unlikely mix of cultures and traditions. It had been an interesting process, and there was still the occasional bump along the road to peace, but everyone had made a magnificent effort toward the greater Good. Both groups had adjusted to the others' strange ways, although the hemospectrum still held sway over trolls' lives. Visitation to a different part of the Lands was not forbidden, but your home would always be either with lowbloods or highbloods, or the castes in-between. Nevertheless, Oz was a beautiful, miraculous, astounding, wwonderful mixing pot.
"He had a mother, like most people do."
A lithe female troll came bounding towards her matesprit, the green designs on her black dress a blur. The other troll soon found himself accosted by a full-force tacklepouncehug. He gasped from under the mop of her unruly black hair, crowned by a pair of horns shaped like cat ears. Her olive green eyes twinkled as she gave him a lipstick-stained kiss.
"Sorry, darling. How I hate to go and leave you lonely like this, but they pulled a fast one on me again." he said, recovering quickly.
"That's alright! It's only just one night, Jegus," she purred a reply. "Be Good!"
He returned her kiss and headed out the door, pausing once to wave back at his Disciple. "Just know you're curled up here in my heart, while you're out of my sight!"
"And like every family…they had their secrets."
Later that evening the Disciple stretched out on the couch by a warm fireplace. She yawned contentedly. This was just purrfect…
The door rang.
Mrw? The olive-blooded troll wondered who could be at the door. Her matesprit wouldn't return for a while, she mew that. Then…was it pawssibly a visitor? Her feral eyes lit up with curiosity. How fun! She rushed to get the door.
"Oh…it's you." With a bit of reluctance, perhaps, she let her guest in.
"Yeah, me. Guess you an the red-blood didn't expect me, miss huntress." The mystery man swept into the hive. "I guess I should apologize for bargin' in like this, but well… shit happens."
"Don't start making yourself comfurrtable just yet." The Disciple growled at her guest. He had already gone to sit down on the couch and had started to relax. "Just what is your business here? Your kind doesn't usually purruse these Lands too often."
"Relax, catfish. I just had to make a trip for some ingredients. You remember my hobbies…" This elicited a disdainful sniff from the other troll.
Her keen eyes caught something. "What's that?" She asked, pointing to a small bottle on the other's person.
"Oh, this? It's not much. Just a…experiment." He took the tiny glass bottle and shook it slowly. A cloudy white liquid swirled on the inside. It was hard to tell, but in the dark surroundings the mysterious matter almost seemed to…glow? "Wwhite elixir," he said softly, reverently.
"What does it do?" She stalked closer, entranced.
"Nothin'." He stood up and held the bottle away from her. "You can't get it."
She snatched for it, long nails raking the air. Missed. "It's not that important."
Yes it was, if he was playing keep-away with her! It was like a game. She must have it. It must be hers. She hated being teased! If something was held right out of her reach, she was going to try to get it!
"Curiosity killed the cat you knoww." And here he made his mistake. He dangled the bottle right in front of her nose and then quickly retracted it. But he wasn't quick enough.
Fast as lightning, she snatched it from his hand. She gave a cry of delight and clutched her prize close.
"…Fine. Guess I don't get to drink it, then."
That was all he had to say to ensure that she would, indeed, drink it.
Have another little swallow little lady,
And follow me down!
Ancestors: Be first-time lusii. I mean parents. ===+
Things had definitely changed. When trolls first arrived in Oz and began to settle, they found no Mother Grub. And all the lusii here were more intelligent and talkative then the ones back on Alternia. They weren't anything like what trolls were used to charging with raising grubs. But the Old Age trolls were settlers from the farthest outreach of the Alternian Empire, and they had to make do. The influence of Her Imperious Condescension did not reach this outpost of their cosmos often enough for her to send aid.
So, after many heated debates and speeches and forceful changing of minds, it was decided. They would adapt. It had been done before and could be done again. The humans here on Oz assured them that it was worth it. They would raise their own young. With new technology it was now possible to know your descendant, become parents, and even have siblings! Siblings were still considered rare, however.
And that was why two troll almost-new-parents were now in their hive, trying not to pull their hair out. The Waiting was well-known to trolls by now. One spouse would always have to try calming the other down. Then they would scream, fidget, and try to distract each other in any possible way. Teeth gnashing and sudden panic attacks were common. There was no way of knowing when the Storking Drones would arrive with your bundle of mess. It was widely regarded as a wonderful time.
And there it was. The bell, or if you didn't have a doorbell a knock, to signal the customary and equally well-known Race to the Door. The Disciple lept with a screech from her anxious perch at the bottom of a staircase. Jegus made no attempt to stem the constant flow of colorful swear words from his mouth as he flew to the door.
It was said that the first one to reach the door and open it would be the first troll that the grub would see. Jegus and the Disciple reached the door at the same time. They shot each other a brief look full of excitement and love. Then, together, they turned the handle.
I see a leg,
I see a stub,
There it was! In the drone's arms…
It's a happy, perfect, handsome little…
"And from the moment he hatched he was, well, different…"
The grub's mother lept back with a scream. The father too, could hardly believe his eyes.
This must be wrong,
The drone's misled,
This couldn't be right. Something must have gone wrong somewhere. Because…because grubs were the color of their blood...
It's pure dread!
And this one…this one…their grub…their grub was…was…
Like a candy-colored cherry, this grub here is unnaturally…
In solemn, shocked silence, the grub was taken from the Stork's outstretched arms. His mother held the small life close to her chest, worry and fear tossing and turning in her eyes like an ocean. The two ancestors stood there for a while. Their baby was a mutant.
"…Take it away." The Disciple looked up, startled at the hiss in Jegus's voice. "Take it AWAY!" he screamed.
John: Try to make them understand, even a little bit. ===+
"So, you see, nothing was ever easy…" The Heir of Breath winced as he was interrupted by cheers.
No one mourns the Wicked!
Now at last, he's dead and gone,
Now at last, there's joy throughout the Lands,
Oh no, his talk of the Knight of Blood's earliest moments had had the opposite effect. Instead all of the others rejoiced even further, perceiving John's tale to be about bad times in the past. They didn't live in a world where the red-blooded mutant could terrorize them anymore! In their celebration there was no room for anything but pure, unbridled joy.
John sighed and joined in, as he was expected to. "And Goodness knows…"
Goodness knows, the Wicked's lives are lonely,
Goodness knows, the Wicked die alone,
"He died alone!" John cried, his voice lost in the commotion of victory.
Woe to those who spurn what Goodness they are shown,
No one mourns the Wicked!
A chorus of voices rang throughout the Lands. It started with a rumble and spread over the hills, carrying far and wide.
Good news! Good news!
The Good people were joined in their happiness by a hero in blue, who sang in spite of his broken heart.
No one mourns the Wicked!
Yes, let it all be heard throughout the Lands, from heart to heart.
No one mourns…
In voices loud and clear, young and old.
This tale drenched in the red of injustice…
A tale of Wickedness.