Winds in the east, mist coming in, like something is brewing and about to begin.
I can't put my finger on what lies in store, but I fear what's to happen all happened before.
You stand at the border of a quaint village, on the cusp where the primeval forest gives way to the cobblestone streets of civilization.
At your feet is a bloody [[axe]]. Your axe.
Beneath the axe is a witch in a [[black lace dress]] with a [[parasol]] and large [[handbag]]. She is cleft in twain.You heft your bloody axe over your shoulder and saunter back to your barbarian village, whistling a jaunty tune. As you leave a blue bird lands on your shoulder and is also cleft in twain.
THE END (Really? Whatever, man.)
[[BACK|The Border]]You strip your defeated foe and don her gore soaked lacy dress. The trim white gloves, bright scarf and feathered hat do not match your brutish, bearded barbarian body buddy, but before you know it they cling to your unwashed skin like pine tar.
Suddenly, a terrible cry arises from the head of the [[parasol]]!The [[handle]] of the parasol is carved in the shape of a cruel bird, and that bird is alive!
It shrieks out in an abrasive, effete voice like a buggered noble.
"Murder! Murder most fowl! [[Flee this bloody ground|axe]] now or suffer the Wrath of the Poppins!"You step over the [[axe]], [[parasol]] and [[black lace dress]] to snatch up the heavy bag and smile a black toothed grin as you imagine the loot hidden inside.
You yank the case open and see a deep, [[dark hole]].You reach your arm into the black depths. Your fingers brush something cold and hard. You hear the distant echoes of [[bottles]] clinking.
You feel as though you could [[fit your entire body inside]] the bag.You drag a bottle from the surprisingly deep hollow of the bag.
The label is yellowed with time and faded beyond legibility, not that you can read anyway. The viscous fluid inside slops and gurgles against its glass prison.
You could [[drink it]] or just [[dash it on the ground]] to hear the pretty sound.
[[BACK|dark hole]]You slip inside the bag and tumble past enough shelves of bottles to fill a thousand apothecaries. As the black wind rushes past your ears you glimpse forgotten relics of lost civilizations and fantastic weapons forged by inhuman hands. In the murky distance beyond, unspeakable undulating masses glide through the void.
The sunshine at the opening of the bag dwindles to a pin prick. You try to hold that fragile light in your mind as you plummet, screaming through the shadows behind the veil of the reality you thought you knew. Your mind shatters and even the dim memory of light is extinguished, until finally there is nothing but descent, despair and darkness.
YOU HAVE MET YOUR DOOM
[[BACK|handbag]]You quaff the foul brew and feel it soil your gullet like the black blood of the earth.
You've drank worse.
Your stomach quakes and you unleash a volcanic blast of incandescent vomit that levels the quaint town and reduces its inhabitants to shrieking, skinless husks.
There is a slight aftertaste of coconuts.
[[BACK|bottles]]The vial shatters on the ground and releases a small drift of green vapor.
It smells faintly of coconuts.
[[BACK|bottles]]You grasp the handle of the parasol to wring the wretched harpy's neck and you feel a jolt of power flow through your veins.
You find yourself wearing the black lace dress and feminine finery and wielding the parasol and hand bag where you once carried an axe and shield.
The bird totem continues to shriek.
"The blood curse of the Poppins is now upon you! You have gained their power as well as their wrath! The Poppins will pursue you to the ends of this earth and the animated realms between without ceasing until you have bested them in single combat or you have been slain!"
[[Chapter 2 - BLOOD EVERYWHERE]]You stomp through the forest, scattering birds nests and bunnies in your wake. It will take some time to get used to walking in heels.
The smell of burning pork fat and moldering dung cuts through the dank moss. You hear drunken shouts and the clash of steel on leather. Your [[home village]] is near.
A towering barbarian charges at you with a war hammer held high. His grog blurred eyes burn with berserker rage.
You grip your [[umbrella]] and [[hand bag]], unsure of what to do.You press a switch on the umbrella and it snaps open into a large cone like the shield of a plains warrior. You doubt the flimsy cloth will block the oncoming war hammer yet instinct compels you to raise it to deflect the crushing blow.
A mysterious gust of wind catches the umbrella and launches you [[into the air]]!You open the strangely voluminous hand bag and fumble about inside for something useful.
Your sweaty palm grazes against a [[cold glass cylinder]] and a [[dry husk of bone]].You hover effortlessly over the enraged barbarian. His war hammer slams the ground where you stood and sends a jet of mud squelching into his face. He looks up in awe, as shocked to see you up there are you are to see him down there.
You alight on the branch of a tree. You have the high ground. You could [[leap down]] and strike the barbarian dead or search your [[hand bag]] for something else useful.You pluck a bottle from the bag and hurl it into the barbarian's face.
It smashes in a corona of blood and lime cordial.
He stumbles back and wipes his face with his long red beard.
"This smells delightful! What witchery is this?"
You recognize the drunken brute as your own brother, Bragholt the Brutal. You wave a dainty white glove and [[call out]]. A gleaming white scimitar of bone slides from the bag. It is the tusk of some horrendous beast, and it can be wielded from either end as a [[spear]] or a [[club]].You leap from the tree and attempt to plunge straight down like a hawk diving in for the kill. Instead you float down lazily like a feather plucked from a goose.
You land before the drunken brute as he hefts his muddy war hammer once more. You recognize him as none other than your brother, Bragholt the Brutal. You [[call out]] his name."Bragholt, it is me, your brother!"
The barbarian blinks at you and staggers on his feet.
"Why are you wearing a dress?"
You tell him of the witch you slew and the strange blood curse described by the parrot totem. His skin turns pale beneath the layers of grime and he flees back towards the village.
[[CHAPTER 3 - Home Sweet Home Invasion]]You fling the spear down like a bolt from the heavens. It pierces the barbarian's throat and impales him, driving out his other end and rooting him to the earth.
The barbarian drops his war hammer with a thud and screams in agony. The scream continues to rise until it shakes the forest like the thunder that followed your piercing bolt.
The bony spear begins to contract, or rather the suffering barbarian begins to grow. His dirty flesh envelops the tusk like a new spine and bulges outward with quivering muscle and veiny, elephantine limbs.
You think it might be a good idea to [[stay in the tree]]. You tuck and roll out of the tree, the heft of the curving club pulling you faster into a tornado of doom.
You slam the club into the barbarian's skull as you land, stunning him instantly. He falls back into the mud and you get a good look at his face. It is Bragholt the Brutal, your brother.
You laugh and [[call out]] his name.The barbarian tests his elongating limbs and flexes his fingers. He grabs the mighty tree you are perched in and begins to violently tear it from the ground.
You quickly grab hold of your [[hand bag]].You emerge from the enchanted forest into a clearing of crude huts. Dirt stained children play in the mud, guzzling buckets of grog and using the empty pails for head butting contests.
Angry women scramble about chasing squealing pigs, which in turn scramble after squealing men.
The stench of vomit and moldy beef hangs over the village like a suffocating cloak of wet buffalo hide.
It is good to be home.
A disheveled man-beast, naked except for a crown of elk antlers, staggers out of a hut. He coughs and loses several black teeth. It is your father and Chieftan of the Stumblebum Clan, [[Groggsnorrt the Insalubrious]].Groggsnorrt's bloodshot eyes fall upon you and he points at you with a filthy finger.
"Your brother told me you been turned into a witch. Quick, boy! Give me the umbrella!"
You start to hand over the parasol when the parrot totem handle squawks.
"Do not do it! Your father has been ensorcelled!"
You are not sure who to believe, [[the father]] you have known your entire life or [[this magical parrot]] you met this afternoon.You hand the shrieking umbrella over to your father.
He snatches it away and laughs with a malevolence that indicates a cunning your real father never possessed.
The illusion is dispelled. Before you stands a thin swarthy man in a red dress with a magic umbrella in each hand.
"Many thanks. I'd ask you for the dress as well, but as you may have learned it cannot be removed until death. Regardless, it will be mine presently."
You clutch your [[large hand bag]] and consider [[making a break for it]].
[[BACK|Groggsnorrt the Insalubrious]]You point the umbrella.
"Prove that you are really my father. What's my name?"
"Yer my baby boy, Haggismoothie the Chunderous!"
You lash out at the imposter and scream,
"My real father never knew my name!"
Your attack is blocked by an [[invisible form]].
[[BACK|Groggsnorrt the Insalubrious]]The illusion of your father is dispelled. Before you stands a thin swarthy man in a red dress. He has blocked your umbrella with his own.
His umbrella also has an animal totem carved into its handle. It is a green serpent with emerald eyes.
He opens the umbrella with a flourish of scaly green hide, ducks under it, and closes it around himself. He transforms into a hideous, reptilian creature and hisses, baring razor sharp fangs that drip venom.
You heft your own umbrella and [[prepare to fight]].
You grasp for a weapon inside of the hand bag and pull out a potted plant. You dump it aside and pull out a mirror, a hat stand and a lamp.
The man in the red dress cackles.
"You would need a dozen lifetimes to unlock the mysteries of the bag, and you have less than one."
He fetches you a clout with one end of his umbrella and then flips it to deftly snag your bag with the handle.
You wonder if you should [[prepare to fight]] or try [[making a break for it]].
You spin and dash through the muddy clearing as fast as your high heels can take you. You have the element of surprise and the home field advantage.
A piercing pain shoots through your neck and you fall to ground, paralyzed. The man in the red dress flips you onto your back with his umbrella. The handle is a green serpent with emerald eyes. Its ivory fangs are slick with your blood.
"Reginald Poppins, at your service. I'll be taking your umbrella and bag, along with your wretched life."
His serpent umbrella opens its gaping mouth and begins to slowly devour you from the boots up.
YOU HAVE MET YOUR DOOM
[[BACK|Groggsnorrt the Insalubrious]]You stand your ground before the terrifying Man-Witch.
A meaty thunk snaps the witch's head forward. He clutches his umbrella to his head and whirls to face his attacker.
It is Bragholt, your brother!
You grasp your umbrella and stab it though the Man-Witch's exposed back.
The parrot totem shouts.
"Quick, while he is weak! [[Feed him to his own carpet bag]]!"
You and Bragholt grab the squirming man-witch and shove his body into his carpet bag. He slides into its bottomless maw until his screams fade from existence.
The parrot totem squawks once more.
"Now, place that carpet bag in your own and be rid of it."
Bragholt clutches the carpet bag to his chest.
"This is the spoils of my defeated foe. It belongs to me!"
You shake your head at your oafish brother's greed. Should you [[let him keep it]] or [[do what the parrot says]]? You clamp your hand over the parrot's beak.
"Ignore him, brother. The bag is yours."
Bragholt eyes the serpent headed umbrella on the ground.
"And the magic snake umbrella, I want that!"
He eyes the parrot umbrella.
"And I want yours, too!"
Before you can react the carpet bag in Brutholt's arms springs open. The witch's arm grabs him and pulls him down into the abyss.
You run over and stare down to watch the two morons cling and scrap their way through empty space for eternity.
You close the bag and [[do what the parrot says]]. You drop the witch's carpet bag into your own. Your bag distends around it, squeezes, and gulps it down with a pop.
"You acquitted yourself well, barbarian," the parrot says.
You pick up the serpent headed umbrella. Its emerald eyes gleam with cold light.
"You won't get such wise counsel from that one," the parrot says, "And with two umbrellas you will be hunted not only by the Poppins but by those that covet their power."
Do you crave the power of [[both umbrellas]], or do you want to [[master the first]]?You laugh at the carved parrot.
"Shut your beak! You are mine to command, just like the snake. You will both serve me, and serve me well!"
You hold the two magic artifacts aloft and feel their incredible power thrumming in your bones.
The serpent umbrella hisses and bites the parrot. You struggle to pull them apart but you are caught between them. Both umbrellas flare open and you are torn to shreds in a whirlwind of talons and fangs.
YOU HAVE MET YOUR DOOM (and hopefully learned a valuable lesson as well.)
[[BACK|do what the parrot says]]
You meet the parrot totem's carved eyes.
"What do I do with the other umbrella?"
"Do not use it. Bind it and keep it hidden. I will lead you to one who can keep it safe and teach you how to wield the eldritch sorcery of the Poppins."
[[Chapter 4: I love it when you call me Big Poppins]]You slog through the undergrowth of the enchanted forest, stopping now and then to hold your umbrella aloft into shafts of hazy sunlight.
The carved parrot totem in the handle squawks.
"'Tis a good league hence that you will find my half-brother."
A wall of boulders ensnared with vines blocks your path.
You smash the boulders and hack at the vines with the umbrella.
"Ouch! Stop that!" the parrot protests. "Let me spare you and my half-brother some trouble. The first thing you need to learn is to stop acting like a barbarian. You are a fancy witch now. It's time to act the part."
What you really want to do is [[hack through]] these vines. [[Using your head]] is for dumb people.You wind up and slash the vines with the umbrella. The thick green ropes snap and rain down all around you.
They were snakes. Huge, bitey snakes. Quite poisonous, actually.
YOU HAVE MET YOUR DOOM, SUCKA.
[[Back|Chapter 4: I love it when you call me Big Poppins]]You think back to your first encounter with your brother. You pop open the umbrella and a supernatural wind rises to lift you above the curtain of vine strewn boulders.
"Now you're doing it!" the parrot chirps.
You gently touch down on the far side of the rocks and enter a shadowed forest. The canopy overhead is so dense that the sunlight is reduced to a murky gloom. You notice that even the mightiest trees are scarred by deep gouges, as if from the claws of a giant grizzly bear
Then you notice the giant grizzly bear.
The parrot clears its throat.
"Perhaps those boulders and vines were meant to keep this monster inside. Apologies."
Thinking fast you reach into your bottomless carpet bag. Your hand closes around [[something clammy]].
You pluck the clammy thing from the bag.
It is a tiny pickled shark, perhaps a delicacy for a culture with bizarre tastes.
The giant grizzly bear continues its homicidal charge.
The parrot squawks.
"Quick you imbecile, throw the shark!"
You cast the little fish into the path of the grizzly. Upon impact there is a mighty splash and the pickled shark expands into a full sized predator, equal in every way to the Grizzly's tremendous size and ferocity.
The bear skids to a stop and sniffs the peculiar creature. The shark rolls and flops around, gasping for air.
You wonder if you should [[fly back over the wall]] or [[watch the great clash]] between land and sea's greatest predators. You dive back and pop open the umbrella, catching a magical draft. You sail beyond the vine draped stone wall and land back where you started.
You hear savage grunts and groans as the Grizzly and giant shark collide.
You lean against the wall and smile, listening to their animalistic screams.
Finally, there is silence.
You stand just in time to avoid being killed as [[the stone wall behind you is pulverized|hybrid]]!
The shark's black eyes fix upon the grizzly and it arches its powerful back.
The grizzly roars and rises to its full height, accepting the silent call of the wild.
The giant mammal pounces on the fish. Their bodies collide with a thunderous crash, gaping toothy mouths vying for dominance. Fur and fin slap and entangle each other.
A queasy feeling rises in your guts.
The parrot murmurs.
"Perhaps this display of nature is...unnatural."
Okay, it's seriously weird now. You turn your head and cover your eyes, but you can still hear the two frenzied beasts [[doin' the wild thang|hybrid]].
You turn to see an unholy abomination - Part Grizzly, Part Shark: ALL TERROR!
The hybrid monster waddles towards you on clawed bear feet, dragging a large shark tale. A huge tooth encrusted maw opens wide and roars.
You fumble through the carpet bag, fingers squishing through other pickled beasties. You feel scales, wings and multiple legs. Certainly nothing you want to see make sweet love to this monster or fuse with its assorted body parts.
The flopping apex predator is almost upon you!
You don't know whether to [[close the bag]] or [[pop open the umbrella]].
You shut the bag and then yank it back open.
You have a crazy idea.
You set down the open bag and jump in, feet first.
You plunge into it's bottomless depths and then open your umbrella. You begin to float, drifting hither and yon around towering spires of potions, artifacts and seemingly useless items.
The parrot gawps at you from its upside down vantage point.
"Bloody brilliant! Now we just wait for that beast to get bored and we can float out!"
You watch the Grizzly Shark sniff around the outside of the carpet bag and whine in confusion.
It opens its giant mouth and swallows the carpet bag.
"[[Oh crap]]," says the parrot. You float up into the air, as far as the tangled canopy will allow you.
You hover around the trees and get caught in the vines. Did I mention the vines were snakes?
So many snakes. So poisonous. And mean, just tons of mean poisonous snakes.
YOU'RE DEAD, SON!
[[BACK|hybrid]]You drift in darkness. You are surrounded by the limitless void inside the carpet bag. The carpet bag is surrounded by the steamy dark of the Grizzly Shark's gullet.
You land on a row boat that is perched on a mile high stack of Victorian furniture. It creaks and sways under your weight.
To your left are countless shelves stocked with [[strange potions]] and alchemical tinctures.
To your right there is a [[heap of weapons]].You jump and float over to the racks of potions, careful not to jostle their contents.
You read the labels, looking for anything that might help you escape the guts of the Grizzly Shark.
Liquid Agony. New Coke. Crystal Pepsi. Choco-Good.
You select a 40 ounce bottle of Sir Mix-a-Lot's malt liquor, Sir Poops-a-Lot.
You hurl it out of the carpet bag and into the intestines of the Grizzly Shark.
You hear an ominous rumble followed by a [[titanic blast]].
You jump over to the pile of weapons and land on a rusty cannon larger than you are. It looks more than sufficient for blasting your way out of the Grizzly Shark's innards.
You aim the cannon and light the fuse. You cover your ears as the steel barrel unleashes a [[titanic blast]]!You climb out of the carpet bag and survey the scorched remnants of the Grizzly Shark. Sizzling chunks of scaly skin and bloody fur drip from the surrounding trees and vines (which were totally snakes, by the way).
You snap the bag shut and sling it over your shoulder as you strut [[deeper into the enchanted forest]].
Unbeknownst to you, a baby GrizzlyShark wriggles through the gore and plops into a stream towards the ocean. Sequel? Sequel.A roiling cloak of fog obscures the forest floor. You take a deep breath and cross the threshold into the unknown.
You stumble in the blinding grey mist. The echo of flapping wings hovers all around you. You feel yourself descending on a twisting road, and soon the path behind you is erased.
The half-formed shades of stone ruins appear and you run towards them. Warmth and color flow back into the world. You do not know where you are, but for the moment you are safe.
Suddenly you notice a mishapen creature perched on your shoulder. It has an ugly human face with a leering smile of gold teeth. It squawks.
[[Chapter 5: Pop-Poppins!]]You flail and scream like the pretty witch you are. The gruesome hybrid flutters off your shoulder and perches on the cracked stone arch of the ruins.
You get a better look at the thing. Its body is that of a colorful bird, albeit carved from magically animated wood. The oversized head belongs to a human, its fleshy face and neck crudely joined to the small bird body.
You grab your umbrella, ready to [[attack]] or [[retreat]] into the air.You deliver a swift strike with the tip of your umbrella.
The man-bird deftly hops off the arch and lands on the end of your umbrella.
You shake it violently, yet each time you stop the creature is further down the umbrella.
"This old thing can't hurt me," it chuckles.
You hurl the umbrella and its freakish passenger aside and draw out [[the serpent umbrella]]. You unleash the umbrella and fly into the air.
The horrible man-bird flaps up to join you.
Your parrot totem calls out.
"Jimbo! You don't look half bad."
The man-bird smiles his golden grin.
"Welcome to the Poppins family."
You realize that your parrot umbrella and this freak are on the same team. Should you [[trust them]], or even the score with [[the serpent umbrella]]?You look at the two half parrots and flail your white gloved hands.
"Who are you?!"
The man-bird lifts a wing and performs a slight bow with his ridiculous bloated head.
"Name's Jimbo Parrotbody, formerly known as Jimbo Poppins, formerly known as just Jimbo."
"You broke the curse of the Poppins?"
He shakes his oversized head.
"Not exactly. I was once like you, hunted by the Poppins witches and those that seek their power. I found my way here to hide in peace, until one day a woman came a-calling. We waged a mighty duel, but in the end she shoved my head inside my own carpet bag and snapped it shut."
You [[gasp extra loud]].
You slash at the half parrot-half umbrella and half parrot-half man with the scaly shaft of the mystical serpent umbrella.
The parrot umbrella flies up and parries your attack.
"Don't do it!" it squawks.
The man-bird arcs down like a comet at terminal velocity.
You pop open the serpent umbrella and repel the charge. Before you can savor the funny sound the man-bird made when he bounced off, the scaly hide of the serpent umbrella closes and swallows your body whole.
You are transformed into a wriggling snake. You look out through the vertical slits of your new eyes as the man-bird swoop down once more. There is a flash of gold teeth, and then darkness.
YOU GOT EATEN BY A MAN-BIRD, MAN.
[[BACK|Chapter 5: Pop-Poppins!]]"Time does not move the same inside the void of the carpet bag. My severed head hurtled through the dark for god knows how long, screaming silently and casting hot trails of tears and blood. I did not know which would fail me first, my dwindling blood supply or my shattering sanity.
"Before I found out, my head was clutched in powerful talons. I was born aloft and deposited in a makeshift nest of pewter spoons. When my head rolled to a stop, I found myself looking up at a majestic carved parrot...a parrot without a head.
"I knew this must be one of the beasts of power, the very same creatures that the Poppins witches beheaded to forge into their mighty umbrellas. The mangled parrot lowered its bare neck to mine and I nodded my consent. Well, I couldn't really nod, but my eyes said 'yes'.
"We flew out of the carpet bag as one body."
You eye the man-bird with suspicion.
"I hope you're not going to break my umbrella and take the parrot head back."
Jimbo the man-bird stares at you for an uncomfortable period of time.
"Reunite the parrot parts? Then I'd have to take your body..."
You [[laugh awkwardly]] and think about a [[pre-emptive strike|the serpent umbrella]].
Jimbo swipes the air with a carved wing.
"N'aah, I'm just messin' with ya. I don't have the power to attach my head to your body. I would if I could. In an instant. Just...chop your stupid head right off."
He chuckles and then sighs.
"But...it wouldn't work. God knows I've tried. I tried so many times."
The parrot umbrella jabs him in the ribs to wake him from his murderous revery.
"The new guy needs training. Can you teach him the ways of the Poppins?"
Jimbo flashes you a golden smile.
"Sure thing! There is a road of trials you must walk alone. It's actually just over the hill there. But first, could you do me a favor? I lost my pet bear. Could you help me find him?"
He holds up a missing pet poster. It reads "Mr. Snozzbearry", and includes a photo of the very same grizzly bear you mutated into a shark-bear and blew up.
You take the missing poster. "I'll be sure to keep my eyes open on [[The Road of Trials]]."Chapter 6: The Road of Trials
You amble down the hill, happy to leave the misty swamp and the insane man-bird behind. You find a street sign leaning in the marsh. It reads 'Trials Rd'. The cross street is 'Premature Desecration Ln'.
The parrot umbrella chirps.
"This is the place. Just walk until you find three trials."
You look at the lost pet poster in your hand.
"Does the grizzly bear count?"
You hear a snap in the distance followed by a terrible, resounding death rattle.
A prim woman saunters down Premature Desecration Lane and favors you with a pearly smile.
The parrot umbrella's eyes bulge in dread.
"That's the Dread Witch Griselda Poppins. You can't [[fight her]]. [[Fly]], you fool!"You stride towards your opponent, your high heeled boots puncturing the marsh land and the lacy fabric of your black dress hugging your body.
This must be the first trial (or the second, if the grizzly bear counts.) You reason that it will probably be the easiest (or at least the second easiest).
"I am not afraid of you, witch. I have slain two Poppins already. One more dainty waif is nothing to me."
The Dread Witch's face peels open with an insane grin.
"This is not even my final form!"
She strikes her umbrella onto the ground like a staff. It's leathery fabric opens and spreads into black wings that cocoon her slender body. The wings unfurl and she is transformed into a giant dragon!
You reconsider [[attacking her]] and pull open your carpet bag.
You open the umbrella and float up into the air.
Further down Premature Desecration Lane you see trails of smoke from three blackened and smoldering husks.
"I think those were your three trials," the parrot head says.
Griselda Poppins unfurls her own giant black umbrella. She swoops into the air and is soon hovering above you. You see that the head of her umbrella is a carved dragon with ruby eyes. The look on Griselda's face is nearly as frightening.
"It is time to suffer, thief!"
She unleashes a gout of flame from the dragon head.
Thinking fast, you open your carpet bag in front of you. The column of flames pass into the void and vanish.
Griselda's face snarls into a mask of terrible fury and her eyes begin to glow. She aims the dragon umbrella point at you and intones in thundering words,
You attemp to [[retreat into the safety of the carpet bag.|"We're leaving!"]]
A shockwave of eldritch energy hammers you into the earth, scattering your belongings and most of your teeth in all directions.
The Dread Witch walks past your stunned body and stands over your parrot umbrella.
"Hello again, little bird."
The parrot head squawks.
"Curse you, Griselda! You are a monster!"
Griselda applies one dainty boot to the parrot's face and squishes it into the marshy ground.
"My my my..." She picks up the serpent head umbrella. "I have not seen this beauty in ages. Did that silly parrot tell you not to use it?"
She aims the serpent umbrella at you.
"How about a little demonstration?"
The emerald serpent eyes blaze with swamp fire and the fanged tip begins to burn.
You wonder if you should [[lay there and take it|Wand Lore]] or try to [[blubber salty tears|Wand Lore]].You slash at her with your umbrella.
She deftly parries and disarms you. Your parrot head umbrella attempts to fly away but she bats it out of the air. It lands like a lawn dart, stuck fast into the marshy ground.
"Curse you, Witch!" the parrot squawks.
Griselda's shadow twitches as flares of emerald light begin to geyser from her eyes and mouth. You don't know what she's attempting, but you know it won't be good.
You still have the [[serpent umbrella|Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!]] and [[the carpet bag|Look or Leap]].You once again cleverly escape into the magical space of the carpet bag.
You look at the myriad stacks of potions and artifacts for something to help you destroy the Dread Witch.
You spot something white and slender. It looks like a lady's gloved hand. It seizes you by the neck.
You crash to the ground as the Dread Witch drags you back into the world and dumps you out of HER carpet bag.
She places a gloved hand over her mouth and giggles.
"It's like smiting a baby...and I would know."
She rams her dragon umbrella down your throat. You feel it drill down and puncture the lining of the stomach.
She snaps her fingers and the dragon umbrella pops open, bursting you like a water balloon (made of human skin and full of steaming guts instead of water).
YOU DIED HORRIBLY
[[BACK|The Road of Trials]]
Sickly green cthonic vapor slithers from the earth and swirls into a vortex around the Serpent Umbrella.
The spiraling tornado builds to a crescendo (technically, a 'crescenado'), howling with razor sharp winds and sparking with green lightning that licks the air like serpent tongues.
Griselda cackles with unbridled insanity, each bark reverberating through the charged air to lash your skin.
The spout of terrible mist makes contact with the burning umbrella tip and ignites into a blinding green supernova.
She hurtles the storm of energy outward in a deadly lance. Its leading edge races forward with a super concentrated spark heading right between your eyes. You squeeze them shut, and in the afterimage seared across your retinas you see the lance of energy... just reversed its course.
A green fireball explodes, so intense that you can see the shattered outline of Grizelda's charred skeleton through your closed eyelids.
You struggle to your feet. The parrot umbrella floats down and settles into your hand and chirps.
"Wand lore, bitch."
[[Chapter 7: Umdiddly-umdiddly-umdiddly-DIE!]]
[[BACK|The Road of Trials]]
You hear the rustle of wings over the sizzling corpse fire of the Dread Witch and you whirl in panic.
Jimbo Parrotbody flies in a circle over your head.
"Cripes! I haven't seen a corpse fire like that in..."
You angrily swat at him with your umbrella.
"I don't care! What kind of trial was that? I almost died. I should have died, but she exploded!"
Your parrot umbrella carries you into the air to join Jimbo.
"Griselda tried to use Fernando's Serpent umbrella," the parrot squawks to Jimbo.
Jimbo flashes a golden grin.
"Ah yep. You can thank Wand Lore for saving your hairy hide."
"What is [[Wand Lore|Wand Lore explained]]? And why don't I have any of [[the powers that Witch used]] to mop the floor with me?"You open the carpet bag and look inside. Do you dare pull out [[another random, mysterious artifact]] or [[leap inside it|"We're leaving!"]] to hide from Griselda?You plunge your arm into the magical space of the carpet bag. Griselda does the same.
You suspect she is going to pull out an object of her own. Suddenly, you feel thin fingers grasping at your hand!
You snatch your arm out of the bag.
Griselda straightens with a frown.
"You have a quick arm, if not a quick wit."
She thrusts the tip of her dragon umbrella into her open carpet bag. A column of flames erupts from the mouth of your carpet bag!
You stagger back, swatting at the flames in your greasy beard.
Griselda laughter tinkles like glass eyes stolen from cripples and dropped onto flagstones for sport. It is a very particular sound.
You charge the witch with the Serpent Umbrella held high like your old trusty battle axe.
[["I'll show you quick, Witch!"|Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!]]
The parrot umbrella looks guilty for a moment and then divulges the secret.
"Wand Lore is the system of rules by which the umbrellas work. The Poppins Witches built in a safety feature to prevent in-fighting or hording of umbrellas. You can only use one umbrella at a time. There are exceptions of course, derived from complicated legal codes about who defeated who and who owned which umbrella at what time."
You shake your head.
"That is stupid and makes no sense."
Jimbo lands on the Dread Witch's gore spattered Dragon umbrella.
"Fair enough, but you had better leave this with me."
You look at the Serpent and Dragon umbrellas, and then your simple parrot handle.
"The other umbrellas turn people into snakes and dragons and breath fire. What do you do?"
Jimbo tilts his fat human head, making his little parrot body wobble.
"That parrot has the greatest gift of all. Good advice!"
[[BACK|Chapter 7: Umdiddly-umdiddly-umdiddly-DIE!]]Jimbo walks the length of the gory Dragon umbrella.
"Each umbrella has unique powers. The Dragon umbrella head breaths fire, for instance."
Your parrot umbrella chirps. "I can mimic any sound!"
Jimbo continues. "The Carpet Bag is connected to a mysterious void, but it is also connected to the other Carpet Bags. The bag and umbrella are the mantles of your authority as a Poppins. There is power in the dress and gloves as well. You can channel your magic in other ways, like the Atrocious Words of Power."
You stroke your beard and try to recall the magical phrase the witch spoke. Supercali-somethingsomething.
You look at your white gloves, which are miraculously free from blood.
"What do I do with these?"
"[[Just snap your fingers!]]"You snap your fingers with a loud pop. Jimbo is knocked off his perch and sent sprawling on his mishapen head.
You stare at your gloved hand in awe.
"I know kung fu."
Jimbo struggles to his feet.
"You know nothing."
He produces a bit of chalk and sketches a crude gray picture on a stone.
"Your next trial is through this door."
You stare at the smoky pictogram.
"I thought I completed my trials! That witch was like, five and half trials, easily!"
Jimbo shakes his bloated head.
"Maybe, but you said yourself that you did not defeat her."
You take a deep breath and jump [[into the chalk drawing]].You land on a sun-dappled country road painted in cheery colors, nothing like the grim industrial wasteland you saw in the chalk drawing.
A sun-dappled dapper gentleman in a rainbow striped suit toddles up to you with a white cane.
" 'Ello Mister Poppins."
You grip your umbrella and look around with suspicion.
"Who are you?"
"Me name's Bert! I'm just a simple screever. 'ow d'you get that umbrella?"
"I took it by force. Who else lives in this garish paint stained world?"
Bert waddles in a circle.
"Just me and me animal friends. If you don't fancy the color, try some black and white!"
He point his cane at you and a dozen giant penguins burst from the idealic scenery.
You flex your [[hands like a gun]] fighter with your [[umbrella|eye stabbing]] and [[bag|bag trick]] by your sides.
You snap your fingers, or try to. Your white gloved fingers find little purchase and produce a muffled flump sound.
The rows of penguins march closer with murder in their dull beady eyes.
Your parrot umbrella shakes its wooden head.
"Do not grind your fingers together like a brute. Be precise. Snap your fingers with authority, like a proper lady."
You grunt and focus on producing a single sharp click.
A bolt of concussive force strikes the closest penguin and scatters his stupid head into a cloud of chalk dust.
You raise your other hand and produce a barrage of rapid-fire snaps until the penguins have been reduced to drifting swirls of dust.
Bert taps his white cane on the ground and chortles.
"Well ain't that a fine how-do-you-do?"
He steps aside to reveal an angry elephant and [[two fierce lions]].
You lean like a fencer and thrust the tip of your umbrella into the nearest penguin's stupid penguin face. It collapses in a pile of black chalk dust.
The other blood thirsty penguins march through the cloud, intent on plunging their beaks into your own stupid face.
You knock back two penguins and spin to impale two more. You work your umbrella like a piston, whirling and stabbing, but soon you are surrounded. Blinded and choking on thick clouds of acrid chalk dust, you are overwhelmed by sharp hateful beaks.
Bert dances in a little waddling circle and laughs, and laughs, and laughs.
YOU ARE PENGUIN FOOD
[[BACK|into the chalk drawing]]
You open the carpet bag and reach deep for something hefty. You strain your back and legs to pull up a large barrel overflowing with weapons.
You set the barrel down into the bright sunlight and see that the weapons are all rusty pitchforks and tridents. The penguins squawk and waddle forward with menace.
You pull a rusty pitchfork out of the barrel and sigh. While you have no specific experience with this type of situation, you feel that it is probably not the ideal weapon to slay a huge mass of penguins.
You look back into the carpet bag and see a curious brass and wood crossbow. You pull it up and marvel at the contraption. It looks impressive, but it lacks bolts.
The penguins have arrived!
You yank a pitchfork from the barrel as you backpedal. You slot the rusty tool into the crossbow and pull the trigger.
It flies true, decimating the orderly rows of penguins and blasting them into clouds of black and white chalk dust.
Bert parries the hurtling barbed bolt with his white cane and laughs.
"Maybe you ought pick on [[someone your own size|two fierce lions]]."The elephant charges straight towards you, trumpeting its killing intent. The gargantuan lions that flank it each roar their own challenge, and the combined assault of bone rattling sound is enough to make you nearly soil your dress.
You pop open your umbrella and leap into the sky. A well timed tuck keeps your legs from the leaping lion's claws.
You frantically snap your free hand, raining blows upon the prowling beasts below. You miss more than you hit, and even then you hardly manage to smudge their chalky skin.
Bert laughs and draws a black piece of chalk from his pocket.
"Oy, go fly a kite, wills ya?"
He stoops to grind out a mural of ominous dark clouds. He cast them into the sky and you are buffeted by a raging storm.
Bert waves a yellow piece of chalk into the air.
"You was a fool ter face me 'ere, Poppins! In the realm of chalk, the Screever is god!"
You lock eyes with the parrot head.
"What was that word of power?"
"Repeat after me", he chirps.
As Bert traces a catastrophic bolt of lighting below you shout the words of the parrot.
"Super! Cali! Fragi! Listic! Expi! Alle! DOCIOUS!!!"
[[KA-B-O-O-M ! ! !]]
A supernova bolt of lightning shatters the storm clouds and pierces the sky to strike the tip of your floating umbrella.
At the same instant, you enunciate the last syllable of the word of power.
The wild lightning writhes around the umbrella and dances across your skin, before stopping to coil in the folds of your dress like a domesticated beast.
Bert stares up at the corona of blinding light flashing off of you, mouth agape.
You lower your umbrella and fire the lightning at him. It strikes faster than you can see, punching a hole through his flat hat and hurling him off his feet.
You land softly and walk over to his blackened body. The fierce lions and elephant yipe as they run for their lives.
Bert sits up and smiles, his eyes and teeth seeming to float in the ash dark landscape of his head.
"I 'ad not reckoned you was the real deal."
He swipes a hand against his dirty black face and paints a hole on the ground.[[You both plummet into an abyss]].
You tumble from a soot filled chimney and land on a steep roof. A forest of chimneys extends in all directions beneath a dreary, smog choked sky.
Bert pops from the chimney and lands with a clack. His white cane has transformed into a large black brush.
"Yer a worthy foe, you is. Let's 'ave a go."
He crosses his filthy fingers and mutters an incantation in Japanese. Multiple explosions of soot burst from the chimneys as an army of identical chimney sweeps launches into the air.
You snap your fingers at Bert. He flips over the concussive bolt of force and kicks you in the face.
It is a graceful, precision strike but it lands like a sledgehammer. You try to shake it off but it is followed by a dozen more from all directions.
You are surrounded by chimney sweeps and seeing double. The effect is overwhelming.
Your parrot umbrella squawks and [[carries you off the roof]].Your bruised and deadened arm fumbles to pull the Carpet bag open. A gulp of air nearly pulls you in, distorting the smoggy air around you. You almost lose yourself in a vortex of vertigo.
"Shut the bag!" your parrot shouts.
You close the bag and the distortion settles down.
"You tried to access a pocket dimension from inside another pocket dimension. We're actually three deep now, and if you're not careful you could rupture them all!"
A sharp black shoe whizzes past your face like an arrow. You look down to see the dancing chimney sweeps spinning and kicking their shoes off with deadly accuracy.
You cling to the parrot handle and beg.
"I need the word of power! Superwhatsit!"
He speaks, and you repeat the [[Atrocious Word of Power]] once more."Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!"
You shout and blast a bolt of eldritch energy down on the dancing chimney sweeps.
They form a whirling line and chant in unison.
"Umdiddly umdiddly umdiddly aye!"
Your magical attack shimmers in the air, disturbing a drift of soot and little else.
Your parrot squawks.
"They have their own word of power!"
You swing from the flying umbrella, helpless.
"I can't use my gloves and I can't use my bag. Now I can't use magic, what do I do?"
The parrot stares at you with its cartoonish eyes.
"You're a bloody barbarian! [[Fight!]]"You snap the umbrella shut and plummet from the sky. You bring the closed umbrella down on the nearest chimney sweep like a battle axe and stove in his skull.
You both fall in opposite directions, knocking the lined up Chimney sweeps off the roof. Some fall to their doom in the dense smog, others hook arms and fly back into the fray.
You parry a barrage of brush strikes and drive your umbrella into as many throats and eyes as you can reach. The rain of blows becomes a downpour and you are soon beaten to your knees.
The hammering stops for a precious second, and through the blood thundering in your ears you hear a smug chuckle.
"Oy, lively you is. Yessiree."
You force a swollen eye open to see Bert standing in the circle of Chimney sweeps.
"[[One on one]] then, lad. [[Defend yourself!]]"Before you can accept the challenge Bert is cleaving down upon you with his mystical black chimney brush.
You raise your Carpet Bag to block it.
The chimney brush tears through the fabric of the bag and space-time itself. The rooftop, the clones and Bert are all sucked inside. As are you. You see the colorful swirl of the chalk dimension adjacent to this one, and then the horrified look of Jim Parrot-body in the outer world beyond.
You see this all but can do nothing, as you are all compressed to an infinite point of crushing blackness inside the singularity of collapsing dimensions.
YOU ARE DEAD, MATE
[[BACK|Fight!]]Before you can say 'Aye' Bert swings his mystical chimney brush in a killing blow.
But you need no words, for you have risen to the challenge in your barbarian heart. You clap your white gloved hands together over your head and stop the chimney brush in mid-air.
Bert's eyes go wide and he wrenches on the brush. His sinewy body is no match for your brutish strength. You yank it free.
He staggers back and sticks his sooty fingers into his mouth. He lets out a shrill whistle and the massed chimney sweeps roll over the rooftops towards you like a black wave.
You snap Bert's brush over your knee. The clones burst in puffs of ash and drift away on the polluted wind.
"Your cheap art tricks and dirty city ways mean nothing to a barbarian," you sneer.
Bert pounds himself in the chest with a fist, shaking off a cloud of soot. His smug grin has fallen, replaced by an ominous smile.
"[[You ain't seen the future yet]], boyo."
Bert runs and dives down one of the chimneys that grow from the peaked roofs like black trees.
You collapse to your knees as the pain of the battle floods your body.
"Nothing but another civilized coward," you groan. "How do we escape this wretched place?" you ask.
The parrot umbrella shakes its wooden head.
"I don't rightly know. I think we need the magic chalk. You could try to follow him down a chimney, but you might end up in a boiler or a fireplace."
You heave yourself to your feet and survey the endless chimneys. Which leads to freedom? Which leads to fiery death?
There is a random [[chimney on your left|other chimney]] and [[one on your right|other chimney]]. There is also a [[bright red chimney]], untarnished by soot, on the adjacent roof.
You brace your back and boots against the walls of the chimney and carefully descend into the yawning black tunnel. The sooty surface offers no purchase, and soon you are sliding downward with terrible speed.
The air gets hotter as you fall, and the darkness becomes a hellish glow. Gagging on the fumes of your burning clothes and hair, you plunge into the inferno of a massive steel boiler chamber.
[[BACK|You ain't seen the future yet]]You hook your umbrella handle around the lip of the red brick chimney and lower yourself down.
The parrot grunts something but you cannot make it out because the umbrella handle is its face.
You unhook the umbrella and begin to fall. You spread your arms and legs out to stop yourself and then continue to worm your way down the small shaft.
"I was trying to say stop! Instead of using my head as a grappling hook, why not use it as a head?"
You wriggle down further, straining as your lacy dress begins to bunch up.
"What do you mean, bird?"
"You could have just stuck my head down each chimney to look inside."
You try to squirm another inch but you are stuck. You try to push yourself up. You are still stuck. You slide and stretch your arms for better purchase and you feel several small leathery orbs, which you instantly recognize as the mummified remains of children.
Maybe it is time to consider your next move.
"I could [[snap my fingers]] or [[pop open the umbrella to knock us loose]]."
You strain to free your cramped numb hands. Finally, you are able to bring them up to the small pocket of stagnant air in front of your face.
"That may not be wise," the parrot begins to squawk.
You snap your fingers on both hands. The concussive force rebounds off the confines of the narrow chimney, rattles your head and bursts your eardrums. You lose consciousness and go slack, slipping further into the chimney's crushing grip.
You wake some time later, unsure if your are blind or merely trapped in darkness. You try to call out to the umbrella but your jaw is shattered.
Your face is bloody and raw, but you can feel something rough against your skin. It is the mummified skulls of yet more children. Their tiny teeth seem to grin, happy to have company forever in the depths of the narrow tomb.
DEATH BY MUMMIFICATION. THATS A GRIM WAY TO GO.
[[BACK|bright red chimney]]You squeeze your eyes shut and pop open the umbrella. It burst outward in a storm of brick shrapnel and small leathery bones.
Smoky air wafts in from the black sky above. You pull yourself towards it, inch by agonizing inch, greased by blood from a thousand cuts. Finally you tumble back onto the slanted roof where you began.
You try to stand but the shingles are swaying and shivering beneath your feet. You tumble down the roof and catch yourself on a gutter.
The roof explodes in an eruption of brass and steam. You shake your head and goggle at the strange machine rising from the wreckage.
Bert towers above the rooftops, coccooned in a monster of steel and brass tubing. Wheezing accordians, honking horns and rattling drums boom out with every massive step as he strides towards you.
"But there ain't no future for you, you Barbarian gob!"
[[CHAPTER 8 - AIN'T NO FUTURE]]
You pull yourself back onto the ledge and glare defiantly up at Bert.
"Give me the chalk and I will let you live."
Bert laughs and holds up a single piece of red chalk. He drops it into one of the metal pipes and you hear it rattle into the giant machine's innards.
He swipes at you with a brass fist the size of a pack mule.
You open the umbrella and flutter out of the way. You land atop a chimney and fold up the umbrella, pointing it like a wand.
Bert blows into a mouthpiece and a cacophonous explosion of music sweeps you off the chimney.
You tumble to the roof and take shelter behind the chimney from the sonic storm. You hear a metallic whine and duck.
A flying cymbal shears through the chimney where your head had just been.
You stand and return fire with a rapid volley of snaps. They land with thumps and honks against the musical mechanized monster. You decide to let Bert live by [[running and hiding]].You dash and dive for cover among the forest of chimneys. Bert levels them each in turn, harrowing your flight with razor sharp cymbals and thunderous blasts of noise.
Bert stops and laughs.
"You can't leave me, lil Poppins! You 'ave to stay with Bert like the others! I'll keep you safe and snug in me chimney like all the rest!"
You dare to peer over the lip of the roof. Bert has extended a giant slide trombone and trained it in your direction. It looks built for long range attacks.
"Leave me," the parrot squawks.
"I'm dead without you. We both know that."
A trill of brassy noise punchs a neat hole through the roof by your ear. You roll away and nearly pitch off the building.
The parrot shakes its little head.
"We are a team! That makes it two against one. I'll take the high road..."
You wind back your arm and launch the umbrella over the roof like a javellin. You drop down from the gutter and begin to climb around the roof, [[hand over hand]].You dangle precariously from the edge of the shingled roof. Black clouds of smog roil beneath your feet. You do not know if there is a cobble stone street far below or nothing at all.
The discordant sounds of brass and percussion warfare fill the air, mixed with the squawk of your faithful parrot umbrella.
As you reach the far side you hear a muffled thump. You pull yourself up behind Bert and see that the umbrella has lodged itself into the long barrel of the slide trombone cannon.
Bert angrily blasts the slide trombone to unclog it. You see the fabric of the umbrella peel away and the look of agony on the parrot's face.
You dive onto the musical machine's back like a rabid monkey. Bert flails to swat you with his giant brass arms but you cling tenaciously, ripping free pipes and punching through drum heads as you climb.
A small silver picolo flute emerges from a turret on the head and spins towards you. Shrill notes twitter out rapid fire, drilling holes into your chest and arms.
With a roar you drive your fist into the mechanical guts and seize your prize: the red magical chalk. You scrawl a crude hole in the air and [[you both tumble through]].You land with a metallic crash in the garish colored world of chalk. You barely avoid being crushed under Bert's terrible contraption.
He struggles to get his wheezing war machine to its feet.
"Time to die."
You try to think of a response, but nothing comes to mind.
The [[red piece of chalk]] lays at your feet. [[The injured umbrella]] is still lodged in the slide trombone.
You grab the magical chalk and begin to draw the first thing that comes to your mind. It is supposed to be a horse, but you realize you don't know how to draw a horse. It starts to change into a dog, and then you wonder if you should start over and draw a ballista or something.
A shadow falls over your feeble sketch. You look up as a giant brass boot drives your skull into the earth. Your eyes and brains pop, leaving a stain that looks remarkably like a pegasus.
YOU ARE DEAD
[[BACK|you both tumble through]]You reach up and yank the tattered umbrella from the barrel of the slide trombone.
He unleashes a powerful retort that shears away a chunk of your leg and knocks you to the ground.
The parrot groans faintly in your ear.
You thrust your arm into the carpet bag. You pull out a mango.
Bert consults a pocket watch.
"All righty, now it's time to die."
You [[hurl the mango]] with all your might. The mango lodges deep inside the trombone barrel as Bert fires. The slide trombone explodes in a citrus scented cloud, peeling back like a brass flower.
Fragments of shrapnel lance through Bert's face. He is no longer smiling.
"You are still in my world, and if I can't 'ave you, no one can!"
He pulls handfuls of colorful chalk from his pockets and crushes them in his fists. He packs them into the various tubes and pipes of his contraption like gunpowder.
You look to your parrot for help. His wooden eyes are closed. You open the Carpet Bag and are blinded by a plume of colorful dust.
Rainbow splattered clouds boil overhead and brilliant hues streak to the earth like meteors. Tendrils of dust snake out of Bert's contraption, vibrating with a dreadful dirge that mixes the colors and smudges reality around you.
You spot a single dot of undiluted color among the swirling madness. The piece of red chalk. You grab it and draw a single line that soons wavers in the dissolving air.
You grab your umbrella and bag and jump [[through the bloody scar]] in space.
You re-emerge in the swamp of soothing dull greens and gray mist.
You stagger forward on your demolished leg, clutching the unresponsive umbrella in your hands like a sick child.
Jimbo Parrotbody swoops down and gawps.
"What in tarnation?"
A gleefully insane chuckle drifts on the fetid air. You turn to see Bert's grinning head emerging from the magical chalk rift.
"'Ello, Jim! Time to die, mate!"
You spring off your one working leg and hurtle towards the rift. You drag your gloved hand against the chalk, smudging it out of existence.
Bert's head is severed from its body in the chalk dimension. It drops into the swampy mire with a surprised look on its face.
Jimbo flutters down and perches on the head. He looks solemnly proud.
"Bert was once a friend, but he needed killin'. I didn't think you could do it...well, congratulations. You have mastered the powers of the Poppins. I can teach you no more. You had better go, before the others hunt you down."
You take a hobbling step forward and lean on the parrot umbrella like a cane. Both the umbrella and your leg snap.
You flop forward and writhe in agony next to Bert's severed head. The grotesque Bird-Man hops onto your chest with a malevolent inspiration in his eyes.
"Maybe I can find a use for you here after all..."
END OF BOOK ONE
[[Click here for more...|To Be Continued]]
The Curse of Bloody Poppins:
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[[Begin...|Storyauthor]] by Jeff C. Carter
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