Winning Article for WriterWriter’s “Writerly Articles” Competition!

I want to thank WriterWriter for hosting the competition, and congratulations to everyone who won!

Here’s the link announcing all the winners, and the dates the articles will be posted:

https://www.writer-writer.com/blog/attention-writers-bookworms-the-winners-of-our-writerly-articles-competition

And here’s the link to the article I wrote for the competition:

Tips for Writing Courteous Reviews in a Discourteous Arena
A.K.A. The Internet

https://www.writer-writer.com/blog/tips-on-writing-courteous-reviews-in-a-discourteous-arena-a-k-a-the-internet

Enjoy!

Tales of the Graveyard Shift: The Greasy Goblin ~~ Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen

I’d finished shaking by the time I made it back to my brother’s office. If it was from rage, fear, or both, I wasn’t sure. So, I took a moment to compose myself before I knocked. The muffled voices on the other side of the door went quiet. When it opened, my brother was in the doorway, blocking the rest of the room from my view. He didn’t look too terribly happy with me, if the stony expression and clenched jaw were any indication.

Well, you did make his wife cry, Rational Brain said.

“I, uh, came to apologize,” I said lamely.

He didn’t move, just regarded me with his best, ‘I’m disappointed in you,’ brother face. Ouch. He’d gone for the big guns.

“Joel,” Candy admonished softly, “let her in.”

It was another, long moment before he obliged, his eyes narrowing on me, telling me to behave, or else. Then he opened the door wide enough for me to enter the room. I shuffled in, my head down and my hands in my pockets. Once I’d come inside enough for Joel to close the door, I stopped, keeping as much distance between the couch and me. My brother walked over to join her there.

I took a deep breath, and brought my gaze up to meet Candy’s. Adding another point to the unfair category, she was pretty even when she cried. Her bright eyes were wet, and the tip of her nose was ever so slightly pink, but other than that she was still her usual, pristine self. When I cried, I went full-on ugly mode: blotchy skin, red eyes, snot, stuffy nose. The works.

“I need to apologize to you,” I said. My words were soft, and burning with shame that also reddened my cheeks and the tips of my ears.

Joel muttered something under his breath that sounded like, “You’re damn right you do.” Candy elbowed him in the side, and sent a glare his way. It contained no heat, but the message there was, ‘Shut up.’

When she turned back to me, we exchanged small, commiserating smiles about my brother. I straightened and cleared my throat, now that it wasn’t likely I’d alienated my sister-in-law for all eternity. Which was likely literal for her.

“I won’t try to make excuses about being in shock, and I could have handled that a lot better. I just want you to know my feelings about you and the children haven’t changed.” I paused, thinking of ‘Uncle Dizzy,’ and his threats. Something in my mind hardened, and I did my best not to clench my teeth. “And I’ll do anything I can to make sure you don’t have anything to worry about from me.”

Something must have shown on my face, because Candy tilted her head, and a small line formed between her eyebrows when she frowned. She opened her mouth to say something, but my brother covered her hands with his.

“Dear, I think we’ve both been away from the children far too long. It’s Jason’s birthday, and I don’t want to be stuck up here longer than necessary. Would you mind going down, so he doesn’t think we’ve abandoned him?” Joel said, his face softening as he spoke.

Candy and I knew what it was, though: he was trying to speak with me without her there. She narrowed her eyes, and gave him a long, assessing look. Whatever silent communication went on, it wasn’t long before she pursed her lips then rose from the couch. I thought she was going to the door to leave, but instead she made a beeline for me, and embraced me in a completely unexpected hug.

“Thank you,” she whispered, holding me close.

We will not cry, Rational Brain said, voice thick.

Primal Brain just blubbered.

“Of course; you’re family,” I said, the words hoarse.

She pulled back, and gave me a watery smile before looking back over her shoulder at Joel.

“You owe me,” she said, smug satisfaction coating her words like the most delectable chocolate.

When she turned back to me, she winked, and left the room. Once the door closed with a soft click, I turned to Joel and raised an eyebrow.

He rubbed the back of his neck and refused to look at me. “When we got married, we might have placed a bet on the hypothetical scenario that, if you ever found out, whether or not you’d accept her and us.”

My mouth dropped open. “And you-you bet against me?” I asked, incredulous.

He shrugged, and chuckled sheepishly. “You aren’t the most tolerant person, Stumblebum.”

I snorted. “That’s beside the point. You’re my brother. We’re supposed to have each other’s backs through thick and thin, and we aren’t supposed to bet against each other with other people. It’s against the rules!” I growled, putting my hands on my hips.

He chuckled and shook his head, and then finally looked up at me. “Against the rules, huh? I’ll keep that in mind.” As the laughter died on his lips, his expression sobered.

“What happened downstairs?” he asked, leveling his best lawyer eyes my way, willing me to tell him everything.

My gut cramped, and I sucked in a small breath between my teeth that hissed.

“I met Dezanoth,” I said, forgoing the children’s nickname for him. As much as I wanted to downplay the threat in my own mind as far as my personal safety went, I needed Joel to be a little more cautious.

At the demon’s name, he grimaced. “Dezanoth doesn’t have a very high opinion of humans in general, much less an upstart like me who married one.” He took in my grimace and sighed. “And I supposed you were your usual charming self?”

I chuckled weakly and raised my hands, palm up, and shrugged. “Guilty as charged.”

Joel groaned, and put his face in his hands. “It’s shocking that something hasn’t murdered and eaten you yet.”

I made my way over to the couch and sat on the other end from him. At the couch’s movement, he looked up at me with a pained expression.

“What am I going to do with you?” he asked.

“Help me not get murdered and eaten?” I guessed.

He scoffed. “I don’t take hopeless cases; you know that.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Speaking of cases,” he said, his tone going from brotherly to lawyer, “I heard you cleared Celinwel of Stribs’ murder?”

I blew out a sigh. “Yeah, which means I’m back to square one.” Then a stray thought wandered through my brain. “You don’t think the goblins will let me off the hook, do you? I may not have proved it was Celinwel, but I did prove it wasn’t her. Does that count in some roundabout way as fulfilling the bargain?”

“I doubt it,” he said, and shook his head. “You can try to use that logic on them, but I don’t think Gozuk will let you off the hook until Stribs’ killer is caught.”

I slumped back into the cushions. “And here I was hoping that’d be the end of it, and that I’d get my apartment back.” I sighed.

“Get your apartment back? What do you mean?” he asked, eyes narrowing. “They didn’t in some way cause you to get evicted to hold that over your head, did they?”

“Aw, I’m touched at your concern,” I said, and put a hand to my chest.

He scoffed. “As if. I just didn’t want to deal with you moving in here.”

“Hah! I could just move in with mom and dad,” I said. Our eyes met for a moment, and we both shuddered at the thought. “Okay, so I’d rather live in your kids’ treehouse than move back in with our parents, but, no. They didn’t threaten to evict me, or anything that convoluted. They sent a goblin to stay with me, and keep an eye on me, I guess.” I shrugged.

“Which goblin?” he asked, curious.

“Slies.”

He relaxed visibly at this. “Slies is a decent enough guy. More easy-going and willing to speak on-level with humans than most other goblins. At least it wasn’t Brikt.”

I let out a surprise burst of laughter that devolved into giggles when I tried to picture the wall of muscle trying to fit on my futon. I waved off Joel’s questioning look, and got myself under control.

“At any rate, Dezanoth and Gozuk basically threatened me with the same thing should I fail: you.”

Joel’s eyebrow’s shot up to his hairline. “Me?” Then after a beat, he shook his head. “I guess for most normal people that kind of threat would make sense. Obviously, they don’t know us very well.”

“Yeah, though Dezanoth added a bit of spice to his, threatening the continued well-being of Candy and the children,” I said.

Joel’s humor vanished. His eyes hardened at my words and his mouth formed a thin line. “He did, did he?”

I bit my lip, but gave him a small nod.

Joel’s smile in response was more feral than friendly, and I didn’t want to be Dezanoth the next time the two were in the same room without any witnesses. After a moment or two, where I’m sure visions of murder were dancing in my brother’s head, he spoke again.

“Obviously I haven’t been able to make any calls for you, since I was consoling my distraught wife,” he said, giving me the side eye. He ignored my subsequent grimace and continued; “But I can say that The Owner contacted my law firm about the steps he needed to take to prove someone was stealing from him.”

I perked up at this, sitting up straight. “Oh? Someone’s stealing from him? Does he know who?”

“No,” Joel said.

I sighed, and slumped back down.

“However,” he said, ignoring my theatrics, “he did say he thought it was Stribs, and likely Celinwel, too, since they were thick as, well, thieves.”

I pondered that for a moment. “Well, we’ll be able to find out soon enough, since he’s dead and she quit.” I turned my head to look him in the eyes. “You don’t think The Owner killed him, do you? And why does it sound like you guys say The Owner as though that’s his name? Come to think of it,” I said, not pausing long enough to let him answer, “no one has ever said his name, who he is—” I glanced at the door”—or what he is.”

My brother blinked at the endless stream of words pouring from my mouth.

“No, I don’t believe the owner killed him. He’s too smart to come to the firm for help with a thievery problem, telling us who he thought it was, and then go through the trouble of killing him.”

I tilted my head back and forth. “Yeah, I suppose that’s true. It’d be too obvious for you guys to not suspect him after something like that.”

“As for his name and what he is, well, no one knows. Everyone just calls him ‘The Owner’.”

“What do you mean, no one knows? Didn’t you just say you guys do business with him?”

“Yes…” Joel said slowly, “but with supernatural clients we have a, ‘Don’t ask, don’t wind up with your spleen removed,’ policy. I’ve never been crass enough to ask, after being introduced to him that way,” he said, and leveled a hard look my way.

I chuckled and bit my lip. “Well, we both know you’ve always had the better manners of the two of us.”

Joel sniffed and looked down his nose at me. “Isn’t that the truth?”

I took the opportunity to throw one of the couch pillows at him, which he caught with relative ease, the jerk.

“Anyway, if you want to know more about the missing inventory, you should speak with Elodie. She does the inventory for the store, and she’s a vampire like Odella. Though, as far as I know, they pretty much hate each other, so the fact you work with Odella and that she’s marked you might not get you two off on the correct foot. If you’d like, I can put in a call to The Owner, and have him smooth the way with Elodie. However, if she’s the one who killed Stribs, it might tip her off.”

I frowned and tilted my head. “I know Stribs was a dick, but it doesn’t sound like Elodie would have a reason to kill him, unless he did something to really offend her. And since Stribs didn’t seem to like Odella, I imagine he’d be nice to Elodie just to irritate Odella.”

“You’re not wrong there. As far as I know, Elodie and Stribs were on neutral terms until she discovered inventory was missing. How much do you know about vampires?” he asked, leaning forward and putting his elbows on his knees.

Not expecting to be put on the spot, my mind scrambled for as much information as possible.

“Well, they drink blood, can hypnotize you with their eyes, have to obey their masters when they’re young…Beyond that I’d just be pulling from all the trashy romance novels I’ve read, where the only thing that makes it fantasy is the lead love interest’s desire for blood and sharper than average canines,” I admitted.

Joel’s mouth quirked up in a smile, and he gave a short bark of laughter. “Well, you’re not wrong about those books. Candy likes them, too, but I can’t say I see the appeal.

“However, only two of the things you mentioned are true for all vampires: blood and obeying their master when they’re young. All of the other traits will vary from vampire to vampire. Odella is better at hypnotizing, as you put it, whereas Elodie is better at communicating with snakes, one of the animals associated with vampires.

“There’s one thing that all vampires share, though: their compulsion to count. Now, you can’t just throw a bunch of stuff on the ground and have that distract them while you run away. It really depends on the vampire. From what I understand, Elodie is incredibly good with inventory, and Odella is never wrong when it comes to her cash flow.

“Combine all that with the fact vampires are just as territorial as the Weres, and I would not want to be the person Elodie catches stealing inventory she’s in charge of,” Joel finished, his voice going low and his eyebrows knotting.

“When you put it that way, I can see how she might end up murdering him,” I admitted.

Joel checked his watch and sighed. “We’ve missed most of the birthday. We should get down there before my good-natured wife turns into something far less pleasant,” he said, and then stood.

For most guys it’d be a joke to say their wives turned into she-demons or hell cats when riled, but for Joel, well, it might actually happen. So, I wisely followed him out of the room, an apology ready on my lips.

 

<*****>

 

The remainder of the birthday was a pleasant affair, and I was sent away with more leftovers than Slies and I would likely know what to do with. I’d been piled on by my nieces and nephews before leaving. I could see Dezanoth lurking in the background, the corner of his mouth quirked up in a smug smile, and his head tilted just enough that he could look down his nose at me. I threw a glare his way, and made sure to hug the kiddos extra tight, and for a little longer than usual. I even gave Candy a hug before leaving, though my brother and I just waved, forgoing the familiar affection.

I checked my clock on the dash of the car when I got in. If I made it home in the next half an hour, I could get a few more hours of sleep before work. The thought of hitting my pillow and drifting off to dreamland was more than enough to motivate me along the roads back home. I know Joel told me not to take Thea home, which I assume means he didn’t want me to drive by the tree anymore. I’d avoided it on the way to their house, but it was the fastest way back into town, and it was practically the middle of the day. Didn’t witches need darkness, midnight, and virgins? Since none of those things were available, I doubt the Witch of the Wood would be on a stroll near the road and decide to snatch me up.

Remember what we said about not being that white girl in every horror movie ever? Rational Brain asked, voice scathing.

I hate to agree with stick-in-the-mud, but Joel might be right here, Primal Brain hedged.

“It’ll be fine,” I said out loud, and then took the turn toward town.

Famous last words, Rational Brain muttered.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you, Primal Brain cautioned.

The trees flew by, the evergreens looking particularly lovely in the early afternoon light, but as we drew closer to the tree, my shoulders bunched up more and more. Tension sang through me like a plucked line of a deep-sea fisher’s rod with a fish on. When I came within ten feet of the tree, I held my breath. Level with it, and my hands gripped the steering wheel so hard my fingers went bloodless. But then we were past the cursed thing, with nary a whisper of encouragement to kill myself.

I let out a shaky breath, loosened my grip on the wheel, and slumped a little in my seat—

“See? Nothing to—”

–just in time for the largest stag I’d ever seen in my life to walk casually in front of my vehicle. I let out an unholy screech to rival that of my tires as I slammed on my brakes and swerved to avoid the animal. I veered across the oncoming lane, and that was the last thing I remembered before slamming into a tree.

The calm, unconcerned eyes of the deer, and my steering coming to meet my face when my airbag didn’t deploy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories ~~ Monk

(This one isn’t so much a micro-story because it’s almost 2k words, but we’ll fudge a bit for the sake of the series’ title)

 

 

So-Ra knew Zheng was in trouble. Again. She knew it the same way her yehyeh knew the rain was coming when his knees ached. Except with Zheng it was a churning in her gut like a hundred snakes coiling around each other, and she bit her lip to keep a nervous laugh from escaping.

When she’d woken from her afternoon nap, he was gone, and though he’d left no note there was only one place she was likely to find him: the bar. Before heading out of the room she grabbed her staff, not knowing what she’d encounter when she found Zheng. When she got to the door of their room, the raucous noise from the downstairs and upstairs drinking areas made her pause. However, it was a particularly loud voice that caused her white and grey ears to twitch.

It was nearing dusk, and as she made her way across the plank bridge to the second floor of the Salty Sailor Tavern, she found the bar full to capacity with pirates. So-Ra didn’t have any particular issues with pirates, per say. However, when the barkeep in Orgrimmar suggested this place to Zheng, she didn’t believe he’d done so from a kind, helpful place. Zheng had, to be fair, annoyed the orc with all his talk of pandaren brews. Zheng, oblivious to the orc’s growls and bared teeth, had jumped immediately on the idea, and So-Ra reluctantly followed him out of The Broken Tusk.

“Pirate brew, Ra! I can’t wait!”

Zheng was excited to hop on one of the zeppelins on the middle rise of the Horde city, and then grab a couple of wyverns from Grom’gol down to Booty Bay. If So-Ra was being honest, she enjoyed flying over the lush jungles, as the salty, humid wind made her nose twitch and eyes water. It was a vast improvement over the smell of ale she swore would never leave her nostrils, but all too soon it was over.

After all the travel, the two agreed to a nap before he’d drag her down to the bar. Apparently, the excitement had been too much for him, and he’d left her upstairs. While she’d been snoozing away, there was no telling what kind of trouble he was getting into.

She nimbly made her way through the first set of tables, avoiding patrons who were already well into their drinks, and stopped dead in her tracks at the top of the stairs that led to the main floor. Zheng wasn’t difficult to find, being the only pandaren, but even if they’d been in a bar back home, she’d be able to pick him out. His onyx black and ash grey fur wasn’t too terribly common among the black and whites and reds. His short hair was pulled back with a spring blue tie that matched his eyes, one of which had a black marking that made him appear as though he perpetually had what furless races called a black eye.

“—and I only managed to make it away from the hozen with nothing but my staff. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.”

So-Ra rolled her eyes. If there was one thing Zheng enjoyed almost as much as new brew, it was new people to tell his stories to.

The tauren next to him, whose fur closely resembled Zheng’s in color, threw his head backward in an uproarious laugh. His steel nose ring glinted in the cheery lantern light, and his one, ivory horn gleamed dully. The other was broken close to his skull and capped off. When he brought his head forward again, he raised one of his large hands and clapped Zheng on the shoulder.

This was where it all went to pot.

When the tauren hit Zheng’s shoulder, it caused him to take a step back and knock into a goblin sitting on a stool. When he hit the goblin, the goblin’s face was knocked into his drink, and he came back up, spluttering and coughing. While coughing, he knocked his drink over, which spilled all over the back of the dwarf next to the goblin. The dwarf shouted and jumped back, knocking into the table closest to the bar. The wood of the table against the wooden floor let out an unholy screech, and the jarring motion knocked every single drink over onto the group of human pirates.

It was like So-Ra was witness to the worst-luck game of dominoes, and with each event her horror and panic grew like a balloon ready to pop.

There was a moment of silence from all who witnessed the event, and then the brawl started.

So-Ra made her way down to the main floor, dodging and slipping through a crowd full of jabs, kicks, and elbows. More than once she used her staff to deter anyone foolish enough to square up on her, and one hit was usually more than enough. When she finally made it within sight of Zheng, she stopped in her tracks and clenched her fists around her staff.

Back-to-back with the tauren, the two of them were laughing and throwing punches as though this were all part of some grand game. However, before she could get through the rest of the crowd to Zheng, there were cries of genuine pain instead of the grunts of a brawl, rippling from the front door. So-Ra turned just in time to deftly avoid the spiked mace of one of many of the town’s bruisers pouring through the door.

Zheng and the tauren hadn’t noticed yet, though, and both managed to take a hit or two that had So-Ra cringing. Not just from the imagined pain, but from how much work it was going to be to heal the two fools.

The bruisers went about their work, sussing out what happened with practiced efficiency. In short order, Zheng and the tauren were thrown from the tavern without so much as a by your leave. So-Ra, though, had started upstairs the second after the first mace hit landed. She gathered their things, since she was reasonably sure they’d be asked to leave, anyhow, and made her way outside after not finding them at the bar.

Despite the smell of fish and seawater, So-Ra’s keen nose managed to follow the scent of blood from outside the tavern door to one of the ramshackle shops. The sign on the door proclaimed; ‘Closed! Go Away!’ in a way that came off as very goblin, and she shook her head at the general lack of manners the race possessed.

When she ignored the sign and knocked, a grumpy voice called from the other side; “Go away! We’re closed! Don’t you know how to read?”

“I’m here to help,” So-Ra said, just loud enough for her words to travel through the door.

“It’s So-Ra!” Zheng said, his words slurred. Though if it was from drink or injury, So-Ra wouldn’t know until she could see him.

There was some scuffling, and as she waited for the person on the other side of the door to open it, she shifted the heavy packs on her back. After more time than she deemed necessary, the door finally opened.

In the doorway, and backlit by the lantern in the room, was a grumpy goblin face to match the grumpy voice.

“Yeah? Whatdya want?” the male goblin asked, and tilted his pointed chin up so he could meet So-Ra’s blue eyes with his black ones.

“To heal these two idiots, unless you have another trained healer at your beck and call. If so, I’d be more than happy to leave them to you,” So-Ra said, biting the words off in clipped tones. Then she smiled wide, meeting his sharp-toothed scowl with her own set of sharp canines.

“Oh, cousin, please don’t be that way,” Zheng mournfully slurred this time.

Probably drink instead of injury, then, if he was sounding that put out at her.

The goblin growled, but then moved aside to let her in.

The sight in front of her made her grimace inwardly. There was blood, of course, but pandaren, and apparently tauren, had tough hides. So, despite the maces being spiked the damage was minimal. Still, it wasn’t the busted knuckles, swollen faces, or cuts that had her frowning.

It was the fact the two of them were leaning on one another and giggling. Like two sprites who managed to get into some brew and set about causing mischief in town.

“Monag and this fluffy monstrosity busted through my door not a few minutes ago. They’ve done nothing but cackle like drunk witches since. I’m guessing the state they’re in has to do with all the bruisers running toward the tavern?” the goblin asked So-Ra.

So-Ra nodded, and set her packs down. She didn’t want to know how the goblin knew what a drunk witch cackled like, but she’d take him at his word. She was sure stranger things happened across the lands outside of Pandaria.

“He is not a fluffy monstrosity, Syxkes. He’s my new friend. Zheng!” Monag said between breathless laughter.

The goblin, Syxkes, snorted and shook his head.

“You got anything to put them under?” Syxkes asked, his tone pleading.

“I do, but it will have to come after the sobering potion. Combining a sleep potion or magic with drinking is a good way for someone to never wake up again,” she explained, and started pulling vials from her pack.

Her ears twitched at the goblin’s grumbling, which sounded an awful lot like; ‘Well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing if it shut them up,’ but she ignored him.

After she gathered the correct vials and administered the sobering potions, the two males were far less amused and groaning in pain.

“Oh, So-Ra, you’re so cruel,” Zheng said, leaning forward in a sitting position on the floor, holding his head between his hands.

“Hah!” she said, her voice sharp enough that the two males’ ears flattened against their skulls.

“Please, not so loud,” Monag whispered, his deep voice rumbling through the small room.

She simply harrumphed at this, and went about healing them. After the worst of their injuries were seen to, she handed them their sleeping potions. A wry smile crossed Zheng’s face as the two of them lifted the vials to clink them together.

“Here’s to new friends and good brew,” Zheng said.

Monag lowed his agreement, and the two of them downed the potions. Not long after the two were fast asleep, their snores near to rattling the windows from their panes.

So-Ra shook her head. “Males,” she said in a long-suffering voice.

“Hey, not all of us are idiots,” Syxkes said, affronted.

So-Ra graced him with an apologetic smile. “You’re right. My apologies. Do you mind if I sleep here with them?” she asked, not wanting to impose on the goblin any more than they already had. Though, she wasn’t sure where she’d go if he said no.

“Nah, go ahead.” As Monag let out a particularly loud snore, Syxkes shook his head. “Better you than me, anyway. I’ll be here in the morning to open shop, though, so you’ll all need to be out by then,” he warned.

“Of course, and thank you for your hospitality,” So-Ra said, and bowed.

Syxkes waved her off. “You shut them up. That’s payment enough.” Then he took a set of stairs behind the counter up to the second floor.

So-Ra pulled out her mat and laid it down in front of the door, just in case she didn’t wake up in time to avert whatever disaster Zheng would try to get himself into next. As she drifted off to the chorus of familiar and new snores, though, she was smiling.

Christmas Comepetition Winning Entry!

I couldn’t be more excited to type that headline in! I entered at Christmas writing competition on the Writer Writer website, and I won! The story was posted yesterday on Christmas, which means I can now post it here for all you lovely people to read.

The story was originally posted here on the Writer Writer site.

Enjoy!

All I Want for Christmas

There was nothing special about the sight in front of him. In fact, the very same scene could be found across the country, if not the entire world. The dull roar of the crowds blended with the cries of children and a contemporary holiday track. Dazzling decorations glittered from every conceivable surface, and the large, fake tree stood watch over the large, fake Santa beneath its boughs in the center of the mall.

He’d given a small shake of his head at the merry, “Ho, ho, ho!” and moved along to find the bench he’d been using since the mall had opened thirty years ago. It was tucked away in a corner, out of direct line of sight, but with a perfect people-watching vantage. The years he managed to circle back to this particular part of this particular country, he was always amazed they hadn’t commandeered the spot for a vending machine or trash can, but luck was with him again this year.

He sat down, getting himself settled for however long he needed to be there. It varied from place to place and year to year. At times he’d sit for hours on end, while others he needed less than an hour. Once he was comfortable, or as comfortable as one could get on the benches in a mall, he started watching the crowds. People were bustling along, trying to get the rest of their shopping done in the last week leading up to Christmas. Others were strolling through, having completed their holiday tasks and were out enjoying the atmosphere.

There was a certain magic in the air around Christmastime, and most people fed into it, and were fed by it. There was only so much one man could do, and though magic was surely a powerful force, it was far more efficient than people were led to believe. Reinforcing an idea that was already present—parents buying gifts for their children by proxy for Santa—was far more plausible than a man riding around the world in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.

As he sat, he smiled kindly behind his long white beard and curled mustache at the children who walked by, their eyes going wide as they tugged on the sleeves of their parents’ jackets. They’d point at him and whisper, and the parents, catching sight of him, would smile. He’d play along and wave, sometimes throwing in a little wink for the kids who didn’t get the attention of their parents, as though to say; ‘This is our little secret.’ He wasn’t wearing the traditional Santa garb like the one sitting under the tree, but the red plaid and black buckled boots were enough to set the tone. People saw what they wanted to.

Or what they didn’t want to.

Some people were jaded, seeing only the commercialism, when in reality the holiday season was about giving, and helping fellow beings on the planet all shared. Others were never up to feeling the holiday cheer, no matter how much he tried to encourage it with his presence.

“I don’t know why we’re here.”

“Because you promised your son you’d take him to see Santa. I don’t want to be here anymore than you!”

The snippet of conversation caught his attention. Away from the main thoroughfare, not far from where he was sitting, a couple were arguing. It wasn’t an uncommon scene this time of year. Holidays were stressful, he knew that, with people pushing themselves and their budgets to try and make the holidays the best they could for their children. However, that wasn’t the case here.

“He can’t hold me to things I’ve said while I’m drinking, I told him that. He did this on purpose.”

“You shouldn’t be drinking any—”

“Not this shit again—”

There was a tug at his sleeve. Startling just a bit, he looked down at a small, thin boy with large, somber brown eyes. His clothes were worn, and barely enough to keep the cold air outside from cutting through them. His head was covered by an old, grey beanie, and there was a smudge of dirt on his left cheek.

“Hello,” he said, smiling kindly to the boy.

“Are you Santa?” the boy asked, his quiet voice trembling but serious.

“What do you think?” the man asked, his eyes twinkling as the corner of his mouth was tugged almost into a full smile.

The boy considered him for a moment, looking him over from head to toe. After a long moment, during which his parents were oblivious to anything except their argument, he nodded.

“I know I’m not supposed to ask for things,” the boy said in a tenuous whisper that broke the man’s heart, “but if you’re Santa, then it’s okay, right?”

“Of course,” the man said immediately. “It’s the rule. Anyone can ask Santa for anything, no matter who they are.”

The boy looked down at his feet. “Even bad children?” The question was meek and fearful, as though he expected the man turn him away for admitting to such a thing.

“May I ask you a question?”

The boy looked up from beneath his lashes, not able to make direct eye contact, and nodded.

“Have you tried your best to be good this year? Your very best?” he asked, his gentle words slowly coaxing the boy to look him in the eye.

The boy hesitated for a moment, considering the question, but finally gave the man a slow nod. “I have tried my hardest, yes.”

“Then that is all I can expect. No one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes,” he said, wanting nothing more than to give the boy a hug, but refraining. “Now, what did you want to ask for?” he asked cheerfully, getting back to business.

“I-I just want my parents to be happy,” the boy said, and looked over his shoulder at the two, who were now screaming at each other and attracting quite a crowd.

The man’s mouth curved down and his eyes lost a fraction of their sparkle. The boy’s request caused his heart to clench, and he had to swallow against the tears threatening to overtake him.

“Do you know how to keep a secret?” he asked the boy. The man already knew the answer, of course, otherwise the child would not still be with the two ‘adults’ he came here with.

The boy’s face was serious as he nodded, his eyes alert and ready.

The man motioned for him to come a little closer, and he whispered; “Well, did you know one of the stories about Santa got something wrong?”

The boy’s eyes went wide. “What story?” he asked, curious and eager.

“Well, I don’t actually have elves working for me,” he said, his voice grave as he conveyed this groundbreaking information.

The boy gasped. “Really?”

The man nodded. “Really. Have you ever heard the story of Peter Pan and Neverland?” At the boy’s nod, he continued; “Well, my workshop is something like that. I take special little boys and girls to the North Pole, and they help me make toys for all the children in the world, and they stay young forever. That’s why they think they’re elves: they never grow up!” he said, and grinned.

The boy let out a small, surprised burst of laughter. “That’s so cool!” he said.

The man nodded. “Yes, it is. Now,” he paused, and looked around. The parents were still going at it, now with a large crowd who had their cell phones out, recording the whole fiasco. “Each year I choose a new boy or girl to come and join me at the North Pole. Only one a year. If you’d like, I think you just might fit in very well at my workshop with the other boys and girls.”

The boy’s eyes went wide again, and his mouth dropped open. “You-you’d pick me?” he asked, incredulous.

The man smiled, his eyes warm as fresh gingerbread. “Of course.”

The boy opened his mouth to say something, but stopped, and looked back over his shoulder. “Do you think it would make my parents happy if I went with you?” he asked, his hesitant whisper back.

The man pondered before he spoke. “Some people are never happy, no matter what. I can’t say whether you leaving would make them happier, but if none of you are happy now, maybe knowing that you’re safe and happy with me would help them,” he said.

The boy turned back to the man. “You’d let them know where I’ve gone?”

“I can’t tell them that, exactly, but I can let them know that you’re safe, and in a better place. Would that work?”

“Yeah, I think that would work,” he said.

Mall security was coming to the scene, trying to break things up, and one of them was calling over their walkie talkie for someone to contact the police.

“Are we leaving now?” he asked the man.

The man stood up, and held his hand out to the boy. “I think that would be best.” As they walked away the man spoke again; “There’s something I have to do with you first. A kind of magic, to make sure your parents don’t get in trouble for you running off, and to make sure you can go to the North Pole, but you have to trust me. Okay?” he asked the boy.

The boy nodded and smiled wide. “Okay. I trust you, Santa.”

The man smiled back. “Good.”

<****>

Daily News Chronicle

25 December 2018

Christmas Tragedy: Missing boy found, deceased, in park near mall

Five days after missing boy, Ethan Taylor, disappeared from the Governor Square Mall, police K9 units found his body in Hall Park. Though the police aren’t sharing many details at this time, they did disclose that foul play was involved, and would be launching a full investigation.

Though he’d been missing for five days, a delay in his search occurred due to the arrest of his parents, followed by a freak blizzard that shocked the local weatherman and residents alike.

An investigation is also being put in motion regarding complaints against the parents and the boy’s home life, as many who knew the family are leveling abuse allegations their way.

“It’s such a tragedy,” the boy’s grandmother said, through tears. “To have to live like he did, and then to be killed.”

When asked how the family were doing, all she had to say was; “All we can hope is that he’s in a better place.”

THE END

Insights and Observations Part II, Plus My Theory on Credence’s Birth and the Timeline Inconsistency

****************SPOILERS AHEAD***************************

One of my favorite movie quotes is in Angels and Demons; “Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed.” The same can be applied to the arts. Some art is praised because of its imperfections, while others are ripped to pieces. Criticism and critiques are a handy tool for any artist, and they can help the artist craft their work into something as close to perfection as is humanly possible.

However, there is a, sometimes thin, line between criticism and being cruel. There are artists who react poorly to their work being critiqued, just as there are people whose criticisms are nothing more than insults thinly wrapped in observations. Finding that middle ground, for artists and those who critique alike, isn’t always easy. 

That being said, it’s difficult for me to take people seriously when they insult the artist and their work, and even less so when they do it just to garner views. You can be polite and respectful, and still disagree with how they did something. Not to mention, it might just make them take you and your suggestions as helpful instead of rude.

At any rate, now that my PSA is over let’s get to the real reason for this post. I’ve had some time to think more on certain aspects of Crimes of Grindelwald, especially after a few questions were posed in regards to certain parts/concepts in the film. That’s why I decided to make a second post!

First post found here.

You know you’re all terribly excited for more of my rambling, so here we go!

 

1.       Why didn’t they use apparition, the floo, or a portkey to move Grindelwald from America to Britain?

Now, the first two are easy enough to answer. You can’t safely apparate long distances, as the further you try to go the more likely you’ll harm yourself, or Newt would have just popped over to France with Jacob. The fandom wiki for Harry Potter indicates there is a safe range, and that; “According to W.O.M.B.A.T., it is possible that Inter-Country Apparition has been outlawed due to extreme splinching.” Considering all this, and how dangerous they know Grindelwald to be, it wouldn’t be worth the risk to try and side-along apparate him from New York to Britain.

As for the floo network, it’s regulated by the individual countries, and doesn’t seem to connect internationally. Connection to the floo network requires the permission of the Ministry of Magic, but even if America and Britain came to some kind of agreement to connect a fireplace temporarily for transport, they might not be able to. This is where I’m getting more into theory than canon, but how exactly are all things powered in the wizarding world? Magic. Even with magic, there’s a limit to how much you can do based on how much power you have to work with.

Perhaps, like with apparating, there’s a range, and that’s why in America it’s divided into regions. I’d like to think it’s like WiFi, and the farther you get away from the source, the ‘weaker’ the magic gets, and that’s why countries like France and Britain aren’t connected. Or, at least, not that we’ve seen. For Europe it could also just be a control issue. All the countries like to do things their own way, or they wouldn’t have different ministries.

If you go with the WiFi theory, it would make sense that America would be divided into regions, not only for the number of people using the system, but because of sheer distance. I imagine they’d have to jump floos as they move through regions, instead of hopping in a fireplace in California and ending up in Virginia.

This also makes me wonder how individual states’ rights work in regards to the larger central government (MACUSA), but I digress.

Even if it’s a regional autonomy issue versus a WiFi-type issue, there’s nothing to indicate you could cross an ocean with the floo network.

The portkey explanation is a little more involved, and has to do with Grindelwald himself. The fandom page plays out the escape a little differently than what I picture. I believe the switch happened long before the escape, and not right before.

Let’s roll back a little before the escape and look at what’s gone down. We aren’t given an exact timeline within the six months Grindelwald is jailed, but Seraphina Picquery indicated that they’d had to change Grindelwald’s guards three times, because he’s; ‘Quite persuasive.’ This would indicate there are multiple guards willing to join Grindelwald’s cause.

It wouldn’t be terribly complicated for a sympathizer, in this case Abernathy who is an Acolyte, to brew up some Polyjuice for both of them. We don’t know the status of his early imprisonment, but it would indicate the measures they took against him were progressive, getting more severe with each infraction. Therefore, there was likely a period of time prior to his little force field where he could interact with people physically, giving Abernathy the opportunity to make Polyjuice. It was also likely that Abernathy got wind of Grindelwald’s impending de-tonguing, and they planned the switch before this happened, which is why Grindelwald had to re-grow Abernathy’s tongue.

It also stands to reason that, with Grindelwald on the outside as Abernathy, he could ensure that they both had a steady supply of Polyjuice.

Now, this means we don’t know exactly how long the two were swapped, but we know from experience that Grindelwald can play-act as another person quite well. While we also don’t know Abernathy’s exact position in MACUSA, his familiarity and greetings with President Picquery and Mr. Spielman outside of ‘Grindelwald’s’ cell would indicate he had some part in planning the transport.

If this is the case, and with how persuasive Grindelwald could be, it is likely he helped orchestrate how he wanted the transport to happen. He could have made arguments against direct portkey transportation as it would be expected by Grindelwald’s followers, but we also don’t know what enchantments are on the prison that might prevent portkeys. We also don’t know where they were transporting Grindelwald to. It’s unreasonable to think they’d take a thestral-drawn carriage across the Atlantic, flanked by people on broomsticks. The flyers and thestrals would get tired long before they reached their destination in Britain. This would indicate that they were probably taking him to a secret, secondary location, to likely take a portkey.

When is a group most vulnerable? When it’s in transport. It would make sense for Grindelwald to stage his escape between leaving the secure prison and before getting to the(theorized) portkey location. It is also dramatic, which Grindelwald has a penchant for. What better way to stir up his followers than to stage a daredevil escape right under the nose of both the American Ministry and representatives from the British Ministry. It’s a double insult, and undermines both ministries at once. What more could a dark wizard want?

 

2.       So, Credence is alive?

In New York, we basically see Credence explode when he’s attacked. This would lend some skepticism to the status of him being alive, so to see him in the new film was a bit of a curve ball for some people. However, Credence is already touted as being unique among an already rare occurrence, being an Obscurial, so is it such a stretch to believe he also has a greater measure of control due to his age? In fact, we see this later in the film where he utilizes his Obscurial form and then reforms once his attack is over without dying like other Obscurials. Given that we don’t know exactly how Obscurials reform, there’s nothing to say they have to do so right where they lose their form. They could move away from the perceived danger and reform somewhere safer.

3.       So, Credence is part of a circus, and Nagini is a side show?

There was some question as to how Credence got from New York and wound up in a circus in France. Now, I might be off base on this one, as I can’t totally recall from the film, but I’m almost certain the lead circus man was American based off his accent. Even if he’s not, (like I said, I can’t recall his accent totally), circuses travel, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he encountered them in New York and followed them to France.

As for why Nagini is in a freak show, she’s a Maledictus. If she were an Animagus it wouldn’t be special, but she’s under a blood curse. This is like the wizarding version of a genetic defect, which a lot of freaks in real world circuses are. The only other ‘defect’ we see among wizards are squibs, but they aren’t very interesting, and they definitely can’t turn into animals. A Maledictus is rare, and therefore more interesting, if not somewhat scandalous. Remember, Skender called her an, ‘Underbeing’. A freak and oddity. 

4.       Why give Nagini a weird name if you’re not being a racist trying to prove you’re not racist?

Okay, that wasn’t the exact question posed, but people have attacked J.K. about this, stating she’s trying to prove she can be diverse with her characters when she hasn’t been diverse enough up to this point. To be fair, I don’t know what the statistics were like in the 90s in the UK, but right around now they’re sitting at about an 87% white demographic. When you go back to 2001, that number is 92%, and I don’t imagine it would fluctuate to such a degree in the early 90s to fault J.K. for having primarily white characters.

Given that it’s stated in the series that muggles far outnumber wizards, you’re looking at a very small percentage of the population, which makes the numbers of any other race also shrink proportionally. She’s not being racist and exclusive, she’s doing what most writers do: taking the world around them they are familiar with, and using it as a template for their story.

Now, can trying to be more inclusive come off as cringy and pandering, yes, but I don’t think that’s what we see here. People are angry that Nagini and Leta are the only women of color in the film we interact with quite a bit, and they’re both ‘bad’. Personally, that’s not what I got from the film.

Leta is a woman impacted heavily by guilt, tragedy, and a garbage father figure. She’s bullied at school not because she’s black, but because children can be terrible little crotch goblins, and will use any difference to single others out. Leta thinks she’s a monster for something she did as a child, but she’s not. If she’d drowned the kid herself, it’d be a different story. In all, she’s a complex character that goes beyond being black or white, and boiling her down to her skin color does a disservice to the character and the actress.

With Nagini, I covered some of that in the other post, but the same can be said about her. Her story is tragic, not bad. As for the name, wizards don’t exactly have common names in this world. I mean, the main guy’s name is Newt. How many Newts do you know?

Also, the president of MACUSA is a woman of color, and while we don’t interact with her much in the films, I want that to sink in. She’s a WoC, in the 1920s, and president of what’s probably one of the larger magical communities in the world. I’m not saying this to appease anyone, but given the time period you have to give mad props to a woman who must have guts and tenacity in spades.

5.       How about that hookah skull, and the visions of WWII?

Beyond the inscriptions on the skull and how he used it, not much is known about this. It’s postulated that Grindelwald is a seer, which would fit with some of the facts we know about him. Some of the bigger ones being Dumbledore, their relationship, and the blood pact. A young, arrogant Grindelwald would surely think he could sway Albus to his side, in more ways than one, and barring that he would make sure he they could never fight. Wouldn’t it be cool if the skull was of another seer, (I mean, not for the seer), and aided in the formation of the visions for others to see? Kind of like a seer’s version of a pensieve?

However, we know his visions are not infallible, as evidenced by what he says to Credence in the first movie, and how he didn’t know that Credence was the Obscurial. Why did it not cross his mind that Credence was the Obscurial, despite what his vision showed him? Because of the perceived nature of Obscurials, therefore, his visions are limited by his interpretations and knowledge.

A question was also posed on why we wouldn’t want to let Grindelwald stop WWII and the Holocaust, and so on? However, he didn’t show his followers these visions to stop the Holocaust. It’s to illustrate how awful muggles are. That they need to be controlled before they destroy the world. Think of the Rocket and Peter quote in Guardians of the Galaxy; “Why do you want to save the universe?” “Because I’m one of the idiots that live here!” Or something like that.

There are repercussions to muggle wars, like nuclear fallout. I don’t know of any shields to keep out radiation poisoning, and not everywhere has wards like Hogwarts. It’s one of the things that makes the school unique: how protected it is versus everywhere else. Just because muggles can’t see Diagon Alley doesn’t mean they are unable to destroy it. They also can’t stop the wars without revealing themselves, which goes against the statute of secrecy. Plus, they want to stay away from muggles and their problems. I point this out in my first post that it’s one of the reasons why Grindelwald was more successful than Voldemort: his unification tactics against the muggles.

Once again, think about Men in Black, where Kay points out that a person is okay, but people are dumb, stupid, and panicky. If people find out about magic, they’ll try to destroy what they fear. We see this in X-Men, too. Nothing good ever comes from people revealing their powers to the normals.

6.       Asking Newt to the Ministry to join the Aurors is silly, right?

In that sense, yes, it was silly, and I covered that in the other post. However, the more I thought about it, and the way the ministry operates, the more something else came to mind. Asking Newt to the Ministry only makes sense in the context of his relationship to Dumbledore. They may not know all of his ‘spies’ in the ministry, but they know Newt is connected to him as an unwitting, and somewhat unwilling, participant in what they perceive as Dumbledore’s ‘resistance’ to the ministry.

I think it gave us a look into how Dumbledore’s relationship with the ministry came about in those earlier years, and why it was so easy for them to set themselves against him later on–they’ve done it before. He’s an element they can’t control, and they don’t care for that. In fact, it’s likely that in the eyes of some, Dumbledore and Grindelwald aren’t different. Especially not since the ministry knew about their relationship, in every sense.

Instead of them hearing; “I can’t move against Grindelwald,” they hear; “I won’t.” And in that sense, he’s offering a subtle sort of support to Grindelwald’s movement. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” They are seeing his unwillingness to move against Grindelwald as him allowing Grindelwald to triumph.

They are seeking to stabilize and control their populace in light of Grindelwald’s upcoming rebellion, but like the mistakes of the Aurors at Grindelwald’s rally, all they’re really doing is alienating everyone.

7.       Well, that’s all well and good, but how about those timeline inconsistencies?

Alright, you got me there, Skippy. As far as McGonagall is concerned it’s going to take some major wizardry to explain that one. I don’t buy the Time-Turner theory, because there are far easier ways to get yourself a good transfiguration teacher, and from what we know about Time-Turners, they have a limit to how far back they can go. Given that Albus becomes the Transfiguration teacher after the ministry states he’s no longer allowed to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, what’s she teaching then?

It’s even less likely that someone with the exact same name just happens to be teaching transfiguration, when Minerva gets her last name from her muggle father.

The most likely explanation here is it’s going to be movie-based, canon-divergent fan service. It made me smile to see McGonagall in the movie, and it’s meant to hit all your nostalgia buttons: Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hogwarts.

And Aurelius née Credence being a Dumbledore? My mind goes to the only other two men to ever escape Azkaban: Sirius and Barty Crouch, Jr. Hear me out.

We don’t know the exact date of Percival’s death, as it is stated as being sometime after 1890, and in all we don’t know much about Percival himself. It would be a stretch to assume that Aberforth played a role in his supposed break out in the years following Ariana’s death, since she died in 1899. A ten-year disparity in when he supposedly died in Azkaban is a bit much to accept.

However, think about that murkiness of his supposed death date and what we now know about Dumbledore family lore. Is it possible that we don’t know the exact date of his death, because the Dementors couldn’t give the family one? We also aren’t told anything about a burial of Percival, when we are specifically told that Mrs. Crouch posing as Barty Crouch, Jr. was buried on the grounds of Azkaban. What if we aren’t given a date or details of his burial because the Dementors can’t give us one. There wasn’t a death or a body.

What if Percival, in the last moments of his life, inadvertently summoned a phoenix who helped him escape? Remember, Dementors get muddled senses in regards to animals, and if Percival were close enough to death they could have perceived the flash of the phoenix taking him away as his life expiring. As for them not finding a body, it isn’t beyond the imagination to believe they didn’t care because he was so close to dying, anyway. They could no longer feed from him, so why bother looking? What angered them about Sirius Black escaping was likely that they could still feed from him, and they probably knew he was innocent and didn’t care. Wouldn’t an innocent person in Azkaban make a much better meal? Probably.

As for Percival, maybe the phoenix took him somewhere to heal, and, for whatever reason, the person healing him was a woman and he fell in love. If the woman were a muggle, it could explain a long recovery period, since magic isn’t being used, and more time to convince himself that his family was better off, and safer, without him. What good would it do them having an Azkaban-escapee around?

This could also explain the ship situation with Leta. If the woman he fell in love with was a muggle and they had a child, and after the birth he died and she wanted to start over in America, or even just visit family while he stayed in England (no travel for Azkaban-escapees), she’d be on that ship instead of using a portkey. It would also explain how two magical families just so happened to be traveling right across from one another: one is trying to move incognito, while the other simply has no other means for travel.

Unfortunately, it also means she had no magic to save what she thought was her baby and herself.

Anyway, that’s just my theory on the timeline thing with Credence’s birth.

 

In closing, just keep my modified quote in mind; “Art is flawed, but only because people are flawed.” Are there disparities in the canon and the new movies? Yes.

Should we vilify J.K., the production team, actors/actresses, and so on? No.

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and if you want people to take your observations and criticisms seriously, a little politeness goes a long way.

Insights and Observations ~~ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald

********SPOILERS AHEAD*************

 

 

Whew, the next installment of Fantastic Beasts surely jumped into the plots and character development pool on the deep end. With how mixed the reviews have been, I really wanted to see the movie and get my own take on it. Sometimes, people are whining for no reason and nitpicking unnecessarily, and that’ll show in the overall reviews. However, when I sat down to write my own review, I realized I was leaning more toward an analysis than a review. I’m warning you: it’s long. However, you might enjoy some insights, and it might convince you the movie is not as bad as some people are making it out to be.

You be the judge.

 

Grindelwald

I’m not going to touch on Johnny Depp’s casting beyond this first sentence, that’s for the people involved and the courts. I will say, though, that I think he did a pretty good job of representing what we know of Gellert Grindelwald. He has quiet charisma in a way we don’t see from the Harry Potter villain, Voldemort. Yes, we don’t see Voldemort in the first war, only the second, when his mind is supposedly fractured from the Horcruxes and their destruction.

However, if we look at their goals, respective ages, and targeted groups, we can establish that Grindelwald has the more silver tongue of the two characters. They are also, possibly, two sides of the same coin. It’s said that psychopaths are cold-hearted (Grindelwald), and sociopaths are hot-headed (Voldemort). Of course, neither characters are purely one or the other. They are the yin and yang of the antisocial personality disorder: primarily one with a dollop of the other.

 

A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies.” – Aristotle

 

While Voldemort’s goal feels more attainable, ruling the magical world of Britain, that’s where he went wrong. Voldemort divided the British wizards with his goals, because they were a hard line in the sand not everyone was comfortable with. Blood purity with purebloods ruling over mudbloods, half-breeds, and beasts. If Dumbledore hadn’t been alive, he might have met with less resistance, but his views were too hard a pill to swallow.

What’s so amusing, is that if Voldemort had acted more like a Slytherin as opposed to a thinly veiled Gryffindor, he probably could have won. He went for might over subtlety, and focused more inward instead of outward. This is why he was more successful in the first war as opposed to the second one. The first one he drew people in with muggle baiting/attacks, and so on, before he succumbed to his own curse. In the second war we see him going for the magical society itself, as opposed to focusing more on the muggles and unifying people in that sense.

 

Fear the army of sheep led by a lion.

 

On the other hand, Grindelwald takes a fear almost all wizarding folks experience, world-wide, and plays on it. Look at how many people Grindelwald is able to sway to his side, because he unites them against their true enemy: the muggles. Muggles are reckless, violent, and nothing more than ‘beasts of burden’. We see the horror on the faces of the magical folk when he shows his visions of the upcoming WWII. He uses this to bring people in from all walks of life. He tailors his approach and promises to his audience, and we see this in his one-on-one interactions with Credence, Queenie, and others.

We didn’t get too much of Grindelwald’s behavior in the first movie, because he was pretending to be someone else. His most genuine interactions are with Credence, (a.k.a. Corvus, a.k.a. Aurelius), with his coaxing, which led up to his cruel dismissal of Credence in the face of his supposed uselessness. In that light, they needed to flesh Grindelwald out in this movie, and we get that.

We get insight into his true nature at various points: the pet he casually tosses from the coach after saying it was too needy, and his decision to let the muggle baby be killed by his follower. The former gives us a look at how he views interpersonal relationships. They are unnecessary beyond how they can help him accomplish his goals. Once those goals are achieved it is time to throw them away.

With the baby we get an even better look at his casual disdain for life in general beyond his own. It’s my opinion that it probably didn’t even matter that the baby was a muggle. If you put a magical baby in front of him, with no followers there to witness his actions, would he kill the baby? Given what we know of his personality, I’d say that, unless it was proven to him that the baby would be of some use to him later, the likelihood is that he’d kill the baby no matter its lineage.

Which leads me into why it’s so important for him to have Queenie at his side. While he’s good at manipulating people on a broad scale, and can usually do okay in a couple of one-on-ones, he needs Queenie to help him navigate multiple interactions with people. As an example, he knows he doesn’t have the skill set to interact properly with Credence, as evidenced in the first movie when he blows it and sends Credence into a downward spiral, so he’s using Queenie to help him with that. She’s his Jiminy Cricket.

Do I think that having a different actor play the character in the first movie hurt the character? Not really, because he was playing a role while under Polyjuice. Barty Crouch Jr. did this with Mad-Eye Moody, and apparently well enough that it fooled everyone except his father, who only figured it out because of a very specific tic. So, with as much as the movie tried to do, (which was a lot and way too much), I think they did a great job giving Grindelwald a depth we don’t see in the first movie.

Not to mention, the first movie was setting up our main character: Newt. Putting too much emphasis on Grindelwald would have detracted from that.

In all, I think they handled Grindelwald well in the movie.

 

The Relationship of Albus & Grindelwald

I understand there was some concern that there wasn’t enough shown in regards to this, but I feel like they did the relationship aspect well. You don’t need a movie to hit you over the head with a frying pan. This wasn’t about avoiding pushing the relationship too much into the light in case they offended someone. Trust me, J.K. Rowling is rather unapologetic when she gives us her tidbits about characters and facts, and I remember the explosion from the Albus Dumbledore being gay bombshell.

The movie portrayed this in a bittersweet, tragic, and perfectly subtle way that did the relationship justice. The way they held hands when they did the blood pact; The overall scene with the mirror of Erised; The way he told people they were closer than brothers. You don’t need Albus to come out in a full-on, one-man-band style and go; “I’M GAY. I SCREWED GRINDEWALD. I LOVE MEN.” Trying too hard can be just as damaging as not doing it at all. One-man-banding it would be tacky, and do a disservice to the character and his personality. Albus was a private person, and he wouldn’t behave that way. Weaving the relationship in with the story so it flows with everything and contributes to the story, rather than detract and distract, is the right way to go. The movie title isn’t: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: My Love for Grindelwald.

And saying to Newt, or anyone, that his love was why he wouldn’t move against Grindelwald, when we find out in the end it’s because of the Blood Pact, would make him a liar and also not be in character. I don’t know if people remember how Dumbledore was in the Harry Potter series, but he almost never told anyone anything straight out. In fact, Harry has to find out quite a bit of information from a dying Snape because Dumbledore never tells him, and doesn’t leave a way to tell Harry, despite the fact he knew he was dying. He actively avoided Harry for an entire year, rather than tell him anything or why, in the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledore didn’t become this way overnight. Stop trying to shoehorn a character into a situation that doesn’t match their personality.

 

Speaking of the Blood Pact…

Thank the cute baby nifflers that this was cleared up. For years fans have wondered why it took Dumbledore so long to confront Grindelwald. Yes, we had the theory that it was because of his love for Grindelwald, which might have been part of it, but to allow so many people to die? That was an uneasy thing to think about. Dumbledore isn’t the perfect hero, we know that, but to let Grindelwald build an army and get that far in his agenda? It made no sense to let that happen.

With the blood pact, Dumbledore has a legitimate reason for not moving directly against him. He can’t. So, what does he do? He builds an information network, and helps when he can. Like when he tells Theseus not to move against Grindelwald if he has a rally.

Of course, he could have told someone that was why, but that wouldn’t be in character, either. As established, Dumbledore doesn’t tell anyone, anything, unless it’s pried from the cold, dead lips of a Potions Master.

 

Nagini and Credence

I won’t spend too terribly much time here. Not because I don’t want to, but because there isn’t much to say. This is one of those situations where the story tried to do too much, and didn’t play out well. The actors did admirably with what they were given, but unfortunately, they weren’t given much. While Credence’s personality is established in the first film, his relationship with Nagini is almost as obscure as his Obscurial form.

It’s understandable how two people, forced into forms and powers they didn’t ask for, (Nagini’s being a Maledictus and Credence an Obscurial), would come together and form a bond. We see this when Nagini embraces Credence after he goes Obscurial and tries to kill a man, when most would shy away in horror and/or terror. However, with how little screen time and development the relationship gets, when Nagini tries to tell Credence not to go with Grindelwald, it comes off flat. The emotion isn’t there in the same way it is with Jacob and Queenie, which is a real shame. I was looking forward to getting a really good star-crossed lovers’ story from them, because we know she’s doomed for sure, and him most likely, but that isn’t what we received.

As for Nagini being a submissive pet to Voldemort, that seems a little unfair. Nagini is a ruthless, willing ally of Voldemort, which we get in her interactions with him, his followers and victims, and when she inhabits Bathilda Bagshot’s body to try and kill Harry. Submissive does not come into play here at all.

On the other hand, I want to know what drove her to join Voldemort. With her being adamant against Credence going with Grindelwald, what caused her to change her tune when Voldemort rises to power? Bitterness? Finally finding someone that could talk to her after years of loneliness and isolation of being a human in a snake’s body? Has she gone insane? Is the eventual loss of Credence, likely at the hands of ministry, what drives her over the edge? I want to know the in-between.

I guess my only observation of an inconsistency here is, what kind of cover-up is going to have to happen that we never hear about Credence in the Harry Potter books? I mean, if people were willing to speak with Skeeter about Ariana and Aberforth, there has to be someone alive and willing to talk about Credence, right?

 

Queenie and Jacob

This was probably one of the more interesting changes in character in the story, but on the way home from the movie I was able to explain an aspect of why this was possible to my husband.

Queenie is a natural Legilimens, which means she can hear thoughts. Basically, in Harry Potter speak, she’s a telepath. Now, when we think about another famous literary telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, we get some insight into why Queenie’s character is so flighty and ‘blond’. It’s exhausting hearing people’s thoughts, day in and day out, in your mind, and it can lead to some behavior associated with a person being ditzy.

Now, think about how overwhelming this can be. Combine that with the fact  she just had a major falling-out with Jacob, is in a foreign city where she can’t speak the language, can’t find her rock, Tina, and hence she’s stressed to the max. She has hit her limit, sitting on the curb in the rain, sobbing, when a woman comes and offers help.

People familiar with Harry Potter likely picked up on why there was a sudden silence when the woman touched her: the woman was Occluding. Someone who occludes, or an Occlumens, is shielding their thoughts. It would make a fair bit of sense that she was doing this. As a henchman of Grindelwald, she would need to shield her thoughts from anyone who tried to invade them as a way to get to Grindelwald and his plans.

We also see this in Queenie’s interaction with the woman when she says; “I can’t tell if you’re joking, or if you’re just French.” This is the second clue the woman is Occluding, because why wouldn’t Queenie know if she’s joking or not when she can read minds? I know she said it’s easier with some people more than others, but to be a complete blank? Unlikely. Using this train of thought, it would be safe to say that Grindelwald is also an Occlumens.

Keeping those things in mind, how would you feel if, after years of chatter in your head you could never turn off, you suddenly had peace and quiet in your own mind? It would be pure heaven. At first, anyway. Combine that with Grindelwald’s enticement that she could marry Jacob if he were in charge, the one thing she says she wants more than anything, why wouldn’t she join him?

As for her leaving Jacob, we see that she reacts quite strongly to being called crazy, and this is likely her way of proving she isn’t crazy. That she’s just trying to find the way that will enable them to have a normal life and family together.

It’s tragic when she screams at him to come with her, and for the first time he looks at her like he doesn’t know her, and refuses.

 

Tina and Newt:

Their relationship was kind of odd in the movie. We didn’t need the mistaken magazine article for the plot. Queenie could have just told Newt that Tina was off on an assignment, and when Newt shows up, they could have played on the same reactions in the first movie that Tina had when Newt interfered. It would have taken some pressure off the multiple sub-plots, and played into a more comfortable feel to their relationship. Newt doesn’t need the misunderstanding to be awkward with his interactions with her. He has that in spades without.

Speaking of him being awkward, my only complaint about the acting was the mumbling. Theatres are loud, and I still had a few moments where I couldn’t understand him. As for his mannerisms, they are just part of who he is, so I’m not sure why there are complaints in regards to it. I don’t personally feel it took attention away from the story, and it seems like a cop-out for people who just don’t like odd people. It makes them uncomfortable, and people don’t like being uncomfortable.

 

The Whole Lot of Lestranges

This was another one of the situations where there was too much going on. I understand that we were trying to prove or disprove Credence’s heritage, but this could have been streamlined. You already show one of Grindelwald’s henchman stealing the genealogy tree from the French Ministry, (which was beautifully pretentious, by the way. I loved its look, the super creepy lady guarding the vault area, and not to mention the spirit cats!), so why not have her poke and prod Credence and Leta into the situation?

If we’re being honest, Yusuf’s entire role can be boiled down to explaining why Leta was black and Credence was white. It wasn’t necessary, and added nothing to the plot. They could have just had Leta say, “My father was a terrible man. He imperiused my mother into marrying him, and she died giving birth to me. Then he remarried, not for love—he didn’t even love me, his daughter. But when Corvus was born…It was only then he felt love. I’m sorry, but you can’t be him, Credence, because I killed Corvus. [Lead into movie explanation].”

Or have a Grindelwald flunky, like Grimmson, taunt them toward revealing all this. Credence has tried to kill him, and you would have gotten a strong reaction from Credence if Grimmson said things like; “Your family must not have loved you,” or something like that.

(Hey, I’m not paid to write the script, I’m just here to poke holes in it in my free time.)

As it stands, this dude—Grimmson—that they made a huge deal out of, effectively vanishes into thin air. They could have used him more effectively, and slimmed down on how many characters they introduced as well as the number of sub-plots. Less is more.

 

A Few Random Questions:

Newt? Really? You want Newt to be an auror, go after Grindelwald, or hunt down Credence? Why? Have you met Newt? This just seemed silly to me. Maybe if Grindelwald had an injured Grindylow on his back he’d be helpful, otherwise, not so much.

What’s up with Abernathy? We don’t get his story, and he never speaks despite getting a cool, new tongue.

How many pureblood families will Credence go through? Is he really a Dumbledore? Does that mean the woman on the ship that drowned is the mother of Albus, Ariana, Aberforth, and Credence (Aurelius)? Does this mean his mother, Kendra, got pregnant right before Percival, their father, was carted off to Azkaban? Why was she on a ship to America without her other children? If that woman is the mom, why didn’t she use magic to not drown in the middle of the ocean? If that woman is not the mom, then what the bowtruckle is going on?

Why did Grindelwald let Spielman live when he made his escape? Seemed silly after he killed all those other guys.

Anyone else amused that the McClaggan family trait seems to be arrogance in the way the Weasley’s trait is red hair?

Young McGonagall? Yes!

Most importantly, though: When will someone come up with a way to detect this damnable Polyjuice potion? Honestly! The stuff seems to be the preferred dark wizard infiltration method, and yet, they are duped every time. Boggles the mind.

 

In closing, I don’t feel like the movie was as gutter trash horrible as people made it out to be, but it wasn’t as good as the first one. They simply tried to do way too much, and it came off as rushed and half-baked. Even if they’d made it half an hour longer, it probably wouldn’t have helped. They should have trimmed down on the sub-plots, and used that time to focus on other aspects of the story to strengthen them.

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Insights and Observations Part Two found here.

World of Warcraft Micro-Stories: Demon Hunter

People make so many decisions on any given day, to keep track of such things would be to court insanity. Other times decisions are so monumental yet irrational, they are, by their very nature, insane.

Arlithria would go out on a limb and say that choosing the demon you’d eat the heart of, qualified as such. Of course, all choices leading up to the heart consuming were merely stepping stones on the path of madness she was now on. Without one stone, one single decision, the path would have crumbled. But with hindsight comes regret, and she would not entertain such weakness. A lack of conviction in this endeavor would surely lead to death.

So, she chose the demon. She drank the blood. She ate the heart.

Darkness took her.

Then came the visions. The whispers. The fire.

World after world. People after people.

Slaughtered. Burning as her blood burned now. Her screams of agony blended in with their cries of anguish, until the cacophony of it was almost enough to drive her mad. No matter how loud it became, though, she could still hear it. The voice. As though the demon she’d consumed exhaled its hot breath down the back of her mind, eating away at her thoughts just as the fel did the same to her body.

Your struggle is pointless. Your fear fuels us. This power is unending, unyielding, and it will consume you as surely as it has all those who came before, and all those who come after. None can stand against our might.

She slipped further into herself. Retreating. Trying to find some small spot of solace.

Here, another voice whispered.

She paused. This wasn’t the demon.

Here, it said again, the word like a cool breeze running over her, keeping the fire at bay.

Just for that reason alone, she followed, pursuing any kind of reprieve she might find.

There! In the deepest recess of her being, there was a tiny spot so small, she would have missed it if not for the voice. When she touched it, they began to speak, the words resonating in her soul like the beating of a drum.

Remember, nothing is forever. We Night Elves learned this harsh lesson when Nordrassil was sacrificed, trading our immortality for the defeat of Archimonde. So, in a way, the Burning Legion has shown us its demise is possible. They say they do not yield, but bending is not breaking. Sway with the power, but do not be swayed by it. Have faith, love. Some day they will fall.

The voice faded, and with it the reprieve from the fel.

This time, though, she was ready. She pulled the fel to her, wrapping it around her, around her soul, and accepting the flames as they burned almost everything that was her to ash. She let it take many things, but she moved with the power, directing it the way she would her nightsaber. As they moved, she slowly banked the flames. Containing them. Letting them cradle the two things she would never give up: that one, small spot, and her conviction to see the end of the Burning Legion.

As the last lick of fel settled into her, subsumed with her soul, the demon snarled.

No!

It was too late.

When she opened her eyes, with the demon’s howls echoing in her mind, she smiled triumphantly at the demon hunter standing over her.

“When you can stand, we will complete the ritual,” he said, and walked away to inform the others that she was awake.

Every bit of her ached, as though she’d been through a battle in the waking world and not just within herself. She went to move, but pain shot through her like lightning, and her hands clenched against the pain. One of them closed around something that bit into her skin. A fleeting moment of confusion raced through her mind, and she slowly raised her hand to her face. In it was a small pendant, the azure gem glowing like the deep lake waters near her old home. The home destroyed by the Burning Legion.

Her smile softened and she closed her eyes, brining the pendant to rest on her forehead. When she opened them again, for one of the last times before she would complete the ritual, determination glowed in them as surely as the fel.

“We will gift the Legion with their final deaths, love. Azeroth will not fall.”