Okay, guys. Don't be mad, but... my latest 31 Days installment has become something much bigger than it started. But I MUST finish it! So, there's a change of 31 Days Plan again (I'm always doing that, aren't I?). I'm going to keep working on this little doozie, and then I'll post a bigger, better short somewhere around Halloween. That means you don't get little 30-second clips every other day, but consider the previous five episodes warm-ups to something a little more interesting. And, yes, Death & Elsie 3 will be released shortly after that. I won't give you a date (because we all know I'll miss it), but I have not forgotten it, I puh-romise.
Here's a fantastic video by Avril Fong and friends of their performance of "Agony." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNHCHOK1tVo&feature=youtu.be
Watch the original again for old times' sake! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOQOSBoBh3E
And a new original 31 Days entry should be up tomorrow. Thanks for waiting, everyone. :)
The next 31 Days will be a couple of days late! I thought up something I'm really excited to make, but it'll take more than five hours to put together, I'm afraid. So, look for that on Monday! In the mean time... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4IC7qaNr7I
Who's ready for a spooky story? http://youtu.be/c5s7_QEU7Sw
THE THIRTY SECOND RULE IS A LIE. http://youtu.be/GeCnTGFO2GI
Just trust me on this oldie-but-goodie by THIS IS IT Collective. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C_HReR_McQ
THE THIRTY SECOND RULE IS A LIE. http://youtu.be/z_aLsHNdwzk
Welp, today I'm going to have to cheat and show you someone else's amazing work instead of my own. I am not feeling my oats today, so I'm left with two half-finished 'toons and a general feeling of bleh. This is one of my favorites, though, so gather 'round the YouTubes! In the mean time, get all your voodoo dolls together and ward off the sickness for me.
Tomorrow's October 1st. Do you know what that means, kiddies? No?! My goodness! Where have you been? Why, October is 31 Days of Halloween! That means you have an entire month of frights, creeps, and unsavory nasties to look forward to. What's on the menu this season? Oh, just twenty-three new animations! Every weekday, I'll be racing to put together and show you one short Halloween cartoon. This will be my biggest challenge yet, but I already have a graveyard's heap of ideas that I just can't wait to show you all.
I'm taking the weekends off this year, but that doesn't mean your bucket will be empty on Saturdays and Sundays! On those days, I'll share with you something delightfully creepy by other artists. So, if you have a favorite spooky video or animation, do be a dear and send me a link! I can't promise I'll post everything. There are only so many weekends in a month, after all.
As always, 31 Days is meant for grownups. Parents and teachers - watch first before showing to the young'uns.
See you tomorroooooow...
The second and final wave of Halloween treats for Sandy victims is going out this week! If you requested but haven't gotten yours yet, it should be there soon! And a happy belated Halloween to all of you! :)
Halloween treats for Sandy victims will be mailed out this week. Thanks, parents, for your emails! :) In other news - sigh - pretty much everything else is going to be delayed until after I move to Portland at the end of the month. There's just too much to do, and I don't want to rush the animations I'm working on. Before I pack everything up, though, I'm going to do a contest! I haven't decided what you'll have to do, yet, but the prize will be some of my original pencil sketches from The Goosemother Scroll. Stay tuned for details!
The conclusion... The Goosemother Scroll - Episode 16
Text and illustration below.
“Hello, Sister,” said the other pig.
“This is a trick!” said Pyg, but deep within her, she knew the Master was Dawnsong, the brother taken in her stead on the night of their birth. But how did he know her?
“This is a trick!” she repeated as if to convince herself. “My mother said Dawnsong was dead!”
“Dawnsong? Is that what I was to be named?” said the Master. “I am named Strangeborn, but no one calls me that anymore. Your mother - that is, our mother - never took the trouble to find out what became of me. For that I can’t blame her. Who is a pig against the wolves?”
The Master’s voice dripped with sarcasm. Who, indeed, was a pig amongst the wolves? Why, himself. The leader of the worst of them.
“Our mother wouldn’t have become a murderer to make peace with other murderers,” Pyg spat.
The Master ignored this remark.
“I was taken, along with so many other newborn babes that night, by the persecuted,” he explained. “Our deaths were to be revenge for the wolves’ ill-treatment at the paws of the so-called ‘good folk of the world.’ Many of the young did, in fact, die, but a few of us were shown mercy. I was raised by such a merciful wolf - the only mother I have ever known. I grew up faster than most pigs my age, I think, because of this."
“And then you grew up to become the Shadow Bringer!” Pyg interrupted. One of the Legion growled in warning, but Pyg hardly cared. Brother or not, this swine was responsible for the deaths of everyone she loved. He should be able to withstand an insult.
But the Master looked wounded by this charge.
“You think I am the Shadow Bringer?” he said. “No, no, Sister. That can’t be. You see, I was raised upon the words of the Goosemother Scroll. I was raised to believe the Shadow Bringer was the source of all my wolf family’s pain. I despise the Shadow Bringer. I’ve made it my young life’s work to seek him out and destroy him! To stop him from ever becoming! Him or her.”
“But don’t you see?” Pyg gasped. “In all you have done, you’ve made the prophecy come true yourself! It’s your shadow that covers the world. It’s you who’ve brought hunger and death and betrayal!”
The Master shook his head.
“What are the Three Laws?” he asked her.
“No beast chooses himself above his herd,” Pyg recited. “No beast shall take more than he must to survive. No beast eats of his own kind. You’ve already broken the first two. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve broken the last. And here you stand on Mount Historious, using it for evil. That makes you the Profaner.”
“Ah,” said the Master, “but you are wrong. All I have done before, I have done to better the world for future beasts. As to the Third Law, I eat no meat and never have. But there is something you have not considered.”
He gestured to his guards, who seized Pyg’s companions and led them silently away. All, that is, except for the Priestess.
“Where are you taking them?” Pyg asked.
“To a safe place for now,” said the Master, smiling. Safe for them or for you? Pyg wondered, but she was hardly in any position to fight for them now. She also wondered about the Priestess of Gol. Why had she not been taken with the others? Her question would soon be answered.
“My thanks, Estruthia, for bringing her to me,” the Master addressed the ostrich. The priestess bowed her long neck low and then turned to Pyg.
“Your arrival to this place was shown to me in a dream,” she explained. “I regret that I could not stop the tragedy you have seen along the way, but it was necessary to lead you here.”
Pyg’s blood rushed to her ears. “You LIAR!” she screamed. Had she not been held by a Wolfguard, she would have attacked the Priestess. But a voice whispered inside her head.
Quiet now, swine child! said the voice. I am still your friend! But he must not know! Not yet.
Pyg’s head swam with confusion. Who was whom and who had been betrayed? She wished the earth would swallow all of them up and be done with this whole nightmare for good.
“Sister,” the Master said. The word made Pyg feel ill. “Have you never wondered why it was me who was taken?”
“Of course I have,” said Pyg.
“Because I was meant to end the blight that is the Shadow Bringer. I was the small one and The End Will Be Small,” said the Master. “But you, Sister. Your path has been so very different from mine. I had not imagined this twist of fate until you arrived in the Elephant Lands and survived against all odds.”
“What are you saying?” asked Pyg.
“I have seen your past in my dreams, swine child,” said the Priestess.
“The first law: you broke it when you let our brothers die for your safety,” said the Master.
“That’s not true!” Pyg cried.
“What did you do to defend them from the wolves? Nothing!” said the Master.
“They were your wolves!” Pyg insisted.
“And I regret that,” said the Master, but he went on. “The second law! You broke it when you took those soldiers with you. You did not need them in order to survive, and you knew they might die along the way!”
“This isn’t fair! This isn’t fair!” Pyg sobbed.
“The third law,” said the Master.
“I have not eaten my own kind! Never!” Pyg gasped.
“Not so,” said the Priestess. “When you traveled with the rhinoceros king, you ate as he did. The meat of his enemies. There was a boar...”
“I didn’t know!” Pyg protested.
“And you didn’t ask,” said the Master. “How many have died trying to save you? How many have even known you and not suffered some terrible fate? And for what end? You have no noble mission. To think your dear friend, the wolfling, sold his soul to control the dead for you! Do you know what else he did? They say the Shadow Bringer rules the Ghosts of Men. That’s a power I don’t have. But when your friend barred the dead from any claim upon you, he unknowingly bound them to your command. You may not know what you are, but it is what you are, nonetheless. The Shadow Bringer. My own lost sister! And now that I have brought you close to me at last, I must perform my duty. Then you will never grow to darken the world. None will suffer on your account ever again!”
The guard who held Pyg drew his sword. In panic, Pyg looked to the ostrich priestess whose voice filled her head in rapid whispers.
Call them! Call the dead! The Master spoke truly, they are in your command. Call them and free yourself!
“Leap! Help me!” Pyg cried without even thinking, and the mountain began to rumble. A white mist arose from the rocky earth. It seemed as if it happened very slowly, but it happened within a few short breaths. The dead took their form and, led by a ragged wraith wolf, slew the guard, the Master, and all who served him.
Pyg felt a chill across her heart as she heard the howling of a thousand anguished wolves. But she felt no remorse. For the first time she could remember, she was in control of something. Her enemies would all be gone soon. Those who were left, and all they loved - she would seek them out and crush them. And after that, she would destroy all the small things that might get any ideas about ending her new dominion.
When the Master’s forces were destroyed at last, Pyg turned to the Priestess.
“There are those of us who serve you, my dark lady,” said the ostrich. “Who have always served you from the dark places of the earth. We have waited, your majesty, and we will help you take your rightful place. You have only to look to the shadows, and there you will find your servants.”
“I will find them, and I’ll make the world what it ought to be,” Pyg said softly, “but you I can never trust again.”
As the priestess’ lifeforce faded away, her final words entered Pyg’s thoughts.
I knew you would come... I knew you would come... I knew you would come...
Pyg smiled strangely. She knew now why she had never been given a name by her mother. Her name had already been written in the Goosemother Scroll eons before she was born.
The Goosemother Scroll - Episode 15 Text below.
The Unspeakable Oath. When the living make a deal with the dead. All who commit such dealings are doomed to serve the Ghosts of Men for a thousand years. For the dead men can claim the bodies of the living, but never their souls... without permission. Such permission Leap granted the spirits when he spoke in the ancient tongue aboard the black ship. In exchange, he asked for safe passage into the Elephant Lands and for the life of his friend. All this Estruthia had seen in the young wolf’s eyes, but it was far too late for the priestess’ magic to save him. Now the dead had claimed their prize and left a wound in Pyg’s heart among so many others, each now scarred and hardened.
Back at the encampment, the tears of the grieving filled up the cracks of the parched earth. The elephant queen was dead, many of her fighters, too. And while the elephants fought and fled the dead men, an envoy had brought a message to the rhinoceros king. His city lay under siege, and all within would starve to death if its sovereign did not return to accept the Master’s terms. Perhaps it was true. Perhaps not. But the spirit of the great horned king was broken now.
“I thought you were prepared to die,” Pyg reminded him. “Your soldiers were. Many of them have. The elephant queen and her soldiers, too.”
“Careful, hoglet. You speak to a king,” the great rhinoceros warned her. But there was little threat in his voice now. “May the Shadow Bringer slay me with his own sword, and his buzzards feast upon my carcass if that will save beastkind. But I cannot subject my followers to such a cruel death when there is another way. When you wear a crown as heavy as mine, you will understand.”
Pyg did not understand, and she did not care to. She had but one purpose left, and that was to slay this vile Master, this tyrant who cloaked the world in the shadow of death.
“If you won’t march on the mountain, then at least free me so that I can try,” said Pyg. Determination blazed in her eyes with a ferocity that almost frightened the much larger beast she challenged.
“I free you,” said the king, “but you will die on this mission of yours. I urge you to travel with us back to my land where there is at least some chance you’ll be spared. Better chance than you’ll have out here.”
But he could see the piglet would not be swayed. And, after all, who was he to dash her hope for vengeance when only duty prevented him from seeking it, himself?
Yes, Pyg was released. And, with her, the ostrich priestess and a handful of soldiers who thirsted for the Master’s blood just as much. All would perish in vain, the king thought sadly, but at least they would die as free beasts.
As Pyg and her meager band of fighters journeyed, a smile grew upon her face.
This is what the scroll meant, she thought. We may be small, but we will bring the end to this blight.
Astonishingly, the road to the Mother’s Mountain lay free of obstacles. No one attacked Pyg and her soldiers. No ghosts arose to cut her throat. Nary a creature apart from themselves made any appearance at all.
“Perhaps the Goosemother has blessed us,” said a lemur named Babako, but no one really believed that.
“The wind has changed,” the priestess said ominously. “I feel it in my feathers.”
Pyg had not noticed any change in the wind’s direction, but then she noticed little that was not directly in her path to crushing the throat of the Profaner with her bare hooves.
Within three days, the humble host reached the foot of Mount Historious. Two bitterly cold days after, they neared the end of a smooth trail hewn into the mountainside. At the end of that trail they found the Master’s Fortress. And never once did they meet a soul to block their way. Not even until they passed through the unbarred gates did they meet a stranger.
The stranger was a wolf as white as the mountain snow, wearing the same gray cloak the abbey brothers were known to wear below. Pyg’s soldiers drew their swords and extended claws, those who had them, but the wolf merely shook his head and held up a paw.
“No need for that, friends,” he said. “You are welcome as the Master’s Guests. He has been waiting most anxiously for your arrival.”
“Maybe we don’t want to be his guests,” Pyg seethed.
“Either you are a guest or you are a trespasser,” said the wolf, still smiling, “and the latter are not welcomed so warmly, I assure you.”
Behind Pyg, the massive wooden gates closed with a groan, and thirty soldiers in the armor of the Legion formed a line around her lot.
“Come,” said the wolf monk. “The Master awaits, and--”
“And the Master has grown tired of waiting,” said a new voice. The Master himself, Pyg was sure of it, but she couldn’t see him! Then the wolf stepped aside and bowed quite low.
“A thousand pardons, your Majesty,” said the wolf, whose genuflection allowed Pyg to see, at last, the form of the beast she hated above all others.
But when she saw him, she was unable to speak. This Master, this Profaner, the Shadow Bringer of legend, was but a pig much like herself. He could have been the ghost of her brother Strongheart, or perhaps of Meekfoot, so much did he resemble them, only he was smaller. Much smaller. Undoubtedly the runt of his litter.
I know that trick-or-treating is the least of everyone's worries in the areas ravaged by the superstorm Sandy, but it's nevertheless a letdown for kids who won't be able to go anywhere fun on Halloween. If you're from a community affected by Sandy and have children aged twelve and under, please contact me by November 1st! I'll send a little treat (not candy but other fun little things) to your kids when and where mail can safely be delivered. Info we're going to need to make this happen:
- Your name and a mailing address (please let me know if this address is okay to receive small packages at now)
- Your kids' ages (so that they get age-safe treats)
- Optional: your kids' first names (I'd like to personalize their treats if possible)
Obviously, you won't receive your treats in time for Halloween, but everything will go out in the mail some time in November, depending on how long it takes to put packages together and when mail delivery has fully resumed. Better late than never, right?
If you'd like to help Sandy victims, the American Red Cross is taking donations!
The Goosemother Scroll - Episode 14 Text below.
All was quiet in the elephant graveyard. Here, the bones of the ancients lay scattered, huge and broken, like ruins of a once great city.
“Is it really all right for us to be here?” Pyg whispered to the ostrich priestess.
“It is an honor,” the priestess answered. “An elephant’s invitation to a graveyard is their way of introducing you to their ancestors as a friend. Her majesty is not only paying homage to the ancients but asking them to protect us.”
Pyg nodded and watched as the queen and her soldiers wandered wordlessly among the bones, picking them up, curling their trunks around them. Weeks ago, Pyg would have thought it a peculiar custom. But weeks ago, she would have read about it in a book before a fire while her mother knitted and her brothers teased one another or bickered about something trivial. Everything she had known to be familiar and safe had been taken from her since then, and so she took comfort in what was meaningful in another land.
But something was not right.
“I think we are not alone here,” the priestess whispered, narrowing her eyes.
A thin fog that lurked among the bones had rapidly grown quite thick. Pyg thought she heard faint whispers, but when she looked for Leap to ask him if he’d heard them, he looked so strange that she forgot her question. His ears were back, and he was shivering terribly.
“Leap? Are you all right?” asked Pyg.
He didn’t say anything, but the priestess glared at him as if he had. Leap shrank back when the ostrich approached him, but soon he was transfixed by the glow of her eyes.
“What are you doing to him?” asked Pyg. “Leave him alone!”
But the priestess continued her fearsome gaze until she suddenly gasped.
“No!” she cried. “Wolfing, you do not know what you have done!”
“What’s going on?” Pyg demanded.
“I had to,” said Leap in a voice barely above a whisper. “It was the only way to make it across the sea. But I hoped I’d be alone when they came for me.”
“When who came for you?” Pyg asked. “What do you mean? Leap, answer me right now!”
Meanwhile, the priestess was running and shouting, shouting to the elephant queen and her army to leave this cursed place at once.
“The dead are rising!” she shouted. “We must turn back! The ghosts of men are among us!”
“What does she mean?” Pyg pleaded of her friend. “You... you said you told the ghosts you were the servant of the Master! You said they helped us because they must obey him!”
“I didn’t want you to know the truth,” Leap said, his head hung low.
“What truth?” Pyg cried. “Leap! What truth?”
But the Ghosts of Men were coming up from the earth now, and through the vapor of their rising shapes, the elephants ran. They could not run fast enough. The dead took form. Not simply men, but dogs and lions and other spirits, too. All of the beast ghosts walked upon fours, and the men were their masters. One of the men sat high upon a spectral horse, and he commanded the horse with unseen reins though he, himself, had but a stump upon his shoulders in place of a head.
“Come on, Leap! We have to go!” shouted Pyg, but the wolf would not move.
Suddenly the priestess was beside her.
“Run, swine child!” she told Pyg. “Your friend is beyond saving. He has made the Unspeakable Oath!”
Behind them, a terrible scene took place. Some of the elephants were strangled by the ghosts. Some were devoured whole until only their bones remained. Still others fled in crazed terror until they fell upon the ancient bones and impaled themselves. The queen herself was dragged below the earth until her roars of pain and fear were silenced forever.
Someone living dragged Pyg away. She would never remember who. But she remembered Leap’s last words to her.
“They can’t hurt you!” he called after her. “That was my price!”
Then the headless horseman descended upon Leap and snatched from him what the dead had bought in the young wolf’s abominable bargain.