Sunday, March 18, 2018

Magical March 11: A Royal Pain

Magical March 11
A Royal Pain
Mark A Davis

"Royal?" said Octava.  "What the Hades is that supposed to mean?  A royal magical girl?  Am I only to consider actual princesses?  Because there ain't many of those left in the world, and most of them wouldn't be interested in the whole magical girl shtick.  Does it mean I dress her in royal blue?  Do I design a cheerleader for the Kansas City Royals?"

Octava and Daesdamona, two former angels who worked as magical girl guides for a realm known as Nibiru, sat in a cafe in Venice, Italy.  It was a warm spring day and the streets and canals were bustling with tourists.  The sound of conversations echoed down the street and blended with the lapping of water against brick.

Octava sipped his Vittoria coffee and nibbled on a baklava croissant.  He stared at a virtual computer pad, assessing their next assignment.  He resembled a young boy, maybe fourteen, with long blonde hair.  Today he wore shorts and an A.C. Milan shirt.  His companion had dark skin, black hair, and wore a bohemian gypsy dress.

"Don't be dense," Daesdamona retorted.  "Obviously these are instructions for artists to draw a magical girl in a royalty setting -- think Princess Serenity, the royal alter-ego of Sailor Moon."

"Right, I get that," said Octava.  "But how are we supposed to make that work?  In the context of her own story, Sailor Moon really is the reincarnation of a princess from an ancient moon kingdom...."

"During the Silver Millennium..." added Daesdamona.

"Yeah, whatever," said Octava, waving a hand.  "The point is I can't just wave my hands and say: you, you're the reincarnated princess of La La Land, or whatever magical ancient kingdom I want to make up, because that ancient kingdom doesn't exist and she isn't the reincarnation of any past princess.  We can transform girls into magical girls and give them special powers, but making them a real princess of a real kingdom?  Even a reincarnated princess of a long-ago kingdom?  No can do.  I mean, editing history to give them an elaborate back story -- not even the big guy in the sky, the big G.O.D., does that.  Am I right?"

There was a flash of light.  Suddenly a very beautiful woman was seated with them.  She had long white hair and pale skin, and wore a red silk dress.  Her eyes were the most notable feature, however -- there were no pupils, and they glowed with an unearthly white light.

"No," she said.  "He doesn't.  But I do."

"Um..." Octava began, sitting back.

"Have no fear, Dear Octavia," the woman said.  "I know who you and Daesdamona are.  I am a fan.  A big fan.  But you may not know who I am.  My card."  She tapped the table and a white card appeared, with the words "Eternia the Watcher" written in a flowing script.  The card was only visible for a few moments, then vanished.

"I am a goddess," she said.  "Small g, mind you, but a goddess nonetheless.  I take an interest in the affairs of earthly mortals -- heroic mortals in particular.  I am not the only one who does so.  I have a special preference for magical girls, so I take a particular interest in the affairs of Nibiru.  I've been pleased and fascinated with your recent work -- so many new magical girls to follow!  Although the execution has been a bit ragged, if you don't mind my saying so...."

Octava frowned.  "We're working under a tight schedule," he said.  "I'm sure that once the month's up, we'll have a chance to go back and make sure every girl's situated properly...."

"Yes," said Eternia.  "I'm counting on it.  But right now you want a royal magical girl -- one who is the reincarnated princess of a bygone realm.  I do recommend you go that route -- trying to establish a girl as a princess of a current realm is far more difficult...."

"Yes, but we can't..." Octava began.

"Oh, I know, Octava my friend," she said.   "Establishing a bygone kingdom that has not existed for a thousand years -- well, it's really not within the scope of what you people can do, is it?"  She smiled and added, "That's where I come in."

"Listen, Eternia, or whoever you are," said Daesdamona.  "We really don't have a lot of time to waste...."

"Indeed," Eternia said.  "A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words."  She snapped her fingers, and the three of them were somewhere else.

Ice crystals drifted across a frozen, barren landscape.  The sky was black and filled with stars.  Worn and broken pillars stabbed the sky, hinting at magnificent buildings that had once stood here.  Unlike earth, these ruins were not overgrown with weeds -- nothing living was visible.  Yet the ruins had crumbled with time, worn down by fierce winds, ice, and intense cold.  A harsh wind whistled past their ears, and they no doubt would have quickly frozen -- as well as died of asphyxiation -- if not in the company of a goddess.

"What the...?" Octava said.  He still held his coffee cup, halfway to his lips, but the coffee was now a block of ice.  He tipped the cup over and watched the coffee slowly drift down.

"Where is this?" asked Daesdamona.

"This," said Eternia, "is Ganymede, the largest moon of Jupiter and in fact the ninth largest object in the Solar System.  As you can see, I have retroactively placed ruins here -- the remains of an ancient civilization known as the Ganymidian Kingdom."

Octava frowned.  "By retroactively, you mean...."

"The ruins," said the woman, "are five thousand years old.  No one has actually been here in five thousand years, so there is nothing to stop me from establishing such a kingdom.  Obviously I couldn't do this on earth's moon -- a Moon Kingdom on the Terran satellite would stick out as something that clearly had not been there previously.  But this far out in space?  Anything goes.  There is zero chance of causing a time anomaly.  So far the closest mankind has come to exploring Ganymede has been the Galileo spacecraft, which made multiple flybys between 1996 and 2000 and sent back spectral images.  The European Space Agency plans to launch a Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer -- code named JUICE, isn't that clever? -- in about four years, which will eventually enter Ganymede's orbit.  Perhaps then mankind will finally discover these ruins.

"So now, as you see, you have your ancient kingdom.  You need only find a likely reincarnated princess and implant some dreams of a glorious past within her head.  Or if that is also something which you Nibiru folks simply will not do, then I will do it."

Octava and Daesdamona glanced at each other.

"Can we trust her?" asked Octava.  "Because honestly, doing a reincarnated princess would be fun...."

"As it happens, I've heard of Eternia the Watcher," said Daesdamona.  "She really is a nutca... that is, very fond of magical girls."  She glanced at the woman in red.  "I think we can trust her, at least on this particular subject...."

  Eternia clapped her hands together.  "Oh, this is going to be so much fun!  I'm not always that good with names but I thought a Princess Gloria of Ganymede would make a great leader of a small team.  She could have three guardians -- named for and representing such concepts such as Love, Truth, and Honor.  Perhaps Princess Valentina, Princess Verity, and Princess Creda...."

"Just so long as we're not naming anyone after Honor Harrington," muttered Octava darkly.

Eternia raised an eyebrow.  "Honor who?"

"Never mind," the boy said.  "Princess Creda sounds fine to me, as do the other two."

"Great!" Eternia exclaimed.  "Then I'll leave the rest to you two."  She waved her hand and four colored balls appeared, each with a name on it -- Gloria, Valentina, Verity, and Creda.  "Just place one of these each with the four girls that you choose, and they will begin to dream of their past lives.  The rest will take care of itself -- with the aid of one of your magical girl guides, of course!  Oh, and don't worry about the enemy, or the love interest -- I'll be making arrangements on that front as well!"

"Wait a moment," said Octava.  "What do you mean you'll arrange an enemy....?"

"Don't worry your little head about it, Octava Dear!" Eternia replied.  "It'll be all taken care of!  Now I did have one request -- I'd like it very much if one of our ancient princess guardians is reincarnated as a boy -- that's always a fun twist, and when I send him embarrassing dreams of his past life with the man he loved it's so entertaining!  Oh, and I know what you're going to say -- what if he likes men?  But trust me, at that age it doesn't matter!"

Octava said, "Getting back to this idea of you creating an enemy...."

His voice trailed off, as the three of them -- Octava, Daesdamona, and Eternia -- suddenly realized they were not alone.  Multiple blobby blue creatures hovered in the air around them.

One emitted a weird, groaning sound.  Eternia snapped her fingers, and the sound was transformed into speech:

"Which one of you," the creature said, "Is responsible for placing this trash on our world?"  It waved an appendage in the general direction of the ruins.

Octava and Daesdamona exchanged a glance.  They both stared at Eternia.

Eternia sighed. "I'm sorry, Dear," she said.  "It's my mistake.  I had not realized that this moon was inhabited... obviously I should have done more research...."

She snapped her fingers, and the landscape changed.  Eternia and the two magical girl advisers were once again alone.  Here were the same ruins, but on a surface that was redder and contained more ice than the previous.

"This," said Eternia, "is the surface of Europa, fourth largest of Jupiter's moons.  These ruins have existed here for five thousand years...."


Magical March 10: Guitar Hero

Magical March 10
Guitar Hero
Mark A Davis

Lakshmi and Icarus were seated in a dirty booth in a dark, dingy bar.  The former angels and current magical girl guides were in human form -- Icarus dressed as he often was like a young rock star in black leather pants and boots, mirror shades, and a black silk shirt open to the navel, while Lakshmi, was hardly less conspicuous with long pink hair and jeans studded with flashy silver stars and a white crop top.

Seated across from them was a young woman with long black hair, wearing a form-fitted outfit of silver and black.  Beside her was a woman with shoulder-length brown hair, wearing jeans, a red shirt, and a brown leather bomber jacket.

"This woman," said Icarus, "is named F8Wasp.  That's spelled with a number 8, but pronounced Fate Wasp."

"Yes," said Lakshmi, " I am familiar with who she is.  I do follow earth heroes; it's part of my job.  She built the excellent Annie Two A.I. for Grandpa Anarchy, and the equally impressive Virtual Marilyn A.I. for the Archons of Excellence...."

"Indeed!" Icarus exclaimed.  "And this is her companion and partner, Amelia Anne Bloodraven."

Cigarette smoke drifted through the room like fog on an old battlefield.  The bar was long and made of solid oak.  A tall woman with long blonde braids and an eye patch stood behind it.  The bar stools were worn and weathered, with splitting seats, and the upholstery of the booth seats was in similar shape.  Against the far wall was a giant circle of carved metal -- a dimensional gateway with strange symbols at different locations around the outer perimeter, like some alien clock with no hands.  The center was a liquid blue surface, like a wishing well on its side.

There were few others in the bar.  A Minotaur sat in one corner nursing and oversized beer, while a disheveled woman with matted dreadlocks sat on the floor near the door strumming a guitar.

"Good day to you, Miss Bloodraven, Miss F8Wasp," said Lakshmi.  "And yes, we're at a bar called Happy Jacks, run by the friend of Grandpa Anarchy, John Haggard, in the inter-dimensional city of Intersect.  I get all that.  The question is:  why are we here?"

"Because," said Icarus.  "I want to build a robot, so I went to the best A.I. specialist in the world."

"You want to build... a robot?" asked Lakshmi.

"Exactly that," said Icarus.  "A robotic magical girl.  More properly called a gynoid...."

"Don't try to lecture me on language, Dear," said Lakshmi.  "The Statue of Liberty is technically a gynoid, since the term refers to anything that resembles the female human form."

"Yes, but the term was coined by science fiction author Gwyneth Jones specifically to refer to a female robot," said Icarus, "and that's how it's usually understood.  While the term android tends to be used as a generic, non-gender-specific term, in point of fact the Greek prefix andr means man as in a male human...."

"Then you must be aware of the problems associated with the sexualization of gynoids," said Lakshmi.  "They're often a product of man's lust, completely divorced from the concept of women as women.  If you search gynoid on Reddit...."

"Oh for Heaven's Sake, Lakshmi!" Icarus exclaimed.  "I'm creating a robotic magical girl.  Let's not overthink this."

F8Wasp and Miss Bloodraven watched the exchange with bemusement.  F8Wasp held up a hand.  "Um... sorry to interrupt, but I don't do robots," she said.  "Just A.I.'s...."

"Right," said Icarus.  "I was going to have you do the A.I., and I was going to build the robot...."

"Icarus, you know nothing about robotics," said Lakshmi.  "Even if you did, it would take months...."

"I was going to use magic..." Icarus began.

"You were just going to wave your hand and conjure a robotic girl via magic?" Lakshmi asked.  "Really?"

F8Wasp raised her hand again.  "Um... I don't think that would...."

"We're supposed to be working on a musical magical girl, Icarus!" Lakshmi exclaimed.

"Exactly!" Icarus said.  "A musical robotic magical girl.  You know, like Key the Metal Idol...."

"I have no idea who that is," Lakshmi replied.  A holographic computer screen appeared before her.  "She's not in the data base...."

"It's an anime thing," said Icarus.  "Although I'd have thought you were up on anime, being a magical girl guide.  Anyway, that's not important.  She can sing, we can have her play a guitar...."

"Look," said Lakshmi, "if you want a robotic magical girl, then we have a sci fi theme coming up.  But that's not until the 24th...."

F8Wasp raised her hand again.  "I can have a girl robot built," she said.  "I have connections, people who are good at robotics.  As for price... you're angels, right?  You do magic.  I'm sure there are any number of things you could do for me.  We can work out the details later.  But it's going to take a little time, so... the 24th sounds like a reasonable deadline...."

"You can build a robot in less than two weeks?" asked Lakshmi.

"There  are ways to do it, yes," F8Wasp replied.  "You know the old adage:  cheap, fast, good, pick two.  If you want good work done fast, it won't come cheap...."

Icarus sighed.  "I was hoping to get this wrapped up today...."

"No chance," said F8Wasp.  "I am not working on a robot conjured by magic, either."

"Well... okay then," said Icarus.  "But that means we'll need a new plan for a musical magical girl... and we're on a tight schedule...."

"Oh, good grief," said Lakshmi.  "Just find some girl who likes music and transform her into a music-based magical girl.  It's what we're trained to do.  It's not that hard."

"Excuse me."  The guitarist by the door held up her hand.  "Two questions," she said.  "Can I look like a teenage Joan Jett, and do I get a guitar that shoots lasers?"


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Magical March 9: Kiwi Blitz

Magical March 9
Kiwi Blitz
Mark A Davis

"It's not that I wouldn't like to be powerful and fight bad guys," said the girl, "but I don't do dresses."

It was late summer in Auckland, New Zealand, and the sun was baking the earth.  Octava and Daesdamona were with a young girl in her back yard, where sparse grass and bare earth sloped down to a flowing stream.  The angel and demon were in their magical girl guide disguises -- that of a white rabbit and a black bat.  Their latest magical girl target was Molly Anderson, fourteen years old and highly opinionated.  She had tanned skin and curly blonde hair, wore shorts and a loose top, and was studying critically the drawing which Daesdamona had provided.

"And this name," she said.  "Beautiful Kiwi Lass?  I don't like it."

"It's... meant to incorporate your actual name," Daesdamona said.  "So it would be something like Beautiful Molly Kiwi Lass, or Beautiful Kiwi Lass Molly.  Four-word names are a magical girl standard."

"I don't like it," Molly repeated.  "It's too gender specific."

A loud splashing came from the stream.  Something very large moved beneath the surface.

Daesdamona frowned.  "You are a girl," she said, "and you would transform into a magical girl...."

"There's all these bows and ruffles and fluttery nonsense," said Molly.  "Too girly for me."

"Magical girls are all about being girly!" Daesdamona exclaimed.  "Some things are just magical girl standards!"

"If I have to be a girly-girl to do this, I'm not interested," the girl said flatly, handing back the pad.  "I don't identify as a girl.  I identify as a boi."

A creature arose from the creek, much larger than anything that could have hidden below the surface.  It resembled a tuatara, a lizard-like beast native to New Zealand with spikes and ridges along its back.  But this one was far too large, and the color of shadows reflected on water at night.

"There it is," said Octava.  "The taniwha.  It looks angry."

"You wish to become a boy?" asked Daesdamona.  "Girls transforming into magical boys is certainly not as common as the other way around, but...."

"Not a boy," said Molly.  "A boi.  With an I.  It's less gender specific."

"I'm so confused," said Daesdamona.  "When did magical girls become this complicated?"

"There's nothing complicated about it!" the girl exclaimed.  "Just ask instead of assume!  I don't mind being a girl, I just object to all of the feminine claptrap that comes with it!"

The ground shook as the giant lizard pulled itself from the water.  It slithered up the hillside,  eyes fixed on the three of them.

"Guys," said Octava, "you might want to hurry things along...."

"Oh!" exclaimed Daesdamona.  "You mean you're a magical tomboy!"

Molly sighed.  "Yes," she said.  "If you must call it that...."

"Okay," said Daesdamona, "I can work with this."  The bat laid the holographic pad on the ground and began to sketch.  "We'll do shorts instead of a skirt," she said, "or maybe a shortall look, with a blouse-y shirt beneath...."  She glanced up at Molly and added, "Keep in mind that even magical boys tend to fall on the feminine end of the spectrum.  It's part of the whole concept -- some things are magical girl standards."  She went back to sketching.  "We'll do socks, and hiking boots in a non-standard color like pastel blue...."

"Pastel green," said Molly.  "Kiwis are green."

"Guys?" Octava asked.  The taniwha was nearly on top of them.

The bat nodded.  "Yes, of course, my mistake."  She studied the drawing a moment.

"Can you do armor?" asked Molly.

Daesdamona frowned.  "I suppose I could," she said.  "Yes, since we're going for a more boyish look, that could work.  Shin guards, those are called greaves I think, and arm guards and pauldrons, those go on the shoulders... heck, a breastplate while we're at it, with a kiwi design in the center...."

"Elfin armor," said the girl.  "Like in Lord of the Rings!"

"I hardly think..." Daesdamona began.

"New Zealand is Middle Earth!" the girl exclaimed.  "Everyone knows that!"

"The bat rolled her eyes.  "Yes, okay, but aren't elves a bit effeminate?  I thought we were avoiding that."

"A male elfin warrior is as feminine as I wish to be," Molly declared.

"Fair enough," Daesdamona replied, sketching furiously.

"Guys?" Octava said.  The fetid breath of the monster was by now inescapable.

"Do I get a sword?" Molly asked.

"Do you want a sword?" asked Daesdamona.

The taniwha scooped the bunny into its mouth.  "She wants a sword!" Octava screamed.  "Give her the cursed sword now!"

"I feel that I should object to all of this collaboration," said Daesdamona.  "It is not normal that a magical girl gets to decide the parameters of her costume and powers.  Anyway, wouldn't a Maori spear be a more appropriate weapon...?"

Her voice trailed off as she glanced up, and saw Octava disappear into the shadow lizard's gullet.  "Right," she said.  "Sword."  She waved a wing and a sword appeared.  It hovered in the air before Molly, bright polished steel and a green hilt, and surrounded by a soft green magical glow.

The taniwha snatched up the bat and swallowed.  Molly blinked.  "Well," she said, "guess it's now or never."

The taniwha laughed, a deep, rumbling sound.  "Foolish child," it rumbled.  "Do you think such a tiny weapon threatens me?  I shall drag you back to my watery home and claim you as my bride...."

Molly grasped the sword and became Magical Warrior Kiwi Boi.  There was, of course, a transformation sequence first -- some things are just magical girl standards.  She was lifted up and spun about.  Her clothing flew away, to be replaced by green shorts, a white blouse, and then silver armor etched with flowery designs -- pauldrons, vambraces, greaves, and breastplate, all decorated along the borders with brown vines with green leaves and kiwi fruit.

The creature reached out with one clawed hand.  Molly landed and swung the sword in the same motion, slicing the taniwha's forearm in two.  The monster screamed and reared back, breathing out a sticky black spray that killed grass and plants.  Molly avoided this and charged in, swinging her sword at the creature's exposed stomach.

The blade sliced deep.  Blood and gore spilled from the wound.  As the creature thrashed about in a death throe, Molly sliced again, piercing the stomach.  Two slime-covered animal guides spilled forth, along with bones, armor and other items.

Molly grinned.  "Now that," she said, "is something I wouldn't want to do in a fancy dress!"

"A fair point," said Octava, scraping goo from his fur.  "But next time, let's not cut things so close, shall we?"


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Magical March 8: Cocoa Blizzard

Magical March 8
Cocoa Blizzard
Mark A Davis

Sita held up her hand, upon which a silver ring sparkled in the sun.  Several diamonds -- pink, white, chocolate -- were arranged to suggest an ice cream sundae.

"What do you think?" Sita asked.  Here on earth, when they weren't acting as magical girl advisers, she and Lakshmi appeared human.  Sita had long, straight black hair and wore a loose white dress tied at the waist and leather sandals.  Lakshmi wore jeans and a white crop top, and had long pink hair.

"It's an ice cream sundae," Lakshmi said.  "And our theme for today is dessert, so I'm guessing this relates to our next magical girl...?"

"For this magical girl," said Sita, "I decided that we ought to craft a transformation item...."

Lakshmi frowned.  "Surely we've given each of them henshin pens or magical staves that shrink down to be worn as necklaces?"

Sita nodded.  "But I like to mix it up.  This item is a ring, specifically crafted to transform the user into a ice cream sundae-themed magical girl.  I know a jeweler who is an excellent magician as well.  She did the work, and I helped."

"It certainly looks enticing," Lakshmi said.  "I'm craving ice cream now."

"I'm glad you like it," said Sita.  "It took a lot of work to create.  Three days of hard work to craft the ring itself, and one entire night of intense spellwork for my friend and I to enchant it.  The materials were not cheap, either.  But the end result is that the magical girl's outfit and powers are all contained in this one simple ring.  With it, she can transform into a dessert-themed magical girl.

"I picked out the name Cocoa Blizzard, and I designed the dress to resemble ice cream and hot fudge chocolate with whipped cream and cocoa sprinkles...."  She paused to open a virtual computer pad and flip to a concept sketch.  "See?  I really like how the design turned out."

"Very nice!" Lakshmi said, looking over her shoulder.  "You know, Sita, I really enjoy working with you.  You've always got your crap together.  It's like I don't have to do any of the work."

"You didn't do any of the work," Sita said.  "Also, angels shouldn't say crap."

"Well, I could have said shi...."

"Nor that word either," Sita said, interrupting.  "Where is Icarus, anyway?"

"He's arranging a meeting with someone who's going to help with our next assignment," said Lakshmi.  "He wouldn't tell me who or what, but the theme will be music.  Apparently he's doing the same thing as you... taking over and doing his own thing, then he'll tell me about it after.  I guess I'm acting as a sort of coordinator or manager here -- the person who doesn't actually do any of the work."

"Your job," said Sita, "will be to locate our magical girl candidate, and hand her the ring."


A young girl named Veronica Serio stood on a street corner, staring down through a steel grate into the sewer below.  She had red hair and freckles, and was wearing jeans shorts and a ruffled yellow top.  With her was a snow white cat and a floating ball of fur with large brown eyes and rabbit's ears.

"I'm sorry," said the girl.  "It just slipped...."

"In retrospect, Lakshmi," said the floating ball of fur, "you might have chosen to not hand over the ring near a sewer grate."

"I don't suppose," the white cat replied, "that you built a magical recall feature into your ring?  Like we have for the henshin pens and staves?"

"I... may have forgot that part," Sita admitted.

"Well I'm not going down there to retrieve it," said Lakshmi.  "Get my beautiful white fur all covered in muck?  No thanks!  I vote that Icarus goes."

"Icarus is not here," Sita said.  "Nor do I have arms in this form.  Nor, as you pointed out several times, have you done much of anything on this particular assignment...."

"Oh," said Lakshmi.  "Right."  She wrinkled her nose.  "Well shit...."


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Magical March 7: Flower Power

Magical March 7
Flower Power
Mark A Davis

Daesdemona studied her artpad critically.  She wasn't as good an artist as Sita or Lakshmi or even Icarus, but the point was simply to get the look of the costume down, and that much she could manage.  Normally she didn't concern herself with such details -- like Octava, she often relied on more generic looks and standard tropes to clothe her magical girls, or even let the girls themselves have a hand in determining their look.  However, for a magical girl on the theme of flowers, she felt a personal touch was required.

Also, it was March 8, International Women's Day.  Well, actually this was the magical girl for March 7th, but they were behind schedule so she was designing everything a day late.  It didn't really matter -- and she knew the history of the holiday, which was really about working women striking, but... a flower-themed magical girl on a day dedicated to women ought to be handled just right.

The dress was sleeveless and delicate, made of overlapping leaf-shaped sections like the petals of a flower.  These folded around the girl's waist and chest and spread out at the hips, creating a flower-like skirt of many overlapping petals.  There were elf-like boots, also designed to look like petals, a silver cloth choker with a blue larkspur flower, and a silver crown with leaves and flowers for the girl's head.

Daesdamona had chosen the Delphinium flower for this particular magical girl -- known as the Larkspur.  The petals of the dress were deep blue with a hint of violet.  She even had a name picked out:  Pretty Flower, Lovely Little Miss Larkspur.  It was a mouthful, but sometimes magical girl names were like that, and she wanted this one to feel special, and feminine, and beautiful.

Anyway, you could call her Little Miss Larkspur for short.

The girl was important, too.  For some magical girls, the transformation was simply to dress them in the outfit.  They gained power, became stronger and tougher, perhaps more beautiful, but beneath the costume they remained essentially the same.  For other magical girls, the transformation was not just a costume change but a complete physical change.  Their alter ego did not look like their normal self.  This girl would be one of the latter.  The illustration showed a willowy girl of about thirteen with tanned skin and long lavender hair.  It was important for Daesdamona that the girl match the flower.  She was young, slender, delicate, and beautiful.

Not, mind you, that all magical girls need be slender, nor that only slender girls were beautiful.  Daesdamona didn't want to send the wrong message here, but this magical girl was meant to mirror a slender flower.  She pursed her lips.  She would have to remember to create at least one magical girl who was on the bigger side... and they should not choose such a girl to transform into much skinnier magical girl, that would be awkward and sending the wrong message.  Also, they wouldn't want to transform a dark-skinned girl into a magical girl with fairer skin, either.  These sorts of transformations came with a unique set of pitfalls, and these days it was easy to trip over such things.  Perhaps she should just give the girl green skin?  No -- she would simply have to ensure that Octava pick their magical girl carefully.

Sita had wanted this one, but Daesdamona had claimed it.  She had bargained with Octava as well -- she was allowed to pick out the name and costume, design the whole look and the artifact that produced it, in fact.  He got to pick the powers and locate the lucky girl.

The girl should be strong as well -- a strong magical girl to encourage other young girls to be strong.  She'd build in extra strength, agility, and toughness.  That wasn't designing powers, at least not technically.  At least, she could argue that with Octava if push came to shove.

Daesdamona nodded in satisfaction.  Octava wasn't going to screw this one up for her.  He might give the girl a flower blast attack -- he would almost certainly do that -- but she'd be strong and pretty -- one of the prettiest magical girls they could produce, in fact.

She held her artpad out.  "Scan," she said.  The pad floated in the air as red light enveloped it.  "Encode costume and physical form for magical girl, age thirteen.  Code Name:  Pretty Flower, Lovely Little Miss Larkspur.  Encode additional strength, speed, agility, endurance, and toughness at full force.  Henshin Device Type:  magical staff.  Full Form Appearance:  silver staff wreathed and crowned with Delphinium flowers.  Disguise Appearance:  silver necklace with blue Delphinium flower pendant.   Staff Activation Phrase:  Flower Girl Action!  Magical Girl Activation Phrase:  Pretty Flower, Lovely Little Miss Larkspur Magical Bloom!"

Magic swirled in the air before her.  First it took the shape of the costume she'd created -- the dress, the boots, the crown, the choker, with a ghostly image of the girl herself within it.  This transformed into the staff -- four feet long and slender, a silver shaft with flowers twined around it, culminating in a larkspur boquet at the top.  Again this spun for a moment, then transformed into a delicate silver necklace with a single larkspur flower pendant.

Daesdamona held out her hand.  The necklace dropped into it.  "This," she said, "is one of my finest creations in a good long while...."  She smiled.  The girl who used this item would be transformed into exactly the magical girl that she had envisioned.


The ground shook.  Fissures sprouted steam.  Hundreds of fire salamanders arose from deep within the earth and swarmed the skies overhead like angry bees.  Hot ash and soot rained down, as Daesdamona, Octava, and their young charge cowered.  The creatures sailed on batlike wings; their skin glowed like flowing lava.  Their eyes were tiny black dots in a sea of red.  They hissed in a chorus like molten rock falling steadily into the sea over the sound of the rumbling earth.

"Give her the cursed necklace already!" Octava -- in white bunny form -- screamed over the deafening din.

Daesdamona, in her black bat form, clutched the necklace.  "No!" she yelled back.  "I refuse!  This necklace is destined for a beautiful girl with a pure heart, not...."  She paused to point at Octava's chosen candidate, a boy named Sean Patterson who might well have been Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn in a bygone era, or even Dennis the Menace.  He had disheveled hair, freckles, a cut over one eye and mud on his jeans.  There was mischief in his eyes, and a sneer in his smile.  Not that Daesdamona would have been much happier with a girlish boy, but there was not one speck of femininity in this one.    "He is not a she!" she exclaimed.

The temperature rose quickly.  Lava bubbled up from the earth.  They were trapped on an island of land that grew smaller by the second.  Octava screamed, "We don't have a choice!  We need a magical girl now!"

Of course, Daesdamona was a demon.  The heat didn't bother her that much, and she could also simply fly away -- although whether she could outrace the winged salamanders was an open question.  Nor could she leave Octava and the boy behind.  Grinding her teeth, she fluttered up and placed the necklace over the boy's head.

"Flower Girl Action!" the boy cried out.  The larkspur charm on the necklace became a silver staff with a floral head.  He grasped it and yelled, "Pretty Flower, Lovely Little Miss Larkspur Magical Bloom!"

He was lifted up and spun about.  His body glowed and shifted, and suddenly he was a she.  The blue floral dress formed around her.  She landed, spun the staff about, pointed it to the air and called out, "Larkspur Floral Blast, Special Combo:  Floral Gatling Gun!"

Violet flowers flowers through the air like a hail of bullets hurled from multiple barrels.  Multiple fire salamanders were pierced by magical floral missiles.  They hissed in anger and pain.  The dropped like flies, writhing on the ground before winking out of existence.

In moments the skies were clear.  The earthquake ceased.  The fissures vanished, and everything was quiet and calm.

Little Miss Larkspur glanced down at herself.  "Gosh," she said, "look at me.  I'm, like, totally a girl, aren't I?"  She poked her chest.  "Pretty flat too.  I'm sort of disappointed...."

Daesdamona simply glared at Octava.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Magical March 6: Pet Circus

Magical March 6
Pet Circus
Mark A Davis

Evil charms oozed up from between cobblestone cracks, inky shadowy creatures in the shape of hearts, diamonds, stars, crescent moons, spades, and three-leaf clovers.  They had angry red eyes and mouths full of sharp teeth, and they screamed and chittered and buzzed like swarming bees.  They swarmed over the ground, climbing anything they met, knocking things over, tearing or breaking anything they could get their hands on.  All the while they laughed like malicious children.

"Smash!  Bash!  Crash!" one exclaimed.

"Cowabunga!" another yelled.

Although they could apparently talk, they didn't seem interested in communicating anything.

A massive black wolf snarled and snapped, biting the creatures in two and flinging them aside before snatching another.  A ghostly white tiger pounced on a handful of the creatures, slashing and tearing with its teeth.

"Ew!  What the Hades are these creepy things?" asked a young magical girl known as Pet Summoner Pretty Chantelle.  "Lucky Charms gone bad?"  She batted one away.  She was a girl of fourteen with skin the color of mocha and cornrow braids ending with turquoise beads.  She wore a blue-green silk dress with leather sandals, leather shin guards and leather bracers, and carried a wooden staff with a large white crystal ball at one end.

Nearby sat a cat that was the spitting image of Grumpy Cat, the famed feline of many memes.  Its name was Azelle.  "You're asking the wrong person," the cat said.

They were in downtown Boston.  The sky was overcast.  Shoppers were screaming and running from the weird little shadow charm creatures.

Chantelle frowned.  "Aren't you my magical girl guide?" she asked.

"Yes," said the cat, "but it's my first day on the job.  I'd tell you that I was excited about it, but given what I look like, I should probably tell you that I hate it and I want you to die.  Not that I do!  Not really.  I mean, it would be in the spirit of a Grumpy Cat meme, which I love, but ... I may have chosen the wrong form for this particular job...."

"You think?"  Chantelle replied.  Well, tell me this... is it safe for Lucky and Mittens to eat them?"

The cat scowled at the girl.  "We give you the ability to summon a massive albino Siberian tiger," it said, "and you named it Mittens?"

"Just answer the question!" the magical girl exclaimed.

"Sorry!  Sorry!  Seemed like a perfect moment to get in character, you know," the cat said.  "My best guess is that these creatures are negative shadow... um, bad emotion... thingys... from a land of negative emotions?  In the shape of charms and playing card suites, I guess?  Or something?  Look," he said, furiously scrolling through pages on his computer pad, "I really got no idea, but it's probably safe for your pets to eat 'em.  Just don't eat too many of them.  I Guess."

"Well you're no help at all," said Chantelle.  "But I feel like I should be doing something.  Is summoning my pets my only job?"

"Aside from the ability to summon three pets, you can empower them and heal them," said the guide.

"Healer/buffer, eh?" she said.  "Well, I've played that role in online games before.  Oh, snap!  Did you say I could summon three pets?  Who's the third one?"

"You may summon a spirit bear," said the cat.  "Didn't I say?"

The girl thrust her staff towards the sky.  "Oh spirits of the skies, heed my call!  Bring forth for me the spirit of a bear to fight beside me!  Pet Summoner Pretty Chantelle Magical Summons!"

Energy shot from the heavens and struck the ground beside Chantelle, and then there was a humongous pink bear awaiting orders.

"It's... pink?" Chantelle said in surprise.  Recovering quickly, she tapped it on the head with her staff.  "My thanks, bear spirit.  I give you the name -- Pinky!  Now go forth and slay these shadow charm creatures!"

The bear bellowed and charged forward into the fray.  Chantelle chanted another spell that strengthened and toughened her pets, then she sat back to watch.

"What happened to the others?" she asked.  "The bunny and the bat?  They seemed to know what was what."

"Octava and Daesdamona are already working on the next magical girl," said Azelle.  "We're behind schedule, so they don't have a lot of time to train new magical girls.  Unfortunately, that means they don't have time to train new magical girl guides either, and I was only just promoted."

"Is that so?" she asked.  "Promoted from what?"

"Do you know how in the cartoons," the cat said, "Elmer Fudd for example has a good Elmer on his left shoulder and a bad Elmer on his right, and they try to tell him what to do?  That was me -- the good angel, I mean.  Not literally that angel -- I mean I didn't look like Elmer Fudd, he's not even a real person you know...."

"Yes, I get the picture," said Chantelle.

"But I was a shoulder angel, for about seven hundred years," said Azelle.  "And you know what?  They always listen to the demon.  That was how people died -- I'd tell them to go back to the dorms and study for the test tomorrow, but the devil would say, we know the material well enough already, it's not gonna hurt to stay at this party and get drunk.  Next thing you know they're dead in a ditch and I'm off on a new assignment.

"There was only one time when they died because of my advice.  It was this Irish monk named Brother Alby.  Vikings were pillaging his abbey and the shoulder devil told him to get the heck out of there -- only he didn't say heck if you know what I mean, he said H - E - Double Toothpicks -- and I said you can't leave your friend Brother John to die at a viking's hand, you have to go back and save him!  That was the altruistic thing to do too, but as it turned out not a very good choice if you wanted to keep your head on your shoulders.  Which Brother Alby failed to do."

Chantelle watched as one of the strange shadow charm creatures leaped onto the back of a fleeing man.  It disappeared -- almost as if it had melted into him.  The man immediately fell to his knees.

"Sir!" she exclaimed, running up to him.  "There's a magical invasion going on.  Please get out of the area!"

"What's the use?" the man said.  "I can never escape.  They're just going to kill me anyway...."

Chantelle stared at the man.  She raised an eyebrow.  "I haven't seen them kill anyone," she said.  "However...."

Her pets continued to tear the tiny creatures apart, but more continued to form, crawling up from the depths of the earth.  She returned to the cat who was still talking.

"For five hundred years I worked with the same demon too," he said.  "His name was Chloe, which sounds like a girl's name if you ask me.  I mean maybe he was a girl, we didn't talk much and we'd always look like whoever we were the shoulder angel and demon for, so sometimes that was a woman and so we'd both look like her.  I never liked that -- I mean technically shoulder angels and demons don't breed so there's no point in having two genders but anyway I'm a guy, I don't like looking like a girl.  Say, I wonder if magical girl guides get to breed?  Now there's a thing."

"Are you quite finished?" Chantelle asked.  "Because I think I know what these things...."

"Oh, hey!" the cat exclaimed.  "I found them!  They're called Negative Nanicharms, and they really do come from a realm of negative emotions!   I'd pat myself on the back for getting that one right, but it was an easy guess, magical girls are all about fighting creatures on an emotional level...."

"Let me guess," said Pet Summoner Pretty Chantelle.  "They fuse with normal people and transform their emotions into negative ones."

"Exactly!" the cat said.  "Sort of like having a massive downer, I guess."

"Then the way to get rid of them," said Chantelle, "is with positive emotions.  What we need is a carnival!"

Five minutes later, when Magical Solider Savitha, Sailor Sunburst and Serene Moon Sally arrived, they found a giant pink bear balancing on a ball, a ghostly white tiger leaping through hoops, and a black wolf balancing a magical girl on its nose.  Balloons rose into the air  Fireworks lit up the night sky.  People clapped and cheered.

There were no shadow creatures to be seen.  A familiar cat sat on the sidewalk nearby, scowling.

"We heard you needed help?" Savitha said.

"I had fun once," the cat said.  "It was awful."  It paused, then added, "but that's what drives those creatures away so... grab a balloon and join in the fun?"


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Magical March 5: Star Crossed

Magical March 5
Star Crossed
Mark A Davis

The creature emitted an inhuman scream.  A putrid stench filled the air, accompanied by a sickening, squelching, sucking sound as the multi-tentacled horror inched forward.  Multiple wild eyes glared out from the lumpy mass that was the creature's face, while rows of slathering fangs jutted from a ragged red maw.

"The name Polaris," said Sita, "comes from the phrase stella polaris, or polar star.  Since Medieval times it has been the star closest to the celestial pole that can be seen with the naked eye.  It was also known as scip-steorra in Old English, meaning ship-star.  It is associated with such names as Stella Maris, i.e. Star of the Sea; with lodestar, i.e. a journey-star or a star used to navigate on a journey; and with the word Cynosure, meaning a person or thing that is the center of attention.  Cynosura was an old name for the entire constellation of Ursa Minor -- from the Greek word meaning the dog's tail."

"That's... nice, I guess," said Abigail as she and the three animal guides scrambled backwards.  "It's a cool costume, really, but... I need to know what I can do...."

Sita, Icarus, and Lakshmi --  three angelic magical girl advisers from a realm known as Nibiru -- were in Poughkeespie NY.  Here they'd met their latest magical girl recruit, a young girl of fifteen named Abigail Van Hoffen.  She had brown hair, brown eyes, and average looks, but when transformed was a very pretty girl in a white blouse and jumper dress of deep blue with a stardust pattern.  There were matching gloves, white socks, blue Mary Janes with a similar stardust pattern, and ribbons about her waist, neck, and hair, each with a silver star in the center of the bow.  There was also a staff with a silver star at one end.

She had yet to learn how to use it.  In fact, all she'd learned so far was how to transform.

Here guides were a winged tabby cat (Icarus), a pure white cat (Lakshmi), and a thing that was largely a floating ball of fur with rabbit ears and large eyes (Sita).

"Our theme is stars," said Sita.  "I only provide the background information as an explanation of where your name comes from and what your powers are based on.  You are the magical girl Polaris Polly.  You use the magic of the stars to erect defensive shields to protect your friends...."

"Force bubbles," said Ikarus.

"That sounds good," said Abigail.  "How do I...."

"Defensive shields to protect your friends," Sita repeated more forcefully, "not simply 'force bubbles'.  Also, you have a variety of attack powers, none of which are stellar blasts!  I just want to be clear on that last point."

The creature continued to slither and slide forward as they retreated down the street.  "Any kind of blast sounds like a good idea at the moment," said Abigail.  "Also it's Abigail, not Polly."

"Alliteration is often key to a good magical girl name," said Sita patiently.

"Speaking of which," said Icarus, "can we revisit that name? I know we went over this before but I still feel that Stella Maris would be a fantastic name for a magical girl.  Much better than Polaris Polly...."

"No, we can not revisit the name," said Sita.  "You were outvoted and overruled."

"But I agree with Ikarus," Lakshmi said.  "Additionally, Stella Maris is associated with the virgin Mary -- Our Lady of the Sea.  That's one of her names; she's considered a guiding light and protector of seafarers in particular."

"None of which has anything to do with Polly," said Sita.

"Abigail," said Abigail.  She batted a tentacle away with the staff.

"We are not creating a Catholic magical girl here," Sita added.

"If Lakshmi and I are in agreement," asked Icarus, "how do you outvote and overrule us?"

"Lakshmi was on my side before she was against me," Sita complained.  "Anyway, I was a senior angel on the Angelic Council...."

"Which means nothing in Nibiru," said Icarus.  "Lakshmi and I have more seniority than you."

Sita sighed.  "Fine," she said.  "Fine.  Have it your way."  She turned to the new magical girl.  "My apologies, but your magical girl name is not Polaris Polly, it is apparently Stella Maris, despite an appalling lack of alliteration.  It has nothing to do with Holy Mary -- in point of fact, that name got assigned to her purely thanks to some stupid monk's clerical error...."

They were cornered in an alleyway now.  The tentacled monstrosity advanced slowly.

"Polaris," said Lakshmi, "is in the constellation of Ursa Minor.  Because of that, it was decided that one of your powers was to transform into a small bear...."

"Good," said Abigail.  "How do I...."

"No we did not decide that," Sita interjected.  "Just because Icarus wants to create a half-animal half-girl hybrid is no reason to mess up our magical girl here.  Pet is Wednesday's theme, and we gave that to Octava...."

"Which I complained about at the time," said Icarus.

"Our compromise," said Sita, "is that you can summon a small bear pet to aid you in battle.  Also it's not a stellar blast of any sort...."

"That sounds great," said Abigail.  "How do I do that, exactly?"

"Yes," said the tentacled creature, spewing spittle and mucus.  "How does she do that?  Can you hurry up and explain it to her?  I don't want to attack before she's ready, but I can only inch forward so slowly.  I've got a haunting in Dunwich later tonight, so I'm on a tight schedule.  Can we get this show on the road?"