Frog #24 (Part 2): It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Thieves

Well, I swore I’d never do it again, but here we are in another Part 2 situation on Frog by Frog. The last time I needed two parts to get my point across, Hinawa had just died, and Flint was a broken man. This time around, I needed two parts because I hadn’t bonded with all my Tazmilians in such a long time! It was like a big high school reunion!

Because I knew I’d have so much to say to the townsfolk, I also wanted to make sure I’d have enough space to talk about Wess, Duster’s father. Wess joins your party in the same way Thomas, Fuel, and Alec did: you can’t select his actions, but he’ll still fight alongside you. So, let’s give a warm welcome to Wess, our soon-to-be newest party member!

Wess up, Wess?

Yeah, Wess is a complicated man. But we’ll get to that. It ain’t easy bein’ thieves.

I don’t have much else to say to preface this post, seeing as we’re continuing from last time. Now that I’m nearly to the last phase of Chapter 2, a few things strike me. One, Chapter 2 doesn’t necessarily feel short as you’re playing it (and it certainly hasn’t felt short as I’ve been writing about it), but it still is a pretty short chapter. Like I said, I usually go through the entire first Osohe trek in one go, without saving at all, and all that’s left to do is go back into the castle, fight a couple bosses, and finish up. I mean, I know it’s going to take longer than I thought, but still. It feels like the fun is almost over!

Oh, and two–Chapter 2 has surprised me with its subtle character development! If you haven’t read Part 1 of Frog #24, then that’s definitely the place to start to read my full thoughts on this, but… I really underestimated the characterization of the townsfolk! The subtle changes, the hints at future plot points, the various portrayals of different emotional states… I knew that Mother 3 had great NPCs, and I knew that Itoi wanted to focus on a single place, and its people, changing over time, but Mother 3’s character writing is even better than it was in my memory! And I’m not saying it’s super complex or anything, but it’s simple and effective with a unique Mother twist, and that’s all it needs to be!

The way I think about it is like this: when you’re playing EarthBound, you never know what one of the hundreds of NPCs is going to say, so the entire world is a joy to interact with; sometimes an NPC hits you with some truly off-the-wall shit, and it’s amazing. In Mother 3, you spend a lot of your time interacting with the same, like, twenty to thirty NPCs, but the advantages are that you know the NPCs as people, and they can still surprise you. For example, as we’ll see today, Isaac returns to town, and for some reason, no one will interact with him. It makes him feel lonely!

And who knows, maybe Isaac is over-exaggerating, but I just thought that was a fun little detail: Isaac feels lonely in town square. The Mother 3 Handbook, available on Fangamer, cites this as Isaac becoming aware of his status and having feelings of inferiority. Now, how exactly would Isaac become aware of his status? He hasn’t been talking to a certain new kid in town, has he?

Well, what do you say we quit shuffling our feet and get back to the action? Last I heard, Duster was headed for Wess’s house…

A Master, a Father, a Thief

“Abusive.” “Annoying but wise.” “Bad at parenting, good at dancing.” “One of the worst dads in videogames.” “Huge prick and abusive.” “sucks.” “bad father i hate you old man.” “He is an abusive father… Quite grumpy, gets mad at [Duster] for everything, calling him names like “moron” all the time, he’s not proud of Duster no matter what.” “I still feel like he might have some love for Duster but refuses to show it, he is cold in a sense.” “stinky.” “Undeserving of Duster.” “Love the old man.”

These were some of the responses to a recent question I asked on Twitter: “What is everyone’s take on Wess?” As you can see, everyone’s take on Wess is that he’s… not great, and that’s me being nice about it. In this sample of fan response, people are honest about what Wess is–abusive. Mean. Short-tempered. Likely unfit to be a parent. When we look at Wess’s actions, this is certainly the case: Wess is an asshole, even when he means well and acts on behalf of the town. He helps out begrudgingly, calling Duster a “moron” at every step of the way.

But is there any redemption for the old man? Should he have a shot at redemption? Is there any chance for heroism, for goodness, in this crotchety thief who is as cold as he is deft? Well, I’ve spent all of this time writing about the Heart of a Thief, the Mind of a Thief, and, at times, even the Soul of a Thief, but now it’s time to talk about the Father of a Thief, the Man of the Hour, the old coot who tosses thunder bombs and passes down secrets.

Let’s talk about Wess.

After Duster talked to every Tazmilian in sight, he decided it was probably time to head home and speak with his father. Some reports say Duster so lovingly took his time walking home because he hadn’t enjoyed a morning in years–he had forgotten how nice the sun can feel, how fresh a morning breeze can be, how it’s not so bad to have dew soaking your shoes. Other reports say Duster took his time simply avoiding Wess. Whether he’d done a good job or a bad job up in Osohe, the thief worried, or rather, the thief knew, he’d be reprimanded all the same.

Whether Duster was enjoying himself or delaying the inevitable, he climbed the short hill to the Thieves’ Den, walked in, and presented the Noble Spittoon to his father, the Master Thief. The Spittoon, as we know, was shiny; the spittoon was, in a way, heavily guarded by Mr. Passion, though I think his positioning was a coincidence (we won’t tell Wess that); the Spittoon, lastly, was in The Room Too Mysterious, which practically confirms Duster found the correct item. We were all there in the castle with Duster. We saw things go down. What else could it have been? Surely the Noble Spittoon was the something shiny!

Wess, at first, seems to take to the object. “This texture… This delicate, profound, and shiny… quality!” the old thief says, maybe admiring Duster’s work. The reoccurrence of “Passing Down Secrets” this time adds an element of excitement in addition to intrigue–why was this item so important? Is a larger plot about to be revealed? What kinds of secret knowledge await us within this salty old spittoon?

(Also, seriously, “Passing Down Secrets is now officially my favorite song of Chapter 2–hands down. I could listen to it over and over and over and over and over…)

We learn from Wess that this is indeed the Noble Spittoon, a royal item passed down from generation to generation in Osohe. Maybe that’s why Mr. Passion’s room preceded the mysterious chamber for the spittoon; had the mad conductor once been a royal conductor for the king? Did the ghost, somewhere in its haunted memory, remember the importance of such an Osohe staple? Don’t get me wrong, I think Mr. Passion conducted for his own whims, but maybe smoething deep inside the spirit’s mind knew that he should be conducting in that room, defending the Noble Spittoon from outsiders should they come a-plundering.

Well, right when you might think that Duster indeed found the right item, and that maybe the icy Wess will melt with approval, congratulating his son and pupil on a successful mission…

None of that happens. Wess starts to yell, telling Duster that he’s even stupider than he thought. “You moron! You moron! You MORON!” screams Wess, throwing the Noble Spittoon on the ground and smashing it into pieces. “Bring back any other big jackpot items?!”

Yikes, Wess! We all knew you were a little ill-tempered, but I didn’t know you were this angry. As we’ll learn later, Wess is at least partially upset because because the thieves are in a race against time, but I don’t think he had to go and break the Noble Spittoon. And also, while I’m not apologizing on behalf of Wess’s behavior, I do think it’s interesting to speculate on where his anger comes from. The stakes are high right now, but Duster doesn’t know that yet.

Luckily for Duster, he did technically bring back a big jackpot item: a pendant that was dropped by the mysterious person running through Osohe. Wess takes a closer look and posits that it might belong to the Princess of Osohe, who was also referenced by Nippolyte as being incredibly formidable. How do these old guys know so much about a princess that no one else has ever seen? What are they not letting on?

Wess decides that they need to go back to Osohe as soon as possible. Yes: they. Wess will be coming with you this time, as a party member similar to Fuel, Thomas, and Alec. You can’t control him in battle, but he can fight, and he is by far the most useful auto-pilot combat party member that you’ll have in your Mother 3 journeys.

Okay, now that I’ve talked through the broad strokes of the scene–Wess’s anger, the destruction of the spittoon, the reveal of the pendant, and Wess joining the party–it’s time to go back over everything and discuss it in more detail. If you thought I was going to let my opportunity to discuss Wess for the first time, really discuss him, slip by so easily, then you must not be familiar with this blog! This is Frog by Frog, baby!

Let’s start with some small stuff, then we’ll get to Wess himself, and his… unique relationship with Duster.

To start, I love how “Passing Down Secrets” is played once again in this scene. Before, this song filled me with anticipation for what was to come–its tick-tocking percussion and arpeggio made me think of conspiracies within conspiracies, plans unfolding before me, and an exciting uncertainty just around the corner. This time around, the same tools make me feel like time is running out, though I’m not sure why. Instead of cautious anticipation, I’m experiencing more of an anxiety, like Duster has messed up some important task, and now it’s Thieves vs. the Clock, and time is running out.

I also enjoy how, even though Wess is an asshole, there’s still a charm to him in certain moments. For example, the line, “This texture… this delicate, profound, and shiny… quality!” humanizes Wess a little bit. For as serious as he can be, he doesn’t always know what to say, and maybe, in some ways, he’s playing things by ear just as much as Duster is. I’d argue that Wess might not even know what to actually look for in Osohe, but that doesn’t end up being the case, so I have to let him off the hook there.

Though, that doesn’t excuse the way Wess treats Duster. How do I even begin to talk about this relationship? We see hints of it throughout Chapter 1–while Wess was the one who suggested Boney retrieve Duster, Wess also seems the least enthused when Duster’s task is over and done. While Duster and Wess talk during the beginning of Chapter 2, Wess calls Duster a pupil before he calls him a son, and even suggests that, to succeed in his task, Duster might consider channeling any latent anger he holds toward Wess. There is also the implication that Wess caused Duster’s leg injury, giving him the permanent limp that he has for the entire game.

With all of this background, we also see Wess routinely berate Duster, opting for “moron” (though not stopping there) as an insult, and consistently finding ways to belittle Duster and his abilities. I mean, look, I’m going to offer my typical preface: I’m not trying to force an interpretation on Duster and Wess’s relationship and tell you something deeply emotional, like that I think Mother 3 is absolutely portraying an emotionally abusive dynamic between a father and a son. And what I mean by that is, for better or for worse, I do think we are encouraged to find some kind of absurd humor in Wess’s demeanor. He is so over-the-top that he himself is a bit of a joke. And what I mean by that is, I don’t necessarily think it’s Itoi’s intent for anyone to hate Wess, or to see him solely as an emotional abuser.


I also think it is perfectly normal and fine to see Wess as a vindictive asshole. Wess is emotionally and verbally abusive to Duster, and that doesn’t change just because we’re looking at a colorful, cartoonish game. Let’s not forget that the Mother series has never explored a father and son dynamic in quite the same way as it does with Wess and Duster. Typically, a father in the Mother series isn’t present in a meaningful way. Ness’s and Ninten’s fathers are telephones–they are never seen in the actual game, nor do they play an active role in the protagonists’ lives outside of sending them money. Jeff, a party member in EarthBound, is usually outright ignored by his father, Dr. Andonuts, and appears to walk on eggshells when his father is around. Jeff also does not live with his father, but attends a boarding school.

Both of these situations, by the way, are true to life for Itoi himself, whose father was largely absent from his life. As I’ve discussed on this blog before, it was Itoi’s emotional reaction to the John Lennon song “Mother” that inspired him to make the Mother series (among other influences). Itoi seems to have experienced issues on the other side as well, claiming that the Mother series was a letter to his daughter, who he could not see for a long period of time due to divorce issues (I assume here he is mostly referring to Mother 2). In this way, the “Father Phone” of the Mother games is both Itoi’s father and Itoi as a father; he knows the difficulty from both ends of the line. However, I think it’s also worth noting that, at least when sitting down to discuss the concept with Satoru Iwata, someone Itoi greatly admired, Itoi’s interpretation of the fathers in Mother is a bit more optimistic. When someone suggests the father is absent “Because [the father’s] always watching the main character on his adventure from afar,” Itoi laughs and says, “That’s exactly it.”

All of this is further complicated with Itoi’s thoughts on parenthood in general. Don’t forget that another influence for the Mother series are the Pippi Longstocking stories, in which Pippi is free to do whatever she pleases without any adult supervision–she is encouraged to be like this from her parents. So, while fathers may be absent, perhaps Itoi has come to believe that that’s because they are always watching… but could that just be the mature revision of a murky part of his own life? Because to bring everything full circle, then, it’s all the more ironic that Itoi’s daughter, who the games were made with in mind, has never even played them.

Okay, but what am I getting at with all of this? Well, no father has ever been as actively awful as Wess. You could argue that Dr. Andonuts’ ignorance of Jeff is heartbreaking in its own right, and I agree, but Wess goes out of his way to make Duster feel like shit. That said, there’s a part of me that thinks Wess is supposed to be a joke in his right. He’s so over-the-top, so ridiculously intense, so relentlessly awful, that it’s almost absurdly funny. And Wess does have both comedic, and heroic, moments in the story… similarly to Dr. Andonuts, who isn’t exactly getting off scot-free with the father of the year award. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people hate Andonuts just as much as Wess; they are opposite sides of the same spectrum of emotional neglect.

Maybe in Itoi’s mind, Wess is proof that presence does not automatically make a good father. Ninten and Ness’s fathers may be absent, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. They send their sons money, encourage them over the phone, and suggest that they don’t work too hard. We even see Ninten’s father from the back at the end of Mother, desperately trying to get a hold of his son over the phone. Wess lives with Duster and torments him constantly; Ness and Ninten’s fathers are more of a parody of the dad who is always away at work, even making such a trope charming at times. We’re never given a reason to think that Ness’s and Ninten’s parents are divorced or anything either–just that Dad is always at work, night and day, day and night.

This leads me to believe that the fathers of Mother and Mother 2 were a way for Itoi to positively spin and express his own experiences as a son and as a father himself; yes, there was distance, and it was challenging, but, drawing on the parental absence of Pippi Longstocking, and harnessing the raw expression of John Lennon’s “Mother,” Itoi wrote mostly well-meaning fathers in the best way he knew how. In Mother 3, I think Itoi’s writing chops simply got better, and we meet so many different dads who all contain different lessons. Perhaps the main lesson so far can be summed up, if you recall, from none other than the lumber-wielding Lighter, who implored Flint to not abandon his fatherly duties in pursuit of vengeance. In short: put your children first.

Because aside from Lighter, Alec, and Thomas, who are all minor characters and pretty decent Dads, the main dads we meet, Flint and Wess, are definitely flawed. As Mother 3’s narrative continues, so does Flint’s obsession with finding Claus, which leaves Lucas all but abandoned by his father. Similarly, Wess makes it abundantly clear at times that there’s no love lost between him and Duster, and that their relationship is strictly as thieves. We’ll see how the plot ultimately treats these characters, but I also have to call it like I see it.

Talk about a digression! What the heck am I getting at with all of this? I guess I’m saying that Itoi has a lot to say about parenthood. I guess I’m also saying, or now I’m saying, that I definitely think it’s always an analytical trap to put too much weight on authorial intent, so please don’t think I’m trying to put words in Itoi’s mouth or ideas in his head. From what I can tell in interviews, he’s a writer and a thinker who does what’s best for his games and for his characters–I highly doubt he sits down and says, “Well, I’m going to express this theme through Lighter, and this theme through Wess…” In fact, I’d bet you a million dollars that Itoi would rather die than be forced to write in such a segmented way.

But none of us is safe from our own psyches, and I’m not surprised Mother 3 contains some of Itoi’s best-written characters, and I’m also not surprised that a few of them are fathers. To bring this back around to Wess, the person I thought I was writing about before going off the rails, I think Itoi almost always leads with humor, which is why I think we are at least encouraged to laugh at Wess sometimes.

I’m not trying to say that if you hate Wess that you should like him. I’m also not trying to say that if you find Wess to be disturbing, you should take away his power by seeing him as a joke. What I am trying to do is navigate how Itoi wrote this character, and what he’s possibly trying to say through him. With Itoi, I tend to think a simple answer is an accurate answer, and so with Wess, I think you are supposed to dislike him, but I also think you’re supposed to try to see where his personality allows for humor. Wess is almost a caricature of the disappointed father–someone for whom nothing is ever enough.

However, I think Mother 3 rarely gives us an entirely flat character, and that’s why Wess joins Duster on his second trip to Osohe–he still wants to see the good deed accomplished, he still wants to do good, just like Dr. Andonuts. Wess is an incredibly valuable asset, both as a wealth of knowledge and latent talent, and as a moment-to-moment advisor. Love him, hate him, or don’t care about him, he is the Master Thief, and he’ll help out Duster in a pinch.

He’s also a crazy old man.

But I guess that’s why I’m fascinated by Wess. If he simply berated Duster and stayed home, I’d be much more prepared to say he’s a worthless jerk and end it at that. But by letting Wess accompany you, Itoi gives the player a chance to make up their mind for themselves. What kind of man, what kind of father, is Wess going to be on this next thief adventure? What will it reveal about him? What will it reveal about Duster? Since Flint’s moment of crisis at the end of Chapter 1, we haven’t even seen him. Lucas is home alone, wishing he’d accompanied Claus, and Flint is nowhere to be found. What are all of these things telling us about fatherhood?

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about Wess as time goes on. Once we see him combat, for instance, I’ll have more to expound on, but, for now, I’m willing to see what he’s made of. Interestingly, Wess is the most useful of the non-controllable party members, but we’ll get to that in time.

And who knows: maybe Wess just wants to hang around long enough to meet the Princess of Osohe. I wouldn’t put it past the old bastard.

“Wess Up?”

You know him as a Master… You know him as a father… But, most importantly, you know him as a thief… Now, see him walk around Tazmily in broad daylight for the first time in years. See him spout ancient knowledge from the sidelines with a chiding chagrin. From the frogs who brought you A Million Tazmilians, now comes a new show that is sure to be a winter classic:

Wess Up?”

I don’t have anymore material for that bit at this time. I was imagining a Mother 3 sitcom called “Wess Up?” that would center on the all of the lesser known Tazmilian citizens, taking place while the main characters are off doing main character things. It would also have a theme song similar to Sanford and Son. And I mean, I’m not saying Wess isn’t a main character, but I still like imagining his interactions with people like Nana or Bob, hanging around the Yado Inn for recent gossip (but really, for laughs and human connection at the end of the day, the salty) like a bizarre iteration of Cheers.

Am I starting to reference Cheers too much?

Roughly 12 hours ago in game-time, and roughly two months ago in real-time, one thief set out from a lone cottage, limping into the night and looking for something shiny. At present, in the failures of the first mission, two thieves now set out from the lone cottage in the middle of the day. The sun is bright above, the grass is springy beneath their feet. One thief walks with a limp, while the other shuffles behind him.

I know we just spent a few paragraphs talking about what makes Wess suck, but I do enjoy the Duster + Wess team up at this point in Chapter 2. From what we know about these two guys, they don’t come outside during the day very often, so that fact alone–that we see both of these guys together while the sun is shining–should alert us that things are getting pretty serious.

Actually, I love the song “A Master, a Father, a Thief,” which plays during this section of the game. This is one of those songs in the Mother 3 soundtrack that somehow accomplishes like fifty different things at once, showing the strength of motif that runs through the set of around 250 songs.

In the same way that “The Theme of Love” can be heard throughout different tunes in Mother 3, usually relating to Hinawa or Tazmily (we’ll talk more about this in Chapter 4), you’ll probably start to notice another motif working its way through different songs. I don’t know the first time in the game that the song is actually encountered, so for now, I’ll just say this: The Pigmask Army is all over this track. If you’re playing Mother 3 for the first time and have no other exposure to its music (say, from the Smash Bros games), then “A Master, a Father, a Thief” might remind you of the far-off, staticky tune you can hear from the Pigmask UFOs…

But that’s not the only thing I love about this song! Similarly to “Passing Down Secrets,” this song has a tick-tocking quality to its percussion section, alerting the player that time is of the essence! Last night we were sneaking into Osohe, but today we’re running straight for the front door! Don’t slow down–run!

I think this song alone is the entire reason why I have barely ever taken my time during the latter half of Chapter 2; everything pushes you forward, makes you feel like there are places to go and things to do! Mother 3 is so good at “controlling” the player through its music–so good at signifying emotion, at suggesting ideas, at “saying things” to the player. And look, you could argue that the two most over-used phrases in video game writing are “This game really made me feel like X” (the most notable being the now mocking: “This game really makes you feel like Batman”); and “This game has a lot to say to the player.” So I’m not using this expression lightly when I say, “Mother 3’s soundtrack has a lot to say to the player, directly and indirectly.”

A Pigmask Army motif appears in this song not just because the Pigmasks’ influence is starting to infect the town, but because the Pigmasks themselves are literally en route to Osohe Castle right now, and because ??? and his little monkey have already begun their schemes here as well. The Pigmasks’ grip is beginning to tighten all around us, and our first real hints of it, in Chapter 2 at least, come through this fun, frantic song. It’s no wonder that Itoi wanted whoever worked on the soundtrack to be able to dedicate as much time to it as possible. It also makes sense that, at the beginning of Chapter 2, a Pigmask Airship could be seen flying ominously overhead, and near the end of the chapter, they are beginning to strike.

Anyway, as always, I’m not trying to over-analyze, here. I just think “A Master, a Father, a Thief” is a great track that is both fun to listen to, and does some legitimate storytelling just as a song–without any words at all. My dream Mother interview would be with the composer for the Mother 3 soundtrack. I’d love to read his ideas for and approaches to making such an enormous soundtrack feel so cohesive. I do know that the Pigmask Army Theme, or “His Highness’s Theme,” was originally going to be the main theme of Mother 3, before “Theme of Love” was composed long into the game’s development at Itoi’s request. Itoi wanted something simple, a song that could be played on a piano with one hand, or easily learned by children.

All right, all right, back to business!

Now, I almost called this section “A Million Tazmilians V,” because a bunch of the townsfolk we just talked to will say something new when you approach them with Wess. For example, Nan will say, “Oh, Wess! You’re so silly! I’m not that pretty at all!” Which on its own is kind of funny, imagining Wess as a flirty old man, but in another way it’s kind of messed up if Wess goes around wooing everyone while being a total asshole to his son. That said, I feel like this is one of those moments where we get to “roleplay” how this interaction plays out. Is Wess surprisingly smooth, actually catching Nan off-guard with a slick compliment? Or is Wess more of a Master Roshi, a pervy old man who this uncomfortable young woman is humoring for just a moment? If you dislike Wess, here Itoi has given you a chance to decide how he conducts himself, since we don’t actually get to see him speak.

I know it sounds weird on paper, but I do really think that’s why Itoi isn’t showing the dialogue here, nor does he show the dialogue of Wess throughout various interactions with townsfolk. And why wouldn’t he? He showed Thomas’s dialogue with people, and Alec chimed in a lot. I think this all goes back to when we were discussing things like Flint and Claus’s interaction in the jail cell. On one hand, you can interpret Flint as literally silent in that scene, not saying anything to Claus in a shared moment of deep loss. On the other hand, you can fill in the blanks of that scene–did Flint say anything to Claus? What were their parting words? As our lead protagonist, Flint doesn’t “speak,” but he also technically does.

Anyway, all I’m saying is, Itoi gives the player chances to roleplay that are more naturally occuring than, say, exploring a branching dialogue tree in a Fallout game. If you want Wess to be a lowkey Master Roshi, a laughing stock among the Tazmilians who humor him for but a moment until he leaves them alone, you totally can. If you prefer to visualize Wess as a real smooth criminal, a silver fox who can make younger woman blush, you can do that, too. I personally see it as something in the middle. I bet Wess complimented Nan, in a way, to belittle his own son. Duster is obviously a bit shy around women. As the two thieves walked away, I could see Wess saying something like, “What, cat got your tongue? You’re such an embarrassment around the ladies, you moron.” While the truth of the matter was that Nan probably just politely laughed to get the whole thing over with.

Okay, someone really needs to stop me from extraploating this far into imagined scenarios in Mother 3! You know, I thought Osohe was making me crazy for a little while there, but the effects have been more permanent than I thought. I think I’m going a kooky in this froggy frog world…

Anyway, most people in town just tend to acknowledge that Wess is standing there, so the new dialogue isn’t always exactly riveting, which is why I decided not to make this an “A Million Tazmilians” section, but every now and again you get someone like Matt, who talks about Scamp. I can’t remember if we have encountered this line of dialogue already, but it felt familiar to me. Matt says that Scamp’s nickname has been such ever since he was a kid, probably because he was a little troublemaker.

I like this detail (at least I appreciate it more than Thomas simply saying, “Oh, and old man Wess”) because I’m never sure what we’re to make of Scamp. Maybe it’s something as simple as the grandfather in East of Eden: he dies of illness while the family is on the road. Before true change can occur for the Joads, the old generation has to pass on. Maybe the same is true for Scamp and Tazmily.

Speaking of change for Tazmily, are we sure this money stuff is all that great of an idea? Wess and Duster stopped through the bazaar, the Fun Bazaar, and were able to pick up another Thunder Bomb, for free, before going on this next adventure. If we let Butch and co. get too into their money, we’re gonna ruin a good thing that Tazmily has going on here! I mean, why else do you think “Fun Bazaar” uses a melody from “Back in the USSR?” Why else do you think the town artist, Reggie, can take it eeeeeeasy whenever he wants? Why do you think everything is free in the Bazaar in the first place?

Well, nowadays on the internet, you can’t say “Communism” without a bunch of MBA dropouts swarming you and quoting Ben Shapiro faster than the man himself, but the proof is in the free pudding, folks: Tazmilians are a bunch of communists. At least sometimes. And I’m not saying Tazmily is a perfect place to live, nor that its civilians are perfect people, but if you haven’t put two and two together by now, then I will for you.

??? is about to mess everything up with his stupid money!

Now, the question becomes: how far does Mother 3 take its allegorical sensibilities? As in, is this game just going to become Animal Farm, but with humans? Human Farm? Well, for now, I’ll say this: I agree with many players that Mother 3 has a lot to say about communism and capitalism, and the history of Mother 3 itself is ironically tied to profit and marketing and the value of something being decided only by how much money it may or may not make… but sometimes I think the importance of these concepts in the story is a bit overplayed by fans. This isn’t really a topic I actually plan on getting deep into until Chapter 8, so we can continue this conversation in the summer of 2021, but I will say that I think the reason that Mother 3 explores these ideas becomes about 1,000 times more interesting when you start to learn more about the main antagonist. Not that I don’t appreciate a good old Capitalism Gone Wrong story, but I think, in the same exact way that EarthBound wasn’t just a “Four Chosen Ones Save the World” tale, Mother 3 isn’t just a “Loss of Innocence/Wouldn’t It Be Awful if Something Happened to that Utopia” tale.

Anyway, I’m getting off track here, but if you have started to notice the shifts in tension in Tazmily, you haven’t been wrong. Change is coming like a train, and we aren’t going to be able to stop it. So we may as well take a load off at the Yado Inn, where this time around Jackie actually does have something to say in the form of a sneak diss at Duster.

You better watch it, Jackie! Just because you’re always moping behind the bar doesn’t mean Duster can’t jump up there and kick you into next week! Though if he did that, who would serve Bob his bourbon?

Bob seems to have cooled down a bit today after last night’s raucousness, but he’s once again fixated on old Leder. He asks Duster and Wess if they’ve ever seen Leder talk, and if you say Yes, Bob says, “What?! He can talk?” and if you say No, Bob concedes that he’s never seen Leder talk, either.

You know, like I’ve said a few times, something about Bob is speaking to me on this playthrough. For all intents and purposes, he’s just a random NPC, but I can’t help but be interested in him. I think it’s telling that Bob seems to drink and wonder about Leder. I thnk it’s telling that Bob seems fascinated by stories and local myths. Even if Bob is dimwitted, I think many Tazmilians know, or at least have a latent sense, that Tazmily is more than meets the eye. They might not know exactly what it is they’re trying to say, but they can tell that something is almost expressible…

Who better to explore a thought like this than Nana, who for the first time in the game hangs out in townsquare instead of the western beach. You can find Nana hanging out outside Caroline and Angie’s house, and when you talk to her, she’ll say, “I’m not sure why, but none of the family members in this village really look alike.” Now, what would have Nana thinking about this? And what is she getting at with this thought? (And on a side note, I always thought that Duster and Wess looked pretty similar, but maybe that’s just me…)

Are the cracks of the Tazmilian Paradise beginning to show? Is all of this just a stage play put on by monkeys? Or, is Nana just being her strange self again? Well, like my conversation above, this isn’t something we’re actually going to talk about at length until later in the game (Summer 2021, baby!), but I love seeing these threads and questions existing as early as Chapter 2. What’s about to happen to this place?

You’ve also got to wonder if, in EarthBound 64, because of family’s connection with the sea, maybe Nana knew more about the outside world in that version of the game, making her a natural skeptic, or mystic, or whatever it is she’s got going on. Maybe she would have been naturally inquisitive, pulling on her father’s sailor stories to reach nuanced conclusions about everyday life. Maybe that’s why the Nana we have in Mother 3 is distant, but not cold; strange, but not unwise; scatter-brained, but perceptive. She’s meant to be the daughter of a worldly sailor–a treasure trove of tidbits and tales.

I’m jumping around a bit in this section, but that’s just how we play things on Wess Up? This isn’t your mama’s A Million Tazmilians where each and every NPC is carefully looked at one at a time. Wess Up? is the counter culture, baby! Sometimes, we’re in the Yado Inn talking with Jackie, and other times, in an absolutely daring move, we jump back over to Nana, to see how far the wool is pulled over our sheepish eyes!

I know I’ve said this before, but I can understand why, compared to EarthBound, Mother 3 can feel a bit sparse when it comes to NPCs, especially early on in the game. However, the spectrum and quantity of the discussions more than makes up for it, in my opinion. I mean, in this particular instance, you’ve got Bob and Nana asking some interesting questions about Tazmily itself, but if that’s not your cup of bourbon, you can always head back to Lighter’s room at the inn, where the energy is pretty low-key. Both Bud and Lou will say “Wess up?” to Wess (I like to think they invented it) while Lighter will wonder what you’re doing back.

Lighter asks what everyone’s thinking, and what I myself am thinking: do we really have time to be doing this? Isn’t there somewhere we’re supposed to getting to?

Not on Frog by Frog, baby! It’s all about taking it eeeeeeasy, like Reggie! And besides, after the next Chapter, we’re going to be experiencing the game’s time-skip into the future–I think three years. My time with this particular iteration of Tazmily isn’t much longer for this world. I know I need to get to Osohe soon, but I’m going to miss this! I’m gonna miss when things were still simple.

Unfortunately, not all Tazmilians feel like I do. Dona, seemingly experiencing a crisis of faith, tells Duster and Wess that she wants out of this pathetic little village this instant! She then clarifies that that’s how she feels anyway, and she concedes that she really knows very little about the outside world.

You know, I think Dona is going to win the “Surprisingly Interesting NPC” award for Chapter 2. I did not see this coming. Maybe I’ve just been missing out on her particular dialogue all this time, but I can’t think of many other Tazmilians who are struggling as much as Dona right now with these new, complex emotions. I’m sure some of this is spurred on by Hinawa’s death, but it also seems like Dona has been struggling for a while. Last Frog, she mentioned family issues that Hinawa would always help her through, which I found significant because people in Tazmily rarely mention problems in the first place.

Dona is also expressing herself honestly to Duster and Wess, the two nocturnal animals of Tazmily’s ecosystem. Maybe these unassuming thieves are easier to open up to than, say, Jonel or Bateau, or maybe Tazmilians all have a decent trust for one another if the situation allows for it. I don’t know. I just thought it was cool that she’s okay saying this stuff to Duster, of all people. I also think it’s interesting that Dona would want to leave the village, seeing as, as far as we know, there’s not really anywhere to go. I mean, where else can one live on the Nowhere Islands other than rooming with Alec up in the mountains?

And also, what good is a utopia if you can never leave?

Although, maybe life on the beach just isn’t as sunny as we thought. Revisiting Bateau, he seems in even worse shape than before, saying that Wess, Wess, is bright and cheerful, while his own mind becomes gloomier and gloomier. Is there something in the sea water, or are Bateau and Dona just having a bad day? I mean, you have to be incredibly gloomy to see Wess as someone who is “bright and cheerful.” What’s going on Bateau?

Be honest: when you talked to Bateau in Chapter 1, did you see him as the type of character who, just a single chapter later, could be going through a depression? Silly, goofy Bateau? The Bateau who became puzzled over the symbolism of sunflowers? I know I asked these same questions last frog, but really: did you see something like this coming?

I think what strikes me about Bateau and Dona is that they’re also facing these emotions alone. Sure, in Dona’s case, she mentioned how Hinawa used to always be there for her, but there are still other villagers she could try to reach out to. Right?

I’m not so sure. During my conversation with the Gossiping Women, even Jill, typically the sassiest of the three, primarily wanted to talk about Claus. I mean, yes, Lisa told Wess that he was looking as shabby as ever, and Brenda asked the thieves if they were finally going to fix their nocturnal lifestyle, but, like I said wayyy back in Frog #3, the Gossiping Women are like the little nucleus of Tazmilian public opinion. You can usually get a sense for how the town feels from these women, and I think this is a decent example. Even if people don’t want to admit it, there’s a darkness in the corner of their minds. I think many Tazmilians still ask themselves the questions, “What do we do now that Hinawa is gone? And where is Claus?”

The sad part is that not every Tazmilian feels this way. Some are still obliviously in their own worlds, and don’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. Going back to Dona, Bob, her husband, is still drinking at the Yado Inn, and Jonel, her father, is still by the ocean, thinking about himself and being weirdly aloof. If you approach Jonel, he’ll first tell Wess that Duster was a huge help the other night, and that he’s sure Flint appreciated everything the thieves did that night.

Right after that, however, Jonel will say, “People have thanked me for many things thorughout my life.”

And it’s like… okay? Maybe Jonel is just getting old and reflective, or maybe I’m just being harsh, but Dona, his daughter, is inside right now having an intense crisis of faith–I’m pretty sure Jonel can stop reflecting by the ocean for a couple minutes and talk to her. Don’t forget: Jonel, in Chapter 1, was Mr. Don’t Forget to Say Your Prayers, Mr. You Should Be Happy With What You Have, Mr. Preach to Everyone in the Town Because I Clearly Know Best.

Well if you’re so enlightened Jonel, you should know that it all starts in the home! Take care of those around you first, then reflect on your life by the ocean, or whatever it is you’re doing. And to all the Jonel fans out there: I’m not trying to throw this guy under the bus or anything. I like Jonel’s design, and I enjoy his dialogue, too (most of the time). It’s just disappointing to see a handful of Tazmilians clearly dealing with some difficult emotions, but no one knows how, or cares, to comfort them. With Tazmily, it’s difficult to see the line between negligence, ignorance, and obliviousness. I’m sure if Jonel really understood that Dona was in emotional pain, he’d try to help her, but you’d also think he might have noticed something by now. Tazmilians fail to connect with each other on so many levels, and I don’t think all of them are malicious. It’s just sad to see it play out like this–villagers becoming more and more distant from each other because they don’t know how to help each other.

Let’s touch noses, Isaac! That always cheers you up!

The same thing seems to be going on with Isaac, who came into town for the day only to be given the cold shoulder by everyone. And again, I don’t think Jonel is purposely ignoring Dona; I don’t think the town hates Isaac. I think, in the cases of people like Bateau, Isaac, and Dona, who are most likely looking for just a little genuine, human contact right now… well, what is it? Do you think Tazmilians just don’r get how to do that? Do you think they actually don’t recognize when others are hurting? Or do you think they recognize it, they get it, but they assume everything will be okay by tomorrow?

That’s the question at the middle of the “utopia” for me. Is it a utopia if we’re able to avoid pain for most of the villagers? Is it a utopia if everyone is actually hurting, but no one brings it up? Because that’s another option: that somewhere inside, most of the villagers are hurting in some way, but none of them knows how to connect with the other, or none of them wants to connect with the other, because that would ruin the Tazmilian Innocence. In some cases, I think this Tazmilian avoidance has its advantages (like Abbot, who was so quick to forgive Flint and put everything behind them), but I think we’re really starting to see the sad truth of living in this style of utopia: it just isn’t real! It isn’t genuine! You can have a utopia where most people are happy most of the time, but it just isn’t natural to stifle sadness like this. To ignore guys like Isaac, who were such heroes just days ago!

I think my little rant here is just because I feel bad for Isaac. He was on the frontlines in the Sunshine Forest! If you’ve already forgotten, he was literally passed out on the ground from inhaling too much smoke. If anyone was in true, immediate danger, it was Lighter, Fuel, and Isaac. But just days later, no one can even give Isaac the time of day. Why, though? Do people just not like him? Would talking to Isaac bring up too many memories from the other night? Are guys like Bronson, Isaac, and Lighter just reminders of the Night of the Funeral? Are people becoming class conscious and discriminating against the lumberjack?

Does anyone have thoughts on this? Am I missing the mark with Tazmily? I can never decide how willfully ignorant people are, and how much of it is just how they naturally are. I mean, in the case of the Pusher household, I assume they’re just naturally cold people. They may not have gone to Hinawa’s funeral, but it wasn’t because of any odd emotional faux pas. They just straight up didn’t feel like going.

Inside the Pusher residence is actually where we get our next alarming bit of change in Tazmily. Pusher, who must wake up each morning and ask himself, “How can I be more snide today?” tells Duster and Wess that Tazmily will be building an old folks’ home soon. Pusher implies that this idea came from an associate who visited the village earlier this morning, who we can safely assume to be ???.

We’ll have more time to talk about the old folks’ home when it actually exists in Chapter 4, but I’ve always thought it was insightful of Itoi to position the old folks’ home as such an important change in Tazmily. Because I live in the United States, I think often about how our culture treats its elderly people. I was lucky enough to have a close relationship with two of my grandparents, and I often felt like I connected with them just as much as anyone my age–even more than my parents. Because of that relationship, it has also saddened me to think of the tricky position my country is in when it comes to old people. It seems like, as soon as someone can no longer contribute to the work force, we expect them to quietly decline on their own, and when they can’t do it on their own, we look for a place for them to stay, whether it be an old folks’ home or with a “willing” family member.

Personally, I think this a huge cultural oversight. I have always felt like there has to be a better “solution” to aging–a way to show our society’s elderly that we care about them and want to see them thrive, even in their later years. Life does not end when you are no longer a laboring body for the work force. Life does not end when our bodies begin to slow down! Life is a spectrum of experiences, and it doesn’t stop just because you’re 70.

That’s why I think it was clever of Itoi to identify “the old folks’ home” as one of the first significant changes that Tazmily will need to undergo: to separate the working bodies from the non-working bodies. ???, with his money and, later on, industry, is sewing the seeds of a new society into the foundations of Tazmily. Like I said, I personally think Mother 3 is saying something more complex than “capitalism is bad,” but it at least contains a capitalist critique, and we can see that beginning here. Tazmily will soon be separating its workers from its elderly. Tazmily soon won’t allow for men like Scamp to live out their final days surrounded by family. Instead, the elderly will live out their days in the cold confines of the new “old folks’ home.”

Hey, maybe that’s what Scamp shows us! Before the change in Tazmily, families stay together, even in poor health. After the change in Tazmily, families are separated and it is no longer “natural” to live how Scamp did.

I will quickly clarify that I don’t think all nursing homes are bad places, and I also understand that not all families have the ability to take care of each and every elderly family member in their lives. These problems are complex and often uncomfortable for everyone involved. To me, the sadness is in how the system itself creates separation. Suitable nursing homes, suitable assisted living–these things are expensive, and finding the “right match” is so scary and difficult for many families. Even more families cannot afford them outright, often causing scenarios where an elderly person will feel like they have become a “burden” on their family by moving in with their children or a relative. Situations like this almost always include financial difficulties and heartbreak, so I just want to say, on a realistic level, I don’t think all “old folks’ homes” are like, evil. I also don’t think these situations ever have easy solutions.

I think what I’m mostly getting at is saying “good eye” to Itoi. It would’ve been easy to have ??? come into town and start slapping uniforms on everyone and turning them into workers, but instead we have time to see Mike working in the Bazaar and passing out dirty cookies during a forest fire. We see Wess, with his hidden powers and ancient knowledge, who may be one of the most powerful villagers of all, even if no one knows it. We see Alec trying to lead Flint back into the light, so that the pitch blackness does not consume his heart. But then we see Pusher’s comment about the old folks home–subtle, suggestive, and slight.

And in two chapters, that’s exactly where Wess, Mike, and Alec will be: cooped up in the old folks’ home. Even Paul seems to give Duster a bit of trouble for being a “devoted son,” but I’m not actually sure what is meant by that line.

I don’t mean to spend too much time on this, but I had personally never seen this line of dialogue where Pusher mentions speaking with ???, a town associate. It makes me wonder how long Pusher has been in contact with the Pigmasks–is this an overnight thing, or have they had correspondence for some time? I’m not suggesting that Pusher is being actively evil, like many Tazmilians I’m sure he’s being tricked, but perhaps that it was him who was tricked first, not Butch. I mean, if we had to pick a Tazmilian who seems to be the most easily corruptible, I would definitely choose Pusher.

Also, as you all know, I enjoy finding through-lines with the various plot developments of Mother 3, so I think it’s cool that this detail can be found as early as Chapter 2. It just makes me wonder what else Pusher might have facilitated without us knowing. As early as Chapter 1, we saw that Pusher was the greediest man in town, worrying about his estate during the forest fire instead of actually caring about people’s lives. I wouldn’t be surprised he didn’t even need to be tempted in the same way as Butch or Bob–I bet ??? could simply suggest more wealth and power to Pusher, and that’d be enough to turn him. How do we know the Pigmasks didn’t hook him up with the estate in the first place?

For now, I suppose we’ll never know the true extent of Pusher and ???’s relationship, but I’m going to keep my eye on it see what else we can learn. And doesn’t Pusher realize that he’s pretty old himself? What happens if he ends up in the old folks’ home?

Before we head out of town, you can also check in on Paul and Linda, though they don’t have much new to say. Personally, I prefer the true Tazmilian sweethearts, Abbot and Abbey. When you drop in on these two, Abbot asks Abbey to put on some tea, then quickly tells her not to when he realizes that Wess and Duster are in a hurry. Abbey, on the other hand, says “Good evening,” but quickly corrects herself when she realizes it’s noon. The thieves must make her think it is nighttime!

I love that, even when there’s not a forest fire to worry about, Abbot and Abbey are still the cute, bumbling couple we’ve always known them as. I sure hope they aren’t easily corruptible.

Well folks, that’ll do it for the debut episode of “Wess Up?” Like many spin-offs, I’m sure it may have an ill-fated future, but who knows–if Wess polls well with audiences, he might earn himself a second season. Everyone knows A Million Tazmilians has become a powerhouse of television that isn’t exactly going to be dethroned any time soon.

I’ll close this section with my favorite observation, which was a small one: if I had to guess, I’d say Bud and Lou are the ones who invented the phrase “Wess up?” because they both say it to him in the Yado Inn. However, I love that Angie also says “Wess up?” when she sees Wess in her kitchen. It’s a cute little detail that one of the village children would copy something she’s heard the older teens say. It also adds a detail that perhaps Bud and Lou’s comedy acts at least are a hit with children, which I think would be a sweet detail if it’s true.

Either that, or all young people in Tazmily like to “Wess up?” to Wess, which is just as well. Wess might be a jerk, but I like to think he can take a joke every now and again.

War Pigs

Generals gathered in their masses/ Just like witches at black masses/ Evil minds that plot destruction/ Sorcerer of Death’s Construction/ In the fields the bodies burning/ As the war machine keeps turning/ Death and hatred to mankind/ Poisoning their brainwashed minds.

Black Sabbath, “War Pigs”

In Chapter 1 of Mother 3, all roads led to the Sunshine Forest. Our story began with the forest in the midst of destruction–flames whirling and consuming, villagers frantic and afraid. Each journey into the forest brought with it a new horror: a burning house with a child inside, a mechanical beast deformed beyond its nature, a mother dead and gone forever. The chapter closed not in the desolation of the forest, but in the deathly wasteland of Drago Plateau–a place capable of sustaining only the toughest creatures.

Chapters 2 and 3 take a similar approach, though this time our destination is Osohe Castle. Duster’s first trek inside the ancient place shows us more than one oddity. Friendly ghosts, stinky ghosts, musical ghosts, and ghosts riding rocking horses. Fleshy little pink creatures, and concealed beasts in barrels. Rope snakes, carpet monsters, floating mice, portraits with eyes that follow. Any time you think you start to understand the secrets of Osohe, they vanish before your very eyes. What is this place?

However, for as much as I love Osohe’s mystery, I love how Mother 3 ultimately tarnishes the place, unleashing the Pigs of War upon its grounds. Chapter 2 opened with Pigmask Airships dropping waste product all over the castle walls–whether incidental or purposeful, the act showed blatant disregard on behalf of the army. Chapter 2 closes with the Pigmask Tanks rolling right through the front gate and into the castle’s inner walls. The Pigmask Soliders raise their arms in shrieking salute, like mad beasts marking the sacred ground as their own.

It’s true: head North as Duster and Wess, and you’ll learn why “A Master, a Father, a Thief” held shades of the Army’s theme: just like in Chapter 1, they were just beyond the village, practically among us, ready to strike the entire time. And I know I’m sounding a bit dramatic, here. It’s not like anyone in Tazmily, apart from maybe Nippolyte and Wess, really know anything about Osohe Castle, but the occupation of its grounds by the Pigmasks still feels wrong. In Chapter 1, the Sunshine Forest was lost as soon as the first flames struck, as soon as the chapter began. In Chapter 2, the player has formed a bit of a bond with the old castle, so when the Pigmasks tramp on it like it’s nothing, it feels like an insult.

It also feels like very little can actually stop these guys.

Well, technically the Pigmasks simply proceed across the drawbridge, which Duster himself had lowered… but I’m sure they would’ve found another way in if need be. This is also the first time we’ve actually seen the soldiers assembled in a meaningful way. Thus far, we’ve seen them in groups of two of three, tinkering with their chimera tools and running away as soon as they’re caught. Pigmasks were more like bad signs for things to come (the caribou and the Drago) than they were a threat in and of themselves.

Chapter 2 changes that perception as soon as we see them lined up in unison, returning the militant squeals of the Blue Squadron Leader. With the tank, we’re beginning to see the scope of the Army in more literal terms, although I suppose the Army’s UFOs and airship were already a sign that Tazmily is in some real trouble. Still, call it the Earthling in me, but when I see tanks, I see bad news. I see the tigers of war! The War Pigs themselves!

Get away from those potatotos, you fiends!

Anyway, as a fan of Tazmily, I hate the movement by the Pigsmask into Nippolyte’s garden and the castle’s inner walls, but as a fan of Mother 3, I love it. Even though I appreciate the subtlety of Mother and EarthBound’s villains, I can understand (though I disagree with) the sentiment that they feel too disconnected from the story. In Mother 3, though, the Pigmask Army is such a constant presence that even when they’re played for comic relief, they’re never any less in your face. As we just discussed, the story starts with them burning a forest down. Just a couple days later, they’re rolling their tanks into Osohe Castle. They’re relentless, active villains, and I like that a lot, especially in a JRPG where our investment in the turn-based combat relies heavily on our investment in the story itself. I know I’ve made that particular observation quite a few times with Mother 3, but I don’t think it can be understated.

I also love what this moment means for our protagonists, Duster and Wess. As far as Frog by Frog is concerned, these two sneaks are about to save at the frog in the forest sanctuary, so they’ll have a breather before they need to start fighting, but as far as the plot is concerned… what are these guys supposed to do against the army? These are the moments where it’d be nice to have Flint around. I think he’d have these pigs running for the hills in no time.

And yes, like with the last frog, I’m technically going off the track a bit to save my game, but this is within legal Frog Blog saving rules because I haven’t technically saved at this frog yet in Chapter 2. Before Duster and Wess head over to the Forest Sanctuary, though, they notice that there’s a new path in the side of the mountain… a path that had until recently been boarded up.

There was a time when all roads led to the Sunshine Forest, but that was only because the game wouldn’t let us go anywhere else. Now, we can go in to the mountain to the east! And it’s full of presents! Sadly, all of them are open already, and there’s a huge gate keeping us from going any farther, but…

Wait, what’s going on in here?

This has the smell of Pigmasks all over it! Are you telling me that not only have these guys been camping out secretly on the Nowhere Islands, but also they’ve been tunneling through it to our backdoor? I both love and hate this detail, because it fascinates me and creeps me out at the same time. I mean, I know I’ve already used this exact analogy, but let’s just say you were in a field, or something, near your house, and you decided to explore a small cave nearby. How would you react if one day everything was boarded up, and the next day there were a bunch of empty boxes and an entire chain link fence, and a dimly lit path that extends to who knows where?

Ugh! Pigmasks! They creep me out! How’d they get in there? Where’d they come from?

There was one Tazmilian who was tall enough to have seen a thing or two, though he wasn’t always sure. Strange old Leder had one night, maybe, heard the subtle sounds of industry coming from that cave, but even then he chose not to speak. And when Leder watched the War Pigs roll into Osohe, he did not even ring his bell. He watched the thieves head north, and stand in the tire tracks, but he did not join them. Leder remained silent.

It’s a shame, because Duster and Wess could have used a silent third. Duster himself wasn’t talking much, with Wess breathing down his back, and Wess was ranting and raving on occasion, but, being the master thief he was, he knew when to be quiet. The three could have made quite a trio–a trio so strong it could have rivaled Flint, Boney, and Duster’s battle against the Caribou in Chapter 1.

But Leder did not join the thieves, and the thieves did head north, and they stared down the trail that the War Pigs had left for them. Many things have happened in the last 48 hours that Tazmily has never seen, and though not much should surprise the thieves at this point, still, these tread marks do. The pigs aren’t hiding in the shadows anymore, cowering beneath their own creations and running for the hills at the first sign of resistance. The War Pigs have rolled into battle, and they are staking their claim. They may not have a Mecha Drago with them, or a Reconstructed Caribou, but they have a pig pen full of tough customers.

This isn’t going to be an easy fight.

Which is exactly why Wess pulled on Duster’s arm, and in a serious tone told him that they should stop through the Prayer Sanctuary. Yes, the Master Thief himself found it a bit moronic, because he didn’t believe in anything like that, but I think Wess knew Tazmily wasn’t long for this world. Not that destruction was nigh, or death, or apocalypse, but the old thief could smell the winds of change. He knew it wouldn’t be very long before no one bothered to pray anymore, except maybe Jonel. He knew that places like a Forest Sanctuary would soon lose believers. And for some reason, he knew this would be Duster’s last chance for quite some time.

So Duster listened to his old man, even though the younger thief himself was not much one for prayers, and the two of them spent just a couple minutes in the sanctuary. They looked at the Dragons on the wall, swirling around one another, balancing each other in a long, winding dance.

And the frog to the side, who had lived in the sanctuary for some time, remained calm and aware. He had heard the tanks, too, as well as the squeals of battle. He had heard the castle grounds flood with Pigs, their master, and their tools. But he wasn’t too afraid. He was pleasantly surprised, actually, to see two thieves in his humble home.

“This is a treat,” he said. “I’ve always wondered how thieves manage to be so sneaky”

He also knew nothing could ever be too bad, as long as there was a frog around. Which was him. So, even though the thieves were the ones going in to the battle, the frog knew he was the keeper of the peace.


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