Countdown to Fables #100: The Last Castle

Today is a special edition of the countdown, because today’s story wasn’t technically in an issue of Fables.  Today’s story, “The Last Castle” was a prestige format (hard bound, not stapled) one-shot, and not a numbered issue of the series.  However, it appears in this countdown for multiple reasons, it’s is currently collected in the trades with the standard issues, it has characterization, and I really like the story.  In this story, Boy Blue tells Snow White about the last stand at the lone remaining free castle in the Homelands.  Story recap, with spoilers, after the break.

The Last Castle

Art by Craig Hamilton & P. Craig Russell

Snow White finds Boy Blue in the Woodlands office, playing the blues, and inquires about what has him playing the blues.  He reminds her that today is the Ides of March, the day that the last of the refugees from the Homelands made their escape to the Mundy world.  Snow apologizes for forgetting what day it was, and then asks Blue to explain what happened that day.

Blue begins the story by telling how Red Riding Hood made it to the castle.  She was being chased by a pack of goblins, and severely injured.  However, Robin Hood and Lady Britomart were able to provide enough cover for her to reach the castle, during a bet of their’s to see who kill the most goblins.  Lady Britomart won the bet, forcing Robin to serve her dinner a gown.  Boy Blue, being Colonel Bearskin’s personal assistant, was immediately sent down to the infirmary to see if Red could give them any information on the Adversary’s forces.  When Blue gets to Red, he finds that she is nearly fully recovered thanks to the work of Dr. Swineheart.  Upon meeting Red, Blue is immediately attracted to her.  Some characters we also meet in the castle are Prince Charming and his current wife Cinderella, the Crow brothers, King of Madagao and his friend/rival King of Bornegascar, Pellinore, Red Cross Knight, Sir Herman Von Starkenfaust, Tam Lin, and the cow that jumped over the moon.

Over the course of the next day, the Adversary’s forces gathered at the castle, launching a small attack the following morning.  The Fable forces were able to kill 300 of them, while only having 1 die on their side.  After the battle, while everyone else was celebrating, Colonel Bearskin and Blue went out to meet with the opposing leader, Count Aucassin Beaucaire.  Beaucaire says that the small battle was just a sign of how many soldiers he’s willing to let die to just kill at least one of them.  Beaucaire offers Bearskin terms of surrender.  If they do surrender, then the women and children will be allowed to live as slaves for the Adversary.  Bearskin says he has to discuss it with the other leaders.  Bearskin returns to the castle, and informs everyone that the next morning will be the final trip from the castle Bluebeard will be able to make with his ship.  It’s deemed that women and children will be the first on, along with non-human Fables.  Next will be the husbands of wives on the ship, or already in the New World.  The rest of the seats would be filled with a lottery.  Bluebeard is also to take the remaining magical artifacts, minus the Witching Cloak, so that the Adversary may not use them.  Many of the previously mentioned heroes would voluntarily not participate in the lottery, including Blue.  Prince Charming was actually using Cinderella to escape, as they had plans to divorce once they reached the New World.

Boy Blue spends his last night talking with Red Riding Hood about their pasts.  Red tries to convince Blue to come with her, but he is too loyal to Bearskin to leave him.  She suggests that since he can’t sleep, they use his bed for other things, and at least have one night together.  They end up over-sleeping, and have to rush down to the ship to make sure Red is able to get on it.  They say their tearful good-byes, and Blue runs to join the battle.  Bearskin gets on Blue about being late, then gives him his orders.  Blue is to take the Witching Cloak, and go up to the tallest tower and watch the battle.  When the castle is completely overrun, Blue is to use the cloak and witch him onto Bluebeard’s ship, inform them that they are on their own, and be with Red Riding Hood.

In the battle, everyone that stayed to fight ended up dying.  Robin Hood had told Blue he had chosen to stay to avenge the death of Marian.  In one of her final acts, Lady Britomart threw her spear that could find any target she wanted, and killed Count Aucassin Beaucaire.  Unfortunately, they were soon surrounded and killed.  Kings Bornegascar and Magadao died side by side.  Little John took several arrows, and Adversary forces with him before he died.  The Red Cross Knight appeared to be unstoppable, until a dragon showed up and burned him to death.  The last to die was Bearskin, whom the goblins mortally wounded, then left to suffer and die.  As the goblins realized they had one more tower to capture, Blue witches himself onto the ship.

As the ship, shape of a goose with wings to fly, attempts to make it to the portal, they are chased by two dragons.  However, 9 of the 12 crow brothers arrive and are able to kill both dragons, while also losing 6 of themselves.  When he initially got to the ship, Blue did not have a chance to find Red.  It wasn’t until after arriving in the New World that he was able to search for her.  He is told that she gave up her spot on the boat, and choose to remain at the castle to fight, since Blue was going to be remaining at the castle as well.  Snow White apologizes to Blue for making him relive that day.  He tells her it’s just something he has to deal with on this day each year, and then leaves to attend a memorial held each year by those that were on that final ship.

Up until this point, we hadn’t really had a chance to see the Adversary’s forces in action.  They had always been something that was mentioned, but no specific details about what had happened.  This story also adds a great deal of depth to Boy Blue.  Until now, he had been a background character, often assisting with Bigby’s plans.  This story shows what Blue’s motivations are in future stories.  The only thing that disappointed me about this story was the death of Robin Hood.  I would have liked to have seen him in the current world, still doing his thing.

Up next, March of the Wooden Soldier


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