Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Pulling the Strings"

This is spillover from the March 17, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from LJ user Kestrels_nest. It fills the "slavefic" square in my 1-3-13 card in the Trope_bingo fest.  It has been sponsored by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, who is working on some pretty awesome stuff featuring the Puppetmaster and his Marionettes.  This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

"Pulling the Strings"


In the parks of Italy,
a little old man puts on a show
with a set of puppets.

Sometimes he brings elaborate marionettes,
but other times no more than a glove
or a sock or a handkerchief.

The form doesn't matter --
the soul of the puppet
is in his hand.

With him are younger men and women
who move with grace and alacrity
at the least flick of his finger.

He does not even need to speak;
it is as if they simply know
what he wishes them to do.

Nobody hears the whispers
behind the stage, or sees
deft hands passing slips of paper.

The police patrolling the parks avoid him,
his touch on their minds so tender
that they never even feel it.

He is a kind master, a gentle master,
drawing people in with his power
but keeping them with his care.

He is ruthless in ways
that few suspect because
he never gets his own hands dirty.

A tug of his fingertip, and
world politics twirl into place,
crime lords sending tribute.

When the show is over,
he hands out candy to the children,
grinning and ruffling their hair.

He is a supervillain --
he is the infamous Puppetmaster --
but no one who sees him would believe it.

* * *


The Puppetmaster (Giuseppe Mondadori) -- Giuseppe is Italian, short and thin.  He has wrinkled olive skin and brown eyes.  His hair was black in his youth, now faded to silver.  He looks and acts like a cheerful grandfather.  He can make a puppet out of anything, even a handkerchief.  He loves children and genuinely enjoys entertaining them.  He'll empty his pockets for street children.   
 His strength lies in subtlety and obscurity; the Puppetmaster manipulates world politics and the world of organized crime, not with raw power, but with superior planning and influence.  He sometimes uses mental influence to figure out how to make people his in the beginning, but never force, and he always keeps them with considerate handling.  He belongs to the second tier of supervillains, below only Dr. Infanta herself, helping provide a safety valve for human mischief while keeping a lid on the more corrosive aspects.  The Family is known to be soup-friendly, and they act to quash mistreatment of anyone with superpowers.
Origin: Giuseppe was a street child, selected and trained as an apprentice of the former Puppetmaster. 
Uniform: Street clothes, usually trousers and a button-up shirt with a hat.  The Puppetmaster dresses so that he almost  blends in, just a little formal or quirky, as performers often do.  He adores brightly colored scarves and ties, particularly Italian paisley or scroll patterns.  He always has some kind of puppet with him, from elaborate marionettes to simple glove puppets, and does most of his real work while giving a show.
 His original character role was Il Dottore, The Doctor, and he still uses that to go undercover in dark clothes and a long-nosed mask.
Qualities: Master (+6) Puppeteer, Good (+2) Gentle, Good (+2) Organized Crime, Good (+2) Politics, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Dealing with Loss of Control
Powers: Master (+6) Minions: The Marionettes have 3 named captains: Giuditta (trickster), Pulcinella (trickster), and Pinocchio (counterintelligence).  They have at least an Expert superpower, an Expert profession, and three Good qualities, but some are Poor (-2) Trusting Each Other.  There are 10 named lieutenants: Gigio (sneak), Facanapa (trickster), Gerolamo (trickster), Orlando (Russian fighter), Rinaldo (fighter), Alcina (sorceress), Tancredi (fighter), Agricane (Japanese businessman), Ruggiero (fighter), and Argante (warrior).  They have at least a Good superpower, two other Good qualities, but some are Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Leader.  Other minions typically have at least a Good profession, one other Good quality, and may be Poor (-2) Thinking for Themselves.  The strings go everywhere; the Puppetmaster has thousands of people working for him who don't even know he exists.  Agricane was a gift to the Puppetmaster from Shigeru Fukui at Lucky Frog.  Orlando was a gift from Koroleva.
Good (+2) Mind Powers
Vulnerability: The Puppetmaster works only through intermediaries, never getting his own hands dirty.  He keeps his identity a closely guarded secret.  People are always trying to find out who he really is -- but the few who do, often don't believe it when they see it, and they tend not to live long enough to do much about it.
Motivation: Control is strength. 

* * *

Marionettes are a type of puppet used in theatres.  They appear in much of puppet history, especially in Sicilian puppet theatre.  They are capable of sophisticated body language in the hands of a master, but require great skill and delicacy to handle them with success.

The Chessmaster and the Puppetmaster are two entertainment tropes referring to characters whose power lies in strategy and influence rather than brute force.  People like this characterize the second tier of supervillains in Terramagne -- Koroleva is the Russian Chessmistress and Shigeru Fukui is a Japanese businessman -- who keep the real nutjobs from gaining too much leverage.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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