Johnny Conrad

Trial by Fire, Chapter 17: An Unorthodox Boss Battle

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 15.)

Kara appears in the Otherworlds, which is a dusky place populated by barren trees and everyone’s favorite Skultum in the guise of Johnny Conrad. Not!Johnny does the usual “You Suck, Heroine!” taunting that all antagonists do. Kara’s sick and tired of it, of course … and then she remembers that she’s armed! So that means she can finally start a boss battle!

Boss: Skultum (this is the last time, I swear!)
Make him say his name, and he dies! Yay!
Attacks: You should know this by now.

But wait, how can Kara get the Skultum to say his name? Magic Missile is obviously not going to do the trick. Kara thinks really, really hard … and the dragonflies show up. The dragonflies make a bunch of shapes in the air, and hint that they know the Skultum’s new name. (How do they know it?) Not!Johnny is distracted by the frolicking dragonflies, and in the new edition he’s impressed that Kara bonded with them. (Apparently dragonflies don’t bond with anybody … usually.)

Kara gets the bright idea to play a sort of “dragonfly charades”. She thinks of a word, the dragonflies spell it out by contorting into letters, and the Skultum has to guess the word. The two do this for a while before Kara ups the ante: the dragonflies spell the words backwards, and Kara and the Skultum have to guess the words while doing headstands. This proves to be a hit, because the Skultum is laughing and enjoying himself. He’s so caught up in the game that, when Kara gets the dragonflies to spell the Skultum’s true name backwards, the Skultum blurts out the answer … and then goes poof!

The Skultum’s name is different, depending on which edition you’re reading. It’s Cigam in the original edition, and Howard in the new edition.

Yay! Kara beat a boss on her own, and she got the Skultum’s shapeshifting powers, too! Now it’s time for her to help her friends back on Aldenmor. Luckily, she has the dragonflies around to make a portal for her….

Status Update!
Kara learns: Polymorph!

Next time: Emily and Zach gain new abilities, and Adriane continues her boss battle.

Spellsinger, Chapter 17: We’re the Party and We’re Here to Sing About Avalon and Stuff!

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is the last half of Chapter 13.)

*looks up at post title* It’s times like these that I wish the party actually had a bad-ass name. Do they even get one? I know the original edition calls them The Three, but that’s so … I don’t know … boring? (And kinda inaccurate, because Ozzie always tags along.)

Anyway, shit hits the fan.

Kara’s little magic show opens up the portal — which is quite a ways away from the concert, thankfully. This also exposes the Protection from Evil dreamcatcher, which also acts like an amplifier for Kara’s spellsong (wow, isn’t that convenient). Not!Johnny reveals the Fairy Map, which floats to Kara and activates. And by activate, I mean that a bunch of portals on the Magic Web realign themselves.

Kara, however, doesn’t want this to happen. Now realizing that not!Johnny is manipulating her, Kara reaches out to Lyra, which somehow weakens Johnny’s hold on her. (Okay, not “somehow”; I think I already explained that bonded animals give mages resistance to Charm.) With newfound strength, Kara tries to change the lyrics to the song:

A web of lies spun spins so fast
I won’t listen anymore I was blinded by your night
IWe can see through you the truth at last
Close the door, close the door… Let’s all shine our light!

Not!Johnny gets really pissed and causes the Cursed Locket to flash so brightly that it burns Kara. The rest of the party finally notice what’s controlling Kara, and they bum rush the stage! And in the new edition, we finally get our Gotta Get Backstage beat-em-up scene:

Emily and Adriane raced to the stage. Security guards converged on them.

“You have to let us through!” Adriane demanded.

“We told you, no one’s allowed on stage during the show!”

“Perhaps you’d like to talk to the ones that run this place.” Emily stepped aside to reveal Stormbringer and Lyra.

The animals bared their teeth and growled fiercely.

“Whoa!” The guard jumped back at the sight of the huge silver wolf and the large spotted cat. “No problem!”

Adriane pulled the animals back. “Thanks, guys. We’ll take it from here.”

Aww, what? No actual beat-em-up sequence? That sucks.

Eventually Adriane reaches Kara, tears the locket from Kara’s neck, and crushes it under her boot. Yay, Kara’s been dispelled! But there’s still all this warped, dark magic in the air — the magic Kara generated from the spellsong she sang earlier. Kara wants to stop Johnny somehow, but she’s too weak to do it alone. Luckily, Adriane pulls out her guitar, and Emily has her flute. So you know what’s coming up next….

Boss: Johnny Conrad?
Okay, he’s actually a Skrull Skultum with awesome spellsinging and shapeshifting powers. Good luck.
Attacks: Charm, Confuse, Summon Astral Beast

I’m not going to bother describing the battle in detail. Instead, you can watch this clip from Scott Pilgrim, which has better music. (You can turn off the 3D effect by clicking the 3D button.)

In case you’re wondering: yes, the party and not!Johnny do summon gigantic astral beasts with their singing in the book. Also, Emily plays Lorelei’s Song to dispel one of Johnny’s songs. (When did Lorelei’s Song start acting like a Mass Dispel instead of just summoning Lorelei?) Oh, and don’t forget that Ozzie’s trying to keep the Fairy Map away from not!Johnny during the entire battle.

For you Jewel Riders fans out there: a similar music battle takes place in the episode “Home Sweet Heartstone”. The Jewel Riders play the show’s theme song in order to turn a group of magical baby animals away from Kale’s pseudo-gothic-metal music. Unfortunately, there’s no bad-ass astral beasts (poo!).

Anyway, the party wins by singing “Spirit of Avalon”, which weakens not!Johnny and forces him to reveal his true form. Not!Johnny then shapeshifts into a bat, which the party promptly sends into the portal with a quick Improved Magic Missile. Notice that they didn’t kill him — this obviously means Not!Johnny is gonna come back as a more powerful and annoying boss later! (And yes, he does. This is one of the few times the trope does apply in the series.)

Of course, the audience thinks this entire magic battle was an awesome laser-light show, and they give the party a rousing round of applause. Kara then invites all the contest finalists to join the party in a chorus of “Supernatural High” “Spirit of Avalon”:

Status Update!
Emily learns: Lorelei’s Song (Mass Dispel remix)!
Kara loses: Cursed Locket of Mind Raping!
The party obtains: Fairy Map!

Next time: the party cleans up the preserve, like good pre-teen girls with magic powers.

Spellsinger, Chapter 16: Star Power Activated!

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is the first half of Chapter 13.)

While Johnny is performing his hit single “Take a Chance and Dance,” Kara is waiting nervously in the wings. She has to perform her song perfectly, and the only way she can do that is if she uses the unicorn horn she failed to return a few chapters back.

Meanwhile, Adriane, Emily, and Ozzie try to get backstage. There’s only a barrier stopping them in the original edition — which begs the question, why don’t they just jump over it? — while in the revision, Johnny upped the security, so there’s guards everywhere. This would be the perfect opportunity to squeeze in a Gotta Get Backstage beat-em-up sequence, but noooo, we don’t get anything that awesome. Instead, Adriane fires a couple of weak Magic Missiles to catch Kara’s attention. As soon as Kara faces the rest of the party, Emily holds up a couple of signs that explain everything: Lyra and Adriane didn’t attack Kara!

Kara then goes, “Oh damn!” but then the locket flares up again and Johnny flashes a sinister look at her. Now Kara’s mind is back to “OMG I get to sing with Johnny but I’m so nervous argh!”

After Johnny sings another song, he announces the winner of the singing contest: Kara (of course). All the finalists are pretty pissed off, because they were supposed to perform first. Anyway, Kara gets on stage and sings “Open the Door” “Shine Your Light”:

In a world that spins so fast
Can’t keep your feet on the floor Nothing real seems to last
Where When the future has no past falls out of sight
Open the door, open the door, open the door Find the path and shine your light

Opportunity is just a window
So no matter what’s in store
Open it up and let it flow
Open the door, open the door

Kara initially sings this in her usual craptacular way, which garners some derisive laughter from the Catty Girl Posse. But then Kara harnesses the power of the unicorn horn, and she sings spectacularly. So amazingly, in fact, that the lights pulsate to the beat, and a magic aura forms around her….

Next time: BATTLE OF THE BANDS!

Spellsinger, Chapter 15: Battle of the Blazing Stars, Part 2

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is the last half of Chapter 12.)

Emily and Dr. Fletcher finally arrive at Ravenswood for the concert. Suddenly, Emily gets a telepathic message from Stormbringer that things are not right with Adriane. She runs over to Adriane’s cabin, where she meets up with Ozzie, Stormbringer, Lyra, and all the named refugees. There they discover that Adriane and her grandmother are under some sort of sleeping spell. Emily casts Dispel, which wakes them up.

Meanwhile, Kara notices something weird going down during her boss battle with not!Adriane. Adriane transforms into Johnny, and then shifts into some frightening reptilian creature before vanishing. Kara briefly wonders what the hell’s going on, but then is distracted by her Cursed Locket flaring up. And then Johnny suddenly appears in the room, asking Kara what’s wrong. Kara believes that she won her boss battle, and is all pumped for the concert. Yay?

Back at the cabin, Emily, Adriane, Ozzie, and the refugees finally realize that there’s a shapeshifter on the preserve. (It took them long enough!) There’s not a whole lot of discussion on the topic in the original edition; Ozzie only concludes that it’s a “demon-level” monster. (Wait … the monsters now have levels?) The conversation is a lot more lively in the new edition, and everyone’s favorite German tank commander-turned-magic koala chimes in, too:

“What’re we talking about here, banshee? Sylph? Brag? Dryad?” Ozzie asked.

“Worse,” Rommel answered.

“Werebeast?”

“Keep going,” a pooxim sang out.

“A fairy creature then.” Ozzie paced, paws behind his back.

The animals followed him, nodding in agreement.

“I thought fairies were good,” Emily queried.

“Not the dark ones,” Eddie the brimbee said.

The pooxim agreed. “Dark fairy creatures are extremely dangerous.”

Ozzie turned to the girls. “This one is very cunning and proficient with spells.” The ferret waved his paws around.

Adriane flashed on the Fairimental’s warning. “Like spellsinging.”

“Skultum!” several animals said at once, their voices quivering.

“Blingo,” Balthazar said. “This fairy creature is rare and very, very evil.”

“A Skultum. That explains it. It must have disguised itself as me.” Lyra was wildly pacing now. “I thought she was ignoring me, but maybe she can’t hear me.”

And then all the refugees freak out and panic. But there’s no time for that: the concert’s starting!

Next time: BACKSTAGE BATTLE!

Spellsinger, Chapter 13: Yay, Evil Gloating!

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 11.)

Everyone in town is milling about the great lawn at Ravenswood waiting for the concert to start. Mayor Davies is conducting interviews, and Kara is strutting about in her “Ravenswood hat and shiny dreamcatcher lapel pin … new cords rhinestone-accented jeans, boots, and brand new brown suede faux fur trimmed jacket worn over her Ravenswood tee”.

Pimped-Out Kara Outfit Count: 3

Kara says a few things to the press about how Ravenswood is supposed to bring the community together. Afterwards, she feels guilty about using the unicorn horn to cheat her way through the concert. There’s no way she’s going to be exposed as a cheater over the internet, so Kara resolves to return the horn and sing naturally. She runs inside the manor, opens the door to the library … and finds Johnny using the magitech computer.

I know, I know, the reader by this point should know that Johnny is a) a Skultum, and b) probably aware of the magitech computer now that he can shapeshift into Adriane. So it’s no surprise to us … but Kara, who’s been blinded by Just How Awesome Johnny is, is a little pissed off by Johnny’s intrusion.

Johnny distracts Kara, however, by telling her that now is her moment to become a star. (He’s also spellsinging under his breath the entire time, which activates the locket Kara’s wearing … which is not a +5 Luck locket, but a Cursed Locket of Mind-Raping!) He informs Kara that Adriane has been asking him for a recording contract, and ‘relays’ a message: Adriane deserves to be the blazing star, not Kara. This pisses off Kara even more! Johnny pretends to act clueless about Kara’s reaction in the new edition:

“Does that mean anything to you? Was that, like, supposed to be a name you wanted to record under?”

Kara vows to give Adriane a piece of her mind. Johnny gives her a few pre-boss-battle helpful hints, such as: “Hey, she’s downstairs in the dining room! And do everything in your power to show her you’re a star!” Of course, after Kara leaves (with the unicorn horn in tow), Johnny produces the Fairy Map and does some serious evil gloating (in the original edition):

He had practically smelled [the unicorn horn’s] power on her. But he could do nothing with it directly. The unicorn horn had been freely given to the Three, and as a result, only Kara, or one of her friends, could unleash its power.

He was, of course, much more powerful than Kara as a spellsinger, but magic was more than spellsinging … much more.

And, as he had told her quite honestly, she had something others simply didn’t possess. Star power. She would go out like a blazing star, a burst of magical energy as bright as the sun. If anyone’s life was going to be sacrificed in this endeavor, it wasn’t going to be his. And if by some miracle she survived tonight’s events, his instructions were to turn her over to the Dark Sorceress. She would disappear. Just as Be*Tween had disappeared. He pictured the famous girl band. They would never find a way to defeat him or any dark magic again.

Oh damn! Kara may die tonight when activating the Fairy Map! And Johnny may have been behind Be*Tween’s disappearance! (Which doesn’t make sense once you realize that Kara meets the band in the next book, and they’re totally fine.) The only thing that’ll make his evil plan work out is if Kara totally breaks down turns against her friends. And so far, it looks like that’s gonna happen….

Status Update!
Johnny’s Locket is re-identified as: Cursed Locket of Mind-Raping!

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • The concession stands are selling lemonade instead of juice.

Next time: BASS BATTLE!

Spellsinger, Chapter 11: Consolation Prize

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is the first half of Chapter 10.)

Kara wakes up the next morning feeling pissed off and relieved: pissed because Adriane was Detecting Magic during the contest and discovered Kara’s cheating ways, and relieved that she doesn’t have to bother with the contest anymore. Now she can finally get back to Important Ravenswood Business, namely returning the unicorn horn and contacting Zach back on Aldenmor. However, things don’t go quite as planned. Mayor Davies tells Kara that she has a surprise visitor, and it’s none other than Johnny Conrad.

After sharing pleasantries with the mayor (in the new edition), Johnny asks Kara why she backed out of the contest. Kara freezes, but Johnny reasons (in the new edition) that being in the contest conflicted with Kara’s responsibilities as the Ravenswood Preservation Society’s president. However, Kara still wants to sing with Johnny … so Johnny offers to let Kara sing a special song he wrote for Be*Tween during the concert. The song is called “Open the Door” “Shine Your Light”, which Johnny claims is about “tearing down walls and finding the path that’s right for you — letting friends know who you really are inside.”

But wait … what about the contest? Wasn’t singing a song with Johnny the grand prize? Not to worry — Johnny says he’ll get that stuff out of the way quickly at the beginning of the show so that Kara can shine. Apparently, Kara has to shine brighter than everyone else for this one brief moment, just like every other ephemeral teen idol.

Kara briefly wonders if that’s what blazing stars are supposed to do: explode in a gigantic supernova of magical energy. The thought freaks her out.

Next time: Hey look, it’s the Token Male Character!

Spellsinger, Chapter 10: Stonehill’s Got Talent

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 9.)

It’s time for the karaoke contest, and Kara is hella nervous. The last spellsong she cast has already worn off, and she thinks her outfit is terribad. Said outfit is a “long beige cardigan over a dark mini, black tights, hot pink pullover, brown suede pants, and her new Valero boots.” Oh, and her +5 Luck locket and the unicorn horn hidden in her pants pocket.

Pimped-Out Kara Outfit Count: 2

(Is it just me, or is Kara’s original outfit kinda provocative for a 12- or 13-year-old girl?)

Anyway, all the girls backstage ogle Kara’s new locket. In the original edition, the girls know the locket is Johnny’s because pictures of it were published in official biographies and websites. They just take Kara’s word that it’s Johnny’s in the revision. Some of the girls go squee over it, while others are visibly jealous.

Adriane eventually shows up in a pimped-out outfit of her own: a “black leather jacket and skirt, a black tube top, black vest, stylish jeans, and black leather boots.” Someone’s trying to cultivate a goth image. (Again … isn’t her original outfit kinda risque? Never in a million years can I picture Adriane in a tube top.) Adriane realizes that this whole karaoke battle thing has gotten out of hand in the new edition, and she tries to tell Kara about it:

“It’s just … some strange things have been going on.”

“You would think that,” Kara muttered.

Adriane’s eyes widened and she looked ready to deliver a nasty comeback — then she forced a smile into place. “Look, I haven’t been myself lately. I don’t know why it became so important to win this contest.”

Kara tapped her foot, waiting.

“Okay, what do you think is going on?” Adriane asked.

“Nothing,” Kara said impatiently, looking past Adriane to where the contestants were starting to line up.

The karaoke contest begins! Adriane is the sixth performer, and she goes onstage playing some sort of classic rock song. It’s never specified in the book, but for the purposes of this recap I’m gonna pretend Adriane played this:


(Yes, this is what I think when I hear “classic rock”. You’re more than welcome to suggest something different ^_^)

It’s Heather’s turn next. She sings something so amazing that most of the contestants after her want to drop out.

Eventually it’s Kara’s turn. She goes onstage, gets really nervous … then notices that Johnny is mouthing along to the song Kara chose. The locket flares up, which causes Kara to black out in the original edition. In the revision, Kara is fully aware of what she’s doing on stage:

She reached for the power of the unicorns and felt a sparkle of fire where the locket hung.

With a twirl, Kara stepped into a choreographed dance move, moving in sync with the beat. Her voice sang out, filling the auditorium and carrying the melody in perfect pitch. Rocking out, Kara danced up a storm as the crowd was swept to their feet with the excitement of her performance.

Either way, the crowd goes wild. The contest winners are announced soon afterwards, and of course the list includes Adriane, Heather, and Kara. Adriane isn’t pleased, however: she’s been Detecting Magic throughout the entire contest, so she noticed that Kara had some magical help. She forces Kara to back out of the finals, but Kara only agrees to do so if Adriane does, too — or else she’ll tell everyone that Adriane practiced with Johnny. In the new edition, Adriane also asks Kara why she has to sing in the finals … and Kara doesn’t have a good reason.

Kara tells Johnny’s people that she’s backing out, and immediately thinks about how she’ll take her frustrations out on Adriane….

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Kara wears a sequined tank top instead of a hot pink pullover.

Next time: Kara gets a surprise visitor.