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Comic Book / A Letter from Home

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A Letter From Home, also known as The Old Castle's Other Secret, and its companion story, The Crown Of The Crusader Kings, is a two part epic Disney Ducks Comic Universe story, made by Don Rosa and published in 2004, and, along with The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck and Guardians of the Lost Library, considered his magnum opus.

In The Crown of The Crusader Kings, Scrooge learns that the location of the eponymous crown, made by all the wealthiest gems in medieval Europe, and the western counterpart to the crown of Genghis Khan, which he previously lost in the Don Rosa story Return To Xanadu, can be found in the diary of Christopher Columbus, which was lost during his return trip. Scrooge remembers that he knows the location of the diary, as it belonged to Swedish/Finnish polar explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, whom Scrooge purchased an Australian map from in 1892, when Nordenskiöld offhandedly stated he lost it while exploring the northern part of Brutopia.

After retrieving the book in Brutopia, Scrooge and his nephews head to Paris, where they meet with two representatives of The International Money Council — Maurice Mattressface, whom they previously ran into in the Carl Barks story The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone, and his superior, Monsieur Molay. Molay accompanies them to Haiti, where Columbus' flagship Santa Maria had capsized while he was trying to deliver the crown to the Emperor of Mongolia, on behalf of the Templars, in order to hide it from the wrath of the French king. Here, they find that an abandoned anchor on a hilltop is the clue to locating the crown, as watching through the anchor's eye on Christmas Day reveals the true position. However, Molay betrays them and tricks them into searching an entire valley for the crown, finding nothing. He then takes the crown for himself, but one of the nephews reveals that, due to the calendar change, the date, on which the Knights Templar, actually the International Money Council, obtained ownership of the crown never existed. Molay tries shooting them but is subdued by a Haitian priest, who then takes the crown for a local museum.

In A Letter From Home, Scrooge notices that the pattern on the cloth used to cover the crown was the tartan of the Clan of McDuck, meaning a member of the family had hid the crown on behalf of the Knights Templar, which would mean the rest of the grand treasure was most likely hidden by a McDuck. Scrooge and his nephews return to Castle McDuck in Scotland, where they come face to face with his younger sister Matilda McDuck, who abandoned him after the events of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. Molay escapes from his imprisonment, steals the crown, and heads to Scotland with Maurice. As Scrooge works his way down the clues to the treasure, he also has to confront his family issues with Matilda. Eventually, Molay kidnaps her to use her as a bargaining object to Scrooge, Maurice betrays him, realizing he is evil, and Molay reveals his allegience to the Priory of Sion, an evil faction of the Knights Templars.

Molay reaches the central chamber under the castle, along with the ducks, and they realize that the crown is the key to the treasure. Molay forces them to unlock the treasure chamber at gunpoint, but the timely intervention of Maurice allows Donald to defeat him. Subsequently, they unlock the treasure chamber, and Matilda finds a small box, hidden above the chamber, left by their father, Fergus. In it, Fergus reveals that he had always understood Scrooge's obsession with adventure and knows that he values hard work, not money in itself. Scrooge gets the right to administer the treasure, while Molay is arrested, and Scrooge reconciles with Matilda.

Tropes used in Crown of the Crusader Kings, and A Letter From Home:

  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Priory Of Sion, originally a conspiracy within the Templars that survived into modern day, that intends to seize the Templar treasure for themselves.
  • Arc Welding: Hoooo, boy. This story is a direct sequel to Rosa's own Crown of the Crusader Kings, which was itself a semi-sequel to Carl Barks's Fabulous Philosopher's Stone (which introduced Mattressface). However, in terms of being set in Castle McDuck and involving a treasure hunt for a treasure hidden by Scrooge's ancestor, it acts as a Spiritual Successor to Barks's The Old Castle's Secret (as reflected in this story's alternate title, The Old Castle's Other Secret). Finally, it also acts as a Distant Finale of sorts to Rosa's Life and Times saga, with Scrooge finally meeting and making amends with his sister and his father's memory.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The Priory of Sion never existed, but this was unknown to Don Rosa when he wrote the story. It was little more than a hoax and a glorified Freemasons ripoff that got fused with a variety of conspiracy theories over the years, including those described in The Da Vinci Code.
    • Saying the Knights Templar invented a few concepts that are still used in modern banking is fairly accurate. Calling them history's first bankers? No way. Banks existed back in Assyria and Babylonia.
  • Ascended Extra: Maurice has only a minor role in Crown of The Crusader Kings, but becomes a major character in A Letter From Home.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Invoked and Exploited. Whenever the Philosopher's Stone is used, the gold it creates is demonstrably soft and useless for whatever purpose it was previously fulfilling, such as prison chains or a gun, which just falls apart in the shooter's hand.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Towards the end of the story after Molay has been defeated and Scrooge is enjoying the new treasure he's discovered he has one last confrontation with his sister when they deal with their issues. When continually questioned by his sister on why he never attempted to contact her and their other sibling Scrooge McDuck breaks down and cries, admitting that he was ashamed of what he had become yet too stubborn to face them and say he was wrong.
  • Bald of Evil: Molay. It actually becomes a plot point, as Molay's lack of hair reveals the secret hidden inside the Crown of the Crusader Kings.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A polar bear attacks the ducks and menaces Donald in Brutopia.
  • Big Bad: Molay. He's been manipulating and following Scrooge the whole time, in the hopes that the Ducks will lead him to the Templar Treasury so he can seize it for the Priory of Zion.
  • Big Damn Reunion: Averted first and then later played straight between Scrooge and Matilda. Matilda is not happy to see Scrooge again because of how he had treated her and Hortense all those years ago, and acts resentful towards him through the whole story, with Scrooge being too stubborn to attempt to reconcile either. When Scrooge attempts to take the bullet for Matilda by jumping between her and Molay, however, it shows her his true self, and they're eventually able to have a tearful reunion after talking everything out.
  • Call-Back: The entire story opens with Scrooge mourning his loss of the crown of Genghis Kahn in Return To Xanadu.
  • Cardboard Prison: Molay escapes between the stories, using the Philosopher's Stone.
  • Cool Crown: The Crown Of the Crusader Kings, designed to be the western counterpart to the crown of Genghis Khan, using all the best gems in the Templar treasury. It also hides a valuable secret; the inside of the brim has a mirrored code carved into it that leaves an imprint on whoever wears the crown, revealing the original ranks of the founding Knights Templars.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: The alternate title "The Old Castle's Other Secret" is a reference to Carl Barks story "The Old Castle's Secret".
  • Distant Finale: In some ways, it is one to Rosa's Life and Times of Scrooge series, though it is not officially a part of it.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Averted this time around in regards to Scrooge and Donald. After over a dozen adventures with his nephew in which Donald's life was constantly put at risk and he helped his uncle attain multiple famous treasures Scrooge admits that Donald (and Huey, Dewey, and Louie) changed him for the better, reminding him of the joy he found in adventure during his youth.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Molay's first assumption, when he sees a subdued Scrooge leave the clan cemetery, is not that he was mourning for his parents but that he failed to find a clue he was looking for.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Molay goes from a sympathetic antagonist in his first appearance in The Philosophers Stone, where he confiscated the Stone not just to protect the world economy, but also because extended use would have killed Scrooge, to resorting to theft and blackmail, culminating in the reveal that he's actually a member of a sinister conspiracy within the International Money Council itself, seeking the Templar treasure for themselves.
  • Filler Villain: The Brutopian military. They only appear while the Ducks are trying to retrieve the lost charts of Columbus in the Arctic, forcing them to intrude on Brutopia's borders in the process, and disappear from the story once they escape back to international waters.
  • Heel Realization: Maurice in A Letter From Home.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Scrooge attempts one, when Molay tries to shoot Matilda, but the gun fails as it was turned to gold. It serves to reveal his true nature, though.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: While the readers already knew this, Matilda finally discovers that Scrooge isn't nearly as miserly and selfish as she thought, and that he had changed after their falling out, even if he can't bring himself to show it.
  • Historical Domain Character: Several of the late ones, Columbus and Nordenskiöld being the most significant.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Scrooge and Donald encounter this, complete with voodoo dolls, when they go to Haiti. On the other hand, the voodooisants themselves aren't evil or even really antagonistic once a few misunderstandings are cleared up.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Molay is darker than your usual Scrooge McDuck villain, such as when he outright tries to kill Matilda.
  • Kill the Creditor: As in real-life, King Philip IV of France was heavily in debt to the Templars and tried to get out of paying by declaring the Templar Knights to be a heretical order in 1307 (while this isn't mentioned in the story, he did so by pressuring Pope Clement V into giving him the authority), arresting their leadership and attempting to seize their treasury. This was the end of the historical Templars, with the survivors scattering across the world, taking the treasury with them.
  • MacGuffin: Several. The diary of Columbus in the beginning of Crown of the Crusader Kings, the crown of the crusader kings in A Letter From Home, and also, the Philosopher's Stone in the latter story.
  • Mundane Utility: The two stories mark the first return of the Philosopher's Stone since the original Carl Barks story (barring a few cameos), but instead of its intended use of creating wealth, it's used to break out of chains or get past iron bars; Gold is soft and easily bendable.
  • Noble Top Enforcer: Maurice, who grows increasingly ambivalent about Molay thanks to his dubious methods, and finally turns on him when Molay tries to use Matilda as a hostage.
  • Posthumous Character: All the Knights Templar, Columbus, Nordenskiöld, and Fergus McDuck.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The treasure includes a fair few, namely the ivory throne of king Solomon, the ark of the covenant and the holy grail (which Donald uses to knock Molay senseless). Don Rosa has said he wanted to include those in a Scrooge story, but did not want to put them in the focus due to how taking an in-universe stance on the factuality of Christianity would inevitably end up Flame Bait.
  • The Reveal: Again, several: Molay was a traitor, the International Money Council is the modern Knights Templar, a McDuck hid the crown, Molay is a member of the Priory of Sion, and finally, Fergus understood Scrooge, and had searched for the treasure himself.
  • Savage Wolves: Just before the bear attack, a pack of wolves chase the ducks in Brutopia.
  • Taking the Bullet: Scrooge does this when Molay tries to shoot Matilda, but the gun fails.
  • Wham Line: "It''s not here...not even the Guidebook knows the correct rank order of the original nine Templars!" For perhaps the first time in history, the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook was not able to provide a vital clue.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Keeping with tradition, Donald's mother and Scrooge's sister Hortense is briefly mentioned, but nothing is said of where she is or what happened to her.
    • In Life and Time's chapters about Castle McDuck, the McDuck ancestors' ghosts were shown to haunt the castle. They're nowhere to be seen in this story.