Story Number One: The Fire and Shadow Inn

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Now, Nicky Reynolds was just your average city rat. He did have a few special qualities, though: unerring common sense, stubbornness only equaled by an enraged cave troll, and a sense for magic that saved his life approximately sixteen times, even before he was kicked out of the orphanage.

His common sense prompted him to tell his trade-titan father that he should move all his investments out of sugar before war broke out in the Canelzke Islands. When his father didn’t listen, Nicky’s stubbornness took him to his mother, who moved all her shares out of sugar. And when he sensed magic outside his father’s window one rainy day in April, he took his mother and ran before the assassins sent to kill his father got them too.

That was when his mother sat him down and explained her plans. She’d start up an inn in the middle of the city with some of her money and Nicky would go to an orphanage.

But why? Nicky asked.

Because, Nicky, back when I was Polly Wharf-rat and not Patricia Reynolds, I learned how to be tough and relentless. Now, you can already be relentless. But you can’t be tough. So go learn how to be tough.

Nicky did learn to be tough. It helped him in the orphanage, where a quarter of the kids had magic and swanned around like they owned the world, the work was hard, boring and endless, and the kids sleeping next to him were an ifrit who breathed fire when she snored and an unendingly hyperactive pixie. Toughness also helped him wage prank war against the magical kids who ran the place, with the covert assistance of Connor, a mischievous selkie who helped him fill the sirens’ beds with seaweed in return for his shower time. By the time he was kicked out, he ran the place. And Nicky found that not only did he like being tough, he knew how to handle people. If a werewolf needed to find a silver-free place to transform, he could do that. But if they only wanted to talk about their problems, he could do that too.

When Nicky staged his “accident” after three years in the orphanage, a lot of people were surprised. The ifrit Nita, who had claimed the position of Nicky Reynolds’ Trusted Lieutenant, took over with only a little fuss, while Connor and the sirens had a few more questions about how to keep the inspector off their backs. The orphanage director was not a factor in Nicky’s equation, as he’d sent her off on an archaeological expedition to Old Sehherika.

But Nicky, with a suspiciously “broken” leg and a lot of new friends – but he’d never call them that, they were allies, stop looking at me like that, Mother – went to the three-year-old Fire and Shadow Inn.  And that’s when Nicky sprung his bombshell – he wanted to hire Connor and Nita from the orphanage.

Oh, Nicky, his mother said exasperatedly while she dumped out the dishwater. I’ve already hired them.

So Connor, with his magical good looks and charming wit, ran the bar, while Nita waited tables and doubled as the bouncer, and Nicky added up the finances. His mother did the cooking. When the nixie twins showed up and wanted jobs, Nicky put them on table-waiting/bouncing duty and moved Nita to the kitchen where she whipped up tasty, sinus-clearing spicy food.

Eventually, some of the other orphanage kids showed up – werewolves (bouncers), vampires (wait staff), ogres (cooks, actually). They were never turned away.

One day, due to the largely magical staff, the clientele of the Fire and Shadow started to become more magical too, with hags with platters of raw liver, fairies playing politics, and itches discussing the latest fireproofed cloaks. Nicky’s mother knew they’d made it when the High Warlock and his friends in the magical city guard began showing up every week, and retired, leaving Nicky the inn.

The Fire and Shadow, Nicky’s baby and the magical community’s crown jewel of clandestine information, would also become the starting point of the Dragon Rebellion.

Well, I’ll tell you that one tomorrow night.

Ravens

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The ravens see everything.  Their princess sleeps, and dreams raven dreams – spinning clouds, steaming asphalt, skittering leaves.  She dreams stars, and waves, and cars, and cities steel and glass up to the sky, she has many eyes and sees from many different angles.  She is told she has red hair and gray eyes.  This could be wrong, for she’s never managed to bring a raven to her room to see through, and she can’t do it with her own eyes.  Apparently, she fell and hit her head as a child, and lost her vision.  This could be wrong too, for she thinks as a raven, and memory is not much use.  Only certain undeniable truths stay through the years – her name is Morgan, she is seventeen now, her parents are Maurice and Shannon, she likes the color red and Jules Verne and the feeling of the wind through her flight feathers, she is always careful and rational.  And, In a rare and strange stroke of chance, there’s a raven outside her window now, and for the first time, she sees white floor-length vertical blinds.  The shadows behind the blinds are probably her parents.  The raven hops next door, where there is an open window that should not be open.  The raven, of course, flies inside, because she is their princess, and they obey her.  Right in front of an orderly – this is a hospital (Mercy General, her eyes a half-mile away see from their perch on a road sign) – and into the room next door, through blinds that foul up the raven’s wings.  Her parents flail and squawk human language in a corner as she looks at them through bright black eyes that should probably be gray.  Onto the rail of a bed, where a girl with red hair and a sharp nose sleeps, the raven flies, and finally sees the face of its princess.  It isn’t prepossessing, with a ventilator covering the thin lips, but it’s her, someone she has never been able to see.  Although it doesn’t really matter what I look like, she thinks, raven first and girl second, I will never wake up.

Death After Life

 

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The day started well. He had felt a curious sense of calm as he rocked out of the Tempur-pedic, flossed his teeth twice, and made eggs, two of which he fed to the turtle. Six capsules went down with eight ounces of fruit punch, and in a bathrobe, he sat down at his 1963 Remington, and began to type.

By eleven, he had checked email at that infernal laptop. His agent had signed him up for a gig: some ridiculous Christmas farce they were filming next spring. Did he truly look old enough to be that heifer’s grandfather? Sure, she was a Disney starlet, but she was twenty-seven. He Googled her. This depressed him.

Afternoon brought those Asian cleaning ladies around. In accordance, he locked his underwear drawer, where he kept his most precious treasures. Those cleaning people stole everything. Just last week, he noticed two small ornamental statues missing in the foyer, and two months prior, he saw them leave with the vacuum!

Four tablets were swallowed with eight ounces of fruit punch.

At three, he took a shower in the guest bath, and under the water, realized that he’d forgotten a towel. He exited nude and dripping, but for a hand towel lain across his hairy shoulder, and startled a woman with a feather duster on his way to the bedroom. He dressed quickly in a Chinese print button down and slacks, and promptly left.

His driver had the day off, so he drove himself to the hospital. That evening, he would be hosting the black tie opening of its new psychiatric wing.

Seventy doctors, a gaggle of nurses, and the press cheered as he cut the ribbon and led the group inside. Pictures were taken, champagne was passed around, his decade old Oscars were celebrated. The place was beautiful, with walls of glass, botanical gardens, and non-offensive artwork. It put him in a festive mood. He even posted a selfie with the top doc.

On the drive home, lights raced past him smearing like a color palate, and he thought of his wife, who was a painter. She’d be home by now. He looked at his wrist, to check the time, and nearly ran off the road. His watch was gone. Those cleaners! They must have gotten into his underwear drawer after all. Or, perhaps someone at the event had stolen it. There had been quite a lot of drink going around…

As soon as he screeched into the driveway, he ran to his bureau and removed his treasure: seven precious watches, in twenty-four karat gold, in platinum, in diamond. Now, he had a duty to fulfill. He wrapped them delicately in various undergarments, tucked them in a hat, and drove off once more.

His friend took them in like orphans, as he knew she would. He didn’t stay longer than a quick exchange on her door mat. And then he left for home.

Who could you trust in this world? The vast darkness was deep enough to ingest anyone whole. His life was an abyss that swallowed up his blockbuster hits, his fortune, his happiness. Where were the award shows now? Where was the gratitude?

He dressed for bed, pondering this, and kissed his wife on the cheek. She was reading, and smiled at him as he explained that he didn’t want to miss the Tonight show.

Then he went to the bathroom. He did not take his pills.

His hands yearned for a razor blade. What they found was a small pair of scissors.

The next morning, every news headline read: BROCK BOWER, 61, FOUND DEAD IN HIS LOS ANGELES HOME.

 

©MTL

http://www.mavisknightley.weebly.com

Harry Potter and the Protective Parents

Harry-Potter

The Harry Potter series is one of the biggest hits in our world today. It has been read the world over and kept bookstores in business for another ten years. J.K. Rowling, the author, has become extremely rich and need not ever pick up the pen again. This happy story has a seemingly sad lining. Many parents have seen the back of the book, seen the words “witchcraft and wizardry”, and deemed the fantastic series inappropriate for their children.

This is one of the saddest true stories in the history of books. I even have a friend going into high school who says her parents won’t allow her to read them. The reason this story is so sad isn’t just because they’re missing out on the wonderful, moral books about Hermione, Ron, and Harry. The saddest part is that these children have not been introduced to reading in the unique way that authors such as J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan present it.

You see, when I was seven years old, my father read me the first book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was so delighted with it that I promptly read the second book. And the third. In fact, by the time I finished fourth grade, I’d finished the whole series… multiple times.

The point of this anecdote? The Harry Potter series caused me to fall in love with reading for the first time. It made me want to be an author. Thanks to Harry Potter, I started writing fanfiction and short stories, and discovered what would become my passion and dream: writing children-to-young-adult-level novels… just like my heroes, Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling.

Now, I am a Christian girl. My parents are very devout. But they read the whole series and knew that it wouldn’t cause me to become a real-life, demonic witch. They knew that it would foster in me a love of reading, and it did! It made me look upward and onward, going on to read books in elementary school that kids in middle school would hesitate to crack open. Harry Potter did this. I have J.K. Rowling to thank.

So, please, please, parents, if you’re reading this, give Harry Potter a chance. It’s a moral, wonderful book that’s totally clean even on Catholic standards (which isn’t always easy to reach, believe me!) that won’t teach your children to worship demons. Some lessons in this series include: Don’t focus on yourself. Be selfless. Think of others before yourself. Be a good friend. Don’t kill people (an obvious one). If you treat others the way they want to be treated, most likely they’ll treat you with respect. Justice is good, but mercy is important too, even if you don’t always get something from it.

Harry Potter made me turn to my parents eagerly, and ask, “What else can I read?” One of the best moments, I’m sure, in parenting, is fostering a love of something good and beautiful, such as reading. Do your children a favor and let them read Harry Potter.

The Girl On The Moon

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There has been a legend,
A legend that tells of a young girl.

Her best friends were the stars,
And she, well she danced on the moon.

People saw her from Earth, a beautiful golden streak,
Dancing in the moonlight,
With specks of stardust twirling around her, illuminating her bright features.

Everyone loved the young girl,
With her shining hair moving with her dance,
And her bright eyes illuminating the sky as she danced with her friends.

But one day, she started to dim.

At first, no one noticed, but soon, her features changed.

Her once shining blonde hair, was now a dull black.
Her dress changed from a glittering white, to a smoggy gray.
And her eyes…her shining blue eyes that were so full of light…
Had become as black as the starless night.

She wept as she lied on the crescent moon,
And her tears were seen as shooting stars from the blue planet.

Soon, the night sky was illuminated by her tears,
And the stars and her tears glimmered and twirled about her.

As they did, she began to glow again.

She was lifted from the moon, and she giggled as they gave her their brightness.

She once again danced and everyone loved her,
For she gave them the joy that was once missing.

Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

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I went to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving this year. It was nice to see all of the family and friends I don’t usually get to visit, including my two younger cousins – ages 2 and 5 months. The two-year-old was obsessed with my brother, and refused to play with anyone else. My younger brother, not having much experience in dealing with toddlers, was very overwhelmed, but it was pretty cute all the same. So, in honor of my cousins and all awesome cousins, I submit the following tidbits about two unnamed cousins who are the best of friends.

Stone stairs spiraled up, covered by an old, worn carpet. The thin fibers did little to keep the floor warm, but they did muffle the footsteps of the two small children quietly creeping up the levels of the tower. One child was a girl, tan and golden haired, with freckles sprinkled across her cheeks; the other was a boy with shaggy blond hair. They both had the same hazel eyes framed by light lashes, and looked to be about eight years of age.

There were six landings in the tallest tower. As the children reached the fifth one, the boy grabbed his friend’s arm. “Are you sure we should be doing this? Spying on the alchemist, I mean,” the boy asked in a worried whisper.

The girl brushed his hand off and gave him a reassuring grin. “We’ll be fine. Trust me.”

He relaxed immediately. She had said the magic words. Of course he would trust her. She was his best friend, and he would trust her with his life.

It was evening, and the setting sun made everything glow with a hazy orange light. Fireflies had just started to come out for their evening show, adding their own light to the sky’s. A castle stood against the fiery sky, casting its great shadow across the lawn that laid in front of it. The lawn, sparking with the dew of dusk, was surrounded by a wall made of the same shimmery stone as the castle.

Two children stood on a rough patch of dirt situated near the castle, sparring with wooden swords. They were older than before, perhaps by a year or so, but looked much the same. The girl, facing the castle, had her golden brown hair tied back. Her freckled skin shone with bright beads of sweat and her cheeks were streaked with dirt, but she seemed to be enjoying herself. The boy, on the other hand, had his shaggy hair in his eyes and was a panting, sweaty mess. He struggled to block the girl’s swift hits, just barely keeping his ground.

With a well-aimed jab, the girl knocked her opponent off balance. While he flailed his arms, trying to steady himself, the girl poked him in the stomach with the very tip of her practice sword. He fell on his rear with a grunt.

“Very good, very good, Princess.” A man, the sword master, called from across the lawn. “Alright boy, get up. There’s time for one more round before supper.”

The princess stepped forward and offered her hand to the boy. “Are you okay?” He nodded without looking up at her, and took the strong hand. She pulled him upright with a great heave.

When he still refused to look up, the girl crouched down a bit to see under his curtain of blond hair and into his eyes. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s fine if you don’t always win. Plus, you’re better than me in Literature and Mathematics class, so I have to be better than you at something, right?” she joked.

“That’s only because you don’t try hard enough in Literature and Mathematics,” the boy said, tilting his head up to look at his friend. But he was smiling now.

“Another round, then?” the princess asked.

The boy raised his sword, the smile still lingering on his face. “En guarde.”

A Beautiful Woman, An Execrable Task

hunted6-lst090772Happy October, everyone who might be reading this! Since this is the month of Halloween, why not celebrate with creepy stories? The following is a piece I wrote a few years ago as a sort of dark parody of the Disney movie Tangled. Enjoy . . .

The lady slipped into the room. She was quite beautiful, but alas, her task was not. Her plan was to steal the boy. He was only a baby, but that was the best time to steal them. They barely remembered anything. What they did remember was faint, and not enough to trigger any more memory gain. She crept over to the crib. For a moment, the woman felt a pang of sympathy. He probably wouldn’t even be able to remember his mother’s face, or the mobile above his crib. The feeling was quickly shaken off. That was of no matter. The child would find a family among the others. She picked the boy up and rocked him. Her voice was soft as she sang, “Quiet now child, do not cry. Stay asleep as time drifts by. Sleep away these dark night hours, when you wake you shall be ours.”

After singing her eerie melody, the woman was silent, listening to the noises of the night that were leaking in through the ajar doorway to the balcony through which she had entered. A noise in the hallway startled the lady, but she relaxed when she realized it was just a servant wandering the halls. Nothing she couldn’t handle. Even so, that signified that her time here had to end soon. Why, if she was caught, chaos would reign where she came from. She was needed very dearly.

Hearing another noise from outside in the hall made the beautiful woman suspicious, and an ugly look flickered across her face, marring its beautiful features. Had she been found out? No, that wasn’t possible, she’d kept her plans secret from all but those in her inner circle that she trusted most. Even then she hadn’t told them the whole plan, just the outline.

A rustling noise from outside brought her back to the present. Now was the time to go. She pulled a blanket from the crib and bundled the boy up in it, then tucked the bundle under her cloak. The woman slipped out of the door as silently as she had come, quickly fading into the shadows.

She was gone by the time the clock-tower tolled twelve times.

Gone by the time the servant stumbled into the room, only to realize he was too late.

Gone by the time the wail, rife with loss, cut through the once peaceful night.