Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chapter 65: Imagination: How to be Killed By a Headless Horseman

American literature before the war of 1812 was stoic, religious, and never really dealt with stories in literature. This is believed to have been because of the steel grip Puritans and other religious groups had over what was published. After the war, Englands grip, as well as its dominating religious holds, were loosened and America was more free than it had been in 1776. The freedom came when stories, poems and novels were being written and shared with the public. This time of literature is the American Renaissance.
The American renaissance was in the mid 1800s and was a release from all the tight, religious literature that was being produced before. Not only were the American people free to make their own histories and stories, but legends began to be born as well. One of the most famous of these legends is Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.
Washington Irving (1783-1859) was named after the man he wrote a 5 volume biography for: George Washington. He was always a writer and was first published in 1802 when he wrote satirical essays for his brother’s paper much like Benjamin Franklin. He was the first American writer whose books and stories were loved on both sides of the ocean and was one of the only writers to support himself entirely by his writing at the time. Irving liked to write about darker things and historical transformation; hence his famous work from The Sketchbook “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.
The three themes that stand out most in Irving’s work are: imagination, supernatural reality, and the boundless selfishness of the characters in his little Dutch community. Without Ichabod Crane’s fantastic imagination there would be no ground for this story. His obsession with the paranormal and fascination with witches are the base for practically everything that happens in the story including his attempts to win Katrina Van Tassel and the spoils to be gained (yeah, he was a gold digger!). Ichabod’s imagination is to be expected since he is the focal character of the plot, but the townspeople also show a great interest in stories of ghosts and goblins, which leads to the telling of the legend of the Hollow's own supernatural haunt: the Headless Horseman. The theme of selfishness in the story is the only one that stands apart from the spooky themes as it has nothing to do with the ghostly reality that Irving’s work is based on. Ichabod is selfish in that he covets Katrina’s inheritance and the towns people are unconcerned with Ichabod’s disappearance in the end simply because he does not owe anyone a debt. Yay, for economic mind-sets!
The story of “Sleepy Hollow”, for those of you who may have never actually read the story, is simple; a superstitious school teacher desires the hand (and estate) of the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel. She is also pursued by Brom, the village’s seemingly only handsome young man (time to skip town, Katrina), who is something of a trickster. The backdrop for the story is the frightening image of the headless Hessian who not only haunts the Hollow but searches every night for his head. Anyone else search for your head every day? Just me? Alrighty then, moving on.
The theme of imagination is really only dominant in Ichabod though the love of supernatural stories of all the townspeople is written throughout the story, however it does not interfere with the lives of the people. Ichabod is like a child trapped in his own supernatural world, which eventually results in his ruin. It is from the townspeople that the reader first hears the legend of the horseman from. The hollow is described in great detail of being a place where everyone is dreamlike and has a witching aura. Irving writes (in the voice of his narrator) that even visitors to Sleepy Hollow are, in a little time, influenced by the dreamy air. The people are subject to having trances and hearing music and voices! As a reader, it can be assumed that this means everyone who lives there and visits becomes entranced somehow. Perhaps there is a bit of magic in the air and that is what accounts for the sightings of the ghostly horseman? But that would be taking the supernatural as reality. Either way, the people of Sleepy Hollow see things that cannot be there outside of a supernatural reality. But with them it is a simple matter of flights of fantasy. Ichabod, on the other hand, lives and breaths his supernatural world. But I can't judge him too much for that. After all, I live in a fantasy world! But I don't get killed by my characters. Not yet.
The first example given of the school master’s supernatural paranoia is when Irving describes how Ichabod has set up traps and defenses about his school house; stakes at the windows, locked doors, and wires twisted around handles so they cannot be opened. This introduction to his paranoia is key to the rest of the story as it intermingles dangerously with his supernatural beliefs.
A second part of Ichabod’s illusionary life is his pride. He takes great pride in disciplining his students and teaching them, but is also proud of the fact that should a weaker student come along who he could not bear to whip, he simply gives them a lecture. It is obvious that he holds his teaching methods in the highest respect. Outside his school house, he takes pride in showing off in public. He is deemed smart among the hollow’s community because he is the only book learned one in the area, but really he just carries around a copy of Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft”. Well, what we can say? He's a fanboy. It is this praise of his knowledge that leads him to be boisterous among the women and his delusion that he thinks he has a chance with any one female he chooses, but this is proved dreadfully incorrect when he tries and fails with Katrina. May I never be this teacher...
It is hard to say if Ichabod is in love with Katrina, her lands, or his illusion that his knowledge will get him what he wants. From what one can read in the story, it may become quite obvious that it is the last two that give Ichabod his ridiculous courage to pursue Katrina. When he goes to call on Katrina, the narrator (as a writer, I'm desperate to wonder who it is) states that Ichabod's “mouth watered, as he looked upon this sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare”. Ew. He's hungry for land, I guess. Then the narrator describes a wonderful feast in the Van Tassel home, which Ichabod now sees as his lordly home. He sees a “whole family of children” and “himself bestriding a prancing mare” on these grounds. When Ichabod actually enters the house, he doesn’t see it as a visit, but rather as if he is entering his own home and his “only study was how to gain the affection of the peerless daughter of Van Tassel”. See? Gold digger. What is it with big houses and lavish furnishings, people?
When a person is so far into their own reality, others around them can easily be tempted into unkind pranks and schemes against the dreaming person. As common as that situation is and as smart as Ichabod thinks he is, he should have seen the schemes that were playing out before him starting with the invitation he received during his class to come to the Van Tassel gathering in the first place. It’s easy for Katrina and Brom to plot against him for the remainder of the story without him knowing because he's actually quite stupid and delusional. By the end, when Ichabod vanishes, it can be surmised that Brom made him leave on Katrina’s bidding. Ichabod never knew that she had no interest in him.
Ichabod is so happy to be invited to the ranch that he lets class go early and enters his dream world. He goes home, dresses well and even buys a horse to appear “before his mistress in the true style of a cavalier”. Ichabod’s imagination then starts to leak out of his world as he tries to pull it into genuine reality. He wants to show Katrina and everyone at the ranch, just how great he is. A glimpse of the reality can be seen though when the narrator describes the ride to the Van Tassel home: “He rode with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of the saddle”. Remembering Ichabod’s long, thin description from before, the image becomes absurd as this delusional man is imagined in the mind’s eye. Ichabod’s reality and real reality do not seem to be able to coincide. It's at this point that a modern reader would scoff, look at the great rented horse, and ask if he's overcompensating for something. Well, yes. But it's not what you think. It's that he thinks he smart and he's just not. Don't those people annoy you?
The best part of the focal character’s imagination comes out in the theme of the supernatural in the story. In the beginning of the story, Sleepy Hollow is already described as a very dreamy place. The people tell stories of ghosts and all seem to honestly believe in the Horseman. Tales of encounters are the most talked about at the fire side and at social gatherings. Later, the narrator says Ichabod would be social with the older women in the hollow, not only for his own prideful advancement as previously mentioned, but because they would tell him stories of witches and magic and he would read to them from Cotton Mather in return. Throughout the story, Ichabod can be seen constantly feeding his supernatural desires and imagination. Brom plots against him to make him into the fool when he blocks up the chimney in the school house one day and silly Ichabod thinks that witches have cursed his school.
Brom’s plan to win Katrina is finally revealed to the listener when Ichabod is on his way home from the party. He waited behind to speak with his desired but the narrator, claiming he doesn’t know why, says that Ichabod left in somewhat dampened spirits. One theory assumes that Ichabod’s supernatural imagination is heightened by this depression. The scene set, the witching hour, and he’s passing the “very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been lain” when the Horseman charges Ichabod down and chases him for the next two pages. Perhaps if the school master had not been such a superstitious and paranoid individual living in a supernatural world, he could have turned and faced the farce. It was not really the Horseman because later the narrator tells that whenever the story of the missing school teacher is brought up, Brom grins and even chuckles a little to himself about the incident. With Brom’s past of tricks on Ichabod, it is not hard to realize what Ichabod could not see through his false reality.          
The theme of selfishness is not as easily seen as imagination or supernatural reality, but is laced throughout the story and is a fun to talk about considering our modern times. How many selfless people do you know? Probably you know more selfish people who interrupt you when you talk and text while your speaking. In Irving's story, it can be seen with Ichabod and his lustful thoughts of the land and wealth he wishes to gain from his union with Katrina. Even his pride is a form of selfishness as he thinks he is the only smart person in Sleepy Hollow. His world would be turned upside down if someone out smarted him: Like Brom for example!
Katrina is selfish in that she schemes to have Brom scare Ichabod to make him leave and win the heart of the young man at the same time. Because everyone loves a scheming rich girl. A theory for the story is that Katrina used both Brom and Ichabod. She used Ichabod to enrage Brom thus leading him to making Ichabod leave. She wanted to be with Brom but for some reason could not simply tell Ichabod to stop pursuing her. She desires Brom to like her, though he already does, so she’s mean to Ichabod with false advances and catering to his talk after the party. She wanted the situation in her control and wanted toy with a man’s emotions: “Could the girl have been playing off any of her coquettish tricks?” the narrator asks us. The narrator implies here that she has more than one trick to play much like her man Brom.
The people of Sleepy Hollow are not so obviously selfish but they provide the theme at the end of the story. No one cares that the schoolmaster has vanished very mysteriously. When it is discovered that he doesn’t owe any debts, no one thinks on him again except the old women in the Sleepy Hollow who tell his story as just another ghostly haunting of the Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chapter 64: The One I Forgot

I wish I could remember things better. I forget everything. I forget my keys in the two seconds it takes me to walk out my bedroom door. I’ll open the fridge and not know what I’m doing. I’ll think of something, go downstairs and forget what it was I was going to get. I’ll pack up for school and forget my wallet, then see it’s missing and not be able to retrace my steps to where I may have lost it, totally unaware that I took it out earlier. I never remember that stuff. I lose my cell, keys, iPod, everything all the time. Not just like other people. I can’t retrace my steps either. Ever. I turn left when I say out loud “Turn right”. I never which direction I’m facing, but that’s relatively normal. I can set my mug down, turn to something for three seconds then storm around in a rage looking for my mug. I scream and shout then am clam not ten seconds later.
My life goes up and down that fast all the time. That’s the first reason for how tired I am sometimes. And why I don’t like being around people. What will they think when I’m blistering angry one second and literally the next, I’m slapping backs and making jokes. Who can handle that kind of person? Handling that is hard work too.
I also forget social niceties. I don’t remember that I’m supposed to say hello to people who are standing by me. I’ll forget to introduce myself or my friends. I’ll forget to say goodbye and walk away from people leaving them awkward. This happened recently. I was in the coffee store and Anna introduced me to one of her coworkers. We talked for a long time and then I just up and walked out the door after the conversation was winding down. He called after me to say goodbye. I was nearly traumatized. I’ll say things that shouldn’t be said in social situations about myself or others. I don’t mean to until it’s out of my mouth. When I try to behave, I’m quiet. So quiet that people ask me what’s wrong. “Nothing, just trying to be socially correct” or something to that extent.
I can sit quietly for hours and listen to people talk. Then forget half of what that said or what I was supposed to do after. If I can stand hours of people. Things start to turn gray and I freak out after a while. I can’t meet new people. It irritates me. There are rules and steps that I can’t remember so I hate doing it. And I know those people don’t really want to talk to me and know about me. Everyone else just wants to talk. That makes me feel strange too. Knowing that no one cares. It’s like being around a bunch of androids. You’re not real to them so they’re not real to you.
Trying to be social with them is horrible. I can’t do it. Not just because I can’t remember what to do, but because they react. They judge or don’t do anything. Condemn you or no reaction. They pass a judgment then go on about their lives. Or they jabber away while their android eyes are fixed on their screens and buttons. Scary things, these people. But my mind doesn’t work when I’m around other people. I have to freeze.
Or I act the part of the comedian. That’s my best, strongest, and most acceptable fall back. Everyone loves a joker, so that’s what I be. Sometimes my other problems interfere and I can’t even think. So I’m quiet again. Silence more often than not, as you see. I’d be a great comedian. I’m witty enough. I fall back on humor all the time. It’s the only way I can be around people. I’m sure it’s the only way people tolerate me as well. I’m too down, too awkward, too quiet, too forgetful.
But I try so hard and by the end of the day, I am exhausted. It’s hard to interact. To remember all that stuff. What to say when, what not to say, what I’ve forgot, I check my calendar every minute of every day. I fill in every line with things to not forget. It’s a mess. Highlighted and scribbled to within an inch of its life. This, among other reasons, could be why I cry when I'm driving or taking a walk by myself. Last night, I walked along and sat by the lake in the dark. I had my iPod on so I don't know how loudly I was really crying. I do that often. Sometimes 3 or 4 times a week. Sometimes less. Other times I giddy-happy. To the point of near hysteria. I smile and laugh at nothing. If you've ever seen someone do it, then you know what I mean, otherwise you can't imagine. It's the craziest thing. Or I do girlish squee noises and sigh happily. But within an hour or so, I'm crying again. I cry while brushing my teeth sometimes. 

I’m only writing this now because I’m forgetting a lot more. And I can’t organize my papers and stories any more. I have to outline and draft and outline. Something is happening in my head and I don’t know what it is. It’s not bad, I’m sure, or scary. It’s like moving a couch to a different side of the room after 20 years of it being in one place. Just a shift that I’ll learn how to handle like everything else. If there is one thing I’m good at (even if I scream, kick and cry at first) it’s adapting. For someone who never remembers and is never in one place very long, adaption is easy. It’s how I live.      

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Chapter 63: Frankenstein: The Destroyer as Creator

So I've been working on something a little more academic and wanted to post it just because. I've been on this "creators are destroyers" theme for a while and was thinking about that stupid argument of "destruction as a form of creation". In this post though, I get more scholarly and not so "fun". I also see that I haven't posted in far too long. I need to do that more, especially with all the stuff I have going on. Not amazing stuff, but stuff I can at least write about. Sort of.
Any way, this argument I summed up in this little post. What do I think? Can art be destruction? Is destruction creation? If you don't know the story of Frankenstein (I mean the real one. Did you know there is no such thing as Igor? I didn't even know who that guy was until a few years ago. Who the heck even made him up??) then please read it. It's actually very short and can be read in a day if you have nothing else to do. So here is my argument against destruction as creation. (A quick note: this is a very close reading of the first few paragraphs of chapter 5. Not the whole book. I used Barnes and Nobel Classics Edition [you should read the essays in the back, so cool!] in paper back, and cited the pages for you in case you want to check for yourself. But they're all pretty much from page 51. I love citing...)

All quotes taken from the revised version of "Frankenstein" (1831) by Marry Shelly (original 1818). 

Alec Newman and Luke Goss in
Hallmark Entertainment's "Frankenstein", 2004
Prometheus was an Olympian who brought fire to the mortals of Greece. With fire, they could not only warm themselves and cook and see in the dark, but fight each other and use the flame to burn down the homes of their enemies. They could forge weapons for destruction and then sharpen metal. Basically, fire lead to knowledge of destruction and means of killing. Prometheus didn’t mean for that happen. He only wanted the mortals to be able to see in the dark. He was the light-bringer. Mary Shelly’s “Modern Prometheus” didn’t intend for death, sadness, and destruction to follow his invention either, but that is the overall theme in Shelly’s gothic science fiction novel “Frankenstein”. The irony that she presents is how creation leads to destruction; or light to darkness. Chapter five displays the theme of creation (light) to destruction (darkness) in three parts: the setting of the scene, the creature’s appearance, and Victor’s reaction to what he’s done. Just the first few paragraphs off this unity through a close reading of the electrified text.    
The first level of language is for setting the scene. The dreary night outside of the laboratory was probably nothing compared to the emotions Victor Frankenstein was feeling as he finished the preparations for his creation to come to life. It’s dark as the “rain pattered dismally” against the creator’s windows. The scene is fixed with details like the nearly burnt out candle and the “half extinguished light” (51). The text is dealing with the balance of life and creation, which in the case of the scene is the fight between light and dark. The night outside is dreary and cold, but it is kept at bay, outside, for now. However, we can see from the candle that is burning low and is almost out, that soon destruction and darkness will emerge. The struggle is already there and eminent; there is no escaping the darkness to come unless the candle could somehow be made to burn longer. Darkness is coming.  
It is with “anxiety that almost amounted to agony” that Victor “gathers the instruments of life around him” in this tense scene. From this description, an excited, eager life-giver is ready to “infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing” (51). The language is charged with words of tension and description. Words like “spark”, “glimmer”, and “light” bring electricity to the scene even though the night is dreary. Victor is nearly a mirror of the night around him, lending himself for this moment to scene. He is anxious and in agony over his creation—excited but apprehensive. All contrasting emotions like the darkness outside and the burning candle inside with the instruments of life. He is more light than dark, more creator than destroyer with the “spark of being” he holds in his hands. This spark is another image of the light and life inside the room that battles against the waning time.    
The second level of language used is to describe the creature and its own conflicting presence and appearance. Just before the candle goes out entirely, leading the way to darkness, the “dull yellow eyes of the creature opened; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs” (51). The language here draws tension on the belief of whether the creature is really alive or not. With the candle having gone out, our vision of light and life, a tension of foreboding has entered the room and now the only light or life left in the room is this creature where the “spark of being” has been ignited. The words used to describe the new life are permeated with death as if to say, “You have created death, Victor”, which, in a sense of the rest of the novel’s events, he has. If the eyes are “dull” and “yellow”, then is it really alive? They’re not flickering and are even duller than the burned out candle. The color yellow is not often associated with life. Yellow is more of a decaying color. The creature’s breath is not easy either. It is convulsive and hard; far from relaxed.  There is a tension of opposites here in the words. Life has happened but the words to describe it are not entirely life-like. The creation is not “light” and pleasant.  
The third level is Victor. He does not feel the joy he expected to find after creating life—his own spark and light. At the sight of his creation, his light goes out and he says it is the “wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form” (51). It is not the life he wanted to create, as if he can see its destructive capabilities already. To expound on this idea and show how life and death are both embodied in the creature, he described it as “limbs in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful” but then Victor exclaims “Beautiful!” as if to dispel what he has just said. This strong exclamation tells the audience that he is in disbelief. This thing does not look like life or light. It appears to be ugly, or rather dead and made for destruction. It could even be viewed as bring death to life or creating destruction, which goes back to the theme and unity of the novel. He goes on to explain why: “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and the arteries beneath” (51). The image is gruesome with such vivid detail and yellow is again mentioned. But again, we see the tension in the words as he finishes describing the creature with “lustrous” and “flowing” black hair and “teeth of pearly whiteness” (51). There is light and there is darkness in his creation; we can see the result embodied in this creature, life and death. From creation comes death and the monster with its contrasting appearance is both, just as Victor was both at the start of the chapter.  
In a way, Victor feels like he’s failed. He set out to create something wonderful and he is not satisfied. He moans, “The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body” (51). What he means is that he does not feel about his creation as he thought he would or should. He is also insinuating here that what he has created is not human or even alive, even though it clearly is. He also tells us that he had “worked hard”. This phrase could have been something more scientific sounding but instead, he uses simple words showing us just how worn out and tired he is. He is almost whining. He’s not the great creator after all. Then what is he? He says, “I had desired it with an ardor that far exceeded moderation”, he knows how unattainable this idea was, “the beauty of the dream vanished” (51). Victor’s light, hope, of creation has gone out like the candle before him. From his creation, he has spelled out his doom and he knows it. He is distraught because he is aware of the destruction he has created.   
Lastly, he says he was, “breathless with horror and disgust filled my heart” (51). The descriptions of his fear are filled with excitement but not the kind he desired or the kind at the start of the chapter. In a sense, his dream has died; the light has gone out, his path from creator to destroyer already begun where it will end in chapter twenty when he destroys the creature’s mate. He has not had any physical exertion and yet he is “breathless”. He has created life and yet he is filled with disgust. He is “unable to endure the aspect of the being” that he has created and yet he cannot even go back to confront it and change his human nature’s reactions. He has tried to justify his running away and abandoning his creation by examining the horror of it. Even though he has succeeded and created life, he is not satisfied because he sees that creation leads to destruction (destruction of his dreams and hopes for now). From this feeling of horror and fear, the path for death and destruction has been placed before the creator.
Just as Prometheus did not intend for his fire to corrupt mankind, neither did Victor Frankenstein understand what he brought into the world: his own destruction by his own hands through the means of his creation. Like Prometheus, he was doomed. With the fire came the knowledge and ability to create and harm; from the creation of Frankenstein came death and destruction and ultimately the maker’s own death. There cannot be destruction if there was not first creation, and there can be no creation without destruction. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chapter 62: The TARDIS Chose the Doctor

Remember that episode of Doctor Who where the TARDIS gets put in to a human body and Matt Smith cries and it's all beautiful? Yeah, this post doesn't really have anything to do with that. Unless you're watching closely. (It has nothing to do with "The Prestige" by Priest either... sorry for all the miss leading!)

I was sitting in my Captain’s Cabin by the window, trying to fall asleep or nod off at least. I read a couple pages from “The World Of King Arthur” by Snyder, but it was too heavy for my dull head. I put it away and stared out that window. The yellow light is not on yet.
I was moping. AM moping. I put the Arthur book down and saw the spine of a book that I’ve read all the way through only once. But I loved it. Love it. I picked up my paperback of Cornelia Funke’s “The Thief Lord” and just held it. It’s a perfect size for a paperback. Not one of those mass markets that I hate (but had to buy TH White’s book in…). It’s a good size for my hands. I cannot tell you why I love that book. There a lot of factors though. Venice is one. I love that place and I see it just like Prosper and Bo’s mom did. It’s magic. It always has been. My “Cirqu” novel takes place there.
Then there is the Peter Pan bit about it. Then how Scipio knew that the kids needed an adult to look after them but Prop knew Bo needed a brother; not a father. The mystery bits is nice with the weird old couple. It’s just all so nice. The Oliver Twist setting of orphans living together.
Other than that, I don’t know.
So I thought, “If the house burned down, I’d make sure to get this book”. Of course, I have others I’d get and I thought I’d list them out. Some of them are cheating since I have a few “complete collections of” (CCO). So here it goes, in no real order and to the best of my knowledge. Sadly, I’d want to take ALL of my books. I have underlined things, written notes, and marked at least one thing in every book. If I had enough money, every time I bought a book, I’d by the hardcover and a standard size paper back for writing in. But back to the list! Keep in mind, this is a list of books that I own. That I am currently sitting next to and loving.

1.      “The Thief Lord” (Funke)
2.      The complete collection of Shakespeare (It’s a big one!)
3.      The complete collected tales and poems of Edgar Allen Poe (another big one)
4.      “Utopia” (Moore) I hate this book, but boy do I love it. Talk about a lot of writing in the margins!
5.      “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” (Pyle) I read it at least once a year.
6.      “The White Chapel Horrors” (Hannah)
7.      The complete Sherlock Holmes (Doyle) These are two big ones!
8.      “Maggie: Girl of the Streets” (Crane)
9.      “The Belly Dancer” (Cameron)
10.  “Dracual” (Stoker) But the one I wrote in is currently on loan to my bfff so it’s safe.
11.  “Gothic Charm School” (Venters) and it’s autographed!

And that may be it. “But Miss Abigail! What about LOTR and the “The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle Earth”? “And your new Drizzt book that you love?” you ask? “Or what about your bible, you bad Christian!”
Well, the things my 12 year old self wrote in the pages of that bible are not things I need to remember. I’ve learned those lessons and am a different person now. In fact, I’d like a new bible. Something fresh.
LOTR? Yes, it is my mother ship as a writer and fantasy lover. But… I’ve read my copies maybe twice. They’re cheap, movie-cover paperbacks. And… I can get Tolkien anywhere. And Drizzt, maybe he’ll make it on the list when I know him better. I am in love with him, but he’s not there yet. Yet.
So there it is. I can’t explain all those things. Some of them have just been there and back again with me. “The Belly Dancer” for example. I may take my copy of “The Sun Also Rises” too and “Gatsby” since I do have TONS of scribbles in them, but I don’t know. Who can say what books choose us? It’s like clothes. Why do you like that? Why do you like that food or color? Why? Sometimes, I think things choose us. We humans are so awesome that our bodies know to breathe in our sleep! But books and things that touch us? Those things are special. Especially when they’re things not a lot of other people understand. You may be one of those things.

Why “The Thief Lord”? I’ve not the foggiest.  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chapter 61: Cyclone, A Short Story

Here is a short story I scribbled out tonight. I wrote it on a whim, but I am so glad to have gotten a short story out. I haven't really written one in years. Even then, this is only about the 4th short story I've written. I hope to make more (at better hours of the day!) while maintaining re-writing my series and (hopefully) complete the LARP story that has no name yet. Please enjoy!


The pressure from his fingers boeing inring in to his temples was as intense as a tire jack. His eyes were so wide they could reflect the glowing laptop screen in front of him. The screen saver should have come on by now but it hadn’t. It was just another glitch in his world now. Everything had come down in an almighty crash at the board meeting that morning that he had had to miss for personal reasons. The email now floating in the cyber world was short and to the point. By a unanimous vote, the board had voted in favor of removing its CEO. Someone as young, smart, and handsome as him should have never been removed by a board of old men. They had called him the company’s prized tycoon and now they had pulled him from his thrown and cast him down to the dogs.
He blinked before his eyes began to water. Outside the night life of Kansas City was buzzing with its Friday vigor. He was ignored now. The lights in his office were off. The only light was that damned email, softly floating for him to read again and again. He loosened his skinny black tie and untucked his well pressed shirt. He sat down and stared for just a moment more. His nerves choked his senses and he grasped his hair with both his hands, hissing an intake of breath. With a final defeated moan, he pulled open his desk and lifted out a bottle of clear, liquid mood-lifter and drank straight from its neck. The fire felt hotter this time.
Placing the bottle next to the glowing screen he wondered where he was going to go. The condo was paid for by the company. Maybe he could sneak in one more night. The car would have to go. That beautiful black Camaro. If only he hadn’t spent so much personal cash on that company promotion bash. He was supposed to have been refunded. If the old goats were sly enough to pass this vote and not inform until five hours later they surely were not about to send him a check for a nearly sixty grand. This was not a night to be alive.
Pushing away from the desk, he took his leather bag and marched out the doors one last time. No one was in the office at this hour. Even the custodian was gone. He let himself out into the garage and ignited the engine on the Camaro. He’d never heard it purr so deeply before. It was almost out of gas too. He felt around in his bag for his wallet and pulled out the company’s plastic. One last time.
Maneuvering down city streets full of entertainment vampires, he swerved around like a stunt driver into a Chevron.  The lights were blinking and flickering like they do at night just to irritate the customers while they sat around waiting for their cars to finish devouring the hard earned cash in their wallets through rubber hoses. While he waited, a woman with dirty dread locks ambled toward to the station with a shopping cart full of dirty and smelly city-growth. Something smelled like it was decomposing. He coughed politely and pulled the wool collar of his long coat up to hide his face. She stopped walking, staring at him, and the steam from her mouth rising in slow beats.
The car could not fill fast enough. She began to shuffle towards him again, her one eye visible beneath her hair was wide and trained on his hand. That was enough gas. He pulled the pump out and gasoline sloshed all down his coat and pants. He swore quietly and jammed the pump back in place. He turned and she was not two steps from him. He twitched in surprise.
“Can I have a dollar? That’s all I need to buy my kids some McDonalds or something. Just a dollar. You got a dollar.”
It wasn’t a question. The honest answer was that he didn’t have a physical dollar and maybe not even an electronic one anymore. He tried to ignore her and shuffle around but she leaned into him.
“That’s all I need,” she repeated.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t have one. I really don’t.”
She took hold of his arm and something hard pressed in to his side. Her other hand was holding something close to his side just above his fifth rib.
“A dollar. That’s all,” she said through mossy teeth.
Looking down, he saw the shiny black neck of a hand gun was pressed in to his side.
“I don’t have a dollar. I really don’t.”
She growled and thrust her hand in to his pocket. With her distracted, he seized her gun with his hand and twisted and pulled to take it from her. She held on tight and cried out, using her other hand to push his face away. They struggled and the lights still flickered. She was strong for a homeless woman. Finally, he had the handle in his fingers and he yanked with all his might.
The report cracked and echoed off the ceiling and the stations store’s walls. Then the sound traveled down the street farther than it normally would have it the weather hadn’t been so cold. The woman fell to the ground, making a grunting gurgling noise in her throat. She began to shriek, louder and higher with every cry. She pointed up to him. Her blood was seeping out from under her, crawling towards him. He panicked and put his hand over her mouth to shut her up. With a growl like a cat, she sunk her brown teeth in to his hand. He cried out more in disgust than pain. The man the store was on the phone, crying and talking very fast with his hands.
He took the gun up off the floor and the woman screamed again. He covered his face from the store’s view and shot the woman in the face. The first time shut her up. The second time took her right eye and temple with it. The third sunk in to her skull and made her head jump.
Snow began to fall straight down without any wind to redirect its path. Down to the pavement where it started piling up. In the silent night, sirens began to call his name and wail for the death of the lady. He held his hands steady as he wiped the gun on his coat and ran in to the dark streets away from the hellish flickering. Winter air cuts through a person’s lungs like breathing frozen rose stems. He only made it to the bridge before the panting was too much for him. Grasping the rail to save his fall, he clutched it and his chest. Underneath him was a river running as if it could escape the ice. He looked over the edge, wondering. He was so cold already. Down the street was a diner that sold coffee at all hours. It was cheap, but it was warm. The walk there would be risky but he thought he’d be able to make it. Down the road the other way, he could see the blue and red lights dancing across the street.
He pushed himself up, his mind made up. A car sped down the street towards him, lights on high, and kicked up a load of slush and ice melt in to his face. At the same time, the driver had flicked a lit cigarette out the window. He only had a few moments to remember the woman before his pants and coat erupted in a blaze of warm, excited fire.                

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chapter 60: The Story That Has No Name. Yet.

Please be careful not to trip over the typos and bad story telling and quick pace. It's an uber rough draft. Thank you and please enjoy!

Chapter 1: They’re Destroying Our City!

“Send all the elfin sorcerers up north. Take an army of footmen to the northwest and follow that up with the knights and priests to the north east.” An explosion from the south alerted the master as cries rang out from the left and the sound of crackling fire erupted louder. “Where are my workers? Send them to fix that! We cannot let the enemy behind our walls.”
The army moved out as instructed as she looked around in a panic to find the workers.
“They’re destroying our city!” the mayor cried out again.
“Defend yourselves!” she cried, calling all workers to take up an ax and act as a militia. That would only work for a little while.
“The army is under attack!” an elf called out to her.
She looked up. The elfin army was being slaughtered by undead warriors from the north. “No!” she cried. “Save the elfin forest before the undead take it,” she commanded her knights. It would take several minutes for the knight army to reach the elves in time. It would never work. She’d have to invoke the ancient words. The only way to ensure her elves would not be killed was to do the ultimate sin. They had to have immortality.
The cries of her villagers was deafening as she stalled, her hand poised to make the spell. Her city was lost. Her army was only safe for now. All she had left was the elfin forest. She could not let it fall to the undead.
“Love never dies,” she whispered the incantation as her fingers moved, spelling out the words. A chorus rang out and cymbals clanged. A white light shot up around her army and engulfed it in little twinkles and stars.
“Cheat enabled,” it read on her chat bar. Then “Clare, U cheated!!!” from her opposing team.
Clare smiled and pulled her large headphones off and slicked the microphone back into place. With the noise gone, her invincible army slaughtered the undead before the same cheat could be used by her opponent.
“Victory!” scrolled across her screen in a matter of seconds. She put the headphones back on and accepted the chat request from username lordalfred89.
“Hey, my lady, you cheated and then cut me off!” His voice was pouty and angry. “I thought we were supposed to uphold our rules. No cell phones, no internet searches, and no cheating for six months. What’s up? Changed your mind?”
“I couldn’t let my elves die, Al,” she said. “That forest was the last thing I had. You destroyed my city and Max took over my castle yesterday. I’m practically sunk.”
“Sorry you have to lose at your own game.” He did sound sorry. “But that’s how it goes. Besides, I still have to face Stella and the others. No one is easy to beat in this little shindig you put together. Why couldn’t you recruit a bunch of newbies?”
She laughed and took a sip of her grape juice. “Too hard for you, Al? Think of it as growing pains.”
“You’re a pain alright. I’ve got sweat on my glasses!”
“Ahem, Al?”
“Never confess to breaking out in a sweat over a game.”
“This from the girl who cried when her favorite warrior went to the dark side in the last expansion? Ha, I don’t think so.”
“I’m saving and quitting. Are we all still on for this weekend?”
“Yeah, we have a lot to discuss at the meeting.” Al’s voice had dropped down a few octaves in excitement. “Can we ad midterms to the list to discuss? I mean, these ones really count.”
Clare smiled at the worry in his voice. “Of course. Stella asked me that too.” She watched her home screen as the animated rain fell on the flag of her people, the mouse hovering over the exit button. “Hey Al?”
“Senior makes us sound old. We’re not old, right?”
“Claredy-cat, we’re only eighteen. Still kids.” His voice had perked up again. His did that whenever hers went down. It was why they were best friends. He was always supportive to her when she was not.
“Nah, we’re not. We’re adults now. We have to grow up and stuff. I mean, can we even play this game and have our weekends after high school?”
“Save it for the meeting,” Al said in a final tone. “I have to clean out the litter boxes for my mom before my dad gets home.”
“You have them too as I remember.”
“You know, we’re the only kids on this block—us and Stella and the others—who have chores?”
Al smiled over the microphone. “We’re awesome for it.”
“See you later then.”
She pushed out from the computer table and rolled the keyboard closed. The temptation to open up her favorite social media sites crept up on her like a flea. She had the itch but had sworn a pact with the others not to use it. She had been grounded from her cell phone for using up all the minutes and her friends, wonderful warriors that they were, had sworn off using theirs until she had hers back.
“When one of us suffers, we all do,” Al had said when they all turned off the phones. It had all been very touching but the parents of the not-grounded friends had been furious about the safety issues of not having a phone until they explained the human benefits of not talking and using the phone all the time.
Going up the stairs, she was greeted by the smell of her mother cooking some cheap Italian food. The scent of red sauce from the jar was strongest even over the out-of-the-bag garlic bread. Must have been really old. She entered the kitchen to see her mom, frowning intensely over some bills, unaware of the boiling pasta.
“Uh, mom? Can I go across the street to Stella’s? I’ll be right back to help with the rest of dinner.”
“Mmm,” was the only reply. She was in a mood and that needed avoiding.
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Slipping on her flip-flops, she jogged across the street in her jeans and dark red camisole without a second thought. Stella’s mom, Mrs. Hart, had been in the garden as usual. Newly planted hydrangeas were meticulously lined up on either side of the door and every weed was torn up and all the soil tilled to perfection.
“Pink this year,” Mrs. Hart said as she came out of the house in gardening gloves and an arm load of asdfghjk. “I don’t suppose you can talk Stella into wearing any, can you?”
“The powers of forcing pink on strong-will women is beyond me.” Clare laughed but Mrs. Hart was not amused.
Taking the front steps two at a time, Clare went inside and straight up to her friend’s room. She knocked once on the door then opened it without a reply. Stella’s room was a disjointed attempt on her mother’s part to keep her “normal to society” and Stella’s sadly humble attempts to show off her individuality. The walls were white but the bookshelves were black. The ceiling fan was a hideously swirly white thing but draping purple lights hung on all the walls. Her wardrobe was just as discombobulated.
Stella sat hunched over her laptop, black fingernails stroking the keys as she commanded her own armies across virtual planes. Her hair was long and un-dyed out of respect for her mother but her clothes were, not quite loud, but definitely an attempted at the dark subculture she yearned to be a part of.
“Al tells me you cheated,” she said, her black coated eyes not missing a move on the screen. “I would have too, don’t worry.”
She sat up after exiting the match. “Max whined the whole time we were playing. He didn’t even try to beat me. I hate him for that.”
“No, you hate him for being able to wear and decorate as he pleases and his parents don’t stop him.” Clare took her seat in her favorite chair of Stella’s: a big black velvet covered bean bag. Stella had made the cover herself when her mom had brought back a big teal colored bean bag and placed it in her room while she was at school.
“True, but look at it this way.” She put on her narrow black rimmed glasses. “He says that he brings home good grades, is respectful, kind, and helps out a lot at home and his parents let him do as he wants because they see what a good kid he is. Now, I do the same thing. But still, I get no slack.”
“You’re a girl?” Clare offered knowing full well the tirade she was going to get back.
“That shouldn’t matter in this case!” Stella exclaimed and leaped up to tidy her room. Everything had to be just right. The curtains had to fall a certain way, the desk objects had to be straight. “I’m safe. I never stay out late. I don’t do anything!”
“Okay, calm down, I’ve heard this all before. Can we talk business for a second?”
Stella flopped onto her red and gold bed with purple pillow cases and moaned.
“Thanks. So, meeting this weekend? Are you free?”
“You know I am. I claimed I can’t work on Sundays due to religious obligations.”
“Right. So we need to set up this semester’s laws and boundaries. Do you still want to play the sorceress? Because Al said he may have a female friend coming in from another clan from Arizona or something. She’s moving here and is a hard core larper.”
Stella raised her arms above her head from where she laid and said in a dramatic voice and accent, “I will kill her to keep my place as magic master and rule with her blood in my river.”
“Oh, okay, so that’s a no.”
Stella shot up and smiled. “How do you know she plays female roles?” They’re eyes met and they burst out laughing.
“You are desperate for someone to play Count Graph, aren’t you?” Clare giggled. “You’ve had a crush on that imagined character for as long as I can remember.”
Stella pretended to swoon on to the floor, tossing her long hair elegantly. “Ugh, I long for my count,” she gasped, clasping her heart. “I need him to go on living!”
Clare stood up and walked to the door. “Tell Max to come at eleven then. We’ll get lunch after.”
“Wait!” Stella stood up, her count forgotten. “Can we talk about school? I know it’s forbidden to speak of the outside world at meetings, but…”
Clare sighed. “I know. I told Al that you asked me that last week. We all have a lot say on that point. See you Saturday then. Full dress?”
“My new costume isn’t done. I ran out of money.”
“Wear the old one?”
“I will do as I must.” Stella was always so dramatic.

After a quiet and awkward dinner with her dad coming home late, her mom in bad spirits, and her younger brothers fighting like rats over the food, Clare went to her room. She turned off all the lights and ignited her dozen electric candles. After spilling a red candle all over the carpet she was not allowed to burning anything anymore. The soft glow of the electric ones was not as romantic as real ones but it had to do. Glancing around at her many posters, play swords, maps, and ships in bottles she suddenly understood Stella and Al’s fears. They weren’t kids any more. When she had had to get a job she was excited to spend money on more DVDs, music that inspired her role playing, and accessories to accent every costume and fantasy decorations for her walls. But that had never happened. When she drove the car to work and school, it suddenly needed gas and she had to pay for it. When the oil went out, she had to pay for the change. Before she knew it, she was fighting to save money for one season of her favorite show.
She down on her bed and continued to gaze around her sacred sanctum. How much of it would change when she left for college? How much would she change?
Pulling the yearbook out from under her bed, she flipped to the pages she had marked. No one had said very nice things about her or her friends. She was the most normal of them all. She had written for the school paper, volunteered for the drama club once, and done a few other after school projects. They used a bad picture of her though.
Stella had many rude comments written in about her. Max had more. Mostly from the boys on the sports teams as usual. Clare didn’t care one way or another about Stella and Max’s style choices. What she cared about was how they were treated based on outside appearance.
Al was the only one with mostly positive reviews. Voted “Cutest geek of the junior class” and at the same time “Most likely to be the forty year old virgin”.
“Stupid people,” was all she muttered. The newest edition to their circle of friends was a larger boy named Jeff who could do almost anything with a computer. He had moved to their school too late to be in the year book and finished out the year as a home schooler. He was shy and quiet, but Clare had liked him right away for his technical powers.
She tossed the book aside and fell back on her bed to look up at her ceiling where her glow in the dark stars were just starting to appear in the dim light. The only constellation she had taken the time to make was Draco and he was right above her.
“What am I supposed to tell them?” she asked her dragon. “It’s like they don’t know I’m just as scared as them to be eighteen. Help me?”
Without so much as changing she drifted off to sleep, making plans her head of what to present to her fellow role players that weekend. Much to her disappointment, she did not dream.

The weekend came with typical end of summer weather for the Midwest. The skies began to turn greyer earlier even after promising sunrises and clear mornings. The humidity stuck around and still made it so that Clare’s hair couldn’t be styled in any other way than a braid and bandanna around her head. She put on her brown leggings, tall boots and green dress which she had slit all the way up the front of the skirt and back in order to ride horses better. After lacing up her corset and strapping her short sword to her waist, she took her magical staff and left the house where her dad was arguing with her brothers.
Across the street, Stella’s car was already gone. She got into her own old Mustang and pulled out of the drive way gratefully.
“Please don’t let the sun out,” she begged the clouds above as the sun winked at her. The Mustang was broken in more ways than one, but the worst was that it had no working cooling system. Or heating. She wasn’t a complainer, but being sweltering in the body binder around her was not how she wanted to conduct business in the park.
She drove a few miles then pulled up to tiny number twelve; a small, aging town home where Max and his family tried to make do with what they had. Clare used to honk the horn to get Max to come out but since the arrival of his newest youngest sister that was not an option. She tripped out of her car, her sword catching the seat belt, and walked as quietly up to the door as she could. Max’s mom was never happy to see her son leave with a horde of costumed kids.
Knocking as quietly as possible she hoped Max could hear. Not ten seconds later a baby’s angry cry erupted from inside. Then she heard stomping, rushing feet come down the stairs just behind the wall. Max flung the door open looking as if he were running for his life.
“Run,” he breathed and took her hand and dashed back to the Mustang.
As they pulled out, Max tossed a whole army duffle bag of supplies into the back seat. He inhaled deeply and then let out a massive, long sigh. He smiled over at Clare.
“I see you finished the robe of darkness,” she said. “That only took a year.”
“Had to save up for the silver thread. See?” He proudly pointed to the seams in the long, trench coat-like tunic he was wearing. “And I added a pointed hood.” He pulled it over his shoulder like a long braid. “And it’s form fitting.”
“Okay there, fashion man.” She laughed. “Guess our dark elf has to be the one to take the burden of good looks. Did you get your ears fixed?”
“Yeah, it cost everything I had saved up though. Those things are expensive.”
“But can’t afford a hair cut?” she teased. “Shoulder length.”
“And still growing. I know, my mom bugs me about it too. Says I’d save more money if I wasn’t dying it crazy colors and…stuff.”
Clare smirked sideways at him. “And stuff? You wear more makeup than Stella sometimes.”
“Clare, look out!”
Both of them were jerked forward into the dash board as Clare jammed the breaks harder than she ever had before. Clasping her hand to her throbbing head she looked up and grabbed Max’s arm panting.
“Are you okay? I’m so sorry, that sign came out of nowhere!”
Max’s eyes were streaming tears and his head was bleeding. He put his hand over hers and pointed to in front of them. Ahead was a large orange sign that said the road ahead would be closed starting Sunday and wouldn’t reopen until November.
“For construction?” Max sniffed. “That’s the nature reserve. And the state park.”
Then a large man in an orange vest and yellow hat came out of the trees toward them. He was chewing a chilly dog in one hand and holding a “slow” sign in the other. Clare rolled down the window.
“You were going awful fast there, miss,” chilly dog man said.
“I didn’t see the sign. We drive down here a lot,” she added trying to sound apologetic. “What’s going on?”
The man motioned to all the immediate trees and the field next to it. “All this was bought up by an oil company from Texas. Going to put in office buildings. Construction starts in a few days but the park is closing Sunday.”
“That’s tomorrow though!” Max exclaimed. “We live here.”
The man frowned. “Say what?”
“No, no, what he means is we pay to rent this place out a few times a month. We’ve paid for the weekend. We use the camp site up the hill for our group.” He had to understand.
“Uh-hu,” he chuckled, taking a large, dribbly bite of his chilly dog. He eyed her clothes then Max’s. “Listen kids, when school starts again you won’t even miss this place. You look like seniors. Now be good little seniors, do your business today then be on your way.”
“Drive,” Max ordered but Clare was already shifting into gear. They sped away.
When they reached the parking lot they put on their packs and hiked up the hill to where the others were already waiting. Stella had taken charge and seen to it that the great hall (the largest shelter in the camp site) was already laid out with a table cloth and goblets for everyone. Al had set up the tents too. Clare dumped her stuff in the human tent and met the others at the round table in the shelter. Jeff, Al, Stella, Max and Clare all stood around the table.
“Everyone,” Al rubbed his hands together happily. “Before we depart into our world, I’d like to introduce you all to the new head of the barbarian clan Alice.”
From out of the women’s rest room stepped a short girl in loose leather and animal furs. Necklaces made of claws and teeth were layered around her neck and wrists. Her hair was long and ratty. On her back was a shiny broad sword. Stella elbowed Max as his eyes were fixed on her midriff.
“Hi,” Clare said. “I’m really happy the barbarians decided to join Sun Age. We’ve known about you for a while but weren’t sure how you played with others.”
Alice smiled and removed her sword to take her seat. “Thanks! We wanted to join too but again, same problem. We thought that after you accepted the dark elves maybe you’d be more open to… different people.”
“I’m different,” Jeff mumbled. He had elected to be the Mayor of Sun Age and not participate in the fighting and spell casting.
“You’re special,” Clare said. “Okay then, can we get started? We have a lot to discuss.”

They all looked in to each other’s eyes. Silence fell for a moment then Jeff declared, “Begin!”
“Good people of Sun Age,” Clare said in a booming voice that filled the great hall. “We have gathered here because we are about to enter into a most trying time of life. A time many people like us do not survive. As the founder of Sun Age it is my duty to see to it that every man, elf and mage is taken care of. I have appointed Lord Jeffrey Righteousheart  to take the minutes and make sure we stay on topic. Lord Jeffrey, what is the first order of business, if you please?”
Jeffrey pushed his spectacles more securely onto his nose and read down the parchment. “First, Sir Alfred Firehearth wishes to announce the arrival of Lady Alicia of the barbarian clan. But seeing as how we’ve already done that, perhaps Lady Alicia has a few words of her own?”
Lady Alicia stood up; her short stature was suddenly unnoticeable. She was powerful and her face was wise. “We the barbarians are concerned about the use of magical instruments in the civilian area. Many of our people do not abide by the laws of no mystical talking boxes during town hours. Do you have any suggestions as to how to enforce these laws? I understand everyone on the council of Sun Age has taken an oath to avoid the use of such magic.”
“In deed,” Sir Alfred answered her. “On behalf of our founder Madam Clarissa, we have taken an oath to follow in her suffering so as to avoid disrespectful judgments on her unhappiness. Should the barbarians wish to pay homage to the great lady, then bid them not use that magic only during town hours. They need not give it up all together when in the other world.”
“A wise piece of advice,” Madame Clarissa added. “Thank you, Sir Alfred. Next?”
“The bestowing of the title ‘senior’ to all persons of age at the Institute of Fog,” Lord Jeffrey said.
“Alas, we are all prisoners there in the other world,” Stella sighed. “It is called Fog because of how it clouds and distorts one’s thinking,” she explained to Lady Alicia. “The gods forbid a child should learn how to think. They are much more easily controlled when told what to think instead.”
“Now, now, Maid Stella,” Sir Alfred smiled cautiously. “Let us not bring such politics into the great hall. This is sacred ground.”
Everyone nodded and pounded their goblets onto the table.
“This is the time where we all must band together stronger,” Maximus said, speaking at last. “I know I am the one who suffers the most on account of my feeble courage. But dark elves are never accepted anywhere.”
“You have been among us,” Madame Clarissa said. “And you always will be.”
Sir Alfred spoke, “It is true though. Maximus has been the target of titans for many years. I will be the first to confess that I have not lept to his aid. I fear them as well.”
“Perhaps you could visit the white witch for healing?” Stella smiled at Max. She was adorned in her old white costume and long wig. She had painted her face pale but her lips and around her eyes were black. “I am the healer. The user of good magic. I think our powers would mesh well, dark elf.”
Everyone laughed at the subtleties in her voice.
“I may have some aid for you as well,” Lady Alicia spoke up. “None near as powerful or as exciting as the one our white which offers you though. Within the barbarian tribe is a man who can match the titans in strength. He has saved me from thieves before in the other world.”
“Is he also a prisoner at the Institution of Fog?” Maximus inquired.
“Indeed he is. You may not know of him though. I shall make introductions in the other world when the time comes.”
“Thank you, my lady,” Maximus said, bowing his head.
The servant came around and refilled everyone’s goblet and stoked the fire to keep it light. The great hall could be a gloomy place without the blazing fire. They all drank in silence for a moment.
“If I may,” Madame Clarissa said at length. “I have an urgent matter to speak of. Something Maximus and I discovered on the way up here.”
“The guard at the gate?” Lord Jeffrey inquired.
“Indeed. You met him as well?”
“Yes, though less violently then our Maximus did. You should at least wipe away the blood, my friend.”
“That was my doing,” Madame Clarissa said. “I did not see the guard. But what are we to do? They cannot take our town. This has been out city of solitude. It has been out land for years and now it is under attack!”
All eyes were on her with awe. They all felt the same way about Sun Age but were not sure how to fight the enemy that was at the gates.
“They will close our gates tomorrow unless we can stop them,” she pleaded. “What can we do? Lord Jeffrey, any ideas? I cannot stand to see this land go.”
Lord Jeffrey took his spectacles off in thought. His frown was deep and sincere.
Stella spoke up first. “Must we fight? This is our last year at the Institution. What have we got after that? University? Work as common people?”
“Give up?” Maximus gaped. “Let what we have here go without a fight? Is that the kind of witch you are?”
Stella glared at him then. “Do not anger me, dark elf.”
“Hold!” Sir Alfred called out. “Peace among you two! These quarrels will not aid us. We cannot let them even begin. Madame Clarissa, do you have a plan?”
She stood before them, regal and tall, but not a hope in her heart. “I know not as of now. I am sorry. But I do know I will not give this place up. What we have created here is more than something for us. We have a history here. We have fought and bled for each other here. We have stories to tell. Magic has happened here. Foes have been concord. Sun Age is my home. It means more to me than I can tell you. It is not just land from the hill to the river. This is also the home to animals and to nature. Does that mean nothing?”
No one spoke or moved. Each noble among them was thinking back to his or her past in Sun Age. What Madame Clarissa had said was true. This world needed to be protected.
Lord Jeffrey stood up. “So let it be written in the book of Ages that on this day a threat was made to the land of Sun Age and the council, from all corners of the land, acknowledged it and will place it in the front of their thoughts as we embark on this most perilous journey of ‘senior’.”
“And to those who have commoners work and must keep at it,” Lady Alicia spoke up. “May the gods bless you and grant you the patience of a thousand mothers!”
They all laughed and clapped. Then, raising their goblets high, with one voice they cried out: “To a rising sun!” and drank deeply, their voice echoing off the walls of the great hall and up into the marble ceiling.

Chapter 2: The Institution of Fog