The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 8

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

He couldn’t stand it if his brother had to fear death the way Sacha did now.

He had seen it in her eyes, the same frightened expression that had colored her face when they discovered a skeleton trapped deep in the very pits of the Prince Regent Hotel. She was scared then and she was scared now, but Mariah would rather the intruders had found the scepter than his brother feel the same way.

He bent to pick up a shattered frame, removing the picture from within. His trembling fingers were dangerously within centimeters of the broken glass as he withdrew the photograph within, one that he himself had placed there almost a year ago. It was the last family portrait the Mundis had ever taken and though, as was custom, none of the group was smiling, Mariah could remember what came immediately after the flash of the bulb: his brother’s laughter from having been made to look so serious for so long, his mother’s teasing, his father’s wide grin.

He folded the picture, tucking it back into his pocket beside the scepter. The chiseled curve of the cane’s figurehead was cold under his fingers, giving him an uneasy feeling. It was a magnificent piece of ancient history, if only he could deduce what he knew to be wrong about it. Mariah still had a suspicious sense that there was something missing and not quite right. He supposed he should have known it, being a son of two Oxford professors of archaeology. His father would be disappointed.

Then again, when hadn’t his father been disappointed?

Sighing, he bent down to finish the job that Sacha had started, keeping a wary eye on the sharp pieces of glass that jutted from the carpet. Each threatened to snag a coat cuff or worse, to pierce the fleshy palm of his hand. Once he had collected each of the pieces, he turned to the dustbin – one of the few items that was sturdy enough to withstand a beating – and tossed the reamins in the waste. There were still two of the previous day’s newspapers, no doubt a result of the intruders breaking the staff’s schedule. Mariah was about to take up the basket to toss out the rubbish within when he noticed something. In both of the papers, there was the same picture in the bottom righthand corner. The same severe mouth and pinched eyes looked back at him, with a similarly boring text next to it.

Once again the man’s countenance tickled the back of Mariah’s mind, teasing him to search his memory. The longer he stared at the page, the more sure he was of the fact that he had seen this man before.

A shadow fell across the carpet as he was trying to puzzle to himself where he’d seen the man’s face before. Looking up, Mariah saw a coal boy glancing into the window, then jumping when he realized he’d been spotted. Mariah approached the glass and opened it, calling out to the boy who had been fully prepared to run away. The coal boy paused skittishly, still on the edge of dashing off. There was something about his face that reminded Mariah of Felix and he had a feeling that when he held out half a crown in offering to complete a single task, the boy would take it.

He was not wrong.

In a few moments he held a smudged, sooty third newspaper, this one still warm from where it had been no doubt tucked close to other freshly pressed papers. The strong smell of ink pricked at Mariah’s nose, but he ignored it as he scanned the paper’s bottom righthand corner. The stony face of the same man stared back at him, accompanied by the same headline: Missing Man.

He supposed it was not too odd, but there was something about it that did not strike him as being quite right.

“Morning.”

Mariah dropped the newspaper, looking up to see his brother standing in the doorway.

One side of his hair was still mussed and he had a yawn stretching widely across his face as he entered the office.

“This place is a mess,” he groaned, something of a sad expression flickering briefly in his eyes. Felix had never much enjoyed the studies he had taken in this room.

Still, it was good to see that he had cared, somewhat. Yawning again, his brother bent to pick up the paper that had been dropped. His expression changed from one of sleepiness to befuddlement as he looked at the front page.

“Why is he here?” He asked.

“Who?”

“Him! The agent!”

Mariah looked at the picture again and this time he recognized the face. He wondered he hadn’t before and he silently sent up thanks for his brother’s memory which stubbornly stuck firmly to things concerning the bureau.

“Felix figured it out,” he announced, coming into the parlor.

Sacha nearly jumped from where she was sitting before an empty plate, alone in the dining parlor.

“What are you talking about?” She asked, startled.

Felix snatched the paper from his elder brother’s hand, his own broad smile painted across his face.

“This man in the corner,” the boy said, pointing him out. “He’s an agent, fromt the Bureau of Antiquities.”

“So?” Sacha frowned, inspecting the page.

So, that was two men in the past month from the Bureau that had been eliminated. Mariah suddenly recalled Messr. Shipman, whose murder had been plastered across the front page and had been cited as a government employee. It was a far stretch to suppose that his death was connected, but why not allow the possibility? And if Mariah was right, then there was more to these murders and disappearances than met the eye.

“…I wonder what case he was on,” Felix said cheerfully, swallowing a generous helping of eggs and toast.

The staff had finally appeared to outfit the table, but Mariah found he was no longer hungry. Why not them? What if the people who had murdered the three previous men came for them? Or worse –

What if they already had?

The sour feeling in his stomach grew stronger as he considered the destruction done to the office. The kind of damage that might have been paid them would likely have resulted in another gruesome headline. He could almost see it too: Triple Murder in Oxcford!

“Mariah?”

He blinked, seeing the way the other two were staring at him in concern.

“What is it?”

He looked at his brother, then Sacha, then Felix again. Already he could see that his brother was beginning to understand and this time excitement was dawning on his face.

“Yes!” He crowed, jumping up from his seat to look at the girl. “We’re off to find Mama and Papa!”

The smile fell from Mariah’s face.

Whoops.

Advertisements
Posted in My Stories | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ask Emma – Book Review

For avid Jane Austen fans or for newcomers of the entire Jane-ite genre and its subsequent retellings, Ask Emma might be just the right read to entertain you this autumn.

Emma Woods is full of great advice. She is a thirteen-year old who knows just what kind of advice to give. She always knows just what to wear, what to say, and who the right people are to be friends with. Never mind that her oh-so-helpful advice has ruined her BFF’s hair for a while or that the new boy finds her help irritating. When her brilliant (read annoying) older brother suggests that she start a blog to help students from Austen middle school, Emma takes up the idea with vigor. Despite the doubt from new kid Knightley, she knows she can do it and improve the lives of other students. Her blog is a real success  Can Emma save her blog “Ask Emma”, her reputation, and her friends before it’s ruined forever?

Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk brilliantly update the original classic with a unique spin on one of Austen’s most well-known characters. The book is an excellently easy read that is a great jumping off point to discuss cyberbullying and issues of friendship with younger readers. The changes and updates made from the original read are interesting and make the story of great interest to the modern reader. I recommend you pick up a copy from the local library or bookstore!

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 7

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

The bleak morning sun was what woke Mariah, scattering across his eyes and casting light upon the devestation that was his father’s office. He sat up with a groan, having elected to sleep in his father’s office should the vandals return. It hardly seemed necessary though, given the amount of damage done. If the sole purpose was to destroy any semblance of order, this goal had been achieved.

Papers of every kind lay upon the floor, no doubt from the drawers that looked as if they had been rather shoddily yanked from the exquisite desk. The glass doors of the cupboards had been smashed in, the books and papers within removed. Mariah had dared not take a step for fear of treading on the volume strewn floor; instead he had gotten on his knees to clear a path to the ravaged desk. Artifacts littered the Oriental rug in various placed, ripped as unceremoniously from their places as the books that had bordered them. Even the chair in the corner, the chair his mother would sit on when she joined her father in study, was torn to shreds.

It was a destruction of the most grievous kind. Most of what had been damaged could never be replaced; what was not damaged was simply non-existent.

A heavy weight rolled around in Mariah’s chest as he rose from the desk chair, legs still swaying underneath him from a poor night’s sleep. He could hardly look around the office without wincing.

“Good morning, sir,” a voice drawled from the doorway.

He looked up to see the butler standing in the doorway, looking as freshly pressed as ever.

“Shall I prepare breakfast?”

Mariah turned to look at where his brother lay asleep on their mother’s chair, cheek pressed drowsily against the arched back.

“Thank you, I shall ring when we are ready,” he said.

The butler was gone the moment he was dismissed, leaving Mariah to pick up his brother as best as he could to return him to a proper bed for a few hours more. In the meantime, Mariah would do his best to clean the office. If only he could figure out why such a wreck had occurred, perhaps he might better protect their home from such an invasion again.
His brother barely stirred in his arms as he set him down in a bed before slowly sliding the door shut. The second landing was utterly silent, except for the faint rustle of fabric against the window. A nippy breeze was flowing quietly through the half-open window, smelling distinctly of coal. Mariah paused to draw the curtains back just enough so he could peer at the corner.

There was not a cab in sight.

The weight in Mariah’s chest dropped to his stomach. What had become of the dying bureau agent? Was he really as doomed as he’d seemed or had he perhaps gotten away? Whatever the case, he was obviously not able to sit across the street in a cab to watch them. As uncomfortable as the constant presence of watching eyes had been, Mariah found himself missing it now that he knew whom the eyes had belonged to.

He walked down the stairs, listening to the slow creak of weight pressing on each step, hearing the faint whistle of a kettle from the kitchen, smelling a mild scent of toast and molasses. There was a keen wariness to him that increased the more adventure the Mundis stumbled across, or so it seemed. If only his parents were here, or even Will. He missed having a figure who could be keen for him and who could step in when he no longer wanted to lead.

But that sort of figure had been a long time wanting.

He came to the office door, still so absorbed in his thoughts that he almost tripped over Sacha, who was bent over picking up books and sweeping up glass.

“Ach!”

He came to a rather clumsy standstill, his leather shoes scuffing against the carpet as she yelped.

“What are you doing?” He asked, lowering himself to his knees.

She continued to briskly sweep the glass into the black dustpan, rather determinedly not looking at him.

“I’m not against earning my keep and besides, someone had to clean this mess up,” she said. She was still not looking at him.

He stared at her.

He couldn’t even fathom what she meant by the words, “earn my keep”. Not because he didn’t understand work – six months at the Prince Regent Hotel as a porter proved that – but because he’d thought it clear a year ago when he had opened his home to her that she was a guest.

“Sacha, what are you talking about?”

She finally looked up at him, her gold-flecked eyes unreadable. He reached out to touch her shoulder, but she stood, moving on to clean another corner of the room just as the butler appeared once more in the doorway of the room.

“I thought you would like to know that there is a letter for you, sir,” the elderly man said.
Mariah nodded and uttered a polite thanks, seeing the disapproving way the man’s eyes flicked to the girl cleaning in the opposite corner of the room before he left.
He rounded the corner of the desk, watching as she continued to work in a smooth rhythym, ignorant of what anyone else chose to do. It seemed that the Prince Regent maid was still not gone in her. Sensing his presence, she spoke.

“Look at this,” she said, drawing back the curtain to peer at the darkly stained cupboard against the wall. “They destroyed nearly everything, but this…”

It was intact.

He looked at the cupboard with curiosity. Mariah hadn’t noticed before, but there was something rather odd about how careful the intruders seemed to be with this one piece of furniture. At the very least, it wasn’t completely turned to wood for a fire. Reaching into his pocket, he removed a key that was no longer useful, not with one door barely hanging on by its hinges anyway. He pushed aside the door, jumping back as it fell and the glass shattered. Sacha had already stood, but she looked back down at the new mess that would have to be swept into her dustpan before looking at Mariah. Giving her an apologetic shrug, he reached inside. The cupboard was one of significance to his parents and to him, because as long as he could remember, it had never been opened, not even once.

The one rare time when he had seen its doors doors unlocked was a year ago, when Mariah and Felix had returned to their home. It was only then that he had dared look inside. What he had found was a collection of items, all of them relating to the Bureau. There was a set of twin badges, no doubt those belonging to his parents, and a motley assortment of items that were no doubt also significant to the secret work that they had carried out for years under their children’s noses. It was as he was sifting through the sacred kanopic jars, the shimmering beetle shells from South America, and the jade playing pieces that he realized with a certain dread why this cupboard above all others had been kept intact, or at least more so than the ones that preceded it.

He even had the reason still tucked into his coat pocket. Reaching deep into the folds of his jacket, he felt for the stiff curve before pulling. Sacha’s eyes widened seeing the golden scepter in his hand, but she did not speak. There was nothing to be said.

It was clear that this was the prize the intruders had come searching for.

Mariah’s eyes were locked onto the falcon figurehead before he tucked it back into his pocket. There was clearly some significance to this scepter, more than Will had told them at any rate.
“They didn’t get it the first time,” Sacha said in a low voice. “What makes you think they won’t come back again?”

They exchanged a long look.

Both had the same thought, Mariah could tell from the pinched look that came onto Sacha’s face. The intruders would return and they would not be so forgiving the second time. If this office were to be any indication, the bodily damage done would be that beyond all recovery.

She shivered, shaking herself enough that she seemed to come to her senses.
“Well, if we’re going to die in our sleep, I might as well die knowing this place is clean.” Her voice was strained.

Mariah did not say anything, save to remove the dustpan from where she had it.

“Let me,” he told her. “You go wake Felix.”

She stared at him a good long while, but did not speak as she turned to go. He stopped her one last time with a touch of the arm.

“Sacha…”

“Yes?”

“Don’t tell Felix.”

 

Posted in My Stories | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

With Patriot’s Day just having passed, I thought I’d do a book review of a children’s fiction read that is centered around the 9/11 tragedy.

It is just an average week in the American life. Tragedy and happiness reign equally in many people’s life. Sergio struggles with an absent father figure while growing close to a Lower Manhattan firefighter. Naheed must struggle with rising tension due to her hijab. Aimee will have to miss her mother for a business meeting at the New York World Trade Centers and Will lives in Shankville, Pennsylvania. For each of these separate children, life is normal; it has its highs and its lows. But in just a few days time, the little peace of their worlds will be shattered by a cataclysmic event that will affect not just them but the future of the US – forever.

This really is a great look at what the view must have been like for a kid who was old enough to understand what was going on. Nora Raleigh Baskin’s message about how children need to remember and understand this impactful event is important and wonderful. I thought it interesting that she compared 9/11 for the youth of today to Pearl Harbor for the youth of her own day. Both were horrendous tragedies in American history that impacted the world around them and both are rather distant events that children don’t quite understand. In light of how long it’s been since 9/11, it seems appropriate that this book should be published now. I highly recommend this read.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Moment of Thanks

This day is one of deep importance for all Americans. It is a time to remember the lives lost and to honor the brave souls who did their best to save any who could be saved. I’d like to take a moment to say a small prayer of both thanks and also hope that such a tragic moment in American history might never be repeated.

Dear heavenly father,

Thank you for all the grace you’ve rained down on this country and thank you for keeping us from such a tragedy in the years since. Please put your hand upon all the leaders of this nation and bless those who might wish to do good to do it. Keep us from harm and let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 6

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

He ducked into the box, closing and locking the door behind him. He had a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach; call it intuition or guesswork, but he knew that the man who waited outside was the same one who had been in the cab following them. 

The theater itself was still lit, with elegantly dressed guests still finding their seats. Sacha and Felix were leaning over the balcony edge to peer at the great hall and while they were distracted, Mariah peeked out the door. The gentleman was pacing in the opposite direction, but in minutes he would turn around again to come the other way. It was almost as if he was guarding the door, he surmised. At the same time, something about the man’s features was itching in the back of his mind. 

“Mariah, what’s wrong?” Sacha turned. Her gaze was keen as she looked from him to the door. 

There was not much that got past her sharp – and some might say stubborn – eyes. 

“Nothing,” He lied. “There’s just – it’s…nothing.” 

The look she gave him was nothing short of condemning. She knew as well as he did that he was lying. Still, Sacha may have been sharp-eyed, but she wasn’t persistent. With one last suspicious look, she turned around. 

The play was just starting when Mariah finally took his seat. He could see the faint shadow of footsteps every so many minutes as the man must have passed by the door, but there was nothing to be done except enjoy the show that was starting. The amicable chatter of the aduience quieted instantly as a great fanfare rose from the orchestra. A smattering of polite applause spread as the curtain rose to reveal a group of performers all frozen in the perfect spot until their musical cues. The conductor waited only seconds long enough to pique the audience’s interest before launching into the first swelling piece of the score. It was a familiar one, given the fact that Mariah had been coming to the theater with his parents since he was old enough to speak. The familiar feeling of loss twinged in his chest, replaced by mirth as the show really began. 

The Theater du Sortilege prided itself on the quality of the work produced, this particular comedy always being of great success. Today was no exception. The audience laughed at all the right moments and even Mariah cracked a smile at some of the jokes made. Felix was laughing rather joyously and Sacha was giggling to herself. It was such a good moment, that he almost wished he hadn’t heard the click of footsteps outside their doors. 

They went back and forth in a steady pace that was purposeful. It was enough that Mariah almost became used to the rhythym, missing it only as the third act reached its halfway point. The footsteps had disappeared. In the darkness, he was able to slip easily from his seat and approach the doors. After unlocking the door, he cracked it open wide enough to peer out and see the heavily-coated individual who had stood watch before the show even began. The man paused to look up at a lantern that illuminated his darkly burnished face before pausing by the stairs, as if hearing a noise. He reached into his pocket, rocking on his heels for several seconds before withdrawing a pistol. 

Mariah shut the door, cracking it open only when he was certain that the stranger was not coming back towards the door. The man stood at the head of the stairs for several minutes and it was as the young man studied the loner’s profile that the itch at the back of his brain returned. He recognized this man, that much he was certain of. This was no ordinary worker nor even wealthy socialite. This was someone so unnoticed that even Mariah could not place him. 

As he puzzled over the stranger’s identity, the man started down the stairs. Mariah paused, caught between wanting to stay in the box to watch over the others and wanting to follow. If his parents were here, he knew they would urge him to stay. 

Then again, his parents weren’t here and the man on the hunt for his parents would surely urge him to follow the menacing stranger who could possibly threaten what remained of his family. 

With this thought in mind, he stepped out into the corridor, closing the locked door behind him. The hall was somewhat quiet, except for the muffled sounds of swelling music and guests laughing at what was no doubt a highly amusing joke. Here it was empty, the man having evidently already left to investigate whatever noise had drawn him away from their door. Mariah waited, but there was no sound that was not of the comedy. 

At least, not until the gunshots. 

His legs moved faster than his shocked brain did; he was at the landing of the staircase before he could even consider that he might possibly be running towards a murderer. 

If his brain finally managed to think these thoughts of warning, his body did not listen, because his eyes had spotted what his frantic mind did not: a body. Mariah ran down the staircase, pausing only on the last step to look around for another who might emerge brandishing a gun. When he could not see anyone, he approached. 

The man’s face was damp with sweat and flushed with panic, but he was not dead. Not yet, anyway. A bullet hole in what appeared to be the man’s shoulder and left rib was stained red and spreading faster through his shirt. Mariah raised his eyes to see that the injured man was staring at him, dark eyes glittering. 

“Let me call a doctor,” he offered. He was not without heart, no matter the fact that the stranger had been tailing them. 

“No!” The man barked. 

Mariah froze as the stranger beckoned him forth, reaching into his coat pocket to hold up a metal object. It was only as he drew nearer that he recognized it as a badge, with the engraving of a sphinx.  His stomach churned as he realized what the badge was for. His parents had some just like it, hidden in his father’s secret cabinets. So did Will Charity, though he wore his more proudly. It was a matter of pride that Will was a member of the Bureau of Antiquities. 

This man was an agent. 

He dropped to his knees, coming closer as the man raised his hand to beckon him. 

“They’re coming, boy,” he said. “You have to keep it safe. Don’t”- he wheezed several times, removing his hand to grip his bloody shoulder -“don’t want to end up like your parents, eh?” 

Mariah was already cold when he heard the gunshots; he was icy now. Both of their hands were cold, one white, one so black that it appeared to be turning blue the longer he crouched there. 

“You go back,” the man urged, his words becoming slurred. 

Mariah stood, but he didn’t intend to abandon him. He had to find a doctor or a policeman – someone who could help him. It was as he ran up the staircase that he heard the final strains of the music and knew that the play was over. In moments, the theater would be flooded and people would see the dying body of a man with the badge for an agency that wasn’t supposed to exist. 

He reached an usher just as the doors opened and floods of theater-goers began to emerge, all eager to adjourn to the reception. If Felix and Sacha were amongst the crowd, he did not stop to look for them. He had to help the bureau agent. 

“…He’s just right over here,” Mariah said, leading the formally dressed staff member closer. 

A crowd had already gathered and several were even gasping to each other as a murmur swept through the crowd. He approached, pushing through the elegantly dressed throng with “excuse me”s and other polite apologies. He reached the fringe of the group within minutes only to be met by surprise. 

The bureau agent had disappeared. 

It took Mariah several minutes to push back through the crowd to a more private corner of the theater to explain to the usher that no, sir, he was not trying to make a joke. It didn’t seem he was very believable. The usher continued to tolerate his explanation for only a few minutes longer, before politely threatening to call the stage manager. He would have to anyway, Mariah observed asthe frustrated usher departed his own separate way to find cleaning supplies for what was obviously a mere “wine stain”. As if a wine stain belonged in a theater lobby anymore than bloodstains did. If it was any consolation, the crowd seemed to believe him; they were still gathered in a circle to point at the spots that trailed off to nowhere, though after a little while their attention waned and they instead turned towards the reception. 

The sound of delicate music trilled as violinists and flute players stood in a corner, entertaining the guests with obnoxiously repetitive polkas of a delicate variety. Most everyone who stood with a head tilted appreciatively was older, meaning he would not find his brother nor Sacha here. He continued to circle the room, pausing only when he smelled the rich aroma of chocolate and spices.

“Felix?” 

His brother was by one of the long tables from which staff was removing plates of delicate treats and glasses with which one could toast the cast of such an exuberant production. From the looks of it, his younger brother was doing what no one else had the sense to do and was getting food from the source. So long as the waiters looked the other way, Felix could snatch up food and eat as much as he wanted, which was certainly more than the portions being served to other guests. 

“Where’s Sacha?” Mariah asked as he reached him.  

His brother had a difficult time swallowing around the treats in his mouth. It took him several minutes before he was able to finally speak. 

“Over there, talking to some of the other guests. Why?” 

“We have to leave,” Mariah said. 

His brother’s expression changed from one of casual curiosity as he continued to feed small crackers, bon-bons, and olives into his mouth to one of concern. He too remembered the last time they’d had to urgently leave a place they felt safe. 

“I’ll get our coats,” he nodded, stuffing one bonbon into his pocket for good measure. 

Mariah smiled after his brother’s retreating figure. Say what you will of Felix, but there was no denying he was always ready to help. 

Once he was sure Felix had gone and returned safely, Mariah pushed his way through the crowd towards the familiar sound of Sacha’s voice. The guests gave him rather disapproving looks as he shuffled past and some of the elder women openly stared at him. He nodded hastily to them and moved aside to see Sacha standing shunted to the side with two men. The handsome young banker by her side cut quite a figure, one inherited from his rather elderly father who accompanied the pair. Both men looked striking next to the slight girl and, much more importantly to Sacha he was sure, neither was gossipping about or ignoring her.

Mariah approached, nodding to the two in civility. Obviously neither recognized him by face. Good. Even if he disliked them, he was willing to be polite. 

“Good evening,” he said with a thinly veiled smile. There was not a moment’s pause as he turned to Sacha. “Can I talk to you?” 

Her cheeks flooded with color as her gaze switched to the pair who looked rather annoyed at this intrusion, then back to Mariah. 

“I”- 

-“Harold Pearson, sir,” the young man interrupted, stepping forward. 

Mariah took his hand with a forced smile. “Mariah Mundi. Sir. 

The young man’s handsome smile froze and when he stepped back, one could tell that even through the elegant mask he had on, he was shocked. 

The elder man simply gazed at him with narrowed eyes. Mariah was sure that Mr. Harold Pearson, senior, would recognize him now. After all, how could the man who had refused to ever lend a hand to either the Mundis or their various charities forget such a family? 

Felix appeared at that moment, his arms full of their thick coats, his own already pulled on. Seeing the two men, his eyes narrowed.

“Well,” Sacha said, breaking the icy silence with an uneasy smile. “It was a pleasure, gentlemen, but we must be going.” 

It took a moment, but goodbyes were exchanged. Felix squeezed the men’s hands a little too tightly, Mariah noted with pride. Sometimes it was good to have a brother who was willing to do the things you were not. While Harold Pearson senior kept his gaze firmly fixed on the two boys, Sacha and Harold Pearson junior exchanged warm salutations. Then it was back through the staring crowd that sent Sacha’s chin dipping back down towards her chest and the two boys’ firm gazes set forwards. 

By all accounts, it had been a puzzling evening and Mariah was glad to step out to the theater promenade. Where the fog had only been a nuisance in the earlier evening, now it positively choked the dark streets. There were no lights to be seen, unless it was a streetlamp looming overhead; the perfect weather for unsuspecting Englishman to be taken advantage of. Mariah had no wish to fall prey to any such dangers. Hailing a cab, he ushered a tight-lipped Sacha and a peaky Felix in. 

As the carriage jostled back and forth, he watched Sacha’s face, which was turned towards the window. He could tell she ws biting her tongue, not willing to speak yet. He could reconcile himself to her anger, so long as his suspicions weren’t correct. The cab turned a corner, sending Felix sliding towards Sacha’s shoulder and Mariah towards the door. They were almost home now, he knew. 

When the carriage finally did pull to a stop, Mariah hurried out, his coat flying behind him as he hit the pavement, only to draw to a stop when he saw the front door swinging open. His brother’s fair head poked out of the carriage window. 

“Do you suppose…” He did not have to finish the question. 

Mariah felt cold, despite the heavy coat layered over his shoulders. 

“Stay inside,” he hissed to the remaining two. 

He approached the walk, resting a hand on the iron fence to look peer into the windows. As far as he could tell, there were no lights on. If their intruders were still here, they were waiting in the dark. Mariah swallowed nervously, slowly pushing the door open. The creack echoed in an almost completely dark parlor. Grabbing one of the canes from the stand by the door, he stepped further in, his breath quickening. 

He could hear the sounds of footsteps from the other side of the parlor door that led into the kitchen and it was here he paused, one gloved hand resting on the doorknob. Just as he was about to open the door, the knob twisted under his hand. He backed away, ducking to the side of the frame to wait for the intruder to slip through. The door did open, but only a familiar grayed head emerged, shaking visibly. 

“Locke?” 

The elderly man turned with a frightened expression, one hand clutching at his chest until he saw who stood there. 

“Mister Mundi? Are they gone?” 

He stared at the aging butler. “Is who gone?” 

The man explained in wheezing breaths about three men who appeared to be, as he put it, rather brutish in nature. They’d fought off a fourth man, who appeared to be a stranger to the company and the third man had departed slinging the unconscious party out to the street. 

“Last I heard, sir, they were striding toward your father’s office”- 

There was no more to be said. The sinking feeling in Mariah’s chest was merely confirmed when he approached the door to see that the door to his father’s office was flung open. He almost hesitated to shine a light on what might lay inside, but he had to. Stepping forward, he felt the crinkle of paper underfoot. A sinking feeling filled his chest as he reached forward and lit the lamp.

His father’s office was destroyed. 

Posted in My Stories | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Comics as Introspection

I don’t know why, but when I was younger, autobiographies were boring. Perhaps it was because the rare autobiographies available to children were all those of early leaders in a pre-digital age, but it seemed to me that daily life could be menial [this could be the reason why I’m so bad at keeping a journal]. No one’s life was particularly interesting to me when examined in the almost journal-like, trip-down-memory-lane fashion. That is, until I read The Diary of a Young Girl. My life was forever changed after that point. Anne Frank’s words touched me as few others have, with perhaps the exception of those from To Kill A Mockingbird and the Bible itself.

Since then I have gained an appreciation for this format, but never so much as when I’ve most recently read it in graphic format. Author Shannon Hale and author-artist Jimmy Gownley attempt to relive a bit of their childhoods through their autobiographies, both separately reliving an important part of their youth.

The Dumbest Idea Ever! is Jimmy Gownley’s interpretation of his earlier life, detailing his rise from normal kid to comic book creator. Like the book to follow, this is a coming-of-age story; a story where the hero, in this case creator Jimmy Gownley, grows from being a normal kid who thinks he has it all to being a kid with poor grades but a dream to become a great comic book artist one day. This story is somewhat interesting in two ways. Firstly, the author himself never intended to create a book about himself, yet the prompt to write about their lives from best friend Tony (aka “the dumbest idea ever”). Secondly, the author manages to create a real story, despite the fact that there is no central conflict nor issue ever really addressed. Overall, this is just a fun lark about a kid working on a comic as he enters high school and makes mistakes. I’ll come back to talking about this book, but for now, I’d like to move on to my second pick.

Real Friends is not Shannon Hale’s first foray into the comic book world, but it is one of the first without author/illustrator Nathan Hale doing the illustrations. This time artist LeUyen Pham, illustrator of countless books including Hale’s own Princess in Black series, brings life to Shannon Hale’s story. Her plot is centered around the friendships that have risen and fallen in her life and not much else. Like Gownley, Hale manages to make this an interesting story with a good through line despite the fact that this too is a slice of life story. Unlike Gownley’s autobiography, however, Shannon Hale’s story does have a central conflict which revolves around whether the younger Shannon could find her self-confidence and her “real” friends.

So, why do I find these two graphic novels so interesting? For starters, I’ve never seen an autobiography done this way, let alone done for children. It’s clear that the authors are still able to connect with their youthful spirits and that’s to be appreciated for how clear and relatable the characters on. It’s also rather interesting to note that the main characters in question both struggle with a desire to be the best people they can be and to please their parents, a desire most likely derived from a moral and Catholic/Mormon upbringing. These are characters who, as younger versions of the creators, were kids raised in a certain type of household who like most children want to do their best and are willing to work hard for it.

Another interesting thing about these two books and possibly the most interesting thing is the story’s treatment of themes and character. Mainly its theme of finding oneself via friendship and trials and the character that develops from that. Little Jimmy Gownley and Shannon Hale are not only relatable but have inherent character flaws that most kids, if not all people, possess at one point or another. A desire to be popular, a bit of arrogance, a pushover, a wanna-be, a loner, a friend; at some point or another we’ve all been these things. These books reflect a child’s reality while on another level being understandable on a human level regardless of age.

Lastly, I wanted to point out that these aren’t just a collection of fun and weird little stories bound up in one volume: these are stories. These are stories with a beginning, middle, and end and they feel finished when the covers are closed. These books work and they work well as actual stories with functioning plot and character development. One of my biggest criticisms of autobiographies was always that one’s life can often seem like less of a story and more like a ramshackle collection of stories and these books both manage to overcome that issue brilliantly.

I highly recommend you pick these books up at your local library or bookstore and give them a whirl. They have my vote.

 

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 5

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

One of the most universal truths is that little brothers are impatient and Felix was possibly the most impatient of them all.

“Why do we have to go to the theater at all?” He asked.

He’d asked this question about five times now, though not directly to Mariah. Instead, the question had been floating down the hall for the majority of the afternoon, as the staff forced him to take a bath and brought freshly pressed clothes and well oiled shoes. Felix had even floated the question towards where his older brother was working in the office before he was caught and told to go back up and prepare.

Right now, he was sticking his rather scrawny chest out to allow the maids attending him to finish fixing his coat and collar. That didn’t seem to stop him from complaining rather vocally to his older brother, who was already dressed and stood waiting for his brother to finish.

“Come on, Felix. You know it’s a tradition.”

“With Mama and Papa.” The younger boy made a face as one of the maids came at him with a wet cloth. “It isn’t going to be the same without them.

“Nothing’s the same without them.”

The two women attending to his dressing were already bowing out of the room as Mariah approached his brother. Felix was about three inches taller than he’d been a year ago. He’d be Mariah’s height in a few years and their parents wouldn’t ever see it.

“I know that things are…different now. But you heard Will”- he swallowed back the truth with an uncomfortable guilt -“they’ll be back soon.”

Felix’s eyes were mournful, not for the first time since their adventure. Beyond all the mischief and thirst for adventure, there still lay the boy who had been forced to mine in a dank hole for months without any connection to family or friend.

“Do you really think he’ll get them back?” He asked.

Mariah’s tongue felt like lead. For the second time in a week he was being asked that and he did not know if he could answer.

“I…”

He was saved by a knock on the door. The two brothers turned to see a servant, their butler, cook, and footman all rolled into one. Like the other two maids, he had a familiar warmth that one acquired with getting on in age.

“I don’t mean to interrupt, sir, but there is a carriage waiting for you,” he creaked.

His announcement was met with thin smiles.

Once he had finished straightening his brother’s collar, they went down the mahogany staircase. The theater tickets were still tucked safely in his pocket, but Mariah felt for them just to ensure that they would not be left behind. The dark light made it hard to read the words inked onto the long strips of paper, thanks in part to the parlor curtains still being closed. He’d woken up every morning of the week and closed them, making sure that the staff knew this was intentional. He did not like the uneasy sense of someone staring into their home. He pushed aside one of the curtains now, peeking out to see a black cab parked on the corner. It may not have been a hansom, but Mariah knew it was meant for them. There’d been a carriage waiting in that same spot every day this week.

“When is she coming down?” Felix groaned, glancing up at the grandfather clock. “I’m starving.”

His older brother just shook his head with a faint smile, picking up the paper from the table. This time the news was not necessarily of murder, though the paper did its very best to make a fire seem just as disastrous as one. The rather grotesque images of working men and women tossing themselves out of windows to escape the smoke that engulfed the illustrated building was brutal enough.

Mariah moved on past the callous headline and scanned the smaller articles that had been rather unfairly allotted second fiddle spots. An article in the left-hand corner discussed the lastest decision reached by Parliament about some treaty, while in the bottom right-hand corner there was an advertisement for a missing man. A picture of a man with rather ordinary features and spectacles accompanied the short ad; his long nose and rather severe mouth were almost familiar to Mariah. At the very least, his countenance tickled the back of his mind, urging him to search his memory for such a person.

“Mariah…” Felix hissed, elbowing his brother.

“Ow! Felix, what”-

He saw what.

Sacha stood at the top of the stairs, looking as pleased as he’d ever seen her. Unlike the two boys, Mariah could see why it had taken her so long to get ready. The elderly maids who stood on the stairs behind her looked rather irritated and flushed as they surveyed her with barely concealed annoyance, but Mariah could hardly see why. They ought to look pleased with themselves, given how elegant Sacha looked. She was a true lady now, in her rosy chiffon gown, nothing like the somber maid who had served at the hands of an unloving father. With her cheeks flushed and golden-brown hair in a loose chignon, she looked every bit the young adult that she had become.

Unlike Mariah, who felt so completely at a loss for what to say that he might have been a stammering little boy.

“Sacha – you look – I mean”-

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a smirk flash across his little brother’s face, along with a mirthful twinkle.

“You look nice,” Felix said, giving the girl a quick glance. “Now lets go.”

Sacha did not speak as she let his brother escort her to the door, but there was an embarrassed flush to her cheeks that was helped very little by Felix’s eagerness to leave for the theater.

“Come on!” His brother was urging at the door.

The street was white with fog, which bubbled and rose to the very rooftops in a puff of steam like tea boiling over. It was hard to make out, but Mariah could still make out the cab on the corner through the fog. Once again he thought he spotted the red flicker of a light; once again it was snuffed out before he could be sure.

He shivered, hefting his coat on as he escorted Felix and Sacha into their waiting carriage.

His brother went in first with a jaunty bounce, then Sacha, an unreadable expression on her face. He took a quick glance at the cab before following them in. He didn’t want anyone to be watching them, waiting. Perhaps they could lose their tail.

He nodded to their driver before stepping in himself, leaning back into the shadows. As their carriage pulled away from the familiar lights of their home, so did their pursuer. The cab peeled away from the corner it had stuck so firmly to over the course of the day and slowly trotted at an even distance behind them. He tried not to watch it the entire ride, but his eyes kept drifting out to where he could see the dark horse that slowly pulled behind, always at a steady pace.

While Felix chatted at Sacha with ever-mounting excitement, he kept his gaze firmly stuck out the window until they finally drew close to the Theater du Sortilege, a colorful French oasis in the midst of a gray English sea. Perhaps this was why his parents had always been so drawn to it, with its cast of every creed and color and a staff that had gained experience from theaters all over the world. He remembered the way his mother’s eyes had sparkled and the wonderful laugh she let out whenever they told an especially good joke. His mother had always been better at appreciating those, just like Felix. Only his father might understand the seriousness that Mariah Mundi felt, even at a theater, which always made

them comrades on this sort of night.
“Lets go!” Felix said, stepping out the door as soon as the carriage had drawn to a halt.

While Mariah called for his brother to stop just a few more minutes, he helped Sacha out of the vehicle, using the opportunity to peer through the fog for the cab. It would seem they had lost their shadow in the ever-thickening mist.

The tenseness waned from his shoulders and he even allowed himself a small smile as he turned to look at an expectant Sacha and Felix.

“Well. Lets go in, shall we?”

As usual, the Theater du Sortilege sparkled with life and vibrancy. The glass chandeliers that hung from the ceiling had been lit, illuminating the velvet staircase and the grandeur of the fresco that covered a large part of the wood-beamed ceiling. This grand hall was already occupied with guests filing up the staircase and around the long hall towards each of the separate theater entrances. Mariah recognized a majority of the crowd, several of them fellow Oxford professors, others wealthy socialities, and a rare few the archaeologists and relic-collectors that pandered to both groups. Most were doing their best not to seem obvious, but it was clear to all three that they were being watched. Sacha’s cheeks flamed red and her gaze was fixed firmly on her toes as several groups of matrons continued to whisper to each other, no doubt expounding on a subject concerning the new guests.

Had Mariah’s parents been here, they would have walked with their chins held high and shoulders thrust back as if they belonged here. Mariah and Felix had plenty of practice doing the same; Sacha did not. From between them, Felix took hers and then his elder brother’s arm. The bond made it easier for them to up the staircase. They might have looked like a somewhat odd group, he, Sacha, and his brother, but at least they looked so together.

“We get a box,” Felix distracting Sacha with a smile. “You should see the stage!”

Mariah followed them as they broke away to hurry even faster towards the familiar doors that would lead out to their balcony seat. As he kept close behind, a group of men he knew to be bankers and their respective associates passed by. He didn’t like the look some of the younger men gave Sacha and he especially didn’t like the piercing stare that the man in the back gave him. He paused before the balcony doors in time to see the odd man give another man a nod from across the hall. He hardly looked the part of a theater-goer, the second man. There was ash dusting the collar of his jacket and his hat was tilted at a low angle that cast a shadow over his eyes. With his skin that glowed like ebony satin and a heavy coat, he looked more like a bodyguard or a soldier.

And said bodyguard or soldier was looking straight at Mariah.

Posted in The Adventurer: Fan Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – Incredibles Prequel

This week on the blog, we’re getting back to regular book reviews to discuss a rather interesting read based on the recent Incredibles II movie release.

Being a super is pretty sweet, especially when you’re the flexibly gifted Elastigirl. It’s a good life, cleaning up the city and making the citizens happy on the side. Elastigirl has it all – though Helen Parr may not. It can get pretty lonely not being able to share both halves of her life with someone else. Her options aren’t great though; most super guys are not the type that she’d picture helping an old lady across the street or being kind to strangers, like the friendly Bob Parr she keeps running into. Even superfriends are hard to come by or trust, especially when rogue villains begin to attack supers on the job! Who is trying to sabotage the superhero celebration? What does the mysterious serum really do? And most annoying of all: who is the arrogant Mr. Incredible really?

Well-written, well-paced, and easy enough for any reader, this is the Incredibles story that I never really expected nor wanted but enjoyed immensely once I read it. I highly recommend you give it a flip-through, especially if you are a huge Pixar fan and/or film theorist. This book definitely lends some credence to some of the theories out there and it expands upon the world that we never really see in the films, as well as giving a bit of history on the characters. It’s interesting to note that they really play up the more cocky, in-his-prime side of Mr. Incredible, while Elastigirl’s more independent qualities that shone in the sequel are also more easily on display. As for the rest of the characters, most are pretty forgettable, including the villain.

Again, it’s a pretty good read, especially if you’re fresh from seeing it and are craving more incredible content (sorry, not sorry; pun intended).

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 4

Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.

That night, there were strange noises.

Mariah woke with a start, raising his head from where it had been buried in his arms. In the next room the brassy chimes of the clock fell eleven times, each serving to only wake him more from a blurry-eyed sleep.

He’d retreated to his father’s office in the hopes of deciphering more about the staff, but it would appear his exhaustion had gotten the better of him. Not that it mattered anyway.

There wasn’t much to be discerned from examining the scepter, no matter how much he had been trying to discover what the staff might tell them. The object was far too clean to decipher what kind of earth it was dredged from and there were no particular markings or designs that might indicate even what century it was from. For a powerful ancient artifact, it was certainly nondescript.

And it was completely useless, he sighed, twirling it around in his hand. It would be just as good a backscratcher as a scepter.

Something clattered outside the door, making him freeze where he sat.

Then again, the staff might be better put to use as a weapon, he thought, hearing the familiar noise of someone’s foosteps in the hall. They were not particularly heavy, but they also made no effort to be quiet. If someone was hoping to sneak up on him and take something from the office, they were doing a poor job of it.

Mariah rose from the seat, wincing as the old wood creacked underneath him. Gripping the staff tight, he pressed himself to the wall. The footsteps had paused in the corridor outside the office. If anyone should enter, he was poised to defend both himself and his father’s office. Perhaps he was being a bit premature, but the last time their home had visitors in the night, Felix’s and his lives took a turn for the worse.

The door swung open and a fair-haired head emerged from the doorway. He raised the scepter to swing just as the stranger turned.

It was Sacha.

She yelped, then calmed, realizing who it was.

“What are you doing?” She demanded, though her lips twitched with the beginnings of a teasing smile.

He lowered the scepter, feeling a bit foolish. “I thought there might be intruders in the house.”

She crossed her arms. “Do I look like an intruder, Mariah Mundi?”

No, she did not. In fact, she looked about as un-imposing as he could ever picture her being with her braided hair and bedrobe on; a far cry from the severe maid who had serviced the Prince Regent Hotel a year ago.

“Is this your father’s?” She asked, pointing to the journal that lay open on the desk.

He snatched it up with a snap of the spine.

Where the staff had yielded no clues, his father’s multiple volumes of recorded notes offered more knowledge than he could ever need, most certainly enough to decipher where the staff had come from amongst almost fifty other artifacts listed on the yellowed pages. The only problem was that knowing where the staff had come from did not help them any.
If only he could speak to his father. Mariah felt a familiar ache that he had long since come to associate with thoughts of his parents. He wondered if Felix ever spent long nights thinking about their parents. For that matter, he wondered if Sacha ever tossed and turned, thinking of her long lost father.

He looked up from the journal to see her running a hand along the spines of the many books that lined the wall. Setting the scepter back into the drawer, he joined her, looking at the many volumes. His father had prided himself on his diverse collection that ranged from subjects such as latin and lobotomy to that of Ancient Chinese marriage rituals. It was on the volume labeled Genealogy of the British Isles that her hand lingered.

Well that answered his question about her father.

“Do you think Mr. Charity will find your parents?” She asked.

He glanced down at his hands and she glanced as well. He still held his father’s journal in his left hand, the sad leather binding almost falling apart. He felt her fingers brush his right hand, but he jerked away.

No, he did not think Will would find his parents.

“I should get back upstairs,” she said. Her voice was tight.

Mariah turned to see her press her lips together as she headed back towards the door, wrapping her ever-practical brown bedrobe even tighter around herself.

“Wait – Sacha, I didn’t mean”-

But she was already gone out the door and back up the staircase without a backwards glance.

Sighing, he took a seat at the desk once more. Sometimes, Mariah cursed his tongue. He was a good speech-maker, when given the right words to say and as well-learned as he was, he could recite a dozen works of great note. Yet when it came to his own words, expressing anything but concern for others and a repetition of his parents’ instructions was a difficulty. Especially with Sacha.

Once more he turned to the drawer, reaching for the staff. There was something about the dull golden color and pearly white stripes that looked off to him, but he couldn’t quite make out what. His archaeologist’s senses were not as finely tuned as his parents’.

When he had at last determined that there was no more he could deduce about the Egyptian artifact, he locked it away and snuffed out the light of the kerosene lamps. The door to the office he locked before stringing the key around his neck. He’d long since gotten used to securing the rooms in his house belonging to his parents, for more reasons than one.

As he walked through the front parlor, Mariah felt the creeping sensation of eyes upon his neck. Perhaps it was just the clock’s second set of chimes that had set him off, he reasoned, stepping closer to the window to pull the drapes shut. The pale moonlight that fell through the window illuminated the foggy streets of Oxford, bathing them in an eerie light. Despite the ominous nature of the outdoors, there were still several carriages that passed by. Partygoers or patrons of the theater, no doubt, Mariah thought. Still, he did not pull the drapes shut, his eyes falling upon a large hansom that still sat like some sort of bloated beast in the fog. He did not know why, but an uneasy feeling hit him as he continued to peer at the hansom.

He could not see a driver, nor indeed any passengers as he drew his face closer to the glass.

Peering out, he could see that the light of a nearby streetlamp illuminated the top of the carriage. Mariah recognized the curve of the coach and the name of the cab company painted carefully onto the side. This was no ordinary ferrying vehicle that had simply stopped for a reprieve; this was the same vehicle that had picked up Will Charity earlier in the day.

Cold rippled over his skin. From within the hansom, a pinpoint of red light appeared, then just as suddenly was snuffed out. A match, perhaps?

It’s nothing.

Nothing at all.

He let the refrain echo in his head as he watched a lean figure stroll through the fog before stepping into the vehicle.

There, see? He chided himself, watching as the carriage door swung open and the cloaked passenger disappeared inside. There was nothing to be worried about.
Mariah almost had himself convinced of that too, as he made his way quietly up the stairs, taking a moment to peek in on the bedrooms to make sure that both his brother and Sacha were all right. Felix looked so peaceful as he slept that Mariah could almost believe he had imagined the mysterious coach in the swirling mist. That was all it was, he assured himself, continuing on.

He snuffed out all the lights in the hall, but paused as he passed the window on the second landing. Drawing nearer, he saw something that made the dread in his stomach turn cold.

The hansom was still there.

Posted in My Stories, The Adventurer: Fan Fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment