The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 11

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.

Never before had Mariah felt anything but respect for an officer of the law. 

He did now.

As the authorities combed the area, investigating both the school and the surrounding city area, Mariah and Sacha made a full report at the constable’s office. The first thing they’d done was check the school, though the note she had brought back was from several teachers who already noted Felix’s absence from class. He’d disappeared at least halfway through the day, probably around the luncheon period, but that did not answer where he had gone. 

They’d alerted the police shortly after their first talk with the school board, though many had taken place after that. Felix had been gone almost a day and a half and they still had yet to speak with the constable so they could give him a full report. 

Not that the officer exactly filled Mariah with confidence. He hardly looked like he could find a pencil in his drawer, let alone a boy in the city, if Felix still was here. The head officer was a rather stodgy man getting on in age, but one wouldn’t think he had any worries over his job given the condescending smirk on his face. 

“And you say your father ran off shortly before your mother did?” He asked. His tone bordered on simpering.

“My mother and father disappeared over a year ago, reportedly found dead,” Mariah cut in. 

The officer’s pouchy expression only changed somewhat. “Ah. Bit of bad luck, that. I suppose that’s when your brother began to gather with a negligent crowd?” 

There was no polite response to that question. The constable continued as if he hadn’t noticed the awkward silence, asking questions all the while. Why was your brother unhappy? What kind of people did he trust? How often was he in the company of unscrupulous people? When did you let him out of the house? It was as if they were talking about a dog or some refugee from the law, not his younger brother. 

The last question the officer asked was the hardest of all to answer. “What was he doing a year ago? Where did he go to school?” 

Mariah did not speak as he felt Sacha’s hand slip into his and squeeze. Both of them – no, all of them – had promised they would never tell what had happened on the island. After all, who would believe them except the Bureau themselves?

The assault of questions continued as blithely on as ever, each one more insulting than the last. As what might have been the hundreth unanswered question went by, there came a knock at the door. The constable opened the door to allow a number of officers, all who had the same thing to say. Felix had not been spotted in the near vicinity, at least not that anyone could recollect. After all, Mariah’s brother was just one of many schoolboys in the area. To pick him out amongst hundreds would be near impossible. 

“A shame, that,” the man behind the desk said with what looked like the very opposite of a sorry smile. “Best keep an eye out for him. We’ll be doing the same.” 

With that, they were shunted out onto the street. There was nothing more to be said, nothing more to be done, not by the police at any rate. 

Something like a lump was welling up in Mariah’s throat and no vigorous coughing could get it out. Sacha had to call the cab for them to step into, though it took a while to get in due to the sudden stiffness in Mariah’s knees. Neither spoke on the ride home. Sacha still held Mariah’s hand, squeezing it every once in a while for good measure as he stared out the window. 

There was no way to know what had happend to his brother. He might have gone somewhere with purpose, he might have been kidnapped, he might have simply been trapped somewhere. Either way, Mariah had failed him once again. Once more, he sighed, remembering all too vividly how close he’d been to losing his brother permanently the last time Felix had gone missing.

That night, the evening meal was a small, sullen affair that was rather quietly attended to. Neither Mariah nor Sacha ate much and when the staff came to collect their plates, it was with something of a half-hearted joy. Normally they would have loved for there to be so much food left. Yet even the simple pleasures of taking supper were diminished due to Felix’s absence. No amount of delectable meal could avoid such a taint. 

When the meal was over, Mariah and Sacha did not retire to the parlor, as they might have usually. Even here, Felix’s absence was palpable. The staff doused the lights while their employers retired. 

Mariah couldn’t sleep. 

He watched the moonlight dance across the ceiling of his room, tattooing the plaster with ribbons of watery light. It was beautiful or it would have been had he been in any mood to enjoy it. He turned on his side, looking at the empty bed pushed against the other wall. His brother should have been asleep in it at this very minute, but he wasn’t. And he might never be again, depending on what had happened to him. 

Mariah turned the other way, hoping that if he just didn’t look at the bed, he might be able to avoid a sleepless night of guilt. 

It did not work.

 

 

 

 

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Star Wars Reads: Star Wars Insider

It’s October, which as long time readers might know, means that we’re reading all things Star Wars. Stay with us every week as we talk about the newest reads and the most entertaining stories from a galaxy far, far away…

This week on the blog, we’re discussing a volume of articles from the popular Star Wars Insider magazine. I personally bought the first volume several years ago now and since have borrowed and read the second volume from my local library numerous times.

Star Wars Insider is the official Star Wars magazine, with articles covering the production of films, the mythos of the TV shows, and the bygone days of the expanded universe novels. It has its roots in The Lucasfilm Fan Club, becoming its official magazine in 1987. Today, the magazines can be seen on several newsstands or found in libraries, though my preferred method of reading is through these collected volumes. Volume one gives valuable insight into the actors who lent their talents to the films and dives more deeply into the mindset and mythos of not only George Lucas, but the characters themselves and the choices they made, while volume two centers more of production and world building in the Star Wars universe. Personally, I prefer volume one if I had to own only one of these two volumes, but I really enjoy discovering more about the production of Star Wars sets, costumes, and special effects. I am a Star Wars geek, so anything that these volumes has for me is great and I’m looking forward to borrowing volumes three and four when they arrive at our local library.

Personally, this is one of the best and worst places to start if you’re not already a Star Wars
fan. If you’re appreciative of the creative arts and all that goes into building a well-crafted film, you will enjoy these reads. But if, like some people, you’re content only watching the films to be entertained, these probably aren’t the best works to try and bring you into the fold. For newcomers, I’d recommend reads like Star Wars: A Farmboy, A Princess, and a Smuggler or perhaps even companion series to the films, like the Star Wars Jedi Apprentice series. If you are a fan of the films, this is the place to start your love for the entire other half of the Star Wars saga – the myth making itself.

I’m a huge film fan and I find this process fascinating. If you are too, these are the volumes you’re looking for.

 

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The Adventurer: A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 10

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.

 

Ledbury. Bring staff.

Will

It was almost too good to be true.

That was the first thought Mariah had when he saw the scrawled handwriting, so shaky it might have been anyone’s. The punctual words could be a hurried order from one of his parents’ closest friends or it could be a trap from the same people who destroyed his father’s study. 

And if it was a trap, Mariah certainly would not lead Sacha and Felix into it. 

The note was found folded up in the next morning’s newspaper, which Mariah found as he waited for the rest of the household members to come down to breakfast. Today was the new day of school for Felix, who had taken studies with their parents when they were alive. Now he was off to the local school, an institution of find enough standing, though that didn’t alleviate the uneasy sense that Mariah had  sending his brother where he might be snatched.

There was still a cab on the corner. 

Sacha came down first. Their eyes briefly met and he could still tell that a spirit of fear was clinging to her. Then came Felix in his black uniform with a pleasant enough smile that only barely masked his annoyance. Rishi, who was perched on the boy’s shoulder, looked equally annoyed that he could not scamper around and muss the boy as he usually could. The monkey turned to glare at Mariah in the same moment Felix did. 

“There’s too much starch in this collar,” he groaned. “And I don’t see why we have to go to this school anyway.” 

You have to go,” Mariah reminded him. He’d finished his own schooling only months after their return. 

“Fine then, I have to go. I don’t see why I have to go,” his brother grumbled. “I don’t see why I can’t just stay here and have you teach me. Even Sacha could teach me!” His brother turned to look at the girl. “Sorry.” 

Sacha actually looked a little flattered as they entered the dining room. 

Pots of boiling tea, platters of scones, and a dish of potted porridge waited on a white tablecloth. Mariah took a seat, noticing only moments after Felix that the third chair at the table was not pulled out. Unlike Mariah, however, Felix knew how to make it better. Before Sacha even reached to pull out the chair, Felix was there doing it for her, ignoring the barely disguised disapproval on the butler’s face. 

For several minutues they ate in silence, supping with the decorum they were supposed to possess. That is, before Sacha spilled a little bit of tea, Mariah knocked over the salt, and a spoonful of Felix’s porridge ruined the cleanliness of the white tablecloth. His brother was possibly the only one who looked pleased at that. 

As he opened the newspaper to read the front page, once more graced by the ad for a missing man, the note slipped out. He leaned down to grab the tiny paper. 

“So,” His brother started, looking up just in the wrong moment to see Mariah holding the note. 

Rishi screeched and reached forward to snatch the note within seconds. Felix took the paper from his pet, reading the hastily written words with eagerness. The paper was cheap material that smelled strongly of ashes and charcoal, but it didn’t seem to affect the wide grin on his face. 

“Will sent it?” He burst out, with excitement. “It must be about Mama and Papa!” 

At the opposite end of the table, Mariah saw Sacha lift her head. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments and he just slightly shook his head before turning to look at his brother. 

“We don’t even know if this is from Will,” Mariah said. 

His brother shook his head, mop of fair hair shaking with him. 

“It has to be!” He said, pointing to the signature at the bottom of the page. “And besides that, you promised we’d find them.” 

“I never said that,” Mariah retorted, feeling guilty. True, he’d been determined to find them a year ago, but…

His brother’s face was flushed slightly pink. “Well, Will did. And if he sent this note, it must mean he’s found something.” 

“We don’t even know what’s in Ledbury. It could be a trap!” 

“But what if it isn’t!?”

Mariah’s tongue, always so unwilling to work, let loose at the worst moment. 

“We’re not going until I’m certain. We have to be sure. It’s just the three of us now. And I say no.” 

Mariah was suddenly very consciously aware of how much like his father he sounded. All he needed to do would be to shake his fist and look as imposing as his father did and he might accomplish the same fearsome effect. It was so unlike anything hsi mother might do, he felt ashamed of how Felix’s eyes were narrowed as his own ears turned a rather unbecoming shade of scarlet. 

The two brothers stared at each other for a very long time, though Felix’s glare was perhaps much more fierce. 

The servants entered the room and calmly went about their business cleaning the table while the two boys still held to their face-off. In the hall, the clock was chiming. Felix needed to get to school. Picking up his stack of books, his little brother stepped out into the hall, a tight look of frustration upon his face. Only Sacha and Mariah remained and even she would not look at him. 

Gone was any excitement or talk of school. The carriage ride was a rather tedious affair, quiet and sullen. Felix was determinedly not looking at anyone, but was staring rather moodily out the window, Sacha at his side. As the carriage rounded the corner, Mariah saw her grab Felix’s hand and give it a squeeze. If he was angry, he did not reciprocate, but he also didn’t toss her hand away. 

Out the window, one could see the stony edifice of the boys’ school drawing nearer and nearer. It was a truly old building this. Gargoyles peered down from their granite nests, watching the flood of boys, all in the same black uniform, enter through the arched doorway. A pair of men with whiskers ushered each new horde in with equal indifference and the same greeting. 

Felix looked as if he had never so dreaded anything in his life. 

“I don’t want to go,” he hissed. 

Mariah didn’t say anything, save to look at Sacha, who leaned over to whisper something in his brother’s ear. Felix just shrugged half-heartedly. 

“Yes, but I was counting on Mariah and my parents to come save me,” he said, turning to look at his brother. 

A guilty silence fell rather awkwardly as the younger boy finally opened the door and stepped out. He glanced back uncertainly only once before disappearing into the sea of fair and dark heads alike. The mass of boys in uniform had swallowed him up before Felix could even say something or apologize. Typical of Mariah’s tongue to fail him again. 

He would later wish he had called out, that he had said something, anything. 

When Sacha was to collect Felix at the end of the day, she returned with a note, his brother’s clutch of books, and news: 

Felix was gone.

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Star Wars Reads: Thrawn Alliances

It’s October, which as long time readers might know, means that we’re reading all things Star Wars. Stay with us every week as we talk about the newest reads and the most entertaining stories from a galaxy far, far away…

It is a time of peace in the galaxy. The Galactic Empire has long since stopped the Jedi plot to overthrow the democratic system and the Inner Core is profiting as it never has before. At least, this is what Emperor Palpatine tells the citizens of his new realm. In truth, the galaxy has never been more divided. Insurgents rebel against the Empire, gaining numbers by the day and Palpatine can sense his apprentice’s anxiety to do something about the problem. But he has a different mission for the impatient Vader – a mission that will involve teaming up with former Chiss Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, present Grand Admiral Thrawn. Their assignment will take them to the Outer Rim on the Chiss home planet and will bring them face to face with some of their darkest threats: Thrawn’s future and Vader’s past.

I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I especially really enjoy reading “Legends” stories. Since Disney’s purchase of the franchise, a lot of the books I used to read are now considered non-canonical. Thankfully, Disney seems to be taking steps towards bringing some of the expanded universe content into their own fold, because one of the more formidable characters from this previously filled out world is Grand Admiral Thrawn, a Chiss who thwarted the formation of the New Republic time and time again. In the new canon, Thrawn serves under the Galactic Empire before its fall and Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances gives us an insight into his prime.

We also get a glimpse of the first time Anakin Skywalker and Thrawn met. Padme Amidala, a character often beat down by those who are not fans of the prequel, is really redeemed in the extended universe content like The Clone Wars television series and her personality really shines through in this novel.

If you’re a new fan of the series, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this novel; it’s a spin-off that relies heavily on existing content in the Star Wars timeline. For longtime fans, this will be an exciting if not highly anticipated read. Vader is possibly the biggest canonical baddy in the Star Wars universe and Thrawn one of the more popular villains in the expanded universe. Definitely go pick up this novel at your local bookstore or library for an insightful look into the rich world of Star Wars.

 

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The Adventurer – A Fan Fiction Sequel Pt. 9

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.

Cairo, Egypt

The hotel was once more opressively hot, but there was nothing one could do except shoo the flies away, pray to the various gods that might ward off the bugs, then repeat. 

Gormenburg chose to do neither, as was his luxury. Striding past the groups of gullible tourists, all of whom would be taken for far more money than any part of this insensible trip was worth, he stepped into the caged elevator and waited for it to pull up. As he did, he slipped his gloved hands into his pockets, reaching for his watch, but instead removing a chess piece. Ordinarily he might have found it funny or merely curious that he did not remember placing such an item there, but this time it was less than amusing. It was a reminder that Will Charity was at least a step ahead of him and would continue to be so long as he had the scepter. 

Not for long, my friend. The elevator came to a mellow halt as he stepped off. Not long at all. 

He continued to stride down the long hall until he came to a door at the end of the hall. Amongst the other suite doors it was singularly unflanked by guard, guest, or plant, but behind it lay men powerful enough to make even Gormenburg a little more tactful. 

Showtime then. 

He did not have to knock. He was let in rather suddenly by a tall man in a white suit who directed him to have a seat in a garishly upholstered armchair. 

He opted to stand. 

Out the window lay a rather haughty view of both the streets below and just beyond it, the pyramids. If the Egyptian pharoahs of old still lived, they might appreciate such a lofty view, from which to peer down at the rather petty few who cloistered in the streets below. He continued to watch for several minutes, knowing full well he was being kept waiting for a reason; the most likely of these was a show of control and power. He smiled to himself as he finally heard the click of shoes on the tile. No matter what they might think, he was in control and not vice versa. 

Still, he allowed himself to be hailed first before turning to look at his “colleague”. A hand was offered and declined, as was an offer to drink. Gormenburg had long since given up on having trust in those he did business with, least of all the business he did with foreigners. 

Both took a seat as the man frowned at him, his forehead already beaded with sweat. Though he was by no means English, he was a civilized barbarian and he was no more accustomed to the heat than Gormenburg.

“Verfluchen sie diese hitze,” he sighed to himself. 

The Englishman waited politely, wisely choosing not to point out the fact that he spoke multiple languages. 

“So then,” the man said, sitting up in his chair. “You know of this, this conference to be held in Portugal?” 

Gormenburg smiled thinly. “Who hasn’t?” 

“Ja. My chancellor trusts you, Herr Professor, yet you have not gotten us what we promised. We cannot negotiate with only a few trinkets. Egypt is already falling to the English and if we do not move fast they will take”- 

-“I cares not for your politics, Herr Ambassador,” the man in white interrupted from behind the chair. His poor English was already an insult to his ears, but the dark look the man gave him despite the fact that they were in a business meeting did not encourage any feelings of amity.

Gormenburg spared him a glance. Where the man in the chair was a mere politician to be bargained with, his companion was a military mercenary and a good one at that. He could either be a rather valuable asset or a competent annoyance in his path. 

“You promises us the staff of power, yet we does not get it. Where is it?” 

This question seemed a rather important one to the ambassador as well; his clear annoyance at being cut off turned to curiosity as he turned to look at Gormenburg with the same question in his eyes. He smiled thinly once more, forcing a smile onto his face with little vigor. 

“The item in question is being delivered as we speak,” he said. 

The two men opposite him exchanged a glance before hissing rapidly to each other in their native language. Gormenburg could only snatch bits, but it was enough to know that neither was entirely sure of his honesty. After several minutes of their hushed banter, the ambassador turned to look at him. 

“Very well, Herr Professor, but I warn you that my chancellor will not be very pleased should you fail to deliver.” 

The ambassador’s annoyed expression was slowly overtaken by a more uncomfortable one. For the first time in their acquaintance, Gormenburg was smiling. 

“With all due respect, sir, I never fail.” 

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Kids in the Kitchen

It’s not often we read nonfiction over here at Little Reader, but when we do, it’s always something interesting. This week we’re reading some books on cooking for children. If you’re a parent who’s looking to get your kids more involved in the kitchen, these books are definitely great ways to introduce them to the culinary arts.

Our first read, Kids Cook! is published by Good Housekeeping. The photos are highly saturated and appetizing and the recipes themselves are really easy to follow. For kids who have never cooked before or are just getting started, the book covers the basic skills and “lingo” for those who want to be fully prepared before trying out any of the projects in the book. What I really like about this read is that while some of the recipes in this book are pretty traditional, some of them are really unique; I might find them in an adults’ recipe book! Good Housekeeping is already a great magazine with good food and this book for children makes it all the easier to get kids into the kitchen.

Our second read is Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge. This book is even more targeted towards kids than the first, filled with large text, cartoonish illustrations, and the most basic of recipes that can be elevated with a little help from the adults. What makes this book an interesting read is that some of the skills are surprisingly easy to learn, even though most people have never and will never tackle them in their lifetime. Skills like pasta and tortilla making are discussed with ease and Gino Campagna’s personal narratives woven through the book are fun to read.

Both books are excellent and enjoyable, though I recommend Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge before progressing to Kids Cook! For the little chefs in your family, it is always a pleasure to get started with easy to make recipes that are tasty and colorful. Food has always been a huge part of my family life, especially given the fact that my father’s side of the family is Hispanic. Fresh tortillas, hearty soups, and jazzy dinners are all a part of the meals I enjoyed growing up. For me, there are few greater pleasures than making a meal with my family and enjoying it together. I highly recommend you pick up either of these reads and get started making memories with your family.

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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.

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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!

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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.”

 

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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.

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