Friday, May 29, 2015
1. Play. Kittens play all the time. Whether by alone or with others, a kitten can find a way to play.
2. Hide. Kittens love to find somewhere they can hide. Be it under your chair or up on the bookshelf, kittens often hide in the strangest places.
3. Climb. Kittens are insanely good climbers. It doesn't matter what it is, they will find a way to climb it.
4. Explore. Kittens are curious, and will explore everything. Even after you put them to bed, they will find a way to get to that interesting box on the other side of the room.
5. Get into trouble. Kittens don't care if they're not allowed under the table. If they want to play there, then they will find a way.
6. Sleep. All of this activity leaves a kitten ready for a nap. And they don't always care whether they make it back to their bed first. So when there's a kitten in the house, watch where you step.
7. Act ridiculously cute. Whether getting themselves stuck in a box or sticking their head in your shoe, kittens have the ability to make whatever they do impossibly adorable.
8. Eat. Some kittens are gluttons. They don't care if you just gave them half a bottle of formula: they want more.
9. Entertain you. Watching kittens can be extremely funny. And it doesn't even matter if they're awake, as a sleeping kitten can also make you laugh.
10. Kittens observe everything. Be it a string, the fan, or even you, kittens are always watching what happens around them.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Over the next two days, Mistress Orla made good on her promise of supplies.
And just an hour before we were supposed to leave the city, I finally saw the chance I'd been waiting for.
"Be right back." I said, motioning toward an odd looking shop. Lorcan shrugged, and picked up a shiny piece of fruit. Leaving the fruit stand, I opened the shop's smooth door.
The inside was well lit, and chock full of oddities. Walking the narrow path between piles, I scanned the wares. There was a stuffed sabre-muskrat, sticking out beneath the boot of a rusty suit of armor. I had to step over a dented metal crate, then wait while a bright blue snake slithered out of a pile onto the path. It lifted its head and looked at me, then slithered into a different pile and out of sight.
Finally in the back corner, I found what I was looking for.
Sorting through the garments, I studied the clasps.
"How about this one?" I whispered, holding a clasp in my right hand.
Smoky shifted in my sleeve, and his reedy voice filled my mind.
He rejected the next seven clasps, and three brooches before one caught his attention.
It was a silver cloak pin, shaped like a coiled dragon.
"You really like dragons, don't you?" I asked softly, gathering the pin and its cloak.
"They're a rare challenge. So few enter the forest." Smoky answered as I made my way back to the front of the shop.
Near the door, I found a grisly bear of a man waiting behind a counter. How'd I miss him on the way in?
"All purchases are final." He grumbled as I set the cloak and pin down. "Thirteen silver."
I didn't know much about this world's economics, but that seemed like a lot for one tattered cloak and a tarnished pin. But I plucked out the coins from the purse I'd gotten from Mistress Orla, and watched him scoop them off the table.
As I headed toward the door, I fastened on the cloak.
"Ready?" I whispered as we slipped outside and I slipped into the ally between shops. Smoky shifted beneath my shirt, spilling out the back of my collar. When I glanced down, the black fabric of the cloak rippled with smoky tendrils.
I wasn't sure if disguising the wraith as a magic cloak would work, but I had to try. "What do you think?"
"It is acceptable."
"Then let's finish shopping." I said, before leaving the ally to find Lorcan.
Friday, May 22, 2015
1. So you won't lose your stuff. Backing up any type of data can save you a heartache later on should something horrible happen to your device.
2. They watch your back. Having a backup when doing something potentially dangerous (or simply scary) can make it easier for you to focus on whatever you're trying to do. After all, if you fail, someone is there to help.
3. In case the original gets ruined. Be it schoolwork or a batch of cookies, having some extra just in case something happens can be great. Especially with cookies, as you get to eat the extra if they aren't needed.
4. In case your first choice isn't available. A lot of things require that you pick between multiple options. Sometimes, your first choice falls through, and you'll have to pick something else. This is when having another choice already in mind saves time.
5. So you can share it. If you have a backup that you wind up not needing, then there is a possibility that you could give it to someone else. Extra cookies, for example.
6. In case the first one wears out. Having a backup copy of your favorite book is awesome, as you don't have to worry about it being out of print should pages start falling out of the first copy.
7. So that you can keep working. If you're constantly updating your backup and always have access to it, then you never have to stop working on whatever it is.
8. So you can have an opportunity to rest. Having someone who can fill your position for a time can provide time for you to relax.
9. They can save the day. When something is overwhelming your group, having others come to help can is awesome.
10. So you don't have to worry. No matter the kind of backup, simply having it available can be a great relief.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
When the barrier finally faded to a silvery haze I could see through, I looked up.
"You're alive." Mistress Orla said.
"It's been three days." I tapped my nearly empty waterskin. I was ready to get out of this trap and eat. It was probably my imagination, but my delivery bag smelled like it had a freshly baked pizza in it.
"Where is the wraith?" Mistress Orla asked as she leaned against her staff. I shrugged and patted the closed delivery bag.
"Smoky won't bother you. Can I come out now?"
"Leave the bag."
Pressing a hand against the bag, I didn't move.
"Go." Smoky's reedy voice filled my mind, and I grabbed my quarterstaff and got to my feet.
Meeting Mistress Orla's gaze, I stepped forward.
The silvery haze was incredibly warm, almost uncomfortably so. But the heat vanished once I was through the haze. Now outside the trap, I turned to look back at my delivery bag.
"Will I be getting that back?"
Mistress Orla lifted her shadowy staff, and a bolt of navy magic struck the silvery haze. A blinding light filled the trap. Lifting a hand to cover my eyes, I couldn't help squinting. When the light at last faded, I had to blink away spots.
When I could see clearly, my gut twisted.
My delivery bag was gone. Only ashes remained.
"Come." Mistress Orla turned and walked away.
I stared at the remains of my bag. What if I'd still been in that trap?
"Follow the wizard." Smoky's voice broke through my thoughts, and I felt the wraith shift beneath my shirt. Turning, I hurried after her. I wasn't sure if it was the dragon scale armor or being in contact with my skin, but I'd successfully smuggled a wraith through that silvery haze.
Whether that was a good idea is up for debate.
Mistress Orla led me out the room and through a hall I didn't recognize. Then we went up a staircase and stopped before a set of doors. She rapped her staff against one of the doors, and almost immediately it opened.
"He's alive!" Brend said, offering me a grin before stepping away from the door. I followed Mistress Orla in, and found Callan's band waiting.
"How are you feeling, laddy?" Callan asked as he strode forward.
"Hungry." Smells filled my nostrils, and I glanced behind Callan toward a table laden with food.
"Go and eat." Callan patted my shoulder before turning to Mistress Orla. "What restitution will you provide?"
"Supplies, including a new bag, and a monetary sum which should cover any grievances." Mistress Orla replied, her tone stiff. Plucking a teal fruit from a bowl, I took a bite.
A bitter tang permeated the fruit, which otherwise tasted like a weird tomato.
"You imprisoned a member of my band for three days." Callan said as I took another bite of the teal tomato.
"And successfully separated him from a wraith." Mistress Orla said, and I felt Smoky shift. Finishing off the teal tomato, I placed a hand over my stomach. Smoky stopped moving.
Stretching the same hand out to snatch a brown roll from a platter, I headed toward the conversation.
"Is there somewhere I could sleep that isn't surrounded by a silvery haze?" I asked, and Callan motioned toward a simple door on the far wall.
"All yours, laddy."
I nodded, and grabbed a plateful of food on my way to the door.
Inside, I found that he hadn't been joking. The room was tiny, with a single bed crammed against a writing desk. Closing the door behind me, I was grateful for the lit candle on the desk. Setting down the plate of food, I held out my right arm.
Smoke poured out my sleeve, consolidating into a dragon shape as it landed on the bed.
"Well, we're out of that trap." I said, taking a bite of roll.
"Yes. This partnership may yet prove interesting."
Friday, May 15, 2015
1. Find someone with similar interests to you. Having something that you both enjoy doing can be a great starting point for becoming friends.
2. Share your stuff. Be it a pencil or a chocolate chip cookie, being willing to share offers you an excellent opportunity to talk to new people.
3. Talk to everyone. Conversations can bring people together. They don't need to be long, but you do need to show interest in what the other person has to say. Remember that one-sided conversation has the same effect as walking into a wall.
4. Be kind. Most people don't like being around people who are mean to them. So be nice, and perhaps you'll brighten someone's day.
5. Be yourself. Changing who you just to make friends is like taking on a role in a play. Each person plays the part they think will mesh with the other parts, but then they become stuck in that role for the entire play. Instead of pretending, or focusing on only one aspect of yourself, take a risk. Let others see who you are, and let them decide if they like you for you.
6. Don't be afraid to laugh. Humor can bring people together. Laughter is best when shared with others, and when the cause of it doesn't make anyone feel ridiculed. Sometimes silly situations come up, and a bond can form between people just by sharing a laugh.
7. Think positively. Budding friendships can be crushed by negative attitudes. Don't worry about how a potential friendship could decay into anger and disdain if mistakes are made and left unresolved. That kind of thinking will only lead to destroying relationships before they can even start. Try your best to silence your fears, and be the type of friend you want to have.
8. Don't be overwhelming. Sure, forming a friendship is exciting. But that doesn't mean that you need to spend every minute of the day with your new friend. Both of you need time to get things done, and to spend with others. Figure out how much time you can stand to be around each other for, and try not to go over it.
9. Include others. Oh, you already have a bunch of friends? Well, don't use that as an excuse not to make more! If you see someone on their own, be willing to at least try to include them. It'll only take a minute to introduce yourself, and you could wind up gaining with a wonderful new friend.
10. Be patient. Making friends can be tough, but never give up. Though it might seem an impossible task at times, it is well worth the effort. Both you and your friend will be changed by the experience, no matter how long the friendship lasts.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Memories flashed through my mind, though none stood out as being merely a remnant.
And no matter how I searched, there was nothing to explain who Hannah was.
"Why?" The single word held so many questions. How had he eaten my memories while trapped in the delivery bag? Why the memories of Hannah? Who was she? What would happen once the wraith finished feeding on me?
"We can be... overly eager during those first moments with our prey. Remnants of sensation, and of memories, keep the prey alive longer than consuming all at once." Smoky lifted his head from my wrist, his wings shifting. "When the prey survives beyond that time, we prolong the feast."
Grasping hold on a foolish idea, I shifted to sit on the ground while keeping my right arm outstretched. "Do you usually feed for this long on one person?"
"No. Your flavor requires savoring." Smoky's tongue flickered out, and I wondered if the wraith was becoming more substantial. He seemed to like that dragon shape.
"If you killed me now, how long would you survive imprisonment?"
"A while, but I'd become weak long before the wizard lowered the barrier." Smoky seemed displeased, which gave me some hope for my idea.
That crazy, foolish idea.
"How often do you feed, and how much do you need take?" I asked. Smoky's claws pressed painfully against my skin, their sharpness startling for a creature of smoke.
"At least thrice daily. Half a day's memory to survive, at least a day to thrive."
A day's worth of memories. If that was all he took, then this could work.
Shifting my right arm so it rested against my bent knee, I tried to ignore the weight that threatened to overwhelm me. I couldn't remember Hannah, beyond the ache of having lost something important. Could I survive if each new remnant of my lost memories increased that ache?
"I've an offer for you." I leaned forward, getting frightfully close to the wraith. "If you took no more than one day's worth of memories each day, then would it be possible for me to remain your host indefinitely?"
Smoky was silent for a long time, and I started wondering if I'd made a mistake. Perhaps offering a more mutually symbiotic relationship to a parasite was dumb, but it was worth a shot.
"Perhaps. We have never attempted such a thing." Smoky's words slowly filled my mind, and I could almost detect interest in his tone. "But what would you gain from this?"
"Protection from other monsters, a relief from the anxiety of waking up one morning to find you about to kill me." I shook my head. Maybe it was unnecessary, but part of me feared I'd never get back home. I wanted to be ready for whatever happened.
"A lifetime supply of memories, from a resigned host. Unless you consume today's memories, I suppose."
Smoky uncoiled from around my hand and stretched his wings. "Would I be restricted to another bag?"
“If you promised not to attack anyone without my approval, then you could roam freely.” I motioned at myself. “There shouldn't be any reason to attack others when you've a host to feed from.”
Smoky's tail lashed once, then the wraith dipped his head. "Very well, but what of the wizard who imprisoned us?"
"Mistress Orla is not on the menu."
Friday, May 8, 2015
1. They help you learn from your mistakes. If you couldn't remember how you messed up, it would be extremely easy to make that mistake again and again.
2. They help you find answers to problems. By being able to remember things that you've learned, you have access to potential solutions to almost any problem.
3. They help you feel empathy for others. By recalling your own struggles, you can help support others with their difficulties.
4. They can keep you out of trouble. Knowledge can keep you safe, if you remember to use it.
5. They provide you with an anchor. When things get crazy, being able to call up comforting memories can help you from losing hold of yourself.
6. They can cheer you up. When sorrows strike, remembering the people and events you love can drive away the gloom.
7. They reveal who you are. What was the best day of your life? Your childhood friend? What was your worst experience? The moments of your life that you most vividly remember can show what you care most about, and what events caused the greatest impact to your life.
8. They help you understand others. By drawing upon your memories, you are able to recognize and comprehend the motives of others. The more you learn about a particular person, the easier it is to understand their actions.
9. They help you plan for the future. Memories give you a starting point for planning what you'll do next. Be it a planned event or an uncertain adventure, by remembering all that you've already done, you can better prepare for tomorrow.
10. They help you to keep going. Everything you can remember, bad and good, happy and sad, have helped shape who you are now. And each memory can help you to continue forward, to make new memories that will help shape who you will become.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Back pressed against the the silvery barrier, I couldn't look away from the wraith. Smoky beat against the barrier, his claws cutting grooves in the magic that closed almost immediately after he made them.
I knew the barrier was tough, and seeing a creature made of smoke cut through it was frightening.
Especially since there was barely a foot of space between us.
There was no way Mistress Orla would let me out now. Not while Smoky was raging.
Heart pounding, I shifted a trembling hand to the hilt of my knife.
Smoky froze, a forelimb still raised.
"It won't work." That reedy voice filled my mind as Smoky's head turned toward me. My hand tightened around the hilt, and the wraith's featureless eyes darkened.
"We're both stuck in here." Slowly, I unsheathed the blade. Stretching out my arm, I let go of the knife. It clattered against the stone floor separating us. My quarterstaff was too large to be of any use, but I leaned it against the silvery barrier.
Smoky's dragon shape twisted toward me, and I held out my right hand. "Wait! You can't get out without me." It might not be true, but the wraith paused.
"Oh?" Smoky's laughter rang in my thoughts. Smiling was difficult, but I forced the expression to remain as the wraith glided closer.
"Mistress Orla is terrified of what you could do." I said, the words coming quickly. "And with good reason. Wraiths don't mingle with people very much, do they?"
"We feed." Smoky replied, and my right hand became numb.
"Exactly." I fought the urge to jerk my hand away as Smoky neared it. "You feed on remnants. But remnants of what?"
Circling my outstretched hand, Smoky bared his fangs. "With you? Sensations, memories. Such flavors." His wing brushed my thumb, and pain flared.
"Wait, memories?" More pain filled my hand as the wraith landed and coiled around it. His laughter almost drowned out my frantic thoughts. Smoky was eating my memories? Which ones? Could I remember memories a wraith fed on?
"So unusual. Strange realm with no magic.” Smoky's voice was odd, almost... wistful. “Answer this: who is Hannah?"
At the name, an ache filled my chest. I gasped at the intensity of the feeling, how it made my legs weak and pulse race.
"Hannah is– she is–" I couldn't form the words. I knew the name. I knew it. Yet when I tried to remember her, there was nothing.
Nothing but this ache, and the sense that Hannah was important. Somehow.
"Remnants. Not what we consume, but what we leave."
Friday, May 1, 2015
1. Extra socks. You never know what trouble your feet will find, so avoid the sorrow of squishy socks by packing extra.
2. Cash. Having access to your bank account through a card is good, but there are times when having the money on hand will save you a lot of hassle.
3. Good shoes. Even if you don't think that you'll be doing a lot of walking, make sure to wear a pair of shoes that are comfortable enough to handle any surprise hikes.
4. A watch. If you don't have a way to tell what time it is, then your trip could become a frantic rush to not be late for appointments.
5. A hat. Hats are great for protecting your head through different types of weather, which is great when you're not entirely sure what you'll face on your trip.
6. A handkerchief. Handkerchiefs are useful for more than just blowing your nose, and can come in handy during a trip.
7. Something to write with. Whether you need to jot down an address, or record your adventure, having something to write with is worth taking on any trip.
8. A book. During the quiet moments of your trip, having a book to read is wonderful. Be it a familiar friend or a new tale, a book is a great companion to have.
9. A camera. Being able to record your trip in a way that can be shared with others later on is fantastic. But even more important, having photographic evidence will help you to remember all of the fun times you had.
10. A bottle of water. Having something to drink on hand before your adventure gets going will save you from giving in to thirst later on and spending more than necessary on a drink.