Friday, June 26, 2015
1. Marshmallows. Whenever there is a fire, a stick, and a bag of marshmallows, someone will decide to make s'mores.
2. Hot dogs. Roasting hot dogs over a fire is really fun, and one of the tastier ways you can cook a hot dog.
3. Rolls. Got some pop and bake rolls or biscuits? Take one and roll it into a long rope, then wrap that around your stick. As long as it isn't too thick, you'll end up with a soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside bread.
4. A fish. Skewer that fish and plant it near the fire. After a while, you'll have a delicious fish to consume.
5. Vegetables. Just cut them up and slide them onto your stick, and you'll have a kebab ready to roast.
6. Popsicle! Alright, technically you're not cooking it, but when making your own popsicles, you have to put in a stick at some point. Otherwise you'll just have flavored ice cubes...
7. Chicken. Chicken roasted over a fire is yummy. Even if you get some dirt on it.
8. Curly french fries. You'll just have to wrap it around the stick!
9. Bacon wrapped mushrooms. Step one, wrap bacon around mushroom. Step two, skewer mushroom and ends of the bacon. Step three, roast over fire.
10. A banana. And afterwards, you can dip it in chocolate for a tasty treat.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
I stared at the princess, dumbstruck. What part could she have in my abduction?
"Shall I consume them?" Smoky's reedy voice filled my mind, and I shook my head.
"Wait," I said, more to the wraith than princess. I doubted Smoky could take both wizards without getting hurt, and attacking wouldn't give me answers. "Why?"
"It was my love for pizza." Princess Kevine clasped her forearms. "Miach and I were discussing it one evening, and I mentioned how wonderful it would be if our attempts at making pizza could taste like those of your world."
I stood. "So you abducted me?"
Tigernach stepped forward. "The princess my have expressed a desire, but it was my apprentice who sought to make it a reality." He turned toward the young man, and Miach scowled.
"If he'd just let go of the bag, this could have been settled months ago!" Miach's voice was surprisingly deep, considering his wiry frame.
"This was all for a recipe?" The words came quietly as I stared at them. Nearly getting attacked by a sabre-muskrat the moment I arrived in this world, seeing Devlin killed by horned rabbits. The dragon attack.
Getting stuck with a wraith, and having to make a deal so him.
Losing my memories of Hannah. Was she family? A friend? Or something more?
All for a pizza recipe.
A breeze whipped past me, smelling of blood and a dying fire.
"Smoky, stop!" I jerked forward, hand outstretched as the wraith reached the princess. He was so fast.
Shifting into his dragon-shape, the wraith coiled around Princess Kevine's neck without touching it.
Both wizards had raised their staves, though they seemed hesitant to attack.
"The wraith survived Mistress Orla's trap?" Tigernach asked, eyes never leaving Smoky.
"How do you know about that?" I asked as I slowly walked toward the princess.
"We've been scrying you." Miach said, shooting a glare at me. "Seen almost everything."
"Smoky and I made a deal, and I got him out of the trap." I said, and focused on the wraith. "We have a deal, remember?"
"Shouldn't they be punished?" The wraith's draconian head turned toward me. "All the hardships you've suffered, shouldn't they suffer as well?"
"No." I shook my head. Yes, part of me wanted retribution. But it wouldn't bring back my memories, or the months I'd lost here. "No. Even if they should, it isn't your place to enact a punishment." Reaching the princess, I held out my hand.
Smoky stared at me, expressionless eyes unnerving. Then he twisted away from Princess Kevine and disappeared up my sleeve.
Princess Kevine released a shuddering breath as she stepped away from me. Lowering my hand, I looked away from the princess and toward Tigernach.
"Just send me home."
"Just send me home."
Friday, June 19, 2015
1. Go for the feet. On most people, the feet are quite sensitive. Be it the toes or the sole, you're sure to get some kind of reaction.
2. The back of the neck. If you do it just right, the person might mistake you for a bug and start swinging wildly to squash it.
3. With a feather. It's a classic, but sometimes it provides the reaction you're looking for.
4. Attack the belly. Especially with children, a good raspberry to the stomach will send them into a fit of giggles.
5. The armpit. Another, slightly sweatier classic.
6. Behind the ear. A light brush to the back of the ear can be quite ticklish.
7. Have an animal lick them. Being licked by an animal can make you laugh.
8. Lightly brush something on their arm.
9. Depending on the person, softly blowing into or onto their ear can get a reaction.
10. Though it doesn't always make a person laugh, you could touch something cold to the back of their hand.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Walking to the right of the litter, I couldn't help feeling out of place. The soldier with the green sash had positioned me here, and the finely dressed men had stopped talking.
Even after ten minutes of walking, the only sound was of their boots against the street.
I kept my gaze on the soldiers ahead, resisting the urge to look at the litter. What was I supposed to do when we reached wherever this procession was headed? Entertain the princess with the story of how Smoky slayed the dragon?
The road turned, and suddenly the palace was ahead.
It was even more grand up close. Fanciful scrollwork covered the columns leading up to a set of doors engraved with a dragon and an al'mi'raj crossing horns above a sword.
The procession stopped.
Turning toward the litter, I noticed the finely dressed men were bowing. So I slipped into an awkward bow as well.
I heard the litter's curtains rustle, then soft steps.
Amber slippers peeked out from beneath a scarlet gown.
"Rise, dragonslayer." Her voice was honey sweet, and I straightened to get my first look at Princess Kevine. Flaxen hair framed a delicate face, where hazel eyes that were more green than brown winked at me. "What is your name?"
"Alex, Your Highness." I said, trapped within her gaze. She smiled, eyes crinkling.
"Mister Alex, it would please me if you were my escort."
What was I supposed to say to that? Why hadn't Brend included conversations with royalty in everything he'd taught me about this world?
"It would be your pleasure." Smoky's voice broke through my thoughts.
"It would be my pleasure, Your Highness." I said, finally breaking free of her gaze to dip my head.
"Offer your arm." Smoky commanded, and I obeyed.
Her hand wrapped around it, the fabric of her glove softer than anything I'd ever felt.
Flanked by the finely dressed men, we headed toward the engraved doors leading into the palace.
Through that afternoon, I learned that the finely dressed men were Princess Kevine's suitors. The princess never let me stray from her side as she watched the men compete for her attention.
To say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement.
When two men with staves walked into the parlor, the princess lifted a hand. "You are all excused." She said, offering each of her suitors a smile. The men bowed, and filed out.
When I shifted to follow them, the princess placed her hand on my arm. “Please, wait.”
There was a strange tone in her voice, and it took me a moment to figure out what it was.
I settled back into my seat. The two men came forward. The first was wizened and white haired, leaning against his aged staff like a classic wizard would. The second was probably only a few years older than Brend, and had a defiant jut to his chin.
They both bowed to the princess, then the eldest spoke.
"Mister Alex, I am Tigernach, the court wizard." Motioning toward the younger man, Tigernach's hand shook. "And this is my apprentice, Miach."
The apprentice glowered at me, and I wondered why he seemed to dislike me so much. "I've a friend who's a wizard."
Tigernach nodded. "Brend O'Nolan. A good lad." Miach stiffened at his master's words, hands clenching. "But our business is with you, Mister Alex."
"Why me?" I asked, and felt the princess shift beside me.
"I'm afraid we owe you an apology." Princess Kevine said as she stood. When I moved to stand, she held up a hand. "Please, wait."
Uncomfortable in my seat, I watched her move to stand beside Tigernach. Turning to face me, the princess offered a faint smile that didn't reach her eyes.
"We are responsible for your displacement from your world."
Friday, June 12, 2015
1. If you don't, you could get hurt. If you'd been watching where you walked instead of focusing on the book in your hand, would you have run into that wagon?
2. So you won't miss anything interesting. Cool stuff happens all the time. But if you aren't aware of what is happening around you, then how will you know?
3. You'll be able to help others. Sometimes you're not the one who can't focus. So when your friend asks what the assignment in third period was, you could be the one with the answer.
4. So you don't lose track of what you were doing. It is easy to get distracted. But if you focus on where you are, then you might be able to keep in mind what you were going to do.
5. So you don't get left behind. Sometimes, your surroundings include a particular group. If you forget to watch your group, then you could end up without a ride home.
6. Because things often change. Sure, you've walked this path a dozen times. Then how come you didn't realize that they built a new complex in what used to be an empty field?
7. Because something could inspire you. When in search of an idea, sometimes they are within your line of sight. So stop wondering where you'll get the next great idea and look around you!
8. There are other people around you. Crazy concept, right? But it's true. Smart people, funny people, people who'll make you think. If you're stuck in your own little world, then all these people worth knowing will slip past you. Don't let them.
9. So you'll know if something needs to change. It is easy to fall into a routine and let things fade into the background. But sometimes, something within that routine needs to be changed. If you don't take some time to look at it, then that thing will be left unchanged.
10. Because otherwise you won't know where you are. Have you ever been so deep in thought that you end up not remembering how you got somewhere? That's not a fun feeling. So save yourself from the discomfort by paying attention to where you're going.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Even the streets gleamed.
We followed Brend through the capital, and I couldn't help but stare.
"Careful laddy." Callan said, plopping a hand on my shoulder to stop me. Tearing my gaze away from the intricate metalwork we'd just passed, I realized that he'd stopped me from walking into a procession.
Soldiers marched up the long road before us, dressed in exquisite rose uniforms. Within the rows of soldiers, men in their finery encircled a covered litter carried by two stoic footmen.
One of the litter's curtains rustled, and Callan's grip on my shoulder tightened as he tugged me down into a bow.
"We common folk don't gaze at Her Highness." He said softly when I started to lift my head. I looked at him instead.
"Princess Kevine, the sole child of His Majesty, King Ormond." He answered, and I couldn't resist another glance.
I'd never seen royalty before, and this might be the closest I ever came.
The procession had stopped, and a soldier with a pale green sash over his uniform was beside the litter. His head was tilted toward the curtain, and after a moment the soldier dipped his head.
"Alex!" Callan's voice was a hiss, and I reluctantly lowered my head.
Were we supposed to just wait with our heads bowed until the procession continued?
"The soldier is coming." Smoky's voice filled my mind, and I almost looked back up. Sure enough, well polished boots appeared before me. Callan's hand on my shoulder tightened further, and I took the hint.
No looking up.
"Who is your leader?" The soldier's tone was crisp, and Callan straightened slightly.
"I am." Callan said.
"What is your business at the capital?"
"We're looking for a certain wizard."
"Does this search require all of your band?" The soldier asked, and I wished I could see his face. His voice gave nothing away.
"It shouldn't." Callan answered slowly, and the soldier's boots shifted toward me.
"Her Highness has requested that your dragonslayer attend to her."
Did he mean me? I glanced toward Callan, and his hand on my should loosened.
"Then Mister Alex must go." Callan said, and I took it as a cue to straighten.
The soldier studied me, then gave a nod before turning back to Callan. "Where will you be staying?"
"The Blue Belle."
"Your companion will rejoin with you there." With that, the soldier turned and motioned for me to follow. I glanced at Callan, and he nodded.
Falling in step behind the soldier, I wondered what a princess could want with me.
Friday, June 5, 2015
1. It will look nicer. When cleaning, usually a person makes it so that they enjoy the final appearance of the room.
2. You'll find things you've lost. It is easy to lose things, and cleaning often helps one find what they've lost.
3. It'll give you an opportunity to get rid of stuff you no longer need. Whether it is donating those things that are still in good condition, or simply throwing away that of worn out sneakers, there comes a time when stuff has to go.
4. It's a chance to organize. Whatever system you use, being at least a little organized can save you time later on.
5. There will be less places for your pet to hide. Be it a ferret, cat, or some other beast, it can be hard to find them when they hide.
6. You'll be able to redecorate. Redecorating is one of the fun things about cleaning. It can be shifting furniture around, painting the walls, or anything at all.
7. It will make room for other stuff. One of the benefits of cleaning is that afterword, you have space for something new.
8. It gives you time to think. Cleaning a room is often a task for just one person, and as such, it means you can think about whatever you want without worrying about ignoring other people!
9. It can bring back memories. As you sort through stuff that has been lying around for a while, you'll often remember when you received that object. That stroll through the past can make the the time spent cleaning seem short.
10. It can be fun. There are times when cleaning is enjoyable, though don't expect a little kid to ever admit that.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
It was surprising how much I enjoyed being back on the road.
Sure, instead of the rough terrain or spooky forest we'd traveled through before, this well paved road passed farmland. Those we encountered were farmers and the like, not dangerous creatures.
There was a warm breeze, and my cloak swayed, Smoky's tendrils giving the cloth a smoldering appearance. So far, the guise seemed to be working. Brend had shown some interest in the cloak, and Callan had laughed about how it added to my appearance of being a fierce warrior. But that was all.
"What are they growing?" I asked Brend, motioning toward the farmland.
"All sorts of produce, and there are some ranches nearby as well." He said, and I spent the next few hours listening to his lecture on the local flora and fauna, and how a wizard's magic could be used to improve both.
So went the next week. Our journey was uneventful, other than some pleasant culinary experiments with the foods I was unfamiliar with.
When the capital came into view, I stopped to stare. Midday sun glinted off golden walls, and high towers spiraled into the sky. At the highest point, a stately palace governed over all; its brilliance making all the other elegant buildings seem like ramshackle shacks.
Callan slapped my shoulder. "Ain't she a beauty?"
I couldn't respond. This was the kind of place you found in fairy tales. Despite the monsters and magic I'd seen, I'd expected the capital to be like the simple village and the busy town.
Home to unusual things, yet still somewhat normal.
"How will we find one wizard in there?" I asked, forcing myself to look away from the dazzling city.
"Each wizard's magic has a distinct feel." Brend said as he stopped at my other side, shifting his staff from one hand to the other. "Once we're in the city, I should be able to use a locator spell to guide us to whoever hijacked my spell."
Turning back to face the capital, I drew in a deep breath. Soon, I'd know why I had been dragged into this world.
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go."