MYFACC: Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Rage Unbound!

Craig’s eyelid fluttered as something swatted his face again. Grumbling, Craig rolled over just to feel a gentle prickle in his cheek. Opening his eyes a fraction, as his vision came into focus, all he could see was a black paw resting there, claws slightly extended. Seeing Craig’s eyes open, Ninja withdrew his paw and looked expectantly at Craig, who simply shoved Ninja onto the floor.

“Don’t jump back up here or I’ll throw you off again. It’s my day off; I’ll get up in a little while.” grumbled Craig as he buried his face back into his pillow. He tensed half expecting another assault by Ninja, but nothing landed on his bed. With a smirk Craig nestled deeper into his blankets, just to hear a crash come from the kitchen making him roll over towards the noise. A few seconds later, another crash sounded. Cursing under his breath Craig got up and entered the kitchen where Ninja was knocking things off the counter onto the floor.

“One of these days I’m going to freeze you, devil spawn. I’ve been practicing a good spell for such an occasion. Turns out I’m better with frost than fire…” said Craig as he knocked Ninja off the bench.

“I dare you.”

Ignoring the threat, Craig grabbed some food from the cupboard and threw it into the bowl on the floor from which Ninja eats.

“Well since you’ve ruined my sleep-in already, I might as well do something productive and head into the academy to do some research.”

Ninja didn’t even so much acknowledge Craig’s statement as he continued scoffing down food while Craig got organised. With one last look at Ninja before he stepped out the door, Craig just shook his head.

“You’re such a piglet.”

~

Craig sat at a small desk tucked away in a corner alcove, two books open on the table in front of him. The first “All About Runes” was a small book detailing all of the common use runes, while the second entitled “Runes, Glyphs & Wards” a slightly larger book detailing various ways in which they could be combined to create barriers, seals and alarms in-depth. Feeling guilty after failing to notice the rune barriers at the menagerie, Craig had taken it upon himself to expand his knowledge in that area. The morning slowly disappeared as Craig continued sketching out various runes while reading and re-reading the descriptions when the sound of raised voices made him cautiously raise his head.

“Look what you’ve made me do! That was a perfectly good inkpot and now it’s ruined! Watch where you’re going! Stupid little nitwit!”

“I’ve already apologized; it was an accident! I’ll use a simple mending spell to repair the vial, and I’ll clean up the ink and give you the money for more. P-please stop yelling.” stammered a young apprentice in response. Craig shoved his things away and wandered out of his nook to see a small woman with frizzy red hair glowering at a cowering young apprentice as she raged.

“Why would I need you to cast the mending spell? Are you saying I can’t!? How are you!? How very dare you!?”

“Well then what’s the big de-!” the apprentice gasped as she slapped him with a clawed little hand.

“Shut up! I am more than capable of dealing with this!”

Sensing things getting out of hand, and hating himself for getting involved, Craig stepped forward.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but it seems like there’s a bit of a commotion over here…”

“So now I can’t even control a situation? How dare you!? You don’t know me!”

“I wasn’t implying anything, I just-!”

“Mahoutsukai no Osu!”

Craig gasped as the shockwave hit his chest and knocked him back… one step.

“Huh?”

“What!?”
“I just… don’t understand the point of such a weak shockwave. That was unnecessary.”

“Weak!? How dare you mock me!? I have been here for nigh on a decade and you WILL SHOW ME RESPECT!”

Craig sighed.

“Fukaku Nemure!”

With a swirl of magic the raging woman dropped to the floor asleep.

“I-“

“I’d suggest you leave before she wakes up. She’s likely to be in an even worse mood… it may pay to mention this to one of the senior mages and let them sort her out.” Craig said patting the apprentice on the shoulder before slipping quickly out of the library himself.

~

Craig yawned as he wandered back along the waterfront as the last rays of the sinking sun began to disappear. Turning south he began wandering home along the main streets; he was more than capable of defending himself but it was still best to avoid the trouble spots of a dangerous city after dark. The stars were twinkling above him as he finally made it back to his neighbourhood. Idly turning his quartz amulet in his fingers, he slowed with a frown as smoke began to swirl within. He was on his guard in an instant. A bright light at the corner of his vision made him turn just in time to see a fireball racing towards him. Instinct taking over he spun to the side, but caught off guard he was a little too slow and the fireball clipped his ribs bursting with enough force to stagger him , smoke coiling from his burnt robes and slightly seared fleshed beneath. A figure emerged from the alley where the fireball had emanated. Expecting an immediate follow-up attack, Craig wasted no time in summon his staff and preparing for battle.

“Tsukue ni Nare!”

Emerging into the moonlight, Craig frowned as he recognized then figure: it was the frizzy haired woman who had attacked him in the library.

“You will pay for making a mockery of the great mage Jocelyn!” she snarled.

“You’re the one who attacked me; I don’t want to fight. Just go your own way and we’ll say no more of it.”

“Hi no Dama!” she screamed as she threw another fireball with her bare hands, though this time Craig was prepared.

“Mamori no Tate!” Craig cried as his shield spell shimmered into existence, blocking the attack.

“I’m surprised you can put so much power into a fireball when your shockwave was… less impressive.”

“You won’t find me nearly so weak as you thought. I’ll teach you to show respect!”

“I’d apologize but somehow I don’t think you’d listen. You’re consumed with rage, at your own inadequacies I suspect.”

“Kaen Housha!” she screamed throwing a jet of flame from her outstretched hand towards Craig, who grimly summoned his shield once more.

“Mamori no Tate!”

Flames coiled around the shield painting the world orange, but after a few seconds they slowly faded away and Craig remained grim but unscathed.

“What have you done to gain such power?” he asked, but Jocelyn just grinned and began circling him.

“Mahou Ga Mieru!” incanted Craig, his eyes shimmering with gentle blue light as the spell took hold. Staring hard Joecelyn, Craig gasped.

“You’ve been possessed by a demon… in that case I won’t hold back!”

“You can’t hope to defeat my new power!” she snarled.

“Fukaku Nemure!” Craig threw a sleeping spell at Jocelyn, but she merely grinned as the spell settled on her to no effect. Wasting no time Craig swung his staff before him and cast again.

“Mahoutsukai no Osu!”

The shockwave burst forth and sent Jocelyn slamming into the wall behind her. Charging forth Craig swung his staff, the crystal flaring with blue light as it connected with her head sending her sprawling to the ground. Placing one foot on her back Craig pinned her down, lowering the crystal on his staff like a spear to the back of her neck.

“Unleash your hold on her demon, and face me if you dare.”

A deep laugh resounded in the air around Craig and a seething wave of hatred turned fire burst forth sending Craig reeling as it formed into a burning black albeit vaguely humanoid shape before him. With a chilling laugh, it surged forward, flaming claws raised. Craig twirled back out of reach and struck the demon with his staff, causing it to his as the crystal flashed with energy once more.

“Mahoutsukai no Osu!” cried Craig as he threw a shockwave into the demon staggering it backwards, before following up with another spell before it could recover.

“Shimo no Nami!”

The air shimmered as Craig released a wave of frost surging into the demon, the cold meeting the flames of its hatred causing it’s hisses of agony to blend with the waves of steam billowing forth. Pushing his advantage before the last of his mana ran out, Craig cast again.

“Kirigakure Oide!”

The mists swirled in filling the street and effectively blinding the demon. Circling to the side Craig cast once last spell.

“Kaminari no Kougeki!”

One last bolt of lightning arced forth from his staff, slamming into the dazed demon’s side causing it to screech in agony and rage before bursting apart in a gout of flame. Exhausted, Craig dismissed the obscuring mist and went over to the unconscious Jocelyn as she began to stir.

“It’s alright now; the demon is gone.” said Craig as he knelt next to her.

“What? No! How dare you interfere!? All that effort for nothing… gods take you!”

“You… you knew you were possessed?” Craig asked, jaw dropping slightly.

“I called it to help me punish you for disrespecting me in the library. It was meant to make you pay!”

“You’re… you’re insane. Making deals with demons for power? Ludicrous! I’ll be reporting you for this.”

“You haven’t seen the last of me. You’ll pay! YOU’LL ALL PAY!” she screamed swing a clawed hand at his face. Craig dodged awkwardly backwards, before rising to his feet as she did the same. Shooting him a filthy glare, she took off and disappeared down the alley she had appeared from. With a tired sigh and no energy to spare, Craig let her go and turned away, continuing his walk home where his bed was now calling to him.

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 8: A Future Bleak… {Due 30/10/2014}

Poem: My Sun & Stars

My Sun & Stars

Her smile can banish the darkest clouds,
Her laugh can melt the snows,
She’s my sun, my moon, my stars, my sky,
She’s more to me than she knows.

Her heart drives back the cold at night,
Her soul shines with the kindest light,
She is my Mel; my Melissa Artifex Reed,
Yes, she is my everything, she’s everything that I need.

MYFACC: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: The Dreaded Direwolf & The Mystic Menagerie

Craig bolted upright, heart hammering as someone pounded ferociously on his door. Groaning he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and slid from his bed, throwing his robes on as he dragged himself to the door.

“I think there’s an ogre trying to break in…” hissed Ninja his tail flicking in annoyance at Craig as if it was somehow his fault.

“Shut it devil spawn.” grumbled Craig as he opened the door, frown heavy upon his brow.

“Still not a morning person I see.” smirked Emma, standing at his front step.

Without a word Craig went to close the door in her face, but she slipped her foot in and held it open.

“I haven’t seen you in months and this is the welcome I get… thanks.” she said as Craig opened the door and motioned her inside.

“Give me an hour to wake up and I’ll be enthused.” Craig smirked. “So what brings you to my neck of the woods?”

“I’ve come up for a couple of days to do some research at the Academy. I arrived a day earlier than necessary to surprise you though!”

“Well it worked! A little warning would be nice in future though…”

“Just deal with it already. Now go get yourself organised; I thought it would be nice to check out the ‘Magniflorious Menagerie’ while it’s here in Zealandia! I know how you love your magical creatures…”

“Well… I guess I can deal then. Give me five minutes and we’ll head out then.”

“Excellent. I can pet your cute little friend here while you get ready!” she laughed as she spotted Ninja curled up on the seat watching her, as Craig disappeared back into his room.

“You can try it but I wouldn’t advise it.” Ninja’s eyes narrowed as she approached.

“A familiar… don’t you have the cutest little attitude problem.”

“Reach that hand out and you’ll pull back a stump ogre…”

Emma just laughed and tipped the chair back, forcing Ninja to jump off and vacate the room in a huff just as Craig returned.

“I should’ve warned you; he’s a little psychopath.”

“I hope the ogre eats you…” Ninja huffed as his tail whipped Craig’s leg on the way past.

“Shall we wander?” Craig asked.

“Let’s go.”

~

Craig and Emma entered the manor of Lord Magnus; the noble who operated the Magniflorious Menagerie. The grounds were large and sprawling; more of a small field than a lawn. Stationed around various points of the grounds were large enclosures or roped off areas, each one containing a different creature.

“What’s this fellow?” Emma asked Craig as the approached the first fenced off area.

“That would be a Golden Hart… legend says they can run faster than an arrow. It’s beautiful…”

“Imagine having that as a familiar instead of an arrogant little cat.” laughed Emma giving Craig a playful little shove.

“It could never be a familiar… that doesn’t even make sense. Being able to summon one however… that would be magnificent!”

“I’ve never really understood summoning spells; it’s fairly advanced magic. What’s to stop you from learning to summon one?”

“Summons are only really effective if you’ve been marked by the creature in question.”

“Marked?” Emma cocked and eyebrow at him.

“It’s… a blessing of sorts really. Only the oldest and most powerful of a species has the power to do so, but in leaving their mark upon an individual they bestow a small portion of their power. In the case of a mage, we can tap into that power and use it to summon forth a creature. The sheer amount of mana it would take to find a creature and bring it to you otherwise would be… immense. Not to mention that the creature would have no obligation to help, and would probably just return to it’s home realm the moment you summoned it. To try and force it to stay would just be… unethical.”

“How does one receive a mark though?”

“Generally by performing a great service to the creature’s clan. Summoners are uncommon these days sadly, although I suppose that makes the blessing all the more special… I wonder though…”

“Wonder what?”

“Why all these creatures remain here rather than return to their homes?”

“You’re over thinking things again Craig. If they wanted to leave I’m sure they could just teleport away, you said so yourself. Maybe he’s done them a favour and they’re repaying that. These enclosures aren’t exactly secure. This hart could jump over this fence with ease and be gone before anyone even noticed.”

“Yes, I suppose so…”

“Come on. Let’s see what other creatures are here, that ought to take your mind off it!”

Craig followed Emma slowly around the grounds, inspecting the various creatures stationed around. Near the golden hart was a unicorn foal in a similar enclosure, followed by a griffon wandering around in the following enclosure.

“Have you noticed all the enclosures have runes engraved into them?” asked Craig. “I didn’t notice at first.”

“I didn’t notice at all. I assume they’re there to protect the creatures from the onlookers. I wouldn’t put it past less scrupulous people to attempt to steal them, or at least harvest some parts of the creature.”

“I guess that makes sense… I just wish I could understand the runes. I can see a rune of protection mixed in there, so you’re probably right but… I just have a weird feeling in my gut.”

“You probably just ate something funny last night. Now come on, let’s go see what’s around the other side.”

Craig followed Emma still focusing on the runes in his head when he stopped at the sound of hushed voices coming from behind the large hedges leading into the mansion proper; an area which was fenced of by hedges and a gate to prevent anyone from wandering in from the field.

“…taking longer than expected… the fight…”

“This is not… be discussing… just go help him subdue…”

“…sir…course.”

Craig glanced at Emma who just shrugged and kept walking. With a heavy sigh, he followed after her. The faint echoes of a howl emanated from the manor itself as Craig and Emma reached the far side of the field. Emma stopped and looked at Craig, her annoyance starting to show.

“If it’ll make you feel better we can go have a look. Then maybe you can stop frowning and actually enjoy the menagerie.”

Emma dragged Craig over to the side gate of the manor itself and looked around before waving her hand over the gate and whispering an incantation.

“Akete Kudasai.”

With a small click the gate swung open and she dragged Craig in behind the bushes, leading him over towards a small lone door near the back side of the manor.

“You’re going to get us into trouble…”

“Stop whining and let’s go investigate. It’ll be fun.”

With a groan Craig followed Emma up to the window as she peered inside.

“The coast’s clear. Let’s go!” she whispered as she disappeared through the side door, Craig anxiously close behind. The two slowly crept through the manor, ducking into alcoves or behind statues twice as servants wandered by. Soon the duo approached a corridor with a heavy door at the end and two guards stationed at the end.

“Whatever we want is probably in there… guess we’d best give up and go back to the show.” whispered Emma pulling Craig’s sleeve.

“Something’s going on in there… I can sense it. We have to check.”

“I don’t think they’ll let us through to investigate. Let’s go.”

“We can take them out… one sleep spell each. You take the left, I’ll take the right. We slip in and find out what’s going on. If I’m wrong we’ll slip back out to the field and leave before these two even wake up.”

“If it will shut you up…”

The duo stepped back and summoned their staffs.

“Tsukue Ni Nare!”

With a quick nod the two moved around the corner, casting their spells simultaneously.

“Fukaku Nemure!”

One of the guards opened his mouth to raise the alarm, but Craig’s spell took effect and the man slumped against the wall and to the ground next to the man Emma had downed. Silently the two moved forward over the guards and opened the door; behind it was a set of stone steps leading down into darkness, a dull orange light flickering at the bottom. Following it down the two emerged in a basement, torches burning low. In the centre of the room lay a large direwolf surrounded by a large glowing red circle, runes shimmering around the edge. Kneeling down Craig began to inspect the runes, careful not to touch them, a sick feeling growing in his stomach.

“I don’t recognize these bindings but… something is very wrong here.”

“Mahou Ga Mieru!” incanted Emma as her spell caused her eyes to ripple with pale blue energy.

“It’s blood magic… and fairly powerful to boot.”

“How can you tell?” asked Craig with a disconcerted look at her glowing eyes.

“It’s a ‘Magic Detection’ spell that allows to me to see enchantments, including which school they’re from and their relative strength. It’s a handy little spell; I’ll teach you sometime.”

“I’m afraid you two won’t be doing anything…” came a drawling voice from a shadowed door at the far end of the basement. Standing there in expensive looking leather boots, with crimson and black robes of velvet stood a man with olive skin, charcoal hair sleeked back with a small streak of silver near each of his temples.

“Who are you?” demanded Emma, raising her staff.

“I am Lord Magnus, owner of this fine estate and unique menagerie, and you two are trespassing.”

“What are you doing to that poor direwolf!?” Craig yelled raising his own staff threateningly.

“Why my dear boy, I am simply expanding my collection. You see creatures like these are notoriously independent; very hard to gather materials from or make money from. This is why I hunt them down; with a little of their blood and a little blood magic summoning them here is rather easy. Sadly they are… temperamental at being forced here, so I use my blood bindings to hold them until they wear themselves out, then all it takes is a little blood magic to take control of them and I simply secure them in a warded compound so the unwashed masses such as yourselves can admire them, and continue to fund my research. This beast… she will be the pride of my collection. Twelve hours she raged! That’s a new record, although consider she is fully mature unlike many of my specimens, I should probably not be surprised.” Magnus mused on barely even paying attention to the pair of young mages bristling before him.

“You’re a monster! You’ll pay for this!” Craig roared levelling his staff towards the smirking lord.

“Oh I don’t think so… perhaps I could give you a nice little demonstration before you die though; my gift to you.”

With a wave of his hands the bindings dispersed and the direwolf rolled to her feet snarling at Magnus, who simply cut his palm with a athame from his belt and incanted.

“Chi No Kugutsu!”

Blood red energy pulsed forth from his palm and struck the direwolf, burrowing in causing her eyes to shimmer with a sickly red energy as she turned to face Craig and Emma.

“Say farewell…” grinned Magnus as the dire wolf approached them.

“Hi no Dama!” incanted Emma, as a fireball swirled into existence at the top of her staff.

“No!” shouted Craig, slamming his staff onto her causing the fireball to fire into the floor in front of the direwolf.

“What the hell are you doing!?”

“It’s an innocent creature; you can’t harm it!”

“Don’t be so bloody noble; it’ll kill us both!”

“Just leave it to me. Keep Magnus back!”

Nodding Emma circled round to the side, staff pointing at a grinning Magnus while Craig backed slowly away from the direwolf, staff swaying before him.

“Fukaku Nemure!” Craig cried as he released a swirl of sleeping magic at the dire wolf, who slowed and teetered side to side for a few tense seconds before shaking its head rapidly side to side and throwing the effects of the spell.

“Hi no Dama!” came Emma’s voice as a fireball flew behind the direwolf and straight at Magnus, who grinned and opened his bloody palm before himself.

“Mamori No Tate!” he snarled as a shield shimmered around him, catching the fireball against it in a harmless burst of flame. Craig’s eyes snapped back to the direwolf just in time to see it pounce. Raising his staff before him he fell, slammed into the ground by the weight of the direwolf as it snapped at his face, barely held at bay by Craig’s staff.

“Mahoutsukai No Osu!”

The direwolf suddenly yelped as it was knocked off to the side by Emma’s well timed shockwave.

“Thanks!” Craig called as he rolled in the opposite direction, brandishing his staff as he sprung to his feet.

“Fukaku Nemure!”

Once again the direwolf stopped and swayed as Craig’s sleeping spell hit it, before finally slumping back to the ground in a magical slumber.

“Nice trick!” came Magnus’ voice as Craig looked up to see him thrust forth his own stuff, conjured sometime in the scuffle with the direwolf, at Emma.

“Mahoutsukai No Osu!”

Emma grunted as she was thrown back by the force of the shockwave, slamming into the wall. Acting on instinct Craig turned his staff towards Magnus and thrust it forth incanting as he did so.

“Kaminari No Kougeki!”

An arc of lightning burst forth towards Magnus who twirled his staff and summoned forth another shield to absorb the blow. Back on her feet, Emma began circling around Magnus.

“Can you still see magic Emma?” Craig asked, not daring to take his eyes off his opponent even for a second to check.

“I can…”

“Follow my lead!” said Craig grinning at Magnus, whose brow furrowed. Twirling his staff Craig slammed it down and cast.

“Kirigakure Oide!”

A dense swirling mist emanated forth, filling the room until all visibility aside from Craig’s was gone.

“Mahoutsukai No Osu!” Craig cried as he flung a shockwave at the blinded Magnus before quickly but quietly continuing to circle him. Unable to see the attack, but aware that it was coming, Magnus summoned his shield spell yet again. Emma, upon seeing the shimmer of magic launched by Craig, and the shield summoned by Magnus, cast her spell from his other side.

“Kaen Housha!”

A large stream of fire burst forth in a flamethrower, curling about his shield burning away for several seconds before she released the spell.

“It’s no good! If he raises his shield every time he hears us casting…”

Magnus dropped his shield again with a grin that only Craig could see as he waited silently for their next attack. He didn’t hear a word, just a faint whistling as Craig swung his staff, slamming it against his temple. Magnus dropped. Craig grabbed the bloody athame from the floor and shredded part of Magnus’ robes, using them to bind his hands behind his back, and gag him. Emma stood quietly watching over him with her arms crossed in displeasure as Craig wandered over to the sleeping direwolf.

“Is the blood magic still holding it?” Craig asked glancing back at Emma.

“No, it’s faded…” she said as her own eyes returned to their normal colour, her spell expiring. Craig dismissed his sleeping spell and the direwolf raised her pure blue eyes to stare at him, a low growl rumbling in her throat.

“Easy there… I don’t mean you any harm…” Craig whispered placing his staff on the ground and raising his hands, palms up tentatively towards her. She sniffed his hand and gently nudged it with her nose.

“Doubutsu No Kuchi! Craig whispered as he felt the magic flow to his lips.

“Do you understand me now? Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yes… thank you… I must apologize for attacking you. I could see it happening but I couldn’t control myself.”

“It’s not your fault. Magnus used blood magic to make you his puppet. He won’t be enslaving another creature ever again. I’ll make sure of that.”

“I must thank you for refusing to harm me even when I attacked… you are a noble spirit. You will always be welcome in my woods.” she whispered as she approached and pressed her nose firmly against the back of Craig’s left shoulder while he knelt in confusion.

“I leave my mark upon you. Go with the blessing of my people.”

Craig closed his eyes as a warm surge of power radiated from where her nose had touched him. Craig bowed his head in gratitude.

“I thank you, although I must beg your leave: there are other creatures imprisoned in the fields and I must release them!”

“Go young wolf. I shall return to my pack now; may our paths cross again.”

Craig smiled and rand out the door, Emma trailing behind with a bound semiconscious Magnus in hand.

~

“That’s the last of them!” said Craig as he slammed his staff against the golden hart’s enclosure, shattering the wards. Leaping over the fence the hart disappeared in a white and gold blur as Craig turned to Emma.

“Well now that that’s done, we should take this monster to the Academy where they can lock him away.”

“I can’t believe none of the guards tried to stop us…”

“We’ve got Magnus bound. If he couldn’t stop us, what hope do they have? All the smart ones will have disappeared and denied ever working for him.”

“I suppose so. Let’s just get rid of this one and go home.” Emma jerked her head towards Magnus. “I think we’ve earned a quiet night in.”

Craig laughed.

“You need to teach me that Magic Vision spell tonight first. Then we can celebrate with a wine.”

This time Emma laughed.

“It’s a deal.”

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 7: Rage Unbound! http://craigsimagination.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/myfacc-chapter-7/

Short Story: Shadow’s Edge

Shadow’s Edge

I am the night. I am the shadows. I. Am. Death.

My name is spoken only in hushed whispers, for to know of me is to know my calling. Those that seek me would never admit to it, for I am an assassin. Not just any assassin either, I’m the best. Once my target has been acquired, there is no escape. No other option but to die by my hand. From the moment I sealed my contract with the shadows, I knew I was destined for this path.

The night I sealed the pact to be a blade for the darkness, still resonates clearly in my mind. It was the first time I had taken a man’s life: it was beautiful.

It was an age of civil war, our once ‘proud’ nation being vied for by several warlords, each trying to take the place of the late emperor before his heir became of age. I was hired by one of these warlords, to do what the battlefield had not: claim the life of his biggest rival warlords. There was only one obstacle between me and my target… a castle full of trained soldiers.

It was just after midnight on the night of the new moon. Clouds blanketed the sky, hiding the stars and creating the perfect shroud of shadows for me to do the deed. I had been watching the castle for an hour, watching the patrols go by, timing their routes. Now. Sprinting to the outer wall of the battlements I vaulted as high as I could, gripping the wall tightly. The small spikes on my gloves and boots made it easy to grip the gaps in the wall, and much like a deadly spider I silently skittered to the top of the wall. Flipping over the battlement, I crouched atop the wall. So far, so good. I silently dropped into the castle grounds before the sentries came back into sight, rolling to absorb the shock of the impact. I was in the eastern edge of the grounds: the garden. Concealing myself in the bushes, I waited for the garden patrol to pass. There. Sliding into the pond, I slid like an eel through the water, silently emerging on the far bank. The main keep was in sight: my target was close.

According to my intelligence the warlord I sought should be sleeping in his chambers at this time of the night. Unfortunately, his chambers were located in the central tower. Slipping in unnoticed would be no small feat. Once the patrol passed for the second time, I dashed to the keep’s eastern wall and began scaling it. I was on the third floor, when I heard the sound of the patrol approaching the corner. No time left. I silently slid through the open window beside me and into a small bed chamber. The man was snoring heavily on his futon: clearly fast asleep. Perfect.

Creeping out into the corridor, I slid the door shut behind me with baited breath. If this castle followed the same layout of my employer’s, the stairs lay just around the corner. I edged towards it, ears strained to pick up the slightest sound from the stairs. There was shallow breathing… no doubt a sentry placed to watch the staircase. Removing a small bamboo pipe from its hidden sheath on my back, loading it with a small poisoned dart, I slid around the corner. The man’s eyebrows shot up as I appeared, but with a swift breath the dart buried itself in his neck and he dropped. Leaping forward I caught him just before he hit the ground, and dragged him into the next room leaving him out of sight. The poison would leave him unconscious for roughly an hour: enough time to finish my mission before he awoke. I just had to hope he wasn’t discovered first.

A wraith in the night, I was almost invisible to the naked eye slipping undetected through the castle. Finally, I had reached the base of the lord’s tower. With a little scaling and acrobatics, I slid along the rafters silently above the heads of the quiet sentries below me. It took a little time, but I was finally within range of my target. A lone guard stood outside the screen door, his armour glistening blood red in the light. His eyes were sharp, but not sharp enough. I dropped from the ceiling, landing softly behind him. He started, but before he could turn around I struck the pressure point in his neck, as I’d been trained to do. He dropped. My path clear, I slipped through the screen door and crept over to where the lord’s sleeping form should’ve been. His futon was empty. Curse it! Then I heard it, a quiet chant coming from behind the next screen door. It was still open a crack, light flickering from within. Peering through, I saw him: my target. His back was towards me, and he was kneeling before a small shrine, candles flickering… this was sacred ground. No matter. I silently slid the door open a little more. He didn’t turn; he was too absorbed in his prayer. My footsteps less than whispers on the floorboards, I slid up behind him. He started when my knife left its sheath, but he didn’t get a chance to scream as my blade flashed across his throat, his blood spraying all over the shrine. It was done. I’d sealed my pact with the shadows, signed my name in the lord’s blood. I’d desecrated holy ground: there was no turning back now.

Suddenly, a bell began to toll. Maybe the guard I’d poisoned had awoken; maybe he’d only been discovered. It didn’t matter: the alarm had been raised. The sounds of guards rushing up the tower reached my ears. I had to escape. Now. I darted back into the lord’s bedroom, to come face-to-face with the sentry in red: either I didn’t strike his pressure point properly or I’d underestimated him. He swung his sword at my neck and I dived forward, rolling under his strike. Sprinting to the window, I leapt out turning in mid-air to throw the small metal grapple from my belt, hooking it around the ornamentation on the edge of the roof and swung myself downwards, letting go and rolling as I landed on the ground. The impact left me winded, but I was still intact. By now the castle had flared to life, there were guards everywhere.

I managed to avoid them somehow, and scale the battlement walls. It was then that one guard turned and saw me from the corner of his eye: my knife flew from my hand in a heartbeat and buried itself in his throat. With that, I dropped off the battlements, rolling once again and I was off like a bowshot: lost forever in the night’s embrace. They never caught me, though I’ve since developed a reputation.

When I’m sent for you: your time has come. You won’t see me, won’t even know I’m there until it’s too late. Don’t waste your breath. I am death; I am inevitable. If you should hear my name: be afraid. I am Kage. I am the shadow.

MYFACC: Chapter 5

Chapter 5: The Tower of Terror

Craig groaned as the sun’s light began to shine across his face, before rolling over to bury his face in his pillow once more. A weight suddenly landed on his back, and the feeling of partially drawn claws began kneading into his back.

“Five more minutes…” Craig grumbled into his pillow.

“Get up. Feed me… then get out.”

With an almighty heave, Craig rolled over knocking Ninja onto the floor.

“Here I thought you could fend for yourself… you’re getting fa-”

“What!?” hissed Ninja, pouncing back onto the bed, one paw raised towards Craig’s face.

“Fabulous. You’re getting more and more fabulous. Now move if you want feeding.”

“You took your time.” Ninja said with a harrumph, before leaping off the bed and sauntering into the kitchen with his tail held high.

Craig grumbled as usual, rising to prepare for the day ahead.

~

“You’ve been working very hard these past two weeks since the… incident in the sewers. In recognition, I have decided to give you the opportunity to go on a solo mission out of the city.” Rachael said giving Craig an appraising look.

“Thank you, ma’am. I won’t let you down again.”

“You’ll be heading to the port town of L’Akaroa; their famed lighthouse went out two days ago and nobody who has investigated it has returned. It sounds like some sort of magic is involved. I trust you to use your judgement and resolve this issue; however, I do not want a repeat of your last big mission. If the danger seems too much, send word back to me and we’ll arrange reinforcements. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes ma’am. Crystal.”

“Excellent. Here are your papers. Your ship leaves in two hours, I suggest you make your way to the docks.”

~

Craig stepped off the ship enjoying the fresh air after having spent the past couple of hours down in the ship’s hold, reading up on L’Akaroa and its lighthouse. Unfurling the map he’d been given on the ship, Craig quickly traced the route from the port to the city square. It was a small town, so Craig figured the chances of getting lost were slim at best, and so he headed into town, map rolled back up in his pocket. Twenty minutes later, he strolled into what could only be the square. Smiling, secretly pleased with himself, he began heading towards the largest building in sight; the town hall, when the feeling of someone’s hand on his backside made him freeze.

“What kind of sleazy person wou- oh!” he spun around, jaw dropping open in surprise.

“Who’re you calling sleazy boo?” laughed Melissa, grabbing Craig into a tight embrace, one of her hands sliding down his back.

“Keep your hands off me you hussy.” Craig laughed and he hugged her back. “Well let me have a look at you… you’ve cut your beautiful crimson locks.”

“I don’t miss the hassle of shoulder-length hair, though it’s taking some getting used to. What d’you think?”

“Radiant as ever, dear heart. What are you doing here?”

“I’m attending an inventors convention, you know those of us who follow the way of Artifex can’t resist the chance to show off our skills. I was hoping to get some photos of the famous lighthouse but…”

“But it stopped working a couple of nights ago, and nobody knows why…”

“And how by the gods did you know that?” asked Mel, cocking an eyebrow.

“The mayor requested help from the Oakland Academy, as everyone who’s investigated so far has disappeared, so they suspect magic is to blame. I’ve been given this opportunity to prove my worth… flying solo for the first time.”

“Well…”

“What?”

“Heh. Nothing at all love.” She chuckled.

“I was just heading to the town hall to check in with the mayor. I’d love to spend more time with you before I have to head back though. Maybe after I sort this we could-”

“You don’t really think I’m going to let you go off by yourself do you? I’ve got your back.”

“It’s too dangerous. Besides, this mission was given to me to do alone.”

“It’s safer and more sensible to take in backup. Besides, I can take care of myself. You worry too much.”

Craig sighed, realizing that he had no chance of talking her out of it.

“Come on then. Just try not to cause any trouble, will you?”

“Who me?” she winked. With one final pinch of his backside, the two headed to town hall.

~

“We’ve sent two guards and one of the maintenance staff to investigate… we’ve heard nothing back at all.” The mayor gave them a concerned look. “I fear dark powers are at work and without a resident mage in our community anymore…”

“It certainly sounds like something supernatural is occurring; I can’t imagine anything else that would seem quite so ominous. Regardless, I’m here to investigate the cause and, if possible, resolve the issue for you. With your permission, I’d like to get underway immediately.” said Craig, ignoring the butterflies in his stomach.

“Yes, of course. If you head out the north exit and continue up along the cliff, you’ll arrive at the base of the lighthouse. You can’t miss it. Here’s the key and the papers you’ll require for the guards to let you through.”

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Mayor. I will return with news as soon as possible.”

“Thank you. May the gods watch over you both.”

~

“It’ll take us close to an hour to reach the tower; I wandered up yesterday to have a look but was turned away before I got there. Now that we’ve got permission, we can finally get up close and have a look…. don’t worry; I’ll save the photos for after we’ve solved the problem.” Mel laughed seeing the look on Craig’s face.

“I appreciate your restraint…” Craig smirked. “Now, seeing as we have an hour to kill… what’ve you been up to for the past couple of months? I want all the gossip.”

“Oh, it’s just been business as usual. Although… I did have an interesting encounter with a nymph.”

“Do I want to know?” Craig asked, cocking an eyebrow at her.

“You know you do. It all started when I was wandering in the North Wood to take some pictures of the lake…”

~

“…well that was an unnecessary amount of detail.” said Craig, shaking his head in both disgust and amusement. “I’m afraid my stories of the past few weeks have been much darker and not nearly so… titillating.”

“You certainly do seem to have grown up a little these past couple of months…. I want to hear everything, and I mean everything.” said Mel with a knowing look.

“Good thing we’ve got a bit of a walk ahead of us then…”

~

“I leave you for two months and you nearly get yourself killed by an old crone… you are a concern sometimes.”

“Some things never change…”

The two laughed together as if it had only been a couple of days since they’d seen one another, rather than months.

“Here we are…” said Mel gesturing up at the lighthouse. “…after you.”

“Thanks…” muttered Craig as he walked past her and up to the door. Drawing the key from his pocket, he placed it in the lock and turned it. It jammed.

“Put some muscle into it!” said Mel looking over his shoulder. With a grunt Craig turned the key forcefully, swearing as it snapped in the lock throwing him off balance.

“Well… that was clever. What do we do now?” she asked Craig as he threw her a dirty look.

“When it doubt, I magic.” Craig waved his hand over the locked and whispered. “Akete Kudasai.”

A gentle shimmer radiated forth from his palm, causing the lock to glow for several seconds before the distinct clicking of the lock opening sounded.

“Age before beauty dear…” said Craig opening the door, and gesturing Mel through.

“Thanks…” she said throwing Craig a filthy look of her own. He just grinned.

~

The duo entered the ground floor of the lighthouse; it was large, round, stone and barren. The two shared a look that simply said: be careful. Side by side the pair crossed the room and began ascending the large stone staircase the spiralled up around the side. Emerging cautiously onto the second floor, the pair stopped at the sound of crying echoing around the room.

“Tsukue ni Nare!” Craig whispered, transforming his ring into his staff, holding it defensively before him.

“Is that… footsteps?” whispered Mel, throwing Craig a concerned look. Craig closed his eyes and listened closely. Barely detectable beneath the sound of crying was the echoing of footsteps coming either up the stairs, or down the stairs towards them. Craig’s grip on his staff tightened. Slowly the footsteps died away suddenly. Nodding towards the next flight of stairs, the two moved cautiously along, their guards raised. They ascended the stairs and emerged on the third floor to find the crying suddenly stopped; the room was dead silent, the air heavy. Surveying the room the pair noticed that everything was pristine; as if somebody had just come along and cleaned everything obsessively. Neither daring to speak, they cautiously moved up the next staircase and onto the fourth floor where they froze in surprise.

“Well I’ll be…” murmured Craig, more to himself than Melissa.

“Yeah… this could be fun…”

The entire fourth floor was frozen solid; ice glinted all over the floor and up the staircase on the far side of the room, several large icicles hanging precariously from the ceiling, while several more rose jaggedly from the floor.

“Let’s take this slow. Follow the wall around, and be careful.” said Craig giving Mel a warning look.

“You worry too much.”

“Yubiwa ni Nare!” Craig incanted, reverting his staff to its ring form. The two then slowly moved out onto the ice, awkwardly shuffling and sliding along the walls. Minutes agonizingly slid by until Craig finally began to slide confidently towards the foot of the stairs.

“By the-!” cried Melissa as she slipped and landed flat on her backside. Craig turned around and laughed as she began to flail back up to her feet. She sat solemnly on the ice and shot daggers at him with her stare. Craig laughed so much that he hit the bottom stair backwards and toppled painfully onto his own backside. Melissa started laughing herself, as she awkwardly scurried along the ice on all fours.

“That’ll teach you to laugh at me.” she smirked as she reached Craig sitting on the bottom step.

“How about we crawl up the stairs? I’d rather not risk slipping back down them… this is getting dangerous.” said Craig throwing Melissa a questioning look.

“Let’s do it. I’ve always been better on my knees anyway.”

Shaking his head with a chuckle, Craig began crawling up the stairs slowly, Mel close behind. Finally the two emerged onto the fifth floor, just to be sent staggering back to the top of the stairs by a howling gale. Grabbing each other and ducking down to avoid being thrown down the stairs, the two began to slowly battle their way through the wind toward the far side.

“Two steps forward, one step back…” Craig muttered through gritted teeth as the two reach the stairs, where the wind suddenly dropped away leaving them panting and exhausted. “I don’t know what’s causing this but… we’d best be careful.”

Melissa just nodded as the two dragged themselves up the stairs, breath heavy. They staggered out on the sixth floor just as the flames lighting it guttered out, leaving the room pitch black.

“Take my hand.” whispered Craig as he extended his hand behind him.

“They’re not my hand sweetie…”

Craig coughed awkwardly and lowered his arm until Mel grabbed his wrist.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Let’s do it…”

The two slowly began making their way around the room, Craig’s hand running along the wall so they wouldn’t get lost in the dark. Something solid caught his foot, and Craig cursed loudly as he fell forward, Mel releasing his hand in order to stay upright.

“Are you alright?” her voice floated from the darkness behind Craig, who grumbled.

“Fine. I was trying to conserve my mana, but there’s no point if I get us killed before we find out what’s happening.”

“Save your strength; I’ll light the way.” whispered Mel.

“Que la lumière soit!

A softly glowing sphere of purple-white light flickered into being between her outstretched hands and floated into the air, lightly illuminating the room.

“The light of creativity… why didn’t you do that in the first place?” asked Craig as he inspected his knee, bleeding from the chunk of rock he’d tripped on.

“For the same reason you didn’t magic up a light. Now stop whining and let me see your leg.” She said coming to kneel next to him.

“It’s just a little bloody; save your strength for now.” Craig said standing up, circumventing the now visible mounds of rubble as headed towards the stairs, an unimpressed looking Melissa in tow. Finally the two emerged on the seventh floor, which was clearly lit and utterly abandoned save for a single body in a guard uniform, slumped by the foot of the stairs. Rushing over Craig dropped to his knees, wincing in pain as his wounded knee smashed against the stone tiles. Suddenly the guard lunged forward, knocking Craig onto his back, claw-like fingers raking his already injured leg. Craig lashed out with his other foot, knocking the guard back, scuttling back along the ground in horror at the sight of the guard’s dead eyes.

“Zombies…” whispered Mel is disgust.

“Tsukue ni Nare!” cried Craig as he re-summoned his staff.

“Mahoutsukai no Osu!”

The shockwave burst forth from the staff as the guard-turned-zombie charged him, staggered backwards into the wall as Craig levered himself back to his feet. With an inhuman roar the guard zombie charged again, but this time Craig was prepared. Levelling his staff he cast his spell.

“Kaminari no Kougeki!” The bolt of lightning blasted the zombie square in the chest, blasting clean through and taking a small chunk out of the wall behind him.

“Nice shot babe.” said Mel as she rushed over to him. With a groan, Craig dropped to his good knee, then onto his backside. Mel kneeled down next to him and held her hands palm open above his injuries.

“Être guéri!”

A gentle purple-white light enveloped her hands and spread slowly down to Craig’s bleeding leg. He took a sharp intake of breath as the magic flowed upon him, the wound gently tingling as the pain faded and the skin knitted itself back together, leaving naught but faint red marks when the wounds had been.

“Thanks love.” Craig muttered, annoyed at his own weakness as he pulled himself to his feet with her hand. “Seems like things are going from bad to worse… stick close, and don’t let your guard down no matter what.”

With a nod of agreement, Mel followed Craig up the stairs to the eighth floor of the lighthouse which was filled with a heavy swirling mist.

“I can barely see you in front of me.” whispered with her hand on his shoulder.

“Stay close. We’ll move quickly, but cautiously around the walls again.”

The two set off and after a few minutes Craig kicked the bottom step, swearing as he slammed his palm against the wall to keep his balance. They ascended the staircase and soon the swirling mist was beneath them, though both with shivering slightly from the dampness that had soaked into their clothes.

“I’ve never been so moist in my entire life…” Craig shuddered.

“Speaking of… did I ever tell you about the time I- by the goddess!” exclaimed Mel as the two emerged into a jungle.

“I don’t… this looks like it stretches on for days. I don’t know what kind of magic this is, but whatever it is… it’s powerful…” said Craig as his eyes took in the magnificent sprawling jungle before him.

“No walls to follow this time… what do we do?”

“We aim straight across and just keep walking… and hope for the best.”

“Well that’s reassuring…”

Shrugging it off, the two began wandering across the grass, weaving in and out of trees and they headed, as far as they could tell, in a predominantly straight line across. Minutes slowly crept by until the duo no longer had any idea how long they’d be walking, or where they were in relation to either exit.

“I’m so unfit…” panted Craig as he sat down on a large flat rock, beneath a willow tree.

Mel just gave a tired laugh and said nothing as she began observing their surroundings.

“Can you hear water?” she asked looking at Craig, who frowned in concentration.

“It sounds like a river or… a waterfall.” Craig’s eyes lit up somewhat at the idea. “Come on!”

Groaning, Melissa pulled herself up and followed Craig as he followed the sound. After a few minutes the pair reached a small lake with a beautiful waterfall cascading into it.

“It’s beautiful…” said Craig, eyes filled with wonder.

“It looks like there’s a cave near the top… maybe that leads out of here.”

“We can only hope…” said Craig wandering around the lake, eyes glued to the waterfall. Eventually the pair of them reached the cave nearby, and entered. Following the slope upwards it eventually turned into stairs.

“Jackpot.” laughed Craig, tiredly dragging himself up and into the top floor of the lighthouse.

Standing before the open deck stood a woman in a ragged white dress, her blonde hair knotted and messy… and she was entirely translucent. She turned to face Craig and Melissa as they emerged. Her eyes once a beautiful ocean blue, were bloodshot and angry. Idly she turned a cloudy crystal pendant over in her hands, saying nothing.

“Ho there spirit. We mean you no harm.” whispered Craig, raising an empty palm to face her.

“He promised he would return to me… HE PROMISED!”

Craig and Melissa flinched as her screams reverberated through the air like a sonic shockwave.

“Who promised?” Craig asked, his knuckles whitening from the pressure he was putting on his staff.

“My husband… he said he would come back… he said his lighthouse would guide him home… HE LIED TO ME. FOR A HUNDRED YEARS I HAVE WAITED. HE LIED TO ME!”

Craig shot Mel a worried look, not sure how to proceed. Mel just shrugged back, equally unsure.

“Why have you trapped people in this lighthouse? Restore it so we can save other people from the pain of losing their loved ones at sea.”

“They didn’t even bring his body back. As I have suffered, SO SHALL THEY!” screamed the spirit, causing Craig to grit his teeth in pain.

“I don’t think we can calm her down… we may have to banish her…” said Mel with a sad look. Upon hearing this, the spirit turned to look at Mel for the first time since they’d arrive.

“Such a pretty face… perhaps he’ll come back to me then… your body… GIVE IT TO ME!”

With a flash of light the spirit distorted and hurtled towards Mel in a shimmering spiral of ghostly light. Shoving her behind him Craig raised his staff parallel to the ground and desperately incanted.

“Mamori no Tate!”

His shield flared into existence with mere seconds to spare as the spirit slammed into it with a resounding crackle, before bouncing back and reverting to her humanoid form.

“Mahoutsukai no Osu!”

Craig released a shockwave through the spirit; her body wavered briefly but she remained otherwise unaffected. She surged forward, a pale hand sliding into Craig’s chest. He gasped in pain as a cold deeper than anything he’d ever felt gripped his heart. Crying in pain he desperately swung his staff. There was a flash of blue light as the crystal at the tip of his staff connected, and the spirit hissed staggering back. Groaning began to echo as the spirit’s eyes flared blood red. From the back of the chamber two corpses shambled forth, one in commoner’s clothes, the other is a guard’s uniform.

“Hi no Dama!” shouted Craig as he swung his staff, releasing a ball of fire into the first of the zombies, sending it staggering and enveloped in flames. Wasting no time Mel stepped past Craig towards the spirit, overriding his protest.

Repose en paix.

A gentle yet warm purple-white light surged forth from Mel’s outstretched hand, enveloping the spirit who instantly froze, staring daggers back at her.

“Your husband is gone; it’s time you were as well.” Mel whispered, her eyes filled with sympathy.

“Go spirit. I am sure he is awaiting you on the other side.” said Craig eyes also sympathetic.

The spirit’s rage dissolved in an instant, and a single tear rolled down her pale white cheek as she faded into the beyond, the crystal pendant dropping to the ground with a clink, the zombies collapsing too as he magic faded.

“Remind me never to get in your bad books…” Craig said with a smirk.

“I can exorcise the spirit from a lighthouse, but I can’t exorcise the smartass out of you.” Mel smirked back.

With a chuckle Craig approached the large mirror in the centre of the chamber, picking up the solar crystal from the ground next to it he reinserted it into the depression for it, where it began to glow.

“Mono ga Naore!” Craig incanted with a wave of his hand, the cracks in the mirror shimmered and melded back together into a whole. Repaired, the mirror reflected the light of the solar crystal out of the tower and into the approaching night beyond, illuminating the skies once more.

“I think you should have this.” said Melissa as she draped the crystal pendant over Craig’s head. “It’s enchanted quartz; the clear crystal will fill with smoke when danger is near. You have more need of it than I do… trouble just seems to find you.”

Craig ignored the wink and said nothing, just shaking his head.

“I suppose we better head back down and let the mayor know that the lighthouse is safe once more.”

“Yes, but first things first…” said Mel with a mischievous grin.

“Can’t vanquish a tormented spirit without a selfie, right?” Craig asked rolling his eyes.

“You love it.” laughed Mel pulling him in close as she fished out her camera, taking a photo of the two of them with the sun setting out the balcony behind them.

“One more… for old time sake.” said Craig separating himself from Mel and sticking his staff between his legs. With a sigh, she took the photo.

“You love it.” he winked.

“Come on.” she laughed. “There’s much celebratory wine to be had tonight.”

“Yes, yes there is. I need to head back to Oakland tomorrow, so let’s make this night count.”

“I fully intend to.” she winked at him, and make the most of the night they did.

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 6: The Dreaded Direwolf & The Mystic Managerie: http://craigsimagination.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/myfacc-chapter-6/

Poem: Inspiration

Inspiration

Let all of your ideas take wing,
As a tale to tell, or a song to sing.

If you don’t know where to begin,
All you have to do is look within.

Happiness and a smile,
Is a good way to beguile.

Every unshed tear you hold,
Is another story yet untold.

Take that bitterness and rage,
And scribble it across the page.

In your defeats and in your glories,
Lies another thousand stories.

So don’t think about it day and night,
Just sit down and start to write!

MYFACC: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Puppets of the Dreadmistress

Craig’s eye twitched as he slept. His breathing slow, he slowly began to stir. His eyes fluttered as something tapped just below it. Shaking his head slightly, he rolled onto his side. Again, something tapped him on the face, though he refused to open his eyes, still half asleep from having stayed up half the night reading. Suddenly a sharp pain caused Craig to jolt awake with a curse. Slowly becoming aware of his surroundings, Craig noticed the black cat sitting next to him, one paw raised.

“What was that for?” Craig mumbled, placing a finger on the small cut on his face.

“You’ve been here in my house for a month; make yourself useful. Feed me.” replied the cat staring Craig straight in the eye.

“You must’ve been fending for yourself a while now, why do you need me to feed you?”

Without warning the cat struck his paw across Craig’s face.

“I do not need you in the slightest. I am, however, not in the mood to hunt today. Make yourself useful. Now.”

Craig watched as the claws slowly came out of the raised paw, torn between obliging this whim, or going back to sleep. With a sigh, we chose the former and dragged himself out of bed and into the kitchen.

“You’re a little tyrant.” grumbled Craig as he grabbed a little and dropped it on the floor where the cat promptly began ripping it to shreds. “I still don’t know what your name is… although I’m happy to stick with tyrant.”

“If you must address me… address me as Master Ninja.” said the cat after a moment’s hesitation.

“It’s very difficult to think of you as a master when you have meat on your nose…” Craig said returning to his room to get ready for another day, ignoring the low rumbling growl coming from behind him.

~

Craig knocked and entered Rachael’s office at the academy, ready for another day of work.

“Good morning headmistress.” Craig said with a small bow.

“Good morning Craig. Have a seat.” she said gesturing across her desk. “We have had some… troubling reports. You may have heard rumours about missing people as of late… while most people don’t complain about the reduced numbers of homeless people around the city. Unfortunately, a couple children have gone missing in the past week. We are, of course, investigating leads for the city guard. Something sinister is definitely afoot. You’ve done an excellent job these past few weeks; I’ve decided to give you a chance to prove yourself. Patton, Briar.” she said raising her voice. Two mages entered; the first one was a middle-aged bespectacled woman, her brown hair tied back into a sensible bun. Behind her entered a young woman, who Craig estimated to be around his age, with short bubble-gum pink hair.

“I’m Patton. It’s a pleasure dear.” said the former woman, extending her hand for Craig to shake.

“Heya! I’m Briar!” said the pink-haired girl with a courtesy.

“I’m Craig. It’s very nice to meet you both.”

“Patton is heading this investigation, with Briar assisting. Defer to their judgement. You are dismissed.” said Rachael waving them out. Following them downstairs, Patton proceeded to fill Craig in on the state of the investigation.

“We haven’t found anything solid, unfortunately. I’ve performed a few divination spells; I haven’t had any real luck so far, though I did catch a glimpse of the waterfront last night during one of my scrying rituals. We’re heading their now to ask around, and see what we can find. I don’t have huge hopes at this point; something ominous is occurring. We can but try.”

“Yes ma’am.”

~

“We’ll split up and ask around after anything suspicious, about the missing children, follow our instincts and use our individual skills to see what we can turn up. We’ll meet back here next to the main dock at noon. Don’t be late.” said Patton. With a nod, both Craig and Briar split off and headed their own way.

Craig wandered along the waterfront towards the market he’d visited on his first day in the city; surely a busy hub like that must have some knowledge of goings on. Craig didn’t really know what he was doing, and so spent the first hour just wandering around the stalls observing everyone, but not actually speaking to anyone. Realizing he was supposed to be proving himself, and breaking out of his comfort zone, he approached various stall owners and began making small talk, before asking about any strange events, but after another couple of hours he still had no more of a clue than when he started. Moving in to the shade, he leaned against a wall and began thinking if any of the handful of spells he knew would serve him. With a sigh, he shook his head and looked up to the sky. The sun was almost at its zenith, with no new leads, Craig decided his assistance had been a waste in this mission and with a deep sigh, began to wander back towards the meeting point. A small grey blurred disappeared past him, ducking into an alleyway before turning and staring at him timidly from the shadows. It was a cat. Kneeling down Craig extended his hand slowly towards it. It backed up in fright pressing itself against the wall.

“It’s alright little guy, I won’t hurt you.” Craig whispered as he gently rubbed the fingers of his extended hand together, trying to coax the cat forward. “Actually… this would be the perfect time to test that new spell… we’ll show Ninja.” Closing his eyes and channelling the energy forth he murmured the incantation. “Doubutsu no Kuchi.”

The little grey cat, as if sensing the magic, tilted its head curiously to the side.

“Can you understand me now?”

“…yes…” came the timid voice of the cat.

“I don’t mean you any harm. Are you alright?” Craig asked concerned.

“I’m hungry…”

“Hold on a second, I’ll get you something to eat.” Craig quickly backtracked to the nearest food stall, and grabbed a coin from his pocket to throw to the vendor as he grabbed a small salmon from the ice and raced back to the cat. “Here.”

The cat slowly approached it and sniffed cautiously, before taking a large bite, chewing it ferociously.

“Easy there fella, you’ll make yourself sick.”

The cat said nothing and continued eating. Craig chuckled and shook his head.

“I’d take you home, but I think my… dark overlord make take offence. Is there somewhere I can take you?”

“I’ll be fine… I used to get fed by one of the alley-sleepers until he disappeared a couple of days ago…”

“Alley-sleepers?” asked Craig, cocking an eyebrow in confusion.

“Yes. Those who sleep outdoors in the alleys. Mine had the biggest whiskers I’ve ever seen!”

“I don’t know what you’re… oh! I see!” Craig started laughing as it dawned on him. “He was a homeless man!”

“He had a home in the alley… how could he be homeless?” asked the cat cocking it’s head to the side curiously.

“Never mind.” chuckled Craig. “What happened to your… alley-sleeper friend?”

“He was taken by the shadow man…”

“Shadow man?” Craig asked, curiosity piqued.

“He came in the night wearing shadows and hurt my alley-sleeper, then dragged him into the stinky rat-corridors in the next alley.”

“Stinky rat-corridors… you mean the sewers?”

“Are all humans this slow?” asked the cat politely.

“Thanks for your help. Enjoy the fish.” Craig laughed with a shake of his head, before heading through the alley until he came out near the sewer grate, which he knelt next to wrinkling his nose. The faint sound of footsteps echoed forth, barely audible even at such a close distance. Biting his lip, he glanced in the general direction of the meeting point, contemplating whether or not he should go and inform the others of what he had learnt, or whether he should follow the footsteps in the sewer.

“You took on a pirate crew… surely you can handle one thug…” he muttered to himself, before taking a deep breath and opening the sewer grate. “Let’s hope I live to regret this…”

Craig dropped onto the ground, barely breathing as the stench was enough to make him feel ill down here. Already feeling uneasy, Craig summoned forth his staff.

“Hikari wo Sasae!” he incanted, gently waving his hand. The crystal on his began staff to shimmer with a gentle blue light, illuminating the area. Looking around he spotted a half-boot print in some sort of filth on the path. Disgusted and already regretting this decision, he followed them along. Several slow, disgusting minutes passed as Craig continued following the trail of muck. A reverberating thud in the distance made him stop and take a deep breath, followed by a barely repressed gag. Creeping around the corner, he continued following the trail until it stopped… at a dead-end wall. Holding his staff-light close to the wall he began to inspect it. There was nothing remarkable about the wall, although there was a large gap between two of the slim encrusted bricks. Squatting down he inspected the gap, spotting what appeared to be a key hole hidden at the back. Craig cautiously tapped the wall in a few places, but he couldn’t find any opening mechanism.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way… or so they say.” He muttered. Gently waving his hand in front of the concealed keyhole he incanted once more.

“Akete Kudasai!” A gentle shimmer radiating from his palm and into the lock; there was a small click and the hidden door in the wall slowly swung open. Craig entered bravely, pulling the door closed behind him. Levelling his still-glowing staff in front of him, he advanced.

~

After a couple of minutes following the mucky footprints through the twisting corridors, he emerged in a large dimly lit chamber just as the light of his staff dimmed. Several large glass tanks lined the sides of the chamber, various tables and benches decorated the rest of the room, covered in jars of gods only know what, blood stains, and various bit of fur and scales.

“What the hell…?” Craig whispered allowed in equal parts confusion and disgust. Wandering towards the exit on the far side of the room, something in one of the tanks caught his eye. Moving closer he saw what happened to be a human form curled up on the floor. Heart pounding, Craig fumbled the lock on the door open. The person on the floor stirred and rose to their feet, only once they were standing did Craig realise that this person wasn’t human… or at least not anymore. It’s long hair was waxen and falling out in clumps, it’s back was bent horrible, it’s face appeared to be sinking inwards. Fear, loathing and disgust paralyzed Craig while the mutant gazed at him.

“Jamdar.” It grunted.

“I-I’m sorry?” Craig stammered, still dazed by the creature’s appearance.

“Me Jamdar. You pretty head. Ceiling. Ceiling hang.”

“I don’t know what you’re saying…” said Craig backing away slowly, pushing the tank door closed and locking it.

“The third? You punish. The third! The third!” it screeched, shattering the glass door with its misshapen claw.

“Calm down, please. I don’t mean you any harm…”

“Ceiling! Hang! Pretty head hang! The third! The third!” it screeched as it shambled quickly towards Craig.

“Forgive me but… it’s better this way.” said Craig eying the mutant in disgust.

“Kaminari no KougekI!” Lightning blasted from his staff, striking the creature in the face. Gore splattered everywhere as its head exploded, body dropping to the ground with coils of smoke curling up from its neck. With one last horrified look at the mutant corpse, Craig began browsing a pile of scrolls on the nearby table. Various diagrams of people and animals were overlapping, instructions on blood magic and various experimental notes scribbled in the margin. Suppressing a shudder, Craig quickly left the room and continued heading deeper into the labyrinth, still following the trail of filth.

Several tense minutes went by with Craig’s knuckles tightening around his staff, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. Finally he emerged into an incredibly poorly lit chamber.

“Ssso an intruder comes…” his a voice from the shadows at the far end of the chamber, making Craig cringe and it’s shrillness.

“Show yourself fiend…” Craig said trying to sound brave as he advanced, his staff pointing at the shadows. As he neared the end of the chamber her saw her; a woman so decrepit it appeared she might collapse into a pile of bones and leather at any moment. She sat wearily in a twisted throne of broken bones, a dark skinned man in a black cloak kneeling beside her.

“You’ve been abducting children, haven’t you? For some… sick experiments.” Craig accused her, bile rising in the back of his throat.

“Sssilly child. ‘twas the homeless I took to experiment on, merging them with animals to force evolution. I have been alive for one hundred and ssseventy years! This body has grown frail; I can barely leave my seat. If I can figure out the secret, I can repair this body and live forever. I need time for my experiments to reach fruition… I needed the life force of those children to buy me more time…”

“You’ve resorted to blood magic to prolong your life, so you can ‘evolve’ and extend your life even further?” Craig asked, horrified. “What kind of sick cycle is this!?”
“Sssilence!” screeched the crone. “You can not leave here knowing my secret… but perhaps the body of a mage will help ssspeed my experiments along. Puppet! Ssseize him!”

“Yes Dreadmistress Ruth…” said the man vacantly, standing and approaching Craig.

“His eyes…” Craig whispered aloud as he looked at the gentle shimmer of red rippling through the man’s iris. “You’re controlling him with blood magic…”

“Sssuch a clever troublemaker…”

The cloaked man drew forth a serrated knife from his belt and charged towards Craig, swinging the blade wildly.

“Mamori no tate!” Cried Craig, summoning forth his shield. The knife bounced off the barrier and Craig dropped it casting again. “Mahoutsukai no osu!”

The blood puppet staggered back several steps from the force of the shockwave, while Craig quickly stepped backwards, biting his lip.

“Afraid to hurt the poor innocent puppet? You naïve fool…” cackled Ruth, an evil grin breaking out across her face.

“Fukaku Nemure!” Craig shouted as a gentle wave of blue magic swirled from his hand into the puppet’s face, causing him to slow and sway for a moment. Ruth waved her hand and the puppet shook his head, clearing the sleep spell. Charging forth he swung a Craig again, who swiftly sidestepped but caught his heel on the floor and stumbled. The man lunged again, and Craig twisted to the side but his balance having been thrown off by the stumble slowed him, and the jagged blade lightly scored his arm. Cursing slightly, Craig stumbled further back slamming against the wall.

“Fukaku Nemure!” he cried again, throwing another sleep spell at his attacked. The man swayed once more, and Craig kicked himself off the wall and swung his staff with all his strength and the momentum of the kick carried him forward; the staff hit the man’s head with a horrifying crack and he collapsed to the ground in a heap. Craig dropped to one knee, breath heavy, heart pounding.

“Kage no Ya!”

Craig gasped in pain as a bolt of shadow slammed into him, knocking him to the ground. Teeth chattering from the unnatural chill spreading through his torso, Craig rolled back to his knees in time to see Ruth point a finger at him.

“Kage no Ya!”

“Mamori no Tate!” cried Craig as he summoned his shield spell again. The shadow bolt slammed against the barrier, but it held. Dropping the shield Craig summoned the last of his mana forth and thrust his staff towards Ruth and cried out once more time.

“Mahoutsukai no osu!” the shockwave burst forth and slammed into Ruth, toppling the throne over with her still in it. Exhausted Craig dragged himself to his feet, using his staff to support him. In the shadows behind the throne, he saw Ruth rising, steadying herself on the broken bones, eyes filled with hate glaring at Craig. She raised her finger towards him, and Craig stood their helpless, his energies exhausted.

“Karada ga ugokenai!”

Ruth stood, finger pointing at Craig, mouth half open… and stayed there. Turning around Craig’s eyes opened in surprise, and elation as Patton lowered her staff, Briar standing behind her.

“Looks like we got here just in time dear…” said Patton walking forward patting Craig gently on the shoulder.

“Thank you…” gasped Craig in response.

“We’ll take this woman to the mage’s prison in the academy; they can decide what to do with her. Briar, if you’d be so good as to find something to gag and bind her with before my paralysis spell wears off. A million thanks.”

Briar skipped off and removed the cloak from the fallen puppet, fashioning a gag and some bindings, and began applying them to Ruth.

“One last thing…” said Patton approaching Ruth. Removing the staff from Ruth’s hands, she brought it down over her knee with a resounding crack, and snapped it clean in half before throwing it aside. “Now, let’s wake this poor fellow up and get out of here.”

~

Craig sat in the headmistress’ office as she sat behind her desk, staring at him.

“It was very foolish of you to go off on your own; if it weren’t for Patton’s timely arrival we might never have seen you again.”

“I know.” whispered Craig, lowering his eyes in shame. “I won’t be so foolish again.”

“See that you don’t.” said Rachael, giving him a stern look. “I’m glad you’re alright. Go home and rest up, you’ve earned it.”

“Thank you ma’am.” Said Craig bowing before quickly escaping the room, just to narrowly avoid running into Patton as she entered the room.

“Thank you again, for bailing me out of that mess.” said Craig, face flushing bright red. “I forgot to ask… how did you find me?”

“When you didn’t turn up at the meeting point I thought something was wrong. We asked after you at the market stalls and they said you’d been talking to a cat by the alley. They thought you were… a bit special. We found the cat circling the sewer grate near the alley, making an awful racket. Briar’s highly sensitive to magic; she could sense faint traces of your spells in the area so we followed after you. I’d rather not have to make another journey through the sewer again mind you…”

“I don’t intend to cause any more trouble. Thank you Patton.”

“You’re welcome dear. We look after our own.”

Craig nodded, before excusing himself heading out of the academy and turning north.

“I think I owe you another fish buddy…” Craig mused aloud with a smile, as he turned and headed to the market where this whole little fiasco had begun.

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 5: The Tower of Terror http://craigsimagination.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/myfacc-chapter-5/