The Mini Yet Fantastical Adventures of Craig & Co. Chapter 3

CHAPTER 3: Of Shadows & Alleys

Craig stepped down off the ship, suppressing a massive yawn, glad to be able to finally stretch out properly. As he walked onto the docks, his eyes suddenly opened wide as he took in the sights of the capital city sprawling before him. Large buildings ran all the way south as far as the eye could see, but dominating them towards the centre of the city, standing high above them was what could only be described as a castle; it was a massive beautiful stone structure that dominated the skyline. What was even more incredible was the lone tower that rose from the centre and jutted what Craig estimated was ten stories into the sky.

“Excuse me…” Craig asked nervously approaching one of the city guards stationed on the docks. “But what is that massive building with the tower I can see?”

“New to the city eh kid?” asked the guard with a chuckle. “That would be the Academy, famed for the cities mages and the Sky Garden Tower. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it.”

Blushing, Craig mumbled his excuse and nodded politely before scurrying away with the crowd.

“Well… I guess I won’t need a map…” said Craig to himself with a shrug, and looking up he began walking towards the tower.

~

“The headmistress will see you now.”

Smiling in thanks, Craig rose from the bench on which he’d been waiting for half an hour and entered the office, swallowing nervously as the door closed behind him.

“Have a seat.” The woman behind the desk smiled, gesturing to the empty seat across from her. “I am Headmistress Bergquist, head of the Oakland Academy. I believe you have come here seeking lodgings, as befitting a journeyman?” she asked looking down at the papers in front of her.

“Yes ma’am. I have an apartment in Cantabria that I was given on behalf of the academy for officially enlisting on their staff roll. I was told I might be able to make a similar arrangement here.”

“Yes, I think we can arrange that. I’ll add you to our roster; if you report in downstairs first thing tomorrow morning we’ll get you sorted. As far as accommodation is concerned, you’re in luck. We’ve just had a small flat open up a couple of weeks ago and we’ve… yet to find someone to fill it.” Removing a small scroll from her desk, the headmistress unfurled it and made a few quick markings with her quill. “You may take this map and the key; I’ve marked your lodgings, as well as the academy and a couple of other locations which many of our students frequent.”

Craig took the map, smiling gratefully.

“Thank you headmistress; I really appreciate the opportunity you’ve provided me with.” He said with a small bow.

“It’s our pleasure to have you; if you need anything else please feel free to ask at the academy reception desk downstairs.”

“I will. Thank you again, headmistress.”

With one final little bow, map in hand, Craig headed downstairs, ready to head out and expect his new lodgings.

~

“Well… I guess this is it…”murmured Craig looking down at his map, and back at the building for the third time, just to be sure. It was a small, but pristine building constructed with white stone. A small garden out the front gave it a suburban cottage feel, which Craig found very soothing. Opening the small iron-wrought gate, he approached the oaken door, and was relieved to find the key fit perfectly. Opening the door, hoping the inside was as presentable as the outside, he stepped in.

It was a small three room apartment; just inside the door was a small living area, complete with all the cooking utilities he would need… which wasn’t very many, if he was being honest with himself. Separated by a wall with no door, was a small bedroom with just enough room for a bed, a cabinet and a wardrobe, all of which were a little tightly wedged in, but nonetheless acceptable. Finally, off to the side was a small bathroom complete with mirror and a little cabinet. Satisfied, Craig began distributing the small bundle of personal affects he had bought along with him around the apartment. Returning to the living room, he stopped short as he came face to face with a small black cat, green eyes staring at him.

“Hey little guy…” whispered Craig as he dropped into a squat, hand outstretched.

With an irritated twitch of the tail, the cat turned and leapt onto the table.

“Who are you calling little?” a quiet voice whispered into the back of Craig’s mind.

“Wha-!?” Craig stepped back, readying a shockwave spell in his mind.

“What are you doing in my house?” came the voice.

“Um… I’ve been given this place by the academy to live…” stuttered Craig, unable to fully process what was happening.

“I didn’t think they’d find anyone after the previous owner… moved on.”

“Did he give you the… ah… power of speech?”

“I’m a familiar… surely you’ve heard the term, or are you as foolish as you look?”

“Of course I know what a familiar is!” snapped Craig indignantly. “I’ve just never met one before. What happened to the previous occupant?”

“Accidents happen…”came the reply, sending a shiver down Craig’s spine. “I suppose I will permit you to share this place with me… just keep out of trouble. Accidents happen…

Craig watched dumbfounded as the cat leapt from the table and disappeared out the open window nearby.

“I think… I need to go for a walk.” Craig whispered to himself. Grabbing the map from the table, he decided to head out and explore the other locations the headmistress had marked.

~

Craig looked down at his map again with a frown; if he’d followed the main road he’d have been back near the waterfront where a marketplace had been marked on his map was, however he had decided to follow a few of the side streets to save time, and despite the map he was no longer entirely sure where he was. Looking behind him he could see the Sky Garden Tower peaking over the buildings, so if we kept walking away from it, sooner or later he’d reach the docks… he hoped. He was so busy frowning at the map, trying to figure out where he was, that as he turned he walked right into a burly man behind him with enough force that the man staggered back a step, and Craig toppled backwards onto his backside.

“Sorry!” gasped Craig, face reddening with embarrassment at his carelessness.

“Well well… what do we have ‘ere.” Grinned the man though his wild beard, as he drew a rusty knife from inside his tattered coat.

“I’m… I’m sorry!” stuttered Craig, scrambling backwards along the ground.

“Give me all your cash, you little ponse.” Snarled the man, waving the knife in front of him.

Craig growled, getting to his feet. “I’ve stormed a pirate fortress… I can take one lousy beggar.”

“Beggar!?” growled the man, his breath heavy with the smell of rum, washing over Craig making him gag.

Tsukue Ni Nare!” cried Craig. With a flash of light his ring uncoiled from his finger, transforming into his staff.

Craig noted a flash of fear in the beggar’s eyes, but a second later it was replaced with anger and disgusted.

“Die freak!” He lunged.

Mamori no Tate!” cried Craig as he pushed himself back against the wall, summoning his shield spell to deflect the attack. Anger rising inside him, Craig dropped the shield and thrust forth his hand. “Mahoutsukai no Osu!” he screamed, blasting forth a shockwave that slammed into the beggar, throwing him back onto the ground a metre away.

“Please leave now, and do not bother me again or I will be forced to harm you.” Said Craig, levelling his staff at the angry looking beggar as the man scrambled to his feet, hate filling his eyes. Sensing the danger, Craig twirled his staff and cast a spell. “Fukaku Nemure!”

A shimmer of gently blue light radiated forth, swirling around the attacker who snarled and swayed on his feet momentarily, before falling sideways against the wall of the alleyway, sliding down to the ground fast asleep. Not wanting to hang around for him to wake up, Craig quickly stepped around him and backtracked towards the academy and the Sky Garden Tower in the distance.

~

Eventually Craig made it back to the waterfront, his heart still racing slightly from the adrenaline coursing through his veins after his run in with the mugger. “Big city life…” he sighed, doing his best to put the event behind him. Spotting a cluster of stalls up ahead, Craig hurried forward to the market he had been searching for. Unsurprisingly, there were stalls with fresh fish and seafood, vegetables and baked goods. As he wandered further along though, he started to come across stalls he wasn’t expecting. One stall had an impressive collection of weapons, from simple long swords to more exotic weapons like the throwing stars of Hijima, and a mysterious wooden projectile that returned to the thrower from the nearby desert land of Strahlia. Further along was a stand selling the pelts of numerous animals, several f which were mythic creatures, and then there was a stall filled with trinkets and charms. Fascinated Craig wandered amongst the stalls, inspecting everything with fascination until he noticed the sun was beginning to slowly descend. Thinking of the attack in the alley, Craig decided it would probably be wisest to return to his abode will the sun was still out; who knew what dangers an unknown city night would provide. With once last look at the glittering ocean to the north, Craig turned and began the long walk back home.

~

Just as the sun’s final rays were disappearing below the horizon, Craig arrived back at his house. Opening the door, he walked to his bedroom to find his clothes strewn about the floor. “I’ve been robbed!” moaned Craig, before a small twitch in the shadows drew his attention. Curled up on his spare robe, which had been unceremoniously pulled down from the wardrobe, was the black cat who had terrified Craig earlier on. With a sigh, and not wanting to disturb him, out of a mixture of fear and manners, Craig returned to the living room and curled up on the small couch, closing his eyes as the days exertions made him slowly drift to sleep.

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 4: Puppets of the Dreadmistress: {Due 30/09/2014}

Poem: Wonderland

Wonderland

A forlorn forest,
A solemn stream;
This is my wonderland.

A golden grove,
A wan waterfall,
This is my wonderland.

A majestic mountain,
A vacant valley,
This is my wonderland.

Nobody around,
Just me and just you,
Now that is my wonderland.

Mini Yet Fantastical Adventures of Craig & Co. Chapter 2

CHAPTER 2: There Be Pirrrates!

Craig sat on the bench anxiously awaiting the arrival of the locomotive. The bells of the nearby city centre tolled, and Craig counted silently; six. Standing up he moved toward the edge of the platform, expecting the train to arrive exactly on the hour. Pacing back and forth, several minutes passed with still no sign of the train. “It’s late… of course it’s bloody late.” thought Craig frowning in annoyance. Eventually the sound of a horn sounded in the distance, and the train pulled into the station. There came a loud hiss and the doors in the side of the carriage slowly opened. Climbing inside with the handful of other passengers, Craig found a seat by himself and sat down, satchel sitting beside him as he gazed out the window, nerves at his impending departure eating away at him. After a few minutes, the sound of steam whistling sounded and the carriage began to rumble as the train slowly left the station, picking up speed as it headed towards the city limits and sped Craig out into the world.

Craig removed his spell book and placed it upon the table before him, and began reading. After a few seconds, he glanced out the window at the fields outside the city rushing rapidly passed. Several times he looked back at his book, but his mind kept wandering to the unknown future, and his eyes kept wandering from the page to the scenes flooding by. With a sigh, Craig closed his book and resumed staring aimlessly out the window until Lyttletown swam into view. Startled from his reverie, Craig could not believe the hour long journey had passed already. Butterflies in his stomach, he returned his book to his satchel and stood as the train pulled into the station. Taking a deep breath as the doors hissed open, Craig stepped out onto the platform. Looking around, Craig began heading towards the port where he could find a ride on a ship to Oakland far to the north. Slowly making his way down towards the waterfront, Craig’s attention was suddenly drawn by a large crowd forming in the town square. Curious, Craig wandered over to see why everyone was gathering together. As he approached, he noticed a stage before the crowd, an older gentleman standing atop it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please, calm down! I know what an inconvenience it is, but there is nothing that can be done at this stage. It’s too dangerous. Please understand. I have requested assistance from Cantabria, once they respond we can resume our transport ships. Until then I ask you to please be patient and take up a room at an inn. Please accept my apologies.” with a small, nervous bow, the man disappeared from sight. As the crowd began to slowly disperse, grumbling, Craig nervously approached one of the people wandering off.

“Um… excuse me? Hi. What’s going on? Did I hear something about the ships being unable to leave?”

“Yeah, the mayor just said that due to a recent string of pirate attacks, he’s preventing all ships from leaving port. It’s a port town! Now I’m stuck in this stupid town until somebody puts a stop to this. Excuse me, now I have to find somewhere to stay.” grumbled the man, wandering off leaving a disappointed Craig standing alone, shoulders slumped.

“What am I supposed to do now?” sighed Craig, exasperated. “I knew this was a bad idea…”

Walking aimlessly amid the small stone buildings of Lyttletown, Craig contemplated his options. He could turn back and return to Cantabria, but that would involve giving up at the first hurdle, and Emma would never let him live it down. He could stay here until the pirate situation was dealt with, but that could be days and the adrenalin of leaving home was pumping through his veins, filling him with a fiery energy that took over. His budget would last him for a while, but not forever. Did a port town even have use for a mage?

Craig wandered across the centre towards the town hall situated on the far side. Losing his nerve, he continued right past and turned the corner walking along the side. As he approached the back of the building, he heard the sound of raised voices coming from a window that was slightly ajar. Nervous, but curiosity getting the better of him, he slowly approached and peered inside.

“You heard what the survivor said; there’s only around two dozen of them. If we mobilize our city guards we can take care of this pirate infestation once and for all!” demanded a tall muscular man with cropped black hair and a goatee.

“I understand. Believe me, I do. We only have so many guards stationed here though; I can not justify sending the majority of our men on a wild goose chase. Perhaps the pirate’s are indeed situated in the cove up the coast as we suspected, but to launch an assault on that would be dangerous. I will not risk the lives of our townsmen on such a risk. I have requested reinforcements from Cantabria, once they arrive we will take care of the pirates.” Sighed the balding older man seated at the desk. Craig moved slightly, and caught a glimpse of the side of the face. It was the same man who’d addressed the citizens from the podium; the mayor.

“You know what the bureaucracy is like. It’ll take days, if not weeks to organise anything on their end. By the time the soldiers reach us… we can’t keep the port closed that long. It’s our key shipping route for southern Zealandia.”

“Which is exactly why it will hurry Cantabria into action. Your guardsmen are skilled, but they are no true soldiers. These pirates have proven themselves fearsome. I will not allow you to sail your men into danger. I am sorry.” Sighed the mayor.

“What if I handpick a dozen of my finest guardsmen, and lead a surprise attack upon the cove from the land. If we catch them unawares, we can defeat them while they’re in disarray and end the threat by the week’s end.”

“Outnumbered two to one? I don’t like those odds. I’m sorry but-“

“What if we take Ole Joe along with us? He’s a mage, and a veteran. With his help we could easily claim a victory.”

“If he would agree to it… then perhaps I could allow the risk. He has grown old and infirm though. I’m not sure he is able to help. If you bring him here, I will at least discuss options with him. Is this satisfactory Captain?”

“Yes sir. I shall return within the hour.”

Craig moved away from the window and returned to the town centre to see the Guard Captain disappear off along a side street. Finding an empty fence nearby, he leaned back against it and watched the people wandering about town, waiting for the Captain to return with this veteran mage, “Ole Joe”.

~

Craig was rapidly growing bored, when he noticed the captain return nearly an hour later. The man headed into the town hall, an old man in robes hobbling close behind. Curious upon seeing his first fellow mage outside of Cantabria, Craig leapt from the fence and made his way back towards the mayor’s office window. Peering cautiously inside, Craig saw the Captain standing in position once again, the old mage seated across from the mayor.

“I trust the Captain has informed you of his plan, Master Joseph?” the mayor asked.

“He has indeed. I would love to assist you in this matter, but alas I am not the spritely young adventurer I once was. My vision is all but gone, my bones ache constantly and I fear I have forgotten much of the magic I once knew. I fear I would be more of a hindrance than help.” Sighed the old wizard, shaking his head with regret.

“Then that’s the end of the matter. Without magical support, I can not support a strike force assault on the pirate’s cove.”

“Perhaps Cantabria could send a mage to assist you… though it would likely be no quicker than requesting soldiers from the city.” Joseph sighed.

“You’re not wrong there…” Craig muttered to himself.

“You! What’re you doing there?” Came a voice from behind Craig, causing him to spin in surprise. Heart hammering its way up into his throat, Craig’s mouth opened and closed a few times.

“I… uh… I was just enjoying the morning air, sir.” Craig stuttered, noticing the guard uniform.

“What’s all the commotion out here?” came the deep voice of the Guard Captain as he appeared in the window through which Craig had been eavesdropping.

“Sir!” saluted this guard. “I caught this lad loitering around the window, I was just about to move him along.”

With a nod, the Captain began closing the window.

“I can help you with the pirates.” Came a voice which it took Craig a few seconds to recognize as his own.

“What did you say boy?” asked the Captain with a frown.

“I… I couldn’t help but hear your conversation as I was wandering past. Sir. I’m a mage on my way to Oakland… perhaps I can help with the pirate situation, so that the ships to the capital can resume.” Craig stood there nervously, not sure what on earth he was thinking volunteering to be part of a strike force.

“You’re a mage you say…” the Captain mused, looking Craig up and down.

Tsukue Ni Nare!” grinned Craig as the small blue gem in wooden ring on his right hand shimmered, and the ring uncurled from his finger forming a long wooden staff with the blue crystal embedded in the top.

“It never gets old.” Chuckled Joseph, appearing behind the Captain. “Bring the boy in, and let’s see what he can do.”

~

Craig stood nervously before the mayor’s desk, both Joseph and the Captain standing behind the mayor observing.

“Well lad… what battle magic have you got at your disposal? In my day we had an entire compulsory course dedicated to it at the academy, I hear it’s a lot less of a focus these days. More’s the pity.”

“I don’t know a huge amount of battle magic, truth be told…” Craig felt his cheeks redden slightly embarrassed. “I can throw the odd fireball or lightning bolt though, and I was told I have an impeccable shield spell!”

“What about spells of concealment? Support?” asked Joseph, aged eyes staring at Craig intently.

“I can throw a decent sleep spell… I don’t know any concealment spells. I’ve only recently graduated from the academy, and I’ve never actually left Cantabria before…”

“Well… it is a risk. However, even a journeyman mage can turn the tide of a battle with a few well placed spells. When would this assault take place Captain Thomas?” Joseph asked the Captain.

“We’d be leaving before dawn tomorrow. If the mayor will permit it..?” Thomas said glancing at the mayor, who nodded gravely in ascent.

“Very well. That gives us the rest of the day to prepare lad; you’ll come with me and we’ll see if we can’t teach you a trick or two.”

“Yes Master Joseph.” Craig said with a little bow, lump forming in his throat.

“I’ll bring him back before dawn.”

~

Craig knelt behind the rocky outcrop alongside Captain Thomas and his men while one of the soldiers sent ahead to scout out the defences returned.

“There’s two pirates up on the ledges keeping lookout; they both appear half asleep, possibly drunk. Once the fog clears up a little more, we won’t be able to get close enough without them seeing us and raising the alarm.” Whispered the scout.

“Leave that to me. Master Joseph taught me a spell to help us there.” Whispered Craig. “I’ll summon more mist to cover our approach, you just need to take them out quickly.”

“You heard him boys; get ready to move out.” Nodded Thomas.

The soldiers formed into two ranks, with Craig and the Captain at the lead. Quietly, they began making their way around towards the pirate’s cavern. Once they reached the end of the rocky outcrop, the Captain signalled the men to stop. He nodded to Craig, who swallowed nervously, but nodded in return, staff tight in his grasp. Closing his eyes, he twirled his staff in his hands and whispered. “Kirigakure Oide”. The mist surrounding the group slowly thickened until the pirates and soldiers could no longer see more than a hand’s breadth in front of them. Craig, who was able to see through the mist owing to it being his own spell, lead soldiers quickly and quietly towards the ledges. Once they were in position, Craig tapped two of them men on the shoulders, and they carefully scaled up the small ledge. A gentle whistle and two thuds later, it was over. Craig released the spell, and the mist lightened until it was almost completely cleared. With a smile, the Captain saluted Craig and gestured for the other soldiers to scale the ledges and join their companions outside the cavern.

~

Craig quietly followed the soldiers along the cavern corridor, staying at the back so as to avoid the fighting that was about to take place. After a minute, they reach a small side cavern. Captain Thomas peered surreptitiously around the corner, before signalling something to his men. Craig missed most of it, but was sure he recognized the number twelve. With a nod, the captain and the men disappeared one by one into the cavern. Craig very slowly and quietly followed after. Roughly a dozen pirates lay sleeping on makeshift mattresses on the cavern floor; the guards began stabbing them indiscriminately, slaying them before they could even wake. The gurgled cries soon woke the few survivors up, and disorientated two more of them fell before they even realised what was happening. The few survivors grabbed their weapons from the floor, and one turned throwing a rock at an old bell in the corner. There was a loud DONG, drowning out the sound of Thomas swearing; the alarm had been raised, the remaining pirates would soon be upon them.

Thomas and his charged the few survivors, backed into a corners and began cutting them down as shouts began to echo down the corridor outside. Craig retreated fully into the cavern, backing himself into the opposite corner to the two surviving pirates as another half a dozen appeared into the chamber, charging forth with their weapons drawn. Craig tried to melt into the wall as the pirates and guards began to fight, swords flashing, steel clashing against steel, men grunting in pain and falling. Within minutes, it was over. The pirates were dead, and the guards all standing… albeit it several nasty looking cuts spread amongst them.

“This can’t be all of them… their captain must be around here somewhere. After me. Injured to the rear.” Ordered Thomas, heading back into the corridor.

Craig raced along behind the captain and his men as they entered a large chamber, massive braziers lighting the cavern. Standing directly across from the entrance in front of what could only be described as a large beachwood throne stood a man; every bit the stereotypical pirate. His bare tan chest glistening with sweat, his jet black hair pulled back into a topknot, his left eye missing, closed by a jagged scar. With a sneer the man waved forth the handful of pirates in the cavern to create a wall between and the approaching guards.

“By order of the Lyttletown Guard: lay down your weapons and surrender.”

“You have no power here; I’m the captain of these waters!” laughed the lead pirate, drawing his scimitar and pointing it towards the guards. “Take no prisoners.”

Craig stood half frozen in fear as the pirates and the guards surged forward to meet each other in a clash of steel and incoherent yells of rage. Craig watched in awe as the Captain Thomas cut down one pirate with a single well aimed slash to the neck, before charging through the others to attack the lead pirate head on, the two captains soon duelling in a blur of steel and sparks as their swords clashed. An enraged yell and movement in the corner of his eye drew Craig’s attention; one of the pirates had downed the guard he was fighting and began charging towards him at the cavern mouth. Eyes wide with panic, the pirate was almost upon him by the time he pulled himself together. Focusing his energy through his staff, Craig thrust it forward crying: “Mahoutsukai no Osu!” The air rippled as the shockwave flew from the staff and slammed into the pirate with enough force to break his charge and send him stumbling back several paces. Knowing he couldn’t stop there, Craig took a deep breath and silently prayed to the gods for forgiveness before aiming at the pirate as he recovered, and casting:

“Hi no Dama!” There came a whoosh as a ball of fire congealed around the tip of the staff and hurtled forth, slamming into the pirate with a small explosion. Agonized screams rent the air as the man staggered, flames clinging to him, burning him. Charging forth with an agonized howl, the man swung his blade in a desperate attempt to his Craig, who caught off guard stumbled backwards, narrowly avoiding the blade. Swinging his staff, Craig caught the pirate with a lucky blow to the temple, knocking the pirate to the ground in a smouldering heap. Looking up and surveying the battle raging on, Craig noticed that the guards were taking the advantage and pressing the pirates back, albeit slowly. Seeing Thomas suddenly fall to the ground after being slammed by the pirate captain made Craig’s jaw drop. The pirate captain advanced and raised his sword to stab the fallen Guard Captain. Instinct kicking in, Craig level his staff and shouted once more:

“Mahoutskai no Osu!” releasing another shockwave hurtling through the cavern, slamming into the Pirate Captain at the last second, sending him staggering, knocking his stab off target. Dragging himself to his feet, the Thomas advanced on his adversary and the two began to duel again in earnest. Craig began running around the edge of the cavern, avoiding the duelling pairs of guards and pirates scattered about. Finally stopping, Craig took aim with his staff and began gathering the required mana in his staff as he waited for an opening. Brow furrowed in concentration he held the spell for nearly a minute until the pirate captain was sent staggering back from a shield bash from Captain Thomas who was now panting heavily, the fight taking its toll on him. With a clear shot now lined up, Craig unleashed the spell in a large brilliant bolt of lightning as he shouted the incantation:

“Kaminari no Kougeki!” The bolt struck the Pirate Captain square in the side, sending him slamming into his beachwood throne, knocking it over, smoke trailing from the small crater it had left where his ribs were. Seeing this, the guards rallied and the pirates faltered; within moments the battle was over. All the pirates were scattered about the cavern, slain. In amongst them were three guards who had fallen during the battle. Craig dropped to his knees, barely able to stand now that the rush of adrenalin that had driven him in battle was fading fast. Captain Thomas approached Craig, offering him a hand, pulling Craig back to his feet.

“You did well kid. I owe you my life.” He grasped Craig’s shoulder gratefully, and turned back to his men. “Gather our fallen, and their loot and we’ll make our way back to town.”

~

Craig sat nervously outside the Mayor’s office, while Thomas gave his report. After several long, quiet minutes, the door opened and Thomas waved Craig in. Entering, he moved to stand before the Mayor’s desk, the captain and Joseph standing behind the Mayor.

“I understand our town owes you a great deal of thanks. While we mourn the loss of the three guards who have fallen, thanks to your efforts that number is much smaller than it otherwise would have been. You will always be welcome in Lyttletown.”

“Thank you, sir. I just did what I had to.” Craig mumbled, suddenly feeling rather awkward.

“Nonetheless, we owe you. Here, take this as payment for your services. The life of a journeyman wizard is not easy… or so I’m told.” The mayor said with a small smile, handing Craig a handful of coins.

“Thank you. I will put this to good use.”

“You are free to enjoy the rest of your afternoon exploring the town, your room for at the inn has already been paid for, and your ticket north to Oakland tomorrow has been arranged. It’s been a pleasure.” The Mayor offered his hand which Craig promptly shook, followed by both Captain Thomas and Master Joseph who were eager to offer their thanks as well. Politely excusing himself, Craig wandered back to the inn, so exhausted from the day that his he was asleep by the time his head hit the pillow, and when he woke with the sun the following morning, he had absolutely no recollection of the dreams he’d had. Filled with curiosity as to what Oakland, and indeed the future itself held for him, Craig gathered himself, and made his way to the waterfront.

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 3: Of Shadows & Alleys: http://craigsimagination.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/the-mini-yet-fantastical-adventures-of-craig-co-chapter-3/

Review: The Illusionists 2.0

Artist: The Illusionists 2.0

Venue: The Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand

Date: 06/09/14

The famed group of magicians known as The Illusionists returned to our shores this September, and after missing out last year I was fortunate enough to attend their new show running until the end of this week here in New Zealand; The Illusionists 2.0.

First things first; before the show even started we were involved with a pair of 3D glasses and a mysterious envelope marked DO NOT OPEN awaiting us on our seats. Intrigued I automatically wanted to open it, but not wanting to spoil the magic, I somehow restrained myself.

Then the show began; and it began in style! Flashing lights and upbeat music graced us as a handful of dancers appeared on the stage, rocking a very modern upbeat groove. Next came the magicians; we were introduced to them one by one as they took their turns at impressing us with their speciality.

I was delighted by the variety of these seven illusionist’s talents. The Master Magician was a delightful host; his wit had us laughing and excited to see each performer wielding their craft. The Warrior and The Deceptionist performed some dangerous opening feats for us; cutting various objects held by members of the audience while blindfolded, and balancing on a sword before impaling himself yet escaping unharmed, respectively. We had The Futurist and The Manipulator performing card tricks that had us scratching our heads in confusion, while The Trickster and The Unusualist had us in absolutely stitches, combining their witty and ridiculous antics with some interest little classic illusions.

As the first act drew to a close we hit my favourite point of the evening; we opened the forbidden envelope. Inside were four postcards with a different member of the troupe on each one; we shuffled them, ripped them in half, shuffled and shuffled, stuck one in our pocket, shuffled and shuffled, threw all but one away and at the end the two remaining (the one in hand and one in pocket) were a matching pair… I still can’t get my head around it. Their audience involvement hit new heights with that, and I love being a part of it.

The second half kicked it up a notch, with The Futurist popping through giant monitors and The Deceptionist being impaled by flaming spikes before re-appearing on the balcony. I was sorry to see the show end; although we were treated to a very nice encore performance by The Manipulator who transformed blank cards into playing cards, back again, then into a sign spelling out The Illusionists 2.0 with the grand finale being transforming them into the New Zealand flag. Bonus points for playing to the crowd gents!

I left the theatre wishing that the two and a half hours had lasted longer, though I was very pleased to spot both The Manipulator and The Warrior taking photos and signing autographs near the exit. I was fortunate enough to slip in and grab a photo with The Warrior. Thanks for being a good sport!

All in all the show was an amazing combination of wit, humour and illusions so crazy that I still can’t comprehend half of them. Well worth the time and money, an excellent trip as either a family or with friends; I’d highly recommend checking them out!

Poem: Guardians

Guardians

Wing’d Angel in the sky,
I fear I’ve lost my way:
The path which was once clear to me,
Is no longer clear as day.

Little Angel on my shoulder,
I don’t know what to do.
My head and heart keep fighting,
And I don’t know which speaks true.

Guardian Angel of my soul,
You who guard my heart:
Please grant me your strength and courage,
So I don’t fall apart.

Angels near and angels far,
Wherever you may roam:
Please remain here by my side,
For with you I am home.

Review: Boyce Avenue

Artist: Boyce Avenue
Venue: The Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand
Date: 30/08/2014

YouTube sensation Boyce Avenue made their way to perform in New Zealand for the first time, and I was fortunate enough to both meet the band and then watch the concert from the very front row. A band’s first gig in a country can make-or-break whether they return; but they have promised too, so they must have loved as much as we loved them.

Let’s start at the beginning though; the opening was a local pair of artists known as Alexander Wildwood. Having never heard of them, I was curious to see how this would play out. I wasn’t disappointed. Alexander was incredibly down to earth and friendly, even joking that they’d need a lift back to the coast after the gig. After a quick intro, the boys got into it and the crowd seemed suitably impressed. By the end they even had us helping them sing their new single Bad Blood, and after being involved we couldn’t help but be sad to see them leave the stage. If I was heading to the coast, I’d definitely have given them a lift.

Next up was the main act, and when the band of brothers hit the stage, the crowd went wild. Opening with one of their most upbeat songs (Speed Limit) we were already getting into it enthusiastically. Alejandro then proceeded to introduce himself and his brothers, and every time he addressed us, the crowd screamed at hearing the words “New Zealand” come from his lips.

Despite being relatively unknown here, the Powerstation was largely full and more than making up for the gaps with enthusiasm. True to their style, the brothers treated us to not only some beautiful acoustic music, but also a few of their favourite and better known covers. Anybody who was less familiar with their original tracks could hardly complain; the covers they wove into the set were some of their finest. Taking it nice and slow with Fast Car and bringing us back up with Wake Me Up we loved it!

Sadly, we learnt that their uncle had passed the night before. Never before have I felt such a wave of sympathy. Despite their loss, the brothers kept their energy levels high, and as the show reached the end, Fabian was rocking out on top of the speakers, Daniel on the drums… it was incredible.

When the boys left the stage, we yelled and chanted until they came back for an encore… and it did not disappoint. Alejandro came out and gave us an acoustic rendition of Broken Angel. It may be my bias speaking as that is one of my favourite songs, but I have never heard a more amazing acoustic performance live. Calling his brothers back, the two finished their set and we were sad to see them go. Daniel even through a copy of the setlist from the stage, into the crowd while his brothers threw guitar picks.

It was an amazing night, and as the brothers promised to return to our country, I promise to return to see them. YouTube hasn’t done them justice, and when they return, I shall be On My Way to meet them. It was an honour to meet them, and a pleasure to experience their amazing talent firsthand.

Short Story: Echoes of the Past

Echoes of the Past

Beep… Beep… Beep…
I sit silently beside the bed, the monotonous sound of the machine the only sound I hear, although I barely even notice the sound anymore… it’s just become a part of the background after so many hours. She stirs with a gentle moan, her hand grasping the crisp white sheets tightly, hands becoming claws in their pain. I reach out and gently remove her hand from the sheets and take it mine.
“It’s alright Grandma, I’m here.”
She moans slightly, turning her head ever so slightly, ever so slowly towards me.
“Who…?” she whispers, her voice so soft yet strained I can barely hear her.
“It’s me Grandma. Anne.”
“Anne… I don’t know an Anne…”
My heart breaks for the thousandth time. One would hope that the pain would stop, that every time she forgets my face would make it easier. I know it’s nothing personal, I know her mind is fading, lost in the shadows, but every time she gives me that look, the look that makes me feel like a stranger… my heart breaks again, and it hurts just as much as the first time.
Beep… Beep… Beep…
I watch her eyes close wearily once more, her hand still clasped in mine like a vice. I will stay here as long as it takes, watching over her: her own personal sentinel, waiting, watching, and protecting her. It won’t be long now. In my heart I know it, and part of me is relieved that she’ll finally be at peace, while the other part of me hates myself for thinking that way; she’s a vibrant being, a strong soul, if anyone should have the strength to carry on it should be her. But I know… I know that part of me is just being selfish, it’s living in denial and the guilt gnaws away at me.
“I’m thirsty…”
I reach over for the glass of water on the cabinet, and bring it to her lips. Slowly, painfully, she takes a few sips before closing her eyes again and lying back on the pillows.
Beep… Beep… Beep…
I close my eyes trying to fight off the tears that threaten to spill. I tell myself I will not cry. I must be strong, for her. I will lock that pain in a cage, deep in my heart, and it will stay there until she’s gone. I tell myself this over, and over again… but I’m only human. The tears sneak out from beneath my lids, rolling down my cheek and raining into my lap.
“Why are you crying Alice?”
My eyes flutter open in surprise, and I see her watching me, a sea of sadness in her beautiful blue eyes. It’s like looking in a mirror.
“I’m sorry Grandma, it’s nothing. Don’t worry yourself.”
She stares silently, her eyes searching my face for… something.
Beep… Beep… Beep…
“What’s wrong with your Grandma dear?”
“She’s… she’s not got long left in this world.”
She squeezes my hand and I feel another wave of tears threaten to overflow.
“Death is nothing to be afraid of my dear…” She whispers. “It takes us all eventually. I think it would be better to be free amongst the clouds of Heaven than trapped on Earth in a body that can’t do our souls justice.”
I look deep into her eyes and see the sadness in her has washed away; a calm and warm ocean blue has replaced it. I feel my lips twitch involuntarily into a small, sad smile.
“I love you Annie girl…” she squeezes my hand tightly.
“You… you remember me Grandma?”
She smiles at me, saying nothing. I know I’m just clinging to hope now. She whispers something but I can’t hear it, her voice no louder than the papers that flutter to the floor as I stand up and lean in towards her.
“I’d recognize you anywhere Annie girl…” she whispers lucidly. With a smile, her eyes flutter shut once more.
“Fly free Grandma…” I whisper as I kiss her brow.
Beep… Beep… Beeeeep…