Tag Archives: magic

Castle of Crows – Part 1

Every summer for the past three years my sister Macey and I have stayed with our Aunt Penelope in Scotland. It started because Macey was having a princess phase and found out that the reason we never saw Aunt Pen was because she was restoring a castle. I hadn’t really wanted to go back then (Scotland was a long way from Virginia and I was pretty sure castles were for girls anyway), but Dad wasn’t about to send one of us and not the other, so I was overruled on the matter. So when I was ten and Macey was twelve, we flew to Glasgow and saw Aunt Pen for the first time since she’d left the US.

“Macey! Dillon! Oh, look how big you’ve gotten!”

Aunt Pen started fussing over us immediately, ruffling my hair and fawning over Macey’s princess dress. She was an eccentric lady, too. Every move she made was accompanied by the clinking of her bright gold bangles, and her dress was maroon with long dragging sleeves. Her nails were long and painted red, and her hair was pulled back by a flowered headband. Before we got to the castle we stopped in a nearby village, and she bought us each a cinnamon bun before going to the butcher and getting a bag of scraps. It smelled awful, and when Macey asked what they were there for, Aunt Pen just smiled at her, which put us both on edge.

Aunt Pen’s castle was about five miles from the village. The road curved through the woods, and the trees were so tall that we couldn’t see the castle until we were right in front of it. It was a large building made of stone, built at the bottom of a hill and overlooking a big lake. It was old, but it looked well taken care of, and I could feel Macey’s excitement finally rubbing off on me. As soon as the car was parked we jumped out, racing to the doors, Aunt Pen trailing behind.

“Just a moment, kids!” Aunt Pen called after us. “I want to show you something.”

We followed Aunt Pen around the side of the castle, towards the treeline. There was a wooden fence separating the castle grounds from the forest, which was dark and made me uneasy. Aunt Pen whistled. For a moment nothing happened, and then suddenly crows started lining up on the fence, cawing as they landed and eyeing us curiously. Aunt Pen started pulling the scrap meat out of her bag and feeding them one by one.

“This is Macey and Dillon, my niece and nephew. They’ll be spending the summer here.”

“Er, Aunt Pen? Are you talking to the crows?” Macey looked mildly terrified, and I couldn’t help but feel the same. One of the larger crows cawed at us, and Macey took a step back.

“Yes dear, crows are very clever and very loyal. One never needs to fear if they’ve befriended the crows. Would you like to feed them?”

Macey was horrified, but I was curious. The crows were a little bit creepy, but Aunt Pen seemed so at ease with them that I couldn’t help but feel more at ease too. So I nodded, and I reached into her bag of scraps.

“Hold it by the very edge, and reach out carefully,” Aunt Pen instructed,  guiding me towards the large crow. “This is Baron; he’s the largest crow in the murder.”

“Murder?” Macey asked.

“Yes, that’s what a flock of crows is called, dear,” Aunt Pen said. “Now say hello and introduce yourself. Then give him the meat.”

“Hi Baron,” I said, only feeling a little bit silly talking to a crow. “I’m Dillon. It’s nice to meet you.”

Baron cawed at me, then snatched the meat out of my hand and scarfed it down in seconds. Baron cawed some more, and I smiled at him in return.

“Well done, Dillon! I think he likes you. Would you like to try, Macey?”

“She’s too scared to try,” I said, grinning smugly. Macey glared back at me.

“I’m not scared! If you can do it, I can too!” Then Macey marched forward and grabbed a piece of meat, only looking slightly disgusted by the feeling of it.

Aunt Pen led her to a smaller crow and had her hold her hand out. “This is Nixie. Go ahead and say hello, dear.”

“Hi Nixie, I’m Macey! Your name is really pretty,” Macey said, holding out the scrap meat. Nixie cawed softly, then grabbed the meat. Macey jumped a bit when she did, and Nixie cawed at her again.

“Well done, Macey! You two are going to be very popular; I can already tell,” Aunt Pen said, turning to look at the sunset and frowning. “It’s getting a bit late, so we’ll have to head inside now. While we’re out here though, I need to tell you the most important rule of staying here with me.

“See this fence? It goes all the way around the castle grounds. It is very important that you don’t cross it without me. The woods are tricky to navigate, and as you might have noticed during the drive up, the castle isn’t visible if you get too far away. So stay out of the trees, alright?”

“Sure thing Aunt Pen!” Macey said, smiling.

“Good,” Aunt Pen said, returning her smile. “Now let’s head inside and get washed up for dinner.”

We followed after her, and I quickly forgot about crows and forests and rules. For that night, all that mattered was me and my sister and our joint effort to keep Aunt Pen from making haggis for dinner. It was the first simple night we had at the castle, and, though we didn’t know it then, the last simple night.

I’m Dating a Magician

So I started dating a magician last year. I didn’t know this when I first started dating him. I guess magicians don’t like to advertise what they do; otherwise, people would think they are creepy. They are not wrong. Anyway, because 80 percent of the people in the audience of any magic show are other magicians looking for ideas to steal for their act, I’ve been dragged to about 40 magic shows. I’ve seen a couple of good shows, but I’ve seen way more terrible acts. Along the way, I’ve made a list of my top three favorite magicians. See if you can figure out what they all have in common.

My number one magician is Zabrecky. He performs in the “The Zabrecky Hour.” He looks like Lurch from the Adams family and acts like the Count of Monte Christo. He feels like a character that would perfectly fit into an Edgar Allan Poe story. All of his tricks find a perfect balance between funny and creepy, but he will never understand why the audience is laughing. He has a Sheldon Cooper level of social awkwardness, but once the audience is on his side, he hits that sweet spot of lovably awkward.

My number two magician is Rudy Coby. He performs as the “Labman,” a mad scientist magician. His show captures the best parts of classic 90’s zaniness. Rudy demonstrates his various inventions and creations in a way that just barely works on the supposed shoestring budget of the show. There is also a superhero component to the show, as various supervillains interrupt the show, and force Rudy to do some sort of magic trick to vanquish the villain. It’s the perfect mix of comedy and action. He is also famous for parodying other magicians. His roast of David Copperfield is a must see.

Rounding out the list is my number three magician, Jeff Hobson. Most magicians like to pick a lady volunteer for their tricks because they can’t interact with women in any other context, but Jeff is famous for picking men volunteers. You see, if Jeff were on fire, he would be less flaming than when he is performing. This man has a very openly homosexual personality. He prances about the stage, plays ABBA music while his helper shuffles the cards, and generally does everything he can to push boundaries with his male volunteers. I laugh to the point of screaming watching this man work his magic on the men.

Have you found the link between the acts yet? Here’s a hint. I never told you a single magic trick they did. That’s because the tricks they did were not important. These magicians could have done any trick and still been entertaining. These acts are character driven. The characters are so interesting and fun to watch that they could have done anything on stage and would have been good. That’s the real secret to being a good magician, having a good entertaining character, and then picking tricks that really let the character shine through.

Marigold Tea House

Marigold took a deep, steadying breath, closed her eyes, and pictured Comfort. She held the image of being at ease and soothed in her mind: wrapped in warm blankets on cold winter nights, settling into the soft curves of a caring lover amidst the steady sound of rain pattering on the window pane, watching fireflies from her porch in evening twilight while cicadas sang, the smell of freshly poured tea mixing with old spices and herbs in her mother’s kitchen and workshop. Some memories were much, much older than others, but they were still fresh in her mind even all these decades later.

Opening her eyes, Marigold observed her tea bags, prepared and almost ready to be set out for sale. Inside the handcrafted bags she’d mixed Chamomile and Skullcap herbs, spiced with her own blend of seasonings and marketed as a heavy duty stress reliever. Now Marigold set to adding the final and most secret ingredient. Memories held firmly in her mind, she took a small pen loaded with a dark, non-toxic ink. With a steady and practiced hand, Marigold drew the sigil for Communication on each bag. With her memories clear and present at the forefront of her mind while she wrote, the message was clear. A small taste of power glowed from the sygills, shining in the early morning light for a glorious moment before fading into the background hum of everyday magic.

Marigold placed the pen back in its carefully crafted and well-loved case on her kitchen table and allowed herself a moment to lean back in her chair and regather herself.

“A simple spell like that wearing me out…” she said to herself. “Aging is certainly no task for the weak.” Marigold smiled.

The peace of early morning reflection was nudged away by the soft and quietly insistent chime of Marigold’s smartphone. Glancing over to the counter where her phone charged overnight, Marigold caught sight of the time on her hanging wall clock. It was a well-crafted wooden piece, a gift from an old friend. The handsome face informed her eyes what the phone had informed her ears; it was half past seven and time to open her store front.

Marigold stood and gathered her things from the small wooden table. The kitchen around her was still, lit a warm yellow by sunlight peeking in through the eastern facing window. A brass tea kettle sat cooling on the stovetop from her breakfast cup, shining bright against the dull practicality of the old stove. Her sink was much more modern, shiny and chrome from when Marigold had been forced to replace the original the space had been built with. A vital pipe had finally rusted beyond the point of no return.

Her Council had been baffled by her choice to replace it the old fashioned way, she remembered. ‘Marigold, a simple sygill for Remembering and the pipe will be good as new! Why bother with hiring a plumber and tearing out the whole sink?’ Marigold remembered what she’d placated them with – something about the landlord knowing the pipe had been troubling her and the problem suddenly vanishing would have cast eyes where they shouldn’t be, easily understood and entirely logical caution for the sake of cover.

teapot
“A brass tea kettle sat cooling on the stovetop from her breakfast cup, shining bright against the dull practicality of the old stove.” Photo from: www.thetearoom.typepad.com

Marigold’s actual reason was significantly more complicated and close to her heart. If she’d been forced to put into words, Marigold might describe it as the same reason she had purchased a smartphone and tried to keep on top of how it worked. A desire to have common ground, perhaps.

But that was entirely too melancholy a train of thought for such a fine, bright morning. Placing the box of tea carefully under one arm and her phone in her apron pocket, Marigold left her kitchen and walked through the tight, light green hallway of the flat. Past her tiny bedroom and the cozy sitting room were the steep stairs to her shop below, which Marigold descended with practiced ease even at her age. Once at the bottom, Marigold reached up with her right hand and felt for the sygill precisely carved into the doorframe. The feeling of Protection and Alarm at the Ready still rang in her mind as strong as ever. No ne’er-do-well was getting in without Marigold’s knowledge and swift retribution.

Marigold opened the door. Her shop greeted her nose first, tea leaves and herbs from the world over mixing into an intoxicating aroma entirely unique to her space. Marigold Tea House was the official name, though most of her customers couldn’t help tacking a possessive ‘s’ onto it. Marigold’s Tea House really wasn’t that different at the end of the day, so she rarely bothered correcting it. She smiled as her eyes swept over the space, cleaned and prepped for facing another day of thirsty customers.

Unfortunately, Marigold’s gaze caught onto her most hated enemy. How she despised it, how she loathed it, how even the look of the thing threatened to sour her mood. It crouched on her countertop like a giant cockroach. Marigold frowned at the offending black menace while laying out the basket of tea bags.

“Now,” she calmly said to the pest. “Are you going to be cooperative this morning, or are we going to have issues?”

The cash register said nothing. Marigold wasn’t expecting it to; it was only a cash register. She calmly and steadily marched to her spot behind the counter and confidently keyed in the sequence for opening the store. The register paused for a moment, thinking over Marigold’s simple request as though it was a monumental task.

Beep Beep! The register chirped. Marigold sighed through her nose and looked at the display with a slow curl of dread.

Err//Op Not Valid

“Ah. This again. I admit it has been a long while since your opening volley has been the literal opening.” Marigold keyed in the sequence again, more slowly this time and carefully ensuring that each button press was inputted correctly.

Err//Op Not Valid

“What pray tell is not valid about the sequence that has opened your drawer for customers every single day for the past 35 years?!” Marigold tried again, more forcefully that necessary.

Err//Op Not Valid

“Technical support isn’t taking my morning calls anymore, you beast. I am going to enter this code one final time, and if you do not cooperate I swear on all the sygils known and not that I will end you. Most likely with a baseball bat.”

The register mulled things over for a while, and though Marigold knew it could not have actually heard or understood anything she said, it was very satisfying to see it finally accept her code. The cash drawer popped open with a merry ching! Battle won but war far from over, Marigold quickly counted the cash and noted the sum in the books. As she removed the various piles of bills, sygils were revealed. Smooth Workings and Sensitivity and Clean were the most obvious ones, but countless attempts at enacting her will on the stubborn machine were visible if you knew how to look for them. Marigold hardly remembered what problem she had initially been trying to fix after all this time, and she had a sneaking suspicion her continued attempts were only making it worse.

“One of these days,” Marigold muttered to herself, “one of these days I will finally grow sick enough to replace you entirely, and what a fine day that will be!”

The cash register said nothing, but Marigold knew the fiend was being smug again.

 

Top 5 best Christmas movies

As we enter December, we enter the Christmas season. While baking cookies and eating too much fudge is great, the best way to get into the holiday spirit is by watching those classic Christmas movies.

We look forward to them every year, but there are so many, who knows what to watch. Here’s a list of the top 5 best Christmas movies (in my humble opinion) that you need to watch this holiday season.

1) The Santa Clause

santa clause
“A magical story of a regular dad who finds himself turning into the big man himself, Santa Claus.”

Starring the wonderful Tim Allen, “The Santa Clause” is the magical story of a regular dad who finds himself turning into the big man himself, Santa Claus, all due to a Christmas Eve misunderstanding. Although the movie was released in the 90s, it’s still a must-watch today.

2) Elf

Will Ferrell stars in this witty fan favorite about a human baby who is adopted by one of Santa’s elves. Buddy grows up his whole life believing himself to be an elf despite the fact that he towers over his “fellow” elves and can’t make a toy to save his life. Upon discovering that he is indeed a human being, Buddy sets off to New York City to find his biological father and bring Christmas spirit back to the jaded city.

3) Eloise At Christmastime

The Eloise movies revolve around a wild yet lovable six year old girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York City under the supervision of her loving Nanny (Julie Andrews). “Eloise At Christmastime” is the sequel to the original movie “Eloise At The Plaza” (based on the best selling children’s book). In this installment, Eloise grows suspicious when the Plaza’s owner’s daughter returns to New York with her sketchy fiancé for a Christmas Eve wedding. The movie is funny and charming and surprisingly receives little notoriety around Christmas despite being one of the best Christmas movies I’ve ever seen. Despite being marketed towards children, “Eloise At Christmastime” is entertaining for the whole family.

4) Miracle on 34th Street

Both the original movie and the remake are phenomenal when it comes to “Miracle on 34th Street”- a heartwarming movie about what happens when Santa Claus himself befriends a young, cynical girl. This movie will make everyone a believer again despite when you stopped writing letters to Santa.

5) The Polar Express

This Tom Hanks classic brings to life the amazingly written and illustrated children’s book, “The Polar Express”. The movie is so well done and true to the original illustrations that you feel as if you’re truly inside the book. The story revolves around a boy who has stopped believing in Santa. One Christmas Eve, he is awoken by the sound of a train plowing down his street. Upon running outside and meeting the conductor, he discovers that the train is a magic train that takes children to the North Pole every Christmas Eve to meet Santa. As the boy sets off on the train ride he meets new friends and rediscovers the Christmas spirit.

So make a cup of hot chocolate, rent some movies, and start getting in the Christmas spirit.

Most thought provoking Harry Potter fan theories

If you’re a Potterhead, you know that ever since “Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ was released, we have had very little to look forward to. This has led to lots of super fans coming up with completely insane and often hilarious “Harry Potter” fan theories. Here are some the best that the internet has to offer:

1) Draco Malfoy is a werewolf.

One fan came up with the theory that to punish Lucius Malfoy for his failure to retrieve the prophecy in “Order of the Phoenix”, Voldemort set Fenrir Greyback (a werewolf) on Draco. The fan argued that this was what caused Draco’s sickly appearance and anxiety throughout “Half-Blood Prince” rather than his quest to kill Dumbledore. The fan also references the time Voldemort suggests that Draco should “babysit the cubs” when he learns of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks’ baby.

2) Dumbledore is actually Ron Weasley traveling back in time.

This theory doesn’t have a lot to go on other than some physical similarities between Ron and Dumbledore such as long fingers and a wounded left leg. While this theory is really fun to think about, sadly it simply can’t be true based on J.K. Rowling’s amount of information about Dumbledore’s personal life (i.e. his childhood, love for his best friend Gellert Grindelwald, etc).

image13) Neville Longbottom was never bad at magic.

The beginning of the Harry Potter series really depicted Neville as a bumbling excuse for a wizard. However, it turns out that it may not have been him the whole time. It’s common knowledge that in the wizarding world, the wand chooses the wizard. A wizard must have that connection with his wand in order to be able to use it properly. This is proven time and time again throughout the series. Anyway, Neville starts off his time at Hogwarts using his father’s old wand…hence why he really falls behind his classmates in every subject except Herbology. After “Order of the Phoenix” when his wand is broken in the fight at the Department of Mysteries, Neville is forced to get a proper wand and then suddenly, he becomes good at magic. As a diehard Harry Potter fan, I feel pretty dumb for not realizing this the first 22 times I read the series.

4) The Dursleys hated Harry because he was a Horcrux.

In the “Deathly Hallows” it became apparent that being too close to a Horcrux causes people to be almost physically repulsed. One fan theory believes that it was because Harry was a Horcrux that the Dursleys hated him so much. While this theory holds some water, it can’t be true or else Harry would’ve had no friends or girlfriends while at school due to everyone hating him. Still, it would be nice to think that the Dursleys weren’t terrible entirely on their own.

5) Harry is immortal after killing Voldemort.

This theory stems from the infamous prophecy’s line, “either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives.” The fan responsible for this theory, states that because Voldemort is killed in “Deathly Hallows”, Harry can’t be killed because Voldemort would’ve had to have been the one who did it. While intriguing, if this theory is true it is extremely sad. After all, Harry, who has watched so many of his loved ones die, would want nothing more than to be reunited with them one day. To have that promise of peace taken from him would be horrible.

While most of these theories can pretty much be proven false, some of them really make you wonder. After all, J.K. Rowling has so much information about the beloved characters that never made it onto the pages of her books, it’s entirely possible that fans may have touched onto something deep and true that was simply never revealed to the public. Hopefully one day, J.K. Rowling will look at these theories and tell us which ones have some truth to them.

 

Outside of Greentown: Chapter 4

I watched Erlina disappear from the antique shop’s office and sit back in my chair. “What the hell is she doing here?” I thought to myself. I threw a cloth over my crystal and massaged my temples. It’s been 50 years since the last time I drove her out of my town. I picked up my now stone cold tea and finished it. I spun the cup in my hands and looked closely at the dregs. I had already known there were going to be visitors two weeks ago when a few leaves floated to the top of my cup. Four leaves. Four days away. I did the math in my head. She’s been here for ten days. Enough time for her to cause plenty of trouble. Why didn’t I see her before? I began to worry as I recognized the clear shapes in the leaves. Continue reading Outside of Greentown: Chapter 4