You might have seen the movie Amelie, starring the famous French actress Audrey Tatou, and seen other similar events occuring across the iternet and popular culture. But the concept remains the same: a travelling creature. A lawn gnome perhaps, as in Amelie, that convinces her shy Father to see the world.
Well, we thought: what a good idea. So I'd like to introduce you to someone special.
Gideon P. Gumdrop, or "Giddy" as we affectionately call him.
Giddy is to become our travel mascot, to pose everytime we hit somewhere iconic. Just like Amelie's gnome.
A war had been raging between the two lands of Messinia and Braegar for over five hundred years. Needless to say, hardly a soul remained alive who knew why and the archives had long since been destroyed. The two lands, separated only by the large forest of Gyllen, were like two different worlds, each with their own monarch and laws. Yet Messinia and Braegar were like two sides of the same coin, whether they liked it or not.
It was a crisp morning in the later days of summer, birds twitted and sang, butterflies fluttered about the courtyard and the palace of Messinia was filled with delicious smells coming from the kitchen. It was no later than eight o'clock in the morning, yet as usual, the palace was buzzing with preparations for breakfast and the days chores.
This peaceful morning did not, however, reach the youngest member of the royal family.
Allora awoke in a cold sweat, her heart racing from the impact of the dream. Every detail was clearly etched in her mind adding a new bout of confusion by the minute.
Daniel, as he had spent his nights over the last seven years, sat at the end of the large four-poster bed, watching over her as she pushed the damp tangles of mahogany hair out of her eyes, his own transparent silver eyes glowing with worry. He knew what was wrong; it wasn't the first time that she'd woken like this. "Tell me." He whispered, the tone of his voice calming her.
Allora sighed. "It was the same dream: I was running through a garden maze, but my body was not my own; I was someone else, though it somehow felt right. When I reached the middle, there was a man waiting for me. I did not see his face; it was blurred as though someone had pulled a sheet over my face, yet I remember his eyes clearly. They were a beautiful green, almost like emeralds. He embraced me tenderly, but then he changed; a new man stood where he had been, his eyes a cold black." She stifled a sob and rubbed her wrists. "He held me by the wrists, so tightly I could not move my hands. And then he forced me down to my knees, all the while whispering 'Lover. Princess. Temptress. Whore.' over and over." Allora wiped a tear from her eye, now a bright glistening sapphire. "I don't know why it seemed so different, but it was so much more real to me than any other time I have had this same dream. I still feel both the love and the hate of the two men who held me."
She glanced at the ghostly apparition as he processed this new information. "It's the third time this week that I have had this dream, Grandfather, and I don't understand it. It's almost like a memory, one from long ago."
Daniel appeared thoughtful, or as thoughtful as a ghost may appear anyway. " 'Tis possible for a suppressed memory to return as a dream or nightmare, yet I have been by your side since you were fourteen and remember no horrific experience that may have caused this suppression."
"No." Allora shook her head, her mahogany curls bouncing around her heart-shaped face. "The woman, it was I, yet I was someone else also. How can that be? I remember no man like that in my dream, although his face seems as familiar to me as my own mother's."
The conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door and Maddy’s voice cut through the dense atmosphere.
“Are you awake in there, Little Princess?”
Allora glanced at Daniel, who nodded, disappearing into the room. His soft voice drifted to her from far away. “We will speak later.”
Rising, Allora pulled on her robe and padded to the door, her bare feet whispering over the soft, worn rug.
Maddy burst into the room the moment the door was opened.
“Good Morning!” She chimed, throwing open the floor length drapes that covered the long, glass-paneled doors leading to the balcony. “It’s a beautiful day.”
Allora looked out into the sunlit city and lush green forest miles behind it. Somehow she just knew that this day would change her fate forever.
Poised on the arm of a chair, Allora stretched her body as much as she could reaching for a thick leather volume just slightly beyond her. It was somewhat frustrating, not made better when the chaise jerked slightly to one side.
Tongue in cheek, Allora strained, her arm aching from the force. “Almost got it…”
A large bang resounded through the enormous palace library as an irate queen burst into the room. Stunned, Allora toppled down from the chair, landing somewhat ungracefully draped across the arms, the skirts of her gown pooling around her.
“Allora!” She barked, hurrying over to the fallen young woman. “I hope you didn’t hurt yourself, my dear, but you have been missing for quite a while! We were worried when you didn’t turn up to your lessons, though I suppose I should have known you’d be in her with all these dreadfully old books.”
Allora allowed herself to be tugged out of the chair, rubbing an ache in her lower back as she did so. “Mother, I am twenty-one years old, I’m not a child any more, why must I continue lessons in things I already know?”
Celeste clucked her tongue in annoyance and began exasperatedly, “Because of your initiation-
- The one that should have been three years ago?” Allora retorted leading her mother out of the room, swooping in to collect a small cake from a desk along the way only to have it confiscated before it reached her mouth.
“Yes, well, there have been hindrances, you know that. Really, Allora, you shouldn’t eat too many sweets, they are not good for you at all.”
Allora ignored her health concerns. “Father going abroad was not a hindrance, you forcing me to stay here, however, was!” They’d had this argument a thousand times over the previous three years, she was simply too overprotected. “When will you ever let me have some kind of adventure?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! You know that your father was very busy and had no time to take you out! He left to negotiate with allies to the west, not to take a little holiday.” Celeste opened the down to the hallway and followed her daughter out. “You were too young, imagine if something had happened to you? If a Braegan had found you?” The older woman shuddered at the thought.
That’s right, Allora sighed, she’d never be old enough and it seemed that the war with Braegar would always go on. Secretly she thought that the entire thing was barbaric and ridiculous, but who would listen to her even if she did admit to her distaste? The argument continued the entire way to the small drawing room where Allora suffered her lessons.
His yellow eyes glared through the dim as he watched the jackal army descend the mountainous sand dunes beyond. He clutched his staff, claws digging into his hand as he braced himself.
Their leader was in view now; his feral eyes met the cat’s as he gave a toothy grin. The golden wristbands a contrast against his sun-warmed skin, his dark hair smoothed back from his forehead, held in place by a black and gold circlet.
“You will never defeat us, warrior,” the cat hissed, crossing the staff in front of him as if to bar the enemy. “You will return to the world of beyond.”
The leader of the jackal army smiled. “We will see who our Goddess favours.”
With a clang, the battalions met under the hot sun. An epic clash between light and dark. A battle the world would forget. For a while.
3, 350 years Later. Give or take.
On the morning of my 23rd birthday, I woke up, rolled over and came face to face with a grinning male. Sure, it wasn’t the one you’d think, and I groaned at the flickering image of my ghostly roommate, James.
“Ugh.” I rolled back over and tried to cover my head with the blanket, snuggling back down into the warmth of my crisp-sheeted bed.
“Nice try, Con. You’ll be late for work.”
With that, my ghost of a friend whipped off my silky yellow duvet and flung it across the room. I was suddenly hit with an icy draft that had me gasping and protectively springing into foetal position.
I blinked my eyes open in the weak February light streaming in through the open window and stared in abject horror at the numbers taunting me from the levitating alarm clock in front of my face.
“Argh! It’s 8.54! I really am going to be late!”
I bolted out of bed, shucked my warm fuzzy sushi pyjamas and dived for the shower before it even occurred to me what day it was. February 23rd. Tuesday. My birthday.
I showered up and stepped outside with a grin. “James! Guess what day it is!”
He drifted past the door from my room on the way to the kitchen. “Your birthday. As if you’d let me forget, it’s all you’ve fretted about the past week; if that American would forget or not.”
Wrapped in my bathrobe I stomped out to rustle up some cereal. “I have not been fretting! I just wasn’t sure if it was something that we’d talked about or not, I just want to spend the evening with my fabulous boytoy...”
And really, who could blame me?
Eric Stanhope, my adorable fuzzy new boyfriend, had moved over to the United Kingdom last November after we’d gotten back from Cairo. Before that he’d lived in New York working in the Metropolitan museum under the psychotic guidance of the now incarcerated Dr Kieran ..., who’d made it to jail after nearly killing both my boss, Frank, and colleague, Harry. But it was a whole lot complicated than that when you threw an ancient curse and a couple of canopic jars into the mix.
Initially, Eric and I had detested each other – doing our best to outdo and outsmart each other before an argument of ours got out of hand and nearly cost us our lives, not to mention the likely international incident that would have arose, too. So, Eric and I had come to an impasse, that before long gave way to the attraction that we’d really been feeling the entire time.
Our brief interlude was interrupted by the evil Julian Harrison, also known as my cheating ex-boyfriend, before we were back and better than ever.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend time with my boyfriend, James.” I harrumphed, adding milk to the sugar-coated cereal I’d chosen to start the day. “I’d say you’re just jealous, but unlike you I no longer live in the 3rd grade.”
The ghost rolled his eyes, something he’d picked up from watching television with me and decided to use against me. You see, being terminally deceased, James’ eye rolling went the whole 360. In the middle of the night when you were half asleep this was not something you wanted to see in the bathroom mirror, trust me.
“Urgh! You know I hate it when you do that!”
James flashed a charming grin and manifested his old pipe back into his hand. “No better reason to do it, Con.”
James had died in the 1920’s when he was about 25 or 26 – he’d never told me exactly which. He’d been murdered by the same cursed spirit-witch that had nearly killed us in Cairo, after removing artefacts from the tomb of Tutankhamen with Howard Carter’s team, and for a long time since had haunted my flat with his ghostly presence, scaring people away.
That was until last year when I’d come along and refused to go. Together, James and I had figured out the mystery to why he’d died and come face to face with his killer, Ye Vanck Amun, the spirit-witch.
There was one final thing there, something that I didn’t even know: On the night that we’d met Ye Vanck Amun, the spirit-witch had whispered something to James about his greater purpose and his reason for still existing in this world. I’d asked him about it, curiosity getting the better of me, but James had refused to tell me what she had told him. Today, James was here for a purpose – I just wasn’t sure what that was.
I admit at first I was skeptical. The novel itself had been recommended to me time and time again by my dear friend A, who enthusiastically purchased me my very own copy for my birthday, and when I picked it up the other day I wasn't so sure what I'd be in for.
But what I found was macabrely delightful - I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially with its content. It was many things - a eerie vision of the future, a science fiction, young adult book and a romance, but that's not even where it ends.
The story follows 16-year old Katniss Everdeen who enters a grisly annual known as the Hunger Games, sponsered by the Capitol, the governmental front in a post-apocalyptic North America. The Hunger Games are filled with 24 'tributes' between 12 and 18 conscripted from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol, one boy and one girl from each. Then, after a week or so's worth of training, interviews and fattening up the 24 tributes battle it out in the arena - to the death.
Now, off the top of my head I haven't read too many books that have been filled with death to this calibre, but this was amazing. I really enjoyed all of it - the geurilla tactics, the survival issues and even the Survivor-style alliances and betrayals. Ms Collins writes so well the story comes alive on the page, and the romantic naivety of the protagonist is heartening if a little sad - the relationship between her and Peeta, her fellow tribute, is one I ended to see through.
So, for those in want of a different, light read I would recommend this book - even if it's not immediately your thing.
From the kid you've always been to become this new, scary adult version of yourself?
What will this new world be like? What will this new you be like?
There is one thing I've been thinking about lately and that is how do I grow up? When do I have to step up and declare myself a woman now, instead of a girl?
It's all tied in when you think about it - moving out, having a serious relationship, buying your first piece of furniture, your first real fulltime job, your first bill, first child, wedding, and so it goes on.
I'm starting to feel like my time is staring me down now to pull myself out of the protective sanctuary that is my parent's house, my bedroom and my life and to now grow up like those around me.
Is it time to move out? I know everything will happen when it does about romance and things - that is a given, no matter what I feel on those dark, depressing nights - and so I try not to worry, but it is unwise to not consider how much a relationship would affect my growing up.
A friend, for example, of mine yesterday told me that he was moving in with his girlfriend soon. The adorability aside, that is a fairly strong indicator of his maturity, isn't it? His relationship is serious, makes him act like a grown up and take the initiative to move in with her.
I guess I'm just wondering if I'm grown up enough now - there's no rush, right? I am what I am, and what I am is enough?