Cover by Ursula Vernon

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October 2007

October 2007 -- Ninjas

Gallery

Columns

  • Behind the Art:
    Caring For Your Art Part 2
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Masters of Stealth
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Healthy Art Presentation and Storage Systems
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Back still later!
  • EMG News:
    News for October

    Features

  • Pumpkin Tutorial

    Fiction

  • Poem: Ninja Lolita
  • Fiction: Striking Black Silence
  • Poem: Deadly Flowers
  • Fiction: Next Time, Buy Retail


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  • Next Time, Buy Retail
    by Shannon Wolff

    "Let me get this straight." Jenna sighed and massaged her temples while Katelyn continued to sweep up the broken glass from the window. "Johnny said he wanted to go as a ninja for Halloween... and not just any ninja, but the one from that TV show he likes so much. However, every other little boy in town had the same idea, so naturally, the stores were all sold out."

    "You've got it so far," Katelyn grumbled as she emptied the dustpan.

    "So you thought to yourself, 'Hey, I'm a witch. I can conjure up one little Halloween costume.' But you didn't just conjure up the costume did you? Noooooooo. You conjured up the character himself!"

    "What, you want me to admit I made a mistake? Well, I realized that when one extremely disoriented fictional character jumped through my living room window and ran off."

    "Ladies, please," Magic purred in a voice softer than his silky black fur as he leapt onto the back of the sofa. "Arguing won't send our fictional friend home."

    "You know things are in a sorry state when the cat is the voice of reason," Jenna huffed and blew her neon orange bangs out of her face.

    "Too true," Magic said. "Now, Katelyn and I will stay here and work on a counter spell to send our wayward traveler back to the realm of Saturday morning cartoons while you work on getting our errant ninja back here so we can send him home."

    "What!?" Jenna said. "How come I have to be the one to search the neighborhood?"

    "Because it was my spell that brought him here," Katelyn said, then cleared her throat sheepishly as she looked towards the floor.

    "And I know I don't need to remind you how dangerous it is to try and undo someone else's spell," Magic huffed, his tail swishing as he spoke. "Had I heeded that warning more carefully I wouldn't be a familiar now."

    "Come on," Jenna pleaded. "How am I supposed to even find this guy? Half the boys in town are wearing that costume."

    "I suggest you concentrate your search on those over five feet tall and not trick-or-treating," Magic replied.

    "I hate you both so much right now."

    "Hate us all you want, but get that ninja back here," Magic called as he jumped to the floor and trotted out of the room. "And hurry. Spells like this have a nasty little habit of becoming permanent at midnight."

    Jenna sighed as Katelyn hurried after Magic. Thinking to herself that she had no idea how to accomplish either of the tasks set before her, Jenna opened the front door to find the street full of kids trick-or-treating. About half of them wore the costume in question.

    "Katelyn owes me big for this," She grumbled as she wrenched the neon wig from her head and tossed it into the bushes. "Hope Johnny is having more fun at that party than I'm having here." She stomped off.

    It took Jenna less than five minutes of sulking through the streets to realize the direct approach wouldn't work... not to mention all the wary looks she was getting from parents escorting their children around the neighborhood. She realized that if she were to have any hope of getting the ninja back to the house so he could be sent home, she'd need a plan. And in order to come up with a plan she'd have to know something about the ninja. There was only one person who could help her now. She headed for the school.

    "Johnny!" She called over the heads of the kids milling around the school gymnasium.

    Johnny was easy enough to find. Since his intended costume had run off with its rightful owner, he was one of the few kids at the party wearing street clothes. Getting his attention, however, required more drastic measures.

    "You didn't have to throw a popcorn ball at me, you know," Johnny mumbled as he ambled over to Jenna, picking bits of popcorn out of his hair.

    "I'll make it up to you later. Right now I need you to tell me about that guy your mom conjured up."

    "Nightstorm? He's the coolest! He's the captain of the Stealth Brigade, personally charged with finding the five stones of power by the emperor himself and --"

    "How do I find him, Johnny?" Jenna interrupted, fighting to keep the bite out of her tone as she spoke.

    "You don't. He's captain of the Stealth Brigade."

    "Great. Now how am I supposed to get him back to the house so your mom can send him home?"

    "He's probably already back at the house," Johnny said, his attention venturing over towards the caramel apples.

    "What?"

    "Well, he has to want to go home." Johnny shrugged. "Who'd want to stick around here? And Mom's the only one he knows of who can do that, so he's probably just waiting for her to send him home."

    "Or for a chance to make her send him home," Jenna whispered to herself as her stomach turned to ice. "Like being left alone with a cat for protection."

    "What'd you say?" Johnny asked, rummaging through his pockets. "Hey, can I barrow a buck fifty?"

    "Here, have fun," Jenna mumbled, shoving two dollars into Johnny's hand. Then she darted towards the door.

    Jenna ran through the streets with her heart in her throat. Her mind rattled off every grizzly sight she might find upon retuning to the house. Useless were her attempts to reassure herself that Nightstorm was merely a cartoon character, and therefore wouldn't actually harm anyone. Providing he was a good guy that is.

    Cursing to herself, Jenna nearly collided with a ballerina as she took a turn too fast. Nightstorm had to be one of the good guys. Would Johnny have dubbed a bad guy 'The coolest'? And, in his own world, he'd been charged with finding those stones by the emperor. Then again, Jenna had no way of knowing if the emperor was one of the good guys. Oh, why hadn't she paid more attention when Johnny tried telling her all about the show when his mother had promised him the costume? She might have known not to leave the house if she had.

    No sooner did Jenna reach for the doorknob than Katelyn's scream shattered the night. Without hesitation Jenna charged past the door and raced through the empty living room. Another scream echoed through the house as Jenna reached the basement, Katelyn's preferred space for casting spells, and beheld a sight completely unlike any she imagined during her frantic run over.

    Nightstorm stood, sword in hand, ready to attack... but Katelyn clearly wasn't the object of his aggression. If anything he seemed to be protecting her, but from what? Jenna was the first to admit the light in the basement was far from the best, but near as she could tell there was nothing out of the ordinary in the basement, other than its current inhabitants.

    "Jenna! Duck!" Magic cried from somewhere near Katelyn's ankles.

    Jenna dropped to the floor at Magic's words as something sailed over her head. Glancing up she caught a glimpse of another ninja vanishing into the shadows.

    "Over here." Magic called again once the mystery ninja had disappeared.

    "What's going on?" Jenna hissed as she scurried towards the trio in the center of the room under the pool of light created by a single bulb.

    "When I conjured Nightstorm I left the door open," Katelyn said in an exasperated voice. She was leafing frantically through a spell book.

    "So who's this other guy?"

    "Shadowstealth," Nightstorm spat, his eyes never leaving the shadows. "He was the captain of the Stealth Brigade and tried to assassinate the emperor. He escaped before he could be executed and now seeks the stones of power so he can seize the throne."

    "And we're all standing in the middle of the room, why?"

    "The light," Magic answered with a flick of his tail. "It seems that Shadowstealth made a deal with a demon in order to pull off his failed assignation attempt. He wanted the ability to merge with the shadows. Now he can never leave them. Since the only light in the basement is in the center of the room, we can't reach the stairs without leaving the light, and risking impalement."

    "And let me guess." Jenna muttered with a knot in her stomach. "Because the hall light is on this Shadowstealth guy can't leave."

    "Precisely. We're all stranded at the moment. That is, unless the light goes out or Katelyn finds a useful spell."

    "I'm looking," Katelyn hissed through her teeth as she continued searching the book.

    Jenna opened her mouth to tell Katelyn to look faster, but stopped when a glint of silver flashed towards the room's lone light bulb. Nightstorm instantly moved to block the metal star, his blade whispering through the air, but he was a breath too late. The light bulb shattered and the room plunged into darkness.

    Jenna blinked as chaos erupted around her. In the time it took her eyes to adjust she heard Katelyn scream, her book thump to the floor near Jenna's feet, Magic hiss and howl, followed by both Shadowstealth and Nightstorm shouting things unbecoming of characters from a children's program.

    When Janna blinked again, she could just make out the dark form of Shadowstealth, his blade at Katelyn's throat. For one horrifying moment Jenna thought her dead, but Katelyn's whimpering relieved her panic.

    "Throw down your sword," Shadowstealth demanded.

    "Jenna," Magic whispered. He had limped towards her and now nudged the dropped spell book at her feet. "Use the book."

    "What?" Jenna whispered back. Nightstorm began setting his blade down with agonizing slowness. "What about the book?"

    "You're a witch. Cast a spell. Send them home."

    "But it's Katelyn's spell," Jenna protested. "If I try to undo it �"

    "I know. The results might not be pretty, but at least we should all be alive."

    "Should?"

    "Cast the spell."

    Jenna opened her mouth to argue further, but a stifled scream from Katelyn quickly changed her mind. The cat was right. Jenna would never admit it to his face, but he was right. Nightstorm had surrendered and was now demanding Shadowstealth keep his end of the bargain and release Katelyn. Shadowstealth merely sneered at his foe's command. Jenna knew the only chance for all of them to walk away with a pulse was for her to counter Katelyn's spell. What they'd walk away as would be a problem for later. She sank slowly to the floor and pulled the book into her lap.

    "It's too dark to read," Jenna whispered, straining her eyes to see the spells in the book.

    "Then make up an incantation," Magic hissed, his eyes on Katelyn. "Hurry! There isn't much time."

    Jenna swallowed back her fear; once again she knew the cat to be right.

    "I call upon the forces of time and space; return these travelers to their rightful place. Send them home, this I implore. Once there, let them trouble us no more."

    Jenna held her breath in the wake of the incantation, hardly daring to hope it worked. Then, Nightstorm vanished before her eyes, with only enough time to cast a brief smile at Jenna before disappearing. Shadowstealth, however, shrieked. He released Katelyn, who fell to the floor, and his body contorted and shrank. Jenna's breath caught in her throat as the ninja slowly turned into a mouse, and then scurried towards a darkened corner. Magic leapt to the chase, payback clearly on his mind.

    "Are you okay?" Jenna asked as Katelyn rose to her feet.

    "I think so," Katelyn answered, rubbing the back of her neck. "You?"

    "That depends. Do I have whiskers now?"

    "No."

    "Good. Just do me one favor."

    "What?"

    "Don't conjure any more ninjas."

    "Consider yourself lucky," Katelyn laughed as she helped Jenna to her feet. "Johnny's second choice was a dinosaur."

    Shannon Wolff was born in Alaska and grew up in a little town called North Pole. This fact has lead every one of her relatives not familiar with Alaska, and complete strangers, to ask if she knows Santa Claus. She now resides in Cartersville, Georgia and is having mixed results with informing her new neighbors about her previous residence.
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