Chaos

We’re buying a h-h-house. *Waves hands in the air like a mad woman*

power-of-nature-657395-mJust realized the chaos that ensues. Imagine the cartoon that’s stuck its finger in a light socket. Hair two feet in all directions, perfectly on end, and muscle spasms from too much to do in too little time. I will refrain from an actual picture as that might give you nightmares.

So, in a mad grasp at sanity, the adventure here must take a break to make way for the adventure of real life.

I will see you in June. =) And by then my brain will need the writing outlet, so I promise great fun in the adventures to come.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Smuggler Option Aa: Discard the Bottle

Welcome to the end out the adventure. You’ve decided to discard the bottle. Let’s see where that takes you. =)

Smuggler Option Aa: Discard the Bottle 

The pirate’s ship happens to be anchored in the harbor just below the lighthouse. Dawn turns the surface of the water a soft gray as you follow the men loading the tub with the mermaid on board the ship.

As you walk up the gangway, you stumble and throw your hands wide to catch yourself. This puts you right next to the edge ofshipwreck-1442444-m the gangway and from there, it’s a simple matter to let the bottle drop from your sleeve into the water of the harbor below. You don’t even look to make sure it doesn’t hit anything on the way down. Instead, you laugh nervously while pushing yourself back up.

“Clumsy me,” you mutter.

Then you’re on the ship and the bottle’s gone. The dark, thick liquid just gave you the willies. You decided to go with your gut instinct and have nothing to do with it.

“Sit with the tub,” says the captain, “that’ll keep you from under foot for now.”

You pick your way across the deck to the tub. On the left side is a smaller wooden box. You sit and draw your feet up.

“You awake?” you ask the box beside you, low enough no one should hear.

There’s no answer.

You drum your fingers across the lid, debating what to do now. The captain’s said nothing about what he plans next and you’re sure the other man will show up sooner or later to make sure you follow through on his instructions. You’d like to have a plan in place before he confronts you.

All you’ve really decided by the time the ship’s out of the harbor and the captain approaches is that you’re not going to leave the mermaid alone. You don’t trust anyone’s intentions.

“No one believes in the mermaids,” says the captain as he leans against the side of the ship. “I plan on keeping it that way. No one believes, then they leave the creatures alone. They believe, and the luck of the sea becomes the hunted of the sea. That’s unacceptable.”

You nod, wondering where he’s taking this.

“To that end, you’re a lose end.” Someone grabs you from behind and pulls your arms around behind your back. You cry out but the man already has your wrists tied together. When you get a glimpse of who has you, you see it’s the blue and green feather man.

Where the captain can’t see, he feels your arms and you realize he’s looking for the bottle. Panic climbs your throat but instead of the anger you expect, he actually looks pleased not to find the bottle.

“Over board,” the captain gestures at the side. You’re far enough out from the harbor that there’s no chance you’ll be able to swim back.

The blue-and green-feathered man shoves you toward the side and the crew cheers. You fight, trying to shove against the side with your feet but the man’s strong and you only manage to drive some air from his lungs when you hit his stomach.

He lifts you into the air and holds you out over the water like you’re no bigger than a ten year old.

As the crew cheers at his torment of you, he leans close and you smell fish on his breath.

“You passed,” he whispers quickly. “You’ll find a knife in your sleeve. Help’ll be by soon to get you.” Then he backs away and saber-knife-1067468-mshouts, “away with you!” He lets go.

Wind rushes past your ears with a high-pitched keening that reminds you of a lonely dog. But then there’s cold water in your mouth and nose and you forget about the keening.

Your chest burns. You fumble around the ropes holding your hands until your fingertips encounter something sharp. You’re sure you cut your ring and pinky fingers but you don’t release the feel of the knife.

The water’s dark and freezing. You kick, hoping to move upward toward the surface but somehow you seem to continue to sink. It’s then you realize you’re not sure what’s up and what’s down.

With a little twisting, the knife’s handle slides into the palm of your hand. You start cutting.

The outside edges of your vision sparkle and fuzz. Your chest aches like it might explode but you keep cutting.

Something touches you. Something gasps your shoulders and then touches your lips. The burning in your chest explodes and your vision sparks brightly before clearing to a brief moment of clarity.

That moment’s all you need. You see bright green, piercing eyes right in front of you and you relax in the mermaid’s grip as she forces more air into your lungs. With the second breath, the air tastes sweet and your vision clears completely. By the time you break the surface of the water, you’re major discomfort lies in the cold, not the lack of air. Feeling’s gone completely from your fingers and toes.

The mermaid seems to know this is a problem. She takes off for the distant land on the horizon while holding your hands, then your feet in a circular process until you feel sand touch your body.

***

You’re laying on a vacant part of the shoreline, absorbing the warmth from the sun as the mermaid explains to you what happened.

“Finnigan’s bottle was a test,” she says, “if you’d kept it, he wouldn’t have given you the knife. If you didn’t have the knife, I’d have let you drown.”

You frown, seeing multiple problems with their plan. “What if I’d dropped the knife? Or what if I hadn’t found a spot to discard the bottle?”

She shrugs. “It’s not foolproof but then, the whole situation’s fraught with dangers. I almost died last night.”

“And what’s with green feathers? None of them have only green feathers.”

She flashes a grin. “That’s the point. We were testing your instinct, not your ability to follow instructions.”

You sigh, seeing you won’t change her mind about the way they handle things. You’ve more pressing matters anyway. “My brother?”

Her grin returns. “Of course.”

She’ll follow through on getting your brother to you. Now all you have to do is figure out how to support the two of you. But that seems like a small matter at the moment. You stretch, enjoying the sun on your skin.

The End

Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,

Jennifer

Smuggler Option Aa. Race Away

Smuggler Option Aa. Race Away

As Simon’s men approach, you can’t get the woman’s voice out of your head. And then you think of what Ian would say if you told him you smuggled a woman in a box to get him passage to join you.

His light eyes would widen, not in awe at your bravery, but in horror, and he’d back away from you like you’d just said his birthday was cancelled…for life. He had a fine sense of right and wrong and this was just too far over the line.

You’ve no desire to see that look on your brother’s face.

Pulling the wagon around, you smack the reigns and grit your teeth as the horses take off over the rough ground.

Behind you the men shout but you can’t make out their words with the rumbling of the wagon. Your mind races.

A wagon’s too slow to outrun two men on horseback, so how do you lose the men chasing you? The trees are tight but weaving a Old wagonwagon through them in hopes of losing your chasers sounds like a bit of insanity.

You’re contemplating taking a hard turn to the left and heading for a different road when the wagon hits something in the dark. The right side bounces clear of the ground and crashes down with a hard crunch. The wagon lurches with the next rotation of the wheels and then the entire right side tilts to drag on the ground even as the horses continue to race forward.

You slide to the right and catch yourself just before you tumble off the bench. You hold on so tightly the wood digs into your skin.

The wagon hits a tree with a crunching, splintering crash followed immediately by the gush of salt water. In the dark you see a shape fall from the broken box. Slender and shimmery, almost like scales, but definitely humanoid.

The woman screams softly.

You scramble out of the wreckage of the wagon to get to her and find when you roll her over that she’s half human, and half fish. A mermaid.

She gasps and grasps at your arms. “Water,” she begs.

You look back to the box that contained her but the water’s gone, drained onto the ground like sand.

“I’m sorry,” you say. “I tried.”

But she’s definitely dying as you hold her and you know trying wasn’t enough.

The thunder of hooves fill the air and you bend over her, trying instinctively to protect her from Simon’s men even though she probably can’t hear them over her harsh breathing.

But when you catch movement in the dark, you don’t see the red coats of Simon’s men. You see feathers and long hair, you see high leather boots and ringed hands clutching a variety of swords.

“Chase ‘em off, boys!” shouts one as he brandishes his sword.

“Yours?” you ask the mermaid softly.

Before she can answer, the lead man, no pirate, gestures at you and then back the way they came from. “Get ‘er in the box before she’s gone.”

water-drops-782811-mIt’s then you see a horse with poles running along its sides to drag behind it. On the litter is what looks like a tub, sealed with tar. One of the pirates pulls the lid from the tub and you see the sparkle of water inside.

Relief washes through you and you lift the mermaid over your shoulder, glad for your months of swinging an axe and the muscles you now have.

Within moments of lowering the mermaid into the water, her eyes open, bright green and piercing.

She grabs your arm, “Only trust the one with green feathers.”

The what? You open your mouth to ask but one of the pirates lowers the lid back over her and starts nailing it into place.

The lead pirate swings an arm around your shoulders. “Well done, mate, that was quite the thing you did. Now head back with us and we’ll show you this mermaid’s ability to swim.”

Your job with Simon’s done. He’ll never trust you again. You take in this pirate and blow a feather from his hair away from your face. He’s got a collection of them tied into his braids but the majority are green. Was this what the mermaid meant?

You start walking with them back toward the ocean mostly because you haven’t decided what to do next.

Another man sidles up to you. He’s also got feathers but they’re woven together like a tail down the back of his neck. They alternate between blue and green.

“Take this,” he passes you a small bottle and you slide it up your sleeve before anyone notices. “Before you release the mermaid, make her drink it.” Then he fades back into the group behind you before you can ask him why. The tiny bottle weights heavy in your hand. Whatever’s inside it looks dark and thick. Will it help her or kill her?

The man could be the green-feathered one the mermaid spoke of. But then the captain also has green feathers, so that’s a bit ambiguous.

Do you…

Aa1. Discard the Bottle?

Or

Aa2. Give the Bottle to the Mermaid?

Blessings and see you Thursday,

Jennifer

Smuggler Option A: Open the Cargo

Smuggler Option A: Open the Cargo

You think of Ian and realize you’ll never be able to face him if you let someone die in order to get him passage.

Another long sigh comes from the box and that decides you further. You can’t smuggle something alive.

You slide the tip of your knife in between the lid and the box. It groans as you pry but doesn’t give. You put more of your weight wooden-case-1034497-minto it and your knife starts to bend. Whoever closed the box really didn’t want it opened without a heavy bar. Like whatever’s inside realizes what you’re doing, there come several resounding thuds in rapid succession.

You stumble back and catch yourself on the side of the wagon. The thudding continues, growing to the point that the motion inside the box rattles the boards under your feet.

It stops as suddenly as it began and, in the following silence, there issues a long sigh so light it reminds you of the wind that blew across your face all day.

You lean close and whisper “hello?”

Silence like a long, indrawn breath of surprise and then, “hello.”

A woman? But that doesn’t make any sense. Little specks of water sparkle in the fading light where they escaped the air holes in the lid. From all indications, the box is full of water.

“What are you?” you ask even as a lump forms in your throat at feeling foolish.

A weak chuckle answers. “Smart human. I’m the current in the ocean and the salt in the water’s spray.”

You frown. “Why are you here if you belong in the ocean?”

“Captured for human’s curiosity, but not held for long.”

At this you sit back and take a look around. “Someone’s coming for you?”

“Yes, and they’ll kill whoever holds me.”

This was more than you bargained for when Simon sent you on this trip. You sit next to the box to think.

“I can’t get the box open,” you confess to whoever’s inside and then, on impulse perhaps, you explain about Ian and why you took the job.

By the time you’re done, night fully surrounds you and a chill wind blows across the wagon.

Your companion doesn’t immediately respond but you can hear soft tapping on the wood. You imagine the woman inside drumming her fingers while she thinks.

“Perhaps we can help each other,” she says. “You get me back to the ocean and I’ll get your Ian to you.”

It sounds good and you open your mouth immediately to accept but then you hesitate. How would she get Ian to you? And if you don’t deliver her to Simon, you’ll be out of a job. What then? How will you provide for Ian and yourself without work?

Do you trust in someone you can’t even see? So many questions plague you that, for a moment, you don’t realize someone’s approaching.

ride-through-farytale-forest-1407139-mWhen you do catch the sound of their horses, you look up to see two of Simon’s men riding toward you. You know them because of their bright-red coats. Even in the near dark, they shimmer just a touch.

If they reach you, your decision will be made for you. Simon’s men will make sure you keep moving back toward the shop with the cargo.

“Someone’s coming,” the woman inside the box says. “If you don’t help me, I’ll make sure to hunt you down later.” The words grate harshly but you can’t tell if it’s from desperation or anger.

You climb up onto the seat of the wagon.

Do you…

Aa. Race Away?

Or

Ab. Meet Simon’s Men?

Blessings and see you Tuesday,

Jennifer

Smuggler

It’s time for a new adventure! Let’s get started =)

Smuggler

The work’s not usually difficult and, with your brother, Ian, in mind, you don’t mind putting in the extra hours. The swing of the axe no longer produces an ache in your shoulders and the calluses on your hands keep you from blistering while cleaning.

When it does hurt, you remind yourself of Ian back on the island. You picture the dirt floor he has to sleep on and the rough clothes he has to wear. All the work’s worth it if you can pay for his passage to the mainland soon.

You’re reminding yourself of this as you walk. This new task’s adding blisters to a new part of you… namely your feet. When Simon, your boss, told you to head to the coast to pick up a shipment for him, you welcomed the chance of a few days away. Then he informed you his horse wasn’t available for the trip and your excitement waned a bit.

It disappeared altogether when he filled you in on the details of the shipment.

the-lighthouse-1445739-2-m“You’ll head to the coast and meet Eli at the old lighthouse to the north of the docks,” he said.

The old lighthouse? What was Simon into now?

“Eli will provide the wagon,” he continued. “All you have to do is drive it back, and don’t touch the cargo.” At this point he laid his hands on the counter of his shop and leaned toward you. “You’ll have three days to get the cargo back here after pickup, or the cargo’s ruined.”

“What kind of payment am I getting?” you asked even though you knew it’d make him go red in the face. Eli and the old lighthouse were sending warnings off in your mind.

Simon didn’t, in fact, go red in the face. Instead, he straightened up and flashed a toothy grin. “Arrangements for your brother to join you here.”

Simon knew you’d been working tirelessly to raise the money for Ian’s passage. It was the perfect bait.

The lighthouse’s tall spire materializes ahead when you crest the last small hill. The top of the building gaps like a toothless grin with half the windows broken out. No longer in use, the aging structure suffers the abuse of time and pillage.

wagon-wheel-343204-mEli’s slim form appears once you’re close enough to pick him out against the backdrop of the ocean and sky. Behind him and to his right, the wagon’s end peeks out from behind the lighthouse.

“’Bout time,” he grumbles. “Want this thing done.”

You toss him the payment Simon sent and Eli leaves without another word. You round the lighthouse to look at the wagon. The cargo’s a long box bolted into the open bed. This isn’t so strange, Simon bolts cargo down all the time since he trades in anything he can find, including pottery and fine china. But this box is coated in tar, like the sealing you’d find on the bottom of a ship.

Several small holes poke through the lid, too small to see inside, but definitely big enough for air flow.

You shrug and climb up front. Simon said to not touch the cargo and you plan to follow his instructions exactly.

The wagon tilts over the uneven ground you have to traverse to get back on the road. There’s a soft sloshing from the box, then a long ‘ohhhh’ sound and a pattering like small wings beating against the inside.

Chills run over your skin. Is the cargo talking to you? Is Simon smuggling a person? But no, there’s water inside the box. You can see little bits of it where it’s spattered out the holes in the lid.

You drive on but your ears seem hypersensitive to any sound coming from the bed of the wagon. You stop for the night just as the sun sinks past the horizon.

There’s another pattering sound and you jump. Climbing stiffly down, you round the end of the wagon and put your ear close to the wooden box.

The ‘ohhh’ that comes from it is loud enough to make you jump back several feet.

There’s something alive inside. Simon said after three days the cargo would be ruined. Does that mean dead?

You reach for your bag to pull out your knife, thinking to pry the lid open, but then hesitate. Ian. You open the cargo and Simon won’t pay for Ian’s passage.

Do you…

A. Open the Cargo?

or

Leave It?

Blessings and see you Thursday,

Jennifer

King’s Scepter 2

It’s been awhile since we ran an adventure a second time. Seems about time for it. And this adventure was just too fun not to explore again.

So let’s go get lost and see what we find.

King’s Scepter

cropped-dsc_0557.jpgPerhaps it’s curiosity or maybe just a desire to find new things but whatever the reason, you’re now driving down a dirt, four-wheel drive road in your tiny box of a car.

You were out for a drive to enjoy the changing leaves in all their glorious reds and golds when you spotted this side road leading up to a ridge.

It occurred to you, the ridge would be the perfect place to get a view of the entire valley, which would be spectacular to see. So you took the turn even though the condition of the road begs for a higher clearance than your car has.

You’ve driven such roads before, though. If you drive carefully, it shouldn’t be a problem…or so you tell yourself. The car shudders around you as the washboards in the road attempt to rattle the frame to pieces.

You give an ‘ahhhhh’ that comes out like someone’s pounding on your back just for the fun of it.

Your car doesn’t agree with the beating. You veer left to avoid a large rut, then cut right because of a boulder. Your car emits a grinding screech as something drags across the under carriage.

You make it a little farther before it starts to stutter. Just to be on the safe side, you stop the car and pull the e-brake.

Then you get out to peek underneath. Something that looks like oil is leaking onto the ground.

“Great,” you mutter as you sit back onto your heels to consider your situation.

Something catches your eye through the trees. A flash of light like sunlight on glass. Glass equals something human like another car or a house. Perhaps someone’s there who can help you out.

You pull out your cell phone to make sure but there’s no signal. You haven’t had a signal for most of the drive. Pocketing the phone, you head up the road on foot.

You round the turn ahead to find a cabin with large picture windows, wooden beams the size of trees holding up a covered porch and rockers occupying the entrance.

A vacation cabin perhaps. Maybe someone’s home although you don’t see a car.

You climb the front steps and knock on the door.

Knock, creek.

The door swings open. From where you stand, you see glass shattered on the hardwood floor and drapes pulled from their brackets.

“Hello?” you call.

No answer comes back. Apprehension makes your breath tight.

You could leave. The main road’s a ways back, probably a half a day hike to reach it but you’ve got good shoes on and it’s only noon.

Or you could investigate. Someone might be inside hurt…or someone might be inside stealing things.

Do you…

A.Leave?

Or

B.Investigate?

Kings Scepter Option A: Leave

The place seems still. You figure is there was someone around, they’re long gone now.

Plus, you need to get somewhere so you can call a tow for your car and you don’t feel like going farther inside the cabin to see if there’s a landline. You assume if there is one, it’s probably been cut.

You leave the porch with barely a glance back and head up the road. When you come in sight of your car again, you stop. Glass cabin-in-the-snow-2-950299-mfrom the windows sparkle on the ground like dew on the gravel.

The cabin wasn’t that far up the road, you would think something this destructive would’ve made enough noise for you to notice, but you heard nothing.

Approaching with more caution, you get close enough to peek inside.

There’s a squirrel sitting on the driver’s seat with his front paws up on the steering wheel. He’s making a ‘rrrr vroom vroom’ kind of noise.

Shock keeps you in place long enough for the squirrel to notice you.

“Uh-oh,” he says, “I didn’t do it.”

“Didn’t—“ you clear your throat. Maybe you’ve gone crazy. “Didn’t do it?”

“Nope, nope. Found the car this way. Thought it’dbefuntotestdrive.” He speaks so fast you have to decipher the jumble before you understand.

“Then who did?” you finally ask.

“Don’t knowbutthere’sprints—“

“Slow down!”

“Oh. Paw prints,” he scrambles onto the windowsill and points at the ground below.

Coming around the hood of the car, you spot paw prints as big as a frisbee.

“What’s that big?”

“Smells like cat. Gotta peanut? I smell peanuts too.”

You do a double take at him. This can’t be happening, surely.

But you can’t deny the condition of your car or the fact that Mr. Squirrel is staring at your pocket, where, sure enough, you have a bag of trail mix with peanuts.

Pulling out the bag, you hand him a hand full.

“Awesome!” he exclaims, cramming his cheeks full.

“Why would a cat break into my car?”

He shrugs while he chews. “That cat,” he points at the prints again. “He’s the Law Keeper. So what’d you do?”

“Law Keeper?”

“Yup. What’d you do? Ha?”

“Nothing but break down in the middle of no where,” you grumble.

cougar-on-the-prowl-1253662-mLaw Keeper? Really?

“Let’s go ask him then. Can I drive?”

“Car’s broken, didn’t you hear?”

“Oh, then I’ll lead. Let’s go.”

He takes off after the direction of the prints but scurries back when you don’t immediately follow.

“What’s up?”

“Ask him?” you repeat.

“Yeah,” he says, “or head back to the cabin. As I recall it looks bad too. Maybe the culprit’s there.”

At this point you’re not sure you can head to the main road without always wondering what happened here. You are, after all, talking to a squirrel.

So do you…

Aa. Find the Law Keeper?

Or

Ab. Head Back to the Cabin?

King’s Scepter Option Aa: Find the Law Keeper

You’ve taken a look into the cabin and from the looks of it, there’re no answers in the trashed place.gray-squirrel-on-a-log-1446406-m

“Let’s find this Law Keeper,” you say.

Mr. Squirrel takes off again after the prints. You question for a moment what you’re doing because those are some very large prints but then you look at your poor car and remind yourself you’d like some answers.

So you follow Mr. Squirrel as he scurries along the ground and sometimes through the trees. A few times you almost lose him but he keeps a constant chatter going so even when you can’t see him, you know the general direction to follow.

He stops on a branch. “Maybe he doubled back or he could’ve crossed the rocks which means…” he continues chattering but it’s clear he’s lost the trail.

You stare at him, hopeful he’ll figure it out because, if he doesn’t, you’re back to square one.

“He chatters so much, I could’ve eaten him a dozen times without him seeing me coming.”

You jump and your heart nearly leaves your skin.

Beside you stands a mountain lion with paws the size of frisbees. On his chest is emblazoned a pure white patch that resembles a star.

“Law Keeper?”

“That would be me.”

“We were looking for you.”

“I know. Alfred there,” he’s looking at Mr. Squirrel, “has asked to be a deputy for years. I keep telling him when he can be quiet, I’ll consider it but he just can’t do it. So I know he’s looking for me because he keeps saying it as he’s looking.”

“You broke into my car,” you accuse.

The lion turns gold eyes on you. “I did not. I investigated your car because whoever did break into it also stole the King’s Scepter. Your car reeks of him just as the cabin does.”

“Ha! Found him. Knew you had to be around here somewhere.” Alfred scurries down the tree to stand in front of the mountain lion. He bows. “At your service.”

“I’d refuse but I need assistance on this one,” the lion says. “I’ve found the culprit and he’s not alone.”

“Who is it? Who is it?” Alfred jumps from one foot to another.

The mountain lion eyes Alfred. If you didn’t know better you’d think he was considering eating him but you do know better so he’s probably just questioning if Alfred can stay quiet.

You help the poor squirrel out by handing him some peanuts. He crams his cheeks full and is quiet except for the slight crunching of him chewing.

Photo courtesy of Art Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

Photo courtesy of Art Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

“It’s the pika family,” the lion finally answers.

“Th—“ Alfred tries to exclaim but just sprays bits of peanut. He slaps a paw over his mouth and, if he could blush, he would’ve judging from the way he slumps and looks away.

“Why would they take the scepter and break into my car?” you ask.

“The King’s scepter has many capabilities, one of which is to change a creature’s size. When I spied them, they were attempting to make themselves bigger. At the time they’d managed to change their fur to green but it won’t take them long to figure it out.”

“And my car?”

“They’re mode of escape. If you hadn’t noticed, a few of the family stayed in the undercarriage of your car to fix the leak. I could hear their claws on the mettle when I was there.”

“Their mode of escape? So they’re going to make themselves big and go drive around.”

“They know little beyond our home. They won’t be welcome here, so they assume they’ll find somewhere new to live out there.”

“Great,” you grumble, picturing giant pika’s driving around in your car. “So what do we do?”

“We could lure them out and into a cage with your trail mix. I’d walk right into it if it were me.” Alfred grins, finished with his mouthful of peanuts.

“That’s one option,” the lion admits. “Or we can go in and arrest them. The three of us might be enough to intimidate them into surrendering.”

“Oh, I get to be deputized.” Alfred jumps up and down clapping his paws.

Do you…

Aa1. Lure them out?

Or

Aa2 Arrest them?

King’s Scepter Option Aa2: Arrest the Pika

You watch Alfred the squirrel while you’re trying to decide which option sounds best. He scrambles up a tree and then races back fox-squirrel-1404967-mdown to stand at your feet with his palms out, asking silently for more trail mix.

With just enough to fill his tiny palms, he stuffs the treat into his cheeks and races back up the tree. In seconds, he scampers down to stare at you with his palms out again.

It occurs to you any plan involving trail mix could be a bust simply because Alfred will try to eat it all.

“Let’s go in and arrest them,” you say to the Law Keeper.

The lion huffs a heavy breath in what you think might be approval. “Cabin’s this way,” he says and leads you farther into the trees.

You consider briefly calling to Alfred to let him know you’re leaving but then you see him jumping from one tree to the next in pursuit of the Law Keeper.

“Surprise is out best bet,” the Law Keeper says, “you take the front door and I’ll take the back. Just be sure to say ‘In the name of the King’ when you tell them to freeze.”

Before you can ask any questions, the lion’s gone with barely a sound.

You wait for only a moment before pushing into the cabin. The sight before you makes your stomach roll with unease. There are so many pikas the place seems to crawl with them.

“In the name of the King freeze!” Roars the Law Keeper as he barrels in from the back door.

The entire place goes still and all tiny paws rise into the air. The four pikas on the back of the couch drop the scepter as they move to comply.

You jump for it but the golden rod drops past your fingers to hit the floor. Light like the beam of a spot light shoots from it, hitting the Law Keeper and Alfred, who just rushed in to see what was happening. Both creatures drop to the floor, stunned and then, in the after glow of the light, you loose sight of them for a moment. When you regain focus, you blink in shock.

Alfred sits on his haunches staring at his human sized paws. The Law Keeper pushes up to stand and his head barely reaches the squirrel’s elbow.

The pikas scatter, giving off a sound like all of them are laughing. Several leap onto the scepter and start to drag it across the floor.

You clamp down on the end of it before they get too far and pull it back toward you. Angry hisses come from the tiny fur balls but when you tug at it, they all let go, rather suddenly.

The head of the staff hits the wall and it explodes with light again. Your body tingles like you’ve stepped into a too hot bath tub of water. Blinking furiously, you finally regain focus to see Alfred and the Law Keeper are back to their normal sizes…but what’s that smell?

chocolate-swirl-1158067-mIt reminds you of chocolate and cheerios. Your tongue salivates for the tasty treat. You reach into your pocket to eat some trail mix only to find the bag’s empty. When you look up to scold Alfred for eating it all, you see he and the Law Keeper have most of the pikas in hand.

Perhaps it’s not the best time to distract them but you still really want some trail mix.

Scampering out the door, you head out to see if you can find some more. It’s only after you’ve checked your broken car and headed back to the cabin to check the kitchen that you realize you’re running on four paws and the world’s huge.

When you reach the cabin, you take two seconds to peek in an unbroken window.

Huh, you look like Alfred except, well, maybe you look a little less scattered.

Oh well, you still want trail mix, so you head into the kitchen to see what you can find.

The End

Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,

Jennifer

Emma

Went on a quick vacation last weekend to a lake in Northern Idaho. So beautiful! and, of course, full of potential for writing. Here’s one of the ideas that came to mind from the trip. Hope you enjoy=)

Emma

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExcept for the few feet that sit against the shore, the water of the lake stands frozen, held still by the weight of countless pounds of ice. Light plays over the white expanse of snow that sits like a blanket across the ice. You could almost believe it solid enough for you to walk out into the middle of the lake, almost.

But holes in the otherwise broken expanse warn you it would be a foolish idea to test. It’s spring. There are bound to be soft spots.

One of those holes might have been created by Emma. You shake your head, refusing to believe she’d be stupid enough to run out onto the ice. Surely you would have heard or seen her if she had.

But she’s nowhere in sight. You were just out for a short walk, a chance to get out of the village and break the cabin fever that’s been plaguing everyone.

Five of you left the village, enjoying the warmth of the sun on your backs and the fresh smell in the air created by the melting snow. You ate lunch on the sand of the lake, threw rocks onto the ice like you would to skip them on the water and then, when the sun warned you only a few hours of light remained, you turned for home.

None of you can say when Emma disappeared. She just wasn’t with you when you decided to leave. It almost feels like you lost time somewhere.

The others span the shore, calling for the young girl. Their voices ring in the woods that grow almost all the way up to the water. You listen but there’s nothing except their shouting.

Emma’s high soprano does not answer them. A sick knot of worry sits tight under your ribs.

“Perhaps we should go for help,” suggests Travis as he approaches from the left. His steps leave large divots in the wet sand.

You stare at those marks. Emma’s boots should’ve left similar divots. It’s not like the lake’s quiet tides would’ve washed them away.

Something’s not adding up but you can’t put your finger on exactly what.

“Maybe we should,” you agree.

The other two walk up just in time to hear your words.

“Should what?” Megan asks.

You explain and then, to your horror, they all look at you for a decision. How did you become the unspoken leader?

With more important matters, you don’t ask them.

Taking a look at the too quiet shore and the surrounding forest, you gauge there’s maybe an hour left before dusk takes away your light. The village isn’t far. Maybe a fifteen-minute walk.

Do you…

A. Head for Help?

or

B. Search a bit longer?

Emma Option A: Head for Help

You’ve already looked for about an hour with nothing to show for the effort. A more in depth search would be better conducted with the aid of the other villagers.

“Let’s head back,” you tell everyone.

They agree silently, perhaps feeling the same struggle you are. Leaving without Emma feels wrong. She’s the carefree one, the one that bounces down the street with enthusiasm, but she’s also the one who needs a hand finding the lake even though you visit it weekly during the warmer season. If she’s lost wandering the forest, she probably doesn’t know north from south, much less the way back to the village.

Picture courtesy of Arthur Rousseau

Picture courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti

It feels wrong leaving but you can’t think of a better option. Your feet trudge down the snowy, muddy trail back toward the village.

No one says a word, lost in his or her own thoughts or still looking around in hopes of spotting your lost companion as the light slowly fades.

Megan screeches at the back of the line and you spin just in time to see her booted feet disappear into the heavy pine branches above.

Travis jumps, trying to catch her ankles, but all he gets is needles in the face as whatever grabbed Megan cracks several large branches off the trees with its passage.

You stand in stunned silence.

“Any…anyone see what happened?” you ask, pulling it together.

Travis and Cooper shake their heads, still staring up into the treetops.

A small trickle of blood runs down Travis’ temple from where a branch smacked him.

“Then let’s run,” you say. Whatever grabbed Megan had to have been big and the three of you may not be able to fight it on your own. You desperately want the protection of the village.

You reach the village puffing for breath and immediately head for the tavern. It’s where half the village men stop before heading home for the night.

Bursting through the doors, all eyes swing your way but you’re breathing too hard to explain.

Travis blurts everything out instead. At first, everyone stares at him but then the room breaks out in a commotion as Emma’s father pushes toward the door.

You’re so focused on Emma’s father and the bright red tint to his face that you don’t see old Kevin until he taps you on the shoulder.

You look over and down to meet his light eyes. He stands no taller than your shoulder, so hunched that his already diminutive stature is gnarled like an old tree.

“Megan disappeared into the tree tops?” He whistles the question through his teeth.

You nod.

“Hmmm,” he scratches his stomach and nods. “Sounds like the Roc. It’d have chicks this time of year.”

“What?” Cooper leans over your shoulder to hear. Old Kevin’s considered kind of insane but after everything you just saw, you don’t want to discount anything off hand.

“The Roc,” Kevin whistles, “a gigantic bird that hides up in the mountains. Think it got lost and never found its way back to the east. Young Emma would be a perfect snack for its young.”

“You’ve seen this bird?” Travis asks, his brows low in a deep frown. Oddly enough, the three of you are the only ones listening to the old man. The others in the tavern are all talking, setting up a regular search party.

“Ah, yes, I’ve seen it. Even know where it lives.”

You all look at each other.

The rest of the villagers will never follow old Kevin. He has proven in the past to be rather cracked.

As before, Travis and Cooper look to you for direction. You stomach clenches.

Do you…

Aa. Follow Kevin?

Or

Ab. Join the Search Party?

Emma Option Aa: Follow Kevin

The village men seem to have a large enough search party without you joining them. You look to Kevin and say, “show us this bird.”

He grins and whistles delightedly through his teeth.

Before heading back into the forest, you grab several lanterns from the tavern keeper. He hands you a few knives as well. Just in case, he says, you actually find Kevin’s bird.

The knives make your stomach roll. What if Kevin’s right?saber-knife-1067468-m

But you put a confident face on for Travis and Cooper because they keep looking at you like they’re dubious about the whole situation. Their looks mimic your own doubts perfectly.

The slushy snow on the trail’s turned to ice now that the sun’s set. It crunches under your steps, echoing hollowly in the quiet.

Up ahead, you hear the searchers calling Emma’s name but before you reach the lake, Kevin leads you down a trail that heads up into the canyon. It’s not an area you visit often, particularly when there’s snow, because the canyon walls are perfectly slanted for avalanches.

But it’s almost spring and you hope the snow’s melted enough not to be a problem.

Kevin starts to whistle softly ahead of you. In the lantern light, his hunched form looks almost trollish. His shadow swings with the lantern’s motion, distorted even more than his twisted form by the trees and uneven ground the shadow passes over.

You hold in a shiver and glance back at the other two to reassure yourself.

“Won’t the Roc hear you whistling?” you ask as the sound starts to grate on your nerves.

“Oh, it hears all sorts of things. The other’s hollering, our steps in the snow. Won’t make a lick of difference if it hears me whistling.” Then he cackles under his breath like he made a joke.

But thankfully he stops whistling. Not long after, though, he starts humming, then kind of skipping down the trail.

“Emma and Megan are lost. What are you doing?” Travis finally speaks up.

Kevin just keeps on skipping. Travis growls behind you but doesn’t ask again.

Eventually, Kevin stops and points up toward a ledge on the canyon wall to your right.

“There,” he says, “the ledge recesses into the wall making a shallow cave. The Roc likes it for its nest.”
“How many chicks does it usually have?” you ask.

Kevin shrugs. “Couple, maybe. Don’t know.”

That’s helpful. Travis gives the man a dark glare.

“Well, let’s go.” You say.

Kevin doesn’t move. “My legs don’t work well enough to get up there.” He says.

You frown. “Then how do you know about the nest?”

“Climbed it once in nice weather. About cracked my noggin when I tumbled back down to the trail. Tricky business.” He skips in place and starts whistling again.

“Hush,” Cooper says before Travis can yell at the man. “Let’s not warn it we’re here if we can help it.”

Kevin stops the sound but keeps bouncing on his toes.

lantern-1165222-mYou give Travis a knife and keep one for yourself. Then you look Kevin in the eye as you hand him your lantern. “Stay here.”

He nods. “Of course.”

The climb’s slick with half frozen ground but thankfully there isn’t enough snow for an avalanche.

A screech ricochets off the canyon walls. Your ears ring in the silence afterwards and, when you glance over your shoulder, you spot a dark shape so large it blacks out the full moon’s light.

Above you, on the ledge, comes several answering screeches. They’re not as loud but there’s an insistence to them that reminds you of hungry children.

Then, just barely audible under the ringing in your ears, you catch a familiar voice.

“Help!” screams Emma.

You’re about to bolt up the hill to get to her when Cooper shouts behind you.

He’s holding Travis’ feet as the Roc tries to pick the boy off the hillside. The bird’s wings beat at you with their wind.

A cackling fills the air. “Feed my pretties!” Kevin cackles below. The lantern he’s holding bounces like he’s skipping again.

“Help!” Emma’s voice barely reaches you over the chicks screeching.

Do you…

Aa1: Help Emma?

or

Aa2: Help Cooper?

Emma Option Aa2: Help Cooper

Before your eyes Cooper’s feet leave the ground as he continues to hold onto Travis. He kicks wildly, making the giant Roc waver in its attempt to fly upward.

You hesitate only for a second before sliding back down the hill to reach him before the Roc lifts too far into the air for you to help.

In your mind all you can picture is Travis’ attempt to grab Megan before she disappeared into the treetops.

Your feet slide out from under you on the slick ground and you end up tumbling past Cooper instead of stopping in time to catch his feet.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots. his feet.

Throwing your arms out, you manage to stop, but end up loosing your grip on the knife in the process. It clatters down the hill and disappears into the darkness.

You wonder briefly where Kevin got to but, considering he led you here to be eaten, you push the thought aside, glad his bad legs keep him from climbing the hillside to help the Roc.

Scrambling back up to where Cooper’s still kicking wildly, you jump to catch his legs.

The added weight brings your feet back to the ground briefly. It’s enough for you to wrap your legs around the bare trunk of a tamarack.

Your legs scream in protest as the Roc regains the rhythmic beating of its wings. The buffet of wind from its movement brings water to your eyes but, even without clear sight, you see Cooper’s losing his grip on Travis’ ankles.

“Hold tight!” you encourage at the same time as you pull with all your might.

The Roc screeches and the tamarack bows and then cracks.

You pull again, hoping the dead tree will hold on a bit longer.

broken-tree-1022052-mIt snaps just as the Roc’s claws lose their hold on Travis’ shoulders.

Everyone tumbles to the ground. The boys roll head over heels down the hillside but your leg is pinned beneath the fallen tamarack. When the Roc circles and dives back to retrieve its prey, you’re the only one there for it to attack.

You scramble against the ground, trying to free yourself, but all you manage is to bloody your hands on the cold ground.

The giant bird grasps your torso in her claws and lifts into the air with ease, making the tree slide painfully off your leg.

You flail against her grip and below you, you hear the shouts of Travis and Cooper. When you look down, though, all you see are tiny dots on the ground. Only Cooper’s bright hair tells you which one’s which.

There’s a third figure down there too. It seems to bounce down the trail back toward the lake. You feel a small amount of satisfaction as you realize Kevin’s headed straight into the other search party.

***

You are never seen by the villagers again. They tell stories about how you drove the Roc away, saving your companions and, some of the more optimistic tales say, you wander the hills, keeping the bird from snatching more people but these tales are always accompanied by saddened smiles.

Your legend lives on, though, becoming larger and more extravagant with each telling until, eventually, you become known as the Roc Fighter who saved the whole village.

The End

Blessings and thanks for joining in the adventure!

Jennifer