Beauty Chapter Three Part Two

Welcome back for the finish to Beauty Chapter Three. Thank you to everyone who has given me feedback. If you’ve missed the previous posts in this story, please find the cliff notes versions below=)

Cliff Notes Ch. 1: Lila Dean’s a young girl who lost her mother in a fire and was horribly scarred, both physically and mentally, as a result. Now people just don’t look at her, so when a stranger approaches and asks her to steal the Roy’s ruby to help him save his daughter, she takes the chance to do something good.

But Billy Roy catches her in the theft. To her surprise, he doesn’t stop her, instead he trusts she’s doing it for a good reason. So when Lila Dean goes to give the ruby to the stranger, Michael, she questions his story and it falls apart. She realizes she’s been taken for a fool and runs away. Now she’s determined to return the ruby and make things right.

Cliff Notes Ch. 2: When Lila Dean tries to return the ruby, she arrives to find the town burning and the people taken captive. With the help of her father’s friend, Sheldon Lea, she helps her father and the Roy’s escape but must give up the ruby to the soldiers in the process. (If you’d like to read these in full, they can be found here: Chapter One and Chapter Two.)

Beginning of Ch. 3: Lila Dean and Billy Roy are watching the town when they realize the soldiers are going to bury the mine with everyone in it. They return to their parents for help but can’t convince them because their parent’s believe the soldiers need the wealth from the mine. So Lila Dean and Billy Roy have headed into the mine by an unstable back entrance in hopes of saving the town’s folk.

Now for the rest. Enjoy=)

Beauty Chapter Three Part Two

She headed forward only to look back to find Roy not moving.

“Roy!”

He started. “Right.”

They kept going for another few minutes before other sounds started to reach them. Crying. Lila Dean picked up on the sobs.

“That’s Mary Mae,” she said.

“What?”

“She hiccups when she cries.”

Roy raised brow. Lila Dean shrugged. What else was she supposed to do when she couldn’t play with the others?

In the light of their lanterns, eyes reflected back, then groups of huddled people tied together.

Billy Roy rushed forward to release the first two miners. Lila Dean moved to the next ones.

Surprise lit their eyes, and then they looked away while she cut their cords. She paused. Still they wouldn’t look at her?

Biting her tongue, she cut their feet free. Her hands shook as she moved on to the next person but whether it was nervousness or fury, she couldn’t tell beyond the flush coloring her face.

Ungrateful. Stu-

“Men!” One miner called out. He was free of his ropes and stood at the edge of the lantern light. Lila Dean recognized him as a shift

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

supervisor but she couldn’t recall his name.

“Escape tunnel. Let’s go.”

Lila Dean froze.

“Wait. It’s not safe. Use the back entrance,” Roy called over the general noise.

The man scanned everyone but couldn’t place who’d spoken.

“Back entrance is unstable. Escape tunnel’s safer.” He called, and took off, leading ten or so people behind him.

“No!”

Lila Dean’s shout mixed with Roy’s but the word was lost as those still tied up yelled at those leaving ahead of them.

A touch to the back of her hand pulled Lila Dean’s attention back to the person in front of her. She’d stopped looking at them, just cutting ropes and moving on.

Her eyes met those of Mary Mae. The girl pulled her hand back like she’d been stung.

Lila Dean sliced her feet free and moved on.

“Thank you,” Mary Mae hiccupped.

Lila Dean’s heart skipped. Her throat tightened as she looked back at the girl. Mary Mae was beautiful. She was that girl, the one all the boys had eyes for.

At the moment her blue eyes were lined with red, her cheeks puffy from crying and her hair mussed, sticking up on one side.

She was still beautiful but the mess transformed her into someone approachable.

Lila Dean gave her a nod and pointed to where Billy Roy was explaining to the next miner about the back entrance. Mary Mae smiled, her lips quivering, and moved to join him.

Lila Dean moved down the line of people, her thoughts on those first ten that were now walking straight into the soldier’s explosion.

Her skin pricked, waiting for the concussion to the air of the first charges going off. She’d never been in the mine when explosives were being used and she didn’t want to be now.

Roy went back to cutting people free as the miner took over explaining the escape route to everyone. Lila Dean sighed relief. It was good Roy was with her because she doubted anyone would have listened if she’d tried to explain herself.

What had Roy told them about the escape tunnel? She couldn’t hear the miner’s words but whatever he was saying, no one was arguing.

They only had the two lanterns, so the miners formed groups to lead the town’s people by touch. They instructed the people to hold hands in a line with one miner in front, one in back and then the front man would lead them with his free hand on the left wall.

Lila Dean cut the last person free, marveling at the miner’s courage. The system wasn’t fast but it got everyone moving.

“We’ll take the last group,” Roy informed the miner directing everyone. He nodded and headed out.

Lila Dean joined the last group, wanting to yell at them when they glanced at her and then pointedly looked away.

“They won’t follow me,” she told Roy. She handed him his lantern and moved to the back with her own.

The woman in front of her hesitated to offer her hand. Lila Dean grabbed her right hand with her left, unscarred one.

“I’m not catching,” she muttered. Instead of hearing the woman’s answer, her ears rang and the ground jerked beneath her feet.

“Run!” Roy pulled them forward.

Lila Dean stumbled over rocks and the ground shook again but every one was stumbling, so she doggedly kept on.

They took the tunnel to the back entrance and the walls became less formed. Dirt rained on their heads.

There was a crack and the beam ahead sagged in the middle. They ducked it. Another crack and a whoosh of air and dust caught at Lila Dean’s back as the beam gave behind them. Light appeared ahead through the dust and dirt. They raced from tunnel to open daylight as another explosion shook the ground.

The woman dropped Lila Dean’s hand and turned away.

Roy led them away from the mine, catching up with several other groups along the way.

Lila Dean trailed behind. Their rejection burned at her throat. Before she’d always expected it but somehow she’d thought saving them would earn her some notice, some respect. It made it all the worse instead.

Lila Dean leaned against a tree as her tears escaped. Not even saving them made her acceptable.

I never will be.

“Help!”

Lila Dean’s head pivoted. The cry was faint but then it came again and she was sure she wasn’t mistaken.

Following the sound, she came into view of the escape tunnel—or what was left of it.

“Help!”

She crept closer, bracing herself for blood or amputation or-

Rubble filled the tunnel’s entrance and from it protruded Marcus Roy’s head and torso. His legs disappeared into the mass of rock.

“I heard people down there,” he said, “but the charges blew before I made it to them. The soldiers knew about this tunnel. How could they…” He rambled on, pushing feebly at the rocks on top of him.

Lila Dean didn’t answer. She let him ramble as she pulled rocks away from him.

The other people couldn’t have survived. But Marcus Roy had tried to help even after he’d argued with his son. Lila Dean’s mind rolled almost as much as her stomach.

“Mr. Roy, I need you to push up on this one,” she interrupted him.

His words stopped and he really looked at her.

“Why are you helping?”

Lila Dean frowned. “Push up.” She repeated instead of answering. Did he really think she’d leave him half buried? Did scars somehow make her a monster inside too?

He pushed as she levered under the rock with a stick. It finally rolled free, revealing a broken leg but miraculously nothing worse.

“I think Doc made it,” she said. “Let’s get you to camp.”

Lila Dean settled his arm over her shoulders and groaned as she took his weight to help him stand. He screamed when his broken leg dragged across the ground.

“Why are you helping me?” he repeated through gritted teeth.

It was going to be a long walk back to camp but Lila Dean didn’t know how to answer. She was saved from having to by several men who found them.

“Heard your scream,” one explained as they took over carrying Marcus Roy. He kept his eyes on Lila Dean like he was demanding an answer. When he passed out from pain a few minutes later, she felt a sense of relief she never thought possible when she’d always wanted to be seen.

Lila Dean followed them back to camp where everyone was following Sheldon Lea’s direction. They were moving farther from the town to avoid the soldiers.

She couldn’t place her father among the chaos. Roy passed with the Doc close at his heels. His eyes slid past her like she wasn’t there. She snapped her mouth closed on her question. She’d been about to ask if he’d seen her father.

He’s just worried about his own.

Her heart didn’t believe it.

***

Moving camp took most of the day with so many people.

Lila Dean huddled against a tree in the dark, listening to people settle behind her.

“How’d they get the ruby?”

Lila Dean cringed, not for the first time. Someone saw the soldiers with the ruby and now the question was going around. The soldiers had been intending to work the mine but with the appearance of the ruby, they’d had enough to buy whatever it was they needed so they changed tactics and buried it instead.

A total of thirteen people were caught in the escape tunnel when it blew. Thirteen dead because of her. Why Billy Roy kept quiet she couldn’t say. She was the monster Marcus Roy expected.

“What now?”

Lila Dean shifted. It was Andre Mel sitting with Billy Roy and Mary Mae. They’d set up their sleeping pads, a collection of long grass collected from the area, off to her left. They hadn’t noticed she sat so close but it wouldn’t have mattered if they had. They’d pointedly ignored her all day, even Billy Roy.

Never acceptable.

“Don’t know,” Billy Roy admitted.

“Was saving us really her idea?” Mary Mae’s soft voice asked a moment later.

Lila Dean’s chest ached. Why would she care.

“She would’ve tried even if I didn’t help her,” Billy Roy answered.

“Perhaps we’re wrong about her.”

Andre Mel snorted. “Right, because her father would lie.”

No one responded and Lila Dean huddled closer to the tree, glad they couldn’t see her.

What now indeed. What did Andre Mel mean? None of it made sense but after being seen, after interacting normally with Roy, she wasn’t sure she could go back to how it was before.

Something touched her cheek and Lila Dean brushed it away. Her fingers came away smudged black. Ash. The wind had changed. Tilting her head back, Lila Dean watched it rain ash in fine flakes. She never could get away from the fire, it seemed.

The End

Blessings,

Jennifer

Beauty Chapter Three

Some stories have a will of their own and continue to write themselves in your head even when you’re trying to move onto something else. Well, at least that happens to me sometimes=)

That’s what happened with this story. Although I meant to let it sit for a bit, it continued to run through my head, so hopefully readers don’t mind a new installment with Lila Dean.

For those who may not have read the first two chapters, here’s a brief summary:

Cliff Notes Ch. 1: Lila Dean’s a young girl who lost her mother in a fire and was horribly scarred, both physically and mentally, as a result. Now people just don’t look at her, so when a stranger approaches and asks her to steal the Roy’s ruby to help him save his daughter, she takes the chance to do something good.

But Billy Roy catches her in the theft. To her surprise, he doesn’t stop her, instead he trusts she’s doing it for a good reason. So when Lila Dean goes to give the ruby to the stranger, Michael, she questions his story and it falls apart. She realizes she’s been taken for a fool and runs away. Now she’s determined to return the ruby and make things right.

Cliff Notes Ch. 2: When Lila Dean tries to return the ruby, she arrives to find the town burning and the people taken captive. With the help of her father’s friend, Sheldon Lea, she helps her father and the Roy’s escape but must give up the ruby to the soldiers in the process. (If you’d like to read these in full, they can be found here: Chapter One and Chapter Two.)

Now on to Chapter Three. I hope you enjoy=)

Chapter Three

The soldiers started the fire but couldn’t contain it. They didn’t care as long as the flames moved eastward with the wind.

Lila Dean’s eyes burned with unshed tears. She wanted to yell, scream a warning to the villages in the fire’s path but she could do nothing but watch the orange glow from the ridgeline above town.

Over the angry orange and red hung a black so thick it blotted out any definition of the horizon, which should be glowing with the sunrise but wasn’t. Lila Dean shuddered and looked away from the mass of smoke.

Below her in the town, the soldiers were moving the town’s folk toward the mine in a single file line.

Sheldon Lea had been right, the soldiers were going to use the miners to keep the mine running and would take anything of worth that came from it. What they needed the wealth for she couldn’t guess. Didn’t want to guess.

Michael’s mention of war turned her insides like she needed to hurl.

“What’s happening?”

Lila Dean jerked. She hadn’t heard Billy Roy’s approach.

He settled on his stomach beside her and lifted Sheldon Lea’s looking glass to his eye.

Lila Dean looked away. She hadn’t been bold enough to ask to borrow the glass. Especially since the old spinster refused to look at her again.

But Billy Roy was the golden child. He probably didn’t even hesitate.

She stole a glance at him while he still looked below. His brown hair moved with the wind but everything else about him was still.

As he lowered the glass, she turned away, he’d settled on her right, her scarred side.

“They don’t have tools,” he muttered.

Lila Dean lifted her head. Without the glass, she hadn’t picked up on that small detail. She held out her hand and Billy Roy passed it over.

He was right. The tools lay lined up next to the mine’s entrance but the miners were not picking them up as they entered.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

“Why take everyone below without tools?” she asked.

Billy Roy shook his head.

Lila Dean panned out to view not just the mine but the camp and it’s cages below. There seemed to be fewer soldiers than the night before.

Those that were present carried boxes up toward the mine. Focusing in on the open boxes, Lila Dean’s stomach clenched so hard he fought bile in her throat.

“Explosives,” she backed away form the ridge, tearing into her arms.

“Dean?” Billy Roy followed, confusion pulling his dark brows together.

“Explosives, Roy!” she called over her shoulder, “they aren’t going to work the mine, they’re going to bury it.”

Billy Roy caught up to her and grasped her hand to pull her along faster. Lila Dean stretched her legs as far as she could to keep up but the burn in her scars made her stumble. She pulled her hand away.

“Go, I’ll catch up at camp.”

He nodded and soon disappeared between the trees. Lila Dean braced against her knees, gasping air.

What could they do?

Her heart beat against her ribs, both in fright and from exertion. She was coming to think more exercise would do her well even if the other kids never let her play.

If they ever played again.

Lila Dean fought to control her breath. When it was bearable, she took off at a run again and found herself heaving within seconds. When she finally reached the camp, she was puffing like a black smith’s billows.

“They won’t bury the mine.”

She sucked in air and held it. Had Sheldon Lea just contradicted them?

“They need the wealth from it. It’s basic strategy,” Sheldon Lea continued, not even acknowledging Lila Dean’s arrival. She let out her breath. It was supposed to be quiet but the air whistled through her throat. It prevented her from voicing her objection before Billy Roy spoke up.

“They’ve got explosives and they aren’t taking tools in!”

“I’ll take a look.” Her father held out his hand for the glass Billy Roy borrowed.

Lila Dean pulled it from her pocket.

“Here,” she said.

Her father took the glass as he passed her. No eye contact, no touch.

Lila Dean grabbed his arm. “It’ll take too long,” she said.

He still refused to turn his head. A muscle twitched in the corner of his jaw.

Lila Dean let go feeling as if her fingers burned. Tears threatened as Sheldon Lea followed her father into the trees.

She couldn’t let them see. Turning away from the Roys, Lila Dean blinked furiously. Now was not the time. Swiping the back of her hands across her eyes, she felt childish for still caring.

“She’s right,” Billy Roy said behind her, “we don’t have much time.”

Lila Dean gathered her skinning knife while she listened to them.

“They won’t bury the mine,” Marcus Roy repeated Sheldon Lea like a puppet.

“They will,” Billy Roy insisted. “They don’t need the money now.”

“Why not?”

“Doesn’t matter. They don’t need the mine.”

Billy Roy stood close to his father in height and with them toe to toe at the moment, Lila Dean couldn’t help but feel they were mirror images.

Lila Dean started from the clearing. There was no time for this debate either.

“Miss Dean.”

Her heart stuttered. Why did her father’s friends find it okay to acknowledge her when he wasn’t around? She considered walking away but the part of her mother she remembered wouldn’t allow it.

“Mr. Roy,” she responded and looked back at him over her shoulder, giving him full view of her scars if he chose to make eye contact.

He did. He had eyes like Billy’s but fringed with more lines and a shade lighter.

“Your father would never forgive me for letting you get captured. “

He was serious.

“My father doesn’t even know the color of my eyes.” She responded before walking away. The feeling of their eyes on her back made her skin itch.

“Billy!”

He caught up to her with his own knife hanging from his belt. It was all they had in way of weapons.

“We better hurry,” Billy Roy grasped her hand to pull her along but this time he didn’t push her to falling.

Behind them his father’s shouting still echoed in the trees.

“Why didn’t he stop you?” she asked. She’d never known Marcus Roy to be docile.

“Can’t catch me,” Billy Roy shrugged. “Old mine injury left him with a bad knee.”

Lila Dean didn’t ask more. She was puffing again and couldn’t get words past her dry throat.

“All right,” Billy Roy dropped her hand and turned to face her, “what’s your plan?”

“Back entrance—“

He twitched.

“I know it’s unstable but the soldiers won’t know—“

“The escape tunnel’s safer.”

Lila Dean was already shaking her head.

“Michael knows about it.”

“Michael?”

She glanced at Billy Roy’s throat where the knife had cut his skin. The wound was covered by his collar now but Billy Roy caught the hint. He touched his neck.

“Back entrance then.”

Unlike the escape tunnel, Lila Dean had never been to the back entrance. It was the mine’s original opening but when it became obvious the tunnel couldn’t be made stable, it’d been abandoned for another way.

Billy Roy didn’t hesitate in heading straight to it, though. Lila Dean thought about asking him about it but let it go.

“It’s a ways down before this meets up with the main shaft,” Billy Roy said.

Just inside the entrance they found several lanterns. It was the miners way to leave things behind but even still, the existence of the lanterns make Lila Dean glance around every so often just in case someone was following.

“An explosion might collapse this entire tunnel,” Billy Roy said ahead of her.

“We’ll have to move fast,” Lila Dean shrugged. She couldn’t think of another way and apparently neither could he because he didn’t voice any other options.

“Shutter your lantern.”

Lila Dean complied and they were plunged into darkness. With the lack of sight came the hyper aware hearing she always associated with miners.

The walls echoed with the scrape of hard boot soles on stone. Words like whispers mixed in, too faint to understand.

Lila Dean jerked as Billy Roy found her arm. Thankfully it didn’t make any noise.

“Soldiers,” he whispered. The word fanned his breath across her ear.

“You’re sure?”

“Different boots.”

Lila Dean accepted that. Billy Roy had been down here with his father a few times. He’d know better than she.

They waited. Lila Dean’s body hummed like a bowstring pulled tight. Billy Roy kept his hand on her arm and she clung to the contact to stay still. Her skin barely registered the touch. It was just pressure on her scars, but it was contact and he wasn’t shying away from what must feel very warped to his fingers.

She could hug him for not noticing, not pulling away.

“There they go,” Billy Roy released her arm.

Lila Dean strained to hear what he did and then she caught it, the movement ahead was fading.

“This way,” Roy’s voice drifted to her, pulling her back to their need to hurry.

She un-shuttered her lantern and rushed to catch up and had to side step to keep from running into him when he stopped suddenly.

“Fuse line,” he said, holding his lantern higher to show the lines bundled together at his feet.

“They are buying the mine.” Up till that point Lila Dean hoped Sheldon Lea was right.

“The ruby bought their deaths,” Roy sounded sick.

“Maybe not,” Lila Dean crouched and cut the lines, throwing the first half back up the tunnel to keep sparks from catching the second half.

She headed forward only to look back to find Roy not moving.

“Roy!”

He started. “Right.”

They kept going…

To Be Finished on Thursday

Blessings,

Jennifer

King’s Scepter Option Bb2: Help

Welcome to the end of the adventure. Read on to find out if you can overcome the pika horde!

King’s Scepter Option Bb2: Help

There are so many pikas that they’re overrunning the poor mountain lion. You’d guess from the blazed white star in the fur on his chest, that the cat is the Law Keeper Francis mentioned earlier.

Francis!

You look around but in the confusion, you can’t locate the pea-sized marmot anymore.

But you can help the mountain lion, which may in turn help the marmot.

Pulling the rest of the ropes off your arms and legs, you scramble to your feet and grab several pikas that rush past your feet. With one in each hand, you toss them into the cage.

Their cries of surprise catch a few others attention and before you know it, the little creatures are swarming over you as much as they are the mountain lion. You’re tossing pikas into the cage as fast as you can move but it’s just not enough and pretty soon their weight starts to bear you toward the ground again.

They see you’re struggling and start using the ropes to hasten the process. A glance toward the lion confirms he’s in no better shape.

You’re almost immobile when a strange sound catches everyone’s attention. The pikas freeze in confusion.

You frown, trying to place the music.

“He’s not due back!” shouts one pika.

“But that’s his tune. He’ll shrink us to ants when he finds out.”

Several pikas squeak in fright.

“Retreat!”

As suddenly as they all appeared, the pikas disappear into the trees and are gone.

The music cuts off just as suddenly and there’s a beep. You finally realize what you were hearing, your ring tone, muffled in your pocket.

Pulling free of the ropes, you pull your phone out and see you’ve got a message from a friend.

The lion’s eyeing you, so you hold the phone up in explanation.

“Phone call,” you say.

What you’d guess is a grin breaks out across the lion’s face and then he’s roaring with laughter.

While he’s laughing, you try to listen to your message. It won’t ring. When you glance at the screen, you see you only have one bar of service.

“Release me from the ropes?” the lion asks, still hiccupping with laughter.

You get up to comply and ask as you free him. “Why’d the pika’s run?”

“Your ring tone, human. It’s the same as the King’s. They thought he was returning.”

You give a silent ‘ah’ and pull the last of the ropes from the lion’s paws.

He sighs in relief as he gets up. “You probably do want to see the King,” he says.

“Why?” All you really want is to go home.

“You’re kind of purple.”

Remembering the lead pika’s shout “not purple! Smaller!” you realize what he was talking about. Upon close inspection of your arm, you see all of your hair, even the little one’s on your arm, are purple.

“Great,” you grumble.

***

Thankfully the pikas, in their rush to leave, left the scepter that turned you purple behind. The Law Keeper introduces you to the King when he does return and he changes your purple hair back to normal, then he offers you a job as the lion’s deputy.

When everything is sorted out, it’s found out that the pikas hoped to make themselves human sized with the King’s scepter. They ransacked the cabin to find it and tried to shrink you and the marmot to keep you from saying anything.

The King punishes them, not by making them ant sized, but by banishing them to the higher altitudes. Every once in a while you hike the mountains above tree line just to keep an eye on them.

The End

Thanks for participating in the adventure this week! I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Blessings,

Jennifer

King’s Scepter Option Bb: Detective Pika

Today brings you the third post in the adventure! So far you’ve damaged your car on a four-wheel drive road and found a ransacked cabin while you were trying to find help. Searching the cabin, you ran into a marmot who’s supposed to be the groundskeeper. Readers have voted to help the marmot find the Detective Pika to figure out what happened at the cabin.

Let’s see what happens next! Be sure to vote at the end and stop by Thursday to see how the adventure finishes=)

King’s Scepter Option Bb: Detective Pika

“All right,” you say, “let’s go find this Detective Pika.”

You’ve always heard mountain lions are quite dangerous and would prefer not to deal with one even if it is a Law Keeper.

“Francis is my name,” the marmot says as he heads up the trail still picking up bits of paper.

“Who would litter the trail like this?” you ask.

“A rodent,” Francis’ shoulders slump. “It’s habit to take such things for a nest.”

“Wouldn’t that indicate a rodent ransacked the cabin?”

“Maybe, or it came through afterward and just made a bigger mess of things.”

You give a noise of acknowledgment but don’t ask more as Francis seems almost in tears. His paws are so full of paper products that you finally take pity and take them from him, stuffing it all in your pockets. At least it’s all clean except for some dirt.

“Well, this is odd,” says Francis.

“What?”

“That’s the pika’s home,” he points to several holes in between a pile of rocks. You’re just below the ridgeline. “But no one’s home. Someone’s always home.”

“That’s because I have them all searching for the culprit!”

You spin to find a small fluff ball with round ears.

Photo courtesy of Art Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

Photo courtesy of Art Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

“Detective Pika!” Exclaims Francis. “Someone’s ransacked the King’s cabin. It’s horrible.”

“Yes, yes. I know. Shall we go investigate?”

“Oh, of course.” Francis joins the Detective heading back down the trail toward the cabin. You feel a bit like you’re going in a circle but you shrug and follow the two rodents.

“What’ve you observed?” Detective Pika asks as you walk.

Francis explains the mess of paper products and the likelihood of it being a rodent and the detective nods gravely.

When you come in sight of the cabin again, you pause. There are pikas crawling all over the place.

“Pulled out the family in force for this one,” says the detective. “Can’t be too stingy when it’s the King’s place.”

You trail behind as the Detective leads Francis into the cabin where even more pikas are crawling about.

There’s a flash of light. You blink furiously and see poor Francis is the size of a pea. The Detective picks him up as he squirms.

“Now the human,” he says.

You duck back out the door only to pull up short as a bunch of pikas swarm over you. Their sheer numbers bear you to the ground.

You struggle until they get ropes around your limbs and tie you down. Considering their size, this is accomplished with an amazing amount of efficiency.

“Sorry for this,” Detective Pika appears in your line of sight, “but you know too much.”

“Where’s Francis?” you ask.

The pika holds out his paw. On it sits the poor, pea-sized marmot. He looks to be yelling but you can’t hear him.

“You’re going to shrink me to pea size too?” you ask.

“Yes. It might take a couple tries,” he shrugs and there’s a flash of light. You don’t even see it coming.

Your hair stands on end like you’ve been struck by lightening. When you can see again though, you’re still human sized.

“Smaller!” Yells the detective. “Not purple! Smaller!”

The blast seems to have phased the other pikas. With a jerk, you snap several of the ropes and pull yourself free as you hear a commotion behind you.

It’s a mountain lion. He’s grabbing pikas and tossing them into a cage but there are so many of them that they’re swarming over him.

Do you…

Bb1. Run?

Or

Bb2. Help?

Blessings,

Jennifer

(Please post a comment with your choice. One vote per post please but comment as much as you like=) Voting will end at 6pm Pacific Time Wednesday. I’ll post whichever option gets the most votes Thursday and we’ll see how the adventure ends!)

King’s Scepter Option B: Investigate

Welcome back for the second post in the adventure! So far readers have chosen to investigate the ransacked cabin they found after damaging their car on a four-wheel drive road.

Let’s see if someone’s inside the cabin=)

King’s Scepter Option B: Investigate

The possibility someone might be hurt convinces you to go inside.

Pushing the door open a little farther, you give the place a good look before stepping in. The couches spill their insides all over the floor from where someone took a knife to them. Pieces of ceramic litter the floor in brightly colored fractures. Whoever trashed the place wasn’t concerned with making a mess.

Thankfully, as you move through the bedroom, laundry, and then the back mudroom, there’s no one present, hurt or otherwise.

There is, however, a trail of paper towels and toilet paper leading out the open back door.

You push it open enough for a thorough look around. There’s a small pond with benches on either side and a path around it. That same path splits off into the forest on the other side. It appears to head up to the ridge you were hoping to reach in the first place.

Bits of paper product litter that trail like breadcrumbs.

You step out of the cabin to follow it a ways while keeping a very cautious eye around for movement.

Nothing moves all the way until you reach the trees. You’re about to turn back when there’s movement. You spin to look and a marmot runs into your ankles.

“Owe!” you cry just as the creature squeals “owe!”

Photo courtesy of Art Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

Photo courtesy of Art Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

You stare at each other and then the marmot starts backing up very slowly muttering, “you didn’t see me. You didn’t see me.”

“I definitely see you,” you say.

The marmot slumps with a “man, I’m dead. They’re gonna kill me.”

“Who?”

He eyes you and then asks, “you couldn’t pretend you never saw me?”

“Not a chance. Did you ransack the cabin?”

“Someone ransacked the cabin? Oh, this is bad!”

“Why?” you want some sort of answer but it seems like you’re just getting more questions.

“It’s the King’s cabin. I’m supposed to keep it clean while he’s away. Oh man—“ he trails off as he starts picking up paper products from the trail.

“Who would ransack the King’s cabin?” you ask, wondering if you’ve gone insane.

The marmot stops. “This is a job for the pika. Come, he’ll be able to sort this out.”

He takes off still clutching toilet paper in his paws.

“The pika?” you ask.

“He’s a detective,” the marmot announces, then he stops. “Or maybe I should get the Law Keeper first.” Indecision screws his face into a grimace.

“Who’s the Law Keeper? A chipmunk?”

The marmot laughs, then squeaks, “mountain lion.”

“Really?”

“It’s always awkward dealing with him. Always wonder if he’s gonna eat me.”

“It’s not against the law?”

“It is. He just always looks hungry.”

You decide you just can’t walk away from this. You are, after all, speaking to a small rodent who’s holding an armful of paper towels and toilet paper.

Do you recommend…

Bb. Detective Pika?

Or

Bc. Law Keeper Lion?

Blessings,

Jennifer

King’s Scepter

I can’t decide whether I like adventure stories or regular stories better. Adventures are just fun to write! And this one’s no exception.

So welcome to a whole new adventure. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it=)

King’s Scepter

Perhaps 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 wash boards 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.

That’s when 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 can 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?

Blessings,

Jennifer

(Please post a comment with your choice. One vote per post please but comment as much as you like=) Voting will end at 6pm Pacific Time Wednesday. I’ll post whichever option gets the most votes Thursday and we’ll see how the adventure goes!)

Beauty Chapter Two

Welcome back for the last part to this week’s story. I don’t usually post stories this long, however, when I asked if reader’s wanted more to a story I posted last month, they responded yes. (Beauty) If you missed the post on Tuesday or the story from last month, here’s the cliff note’s version:

Lila Dean’s a young girl who lost her mother in a fire and was horribly scarred, both physically and mentally, as a result. Now people just don’t look at her, so when a stranger approaches and asks her to steal the Roy’s ruby to help him save his daughter, she takes the chance to do something good.

But Billy Roy catches her in the theft. To her surprise, he doesn’t stop her, instead he trusts she’s doing it for a good reason. So when Lila Dean goes to give the ruby to the stranger, Michael, she questions his story and it falls apart. She realizes she’s been taken for a fool and runs away. Now she’s determined to return the ruby and make things right.

Now for Chapter Two. Thanks for stoping by and I hope you enjoy.

Beauty Chapter Two

Lila Dean refused to look at her nightstand but the deep red of the ruby glared in the corner of her eye. Her room wasn’t big enough to get away from it.

Outside her door came the muffled steps of her father preparing for work. She waited until they disappeared and the latch on the door clicked before emerging into the empty cabin.

During the night she’d made a plan. She’d return the ruby while everyone was away at the mine. The other kids would be at the field again playing ball. If she didn’t show up until later, it wasn’t likely they’d notice.

With any luck, Marcus Roy wouldn’t notice the ruby’s absence for a single morning. Then only she and Billy Roy would ever know. The thought lifted the knot in Lila Dean’s stomach.

Then she remembered she still had to return the gem and the knot came back in full force.

Unlike the night before, it’d be light out when she crawled through the pantry window. The chances of someone seeing her would be much greater.

Lila Dean closed her fingers hard around the ruby she’d stuffed in her pocket. She had to return it.

Letting go, she slung her cloak over her shoulders and left the house.

Most people would walk the main road but Lila Dean never did. People refused to look at her and, in an odd way, it made her feel all the more conspicuous.

She took to the path behind the cabin. It added another fifteen minutes to her walk but no one but hunters tended to use it. There were no averted eyes, no one to remind her of her scars.

As she walked the ruby weighed heavy where is hit her thigh. She wanted to be rid of it and the reminder of Michael’s trick. He’d spotted her for vulnerable and naive and she’d proved him right.

A whiff of smoke caught Lila Dean’s attention. She loved wood smoke, even after the fire. Wood smoke reminded her of home, of a time when her mother held her and rocked her to sleep.

This smoke wasn’t wood smoke. This was burned linens and tar, foundation rock heated too hot and thatch turned to ash.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

Lila Dean’s breath stopped. She didn’t want to smell it. Her scars pulled tight, almost painful, as she tensed to run away but her legs wouldn’t move.

A plume of black smoke drifted above the trees, confirming her fears.

The town was on fire and her father was there.

As terrifying as the smoke was, she couldn’t run when her father was in danger. Mother would have tried to help but mother wasn’t alive.

Her legs still wouldn’t move under her. More smoke, heavier this time with the stench of burning house, drifted her way. The wind was shifting.

The trees filled with fine black grit that drifted on the air. With the wind came screams and the clank of something unfamiliar.

It was a moment before Lila Dean placed the sound. Weapons. She’d never heard them used in earnest, only heard the precise clack as the other kids practiced with wooden swords.

This sound was more deadly and less precise. A shiver shook Lila Dean. Lots of weapons.

Finally her legs moved as she gasped in the gritty air. Her vision swam and sparked with the breath.

Already the trees were turning black from the ash. Lila Dean passed through them, refusing to look at their darkened bark, until she spotted the back of the Roy’s house. It no longer resembled a house. There was no hint of the pantry window she crawled through the night before. The stone chimney rose above the flickering remains, all that was left to attest to the house’s prior existence.

Lila Dean could see through to Main Street. Men scattered everywhere but they were all unfamiliar in armor the color of blood.

They hemmed in a group Lila Dean did recognize. Mary Mae and Andre Mel sat clutching each other’s hands. Billy Roy darted between two men only to be caught and hauled back by a third.

“-Roy!” Lila Dean started forward. There was no plan, just the need to do something.

Hands grabbed her around the middle. Before she could scream, a hand clamped down over her mouth and she was pulled back into the trees.

When she was spun around, she found herself face to face with Sheldon Lea, her father’s friend.

He gestured for her silence with a finger on his lips.

Lila Dean nodded and he released her but the moment his support disappeared, her legs collapsed.

“Get up,” Sheldon Lea grasped her arm and hauled her to her feet. She vaguely registered the tug on her scars as the old spinster pulled her back father into the forest.

He kept moving until the sight of burning buildings disappeared. Lila Dean collapsed on the trail as soon as he let her go. All her blind courage seemed to have seeped out of her at the first resistance.

Tears streamed from her eyes but she kept them silent. It was habit.

“That won’t help,” Sheldon Lea scolded.

“They have Father?”

He hesitated before giving a jerky nod. He was always honest with her.

“Why?”

“Power, possibly greed.” He scrubbed his face with his hands. Sheldon Lea had been wrinkled for as long as she’d known him but today he looked old, tired. “It’s strategy. Seize a nation’s mines and you cut off its wealth.”

Lila Dean shivered. Her hands shook as she clasped them together. “But why fire?”

“Control.” It was simple but Sheldon Lea’s tone indicated so much more. Lila Dean tried to ask but the look on his face cut her off. She’d never seen him so cold.

“We can’t stay here. Let’s go.”

Lila Dean didn’t follow when he started down the trail. He did a double take when he looked back.

“I won’t wait, girl.”

Lila Dean never argued, never disagreed with an adult but she couldn’t just leave her father behind.

“We can’t leave them,” she protested, still sitting on the ground.

“We can’t help them!”

Lila Dean cringed away as Sheldon Lea clenched his hands into fists at his sides.

She watched him clench and unclench his fingers, realizing she didn’t know this man, not really. The lift of his chin like her countering him was unexpected, the way he always widened his stance when he was surprised. None of these things were from the mines.

Lila Dean would know. She always observed since no one included her. She’d chalked Sheldon Lea’s oddities up to him being a stubborn old man but now she suspected it was more than that.

“We’ll see what they’re doing with everyone,” he finally agreed. “But only then will I decide if there’s anything we can do.”

Lila Dean nodded, pushing to her feet to follow. It wasn’t full agreement but she’d take what she could get for now.

***

The remains of the town looked like a giant smudge in the road heading east to west. A few out lying houses, such as Lila Dean’s cabin and Sheldon Lea’s shack, still stood, forgotten by the attackers simply because they were out of sight from the main town.

Lila Dean lay on her stomach next to the old spinster. He’d taken them to a small ridge west of town. They’d climbed it in silence and then Sheldon Lea had indicated they were to crawl up to the ridgeline.

Lila Dean had crawled without a comment although the motion pulled and rubbed against her scars, setting her entire right side on fire.

Now, stretched out as she was, she focused on the sight below instead of the burn.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Sheldon Lea had pulled out a glass from the pack he always carried for work. It was an oddity for a mineworker to regularly carry a looking glass but Lila Dean didn’t ask.

Without the glass she could only see the smudge, the small remaining buildings and the movement of people but she couldn’t say what they were doing.

Sheldon Lea lowered the glass with a frown wrinkling his already lined face.

He handed the glass over. Lila Dean cradled it in her hands as gratitude flushed through her. He didn’t even think about including her, he just did it. Not even her father was like that.

A rare smile pulled her lips upward. It pulled her right lip away from her teeth and sent a flare of protest through her skin. She dropped the smile, realizing how grotesque it must look but Sheldon Lea just continued to look at the town. She’d never really thought about it but the old man never had treated her scars as anything disturbing.

Setting the glass to her eye, she focused it and stifled a gasp.

Her father sat on the ground in the confines of a cage big enough for him to stand in but not walk.

Panning out, Lila Dean saw multiple cages in neat rows, all holding people she knew.

“Why cage them?” she wondered aloud.

“Security. They want something and need everyone alive to get it.”

“Want what?”

Sheldon Lea held his hand out and she passed the glass back to him. He took his time scanning the scene below.

“They probably want whatever comes out of the mine. That’d explain keeping the workers.”

“We could collapse the mine,” Lila Dean suggested.

“They’d kill the workers then.”

She shuddered. He was always so blunt.

“We might be able to free your father, maybe the Roy’s, but that’s about it.”

“Why only them?” Lila Dean couldn’t get the picture of Andre Mel and Mary Mae clutching hands as everything burned out of her head. They’d always ignored her but they didn’t deserved being caged.

“Your father and the Roy’s cages are on the end farthest from the camp. With a distraction, we might have enough time for those three cages. Plus, if the distraction’s there,” he pointed, “then no one can see the front of their cages.”

Lila Dean nodded although she still couldn’t get the other kids out of her head. How could she leave them? Maybe with more people they could plan a second escape. It’s what she told herself although a part of her knew, without the element of surprise, another escape attempt wouldn’t be possible.

Sheldon Lea pocketed his glass and pushed back from the ridge.

Lila Dean moved to follow. The motion jammed the ruby into her thigh. She wished that was all she had to worry about. It seemed small, almost silly now.

Moving the ruby to the side of her pocket, she continued back crawling until she reached where Sheldon Lea stood up.

“We need some supplies from my shack,” Sheldon Lea said. “Let’s find our distraction.”

***

Lila Dean clutched the small bag in her hand like it was a priceless treasure. In a way, it was. The black powder inside was her key to the cages. Sheldon Lea had made a comment about no time for lock picking school and then he’s set her down to show her how to put the powder into the locks, then spark it for a small explosion. Enough to bust the locks but not enough to draw attention. There was more finesse to it than Lila Dean would’ve guessed.

She waited in the trees, covered by darkness and the general noise of the invader camp. She asked Sheldon Lea who he thought they were. He shook his head and replied a cryptic, “a lot of trouble.”

Now she wondered if she should’ve pressed for a more specific answer. Sheldon Lea insisted there would be a guard change during his distraction. Lila Dean hadn’t even asked what his distraction was going to be. Now she wished she’d been more bold with the old spinster instead of taking everything at face value like she always did.

“What’sss thiss?”

Lila Dean ducked at the shout but she needn’t have. At the other side of camp several men stoop up, staring at something beyond them.

A wobbly Sheldon Lea stumbled between two of the men, a bottle in hand.

“Coulda—“ He tripped and almost fell, “coulda sworn it’s time for dinner. Where’d the inn go?” He spun in a wobbly circle.

The guard at the cages still stood at his post but he craned his neck around her father’s cage to see what was happening as someone tried to catch Sheldon Lea’s arm and he pulled the man down into a crumbled heap. A nasal laugh erupted from him and he rolled on the ground, sloshing ale over himself and narrowly missing another man grabbing at him.

The cage guard stepped forward, trying to see between his comrades.

Keep going, keep going.

As if on cue, Sheldon Lea knocked another man down by rolling into him. The man gave a surprised cry and the cage guard started forward to join the others.

Lila Dean darted out of the trees with the bag of powder clutched tight.

“Lila Dean?”

She tried to give her father a smile but stopped as she met his eyes. They slipped away from her face, then came back only to slide away again like he couldn’t stand but a moment.

Lila Dean blinked at the tears that threatened behind her eyes.

What’d you expect?

With trembling fingers, she grasped the lock to pour powder into it. Her hand shook and more of the powder hit the ground than the lock.

“Lila Dean, get out of here.” Her father’s feet appeared in front of her through the bars. She refused to look up at him as she poured a bit more powder.

Twisting the bag closed, she shoved it into her pocket and pulled out her flint.

“Stand back,” she warned.

His feet didn’t move for a second but then they retreated without another word.

Lila Dean sparked the flint but missed the lock. Sheldon Lea’s voice rang in her ears. Not like that, angle it or it’ll blow up in your face.

She tried again and cried out as the sparks hit.

A look over her shoulder shielded her face from the blast and confirmed no one noticed her startled cry.

“Give me the bag and go.” Her father held his hand out.

Lila Dean’s fingers closed around the bag. With unfamiliar defiance, she poured a palm full into her hand before handing the rest over. Then, instead of leaving, she headed to Billy Roy’s cage as her father moved to Marcus’.

He shot her a reproving glance but, again, didn’t fully look at her.

Fumbling with the lock, Lila Dean didn’t see him approach. Billy Roy’s hand came through the bars to grasp her wrist.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he whispered.

She glanced up to meet his eyes and he didn’t look away. A dull ache constricted her throat.

“Stand back,” she whispered, almost crying when he listened and released her wrist.

Her hands were steady this time. She sparked her flint and with a hiss, the lock exploded.

Lila Dean pulled the door open.

Her father and Marcus Roy stood by the tree line, waiting. When they saw her free Billy Roy, they retreated into the forest’s shadows, satisfied the kids were right behind them.

“What about the others?” Billy Roy caught her arm.

“No time,” she pulled away with a wave at where Sheldon Lea had been. So close to the cages she couldn’t see the exact spot but Sheldon Lea’s nasal laugh could no longer be heard.

“Dean—“

She spun back, surprised he’d shorten her name again, and froze.

“Fancy meeting you again,” Michael flashed a grin. He held Billy Roy with a knife to his throat.

Lila Dean glanced around. Her father and Marcus Roy must have moved farther into the trees where they couldn’t be seen because they didn’t come back.

And the cages still shielded them from the invader’s camp. Not that that would matter since Michael wore the same blood red uniform as the others.

“You’re one of them?” she asked.

“Who do you think I gamble with?”

Lila Dean swallowed. The knife had cut into Billy Roy’s neck and blood trickled down into the hollow of his throat.

“Let him go,” she begged. The words were supposed to be firm but Lila Dena rarely spoke. She wasn’t used to controlling her tone.

“Why should I?”

“He’s too young to work the mine,” Lila Dean knew as soon as she said the words that Michael didn’t care. He wanted something else.

“None of you are too young. Even you’re familiar with the tunnels, little escape artist.”

Confusion warred with fright on Billy Roy’s face. Lila Dean met his brown eyes, just for a moment, to savor the feel of being seen, to experience the flush of finding something other than revulsion in another’s eyes. Even if he never acknowledged her again, she’d always owe him for the trust she saw there now.

Looking away in shame, Lila Dean pulled the ruby from her pocket. She’d never get to return it now.

Michael’s eyes fixed on it. A half grin, ugly on his handsome face, pulled at the corners of his lips.

“I’ll set this down and step away,” Lila Dean whispered, “then you let him go. He and I will run and you can have the ruby.”

The gem clinked softly as she set it on the cross bar of the cage.

“You have no idea what that ruby will pay for, do you?” Michael asked as she stepped away.

Lila Dean shook her head. She didn’t want to know.

Michael chuckled as he shoved Billy Roy toward her.

“In war, when you don’t make the small sacrifices, a lot of people get hurt.” Michael’s grin said just how much he enjoyed her shock.

“War?”

“What do you think this is?” he gestured around. “Now go!”

Billy Roy grabbed her hand and pulled her into the trees. After a moment, she stopped resisting and followed but not before seeing Michael grasp the ruby. A chill ran her spine at the sight.

***

She’d failed to make it right. Sheldon Lea, Marcus Roy and her father sat eating cold soup. They had no campfire or even a camp, nothing to give their position away.

Lila Dean wasn’t sure how Sheldon Lea had gotten away from the invaders after his ‘drunken’ spectacle. She didn’t ask, either. Now the adults were talking and none of them acknowledged her again.

Maybe Sheldon Lea did it because her father did but no matter his reasons, it hurt.

Lila Dean huddled against a large pine, just outside the small clearing the men sat in, and hugged her knees.

Billy Roy flopped down beside her. She jumped and then looked away, ashamed of her nerves and her foolishness.

“You’re not going to tell me how you knew him?” he asked, his voice pitched low so the adults couldn’t hear.

Tell him how foolish she’d been? She remained silent and he let it go.

“What do you think the ruby will pay for?” he asked instead.

Lila Dean shook her head. “Don’t know.”

His lips pinched in. He didn’t like the answer any more than she did.

“We’ll make it right,” he said after a brief pause.

Lila Dean turned her head to look at him. He was so hopeful, so sure they could fix things.

She gave him a half smile, leaving the right side of her face shielded against her knees to keep the expression from being grotesque.

She hoped he was right but making things right was harder than it sounded. Even just returning the ruby spiraled out of control.

Lila Dean hugged her knees, enjoying for the moment the silence with someone beside her for once.

She really hoped he was right.

The End

Blessings,

Jennifer