Reeling In A Goal

I’m not a fisherman but I’ve been reading the Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan, so I couldn’t help myself with the title=)

Anyway, speaking of goals…

I’ve wanted to finish writing my next book for awhile. As with most goals without deadlines, it’s been more of a dream than a goal. It’s got that stupid “someday” fixed to it.

My frustration spilled over until my husband noticed. Perhaps it was the full pot of coffee and the shaking hands or maybe it was the obsessive cleaning that clued him in. I don’t know. Whatever it was, he sat me down and we set a goal with a date: End of October. I’m about 50K words into Dryad (that’s the working title) and the end of October should be doable.

Now for the second part of my frustration. I am finding my leaky sieve of a brain struggles to hold all the details from a novel length story while I’m working on other writing. So until the end of October, I’m taking a short break from writing adventures. However, I love the blogging sphere and don’t want to lose touch with everyone so my other goal is to put on a imaginary blogging backpack (it’s green and purple just in case you were wondering) and head out to find more awesomeness in the blogging world.

I’ll be sure to share the treasures I find. Watch out blogosphere, here I come=)

Blessings,

Jennifer

Toad Attack Part Two

Welcome back for the end of Toad Attack! If you missed the first part, you can either read it by clicking under recent posts to the left or just know that the toads are attacking the fairies in hopes of capturing ten of them for Squirrel Ivan Van Hoven.

Now on to the story!

Toad Attack Part Two

Leaf barriers, hastily woven together, surrounded the fairy trees. The bees brought their honey and were fast making bombs to slow the toad attack down.

“It won’t be enough,” Elder Leah worried.

Moira caught the elder’s hands to keep her from wringing them together.

“Why not?’

“The toads can move with honey all over them. We get hit once and we’re done. Even a shield gets weighed down after a single hit.” The elder did a double take at their hands. Using honey, Moira had helped the floating bees stick themselves to the back of her hands to keep them safe while the fairy dust wore off. “Why?” Elder Leah asked.

“Dust,” Moira shrugged. “Wait, dust.”

“What about it? The toads are too big to float.”

“But the boysenberry bombs aren’t.”

The toads pulled the bombs on carts behind them. They’d positioned the carts ten paces from the trees and were constructing catapults to launch the boysenberry globs. It was the only thing giving the fairies time.

The elder shook her head. “We can’t get to them. Flying over the toads would only make us better targets.”

Moira slumped. Twenty-three fairies would never overwhelm the toads.

“What about below ground?”

They both stared at the bee attached to Moira’s hand. “Below ground?”

“It’s not a great friendship, but we honey bees get along okay with yellow jackets and they build their nests below ground, particularly around you fairies because your dust makes great packing for their nests. There’s a nest in the field there.”

The elder shook her head again and Moira’s stomach clenched in disappointment. She was sure the elder’s reasons were good.

“We can’t fit in a yellow jacket’s nest. We’re too big.”

The bee buzzed a negative. “You’re too big. She’s not.”

“I’m not?” Moira said.

“I can’t ask one fairy to take that big of a risk.” The elder countered.

Moira’s stomach clenched harder. “I can do this,” she said. Why did the elder doubt her?

“I can’t ask you…”

“You didn’t. I volunteer.” Moira backed away before Elder Leah could respond. She didn’t want to hear reasons why she wasn’t capable. “Where’s this nest?”

The bee pointed and Moira slipped between the leaf shields. The spot the bee indicated was a small, slanted hole in the ground.

“I’ll fit?”

“It’ll be tight,” the bee released himself from the honey holding him in place and disappeared into the hole.

Moira chuckled. “It’s good to be small, it’s good to be small.”

Head first she crawled into the ground. With her body blocking the light, her surroundings turned pitch black but her ears picked

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

up on the whisper of words between her bee friend and someone else. As she continued forward, those words became clear.

“You want what?”

“Ju-just a quick passing through,” the bee stammered. “Just to where the toads stopped the cart.”

“That’s through the nest. Why should we trust you?”

“We’ve helped you in the past,” Moira spoke up. The ground pressed on all sides and her breath came in short gasps. She wasn’t sure how long she could stand this. “And the squirrel adds you to his sandwiches too.”

The last part she added as an afterthought but she knew it was true. Any bug with wings went into Squirrel Van Hoven’s sandwich but especially yellow bugs. She wasn’t sure why.

“This is an attack from Van Hoven?”

Moira nodded, hoping the yellow jacket could see her and she didn’t have to speak.

“That’s all we need to know,” the yellow jacket’s voice lowered to that angry buzz they always got right before they attacked.

Moira stiffened and jerked within the hole’s confines when the yellow jacket touched her outstretched hand but he didn’t sting her.

“Follow me,” he said.

Without light, Moira could only tell they entered the center of the nest by the change in texture around her. It went from hard packed dirt to something softer, like paper.

“Move carefully.”

She tried but the space was so small she could barely pull herself forward.

“This isn’t working,” the yellow jacket stopped in front of her. “Don’t move a muscle.”

Moira stilled. Movement was all around her and she didn’t want to anger the yellow jackets. A sting to a fairy was poison enough to kill. Stings from dozens of yellow jackets—Moira held in a shudder. Perhaps Elder Leah had a good reason to warn her away from this.

“Hold very still,” the yellow jacket said again. Something touched her arms, her legs, her torso and her wings. Then she was moving forward, being passed from one yellow jacket to the next through the center of their nest.

Moira closed her eyes and held her breath.

“Cool,” the honeybee whispered from somewhere ahead.

“Now you can move on your own. Just follow this tunnel till you reach the surface.”

“Thank you,” Moira whispered. She received dozens of buzzes in return.

Moving forward, she found the tunnel tighter than the other side. It felt like she couldn’t draw breath but there was sunlight up ahead. She was so close.

“Pull on my arm,” she told the honeybee.

His small legs grasped her hand and he pulled. She barely moved.

“Again.”

He heaved backwards and she slid closer to the light. A third pull brought her hand within touching distance of the opening. Threading her fingers into the grass above, Moira hauled herself free.

A deep breath filler her with relief.

The yellow jackets had steered her right. The hole brought her up underneath one of the carts.

“I can’t get to all the carts,” she realized.

“Don’t have to,” the bee whispered back. “Just float these ones and my cousin’ll take care of the rest.”

Moira was about to ask him what he meant when a brown toad turned their way. His catapult looked finished.

Scrambling from beneath the cart, Moira spread her wings and flew in circles over the boysenberry bombs. She’d never tried to produce the dust before but simply flapping her wings seemed to work.

The toad laughed deep in his throat. “They’re too big for you to carry,” he said as he approached the cart.

Moira kept moving but there wasn’t enough dust yet to float the bombs.

“Distract him,” she begged the bee. If the toad caught her, she’d never succeed.

The bee zipped away to fly in the toad’s face. He flew by once, twice, and then the toad swatted him from the air.

“No!” Moira resisted the urge to race to his aid. The boysenberry bombs were starting to lift. Rushing around them two more times, they floated into the air.

But the toad was close. He reached for a floating blob of jam just as a yellow blur zipped forward and shoved it into his face. It exploded all over the toad’s eyes and mouth.

“Ha!” the yellow jacket taunted. “Try to catch me now!” and he zipped away back into his hole.

The other bombs were well above Moira’s head by now. Several honeybees lumbered toward them, much slower than the yellow jacket but undaunted as they surrounded the floating bombs and directed them in the air. Hovering the bombs over the remaining carts, the bees shoved them downward to explode, sticking the cart and the bombs together.

Moira couldn’t help a laugh before she turned to find her friend who’d been swatted into the grass.

She found him a moment later, dazed and humming about the ‘Toad Attack” as he buzzed one wing and not the other.

“Is it broken?” She rushed to help him.

“Nope,” he buzzed, “just ruffled from being hit.” Closer inspection reassured her but she still stuck him to her hand again to take him to the healer. The bee didn’t seem right in the head.

“You did it,” the bee pointed around in a dizzy fashion.

Moira nodded. Without the bombs, the toads were leaving. They couldn’t break through the leaf shields or bring the fairies to the ground where they could be captured.

“Hero of the fairies!” the bee sang at the top of his lungs.

Moira chuckled. It was a good thing the bee had a small voice or his words would have been heard by the Elder Leah who was winging toward them. Even still, the words boosted her like dust and the wind. It felt good to accomplish something.

The End

Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,

Jennifer

Toad Attack

I’ve received a request from a lovely young lady for a story about fairies. What a great idea! And I thought to make the story more whimsical, or maybe just goofy, than usual. Which brought to mind a snippet of a story a fiend helped me start years ago that I never finished.

So this story is dedicated to two wonderful ladies.

Jael – for such a great story idea! May your own writing and reading always be an adventure.

and

Marjorie – who gave me the image of Squirrel Ivan Van Hoven. Your imagination is delightful.

Now on to the story!

Toad Attack

Moira raced with the shadow of a bird. The red-feathered hawk flew above her, high in the sky with its wings stretched to catch the current of the wind. Flapping her wings as hard as she could, she tried to keep her own shadow inline with the bird’s as it flew across the ground, the trees, the brush.

The larger shadow paced ahead and was gone with a single flap of the hawk’s wings. Moira settled on a juniper bush and slumped. She’d never be fast enough. Her shoulders ached by what most fairies could do without exerting themselves. She’d been born too small to be of much use.

Miniature Moira. It was the term the others teased her with when she couldn’t keep up.

The wind played through the bush, swaying it beneath her feet. Maybe a moment with the wind would cheer her. Rising into the air, Moira hovered in the leaves of an aspen tree, enjoying the play of the wind across her wings and the smell of new leaves in the air. If she moved her wings just enough to flutter with the leaves, she could hold the position for hours. Too bad she couldn’t maintain speed that way.

A squirrel scampered into the field in front of her.

Moira sucked in a breath to call a greeting but then the air whooshed from her without sound. The squirrel clutched a small paper sack in one paw. He boasted two crooked front teeth and two hairs sticking straight up from the top of his reddish head.

When he pulled out the sandwich, Moira’s doubt disappeared. Squirrel Ivan Van Hoven, sworn enemy of anything with wings. He hated fairies for their ability to make non-winged creatures fly since he found it the cruelest choice of nature to make a flying squirrel—without wings.

Beside him on the log settled a toad the size of a rabbit.

“They’ll never see you coming.” The words sprayed from the squirrel’s mouth along with globs of boysenberry jam from his sandwich. He was obviously picking up on a conversation Moira had missed.

She shuddered, then stilled, as the squirrel looked her way.

“How many do you need?” the toad eyed the sandwich for the yellow bees stuffed between the slices of bread.

Moira held in another shudder. Boysenberries and bees on wheat. It was Squirrel Van Hoven’s trademark.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

“Ten or so,” he answered while catching a bee that escaped his bite and stuffing it back in between the bread.

Squirrel Van Hoven had launched an attack against the fairies six months before. He’d allied with mosquitoes then but had been thwarted by netting the fairies made from moss.

The toad was new. She’d never heard of the squirrel working with toads but that wasn’t important, their plan was.

“You’re sure?” the toad croaked.

“Positive. Ten fairies for their wings. You produce that and you can have my stash of bees.” He held out the sandwich as proof.

Ten fairies. It was the perfect number. Mixed with a few other choice ingredients, the wings would make Squirrel Van Hoven float…indefinitely.

The toad’s tongue flicked across his narrow lips and he rumbled a croak deep in his throat.

“Done,” he said. With one bound he was back in the trees and gone from sight.

Squirrel Van Hoven bit into his sandwich and chewed slowly. He caught a blob of jam escaping from the back of the bread. Instead of licking his paw clean, he spit on it, and then he pulled back and pitched the jam at Moira.

The sticky mess splattered the leaves and her wings and weighed her to the ground.

“Spying?” Squirrel Van Hoven chuckled. “Fairies make poor spies. You glitter your dust with every flap of your wings.” His crooked toothed grin was smeared with jam. “Good luck warning your friends. That jam won’t come off for days.” Cackling and dripping jam, he scampered from the clearing.

Moira pulled a wing around to inspect the damage. Her fingers stuck to the gossamer.

“Ich!” She tried to pull free but whatever Squirrel Van Hoven used in his jam glued her fingers to her wings. “No, no, no…” she muttered. She had to warn the fairies of the toad’s attack but without her wings she’d never make it home in time. She’d barely make it in time even if she left right away.

“Spit on it.”

“What?” Moira didn’t see anyone near her.

“Spit on it.”

Her eyes swung to the ground. In a glob of jam dropped from the squirrel’s sandwich was a bee.

“How do you think he eats the stuff without gluing himself to everything?” the bee asked.

“His spit?” Moira recoiled.

“Any spit will work.” The bee worked on his own body, spitting and working it into the jam stuck to his wings. Clearly it was working.

“Yuk,” Moira spit on her fingers. With a bit of work, her hands came clean but the damage to her wings was extensive.

“This’ll take forever,” she moaned, holding one wing carefully by the top edge.

The bee, done with himself, buzzed over.

“It is bad,” he buzzed. “I’ll find help.”

“No! Wait!” But the bee was gone. “Warn the fairies.” She said to the thin air. Her own problem was small compared to the squirrel’s plan.

Moira went back to cleaning her wings, spitting on her palms and working globs of jam out of the gossamer.

Mr. Squirrel Van Hoven certainly knew what he was about. By hitting her wings, he’d not only grounded her but stopped her ability to produce fairy dust.

Without the dust, she couldn’t float home either.

A particularly large spot of jam stuck a section of wing to the top of her shoulder.

Moira had almost worked it free when a hum reached her ears. It grew in volume until it droned, vibrating the air around her. The sky filled with yellow bodies and the bee from earlier landed in front of her.

“Brought a friend or two and half my cousins,” he said, gesturing at bees landing all around him.

“Go warn the fairies!” Moira shooed them away.

“Other half of the cousins have that covered,” the bee waved at the sky where a mass of others still flew.

“Oh,” she felt a tug and turned to find several bees spitting on her wings.

“You’re spitting on me!”

“You’ll smell sweet,” several buzzed back.

Moira couldn’t think of a response. Their legs as they worked felt like the tingles she got when she put her feet to sleep, except there was no pain, just tingle.

“There you go.”

The bees held out her wings and dust glittered in a cloud around them.

Several of them caught by it started to float without moving their wings.

“Oops,” Moira caught them before they floated away.

“The toads are coming!” The cry was faint, shouted by a tiny bee high in the air, but it caught everyone’s attention. “They’ve got boysenberry bombs!”

To Be Finished on Thursday

Blessings,

Jennifer

The Game 2

Time for another chance to explore an adventure for a second time! The last time this adventure was run, you found a rather unfortunate end. If you’d like to read the first run in it’s entirety, click here. Now, let’s hope for something more healthy this time!

Read on and, at the end, leave a comment for how you’d like the story to continue=)

The Game

On a whim, you stopped for the night at a random Bed and Breakfast off Highway 50 that you’d never noticed before. You’ve work on Monday but it’s only Saturday and a few days away sound like heaven.

You asked if there was a quiet place you could sit for a while and the owner of the Bed and Breakfast, Ms. Williams, directed you to the attic. You anticipated her to send you to the porch table out back or perhaps the trail that leads from the back of the B&B into the mountains.

“Up the stairs, dear,” she said, “just open the door at the end of the hall and make yourself comfortable. Anything in there’s fair game too, if you want it. It’s where I keep things left behind.”

A stab of disappointment hits you at her words. The attic? Really? But she’s a nice old lady and you don’t want to insult her, so you climb the stairs as they creak beneath your weight and give her a smile as you go.

The door to the attic’s an old relic. Painted a dull red with a crystal handle like you might find in your grandmother’s house.

You find it unlocked and slip inside to find an old style attic, peeked ceiling, wooden floorboards, rounded window and all. There’s a chair by the window and, since you asked for a quiet place to sit, you walk over and sit in the wooden thing.

Quiet’s right. You can just hear the steps of Ms. Williams downstairs as she cleans up from breakfast but after a short while even

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

that fades and the silence surrounds you along with the dry, dusty smell of attics the world over. You watch the aspen leaves fluttering in the breeze beyond the window until your eyes droop from the warmth of the dry room.

Maybe you snore, maybe not, but something wakes you with a start. You’re eyes blur and then come to focus on an ant sitting on your knee. Its shape is fuzzy from the dusky gray now showing through the window. It’s the only light in the attic.

“Oh dear, I’ve been had.” The ant takes flight and disappears into the lid of an old trunk tucked under the eve of the attic.

You shake your head. It spoke. It’s an insect…but it spoke.

Curiosity gets the better of you. Ducking to avoid the sloped ceiling, you pull the trunk from its spot so it sits in front of the chair and then you flip the lid open as you sit back down.

A cane with a dragon’s head stares back at you. Beneath it is a long brown jacket and a folded letter but no ant. Extracting the letter from under the cane, you find it crinkles at your touch and is browned around the folds. Ms. Williams said to make yourself welcome, so you flip the letter open.

Wear the coat and use the crutch and see the world through a different clutch. 

Odd. Not the best rhyme you’ve ever seen. There are two pages to the letter, so you flip to the next page. It’s a map with an ant at one corner and an elephant at the other. Because it’s kind of fun, you pull the cane and coat out and hold them over your arm as you close the trunk and slide it back under the eves.

Then you head for the door because the light from the window is gone and you’re surrounded by darkness.

You open the door and almost stumble into a jungle. A blast of heat hits your face along with a wave of bugs. Yuck. You slam the door shut and try again. You open to sprawling grass land. What the? 

“I suggest the grass land,” says a voice.

In the light from the open door, you see the ant sitting on your arm along with the cane and coat.

“Why? why can’t I just go down stairs again?”

“You opened the letter,” the ant shrugs. “Now you’ve got to play the game. Kind of. If you win, you find treasure, if you loose, you either die or get sent back to your boring life.”

“What happened to you?”

“I was made as part of the adventure. No win/loose for me. Just be. I suggest you put on the coat before you step through.”

The ant flies into the air as you swing the coat onto your shoulders. It fits. Perfectly.

“So what’ll it be, jungle or grassland?” asks the ant as you fit the cane to your hand.

“What’s it matter?”

“Grassland you can travel faster but it’s easier to miss details. Jungle’s slower but you have a better chance to pick up on key points of  the map.”

You open your mouth to ask more but the ant interrupts. “That’s all you get. I can’t say more.”

You scowl at him.

So do you choose…

A. Jungle?

or

B. Grassland?

The Game Option A: Jungle

Looking at the map, the idea of picking up details easier appeals to you. There are a lot of little notations. You swing the door closed and then open again.

The ant groans as you step through into the heat of the jungle.

“So what am I looking for?” you ask.

“The treasure, of course,” the ant says.

You look at him and start. You’re looking eye to eye with him. Holding your hands up, you find you have too many of them and, bending to look at yourself, you’re looking at a hard black shell of a body. Strangely enough, you’re still wearing the brown jacket and in your lower left hand, you clutch the head of the dragon cane.

“I’m an ant!?”

“At least you have wings,” the ant points with a smile like maybe this’ll keep you from attacking him.

Twisting to see, sure enough, you have wings. Transparant, wispy things that might carry you.

“Great,” you grumble. “Some game.”

“It’ll be fun, trust me,” the ant grins but it looks more like he’s trying to convince than like he believes it himself.

You turn away and open the map again. The ant in the corner is highlighted and a trail stands out that you didn’t see before.

“Guess I’m supposed to head that way.” Testing your wings, you lift into the air and wobble in place for a moment.

“Yay!” Cries the ant. “They work.”

Oh joy. Your wings working surprises him. But they are working and, giving them a moment to adjust, they feel strong as you listen to the soft hum they create.

Flying through the trees, it doesn’t take long to see the first marker on the map. It’s a crumbling structure of stone like an old temple. The map depicts a jar in one of the temple walls, so you guess you’re supposed to find this jar before moving on. Winging closer, you come up short with a whiplash snap.

Struggling, you only manage to stick yourself more to what you now realize is a gigantic web. A spider with a bulbous red body and long, sharply jointed legs shakes the web as she steps on.

“Weave the web and wait the day,

for something’s sure to catch the lay…”

The spider sings as she meanders closer. Her many legs click in a dance of joy at her fresh meal.

“Weave the web and shake it dry,

let it sit for eyes will lie…”

You look around as best you can but even your head’s stuck to the sticky fibers. Then you see the flutter of transparent wings as the ant settles down on a leaf nearby.

His eyes shift from the spider back to you. Sure she doesn’t see him, he holds out a stick and acts like he’s using it to walk.

The cane.

You tilt your head as far toward your lower left hand as possible and the ant jumps up and down in excitement that you picked up on his charades. He holds out the stick and starts poking the handle of his makeshift cane.

You frown, not entirely sure what he’s getting at, but feel around the head of the cane until you feel the eyes of the dragon give under your probing fingers. Pressing harder, there’s a slicing sound like cutting a vegetable.

“Weave the we-ssss…”

She hisses and her many eyes narrow to slits. You can’t see the cane but it must have done something. You shift your hand as hard as you can and the web sags. She stalks toward you, her round body low to the web and her lips pulling back to reveal more saliva than you care to consider. You cut faster until suddenly you’re falling and fighting to get your wings out to break your fall.

A leaf breaks it instead just before you hit the ground.

“Gahh,” you groan as you roll onto your back.

There, above you, the spider’s lowering herself. She’s coming fast and the look on her face is vengeful. Above her, still on his leaf, sits the ant. He’s gesturing for you to get up and run.

Do you…

Aa. Run?

or

Ab. Fight?

The Game Option Ab: Fight

Having an ugly red spider behind you could be really bad. If you leave her behind, she could always show up later to ruin your day.

Struggling to your feet, you check the cane to find it has a blade sticking out the side like a sword. At least the game didn’t dump you in the jungle without something to defend yourself with.

The spider sets down and rears up on her legs. Trails of saliva string from her lips but whether they’re from hunger or anger, you can’t say.

Swinging the cane, it chops off her front right leg. She tilts with a cry but instead of going down or retreating, she shoots a glob of web. You spin to the side but the sticky glob catches your wing, weighing it down. It slows your reaction as she makes a grab at your legs.

The cane flies from your hands and you fall. As you struggle to move, she smacks her lips in anticipation and goes to bite you. You’re weaponless and your limbs are held by the spider, but as her teeth draw closer, you wriggle your wing free and slap her in the face with it, sticky web and all.

She rears back, fighting her own glob of web. You scramble for the cane and feel it’s reassuring dragon head in your hand. Just as the spider frees her face from the web, you swing, catching her body. She flies through the air to land on her back. Then her legs curl in and she doesn’t move.

“Wow,” says the ant, still in a tree above your head. “I’ve never seen someone do that before.”

“Let’s get out of here,” you say.

You and the ant fly into the ruins and you show him the map. It shows a wall of Dancing Ladies in which a bottle is apparently hidden. As you wing through the ruins, you’re careful not to fly into another web, which is a good thing because there are webs everywhere.

As the day slowly fades, you pause in front of a wall. You’ve passed it before but as the light shifts lower to the horizon, the pock marks and crumbling lines shift with purpose. Flying up and down as you watch, the lines on the wall move like a cartoon drawing through a notebook. Ladies dancing.

“Found it,” you call to the ant.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

He’s beside you in no time. “The wall’s covered in webs.”

Pressing the dragon’s eyes on the cane, the sword blade juts out of the side and you clear the wall until you find a small shelf. Tucked on the shelf is a bottle no bigger than your ant leg.

The ant reaches for it but you snatch it out before him. You tuck it into the pocket of your brown coat, eyeing the ant’s look of frustration as you do. What’s the bottle to him?

Checking the map, the next destination looks to be in the same ruins. Instead of the bottle though, you’re now looking for a ring which appears to be hidden at the base of a statue of a child with wings.

The ant tries to look over your shoulder but you fold the map before he gets a good look.

“Why do you want the bottle?” you ask him.

He stutters out a reply about not wanting the bottle but you eye him in disbelief and he deflates. “I’m like you,” he finally says, “I can’t leave without the items on the map and no one’s ever offered to exchange places with me.”

“Why haven’t you just run the game yourself? You had the map in the trunk.”

“I can’t. It only works for the most recent person. If I walked through the door, I’d have nothing to go off of.”

“What happens to the person who stays behind?” you ask.

He shrugs, “they run the game with the next person. I think.”

So do you…

Ab1. Offer to change places?

or

Ab2. Suggest you both try to get out?

The Game 2 Option Ab2: Together

The Game Option Ab2: Suggest There’s a Way for Both to Get OutThe ant looks completely dejected. His shoulders slump and his front legs hang beside his wings. Although it’d be nice to simply leave, your conscience would plague you knowing you left him behind.

“Maybe there’s a way for us both to get out,” you say.

“What?” his head comes up so fast you wonder if ants can get whip lash.

“Have you ever tried to leave the game with someone,” you say.

“No, no one’s even suggested such a thing. It could work!” he jumps up and down, fluttering his wings until you pull him back to the ground by his feet.

“Let’s find the ring.”

“Right, right.”

You tell him about the statue of the child with wings and then you fly over the ruins searching. There are a lot of pedestals where statues used to sit but it’s not until you reach the very center of the ruins that you find the child with wings.

Landing by the statue, the ant lands next to you like you’re tethered together. He’s not getting more than an ant leg away from you. Perhaps he’s scared you’re trying to trick him.

“How long have you been in game?” you ask.

“Can’t really tell,” he replies. “Five people have gone through before you. The first few I tried to tell but they hid the map from me and ran away so I stopped telling people they could get stuck here.”

“I can see why.” You walk around the statue as you talk, checking each pock mark in the base for the ring. You’ve circled it twice when a glint of silver catches your eye.

“There,” you pull the ring out and hold it up.

The ant looks at you, fear in his eyes.

“What do we have to do?” You ask.

“They put the ring on and drink from the bottle and poof, they disappear.”

“The ring’s big enough for us both to wear,” you comment, sliding the ring over one of your legs. He slides his right leg in next to yours and you stand shoulder to shoulder as you pull the bottle from your pocket. The ring’s big enough it could fit over your head, so there’s room to spare for both your legs.

Unstoppering the bottle, you drink half and hand him the rest.

“Here goes nothing,” he says and downs it.

He lights up around the edges with a yellow glow. Looking at yourself, you’re glowing too.

In wonder, you look at your legs and your torso, which are changing from ant shape back to human. The glow fades and you look around to see you’re back in the attic with a small man wearing glasses standing shoulder to shoulder with you.

“It worked!” He shouts and jumps up and down just like he did in ant form.

“We’re back,” you agree, stretching your arms and legs as you get used to your human form again.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” He jumps up and down and then hugs you. “I’m hungry, lets go find some human food!” And he races out of the room.

You follow more slowly and end up eating dinner with him and Ms. Williams before heading to bed half believing the whole thing was a dream.

You made it out though and you’re happy with that. The game purported to have treasure at the end and, someday, maybe you’ll go back in to try and find it. But for now, it’s good just to be human.

The End

No treasure but you end the game human and you helped the other ant out too! Not bad for an adventure=)

Thanks for joining in and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Blessings,

Jennifer

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

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?

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?

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?

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

Blessings,

Jennifer