Chance Encounters Option Aa1: Attempt a Distraction

Welcome back for the end of the adventure! Reader’s voted unanimously to create a distraction in hopes of freeing the boy, Ryan, from the men who kidnapped him. Let’s see if you succeed.

Chance Encounters Option Aa1: Attempt a Distraction

You’re not sure getting close to the group is a good idea. You’ll probably just end up as another prisoner. So you decide to attempt a distraction.

But what kind of distraction? It has to be something big enough to draw the men’s complete attention.

You pull the marble like noise makers from your pocket. There are six of them, brightly colored in light blues and reds. Liam said they’d react with the water. You can’t exactly test one without the men seeing, so you decide just to trust Liam’s word.

Staying low to the ground, you move down the trail to the other side of the meadow. You basically plan to pull the men in a circle around the lake with you staying ahead of them. That way, maybe you can grab Ryan and get to Liam’s portal before they catch you. Hopefully you’re fast enough.

When you’re on the south side of the lake, you brace yourself and throw a noise maker into the water. Nothing happens. You count to ten and still nothing. Perhaps the noise maker was a dud or perhaps Liam lied but either way, you’re idea isn’t going to work without the noise, so you turn to sneak back up the trail.

Just as you turn your back, a loud boom rocks the ground. Water and blue light showers over you. If you hadn’t been turned, it probably would have blinded you.

A commotion breaks out from the men.

You take off around the lake, count to twenty and throw another noise maker into the water. You don’t wait for it to go off but instead keep moving so you’re ahead of the noise.

A boom and a flash of red light fills the air. You glance over your shoulder while the light still colors the lake to see three of the men moving your way at a speed you never thought possible.

They also don’t exactly look human but you don’t pause to consider you’re about to be facing very large wolves.

You toss another noise maker as you round the lake to head toward Ryan’s location. This time you don’t look back as it goes off and fills the air with more red light. The explosion gives you enough light to see the last two men flanking the boy by the lake. They still, thankfully, look very human.

You aim for the nearest one. When you’re about to hit him, you lower your shoulder and ram into his torso, using your momentum to lift, you toss the man onto the ground. It isn’t a pretty throw by any means but he hits with a huff of air that tells you it worked.

“Ryan, run!” you shout just as the last man reaches for him. The boy stomps on his foot and takes off ahead of you.

You throw two noise makers into the water as a distraction. When they go off, you see you’re almost to the trail again where Liam said he’d make his other portal. You’ve got to stab a tree though before he knows. Unfortunately, you’re not into the trees yet.

A growling behind you warns that you’re not moving fast enough. Trying to stretch your legs for speed, you make it to the trees just as something hits you from behind. You hit the ground hard.

Ahead of you Ryan’s still free, you see him high tailing it down the trail. A wolf, far too large to be normal, steps on your back to pin you down. The weight forces the air from your lungs but you still manage to pull the dagger from your belt. With a last heave, you stab the point into the closest tree root.

It flashes bright silver, blinding you.

Blessedly, that’s the last thing you see.

***

I’m sorry to say you did not survive the wolves. However, you did save Ryan before they overcame you. Liam confesses to the fair folk Queen about the whole thing and you are hailed as a hero in fairy lore forever more.

Then End

Thank you for joining in the adventure. If you’re not happy with this ending, don’t worry, the adventure will run again at a future date and you’ll have another chance to find a happier ending.

In the mean time, have a wonderful weekend.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Chance Encounters Option Aa: Believe Him

Welcome back to the second week of the Chance Encounters adventure! Readers have decided believe of the strange man you’ve run into.

If you missed last week, just know you were out hiking and witnessed two men arguing. This  argument included a glowing object. Out of curiosity, you followed one of the men and saw him open a tunnel into the ground using the glowing object. When you followed him down, he caught you and explained he’s assisting the wolves in an attack against the Queen because the wolves have his son.

Now, let’s see what happens!

Chance Encounters Option Aa: Believe Him

The man could be lying but something about him makes you want to believe him.

“What if I help you get your son back?” you ask.

The man stares at you, shocked. “You’d do that?”

“Wouldn’t feel right to walk away,” you admit.

He considers this and then nods.

“Name’s Liam.” He introduces himself and then he holds out the glowing object. “This stone will open a portal by the lake in the meadow. I’m supposed to place it by the alter where the queen prays so the wolves can surprise attack her.  They’ll have my son, Ryan, there, but I can’t go because they’re watching me. If I go anywhere near that spot, I’ll never see him again. But maybe you can get to that spot before I place the stone.”

You nod as he explains but then shake your head. “How will you know your son’s safe? I can’t just save him and then you place the stone anyway. That kind of defeats the purpose.”

For a moment he’d looked hopeful but at your question he deflates. “What if I place the portal somewhere else. I could open it on the trail before the lake and then you could bring my son through without the wolves getting at the queen.”

“That’s assuming I can get him from the wolves. Again, how can I communicate with you?” You pull out your cell phone to highlight your point. Liam doesn’t seem to be the most acute in the planning department.

Liam frowns at the phone. “We don’t use human technology. Oh, but I do have this.” He pulls out a dagger from a sheath in his boot.

“How’s that helpful?”

“It’s the mate to this one,” he pulls up his other pant leg to show an identical dagger. “If I task the one I give you to stab a pine tree, mine will glow when the task is done. So as soon as you have Ryan, stab the closest tree and I’ll know to open a different portal.”

“That could work,” you admit.

Liam holds the dagger close to his mouth and whispers to it. When he hands it to you, it shimmers along the handle. You have your misgivings about this whole idea but you turn to head back up to the lake without voicing them.

Behind you Liam mutters something.

“What?” you ask.

“It might be dark up top,” he shrugs. “Time moves differently down here than up there. Oh, maybe take this.” He pulls from his pocket several round objects like marbles.

“What are these?”

“We fairies like parties,” Liam says. “These are noise makers from a party I went to last night. They took my son while I was out.” He pauses, clearly disturbed, then,”if you throw them into the lake, they’ll make a lot of noise and possibly some light because they react with water.”

You hesitate, wanting to ask him about being a fairy because he doesn’t look anything like your what you would imagine, but then the distress on his face stops you. Now isn’t the time. You nod your thanks and head up the stairs.

Sure enough, up top it’s dark out now. The moon glimmers through the trees with silvery light. You head back down the trail and it

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

doesn’t take long to get to the lake.

You stop just inside the trees to get your bearings. As you watch, you spot a group of men standing on the far side of the water with a smaller figure, probably the boy, huddling next to the water line.

One of the men stands beside him, clearly watching the child.

Liam’s plan sounded great in theory but now that you’re faced with getting the child, you’re not sure how to do it. Poor Ryan’s right next to the group, which means you’re pitted against five men. Not good odds.

Plus, they’re waiting for Liam to open the portal, so it’s not like you have a lot of time.

You could create a distraction and try to draw them away. It’d have to be a rather large distraction though to catch all five of the men’s attention. Plus then you’d have to figure out a way to get Ryan to Liam’s other portal without tipping the men off.

Or maybe you could walk in and act like a lost hiker who stumbled upon their group. That might get you close enough to grab the boy and run.

So do you…

Aa1 Attempt a Distraction?

or

Aa2. Walk In?

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 finishes!)

Chance Encounters Option A: Follow the Man

Reader’s curiosity is just too strong! They all voted to follow the man into the woods. Let’s see where he goes and what happens next. Be sure to vote at the end for how you’d like to proceed=)

Chance Encounters Option A: Follow the Man

The curiosity is just too strong. You throw caution to the wind and head up the trail and into the trees to follow the man with the glowing object.

The aspens close around you as you hurry forward to catch up. After about five minutes, you still haven’t seen the man. Perhaps he took off into the trees but you have no way to track him.

You’re about to give up when you hear something up ahead, like someone throwing rocks at a wall.

You move forward with more caution and finally spot the man from the field standing next to a cairn. The piles of rocks marking the trial looks like every other cairn you’ve ever seen but the man stands staring at it.

His shoulders are slumped farther, if it’s possible, than they were when he left the meadow.  He tosses a rock at the cairn, then another one. If you had to guess, you’d say he wants to destroy the marker but isn’t putting much effort into it because he knows it’ll cause bad things if he does. At least, that’s what your imagination comes up with to explain his strange actions.

Finally he gives a gusty sigh and places the glowing object on top of the cairn.  The base of the pile of rocks shudders and a hole opens up in the ground. It continues to widen until it’s a large, dark entrance leading downward.

The man removes the glowing object and proceeds down into the ground. You hesitate only briefly before darting after him. You’ve come this far, so you figure you may as well see what happens.

The hole that looked dark from a distance proves to be a small tunnel with stairs. You take them two at a time until you reach the bottom but then you stop because there are three hallways leading off the stairs.

“You don’t look like an MPS.”

You spin to your right. It’s the man with the narrow face.

“An MPS?” you ask. You quickly try to figure out what MPS could mean—Military Personnel Sergeant, Multiple Personality Syndrome, Married Playing Single—but none of the possibilities fit so you give the man a clueless look.

“Definitely not an MPS,” the man decides. “So what are you?”

“Innocent but curious bystander.” You give a slight smile, hoping he finds the truth amusing.

He grunts. “Knew meeting at the lake was a bad idea.”

“Didn’t look like you had much choice,” you comment.

He grunts again. “Saw that? Well, you’re right, I didn’t have a choice.”

You decide to be bold. “Why not?”

His hand spasms around the glowing object but it takes him a moment to finally say anything.

“They took my son. I’ll never see him again if I don’t do what they ask.”

He refuses to look at you and you’re not sure if he’s creating a story for you or telling the truth. He definitely looks like he’s struggling and in pain.

“Why would they take your son? What do they want?” You want to see what he says. If he’s creating a story, maybe he’ll slip. Or, if he’s telling the truth, he shouldn’t have a problem explaining.

“The Queen cut all ties with the wolves awhile back,” his voice was soft. “It hurt the wolves a lot and now they want revenge. They took my son because I can get close to the alter where the Queen prays.”

You stand there shocked. Queen? Wolves? It all sounds rather fantastic and crazy.

Do you…

Aa. Believe him?

Or

Ab. Not Believe him?

Blessings,

Jennifer

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

Chance Encounters

Ah, a new week, which means, all sorts of adventures may happen in the coming days=) Welcome to Adventure Awaits You and a whole new story. Read on and choose at the end how you’d like to proceed but choose carefully, for the world’s never quite what it seems.

Chance Encounters

It’s been far too long since you’ve hit the trail. The sun’s shining through the trees in splotches and leaves crunch under your feet. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey cover the ground in a golden yellow mat that shifts with the wind.

There’s nothing demanding attention other than a couple of birds chirping in the trees.

It’s a small slice of heaven uninterrupted by daily life. You’ve got the pack on your back and the day to yourself.

Just as your mind’s starting to relax and let go of all the things running through it, you hear voices. A couple of hikers, maybe.

You keep heading up the trail, enjoying the fresh air, until you hit a clearing. The trees open into a circular meadow with a small lake to your right. The trail leads straight across the grass and back into the aspens and pines on the other side.

You hesitate briefly when you spot the source of the voices.

Two men stand beside the lake. Most hikers just leave each other alone. They nod hello, comment on the weather, and keep going. You’re about to follow this general etiquette when the dark haired man pushes the other.

“You have no choice!” he shouts. “Take the stone and leave it by the alter.” He shoves an object into the other man’s hands. From where you stand it looks like it’s glowing.

“I can’t get that close,” the other man, who’s taller but willowy in stature, objects.

“Figure it out.” The dark haired man steps back, ending the conversation, and vanishes.

You make a startled noise and then duck behind a tree as the remaining man looks your way.

His face is narrow with the cheeks hollowed in under his cheekbones but this only holds your attention for a moment as the object in his hand catches your attention again.

It is, in fact, glowing. So much so that it’s shining through his fingers in broad daylight. It makes his fingers look thinner than they probably are.

He doesn’t seem to see you and finally turns to follow the trail up past the lake with his shoulders slumped and his head down.

After he disappears into the trees, you step out from where you’re hiding and head up to the lake.

The spot the men were standing doesn’t show any signs of them being there. Not that you’re a tracker or anything, but they didn’t even leave footprints. A chill goes through you even though you can’t put a finger on exactly why.

Your day of getting away and simply enjoying is now ruined. You can’t get the strange encounter out of your head.

If you head up the trail to go farther, you’ll end up following the man just to see where he goes and what he does with the glowing object.

If you head back down the trail you’ll be plagued with curiosity but then, you may also be safer. You’ve never seen a man simply disappear before and the whole encounter gives you the willies.

So do you…

A. Follow the Man?

Or

B. Turn Around?

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!)

When Sticks Move Part Three

Welcome back for the finish of the story.

If you missed the rest of the week just know that Layla was taken to see dragons by Micah. However, Micah was only using Layla to draw the dragon out and he captured one to sell it. Layla and her brother, Alan, are now attempting to free the captured dragon, Mallon.

Now for the finish. Hope you enjoy=)

When Sticks Move Part Three

Micah glared at her from where he leaned beside the door to the basement.

“I want in,” she repeated. “You want to continue selling dragons, I want to be part of it.”

“Why would I let you?” Micah asked. “You’re worse than your brother when it comes to having a conscience.”

“It’s not like we live in luxury. Plus, Mom can’t continue working. Not in her condition.”

The glare still graced his face but a line formed between his dark brows.

“We don’t need you for the sale,” he said. “You don’t need to be here right now.”

“Actually,” Layla stepped forward, forcing her self to be bolder than usual. “I can help with moving the dragon.”

“How so?” Micah eyed her as if to say she wasn’t strong enough to be much help.

“I can convince the dragon to move all on his own. No ropes, no men to carry him, just little old me. Less chance of damaging him and far more quiet so the neighbors don’t notice.”

“Prove it.” Micah opened the basement door and gestured for Layla to lead the way.

A single lantern lit the steps on the way down. Layla trailed her hand along the wall, half to feel the rough stone, the texture of something solid, and half to hide the shaking in her hands.

“How’d you get the dragon down here?” she asked. The stairs were too narrow for Mallon’s torso. Even trussed up, he was simply too big.

“Back door.” Micah didn’t elaborate.

The stairs continued downward longer than Layla expected. As she reached the bottom, the basement opened up and she understood why.

The single room doubled the size of the house above and, on the far side, a door like that of a barn took up most of the wall. It was perfect for the sale of a dragon.

“Still can’t get the tail hooked,” a man coming up to Micah’s shoulder informed him.

“He must be secure for the sale,” Micah raised his brow as he turned to Layla. “Prove you can control him. His tail needs to be tied to those rings.”

Three metal rings jutted from the ground along where Mallon’s tail lay. Other ropes held his legs and neck to similar rings.

“Fights more than most,” the short man cautioned.

Mallon’s tail lashed sideways, knocking two men over and slamming a third against the wall.

The emerald eyes rolled under the brow ridges Layla had once mistaken as part of a tree. She couldn’t see how she’d been so blind.

The eye facing her stopped, fixated on her.

Come to make it right or to worsen your crime?

Layla wasn’t touching him yet and so she didn’t respond. Micah’s short assistant sputtered more cautions as she approached the dragon. Even strapped to the floor, Mallon’s head reached her hip.

Laying her palm on the cool scales of Mallon’s forehead, Layla marveled. The texture was different from Haverim, almost smooth but with more ridges.

“You knew I was there,” she said, “when you stepped on me.” There was no way Mallon wouldn’t have killed her unless he’d dispersed his weight.

“Why’d you do it?”

Testing you. Most hunters, Mallon snorted, hitting a man’s face with hot breath, won’t sit still for such a thing. They call in their men long before I get the chance to walk over them.

Layla almost laughed. “You need to be still now.”

Why?

Looking over her shoulder would only alert Micah that she knew he was there, watching and listening. She lowered herself to look Mallon directly in the eye.

“You want to see Alan or anyone else again, you need to be still.” Layla hardened her voice like her Mom used to, before the accident. “You’ll walk out of here after the sale because I’ll make you.”

Defiance flared in Mallon’s eye, bright and angry. But then he closed the lid with a soft click of his scales. His body relaxed as though sleeping.

“Tie his tail,” Layla called over her shoulder.

“Impressive,” Micah said. “Stand over there for the sale.”

Layla retreated to the wall Micah pointed to. It was too far away to touch Mallon.

Alan and Haverim? Mallon’s voice was soft in her ears.

Settling her shoulder blades against the wall, Layla nodded. Mallon stayed relaxed, even snoring part way through the bidding. Most of the bidders Layla didn’t recognize but then, she wasn’t well acquainted with the city’s upper class. She kept her head down until Micah approached after the sale.

“Move him out the doors onto the wagon waiting outside. Then you’re done for the night.” Micah instructed.

“And payment?”

“I’ll swing by tomorrow and we’ll talk.”

Should she push it? Would Micah expect her to? Micah strode away before Layla decided. She took that as a good sign and pushed off the wall.

“Time to move,” she instructed Mallon. “No funny stuff. I’d rather not see my payment go up in smoke.”

I can’t breath fire.

“Untie him.” Layla looked at the men gathered without responding to Mallon’s comment. They hesitated but when Mallon stayed relaxed and Micah nodded to them, they complied.

Mallon rose but kept his head low enough for Layla to maintain contact with his forehead.

“Let’s walk—for now,” she muttered the last part. The handlers were backed up to give them space but Micah stayed close as they approached the doors. Layla eyed the dragon’s sides as he walked. The scales shifted seamlessly over the creature’s muscles. She’d always imagined dragon’s with cape like wings but there was no hint of such appendages.

“Guess the tales of dragons with wings were just that, tales,” Layla commented to Micah.

“Never seen one fly,” Micah responded. He gestured for the men to bring the wagon closer.

You’re blind. But I can’t take off in an alley.

The wagon barely fit between the walls.

“Why’s the wagon full of boughs?” one of the men asked.

The driver glanced over at him. “Following orders.”

Layla knew that voice. She spotted the boughs in the light of the driver’s lantern as he un-shuttered one side. Layered within the branches was a nice film of witch’s hair.

“Run!” she shoved Mallon’s head toward the open end of the alley just as Alan pitched the lantern into the wagon. He jumped from the seat, knocking into Micah on his way past. The witch’s hair caught with a whoosh.

Mallon’s claws wrapped around Layla and then she hung bouncing as the dragon cradled her against his side, running on three legs.

A clicking rustled along his sides, above his legs. Layla blinked as Mallon’s scales rippled outward, parting from his body.

The alley ended. Layla caught a brief view of an open avenue and then nothing but green scales darkened by night and the buffet of wind. Her stomach sank like she’d missed a gigantic step.

Relax Seer. It’s my turn to help you.

***

Layla sat on her bed, unable to sleep. She couldn’t decide if flying was the most exciting experience she’d ever had or the most terrifying.

One thing she was sure of—Mallon saved her. She’d thought through his escape but not her own. She would have been caught in the alley had the dragon not taken her with him.

That left the question of Alan. She’d made it home an hour earlier and still there was no sign of her brother.

Something thudded against her door. Layla jumped. She thought about hiding but there was no place to go.

Had Micah come for her?

But it wasn’t Micah who stood in her door.

“Alan,” She rushed to him.

“Next time,” he said, hugging her back, “tell me your whole plan before setting it in motion.”

The End

Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,

Jennifer

When Sticks Move Part Two

Welcome to the second part of the story!

If you missed the beginning just know that Micah led Layla out to a field to see a dragon but when she wanted to tell her brother, Alan, about seeing one, he cautioned her against it. Now Layla’s back out in the field to see the dragon again without Micah but she’s pretty sure she’s been followed.

Now for the story. Hope you enjoy=)

When Sticks Move Part Two

Instead of seeing a stick or something that might resemble a dragon, she was pretty sure she’d been followed. Something moved in the trees to her left. The movement hadn’t started until several minutes after she laid down. It was unlikely then that her follower could see her in the tall grass, but whomever it was seemed to be searching.

Layla wasn’t sure whether to be relieved that, with the motion no dragons would show themselves, or be disappointed someone ruined her chance of seeing one again.

Movement to her right, a flash of something dark, drew her attention. She shifted her eyes left but didn’t turn her head. More movement zeroed her eyes to the long arch of a scaled back.

Her follower stilled moved in the trees to her left. She could hear the occasional snap of a twig to prove it without her even looking. Surely the dragon could hear it. Why was it showing itself then?

A snout parted the grass. The nostrils flared and lips parted over long teeth. Layla stopped breathing. It was that or scream.

Finally she looked up from the teeth to meet the emerald eyes watching her.

Another seer.

Layla twitched.

“Seer?” She mouthed the words but no sound came with them.

Prett—

The dragon flinched. Layla cringed back as the parted lips pulled into a snarl and the eyes narrowed.

Trap!

The dragon tipped onto its side, its legs pulled from beneath it. The tail lashed out but something pulled it back mid-swing.

Layla sat up only to see men rushing at her. She scooted backwards from the ropes they threw but then she realized the ropes were not meant for her.

Several twisted around the dragon’s legs and more crossed over its back, holding the massive torso to the ground.

“What?” She couldn’t form the full question. She didn’t know what to ask.

“Well done, Layla.”

She pivoted into a crouch to see who spoke.

“Micah?”

He grinned. His eyes sparkled with the familiar humor but it was tinged with something mean.

Layla’s stomach clenched with the desire to throw up. “What are you doing?”

“Making money.” The grin widened. “You’ve any idea what a dragon will sell for?”

“Sell for?” Layla glanced over her shoulder at the beautiful beast.

Make it right, Seer. Find Alan.

She stared as the men finished trussing up the legs and then loaded the dragon onto the flatbed wagon they’d hidden in the trees.

Make it right?

No answer came.

“Don’t sweat it, Layla. This wouldn’t be the first time a seer’s helped capture a dragon.” And with that Micah strode away, following the wagon from the field.

Not the first time?

“Alan.” Layla was sure of it. That’s why Micah hadn’t wanted her to say anything to her brother.

***

“Alan.”

He didn’t immediately turn to acknowledge her. Tying up his horse, he pulled his coat from behind the saddle and gave Grover a scratch behind the ear.

“He tricked you, didn’t he?”

Layla twitched. “How’d you know?”

“Pulled the same stunt on me a few months back. Tried to convince me to help him again but I refused. When you mentioned Micah yesterday, I contacted Haverim.”

“Who?”

Alan eyed her and then sighed. “Micah didn’t let you introduce yourself?”

“No.”

Pushing his hair back, Alan sighed. “Follow me.”

He led the way into the house and then out the back door to the cellar. Layla stayed at his heels all the way into the cool darkness until he lit the lantern. She froze but Alan continued forward to place his hand on the dragon’s forehead.

This wasn’t the emerald-eyed beast she’d seen in the field. Of course not. That one was being held by Micah’s crew.

This creature was bigger with a spine running all the way from the tip of its tail to the end of its snout. And its scales glowed a dull golden brown.

Layla’s cheeks warmed in shame.

“Meet Haverim,” Alan introduced.

“Hi,” Layla stepped forward with a tentative hand stretched out.

“Place your hand on his forehead.”

She took another step to rest her palm on the cool scales. Haverim’s eyes closed.

Hello Layla.

“The one in the field didn’t need contact,” she blurted.

“Neither does Haverim to speak, but to understand us they need contact.”

“Oh.”

Mallon was taken.

“Yes, I think. I didn’t get his name.”

I cannot go into the city to save him.

“I’ll go,” Layla promised. “I messed up.”

Haverim nodded. Good. Make it right or I will make sure you never see us again. Then he vanished.

Layla jumped back with a choked screech.

“He does that sometimes.” Alan shrugged.

“Why did Micah need us?” Of course Micah had seen dragons before, otherwise he wouldn’t be trying to sell them. What did she and Alan have that he didn’t?

“We’re seers. Means we can connect with dragons, so they’re attracted to us.”

“But why haven’t I seen one before?”

“Never slowed down long enough.”

All of Micah’s words made sense now. Layla felt sick.

“What do we do?”

“We free Mallon.”

Layla followed him from the cellar with too many questions to voice.

***

Micah’s wagon was left beside a house in the city. It wasn’t a house his family owned but Layla recognized the arms above the door. The house of Erik Coglin, one of Micah’s friends.

Layla shook her head.

“Why didn’t I suspect him?” She asked again. She’d asked the question several times on the ride to the city.

Alan raised a brow at her. He’d already pointed out that she had suspected Micah, just not in the way he deserved.

I’m an idiot.

“You’re not an idiot,” Alan said.

Layla turned to stare at him.

“What? You’re not.”

She let it go. Alan always seemed to know her thoughts. It was creepy at times.

“They must be holding him in the basement.” Alan mused.

“How you figure?” Layla shook her head and joined him at the wagon.

“They wouldn’t have wanted to move Mallon far. Not in the middle of the day.”

The thought of moving a dragon brought up all sorts of difficulties. “How do they move a dragon?”

“Trussed up tight and with a lot of men,” Alan said. He moved around the wagon, considering it.

“Did you bring your fire kit?” Layla blurted as an idea hit her.

“Of course. Why?”

“Burn the wagon when you see Mallon. The smokier the better.”

“Layla!” Alan called after her but Layla was already moving. It was almost dusk and for her idea to work, she had to be in place before the sale of Mallon happened.

To Be Finished on Saturday

Blessings,

Jennifer

When Sticks Move Part One

Welcome to a new short story. This one started from a random dream snippet of a dragon walking on me. Go figure. I don’t usually remember my dreams but this one stuck and I couldn’t resist attempting a story.

It grew longer than I’d like but I really prefer to keep it all within a week, so I’ll post it in three parts with an extra post on Saturday. Personally I prefer that over posting two gigantic posts. Let me know, Dear Readers, if you would prefer something different because these stories are for your enjoyment. Or, if you have any editing suggestions that would help tighten the story, I’d love to hear those too.

Again, welcome and I hope you enjoy=)

When Sticks Move

I should know better. Layla prided herself on being able to see practical jokes coming. She’d never been the brunt of one—until now. Micah would never let her live it down if he’d just succeeded in pulling one over on her.

But he swore dragons existed and there’d been something to his confidence that made her believe him. Said he’d seen a few but most people never slowed down long enough to see what lay hidden right before their eyes.

The tall grass swayed, tickling Layla’s cheek. She resisted the urge to scratch. Laying on her back, she remained still, taking slow, long breaths.

She wanted to believe Micah but now she was starting to think he was making a fool out of her.

He lay a few feet to her left, probably laughing this whole time, staying still just to see how long she would wait.

Layla could see it. His silent laugh spread across his face. That was Micah’s way. He played jokes on people all the time and this would be the laugh of the month for him. She almost sat up to see but then stopped herself.

What if he wasn’t lying? What if there really were dragons?

She stopped a snort in her nose. It tickled. Blinking a couple of times to distract herself from sneezing, she refocused on the stick jutting out of the grass several yards from her feet.

The tree it came from probably lay hidden in the grass, recently fallen. At least Layla guessed recently fallen because the bark still covered the branch in a thick layer of dark ridges. It curved toward the end and rounded out like a snout.

If she imagined it, she could believed the little bowl toward the end to be a nostril and the oval circles farther back to be a closed eyelid and brow ridge.

Perhaps her fancy was getting the better of her but the longer she stared, the more like a head the stick looked.

It moved. Layla twitched and blinked. Then kept her lids open for a prolonged period of time, watching. It moved again, swinging slowly to the left, then the right with the nostrils flaring in air.

The lids opened just a crack. Emerald green glinted through. Layla bit the inside of her lip to keep from squealing.

A dragon!

It rose in the grass and the hint of a back emerged below the long neck. Layla wondered how she ever mistook it for a stick but Micah was right, she usually would have walked right past it without a question in her mind.

The neck stretched out like a cat getting up from a nap before the dragon moved off to the right.

Layla wanted so badly to follow it. To simply pivot her head to keep it in her line of sight. But Micah had been adamant about not moving. He said dragons sensed motion. Any movement and she’d never see it again.

She could hear it though. The creature’s sinuous steps swished in the grass, slow and cautious.

Something brushed her arm and Layla choked in a scream. A clawed foot rose above her, the toes stretched out for balance. The dragon’s head lifted high above its body, not watching the ground it walked on but watching the horizon like it expected something to appear.

The foot came down across Layla’s torso, shifting heel to toe from her right to her left and pressing into her rib cage as the dragon put its weight down.

Micah swore she wasn’t to move, especially if it’d spook the dragon because then it might attack.

Layla held her breath and tensed her stomach as the weight pressed into her. She rolled slowly with the heel to toe motion, right to left. Tears pooled and then streamed from the outside corners of her eyes and into her hair.

The dragon never looked down. It placed its other foot and the weight slowly lifted.

Just as Layla started to relax, the tail drug across her body. Its rough scales heated her skin and, when the tail was gone and she braved looking, she saw it had burned her like the rug in her mom’s living room.

***

“It burned you!” Micah held her arm to examine the burn.

“Its tail did,” Layla attempted to pull away but it didn’t work. “Alan would love seeing a dragon! I’ve got to tell him.”

Micah’s grip tightened, keeping her from racing home “He’d hate it.”

Layla stilled, searching Micah’s eyes. “Hate it?”

Micah looked away and released her arm.

“What do you mean, Micah?”

“Nothing.” He walked away, no sign of humor in his eyes.

***

Layla kept her head down as she ate dinner. Beside her sat Alan, his elbow brushing her burned arm every time he lifted his spoon to his mouth.

His elbow brushed her again and Layla winced. She covered it by taking another bite.

“Long sleeves, Layla?”

Layla looked up. Mom interrupted Alan to ask the question. It was Mom’s way. She blurted whatever caught her attention.

Layla tried not to look at the scar that ran into her Mom’s hair. Being hit by a runaway wagon had done more than leave a scar. It’d destroyed a part of their Mom’s brain. The part that could track a whole conversation.

“Just chilled,” Layla lied. In reality it was hot—really hot—but she couldn’t think up a way to explain her burn without confusing her mom. “Too much sun, maybe.”

Mom hummed and Alan picked up talking again like nothing happened.

Layla finished eating and took the plates, rushing away to escape Alan’s elbow. She’d never noticed before how much he bumped her while eating.

“Whatcha hiding?”

She spun to find Alan leaning against the kitchen doorframe.

“Hiding?”

He smirked. “Long sleeves when it’s burning hot outside? Really?”

The mention of burning made Layla twitch. “Just got burned when Micah was showing me how to start a fire using witch’s hair. Didn’t want to explain to Mom.”

Alan eyed her and Layla knew he didn’t believe her. He shrugged before turning away. Layla breathed in relief. He hadn’t pressed, which was odd, but she wasn’t going to look the gift horse in the mouth.

***

Maybe she should have looked the gift horse in the mouth. Layla lay still in the middle of the field. Micah refused to come with her. He said too much time out in the field and someone might start asking questions.

But Layla hadn’t been able to resist. She’s waited for everyone to leave the house and then headed out the back.

Instead of seeing a stick or something that might resemble a dragon, she was pretty sure she’d been followed.

To Be Continued on Thursday…

Blessings,

Jennifer