On the Doorstep of December

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Typically today would mark the start of a new adventure. We’d be wandering into the woods or ascending a marble staircase of an abandoned house or climbing a tree in search of a wise owl to ask for advise. Sorry to disappoint, but we’ve reached that time of year again.

All the leaves are moldering on the ground and the air outside’s crisp and filled with woodsmoke. By the end of the week it’ll be December. As always, I’ve no idea where the year went.

At the start of this year I had high ambitions (always do) and some of them were fulfilled. My latest novel length story, Dryad, has been edited and I’m now in the process of submitting it to agents. It’s an amazing feeling to reach that point and I’m trying to view the rejections so far as a badge of success because I can’t receive rejections if I’m not submitting. So there’s that. =)

I did not get to self publishing any of the adventures. So that is the next big project on my list. After looking over them all, I was astounded to find I’ve written over 40. It’s definitely time to see what can be done with them. (Perhaps by this time next year you’ll be able to hold a hard copy of an adventure and explore all the different endings at your leisure.)

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Although I do enjoy a good whiskey =)

But before I dig into that project, it’s time to enjoy this season. For me, December has become the time to step back and focus on family and friends, to breath and figure out what, exactly, the next year’s goals are going to be. What those goals will look like and what is required to reach them. I get so focused on just doing, that by this time of year I need to pause and reevaluate.

If you’ve read this far into this post, thanks. =) With everything that demands your attention, I appreciate your support of this blog and my writing.

If you’re in the USA, I hope your Thanksgiving was a wonderful time. May your December be amazing as well. I promise the Adventure will return to brighten your days in January.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Hunter Option Aa2: Threaten

This vote did not go as I thought it would. I love it when readers surprise me.

Let’s see how this story ends.

Hunter Option Aa2: Threaten

Usually the less aggressive option appeals more to you but the man’s still keening on the ground, in obvious distress over his wolves, and his eyes seem sharpened with something just that side of insanity.

Master Finn stands at your shoulder watching as well. He fidgets from his left foot to his right and back. “He’s an awful liar,” he informs you after a moment.

“Wouldn’t trust a trade?” you ask.

Master Finn shakes his head.

“Then we’ll try something else.”

You walk to the box wagon and the giant man goes still, watching you with his chin resting on the ground. The position, since he’sdsc_0059 still hobbled with hands and feet tied together, contorts his spine into a spiral, but this doesn’t seem to disturb him.

“Thing about this box wagon,” you say over your shoulder, “is it’s got barred windows.” You climb onto the wagon’s seat and slide the panel off the front window. It shifts to the side with a cringing wood on wood creak.

You brace your feet on the wagon and hold your bow out for the man to see.

A wolf barrels its body against the open window, rocking the wagon. Next you see teeth through the bars but none of this breaks the wagon and so you rock with the motion and continue talking to the man.

“You’ve got three chances with this,” you continue. “Tell me where the boys are.” The arrow rests against the string, and its broad tip is clearly visible to the man in the street.

He howls and rolls, almost slobbering now.

“Right then,” you say, “two chances left.” And you pull back the arrow.

“NO!”

It’s the first clear word from the man since you captured the wolves.

Holding the arrow ready, you pause, “boys?”

“They’re that way.” He points.

“We know that,” you continue to hold the arrow ready although the tension’s starting to ache in your shoulders. Soon you’ll start to shake.

“Follow the deer-trail-behind-the-mill,” words tumble from him. In great detail he outlines the trees and the small, dry creek bed the deer trail meets. He tells of the wolf den beside that creek bed and gives the distance, in exact time, to the den. He even layers on the smell of the snow sitting on the needles around the den and the must of wet earth when you crawl inside.

It could all be made up but you doubt it.

archer-1578365By now the bow rests against your leg and the arrow hangs from your fingers. “Put him in the jail,” you instruct Master Finn, “while I check out his directions.”

Later, while crawling into the den, you’re a bit amazed at how accurate the man’s description of the smell is. It wafts around you, earthy and damp. But then you’re distracted by the sight of two boys, maybe four and six, huddled in the tight confines of the wolves’ home.

***

You bring the boys home and stay in the village until a messenger fetches several lawmen from the closest city.

Then, with some relief, you watch the lawmen haul the giant and his wolves away while the villager’s payment for your services rests comfortably in your pocket.

The End

Congratulations on your success!

Blessings,

Jennifer

Hunter Option Aa: Bait Them

Welcome back, Hunter. Let’s go bait some wolves.

Hunter Option Aa: Bait Them

Now that the village center stands empty, the giant man grins and holds his hands out with a questioning raise of his brow like you might release him.

“Ha,” you laugh. “The wolves didn’t take your boys by accident.” This is a statement, not a question, and the man doesn’t deign towolf-2-1568458 respond other than to lower his hands again.

It’s your turn to grin and you push him to the center of the village square. Straight ahead the road runs out of the village and into the forest that hems it on the far side. That’s the way the wolves went. You have the man face that direction and tell him to sit.

When he’s lowered his considerable bulk, you hobble him there by placing bags over his hands and then tying his hands and feet all together.

“You move, I’ll shoot you,” you warn before turning to survey your options.

The general store sits, broad and low, to your right. Since it’s a single story building, the roof presents itself as a good vantage point in which to see the road. Across from it faces off the tavern, double story but with a balcony on the second floor. Also a good vantage point but more exposed.

“You’ll never catch them,” the man says.

“Who says I’m going to catch them?” you ask.

He straightens and, in the dark, his eyes glint as he leans toward you, perhaps trying to see your face better.

“You rightly called me a hunter,” you remind him.

He grunts but there’s a strangled quality to it. He truly cares about these wolves.

If you were just trying to rid the village of the beasts, you wouldn’t hesitate, but with the boys the wolves took, there’s an unspoken assumption that you’ll get the boys back.

Perhaps capturing the wolves will give you leverage to find the boys.

You spin on a heel and go to the door of the general store.

“Master Finn,” you call. He’s the general store owner and the man who contacted you in the first place.

After a brief pause, the door cracks open to show Master Finn’s broad nose and dark eyes.

“Got anything that might work as a cage?” you ask.

After a bit of explaining, you recruit three of the villagers to help you and they assist in turning the lawman’s box wagon into a sturdier cage to house three large wolves.

Then you send two of them to gather baskets of sage and the third you inquire about the availability of raw meat.

Once all is set, you perch yourself atop the general store roof with your bow. In the village square the big man still sits hobbled but you added a gag to the ensemble as well to prevent him giving the wolves orders.

Behind him on the side of the street, the box wagon rests with its back door wide open. You can’t see it from where you sit, but several large chunks of raw beef stain the floorboards of the wagon.

In the side streets your recruited villagers wait, out of sight and down wind.

Now all you have to do is wait. If your theory about the big man is correct, it shouldn’t take long for the wolves to come looking for him.

Your theory’s correct.

They’re silent shadows framing the street. Slinking from one building to the next with a fascinating, smooth grace you truly appreciate as a hunter. They’re wary, with good reason, but finally one creeps into the center of the square to sniff at the big man. With him sitting, the wolf’s head could rest on top of his own.

He struggles against his bonds and the wolf growls low, surprised.

But one of the others gives a soft huffing sound as it comes close to the wagon and sniffs inside.

dsc_0059It disappears into the dark box wagon.

The third wolf takes a step to follow but the lead one, the one by the big man, growls and backs away.

Time to push them.

In a single, smooth move, you rise and draw the bow. The string twangs softly in your ear with the release of the arrow.

Barely a moment later, the arrow thuds into the hind quarters of the wolf. You blunted the tip but the wolf jumps with a yelp and runs. It aims to go around the wagon but one of the villagers runs at it with a flaming torch of sage. The smoke coming off the torch billows into the wolf’s nose and it backs away, chuffing with distress.

You have to give the villager credit. Running at a wolf that size isn’t typically a person’s first instinct.

But the beast backs away, and finds another villager pushing it from the side.

It takes another several arrows and the villagers not backing down, but within five minutes, all three wolves have been pushed into the box wagon and the door bangs shut under the hand of Master Finn.

The broad nosed man grins and giggles. You suspect it’s because if he doesn’t, he might cry in sheer relief.

Everything quiets except for one harsh noise. The big man has canted onto his left side and is wiggling and half screaming in an attempt to get to the caged wolves.

The beasts respond with their own keening.

Now that you have them contained, you have to decide, do you offer the man a trade. The wolves and his life, and them to never return to the village, in exchange for the boys. Or do you threaten the wolves to get the man to give up the boy’s location?

Aa1: Trade?

Or

Aa2: Threaten?

Well done so far! Now how would you like to proceed?

We’ll finish the adventure on Thursday.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Hunter Option A: Capture the Man

Now that the election craziness is done, let’s breath for a moment and explore some fictional adventure in which you’re trying to save a village from its menace.

Here we go…

Hunter Option A: Capture the Man

The gloating tone of the man is not that of an underling. It’s the assured sound of someone who thinks he’s got everything figuredthumb_dsc01579_1024 out. So whoever’s in the village, if you’re right, is acting on his orders.

“Villagers definitely left out some details,” you say.

“They always do,” the man says. His voice has moved. It’s closer and more directly in front of you.

“I’m pretty sure they knew a man was the one haunting the town,” you keep talking, waiting for him to reveal himself. “In fact, I’m pretty sure they know who you are.”

That deep, confident chuckle answers you. “You might be right.”

There. A slight movement behind a large fir finally reveals his location.

You hug your coat tighter and slip a hand into the pocket under your left arm.

“It’s annoying,” you say. “They expect me to take care of their problem and yet, they can’t give me all the details.” You take several steps down the trail and wave one hand with your frustration. “What do they expect but failure from the hunters they hire?”

Again the man chuckles.

You take two quick steps and fling your hand out to the side. The knife leaves your fingers and a moment later there’s a satisfying thud as the hilt strikes the man’s head.

The chuckle gargles and then dies. The man stumbles against the fir, holds himself for a second, and collapses to the forest floor.

He’s a giant of a man. Before he turned to mush, he stood probably six foot six. A beard sprouts from his cheeks and chin to wash over his chest. His face is not one that graces your wanted fliers. So who is he?

“Guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” you tell his silent form. Rolling him over, you tie his hands behind his back and hobble his feet together so he can walk but not run. Then you settle in to wait until he comes to.

It doesn’t actually take that long before his eyes flutter and then deep green eyes are watching you from atop that impressive beard.

“Well played, Hunter,” he grumbles and winces. The knife probably left him with one very noticeable headache.

“Time to visit the village.” You haul him to his feet and have him walk in front of you back to the village.

It’s dark by now but the village is well lit with torches and lanterns. No longer are the doors and windows shut tight. In fact, everyone seems to be gathered in the central square, all clamoring to be heard at once.

Like a wave, they fall silent as soon as they notice you and the giant man.

“Your own boys!” a woman breaks the silence. “They took your own boys.”

The giant man grins. It reveals two broken teeth and a dark spot where one tooth is missing altogether.

“Who took his boys?” you ask, tired of being kept in the dark.

No one answers.

You single out a boy maybe ten years old. “Who took the boys?”

The boy swallows, glances at his mother and then back at you and apparently decides you look the scarier because he mutters. “Wolves. Wolves took Malcolm and Ethan.”

“How many?” you press.

The boy shrugs. “Three maybe.”

“All right,” you tell the villagers in general. “Back inside. Lock up doors again.”

“It doesn’t help. They went right through my door!” A man points to the building behind him. The front door hangs in shreds like the wolf’s claws found it no harder to slice through than cloth.

“Imagine how much easier they’d find this group of people in the open,” you say.

At this, the villagers mutter a bit and back away to hide in their homes.

wolf-1357366After a moment, you’re left with the giant man in an empty village square. You still believe the man’s the leader. You’re not sure how that’s possible, but the wolves didn’t take his boys by accident.

He’s still grinning that manic grin.

Using the man, you might be able to lure the wolves back to the village and dispatch them.

Or, you might be able to force the man to take you to their den. Between the man and your tracking abilities, you might be able to find the lair. He won’t be cooperative either way, but you don’t see any other options.

So…

Aa. Bait them?

Or

Ab. Track them?

Please vote in the comments for how you’d like to proceed. We’ll return on Tuesday to see what happens next

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Hunter

It’s that time of year when the leaves are falling and there’s a decided chill in the air. That chill may have influenced this adventure a bit. Hope you enjoy =)

Hunter
A wind, scented with snow and sage from the fields surrounding the village, blows against your face. It chills your skin until a
smile feels brittle in your cheekbones. But you smile anyway, because if you don’t, you’re afraid you’ll give in to the sense of foreboding creeping up your neck and run.

Everyone knows running is the worst thing you can do in such a situation. Whether it’s a wolf or an ogre behind you, running simply encourages it to chase you, and then eat you when it catches you.

So you focus on the wind painting your cheeks with cold and take deep breaths of the winter. Those breaths coat your throat with the chill too and settle into your chest with a dull ache. It would hurt to run because of that ache. It’d turn from a chill in your throat to a burn, which tastes like copper. You know this from past experience.

No one walks in the street with you. All the doors and windows are closed, bolted tight against the world. That’s good. The villagers are doing exactly as you asked of them.

wolf-2-1568458When they hired you, they couldn’t say exactly what plagues their village. All they know is something is stalking people; always at dusk there’s that sense of foreboding and some of the people report growls. From your experience, you guess it’s a wolf, an ogre or a man. There’re several wanted men supposed in the area. Their wanted fliers crinkle in your bag.

You continue down the road, your coat pulled tight across your shoulders as though you’re warding off the chill. Beneath your coat hide several daggers of varying size. You’d keep a bow or sword, but they’re harder to conceal and you want the threat to think you an easy target.

So you wander to the edge of town, humming low to lend a relaxed feel to everything, and head out toward the sage fields.

The hairs on your neck tickle with attention. Good. Whatever’s behind you is following you out of the village.

The road takes a sharp turn north after leaving the buildings. Directly in front of you rolls a field of solid sage coated in frosty snow. For a brief moment, you consider just wandering into the sage, letting the frost show your footprints, but any unsuspecting person would follow the road, so you turn with it and head north. The last rays of the sun extend skyward with a hazy hue of fresh snow just as you reach the trees on the northern hills.

Your skin still prickles with unease. This is where is gets dicey. The trees offer concealment with their shadows growing darker by the minute.

Someone laughs just after you step into the trees. It’s a low chuckle, full of amusement and darker malice.thumb_dsc01579_1024

“You’re not the first, you know?” a deep male voice asks.

Where is he? You turn to the right, turning your ear up to hear better, trying to place his location.

“The first?” you ask.

“Hunter,” the man says.

You stifle a growl. The villagers lied to you. They promised they hadn’t hired anyone else to handle their problem. Since they had, of course the menace knows your purpose. It changes the whole dynamic of the hunt.

“Didn’t tell you that, did they?” the man guessed. “So helpful of them.”

A cry carries on the chill breeze. At first you think it a bird but then the cry’s joined by another and it dawns on you, something’s still in the village attacking the people there.

“Yes,” the man confirms. “I’m not alone. Just one cog in the wheel.” He chuckles again. You still can’t see him but he obviously can see your face to recognize the realization there. “So what’s it to be, Hunter?” he asks. “Are you going to capture me or run to the villager’s aid?”

It’s a good question. What do you do?

A. Capture the man?

Or

B. Aid the Village?

In the comments, vote for whichever choice you’d like to explore. On Thursday, the adventure will return with the choice that gets the most votes. Good luck!

Blessings,

Jennifer

Black Stone Option Aa1: Yes

Welcome back for the conclusion of the adventure. Hopefully throwing in with the child trolls goes well for you…

Black Stone Option Aa1: Yes

Perhaps it’s the thought that kindness toward the three trolls might make a difference in their lives, or perhaps you just can’t ignore their big, yellow eyes staring hopefully at you.

Whatever the reason, you look the man square in the eye and tell him, “Yes, we’re with the trolls.” They’re the oddest words you’ve ever said but the child trolls grin huge, toothy smiles and you don’t doubt your words.

The old troll chained to the wall snorts and snot flies from his nose to splatter against one of the bells.

There’s a blur and, before you can react, the man stands between you and the door. He pushes the door closed with his heel andgreen-troll-1468146 snaps his whip against the floor. He’s so fast, you wonder if he’s human.

The trolls jump and your sister slides off the shoulder to the floor. She sidles between the green legs of the trolls to stand beside you but the man doesn’t go after her.

He focuses on the child trolls. Another snap of the whip forces them back a step.

“Hey,” you shout as the next snap catches one of the troll’s legs. The poor victim cries out and stumbles backward even farther.

The steeple’s not large and these few steps place him next to the wall, beside the older creature.

Chains, of their own accord, flash out of the wall and catch the troll’s arms and legs. He gives a screech and his two companions rush to help him.

It’s a mistake. As soon as they’re close enough to the wall, more chains capture them and suck them close to the stone.

“Stay clear of the wall,” you whisper to your sister.

The man turns his attention to you now. The speed with which he evened the numbers disturbs you and to give yourself a moment to think, you start talking.

“Kind of cruel,” you observe, indicating the welt swelling on one troll’s leg.

The man shrugs. “Monsters get what they deserve.”

“What are you going to do with them?” you sister asks.

A grin, far too big to be human, splits the man’s face. Goblin maybe? You’re not sure.

“They get to sit here until the bell tolls again. In one swift move, I’ll eliminate the youngest generation of troll!”

One of the children sniffles and huge tears slick his green cheeks.

For the first time, the older troll seems disturbed. He stands and puffs out his chest.

bell-1565097“You go too far,” he rumbles and steps to the end of his chains. This places him in the middle of the steeple, directly beside the bells.

“GET BACK!” the whip cracks and, for the moment, the man completely forgets about you.

You kneel beside the nearest youngster and, with a loose stone of the steeple, you hit the chain holding his hands. It snaps with a brittle ‘pop’.

The youngster jumps to his feet and lunges onto the man’s back, wrestling him away from the whip.

While they stumble around the narrow space, you hand your sister the stone.

“Break the others free,” you say and guard her back while she works.

There’s a screech and the young troll lifts the man above his head, and then throws him through the one window in the steeple. The youngster jumps up and down in glee until your sister’s soft voice asks, “Did you kill him?”

The old troll snorts before anyone can answer. “Not likely,” he grumbles, “I’ve thrown him from that window countless times. He always comes back.”

Your sister moves to free the old troll but he pushes her away, admittedly very gently for his size. “Didn’t you hear me? He’ll come back. If I’m not here, he’ll find somebody else. I won’t have it. Not on my watch. When I figure out how to kill him, then I’ll be free.”

“But—“

“No.”

Your sister drops the stone, her eyes sad.

“—but thank you.” Only your sister could get gratitude from a troll.

Wishing to make good on that gratitude you ask, “Do you know anything about the Black Stone?”

The gnarled troll glares and slumps back into his sitting position against the wall. He says no more, even when the young trolls ask, he refuses to answer.

“Sorry,” one of the youngsters says. “Wish we could help.”

You thank them and follow them back down the stairs of the steeple. Before you get more than two steps down, the old troll calls, “No showing the humans more of the caves. You hear?”

All three youngsters hang their shoulders in dismay but they answer, in unison, “Yes, Sir.”

No amount of pleading with them gets them to disobey that command. You thank them for their help, glad for their new friendship, and then you head out alone with your sister to keep looking for the Black Stone to cure her eyes.

The End

Well, it’s not quite success but you’re not dead, so hope’s not lost. Good luck next time =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

Black Stone Option Aa. Top

The adventure’s back =) Readers voted to explore the top of the steeple for the black stone… while in the company of three child trolls! Here we go…

Black Stone Option Aa. Top

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“Top,” you say, “show us to the top of the steeple.”

“You sure,” one child troll asks, “it’s really high up there!”

Your sister gulps but then nods. “Yes, we’re sure.”

“Okay,” they say in unison.

Moments later, teeth brushed and grinning with pride, the three child trolls lead you farther into the cave system. At the end of a narrow hall that made the group walk single file, the trolls open a door to a steep, winding staircase lit by small lanterns hung at even intervals along the wall.

Your sister gulps again but when the green children look back, she smiles in encouragement. You see the apprehension in her eyes but it’s only because of how well you know her.

If these overgrown children decide you’re a better snack then entertainment, they could easily overwhelm you in the narrow space. That’s where your own apprehension resides. Your sister’s however, is more due to her lack of endurance.

Stairs like this could be more than she can handle and passing out, a clear show of weakness, could also change the child trolls’ minds in how helpful they’re being.

The staircase goes up and up and up without any sort of break in the close walls. A faint, cool breeze wafts down the corridor. Without that sign, you might yourself hyperventilate but the fresh air tells you the staircase opens somewhere, so you keep going.

One of the trolls giggles.

“Shhhh,” the one behind you says.

“I can’t help it,” the giggly one says.

“What’s funny?” your sister stops on the stairs, using the excuse to catch her breath. She leans her back against the wall as she gasps.

“We’re being bad,” the third troll says in a conspiratorial voice, not apparently noticing your sister’s distress.

“You’re not supposed to be in here?” you guess.

“Nope,” all three say.

“Why not?”

“The bells will addle our brains,” the giggly troll says. “Never go up the steeple, those bells will turn you to mush.” This last part is said in a deeper voice like the troll’s echoing a parent’s caution.

Your sister looks at you with concern. Leave it to her to care whether the child trolls hurt themselves while helping you.

“When do the bells toll?” you ask.

“Dusk.”

“What?” your sister exclaims. “That’s moments away.”

“It is?” the children ask, clearly unaware of the time of day.

“We’ve got to help them,” she says.

You hold in a groan but then, looking at three sets of terrified, yellow eyes, you can’t help but share your sister’s concern.

“Here,” you tear your sleeves from your shirt and motion for your sister to do the same. The troll’s shirts don’t have sleeves, so they just stare at you in confusion.

“Stuff this in your ears,” you tell the one behind you.

The troll gives an “Oh, how cool” and shoves the fabric deep into his, or her, you can’t really tell, ears.

You sister shares her sleeves with the giggly troll but the one in front looks at you with scared eyes, realizing there are no sleeves for him.

“Carry me,” your sister tells the troll, “on your back. I’ll cover your ears for you.”

“Fun!” the troll grasps your sister’s waist in large hands and throws her, none too gently, over his shoulder. She gives a surprised ‘eek’ but then scrambles around to sit on the troll’s shoulders.

Then, without hesitation despite the troll’s hairy ears, she stuffs her hands into his ear canals.

bell-1565097You keep from shuddering, just barely, but then the hall fills with a deep, ringing bell toll. It vibrates the walls and you cover your ears as well as the sound reverberates against your ear drums. Your sister hunches her shoulders but doesn’t pull her hands from the troll to cover her own ears.

The ringing continues in varied tones for some time and you all hunch down to simply endure.

When it finally fades, you find yourself covered in a fine sheen of sweat and your hands shake from the prolonged tension.

“Everyone okay?” you ask.

The three trolls take stock and then grin. It’s rather eerie.

“It worked!”

The troll with your sister swings her around and hugs her. Then he swings her back up on his shoulders and starts up the stairs again. The young trolls chatter in excitement the rest of the way up the stairs, thrilled by their survival of the bells.

At the top of the stairs, they swing a door open and there the giant bells hang.

“Wow,” they say in unison.

“Wow indeed,” says a new, raspy voice.

You all spin to find an old, hunched troll leaning against the wall. Chains on his ankles, wrists and throat hold the troll within a few feet of the stone.

Just beyond him stands a man of medium build. He’s in the process of winding up the length of a long whip.

“You should not be up here,” the man says and lets the whip fall loose again.

“No,” the child trolls place themselves between you and the man, protecting you.

The old, gnarled troll snorts.

The man hesitates. “You protect the humans?”

The child trolls stand a bit taller as way of answer.

“You vouch for these trolls?” the man asks your sister, who still sits on the troll’s shoulders. “Keep in mind, you’ll bear their fate if you throw in with them.”

She glances at you but you, just like her, have no idea what ‘fate’ the man speaks of.

Troll fates are never good in stories and you hesitate to condemn your sister to something horrible. At the same time, these young trolls have been perfect hosts and you’re the one who got them into this situation. You could tell them all to run and hope they’re faster than the man with the whip.

So…

Aa1: Yes?

Or

Aa2: Run?

Vote in the comments of how you’d like to continue. Thursday we’ll see how this adventure ends!

Blessings,

Jennifer