Welcome to the start of a whole new adventure. Read on and vote at the end for how you’d like to proceed but choose carefully for the world isn’t quite as it seems=)
Beings of the Lovely Hills
After almost falling asleep behind the wheel on your way home from visiting family, you decide to stop at the next place to rent a room for the night. Miles of road and trees go by before you see a sign advertising the Lovely Hills Resort. Great, a resort. The price will probably be exuberant but it’s better than getting into an accident, so you pull onto the road for the resort and park in front of the lobby, which happens to be a large log cabin with gigantic flower beds lining the front. Sunflowers taller than you grace those beds.
Slinging your pack over your shoulder, you enter the lobby and approach the counter.
“Is there a room available for the night?” you ask.
“Welcome to the Lovely Hills Resort.” The lady behind the counter gives you an empty smile. You wait but she just continues to give you that vapid grin.
“May I have a room?” you ask again.
“Of course,” she grins and hands you a key. No payment, no ‘please sign these papers,’ just a brass key.
“How much do I owe for the night?” you ask.
“Owe? What do you mean?” Vapid grin.
You let it go. The key’s engraved with a number three. You decide to go look for room three without directions.
Stepping out the back door of the lobby, you find yourself surrounded by tall trees that smell sharply of pine. Three trails covered in wood chips fan out from your feet. There aren’t any signs telling you which way to go, so you simply head down the right hand path.
The day’s ending, so you hope to find room three before the sun sets and leaves you in darkness.
A building appears up ahead to the right of the path. As you draw closer, you see it’s a log cabin with large picture windows, a peaked roof, and a chimney. On the door is a number ten.
Turning around, you head back, realizing the numbering system probably runs left to right from the lobby. Reaching the lobby again, you head off down the left hand path and breathe a sigh of relief when the first cabin you come to displays a brass number one.
Continuing on, you pass number two and finally reach number three. You’re eyes droop with exhaustion. Shoving the door open, you drop your pack onto the floor, close the door and lean against it with a sigh.
The cabin’s furnished with heavy, dark wood furniture with leather cushions and boasts hard wood floors and lush ornate rugs. At this point, you wouldn’t care if it just had a bed and a bathroom.
You trudge to the four poster bed and fall onto it, groaning in pleasure.
You’re just this side of sleep when something brushes your cheek. You brush it away but it returns. Blinking, you find the cabin dark. You must have fallen asleep for a little while. Rolling onto your back, you wait for your eyes to adjust and when they do, you make out a small shape sitting on the bed beside you. Two shiny eyes blink as they watch you.
“Welcome to the resort,” purrs the shape.
“I’m dreaming,” you rub your eyes and look again but the cat’s still there.
“No dream. Just the start to a fabulous journey. Answer me this, human, what’s small at first, winged at birth but feared by all when the end of its life falls?”
“What?” You’re still groggy from lack of sleep. Rubbing your eyes, you protest, “I just stopped in for some sleep. I’m not here to play games.”
The cat chuckles. “You’ll have plenty of time to sleep but you’ve yet to pay for the room. Payment around here takes a different form than money. So answer the riddle.”
Those shiny eyes stare at you unblinkingly. You remind yourself never to have a staring contest with a cat.
“Small at first, winged at birth, feared when it dies?” you mutter, thinking over the riddle. Nothing comes to mind but, as you stare at the talking cat, you realize the answer might not be part of your normal world. You could make up something mythical or just admit you don’t know.
So do you…
A. Make up something?
B. Admit you don’t know?
Beings of the Lovely Hills Option A: Make Something Up
The cat purrs as it waits for you to answer. The soft rumbling carries to your ears as you consider a response to the riddle.
“Phoenix?” you guess. It’s got wings and is ash when it’s reborn. You’re not sure about the feared thing but it’s worth a guess.
The cat chuckles. “Creative, but we haven’t had a phoenix in the Lovely Hills for some time. Try again?”
You get up for a glass of water while you think. The cat didn’t act like a phoenix was an odd answer, so going with mythical creatures might be on the right track.
As you sip from your water glass, it hits you.
“Dragon!” you say.
The cat purrs and starts kneading the coverlet. “I knew you were a sma-”
Something darts into the cabin through the open window. “He’s found us! Hurry out the back!” And whoever it is keeps running for the rear of the cabin.
The cat on the bed shrieks, jumps straight into the air, and takes off after the newcomer. “Come on,” he shouts over his shoulder, “you don’t want to be here when Nightwalk arrives!”
“Nightwalk?” You’re awake enough now to grab your bag as you follow. Past the kitchen you find the bathroom and after that is a rear door to the cabin.
At the door sits the cat from the bed and beside him is a cat with white splotches. They’re both looking at you to open the door. Pulling it open, you follow the two felines through.
As you pull the door closed, you hear a crash against the front of the cabin. There’s splintering of wood and a frustrated roar.
“This way,” whispers the white spotted feline.
You hurry after her into the trees behind the cabin. The cats stop only after passing cabin five and running down into a little valley behind the resort.
“Think we’ve lost him for now, Norman,” the white spotted one says. In the light from the moon, you can now see this cat’s smaller than Norman, who has a decided pouch to his stomach.
Norman just flops onto his side.
“A dragon? What’ve you gotten me into?” you ask.
“Lily, how’d he find us so fast?” Norman asks the white splotched cat.
Lily glares at him. “You, dumby. I went back to the nest and found where you’d rubbed against the entrance. You may as well have shouted to him who took the eggs. That’s why I came to help you tonight.”
Norman’s ears go back and he sinks his belly to the ground. “Oops” is all he says.
“What have you gotten me into?” you ask again.
Lily sits on her haunches. “We made a promise to take care of Lady Silverscale’s eggs while she’s building a new nest. She’s had some trouble with Master Nightwalk eating her hatchlings.”
“So why do you need me?”
“We can’t move the eggs and obviously, Master Nightwalk’s onto where we hid them.”
Norman sidles up to your leg and leans in. “Please, help move them.” He gives you that unblinking stare. At least it’s not vapid like the lady in the lobby.
“Why didn’t you just ask the lady in the lobby to help you?”
Both cats hiss. “She’s not all there, if you hadn’t noticed.”
“Right. All right,” you agree.
Both cats give a rumble of delight at your response. You follow them farther into a valley where a small creek’s running.
The cats freeze in front of you. Just ahead, at a spot where the creek pools, a large shape’s ruffling in the underbrush.
“No, no, no,” Norman whispers over and over again. “He’s already found the eggs.”
As you watch, you make out wings like a gigantic kite and a head with jaws that could eat you in one bite.
“What do we do now?” Norman asks.
Lily hisses at him and looks to you, “payment for a room was to move the eggs. It’s a little more complicated now. I promise you’ll get a good night’s sleep if you stay. Heck, we’ll even pay you now if you help us.”
She stares at you, waiting for a response.
Aa. Agree to help?
Ab. Walk away?
Beings of the Lovely Hills Option Aa: Agree to Help
Lily and Norman stare at you with their unblinking eyes.
“You guys are creepy, you know that?” you say.
They give what you guess are shrugs. Looking back at the dragon below, he’s pulled out three large round objects.
“If you’re going to help,” says Lily, “now’s the time.”
“Right. I’ll help. What do I do?” You’re not fully sure why you agree to give a hand but both cats start to purr, thrilled, so at least they’re happy with you.
“We’ll create a distraction. While Nightwalk’s not paying attention, you move the eggs. There’s a cave farther down the valley. Take the eggs there and we’ll meet you.” The cats creep forward.
You pull your pack off while they’re headed toward the dragon. Pulling it open, you scrounge around until you find your sleeping bag. Good thing you needed it while visiting the family.
The cats race at the dragon from both sides of his head while hissing and spitting. He rears back with a roar that shakes the ground beneath your feet. Snapping at Lily, he misses her by mere inches as she changes direction so fast that you miss where she went until you spot her racing up a tree to the left.
Norman takes the opportunity to launch himself onto Nightwalk’s head. The chubby cat sinks his claws into the edge of one eye lid and continues to hiss and spit.
You’ve got to give it to the cat, he’s got some guts.
Nighwalk shakes his head hard and Norman’s body whips around. Somehow, he doesn’t loose his hold. The dragon steps around to smack the side of his head against a tree.
You sling your pack on and gather the sleeping bag into your arms. Racing forward, you duck under Nighwalk’s tail as he swings around to smack his head against another tree.
Reaching the eggs, you try to shove one into your sleeping bag. It must weight about fifty pounds. Groaning, you shove harder and get the egg to roll into the bag.
Moving onto the second one, you shove hard and hear the eggs clink together as it rolls into the bag too. Hopefully the shells are more resilient than a typical egg because there’s no way to keep them from hitting each other.
Turning to the third egg, you have it half way into the sleeping bag when you feel hot breath on your back. You look over your shoulder to find nostrils the size of your head.
“What’d they tell you, human? That I’m out to eat Lady Silverscale’s eggs?” The voice rumbles. The sound’s so deep you can feel it in your rib cage.
“That’s right,” you say, still pushing against the egg in hopes it’ll give and roll into the bag.
The nostrils snort hot breath. “Of course they did. There are only two dragons at the Lovely Hills. Who do you think father’d those eggs?” Nightwalk turns his head so that one large eye is fixed on you. The orb’s golden with emerald green flecks.
“I don’t know if male dragons eat their young,” you admit.
“Fair question,” the dragon says.
You hear a gurgling hiss and glance down to see Lily and Norman held in the front claws of the beast. He’s not squishing them but neither are they comfortable.
“I’ll make a deal with you, the eggs should hatch come morning as long as they’re kept warm. Fiery warm. I’ll sit here with you until they hatch. You can watch and if I move to eat the hatchlings,” he breaks a claw off and you cringe at the sound, “you can attempt to keep them safe.”
He holds the claw out to you. Looking at his other paw, you see the cats shaking their heads but they’re not brave enough to speak up. Who’s telling the truth? The cats or the dragon?
Aa1: Sit with Nightwalk until morning?
Aa2: Try to Rescue the Cats?
Beings of the Lovely Hills Options Aa1: Sit with Nightwalk until Morning
“I’ll sit with you,” you tell Nightwalk, accepting the claw he’s holding out.
His golden eyes blink, perhaps in surprise, and his lips pull back in what might be a smile.
“You’re braver than most,” he says. “Pull out the eggs. They need to be heated.”
“NO!” Lily shrieks before Nightwalk tightens his grasp and her words cut short.
“Don’t kill them,” you say, feeling the poor cat’s pain.
Nightwalk glares at the felines but thankfully loosens his grip. “Pull out the eggs, human.”
You do as he says and he curls his long tail around the three eggs. Lowering his head over them, he sucks in a deep breath that expands his broad chest. At first you think he’s about to chomp down on an egg and eat it. You’re about to rush in to grab the cats when Nightwalk lets loose a gout of flame.
It goes on and on until the dark scales of his tail glow with heat and the eggs are shiny.
“Are you cooking them?” you ask in shock.
A deep chuckle rumbles from his chest. “No, human, I’m helping them hatch.”
And he pulls in another breath to start again. You step back as the heat hits your face. When you look back again, Lily and Norman have singed whiskers and fur.
“Can I hold them?” you ask, gesturing at the felines before Nightwalk sucks in another breath.
The dragon swivels his head around and laughs at the singed cats.
“Serves you two right,” he says and lets them go. They back away and bolt. “Run as fast as you can,” the dragon’s words echo in the valley, “for my hatchlings will hunt in the morning.”
He laughs again before returning to warming the eggs.
“The hatchlings will hunt the cats?” you ask.
“That’s how they learn,” Nightwalk answers, “they hunt smaller beasts. Why do you think the cats didn’t want then hatched?”
You nod and sit down as understanding comes to you. Now that you’ve a bit of distance from the dragon, his fire leaves you pleasantly warm.
Sitting down, you lean against a tree to wait.
A loud cracking wakes you as dawn graces the horizon. Rubbing your eyes, you stand and peek at Nightwalk’s tail and the eggs. The gray sphere has a crooked line running end to end. As you watch, the egg shakes and then, with a sharp snap, the egg splits end to end to reveal the arrow shaped head of a gray hatchling.
It looks like an oversized gecko as it stretches and crawls free. Sniffing around, it approaches you and snaps its jaws.
“No, youngling,” Nightwalk rumbles, “hunt elsewhere.”
The hatchling grumbles and turns away. You breathe a sigh because, even though it just hatched, the baby’s big enough give you a lot of trouble.
As you watch, the other two eggs hatch and then the three babies take off to find their first meal.
“Too bad the cats are good at evasion,” Nightwalk rumbles.
After retrieving your bag from cabin number three, you head out of the resort. The lobby lady just grins at you as you leave, like she knows you’ve had an interesting night and she finds it funny.
Every once in a while, you stop back at the resort to see how the hatchlings are faring. The cats still try to get you to help out in their schemes but you usually just ignore them. And just to keep from thinking yourself crazy, you hang onto the Nightwalk’s claw.