Note: After an adventure has run its course, I collect the posts together so readers don’t have to jump around the blog to re-read the story. Originally this spanned a month’s time, posting each Thursday and continuing according to how readers voted in the comments. The comments you see at the end now are therefore what readers voted on the first post in this story.
Welcome to the New Year! We’re going to do something that we’ve not done in a while, we’re going to go on an Adventure!
So without further ado, let’s see where we start.
Twigs and the Giant
It’s impolite to show up unannounced right before dinner…which is why you did it on purpose to the old man’s cabin. The log cabin sits out in the middle of nowhere, so it’d be rather suspicious for the old man to turn you away as the smells of cooked meat waft from inside. Plus, it gives your suspect no time to prepare for you.
Because he is a suspect of the food heists. Dozens of wagons and carriages have been stolen from on their way into Layfatte, usually in the middle of the night, thieves unseen. And now the town’s starting to feel the pinch of too little food. The Mayor sent you out to investigate after his usual detectives failed in figuring out just who is stealing the town’s food.
Now, although it seems so unlikely it’s laughable, your only solid suspect happens to be the scarecrow of an old man who sits across from you at the wooden slab of a table in his single room log cabin.
You’d walk away, laugh at yourself for being daffy, but your gambit worked. The table before you groans with food.
Even as the old man claims “Nah, it’s just me hangin’ around,” you stare at the platter of sliced apples, the smoked ham, and a steaming heap of mashed potatoes. There’s even a plate of cookies waiting on the window sill. It’s enough to feed a family of five or six, much less one scrawny old man whose ribs show through his threadbare shirt.
You’re trained to see the things that just don’t fit and, well, this doesn’t fit. The kitchen’s a wooden slab set across two barrels, a wash tub, and a potbellied stove. Out here, where the closest neighbor is five miles away, where did all the food come from?
You must have stared at the spread a bit too long because the old man begins to fidget, his heel tapping a rat-a-tat against the dirt floor.
“I’ve nothin’ to be concernin’ the mayor’s investigator with,” he mutters, crossing bony arms across his chest as he leans back in his chair.
“Well,” you say, “I’d like to believe that but there’ve been attacks along the post route, supplies are being taken. Mostly food. And now the Mayor’s looking into it because the town’s starting to run low. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
The old man almost reaches for an apple slice, thinks better of it, and shakes his head. “Just me ‘n my horse, Bonnie, out this ‘a ways. I wouldn’t know the first thing about sneaking food stuffs from travelers.”
“Hmm,” you lean back in your chair as well, mimicking his attempt at nonchalance, “I never said how the food’s being taken.”
He goes still at the exact same moment that a wooden chest beside the bed gives a thump. He jumps to his feet as you move to stand.
“Nowt but me, I promise!” He tries to block your way but he seems unwilling to lay a hand on you, so you simply sidestep him and approach the chest. You flip the lid open and stare at the contents.
A couple folded wool shirts, A spare pair of boots that look like they’ve never been worn, and a hat that’s too large for the old man.
You pick up the hat and the old man groans. There’s nothing under it. Literally nothing. No trunk bottom, no dirt floor, not even a hole where the old man could have dug out a tunnel. It opens into empty space.
Setting the hat aside on the bed, you reach inside. Your fingers encounter nothing. “What’s this?” you look askance at him just in time to see the old man don the hat.
Sure enough it sits down past his eyes, but you can still see the toothy grin that spreads across his stubbled face. “Tried to warn ya,” he says, his voice deepening into a low base as his shoulders begin to fill out into those of a much younger, much bigger man. He thumbs the brim up as his head fills into the hat and his body starts to grow taller.
Something grabs your hand where it still dangles into the empty space inside the chest. A quick glance meets the tiny eyes of a creature the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Stick like legs and arms, leaves growing out of the top of its head, and a body like a twig snapped off from a tree. It gives you an oddly pointy toothed grimace.
“In or out.” It tugs, then pushes at your arm. “In or out afore he’s done.”
A. Dive into the chest?
B. Scramble for the door?
Twigs and the Giant-Dive In
A breeze, like winter air through thick pines, wafts from inside the trunk. Glancing back, you shudder to see the old man almost as tall as the ceiling and still growing. The grin on his face stretches ear to ear. You don’t resist when the twig creature tugs on your arm again. In fact, you push off with your feet to slide into the trunk all the faster.
The twig creature screeches, surprised, as you slide into the tight confines with it, and then you pass through the empty trunk bottom and thud into a soft patch of blue-green grass. Breath wheezes out of your throat where you lie on your stomach. The twig hops to its feet and stares up at the sky where a deep belly laugh echoes like you’re still inside the tight confines of the wooden chest although there are no walls that you can see.
There’s a thunk, and then a click that echoes into the sudden silence left after the belly laugh. You follow the twig’s gaze upward, flipping over to stare at the purple-gray twilight sky and a small patch of wood floating like a cloud in the otherwise clear expanse.
“I just jumped from the frying pan into the fire, didn’t I?” you mutter.
“Not really,” says the twig. “He doesn’t fit in here, so least aways y’r a little safer here.”
You roll your head to look him. “What are you?”
He puffs up his skinny chest and proudly proclaims, “I’s called Spree. And that’s Arwee, and that’s Alsmee, and that’s Brismee…” as he talks, other small, twig creatures peek out of the trees surrounding the glade you landed in. Some are thicker, some shorter, some are so thick with leaves sprouting from their heads that it looks like green hair.
You sit up, realizing there’s no way you’ll remember all their names. Dozens of them creep out of the trees to create a loose circle around you.
One tiny creature dashes forward to poke you in the arm, and then skitters away giggling. A matron snags the kid and pulls it close with an admonishing sound.
You repeat your question when Spree finishes the introductions. “But what are you?”
Spree huffs. “We’s twiglets. Don’t you know about twiglets?”
You shake your head.
The entire ring of creatures slumps, disheartened.
“Tell me,” you encourage.
Spree puffs himself up again. “We’s the forest’s gardeners. We trims and plants and do important stuffs for the forests.”
“Nowt anymore, we don’ts,” mutters a stout twiglet. You think his name is Brismee.
“Why not?” you ask.
Collectively they look up. “He’s captured us. And he holds the Matriarch. We’s now do as told.”
It all clicks together for you. The old man must need an enormous amount of food if he’s actually a giant, but there’s no way he’d be able to sneak into the camps of those traveling into Layfatte without being noticed. Instead, he captured himself these tiny creatures to do the dirty work for him.
“Your Matriarch,” you ask, “he’s holding her hostage somewhere?”
The tiny twiglet that poked you before breaks loose from the matron and skitters up your leg to stand on your knee. “She’s caged,” he cries. “She doesn’t even have the twilight glen to smells the forest breezes.” Remarkably, a tear trails down his face, leaving a trail on the bark like surface. You wipe it away only to find it’s sticky.
“If you get free, you could help her and leave the giant high and dry in his food heists?”
They all grin. Every single twiglet shows rows of blunt, brown teeth. It’s creepy, but then, at least they have some sort of defense.
“What are you’s proposing?” Spree asks.
You take a moment to consider. The giant has to open the trunk at some point for his next heist. At which point, you could jam the lid and sneak out while he’s away. However, that still leaves the giant wandering around free. There are enough twiglets that you might succeed in overwhelming him if you all worked together.
Aa. Sneak out?
Ab. Attack Giant?
Twigs and the Giant-Attack the Giant
One thing the twiglets do not lack is courage. None of them shrunk away when you suggested attacking the giant the next time he reaches in to gather a crew for a food heist.
The hard part about the plan is waiting. Spree insists the next heist should be soon. It’s been a couple days since the last heist and the giant gobbles through each take of food in a matter of days.
But still, you end up leaning against a tree with the child twiglet, Inslee, sitting on your knee, just waiting for the click of the trunk’s lock that will be your only warning the giant’s about to reach in.
“I’s nowt scared,” Inslee insists again. He sits cross legged on your knee cap, but his hands are clenched so tight in his lap, you wonder if he’ll break a finger.
“Hey,” you say, “he’s big, but that also makes him awkward. We can use that to our advantage.”
“His feets are clodhoppers,” Inslee grins.
“That’s exactly it,” you agree, “and we’re going to make those clodhoppers stumble.”
Inslee squees in excitement…and his fingers clench tighter.
You share his smile and nudge his hands with a finger until he relaxes a little with a duck of his head.
There’s a click that echoes in the twilight glen. Twiglets appear from amidst the trees, looking up at the floating rectangle of wood in the sky. It creaks upward and you glimpse the cabin’s ceiling before a hand the size of a pony keg reaches through the opening.
“I’s nowt scared,” Inslee squeaks as he crouches beside you in the glen. He starts to shake as you all wait for the hand to draw near.
The fingertips almost touch the grass by the time Spree gives the shout. “ATTACKS!”
You join the twiglets, running at the giant, but you have the advantage—or disadvantage—of being able to reach the giant’s elbow in your first move.
A grunt of surprise accompanies the giant’s sudden twitch as dozens of twiglets swarm up his arm. In moments, you’ve scaled from elbow to bicep to shoulder as you emerge from the trunk.
The giant growls and snaps his teeth but he’s still crouching with one arm inside the trunk. It lessens the space between his center of mass and the solid wooden box. Ducking under his chin, you plant your feet against the trunk’s edge and shove against his collar bone.
He stutter steps backward. The timing’s perfect as the twiglets race for his feet and grab ahold of his bootlaces. In quick order, they unlace halfway down each boot and then tie the laces together just as your shove pushes the giant off balance.
“ERRR,” he cries out with his stutter step. The laces pull tight and he throws out an arm to catch himself as he falls over.
Jumping free when he crashes into the table, you roll and come to your feet, ready for him to come after you but instead, he clutches a large jar to his chest with one hand and holds his hat firmly on his head with the other. Around him are the shattered remains of the table, which he made no effort to catch himself on.
He bares his discolored teeth at the twiglets who are using the laces they’ve untied from each other to tie his ankles together. Which leaves it up to you to keep him from swatting at them with his heavy hands.
The giant’s eyes lock onto Inslee, who holds the end of one boot lace, helping a dozen other twiglets pull the knot tight. It’s now or never to distract him.
His hat is clearly the source of his power but as you take everything in, you realize the jar he’s holding tight also holds a long-haired twiglet—the matriarch. Would it help more to take away his giant size or to free the matriarch?
Ab1. Free the Matriarch?
Ab2. Steal his hat?
Twigs and the Giant-Steal the Giant’s Hat
Although the matriarch looks rattled from being shaken around in the jar, she appears unharmed where she braces against the glass. You focus then on the ratty hat atop the giant’s head.
He’s still lying on his back amidst the rubble of the table, so the hat’s not out of your reach. You bolt for it before the giant can sit up, vaulting over a chunk of the shattered table and reaching for the hat at the same time.
The giant had started to lower his hand to swat the twiglets but he catches your movement and slaps his hand on top of his head just as your fingers close around the brim. With the momentum of your jump, you pull the hat almost free but then those thick fingers squash the material against the giant’s thinning white hair.
Your jump stalls midair and you hit the floor with a huff, but you still have ahold of the hat’s brim.
The giant’s muscles bunch, giving you a second’s warning before he jerks upright. You grab for the edge of the cold stove with your free hand and hold tight when he moves. Your own back muscles protest but you hold tight. There’s a sharp ripping and you slump to the floor with a chunk of the hat in your hand.
Everything goes still and you feel the hair on your arms stand straight up. There’s a concussion to the air that, if you hadn’t already been on the floor, would have flattened you. It washes outward through the cabin and out through the walls, throwing everything outward in its wake.
Twiglets fly through the air and you watch, unable to move, as Inslee sails out the window. The giant hits the wall, and goes right through it, but he loses hold of the glass jar with the matriarch. The jar falls, hitting the edge of the fire box with its load of wood, and shatters, leaving her in a ring of sparkling glass on the dirt floor.
When everything stills again, your ears feel packed with cotton, then give a high-pitched whine before sound comes back to you like a slow-moving wave.
Squee and several other twiglets dash to the matriarch so you head for the hole in the wall to find the giant.
Stepping through, you freeze.
Sure enough, the giant’s now a scrawny old man who lies on his back cackling like you just told a great joke.
But it’s not the sight of the old man that stopped you. When you approached the cabin during your investigation, it was in the middle of nowhere, but you could still see the mountains in the distance and the forest that obscured any sight of the cabin from the road.
You can still see such things, but they’re huge and very far away.
There’s a pulling on your pant leg. You look down to find Inslee, ant sized, trying to climb up the fabric. You reach down and pick him up.
The old man runs out of breath. Gasping, he still manages to say, “Y’ let it loose. Y’re twiglet sized now.”
“You’re twiglet sized too,” you shoot back.
He grins and it’s not a pretty sight. “Only till I recover me brim.”
Realizing his intent, you flee back into the shrunken cabin before he can stand up.
“Time to go,” you shout to the twiglets as you pass from the hole in the wall to the door on the far side.
As you run by, twiglets jump onto your legs and shoes until you’re running with dozens of them attached to your legs.
The old man gives chase, but you’re now the same size and he’s much older. You lose him in the trees on the far side of the cabin.
“He won’t stops till he’s got his hat whole again,” Squee says that evening as you sit in the bowl of a tree, hiding.
You hold the brim of the hat in your hand, considering. “What if we make the hat whole again? Can it return us to normal size?”
The Matriarch, Annaslee, shakes her head. “No ways to says,” she admits, “but the giants gots to wear the hat to be big.”
You realize the problem. You don’t know of a way to release the power in the hat all at once like what happened when it ripped.
Inslee crawls up onto your knee. Since the twiglets are still the same relative size to you as before, being around them helps you feel normal despite sitting inside a tree like a baby bird.
“What ifs we unweaves the hat?” he asks. “We’s okay being smalls and if the hat don’t exist, he can’t ever be bigs again.”
They all look at you because, as Inslee said, they don’t mind remaining small. Is it so bad a choice? Inslee reaches out to take hold of your pinky finger. He’s got such a hopeful look on his narrow face. Now that you know such magic exists in the world, there’s no telling what other options exist out there, but you do know the giant doesn’t care for anything but his food. You make your choice.
“If we unweave it,” you say, “we should steal his portion of the hat too. There’s no telling if he can make part of it work.”
The twiglets grin. “We’s can do that.”
Thank you for joining in the adventure! It’s so much fun to see what options everyone chooses. February will start a whole new story, so stay tuned for new choices =)