Snowy Tracks - Adventure Stories

Night Creature

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. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy. 

So far, I’m absolutely loving the flash fiction style for these adventure stories. I have to be careful, because my tendency toward verbosity starts to creep in, but I’m making clear headway on Hidden Mythics II and still writing the adventures. I’ll call it a win.

Anyway, welcome back for  a new adventure! Let’s get started.

Night Creature

It’s always cold while standing watch but on this particular night the wind’s blowing snow sideways over the city wall and the tiny white pellets sting your face until you’re sure you have welts.

Two more hours, you tell yourself in an attempt to encourage your frozen mind that you’re going to be okay. You’re not convincing the internal voice that keeps saying you’re going to find frostbite on your cheeks, however.

Just as you’re wondering who could see anything in the swirling, blinding mess, a shape slides over the parapet to your right.

It’s only because of the figure’s motion that you see it. Against the shifting snow, the body creates a solid background when there wasn’t one before.

“Hey,” you shout, drawing your bow. “Stop right there.”

The figure freezes and you almost think you see fur blowing in the wind, and then it takes off running the other way.

“Darn it!” you release the tension on your bow and give chase, not wanting to hit a fellow guard by accident in the blizzard.

You reach the next guard without finding the figure.

“You’re away from your station,” Garner scolds.

“Someone slipped over the wall,” you say.

Garner mutters something dark under his breath and then instructs you to get back to your post, he’ll deal with it.

Your steps crunch in the snow as you return. Suddenly, the crunching stops and you look down. The stone beneath your feet is decidedly free of ice and snow. As you look around, you see the area spans about a three foot section before the ice starts up again.

You glance over the parapet again and find there’s a trail of frost free stone leading from the ground all the way up over the wall to where you stand. Turning to face inward to the keep, you follow the trail and peek down the inside of the wall.

Your muscles freeze as you find a set of large blue eyes staring up at you. The creature clings to the stone with gecko-like hands but it’s shivering, making the fur on its coat shudder. Beneath the coat, the creature looks like a salamander, except human sized.

You’ve heard of the creatures around the keep, not all of them are friendly, but you’ve never heard of a lizard this size.

“Co-co-cold,” it whimpers.

Do you…

Call for Garner?

Or

Help the Creature off the Wall?

Night Creature – Help It Off the Wall

The lizard creature continues to stare at you while its teeth clatter with the cold. Your standard operating procedure says you’re supposed to alert others if something comes over the wall but to do that you’d have to leave the creature and go find Garner again.

I’ve already alerted him, you think. And then you reach a hand down to the creature. If possible, its eyes get even bigger and it accepts your offer of help with its hot gecko-like hand.

Instantly the warmth coming off the creature shoots tingles through your chilled skin. It’s light and you have no problem hauling it back up onto the wall. Once there, however, it continues to shiver and stare at you.

“Come on,” you say, “I’ve got a blanket in the tower.”

It follows. With each step it takes, there’s a hiss and the ice under its feet turns to slush before draining away to leave small gecko prints in its wake.

Thankfully the tower isn’t far. You open the door to reveal a staircase leading down toward the guard station below, but no one’s at the top and you’re able to retrieve your blanket without having to answer any questions about your companion. The creature shucks out of its wet fur coat and accepts the blanket with a heavy sigh.

“What are you?” you ask.

It eyes you, pulling the wool blanket tighter around its narrow shoulders.

You lean back against the wall, musing aloud, “I’ve never seen your kind around the keep, so you’re probably not one of our common enemies. I’m guessing with the way you melt snow, you’re scared of being captured and sold for your heat. But something drove you to the keep anyway. Am I right?”

After a prolonged pause, it nods. “Frost troll,” it says.

“Here?”

“Heading this way.”

Although you’re inside and out of the wind, you feel a fist of cold in your chest. A single frost troll’s big enough to overtake the keep by itself while a snow storm’s happening. The added cold and moisture from the storm would enhance its natural abilities.

“The Captain needs to be warned.”

You start to turn but the gecko creature grasps your elbow. Its blue eyes are terrified and it looks like it’s two seconds from bolting out the tower door.

“He’ll believe you?”

This gives you pause. You can see in the gecko’s eyes that if you try to take him with you to tell the captain, he’ll do everything he can to disappear on you. And he might be justified in that. Any creature that can produce warmth is valuable in the frozen keep. But if you tell the captain without the gecko to corroborate, he might not believe you. A frost troll hasn’t been seen in years and yelling “TROLL” without proof could likely land in you the stocks. But what other choice do you have? The gecko was fleeing from the troll. With a wall and some help, could it fight instead? You’re not sure.

Do you…

Take the news to the Captain?

Or

Ask the Gecko for Help?

Night Creature – Ask the Gecko for Help

Where the gecko clutches your arm, you feel the print of its fingers starting to heat your skin. With a frost troll on its way, this tiny creature might be your best bet for survival anyway.

“Can you help us?” you ask him.

It shrinks back, hunching its shoulders inward until it looks even smaller. “Just tiny flame,” it protests. “What is that against troll?”

You admit, he doesn’t look like much, but many of the strongest creatures you’ve met don’t look all that impressive.

“You’ve blue eyes,” you say, “last I heard, that indicates a very hot tiny flame.”

Like this sparks something within him, his eyes become almost molten looking like you can see the flame he’s harboring inside.

He leans toward you. “Need fuel.”

“Wood?”

He nods. “Dry is best.”

Your mind immediately goes to the small stack of wood within the base of the tower that’s used for the fireplace that heats the guard station.

“How much wood?”

“Much, much wood.”

“All dry?”

“Some dry.”

“Stay here.” You hesitate briefly, afraid he’ll disappear if you let him out of you sight, but he holds your wool blanket tight around his slender frame and simply watches you through those crazy eyes.

Then you race down the tower steps. Usually Richard, the guard who’s supposed to replace you in another hour, sleeps on a bunk in the guard station, but he’s no where to be seen. You would have enlisted his help but now you don’t have the time to waste searching for him.

Instead, you flop the carry bag on the floor for the wood, toss chunks onto the bag, and then grunt as you lift it over your shoulder.

Once you get the night creature this load of dry wood, you’ll head out into the courtyard where the main pile is stacked. It’ll take a while, but he’ll get his much wood.

The tower steps never seemed so long until now, but finally you make it to the top to find the gecko has left the tower.

The door hangs open and through it, you see him standing on the wall beyond in a small circle of melted ice. He’s looking out into the blowing snow while still clutching the blanket around his shoulders.

“Hey,” you call, but he doesn’t turn to look. As you pass out the door, you grab your bow from where you set it against the tower wall. It’s awkward carrying it with the wood, but your training instilled in you to never be on the wall without it.

You’re half way to the gecko when you feel something looming in the blizzard. Its dark shape seems to push the swirling snow outward with greater fury. Then, as it steps closer, you see the round face of a troll that stands as tall as the wall. Its face is even with your new friend and when it spots the gecko, it grins, showing square, blocky teeth in a beard of frozen ice. Then a hand the size of a shield swings up like the troll’s going to pick up the gecko…or squash him. As he does, the gecko bursts into flame. In comparison, he’s toe sized, but the wall gives a splintering crack with the sudden change in temperature.

Your mind races. Would it be better to shoot an arrow at that descending hand or would it be better to toss the gecko chunks of wood so he has more fuel? You don’t have time to do both.

Do you…

Shoot Arrows?

or

Throw Fuel to Gecko

Night Creature – Throw Fuel to Gecko

As the troll’s heavy hand starts descending, you drop the bag of wood and dig out a log.

“Hey!” you shout and toss the log underhand toward the burning outline of your new friend. In the haze of the blowing snow, he looks like the flickering flame of a small torch.

He glances your way in time to see the log flying through the snow. Instead of catching it, he opens his arms wide and lets it smack him square in his narrow chest. Even over the wind, you hear the thud.

The log ignites with a dull roar. Your friend spins and launches it into the troll’s hand, where it lodges and hisses.

Guessing the gecko’s intent, you have another log sailing his way as he turns back toward you. Again he hugs it and the log roars into flame. The log must have also contained a large section of sap, because immediately after the roar, there’s a loud pop!

That’s when the alarm bell starts chiming in the keep. Shouts sound from below as you pitch another log down the wall and arrows zip through the snow.

Relief hits you, and then you see one of the arrows graze the gecko. You realize the keep guards don’t know who’s friend or foe, so they’re going to shoot at both creatures on the wall.

The gecko goes down onto his knee, clutching at his leg and completely missing the last log you tossed.

You throw the bag of wood back over your shoulder and take off running down the wall. Arrows keep zipping past, taking chunks out of the frost troll’s arms and face. Someone has the presence of mind to start lighting the huge beacon fires on the towers. The troll shies away from their light, but it still seems intent on the small flaming creature kneeling before him.

An arrow zips past your stomach and you flinch away, slipping on the icy wall, before regaining your balance.

By the time you reach the gecko, he’s hunched over with his thin arms shielding his head. Flaming blood leaks from a gash across his temple, you’re guessing from another arrow.

Since he’s still aflame, you shove a chunk of wood into his arms, ignoring the burns this causes on your hands and arms.

He blazes up and holds out a hand for more wood.

The troll screams as the gecko’s fire grows and an archer, who takes advantage of the gecko’s light, shoots the monster in the eye.

You’re down to two logs of wood left. You shove them both into the gecko’s arms and spin to go get more.

You’re only two steps away when you hear him say, “No. No need.”

When you look back, you see the troll turning away, ambling off into the blowing snow and taking the heavy winds with him.

The archers pause at this and you take the opportunity to grab a shield to protect the gecko.

He hunkers down and seems grateful for the cover.

***

The captain stares at you, disbelief in his eyes from your report. You’ve just come from hiding the gecko in a storage room near the kitchen because, as soon as the guards realized what he was, they started debating about who gets to sell him.  He seemed to appreciate the warmth from the ovens, so he snuggled into the linens and fell asleep when you left to report.

“A flame gecko?” the captain asks.

“Yes, sir.”

“Go get him.”

You open your mouth to protest, but at the look on his face, you spin on a heel and head back the way you came. He follows behind and you wonder if he wants to claim the gecko for himself. With the rumors flying around the keep, he shouldn’t be as surprised about the gecko as he seems. Reaching the kitchen area, you swing open the door to the pantry and peek inside.

“Hello?” you call.

No answer.

“Um,” you say, embarrassed. “He’s gone, sir.”

“What?” The captain pushes you aside and starts tearing the pantry apart. By the time the cook comes to investigate, he has bags of flour and coffee everywhere. If there’s anyone in the keep besides the captain you don’t want to anger, it’s the cook. The captain takes one look at the cook’s red face and spins on a heel. “Clean this up,” he hollers as he leaves, “and you’re on wood duty for the next week.”

Sheepishly, you begin putting back the pantry under the cook’s watchful eye, then you head out to chop wood for the day. That evening you check the linen closet and find it empty of the gecko. You hope he’s simply moved on and that someone didn’t find him.

It’s two days later, in the evening, when you stomp your way into the empty guard station, blowing on your frozen hands in an attempt to warm them. Chopping wood in the morning isn’t so bad as the sun starts to warm things, but the evening shifts make your fingers feel brittle.

You lay some of the dry wood onto the embers and turn to grab the bellows to work the fire back to life. There’s a whoosh. You spin to find the logs ablaze and a set of bright blue eyes peeking at you from the flames. They wink and the gecko skitters under the blazing wood. Only a few moments later, there’s a contented sigh.

Placing another large log in the blaze, you retreat to the cot for a warm night’s sleep.

The End

You made a new friend! Thanks for participating in the adventure this month 🙂

Blessings,

Jennifer

(If you enjoy these adventures, check out my newest adventure book, Discarded Dragons!)

13 thoughts on “Night Creature”

  1. I feel since he is asking for help – – you help him out. Maybe I have a soft spot and want to be a helper instead of a hunter.

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