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

Black Stone Option A. Investigate

Welcome back to the adventure! You’re in search of a black stone to cure you sister’s eyes. Let’s see what happens next.

Black Stone Option A. Investigate

the-sunset-1366241Considering the position of the sun on the horizon, making it to the towers could be tight before sunset. The keening sound, however, is definitely close enough for you to get to before dusk arrives.

“Let’s see what the sound is,” you say.

“Awesome!” Your sister takes off toward the cliffs at a run.

You follow at a walk and catch up with her once she keels over, out of breath.

“Little excited?” you tease.

She grunts and sticks her tongue out at you. Then she points to a smaller cave just ahead. “Think the sound’s coming from there.”

“Let’s explore cautiously,” you encourage.

She sticks her tongue out again but follows behind when you approach the cave.

The sound, now that you’re closer, howls with a deep, hollow bellow that makes your ears ring.

You peek inside but it’s dark enough that you can’t make out more than five feet beyond the entrance. It seems empty. You give your sister a shushing gesture to encourage soft steps and then move inside, staying to the wall with your back.

Sand continues to squish up around your sandals as you walk and the cool wall of the cave seeps moisture through your clothes but by now you can see nothing. Your sister slips her hand into yours and follows behind.

The keening grows louder.

cavern-1333909The wall behind you drops away and a quick search shows you that you’ve entered a cavern. The keening echoes and you’re sure, after a moment, that you’re in the room it’s originating from.

You stand still until your eyes adjust a bit and you make out three shapes standing in the middle of the cavern.

They’re not big enough to be full grown trolls. In fact, they’re no taller than you but they’re bulkier in the shoulders.

From the ceiling, wind howls down an open shaft. It’s this shaft that gives just enough light for you to make out the figures in the cavern.

As the wind grows in intensity, one of the figures throws its head back and lets out a deep, throaty keening that matches the wind.

A second figure joins the first, but in a lower timbre.

Then the third joins them in a lilting, howling melody above their keening. It’s haunting. Shivers make you shudder and your sister huddles against your side.

“Are they singing?” she whispers.

The three figures stop, leaving the wind alone with its howl. They move at once, without speaking or looking over at you. Next thing you know, you’re surrounded and they’re breathing heavy, fishy breath into your hair.

Light flares as one sparks a flint onto a torch.

They’re bald headed, green skinned and yellow eyed. And they’re kids.

“Oh, look, a snack!” one says and pokes at your shoulder.

“Only if you brush your teeth first,” your sister says back.

“Whoa, look at her eyes.”

They all crouch close to see your sister’s red eyes. She stares back at them without a hint of fear.

“Teeth,” she says, “I’m serious. You’ve got something stuck in between your two front teeth and from my point of view, it’s molding. GO. BRUSH. YOUR. TEETH!”

They jump and say, “Yes, Ma’am,” all at the same time.

A slight smile pulls at your sister’s lips. “Then show us to the steeple.”

They all pause.

“To the top of it or bottom of it?” one asks.

Your sister, for the first time, looks uncertainly at you.

So…

Aa. Top?

Or

Ab. Bottom?

Vote in the comments for how you’d like to continue and we’ll continue the adventure on Tuesday.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Black Stone

Welcome to this week’s adventure. Readers expressed a desire for the next phase in the Chalice adventure, so this is it =)

If you’re unfamiliar with the Chalice adventure, you can read it here. Or, just know that you ventured into a cave to find the cure for your sister’s albino skin. Inside, you not only found the cure, but a cave system full of drakes holding a dragon captive. In helping the dragon, she rewarded you with a story about a stone that might cure your sister’s red eyes.

So here we go…

Black Stone

Valley walls rise on your right and left. When you entered the valley, plant life drooped all around with with mostly grand fir boughs and old man’sblack-sand-beach-hawaii-1180066 moss. Now, it’s thinned and the lower trunks of the trees are scrapped bare by wind and salt.

Ahead, the valley opens and you can hear the roar of ocean waves funneled by the valley’s walls. Your chest tightens as you spot the thing that tells you you’re in the right place.

“She didn’t lie,” you sister says beside you. Her breath heaves through her throat but not once has she complained on your travels.

Not more than a month before her skin was a translucent white and she hid in the house because others feared her. Now, she boasts healthy skin but the cure that helped her skin did not touch her eyes. She stares at you from bright red, wide eyes.

“The dragon didn’t lie,” you agree.

You ventured into the caves that held the chalice to cure your sister’s skin and found it full of drakes, and one magnificent dragon. In helping the dragon free herself of the drakes, you earned her trust, and the tale of a stone that might heal your sister’s eyes.

You and your sister turn to stare at the ocean beating at the shore.

“The stone’s kept by the western trolls. They live at the mouth of the Emerald Valley, on the obsidian beaches of Adversity Bay.”

The sand on the beach rolls with the press of the waves, a black and shimmery mass beneath the sun.

“It’s beautiful,” you sister says. Her breathing is now under control but as soon as you start moving again, she’ll be huffing. She’s hidden for so long inside that any exercise taxes her.

“Beautiful and dangerous,” you remind her.

“Are trolls as mean as they say?”

She’s asked this before and you’ve assured her that, yes, trolls are ugly, vicious beasts, but she somehow doesn’t seem to believe you. Even with the way people tend to treat her, she always sees the good in others. You wonder if she’ll find good in trolls too.

“They eat people,” you say. Best to keep it simple and straight to the point now that you’re faced with the troll’s home.

“Oh,” she says. Her eyes still shine with awe, though, at the obsidian beach. “For such mean creatures, they sure pick a pretty place to live.”

You just shake your head and start forward again. Her heavy breathe follows behind. As you step onto the sand, it squishes up around your sandals. You sister giggles.

“The dragon said to look for the steeple. See anything that resembles a steeple?” you ask. Your perspective, now that you’re on the beach, has changed. You can see the vast expanse of black sand and the cliffs lining the beach. The cliffs are pocked with darker holes. Caves for the trolls to live in.

You sister looks right and left too in search of a steeple.

“That kind of looks like a tower,” she points to the north. “Maybe that’s the steeple.”

The cliffs rise into several tall spires far on the horizon.

“Good a place as any to look,” you say. “But we’ll have to hurry.”

You both look to the sky. Trolls hate sunlight, which gives you maybe another hour and a half before they appear on the beach after sunset.

“All right,” your sister says and heads off up the beach, leaving small footprints in the sand. Moments later, the waves wash those prints away.

black-stone-2-1477905“She said the stone’s black too?” she asks over her shoulder.

“Yeah,” you answer and hurry to catch up.

“Think they’ll make my eyes black?”

“Maybe.”

She stops and you almost collide with her.

“Hear that?”

You listen and pick up a high-pitched keening coming from a cave farther up the beach.

“Should we investigate?” your sister’s eyes gleam with excitement. This whole trip has been like that. Every new experience lights her eyes up like a child’s.

You’ve got to be out of sight before dusk.

So, do you…

A. Investigate?

Or

B. Head to the towers?

In the comments, please vote for how you’d like to proceed. We’ll continue the adventure on Thursdays.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Chalice 2

I started two new adventures for this week, got about 200 words into the opening of each story, and then just stared at the page with a blank mind. This doesn’t happen very often but I figured, instead of giving you an adventure that meandered because I had no direction for it, we could explore an old adventure and see what new ending it brings.

So here we are, looking for a Chalice in a cave with drakes. =)

Chalice 2

forest-and-fog-1406291If the fog’s dense white mass didn’t obscure everything but the five-foot circle around you, you might have found the cave sooner. As it is, though, you find it only because you hear the soft roar of the water falls inside, echoing out of the cave’s mouth like a deep exhale of breath.

You approach the shhh-haaa of water falling on soft feet. Sound carries all too easily in the valley and you’re not the only thing out and about. You breathe heavy air and wish for the kiss of wind. There is none. Drops of water bead on your cheeks like the fog’s shedding on you, cold and clammy, but you ignore the discomfort.

A dark shape looms ahead in the otherwise unbroken gray. A few more steps and you see it’s the cave. Inside hides the Chalice, a cup of solid crystal that, according to legend, lends the drinker perfect skin. In normal circumstances, its very uniqueness would make it valued by treasure hunters.

However, your purposes are far more personal than money. Back in the village waits your little sister. She hides in her room, nursing her bruises from a few days earlier when she tried to venture a trip to the store and was beaten for looking like a monster.

Even being her sibling doesn’t keep you from shuddering sometimes when she’s not looking. She lacks color, completely. Which makes her eyes, slightly tinted red, all the more disturbing. But she never complains, never yells at you for looking normal, never stops making your breakfast or folding your clothes simply because she can and she knows you’re out working to support her because no one will hire her.

If anyone deserves better, it’s her. When the traveling tinker mentioned the chalice when he saw her, you listened. This isn’t the first time you’ve gone on a wild chase in hopes of helping your sister, but this might be the most dangerous.

The Chalice is protected, the tinker warned, by creatures known as drakes. They hide in the fog and you never hear them coming, or so the tales told. What truly caught your attention about the tinker’s story, though, was that you recognized the valley it described.

As you step into the dark cave, you try not to imagine the drakes tracking you into the confined space. Being caught in the rocky tunnels when one breathes gouts of flame isn’t exactly your ideal way to go.

You trail your fingers along the rough wall. The air smells stale and musty and the ground squishes like moss beneath your feet. You don’t light a torch even though you brought one. With the fog and the otherwise solid dark, a torch would stand out like a beacon to anything around.

Your fingertips hit empty space. The wall falls away, not naturally, but as though someone cut it with a knife. Upon further exploration, you find the wall turns a sharp corner and becomes perfectly smooth beneath your touch.

You continue on and the ground goes from soft and squishy to hard and flat. A burnt smell singes the back of your nostrils. It feels similar to if you inhaled the heavy smoke from a campfire. You swallow and keep a cough from escaping your throat.

The smooth wall ends and, just ahead, you feel a wooden door. You find the handle but hesitate before opening it. Faintly, just under the door, there glows a bluish light.

the-lighted-door-1464933Finally, with a steadying breath, you turn the knob and push the door inward.

The blue light makes you squint but you’ve no idea where it’s coming from. It simply lights up the stairs beyond the door.

Stairs leading upward on the right and downward on the left. The upward direction has the word Falls above it. The downward direction has the word Water.

According to the tinker’s story, the Chalice collects the water from the cave’s river, but the story’s not specific as to how this works.

Do you go…

A. Up?

Or

B. Down?

Chalice Option B: Down

Without anything more to guide you, you shrug and decide to head down the stairs.the-lighted-door-1464933

The farther you go, the quieter the roar of the waterfall becomes. You figure you’re getting farther away from it until you come to the bottom of the stairs and find yourself facing one of the most intimidating metal doors you’ve ever seen.

Heavy bands of iron cross the door and a lock bigger than your fist holds it closed.

You step closer and kneel down to peer through the lock, hoping to get an idea of what’s on the other side.

You come eye to eye with a large blue iris. It blinks and you hear the heavy click of the scaled lid moving.

“Stay away!” Comes a shout from the other side of the door. Oddly enough, the tone doesn’t sound threatening. It sounds more pleading with a high squeak at the end like the words are half question.

“Why?” you ask.

“What?” comes the startled reply. This time you can tell it’s female.

“Why ‘stay away’? You sound scared.”

A huff rattles the door and you take a shocked step backwards.

“Stupid. Stupid. Stu…” The voice fades like the person’s walking away, then it comes back, making you jump with its sudden, “Stay away!” A moment later, in complete contradiction to the shout, the lock on the door moves with a deep grating.

You hold perfectly still as the door swings inward a smidge and you see in the crack that blue eye looking out. You can also see a large, scaled snout.

She’s too big to be a drake. Could this be an actual dragon?

“Why aren’t you running?” she asks. “I said stay away.”

You shrug, for some reason not feeling your flight instinct kicking in. “Stupidity?” you say.

There’s a long, drawn out pause, as she eyes you more closely. Then, “well, if you’re going to be stupid, get in here,” she swings the door open.

Still, your flight instinct isn’t reacting. Has she beguiled you somehow? You don’t feel beguiled but then, what does being beguiled feel like? You shrug again and step through the door.

Her tail swings it closed behind you and you find yourself in a cavern beneath a gigantic waterfall. Below the waterfall to your right sits a lake. It glows with the same blue as the walls of the stairwell.

blue-dragon-1578149But what really holds your attention is the dragon. She’s also blue, shimmering like the waters of the lake.

“You’re here for the chalice,” she says. It’s not a question but you nod anyway.

“For my sister,” you explain.

“Than you chose the wrong direction,” she says, “the chalice sits on the edge of the falls.” She nods upward toward the top of the waterfall. “Or you chose the right one,” she continues on, musing, “cause the drakes kill anyone who heads up the stairs.”

“What about you?” you ask, confused by her.

“Me? I’m their treasure. I’m the one who makes the chalice work, a water dragon. I lend the water in the chalice healing abilities. But the drakes keep me away from the chalice, so really, there isn’t a right direction.”

“You’ve got to touch the water in the Chalice? Or can it be any cup?” you ask, trying to understand.

“It’s got to be crystal. But the drakes will kill you anyway, when you try to leave.”

“Why do you let them?”

She laughs. It shakes the walls of the cavern. “I keep them out of here only by the door. But they won’t let me leave the cave. There are just too many of them for me to fight.”

This sparks an idea for you. It’s foolish but then, you’re already in a bad situation. “What if I can help you? Can you help me with the Chalice?”

“How?” For the first time you feel a little scared of her as her eyes narrow and she lowers her head to your height. Her teeth are as long as your forearms.

“You help me get the chalice and I’ll draw the drakes away so you can reclaim the cave.”

She thinks about this while clicking her claws on the floor. Each tap grates at your nerves.

“We can climb the falls or try the stairs,” she finally says. “Which way, stupid human, would you like to try?”

Bb. The Falls?

or

Bc. The Stairs?

Chalice Option Bb: The Falls

You glance between the falls and the door, considering the two options the dragon proposed.

blue-dragon-1578149Then you consider her blue, iridescent scales. She’s a water dragon. One of those rare creatures that is able to manipulate one element to her wishes.

“Falls,” you decide.

“Ah,” the dragon sighs in a long exhale that sounds like relief. “Maybe not so stupid after all. Climb on.” And she lowers herself beside you. Even with her laying flat on the stone floor, her sides rise like the rough cliffs around your home.

“Um,” you say.

She chuckles and extends one clawed paw for you to use as a step.

“Thank you,” you give a slight bow. Being allowed to climb onto a dragon is a high honor and you’d prefer not to offend her.

Once you’re firmly settled between two spikes at the back of her head, she stands.

“Hold tight, human,” she instructs, and then she dives into the water at the base of the falls.

You’ve just enough time to wrap your arms around the spike in front of you before the force of the water hits you across the face. It throws your weight backwards and your spine hits the spike at your back. Thankfully, the spike’s taller than your are, so you miss the sharp point.

Then the dragon enters the falls. She doesn’t touch the stone wall behind the cascade but simply swims upward much like a dolphin would move. Water pours over you in a relentless deluge but you’re making headway. You tuck your face against your arm and take shallow breaths. You still inhale water but it’s like you’re standing in a heavy rain where water mixes with air.

The dragon stops moving. There’s so much water that you can’t tell why. Long claws surround you and you’re lifted upward. Your head breaks the surface and you realize several things all at once. One, the dragon’s treading water just below the break of the falls. Two, she’s holding you up, over the edge of the falls and directly in front of you in the water sits a crystal cup. And lastly, there are several sets of bright red, drake eyes focused on you, startled by your sudden appearance.

You grab the cup and tap her claws, trying to tell her you’ve got it.

The drakes shriek and one huffs spouts of flame like he’s warming up to a bigger exhale. Just before he lets loose a jet of flame that singes your hair, the dragon pulls you down, cradles you to her chest and pivots into a dive.

Your stomach does summersaults that still haven’t settled by the time she exits the water onto the shore of her cave.

Above you both the drakes peer over the waterfalls, shrieking and pacing as they watch you.

“The chalice, please,” the dragon holds out her paw.

crystal-goblet-287758-mYou pass the cup and realize, once it’s in her grasp, that you just had the chalice in your hands.

The dragon rumbles low in her throat in what you fear is a laugh but then, instead of laughing, she spits into the tiny bowl of the chalice.

“There,” she says, “You must get this to your sister for her to drink. The chalice will disappear as soon as she does, so be sure she’s the one to use it. But,” she holds the cup high, away from your grasp, “before I hand it over, what do you propose to do about the drakes?”

Perhaps you can draw the drakes away from the cave by yelling at them and having them chase you. That could give the dragon enough time to leave her chamber and take over the entire cave system.

Or you could set up some sort of trap for the drakes. Something that might give the dragon better control over them.

Do you…

Bb1: Yell and Run?

or

Bb2: Set a Trap?

Chalice Option Bb2: Draw the Drakes into a Trap

You’re a fast runner but in your brief glimpse of the drakes at the top of the falls, you saw a lot of angry creatures and you’re not sure you’ve the stamina to run from them all.

“If we trap the drakes somehow, that would give you better control of your home,” you comment.

The dragon nods and lowers her head while you pace in front of her.

“I’ve an idea,” you say, “but it requires you to be bait.”

“Let’s hear it,” the dragon says and so you explain your idea.

***

You take a deep breath and set the stack of firewood ablaze. For the last hour you and the dragon have worked to set everything

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

up for a bonfire, now your work pays off as the flames lick high into the air and light the ceiling of the chamber in a dance of shadows.

Long snouted faces start to appear over the edge of the waterfall above. Red eyes blink in surprise and malice as they take in you mocking the dragon, who you’ve got trussed up on the floor beside the fire.

“Stupid dragon,” you say, “thought you could steal the chalice from me!”

She struggles against the ropes and growls but you’ve wrapped the rope around her snout several times and she can’t voice her protests.

On the far side of her the heavy door into the chamber stands ajar. You turn your back to the dragon, and that door, and keep mocking her over your shoulder as you face the fire.

There are several hisses from above but when you glance at the falls, you notice all those watching eyes are gone.

“Maybe I’ll take a tooth as a trophy,” you keep talking.

One drake slides through the door and follows the outside wall to skirt around you. Ugly, jagged teeth drip with saliva as the drake drools over his new prey.

Another follows behind him and heads the other way against the far wall.

“Or maybe a claw. A claw would be a fine trophy,” you say and glance back at the dragon.

The third and fourth drakes freeze at your glance but then you look back to the fire and keep up your tirade at the dragon.

Sweat builds on your palms as you refuse to glance back again. You don’t want to hint the drakes in to the fact that you’re purposefully not seeing them.

So you wait for the dragon’s signal that all of them are through the door.

But you can feel their eyes watching and tension builds in your neck and shoulders.

Movement catches at the corners of your eyes as you ramble on and wait for the dragon. She guessed there was enough room for the drakes to squeeze into the cavern but it was a guess and now you’re wondering if her estimate was wrong. Will the drakes be able to completely surround you?

Then you hear a solid thump against the floor. Only a fraction of a second later, large claws surround your middle and you’re lifted into the air.

The dragon bolts for the open door.

Two drakes are close to it and they scramble to close the heavy metal before she can escape. She spits at them.

The blue globs strike the drakes squarely on their torsos and immediately their skin begins to boil like it’s acid. They shriek and drop just as the dragon, with you in tow, flees through the door.

She drops you none too gently, spins and pulls the door closed seconds before there’s a boom from the far side as several drakes throw themselves at the closing door.

But now she’s got it closed and she spits into the lock. It melts before your eyes into a glob of misshapen metal.

The dragon laughs and the sound rattles the walls.

water-drops-782811-m“Thank you, stupid human,” she says and spits into the chalice. Then she hands it over almost negligently.

You glance at her spit in the bottom.

“It won’t melt my sister?” you ask, eyeing the lock on the door.

“Oh no,” she answers, “it will help her skin. It works differently on humans than on metal and drakes. But it won’t work on anything else that might be wrong.” This last bit seems to trouble the dragon.

You picture your sister with her almost translucent skin. She’ll cry for joy if this helps her. With that thought, you picture her red eyes. The chalice won’t help that.

“She’s got red eyes,” you mutter, saddened to realize you’ve only half succeeded.

“There’s a stone,” the dragon says, “in a valley to the east. If it’s placed on her eyes, it will heal them.”

You ask more details and she fills you in on the trolls guarding the stone. The details are daunting but, considering where you stand, you figure it’s a challenge for the next day.

“Thank you,” you tell the dragon and head out to heal your sister. Maybe with her skin healed, she can work with you to find the stone.

The End

Yay! Well done on this adventure everyone! I was sure for a while you’d find a death ending, but you’re apparently good at avoiding them anymore. Perhaps I need to get more crafty in my writing. (Mu-ha-ha-ha) Ok, evil laugh done.

Hope to see you at the next adventure starting on the 18th.

Until then, blessings and have an amazing weekend,

Jennifer