The Value of People Amidst the Chaos

I would never have learned to ride a motorcycle without the support of certain key people. Fear and the resistance of time played too strongly in my mind for me to break through that barrier all by my lonesome self.

I’m not a bold person by nature. So my husband finding a motorcycle I could touch the ground on happened because he cared enough about my dreams to urge me forward.

Likewise, taking the class to learn happened because my neighbor wanted to learn as well, and she loved the idea of hanging out together. She encouraged me on when the bike flew from under me and I hit the ground.

This reminds me strongly of the verses in the Bible that say, “Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Whether you believe in the Bible or not, there’s a lot of truth in those verses. Our society emphasizes personal strength. We glorify the person who did something on his or her own, but we often forget the quiet supporters who stood behind the person and urged him on when the storms threatened to drown him.

This creates a false image in our minds of what true strength looks like. We think achievements must be all our own or we’ve somehow failed. This sets us up to fall…and often we’re alone when we hit the ground.

This past week has emphasized the power behind having a team as opposed to going it alone. We are made for connection.

I wrote last week about my struggle. The Fligiwagit! moment when I received yet another rejection and the tears that followed.

It was my husband in that moment who encouraged me past the tears. It was my dad who started asking questions about who else I might look at for editing. It was a friend who offered to lay a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript for Moonrise Mountain.

I could go on. There were numerous people who saw my bleeding knees and reached to pick me up.

As Jeff Goins encourages, I’m finding my tribe. And, since last week, I’ve found an editor and continue to move forward. All because of the people encouraging me on.

People are beautiful and amazing. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Bring them along side you in your dreams and you’ll be amazed at the joy it can bring.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Chasing Dreams Amidst the Storms

 

img_0608I’ve determined my fear will not stop me from riding a motorcycle. This does not mean, however, that the road will not throw debris in my face.

Similarly, just because I’ve determined to push ahead with self publishing Moonrise Mountain, my first adventure story, does not mean there will not be hiccups in the process. Rib cracking, loud and painful hiccups.

This last month I worked on expanding Moonrise Mountain to fit in a book rather than a blog. I’ve formatted it and put in page directions (adventures have lots of those).

Then looking at it, I admitted professional editing would be a good idea. I want to produce as professional a product as possible. Now, please understand, I’m an English Major. There’s a bit of pride in the way for this. (That pesky pride, always getting beneath my feet!)

So I reached out to an editor, who I researched and thought would be a good fit, to see about the details to have Moonrise Mountain edited.

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-6-56-22-pmLess than 12 hours later, I receive an email back. The basic gist…editor’s not interested, find someone else. Fligiwagit! (That’s as close as I get to cursing.) And, to be honest, he probably didn’t mean to be so abrupt.

And now, after a few days, I can see that. But immediately after reading the email, I wanted to cry, and did. (The crying bit might have something to do with several rejections that came in the same week for Dryad. I’m keeping a folder on my computer. Once I have enough, I’m printing them out and burning them in a nice s’more making campfire. Anyone want to join me?)

Anyway, as the day went on, my ire rose and my stubborn streak kicked in.

Two steps forward, one step back. I’m still making progress.

On an up note, I may have found an illustrator for the story. And I’m super excited if it works out. I’ll share some of the awesomeness as soon as I can.

Until then, keep after those dreams because, despite the mud and bugs thrown in your face, it’s totally worth it.

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

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