Globe Hunters Option Cc: Stay in Town

Globe Hunters Story

One of the farmers, a short, ultra-skinny man by the name of Evan, pulled the short straw and ended up taking you to his house for supplies.

Mountain Sunset - Globe Hunters StoryAs he hands you cheese and bread from his larder, you ask him, “May I stay for the night? It’s awfully unwelcoming in the woods at night and the sun’s about set.”

At first he stares at you like you grew a second head, but then your words seem to sink in and he nods.

“Of course,” he says. “I should have offered in the first place.” He scratches his head like he’s trying to figure out why he didn’t make the offer.

You help him set the small dining table with ham and bread and then sit down on the bench to enjoy the meal.

You’re trying to figure out how to question him further about the dragon and the life fountain when he sits back and folds his fingers across his nonexistent belly.

“You’re right about the woods, but it’s not just at night that they’re unwelcoming,” he says.

“How do you mean?”

“Well,” Evan says, “there’ve been some terrible fires in the woods this year. You get caught on the wrong side and you’re stuck between the cliffs and the fire. Lost a couple people that way. The whole north ridge is black as coal right now from the most recent burn.”

“Wow,” you say. “That’s terrible. Lightening strikes?”

Evan snorts and sneers out a, “Dragon fire.”

Fire - Globe Hunters StoryThis causes you pause. Dragons can be mean tempered, vengeful even, but rarely will they set fire to their home ground. They’re smart enough to know that burning large swaths of land will drive away their food sources.

“Something happen to anger the dragons?” you ask.

“Not that we know of,” Evan says, “but we caught the worst culprit.” At this he points in the direction of the main square with the tethered dragon.

“That particular dragon’s been causing the fires?”

“Yup,” Evan nods. “That one’s gonna pay for its crimes.”

You’re torn between asking how they know it’s this particular dragon and asking if the rest of the town will be out there, working on her scales, all night. As he’s been talking, a feverish light has entered Evan’s eyes again. You judge the second question is the safest at this point.

“Naw,” he responds. “They’ll set a guard for the night and pick back up in the morning. Speaking of which, it’s time to turn in. There’s a bed in the lean-to on the back of the kitchen.” He points. “Sweet and safe dreams.” At this, he gives you a peculiar smile and then ambles up the stares to his own bed.

You watch his narrow back recede and then find your way to the bed in the lean-to. There’s just enough room for you to duck in and lay down but the bed itself is comfortable, so you stretch out.

You figure you’ll give it a half hour, maybe forty-five minutes, and then you’ll sneak out to investigate the town and the dragon.

The air in the lean-to is still, stuffy even, with the heat from the fire Evan has banked in the kitchen fireplace filling the room.

Before long, your eyelids droop and sleep disrupts your plans to look around.

The weightless felling you have tells you you’re dreaming but the sun’s out and the air’s filled with the perfume of mountain flowers. You’re standing in an open field, a glade surrounded by aspen trees. Directly in the middle of the swaying golden grass and splotches of vibrant color is a shimmering surface.

As you approach, you see water dripping from the edges of an iridescent bowl of silver laced with blue streaks. The urge to dip your hands into the water overtakes you and, before you can think about it, you submerge your cupped hands and bring the water to your lips.

It’s sweet and clean, and in the reflection of the fountain, you see yourself, young and flawless.

This holds you for awhile until something, Evan cooking breakfast in the kitchen, intrudes. You’re eyes snap open and, for a brief moment, you think you see something in the ceiling of the lean-to. Perhaps two deep brown eyes lined with green, but then you blink again and the illusion’s gone.

You rub your tongue on the top of your mouth in a vain hope that the fountain’s water still lingers but instead you find a dry, oaky flavor.

Your mind tries to capture this, knowing it means something to your hunter training, but then the desire for the fountain’s water returns.

You join Evan and help him finish cooking the bacon and eggs.Bacon - Globe Hunters Story

“This life fountain,” you begin, “do you have a location to build it?”

You expect some hostility from Evan but instead, he looks up with a radiant, childlike smile.

“There’s this glade just to the west of here,” he says, “with flowers and sun ripened grass…” the description he gives is so perfectly inline with your dream that your desire to taste the water returns again.

“Well,” you say, “can’t build it with out the dragon’s scales. Want help today?”

“Would love it!” he says.

With excitement, you follow him back outside to join the villagers in their task.

As you pass the dragon, her head swings around and you find one giant purple iris in your way.

There’s a tug at you. It’s a mental summons you know a dragon can exert on other creatures. That summons invites you to touch her, to open a mental connection so she can communicate. But such a move is extremely dangerous. The dragon can then control you for a short time if she wishes.

As you hesitate, the summons comes again and, this time, as you resist it, the dry, oaky flavor fills your mouth again. It means something but you can’t seem to place what.

Thin plumes of smoke trail from the dragon’s nostrils.

You want to build the fountain. If the town’s folk and your dream are correct, it can give you flawless life.

But her summons is insistent, desperate almost as more plumes of smoke escape her nostrils.

Do you…

Cc1: Touch the Dragon?

or

Cc2: Ignore the Dragon?

In the comments, vote for how you’d like to continue the story. Next Thursday, we’ll be back to see how this adventure ends!

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Globe Hunters Option C: Mountains

Mountain Trail

This vote was incredibly close! (Lesson to self, three options split the vote dangerously close to tying!) But the mountains came out on top…um, no pun intended =)

(If you’re counting, one vote came in on Facebook instead of the blog. Otherwise North and Mountains tied. Like I said, really close vote!)

Let’s see what kind of creatures we find in the rough mountains!

Globe Hunters Option C: Mountains

None of the choices will be easy. Your hand hovers over the globe while you mentally check your gear before you finalize your choice.

Rations. Check

Extra change of cloths. Check.

Knife. Check

Cup and bowl. Check

It’s a stalling tactic. You sigh and lay your palm over the glowing mountainous coast of the eastern continent. A small, cool breeze plays with the hair along your arm, pulling goose flesh in its wake. You shiver and close your eyes as the breeze brings with it the smell of salty water mixed with forest moss and leaves.

It grows stronger until you hear the air rustle in the branches above. Just before the study completely disappears, you hear a faint, “Safe journey, fellow hunter.”

You’re not sure if it’s Mark or the other hunter who spoke but when you open your eyes, tall oak trees and sharply edged rocks surround you.

Cliff FaceFrom previous journeys here, you know just to the east sits a massive cliff that drops to the ocean below. The faint pounding of the waves carries on the wind even where you stand.

A small town lies to the north but you’re not sure how far you arrived from it.

The town’s the only inhabited place you know of in this region. You turn north to follow the cliff until you reach it.

Your hike remains uneventful through the morning and afternoon but, as the sun starts to disappear through the trees, a faint bellowing joins the pound of the waves from the ocean to your right. You pause to listen.

The deep, hollow bellow comes and goes as the wind shifts but you can’t place what creature might be causing it.

It’s not an ogre because ogres snort more when yelling. They snort more in general.

It’s not a troll. Although they bellow, they have more voice and less wind.

Your breath stills as the sound comes again and a chill not caused by the breeze clutches your spine.

The bellow this time contains a hissing on the very end like fire hitting water and turning it instantly to steam.

DragonDragon.

Of all the monsters you’ve hunted, you’ve only faced one dragon before. It was not a successful hunt, either.

You swallow down your apprehension and continue toward the town. As you draw closer, the smell of smoke grows heavy on the air. Mixed with it is a heavy, moist feeling like the humidity is sticking the ash to your skin. As you walk free of the forest, the town comes into view in a small, protected valley below.

It’s not the scene you expected.

There is indeed a dragon.

Wagons are burning and the small river that runs through the town has been evaporated from dragon’s fire. A trickle from upstream is just now starting to refill the riverbed.

All this looks like a dragon attack.

Except the townsfolk have the dragon grounded with cables running from its legs, neck and tail.

The burning wagons have been shoved up against the dragon’s sides like the people were trying to burn it alive.

Since that didn’t work—dragon scales being fire resistant and all—now several of the men have stacked ladders against the dragon’s massive sides and are trying to pry loose the scales around its rib cage.

The dragon, a silver beast with hints of blue running through its wings and scales, lets out another pain-ridden bellow. Now that you’re closer, the deep cry shudders the ground beneath your feet and brings pain to your ears.

All people, as far as you’ve encountered, know how to kill a dragon, but these people are not going for the one soft scale over the beast’s heart.

Something’s horribly wrong.

You leave the edge of the trees and walk toward the crowd.

At first they don’t notice you but then a few at the edge glance your way and do a double take.

“Hey now,” one calls out. “We’ve got our own dragon. Shove off.”

You keep walking. With the crowd’s agitation, you suspect any hesitation on your part might cause them to be violent.

“Got your own dragon?” you ask as you weave your way through the crowd until you reach the base of the ladders the men stand on.

One of the men glares at you and bares the knife he’s holding like he’s planning on fending you off from his ladder.

“What’re you planning to do with your own dragon?” you ask him directly.

“Why, we’re going to build ourselves a life fountain.” He sneers. “ And you’re not welcome to it.”

“A life fountain?” you ask.

At this a feverish grin breaks out on everyone’s face. It’s so uniform you start to wonder about mind control.

“Build a fountain from the inside of a dragon’s scales,” a woman starts to explain.

“Fill it with water from the ocean,” picks up another man.

“And drink from it daily,” the woman continues.

“For eternal life,” they finish together.

The dragon swivels its head around to reveal one deep purple eye. She stares at you as if to ask what kind of madness has overtaken everyone. You lay a palm against her massive side.

“Why’d you try to burn her first?” you ask.

“Loosens the scales,” says the man on the ladder. “Now get outta here. We’re not sharing.”

You nod, “that’s fine. I just need some provisions and I’ll be on my way.”

Finally, a bit of sanity seems to take over as they all realize they haven’t given the usual mountain hospitality to a traveler.

While they decide who’s going to help you with provisions, you debate your next move. Usually you’re trips are straightforward. Find the beast terrorizing the people and kill the beast.

Except here, the dragon’s not attacking anyone. As far as you can see, it evaporated the river by breathing fire, but considering its head is pointed at the river, the fire could have been from its bellows of pain and nothing more.

The burning wagons were from the people. And there’s your problem. There seems to be something wrong with the people.

You could ask for a place to sleep for the night and stay in town to further question the people. The sun’s last rays are quickly disappearing over the valley rim.

Or you could head out of town and investigate the surrounding countryside, maybe see if something seems out of place. The people are not making progress on the dragon’s scales yet, so there is some time.

Do you…

Cc. Stay in Town?

Or

Cd: Leave?

As always, please leave your vote in the comments below. We’ll be back next Thursday to continue the adventure.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Discarded Option Ab: New Claws for Blain

Dragon Claws

(Side Note: Kat at the Lily Cafe is hosting an interview of me today regarding The Adventure. Stop by and give her a hello =)

Now, welcome to the third week in the Discarded adventure!

If you missed the previous weeks, just know you’re a metal dragon who has been discarded due to your weak wings. Now you’re trying to finish your body at night while the Maker’s away. You managed to get to the gems for a new green eye but the current work-in-progress caught you in the act. When you offered her a gem, she snuffed your offer and woke up all the others. In your fight with the ‘perfect’ dragons, one of the other ‘discards’ came to your aid. Now you’re going to help your new friend, Blain, get new claws. Let’s see if you succeed.

Discarded Option Ab: New Claws for Blain

Blain fidgets. His large, gray tail shoves a piece of copper down the discard heap, where it thuds against the bent pieces of a folding wing.

He cringes and shoots you an apologetic glance.

You told him your next goal is to find him new claws and, since then, his ability to keep his excitement contained has been strained to the max. Like a child on his birthday, he’d be jumping up and down if such an action wouldn’t draw the attention of the Maker.

As it is, the old man pauses and glances at the pile with a frown. Finally, when nothing seems amiss, he returns his attention to the female’s tail.

Although the Maker didn’t realize Blain’s movement, the female did. Her ruby eyes glow, fixated on you and your new friend even as the Maker adds new pieces to her design.

Above her, the amber male who attacked you the night before also watches from his curled position on his shelf.

The Maker fits the last piece into the female’s tail and daubs in a little glue to help hold it in place. Lifting her into the air, he grunts with satisfaction. He lays her back onto the scarred workbench and clamps the appendage in place to dry for the night.

Extra bits of metal are tossed into the discard heap and tools are placed each in their specific homes at the back of the bench. KeyDrawers get pushed in, bits of gem are dusted into their box and leather scraps are neatly folded. All the while the Maker hums.

The sound of his voice echoes faintly in the room as he finishes his cleanup and locks the door behind him as he leaves.

Silence settles into the wooden walls but the clear glitter of dragon eyes does not fade along with the sound.

“Now?” Blain whispers directly against your ear.

“No,” you respond.

He almost whines with angst but then settles back against your side to wait for your timing.

The ruby eyes of the female wink and she huffs in exasperation. Then, slowly, those gems dim until you can hear the soft sigh of her breath in sleep.

The deep jasper eyes of the amber male, however, still glitter with light from the overhead window. He stretches in a feline fashion and yawns but still those glowing orbs remain fixed on your position.

Blain’s side trembles with his excitement but, thankfully, he continues to wait for your cue.

Usually just laying in the discard heap is easy business but your own muscles are strained with anxiety and anticipation. Your legs begin to ache as hours pass and those jasper eyes never waver.

The giant orb of the moon passes the window above and you’re just about to give up for the night when the amber male lets out another yawn. It’s an eye-watering sigh that would have rusted the male’s face if he had any tears to shed. He blinks several times and, while you watch intently, his lids droop until his eyes are closed completely.

You wait awhile longer but his sides rise and fall in steady rhythm the entire time.

“Now,” you whisper to Blain.

Oddly, his muscles relax as he moves to stand. Perhaps now that he has actual motion to occupy his anxiety, the torturous tension fades away.

drawerThe face of the workbench is littered with small drawers holding various hinges, nuts, bolts, molded metal and more. Thankfully for this night, you’re headed to a drawer holding premade claws. Within its divided interior are claws for every shape and size of dragon. Unfortunately, that drawer sits just below the top of the workbench.

You follow Blain to the base of the bench and look upward to your target. The discard pile is large enough that you’re still standing on the fringes of it as you start your climb.

Blain offered to carry you but you asked him to keep watch instead.

He flies up until he’s even with the drawer and waits, all the while watching the amber male and the half-finished female as they sleep.

Only when you’ve reached the drawer and have it open far enough for him to land in it does he join you at the bench.

He settles into the drawer and gives a soft crow of delight at the claws inside. His long gray tail hangs out over the face of the drawer as he starts to test each claw one by one.

You shake your head. “No, Blain,” you say, “You need bigger claws than those.” You push the drawer open farther and select a thicker piece. “Try this one.”

He presses it to the hole in his front left paw where his index claw should be. It gives a soft pop as it slides into the socket.

“Yay!” Blain holds it up in excitement.

“Shhh,” you caution.

He ducks his head and glances up but the amber dragon doesn’t stir.

You both hold your breath for a moment, just to be sure, but nothing happens.

ClawsYou select another claw for Blain to try. Again, this one pops into place, a perfect fit even if it is a deep red against his overall gray.

“One more,” you say and delve deeper into the drawer for a thicker claw yet.

You select one and hand it over.

Blain flops onto his haunches and tries to reach for his rear, left foot but whatever injury prevents him from turning to the left also makes him stiff to bending forward.

“Here,” you say.

He hands over the claw and you test it on his hind foot. You’ve an eye for this sort of thing apparently because it too pops into place. You grin at Blain and his yellow eyes return your excitement.

“GAH!” he exclaims as he tumbles backwards.

His body is hauled over the face of the drawer and it’s then that you see the amber dragon has him by the tail.

You jump, landing squarely on the male’s back. Between your weight and the powerful pull of Blain’s wings, the amber male can’t control his flight. He lets go of Blain’s tail and rises into the air.

Before he can get too high, you roll off his back and land on the scarred workbench. The female jerks awake at the thud of your landing.

At the same time, Blain lands beside you and so you’re both caught in the blast of the female’s siren cry. It flattens you to the surface of the bench.

All sound seems deadened as she runs out of breath.

The amber male lands just to Blain’s left and flares his wings in challenge.

Not many sounds would register on your deadened hearing at this point but one clear, single sound does. The click of the lock.

The Maker’s arriving for work.

If he catches you all just as you are, he’s likely to dismantle every single one of you. If you jump into the discard heap, you might survive but Blain cannot turn that fast. Either the amber male will catch him from his damaged left or the Maker will see him. You negate the idea of leaving him behind as not an option.

You could shove him into the discard heap but you’re likely to take the full brunt of the amber male’s attack if you do.

Or you could continue to fight beside him and hope for the best with the Maker.

Aa1. Push Blain into Discard Heap

or

Aa2. Keep Fighting

Cast your vote in the comments below. We’ll be back Thursday with whichever option gets the most votes and we’ll see how this adventure ends!

Blessings,

Jennifer

(P.S. Again, if you’re interested in seeing the interview at the Lily Cafe, hop on over here!)

Discarded Option A: Offer A Gem

Dragon

Welcome back for the second post in the Discarded adventure! If you missed last week, just know you’re a metal dragon who has been discarded due to your weak wings. Now you’re trying to finish your body by taking from the other discard piles. You managed to get to the gems for a new green eye but the current work-in-progress from the Maker caught you in the act. You’re about to offer her a gem. Let’s see if she takes it.

Discarded Option A: Offer A Gem

GemsThe box of discarded gems glitters in the faint light from the overhead window, displaying blues and greens and reds of varying shades. You grasp the closest blue, a lovely oval the size of a grape, and hold it out to the small female.

Her nostrils flare with a huff. “Those are all flawed, just like you.” And she opens her mouth to reveal tiny points of teeth lining her jaw.

The cry that pierces the air from her throat flattens you to the scarred workbench. Your nerves shudder in protest. Not a dragon in the shop could have slept through that siren.

An amber dragon twice your size thuds to the bench behind you, cutting off your escape to the discard pile. With your green eye, he almost looks brown.

Another female with a rounded belly and massive, layered wings coasts down to stand protectively over the half-finished female.

“Thief,” she cries.

You spin on your tail and toss the blue gem at the amber, male dragon’s face. Although you’re small, your aim proves perfect. The gem smacks solidly against the dragon’s forehead just between his eyes.

He rears back with his multi-plated wings extended for balance, all the while blinking furiously to clear his sight. It’s the opportunity you were hoping for. While he’s still unfocused, you dart under his wing. You’re just about to lunge off the side of the workbench when his tail flashes out to curl around your left wing.

Your momentum is too great and the wing pulls free from your side with a screech of metal.

Dragon WingWith a disgusted ‘ugh’, he tosses the small appendage at you as you tumble over the side of the bench in an uncontrolled fall.

You curl into a ball, expecting to hit the discard heap with a painful thud. Instead, sharp claws bite into your tail and you’re hauled skyward by the amber dragon. His multi-plated wings beat powerful strokes to lift your combined weight.

You scream at him in anger. The thud into the discard pile would have been better than this. Curling up your tail, you sink your own claws into his legs.

He snaps his teeth but can’t quite get his head low enough to catch you without unbalancing his flight. Once he reaches the height of the overhead window, he drops you and your claws are too weak to hang on.

From this height, you’ll shatter when you hit the floor. You grab for a shelf as it spins past but the piece of wood isn’t actually attached to the wall. Instead, it’s simply set on a few braces. When you grab ahold, it flips into the air behind you.

A small bit of satisfaction hits you when you see the shelf glance off the amber dragon’s side. It dents his otherwise perfect frame.

There’s nothing else to stall your headlong fall.

A heavy whoosh of air hits you and your sight spins in erratic jerks before settling. You’re no longer falling uncontrollably.

You twist to look up and find a massive beast slowly lowering you to the discard heap. He cradles your small body in his thick claws.

Once he’s set you down, he backs up awkwardly and lands beside you with a crunch of metal. It’s then you see this gray beast is missing several claws, has a heavy dent in his forehead, and can’t turn to his left without turning his entire body.

You see this last bit as he turns to stand guard over you.

The amber dragon above halts his flight downward and hovers in place.

“Enough,” says the beast that saved you. His speech is slurred from the way the dent on his head curves part of his mouth inward. You’re surprised that whatever caused the damage didn’t finish the dragon completely.

The amber male huffs and tosses one of the discard gems at you before turning away.

He settles back onto his shelf and pointedly ignores the discard heap while he works to remove the dent the shelf left in his side.

Slowly, the other dragons settle back in and go to sleep. Even the red gleam of the half-finished female finally fades to sleep.

When all is quiet again, the beast guarding you picks up the remnants of your left wing and offers it to you. He smiles in a crooked, almost dopey way.

“Thank you,” you say as you let him snap the wing into place. It’s loose now but at least it’ll help your balance.

“That was awesome!” he exclaims.

“Shhhh,” you caution and you both look at the shelves full of dragons. The amber male opens one eye to make sure you’re not moving and then goes back to his rest.

“Sorry, Blain makes mistakes,” says the beast.

“Blain? That’s you?” you ask.

He nods vigorously and off balances himself enough that he has to step sideways. There’s a crunch of metal.

“What are you going to fix next?” he whispers.

“I’m waiting for tomorrow night to do anything else,” you tell him.

“Yeah, but what are you going to fix?”

You stare at him and the fire that brightens his yellow-gold eyes.

“Let’s rest for now,” you say, “while I consider that.”

He happily settles down into the discard heap and motions for you to settle beside him. You take the invitation and take comfort in the solid structure of his wing as it settles protectively over you. Unlike the amber male, Blain’s wing is a solid piece that doesn’t fold in against his side. However, what it lacks in mobility it makes up for in strength. He could have easily carried twice your weight without breaking a sweat.

You think on his question. New wings would be ideal. If you can fly, a world of other options opens up for you.

Blain starts to give a slight metallic snore as he falls to sleep. He twitches and his claws open and close in reaction to a dream. You stare at the holes where he’s missing claws. It doesn’t seem like much, but without those claws, his balance is even more precarious.

Aa. New Wings?

Or

Ab. New Claws for Blain?

Please cast your vote in the comment section below. Next Thursday we’ll explore whichever option gets the most vote.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Discarded

Dragon

The Maker hums as he finishes his work for the day. Tools get laid out in a row at the back of his wooden bench, drawers are pushed in and scraps are tossed into their respective bins. Metal clinks in the copper bin, bits of jewel flash in the jewel bin, and fabric gets folded for cutting later. In the center of the bench lies a half finished dragon. She’s going to be slender and majestic.

Dragon WingThe shelves around her are filled with other perfectly crafted dragons but, even half finished, you know she’s going to be something special. Not all dragons are created equal, as you well know. Some have wings intricately designed so their metal plates fold smoothly against the dragon’s ribs. Others boast jeweled eyes that sparkle as they see in the night. And still others balance on edges with needle like claws. All these dragons are useful, beautiful and graceful.

You are not one of these, however. You hide amidst the pile of discarded metal parts and watch the others through a single murky glass eye. The Maker tossed you aside when he found your thin wings were too small to carry your weight. Months have passed since that day and other discarded bits weigh down upon your frame, sharing their rust with you right along with their weight.

Dragon ClawsThe Maker’s current project holds a lot of hope for you, though. She’s small, like you, and many of the parts not deemed worthy of her perfect shape might fit you. One in particular caught your eye while the Maker worked today.

You wait as the Maker finishes putting everything away. The half finished dragon’s new ruby eyes flash as he turns out the light. Although she’s not finished, she can now see the world.

The Maker closes the door and the lock clicks. You wait even longer, watching for those ruby eyes to darken into sleep. Finally, when they do, you work your way from beneath the discarded parts.

The shop’s wooden structure absorbs the grind of the metal pieces like a sponge but many of the sleeping dragons have excellent hearing.

You pause once free of the rubble to see if any of the graceful creature awaken at your noise. None do.

Early that morning you watched the Maker toss a green jewel because of a flaw, a small crack, deep within its depths. That jewel would work perfectly beside your murky glass eye. You might actually be able to see the whole room for once in a casual glance.

The tiny green piece lay atop the discard box of flawed jewels. He’ll return the lot of them later and receive more perfect pieces in return. That’s why you have to make your move tonight. The jewel seller will be by in the morning and then your chance at a second eye will be gone.

The other pieces in the box are of varying sizes. This is the first time you’ve seen one that might fit your small frame. The others are too large.

You tuck your thin, useless wings against your sides and step lightly to the workbench. The jewel box sits on a shelf just to the right of it. If you climb the drawers of the bench, you can reach the shelves from its top.

Your claws grasp the handles easily but you find the next drawer handle too far away.

Thankfully the Maker finished most of your tail before he gave up on your wings. You turn upside down and reach for the next handle with your tail. Its metal coils encircle the ring with a faint clicking and you haul yourself up.

You repeat the process until you gain the top of the workbench. It’s scarred from long, daily use.

EmeraldsThe green jewel glitters with light from the overhead window. You tiptoe past the half finished dragon and grasp that wonderful
piece in your claws. It’s perfectly sized. You snap it into place with an audible pop.

The world turns green to your gaze. Beautifully layered in shades of emerald, aqua, and jasper. There’s a gray quality to it from your glass eye as well, but this is familiar to you, comfortable even.

“What are you doing?”

In your moment of triumph, you did not see the half finished female open her eyes but now those ruby gems burn with life. She’s lacking wings and a tail yet, so movement is not easy for her, but she’s obviously aware and fully capable of waking the others.

“Cleaning up,” you say.

“Not likely,” she responds and opens her mouth to give one of those piercing calls only a small female can.

Thinking quickly, you can either offer her one of the other sparkling gems from the box beside you or roll off the table into the discard heap in order to hide.

Do you…

A. Offer a gem?

Or

B. Hide?

In the comment section, please cast your vote for which option you’d like to explore. Next Thursday, we’ll see how you handle this new turn of events.

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