Tails of PaTail Option B: Picking Up Dessert

Cat Eye

Welcome back to the second part of the Tails of PaTail adventure.

In part one, you started your day by getting raspberry jam from the market for your sister’s birthday but when you arrived home, Nan and Lily, your sister, were enduring a search by the Dog guard because rats had accused you of harboring a cat. After they leave, you find out that your sister is, in fact, harboring a kitten. You’ve decided to head to the orchards to try and get the cat over the city wall.

(If you’d like to read the first part, click here.)

Otherwise, let’s get this story rolling =)

Tails of PaTail Option B: Picking up Dessert

“Think Nan would like some dessert tonight?” you ask Lila.

A grin splits her face just as two tiny, fury ears peek around the corner next to her chin. Their orange tips tickle her skin and she giggles.

Nan huffs. “Nan doesn’t need more sweets. Nan needs peace and quiet.” She nabs her clothing from your hands and shoves you toward Lila. “Get outa here.”

***

BasketBy the time you leave the house, the streets bustle with people. Over your arm, you carry a lidded basket with a handle for ‘collecting’ cherries from the orchard. Before you even get to the end of your street, you spy the whiskered nose of a rat peeking out of a sewer grate, watching.

The basket gives a soft hiss and you thump the lid with a warning knuckle.

“Think we can fill this for Nan?” you raise your voice to cover the kitten’s soft hiss.

Lila chuckles. “Nan’ll be making pie for a week if we do.”

You’re almost to the orchards when you spy another whiskered nose watching from a nearby gutter. This one wears an eye patch and squints its one beady eye as you pass.

“Did Paws truly try to eat a rat?” you ask from the side of your mouth.

The kitten, a solid orange ball of fluff, can’t be bigger than the rat you saw this morning in the market. If it tried to eat such a vile creature, it must have spunk bigger than its body.

Lila nods. “Had the rat’s tail in its claws when I found it. Just the tail. No rat attached.”

You wince. No wonder the rat’s so determined…but then, it couldn’t be the rat you saw in the market because that one still had its tail. How many, then, are watching you?

The buildings on the street give way to low stone walls and beautiful trees. Throughout the growing season these trees harbor cherries, apples, plums, even pears. Lower to the ground grow vines with blackberries and raspberries. The place smells earthy, a mixture of damp earth and foliage.

After hopping the low wall, you set the basket at the base of a tree and begin picking cherries. Lila joins you, staying close to the basket’s location as she collects handfuls and drops them inside.

“Now what?” she murmurs, shooting a glance back toward the street where you can just make out the twitching nose of another rat peeking over the orchard’s wall. If you climb a tree to lift the kitten over the wall, the rodents are sure to see.

“Think the whole nest is watching us,” you mutter back.

Lila holds out the bottom of her shirt and you drop your collection of cherries into the scoop of fabric she’s made. She turns to put them into the basket and shrieks. The cherries she’s holding fall to the ground as she drops her hem and races to the whicker basket.

The bushy tail of some creature sticks out of the lid.

“Hey!” Lila grasps the exposed hindquarters and pulls a plump rabbit into her arms. “What do you think you’re doing?”

RabbitThe rabbit shrieks in turn and then slumps in relief. “Well I’ll be, Miss Lila,” it says. “You scared the fur off me.”

“It’s Maya Rabbit,” Lila tells you while rubbing the rabbit’s ear in greeting.

The lid of the basket lifts ever so slightly. Two large green eyes glitter in the gap, not afraid but glaring at the rabbit Lila just pulled from the kitten’s hiding place.

“Miss Lila,” the rabbit says. “Some of your cherries look like they might be bad as they’ve got fur on them.” Maya winks with the eye away from the road. She hops from Lila’s arms and thumps the basket with one long hind leg. The lid falls shut with a soft hiss.

Maya saw the kitten, and she knows the rats are watching. She’s one of the many creatures Lila helped as a baby. She’s not Tabby Catlikely to turn you in.

“I figured we’d pitch the bad ones over the wall before we leave,” Lila tells the rabbit.

“Hmm,” Maya considers and hops in a full circle around the basket before shaking her head. “Probably not the best option. The guards on the wall might not take kindly if you hit them with bad cherries. Maybe you can burry them instead.”

Burry them? What is Maya Rabbit suggesting? Lila looks as confused as you are but then she shudders.

“The moles might not take kindly to that either,” she replies but looks at you for your thoughts.

Oh! Maya Rabbit’s offering to make a deal with the mole’s who guard under the wall. They’re strict creatures but they only care about keeping things out of the city, they don’t really care about keeping things in. There’s a chance they’ll let you pass with the kitten and say nothing to the dog guard above. Usually the rats avoid the moles but now that they’re so determined, there’s a chance they’ll risk the mole’s ire to catch you.

Or do you still try to climb a tree? Perhaps you can ask Maya Rabbit for a distraction instead of a deal. The orchards are full of rabbits. They could help draw the rat’s attention away just long enough to get Paws out of the city.

Do you ask for…

Bb. A Mole Deal?

or

Bc. A Rabbit Distraction?

Leave your vote in the comments and next Thursday we’ll explore the option that gets the most votes.

Thanks for joining this week’s adventure =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Tails of PaTail

Welcome to a brand new adventure. =)

Tails of PaTail

Raspberries

Photo Courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

The air smells of raspberries and peaches, cinnamon and nutmeg and, beneath the sweet spice of the jam vendor’s stall, there’s the scent of rain on cobblestone. This early in the morning few people actually wander the market and the few who do are quiet, their bartering kept low so as not to break the peace of the sunrise.

You pass the jam vendor a few coins and accept a small jar of raspberry in exchange. It’s a rare treat but, for your little sister’s birthday, it’s worth the cost.

Turning away from the stall, you almost catch the tail of a well-fed rat before he scurries down a sewer grate.

“Clumsy human!” he hisses over his shoulder.

You hiss back at him before moving along. Ugly rats act as the dog guard’s eyes and ears of the city. It’s the only reason they’re allowed to infest the under city.

But today, of all days, you’re not going to let a rat ruin your fun.

You weave your way out of the market and head toward the merchant’s housing quarter. In your mind, you picture your sister waking to the smell of warm pancakes cooked in fresh butter. The surprise on her narrow face when she sees the ruby jar will make waking at dawn a small inconvenience for the joy in her gray eyes.

As you draw nearer to your home, the quiet of the morning disappears under the angry shriek of an old woman. Her raspy voice carries on the chill air like that of a disturbed crow.

“You’ve got the wrong house!” she insists. “There’re no cats here.” Her voice is familiar. You hurry your steps until you round the corner to find Nan confronting two guards from the dog watch.

“We smell it,” one guard, a dark colored shepherd mix, insists.

“If your nose is so good,” Nan counters, “then why didn’t you find it when you searched the house?”

It’s then you see the beginning signs of a search. A shirt lies at Nan’s feet in the doorway. Tucked underneath it looks to be one of Nan’s underthings. No wonder she’s so fired up. The dogs dragged half her wardrobe into the street.

silver cat“A cat?” you ask as you approach, “here?” You keep your tone light, almost laughing.

“I saw it,” says a new hissing voice. “It tried to eat me.”

From the sewer grate beside the house appears a whiskered nose. You’re almost certain it’s the rat from the market.

“Then where is it now?!” Nan stoops and grabs a pebble from the doorstep. In seconds, it’s flying toward the grate.

The rat disappears and the pebble follows it into the sewers. There’s a yelp a moment later.

You almost pity the rodent. Nan’s aim is impeccable. You’ve experienced it many times, usually with the slap of a thrown shoe.

“Now, now,” says the second guard, a hound with such droopy ears that he’s almost standing on them. “No call for that.”

“He’s accusing me of harboring a cat!” Nan shoots back. “That’s call enough for me.”

“We’ll leave you to your breakfast.” the hound nudges his companion with his shoulder. “But as you know, we’ll have to follow up on this accusation later today.”

Nan huffs and watches the two dogs wander away with her hands on her hips. As soon as they disappear, she spins on a heel and marches inside. “Grab my cloths, will you,” she hollers over her shoulder. It’s not a question.

You gather her garments as you follow her inside.

She slams the door closed behind you and you jump, not realizing she was standing right there. When you look at her with a raised brow, she mouths your sister!

Oh no. You realize what must have happened. Lila has an incurable soft spot for baby animals. And somehow, she finds them all the time. A mouse, a badger, an owl, she even tried a porcupine once but Nan drew the line on that one.

But a cat! In the dog run city of PaTail. It spells disaster for sure. Time in the dungeons with the sewer rats or possibly a sentence on the chow lines feeding the military dogs.

Just then, Lily peeks her head into the kitchen. The rest of her body stays hidden in the hallway. Those gray eyes are pleading as they look at you.

“Can we have an adventure today?” she asks. It’s her way of begging you to help her smuggle the cat out of the city. You can’t deny those pleading eyes.

Usually, you’d use the sewers for such a task but obviously, the sewer rat will be watching. You might be able to enter the sewers a street or two away and avoid him but it’s risky with how alert he’ll be.

Or the orchards might give you a tree high enough to go over the wall tonight. You’d have to hide in the trees for the day though because the dog guards will be back by noon.

You and Lily have a code for each place. You’re looking for treasures in the deeps for the sewers or picking up dessert for Nan for the orchards.

Do you tell her…

A. Treasures in the Deeps?

or

B. Picking up Dessert?

Thanks for joining in the adventure. Vote for your choice by leaving a comment below. Next Thursday, we’ll see what happens next!

Blessings,

Jennifer

Heart of Ice and Fire Part 4 of 4

Ice

Welcome back for the last part in the Heart of Ice and Fire story!

If you missed the first three posts, you can find them here and here and here. Or, here’s the quick recap.

Recap: Em traveled to snow troll territory to find a man named Jimmy Wilkes. She presented him with a green debt gem that her mother earned by saving his daughter years earlier. Now, in calling in the debt, Em is asking for a snow troll’s heart to save her mother from the poison she got from being scratched by a troll. The poison is driving her crazy. Mr. Wilkes agreed to help if Em was willing to hunt for a troll with him.

However, when Em agreed, Mr. Wilkes used her as bait and let the troll take off with Em. The troll held Em long enough to show her that she is Wilkes’ daughter changed into a troll by the poison years ago.

Now Em is working, reluctantly, with Wilkes and his daughter to hopefully find a cure for Em’s Mama and Wilkes’s daughter.

Let’s see how this story ends =)

Heart of Ice and Fire Part 4

EmeraldsThey stopped in a cavern filled with ice that glittered white and blue. Wind howled through in a dull roar.

“There,” Wilkes pointed to a hole high in the cavern wall. “Take that gem of yours and explore there.”

“Whaaattt?” As Em asked, Marie picked her up and approached the wall. By stretching onto her tiptoes, the troll could tuck her into the hole Wilkes indicated.

“I’m not a cork for cave walls,” Em protested. The hole didn’t offer much room to move. She lay on her stomach and peeked her head out to glare at Wilkes and Marie. Marie grinned and drool slid down one of her fangs. Beside her, Wilkes grinned too and the resemblance was eerie. “And neither of you are right in the head.”

They chuckled together.

“Not right.” Em shuffled around until she faced into the hole. It was perfectly round, and deep enough that she couldn’t see farther than a foot or two. Mama, what have I gotten into?

Sliding on her stomach, Em moved forward. At her touch, the walls began to glitter the same white and blue of the icy cavern.

“Find the heart in ice and cold,” Wilkes voice trailed up behind her with a singsong kind of chant. “And a young hero, warm heart and bold.”

Em paused both to marvel at the glowing walls and to listen to that chant.

“Trust the debt gem, ruby or green.

Trust both gem and hero, lean.

Return heart from frost to fire,

Save life from poison’s dire.”

The last word echoed and then Wilkes started singing the chant, repeating bits of it over and over again. Marie added to the sound by crooning her own type of song. None of it held any real tune.

“Not right,” Em muttered and scooted farther forward.

Not more than three scoots farther and the end of the tunnel glowed to life. The ice shimmered perfectly smooth and clear except for a tiny divot near the bottom. Within the wall’s cold depths beat an actual heart. Em wished it were a cute little heart like what her Mama would draw on the walls, but its vein covered surface reminded her more of Jimmy Wilkes veined hand than a drawn image.

“Find the heart in ice and cold,” she muttered. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Been trying to reach that beauty for ages!” Wilkes’ voice bounced around the walls.

Em withdrew the green gem and held the cut part up to the small divot. “Kidding me.” It was a perfect match.

Bleed

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

“Got a problem,” she hollered back to both Wilkes, “what if this thing actually bleeds? I don’t have a way to collect it.”

“Small pocket inside the cloak,” Wilkes hollered back.

Patting around for a moment, Em found the pocket. Inside were wrapped two small vials capped with corks.

“Here goes.” And she inserted the gem into the wall. Instantly, it sucked the gem into the ice. The heart shuddered and beat faster. Fumbling the first bottle, Em withdrew the cork and held it ready beneath the divot.

“Thank my stars,” she whispered as three drops filled the bottle. Fumbling again, she dropped the second bottle. “No, no, no.” Her chilled fingers finally retrieved it and she held it below the divot. Two drops and the flow stopped. Were two drops enough? With her fingernail, she dug at the ice beneath the divot, scrapping away slivers of red ice and trying to fill the bottle. With relief, she held it up to see the ice melt in the warm glass. She carefully capped it and tucked both bottles back into the pocket before flipping around to return to the two Wilkes.

When she peeked her head out of the hole, both looked up at her like children waiting for a gift. Large, dark eyes…er, with one white eye too, stared without blinking. Em fingered the bottles in her pocket, unsure if the second one would work.

Mama willingly chanced her life for Marie. Em held out the totally full bottle and watched the identical grins split their faces. Crazy, but maybe worth it.

***

“How long did he wait for that heart?” Mama asked.

“Years, Mama, years.” Em handed over a plate of ham, bread and cheese for dinner. Mama took it and almost picked up the ham with her fingers. Then, remembering her fork, she opted for it instead.

“That no good, low-life actually knew about the cure all those years and didn’t ask me to help?!”

Em sighed. They’d covered this but Mama still wanted to rehash it.

“You were too big to reach it, Mama.”

“And he couldn’t find someone crazy enough to let a troll lift the…” Mama trailed off. She did that sometimes. Em couldn’t decide if it was the crazy still flowing in Mama’s veins. Perhaps two and a half drops wasn’t totally enough, but Mama didn’t climb the curtains any more. That was good enough. That was more than good enough.

“Crazy enough is right,” Em agreed. “Have you ever smelt a troll?”

Mama burst out laughing, carefree and happy as she forked a piece of ham. Em cringed but then smiled at her Mama. Who cared if her laugh and Marie’s sounded a bit like a troll’s snort. They were happy, and human.

The End

Thank you for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed the story =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

Heart of Ice and Fire Part 3 of 4

Fire

Welcome back for the next part in the Heart of Ice and Fire story!

If you missed the first two posts, you can find them here and here. Or, here’s the quick recap.

Recap: Em traveled to snow troll territory to find a man named Jimmy Wilkes. She presented him with a green debt gem that her mother earned by saving his daughter years earlier. Now, in calling in the debt, Em is asking for a snow troll’s heart to save her mother from the poison she got from being scratched by a troll. The poison is driving her crazy. Mr. Wilkes has agreed to help if Em is willing to hunt for a troll with him.

However, when Em agreed, Mr. Wilkes used her as bait and let the troll take off with Em. Now Em is being held hostage by the troll in her cave.

Let’s see what happens next =)

Heart of Ice and Fire Part 3

Fire - Globe Hunters StoryFilled with roasted rabbit and pleasantly warm from the fire, Em curled into a ball with her back against a large rock and passed out. It might be unwise to sleep in a troll’s cave, but Em didn’t see an alternative and, well, her day exhausted her. If Ms. Troll was going to enjoy her as a snack, maybe it was better if she didn’t see it coming.

Something jerked her awake. Em’s eyes snapped open only to find the cave in complete darkness. She couldn’t immediately place what startled her but her nerves warned her something was amiss.

A foul wave of air hit her face and Em gave an, “Ugh!” before rolling away from the spot.

Ms. Troll chuckled. Her dark shape leaned over Em’s small rock enclosure. Em couldn’t say how long the troll had hunched there just watching her.

“That’s creepy, you know,” Em scolded.

The dark shape shifted backward like the troll settled to sit on her haunches.

Ms. Troll huffed but it wasn’t an angry sound. Em cocked her head sideways.

“Are you apologizing?” Mama, I’ve gone over the edge. I’m talking troll.

Ms. Troll huffed again.

“You understand me?”

The dark, hulking shoulders rolled in a motion Em could only believe was a shrug.

“You gonna eat me?”

Ms. Troll’s snort came out so powerful that snot hit the floor.

“Ugh!” Em stepped backward out of the range of any more snorts. “Then what you gonna do with me?”

Large claws reached into Em’s enclosure and wrapped snugly around her waist. Em froze. No scratches, no scratches! She chanted in her head. One crazy in the family’s more than enough. But Ms. Troll’s touch was gentle. She set Em down beside the debris of human belongings.

As Em stood uncertainly in the dark, the troll riffled in the ashes of her fire and withdrew a smoldering log. By blowing air through her long fangs, the troll brought the end of the log to life again. In the flickering light, Em scanned the broken pieces of furniture around her.

“I’m not a collector’s item,” she protested.

The troll growled and turned Em around with a claw on her shoulder. With the same claw, she pointed to the remains of a wooden chest. It sat on its side on the floor with the upturned end smashed open. A peek inside showed a few bits of clothing, probably a girl’s considering the lace on the rotted edges, and a small jewelry box engraved on the top with a dancer’s silhouette.

Em stretched on her toes to reach inside and retrieved the box. Ms. Troll squatted beside her, almost trembling with some emotion Em couldn’t guess at.

LocketShe flipped the latch open with a thumb and stared at the contents. A single necklace rested in the bottom, its tarnished silver leaving smudges on the dried out felt lining the box. A locket.

“This,” Em pointed at it, “looks very familiar.”

Ms. Troll crooned deep in her throat, almost as though she were holding back a sob. Em exhaled, sat down and leaned against the troll’s furry leg.

Gently pulling the locket from its home, she popped the latch and flipped it open.

Ms. Troll finally hiccupped her withheld sob. A tear the size of Em’s hand landed on her arm.

“That’s you?” she pointed at the girl in the locket’s picture. A small, dark haired child who held the hand of one Jimmy Wilkes.

Ms. Troll, errr, rather Miss Wilkes touched the picture with one long claw and emitted another hiccupping sob.

Em’s brain finally kicked in.

“That’s you—which means Mama didn’t actually get you safely through troll territory way back when.” Em retrieved the green jewel from her pocket. “Irony indeed,” she muttered. “Is this what happens when the poison’s allowed to run its course?” Em gestured at Miss Wilkes hulking form.

The troll huffed.

“Mama’s going to become like you?”

A croon, deep and sorrowful, was her answer.

“I take it troll’s heart doesn’t actually work?” Em couldn’t imagine Ranger Wilkes not trying everything he could to cure his daughter. He might actually be bold enough to hunt troll alone.

Miss Wilkes only confirmed her suspicion by shaking her shaggy head side to side and slumping her shoulders.

“Then Mama’s crazy is just the beginning.” Em slumped with the troll, letting her shoulders sink into the heavy fur against her back.

Miss Wilkes grunted a negative. When Em didn’t respond, the troll stood and backed away a step, letting Em tumble backwards onto the floor since her leg backrest moved.

“Hey now!” Em protested.

Miss Wilkes scooped her up again without responding. The troll’s long strides took them from the cave out into the bitter night. Instantly the air in Em’s nose started sticking her nose hairs together. A bout of shivering overtook her, so much so that she couldn’t fully voice her protest.

Perhaps noticing the violent shaking in her body, the troll shifted her into the crook of her arm. The heavy stink of troll surrounded Em but she gratefully burrowed into the long white fur. No wonder trolls didn’t mind the cold. They didn’t even feel it. The only not crazy ones to live here.

Moon

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

With the cold held at bay, Em relaxed with the swaying stride of Miss Wilkes. The sky above was cloudless and filled to overflowing with sparkling points of light. No moon showed its face but there wasn’t a need for one. Em blinked, and sucked in a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Her reaction wasn’t due to the troll smell. The velvet sky held her gaze. It was so clear she wanted to reach out and touch it. Mama, you’d love this. It’s like a sea of gems.

Gems…Em slid her fingers into her pocket and carefully withdrew the deep green debt gem. Its rough edges stuck out at angles like it was half planned, half cut, and then abandoned in the making. The shape had always fascinated Em but it never made sense to her why someone would only half cut such a beautiful thing.

The swaying stride slowed, and Em tucked the green gem away.

“You have her?” came a voice from near the troll’s feet.

“Wilkes?” Em called. “You stinking liar!”

Miss Wilkes huffed fish breath into Em’s face as she set her down onto the snowpack.

“Uck!”

Jimmy Wilkes grinned from beside the mouth of a cave. It was the only break in an otherwise pure white field of ice. “She’s got a wicked sense of humor, my Marie.”

Em wanted to spit at him, but he held out to her a fur lined cloak and a pair of heavy boots. Reluctantly, she shrugged into the garments and then glared at him from the hood. His one white eye crinkled at the corner as though he appreciated her spunk.

“Follow me,” he said.

“Where?” Em didn’t move.

“You wanted troll’s heart, right?”

Em tilted her head to look up at Marie. “Doesn’t look like that’s happening.”

“Depends,” he shrugged and started into the cave.

After a moment of stubborn silence, Em followed. Marie’s heavy steps brought up the rear.

“You put up with this man?” Em asked her over her shoulder.

Marie harrumphed.

“You have my sympathy.”

To Be Finished Next Thursday…

Thanks for stopping by =) Hope to see you next week!

Blessings,

Jennifer

Heart of Ice and Fire Part 2 of 4

Snow

Welcome back! =)

This story started last week. If you missed the beginning, you can read it here, or here’s a quick overview.

Recap: Em traveled to snow troll territory to find a man named Jimmy Wilkes. She presented him with a green debt gem that her mother earned by saving his daughter years earlier. Now, in calling in the debt, Em is asking for a snow troll’s heart to save her mother from the poison she got from being scratched by a troll. The poison is driving her crazy. Mr. Wilkes has agreed to help if Em is willing to hunt for a troll with him.

Let’s see what happens next:

Heart of Ice and Fire Part 2

It hadn’t crossed her mind that whatever needs to be done included burying herself in the snow up in the mountains. Not only did she have to be out in the frigid cold, she had to bury herself in it.

Wilkes insisted this was the best way to catch and kill a troll. It would smell her beneath the snow and hunch down to dig. With the beast focused on digging, Wilkes could sneak up on it with a barbed spear. An arrow would only lodge in the heavy skin and a sword could be pulled free too easily.

Because of what she wanted, he couldn’t puncture the heart, he had to take out an artery or puncture the lungs. A risky venture due to the time it would take the troll to collapse.

The old man gave her two long daggers to hold while waiting as bait. He instructed her to stab at the sensitive insides of the paws if the beast got too close.

“Why do I have to be bait?” she’d asked.

“Snow trolls eat humans,” he answered.

“What about a horse? It’d make a bigger meal.”

“They dislike horses, and donkeys, and cows and even chickens. They’ll eat a cat or dog, but you won’t find such creatures around here. We need a human for bait. Know anyone else willing to fill your shoes?”

Em couldn’t think of another option. She shuddered and tried to still her out of control heart. Mama, you’ve rubbed off on me.

***

Snow with Sun SettingSnow crusted around her mouth where her breath hardened it to ice and a ringing settled into her ears from the silence. Wilkes assured her this wouldn’t take long but now she had no way of estimating the time and the press of snow seemed to grow against her body.

A concussion to the snowpack brought a groan from Em’s throat. The snowpack tightened around her and then a scratching sounded above her.

Em tightened her hold on the daggers. Wilkes buried her deep but a troll’s claws measured somewhere around five inches long. With that kind of digging power, it wouldn’t take long for the beast to reach her.

Come on, Wilkes. Em waited for the troll’s scream, waited for any sign of Wilkes attacking the beast digging for her. But the scratching continued. Light appeared in the crust above her and with it came frantic movement. Long paws pulling at the layers of snow. Still no scream. Where was Wilkes?

The troll’s claws dug deep. Then it hesitated and, instead of digging like a dog, it sank its claws in from the side, shoving them past Em’s torso in the snow. She tried to twist, to bring the dagger around at that paw, but the snow still held her tight. Then the claws closed around her, pinning her arms to her sides, and the troll lifted her completely free of the snow.

A scream struggled in Em’s throat but those claws held her tight and air just wouldn’t move in her lungs. A long snout greeted her with teeth the length of her fingers. White fur framed the drool hanging from the beast’s red lips.

The teeth didn’t bother her so much. One bite and she’d be done. But the claws holding her were another matter all together. Within those sharp daggers waited the troll’s poison. One scratch and she’d be climbing the curtains with her mother, raving about the deep blue ice and fire within every soul.

She met the troll’s eyes. They held her gaze with intelligence as deep as the sea they resembled. Huge irises constricted and then widened as she didn’t look away.

The troll harrumphed, showering Em in a cloud of breath that stank of rotten fish.

“Ugh,” she coughed. “Ever think of brushing your teeth?”

The troll pulled back its red lips, displaying said teeth in a wide grin. And then it harrumphed again and Em gave an “ah, yuck!”

A deep rumble started in the troll’s chest and then escaped its throat in a gargling laugh.

Then it started running, with Em still firmly held within its claws.

Two things rattled Em’s brain as she bounced with the troll’s long, heavy strides. One, the troll understood and had a sense of humor. And two, she spotted Wilkes standing within the trees where he was supposed to be laying in wait for the troll. A grin split his wrinkled face as he watched her being carried away.

***

Howling Maw Sketch from The Adventure BookNo good, low-life Jimmy Wilkes.

Em wanted to spit. Spitting was Mama’s crazy thing when she got pissed. She spit on the mirrors and the windows. Never the floors for some reason but any reflective surface suited her just fine. Em wanted to spit bad but she couldn’t find a reflective surface and spitting on the wall or floor felt wrong, rude.

The troll had carried her back to a cave in the mountain pass. It stank of fish and troll but blocked the wind from the outside. Em figured she’d adjust to the fish and troll smell for a chance at some warmth.

After surrounding her in boulders too big for Em to move herself, the troll disappeared. The boulders didn’t meet perfectly around their edges, so Em could make out the cave beyond, but the troll had done its job well. She couldn’t fit through any of the cracks.

Em spotted the faint flicker of a fire deeper within the cave. It cast dancing shadows on the far wall. Trolls making fire? She’d never heard of such a thing.

Just beyond her prison lay a jumble of artifacts. Clothing, jewelry, crushed furniture and pottery. Em shuddered to think of who those items used to belong to. Would her clothes join that pile soon?

A thudding announced the return of Ms. Troll. Em decided it had to be female. She saw no indication of male parts, thus female troll.

The beast sat on one of the boulders and set a dead rabbit into the prison with Em.

Ms. Troll grinned, dripping saliva onto the floor, and pointed at the rabbit like she was giving Em her prized toy.

“It’s raw,” Em said. Then, “Are you trying to fatten me up?”

Ms. Troll snorted and sent snot flying. Em reconsidered spitting on the floor. It might not be so rude considering her hostess.

Ms. Troll didn’t take the rabbit away. She reached for the pile of human debris and gathered the remnants of a chair. Placing those into a neat pile within Em’s cage, she meandered away only to return with a small flaming brand from the fire deeper within the cave.

That brand flared so hot that simply laying it on the gathered wood made it all burst into flame on contact.

Em jumped back and then, realizing the warmth radiating from the fire, she moved forward with glee.

Ms. Troll grinned and wandered away, satisfied with her accomplishment.

DaggerEm waited for her to disappear into the cave before skinning the rabbit with one of her daggers. The small weapons didn’t even give the troll pause. She simply eyed them before placing Em into her cage earlier and shrugged when she pricked her paw with one while she inspected it.

So much for having a weapon against the beast. No good, low-life Jimmy Wilkes. Em spit into the corner and laid pieces of the rabbit onto a rock beside the fire.

To Be Continued Next Thursday….

Thanks for reading this week!

Blessings,

Jennifer

Heart of Ice and Fire Part 1 of 4

Ice

It’s been some time since I posted a short story. If you know me at all, you know ‘short’ and ‘story’ are hard for me to put together. But sometimes I try.

Due to some things happening in life right now, an adventure just wasn’t plausible, so I figured I’d pull this story out of the mental archives and finish it. It’ll span the next several weeks. Let’s dig in and see what happens =)

Heart of Ice and Fire

Frost covered the edges of the glass window until there was only an oval in which to look through. If Em touched the corner, she’d leave a small fingerprint in the otherwise unbroken edge of the opaque white.

Em tried it and now the tiny ridges of her index finger stared back at her. She ignored the print. If anyone asked, it wasn’t hers.

She stared instead at the people bustling around the street outside the inn, bundled like hunched, furry animals. They were crazy people, every one of them. As the glass attested, even the fire in the hearth wasn’t warm enough to contend with the bitter cold outside.

And these people wandered around in it. A man passed her window, his beard iced over from his breath. Crazy. Certifiably crazy.

“Got parents?”

Em spun in the booth. A woman stood by her table. Her shoulders hosted a wool sweater that about doubled her size.

“Maybe,” Em answered.

“All’s I want to know,” the woman leaned against the table and posted a hand on her outside hip, “is can you pay?”

“Yes.”

“Good. What’ll ya have?”

“Cider.”

The woman lowered her head and looked at Em from the tops of her eyes.

“Not hard cider,” Em said, “just cider.”

“Hmm.” The woman wandered away.

Em shook her head and went back to staring at the crazies outside. Out of everyone on this trip, this woman was the easiest to deal with. Hadn’t even slowed her down that Em didn’t have parents with her. Most Inns insisted to see an adult, like Em could produce one out of her pocket.

Guess she couldn’t blame them too much. Seeing a young girl traveling by herself wasn’t common. And the closer she’d gotten to the mountains, the more suspicious people got. People in general just didn’t travel alone near the mountains.

Em finally joined a small trading party to get to Warren. They didn’t ask why she wanted to go to the last town before Summit Pass, and she hadn’t offered the information. It was the only town within fifty miles of the Pass, and she wasn’t sure she could technically call it a town. Just a group of people hardy enough, and crazy enough, to live in snow troll territory.

Mug of Cider - Set Up Adventure StoryA mug clanked down onto the wooden table. “That all for ya?”

“Where can I find Ranger Wilkes?” Em asked.

The woman snorted. “Ranger Wilkes?”

Em just stared at her in the best imitation of her mother she could muster.

The woman snorted again. “He be crazy, you know?”

Seems to go around. Em raised a brow.

“Try at Zander’s shop. He likes the smell of tobacco.”

Em waited just long enough for the woman to disappear into the back before pulling the mug of cider close and taking a deep sniff of the crisp drink. The warmth of the wooden mug tingled against her chilled fingers.

Mama, this place be crazy, she thought in an imitation of the Inn woman.

***

Zander’s was a smoke shop right on the edge of town. It hunched low, letting the snow slowly creep off its eves in long sheets. Em eyed the icicles edging those sheets and imagined teeth. She shuddered.

A bell tinkled with the door but, because of the dim interior, Em didn’t see the two men sitting in the back of the shop until she made it to the cash register.

“Don’t sell to youngin’s,” one man said past the pipe in his teeth.

“Not looking to buy,” Em answered. “Looking for Ranger Wilkes.”

The other man burst out with a laugh that rocked him forward in his chair. He slapped his knee and rocked backward again.

“I’ll be,” he said, “haven’t heard that name in eons.”

Considering his mass of wrinkles, he might not be lying.

“Ranger Wilkes?” Em asked him.

He sobered. “No Ranger here. Just Jimmy Wilkes.”

Em digested that. Ranger implied honor. Jimmy Wilkes was a complete unknown. She’d come all this way, though; so backing down just wasn’t an option. Her Mama would tan her hide for this venture anyway, may as well make it worth her while.

EmeraldsShe approached on soft feet and held out her hand to show him what she held. A tiny, deep green jewel nestled in her palm.

Wilkes grunted, and then eyed her with different eyes. This close to him, she could see the one white eye and the one brown one. She got the gut queasy feeling he saw her with both.

“Martha’s daughter?” he asked.

“Maybe,” she said.

“What’s she calling me to do?”

Em hesitated. Her Mama didn’t know she’d come. She wasn’t asking Wilkes for anything, not knowingly. But she needed the old man’s help, even if her pride wouldn’t let her ask for it.

“Troll heart,” Em finally answered.

Wilkes froze, the other man let out a low whistle.

“That’s some debt,” he muttered, and then pushed up from his chair and left Em and Wilkes alone. He moved to the register and began unpacking a satchel the trading group brought him.

“She infected?” Wilkes asked.

Em tried to meet his eyes but couldn’t hold that strange gaze for long. She dropped her eyes to her feet. The gem, clutched now tightly in her palm, bit into her flesh.

“She’s not asking,” Wilkes said. Not a question. “You know what she did to earn that gem?”

Em shook her head. It was just below a blood gem. Martha couldn’t have saved Wilkes himself or the gem would’ve been ruby red. Whoever she did save, though, had to have been his family.

“Then you’ve no idea the irony in this.”

Em glanced up through her lashes.

“My daughter,” Wilkes said, tapping a silver necklace with an oval locket around his neck. “She smuggled my daughter through troll territory. Got scratched in the process.”

Em shuddered, and then understanding washed coldly from her head down her spine. Wilkes nodded as he saw the horror overtake her face.

“Yeah,” he said, “I couldn’t turn you down if I wanted to. Martha’s infected because of what she did for me. Surprised she’s lasted all these years without the madness affecting her.”

Em didn’t respond. She hadn’t lasted all these years. Mama raved and tried to climb the curtains on her good days. The only thing that seemed to make her sane was when she taught Em her lessons. A stark, frightening clarity overtook her for those brief hours like she lit a fast burning candle to illuminate the whole areas of her brain.

Wilkes nodded again. “Can’t do this alone,” he said. “You up for hunting troll?”

This was the first hint she’d seen of the crazy the Inn woman spoke of. Her, a thirteen-year-old girl, hunting a troll?

She lifted her chin. “Whatever needs to be done.”

To Be Continued Next Thursday…

Thank you for stopping by. We’ll see you next week =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

Globe Hunters Option Cc1: Touch the Dragon

Globe Hunter Adventure Story

Although the dragon might gain control over you, you’re about to let her communicate with you. Let’s see if this goes horribly wrong or thankfully right for you.

Globe Hunters Option Cc1: Touch the Dragon

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

The taste from your dream, that sweet water from the life fountain, fills your mouth as you raise a hand toward the dragon’s brow.

You hesitate just above the beast’s scaled head. It’s such a refreshing flavor that you feel it invigorating your limbs, bringing clarity to your sight, and calming the ache your body harbors from your hike the day before. And that’s just from a dream. What would the real thing do?

The dragon summons you again, and the flavor on your tongue shifts from sweet water to tangy, almost bitter oak.

You lay your palm again the dragon’s heavy brow ridge. The world shifts. Relief, so poignant you feel tingles through your spine and legs, almost brings you to your knees. It’s not your relief, but the dragon’s, and it’s almost too intense for your comparably small body.

The dragon, Elmana by name, reigns the heady emotion in. An image fills your mind of two silver and blue dragons swimming in a lake. One’s the fully-grown dragon you’re now touching, the other is a much smaller creature.

You’re a mother.

The affirmative about knocks you over. The fear for her child is too much for Elmana to keep from bleeding through her control.

What about the fires?

You’re fairly certain Evan wasn’t lying about the forest fires but now that you’re in contact with Elmana, you’re struggling to see her start such a large fire intentionally.

Fire - Glove Hunters StoryA new image fills your mind. Mother and child are flying. Elmana gives a small burst of flame into the air and her child tries to copy her. It doesn’t work. The smaller dragon slumps and looses altitude in his disappointment. Then, in a burst of determination, he spurts a tiny gout. His timing proves terrible. With his loss of altitude, the flame hits the tree line on top of the cliffs instead of firing harmlessly into the air.

Elmana quickly douses the flame at the top of the tree by taking a mouthful of water from the ocean and spitting it onto the tree, but her implication is obvious. She hasn’t always been able to contain her child’s practicing.

The image doesn’t stop, however. Elmana continues to fly with her child.

You see movement below on a huge oak tree at the top of the cliff.

Within the tree’s bark you spot two familiar deep brown eyes rimmed with green. They glance about and then a leg emerges from the tree’s trunk. The leg’s skin is bark like. An arm emerges next and then the torso of a lithe creature with wild, leaf like hair.

The creature inspects its surroundings and is immediately drawn to the burned tree. It scales the tree to look closer and then casts a hate filled look at the dragons.

Your breath hitches. You’ve never encountered one of these but all of the pieces start fitting together.

“A tree nymph?” you guess.

Elmana crones her affirmative. You jerk back and lose contact with her forehead.

The villagers hesitate, startled by the dragon’s vocalization. Then they return to stacking ladders against her sides. Although her communication seemed to take minutes, you realize it’s only been a second or two since you touched her forehead.

Elmana’s deep purple eye watches as you put the pieces together. From what you know, usually tree nymphs are peaceful, but if they start on a vendetta, they’re ruthless. Your dream now makes sense. The oaky flavor when you woke is a clear sign of influence from the nymph.

It’s controlling the people. And it won’t stop at Elmana’s death. It’ll go for her child next. Plus, it won’t care if the villagers die in the process. They’re just pawns in its game now.

A sense of rightness fills you. You’re a monster hunter, and now you’ve found your monster.

Elmana snaps her teeth together. You jump back but then realize she’s no longer focused on you. She’s staring across the river at the tree line.

Laying a palm against her brow again, she shows you the nymph in the trees, watching the villagers carry out its bidding. She then shows you how far her flame would carry if she tried to kill it from where she’s tethered.

Her flame can’t reach that far.

You’ve never fought a nymph, but you know your only chance of killing it is very hot flame or chopping down its tree. You don’t even know which tree belongs to the nymph and you don’t have time to figure it out.

So instead, you need Elmana’s fire.

Don’t burn the village to the ground.

Elmana huffs, which you take as agreement.

You step away from her just as Evan pats your shoulder.

Knife - Globe Hunters Story

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

“Ready to help?” he asks, holding out a rusty knife for you to use on the dragon’s scales.

“Of course,” you say, and pull out your own hunting knife from its sheath on your belt. Unlike the rust covered thing he’s holding, your knife is sharpened to a fine edge. You’ll need that edge now.

You move as though you’re following him and ‘stumble.’ With a flick of your blade, you sever the thick cable holding Elmana’s neck.

She jerks upward at the same time and the cable snaps with a resounding crack.

You, Evan and the men on the ladders all fall backward. In the resulting chaos, you roll toward Elmana’s front paw and sever the tether there as well.

It’s enough for the dragon. She heaves against the remaining ropes and you hear the pop as they’re either pulled completely from the ground or snapped under the pressure.

The wind from her wings forces everyone to the ground. She beelines it for the tree line.

You lose sight of her as Evan shouts. “YOU!”

He must have seen you sever a cable. You roll away as he tries to grab you. The other villagers join in, and you’re trying to figure a way free when two distinct sounds bring everything to a stand still.

Fire

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots

There’s a roaring with the crackle of very hot flame hitting the live wood of the forest. Heat washes through the air, dry and painful even at a distance.

Right behind the roar comes a shriek. You hear the high-pitched scream both audibly and in your head just like you saw Elmana’s communication. Pain paralyzes you until that shriek vanishes, leaving behind a deep, pounding headache.

Around you, the villagers slump to the ground. You shake the nearest one and check his pulse. He’s alive but definitely not conscious.

Elmana flies over and plucks you from the mass of unconscious villagers with her claws.

Terror seizes you as she flies away. The sight from her claws shows a circular patch of the forest completely burned out. There are no live flames, however.

None of the villagers are moving.

Your terror subsides as Elmana lowers you to the ground in a field not far away. She gives a crooning call and you see a small, silver and blue head peek up from the tall grass to greet her.

***

“A tree nymph!” Mike chortles. “Wish I’d been on that hunt.”

“No, you don’t,” the old, bald hunter says, “the nymph’s death cry leaves a lasting headache. You’re lucky,” he says to you, “that the dragon’s communication buffered you from the nymph’s control.”

“Still hurts,” you say as you rub your temple. After two days, you still sport a headache, but you learned when you returned that, the only reason you didn’t pass out from the nymph’s shriek like the villagers was because Elmana had broken its influence on you.

“Well,” Mike says, “maybe things will stay quiet for another day or two so you can recover.”

You and the old hunter glare at him and then glance at the globe sitting on the dark mahogany desk.

“Don’t say that word in here,” you both admonish at the same time.

The End

Yay, you survived! Thank you for joining in this adventure =)

Until next time, blessings,

Jennifer