Crystal Pit of Time Option A: Pitch the Coin

Clock - Crystal Pit of Time

It’s time to see what happens when you pitch the coin clock the king gave you. Let’s hope you don’t need it later!

If you’re just checking into this adventure, here’s a quick overview of what’s happened so far:

You were caught steeling bread. The king sentenced you to seven days in the crystal pits and gave you a tiny coin clock that counts down your sentence. It’s unlikely you’ll survive the pits alone, so when you meet a strange young man who sounds old, you hope he can help you survive, but he tells you to pitch the small clock before following him. Reader’s voted to pitch the clock instead of hiding it. (If you’d like to read the beginning, click here.)

Now, let’s continue!

Crystal Pit of Time Option A: Pitch the Coin

Crystal Pit of Time AdventureOver the scrap of the man’s peg leg, you can hear the ticking of the little coin clock as you hold it on your palm. There’s a reluctance to toss it in the middle of your belly, but the strange man isn’t waiting for you to follow, and he’s likely your best way to survive the pits.

You pitch the coin back down the tunnel and it pings off the white stone wall. Then you hurry to follow the sscrraappp of the man’s peg leg. Just as you catch up, the pit shudders. You brace a hand on the wall.

“Earth quake?” you ask, surprised because you’ve never experienced one before.

The man scoffs. “Pit worm,” he says.

The pit gives another heave and then, from the tunnel you just left, there’s a thud and a gust of dry dust whooshes toward you.

“Pit worm?” you cough as an odd rush of warmth travels through your body. When the dust dissipates, you see the man covered his nose and mouth with a handkerchief.

“They’re smart,” he taps his wooden leg, “and dangerous. They’ve figured out that there’s usually a tasty human carrying that lovely ticking device.”

A cold shiver travels down your spine as you realize the pit worm just ate the small coin clock.

“Come on,” the young-looking old man says, “come meet the others.”

You follow him through another open part of the pits, instantly becoming drenched in sweat as the sun bakes onto your skin, and then beyond into a deeper cavern that doesn’t open into another pit, but sinks into the ground into a tunnel at the far end. After leaving the scorching sun behind, the sweat chills on your body and you shiver again.

The man doesn’t even pause as it grows darker. You steady yourself on the wall and follow the sound of his leg scratching against the floor. There’s a thud, and then light floods the tunnel to reveal the heavy metal door the man just opened.

“Andrew,” a woman’s voice calls in greeting, “did you find the new comer?”

“Sure did,” Andrew answers as he encourages you to enter with him.

Crystal Pit of Time AdventureBeyond the door, you stop in surprise. It’s a large house of sorts. Over a dozen people sit at a long table in the center of the room. Just past them is a kitchen with a metal vent pipe jutting into the ceiling for the cook fire below. A large cauldron bubbles over that fire with what looks like porridge.

Around the walls hang drapes obscuring the entrances into several other rooms. You wonder if these are where the people sleep.

“Come,” the woman who first spoke jumps up, grabs two wooden bowls and slops some breakfast into them. She sets them on the table for you and Andrew and everyone slides down the long bench to make room for the two of you to join them.

Your stomach rumbles as you rack your brain for the last time you ate. It’s then you realize the bread that landed you in the pits was your last meal.

“Where’d you visit in the library?” the woman asks.

You look at her in surprise as everyone pauses to hear your answer.

“Everyone here was sentenced to the pits the same day they visited the library,” Andrew explains. “Lily’s got a theory about it. She’s been narrowing down what subjects the king doesn’t want people to study.”

“I didn’t even pull out a book,” you admit. “I just wanted out of the rain.”

Lily waves that away with a hand. “Doesn’t matter. What area did you hang out in?”

Leaning back, you picture the shelves that surrounded you that day in the stacks. With the rain, the smell of moisture and old dust had been particularly strong while you wandered.

“Science and history for a little bit but then one of the librarians rolled in with a cart and shooed me out since I was dripping water,” you say. “I wandered farther back. There was the modern technology section, mathematics, and then I think ancient technology and magics.”

“Hah!” Lily slams her palm against the table. “There it is again! We need to go look, Andrew.”

“Look?” you ask around the bite you just took. Although the flavor of the porridge is rather bland, your mouth waters with excitement over having something to eat.

Andrew rests his arms on the table with a long sigh. This is clearly not the first time they’ve discussed this.

“We have access to the city,” Andrew says in explanation, for the moment ignoring Lily. “We can get into the library but it’s risky. Lily here thinks there’s a link between the king’s clock, that big one on the wall that spins out of whack, and our coin clocks, and the answer might be in the ancient technology and magics section of the library.”

You frown. “Why do you think there’s a connection?”

“Guess how old Andrew is?” Lily bursts in.

“Umm,” you stall. Andrew’s voice always warbles like an old man’s but his face is still young. There’s just the hint of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes but they’re developing, not deep. But now that you can clearly see him, you can also see his hands, which look as papery as the king’s did. “I’ve no idea,” you admit.

“He’s twenty eight,” Lily says, unable to wait for Andrew to fill you in.

Andrew holds up his weathered hands. “This was the first sign,” he says, “that something was happening. I held onto my coin clock for the first year of my sentence, avoiding the worms by shear luck at first, and then by the tremors of their digging. I finally figured out how they were following me and tossed the clock. As soon as I did, my accelerated aging stopped.”

“He warned us,” Lily gestured around the table, “so most of us don’t show the same wear he does.”

The porridge in your mouth suddenly tastes bitter. You gulp it down.

Library - Crystal Pit of Time Adventure“You want to figure out what happened by getting into the library?” you ask with a motion of your spoon at Andrew’s hands.

“I say,” another man farther down the table speaks up, “that we sneak into the throne room instead. I’d like to get that giant clock off the wall and take a look at it. We know for certain it’s connected to our coin clocks because Lily saw the king pull her coin out of the bottom of it.”

“But how does it work, Simon?” Lily asks the man. This is clearly another discussion they’ve all been over before. “Just looking at the clocks probably won’t tell us.”

“Looking at books might not tell us either. We don’t even know what book we’re looking for,” Simon counters.

“What do you think?” Andrew asks you. “It’s been a while since any of us have snuck into the city. Perhaps your recent time there could help.”

They all look at you where you froze with the spoon half way to your mouth. You take the bite of porridge to give you a second to consider.

Do you…

Aa. Sneak into the throne room?

Or

Ab. Sneak into the library?

In the comments, vote for how you’d like to proceed. We’ll be back next Thursday to continue this adventure.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Advertisements

Crystal Pit of Time

Crystal Pit of Time

It’s well past time (pun intended =)) for a new adventure. Let’s jump in!

Crystal Pit of Time

The golden hands of the clock spin without purpose, around and around and around the sparkling face of golden numbers.

You struggle not to stare at it above the King’s head as he rants about the crime rate in the city. More than once he’s chastised you for not looking at him while he speaks but your eyes keep drifting upwards.

Why did he place the clock over his head if he did not want people to be distracted by it?

“Eyes down,” the King says again with an emphatic rap of his staff against the stone floor.

Your eyes drop from the spinning hands to his wrinkled face. He’s been King for longer than most people have been alive, but the years are etched on his skin in deep crags. Where there’s not enough skin to wrinkle, like on the backs of his hands, he looks like canvas stretched over bone.

“For your crime,” he continues to say once he’s sure you’re paying attention, “you will be sent to the crystal pits for seven days. Should you survive, you will be integrated into the army. Should you not, well,” he shrugs, “you will have paid your time and your family will not be held liable.”

Ice settles, sharp and cold, in your belly.

Bread LoafThe crystal pits, all for a loaf of bread.

Your one solace is you have no family for the King’s punishment to fall to. Should you escape before entering the pits, he has no one to go after but yourself.

The King, who turned away with the finishing of your sentence, pauses and turns back just as two guards take your arms to escort you away.

“I almost forgot,” he says, reaching into the pocket of his robe. From it he withdraws a coin like object. He flips it toward you and, when it pings against the ground, you see the circle of numbers on its face. “Your time starts now.” He snaps his fingers.

The small clock at your feet begins to tick with a soft tisking that echoes against the marble floor. A tiny window in the lower portion of the clock face displays a seven.

The guards allow you to stoop and retrieve the coin and then you’re hauled away.

***

For the ride to the pits a bag is thrown over your head and your arms and legs are bound before they toss you into the back of a barred wagon. You’ve no way of telling time as you bounce around on the wooden floor but, when the wagon stops, you already feel bruised and stiff.

A guard fastens a harness around your waist and then, still blindfolded, you’re lowered down a steep wall. After a time, your feet touch ground. There’s a snick and a soft whistling just before the cut end of the rope smacks you atop your head.

You wait but nothing happens.

With a tentative hand, you pull the rough bag from your head.

Just like that, you’re already in the pits. So much for escaping before you’re delivered. The stories of the pits’ location must be misleading rumors to protect their actual position because, judging by the fact your trial was early morning and it’s not yet noon, the pits can’t be that far from the city.

Clever King. You snort.

High above the sun sits in a cloudless sky. Walls of white stone and mica specks surround you. Here and there the walls are pocked with holes, some large, some small, all roughly edged and showing through like windows to more pits of white stone.

You coil up the remains of the rope after untying it from you waist and sling the loops over your torso. Likewise, you work the restraints off your wrists and ankles and save the ropes by tucking them into your pocket.

Your fingers brush the warmed metal of your clock. A peek at it tells you that it is, indeed, just before noon on your first day in the pits.

The first danger you know of is the sun. High in the sky, it’ll bake the pits into a searing heat that’ll cook you like an egg.

Sack - blindfoldYou finger the rough bag they used to blindfold you. It’ll irritate your skin but the weave is loose. With a sharp, clean tug, you tear a long strip of cloth from it and tie it around your eyes.

The fabric muffles the world into a dull gray with shadowed spots where the holes pock the walls.

You pick a large hole and climb into it. Instantly the heat of the sun grows softer. The pit on the far side is smaller but also contains more holes that could lead anywhere. In one of them, you can’t spot sunlight on the far end. It’s just a black spot.

You scuttle through into the darker hole beyond.

In that brief moment exposed to the sun, sweat beads along your skin, but in the darker cavern, you’re safe for the moment from the heat. You sit against the chalky, white wall and sigh with relief that it’s cool against your back.

Your relief, however, is brief as a soft shuffling comes from deep in the darkness of the cavern. The crystal pits are known for harboring many dangers. The sun, the lack of water, but most importantly, the creatures that live inside prey on anything that falls down the steep walls.

You listen to the shuffling. Now it’s got a scrape to it, like perhaps the creature has claws that dig into the chalk and crystal of the pits. There aren’t many places to hide and, even as you’re looking for options, a shape materializes in the darkness of the cavern.

You pull the top edge of your sackcloth blindfold down to see better. A young man stares back. He rests a hand against the wall and takes another step forward. Scrrraaapppe goes his peg leg on the cavern floor.

“What you in for?” he asks in a voice that does not belong to so young a man. By voice alone you’d guess him in his eighties as his question warbles at the end.

Bread“Bread,” you say.

He scoffs. “Is that what he said? Tell me, did you visit the library recently?”

Your mouth hangs open. Just that week you stepped into the library to escape the press of the afternoon crowd. Once inside, you’d wandered, fascinated by the floor to ceiling shelves full of old tombs.

“Ah,” he sighs. “There’s your true crime. Toss your coin and follow me. The others would love to meet you.”

Toss the coin? According to the King, that’s your ticket out. You have to show it, with a zero in the bottom window to show time served, for the guards to haul you out of the pits.

Your chances of survival without help are slim, so you’re going to follow the young man. However, do you…

A. Pitch the Coin?

Or

B. Hide the Coin?

In the comments below, please tell me which option you’d like to explore. Next Thursday, we’ll see what happens next.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Smuggling Hertzmer Option Aa2: Jump In

Rushing River - Smuggling Hertzmer

It’s time to see how this adventure ends, to see if you live or die, if you succeed or find yourself stuck in a fix.

If you’re just checking in, here’s a quick recap of this story: you were smuggling a halfling out of the country when three hunters came upon you. To distract the hunters from Hertzmer, the halfling, and Cam, your accomplice, you began to act crazy. You convinced the hunters you were trying to attract a brook nymph by making frost angels on the frozen grass. They insisted you take them to another meadow to try attracting the nymph again. When you arrived, the nymph offered to either wash the three hunters down stream, or to take you to safety but you have to jump into the cold water for her to help you. The vote went for jumping into the water. (If you’d like to read the first three posts, click here, here and here.)

Now, let’s jump in!

Smuggling Hertzmer Option Aa2. Jump In

Water Droplet“You should jump in,” the nymph whispers in your ear. Her voice has gone from excited and slightly teasing, to subdued.

When you glance at the water droplet on your shoulder, it no longer shows the distorted reflection of your ear, but reflects the three hunters who are throwing rocks into the rushing brook and hollering for the nymph to show herself.

“Jump in, human,” she says again, “let’s be away from these scoundrels.”

Somehow, her change in tone is comforting. Instead of possibly tossing you around like a rag doll, she might focus on simply getting you away.

The water hits you like a slap in the face. It’s entirely fed by the spring runoff from the mountains and, as it sucks the air from your body, you have no doubt the rushing brook carries water that was snow only days, perhaps even hours, before.

With your hands and feet bound, you quickly find there’s no way to navigate the water either. It floods over your face and swirls you around until up and down mean nothing.

Rushing RiverBreathe, human, the nymph’s voice sounds in your head.

I can’t breathe water!

Breathe, she insists.

Even if you wanted to argue, your body starts to guppy breathe despite your attempt to hold in your last breath.

Giving in, you suck in—air? Your eyes pop open. The nymph giggles. She’s created a bubble around your face. The rushing brook still swirls and throws you around but you can see the rocky bottom one moment, and the glimmering surface the next.

They hollered like stuck pigs when you washed by! The nymph chortles. But they’re not bold enough to jump in.

You hiccup a relieved giggle and the nymph takes that as a cue to laugh in glee.

Look there, human, she says, laughter still lightening her tone. That’s where the fish like to stay when the sun goes down. And over there, that tree joined my waters seasons ago. She guides you around the long branches of the fallen pine. So much debris has collected in the branches, logs, leaves, even small rocks, that it’s almost a dam. Luckily, the tree’s not tall enough to span to the far side of the water and the nymph carefully takes you through the gurgling portion where the water funnels.

LakeFinally, her brook spills out into a familiar lake that borders town on the north end. The nymph stops you just before you’re washed into the larger body of water.

I can go no further. The lake nymph is—fickle. You ignore the irony in her statement.

Thank you, you tell her as she deposits you onto the bank of the brook.

Jump in anytime, she giggles, I like a human who’s willing to trust me.

You grin even though your entire body is numb from the freezing water. You lie back on the rocky bank and soak in the sun until the tingling in your limbs subsides. You’re just about to stand when a shadow falls across your face.

Squinting, you find yourself looking at a tall, slender woman. She sways in place and her long, silvery hair shifts back and forth with her subtle motion. Dark gray eyes watch you.

“The brook put you here?” she asks.

Considering the brook’s comment about the lake nymph, you slowly nod. This woman looks like the brook nymph, except she seems more solemn. There aren’t a lot of bodies of water around for her to call home.

“She said you were escaping from some hunters, she said you trusted her with your life.”

Again, you give a nod.

“Then you should know the hunters beat you to town. They’ve started searching the far side of the lake, and they’ve gathered a large party to help them.”

With that, the lake nymph dissolves and flows back into the water.

***

You evade the hunters repeatedly with the help of the local nymphs. Although it’s a hard life, you take it as an advantage. If they’re searching for you, they can’t really search for halflings, so after a while, you take it as your personal goal to keep them distracted while Cam continues to smuggle halflings from the country.

The End

Well done! You survived and made some new nymph friends.

Thank you for joining in this adventure =)

Until next time, blessings,

Jennifer

Smuggling Hertzmer Option Aa. Nymph

River - Smuggling Hertzmer

It’s time to search out a brook nymph!

Up to this point, you were helping to smuggle a halfling out of the country when three hunters came upon you. To distract the hunters from Hertzmer, the halfling, and Cam, your accomplice, you began to act crazy. You’ve convinced the hunters you were trying to attract a brook nymph by making frost angels on the frozen grass. They’ve now insisted you take them to another meadow to try attracting the nymph again. You’re hoping the nymph will help you escape the hunters now that you have successfully distracted them from the halfling. (If you’d like to read the first two posts, click here and here.)

Let’s see what happens!

Smuggling Hertzmer Option Aa. Nymph

Globe Hunter Tracks/ Smuggling HertzmerToday’s not the day to face snow slides or rock giants, you decide, but it is a great day for acting crazy some more. You begin to skip as you lead the three hunters through the trees.

“Calm yourself, now,” Scarecrow says as he pitches a pinecone at your back.

You spin and skip backwards facing him and the other two hunters. Then you start to sing. “Up, down, right and left. Up, down, right and left. Spin around and duck and roll,” this last part has you diving under the low branches of a spruce tree, rolling, and returning to your feet on the far side.

Bear shouts. He races around the tree to catch you like he thought you were trying to escape, but as you meet him on the far side, you grab his hands and skip in a circle with him. Then you drop one hand and continue to skip forward, singing, “Up, down, right and left…”

At first he doesn’t join in, but as your start to pull, you get a low, almost grumbled, “Up, down, right and left…” as he begins to skip too.

“ENOUGH!” Scarecrow stares at the two of you with such consternation that Bear drops your hand, slumps his shoulders and mumbles, in a very Mutters like fashion, “Sorry, Boss.”

You go quiet but continue to hop, in place, from one foot to the other.

“Not right up here,” Mutters whispers in Scarecrow’s ear and circles a finger around his temple.

“Bind that one and put a gag in,” Scarecrow orders.

Bear drops a heavy hand on your shoulder, stopping your hopping.

In short order, your hands are tied behind your back and your feet are connected with a three foot rope. It’s long enough for you to shuffle along but not to skip. The gag in your mouth tastes like an old sock and you shy away from wondering what the hunters use it for regularly.

River - Smuggling HertzmerHowever, your new condition serves the purpose you hoped for. As you reach the edge of the brook that your nymph friend inhabits, you’re obviously a captive, which will warn the nymph of your predicament. The brook runs through a wide meadow that glistens damply in the afternoon sunlight.

The three hunters, upon seeing the meadow, grin at each other and, in their excitement, rush a little ahead to enter the meadow first. They seem completely unaware that the frost you were hoping to make angels in is completely missing from the grass.

You’re following them, about to leave the edge of the trees, when the pine above you drops a large droplet of water onto your shoulder.

It doesn’t absorb into the fabric of your shirt but instead stays perfectly round and glistening. When you look at it from the corner of your eye, you see the distorted shape of your ear reflected in its surface, and the swirl of motion that tells you you’re not alone.

“Well, this looks like mischief,” says a soft, lilting voice next to your ear.

“Want to help?” you mutter.

“I would love to wash someone downstream today,” the nymph offers with a giggle. “Imagine the flailing limbs and soggy cloths. Humans make for such fun.”

You pause. Is she offering to wash the hunters downstream or you downstream?

“Want to wash all three?” you ask, trying to gauge her.

“Hehe,” she giggles. “LOTS of flailing limbs! Although you’re fun too. Want to jump in?”

You glance at the brook, which really is a river with the spring runoff, beside you and shiver. It’d be a cold, and dangerous, ride but it would get you away from the hunters. On the other hand, it’d be fun to see the nymph sweep up all the hunters, but if they get far enough away from the water, she might miss one or two of them as well. Then you’d have to deal with some angry hunters.

Aa1. Hunters?

Or

Aa2. Yourself?

Thank you for participating in this adventure so far! Leave your vote for how you’d like to proceed in the comments below. We’ll return next Thursday to see how this adventure ends.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Smuggling Hertzmer Option A. Act Crazy

Snowy Footprint -Smuggling Hertzmer Adventure

Welcome back to the next part in this adventure!

Last Thursday, you tried to smuggle a halfling, Hertzmer, out of the country, but three hunters have come upon you in the meadow where you passed Hertzmer to Cam so she can get him to the boarder. The problem? Hertzmer left large, distinctive prints in the frosty grass. You have to do something to hide those prints before the three hunters can see them. Let’s put our crazy faces on and see what happens =) (If you’re interested in reading last week’s post, click here.)

Smuggling Hertzmer Option A. Act Crazy

The hunters are almost close enough now to see the frosty prints. Whether it’s a good idea or not, it’s time to do something.

You grin at them over your shoulder before throwing your hands wide, twisting and flopping down into the cold grass on your back.

Snow Angel - Smuggling Hertzmer Adventure“Weeeeeee!” you squeal as you swing your arms and legs, making a frost angel like all the kids used to do in the snow. The motion brushes the remaining footprints away but you continue flapping your arms and legs while grinning at the three men.

They pause, varying looks of confusion covering their bearded faces.

The closest man, a sun-wrinkled scarecrow of a person, finally steps closer and kicks the sole of your foot. “Stop that now,” he demands.

You scamper to your feet and pivot around to look at the frost angel. “Did it work? Did it work?!” you exclaim. The angel’s wings are perfectly shaped in the crusted grass. However, where the hunter kicked you, there’s a weird smudge. “Ah, man,” you say, pointing at the spot, “gotta try again!” With a couple steps, you clear the disturbed area, twist around and flop onto your back again.

“Hey now,” Scarecrow shouts. “Enough!”

“But it’s got to be perfect or she won’t come!” you swing your arms with more gusto.

One of Scarecrow’s companions leans toward him and whispers none too softly; “Don’t think this one’s right up stairs, if you know what I mean.”

“Who won’t come?” the third hunter, a burly bear of a man wearing a tattered fur jacket, demands while he fingers the axe hanging from his hip.

“The nymph!” you say. “She’s a tricky one, but if you get the frost angel just right, she grants you a wish.”

The hunters trade glances.

“Think I’ve heard of this nymph,” the one man mutters, again none too softly.

Bear smacks him on the arm. “You’ve heard of everything. Doesn’t make it true.”

“Could be true,” Mutters, as you dub the none-too-quiet whisperer/mutter, insists.

The three hunters have now moved to circle you where you lay in the grass, still swinging your arms. While they argue, you chance a glance toward the tree line. Cam and Hertzmer’s faces can just be seen watching from the underbrush. You’re still too close for them to safely move away.

“Awe, man!” you exclaim, interrupting the three hunters. “Look at all the areas you guys have messed up. It’s got to be a pristine meadow for the nymph to show up. Gotta find a new one.” You scramble to your feet and turn as though about to run off.

A beefy hand clamps down on your shoulder. “Where do you think you’re going?” asks Bear.

“The nymph likes certain spots. Pristine spots,” you say pointedly with a look at the meadow. “There’s another one up the hill a ways.”

Scarecrow - Smuggling Hertzmer AdventureScarecrow strokes his beard as he considers this. It takes everything you have not to look toward the trees when he sends a glob of spit flying in that direction from the side of his mouth.

“You’re going to help us find this nymph,” he finally says. “Now lead the way.”

Bear takes his cue and turns you in the direction you were about to run. “No funny stuff,” he says as he gives your shoulder a shove.

You stumble ahead of them, leading the three hunters away from Cam and Hertzmer. Now that you know they’re safe, you start to consider your own situation. You do know a nymph in these woods. She’s a brook naiad and she’s a friend of yours, but she’s not always the most reliable creature. With an impish nature, she’s just as likely to dump water, lots of it, on your head than she is to help you get away from the hunters. At the same time, if her mood’s right, she might wash the hunters downstream too.

Her brook also happens to be in the same direction as the Avalanche Swath, a steeply sided pass that’s well known for snow slides. With the recent snow that’s hit the higher passes, the Swath will be prime for just such a slide. But you typically avoid the place, not because of the snow, but because of the Rock Giants who call the place home.

Do you lead the Hunters to the…

Aa. Nymph?

Or

Ab. The Avalanche Swath?

Leave your vote in the comments below. We’ll return next Thursday with part three of this adventure. For now, thanks for joining the fun!

Blessings,

Jennifer

Smuggling Hertzmer

Frosted Meadow

Welcome back for a brand new adventure =)

Smuggling Hertzmer

Frost layers the bushes and trees and even the long bladed grass in the meadow with a coating of thick white crystals. No breath of wind touches those layered plants and the soft scampering of a squirrel can be heard in the near silence. To most, the early morning stillness hanging over the meadow would appear normal, just like any of a dozen other meadows you might find in the clear rays of morning sun. But this is no normal place. A faint smell, chamomile and lavender, sweetens the frost scent in the air.

“She’s not here,” Hertzmer grumbles at your shoulder. Even though his deep voice is soft, it breaks the silence like the hollow thud of a drum. The squirrel chatters at him in startled agitation.

You shoot a glare his way and then give a long sniff.

He copies your action by breathing deeply through his thick mustache. Perhaps the mustache muffles the scent. It takes him several sniffs to pick up the chamomile and lavender, but then a grin breaks through his bush of a beard.

He almost stands but you catch his arm to remind him to stay put. The chatter of the squirrel has finally stopped and nothing stirred when it burst forth but that does not mean no one is watching.

You know, for one, that Cam is out there somewhere. Until she shows herself, you are to stay hidden.

Finally, after several more nervous minutes of waiting, something moves in the tree line to your left.

A thin figure motions for you to join her with the pre-arranged signal of three fingers against her lips.

You’re not fast enough this time to catch Hertzmer. He bolts toward Cam’s position by the most direct path possible, straight across the frosted meadow. His steps leave large ovals in the otherwise undisturbed grass.

Cam’s original signal turns into a gasp of dismay. Unless the day turns unusually warm, those prints wont disappear for hours. They sit there like beacons for anyone who might happen by, for although Hertzmer’s broad chest and gruff exterior might be deceiving, he’s still a halfling who walks around bare footed. The print of his big toe sticks out like it’s pointing the way.

If anyone sees those, they’re sure to follow Cam and Hertzmer. Like all other halflings, he’s been banned from the country. A person would follow just for the bounty of gold they’d receive when they turned him in to the magistrate.

On all of your dozens of missions to smuggle halflings to safety, you’ve stopped here and let Cam take them the rest of the way to the boarder, but you can’t leave those prints.

Frosted Tree - Smuggling HertzmerWith a dead branch in hand, you begin to dance through the meadow, brushing away both halfling and human prints alike.

“Hey,” shouts an unfamiliar male voice. “What’re you doing there?”

You freeze. Three prints remain in front of you as you look over your shoulder toward the voice. As you do, Cam pulls Hertzmer backward to melt into the tree line.

Three men emerge from the trees across the meadow. They carry that look about them, the frayed clothing and the mismatched weaponry, that warns they’re hunters. Unscrupulous and unshaven, such men will do anything for a bounty.

They walk your way with suspicious expressions. If they get much closer, they’ll see the few remaining prints and be hot on Cam’s trail. Probably after disposing of you because they wouldn’t want to chance you’re a hunter too.

Do you act crazy to distract them or run to mislead them?

A. Act Crazy?

Or

B. Run?

Thank you for joining in this adventure. Leave your vote in the comments below. We’ll return next Thursday to follow whichever option received the most votes =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

The Eye Published!

Z Publishing Science Fiction and Fantasy Colorado

Traditional publishing takes for-ev-er! Those novels you so love from popular authors can take up to two years to produce even if the author writes the book in six months. Because of this, my brain has come to expect long wait times. If I’ve submitted a story, I move on to my next piece while I wait because it could be months to hear from a publication, if I hear back at all. It’s not uncommon if a story is not accepted for the publication to simply not respond. A lack of response is a ‘No,’ but you have to wait the allotted amount of time to know if they’re simply not responding or if they’re taking their time.

Anyway, all of this is to say, Z Publications moves really fast for a publishing house. A couple weeks ago I let you know they accepted my short story, The Eye, for one of their 2019 publications. At the time, I didn’t have a date of publication to share. I figured it would be in the fall at the earliest.

Last week, I received an email letting me know my expectation was waaaaaay off. Z Publication’s short story anthology, America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Colorado, has now been published! EEEEK. If I’d known if would come out this soon, I’d have waited to share in the first place, but that’s now in the past.

You can find links to the anthology on Amazon and on Z Publication’s website below if you’re interested.

Thank you as always for sharing in this adventure with me!

Blessings,

Jennifer

America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Colorado (Amazon)

America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Colorado (Z Publishing House)