THEME: Disguises

SETTING: You decide if the protagonist has a disguise or if the antagonist is disguised. Someone’s true identity is hidden, partially or fully. You decide how the disguise affects the conflict. The disguise might even be the cause of an undesired effect.

3 HIGHLIGHTS: (include): A disguise, an engraving, and a body of water (a lake, river, sea, ocean, etc.)

SUBMISSIONS: Post your story below where it says POST YOUR STORY OF 750-1,500 WORDS

WORD COUNT: 750-1,500

DEADLINE: Always due by the 25th of each month

SUBMISSIONS: Post your story below


1.) Your character has been working so long to perform something on a certain day. You decide if it’s a musical performance, an athletic event, or some other kind of work performance. Worried at first, the day ends up turning out better than expected. However, the next day, a false report came out, giving credit to someone else. Give a stranger, friend, or your boss all credit? You decide what happens.

2.) Sometimes we entertain an angel unaware. Your character has a conversation with someone who seems to be a human being. You decide what the message might be. You decide if your character ever finds out the true identity.

3.) An enemy lurks out in the jungle or somewhere. Your character secretively places a totem pole as a gift for those people to enjoy. You decide what the pole is really hiding: a microphone, camera, drone, chemical testing, etc. You decide what kind of information your character gathers to expose evil deeds. Inspired by the Trojan horse.


You can find additional optional conflicts on pages 102-103 in “Writers 750 Emerald Workbook,” written by H.M. Schuldt.


1.) A disguise

2.) An engraving

3.) A body of water

Most Shocking Disguise

One of the most shocking disguises we see in the Old Testament is in the story of Tamar (Genesis 38). Tamar’s first husband died. She married her first husband’s brother out of tradition. He secretively refused to have any children with her by pretending to try and get her pregnant. He, too, died. Tamar’s father in law, Judah, refused to give her a third husband. Tamar was determined to get pregnant with a child from Judah’s family. One day, she pretended to be a harlot to Judah. Pregnant at last, she gave birth to twins. Her son, Perez, carried the divine seeds of King David and Jesus of Nazareth.

Heroes in Disguise

Famous heroes who disguise themselves include Clark Kent, beauty’s beast, and a princess’s frog. It could even be a journalist or a detective who pretends to be someone in order to solve a crime. Other disguises from the Old Testament include a donkey (Numbers 22), three divine messengers (Genesis 18), and Jacob who pretends to be his brother to steal Esau’s blessing (Genesis 27).

In the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we find a tragic ending. The bad side (Mr. Hyde) is trying to kill the good side of Dr. Jekyll. It would be nice to read a similar story with a better ending.

Devil in Disguise

Little Red Riding Hood has something in common with Adam and Eve. They were all fooled by someone else. We often wonder how the Little Red Riding Hood was fooled into believing the wolf was ever her grandmother. We might also wonder how Adam and Eve were ever fooled into thinking the serpent knew what he was talking about. Today, we see some people who are fooled by deceptive ideology. Other people are stuck in a world of deceiving people to get a cheap thrill. It’s nice to know Truth wins in the end. Something good can indeed come out of a tragedy.

WORKSHOP GUIDELINES – Skip over this section if you are familiar with the Writers 750 Program.

GENRE: Fantasy, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Crime, Comedy, Romance, or a mixture (No erotica)

The main purpose of this workshop is to practice the skill of writing fiction, explore conflict and character development, write a new short stories, and receive good feedback.

• Type in English – a minimum of 750 words; a maximum of 1,500 words

• Post your title and word count total in the first line of your story posting.


• ONE entry per person, must be the writer’s original work, a final revision, and a new piece of writing. No multiple submissions. Make sure to post your final revision.

Thank you

5 replies on “AUGUST MASKS 108”

August Masks Awards:

Shoelace Murders by Terry Turner
Best Disguise

A Grift from the Heart by Paul Ahnert
Best Surprise Ending

Gas Masks by Arthur Chappell
Best Paranormal Doppelganger

Grinding Mill Slave by Glenda Reynolds
Best Villain

August Masks Winning Story:

Gas Masks by Arthur Chappell

You all did a great job writing these stories!
Thank you for posting a story in August Masks!!

I hope to see you again in September Heirlooms!!

Paul Ahnert
A Grift From the Heart
1498 words


“What is the status of the expedition?” Thirteen men gathered around a long table in a sub-basement of what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse near the waterfront. It was the only building in the vicinity with a basement, even though the “official” blueprints of the structure showed no subterranean chambers. To outside eyes, the warehouse was a dilapidated deathtrap marked for demolition. To the thirteen men around the table, the very well appointed underground rooms were the perfect subterfuge for their clandestine meetings and grandiose plans. The man known simply as Mordechai stood at the head of the table, dressed in a hooded cloak wearing a wolf mask. Eleven other men, also hooded and masked as various animals, awaited the response from the man they called Belshazzar.

“We have divers searching around the clock, so if it is down there, we’ll find it”, came the muffled voice of Belshazzar, from behind a tiger mask. “Excellent!”, Mordecai intoned, placing his palms flat on the table and scanning the room as each member nodded his masked head in agreement. Most members chose feline or canid themed masks, however, mixed in were one wolverine, one mouse and one, to Mordechai’s chagrin, ridiculous looking elephant, complete with a rubber trunk.

The expedition of which Belshazzar spoke was a deep dive search for a cave entrance in a newly discovered lake in Antarctica. Long suspected of concealing dark secrets of the earth’s past, not to mention a secret Nazi base, the continent of Antarctica has been a source of great interest to scientists, historians and those drawn to the darkest spiritual arts. This group of thirteen men formed a coven of ridiculously rich and dangerously bored billionaires. The clandestine nature of the group was carefully crafted by their influential leader, for no other reason than to create an atmosphere of mystery as a means of psychological control. Mordechai learned long ago, the illusion of belonging to something hidden was a euphoric drug for many and the fear of losing access provided incentive to cross moral boundaries and, most importantly, spend large sums of money.

In real life, Mordecai’s name was Jack Mahoney, a confidence man from Chicago who grew tired of hustling for small scores. Mahoney, an agnostic, became intrigued with the story of L. Ron Hubbard who turned a semi-successful career as a science-fiction writer into a multi-billion dollar religious enterprise, the ultimate long con. Having watched a YouTube documentary about the secrets supposedly hidden under the ice at the bottom of the earth, he began to formulate a plan. Mahoney, a master of manipulation, targeted young DotCom billionaires, men who thought it would be a great idea to retire in their thirties only to discover how unfulfilling a life with no purpose could be.

Using esoteric writings, such as the books of Enoch and Jasher and the Epic of Gilgamesh along with ancient maps and snippets from Admiral Byrd’s ill fated expedition, Mahoney was able to create a very convincing cover story which he used to recruit what he secretly thought of as his cash cow coven. Like his inspiration, Hubbard, Mahoney successfully managed to bilk millions of dollars while at the same time offering pseudo spiritual discovery and purpose. The only flaw in the plan, thus far, was Mahoney did not take into account Belshazzar, a DotCom wunderkind with initiative and drive, who insisted on handling all the arrangements for the lake exploration himself.

“Gentlemen, I don’t think I need to remind you what it will mean for us when we discover the gateway to the lost city of Atlantis. We will succeed where Nimrod failed, we will be the gods of the New Age and we shall usher in the age of Aquarius your grandparents only dreamed about back in the sixties.” Hooded and masked heads nodded approval all around the table. Hidden behind a tiger mask was a smile of the cat who swallowed the canary.

While Mahoney worked with each man, individually, assigning each one a “significant part of the plan”, he also convinced them to leave all oversight and financial considerations to him. All capitulated except the man in the Tiger mask who insisted he had the connections necessary to set the near impossible exploration in motion. Mahoney ignored the nagging feeling which usually served him so well through many years of pulling cons. Something about Belshazzar didn’t set right, yet in the end, he trusted his own intel and background checks, attributing the feeling to jitters caused by the uncharted territory of this long con. Months of planning had led him to this day and within a few hours, he would be safely in the air on his way to a Caribbean hideaway with the tidy sum of one hundred million dollars. This was Mahoney’s big score and tonight, unbeknownst to his wealthy marks, was his retirement party.

Self satisfied, Mordechai looked around the room and announced, “Gentlemen, next time we meet, I believe we shall be toasting our success and enacting the final phase of our plan, allowing us to create a utopian society other generations only dreamed of!” As the hopeful men filed out, Belshazzar remained behind. With phone in hand, he walked up to Mordechai and showed him a photo of an underwater engraving of what appeared to be an alien spacecraft of some kind. “This transmission came from the dive team leader while we were meeting and I wanted you to be the first to see it.” Mahoney stared in disbelief and wondered if he should wait a few more days before making his great escape. “What does this mean?” he asked the younger man. “It appears to be a door of some kind, our divers believe it is the entrance to an underwater cave system, just like you told us.” Mahoney was flabbergasted. Was it possible he was on the brink of an amazing discovery?

Belshazzar said, “Time is of the essence. Apparently we are not the only ones searching, a Russian team is also down there and things may get dicey if we do not act fast.” Making a snap decision, Mahoney removed his mask and asked, “what do you need?” Belshazzar held up a finger as his phone began to buzz, taking the call, he only responded with, “ok” or “I see” as the other party spoke rapidly. Mahoney could tell the caller was very excited. “We need to move fast,” Belshazzar said through his mask, “and I don’t have time to liquidate the funds needed for more resources.” Mahoney pondered quickly, wondering what a discovery like this could mean. It would mean the chance to go straight, coming out of the shadows, living the American dream, and not having to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life. At that moment, he made a fateful decision.

Mahoney decided to bring Belshazzar into his confidence, giving a Reader’s Digest version of his scheme, offering a forty-sixty split. “What about the other guys?”, Belshazzar asked. “Don’t need them anymore, once we cash in, I’ll pay them all back with interest and we split the rest, everybody’s happy!” Mahoney handed his cell phone over to the man in the tiger mask to make the necessary financial arrangements from his “retirement” fund.

Belshazzar lifted his own phone back to his ear and quietly said one word, “Now.” The room suddenly filled up with FBI agents as Belshazzar removed his mask.

“What’s all this”, Mahoney asked as he stared at the young man before him. “Jack Mahoney, you are under arrest for embezzlement, grand theft and wire fraud.” The undercover FBI agent handcuffed Mahoney and began to lead him out of the underground chamber as the other agents scoured the room for evidence.

Walking alongside Mahoney, the agent spoke closely to his ear so no one else could hear. “My name is Agent Kevin Mahoney,” he paused to let the impact set in, finding satisfaction when Jack Mahoney stiffened. “My search for you was purely personal at first, until I discovered what you had been up to your whole life. I suppose rotting in prison for embezzling fifty million will give you plenty of time to think about your misdeeds.” The elder Mahoney leaned in and whispered with a smirk, “it’s actually one hundred million.” The FBI agent chuckled, “Actually, daddy, the apple didn’t fall all that far from the tree. By this time tomorrow, me, my wife and your grandson will be enjoying a new life of luxury far away. When you handed me your phone, I made a transfer of fifty million into an offshore account of my own.”

Once outside the building, the younger Mahoney handed custody of the elder Mahoney to a junior agent, got in his car and drove off feeling very self satisfied. Jack Mahoney sat in the back of the police cruiser, watching his estranged son’s tail lights disappear around a corner and couldn’t help but smile.

by terry turner 1147 words

“Who is this blind date you have in mind for me,” Clair asked Leanne as she tapped the speaker icon on the cell phone screen?

“Just show up at the party in costume and I will introduce you. He will be wearing a Joker’s outfit.”

“You’re not going to tell me anything about him?

“Don’t worry. You will know all about him in due time.”

“Fine. I’ll see you there.”


Detective Adams sat at his desk mulling over the crime scene photos of the shoelace serial killer. The sorted images told the gruesome story of torture, rape, and murder along the river. The only clue he had to work with was a gold-linked chain found at one of the scenes with the letters DSJ engraved on the back. “Sick bastard,” he mumbled to himself. The phone ringing broke his train of thoughts, as he nibbled through his third chocolate eclair.

“Detective Adams, can I help you?”

Adams grabbed a pen and started scribbling down notes on a pad. When he had finished writing, he started to say something but the caller abruptly hung up. He quickly pressed *55 and said, “Rodes, come in here.” Rodes was Adams’ investigating assistant.

“What’s up boss,” Rodes said as he entered with a cup of coffee in one hand and a donut in the other.

“I just received an anonymous phone call from an informant with information on the serial killer case we have been working on. The caller gave me a name and said the suspect would be at a masquerade party tonight wearing a Joker mask. I have the time and the address. We have to be there in costume.”


At 9 PM, Adams and Rodes were greeted by Frankenstein at the door of the house where the party was being held. Adams looked masculine wearing a Top Gun Flight Suit with sunglasses and the Karate Kid costume Rodes chose suited his slim muscular body just fine. Adams noticed that Frankenstein’s face was not covered with a rubber mask but thick makeup which included stitches and scars. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to create such a face. Frankenstein welcomed them with hand gestures and grunts pointing toward a large room where many guests had already arrived. To Adams’s delight, the Joker was among the crowd.

The room was a blur of color as the characters moved around the dance floor in many wild and beautiful costumes. The strings of tiny lights that crisscrossed the ceiling blinked like little stars. The disco light attached to the high ceiling rafters projected blue, green, and red lights, spicing up the hardwood floor below. The dancer’s outfits changed in color with every beat of the loud music creating an eerie atmosphere.

Rodes whispered in Adams’ ear, “I see the Joker is here already. Sizing up his next victim no doubt.”

“Yes. Here is the plan. You meander around to his left side and I will approach from the right. When I give you the signal, we will move in to apprehend and take him downtown for questioning.”

When both the detectives were in place, Adams looked at Rodes and was about to signal him. But about that same time, another Joker entered the room from a hallway. Adams looked at Rodes in disbelief and headed to the other side of the room. Rodes, followed suit, working his way slowly through the crowd to rendezvous with Adams.

It was then that Frankenstein escorted Clair Bolinsky into the great hall wearing a very authentic gladiator warrior disguise. All eyes turned in her direction. She scanned the room for her best friend Leanne but there was no sign of her. She did notice two Jokers, however, among the party-goers. She quickly sent a text to Leanne and then went to the bar for a glass of wine.

Meanwhile, Adams and Rodes were conferring about the dilemma of the two Jokers in an out-of-the-way corner of the room without being conspicuous. If they thought two Jokers was a dilemma, they were about to be in for a big surprise.

Frankenstein again appeared at the entrance to the great hall with several costumed characters in tow. Among them was another Joker.

“This complicates the situation even further,” Adams said to Rodes in a low voice. “Let’s think about the killer. What do we know about him? One: He kills only women under the age of thirty. Two: All of the crime scenes show that the murders are very violent. Three: Each victim so far has been strangled with a shoelace. Here’s an idea. Let’s casually mingle and see if any of the Jokers are wearing shoes with laces.”

While Adams and Rodes were assessing the shoes of the three Jokers, the latest Joker to arrive went to the bar for a beer. Clair was standing there sipping on a glass of wine and waiting for Leanne to answer her text.

Adams and Roads met again in the usual secluded corner of the room.
“The shoelace idea is not working,” Rodes said to Adams. “Their trouser legs are too long and covers the shoes.”

“I noticed that too,” Adams replied. “I have another plan, but first, we must wait to see if any more Jokers show up.”

At around 11 PM, Clair had still not received a reply from Leanna, although, she had sent several texts and also tried to call. Adams observed one of the Jokers alone at the bar nursing a beer. Of the two remaining Jokers, one was sitting on the sofa in heavy conversation with a girl dressed as Snow White. The other Joker was working the crowd talking to multiple women.

“It is time to act, Rodes,” Adams said. “I want to take the Jokers, one at a time, into the hallway and have a look at their IDs. According to the phone call this morning our suspect’s name is Danny St John.”

The detectives were disappointed that the first two Jokers checked out clean confirmed with two forms of identification. However, there was still hope that the last Joker would be their man.

“He is not at the bar, Rodes,” Adams said anxiously. “Check the restroom. I’ll check the dance floor.”

“He’s not in the restroom, sir.”

“I don’t see him in here either. Let’s talk to the bartender.”

“Yes, he was here. Then he paid his tab and left with that pretty Roman Gladiator.”

“How did he pay?”

“With a credit card.”

“What is the name on the receipt.”

“Let’s see. Yes, here it is. Danny St John.”

Adam’s body went rigid. Rodes cursed.

Rushing to the front door, Adams verified with Frankenstein that the Joker and the Roman Gladiator had indeed left together.

By the time they got to the street, their suspect had vanished into the night.

The detectives were now back to square one.

GAS MASKS 996 Words

I can’t tell if he is a guard or a prisoner here. He stands on the other side of the mesh and stares at me through the eye-sockets of his gas mask. When he tries to speak, it is a desperate and urgent sounding mumble of gibberish, a babble of tongues, akin to religious Glossolalia.
I try asking him who he is, why I am trapped in the cage and what he thinks I did wrong. I hear my own words come out in the same nonsensical random swirl as his own. I try to touch my face with my hand, and scream. I too have a gas mask on.
My instincts tell me to remove it but I stop myself just in time, while my doppelgänger stares. What if the gas masks are due to gas in the misty air?
I look behind him at the barely visible lush green woods around my makeshift prison. I see no birds or insects in flight. I see no dead ones either. To all intents and purposes there is nothing alive but he and myself. I wave my fist at him in a gesture of angry threat and defiance, and also as a means to be sure it isn’t my own mirror image staring back at me. His
arms stay still by his sides. We are not mirrors.
I have no greenery behind myself. Only cold empty total darkness. I head-butt the cage mesh to shock him. He doesn’t flinch. I try to recall my arrest. I that find I can remember nothing but the cage, not even my name.
Am I in Hell? Is this a nightmare? I contemplate escape, but to where and from where?
I’ve had enough. Death would be preferable to this. I reach for my gas mask and open its buckle-straps, but my mask stays in place. My fellow inmate or my captor’s mask falls from his face, though his hands do not touch it at all. My efforts to remove my mask released his instead, though neither he nor I touched his.
As it falls I see the grinning eyeless skull of one long dead. The memory snaps back to me. The Somme. 1915, close to the river that gave the area its name, but I never saw the water, only the endless reeking blood-clotted mud.
A mustard gas attack. An enemy bullet had just punctured my mask as I went to put it on. I was lucky the bullet stopped just short of my face, as it was slowed down by the thick leather of the mask material. A lucky escape? No, the gas was still filling the air.
It was my own fault. Despite warning yells from the men around me I had stood too close to the top of the trench.
I saw the ragged ruined useless remains of my mask. was terrified. I had no desire to die as so many had died round me. I snatched the not quite buckled up fully mask right off the nearest Corporal’s face and snapped it over mine. He tried to fight me for it back, but he was too late and weakened as his lungs took in the poisoned burning air. The gas took him, and I saw him fall, choking, eyes bulging, as he gasped for air in the pale yellow fog and collapsed into the knee deep trench-foot giving filth at our feet. I don’t know if he drowned or choked on the gas first.
I was caught and court marshalled on the spot. I still foolishly had his mask on, and my broken one in my hand when the other men saw me. Our issue numbers are engraved into the masks to help identify what’s left of us if we get blown to bits. There was no way I could claim his mask was my own. They knew I’d stolen both his mask and his life. They found me guilty and in a rare lull from the constant enemy bombardments they set a firing squad to administer my end. I had no defence. They branded me a coward. They were right.
I wanted to see the bullet coming, but they forced me into a blindfold, as I stood tied to the pillar. I wet myself as I heard the orders to take aim and fire. The end came without feeling, too fast for me to hear the rifles roar.
Now I stand and see my friend’s corpse, and feel his cold mask on my own face. It burns and stings.
He seems to fade away, melting away as the mustard gas dissipates in the breeze through No Man’s Land.
Noises, and hope of rescue. No! A figure is brought before me, a corpse, with a chest and face full of still bleeding bullet holes. The men bringing him are the firing squad – my executioners – his executioners. He is I. They don’t seem to see this other me in the cage or hear my muted cries.
They force the other me into a gas mask. He wakes as they melt away, as ephemeral
and unreal as ghosts, leaving me and me alone as real, and corporeal. He seems to come to, and stares at me as he gets up from the stinking swamp-ground. The woods behind him fade to black. Around me there is suddenly greenery and freedom. My cage is open. I could leave this tragedy at any time, but I don’t. I try to warn him half knowing already about the incomprehensible mutterings I’ll come out with, as he finds himself in a sealed cage.
He reaches desperately to his mask to unclasp its buckles. I feel my mask slipping
away, and I know I’m the skull I will see before I’m brought in again by my executioners, to see me seeing me seeing me seeing me die again, remembering what I did over and over again, and again and again, forever.

Arthur Chappell

Grinding Mill Slave
1,300 words

There was once a family of witches that lived in the enchanted Willow Forest by the name of Shackleton. Each member of the family was stricken with a fleshy “mask” that covered their faces from their forehead to their noses making them blind. Each one wore a talisman that served as their eye for sight and such was their legacy. It happened that as the years went by, Ethel Shackleton was the last remaining witch of her family. One day as she was in the village selling her muffins on the side of the road, she watched a young girl and her mother through her talisman. The girl had just helped her mother place an engraved sign on the door of their establishment which read, “Witches Keep Out!” Ethel was deeply offended. She smiled a wicked smile as she schemed a plan. After chanting an incantation that changed her appearance to look like a woman known to the family, she waited by the side of the road. When the girl named Ryanna came near, Ethel pretended to cry. Ryanna came closer to console her. Ethel placed a hand over the girl’s mouth and cast a sleeping spell over her. She quickly put the girl into a sack. Ethel wondered how she was going to get this burden home. The witch did another incantation that made the sack float in the air. She secured a rope around it and made her way back home.

After returning home with Ryanna, Ethel promptly chained her up to prevent her from escaping. The girl was soon working at a grinding millstone just outside of the house. Ethel needed to grind grains and spices to make her muffins to sell. Ethel’s property was protected by two mongrelwolves that were chained in the front. These mongrelwolves were cousins of the mongrelfolk and part wolf. They had shaggy hair on their shoulders and back, clawed humanoid hands, bony hips and shoulder blades, and wolf-like feet. They seemed satisfied with the scraps that Ethel tossed them every now and then, but they would never change their ferocious nature.

One day while Tristin and Pogo his tabby cat were walking through Willow Forest, they heard the grinding of a millstone. Upon closer inspection they saw the dark-haired, dirty faced Ryanna chained up and forced to work the millstone. She was hard at work turning the handle round and round to grind the grain. Tristin came close enough to be seen by the girl who shook her head, telling him not to come near. She placed a finger to her lips to silence him, and then she pointed to the mongrelwolves. He had previously had a run in with a mongrelwolf while he was traveling with his father to Odenville. Tristin put his hand up to let her know he understood and turned to leave.

When it was dark, Tristin readied himself to return to Ethel’s house. Pogo was standing at his side with his tail curled around Tristin’s leg.

“No! You stay here. The last thing I want to see is my cat being eaten by a mongrelwolf!”

Pogo put his ears back and crawled up on the bed. Tristin took some tools out from under his bed that he had secretly gathered for his mission. He also took his little oil lamp to light his way. He quietly crawled out of his bedroom window.
When he arrived at Ethel’s house, the mongrelwolves were snoring loudly. Ryanna was curled up on some straw on the ground. Tristen approached her quietly, then gently shook her awake. After trying all of his tools without success, he used a skinny file to pick the lock. The chain fell away. The clanking of the chain woke one of the mongrelwolves that began howling at the boy. Soon the other one joined in.

“Quick! We need to get out of here!” warned Tristin.

He took Ryanna by the hand as both of them ran through the woods. By this time, Ethel sprang from her front door with her talisman held to her forehead for sight. She saw the retreating glow of the lamp through the woods. She let out an angry scream at the discovery that her slave had escaped. She straightaway unchained her mongrelwolves to chase down her slave and anyone helping her escape.

The little fairies of the Enchanted Forest watched the fleeing humans as the mongrelwolves started to close the gap. They quickly alerted King Tofur who dispatched his warriors, the Guardians of the Relawen.

Tristin knew that they were being pursued. He quickly picked out a tree that they both could climb to get out of harm’s way. Just as Tristin took Ryanna’s hand to help her up the tree, one of the mongrelwolves bit into her clothing and tore a chunk out. She screamed with fright. By then all of the inhabitants of the woods were on high alert of the assault.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yes. That was close!” replied Ryanna.

They both climbed higher and higher. The mongrelwolves started grasping the tree branches with their hairy hands to climb up in pursuit. When one got too close, Tristan took a hammer he’d brought from home and smashed the mongrelwolf on the head. The fairies hurled mud balls at beasts to blind their eyes. The mongrelwolf hit by the hammer fell to the ground which caused it to be pelted unmercifully with mud balls, stones, and acorns. The guardian warriors surrounded the tree. In the blink of an eye, the mongrelwolf on the ground had three arrows in his body. As the creature writhed on the ground, a male warrior named Terik with red eyes and pointed ears, cut off the mongrelwolf’s head. The mongrelwolf in the tree looked down at his dead mate. It lunged into a nearby tree in an attempt to escape. Terik blew his horn as a signal of pursuit.

The mongrelwolf ran wildly through the woods until it reached the home of Ethel. She saw him coming with her talisman pressed against her forehead. She reached out to stroke the beast to calm it.

“Don’t worry, my love. You have nothing to fear,” she assured it.
Ethel sprinkled her magic herbs on the mongrelwolf and chanted an incantation. Swirling thick smoke enveloped the beast at once with dark magic. Then a black dragon appeared in its place. Ethel seated herself on its back, jabbed her heals into its side, and both of them took flight into the night sky. By the time the dark elfen guardians arrived, they stood looking at the retreating pair.

When Tristin and Ryanna came down from the tree, Terik spoke to them saying, “You’re now free to go. The other creature is gone with the witch. Be careful on your way home.”

“I have been gone from my mother for too long. Can you take me home please?” she asked Terik.

“I will be happy to escort you home, little one,” he promised the girl.

Ryanna turned to Tristin and asked, “Will I see you again?”

“I’m sure you will. My papa sells his crops in the village all of the time. We also frequent The Copper Kettle too.”

“Really? My mama happens to be the owner of The Copper Kettle,” she said with pride.

“Perfect! I will see you there soon. Be careful.” Ryanna flung her arms around Tristin to thank him for freeing her from slavery. She kissed his cheek before turning to leave with Terik.


Meanwhile, Ethel guided her black dragon over dark lakes and hills until they arrived high on a tree covered mountain where she kept a cozy cottage. She dismounted and stroked the dragon’s scaly head.

“They have not heard the last from us!” she promised. “Sleep now, my love.”