It has been a good week for motivation to write. I finished the last installment of my serial novel. I have revised part two of my serial novel. And now I have started another short story. My beautiful wife, Nicole, seems to think that my writing habits are correlated with my school schedule. Perhaps it seems that way, but not in the manner that you would likely expect. You would think that I would write more when I have less classwork and fewer things going on in my daily and weekly life, but she has noticed I tend to write more often when I am taking classes and juggling a lot of homework on top of everything else in my life. Add in a full-time job, volunteering more at church, weekly Bible studies, and spending time with Nicole and you have a lot of things vying for my time. Yet that is when I seem to write more.
I don’t know why that seems to be the pattern, but I would have to agree. It seems like I write more when I have less free time to devote to it. Maybe I just need to assign more deadlines to myself in order to keep the writing going even in the down times.
Tonight’s short story actually was inspired by a writing prompt for this week at Studio 30+. We were challenged with the prompt “grey skies”, which in a roundabout way makes its presence felt in this story. Maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but I like the idea that came about and the direction this is heading. Check back this weekend for the next part of this story.
The wanted poster said there would be a thousand crown reward for the head of a dreadful, fierce ogre. Ava smiled to herself, amused by the excessive price for such a simple job. Her father had taught her to hunt creatures like this one since she was old enough to swing a dagger. That training had proven to be an effective way to make a living. Dukes and barons across the continent were eager to part with their gold in order to rid their land of annoying monsters.
Ava did a quick inventory of her weaponry, checking to make sure all seven of her daggers were still resting in their sheaths. Her coil of rope was still wound around her belt, hidden beneath her charcoal cloak. On the other side of her belt was a pair of pouches, one filled with sleeping powder and the other with crushed hemlock leaves. Several hidden pockets were woven into the inside of her cloak, each one containing a small handful of coins. Satisfied, she pulled her hood down, concealing her fiery strands of hair.
She headed out through the north gate in town, blending in with a band of merchants traveling along the road. She decided she should head toward the Valley of Kismet. Ogres loved to settle in valleys for some reason, but Ava had never been able to figure out why. She figured it probably had something to do with the fog.
And there was bound to be fog in the valley today. The sun was no where to be seen in the overcast, grey skies above. Days like today were the sort of day when the nobles and most merchants staying indoors, assuming that a downpour would be inevitable. Days like today were the days that bandits and monsters loved, both coming out in greater numbers. That meant that Ava had to like these days as well if she wanted to collect bounties.
She moved swiftly across the vast plains, her leather boots making no sound as she walked through the grass. The top of the valley was coming into view and she sped up her pace, determined to make it into the valley before the weather turned worse. The grey skies had started to turn black, thick clouds threatening to unleash torrential rain. While the rain wouldn’t affect her work, it would make things unpleasant. It might also send the ogre into hiding in a cave or tunnel. That could become dangerous.
Ava reached the edge of the valley and looked down into the depths below. Swirling wisps of fog blanketed most of the valley below, concealing everything from view. Ava whispered a curse under her breath and mentally braced herself for a steep descent into the shrouded depths of the valley. When she entered into the depths of the fog she crouched low to the ground, carefully picking her way down the steep valley slope. After a few minutes the grass beneath her feet was slick with dew and she lost her footing, tumbling down to the bottom of the valley.
Her cloak had come unclasped during her fall and lay twenty feet from her. Two of her daggers were missing from their sheath. Her red hair was in disarray, pieces of grass mixed in with strands of her hair. She silently cursed her bad luck as she got to her feet. She turned to retrieve her missing daggers and her cloak when she spotted movement off to the side. She cursed again as she watched the hulking form of a brown ogre disappear into the fog. She scrambled to gather her things, loosely refastening her cloak while she ran toward where the ogre disappeared. Reckless or not, she was not about to let a thousand crowns slip through her fingers. The bounty would be hers.
Rain came pouring down as she moved through the fog, cold droplets plummeting into her face. She tried in vain to wipe the water away from her emerald eyes, moving ahead as quickly as possible while hoping she didn’t pass its cave. She knew that, with this visibility, she could end up spending hours trying to find the ogre’s shelter. She started to reconsider whether the bounty was worth all of this effort. After all, there would be other monsters needing dispatched. She was about to turn around and climb out of the valley when a massive tunnel came into view, leading straight into the wall of the valley.
She hurried into the shelter, shaking the water from her hood and kicking the moisture off her boots. She reached into a pocket inside her cloak and pulled out a small gray stone. She clasped it tight with her left hand and drew a dagger with her right. After a few moments of warmth, the stone started to give off a faint, pale glow. Ava held the stone out in front of her, casting enough light to be able to see in front of her. Clutching her dagger tight, she ventured into the depths of the cavern.
The path snaked along through slight curves with no signs of side tunnels in which the ogre could have concealed himself. After an hour of searching the sound of running water became perceptible. She smiled, knowing that the ogre would likely have made its lair near fresh water. Her pace hastened as she anticipated catching the ogre by surprise, driving the tip of her poisoned dagger into its misshapen spine. She could already feel the weight of the gold in her hands and the lavish feast the duke would hold in her honor. Her toe caught in a dip on the floor, sending her crashing to the ground as a boulder flew above her head, smashing into dust on the wall.
Go to Part Two of Ogre Hunt!