Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The Detention Adventure Resumes

The Detention Adventure is an interactive Choose Your Own Path story. Each episode, readers vote for the path they would like to take. Together, we will follow the path with the most votes.

Since it has been so long, here is a quick recap of the story so far. If you remember it, feel free to jump ahead to the latest episode.

The Detention Adventure

Episode 1: You Hate Detention

“It's not fair,” you mumble to yourself as you push the shelving cart down the aisle. Gabe started that fight, but Mrs. Vile, the evil librarian, gave you detention. He should be here, not you.

Passing a window, you glance outside. School has only been out for a few minutes. But you’ve been working for ages. Evil Librarian put you to work before the busses pulled out of the drive.

But now, you can see the parking lot. Though many of the cars are gone, many of your classmates are still around. Your friends are in their usual spot, gathered around Grayson’s minivan, laughing and smiling. You can imagine what they're saying.

"What do you want to do this afternoon?"

"Where should we go?"

And, of course, Avery would be asking, "Hey. Did anyone catch tonight's math homework?"

Your gaze drifts across the parking lot to trees on the far end. Gabe and his buddies are sitting on the curb, passing around their phones. Probably sharing the same viral video Gabe showed you during study hall. The one his buddy posted during lunch. The one that shows you tripping and falling face-first onto your tray of mashed potatoes. The one that doesn’t show Gabe sticking out his foot as you passed.

Your blood boils at the thought.


You turn at the voice. Mrs. Vile is standing at the head of the aisle, glaring at you over the glasses resting on the tip of her prominent nose. Though she says nothing, you hear her earlier words ringing loud and clear.

“You are not dismissed until every book is returned to its proper place.”

Saying nothing, you return to your cart and continue pushing it down the aisle. It isn't fair. Why does Gabe get to enjoy a sunny afternoon while you have to re-shelve library books in the darkest recesses of the library?

And why are these books even on the cart? It's not like anyone even reads them. You come here every day for study hall and you have never once seen a person holding a book. Students only come in here to use the computers.

With a sigh, you glance at the book you are still holding. The number on the spine says it belongs in 615. Where are you, anyway?

You glance at the books beside you. 249. Ugh. Where is 615?

Tossing the book back on the pile with a sigh, you push the cart to the end of the aisle, where the last call number is 252. Is it your imagination or is it getting darker the further you walk? A shiver runs down your spine and you pull out your phone. "I'm just checking the time," you tell yourself.

Yeah, right. You can't hide from yourself. Besides, it doesn’t help. The dim light doesn’t provide much comfort.

To distract yourself, you again glance at the books on your cart. Maybe you should have organized them before disappearing into the stacks. If you put them in order, you won't have to zigzag your way through the shelves. Maybe you'll even finish your detention with enough time to enjoy the afternoon sunshine.

Bolstered by this idea, you grab two books from your cart and examine the numbers on the spine. 432 definitely goes before 920. Placing the dictionary in front of the biography, you arrange them on the opposite side of the cart and pick up the next two books.

It takes hours to sort all the books, though your phone says it has been less than five minutes. Finally, you pick up the last two books. Both books, nearly identical, easily the two largest books on the cart. In fact, each one looks at least twice as large as the next largest books.

Curious, you glance at their spines. Fiction, with the same call number. NFR.

You frown. You’re no librarian, but your elementary school librarian had drilled the Dewey Decimal System into your head. Fiction books were arranged by author last names. What kind of name began NFR?

Intrigued, you turn over the books. Their fabric hardcovers have no illustrations. The only difference between the two books is their color and the gold words stamped on the front cover.

The title of one of them catches your attention. Which is it?

Episode 2: A Fantasy about Dragons and Elves

The gold lettering on the black book in your right hand stands out clearly. Adventures In the Land of Dragons and Elves. Curious, you open the front cover.

The title is printed in large bold letters on the first page. But no author is listed. Instead, someone has scrawled across the page in large letters: Not For Reading!

You frown at the book. That’s stupid. Why would someone write a book that wasn’t meant to be read? Or maybe the person who scribbled the note didn’t want to read it.

But why not? What could be so bad? Reading the warning just makes you want to read the book that much more.

You turn the page.

But, it doesn’t turn. It’s stuck to the next page. And the one beneath that. You end up turning about fifty pages at once. They are glued together.

Wow! Someone really doesn’t want you to read this book. Now, of course, you can’t wait to read it.

You look at the page in front of you. You might be a couple of chapters in, but maybe you can still get an idea of what the story is about.

Except, it’s impossible to read the story. Not only are the rest of the pages glued together, someone cut out a large rectangle nearly the size of the book.

This is a hollow book! You’ve heard about these in books and movies. But you never knew they were real. This is so cool.

And the best part? It’s not empty. There’s something inside the hole.

You glance over your shoulder to make sure Evil Librarian isn’t watching you. She’s not. You’re all alone in the creepy windowless section of the library. Using the flashlight on your phone, you look at the object more carefully.

The yellowish white object takes up nearly the entire book. It is thick, almost round, but with a slight curve. The outer edge is smooth, but the inner edge is serrated like the blade of a saw. The points even look as sharp as a saw. Only, the teeth are very small and close together.

Teeth. Or rather, tooth. Could this object be a tooth? But what animal do you know has teeth that large? Or with a serrated edge?

You have never seen anything like this. You have so many questions. How heavy is it? Is it solid or hollow? Is it really a tooth? What kind of animal could have lost it?

You try to read through the text on the facing page, but you are literally trying to start reading a book from the middle. It makes no sense. Who is Olba and Keris? What is a Zayrot or Reiverrirth? And where were Zymmarth or Bryvicri?

Trying to read this book was like trying to learn a new language. Now you really wish those pages weren’t glued together. With a sigh, you turn back to the tooth. It’s got to be a tooth. What else could it be?

The front of the book said this is a book about dragons. This thing is probably supposed to be a dragon’s tooth. Obviously, it’s not a real dragon’s tooth, because there’s no such thing as dragons. It must be epoxy or something. So, it’s probably a lot flimsier than it looks.

Someone has bored a hole through the top of the object, wrapping a black cord around and through it to form a type of necklace. Yeah, it has to be fake.

You reach in to grab it, to confirm your suspicions, but you stop abruptly. Your gaze has landed on the words printed at the top of the page. The name of the book is printed in a small font. But someone has written something in the margin. Judging by the handwriting, it was probably the same person who wrote on the first page. But you could have sworn those words were not there a moment ago.

You shake your head to clear it. Obviously, your eyes are playing tricks on you. What does it say? You hold your phone a little closer.

Warning. Magical Item. Do Not Touch.

Biting your lip, you look around. How could a fake dragon tooth’s necklace be magical?

Maybe it changes color in the light? You shine your light closer, but it remains the same. Maybe it’s a little less yellow, but you don’t think it really changed color.

You glance between the warning and the necklace a few times.

Should you pick up the necklace?

Episode 3: You Don't Believe in Magic

As soon as your hand wraps around the tooth, you feel a strange sensation in your stomach. It’s as if someone reached into your navel and tried to pull your spine through your belly button. Wincing at the sensation, you close your eyes and attempt to take a deep breath.

It takes a few tries, but eventually you manage to get air into your lungs. It tastes different. Instead of musty old books, you smell an earthy freshness. Opening your eyes, you blink a few times, not comprehending what you are seeing.

You’re no longer in the library. In fact, the school is nowhere in sight. Nothing is. All you can see is trees everywhere.

The canopy is high above you, at least a couple of stories. The trunks of the nearest trees are so wide, you doubt you could wrap your arms around them. You don’t know much about forests, but you know this one is old.

You are standing in some sort of forest. Even the closest trees are just out of your reach. Beneath you is a fine layer of long-dead leaves and needles.

You strain your ears, searching for the familiar sounds of people and traffic usually heard from your school. But you hear nothing.

Well, that’s not exactly true. You hear noises, but they are so foreign it takes a moment to recognize them. Leaves rustling high above you as the wind blows through the trees. Insects and birds chittering happily. The distant roar of something loud.

You shudder. Hopefully you will get out of here before that creature finds you.

But, where are you?

Why not just check on your phone? Shaking your head, glance at the screen. But you can’t unlock it because your other hand is still holding the strange necklace. Hadn’t the book warned you it was magical? Is this what it meant? Did picking up the necklace magically turn the library into a forest clearing?

Maybe this was some elaborate virtual reality and you were still in the library. Stowing your phone, you close your eyes, trying to remember where you were standing. If you were still in the library, there should be a bookshelf to your right.

You reach out your hand but feel nothing. Sidestepping, you move a step, then two.

You hand touches something. Excited, you open your eyes.

It’s a tree. You are definitely not in the library. So where are you?

You pull out your phone again. But when you unlock it, you realize you have no service. No internet. Not even a single bar to make an emergency call.

So if you’re not in the library and you can’t call for help, how are you supposed to get out of here?

You glance at the necklace still in your hand. Maybe that’s what’s keeping you here. If you let go, maybe that will bring you back to the library?

You open your palm. The dragon’s tooth falls to the ground, the soft forest floor muting its landing. And you are still in the forest clearing.

Frowning, you glance at the ground. Dragon’s teeth are rare, right? You probably shouldn’t just leave it on the forest floor.

As you retrieve it, you remember the title of the book. Adventures In the Land of Dragons and Elves. You remember the roar you heard a moment ago.

But dragons aren’t real, though, right?

Shaking your head, you turn in a slow circle. You know you can’t stay here, but which way should you go?

A snapping twig has you startling, dropping the dragon tooth again. This time, when you retrieve it, you place it around your neck to keep from losing it. You also stay crouched low, looking in all directions for the source of the sound.

The forest is silent again, but you see movement to your left. Slowly, you turn, squinting between the trees.

You see nothing. But you can’t shake the feeling of being watched.

Another twig snaps. This one is behind you. This time, you pivot fast enough to catch a glimpse of something darting behind a tree. Thankfully, it’s not one of the ones closest to you.

You try not to blink as you wait for the creature to move. Your efforts pay off. Something peaks around the edge, only to dart back again. Was that brown fur, or had that been a trick of your eyes?

You stare for what feels like hours. But finally, the creature emerges.

You’ve never seen an animal like this before. Walking on two legs, it is no taller than your waist. The short brown hair covering it from head to toe reminds you of a sheepdog. But its face looks almost human. Sure, the features are a little more angular, with a long, thin nose and pointed ears. In fact, if it weren’t for the fur, you might mistake the creature for a person.

As the animal advances, you wonder whether it is friendly. Should you run away or stay and find out?

Episode 4: Stay and Learn More About the Creature

Your heart is pounding in your chest, but your curiosity outweighs your fear. What kind of animal is this? It takes a hesitant step toward you, then another. You stay as still as possible, taking slow, deep breaths to avoid moving your chest.

It feels like forever, but eventually the creature reaches you. It is only about waist high. And has a look suggesting it is as curious about you as you are about it. The noise it makes sounds almost like it is trying to say something.

“Free-ond oth-the ond-saca?”

When you don’t respond, the creature repeats itself. It definitely sounds like actual words.

You put on your best apologetic face as you open your arms and shake your head. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand you.”

The creature takes another cautious step in your direction, tilting its head to the side. “Ay-orth-cyn?”

Again, you don’t respond. The creature reaches out an arm. Unlike the rest of it, the hand is not covered in fur. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought it was a lot like your own. Only smaller.

The creature tugs on your shirt. When it traces a finger along the top of your hand, it’s face lights up. “Ayorthcyn!” It repeats the word again and again as it grabs your hand.

Despite its small size, the creature is small. With no effort, it pulls you in the direction where you had first seen it. And man, is it fast! Even with its short legs, you have to scramble to keep up. Probably because it seems to know the location of every rock and fallen branch, jumping them with ease as you stumble over them.

You see smoke in the distance. Is the creature leading you straight to fire? Before you can figure out how to break free, you emerge from the trees. The source of the smoke is directly in front of you. A massive bonfire, the size of a small car, burns directly in front of you. Behind it are a series of log cabins, all with thatched roofs made of straw. Was this some sort of Colonial American recreation? If so, why would this strange creature be tugging on your arm?

“Ayaldwita! Ayorthcyn! Ayaldwita! Ayorthcyn!”

Its shouts bring people from their huts. Although they are dressed strangely, they at least look normal. About your height, although some are taller. Small children peek out from between their legs as the creature pulls you between the buildings.

Behind the cabins is a vast farm that stretches nearly as far as you can see. Just behind it you espy the edges of another forest. Or perhaps this is an oasis within the same forest you just left. You don’t have time to process it, though. The creature drags you past a stone well to a building on the edge of the farm.

“Ayaldwita! Ayaldwita!”

The creature stops abruptly at the entrance, stepping to the side while pushing you toward the opening. “Besteppay! Besteppay!” Gently pressing on your back, the creature sends you inside.

The first thing you notice is how bright the room is. Although the sun is setting outside, it is brighter than day inside. Glancing up, you notice two small orbs floating near the ceiling, the source of the light. Are they same fancy light fixture? If so, why would they be bobbing gently, as if riding imaginary waves?

A noise before you brings your attention to the room. At a table along the back wall sits a man with a long nose and silver hair to his waist. As you take a hesitant step forward, he rises. He is tall and lean, his brown tunic nearly reaching the floor. Peering curiously at you, he tucks a lock of hair behind his ear. Is that a point you see?

The old man looks behind you. “Birdie? This is say thay?”

You turn to see the creature in the doorway. It is gone. In its place is a child wearing a dark tunic and leggings nearly the same color as the pile of fur on the floor beside it.

“Ayn Ayorthcyn, Ayaldwita. Payet pay insittenday se fyrhath north.”

“Soplisay? Ayn Ayorthcyn?” The old man turns back to you. “You are human?”

You nod, too stunned to speak.

The old man cocks his head slightly. “And how did you arrive here?”

You shrug. “I’m not sure. One minute I was in my school library. The next minute I’m standing in the middle of a forest. I don’t even know where I am.”

The old man smiles. “This is the village of Maguth, in the kingdom of Reeself, the land of Leegpeod. Welcome.”

“How…how do you know my language?”

“That is a long story and it is nearly the hour of supper. Would you like to stay here and eat with us? Or shall we take a walk and I can tell you in the quiet?”

What do you think?

Episode 5: You Could Eat

You send the old man a hesitant smile. “I’m kind of hungry.”

He nods. “As am I. Please.” He returns to his seat at the head of the table, gesturing for you to sit on the bench beside him. You do as he suggests. Though your back is to the room, you find yourself facing a small window through which you can see the expansive fields and the forest beyond.

“Let us begin with names. I am Beorhtnan, although I have been the elder for so long, everyone calls me Ayaldwita.”

You let the name roll around your tongue a moment before you try it. “Ay-ald-wit

The old man nods. “Close enough. And you are?”

When you tell him your name, he sends you a curious look. “I see. I’d love to learn more about how you came here, but you wished to know about me. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the village elder.” He leans closer with a conspiratorial smile. “In my youth, I was known as quite the adventurer.”

You try to imagine this old man running through the forest, but he doesn’t look like he could even make it across the room without assistance. Biting your tongue, however, you settle for a more neutral response. “Really?”

“Yes. When I was about twenty summers old, I met a man in the forest, much as young Birdie met you today. I forget his human name, but we called him Driman. Sorcerer. His magic had brought him from your land to ours.”

You raise your eyebrows. “There’s no such thing as magic.”

Ayaldwita sighs. “I am not surprised to hear you say that. There is much magic here. When Driman fist came to us, it was already dying in your world. He knew a little. Enough to bring him here. However, he always feared by the time he returned to your world, it would be extinct.”

Ayaldwita sits back, his gaze shifting to something behind you. As you turn, you notice the volume in the room. There had to be nearly a dozen people sitting in small groups on the floor, sipping from small bowls. Most seemed to be conversing with each other, although the furtive glances in your direction suggest you are probably tonight’s hot topic.

But Ayaldwita does not seem to be bothered by the crowd. His attention is on the child who dragged you from the forest. Birdie is slowly making his way toward you, a bowl in each hand. With a small bow, the child places one before the elder before turning to you.

You take the bowl, but Birdie runs away before you can say thanks. With a shrug, you examine your meal. A thick brown liquid with pieces of green, orange, and purple swimming in it. Biting your lip, you turn back to Ayaldwita.

“Um, what is this?”

“Soctha. It is like your soup.”

“What kind?”

Ayaldwita frowns. “I’m sorry. I do not understand.”

“What kind of soup is it?” You point to the colorful additions. “What’s that purple and green and orange stuff?”

The elder gives a knowing nod. “Ah. They are wyrta. Food that grows in the ground. pysecynn, feldmoran, cawlas. I am not sure what you would call them.”

“Vegetables.” Your muttered response is automatic and doesn’t quite hide your distaste.

Ayaldwita brings the bowl to his lips, drinking some before returning it to the table. You follow his lead, sipping a small amount of broth and licking your lips as you consider the flavor. Not bad.

Taking a slightly larger drink, you get some of the vegetables. The purple one tastes like carrots while the orange one tastes like potatoes. You’re pretty sure the green stuff is peas.

The elder looks at you expectantly. “Is it okay?”

You nod. “It’s good. Thanks. So, this Driman guy taught you about humans?”

Ayaldwita nods. “Yes. He lived with us many years. Learned magic from our elders. In exchanged, he taught young me his ways. You see, I wanted to return to Earth with him. To see your people.”

“Really? Did you?”

The elder sighs mournfully. “Alas, no.”

“Why not?”

“Well, at first, Driman wasn’t sure how to return. He claimed an old spell brought him here, but he couldn’t remember it enough to get back. So he studied with our elders until he was certain he had found a way. By then, however, the Dragon Wars had begun.”

You sit up a little more in your chair. “Dragon Wars?”

Ayaldwita waves a dismissive hand. “The Dragon Wars were a long time ago. You don’t want to hear about them, do you?”

Episode 6: Hello? Dragons?

You sip your stew, wiping your mouth with the back of your hand as you consider how to answer without sounding too over-eager. “If it’s okay with you, I’d love to hear your stories. I want to know as much as I can about your world.” You hold back your final thought: in case I’m stuck here forever.

The elder smiles. “Driman was as eager to learn as you. Very well. The wars were long ago, but I remember them like yesterday. Our village is one of only a handful in the kingdom. Years ago, long before I was born, there were many, many more. Ours was a prosperous kingdom, full of laughter and happiness.”

You look around the meeting room. Elves are gathered in large groups around the table, conversing gleefully. “Looks full of laughter and happiness to me.”

The elder nods. “True. Our village is content. But our kingdom is but a shadow of what it once was.”

Draining the last of his bowl, he sits back and removes a pipe from his pocket. When he snaps, his right index finger catches fire.

You look around, but there’s no water to douse it. You pass him your bowl. Although it’s nearly empty, there should be enough liquid to put out the flame.

But before you can say anything, the elder places his finger in the bowl of his pipe. Bringing the pipe to his mouth, he inhales deeply. As he exhales, he removes the finger from the pipe. Not only is the fire gone, his finger looks normal. No soot. No burned skin. Not even any trace of whatever was just in the pipe.

Your mouth drops open. “Did you—what just happened?”

The elder looks around. “Sorry. I must have missed it. I wasn’t paying attention to anything but my phyrel.”

You point to the object as he again inhales. “That’s what I mean. Did you just light your finger on fire?”

The elder chuckles, smoke emerging from his nose in short puffs. “Yes. A trick Driman taught me when we first met. But you wanted to hear about the dragon wars, no?”

Nodding, you sit back in your seat. The sweet smoke from the pipe is soothing as you listen to the elder’s story. Puffing on his pipe, his eyes become unfocused as he stares into a memory.

Long ago, Reeself was a peaceful kingdom full of laughter and happiness. As the kingdom prospered, it grew. Villages merged to become cities. Farming communities needed more land to feed hungry mouths.

But Reeself is not the only kingdom in the land. To the south is Liegfold. They claimed to own the land Reeself was trying to take.

The Liegdracans tried to be diplomatic. They sent their two best negotiators to form a treaty between the lands. They met with the Ayaldwitas, the advisors to the king.

But the elves refused to listen. They claimed the dragons were inferior creatures, unworthy of their land. As the ambassadors departed, the elves started rumors that the two dragons overhead were scouts planning to attack.

The king was scared. His ayaldwitas convinced him to attack first. The king thought he was protecting his land, but the ayaldwitas had a different agenda. They were hoping to eradicate the dragons and take over their land.

Now, skirmishes between the two kingdoms were rare, but Reeself did have some soldiers trained for battling dragons. The king recruited elves from every village and city. Every elf between the ages of thirty to eighty was drafted. Those unable to fight were trained as healers. The most skilled magicians were sent to the front lines.

The dragons were not expecting war. Liegfold was unprepared. Reeself’s first attack killed many dragons.

But they are resilient creatures and quickly sprang into action. They forged armor to protect themselves from Elven weapons. They developed complex attack strategies. The elves soon fell to the combination of flying and firepower.

The wars lasted for many years. The king was killed and his top ayaldwita assumed his position. So, he was killed and replaced by another. Many elves questioned whether the wars were started in order to hide a coup.

The wars dragged on for nearly one hundred years. Both sides suffered heavy losses. By the time leaders got together and called for peace, the extra land that started the wars was no longer necessary. Both populations were fractions of what they once were.

With a final puff on his pipe, the elder returns his attention to you. “It is getting late. I will have someone show you where you may spend the night.”

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