The Voyage – Part 2

Yrsa’s head swam, she attempted to focus on what was in front of her but could barely make out a blurry tree line. Her head was throbbing with pain, but before she could think straight a tiny voice sang to her.

“Are you okay?”.

Quickly she glanced around and saw a small girl wearing strange clothing. Yrsa’s instinct was to jump up and raise her shield and axe. 

“Wow lady, you must have hit your head pretty hard. Were you out with your friends LARPing or something?” Questioned the small girl, whose hands were on her hips looking up at Yrsa.

“LARP? What?” Yrsa was lost.

“You know, live action role playing? Pretend fighting? That’s pretty good fake blood on your face!” Sang the little girl as she pranced up to Yrsa.

“I just landed here with my clan, this isn’t fake blood, I just killed three soldiers.” Said Yrsa bluntly.

“You’re really taking this seriously!” Laughed the little girl. “I like your costume!” As she tugged on Yrsa’s trousers. 

Realizing slowly that she was no longer in danger, Yrsa relaxed and looked around. “Where are we?” She asked calmly.

“In my backyard basically! But it’s huge, so I don’t blame you for getting lost!” replied the girl.

It was warm out, the sun beating down on Yrsa. When she left home it was dreadfully cold.

“What…. Is it Sumar?” Yrsa could feel the panic rising in her chest. 

“Is it what?” The girl responded. “Do you need to call your friends or someone? You can come to my house, my mom will let you borrow her phone!” She sounded excited at the idea of bringing home a visitor. 

“A phone? What is a… phone?” Asked Yrsa, becoming more panicked by the second. 

“Maybe we need to take you to a hospital… I think you definitely hit your head too hard. Follow me!” The girl pranced off in the opposite direction.

What do I have to lose?  Yrsa thought to herself as she followed the girl.

Soon the tree line broke, and they approached a building unlike anything Yrsa had seen. It was a strange color, impossibly large, and stone pillars lined the front. 

“Come on in! I’ll get my mom!” She said as she bolted through a door. 

“MOM!” Yrsa heard the girl yell. “I brought a friend who needs help!”

The first thing Yrsa noticed after walking through the door was a huge square shape displaying strange images. 

What is this place? She thought to herself. 

“Hello?” Called out an older woman’s voice.

Yrsa turned and saw a beautiful woman, soft green eyes and flowing hair kissed by flames. 

“Are you okay? Ava said you hit your head pretty hard playing some game with your friends?” The woman asked. As she handed Yrsa a mug of water. 

“I… I’m fine.” Yrsa was trying to think smart about this, maybe her brethren were still out there.

“Okay…” The woman trailed. “Do you know how to get back to your friends?” 

As Yrsa was trying to decide what to do she chugged the glass of water and handed back the mug. “I am grateful to you.” She said. “I am starting to remember, thanks to your brave daughter.” 

Ava beamed up at her.

“I’ve told her not to talk to strangers.” The woman laughed awkwardly. “But she always feels the need to help people.”

“Well…” The woman continued. “If you know where they are, you should probably head back so they don’t worry.”

“Indeed, thank you for your kindness.” Yrsa responded. “And thank you Ava for saving me.” 

Ava practically danced to Yrsa’s words. “Hey, do you think I could LARP with you and your friends sometime? We could play in my backyard!” Ava’s eyes were glistening with hope.

Yrsa could see the woman getting agitated with her daughter, clearly because she was so naive. Yrsa grinned to herself, a seed of thought growing by the moment. “I think that could happen one day.” She said softly and patted the girl’s head. 

On Yrsa’s trek back, it dawned on her that this must be some sort of magic. Was Odin testing her?

She couldn’t doubt it. She decided to head back to the place she fell and examine what magic befell her. 

It didn’t take long to reach the same rock formation, Yrsa’s tracking skills were superb. She crouched into the dirt and looked closely at each rock. As she was going over the center rock Yrsa gasped when her eyes connected to runes carved in the rock. She recognized them instantly, some of the fabled runes Odin found when hanging from Yggdrasil. 

Why would that be here? She thought to herself. Was Odin truly testing me? She had no choice but to believe it now. She placed her hands on the runes, closing her eyes and focusing, but nothing happened. 

“Think!” She yelled in frustration to no one.

It dawned on her after a few moments in silence, she had hit her head on the rock. She reached up and touched the sore spot for the first time. It felt warm, and wet. When she brought her hand back into view her fingertips were sticky with blood. 

“Blood!” She grinned to herself, and with her axe she slowly sliced her hand with the blade.

 Immediately blood began to pour out of the wound.  Yrsa stretched out her arm and exposing her palm dripped blood over each rune. Suddenly the runes began to glow an iridescent blue. Not long the blue shifted to a deep purple as each rune absorbed the blood, practically sucking it from the stone. It grew darker around Yrsa, as dark clouds rolled in a deep thunderous roar shook her and the rocks. She grinned up at the sky, welcoming Odin to take her back. 

In a vicious whirl of colors and thunderous lightning Yrsa was pulled forward and almost instantly shot hard into the earth. Yrsa scrambled for her axe and shield, frantically looking at her surroundings. It quickly became clear she was back, and the battle was over. Her brethren had won. Many of them were already drinking ale, and some were resting against trees eating mushrooms. When she reached her Hersir she pulled him aside. 

“Odin has tested me, and has shown me where to go.” Yrsa spoke, a hint of excitement in her voice. “May I address the others?”

Her Hersir nodded and motioned for everyone to give their attention to her. “Yrsa has words for us!”

Yrsa was sure of herself now, Odin had indeed sent her on this journey for a reason. 

“I have discovered a wealthy land for us to raid with endless treasures! If you will have me, I will lead us to this realm! Odin has shown me the way!” Yrsa finished by pumping her fist in the air. “FOR ODIN!” 

Soon everyone in her clan began hitting their shields in unison and chanting louder and louder. Yrsa grinned to herself, she was on the precipice of greatness.

What did you think of The Voyage – Part 2? If you enjoyed this short story, we would love for you to leave a comment, or even buy us a cup of coffee! We promise to share!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

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Best Songs to Write Fantasy Stories To

This week we will be talking about our favorite songs to write Fantasy stories to! Listening to different music can help set the tone for many different things. It’s healthy to get in the right mindstate for certain activities, and for writing it’s no different! We hope you enjoy our list, and find some new favorites!

Willow by Taylor Swift

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0lx2cLdOt3piJbcaXIV74f

We are starting with the song that inspired this post, “Willow” by Taylor Swift. We are both obsessed with Taylor Swift, so when we saw the fantasy-inspired video that Taylor made for this song, it became an instant favorite. We think it is the perfect song to write a fantasy story to, and the video might help inspire you as well. In fact, the entire Evermore album, along with its prequel sister-album, Folklore, have that same whimsical vibe and story focused songs.

A Million Dreams by Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, and Ziv Zaifman

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0RoA7ObU6phWpqhlC9zH4Z

This song from The Greatest Showman is one of Clever’s favorites. Although the song is about the character’s dream to create a circus, the lyrics could easily fit for a fantasy author dreaming about the story-world they will create. Whenever I hear it, I begin daydreaming about my fantasy world, and it quickly puts me in the mood to write. I highly suggest you try it out for yourself!

Shadows by Sabaton

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/5ybEEyYmbNHJd41VOyHN5G

If you are preparing to write an epic battle scene or a hero’s journey, then Sabaton is the band for you. They are a Swedish Heavy Metal band who bases their songs on historical battles and heroes. “Shadows” actually veers from their normal historical songs, in being a song based on Lord of the Rings. They also have themed songs on everything from the Battle of Thermopylae in ancient Greece, to World Wars I and II, to the rise and fall of the Swedish empire. Their musical take on tales of courage and heroism will surely inspire you to write a strong hero of your own. 

Soundtracks from Fantasy Movies or Shows

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/1n8NKQRg8LVHy7oUhUgbFF

What better songs to inspire fantasy stories, than the theme-songs for a fantasy movie or TV show. We suggest picking songs from your favorite fantasy productions and listening to them as you write. Clever’s favorites are the Harry Potter soundtrack and the Game of Thrones theme song. WTF likes to listen to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack. What are your favorite fantasy soundtracks or theme songs?

Themed Music 

A lot of the times when I’m writing, especially fantasy stories, I listen to tavern ambiance. The folk type music, the clanging of cups, and the soft chatter puts me in the perfect headspace! I also enjoy putting on rainy day background music, the patter of raindrops, and the occasional rumble of thunder helps me to focus and relax. If you’re having a lull in creativity I highly recommend trying this! 

What Do You Think?

What do you listen to while writing? Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments below. If you enjoy our blog feel free to buy us a cup of coffee, we promise to share! 

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

The Voyage – Part 1

The ocean water splashed violently over the side of the ship, lightning cracking the sky with endless whips of thunder. It was the fourth day of the journey, the last two consisted of a storm only Thor could muster. It was as if Odin had cursed them to perish at sea. Were they making a mistake traveling to conquer this new land? Yrsa thought to herself, but immediately banished it. No, I believe this is my purpose! She encouraged herself silently as she slumped into the soaking wood. Looking up at the sky, full of shimmering stars, she knew Thor was showing his excitement for their journey. 

Yrsa silently recollected her mother twisting her hair into intricate braids for her first voyage at sea, those braids were now soaked with salty ocean water. 

As she fiddled with one sopping braid her mother’s voice crept into her head. “Don’t be nervous daughter, you are capable and will easily adapt.” 

“What if I never come back?” she replied earnestly, hoping for comforting words.

“That is up to the Gods to decide,” her mother replied solemnly. 

Snapping back to reality as another wave crashed into the ship, Yrsa knew her mother was right, but wanted some reassurance before she embarked. It was up to her to comfort herself, after all she was named for the strength and protectiveness of a bear. She clutched her relatively small shield to her chest, painted in bright blues and white was her namesake, a fierce grizzly. 

“LAND!” One of Yrsa’s brethren shouted, waking her from a small nap. 

Soon every shield maiden and man were scrambling up to see. In the distance was a tree line, it seemed so small but quickly became a vast stretch as they crept closer. 

“Shield wall!” as soon as the words escaped, everyone lifted their shields in unison to create a dome shape protecting them from various projectiles. 

It felt like an eternity to Yrsa, her arm began to cramp from holding steady and silent, until she felt the weight of the ship make contact with earth. With a slight surge forward and back the ship came to a stop, and ever so slowly the shields came down to reveal there was no immediate threat. There was a small stretch of sand leading up to a vast forest that was impossible to see through.

“Stick together in shield formation until we reach the edge of the forest! We don’t yet know what is beyond the trees,” their Hersir called out.

Making a arrowhead shape with their shields up, shoulder to shoulder, they marched with silence into the vast forest. All Yrsa would hear was the crunching of leaves and fallen twigs as the ship behind them was replaced with looming trees. Suddenly the whoosh of an arrow flew past Yrsa’s right ear, barely missing her shield that was protecting her upper body and face. Simultaneously arrows thumped against her comrades shields. A shield maiden to her left grunted in pain as an arrow pierced her thigh, but she barely faltered.

“Low and FORWARD!” shouted her Hersir, and in swift unison they bent their knees and charged forward.

Some were letting out fierce battle cries, while others slammed their shields with axes. Before Yrsa could fully comprehend the situation, they were in the midst of battle. Their enemies had shiny metal armor, and long two handed swords.

“Their armor is weak at the neck!” she heard through the clamor of shields and swords.

One soldier charged at Yrsa, reflecting on her training she blocked the sword with her shield and dipped low, countering with her small axe into her enemies neck. He crumpled with a gurgling scream, and as she ripped her axe free blood spurted from the wound all over Yrsa’s face. Another enemy was running at her full speed, realizing she didn’t have the proper stance to counter attack she stayed low and with her shield slammed the soldier’s knees and using her weight launched him over her. The soldier slammed hard, the metal armor scraping together made an odd clanging sound.

Yrsa glanced quickly at her surroundings, and noticed a small rock formation where she could protect herself from all sides. She made signs to her comrades who could see her to follow, pointing to the formation, and they nodded in understanding. She immediately sprinted towards the formation, but did not notice a small stone upturned in a strange way. Her toes caught the stone and Yrsa was tossed forward over the large rock formation, her head slamming hard. She felt the world spin, colors and shapes warping rapidly until her vision went black.

What did you think of The Voyage – Part 1? If you enjoyed this short story, we would love for you to leave a comment, or even buy us a cup of coffee! We promise to share!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

Best Hiking Spots for Fantasy Nerds

This week we wanted to talk about some hiking spots that we think not only make you feel as if you’re in a fantasy, but also inspire creativity when writing about settings. Writing a fantasy setting can be quite daunting, but some time in nature can work wonders, especially if those spots inspire ideas for a setting! This is a list of some of our favorites (so far) in the United States.

Bandelier National Monument – New Mexico

Tyuonyi Overview by Bandelier National Monument C.C. 2.0

We both remember being blown away by these cliff dwellings when we visited them in New Mexico. You climb up ladders and hike winding cliff paths to get to these houses built into the cliffside by the Ancestral Pueblo people. The view looking out from the cliff dwellings is stunning. If you are thinking of creating a fantasy world with a cliff-dwelling people, Bandelier is a great place to visit.

Manson Pike Trailhead – Tennessee

When I lived in Tennessee this was one of my favorite spots for a quick hike with endless beautiful views and pathways. This photo is of a small break off the main path that opens up into this incredible stone walkway through the river, I always felt it led to a whimsical realm. It’s perfect to make any Fantasy Nerd feel blissfully lost in a fantasy world.

Nederland – Colorado

This small mountain town in Colorado quickly became one of my favorite places. There are various small hikes that move through the city, but this one leads through a bridge that is covered with intricate paintings. I think the view speaks for itself, an incredibly charming town intertwined with nature. Luckily for me it’s about a forty minute drive up into the mountains from where I live, if you’re ever in Colorado I highly recommend visiting Nederland! It’s the perfect town for any Fantasy Nerd, and would certainly be brimming with inspiration!

South Mountain Fairy Trail – New Jersey

South Mountain Fairy Trail – used with permission

This unbelievable trail in South Mountain is sprinkled with fairy homes hidden along the paths. These miniature homes are made of twigs, rocks, acorns, and wood, just as you would expect to find in a fairy forest! The fairies even have tiny furniture in their homes. It seems like so much fun to walk through the enchanting woods and hunt for fairy homes hidden in tree stumps and nestled in the hillside. It is a must-see for Fantasy Nerds, and we want to visit there someday. If you visit just remember, aside from the fairy houses exhibited, they try to promote the “Leave no trace” philosophy in nature.

South Mountain Fairy Trail – used with permission

Lookout Mountain Park – Colorado

What better inspiration for a setting than looking down on a city from above? The view is absolutely breathtaking, and the mountains seem endless! The hike itself is uphill and can be relatively tough, but it’s so worth it when you make it. There are multiple pathways that branch out even further, one goes in a kind of half circle teetering on the edge of the mountain; which I thought would be the perfect setting for an epic battle!

What Do You Think?

Are there any hiking destinations that you think a Fantasy Nerd would enjoy? Does being in nature help you write better fantasy settings? If you found this post helpful, we would love for you to leave a comment, or even buy us a cup of coffee! We promise to share!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

The Shadow Grotto – Part 3

Welcome, Fantasy Nerds! This is the conclusion to my short story. If you haven’t read the first two parts, you can start the story here. I hope you enjoy!

After convincing the man that I was also interested in finding a chimera of my own, he gave me more details about the location she was found. Between that information and the image the chimera shared with me, I’m hoping I can find who I’m looking for. Although, I’m not sure what to do once I find the old man. I just have to trust the chimera; she obviously believes that this man can help rescue her. 

I’m just hoping the man from the vision will have a plan.

I pull up to a mountain lodge and throw my backpack on, as I inhale the fresh scent of pine. I booked a room in case I can’t find who I’m looking for in one day. After a quick check-in, I set out into the woods right away. I don’t want to waste any time. 

The first couple of hours are quite nice. I hike through the woods to the melody of birdsong mingling with the crunch of twigs and pine needles under my feet. The cool mountain air makes the exercise comfortable. Every breath makes me feel invigorated. I’m on a mission. But I’d forgotten one crucial thing.

This was bear hunting territory. And I hadn’t come armed.

As I get deeper into the woods, I come upon a creek gliding through a rockbed. I decide this would be a relaxing place to take a break. I sit upon the rough surface of a boulder and dig through my pack for water and some trail mix. I hear some rustling behind me. Not the rustling of a squirrel darting through branches, but the rustling of something much more substantial…and terrifying.

I turn my head and try not to make any sudden movements. Which is very hard when you are face-to-face with a bear

I stand and back away slowly, but I can’t go very far with the creek behind me. I debate whether to jump in and try to swim away, but I think bears are good swimmers. As my eyes are roving for anything to help me, the bear starts to back away. I blink. It turns and stomps back into the treeline.

I turn to see a man standing on the other side of the creek. My eyes go wide.

The man rubs his head and smiles. “I know, I have quite a way with animals,” he says.

“No, it’s not that,” I tell him. “I’ve been looking for you.”

After the man walks me back to his cottage, the one from the chimera’s vision, he sits me at a small wooden table with a cup of tea. As the drink warms me down to my toes, I begin to tell him my tale. As I speak about the chimera, his eyes go wide. But not in the way I would expect from someone who is just learning of the existence of a mythical beast. His face looks more like he has found something precious that he had thought lost. 

He waits patiently for me to finish my tale. When I do, he exhales slowly and pats my hand.

“You found Fiasuru. I didn’t even know she was captured. I thought she had just returned home and decided,” he gulps back an emotion I can’t read, “decided not to come back.”

He drops his head into his hands. “Oh, this is all my fault. I should have known she wouldn’t be safe here.”

I pat the old man’s shoulder, unsure what else to do.

“Fiasuru is my friend. I told you before I have a way with animals, but that’s not the whole story. I can communicate with them. Some, I can even control. Not Fiasuru though,” he says with a chuckle. “She found her way here, and we formed a bond. She would come often to visit me, and then one day, she just stopped. I should have known something was wrong.”

The old man sits up tall. “I am Adius, and I will help you rescue my friend.”

By nightfall, we have come up with a plan. I stay at Adius’s cabin for the night, and we rise at dawn to trek back to my car. It takes the rest of the day, and into the night, to drive back to Florida. We make arrangements until the day arrives to rescue the animals.

We meet Fredrick and the mysterious scruffy man at the pet shop. I turn over the 90 million dollars for the mythical creatures they agreed to sell me. 

“I didn’t say you could bring anyone else,” the man says.

“This is my animal caretaker. I need his help transporting the creatures and getting them settled,” I respond.

The man eyes Adius, and I assume he finds him to be harmless. Adius and I get into the enormous truck we brought with us, complete with stalls for the animals. We wind our way out to the warehouse where I first laid eyes on the magnificent creatures we are about to save. I have to remind myself to keep breathing and act normal.

Our footsteps echo through the enormous warehouse, as we stride past the exotic creatures that are ordinary compared to the ones hidden away. I take note of where the man presses his hand to unlatch the hidden door. We walk through the numerous stone archways until we arrive in the Shadow Grotto. 

Adius stops, and I can see the effort it takes to compose himself as he takes in our surroundings. Not just one chained chimera, but all her children held captive. His eyes lock on Fiasuru, but she must understand that we are up to something, because she simply shifts to her feet and stares at us. 

We go through the motions of loading all the creatures into the truck, Adius communicating to them that they must remain chained for now, but we will not harm them. We shake hands to close out our transaction, checking our truck one last time as we wait for the men to get into their cars. At the last minute, I run up to the scruffy man’s window.

“One of the beasts wasn’t chained up right. We could use some assistance,” I say.

The man hops out of his car and waves Fredrick on. “I’ll take care of it.”

I make sure Fredrick is out of sight before we climb into the back of the truck. I point him to the back corner, where the griffin is yanking against it’s chain and clawing at Adius. Without suspecting a thing, the man jumps in to help restrain the griffin. That’s when Adius releases the griffin from it’s restraint. 

The man falls back as the griffin lunges toward him. It pounces and digs it’s claws into the man’s shoulders, pinning him. He screams, thrashing against the weight of the griffin and swinging his fists into the creature’s hide. Powerful wings flap, lifting the man to the ceiling. The griffin drops him, and he tries to scramble backwards through winces of pain. The griffin pounces again, and with one swift strike, the man is silent. 

I try not to look at him, as I dig through his pockets for the keys. Adius stays with the animals, unchaining them one at a time. I rush into the warehouse and push on the wall to open the secret door. My feet pound down the arched tunnel and up the stone steps to Fiasuru’s cage. I unlock the bars of her cell and the chains keeping her bound to the wall. 

“I told you I would free you,” I whisper to the chimera.

Fiasuru nods once to me before flying out to reunite with her friend.

What did you think of The Shadow Grotto? If you enjoyed this short story, we would love for you to leave a comment, or even buy us a cup of coffee! We promise to share!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

The Shadow Grotto – Part 2

Welcome, Fantasy Nerds! Thanks for coming back to read part 2 of Clever’s story. If you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here.

I pull into the now dark parking lot in front of “Puppies and More” at 5 til 9. The sound of my car door closing seems too loud, and I try to soften the steps of my feet on the asphalt lot. In the light of day, this seemed like a good idea, exciting even. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if I should be here. 

Fredrick steps out of the store, and I expect him to let me in. Instead, he locks the door behind him and walks toward me. 

“I’m in the silver truck. You can follow me there,” he says.

“I thought you had the animals here.”

“There’s not enough room here for exoctic animals, so we keep them off site.”

I nod and get back in my car, not entirely prepared to follow Fredrick wherever he may lead me. Along the drive I work to convince myself that this is all above board. Plenty of people own exotic pets. I’m sure they’ll have whatever certificates I may need.

The rumble of my tires on a gravel road brings me back to the present. The road winds through trees dripping almost sinisterly with moss. When the wind blows, the moss reaches out like fingers to drag along my car. Through the greenery, I see glimpses of a metal building ahead.

Fredrick’s car rolls to a stop in front of a large warehouse. Despite the remote location, it looks like a well-kept building. I feel a bit relieved. It’s like Fredrick said, they probably just needed a bigger space where the noise wouldn’t disturb any neighbors. 

By the time I’m out of my car, Fredrick is knocking on the warehouse door. It’s then that I notice another car in the lot. A tall, scruffy man opens the door and waves us inside. As my eyes adjust to the light, smells similar to a barn accost me. Then, I take in the large cages and glass enclosures full of animals. 

A fierce mountain lion prowls one of the enclosures, and I decide to steer clear of that area. I turn toward the sound of a howling monkey, a much safer bet. I marvel at the cages of swinging primates. This place could fill a zoo with animals. 

A glisten of scales catches my eye, and I turn to see a section of tanks with alligators, pythons, and other large reptiles. I shiver, and continue searching the room in silent awe. Koalas, foxes, wolves, sloths, and other furry creatures, whose names I don’t know, surround me.

I clear my throat. “These are all…legal?” I ask.

The scruffy man chuckles. His laugh is a bit off-putting, and so is his lack of response. 

Fredrick steps up to appease me. “Many of these you can legally own in Florida. Just ask me if you would like to know which ones.”

I spin around the room, overwhelmed by the choices, some terrifying and others adorable.

“If you had a million dollars, which would you choose?” I ask. 

“Do you have a million dollars?” the scruffy man asks too quickly.

I turn to him and watch as he and Fredrick hold a wordless conversation.

“I do,” I say out of curiosity, despite thinking I may regret it.

The man’s eyes snap to mine. After a pause, he turns and strides to the back of the warehouse. He presses his hand into the wall, and a door swings inward with a creak. The door blended seamlessly into the wall, but now I see nothing but darkness beyond. The man descends into the black void. I take a steadying breath, and follow.

At the bottom of the stairs, the man flicks on a switch. Light skitters down a long stone hallway, illuminating an endless set of identical archways. The pulse of my own heartbeat fills my head, interrupted by echoing footsteps. After what seems like an hour, we reach a heavy wooden door. The scruffy man pulls out a key and unlocks the door, which swings open with a groan. 

I don’t know what I was prepared for, but it wasn’t this.

What I see isn’t just shocking or awe-inspiring; it’s unbelievable, literally impossible.

A huge cavernous space, several stories high, is filled with caves and cages of creatures that shouldn’t exist. I rub my eyes. They can’t exist. 

“Welcome to The Shadow Grotto,” the man tells me. “Where you can find creatures from your wildest dreams.”

My legs nearly give out, and I lean against the nearest wall. The scrape of rough stone on my palms grounds me. I begin to take in what I see, still unsure how I went from working at the bank this morning to ending up here.

There’s a lion with hooves and a monkey with wings. A two-headed bird and a dog with snakes for a tail. A creature prowling like a panther, but covered in alligator scales. 

And then I look up.

A higher row of caves features creatures from legend: a unicorn, griffin, centaur, pegasus, phoenix, and lastly, a dragon. There is something different about these animals, an otherworldly quality. The air around them seems to pulse with…magic. 

I turn to the man who brought us here. “How?” I whisper.

“The chimera,” he answers, as he points to a mash-up of a beast that is chained to a cave wall and enclosed by thick bars of metal. 

That’s when I first notice the chains, but when I look back at the others, I see they are all in chains. Something about these magical, majestic creatures being shackled makes me feel sick.

“I don’t understand,” I say.

“Every beast in here is a child of the chimera. We breed her with other exotic creatures. Sometimes we get an ordinary creature, other times something unique, like a monkey with wings, and rarely, something magical is born. That’s when we hit the jackpot.” His eyes sparkle like the gold he is pondering wistfully. 

“But…how did you get a chimera?”

“We stumbled upon her in the woods when we were looking to poach some bears. Can you believe it?” He chuckles joyfully, as he boasts of his accomplishment. “At first I thought I must be delirious, but we all saw her. She was just as shocked to see us. I think that’s the only reason we managed to catch her.”

A rumble escapes the chimera’s belly. A flash of light illuminates the cave, as fire bursts from her mouth. The flames can’t reach us down here, but the anger in her gaze pierces my heart. 

“May I inspect some of the creatures more closely?” I ask.

“At your own peril,” he says. “Just try not to get killed. I want your money.” He grins mirthlessly.

I walk along the rows of creatures, as I ponder what to do. 

“How much, then?” I ask. I’ll buy them all, if I can.

“For the bottom row, the oddities, as I call them, it’s 1 million. The magical ones are 10 million.”

“And the chimera?” 

He laughs in that disconcerting way. And he doesn’t answer.

I climb to the highest level as I count the creatures: 6 magical beasts and around 30 “oddities”. I stop as close to the chimera’s cage as I dare, making sure she can see into my eyes. 

“I’ll take all of the creatures,” I say, as much to the chimera as to the man. Then I whisper, “I’ll find a way to free you too.”

The chimera steps as close to me as she can get. I see understanding in her eyes, as she dips her head to me. I reach out a shaking hand to touch her lioness mane. A picture flashes in my mind, a wizened old man with kind eyes smiling and waving from outside a small cottage in the wilderness, and I jerk my hand back.

I walk back down the stone stairs, willing myself not to look back at the chimera, not to give us away.

“I’ll need a week to arrange a location to keep all these beasts,” I tell the man. I near the exit, but pause, as if a thought has just occurred to me. “Where was it that you went bear hunting?”

The man smiles as if he has made a new acquaintance with a shared hobby. “Found her up in Hyde County, North Carolina.”

I grin as if he’s caught me out. “Maybe I might get lucky enough to catch my own chimera.”

What do you think of the story, so far? Click here to read the conclusion to The Shadow Grotto! If you enjoyed this short story, we would love for you to leave a comment, or even buy us a cup of coffee! We promise to share!

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Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

The Shadow Grotto

I tap my fingers on my desk, as I wait for the website to load with last night’s winning lottery numbers. It’s like walking to check the mailbox when you aren’t expecting anything, but you go anyway just in case there’s something important waiting. I bought three tickets, but I didn’t watch last night’s news. I heard talk in the breakroom that someone won, so I thought I would pass some time by checking my numbers against the life-changing ones on the screen. 

I hear a ding from my speakers as a pop-up tells me that my work computer has blocked access to the site. Of course it has, I groan. I stuff the tickets back in my wallet and vow never to play the lottery again. I promised myself the same thing after I lost the last big jackpot, but every time the amount rises to 50 or 100 million the lure of walking out of the bank and never looking back becomes too strong. 

I daydream of all the things I would do with 750 million dollars, as I help the next customer withdraw 250 dollars from their nearly empty account. 

“Hi, Tina. Did you try one of the cookies my wife made?” my co-worker, Greg, asks another one of the tellers. 

“No, Greg. You know I don’t eat carbs,” Tina responds. 

“You couldn’t just try one cookie? It wouldn’t hurt,” Greg pushes with a plastered on smile. 

Tina puts her hands on her hips and stares Greg down with a withering look that is answer enough. Greg mumbles something and walks over to me with the plate of cookies in his hands. 

“Hi, Patrick. Did you get one of the cookies my wife made?” he says with his wide smile.

It’s not worth the trouble to protest, so I take one of the cookies off the tray and swallow a bite. “Mmmm…” I mumble as I give Greg a thumbs up. Once he’s out of sight, I drop the rest of the cookie in the trash. I think Greg just tries to pawn off his wife’s cookies on us, so he doesn’t have to eat them.  

“Can you believe him?” Tina says as she sits down at the window next to mine. She unfolds the paper on her desk, and I spot a headline about the lottery.

“Can I borrow that real quick?” I ask.

“Sure thing, as long as you tell Greg off if you win.” We both have a good laugh at that. 

I compare my tickets one-by-one and set the first two aside. When I get to the third, the first numbers start matching up. I get to the fourth number when I hear someone clear their throat. 

“Excuse me, can I deposit this check sometime today?” a balding man asks us.

Tina and I had been too entranced by the numbers to notice him. 

“Of course, Sir. So sorry about that,” Tina replies as she flashes the man a charming smile. 

She goes through the transaction while I finish checking the numbers. And recheck them, twice. I push back my chair, carefully place the last ticket in my wallet, and stand up. I point to the balding man.

“You, Sir, are an asshole.”

Tina gasps and turns to me.

“Keep doing you, Tina,” I tell her with a huge grin on my face. I wave her on to follow me. “You’re gonna want to see this. 

“No way,” she says, but I hear her heels clack along behind me.

I find Greg in the  breakroom. I march up to him and put my hand on his shoulder. 

“If you stopped trying so hard, people might actually like you.”

A puff of air escapes his throat and his eyes widen. Before he can respond I have moved on. Tina is doubled over chortling. I walk into my boss’s office. 

“I quit,” I tell him, as I flip him the bird. 

He just stares at me, mouth hanging open. On my way out of the bank, I high-five a couple of bewildered customers. I get in my car and put on my seatbelt before I realize I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. I pull out my phone and look up “where to go to claim a winning lottery ticket”. I plug the address of the lottery headquarters into my phone’s GPS and start my road trip. I roll the windows down and blast the radio, thinking about what kind of new car I will get after I collect my winnings. 

“Wooooo Hooooooo!” I scream into the wind blowing through the window. Then I begin to laugh almost hysterically. How the hell did I just win the Powerball jackpot?! 

After deciding to take the lump sum up front, I walk out of the lottery office with over $350 million dollars. They advised me to speak with an attorney right away, because I will likely owe more taxes than what they withheld. However, I think I’ll make a couple of purchases first. I’m too excited to contain the urge to spend money.

My initial idea was to get a new car, but that seems so…predictable. I’ll definitely get a new car soon, but when people ask about my first purchase, I want to have a good story. I think through some other things I could buy: a mansion takes awhile to close on, I don’t have anywhere to wear a fancy suit, a yacht isn’t really my thing. Then, inspiration hits.

I’ve always wanted a pet, but I wasn’t sure I had the time to take care of one. I don’t want an ordinary housepet though, not if I’ve got millions. Maybe I could get a tiger…no, too dangerous. Definitely not a python or anything scaly. I want a cute animal that I can keep in my house, but that’s more rare. I wonder if I can find a Koala in Florida? 

I pull out my phone and look for the nearest pet store. 20 minutes later I pull into a strip mall where a sign reads “Puppies and More”. The door jingles as I walk in and the smell of animals hits me. 

“Welcome. How can I help you?” a man asks from behind the counter.

“Hi, what’s the most unique animal you have?” I ask.

“Uh, we’ve got some big snakes,” the man responds. 

“Do you have anything…with fur?”

“What about a rare dog breed?” he asks. Before I can answer, he calls out again. “Fredrick, show him the dogs.”

Another younger man pops his head out from the back. He leads me over to a section of glass enclosed cages full of puppies.

“I’m actually not really looking for a dog. I was hoping to find something more unique, or exotic even,” I tell Fredrick.

I start to turn from the wall of dogs, but something in his gaze stops me. He looks to be sizing me up, but for what, I’m not sure. 

“You can afford something exotic?” he asks.

I snort, but then compose myself. “Yeah, I can afford it.”

“Come back at 9pm,” he says before disappearing in the back again. 

What do you think so far? What kind of pet to you think Patrick will get? Let me know in the comments! You can read part 2 of the story here!

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Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever & WTF

New Year’s Writing Resolutions

Happy New Year! We thought a great way to start off the New Year would be to share some of our writing-related goals with you and ask you to share some of yours. Let’s encourage each other along our journeys!

Connect with Our Community

One big goal that both of us want to focus on this year is connecting with our community of readers and writers! Since the beginning of this blog, one of the most surprising and rewarding things has been the connections we’ve made with other bloggers and writers, here and on social media. Also, the immense support of our family and friends who have continued to read our stories and share their encouragement. We want to continue to grow that connection and spend more time interacting with all of you in meaningful ways.

If you are a fellow blogger or a part of the writing community, please let us know in the comments! We’ve never been about follows-for-follows, but we do promise to check out your blog/social media. We will follow and/or comment if we see some common ground or find that what you are writing fits with our interests, and all we ask is that you give us the chance to earn your interest! Even if we’ve already connected, feel free to let us know about a project that you are really excited about, so we can encourage you!

Build Back a Solid Writing Routine

I think the past year has thrown off many of our routines, and there’s no shame in that. I used to have a pretty solid routine of writing almost daily. I tracked my progress in my bullet journal and rewarded myself. My goal is to build back up that routine to where it once was. 

If your writing routine has been thrown off this past year, or you are ready to build one for the first time, you can check out this post we did a while back on How to Maintain Your Writing Habit. You can also join our Facebook group “Clever & WTF’s Fantasy Nerds” for daily writing check-ins and encouragement.

Organization

I’ve always struggled with being organized, but it’s a huge hindrance in my every day life as well as my writing goals. Thankfully since starting this blog Clever has helped me stay on top of being organized, as well as sticking to a schedule for our writing projects. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in any areas you struggle with! This is a big resolution for me, I want to implement organization in every aspect of my life, and especially with my writing!

An important part of being organized for me is to do a little bit daily to maintain my environment, whether that’s a load of laundry, the dishes, or making sure your work space is clean and you know where all of your writing implements are. Just like with writing, it’s extremely important to write even a small amount as often as you can without burning yourself out! Staying on top of your goals and keeping your head clear by being organized can make a huge difference. What do you do to stay organized?

Rest Days

I know for me it can be difficult to stick to a solid routine, especially if your work schedule changes or you’re working from home right now. What helps me is to make a weekly routine that incorporates rest days, just like working out, it’s important to have a day to rest your muscles so they can rebuild! Routines and rest days go hand in hand!

Depending on how far ahead my work schedule is, I’ll jot down a schedule in my writing planner for at least one week ahead, but I aim to plan out a whole month if possible. My goal is to stick to a weekly routine that includes one rest day to replenish my writing juices!    

What About You?

What are some of your New Year’s Resolutions? Are any writing related? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoy our blog, feel free to buy us a cup of coffee, we promise to share! 

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-Clever & WTF

Small Ways to Enjoy the Holidays

Happy Holidays, Fantasy Nerds! We thought it would be fun to do a short post about some of our favorite small things to do to make the holidays feel special! We hope this post might remind you to take a few moments to enjoy the spirit of Christmas!

Watch Christmas Movies

You can’t watch a Christmas movie without smiling, so make sure you fit in at least one this year. Or, if you’re like Clever, pack your DVR full of Hallmark Christmas movies. There are some great classics playing on Freeform, like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, and Miracle on 34th Street. Not to mention some more modern favorites, like Love Actually, The Santa Clause, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. You can also find some great Netflix Original Christmas movies like The Christmas Prince or The Knight Before Christmas. What is your favorite Christmas movie?

Give Your Coffee a Holiday Twist

Sometimes all you need to bring you joy is a taste of the holidays. A simple trick to start the day with joy is adding a little holiday flavor to your morning coffee. Clever likes to add a dash of cinnamon to her morning coffee, while WTF mixes her’s with hot cocoa. Yum! Give them both a try and let us know your favorite!

Accessorize for the Season

What better way to show your holiday spirit than to dress for the occasion? Find something to wear that you love! It could be a cozy sweater, a sparkly headband, or adorable boots. Clever loves doing her nails for the season. Check out her festive Christmas nails! WTF likes to use a gold glitter infused face primer for some added sparkle and velvet hair scrunchies for a wintery feel. Also, we both love wearing fuzzy socks this time of year! Do you have a holiday accessory that you love?

Open an Advent Calendar

What is it about advent calendars that is so fun? Opening a new gift each day really keeps the holiday joy alive! You can find an advent calendar for just about anything now, from chocolate or wine, to toys or beauty products. Clever got this Harry Potter Funko Pop! calendar as a gift from her husband. What advent calendar did you get this year?

What About You?

What small holiday traditions do you have? Did you try any of our suggestions? We want to know all about the ways you enjoy the season!

We also wanted to let you all know that we will be taking a 2-week break to enjoy the holidays with our family. We will be back with a new post on January 3rd! Thanks so much for all your support this year, and have a Very Merry Christmas!

-Clever & WTF

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Hope

I thought “Well, what’s the point of living, then?”

I woke up in the middle of the night with this thought in my head. It had my mind racing, because I’ve often had these thoughts, but this time it was as if a separate voice in my head was telling me. The result of those thoughts were me trying to fight back and give reasons to myself, and various things big or small, that help me see the point of living.

This post isn’t necessarily a story, but something I’ve struggled with, especially recently, that I think would help anyone reading during these times. I start with the little things, what parts about your day make you happy? It may be a warm, freshly brewed cup of coffee that surrounds you with a sweet aroma. Or a tail wagging, bright eyed dog that greets you every morning with love and kisses. The sound of turning a crisp page in a new book, or your favorite book, and inhaling that unique scent. I think it’s important to focus on those little things that make you happy, and try to make time for them. Thoroughly enjoy them!

It’s also important to take time for yourself, take a hot bath, have a glass of wine, relax and unwind, let go of everything that’s weighing on you. Spend quality time with those you feel closest to and most comfortable with; whether it’s snuggling up with your spouse, or having a phone call with your family! Something that helps me personally is to take a walk, or a hike, and spend time with nature. Breathing in that fresh air, looking at the world around me and the absolute beauty of it.

I’ll leave you all with a quote that I live by. The full quote feels relevant for us all I think; “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Thank you so much for reading! We hope you enjoyed this post, let us know in the comments below! As always if you enjoy our blog feel free to buys us a cup of coffee, we promise to share!

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-Clever & WTF