With the Faery Ink Press Newsletter I’ve been writing a choose-your-own-adventure story! With each newsletter, I’ll post a new thread of the story–that you, the readers, will have chosen in the previous newsletter.
So here we go! The story so far…
You’re a book merchant and you’re standing at a fork in the road. To your left, there’s a lush green forest, and the road disappears between the trees. You’re not sure how large the forest is but you know that if you go down that road, it might be easy to get lost because that road is not well kept, and unknown creatures lurk in the hidden branches. Could be worth it though–folks say that you will make it to the market twice as fast on that route.
Your other option is the road to your right. It stretches across the plains and over a steep hill. This is the route you usually take to your shop, but a friend told you this morning that a smelly ogre is patrolling the road and he has a particular fondness for bound volumes–a particular fondness for eating them, that is. Your cart is filled with books and your customers will not be happy if they do not get what they’ve paid for.
What would you do? Take the left road through the creepy forest, or take a chance with the smelly, book-eating ogre on the right road through the plains?
Choice 1. I’d take the left road through the dangerous forest! (Vote: 88%)
Choice 2. I’ll take my chances with the smelly, book-eating ogre. (Vote: 12%)
You decide to go left, and you get horribly lost. Yes, the road looked fine, but that was before it started disappearing into the thick greenery of the forest. The trees feel like they’re closing in on you and it’s getting harder and harder to pull your cart full of books without one of the wheels stumbling on protruding roots. Soon it’s all but impossible to pull your cart any further. Whoever said this route was the fastest way to get the market was horribly, horribly wrong.
That’s when you start to hear the cackling. It’s really more of an annoying, mouse-like tittering than a cackle, like a witch decided to inhale some helium before performing some evil deeds.
You press yourself protectively against your book cart when a shriveled-up elf-like creature appears before you. It’s wearing tattered green and brown robes and its purple eyes pop out bug-like from its leathery face. You’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
“To pass through the enchanted forest with your skin intact, you must answer me true,” says the creature. “Would you rather have a thousand lifetimes and be able to read but one book of your choosing, or live one short, meaningless life, and have access to all books ever written?”
The creature looks up at you expectantly. I don’t think it takes silence as an answer. And whatever you decide to say could have consequences. Big consequences–this creature is full of magic!
So, what would you prefer? Thousand lifetimes + only one book, or one boring lifetime, but unlimited access to books?
Choice 1. I’d rather have a thousand lifetimes and only be able to read one book (that you would be able to choose). (Vote: 29%)
Choice 2. I’d rather live only one short pointless, meaningless life and have the freedom to read whatever I want. (Vote: 71%)
You would rather live one life with the freedom to read what you please. The elf-like creature gives you a funny look. “You would sacrifice an eternity of new experiences just so you can fill your house with piles of paper and words?”
You nod, placing a protective hand on your cart, which is overflowing with books.
The creature sighs and shakes its weathered head. “Very well.” And with the snap of its long, spindly fingers, it disappears. You’re alone in the creepy, mysterious forest once again. At least you’re still alive. That’s a plus.
But perhaps, not for long.
A wolf howls in the distance. Then another, higher-pitched wolf-cry joins in. You’re shaking in your boots. This being a magical forest, those wolves are probably not just your run-of-the-mill wild animals. Their teeth are probably very sharp, and they can probably smell your fear from far away.
“I could have granted you so much power,” says a voice in your ear. It’s the elf-like creature! You turn around frantically but it is nowhere to be seen.
No time to worry about that now. Two pairs of glinting yellow eyes glare at you from the darkness. You’re not a violent person by nature, but you will defend your books and your life until the last breath if you are attacked. Perhaps it’s better to attack first and establish dominance–show those wolves not to mess with you and your books! Or, you could cower under your cart–show the wolves that you’re not a threat.
What do you do? Attack the wolves, or hide under your cart?
Choice 1. I have to show those wolves who’s boss — attack!! (Vote: 71%)
Choice 2. I don’t know how to fight — cower under the cart! (Vote: 29%)
Show those wolves who’s boss–ATTACK!
…But you don’t really have any weapons. The wolves, with their sharp teeth, are probably going to have you for desert. Or a main meal. Now that they’re slinking out of the bushes, you see how thin they are. And how hungry they look.
But you are determined to protect your books!
Screaming out a nonsense war cry, you lunge at the wolves with your bare hands. The wolves, snarling and dripping saliva over the dewy forest floor, are surprised at your response and are momentarily startled. That’s the slight advantage you need to win. They back off a few steps, but they are not completely deterred.
You grab one of the books from the cart and wave it in front of the biggest wolf. He doesn’t take this well. His teeth sink into the volume. No! Oh well–it was a cheap volume, some romance novel. You can always source another copy. If you make it out of this situation alive, that is.
More growling, this time from behind! You risk a glance over your shoulder while the wolf chomps away at the romance novel and see there’s a third wolf–but he looks larger than the rest. More well fed. His fur coat is pure white, save for a black patch on his forehead that resembles a diamond. And his (her?) eyes–pure green. Just like the forest.
You could be crazy, but you think that this wolf might actually be sentient. There’s intelligence in those green eyes, but also many emotions: fear, bravery…maybe even sympathy.
You have mere seconds before the two starving wolves attack again. This magical wolf can obviously be of some help to you–it has to be! Do you appeal to the wolf’s intelligence to get it to help, or do you appeal to its emotions?
Choice 1. Intelligence plea: “You are obviously the alpha wolf here, and have command over these wolves. I am not a fitting meal for them. Help me, and I will leave you and your forest in peace.” (Vote: 80%)
Choice 2. Emotional plea: “Please, I mean you no harm. I just want to deliver my books to my shop, my one true passion. I have a good life, like you. Let me go, spare my life, and I will be eternally grateful.” (Vote: 20%)
Your Plea To The Wolf is Intelligent
The rabid wolves’ breath is hot on your skin, but your plea to the green-eyed wolf has been heard. A roar erupts from the magical wolf’s mouth with such force that the rabid wolves are knocked backwards. Another roar, and those wolves are yipping and fleeing, deep into the forest from whence they came.
“Thank you,” you say to the magical wolf, breathing a sigh of relief. “Now I will keep my end of the bargain, and leave the forest in peace…that is, if I ever find a way out of here.”
You turn away to re-organize your books so you can get going again, when you hear a deep male voice behind you. “I can help you.”
The voice startles you–could it be that pesky elf-like creature again? No. You spin around and the magical wolf is gone. In his place is a tall, muscular man. His feet are bare and calloused. His brown corduroy pants are tattered and worn, and the faded white vest that hangs on his shoulders looks like it will de-thread itself at any moment. His disheveled appearance matches one who has been shipwrecked on an island. But by no means does he look starved.
You gasp. “You…you’re a man?”
He hesitates. “Yes…some of the time. It’s complicated.” He grimaces, like it’s a painful subject to talk about.
“Why do you want to help me?” you ask.
“I…I am a guardian of this forest,” he replies, smiling at you. “I can show you the way to the edge of the forest, closest to the nearest town. After that…you can find your own way, yes?”
You nod. “Yes. I don’t know how I can ever repay you for this. I’d give you some of my books, but they’re all spoken for.”
“That’s not necessary,” he says. “I’m Chann.”
You tell him your name. After a few minutes of getting your books in order, you grab the cart handle. Chann offers to help pull, and you agree to take turns, as the book cart is heavy, and the path is narrow and full of obstacles.
Once you’re on your way again, a silence falls between you. Chann is a little mysterious. He doesn’t look much older than you, and he seems human enough, except for turning into a wolf. Part of you wants to learn more about him. On the other hand, everything in this forest is defying what you knew about the world. This could be an opportunity to learn more about the magic of the forest–and who knows? Maybe once you’re safely out of here, you could write a book about it!
What do you do? Ask Chann about himself, or ask Chann about the magic in the forest?
Choice 1. You ask Chann about himself. (Vote: 64%)
Choice 2. You ask Chann about the magic in the forest. (36%)
You Ask Chann About Himself
He seems a little surprised. And mildly uncomfortable. You’re not sure he’s going to answer, until his husky but youthful voice replies, “I was once like you. Traveling through the forest. Not even sure why now. The reason seems trivial now.” He loses himself for another moment. “There was this…creature. Before I knew what was happening, my body was changing. I don’t know how long I stayed a wolf that first time. But I awoke sometime later, and it was dark, and covered in blood…”
You bite your lip as Chann falls silent. Leaves crunch beneath your feet as you walk, and they seem so much louder now than they did only moments before.
“I’ve been here ever since,” he adds, with an air of finality. “And I cannot leave, not unless–”
A high-pitched, giddy laugh echoes through the trees, and you know what’s coming. You clutch Chann’s arm protectively as the wrinkly elf-like creature pops into existence in front of you. Its buggy, purple eyes seem even wider than before, and it looks from you, to Chann, and back to you. A toothy grin spreads across its leathery face.
“You found Wolfy, I see,” says the creature in an annoying, crackly voice. It sings, “Wolfy, wolfy, up a tree, plotting against the forest and me! Want to take my magic and use it all for yourself again, Chann, hmm?”
Take the creature’s magic…again?
The magical elf-creature notices your concern. “Did the wolfy tell you a sob story? Lost, all alone, poor little Channy? Bah! Murderer! Liar! THIEF! Tried to take my magic, little silver-tongue Channy did, but I took care of you. Little Wolfy, now you wear your true nature as a reminder of your transgressions against me and HUMANKIND!”
Chann doesn’t say anything in his defence, except, “I have been in this forest a long time.”
You don’t know either creature. Right now Chann seems to be your best bet at getting through the forest alive…unless his plan is to murder you when you’ve let your guard down. The elf-like creature tried to grant you magical powers–perhaps if you got on its good side, it would help you get your books through the forest.
Whom do you believe? Chann, or the magical elf-creature?
Choice 1. Defend Chann (Vote: 83%)
Choice 2. Side with the magical elf-creature (Vote: 17%)
You defend the shapeshifter.
“You listen here,” you say, stepping forward. “All you’ve done since I’ve arrived in this forest is meddle in my affairs. I’m just trying to find a way out, and so far, Chann is the only one to help me.”
Your stance is brave, even though you’re terrified. You’re really sticking your neck out here. You lay a hand on your book pile for strength.
“Wolfy, wolfy,” the magical elf creature says softly, shaking its head in disapproval. “Filled this bookseller’s head with words, words that are empty. But is the bookseller’s job to believe them or not. Hence…”
The creature twirls its finger in the air. Its yellow, cracked nail is filed to a dangerously sharp point. Chann flinches, and pulls you backwards protectively.
“I would tell you to run,” he whispers, failing to keep the worry from his voice. “But you can’t outrun its magic. Believe me. I’ve tried.”
The creature’s grin is sickening. “Choose wisely, little bookworm…this form may be your last!”
It cackles wildly. And then you start to feel…strange. Like your body is melting into the forest floor. You look down. Your hands are nothing but white dust. Bits of you are flying everywhere. You are being reduced to a swirl of faery dust!
But wait. Choose wisely? Does this mean you can will yourself into whatever form you want? You try to will yourself into a human form again, but no, that’s not working! Quickly, now — if you can’t be a human, what animal would you rather be?
Choice 1 Bird (39%)
Choice 2 Wolf (56%)
Choice 3 Worm (6%)
You become a wolf
Your body feels strange. Your nose and mouth elongate into a wolf’s muzzle, and your arms and legs tingle with goosebumps as sleek brown and black fur breaks through and ripples across your skin. Your clothes are rags at your feet–paws, that is. If you have to be any animal, it would be a wolf–because they’re majestic, they’re strong hunters.
You are no longer human, so you don’t have human thoughts, and it gets harder and harder to remember who you were and what exactly you were doing in the forest. All you know is that the Evil Creature radiates an awful heat that you have to get away from. You bolt into the forest, leaving everything behind.
Someone is chasing you. Your new wolf senses are overwhelming, but you smell another wolf in the vicinity–he races beside you. White coat, black diamond fur-shape on the forehead–shining eyes. An old name races through your wolf brain–Chann.
As you run together, you feel your heartbeats thumping in sync. He doesn’t speak, at least not in the way a human speaks. He gestures with his wolf nose to the light streaming through the thinning trees.
Could it be? The edge of the forest?
There’s something you’re forgetting. It takes a few seconds for your wolf brain to remember what it was like to be human, to have responsibility…to have books.
Right! Your books! You have a cart full that you need to get to your customers, else they’ll be mad at you. You’re a wolf right now, so you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to be a book shop owner AND an animal who can’t leave the magical forest…
But that all seems so far away right now. Being a wolf…it’s simple and relaxing. You’re not responsible for anything. You and Chann could live together in the magical forest, and just be. Maybe that mysterious creature did you a favour.
So, what do you choose? Spend your days as a carefree wolf, or try to go back for your books?
Choice 1: Live forever as a wolf (60%)
Choice 2: Go back for your books (40%)
You live forever as a wolf
You barely even remember making the choice. Being a wolf is part of who you are now. Maybe it’s always been part of you, and being a bookshop owner was only a dream.
Chann is a good companion, as he knows the forest well. The two of you form a special bond together as you navigate the charms and challenges of the magical forest.
You never again see the creature that made you this way–at least, you don’t think so. Sometimes there’s a glimmer of light in the trees that isn’t the sun, and more often than not, there’s a cackling laughter off in the distance.
Many, many moons later, when your fur is more grey than any other colour, you happen upon a mound that smells of decomposing. Scraps of paper stick out of the dirt. Although your wolf brain can no longer read human words, you feel a tinge of familiarity before moving on.
What are you waiting for? Sign up for the Faery Ink Press Book Club to have a say in the current You-Choose story.