Youth Advisory Board Writers Group: Kaitlyn Penchina

Inklings Youth Advisory Board Writers Group: Kaitlyn Penchina


This summer our Inklings Youth Advisory Board Writers Group chose a topic to write about. The goal of this project is for us to stretch ourselves to explore new topics and formats in our writing, share our work with others, be open to feedback, and enjoy collaborating with other writers. The theme is Shadows. Enjoy reading!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!



by Kaitlyn Penchina
This isn’t my quick fix, my first kiss, my star-crossed crucifix
This is your old tricks, those small slips, now those I do not miss
You’re an inner demon, trying to get your foot in, trying to begin
To make me sin like I did back then, but I’m not who I’ve been
You can no longer inspire that all-consuming fire, set me up on a pyre
Try it and I’ll go haywire, the situation’s dire, we both know you’re a liar
You can’t “help” me, “shelter” me, pelt me with words mercilessly
Your help isn’t helping me, can’t you see that you’re hurting me?
You set me on fire before this, now I’m a phoenix, a living myth
Or at least this seemed mythic when you told me my only gift
Was the spark inside of me, that mark you wanted to tear apart
That part of me that wouldn’t depart, my Noah on his ark
The flood came, the shame came, I couldn’t live up to my own name
But the raindrops remained even after the pain I’d sustained
So you can’t come to this church and hum your verse about me no more
Because my world is crashing with waves and sea storms
And I am not a shadow of that blaze I once was
I am at the bottom of the ocean, on my throne
And when people ask me, I tell them I’m finally home

Inklings Book Finalist: Maia Goel

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Maia Goel

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Maia Goel! Maia finished 7th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Elements” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!



by Maia Goel

+++++One Sunday night, a flash of blinding white light lit up the office building of Illumination Middle School. From this light emerged a tall woman with dark ringlets, skin the color of hot chocolate and bright white fingernails. She had an interesting demeanor about her, mysterious, while at the same time being quite warm and welcoming. She carried a small flat device with four dots on it, all pulsing different colors. As the woman watched, each dot swelled, one by one, starting with the blue and ending with the red. She smiled, showing off pearly white teeth that contrasted sharply with her skin tone, switched the device off and pulled a cellphone out of her pocket.
“Hello?” she said into the phone. “Yes, everything is fine. I just got here, but I can already see that they are extremely powerful. The water elementalist will develop first.”

+++++There was a pause. “No, I don’t know if they are girls or boys, what their marks are, or how old they are. You know perfectly well that the device you gave me does not tell me that.”

+++++There was another pause. “Of course I understand, you’ve been saying the same things for the past three days, so stop asking questions!” she exclaimed, obviously getting aggravated. “I’ll be fine. Goodbye.”


* Jasmine *

+++++At the end of my first class of the day, Social Studies, my teacher Mr. Salon was droning on and on about the Greeks.

+++++“And that is how the Greeks worshipped their gods. You better remember that, class, because you have a test on Wednesday on every aspect of the Greeks that you have learned,” he announced. “Of course,” he continued when the protests of the students grew too loud, “I would have told you about the test sooner, but I just found out it was moved to Wednesday since you have a science test on the day it was supposed to take place.”

+++++In the five minutes I had in between classes, I raced to the bathroom. Up until a few years ago, we used to live by the ocean. The pounding of the waves on the shore always lulled me to sleep, and the feeling of the water around me washed away any worries that the day had brought. Even now, three years later, any time I touched the water it calmed me down, and it had become part of my routine to touch water on Mondays and brace myself for the upcoming week. I turned the tap on and let the silky, smooth, ice-cold water run over my hands. I breathed in and out slowly, letting any panic I had pool into my fingertips and flow out with the streams of water running off them.

+++++After a few moments, I reached up to splash some water on my face and noticed a small image on the inside of my right wrist. I brought it closer to my face and saw that it was an intricately drawn sea-green wave, bright against my tan skin. Alarm welled up in me yet again. I had definitely not drawn it, so how had it gotten there?

+++++I was quickly distracted from the mark when the tap started to go crazy. It sprayed me with water, and, however hard I tried, I couldn’t escape the jets of melted ice. By the time I had battled through what seemed like a solid wall of water and turned the tap off, I was soaked from head to toe.

+++++I wasn’t sure what to do since I couldn’t go to math as a soggy mess. Deciding that the office was my only option, I ran as quickly as I could to the office building, shivering in the cold and arrived right as the final bell started ringing around campus.

+++++I rushed into the office, taking my time once I was enveloped in the warm air of the room. An unfamiliar dark woman with a bright, friendly smile was sitting at the front desk, almost as if she was waiting for me.

+++++“Hello there. I’m the newest member of the office staff, Ms. Carno. Am I right in assuming that you need to be dried off, and perhaps a late pass?” she asked.

+++++“Yep,” I answered. “I’m supposed to be in math right now, but I had a teensy little accident with a tap and…” I gestured helplessly to my dripping wet apparel.

+++++“Well, I’m sure we can get you dry and on your way to class in no time. Just come around to the back and there is a little heater you can stand in front of while I go dig up a towel for your hair.”

+++++I looked at her dubiously when she mentioned getting me dry ‘in no time.’ Could she not see me dripping and forming a puddle so big that it was practically a lake? Nevertheless, I followed her to the back where, as promised, a small heater was cheerfully blasting hot air into the room.

+++++Ms. Carno disappeared through a doorway, presumably to find me a towel. The heater must have been extremely strong, because, as she exited the room, a blast of air enveloped and warmed me instantly. It was very weird, but when Ms. Carno came back, towel in hand, to find me almost completely dry except for my hair she just laughed it off.

+++++“Well,” she started as I wrapped the snowy white towel around my shoulders, “at least we know the heater works. Now that you’re dry, you should probably get to class. I’ll write you a late pass. Come back at lunch to give me the towel back. Don’t come at brunch, since your hair probably won’t be dry by then.”

+++++I nodded, and she quickly filled out a pass.

+++++“There you go,” she said brightly. “Be wary of disobedient faucets!” Laughing, I got two steps out the door before I walked straight into Jake.

+++++“Oomph! Sorry,” I apologized quickly. He smiled. He had bronze skin, cocoa-brown hair, and bright green eyes. It was an interesting combination, but not unpleasant.

+++++“It’s fine. Why were you in the office and not in math?” he asked.

+++++“Oh, a tap decided to attack me,” I answered nonchalantly.

+++++“Well, good luck in math. It’s a disaster in there,” he told me.

+++++I had been about to say goodbye when he dropped this little bombshell. “What…?” I questioned, but he had already turned around and was heading to the office as if he didn’t want to talk about it.

+++++“You’ll see!” he called over his shoulder. I heard the sound of the office door opening and closing, so I turned around and left. Only then did I realize that I never asked him why he was there.


* Jake *

+++++A small ‘oomph’ escaped me when I ran into Jasmine, my mind occupied with the seemingly impossible task of taking in what had just occurred in 2nd period Algebra.

+++++I was in a good mood when I walked into math that morning, since I had just had science and next period was brunch. That is, until Ms. Stoneten uttered the two most dreaded words in a student’s life.

+++++“Pop quiz!” Ms. Stoneten announced. “Take out a pencil and sit down. I’ll bring the quizzes to you.” I groaned as I sat down at Table Six, my fingers already scrabbling at the zipper on my backpack to take out a pencil. Sam, my best friend, had already sat down and was currently fishing through his own backpack for a pencil. I predicted that he would have little success since Sam lost a pencil everyday, if not two. Ella, another Table Six member, already had two pencils out and was ready to start the quiz. I idly wondered where Jasmine, the final member of our group, was.

+++++“Does anyone have…,” Sam started, but was cut off when Ella shoved her extra pencil at him. “Oh. Thanks!”

+++++“Jake, is that a sticker?” inquired Ella.

+++++“What? What sticker?” I replied.

+++++“The one on your forehead, duh,” Sam chimed in. “You know, the one that’s all swirly and white? Kind of looks like a non-invisible gust of wind?”

+++++“You mean a visible one?” I asked, trying the mask the confusion I felt. What on earth were they talking about? There was nothing on my forehead. I even felt it with my hand, but found nothing.

+++++I was quickly distracted when Ms. Stoneten arrived at our table with the quizzes, bringing with her a need for silence. Ignoring my friends’ questioning glances, I set about starting the breathing ritual I performed before every quiz and test. I closed my eyes and began breathing in and out, making each intake and expulsion of air last as long as I could make them. Once, I thought I felt a cool breeze on my cheek, but ignored it and blocked it out, focusing only on my breathing.

+++++When I finally opened my eyes, I was in for a nasty surprise. The classroom was in complete disarray, books and papers everywhere, students yelling, a ferocious wind making everything worse; basically complete chaos. I seemed to be the only exception. I was in the eye of the storm, not a hair on my head disturbed. It must have seemed like I was the culprit, because I was the only one not affected, and Ms. Stonemen started shouting at me.

+++++“JAKE LOWE!” she screeched. “GO TO THE OFFICE RIGHT NOW!” Not wanting to risk the wrath of my teacher, I left as quickly as I could. As I walked, I wondered what was going on. How had I been the only person not affected? How had that even happened in the first place? My mind wandered back to the supposed sticker on my forehead, but when I went into the bathroom to check the mirror, there was nothing there. Deciding that my friends must have been trying to trick me, I continued on my way to the office. That’s when I ran into Jasmine right outside the door.

+++++Conversation with her ensued, although my mind was only half paying attention. She had tan skin and long, dark hair that usually spilled over her shoulders, although now it was damp and hung limply on top of a towel down her back. Her dark eyes seemed to sparkle as she told me she had been attacked by a sink. I guess that’s why her hair was wet, although it didn’t really make any sense to me.

+++++When our conversation drew to a close and I had walked away, I opened the office doors and entered. A tall African-American woman with curly hair was sitting at the front desk, typing something onto a desktop computer.

+++++“Oh hello,” she greeted me. “What are you here for?” I explained my current predicament and told her that I had no idea what was going on and that I was in no way to blame. Strangely, she didn’t look surprised.

+++++“Well, I believe you.” she stated. I was confused. Why did she believe me so readily? I had only just met her.

+++++“You do?” I asked.

+++++“Yes. You don’t seem like the type who would lie. I’ll talk to Ms. Stoneten at brunch and try to make her understand that you had nothing to do with that. You may come back at lunch to find out what she decides and if you will be punished for this. I think that you had better stay here for the remainder of the period. You can sit in that chair in the corner and quietly work on homework or read.” She said this all quite warmly, but the dismissal was obvious and left no room for discussion.

+++++I nodded and went to sit in the corner, my mind spinning with confusion. What had happened in math? Why did the lady at the desk seem like she knew exactly what was occurring? What was going on?


* Alex *

+++++“And…GO!” my P.E. teacher Ms. Golder shouted. I took off running, my arms and legs pumping in sync. And then I felt a rock in my left shoe, digging into my foot and slowing me down. I ran for a few more seconds and, seeing that no one else was around me, I sat down and pulled my shoe off. I fished around for a few seconds in search of the offending object when I was distracted by something on my ankle. The small pebble that had been bothering me so much forgotten, I peered closer to get a better look. There was a small brown blob (maybe a rock?) and a green seedling inked right on my skin! I was confused, but decided that I would deal with it at brunch. I shoved my shoe back onto my foot and stood up.

+++++My friend, Ryan, snuck up to me and tagged me on my shoulder as I stood up and, giving a shout of surprise, I ran after him until he slowed down.

+++++“Hey,” I greeted him casually.

+++++“Hi Alex. Let’s go destroy everyone else!” Ryan responded.

+++++“Yeah!” I agreed and, just like that, we were off, running across the field in search of a victim. Soon, we targeted Kaia, a seventh grade girl who was in my science class. She was incredibly fast, and it was hard to get close to her.

+++++‘Come on…stop!’ I mentally begged her.

+++++Suddenly, Kaia stumbled and fell forward. “Are you OK?” Ryan asked, rushing forward to help her.

+++++“Yeah, I’m fine,” she told me, sitting up on her knees. “It’s like I got stuck in the ground or something.” Ryan got up and started examining where she had ‘gotten stuck’ only to find nothing. Not mud, a hole, or even a footprint.

+++++“That’s really weird,” he commented touching the ground. “There’s no trace of anything. Are you sure you’re fine?” he asked Kaia.

+++++“Yep. I can still get away from you guys.” She smiled, got up, and took off running before either us had anytime to react.

+++++“Hey! That’s not fair!” Ryan shouted at Kaia, taking off running after her. I stayed behind, thinking about what had just happened.

+++++It was like my wish had been granted. Maybe I…. No. It was just a coincidence. I don’t have any magical powers or anything.

+++++It took me a few moments to notice that someone was calling my name.

+++++“Alex Thompson! Alex Thompson come here!” It was Ms. Golder calling me over while simultaneously waving a small blue slip of paper in the air. Uh oh. That small, innocent-looking, azure piece of paper meant that someone in the office wanted to talk to you. As I jogged over, I mentally ran over everything I had done in the last few weeks. There was nothing that I had done that warranted a trip the office. My face was still creased in confusion when I reached Ms. Golder.

+++++“This is for you,” she said rather unnecessarily, handing the slip of paper to me. I nodded and scanned the paper quickly.

+++++Please come to the office at lunch,’ it read in an unfamiliar neat script. That was it.

+++++“Thank you,” I told Ms. Golder, preparing to rejoin the game I had just left. She nodded, and I jogged back to my game, contemplating why in the world I had to go to the office at lunch. I would just have to wait to find out.


* Emelia *

+++++I, Emilia Garcia, half-Spanish, half-Italian, and born in Spain, am freezing. It wasn’t just a little cold, a little frost in the air and a small bite in the wind. No, it was breath-hanging-in-the-air, if-it-was-raining-it-wouldn’t-be-raining-it-would-be- snowing-or-hailing, I’m-going-to-freeze-to-death-even-though-this-is-California cold. I wasn’t even exaggerating. Not the tiniest bit. Ok…maybe I was exaggerating a little, but in my defense, it really is freezing out here. Shouldn’t my fiery red hair mean that I was fire and therefore never cold?

+++++“Tengo muchisimo frio,” I told no one in particular. My friends, accustomed to my habit of sometimes talking in Spanish for no apparent reason, just looked at me. “Mis manos son como hielo, y mi chaqueta no está ayudando. ¡Oh! Pienso que tengo sopa para almuerzo. Puede ser que eso me ayudará.”

+++++“Em, you know that we can’t understand you,” my friend Ella responded.

+++++“I’m really cold, my hands are like ice, my jacket isn’t helping, and I think I have soup for lunch which might help,” I translated.

+++++“Ok…” my other friend Rose muttered. Accustomed to my craziness as they were, they chose to just ignore my meaningless rant and instead sit down at the empty table we had just found.

+++++I quickly unzipped my lunchbox, took my thermos out, and opened it.

+++++“Yes!” I cheered. “Soup! Victory is mine!”

+++++“Good for you,” said Rose before changing the subject. “So, how was fourth period?”

+++++I listened to Ella talk about how glad she was that English was perfectly normal, seeing as her math class had been quite eventful, while I tucked into my warm soup. Somehow, I managed to get some onto my hands, and I went to wipe them when I noticed something on my left wrist. I brought it closer to my eyes to study it, and soon discovered that it was a small red-orange-yellow flame.

+++++“How did that get there?” I wondered out loud. Ella and Rose, now engaged in an animated conversation about Social Studies and the upcoming test, didn’t hear me.

+++++I was still thinking about the mark and how it had gotten there when I returned to eating. The soup wasn’t that warm, which I expected. I mean, even a thermos can’t keep soup piping hot all day, but I wished it was.

+++++Quite suddenly, the thermos got red-hot, and the soup began to boil. I, unfortunately, had been holding the thermos when this occurred, and had dropped it, spilling its contents on the ground.

+++++“OW!” I shouted, and my friends turned to look at me.

+++++“What’s wrong Em?” they enquired in unison. In response, I simply turned my palms upward so they could see them. They looked quite horrible. My palms, I mean, not Ella and Rose, though I guess their expressions were quite horrible too. They were red and raw, with blisters already forming. It was incredibly painful, and I was blinking back tears.

+++++“What happened?” asked Ella gently while Rose left to find an adult.

+++++“I don’t know,” I mumbled through the pain. “One second I was drinking my soup, and the next, I had burnt hands.”

+++++Right then, Rose returned with a tall, authoritative, African-American woman.

+++++“I’m Ms. Carno,” woman said, carefully taking hold of my wrists to examine them. “You’d better come to the office with me. I know that we have some burn cream that will fix you right up in the first aid box. You two don’t need to come,” she told Rose and Ella, who were about to offer to do just that, “I can take care of her. Come on.” With her final words, she gave my wrist a gentle tug and I stood up, focusing on trying to block out the pain.

+++++How had the thermos burned me? Why did Ms. Carno seem like she knew exactly what had happened and why? Who was she?


* * *

+++++The water elementalist arrived first, an Indian girl named Jasmine, carrying a damp white towel in her right hand and humming a tune under her breath. Next came the air elementalist, an African-American boy named Jake, with piercing green eyes and a hopeful look on his face. He greeted the water elementalist with a smile, and she replied with one of her own. The earth elementalist, an Asian boy by the name of Alex, with dark hair, pale skin, and brown almond-shaped eyes entered next. His expression was apprehensive, and he was clutching a piece of wrinkled blue paper in his left hand. He greeted the other two with a tilt of his head, to which they responded in kind. Finally, the fire elementalist, Emilia, a European girl with violently red hair, freckles, and blue eyes, arrived alongside their guardian.

+++++Their guardian, whose name was Lena Carno, took the towel Jasmine offered her and carried it to her desk. She returned with a tube of burn cream and squeezed it over Emilia’s hands.

+++++She then spoke, “If you would stay, I have something to explain to all four of you. First of all, Alex and Jake, you’re not in trouble. I explained everything to Ms. Stoneten, and that slip was from me.” The boys looked relieved, while the girls just looked at Ms. Carno, waiting for her to continue. “My name is Lena Carno, and I am your guardian.” She held up her hand as if to convey that any questions were to wait until the end of her explanation. “You are each an elementalist, meaning you have certain powers related to your element. You all have had strange experiences today, and I’m sure you have all found your mark. Jasmine, you are a water elementalist. Your mark is either a water drop or a wave and is found on your right wrist. Alex, you are an earth elementalist. Your mark is a rock that is sometimes accompanied by a seedling, and appears on one of your ankles. Jake, you are an air elementalist. Your mark is a curl of wind and shows up on your forehead. Emilia, you are a fire elementalist. Your mark is a flame and can be found on your left wrist. I am an air elementalist like Jake.” An image of a gust of wind, similar to Jake’s briefly appeared on her forehead before disappearing. “That’s how you got dry so quickly Jasmine. I enveloped you in warm air. I am the guardian for all four of you. This means that I shall be your mentor in the Fours, where you will learn to control your power.” She looked at each elementalist’s face, whose expressions ranged from confused to disbelieving. “Now, if you each take my hand, I have something to show you.” All did so.

+++++Lena pulled a small flat device, now blank, from her pocket, and made sure that she was holding everyone’s hand.

+++++“We will be visiting the Fours for a brief amount of time,” she announced. “Don’t worry, we’ll be back before the end of lunch.” Leaving no time to react, she clicked a button on the device and all five people disappeared in a flash of white light.

Inklings Book Finalist: Kaia Lucas

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Kaia Lucas

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Kaia Lucas! Kaia finished 2nd grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Kirlia and the Dragon” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!


Kirlia and the Dragon

by Kaia Lucas

+++++Once there was a girl named Kirlia. She was 9 years old and had a mischievous older brother named Nathan. They loved to play tricks on each other. One moonlit night while Nathan was asleep, she set to work on her latest trick on him. This time she set a bucket, attached by a hose to the sink, on the shelf above his bed. When he moved, the bucket would tip and he would get drenched in water.

+++++First, she phoned her friends, Kiki, Ben, Laila, and Tiffany. As soon as they arrived, she set to work pulling ropes. “Kiki, hammer those nails a bit quicker, we don’t have all night.”

+++++But Tiffany, (“oh-so-strangely”) wasn’t there. Kirlia texted her to make sure she was okay. Luckily, she was. She just forgot their plan, as usual, and had gone to sleep. When Tiffany finally arrived, they were almost done with their project.

+++++“Tada!” Said Kirlia, “Now we have to wait for Nathan to wake up!” A few long, dreadful, hours later…BRRIIINNNGGG!!! Kirlia giggled, “This is going to be so funny!” She said.

+++++“Kirlia! COME HERE THIS INSTANT!” Yelled Nathan.

+++++“Why should I?” said Kirlia.

+++++“I said, COME HERE THIS INSTANT!” Shouted Nathan.

+++++“Why should I?” she asked again. Suddenly, their fighting was silenced by a huge roar.

+++++“Huh?” Kirlia wondered. She peeked outside. “AAAHHH!!! DRAGON!!”

+++++“Huh?!” asked Nathan. “A dragon? But I’m sure they aren’t real.”

+++++“Apparently, they are,” said Kirlia

+++++“No, they can’t be! It’s impossible,” argued Nathan.

+++++“Are too.” Said Kirlia in her oh-I’m-so-innocent voice, trying to stop her brother’s arguing.

+++++“Are no… AAAHHH!” The dragon started breathing fire on the house!

+++++“Everybody run for your lives!” But then a strong wind blasted out of the dragon’s mouth, blowing Kirlia and her friends away.


+++++“Oww,” Kirlia groaned, “Where are we?”

+++++“In the forest,” said Laila. They were deep in the forest next to Kirlia’s house.

+++++“Oh! That dragon must be the mother of the legendary dragon egg,” said Kirlia. She had heard the story of the legendary dragon egg when she was just two years old. There was a mother dragon with her egg, but the beaked dragon came and stole the egg and put it deep into the forest.

+++++“What’s the legendary dragon egg?” Ben asked.

+++++“It’s a special egg that has great powers!” Exclaimed Kirlia, “But it was stolen from its mother a long time ago.”

+++++“Oh no,” said Laila, turning white, “Let’s go now!”

+++++A little way into the forest they found a clearing. Kirlia told her friends to search the clearing. As they searched, Kiki said, “where is it?” Laila held up the egg. “Ha! Found it!” Suddenly, they heard a deafening roar. It was the beaked dragon!

+++++“Oh no!” Kirlia shouted. Just then, the egg started to hatch. Kirlia and her friends gasped. The beaked dragon nipped at the baby. The baby thudded to the ground, (it was a baby, after all) as it struggled to get up, the beaked dragon lunged at him, but because the baby was a special legendary dragon with great powers, it fought back by sending out an energy bomb. The beaked dragon flew fearfully away into the sky.

+++++“Now let’s go home and return the baby to its mother,” said Laila. It took a while, but as soon as they got home, the baby dragon leaped into its mother’s arms. Kirlia smiled watching them as they (miraculously) cuddled together.

Inklings Book Finalist: Harshita Dasot

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Harshita Dasot

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Harshita Dasot! Harshita finished 4th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “The Dragon of Coral Cove” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!


The Dragon of Coral Cove

by Harshita Dasot


+++++One peculiar day, two twins were born. They were the key to the Underworld. The twins, Lia and Mia did not know this. They always dreamed of adventure ever since they were born. They grew up and when they were 12, they came upon a book. It was unlike any other book. It glowed at night and sounds burst out of it in the day. Lia and Mia had been too afraid to open it at first, but their curiosity overtook them. They opened it the next day in their bedroom. Suddenly, a voice spoke, coming from the book.

+++++“You are Mia and Lia I presume?” The voice spoke. Mia and Lia answered with a “Yes”. Then Mia and Lia asked the voice a question.

+++++“How do you know us?” They asked in chorus. “Why, you don’t know? You are the key to the Underworld. If you touch anything with information about the Underworld, that thing turns into a portal to the Underworld. When you touched this book it turned into a portal because it, The Dragon of Coral Cove contained information about me, the dragon of Coral Cove. Coral Cove is in the Underworld. I came to talk to you through the portal because I am chained up in Coral Cove for no reason at all. Can you help me be free? I want to go back to my family in the Underworld. By the way, my name is Jerry. Oh, and if you’re in the Underworld, time won’t pass in your world.”

+++++Mia and Lia looked at each other with grins and agreed to help the dragon. They both stepped into the book and found themselves in a hot, moist cave with bars at the entrance. They presumed it was Coral Cove. They saw the dragon sitting at the other end of the cave watching them. They went over to him and he said, “So what’s the plan to free me from here?”

Chapter 1: The Plan

+++++Mia, Lia, and Jerry the dragon, were having a chat on how to free Jerry without suspicion and hardship. Mia’s face suddenly lit up. “I’ve got it! The perfect plan. Since the chains are metal, Jerry you can melt them in the day, since no one guards this place that time. Then we will run or fly to the gates. Lia and I will have clubs ready with us should the guard try to stop us from escaping. Once we are out the gate, Lia and I can go home and you can find your family Jerry.”

+++++Lia thought it over and said, “It’s not a bad idea.” Jerry looked at them with sad, long eyes and said, “I can’t breath fire. I had traded it for my life. A long time ago, I was in a battle between two different clans of dragons. I was about to be killed, but then the dragon that almost killed me said if I gave my dragon fire he would let me live. I let my fire go and survived the battle unlike my older brother Garry. But, I was captured the next day and to this day I’ve been held captive in Coral Cove.”

+++++Mia thought a minute and said, “Don’t worry. We will make a fire instead of you breathing it.”

Chapter 2: The Escape

+++++Mia, Lia, and Jerry gathered hay from Jerry’s mattress, wood from Jerry’s bed, and rock from the floor. Once they were done gathering hay, they gathered the brush and pushed it against the metal bars. Then Mia picked up two stones and rubbed them together. In a few seconds, sparks shot out of the rocks. Mia dropped them into the brush. A few seconds later, the bars began to show signs of melting.

+++++Within seconds they climbed onto Jerry’s back and had clubs ready with them. As soon as the bars melted, Jerry flew out of the wide opening through the grand, bronze gates. As they had expected the guard tried to fight them. Mia and Lia raised their clubs and fought off the giant centaur. After the centaur had experienced a few cuts and bruises he let the team pass. But as soon as they went out the gate they were flying over the Mystery Mermaid Sea. Lia and Mia did not know this yet.

+++++“Oh, no! Now what do we do? We can’t go home in the middle of the sea!” , Lia said as she panicked.

+++++“I’m afraid this is more than a sea. This is the Mystery Mermaid Sea. In it mermaids of different personalities live. You can only leave this sea if you meet with a mermaid. That mermaid might be good or evil. If it is good, it will let you pass after you hear one of its jokes. But if it is evil, it will sing a short song to lure you into the sea and capture you forever. If you hear the song there is no way to resist it even with something in your ears”, Jerry said.

+++++“You see, the evil mermaid has magic which she uses to make sure you can hear it, with or without something in your ears. I can’t fly over this sea because it also has gates that stretch into the sky and never end just like Coral Cove”, added Jerry with a grim expression.

Chapter 3: The Song

+++++“Oh, no! This is so bad! What are we going to do?”, said Mia, panicking this time. Suddenly, they heard a sound. They all exchanged glances. They knew this was not good. A song started.

“Come, come where heartaches never happen.
Come, come where there is pure relief and relaxation.
Come, come where there is fun.
Come, come where heartaches never happen.”

+++++After the song, an eerie, wailing sound came from below. The dragon started to freefall. In panic, Mia scrambled around Jerry’s back trying to grab hold of something. Instead Mia slipped on Jerry’s scales and started falling even faster than him. Lia suddenly saw a mermaid waving at her. She took a chance and jumped off Jerry’s back. By that time they were close to the water, so she landed in the mermaid’s hands. The mermaid smiled at her and took Mia to another mermaid waiting in the water.

+++++She gasped in surprise for she saw her sister in the other mermaid’s hands. They smiled at each other. Lia felt something was not right. Then she realized what was wrong. They were evil mermaids! They took her sister and her under the water. Mia and Lia lost consciousness in a few seconds.

Chapter 4: The Cheats

+++++A few hours later, Mia and Lia were sitting in a conch shell prison with air bubbles around their heads. They looked at each other and finally understood it, the Plan. The mermaids, the dragon, the centaur guard, the dragon’s fake story. It was all a plan to capture them.

+++++“Why did you capture us? What did we do to you? Why?!”, asked Mia and Lia together once they found out they could talk.

+++++“We want to take over the Underworld. You angered the new king’s old nemesis, Mordu. Mordu is our king. The new king has a weakness. He can’t stand anyone being captured without wrong doing. We will turn you over to the king once you can’t breathe anymore. He will turn over his kingdom to let you live. Then all the bad creatures in the Underworld can live in peace. We are called the Cheats. Oh, and I can breathe fire. Also, Coral Cove was my real home, not a prison.”, said the dragon. Mia and Lia were very angry once they made sense of their situation.

+++++“These air bubblesss get sssmaller as you take breathsss. Once the bubblesss are sssmall enough they will sssuffocate you.”, said both mermaids, hissing with lizard-like tongues. The Cheats glanced at each other and cackled.

+++++“We can’t believe you fell for it”, said the dragon cackling some more.

Chapter 5: The King

+++++The Cheats disappeared after saying that. Mia and Lia looked at each other with long, sad eyes, hoping this wasn’t the last time they would see each other. Their air bubbles got smaller and after a few minutes, they fell asleep…. The Cheats came into the room, picked Mia and Lia off the floor, and with a flash changed into presentable clothes. The Cheats swam out the door, then jumped into a water current leading to the king’s castle. After a few minutes of bumpy riding, the Cheats landed in front of the castle. The castle was enormous with large clamshells decorating the perimeter of it. The Cheats went to the gates and asked the guard to let them in.

+++++“Why should I let you in? You have no purpose here. Do you have an offer for the king?!”, the guard asked suspiciously. “Oh, we do have an offer for the king, though it may turn out to be a deal in the end”, the Cheats answered with pure confidence. The guard escorted the Cheats to the king’s bedchamber. They went in, bowed, and then the guard introduced them to the king. The guard bowed again and left the room.

+++++“Well, what do you want this time, Cheats?”, the King asked with a tinge of anger in his voice. “We want to make a deal with you. We have two young girls as prisoners and will only free them if you give us your kingdom.” “Not two, innocent girls for prisoners. Let them go! Please let them go. Fine, I will give my kingdom to you.” , the king said, desperate to free the young girls.

+++++“Not so fast! Mr. King, don’t give your kingdom right now. Just listen to me. I know what I am doing.”, said Mia popping out of nowhere. The Cheats said with confusion to each other,

+++++“How did she get here?” The King meanwhile was thinking about what Mia had said.

+++++“Ok, I will listen to the little girl. She is one of the prisoners anyways. I declare war against you and your King Mordu!”, the King announced.

+++++“Ok, since you already have one girl, we suppose you can have the other also”, the Cheats sneered. They snapped their fingers and in front of the King, appeared another girl, who was the spitting image of her sister.


Chapter 6: Plan Win

+++++Mia and Lia ran and embraced each other. “My name is Mia and she is Lia. Mr. King listen to everything we say or else you will lose the battle. First, we need to gather all the people and animals on your side. Also gather the children. Then, with them and your soldiers you will have a better chance of winning the battle. Once we have gathered everyone we will have to prepare them. Even your soldiers will need more preparation. After preparations we will give them drills to do everyday. They all will have a special job to do. They will learn what they have to do in any situation. On the day of the battle, they will fight with all their might and try to win the battle. To win they will have to kill Mordu. If they do not, another day of battle will be in their future. This plan is called “Plan Win”.

+++++“Plan Win” is how we will win. After we win, Lia and I will go home and the Cheats will not disturb you.”, said Mia.

Chapter 7: The Jobs

+++++Whatever Mia had said to the King, he had done. After preparations, Lia assigned jobs to the people.

+++++“Women shall be in charge of the makeshift hospital during battle. The men will be using their weapons from home to fight. Men will participate in the army drills also. The older children are in charge of building a wall and fort to store our supplies. In the battle they will be using slingshots to fight. The oldest children will be allowed to use weapons instead of slingshots. The younger children will be using shields to protect themselves and other people around them. The soldiers are more experienced so they will help the men sharpen their skills. The soldiers should show the men all their tricks. Last but not least, the animals will be helping carry the food and drinks. All the supplies will be provided. Thank You! You may now start your work.” After the big speech Mia and Lia got together and agreed that everything was going as planned.

+++++They went to the women who were organizing the makeshift hospital for the injured. Then they went to the army field where they saw soldiers helping the men sharpen their skills. The children were doing fine when Mia and Lia went to check on them also. There was just one child who seemed frightened and afraid.

+++++“Why are you so frightened?”, Mia asked the little boy. He pointed to the horizon and Mia screamed out loud. Lia rushed over and asked Mia the same thing Mia had asked the little boy before. Mia pointed to the distance and Lia saw a big cloud of dust heading their way.

+++++“Everyone gather around. I have an important announcement. The Cheats are coming! We have no time to prepare. Everyone get ready with your weapons and jobs and let’s lead this kingdom to victory!!!!!”, Lia shouted. Then she led a dazed Mia to the hospital to wait. The people were all ready and were standing outside for further directions.

Chapter 8: The Battles

+++++“Now remember all the battle plans we told you. Follow them and you may win. Now go and fight with all your might for your kingdom, your hearts, your king, your lives, everything you own, your children, and your peace!!!”, said Lia hoping to motivate them.

+++++They charged towards the Cheats and took the higher ground for they knew with higher ground they had a better chance of winning the battle. They fought and fought and were winning until the flying monkeys came and started dropping their business on the people’s heads. Now the people were fighting the Cheats and the monkeys. That day the people lost but no lives were lost.

+++++The days passed by and soon another day of battle came. The Cheats came charging towards us. Just like last time, the people took the higher ground. This time the people were prepared for the flying monkeys and their droppings. It was around this time that the little boy who had first spotted the Cheats last time charged towards the enemy. He slid underneath everyone on the enemy’s side and finally reached Mordu. Mordu was busy fighting the new King, so he did not see the little boy.

+++++The little boy’s name was Emmerich Himmelsbach. Emmerich walked carefully past Mordu’s horse who was kicking the air wildly. He drew a small pocket knife from his jacket and plunged it into Mordu’s heart. A scream pierced the air and Mordu fell to the ground, dead. The Cheats then surrendered and ran away never to be seen again. Mordu’s horse was terrified to see his master dead so he kicked Emmerich on his knee and galloped away.


+++++Emmerich winced in pain, but smiled with triumph. He had defeated Mordu! Cheers rose out of the crowd. They all headed back to the castle where Emmerich was treated with medicine for his knee. In the end, everything turned out to be well. Everyone headed back to their peaceful lives never to be disturbed by Mordu or his followers again.
Mia and Lia headed home with happy hearts and vivid minds. They never forgot their amazing adventure in the Underworld.

Now my friends it’s finally time to say:
The End

Youth Advisory Board Writers Group: Dana Huch

Inklings Youth Advisory Board Writers Group: Dana Huch


This summer our Inklings Youth Advisory Board Writers Group chose a topic to write about. The goal of this project is for us to stretch ourselves to explore new topics and formats in our writing, share our work with others, be open to feedback, and enjoy collaborating with other writers. The theme is Shadows. Enjoy reading!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!



by Dana Huch
Summer Moonrise
Shadows stretch in golden light
I stand atop the hill, breathing summer air
All apricot sweetness like poppies at noon
By sunset, stems have fallen limp
Petals sealed at the tips
Holding a secret in their lips
I look down at the swaying grass, at my shadow
Hard to fathom such a figure is a distortion of me
We are bound at the soul
We are each other’s gravity

Youth Advisory Board Writers Group: Dana Huch

Inklings Youth Advisory Board Writers Group: Dana Huch


This summer our Inklings Youth Advisory Board Writers Group chose a topic to write about. The goal of this project is for us to stretch ourselves to explore new topics and formats in our writing, share our work with others, be open to feedback, and enjoy collaborating with other writers. The theme is Shadows. Enjoy reading!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!



by Dana Huch
Summer Moonrise
Shadows stretch in golden light
I stand atop the hill, breathing summer air
All apricot sweetness like poppies at noon
By sunset, stems have fallen limp
Petals sealed at the tips
Holding a secret in their lips
I look down at the swaying grass, at my shadow
Hard to fathom such a figure is a distortion of me
We are bound at the soul
We are each other’s gravity

July 2017: Featuring Author Tracy Maurer

The author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Tracy Maurer.

The Challenge: “Dictionary Dab”

Try a “Dictionary Dab” when you’re looking to spark new ideas for your writing. Turn to a random page in your dictionary, and take a few minutes to read a few of the entries and definitions until you find three that interest you (perhaps the words are fun to say, have unusual meanings, or they’re simply new words to know). “Dab” them into your manuscript, if you have an existing piece, or write a new paragraph (or short story) that smoothly uses the three words. They should sound like they belong in your work, which is why I say it’s a dab and not a plop!

Submit your responses by emailing and you might be published on our website!

Spotlight ON…Tracy Maurer: Noah Webster’s Fighting Words

An Interview with author Tracy Maurer

1. What drew you to writing non-fiction? Have you always been curious and into researching new things?

I love to learn! Nonfiction requires oodles of research, so I’m always learning new things. But I did NOT like nonfiction when I was a kid — so much of it was dull. So, when I write nonfiction now, I challenge myself to write what I wish I could have read back then.


2. What is something new or surprising you learned about Noah Webster while researching for the book?

Noah wrote his big dictionary with a quill pen. I’d have a drippy mess, wouldn’t you? He also knew 20 different languages, played the flute, and liked to dance. He wasn’t always a pleasant guy, but he certainly was interesting!


3. We learn in your book that Noah Webster believed that the dictionary should change along with the way people use words and language. Even today, people still debate whether a dictionary should reflect language or if it should be the rule book for language. What are your thoughts?

It’s a tricky debate. Right now, I think we need both, as long as the rule book is updated frequently. How else would we know “emoji” instead of “eemojee”?


4. Do you have anything else coming out this year?

The “Fear Fest” series includes three of my books: Eerie ESP, Spooky Haunted Houses, and Chilling Ancient Curses. My book on elevators comes up this fall too (ha! elevator humor — this book won’t let you down!).


5. Lastly, any advice for our young writers?

Someone told me to write the book that I wanted to read. It’s not new advice, but even old advice can be good sometimes. 🙂

A special thanks to Tracy Maurer!

Locate your local independent book store to purchase Noah Webster’s Fighting Words, it is also available at most other nationwide bookstores or online.

Inklings Book Finalist: Laasya Babbellapati

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Laasya Babbellapati

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Laasya Babbellapati! Laasya finished 7th grade this past school year. The poem she submitted is called “Dreams” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!


by Laasya Babbellapati

We see them in the most unexpected places
In the middle of a party
During class, moments before you get called on by the teacher
Summer days where there is almost nothing to do.

Voices are screaming
stress is building
And among that you see me
Fleeing the treachery and torture
Otherwise known as reality.

Panting, I crash onto my bed 
pulling the covers over my face
Protecting myself so no one can get in the way.

Feet below me, amidst the dark, I hear whispers.
“She can’t do that”
“She’s always somewhere else”
“How does she think she can do it?”
I show a faint smile. 

No words can hurt me now
For I am lying among the clouds
The mattress that defends me
From all of negativity.

Still awake, pondering everything
From the deepest regrets to the funniest moments
As the entire day flashes before my eyes
Until they fall shut.

Her smile is the first thing I see
Along with her sparkling eyes
And her musical laugh
Almost like I could stay there with her, Forever
I reach for her but all I feel is dry air
Then a small voice tells me she's not actually there
The truth
We are miles and miles apart.

out of breath 
but I continue to sprint
Will they reach me?
I don't pay attention to my destination
Slipping over a rock
I realize I was headed
Straight toward a cliff.
I plummet 
into the dark abyss.

The funny thing about dreams
Is that you can’t control them
But they can be about anything
I take each one into value 
no matter how ridiculous.

Do dreams teach good things 
or bad things? 
Do they tell us the future 
or the past?
Should we think of them as symbolic or unimportant?

All dreams fade out of my memory
But on rare occasions
Some visions have stayed with me
Throughout my entire life.

My fantasies start to slip away
Once I hear the battle cry
I fall again
But this time
I fall back into reality.
It’s 6:10 AM and my alarm is ringing.

I step out of bed and start the day
I move on with life because deep down I know
No matter how hard things are
Dreams are always waiting for me
Waiting for me to make them come true.

We hope you enjoyed Laasya’s poem as much as we did, leave us a comment about it!

Inklings Book Finalist: Ella Stahl

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Ella Stahl

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Ella Stahl! Ella finished 7th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Camille Wescott’s Wild West” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!



by Ella Stahl
+++++A long, long time ago, all the land West of the Mississippi River was filled with cowboys, lawmen, farmers, trailblazers, outlaws, native Americans, pioneers, and scouts. This is the Wild West. This is where my story begins.

March 27, 1862

+++++Sometimes I wonder too much. I wonder why I am here. I wonder why my mother had to die. I wonder if I was born on Friday, October 13, 1848, for a reason. Today I am traveling somewhere along the vast desert of the Wild West with my father and brother by my side.
+++++“How much farther?” I asked my father.
+++++“Just past those sand dunes and across the Green River,” he said. “Then we will finally be home.”
+++++I was relieved. We had been riding for eight days straight.

March 29, 1862

+++++It turned out to be a long ride before we got back to camp. All we caught were a few measly rabbits and a duck. It was barely enough to get us through the week. Just today my father has told me that there are some dangerous outlaws roaming around town and to stay away from all saloons and alleys.
+++++“I will father. Just make sure to tell Michael the same,” I told him.
+++++He nodded then said,” he’s still learning what is right and what is wrong. Just give him some time. I need you to bring these skins into the market. Just make sure not to accept anything lower than two pounds of grain.”
+++++“I will.”

March 29, 1862

+++++I have just gotten back from the market. For the two rabbit skins and one duck, I got one and a half bags of grain and one bag of potatoes. While I was there, I saw two men talking in very loud voices. They were talking in a foreign, angry sounding language.
+++++Even before they had finished talking I had a growing suspicion that they were up to no good.
+++++I have to tell someone, I thought to myself. You should have seen me rush home. I was like a bullet not stopping ‘til I hit my target.
+++++“Father. FATHER!” I yelled.
+++++No answer.
+++++“Hello?” I said again.
+++++At that moment I saw a note. I was so glad my father had taught me a few letters so that I could read the tiny note my father had left for me;

You better panic. Your brother has just been kidnapped by four anonymous outlaws. He was out in the field, playing with his red hound puppy when, all of a sudden, they came out of nowhere and swept him off his feet. I watched it all from my chair on the deck. I tried to run after them but they jumped on their horses and sped off. I am leaving this note so you know what has happened. I am riding my horse West to find him. We will hopefully be back soon. If we aren’t, go to neighbor Betty’s house to stay.
Best of luck,
Your Father”

+++++“I have to go help him,” I said to myself. “I can’t risk my brother getting killed or worse.”
+++++It was strange how I had made my mind up so fast. I am usually so shy and afraid.

April 1, 1862

+++++I have no idea where I am. All around me is sand, dirt, and more sand. I had left my house two days ago and have been riding on my trusty donkey, Matilda, ever since. Everything looks the same here. The cacti, the ground, and the absence of animals. I am not even sure if I am riding West anymore.
+++++“How am I ever going to find my father,” I exclaimed. “Wait a second!”
+++++All those days I have been trying to find my Father when I should have been trying to find Michel. If I go looking for him, maybe I will meet up with my father on the way. What did those cattle wranglers want from my brother anyway?


+++++Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Michel was being dragged across the West by the outlaws.
+++++“Where are you taking me?” he asked.
+++++No answer.
+++++We traveled on for several more days only stopping for food and a few hours of sleep. One night we stopped at a nearby village. It was late at night and almost everyone was asleep. There were several shops nearby advertising food, clothing, and refuge. There was one that said ‘Cowfolk Plus’. That was the one we went into.
+++++As soon as we were inside, one of the outlaw’s pointed to the front desk, then to three leather saddles.
+++++“What for?” I asked.
+++++One of the biggest outlaws pointed to the saddles again. I walked up to the sleeping man at the counter. I quietly said to the man,“Excuse me, sir.” The sleeping store clerk didn’t answer. I looked back to see what the outlaws wanted me to do now. They weren’t there.
+++++I looked back at the store clerk and tapped him gently. He snored a little but didn’t wake. I suddenly saw a little bell on the counter, barely visible beneath the stacks of paper and animal skins. I rang it with all my might.

April 2, 1862

+++++I have just found a little town about 10 miles west of our little house. Matilda needs a rest and I have run out of food. The only things I have left to trade are my donkey and my saddle.
+++++“I guess the saddle is going to have to go,” I said.
+++++My donkey and I walked into the town and over to a little shop selling food. “Will you trade this here saddle for two loaves of bread and a hunk of cheese?” I asked the man at the counter.
+++++“Maybe,” he said. “If yer throw in that bridle as well.”
+++++“Alright,” I said taking the saddle and bridle off of Matilda.
+++++I gave them to the store clerk and he gave me my bread and cheese. We then left the shop in search of a resting spot.

April 2, 1862

+++++Matilda and I walked a little ways through the town before we found a little cottage next to a barn. The owners of the cottage were Mrs. and Mr. Tate. They gave me food and water and a nights stay in their barn.
+++++“Thank you so much, Mrs. Tate,” I said after I had had my share of food.
+++++“No problem at all, dear,” she answered. “We have plenty to spare.”
+++++The Tate barn was small but cozy. It was almost empty besides a few chickens and a small shelf crammed with animal feed, a diverse variety of jars of preserved food, and riding gear. Hay covered the ground and was stacked up against the walls. In the corner of the room, there was an especially big pile of hay covered with thick and thin wool blankets.
+++++I threw my bag and thicker jacket down on the makeshift bed. I then went over to Matilda. I took off her saddle blanket and then went over to my bag. I took out the length of rope I use for lassoing and tied it around her neck. I had no trouble guiding her over to one of the empty stables and walking her in. There is always a horsehair brush in my bag which I then pulled out and started to brush her.
+++++“It’s been a long day, huh, Matilda,” I cooed.
+++++Suddenly my bed looked as comfy as a cloud. I climbed in and quickly fell asleep.

April 3, 1862

+++++I am on my way again. After a quick daybreak breakfast of pickled pears, I had climbed onto Matilda’s now bare back, twisted her mane trough my fingers and rode out of the barn. Mrs. and Mr. Tate were out on their deck waving goodbye.
+++++“Goodbye!” I called back, as my hands were busy.
+++++I rode on like this for several hours until Matilda and I, both, had to stop and rest. We sat on the desert floor drinking water and sharing bread. Everywhere I looked there is nothing. No people, no animals, no real nature. It is like I have been shut off from the real world. It is getting lonely out here. I long for the comfort of my bed and the warm embrace of my father. Suddenly I see a figure walking towards me in the distance.
+++++“Hello,” I call out into the distance.
+++++The figure looks at me with a look of pure joy. It is my father!
+++++“Dad!” I yell.
+++++He starts running towards me. I run towards him too. We both hug and look at each other with happily. I am so glad to finally see my father again.
+++++“What are you doing here?” he asks. “I told you to stay at home.”
+++++“I couldn’t leave you out here alone. I would have been too bored at our house anyways. You know I would never miss out on a great adventure like this. You would never believe what has happened.” I went on like this for some time, chatting about my experiences and encounters. He told me a little and I told him a little and in this way, we both learned each other’s stories in great detail.
+++++“I see you have brought Matilda,” he said.
+++++“She didn’t want to miss out on the adventure either,” I exclaimed.

April 4, 1862

+++++After a good night’s rest, my father and I were off. We decided to keep looking for my brother. So far it has been a long and tiring journey but I know I can do it with my father’s help. All we know is that the outlaws have taken him West towards the more broken down towns.
+++++“I hope he is alright,” I told my father. “I don’t know I would what I would do if he was harmed.”
+++++“Me too, honey. Me too.”


+++++The store clerk woke with a start.
+++++“Who be there?” he yelled out of surprise.
+++++“It’s just me looking to buy some supplies,” I said.
+++++“Oh yeah,” the store clerk said. “And what will that be.”
+++++“Uhh,” I said looking around. “Just three leather saddles, I guess.”
+++++“Coming right up,” the store clerk said to me.
+++++While he was getting his supplies Michael looked around ‘Cowfolk Plus’. There were boxes of various items piled up against the walls. On the shelves, there were cans and bottles filled with different kinds of liquids. Cowboy hats were hung on the walls and saddles were displayed in cases.
+++++There was even glass in the few windows of ‘Cowfolk Plus’.
+++++“How are you going to pay for all of this?” the store clerk asked.
+++++“I… uhh… umm. Well… I was thinking I could… um,” he stammered.
+++++“I guess if you can’t pay I will have to cut your order,” the store clear warned.
+++++“Oh no… I will figure out something,” he answered.

April 6, 1862

+++++My dad and I have been riding around the West together for about two days. It has been ten days since I have seen my brother. I miss him dearly. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever see him again. For now, I should just worry about the future. No matter what happens just keep on riding. Riding, riding, riding. On and on. Endlessly.
+++++Wait a second! A little ways off, in the very far distance, was a quaint little town. We couldn’t see much from here but we knew it was a place to stay the night.

April 7, 1866

+++++This little town was full of nothing. There were almost no people and an especially small amount of buildings. We had our eye on one that advertised shelter and food for a low price.
+++++“Look father!” There is a little well we can get a drink out of,” I exclaimed.
+++++I walked over to the well with my diary in hand. There was little water but it was enough to slake our thirst.
+++++“There is not much water,” I told my Father.
+++++“Hold your horses,” a man yelled from behind me. “That is private property!”
+++++“Oh, sorry sir,” I said looking over the edge one last time. It was at that moment that I dropped my book.

April 8, 1866

+++++WET, Wet, wet.
+++++My entire book is soaked from cover to cover. It is drooping like a wilted flower that has been very overwatered. Oh well, it’s not the first time I’ve dropped it.

Four years later

+++++The most amazing things have happened in these four years. First of all, I am going to be a sheriff. Ol’ gunslinger Rick says I might be the first female sheriff. I hope I am. Rick has been teaching me for a few days and I have improved a lot. He says he will give me my badge in a few days. In the time I have been training, my father has been looking and asking around for my brother. No luck so far. Once I get my sheriff’s badge I hope to help him find my brother. Hopefully, I will be more helpful after I am sheriff.
+++++“Camille, are you writing in your diary again?” asked the old gunslinger.
+++++“Sorry sir,” I said jumping to my feet.
+++++“Now Camille. Can you tell me how to load a rifle since you are paying so much attention?” Rick asked.
+++++“Uhh…” I said. “I”m sorry sir. I wasn’t paying attention”.
+++++“That’s what I thought,” he said, writing something down.
+++++I lowered my head, embarrassed. The rest of the day I didn’t touch my diary at all. (I am writing this after supper). I really want to be a sheriff. To me, the risk is worth it. Here in the Wild West the average age for a sheriff is anywhere from 25 to 35. With me being only 18 I am very young for a sheriff. My father tells me it a bad idea. Me being only an 18-year-old girl on such a dangerous job.
+++++“I’m home,” my father said while peeking his head through the door.
+++++“Father!” I yelled.
+++++My father had been gone for several weeks, looking for hints on where Michel could be. He rarely comes back to our little home and when he does it is only for a short amount of time.


+++++There came a noise from the back of the shop. It was the sound of something breaking.
+++++“Who’s there?” the store clerk asked.
+++++The noise came again. This time it came distinctly from the storage area behind the counter. The store clerk went to the room behind the counter. I followed him. Once I had entered the big room I opened my mouth in surprise. Where all the items for sale should have been, there was nothing at all! All the boxes that should have been filled to the brim with shipments of items to buy were gone. There was not a single thing in the big room.
+++++“Where is everything?” I asked.
+++++The store clerk didn’t answer. He was still shocked.
+++++All of a sudden he snapped out of it.
+++++“Did you know about this?” he asked again, quiet but deadly.
+++++“I don’t think so sir,” I answered.
+++++“What do you mean, you don’t think so?” he asked growing red with anger.
+++++Before I could answer and the man was still looking up at the ceiling trying to calm himself, I felt an arm close around my chest and over my mouth. I tried to scream but nothing came out. The strong arms pulled me out of the room and onto the back of a horse.
+++++The strong arms finally let go of me. I looked behind me at my captive and saw that it was one of the outlaws that had told me to go into that store. Soon the rest of the gang caught up with us.
+++++“Did you rob that store?” I asked.
+++++They grunted and nodded at me, then gestured to makeshift wagons full of things you might find at a store called ‘Cowfolk Plus’.
+++++“Wow,” I said impressed. “Do you think you could teach me to do that?”

April 12, 1866

+++++Sorry I haven’t been able to write for the last few days. I have been busy learning to be a better sheriff. By the way, I finally have my badge! I am finally free of this little town. Of this little house.
+++++“Camille, are you writing in that journal of yours again?”
+++++“Of course I am, father,” I answered. “I want this here world to know about me someday.”
+++++“Well we better get a move on if we ever want to find your brother,” my father answered.
+++++“Father, is this hopeless?” I asked him. “Man, he got kidnapped more than five years ago. Should we just forget about this and live our lives in peace?”
+++++“You should be ashamed! I mean he is only five and out there among the willows.”
+++++“He is nine now.”
+++++“As if there was a difference!” he yelled. “I just want my son back.”
+++++He stormed out of the room and I started to pack up for the long journey.

April 18, 1866

+++++We have been traveling for six days now. My father thinks that writing in my diary is a waste of time. I haven’t written in it for a week. Today I finally broke down. We have sold our little house and are staying in this here town.
+++++“Camille, can you go to a store to get us some food?” he asked.
+++++“Sure father,” I answered. I pushed open the door to our temporary home and got onto the back of Matilda. She still had no saddle and only a rope around her neck. It is because I do not have enough money to pay for a new one.
+++++I rode up to a store called ‘Cowfolk Plus’. I tied Matilda up and walked inside.
+++++“Excuse me, sir,” I said to the store clerk. Do you have some food for me and my donkey?” I asked.
+++++“Sorry miss, I got nothing,” he said in a sad voice. “I be robbed just a few days ago.”
+++++“Robbed! By whom?” I asked.
+++++“A little boy and his outlaws,” he said.
+++++“Oh, my! Well as you can see I am a sheriff,” I reported. “What did this boy look like?”
+++++“Well he looked about ten, dressed in tattered clothes and a red bandana,” he answered. “ I didn’t see the outlaws. I think they were using the boy for a distraction.”
+++++A sudden realization swept over me. “I think I know who our little bandit is. I will be back soon, sir, with your stolen goods!”
+++++“I sure hope so,” the store clerk said under his breath.

April 18, 1866

+++++“I have to go find my brother,” I said to myself, denying the fact that he might be a thief. +++++“All I know is he was here and now all I need to do is ride West where they must have gone.”
+++++I decided not to tell my father because I felt like I owed something to my brother for not getting home in time. The note I left for my father was small and undetailed, but it would have to do. Once Matilda was ready and I had packed food and supplies we rode west into the sunset.


+++++After many nights of riding and pondering I have decided to be an outlaw. The outlaw life seems so exciting and so carefree. No worrying about getting lost or paying taxes. All you have to do is ride and steal.
+++++I decided to announce this to my new colleagues. “Hey outlaws, I was thinking and… well I want to join you. Is that ok?”
+++++Michel looked around. ”Uh, hello. Is that a yes?”
+++++A few grunts.
+++++“Ok then.”
+++++A few hours later the outlaws and I rode into a little town. There were a few dozen little houses and a few pastures of grain. But the most intriguing thing about the town were the geysers. There were three of them which seemed to be the main source of the water for the crops. One of the outlaws pointed his finger at an old shack at the edge of the town and held up three of his fingers.

April 21, 1866

+++++After three days of riding, I have finally reached a little town. There are a few dozen houses and a few pastures of grain. Though, the most amazing thing about the town were the geysers. It seemed like they were the main source of water for the crops of wheat.
+++++“Wow,” I exclaimed. “ This is the first time I have ever seen a geyser. Oh look, Matilda, over there is a perfect little shack at the edge of town for us to stay in.”
+++++We started to ride towards the shack. As soon as we got close to the little building and were about to walk in, we were surprised to see a gang of people, one of which a little boy, walked out. At first, I was surprised and asked if they lived here. Then I realized that I recognized the little boy.
+++++“Michel!” I yelled and gave him a big hug. “You have no idea how happy I am to see you.”
+++++“How ya doin’ Camille,” he answered. “Ya look different.”
+++++“Why are you talking like that Michel?” I asked. “Nevermind, That’s not important right now. We have to get you home to father.”
+++++“But I can’t leave my colleagues,” he whinnied.
+++++I looked up and for what it seemed like the first time noticed the outlaws.
+++++“Oh no,” I said. “Michel get behind me, these are dangerous outlaws. I am going to have to arrest them.”
+++++“You’re a sheriff? Wow. And no they aren’t,” Michel defended. “They are my friends.”
+++++“What are you talking about?!. These are the people who kidnapped and used you!”
+++++“No, they are not. They are my friends,” he said. “And I am one of them too.”
+++++Camille gasped. “Michel, no! You have to come home with me.”
+++++“I can’t. I am an outlaw now and if you are going to arrest them then you are going to have to arrest me. But not without a fight,” he added.
+++++“If that is the way you want to do it, fine,” I said.
+++++I pulled out my pistol I had gotten from Ol’ Rick and he pulled out the rifle the outlaws had given him, just in case. I pulled the trigger and out came a bullet. Michel, luckily, had time to react. The bullet hit the ground next to him. Sand sprayed up everywhere. He cried out in shock and stepped away from the spot the bullet had hit.
+++++“No more fighting,” I said rushing to his side. “You are coming with me and the outlaws are going to jail once and for all.”
+++++“Ok sis,” He said holding back tears. “I am sorry.”
+++++“Don’t be. Sometimes people like that can reel you in and make you think you are something you are not,” I said. “Wait a second. We have forgotten about the outlaws!”
+++++“It’s fine sis,” he said. “It doesn’t matter now.”
+++++“Yes it does,” I said jumping on Matilda. “I have to avenge you and bring them to justice.
+++++He nodded slowly, as if still trying to figure out what he believed. I put my hand around his shoulder and we walked to the donkey. Michel jumped on. He instinctively hugged her neck.
+++++It was like this–Michel on the front of Matilda, his arms wrapped around her and me on the back with my arms around Michel, holding the donkey’s mane–that we rode off into the sunset (of course) looking to arrest some outlaws.

Inklings Book finalist: Annabelle Lee

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Annabelle Lee

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Annabelle Lee

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Annabelle Lee! Annabelle finished 3rd grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “The Quest For The Emerald Stone” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!



by Annabelle Lee

+++++Hi. My name is Konnobale. They say that Konnobale means “blessed phoenix.” That’s why I usually wear a red shirt with a phoenix on it. My grandma knitted it for me, and it’s pleasantly warm and cozy. We’ll talk more about it later. I slipped into the dark shadows. My floppy brown hair and dark eyes helped me blend in. Today I wore a black T-shirt and pants. I was barefoot, but I didn’t care. I snuck out around the dark, because I worked for Master Nigu, to protect the Emerald Stone. Master Nigu’s great-great-great-great grandfather, Consonio, made it. The stone protects the Emerald Kingdom. Without it, the land would lose its beauty and be dark forever. Larbada was Consonio’s brother, and he was an evil sorcerer. For some reason Larbada tried to steal the Emerald Stone. Consonio’s magic was too powerful, though. Larbada failed to steal the stone and disappeared into the darkness forever. Or so it seemed…


+++++I reached Hidula Street, and prowled around the dark alley. Then Jarco and Jasmine appeared out of nowhere. Jasmine had long black hair and pale skin. She wore a serious expression and had dark brown eyes. Jarco had black hair, hazel eyes, tanned skin, and wore a red stone hanging from a bronze chain. Jasmine wore the same thing, except hers was purple and a silver chain. These stones allowed them to turn into animals.

+++++Jasmine could turn into a black panther while Jarco could transform into a fox. I did not find my stone yet. How I envied them! Just then, Jasmine stopped walking and crouched down low. She was the smartest of our trio, but nobody cared. Suddenly, Jasmine yelled, “TAKE COVER!!!” A gigantic cannonball landed right where Jarco, Jasmine, and I had been standing a few seconds ago. We raced to Emeraldo Palace, where we found Master Nigu.

+++++Master Nigu looked wild, his sleek silver hair astray. His glasses were dangling from his right ear; he was staring into space, his face a ghostly white. I stepped forward. “Master Nigu?” I said. Master Nigu looked at me for a split second and passed out before I could even say “phoenix.” Jasmine said “Master Nigu, DO YOU HEAR ME?!!” Jasmine said “Konnobale, Jarco, stand guard over Master Nigu. I’ll go get the nurse.” Panting, Jasmine transformed into a black panther and slunk away.

+++++I stared up into the sky. Somewhere, in one of those stars, my grandma would be watching. I fixed my stare at the castle. The castle was more beautiful than I remembered. The castle was marble white with golden trims. Sapphires and rubies glinted in the moonlight. Jasmine came back as a human. “Master Nigu will be alright, but I’m not so sure about the world!” We ran. Jasmine led us to a small ballroom. The whole small ballroom was gray. Not much of a sight. “The Emerald Stone!” gasped Jarco. “It’s gone!” I stared. The midnight blue platter was empty and the glass was shattered – Jarco was right. THE STONE WAS GONE.


+++++All at once, Emerald Kingdom turned gray and cold. About 10 million red eyes appeared in the darkness. “Dark hornets.” Jasmine said, who has read EVERY single book in the whooole kingdom. Citizens were screaming, running, and tripping over each other’s feet. “Dark hornets?! Dark hornets – they are Larbada’s army, aren’t they?!” I shouted. “WHAT!” Jarco yelled. “That’s impossible! Larbada hasn’t been in the kingdom for centuries!” “I’m afraid it’s true.” said a voice. And that voice belonged to Master Nigu. “Larbada has surely returned.” And then he turned to me. “Konnobale, take your friends with you and bring back the Emerald Stone.” “Why can’t you come with us, Master Nigu?” I asked. “Because I have to stay behind and protect the kingdom.” Master Nigu said. “Now go, and good luck.” And with that, he turned and walked away.

+++++I watched him until I couldn’t see Master Nigu anymore. I ran. Jarco and Jasmine ran after me. I skidded to a stop in front of my house. The golden straw roof was welcoming. I clambered up the red brick wall and to the roof. The chimney was how I could get inside the house, so my family didn’t need a door. My room is on the roof. My bed is the straw. I lay down and gradually my heart rate went back to normal.

+++++I was scared. I didn’t WANT to go and find the Stone. But I had to, for the sake of the kingdom, the people, and my family. So I snapped my fingers for Plumcake. Plumcake is a kiwi bird, which means he is VERY fat. But his name is Plumcake because he eats plumcake. A LOT. “Okay, Plumcake. Time for adventure!” I exclaimed. “Wait for us!” Jarco yelled. Jasmine clambered aboard, and then Jarco. The Emerald Stone was probably at Larbada’s fortress, which was a long way from here. I sighed, stroking Plumcake’s indigo feathers. It was going to be a loooong journey.


+++++“Snork. AAAAHHH!” I screamed. “A Dark Hornet!!!” The Dark Hornet had only two colors on its body: red eyes, black body. It’s really scary. Jasmine immediately pulled out her stone and started chanting a spell. Jarco started helping her, too. It was all I could do to bury my face into Plumcake’s feathers.
Plumcake squawked and flew across the sky. The Dark Hornet flew over and pointed its stinger toward Plumcake. If Plumcake got stung now, we would all drop 155 feet and surely die. “NO!!!” I shouted. I reached out, trying to swat away the Hornet. As Jarco and Jasmine finished their spells, their stones flashed. BOOOOM!!!!!!!!! The force of their combined spells blasted the Hornet away, and then we were falling.

* * * *

+++++“Uuurgh.” I stretched and wiggled my arms and legs. Good. Nothing broken. “Hungry.” I moaned. Then I saw it. PLUMCAKES! I eagerly grabbed a chunk of cake and stuffed it into my mouth. Mmmm. I grabbed another chunk. Pretty soon, the cake was gone. “Ahhhh.” I suddenly heard a soft rumble. The sound was coming from my head. “Buzzz.” My head pushed away all my thoughts, bright circles appeared in front of my eyes, and I… passed out.


+++++Plumcake woke me up by pecking on me on the face. I tried to yell “PLUMCAKE! STOP IT!” But when I opened my mouth, only a “Squeak!” came out. Then I realized it. I WAS A MOUSE!!! So were Jarco and Jasmine. Panic was rising inside me, and fast. If Jarco, Jasmine, and I were mice, of course we couldn’t search for the Emerald Stone! And… dawning terror bubbled furiously inside me. Why? Because other than plum cakes, Plumcake also likes mice. I tried to run away, but I was stuck in mud.
+++++I shivered as Plumcake opened his sharp beak… “SQUAWK!” Plumcake started snapping at something else I could not see. Then I realized it was Jarco! Plumcake now had Jarco dangling in the air by his tail. Jasmine tried to get out of the mud but couldn’t. The only reason Jarco has escaped the mud was because he was stronger than the rest of us. Plumcake’s feet came closer to me… close enough for me to bite! Desperate to save Jarco, I bit Plumcake’s hard leg… and chewed. The taste was more horrible than a burnt hot dog my dad had once made. “Plah!” I squeaked and choked out a piece of Plumcake’s leg.

+++++Plumcake dropped Jarco, and he lay facedown onto the mud for a moment, and then changed back into a human! “Eat mud!” Jarco bellowed. Apparently he thought Jasmine and I couldn’t understand him, because Jarco looked a little uncertain. Then *POP* – Jasmine was a human. I gulped down some mud. “Ewwwwwwwww!!!” The mud was warm, icky, and bounced around my stomach. Poof. I was a human again! Plumcake looked very surprised.

+++++“Oi, Jarco! Thanks for NOT saving my life.” Jasmine grumbled, not able to keep out the note of sarcasm in her words. “You didn’t NEED saving! Besides, you’re the smartest! You could have told us not to eat the cakes!” Jarco said, his voice level growing louder. “Oh yeah? It’s not my fault you didn’t read the book I gave you that was about dangerous places! I was too hungry to realize that! Jarco, quit acting like a 2 year-old and stop hurling all the books I gave you into the fireplace!” Jasmine screamed, her voice growing dangerously higher and shriller with every word she spoke. “Jasmine, don’t -” I started. Too late. The next thing I knew, a fox and a black panther went tumbling down a slope, claws scratching at each other’s shoulders as they went. “Wait up!” I hollered, and ran after the pair.


+++++Plumcake found me. He picked me up, threw me onto his back, and we went after Jarco and Jasmine. Just then, I felt two stones fly into my hand. Plumcake slowed down and landed. Still holding Jasmine and Jarco’s stones, I slipped off Plumcake’s back and found Jarco in a stream, washing off blood.

+++++“Hey, Konnobale. Mind getting some berries?” he said. “I’m starving.” Jasmine came over with about 47 berries. “Jarco, I’m sorry, but please don’t burn the books.” “OK.” Jarco said. I grabbed some berries and ate them. I sighed happily.

+++++The berries popped and exploded inside my mouth, leaving a sticky mess of juice the taste of sweet tarts. “These berries are SO good!” I declared, stuffing a fistful of berries into my face. The berries looked like blackberries, except they were colored violet with a tinge of pink. Indigo juice dripped off my chin and onto my shirt. “Maybe when us three grow up, we can move here and feast on berries. After all, the grass is very soft and green, and the sky is bright blue. It’s beautiful here!” I exclaimed. Jasmine nodded, and pointed out that maybe I should change my clothes. So I shrugged off my black T-shirt and shorts, and put on the shirt my grandmother’s very own hands had knitted. After tugging on brown pants and slipping on leather shoes, Jarco said, “Come on! It’s time to move on.”

* * * *

+++++“Konnobale, are you sure the stone is at Larbada’s fortress?” Jasmine inquired. I nodded. For some reason, I felt a kind of feeling, like even if the stone wasn’t at the fortress, I felt like I HAD to go there. It was like there was an invisible magnet between me and the fortress, and the magnet was pulling me closer… I hastily told Jasmine how I felt. “You see, I feel like I HAVE to go there… See what I mean?” Jasmine nodded. Then Jarco said, “Relax, Konnobale. I had the same feeling when I was finding my stone. Who knows? Maybe your stone is at Larbada’s fortress.” I smiled, hoping this was true.


+++++“Squawk!” Plumcake chirped, pecking at my head. “I know, Plumcake. Aren’t you thirsty?” I cooed, stroking Plumcake’s soft, indigo feathers. Jarco tapped his stone two times, and a shimmering map appeared on his stone. He studied it for a moment. After what seemed like over two-thousand-billion-jillion-trillion-fifty-six-hundred years later, Jarco looked up, the map faded away, and said, “Guess what, Konnobale? The nearest lake is only 5 mi-” He never got to finish his sentence, because Plumcake and I were already racing toward water.

* * * *

+++++“We’re here!” I panted. We had finally reached water. “Whoa.” I exclaimed. The lake had crystal clear blue water, with willow trees surrounding the banks, and little plants circled each base of the trees. “WOW.” Jarco said. I hitched up my pants and waded into the water. “Ahhh.” I said. I ate a few berries that Jasmine had packed, and then washed them down with the cool, refreshing water. “I am sooo thirsty.” Jarco mumbled.

+++++Jasmine called, “Jarco! Konnobale!” I turned toward her. She was as white as chalk, and she was backing away from the lake. “Get out of there. NOW.” Jasmine said. “Why?” Jarco and I chorused. “Because that’s Deadly Squid – AHHHHH!!!” Jasmine screamed, as a long tentacle, long and slimy, wrapped around her waist… and she was dragged under the water.

+++++“NO!!!!!” Jarco and I yelled, our voices echoing. Plumcake, who had been eating some plants, let out a fearful squawk before he too, was dragged under the water. Before I knew it, 2 tentacles, cold at touch, wrapped itself around our legs, and then, Jarco and I were dragged down into the cold water.


+++++The underwater was full of black, jagged rocks, and the squid had tied its tentacles around our arms, so Jarco and Jasmine couldn’t activate their stones. A tentacle was wrapped around Plumcake’s dagger like beak, in other words, my friends and I were ABOUT TO DIE.

+++++Luckily, Jarco has done a breathing spell on all of us before we went under water, but the spell was wearing off quickly.
I thrashed about, trying to free my arms. “HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Jarco, Jasmine, and I all shrieked, or at least we tried too. Because we were underwater, the result was swallowing a gallon of water, which, very suddenly did not taste so fresh anymore.

+++++The squid’s pink skin looked bright against the black rocks. Just then “*POP!*” the breathing spells wore off. I looked around desperately. Jasmine needed air, Jarco was thrashing like a drowning human, which actually was pretty close to what was happening right now, and Plumcake was trying to fly away. The squid started speaking. “YOU HAVE TRESPASSED ON MY HOME!” it boomed. “BECAUSE OF THAT,” it continued. “YOU WILL BE EATEN ALIVE!!!” I didn’t pay attention. I just concentrated on… air. Oh. My. GOD! I NEEDED AIR! Just as my vision started turning white with blood like red circles, I heard somebody splashing toward us. “Oh please, please, please come toward me!” I thought. The last thing I heard was a triumphant cry and a screech of agony before my vision went blank.


+++++“Is Plumcake OK? What about Jasmine and Konnobale?” a voice said. “Konnobale is coming round,” said another voice. “Jasmine just might be a little worse off because she was dragged under the water first.” “Look! I think I saw Konnobale’s eyelids flicker!” said voice 1. I groggily shook my head and opened my eyes. Jarco’s face was inches from my face and so was… Master Nigu? “MASTER NIGU!!!” I shouted. “Calm down, Konnobale. My great great great great grandfather, Consonio, is also here. And yes, he has lived for an extraordinary limit of time.” Master Nigu said, chuckling.

+++++That’s when Consonio appeared. His face was as crinkly as some crumpled up paper, and his hair was pure white. What was really cool about Consonio’s hair was that it was as long as his own body. He wore velvety indigo robes that sparkled like the night sky, and a pair of glasses finished Consonio’s outfit. “Hello, sir. Thank you for saving my life… “ I said. Consonio smiled and said, “No worries, boy -” “My name is Konnobale.” I said. Consonio declared, “Yes, indeed. Saving you was nothing, boy.” I rolled my eyes. I stood up and observed that my friends and I were all in a small clearing of bushes. “How is Jasmine?” I asked. “I’m FINE,” Jasmine said, tweaking my nose. “Youch!” I said. Consonio said, “Let’s get going! My powers tell me that the Emerald Stone is at Larbada’s fortress.” I smiled and said, “C’mon! This adventure is getting exciting!”


+++++I was… in a little clearing, identical to the clearing Jasmine, Jarco, Plumcake, and I had been resting in. There was a sudden rippling noise in the air. “Who’s there?” I called. “Tis I,” said a voice. “Grandmother!” I yelled. “Yes, it’s me,” she said wearily. “As a spirit.”

+++++Grandma wore a pea green sweater with a white shirt. A blue skirt swished about her ankles. But Grandma was kinda hazy, almost see-through. Creepy. “I have a message.” she said. “You are destined to fight Larbada, and once you get to Larbada’s fortress, you shall find your st-” Grandma suddenly flickered and disappeared. I pondered about what Grandma just said. “You are destined to fight Larbada, and once you get to Larbada’s fortress, you shall find your st-” I thought. I was pretty sure that the rest of the “st-” word would spell out “stone!”

+++++Excited, I quickly started to walk out of the clearing… “Wake up! KONNOBALE!!!” Somebody hollered. “What!” I scrambled to my feet and launched off whatever I was standing on – RRRIP. “OMG!!!” Jasmine screamed. “What in the name of Consonio’s Underpants are you doing?!” I froze in mid-jump. “What does it LOOK like I’m doing?” I sarcastically replied. And then I fell.

+++++“Ahhh!” I yelled. I screamed and thrashed like a dying lizard, until I realized that I was lying on a soft surface. I was on Plumcake. *”Siiiigh,”* My shoulders slumped. “Hey dude!” Jarco sang. “Your underpants look kinda weird! Better buy new ones!” “Whaddaya mean?” I inquired. “Your pants ripped, boy.” Consonio exclaimed. “Your pants were tangled up in my staff.” My face burned. “Uh, anyone got some pants?”


+++++“And your Grandma said you are destined to defeat Larbada?” Jasmine said. “Yeah.” I said. I had been telling my traveling companions about my dream. “What if you were just dreaming, boy?” Consonio asked. “STOP CALLING ME BOY!!!” I yelled. Consonio sat down and looked at me for a moment. Then he said, “Why are you staring at me like that-” I crossed my fingers, hoping that he wouldn’t say… “-boy.” Consonio declared. I slapped my forehead. “Never mind.” I said. “Be quiet.” Jarco snapped. “Be thankful that Konnobale’s grandmother didn’t tell this in a weird riddle.” “Larbada’s fortress right ahead!” Master Nigu noted. “Come ON.” Jasmine said. “We will reach the fortress faster in animal form.” “Good thinking, my lady.” Consonio said approvingly. He grabbed his stone. The sandy colored stone glinted in the sunlight, and brown stripes streaked across it. In a flash, Consonio was a huge, gigantic bear. Master Nigu was a heron, holding his white stone in his beak. Jasmine was already racing toward the fortress, her four paws churning on the ground. Jarco dashed after her, his red fox tail waving in the air. Plumcake soared into the sky, with me riding on his back. I hopped off Plumcake’s back as he landed and entered the cold, dark, and spooky castle. “Larbada. Come out and fight!” I roared, then grimaced. Larbada stepped out of a doorway and glared at me. His black hair matched his cold gray eyes and hawk-like nose. Larbada smiled, swished his black robes, and said, “Who wants to go first?” There was a long silence. Then – “I do.” I quietly replied. “No! You don’t even have a stone!” Jarco said. He and Jasmine turned back into humans. “I’ll go then, instead of the boy.” Consonio exclaimed. He stepped forward. He and Larbada started firing spells at each other. Master Nigu joined in. Suddenly there was a loud BOOM and Master Nigu was on the floor. I didn’t even have to look. I knew he was dead. Jasmine gasped, her eyes watering and then screamed, “STINKING FILTHY CREATURE!” She held her stone high and started chanting mysterious words. Jarco helped her. Tears rushed to my eyes. I needed to find the Emerald Stone and fast! It would make Consonio stronger. I followed some guards talking about the Emerald Stone. I slowly crept up behind them. They pushed open a huge door. I punched both of them in the head, ran inside the room, and grabbed the Emerald Stone. The glittering green stone grew warm in my hand. My stone was the Emerald Stone! I ran back to my friends, yelling. And then I wasn’t running anymore. I was GLIDING. I was a phoenix! I raised my stone and squawked “Squaaaaa!” I sang. My friends all raised our stones and yelled, “BEGONE!” There was a blinding ray of light and Larbada disappeared. There was a stunned silence. Then Jarco cried, “AAAHH!!!” Larbada was back.


+++++Larbada smiled cruelly at us. “Yes, me.” he said softly. “The real me.” Larbada snapped his fingers and 20 guards rushed into the room. The guards grabbed everyone’s arms except mine. “Hey!” I snapped. Actually, I said squaa because I was still a phoenix. Larbada said, “The others will not matter. We can just kill them and get it over with. You, however, are the master of the Emerald Stone. You are the one that I seek.” I stiffened as I watched my friends struggle. I turned back into a human and said, “Well, what are you going to do?” Larbada smiled. “The Emerald Stone will give me power beyond the universe. Give me that stone you’re holding and I’ll spare your friends. Refuse, and they will die a painful death. Well?” he stretched out his hand. I could tell he was lying, though. “No.” I said. Larbada’s face twisted into an awful scowl. “Do you want me to kill you like I killed your grandma?” he asked. My throat tightened. Larbada killed Grandma. Hatred boiled in my stomach. “Of course not.” I whispered. Then I attacked. Larbada turned into a horrible bat/snake. The snake had bat wings and bat fangs. I turned into a phoenix.

+++++Larbada’s black, glittering stone shot rays at mine. I barely had time to protect myself. I didn’t know any spells, but I had heard Jasmine or Jarco mutter spells before. Just then, I noticed the guards drawing out swords. “No you don’t!” I cried. I blasted all the guards out of the way. “Larbada.” I said. “I’m not going to fight anymore.” I didn’t want to become a murderer like Larbada. “Why are you like this?” I said. Larbada paused. “I was like you once.” he said. “I was happy to become an Emerald Kingdom citizen. Until I noticed that my brother was always better at combat than me. I trained hard day and night, wishing to become as strong as my brother so one day we could fight side by side. One day, Emerald Kingdom was fighting against the Dark Enemy. Consonio was picked for the strongest team. I showed off my talent and skills, hoping I could fight with my brother. But Consonio grew even stronger than me and blasted me into the sky. I was very embarrassed. I started hating my brother for what he did. He never even apologized.” Larbada clenched his fists. “I trained away from my brother and became the man I am now. I tried to steal the stone for revenge. I failed.” Larbada stopped talking. I felt sorry for him. “Come join us.” I said. Consonio stirred. Then he said, “I’m sorry brother. I was very proud when I was young.” Larbada’s bottom lip trembled. Then he started to cry.


+++++“Larbada, everyone loved you when you were young. Come join us. Please. Everyone’s sorry. I’m sorry. You’ll be loved again.” I said. I held my stone out and gently pushed it against Larbada’s chest. He smiled, looking peaceful. “Yes. I’ll come.” Larbada said. Then he said, “I’m sorry, and I love you all too.” The guards released my friends. And we all hugged.


+++++I rested my body on Master Nigu’s grave. Grinning, I looked at Jarco and Jasmine. Consonio and Larbada were practicing magic. My mom and dad were STILL praising me. Plumcake nuzzled the side of my face. I looked up into the sky and watched the sun slowly sink into the ocean. I smiled, knowing that life would be peaceful now. Emerald Kingdom was safe once more.

The End.

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