We left our hero sailing into the Traveling Tree, where he comes out…Now, we’ll see!
Ben spun around, gaping in wonder at the star field that shone above him. “Inside a tree,” he whispered.
The cockatrice warbled and nuzzled its rooster head against Ben’s cheek.
The imp grabbed Ben’s arm and dragged him through the tree. “No time to linger.”
“The dragon can’t follow us in.” Ben glanced over his shoulder. “Can it?”
The imp snorted. “Too big.” He kept a rushed pace. “We need to distance ourselves from greater dangers.”
Ben frowned down at the cockatrice. “What’s worse than dragons?”
The cockatrice shrugged and gurgled.
The imp shook his head. “Humans. You’re all the same. Think you’re so great, the pinnacle of evolution. Imbeciles.”
Ben stopped and folded his arms over his chest. “If we’re not, what is? Flying sharks?”
The imp rolled its eyes. “Fool.” He continued to walk. “Stay if you wish to find out.”
Ben twirled around with wide eyes. “It’s here?”
The imp laughed. “Magic run a muck.” It spread its arms wide. “Human hubris at its finest.”
Ben chewed his lip.
The cockatrice nipped Ben’s earlobe.
Ben nodded and rushed after the imp. “Where are we going?”
“Never said.” The imp tapped its lip. “Better if you don’t know.”
Ben groaned. “You’re taking me home.”
The imp’s eyebrows climbed its forehead. “Why would I ever go back? I’m free of that dark pit of fire.”
“I mean–” Ben smirked. “Guess neither of us want to return home.”
The imp nodded. “Too many bad memories. Besides, Earth is more fun.”
“Can we stop and get coffee? It’s been ages since I’ve had a–”
“Don’t say it.” The imp clamped its hands over its pointed ears. “I don’t want to hear how much you crave a double mocha caramel frappa-whatever.”
The cockatrice licked its beak.
“Not you, too?” The imp groaned.
The cockatrice clacked its beak in complaint.
“Oh, it’s perfectly fine for a human.”
The imp met Ben’s eyes. “No offense.”
Ben muttered under his breath.
“I always hoped dragon-kin were more evolved.”
The cockatrice tilted its head to study the imp.
The imp shrugged. “We have a common ancestor.”
The cockatrice nodded.
The imp turned away. “Look at me, debating ancestry with a cockatrice. What is the world coming to?”
The cockatrice growled.
The imp held up a hand. “Easy, Kujo. I didn’t mean anything by it. Besides, I’m immune to your death stare.”
The cockatrice narrowed its eyes.
“I’d rather not put it to the test. Thank you very much.” The imp tore its eyes away from the cockatrice’s.
Ben stumbled on a tree root. “What the–?”
“Uh.” The imp gaped at the tree root curling out of the mist that covered the floor. “We’d better hurry.” The imp grabbed Ben’s arm and dragged him to the left. “Good thing we’re close.”
“Why does a tree have roots growing inside it?” Ben tried to run and rub his shin at the same time, resulting in an awkward hobbling amble.
“Evolution.” The imp shoved Ben toward the dark wall. “This is our stop.”
Ben slammed into thick tree bark. It scraped his face and hands. “That was uncalled for!”
The imp’s hands searched the bark. “Where’s the exit?”
The cockatrice sat on Ben’s shoulder, gazing back toward the center of the tree, and warbled.
So, what do you think will happen? What do you want to happen? Was it too short? Too long? Too unfunny?
Yep, that’s right. I’m soliciting comments and suggestions. I may even use them. No matter how wacky, zany, nerdy, or weird. No matter how serious, fanciful, or sci-fi. It’s a choose your own adventure. You choose what happens next.