About the Author

A Pleasant Pennsylvania Picnic

Back in November I partook on a trip with my mother and brother. After a few exchanges of ideas, we decided to take a trip to Pennsylvania. The early morning came as I grumbled out of bed; moaning for the coffee that would wake me up. As the drive began and went on, there were no coffee shops to be found. However, there were some pleasant stops on the way down that curbed my sour mood. Taking the longer route and avoiding Connecticut/New York City, we found ourselves up on Hogback Mountain in Vermont. There we were greeted by a warm fire and a quaint country store. Here we found a soda that even a non-soda drinker like my brother enjoyed. Ironically, it was called Totally Gross Sodas and this particular flavor was called Alien Snot. This somewhat quenched my need for caffeine as we looked over the sight of the valley on top of the mountain. But the journey had to continue. About halfway down, our stomachs made the familiar sound of rumbling as we made our way to an apparently popular restaurant. People were lining up at the door for this delicious food that was indeed worth the wait. Satisfied we went back into the car and found our way to our next stop; a candy, fudge, cone, and ice cream shop. There we were told that everything was made from scratch, including their cones. It was hard to pry ourselves away from all these sweet treats and colorful decorations, but the end destination was calling for us. After what seemed like ages, we finally arrived at the hotel. My, what a sight it was to behold. We decided to stay in a themed hotel this time; a steamboat that glowed on its man-made pool that reflected its old fashion gleam. Inside one seemed to step back in time with classic red carpets, black and white photos, polished timber, and nautical themes that brought out the charm of this hotel. After settling into our comfy room, my mother and I decided to visit Huckleberry’s Tavern found inside the boat. Such a relaxed atmosphere greeted us as we enjoyed our talk with the bartender. He suggested their signature drink that had a pleasant blueberry taste and looked great. We soon ended the fun as we made our way back up to the room so I could change into a bathing suite. My brother and I soon finished the day by taking a dip in the Jacuzzi; something we would do every night for the rest of the vacation.

Solemn ground was what we stepped on as we entered Gettysburg the next day. One could feel the rumble of cannon fire, the primordial screams of fighting men, and the feeling of loss and devastation caused by the battle. A grande collection of artifacts were housed inside the museum; ranging from large cannons to the smallest of pins from both sides. As an added treat, we were able to see the cyclorama painting with sound effects and narration along with a bus tour further explaining how the fighting progressed. Interestingly enough, there was a hill that the Union controlled that allowed them to see the whole battlefield. Along with this key point and a communication problem within the Confederate forces, it lead to the victory for the Union. This truly reminds one of the importance of communication, maybe even in the smaller everyday interactions. With the day done, we decided to stop at a local buffet suggested by the staff. Surprising to the three of us, it was fresh made food that was a delight to eat. My belly full, I quickly retreated to the care when a creeping feeling hit my spine; probably from being on a battlefield where many lost their lives.

The next day came as we went to a restaurant called Loxley’s we had scoped out before coming down. Its outside was set up like a tree house that got the group psyched, but it was off season for that part of the restaurant. We were disappointed at first, until we were lead to their pub. It felt like we walked straight into medieval times where we could have run into Robin Hood, Little Jon, and Friar Tuck. The food had a great flavor and paired well with their Lady of Loxley drink; a sweet mango drink that makes one forget that it is alcohol. Even after a few, I somehow won darts against my mother and brother. This gaming streak continued as we made our way to the Laserdome; an arcade and laser lag place that looked interesting. My mom proved to be the pinball queen while my brother and I were racing legends. The three of us soon found our way inside the laser tag arena, facing each other. We were constantly battling for the high ground for the longest time until our mother disappeared. She only reemerged a few times to ambush us; a sneaky tactic to say the least. Many more games were played before my mother and I faced off in air hockey. It was an even match for a while; that was until the Joker’s maniacal laugh rumbled from the machine. All of a sudden, a barrage of mini pucks erupted and covered the field. My mother was quicker than I as she scored way too many points for me to catch up. Merry were we as we headed back to the hotel to rest for the coming day.

Our taste buds began to water as we pulled up into the parking lot of the Hershey’s factory. The fresh smell of chocolate welcomed us inside from the cold like a warm hug. First on our little journey was to take the tour. With singing cows and all, we were shown how the chocolate process was done on comfy moving carts. Rumbling erupted from our stomachs as our eyes laid ravenously upon the goodies found in the store. Released unto the unsuspecting public, we began grabbing souvenirs, treats, and Christmas gifts. Such interesting treats consumed on that day included mint Kit Kats, pumpkin Kit Kats, cinnamon Kit Kats, hot chocolate Hershey Kisses, peppermint stick Hershey Kisses, delicious cupcakes, and the best treats of all; a shake run of some favorite flavors that included strawberry Twizzler, mint Kit Kats, and s’mores. After checking out with our several carts full of items, we made our way to the zoo associated with the company called ZooAmerica. Animals found across North America were housed inside its borders. It was so cool to see all these different types of animals, but some stood out above the rest. The first was the very proud road runner who liked to show off. He sat pretty for photo after photo in the open enclosure found inside one of the buildings. At one point, he flew and perched on a railing that was close enough that we could have touched him. After taking a few photos for the paparazzi loving bird, we headed out the building and found a playful creature in the water. The otter flipped, swam, and scurried about as we were mesmerized by his movements. Eventually, we pried ourselves away to find a curious sight. A bobcat had emerged from their hiding spot and was stalking a fellow visitor to the zoo. She was so ready to pounce, if not for the fence that blocked its way. Such a humorous sight and a reminder that some of these animals were still predators. Our next fellow was a big brown bear that sat right next to me on the other side of the glass. I would like to think that him and I shared a moment together as we looked into each others eyes for a while; then again he could have just thought of me as lunch. Speaking of which, there was a moment where I though the bear was going to snack on a black vulture. The zoo has been struggling to keep them away from the animals and one decided to nip him. They did not get a pleasant response when he swatted back with a roar. With reluctance, I left the bear as we saw the rest of the zoo with its excitable wolves, majestic bald eagles, creepy barn owls, and other great creatures to meet, Again, the animals known as our stomachs reminded us we needed food. Asking one of the locals, we were directed to a wondrous place to eat; observing along the way that the light post tops were shaped like Hershey Kisses. Day soon turned to night as we made our way to something he had heard was occurring from the Hershey’s store. A Holiday Stroll of fantastic lights greeted us as we drove through field, road, and forest. Synchronized to music, it was dazzling and relaxing seeing old holiday favorites and fairy tales brought to life in light. What a great way to end the day.

Antique shopping has always been something my family enjoyed partaking in when we found them.  Lucky for us, a huge emporium was located not too far from our hotel. Our shopping bugs infested our being as we went on shopping sprees for ourselves and others. (I think part of our logical minds were eaten away at the time but we had fun.) Personally, I bough myself some books and a pocket watch. Food was plentiful as we made our way a restaurant known as Good and Plenty. To those unfamiliar to the restaurant, it sits one down with strangers at a long table to enjoy a buffet meal together. Food was brought to the table like having a dinner at home, especially since the selection this time around was a Thanksgiving meal. We were sat with some interesting people who I believe were from New York. Kind exchanges were given as we made our way to watch a show at the Sight and Sound Theatres. Their show this time I did not enjoy nor did I click with, but my mother and brother seemed to enjoy it.

Our final full day of vacation came as we hopped from farmer’s market to farmer’ s market; enjoying fantastic tastes and smells that came from the stands. Fresh apple cider and home made sour cream and onion pretzels almost made me buy out their stocks. The last event of the vacation lay ahead as we went to Hershey Park. Mom was overly excited as she rushed ahead of us. Unfortunately, we found out that half the rides were closed due to the cold. This made sense and we ventured inside not knowing the benefit for coming at this time. They had lit up the park with so many lights that it looked like a rainbow version of the starry sky. A magic train ride in the sea of lights, a light show performed to music in a beautiful valley above the the river, and as much hot chocolate that one could drink. The few rides we went on were unique, so I will not give any spoilers. I will tell you that riding the the front was more terrifying than being in the back on most of the rides. Of course we ended up revealing we were from New Hampshire as we were the only ones that drank the King Size Shakes found only in the park. I enjoyed my Pumpkin Spice treat while getting weird looks from the majority of others. There was little time left before the park closed; so my brother and I went on the tallest ride as it slowly spun and rose us above the park. We was the city and park lit up in lights as we sat comfortably  in our seats.

The way back home was less eventful, though I did try to have them stop in NYC for pizza. That was immediately shot down even though I was the one driving; instead vying to stop at a fancy place in Massachusetts. It was a great trip, but I missed my love and was glad to be back home. I definitely suggest putting Pennsylvania on one’s list of places to visit for good food and relaxing times.

About the Author

Cats

Everyone’s favorite furry creatures are going to be inhabiting my dwelling place. I feel the disturbance in the force from all the dog lovers who read this, but it is just my opinion. Excitement fills my being as my house has been transformed to fit their needs. My future mother-in-law spoiled them as we have many toys, a climbing tree, bed, an enclosed litter box, and enough supplies to provide more than adequate care of them. I am looking forward to seeing them hop and jump around like crazy creatures, but also to enjoy the calm times when they purr from the gentlest of touches.

My last cat I had an incredibly strong bond with to the point where she would defend me from harm by even the likes of dogs several times her size. Her name was Sam, the mighty huntress and fierce defender. When I went on walks in the woods, she would be close behind following me on the trails; meowing when she thought we ventured too far. Her protectiveness did not even stop there. My future wife’s first introduction to this creature was the cat laying on top of our joined hands. After awhile though Sam warmed up to her and would seek her out for cuddles. It was saddening when she passed; the only comforting thought being she was reunited with her kittens again.

But enough with the depressing point of life. I am excited to make new memories with these two new additions to my family. They are sure to bring much joy and excitement to my life. Hopefully, they do not destroy my house too much.

Samples

The Trial of Goldilocks

In the kingdom of Berne, it came to past that the only daughter of the noble King Iomair came of age to claim her birthright. Preparations were made while the father and his daughter, who had locks of gold, met in secret to discuss the trials that lay ahead of her.

“This trial will not be easy my child.” Stated the king cautiously. “Not even I can know the details of the perils that await you. It is decided by the people who have placed their trust for you to rule as their future queen. In this way, you will have an unwavering faith from those you have sworn to protect. That does not mean that they will go easy on you. I have been told that they even enlisted the help of some of our high priests to ensure that you are thoroughly tested. Take heart my dear Goldilocks and know that I support you from afar.”

“I will my father and I will make you proud. There is nothing that will deter me from achieving that which I have trained for all my life. No more words for now, let me go forth to prove my worth to the people that will follow me.” Eagerly responded Goldilocks.

The man moved to the side as he followed his confident daughter out the door, feeling nothing but pride. They were met with cheers as the royal duo paraded down the streets to a great maze. The two looked at wonder at the greenery that stood before them. Not even the night before did this stand where it grew now. It was clear to the royalty that the people wanted to ensure their future.

As they stood flabbergasted, a priestess dressed in a white dress approached them. Upon her head she wore a ring of flowers and a golden belt carved with knots that sat around her waist. Across her skin were painted marks that faintly glowed.

She addressed them, “Hail King Iomair and his daughter Princess Goldilocks. I sincerely hope that you succeed today your highness. Allow me to explain the rules of this trial. You can bring within the maze a sword, shield, flint, hammer, wrappings, and a pot. There are three trials you must overcome before seeing the end. Only then will you be allowed to exit the maze, otherwise the vines will keep you closed in. Here are you supplies, now venture forth and may you find victory!”

Goldilocks nodded before raising her fist to her people. A cry of support came from them as they watched their princess cross the threshold and into her trial. As the priestess said, the vines closed the entrance behind her while the warrior shrugged at the mist that creeped and darkened her view. She feared not what lie ahead of her. Carefully, she followed the winding ways until coming to a clearing. To her surprise, she found stuck on top of a high tower a full size adult bear. It growled and snarled at the intruder but had no means to reach her. Vainly, it pawed at her from the edge of its platform before reeling back in fear of falling from such a height. The princess smirked at the ferocious creature before passing the tower. She only stopped when she heard a whining coming from behind her. Hopelessness was beset in the creature’s eyes as she felt a pang of pity hit her heart. Looking around, she found rubbles of wood and nails scattered about. One nail after another she constructed a great staircase to reach the beast. At first, the princess put her shield up and sword pointed at the bear. She was certain the creature would attack her at first sight, but she was soon surprised as the bruin walked gently towards her and nuzzled into her neck. Patting the great animal on the head she continued her journey, followed closely by the male bear.

Together the duo moved ever down past what seemed like miles of vine until again they came to a clearing. This time their lay in the middle of the plain a female bear. It slowly began to arise only to fall in a faint. A growl emanated from the creature but not from its mouth. The poor bear had been starved to the point of exhaustion. In her mind, the princess ridiculed the treatment her people had given the creatures as she pulled out her pot. Growing close by were stalks of wheat of which Goldilocks broke down to grains. Next, she went to a nearby pool of water and filled the pot. A mixture began to brew as she threw the grain in with the boiling water and spurtled the meal. To finish, she picked from her armor bits of sea salt that had fallen off the salted pork she had eaten earlier in the day. Once the food was ready, she placed the pot in front of the great female. With what seemed like gratitude, the bear gobbled down the meal spilling it everywhere. It was only mere moments before it got back on its feet and cuddled into the male bear. A sweet sight even for the abrasive princess. The creature duo began crying out into the open ear and then listened. Curious, Goldilocks listened too as she could hear a faint cry. It seemed the bear couple had heard it too for they barreled through the walls of the maze. Closely following behind, the warrior could hardly keep up. Finally, the two in front of her stopped and gave a sad sound. There in a bed was a cub with two of its legs broken by human hands. The parents watched over snuggled into their cub as they tried to comfort their offspring. An anger whirled inside the warrior, someone was going to pay for this when the trial had ended. Grabbing the bandages and ripping two legs from the bed, she made a support cast for the young creature. It seemed to help as it stumbled onto its feet and leaned on its parents. The warrior smiled seeing the three together as she continued onward, followed closely by her three new friends.

Only an oak tree lay in front of the groups escape toward beams of light. They made their way toward the exit before the land began to shake. The tree came to life as it swatted its limbs at the intruders. Fearing for the cub, the warrior caused her new friends to retreat behind a nearby wall of the maze. Over and over in her head she tried to think of a way to get around the creature but could not find an option. At last she cried to the gods to help her against this new foe. Her prayer was answered as a beam of light shone in front of her. The bears bowed at her coming as the goddess Artio stood before them. Quickly, the princess followed suit but was brought to her feet by the deity.

“Arise my child. You have not faltered yet in this trial; so why should you start now? I have chosen you to teach a lesson to the mortals of this realm to respect nature; something they sorely lack. This I know you can achieve for you are my daughter through the King Iomair, who kept it secret to protect you from harm and prodigious. With these, you will not only be able to communicate with these great creatures, but instantly heal any of their injuries. These are called the Wheat of Leigheas and any leftover you will be able to grow more of, but only by your own hands. Now go, claim your birthright so that you may impart my will against these mortals.”

Quickly, the warrior gave some wheat to each of the bears as each was strengthened and healed of any affliction. The adult male talked for the three as he looked toward the princess.

“My thanks from myself and my family for helping us in our time of need. Those vile humans know not of natures true intention; only how to warp it for their own plans. For now, let us focus at the task at hand. Our bite can easily break that tree to bits if we do so in the correct locations.”

Goldilocks thought for a moment before answering, “If we take out its roots it will have no life to continue upon. Follow my lead and we will attain freedom only together.”

The creatures nodded as the princess led them into the fray. Limbs and branches swatted at the group as they ducked the onslaught. One such swing almost took out the warrior if it were not for the youngest bear breaking the limb in two. Goldilocks used this to jump up from its back and strike the tree at its core. Of course, the creature seemed almost unfazed until it came toppling down from the two parents that had torn off the roots from the trunk. The battle being won, the new friends set forth towards the exit. A rain of cheers came from the crowd before it came to terrified screams. No one had expected her to return with those beasts, they wanted her to let them die.

Loudly, Goldilocks screamed, “Who is responsible for this?! Who dare disrespects these magnificent creatures?! Speak now and I may just spare you.”

No one dared to utter even a whisper. It was only broken when shocked murmurs spread once they heard bear noises erupt from their own princess. The murmurs turned to screams as thirteen men were dragged to the stage by the great bears. With a single slash of her blade, Goldilocks beheaded the disgraceful men. Then she looked toward the crowd and shouted.

“Let them be an example of what happens when one decides to disrespect nature itself. Under my rule we will attain peace with the land around us, healing it from the wounds we have inflicted upon it. For I, Goldilocks, Daughter of King Iomair and the goddess Artio, will not stand for anything less. Go now and release any wild animals you chose to tease in your homes and help saplings grow to mighty trees.”

Both scared and admired at the strength of their new queen, the villagers did as they were told. Next the warrior turned onto the priestess who stopped her with her words.

“Hold great queen. I am not your enemy in this cause, for I too serve the gods, more specifically the god Gwydion. You see, it was I that set the final obstacle, unbeknownst to the villagers that now lay dead at your feet. My lord wanted me to test you to see if you could live up to the name of your mother, the great goddess Artio. This you have succeeded and more for you could have only gotten past the mighty oak with the help of all three. I look forward to seeing how you transform this kingdom.”

With that the priestess of the trickster god vanished in a puff of mist, cackling before fading away. King Iomair was delighted at his daughter’s success and bestowed upon her his crown. The next few years were a form of transition as the human town soon grew side by side with nature. Bears were not uncommon to see walking beside the citizens and helping them with their day to day activities. All the while Goldilocks remained upon the thrown knowing that some day that her and the alliance of the bears, would be put to the test.

A Closer Look

A Closer Look: The Great Tower of Radix (Silvia’s Tower)

Built to spite her jealous husband, Madame Silvia Muffet created the building using her shaman magic. Twisting vines, roots, branches, and thorns weave together to form this grand tower to the very top room where a single window looks out on the land of Fabulum. To most beings, there is no door to enter this place. It only appears if one passes the test of the tower.

Two vines will spring forth from the tower; one having an allspice flower at the end of it that will wrap its petals around a person’s chest. The second has the jaws of a Venus fly trap, the tips of its teeth teasing the flesh all around one’s head. After a few minutes of suspense, the vines will retreat to the tower and form an archway; revealing a large round door made of Maple tree wood. That is only if one passes. On the other hand, if the person does not pass the fly trap gets brains for dinner. The only way to pass this test is to have enough compassion in your heart to care others more than yourself. Once one does get inside, they see the true wonder of this place.

Flowers light up the walls with a variety of vibrant colors that rival the splendor of a rainbow. Creatures of all shapes and sizes roam the tower, neither prey or predator seeking any hostility toward one another. If one makes their way down the steps and underground they can her the very tower breathe. The roots under the building are curled around a green glowing gem that keeps the structure standing. One must be careful approaching the sight for if they do not, giant moles will come up and smack intruders.

Going back upstairs, one would climb the spiraling staircase of Silvia’ tower. Each step is made of thick oak branches that run along the walls, From the ceiling trickles vines with radiant flowers that light the very tower. Finally, at the very top of the stairs it opens to a large circular room. A corner of the room contains two large tables side by side. One is obviously a work bench with tools scattered about and wood shavings covering the table top. The other seems strange to the most people. On it are several vials, tubes, and bottles that are kept neatly in rows against the back wall. Above them are shelves of powders, glowing liquids, and ingredients that are used for potions. In the center of this table is a small cauldron that is usually boiling. Like most of the tower, flowers of magnificent colors decorate the pointed ceiling. Branches stick out from the roof as most of the time Silvia’s owls perch upon them, except for Vitro, Silvia’s closest owl, who has his own perch next to her work bench. A single window lets the light in with a flat bay bottom and a coned shaped top. Across from this is a huge book case aligned with tomes of magic and guides to plants. A humble wood carved bed stands next to this with faded linens. The wooden plank floor is decorated in the center with a finishing of an owl in flight.

A Closer Look

A Closer Look: The Muffet Clan

The Muffet family crest was based on the founding members’ animals. At the top of the symbol were an eagle’s wings spread on the outside while the middle has a bat’s. The lower half was in the jaws of a crocodile with its toothy smile. Located in the middle of the crest was a curved elephant’s trunk next to a bear’s paw.

During the Graecian Expansion, Cyclops from Graecia attempted to invade the land of Fabulum. The five founding members of the Muffet clan rose up to stop them led by Ellie Muffet thus where the name comes from. Battle after battle they fought, making the cyclops more and more fearful of their reputation. Eventually, they surrendered, begging to be spared their lives and from returning to Graecia. The founders graciously allowed them to stay, forming an alliance with their homeland in the process.

Since then, they have served as the protectors of Fabulum. Whether it be fighting trolls, wolves, or giants; they have been a reliable and formidable force. Notable members include Gruff Muffet whose duel tactics ended the Troll conflict. He is deviously clever man who chose a particularly large breed of goats to train. This is an ode to his mother Bo Peep who trained sheep. Gruff’s wife, Silvia was an owl trainer and discovered she was a shaman. Her skills soon outshone her husband’s and gave her much respect among anyone she met.

Both of the couple’s sons were gifted as well. One became the head of the clan while training ravens. His name was John and took the characteristics of his father. On the other hand, his brother with his wife was able to train the dreaded pack. Unfortunately, he was struck down by Mallupo’s handiwork. However, this gave rise to the greatness of their daughter, Red Muffet. With the gone, she now had the responsibility of leading the wolf pack, despite the land rejecting her for being a werewolf. Her renown cousins live in the Muffet Manor. Goldilocks is a celebrated warrior warrior riding atop of her three bears, while her sister Luda (though she prefers Miss Muffet) ensnares her opponents with her trained giant spiders.

The only famous member not directly related to the family is a man by the name of Serlep. He is a talented warrior who is enlisted under a special strike force for Gruff as an orphan. The first to train snakes, he showed amazing skills even before he trained his adoptive deceased brothers’ animals after their deaths at the hands of Red. Though there may just be more than skill involved with his feats.