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Cool Flame & the Chuckmuck

A Green Light Not a Mile Away in the Distance

By Jesse Terrance DanielsPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
2
Cool Flame & the Chuckmuck
Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

An exhausted soldier came shuffling down the road with a knapsack on his back and a sheathed sword by his side. He fought in many wars but was now too wounded to continue. The soldier kept rethinking his King’s last decree: “Return from whence you came, I need you no longer.” The soldier didn’t know how to make a living otherwise. Owning only the things he carried, the soldier went away greatly troubled, rambling nowhere in particular.

After hiking the entire day, the road began to narrow, and the soldier noticed a green light not a mile away in the distance. He discovered it was emanating from a modest hut. The soldier pursued the place, intending to beg. He no longer had any pride to defend.

Upon approaching the door, the soldier gave it a rap and was met with a gust of putrid odor and an old witch standing within the threshold of the open hut. The green light poured out behind her hunched posture revealing a gaping maw, which caused her bottom lip to hang low. But then a strange expression of satisfaction began to spread across her face, as though finally receiving a meal she’d ordered long ago. The woman nodded to the soldier, “Good evening,” she croaked.

“Do provide me lodging and meager sustenance,” hastily beckoned the man, “or I shall starve.”

“Whoa-lah-ho!” she retorted, “Who gives anything away? Yet, I’ll be compassionate and take you in if you’ll do what I wish.” The soldier consented, and the witch led him indoors.

Once dawn broke, and the sun peeked over the horizon, the old woman led the soldier down the road. “Do you see that large tree?” queried the witch, pointing to an ash nearby. “It’s hollow inside. You can descend into the tree a great depth below the earth. I will tie this rope around your body to help pull when you climb back up.”

“But what am I to do once down there?” asked the soldier.

“Retrieve my chuckmuck,” barked the witch. “When you reach the ground beneath, you will find yourself in a large chamber. In the middle of the floor, you’ll see a tall pedestal wreathed in flame, and upon it, my chuckmuck. But you need not be afraid of the blaze. I will give you my yellow checked apron, which you must wear on your person. It will protect you from burns.”

“Sounds like dangerous sorcery to me, witch,” the soldier protested. “Why don’t you simply cast some spell to reclaim it?”

“You fool! You know nothing of magic. One cannot simply undo grand sorcery. You must find ways around. The chuckmuck harbors tremendous rewards. Accomplish this, and you need not worry where you stay any longer.”

“Very well,” decided the soldier. Either he did what she asked and received some reward or walked away with nothing. “Help me tie the rope around my body.”

“Here it is,” replied the woman, happily stringing it around his torso, “and here is my yellow checked apron.” The soldier wrapped the apron around his belt and assisted the witch in tying knots.

The soldier assessed that the massive ash was likely a hundred feet tall, but this was his task, and so he climbed. It began effortlessly enough but nearing the apex, handholds were scarce. Nonetheless, he found himself atop the behemoth, balancing on a couple of thin branches, peering down through the strange hollow to the ground beneath.

The hole wasn’t narrow, nor was it wide, and the soldier found he could barely squeeze in. One foot at a time, ensuring a definite stance before lowering further, the soldier began to rely quite heavily on the rope due to few safe gnarls for gripping and standing. To his pleasant surprise, the witch was more than able to support his slow descent. Lowering him further, the soldier could see the column open to an expansive underground chamber. Once in the room, there was still another twenty feet to descend until the witch could breathe a sigh of relief.

Settled with firm footing now, the soldier looked about the gritty cavern. He was standing in front of a stone pedestal surrounded by an intense whirlwind of fire; the chuckmuck was resting on top. The flaming vortex was tight to the leather pouch, and the heat coming off it should’ve been oppressive, but it wasn’t, and the soldier remembered the apron. However, his trust in magic was minimal, so the soldier wrapped the smock around his limb from fingers-to-forearm as an extra precaution. Approaching slowly, he felt no pain of any kind. So, he snatched the relic and backed away from the pedestal. The burning tornado dissipated.

The soldier tore open the leather satchel to inspect its hidden treasures. There was nothing of value. “Pull me out, old witch!” called the soldier disappointedly. He figured the sack was brimming with wealth, but it was not. The only things the chuckmuck held were tools for starting a fire. He strapped the satchel to his belt and rewrapped the apron after untethering it from his arm. All the while, the witch was drawing him up and out of the tree.

Realizing he was about to emerge, the witch called out for the soldier to toss down the chuckmuck. “I cannot!” shouted back the soldier, wedged near the tree’s exit using all his limbs to support himself by applying pressure against the walls. The old woman’s tension on the line was rapidly receding.

“Hurry up, throw the pouch, and I will pull you out. If you do not, I will let go!” assured the witch.

“Are you daft!” screamed the soldier, “I’ll likely die! The drop is tremendous!”

“Well then, throw it, or die!”

“Damn you!” The soldier cried out, “I hold the relic that you desire. I will not give it to you until I am standing on the ground. Pull me out!” The witch fell into a wrathful passion, cursing and flailing. The soldier could hear her walking away and watched the rope dangle limply. The soldier’s eyes widened, and his palms glazed over with sweat. He began to slip. As an instinctual last effort, he reached out his right arm for a handhold. His weak arm seized, his spine twitched, and the soldier was no longer standing.

SLAM! “...eh…” muttered the soldier. He fell into a mangled heap on the moist earth. The soldier felt worse than ever before and sunk into darkness from the pain.

Awaking hours later, the soldier was surprised to be alive. Though he was breathing now, pain was the precursor to every action. The soldier knew he would die in this heap. He decided he would smoke his very last pipe.

The soldier opened a small box and pulled out a pinch of herb. There wasn’t much left, but enough to appease his last moments in this dank chasm. With his pipe prepped, the soldier leaned to his right side to access the curved steel striker attached to the base of the chuckmuck. Placing tinder in position, he struck the steel with his flint. Sparks jumped to appropriately placed char-cloth, igniting it immediately. He hastily touched a matchstick to the flaming embers and brought it toward his face to light the pipe. That’s when he noticed it.

This flame was unique. It burned blue, a cool, vibrant blue.

Hypnotizing.

The icy-toned element flared.

The matchstick was reduced to a pile of ash, and the small blue flame rested on the awestruck soldier’s palm. The soldier used the fire to light his pipe. The flickering easily caught on the herb, stretching a thin plume of smoke outward. The soldier inhaled, followed by a slowly exhaled sigh. When his smoky breath met with the rest of the smoke, it rapidly filled the cavern. By the time the cloud circled the space, venting upward to clear, there was suddenly a man standing before him with a dog by his feet. Bewildered, the soldier scurried backward as fast as his shattered core could carry him, which was not very far before the man approached and spoke.

“My lord, what do you command of me?” questioned the man. He stood with his hand outstretched in an attempt to help the soldier to his feet.

“Command?” The soldier replied, astonished to have seen this man appear from the now receded fog.

“I’m at your service. I must do all that you bid,” said the man.

The soldier gawked in horror and delight, realizing the man must have been ushered in through the smoke from the magical fire. The man was average-sized and appeared non-threatening. His arm was outstretched from under his cloak, revealing azure skin to match the flame, but his face remained shrouded in the shadow of his hood. The brindle dog was huge with big blue eyes that matched the man’s skin, sitting patiently by its master’s feet.

“Great guiding spirits!” exclaimed the soldier in nervous excitement. “Can you get me out of this crumpled state? I’m in a great deal of pain.”

“As you wish.” The hooded man stepped forward and tapped the soldier’s forehead. Without thinking, the soldier went to swat the blue man’s finger away, only to discover that his right arm was in perfect condition. He stopped short of contact, allowing the blue man to remove his hand independently. The soldier’s whole body tingled with renewed exuberance, and he sprang to his feet with an agility that he hadn’t displayed in years.

“Well, if you can do that, can you also get me outta’ this trap?”

“Right this way.” The blue man beckoned the brindle dog forward to lead, and they followed it toward one end of the chamber. It appeared as though the dog was walking them straight into a wall.

“It’s just a dead-end,” The soldier pointed out. “What now?” That’s when the dog’s pupils dilated. His eyes widened to a startling size and then started to spin. The wall also began to change; it drifted away like smoke revealing a pathway behind it. “Spirits save us! What have I just witnessed? It’s no longer a wall at all!”

“Good boy,” spoke the cloaked enigma. “The dog opened the earth for us.” The dog’s eyes returned to ordinary as the trio strolled forward into the new underground passage. Noting the soldier’s confusion, the blue man added, “You have summoned us with the flame, and we can grant all that you wish.”

“Good enough. I’m not one to question gifts, or frankly, understand sorcery,” replied the soldier.

“Have you any further commands, my lord?”

“Not at the moment. Return home for now, wherever it is that you call home. Just be ready for me to summon you again.”

“Of course, my lord. Utilize the blue flame, and we shall appear at once” The three emerged in the middle of the woods, having escaped the subterranean chamber by using the dog’s path. Looking back, the soldier could see the underground space behind them and was happy to be free. He decided he ought to make his way back to the road. When he turned again, the blue man and dog had already vanished, and the flame on his hand extinguished.

Before getting far, the witch appeared abruptly. She was howling frightfully on board a mountain lion, “Hand over the chuckmuck!” piercing the soldier’s ears painfully. But the soldier wasted no time. He gritted through her cackling, unsheathed his sword, and swung in one clean, horizontal arc. The hag’s head fell from her neck to the dirt below. It rolled slowly around the feet of her steed, oozing fluids, resting in front of the massive tomcat. Her body followed, crashing to the ground, sprawled in a prideless manner. The mountain lion began licking the wounds. Disgusted, the soldier backed away slowly as not to instigate the feline further. Once he reached a comfortable fifty feet, he spun and sprinted back toward the kingdom that cast him aside.

Series
2

About the Creator

Jesse Terrance Daniels

Jesse is the founder of Pied Raven Games, and his first card game, Hibernation, won Best Family Game in 2018. He currently has a book in the process about game design. The book, titled Make Your Own Board Game, will be available 08/2022.

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