S: The Mysterious Tale of the Haunted Cliffs
1: CHAPTER ONE Once upon a Summer in a desert far away, five cousins went camping. Upon reaching Mesa Verde they quickly pitched their tents, ate dinner and went to bed before dark, just as their Mothers had told them to.
3: The next day, after making monster pancakes for breakfast, they took a tour of the cliff dwellings and local sites. When they returned they dug a small hole and constructed a animal trap to catch any night-time marauders. Afterwards they made dinner and settled in for a few hands of poker before bed.
5: After about an hour, Carson suddenly exclaimed, “ Oh, No! I left my hat at the Cliffs! Mom is not going to like that! Whatever shall I do? The five cousins quickly discussed the situation and decided to go back and find the hat. “But it’s starting to get dark!”, Carson wailed.
6: “It’s OK”, said Nicolette, poised and serene as usual. “We’ve been there once, surely we can find the way back!”.
7: “And we have Jordan to protect us!”, Maddie added, dancing with excitement. “That’s right”, said Jordan, “And Jaden has his spear, just in case we run into trouble. Never fear little brother, we will find your hat!”.
9: So Jaden grabbed his spear and Jordan found the flashlight and off the five cousins went! Soon they came to the Forest of Fire, where all the trees were blackened and scorched. The sun had set but there was just enough light to see the spooky outlines of the twisted trees.
11: As the sky darkened into inky blackness, the five cousins heard a creepy sound. The trees seemed to be moaning! They huddled close together and crept silently through the forest. Then the trees all started crying, “Help us! Please, help us! Bring us water and we will forever be your friends!”. Well the five cousins could hardly believe their ears.
12: “Shouldn’t we do something?”, Maddie quivered. “Those poor trees. They sound soooooo sad!”. She and Nicholette started to walk towards the nearest tree, seemingly hypnotized by its moaning.
13: “Wait!”, shouted Jaden, raising his spear. “It’s a trick! Look over there!”. The five cousins all looked the direction that Jaden was pointing and gasped. The trees had started bending and swaying, moaning louder and louder.
15: A flock of bats flew over just as the five cousins heads as ghosts began to rise among the dead branches. "Run!", shouted Jordan. And they ran as fast as they could, leaving the forest behind them. “That was close!”, exclaimed Nicolette, barely out of breath, “Which way now?” “Follow me!”, cried Jordan as he led them through the brush, " We are almost there".
16: They crept quickly through the bushes, jumping at the hooting of an owl and shivering when they heard coyotes crying mournfully.
17: “Are we there yet?” Carson asked.
18: CHAPTER TWO Finally the five cousins reached the Visitor’s Center at the top of the cliff. “I think we should all use the restroom before going down”, Nich remarked in a practical way. They saw a nearby outhouse and started over.
19: As they got nearer they heard an eerie chanting. “WHEN THE LOG ROLLS OVER WE’LL ALL BE DEAD!” The five cousins looked at each other, their eyes wide with fear. “I think we can wait!”, exclaimed Jordan as they ran to the top of the trail.
21: At the edge, they looked down. There in the light of the nearly-full moon stood the cliff dwellings. “We’re almost there!”, whispered Maddie. The five cousins carefully started down the steep, winding trail. Soon they came to a stone staircase. “Be careful!, It’s pretty steep!”, warned Jordan. They crept along, step by step. They were almost there when the hair on the backs of their necks stood up on end! “What’s that noise?”, whispered Jaden. “It sounds like music!”
23: They stopped and stood quietly in the moonlight, looking at the pueblo. The sound of flute and drum drifted over to them and they began to see the glimmering shapes of spirits appear. The spirits drifted in a wavering dance, keeping time with the drum. “Carson, where did you leave your hat?”, Nicolette asked gently. “Up there”, he pointed to the very top of the pueblo.
25: The five cousins looked up in dismay. However would the reach the hat without disturbing the spirits? The five cousins huddled together making a plan. They all had very good ideas for reaching the hat.
26: Jordan wanted to follow the rules that the Ranger had given them. Jaden suggested asking the spirits for permission. Maddie thought that whatever they did, they should do it fast! And Carson reminded everyone to be quiet.
27: Nicolette thought they should do all of these things and the others agreed.
29: “Now, do we all remember the rules?” Maddie asked. She had to be extra sure the rules were followed since she was a deputy ranger. “Don’t touch, lean on, walk on or sit on the walls!”, they all replied in unison.
30: So, carefully, quietly and quickly they all walked to the pueblo, stopping at the edge of the dancing spirits.
31: The music slowly came to a stop as the spirits turned to look at the cousins. Jaden stepped forward, placing his spear at the feet of the nearest spirit in a gesture of goodwill.
33: Carson slowly and carefully (and quietly) walked up to the spirit. “ May we go and get my hat, please?”, he asked politely. The spirit looked down at the cousins and sighed, “Yes, but be warned! If you touch the walls you will never be able to leave!”
35: The cousins nodded in assent. The spirit moved aside and the cousins approached the first ladder. It looked different in the moonlight, much older and very rickety. “We have to do this”, Jordan said in an encouraging voice. “If we don’t we are really going to be in trouble when we get home!” Slowly they started up the shaking ladder. When they all reached the top they let out a humongous sigh. Then they carefully walked to the next ladder.
37: “I don’t remember it being so tall”, Maddie whispered. Behind them they heard the spirits giggling. “Up we go”, Nicolette commanded. So they climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed until they finally reached the third floor.
39: The five cousins all stood together gawking at Carson’s hat. A great big sleepy raven was laying on it! He seemed quite content and unwilling to move even when they approached him. “Mr. Raven, may I have my hat please?”, Carson asked respectfully
40: “CROAK”, replied the raven sleepily, ruffling his feathers and nestling further into the hat. The children heard more giggling below them.
41: “Let’s just shoo him away”, said Nicolette, approaching the raven slowly. She stopped as the raven suddenly tensed and cocked his head, looking her straight in the eye. “Hmmm, maybe there’s some other way,” she remarked as she backed off.
42: Again, the cousins huddled in discussion but were unable to come up with a way to get rid of the raven. Maddie looked around in frustration when she spotted a feather lying on the ground.
43: “I’ve to it!”, she cried and quickly told the others her plan
44: “Well, I guess it’s worth a try,” Jaden remarked, “go ahead.” “Oh!, I think Jordan should do it! He’s the biggest”, Maddie reasoned.
45: They all agreed and Jordan approached the raven, hiding the feather behind his back
47: The raven looked up curiously as Jordan came to a stop in front of him. “May we have my brother’s hat, please?,” Jordan asked. The raven cackled and turned up his nose. “OK, then – you asked for it!” and Jordan whipped out the feather and started tickling the raven all over. The raven shrieked with laughter, flapping its wings and hopping from foot to foot. Finally, with on last CAAAW he flew away. Jordan snatched up the hat and hurried back to the cousins. “Strap this thing on, Carson, and let’s go!” They hurried back to the ladder but to their horror it was gone!
49: Once again the cousins heard giggling from below, much louder this time. “I wish they would stop with the laughing,” Jaden muttered, “It’s not funny!” They looked at the spirits below. What did they want, they all wondered. Slowly one of the spirits quietly rose up to the cousins.
50: “Have you found what you were looking for?”, the spirit asked softly. “Yes, thank you,” Nicolette replied, “May we go home now please?”
51: The spirit floated there and looked at the children standing quietly and bravely in front of him.
53: “Very well,” he pronounced, “You have passed the test. Even in your fear you have behaved in a respectful and courteous manner, bringing no harm to anyone or anything around you. You may go.” The ladder re-appeared and the cousins signed in relief and started down. Strangely the ladder seemed much shorter now and they carefully, quickly & quietly made their way out of the pueblo.
54: And quickly, carefully and quietly they made their way back their campground.
55: They climbed into their sleeping bags exhausted and slept until late the next morning.
56: When they awoke they happily greeted the sunshine forgetting about the dark journey they took the night before.
57: “What’s for breakfast?” yelled Jaden, his stomach growling. “We’ll have breakfast later!” exclaimed Jordan. “Let’s go check the trap!”
58: They ran to the edge of the campsite to check the trap and got the biggest surprise of their lives!
59: There in the hole was Jaden’s arrow! Just as he remembered it