Hunger Option B: Indirect Path

Readers are cautious in this adventure. They’ve voted to take the indirect path in the arena in hopes of avoiding the other competitors. Let’s see it the caution pays off.

Hunger Option B: Indirect Path

Caution wins out and you decide to take the indirect path back toward where you entered the arena.

The thick foliage slows you down to a crawl and before long you’re moving through the gray of twilight, which quickly turns into the dark of a moonless night. You realize you’ll have no chance of seeing blue needles on a night like this so you focus on finding that sweet smell that alerted you earlier.

Before you find it, there’s an ‘ugh’ followed by a high-pitched hum.

A moment later there’s a scream and thrashing in the foliage. The screaming continues and it sounds like an elephant’s crashing through the arena.

You freeze, waiting for the competitor to move away. Eventually the sound of his pain and confusion registers as only a dull nightly noise and you move forward again.

A sweet smell fills the air and then you step in something. Looking down, you find your foot firmly planted in the middle of a bees-1444939-mhoneycomb that must have been knocked off the tree recently.

You realize what must have happened to the other competitor as you look up to see the remains of a beehive. All around you lay bits and pieces of honey thick comb.

When you lift your foot, half the comb comes with it. You barely hold in an ‘ugh’ of your own but then the ‘ugh’ turns into a groan when the sweet smell of disturbed honey overwhelms you.

Your stomach moans in response, reminding you your last meal was dinner the night before. And that had only been stale bread and water.

Something snaps just as you lean over to pick up a piece of honeycomb. Everything in you wants to drink the sweet insides but then another twig snaps under a booted sole.

You wince and crouch down right where you’re at, your fingers inches away from your next meal.

A moment later a young woman moves through the foliage to your right with a chunk of honeycomb in one hand and a round object in her other.

From the comb she sips honey as she slips a ring onto one of her fingers. She passes you without looking over.

i-love-honey-bees-1442702-mHoney covers both her hands but she seems completely unperturbed by this as she grins a gap-toothed smile at the gold on her finger.

She holds her hand up to inspect her prize just when a sliver of moon peeks over the arena wall.

The ring lights up with a greenish glow. The woman chortles and then she disappears into the trees.

You’ve no idea how she knows where she’s going. Part of the competition is that you only get more hints when you find each object.

Is the ring the hint or is the hint back where she found the ring?

You’re not sure. Contemplating, you break off a chunk of comb and sip the sweet honey. It fills your mouth with an explosion of flavor.

You could simply follow the woman, hoping she interpreted the hint correctly or you could inspect where she found the ring in hopes of finding the hint for yourself.

You guessed the first location correctly on your own, so you’re sure you can figure out the second hint if you know what it is.

While you continue to eat honey, do you…

Bb. Follow the woman?

Or

Bc. Inspect the Ring’s Location?

Blessings and hope to see you Tuesday,

Jennifer

Hunger

Welcome to the adventure! Read on and, at the end, vote for how you’d like to proceed. Just be careful, you never know what you may find around the next corner.

Hunger

Hunger sits in your stomach as a constant companion. It gnaws at your ribs and rolls in your middle like a sea monster playingbread-1426350-m with your insides. That’s why the bread, still soft and warm from the baker’s oven, tempted you even though common sense raged in your head that the constable stood just a few blocks away at the corner.

You might have gotten away unnoticed except for the beggar boy in the doorway behind you. His shout brought several constables down on you in a tussle you had no strength for. In the skirmish, the boy scooped up your bread and ducked into an alley unseen by the authorities.

No honor amongst thieves. At least not in Abben.

After a week in the dungeons, the competition rolled around and finally you struck upon a bit of luck.

Your name was one of the four called.

The competition’s simple fun for the upper class, but for you, and any other criminal, it’s a chance at forgiveness, a clean slate. If you win, you walk free. If you don’t, you end up back in the dungeon for the next year. No one comes out better off after a year under the castle.

So now you sit under a tree in the arena. It’s a gigantic circle built with high walls from which the upper class can watch. But within the arena all you see is stone and dense forest.

You wait for dusk as you were told. Only then are you allowed to move.

Somewhere out in the forest three other competitors sit waiting under their own trees.

You’re not sure who else the competition masters picked or what their crimes are but hopefully the other three only worry about themselves. You’ve heard that, in the past, some competitors set traps for the other players.

Picture courtesy of Arthur RousseauThe sun slants through the trees at a sharp angle. It’s almost time.

You envision the ring, a gold band twined around a perfect circle of jasper, and contemplate where it might be hidden. The ring is the first of three objects you must retrieve.

The constable who led you to your tree gave you a clue. “Look for blue needles and angry bees,” he said.

You were blindfolded when brought into the arena, so you’ve no idea if you passed any blue needles but you did smell something sweet. Being hungry all the time has a way of sharpening your sense of smell apparently. You also know he brought you in from the left. So you could head that way in hopes the sweet had something to do with honey.

But you also know the other competitors were brought in from the same direction since there’s only one entrance to the arena. Would they have smelled the sweet? The streets have taught you caution. Maybe it’d be better to head inward and swing back toward the sweet smell, taking an out of the way path in hopes of avoiding the others.

The slanting rays of sun disappear, chilling the air around you as the light moves below the high walls of the arena.

It’s time to move.

Do you…

A. Take the Direct Path?

B. Take the Indirect Path?

Blessings and see you Thursday!

Jennifer

Chalice Option Aa1: Chalice

Welcome to the end of this week’s adventure. The participation on this one has been astounding. Thanks everyone!

Hope you enjoy =)

Chalice Option Aa1: Chalice

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

You hesitate, eyeing the chalice in her clawed fist, but then you think of your sister and decide you’ve come this far and can’t leave without asking.

“May I take the chalice to my sister?” You phrase the question so hopefully the dragon notices you’re not asking for yourself.

“Very brave or very stupid,” she says again. “I really can’t decide.” She lowers her head a bit so you’re looking directly into one jewel like blue eye. When she blinks, you hear the click of her scales but you hold perfectly still, waiting.

“For your sister?” The dragon asks.

You simply nod.

“You’re aware the chalice isn’t a cure all?”

“Per…perfect skin,” you stutter as she shifts her head and you feel the warm puff of her breath in your hair.

“Yes,” she says, “it’ll give her that. But it won’t replace you if the drakes kill you on your way out and it won’t fix her family if her problem is genetic. It will pass on to her children.”

The thought of dying and leaving your sister alone lodges a lump in your throat but you got in, so you’ve got to believe you can get out without the drakes catching you.

Seeing your resolve, the dragon nods. “Fair enough. Be aware, the chalice will return to me immediately after being drank from.” She lifts her head and rumbles deep in her throat. Then she spits into the chalice and hands it to you.

You can’t help but frown into the crystal bowl, eyeing the dragon spit dubiously.

An earth-rumbling chuckle comes from the dragon. “No regular water will do the trick,” she laughs. “Now run, before the spit dries.”

The thought horrifies you. To go to all this trouble only to have the spit dry.

The dragon points toward a door behind her.

You race to it, cradling the chalice in one hand, and then realize you’ve got to set the chalice down to open the dead bolt on the heavy, iron door.

Once it’s open, you scoop the chalice up and shout a quite “thanks” over your shoulder as you scamper into the hall beyond.

Immediately the walls brighten with the warning of fire. You feel the heat a second later and realize there must be a drake in front of you.

At the door, the dragon huffs, pulls in a big breath, and breathes out a gust of cool air that shoves you forward. It also seems to meet the fire and push it back.

“I’m a sucker for humans,” the dragon mocks herself, “Run!” and she sucks in another breath.

You time your dash with her second gust of air. It lasts long enough for you to race up the stairs, dart past the startled drake at the top and duck out into the dark fog beyond.

You don’t stop running even though you can’t see more than five feet in front of you. A gout of flame lights up the fog from behind and you stumble, hitting your knees.

Instead of pushing back to your feet, you roll into the bush beside you and hold still.

Moments later, a dark, hulking shape runs by, emitting another gout of flame as it passes.

You roll out of the bush and keep moving.

Unfortunately, you’re horribly lost until the sun marks east for you. Then you make your way back to the village with the chalice.

When you enter your sister’s room, she looks up in surprise from where she’s reading a book in her chair. From the looks of it, she hasn’t slept all night, waiting for you to return.

“You’re home!” she jumps up and races to you.

crystal-goblet-287758-mAt the last moment, you hold out the chalice and stop her headlong rush.

“Drink,” you encourage.

She glances at it and you do the same, relieved to see the spit hasn’t dried even though it took you all night to get home.

With a shrug, she drinks and then waits. Like a shower drenching her from head to toe, you notice the difference in her skin on her forehead, then her ears and chin, moments later it hits her hands and then reaches her bare feet. You grin and look up to meet her eyes.

Your grin wavers. Her eyes are still bright red.

She spins to look in the mirror and one hand reaches up to cover her eyes. Like she’s playing peek-a-boo, she covers them and then drops her hand, hoping for a change.

It doesn’t come.

“I’m sorry,” you whisper.

In the mirror, her grin returns even though it’s a bit watery. “It there’s a chalice that fixes skin,” she says, “there’s bound to be a book or a stone to fix my eyes.”

She spins back to you and gives you a hug. It’s only then you notice the chalice is gone, vanished into thin air.

The End

Blessings and have a wonderful week,

Jennifer

Chalice Option Aa: Dive Over the Waterfall

Here you go over the falls! Maybe you’ll survive and escape the drake. Let’s see =)

Chalice Option Aa: Dive Over the Waterfall

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

With no time to spare, you clutch the chalice tight in one fist and shove yourself into the river, flipping over immediately so your feet are headed over the falls first.

Above you, the world turns bright with flame. Even below the water, the heat of it warms your skin.

Your stomach hits your throat and the world drops out from under you. You’re in freefall but your can’t see what’s around you or under you as water’s in your hair and mouth and eyes.

Still you fall and your stomach doesn’t leave your throat. Then, like hitting the ground instead of leaves when you jumped from the barn roof, you hit the water and all air leaves your chest and your body screams from the impact. But still you’re being pushed downward and your chest burns from lack of air.

In panic, you realize the chalice is no longer in your hand. You can’t even feel your arms. The edges of your vision spark and your sight narrows like the closing of black curtains.

Something grabs you. Your mind screams it’s the drake but you can’t fight. You can’t feel it grasping your body. All you can really tell is you’re moving against the push of water and fast.

Your head breaks into the open air. A gasp burns down your throat and convulsions of coughing double you in half.

Only when you hit rock and are dragged out of the water do you look over to see who saved you.

Perhaps because you’re still coughing weakly, you don’t scream. Huge blue eye observe you over a snout that shimmers like water.

The eyes blink and they click with hard scales. The head sporting those eyes is as big as you are.

This is no drake, this is a full-grown dragon and she’s so close all she’d have to do to eat you is flinch.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Her lips pull back in a toothy grin.

“You’re either very stupid or very brave,” she says. It’s then you notice the chalice in one of her clawed fists. The crystal reflects the blue of her scales. “But either way, you managed to bring the chalice to me.” Her grin grows wider. “So I’ll grant you one boon. What do you ask for, human?”

She doesn’t seem hungry and her voice isn’t mean. Other than her size and teeth and claws, she hasn’t given you any reason to fear her, yet.

But you’ve never heard of a friendly dragon. Do you dare ask to use the Chalice for your sister?

Or do you ask for your life?

Aa1. Chalice?

Or

Aa2. Life?

Blessings and hope to see you Thursday,

Jennifer

Chalice Option A: Up

Chalice Option A: Up

stone-stairs-959699-mWithout anything more to guide you, you shrug and decide to head up the stairs. As you climb, the roar of the waterfall grows until it throbs in your ears.

Because of the overwhelming thrum of sound, you don’t immediately hear the other noise. Some sixth sense stands your hair on end, making you look over your shoulder.

The stairs are empty except for the steady blue glow but as you stand there perfectly still, you catch a scraping like metal on stone. You hold your breath, hoping it’s your imagination, but just as you’re about to turn around, the sound comes again. A barely perceptible scraaaatttccchh below the roar of water.

Your teeth feel like you ran your nails against a stick of chalk. You back up until your shoulders hit the outside wall. Then you slowly sidestep up the stairs, swinging your eyes up and down to keep everything in sight.

Out of the corner of your eye, you catch a shadow. With the ever-steady, blue glow, the shadow’s faint, just a shade darker blue on the wall below you. When you look directly at it, you can’t make it out but when you turn your head and glance out of the corner of your eye, it’s there, like a flicker of light on a window.

You continue sidestepping upward and keep your head tilted so you can see that faint but darker shade of blue. It follows you up the stairs, growing bigger by infinitesimal amounts.

The stairs end and you find yourself on a broad balcony with a river cutting through the middle of it to run over the edge and

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

plummet into the cavern below. The river flows from the cavern wall to your left. At the other end of the balcony is a solid wall. No more stairs, no more rooms. It’s just the balcony and the river.

You’ve nowhere to go but you’re sure whatever’s following you will catch up soon. With an effort of will you keep the image of a sharp-toothed drake out of your head.

A shimmer in the water catches your eye. You have to squint to make it out under the waves but right at the edge of the waterfall you see the wavery outline of a cup.

The Chalice.

Approaching the edge of the balcony, you keep from looking over the edge into the chasm below only by keeping your eyes firmly on the cup in the water. It isn’t laying on its side like you expected but standing up in the water, creating a small eddy around its bowl.

You lay on your stomach at the edge of the river and reach into the rush of water. The current pulls hard and you tilt your body to keep it from pulling you toward the chasm.

As your fingers close over the cool crystal of the Chalice, a grunting roar comes from behind you. You glance back.

Sharp toothed barely touches the surface of this monster’s description. Its teeth hang over its lips almost to its chin. The scales along the legs and back come to points like the spines of a plant. Golden eyes glitter at you with horrible malice.

The drake breaths in a heavy gust of air and then huffs out a small bit through its nostrils. Gouts of blue flame sprout from it and you’re pretty sure the drake smiles as its chest expands on an even bigger intake of air.

You’ve nowhere to go except into the water. Do you…

Aa. Dive over the Waterfall?

Or

Ab. Swim Upstream?

Blessings and see you next week =)

Jennifer

Chalice

Welcome to a new adventure! The last one ended quite well for you. Let’s hope things go as well this time=)

Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoy.

Chalice

The fog’s dense white mass obscures everything but a five-foot circle around you. It makes finding the cave difficult but finally you hear the soft roar of the water falls inside, echoing out of the cave’s mouth like a deep exhale of breath.

You approach the shhh-haaa of water falling on soft feet. Sound carries all too easily in the valley and you’re not the only thing out and about. You breathe heavy air and wish for the kiss of wind. There is none. Drops of water bead on your cheeks like the fog’s shedding on you, cold and clammy, but you ignore the discomfort.

A dark shape looms ahead in the otherwise unbroken gray. A few more steps and you see it’s the cave. Inside hides the Chalice, a crystal-goblet-287758-mcup of solid crystal that, according to legend, lends the drinker perfect skin. In normal circumstances, its very uniqueness would make it valued by treasure hunters.

However, your purposes are far more personal than money. Back in the village waits your little sister. She hides in her room, nursing her bruises from a few days earlier when she tried to venture a trip to the store and was beaten for looking like a monster.

Even being her sibling doesn’t keep you from shuddering sometimes when she’s not looking. She lacks color, completely. Which makes her eyes, slightly tinted red, all the more disturbing. But she never complains, never yells at you for looking normal, never stops making your breakfast or folding your clothes simply because she can and she knows you’re out working to support her because no one will hire her.

If anyone deserves better, it’s her. When the traveling tinker mentioned the chalice when he saw her, you listened. This isn’t the first time you’ve gone on a wild chase in hopes of helping your sister, but this might be the most dangerous.

The Chalice is protected, the tinker warned, by creatures known as drakes. They hide in the fog and you never hear them coming, or so the tales told. What truly caught your attention about the tinker’s story, though, was that you recognized the valley it described. It was a place you’d been to before.

As you step into the dark cave, you try not to imagine the drakes tracking you into the confined space. The idea of being caught in the rocky tunnels with gouts of flame chasing you isn’t exactly your ideal way to go.

You trail your fingers along the rough wall. The air smells stale and musty and the ground squishes like moss beneath your feet. You don’t light a torch even though you brought one. With the fog and the otherwise solid dark, a torch would stand out like a beacon to anything around.

Your fingertips hit empty space. The wall falls away, not naturally, but as though someone cut it with a knife. Upon further exploration, you find the wall turns a sharp corner and becomes perfectly smooth beneath your touch.

You continue on and the ground goes from soft and squishy to hard and flat. A burnt smell singes the back of your nostrils. It feels similar to if you inhaled the heavy smoke from a campfire. You swallow and keep a cough from escaping your throat.

The smooth wall ends and, just ahead, you feel a wooden door. You find the handle but hesitate before opening it. Faintly, just under the door, there glows a bluish light.

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti

Finally, with a steadying breath, you turn the knob and push the door inward.

The blue light makes you squint but you’ve no idea where it’s coming from. It simply lights up the stairs beyond the door.

The stairs lead upward on the right and downward on the left. The upward direction has the word Falls above it. The downward direction has the word Water.

According to the tinker’s story, the Chalice collects the water from the cave’s river, but the story’s not specific as to how this works.

Do you go…

A. Up?

Or

B. Down?

Blessings and see you Thursday =)

Jennifer

Performers and Bounty Hunters

Welcome to a whole new adventure! Read on and, in the comments, vote for how you’d like to proceed. Choose wisely, for there are all sorts of unsavory types in the world. =)

Performers and Bounty Hunters

The night chirps with the familiar sounds of crickets and frogs. You lay on your back enjoying the cloudless expanse of stars winking at you like they’re old friends.

To your left, Lenny snores softly under his wagon. You can tell by the gentle rumble of it that he didn’t drink tonight. It wasn’t loud enough to be his drunken snore.

wagon-wheel-343204-mOn your right, Mira shuffles around putting everything away before she settles in for the night. Except for her perpetually hunched form, Mira’s ageless and her movements are sure and subtle, quiet enough not to wake Genna and Roy with their newborn.

Genna and Roy sleep in their wagon across from where you lay. In about an hour or so, Regan, the newborn, will start to fuss but this is becoming a common sound for everyone and only Genna tends to wake to it anymore.

For the moment, the world slumbers peacefully. This is the most relaxed you’ve been in a long while.

You met the traveling performers six months before in a small town outside the capital. When you asked to accompany them, they didn’t question you or treat you with suspicion although traveling performers are looked on as the dregs of society. No one asked to join them unless something was wrong.

But they never pried, never asked about your past, never looked at you with speculative eyes even when the king’s soldiers passed through every town they performed in passing out fliers with your likeness drawn on them.

Instead, they painted you like a performer, gave you small tasks in each of their acts, and paraded you around in front of the soldiers like one of their own. If you hadn’t been so tense the whole time, you would have found it funny.

The soldiers slowly faded the farther you got from the capital. At first, you planned to leave the performers once you thought it was safe to be on your own, but you’ve come to feel at home with them and each day you come up with an excuse to continue on with them.

A rustling in the trees disturbs the night’s chirping. The crickets fall silent. Mira goes still with the teakettle midair in her hand. She hisses and pitches the kettle into the trees. There comes the clank of mettle on mettle.

This wasn’t just Mira being eccentric, there was someone out there. You roll to your feet, shoving free of your bedroll as you move.

The night erupts into the rough shouting of men and the startled cries of those suddenly wakened. Regan’s pitiable cries pierce the night above the other sounds.

At first you fear it’s the King’s soldiers but as one of them lifts a lantern to view the small clearing, you see the men surrounding you wear a mismatch of armor and carry everything from short swords to axes to bows.

Not soldiers. Mercenaries?

The man with the lantern spies you and holds up a sheet of paper. His lips split in a grin that displays his stained teeth.

“You’re gonna make us a pretty penny,” he says.

Bounty hunters, you realize with a sinking in your stomach.

The man gestures and one of his men grabs your arms and ties your wrists behind you.

Lenny steps forward and hesitates. He’s a big man and, for once, sober, but he’s no match for five at once. He gives you an apologetic grimace.

Several of the bounty hunters laugh at him and then they shove you into the forest away from your friends.

“Wait!” Mira calls. She runs toward you, stooping more than usual and twisting her face to make it look like that of an old hag. It’s one of her performance faces.

The bounty hunters are caught off guard enough that she crashes into you and gives you a hug. “Safe travels.” She sniffs and steps away just as one of the men moves to grab her.

He misses and, before he can try again, Mira’s moving back toward her wagon with an exaggerated shuffle.

***

It’s a long night. Finally, at sunrise, the bounty hunters stop for some breakfast and tie you to the trunk of a pine. You’re bemoaning that the princess’ cruelness has caught up to you when one of the bounty hunters approaches and drops a chunk of bread by your knee. He unties you and gestures at the bread, then he sits back to watch you eat.

The bread’s hard and, although you’re hungry, the knot in your stomach makes the little you eat roll in your stomach like a boat bread-1426350-mtossed at sea. You hold the rest of the bread up for the man to see and then tuck it into your pocket.

Your fingers encounter something other than the bread there.

You keep a smile from bursting across your face. Good old Mira. From the long, cylindrical shape of the object, you can tell it’s her penknife.

Before withdrawing your hand, you slide the knife into your sleeve, trusting your leather bracelet to hold it against your skin.

Not long after, the bounty hunters tie you to the pine again and lay down to catch a few winks.

One stays awake and finds a large rock to sit on to keep watch. His back is to you but you’re sure any sound and he’ll swing around to check on you.

You could cut the ropes now and try to slip away but admittedly, your woodcraft isn’t great and it’d be a bit of luck to escape without the man hearing.

Or you could wait, hoping for a more opportune moment, maybe at night, to slip away.

Do you attempt…

A. Escape now?

Or

B. Escape later?

Performers and Bounty Hunters Option B: Escape Later

The thought of sitting still and simply waiting for a better moment sticks in your throat like dry bread you can’t quite swallow. However, the sentry keeps stirring like he’s fighting to stay awake, which means he’s looking you’re way more often than you’d like.

You decide to bide your time even though every day of travel brings you closer to a very angry King.

You thought working in the palace would be the perfect job for you. However, when the princess lost her tiara and blamed you, itwedding-tiara-894085-m turned into a nightmare. Now, the King won’t stop until you’re found and punished. You don’t even want to guess at the reward these hunters were in for when they returned you.

But there’s at least a week in between now and when you reach the capital if you head directly there. That should be more than enough time to find a different escape.

You relax against the tree, letting the press of the penknife against your skin reassure you.

After a while, the sentry stands and wakes another. They switch places, barely glancing your way to make sure you’re still where you should be. You relax back and eventually drift into a light sleep.

You wake to the soft tread of booted feet near you. Squinting up, you see it’s another of the bounty hunters. A quick glance around tells you he must be the current sentry, which means you’ve slept for at least a few hours and missed the last change over.

The man’s heavier than his companions and carries double swords over his shoulders. His mouth droops and his face is soft, reminding you of the few dimwits you’ve met. But the likeness stops there. His eyes glitter with an intelligence that’s more than a little frightening.

He crouches beside you so you’re eye to eye. Then he holds up the wanted poster with your likeness drawn in the middle. With a
thick finger, he points to the word tiara.

“You give me this, I let you go,” he whispers so softly you barely pick up his words.

You don’t have the tiara but he doesn’t know that. Can you play it off long enough to escape?

Do you…

Bb. Nod agreement?

Or

Bc. Shake You Head in Refusal?

Performers and Bounty Hunters Option Bb: Nod Agreement

Escaping one man will be far easier than five, you decide, although this man’s hard eyes make you want to shiver.

You nod agreement and a toothy grin breaks out on his rough face. He places a finger to his lips for your silence, and then slices through the rope that holds you to the tree. He leaves your hands tied behind your back.

The two of you head off quietly into the trees. When you think about taking a moment to breathe, he points for you to keep going. The corners of his mouth turn down and his eyes sparkle dangerously. You keep moving.

Finally, after what must be about an hour of hiking, he places a hand on your shoulder for you to stop.

“Where we headed?” he asks.

You’ve been thinking about this the entire time you’ve been walking. Under no circumstances do you want him headed toward the performers. They welcomed you in and helped you every step of the way. You’ve no desire to bring this type of danger to them.

“Didn’t feel safe carrying the thing,” you answer. “Found a good spot to stash it in the last town we performed.”

“Hayden?” he guesses.

You nod.

Without further conversation, he pushes for you to lead the way to Hayden.

***

It’s just after dusk when you reach the edges of Hayden. The town’s small and the only noises along the main drag come from the one tavern on the far side. Everything else sits still like the sidewalks rolled up after dinner and the inhabitants turned blind eyes on the night.

You couldn’t ask for a better situation.

The town’s folk set up a stage in the main square for the performers when they passed through. That was only two days ago and the stage still stands like a skeleton in the gathering shadows.

lantern-1165222-mThe bounty hunter gives you a questioning look and you nod toward that hulking structure.

He grunts and shoves you forward. In the dim light from the street lanterns, you catch the dangerous narrowing of his eyes. He’s starting to suspect you. Perhaps it’s because the stage comes apart and, if you hid the tiara there, the chances of someone finding it would be high.

“Old stages like that,” you say, “always tend to have hidey holes. Little boxes tucked into the planking where performers can pass news to other troops without the town’s folk knowing. Handy when you want to hide something. Especially when there aren’t many troops in these parts.”

The man grunts again. You’ve no idea if you allayed his fears or not but you don’t want to press your luck, so you keep your mouth shut.

The bit about hidey-holes isn’t entirely untrue. However, you could care less if this stage actually has one. What you care about is the stage is broken…kind of.

Lenny found the default in the wood in the middle of his juggling act. He went straight through the flooring. He didn’t break it. He fell through because two of the boards were set on pivots for some long forgotten magician’s show. The great part about it though, is there wasn’t a way to escape from under the boards without an assistant on the outside.

You reach the stage without running into anyone. On the way, you slide Mira’s penknife into your palm. If something goes wrong, you’d prefer to have your hands free.

The knife’s tiny and cutting through the rope makes for slow work but you can’t make large gestures without the Hunter noticing knife-1390018-manyway, so you keep at it until you feel a slight give in the tension around your wrists.

The planking of the stage thuds softly under your boots. The Hunter, although he’s got heavy boots on too, moves silently. You try to ignore how disturbing this is.

“Where’s this hidey-hole?” he asks.

You tilt your head toward the back of the stage where there’s a slight roof to allow for props.

He takes five steps until he’s at the corner you just indicated.

You stomach hits your throat. He just walked directly over the spot Lenny fell through. With sinking realization, you conclude the town’s folk must have fixed the stage. That’s why it hasn’t been taken down yet.

He’s looking at you, waiting for further instructions. The glitter in his eyes tells you he’s seriously starting to suspect you’ve been lying.

With little time to consider, you see there’s a stage chandelier directly above him. If you move fast enough, you might be able to drop it on him. Or you can run. There might be a few places you can hide if you get a big enough lead on him.

Do you:

Bb1: Drop a stage prop on him?

or

Bb2: Run for your life?

Performers and Bounty Hunters Option Bb1: Drop a Stage Prop on Him

The Bounty Hunter’s a hard built man. One of those people who, just by looking at him, you know he’s lived a hard life and hasn’t complained about it. Without something to slow him down, you highly doubt you’ll be able to outrun him.

Penknife in hand, you lunge for the rope holding the chandelier in place.

One slice and the rope pops, but it’s not enough to drop the stage prop.

Behind you there’s a grunt of surprise or perhaps rage but you don’t look back to see for sure. You slice at the rope again and it chandelier-1324178-msnaps like a violin string.

Then you look to see what you’ve accomplished.

The chandelier drops with a crash of splintering wood. It catches the Bounty Hunter by the legs and sinks him through the floor.

But he’s not out of the game. With a beast like growl, he pulls one of his swords free and starts to cut himself loose of the wreckage. The intense determination on his face convinces you, you shouldn’t be around when he gets free.

You bolt, jumping off the stage and hitting the ground running in a plume of dust.

Not long after, there’s a thud of feet behind you.

You dart down the next road and randomly start zigzagging your way through the streets.

No matter how sporadic you are though, you can still hear the Bounty Hunter closing on you. The one time you glance back, you see he’s got both swords out now, held in such a way that they aren’t slowing him much.

If he catches you, he’s not going to wait for you to say something. You’re sure he’ll use the swords and gain the bounty with your dead body.

ForestYou reach the edge of town sooner than you wanted. There’s a stretch of open ground between the buildings and the trees. By now, though, you doubt even reaching the trees will save you.

But you’ve got to try. You’ve always been a fighter. So you put everything into reaching those pines before the Bounty Hunter catches you.

Breath heaves in and out of your chest and your legs start to shake in exhaustion. You reach the dark trunks just as your legs give beneath you. A few feeble attempts to get to your feet tell you, you’ve got nothing left.

Huddling, you wait for the bite of those swords.

There’s a whoosh…and a heavy thud.

Nothing touches you.

Startled, you look over your shoulder to see a heavy shouldered man standing there. He doesn’t have swords but a heavy cudgel.

“Lenny?”

At Lenny’s feet lays the Bounty Hunter. Out cold with a rapidly growing welt on his left temple.

“Felt good,” Lenny says, giving you a hand up. Then, more serious, “looks like we should find different ground to perform on for awhile.”

You’re so shocked to see him, you just grin wordlessly. He offers you a drink from his flask as he turns you into the trees. You shake your head and he gladly takes a sip for you. “Rest of the troop’s that-a-ways,” he gestures. “Let’s go home.”

You just grin even wider in agreement.

The End

Congratulations! You not only survived but it looks like you’ve got a new family =)

Thanks for joining in the adventure. If you enjoyed this one, look for a whole new adventure starting on the 3rd of February.

Blessings,

Jennifer