Welcome to Monday=)
Life’s crazy. For me that means job hunting and possible moving, soooo, I decided it’s a good time to rerun another adventure. This one in particular I’ve had requests to rerun because the last time, sadly, was an unfortunate ending where you did not survive. If you’re interested in reading it before you vote this time, click on Alosian Oasis under Categories and the complete story should show up.
This adventure is also the longest I’ve ever written. It runs for two weeks and has sixteen possible endings. So let’s get started and see where we end up.
You carry a message from the village council. They trusted you because the trek to the Alosians is long and hard and you’re the most experienced carrier they have even though you are also the youngest.
But even being the most experienced, you’ve never been to the south before. you’ve never traversed the sand to reach the desert nomad’s oasis.
You’re five days out now. The winds swirl sand in small devils along the dunes. There’s sand in your clothing, in your ears, even around your eyes and nose despite the protective veil across your face.
You were told the trek was a full five days. Hopefully the council was right because your store of water’s low.
Along with carrying water you’re wearing billowy pants and top and a head scarf that allows the flow of wind but shields you from the blistering sun.
A small pack for food rests on your back and several water skins are tied securely to your waist. On either ankle you have a knife, your only protection on the trek.
If the council had a horse or camel, you’d be riding but, alas, no one’s seen a horse in years and even if they had, no one has the money to buy one. But the village needs animals that can help with plowing and hauling. Over the years, supplies have grown low because people can’t move as much weight as a beast of burden.
That is why the council sent you through the desert to the Alosians. They want to barter for beasts and the desert nomads are the only ones willing to barter anymore. All other places demand coin, saying barter is old fashioned and useless when compared to solid coin.
The sun sits on the horizon and you angle more left, realizing you strayed a bit in your musing.
Just as the last rays disappear, you crest a dune and catch sight of a beautiful green line of trees.
The wind blows, instantly cooling the air from the heat of the blistering sun. A shiver runs your spine as the breeze cools the sweat on your body.
Heading for that line of trees, you notice several figures emerge and stand, waiting for you.
That line grows until there’s a good twenty people.
Must be almost the whole village at the oasis. More Alosians live farther into the desert but those willing to trade live here, where outsiders can reach them.
You come to stand before the line and a burly woman with dark eyes and long lashes steps forward.
“Water Seeker or Lost Fool?” She asks.
Neither one’s technically correct but you keep from bristling at her assumption. Although you need water, it’s not why you’ve come.
“Barter offer,” you answer.
The woman’s eyes widen and there are a few grunts from the crowd.
“Barter in Water or in Salt?’
It dawns on you that the council didn’t authorize you in either area, instead offering staples. But staples are not what the Alosians value. To barter, you need to offer something these people truly need. Either water to sustain their bodies and crops or salt to preserve their food.
Do you answer…
Alosian Oasis Option A: Water
Although it’s a gigantic task, your village has a large river running to the north and if they had beasts of burden, they could haul casks of fresh water to the Alosians.
So you say “water.”
The woman bows and backs away as an old woman so gone to wrinkles you can barely see her lips takes her place. You catch a glare between the women before the new one starts speaking.
“I am Malya, Mistress of the Wells, follow me.” She leads you through the group of people and into the oasis.
As soon as you pass the trees, the ground turns to lush grass, tinted slightly blue. In the middle of the oasis is a small lake and surrounding it are small huts with lanterns glowing from the front of each.
It’s peaceful after the desert winds.
Malya escorts you to a hut on the right.
“Sleep well barterer, for in the morning you will be tested.”
You almost call her back, wondering about her comment and also about food and water for the night but then you shrug.
You’ve just enough food in your pack and water in your skins to last you till morning, so you enter the hut. And find a bed on the right wall and a table laden with water and fruit on the left.
You select a pomegranate from the fruit, fill a cup with sweet cool water and sit on the bed to eat.
When done, exhaustion from the last five days in the blistering sun catches up and you set the now empty cup aside, lay down and sleep.
Malya shakes you awake. “Morning water barterer. Today we test you.”
She hands you clean clothes and leaves to let you dress. After donning the outfit, which turns out to be just like your old one, you eat several figs and almonds and down a cup of water.
Exiting your hut, you step into a crowd. The entire populace has gathered again.
Malya steps forward.
“What do you come for?’ she asks.
“Horses or camels.”
“Then you may pick either the Test of Ice or the Test of Air.”
You are unfamiliar with either choice, so you ask, “what does each test involve?”
Malya smiles and her wrinkles shift. she might be pleased but you can’t tell her expression beyond the lift of her lips.
“Ice requires you to keep an ice cube intact for a day. If you succeed, we will offer you five horses, if you fail, you will work at the oasis for a year and a day.
“Air requires you to shade the pavilion and cool if for a day. Success and failure are the same except we will offer camels.”
“Why test me?” you ask, “when we offer water in return for beasts. Is that not a fair trade?’
Malya’s deep eyes study you for a moment and a few in the crowd mutter. You see the burly woman from the night before smirking. Finally Malya answers.
“Outsiders do not understand that our animals are family to us. If we trade them it is because we trust you to care for our family. Thus the test. We test you to trust you.”
Ah, now you understand the other reason you were chosen by the council. You’re young enough to work for the Alosians without it effecting the village too much. They conveniently forgot to mention this part.
So do you say…
Alosian Oasis Option Aa: Ice
Keeping ice in the blistering sun or cooling a pavilion in the same overwhelming heat? Either option seems impossible but at least with a piece of ice you can move around if needed.
You say “ice.”
Malya grins at you. “Brave barterer. Your village must have a great deal of faith in you.”
You shrug, not sure if they trust you or just trust that you can work if you fail the test.
“Wait in your hut, I shall bring you the ice shortly and you must keep it until dark.”
You swallow but nod and return to your hut.
Sitting on the bed and munching on almonds, you wrack your brain to come up with a plan. You consider digging a deep pit in the sand and burying the ice, then shading the area for the day but then you nix the idea.
There’s no way you could dig a pit fast enough to have any ice left by the time you’re done.
You inventory the hut but after searching all the corners and under the bed, you’re left with the same table of food you had before and nothing new.
You’re about to resign yourself to working for a year and a day when the door creaks open a sliver. A small head peeks in and you meet eyes with a little boy maybe six years old.
He flashes you a grin, peeks over his shoulder and then slips into the hut and closes the door. He walks softly across the hut and sits on the bed beside you.
“You’re the barterer?” he whispers.
“They’re bringing your ice,” he says, “a whole cube!” The look in his eyes clearly displays his awe.
You groan. “I’m going to ruin a whole cube of ice.”
The boy giggles and then covers his mouth.
“Maybe not,” he leans toward you, “what if I could show you a place to keep it?”
“A place to keep it?”
“We’d have to sneak into the building but I’m done it before.” He looks at you with eager eyes.
Malya has not given you any rules about employing help in your test but the implications were for you to accomplish it alone.
Aa1: Accept his help?
Alosian Oasis Option Aa1: Accept the Boy’s Help
You haven’t come up with any plausible ideas and Malya didn’t give you rules forbidding such help, so you accept the boy’s offer. He grins and ducks under the bed when there’s a knock at the door.
You open the door to find Malya with a cube, one foot square, chunk of ice.
“I trust this into your keeping for one day. I’ll return for it at night fall.”
You accept the cube, which is slippery already from the heat. After closing the door the boy reappears from under the bed.
“You need a container. I’ll be right back.” He bolts out of the hut, leaving you holding the slick ice. The heat from you hands is making it melt even faster.
A whole day?
Hopefully the boy knows what he’s doing.
It appears he does, because he returns with a square container made of wood.
“Put it in here,” he opens the lid and you set the ice inside. The container’s cold to the touch, pre-chilled for just this purpose.
“All right,” the boy says, “let’s get the cube to the cooler.”
“There’s a cooler?” if you weren’t holding the icebox, you’d slap your forehead. Of course they have a cooler. How else would they keep ice?
The boy beckons you to the door. He peeks out and then waves you forward. Leading the way behind the hut, he points to the south side of the oasis.
“See the peak above the trees?” he asks.
You nod. There’s an adobe cone sticking out over the tree tops.
“That’s the cooler. We’ll sneak around the side and enter when they open it for the noon meal. Should take that long to get to a good spot anyway.”
He’s right. You leave the oasis far to the west of the cooler and circle back to the wall that covers the far south or back side of the dome. Then, lying on your stomach, you crawl along the wall, thankful that the cooler shades the wall in the morning. The sand closest to the structure is even cool to the touch still.
As you reach the adobe dome, you hear voices and the boy holds up a hand. He crawls forward, peeks, and then urgently waves you forward to enter the cooler. Inside, the temperature immediately plummets as you traverse the floor that takes you into a dug out pit with all sorts of supplies.
“Set it there,” the boy points to several other square boxes. After depositing the cube, you and the boy sneak back outside to wait. He shows you to a shaded area and sits down, pulling some figs out of his pocket to munch on while you wait for sunset.
“Grandma Malya’s gonna ask,” he says, “if you had help.”
“Malya’s your grandma?”
“Yep, name’s Mel, the male version of Malya around here.”
You introduce yourself and sit in silence for a bit.
“Grandma always knows what questions to ask. You gonna tell her?”
Do you say…
Alosian Oasis Option Aa1.1 Yes
Malya never said you couldn’t have help with the test and somehow lying to her doesn’t seem to be the way to pass. Mel doesn’t seem nervous about the prospect of his part being discovered either.
As the sun lowers toward the west, you gesture for Mel to lead the way. He helps you slip back into the cooler and retrieve the cube of ice. When you get back to the hut, he tries to hide behind it but you shake your head.
“Join me,” you say. So he comes to stand beside you.
Malya and several others show up at the hut. You hand the old woman the box and she pops it open to find a full cube of ice.
“Well done,” she hands the cube off and turns back, eyeing Mel standing beside you. “I see you are not alone. Did my grandson help in your test?”
“Yes,” you say without hesitation.
Berta, the dark haired woman who greeted you the first night, snorts. “So you cheated.”
“No,” you answer, “the instructions for the test never stated I could not enlist the aid of another. Mel offered to help and I accepted because my knowledge of the desert is severely lacking.”
“I say you failed,” Berta presses.
Your throat grows tight. If the others agree with Berta, you’ll be struck working for a year in the oasis.
But Malya’s shaking her head. “I designed the test and part of it looks for honesty. My grandson staked his right of passage into manhood on your honesty. You have passed with flying colors. His trust in your integrity has paid off.” She turns to address Mel. “Grandson, you are accepted into manhood. You have proven your ability to read other’s intention.”
Right before your eyes, Mel grows two inches. He grins at you. “It’s how we grow.” he says.
Oh…you cringe as you realize what might have happened had you lied. But you didn’t. Malya offers you five horses from her own herd and sends Mel with you to instruct on their care. You return to your village successful.
Yay! Last time you died in this adventure, this time you not only succeeded but helped a boy pass into manhood in his village. Well done.