Back to the adventure! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and has started the new year off right.
After the break I’ve now got all sorts of story ideas running through my head, so let’s have some fun and dig into a new adventure on this beautiful January day.
Welcome back to the adventure=)
Below the hill, the city sprawls like a swollen snake hemmed in with a stone wall. You’ve never been to Galdon, the King’s home city, before. That’s why your Master, the head of the spy network, sent you. He warned the mission wouldn’t be easy, especially since you’re unfamiliar with the city, but he had to send someone who wouldn’t be recognized.
A threat’s been made on the King’s life. A threat from someone very close to him although you’ve been unable to figure out who it comes from.
You’ve arrived just in time. The city’s adorned with flags of blue, purple and green and the streets are streaming with people. It’s all to celebrate the Princess’ 16th birthday. From what the spy network’s discovered, the assassination’s supposed to happen this evening.
Taking a sip of water, you close the water skin and let it hang at your side below your elbow before you wind your way down the hill toward the busy gate. As a spy, the press of people provides a wonderful way to blend. You consider simply slipping by the gate guard, who’s questioning people as they enter, but then you decide against it.
Since you’re unfamiliar with the city, you can ask the guard for directions. You’ve been debating on how to get close enough to the King to warn him. The night’s activities involve all sorts of things but the two most likely routes lie with the cook or the horse trainer.
Before dinner, the royal family always goes for a ride through the city. This year, it’s rumored the Princess might receive a new horse.
If you get to the horse trainer, you might be able to warn the King before or during the ride.
On the other hand, the banquet hall’s set for a large feast. If you connect with the cook, you might be able to serve the King…or maybe the queen if you can’t reach the man himself. Your Master warned you to be cautious with who you tell. With the threat’s source unknown, you don’t want to tell the wrong person.
So do you tell the guard…
A. You’re headed to see the cook?
B. The horse trainer?
Spy’s Mission Option B: See the Horse Trainer
As you approach the city gate, the guard turns to address you.
“Where are you headed?” he asks. His tone is monotone, he’s probably asked that exact question hundreds of times this day.
“To the royal horse trainer, Master Ham. You see, he ordered a special halt…”
“Move along,” the guard gestures you forward, not caring what the horse trainer wants so long as your purpose in being in the city seems reasonable.
You let your bag fall back to your side. If he’d let you show him, you would’ve pulled out a decorated halter you made just for this purpose. It wasn’t anything too fancy but on a quick inspection, it would pass as a present for the princess.
You’ve learned in your time with the spy network that, as long as you appear to know what you’re doing, most people don’t second guess it.
Moving farther into the city, you realize you didn’t ask the guard for directions, so you flag down a man pushing a hand cart full of turnips.
“Friend,” you call, “can you point me in the direction of the royal stables?”
“Master Ham’s got a surprise for everyone today!” The man announces. “You helping him with it?”
You shrug and hold up your hands as if to say “maybe.”
“Follow this street and hang a left on Oddfellow.”
Thanking the man, you wander down the street and hang the left. Oddfellow Road opens up into a broad thoroughfare and today, with the Princess’ birthday, the space is thriving with merchants, shoppers, and the general lookie-loos who just want to see something special.
As you make your way toward the palace at the end of all the chaos, the sound of bells catches your ears as woman passes wearing bangles on her ankles, then the rank oder of sweat distracts you and you sidestep a man so grimy you’re not sure what skin color he possesses. Yup, you’re definitely in the city.
Finally arriving at the palace, you head to the left where large fields with random fences and such run for training horses.
“Hey you, close that gate!” Shouts a man as he points at the gate closest to you. You hurry over and close the indicated gate just before the horse he’s trying to catch races out. The horse stops dead and you can almost swear it glares at you.
“Where might I find Master Ham?” you ask.
The man raises a brow and then breaks into a grin that reveals very white teeth in the middle of a red beard.
“You’ve found him,” he says.
You open your mouth and then hesitate as your master’s caution about telling about the threat on the King runs through your head.
Bb. Trust him?
Bc. Go it on Your Own?
Spy’s Mission Option Bb: Trust the Horse Trainer
Master Ham’s welcoming smile convinces you to trust him.
“It’s good to meet the famous Master Ham,” you say. You’re not being overly flattering but just stating facts. Master Ham is well known for his ability to train horses. Opening the left side of your cloak, you flash the Spy Network’s badge pinned to the inside pocket. It’s a circle with a spy glass engraved delicately into the metal.
Master Ham’s smile falters for just a moment and then it’s back, like you were adjusting your cloak and he saw nothing.
“Might I have a word with you about the day’s events?” you ask.
“Of course. Let’s talk in the shade.” He gestures at a large tree on your side of the fence, then hops the fence to join you. The horse he’d been training makes a soft sound and hangs its head over the top rail like he’s begging to come along too. Master Ham just waves a hand back at him as he leads the way to the tree.
“What can I do for you?” he asks as soon as he’s sure no one’s around to overhear.
You explain the situation and then lean again the tree’s large trunk while Master Ham digests the news. The smile’s gone from his face.
“This is not good,” he mutters. “The King isn’t coming to the stables for his horse or the Princess’ new mare. He requested we bring them to the courtyard so he could surprise the Princess and then ride out the gates with her. Their two horses are already gone.” He strokes his beard as he considers. “But the Queen should be here soon. She’ll join up with them by the time they reach Oddfellow Road. I can get you in as her escort.”
You consider for a moment but it appears you’re running out of time, so you finally nod. “That’ll have to do.”
“Right this way.” Master Ham takes you into the stable. He points at a beautiful brown mare that’s already saddled with a side saddle that boasts tiny bells around the bottom edge. “That’s the Queen’s.”
Moving to the next stall, he leads out a slightly smaller, more gangly mare. “You’ll have to take Rush here. She’s already saddled as the escort horse.”
You both turn to find a woman striding toward you followed by six other ladies. You’ve seen the Queen at a distance but never this close before. She’s slender with slight crows feet starting to show at the corner of her eyes but that’s the only sign of age you can find. Her dark hair shines without a gray strand and her brown eyes sparkle in merriment as she approaches.
“Your Majesty,” you and Ham bow in unison.
“Maybell’s all ready for you, My Lady,” Ham brings the beautiful mare out and assists the Queen into the saddle.
You mount as well and bring Rush up beside the Queen’s mare. When the Queen moves forward, you move at her side like it’s the most natural thing.
Noticing you, the Queen looks questioningly at Master Ham. “Not my escort today, Master Ham?”
Master Ham gives an embarrassed bow. “My Lady, if you’ll pardon me today, my leg’s been paining me something fierce.”
She makes a tittering noise and tells him to take the day easy, saying one of the stable hands can care for the horses after the ride. Then she rides out of the stable and waits in the sun for her ladies to mount and join her.
“My Lady,” you say to get her attention. This moment before her ladies find their mounts might be your only second alone with her.
She raises a brow.
You quickly introduce yourself and why you’ve come.
Her face goes still and you start to question if you should have told her.
“You don’t know who this threat is?” she asks finally.
You shake your head.
“I want to tell my family,” she says but it’s not a statement. She’s unsure and from her expression, she’s waiting for your advice. Telling her was a risk in and of itself. Would the entire family be okay to tell?
Do you advise…
Bb1: Tell the family?
Bb2: Not to tell the family?
Spy’s Mission Option Bb2: Don’t Tell the Family
Since you don’t know who exactly is planning to kill the King, the fewer people who know about the threat, the better.
“My Lady,” you say, “it would be better to play our cards close to the chest.”
She swallows and then puts a bright smile on her face. “Of course.”
The laughing of her ladies as they join you prevents any further conversation, so you hold your tongue and fall in to escort the Queen through the city.
This creates a slight hesitation for you since you’ve never been in the city before but you soon realize that, if you hold Rush’s reigns lightly, she knows where to go. So you hold the reigns with a bit of slack and instead start keeping a closer eye on the crowd pressing close to the street.
They cheer for the Queen and she waves with that bright smile held firmly in place.
Soon you see the King and the Princess riding ahead of you. It’s slow, but as you continue down the road, the gap between you and them starts to disappear. You watch them for a minute and then move your eyes toward the crowd.
A heavy set man catches your eye. Unlike the others in the crowd, he’s not smiling and cheering well wishes for the Princess’ birthday. Instead, he’s intently watching the Princess as she rides closer toward him. The frown on his face looks like it’s permanently there considering the lines around his mouth and in his forehead.
“My Lady?” you nudge her knee with your own.
She glances at you but continues to wave.
“Do you know that man?” You look at him but don’t point, hoping she’ll get the direction of your gaze.
“That’s Master Jamison, the cook,” she says without moving her lips. It’s a rather fascinating skill.
“Is he always so dour?”
“Ye…” she falls silent as Master Jamison approaches the Princess with a hand reached out to her. The frown’s gone from his face like he’s delighted to see her but the effort to smile seems strange to him.
The Princess grasps his hands and blesses him before sitting straight again to wave to the crowd.
You keep your eyes on Master Jamison while he slips back into the masses. He’s a short man but wide in the shoulders and, since his frown’s back, the crowd separates for him. It’s enough for you to see him slip a bottle into his pocket. That wouldn’t be so strange except you see the red seal around the top of the bottle. It’s a common way to mark poison.
“My Lady,” you say but when you look at her you see she’s seen the same thing as you.
“She must have paid him,” she says softly. The merriment’s gone from her face . “Catch the cook, my friend. I’ll deal with my daughter.”
“Yes, My Lady.” You drop from your saddle and hand Rush’s reigns off to one of the Queen’s ladies before slipping into the crowd after the cook.
It’s not hard to guess he’s headed back toward the palace, so you head back to Oddfellows. Your guess pays off as you see the broad shoulders of Master Jamison heading to the left up the street.
Following him at a distance, you wait until he reaches the palace and the kitchen yard. It’s empty save for him seeing as how all the kitchen help is in the building preparing for dinner and any one else is still out on the streets waving at the royal family. You select a fist sized rock.
Just as Master Jamison’s about to turn around to see who’s behind him, you pitch the rock. It catches him on the temple and he slumps into a heap in the yard.
“That was easier than I expected,” you mutter.
Your part was rather easy. You secured Master Jamison and found the poison in his front right pocket. The guard showed up a bit later to claim him.
Catching the Princess was apparently a much more noisy ordeal. When the Queen confronted her back at the palace, she stridently exclaimed her innocence but when the Queen reached a hand out to her, she backed away and ran. The guard chased her until she reached the dinning room where she upturned several tables in her effort to escape. They caught her there.
They later found three other bottles of poison in the Princess’ room along with several small notes she’s exchanged with Master Jamison. She promised him when she was Queen that she’d grant him land and a title.
As for you, being a spy, you slip away before you can be called in front of a crowd and return to your Master for your next mission. He’ll never have you return to the capital because you’re face is too well known now but, considering everything, that’s just fine with you.