Welcome to the start of a brand new adventure involving you as a spy. Read on and vote at the end for how you’d like to proceed in your mission.
Mud squishes beneath every step you take. The recent rains have turned all the dirt into a sticky muck that adds ten pounds to your feet. Trying to keep as much of the mud off of you as possible, you walk along the side of the road where patches of grass still grows.
This is one of the joys of being a spy, you suppose. You have to go out in all types of weather.
Your master’s instructions were clear. Figure out who’s attacking the King’s road and take care of them. Now.
Within the last several weeks, five stagecoaches full of the King’s treasure have been attacked. The treasure is for a treaty between the King and the neighboring country to the north and, now that half the treasure’s gone, the King’s in a rage. All available people have been sent out to figure out what’s happening.
You were given the task of spying on Shelton, one of the towns along the next stage’s route. Several other spies were sent out to other towns but you’re pretty sure Shelton’s the place to be.
Whoever’s attacking the stage has kept their attacks random but some of the elements are always the same.
The road’s always heavily wooded and the nearest town is always small. Plus, Shelton’s the most isolated because it sits between the Ridgeway Forest and Lake Patricia. To get to the next town, you have to follow the road all the way around the lake, which is a two day trip in good weather…and the weather’s been anything but good.
The town you just came from is three days behind you. By horse you could reach the last town faster but the terrain’s rough since Shelton sits in a mountain pass. All in all, it’s the best location for an ambush of the next stage and, the two lawmen stationed in Shelton would be hard pressed to catch a whole group of thieves by themselves.
As you walk along, you see the Ridgeway forest start to materialize ahead. The land rolls, so every time you crest the next hill, you’re able to make out the trees a little better.
Finally reaching the edge of the forest, you step off the road and into the trees. If the thieves are near Shelton, they have to be hiding in the forest somewhere and, most likely, they’re watching the road. You’d prefer not to be seen by them.
Taking a stick, you lean against a tree and try to dislodge the mud from your boots while you consider your next move. Shelton’s about a half an hour away now.
You could continue through the forest and head into town to get a feel for who’s there. Considering you have to stop the thieves if you find them, it might not be a bad idea to get a feel for who could be helpful. The two lawmen you know are stationed there might not be enough to stop a whole band of thieves.
However, being in town also blinds you to what’s happening in the forest. If the thieves are near by, spying on the road might reveal their location and what kind of attack they’re planning.
So do you…
A. Head into town?
B. Spy on the road?
Stagecoach Mission Option B: Spy on the Road
You decide to spy on the road to see if you can catch a glimpse of the thieves. It’d be very helpful to know what they’re up to if they’re in the area.
Instead of walking on the road, you work your way into the Ridgeway forest and then follow the road from a distance. Because of the needles and shrubs on the forest floor that cut down on the mud, the going is easier. Your feet aren’t weighed down by ten pounds of muck. Around you birds are chirping and an occasional squirrel chatters at you.
These sounds are good. They let you know if someone else is around. And you learned long ago that if they go silent you’re in danger. So you listen as much as you watch the forest as you pass through.
The sounds don’t change and you make it a ways into the forest without running into anything. If the thieves are in the forest, they’re either not moving much or they’re not near the road.
You move closer to the road and study the lay of the land.
Up ahead the road makes a hard left and slopes down toward Shelton. It’s far enough up the mountain that it’s not visible from the town but, with the hard turn, it also creates a blind corner.
It’s the best place you’ve seen so far for an ambush. Moving closer, you climb a tree and sit on a branch to get a bird’s eye view of the area.
The trees sit tight to the road with many of the larger branches overhanging the passage. The driver of the stage would have to duck in some areas so as not to be swept from his seat.
Deep ruts dig into the dirt, showing where some wagons and coaches have tried to slow down on the slope in an attempt not to slide off the side of the road around the blind turn.
The longer you study to stretch, the more convinced you are that this is the place the thieves will use for their mischief.
The sun’s slowly setting, so you climb down and find a tree where the roots stick out of the ground. Settling into those roots, you cover yourself with your cloak and sit back to wait the night out. The coach should come through this area sometime tomorrow morning. If the thieves are going to make their move here, they need to set up their ambush. Your position gives you a view of the road without being very visible yourself.
You sit back to wait.
The moon’s high in the sky when a sound like a metal shovel hitting a rock startles you awake. You hold still as you hear men moving around the blind corner. As you watch, you count four. They seem to be burying something on the tight side just after the blind corner.
Finally the men seem satisfied with their work and leave the area. You wait a bit longer to be sure they’re gone and then rise from your spot.
Your knees protest movement but after giving them a moment to adjust, you’re able to move quietly to the spot in the road the men were working on.
A heavy board is covered with dirt. Several cables, also mostly buried, run from the board into the trees. Following one of these cables, you find they lift from the ground and are thrown over several heavy three branches. Above are suspended nets full of rocks.
It looks like a set up to roll the Stage. When the Stage takes the hard turn, the thieves release the rocks that then pull down on the cables. As the cables are pulled, they lift the board under the dirt and throw the Stage to the side.
You could either sabotage the trap or head into town for help. Taking the trap apart would take most of what’s left of the night but would help the stage. Getting help might accomplish both but also leaves the stage at risk if you don’t get back in time.
Bb. Sabotage the trap?
Bc. Head for help?
Stagecoach Mission Option Bb: Sabotage the Trap
Considering your options, you decide to sabotage the trap to ensure the stage makes it safely through. You don’t want to chance that you miss the thieves all together.
You study the trap to figure out its weak points. The cables running from the board to the net of rocks are thick.
You could cut the net and release the rocks but that would be very noisy and would alert the thieves to your presence.
You might be able to saw through the cables but you’re not sure you can get through them before the stage comes through since all you have is a small knife for gutting small game.
The board buried under the road is so big it took two of the thieves to set it into place. You’re not sure you can move it on your own.
Using your gloved hand, you move mud away from one of the connection points between the board and the cables, and a smile graces your face.
The thieves have screwed eye bolts into the board and the cables are threaded through. You don’t have to cut the cable or move the board, all you have to do is unscrew the three eye bolts.
You get to work turning the bolts. It twists the cable around and around but, noticing this, you hold tight when the first bolt comes free and then you let the cable spin back to its natural position.
You do the same with the second and then the third bolt. Standing back, you look over your work by the light the moon casts on the road.
Then you frown. Your foot prints are all over the side of the road in the mud and the bolts sit free for anyone to see.
If the thieves arrive early enough to investigate, they’ll know right away their trap’s been messed with.
Taking the bolts, you push them under the board and cover them with mud so a quick look won’t reveal they’re not attached.
To cover your tracks, you walk backwards swishing your foot back and forth to remove the set prints. The mud’s cold and doesn’t move easily now but after putting some weight behind what you’re doing, you finally manage to cover the tracks.
Observing your work, you don’t see anything else you should change, so you fad back into the trees.
It occurs to you that, as soon as the thieves realize the trap didn’t work, they might attack the stage farther down the road before Shelton. As you’re considering this problem, you realize the forest around you is eerily quiet. Even at night there are usually animal noises.
The thieves must be moving in before dawn to watch their trap. You glance around but no one is in sight yet.
You could move farther down the road and hide in the trees, perhaps set up a trap to catch the thieves if they do decide to attack after the trap fails.
Or you could move to the edge of the forest and catch the stage before it even enters the trees. Then you could hide inside and catch the thieves by surprise. Either way, you’ve got to move quickly before the thieves arrive.
So do you…
Bb1: Hide in the Trees?
Bb2: Hide in the stage?
Stagecoach Mission Option Bb2: Hide in the Stage
Letting the stage driver know what’s coming might be a good idea, you decide. So before the thieves show up, you head toward the edge of the forest to catch the stage before it enters the trees.
The sun is just touching the line of the horizon as you arrive at the edge of the forest and lean against a tree to wait.
A short time later you hear a low rumble with the sound of wheels squishing through mud. The stage is moving at a pace slightly faster than a horse’s walk. You see it appear over the edge of the hill and step out into the road so the driver can see you.
He slows down but doesn’t stop. You can’t exactly blame him considering he’s probably anticipating an attack.
To reassure him, you flash the inside of your cloak, which is lined with blue and green, the colors of a King’s man.
The driver pulls the horses to a stop.
“Hello, stranger,” he says.
You introduce yourself and explain to him what’s going on. A deep frown covers his face but he doesn’t appear surprised.
“All right,” he agrees. “Go ahead and hide inside.”
Getting down from his seat, he unlocks the stage and lets you in. Then he leaves it unlocked so you can surprise the thieves when they attack.
You settle onto the seat in the small space not taken up by the King’s treasure. The stage starts forward again.
It doesn’t take long for you to reach where the trap is set up. You hear the snap of the cables and the crash of the rocks in the forest but then you feel the stage slowing. In such a situation, you know the driver’s trained to keep going unless he has no other choice.
The stage stops.
“Guess what I’ve got for you, Erik?” It’s the voice of the driver. It dawns on you he’s part of the thieves just as the lock on the stage clicks shut.
“It’s a king’s man!”
They continue to talk, discussing their next move. The trap was set up to make the driver look innocent. He would have wandered into Shelton with the ‘horrible’ story of being robbed. But now that was ruined. They couldn’t wreck the stage with you inside of it…unless they killed you.
At this point you decide you’ve heard enough.
As they continue to discuss, you move the treasure off the floor to uncover the trap door you know the King keeps in his transport stages. Picking the lock on it, you slip out the bottom, then drop to the ground and duck into the trees before they realize you’re gone.
You didn’t catch them but you have information. That, as a spy, is as good as gold. You head into Shelton to contact the lawmen there.
You’re information leads to the capture of the thieves in the town after Shelton. The lawmen take the praise for their capture and your part, sadly, is unknown by anyone but yourself, the Shelton lawmen, and your Master who simply advises you that that’s the way it goes for a spy.
Congrats on catching the thieves! And thank you for participating in the adventure.