Outcasts

Outcasts Adventure

Yup,  you guessed it, it’s time for a brand new adventure story. I’ve had about six stories started this year and, when I went to outline the different story trails, found I wasn’t happy with where each story led, no matter which ending we discovered. So I appreciate your patience as I finally have a story I’m excited to share!

Let’s get started =)

Outcasts

There’s a hollow feel to the city even from the outside. The occasional gust of wind throws dirt from the walls and howls through the crenellations like the city is moaning in its loneliness.

“It’s alive,” someone whispers.

“Hush,” says the Commander, but even his voice isn’t that loud. You all call him Commander because he took charge of the group as soon as he joined it. You’re not actually sure he’s a military man, but that doesn’t matter. He offered a dim hope and you jumped at it.

The group stands in the tree line eyeing the great, empty city of Calla Sadum. The forest also leaves the city alone, only growing beyond a buffer of 500 yards around the walls.

You shiver, realizing you have to cross that empty space to enter the gates.

Red Clay Pot-Outcasts Adventure“The old apothecaries stored their wares in clay jars. You all know what you’re looking for.” The Commander’s been over this but you appreciate the time you get to stall as he talks. Personally, you’re looking for a jar about the size of your fist that’s painted red. “Watch yourselves,” he says, “Calla Sadum isn’t safe.”

“What will we find inside?” someone asks.

The Commander scoffs. “Your guess is as good as mine. No one comes back from Calla Sadum.”

You hold in another shiver.

This is a suicide mission, but then, you don’t have any hope beyond something insane like this. You touch your fingers against your thumb and withhold tears as there’s no sensation on your fingertips.

Everyone in the group has their own physical ailment. A man near the Commander barely stops himself from scratching at a sore on his neck. You fervently hope it’s not the plague. The boy standing beside you holds out a stick but it’s his milky eyes that hold your attention. He’s remarkably capable at getting around for being blind. Each illness just highlights the cruelty of your home village. They considered each illness so catching or so horrendous that they threw you out.

You eye the hollow city again. Calla Sadum offers a dim, but possible, hope. Before it’s abandonment centuries before, it had healers the like of which the world hasn’t seen since. To those healers, the Plague, or Leprosy in your case, was just another illness like the flu.

The city lets out a deep rumble you feel travel up your calves. The soles of your feet can’t really tell you much anymore.

“It’s alive,” someone insists.

Calla Sadum was abandoned and yet, no one knows why.

“We go in,” the Commander doesn’t even acknowledge the comment. “Pair off. It’s your job to watch your partner’s back.”

You go still. This is the first you’ve heard anything about going in pairs and you’re a decent scout on your own. You’re not sure about being stuck with someone whose skills, and illness, are unknown.

By the time you reconcile yourself to working with a partner, there’s only one man left.

A mass of scars cover the left side of his face and travel down his neck into the collar of his shirt. If some disease causes that, you’ve not heard of it. As he approaches, you realize he’s no taller than your shoulder.

“Angus,” he introduces himself by shoving a hand toward your face.

You hesitate before shaking it but he doesn’t seem concerned about touching you. You eye each other as the rest of the group begins approaching the city.

“Leprosy?” Angus guesses.

You try to hide your fingers in your sleeves.

He chuckles wryly. “Can see the white coloration on your hands.” He waves his fingers to emphasize his point. “No worries, my friend,” he continues, “been around a leper or two. Still haven’t caught it.”

“Cool,” you say, still trying to place what he has.

“Ah, you’re wondering about me,” he says. “Nothing contagious. Got caught in a fire a few years back.”

You raise a brow.

“You’re thinking old scars can’t be healed? Well, I hear there are treatments to help them fade.”

The scars running down his face boast deep purple coloring in the middle. They spider out into thin white lines like the branches of a gnarled tree. No amount of salve or ointment will lessen those, but you don’t have the heart to tell him that.

“What jar are you looking for?” you ask instead.

“Red and white,” he grins. The expression changes his face so much that you give a small smile in return. He jerks his head toward the city and turns away to amble in the group’s wake. His stride hitches on the left side and he leans like that leg is shorter than the other. The pack he carries slides off center, making him stumble.

This doesn’t even seem to register on him, however, and you suspect he’s so used to the motion that he doesn’t notice it any more.

Something moves.

It’s not near Angus. It’s not even near the main body of the group who are now halfway to the gates.

You keep watching until you see it again, thankful that the leprosy hasn’t affect your eyes—yet.

Gates - Outcasts AdventureThere, above the gates, something slides along the wall, creating a small puff of dust. The motion lasts only long enough for you to blink and then it’s gone.

“Angus!” you call and hurry to catch up.

“What’s up, my friend?” he asks.

“Watch.” You point toward the gates.

He watches. No questions asked. No skeptical comments. You wait for so long that you start to wonder if you imagined everything.

A puff of dust, just a hint of motion, and then nothing.

Angus hisses air through his teeth. “Good eyes,” he says. “Stones settling? Wind?” The words sound hopeful but even as he says them, you’re both shaking your heads.

“Too focused of a spot,” you say and he grunts.

“Should we warn the others?”

By now, the group is almost to the gates. You open your mouth to say ‘yes’ just as the ground lurches.

Screams fill the air but even those are cut off with a thud as the group disappears into a pit that rolled open directly beneath their feet. As quickly as it opened, the ground rolls again and the pit vanishes, leaving no trace of the Commander or anyone else. A line of dust, like a horse running but thinner, puffs up along the wall and then is gone as well.

You start to think you know why the trees give the city walls a wide birth.

“For all that’s holy!” Angus curses. “They didn’t even get inside.”

Your mind races. “They might be inside now,” you muse, “they might not be dead.”

“What?”

“It was a pit,” you point out. “They might be held captive inside.”

Angus curses again but you can’t make out his words.

“We can’t approach in daylight,” you continue, thinking aloud, “and we probably need to find another way to enter besides the gates.”

“You still want to go in?”

“Have to,” you respond, holding up your white tipped fingers.

He grunts. “Fair enough. What do you propose now?”

You share a look and in his eyes you see the same drive that pushes you. That same pain of being cut off from all that used to be normal.

“Check this out.” He hunkers down in the grass and pulls from his pack a well-worn leather notebook. Flipping through it, he stops on a page and holds it open on the grass. “My Granpap used to tell me stories like he’d gotten inside once. Thought he was half gone from dementia but might be worth checking now.” A quick look at the city gates again makes him shudder.

The page he’s holding open displays a partial sketch of an aqueduct system.

“What’s this?” you ask about a circle with an arrow pointing to it.

“Drainage port in the mountain,” Angus points to the north of the city where the mountain rises as its back wall. “Granpap said that’s how he got in.”

“And this?”

“He called those the Bones.” Angus shrugs. “Creatures of some sort but I never could figure out what kind.“

Bones - Outcasts Adventure“One option,” you tap the page with your finger and ignore the fact that you can’t feel the sensation. “There was also rumor of an escape tunnel for the King hidden in the forest to the south,” you say. “I hesitated it use it because all the stories say it’s littered with bones. Speculation says they didn’t get far even if they got out of the city.”

“Ayeee,” Angus grumbles. “All guess work! North or South, my friend?”

A. North Aqueducts

Or

B. South Escape Tunnel

Please post in the comments which option you’d like to explore. Next Thursday, we’ll return and see what’s next in the Outcasts adventure!

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Too Peopley Out There!

The world inside my head is vibrant. It teams with life, conversation, characters…everything you’d expect from someone who enjoys writing as much as I do. The puma, as it were, loves the quiet because what’s inside the head is anything but quiet.

Thus, 98% of the time, this is me:

Peanuts

But there is that 2% that’s not puma but pika. This furry little creature loves getting out on a sun-warmed rock and squeaking its existence to the world.

Its view is something like this:

Peanuts

The pika squeaks its little heart out, living life to the fullest it possibly can. And it’s been getting some exercise of late.

If you hadn’t guessed where I was going with this yet, a new Barnes and Noble location has agreed to let me host a book signing. The puma sighs in resignation and pulls the covers back over its head. The pika quivers in glee and prepares to announce itself to a new crowd.

Wish the poor creature luck.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Where: 4750 N Division St. Spokane, WA 99207

When: Saturday the 16th from 11am-3pm

January Whizzed Right Past

The Adventure Literacy and Creative Writing Workshop

Hello Dear Readers!

I have been away longer than I intended. As always, I appreciate how understanding and supportive every single one of you are.

Let me share why I’ve been absent for January.

Way back when I ran the Kickstarter for The Adventure, a friend suggested it would be a great book for a 4th-5thgrade teaching curriculum. You all know my own struggles to read as a child. (If you don’t, check it out here.) One of the things that truly got me into reading was the Choose Your Own Adventure style books.

Choose Your Own Adventure BookI wanted so badly to find the different endings! These books intrigued me enough that I tortured myself trying to read them even though I was only a 3rdgrade reading level. I still have a few copies with curled pages from me sticking my fingers into all the areas that had choices. I wanted to go back and explore every option.

So, when someone suggested The Adventure might help teach reading, you can understand how my heart latched onto the idea.

Admittedly, I have little teaching experience. My Bachelors is in English, which helps, and I’ve taught some Creative Writing to the Nieces and Nephew, but actually creating a full curriculum for Literacy and Creative Writing was a bit daunting.

As with so many things regarding The Adventure, I found a friend who was willing and beyond excited to help. I am incredibly blessed by the people God’s placed in my life.

Anyway, Kaydee is one of my dearest friends, and she also happens to be a teacher with her Masters in Literacy.  Kaydee easily filled in the gaps in my knowledge in regards to creating these teaching materials.

My absence in January has been because Kaydee and I have been finishing The Adventure Literacy and Creative Writing Workshop. (Ohhh, sounds official!) I could go into all sorts of details about it but I’ll refrain from that here. If you’re interested in checking it out, here are the links:

The Adventure Literacy and Creative Writing Workshop ($14.99)

The Adventure (Moonrise Mountain) Literacy Workshop (FREE SAMPLE)

The Adventure on Amazon (Paperback $12.95)

(Also, if you know of anyone who might find this sort of curriculum fun and helpful, please share!)

Otherwise, hello everyone! I’m excited to be back for 2019 and I’ll have a new adventure story starting soon.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

The Jewel

Saphire

Mug of Cider - Set Up Adventure StoryA common idealized picture of a writer might have a desk, a cozy study, and a warm cup of coffee, or hot chocolate, or maybe a glass of scotch. It’s a solitary picture where the writer’s wrestling away at crafting beautiful sentences that build into captivating stories.

It’s a picturesque idea that makes my heart ache for such focused time. But realistically, our day and age does not allow for such time unless we wrest it, kicking and screaming, from our electronic devices, our bloated schedules, and our own over-zealous expectations.

And if you’re a self-published writer, that time is all the more precious. I knew, vaguely, how much went into producing and promoting a book, but the hats of editing, designing, marketing-the list could be endless-can be as heavy and demanding as a hat made of lead.

It would be easy under that weight to forget the joy of simply creating the story, to forget why all those hats are worth it when the day’s finished.

The joy of writing is a precious jewel. We’ll call it a sapphire. And the setting that holds it is the time we carve out for it. Writing and time. Jewel and golden setting. I plan to cradle those things in my hands and remember why I love this business.

Usually every year December is my month for family. I take a break from everything else. This year, I’m starting a smidgeon early and am going to take the time to cradle that precious jewel and remember why it’s worth the other hats.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for an amazing year. You make this journey truly worth every minute. I hope your holidays are blessed and filled with lots of chocolate, beautiful music, special people, and whatever else makes this season extraordinary for you. I’ll see you in the New Year, perhaps with something newly crafted and captivating.

Until next time, blessings,

Jennifer

Heart Beats Option Aa1. Warn the Keep

River

It’s time to finish this adventure and see if you survive =)

If you missed the previous posts, you can read them here (Part One, Part Two and Part Three) or here’s a recap:

You’re hunting the murderer, Stevano, with your two companions Markus and Jana. Each of you has specific abilities that makes you ideal hunters. Your search for Stevano has taken you down into the chalk caverns below the forest. Stevano grew up in the catacombs beneath the ruined city, which connect to these caverns. The caverns also lead toward the river but you and your group decided the catacombs were the better option to explore in your search.

However, when you headed that way, you were passed by a group of men, one of whom is wearing the same distinctive hair gel as Stevano. Although none of them are the murderer, you decided to follow them and end up back at the river where you find a bunch of loaded boats. An inspection showed they’re loaded with weapons for an attack on the Keep.

You decide to take one of the boats to warn the Keep but the river’s high and it’s going to be a dangerous ride.

Let’s see if you succeed =)

Heart Beats Option Aa1. Warn the Keep

Axe“We’ll warn the Keep,” you tell the others as you decide against trying to blow up parts of the tunnels. “But first,” you add, “take an axe and stave in the bottom of all the other boats.”

Markus grins at this last part.

You each find an axe among the weapons and soon the chop of metal into wood echoes in the cavern. You cringe at each thud but it’s better than simply cutting each boat lose and having to deal with the wreckage down stream at the grate. Plus, this’ll prevent the bandits from following you.

But it does make a lot of noise and it takes precious time.

The three of you make as quick work of it as you can but, as you finish with the last boat, you catch the heavy tread of boots back in the tunnels.

“Time’s up,” you holler to the others.

You rush to the last whole boat and, as you pull the line free of the shore, you see figures emerging into the cavern. The group’s lanterns flood the picture of slowly sinking boats as you flee downstream.

Markus takes up the only set of oars. His powerful strokes pull you into the raging river but then there’s a heavy thud and he falters.

Rowing oarHis face turns ashen. The point of a crossbow bolt protrudes from his right shoulder like a shaft of darkness. Its black wood almost hides the blood seeping out around the wound. He somehow continues pulling on the oars.

Jana half shrieks as two more figures on the shore raise crossbows but you move faster than she does.

Pulling the lid free from the barrel next to you, you stand in the rocking boat and catch the first bolt, aimed for Markus’ torso, in the center of the round lid. The force of it pulls you off balance and bucks your knees up against the bench behind you. Your knees collapse.

Landing solidly on your backside, your legs shoot into the air over your head and a second bolt thuds into your left calf.

A wry part of you finds this fortunate. If it hadn’t been your calf, it would have been Markus’ back, and subsequently his lung.

But then the pain hits you and all humor vanishes. Raging fire suffuses you leg like the bite of a giant wolf.

If you could remain still, you would, but the boat tosses along into the cave leading to the Keep and you’re soon not sure the boat, or any of its passengers, are going to make it to the grate in one piece.

Markus maintains some control until one of the oars catches a rock and the following crack tells you exactly how much control any of you have.

Markus rolls off the rowing bench and slams into the left hand wall.

“Left side! Left side!” he shouts.

Jana pushes herself against the side with Markus and they pull you by your arm pits to join them.

The boat tilts precariously but moments later you understand Markus’ maneuver.

A rock scrapes against the exposed hull of the boat. If you hadn’t rolled it up onto the left hand wall, the boulder would’ve taken out the whole side of your small craft.

The grinding vibrates through the wood like an ominous rumble of thunder. Then it’s gone and all three of you roll back to the center of the boat before it capsizes.

Your sigh of relief comes too soon, however, as a deafening crunch shocks the vessel. Wood splinters and whatever security you had in the boat vanishes.

Icy water tumbles over your head. It catches at the bolt still in your leg, sending a renewed burst of fire through your limb. It doesn’t take long, thankfully, for the freezing water to dull that fire.

But you’ve got bigger problems. There’s water everywhere and only brief spurts of air in which to breath. Between the dark and the churning cold, you’re hopelessly lost for direction.

A hand grasps your arm and latches on with a desperation that’s painful. That grasp pulls against the chaos and your head breaks free of the water.

Markus hauls you onto a small rock and holds you steady as you cough up enough water to drown a horse.

“Jana,” Markus tries to say.

“What?” you ask.

“I don’t know—” he stutters, “I lost her.”

There’s a desperate gulp but it’s not from the big man next to you.

That single sound is all the warning you get.

“Grab my feet,” you shout and dive back into the river, hoping you have a good gauge on how fast the current is carrying Jana past your rock.

You find fabric and latch onto it. Moments later, fire engulfs your leg anew as Markus grabs ahold of you.

The current tears at your grip. You tighten your fingers in the fabric until your knuckles pop.

Then you break the surface again and you haul Jana’s limp form after you. Jana coughs. She doesn’t regain consciousness, however. You try to hold your breath and listen for her breathing, for another cough, for a heart beat even.

After an interminable moment, You catch a tha-thump that even the river can’t fully drown out.

“Her heart’s beating,” you assure Markus.

The relief in his sigh is mimicked in your own chest.

“Grate’s right there,” Markus says.

***

It takes some time for your shouting to get the attention of the guard in the Keep but finally they send a diver to retrieve you and your companions.

You warn of the impending attack from infirmary beds. They send troops to the catacombs but only find the mess of destroyed boats and one cavern that appears to have been used to house a large group.

Maxim sends you hunting for more than Stevano once you recover.

The End

Yay, you survived =) Thank you for joining this adventure!

Until next time, blessings,

Jennifer

Heart Beats Option Aa: Follow the Men

River

Guess it had to happen eventually, but somehow, in my silly little world of a brain, I never figured out how to deal with it before hand.

Sigh, and maybe face-palm at my shortsightedness.

For the first time in six years, the vote was tied. I had no plan for this, so you’ll forgive me if I go with writer’s choice on this one. Out of curiosity, let me know in the comments how you’d handle a tie.

Now, without further ado, let’s follow the smaller group of men.

Heart Beats Option Aa.Follow the Men

“Follow,” you say simply after considering your options.

The hair gel Stevano uses is not a common item, as far as you’re aware. The fact that one of the men is using it, then, is not a coincidence.

Jana sniffs once you’re all free of the vent and points the way for Markus to lead.

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.

You fall into line and retrace your steps back to the cavern in which you entered the cave systems. Even here, the dry smell of the catacombs continues to permeate the air, but as Markus leads you down the second tunnel, the one leading to the river, that smell fades until it’s completely drowned out by the damp, chill scent of the river.

Your sense of the men’s footsteps, those faint vibrations, are also drowned out as you’re overwhelmed by the deep, pounding rhythm of a raging river.

At last, the tunnel opens up into a cavern so large that you have no sense of its far wall.

You do not need Markus’ gift of dark sight, however, to realize that there’s something wrong with the scene in front of you. Very wrong.

The river that runs through the middle of the cavern heads straight toward the Crimson Keep, your home and the seat of Maxim Artus, your employer. You’ve always been aware that the river feeding the Keep runs from the caverns and the ruins behind it.

What’s unusual are the shapes bobbing erratically on the surging water. Boats. Dozens of boats.

After a moment of stillness, Markus grunts. “No sign of the four men,” he tells you.

As there are multiple caves leading from this one, that does not entirely surprise you.

“Inspect the boats,” you instruct.

The three of you split up and approach the boats.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

The one you make your way to is nothing fancy, but it’s sturdy enough to manage the torrent of the river. And it’s deep enough to hold up to ten men plus supplies. You know the supplies part simply because the boat’s loaded down.

An inspection of one of the bundles reveals mostly weapons. A sword with several long knives in one, a bow, carefully wrapped against the cave’s damp, in another. Other than that, there are kegs. You sniff around the edges and shudder, realizing the powder these kegs hold is enough to blow a hole the size of a house in the Keep wall.

The water enters the back of the Keep through several large, heavily barred grates. There’s almost no room between the Keep’s back wall and the caverns housing the river, so it’s mostly protected. No one’s ever dared ride the river to approach the Keep at that point. No one until now, it seems.

Jana rejoins you and, even in the darkness, her face shows white, ashen from what she’s realized. Her heart rate pounds a steady but fast beat that you can hear even over the roar of the water.

“This is much larger than Stevano,” you mutter.

“Much,” Markus agrees as he joins you too.

“We could warn the Keep,” Jana suggests.

“That would be cutting it close,” Markus says. “From everything here, it looks like the group’s about to launch within hours. This river will take them to the Keep much faster than we could move on foot.”

“Take a boat?” Jana asks.

“How would you get through the grate into the Keep?” you ask, searching for options.

“There’s almost always a guard stationed near the inside, we shout loud enough, they’ll hear, especially with the river carrying our voices.”

“That still leaves us stuck against the outside of the grates,” Markus objects.

“There are small locked doors,” you mutter, “under the water that the guards can open for us. Few know of them but sometimes the outside of the grate has to be cleaned of debris.”

Markus grunts, not voicing his disagreement, but obviously not thrilled with this plan.

“Other ideas?” you ask.

barrelHe nods toward the powder. “The leadership of these riffraff is probably back in the catacombs. Take the powder and blow up the tunnels, trapping them inside. We can then go get help to take them all in.”

“Do you know all the exits?” you ask.

Markus, after a moment, shakes his head.

“So dare the river,” you muse, “and warn the Keep, or bring down the tunnels and hope we get them all.”

Jana and Markus nod and wait for your decision.

Aa1: Warn the Keep?

Or

Aa2: Blow up the Tunnels?

Leave a comment below with your vote. We’ll see how this adventure ends next week.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Heart Beats Option A: Catacombs

Welcome to the second part of this adventure.

If you missed part one, you can read it here or here’s a recap:

You’re hunting the murderer, Stevano, with your two companions Markus and Jana. Each of you has specific abilities that makes you ideal hunters. Your search for Stevano has taken you down into the chalk caverns below the forest. Stevano grew up in the catacombs beneath the city, which connect to these caverns. The caverns also lead toward the river but you and your group have decided the catacombs are the better option to explore in your search.

Let’s go exploring.

Heart Beats Option A: Catacombs

Jana joins Markus’ hulking dark shape by the two tunnel openings. Beside the towering man, she’s a wisp of a figure but you know just how deceiving that ‘frail’ look is.

There comes the deep, slow inhalation of breath as Jana smells the slight breeze wafting from each direction.

“Clay, water, damp earth, dry bones, and something—” Jana mumbles, “unwashed bodies?” she guesses.

“Anything resembling Stevano’s hair gel?” you ask. The murderer slicks his dark hair back against his head. The gel, according to Jana, has hints of rose and jasmine.

After a moment considering, Jana gives a, “Nah, no hint.”

“Catacombs then,” you decide.

Markus leads the way down the left tunnel. With his silver night vision, the darkness is meaningless to him.

Jana follows and you take up the rear.

You trail your fingers along the wall. The clay leaves white powder that you can faintly see, like tiny ghosts on each finger tip. The powder’s gritty but not unpleasant. You continue to trail your touch on the wall until there’s a disturbance that meets your skin. A slight vibration. You time it with the steady beat of your heart.

“Stop,” you whisper.

Jana and Markus freeze.

The vibration grows a tiny bit stronger. You count.

“Forty Five seconds. Hide.” Your short-hand command sends the other two into a silent scurry.

Markus runs forward and then back tracks down the tunnel. His eyes glint as he scans for a place, any place, for the three of you to tuck away out of sight.

Jana does the same except she pauses periodically, scenting for subtle changes to the air that’ll tell her of hidden side passages.

Forty seconds.

You count the time in your head as you kneel down and lay your palms flat against the floor. The vibrations are there, fainter due to their path through the ground, but also more solid in an indefinable way.

Thirty five seconds. You lay down and press your ear against the clay. The vibrations thrum with the pound of each man’s heel. Four men, you can tell from the weight behind every footfall.

But the thrumming isn’t consistent. With the next footfall you count one, two—five, six—you get to twenty five and there’s a whoosh before the vibration continues, much diminished, toward your location.

“Follow,” you whisper and Jana and Markus fall in as you run forward. Within five seconds, you locate the grate, the vent in the floor, that muffled the approaching steps. If you hadn’t known to look for it, you wouldn’t have seen it due to the white and gray coloring of its bars against the chalk white floor.

With a heave, Markus lifts it free. Jana vanishes inside by descending a tight ladder down, and you follow. Markus brings up the rear and settles the grate back into place only five seconds before four men traipse by over top the grate.

Jana muffles an ‘ugh’ at their stench. Even though you don’t have her nose, you cover your face in the crook of your elbow to blunt the smell of sweat and urine.

But this doesn’t muffle your ears. You hear the distinct tha-thump of each man’s heart beat as they pass. You’re used to Jana and Markus’ and are able to ignore theirs as you listen to the heightened pace of the four above.

When they’re past for more than five seconds, Jana taps your foot on the rung above her head.

You wait until you can no longer hear the heart beats before relaxing.

“Yes,” you whisper to Jana, both giving her permission to speak and confirming the men are beyond ear shot.

“Under that ick,” Jana answers, “one of the men is wearing the same hair gel as Stevano.”

Markus grunts. “But none of them looked like him.” From his position directly below the grate, Markus would have had a clear view, even in the dark, of all four men.

“We’re almost to the catacombs,” she whispers, “and there are more men that way. Probably a group of them, judging by the smell.”

“Follow the smaller group or continue to the catacombs, Captain?” Markus asks.

Aa. Follow?

or

Ab. Continue to Catacombs?

Leave your vote in the comments below and next Thursday we’ll explore whichever option gets the most votes.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer