Oasis Disturbance Option B: Go Outside

Welcome back for the second part in this adventure =)

If you missed last week, here’s a quick recap: You rode into the desert oasis town of Caspian and received a rather cool welcome from the inhabitants. Red, the tavern keeper, agreed to allow you to sleep in one of his rooms if you promised to stay inside all night. You agreed, but midway through the night there’s a deep roaring outside and the ground begins to shake. Readers voted to go outside to investigate. (If you would like to read the start to this adventure, click here.)

Now, let’s see what happens.

Oasis Disturbance Option B: Go Outside

The subtle shuddering in the floorboards continues, growing in strength until dust floats into the air from the surface and each dry board creaks against its neighbor. Red, the tavern keeper, may have asked you to stay in your room all night but you’ve a sinking premonition that your room might not last till dawn and it might be safer to move your body elsewhere.

Door knob - Oasis DisturbanceWith a firm grip on the doorknob, you turn it carefully and peek into the hallway beyond. Darkness greets you but it’s a sleepy kind of hush, not a creepy kind. Keeping your steps soft, you exit your closet room and make it three steps down the stairs before a grating, grinding crash shakes the walls. Even before the noise stops, you notice light coming from under the door of the room you just left. It’s silvery light, like someone opened a giant window…except there wasn’t a big window in that room to open. Maybe it’s time to get out of town, you decide, and take the last six steps down to the bar two at a time.

Before your feet finish thudding on the landing, someone’s got you by the arm.

“Should’ve told you to leave town!” Red shouts. He spins you toward the back door where you assume the kitchen sits.

“How do I have anything to do with this?” you shout right back, both from his rough handling and from your surprise.

By now, Red’s shoved you through the kitchen and toward the door outside. He lets go of your arm to swing the door open.

“Look at that!” He points through the door but does not step through it.

Beyond the door lies the backyard of the tavern and beyond that sits the stables. Or rather, what used to be the stables. A jumbled heap of timbers and thatch meets your gaze, and now that you know what you’re hearing, you realize some horses must have survived because their worried neighing carries through the tavern yard.

“Opher!” You run to search for her but Red grabs your arm again before you exit the door.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“My horse. Your stables. We’ve got to help them!”

He lets go like you burned him. “And go out there? You’re battier than a belfry.”

For a moment, you simply look into the big man’s dark eyes. Under the bravado, there’s a layer of fear so thick he’s almost drowning in it. No argument will make him leave the questionable safety of the tavern.

“Fine,” you say, and step out the door.

It’s a relatively clear night with only a few scattered clouds to hide the moon occasionally. You’re so focused on the stables that you don’t immediately see the creature running toward you waving its spindly arms. When you do catch sight of it, however, you freeze as your brain stumbles over an explanation.

Dinosaur - Oasis Disturbance“Look at you!” the creature crows. “All that lovely skin and hair and—and—and look at your eyes! You have eyes!”

This would be a very strange statement except the creature doesn’t have eyes—or skin—or hair. It’s just bones and now that it’s standing right in front of you, there’s no denying what’s talking at you.

A dinosaur, or at least it’s the talking bones of one. About the size of a thin, medium sized dog, the teeth and snout look like they could leave quite the wound in all your lovely skin.

But the dinosaur isn’t biting, or even really aggressive. Instead, it grasps your hands in its long claws and sighs,  “You’re perfect. Please help us.”

“Um,” you say.

“Oh right,” the dinosaur drops your hands and takes a step back. “They all say I’m a little much. Calm, Calvin, stay calm and explain.” This last bit seems to be said more to himself than to you.

“Someone stole the toad king,” Calvin says.

“What?”

“I know, right!? Who would do such a thing? But they did and now we need to un-damn the lake or we all stay dusty, thirsty skeletons. Help us?”

“My horse needs my help first.” You point toward the rubble of the stables as you try to edge around Calvin.

He grabs your arm and then flinches back. “Calm, Calvin, calm. Don’t scare the human,” he tells himself, then, “un-damning the lake will help everyone, horses included. What do you say?”

Do you…

Bb. Help Calvin?

Or

Bc. Find Opher?

Let me know in the comments which option gets your vote. Next Thursday we’ll return to see how this adventure continues.

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Oasis Disturbance

Oasis Disturbance - Moon

Our last adventure had a rather chilly river involved. Let’s warm up in the desert for this next adventure =)

Oasis Disturbance

It’s dry as only a desert can be. Each breath creates a dull ache in the back of your sinuses like the flow of air is actively pulling moisture out of your body. Well, you admit, it is in fact doing just that.

Your goal is the small town of Caspian. As far as you know, it’s the only oasis in the otherwise flat, tan and white of the desert, and it’s the only waypoint in the middle of the Salt Desert.

“We’ll make it,” you tell Opher, your nag of a horse, as each of her steps trudges forward. As long as you can reach Caspian before the sun sets, you should be fine. You’re not prepared for another freezing night out on the salt sands, however. “We’ll make it,” you say again.

Opher doesn’t respond.

Oasis Disturbance - WaterNot more than an hour before the sun disappears below the horizon, you top the crest of what can barely be called a hill, and there sits the dumpy town of Caspian. Right in the middle of the sloped, dried looking shapes of the buildings sparkles the town’s claim to fame, the Caspian Lake, and the only true water for miles.

As though she can smell it, Opher picks up her pace toward the main street.

You pull her up short in front of the Horse’s Shoe, the only tavern in town. In previous visits, the people of Caspian haven’t been openly friendly, but neither were they openly hostile either. As you dismount now, an elderly woman wanders by and gives you such a hairy look that you check to make sure you’re not indecently dressed.

Perhaps she’d just having a rough day, you decide, and wander into the tavern. At this time of day, the main room’s full. Before you opened the doors, the general hubbub of the place carried out into the street, but as you enter and pause in the dark interior, all conversation stops.

The older lady was easy to shrug off but this is a clear sign something’s amiss. You meet the bartender’s stare and hold up your hands to show you mean no trouble.

“Meal and a glass of water?” you ask.

The bartender, a heavy shouldered man with such red hair it could be flame, grunts. “Sure,” he says and nods his chin to the only open stool at the bar.

As you slowly make your way to the spot, conversation picks up again although it stays more hushed than before.

When the flame haired bartender sets a plate of over cooked beef and a hard roll on the bar, you thank him and then ask, “trouble in town?”

“Something like that,” he says as he turns away.

Before he can get too far, you ask, “Any rooms open for the night?”

He eyes you for a long moment before nodding, “Sure. So long as you stay inside the whole night. Want no trouble.”

There’s more going on than one stranger rolling into town and creating possible trouble, but Red doesn’t seem interested in sharing.

“Deal,” you say. Staying inside shouldn’t be a problem. You’ve been traveling for several days and a solid night of sleep sounds good.

Red grunts and walks away.

***

A room turns out to mean a closet with a twin bed and a nightstand with a small bowl of water for washing up. Thankfully, there’s a tiny window to let in fresh air or the place would feel uncomfortably close.

You splash your face to remove some of the desert dust and then flop onto the bed for much needed sleep.

It’s perhaps an hour after midnight when a sound, a solid, deep chested roar like a lion’s but much deeper, wakes you from a dreamless, drool-inducing sleep. Your heart rate hits top speed, rushing blood through your ears and making you wonder if you only imagined the noise. As you listen, the whoosh, whoosh of blood screams in your head.

Then the roar comes again, accompanied by a subtle shudder to the earth. You sit up in bed and hesitate. There’s a faint light shining through your small window but between the haziness created by dust on the pane and the shifting clouds across the moon, you can’t actually see anything outside. You said you’d stay in the room, but nothing you know of makes a roar like that.

Do you…

A. Stay Put?

Or

B. Go Outside?

Leave your vote in the comments and we’ll return next Thursday to see what happens next in this adventure! Thank you for stopping by this week.

Blessings,

Jennifer

(If you liked this story and are interested in more adventures, you can find my book, The Adventure, on Amazon.)

Fort and Light Option Bb2: Search the Forest

Forest - Fort and Light Adventure

Welcome back. It’s time to see how the Fort and Light Adventure ends!

If you missed some of this story, here’s a quick recap: You were about to leave the old military fort you were exploring when you heard a voice inside. Upon checking it out, you found yourself not in an old fort but in a fully manned military operation. The voice you heard told you to get the lighthouse lit because there’s a boat sneaking past on the river. Readers voted to use the matches in your pocket to light the lighthouse. (If you’d like the read the beginning, click here.)

When you got the lighthouse lit up, the shooting started! The pirate ship and the fort exchanged a series of volleys until one of the pirate’s cannon balls hit your lighthouse and knocked you out. When you awoke, you found yourself captured by the pirates and waiting on the beach while they finish their breakfast to find out what they want to do with you. Readers voted to try and escape with your fellow captive by running for the river. (If you’d like to read this part in full, click here.)

You made it to the river and succeeded in escaping the pirates, but your fellow captive now wants to warn the town of the pirates headed their way. Readers voted to search for the old signal tower in hopes you can find it and get it lit. (If you’d like to read about your escape, click here.)

Now, let’s go search the forest.

Fort and LightBb2: Search the Forest

River - Fort and Light AdventureEven moving around to help the blood flow to your limbs, your shivering doesn’t subside for another half an hour.

“I’m thinking another soak in the river would be dangerous,” you tell your companion, who you’ve started to think of as Gray Beard.

He hums. “You’re probably right. It’s not a warm day.”

“Let’s aim for the Signal Tower,” you say.

Gray Beard simply nods. After another few minutes in the sunshine, you both head into the trees in unspoken accord. The long branches and dark trunks of the forest close around you in an almost claustrophobic fashion, like a living cave with moss acting as a heavy, green blanket.

“We’ll get lost unless we orient ourselves somehow,” Gray Beard says.

You both stop. You’ve done a certain amount of hiking and orienteering in your life, so after a few minutes of looking around, you think you’ve got it.

“Signal Tower’s that way,” you point in the general direction where, when you were at the river, you could see the land rising slightly from the rest of the landscape.

Gray Beard nods.

“The river should then always be to our right.” You point again but it’s the dull roar of the river that really speaks of its direction. “Which places the sun to our left and slightly behind us.” You point again but the forest obscures most of the direct light from the sun. “We’ll have to pause anytime we get a break in the canopy and make sure we’re still on course.”

Gray Beard gives a soft chuckle. “I like you,” he says. “I’m not sure anyone else at the fort could have figured that out so easily. Okay, so river to the right and sun to the back of our left shoulders. Perfect.”

Trees - Fort and Light AdventureYou head out again and before long, you’re both covered in a thin layer of sweat. Any chance you get, you pause to check the direction of the sun but the dull ache of hunger starts pinching your belly long before Gray Beard calls a halt. He groans as he lowers himself to sit on the large exposed root of a nearby tree.

“We should be close now,” he says with a look around that communicates his worry. Unlike before, he’s making no effort to hide his true feelings.

Somehow, that worry makes you want to be more positive to help keep his spirits up.

“We’ll find it,” you say. “There’s a small patch of sunlight over there. I’ll go take a quick look while you rest.”

He gives an appreciative smile as you head for the patch of sun.

The gesture was more to show encouragement than for anything else, but when you reach the small bit of light, you give a surprised, “Ha!” at what you find.

“Come here,” you call. “I’ve found something.”

When Gray Beard reaches the spot, you point out the slightly overgrown trail on the far side. What truly encourages you is the uphill slant to it and the cut logs on the sides that the moss hasn’t completely buried yet.

Gray Beard slaps your shoulder and you wince at the sharp pound. Your companion doesn’t notice in his excitement. He heads straight for the path.

In following it, you quickly rise up out of the forest to a cleared hill, and at the top sits a square wooden tower.

The ladder creaks when Gray Beard places his foot on the first rung, but it holds up with loud protests as he ascends. You say a quick prayer and follow him.

Matches - Fort and Light AdventureBy the time you crawl through the trap door, Gray Beard’s already got a heavy metal box open and is emptying its contents across the floor. An old rope, a shovel, two small lanterns, and a bedroll occupy the space. Next he pitches an empty burlap sack and then comes up with a triumphant, “ahha!” In his hand is a small wooden box that rattles like your small matchbox.

He hands it over. “Above us should be the signal platform.” He points to the flat ceiling. “Tinder and all that should be up there. Go for it.”

Maybe he assumes because you were the one to light the lighthouse at the fort that this is your job, but whatever the reason, you don’t protest. Instead, you pocket the box and climb the short ladder to the platform above.

From this high up, you notice the break in the trees and the rooftops of the town farther down the river. It seems peaceful but when you scan the river, your stomach sinks at the tall masts sliding along. It won’t be long before the pirates reach that calm, unaware town.

Turning to the waiting fire platform, you indeed find the kindling Gray Beard spoke of along with a stack of cut wood to add to the fire. A small, oiled canvas slants over the pile to keep it dry from any rain.

Just as with the lighthouse, this fire starts after a few tries but it smokes terribly from the moisture that’s slowly crept into it from the general atmosphere. Blowing gently, you coax it slowly to life until you’re sure the logs will light. A quick glance at the river tells you the pirates must be pushing their oarsmen because they’re moving at a steady clip.

“Hurry, my friend,” Gray Beard calls as though you can’t see the ship. From his vantage point below, he probably just noticed it.

FireFinally, the fire gives a whoosh, and the logs light with an acceleration only accomplished with gasoline. You fall back on your rump in your hurry to get out of the way. Whoever set up this platform must have soaked the logs. Time and moisture had hidden the smell from you.

Within seconds, an answering orange flame springs up from the town. Although the signal tower is decrepit, apparently the town still mans their watches. Good. They have time to prepare.

Gray Beard gives a whoop of excitement at your success.

It’s the last thing you hear as everything fades to black.

***

Something’s tapping metal on glass. You groan and open your lids to find the light of a flashlight hitting your eyes. In a moment of total disorientation, you look around to find yourself in the driver seat of your car. It’s dark outside except for the directed light in your face.

Rolling down the window, you see the hat and narrow face of the park ranger who closed the gate today…yesterday…a while ago.

“You can’t sleep in the parking lot,” the ranger says. “Go home.”

You just nod, still disoriented, but when you reach into your pock, you find the chatter of your keys at your fingertips.

***

It’s only later that you check the history books to see what they say about the fort and the signal tower. Although they don’t directly mention you, there is one report from Captain Murphey Montgomery about escaping pirates with one of the fort’s personnel. It’s a very military report, so he doesn’t exactly say the person disappeared immediately after the signal fire ignited, but the account does suspiciously ignore any more mention of said person. Captain Montgomery was awarded a medal for saving the town. When you find a picture of the Captain, you just smile. Well done, Gray Beard, well done.

The End

Well done! You survived and warned everyone of the pirates =)

Thank you for joining in with this adventure. We’ll return next week with a brand new adventure to explore!

Blessings,

Jennifer

(If you liked this story and are interested in more adventures, you can find my book, The Adventure, on Amazon.)

 

Fort and Light Option Bb: Escape

River - Fort and Light Adventure

Welcome back to the Fort and Light Adventure!

If you missed some of this story, here’s a quick recap: You were about to leave the old military fort you were exploring when you heard a voice inside. Upon checking it out, you found yourself not in an old fort but in a fully manned military operation. The voice you heard told you to get the lighthouse lit because there’s a boat sneaking past on the river. Readers voted to use the matches in your pocket to light the lighthouse. (If you’d like the read the beginning, click here.)

When you got the lighthouse lit up, the shooting started! The pirate ship and the fort exchanged a series of volleys until one of the pirate’s cannon balls hit your lighthouse and knocked you out. When you awoke, you found yourself captured by the pirates and waiting on the beach while they finish their breakfast to find out what they want to do with you. Readers voted to try and escape with your fellow captive by running for the river. (If you’d like to read this part in full, click here.)

Fort and Light Option Bb: Escape

Fort and Light Adventure - ShipOne of the dozen pirates stands up to scrub his breakfast bowl clean, and you know your time to decide on a course of action is running out.

“Let’s go,” you tell the gray bearded man beside you.

He grunts in approval, glances at the group of pirates, and then rolls to his feet to run for the river. Right behind him, you stumble when your numbed feet hit the ground. You hadn’t realized how long you’d been sitting in the same position and your legs are stiff. You pitch headfirst toward the riverbank and, at the last second, tuck your shoulder into a forward roll that brings you awkwardly back onto your feet. Pain radiates up your back and shoulders when the pressure of the ground touches those areas, but your momentum keeps you moving.

“Stop yerselves!”

You ignore the shout as your feet hit the water. Instantly the icy chill sends splinters of shock up your legs and then it steals the breath from your lungs when you dive into the current. With your hands still tied together, you struggle to swim. A hand grabs your arm and you almost lash out, thinking it’s a pirate, until you see the gray hair of your companion.

With deft fingers, he gets the rope off your wrists.

“Follow me,” he says. It might have been a shout but his voice is breathy like your own from the chill of the water.

A quick glance at the shore shows a rowboat of pirates putting into the water. Needing no more incentive, you flip over in the water with your head downstream and swim hard. The cold of the water blessedly numbs the pain in your back but it does nothing for the ache of trying to breathe. It’s not long before you’re gasping.

“Keep going,” your companion hollers.

River - Fort and Light AdventureYou focus solely on the brown of his wet jacket and just keep swimming. By the time he angles for the far shore, you’ve no idea how long you’ve been in the water. It’s with shuddering relief that you crawl onto the sharp stones and flop down to simply breathe. The smell of your wet clothing, a heavy odor of wool, reminds you that everything you left the house with that morning has recently changed. You were wearing jeans when you dressed for the day. Considering the wool still retains some of your body heat, you’re thankful for the change at the moment.

“Ha,” chuckles the bearded man, “hahahaha. Never thought we’d make it beyond the pirate’s boat.”

“Good thing you kept that to yourself,” you admit. “I might not have agreed if you’d shown doubt earlier.”

He grins and winks. “Question now is, how do we warn the town? We damaged some of the rigging with a cannon ball. The pirates might pause long enough to fix it but I doubt it since they know we’re free to warn people downriver. If we float the river again, we might be able to get there before the ship does but it’s a ways in the water. The only other option I can think of is to search for the old signal tower. It’s been out of use for awhile, so I’ve no idea if it’ll light, but if it does, the town and anyone else for miles will know there’s a threat coming.” He hums as though thinking through everything. “I’m not thrilled with either choice,” he admits.

“So let me understand this,” you say. “One way we’re getting back into the freezing river,” as you talk, your teeth chatter, “and the other way we’re hiking through unknown forest in search of a signal tower?”

“Yup. We know the tower’s uphill that-a-way,” he points, “but that’s about all the direction I know.”

Do you…

Bb1: Float the River?

Or

Bb2: Search the Forest?

Good job escaping the pirates! Leave your vote in for this next part in the comments below and we’ll return Thursday to see how this adventure ends.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

(If you liked this story and are interested in more adventures, you can find my book, The Adventure, on Amazon.)

Fort and Light Option B: Matches

Lighthouse - Fort and Light Adventure

Welcome back for the second part of the Fort and Light Adventure!

If you missed last week, here’s a quick recap: You were about to leave the old military fort you were exploring when you heard a voice from inside. Upon checking it out, you found yourself not in an old fort but in a fully manned military operation. The voice you heard told you to get the lighthouse lit because there’s a boat trying to sneak past on the river. Readers voted to use the matches in your pocket to try and light the lighthouse. (If you’d like the read the beginning, click here.)

Let’s see what happens.

Fort and Light Option B: Matches

Matches - Fort and Light AdventureThere’s no time to lose. You pull the rattling box of matches from your pocket as you approach the lighthouse. A winding staircase takes you up to the lantern at the top of the structure.

As you open the box of matches, your hands shake and you barely manage not to lose the five pieces inside. The first match head breaks off when you strike it against the box. With a growl, you pull out another one and, with careful fingers, grate the match to life. The tiny flame flares bright in the dusky night. When you hold it to the lantern wick, it sputters for a second before catching the oil soaked material. It gives a soft whoosh.

The multifaceted lenses surrounding you catch the light and a beam shoots out across the river from the lighthouse.

“PAN LEFT,” shouts a now familiar voice.

There’s a wheel next to the lantern for turning it. You give it a twist and the beam of light glides up the river to land on a ship that’s flying a dark colored flag. There’s a brief moment in which you get to stare at that ship, taking in the rows of oars moving it along the river at an alarming speed, and the round barrels of four cannons that line the ship’s side.

The first cannon bucks hard enough to rock the ship. It spouts a grayish cloud and then a boom reverberates through the fort. The lighthouse rattles as your ears go momentarily numb of sound.

Cannon - Fort and Light AdventureJust as your ears start ringing, you hear, “FIRE!” from the familiar voice of the man leading the men on the fort wall.

The stone beneath you shudders and your ears go dead again but in the beam of light on the river, you see the giant splash as the fort’s cannon ball narrowly misses the bow of the ship.

Shouted jeering accompanies the angry fists of the pirates as they yell at the fort but they’re far enough away you can’t really make out their words or their gestures.

“PAN RIGHT.”

You give the wheel a slight turn.

“FIRE.”

This time, both the ship and the fort fire at the same time. You clap your hands over your ears but then something makes you look up. You’ve been in a car accident before. At the time, everything seemed to slow down and even as you remember the accident later, the events happen in slow motion in your memory.

This is exactly like that. There’s a round shape hurtling toward you. The beam from the lighthouse seems to be swallowed by that dark shape as it draws closer. At the last moment, you turn away and launch yourself down the stairs of the lighthouse.

Glass shatters. The ground shakes and sharp chips of stone bite into your back. The lantern, and any other source of light, simply disappears.

***

River - Fort and Light AdventureLight gilds the backs of your eyelids. It shoots pain into your skull, and all you want is to keep your lids closed, but there’s an insistent tugging at your sleeve. When you crack your eyes open, you find your hands tied together.

There’s another tug at your sleeve. With a soft groan, you look right to see the man who was shouting orders earlier. He’s a shorter man but the heavy, gray beard covering his face lends him an air of age.

“Shhh,” he cautions as he points toward the river.

It’s then you realize you’re sitting on the riverbank with your back against the remains of the fort wall. The pirate’s ship bobs on the river, highlighted by the rising sun. Beyond the gray bearded man sits the group of pirates eating their breakfast around a fire they’ve lit on the rocks.

“They’ll finish soon,” the bearded man whispers, “and then they’ll decide what to do with us.”

You try to lean forward to get a better look at the motely crew but sharp pains run through your body, particularly down your back.

“Careful. You don’t want to draw their attention.” He shoots a look at the pirates and, reassured they’re not looking, continues, “We need to warn the town. If we’re to escape, the time’s now.”

“Escape?” you ask.

“River’s probably our best bet. You ready?”

Even sitting on the riverbank, it’s chilly. You cringe to think of getting into the water, but the man’s probably right. If you’re going to get away from the pirates, now is the time to do it. Your back twinges as you shift a little. Can you even swim? You’re not sure the extent of your injuries. The man might have a better chance of getting away without you.

Do you…

Bb. Escape?

Or

Bc. Wait?

Leave your vote in the comments below. Next Thursday, we’ll see how this adventure continues.

Blessings,

Jennifer

(If you liked this story and are interested in more adventures, you can find my book, The Adventure, on Amazon.)

Crystal Pit of Time Option Ab1: Return the Coins to the Clock

Crystal Pit of Time

Pt. 1: You were caught steeling bread. The king sentenced you to seven days in the crystal pits and gave you a tiny coin clock that counts down your sentence. It’s unlikely you’ll survive the pits alone, so when you meet a strange young man who sounds old, you hope he can help you survive, but he tells you to pitch the small clock before following him. Reader’s voted to pitch the clock instead of hiding it. (If you’d like to read the beginning, click here.)

Pt. 2: You pitched the coin clock and a pit worm ate it. Then Andrew, the strange young/old man, took you to a group of people who have managed to survive in the pits. They’re pretty sure the coin clocks are somehow aging those they’re given to and readers have voted to sneak into the library to see if they can figure out what’s happening. (If you’d like to read part two in full, click here.)

Pt 3: When you sneak into the library, you find a book with drawings of the large clock that sits above the king’s throne. However, before you can really read the book, you’re captured and brought before the king, who sentences you to the pits again. As he’s pulling more coin clocks out of the base of the big clock, one of your fellow companions points out that there are small spots in the drawing of the big clock for the coins to be returned to. You’ve no idea what’ll happen but readers voted to try and return the coins. (If you’d like to read part three, click here.)

Here goes your mad dash to reach the big clock!

Crystal Pit of Time Option Ab1. Return the Coins to the Clock

Clock - Crystal Pit of TimeThe tiny clock that the king slid across the floor toward you comes to rest right at your toes. In the silence that follows, the ticking seems to bounce off the marble floor and your eyes settle on the number seven in the small window at the bottom of the round device.

You crouch to pick the thing up and give the other three a sideways glance. For whatever reason, they’re looking at you for direction. Your fingers curl around the copper coin.

“Give me your clocks,” you say at the same moment as you pick up the coin and step away from the nearest guard.

Lily grins. Instead of picking up her clock, she follows the king’s example and slides it across the floor. The other two, who paused at your words, do the same.

“Stop it!” the king commands, but you’re already moving and the other three have moved as well.

You dodge the nearest guard who tries to catch Lily’s clock with his boot. He misses and you scoop up the coin right after his boot comes down with a heavy thud. Seconds later, Lily’s small body slams into the man from the side. For such a small woman, she’s all the guard can handle and you easily retrieve the other two coins while Andrew and Simon distract the guards nearest them.

That leaves you and the king to face each other alone.

A snarl lifts his lips and adds wrinkles to his already aged face.

“This’ll bring you the death sentence,” he growls.

“This was already a death sentence,” you say.

He flinches and give a nervous glance at the large clock over his shoulder, which just strengthens your resolve.

ThroneYou feign to the left and, when he commits to blocking you on the steps before the throne, you dodge right and jump the three steps in a simple leap. Your soft shoes barely make a slap on the marble as you land beside the throne. With a shove, you topple the giant chair onto the king. He gives an angry shriek as he and the chair tumble off the steps. At the bottom, the chair comes to rest on top of him, pinning him to the floor, where he continues to yell with wild anger.

It only takes you two more strides to reach the spinning clock on the wall. As you come to stand under it, you see the small circles that Lily pointed out in the drawing. This close, you can also make out the small indentations that mimic the faces of the tiny coins in your hand.

You fit the first coin into the clock. At first it doesn’t do anything but as you let go, small pinchers slide out of the copper frame to hold the coin in place. The mechanism clicks and the giant clock chimes as though it were three o’clock. The heavy tolling reverberates through the room.

When the tolling ends, you fit the second coin into the next slot. Instantly, the giant clock chimes again and this time it tolls out six notes instead of three.

“Look!” Lily shouts. You glance to see her pointing at the face of the giant clock. It’s no longer spinning without purpose but the hour hand is sitting on the six and the minute hand it straight on the hour.

One of the guards breaks loose from Andrew by kicking his peg leg out from under him. As the large man runs toward you, you quickly set the third coin into place. When you turn back to face the guard, the tolling of the ninth hour makes your ears ring.

From behind the guard, Andrew makes a desperate dash to reach him. He stumbles as the connections of his peg leg break and he hits the floor in a bruising slide. Just before the guard takes the first step of the dais, Andrew’s fingers close around his ankle, tripping him up the steps.

The guard kicks Andrew’s hand away but the brief pause is just enough time for you to fit the fourth and last coin into the clock.

This time, the click makes the whole mechanism shudder on the wall. The guard stops, mouth a gap, as the clock begins to chime the twelve.

Beneath the throne, the king’s shouts change from angry commands to terrified shrieks. He thrashes so hard that the heavy chair wobbles back and forth. That thrashing grows weaker and weaker with each metallic toll until, with the twelfth chime, there’s a puff of dust and the chair settles into stillness.

Everyone stares. As the silence stretches, Lily finally breaks it to approach the throne. She heaves if away from the king to find only a pile of dust and royal robes.

“He’s—,” she swallows, “he’s—.” She just shakes her head.

Hand“Look,” Andrew says in a clear voice. He’s sitting on the bottom step with his shattered peg leg sticking out in front of him. But it’s his hands he’s staring at with wonder. Where before his hands shook with age and the skin pulled tight across sharp bones that showed the nobs of arthritic fingers, he holds out straight fingers that could hold a sword as easily as any of the guards in the room.

***

After a closer look at the book Lily found, it becomes clear that the king was using a form of old magic to pull life from the prisoners he sentenced to the crystal pits. Since the king lived for so long, there is no living heir to take his place. Oddly enough, it’s Simon who steps in as temporary king. He was once the old king’s first councilor but had been sentenced to the pits when he questioned some of the king’s reasons for sentencing local farmers to the pits.

The first thing Simon does is destroy the large clock on the wall. He then forbids life altering magics, and the book itself is removed from the library.

The End

Yay, you survived and stopped the king! Thank you for joining this adventure.

Next week I’ll return with an update on Quaking Soul, my current work-in-progess/publishing project.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Crystal Pit of Time Option Ab: Sneak into the Library

Crystal Pit of Time - Clock

Welcome back to part three of this adventure.

If you missed the first two parts, here’s a quick overview:

You were caught steeling bread. The king sentenced you to seven days in the crystal pits and gave you a tiny coin clock that counts down your sentence. It’s unlikely you’ll survive the pits alone, so when you meet a strange young man who sounds old, you hope he can help you survive, but he tells you to pitch the small clock before following him. Reader’s voted to pitch the clock instead of hiding it. (If you’d like to read the beginning, click here.)

You pitched the coin clock and a pit worm ate it. Then Andrew, the strange young/old man, took you to a group of people who have managed to survive in the pits. They’re pretty sure the coin clocks are somehow aging those they’re given to and readers have voted to sneak into the library to see if they can figure out what’s happening. (If you’d like to read part two in full, click here.)

Now, let’s go a-sneaking =)

Crystal Pit of Time Option Ab: Sneak into the Library

When you voiced your desire to sneak into the library, you did not fully consider how difficult the endeavor would be. It just seemed like a safer way of investigating the coin clocks. But now, as you press tight to the stone behind a long tapestry on the library’s wall, you grumble mentally at the lack of planning.

The pit dwellers led you through a maze of tunnels until they reached the sewers under the city. At one time the two were separated by an earthen wall, but the dwellers had dug through to give them access to just about anywhere in the city. Lily led you all unerringly to another hole that they’d dug into the library basement and then she guided you up into the stacks by way of a back staircase. She admitted to visiting the library often, but she’s never been sure in which area to look for the king’s secret.

It’s the middle of the night, but unlike the throne room, the city library is always open, so the cavernous room is not empty. In the isle beyond the tapestry where you hide, an old man pushes a cart beside the shelves, stopping every few feet to shelve books. He’s in the ancient technology and magics section, so you wait with shallow breaths as he hums softly and shuffles his way down the row.

Beside you, Lily bounces on her toes in one quick up and down, and then goes still again. You realize now why Simon and Andrew did not want to be paired with the woman. No matter how she tries, she cannot stay still for more than a moment or two.

The humming pauses. Then, after a long minute, it starts up again. Lily lets out the breath she held and shoots you another apologetic smile. You give her arm a squeeze in encouragement.

Finally, after another half hour of the stone seeping its chill into your bones, the old man shuffles away. You wait until he disappears into an isle three rows over before stepping from behind the tapestry.

As you enter the isle, Lily takes the left and you the right to peruse the titles, but it doesn’t take long for you to realize you’ve no idea what you’re looking for in the dusty tomes. You draw a line in the dirt on one book just to read the title, “Creating the Wheel.”

“Oh,” Lily whispers her glee as she pulls a book from the shelf. Engraved on the red and brown leather cover is a clock that looks a lot like the King’s.

Foot printLily opens the cover and a puff of dust explodes from the pages. Although she’s engrossed in the words she finds inside, you shift your gaze to the floor, where you see trails in the dust left by the old man’s cart. Beside the twin trails of the wheels, you can make out the scuffle marks from his feet.

A chill hits you.

Two things about those marks are not right. One, they’re the only type of foot prints in the isle. If the old man were actually shelving books from this row, there should be prints left by the customers who checked the books out. You check and can just make out the soft shapes left by your own feet from when you ducked into the row to get out of the rain the day before. Those prints only go a few feet into the ancient technology and magics isle.

The second oddity is even more telling. The prints you left were soft because your shoes don’t have a deep tread on the bottom. The marks left by the old man are spotted like a leopard. Only a military style boot with a deep tread left that sort of mark.

“Lily, we have to go,” you say but it’s too late as the old man steps into the row.

He’s not hunched or slow like he was with his book cart. It’s easy now to see what he is, a guard wearing a librarian’s long robe. Lily groans and hugs the book close. Behind the guard, two more appear with Simon and Andrew in tow.

“They have this section under guard,” you say to Lily.

“That’s right,” the guard says in a hushed voice. Apparently even he can’t bring himself to disturb the quiet of the books. “Let’s go.”

They usher your group out of the library into the quiet streets of the city. At first you expect them to take you to the city cells but you quickly realize you’re headed in the wrong direction.

“The King’s awake?” you ask, surprised as the guards take you into the palace.

The lead guard snorts. “He never sleeps.”

Sure enough, when they shove open the throne room doors, the King is sitting on his throne with his head propped up by a hand. He frowns at the intrusion but then his eyes come to rest on the book Lily is still hugging.

“Thieves,” he says.

“No,” Lily denies. “We—.”

“You’re holding the proof in your hands and you deny it?”

“The library’s open to all,” Lily continues to protest. “We didn’t mean to take one of the books, we just didn’t have a chance to put it back.”

“What you meant to do and what you in fact did are two different things, young lady,” the king says as he eyes you each in turn. When his eyes come to rest on you, they narrow and recognition glints in his gaze. The others have been in the pits long enough that he didn’t recognize them, but he saw you only yesterday. It’s too recent. “Plus,” he says, “the library is open to all citizens. As soon as you become criminals, that right is lost.”

ThroneHe pushes off the armrest of his throne to stand and shuffles up the steps to the giant clock that spins without apparent purpose. He rests his hands on the bottom edge and there’s a faint clicking.

“You each get to start your sentences over,” he says when several small coins fall from the clock into the palm of his weathered hand.

“Hey,” Lily whispers to you while the King’s back is turned. She opens the book and tilts it so you can see. The page she holds contains a drawing of the clock, including the smaller coins falling from its base. What you can’t see on the actual clock because of distance, however, are the small circles around the copper frame. At your quick glance, it looks like the smaller coins should slide into the bigger clock’s outer structure. You can’t be certain of what it will do if you actually place your coins into the larger clock, but as the king turns around and slides a coin across the marble floor toward each of you, you realize you want nothing to do with the tiny, ticking sentence.

You could encourage the others to give you their coins. If you make a fast enough move, you might be able to reach the bigger clock and see what happens if you return those pieces.

Or you could simply crush the tiny clock under your heel and see what happens. It didn’t kill you when the pit worm ate the first one, but now that you think about it, it did affect you. The King’s reaction might tell you something as well.

Do you…

Ab1. Return the Coins to the Clock?

Or

Ab2. Crush the Coin Clock?

Leave your vote in the comments below and next Thursday, we’ll return for the conclusion to this adventure. Thanks for participating =)

Blessings,

Jennifer