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

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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

Crystal Pit of Time Option A: Pitch the Coin

Clock - Crystal Pit of Time

It’s time to see what happens when you pitch the coin clock the king gave you. Let’s hope you don’t need it later!

If you’re just checking into this adventure, here’s a quick overview of what’s happened so far:

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.)

Now, let’s continue!

Crystal Pit of Time Option A: Pitch the Coin

Crystal Pit of Time AdventureOver the scrap of the man’s peg leg, you can hear the ticking of the little coin clock as you hold it on your palm. There’s a reluctance to toss it in the middle of your belly, but the strange man isn’t waiting for you to follow, and he’s likely your best way to survive the pits.

You pitch the coin back down the tunnel and it pings off the white stone wall. Then you hurry to follow the sscrraappp of the man’s peg leg. Just as you catch up, the pit shudders. You brace a hand on the wall.

“Earth quake?” you ask, surprised because you’ve never experienced one before.

The man scoffs. “Pit worm,” he says.

The pit gives another heave and then, from the tunnel you just left, there’s a thud and a gust of dry dust whooshes toward you.

“Pit worm?” you cough as an odd rush of warmth travels through your body. When the dust dissipates, you see the man covered his nose and mouth with a handkerchief.

“They’re smart,” he taps his wooden leg, “and dangerous. They’ve figured out that there’s usually a tasty human carrying that lovely ticking device.”

A cold shiver travels down your spine as you realize the pit worm just ate the small coin clock.

“Come on,” the young-looking old man says, “come meet the others.”

You follow him through another open part of the pits, instantly becoming drenched in sweat as the sun bakes onto your skin, and then beyond into a deeper cavern that doesn’t open into another pit, but sinks into the ground into a tunnel at the far end. After leaving the scorching sun behind, the sweat chills on your body and you shiver again.

The man doesn’t even pause as it grows darker. You steady yourself on the wall and follow the sound of his leg scratching against the floor. There’s a thud, and then light floods the tunnel to reveal the heavy metal door the man just opened.

“Andrew,” a woman’s voice calls in greeting, “did you find the new comer?”

“Sure did,” Andrew answers as he encourages you to enter with him.

Crystal Pit of Time AdventureBeyond the door, you stop in surprise. It’s a large house of sorts. Over a dozen people sit at a long table in the center of the room. Just past them is a kitchen with a metal vent pipe jutting into the ceiling for the cook fire below. A large cauldron bubbles over that fire with what looks like porridge.

Around the walls hang drapes obscuring the entrances into several other rooms. You wonder if these are where the people sleep.

“Come,” the woman who first spoke jumps up, grabs two wooden bowls and slops some breakfast into them. She sets them on the table for you and Andrew and everyone slides down the long bench to make room for the two of you to join them.

Your stomach rumbles as you rack your brain for the last time you ate. It’s then you realize the bread that landed you in the pits was your last meal.

“Where’d you visit in the library?” the woman asks.

You look at her in surprise as everyone pauses to hear your answer.

“Everyone here was sentenced to the pits the same day they visited the library,” Andrew explains. “Lily’s got a theory about it. She’s been narrowing down what subjects the king doesn’t want people to study.”

“I didn’t even pull out a book,” you admit. “I just wanted out of the rain.”

Lily waves that away with a hand. “Doesn’t matter. What area did you hang out in?”

Leaning back, you picture the shelves that surrounded you that day in the stacks. With the rain, the smell of moisture and old dust had been particularly strong while you wandered.

“Science and history for a little bit but then one of the librarians rolled in with a cart and shooed me out since I was dripping water,” you say. “I wandered farther back. There was the modern technology section, mathematics, and then I think ancient technology and magics.”

“Hah!” Lily slams her palm against the table. “There it is again! We need to go look, Andrew.”

“Look?” you ask around the bite you just took. Although the flavor of the porridge is rather bland, your mouth waters with excitement over having something to eat.

Andrew rests his arms on the table with a long sigh. This is clearly not the first time they’ve discussed this.

“We have access to the city,” Andrew says in explanation, for the moment ignoring Lily. “We can get into the library but it’s risky. Lily here thinks there’s a link between the king’s clock, that big one on the wall that spins out of whack, and our coin clocks, and the answer might be in the ancient technology and magics section of the library.”

You frown. “Why do you think there’s a connection?”

“Guess how old Andrew is?” Lily bursts in.

“Umm,” you stall. Andrew’s voice always warbles like an old man’s but his face is still young. There’s just the hint of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes but they’re developing, not deep. But now that you can clearly see him, you can also see his hands, which look as papery as the king’s did. “I’ve no idea,” you admit.

“He’s twenty eight,” Lily says, unable to wait for Andrew to fill you in.

Andrew holds up his weathered hands. “This was the first sign,” he says, “that something was happening. I held onto my coin clock for the first year of my sentence, avoiding the worms by shear luck at first, and then by the tremors of their digging. I finally figured out how they were following me and tossed the clock. As soon as I did, my accelerated aging stopped.”

“He warned us,” Lily gestured around the table, “so most of us don’t show the same wear he does.”

The porridge in your mouth suddenly tastes bitter. You gulp it down.

Library - Crystal Pit of Time Adventure“You want to figure out what happened by getting into the library?” you ask with a motion of your spoon at Andrew’s hands.

“I say,” another man farther down the table speaks up, “that we sneak into the throne room instead. I’d like to get that giant clock off the wall and take a look at it. We know for certain it’s connected to our coin clocks because Lily saw the king pull her coin out of the bottom of it.”

“But how does it work, Simon?” Lily asks the man. This is clearly another discussion they’ve all been over before. “Just looking at the clocks probably won’t tell us.”

“Looking at books might not tell us either. We don’t even know what book we’re looking for,” Simon counters.

“What do you think?” Andrew asks you. “It’s been a while since any of us have snuck into the city. Perhaps your recent time there could help.”

They all look at you where you froze with the spoon half way to your mouth. You take the bite of porridge to give you a second to consider.

Do you…

Aa. Sneak into the throne room?

Or

Ab. Sneak into the library?

In the comments, vote for how you’d like to proceed. We’ll be back next Thursday to continue this adventure.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer