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

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Crystal Pit of Time

Crystal Pit of Time

It’s well past time (pun intended =)) for a new adventure. Let’s jump in!

Crystal Pit of Time

The golden hands of the clock spin without purpose, around and around and around the sparkling face of golden numbers.

You struggle not to stare at it above the King’s head as he rants about the crime rate in the city. More than once he’s chastised you for not looking at him while he speaks but your eyes keep drifting upwards.

Why did he place the clock over his head if he did not want people to be distracted by it?

“Eyes down,” the King says again with an emphatic rap of his staff against the stone floor.

Your eyes drop from the spinning hands to his wrinkled face. He’s been King for longer than most people have been alive, but the years are etched on his skin in deep crags. Where there’s not enough skin to wrinkle, like on the backs of his hands, he looks like canvas stretched over bone.

“For your crime,” he continues to say once he’s sure you’re paying attention, “you will be sent to the crystal pits for seven days. Should you survive, you will be integrated into the army. Should you not, well,” he shrugs, “you will have paid your time and your family will not be held liable.”

Ice settles, sharp and cold, in your belly.

Bread LoafThe crystal pits, all for a loaf of bread.

Your one solace is you have no family for the King’s punishment to fall to. Should you escape before entering the pits, he has no one to go after but yourself.

The King, who turned away with the finishing of your sentence, pauses and turns back just as two guards take your arms to escort you away.

“I almost forgot,” he says, reaching into the pocket of his robe. From it he withdraws a coin like object. He flips it toward you and, when it pings against the ground, you see the circle of numbers on its face. “Your time starts now.” He snaps his fingers.

The small clock at your feet begins to tick with a soft tisking that echoes against the marble floor. A tiny window in the lower portion of the clock face displays a seven.

The guards allow you to stoop and retrieve the coin and then you’re hauled away.

***

For the ride to the pits a bag is thrown over your head and your arms and legs are bound before they toss you into the back of a barred wagon. You’ve no way of telling time as you bounce around on the wooden floor but, when the wagon stops, you already feel bruised and stiff.

A guard fastens a harness around your waist and then, still blindfolded, you’re lowered down a steep wall. After a time, your feet touch ground. There’s a snick and a soft whistling just before the cut end of the rope smacks you atop your head.

You wait but nothing happens.

With a tentative hand, you pull the rough bag from your head.

Just like that, you’re already in the pits. So much for escaping before you’re delivered. The stories of the pits’ location must be misleading rumors to protect their actual position because, judging by the fact your trial was early morning and it’s not yet noon, the pits can’t be that far from the city.

Clever King. You snort.

High above the sun sits in a cloudless sky. Walls of white stone and mica specks surround you. Here and there the walls are pocked with holes, some large, some small, all roughly edged and showing through like windows to more pits of white stone.

You coil up the remains of the rope after untying it from you waist and sling the loops over your torso. Likewise, you work the restraints off your wrists and ankles and save the ropes by tucking them into your pocket.

Your fingers brush the warmed metal of your clock. A peek at it tells you that it is, indeed, just before noon on your first day in the pits.

The first danger you know of is the sun. High in the sky, it’ll bake the pits into a searing heat that’ll cook you like an egg.

Sack - blindfoldYou finger the rough bag they used to blindfold you. It’ll irritate your skin but the weave is loose. With a sharp, clean tug, you tear a long strip of cloth from it and tie it around your eyes.

The fabric muffles the world into a dull gray with shadowed spots where the holes pock the walls.

You pick a large hole and climb into it. Instantly the heat of the sun grows softer. The pit on the far side is smaller but also contains more holes that could lead anywhere. In one of them, you can’t spot sunlight on the far end. It’s just a black spot.

You scuttle through into the darker hole beyond.

In that brief moment exposed to the sun, sweat beads along your skin, but in the darker cavern, you’re safe for the moment from the heat. You sit against the chalky, white wall and sigh with relief that it’s cool against your back.

Your relief, however, is brief as a soft shuffling comes from deep in the darkness of the cavern. The crystal pits are known for harboring many dangers. The sun, the lack of water, but most importantly, the creatures that live inside prey on anything that falls down the steep walls.

You listen to the shuffling. Now it’s got a scrape to it, like perhaps the creature has claws that dig into the chalk and crystal of the pits. There aren’t many places to hide and, even as you’re looking for options, a shape materializes in the darkness of the cavern.

You pull the top edge of your sackcloth blindfold down to see better. A young man stares back. He rests a hand against the wall and takes another step forward. Scrrraaapppe goes his peg leg on the cavern floor.

“What you in for?” he asks in a voice that does not belong to so young a man. By voice alone you’d guess him in his eighties as his question warbles at the end.

Bread“Bread,” you say.

He scoffs. “Is that what he said? Tell me, did you visit the library recently?”

Your mouth hangs open. Just that week you stepped into the library to escape the press of the afternoon crowd. Once inside, you’d wandered, fascinated by the floor to ceiling shelves full of old tombs.

“Ah,” he sighs. “There’s your true crime. Toss your coin and follow me. The others would love to meet you.”

Toss the coin? According to the King, that’s your ticket out. You have to show it, with a zero in the bottom window to show time served, for the guards to haul you out of the pits.

Your chances of survival without help are slim, so you’re going to follow the young man. However, do you…

A. Pitch the Coin?

Or

B. Hide the Coin?

In the comments below, please tell me which option you’d like to explore. Next Thursday, we’ll see what happens next.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer