Friday, September 25, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Day 21

 Chapter 21


Marine stood between Ezria and the strangers, although it was unclear who she was shielding from whom. Marine could feel the anger coming of Ezria like a flame. Her eyes were small and focused with fury. Marine had to hope that at least part of that fury was for the strangers and not all for her. She swallowed nervously, unwilling to break the stand off.


‘Should we tie them up?’ She heard one of the Topsiders ask eventually, but the Leader shook their head.


‘No,’ they said, ‘There doesn’t seem to be much point does there?’ Marine thought she detected a dry humour in their words.


‘What do you want with us?’ Marine asked, licking her dry lips and hoping that her voice came out strong instead of quavering.


The Leader fully grinned now and shook their head at Marine. ‘I like this one.’ They said, ‘Put her at the front. Move out.’


The Topsiders sprang into action around them. Marine and Ezria had someone on each side, no more than a hand placed on each shoulder but the weight of the hands and the sounds of the root weapons swinging at their sides were enough to keep Marine quiet. She wondered if Ezria felt the same.


Kurann, Rishekke, Eleff and Mortglade were lifted to their feet and had their ankle bonds severed so they could walk along with the Topsiders. They were put in single file with a Topsider on either side and marched towards the edge of the Cavern. When they reached the tunnels, the topsiders got between them and they were marched through the tunnel and out of the Cavern.


Marine realised she was more scared than excited. Perhaps they were being taken Topside? She had never left the Cavern through this tunnel but could feel from the general direction that they were not going in the direction of the city, and the tunnel seemed to slope gently upwards. The smell of rat was unnerving, but her position at the front of the line of captives and captors had her near the Leader of the Topsiders and she felt energised by their presence.


As she walked she looked at them carefully, studying the long legs and easy strides. Their hair was smooth and long and pulled into weaves down past their broad shoulders. Marine’s own hair was short and caked down with mud and bits of the dust and detritus that hung in the tunnels below ground. Every now and again the leader would turn round to check on the file of Tingions and Marine could study their face. They had dark blue eyes with long, long eye lashes heavy set eyebrows over the top. Their cheeks were broad and rounded, with a reddish tinge to the bronzed skin. Marine liked their mouth. It was small, with the lower lip plump and overhanging slightly. Marine had a wide mouth herself which she had never liked and she was envious of the petite roundedness of the leader’s lips.


‘What’s your name?’ Asked the lips Marine was studying and she felt her face heat up in the darkness of the tunnel.


‘Marine.’ She said, and then cleared her throat to say it with a stronger voice, ‘It’s Marine. What’s yours?’

‘Briar,’ they said, looking back up the tunnel, ‘What does Marine mean?’


‘I don’t know, really.’ Marine admitted, wishing she did so she could continue the conversation, ‘I think it has something to do with water but I’m not sure what. What is Briar?’


Briar nodded and didn’t show any emotion at Marine’s lack of knowledge on her own name. ‘Briar means provider for Topsiders. Food, shelter and protection.’


Marine nodded, considering this, ‘So, were you born to be a leader or did you grow into your name?’ Briar laughed and Marine decided she liked making them laugh. Briar’s laugh was loud and confident. She realised then that none of them were trying to be quiet. They couldn’t be nervous of running into Vanweer, or anyone or anythign else for that matter.


‘I grew into it. Although the nice thing about something as vague as Briar is I could have been a chef, or a builder and it would have felt just as appropriate.’


Marine laughed, her laugh sounded small and pathetic in comparison to Briar’s boom. ‘Are you taking us Topside?’ She asked, unsure if she would get an answer to this question.


‘We are.’ Briar said instantly, surprising Marine more than a bit, ‘We weren’t expecting you all to be in the Den, I’ll admit. But we can’t go leaving outlaws lying around for Vanweer to snaffle up now can we?’ The way Briar leant on the word outlaws piqued Marine’s curiosity. She couldn’t help asking more questions.


‘You don’t like Vanweer?’ She asked, hoping the answer was affirmative.


‘She makes life as difficult for us as possible. We used to have small but significant trade routes with the city but since Vanweer took office they have been strangled to near uselessness. And then… and then there are the stones.’


Marine’s heart leapt into her mouth. She opened said mouth to respond but heard Ezria’s voice gently in her head, ‘Say nothing.’ The voice was quiet but full and Marine had the strangest sensation she hadn’t actually heard it with her ears. She trudged along in silence, sure that her lack of follow up questions gave more away about her knowledge of the stone than her silence but unsure at all of what to say back.


She felt the air sweetening and moving as they reached the Topside and prepared herself for seeing the other side of the world again.



Question:


Is it night or day when they reach the surface?


  1. Night
  2. Day

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Day 20

 Chapter 20


The band of Topsiders sat and drank from small flasks that hung off their belts. The fight had been short but intense and they were stretching their shoulders.


‘I don’t know how you cope down here - there’s no air.’ Said the leader over their shoulder to Marine, ‘It’s exhausting to do anything.’


Marine blinked. She had a desperate desire to be well thought of by this person; it was like meeting Ezria all over again. She concentrated on the air in the Cavern - it tasted of leaves and mould and mud. She thought of the air Topside on that brief visit before the world had collapsed: it had tasted of water, and grass and movement. She understood what the Tingion was saying.


‘You get used to it.’ Marine said, trying to shrug but realising it was extremely painful with her hands tied behind her back. ‘What brought you down here?’


The Tingion frowned at her and Marine realised the stupidity of trying to make light conversation in a hostage situation. Why should this elite Topsider bring her in on their plans? The leader didn’t reply, just looked away and wandered back over to their band of Tingions. They dropped a casual hand on the shoulder of the nearest Tingion and Marine felt an odd stab of jealousy through her stomach. She heard conversation start up amongst the group and tried to train her ears onto what they were saying. She felt like she should be able to pull her hearing further, but her hands couldn’t reach the stone in her pocket from the ties and the questions bouncing around her head were disrupting her focus on the magic.


Mortglade shuffled, wormlike, across the ground towards Marine, ‘Swarthy bunch, eh?’ She said conspiratorially, and Marine smiled. Mortglade was the best at keeping spirits up.


‘I didn’t know anyone still lived Topside.’ Marine whispered back, she felt like a child but she couldn’t help being in awe of these mysterious figures.


‘Oh yes, there’s a scarce few here and there. They very rarely venture down here though, and no one down here has wanted to acknowledge them. It’s easier to just hope they die of something. Quietly.’ Mortglade smiled grimly. Marine knew Mortglade was the most analytical of problems with the Tingion way of life, and she made a mental note to sit down and discuss more of their history. If they escaped.


‘Prepare them for moving out.’ She heard the lead Topsider call to the others, and then watched as they strode into the shadows. Marine assumed it was the call of nature, but she never found out as Ezria burst from the shadows and bundled the Topsider into the ground.


Marine watched as a furious Ezria came like a blur from the darkness and pummelled the tall Tingion into the ground. She was a full conker shorter but it made no differences as her fists pummelled into the uniform of the Topsider. The Topsider got their wits together and joined in the fight; pushing back against Ezria’s collar and rolling her into her back. Ezria managed to get her legs tucked up and forced her feet against the Topsider’s stomach with a full push away from curled. The Topsider flew back into the shadows and Marine strained her neck to see what was going on.


The other Topsiders had dropped their duties with the captive team and were dashing over to help their leader. The leader suddenly swung back into view; literally flung through the air by Ezria as she barrelled in low into their legs and forced them back into the light. The Topsider hit the ground with a noise that screamed of breathlessness. Marine watched as Ezria came flying out of the shadows and onto the torso of the topsider. In the light from the single glow lamp lit by the Topsiders’ packs, Ezria saw the shimmer of a blade and realised with horror that Ezria was going in for the kill shot.


Later, Marine would get a full account from Kurann about what happened, but in that moment she didn’t stop to think what was happening or how. She stood up and ran towards the fight. Faster than her legs had ever moved - she didn’t even feel her feet skimming the floor. Had she been thinking, she would have noticed herself outstripping the Topsiders, who had a healthy head start on her. She didn’t think about any of that. She just ran. She had to stop that knife making contact.


From 4 steps away she leapt into Ezria, pushing her from the crouching position and back onto the muddy floor. She felt Ezria’s blade rip into her shoulder as she landed awkwardly across the Tingion and knife. They both lay on the floor panting; hearing the footsteps of the Topsiders arriving and the scuffling that meant they were helping their leader up.


‘What are you doing?’ Ezria spat at Marine, and Marine realised, as though sobering up, that she had no idea. She was just acting completely on instinct. Hands grabbed both of them and pulled them apart, although Marine noticed the hands were not as rough as before.


‘Wasn’t she tied up?’ She heard someone ask, and they were right; she had been. But it would take Kurann and a cup of Root Ale to explain to her how the ropes had simply vanished as Marine took flight towards the fight.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Day 19

 Chapter 19


Ezria and Marine were breathing hard by the time they reached the end of the tunnel and pulled up just before the entrance to the Cavern. The sounds of fighting had got louder and louder the closer they’d got, but Marine was calmed to notice there were no snarls or soft popping noises. This meant is was unlikely to be their two biggest threats: a predator or Vanweer.


Marine gripped the stone and let herself sink into invisibility. She was beginning to notice more and more about the sensation the more she did it. It felt looser. She was far more aware of needing to concentrate on balancing and thinking about how each of her limbs moved now that she couldn’t see them. It was the most curious sensation… like the world was wobblier somehow and all the movements she’d barely given a second thought to since she learned to walk were suddenly the hardest things in the world.


Ezria turned to her and began to speak in a rusty whisper. Marine saw her eyes widen and the words peter out as Ezria glanced about to see where Marine had gone.


‘I’m here.’ Marine reassured her.


‘This is going to take some getting used to.’ Ezria grinned, ‘In this case, can you head in and see what’s going on?’


Marine nodded, and then realised Ezria couldn’t see her nod and whispered yes. She slipped past Ezria and crept along the edges of the Cavern watching the fight. Rishekke and Mortglade appeared to be trussed up on the floor - lying on their stomachs with their arms and legs pinned behind them with roots. Kurann, Eleff, and Aysmar were deep into a fight with what looked to be about 10 or more strangers in thick brown uniforms. They had woven roots that they were using to club, and some of them had long stringier weaves that they were whipping at lassoing with. As Marine watched she saw Aysmar lose her battle and be forced to the ground under 3 of these strange Tingions. Her hands and feet were swiftly trussed and she was moved to one side with Mortglade and Rishekke. The three that had secured her then swiftly made their way back to the fight. The odds did not look good for Kurann and Eleff.


Marine scampered forward and pulled her knife out of her belt to free the captives while the fight was turned away from her. She was roughly five paces away from Mortglade when a shout went up from one of the strangers.


‘There’s another one! Eengo, Mulling on me.’ Two Tingions broke away from Kurann and Eleff and followed the shouter straight to Marine. Marine looked down at her hands in surprise but they weren’t visible. She tried to dash away back into the dark but they were on her before she was halfway back. The surprise at being seen broke her concentration on remaining invisible and she felt herself flushing back into full view. They bound her wrists tightly behind her and then secured her feet.


‘Stay on this one,’ said the Tingion who had first noticed her, ‘She’s of the old.’ The two Tingions held on to Marine’s feet and arms so tightly that she soon gave up wriggling and lay still, watching as they secured Eleff and Kurann and lay all five of them out on the ground next to each other.


The Tingion who had first spotted Marine seemed to be the leader, they were tall with skin far darker than Marine had ever seen on a Tingion. Marine gazed in astonishment. Now that she noticed, all of these Tingions were a darker shade. She had assumed at first that it was to camouflage themselves with their uniforms but now that she looked it was simply their skin.


‘Who are you?’ Asked the leader, and the group lay quietly on the ground. No one spoke. Marine glanced at Aysmar and then immediately wished she hadn’t as the leader of the strangers pounced on the look and pulled Aysmar into the air. Marine marvelled: the Tingion was so tall that they could lift Aysmar fully off the ground and hold her up. ‘I’ll ask again, who are you?’


Aysmar swallowed and struggled, the pressure from the ropes and the Tingions grip clearly uncomfortable.


‘We are outlaws.’ Aysmar said eventually, ‘We’re on the run from Vanweer.’


Marine actually gasped and then felt herself flush with embarrassment. The Tingion holding Aysmar up grunted.


‘Vanweer?’ They asked, ‘That’s the Commander in Chief of you unders at the moment?’


Unders wondered Marine. She had heard Pappy Gloat use that term to refer to Tingions who lived in the city before but she’d never given it much thought. It was an old word; from back before the city even existed. Back when most Tingions lived above ground. There were a few tribes here and there who chose to live beneath the surface: the were the unders. Those who lived in the sky world were the Topsiders. Since everyone had migrated beneath though, the word had ceased to be used for obvious reasons.


Marine gazed at the strangers. Did they live Topside? Her curiosity and lips were too closely woven because suddenly the question was aloud in the air and the leader of the band of strangers turned to look at her.


‘We do.’ They said with a smile, and Marine found her face mirroring the smile back. She couldn’t stop looking at the band of Tingions. So tall and alive. The energy fizzed off their bronzed skins and Marine felt a pull to them like nothing she’d ever experienced.


QUESTION:


Does Ezria make herself known to the strangers?


  1. Yes
  2. No

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Day 18

 Chapter 18


Marine felt oddly calm, standing there in the near pitch blackness of the Cavern. The light was grainy and grey; making it feel difficult to focus on things with her eyes. She felt energised, though, as though the stone was giving her an extra layer of perception. She gazed at the sleeping Aysmar with her unusal, bubbling, distrustworthy aura around her. Marine didn’t know if she’d be able to put into words how she knew what this aura meant, but her confidence was complete.


Ideally, she could take a few hours to sit and examine the stone and explore what she could now do with it in her pocket and boosting her abilities. But she knew that with Aysmar against them the Cavern was now compromised and they needed to get out of there before Vanweer arrived. It occured to Marine that it was odd Vanweer or her soldiers weren’t already here if Aysmar was working with her.


Marine crunched across the loose soil of the Cavern, avoiding the scattering of dried leaves here and there that threatened to bristle underfoot and wake everyone. She arrived at Ezria’s side and placed a hand on her shoulder. Ezria woke immediately, a hand springing out and grabbing Marine’s wrist to control it. Marine flinched but didn’t startle loudly and she locked eyes with her Captain to tell her all was ok. Ezria released Marine’s wrist and looked around at the other sleeping Tingions, before silently standing and leading Marine away from the group. They headed out together down one of the tiny routes out of the Cavern and towards the city. Neither said a word as they walked - not wanting to be heard from either direction.


They made it out the other side of the tunnel and sat for a moment, enjoying the slightly less fetid air of the more open pathways.


‘I went back to the lab.’ Marine blurted, unable to keep the news in any longer. Ezria’s eyes widened in surprise.


‘Alone?’ She asked, gobsmacked. Marine nodded, finally feeling worthy of the expectations Ezria had of her.


‘Yes, I went alone. I realised how I could hold onto my invisibility and control it better. I took the risk.’


‘And what a risk.’ Whistled Ezria, ‘Was the stone still there?’


‘It was,’ Marine grinned, ‘But it isn’t any more.’


‘Vanweer took it? Did you learn where it went?’ Ezria asked, urgently.


‘It’s here,’ Marine said, lifting the stone out of her pocket and offering it to Ezria on her open palm. Ezria visibly paled in the light from the glow lamps. She shied away from the stone, Marine stretched her arm out further offering it more confidently. ‘Go on, it won’t hurt you.’ But Ezria took a step back, pressing herself into the earth.


‘No, I mustn’t. How…?’


‘I touched it, and I felt this… this crazy sensation,’ said Marine, wishing she had a suitable vocabulary for the life she was currently leading, ‘It felt like I was too big inside my skin and my body was too full of energy and then I felt like it was too much, but I didn’t want it to be and so I… I don’t know I concentrated on being better. On being in control of the stone and then it shrank and… and I took it. I was still invisible and the stone went invisible with me.’


‘How do you feel now?’ Ezria asked, cautiously.


‘I feel calmly,’ Marine found herself being utterly honest and at ease with both the question and the answer, ‘I feel lie the stone is focusing these magics I’ve always been afraid of inside myself. I used it to impersonate Mavis on the way out of the lab - I didn’t know I could do that, and I don’t know how I did it other than to concentrate and just… trust it would happen.’


‘It’s… it’s fascinating.’ Ezria’s voice was quiet, a long way away somehow.


‘Yes,’ Marine was nodding enthusiastically, ‘But there’s more… when I came back into the Cavern, I looked at you all.’ Marine stopped, realising how creepy that sounded, ‘I was sort of looking at who you all are though, rather than looking at you physically. Does that make sense? No, obviously it doesn’t. But, you all had these peaceful auras… you all felt trustworthy. Except Aysmar. I think you’re right about there being a mole, and I think it’s Aysmar.’


Ezria was silent for a moment, she took half a step forward and opened her mouth and then shook her head, looking down at her shoes. ‘Aysmar,’ she whispered, ‘Are you sure?’


Marine shook her head, ‘No, not at all. I mean, it could be anything… but, where you felt like water and cucumber root and other calm things, and all your waves were running in the same direction, Aysmar felt firey and conflicted and sour. It… it could mean anything - I have no idea what these magics are doing. I just know she was different - something was wrong.’


‘This is a blow.’ Said Ezria.


‘It might not mean -‘ began Marine, but Ezria cut her off.


‘We both know what it means.’


They were interrupted by the sound of scuffling from within the Cavern. Marine thought she heard a half shout, there were dull thumps. She stared at Ezria.


‘What is that?’


‘I don’t know,’ called Ezria, already running, ‘But we need to get back in there.’



QUESTION:


What is in the Cavern?


  1. An animal
  2. Vanweer’s troops
  3. Strangers

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Chapter 17

 Chapter 17


As her fingers made contact with the cool, smooth surface she felt the most intense pressure underneath her skin. It began in her fingertips where they brushed the stone and spread through her whole body. She felt her body near to bursting with pressure and pent up energy and she tried to pull her hand back away from the stone but it felt fuzed to the surface. Marine’s head felt too tight around her brain, her eyes felt in danger of bursting out of her head. She felt at once burning hot and freezing cold, she was sure there must be light bursting out of her skin. It was as if she was too alive; feeling every single cell in her body brushing against the next one as it trembled to expend the extra energy she now contained.


It was painful, this feeling as though her insides were expanding at a rate faster than her skin could keep up with. She concentrated on breathing as coolly and calmly as she could; trying to let the feeling pass if it would pass. There might have been any number of the laboratory Tingions talking to her but she had no idea. Her ears were ringing with air and blood and a million thoughts. Mainly, Am I going to survive this?


As the overwhelming feeling pounded against her in wave after wave, she began to tire at the same time as feeling the most powered up she ever had in her life. Her arms began to feel like they couldn’t go on much longer. Marine started to sag, feeling the power soaking back into the stone somehow.


A fleeting image of her parents and family being led away from their homes in handcuffs crossed her mind and she screwed up her forehead and concentrated.


“No.” She heard her voice saying out loud, “No. No.” This feeling that she got from the stone proved that it was the Lost Stone, or at least an extremely powerful stone. Ezria had been right and Vanweer was lying and Marine knew this without question now. She couldn’t get caught here again. She rilled her shoulders back, loosening the tense muscles and concentrating on the stone again. Her fingers still didn’t seem able to separate from the surface of the stone but she moved her thoughts to focusing on the battle that was raging beneath her skin.


Marine took a deep breath and listened to her body and her muscles. She could feel the rivers of power moving between her fingers and the stone almost as if it were music. She let the tune wash over her and began, finally, to enjoy the sensation. It felt right to be touching the stone, it felt like part of her; she was meant to be here. Marine realised she didn’t know if she’d ever felt like she was supposed to be anywhere before.


“Where has it gone?” She heard a voice behind her exclaiming in surprise.


“It’s vanished.” Said another.


Marine opened the eyes she hadn’t realised she’d closed and saw the voices were right were the stone had vanished before her eyes. It was nowhere to be seen; but she could feel it in her hand, as invisible as her fingers. She clutched it tightly; the swollen, bursting feeling in her skin having past. She felt energised beyond belief; her back felt straight and long, her legs bouncy and planted simultaneously.


She slipped the stone into the pocket of her overalls and looked around the lab. Everything had gone into high alert - Tingions were racing around trying to work out where the stone had gone. They inspected the plinth it had been on and the walls around. There were several people guarding the door despite none of them having any idea how the stone could have been removed without them noticing.


“We must contact Vanweer.” Said a Tingion in a tough lab coat.


“Are you mad? She’ll kill us!” Screeched another, very deep into panic mode.


Marine grinned. Interesting, she thought, so they’re just as scared of her as the rest of us. It comforted her to know that Vanweer didn’t have an army of likeminded people. Just a staff of terrified servants. That would make toppling her easier.


As quietly as she could, Marine made her way across the laboratory, taking great care not to bump into any of the panicking technicians and scientists. She edged closer to the door; waiting for it to open so she could take her moment and slip through. Eventually it did open, and Marine saw the timid face of Vanweer’s assistant, Mavis looking cautiously around the corner.


“Is there a problem?” Asked Mavis, looking at the nearest Tingion. Marine didn’t wait to hear an answer, she slipped past Mavis and into the empty corridor. She winced as her arm brushed against Mavis’, and she noticed Mavis touch her arm absent mindedly at the feeling. Marine didn’t have time to wait about and see if Mavis had realised her presence. She ran to the other end of the corridor and listened carefully at the door.


There were no sounds coming from the other side of it but Marine thought it was unlikely the guard would have disappeared from duty while there was a commotion within the lab. She paced back and forward wondering what to do. It was a small corridor and she couldn’t wait for too long in case she was discovered by accident if a large party came through. It occurred to Marine that she felt oddly confident in her invisibility staying and she smiled. She ran the stone over and over the palm of her hand in her pocket and an idea came to her.


She gripped the stone and thought of the tiny assistant who had made her way through the door and into the laboratory moments ago. Marine concentrated on the way she moved, the way she looked around nervously; perhaps waiting to be shouted at. Marine thought through all the superficial layers of how Mavis behaved and began to remember the essence of Mavis in the room; how it felt to be around her, the aura Mavis gave off, the feeling of what exactly she was combined of deep within her soul.


Marine took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She looked down at herself. It had worked.


As quickly as she could she opened the door and came face to face with the security guard on the other side.


“Er, how was everything in there?” Asked the security guard nervously, “I swear, you’re the first person who has gone in or out of that door since Vanweer left.”


Marine smiled reassuringly at the guard and did her best to put his mind at ease. “Everything was fine,” she said calmly, “The Stone seems to have some interesting qualities but the technicians have it all under control now. I am going to report back to Vanweer. I’ll be sure to tell her how astute you have been.”

Marine nodded a curt goodbye and walked swiftly away from the guard, as she rounded the corner out of sight she let the feeling of Mavis drop and slipped back into invisibility. The stone in her pocket felt like a compass, guiding her through the possibilities of a world with magic.


She slipped out of the lab and made her way fast and careful through the back streets and towards The Cavern - her invisibility absolutely impeccable against the mud walls. Marine appeared in the hollow of the Cavern to see the small band of Tingions still laying scattered around where she had left them.


She clutched the stone in her pocket, almost hopping with excitement and possibilities for what she could now do. She focused her gaze on each Tingion in turn, watching them carefully and pulling strands of atunement from her mind towards them. She concentrated on Ezria first, looking at the dozing Tingion and recalling interactions they had had through years of teamwork. She felt the air around Ezria for signs of confusion, of trickery… but there were none. The air by Ezria was gentle, focused, and peaceful with itself. It reminded Marine of Cucumber Root and she smiled to herself. She moved her concentration around each of the other Tingions and while they were wildly different and interesting in their own ways, they all felt gentle and smooth.


Until she looked at Aysmar. As Marine focused her mind onto Aysmar she felt a vinegary sensation in the back of her throat and nose. The air around Aysmar was pulling in all directions, it felt hot and sharp - confused and unable to settle.


So there was a mole, Marine thought calmly.



QUESTION -


What does Marine do about suspecting Aysmar?


  1. Go to Ezria quietly
  2. Go to Aysmar quietly
  3. Call out Aysmar in front of everyone
  4. Kill Aysmar
  5. Tell no one 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Chapter 16

 Chapter 16


‘We will stay here for the night and see if Marine makes contact. If she does we can inform her of what has happened and formulate a plan for tomorrow. Best that we get some rest if we can.” Ezria said to the small group of Tingions, Marine watched from a distance as they all nodded. She noticed Rishekke’s head turning to look at one of the tunnel entrances.


‘Would you like me to go out and scout around a bit? Bit of security?’ Rishekke asked, calmly.


Marine could just about make out Aysmar and Ezria’s eyes narrowing at her in the gloom.


‘No, it is ok - if anyone is sniffing about round here then there’s not much we can do other than disappear down a different tunnel entrance and leave no clues we were here.’ Said Ezria.


‘It’s safest if we all stay in sight of each other,’ agreed Aysmar, ‘Both for the mission and for our personal safety.’


The little group settled down and Marine felt cold and alone over in the shadows. Her head was simmering with fear and uncertainty. She thought of her family in the cells with Vanweer. Would they be huddled together or would they have been separated to stop them talking to each other? She couldn’t bear the thought of them suffering because of her actions.


Marine looked down at her hands. Her body had been fully visible for some time but she had stayed away from the group in the darkness, keeping very still. She wanted some time alone. The talk of betrayal and moles had frightened her. It was one thing to be part of a brave team of adventurers when they were all in it together and fighting a common cause. But now it seemed messy and confusing and her family’s freedom was involved. Everything had really levelled up in seriousness and she was deathly afraid. There was nothing certain at all. She didn’t even know for sure she had chosen the right team to side with. What if she was just genuinely part of a band of outlaws and Ezria had duped them all?


If she could just know if it was the Lost Stone or not it would be the start of some answers, Marine realised. With a start, she knew she had to go some way to working that out.


‘I need to get back into that lab.’ she muttered to herself, but her stomach went cold with the thought of trying. What if she were caught again? There was no way Vanweer would take any chances with her escaping again. Perhaps there were orders to kill on sight? She swallowed and inspected her tiny hands. She was so tired.


Her frustration at the world began to shift into frustration with herself and she realised what she needed to do. She looked at her hands again and tried to concentrate. She tried to use the frustration to focus, to pool her anger into a clear line of thoughts. She focused on what she needed to do: I need to get into the lab, I need to touch the stone, I need to know.


In the office, when she had needed to escape Vanweer, her body had known what to do. Topside, even though it had got her noticed, her body had known that the droplets were hitting hard and dangerously and it had pushed them away. Her body knew how to help her with the magic, but she needed to be able to ask it to. She looked at her hands and thought about her family in danger, her parents huddled in a cell not knowing if she was alive or dead. She thought about the sneer of Vanweer’s face when she had ordered Marine’s capture. She thought of Ezria and whether or not Ezria was telling the truth.


‘I need to get in to touch the stone.’ She said to her hands, and she squeezed all her fear and hope and panic and worry into a tight ball. She imagined shooting all of her emotions out of her eyes and onto her skin. She sat, tightly wound for second after creeping second against the impacted mud of the Cavern and just when she was beginning to think it was useless, she saw the edges of her hands beginning to fade and wobble and disappear into the darkness.


Excitedly, she leapt up and looked down at her legs and body - it had gone! Marine felt thrilled tears slipping down her face and briefly wondered if they were invisible too. She shook them away and focused. She had managed to make the magic do what she wanted, but she had no idea how long it would last so she had to act fast. This felt the beginning of change.


Keeping to the edges of the Cavern and creeping as silently as she could in the dark, Marine made her way around the edge and back to the tunnel she had entered through. She slipped into it and made her way determinedly down the little burrow. Her feet swept as lightly as she could manage and soon she came out the other side. She looked around but saw no one. She looked down and saw her own hands were still invisible.


Marine screwed up her face and made her way back to the laboratory. She felt two Beats pass as she progressed but eventually she arrived at the staff entrance. She felt strangely calm and collected; in many ways, there was not a lot left to lose.


Marine waited patiently for the first Tingion to come or go through the entrance and as soon as she saw someone come through she slipped in through the open door. Inside, she checked the coast was clear and then made her way silently down the corridors towards the room where the Lost Stone had been.


There was a guard on the door, but Marine realised with a sadness that it was a different Tingion to the one she had lied to. She made a mental note to try and make it up to that Tingion if she could.


Eventually, she saw the little guard open the door to let someone through and she threw herself through the door as soon as she could, just about managing to pull her foot through before it closed.


‘So far so good.’ Thought Marine and made her way back down the corridor to the door where she had met Vanweer last time. To her surprise it was slightly ajar and she hesitated next to it wondering what this could mean… was it a trap? Would it matter if it were? Was there anything she could do EXCEPT go through it and hope? She pushed it gently so it was wide enough to slip through and then stepped back immediately - pressing her back into the wall in case anyone came through in response to it opening. Nobody did. She waited a few seconds more and then moved silently through the opening.


The lab looked exactly as it had done the last time she had seen it, except this time: no Vanweer. Marine swallowed and paced across the lab towards the Stone. It glittered in the light from the glow lamps and Marine felt strangely protective towards it. She tried to shake the thoughts from her head but she couldn’t help feeling sorry for it, being trapped down here all alone, so far from the sky. Marine reached out an invisible hand towards the polished surface of the blue stone…


QUESTION:


What happens when Marine touches the stone:


  1. Nothing
  2. Electricity
  3. Changes Colour
  4. Shrinks
  5. It buzzes
  6. It cracks

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Chapter 15

 Chapter 15


Marine opened her mouth to greet Aysmar but Ezria beat her to it.


‘I haven’t seen Marine.’ She said quickly, and Marine smirked invisibly at the neat avoidance of a lie from Ezria.


‘Good.’ Aysmar responded quickly, ‘They are hot on your trail and it’s best she doesn’t lead them here.’


Marine smarted silently at Aysmar’s assumption that she would be so foolish and clumsy as to lead Vanweer to the Cavern.


‘Do you know if Vanweer got any information out of her?’ Ezria asked gently, and Aysmar shook her head.


‘Not from what I’ve heard. I think she was interviewed but I’m not sure Vanweer has told anyone what happened. Most of the rank and file have no idea what’s going on they’ve just been told to recapture a traitor.’


‘How did she escape?’ Asked Ezria, and Marine was surprised to see Aysmar falter. Her eyes seemed to cast about for a few seconds searching for an answer.


‘They are saying she went invisible. There’s talk that she’s some sort of wild sorceress… I… I can’t see how that can be true? We would know if one of the team had magic, wouldn’t we?’


‘I cannot see how we wouldn’t.’ Said Ezria, pretending to chew over Aysmar’s remarks with a nod.


‘Did you know she was magic?’ Aysmar prodded. Ezria continued the slight bouncing head nod as she let the question swill about her head.


‘I don’t believe she can be. I would have known.’ She said finally, ‘I… I wonder if it’s something Vanweer is cooking up to hide the fact that she still has Marine in captivity? She understands how the population will react to unrest and coming up with a story like this and filling the streets with guards is the quickest way to cement the danger and shore up her own position as great protector.’


Aysmar considered this for a few seconds, ‘It’s a huge story to fabricate…’


‘It’s a bigger story to be true.’ Replied Ezria evenly.


There was a scuffling sound behind them and the three Tingions whipped their heads round to face the noise. Eleff and Rishekke appeared through a tunnel entrance and saluted Aysmar and Ezria.


‘We heard the news and came as soon as we could.’ Said Rishekke, ‘Have you heard from Marine?’


‘No,’ said Aysmar as Ezria shook her head.


‘That’s good.’ Said Eleff, ‘I don’t trust the story Vanweer is putting about, ‘If Marine had the magic we would surely know?’


‘That’s exactly what we were just discussing.’ Said Ezria, ‘Aysmar, Rishekke - when did Vanweer decide to visit the laboratory?’


‘It was very last minute.’ Said Aysmar, quickly, ‘We had no time to get a message out to you as she arrived at the lab after Rishekke had delivered the uniforms.’


Rishekke looked downcast, ‘By the time I knew she was there, she already had Marine. Poor Marine.’


Ezria nodded, taking it all in. ‘Has anyone heard from Jurann or Mortglade?’ The little group shook their heads. Ezria nodded. ‘Ok, I think we should wait here to see if they check in.’


‘Are you worried?’ Eleff asked gently, laying a little hand on Ezria’s arm.


‘Mortally.’ Ezria said, and sat down to wait.


Marine sat down as well, as quietly as she could but she noticed Aysmar’s eyes flicker to where she sat as a single pebble wobbled under her invisible feet. Marine wasn’t entirely sure what to do now… she was aware she could flicker back into view at any moment and that would undoubtedly be a bad thing. Ezria not revealing everything to Aysmar had somewhat thrown her off… did Ezria not trust Aysmar? Days ago that would have been unthinkable for Marine. She heard Ezria’s voice in the back of her head saying she would trust the entire team with her life, now there was supposed to be a mole? Since when?


Marine’s stomach was in turmoil… it all felt too much. Too complicated. She fiddled with the laces on her boot absent mindedly wondering what the truth was behind it all. Then she froze. She could see the laces on her boot. She could see her entire boot. Her foot had come back into view.


As quietly as she could, keeping her booted foot as still as she could she stood up. Immediately she saw Ezria’s eyes flick casually to her and an eyebrow flex in a questioning motion. Marine pointed urgently down to her foot and Ezria understood immediately.


Ezria stood up calmly and Marine marvelled in how the woman moved so cautiously and controlled even in an emergency.


‘Excuse me,’ said Ezria, and turned away from the little group, on the opposite side of the circle to Marine. Marine used the distraction to dart as quickly and quietly as she could further back into the shadows with her now visible foot. ‘It seems my bladder does not know we are lying low.’ Continued Ezria and wandered away into the shadows whistling gently to herself.


Marine backed away quietly, looking at the group. Everyone was watching the departing back of Ezria. Except Rishekke.



For hours Marine hovered in the gloom at the far wall of the Cavern watching her treacherous body slowly coming into view part by part. There was an amusing hour where she was just a foot and a hand; Marine vaguely wondered if this would ever be useful were she able to repeat the trick in the future with more control.


First she heard the group greeting Kurann; he had no new major information but was glad to see everyone safe. He said the city had been placed in a lockdown while Vanweer searched for Marine. They had still been told nothing further than that she was a traitor.


Some time later though, Mortglade arrived with terrible news.


‘They’ve announced her parents are traitors also for harbouring her.’


It was all Marine could do to keep quiet over in the shadows where her left leg was still stubbornly invisible. She wanted to run to Vanweer and offer anything she could for the safe delivery of her parents.


‘Some of Marine’s wider family have been taken in for questioning too.’ Mortglade continued, ‘I assume we’ve not heard from her? Lying low. Sensible girl. This is not good.’


Marine felt tears slipping down her face as she thought of her nieces and nephews trying to sleep that night with their parents in custody. Or perhaps Vanweer had taken the children too? She couldn’t bear it any longer - she had to act.


QUESTION:


Does Marine:


  1. Dash over to the group and demand they free her family
  2. Go straight to Vanweer now to negotiate
  3. Go back to the lab and try and touch the stone now
  4. Dash over to the group and say that she thinks there’s a mole