Friday, August 28, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Chapter 7

 Chapter 7
Marine felt like there was too much information in her mind for it to still be the same week. How could this be happening? She almost wanted to keep touching her own skin to check she was the same Tingion that she had been a few days ago before the mission.
Following her chat with Ezria she had headed back to her family home, barely noticing the streets passing as she made her way through. Her head swam with the speed at which her world had been turned upside down… Just hours ago she had been Topside retrieving the Lost Stone. They were supposed to have come home to accolades and relief from all Tingions. All anyone wanted was for the stone to be put in safe holdings, and surely that was what they had achieved? Now here she was, sitting in the quiet living room with the company disbanded, Ezria fired and herself entwined in a secret bid to expose whatever was going on behind closed doors with Vanweer.
So what was going on with Vanweer? Instinctively Marine trusted Ezria, but was she right to? Was it just that proximity to Ezria and serving under her was making Marine lean towards her rather than Vanweer? Could Vanweer be corrupt? To what end? She was already supreme ruler of the military, what more could there be to achieve?
There was no such thing as a Royal family in Tingion society - they had disbanded that long before they’d even moved beneath the ground. It had caused too many fights and wars and rifts to survive permanently in a society that craved peace and stability. Tingion government changed constantly - they had disbanded the idea of parties years ago after it was decided that rival parties got them too hot under the collar.
Everything in Tingion society was run by a minister with their own small team of civil servants. Each of these ministerial positions came up for re-election every two years, but all staggered so that there was never too much change at one time. Any Tingion could run but there were two stipulations; they must submit a plan for their 2year tenure should they win, detailing for the voters what they would be setting out to achieve. Secondly, they had to commit that should they win and fail to achieve 75% of what was in their manifesto then they would forefeit 75% of their life savings and salary. It wasn’t a foolproof system, but it was the best they had so far come up with to keep ministers honest and to keep elections from becoming fanfares of promise with very little basis in reality. Tingions liked their promises to be achievable, calm and not too ambitious. It was a system designed to keep constant waves of change coming through, but without paving the way for corruption by leaving someone in power for too long. Of course there were factions of the government that got on better than others, but since they had disbanded official parties in favour of all solo runners it had meant things got done a little quicker, with a much reduced level of spite.
Vanweer had been in the highest position in the Tingion military for just over a year. She was popular and had already tipped over her 75% attainment goal. Marine had never felt even a speck of friction between Vanweer and anybody else.
So if it was the stone, why would Vanweer be lying about it? What need did Vanweer have for pretending it wasn’t? And if it wasn’t the stone, why would Ezria be so convinced that it was? Also, why would Vanweer have fired Ezria for making the mistake? Several Captains and Scientists had agreed before they went Topside that there was a good chance this was the Stone. Worth risking all their lives on going up to retrieve it. Worth risking all of Tingion society being discovered to go Topside and retrieve it. Vanweer herself had given permission. So why fire Ezria when it turned out it was not? Surely better safe than sorry? That was practically a Tingion mantra.
Marine shook her head tiredly to try and disperse her muggy thoughts. She drained her cup. There were no answers to any of these questions in her head or home. She would sleep and meet Ezria at their appointed meeting place the next morning.

She awoke with dusty feeling eyes and a raging head, pulled on her boots and made her way to the appointed tavern before First Beats. It was a decent walk away from her house and she felt watched every step of the way. Marine was not a naturally brave Tingion. She often wondered what on earth had possessed her to join the forces in the first place. It certainly wasn’t a desire for danger or excitement. She could think of nothing more exciting than being at home knowing exactly what the next day would bring. She thought perhaps it was obstinacy that had led her into the military - a desperate desire to give her odd magic an outlet, a use, a purpose, or at the very least a disguise. The top had called her - moving air and lights that changed and bounced. She didn’t want to be near humans or animals if she could help it, but there was that magical frisson of knowing she was back where her ancestors had once lived.
She turned the last corner, looking about her for prying eyes before ducking into the tavern with her coat pulled as far up over her head as she could without looking too suspicious.
Her eyes adjusted to the different light in the tavern - the flickering of the glow lamps on the walls and tables was warm and moving. Her eyes jumped from table to table until she spotted Ezria sitting against the wall on the far side. She moved swiftly across the floor and slid into the spare seat behind Ezria. Ezria barely glanced up.
‘Were you followed?’ She muttered into the table.
‘I don’t think so.’ Marine murmured back, feeling her heart beating hard in every extremity of her body.
‘I will need you to know for sure next time.’ Was all Marine heard in return and she felt her ears burning with shame. 
Ezria pushed a cup across the table to Marine and lifted her own to clink cups. Marine clinked, locked eyes with Ezria and then took a sip. It all felt very showy and she tried to scan the seats to see who Ezria was performing for. Ezria’s conversation was stilted and Marine joined in, knowing everything they were saying was fake and killing time. To what end she could only wonder.
She heard the door open behind her and Ezria got to her feet immediately. Marine’s head whipped around. Ezria’s Lieutenant Aysmar had entered the tavern and stood silently in the doorway.
‘Already drowning your sorrows you old sot?’ Came Aysmar’s gentle tones and Marine blanched. She had never heard a note of questioning from Aysmar before, the two had been thick as thieves.
‘What are you doing here?’ Came Ezria’s menacing growl.
‘I may go where I please. I have not displeased Vanweer. It’s you who should be hanging your hand in shame.’ Aysmar stayed stock still in the doorway. Marine wondered whether the two would fight. Would she need to join in? She’d never actually been in a fight before.
Ezria didn’t move. The two women were locked in a silent battle of wills. The few other customers in the tavern stayed very still and quiet in their seats. The barman didn’t move a muscle.
‘Aysmar, you know me. You know…’ Ezria began.
‘I know who I trust.’ Said Aysmar, ‘It is not you.’ She gave Ezria a sneering look up and down and then made her way to the bar to order a drink.
Marine looked at Ezria and her stomach lurched when she saw Ezria was trembling. Had Marine thrown her allegiance in with the wrong side. Just as the thought crossed her mind she heard Aysmar’s voice calling across the bar, ‘You are making a mistake Marine. I’ll give you until Sixth Beats to come crawling to me and tell me your allegiance is in the right place.’
Marine’s stomach turned to mush. She glanced up at Ezria who was looking at her coldly.
‘I am leaving.’ Said Ezria, ‘I will not stay in a tavern that serves rats. You can follow me, or her.’ She drained her cup and stalked out of the wooden door. Marine was frozen for a moment and the table. She tried to cool her heart and listen to her gut. The thought of publicly going against Vanweer was terrifying, but, she knew deep down that she trusted that solid look in Ezria’s eye. She downed her cup for courage, and dashed out after Ezria. As she emerged from the Tavern she looked left and right and didn’t see a sign of Ezria anywhere. She picked a direction and raced to the right, as she passed an alley an arm shot out and pulled her in.
‘Were you followed?’ Came Ezria’s voice from the darkness.
‘I don’t… I wasn’t.’ Said Marine, and she could swear she heard Ezria smile. She allowed Ezria to lead her down the alley into near perfect darkness, they twisted and turned and then suddenly the alley ended abruptly in a small wall of grass and flower stems.
They must be at Forstwire Square, Marine thought in amazement. It was one of the most beautiful spots in the city where the Tingions had recreated some of the flora of the Topside by putting tiny bore holes up so that rain and light could come down and grass and flowers could grow. It had produced a beautiful grassy square with towering daisies and the odd daffodil. An incredible feat. Marine had no idea you could reach it other than by the main thoroughfare that coursed through the high street towards it.
Ezria pulled Marine softly through the grassy blades, both taking care not to disturb it too much and draw attention to their presence.
‘We are alone now. I am glad that you came after me.’
Marine beamed. She couldn’t help feeling proud of herself whenever Ezria was impressed with her. She wondered what her life would be like by now if she had instead joined Aysmar at the tavern bar. So many possibilities.
‘Ezria, what is going on?’ Marine asked, wishing she had a more insightful question to ask.
‘I believe Vanweer is lying about the Stone. I think she wants it for something else and has dismissed me because I know it is the Stone.’
‘What makes you so sure?’ Asked Marine, wide eyed.
Ezria opened her mouth to reply but was silenced by a noise nearby. Marine froze. It could be a mouse or worse, a mole, as beautiful as this square was the smell of it often attracted wildlife. It was the constant focus of campaigns to get rid of it to prevent such dangerous nuisances. Personally Marine loved it. It was one of the few places in the Tingion City that wasn’t purely functional.
The rustling continued behind them and then Aysmar appeared from between the blades of grass and settled silently on the floor. Marine wondered if her heart rate would ever slow down again. She looked from Ezria to Aysmar, wondering which of them would kick off first, but they both seemed to be smiling.
‘I am so happy for you two for joining me.’ Ezria said, smiling at them both. ‘I believe our little performance in the tavern should have settled the minds of Vanweer’s spies that I have no-one more effectual than my least experienced who will trust me.’ Marine felt small: so that was why she was here.
‘Vanweer will have no idea of what you are capable of Marine. I’m not even sure if you or I know. The three of us will not be enough though, if we are to test the stone and have a hope of wrestling it from Vanweer’s grasp we will need more able bodies. Aysmar, which of the company do you think we can trust?’
Marine turned to look at Aysmar who pulled a list from inside her coat.
‘Of the entire company, I think we could choose from Lork, Kurann, Bissette, Mortglade, Rishekke, Tizzine, Jurias and Eleff. I think to get in and test the stone with Marine, we would want four of them.’
Aysmar finished delivering her report and looked at Ezria for confirmation of who she would choose. Marine thought over the list that Aysmar had read out.
There was Lork: friendly and jovial, loud by Tingion standards and an absolute powerhouse in the training ground.
Kurann: the only male in the squad - funny and quiet, he always had a comment that could get you into trouble for sniggering out of place.
Bissette: descended from the ancient Tingion Royal family - she was waify and strong, determined to prove herself beyond her family’s history.
Mortglade: the oldest in the company, a woman who seemed to have read every book and retained every fact. So quick with a smile and the right way to make you feel better about yourself.
Rishekke: a quiet, fast Tingion that Marine barely knew other than that she was always picked first for stealth jobs.
Tizzine: a brash Tingion who liked one too many Root ales. She was often in trouble for being late, but somehow her performance was always polished when they needed her and so she was never punished to the point of exclusion.
Jurias: she had joined the company at the same time as Marine. Something about her had always set Marine on edge: she was competitive, rude and focused. A brilliant mind, but not someone Marine was thrilled to be next to on the bench at the tavern.
Finally, Eleff, the gentlest soul Marine had ever met. She was soft, vague and quiet; almost ethereal. She was relaxed to the point that Marine had frequently wondered why on earth she wanted military life, but want it she did seem to.
Marine looked at Ezria to see who she would choose, but Ezria merely slowly turned her head to look at Marine,
‘Marine, who shall we take?’
Marine gulped.

Which four Tingions does Marine choose?
You choose your four, and the four with the highest individual votes will win.

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Chapter 6

 Chapter 6

Marine sat quaking outside the black door listening to the shouts and bangs coming from the other side of it. She had been sat there for almost an hour, worrying over every possible eventuality. Her comrades surrounded her, sitting equally tense and not making eye contact.

The day before they had woken from their brief rest in the flowerbed and set to work under Ezria and Aysmar’s supervision to remove the stone from it’s muddy bed. It had taken as much energy as each of them had to drag it under cover of darkness back to their hole and then manoeuvre it down into the caves below.

Marine had been astonished when they got below to see that the stone wasn’t at all what she had imagined. The top surface had been a shining metal, but when it had rolled and she had seen the underside she had seen an oily, shimmery blue erupting from within a metal casing. Now she understood why they were calling it The Lost Stone - it was a stone. It was glittery and had depth and movement to its colour: not a matte blue, or a single blue, or even all blue at all. It played about in the light and the shadow and seemed almost to produce its own little hum of light. Marine was transfixed.

It had been whisked away quickly by Ezria to the testing laboratory. Teams of Tingions in sturdy suits had put it on rollers and trundled it down the transport tunnels to the specially designed bed that would house it safely. Ezria had stood the team down then, thanking them for their service and telling them to get some rest. Marine had slowly, cautiously felt like she was defrosting as Ezria’s attention had not returned to her specifically.

‘Shall we grab a tank?’ Lork had called to the group, nodding her head in the direction of one of the root ale holes. A tired but enthusiastic cheer went up. Despite their fatigue, they all knew they wouldn’t be able to sleep straight away even if they went home and tried. There was something about the topside air that just woke your mind up more somehow. No one could explain what it was but every cell in your body felt more awake, fizzier - rejuvenated after an hour topside. When you lay down and tried to sleep your brain just turned over and over with ideas and thoughts and imaginings you had never conceived of before. A tank of root ale was a good way to dull the excesses of the topside giddiness.

The group had begun to move off when Marine felt a firm hand on her shoulder and turned to see Ezria eyeing her. Marine’s shoulders sunk, and not just from the weight of the hand.

‘You still have my gloves.’ Ezria said quietly. Marine looked down to see that she was indeed still wearing the thick gloves Ezria had given her to avoid her skin touching the Lost Stone. She pulled them off and packed them together, offering them over to Ezria silently. Ezria looked at them, ‘You can give them back to me tomorrow when you join me in my office at Second Beats.’ Marine felt her stomach vanish again. She had been summoned to the office of Ezria Talaglashi for the second time. The first time had been to be welcomed to the company, and the second, she felt sure, would be to be dismissed.

‘Second Beats.’ She confirmed, and then hurried after her company to drown her sorrows.

They had drunk for a few hours until even Lork’s hardy eyes began to droop. The root ale and the disspitating adrenaline had a soporific effect on all of them and they one by one made their ways to their homes to rest up. Marine felt like she weighed as much as the biggest earth clod. She was so tired and disappointed and angry with herself. It was bitterly unfair. She hadn’t asked for the rain to stay away from her. She stomped home and as she turned the corner onto her street her foot landed right in the midst of a pool of water that had gathered on the floor from one of the air holes to the surface. The water splashed up her leg, leaving muddy wet scarring all over her clothes.

‘Oh NOW I’m not waterproof?!’ She shouted, exasperatedly into the darkness and in the nearest house she heard a baby start crying immediately and a glow lamp come on. She scurried close in to the walls so that her neighbour would not see that it was she that had woken the baby. How had today gone from being all her dreams coming true to a total nightmare?

Marine had fallen into bed, ready to sleep. She didn’t even care if she slept straight through and missed Second Beats. What more did she have to lose?

As it had turned out, Marine would be woken well before Second Beats by a loud banging at the door. Her father had got to it first and by the time Marine made it to the bottom of the stairs both her mother and father were stood looking blearily at a smartly dressed corporal on the doorstep.

‘Marine Skylorn?’ Asked the corporal, looking over the shoulders of Marine’s parents.

‘Affirmed.’ Marine said automatically.

‘You are to report to the office of Vanweer immediately.’ With that, the corporal turned on his heel and marched away from her front door. Marine didn’t know where to look. Her parents looked desperately worried at her.

‘Marine, what’s happened? Was the mission not a success?’ Asked her father, worried.

‘It… it was fine. I’m not sure.’ Said Marine, unsure whether to lie or tell the truth or what might constitute either of those anyway. She had rapidly pulled on her uniform and boots and raced out the door to catch a pull raft to the office of Vanweer. She had arrived to find half her company already seated and looking uncomfortable. She’d joined them on the wooden benches and remained there all morning.

The rumble of Second Beats passed through the legs of the wooden bench she was sat on and she reflected on the fact that she was supposed to be in Ezria’s office right now, but instead here she was sat outside the office of Vanweer listening to Ezria receiving a blasting from the highest position in Tingion military. What on earth could have happened?

Eventually, long after the rumble of Third Beats had passed through the floor and benches, the door opened and Ezria Talaglashi stepped through. The company gasped as one. Ezria was stripped of her sash and hat. Ezria had been dismissed.

Vanweer stood behind her, smirking, a self-satisfied look on her face. ‘Breath Company, what you retrieved last night from the topside was not the Lost Stone. I would like to thank you for your dedication and apologise that you have been so poorly lead as to have wasted your energy and your time on retrieving what is nothing more than a trinket. Talaglashi has been stripped of her rank and dismissed from my service. You will be informed of how your Company will be continued when I have made further decisions. Dismissed.’

Vanweer looked Ezria up and down as though she were worthless, and then turned smartly and re-entered her office. Closing the door as she did so.

There was silence in the little waiting enclave. Marine thought she was a slight tremble in Ezria’s legs. Then, as one, the company removed their hats and lined up on either side of Ezria, bowing their heads and creating an avenue of honour for their beloved leader to walk down with Pride. Ezria smiled, a single tear forming in the corner of her eye. She nodded gratefully at the behaviour of her company and then made her way out.

Marine felt her legs twitching as she watched Ezria turn the corner away from the company. She glanced up at Lork, Kurann and the others and then dashed off down the path towards Ezria. She skidded around the corner and collided with Ezria immediately. Marin bounced off the sturdy Captain, ex-Captain, and landed with a bump on the floor. She looked up to see Ezria grinning down at her.

‘Amazing.’ Said Ezria smiling, ‘I hoped you would follow me but I didn’t dare hope you’d be that speedy.’ She offered Marine a hand to help her up.

‘What happened?’ Asked Marine, bewildered.

‘Vanweer is lying. I’m SURE that was the stone. They’ve dismissed me to cover it up. But with your help, I’m going to expose Vanweer’s entire regime.’


When does Ezria plan to use Marine to expose Vanweer?

  1. That night
  2. In a week
  3. Next month
  4. Right now

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Chapter 5

 Chapter 5

Marine felt her blood run cold. Why did Ezria want her specifically? She must have noticed that Marine was the only one in the company who was bone dry. Of course she must have noticed. Ezria was one of the sharpest Tingions alive - she noticed everything - it was her job to notice everything.

How can I explain this? Panicked Marine as the company formed up behind Aysmar and Marine shuffled to Ezria’s side. She tried desperately to rub against people as they passed her but the droplets merely sheened off her skin. She pleaded silently with her magic to back off for just long enough for her to get through this undetected. Please. She reasoned with herself. Shouldn’t magic be of some benefit to me?

Aysmar gave the arm salute and the company jogged back towards the Lost Stone. Marine arrived silently at Ezria’s side and waited. She felt like her stomach was missing from her middle. Just a cold pool lay where her innards should be. Was this the end of everything she had worked for? All those long seasons of training and passing exams. Was it all about to come to an end before she had finished her first mission? What would her parents say? Would they even let her stay with them?

She kept pace with Ezria as Ezria began to follow the company across the grass. There was a good foot of space between the last commando and them. Marine swallowed dryly. Of course it was dry - everything about her was dry. She kept her footsteps as silent as she could - her eyes were fixed on the back of Sayshan, the Tingion bringing up the rear of the company. She could feel Ezria’s eyes on her though.

“Stop.” Said Ezria quietly and Marine came to a smooth and abrupt halt in the middle of the grass. The last drops of rain were gently landing around them - nowhere near the ferocity of the beginning of the downpour. It almost felt like the rain could barely be bothered to carry on falling. “Look at me.” Came Ezria’s quiet, firm voice.

Marine felt so exposed. She didn’t know which was worse - being isolated in the middle of the grass where any human or animal could suddenly spot them, or being the sole focus of the incredible mind of Ezria Talaglashi. Marine looked up and fixed her eyes onto Ezria’s. As she did so she saw a splash of rain land squarely on the top of Ezria’s head. The mighty shoulders flinched and the knees absorbed the shock but Ezria stood firm, blinking the water out of her eyes.

“What’s the difference between you and I?” Asked Ezria, her tone light but gilded with a menacing thread. Marine raced through the possible answers in her head. She could be sycophantic - There are so many differences Ezria, I wouldn’t know where to start… But that wouldn’t play. She could play dumb? That would be worse.

“I’m dry.” She heard her voice say. It was crispy and faint, barely audible over the myriad sounds of the topside. Ezria nodded, smiling approvingly and in the midst of her inner turmoil Marine relaxed a little. She felt like perhaps she had got the answer right. As her shoulders relented from their tight balls another raindrop landed just between the two Tingions. It splashed up; redrenching Ezria’s legs. They both watched as the water that should have cascaded down Marine seemed to hit an invisible barrier and then relax into the grass. Ezria’s eyes flicked up from Marine’s legs to her face.

“Unless you have some kind of special uniform that I am not aware of I think we ought to discuss this when we get back down below.”

Marine nodded dumbly, feeling her world come crashing down around her ears. At least she wasn’t being fired on the spot - left up on the topside to get eaten where she wouldn’t cause further complications down below. Ezria flicked her head towards the stone and trotted off back to the undergrowth without another word. Marine followed but her feet felt heavy and all adrenaline had melted into the floor. It was all so unfair.

Marine arrived back with the team in the formation around the Lost Stone. It was half sticking out of the now sodden soil. Aysmar approached it cautiously and tapped it with her stick. It rocked gently back and forward.

“All hands to it’s North Face.” Barked Aysmar in a loud whisper. The company immediately formed up ready to rock and push the stone out of it’s muddy bed. Marine reached forward to get in on the action -

“NO!” Came Ezria’s cry and all of their heads whipped around to see what the danger was. “Marine. Hands down.” Scolded Ezria and Marine immediately tucked her hands by her side. She felt the curious looks of the company on her as they fell back to work. The stone was wiggling and rocking and squelching in the mud as they worked it loose. Marine stared dumbly at her shoes: humiliated and desperately trying not to cry. Not that she was even sure she could cry while the magic was keeping all moisture at bay. She felt a presence by her side and looked up. Ezria was holding out a pair of gloves.

“Put these on.” Whispered Ezria, “Do not touch the stone with your skin.”

Marine did as she was told. “Help your company.” Said Ezria quietly, and turned away to join Aysmar in laying out the cloth in front of the Lost Stone. Their intention was to rock the stone on to the cloth and then they could drag it back to the expedition hole and lower it back down to the city.

The manoeuvring was slow and hard - sweat poured off the little band of Tingions but eventually the stone flumped over onto it’s side and they scurried to wrap the cloth around it and secure the ends with rope.

“We will take a rest,” instructed Ezria, “And we’ll move it when the light fades. Find a sleeping position with whisper distance and shut your eyes. Good work team. We’re half way.”

Marine lay down in the midst of her comrades and ran her gloved hands over each other miserably. Was this the beginning, or the end?


What colour is the Lost Stone?

  1. Red
  2. Green
  3. Blue
  4. Black

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Audience Adventure - Chapter 4

 Chapter 4

Marine was spared the tingling in her feelings being the first thing that caught Ezria’s fury as the first droplet of water slammed into the neck of her nearest comrade and forced him to the floor. All around her she could see slick patches of soil appearing as the rain hit the ground and vanished into the thirsty mud.

The team were being pelted - rain is no joke when you’re barely 5cms tall. It crashed into them making them stagger and lose their footing - despite the heavy boots they all wore for traction. Hands grew slippery on the rope pulling the Lost Stone and even Ezria had hit the floor twice as she continued to pull.

“Move!” Came Ezria’s call and they gathered their rope and dashed in formation to the nearest shelter, dodging wet bullets as they tore out of the sky and flattened anyone who was unlucky enough to be in the wrong place. The flowerbed was sheltered but the rain was weighing down the leaves and causing overspills to erupt all around them. “This way!” Ezria beckoned them towards a towering structure that Marine recognised as being a table - humans would sit at them on other blocks to eat. Tingions tended to eat in circles on the floor - it was the simplest shape (no corners) and sitting on the floor meant they didn’t the complication of furniture. Tingion food tended to always be wrapped up as well to reduce the need for plates, bowls and cutlery. No fuss. That was the Tingion way. Marine secretly thought all the trinkets and complications of the top side world were fascinating but she knew better than to rock the boat and show an interest.

The company dashed for the furniture and formed a huddle underneath it. It was more exposed over here on the dry flagstones so they made a circle each facing out so nothing could surprise them from any angle. Ezria kept her eyes fixed on the spot where the Lost Stone lay in the undergrowth.

“We can’t go back without it.” Ezria muttered to her Lieutenant, Aysmar. Aysmar nodded grimly. There were 2 other Tingions between Marine and Aysmar - Lork, a friendly and bulky commando whose muscle made her a must have on every mission. Then there was also Kurann, the only male on the squad. Males were too competitive between them to have more than one on a squad, everyone knew that. Only women and neithers were allowed to work together in Tingion society. It made Marine roll her eyes when she heard the speeches. Males were just as capable of putting petty hormones to one said as any of the rest of them but Tingions would do anything to avoid confrontation and so everyone had agreed that this was the simplest solution.

Kurann shook his head and droplets of water sprayed out in all directions. Well, not quite all directions. From the corner of her eye Marine saw the water leap out towards her and then swerve away at the last minute. She flinched at the sight of it. The droplets going in the other directions just continued with the forward momentum but the ones coming towards her definitely seemed to fly away at the last second. She looked down at herself: she was bone dry. As subtly as she could so as not to attract the attention of anyone else in the team she glanced around at everyone else. They were all soaked. Each and every one of them was dripping wet and trying not to shiver as the breeze rocked their tiny legs. It was too much to consider it a lucky accident that she was the only one not wet.

Ever so cautiously she reached a hand out from under the table to try and catch one of the beating rain drops. As her hand neared the edge she watched as a fat drip moved horizontally to avoid her skin. ‘Not now.’ She cursed inwardly trying to work out how she get some water onto herself so as to avoid detection at being different.

“It’s easing. Stand firm” Called Ezria and Marine snapped her hand back to her side before she was seen. She glanced up through the glass above her at the sky. The greyness was lightening and she could see patches of blue appearing through holes in the grey. It was amazing. Not just the sky - but also the glass. Glass was one of Marine’s absolute favourite things. So beautiful and practical. Tingions could make glass, they could also steal it: but it was forbidden. Too complicated to have something hard and also partially invisible. Why have something that could shatter when you could have metal that wouldn’t? Marine wanted to scream that the fragility was what made it amazing but she knew she couldn’t. Sometimes she worried that the magic within her was caused by her love of all these complications. If she could just learn to crave routine and simplicity and sensibleness then perhaps she could stop the sparks? Perhaps they would calm down? Or was it the other way round? Was this infernal energy within her what made her thoughts seek the wind and the sparkles and the excitement?

Ezria had been speaking but Marine began to hear it with her usual sense of shame that she had not been listening. She shook her head and focused in on the words.

“Ok, we are going to head back over to the Lost Stone. Be careful. It will be wet underfoot and we don’t have enough power to carry you with a broken leg as well as the stone. Believe me when I say I will not be leaving the stone.”

Everyone grinned. Ezria was tough but they all knew she wouldn’t leave any of them behind. It wasn’t in her nature.

“The rain could have been a blessing, it might have loosened the earth around the stone making it easier to release.” Ezria continued, “We’ll get back into position and Aysmar will assess and decide on a plan for release. On Aysmar and forward, move out. Marine: With me.”

Marine’s fingers went cold.


Has Ezria noticed that Marine is dry?

  1. Yes
  2. No 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Days 2 & 3

 Chapter 2

“Heave!” Came the cry, and the little object wobbled in the loose, wet mud.

The excavation team had not anticipated rain. Most of them had never been to the surface before and those that had only a scarce few times. The surface was unpredictable - why bother? Sometimes it was cold, sometimes it was hot, especially when it was bright. The brightness was the thing they really couldn’t bear. After centuries adapting to life underground they had come to revel in the gloom; growing enormous eyes that could pick out detail in next to no light. What light they did have came from carefully drilled holes up to the surface, the holes bent and skewed on their way down so that the light shifted and bounced and never caused hot little pools to form on the floors. It also meant that when the surface water happened, it trickled in tiny drips rather than racing straight in and flooding an unsuspecting person’s home.

Today was the culmination of months of planning for the excavation team. Searches had been ongoing since before half of them had been born - scanning the surface with various tools and technologies to search for anything that could be what they were looking for. Deep down in the treasury cavern there were huge piles of items that had been discovered but which weren’t right. Milk bottle tops, lost rings, empty cans, inexplicable items like the gem with a stick attached. No one knew what that was for but everyone knew it was pretty. Especially if you twirled it by the stick under one of the light shafts. When you did that it twinkled and shone. Perhaps there were some bonuses to the surface light after all, even if it did stings your eyes.

Marine certainly thought there was a good side to the surface light. She had joined the Search Force 4 cold seasons ago in the hope that her work would take her topside more and more. This was her first experience of it though. It was everything she’d hoped. She’d heard her elders discuss wind but had found it hard to understand.

“So the air moves?” She’d asked Pappy Gloat, incredulously.

“Yep.” Said Pappy Gloat, revelling in being the centre of attention.

“Can you see it?” Marine had no idea what the air moving could mean. You couldn’t see air, so how would you know it was moving?

“No, but you can see things being moved by it.”

“Like a puppet?” Marine thought of the marionette shows they watched after the nut harvest once the nuts had been eaten and the shells were available for auction for building materials and creating other knick-knacks.

“I suppose so,” mused Gloat, “I’d never thought of it like that before though. You can mainly feel the wind.”

“Feel it? What does it feel like?” Marine thought about the feel of the cool earth in the tunnels as she trailed a hand along it, or how a trickle of water felt if she plunged her fingers in up to her wrist and let it flow past. “Like water?”

“I suppose like water… but it’s tricksy and less forceful. It changes direction and tickles different parts of you and sometimes lies very still with just the lightest touch and sometimes blows so hard you have to hold on to stay on the ground.”

Marine just could not imagine this sensation. No matter how hard she tried, stood there in the still, stale tunnels she couldn’t picture the air swirling about her. She blew onto her hands and tried to imagine that sensation multiplied but she just didn’t feel it could be anything near right.

“What makes the wind?” Her mind’s eye conjured images of a hundred sleeping creatures all lying in hiding places and blowing the air around to confound the humans and the surface creatures.

“We don’t know. There are various theories.” Marine could tell Pappy Gloat was losing interest now he no longer knew the answers. “Some people say it’s the size of everything up there - things are so big they can’t help but move the air around. Some people say it’s about the heat but that all seems pretty far fetched to me.”

Now that she was up here on the surface, she realised she didn’t care at all what made the wind. She just loved the feel of it. It tickled her and made her sneeze. The sneeze earned her a heavy frown from the leader of the expedition. Ezria was a stern, experienced and severe woman who had been to the surface more times than anyone else Marine had heard of below. Of course, this didn’t make her popular with everyone. Most of the people Marine knew from her home town would rather not visit the surface - it was terrifying and unpredictable. They wanted security and solidarity and the tunnels and caves that had been dug out and made homes, towns and cities over the centuries were just enough thank you very much.

Marine had absolutely never felt like that. She’d always felt a yearning to be up top. She heard the stories told of Ezria and the other Captains avoiding the snuffling noses of dogs - dogs were enormous four legged creatures that would lick or nibble you if you weren’t speedy enough on your feet. She’d always felt that these adventures were where she belonged but it hadn’t been easy…

Does Marine…

  1. Have to care for her siblings
  2. Come from a very poor family
  3. Have a secret ability
  4. Have Royal blood 

Chapter 3

Marine squinted in the brightness and tried to focus on what Ezria was saying. The scanners were telling them that the object they were seeking was close and the right density to be the Lost Stone. Marine could feel her stomach fluttering and leaping and she prayed that nothing strange would happen while they were on the mission. One failure in front of Ezria was enough to have her below ground for the rest of her life on some menial task. Now that she’d been up top and seen the sky Marine didn’t think she’d be able to survive only ever seeing the top of a canyon for the rest of her life.

Her stomach was in knots and she could feel a whining growing in her ears. She tried to squash down the panic building as to what this meant. Is was an all too familiar feeling with Marine and it never spelled good things on the horizon.

Marine, Ezria and the rest of the search team were part of a race called Tingions. A tiny people who stood barely two inches high and had lived under ground for centuries. Tingions were famous within the subterranean world for wanting a simple life. It was why they had gone underground in the first place: they wanted to remove complications. Complications like magic.

Before they had gone underground Tingions had all been magic. They’d co-existed with all the topside creatures, including humans, playing tricks and making things exciting and adventurous with their magic. But then the humans had got greedy - using the Tingions for entertainment and putting them to use powering mechanics and other things that made their lives easier. Humans began rounding up Tingions, trying to farm and breed them to be more powerful and more magical. They would put huge bounties on the heads of the most powerful Tingions and cage them up in circuses and on display. There was no chance of the Tingions fighting in an all out war. Their magic was for crafts and lights, beauty and entertainment - they were far too small to be of any military power against a race as inventive and cunning as the humans.

The Tingions had retreated and resisted the humans, gradually moving further and further out of reach. Over 200 hundred years they tried negotiating to be left alone and protest their independence, and there had been several groups of humans who protested the treatment of Tingion people but overall it wasn’t enough. Eventually the entire tiny race moved completely underground to forget their harassment and live away from their tormenters. Over time and generations, the humans came to forget the Tingions. They told folk stories and sang songs and tales but the name of the race left their tongues and each new set of grandchildren came to assume more and more that all stories of fairies had always been nonsense.

Below ground things were changing too… the longer the Tingions stayed away from the humans the more they adored and savoured the peace and tranquility of being left alone. Tales of captivity, enslavement and torture were drummed into children as they sat around the dinner circles each night. It was drummed into the continuation of the DNA that they needed to be out of sight and out of mind of the humans in order to survive and stay happy.

Tingions had always been gentle and cautious, but they had enjoyed the sparks of magic and mischievous delight that they could cause. Now they despised it. Any form of magic or attention seeking was chastised and squashed and they learned to fear. Gradually the magic died out until no one could do it and no one wanted to.

No one except Marine.

Marine had been barely 3 cold seasons old when she had sneezed and sent red sparks shooting out of her toes. The sparks had tingled in the damp, darkness of their burrow and as the tiny Marine giggled at them they had fizzed and danced around the room to the pattern of her laughter. Her parents had been shocked and terrified and had ignored it - doing all they could keep Marine wrapped up and out of sight in public in case it should happen again. They had never mentioned it between them. None of their older children had ever done anything remotely like this. It hadn’t happened again and so eventually they relaxed: chalking it up to an accident that wouldn’t be repeated and wouldn’t lose them their place in society.

Marine though, had reached 14 and felt the magic tingling inside her more and more. She had never conjured sparks again but she knew something was different about her. When she got excited or too happy, or daydreamed too freely she would feel her stomach flutter and her eyes shine and then things would start to go wrong around her. Things would fall, was it falling if they went up first before crashing down? Beetles would arrive and always head straight for marine. Mud would crack or water would trickle. She felt like the air and the earth couldn’t always control itself around her and she didn’t know how or why - but she knew it was her fault.

As she stood above ground in her commando gear, trying to concentrate on Ezria’s instructions, she thought about all the times her strange tingling power had caused her to stumble and fail during her training, and she prayed that it wouldn’t mess up her first mission above ground.


What complicates the mission:

  1. Rain
  2. A cat
  3. A human
  4. Another Tingion

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Day 1

 The dirt was cool, and damp. Collecting in small clumps - miniature boulders nestled in the cracks of drier earth.

Flowers shielded the mud from the harshness of the sun, creating a dappled light and a haven of relief from the heat of the day. It had that smell… that smell of slight decay that should offend but hides notes of natural promise we can’t help but enjoy. It smelled like a place that knew it was doing.

Roots were in abundance; both on the surface and beneath the crusty top layer of dirt. Strong veins reached deep into the sub layers looking for water and holding out like anchors against the constantly nagging persuasion of the breeze. Dried out roots of previously dismantled weeds were tossed across the surface of the soil - wasting away against the desiccated leaves and fragments of tiny stone.

This was a world away from the plants that stood tall above the surface. They were the attraction. Shimmering petals surrounded by glorious blooms of deep green leaves and lengthy stalks. This was a garden to be proud of. And someone was.

But the mud… this was where the magic happened. Without the rot and the bugs and the turning and the roots, none of the flowers could work at all.

Just between two wavering shadows, something glinted in the sun. A round thing that did not belong down here where things happened slowly and gently. This was not an object for the hidden places of the world.

The sun caught on its gentle curves - it seemed almost to be begging to be found. Reaching up into the light and yearning to be picked up and loved. But who would notice a little thing like this when the full glory of summer flowers was shielding it in technicolour.

It hadn’t always been lost. It had been adored - looked at constantly. Twisted and turned and filled with meaning for everyone who looked at it. Now though, it lay here - if you wanted to be romantic you would say it ached to be gone and back in its rightful place, but that is to give it feelings it wasn’t capable of having. Only producing.

A carnival of ants paraded across the little metal nugget. Forging their regimented tracks towards the winter that was always coming but eternally prepared for. They didn’t so much as give the little alien object a second glance. It meant nothing to them, being neither edible, useful nor a threat. So they merely marched on. The next in a long, long line of creatures to not notice.

Slowly, steadily, the light stopped reaching the dirt in the flower bed as the long August afternoon continued. There was no way for the roots, or the mud or the little metal thing to know - but it was clouding over. The flowers were grateful in their own way though when the clouds began to drop their weight across the garden. Drip by drip it filtered down to the very bottom of the beauty and to land on the soil. The water gained momentum as the summer shower picked up and with each drop that hit the metal, a bit more mud was dislodged from around it and revealed more and more of the gleaming surface.

As the droplets bounced and splashed and sent their tiny spray around the stems and pebbles and mud, the tiny object lay - cool in the shade. The water beading and running straight off it.

It couldn’t possibly know that it was about to be picked up…

To vote on the next chapter, just comment below with your choice answers to these questions...

Is the object going to be picked up by:

  1. Someone big
  2. Someone small

Is that person wearing:

  1. Gloves
  2. Frown