Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Audience Adventure 2 - Day 23

 Chapter 23

Her eyes met Briar’s and Marine felt a tingling across her cheeks as they bent wide into a smile.

‘This is a river?’ She asked, her eyes drawn irresistibly back to the tumultuous water.

‘It is.’ Confirmed Briar, joining Marine in gazing out across it.

It was enormous, if she squinted, Marine thought she could see grass on the other side of it but the darkness of the evening made it hard to make out. Everything was hazy, and the jumping shininess of the water made it the thing her eyes wanted to focus on most. ‘Can you go in it?’ She asked shyly, unsure what she wanted the answer to be.

‘You can,’ Briar nodded, ‘But you don’t last long. Safer to go on it.’

Marine’s head snapped up, ‘On it?’

Briar laughed, ‘Yes, in a boat.’

‘What’s a boat?’ Marine asked but was Briar was interrupted from answering by a procession of torches heading their way from the darkness. Marine tensed, and felt Ezria backing up towards her.

‘It’s ok,’ Briar soothed, putting out a hand to show everything was ok. ‘You’re safe. Nothing will happen to you here.’

Marine peered at the line of Tingions coming from further down the river towards them. There appeared to be a lot; all very tall like the Topsider party they had met beneath ground. Kurann, Rishekke and Eleff all gathered in tighter towards Ezria and Marine and they braced themselves for meeting more strangers.

‘You are back.’ Called the Tingion at the front of the torched procession.

‘Safe and free.’ Called back Briar, and Marine watched the tension go out of their shoulders. ‘It’s my mother.’ Briar said, turning their head slightly back to round to address the City Tingions. The new group arrived and clustered around. Briar greeted their mother with a hug. The two rangy Tingions stood close together with their heads bowed, deep in intense conversation.

Marine was fascinated by the clothing of the Topsiders. These Tingions who were in the raiding party weren’t dressed in the woven, brown combats that the others were. They had feathers and grasses woven into clothes made of all sorts of things Marine didn’t recognise. One Tingion turned around and Marine was startled to notice that their trousers crunched and made such a racket. As she peered closer she realised she recognised the design on the trousers: it was something she had seen once in a museum in the City. Some sort of human waste that they often dropped, apparently. It was curious that these Tingions felt no need to hide or camouflage… everyone beneath ground wore muted browns made from woven, treated roots so that they could hide from animals or, god forbid, human eyes.

Briar’s mother approached Ezria and smiled warmly. ‘Sinfire,’ she said, indicating herself and nodding her head to Ezria. Ezria mirrored her nod and smiled back.

‘Ezria.’ The two women clasped hands in the Tingion trust greeting and then Sinfire shuffled back and spread her arms wide in a welcoming position to the small band of City dwellers.

‘Welcome to the Topside,’ Sinfire called, her face the very picture of the matriarchal welcome she professed with her body language, ‘I understand you have had a long journey and a tumultuous amount to deal with. Perhaps we can offer you food and a safe bed for the night.’

Marine’s stomach answered for the group, gurgling loudly. Marine wanted to sink into the floor and die as Briar’s eyes caught hers and one eyebrow flicked up into an amused arch.

They followed Sinfire’s torchlit procession along the pebbly ground with the river to their left. The noise of it was astonishing - Marine couldn’t keep her eyes off it. What was making the water move? How did so much of it get into one place? What was keeping it in such a neat line? Why did it jump and bounce? Where was it going? Where did it come from? How would it feel to be inside it? Would it hurt? What was a boat?

She barely knew where her feet were leading her as she followed Rishekke’s footsteps towards Briar’s home.

Their settlement was the most beautiful thing Marine had ever seen. They had processed down the river until a sandy gully to the right led them up the bank and under a huge hedge.

‘Is this it?’ Marine asked Briar, looking around in confusion.

‘Look up.’ Briar said simply, and Marine looked up in astonishment. The hedge above her was alive with activity. Tingions moving up and down branches that had been carefull bent and secured to make pathways and platforms that they could sit, settle, cook and sleep on.

‘Oh my!’ Marine couldn’t help saying, and Briar’s chest swelled at Marine’s obvious amazement.

‘We don’t stay too long in one place,’ explained Briar, ‘But we’re pretty quick at making a place home once we arrive.’ Briar wasn’t kidding. The hedge was incredible - intricate walkways from thick branch, to sturdy trunk. Sleeping nests that dotted the edges. Marine could see the faces of children peering down towards her. Food was being moved about by pulleys and the whole hedge was lit by flames in clear boxes that spun the light out in all directions. It was unbelievable. So far removed from the musty, stale air of the mud caves they lived in beneath ground. Marine knew it was the extra oxygen in the air above ground but she felt light, giddy and free. An entire new world was suddenly in existence, one she knew nothing about.

‘It’s amazing isn’t it?’ Mortglade was at Marine’s side.

‘Yeah…’ The word fell out of Marine’s mouth through a slack jaw. ‘I just… why don’t we all live like this?’ It was so exciting and communal, noisy and warm.

‘Why live somewhere you are less protected? Why live somewhere where there’s more chance of having to move? Why live somewhere where it rains?’

Marine opened her mouth to provide answers to all these questions, but Mortglade raised a hand, ‘I agree, pet, but society wants what it wants.’

‘Does it know it could have this?’ Marine said with wonder, and Mortglade clasped a firm, friendly hand on her shoulder.

‘Of course not.’ She said sadly.

‘Hungry?’ Came Briar’s voice, and Marine nodded eagerly and followed them in the direction of some incredible smells.

By a large, contained fire, several Topsider Tingions were roasting and boiling and stirring and chopping. Steam and smoke poured around under the branches - filling Marine’s nostrils with scents that were new and familiar. Her stomach growled so loudly she was afraid she would attract rats.

‘Sit.’ Said Sinfire, and indicated to the newcomers a clearing with a ring scooped out for Tingions to sit in and have a bowl of food in front of them at a higher level. Marine thought this was an ingenious idea. She sat, feeling giddy and over stimulated as shells of food were passed round to each Tingion sitting in the circle.

Eventually, everyone was seated with a shell piled how with steaming food in front of them, they ate hungrily and Marine watched as Sinfire and Ezria talked fervently and in depth on the other side of the circle. She was sat between Eleff and Briar, but much to her annoyance Briar was deep in conversation with the Tingion to their right and Marine couldn’t break into the conversation. She began to feel sulky, but unsure exactly why as she did her best to join in with Eleff and Kurann.

When the food was gone and the shells cleared away, Sinfire stood up to address the party. ‘I welcome you with open arms to our home, I hope you will treat it with the respect that we would show yours were we to venture into your City. Which, by the way, we will be happy to do if you promise to make your ceilings a little higher.’ There was a genuine wave of laughter from the collected Tingions. ‘I have much to discuss with Ezria tomorrow, we have been nervous of Vanweer’s behaviour for some time, and this confiscating of a potential lost stone seems to be evidence indeed in support of some of our worst suspicions. Gaining control of the stone is imperative.’

Marine went cold. She could feel the stone sitting innocently in her pocket, her eyes flashed unbidden to Ezria’s but Ezria blinked and spoke a paragraph with her eyes. Sinfire continued, ‘For now, we will show you a place to sleep safe and dry. In the morning there will be work. You have my protection.’ She bowed, and the little group all raised their half cups in salute. Marine joined in feeling numb.

One by one the City Tingions stood up and followed the Topsiders to various sleeping areas beneath the hedge. Marine stood, feeling tireder than she had ever felt before. She couldn’t really recall properly the last time she had slept. Briar slipped a hand into hers, ‘I’ll walk you.’ They said, and Marine happily followed.

She was surprised though, when Briar didn’t lead her to a sleeping spot but instead seemed to be headin straight out from under the shelter of the hedge.

‘Where are we going?’ She asked, and Briar winked.

‘On to the river…’ They said, and led Marine towards the racing water.


Simply choose:

1 Tingion

2 Tingions

3 Tingions

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Audience Adventure - Day 22

 Chapter 22

The first thing Marine noticed was the moisture on her cheeks as she reached the Topside. It was cool and calming - it felt like it was stroking her skin as it moved about across her face. It was dark Topside: the sun having long since departed from the distant sky. Marine looked up to see the stars but could see nothing except white fluff. She reached out a hand to try and touch the fluffy, nestling stuff but as her hand made contact it floated away and dispersed and was nothing. Her hand came back damp.

‘The humans call it fog.’ Said Briar, leaning in to speak quietly.

Marine felt the hum of their skin next to hers and she had to shake her head a little to disperse the tingling feeling that accumulated on the back of her neck. ‘What do you call it?’ She asked.

‘Cover.’ Laughed Briar, and stole a look at Marine. Marine smiled. ‘It makes it easier to move about undetected on nights where the fog lies.’ Briar continued, ‘It tends to settle low and heavy, but it’s made stuff. Makes you invisible but it isn’t actually there. As long as you’re in layers, it can’t hurt you.’

Marine shivered, already feeling the dampness permeating her bones. She desperately wanted to continue the conversation with Briar but she couldn’t think of anything else to say or ask that didn’t seem vaguely dim or pathetic so she just walked along in silence trying her best to keep pace with Briar’s long legs without panting.

They seemed to have a large hedge to the left of them as they made their way over cracked, solid mud. Every now and again Marine could make out small leaves above her head. They were outlined against the sky. Marine found everything so confusing: how could the sky be dark and yet still be light enough to show the outline of dark leaves against it? She wanted answers but more than that she didn’t want to ask Briar something so childish that they laughed so she kept her mouth shut.

The line of Tingions stayed tight in to the hedge as they moved along. The ground was bare and dry and Marine had to jump large cracks every 100 paces or so. Some cracks were so big she could have fallen in without trouble, some were narrower: just threatening to catch a foot or a shin and make you trip. The Topsiders had less trouble: their long legs loped across and Briar almost seemed to know where each and every crack was to avoid it. Marine had no such experience and had to watch carefully with every step. To their right, across the chasm of bare, dry earth were hundreds of hugely tall, thin plants that shot out of the ground and up towards the night. They swayed and banged into each other gently and if Marine craned her neck so far back that it hurt she could see swollen bulbs on the top that swayed more than the rest of the stems. Marine marvelled. It was the other side of the world… she knew the roots of all these plants - she could smell the scents of roots she was familiar with but here they were coming off the other side of the plant. It was fascinating. Why did the roots need these parts? She wondered. Were they integral to the roots living in some way? She knew roots sucked water out of the soil, and that was how they ate and drank but perhaps these other sides had purposes too that helped the roots? She wished she had paid more attention in school.

Her legs were beginning to tire as they came to the end of the hedgerow on the left and the party stopped so that Briar could check for danger. Before them was just grass now; low cut and offering less chance to hide than the hedge. Briar looked about and listened carefully to the wind. They sniffed long and deep and then stood silently with their eyes closed listening and absorbing the air around. As they stood quietly, Marine realised she could hear something. A gentle, elegant… a gentle elegant what? It was certainly a movement, so she wanted to say vibration or rumbling but that wasn’t quite it. It was softer and more… more elegant than rumbling. It was unlike anything she had heard before. She could feel it too: in her feet. Like the Beats but constant and less rigid. Less performed. It felt like something she recognised but had never seen or heard.

‘Ok, I think it’s clear,’ Briar’s voice interrupted her thoughts with a practised loud whisper, ‘We will cross.’ Briar nodded to the other Topsiders and each one pulled out a knife and ran it through the bindings on the hands of the Team. ‘Go quickly and smoothly, only stop when you reach the river. If you think now is a good time to escape, then you have my blessing but avoid the foxes, and the owls. If you’re going to get caught, pray for an owl. Enjoy the ride because it’ll be the last thing you ever know.’

Marine opened her mouth to ask what an owl, or a river was but before the words could leave her lips the Topsiders had gone. They paced away across the grass, dodging blades lightly and leaving an alarming gap almost instantly. She looked from Ezria to Kurann in a panic and saw Ezria shrug and begin to jog. Mortglade and Rishekke were already running. Marine picked up her heels and chased them down, hoping that a river would be obvious enough that she would know to stop at it before it killed her.

She ran as hard as she could, making sure to not stray too far from Mortglade who was ever so slightly slower than the rest of the group. She could just make out the figures of the Topsiders in the distance and kept her eyes pinned on them as they ran. Then suddenly they were gone. Marine’s feet pounded on the ground as she ran through the grass: avoiding the stronger blades and keeping her arms up stop them whipping across her eyes as she ran. She peered into the distance but the heads of the Topsiders had vanished. Was it an ambush? She looked left and right for signs of attack. Why would they set them free only to attack though? Surely it would have been easier to do when they were secured. Was it the hunt? Had Marine misjudged Briar? Her mind was racing as fast as her feet when all of a sudden the next step she took never met ground.

Her feet flailed about beneath her, reaching only air and her torso carried on moving forward as she fell forward and down a slope. Her chest hit the floor with a thump and she skidded painfully down loose stones and tiny, tiny pieces of pebble. She rolled over and over before finally coming to a complete stop. Marine lay still, trying to get her breathing back to normal and get rid of the rushing sound in her ears. The ground was trembling.

‘Are you alright?’ Marine opened her eyes to see Briar’s face looming over her own.

‘Yes,’ she wheezed, ‘Yes, I fell.’

‘We saw,’ said Briar smiling kindly, and offering a hand to help Marine up. ‘Well, I did stay to stop before the river and you did just that.’

Marine sat up, and as her head raised she saw it. An enormous writhing mass of water fighting itself on a race across the ground. Marine yelped and skittered backwards away from it, sending loose bits of grit and sharp things flying into the water. It looked incredible, Marine had to admit, the light from the sky was dancing on the surface and shimmering and shining. She’d never seen so much water in one place. Never seen it moving with such intensity or ferocity. She was absolutely spellbound.

‘Beautiful.’ She heard Briar’s voice say and Marine looked up to agree with them, but when she turned her head she saw that Briar wasn’t looking at the river at all.


Choose a mode of transport:

  1. Sailing
  2. Flying
  3. Land

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.


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.


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.’


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.


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