I… I don't know! way to put me on the spot!

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Post by Jiro »

Thread named after the temporary title of this adorable little fellow's Nano novel. His name is Keenan and he is the 8yo son of our ML and he is adorable and currently quite sick but he was still all "nah gonna do Nano guys" and wrote exactly 200 words in about an hour before having to go to bed. Bitches you all jealous because I got hugs off an awesome kid. Probably gonna die now, or at least get down with the sickness. Anyway this is all digression to hide the fact that my novel is poorly as it is based entirely off a concept I thought was cool at 14. oh god the anxiety. Everyone is doing nano so everyone's is imperfect too I'm just especially rubbish oh goodness. also names are stand in because i take years to decide names oh man screw it hit submit worry about it when it isn't midnight


The dull, rhythmic clanking of metal echoed throughout the small stone shack. Outside, the faint sound of woodland critters sailed into the village on the cool night air. The young man paused, exchanging his hammer for a pair of tongs. There was a hiss as he dunked the iron horseshoe into a pool and then clattering as he deposited it with the others. He picked up another iron bar and put it in the furnace.

His work drowned out the sound of approaching footsteps. A shadow crept into the room and paused, the figure leaning against the doorframe. Still he worked, depositing another horseshoe onto the growing pile.

‘Couldn’t sleep, huh?’ the shadow asked.

The smith stopped work and laughed. ‘Just lost track of the time, I suppose.’

‘You’re always doing that. It might be time for you to buy a watch that works, Marcus.’

‘At least I’m not relying on sun dials like you, Alex my friend!’ Marcus dropped his tools, turning to flash a grin at his guest.

‘I guess I deserved that one,’ Alex said. ‘But I digress. What’re you doing up working at this hour? It’s close to midnight, normal people would be asleep.’

‘And yet you’re here as well. I suppose neither of us are normal then, huh?’ Marcus laughed. ‘Like you said though, couldn’t sleep. I figured I’d at least put the time to good use and get a head start on tomorrow’s work.’

‘Georg’ll be impressed with your work ethic. I can just hear him now: ‘See that Alex, you should try to be more like Marcus. You need to focus more, and work harder. Otherwise you won’t get anywhere in life. It’s all about dedication!’ He certainly has a point though.’

‘Your father just has high hopes for you.’

‘High expectations, more like. But no, I get what he’s trying to do. I suppose I’ll thank him for it one day.’

‘And me as well. I’m very grateful for everything Georg and Hayley have done for me.’

‘Ha, save it. It’s no big deal my friend. Don’t you start getting mushy on me.’

‘Wouldn’t dream of it!’

The wind picked up and the lantern inside the smithy began to flicker. Marcus returned his tools to their place and gathered his things together.

‘Seems like a good time to head home then,’ he said. ‘Let’s go before the snow gets too heavy and we’re trapped in here.’


Marcus awoke to the sound of roosters saluting the morning sun. He groaned and rolled over, trying to block out the noise. He was thankful it was winter and the sun rose later than usual, but he would never get used to having roosters as an alarm. He had to take care of the animals this morning: feeding the pigs and chickens, and collecting any eggs. Once his chores were taken care of, he ran back to the house to prepare for school.

He drew a bath and washed quickly; the trade off to rising later is that he had far less time to take care of his chores and get ready for school. Once he was clean and dressed, he grabbed an apple from kitchen and ran off to catch up with Alex.

He found Alex on the way to school, standing opposite a familiar face; Ivan, the son of the village mayor and a notorious bully. He was flanked by two cronies, Joshua and Simon, who were jeering at Alex and a little girl hiding behind him.

‘What’s all this then?’ Marcus asked as he wandered over. ‘Do we have a problem here?’

‘We will if your friend here doesn’t mind his own stinking business,’ Ivan snarled.

‘There’s already a problem here,’ Alex spat. ‘You’re a pig of a human being, and you look like one to boot.’

Ivan gritted his teeth and swore. He didn’t like being challenged; with his father as mayor, Ivan saw himself as untouchable and almost above the law.

‘I suggest you run off and play before I have to teach you a lesson,’ Ivan growled.

‘We were just on our way to school anyway,’ Marcus said. He took a bite out of his apple. ‘I’m all for extracurricular learning. But honestly, I don’t think there’s anything useful someone like you could teach us.’

‘Oh, so you think you’re funny, do you?’ Ivan said. ‘Pity your parents aren’t alive to teach you any manners. Don’t cry now, orphan boy.’

‘You talk too much,’ Alex said. ‘Throw down or go home. I’m running out of patience to deal with you, you annoying fat idiot.’

‘Nobody talks to me that way! That’s it! Let’s get ‘em!’

Ivan and his two lackeys charged forward. Alex signalled for the little girl to move away, and then scooped a handful of sand off the ground.

‘Eat this!’ he shouted, throwing the sand towards the approaching opponents.

Ivan was temporarily stunned, but his support continued towards Alex and Marcus. They were outnumbered, but Alex and Marcus had been trained in hand to hand combat. Marcus dropped and struck out his leg in a wide sweep, knocking Joshua to the ground.

Alex stood his ground and threw a wild punch, connecting with the jaw and flooring Simon. Before the dust from Simon’s fall had settled, Alex was upon him, hitting him in the chest. He pulled the punches slightly; he wasn’t out to seriously injure the man, but he wasn’t going to let him get away without a little bit of a beating.

Joshua had regained his footing and tried to attack once again, but Marcus dodged his first strike and kneed him in the back, sending him crashing to the ground once again. He lay there groaning as Marcus dusted himself off and took another bite from his apple.

Ivan had finally rubbed his eyes clean of the sand and looked up to see his two friends lying beaten on the ground. He took a hesitant step backwards, weighing up his options.

‘So what’s it gonna be then?’ Alex asked. ‘Do you still think you can teach us a lesson on your own?’

‘Shut your stupid mouth!’ Ivan shouted. His pride had taken an even larger beating then his friends had. ‘You just wait until my father hears about this!’

‘I’m sure he already has,’ Marcus said. He shrugged. He knew they’d be facing some serious consequences, but he was feeling too happy about disgracing Ivan and his crew. It would be a while before they decided to cause any more trouble.

Ivan swore under his breath again, and then turned and fled. The fight was lost, and his confidence was in tatters, but he knew he could at least get them back by telling his father what happened – excluding the part where his gang was terrorising little girls. Marcus stifled a laugh as he watched Ivan stumble away.

Alex walked over to the little girl who Ivan had been terrorising earlier. She had hidden behind a fence and watched the fight, silently cheering her heroes on. She peeked out from her hiding spot and smiled at Alex.

‘Thank you for helping me mister,’ she said. ‘Thank you for beating up the bad guys too!’

‘It was my pleasure,’ Alex said. He ruffled her hair and grinned. ‘Don’t let those bullies pick on you any more, okay? You just come and tell us and we’ll take care of them.’


‘You’d better run along to your parents okay? Make sure you tell them what happened.’

She smiled and nodded, then turned and ran back towards her house. She waved at Marcus as she ran past.

‘We should get going too, Marcus,’ Alex said. ‘We’re going to be late now.’

‘And I’m really not sold on having to beat these clowns up again when they stop rolling around like dying animals.’


As expected, it wasn’t long before Alex and Marcus were summoned by the village mayor. When they arrived, Ivan and company were waiting for them, sneering at the duo as they walked into the office.

‘Well lookee here. Who’s the tough guy now?’ Ivan said.

‘I can beat the crap out of you now if you like,’ Alex said. ‘We’ve got time.’

He feigned a punch; Ivan flinched and whimpered.

‘Guess you’re not as tough as you think,’ Alex laughed.

Marcus opened the door, emblazoned in bright red letters with Mayor Baku’s name, and entered.

‘Don’t you know how to knock?’ Baku shouted. ‘Learn some respect, boy. Wait for me to invite you inside.’

‘You already invited us here,’ Alex said, sitting down on the lavish sofa in the corner. ‘Or should we wait for written invites?’

‘Don’t be insolent, you brat,’ Baku spat. ‘And don’t sit until you’re invited either! It is little wonder I’ve had to call you here, it’s as if you deliberately seek to cause me as much grief as possible!’

‘I guess that’s sort of like how your son keeps being a right royal pain in everyone’s behind,’ Marcus said, leaning up against the wall. ‘Wouldn’t you say?’

‘I’ve had enough of you two already. I advise you to keep your mouths shut and listen, or you might find yourselves in more trouble than you bargained for.’

The two young men glanced at each other, smiled and nodded.

‘Whatever you say, Mayor,’ Marcus said. ‘We’re not here to cause any trouble; it’s all just a big misunderstanding.’

‘Misunderstanding? I think I understand the situation quite clearly, Marcus,’ Baku said. ‘Your unprovoked attack against my son and his friends is disgraceful and you two will be punished severely for it. It’s not surprising, considering your parents Marcus.’

Marcus clenched a fist, but held his tongue. Alex leapt to his defence instead.

‘And I can see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with you and your son either. Low blows and spiteful tongues are your weapons of choice. It’s pathetic; you’re both disgusting human beings!’

‘Alex, enough!’ Marcus said. ‘Don’t give him the satisfaction of a reaction. I know he despised my parents. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let him win.’

‘But…’ Alex started. He gritted his teeth and glared at Baku.

‘I can see you’ve already reached a decision,’ Marcus said, ‘and that our being here was merely for your own enjoyment. I’ve nothing further to say to you, so I’ll take my leave.’

He stepped through the doorway and left, Alex chasing behind him.

‘I’m sorry about that,’ Alex said.

‘You didn’t do anything, there’s nothing to apologise for.’

‘Yeah, but that just… it makes me angry. He shouldn’t be able to get away with that sort of thing, it’s not right.’

‘That’s the privilege of his position, we’re not going to get anywhere by trying to fight the system.’

‘I guess you’re right,’ Alex said. ‘In any case, let’s head home and beat the crap out of some metal. Always cheers me up when I’m angry!’


After their evening meal, Alex and Marcus walked to their favourite spot: an outcropping that overlooked the entire village. From here, they could see the school house, the town with the mayor’s office, and the modest smithy. The outcropping was also the best place to view the stars; Marcus had always found the night sky calming. They lit a small fire to help stay warm and toast bread.

As they ate and chatted, Marcus’ ears began to prick. He could hear heavy footfalls, approaching rapidly. Then he heard a horse whinny.

‘Did you hear that?’ he asked Alex. ‘Sounded like horses. Who could be visiting at this time night? It’s already snowing out. Most travellers wouldn’t risk being trapped along the mountain road.’

‘It’s rarely anyone friendly,’ he said. ‘I can’t see any lights down there either.’

Marcus felt a wave of dread wash over him. ‘Something doesn’t feel right, Alex. I don’t know what it is. I just have a bad feeling about this.’

‘Come on then,’ Alex said. ‘We’d better check it out.’

As they jogged down the mountainside, they heard a scream.

‘The hell was that?’ Alex said.

‘Don’t know, but it means we need to hurry!’

They began sprinting down the rocky pathway, attempting to avoid lose stones and deep piles of snow. There were lights in the village now, torches lit up. There were at least a dozen, and then suddenly a house caught alight.

‘No!’ Alex shouted. ‘We’re under attack? This can’t be happening. What happened to the guards?’

‘Just keep running!’

Their first destination was the burning house. It was close to them, and only two houses down from the boys’ home. Marcus wanted to make sure nobody was trapped inside, and evacuate anyone who was, before they ran home to fetch weapons.

[WC 2,125] up in this
Last edited by Jiro on Wed Nov 02, 2011 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hu

Post by smiley_cow »

That mayor is a dick. Good start, I'm looking forward to your next update to see what's going on.
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Re: Hu

Post by Apocalyptus »

Yeah, I'd like to know how old the kids are supposed to be too. Or are they young adults?
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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

They're meant to be like late teens because I can never write characters outside my age range unless they are either super young or super old.

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Re: Hu


I can't write people at all, but I guess I'll try anyway.
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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

Write about animals then, or about inanimate objects that suddenly COME TO LIFE. Yeah I'll post my "work" for the day at midnight so I can actually have more than three words. "It was a" is not a decent contribution.

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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

Marcus burst through the door and quickly looked around. The main entryway was already alight, which meant they had to move quick or risk being trapped in a collapsing inferno. Alex ran down one hallway, towards the bedrooms. Marcus ran into the kitchen area and stopped dead as he saw a man wielding a bloodied blade.


The words escaped his mouth before he could stop them. The stranger turned and laughed. Despite the heat, Marcus felt a chill run through him, and his arm hair stood on end.

‘Another one come to play, hey?’ the stranger giggled. ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be fun!’

‘Not a chance.’

Marcus took a step forward and, in one swift rotation, grabbed a stool and launched it towards the man. He wasn’t quick enough to dodge it, and Marcus leapt forwards, planted both feet on his chest and catapulted him backwards. The man flew backwards, crashing into the pantry and then falling to the ground. As he climbed to his feet, Marcus kicked in the jaw. There was a crack and he fell still.

Marcus let his gaze linger on the bloody body of the house owner. His name was Mr Gareth; he’d been a frequent customer at the smithy, always needing nails for his carpentry and woodworking. Marcus said a quick prayer as he retrieved the sword lying on the floor.

‘Why? Why are we being attacked by these bandits?’

As he smashed a fist down on the bench, a section of roof collapsed beside him, flaring and covering him in embers. He jumped backwards; there was no way forward now, all he could do now was hope everyone had already escaped. As he retreated back to the main entry way, Alex rounded the corner.

‘Any luck?’

Marcus shook his head.

As they exited the building, several large sections of the roof collapsed, drawing the attention of several more black clad men nearby.

‘We got us some fleeing rats boys!’ one shouted. ‘Let’s exterminate ‘em!’

‘Damn it. Outnumbered, and I don’t even have a weapon,’ Alex said. ‘Guess we’ve got no choice but to fight.’

The four bandits circled around, trapping their backs to the building. Marcus stepped to the left slowly, giving himself room to fight; he didn’t want to injure Alex by accident. The rightmost man attacked first, running wildly towards Alex.

‘I’m gonna make mincemeat out of you, punk!’

Alex dodged as the man slashed at him, kicking him in the knee. As the bandit dropped, Alex stomped on his hand, dislodging the weapon and breaking several fingers. Alex grabbed him by the throat and pulled him up.

‘I hope this hurts.’

He kneed the man in the stomach and then punched him in the face repeatedly. Another assailant ran forwards, but Alex deflected the attack with the man he was holding. He struck out and latched onto the second man’s sword arm, breaking it with a swift crunch and then kicking him to the ground.

Marcus was busy trying to fend off both his attackers. They were attacking in tandem, disrupting his balance and destroying his opportunities to attack. Their attacks were quick and fast, and slowly Marcus was pushed back towards the wall of the burning house, trapped. He feinted right, and tried to break away to the left. A quick strike from his opponent nearly caught him, but he managed to deflect it. He stumbled backwards and tripped on a tree root, crashing to the ground.

As he looked up, he could see his enemies approaching. Past them, several more bandits were making their way towards them, eager to put down any resistance. His vision was invaded from all angles by the bright light of the burning buildings. As he tried to regain his footing, a vicious roar erupted from behind him.

Georg sprinted forwards and dispatched the two bandits above Marcus with a swift spinning cut. He quickly offered Marcus a hand, and pulled him to his feet.

‘Get Alex and get to the house. Now.’

Marcus nodded. Georg was an experienced fighter, and this was not the time to be arguing. Hayley would probably be alone in the house too; they had to make sure she was safe. As he hurried over to Alex, Georg charged forwards to meet the approaching bandits. The clashing of swords filled the sky, drowning out the hissing and crackling of flames and the melting snow.

‘We need to get back to the house,’ Marcus said.

‘What? No! We have to help, there’s too many of them!’

‘Your father will be fine! No ordinary bandits could take him down, no matter how many there are,’ Marcus said. ‘We need to check on your mother, and once she’s somewhere safe, we can start worrying about everyone else.’

‘Yeah, I guess you’re right…’

‘Let’s hurry then, we don’t have time to spare!’

They sprinted towards the house, keeping an eye out for any bandits in the area. The front door was closed, and there were no signs of fire. Alex knocked loudly.

‘Open up ma, quickly!’

Marcus could hear a response and then the heavy bolt slide as the door was unlocked. Hayley stood at the door, looking distraught but unhurt.

‘Quickly boys, come inside,’ she said. ‘It’s too dangerous out there now. Let your father take care of everything.’

She hurried away, returning to the living room. There was nothing she could do but wait for it to be over soon.

‘Lock the door behind you, quickly now,’ she said. ‘Come and sit, we’ll just sit and wait.’

Marcus re-bolted the door and followed Alex in the living room. Nausea overtook him and he sprinted to the kitchen, vomiting into the sink. He’d seen too much death already tonight. It was not a new experience, but the sight was something altogether unfamiliar. Marcus shook his head and spat.

‘He would’ve killed me if I didn’t get to him first,’ he said. ‘He killed Mr Gareth and would’ve killed me too if he had the chance. I had to do it.’

‘Don’t think about it,’ Alex said, entering the kitchen. ‘Now isn’t the time to feel guilty. They’re bad men, Marcus.’

Marcus went to argue, but bit his tongue. Alex was right; this wasn’t the time to worry about things. There were still bandits attacking the village and innocent people were in danger.

‘We need to get back out there,’ Marcus said. ‘We need to help.’

‘That’s more like it!’ Alex said.

The sound of shattering glass interrupted their conversation. Hayley’s screamed pierced their eardrums.

Their reactions were instantaneous. For a split second they looked at each other, a mix of fear and confusion shared between them. Then they had turned, sprinting back towards the living room.

They arrived too late. Hayley was already lying on the floor, a deep wound across her torso oozing blood. The man standing above her spat and then turned to face the boys.

‘Bitch tried to crack me with a vase,’ he said. ‘Got what she deserved if you ask me.’

Alex was across the room before Marcus had a chance to blink. He threw a high punch, and was met with a blow to the kidney. He was thrown sideways, his momentum propelling him into the wall behind the bandit. As he climbed to his feet, he was kicked again, sliding further along the floor.

‘Not so tough now, are ya?’

Marcus picked up the sword Alex had dropped earlier and threw it. It speared the man in the shoulder, surprising him and pinning him to the wall.

‘Think you’re funny, kid?’ he said. He pulled the blade from his shoulder and dropped it on the floor. ‘We’ll see who’s laughing when your friend goes the same way as the old bitch there.’

As he turned his focus to Alex, Marcus stepped forward and kicked the overturned vase. There was a crunch as several toes broke, and a crack as the vase broke into several pieces, showering the bandit in shards. Marcus leapt forward and lashed out with his leg, striking the man in the leg. He recovered the fallen sword and slashed upwards, opening a large cut along the man’s chest. As he regained his balance and moved to attack, Marcus thrust the blade through his chest and deep into the wall.

‘Not bad… for a kid,’ the man said, spitting blood. ‘But it… doesn’t matter… anyway. You’re… all gonna… burn.’

Marcus smacked him in the face and he went limp.

‘Alex, get up. Come on, get up!’

He could hear a soft sobbing. Marcus knelt and put his hand on Alex’s shoulder.

‘You’ve gotta get up Alex,’ he said. Alex batted his hand away.

Marcus sighed and moved to Hayley. There was no sign of life left in her; he hoped it had been quick, at least. He whispered a prayer and then returned to Alex.

‘Let’s go,’ he said. ‘We can still do something out there. We can still save people.’

Alex stood and wiped his face. ‘You’re right,’ he said. His voice quivered. ‘Just, give me one minute.’

Marcus nodded and left the room. He didn’t know what to say, what to do. His parents died a long time ago, before he was old enough to realise what had happened and what it all meant. Hayley had been like a mother to him, she had raised him as her own, and her death stirred a deep pain within him, but he could not understand what Alex was thinking, what he was feeling. All he could do was let Alex make his peace.

A few moments later Alex joined him, carrying the two swords. He handed one to Marcus.

‘Here,’ he said. ‘I’m… I’m sorry about that.’

‘Save it. Don’t start going mushy on me,’ Marcus said. ‘We’ve got a job to do. Are you up to it?’

‘Guess we’ll find out. All I know is, I’d rather be angry than sad. I want to make them hurt.’

‘Let’s do it then.’

Their destination was the centre of the village, where Georg had been fighting earlier. If things were already under control there, then Alex and Marcus would be able to start trying to douse the fires and check for survivors. If not, then they’d just have to join the fight.

They could still hear the clashing of blades. Marcus could see Georg duelling. His skill was remarkable; it seemed like he danced around and between his enemies, striking with deadly precision and finesse. He was still outnumbered though, and tiring. Alex leapt into the fray, moving to defend his father from the onslaught of attackers. Marcus circled behind them, attacking from the flank and trying to incapacitate as many enemies as he could.

Georg gave no indication that he’d noticed them. He was focused on his fight, and distractions would only be a disadvantage. Marcus moved towards his next enemy, his eyes scanning the village square constantly for threats. A ripple cut through the air, and then he heard the thwack of an arrow piercing skin. Georg stifled a cry of pain and slashed at the enemy closest to him.


Alex’s lapse in concentration allowed his enemy to catch him off guard, sending him stumbling backwards. As he regained his footing, he saw Georg step in front of him and cut down the enemy. Marcus sidestepped his opponent and started sprinting towards the bowman. If he could just take him down…

There was another twang, a ripple and then a thwack as the second arrow struck Georg in the chest. He dropped to one knee momentarily. A bandit approached from his left; he slashed at him, his attack slow and cumbersome. It lacked the fluidity he had displayed earlier.

The attack had left his rear exposed and two more enemies latched onto the opportunity. Their blades sliced deep. Georg coughed, spluttering blood. He looked down and saw two blades protruding from his chest. As they were removed, he fell to his knees.

‘No! Georg!’ Marcus cried. As he reached the bowman he attacked, cutting him down. He cursed, but the damage had already been done.

‘Alex... Marcus… run.’

Georg roared once more, leaping to his feet. He spun, slashing the necks of the two men behind him. As their bodies crumpled, Georg slashed one last time, his blade cutting deep into the remaining foe.

‘We… all die here… tonight,’ he said, and thrust his blade through the man’s stomach. With that, he collapsed.

Alex scrambled to his feet, screaming, and ran to his father’s unmoving body.

‘No!’ he cried. ‘No, no this can’t be happening! Get up father, get up!’

Marcus staggered towards them. He was in shock; how could Georg have been defeated? What in God’s name had happened tonight? What was it all for?

He fell to his knees beside Alex and sat silent. This was the thing of nightmares, a horror story.

[Total word count 4278]

I sort of added a little bit of extra text to the first part, I'll edit that in briefly. I hate writing fight scenes, I'm rubbish at them. I can picture them perfectly in my head, and I think it would work brilliantly on screen, but it's just fucking impossible in text. I don't even really know where these bandits really came from, I just needed a way to get Marcus and Alex to bugger off out of their village. The original idea of them just kind of "leaving" didn't really fly but I couldn't see any other way, hence the bandits, but then I was like "but why would they leave?" hence the MASS MURDER OF EVERYONE. We'll see how it all turns out I suppose.

Good to see I've built up a larger buffer though.

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Re: Hu

Post by carbonstealer »

Hey, why settle for a peaceful exit when you can murder all these innocent people
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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

Better than last year where I pulled a Hamlet and just killed fucking everyone at the end. Mostly the hero though. That was the best bit. Killing the main character. Also I am a master at creating characters who are bipolar. One minute they're all "oh no I killed a man *vomit*" then they're like "oh no my family is dead *cry*" and then next they're like "let's go on a fucking holiday *laugh*" and "winter is good means bacon and no bears *joke*".


It was all a bad dream, none of it was real. Yet Marcus knew he was kidding himself; he could smell the blood, the ash. He could feel the damp snow on his knees and the gentle wind wafting against his face. This was their cruel reality now. There was nothing else to it.


For a brief instant, the sound of roosters signalling the sun’s rise fooled Marcus, convinced him that the events of the night had been just a dream. The cold truth sunk in as he moved through the house, broken glass and overturned furniture littering the floor.

He moved into the yard. Alex was lying propped against a tree, a large blanket shielding him from the cold. Beside him lay a shovel. Marcus wiped the sleep from his eyes as the events following Georg’s death played out in his mind.

Alex’s grief had turned to rage, and his search for someone, anyone to channel his pain at. There was no one left, no enemies standing; he kicked and punched the corpses of the fallen bandits. He could no longer hurt them, but the impact on his knuckles, the sound of crunching bones; it brought him some small solace. Marcus watched silently until Alex had exhausted himself.

They’d carried Georg’s body back to the house and laid him beside his wife. Alex moved to the yard and fetched a shovel. He was going to put his parents to rest. There would be no ceremony, no extravagance. They would be buried together, a memorial to their lives and to the tragic events of the night. The ultimate sacrifice in defence of the village would not go unnoticed.

As they were laid to rest, Marcus and Alex were silent. Words were unnecessary. They understood each other, and grieved for their loss. In time they would talk, but until then, a warm presence was all they required of each other.

Marcus forced a faint smile. Even with the chicken enclosure so near, Alex still slept undisturbed. He walked over and sat beside Alex. Asleep, he looked at peace, untroubled. Today was the beginning of a difficult journey for them, and for the entire village. Those who were left would need to rebuild, their lives and their homes. What they needed most now was unity.


‘What are you trying to say?’ Alex screamed. ‘That we’re responsible for this?’

The mayor stared him down unflinching. ‘A man like your father has a lot of old acquaintances,’ he said, turning his back. ‘Not all of them are the friendly type.’

‘I refuse to believe this. You are insane,’ Alex said. ‘This isn’t funny, this is not the time for bad humour!’

Baku spun, smashing his fists on the desk. ‘Now you listen to me, boy! Your family caused this and I’ll be damned if you’re going to wipe your hands of it. Too many people died here–’

‘Yes, too many people did die last night. Two of them were my parents, you swine. My father died defending the village and what? What did he die for? So you could try and exact some kind of punishment on us?’ Alex said. ‘This doesn’t have anything to do with the attack, does it? This is all just a convenient way for you to get us out of the picture. We’re a simple scapegoat so you can look good.’

Baku shifted his weight and opened his mouth to respond, but Alex cut him off.

‘Save your breath; nothing you say means anything to me. You are a greater villain than any single man that attacked us last night, and you’re all the worse by your choice to hide behind lies and cast blame on others. I’m leaving, and I won’t be back.’

On his way out, Alex hit the wall, leaving a small crack. Marcus watched him, but lingered in the office.

‘You’re a despicable man, Mayor Baku,’ he said. ‘Where were you last night when people were dying and the houses were burning? Hiding under your bed no doubt, hoping and praying for somebody to save you.’

He moved sideways, idly taking a book from a shelf and flicking through it.

‘We’re not heroes,’ Marcus said. ‘We don’t want praise, or adulation. There won’t be statues built of us, and we wouldn’t want them. Last night was a great tragedy, but we won’t be remembered for our part.’

He tore a page from the book, scrunching it into a ball and tossing it towards the desk.

‘But neither will you. Nobody will praise you. Nobody will build statues of you. You did not protect the people, you did not save them. Their pain and fear and anger will need an outlet, and it will be directed at you,’ Marcus said. ‘And as for the man, who in his dying breath cast out the last enemy, who singlehandedly saved us all from a more gruesome fate – he will be remembered Mr Mayor. He is a hero, and there is nothing you can do about that.’

He threw the book onto the floor.

‘And I hope it eats you up inside.’


When Marcus caught up to Alex, he was already packing his things into bags. The table was hidden beneath a storm of papers and piles of food. Other miscellaneous items littered the floor around Alex.

‘I hope you’re packing for two,’ Marcus said.

Alex glanced up at him briefly. ‘You don’t need to come with me.’

‘You expect me to stay here?’

‘They’ll need someone to work the forge.’

‘On my own?’

‘You know more than enough to make a living. You’d be comfortable.’

‘And what about you Alex?’ Marcus asked. ‘Where are you going? Do you even know what you’ll do once you get there?’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ Alex said. ‘I’ll figure it out as I go. I can’t stay here any longer. It’s not even just that bastard mayor and his forked tongue. It’s just… it’s too painful.’

‘I understand that Alex. More than you think,’ Marcus said. ‘Which is why I’m not letting you just walk out of here on your own. We’re family.’

Alex paused. ‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘Of course you’re right.’

He sat back in his chair and sighed. ‘Here, pack some clothes,’ he said, handing Marcus a bag.

‘I’m glad you’ve seen reason,’ Marcus said. ‘If we stick together, we’ll be fine. A general destination wouldn’t go astray, though.’

Alex began ruffling through the papers on the table. He found a small leather book and handed it to Marcus.

‘Here. Maps.’

‘Where’d you find these?’ Marcus said, flipping through the pages. There were a variety of different maps of different scales and subjects. He found what seemed to be a city layout, labelled “Kita’an”. He’d never heard of such a place, though all Marcus knew of the outside world had come from Georg’s stories anyway. He turned the page and saw a familiar name – Garif – the name of their village.

‘Here!’ he said. ‘This one shows us here. The nearest town is Zabra, to the east.’

Alex grabbed the map and peered over it. ‘Not far enough. We’ll head for Zabra, but we should continue onto Port Ciel, there,’ Alex said, pointing at a small dot on the coast. ‘Father always used to say that ports and harbours were good places to get information and find a new direction. That sounds exactly like what we need right now.’

‘Besides,’ he continued, ‘I’ve always wanted to see the ocean.’

‘Our path is set then,’ Marcus said. ‘But what do we do about all of this?’

He gestured around the house. They couldn’t take it all with them.

Alex shrugged. ‘We take what we need, and leave the rest. Someone else can make use of it. In different circumstances I might have tried to sell everything, but right now I’m just itching to be free of this place.’

He paused for a second. ‘Actually, speaking of…’

Alex jumped to his feet and headed towards the back door. ‘You keep packing. I’ve some animals to cut loose.’

While Alex took care of the livestock, Marcus continued to stuff his pack full of clothing. They would need as much clothing as they could carry to survive cold nights outside the village. If they didn’t keep warm, they would freeze to death.

Food was important too. Marcus grabbed another pack and began packing it with containers full of food. Anything that would expire quickly would have to be eaten quickly and was of little use them on the road. Fruits and berries could be found growing wild, and dried to preserve them for longer. Meats would have to be hunted though, and there would be little to find at this time of year. They would need to ration then, to ensure they didn’t starve.

Marcus heard the door open again as Alex returned. Dirt was falling from his clothes, creating tiny piles on the floor. He laughed and brushed his hair back, removing grass and hay from his matted hair.

‘They gave me a bit of trouble,’ he said, grinning. ‘Bet they’ll be an even bigger surprise to everyone else.’

‘Well I, for one, won’t miss those damned roosters,’ Marcus said. He was glad Alex could still laugh.

‘What else do we need to pack?’ Marcus asked.

‘We’ve packed clothes,’ Alex replied. ‘I’ll put the maps in with the other general equipment: ropes, pots, tinderbox and such.’

He rustled amongst some papers and found a small case. ‘Here,’ he said, tossing it to Marcus. ‘That’s all the money we’ve got. It’ll keep us going for a while. And if you wait one moment, I’ll grab us a bedroll each. Father certainly had enough gear lying around.’

‘What about weapons?’ Marcus said. ‘Just in case.’

‘Good point. I’m sure there’s some lying around here somewhere.’

Alex disappeared, leaving Marcus to continue packing. He made sure the maps were safe and secure within the pack, and then relaxed back in his chair. This was all happening so fast, but he was more excited than anything. Here was their chance to see the world for themselves. They had been rushed into independence, but Marcus knew they would be able to handle anything so long as they stuck together.

Alex returned, two bedrolls on his back and two swords at his side. He dropped them on the sofa and walked over to the bowl of fruit. He took an apple and spun it about in his hand.

‘Got everything together now?’ Alex asked.

‘I can’t think of anything we’re missing,’ Marcus said. ‘We have all the essentials. Anything else we’ll be able to pick up as we go, I guess.’

‘Good. Get your stuff together then Marcus,’ Alex said. He took a bite out of the apple and smiled.

‘We’re going on an adventure.’


The mountain road was dangerous during winter, and prone to rockslides and mini avalanches. The sky was already dark, and light fog obscured their vision. Alex and Marcus tread carefully and remained silent. Loud noises could dislodge a large section of snow, and being buried alive was not their ideal start to a journey. After a time the road began to slope downwards, and soon the fog became denser and visibility was reduced to just a few metres ahead of them at a time.

Marcus put his hand on Alex’s shoulder and leaned in to whisper in his ear.

‘We have to stick close together,’ he said. ‘It’s too easy to be separated in this, and we can’t call out for each other if we get lost.’

‘Good thinking,’ Alex replied. ‘Just hang onto my shoulder. I’ll lead.’

Progress was slow for the next hour, but as time passed and the sun rose higher, the fog began to disperse and visibility returned. The snow ceased to fall next, and then the first few rays of sunlight pierced the foggy veil, gently warming their faces.

As the fog subsided, thick forest appeared in the distance. The mountain road snaked downwards and disappeared into the trees. It was the first milestone of their journey; neither of them had left the village in their eighteen years. When they finally reached the tree line, Marcus sighed in relief. They had made it through the mountain road, during winter, without any incident. Here, on the lowlands, the snow was lighter and what had already fallen was already beginning to melt. An increase in speed was now possible.

‘Aren’t you glad it’s winter?’ Alex said.

Marcus gave him a blank look. ‘Not particularly, why?’

‘In winter, a lot of animals hibernate, including bears.’

‘On second thought, you’re right. I wouldn’t want to encounter a bear in these woods,’ Marcus said. ‘Let’s pray that nothing else decides to meet us instead.’

They soon stopped to rest and eat. Marcus hung his packs on the branch of a tree, retrieving another apple from his pack. Their stop could only be brief; they wanted to be outside the forest before nightfall. Alex stretched and sat on the driest patch of dirt he could find.

‘Who knew walking could be so draining?’ he said.

‘Our packs are heavy, the road has mostly been thick snow and my muscles ache from the cold,’ Marcus said. ‘These have to be some of the least desirable circumstances for a long distance journey. I only wish we could have brought horses.’

‘Now that’s an idea,’ Alex said. ‘I’m surprised I didn’t think of it earlier. No matter though; we wouldn’t have made it through the mountain if we were on horseback. No doubt we’d be trapped in an avalanche as we speak.’

Their first night on the road was spent under the stars. They huddled together, cocooned in the bedrolls to keep as warm as possible. A small fire burned nearby, its warmth melting into them, its light a beacon in the night. Marcus had been hesitant to light the fire. It could attract danger to them while they were vulnerable, but ultimately the risk of freezing to death was a fair closer threat.


When Marcus awoke, he was struck immediately by two things: the crackling of the fire, and the absence of roosters. He sat up, wiping his eyes. The sun was not yet peeking above the hills on the horizon, but they sky was beginning to lighten already. A drop of snow landed on the back of his hand. He smiled; it was a beautiful morning.

He heard Alex stir beside him. Marcus untangled himself from his bedroll and fetched some food from the packs. He sat by the fire, placing some more branches and twigs on top to try rekindle it. Once the fire was ablaze again, Marcus began cooking. Alex soon joined him beside the fire.

‘Aren’t you glad it’s winter?’ Alex asked.

‘What for this time?’ Marcus said, smiling. ‘Surely the lack of bears is the greatest benefit of the bitter chills I have right now.’

‘If it wasn’t winter, if it wasn’t so cold that I can’t feel my face,’ Alex said, ‘then the bacon you’re cooking wouldn’t have kept this long.’

[6810 total words currently]

I will give 100 points to anyone who can spot the "references" (ie places I stole names from) in here. It's surprising how unoriginal I was all these years ago. Editing these all out will be the most satisfying feeling when December rolls around.

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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

Marcus laughed. ‘Is there no end to the advantages of winter?’

‘I’ll let you know if I find any,’ Alex said.

They flicked through the maps during breakfast. The strange names and locations intrigued them. Its pages were a collection of so many foreign locations, places neither of them had ever heard of before. Marcus toyed with the idea of visiting them all; it was an impossible dream.

After breakfast, they set off again. If they kept a solid pace throughout the day, they would be able to reach Zabra by sunset. Neither Alex nor Marcus enjoyed the prospect of another night sleeping out in the cold, no matter how lovely the mornings were.

Their resolve was only strengthened when they reached the top of a large hill and saw the town of Zabra spread out before them. Farmlands surrounded the outskirts of the town, and stone walls encircled the town proper. It was nothing like they had ever seen before.

‘Look how big it is,’ Marcus said. ‘The entirety of Garif could fit in there twice over.’

‘Let’s get down there,’ Alex said. ‘These packs are heavy and I want to sleep in warm bed.’

Before long they passed beneath a stone archway and found themselves inside Zabra. Compared with their hometown, Zabra was bustling with activity. Market stalls dotted the streets and bright signs marked storefronts. Alex and Marcus strolled down the main path, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells.

‘Does it occur to you that we’ve been awfully sheltered,’ Alex asked, ‘or is it just me?’

‘No, I’m feeling it too,’ Marcus said. ‘I bet we must look absolutely idiotic to everyone.’

‘Not idiotic, but comical to be sure,’ a voice said.

Marcus glanced around, trying to identify the source. He soon found it: a young woman sat at a table in front of a café, quietly laughing to herself.

‘Comical, you say?’ Marcus said. ‘I’m glad we’re of some small service to you then.’

‘I don’t suppose ‘we’re new’ is going to cut it,’ Alex said.

The girl laughed and shook her head. ‘Anyone can tell that you’re new here just by looking at you,’ she said. ‘The strangest thing is that you seem new to civilisation in general.’

She looked them up and down. ‘You’re obviously travellers,’ she said. ‘But just the two of you? Where are you going? Where are you from?’

Before they could respond, she shook her head and laughed.

‘Sorry, how very rude of me. Please, have a seat,’ she said. ‘My name is Samantha.’

Alex and Marcus took a seat.

‘Nice to meet you,’ Marcus said. ‘I’m Marcus, and this is Alex.’

‘A pleasure,’ Samantha said.

‘As for your questions,’ Alex said. ‘Well, where do we start?’

‘We’re travelling alone,’ Marcus said.

‘Just the two of you though?’ Samantha said. ‘Where are your parents?’

Alex glanced away and stared at the ground. Marcus shook his head.

‘Oh I’m sorry,’ Samantha said. ‘Sensitive subject? I didn’t mean anything by it.’

‘No no, it’s alright,’ Alex said. ‘We’re from Garif, and headed for Port Ciel.’

‘Garif? As in, the village in the mountains?’ Samantha asked.

Marcus nodded.

‘Impressive. Not many would brave the mountain pass during winter,’ Samantha said.

‘You know of Garif?’ Alex asked.

‘I have, yes,’ she replied. ‘It was supposed to be our next destination, but our journey was delayed and winter had already arrived. We couldn’t risk it, so I imagine we’ll be heading back east.’

‘You said ‘we’ just now,’ Marcus said. ‘Are you travelling with others?’

‘I’m travelling with my father,’ she said. ‘He’s the head of a merchant caravan. We travel around a lot, but it’s rarely boring.’

‘I suppose it would be exciting,’ Marcus said, ‘seeing the world like that. I would love to visit everywhere.’

‘This is your first time out of Garif, right?’ Samantha asked. ‘Just wait until you visit Ciel, Zabra looks miniscule in comparison. And the ocean… it’ll blow you away. There are some really amazing places out there.’

‘It certainly sounds like it,’ Marcus said.

Samantha sat back in her chair and was silent for a moment. She took a sip from her drink.

‘Can I ask what business you have in Ciel?’ she asked.

Alex looked at Marcus and nodded.

‘We don’t really have business there,’ Marcus said. ‘Not in particular. Garif is…’

‘Garif was attacked by bandits two nights past,’ Alex said. ‘They killed my parents and burned half the village to the ground.’

‘I’m very sorry for your loss. What a terrible act of violence,’ Samantha said. She turned to Marcus. ‘And your family?’

‘Ah, no,’ Marcus said. ‘My parents died when I was very young. Georg and Hayley raised me, but… yeah.’

‘Georg and Hayley, you said? That’s a strange coincidence…’

‘Pardon? I’m afraid you’ll have to be clearer,’ Alex said. ‘Did you know my parents?’

‘Your father wasn’t a blacksmith, by any chance, was he?’ Samantha asked.

‘Yes… How did you know?’

‘I think our parents knew each other,’ Samantha said. ‘The similarities are there. It’s almost too close to be a coincidence. My father used to tell me stories about a man named Georg. I didn’t think there was any truth to them. After all, my favourite story was the one where he defeated a dragon to save a village called Ridgewood.’

‘Killed a dragon?’ Alex said. ‘My father was tough, but I don’t think he could kill dragons, even if they were real.’

‘No, I guess not,’ Samantha said. ‘But there was a story about him fighting his way to the top of a tower to rescue a young woman named Hayley, who he married. They apparently moved to a small village where he became a blacksmith.’

‘Those are some interesting coincidences,’ Marcus said. ‘It’s just a little too hard for me to believe.’

‘I would like to meet your father,’ Alex said. ‘I want to know more. What if he did know my father? What if it’s true?’

‘My curiosity has been piqued too,’ Samantha said. ‘Come with me, we’ll go see my father now.’

She led them to an inn and took them upstairs. Marcus could hear multiple voices talking in the next room. Samantha knocked.

‘Yes? Who is it?’ a man’s voice said.

‘It’s just me father,’ Samantha said. ‘I’ve brought some guests to see you.’

‘Just a minute,’ he replied. ‘I’ll just finish up here. Take a seat.’

He gave directions to the other people in the room with him. Samantha led them into another room and invited them to sit. After a short wait, Marcus heard the scrape of a chair and then footsteps approach. The door opened and a tall, solid man appeared. He was bald, and his short, black beard was dotted with specks of grey.

‘Welcome back Samantha,’ he said. ‘And these are our guests? Welcome! My name is Jonathan, and as I’m sure you’re aware, I’m in charge of the Golden Trail Caravan. How may I help you?’

‘Actually, we had some questions to ask you,’ Alex said. ‘Samantha tells us you may know my father, Georg.’

‘I’m afraid you will have to be more specific than that, I’m afraid,’ Jonathan said. ‘I know many people, in many places.’

‘It’s about those stories you used to tell me as a child,’ Samantha said. ‘Georg the dragon slayer, you remember?’

Jonathan cleared his throat. ‘You say he is your father?’

‘Yes,’ Alex said. ‘What do you know of him?’

‘Where to begin…’ Jonathan started. ‘Your father and I have known each other for a long time. We were travelling companions for a while.’

‘You were? Wait, are you sure it’s the same person?’ Alex said. ‘How do you know?’

‘You’re from Garif, no? The Georg I knew moved there to become a blacksmith when his wife, Hayley, fell pregnant.’

Alex fell silent, overwhelmed by the information.

‘Georg has been a good friend to me, and a strong business partner whenever we visited your village. We were on our way there before the snow set in,’ Jonathan said. ‘What brings you to Zabra? How fares your father?’

Alex shook his head, and took a seat on a sofa.

‘Garif was attacked,’ Marcus said. ‘Georg and Hayley… they didn’t make it.’

‘Attacked? Why? By who?’ Jonathan asked. ‘This can’t be.’

‘It’s true,’ Marcus said. ‘There was nothing left for us in Garif, so we left, and here we are.’

‘That is sad news,’ Jonathon said. ‘Tell me, what are your plans now? Where are you headed?’

‘We’re just… wandering,’ Marcus said. ‘Our goal was Port Ciel. We were going to start afresh, find somewhere else to live, somewhere else to work.’

‘I think I have an idea. Follow me,’ Jonathan said. ‘We’ve got to discuss your new role within our caravan.’


The Golden Trail caravan departed from Zabra with its two new companions. Alex and Marcus were placed in the care of Cid, the merchant’s head smith. Georg had taught the boys numerous metalworking techniques, and their skills would make them a useful addition to the team. While Cid was a master of his trade, he was ageing and before long, the arduous and physically taxing labour of smithing would be too much. The arrival of Alex and Marcus was opportune.

Their first days travelling with the caravan were dominated with learning the ropes. The caravan consisted of seven large wagons pulled by a pair of sturdy horses each. These wagons functioned as mobile workshops, dorms and warehouses. There were a number of tradesmen, in the caravan, but numbers had ballooned as they married and had children. The Golden Trail caravan was more akin to a travelling village than a group of merchants, and it even had its own security detail.

Alex and Marcus also spent time getting to know Richard, who was in charge of the caravan’s security. While they were not trained soldiers, their fighting skills would be an asset to the defence of the caravan and ease the burden on the small team of security. Jonathan asked Richard to train the boys in combat; the more skilled fighters they had, the less likely an attack would be.

As they travelled, Alex and Marcus rode in a wagon with Samantha. To pass the time, she told them about her background, her family and her hometown.

‘I was born in a small mining town called Opal,’ she said. ‘As you can probably gather, the town was named after the gemstone. Opals weren’t the only thing we mined, but it was the first and most popular.’

‘So how did you come to be travelling merchants?’ Alex asked.

‘Well, my father decided the best way to make a profit was to take gems abroad and sell them direct in other towns and cities,’ Samantha said. ‘But the elder took issue with this. He thought it was a betrayal, thought father was trying to steal all the profits. He banished my father from the village.’

‘That’s crazy!’ Alex said. ‘But I understand it better than you think.’

Samantha nodded. ‘When he left, several others followed him, and so the Golden Trail Caravan was born.’

‘What of your mother?’ Marcus asked.

‘She remained behind,’ she said. ‘Her parents, my grandparents, needed care, and mother could not bear to leave them or their house unattended.’

‘And she was happy to let you go?’ Alex asked. ‘I don’t think I could have left Garif if my parents were still there. I would worry too much.’

‘My father and I were always close,’ Samantha said. ‘Mother knew this, and she understood. She sent me off with a smile and a kiss, there was no sorrow in her face. We return every spring, so I do not find myself homesick.’

‘That’s very brave of you,’ Marcus said. ‘It would have been tough, making the decision to leave your home and mother for a life on the road.’

‘I love it though,’ she said. ‘Every day is an adventure! We get to visit exciting places, and see amazing sights. You haven’t lived until you’ve stood atop a cliff overlooking the ocean, feeling the gently wafting sea breeze against your face, hearing the call of seagulls.’

‘I long to see the ocean with my own eyes,’ Marcus said.

‘And you will soon be granted that wish!’ Samantha said. ‘We will be arriving in Ciel before long. I will take you down to the seaside and you can experience the coarse sand and watch the waves roll onto the shore yourself.’


Nothing like awkwardly connecting plot threads together. Oh goodness.

Total wordcount sitting at 10,495

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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

Marcus could smell Nackle on the air; they were nearing Ciel. He leaned out the door of the wagon. Behind them, the wagons stretched on, weaving their way along the worn road. The trees were beginning to thin now, and they had long since left the snow behind. Ahead, Ciel approached. The city seemed to have pressed itself against the ocean, sprawling out along the shoreline. Even from a distance Marcus could tell it was much larger than Zabra. The entirety of Garif could have fit inside Ciel multiple times over.

When they passed through the gates, Marcus was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city. It was bustling with activity too; stores and stalls were packed next to one another along the street, and a sea of people strolled about their daily business. The wagons slowly rolled down the street, gathering eyes as it went. Before long they stopped and Samantha stood.

‘This is where we get off,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry, the others will take care of everything else. We’re to go inside and organise lodgings.’

‘For everyone?’ Marcus asked. ‘There’s so many of us, and the wagons are so large!’

‘Not everyone stays in lodgings,’ Samantha explained. ‘The wagons have to be guarded, so we take turns watching over them. Richard’s men always draw the short straw though; we need them on guard always, in case of armed attack.’

‘I suppose we’ll have our turn out there soon,’ Marcus said. ‘We’re trainee caravan guards now, after all.’

‘Don’t worry, you have me on your side,’ Samantha said. ‘I’ll make sure you settle in gently. Just stick with me and you’ll be just fine.’

They followed Samantha inside and up to the reception area. Jonathan was already inside, talking to the receptionist.

‘Certainly sir, we can accommodate your needs,’ the woman said. She scrawled on a notepad on her desk. ‘Would you like to pay in full up front, or just a deposit?’

‘In full is fine,’ Jonathan said. He reached into his bag and withdrew a wallet, handing over a large sum of money. ‘This should suffice. Keep the change, dear.’

‘Thank you sir,’ the receptionist said. ‘The third floor is all booked out for you, and there are some extra rooms on the second floor. Here are your keys.’

She placed a stack of keys on the desk in front of her. ‘If there is anything you require, please feel free to ask.’

‘Thank you very much,’ Jonathan said. He turned to Samantha. ‘Here, take the keys and begin assigning rooms. Place our rowdy young companions in rooms on the third floor; we don’t want them disturbing any other guests. I’ll go help organise the rest of them now.’

‘All under control father,’ Samantha said. ‘You can count on us!’

‘I have no doubt,’ he said. He smiled, gave her a slight tap on the head and then left to take care of business.

‘Shall we go upstairs?’ Samantha said. ‘We’ll have to pick the best room for ourselves.’

Marcus raised an eyebrow. ‘We’re going to be sharing a room?’ he said. ‘Do you think that’s alright?’

‘I can’t see why not,’ she replied. ‘We’ve been staying in the same wagon for several days now, and someone needs to keep an eye on you. If you’re worried about my father, don’t. He knows I can take care of myself, neither of you are a danger to me.’

She threw a couple of playful punches at them and smiled. ‘Besides, there’ll be two others staying with us. We outnumber you, so no funny business.’

‘Wouldn’t dream of it,’ Marcus said. ‘Come on then, let’s get a move on.’


Once they had chosen a room, Samantha sent Alex and Marcus off to find the wagons and return with their belongings. Anything they needed for the next few days would stay with them while the merchants went about their business.

‘You think she would have told us to bring our bags when we got off,’ Alex said. ‘Save us the trouble of wandering through this enormous place without the faintest idea of where we’re headed.’

‘We just need to head away from the sea,’ Marcus said. ‘Though it’s hard to tell which way that is with all these giant buildings around. I feel like an ant, everything is so large that I could be crushed at any second.’

He jumped backwards suddenly as a carriage pottered past.

‘See what I mean?’

‘There would have been some poetic beauty in that, had you been hit by that wagon,’ Alex said, stifling a laugh. ‘Imagine it!’

‘I’m quite content with living at the moment, so I don’t think I shall. Regardless, it interrupted my line of thought,’ Marcus said. ‘What was I going to say before? Oh, right, about the bags. Samantha didn’t take her bag in with her, so I don’t think it was intentional.’

‘Or she just wanted us to carry it for her,’ Alex said. ‘I suppose we’re her little servants or something now. Waiting on her hand and foot, sent off on errands and chores.’

‘And yet you don’t seem too disappointed by that.’

‘Well I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like her,’ Alex laughed. ‘She’s interesting, and intelligent, and very easy on the eye to boot. Not much more I could ask for in a woman, really.’

‘I suppose not,’ Marcus said. ‘I suppose not.’

After minutes of confused wandering, they stopped and for directions. They had been heading in the right general direction, fortunately, and it wasn’t long before they found the exit. The wagons had been drawn up together further down the wall, and Marcus could see people flitting back and forth, unpacking. The horses had long since departed, taken to the stables by one group or another. While this rendered the wagons completely immobile, it was an effective defence; thieves would require sturdy horses of their own if they wanted to make off with them, and that was if they could best Richard and his men.

The boys collected their belongings quickly, making sure to grab Samantha’s pack, and followed the others into town. It was fortunate that they had people to follow, as neither Alex nor Marcus had taken note of the inn’s name, and so they would have found it nigh on impossible to successfully return. The sea of people in the street seemed to be growing as the afternoon wore on, and several times they were almost separated, but Alex and Marcus soon made it back. As they climbed the staircase to the third floor, Marcus commented on the size of the crowds.

‘Who knew you could fit that many people in the city,’ he said. ‘I’m surprised there is room for them all to live and work. Ciel is large, to be sure, but I never imagined its population was this size!’

‘I agree with you completely,’ Alex said. ‘This is all quite a shock to me too. I fear we’re still a little out of our depth, but we’ll adapt soon, I’m sure.’

‘And so we would hope,’ Samantha said. She appeared at the top of the staircase, smiling. ‘What took you so long? Did you stop to eat, or do you dawdle that slowly regularly?’

‘We got lost,’ Marcus said.

‘Should I have given you a map to help you on your way?’

‘Why yes,’ Alex said. ‘Yes you should have. That was a gross oversight on your part. A compass would not have gone astray either, and perhaps telescope or two to help us see the great distances to our destination.’

‘Listen to mister adventurer extraordinaire go,’ Samantha laughed. ‘You sound like a real dab hand suddenly, I’m impressed. But enough chit chat, we have a room to settle into.’

They followed Samantha down the hallway and into their room. The room contained two double sized beds positioned in each of the far corners of the room, and a single bed separating them. A small window let the fading light in through light blue curtains.

‘This is Joanna and this is Khloe,’ Samantha said. ‘They’re sisters and have been bunk companions with me for a few years now.’

‘Since I was around eleven,’ Joanna said. ‘Khloe would have only been about seven then.’

‘As you can see, I’ve been taking care of new comers for a while,’ Samantha said. ‘So don’t think you two are anything special.’

‘Of course not,’ Marcus said. ‘And it’s a pleasure to meet you Joanna, Khloe.’

‘Oh, right, I haven’t introduced you yet,’ Samantha said. ‘This is Marcus and Alex, our newest additions to the Golden Trail family.’

‘Very nice to meet you,’ Khloe said, bowing low. ‘I am pleased to be sharing a room with you.’

‘Cute,’ Alex said. ‘It’s nice to meet you too Khloe, but you don’t have to be so formal. We’re all friends here, right?’

Khloe giggled and hid behind her sister.

‘That means she likes you,’ Joanna said. ‘She’s just a little shy, don’t worry about it.’

‘Not worried in the slightest.’

‘Oh, and before you get any ideas, the girls have that double,’ Samantha said, pointing to the rightmost bed, ‘and I’ve got the single. Tough luck.’

‘Doesn’t bother us,’ Alex said.

‘At least these beds will be warm,’ Marcus said. ‘I could feel the cold seeping in through the walls in the dorm wagon.’

‘Right, well I’ll leave you to get set up in here,’ Samantha said. ‘When you’re ready, head down to the dining room on the first floor; it’s just about time to eat.’


Their first night in Ciel was pleasant and undisturbed. Samantha forced them to retire early, so they would be well rested for the following day. Not only were they going to help her run some errands, but she wanted to take them down to the water and let them relax a while. Marcus appreciated the gesture; after all, in the past week their lives had been turned upside down, shaken to the core and then changed completely. They were no longer simple villagers from Garif. Now they were a part of a merchant caravan, travelling the countryside with a band of new acquaintances. Before he fell asleep, Marcus wondered what could be ahead for them. As he awoke, he just wanted to know what the day held in store.

‘Up up up!’ Samantha said. ‘Daylight’s wasting while you two sleep.’

Marcus had been in a half-awake state for a few minutes already, and leapt out of bed. As he yawned and stretched, he peeked out of the window.

‘You realise the sun isn’t up yet, right?’ Marcus said. ‘You almost had me convinced, but I’ve woken at dawn nearly every day my entire life. You get into a routine; I didn’t really think I could break it that easily.’

‘It was a figure of speech,’ Samantha said. ‘We have things to do today and I want to make we get them all done as early as possible, so we can spend the rest of the day by the beach.’

‘Joanna and Khloe are still asleep,’ Alex said. ‘As I imagine most people are. What could we possibly get done this early in the morning? Only bakers and farmers make use of the predawn hours in Garif.’

‘Do you two always complain so much?’ Samantha asked. ‘Let’s just head downstairs and eat, we’ll leave the girls to sleep without your racket to wake them.’

‘The hypocrisy,’ Marcus said.

‘I love it,’ Alex finished.

After breakfast they departed the inn. Ciel was already beginning to stir, with shopkeepers setting up their displays and house lights switching on as children prepared for school and their parents for work. The doors of a nearby bar opened and a man staggered out. He stumbled past the trio, muttered something under his breath and then fell onto a pile of sacks.

‘That was interesting,’ Marcus said. ‘I’m surprised he could walk at all.’

‘At least he got a soft landing,’ Samantha said. ‘The guards will be along shortly to take care of him. He’ll spend a few hours in a cosy cell until he sobers up, I imagine.’

‘You don’t see that a whole lot in Garif,’ Alex said. ‘The city is certainly an interesting place.’

‘You’re in for a treat then,’ Samantha said. ‘No doubt we’ll see stranger and far more interesting people as we go. You just have to keep an eye out. I met this one woman in Jidoor who thought her chickens were people and she was a chicken.’

Samantha ducked into a clothing store and immediately began sorting through the stock. Alex and Marcus trailed in behind her and loitered uncomfortably; the clothing was all for women, and there was nowhere for them to sit. Even standing against a wall was impossible, as they were lined with displays and hangers.

‘What exactly are we doing today?’ Alex asked. ‘Out of curiosity.’

‘What does it look like?’ Samantha said, smiling. ‘We’re going shopping!’

Alex sighed. ‘I thought there were important errands that needed doing,’ he said. ‘You said you needed our help today, after all.’

‘This is important!’ Samantha said. ‘It’s a female right, no, necessity, to shop, and you can’t deny me that! Besides, we spend so much time on the road that I rarely get to enjoy the simple things. You can’t blame me for wanting to have fun on a day off, can you?’

‘I guess not.’

‘Quick question,’ Marcus said.

‘Yes?’ Samantha said. ‘What’s on your mind, Marcus?’

‘The Golden Trail Caravan seems like a tightly run group. Everybody has to fulfil a specific function. Everyone has a job to do,’ he said. ‘What is yours? So far all we’ve seen you do is babysit us, and now we’re out shopping on a whim. It just strikes me as odd.’

‘The perks of being my father’s daughter,’ she said, laughing. She picked out a dress and put it against herself while she examined it in the mirror. ‘But honestly, it’s not just fun and games for me all the time. My job is vitally important; it just doesn’t always look like it from the outside. I look for new stores and people to trade with, and start building a partnership with them.’

‘I see.’

‘But that’s not all. I also scout for new talent,’ Samantha said, carrying the dress and several other items over to the counter. ‘And I must be good, because here you two are, working with us now. I also look after the young kids occasionally, when both their parents are needed elsewhere.’

‘So basically you’re trying to tell us that this shopping trip is some kind of undercover reconnaissance?’ Alex said. ‘It sounds ridiculous, but I guess it makes sense.’

‘Now you’ve got it!’ Samantha said.

‘That still doesn’t explain why we’re tagging along,’ Marcus said.

‘Simple,’ she said, tossing her bag full of clothes at them. ‘You’ve got to carry my shopping!’

While they stopped at countless stores throughout the morning, Samantha did not purchase much, sparing Alex and Marcus from trying to lug around great stacks of bags. As she trotted into another store, Alex spied a café and made a beeline for the seating.

‘I need to sit, and rest!’ he said as he collapsed into the chair. ‘The walk to Zabra was shorter, and with lighter packs, I swear.’

Marcus sat beside him and sighed. ‘Where does she get the energy?’

‘I don’t know, but I could certainly go for some refreshments.’

He called out to a waiter and ordered drinks for them both. They’d make full use of the brief respite; Samantha would undoubtedly be a while in the store. As Marcus took a sip, he spotted another patron sitting a few tables away, dressed in bright teal robes. He was not an elderly man, though his golden hair was dotted with streaks of grey. His beard was wild and unkempt, giving him the appearance of a wild man or wanderer. He appeared to be staring at the table, as if reading or studying something, though it was completely bare.

‘Do you see that man?’ Marcus said. ‘What is he doing? Is he staring at the table?’

‘There is something entirely strange about him. He just looks… out of place, like he doesn’t belong,’ Alex said. ‘I’m sure the same can be said for us – we aren’t city folk by nature after all – but he seems to take it to a whole new level.’

‘I know what you mean. I’m curious though,’ Marcus said. ‘I want to know more about him. He could have an interesting tale or two to share.’

‘Or he could be an absolute nutter,’ Alex said. ‘Best to play it safely, I say. Besides, Samantha will be done shortly.’

They watched as a waitress approached the man, carrying a meal. She sat it down on the table in front of him – if he noticed the sudden appearance of a meal in his field of vision, he showed no signs of it – and asked if he wanted anything with his food. He was silent for a few moments and then his gaze shot upwards and he locked eyes with her.

‘That’s it!’ he exclaimed, jumping to his feet. ‘I’ve cracked it!’

He picked up what appeared to be a large branch from beside the table, turned on his heel and hurried away, leaving Alex, Marcus and the waitress all very bewildered. The shared moment of confusion was broken by Samantha’s sudden return.

‘Everything alright here?’ she asked.

‘You were right about meeting strange people,’ Marcus said.

‘We just saw the strangest,’ Alex added. ‘But yes, everything is fine. Where to next, slave driver?’

‘First we’ll take all the bags back to the inn.’

‘You mean we’ll take them back,’ Alex interjected. ‘After all, we wouldn’t want you to get tired!’

‘Exactly,’ Samantha said. She flashed him a grin and continued. ‘Once we’ve delivered our packages, it’s onwards to the beach!’

‘A chance to relax,’ Marcus said.

‘Don’t get used to it, I’m going to keep you two busy busy busy!’


Marcus took a sharp breath as the cold water washed over his feet. He stepped back quickly, out of the reach of the next wave and sat on the sand, letting the afternoon sun warm his skin. The stretch of beach was limited by the encroaching docks and jetties, but for the two newcomers, it was an incredibly new experience. He watched as Alex traced the shoreline, skimming stones out to sea. There was a clang as a wayward throw struck the side of a large metal vessel; Alex flinched and hurried over to sit by Marcus.

‘I didn’t do it,’ Alex said, laughing. ‘If anyone asks, it was Samantha.’

‘If you tell him I did it, I’ll kick the both of you,’ Samantha said.

‘Hey, don’t bring me into this,’ Marcus said, shaking his hands in protest. ‘It has nothing to do with me. I’m not a guilty party, deal with this yourself.’

Samantha stood over Alex and tried to intimidate him. He smiled and leapt forwards, grabbing her around the waist and tackling her to the ground.

‘Got you,’ he laughed. ‘That’ll teach you to throw stones at ships!’

‘Get off me you brute,’ she said, playfully hitting him in the chest. ‘Don’t make me call the city guard on you. Or maybe I’ll tell my father, you’ll be in real trouble then.’

‘That’s more terrifying then I would like it to be,’ Alex said. ‘At best we’d probably end up stranded in some strange place.’

‘Again, don’t bring me into this!’ Marcus said. ‘I’m innocent!’

‘You’ll just have to stay on my good side then, won’t you?’ Samantha said. ‘But for now, I think we should just sit back, relax and listen to the sound of the waves.’

As she finished, a seagull landed nearby and cawed loudly.

‘And listen to the seagulls too, apparently.’

‘There you are!’ a voice said behind them. ‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere.’

Marcus turned around and saw a familiar face; he was with the caravan, but Marcus didn’t know his name.

‘Oh, Heath, it’s you,’ Samantha said. ‘What are you after?’

‘Cid sent me to find his young protégés and ask them to meet him at the wagons,’ Heath said. ‘He would like to talk with you, or something. I’m not sure, I’m just the messenger.’

‘We’d better hurry over there then,’ Alex said.

‘He was probably expecting you a while ago,’ Heath said. ‘Nobody knew where you all had disappeared to so it took me some time to find you.’

‘I guess our rest is over,’ Marcus said. ‘The wicked will know no peace.’

‘Anything is better than labouring for Samantha,’ Alex said, quickly jumping to his feet. ‘Shall we go then?’

‘You had better take them back,’ Samantha said. ‘These two fools would get lost following a straight line.’

‘I must return to my post anyway,’ Heath said. ‘So follow me, I’ll show you the way.’


Cid had required the boys’ assistance in taking stock. It was a large and time consuming task, which Cid usually performed alone. Training others to recognise and understand what they were taking stock of seemed like unnecessary extra effort. Now that he had mentees, however, he thought it an excellent opportunity to gauge their knowledge and relieve some of the task’s burden. It was certainly a learning experience for Marcus, and Alex as well, as they both handled materials unfamiliar to them. While Georg’s smithy had been more than a basic workshop, there were numerous tools and furnishings it lacked that Cid’s did not. The differences between a skilled craftsman and a master craftsman soon became obvious to Marcus.

With their job completed, Alex and Marcus were free to return to the inn. Samantha was already in the dining room, playing cards with some of the older children. The boys wandered over to join her.

‘Welcome back you two,’ Samantha said. ‘How’d everything go?’

‘It went fine,’ Alex said. ‘Cid just needed help with taking stock. He needed to know what he had to buy and what he could sell while we were here. I didn’t realise how much more there was for us to learn.’

‘Wait until he starts talking about different techniques. I once overheard him talk about the various ways to do something or other for hours, I’m fairly sure I managed to take a nap and he was still talking. Of course, that’s why he is such a great asset, and you know that Richard as his men are well equipped at the very least.’

‘That’s certainly a very comforting thought,’ Marcus said. ‘It’s nice to know that we’re in safe hands.’

‘You bet!’ Samantha said. ‘No matter where we go, you can always count on the Golden Trail Caravan to be in tip top shape and safe from danger. Anywhere and everywhere in the world!’

‘Actually, that reminds me. Where are we headed next?’ Marcus asked.

‘Bored of Ciel already?’ Samantha asked. ‘I suppose, there isn’t a whole lot to do here except go down to the beach, and you can’t swim when the water is this cold and the ports are this busy.’

‘It’s nothing like that,’ Marcus said. ‘I’m just curious as to where we’re heading. When we left Garif, we found a book full of old maps, and I’ve been fascinated with seeing all the different places ever since.’

‘So you’ve caught the travel bug too! That’s definitely a good thing, it’ll keep you happy when we’re on the road for long stretches at a time,’ she said. ‘Like we will be in a few days. We’ll be leaving Ciel and heading north, north west through the Yensan wilds.’

‘That doesn’t sound inviting,’ Marcus said.

‘And it’s not. The Yensan wilds are a stretch of land typically avoided by travellers. Most travellers board a ship here in Ciel, bound for Port Reinham in the north, and backtrack to their destination. It’s the long way around, but the safer options usually do take longer. As our destination lies somewhat inland as well, the safe option is much further to travel.’

‘What lurks in the Yensan wilds that we should avoid it?’ Alex asked.

‘Bandits, mostly, though wolves and other wild creatures also stalk the landscape. A caravan of our size scares off most would-be attackers, though it also drives the desperate to try and cash in on a big haul. A few years ago, a small raiding party tried to ambush us, but they were defeated without a single friendly injury. We have little to fear.’

‘So we’re heading through the Yensan wilds,’ Marcus said. ‘But what’s our destination? Surely there aren’t settlements in the middle of such a place!’

‘You’re right, there aren’t any settlements in the Yensan wilds. But there are some on the edge of the area, one in particular,’ Samantha said. ‘We’re going home, to Opal.’

Word count at 13,203 at the moment. Don't know how, when I copied that all over it said I was adding 4.1k to my total of 10.5k, but whatever. Not even gonna comment on this section, just need to keep working, get to fun bits, needs more pirates.

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Re: Hu

Post by Kimra »

For you:
King Prawn

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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

Yay, I've joined the red patrol! Time to word up and get more!

Preparation involved buying a significant stock of food for the journey ahead. There was nowhere to resupply until they reached Opal, and a long stretch of the Yensan wilds was actually marshland. Nothing edible would grow in such conditions and anything in the forests or on the plains would already have been claimed by the local residents, be they man or beast.

They departed Ciel in the early morning, and by lunch time it was already a speck in the distance behind them. It would be a long trip, and Jonathan wanted it completed with as much haste as possible, so lunch was eaten on the road, without stopping. The fewer stops they had, the fewer chances they had to be attacked. Marcus laid back on the wagon floor, listening to the creak of the wood and the clopping of horse shoes on the road. He wondered how long it would be until the road faded away and they were left following worn stretches of grass and muddy pathways.

‘No sleeping during the day!’ Samantha said, shaking him. ‘Otherwise you won’t sleep at night and you’ll disturb everyone else.’

‘I could always go help with the watch,’ Marcus said. ‘Besides, I wasn’t sleeping anyway. It’s relaxing, listening to the wagons plod along. There’s a sense of determination there. We’ve picked our heading, we know our destination, and now we slowly work our way towards it. Nothing can stop us or knock us from our path.’

He sighed. ‘It’s just nice to know there’s still direction in life. I still feel caught up in the wave of change, and I haven’t quite found my feet again.’

Alex put down his book and scooted over next to Marcus. ‘Hang in there buddy,’ he said. ‘It’s been tough for us, and I’m still having trouble accepting everything that’s happened. But we’re here now, with new friends and a new purpose. We’re going to travel the world, right?’

Marcus grinned. ‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘It’s time to focus on what’s ahead and leave the past in the dust from our wheels. I can’t wait to see what’s out there.’

He jumped up and walked over to a window. ‘Even the Yensan wilds are interesting, and so very different to Garif, and Zabra, and Ciel.’

Samantha smiled. ‘See, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.’


Though he didn’t sleep at all during the day, Marcus found himself wide awake during the night. He rolled out of his bunk and crept carefully to the door, opening the door and stepping out. The wagons had been drawn up into a circle surrounding their campsite, the entrances all facing inwards. Several tents created a smaller inner circle, and inside that was a small campfire, gently illuminating the area. Marcus wandered over towards Richard and Heath, who were seated next to the fire and talking in hushed voices.

‘Good evening,’ Richard said as Marcus approached. He gestured to the seat next to him.

Marcus obliged and sat. ‘Thanks.’

‘No trouble. You after the bathroom?’ Richard asked. ‘One of us’ll have to take you out there, just to be safe.’

‘Ah, no, no I just couldn’t sleep,’ Marcus said. ‘I didn’t want to disturb the others, so I thought I would come and sit by the fire awhile.’

‘Well you have company at the least,’ Heath said. ‘Better than tossing and turning in the dark, that’s for sure.’

‘Definitely,’ Marcus said. He sat silent for a moment, watching the flicker of the fire. ‘Can I ask how you two joined up with the caravan?’

‘Certainly, it’s an interesting enough tale,’ Richard said. ‘Where do I begin? I was a mercenary of some minor note, having helped fight off a pirate attack on Port Reinham.’

He chuckled quietly to himself. ‘They had the numbers to take the city guard, and the element of surprise, but they didn’t consider us mercs. They threw money at us to fight them off.’

He sipped some coffee. ‘After that, I scored a job protecting some spoiled rich noble kid as he travelled to his father’s estate. It was an uneventful trip for the most part, until we got to a mountain path. Instead of sitting in his carriage, the fool decided he was wanted to ride. He took a horse from one of his father’s servants, but the thing got spooked and threw him.’

Richard shrugged and took another sip of his coffee. ‘He ended up breaking a few bones and I took the fall for it. Suddenly my reputation was as battered as the kid was and the work had all dried up. That’s when Jonathan came along, said he needed someone long term for minimum pay,’ he said. ‘Nobody wanted a bar of it; they could take short term and high paying jobs, why would they reduce their income? It was my only shot, the only job I could take, so I stuck my hand up and here I am.’

‘I suppose you owe that kid your thanks,’ Heath said. ‘After all, if it weren’t for him, who knows where you’d be right now?’

‘That’s true. It was a fortunate accident that it all came together that way. Jonathan was looking for someone without ties and who wouldn’t be lured away by the prospect of more money. You don’t want to hire someone as a guard if they’ll just sell you out to the next highest bidder,’ Richard said. ‘Mind you, the pay’s much better than he made out originally.’

Current word count is 14000 exactly. I'm struggling to find filler to get me between A and B, but that's where creativity comes in handy right? It's also where I trim the filler in the original draft and just make loads of exciting shit happen all at once. There is a "good" scene coming up that I am looking forward to writing.

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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

Marcus yawned. He was finally starting to fatigue, sleep wouldn’t be far away.

‘Thank you for the story,’ Marcus said. ‘It was interesting, don’t mind the yawning. And you will have to tell me your tale tomorrow Heath.’

‘The company is much appreciated,’ Richard said. ‘But before you go; would you and or Alex mind being on watch tomorrow? One of our men has come down with a cold, and we want him to rest as much as possible to get him back on his feet.’

‘Sure, I can do that,’ Marcus said. ‘Good night.’

‘And a restful slumber to you, my lad,’ Richard said.


The next day was uneventful. They packed up early and continued into the wilds. They were in marshlands now, and the stench of decaying animals filled the air. Marcus could hear the cry of vultures as they located an animal, injured or lost, that had wandered to its death. There was a brief pang of fear; what if we took a wrong turn and ended up stuck in a muddy pool, unable to escape? He dismissed it immediately. This was not the first time they had made the journey; no doubt they had routes mapped or landmarks to follow. Everything was in safe hands.

As the others talked and played cards, Marcus sat on his bunk and read. Whenever he could, he closed his eyes for a short nap, so he would be well rested for his watch. Alex and Samantha had both volunteered to stay awake with him – the more eyes and ears they had, the safer everything would be. The company would help ease the boredom as well.

The wagon ran over a tree root and Marcus jolted awake, smacking his head on the top of the bunk. He swore and rubbed his injury. There was no egg yet, and he hadn’t hit it as hard as he thought, but the pain was real and rubbing it was all he could do. As the pain subsided, he swung his legs out of bed and walked over to the window. They were in thick trees now, having left the marsh behind. The stench was gone too; now all he could smell was bark and leaf litter. He sighed and noticed that the sun was sinking rapidly. The caravan would have to stop soon so they could set up before night fell. As he turned around, returning to read his book, Samantha called him over.

‘We’ll be stopping soon,’ she said. ‘There’s a clearing up ahead, or so there should be.’

‘Good, I’m looking forward to a chance to stretch my legs a little more.’

‘That’s perfect then,’ she said. ‘Because Alex and I are going to collect firewood; you can come too!’

‘Surely we have enough already?’

‘You can never have too much firewood. Besides, once we pass through this forest, there won’t be another opportunity to collect firewood until we reach the outskirts of Opal. We need to be overstocked, if anything, to make sure we don’t get caught without a light.’

‘Sounds reasonable enough. So when do we head out?’

‘As soon as we stop, it’s off into the woods we go! We need to use every second of sunlight we have left.’


Jonathan hesitantly sent the three of them off to find firewood. He didn’t like the idea of his daughter out in the dark, but he had faith in the two newcomers. He sent them with a burning torch, just to be sure. Marcus trotted alongside the others as they headed away from the campsite.

‘There are plenty of fallen logs here,’ Marcus said, bending to retrieve a few. ‘Why aren’t we grabbing these?’

‘Because then we have to carry them the whole time,’ Samantha said. ‘We’ll wander away from the campsite, then turn around and come straight back, picking up everything in our way. That way we don’t have to walk backwards and forwards carrying the same heavy logs. It’s quite simple really.’

‘She has a good point,’ Alex said. ‘We’ll just follow the leader and get the job done.’

‘Sure, I don’t mind. Whatever works.’

They continued walking, and soon their only light source was the flaming torch in Alex’s hand. As they came to a stop, he extended it to Samantha.

‘Here, you’d better take this,’ he said. ‘We’ll be able to carry more.’

‘I can carry just as much as the two of you, thank you very much,’ she said, batting the torch away. It slipped from Alex’s hand and rolled away. Nearby twigs and leaves caught alight, and suddenly a small blaze had broken out. Samantha leapt for the torch, snatching it out of the fire and keeping it away from the rest of the highly flammable forest. Marcus and Alex danced about on top of the fire, kicking dirt on top and trying to stamp it out. It wasn’t long before they brought it under control and doused the last embers.

‘Let’s not do that again,’ Alex said. ‘Make sure you hold onto the torch this time.’

‘My apologies, it was an accident!’ Samantha said. ‘I didn’t mean for that to happen.’

‘It doesn’t matter now anyway,’ Marcus said. ‘The fire is out, we’re safe now.’

‘Not quite,’ a voice said behind Marcus. He felt two hands grab his shoulders and then a sack went over his face. The last thing he heard was Samantha’s scream before he felt something crack into his head, and then he was out.


When he came to, Marcus could hear voices talking. He couldn’t make out the words yet, but their voices were deep, far too deep to belong to Samantha and Alex. He tried to open his eyes, but he realised they already were; the bag over his head had him in total darkness. He could smell a powerful odour of pickles and onions. As he tried to remove the bag, he realised both his hands and feet were bound. He had no idea where he was, or where the others were, and he was stuck lying face down with a bag over his head.

He wriggled, trying to get onto his back and sit up. He felt a boot strike his side and he cried in pain.

Something like 15045 words now. Coming in the next update: a reference to the Hobbit and that's about all that's interesting really. I've suddenly come down with some sort of illness and wouldn't mind sleeping the rest of November away, but I've come too far to give up now. Right?

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Re: Hu

Post by Jiro »

He heard Alex call out to him, and then cry out as he took was kicked. He felt hands grab the back of his shirt and then tug at the sack, tearing it off him. His vision returned, he could now see the others. They were lying on the ground, bound as well. Several fires dotted this campsite, and canvas tents formed a circle around the clearing. The trees were thick past the edge; Marcus doubted any light would be visible once they passed the tree line.

Marcus glanced around, surveying the situation. There were at least half a dozen armed men watching them, laughing, drinking and eating. They obviously had yet to decide what to do with their captives, which gave Marcus time to try and think of a way out. Whoever had kicked him earlier had moved away, so he rolled onto his back and began to work at his binds. The ground beneath him was hard, but lacked rocks or sharp objects with which he could cut himself free. As he struggled to untie himself, he heard a roar of laughter and his attention was drawn to the centre of the campsite, where several of their captors were eating.

‘Why don’t we put them in a sack and throw ‘em in the river?’ one said.

‘Ain’t no rivers round this way,’ another added. ‘We should just roast ‘em and feed ‘em to the birds.’

‘We should sell them as slaves,’ one said. ‘Make a bit of coin off them.’

He received a few cheers in agreement, but was silenced when one man stood up. He was dressed in furs too expensive to have been legally obtained and his stature caused fear to swell within Marcus. He was the leader here and he was about to make decision; Marcus was running out of time.

‘I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do with ‘em,’ the leader said. ‘Ye can do what you like with the two lads there. Stab them like a pin cushion, hang them upside down from a tree, I don’t care. But as for the pretty little lady…’

His face twisted into a grin. Samantha was on the opposite side of the camp, so Marcus began to edge along the ground towards her. The bandit leader leapt from his place and began advancing towards his prize, laughing to himself. She whimpered.

Marcus cursed under his breath. He wasn’t going to make it, and even if he did, what good could he do? He managed to clamber to his feet and began to hop, trying to intercept the bandit before he reached Samantha. His efforts were in vain though, as he was struck across the face and sent rolling towards a fire. He could feel the heat against his back, and then his hands began to burn.

‘The rope’s on fire,’ he thought aloud. ‘Come on damn it, burn through them! Hurry!’

It was too late; the bandit descended on Samantha, standing over her. His dirty hands held her down as his eyes ran over every inch of her. He tore a strap on her dress and laughed.

‘Seems your clothes aren’t all that sturdy!’ he said.

Samantha struggled beneath him, trying to kick him or throw him off balance, but he was too large and too strong. He picked her up, slinging her over his shoulder.

‘Come with me, princess,’ he laughed. ‘We’re going to have a little fun. Don’t worry though, I’ll take real good care of you.’

Samantha screamed and struggled, but there was nothing she could do. She was helpless against his strength, and neither Alex nor Marcus could aid her. She stared at the ground passing beneath her and sobbed.

Suddenly the ground rushed towards her she landed hard, knocking the wind from her lungs. Marcus glanced down to see an arrow protruding from the bandit’s neck. There was a brief moment of confusion throughout the camp, as they all tried to comprehend what had occurred, and then the bandits were up, brandishing their weapons into the dark.

‘Come out and show yer face!’ one said. He grunted as an arrow struck him in the back, and then collapsed as another pierced throat.

‘There’s more of them!’ a bandit shouted. ‘Keep your eyes peeled, don’t let them–’

He was cut off as another arrow felled him. As his body dropped, one of his comrades leapt towards Samantha.

‘Use ‘em as a shield,’ he shouted. ‘They wouldn’t shoot innocents!’

The burning ropes were now scorching his arms and wrists, so Marcus struggled, trying to break the bonds. They gave way, and he started on the ropes around his legs immediately. Moments later he was on his feet; he charged at the bandit holding Samantha, striking him in the face. As Samantha fell from his grip, an arrow flew through the air and caught him in the shoulder.

Marcus dropped to the ground and began untying Samantha’s binds. The last two bandits panicked and fled. The assault from the shadows was too direct, too lethal, and too hidden for them to stand a chance of winning. As they crossed the tree line and disappeared into the forest, there was a grunt and then a crack and rustling as a bandit fell, hit by the last arrow. The campsite was empty now, save for Marcus and Samantha who were working on untying Alex’s ropes.

When they climbed to their feet, free at last, they noticed a presence behind them. Marcus turned to see two figures standing before them, bows at hand. The taller of the two was a man quite older than Marcus, in his late twenties, early thirties perhaps. Dark hair framed his face. He looked calm and composed, tranquil even – something Marcus couldn’t understand after the situation they had just escaped. The other figure was much shorter, and very slender. Marcus assumed, from her frame, that she was a young girl. Her face was covered with a scarf, but he could still see her brilliant blue eyes shining. She knelt beside one of the fallen men and removed the arrow from his neck, cleaning the tip and placing it back into the quiver.

The man approached them slowly, his hands out in a welcoming gesture. Marcus hesitated, feeling his muscles tighten – he couldn’t be sure they were allies and not just more bandits here to attack them.

‘My name is Eric,’ the man said. He stopped a short distance away from them; they would chose whether to close the gap, or remain where they were. ‘Are you all unharmed?’

Marcus took a step forward. ‘We’re fine,’ he said. ‘Thanks to you. Your help was invaluable, I thank you for that.’

‘Glad to be of service,’ Eric said. ‘Those bandits had been a nuisance to us for some time, but we had no reason to remove them until now.’

‘I’m just glad you were close enough to help us. Things were looking sketchy for a minute there,’ Alex said. Samantha was clinging to him, burying her face into his chest.

The girl walked forward now, passing Eric and Marcus, heading straight for the others. She put her hand on Alex’s shoulder.

‘Do you mind?’ she said.

She didn’t wait for a response. She took hold of Samantha’s shoulders and spun her around, so she was facing her. The girl removed her scarf, letting her blonde hair fall around her shoulders. She placed a finger under Samantha’s chin and raised her face so their eyes could meet.

‘My name is Tori,’ she said. ‘You are safe now. Do not be afraid.’

Tori pulled Samantha into her arms and held her tightly. Her arms hung at her side briefly, before she returned the embrace. Marcus was taken aback at Tori’s sudden actions, but the strangers seemed friendly. He felt safe, for the moment.

‘What are you doing in these woods?’ Eric asked him.

The question was direct and accusatory. Marcus hesitated. What business was it of theirs? They didn’t have to answer to these strangers. Even so, they had rescued them, saved their lives. The least Marcus could do was answer the question.

‘We’re with the Golden Trail Caravan,’ he said. ‘We were collecting firewood when we were attacked.’

‘Merchants?’ Eric said. ‘Very brave of you to travel this way. The Yensan wilds are not the most hospitable of locations.’

‘So we’ve heard,’ Marcus said. ‘But it also begs the question: why are you here, out in the middle of nowhere? Are you travellers too?’

‘Of sorts,’ Eric said. ‘This forest has been our home for some weeks now.’

‘You live here, in the forest?’ Marcus said. ‘Isn’t it dangerous? Why don’t you move somewhere more civilised, somewhere safer?’

Before Eric answered the question, Tori pulled him aside and whispered something in his ear. Marcus watched as Eric’s expression showed confusion. He argued, his whispers becoming louder and his hand gestures more direct. Whatever Tori was saying, Eric didn’t agree. He fell silent, shrugged his shoulders and sighed. Tori cocked her head to the side and smiled, before returning to Marcus and the others.

‘We’d like to escort you back to your campsite,’ Tori said. ‘Just in case you run into any more trouble.’

‘Thank you, that’s kind of you,’ Marcus said. ‘But I couldn’t say which is the right way; I was unconscious when they brought us here.’

Samantha pointed off into the forest. ‘This way. When they started carrying us away, they continued heading the same direction as we had been going,’ she said. ‘We just need to head back that way.’

‘Let us go then,’ Eric said. ‘We do not wish for your companions to notice your absence and begin to panic.’


Jonathan was talking to Richard as they returned to the campsite. As soon as he noticed Samantha, Jonathan sprinted over to her, wrapping his daughter in his arms. Richard wandered over to join him, eager to learn of the events. He was also concerned about the two unfamiliar figures standing beside them.

‘You’re safe!’ Jonathan said. ‘I was so concerned. I didn’t know what had happened. You were gone for much longer than I anticipated. We were just about to send Richard and his men out to find you.’

Samantha just stood there, silently embracing her father. Eric stepped forward and bowed slightly.

‘Perhaps we should talk, explain what happened,’ Eric said. ‘Your daughter is shaken from her ordeal. Rest is what she needs now.’

‘And who might you be?’ Richard said.

‘My name is Eric,’ he replied. ‘And my companion is Tori. We are travellers, like you, though we happen to have been staying in this forest for several weeks now.’

‘And what happened out there?’ Jonathan said. ‘What happened to my daughter?’

‘She’s okay,’ Alex said. ‘I’ll just sit her down over by the fire and get some tea while you all talk, okay?’

Jonathan nodded, releasing his hold on his daughter. She was safe within the circle of wagons; no ill would befall her here.

‘Let me begin,’ Eric said. ‘When we first came to this forest, we noticed the presence of a small group of bandits. We watched them from afar, learning their routes through the forest, their habits and so on. Once we knew them, we could set up our own camp, far enough away from them to be safe but close enough to keep an eye on them. You can never be too careful, after all.’

‘Bandits, in the forest?’ Jonathan said.

‘Quite. This evening we were collecting some fruits nearby their campsite when we heard peculiar noises. There was a sound, like a boy or young man crying out in pain. The bandits had never fought with each other before – though they had never had captives either – so we decided to investigate,’ Eric said. ‘When we reached the edge of their clearing, we noticed three prone bodies lying on the ground, their hands and feet tied. We knew, immediately, that they were in danger, and listening to the bandits discuss their fates only reinforced this notion.’

Marcus interjected. ‘They grabbed us while we were collecting firewood,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure of all the details, but they jumped me from behind, put a sack over my head and then smacked me in the head with something. Next thing I knew, we were in the campsite.’

Jonathan nodded, so Eric continued.

‘We saw their leader stand and approach your daughter. I told Tori to sneak around the edge of the clearing and take position on the opposite side, to ensure we covered as many angles as possible,’ Eric said. ‘Fortunately, we both had bows with us. It was a simple decision to begin picking them off from the shadows, making sure to keep them away from their captives.’

‘It was so sudden,’ Marcus said. ‘One second I was struggling to get free, watching this guy drag Samantha away, and the next he was dead on the ground with an arrow in his neck.’

‘The rest I’m sure you can deduce yourself,’ Eric said. ‘We escorted them back, in case of any further trouble.’

‘You have my thanks,’ Jonathan said. ‘How can I ever repay your kindness?’

‘There is something we would like to discuss with the leader here,’ Eric said, glancing at Tori. ‘Is that possible?’

‘Of course, you are speaking with him now,’ Jonathan said. ‘But please, come with me. We’ll talk somewhere more comfortable.’

As Jonathan accompanied the guests to his office, Richard resumed his patrol of the campsite. The bandits had been dealt with, but he wasn’t prepared to risk another group being on the prowl. Marcus followed behind him, and asked if he was still needed to keep watch.

‘If you’re feeling up to it,’ Richard said. ‘I know you’re probably a tad shaken too, from before. I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. We could use the help though.’

Marcus nodded. ‘I’ll help out then.’

‘Take a rest first,’ Richard said. ‘Go and eat something, have a sit for a minute or two. Come and find me once you’ve taken a break. A distracted sentry is a bad sentry, and a hungry sentry is even worse!’

Marcus nodded again, leaving Richard to his rounds. He walked over to join Alex and Samantha, who were seated near the centre of the campsite. Alex had his arm around her back, gently stroking her shoulder, his free hand on her leg. Marcus shrugged slightly, smiling to himself and left them alone.


The sun began to rise, its rays sneaking through the canopy. Marcus stretched his legs, and did a loop around the camp. The fire had begun to wane, and was now little more than warm coals. Everybody was still asleep, but in less than half an hour the campsite would be packed up and they would be on the road once more.

‘I can’t wait to go to sleep,’ Marcus said. He jumped as he heard a cough behind him.

‘Didn’t mean to startle you,’ Heath said. ‘You’re right to head to bed now, get some rest. You’ve earned it.’


As Heath began to rouse everyone, Marcus climbed into the dorm wagon and shuffled towards his bunk. He glanced up and saw Alex sitting in a chair, slumped forward, asleep on the edge of Samantha’s bed. He shook his head and fell onto his bunk. Sleep was taking him whether he liked it or not.

His dreams were filled with replays of the previous night’s events. Marcus struggled against his bonds but could never break them. Distressed and useless, he watched Samantha disappear into the tent and heard her screams. The fires of the campsite erupted, engulfing Marcus.

He awoke to the sound of his own voice shouting. He wiped the sweat from his brow and shifted to sit on the edge of the bunk.

‘Only a dream,’ he said aloud. He looked up to see Khloe standing in front of him.

‘Are you okay?’ she asked. ‘You was talking a lot in your sleep and then you shouted and it was scary.’

‘I’m okay Khloe, thanks,’ he said. ‘It was just a nightmare, nothing to worry about.’

He smiled and tussled her hair. ‘You’re very nice, you know?’

‘Uh huh! Big sis tells me to be nice all the time and people will like me,’ she said. ‘And if people like me then we can be friends! I love friends.’

Marcus smiled again. Her innocence was heart warming, and had already calmed his pulse and relaxed him.

‘Speaking of friends, do you know where Alex and Samantha are?’

Khloe shook her head. ‘They went on horsies today I think.’

‘They rode on horses, you say? Thank you,’ Marcus said. ‘Hey, why don’t we play a game later? It’ll be fun.’

‘Yes please,’ Khloe said. ‘I’m gonna go play now too okay? No more bad dreams please.’

As the young girl trotted off to rejoin her friends, Marcus wandered over to the door. He couldn’t see much – the forest was still too dense. Alex and Samantha were out of sight, riding ahead or behind them somewhere. He returned inside, and sat down, stretching his sleepy muscles. There was little for him to do now until they stopped briefly for lunch, so he grabbed a book and sat near Khloe and the other children.

He read silently to himself, letting the minutes slip by. He heard a knock as the wagon door swung open and knocked against the wall. Marcus looked up and saw Tori standing in the entryway, waving at him. He waved back and put his book down. Before he could stand, she had skipped over to him and knelt.

‘Afternoon, sleepy head,’ Tori said. ‘How was your watch last night?’

‘It was alright, I suppose,’ Marcus said. ‘Nothing much to report, though no news is good news in this circumstance.’

Tori nodded and smiled. ‘Those are true words.’

‘Say, what are you doing here?’ Marcus said. The last he had heard or seen of Tori was last night, when she and Eric went to discuss something with Jonathan.

‘You aren’t glad to see me?’

‘That’s not what I meant at all,’ Marcus said. ‘I was just curious. Weren’t you living in the forest?’

‘I decided it was time for something a little different,’ Tori said. ‘The forest was boring, and I don’t like sleeping on the ground in the cold and wet. It’s worse in the summer when the bugs come out.’

‘You decided? Shouldn’t Eric be the one to decide that?’ Marcus asked. ‘Isn’t he… what relation is Eric to you, anyway? He doesn’t look old enough to be your father.’

‘My father? Heavens no!’ Tori laughed. ‘He is… well, I suppose he is my guardian of sorts.’

‘Your guardian… you have no parents?’ Marcus asked.

He didn’t receive an answer.

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ he said. ‘My parents are gone too. Alex’s as well, now. Recently. That’s why we’re here now, travelling with the merchants. Sometimes you just need to get up and fly away somewhere new, you know?’

Tori perked up and nodded enthusiastically. ‘I know exactly what you mean. That’s why we joined up with the merchants too!’

‘You joined the Golden Trail Caravan too? That’s… a surprise, but a pleasant one. Forgive me if this sounds rude, but what exactly can you do? What skill do you bring?’

‘That does sound quite rude,’ Tori said, pouting. ‘But I’ll forgive you this time.’

She reached into a small bag on the floor beside her and produced a small wooden carving of a bird in flight. ‘I make statues,’ she said, smiling.

‘Wow, that’s really good! I didn’t realise you were so talented.’

‘There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me Marcus,’ she said smugly. ‘But now we have bundles of time to get to know each other better. It’ll be exquisite!’


Marcus and Tori spent a lot of time together over the following days, talking with each other, as well as Alex and Samantha. The four of them became fast friends; it was hard to avoid, with them all being around the same age. The eldest of the other merchant children, Joanna, was still only thirteen. At sixteen, Tori was within reaching distance, but Joanna was content with being a carefree child without responsibilities.

The responsibilities began to grow for Alex and Marcus. As the caravan cleared the particularly dangerous parts of the Yensan wilds, Jonathan decided to slow the pace, allowing everyone to enjoy the warming spring weather. Children ran alongside the wagons playing tag, and they would stop early each afternoon to allow the merchants to work on their wares. This was essential for Cid and his two smiths, as the equipment had to be removed from the wagon for them to work; lighting fires within wooden caravans was not the safest idea.

As the days passed, Opal crept closer and closer, until at last it appeared on the horizon. The sun was already starting to set, so they wouldn’t reach the town until tomorrow afternoon, but that couldn’t contain Samantha’s excitement. Once the campsite was prepared, She quickly ran off to her father. When she returned, she was jumping up and down on the spot, clapping.

‘We’re going ahead!’ she said. ‘Father’s lending us horses, we can go into Opal right now!’

‘It’s already dark though,’ Marcus said. ‘Shouldn’t we wait until tomorrow?’

‘We can go now, we’ll travel much faster when it’s just the four of us on horseback,’ she said. ‘We can ride a fair way tonight and then set up our own camp and, tomorrow morning, we’ll reach Opal.’

‘What exciting news,’ Alex said. ‘But why are we are we all going? I thought you were just eager to see your mother?’

‘I am excited to go home and see mother,’ she said. ‘But we have to let the town know the caravan is coming! They’ll throw a huge celebration tomorrow night to welcome us back, but they need time to prepare. Father usually sends riders ahead once Opal is in sight, but I asked him to send us this time.’

‘All of us?’ Marcus said.

‘Of course, I want my friends to see my hometown!’ Samantha said. ‘I can’t go on my own, that would be dangerous.’

‘That settles it then,’ Tori said. ‘Get organised everyone, we’re riding ahead to Opal!’

They departed almost immediately. The basic supplies were hastily packed and then Samantha dragged them away. Only two horses awaited them; Samantha would take Alex with her, and Marcus would take Tori with him.

‘Weight distribution,’ Samantha explained. ‘We don’t want the boys to crush the poor animals.’

Marcus and Alex traded a confused glance.

‘We’re not that heavy,’ Marcus said.

‘I’m not, at least,’ Alex said.

‘What do you mean? You’re heavier than I am.’

‘I’m also tougher than you are, so watch yourself or I’ll take you down.’

‘I’d like to see you try!’

‘That’s enough bickering ladies,’ Tori said. ‘We have somewhere else to be post-haste, so I suggest you both practice the quiet game. First one to speak has to play watchman later.’

They nodded in agreement, and grinned at each other. There was a friendly competitiveness between them, even when presented with such a simple game.

‘Now that everything is settled, let’s go!’

The pace was quick, the wind whipping past them as they raced through the night. They had to cover a fair distance before they could stop and rest. Marcus could feel Tori’s warm, steady breath on his back. She was clinging on tight, as if the wind might suddenly tear her from the horse. Marcus felt his eyes droop. Fatigue was catching up with him quickly, and riding as this pace would be dangerous. He slowed, and Samantha noticed, slowing as well. Marcus led them to a nearby tree and dismounted; they could go no further this evening.

The horses were leashed to the tree, to prevent them wandering away during the night. As Marcus unpacked their supplies, he realised there were only two tents. He went to raise the issue, before remembering the deal – if he spoke, he was on watch. He was too tired to keep watch tonight; his only hope was for Alex to take the fall. He would simply erect the tents and they would double up again.

As the tents were being assembled, Tori noticed there was only two. ‘We only have two tents, huh?’ she said. ‘Guess we’re partnering up again!’

She paused for a moment, watching the boys’ expressions. ‘Girls night, we’ve got dibs on one,’ she giggled. ‘Enjoy your bachelor pad boys!’

Alex shrugged. ‘Whatever,’ he said.

Marcus laughed. ‘Have fun keeping watch.’

Alex sighed and put his head in his hands. ‘Just my luck,’ he said. ‘Let’s just get these tents up and a small fire going so we can eat.’

They prepared a small meal and sat around the campfire for a short while, before Marcus was overcome with bouts of yawning.

‘Time for me to sleep,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you all in the morning. Sleep well.’

He turned to Alex. ‘And don’t stay up too late now,’ he laughed.

‘I’m going to bed too,’ Tori said. ‘You coming, Samantha?’

She shook her head. ‘I’ll sit up with Alex for a while, we can’t trust him to keep watch all on his own.’

‘That’s a good point!’ Tori said. ‘I bet he’d try and peek in our tent too.’

Alex protested, but the laughter drowned him out.

‘Actually, I have an idea,’ Tori said. ‘How about Alex and I switch? That way nobody will be disturbed when you both go to bed.’

It was a sound plan, and they agreed. They bid each other good night as Marcus and Tori climbed into their tent.

‘Did you want you get your stuff from the other tent?’ Marcus asked. ‘Your blankets, your bag?’

‘It’s fine,’ she said, yawning again. ‘If I get cold, I’ll just use you as a blanket.’

Marcus shrugged and lay down on his back. ‘Sure, I don’t mind.’

‘I might do that anyway,’ Tori said. She curled into him, resting her head on his chest. ‘Good night Marcus.’

‘Good night Tori,’ he said. ‘Sweet dreams.’


They reached Opal by midmorning, to Samantha’s delight. She led them straight to the office of the town head and they entered, taking a seat in the reception area. While they waited patiently, Samantha spoke with the girl behind the desk. Marcus couldn’t tell what they were talking about, but he gathered they were friends.

It wasn’t long before the town head met with them and the message was relayed. He seemed genuinely pleased to hear the Golden Trail Caravan was returning; Marcus guessed the previous head’s concerns – that Jonathan was exploiting the town’s resources – had since been settled. He could only see the benefits of such an operation, travelling tradesmen who can sell their wares further abroad and reach a greater market than they ever could operating from within the confines of the town. He shrugged. Maybe he just didn’t understand commerce.


19600ish at the moment. It has been slow for the past few days, I keep finding distractions. I'm on track for it though, I can do it.

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