Readers decide: Episode 2, Part 2

Hey there! If you’ve just found your way onto this page, this is an ongoing story I am writing in collaboration with my readers’ group (you can sign up in the little form on the right side of this page). Every couple weeks, I email out an installment followed by a choice the character has to make. Readers vote, and I continue the tale.

Episode 1 is complete. You can read it starting at Part 1 here. As a thank you to my reader group, I’m releasing each episode as a free ebook once they’re complete, so there’s another incentive to join the fun 🙂

And with that out of the way, here’s the second installment of Episode 2. (Here’s Episode 2, Part 1 if you missed it)

Veil’s thugs are the opposite of sneaky. The pair that came in the temple’s front entrance sound like stampeding draft horses while they search the front alcoves. More footsteps echo from the back corridors as goons comb the smaller chambers and cells for sign of her.

Both exits blocked: the situation pretty much sucks maggot-meat.
Lin stares down the well hole. It’s darker than dark. She can’t see anything, even with her Edge. A hint of damp rises from the hole, smelling of moss and wet stone.

Beside her, the Prov man whines and shuffles, eyes darting toward the chamber where his wife disappeared.

“Oh for Luck’s sake,” Lin mutters. She can’t just leave these people up here alone to get found by Veil. Not because she’s all charitable or anything. She just can’t run the risk that one of them will blab about what they saw once the thugs start tightening the thumb-screws.

‘Course, she doesn’t have much of a plan for getting out of here with a couple bumbling Provs in tow. She shakes her head. If Veil nabs her, at least she can’t let them have the satisfaction of recovering their rotted bribe. Her fortune. The windfall that was going to change everything. Rot.

“Hey, Owell,” she hisses down the well. No response.

She shrugs and cups a hand around her mouth. “Catch!” she calls softly before dropping the satchel down the well.

Shoulders hunched, she waits for the inevitable thump. And waits. And waits.

She peers. Did the satchel strap get caught? Did Owell, by some miracle, manage to catch the rotted thing?

“Um, miss?” The man is still standing there like a distressed donkey.

“Yeah, yeah,” she whispers. “Come on. And try to be quiet about it.”

She grabs him by the elbow and yanks him toward the side chamber where his wife ran. The room is about twenty paces by ten, strewn with stone chips and larger chunks of rubble. Statues line the walls, blank eyes gazing into the matching stares of stone figures across the chamber. It’s kinda weird. A little creepy, really.

The Prov woman cowers in the corner, arms over her head. Lin nudges her husband toward her, hoping he’ll keep her quiet. Bits of stone skitter across the floor when he kicks them in his rush to reach the woman.

Lin spins, making another quick scan of the chamber. Just the single entrance, wide enough for two ordinary people to walk abreast. Or for one hulking thug to dominate, blocking all hopes of escape. If the goons trap her in here, she’s royally buried.

“At least try to hide,” Lin says over her shoulder. The statues don’t give much cover but squeezing between them would be more effective than huddling in the open.

“Come on, Emarie,” the man whispers. “Up you go.”

Lin dashes out of the room.

And unfortunately runs straight toward a man with a neck like a bull and tiny beady eyes that suggest he’s not much smarter than a bull, either. She can’t slow her momentum in time, so instead converts it to a slide that takes her between the thug’s legs, the grit on the floor scraping her hip.

“Ouch,” she mutters while, at the last second, getting the brilliant idea to aim an upward jab at Mr. Bullneck’s family jewels. The goon shouts, kinda gags, and staggers forward holding his crotch.

Reflexes sharpened by her Edge, Lin jumps to her feet. The other thug from the front of the temple stands between her and the entrance, growling. He drops into the sort of crouch she’s seen when a strongman from a troupe of entertainers sets up to wrestle a bear.

Lin mimics him, stomping her feet wide, roaring, and flinging out her arms.

He blinks, confused.

“Could have told you it looks dumb,” she says before springing to the right, skidding hard, and dashing past him.

He swipes at her, running footsteps bringing his grab within a finger’s length. But moments later, she’s out in the fresh night air and crashing through bushes.

Ahead, the goons’ horses stand stamping in the moonlight. Their reins are looped loosely around the tangle of brush beside the wagon track. They seem a little spooked, either by the shouts from the temple or some scent on the air.

Lin eyes the beasts as she throws their reins clear of the brush. She has never put a foot in a stirrup or her butt in a saddle.

Readers had a choice. Should Lin

  • Oh, what the heck. She always wanted to try to learn to ride. Mount up—if she can figure out how—and start whipping the reins and kicking like she’s seen other people do.
  • Make a bunch of noise and slap the horses’ rumps to get them skedaddling out of here. On foot and aided by her Edge, she can probably outrun a bunch of over-muscled punching bags. Provided the horses actually run when she starts jumping around and hooting like a fool.

And the winner is, with 53% of the vote (another close race), Option 2! Stay tuned to see how it turns out! If you want to read the next installment sooner and get involved with the voting, scroll up and enter your email in the little form on the right.