Sorry. 'fraid that means there's no instalment 100...
All good things must come to an end and that is true of Dusty Red. But it will never really end so long as there is someone who remembers it. I'd be happy to continue, but if I did it would just be making things up. Once a story is ended, it is ended...
But as I also mentioned the other week, I will be starting a new story. I don't know what yet, but I'll work it out. If anyone has any cool ideas for story goals, characters, or anything like that I'd be happy for any ideas. (This is not saying that I don' have any story ideas at all, I've got plenty of them, but I just don't know of one to make as a 'serial choose your own adventure story'.)
Anyway it isn't finished yet. Option one got the votes this week, and I was quite interested to see how this part ended up. So here it is!
Trancos drew his sword in a fluid motion, twirling it in his fingers with practiced ease. “I’d be happy to oblige,” he said, pulling his cloak off and tossing it to the side.
Sniperscope sneered. “Your funeral,” he muttered.
Trancos raised an eyebrow. “So you say,” he replied coolly.
Flick stood up and glanced over at Nainsi, who stood at the fringe of the trees. Flicks looked from Trancos to Sniperscope. The king was tall and broad shouldered, his arms looked very strong as he swung the huge sword in a glittering arch. Compared with him, Trancos looked much smaller.
Yet Trancos had the strength of youth on his side, Flicks considered, and there was something odd about him. Something that she couldn’t quite place.
Trancos dodged a slash from Sniperscope and lunged forward with his lighter and faster blade. The king only just managed to block it in time.
“What’s going on?” Skilf shouted, emerging from the forest at that moment.
Flicks turned around. “They’re fighting,” she said lamely. You should be doing something, she berated herself, don’t just stand there, think up something clever!
“Watch out!” Nainsi yelled, diving to the ground.
Three arrows whizzed through the air, passing close to the three girls.
A trio of soldiers burst from the woods, dropping their bows and drawing swords as they went. Larzik grabbed a stick off the ground and charged at the nearest soldier and started attacking him with a vigour quite unexpected for his size.
Trancos and Sniperscope slashed at each other with a smooth skill the three soldiers seemed to lack. Nainsi and Skilf dived into the fray after Larzik.
Flicks crashed right into a fourth man emerging from the forest and retreated hastily from his rapid strokes. She ducked as a green blur swooped low over her head and the man fighting her looked up. Only to receive a large clod of dirt in his face as Fred soared, triumphant, back up into the sky.
“Good one Fred!” Flicks yelled.
Fred whistled cheerfully in response, before disappearing back into the forest.
Skilf was exchanging punches with one soldier that she’d managed to disarm and Flicks unthinkingly picked up the man’s sword.
Another soldier descended on her. “Let’s see how good you are with that thing,” he roared.
Flicks found herself in a frantic battle, trying – and, amazingly, succeeding – to defend herself.
“Yahooo!” Fred called, as she dropped a hard dirt clod on the head of the soldier fighting Flicks. “We should do this more often,” she called, retreating back into the sky.
Flicks, momentarily unoccupied, glanced around to see a smirking figure emerge from the trees. “Kendal!” she yelled.
His hand was thrust deep in his pocket and Flicks remembered that he probably still had his gun, and, like as not, he’d still have at least one bullet left. Flicks dived forwards, grabbing his arm and tackling him to the ground.
Skilf noticed them struggling and, dealing one last blow to her soldier, ran to help.
Larzik, thumping at a soldier who was desperately defending himself with a completely inadequate sword, blinked as a brilliant idea occurred to him. One of the best ideas he’d ever had before.
He paused in his battle and let out an ear-splitting shriek. Without waiting to see if his idea would actually work, he returned to the startled soldier.
Flicks heard his shriek even from underneath both Skilf and Kendal and her eyes widened. “Bless that Imp-Goblin,” she grunted. “I thought he said he couldn’t speak that language.”
“You have been training well,” King Sniperscope admitted, as he parried a sidestroke from Trancos.
“I haven’t been wandering aimlessly around all these years you mean,” he replied without hesitating in the slightest.
Just then, all in the clearing were distracted by a shrill shriek, not unlike that one Larzik had uttered half a minute before. Only this one was louder, as if spoken by more people. Or rather, more Twigins and Leafits.
A cloud of green and brown swirled through the air, descending like a whirlwind on the battle in the clearing. The tiny tree people screamed a battle call and attacked the four soldiers. But only the bravest dared approach Kendal and Sniperscope.
“Flicks!” Fred’s voice echoed in Flicks’ mind. “Flicks, I’ve got an idea!”
Flicks tumbled out of the fray, coughing as she nearly inhaled a passing Leafit. “Sorry,” she muttered.
The Leafit paused and bowed in midair, waving a hand cheerfully.
“Flicks,” Fred called, circling up above, “Follow me!” She zoomed off into the forest.
Flicks ran to keep up with the swift dragon. “Could you slow down at all?” she panted, crashing through the undergrowth.
Fred slowed for at least three seconds then resumed her breakneck pace.
Flicks burst out of the trees. The Touch Stone was up ahead, seeming to glow even brighter now.
“The Magic Rune Stones,” Fred said, landing on the ground beside them. “Maybe we can do something with them.”
Flicks nodded and began piling them up. She noticed a leather pouch a few meters away and stuffed them inside that, pulling the drawstrings closed.
Fred grabbed the bag in her claws and rose into the air, flapping her wings steadily, struggling to lift the heavy load.
“You sure you’re alright carrying that?” Flicks asked. “You’re only small.”
Fred snorted, but didn’t seem to have the energy to reply further than that. She set of in the direction of the battle once more.
Flicks began to follow her but then stopped, looking back at the glowing Touch Stone. She hesitated a moment and then ran to it, picking it up.
A queer tingling sensation twined up her arms and she nearly dropped the precious stone.
“Coming?” Fred asked from the fringe or the trees.
“Yeah,” Flicks called back, starting to run after her, the silvery Stone clutched under her arm.
As Flicks neared the clearing she heard the shriek of the Twigins and Leafits redoubled. And then it fell silent.
Flicks raced forward, hoping that nothing terrible had happened.
“Ah, look at that! It’s the Tiller kid finally coming to join us,” Kendal sneered. Then his eyes narrowed. “And would you guess what she’s got under her arm. The very thing I needed.”
Flicks stared blankly at Kendal, her mind was refusing to comprehend what was happening. His gun was in his hand and the barrel was pressed against Skilf’s forehead.
Skilf was standing, frozen to the spot, as was everyone else in the clearing.
Flicks opened and closed her mouth silently for a few seconds but she could see no way out of this situation.
“So,” Kendal said. “All you have to do is hand that Stone over and I’ll let your friend go. If you refuse…” he left the sentence unfinished and smiled mirthlessly.
Flicks looked around the glade, The four soldiers were looking rather worse for wear but were all still standing. Nainsi and Larzik stood silently side by side, the Leafits and Twigins shifting uncertainly on the ground around them.
King Sniperscope was grinning evilly, leaning on his sword. Trancos stood in an agony of indeciscion a pace or two from the Manirusan.
“You have no other choice,” Kendal said. “Pass me that stone or say bye-bye to your so called Dragontwin.”
Flicks swallowed but a half-hearted plan was beginning to form in the back of her mind. “Okay,” she replied. “I’ll give you the Stone and you’ll release Skilf. How do I know you’ll keep your promise?”
Kendal sneered. “You’ll just have to leave it up to chance I guess,” he returned scornfully.
Flicks took a deep breath. Her plan probably wouldn’t work, it was crazy anyway, but doing anything just now was just as crazy. May as well die heroically, she thought philosophically.
She glanced around at Nainsi. Nainsi nodded slowly, she too, it seemed, had a plan of some sort.
She bent down and whispered something to the tree people around her feet and they jumped into the air with a yell.
Kendal’s finger tightened on the trigger. “Tell them to get down!” he bellowed at Nainsi.
It’s now or never, Flicks thought and threw the Touch Stone.
At exactly the same moment, Fred swooped down and dropped the whole bag of Rune Stones on Sniperscope’s head and Ciara (who had been sitting in a tree watching the action) leapt down onto his shoulder.
The Touch Stone sailed across the gap and struck Kendal on the shoulder.
White light exploded in the clearing and Flicks staggered backwards, shielding her eyes from the brightness. Blue light mingled with the white, causing the light to grow still stronger.
Then the light faded and disappeared, wafting away on the breeze.
Flicks blinked her watering eyes and looked around, stunned.
The four soldiers were lying face down on the ground, their hands clasped protectively over their heads. Nainsi and Trancos were just regaining their feet like Flicks.
Kendal and Sniperscope were nowhere to be seen.
“Skilf!” Flicks cried, running to the spot where Kendal had stood.
Skilf was lying on the grass, still and silent.
“No,” Flicks gasped. “No…Skilf.”
Flicks brushed the hair from Skilf’s face and placed her fingers to her neck, trying to find a pulse. She couldn’t.
Tears obscured her vision and Flicks blinked rapidly to clear them.
“You must be terrible at first aid,” a voice murmured.
Skilf rubbed her eyes and sat up. “Last I checked that was my name,” she groaned. “What was that light?”
“I think it had something to do with the Touch Stone,” Flicks replied.
She helped Skilf to stand and shook her head slowly. “Where did Kendal and Sniperscope go?” she asked.
“No idea,” Skilf said. “Hopefully he was banished to the world of villains from which there is no return.”
“Skilf! Are you alright?” it was Nainsi who spoke, hurrying across the clearing.
“Yeah, fairly okay—” she began but a squeaky screech interrupted her.
1. The Leafits and Twigins rose into the air and raced toward Flicks and Skilf. “They’re cheering,” Flicks realised, a grin sliding across her face.
2. Trancos was holding Larzik at arm’s length, while the Imp-goblin beat at his long arms with his stick.
3. A tall figure appeared just inside the shadow of the trees.
I really enjoyed writing this instalment for some reason, also it's slightly longer than normal. I hope you all liked it too, and don't forget to comment to vote for your favourite option.
Fare Thee Well!