Choose Your Own Adventure! Part 3 (or 2b?)

Quick news note: the flash fic that I wrote one week ago was chosen as the winning piece in the contest!

This is the third installation of my Choose Your Own Adventure series.  The previous two pieces can be found here: Part 1, Part 2.  You’ll benefit from having played them and being moderately familiar with their details, especially Part 2.  Note that this piece is divergent from Part 2, and actually follows on the events of Part 1.  You’ll see what I mean when you read the first briefing just below.

For the best experience, keep your eyes on the text nearest the top of the screen and be careful not to read ahead.

#Start here#

When we last left you, you had just outrun the knights and fled into the woods with the villagers.  You’re immensely popular, because you warned them of the approaching group of knights just in time for them to escape…

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You’ve made it out of the town in time to watch it be burned to the ground, and your companions are looking anxious.  They have everything they could carry with them on their backs, but everything else has just gone up in smoke.  You’re not safe in the least, and those knights and their men will surely find you and run you down if you don’t do something quickly, so setting out on your own right now is probably a poor choice.  But where will you go and what will you do?  Normally the town elders would decide, but your timely warning has given you a good deal of status amongst these people.  They invite you to their meeting, and dither over what course of action would be best despite the clear urgency of the situation.

a) You lend your voice to seeking revenge by proposing a counter attack.  Those knights would never expect organized resistance!

b) The wisest choice is clearly to keep your heads down.  Maybe the townsfolk know some good hiding places in the nearby woods that the knights aren’t likely to find?

c) There’s no time like the present for getting a better handle on the situation.  Everything you ever read about history said that the people who knew their opponents’ positions had the advantage, so you should clearly get some good hunters to go out and scout.

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After watching the knights today, you decide that discretion is once again the better part of valor.  You urge the villagers to hide.  They retreat deeper into the woods and take you with them, taking refuge in old overgrown storage cellars and ancient hunters’ blinds.  The spaces smell of must and mold, but it’s a far better fate, you think as you cram into a dirty hole in the ground with two other families of peasants, than what would have awaited you had you waited above-ground instead.  With a little luck, you’ll be able to avoid attracting any attention here while you decide what to do next.  What are you going to do next?

a) You have a safe space and enough food to last you for a few days if you ration it carefully.  Remaining in hiding is clearly the safest choice.

b) You can’t let the knights get away with what they’ve done.  Now that most of the village is safely hidden away, the villagers that can fight should prepare to strike at the knights’ camp.  That’ll teach them to burn down towns!

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Everyone else scuttles off into the woods to try and conceal themselves from any patrols the knights might send out.  You and two hunters, meanwhile, head off in search of some information about the knights and their camp.  You feel clumsy and loud as you stumble through the woods behind these two expert hunters, but they quickly teach you to move slowly and feel for your footing before you put down your weight.  It’s not perfect, but at least you don’t sound like a herd of elephants breaking through the underbrush anymore.

Now that you’re quieter, it’s easy to hear other people moving through the woods every so often.  In fact, one of them stumbles across your position, only to be quickly subdued by the hunters with you.  It turns out you’ve caught a cook, who claims that they were trying to escape.  Your companions argue briefly amongst themselves, trying to decide whether to question the captive or let them go, and they look to you to settle the dispute.

a) They may be trying to escape the knights, but they have to know more about them than we do.  Questioning the captive further is the obvious choice.

b) You feel sorry for the poor sucker.  Who knows, maybe that could have been you if you hadn’t moved faster when you first got here?  You should just let them go.

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The hunter asking questions isn’t satisfied, and has clearly seen far too many witch hunters at work.  You feel dirty knowing that you are complicit in what is happening, and you think to speak up to stop it, but the second hunter seems just as frozen as you feel.  This is totally not like what TV had led you to expect it would be.

The cook’s cries are well muffled, and you watch as the cook slowly loses digits and eventually a good chunk of nose.  With each new loss the cook’s story changes, but it’s never enough to satisfy the hunter and stop the strokes of his knife.  Finally, even the hunter leading the interrogation stops in disgust.  But it’s so easy to blame the victim.  Why couldn’t they just stick to a story and have it be done with?  It would have saved them so much pain, and everyone would have felt better.  You bring the cook back to camp and give them to the village healer to take care of.  What’s left of them, at least.  You learned almost nothing, but one of the few details that seemed to stick was that the camp wasn’t very well guarded in the middle of the night.

a) Do you leave, disgusted with the ways of this world and hoping to try your luck on your own?

b) Or maybe you decide to stick it out and press the attack.  At least you can use the information you gained, right?

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Poor fool.  It’s not like the cook was paying that much attention to the camp, they just wanted to be gone.  You convince the hunters to let the cook go, only to listen in horror as they stumble through the woods as loudly as you had only a few hours earlier.  The difference is that now you’re within earshot of the camp’s sentries.  Soon the men-at-arms guarding the camp are beating through the brush looking for that damnably noisy cook.  They find the cook, and they find you too.  You try to make a run for it, along with the hunters, but you’re surrounded.  The guards laugh as they kill the cook, and they laugh as they kill your friends, and then they laugh as they kill you.  Understandably, you don’t find this very funny.

Well that sucked.  Maybe you shouldn’t have let the noisy cook go?  Better luck next time.

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You’re certain that the knights won’t expect rapid retaliation.  They’re clearly used to being treated as superiors and simply mistreating others with no fear of consequences.  It takes you a while, but eventually you can talk the other villagers around to your point of view.

Armed with makeshift weapons and an undeniable desire for vengeance, you and the peasants attack the camp as the knights are sitting down for dinner.  Though you catch them by surprise, it turns out that armor, training, and real weapons are a very effective combination.  Especially when you don’t have any of them yourself.  Even the power of surprise, which you vaguely recall being referred to in some of your history books as a very effective force multiplier, doesn’t seem to matter all that much when the original forces are so disparate.  It isn’t completely one-sided.  You manage to wound and even kill a good number of them, but all of your peasant friends are killed or captured, and you are wounded terribly in the fighting.  You learn the hard way why the term “mercy killing” was invented.

Sooo… maybe not so feisty next time?

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Now that you have a safe place, it seems like this is the perfect time to get ready to hit back.  And since you’ve got a secure place from which to base yourselves, there’s no reason not to make sure that everything is all set first.  Everyone sets to work finding old weapons and making what new ones they can from the materials at hand.  Then they set to work training.  The training looks miserably ineffective to your eyes, but at least it will give them a little confidence when they get to the real thing.

Several days pass this way, with people only moving about above ground once the sun has set.  On the night that you’ve chosen, you all move into position around the knights’ camp.  You use the villagers’ superior knowledge of the land to get in close to their sentries without ever being noticed, and everyone is settled in, awaiting the signal to begin the attack.  You’re sweating anxiously, you’ve never actually had to fight people before and you know that in a few moments you and everyone that you’re with could be dead, all your precious bodily fluids spilled out on the ground.  Then you hear the birdcall that’s supposed to send you and everyone else forward, surprising and overpowering the sentries.

a) You do it.  You have the worst possible feeling about this, but you’ve come too far to stop now.  You charge forward through the brush, hoping that everyone else is running along with you.

b) Fuck this, you never wanted to be a hero.  You run away and let the villagers do their own fighting.  It wasn’t your village that was burned down, was it?

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You take the coward’s way out.  You melt away into the woods as you hear the villagers rush forward.  The yells and screams of combat breaking out ahead of you terrify you, and you blunder onwards through the dark.  Hours later, you’re a good way away and completely lost.  Maybe the villagers won’t realize that you ran instead of helping them?  Maybe you’ll find some other people who are willing to take you in?

Who are we kidding.  You’re cold and hungry and miserable.  You’ve got no marketable skills, no one to call your friend and no place to call home.  You’re probably going to be a bandit, and things will end terribly.  You’ll end up having to fight people anyway, and this time you’ll feel even worse about it.  Maybe you’d rather have stuck with the people who knew you?  You could always try again…

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At the sound of a chittering birdcall, all of you are up and rushing forward.  You charge into the camp, overwhelming the first sentries and stabbing at anyone offering the least hint of resistance, but everything seems wrong.  The camp smells like … an outhouse, but worse.  You’d have expected a certain amount of filth, but this looks like plague or poison.  The men-at-arms and knights that are still on their feet all seem too weak to offer much resistance.  Though your collective bloodlust carries you and your companions through the camp, by the time you’ve all reached the center it’s clear that something else has struck down these knights before you ever could.  There’s one person still puttering about in the middle of the camp, and as you pour in they put their hands up.  It’s a cook.

They explain that they poisoned nearly everyone else at a big feast.  It was a simple trick, all they had to do was work slowly to earn the knights’ trust before lacing everything at the feast with horribly poisonous mushrooms.  You’re more than a little uncomfortable knowing that you’re standing next to someone who single-handedly poisoned almost every single one of these people.  At least the cook made your job easier?

What, you want me to tell you that you won?  Finding out that someone else poisoned everyone is winning now?  If you’re not satisfied, try again.  Otherwise, maybe you should celebrate having succeeded in reaching your goals without losing many of your own people.  Just don’t eat the mushroom soup, it’s a real doozy.

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The voice of caution speaks loudly in your mind.  There’s no way that you and these peasants can do anything to really harm those knights, is there?  Better by far to play it safe and stay hidden until they’ve moved on.

Eventually the knights do move on, though everyone has gone hungry for a few days before they finally go.  It’s time to try and rebuild.  You’re far better off than you could have been, since you were able to warn the people before the knights attacked, but now you’ll have to rebuild all of the hard work of theirs that was destroyed.  It looks like you have a long life of hard labor with little reward waiting for you.  Welcome to being a peasant in whatever screwed up corner of history you’ve been stuck in.  It could be worse, right?  At least you speak the language.

Safe, secure… and boring.  Maybe you want some more excitement in your life?  Try it again!

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The actions of the hunters disgust you.  You don’t want to live with anyone who’d do that, so you do the unexpected.  You leave.  Nobody tries to stop you, even when you take a little bit of the food for yourself.  Just enough to go on until you reach the next town, you think.  Maybe you could become a wandering minstrel?  Someone who travels from place to place and earns their keep by telling stories?  Or maybe you could start your own town, just like all those old stories you used to read as a kid, using your knowledge of the future to help build a better part of this world…

What a sad fate for that poor cook.  Maybe your story will have a happier ending.  If you want to try again, feel free!

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It’s not your fault that the poor cook was mutilated.  It was the hunter’s fault.  And it was that cook’s fault for not sticking to their story, right?  That’s what you keep telling yourself.  Anything it takes to keep from admitting that you could have done something to stop such a horrible thing from happening.  Anyway, if you want to make the best of things you should make use of the information that you did get.

You and the villagers prepare for your attack, arriving around the camp in the middle of the night and sneaking in close to the sentries before killing them quietly.  Well, killing most of them quietly.  One of them makes a noise, and the camp begins to wake up.  But by then it’s too little too late, and you and the villagers quickly rush in amongst the slowly waking knights and men-at-arms and do unto them before they can do unto you.  It’s a fight characterized by sudden and brutal savagery.  A few of your foes manage to wake and put up some resistance, but they can’t win against more than a dozen angry farmers with spears while fighting in naught but their bedclothes.  While they manage to inflict a number of casualties, you overwhelm the resistance and claim the camp as your own.  Your dead and wounded lie intermingled with the corpses of your enemies.

That sounds kind of like success, if you don’t mind torture and killing.  So, all’s well that ends well?  The ends justify the means?  What’s the lesson here?  Murder begets bloody murder?  Maybe you want a a different ending.  Feel free to try again.

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You quietly make your way out of the woods closest to the knights’ camp, setting up instead in an abandoned mill set by the remnants of a no-longer full stream.  The cook claims to know nothing.  The hunters take a while to establish that the cook really doesn’t know anything, working the cook over with a number of well placed punches.  This seems a trifle harsh, but, well, it is the middle ages wherever you are, right?  The cook claims that they still don’t know anything, despite being a few bruises richer, and then you see one of the hunters pull out a knife and gag the cook with a leather strap.  He’s about to start carving up the cook the way you’d carve up a chicken!  What do you do?

a) This has gone way too far, and the cook obviously doesn’t know anything.  Let the cook go!

b) This is clearly the only way to get the information that you need.  And if watching popular TV in your spare time taught you anything, it’s that torture works.  It’s ok to make important life choices informed only by popular TV, right?

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You stop the hunter with a hand on his shoulder.  He looks over at you in surprise, and seems more than a little frustrated that you’ve decided to let the cook go without getting anything out of them.  You undo the leather strap and the cook gratefully runs off while you three move away a little more cautiously.

You’re on your way back towards the village’s hiding spot from the mill, when you step out of the tree line to cross a short section of path.  You’re still arguing with each other over what you should have done and what you’ll have to do next, so you don’t immediately realize that there’s a group of men-at-arms just a short distance down the path, staring at you.  There’s a quiet standstill as you discover your mistake, and then most of the men-at-arms are charging after you.

You and your companions bound away, diving towards the woods and cover, when you realize why it was that some of the men-at-arms weren’t charging.  They had bows.  Your hunter friends make it into the woods, but just as you reach the trees you’re skewered by no fewer than three arrows.  You collapse in a painful heap, and have plenty of time to appreciate the bitter humor of the situation as the men-at-arms torture you for information which you don’t know.  And then they kill you.

Might I suggest making different choices next time?

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5 responses to “Choose Your Own Adventure! Part 3 (or 2b?)

  1. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but
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  2. Pingback: Choose Your Own Adventure! Part 2 | Fistful of Wits

  3. Pingback: Choose Your Own Adventure! | Fistful of Wits

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