Thank you everyone for entering!
The winner of Adventures and Adversities by Sarah Holman is.....
Lois Newton!!!! Congratulations!
I don’t think anyone will believe me when I tell them this. I can barely grasp the reality of it myself. The princess of our land is a traitor! My pulse was racing and not entirely from the fear of being discovered at this precarious moment.
I had long suspected a collaborator with the Mongus kingdom. I had even entertained the possibility that Erya was the one. She had always congratulated me after my diplomatic victories over Mongus but I always thought I saw a slight smirk of private amusement when she thought no one was watching. Even when she casually asked how I had managed to pull off such a feat, I harbored the fear that she wanted to know so she could reveal my strategies to the Mongus ambassador. But when I actually saw the truth with my own eyes, I could hardly believe it.
Her kind demeanor and warm smile always caused me to question my suspicions. She seemed so caring when interacting with the servants and the children from the streets. Handing out generous sums of money as well as spending time with them were both things she was respected for. Only now I realized how calculated her actions were. Both servants and street urchins were practically invisible yet often heard vitally important information. Erya had been carefully forming alliances with them to get the information she needed to undermine her own kingdom!
But would any Agurian believe that their princess had such a cold and calculating side? Would they believe that her warm smile could twist into a heartless sneer? Or that her dainty hands that offered alms to orphans could slip a dagger into an unsuspecting senator’s back? People did not even see her as politician. She was mostly seen as an ambassador of goodwill to not only other countries but to her own country as well. Her kindness had won the land to her side.
Who would want to believe such an impossible tale? To believe that princess Erya was a traitor would destroy the people’s last balustrade of security. She and the rest of the royal family were the seen as patriotic symbols of the kingdom. All of Agura would be thrown into a panic if her betrayal was made known. If you could not trust sweet Erya, who could you trust?
Certainly not me. I was already well known for being heartlessly calculating in order to achieve my goals. Many at court would doubt me because of my reputation.
The balance was tipped heavily in Erya’s side if it came down to a question of character. True, I had faithfully served Agura for many years and accomplished much for my homeland. But I was the diplomatic ambassador. I was the one who quietly made deals behind doors for a living while Erya was known as a very public figure. She was known only for her kindness.
Who would believe that her loyalty to Agura was less than that of an underhanded ambassador? Truly things were not as they seemed.
The quiet sound of footsteps on the stairs reminded me that I may not even be alive to challenge Erya if the assassins found me. They were descending the staircase slowly and quietly.
I realized this was my last chance to attempt to sneak out the partially open door behind me. For one agonizing moment, I pondered the options. The assassins themselves would probably make their exit through the door behind me. If they made it down the hall and out the last door, they would be in the garden with a very good chance of escape since it was the dead of night. I should definitely be discovered if this was their plan. Rushing out the door and into one of the rooms in the hall was my only option.
I took a deep breath and prepared myself. As fast as I could, I simultaneously spun around and pulled the creaky door open. But before I could dash into the hall, a hand grabbed me and stunned me with a blow to the chin. My assaulter then threw me back through the doorway and into a table.
The two assassins were in the room now and had their daggers out. I didn’t stand much chance against three trained assassins so I waited for them to make the next move.
The assassin that had caught me crouched down at my side. I could see his eyes appraising me in the darkness. He suddenly leaned closer and pressed his dagger against my throat.
“Who are you?” he hissed.
Second place goes to Ruth Newton!!!
“I don’t think people will believe me when I tell them this.”
“Believe what?” Drew leaned his chair back against the wall, something he did often when the two of us were talking.
“That this is a set-up. I think it was arranged for him to leak that letter, so we would think that Senator Gisele is accepting bribes.”
“And then we think that the director is weeding out traitors-”
“Which would make him and the people he appointed look more trustworthy than the officials who were appointed by our previous director, who, as we all know, was stressing less government involvement.”
“Getting rid of Senator Gisele is one step closer to getting rid of anyone in the government who would oppose him.”
“It feels like we should say something.”
“That’s exactly what they want. Oppose them, while they are strong and then it’ll be easy to get rid of us. We can’t give them that chance. They’re scared of us, Avery. They know that if we join together we’ll be stronger. We’ve been weak all these years; we’ve given up our freedoms. If we want to get them back, we have to remember that we know who’s really in control. If we think we can do it by ourselves, then there’s no way we can ever win.”
I smiled. “Keep our heads down, but eyes open.”
“That’s right. Now come on, let’s get ready for the trip.”
Two days later, I was in the Complex. There weren’t many people around, but when the main gates opened a few hours later, the grounds would be packed out.
“Come on guys, let’s go do something before the crowd gets here.” Mi and Drew started reading a program that outlined the day’s events.
“Something? Since when did we go to an event to do “something”?” I shouldered my backpack and sat on a bench.
“Since you forgot how to enjoy yourself.” Tiry smiled playfully. She gave Sean his bottle, and he sucked on it, cooing contentedly.
“Oh, I remember how, I just don’t enjoy it as much.”
We all laughed and started walking through the different pavilions. As I looked up, I wondered why all the buildings at the Complex were shorter than most I had seen in the other states. Probably easier for security. At the corners of each building, security cameras were clearly visible. But only if you were looking for it, could you see the smaller ones hidden in places that could see into and around the building’s perimeter.
We were given wristbands that we could scan at different markers to gain access. This event was mostly an entertainment oriented one. There were mostly games, the type with the fast moving graphics and the annoying music.
There was one that got my attention. I remembered it from a few years before. Dad had made me play it, even though I thought it was boring. It was based on history, with quizzes that would earn you points if you answered the questions correctly. It was pushed back against a wall, presumably because it wasn’t one that our “forward thinking” officials wouldn’t like to encourage.
I started typing a username, a nickname that I had invented for myself when I was younger- “Light Shadow.” Shadows had always fascinated me, because they weren't much of anything, just images created by light. They might look intimidating or impressive, but without a source of light, they can’t even exist.
I spun around and saw someone who I didn’t expect and definitely did not want to see. Peggie.
I forced a smile and an excited voice. “Peggie, I had no idea you’d be here!”
“Neither did I, until a few days ago. We decided to come at the last day.”
“My family couldn’t make it, so I had a few friends tag along.”
I half-smiled. Peggie’s family never seemed to get around much.
“So, Avery, what have you been up to lately?”
“Oh, keeping busy with work.”
I glanced down at her arm, and saw that her wristband had a green stripe on it. That meant she had VIP access to the gaming expo that night. Drew and I were planned to go.
“I’m sorry Peggie, I really have to go. I’ll see you at the expo tonight?”
She looked surprised for a second. “Yeah, I guess I’ll be seeing you later.”
I waited until she had walked to the other side of the complex. I quickly backspaced my username and went to find my family. Drew was standing by himself at a booth that sold handheld games. I sidled up next to him, and bumped his elbow.
“Drew, look over there.”
I discreetly pointed to a man and woman who were buying water at a vending machine. The woman was fashionably dressed, and her sunglasses were edged with rhinestones that glinted in the sunlight. Her oversized handbag was partially unzipped; through the crack I could see the barrel of a pistol.
“Drew, she has a gun.”
“How in the world did she get it past security?”
“I don’t know, but why would she need it?”
“What, you think she’s an assassin or something?”
“She seemed very interested when Peggie started talking to me.”
“What’s Peggie doing here?”
“That’s something else I have yet to figure out.”
Drew and I watched the couple as they walked away.
“Avery, I’m going to go get Tiry and Mi. I'll be right back. Keep a lookout.”
I walked over to the vending machine to buy something to drink. As I pulled my wallet from my pocket, I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around and found myself staring into the face of the woman with the gun.
“Hello, Ms. Highland. It really is very nice to meet you.”
Third place goes to John Newton!!
I don't think anyone will believe me when I tell them this. Bret stopped just outside the room where Cole was and leaned his head against the wall. I wouldn't blame them. What would Fenhar stand to gain from kidnapping his family? No ransom note had been received so Bret didn't think money was the motive. Yes, Darren was their number one enemy, but did they know what Sir Peyton's oldest two sons did for a living? Did they know that Bret and his older brother, Cole, served in the Darren Rangers, the special missions group of the Darren army?
Bret sighed, even Cole would have a hard time believing my theory and he was the optimistic one of the family- his family. Thinking about it made Bret's head reel all over again.
His twenty-one year old brother, Cole, was the first born followed by nineteen year old Areiah, eighteen year old Bret, fourteen year old Kiera, and thirteen year old Trenton. His parents, Sir Peyton and Lady Marianne, were landowners and lived on a farm not far from the mountains seperating Darren from Fenhar.
Then just two weeks ago his entire family, except Cole who he had been on a mission with, had all disappeared and no clues as to their whereabouts had not been discovered yet. Well, Bret thought, I might as well tell him now and get it over with. He stood to his full 6 foot 2 inch height and turned the corner into the room. Cole didn't look up from the papers he was reviewing as Bret entered.
"Why did you wait outside in the hallway so long before coming in?"
Bret looked surprised at first, but then remembered his older brother had been a Ranger a whole year longer than he had and Cole's skills had been honed a lot more than his own.
"I think our family's kidnaping is Ferhan's doing." Cole didn't answer at first, but that was to be expected since a Ranger was taught never to jump to conclusions or dismiss possibilities without the appropriate facts.
"That's a pretty serious conclusion to come to. What makes you think so?" asked Cole finally looking up.
Bret proceeded to explain his reasons. "I know it's not much, but I've been praying about it and I have a feeling there's something more to this than just a simple kidnaping."
Before Cole could answer, a commotion in the front their barracks followed by a man shouting Cole's and his brother's name caught their attention. They ran outside where they saw a man on horseback talking excitedly. He stopped abruptly what he caught sight of the two brothers.
"Your mother, sister, and brother have just been found!"
"Whe-", Bret started to ask, but Cole beat him to it.
"About 10 miles from here near Stonewick. Lord Hendrik told me to come get you both."
"Let's go!" both boys said in unison. While they were talking, their horses had been brought from the stable and readied for the trip. The courier, Bret, and Cole set out, riding as fast as their horses legs would carry them.
Not long afterwards, the three riders rode through the gets of Stonewick. The first person to greet them was a soldier.
"Sirs, please follow me Lord Hendrik is expecting you." Bret was impatient to see his family, but quietly followed the soldier. Cole was also impatient but hid it quite well, until the group entered the room where Marianne, Arieh and Trenton were seated. His mouth dropped open when he caught his first glimpse of them in two weeks. They were covered in dirt from head to toe, their clothes were torn and frayed. They've been traveling hard for a while, Cole thought to himself. Meanwhile Bret had run over and embraced all three travelers. Before Cole knew what he was doing, he too had joined in the giant hug.
Meanwhile on the other side of the mountains...
"Did you do it?"
"Yes, my Lord, the woman and the children were left exactly where you ordered. We followed them until they were found, as you ordered."
"Good." The first man replied. "Everything is going according to plan, so far. Let's hope those meddling Rangers don't figure out what we're doing."
Thank you all for entering!
-Mikayla and Ysa-