Photo via VisualHunt.com
Ollie grinned at Sebastian as they walked out of the airship. “This is a grand adventure we’ve found ourselves on, eh, Seb?” he asked.
Sebastian grunted. “I’m not sure I like this, Ollie,” the older man said. “We know nothing about these people, or this place. Are we even safe here?”
“Most likely not,” Ollie said, waving his hand. “But that’s part of the thrill.” He saw his cousin’s expression. “Oh do lighten up, Seb. I doubt our fellow passengers mean us any harm. It’ll be this new territory that might cause us some trouble.”
A grizzled man in a dark blue uniform stepped up on a platform. He looked old, but the heavy wool and linen clothing covered a rock hard body that even Ollie had to admire. “Okay then me lads and lassies,” he said, a broad accent causing some people to lean in closer, squinting, as if that would help them understand him better. “The quest is simple. Survive long enough to find something new and interesting to bring back. We got eyes everywhere, so no attacking other adventurers. There’s plenty of beasties and other strange things to keep you busy.”
“We got your gear here,” a flat chested red haired woman said in a monotone voice. She gestured to piles secured in packs with name cards attached to them. “Collect your possessions now.”
There was a scramble as everyone picked up their things. Ollie’s was heavier than he remembered. He checked it and saw that a tent had been attached to the bottom of the rucksack. He glanced over at Sebastian. Judging from what he was pushing around in his, they’d given him more food for the two of them.
“All right me brave ones,” the old man said. “You’ve got three days to get something and return. Else we’ll go hunting for you.” His smile turned sinister. “You won’t like that one bit. No you won’t.” He brightened. “Off with you.”
“I don’t like that look on his face when he said they’d go hunting for us if we didn’t come back on time,” Sebastian said.
“Me either, Seb,” Ollie admitted. “So let’s make sure we aren’t late.” Sebastian nodded. Ollie pulled down his goggles and made sure his gun was at the ready. The two of them set off into the forest.
The two young men searched for a day and a half, but found nothing of interest. “We’d have to go even deeper in, but then we’d be late,” Sebastian said.
“I know, Seb,” Ollie said. He pulled off his helmet and goggles and wiped his sweaty face. The heat was oppressive, even here under the massive trees. “But we can’t go back empty handed either. We’ll be out the money for the trip and lose out on the cash prize. I say we go a couple more hours in. We can make up for it by waking up earlier and leaving our camp earlier in the morning.”
“If you’re sure we’ll be able to do that, Ollie,” Sebastian said.
“I know we can,” Ollie said, his confidence returning. The cousins moved on into the forest.
It was getting darker when Sebastian spotted the flash of color. “Ollie, what’s that?” he asked in a whisper.
Ollie looked where he was pointing. “Don’t know,” he said, his voice filled with excitement. “Let’s see if we can catch it.”
“It” turned out to be a bird with bright plumage, and was surprisingly easy to get into the cage. They turned around and started heading back to the edge of the trees. They walked until it was too dark to see before going to bed.
Ollie roused his cousin before dawn and they started walking again. “Ollie, don’t we have to be back by sundown?” Sebastian asked after they’d been going for several hours.
“Yes we do,” Ollie said. “We should be almost there. We’re following the same path we came in on. Look, there’s our flags. And the little markers I put in to differentiate so we didn’t end up going in circles.”
“That’s what I wanted to tell you, Ollie. This is the one you put down at the edge of the forest. It’s been running parallel to us for the last hour.”
Ollie laughed nervously. “You’re wrong, Seb. Paths can’t just freeze you in place.”
“This one has,” Sebastian said. “What do we do now?”
Ollie looked around. A glimmer among the trees made him look to the west. The sky was the color of coral and the turquoise sea. The sun was going down. “We have to find the edge of the trees,” he said. The two men started running.
Trees and bushes seemed to part in front of them, but Ollie noticed they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Finally they stopped, chests heaving. It was pitch black in the forest. Night had fallen.
A sing song voice echoed through the darkness. “Come out, come out, wherever you are. Come out so I can kill you.” The cousins dropped the cage containing their prize and ran in a different direction, looking for somewhere to hide.