A "harvest" is a time when all the preparation, all of the hard work and nurturing of little seeds, come to fruition, and one gathers in the fruits of one's labor. It is a well-known saying that one reaps what one sows; as it happens, that is as true in this narrative as it is in agriculture.
These thoughts of harvest and reaping what you sow are very much in your mind as you approach Aunt Primrose and the others in your large straw hat with a yellow flower on it.
Alas, you think, they are so near and yet so far. You are a fugitive, cut off from fellowship forever more, as you…
"Oh, sorry," says Rory, as he comes up behind you, knocking into you and sending your hat flying off your head. "My fault entirely. I was eating this popped corn with caramel atop it, and wasn't paying attention to where I was…Pennyworth? Is that you?"
You replace your hat.
1. "Shhhh, sir, if you would be so kind as to allow me to roam about incognito."
2. "Why, yes it is. I have escaped from prison in a heroic fashion."
3. "No, I think you have me confused with someone else."
Don't reply to this post
Soothing: 24% / Abrasive: 76%
Aunt Primrose: 48%
Col. Firesnuff: 23%
Ready Monies: 400
REPLY TO THIS POST
2. is incredibly tempting, but 1 is probably best. Rory will probably go for it. So, 1.
Option 2- just because our relationship with Rory is good enough that he can take it, though I would have gone for option 1 otherwise
"Why, yes it is. I have escaped from prison in a heroic fashion."
"I had no doubt you would, Pennyworth!"
"If I might ask, sir, could you kindly refrain from saying my name aloud? I am, after all, ah…"
"'On the lam,' I think is the term of art," Rory says. "That's what they always say in thrilling novels. Goodness, Pennyworth, you are like an epic hero of old. Did you fight your way out with a rapier and a cloak?"
"Something very near to that."
"I'll bet, Pennyworth! Someone ought to write your autobiography, with all of your clever adventures in them."
"Again, I would remind you about not using my name, sir, here in this public forum."
"Right, right. Are you actually Light-Fingered Lou, by the by?"
"No, sir!" you say.
"Good, good. I didn't think so."
"I'm glad you didn't think so, sir."
"Aunt Primrose has been worried sick about you. Well, specifically, she is worried sick about what your arrest will do to her standing among the other leading ladies in the community, but that amounts to the same thing. Everyone believes in you, Pennyworth. We'll keep it to ourselves. Come on."
Rory leads you to where Aunt Primrose is pacing back and forth near some street vendors. A group of small children are playing a ring toss game nearby, but the screams of laughter seem only to annoy her. Frankincense and Mopsie are doing their best to comfort Aunt Primrose, but to little effect. Haze amuses herself by playing a darts game at a booth.
"Rory!" says Aunt Primrose. "Did you find those peacocks? They have to be somewhere! Why are you holding popped corn at a time like this? And who is that with you?"
Rory motions to you, and then whispers in Aunt Primrose's ear, and her eyes widen. You can see the wheels beginning to turn, and she shares the news with those around her. "Between you and me, I think Inspector Ambrose was off his rocker to arrest you," says Aunt Primrose. "But that's neither here nor there. We have an emergency."
"We're missing two rowers, is the problem," Frankincense says. "Two of the servants have taken ill and have had to cancel."
"Can you do it?" Aunt Primrose looks at you with hope in her eyes. You cannot refuse such an offer from an aunt in need, and you assent. "Who do you recommend as the most fitting rowing partner for you?" Aunt Primrose asks.
1. "I will row with Mr. Wintermint. We shall be an unstoppable team."
2. "I will row with Miss Cygnet-Signet," I say, motioning to Frankincense.
I'll throw in a vote for 1. Frankinscense seems the sort that might through a wrench into the mix if something happens that doesn't fit with her morals, and it would just be odd to go with our boss's fiancee.' I feel like she might compete for taking charge, as well.
It's a sporting event, so teaming up with our boss (presumably in a boat with other rowers, as well) isn't going to be especially unusual.
Option 1- because it'll be less awkward to row with Rory
"I will row with Mr. Wintermint. We shall be an unstoppable team."
"Thank you for the vote of confidence," says Rory, with a little shimmy of pleasure.
"If you think so, Pennyworth," says Aunt Primrose. "We'll all be counting on you." She puts strong emphasis on the word "you." "Lord knows we haven't had much luck in years past. Ah, well. At the very least now we might improve upon last year's disaster."
"In my defense," Rory says, "I don't think it was made perfectly clear at the start of the race which direction the finish line was supposed to be. So I don't think you need to glance in my direction when you say that."
"I'm sure you'll do your very best," says Frankincense, "and that's what counts."
"You understand that this is a race, Rory, suggesting that the intention is to get to the designated finish line as quickly as possible." Aunt Primrose wrinkles her nose.
"I do," Rory says, hotly.
"Have it your way, then, Pennyworth. I suppose stranger things have happened."
"I suggest we walk into town to get some pear brandy swizzles to fend off the chill to help us see the back of this whole affair," says Aunt Primrose. "Regina, hold my walking stick while I adjust my fur muff. There we are! Pick up the pace everyone. Hup!"
You walk in the rear, taking in the sights of the festival, lost in thought.
What are you thinking about as you walk?
1. How best to defeat Aunt Primrose's competition.
2. Whether I am up to the task of rowing Gunwales of Infinity to victory.
3. Whether I will be accepted into the Inner Circle of the Cadbury Club.
4. I would like a piece of funnel cake with powdered sugar.
5. The nature of being a proper servant.
4. Hopefully, we might get to keep some of the funnel cakes rather than eating them all. And then, if we landed on the island with the wierd kids who only eat bread that was mentioned in the paper, we might have something to bribe them with.
And Pennyworth probably hasn't eaten't in a while - we got Rory food, but we skipped on actually arranging for a snack for everone else.
And does Pennyworth really need to think about how he will beat the competition? He will be sure that he can.
Whether I would like a piece of funnel cake with powdered sugar.
Fried dough is delicious on its own, and then with about two cups of powdered sugar dumped on top—that is true decadence. It is a luxury only attainable at festivals, and you intend to take advantage of it. You go to a stand and purchase a large funnel cake, and devour it nearly whole.
Nobody can say what the remainder of today will bring. You may suffer physical agonies, and there may be woes untold in store for you.
But you have eaten a delicious funnel cake, and nobody can take that away from you.
You are in the midst of these compelling thoughts when a "Hsst!" awakens you from your reverie.
It is Aunt Primrose's chef, Beauregard, in his kitchen whites, wearing his chef's toque. He holds his flour-covered portfolio and a pen.
"Ah, Pennyworth," he says. "So you weel indeed to be rowing, eh? I just saw Scrubs, your soon-to-be coxswain. She ees, how do you say, 'warming up.' She says that Mrs. Patterson told her that you weel have no small part in ze creating ze strategy for Gunwales of Infinity…ah yes. Eet strikes me that you have not yet made le wag-air on the boat race. Perhaps you would like ze chance to make some money, non?"
You look around. Everyone is busy looking in a bookstore window, and nobody is paying attention to you. It would be good to earn some money for Rory—or for yourself, for that matter. Of course, you would hate to lose money, but surely that never happens when one gambles.
"Come, come, Pennyworth," says Beauregard. "Naturellement, you wish to bet. Here ees le odds sheet for your delectation." He hands you an informational document.
Mrs. Patterson's boat, Gunwales of Infinity — pays 2:1 odds.
Col. Firesnuff's boat, The Firesnuff — pays 1:1 odds.
The Benevolent Policemen's Association boat, The Long Arm — pays 2:1 odds.
The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers' boat, the Hell for Leather — pays 20:1 odds.
Mrs. Patterson's boat, Gunwales of Infinity — pays 2:1 odds.
Col. Firesnuff's boat, The Firesnuff — pays 1:1 odds.
The Benevolent Policemen's Association boat, The Long Arm — pays 2:1 odds.
The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers' boat, the Hell for Leather — pays 20:1 odds.
1. "Sorry, Beauregard. No bets for me today."
2. "I'll bet on Colonel Firesnuff's team. I like the cut of his jib."
3. "I'll bet on Mrs. Patterson's team. I have high hopes for Gunwales of Infinity."
4. "I'll bet on the police. I have a funny feeling about them."
5. "I'll bet on the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers. I wouldn't mind increasing my money twentyfold."
And it's too bad we didn't get to keep the funell cake. I'm sure it was delicious, though.
"I'll bet on Mrs. Patterson's team. I have high hopes for Gunwales of Infinity."
"As our American friends sing, you are going to root, root, root for ze home team, yes?" Beauregard chortles.
"Something like that," you say.
"If they don't win, eet's a shame," he notes.
You smile thinly.
"Now tell me, my friend. What is the amount you wish to wag-aiiir?"
cannot choose --> "Sixty."
cannot choose -->"Fifty."
cannot choose -->"Forty."
cannot choose -->"Thirty."
cannot choose -->"Twenty."
3. "On second thought, never mind."
Considering we got the funnel cake for free, apparently, might as well go with 10. So, 1.
"All right. A petit bet for you of ten. Good."
Beauregard accepts your money with a practiced flick of his hand, closes his portfolio in a contented manner, and gives you a deep and flourish-filled bow, sweeping his toque off his head. He then places the money into his toque and replaces it on his head. "A pleasure doing of ze business with you. I will find you out after ze race, no doubt to give you your winnings."
He strolls away to accost other honest citizens before the race.
It is at this moment that you hear some commotion from Aunt Primrose and the others. They are standing in front of the local bookstore, The Turning Leaf, where a poster is prominently displayed in the front window.
The poster advertises a historical swashbuckling adventure titled Glorious Banners of Glory, featuring a picture of a musketeer with an improbably large feather on his magnificent hat.
"When the Sheriff of Nottingham's rebellious daughter becomes a masked folk hero, and then is captured by a band of swashbuckling rogues with hearts of gold, will the musketeers be able to fend off the cardinal's guard long enough to rescue her? Find out in Glorious Banners of Glory, available in fine booksellers throughout the world."
"Oh, I thought Tawdry Lace, the new Fifi Buttercup book, was going to be coming out soon. Funny there's no poster for that," Rory says. He leans in to you and whispers, "You know how I love Fifi Buttercup, Pennyworth."
"I cannot believe you read that trash," says Aunt Primrose, shrugging. "Filling your mind with rot. Come along, everyone."
Regina Wilhelmina looks over to you, meeting your eyes, letting you know that she is happy that Aunt Primrose has been spared the indignity of seeing a poster advertising Tawdry Lace. She slows her pace, joining you. "Well done, Savage Wendigo," she whispers. "When we do our jobs well, our employers never even know the agony they have been spared. That is how we operate."
You look at Aunt Primrose, walking blithely onward, and then back at Regina.
"What do you mean?" you say.
"Only that the briefcase you destroyed contained the manuscript of a book that would have been damaging to Mrs. Patterson. But thanks to your vigilance, all is well. You should be proud."
1. "To be perfectly honest, most of the credit is due to Trina. I want you to know that."
2. "I am sad, though, that it had to be destroyed. I don't like the idea of destroying books."
3. "Isn't it hard to not get credit for what you do?"
4. I say nothing, merely giving her a slight nod.
1, I guess? 4 isn't bad, either. But really, Trina did do most of the work. 2 risks being overheard.
And, poor Rory. Mrs. Patterson is her employer, but Rory is ours. There is a conflict of interest, here...
And this must mean that Colonol Firesnuff is Fifi Buttercup, which is hilarious.
Option 1- Trina did do most of the work that time, and option 2 sounds really suspicious, if someone was to overhear
"To be perfectly honest, most of the credit is due to Trina. I want you to know that."
"I am not surprised to hear that," she says with auntly pride. "But she said the same about you. Perhaps you will work together in the future again. The missions, alas, never cease. There is no rest for us Inner Circle. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. The Inner Circle has not yet accepted you."
You nod assent, and walk on, following in Aunt Primrose's wake.
You arrive in the town center, where excited shopkeepers are hanging swags of autumn leaves on their storefronts, and the village children play such raucous games as neckball, scoop-the-can, and squash-and-hide, amidst much giggles and screaming. Various games of skill and chance are crowded with would-be stuffed bear owners, and larger attractions, such as the Tunnel of Love, a Ferris wheel, a haunted house, the Maze of Mirrors, and the Traveling Natural History Museum, are seeing a brisk trade as well.
Figs lingers nearby, next to an organ grinder, watching Mopsie and trying to keep out of Aunt Primrose's line of sight.
"There is my love," says Mopsie to Aunt Primrose, defiantly, pointing to Figs. "Look how he follows my every move. Surely you must respect his faithfulness."
"I am doing my very best to ignore that odd fellow," says Aunt Primrose. "I'm getting some stimulating beverages to take the edge off my having laid eyes on him."
Aunt Primrose purchases an assortment of pear brandy swizzles and is just doling them out when she utters a piercing cry and points vigorously across the town square, splattering pear brandy everywhere. "My peacocks! There! Catch them! Where did they go?"
You look around, but you don't see them.
"You're seeing things, Auntie," says Mopsie, deep into her second pear brandy swizzle.
"I am not seeing things!" she says, stamping her foot, and losing some more brandy. "Everyone! Fan out! Catch them! Go in pairs! Gently! Quickly!"
You look around and select a partner who would not only be helpful to hunt with, but with whom the prospect of conversation entices.
cannot choose --> I partner up with Haze and search the haunted house.
1. I partner up with Rory and search the Tunnel of Love.
2. I partner with Mopsie and search the Maze of Mirrors.
3. I partner with Frankincense and search the Traveling Natural History Museum.
I still think Mopsie might be behind their disappearance to begin with. It would be good to interrogate her.
But Pennyworth isn't making it out of a mirror maze without lots of peoperty damage.
I'll throw in a vote for 3 - hopefully it will increase Pennyworth's culture or intelligence.
Option 2- we're not going into the tunnel of love, and I don't fancy being stuck with Frankincense either. Besides, I think Mopsie was probably behind the peacock abduction in the first place.
I partner with Mopsie and search the Maze of Mirrors.
Mopsie at first makes a move to partner with Figs, but Aunt Primrose shoos her away. "No, Mopsie, no. Go with Pennyworth. Figaro will stay here where I can keep a close eye on him to ensure there is neither hanky nor panky."
"Oh, fine," says Mopsie.
"Good girl!" Aunt Primrose says, in a state of frantic energy. "I'm trusting you now! Pennyworth, make sure she doesn't do anything she's not allowed to do!"
Mopsie quickly pulls you away from her aunt, and you start walking towards the Maze of Mirrors.
The moment you are out of Aunt Primrose's hearing, Mopsie drops your arm and drops the sweet smile. "I still haven't forgiven you for you-know-what," she says, voice filled with disappointment and restrained anger. "But we'd better search together. I hope we find them. We are allies here, no matter how unwilling."
As you and Mopsie approach the ticket line, a hand comes down on your shoulder.
You turn to see a large police officer who has the same build as a lump of pig iron. His badge identifies him as Deputy Stonemason of the Woodland Centre police.
"You!" he cries, flecks of spittle clearly visible on his lips, his eyes almost seeming to glow red with wrath. "You're the one who sucker punched Hardcastle and escaped!"
1. I pull the brim of my hat lower and try to feign innocence. Surely this disguise and my consummate acting skill will be enough.
2. I get Aunt Primrose to outshout Deputy Stonemason.
3. I incite the crowd against Deputy Stonemason by accusing him of trying to cut the line.
3. That seems like it will work.
I incite the crowd against Deputy Stonemason by accusing him of trying to cut the line.
"Stop cutting in line!" you shout to Deputy Stonemaston, and some fairgoers take note.
"What?" Deputy Stonemason says.
"You heard me!" you say. "Here I am, minding my own business, wearing a hat, when you start jostling and shoving, and saying, 'I'm in front of you!' Wait your turn!"
"Yes, wait your turn," says a few concerned villagers, starting to get riled up by your impassioned defense of standing peacefully in line.
"Here I stand," you say. "An innocent, hat-wearing denizen of Woodland Centre, minding my own business, trying to give myself the treat of wandering about in the mirror maze, so that for one fleeting moment, I could have some joy in this weary world. And then this bully—yes, bully, I say, shoves me forward and shouts, 'Officers first! Officers first!' Is this the Woodland Centre civic pride that I have heard so much about? Is this right? Is this just?"
"No! No!" shout a number of onlookers. "Wait your turn like anyone else, you big lummox!" Clearly the villagers know Deputy Stonemason, so it is relatively easy to turn them against him with just a bit of impassioned rhetoric.
"I just wanted to enjoy the festival," you say, pointing to Deputy Stonemason. "But you wish only to spoil everyone's fun. If you had some sort of signed warrant for cutting in line, that would be one thing. But simply shoving and bullying is not all right."
Unfortunately, the crowd has some difficulty coming up with a good chant to drum Deputy Stonemason away quickly. They try "Wait your turn! / That's a polite thing that you should learn!" but reject it as far too unmetrical. Then they try "Cutting in line! / Is not fine!" and "If you just wait! / We'd think that was great!" but at that point, the crowd has dispersed a bit and is somewhat less intimidating to Deputy Stonemason.
Nevertheless, seeing that the crowd could easily reform at any moment, he decides to withdraw, swearing and snarling at you.
You and Mopsie each purchase a ticket and then enter the Maze of Mirrors, a sort of fun house with corridors that look smaller than they really are, distorted mirrors, a floor that wiggles treacherously when you walk on it, and of course the eponymous maze of mirrors, a diabolical labyrinth of hundreds of mirrors designed to confuse and disorient the would-be solver. You and Mopsie walk through a corridor filled with funny sound effects.
She plods along next to you, lost in thought.
1. I should say something wise to Mopsie to be a good influence on her, to try to make her more obedient. It feels risky, but may be worth trying.
2. If anything, Mopsie needs to be less obedient, to get out from under the thumb of Aunt Primrose. I should encourage her wild streak.
3. I think I'll just make small talk with Mopsie.
Option 3- there's no point in wasting time on her.
I think I'll just make small talk with Mopsie.
"So, Mopsie, what are your interests these days?" you ask. "I remember as a small girl you used to be so talented at…"
You are deciding. This game doesn't punish.
Probably not drawing, since she thinks so highly of Fig's art...
3. sounds good.
"I never played piano that I recall," Mopsie says. "You must have me confused with some other young woman to whom you are cruel."
"You certainly did," you say. "When you were younger. You played minuets quite artistically. You kept time so well."
"Maybe. I don't remember," says Mopsie. "You will persist in remembering outdated stories about me."
"Once you had a terrible tantrum screaming, 'I hate Robert Schumann! I hate Robert Schumann!" all through the house, and nobody could do anything about it. Then you threw a shoe right through a picture window."
"I don't know, Pennyworth. I must have been very little."
"It was just a few years ago," you say.
"Enough, Pennyworth, that's quite enough. If I've put it out of my mind, then you ought to as well."
Mopsie runs toward the entrance to the Mirror Maze, the ribbons on her hat streaming behind her.
You enter and are at once confronted with sixteen reflections of you, approaching you from various angles, and you almost walk into a mirror before you realize it is there.
You see Mopsie, looking at her many reflections. "I love this place," she sighs. "I wish Figaro were in here with me. Then we could both look at me for hours."
"Could the peacocks have found their way into here?" you say. "Look! Is that one of them?"
In fact, you can see dozens of peacocks in here, each of them jumping around, excited by what they seem to think are their friends and relations come to visit them.
"They seem to be near the exit," you say, gazing into the mirror in front of you. "I can see them clustered round a slightly ajar door leading outside. But where is the exit? For that matter, where did we enter?"
Mopsie wanders around, vaguely. "This maze is too hard," she says. "I fear I shall die in here. I am already growing faint."
1. I solve the maze quickly and locate the exit.
2. I teach Mopsie a simple method to solve most any maze and help her locate the peacocks, in the process teaching her a useful skill.
3. I call out in sweet tones to lure the peacocks to us.
1. And I'm perfectly fine with it going terribly south, since I don't really want her to find the peacocks. I still think she might be behind their dissapearance and want them free as a symbol/revenge against Mrs. Patterson for locking her up.
Rory went to steal the loot, then had it lifted "from me" by Light Fingered Lou. We saw her downstairs, but not with Rory. So I don't think she went with him, but she was in a position to do some shenanigans of her own.
She's been my chief suspect for the Peacocks since the hunt, and we already have confirmation? that Frenkinscense didn't do it unless she's an excellent bluffer. Firesnuff is still a possibility, but why would he put the birds in our room? Wheras our room makes perfect sense as a dumping ground for Mopsie to think of. I guess someone could have done it to frame us, too, so there is that possibility.
I had a write-up about it in chapter 4 or something. It was mostly her reference to being like a bird in a gilded cage, and other peppered comments about being angry at Patterson locking her up, and Patterson will be sorry for it or something like that.
The Rory plan was to solve money troubles, but doesn't seem related to her anger/feeling cooped up/empathizing with the peacocks.
I don't think she would have released them from the boathouse. My current theory is that would be accidental - someone coming to prep the boat for the race, or a deputy snooping about, etc. opened the door and they rushed out.
If Mopsie took them to begin with (or more likely, conscripted someone else to do her dirty work) I doubt she put much thought into what to do with them next other than thinking Pennyworth would be safe enough to retrieve them from later, and then, if discovered, Pennyworth would be the fall guy and not Rory or herself. I'm not sure what she would have planned to do with them (set free to roam, or used as blackmail to make Patterson let her be with Figs, or set free somewhere so she could boast at a later date to Patterson that she's a force to be reckoned with, etc.)
But it's all just a theory. Firesnuff could have wanted them gone so as not to have to compete against Patterson's birds at the Festival, and stashed them in our room because he dislikes us. Haze could be planning to sell them on the black market, and put them in our room because we atempted to frame her and opened her box. But I think Mopsie hits the most connections so far.
I'll also opt for 1
I solve the maze quickly and locate the exit.
It is a maze of twisty little passages, all alike, and you are unable to make any headway. You find yourself back where you started. At least, you think you have. It is hard to say.
"Here, Pennyworth," Mopsie says. "Break the mirrors as we go. Then we'll know where we've been."
"That's a lot of property damage," you say. "Couldn't we leave a trail of…"
Mopsie kicks at one of the mirrors until it cracks. "You aren't superstitious, are you?" she says, kicking another one. "This is the best way."
"Who is breaking mirrors in there?" calls someone who presumably works for the festival, and you hear the sound of someone walking after you. "Where are you?"
"Sorry!" you call, as Mopsie cracks some more mirrors. "Kindly bill Mrs. Patterson!"
"I shall!" calls the peeved voice.
Finally, using Mopsie's questionable technique, which involved breaking over one hundred mirrors, and thus resulting in at least seven hundred years of bad luck, you locate the exit, where the peacocks appear to have exited some time ago. You and Mopsie scan the horizon, and see them scampering in the medium distance. You pursue, bits of mirror glass crunching underfoot for a few paces.
"That felt good," Mopsie says. "I do not break enough things in my day-to-day life. And I often feel I want to."
"Is that so?"
"It is," she says, resolutely. She walks beside you in silence. "I didn't steal those birds, you know. Honestly, I didn't. And I wouldn't."
"I did not accuse you," you say.
"You were looking at me and wondering, and I don't like it when people look at me and wonder things. I did not even go out last night. There were dogs and guards about. I didn't dare. But I saw a woman sneak onto the property in a maid's outfit and do it. Some maid hates you, that's what I think. Probably on account of you being cruel to her. As you so often are to me. Look. There they are! Get over here, birds!"
You catch up with the birds in front of a brightly colored and richly decorated stand in a small park ringed with food stalls. They are looking at something with great interest.
You and Mopsie look up from the three peacocks, taking in your surroundings more fully. A sign informs you that are standing in front of the Delectable Indian Confection Stand. It smells of cardamom, cloves, and black pepper.
A woman, wearing a bejeweled orange and green silk sari decorated with a peacock, sits at a table with her three children, a boy and two little girls. They finish their lunch, as the three peacocks crowd her and try to poke at the image of the peacock on her sari. She and the children are laughing.
"Are these your peacocks? They're beautiful. But they seem hungry," says the woman in the sari.
"Come on, Sanchi-San, Orlando, and Galatea," you say. "I know you like the picture of the peacock, but now we have to get back."
The older of the three children, a boy of about eight, points to the peacocks. "Why are these here? Can we keep them?"
1. "I guess they like you."
2. "I don't think there is any thought process going on within the tiny heads of these birds."
3. "I'd love to stay and chat, but I am rather too busy at the moment to indulge in deep conversation with you."
I thought Pennyworth would be the one to start breaking mirrors, but at least this way we can blame it on Mopsie.
And there goes my Mopsie theory, hmm. Unless she's lying, but I don't really think she's clever enough to bluff. Valentine was already out of the house...I guess it could be the maid that was almost sacked. Or Haze in disguise. Or even Firesnuff or Ambrose in disguise. Even Regina, thinking she is somehow doing it for the greater good. Gah, everyone is a suspect again.
And, 1. No need to be rude to kids, or turn complete strangers against us.
I'm voting for one. Why not?
"I guess they like you."
"All peacocks like me," says the boy. "I rode on an elephant by myself."
"Yes, I think the peacocks do like me a good deal," says Mopsie, mishearing. "They are positively enamored of me."
The mother introduces herself. "I'm Tanveer Grover. We own a little peacock range where we live, near Poona. Beautiful open woods. Lots of freedom for them to range around," explains Mrs. Grover. "But my children's favorite three birds died last year." She whispers the word 'died.' "These look a lot like them. Finish up, Angee and Anju. Wipe your mouth, Rab. There's your father, probably come to tell us that our cab is here."
"I don't want to leave England! I want to see the rest of the fair."
"We've been here for two weeks, and I told you that we'd be able to only stay at the fair for a bit before we had to go. You don't want us to miss our ship, do you?"
The peacocks nuzzle the legs of the children, and then look up at you.
"Time to go," says Mr. Grover, a distinguished-looking man wearing a leisure suit, as he walks briskly over. "I hope you finished lunch. Oh, hello. New friends. And birds. The cab is waiting."
"The peacocks love me," say Angee and Anju in unison, laughing as Galatea and Orlando tickle their tummies.
"Too bad," says Mopsie. "They belong to my aunt. Get your own peacocks. Can you imagine, Pennyworth? Begging for Auntie's possessions like that!"
1. I ask the Grover family if they would like to take the peacocks with them to India.
2. I place Galatea, Orlando, and Sanchi-San between me and the Grover family and allow the birds to choose their own fate.
3. I insist that the peacocks come with me at once and return to Aunt Primrose for the Exotic Animal Show.
3. Although the idea of sending them to a suspiciously conveniently perfect peacock range does sound nice, they are not our birds. Primrose and aregina would also be furiois if they found out.
3. It's a nice gesture and all but we have too much riding on these birds
I insist that the peacocks come with me at once and return to Aunt Primrose for the Exotic Animal Show.
"Galatea! Sanchi-San! Orlando!" you say. "Come on now. Playtime is over. It's nearly time for the Exotic Animal Show, where you will do Ritornello proud, possibly winning ribbons and untold glory." The peacocks look at you, and then at the Grover family, and then hide behind the children, trying to avoid your gaze.
"I can see you," you say. "That is an ineffective hiding spot."
But they clearly don't want to come to you. Indeed, they are making it as clear as they can that they wish nothing more than to depart Woodland Centre forever and start a new life in India with this family that they have just met.
We need not linger further over the cajoling, wheedling, and physical wrastling that ensues at this point. Suffice to say that you manage to get three rather disappointed peacocks away from the Grovers, across the meadow, and back to the long-suffering Aunt Primrose.
They protest loudly and then sink into what you would call a moody state as you approach Aunt Primrose. Clearly, they do not have much fire for the Exotic Animal Show.
"You've found them!" cries Aunt Primrose, grabbing your hands in a moment of unbridled glee. "Come! The Exotic Animal Show is starting in just twenty minutes! Bustle, everyone! Step lively! Take those birds! Get me a glass of cider and an apple turnover for the road! Strike up a patriotic marching tune! Onward to victory!"
You all walk to the mayor's house as quickly as possible, a song on Aunt Primrose's lips.
Twenty minutes later, you all find yourself behind the mayor's house, where the Exotic Animal Show is just about to get underway. This year, the stronger competitors include a sugar glider, a collection of immature lobsters, a python, a red panda, and, of course, Yasmina, Col. Firesnuff's yak.
Tables with bright cloths are scattered around the grounds, each with a number. Festive orange and gold ribbons and garlands decorate the area; a scarecrow in the center of the tables bears a placard reading "Welcome to the Exotic Animal Show."
"Thought you wouldn't make it, Primrose," says Col. Firesnuff. "I assumed you'd recognized the obvious superiority of my yak."
"Well, you thought quite wrong," she says, snapping her fingers in front of his face.
The Exotic Animal Show begins, with each competitor standing by their animal or animals as a panel of distinguished judges (the mayor, his father-in-law, and the treasurer of the local Teacup Poodle Fanciers' Society) examine each animal minutely for beauty, poise, and je ne sais quoi. They each make careful notes on a clipboard, writing in various subscores and ratings.
As the judging proceeds, there a number of exciting and useful things you might do to help.
What do you wish to do in order to achieve the desired results?
1. I annoy Col. Firesnuff to rattle him.
2. I give Aunt Primrose a pep talk as a show of support for her.
3. I assist Aunt Primrose in primping the peacocks.
4. I try to adjust the score sheet of the treasurer of the local Teacup Poodle Fanciers' Society, as she has left her clipboard unattended momentarily. A highly risky venture, but success could very well tip the balance.
5. I think I'll leave well enough alone and await the scores.
1) I mean, we're abrasive, we're bold, we know he hates us. Let's ruffle some feathers (just not the peacocks).
1. Might as well. I don't think Pennyworth will be much aid in grooming them, and I don't think heckling is technically cheating.
Option 1- it's a role that Pennyworth is suited for, given his stats.
I annoy Col. Firesnuff to rattle him.
You walk over to Col. Firesnuff, who is stroking Yasmina's shaggy fur. "Looks like she has some sort of infestation," you say.
"What? You are mad. I shampoo her every other day and comb through her fur with a special yak-comb that I invented."
"I thought I saw something small and bug-like on her. Perhaps it was a cricket. You know, of course, that yaks are rather prone to Northern yak-crickets. They are small but persistent pests."
Col. Firesnuff clearly wants to reject this hypothesis, but does not want to admit his ignorance in the matter of Northern yak-crickets.
"Sometimes Northern yak-crickets can leap to humans. One gets a bit itchy. If you feel itchy, I suspect that is the issue. Difficult to get rid of."
Col. Firesnuff begins to respond to that, but then scratches his scalp. As everyone knows, the moment one thinks about itches, one gets itchy. And the most effective way to make someone think about itches is the notion that one might have yak-crickets on one's body. He starts scratching himself more.
"Yes, looks like yak-crickets," you say. "I think they won't take off too many points for that. Good luck, Col. Firesnuff," you say.
As you leave, you are pleased to see Col. Firesnuff mussing up Yasmina's fur, searching for yak-crickets, and making her look worse in the process.
You will have enough time to do one more thing before the judging is over.
1. I give Aunt Primrose a pep talk as a show of support for her.
2. I assist Aunt Primrose in primping the peacocks.
3. I try to adjust the score sheet of the treasurer of the local Teacup Poodle Fanciers' Society, as she has left her clipboard unattended momentarily. A highly risky venture, but success could very well tip the balance.
4. I think I'll leave well enough alone and await the scores.
4. I don't really trust Pennyworth not to mess anything else up.
I think I'll leave well enough alone and await the scores.
You decide to leave the results of the Exotic Animal Show to the powers that be. You watch from the sidelines, and await the results.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the mayor says, standing on a three-legged stool and holding his hands up for attention. "If I may. We have come to a decision. The winner of this year's Exotic Animal Show is…"
"I hope you are prepared for what will inevitably be your defeat, Primrose," says Col. Firesnuff.
Aunt Primrose replies with something unprintable which is luckily drowned out by the announcement by the mayor.
"The winner is…Col. Firesnuff and Yasmina the yak!"
The scores indicate a decisive victory for Col. Firesnuff.
"Ho ho!" cries Col. Firesnuff, accepting the blue ribbon and holding it up for all to see. Aunt Primrose's mood gets darker and darker as Col. Firesnuff pins the blue ribbon to his chest and struts around.
"First place," he says to Aunt Primrose. "That's what the blue represents. I shall have to make room in my collection for it. Good competition this year, Primrose. You certainly gave me a run for my money, yes, indeed. But there can only be one winner. That is the nature of life."
"You've won this round," says Aunt Primrose, crestfallen, "but my victory at the boat race will be all the sweeter for it!"
"I love your confidence," says Col. Firesnuff, laughing. "Entertaining! Admirable! Misplaced!" He accepts the adulation of the crowd in the center of the mayor's grounds while Aunt Primrose fumes. Testily, she motions for one of her attendants to return the birds to Ritornello and then storms off.
"I thought you did well, considering the stiff competition, Auntie," says Rory.
"'Did well' does me no good. I want that ribbon," she shouts.
"You did the very best you could, and had fun doing it, and that's what counts," says Frankincense.
Aunt Primrose is about to respond to this sentiment when Mopsie tugs on her sleeve. "Auntie, it's time to assemble for the boat race. It's starting soon."
"Yes, yes, yes," says Aunt Primrose. "I must address my team. Inspire them. Although I don't feel very inspired, I must say. Curse that Firesnuff! Curse yaks!"
"I'm terribly sorry that…" you say.
"Enough of that!" says Aunt Primrose to you. "Should have thought of that before! Now no more talking. I fear I may lose my temper!"
One hour later finds Aunt Primrose standing in front of the crew of Gunwales of Infinity. Ostensibly, she is supposed to give an inspiring speech, but her mood is far from inspiring.
"Just row," she says. "What does it matter, anyway?" she says. "Try all you like, it all comes to naught in this vale of tears."
That is the entirety of her speech, and it has a rather dampening effect on the morale of the crew of Gunwales of Infinity.
What do you do as everyone looks at each other uncomfortably?
1. I shout "Huzzah for Mrs. Patterson!"
2. I maintain a dignified, content attitude.
3. I am visibly nervous about the boat race to come.
1. Get the blood pumping!
Maybe Pennyworth should have tried to give her that pep talk, afterall...
2 is fine as well.
1, it's not like it will make them more demoralized unless she responds with something
Option 1- there's no harm in trying, and the atmosphere couldn't get any worse...right?
I shout "Huzzah for Mrs. Patterson!"
Your shout rings out and echoes over the river. Then Carlington takes up the cry as well. Soon, all of her staff is shouting for her, and she waves away your cheers. But you can see the fire, just beginning to return to her eyes.
"We shall prevail!" they all shout.
***The Crowd Assembles for the Boat Race***
"Rowers, take your seats!" The cry goes up, and the crowd shivers in anticipation, looking around at the rowers as they approach their vessels, discussing who looks like they have strong arms and a hardy constitution. Banners wave and horns are tootled.
You take your seat in Gunwales of Infinity. Rory gingerly climbs in to the seat nearest you. "I face towards the bow, right? No. Away. Wait. Towards, right? Do I look at you or away from you?"
You can see the other six members of the team doing their level best not to say something they will regret.
"You face the stern of the boat."
"Oh, so we won't be looking at each other. That's not very good for conversation."
"That is just how it is, sir."
"Hm! Yes. It's all coming back to me. You know, we would have certainly won last year if we had only gone faster."
1. "My memory of the event is slightly different, sir. I understand that you were inexpert in your technique," I say in a jovial manner to make the crew of the boat laugh.
2. "That is often the way of races, sir," I say, careful to keep a neutral tone.
3. "I'm afraid I only witnessed the aftermath, sir. Of course, you told me about it in the ambulance afterwards," I say in a sympathetic manner, although the rowers may not want to be reminded of Rory's disaster last year.
2. Probably best not to boost morale at our boss's expense.
"That is often the way of races, sir," I say, careful to keep a neutral tone.
"So they say. And yet I believe that we must outthink this race. Col. Firesnuff's team is indomitable. There are many ways to skin a cat, Pennyworth. That is what I have heard."
"I am familiar with the expression, sir."
"There is one other thing, Pennyworth," Rory says. "Something of an opportunity has come up, and I have seized it. Do you by any chance remember Surefire, that horse in the third race? The debt I incurred that, in a sense, precipitated our need to come here and make nice to Aunt Primrose, and she said she would give me the money if I helped her? Well, she was so touched that I was willing to actually row for her, that she came through. Gave me cash on the barrel head. One hundred and fifty, in fact. Real folding money, as they say."
"That's wonderful, sir."
"Yes. Then I borrowed five hundred more from a very nice man I met in town named Joey Knuckles. And then I bet the whole thing with Chef Beauregard on Aunt Primrose to win at 2:1 odds. It is genius itself. You see, if our boat wins, she'll be overjoyed. But how much more will she be over the moon when I hand her back her money with interest?"
"It's practically a sure thing, you see? That's the clever part. Two to one odds! So it is as though I were doubling our money for what is essentially a sure thing. The math of the situation is…well…it's rather complex, and I don't have time to teach it to you now, Pennyworth. What do you think? Give the old bird half, and then we take the other half and vacation in some sunny locale."
"I think you will still have to pay back the loan, with interest, sir."
"Ah, yes, well, I can do the figures out later when I have paper," says Rory airily.
1. I simply bury my face in my hands.
2. "It may amuse you to learn that I myself placed a wager on Mrs. Patterson."
3. "I will do my very best to help us win."
4. "That was highly economically imprudent, sir, if I might offer an opinion. What if Colonel Firesnuff wins?"
Option 3- just because I don't think it's a good idea to let everyone know that we bet on races too, so this option still motivates the crew but also doesn't make us look bad
"I will do my very best to help us win."
"Of course you will, Pennyworth. I have complete faith in you."
"I don't know that complete faith is wholly warranted here," you say. "But I shall try."
"Nonsense," Rory says.
After a few moments of adjusting and assorted chatter, the sturdy woman at the stern of Gunwales of Infinity hollers at everyone to be quiet. She wears a pink-and-white polka-dotted kerchief over her hair, and her powerful jaws work away at a truly massive wad of bubble gum. She pushes the wad of gum to one cheek.
"All right, let me say a few words here. I'm Beatrice Scrubbers. Everyone calls me just 'Scrubs.' Most of you know me as the laundress at Ritornello, but today we're not doing laundry. Am I right?"
She waits to be assured loudly that she is right. Receiving this assurance, she moves on.
"Not doing laundry," Scrubs says again, moving the wad of gum to her other cheek. "Right. Now let me remind everyone how this race goes. There are four legs to this race. Leg number one is dead simple. It's gentle waters, and the crowd will be lined up cheering us. We want those cheers. Nothing lifts a rower's spirit like cheers. An attractive, well-handled boat gets cheers. Simple as that."
She adds a stick of gum into her mouth and pauses for full effect.
1. "So there's an aesthetic dimension here? I wasn't aware of that."
2. "Should we indulge in spirited hijinks to make the crowd laugh?"
3. "Wouldn't it be wiser to focus solely on speed and technique?"
2. Risky, very risky. We might get tossed overboard, or Rory will. But morale seems important and we have a barbarian boat.
"Should we indulge in spirited hijinks to make the crowd laugh?"
"We could. But with this sort of barbaric theme? I don't know. Barbarians and dragons feel like they go another way." She cracks her gum. "It's...ugh, let me describe it. It's about letting the wind whip through your hair, and the breeze blow through your clothes, like the air going through clothes on a drying line. You see? There's a romance to a river. You have to show that romance to the crowd. That will create cheers."
"Now where was I? Ah yes. Leg two is called Dead Rower's Bend. That's a rocky rapids, filled with devastatingly sharp boulders and whirling eddies. The water will froth and go white, like laundry when it is stirred about with laundry soap. But we're not doing laundry, Henderson!" she snaps at the youngest rower. "That's more a test of endurance. We're going to be hit. The only question is whether we can withstand the impact. I'm going to assume you have all notified Mrs. Patterson of your next of kin."
Everyone nods. Rory turns to look at you quizzically.
"Leg three is the most important. That's the fork. The river splits into three paths, and we'll have to choose one. One of them is the safer and slower path. One of them is the shorter, but more dangerous path. And the third one is longer and more dangerous. There is no reason to choose the third path. Is that clear? It has no advantage whatsoever. We'll decide which path to go down when we get there and see where our competition is."
"Finally, all the three streams recombine and there's a beautiful straight stretch to the finish line. That's going to be all raw speed. Of course, crowds will be there, too, cheering us on. A little extra cheering won't hurt at the end, to lift our mood. I have brought a few bottles of champagne we can pass around if we win. That's that. I don't know about the other boats, but I like a nice clean race. Clean as fresh sheets." She looks around as if defying anyone to claim that you will be doing laundry today.
The stage, then, is set for what is sure to be the race of a lifetime. The four boats line up at the starting line, their crews hooting and taunting each other.
The Firesnuff, a powerful-looking boat painted with a gigantic image of the colonel firing a hunting rifle, starts next to Gunwales of Infinity. Col. Firesnuff himself sits in the boat. "Decided to row myself!" he says. "Thought I'd teach these youngsters a thing or two. And this is my distant relation, Jabs McNab. She's quite a rower. Twice the rower that you are, I reckon."
Sitting next to Col. Firesnuff is an impossibly powerful-looking woman.
My word. You remember her from your days as a pugilist. She was an up-and-coming boxer who went by the name 'Ursula Uppercut' at the time. She declared herself the match of any man or woman who would fight her, and she was not wrong. But she was well-known for being willing to use every dirty trick in the book to win a match.
You fought her once. And…
1…you still have a scar on your scalp from her illegal use of brass knuckles in the ring.
2…she bribed the judges to have you eliminated just before the championship match, saying you had cheated.
3…she defeated you soundly in the citywide championship using an illegal below-the-belt maneuver that the referee did not see.
1) The only choice that doesn't openly say or heavily imply you've lost to her before.
1. It's the only one that seems to come with evidence.
Option 1- it's the only one that doesn't imply that we've lost to her.
…you still have a scar on your scalp from her illegal use of brass knuckles in the ring.
She should have been eliminated from the bout. But you think she bribed the referee, and your injury was chalked up to clumsiness on your part. How being hit with brass knuckles could be considered "clumsiness," you have no idea. You lost that match, of course, and never quite recovered. Bad blood indeed.
The Benevolent Policemen's Association boat, The Long Arm, led by Deputy Hardcastle, pulls up to your other side. The Long Arm is decorated to look like a prison, with desolate-looking prisoners clutching the bars.
Deputy Hardcastle looks at you carefully, a nasty expression dawning on his unpleasant face. He has a big bump on his head, which he rubs ruefully. You draw the brim of your hat lower, but you suspect that he may well be on to you. He shakes his fist at you and utters imprecations at you. He looks over at you and scoffs at Gunwales of Infinity, then starts roaring police-themed chants to raise the spirit of his crew. It is probably an illusion, but you think you can smell his breath from here.
Finally, The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers' boat, the Hell For Leather, slowly joins the others. Their boat is decorated with what you think is meant to be shoes, but they are rather inexpertly painted. It looks like bricks. Possibly clouds. Oh, look, the boat is signed by the artist: "Figaro Fairfield." The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers' boat seems to be having some trouble stopping at the starting line. They go forward, then back, then forward again, and then back until they are ten feet behind the starting line. They decide to leave well enough alone and stay there for now.
The entire village of Woodland Centre has turned out to watch you, and people wave banners and throw paper streamers at you.
The race is about to begin. But, as Scrubs explained, in a very real sense, the race for garnering the adulation of the crowd is already on. How do you attempt to gain the goodwill of the villagers?
1. It is most important that they appreciate the beauty of Gunwales of Infinity. I suggest that we all pose in a manner befitting its barbarian and dragon decorations.
2. I say something outrageously—but perceptively—insulting about one of the other boats to make the crowd mock them and make us look superior. By longstanding tradition, only one rival boat may be tormented in such a fashion.
3. I encourage the crowd to cheer for one of the other boats.
4. I have decided that I don't want the goodwill of the crowd. In fact, I spurn the crowd.
1. Barbarians for the win!
It is most important that they appreciate the beauty of Gunwales of Infinity. I suggest that we all pose in a manner befitting its barbarian and dragon decorations.
"Do you all note how magnificent the barbarian and two-headed dragon is? Do you see the gleaming broadsword, and the grail on fire, and the skulls on fire, and really, all the things on fire?"
"Yes," says Scrubs, uncertainly.
"Well, I want us all to imagine ourselves in a war vessel in a tale of bold adventure. Just like that. Rory and I can be the two-headed dragon, and you all can be barbarians, and, you there, you can be a Viking of some sort. Just be bold and glorious. Look like heroes of old. Got it! Go!"
There have probably never been, in the history of rowing, a more epically inspired group of rowers. Like something out of one of the Icelandic sagas, perhaps, or something that might have been chronicled in one of the more heroic Anglo-Saxon poems, you pose and flex and roar with unbridled power.
The crowd goes mad. Aunt Primrose whistles with two fingers in her mouth and leaps up and down.
It is a spectacular feeling. Homer probably felt this way.
You look around and consider the effect of your pose. You have just enough time to do one more thing before the race begins.
1. I say something outrageously—but perceptively—insulting about one of the other boats to make the crowd mock them and make us look superior. By longstanding tradition, only one rival boat may be tormented in such a fashion.
2. I encourage the crowd to cheer for one of the other boats.
3. I have decided that I don't want the goodwill of the crowd. In fact, I spurn the crowd.
4. I think I have said enough. Let the race begin!
Option 4- I guess we should let well enough alone, our observe stat is pretty terrible anyway
1. Pennyworth would do something like that.
4) we're already riding high!
I say something outrageously—but perceptively—insulting about one of the other boats to make the crowd mock them and make us look superior. By longstanding tradition, only one rival boat may be tormented in such a fashion.
Which boat will be the target of your barbed wit?
1. I launch a verbal attack upon Col. Firesnuff's boat, which involves some personal remarks.
2. I single out Jabs McNab and point her out to the crowd as a singular villain who ought to be hissed and scorned.
3. I verbally assail the police boat.
4. I verbally harass the beleaguered Worshipful Company of Cordwainers' boat, a rather easy target.
Hmm. Firesnuff is carrying around a cheater, and the deputy we slugged was trying to rig the race, so they both are cheaters. The crowd probably isn't going to know who Jabs is, and explaining things might be difficult in shouts.
So, I guess 1. We've been trying to pick a fight with him the whole game. 3 would be great as well, but Firesnuff already beat Primrose once.
Option 2 seems like it'd work, we even have proof!
I single out Jabs McNab and point her out to the crowd as a singular villain who ought to be hissed and scorned.
"Good day, Jabs," you say. "You rotten scoundrel. Look upon her, you good villagers. Observe a woman who has a reputation that precedes her as an unethical rapscallion and altogether loathsome individual. Ask one hundred of her closest acquaintances, and you shall get but one opinion, recited in unison: she is a ruffian. Let us boo her! Let us whistle at her in a condemnatory fashion!"
Jabs says nothing, but points her oar at you as if she intends to harpoon you with it. Then she lifts it over her head, snaps it in two and throws the pieces in the river.
"That oar represents you," she says.
"Pennyworth isn't afraid of you," Rory cries, but then he quails when Jabs turns to him.
She looks at you carefully. "Firesnuff told me you'd be here. I remember you. After I beat you in this race, maybe I'll make you eat an oar."
"I decline your invitation," you return. But the crowd roars at Jabs's toughness, and they laugh when they see she brought along an extra oar (presumably specifically for this purpose), which she displays for all to see.
Inspector Ambrose, in a bright yellow dinghy with an outboard motor, pulls in front of the four competitors. With him in the boat are a nondescript man and woman wearing bright yellow tunics that bear the word "Referee." They both look bored.
"Welcome to the 800th Annual Woodland Centre Boat Race!" he says. "I, Inspector Ambrose, will be the master of ceremonies. And here, in the bright yellow boat, and wearing bright yellow shirts, are Mr. and Mrs. Pennywhistle, world-renowned boat race judges. I think their reputation for fairness and observation will brook no objections from anyone." He scrutinizes the crowd. "Before we begin, I would like to show everyone the grand prize."
He motions to the massive wicker hamper in the rear of his boat. It is reinforced with steel, and large enough to probably have required two strong people to place it in the boat. He opens the top, revealing its bounty.
Dozens of wedges of creamy white cheese flecked with light blue veins; jewel-like blackberries; mounds of pears. Crusty boules and bâtards, some with dried apricots, pepita-studded fougasses, rosemary foccacia and soft milk-white pain de mie. Tubs of honey butter and pâté and quince paste. Sandwich after sandwich stuffed with cheeses and cured meats. Jars of pickles and herbed hard-cooked eggs. Jeroboams of crisp apple-kissed wines and half bottles of sweet ports, and dark brown bottles of lavender ginger beer. Petits fours and truffles of every description: dark chocolate with hazelnuts, marzipan dusted with spicy cinnamon, and vanilla caramel with burnt sugar.
"And, of course," says Inspector Ambrose, "this." He notes the diamond-and-gold medallion within the hamper. The medallion reads "WINNER."
You see Aunt Primrose lock eyes with Col. Firesnuff, and with Deputy Hardcastle, and the Guildmaster of the Cordwainers.
"The picnic basket will be kept on the judges' motorboat throughout the race where you may catch glimpses of it as you race to inspire you. That is the centuries-old tradition here in Woodland Centre. Good luck all, and see you at the finish line."
Inspector Ambrose raises a flag, and then waves it dramatically. "Row!" he shouts.
You all bend to your oars and begin to row.
"We're off!" Rory says. "And what a lovely day for it. And for winning a great deal of money."
"Here's the straightaway!" shouts Scrubs to you. "Now, I'm supposed to be in charge here. Always been. But Mrs. Patterson told me just before that I'm supposed to listen to you if you have any bright ideas. I don't know what that's all about, but there we are. So any bright ideas?"
Do you focus mainly on raw speed, do you take it a bit slow and leisurely, or do you attempt to ram into another boat to damage and confuse them?
1. I recommend focusing on raw speed.
2. I recommend that we take it easy and conserve our strength.
3. I recommend that we ram into Col. Firesnuff's boat.
4. I recommend that we ram into the police boat.
5. I recommend that we ram into the Cordwainers' boat.
1. We might as well go fast on the straightaway where it is easiest.
Option 1- Let's try and get a lead on the other boats, so that if we have to ram other boats later, we don't have to spend time trying to catch up to them first.
I recommend focusing on raw speed.
"Pull for all you're worth!" you cry.
"I like it!" says Scrubs. "Row! Row! Row! Row!"
You all row with a will, and maintain a steady pace. You go swiftly, keeping up with Scrubs, stroke for stroke. Seeing this, Scrubs increases the pace of her shouts to stroke, and you accelerate even more.
You and the crew of Gunwales of Infinity come out of the straightaway in first place, and Scrubs roars her approval.
Col. Firesnuff is in second place, hot on the tail of Gunwales of Infinity, and he yells to you that he is only lulling you into a false sense of security.
The Cordwainers are in third place. One of them shouts that this is the best they've ever done, and that they consider this a great victory no matter the final results.
Finally, we come to the police boat, bringing up the rear. Deputy Hardcastle has already evicted one of his rowers from the boat in a pique, and seems very likely to capsize the police boat with his stomping and raging.
"We're in Dead Rower's Bend!" announces Scrubs. But that much is obvious: The churning rapids and the hidden boulders that comprise these rapids make an alarming and near-deafening whoosh. Gunwales of Infinity goes up and down, up and down, and passes terribly close to sharp, jagged cliff faces on either side of the narrow, twisty pass.
The choice here is a stark one. Is it better to prioritize safety over all else, even though that means dropping your speed? Or to head pell-mell forward, seeking to go as fast as possible, without a thought to safety? Or would it be wiser to attempt to drive one of your opponents onto the rocks, possibly seriously damaging their boat—but also possibly your own? Perhaps "wiser" is not quite the right word for such a strategy, though.
1. I tell Scrubs that speed is most important, even if Gunwales of Infinity gets banged up.
2. I implore Scrubs to give most thought to safety, weaving carefully between the most treacherous regions of Dead Rower's Bend.
3. I instruct the crew to row such that we drive Col. Firesnuff onto the rocks in a reckless, yet keenly tactical maneuver.
4. I tell the crew to drive the police boat into the cliff face, a death-defying feat that will require tactical shrewdness.
5. I recommend driving the Cordwainers onto the jagged cliff face.
Hmm. There doesn't seem to be any balanced option between speed and safety. Pennyworth did O.K. when riding the fast horse over rough ground, and managed to ride the banister without injury, and has done some decent dering do. Also, we did pick the sturdiest boat, I think. " 2…an image of a brutal barbarian riding a dragon, befitting the boat's size and sturdiness. " And Scrubs said " "That's more a test of endurance. We're going to be hit. The only question is whether we can withstand the impact. "
So if we have bold and sturdy on our side (though it looks like our reknown stat has decreased?) maybe we can pull it off? But it is only the second stretch, so is it worth it?
Currently we are in the lead, but we have a potential sabateur right behind us. There is the very real possiblity that Jabs McNab might try to drive us onto the rocks if they catch up.
So our best tactic really is to stay ahead.
Option 1- because we are bold, and it's important to stay ahead
I tell Scrubs that speed is most important, even if Gunwales of Infinity gets banged up.
"Is that wise?" asks Scrubs.
"Wisdom never won a boat race!" you claim, striking a pose of glory and courage. "Ignore the rocks!"
"You heard him," says Scrubs. "Pull for all you're worth!"
Gunwales of Infinity is battered and pounded by the raging river, swept against boulders and scraped by the cliff wall as you are flung around by the river like a plaything. But even so, you maintain your speed, wresting velocity from the unwilling river like an arm wrestler forcing an opponent into submission.
You make excellent time, even as Gunwales of Infinity takes serious damage from the experience. You are particularly sad to see the decorative paint scheme marred.
Gunwales of Infinity is in the lead as you emerge from the horrors of Dead Rower's Bend.Never again, you think.
Col. Firesnuff is in second place, just a few feet behind you, and he whispers silent prayers to every divinity he can think of, including several buried and eldritch gods of the sea to give his team the strength to win.
The Cordwainers are in third place, doggedly attempting to catch up, but still terribly shaken by their narrow escape from Dead Rower's Bend.
Bringing up the rear is the police boat. The Long Arm is terribly scratched and dented, and seems to have an almost ninety-degree bend at the bow. Several officers' oars have broken, so they make do with their billy clubs.
Ahead of you lie two large islands in the center of the majestic river, which serve to divide the river into three parts.
Puttering around this area is the small bright yellow motorboat with Mr. and Mrs. Pennywhistle—the ostensible referees—and the prize basket. The two referees observe you briefly, and without interest, as you approach. They then continue to play cards.
"Remember," Scrubs says. "The left path is safer and slower. Calm waters there. The middle path is the shorter, but more dangerous path. They say the middle path is the turf of a gang of orphans who defend their territory ferociously, but I have never braved it. Many rowers who enter the middle path never emerge, or emerge…changed. And I would advise ignoring the third one altogether. It is completely pointless. It is much longer, and much more dangerous. Let me reiterate that there is no reason to choose the third path."
You look around at your opposition. Col. Firesnuff is heading for the left path, clearly hoping that taking a safer route will prove decisive. Deputy Hardcastle orders the police boat to the middle fork, hoping to gamble on the shorter path. And the Cordwainers, defying all reason, head for the right path.
"We'll have to decide in a minute or so," Scrubs says, almost unintelligibly through a billiard ball-sized chunk of bubble gum. "You're supposed to know things. What do you suggest?"
It is precisely at this moment that Rory turns to you and says, "Oh, dear, Pennyworth, I'm afraid I…don't feel very…"
1. I don't care if I have to make a crucial decision. Rory is ill, and I'm going to wholly tend to him and leave the decision to Scrubs.
2. I direct one of the crew to care for Rory while I consider which fork to take in this critical moment.
3. I do my best to verbally comfort Rory with slightly less than half of my attention while I decide what fork to take.
2. Rory is our boss but we also have the 'higher commission' right now to help Rory win the race and get all that money. He wouldn't like it if we stopped to give him a pat on the back only to lose the race and him end up in severe debt.
Option 2- This is much more important than Rory's wellbeing, because we're both going to lose money if this boat doesn't win.
2, more important for rory this way
I direct one of the crew to care for Rory while I consider which fork to take in this critical moment.
"You," you point to one of the crew at random as you consider. "Help him. Say comforting things."
That matter taken care of, you take a long moment to observe the three routes, and to weigh your options carefully. After a moment, the answer comes to you.
"We're going to…"
1. "The left path—it's safer, but longer!"
2. "The center path—it's shorter, but more dangerous!"
3. "The right path—it's both long and dangerous and has nothing at all to recommend it!"
Here is Scrubs's description of the paths for those who don't want to scroll slightly up:
"The left path is safer and slower. Calm waters there. The middle path is the shorter, but more dangerous path. They say the middle path is the turf of a gang of orphans who defend their territory ferociously, but I have never braved it. Many rowers who enter the middle path never emerge, or emerge…changed. And I would advise ignoring the third one altogether. It is completely pointless. It is much longer, and much more dangerous. Let me reiterate that there is no reason to choose the third path."
I am so tempted to take the middle route and meet this bread eating orphan gang of doom.
But since we are already in the lead, we might as well take the same path as Firesnuff. The police boat is in third and down at least one member, so I'm not sure they are much of a threat at this point.
Did you mean 1? Firesnuff is taking the left path.
Oh, yes, I meant 1.
It would be rather epic if Pennyworth still managed to win.
That could work! We know they have a ton of bread. Crusty boules and bâtards, fougasses, rosemary foccacia, even some sandwhich crusts and petit fours. And since we are in the lead, we'd get to make the bribe.
Unfortunately, Pennyworth is really bad at persuading and he might be too abrasive to make such a deal.
Option 1- as boring as it is to take the safe option, we've already taken a fair bit of damage. It's probably not a good idea to keep taking so much damage (else we run the risk of potentially capsizing and losing) and both the other paths are described as dangerous, so option 1 is the best option.
"The left path—it's safer, but longer!"
"Left path, aye!" shouts the crew.
Rory is draped over the side of the boat, head hanging over the side, retching, with one of the crew roughly saying, "There we go, there we go, all right now," and slapping him on the back.
Rory sits back up and looks at you with a hint of dismay and rue. "That was ghastly, Pennyworth."
"Feeling better now, sir?"
"We are heading to the left fork. It should be smoother waters."
"Thank goodness for that." Rory makes a move as if to say something else to you, but decides against it, and slowly picks up his oar again.
Gunwales of Infinity makes it into the left fork ahead of The Firesnuff. They are right behind you, and closing the distance fast.
Serene, languid willows droop into the river here, and a few frogs blurp at you from lily pads. But the calmness of the river is shattered by Col. Firesnuff.
"I'm coming for you, Pennyworth!" he bellows.
"I am incognito," you say, motioning to your hat.
"Humbug! Rubbish! That's not a disguise!"
You do not dignify this with a response.
"We're just hitting our stride," boasts Col. Firesnuff. "Up to this point, we've been merely relaxing. For every stroke you can do, we can do seven in the same time, if we had a mind to," hollers Col. Firesnuff. "Thanks to my secret weapon, Jabs McNab! Look at those biceps! Look at those triceps! Look at those quadriceps! And her quintaceps! Massive! Bigger than your head!"
Gunwales of Infinity skims over the water, propelled by sheer irritation and the desire to show Col. Firesnuff a thing or two, but you are unable to shake him, and slowly, The Firesnuff pulls alongside Gunwales of Infinity.
"Ha!" he says. "Glory and victory!"
You both row, right next to each other, for several minutes, neither of you giving quarter. Rory strains at the oar, and Scrubs works away on both her gum and oar with equal vigor. It seems as though it will be a race for the ages. When suddenly…
"Surprise boarding action!" cries Col. Firesnuff. "Hooks out!"
The crew of The Firesnuff lift their oars, revealing oddly shaped barbs at the end of them, which they use to hook onto the side of Gunwales of Infinity and pull it into direct contact with The Firesnuff. Then, all is chaos as some of Firesnuff's rowers swarm onto Gunwales of Infinity and engage you in hand-to-hand combat.
Jabs McNab, wielding an oar in both hands like a quarterstaff, has forced Scrubs to the very edge of the boat, while Col. Firesnuff looks on, shouting commands from The Firesnuff such as "Right flank advance!" and "Reinforcements!" Meanwhile, Rory tries to separate Gunwales of Infinity from The Firesnuff while fending off shoves from Firesnuff's crew.
What would be the most important thing for you to do in this most desperate battle for naval supremacy?
1. I leap over to The Firesnuff and address Col. Firesnuff directly.
2. I shout for the intervention of the referees.
3. I have waited a long time for this: I challenge Jabs McNab to single combat!
A chance to use our fisticuffs!
1. We've been aiming for a fight with him for a while.
Option 3- Pennyworth is more likely to win a physical fight than a verbal one.
I have waited a long time for this: I challenge Jabs McNab to single combat!
"You!" you snarl.
Jabs looks over her shoulder at you and a shadow of fear passes over her face, quickly replaced by hardness and cocksureness. "What?" she demands. "I thought I taught you a lesson a long time ago."
You pick up an oar and hold it by its middle in both hands.
"Oh ho!" shouts Col. Firesnuff! "A battle! Halt the boarding action! An honorable duel, then! First into the water or first to surrender is defeated! The loser must refrain from rowing for the remainder of the race!"
Everyone pauses, breathless, and turns their attention to you and Jabs.
And then, the battle begins. You leap between the boats as Jabs smashes her oar at you--you duck under her powerful swings and parry her thrusts—but barely. You are tiring, and Jabs is a relentless oar warrior. More than once, you lose your balance and nearly fall into the river, but manage to recover.
1. I attempt to get Jabs to join Gunwales of Infinity and betray Col. Firesnuff by promising to give her the diamond "WINNER" medallion if…when…you win the race.
2. I surrender.
3. I use my last burst of raw strength to make a direct assault upon Jabs and drive her into the river.
Option 3- come on Pennyworth!
I use my last burst of raw strength to make a direct assault upon Jabs and drive her into the river.
You smash your oar with every ounce of strength you can muster, straight down at Jabs; she barely fends you off, and pushes, forcing you to the very edge of Gunwales of Infinity. She ripostes with her own slash, and you block it, her oar just a whisker away from your head. You strain against her hooked oar, pushing it away from your face, your oars locked, panting with effort, every sinew of your bodies tensed.
Then, slowly, you begin to push Jabs back. The cheers and moans and advice from everyone else fades into an indistinguishable background noise as you push Jabs all the way to the other side of Gunwales of Infinity, then back into The Firesnuff. She blocks blow after blow, her strength starting to fail her as she slumps back against the side of the boat.
"I surrender, d____ you. I surrender!" cries Jabs, dropping her oar.
How do you act in victory?
1. I am gracious, shaking her hand and telling her that she was a worthy opponent.
2. I remain stoic, barely acknowledging Jabs as I return to my boat.
3. I give in to my darkest emotions and force Jabs into the water as I laugh.
Option 3- let's humiliate her completely and put her out of the race!
I'll throw in a vote for 2. - just because she's a scheming cheater doesn't mean we have to be. But I'm fine with 3, too - she deserves it! I don't think 1 is a great idea since she'd probably just toss us into the water.
I give in to my darkest emotions and force Jabs into the water as I laugh.
With tremendous pleasure, you the hate flow through you, and then you shove Jabs off the side of The Firesnuff. You watch her plunge into the river with deep satisfaction. "Victory!" you cry, thrusting your oar into the air as your crew cheers. You feel good. Full of power.
Jabs climbs back into her boat, sopping wet, and she slumps down sullenly in The Firesnuff, arms crossed. "Fine," she says. "I won't row for the rest of the race."
"There is no shame in a defeat bravely fought!" says Col. Firesnuff, rapping on the side of his boat with his swagger stick. "It was a mighty duel! Invigorating!"
"If we're quite done thrashing Col. Firesnuff, let me remind you that we are still in the middle of a race and that there are two other teams, even now, surging forward," says Scrubs.
"Quite right!" shouts Col. Firesnuff. "The battle may be lost, but not the war. We don't need Jabs! All we need is courage. Into the breach!"
And so both The Firesnuff—significantly weakened—and Gunwales of Infinity resume the race. The thrill of battle still surges through your veins, as the rocketing forward of your boat attests.
The final stretch of the race: the three forks of the river join back together, and the four boats vie for supremacy, battling for position as you approach the finish line, where the crowd stretches, shouting and tooting little horns.
Gunwales of Infinity emerges from the forks in the lead! Scrubs whoops and tells you that she'll never doubt you again, and then adds about sixteen more pieces of gum to her mouth.
However, clearly, in the time it took you to battle with Col. Firesnuff, the policeboat has made significant headway, and they are about four boat lengths behind you. You notice a number of soggy loaves of bread stuck to the side of their boat, and several of the police missing their helmets. Deputy Hardcastle looks a bit haunted, and says nothing but, "Curse them. Curse them all," as he rows.
The Cordwainers are in third place, rowing almost in slow motion. They are covered with purple dust, and they sneeze frequently. Sometimes you think their oars are not touching the water at all, but that might just be an optical illusion.
The Firesnuff limps out of the left fork in last place. Col. Firesnuff looks back and forth, scenting approaching defeat, and shouting at Jabs, who sits in the boat with her arms crossed, shouting back at him.
The finish line—a golden string with flags on it—is right there in front of you, and the screams, music, and colors are intoxicating. Aunt Primrose, clearly audible above the crowd, screams out 'Gunwales of Infinity! Gunwales of Infinity!' and nearly throttles Mopsie in her excitement as she jumps up and down.
"Faster, d___ you!" Deputy Hardcastle cries. "Triple salary to all of you if we win!" The policeboat surges forward--now only two boat lengths behind you.
There is just time for one more maneuver, and after sizing up the situation carefully, you tell your crew…
1…to make for the finish line with best possible speed, ignoring the crowd.
2…to soak in the adulation of the crowd, laughing and singing as we row, filled with the joy of the day and allowing the energy of the crowd to give us the shot of adrenaline we need.
3…to do something that will sabotage our progress, although this may be noticeable if I am not devious about it. For reasons of my own, I have suddenly decided that I do not wish to win this race.
2. It sounds the most fun. Speed is great, too, but we might as well ride the massive morale boost! It's more epic this way, as well.
Option 2- I hope this doesn't somehow backfire on us though
…to soak in the adulation of the crowd, laughing and singing as we row, filled with the joy of the day and allowing the energy of the crowd to give us the shot of adrenaline we need.
"Right!" says Scrubs. "Huzzah for Woodland Centre!"
The crowd roars out their various affiliations—many cheer for you, but just as many for the police boat and Col. Firesnuff. The cheers grow louder and louder, and more and more wild as you approach the last moment of the race.
"Huzzah for Woodland Centre!" you echo, in full-throated and joyful voice, as the lowering sun gleams on the water, throwing slightly-reddening light onto you and your fellow rowers as if you had been adorned with liquid rubies or some other such pretty simile.
Photographers snap pictures furiously, sandwiches pause midway to mouths, and people crowd forward to see the moment of victory.
…Gunwales of Infinity! "Hallooo!" cries Aunt Primrose, ripping off her hat and tossing it into the air. She dances a jig on the side of the river and points to Col. Firesnuff, who looks absolutely flabbergasted. "Take that! I've done it! I've won! Me!"
The police boat crosses the finish line in second place, missing the victory by just a few seconds.
In third place is Col. Firesnuff, and the Cordwainers limp over the finish line in last place.
A few moments later, the four boats have docked, and the rowers begin to disembark.
Never before has a boat been so full of wearied souls.
"Good God, you've done it! You've really done it!" screams Aunt Primrose, grasping you from behind and jumping up and down with you. She showers all manner of praise on you, at the highest possible volume, directly into your ear, for several minutes, leaving no spaces between sentences or even words. She then grabs Scrubs and pumps her hand vigorously until you begin to fear for the laundress's shoulder.
"And, Rory, my word!" she says. "You've really changed my mind! What a wonder! What a miraculous transformation! I take back every miserable thing I've ever said about you, some of it dating back as recently as five minutes ago!"
Chef Beauregard, holding his flour-covered portfolio, appears before you like a phantasm. "It ees to be giving ze congratulations," he says. "A clever wag-air."
He double-checks his portfolio, nods once, and then hands you your winnings.
"Very good," he says, laughing. "You tell all your friends about me. Maybe don't give zem tips, though, or you bankrupt poor Beauregard! You are too clever at ze betting. Au revoir," he says, and walks off to pay off other wagers.
Rory comes running over to you, laughing and clutching a handful of bills. "Twelve hundred, Pennyworth, twelve hundred!" Rory is laughing. "Did you even believe that numbers could go so high, Pennyworth? I've already given Auntie several hundred regarding Surefire in the third race, and paid back that nice Mr. Joey Knuckles. You were right—he did want interest, but even so that left me with hundreds and hundreds. Oh, Auntie was over the moon, as expected. Here you are, Pennyworth. Hold on to most of that for me, would you? What a world where you can just get free money for no effort at all! I'm going to go buy a refreshing beverage, and I'm going to get the largest size and perhaps a commemorative mug to boot."
The Pennywhistles putter over to the finish line in their bright yellow motorboat, the giant picnic basket in the rear of the boat. They haul the basket up off the boat with some help and place it down next to Inspector Ambrose. Inspector Ambrose applauds everyone, and gives a little speech that nobody can hear over the cheers and whistles. "And now the grand prize!" he says, opening the picnic basket with a flourish.
A highly festive Aunt Primrose accepts the gold-and-diamond "WINNER" medallion and holds it up in front of the crowd, to loud adulation and cheers. "At long last," she says. "I hold the fruits of boat racing victory." She puts the medallion on and turns around so that everyone can appreciate it, especially Col. Firesnuff.
As everyone starts milling around and preparing to go, Mopsie suddenly tugs on your arm. "Pennyworth!" she says. "This is a perfect opportunity for me to ask permission to get married to Figs, right here and right now! How should I do it? It would be ever so romantic! Should I just blurt it out? Should I act coy? You have her in such a good mood!"
1. "Ask permission in a polite and mild way."
2. "Be bold, Mopsie. Follow your heart."
3. "Are you quite, quite, quite sure that Figs is your perfect spouse? I ask only to ensure that you have fully thought the situation over."
A Racer of Great Renown: You have won the boat race, bringing untold glory to Ritornello.
1. Only way it will possibly work and then for them to get off poor Pennysworth's back.
And we have defeated Col. Firesnuff, at last! That's what you get for trying to buy the gift we reserved, hah!
Option 1- it's the only one that seems like it might work
"Ask permission in a polite and mild way."
"I can be polite and mild when I need to be," Mopsie says. "It is a strength of mine. Let me put on my calm face." She takes many deep breaths, until you fear she may be hyperventilating.
"Are you quite all right?"
"I am feeling a bit faint, but that is to be expected at such an emotional time," she says. "Here I go."
She runs over to a nearby ring toss stand, where Figs is flinging some rings in a melancholy fashion, watching Mopsie talk to you. Then, she takes Figs by the hand, and, together, they walk up to Aunt Primrose, and speak to her. You are close enough to see them, but not hear them. First, you see Aunt Primrose guffaw, and then stomp her foot a few times.
Then she shakes her fist a few times at Figs. You take that as a sign that things are not going very well. Finally, she shakes her head in a clear and emphatic "No." Mopsie screams at Aunt Primrose, and then runs over to you, crying.
"She said, 'Not right now,'" Mopsie bawls, burying her head in you. "'Not right now' means 'never.'"
1. "Mopsie, you must be patient and obedient. Your aunt is trying to protect you. You must respect that and be a good niece."
2. "Why don't you act instead of crying about it?"
3. I just hold her and comfort her.
2. We might get blamed for it (annoyingly) but she's going to be pining over Figs no matter what anyone says. And it's not like she will listen to a scolding from us.
Option 2- the only option that might satisfy Mopsie
wrong spot, sorry
"Why don't you act instead of crying about it?"
"That is for you to determine. Who is in charge of your life? You, or your aunt?"
"Well, then. Go off and be married."
"It's no use, Pennyworth. I am not strong like you. I don't know what to do. I'll just…I'll just lie down and melt."
You speak to Mopsie for a while, trying to explain to her that she can do something to change her life. You hope she understands.
By the end of your talk, she wipes her eyes and nods. "All right," she says. "I don't know. But I feel better."
"Do you want to make up with your aunt?"
"I'll…try," Mopsie says, clearly thinking about a million things behind her weepy eyes.
People start to walk away from the river, drifting in pairs and small groups to the village center for the grand luncheon, dancing, a pie tasting, and then, later on as evening falls, fireworks.
A horse-drawn cart filled with bales of hay pulls up and stops near Aunt Primrose.
"Gather round, everyone. I have ordered a special treat for us," says Aunt Primrose. "This is an American-style harvest celebration. It is called a hayride."
Rory and Frankincense stand next to each other, holding hands, talking lightly about the boat race. They look happy.
Mopsie lingers near Rory, lost in thought. Figs has drifted off over the past several minutes. It seems that he will not be going on the hayride.
"Everyone who's coming, let's go!" shouts Aunt Primrose.
Aunt Primrose and the others pause in arranging themselves on the haystacks of the cart to enjoy a performance of the Strolling Glee and Handbell Performers, who pause by the hay cart to perform a rollicking performance of "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
As you are about to step onto the hay cart behind Rory and Frankincense, Regina taps your shoulder.
"Savage Wendigo." Regina leans over to you,holding out her clipboard for you to see. It makes almost no sense to you, a morass of circled numbers and graphs. But you can see one word on top, written in green ink and underlined twice: "ACCEPTED."
"I would like to invite you to the Inner Circle," she says. "You have demonstrated resilience in difficult situations, and showed that you will be an asset to us in ensuring the safety and happiness of those we work for. There is danger lurking everywhere, but our great nation will be that much safer with you a part of our organization. Let me explain what happens next. If you accept this exalted position, we will place you in a service position where you can do the most good. You will serve whomever we place you with, but you will be kept busy performing death-defying missions for us—and for the good of the world. It is a dangerous job, but we are confident that you will be an asset. We had to pull some strings and pay some goodly bribes to get you out of legal trouble. That is because we believe you will be valuable to us. When you are in trouble, we will come for you. But don't do it too often. It annoys me."
Regina puts her clipboard under her arm.
"If I may speak on a more personal level, Savage Wendigo, I would like to tell you that you helped me over the past few days when I was shorthanded. You did the work of an actual agent. Thank you. You are not required to tell me whether you accept right now. Indeed, it is not allowed. You should think about it, and decide if you wish to be inducted into the Inner Circle."
"Thank you. I shall ponder carefully."
She turns to get onto the hay cart, but then turns back, as Aunt Primrose hollers for you both to get on already.
"One last thing. Someone asked me to tell you a snippet of additional news. I am not supposed to tell you this until you accept. But if you choose to accept, your partner has already been assigned to you. Again, it is not official until the paperwork goes through Central, but it was a special request. Your new partner's code name will be 'Pixie.' That is all I can say right now." Regina looks at you seriously and then boards the hay cart.
Carlington and Scrubs heave the huge prize basket of delicious fancy foods onto the cart, where it takes up almost two seats, making the cart sag a bit. "I can't wait for the luncheon!" says Aunt Primrose. "And we have all of this bounty here. Let's eat, right here in the cart!"
As she passes around dainties from the basket, she sees Col. Firesnuff watching from the street. "Get up on here, Firesnuff," she growls. "There's a massive apricot marzipan pie that I need your help to eat."
"You want me to share with you?" he says.
"Yes, I do. You have irritated me a good deal. You are insufferable. But you are part of this family, and you are not going to walk when I have a hay cart and a basket of food. Sit next to me and don't tell me any of your stories."
Col. Firesnuff climbs on the hay cart with great speed, accepting a sandwich and a deviled egg from Aunt Primrose. He starts to say something about himself, and then stops. "Thank you, Primrose," he says. "Thank you all." Then, astonishingly, he says nothing else for five whole minutes in a row.
A few moments later finds you on the hay cart, bumping along the road to the village green.
Aunt Primrose makes a witty comment and slaps her own knee in appreciation of her own joke. She tosses several truffles in her mouth and exclaims, with a full mouth, "Now that's fine chocolate!"
Col. Firesnuff taps on one his sideburns thoughtfully, preparing a lengthy rejoinder to something political that Frankincense has said. He takes a long quaff of red wine, and examines the label with an critical eye.
Mopsie sits a bit apart, subdued, talking lightly of this and that, but without her usual spirit. She does her best to respond when Aunt Primrose tells her to sit up straight, but she is clearly longing for her Figs. She looks up at the trees and sighs and waits.
You close your eyes for a moment. Somehow, this particular adventure feels different from the dozens and dozens of other adventures you have had with Rory. The affair at the ski lodge, for example, or the month you spent with his other, more dastardly relation, Aunt Thistle, on an excruciating holiday in Penzance. You wonder what comes next for you.
As you rest your eyes, you see your future, unfolding before you.
1. I am going to write to Regina and tell her that I accept her invitation to join the Inner Circle.
cannot choose --> Perhaps Aunt Primrose can use her connections to help me find a position for an employer of some distinction. Perhaps one with a title.
cannot choose -->I am going to serve Rory and Frankincense as they start their new life together.
cannot choose -->I'm going to work with Frankincense in politics.
cannot choose -->I'm going to become a notorious criminal.
cannot choose -->The notion of acting is enticing to me.
2. I'm not quite certain what I want to do. I'm going to have to think about it.
1, since it seems to be the goal that fits Pennyworth's lopsided talents best. With our luck, Pixie is going to turn out to be someone we don't like, like Haze or Firesnuff. Or Ambrose - that would be a huge twist!
I'm a little surprised we can't stay on with Rory, but I suppose our stat with Frankincense isn't past 50%, so maybe that's why. Though I'm not sure we'd want to since Frankincense will ban meat from the house and all good things.
(Also, really Mopsie. You weep and moan about how everyone treats you like a child and then you turn into a sobbing mess. You better not be Pixie.)
1) I suppose
Option 1, seeing as it seems to be the only real option here.
For whatever reason, I was misremembering her codename as Trixie.
I am going to write to Regina and tell her that I accept her invitation to join the Inner Circle.
Yes. The Inner Circle is the place where your talents can best be used for good. You are looking forward to informing Regina.
The countryside rolls past, as you make merry, laugh a good deal, and argue about the day. There are fireworks planned for the evening, after the mayor's speech and the costume party, but no fireworks could possibly hope to compete with the dazzlingly fiery orange, yellow, plum purple and red gold of the trees of Woodland Centre.
Rory leans towards you. "Not a bad little trip, as such things go, eh, Pennyworth? That is to say, we've had more relaxing trips. And there were an awful lot of hard parts. But on the whole, rather decent. Rather...a shame that you shan't be working for Frankincense and me, though. I suggested it, more than once, but she felt that wanted to have a hand in setting up our new household. 'Start fresh,' I believe, was the term she used."
Rory sighs. "You've been rather a good valet. Better, probably, than I deserve. It makes one think. About life, and good and ill and the strange nature of fate, and how a story can be all wrapped about with both happy things and sad things. Rather deep, don't you think?"
Rory looks at you, and shakes his head in recognition of the manifold wonders of the universe.
"As you say, sir. As you say."
The final section--the Epilogue--will conclude our story.