##One You are leaving the city of Hersh behind you, somewhat glad to be rid of the bustle of the people and streets. You climb the small road that leads up out of the valley within which Hersh has sat for its three-hundred year history, lending to the town's reputation for being cold and wet. You've heard that the weather in Greggorton is much more mild, and you're looking forward to it. You stop beside the road at the first nice tree-stump to remove the stilt-shoes. You had thought them an interesting novelty when you arrived in Hersh, but ater wearing them for three long days, you've descided that the fashion is not worth the pain. As you slip your moccasins back on, you notice a faint singing coming from the road ahead. A small but harsh voice is humming the anthem which had played during the parade in the city this morning. Continue to passage [[fourteen]]##Three You try to make your steps casual, as if you plan to simply walk past. As you get closer, you can see what the creature is doing. He's looking closely at several pieces of jewelry which he's clearly taken from the pockets of his haversack. When he hears you aproach, he drops the lewelry into the open top of the pack, and turns on you suspisiously. His read eyes flash as he glares in your direction. "Back off, Human!" he growles and places one hand on the hilt of a knife at his waist. If you place your own hand upon your weapon, continue to passage [[twenty]]. If you draw your sword and rush the strange creature, continue to passage [[seventeen]]. If you raise your hands placatingly, continue to passage [[fifteen]]. ## Four Not caring to know more about the creature, and wishing to avoid anymore conflict than you've already had to enure over the last few days, you slip quietly into the slight underbrush which grows on this plain. The grasses and ferns here are tall enough to cover you while you move, crouched, along the side of the road, and toward where the creature is still humming to itself. You slow down, and take each step more cautiously, as you get closer to where the creature is standing. Paying more attention to what the creature is doing than where you are stepping, you nearly trod upon a small bird, which screeches as it pulls alight above the underbrush, flying directly toward the large-eared creature. The humming stops, and you're sure that you've been discovered, but there is only silence coming from the road beside you. If you try to hold perfectly still and wait, hoping that you have not been detected, continue to passage [[sixteen]]. If you give up the sneak and begin to run, continue to passage [[six]]. If you stand and aproach the creature, continue to passage [[seven]]. ##Two You stop to consider the creature. He is inspecting something from his pouch and nodding apriciatively. His small quick movements put you in mind of a fox or a small dog. He has long thin fingers which seem very nimble as they pull small objects from the pockets around his dark clothing, and place each of them into pockets of the haversack, seeming to sort them by some unthinking process. You catch the glint of jewelry in his hands several times, far too much jewelry for one traveler. A theif then. Probably a pickpocket. The parade this morning was likely quite lucrative for more than one sneak. After a few moments, he seems to finish whatever task he was about, and begins to close up the haversack, still humming to himself. You take another step then, and his tall ears swivel back toward you. You're not sure if he's heard you or not. If you try to get off the trail and sneak past, continue to passage [[four]]. If you aproach openly, continue to passage [[nine]]. If you turn and head back into town to alert the guards of the pickpocket, continue to passage [[five]].## Sixteen Still wishing to get out of this without confrontation, you hold you breath, and try to remain perfectly still. A few moments pass in silence, butthen you hear a soft footstep next to you, and you know that the creature is right beside you. The harsh voice turns to a growl. "What do we have here? A human who thinks itself sneaky!" a tiny unshod foot kicks at you, and though it misses, you loose your balance and fall away from the voice. From your place on the ground, you can see the creature's unaturally pointed muzzle and grinning yellow teeth. It's not a freindly grin, and it only widens as the creature lifts a large knife into the air above his head. If you stay and fight the creature, continue to passage [[eight]]. If you try to get away, continue to passage [[six]].##Six You scramble to your feet, nearly losing your grip on your bag as you trip over the hard stalks of the grasses. You run away from the road at first, but then back toward it, and eventually on it, where you can run with more stability. You look back once, and see a bewildered look on he face of the creature, then you try to put him out of your mind, and hope that he will not be headed your way soon. After you are fairly confident that you are not being followed, you slow yourself, and catch your breath. Perhaps that wasn't the best start to this day's journey, but at least you got away without getting hurt. END##Seven You try to act natural as you stand up out of the grass to face the creature. He stands wearily by his haverrsack, glaring in your direction, long rows of yellow teeth bared, red eyes narrowed. "Good day!" you call out in as friendly a manner as you can muster. "Stay back, Human!" the creature calls out, placing one hand upon the hilt of his knife. If you reach for your own knife, continue to passage [[twenty]]. If you atempt to talk your way through this, continue to passage [[ten]].##Twenty Intending to show that you can defend yourself, You reach down to place your hand on your knife, a gesture matching that of the creature before you. He glances at this gesture, and seems to anger. His quick temper riled, he draws his knife and lunges at your belly while his three other arms find other knives among his garments. You parry the first strike, but you then find yourself facing a wirling terror of blades and fur. The creature has an unatural quickness, and your blade is knocked from your hand before you can blink. In the face of the spinning blades, and bared, yellow teeth, you can't help but shrink back. The creature smiles more broadly, then leaps toward you. Continue to passage [[twelve]] ##Fifteen Not wanting a fight, you lift your hands before you in what you hope is a placating gesture. "Just a fellow traveler," you say. "I don't want any trouble." The creature smiles then, showing long rows of yellow teeth behind black lips and a thin muzzle. "Sorry," he says, "I can be a bit jumpy sometimes when I'm on the road. "I understand," you say, and find that you do, especially after the other travelers you've met in this strange kingdom. Continue to passage [[nineteen]].##Seventeen In an attempt to cut this conflict short, you draw your blade immediately, and advance on the creature, trying to make your face look mean. The creature is taken by suprise, and you can see fear in his small red eyes. His grin disappears into his muzzle, and he shrinks back, taking his hand from his knife hilt. You give a good impression of a berzerker scream, and the creature loses all composure, turning to grab his haversack and run away down the road. In his haste, he drops something glittering from a pocket. Continue to passage [[thirteen]]. ##Nine "Good day!" you call out as you take another step. The creature turns, smiling with long rows of yellow teeth set into an impossibly thin muzzle, a glitter in his red eyes seems friendly. "Well met, Human." he says in his gravely tone. If you stay and chat, continue to passage [[nineteen]]. If you move along the road without stopping, continue to passage [[twenty-two]]## Five Not wanting this theif to get away with his crimes, you turn to head back into the town of Hersh. The guards should be alerted. It isn't long before you find a pair of guards moving along the road in town, and you tell them what you saw on the path. "We had reports of a pickpocket and purse-snatcher matching that description afterthe parade this morning," one of them says, "but we figured that he was gone from the city hours ago." The other says, "Thank you for the information citizen." You don't bother to correct his assumption as they move off in the direction of the road out of town. Continue to passage [[eighteen]].##Eight Not wishing to be sliced up by this furred stranger, you quickly draw your own blade from its sheath on your hip, pulling it up just in time to knock away the creature's first attempt to strike at your exposed neck. You manage to push yourself up onto one hand, to get a better angle, but your position from the ground lends you a poor angle for defense, and a unsecure grip. The creature's second strike is directed at your own blade, and the shock of the strike pains your forearm, and you watch as your blade arcs over the grasses, and lands on the road. You raise your hands to defend your neck, but instead feel his next blow atop your head, a strike with the flat of his blade, which sends you reeling. You colapse, and lose focus. Continue to passage [[twelve]]. ##Nineteen You introduce yourself to the creature, and it seems to put him further at ease. You decide to refrain from telling him where you're from, remembering how people seem to feel about your kingdom in this area. "My name is Kip" the creature says, pulling out a small glass pipe from one of his many pockets. He lights the pipe with a tinderstick in one of his other hands, and holds a third hand out for you to take. Tentatively, you grasp the paw-like hand, and gently shake it. The creature's fingers are long and slim, wrapping completely around your own hand with knuckles to spare. His grip possesses a suprising strength. He takes his hand back and wagles the digits in the air. "Most people just call me Fingers," he says as he sits on the flat rock, dropping his pack to the ground at its side. Continue to passage [[eleven]].##Eleven While Fingers smokes his small glass pipe, the two of you chat. You speak of the weather, and of the morning's parade, and of the accomodations as you found them in Hersh. When he finishes his pipe, he taps the glass bowl out against the palm of another hand before dropping it into a pocket, and taking his haversack back up. "You're headed to Greggorton?" he asks. You nod. "I hear the weather is nice." "It is!" he says, "but the inns are mostly not, and they charge too much. If you want a nice place to stay, go to the Flying Flagon, and ask after the inkeeper. His name's Gus. Tell him that Kip Fingers sent you, and he'll treat you fair." With that, he turns to head off. "Thanks!" you call after him. "Fare well!" He turns to call over his shoulder, though his haversack mostly blocks his face, "Be safe on the road!" Satisfied, you turn to begin down the other fork toward Greggorton. END##Thirteen When the creature is out of sight, you reach down to pluck the dropped item from the dust: a small gold ring with three green gemstones. Looks valuable. You pocket the piece, and turn to take the other fork toward Greggorton. Shortly, you catch yourself humming the anthem from the parade, and you cringe as you force yourself to stop. End ##Twelve "Are you alright, youngun?" A voice you don't recognize. With difficulty, you open your eyes. A sharp pain in your head makes it difficult to concentrate, but you force yourself to focus, and see the face of an older gentlemen above you, framed in the blue of the sky. Bespectacled and white-bearded, the face hangs strangely beneath a tall cap and above a striped shirt. "Ugh," you manage to say. "Looks like you took a whallop." the man says, reaching out a hand to you. Gripping the hand, you wince as he draws you up to his side. A carriage sits on the road behind him, and three other strangers, two women and a young boy stare down at you from the bench behind the reigns. "Thanks." you manage weakly. Continue to passage [[twenty-three]].##Fourteen Quietly, you pad along the trail a bit further to where it flattens out into a wide plain upon which the path forks. There at the fork is the owner of the soft, husky voice, still singing and oblivious to your presence. You realise you've seen this creature before, back in the city. During the parade, you had seen a short, fur-covered creature with long ears and an extra pair of arms moving through the crowd. Hersh was filled to brimming with strange creatures, but this one had been particularly memorable, and now here he is singing to himself while he sorts through a haversack, which he has set upon a flatish rock at the fork. He still hasn't noticed you. If you aproach the creature openly, continue to passage [[three]] If you try to slink around the intersection to avoide its notice, continue to passage [[four]] If you stay to observe further, continue to passage [[two]]##Twenty-Three The older man steps back to look you over before turning to the group on the carriage. "Millie, grab some bandages from my bag, will you?" The younger of the two women on the bench climbs down and starts toward the luggage on the cart's deck. You reach up to touch your head, and feel the wet blood there. "We'll get you patched up, kid," the man says, "Then you can ride with us to Greggorton, if that's where you're headed." You try to nod, but the pain nearly makes you sick. The man leads you to sit on the deck of the carriage, next to were Millie was searching through the luggage, and he begins to wrap your head. It's a few moments before you realize that your knife is no longer on the ground where it had fallen. You can't help but think that this is a fitting end to your time in Hersh. You hope that you never have to return to this dreadful town. END#Fingers ###A short interactive tale by CB Droege Copyright (c) 2015 CB Droege and Manawaker Studio Begin with passage [[one]]##Eighteen You head back out of town, but loose sight of the quick-moving guards. As you begin to climb the hill again, you spot the armored men returning, the four-armed creature between them at sword-point, his unaturally long muzzle pointed at the ground, the haversack over the shoulder of one of the guards. You step aside to let them pass. The creature does not acknowledge you with even a glance. You continue on your way to Greggorton. Confident that you've done a good deed for the people of Hersh. END##Ten Not wanting a fight, you lift your hands before you in what you hope is a placating gesture. "Just a fellow traveler," you say. "I don't want any trouble." "Why were you sneaking up on me, if you don't want trouble?" He asks. "I wasn't sneaking up on you." You say quickly, "I was trying to slip past you. You seemed busy and I didn't want to disturb your important bussiness." He considers this for a moment, looking you up and down, as if evaluating a joint of meat. "Very well," he says, eyes still narrowed. "Are you planning to keep gawking or be on your way?" If you try to stay and chat with the creature, continue to passage [[nineteen]]. If you take the oportunity to walk away, continue to passage [[twenty-two]]##Twenty-Two You turn away from the creature, and begin your walk to Greggorton. You've delayed here long enough, and hope to make it to an inn before nightfall. END