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Subject: WotW: ROund 1: Bracket 6 rss

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Jim Cote
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Prompt: pocket change

--- Story A ---

With Kings and Counsellors

I was sweeping the floors in the store as I always do in the morning when I was called to my employer's office. He was enjoying a cup of tea and on his shoulder sat his monkey and groomed its wings. I found out that I was assigned to travel to a client in Uz with a shipment by cart.

I was told that I needed two gold coins to pay for a tax booth on the way. My employer nodded to the monkey and it flew down on top of the desk. It held out two paws and a gold coin appeared on each of them. I thanked both of them and pocketed the coins.

Our transports are usually driven by two men armed with crossbows. This time the driver would be me, alone and unarmed. The transports are rarely attacked by bandits because of fear of retribution. This time the cart would have no sign of its ownership. But I'm not worried. I've worked for my employer for a very long time and I've always done a good job and I've always been rewarded generously. He wouldn't let anything happen to me. There must be reasons for his actions.

My employer wasn't there to say goodbye but his monkey sat in a tree and watched me as I left.

It was a hot and humid day. After almost half a day's travel the mule made a soggy cough and fell to the ground. Blood was pouring from its mouth and nostrils. There was nothing I could do to save its life.

I dragged the carcass to the side of the road and left it in the shadow of a tree. If I had some tools I would have made a respectable grave for the animal that had died in service but now I was going to need all my strength to pull the cart myself.

I set off immediately. There was no time to lose. I still had a long way to go.

The cart was heavy to pull and the heat wasn't helpful. I was sweating profusely. When I wiped my forehead it didn't feel like my own hand but something mushroom like. Warts had grown on the back of my hand. It looked as if it had originated from places where I had got the mule's blood on me. I could feel that there were warts on my face where I had wiped the sweat off earlier. I tried to get the blood off with my shirt. I didn't want to waste my drinking water.

A group of riders in rags closed in on me. They were bandits and had come to the conclusion that I was harmless but kept their distance because of my diseased appearance. After a while they overcame part of their fears and examined the contents in the cart. They left the supplies because the content in the bottles weren't familiar to them and it didn't seem to be worth the trouble but they took my food and drinking water. Luckily they didn't want to come too close to me and I kept the gold coins in my pocket.

I continued to pull the cart. At dusk I arrived at a tax booth in front of a bridge over a canyon. There stood a large troll dressed in uniform and a ribbon in the city colour around its tail. He was holding a crossbow casually in one hand. The city could be seen at a distance.

I put a gold coin in the hairy hand of the troll but was told that the cost was two gold coins in both directions. There was little else I could do but give up my last gold coin and worry about the way back later.

I found the client in the city but it turned out that she only had ordered half of what was on the cart. I was too exhausted to debate. My throat was so dry that I almost couldn't make a word.

She must have pitied me because she threw two cold coins on the ground for me. I pocketed them and was grateful that I had one less worry to think about.

When I left the city there were hardly any people on the streets and the few that were kept their distance.

I arrived at the tax booth once again and the same troll stood there now. I reached into my pocket for the gold coins and was horror struck when they weren't there. My panic must have shown because the troll raised its crossbow at me. By the look of his stern face I could see that he didn't have time enough for love so there was nothing else for me to do than to turn around the cart and try to cross the canyon somewhere else.

I examined my trousers and there weren't any holes in the pockets. In fact they were in a better condition than they had been a few moments ago. It was dark but I could see that they were clean and didn't have any bloodstains on them.

Suddenly a monkey flew away from a nearby tree. Could it have been my employer's monkey? If it was, why didn't it aid me?

I set off on a rocky path down the canyon. The cart and myself fell numerous times. The remaining supplies weren't damaged but I was. Blood and pus covered my body. I tried to focus on something besides the pain. All I could think about was the coincidence with the monkey. Hadn't I heard something rustle in a tree before the mule died? Was this a test on my endurance or just a cruel joke by my employer? Either way I don't deserve this treatment. I'm going to return the cart and quit my job.

There were no ill feelings towards the monkey on my behalf. It had just been loyal as I had been.

--- Story B ---

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