Choose your own adventure in this RPG-esque epic that lets the readers impact its storyline.
Last time in “The Gates of Life,” our heroes—Captain Render, Rivers Fusion, Barbarian-Mage Enrique, and Jonathan the Minotaur— landed in Render’s home city of Trelenodora to take care of some unfinished business. As the gang wandered through the busy market streets, Render unveiled his plans to fulfill his life-long goal to kill people. Or at least, he tried unveiling his master plans. Rivers was increasingly enamored with the t-shirt vendors, while Jonathan and Clyde were distracted by other wares. In fact, the only one who seemed to be paying Render’s tirade was Enrique.
Rivers: This one has a spell on it! It changes color! Render, we NEED to get t-shirts! We could all match!
Clyde: Forget the t-shirts, lad. Lookit these gadgets! Think of all the thing-a-ma-bubs I could make! Think of the upgrades!
Jonathan: Captain, it looks like we could get some really good discounts on some items here. This would be a good place to stock up and buy parts for repairs, not to mention weapon upgrades.
Enrique: We’re not here to shop, we’re here to chop! Render, who are we killing again?
Render: Thank you, Enrique. However, there is no “we” in this murder—it’s a duel to the death between me and Captain Rothbury, the pirate captain who taught me everything I know. My mentor, I guess you could say.
Render: Yes. I left his tutelage under…less-than-ideal circumstances. You lot are here to boost morale, and also to keep off any of the city guard who might take it into their heads to break apart the fight by arresting me and carting me off to jail. Also to make sure my parents don’t show up.
Enrique: I’m all for a fight, but your old teacher? Really? What’s wrong, did he flunk you?
Render: Hardly. I was an apt student, best of my class! The whole city recognized my prowess. The only problem was that the school was rank with piracy and general debauchery, and Rothbury needed a scapegoat when he wanted to make it a legitimate business school. Who better to frame than his star pupil?
Jonathan: Wait, there’s a legitimate school for piracy?
Render: Well, technically speaking it’s a school for merchants and politicians, but it all comes down to essentially the same principles, just with some swashbuckling classes thrown in. Anyway, he framed me for a murder I didn’t commit, and now I’m going to make him pay by killing him!
Rivers: Wouldn’t it just be easier to try clearing your name by bribing some officials?
Render: Why bother? Being a wanted man gives me an excuse not to attend family gatherings. Plus, it makes me wildly popular among my nephews and nieces. I mean, who wouldn’t want a rogue pirate captain as an uncle?
Jonathan: Captain, no offense, but I think our time might be better spent restocking and then shipping off, looking for new missions elsewhere. Clyde might be able to make something to sell, which will help cover our expenses while we dock. If you want to get your revenge, why don’t you release his contact information to several marketing firms?
Rivers: I’m with Jonathan. The sooner we leave, the better. The docking fees are inordinately high! It’s piracy!
Clyde: Piracy or not, lad, we’ve got to dock so I can make repairs on the ship and get her in tip-top shape for the next voyage. We’ve got at least a day in docks, if not more.
Render: See? Clyde agrees with me!
Rivers: Clyde also set more than half his fellow islanders on fire. I hardly think you should be looking to him for lessons in morality.
Clyde: Says the one who made ‘em trees!
Rivers: That wasn’t supposed to happen!
Render: Look, there is no room for debate here. I’m going to kill Rothbury, sate my bloodlust, stop by my parents’ villa to pick up a few things, and then we’re off. End of discussion. Jonathan, you chaperone Clyde while he goes for supplies. Rivers, you go back and stay with the ship if you feel so morally against this enterprise. Enrique will back me up as I settle things with Rothbury and we’ll all meet back at the ship later tonight.
Rivers: Don’t you remember what happened last time Jonathan and I weren’t there to babysit you? I’m coming.
Render: Suit yourself. Just don’t try to talk me out of it—my mind is set.
With that, the gang split up. Clyde and Jonathan headed back to the market to gather their necessary supplies, while Render, Rivers, and Enrique pushed on towards the business district. As the three walked, Rivers tried to get more information about Render’s intended victim.
Rivers: So…who did you supposedly murder?
Render: My top rival in pirating class, Jacopo. We were on a smuggling mission together when he was killed.
Enrique: So, you were friends, and now you want to avenge his death?
Render: Hardly! I mean, he wasn’t a bad sort, but I would’ve gladly skewered him to get top marks in my classes. Hell, I was supposed to murder him, but Rothbury took that away from me, then blamed the whole thing on me. I don’t care about being called a murderer, I just wish I’d actually killed the prick.
Rivers: What happened, exactly?
Render: Well, Rothbury told us that our final test would be smuggling some high end products out of a merchant’s home. Whoever got the goods to Rothbury first got captaincy of the Loon, the fastest ship in his fleet. I headed over to the rendezvous point, only to find Jacopo already there. Problem is, as soon as I came close to him, he was shot from above. Got blood all over me. And then Rothbury comes barging out with guards and shouting bloody murder and pointing at me, so I ducked out and escaped post haste. Took the Loon since it was essentially mine anyway, and sailed off, vowing never to return.
Rivers: Except now you’ve had a change of heart?
Render: Well, that, and the Loon got destroyed by seabears. It’s all well and good that Clyde made a new—
Enrique: —and arguably better—
Render: —ship, but I’m now essentially without any proof of my pirating abilities. So, after I kill Rothbury, we’ll ransack his office for anything that will fetch a high price, then hightail it out of there.
Rivers: So how do you plan on approaching him? It’s not like you can walk up to the front door and announce yourself as his would-be murderer.
Render: Well, we’ll need to sneak past the guards here, and then we can scale the walls to get into his private gardens. Rothbury’s office is directly beyond that.
The three adventurers hunkered down behind several stacked crates, waiting for a patrol of guards to pass. As the three soldiers walked by, Enrique deftly whacked them with his sword, knocking them unconscious. After dragging the bodies behind the crates and double-checking that the coast was clear, the gang sidled up to the wall, scrambled over, and landed in a bed of ferns. They began to rise, then froze as the sound of slow clapping filled the air.
In front of them sat a man who could only be Captain Rothbury. He was dressed in rich silk scarves and heavy jewelry. The man could pass for a wealthy merchant were it not for the long scar across his face, the tattoos under his eye, and the many weapons visible in the folds of his robes. The wizened captain lowered his hands, then picked up a scone from the table. They had apparently barged in on tea, interrupting desserts and conversation, if the shocked expressions on the guests at the table were any indication.
Rothbury: Render, my lad! Nice of you to drop in on tea, but you’re too late, the cucumber sandwiches are gone. Also, you just crushed my wife’s prized fern garden, so you’re going to have to explain that to her.
Rivers: Wait, Rothbury is your old mentor AND your father? And he STILL set you up? Ho snap!
Thomas Render V: No, he means me. Hello, Son, it’s been a while. Your mother is furious with you, just to let you know.
Rivers: Ho snap!
And so ends this month’s edition of “The Gates of Life.” Will Render go through with the murder he’s been longing for? Will Render find another way to keep his “hip” status with his nephews and nieces? Will the cook prepare more cucumber sandwiches for tea? It’s up to you to choose by commenting below!
Which Gate Do You Choose?
Grounded for Life
Render: I’m here to avenge the wrongful murder of Jacopo before I could kill him myself! Don’t try to stop me!
Thomas Render V: Don’t be silly. We bribed the city council a long time ago, effectively clearing your name. You’re grounded for life, young man. Your nieces and nephews are ashamed of you.
Rivers: Ho snap!
Rothbury: Trying to avenge that sap, Jacopo?
Render: Pssh, no, more like I’m proving to everyone that I’m not a murderer by killing you!
Thomas Render V: Things have changed since you left, Son. Rothbury and I are business partners now, and I’ve invested our family business into the school. Any threat to Rothbury is a threat to the family and will be dealt with as such…even if you are family.
Rivers: Ho snap!
Enrique: Why are you standing around here? You came to kill! It’s time to get blood on your hands! You’ve always wanted to be a killer, now’s your chance!
Rothbury: Think you have what it takes to defeat me, boy? We’ve raised our standards at the school since you dropped out.
Render: I can beat you any day, old man! Bring it on!
Thomas Render V: I swear, if you say “ho snap” one more time….
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