72 Solves & 143 Attempts
It wasn’t the best of meeting places, being too easily watched by the communists who’d seized the country. But he had no choice-- the instructions given via the dead drop told him he had to meet his contact there, so there he was. And there she was, on the corner of the prospekt. Mira.
Her eyes widened briefly but she brushed against him otherwise casually, muttering in their tongue: “Not here. Go to the culture park.”
Ignoring his whisper, she continued down the prospekt. “Mira!”
“Your Majesty,” said the squire, stepping nervously into the throne room. “The Saint Georges are here.”
The king looked over his visitors, all dressed in the humble robes of their order, and turned up his nose at them. “You look horrible. Where did you come from, the pig alley?”
“Non,” they replied, speaking in their native tongue. “The Chapel.”
“That monstrosity of a building doesn’t deserve such a name,” the king protested. “The last time I visited, it was coloured the most garish magenta.”
The voice came from behind them, and the two girls dressed in kimono jumped, then bowed their apologies. At the center of the sunshine city, the small statue of the pond owl had come alive. It lifted its wings and preened, then finally turned to face them with unblinking eyes. “Have you seen the bag I use when I come to these waters? My pond bag?”
“Can you help us? We were looking for the god of fishermen and luck. The laughing god,” said the braver girl, stammering nonetheless. “We were told he’d help us if we had the password--” she paused, then uttered a heavily accented word that sounded like 'abyss’.
“I can’t help you,” said the owl. “But if you can speak their language, the six trees can.”
The city wasn’t an easy place to live in. Not with its gleaming white houses, and free-roaming eagles so plentiful they were practically pests. The politician could’ve sworn he saw one fly off with a gun once. Nonetheless, the city was the beating heart of power where important decisions were made, and brutal betrayals were rife. The politician particularly enjoyed that last bit. “Where I can watch the vote on the bill? At that gallery place?”
His companion replied: “You've missed it, but what you want is the secretary pool. They remember everything. They call themselves the archives.”
“This place is creepy,” said the scientist to her colleague. And it was. Over a hundred years ago the equatorial island had been a proud city-state, known for its orchids and lion-fish hybrids. But the humans had abandoned it for decades, and only the trees were left. The duo stood under a great yew, its branches eerily outstretched in the shape of a tee.
Around them rustled the woodlands.
Her colleague nodded, adding: “And you know what else feels strange? The tree shaped like a Y. I shun it.”
The boy and the girl ran down the cobblestoned alley, the cloaked man hot on their heels, to what they thought was safety-- only to look up and swear. “By the monument.”
The hill before them was full of towers, each one taller than the last. “It’s called the tower hill for a reason.”
“There has to be another way. What about through the gate manned by the Moor?”
“You know he hates to be called that,” said their pursuer as he emerged from the alley and closed in on them, his voice an eerie sing-song: “And if you’re thinking about using that run-down bridge? It’s falling down, falling down, falling down.”
“But if we jump into that river,” panted the boy, “You can’t get us. It’s beyond your jurisdiction. It’s Canada water.”