With Sariel’s particular magic keeping Chess’s inflammation down, they managed to get back on the road before many days had passed. No one referred to Noah’s story, for which Chess was grateful. It, and the events that had precipitated it, was one reason that Chess really wanted to get going. Their idleness was a constant reminder of the danger they were in. And the army base was still nearby.
The other reason that Chess was eager to travel, even though he had to take great care not to get winded, was that the transmitter-receiver seemed to indicate that they were very close to Lodestar.
As they moved along in their straggling formation, Chess fell in step with the girls. There was still something bothering him. It had bothered him since the nightclub, when Sariel had told her story.
“You fled from your village,” Chess said hesitantly, “right around the time you turned eighteen.”
“That is true,” Sariel answered coolly.
Chess felt some slight relief, because he had been half-afraid that she would pretend not to understand his meaning at all. “And you arrived at that hospital a few weeks later,” he pressed on, before she had a chance to cut him off. “And you were there for…”
“Perhaps a quarter of a year,” Sariel answered, looking straight ahead. “Until Razor’s gang.”
“And then you were at Razor’s…,” he prompted. Ileana was looking at him curiously.
“Through a cold and rainy winter,” Sariel answered quietly. “The people in the shelters wore icicles on their clothing.” Chess waited for more of a timeline, but none was forthcoming.
“That’s it?” he exclaimed. “And then I met you? You’re nineteen?” he gasped, losing his breath.
Sariel regarded him imperiously. “I will be twenty.”
“Yeah, in about eight months,” Chess groaned. He looked at Ileana. “Did you know this?”
Ileana shrugged noncommittally. “Does it change anything?” she asked.
Chess informed Lodestar that they were nearby. After he sent the message, though, he stared at the text that he had written. They had been journeying for so long, now, it did not seem possible that they were so close to their goal.
He was not sure what he expected to see when they emerged from the woods and stepped out onto the decaying highway. He was certain that they were no more than a few hundred meters away from the source of Lodestar’s transmission. But there was nothing in sight. No shining city on a hill. Just a wide stretch of pavement that led on toward the horizon. Heart pounding, he looked back at the rest of the group and shrugged helplessly.
For a moment, he was terrified that what they had been heading toward all this time was some desolate little shack. But how could that be? He reasoned that the Lodestar people obviously spent a large amount of time developing the game. So, how much time could they spend on surviving in the wilderness? He had always figured they lived in a village or some other reasonably civilized place.
In desperation, he sent them another message, but he knew that they were too afraid of being found by others to tell him exactly where they were. Their reply made him stop and stare at the phone.
Congratulations. You have found your way through the woods controlled by the barmons. You are welcome to join us at the constable’s town hall.
They were referring to a location in their game, Chess realized: the place where he, as Chess the thief, had snuck in to reclaim his adventuring party’s treasure from the constable. He remembered that the town hall was situated inside a walled city with an arched gate -- a walled city surrounded by trees that hid the walls. Could it be that easy? If this were the game… He looked around at the dense woods lining both sides of the highway. There were no walls here, though. And no arched gate.
Bewildered, he wandered up the road for a few meters. To his left, just then, he noticed a gap in the greenery: a shadowed area, about the height of a person, where the trees parted to reveal the interior of the forest behind. And, leading into that area and beyond: a dirt path.
Continued next page...
If the group seems stuck without any options, review the information the PCs have at hand. Nudge the group toward the clues their characters should have picked up the first time around, without spelling the answers out for them.
- Dungeons and Dragons - Dungeon Masters Guide II (3.5)
Speaking of Tuvia Bielski, there are significant differences between the book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans and the movie that is based on the book, Defiance (2008). Of course, there are always differences between book and movie, but this case is interesting because it seems so similar to another book/movie set: The Motorcycle Diaries (movie: 2004), whose subject is Che Guevara, another historic leader and sometime hero to his people.
Both movies make their subjects look much more self-sacrificingly heroic than the books do. For instance, I can’t remember a part in The Bielski Partisans where Tuvia kills his beloved horse to feed the refuges or a part in The Motorcycle Diaries where Guevara gives his savings to some strangers. And, funny enough, both movies take events from their respective books and show the opposite thing happening. The Bielski Partisans clearly states that women of the group were not allowed to have guns; yet, one of the most dramatic scenes in the movie involves a woman guarding the community of refugees with a rifle. In Guevara’s autobiography, he writes about being afraid to leave his boat and swim in a certain river while his hat is being carried away by the current. In the movie, however, the most dramatic scene happens when he swims across a dangerous river in order to say farewell to the residents of the leper colony where he has recently been volunteering.
It’s understandable why the movie versions of both books omitted the ugly and tedious parts and included blatantly untrue events to increase the drama. Both movies try to convey a message: these men performed selfless, heroic acts that helped people. Showing exactly what they did, though, would be boring to watch and perhaps subtle enough to be misunderstood, so the movies present more of an image than actual facts. Certainly, Guevara did not need to swim a river to visit a leper colony in order to be heroic in real life -- he traveled across the continent under his own means, using his own funds to volunteer at a leper colony. And the idea of Tuvia’s community of holocaust survivors -- whether the real one or the fantasy -- especially inspired parts of my story.
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