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Chapter 1: Survival of the Fittestby Andrew Theisen
The weaselly-looking, dark-haired man stood patiently by the mast of the Dauntless, as he watched his guests make their way above decks. The d'Ambrevilles grumbled and griped at one another as they assembled into prearranged groups, believing they were about to partake of one final meal before the game began. The man had something else in mind, however, something not even the crew of Survivor knew about.
"Greetings to you all, and welcome to the game of Survivor," he smiled, predator-like, at the d'Ambrevilles. "My name is Bargle, and I will be your host for the next 42 days." He held up a hand. "Not that Bargle, of course," he said to the unasked question. "Though he is a relation. A distant relation.
"Take a good look at the people around you," he continued. "These will be your tribemates for the course of the game. Your tribes have been named after two of the first rulers of the Kingdom of Ierendi. Tribe Black Toes and Tribe Mad Creeg."
"When is dinner being served?" Janette d'Ambreville asked. It looked to Bargle as if the thick-set woman could certainly stand to miss a few meals.
"Well, now," he answered. "That is entirely up to you. Why, I imagine you can begin eating as soon as you arrive at your camps." Bargle grinned. "For in fact there is to be no final meal aboard ship. You will all be rowing yourselves to shore aboard two boats that have been prepared with maps to your campsites and some rice and water. The game begins now!"
The d'Ambrevilles began barking at him, some in confusion, some in anger. "You can't seriously expect me to play the game wearing this?" Isabelle d'Ambreville asked, flummoxed. The deluded woman had worn her best grey and green evening gown. "This is outrage!" roared the bellicose Richard.
Some among them, however, simply shrugged and took the surprise in stride. Jean-Louis, ever eager for a competition, lowered himself uncomplainingly into the Black Toes' boat. On the port side, Andre-David and Petit-Singe similarly got aboard their vessels. Seethingly, the rest of the d'Ambrevilles eventually did the same. The boats were lowered into the ocean, and the game of Survivor was at last underway.
Henri leaned back comfortably in the boat, as his nephew Jean-Louis rowed alone towards the small island that was to be the tribe's home. "The rest of you could lend some assistance, you know," Jean-Louis remarked irritably. Sweat was already soaking the musclebound oaf's orange and red silken finery.
Henri smirked. "Ah, but you're doing such a good job of it." No one else seemed eager to help out either. Disgusted, Jean-Louis dropped the oars and stood up, then began stripping of his doublet.
Isabelle shielded her eyes, disgusted. "What on Mystara to you think you're doing?"
"Looks like a good day for a swim," Jean-Louis replied, pulling off his boots. "Bet I make it ashore before the rest of you." With no more preamble, he dove into the ocean.
A long silence settled in on the boat as Jean-Louis' swimming form grew ever more distant. "Well," Henri ventured, "Who wants to volunteer?"
"Certainly not," Isabelle declared firmly. "Why don't you do it, dear?"
At the other end of the boat from his wife Isabelle, Charles merely shook his head. Henri's older brother was sheltering himself against the bright sunlight as much as possible. Among the married couple, Henri considered Charles the only possible competition in this game.
He had similar misgivings about two of the other women in the group, his aunt Seraphine and his sister-in-law Isidore. Isidore looked deceptively petite and charming in her lavender gown, and his aunt, the self-titled "Countess"- was just a mystery. She had avoided any contact with the family ever since their return from the Land of Grey Mists, and had never been particularly close even before. She caught his gaze and returned it, her eyes the only aspect of her face visible behind the white mask she wore.
"Oh for the love of Rad," cursed the normally quiet Magdalene. Hiking up the sleeves of her black dress, she grabbed a set of oars and started rowing. "Someone else had better join in, or my nephew isn't the only one who's going for a swim today!"
"Promises, promises," Henri chided, though he, too, grabbed joined in the rowing effort. After a moment, Seraphine did as well. Tribe Black Toes seemed off to a fragmented start.
Andre-David and Richard jumped out of the boat as it approached the shore. "Where should we begin?" Catharine heard Richard ask. Typically, her brother-in-law was taking a commanding role of the tribe already.
"Fire and shelter." Everyone knew the dark-haired Andre-David to be an accomplished hunter and woodsman. So good that Catharine's estranged husband, Etienne, had long ago appointed him the Huntsman of Nouvelle Averoigne. It was clear that Richard was entrusting him to prioritise the tribe's survival necessities.
"Right." Richard began to bellow out orders. "Guillaume, you and Maurice find wood for a shelter- the larger the better."
"It's not the size that counts!" Maurice Belon- the family jester known as Petit-Singe- joked.
Ignoring him, Richard continued. "Andre-David and I will scout around for food and game. The women can fetch some water and firewood for camp."
"The 'women' don't stand to attention when you bark orders, Richard." Marie-Helene leapt to the beach. She was fuming at her nephew's presumptuousness. "We're not some militia for you to order around."
Catharine held her hand out demurely to Andre-David. "Would you lend a lady some assistance, monsieur?" As he helped her out of the boat, she noted the detached expression on his face at the growing confrontation between Marie-Helene and Richard.
"Richard. Please don't fight with my sister." Catharine's mother-in-law, Camille chided her eldest son. "Come and give your mother a hand." Richard scowled and did as he was bidden.
"I am simply trying get us organised, mother. Speaking as one who has led men in battle..."
"You're not the only one who has led troops in battle, Richard," came Marie-Helene's retort. "Both myself and Guillaume have, as well. So it seems to me that we should be given command here."
Catharine saw an opportunity. "If I might interject some reason to this discussion," she ventured. "It seems clear that only one of us is qualified to determine a survival strategy in what is obviously a very unusual situation for most of us." She squeezed Andre-David's arm flirtatiously. "So I propose that we allow him to what he does best."
All eyes turned to the huntsman, who looked uncomfortable at being volunteered for the task at hand. Richard nodded his assent, and even Marie-Helene offered, "I will go along with that. At least until we are settled in here." It was clear she wasn't going to give up her attempts to lead the tribe.
Catharine smiled coquettishly as her chosen ally, Andre-David began to give orders to the others. She was satisfied that she could use the man to help herself to reach the final stages of the game. Lost in her self-congratulations, she didn't notice little Petit-Singe staring at her.
Jean-Louis hefted another load of logs as he walked back to the campsite. "More wood for the fire." The first thing the tribe had done upon arriving on the beach was to build themselves a campfire. Jean-Louis' uncle Charles had insisted upon the necessity, and had even prepared a spell to help start it. As long as they didn't let the fire go out, for he could only cast the spell once.
Etienne's eldest son was enjoying the game so far. Plenty of sunshine and exercise. He was determined to get himself a nice tan before returning home to Nouvelle Averoigne, and so had been walking around shirtless, much to the dismay of his female relatives. He'd even ripped the legs of his trousers off, so that his legs would tan as well.
He looked around the campsite, disgusted by what he saw. Aside from the fire, very little had been done. There had been talk about building a shelter, but the only ones working on it were himself, his aunts Isidore and Magdalene, and Seraphine. Henri make some comments now and then- he said he was directing the project- but didn't lift a finger to help. Isabelle, naturally, turned her nose up at any sort of work. Charles was off doing Rad knew what, and Gaston... well, it wasn't a matter of Gaston not trying to help, but that his help really wasn't very helpful. They wanted a practical shelter, to keep the rain off when it came, but Gaston only wanted it to look like a work of art. To keep him busy, Isidore had suggested he find some berries to mash into paints.
Jean-Louis saw that Isabelle was trying to clean her dress, rather than helping out yet again. Angry, he dropped his burden at her feet, startling her. "Make yourself useful, already. Put some logs on the fire." He clomped off to help with the shelter, not waiting for her to reply. He knew who he was going to vote out when the time came.
Mad Creeg Camp
"We need to talk."
Andre-David didn't look up. He'd heard someone approaching, and from the heavy, even tread had guessed that it was his brother-in-law. So much for the hope that staying away from the campsite would allow him to work in peace and quiet.
Richard squatted on the ground beside Andre-David. "We need to vote Marie-Helene out as soon as we can." Andre-David didn't respond, but continued sharpening the end of a stout branch with a jagged stone he'd found. He'd have to straighten it out in the fire he'd built back at the campsite, but he felt confident it would make an effective fish catching tool. Then he could get to work twining some vines together to make some rope. There were some branches that might make good bowstaves, but he was getting ahead of himself.
"Are you listening to me? That woman will divide this tribe, and we need to be unified if we hope to win this game." Richard grabbed the end of the makeshift spear, getting Andre-David's undivided attention. "I need to know where you stand."
"When the time comes, I will do what is in the best interests of the tribe."
Andre-David looked up at Richard. "I will vote to cull the herd. Remove the weakest member. So that we are the strongest tribe possible."
Richard mulled this over for a moment. He wasn't sure if Andre-David was agreeing to be an ally or not. Andre-David saw the light behind the warrior's blue eyes as realisation sunk in. "You're going to vote my mother out."
"She is infirm." The hunter went back to work on his spear. He was carving against the grain, under the point, to create slight barbs that would keep the fish from pulling out once pinned.
Richard snapped, "Don't be a fool! If we aren't together in this, it doesn't matter how strong we are!" Seeing that his blustering was getting him nowhere, Richard finally stalked away. Leaving Andre-David to the peace of the woods.
Day 3: Reward and Immunity Challenge
Bargle stood in the middle of the beach as the two tribes emerged, bearing their tribal standards. Both groups looked a bit haggard, he noticed, smiling inwardly. "All right everyone, today is your first challenge. It is a reward challenge, but it is also an immunity challenge, which means whoever wins today will go home with a prize and will be safe for another three days. The losers will join me tonight at Tribal Council, where they will vote off one of their members.
"Fist a little history lesson," Bargle began. "Back before Ierendi was a kingdom, it was a haven for pirates and thieves." Petit-Singe muttered, "Still is." Bargle frowned at the interruption. "A favourite trick of these pirates was to light lanterns and place them along the coast. Passing ships, seeing the lights, would attempt to make port, only to find themselves running aground on sandbars a long distance from the shore. The pirates would then attack and loot these trapped ships.
"Each team member will have to carry a torch to one of eight beacons, lighting it, and then carrying the torch back to the next member of the tribe, who will light the next beacon. If your torch goes out, you have to relight it before you can continue. Once all eight torches are lit, the whole tribe will then run to the beach, where you will find a rope attached to a boat in the harbour. Working as a team, you will pull the boat to shore. First tribe to light all eight beacons and pull their boat to shore wins immunity and reward. Would you like to see what you're playing for?"
There was a general lack of enthusiasm, which made Bargle frown. "Well, maybe you'll all show a little more excitement when you see the prize you'll win." He held out a fist, opening it to reveal a shiny black rock. "The Makai call these firestones. They are made from the volcanic rocks of the islands. When you hold them up to the light correctly, they can be used to start fires out of the brush here. The winners, in addition to receiving immunity, will receive one of these for each member of the tribe."
The two tribes got into position, and Bargle started them off. The first two contestants to go were Richard and Jean-Louis. The two men were neck and neck the whole way, lighting their beacons and coming back to relay with their next tribemate. Richard passed his torch to Guillaume, and Jean-Louis to Seraphine. To his dismay, Guillaume found that the masked Seraphine was able to keep up with him, even gaining a bit of a lead. Gaston was able to extend that lead a bit over Catharine, but Janette brought things back to an even keel when Isabelle stumbled in her evening gown. Magdalene, strong legs honed from many years of dancing, gained a formidable lead on the short-legged Maurice. The Black Toes' lead became even more pronounced when the elderly Camille stumbled and accidentally extinguished her torch. Lighting her tribes sixth beacon, Isidore raced back and relayed with Charles. The Mad Creeg tribe was yelling at Camille to bring the torch back to be relit, but Camille began making arcane gestures, determined to save herself an exhausting run by relighting the torch magically. Charles was in the midst of lighting his tribe's seventh beacon when suddenly Camille's torch blew apart under a barrage of purple and gold energy blasts. Horrified at the spell mishap, it was all Camille could do to make it back to her tribe and get a replacement torch. By that time, all the Black Toes' beacons had been lit, and they were heading to the beach to pull their boat to shore. Despite valiant efforts by Marie-Helene and Andre-David, it was too late for the Mad Creeg tribe. The Black Toes exulted in their victory, as Bargle gave them their reward, and solemnly told the losers he would see them at Tribal Council that evening.
Mad Creeg Camp
Marie-Helene huddled close to her son and daughter-in-law. "We must vote Richard out tonight."
Janette shrugged. "I don't know. I don't like that Andre-David..."
"Who cares? We have an opportunity to get rid of our biggest threat in the tribe."
Guillaume nodded. "Janette is right, though, mother. The rest of the group is becoming very dependent on Andre-David to support the camp. He's built our fire, directed our shelter building; I've even seen him working on spears for hunting and fishing."
"And with him gone, Richard will step into the breach and try to direct the others," Marie-Helen noted. "He will not relent until he leads this tribe!"
"And neither shall we." Guillaume had been rationalising his vote ever since Janette had decided to get rid of Andre-David. "Richard is just one man, we are three. Without the support of Andre-David, there will be no one to rally to Richard's side."
Janette shuddered slightly. "I don't like the way he looks at me. Like... like a hunter."
Seething, Marie-Helene looked between her son and his wife. "I am relying on your support tonight, Guillaume." She stalked off without another word.
The Tribal Council shelter was built on a cliff side overlooking the beach far below. Bargle watched as the eight members of the Mad Creeg Tribe made their way up to the shelter. "If you would each grab yourselves a torch," he instructed. The 'torches' were long wooden staves, one end of which was lighted by a continual flame spell. "These torches represent your life on the island. Once your fire is out, you are out of the game." Bargle pointed to a set of stone benches in front of him. "You may take a seat."
"Welcome to your first tribal council," he said, a little too happily. "Tonight, you will vote out one of your tribe members. Maurice, how were your first few days at camp?"
Petit-Singe was practicing balancing his torch on his forehead. "Bickering, yelling, plotting- aside from the scenery, it's just like being back home."
"Andre-David. How will you decide who to vote off tonight?"
"Camille lost the challenge for us. I'm voting against her."
Bargle's eyebrows rose. "Wow. Straight and to the point. Are you sure you're a d'Ambreville?"
Andre-David frowned. "I'm not a d'Ambreville."
"Right. Well, Camille. What's your reaction to monsieur de Foret's comment?"
There was no answer. The d'Ambreville matriarch seemed to be staring off into space. "Mere Camille?"
"Excuse me? Did you say something monsieur Booger?"
"Yes, that's what I said. Booger."
Bargle sighed. "Moving on, then. Let's get to the voting. Andre-David, you're up first."
The first vote is for Camille. This is from Andre-David, who is voting the weakest member of the tribe out.
The second vote is for Marie-Helene. This is from Petit-Singe, who despises her.
The third vote is for Janette. This is from Marie-Helene, who is afraid her control over her son Guillaume is threatened by his wife.
The fourth vote is for Andre-David. This is from Janette, who feels uncomfortable around the hunter.
The fifth vote is for Camille. This is from Catharine, because she wants Andre-David to think she is his ally.
The sixth vote is for Marie-Helene. This is from Richard, who feels Marie-Helene undermines his authority at camp.
The seventh vote is for Janette. This is from Camille, who was persuaded to vote this way by her sister, Marie-Helene.
The eighth vote is for Andre-David. This is from Guillaume, who is voting with his wife.
Bargle looked up. "Well, this is rather odd. We have a four-way tie." He grabbed a pouch at his waist as he continued. "Normally, in the event of a tie, the person with the most votes against them from previous tribal councils is the one who leaves, but as this is the first tribal council, there are no previous votes." He held up the pouch, untying its strings. "What I have here is a bag with four stones in it. Three of them are white, one of them is black. Each of the four voted out will take a turn drawing a stone, keeping it hidden in your hand until I tell you to open it. Whoever draws the black stone will be the person sent home tonight."
He held out the bag to Marie-Helene, Andre-David, Camille, and then Janette. "All right, open your hands," Bargle commanded. The four revealed their stones. The three women all held white rocks, with Andre-David holding the black.
"Andre-David, please bring me your torch." The woodsman did as requested, rising to stand next to Bargle. With a command, the host extinguished the globe of light at the end of Andre-David's torch. "The tribe has spoken." Without a backward glance, Andre-David left the tribal council.
"Clearly, this is a tribe divided. You can take your torches and head back to camp."
Surprising vote this week- I had a four way tie, so had to determine randomly who lost (and it happened to be one of my favourites, Andre-David, darn it!)
My random selection, Tribe Black Toes loses next week's immunity challenge, so you can vote for anyone on that tribe.
Tribe Black Toes
"Countess" Seraphine d'Ambreville
Let the voting commence!