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     At Any Turn

       part  #2 of  Gaming the System Series  by  Brenna Aubrey / Young Adult / Romance & Love
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At Any Turn

The First Quest

*Findelglora has logged in to Dragon Epoch

*Findelglora has entered the world of Yondareth

She emerges from the city of her birth, a young elf maiden having been trained and educated by the best. With the eastern city gate at her back, Findelglora looks around her with wide-eyed wonder, anxious to take on the world and explore its many mysteries.

But every hero needs a quest to get her started.

While pondering what this first quest might be, her eyes land on an older man bearing an expression of pure misery, his shoulders slumped in defeat. He wears the uniform of the Old Guard of the Elves: a military-style jacket spangled with glittering medallions of service, and a kilt. Meeting her gaze, he straightens and gives Findelglora a halfhearted salute.

“Hello there, young one. Don’t you look bright-eyed and full of hope, ready to take on this miserable, harsh world! I wish you luck. You will be a small flicker of light in the prevailing darkness. ”

Findelglora bows to this revered man, knowing him once to have been the Captain of the Guard of the city. General SylvanWood spent his life in service to king and country. But sadly, he now passes his golden years haunting the remotest city gate, a vacant, tormented shadow of the man who once was the city’s greatest hero.

“Sir, I’m anxious to go out into the world and follow your great example. Do you have a quest for me?” she asks.

SylvanWood runs a trembling hand over his face. “If only I could have saved her. If only we could have shared our lives together. ”

Findelglora grows confused. “Whom do you mean, sir? How may I help?”

SylvanWood shakes his head. “I had a love once and she was lost to me, forever. And every day, in remembrance of her, I place a bouquet of daffodils at this gate, which is the last place I saw her on the day I kissed her goodbye. But today I’m feeling unwell and don’t know if I can make it to the meadow to pick the flowers. ”

Findelglora’s heart aches to hear SylvanWood’s sad story. Shaking her head, she wonders what type of hero’s quest would help him. Slay a dragon? Subdue an evil wizard? She brightens and turns back to him.

“Then let me go and pick them for you so that you can honor your love today. ”

SylvanWood looks skeptical. “You are young and there is opposition, even in the meadows outside these walls. ”

Findelglora stands tall, poking out her chest and brandishing the rusty sword she acquired before venturing out of the city’s gate. “I’m ready, sir. Today, as on other days, you will honor your love with a bouquet of daffodils!”

*Findelglora has received the quest to pick ten daffodils and return them to General SylvanWood.

*Promised reward for completion of this quest: The first piece of armor to wear on her further adventures out in the world.

Chapter One

Five weeks of torture. Two miles until it ended. I almost fell to my knees with that realization—or maybe it had more to do with not having eaten in two days. That and the fact that I’d spent the last five hundred miles crossing over the highest mountains in California and my feet were fucking killing me.

It was late afternoon—approaching dinnertime. Dinner. That sounded amazing. The last thing I’d eaten was a candy bar that I’d bummed off a fellow hiker the day before. I’d nursed that thing, bite by bite until the last nub, which I’d finished off this morning for breakfast. I could use dinner. And sleep on a nice, soft bed.

For the previous five weeks, I’d slept on the ground or in my tent hammock—whenever I could manage to find a place to hang it. But this ordeal was now almost over, thank God.

For the thousandth time, I cursed myself for being so stubborn about following through with this crazy plan. I hadn’t allowed myself to give up the idea of a long-distance hike once I’d set my mind on it. With a long sigh I again questioned my sanity. Why had I left civilization? Why had I left her behind?

Emilia and I had only spent a month and a half together as a couple. A week together at her mom’s ranch when we’d finally decided to start something real and then back at my house for five more weeks planning this crazy trip as my version of Superman’s visit to the Fortress of Solitude.

And she’d fully supported me in this—thought it was a good idea for me to get away, make the final break from work, or my mistress, as she called it. But I sure as hell hadn’t been ready to take a break from Emilia.

I was almost there. Almost there. Those two words had become my mantra for the last sixty miles of this grueling trail. The Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley—northern trailhead of the famous (and torturous, in my case) John Muir trail—were now only two miles ahead. The landscape had been beautiful for the first couple of hundred miles, but now I was just done with the High Sierra scenery. If I never saw another pine tree again, I wouldn’t be sad.
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