Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Nineteen: The Naim Games (Continued)
Previously: Zack chose twenty semi-finalist naims (gnomes) for a storytelling contest, after which he planned to announce Naimian’s new Storysmith–and make his escape.
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By mid-afternoon, word had spread that Namian’s Storysmith (Zack) would introduce a wonderful event at the Naim Games! Anticipation rose to the point of frenzy; all had seen Master Zaggyzim when he’d arrived yesterday (it was hard to miss a four and a half foot tall giant!), but few had heard him tell stories yet.
Little Bud worked the crowd (“My Uncle Zaggy is coming!”) while Zack ducked out to meet with his Leaf Naim Pretenders. On the way there he spotted Bulgy headed for a heartwood tree with half a dozen burly bodyguards. He offered a statesmanly “hey-fah!” but Bulgy and his posse just grunted and hurried on; the vainglorious fellow had clearly not forgotten Zack’s slight from the day before. Zack dressed alone, donning his secretly altered tunic and red and blue greatcoat. Everything was in place, everything except his heart, which kept trying to jump out of his chest. He found his backpack and pulled out the Jolly Ranchers.
Per Zack’s instructions, the non-finalist Pretenders had directed everyone onto Root and Leaf Naim sides of the field, and were now whipping up the crowds:
“Root Naims rock! Leaf Naims fall off tree limbs!”
“Leaf Naims soar! Root Naims eat mud!”
Not the cleverest of cheers, but effective enough for fans who’d never even conceived of an other side until today.
As planned, the ten Leaf Naim Semi-Finalists were gathered in the woods near the field, uniformed in blue leaf patch tunics. They were terrified: three were shaking violently, four were too weak to stand, and three were nervously chewing sweet pooker leaves.
“Scared?” asked Zack.
They nodded their heads manically.
“I totally understand, and that’s why I’ve decided to reveal my secret to you.” He reached inside his greatcoat and pulled out a handful of Jolly Ranchers. A collective gasp arose from the group.
“What are they, Master Zaggy?” a leaf-chewing female asked.
“Something more powerful than pooker leaves. They’re sour jewels!”
“Jewels yer can eat?”
“Yep, jewels yer can eat! And when you do, they fill you with starheart—story power!” To demonstrate, he pulled out a green apple Jolly Rancher, took off the plastic wrapper, and placed it in his mouth. He sucked hard for a full minute and then opened his mouth to show how the candy had colored his tongue.
“You thee? Ith melling in my mow, an’ giwing me tharhar power!”
He distributed Jolly Ranchers among the newly empowered Leaf Naims and started to walk away, but then turned dramatically and pulled his greatcoat back, disclosing his Leaf Naim tunic and blue leaf patch. “Remember, I’m on your side!”
A few minutes later, he made his way to the ten Root Naim Semi-Finalists. He gave sour jewels to all in this equally terrified group and sold them the same starheart line, then just before leaving, turned and pulled back his greatcoat, revealing his Root Naim tunic, and said,
“Remember, I’m on your side!”
Thoughts: Have you ever deceived a group of people “for their own good,” only to have the plan blow up in your face?
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