Part 9

The dueling instructor returns, casually reading a pamphlet advertising new, modern shoe polishers. "Do you have a sufficient argument for the Golden Shoes? Well?"

There seems to be a pattern in the previous clients she mentioned: outsiders. Strangers to culture or to place. Perhaps the Golden Shoes has a soft spot for people who weren't born into the dominant culture of Araveen. Can you gain her sympathy and forge a connection?

Beginning with your departure from Earth, you explain how far you have journeyed, traveling through the stars to explore what might be out there in the far reaches of space. You explain how you found the Portal, how you bravely went through it and came out the other side, only to have it close behind you, leaving you stranded. You have now met the people of the Federation, but it is not everything you expected when you envisioned meeting new sentient lifeforms. You are now in a place with far more paperwork than you could have ever imagined, and people often appear to see you more as curiosities or tools for leverage than as potential citizens or allies.

The instructor looks at you with sad eyes. "I had no idea," she murmurs. "I fully intended to turn you away like the rest." She takes a handkerchief and dabs the corners of her eyes. You notice a small decal on the corner of each handkerchief. It is an embroidered insignia with stars and a pink-red flower. The instructor sees your curiosity. "This is the crest of my nomad group, the Sechwins," she tells you. "The stars which guide us in the darkness and the desert rose from which we gain our strength and tenacity. Of course, I have since moved here to the city, but I never forget where I come from. And I’ll always remember how hard I had to work to forge a place here."

She claps her hands. "The Golden Shoes will surely champion your cause. Please wait here for a moment." She exits behind a curtain in one swift motion, and you hear some rustling sounds. She reemerges quickly, wearing the most ostentatious gold shoes you could ever imagine. Swirling filigree covers the heel and vamp, and gold leather flowerets run along the throat around the laces. When she walks, the heels light up. "It is as you have predicted this whole time, yes?" she says triumphantly. "It is true. I am the Champion they call the Golden Shoes." Weaving back and forth, she demonstrates how lightly she moves in the glimmering footwear. "And I will take you on as my clients."

"What's the most important goal you have here?" she asks, picking up a practice sword and swishing it through the air, moving as she talks. "You want the Pride to sponsor you as you apply for a visa, I know, but I will need to convince them that your reasons are worthy of their support. You have plans to research the portals, and I'll work that in if I need it, but what drives you? Are you looking to build relationships with the Federation members? Are you devoted to science and scholarly discovery? Or are you whimsical, just seeing where the winds will take you? There may be other reasons, but one of these will give me the flexibility I'll need against the Pride's Champion."

Part 10 will be available Thursday, January 17 at 5PM Eastern. The choice that receives more votes will decide the path of the story!