Songbird Trilogy Book 1: The Maze Girl (complete)
Author: Julia R. West

Chapter 11
The First Of Many

I take the time to explore the hotel after lunch. They have a wonderful pool--I think it's bigger than my kitchen was back home--but I don't have my swimsuit with me. Even if I did, I proabably wouldn't use the pool anyways.

I see Orion Lockhart on my way back up to my room and duck into a hallway that isn't mine. I hear footsteps (which I think are his) coming around the corner. I dart down an adjoining hallway just in time. I don't think he saw me.

But this hallway I'm in is a dead end! I hear his footseps coming closer. This game is getting all the more interesting. I desperately try one of the handles. Locked. I sweep down the hall, but all of the doors are locked. Then I see it. It looks like a supply closet for the maids, but it will have to do for the moment.

I slip inside just in time to see Orion's malicious face appear down the hall. He hasn't seen. He'll give up after the first few doors, I tell myself. But he doesn't. The closet is dark, dank, and smells suspiciously like mold. I can't tell what's next to me on any side; the only light comes from the crack underneath the door.

I inhale and exhale the musty air slowly, praying he won't hear me. I can tell he does, though, because his stpes stop in front of me. All that separates us is a door. That I'm sure he will open.

He does, and I'm standing face-to-face with a man who'd love to kill me right here, right now. I do the only logical thing to do. (Maybe not the only logical thing) I kick him in the shin as hard as I possibly can and run.

Not the best plan on my part; but certainly effective. He doesn't appear to be the best runner around. If I can lead him into a hall with people, I can lose him. He'll stop chasing.

But there are no halls with people. There surely can't be enough guests to fill a hotel this size. So the elevator might be a good bet. I'm only one floor away from my room. I can do this.

No! The elevator isn't open. I shoot up the stairs. I hear Orion panting behind me. I have to give him credit; I thought he would have given up by now. I can't tell if I'm breathing heavily from the running, or from fear. Probably a mix of both.

I reach my room. One-thirteen. I fumble for the roomkey and whisk it through the scanner. It opens and I slide inside. Orion's not up the stairs yet, so he couldn't possibly have seen me. And I don't think he knows my room number, but I lock the door behind me just in case.

Never before has a hotel room seemed as comforting as this one does right now. Orion can't get to me. And thinking like this reminds me that the game is just beginning. And I don't even know the rules.




I tell Rory about Orion at dinner. He's listening, I think, but his mind seems more distant since we left the plane. Maybe he's thinking about The Challenges that are coming on Wednesday. There's one Wednesday, one Thurdsay, one Friday, and the last on Saturday. They place two on non-weeknights every year for some reason.

I'm trying to keep my thoughts from that. But when they aren't thinking about The Challenges, they wander to Orion, plotting to kill me. I'm also debating whether or not it would be a good idea to tell Dmitria about it. Maybe Julius?

When I arrive back in my room, an outfit hangs on a hook on the wall. Two notes are attached:


Dear Ellery Rowe,


I'm glad it isn't the same handwriting as before. It looks like Dmitria's real handwriting.


Tomorrow we will be discussing The Challenges all together. Ask the concierge for Meeting Room A10 at noon tomorrow. The first challenge will be Wednesday, and the rest will follow each consecutive day. I will see you tomorrow.


Your friend,

Dmitria Love


This time, Dmitria signed it 'your friend.' I'd never really thought of her like that. Or anyone else I've met since leaving home. Home. It seems so distant now, and I've only been away one night. Funny how terror can do that to a person, is't it?

I trust this letter somehow. The way she signed it 'your friend', the handwriting, and the fact that it says 'all together'.

I read the second letter. It appears to be from the hotel staff. I'm a bit more dubious about the aucenticity of this one, but I let that go. They're just clothes; what harm can they do?


Dear Miss Rowe,


Attached to this letter is the outfit you will wear to your first Challenge. It has been specially designed for the challenge. It is our honor to have you and the other three contestants staying here.


Best of luck to all of you,

The King's Knight Inn Staff


I look at the outfit. Being my critical self, it doesn't look like something I'd wear. But if it's supposed to help...It consists of tight-looking, but thick pants, a black long sleeve shirt that looks like it would camouflage well, and black shoes with grippy soles and bottoms.

And what might this challenge be? Camouflage, grip-soled shoes, non-baggy pants...


Then I realize. I'd bet anything it's Rock-climbing. And whose weakness is this? Rory loved rock-climbing back home. Teryn's gone with me a few times before. So it must be Soren.

And this makes me think. What will they choose as mine? It brings a new kind of dread, and I know this is only the first of many.



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