Here are the two pieces I entered under the third contest:
The envoy had succeeded in their mission to find the rare herbs which, blended skillfully by the village sage, would cure the child’s burning illness. Their only obstacle on the return home lay at the precipice of the very mountain they’d been climbing for two days.
The rocky terrain and sudden downpours caused delays in the form of mudslides and fallen trees. The seven men trekked the remaining distance with great trepidation. All of them remembered vividly what had happened on their journey to the great grasslands of Elliseth.
What had started as an envoy of eight had been reduced to seven because of what lay mere moments away: a chasm of molten rock and fire called the Ruin of Loss. The opening of the mountain had claimed many lives in its inferno. It was said among the villagers that the screams of its victims were heard at the full moon.
The mouth of the mountain belched lava into a pool nearly a mile across. The long journey back around the obsidian cliff was the route of the seven men. They had watched their companion slip from that same narrow path and fall far beneath the rim of the mountain into the churning blaze. He had slowly sunk to his death; skin melting off his frame; his hair ablaze from the intense heat. His cries for help and the image of his last agonizing moments had haunted the men during the quiet moments of their journey. As they approached the return trek around the beast, the men stopped in silent tribute to their friend and brother-in-arms. The bravest man and leader, Tabor, stepped one foot onto the rocky black path and looked back at his men; they all understood that he wished them well on their dangerous route.
At the sight of the Captain’s lifeless body, all nine of the shipwrecked passengers stared suspiciously from face to face, trying to detect an inkling of guilt. One passenger, however, was trying not to portray his/her murderous motivations. But who would do such a thing?
Rations were running low and the island offered little food other than coconuts that grew atop sixty-foot palms. Sara knew that whoever the killer was, they were thinking the same thing that had crossed several minds since their shipwreck: if there were fewer passengers, there would be a better chance at survival for all those who remained. But murder was never an option that had entered Sara’s mind. She’d spent the last week scouring the island for animals, in hopes of some meat, while one of their number had been doing a different kind of hunting.
Terrified, Sara gazed from one face to the next. She could not imagine any of these people sinking to such desperate measures so soon. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison were elderly and neither looked capable of such brutality. Dr. Wilder had been helping the injured and tending the sick. Angela Moffit, the overworked financial advisor, had been so kind and assisted Dr. Wilder when she, herself, could muster the energy. Todd Walker had been doing his best to climb the tall trees and harvest as much food for the group as possible. Simon Nelson was an ex-minister and founder of several charities for underprivileged children. Belinda Moss was the eleven-year-old child of the Captain. Finally, Dylan Crosby had been an Olympic swimmer who donated a large chunk of money to build a school for the blind in the urban community he called home. All these people seemed the most unlikely to commit such a crime. However, the small island was definitely devoid of human life except for these eight other people. One of them was hunting; one of them was planning their next target as the rest of the group stood there in shock.
I'll be posting Suspense Technique #4 - Frustration soon.