Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beyond the Shore: Session 14

Hark! — heard you not those hoofs of dreadful note?
Sounds not the clang of conflict on the heath?
Saw ye not whom the reeking sabre smote;
Nor saved your brethren ere they sank beneath
Tyrants and tyrants’ slaves? — the fires of death,
The bale-fires flash on high: — from rock to rock
Each volley tells that thousands cease to breathe;
Death rides upon the sulphury Siroc,
Red Battle stamps his foot, and nations feel the shock.

Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,
His blood-red tresses deepening in the Sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon;
Restless it rolls, now fixed, and now anon
Flashing afar, — and at his iron feet
Destruction cowers, to mark what deeds had done;
For on this morn three potent Nations meet,
To shed before his Shrine the blood he deems most sweet.

By Heaven! it is a splendid sight to see
(For one who hath no friends, no brother there)
Their rival scarfs of mix’d embroidery,
Their various arms that glitter in the air!
What gallant war-hounds rouse them from their lair,
And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the prey!
All join the chase, but few the triumph share;
The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,
And Havoc scarce for joy can number their array.

There shall they rot – Ambition’s honoroud fools!
Yes, Honour decks the turf that wraps their clay!
Vain Sophistry! in these behold the tools,
The broken tools, that Tyrants cast away,
By myriads, when they dare pave their way
With human hearts – to what? – a dream alone.
Can Despots compass aught that hails their sway?
Or call with truth one span of earth their own,
Save that wherein at last they crumble bone by bone?

-- Lord George Gordon Byron, 1812


Finished with their game, the party set a watch for the night and took their rest, only to awake again to more heat, more humidity, and more biting flies. Leo fetched down the spyglass from the stockade and consulted with Aaron. The skeleton pointed out the stone dolmens on the mountainside and explained how he and his mates made a few trips to check it out in their time on the island. After some discussion of alternate paths: a back way up the mountain, climbing the cliff-face, or going through the caves that the giants lived in, the party decided to keep following the direct path laid by those they pursued.

From the stockade the hike up the mountain was a scant two leagues, they covered the first league in an hour, but the going quickly became very steep thereafter. After some three hours of hiking, they were at the base of Mt. Panie, and could see the full mile-high might of the summit. The trail began to switchback up the face of the mountain. Thaduk, on point, looked up, shielding his eyes against the sun, and called the “All clear” for everyone to proceed…and his head was promptly grazed by a flying rock the size of a small dog.

Following its trajectory, the party saw a giant, clean and almost majestic looking next to those they had previously encountered, his red-brown skin entirely bare save for the coin-pouch on a thong around his neck, lounging in the sun next to a ready pile of boulders, and staring contemplatively at another rock clutched ready in its hand. Everyone ran for cover while Thaduk stepped forward and raised and jingled his pouch of iron coins. The giant looked petrified.

“Oh, sorry lil’ bra! Didna know ya were in te spirit! Lemme help ya wit’ dat.” The naked giant rose and strode down the slope towards them, raising a hand in a mollifying gesture. Once he reached Thaduk, the giant laid a hand on his head, healing the wound from the boulder-strike completely. Leo smiled at the now-friendly giant and struck up a song, “Do you know this one?”

“Ya lil’ bra’, dats a great hymn!”

Meanwhile the unheard chatter from Caddis’ message spells played on in the background…
Caddis: “Mow he’ll let us closer and then we murder him…”
Rummy: “Way ahead of you…”
Caddis: “Rummy hide. I’ll distract. You stab him in the butt. WHAT ARE WE DOING?!?! PUSH HIM DOWN THE HILL!”
Leo: “Thaduk couldn’t move one yesterday with a full on charge. I dont think a simple shove will do the trick.”
Leo: “Stab him now!”
Caddis: “We need those coins!”
Leo: “Staaaaaabbbbb!”
Caddis: “Rummy stab him in the knee!”
Leo: “Stab him so fucking hard!”
Caddis: “He’s a friendly giant, but we still need to kill him.”
Then a wave of Caddis’ hand caused the giant’s skin to sparkle like a glitter-bomb and, of course, a pair of Rummy’s blades appeared in the giant’s kidneys from behind. Tilly came running and vaulted up on Thaduk’s shoulders, bloodying the giant’s nose with her brass knuckles, the slipped and fell by the giant’s feet.

“Oi! Lil’ bra’s. Guess ya gotta do what te spirit moves ya to.” The giant pivoted, knocking Rummy to the ground with a swift backhand, then cracking several ribs with a quick downward punch at the prone Rummy, knocking him out.

Sandara quickly flipped the giant off, bestowing him with a curse to make him more susceptible to Caddis and Leo’s spells. As its attention was focused on Rummy, Thaduk pulled out a spear and slashed it sideways, slicing through the towering fellows achilles tendon, sending the giant toppling to the ground. Caddis paralyzed the downed giant before it could roll over and crush Rummy. Then everyone jumped on the glittering, cursed, prone, paralyzed, but still somewhat friendly giant and stabbed and stabbed until the behemoth stopped moving.

They dragged the body off the trail—or rather Thaduk and Adriana dragged the body and the rest offered some moral support—and tried to hide the fourteen foot tall, sparkly, glittering, naked giant as best they could in the jungle underbrush. Then they set off climbing again.

The trail remained broad and well-used (which is generally a bad sign when tracking armies of giants but our heroes were undaunted) and around noon they were about half-way up the mountain. The vegetation largely subsided as they moved further up the slopes, and now the full force of the tropical sun beat down on them. The largely aquatic Caddis wavered, nearly fainting, and called a halt for lunch.

As they ate and hid in the shade of an overhang, Leo sang a song to lift their spirits. Once everyone was mostly replenished, Thaduk offered Caddis a piggy-back ride, which was readily accepted, and they started off again.

An hour later they came in sight of the leveled-section of the mountainside with the stone dolmens marking the Puritan’s shrine of worship, only two hundred feet above their present position. The path ahead grew even steeper, reaching nearly a 100% grade, and switchbacking several times to quickly end at the plateau. They also saw, standing on the ledge looking down at them, three more giants, boulders in hand: one grotesque and brutish, the others dressed in the plain, but well-made, black doublets and white ruffs favored by Puritan clerics.

Praise-God_Barebones.JPGLeo confidently stepped up to the front and marched up the trail, coin purse held high and jingling. A few switchbacks later, they heard the growl from the top, “They’re heeeeere,” and soon saw the pointed beard and narrow face of Praise-God Barebones, the preacher whom Rummy had punched out to start this whole affair. While they could not hear what he said to the giants, his eyes spoke daggers, and the rain of rocks that came down was just as eloquent.

Caddis, Aaron the skeleton, and Sandara quickly locked the field down with a blinding burst of glitterdust and entangling vines over the giants, and obscuring clouds of mist over their own party (respectively). Thaduk, now consciously aware that the lady-trickster was capable of such things, order Tilly to create an illusion of him running out of the fog, which drew the next barrage of rocks away from them.

As soon as the rocks clattered against the trail, the real Thaduk burst from the fog, grabbed a boulder the size of a small boat, and, roaring with rage, hurled it up the mountainside at the giants. Leo whooped and jumped on the massive projectile, riding it like a drunken, flying pony up to the top of the cliff where it landed right on top of Mr. Barebones, with much splintering and cracking of his namesake. Up on the plateau, surrounded by and in melee range of a trio of giants, Leo quickly spotted Caulky and Jessica, tied to one of the dolmens and guarded by Badger Medlar and the Cameron sisters, and flashed them the sort of dashing, heroic grin that only a bat-shite-crazy Bard is capable of.

Back down the slope, everyone else started sprinting to catch up.
Thinking the rock thing had worked pretty well the first time, Thaduk grabbed Aaron Ivy, laid him over another boulder like a sack of potatoes and threw it. This one flew just as true, but turned just enough in its flight so that Aaron was between the rock and a hard place (so to speak) when it struck the degenerate giant it was aimed at. The drowned card-sharp was reduced to a fine powder and the giant was left howling and cradling a broken shoulder.

Meanwhile, the giants started swinging wildly at Leo. While one of the better dressed giants was incapacitated, both blinded and entangled by Caddis and Aaron’s spells, Leo took a solid blow from the second one’s sword. The injured and howling degenerate then turned and snapped at him with its massive jaws, easily crushing the small buckler that he raised to intercept the blow.

Thinking as fast as he could, Leo worked a spell to implant an unnatural lust in the degenerate for his sword-wielding counterpart. While Leo had hoped only for a minor distraction, the spell worked better, or worse, than he imagined. Howling in psychotic glee, the degenerate leaped upon the other giant, pinning it with his one good hand and sodomizing it so brutally that the second giant was soon killed and Leo himself was knocked unconscious by a stray blow from the dying giant’s flailing to break free of his despoiler.
Leo, aside to Rummy, “And you thought you summoned unnatural horrors!”
As the others reached the plateau, Caddis quickly put Badger to sleep, while the Cameron sisters, clad only in their underwear, drew their sabres and charged at Rummy (who was still wearing Valvarisa Cameron’s dress). Caddis conjured mirror images of Rummy, such that Bethany, lunging at full speed, struck one and, meeting no resistance, when toppling directly over the cliff to her death. Rummy and Valvarisa’s continued to duel along the cliff-face, exchanging a few measured swings, blades flashing but neither gaining the upper hand. Seeing the situation, Caddis slipped up behind Val, as she turned to meet this new threat, Rummy took the opening and eviscerated her. His two blades stabbing into the small of her back and slashing wide, very nearly cutting her in half.

Adriana, meanwhile, had slipped up under cover of invisibility and quickly made her way over to untie the captives. Apparently impressed by his heroics, Caddis’ sister Jessica rushed to Leo and healed him. No sooner had he stood up than he was forced to backstep to avoid the sword-swings of the blind giant, and stepped right off the cliff behind him. He was saved, barely, by the remnants of Aaron’s entanglement spell, leaving him hanging upside down, wrapped in quickly-fading magical vines, over a hundred foot drop.

With the new distraction of the beautiful Jessica’s presence and intervention, the degenerate giant left off the giant it had fucked to death and rose, clearly intent on taking advantage of the girl in the same way, only to be impaled on Thaduk’s spear as he charged over the lip of the plateau behind the others. He, Sandara, and Tilly all turned their attentions on the blind giant, still struggling at the vines holding him and swinging wildly about with his massive sword.

Sandara slashed the vines holding his feet and Thaduk threw a rock, hoping to knock him from the cliff, but still he stood. Tilly conjured illusory sounds of taunting and battle from the air just off the cliff behind him. He swung, but kept his balance. She magically pantsed him. But he kept his balance. Finally Sandara summoned a surging wave of water, washing down the side of the mountain, which swept him off his feet and over the cliff.

Badger, meanwhile, woke up to see all her allies dead and no enemies nearby. She stood up and ran, hoping to take cover in the giants’ cave. What she failed to see was the invisible Adriana, standing right over where she had been lying. Two swift strokes of Adriana’s sword left Badger bleeding on the mountaintop and no other threats in sight.

“Help, I’m falling off a cliff!” came the cry from Leo, though with seven people at the top to help, his situation was quickly rectified. Bodies were looted and dumped off the cliff. Badger was patched up and tied up for hauling back to the ship. And the party made ready to beat feet before any more giants came out of yonder cave for the morrow’s potluck.

“As captain,” Caddis said as they prepared to leave, “I am officially declaring that there will officially be no more keelhauls…Instead, all mutineers will be sacrificed to our under-the-deck demons.”

To be continued…