You have to be always drunk.
That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way.
So as not to feel the horrible burden of time,
that breaks your back and bends you to the earth,
you have to be continually drunk.
But on what?
Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish.
But be drunk.
And if sometimes,
on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch,
in the mournful solitude of your room,
you wake again,
drunkenness already diminishing or gone,
ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock,
everything that is flying,
everything that is groaning,
everything that is rolling,
everything that is singing,
everything that is speaking. . .
ask what time it is
and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you:
“It is time to be drunk!
So as not to be the martyred slaves of time,
be drunk, be continually drunk!
On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”
Charles Baudelaire, 1864

The party was awakened at the crack of dawn by the sounds of angry shouting and people running near the docks. Leo, sleeping on the beach with Jessica, opened his eyes to see a large Spanish War-Galleon, complete with three full decks of guns and showing signs of recent battle, anchored in the harbor. A small launch was rowing for shore, holding eight buccaneers wearing plague-masks and a man dressed in the uniform of an Imperial naval captain.

Given the mismatch between the men in the launch and the Spanish colors of the galleon, Leo figured that the ship was probably here for the same reason they were—to be squibed so its original owners would not recognize it. The local squibs, however, were massing along the docks, armed with all manner of violent implements. Clearly some breach of etiquette had occurred—probably with regards to the privacy that Rickety promised his clients—and things were about to get ugly.

Leo messaged Rummy and Thaduk to apprise them of the situation, and sent Jessica running back to the warehouse to shake the crew out of their bunks. Rummy, stretched and cracked his back—it turns out that a giant solid-gold turtle does not make a comfortable bed—and rolled over to find Tilly gone, a pile of dead fish in her place, and all of his gear missing as well. Determined not to be shamed by her, he proudly walked out of the ruined ship, shoulders back, head high, and stark naked, and paraded right past the massed squibs and his crew into the warehouse to look for a spare pair of pants.

Thaduk, better rested than the other two, having actually slept in his own bunk, came out of the warehouse and shoved his way through the crowd of squibs to stand by Leo at the head of the dock were the launch was pulling up. Nine sailors climbed out of the launch, one tying it off while the rest formed a defensive line, four kneeling and four standing behind, with muskets readied. Once the boat was stable, the captain, a little shaky on a crude wooden prosthesis and dressed in classic Imperial Navy style, climbed up onto the docks.

Leo, with his vast expertise in sailing lore, immediately recognized the captain as Merril Pegsworthy, a former navy-man and a member of the Free Captains (the ruling council of the Republic). Captain Pegsworthy told his men to stand down and hobbled forward a few steps to address Leo, who appeared to be as in charge as anyone there—and probably was given that the party had hunted down and killed one of the squib’s foremen and turned the other into a demon. It was then that Leo noticed a small woman, not more than 9 inches tall, sitting on the old pirate’s shoulder much as a parrot might.

“That’s your boat I assume?” the captain said, indicating the Sadness where it rested in the drydock. He went on to apologize profusely—helped in no small part by Thaduk’s ominous presence alongside fifty-odd angry shipwrights—and explained that the watchtower on the headlands had failed to signal that there was already a ship present at the Squibs. Everyone looked and, unlike when the Sadness had arrived, there were no warning flags flying from the lookout tower.

Leo ordered a couple of the squibs to go check out the watchtower. Thaduk suggested that perhaps the giants they’d been pissing off lately had done something to the lookout, and offered to go as well. Thaduk and the squibs piled into a boat and he rowed them across the harbor to the headland. Of course, the watchtower was at the top of a pretty sheer thirty-foot cliff.

“How you get up?” Thaduk asked the squibs.

“We take the road…” they replied, pointing the mile and a half trail that led from the small village to the headland. Thaduk shrugged and jumped. The boat rocked hard as he launched off, nearly swamping the squibs, and he caught the ledge of the cliff and pulled himself up.

The watchtower was a simple wooden platform anchored to a trio of loblolly trees growing close together, with a slanted roof (also anchored to the trees) and no railing, accessed by a simple rope ladder. Crouching just on the other side of the trees was a misshapen degenerate with its back to Thaduk. The creature’s heavy breathing and the occasional sound of cracking bones covered the sound Thaduk’s landing. With a grunt it haphazardly tossed something over its shoulder to land at Thaduk’s feat.

A human arm.

Creeping up, Thaduk jumped and brought both hands down in a double-fisted strike on the back of the thing’s neck, right where the spine meets the skull, knocking it out cold. Next to the giant was the battered and bloody body of an older man. The left arm of his jacket was pinned up, as if the limb had been lost long ago, while the right was completely missing. Thaduk grabbed his spear and shish-kebabbed the unconscious giant, then turned to inspecting the man’s body more closely.

The corpse reeked of booze. Stale, old booze, like Thaduk the Sot after he’d been passed out for a day. The strange angle at which the body lay, the blood covering its head, and the way its neck had broken made Thaduk think that the lookout had died, not from a giant’s attack, but from getting completely sloshed and falling out of the watchtower. He climbed up to the platform and looked around. There was an empty case of their own plum wine, a bedroll, a well-made spiked iron club, and a small chest containing a spyglass, signal flares, torches, and a collection of flags.

Thaduk stashed the morningstar in his bag of holding, then lit one of the torches and waved it in the direction of the docks to indicate an “all clear” to those waiting. He then unhooked the rope ladder, slid down one of the trees, and lowered the ladder to the squibs waiting in the boat. When the squibs reached the top, he climbed back up the tree and put the ladder back.

The squibs identified the corpse as belonging to Lyle Goodwin. “You three stay. Keep lookout.” Thaduk told them. He then took the trail back to the squib village, moving slowly to look for other signs of giants — though he now suspected the one he’d killed had only been an opportune scavenger, rather than any intentional threat.

Rummy meanwhile, had found a pair of pants and headed for the taproom, where he, unsurprisingly, found Tilly and asked her where she put his stuff. “I left it right beside you,” she said. Sighing he hiked back to the Ginger Belle and dug through the stinking pile of rotting fish until he found his dress, weapons, and other gear. He rinsed them off as best he could in the harbor, then headed back to the tavern.

“Thanks Tilly,” Rummy said, giving her a big hug to show that there were no hard feelings. She gave him a squeeze back, then he felt something strange on the back of his dress. He slipped a hand free, grabbed the “Fireball me” sign she’d stuck there and managed to afix it to her shirt before excusing himself to finally go join Leo.

Thaduk met them shortly thereafter and explained what he found at the watchtower. Runners went and fetched Rickety Hake, who, at nearly hundred years old was not one to wake up early for anything. Hearing about what happened to Lyle he groaned miserably and headed off to tell Lyle’s wife. Rummy agreed to go with Rickety for morale support, while the Leo and Thaduk chatted with Captain Pegsworthy.

Captain Pegsworthy again apologized profusely and offered to take his ship out and return in a few weeks, vowing not to tell a soul what he’d seen in the dry-dock. Leo and Thaduk laughed off and invited him and his crew to join them for a drink in the taproom. He ordered his men to row back out to the galleon and tell everyone to come ashore, warning them to leave their weapons on the ship to avoid provoking anything further.

As they walked to the tavern, Pegsworthy recognized the not-yet fully squibbed outline of the Red Sadness and was pleased to see someone “pull one over on old Captain Herrera”.

“Put one through him you mean.”

Clearly very pleased by this, Pegsworthy asked for the honor of Christening their ship once it was finished.

Rummy, meanwhile, followed Rickety to one of the small huts that housed the Squib’s workers. Red curtains hung in the windows and the door had been removed and replaced by strands of red beads. Rickety knocked. The response was a high, breathy groan and a panted “be with you in a minute”. A minute later, a squib came running out of the curtain, hurriedly pulling on his trousers and the voice yelled “Come in.”

Inside, the hut looked to have been converted to a small temple-cum-brothel. Niche-like shelves lined every wall, filled with dozens of statues of depicting the various gods of the Catholic church, each with an offering bowl in front of it. Rummy recognized only a few of these, picking out shrines to a few gods represented in his book (Tittivilla, Tittivilus, Babi, Belial, and Baphomet) as well as a few more common deities such as Chris, Vesta, and the ‘God of Abraham’. Aside from the many shrines, there was a large bed, a small chest with a plank on the top for a table, and a small cook-stove.

Lying on the bed was an attractive middle-aged woman, completely naked and rather damp and sticky-looking. Rickety immediately set to trying to explain the death of her husband, with much hemming, hawing, apologizing, and not getting to the actual point. The woman, who’s name was Chandra, seemed to take it all very well, until Rickety mentioned the giant. Only then did she become emotional, not about her husband’s death, but a screaming tirade about how she knew bringing a “fucking Puritan” on would be trouble, and how the giants had only been a minor problem before, and how no amount of being friendly with giants could offset the Puritan’s heresies.

Rummy tried to ask what Puritans had to do with giants, and why everyone railed about one when the other was mentioned, explaining that he knew next to nothing about religion. Chandra, looked him up and down, and quickly changed the subject, spreading her legs and asking if he would like to “get some religion”. He excused himself, explaining that he was “kindof in a relationship” now, but that he had a friend who might be interested in some “religion”.

Chandra suggested that he might at least want to leave an offering for the gods. Rummy tossed a few coins into the bowls for the gods from his book, which prompted a raised eyebrow from the priestess-cum-prostitute and an inquisitive “Are you sure you don’t want some religion?”

Meanwhile, in the taproom, Leo and Thaduk were putting on their two-man reenactment of the party’s adventures, though Leo’s performance was a little flat. When Rummy walked in, the three of them sat down at a table with Pegsworthy and his tiny lady-friend, who, on closer inspection was clearly a sprite or pixie or some similar variety of winged faerie-kin. They traded stories for a bit, until, again, the story turned to their recent fight against the giants and Pegsworthy interjected with the now-typical response of “Fucking Puritans!”

Unlike all the priests they’d met though, Pegsworthy was willing to elaborate when Leo burst out when the party asked why everyone said it like that. The Puritans, he explained, were a sect of monotheists, taking their name from the idea that worshiping one god was somehow more “pure” than the “thirty-thousand give or take” that the state-sponsored Catholic Church recognized. The “one god” worshiped by the Puritans was the god of the giants, so, all giants were Puritans by default, and all non-giant Puritans tended to be very buddy-buddy with any giants living in their area. And “of course,” he said, “the Puritans are into all other kinds of heresy, like saying people can come back from the dead without drowning."