Sunday, April 11, 2010

Episode 13: I Bet You Someone Dies

The giant was gone.

It occurred to Xoe that there was no one on Der Mobile, and that if the giant got to the ship before they did, he could cause a whole lot of mischief. And in this case, mischief would be bad.

Xoe took the Guidos and headed back to Der Mobile while Xeno and Holth headed back to the baths. Bijaz’s mission was to destroy the warmwire after all, and there was a chance he’s head there to cause some trouble. If not, some reinforcements might be needed, and Xeno was pretty sure he could talk Maximinus into loaning some muscle.

Xoe and the Guidos hurried down to the pier. All was quiet, but just to be sure they checked the ship top to bottom, from stem to stern. Nothing was disturbed and everything was intact. Xoe breathed a sigh of relief – relief that was doomed to die once Athos decided to take an interest in local weather patterns.

Thisa town sure has summa strange fog,” he quipped from the prow of the ship. He was absent-mindedly sharpening the bolt as it nestled, ready to be fired, in the ballista.

Whaddayou mean?” said Porthos, who had determined that the ship was safe. Safe enough to start drinking from his hip flask, anyway.

Wella, there seems to be a fog what is coming this way. And a very small one at that.”

Xoe’s ears pricked up this. This did not sound normal. And when a giant invisible wounded assassin was on the loose, she hated things that did not sound normal. She hurried topside.

“For Gilgamesh’s sake, Porthos, put that away. And Athos, what are you talking abou- Oh, shit.”

For as Xoe watched, a small patch of fog slithered out from the city gate and made its way to the end of the pier. There it paused, only to grow, stretch and transform into the shape of a bent, frail-looking old man. With glowing eyes. And sharp fangs. Oh, and naked.

The old man shimmered for an instant, and then appeared 30 feet down the pier at the base of Der Mobile’s gangplank. Xoe drew her crossbow and swore under her breath. Athos drew his sword and swore loudly. Aramis drew his demonic lacrosse stick, took Porthos’ flask, took a drink. Porthos swore at Aramis.

The old man then raised a hand, palm downward and waved it over the gangplank. It buckled and fell into the water. The old man shimmered once more, and in a flash he was at the front of the boat. Xoe turned to face him and raised her crossbow.

“This will most probably not work,” she thought.

Meanwhile, Xeno tumbled into the main chamber of the baths only to find Maximinus and company well into their evening tea. Some sort of poetry was being recited. It was not very good.

Thrax! We need help – men – there’s a giant on the loose and there’s no time to lose!” Maximinus gathered up his wits just enough to respond.

Somewhere, the gods rolled a one…

“Hallo my good man! What would you be up to now? Giants, you say? Help, you say? Well, far be it from us to say we won’t rally ‘round the compatriot when the surf is up and the devil’s in the nosebag, eh? We shall dither up the troops and sally forth into the slips. Dogs of war, and that. Wot?” The amount of glaze that covered Maximinus’ eyes was only exceeded by the amount of ice covering his city. And both looked as if they were about to get worse. Xeno leapt into Thrax’s lap and grabbed him by the tunic.

“Help! Now! Men! Swords! Fast! Now!” A spark of recognition broke the surface of Maximinus’ consciousness like a playful squid during mating season.

“Certainly,” he breathed, and swayed to his feet. He whistled and barked. Men moved. Clavdivs darted from man to man helping them on with their gear. Eventually, a throng of six soldiers was loosely assembled and followed Xeno and Holth above ground. Time was of the essence. Every second counted. Xoe could be in trouble right now, with Xeno her only hope.

Somewhere, the gods rolled a one…

Xeno didn’t remember ever seeing “Lehho’s Delicatessen” before. Neither did he remember “Dagobert’s House of Phun” or the statue of a mermaid being ravished by merman. Hmm, he thought, I always wondered how that worked...

Meanwhile, in the wastes of the frozen north, Saladin, Iryien, Kobayashi and Takemiya continued to explore the ice caves. They encountered a cave the floor of which was covered with a thick, dense fog. Iryien gracefully slid to the ground in order to investigate the source of the fog and found that irregular cracks in the cavern floor were venting heat up from deep below the glacier. Iryien gathered up her short bow and made a mental note to take extra care as things were getting rather slippery...

Just then, footsteps were heard out in the gathering snow. A couple of large beings were heading past the mouth of the cave and moving towards the ex-yeti's lair. The party waited until the coast was clear and then made haste down the slope towards the unknown.

The next cave revealed a strange collection of stalactites, a curious ledge, and a heavy wooden chest sunk into the ice at the far side of the cavern. Everyone's natural paranoia was piqued, and steps were immediately taken to barrage the chest from afar with chunks of ice whilst avoiding the stalactites. Proving that you can never be too paranoid, however, the group failed to investigate the curious ledge and were ambushed by a pair of snow leopards.

Takemiya and Kobayashi attempted to restrain the two cats while Saladin and Iryien reasoned with them, but when Iryien tried to divert their hunger to the "freshly-killed meat" two caves up, the two responded with a guttural "You kill Master?" and redoubled their attacks. Takemiya received a nasty gash on his arm and Kobayashi lost the pinky finger on his left hand.

Somewhere, a minor deity picked up a finger as it lay next to a black dodecahedron mottled with tiny red flecks. The topmost face read "XX". She held up the finger and examined it. "Ah, I was in the mood for a snack," she said as popped the finger into her pretty little mouth and chewed...

"Son of a BITCH!" Kobayashi cried, the last of his patience gone. A snap and a sigh were all that were heard as he dispatched the first cat. Takemiya held his cool a bit longer, but eventually did the same for the second leopard.

Not a moment too soon, as one of the beings who had previously trotted past the cave mouth was returning, and in a state of extreme agitation.

“Must get back – warn others – something bad happen!” was heard stomping along outside the cave. A large creature, as large as the cave mouth itself, was shuffling quickly along the path back down into the crevasse. Upon seeing the size of the creature, Takemiya (who was still at his Supa Grow height of 12 feet tall) leapt nimbly out of the cave to ambush the giant from behind.

Somewhere, the gods rolled a one…

Unfortunately for the oversized monk, the frictional quotient (FQ) for magical glacial ice (I*(MaG)) when applied to a leaping oversized monk (L(distance in metres)/(Original mass)-(Enhanced mass)), or FQ = I*MaG/(L/Mo-Me), meant that Takemiya found himself slipping and sliding off of the 250-foot glacier and down into the dark and frozen chasm below.

Back I Aquae Sulis, Xoe was in a staredown with a vampire. She had just watched her crossbow bolt be caught by the creature and eaten. Aramis then fired an orb from his lacrosse stick, and the blue/white ball of energy had passed harmlessly through the old man and into the city. Odd, Xoe thought, I think that SOMETHING should have happened…

Seeing their efforts come to naught, she decided to wait. The best defense, they say, is a good defense. And Xoe had a dozen ways to avoid being killed. But the vampire didn’t move. It stood there, regarding the four of them. Xoe could hear her heartbeat. She could smell Porthos’ breath.

Suddenly, the cavalry arrived. Having seen the orb fly into the city, Holth recognized its source and pulled Xeno from his meanderings. They barged through the door in the wall just in time to see the vampire do a reverse swan dive off the front of the ship and into the water. The party froze, and some hurried debates about the existence of the gangplank ensued.

Snik. Zzzip. Plonk.

Holth felt a pinch in his left shoulder, and turned to see a crossbow bolt sticking out of it. Shoot me in the back, eh? Holth wheeled about with surprising quickness whilst calculating from the angle of the crossbow bolt the height and distance from which it was fired, and at the same time drew his wheel lock pistol. In a second he had spotted the hulking silhouette on top of the city wall, right where he thought it would be. “Take that you backbiting cad!” he cried, and the pistol flared to life.

Somewhere, the gods rolled a twenty…

The heavy leaden slug that passes for Holth’s ammunition hurtled towards Bijaz with startling accuracy. It took him square in the sternum, and the force of the collision toppled the giant off of the wall. He landed full on his face and created a bit of a crater in the ground. Xeno and Holth immediately charged back through the door and in doing so became the first two creatures to successfully invade the walled city of Aquae Sulis twice in the same day.

What happened next transpired in but a few seconds, but in such glorious and improbable circumstances that it seemed as if it were filmed in hi-def slo-motion:
Bijaz got groggily to his feet. Xeno charged (rolled a one) and in his hasted failed to see the crater and fell face first into it. Holth fired his pistol again, barely grazing Bijaz’s ear. Bijaz, in desperation and confused haste, waved his wand in the air and summoned a white dragon into the sky above his head. Xeno recovered and leapt out of the pit, through Bijaz’s legs and hamstrung him from behind. He toppled forward as Holth charged in with his polearm and, (rolled a one) due to a momentary lapse in depth perception, overshot his target by some four feet and hit Xeno squarely on the hat with the heavy, scything blade. Luckily, the gnome favors hardened steel headgear and was left whole and in one piece.

By the time Xoe had arrived, Bijaz was on Death’s Door, and she unceremoniously pushed him through it. The dragon disappeared, goodies were snatched up and there was much rejoicing. Xeno climbed on Bijaz’s back and took his head for a prize.

Takemiya tumbled through the dark, snow whipping around him like stinging sand. In a calm desperation he reached his arms out for something, anything to slow his fall. He found, due to his increased size, the glacier wall and as his hand slapped the jagged ice, he started to slow. Again he reached out, and again his hand touched ice. Again he slowed. He managed to keep this up – touch and slow, touch and slow – for the full 250 feet to the bottom. That wasn’t so bad, he thought. He looked around, but there wasn’t much to see. Darkness, howling winds and stinging snow. Not a place to wait for a rescue. He looked back up the cliff face. Well, if I fall again, I think I can handle it. He started to climb.

Iryien blinked twice as she saw Takemiya plunge into the abyss. The first blink was grief; the second, calculation. For if the giant returned with news of their intrusion, they all would certainly be doomed. Quick as a flash she pulled out her short bow and took aim at the retreating giant. With her infravision he stood out like a candle in a darkened window and she let loose an arrow.

Somewhere, the gods rolled a twenty. ‘Hot damn, I am on FIRE tonight!’ shouted Agni. Thor turned towards the fire god and growled under his breath, ‘You make that __ing joke just ONCE more and I’ll break your __ing neck!” Agni shrunk back in genuine fear. His flames simmered down to a cool shade of saffron. “Ignorant bully,’ he muttered under his breath as he collected his trusty d20. ‘Just trying to have a little fun…’

The arrow sank into the base of the giant’s skull. He died instantly, but in the china shop of life and death his last dance was rather bullish. He careened off the face of the cliff, stutter-stepped back three paces, twirled away and into the cliff face once more before toppling over backwards in into the chasm below. His hulking carcass crashed and careened noisily off the icy cliff wall, giving Takemiya just enough warning to look up in time to see the giant’s body hurtling out of the dark, whizz past him and crash fully into the maw of the large chitinous centipede that had been silently pursuing Takemiya up the wall of the glacier.

Thor picked up Agni’s trusty d20 and hurled it across the Universe before stalking out of the room. Hades smiled weakly at Agni and offered him one of his many bone-colored dice. ‘Some people have no sense of humor about these things.’ Agni would have to agree.

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