There was so much more to this story. How had this apparently just man come into the situation he found himself in? Who had killed his family, and how had he found himself in the debt of a vile and evil representative of the draconis mediocritous? Don’t get me wrong, she was powerful enough to make me need to change my small clothes after one short visit, but the giants batted her around as if she were a kitten. Perhaps the trick with her would be the trick I would use against any braggadocios bully — stand up to her and show no fear. Or, show you have nothing to lose. Yet another thought would be to show they had something to gain.
I thought perhaps that last would do the trick with this wild one. I looked to the weary and beleaguered troop before me and nearly laughed at the absurdity of it all — children and a few adults playing at brigandry in order to survive the despicable demeanor of a powerful and dishonorable protector. What were the tradeoffs that would even hint at the feasibility of rescinding one’s sound judgment and good sense to buy a little protection? How much had these already given in the service of… confound it what is this dragon called?
“Pardon,” I asked, interrupting my own thoughts. “What is the name of this dragon you serve so inelegantly?”
I looked at them as they gaped at me. Had I missed something?
Just Jacob squinted at me, judging my actions. “She prefers to be called Miss, actually. In formal company,” he said with a small chuckle. “But to those closest to her she will also allow Cassandra.”
“How very odd,” I said, scratching the stubble along my chin. When had that begun to be a bother? Usually I could go weeks without shaving. “Cassandra, you say? How intriguing.”
I paced across the room and out to the mouth of the cave. Five giants would be hard to hide. But I think, with enough leverage, we could roll them down the ramp to the acid pit and the beastie within. Not sure if five would be enough, but we could try.
Also, to make things look more theatrical, we could… yes… it just might work.
I returned to the cave and interrupted the others. They had been fawning over a restive Just Jacob who looked relieved at my return. I know the older lass with the crossbow had to have been relaying the fact I was not fleeing. Still, he was only a little older than me, and perhaps his wounds had made him feel more vulnerable.
“I have a plan,” I said.
“Yes,” Just Jacob said. “You mentioned that.” He waited a few moments, watching me and when I did not respond immediately let out a heavy sigh. “Good cleric, do you think, perhaps, you would share this plan with us before the others arrive and turn our cave into our cairn?”
I glanced around at the others, realizing my thoughts had run significantly ahead of my mouth for once and tried to sort them both out before replying. It would be tricky, and time consuming, but if it worked, we’d all be spared a lot of smashing and pain.
“This will be complicated,” I began and all but the girl in the cave mouth sat down, expecting a long story. “That trap you set was very effective in killing one of the giants. What exactly lives in that mud hole?”
The young girl at Just Jacob’s feet spoke up. “We call him Fred, but really we’ve never seen him. He can eat quite a lot, however.”
This would work out just fine.
“Here’s my idea. We take the four giants we can reach and cut off their heads.”
This elicited a squirming among the audience.
“I’ll take care of this if need be. Then we strip the bodies of usable items: boots, armor, weapons and the like. Then we roll the bodies down the hill to Fred.”
“And the heads?” Just Jacob asked, eyeing me sideways.
“We take those someplace else, leave a false trail, and put the heads on stakes. That should incense the giants to rush in to whatever lair they think they are approaching. With any luck they will fall into a bog and die.”
They all watched me, baffled.
“There is a place,” Just Jacob said. “We avoid it. It is the home of a virulent tribe of acid spitting spiders.”
“Been there, seen that,” I said, waving my hands. No way I wanted to go near there. Besides, the giants had already encountered them.
One of the young men who had fought alongside me stood. “What about the hydra south of here about a half a league?”
“Dead,” I said. “Froze to death when the planar rift opened.”
They all started talking at once. After a moment, Just Jacob managed to calm them down. “Is that what happened? We have seen several bizarre events in our time here, but this was the most severe.”
“We thought we could close the rift somehow,” I said. It would make things so much easier.
“Rufus would know,” the young woman said from the cave mouth. “He’d know how to shut that down.”
Who the bloody hell was Rufus?