"Okay guys, we'll have to gather a bit closer to me so I can be more discreet. 'Cause you know, a dragon is scrutinizing this forest right now looking for any living thing to set a blazing inferno on. And I would prefer to be in one piece right now." I had no disagreements with Bob, and so did the rest of us. So we heeded his advice and all huddled up together as if we were about to put all of our hands in and cheer for ourselves. Actually, we came much closer to each other, practically hugging, than what is comfortable when we heard the iconic "WHOOOSH... WHOOOSH... WHOOOSH..." of a menacing dragon sound much more closer than what we would like.
When all sounds and sights are clear of any danger, and when we stop shaking hugging each other, it felt like the perfect opportunity to show Bob the Arsenal to see if he can give us any information about it that we are far too simple and unperceptive to see. The Arsenal was laid as gently down as possible onto the soft green grass, as if it was an explosive that would trigger by the slightest amount of pressure. The chest itself was made out of old, dark oak wood and many intricate carvings made by a master artisan of seemingly wild and abrasive symbols decorated the edges and centre. The carvings contained an esoteric language I do not understand, yet they seemed wild due to its characters containing long scratches and no curves. A purplish faint light pulsated between the crack of the lid and body, giving a feeling of exoticness and untapped otherworldly power. Bob unlocked the hatch, and hesitated when he put his hand on the lid, but he took a deep breath, and opened the Arsenal. A blinding lumination pierced all of our eyes the instant Bob swung open the Arsenal, forcing all of us to look away, only able to indirectly look at the Arsenal, but not the contents. I was able to gaze at Bob's face, his eyes were dilated to the maximum staring deep within, many of his less-than-pretty features were exaggerated by the purple shine, giving a ghastly face. His chin was between his index finger and thumb, his stubble was being lightly scratched and eyebrows furrowed in intense, uninterruptible thought. The lid was shut as quickly as it was open, letting the purple light dissipate, and Bob's eyes closed tightly for a few seconds and took in a deep breath. When Bob breathed out, his eyes opened once again, and mouth ready to speak. "Inside this chest is... something beyond just powerful magic, it is THE magic to end all magic, and right now, it's literally calling EVERY dragon to come here in a one-hundred kilometre radius. I suggest we move faster than a man with the runs."
Bob was right, this chest is a beacon to every magic-sensing creature that will in some way kill us. "There's a place I know that will get us out of danger's way northeast, follow me if you want to live." Since all of us had a desire to live, no one argued against Bob's suggestion. We move silently across the green forest, letting the leaves and grass absorb any noise created by our feet. But this is both a blessing and a curse, the towering trees and leaves cover the ground from any bird's eye, make it easier for us to slip by unnoticed. But of course, the tables could be turned, was there something stalking us? Ready to pounce from the shadows without ever knowing we were being tracked.
Trekking through the forest ever so paranoid, our pace starts to slow down as we start walking on an incline that increased in steepness with every step, making our legs feel the burn with fatigue. But the rest of us take the pain and continue, except for Ore, who wished to stay behind, and had his wish granted, although by this time, a dragon had probably had him as an appetizer. I take a small breather to make sure my legs don't succumb to the fire, and look ahead of where Bob is going. My eyes follow the incline, until I realize the incline greatly increases in height, and my eyes go much further up than the horizon. I realize it is the side of a mountain that abruptly interrupts the flat horizon, and many caves of sizes from ignoble to worth a journey by their own dot the base of the mountain like a pin cushion.
Bob raises his head, come to a precipitous halt and stretch his arms wide to the side, preventing anyone from passing him. "More things are coming." said in a low morose tone by Bob, but this statement only raises more questions-What are the "things"? How many of them are there? And are they close? Bob kneels down with his face close to the ground and sniffs it with a deep inhale, like a wolf tracking its unaware prey. "Something's wrong." Bob says, face still towards the ground. It also changes all of our expressions from confusion when Bob kneeled down, to anxiety with the simple statement.
In an attempt to clear the confusion from my mind, my eyes wander around the surrounding forest to catch any suspicious things that threaten to harm us. The treetops and leaves sway ever so gently in the light breeze, nothing seems to be out of place or hiding, but something much more worrying and sinister was on the ground just a few feet ahead... Footprints, but not the size of mine or any other humanoid, no, these were much bigger, a Giant's. More specifically a Stone Giant's, and by the size of it, you could probably fit in three of us or even two owlbears, and it was a foot deep, a sign of how hefty the giant could have been. And it was eye-catching to everyone, since the foliage and grass in the footprint were yellow and long dead, showing how old the footprint has aged since the giant pressed his foot on the ground, contrasted with the still living fresh green grass threatening to regrow over the footprint.
This location is obviously not the best place to be in, and it becomes certain when we notice something just as sinister as the footprints, but it is not stationary. There were swaying movements far in the distance, however, they were too erratic and too large to belong to an innocent branch seeking the sunlight. Instead, these movements seemed to belong to dragons! No, not the kind that are so huge you have to pan your head to see the whole of it. The size of the ones my eyes spot are more "people-sized", yet they seemed to be just as terrifying as tiny they, able to disembowel my guts out with one swift swipe against the abdomen, and I could still hear the iconic sound of a flying dragon, muffled-whooosh...whooosh...whoosh.
Several of the brown midget-size dragons were directly in front seemed to be searching for anyone like us, forcing us to change our current path, as whispered by Bob " I feel like those tiny-terrors will cause many problems if we go on, so we need to go along the entrances of the caves, so on the off chance we'll hide in, as it's very obvious you guys are bumbling dimwits who all panicked when you first saw me." Those words cut deep, but there was no opportunity to backtalk, he was our only guide. And so we continued our clandestine trek towards the pitch black caverns.
Once again, Bob changes our feelings from hush-hush to wide-eyed paranoid with just two whispered words-"Something's Off." The paranoia fueled my senses to find anything wrong in the cavern entrance. We were just near the entrance of the cave that could fit a dragon and his accomplices, on the line dividing the twilight sky leaking through trees outside, and the ominous pitch black residing in the cave hiding the unknown. I couldn't tell how far the cave would go in, and I was afraid that if I were to yell into the abyss, there wouldn't be an echo of my own voice, but rather the responding sounds of something inhuman.
The longer I focused looking within the dank cave, the better my eyes adjusted to the lack of lighting, and then I found what Bob saw as "wrong". Footprints littered the decrepit cavern ground, many of them coming in and out, and were in so high numbers it was as if they were part of a stampede. But they belonged to gia- "BOOOM... BOOOM..." All of our instincts kicked in when we heard those ground-shaking noises, our ears wide enough to hear a pin drop, and our eyes frantically sweeping across the craggled walls of the cave and trees out to find anything threatening. Our paranoia becomes vindicated however, when we spot the parts of some lumbering Stone Giants far out behind several trees and a few slopes. Despite their far distance to us, the Monk, Wizard and Cleric controlled by their paranoia hastily rush into the blackness of the cave for a better chance in this game of hide-and-seek game the giants were not aware they were playing.
Fueled by my desire to see the giants and where they are, I start to talk a few attentive step across the hardened grey stone, but instead of my eyes receiving vital information, it was rather my ears: "BOOOM... BOOOM... BOOOM..." Once again, perhaps too many times in one day, adrenaline rushed and did its job of making me hyper aware, such as the sounds of my ragged breathing, and the sight of trembling feet of my comrades hiding behind me. I shut my eyelids and ignore the symphony of sounds to dissuade the adrenaline, I take in a breath, hold it, exhale, and repeat once more before gently opening my eyes to face the world once again.
My eyes tell me that my body was correct to activate the adrenaline, as I see the same group of hulking Stone Giants ever so slowly make their way towards our cavern. Their expressions are sullen, many of their beards scraggled and scratched, many of their hairs as long as a fair maiden but treated as back-alley brawler, with a cacophony of bright red acne ungraciously placed over their already hideous faces and some pus leaking out of some pimples. Not to mention a smorgasbord smell of rabies infested rats, an outhouse and the scales of a bottom-dwelling rotting fish, all of it, emanating from the noses and breaths of the constant mouth-breathers invading all our nostrils and pillaging our lungs. I dry-heaved in a desperate attempt to get it out, but I stilled smelled the horrible concoction, even from the incredible distance from us.
All of these horrible characteristics were multiplied by what I thought at first was four giants, but my eyes looked again, and realized there was one more my pacing eyes ignored through the messy leaves and trees, and repeated this numerous times until there was a grand total of seven giants! "I'm pretty sure this cavern is a Giant's community home..." Obliviously whispered by Bob, what gave it away? The swathes of giant footprints walking to and fro? The sheer scale of size perfect only for something that can flatten a hamlet? The permeating similar smell coming both from within the cave and Giants?
An advising voice comes from the wizard, but it's not his own voice, but rather his hilt which contains Ted the talking sword. "Guys, the way I see this is that we've got two options right now, we can either sweet talk them about why we're invading their humble abode, or we sacrifi-err, use somebody to distract the giants while the rest of us book it." These two options seemed to be the ultimatum, but you should never, ever underestimate our cowardice in any situation. And so, a third option was considered, escape. But in order to do this, we would still need a distraction, and that reminded me of the perfect object for this kind of situation. The rugged ashen rock was the perfect size in my palm, I trusted in it to distract the giants, and the rock trusted in me for my aim to be true. The Cleric abruptly states that it is possible to befriend the giants, while giving me a disappointed glare. Right after that, the Cleric's eyes close, face focused, his hand moves in a swift, esoteric pattern, muttering an intelligible chant. My hand suddenly disobeys my will, and refuses to throw the rock at the giants no matter how hard I swung my arm. It seems that casting sanctuary, a spell to stop creatures from willingly harming others, was put upon me as a part of the Cleric's master plan to befriend the giants, instead of harming or running away from anything that poses as a slight danger. But little did he know, I had a little big furry weapon to counter this.
Donkey was diddling eating the grass on the edge of the cave entrance without a care in the world. But his face and body snapped instantly into one of a patriotic salute, with just a yelling whisper of DONKEY! I inhaled deeply to the point of my lungs wanting to burst out of my ribcage, but it was necessary for tirade of inspiration I was going to yell for Donkey. " DONKEH! A TERRIBLE, ARBHORRANT CONGLOMERATION OF REPUGNANT GIANTS DARE MAKE THEIR WAY TOWARDS US! DO YOU WANT TO US TO LIVE IN ORDER TO SEE US REPEL THE INVADING ARMY!?! THEN YOU MUST FIGHT WITH ALL YOUR WILL AND FULFILL YOUR DUTY I HAVE DELEGATED TO YOU! CHAAAAAAAAARGE!!!"
An valiant aura surrounded Donkey, and his face and body matched with it. He stared down the giants as if they were ants he was disgusted by and trying to step on. The giants were now at a somewhat far, yet dangerous distance from us, and seemingly blind to our presence, but that wasn't a problem for Donkey. His mind, full of honour and a duty to fulfill, made his body prepare to charge against the hideous giants. And now, his mind only had one word. Charge. His body responds with instant obedience, turning into an instant blur dashing towards the giants, much faster than even I anticipated. But he ceases to be a grey blur when he reaches contact with the giants, instead becoming a common donkey with a face replaced with pure terror instead of valour.
The seven Stone Giants change their positioning from a group of friends casually walking home, to surrounding Donkey on all sides! Escape was impossible, unless Donkey was able to levitate. I couldn't bear the impending loss of such a valiant pet I've had since the Citadel, and so I shut my eyes and turned away, expecting to hear the terrified screams of poor Donkey, ending with one swift bite. But the expectation I was expecting was not something I expected, I heard low-pitch distorted giggles outside the cave. I gently turned around, and faced the source of the sounds.I prepared to open my eyes, but before that I had a vision that I would see the headless corpse of beloved Donkey, surrounding by the giggling giants feasting on him. Instead, all the giants are encaptivated by Donkey, and respond to this by cuddling and nuzzling him like a mother bonding with her newborn or kitten snuggling up with its new owner. It was a cuteness overload, both for me and the giants. My own entrancement with Donkey was interrupted abruptly, by the Monk silently screaming in dread while bolting out of the cave precariously, and then proceeding to panic and hide by diving headfirst into a bush.
After this brief oddity with the Monk, I redirect my attention towards the Giants, now at a much more alarming distance, and stumbling even closer, ignoring and stomping over any foliage and bushes. I notice all but one of the giants still holding and playing with Donkey as if he was a toy doll. Actually, Donkey was more like a toy doll than a donkey, for the fact that he was looked lifeless and limp. I couldn't tell if he was no longer with us, or if he simply fainted from the anxiety dealing with the playful brutes, and I heavily hoped it was the latter than the former. In an attempt to find out the truth whether or not Donkey has gone to a better place, I yell out towards him, "OI! Donkey, WAT-AR YE DEW-ING!" Donkey springs back into the world of the living hearing this statement, his face no longer one of dread as I saw before, now it is one of the joy of a young child having a sugar rush. He expresses his glee by looking at me with a grin and cheering "Weee!" from his voice box, which sounded like a teen trying to do a high-pitched squeal due to Donkey rarely using his voice.
Being once again captivated by the joy Donkey is having, I fail to realize the giants' moved into close proximity with me, and one starts to grab me! His hand is of a gigantic size, his grasp held the lower two-thirds of me, and with my free arms, I push down on his finger and thumb with all of my might as if my lower half was trapped in quicksand, but he doesn't budge at all. I feel a sense of weightlessness as he begins to lift me to the height of his face. The giant's facial features are distorted and exaggerated, like looking at a child who had fully grown physically, but refused to grow mentally. His hygiene was matched his face, and was announced to me through his body odour and cavity filled mouth, his parents must have had conceived to see how ugly a child they could possibly make. I closed my eyes and tried to do the same with my nostrils to ignore the sensory invasion, hoping one quick bite would end it all, rather than suffer through another moment of humiliation. Instead of my wish being granted, my limbs are grabbed by pinching fingers, and shifted around in motions. Once my eyes are opened from curiosity, I find all the giants cheerfully smiling at the way they're manipulating me like a marionette doll, replacing the position of Donkey with me. A giant, attempts to coo me with a baby voice, stating "You smell like Donkey!" but instead sends disgusting spittle over my face and upper half, which smells like rotting half-eaten fish. All of the giants' actions have proven the opposite of brutes I expected, instead they were rather dumb, and certainly not the smartest...