Week 4, Sea Battle
We left Chris hovering invisibly between spear-tips and ceiling in the grass sea-side palace of a head-collecting king. Chris was debating over the telepathy net whether and when and how to save the struggling girl being offered to the king by Pease and the German naval officer. We decided to wait and avoid, if possible, any paranormal rescue attempts in front of the Europeans.
The king issued some orders and the girl was hustled away by two bulky guards, followed by several officiates, at least one in tall and ceremonial-looking head-dress. Chris drifted after. On the way, he encountered a number of elderly men in simple white robes, bearing things like horse-tail wands. Without warning, one of the elders waved his wand and chanted or something. The wand was dipped in dust or ashes and struck Chris. Deliberately? Impossible to tell. But Chris is now vaguely visible as a faint outline in the dusty air. This alarms the elders and the spearmen, who take some stabs at various eddies in the dust, including the one that contains Chris. Chris collects a stab and tumbles out a window, alarming the natives.
Outside, he dusts him invisible again, but a shriveled little man, the eldest elder, seems able to sense him. The other elders devote their energies to exorcising empty air. The eldest elder keeps chattering in alarm and waving his wand at Chris. Fortunately, most folk ignore him. Chris does not. If the guy can sense an invisible telepath, maybe he can interfere with the invisibility or the telepathy. Chris moves further away.
Chris is relieved that the girl, now struggling at the head of a loose procession, isn't popped into the fire pit at the center of the village. He spots a path leading off into the jungle. Flitting along to its end, he finds it leads up to a modest peak with a small volcanic crater on top -- much smaller than the main crater the island is built around, but equipped with a fork-like apparatus for dipping sacrifices into the crater. Hmm.
A second crowd leaves the palace, this one including white uniforms. Tom and the Naza, meanwhile, have parted company. Tom sneaks as quickly as he can to the point where the path leaves the forest and climbs to the top of the crater. He and Chris are both waiting there when the girl is brought by.
Chris contacts the girl telepathically: "Are you in trouble?" She starts screaming louder and writhes more. "We're here to help you." More panic, making for very dull thought-reading. "Look, do you want to be rescued or not?" At this point one of the guards cuffs here. "Calm down!" sends Chris in mental counterpoint. She doesn't.
Chris gives up and decides the time has come. He levitates the girl straight up. Just then, the eldest elder, who is wobbling and panting up the path, throws his wand at Chris and hits him. Nothing happens, but it adds to the general confusion. Most confused of all are the guards, one of whom finds he is holding a girl who is trying to fall up. He holds on to her arm and Chris and Tom read the girl's distinct impression that she is being torn in two. Tom uses his own TK to pry the guard's fingers open and Chris lofts her far out of sight.
Unfortunately, some of the spearmen catch sight of Tom. He lights off into the jungle, but one of the spearmen keeps dogging his heels and throws all three spears at him, two of which connect. Good thing Tom is armored. Tom grabs one spear as a useful souvenir for his Tools talent and, once he is out of sight, lofts onto his flying belt. And gets shot at! Wu and Cantrel report by net that a German sailor spotted Tom scudding through the trees and took a wild shot. He lost sight of Tom and got chewed out by his officer.
Without further incident, Tom makes rendezvous with Chris, who is still holding a struggling girl frantically sure she is about to be fed to her darkest nightmares. Finally she faints. How convenient.
The party returns to the "Rona" and tells Hayes that Chris and Tom staged a two-man raid on the procession at the edge of the jungle, getting the girl but also getting wounded. Notice this is true, just not the whole truth.
Hayes hides the "Rona" behind a small island in the mouth of the harbor. Wu and Cantrel go scouting on the island to keep tabs on the Germans and Polynesians. They see Pease and the German officer return to the gunboat, presumably in disgrace. Then the gunboat starts out, as do a lot of dugouts manned by natives. Time for us to boogie.
We dive behind a point of land but are seen. The gunboat fires on us and misses. Hayes asks us if we have any good tricks in mind. Who, us?! If not, he recommends we either hide on shore on below decks to make the boat look abandoned, then attack the Germans as they board her. After all, the Germans only outnumber us three or four to one.
BOOM A shell falls uncomfortably close. We suggest snarling the gunboat's propeller with chains. This might have worked, but the two main engineers, Tom and Daewen, and busy getting the "Rona" through some tricky shoals we hope to wreck the gunboat on. So it is up to the others to jerry-rig a heavy chain with a couple of barrels for floats. Alas, there weren't enough barrels and the thing sinks.
This looks like a job for super-gremlin. Tom suggests we hide below and wait for the Germans. As we move to do this, Chris turns invisible again and flies off with some of the thermite arrows we intended to use on Gorlach. BOOM A shell goes off just as we round the point and get a respite.
Chris lobs an arrow down the cannon and backs off. He was rather hoping to blow up the whole boat. Instead, he gets screams of agony and a flaming sailor comes out of the turret. His friends try to douse him with water, but it really doesn't help. Thermite contains its own oxygen, you see. Eventually, someone sloshes some water up the cannon barrel and tosses a burning piece of jetsam overboard -- the dry-swab for the cannon.
Feeling rather bad about that, Chris carefully tips an arrow into the gun by hand, just as the gunboat sights the "Rona." WHAM
Alas, the gun goes off just as Chris was trying to sabotage it. He hand is blown back by the gun, not off, but it is burned and broken. The telepathy net rings with the results.
Meanwhile, the shell that almost got Chris DOES get some of the rigging off the "Rona," including the crow's-nest where Alag was hiding. He gets dropped in the water but is essentially uninjured. Elven luck.
Chris tries one more time with the thermite arrows. He drops another down the gun and is rewarded with lots of steam -- they were washing it out. The steam is followed by lots of very low German. By now the gunners must be sure their weapon has a serious design flaw. Pease and the officers are now on deck and soon the two ships will be in range for ship-to-ship combat. Chris starts limping home through the air. Being a gremlin is a lot tougher than you might think.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.