Session IX, Part 3

The party awoke first to the sound of drums and flutes, a simple, slow melody. It was night, and they sat facing each other on two of the low stones in the field outside the hut. Koringa, Stark, and Spiderssen sat on one stone; Eiluned, Lucinda, and Bunny sat across from them. There were several Heath Men guarding them with spears; they wore crowns of branches that resembled antlers, as well as necklaces made of tiny flowers. Nobody had any weapons, though they still wore their armor, and Aline was still nowhere to be seen.

As they sat and took in the situation, they became aware that there were dozens of Heath People dancing among the stones, a slow, deliberate dance that was somehow at once innocent and suggestive.* Shortly three men and three women made their way to the seated companions and began dancing in front of members of the opposite sex. Koringa and Eiluned immediately jumped up and joined them; Stark and Eiluned refused; and Spiderssen and Lucinda rose to join, compelled by a force outside their control.

Initially Koringa attempted to take this opportunity to size up the situation, scoping out potential exits (he could see none through the throng of Heath People) and gauging the size of the opposition (numerous). He and Stark caught each others’ eye, and as Koringa peeled off from the dancers, two beefy Heathmen danced him back into place. Shortly thereafter he found himself caught up in the rhythm of the dance, along with Spiderssen, Lucinda, and now Eiluned.

Eventually Stark and Bunny succumbed as well, and they found themselves in a circle within a circle, dancing around a large fire. At some point the dancers began chanting in some lost and brutish language, and the pace accelerated as through the circle with a surprising ease came Cassap, leading Aline, who was also clad in a simple brown shift. Stark found himself dancing with Aline, as the dance became more and more suggestive, until Cassap gave a passionate shriek and the circle began to widen.

Several Heathmen came forth and presented the companions – but not Lucinda or Aline – with short swords. They were uncertain what to make of this until Cassap started chanting, and it became clear that they were meant to fight each other! What was worse, each companion felt compelled to attack the comrade about whom they felt fondest! Koringa and Stark squared off, while Bunny and Eiluned faced each other. Spiderssen instinctively moved toward Lucinda, who had begun dancing with Aline, but Cassap somehow redirected him and he found himself attacking Stark from behind.

The comrades began the combat dance with the borrowed swords, and each step brought both bloodlust and horror. However, the enchantment must have served to dull their reflexes, since nobody actually injured their sparring partner. Then, after several minutes, Koringa suddenly regained his senses, and instead of attacking his dear friend Stark, lunged for Cassap, taking her by surprise and dealing a sold blow that caused her to shriek horribly – and break the spell!

Instantly Cassap was surrounded by five enraged spear-wielding Heathmen, who squared off against the liberated dancers. After a round of blows had been exchanged (during which the Heathmen took several harsh hits), Spiderssen stepped back from combat and, uttering a horrible word, tore the flesh from his own face as though it were a mask. His raw, veiny visage so terrified their opponents that they fled, shrieking uncontrollably – even the witch. Alas, Bunny and Eiluned were also affected, and spent a full minute vomiting uncontrollably. The wizard merely stood there, dazed, twirling his face as it hung from his index finger.

Within seconds, however, from out of nowhere came two small explosions in the midst of the companions, and immediately afterward their enemies leapt from the chaos of the crazed Heath People, attacking with renewed vigor! The battle was pitched, and at one dramatic moment Koringa was knocked back into the fire, which caused his cloak to catch fire! He stopped, dropped, and rolled, but lost crucial battle time in doing so.

The companions alternated between attacking the Heathmen and the witch, who seemed to have some kind of magical protection around her as she wielded in one hand a curved bronze sword and in the other the small antler which she had taken earlier. Damage was slowly done, and finally Bunny ran her through with her short sword. There was a noise like a small thunderclap, a horrible scream, and Cassap stumbled into the fire, where she promptly burst into flame. Unfortunately the resulting explosion dealt a potentially fatal blow to Spiderssen, who collapsed, unconscious and bleeding.

The battle raged on, and shortly after a singed Koringa was cursing the absence of Lucinda and Aline, they ran onto the scene. Lucinda healed Eilued, who was barely able to walk, and flung a healing potion to Stark, who caught it in the midst of his combat with a Heathman. He was badly wounded, yet as soon as he opened the potion he selflessly poured it down Spiderssen’s throat. The wizard’s breathing seemed to stabilize, and Lucinda and Aline ran over and dragged him to safety.

Almost every member of the party dealt spectacular finishing blows to their enemies, with several heads flying, and when it was all over they stood among the remains of the ritual: corpses of heath people scattered among the stones, and a large fire that smelled distinctly of ancient magic and rotting witch.**

_______________

* The dance was nothing like this.

** Not meant to indicate actual events, but this is the song that would be playing in a poorly-thought-out Hollywood adaptation of this riveting story.

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~ by erranttiger on August 21, 2011.

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