The first thing he did after sitting down was to pull out a small piece of white paper. He held it in one hand as he dropped a handful of tobacco in it, licked the edges and rolled it up. Then he held it to his lips, struck a match and allowed the end to burn a bit while he inhaled the heavy smoke. This was not that unusual of a thing to happen in the bar, except that he did it with a pair of right hands. All the while he clutched his glass of whiskey with a third hand, a left one for the record, like it was the last real thing in the world. Aside from that the man just sat there, staring out from under a wide brimmed hat and over his heavy poncho.
His eyes weren't right. Most of the bar had realized that by now. They never changed. Not a man in the bar had seen him blink. They hadn't dilated to adjust to the lower light when he had entered. Still, one couldn't go as far as to call those eyes lifeless. They had plenty of life, it just seemed to be the wrong type of life. Not a man in the bar could take their eyes off of him. The tension was palpable, and the silence had grown deafening.
It was finally broken by the skittle, scattel made by one of the patrons moving over to the strangers table. The patron was a scorpion man, nothing to uncommon for that town, scorpions made for some of the best ranchers to be found in those parts. This one was an amiable fellow, with a wide round face, well framed by his black handle bar mustache, and almost indestructible smile.
He was wearing a golden brown coat over his humanoid torso that complimented his rusty red carapace quite well. He had come in sometime earlier, and was enjoying himself as he treated several other patrons to an equally good time.
As the scorpion approached the stranger, the man exhaled a thick cloud of grey smoke over the table. The scorpion coughed once or twice as he waved the smoke out of his face with his hand as he clutched a pair of glasses in his lower claws.
"Damn those things stink." The scorpion said to the stranger. "It really is a nasty habit to have, even for someone like you."
"If I didn't know better," The stranger responded, "I would think that you were worried about my reputation."
"Someone has to be." The scorpion scoffed as he set the drink down and locked his legs up in a resting position. "How long are we going be here anyway?"
"Only as long as it takes to finish my smoke and my drink."
"So should I rent a room for a whole day or two?"
"Hey, I've been getting my 'problem' under control."
"That's true, these days you only get drunk when have a drink."
"Shut it." The stranger said silencing the conversation as he continued to stare down the crowd that had been following their every word. "We'll be gone soon enough. This town gives me the creeps anyway."
At that several glasses were set down in a hard, heavy way that implied less than friendly intent. The scorpion tensed up slightly and visibly winced. The strange seemed to smile from under the shadows cast by his hat.
"Besides," The strange continued, "You can't really call this alcohol, it's more like old, warm piss. Speaking of which, I think I've finally figured out what that strange smell the whole town seems to reek-" At this the scorpion slammed his hand down to silence his compatriot.
"Jonathan." He said as calmly as possible, "Is this really necessary? Is now really the time for this?"
"Oh don't cut him off." A voice said from the bar as a tall dark man stood up holding a full mug of bear in one hand and clenched fist in the other. "I want to hear what that freak thinks of our town. I've always wondered where that smell does come from."
"Really?" Jonathan said through the smoke now freely pouring from his mouth. "I guess that makes you just as stupid as you are ugly. It's simple really. The smell comes from having a bunch of cowards gathered in darkened bars, quaking in the boots at the thought of change and drinking each other's piss all day long."
"Huh, no that's what I call a theory." The tall man replied. "Want to hear mine? I think it from mutant freaks constantly rolling through here, smoking their foul, old roll ups and smelling their own farts."
"Interesting, interesting," Jonathan said slowing standing up from his seat and approaching the other man. He was clearly dwarfed by his opponent since he only stood at about five foot six inches tall, and even with the heavy poncho he was still clearly much thinner than the other man. Nonetheless, he was smiling like a mad man. "Guess there's only one way to find out the answer huh? I'll have to beat the heck out of you all and clear the bar out for a few days. If the smells goes away after that we'll know who was right, now won't we?"
At this the taller man broke out laughing hysterically, slapped his thighs and wiped a small tear out of his eyes. "Well little man I'll give you this much, you certainly have guts. I'll give you ten seconds to get the heck out of my town before I turn you inside out."
"Oh come on, do I really have to wait ten whole seconds to beat you up?" The tall man's smile died when he heard these words.
"Are you serious kid?" He asked in a much more deathly tone.
"Do I look like I'm joking to you?"
"Considering who you're talking to right now I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt. Do you even know who I am? I'm-"
"Of course I don't know." Jonathan said just a little to cheerfully for the mood. "And I don't give a crap. In fact I really don't want to know who you are at all."
"What?" the tall man stammered.
"If I know who you are then my conscious would give me a hard time about kicking your ass. But since I don't know who you are I can beat you into a bloody pulp without any fear of the consequences."
The bar went completely silent at this. A moment of later there was a slapping sound as the scorpion man face-palmed and took a shot of whisky. After a moment more, Jonathan grabbed his chin with his left hand as if seriously thinking about something.
"Or is it the other way around?" He suddenly asked himself. "Hey Ahmed! Is it that you can beat the heck out of man you don't know because you don't know anything about them, or is it that you can beat up someone that know because you know that they deserve it?"
"Since when had threat of a guilty conscious kept you from doing anything?" The scorpion man responded as he threw his arms up in exasperation.
"Well obviously it never has, but now I need to find out if it could."
"Why?" Ahmed demanded to know, slapping his forehead again.
"Because someone asked."
"No one cares about any of that except for you. And you only care because you want a excuse to fight everyone in the bar. And you really don't need to do that, these people haven't done anything wrong except that they responded to you baiting them. We can still just leave now and never look back. You don't even like this town."
"Ahmed, when are you going to learn? I can't back down from stuff like this."
"It's not backing down if you're the one provoking them. All you have to do is smile and laugh like you just told a really good joke, maybe buy a few people some drinks and then we could be on our way."
"Sounds like an awful lot of work to me."
"It's not any work at all! It's avoiding the effort of taking down a few folks who don't deserve it!"
"Are you saying we're not worth the effort?" The tall man suddenly interjected, after finally finding his voice.
"I didn't mean that!" Ahmed cried out.
"It doesn't matter anyway." The tall man declared shrugging slightly as if he had given up.
"You've already called us a bunch of dumb rubes, and we can't let either of you get away now!" He added as he took a wild swing at Jonathan, who took a half step back so that the blow only grazed his chin. He then leapt forward and up slightly and brought both of his right hands down in a wild haymaker at the tall man's jaw. The first fist hit and turned the man's head to the side as his jaw was broken, it also exposed the back of his head to the second fist that hit a second later with just as much force. The man's eyes went blank, he spit up a little, and hit the floor with a sizeable thump.
Jonathan cocked his head to either side, cracked his knuckles and set his hat down on a nearby table. Half of the patrons of the bar then realized that the man had a third eye on his forehead and added it to the mental list of oddities about him. The other half noted that his smile was the sort of thing that can haunt a man's nightmare for the rest of their life.
"Who's next?" Jonathan harshly demanded as he tensed up like a wild cat ready to pounce.
"I would like to clarify something," Ahmed said as he slowly backed away from his companion."Despite appearances I'm not actually affiliated with that man. Haven't even noticed him till now. I was just over here rehearsing a play I've been working on."
"Yeah like anyone believes that." Jonathan quipped back to Ahmed.
"Alright, then I would like to humbly request that you all beat the hell out of him first, because I would like to see him finally get some humility beaten into him." Ahmed requested of the bar.
"Yeah like that would ever happen."
"Yes but, if they spend all of their time smashing their heads into your fists then I might just escape unnoticed and not have to stoop to your level."
"It's good to know you have such confidence in me." Jonathan said thanking his friend, just a moment before the first patron worked up the courage to take a swing at him. Jonathan sidestepped it easily, threw his leg up and snap kicked the patron down into the floor boards cracking several of them. Then the rest of the crowd attacked.
Jonathan moved like a blur. He did not attack that often, mostly he just ducked and weaved through a dozen odd blows while deflecting half of them with one of his hands. When he did attack, he would push the man in front of him away, turn and throw two simultaneous attacks at someone behind him. He was always moving, always turned, always shifting his position. He kept his back up against a wall as often as possible and continued to send patron after patron down to the ground. He hits were quick and precise, aiming always for the head, neck, gut or groin to take them down as quickly as possible, and to waste as little effort as possible.
The fight escalated when one idiot decided to throw a chair at him. Jonathan caught it, flipped it over and smashed it over the heads of three men rushing at him. Worst still, he managed to hold on to three of the legs after it broke, so now he had three clubs to put to good use. A few minutes and a few dozen broken bones later the half dozen remaining patrons started backing off. Then the town guard showed up at the door.
"What's going on in here!!?" One of the guards, probably the sheriff of the town, demanded to know.
"Well officer," Ahmed said, stepping out of the shadows at the back of the bar. "This all started with a terrible misunderst-"
"Science!" Jonathan interrupted.
"What?" The sheriff asked, as Ahmed slapped his forehead once more.
"We are having a little experiment." Jonathan explained. "We were seeing if the fighting skill of a single, elite warrior increases proportionally with the number of slobbering, stupid, ugly goons that he has to fight. You can join the goons if you want."
"What?" The sheriff asked again.
"You bastard-" The tall man, who had originally attacked Jonathan, said as he stood back up.
"He's not dead yet?" Jonathan asked himself, as he rolled and lit another cigarette, "Should've hit him harder."
"I'm going to kill you!" The tall man screamed as he drew a knife from his belt, held it upside down and charged at Jonathan wildly. Jonathan leapt at his approaching foe and slammed his adversary's gut with one of his clubs. The tall man lost his wind and clutched his belly as he fell to the floor, unfortunately, he forgot what way he was holding the knife as he fell.
"Huh," Jonathan stammered as he watched a small red pool drift out from underneath the slumped form of his opponent. "I didn't hit him that hard."
One of the town guards rushed over and turned the man's body over to see the long knife that had been shoved up under the man's rib cage, right towards his heart. A moment later the light went out of his eyes and he stopped breathing.
"Yo-you murdered him!" The sheriff cried.
"Now hold on!" Ahmed objected, "The other man came at Jonathan with a knife! This was legitimate self defense!"
The sheriff looked at the two men in front of him with a look of utter disbelief. "Don't you two know who this is? This is Hosea Jones, the son of Don Jones!"
The color drained out of Ahmed face at this, as all of the town guards shook in the boots. The other patrons started crawling as far away from the scene as possible. Jonathan exhaled a deep cloud of smoke and said, "Never heard of a Don Jones, who the hell is he?"
"He's the head of the local horde of bandits." Ahmed said with a heavy sigh, knowing how this was going to end.
"Well then. We should probably be leaving now." Jonathan announced. "When this Don Jones guy comes looking for me could you tell him that I went further north?"
Just then, the entire town guard collective drew their swords, bows, and other such killing implements.
"The Don is going to want your head. " The Sheriff explained. "The only way that our town is going to survive is if we're the ones who give it to him."
"Yeah well that's a problem." Jonathan offered. "I really can't sit around here and wait for this Don Jones guy to get here. I've got some serious drifting to do."
"I'm afraid that I will have to insist." The Sheriff said as he took a step forward.
"And I really to have to decline," Jonathan said, as he threw a chair at the wall of old bottles behind the bar, followed by his still burning cigarette, and set the bar on fire.
The bar was a fairly normal establishment. It had a long counter separating the more expensive stuff from the patrons. It had a high ceiling and a second floor where other businesses took place. There was only one door into the place, close to the stairs that led to the second floor. The fire separated Jonathan and Ahmed from the guards and the Sheriff, but it also separated them from the door and the stair way leading upstairs.
Not that this stopped Jonathan for very long. He stepped on to a table, which had miraculously remained standing throughout the fight, and then leapt up and grabbed the railing of the second floor. He held on with all three hands while Ahmed climbed up over him and on to the second floor. As Jonathan finished clearing the railing, Ahmed found a way into the attic. From the there they broke a hole through the roof and made it up onto the top of the building and got a good look at the town.
The town was built in a large open circle with a high wall running around the edge. There was only one gate it, and none of the house had been built close to the wall. Although all of the houses had been built close together, so getting across them all was extremely easy for the pair, even as the Sheriff and ever increasing posse of well armed men followed from the ground.
"Well this could've gone better." Ahmed said to Jonathan.
"I can't imagine how." Jonathan said dismissively.
"Well for starter you could've avoided killing the son of the most powerful man in the region."
"No that was pretty much inevitable."
"It was not!"
"I guess it doesn't really matter now. Any ideas about how to get out of here?"
"You better not be thinking of jumping from these house over to the wall."
"No, it's got to be a thirty foot gap at least."
"I've seen you make over canyons three times that width."
"Yeah but I never expected you to follow me over them now did I?"
"Wait a minute, are you actually showing concern for my safety?"
"Wow, I am honestly impressed Mr. Flynn, you might not actually be quite the pr-"
"I mean, you're the only one who knows where all our stuff is hidden outside of town. So I can't just leave here now can I?"
"Hey I'm just messing with you man. Now come on this is our stop. " Jonathan laughingly said as he leapt off the building, about half way across the street, and landed with a quick roll. Ahmed wasn't far behind him. The posse quickly turned to follow them, through two buildings and back onto a busy street, heading up a gentle hill towards the town gate.
The gate itself was currently blocked by an ox caravan the was slowly making its way into the town. The ox were towing a very large canvas covered wagon behind it. Jonathan ran up to it carrying a pair of whiskey bottles he had grabbed while passing through one of the houses, and a book of matches. Two quick crashes and one lit match later the wagon started going up in flames as the people in and around it ran away from the mad man holding a pair of broken whisky bottle. A second after that, Jonathan leapt up and brought both broken bottles down on the back side of the lead ox, who then decided that now was a good time to stampede.
Jonathan and Ahmed then just leaned back and watched the wagon crash through the police posse and then through most of the town, setting a few buildings on fire as it passed. Jonathan and Ahmed then turned and rushed through the gates and out of the town. A half hour later they paused at the top of a hill outside of the town and Ahmed started digging underneath a tree and retrieved their things. The fire had spread throughout much of the town by then and the smoke could be seen for miles around.
Jonathan looked over the destruction that he had wrought in the town. He watched as the orange flames and black smoke higher and higher. Eventually a few men road out of the town heading quickly heading south east. As Jonathan watched them approach the horizon he rolled up another cigarette and turned to Ahmed.
"You don't happen to know where this Don Jones guy is by any chance?" Jonathan asked.
"He's got a fortress set up in the south east. Probably a four day walk from here. You aren't thinking of going after him are you?" Jonathan didn't respond to this but continued to look out over the horizon.
"You know we don't have the time for it." Ahmed objected. "If you even tried you would be walking in the desert for a least three days before Don Jones and his horde met up with you. Even you would need a whole day to kill them all off. Then it's a three day walk back here, and then a seven day walk north to the temple. That's fourteen more days to make a journey that should only take you seven. And you drop dead in ten day, need I remind you."
"I know." Jonathan answered. "What do you think will happen to the town folk?"
"Well seeing how everything they own has been burned and there's a massive army coming to kill them they'll probably leave. There are a few towns within a few days journey from here. They should've scattered around the country side by the time this Don Jones gets here."
"You think that they'll escape?"
"Only if Jones decides to head straight north after us."
"Do you think that will happen?"
"Probably, especially knowing your luck. You know if you're so concerned about those townsfolk you probably shouldn't have picked a fight with that bastard."
"That fight was inevitable."
"Nothing is inevitable."
"You saw the way they were looking at me. I either fought them in the bar by hand or fought them in the street with my swords."
"I would be more inclined to believe you, if I hadn't also seen how you were looking at them."
"That's how I normally look at people."
"Then I rest my case."
"Oh come on. It's not my fault that everyone I meet tries to kill me."
"And I suppose it's mine?"
"It was your god that cursed me."
"Only because you took so long to get to the damn temple. It was an innocent way to motivate you. And if you would just stop and apologize to people once in a blue moon, not nearly as many people would be after you."
"I'm just doing the best that I can."
"And I'm sure that the people trying to put out the fire in the bank would .... agree...." Ahmed said as he slowly trailed off looking out over the horizon.
"Oh come on the bank is not on fi-" Jonathan said as he turned back to face the town. The sight that greeted him was nothing short of stunning.
There were two of them, slowly making their way towards the town out of the west. They looked mostly human, except that their arms came down to their knees and they stooped slightly forward. And their limbs were rather thick, and they didn't really have feet, their legs simply ended in round thick pads like the trunk of a tree. They weren't wearing any visible clothes, but their shoulders and chests were covered in grey and green moss. Their hair was the same rusty red with long golden streaks through it, just like the desert floor, it was fairly long and seemed to entangled with the moss on their shoulders. They were also at least thirty five to forty feet tall.
"Bloody hell...." Jonathan managed after a few minutes.
"Mountain Giants." Ahmed confirmed as his face went pale and he broke out in a sweat. "I've never heard of them coming this far south before, at least not out of the canyon."
"The legends don't do them credit at all. Hey a village like that is built to hold them off right?"
"Yeah, if they have a full, well rested, properly armed guard on the walls ready to stop them. Even then, they usually lose three or four people in the fighting, and of course the wall will be broken down."
"Well, there's only one thing to do at this point isn't there."
"Yeah I guess there is. We had best being going." As Ahmed finished they both stood up and walked away. Ahmed walked off to the north, and Jonathan back towards the town. After a few steps they turned and saw that the other wasn't following.
"Oh you cannot be serious." Ahmed sighed, "Its a bloody Mountain Giant!"
"And that village is defenseless because of something that I did." Jonathan tried to explain, "We have to help; giants eat people, usually while their alive and often whole."
"Which is why when they show up you get the hell away from them. My people have been living in these deserts for thousands of years and trust me you need an army to take those damn things down."
"It doesn't matter what it takes to take them out, all I care about is what it takes to save even a handful of these people."
"This is suicide."
"I deal suicide on a regular basis. Come on man, I could really use some help on this."
"Not this time Jonathan. There's a lot I would take on with you, that isn't one of them. That thing will kill you."
"Well I don't know if that's true unless I try." Jonathan said smiling.
"You're really going to do this aren't you?" Ahmed said, resigning himself to the inevitable.
"You should know by now that I can't back down from this."
Then Ahmed sighed deeply, his shoulders stooped and shook his head.
"If you manage to live through this. Retreat into the canyon when you're done. There's a path through the canyon that should lead you north through the badlands. In about five to six days you should get to the temple. I will meet you there."
"Anything I should be worried about in the canyon?"
"Usually people won't use that road, because there are mountain giants sleeping there. But that obviously doesn't bother you."
"Then I will see you there brother." Jonathan said as he ran down towards the town.
"Please try not to die." Ahmed said as he turned north.
By the time that Jonathan closed in on the town's gate, the giants had reached the wall. As they came within the last few dozen yards of the wall they broke into a sprint and punched the wall. The crash could be heard all throughout the village, and people looked to see cracks spreading along the wall. Two of the guard ran along the wall shouting that it was a giant. But before they could do anything about it one of the giants leapt up and slammed down their fists down on both of the guards, reducing them to a pair of red stains and spreading the cracks. One of the giants then pulled back and tackled the wall with its shoulders. After a hit or two the wall broke, and a huge chunk fell into the village.
The first giant climbed onto the remains of the wall and jumped down into the village landing on one villager and started moving forward. The giant was clearly male, with a broad chest and thick limbs. His square jaw was well framed by a vicious looking set of teeth. As he moved forward he knocked a handful of guards down and away. They cut at his hands with swords and spears but they couldn't draw any blood and weren't causing any pain to the attacker.
The second giant climbed the wall a moment later. This one was female, and a surprisingly effeminate one at that. She was well endowed and curved in a way that on a human would've been rather attractive. But her teeth were just as sharp and her hands were very large and obviously full of power. She stood on the wall for a moment or two, tearing chunks out of rubble and throwing them at the larger groups of guards. It didn't take them long to destroy any kind of resistance that the town could have offered. After that she jumped down and scooped up a pair of fallen guards and swallowed them in a bight or two.
Only the sheriff was still standing before the beast as everyone else in the town flocked towards that gate. He held his long sword high and proud and charged the male giant approaching him. The giant swatted the sword out of his hand, like it was disciplining a child. Even from a distance Jonathan could hear bones snap as the sheriff arm turned almost completely around. As the giant stepped forward it grabbed the sheriff and lifted him up.
By then Jonathan had finally pressed through crowd at the gate and broke into a sprint towards the monster before him. He ignored everything happening around him and focused only on the large foot moving towards him. It came down right in front of him, and Jonathan drew his weapon, a kopis short sword. The blade was about two and a half feet long, easily held in one hand. It was curved slightly and thicker near the tip than it was at the handle. It swung in a wide arc, bringing maximum force down on the target. As it did it shown like a bolt of pure golden light, brilliant and blinding. It struck the giants leg, and the thick skin resisted it for just a moment or two, before giving way in an arc of golden light and crimson blood.
"Haaaaaaaah!" the giant cried in a deep heavy voice, as it dropped the sheriff from its mouth and stumbled backwards. Jonathan didn't let up, he drew a second kopis from his under his poncho in his opposite hand and slashed at the giants other foot. The giant cried out again and tried to lift that leg up as well and fell into one of the buildings. A moment later the sheriff landed next to Jonathan.
"Just what this town needs," The sheriff managed as he bled on the ground. His arm was missing at the shoulder and his legs were twisted up from the fall. He didn't have much time left. "Did you forget to burn the post office as well?"
"Pretty sarcastic for a dying man." Jonathan smirked as he watched the debris cloud settle to see what had become of his enemy.
"Are those Achaean blades?" The sheriff asked as he saw Jonathan's swords which seemed silver now that they weren't moving.
"Where did a punk like you get those?" +
"From an Achaean."
"Did they sharpen them for you?"
"On sun light."
"Impressive. Do me a favor will you?"
"Depends. What do you want?"
"Kill that bastard for me."
"There are a few exposed veins near the throat, and the muscles on their backs are very thin, you may be able to get at his heart from there."
"So his only vulnerable from above? Great." There was no response as the sheriff finally died.
"Very well." Jonathan said as the giant stood up, the bleeding from his legs had already stopped. "Damn this is going to be annoying."
The giant grabbed the roof on the building next to it, roof was on fire but this didn't seem to bother the giant. It struggled for just a moment but soon lifted a hunk of burning boards and shingles up and threw it at Jonathan. Jonathan fell back in a nearby alley and over to the next street. He climbed up on to a few barrels and then leapt up the side of the building, drove one his knives into the wall and then pulled himself up onto the roof. The moment he mounted it, the giant threw another piece of burning rubble at him, but Jonathan ducked under it and rolled away. Then he sprinted towards his foe. As he came to the edge of the roof and jumped and threw off his poncho.
As he tore through the air, the poncho fell away and revealed a pair of red leathery wings wrapped around Jonathan's side. He spread them out and caught the warm air of the fire in the streets. His wings were not strong enough for him to fly, but they were wide enough to glide forward, and twist around the giants attempt to swat him down. Jonathan landed and dug a blade into the giants chest. He then pulled on the blade, and leapt up onto the giants back, as the monster smacked at him. It then shrugged to the side trying to throw him off. But Jonathan drove both of his knifes deep into the giants back and held on tight. The monster tried to slap him off once more, this time Jonathan drew a third blade, this one was an old dirk: a short straight edge knife a little under a foot in length. He caught the giants hand with blade and cut straight through its palm.
The giant cringed and reared up in pain, almost throwing Jonathan off, but he held on. When the giant had stood straight up, Jonathan pulled himself up on his two kopis swords and drove his third blade into the back of the giants neck, right around what looked like a spinal column. The cry died on the monsters lips and its knees gave in, it fell down rather quickly. As it fell Jonathan jumped off, spread his wings and drifted down next to the beast. The giant glared at him as it panted heavily on the ground and Jonathan slashed its throat open with the dirk and kopis in his right hands.
As the giant bled out on the ground, Jonathan relaxed a bit. He smiled, and looked up just in time to see the mass of burning roof plummeting towards him. He rolled to the side and avoided being destroyed and looked to the side to see where the attack had come from. Then he saw the giantess, glaring at him with deathly rage filling her eyes. She ripped up another roof and sent another shot at Jonathan, but he was already sprinting away. It didn't take long for him to reach the hole in the wall that the giants had climbed through and even less to get through it.
From the top of the wall he leapt and glided out over the desert floor, landed and sprinted towards the canyon. The giantess was already hot on his heels, though she no longer had anything to throw at him. It was a losing battle, she had a much longer stride than he did, and was fueled by pure rage. But Jonathan had just enough of a head start. Just as she tried to crush to him under her feet, he managed to leap off the edge of the cliff.
Once in the air Jonathan spread his wings and flew down the canyon, making his way north away from the town. Or at least he would've, if she hadn't jumped after him and managed to clip his legs with a wild swing. Jonathan spun out of control and plummeted down. He managed to regain control just before falling head first into ground, and at least managed to crash with a bit of grace. The giantess had collapsed in a heap under her own weight, but she would be up soon enough, and Jonathan didn't want to be anywhere near her when that happened. With great effort he managed to stand back up and lurch away.
After a few feet he got his legs back under control and was able to go a little faster. The giantess was still up now and stumbling after him. Jonathan concluded that getting to some slightly higher ground was in order, and started climbing up the canyon's cliffs. A few dozen feet up he found some level ground to stand on. No sooner had he reached it than a boulder landed just in front of him, and another not far behind.
Jonathan jumped over the one in front of him, as the a few more shots from his opponent crushed the spot where he had been standing. Back in the open, he turned and drew both of swords and stood to face his foe. The giantess didn't waste a moment charging him, her arm raised up and ready to attack.
The giantess's punch smashed into the canyon wall and obliterated the area around it. Jonathan had ducked under it and slashed her hand, but she had already pulled back. Her next few strikes came faster and faster, but Jonathan continued to duck and weave around her blows, moving up along the canyon as the ground crumbled under her strikes. He had no time to counter attack, but he was staying alive, and she was wearing out. Eventually, Jonathan ran out of land to stand on and leapt out, spread his wings and dropped down the ground.
As he landed, the next attack came; this time she tried to kick him, but he rolled out of the way. She chased after him, stomping on the places where he was standing, and kicking out to keep him from cutting at her legs. Gradually she tired through, and just once she forgot to kick out as she missed another stomp. Jonathan didn't cut at her foot though, instead he leapt up her leg and started using his swords to climb up her side.
She shook and smacked at Jonathan, but he still made his way up her body. Eventually he was able grab a handful of moss and pull himself up with that. Soon he was standing on her back, just as he had managed before. Suddenly she lunged backwards and smashed into the canyon wall. Jonathan flipped over her so that he was now on her chest, holding on with his swords buried in her breasts. He pulled upward and lunged at her throat with his dirk, she grabbed a rock and pulled it down on him.
Both of them froze a inch from killing their foe. Jonathan held his dirk at her throat drawing a single bead of blood from her nicked flesh. She held the boulder just above Jonathan's head, all she had to do was let go and she would crush him. However, Jonathan was standing slightly above his knife, so if we crushed by the boulder his blade would be pressed into her throat and if she died and the rock fell Jonathan would die.
"Well this looks like we have reached an impasse huh?" Jonathan asked. The giantess only glared as a response, and Jonathan smiled back at her. "You know what this knife is don't you? This is the twenty first blade, of the forty two thrice damned blades. Anyone pierced by this blade will die. So if you drop that stone we both go. And from the looks of things I would say that you can't hold it up much longer now can you?"
The giantess shook slightly under the weight of the boulder. She was already breathing heavily, and swaying slightly. The fight had taken its toll on her, in spite of that, she continued to glare at her enemy with undying passion.
"So this is how this is going to go." Jonathan continued, "I'm going to jump down, and you're going to drop that rock of yours on the ground. If you're still ready and willing to die you can come after me, but only after you find me."
Then he jumped off of her, pulling both of his swords free from her as he went. He landed a good distance away as she dropped the stone and slumped to her knees. The passion in her eyes never abated but neither did Jonathan's smile. He took one last look at her and then he took off.
A few miles further on Jonathan found a cave in the canyon side which he promptly collapsed in. Every bone and muscle in his body ached with a near unending pain and he was totally exhausted. He slept for a few hours, rose up and then continued northward. He knew he didn't have much of a head start and he had to make the most of it.
The canyon soon gave way to the bad lands. the whole area looked like the ground had been smashed by god's hammer during creation. The land was all turned up. Massive boulders shot into the sky as the ground seeped down into a deep trench. Canyons crisscrossed each other, and tunnels ran through almost everything. It was like a city made out of red and golden stone, without windows, people or much life at all.
Occasionally Jonathan caught sight of large packs of lizards sunning themselves on the cliff walls and once he succeeded in catching one to eat. The meat was dry and chewy, but it was satisfying and easily preserved.
In the mornings a heavy due rose up out of the ground but soon vanished once the sun came down on it. However Jonathan could easily find pools of water in the shadows of the larger stones. It was an inhospitable place, but life could exist here, it could even thrive here, with a bit of work. It wasn't long before Jonathan found himself enjoying the place.
There were mountain giants here though. Most of them were asleep. Their huge bodies were dug into the canyon walls, all but unnoticeable. Jonathan had even walked right under a few of them without knowing it. But he did manage to keep his distance, those that didn't were in for a rude awakening. A few lizards had found this out the hard way. They had scurried across a giant, only to wake it up and become a quick meal for it.
Once a mountain giant did wake up they paced about the bad lands for a while. They were surprisingly quiet for such large creatures and could easily catch any creature on the ground by surprise as they rounded corners or came upon small caves. Most of the giants didn't stay here though, they climbed out of the canyons and headed away from the area.
To avoid them, Jonathan kept to the high ground and the shadows. He took care to avoid narrow places that twisted all about and tried his best to keep to more open areas where he could see what was coming and had room to run away as necessary. By doing this he was able to make his way further and further north unmolested.
The giantess was still tracking him. Twice she had almost caught up with him. There were plenty of hiding places around though, so Jonathan was usually able to sneak away from her when she got to close. It also seemed that she was very cautious of other giants, and often avoided any place where another one was sleeping. Jonathan used this to his full advantage and managed to lose her by dashing through what he assumed was a whole village of giants. But this would not last forever. She was still following him and he was running out of places to hide.
After six days of traveling, Jonathan reached the edge of the bad lands. The ground was leveling out, and the stone floor was giving way to the sandy desert of the far north. Beyond that point he would have no cover, no hiding places, and no way to get up high enough to properly fight. She would probably catch up to him sometime before he reached the temple, and she did so out there it would end quite badly.
So Jonathan found a place where the walls of the canyon he was passing through narrowed around a large boulder rising into the air like a sky scraper. It was a place where could easily leap form side, to side. Here he could get above his foe, and she wouldn't have much room to maneuver through. It was as good a place as any to make a stand.
Jonathan stood on the top of the great stone and spent the remainder of the day sharpening his kopis swords on the waning light of the sun. His dirk could neither chip nor dull and didn't need sharpening. Calmly, he prepared himself for whatever might happen and waited.
The giantess arrived in the area a little after sun set. She saw the light reflecting from Jonathan's swords on top of the boulder and halted a few hundred yards before her foe. But she did not attack, she sat down and waited. Throughout the night they both watched each other carefully. Not certain if the other would risk fighting in the night. After a few hours both relaxed, falling into a still near sleep where their bodies could rest but their minds stayed sharp.
After what had seemed like an eternity and a half the sun broke the horizon pouring its golden red light over the scene. Both warriors arose, looking first at sun and then at each other.
"What a beautiful day to kill and die." Jonathan noted. The giantess nodded at him, but even now, the raw hatred she had shown before had not abated.
Jonathan smiled and sheathed his kopis swords. He slowly and carefully drew his dirk, holding the sacred knife in his right hand and its sheath in the left. The blade reflected the golden light of the sun, but seemed to make a bit darker as it did.
"You should know that this is the twenty first blade." Jonathan explained, "It was made from the third shard of the seventh divine sword. It dwells in the heart of darkness awaiting the embrace of hell."
As he finished he impaled the sheath with the blade itself and both began to change. The handle of the knife vanished, the sheath broke in two and changed color from a dark black to a darker green. Then it began to grow and twist about itself so that it looked like two long vines were growing out of the knife, one reached out to the ground, the other climbed up towards the sky, they both then curved in ward and a string appeared between the two. Within a moment the knife had become a bow.
Jonathan held the bow in his left hand, just beneath the knife edge that still protruded from the front of the bow. He took hold of the string of the bow in his upper right hand and pressed it against the bow behind the blade, then he slowly drew it back and as he did an arrow shaft seemed to materialize out of thin air. Now he had his arrow as well as his bow and held the both in place, straining for just a moment against his own weapon and then he let it fly.
The arrow cut through the air like a green thunder bolt, the crack of sound being torn out of the way could almost be heard. Yet for all its speed the giantess still effortlessly jerked her head to the side and allowed the arrow to rush past her. A few hundred yards further the arrow buried itself deep in the ground. Jonathan smiled, and grabbed the string again.
As his second arrow flew through the air at its target, Jonathan grabbed the string again, this time with his lower right hand and drew another arrow. As it flew, he drew a third with his upper hand again. Within moments the air was full of a dozens of arrows all flying straight towards their target. The giantess ducked and weaved about the blows with a grace and easy that seemed impossible for a creature of her size. None of the arrows hit her, but Jonathan quickly quickened the pace of his attacks and soon seemed to have her over whelmed. After a few arrows grazed her side and embedded themselves in her arms, which didn't seem to cause her much harm, she leapt back beyond the point that the first arrow had fallen. She now almost a thousand yards away from her foe upon the rock. Jonathan halted his assault and watcher her as carefully as he could.
She reached into the thicket part of the moss that covered her right shoulder and tore it all off. Underneath it all was a small object that fell into her hand. With delicate skill she pulled that object in half, and Jonathan was just able to make out the faint sparkle of sunlight reflecting off silver metal. A moment later the object explode in a mass of green and black tendrils and roots sprouting out over her arm. They formed a large dark green gauntlet that ended in a wide, half circle of sharpened steal. Even at this distance, Jonathan could just barely make out the large black numbers of "14" marked on the blade.
"Oh for god's sake." Jonathan cursed as his fore glared at him across the canyon. "She has the fourteenth blade?! The second shard of the seventh divine sword? I'm getting the feeling that I might just regret this."
Then she charged. Jonathan fired everything he had at her, launching arrows far faster than any human possible could. Every arrow that he fired she caught with the gauntlet and soon closed all the ground between herself and her foe. Less than a hundred yards from the rock Jonathan was standing on, she whipped her arm forward. As she did the large blade on the front tore off of the gauntlet and flew towards her foe, with a long green, vine like rope attached to its back.
Jonathan leapt back as the massive weapon sliced through the five feet of stone he had been standing on. While in the air he fired two more arrows at her and ran to the side of the pillar. She jumped out of the way of that attack and pulled on the rope to dislodge her weapon. Then she leapt up and swung down on the pillar of stone with all her might. Jonathan leapt off of the pillar as it crumbled under her attack, spread his wings and landed on the walls of the canyon firing more arrows the moment that he landed.
Now for every three arrows he shot at his foe, he fired one down to the ground. She continued to block and dodge his every attack and threw great blade at him every chance that she got. Once again, Jonathan was quickly running out of ground to stand on. All to soon he had no room to move around, and the giantess threw another attack right at his chest. Jonathan leapt up and over the incoming blade at the last moment and landed on top of the weapon's head as it embedded itself in the wall and smiled mockingly at his foe.
The giantess ripped the blade out of the canyon wall, destroying Jonathan's footing as she did. As he scrambled for a place to stand, she rushed forward at him with her arm raised to deliver a finishing blow. Then Jonathan snapped his fingers and the arrows all around him came to life.
They all shot green shoots down into the ground and exploded in growth like weeds on steroids. Then ones had all landed on the ground around the giantess's feet sent long vines running out to each other and quickly weaved a large net around her feet. As she lifted her legs up to run, they got caught in the vines and soon she came crashing down head first into the cliff wall.
"HAH!" Jonathan cried as his glared up at him and the vines tightened around her legs. "Got you know you bi-"
Before he could finish the giantess threw her blade at him once again. Although Jonathan was able to leap over it, it crushed the last bit ground on the cliff wall that Jonathan could stand on, leaving him to cling to the cliff wall with his two right hands, as he clutched his bow with his left. She then retracted her blade and tried to cut through the bonds about her legs as Jonathan struggled to pull himself up the cliff wall with only two hands.
"Damn it woman." Jonathan cried out as he climbed up higher. "Why won't you just give up already! What conceivable reason could you have to fight this hard against someone you just met?!"
"You killed the father of my child!" The giantess suddenly yelled back from the floor. Her voice was much higher and sweeter than Jonathan would've expected, it was also on the verge of hysterics. Jonathan froze as he heard this, partially shocked that the giantess had said anything, his mind blown by what was said.
"Ah." He sighed, "That's a pretty good reason to want to kill me."
"Do you have any idea how hard being a single mother is going to be?! You heartless bastard!"
"If it's any consolation, I feel truly sorry for your son."
"It's going to be a daughter you pig!"
"Wait your pregnant?" Jonathan blurted out. He looked over the fallen form beneath him. She did have a few unusual curves come to think about, but nothing to noticeable. "You certainly hide it well."
"Yeah, yeah I get the point. Damn, you know this really just makes me feel horrible about all this."
"I know, I know. I just wanted to get you all to stop attack that town."
"So would've wanted a pregnant woman to starve to death?" The giantess accused.
"Nothing like that, I just didn't want to see anyone hurt on my account."
"So you slew my husband. How very noble of you."
"Look I can only apologize so many times. If there's anything that I can do for you...."
"There is, you can hold still and die already."
"Anything but that." Jonathan admitted.
"A life for a life is only fair."
"I'll admit that, but I still have things that I need to do."
"Do you think I care?"
"I'm not asking you to care, I'm asking you to-" As Jonathan shouted he turned and looked down. The giantess was half way through the last bond holding her in place, and Jonathan was still a fair way from the cliff's top. He resumed his climb with a new sense of urgency. Mere feet from the top he heard the last bond snap, and looked back in horror as his foe got to her feet and leapt up after him.
Just then a hand reached down, grabbed his own and pulled him the last few feet up, and just barely out of harm's way. The giantess fell back down, and immediately dug her hands into the cliff's side and started climbing back up. Jonathan wasted no time sprinting away from the cliff and only then did he look to see who had saved him.
"Ahmed!" Jonathan cried in jubilation. "What the heck are you doing here?"
"Saving your butt from a giant apparently." Ahmed responded. "What the hell did you do to get her so angry?"
"Killed the guy who had just knocked her up."
"Wow, she doesn't look pregnant at all."
"I know, must have been pretty recent. Seriously though, what are you doing here? I thought you would still be at least a day journey south."
"My people are better suited to crossing the desert than yours are. And along the way I found something that gave me a strange sense of urgency."
"That." Ahmed said pointing up a nearby hill, which was now being crested by a few thousand horsemen.
"Oh." Jonathan said as he came to a halt and greeted the thousands of eyes now staring at him. "I'm guessing that those would be Don Jones's men."
"You would be right."
"How did they find me?"
"They've got a diviner with them. A pretty good one at that. He's been watching you for days now. I've been trying to block his vision, but it's no good."
"Damn." Jonathan concluded as he turned around and saw that the giantess was now fast approaching from behind. She had slowed at the sight of the horde on the hill but she was still coming.
"Jonathan Flynn!" A voice cried out from the horde.
"They know my name?" Jonathan asked.
"The bastard's a really good diviner."
"You killed my son!" The voice continued. "No one crosses Don Jones and gets away with it! I'm going to break every bone in your body and skin you alive!"
"Hey!" The giantess suddenly called out. "I don't know who you people are, but I'm the one who's gets to kill this son of a bitch."
"Listen lady," Jones retorted, "No one can stop Don Jones, not even a giant! If you try and stop us from taking our revenge we'll kill you as well!"
"Wow," Jonathan exclaimed, "I've never been so wanted! Oh decision, decision."
"Shut it!" Jones ordered. "My son's blood cries out for vengeance and I'm going to get it!"
"This bastard killed my husband!" The giantess explained. "That takes precedence."
"I have to agree with the giantess on this one." Jonathan offered. "Your son was a jerk and had it coming. Her husband was just trying to provide for his family and slit his throat for it."
"You don't get a say in this!" Jones decided.
"It's my life! And if someone has to kill me I would prefer it to be the one who doesn't look like they just came out of the south end of a north bound donkey!"
"No one is going to kill anyone!" Ahmed announced. "Granted this guy is a bastard who has some serious debts to pay but they're not due yet!"
"Says who?" The giantess demanded to know.
"Says God!" Ahmed said, laying down the law. "I am a priest of the Titan Gaia, and she owns this bastard's life. Anyone who takes it from him will accrue Gaia's curse!"
Silence fell as the crowd was stunned by this. As if to further press the point, Ahmed drew a medallion from his bag that proclaimed his authority in this matter. The silence finally broke by the giantess silently cursing to herself.
"Is that true?" She asked.
"Yeah its true." Jonathan explained, "I cut a deal with the titan to save my home city, and now I have to perform seven holy tasks for her. I took my sweet time getting to her temple so she placed a curse on me that ensures most everyone I meet comes to hate me. And if anyone kills me the ground will swallow up everyone within five mile radius of where I die."
"So if I kill you?"
"You will die as well. Sorry."
"Why didn't you say something about this before."
"People tend to get really angry when I mention this, most don't believe me anyway. Besides you looked like you were really enjoying yourself back there and that was one of the best fights I have ever had."
"Your insane you know that?"
"Yeah. I am."
"So are you two good?" Ahmed asked.
"Fine." The giantess admitted with a heavy sigh. "Far be it from me to oppose the ruling of a titan."
"Good." Ahmed noted.
"And what about you all? Are you all ready to go home?" He asked the horde.
"Do you think a little bit of superstition is going to stop Don Jones?" Don Jones retorted. "Don Jones fears nothing! Don Jones is not going to be stopped by anything! Don Jones gets what he wants and what he wants is to turn that bastard inside out! and I'm going t-"
Before he could go on, Don Jones was interrupted by an arrow sprouting out of his chest. The arrow went though his chest and came out the other end. It had landed fairly low in his chest, probably skewering a kidney at best, so he was still alive, but now he was quiet.
"Oh I'm sorry," Jonathan offered as he lowered his bow. "Did I interrupt you? You were saying something about turning me inside out. Nothing more to say? Well then don't mind if I do this then."
Jonathan snapped his fingers, and the arrow retracted into the Don's body. Those around him could hear a squirming sound as his guts began to wiggle back and forth. A moment later the man screamed out in pain as a tree started growing out of him. Then the giantess threw her blade at him, it went through the head of the horse he was riding on, through his body, and through the horse heads and human torsos of the next five men standing behind him.
"Next." Jonathan invited as he drew another arrow and smiled. Then the horde decided that now was a good time to fall back. Jonathan laughed quietly to himself and then turned to face his former foe.
"Listen," He started, "I'm really sorry about this whole mess. I know that nothing I can do can undo what I've done to you, but if you're willing to be patient with me I can try. I have to do these things for Gaia but I swear to you that while I'm doing them I will do everything I can to help you raise your daughter properly."
"You don't owe me help." The giantess responded, "You owe me your life."
"Fine, wait till these tasks are done and I will give it to you."
"Just like that."
"No fighting, no resisting. You can kill me and give my knife to your girl."
"Alright, I can wait. But if you double cross me I will kill you and everyone you've ever known."
"Fair enough." Jonathan agreed as he invited Ahmed to lead the way. "I never got your name by the way. I mean it's nothing important, but I would like to know it. In case I have to track you down when this over."
"Don't worry about that, I'm coming with you. I have to make sure that Gaia doesn't steal you away from me while I'm not watching. And my name is Hippolyta."
Jonathan nodded, smiled and rolled the name over his tongue a few times. He figured it was a good name. A name worth knowing. And so the giantess, scorpion man and the three armed avian humanoid walked off into the horizon and on to the next day.