As I intended, I remained in the mouth of the cave overnight, observing the encampment. I could see Hephaestus from my vantage point; he seemed all right, if a trifle uncomfortable. I nearly fell asleep thrice; each time, Crusher, my faithful companion, nudged me awake. He shared my long vigil. I write this now by a strange and eerie light. The sun's rays seem dampened somehow by the fog. I have been watching the ships of the natives come and go, and they seem undamaged by the corrosive vapours. I cannot for the life of me come up with a reason why this would be so. I ache to examine them. Perhaps the wood is coated in something?
I must end here for now. There are stirrings in the settlement. There is quite a lot of cover; I believe I can get closer without being seen. I once crept up on a troop of monkeys, and not one of them took any alarm. It should be the merest trifle to approach these cultists unnoticed, fogged as their minds appear to be.
Cronus' Log, 28th November. Starving to death!
I was convinced the whole thing was some kind of sick joke. Sure, take poor Cronus and stick him on an island with nothing but grubs, deadly coconuts, and cranky crabs. Good times. Well I was about to my breaking point. I just kept hallucinating that there was a large barbecue pit and Demeter's pony was on a rotisserie. That was my oasis.
Just when I was ready to eat a large hunk of driftwood hoping it was my rotisserie, I smelled it. This couldn't be a dream, it was so real, sofresh, so spicy, so... beefy! I sprung up out of the sand, my drift wood forgotten, and raced through the trees. Oh sweet succulent meat, how I missed you!
Through the trees and grasses I ran until I knew I was close. Just then a clearing came into view. On the one hand there was food, on the other it was Hephaestus. I decided to sit down and make a pros and cons list for wanting to eat my intrepid leader.
As Majella and I reached the edge of the treeline, I cautioned him to remain low and quiet until we could determine exactly what was going on below us. That blotch that caught my eye? It seems the natives have captured Hephaestus! If only he had his hammer!
At first it appeared they were preparing him for some strange mating ritual, with the rubbing of oils and such, but Majella has set me quite straight. They intend something else entirely! I can tell he is fighting the Tluca urges but his sudden salivating makes me nervous.
Gaea's Observations, 28th November. Sun nearing apogee.
I am close now - I have bided my time, waiting for Hephaestus to act that I might follow his lead. I have concluded that capturing one of those ships is imperative if I am to return home with my notes and what paltry specimens I've been able to gather. Wait - I must stop here. Something is happening!
Hephaestus' Log, Nth November. Almost lunchtime!
As I hung there, swaying in the breeze, my bare chest glistening and marinading, I took stock of the situation. I cast my eyes up the shoreline, and spied a horned helmet poking out of the bushes. Squinting, I could make out flashes of red uniforms in the bushes. My crew! Or some of them at any rate. Evidently they had the same idea as me, to make for the largest settlement, and commandeer a boat. But alas, there were some twenty cultists and zombies on the sloop and the pontoon, preparing the vessel. It was all but ready to sail, but how could they get on board? I looked around, for some way to provide a distraction, and that was when I saw him.
From the largest hut, flanked by a pair of his Witch Doctor minions, was Vargas The Mad, the very man we had been sent to find. Well, it was a long shot, but it was the only one I had.
"VARGAS, YOU COWARD!" I hollered.
He froze, and turned at my voice, then strode over to me. His face hung over mine, and his mouth spread into a discolored, cracked-toothed grin.
"Well, well, look what was caught creeping around the jungle! A petty little pirate godling" he crowed.
"Creeping, is it?" I retorted. "Aye, but it is you, who crept back to his tiny little isle, his tail between his legs! Playing with your dolls - I doubt you have the courage to face me in single combat, rather than hide behind your thralls!"
"SO BE IT!" he screamed, blasting my face with awful halitosis. "Cut him down, I shall demonstrate my superior prowess to you, in addition to my superior intellect! If you will not know enlightenment, instead you will know pain!"
Cronus' Log, Nth November. Starving to death, again!
I decided that I wanted to make it home to eat that pony and see if Eury's cat had grown her hair back. That meant I couldn't eat Rotisserie Hephaestus. However I could look around for other bits of food. There were all kinds of treasures, spices, herbs, and several appetizers. I spared a glance at Hephaestus, apparently he was yelling something. Really I couldn't pay attention because I had just laid eyes on a lovely bit of what I can only guess was some type of bird.
Gaea's Observations, 28th November. Shortly thereafter.
I believe I recognize that man! It's Vargas the Wise - who has now lost his mind. What a terrible thing, to lose one's mind. I should be quite discomfited. He seems to be the leader hereabouts. How fortuitous! I'd theorize that his personality has magnetic properties; it certainly seems to be attracting a lot of attention. Perhaps if I wait... yes. The crew of one of the smaller vessels is going to his aid. He's refused it, but they still stand near! Like the serpent, I shall strike quickly.
Cronus' Log, Nth November. Eating - for Joy!
More shouting and the arrival of some odd looking bloke started to disturb me again. Didn't these people know when to shut up and enjoy a meal? Had their mothers not taught them any manners? I loaded my helmet with several bits of meat, some fruit, and some other goodies and scurried back into the trees. They could make all the noise they wanted. I sat down and ate while watching the show knowing they were probably only that cranky because they hadn't eaten yet.
We circled the scene below looking for an angle that might allow for a rescue attempt, but it didn't look good. Even at his best, Majella claims he can't take more than 4 or 5 of them. I did manage to locate Cronus, but as I approached him, I heard him mumbling, "Hephaestus, or pony? Hephaestus, or pony?" I think I'd better leave him to his own devices. He sounds as if he's had a bit too much sea-water.
Hephaestus' Log, additional.
Vargas squared up against me, adjusting the skull-adorned rings on his fingers.
"Throw him his hammer," he said "it will avail him nothing."
The hammer thumped to the floor in front of me, I picked it up, and tightened my grip on it. Though I tried not to show it, I was afraid. Even before his madness took him, Vargas was reknowed as one of the toughest brawlers on the oceans. Now, with his hardship-hardened body, and his unhinged mind, he could scarcely be a more formidable opponent.
"How shall we do this?" I began, "Queensbury ru-"
I was caught offguard by a savage right cross that I barely even saw. Vargas pressed his advantage, raining blows upon me, howling like some sort of wild beast. It was all I could do to raise my guard to protect my face. The guard was not perfect, however, and Vargas landed an uppercut which sent me crashing through the wall of a Witch Doctor's hut. I lay dazed for a moment, then quickly snatched up a fallen object, and sneaked it into the pocket of my pantaloons. Vargas was upon me again, so I kicked a table in his way, and fled through the front door.
He pursued, and I'd hoped to ambush him on the way out, with a swipe of my hammer. His body seemed to flow around the blow like an eel, and it glanced off his ribs, barely hurting him at all.
Gaea's Observations, immediately following previous.
I dashed as fast as I could towards the docks, and spotted a blur of red moving towards the same goal, from the opposite direction. Galene! My heart was most gladdened to know that she was safe, as she is a singular friend of mine, despite her inexplicable disinterest in natural philosophy for its own sake. She was followed by an odd, shambling sort of creature, but it veered off towards the ruckus on shore, whereupon it vanished. We quickly determined that I would make ready the ship while she kept a watch.
Leaving Cronus behind and continuing to scan the treeline, I finally located the only other source of hope to be found. Gaea! Greatly relieved I am to find her safe and sound, even if her new scarf is SO last season!
It's only a matter of time now before Majella discovers my charm isn't really gold, merely gold-plated silver, and abandons me. Instead, I've instructed him on one final task, to attempt to aid in the rescue of our leader.
Below is an excerpt from the Logge of Chatte:
Gaea says, "Ahoy! Give me a hand with these ropes, will you? Grab a hawser!"
Galene says, "Ugh, it's got...zombie slime?"
Gaea says, "Fine, then. Keep watch! I think that's my idiot son over there. I'll get him to lend a hand. A bit of exercise would be good for him. Hoy! Hoy! Cronus! Oh, for crying out loud, look at me. Yes, that's it. There's a galley here!"
Gaea mimes eating delicious, delicious food and rolls her eyes as Cronus perks up and makes a beeline for the ship.
Cronus' Log, Nth November. Still Eating!
I can see mom frantically waving her arms. I have no idea what she wants, but she can't have my food. Get your own, woman. She seemed to get angry. I could tell because her face was red and she was looking up in her 'why me' pose.
Finally she made the official food gesture by pretending to spoon it into her mouth. I couldn't help but wonder why she didn't just say so before! I got up and hurried after her. Clearly she would show me where the buffet was.
Hephaestus' Log, additional.
Toying with me now, he landed a series of punches and kicks, designed to distract me, and press me back into the centre of the circle. In the end, it seemed, he had enough sport. He reached out, snatched the hammer from my hands, and punched me in the solar plexus. I feel to the ground, doubled up, and unable to move.
"Are these paltry skills really the best that a so-called God of Pirates can muster?" he sneered.
"You misunderstand," I replied, wincing. "I'm not the God of Pirates. I'm the God of Blacksmiths."
"It shows. What power could a humble blacksmith have over me?"
"Well," I said, with a magical gesture above his head, "I have a certain skill in the creation of metal objects."
Vargas looked up, just in time for three small cannonballs to thud into his forehead in quick succession. He looked at me with uncomprehending eyes, then keeled over backwards unconscious.
The surrounding crowd screamed their indignation at my foul play, and rushed at me. I saw my crew on the sloop, in the distance, waiting, hoping that somehow I would make it out of there.
"Fly, you fools!" I shouted, as the mob swallowed me up...
Gaea's Observations, ditto.
My captain! He has been overcome! I do not see any logical way he could have escaped. I have ordered Galene and Cronus to cast off the moorings; it is my duty to see them safely back to shore. I must scan the horizon for sail, rather than for pelagic avians and cetaceans - what a wretched turn of events. The wind is picking up, and the vessel, which appears to be called the Expendable Grunt, is gathering speed. We shall be home within a day. Crusher has opted to remain behind on the island - perhaps to assist some other traveler.
Gaea's Observations, November 29th.
Pursuant to some hours of rest, it is my solemn duty to file these reports, that others may learn from our adventures. While I am pleased to report that Karpoi and I have been reunited, I regret that I must soon visit Aphrodite to inform her of the loss of our gallant leader... how she will weep! I do not know if I can face it. Galene is skilled with words and niceties; perhaps she will shoulder that unhappy task.
Galene's Daybook, Safe at Home.
On our arrival home, those chickens selected me to inform our poor Aphrodite of Hephaestus' fate. You'd think Gaea, a mother, would be able to offer more comfort, but she rambled off mumbling about paperwork, documentation, genus and phylum. I'll remember this the next time she wants me to come help in her garden!
Oh, how I dreaded being the bearer of such sad tidings, to know I'd go down in history as the breaker of Aphrodite's heart. This is what I'd be remembered for? What words of sympathy could I offer to ease her bereavement? What liquor could I consume to ease this burden?
Arriving at her door, stoic and resigned, I lifted my hand to the knocker with trepidation. Imagine my surprise to hear a man's voice bellow out for me to enter! For a brief moment, I contemplated old expressions involving cats and mice and play, but no, there must have been some other explanation.
There was an explanation, after all, but I'm too livid to recount it all now! Suffice it to say, there is no mourning but my own! To think, I sacrificed my dear Majella in a rescue attempt, when Hephaestus had purloined a magical potion from the inhabitants back on the island! Although it is clear and not only looks, but also smells rather like plain water, it apparently has phenomenal properties allowing one to dematerialize, travel on the very winds and materialize once again in a new location! He calls it a "whisking potion". I called him an arse!
I suppose it's a happy ending. Hephaestus is reunited with Aphrodite, mother Gaea and son Cronus are together again (with Demeter's Pony), and myself...Well, I'm certain never to forget Majella, or the events on the Cursed Isle. Perhaps, perhaps I'll have a chance to visit there again in the future, and we'll meet again, my Majella.
We require illustrations for our final day, and hope you have enjoyed reading the preceding tale of woe, suffering, and terror. Please alleviate our misery somewhat by providing us with art to gaze upon. You can find details in this forum thread - there are four eggs up for grabs this time!