TSS: Mironae’s End (pt 2)

      Today’s snippet, titled “Mironae’s End”, is a piece I wrote about the Pathfinder campaign I’m running – “The Serpent’s Skull”.
      Be forewarned, there may be mature themes and naughty language below.
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      She waited until the palest wisps of grey light grew into a warm pink glow on the horizon. Five minutes. Thirty. An hour. Eventually, having heard nothing but ominous silence for too long, Mironae crept barefoot to the steps into the gullet of the ship and called down, quietly.
      A sudden scrambling below startled her and she fell backward onto the desk. Movement in the dark corridor caught her eye and a strange click-click-click sort of sound echoed up the staircase.
      “Alton? Alton!”
      The faintest of groans echoed up to her. “Nae… r-run…”
      She hesitated only a moment, desperate to run to him, to save him from whatever lurked in the darkness, but she could not. He had heroically rescued so many others, but she was unarmed, unarmored, and in that moment, a coward. Mironae ran back to the skiff and began to fumble with the ropes. The skills she had spent half her life acquiring scattered like leaves in the wind as panic overwhelmed her. Before she knew it, one side of the skiff was falling into the sea. The other dangled uselessly from its rope.
      “Oh shit. Oh. Oh fuck!”
      It was too far down for her to reach, but she thought perhaps she could climb down the rope to cut it loose. One oar remained attached, though the other was floating away. Mironae wet her lips anxiously, weighing her options. The scrabbling below seemed more frantic now, louder every second.
      There was a cutlass hanging on the wall. She wrenched it down, putting her foot flat against the wall and using her entire body to pry it loose. A yelp from below decks spurred her on, putting fire in her steps.
      Clenching the cutlass in her teeth, Mironae climbed atop the railing and stood for a heartbeat or two. Her toes clenched around it for balance. “I can do this,” she muttered through clenched teeth. “I can do this.”
      Mironae flung a prayer into the Heavens and then leapt with both hands out before her. The thick, wet cord burned her hands as she slid a few feet down, but her feet managed to find purchase and she took a moment to breathe before beginning the treacherous climb down.
      Hand over hand, she began. She was just three or so feet away from the bow of the skiff when another yelp sounded above her. Mironae’s eyes lifted just in time to see something huge and wet and hairy jump from the railing. It sailed past her, slapping her on its way down to the surf.
      Before she knew it, she was falling. The cutlass – thankfully – fell from her teeth as she screamed and flailed all the way down. For an instant, she caught herself on the prow of the dingy, but the force of her fall snapped the support and when she hit the water, she was still clenching a hunk of seasoned wood.
Warm as a fine spa bath, the ocean enveloped her, pulling her down beneath the waves. When her head broke the surface again, she screamed. She had not meant to, but fear and frustration took over. Swirling around in a circle, Mironae struggled to find a landmark.
      “There!” she said aloud, and struck out toward the shore.
      She was a strong swimmer; she had grown up on the sea and who had ever heard of a sailor who could not swim? Still, after an hour she seemed to have made hardly any progress toward the beach and her heart sank. Not…gonna… make it…
      Tears crept down her cheeks, though she was soaked to the bone and a few drops from her eyes made no difference. There was a splash nearby and she stopped, treading water as she turned in a slow circle.
      Suddenly, a big black head bonked into her and she felt a warm, sloppy tongue upon her cheeks.
      The shaggy beast was the only member of the Hrothgar party she had taken the time to get to know. He was a huge dog, gentle and goofy and yet ferociously protective of his wards. Mironae had seen his like once in Varisia, a whole litter of beautiful black, white, and tan fluffballs. They were all paws and tongues and though she knew they were hearty mountain-bred work dogs and not at all suited for life on a ship, Mironae had begged her father for one until her throat was hoarse and her knees raw from kneeling.
      “Odin, good boy!” she ruffled his big wet head. He was buoyant and paddling easily. “Can you help? Pull me a bit?”
      Somehow, he seemed to understand – or perhaps, she thought, that’s why he came back for me – and when she looped an arm around his chest, Odin began to swim. He dragged her forward, he facing the shore and her with her chest to the dim sky.
      Her heels scraped sand and she blinked.
      “Was I asleep, bud?” she let go of him and rolled to her knees. Mironae found herself kneeling in the surf. The sand was golden and pale and fine; the water clear and turquoise as it washed around her. Even in the wan light of pre-dawn, Mironae could tell that they had shipwrecked on an island of immense, intense beauty.
      Just as she was climbing to her feet, Odin began to growl low in his throat. She turned just in time to see an enormous, blue-green scorpion-like creature swimming toward them.
      “Odin, back!”
      The dog did not listen, positioning himself between her and their foe. His hackles raised, his teeth bared – Odin was ready to fight. The sea scorpion struck out with its tail and Odin lunged. His teeth sank in the brittle leg and the thing made an awful screeching sound.
      A second – the thing’s mate perhaps, more green-blue than the first – beset them as well. Mironae was searching for a rock or something to use as an improvised weapon when a searing pain ripped through her. She collapsed to the sand, spasming as the poison worked its way through her bloodstream. Her hand closed around a hunk of driftwood and she swung it with all her might.
      Clumsy and weakened, Mironae fought beside Odin. They cracked and bashed the first one; Mironae whacked it’s stinger away with her makeshift club and Odin ripped off leg after leg. It just kept coming, snapping at her with broken claws. When at last it crumbled into the surf, she was weeping tears from her eyes and blood from a dozen wounds.
      The dog whimpered, a rent in his flank bleeding freely now. He moved more slowly, as did she. Fortunately for them both, the sea scorpion had taken quite a brutal beating as well. With one last slash at her legs, which knocked her to her ass in the sand, it retreated into the waves and swam away.
      Mironae could no longer feel her feet and calves. A queer greenish-yellow ichor rode the ebbing tide around her and it occurred to her after a long moment that it seemed to be draining from one of her wounds.
      Got me twice, she thought, her brain sluggish to form the words. Damn.
      Odin sank his teeth into her shirt more gently than a dog his size should have been capable of and tenderly drew her backward onto the shore. She lay on her side, stroking his head, and listened to his wheezing. Each breath sounded so labored, so desperately close to the end – like a death rattle.
      It wasn’t until Odin nudged her still palm with his wet nose that she realized the breathing she heard was her own.
      “…saved me,” she managed, the waves lapping at her thighs. “…good dog.”
      Odin whined and licked her face. He had taken several deep wounds during the fight, but the bright, alert expression in his eyes was so unlike the fuzzy, distant way she felt, Mironae decided he had not been poisoned. That’s good…at least.
      “…find… others?” she said, trying to point down the beach. “…get help?”
      He did not seem to understand, or was too weak to carry out the command. Instead, he lay his considerable bulk beside her in the wet sand and leaned his great, fuzzy head against her shoulder.
      “…good boy…”
      Mironae closed her eyes. Her body was so cold, but she that was not right for the early morning rays upon her face were hot and the water had been warm as a bath when she plunged into them hours ago. She pictured Lars’ face and a smile touched her lips. He was a good kid, would make a good man one day. She hoped he survived – him and the others they had rescued. Her thoughts drifted to the faces of the other passengers, then to Alton, who had been so brave, and then to her father. Maybe he’ll find me here… bet he will… always does…
Her thoughts came as slowly as winter molasses and it took a great effort to open her eyes once more. The sun was higher now, it was morning in truth. Mironae blinked a few times, trying to clear her eyes, but there was a haze upon them that would not dissolve.
      Odin was a warm, comforting presence and she stroked his head again, silently thanking him for saving her. Even if she was dying, he had tried.
      “…good boy…” she whispered.
      The dog lifted his head, listening. He whimpered once and seemed to be trying to stand. Mironae turned her head, laying her cheek to the sand, and squinted against the sun. Three dark blotches on the horizon marred her vision. Then she realized they were moving toward her and her heart fluttered in her chest.
      I’m saved, she thought, and let her tired eyes close once more.
      They did not open again.
A piece by Sharandula really inspired Mironae and I included it with my story to my players. This image is reproduced without permission, but without any claim toward ownership and with all credit forwarded directly to the artist – whose art is AMAZEBALLS. Seriously, check her out!
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Signed, Josie
Note: Images are “Nessie” by (dsidwell), Ruins at Chicen Itza by (BenEarwicker), and Goat Skull by (humusak2) from SXC.hu; edited by me

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