In which our heroes bite off more than they can chew
Greg was sitting on a rocky outcrop, just over the horizon from Italy, and he was a very impressed man. He was impressed by the way that the wind surfers had ridden the wind currents. He was impressed by their boards, which had taken them from Australia to Italy, if not exactly in comfort, then certainly in style. He was impressed by the board designer, a man that had called himself Prof, and who seemed to have an impressive and varied grasp on just about everything. He was impressed by the rocky outcrop that Mr. Ian Woon had picked out, the view of the sunset on the sea was, impressive, and he was impressed by the windsurfer’s taste in incense, he wasn’t quite sure what they were burning, but whatever it was it was having an impressively relaxing effect on him.
He was also impressed by Tony Tony’s social skills, and he was impressed with himself for bringing him along. Tony Tony and Mr. Ian Woon were sitting around the campfire laughing together and chatting like brothers. As Greg watched Mr Ian Woon introduced Tony Tony to a tall and well tanned woman wearing what might by charitably called a bohemian costume. Somewhat to his surprise Greg found himself raising no objections, so what if this girl looked twenty-five at most? It wasn’t like they were hurting anyone.
Greg let himself flop back onto the rocky beach; sitting up suddenly seemed like it would take too much effort to be worth it. He just lay on that beach admiring the stars and was somewhat surprised when Tony Tony jumped on him, which he had imagined he would be doing to the tanned girl at this point.
“Heeey Slim G”, breathed Tony Tony, he sounded a little unfocused. “I got us a travel partner”
“Wha?” asked Greg trying to make sense of this turn of events.
Tony Tony, turned Greg’s head towards a boulder away from the massed group, where the girl from before was doing something with her feet, silhouetted against the setting sun, a few seconds later Greg realized that she was also holding a rapier, with which she was practicing jabbing and thrusting motions. This was, Greg realized, not a small detail and something which he really should have noticed earlier, he wondered if something was wrong with his head. Then he wondered if there was something wrong with Tony Tony’s head when what he was saying began to filter through.
“She’s Mr. Ian Woon’s daughter, apparently, her name’s Free Flower. Mr. Ian Woon thought it would do her some good to see more of the world, at ground level obviously, and I agreed to let her come with us. I think it’s a good plan”
Greg did not think it was a good plan, he thought it was a bad plan. He found to very easy to raise several objections, not least of which was the fact that he didn’t want to split the money any more than what he already was. He searched for some way to discourage Tony Tony. “What does she think about all this?” he fished.
“Oh he talked to her about all this of course, she’s fine with it. Apparently she wants to be a champion fencer; she’s hoping she’ll meet some strong people to fight against on the way”
Greg amended his opinion to god damn awful idea. The very last thing he wanted to be doing was trying to lay low while traveling with an aggressive, sword welding girl who was wearing an outfit certain to attract the attention of every man in Eastern Europe.
Before he could voice any of this however he found his eyes drawn over Tony Tony’s shoulder.“Impressive”, he managed to gasp. Tony Tony turned, and looked upwards. Eventually everyone else did so as well.
It was an impressive cloud, storm, Greg corrected himself; storm was definitely the right word in this case. It was towering, billowing, and many other adjectives too, but that wasn’t the impressive part. The impressive part was the way it whipped and thrashed towards them, like a caged beast trying to break free, the way it clamored, rising, and crushing, with all the rage of an Italian family.
Greg turned away and looked around. No one else did, he recognized the look in their eyes. There is a look that artist, or engineers, or jailers get when they are faced with a impossible challenge, It’s a look that betrays a pumping heart, racing adrenaline, and a complete certainty about what is going to be happening in the next few minutes.
Mr. Ian Woon had said that no-one would be going up until morning, so that they could make a dramatic entrance on the morning breezes, but Greg knew that wouldn’t matter now. There are an infinite number of universes for every outcome of a dice roll, but there is no universe anywhere in the Multiverse where these people would not rise to challenge this storm.
Then everyone started moving as one windsurfer, they scattered left and right and clambered over one another to get to their boards. Free Flower caught Greg by the back of his shirt and hoisted him onto her board; her eyes never left the storm. And then they were off.
They climbed higher and higher, and the wind got choppier and choppier. The surfers rolled expertly with the breezes. Still they climbed higher, and still the wind got more violent. Greg noticed that some of the surfers were getting left behind, but still they climbed.
Free Flower and her father were leading the charge, taking Greg and Tony Tony with them. Greg thought the storm was even more impressive from up here, He imagined the front as enraged dragons, bearing down on them.
The winds here were intense; they slipped through the cracks in jet blasts and rode the roaring updrafts like a volcano. They were almost inside the clouds themselves.
Then Greg’s imaginary dragons became somewhat more real.
He heard a panicked Mr. Ian Woon scream “Smoke dragons!”
Then everything went to hell.