We walked for quite a while. Surprisingly, having fallen through a hole in the ground, where we were wasn’t dark. Somehow it was still sunny. Except, there was no sun. There was apparently no sun in this dimension. Or at least if there was I had yet to see it. Except if there was no sun, how was there light? How was their heat? Even after all this time, this dimension made no sense.
We continued walking until we reached a waterfall. It stretched either way for as far as I could see. “We must climb up that,” Tug said.
“No problem,” Werz replied, though all I could see was problems. It’d be a hard enough climb even without water constantly splashing down on us. I could see there were rocks to climb, but how slippery they must be. And falling down would not be a fun trip.
“Just be careful of the sharp teeth of the Narroot,” Tug warned.
“There are Narroot?”
“Oh, yes, the falls are just teeming with them.” Tug jumped into the waterfall and began skipping from stone to stone as if they were trampolines and he were an Olympic athlete. The Sharkwoman went swimming after him. She had no need to worry about the water, the stones, or the sharp teethed creatures. Werz looked reluctant, but he sucked it up and began to climb up the waterfall. It looked like I had no choice but to follow.
I jumped into the water until I reached the falls. I found a purchase on the rock face and began to climb. The water was beating down on me, but I made sure not to look up. Just focus on the task at hand, one rock, then the next one, then the next.
Things seemed to be going pretty well. I didn’t dare look to see how far I had to go, but we were moving upwards at a steady pace. I was beginning to feel optimistic, that we might actually do this when suddenly something jumped out from the falls and snapped at me! I pulled my hand back quickly as something that looked like a cross between a crow and a piranha shot out of the water. I slipped on the wet rock and only kept from falling by holding tight to the handhold I had with my other hand. I tried to find a foothold while another piranhacrow jumped out at me. “Narroots!” Werz yelled. “And they look hungry!”
“How are we supposed to climb with these things snapping at us?” I asked as I swatted away another Naroot.
“We may not be able to.”
“Then how are we supposed to get up? These clothes the Wizard gave us don’t fly, do they?”
“No, but the Wizard also gave us this.” He pulled out a length of cord and held it out.
“How are you going to fasten that to the top?”
Werz threw the cord with a snap of his wrist and one end went flying. He threw it hard, but there was no way it was going to reach the top. And it didn’t. But it didn’t fall back down either. The end of the rope just hung in the air as if it were glued there! With another snap, Werz let go of the rope and it went stiff as a board. “Jump!”
“It’s not attached to anything!” I yelled back.
I looked at the dangling rope, but the Narroots continued to snap and I was only holding on by my finger tips. So…I leapt! I grabbed hold of the rope and was greatly surprised and relieved when it held. I began to climb, happy to not have water pouring down on me. When I passed him, I saw with trepidation Werz reach over and grab ahold of the rope. I was amazed it held him as well.
We kept climbing and were more than halfway up when the rope began to shake. “What’s that?”
“Uh-oh,” Werz said, “It might be waking up.”
“What’s waking up?”
“The thing we’re climbing!”
“You mean the rope?”
“The rope is waking up? The rope is alive?”
“It’s a Purtek!” Werz shouted. “And it’s waking up from its dormant state!”
I climbed as fast as I could and the lower end of the rope began to curl up. It rose until it was even with me and I could see its open mouth! The Purtek lunged at me, quick as a bullet! I tried to dodge it, but I was hanging from a rope which was the creature’s body. It slammed into my side. Fortunately, the Wizard’s clothes kept it from ripping out my kidney, but the impact sent me spinning. “We’ve got to move!” Werz yelled.
“Where? Back to the waterfall where there are piranhabirds waiting to eat us?” But the Purtek’s mouth was turned back toward me now and I wondered if dropping back down to the water was that bad of an idea, at least back at the bottom nothing was trying to eat me.
And that was when the Sharkwoman appeared snatching the creature by the neck just as it began to lunge. “Move it already!” she growled.
“Thank you!” I told her.
She glared at me. “Get moving! I can’t hold this stupid thing forever!”
And so I did as she said and I got moving, but as I reached the top I looked back down and I could she was having difficulty. “Go!” Werz commanded from right beneath me.
I jumped onto the ledge where Tug was waiting for us. “What took you so long?” he asked.
Werz joined us at the top of the falls, but I looked down and the Purtek had begun to wrap itself around the Sharkwoman and she couldn’t escape. The Sharkwoman began to change into her massive shark form, but the Purtek held firm. If anything its grip got tighter. “She’s in trouble!” I exclaimed. “We have to save her!”
“Save her?” Werz asked. “How? Going down there will just put us at risk too.”
“If you won’t, then I will.”
“What you can you do? You don’t have a weapon.”
“I have to try!”
But just as I was getting ready to leap down, hoping I didn’t miss and fall to my doom, Tug ran in front of me and jumped from the ledge, landing on the Sharkwoman’s massive form, quickly stabilizing himself as she thrashed against the strangling monster. I worried what he could do when the Sharkwoman had been so ineffectual. She was so big and he was so small, but then Tug opened his mouth and bit the Purtek’s head off!
As the creature died, Tug leapt back up to the top of the falls where we waited. When he landed, he spat out the creature’s head. The Purtek’s body sagged and began to unravel. When its grip got loose enough, the Sharkwoman swam free. “Are you all right?” Tug asked the Sharkwoman as she joined us atop the waterfall.
The Sharkwoman moved away from him. “I’m fine.”
It was strange. Tug seemed to be paying the Sharkwoman special attention. I realize now he had been all along. Why was that? Could Tug be in love with her? Could that be possible? The little teddy bear and the giant shark? This was a very strange dimension indeed.
“Let’s just get moving,” the Sharkwoman said.
“Where to next?” I asked.
“Up there,” Tug said, pointing toward a mountain on the horizon. “That’s where we’re heading.”
“Let me guess, it’s covered with man-eating goats that breath fire?”
“No,” Tug replied. “No goats. Whatever ‘goats’ are, we don’t have to worry about them. On that mountain, there’s only one thing we have to worry about.”
“And what’s that?” I asked.
“The Tarrgair Beast. Because that is Tarrgair Mountain.”
to be continued…