The Sharkwoman swam away and Tug bounded off after her. I, however, had to climb onto the Beast the slow way, with my own bare hands. Though the Beast’s arms had been hairy, its legs were scaly. The scales provided pretty convenient footholds.
When I reached the top, I ran off to catch up with the others. I worried every step that the creature would wake up and swat me away. It took me a while to trek up the thigh and to get around the hip, but by the time I reached the chest I could see the Sharkwoman and Tug. They were just standing there, looking at something. I strained my eyes to see what was ahead as I rushed to catch up. There was some kind of gray object over the Beast’s face. It was still too far away to see what it was, but I had a guess at what it could be.
When I caught up, I could see that I had been right. It was the whale. It had flown straight into the Beast’s face and knocked it out. I just couldn’t understand why it do such a thing. It made no sense. Why would some creature sacrifice itself to save us? It was an animal and we weren’t…wait, no. The creature…the whale…it wasn’t dead! It was moving! It’s mouth began to open!
There was something inside it’s mouth! A person! Someone was coming out of the whale’s mouth!
The Sharkwoman gasped. “Wu?” She instantly began changing into her most human form. But she just couldn’t wait for her transformation to finish. She swam to him before she was done changing, trying to hug him with hands that had yet to take shape. She came at him with such force she almost knocked him over, not caring one bit that he was covered in whale slime.
“Lu Wu?” I said. “Is that really you?”
“Fran,” he said, trying to dislodge himself from the Sharkwoman. “I’m so glad to see you’re alive.”
“You’re glad?” I laughed. “Last time I saw you, you were being eaten by…well that thing.” I gestured to the whale. “How are you even alive?”
“I told you,” the Sharkwoman said still holding tight to Lu, looking as if she was never going to let him go. “He is a powerful magician.”
“It was not difficult,” Wu said. “I simply hid in a healing cocoon within the whale’s stomach. It was nothing. If anything, I was worried about you.”
“About her?” the Sharkwoman snarled, pushing away from Wu. “What about me?”
“Shayu!” he called after her. “Don’t be that way! I could not have worried about you, I did not even know you were involved!”
The Sharkwoman had grown regaining some of her shark features. “You could have come for me.”
“I didn’t have time. I was eaten by a whale.”
“I don’t think she needs to hear any of your excuses,” Tug said stepping inbetween them.
Lu Wu glared at him, angrily. “Who are you?”
“I am someone who has been looking after her while you were off looking for another woman. Come on, Gruesser. We don’t need him.”
Lu Wu reached down to grab Tug’s arm. “I don’t know who you think you are, but I’ve been trapped in a stomach for who knows how long.”
“And we have been chased by all manner of monsters and we have stuck together through it all,” Tug rebutted. “None have been abandoned. None have walked away. And still our quest remains. We must complete it.”
“Yes,” the Sharkwoman said. “Our quest.”
“What quest?” Lu asked.
“To get the horn of the Tarrgair Beast,” I said, seeing that the other two were being oblique.
Lu was stunned. “What? Why would you do that? That’s insane!”
“Because that was the Wizard’s payment to get me home.”
“You don’t need to pay the Wizard anything. I can get us home.” Then Lu added, “With a little recuperation.”
“The Wizard has already healed me,” the Sharkwoman said.
“And we don’t want to renege on the Wizard,” Tug said. “That can be dangerous.”
“That is true,” Lu reluctantly admitted. “We don’t want to anger the Wizard. Fine, then, let’s go retrieve the horn.”
“You mean, this?” Werz held an object in his hand the approximate size and shape of a banana.
“You should give that to me,” Tug said, reaching for the horn. “It can be dangerous in the wrong hands.”
Werz stepped back. “That’s why I’ll be holding on to it.”
Tug glanced at the rest of us, then sneered, angrily. “If that’s what you want, shadoweater. Hold it. What do I care? I guess we better be on our way then, shouldn’t we?”
to be continued…