A hand, a large hand enveloped my own and began pulling at me, pulling me up. But the tendrils stayed wrapped tightly around me. The hand was pulling me up, the tendrils were pulling me down and that left me frozen, stuck in the mouth-like hole at the bottom of the cave.
It was Crag! He had leapt to save me. And even more miraculously, he had managed to catch me before I had completely vanished down the hole. I had been so sure he was going to be too late. But here he was, holding my hand, pulling me with all his might. But the tendrils hadn’t given up either, they were still pulling me down. I could feel both of them tug at me. I could feel the opposing forces tear at me. It was so painful, but I held on with all I had. The other option was unthinkable.
But the tendrils weren’t going to give up so easily. I could feel their moistness slip over me, moving up my body. Thin little tendrils geow upwards towards my chest and my upper back. They wrapped around my shoulders and up my arms. I knew that whatever this creature was, it wasn’t going to give me up. It was hungry and wanted more. We were running out of options.
Then it came to me, our one way out. “Tam!”
“I don’t think she’s going to be able to reach you,” Crag said through gritted teeth.
“I know. That’s why you need to go and free them.”
“Tam! You need to free Tam! Only they can get us out of here!”
Crag glanced up behind him to the prone Tam, wrapped in tendrils, held aloft just over his head. “Are you…?”
“Just do it!” I shouted.
Reluctantly, he let go of me with one hand and reached up. He tugged at the tendrils holding Tam, but nothing happened. They wouldn’t give way. “It’s not working,” he told me.
“You have to let go of me. Completely.”
“You have to.”
“But then you’ll die.”
“I’m going to die anyways. Freeing Tam is the only way I have a shot at living. That any of us do.”
As soon as I said it, I could feel the truth in that sentence. I could feel my life’s energy leaching out of me through the tendrils. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold on for much longer, that none of us would, that it was already too late for us to try to fight back. But that red glow emanating from Tam, what I had already seen them do with that energy, I knew they could save us.
Or at least I hoped they could. We needed them to. If they still had enough energy. We had no other choice. “Do it,” I told Crag. “Free them.”
Crag reached up toward Tam, but he couldn’t reach. “You have to let me go,” I told him.
“But then it’ll pull you under.”
I could feel the tendrils squirming their way upwards, closer and closer to Crag. It was going to get him, too, and then we’d all be out of luck. “You have to do it now! We’re running out of time!”
Crag let go of my hand and I was tugged quickly down beneath the lip of the mouth. I reached out desperately to grab onto anything I could. But all there was to hold onto were the tendrils, the slick slithering tendrils. Any grip I could mange slipped out of my hands almost immediately.
I was being stuffed into the hole, into the mouth, and all seemed lost when suddenly the tendrils began to convulse wildly. I was thrown back and forth by their distressed spasms. I could tell immediately that something was wrong.
It was Crag. I could see just a bit of him through the top of the hole. But I could see that he was trying to free Tam. He was pulling violently at the tendrils wrapped around them. It must have been effective because it seemed to be hurting it. The tendrils were in pain. It was only a matter before they struck back. And then we’d all be in serious trouble.
I could see the tendrils swarm toward Crag and within seconds he disappeared from my view. I could only assume they had him. The tendrils once again wrapped around me, tighter this time. They covered nearly every inch of my body. I was completely unable to move. They pulled me downwards into the mouth. I was being consumed. There was nothing I could do to stop it.
And then came the red light. It washed over everything. It was brighter than ever before. Even with my eyes closed and the tendrils covering most of my face, I could still see it. It seeped through every crack, filled every corner. And it hurt. It hurt me, but even more than that it hurt the tendrils. It really hurt the tendrils. They began to spasm uncontrollably, shaking and convulsing. Which would have been a good thing if I hadn’t currently been in their grasp. For as much as they were tossing me back and forth, I could’ve escaped from the tendrils’ grip if only I’d had something else to grab on to.
And then a giant hand appeared. I looked up and saw Crag’s face. It took a second for him to pull me from the spasming tendrils. He lifted me up out of the mouth with ease. My eyes quickly found Tam who was sitting in a tendril-free area of burnt rock. Tam was breathing heavy and their glow was all but gone. “You all right?”
“Just great,” they said. “You?”
“Oh, yeah. Real peachy.”
I looked up to spot the others, but they weren’t up in the air anymore. The trolls had been thrown about the pit by the spasming tendrils. “We need to get the others,” I told Tam and Crag. “And we need to get out of here as soon as…”
And then the ground began to quake.
to be continued…