All Wrapped Up with Nowhere to Go

I followed the tunnel at the bottom of the cave, moving slowly as I covered my eyes from the light streaming in from ahead, careful not to trip over anything. I ran my hand along the wall to better follow the path. It was warm and I could definitely feel some kind of vibration coming through it. Then to my great surprise, the wall moved. It almost…shivered. The light suddenly got dimmer, almost as if something were now…blocking…the…tunnel.

Oh no!

I froze as large tendrils came slithering out the tunnel toward me. As they came nearer, I swung around and ran awayy as fast I could. But it turned out, I was too slow. The tendrils had already caught me, snaking around me, tangling me, binding me. I tried to fight it, tried to slip free. I tried to climb out, to punch my way out, to push my way out, but it was no use. I couldn’t escape their grip.

Bound tight, the tendrils pulled me back down the tunnel. The tendrils carried me quickly deeper toward the reddish light. The tunnel came to an end at a massive cave. It had to be at least a quarter of the width of the entire island, if not more, and it went down…

Beneath me was the red glow. It was so bright it took me a couple minutes for my eyes to adjust, all while the tendrils brought me further into the room. Even as my eyes were getting used to the bright light, I could see there were other thick tendrils moving about in the massive cave. Slowly, I began to be able to see that the closest one to me was holding onto something. Holding onto…someone! It was Domoban! I could tell those piercings from anywhere! He, too had had been caught in the grip of the tendrils.

But where was Crag? I turned my head so I could see the other tendrils undulating in the air. Some of them were just writhing unencumbered, but some of them weren’t. Some of them were holding people. My eyes were adjusted enough that I could see it was the other trolls! They were all here! There was Crag and Toleuk! And there was the Sheriff! It was all of them! But we were all ensnared by these tendrils and it seemed no one could get out. Some of us were down lower than others. I had to imagine that that was not a good, that the closer they got to the bottom of the pit the worse things were for them. At the bottom of the pit was the source of the bright red light and I couldn’t imagine it would go for anyone.

“Sheriff!” I yelled at the top of lungs so I could be heard over the vast distance. I could hear my voice echo back. “Do you know where we are? What has us? What’s going on?”

The Sheriff’s head moved slowly toward me, but he said nothing.

“They’re out of it!” Crag yelled to me. “None of them will say…anything. And I’m feeling a bit…a bit drained as well.”

“It’s the tendrils,” I told him, though he must’ve realized that himself. “They must be draining our energy, feeding off of us! We have to get free of them!”

“Yeah? But how?”

That was an excellent question, I thought. Struggling against the tendrils had given me no results. Not to mention that the Trolls were much stronger than I was, if any of us were going to muscle our way out it wasn’t going to be me. “Do you have any weapons?” I asked him.

“On me?”

“Of course on you.”

“No.“

“Nothing you can use to free yourself?”

Crag took a second to look. “No,” he said.

I had no weapons on me either. Things have been too chaotic lately to gear up. But maybe I still had something that could be used. Maybe in a shoe or in a pocket, if only I could get to them. Not that I had anything in there that I thought could be much help, nothing sharp. No knives, no blades, not even a pin. I almost laughed at the thought of stabbing these thick tendrils with a tiny pin. But of course a pin, I conceded, might actually be something I could get to as it most likely wouldn’t be trapped in one of my pockets, but instead it would probably be attached to my shirt…just like…“Your badge!” I yelled.

“Huh?”

“Your badge! You can use it to get yourself free!”

“How’m I gonna do that?”

“By stabbing it with it!”

Crag looked at his badge and grasped it as if it were precious, then, looking around at our predicament, he must have realized we had no other choice. Crag pulled the metal badge off of his shirt and stabbed down hard with it into the flesh of the tendril. It responded immediately. The thing began to shake violently. Crag tried to hold on, but he couldn’t fight it as it threw him across the cavern.

“Crag!” I yelled, my voice echoing across the chasm. I heard the thud of him slamming into the far wall and watched as he slid down. “Crag!” I called as loudly as I could. “Crag! Can you hear me? Are you all right? Crag!”

But there was no answer. He wasn’t moving.

to be continued…

Frank and the B-Team

I definitely was feeling like I got stuck with the B team. Our team dynamic wasn’t exactly filling me with much confidence as we started walking down the beach. I glanced back at the retreating sheriff and his two deputies and I wished I could’ve gone with them. Instead I was stuck with Domoban Rosef the well-pierced cobbler and Crag, the deputy he couldn’t get along with. This was going to go well.

Surprisingly we weren’t immediately attacked by any crazed beasts or giant monsters. There weren’t any traps around to harm us. Domoban and Crag even got along. If ‘got along’ could mean ‘stayed quiet and didn’t interact with each other’.

Even more shocking, it seemed as if we had managed to reach the other side of the island without incident, not one thing tried to kill us. We didn’t find Gnomenasher either, so it wasn’t all good news. Plus, the others hadn’t arrived. “Maybe we’re not there yet,” Domoban said.

“It is hard to be sure,” Crag agreed. “It’s not as if there’s any real way to tell besides eyeballing it. Just to be sure, we should keep going.”

So we kept going, but no matter how far we went there was still no sign of them. “We must’ve crossed halfway by now,” I said.

“We might not have,” Crag said.

“Maybe the sheriff found Gnomenasher and decided to circle back?” Domoban suggested.

“Without sending someone to tell us?” I asked. “I doubt it.”

“Yeah,” Crag agreed. “The Sheriff wouldn’t do that.”

“Maybe they got held up?” I offered hearing the worry in Crag’s voice.

“Held up by what?” Domoban asked.

“I’m just saying, I’m sure they’re fine. That we shouldn’t worry.”

“Who’s worrying?” He replied making it very clear that the answer to that question was him.

“I am,” Crag said, starting to walk quickly down the beach. “We should keep going. They might need us.”

“Need us? Need us to what?”

“Save them! What else do you think? They could be in trouble and they might need us to save them!”

Domoban looked around as if he might find someone besides just the three of us. “Us? Save them? How would we manage to do that?”

“We’re trolls, Domoban. We do what we have to when we have to save the people we care about. That’s what we do.”

“Yeah, but we’re just us. They had the Sheriff. We have a little wee man. I don’t know what could’ve stopped the Sheriff that we could beat.”

“What happened to the Domoban that rushed foolhardily into the forest trying to save all the rest of us?”

“But those were just little things.”

“You didn’t know that when you ran in.”

“I guess,” Domoban admitted. “But you guys were in trouble, I heard you screaming.”

“And they could be in trouble now. It’s time to go rushing in foolhardily and save them, Domoban. Do you think you can do that?”

The cobbler nodded. “Yeah. I think I can.”

“Then let’s go do it!”

Crag and Domoban began to ran down the shoreline and I did my best to keep up. It was not easy. Not only did they have much longer strides than I did, but their feet also kicked up a lot of sand. I had to cover my face as I ran. When the sand eventually stopped hitting my face, I opened my eyes expecting to see I had caught up to them or that they had stopped. Instead, it turned out I had fallen way behind. I tried to run faster so I could catch up, but that was pointless. They were just too fast for me.

“Hey!” I yelled. “Wait for me!”

After a few minutes of yelling, they finally heard me and came to stop. “What are you doing back there?” Crag yelled back. “Hurry up! We need to get going. If the Sheriff is in danger, we can’t waste time with you screwing around.”

“Screwing around?” I huffed. “You’re twice my…”

But that was as far as I got because that was when I noticed something coming up behind them. “Twice our what?” Crag asked.

“Look out! Behind you!” I yelled, but I was too late. Tendrils reached out to them, wrapping around them. Crag and Domoban screamed as they were pulled backwards.

I tried to run faster to save them, but I was already at a sprint and quickly nearing exhaustion. The trolls fought against the tendrils as best they could, but they couldn’t stop from being pulled down backwards toward a large gaping hole. They tried to grab a hold of something, but all they came away with was sand. I dove to reach them, but I was too late. All I managed to catch was a face full of sand. They were gone, pulled down into the pit.

I couldn’t save them. I was too slow.

to be continued…

Attack of the Cabbage Monster!

I kept rowing, as fast as I dared. We were moving, but not fast enough. The giant cabbage monster kept moving toward us, slowly getting closer. There was nothing I could do! It was going to catch up to us! There wasn’t much I could do and the Sharkwoman was still unconscious. My paddle was all but dissolved. I threw what remained of it at the monster. It didn’t even flinch as the root bounced off its head. I went in search of more roots, better ones, stronger ones. I threw the lesser ones at the approaching monster, but it kept coming closer.

Then it was up at the shore and the island wobbled as the monster climbed up. The island tipped because the creature was so large. I slid toward its mouth. I tried to grab for something to stop me, but all there was to grab were the broken roots. So, I held onto one and went leaping at the monster. I stabbed it in the eye and it began to shake violently. I was tossed back onto the island, but the island was shaking beneath me.

The monster retreated back into the acid and when it emerged the root was gone, eaten away. Now, the monster was angry! Now, it was looking for revenge! I didn’t wait for it to attack. With roots in hand, I struck first! Thrusting, stabbing, thwacking, it barely seemed to have an effect. The monster bared its teeth and came after me, rocking the island, knocking me off balance. I also had to watch out for the acid dripping off its body.

I couldn’t retreat. There was nowhere to go. The Sharkwoman was counting on me! She had saved me so many times. It was my turn to save her.

The monster opened it’s mouth wide and I stabbed it with a root up into it’s palate. It screamed horribly and I backed away. Done screaming, out if breath, it closed it’s mouth. I could see the creature’s eyes go large with surprise. It opened its mouth to scream.

When it opened its mouth, I could see the root had been lodged up higher in it’s skull. The monster began to thrash about wildly. The island began to shake about. The Sharkwoman was rolling around. I grabbed her to keep her from rolling into the acid or being splashed. I sat huddled against her, away from the monster, away from the acid, until the creature stopped thrashing about. It lay completely still. Was it dead? I wondered.

I slowly got up with a large root in my hand and cautiously walked toward it. Careful step by careful step, I slowly got closer, expecting that monster to jump at me at any second. I reached out with my root and poked it, then poked it again. It didn’t move. Maybe it really was dead.

I looked at the island. It had shrunk to half the size it had been. I was beginning to doubt it’d last the whole way to shore. But what choice did I have? We were on a lake of acid, there was nowhere else to go. It’s not like I had options. The island was dissolving. The roots were dissolving. Everything was dissolving!

…Except the monster. The monster wasn’t dissolving…

I stepped toward the monster and nudged it with a root, then when it didn’t move I whacked it. I poked it in it’s mouth. I poked it in the eye. It wasn’t moving. It really was dead. That meant we really could ride it to shore.

Tearing off a few strips from my dress, leaving me more or less just in my underwear, I tied some of the roots together and threw it over the monster like a saddle. With quite a bit of effort, I hefted the Sharkwoman up onto the saddle. The island was shrinking fast, she wouldn’t have fit much longer. I tied the last few remaining roots together to create a paddle and then carefully climbed up on the monster and began rowing to shore.

The last few dozen yards to the shore we made without a paddle. Fortunately, we had enough momentum to get us the rest of the way. Almost too much momentum, since when we hit the shore we were almost knocked off the monster. I was able to stabilize myself quickly enough. It was harder to keep the Sharkwoman from sliding off and even harder to lift her up and get her to shore. I may have had to toss her there. She groaned when she hit the ground, but she didn’t wake up so I figured everything was ok.

Or at least as ok as they could be. She still had some horrible looking cuts, she still hadn’t woken up, and we were still trapped inside the Wall of No Return. Tug was nowhere to be found and he probably had no idea where we were and neither did I. The only choice I had was to keep going forward.

I pulled the saddle off the monster and put the Sharkwoman on it, hoping that it would make it easier to transport her. Unfortunately, the acid had weakened it to the point where I only managed a few steps before the saddle broke into tiny pieces. It looked like I had no choice. I was going to have to carry her.

I tried to pick her up, but I couldn’t get far. My muscles were hurting from rowing, from running, from fighting. I was so tired. I decided to take a seat and try to take a breath. That’s when I realized how hungry I was, how thirsty. I didn’t know if I’d have the strength to go on. And that was when I heard the sound of something coming near.

to be continued…

The Monsters in the Wall

He rushed off and all we could do was try to follow. Tug leapt about like a grasshopper on speed. I couldn’t keep up. The Sharkwoman grabbed me because I was slowing her down. She rushed off chasing after him, but just when she started to catch up the floor roots began to thrash at us. The Sharkwoman dodged them easily enough. Tug even easier. But then we heard the growl.

And then the shadows moved.

A monster jumped from the shadow. Or…no. The shadow was the monster! It was a monster of shadows! The Sharkwoman had to dodge so quickly I fell from her grip. She caught me with one hand, but the shadows moved in on us! The Sharkwoman dropped me as she morphed into a giant shark. “Run!” she snarled, her word barely understandable.

I ran with all the speed I could muster as the shadow monsters emerged from everywhere. I ran wildly, only thinking of escape, but then the Sharkwoman let out a pained scream that brought me to a standstill. I watched as the shadow monsters surrounded her, tearing at her skin. I had to help her!

I ran to one of the writhing roots and snapped off its end. I hurled the root at the monsters, momentarily earning me their full attention. In that short break, the Sharkwoman shrunk back to her smaller more humanish form. The Sharkwoman swam toward me and together we ran from the shadow monsters, but they were close behind us!

We barely got thirty feet before the Sharkwoman suddenly collapsed. I could see her wounds, deep blackish cuts, but I had no time to tend to them the shadow creatures were coming upon us quickly. I threw her onto my shoulder and began to ran. She was heavy and my body was only so strong, but I wasn’t going to be caught. I couldn’t!

But despite my determination, her weight knocked me off balance. I stumbled and tried to keep on my feet, but instead I went tumbling into a pile of roots. The shadow monsters came closer and closer. I tried to get up, but as I rose I heard the roots snap beneath my feet. I didn’t dare look up. I didn’t want to see the monsters coming upon us. I could only move as fast as I could move, so I focused all my attention on the Sharkwoman. She wasn’t moving, so I would have to pick her up. I started to lift her, but she was so heavy. I heard the roots snap and crack beneath us. Just when I thought I might be able to hold her and get away, the roots gave away and we began to fall down a deep hole!

We plummeted, further and further down. We fell further than I thought we had climbed up the stairs. It was much too far. And tt was not a smooth fall. It was a windy path. We were bounced back and forth off of roots and stones and who knew what else. And then with a hard thud it came to end. We were at the bottom with no way to get back up to where we had been and very little desire to do so. At least down here, the shadows weren’t trying to kill us.

My body was hurting, but I slowly climbed to my feet. I looked down at the Sharkwoman. “Hey,” I said, but she didn’t say anything back. She didn’t even move. I tapped her on the shoulder, then when that did nothing I shook her. “Hey! Get up!” Sadly, I came to the conclusion that the Sharkwoman was not going to be getting up.

I checked her wounds. They were many and deep. The cuts were dark and oozing. Was that how sharkpeople bled? Or was this just as bad as it looked?

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much I could do for her. My clothes were in such tatters that if I tried to make bandages I’d be completely naked. And even then I would have barely even managed to start to cover up her many wounds. I needed to find another way to help her. One that could actually be of help. I looked around and saw that we were on a small island. An island meant water! If there was water, I could clean her wounds!

I rushed to the beach, but before I stepped in I saw a root sitting in the water, smoking. That was not water! Whatever it was, it seemed to be acidic. I obviously couldn’t use that to clean the Sharkwoman’s wounds. And now I had a new problem, how was I going to get us out of here? The Sharkwoman could probably have flown us out of here, but she was out cold. I couldn’t jump back to the hole above us, it was too high, and there was acid all around us. She was dying. It was only a matter of time until I joined her.

The only thing at hand were the broken roots that had fallen with me. Perhaps I could make something with them? A boat? A ladder? I picked up a small root and went to see how quickly the acid would eat through it. That was when I noticed the acid was eating the island. I grabbed a root and tried to use it to see how deep the acid was, but as I started to lean over the island began to lean as well!

I jumped back. The island rocked back into place. How could it rock? It couldn’t be attached to anything for it to be able to do that. We weren’t trapped on an island, we were on a boat! A quickly dissolving boat, but a boat nonetheless. That meant we could move! I grabbed one of the larger roots and began paddling. I aimed for what I thought was a shore when I noticed bubbles starting to rise from the acid.

At first I thought they were from my rowing, I hoped that they were, but the bubbles were too far away and they were getting larger. It was almost as if there was something underneath coming up to the surface. I tried to row faster, but I was only on one side so I was careful not to start us spinning in a circle. Plus, I didn’t want to splash myself.

The bubbles came faster and grew larger. I saw the shadow coming up from the bottom. It was coming up and coming up fast! And then it burst onto the surface. It looked like a massive cabbage, a massive cabbage with very large teeth!

to be continued…