Friday, June 1, 2018

Rapids


The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 25

Mertav grinned as he paddle the raft after the escaped prisoners. True, the situation did not turn out how the chieftain had first described it, but this was so much more interesting! He would paddle the best he’d ever paddled and impress the chief.

They rowed towards the rapids, and the raft lurched when it hit the rough waters. Mertav let out a shrill laugh. The others on the raft weren’t having as much fun.

“To the side, there’s rocks!”

“Faster, we’re losing ‘em-”

“-gotta turn back, we won’t make it-”

“Slice! Dice! Twice! Thrice!”

The raft tumbled through the tunnel, but Mertav kept an eye on the prisoners. They thought they could just barge into their home, not die, kill some of the clan (though Mertav had to admit he never liked Riba), and then steal their sinky boat? Not on his watch! Mozak grabbed his shoulder.

“Push us towards that cranny!” he shouted over the roar of the river. “We have to get off before we get dragged under!” Mertav hesitated and lifted the oar out of the water.

Zad pushed Mozak, who staggered to the back of the raft. Zad brandished her jagged knife. “No! We turn back now, we lose them! They get more people down here, then we die! We gotta kill ‘em first!” Mertav nodded excitedly and continued paddling.

“We don’t need to catch ‘em to kill ‘em!” Piece of Work (Mertav didn’t know his name, but he was known for being a real piece of work, so that’s what Mertav called him in his head) said from the front of the raft. “Get me some more pebbles to shoot!”

“We’re all out!” Mozak said. He was holding onto the raft’s mast, but turned his bag upside to show that it was empty.

Piece of Work shouted in frustration. “Then I’ll throw you!” he lunged back at Mozak, and Mertav jumped out of the way while they fought on the floor. The raft started to spin, and bumped against the side of the tunnel. Mertav and Zad managed to grab hold, but Mozak and Piece of Work rolled off into the water. Mertav yelped as he saw Mozak thump into a boulder in the middle of the tunnel. Zad quickly grabbed the oar from Mertav.

“What are you doing?! You’re going to let them get away!” she screamed. She started rowing furiously, increasing the speed of the raft so much that it started jumping whenever the tunnel dipped lower.

“Whoa,” Mertav said, “Zad, you’re gonna make us-”

“Shut up! I’m steering this thing now.”

“But we’re heading straight for-”

We’s gonna make ‘em pay! No more stupids walking through our tunnels!”

“But look, up ahead, there’s-”

“No one’s gonna call me the dumb one any more…”

“If you don’t watch out we’ll hit that-”

Would you shut up?!”

ROCK!”

Zad was about to punch Mertav, but looked ahead just in time to see the boulder that the raft smashed against, sending the goblins plunging into the depths of the rapids.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Row


The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 24

They took my daggers, otherwise I would be able to cut these ropes,” Hudtan said. The boat drifted closer to the writhing waters of the hungry, angry fish.

Anzo grunted and tensed his arms, but gave up again. “They’re too tight to break!” he complained. Gwynt was twisting and turning at the back of the rowboat, trying to slip out of his bonds. Robin just sat and tried to think.

“Could we get the fish to bite the ropes off?” she said.

“They would be more likely to just bite our wrists,” Hudtan said. Robin frowned.

She heard the revelry of the goblins turn into tumult, and watched as many of the goblins drew their weapons and moved away from the lake. She thought it might be some sort of cave beast that distracted them. She hoped it was something big enough to eat all of them, although that wouldn’t stop the fish from devouring Bedlam.

“At least we’re safe as long as we’re in the boat,” Anzo said. Robin then heard a sound like a cork being popped out of a jar. She looked down to see water squirting up from a hole in the bottom of the boat, with a cork lying next to it. As she watched, another cork popped up, creating another leak, and she realized that the bottom of their boat was covered in corks plugging various holes. A piranha head tried to poke through the most recent hole, though it couldn’t fit. The popped cork had blood coated on the bottom side, which had attracted the piranhas to push against it. Anzo grunted. “Well, that’s pretty clever, even I have to admit.”

Robin struggled against the bonds, rubbing the ropes against the side of the boat to try and fray them. They remained thick as before. She tried looking around the cavern for anything that could help, anything that might save them...and then she looked up.

“Look out!” she shouted, just as the man landed feet-first in the rowboat. The boat rocked and tilted, but Anzo threw his weight towards the higher side to stabilize. However, more water sloshed over the side. The piranhas seemed to have realized that a meal was forthcoming, and were swarming the boat.

The man who had fallen from above quickly righted himself, then started untying Gwynt’s bonds. “No time to explain!” he said. “Just get everyone free, then think of how we can escape!”

Once Gwynt was freed, he drew a dagger that had been hidden somewhere on his person. Robin held out her hands so that he could slice the ropes, then move on to Hudtan. Hudtan immediately started plugging the stoppers back in the holes. A piranha inserted its head into one just as she had her hand by it, snapping at her fingers and drawing blood. Hudtan flinched and pulled back, but Robin quickly grabbed the stopper and slammed it down on the fish’s face. She then turned to the stranger, who had stood up and started reaching for the ceiling.

“Who are you?!” she said.

He looked down at her. “What, you don’t remember clocking me two nights ago?”

Robin scooted back from him. “You’re that guard?!”

“Yes, and now I’m guarding you.” He reached again, but started to lose his balance. Anzo grabbed his shirt and pulled him back into the boat.

“What are you trying to do? Save us and then immediately send us to our deaths?” he said.

“I’m trying to reach something so we can steer the boat!” the guard said. “They didn’t give you any oars!”

Hudtan cleared her throat. “We’re about to have company,” she said. Robin and the others turned from their conversation to see two more boats and a raft moving towards them, each containing four or five goblins armed to the teeth with knives, clubs, and a few slingshots.

The guard nodded. “Then we’re about to commandeer a vessel. Did they leave you with any weapons at all?”

“I’ve got a couple,” Gwynt said. He handed another dagger to Hudtan.

“Hey, I want one,” Anzo said.

Hudtan smiled. “I can use it better. You’ve got your huge fists.”

One of the goblin rowboats got close enough for a barrage of thrown daggers and rocks shot from slings to wash over them. Robin ducked under the cover of the lip of the boat, just as a dagger sunk itself into the side. She reached over and tugged it out.

Gwynt dodged the attacks almost effortlessly, then jumped up onto the edge of the boat and immediately flung himself over to the other. The goblins, not expecting such a retaliation, shielded their faces as Gwynt’s dagger went about its work of slicing them down. One of the goblins at the back was able to charge forward with a blade pointed straight at Gwynt’s gut. He was stopped by a dagger entering his throat. Gwynt turned to Hudtan. “Very good aim!”

“Thank you,” Hudtan said. “I want my dagger back though.”

Gwynt threw the goblin bodies overboard, ducking from more projectiles shot and thrown from the other vessels. He grabbed one of the oars and started rowing the boat closer to their sinking one.

A piranha managed to jump over the now dangerously low side of the damaged rowboat, landing in the water that continued to rise at the bottom. Robin kicked at it, then scrambled away from it as it snapped back at her. The boat tilted again, threatening to turn over.

Gwynt got the stolen boat close enough that Hudtan could jump over. Robin tried to stand and balance long enough to follow suit, but the turbulence threw her back to the floor. Anzo grabbed her arm and hoisted her to her feet, while Chester swapped boats as well. Hudtan had already picked one of the dead goblins dry of weapons. Robin flinched and yelped as another dagger went flying past her face. Anzo picked her up and tossed her to Gwynt just as the boat reached its filling point and sank underneath the surface of the water. Gwynt caught Robin, deftly turned to deposit her on the floor of the new boat, then extended the oar out for Anzo to grab. He yanked hard, almost pulling Gwynt off his balance, but then Anzo’s thick fingers curled around the rim of the boat and he pulled himself up. Once he was on the rowboat, he smiled.

“There! That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Hudtan pointed down. He looked to where she indicated, seeing a piranha latched tightly to his lower leg. Anzo grabbed a dagger lying in the boat and stabbed it, removing it from his leg and tossing it back into the water. Robin saw some of the other piranhas follow where it landed to gobble up the remains.

“We still have two more groups to deal with, and they’ve almost got us surrounded,” the guard said. He dodged another slingshot bullet. “If we try to go back to the shore they’ll ram us for sure.”

“Sure, the shore,” Anzo said. “But we’re not going back to the shore. Gwyntmarwolaeth, hand me one of those oars!”

“There are too many to take at once!” the guard shouted, panic creeping into his voice. Robin suspected he hadn’t thought past the part where he almost landed on her.

“This river’s got to go somewhere,” Anzo said, taking the second oar from Gwynt. “Let’s find out where!”

Robin looked to the far end of the lake, opposite from where the river entered it. The light from the goblins’ torches didn’t reach that far. But if she strained her ears past the yammering of the goblins, she could make out the sound of rushing water in that direction. The boat started moving as Gwynt and Anzo rowed.

“With me, Gwyntmarwolaeth,” Anzo said. “Row! Row! Row!”

“Yes, row! Um, row…”

“You’re off rhythm!”

“Music was my worst subject!” Gwynt said. The guard groaned and grabbed the oar, falling into time with Anzo’s rowing.

A goblin shouted a battle cry. Robin turned to see it flying through the air, having been apparently launched by its allies. It landed on the far end of their boat, then drew two short swords and screamed. Hudtan flipped herself around to push it off, but it jumped at her and forced her to parry with her own weapon. The goblin’s blows came quick, and there wasn’t enough room in the goblin-sized craft for Gwynt to assist. Hudtan swiped her dagger back and forth, blocking each attack, but Robin could see the perspiration start to form on her forehead.

The rushing water grew louder as they approached the other end of the lake, and the boat started moving faster. “Wow,” Robin said, “you guys are really getting the hang of this rowing stuff.”

“It’s not us,” Anzo said. He was paddling furiously, trying to get the boat aligned properly, but not in a way that would move it forward as fast as it was going. Robin looked around in the dwindling light and realized that the lake deposited out into another river, but this one was narrow, steeper, and moving far too fast for a little rowboat holding five people.

The boat lurched, causing the goblin to lose his balance. Hudtan had braced herself in the nick of time, and punched it as soon as it faltered. The goblin lost its balance entirely, falling backwards into the rushing current. Hudtan then turned back to the others. “You’re steering us into rapids?!”

“It’s our only escape!” Anzo whined.

The guard was silent, gritting his teeth as he tried to keep the boat from spinning out of control. Robin realized she had ended up at the front, sitting up against the bow. She watched as the cavern seemed to tilt away from her. Gwynt and Hudtan grabbed each other and yelled. Robin involuntarily opened her mouth and joined them.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Diversion


The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 23

What have I got myself into, Chester wondered as he trekked down the tunnel, following the underground river beneath the town. At first, he could barely see the thieves from the light that leaked down through the well, but soon he was relying on the sounds of their voices and footsteps, trying to strain his ears past the bubbling of the river. He hadn’t brought a torch, since he just planned on staying in the market square, but he wouldn’t have dared to light it anyway in case they spotted him. However, by the speed they were moving, he thought they might have noticed him anyway.

Then Chester heard fighting. He slipped behind a rock, but heard one of the thieves shout “Goblins!” Chester held his breath and his heart nearly skipped a beat. Goblins living underneath the town was a huge risk to everyone in Fannen-Dar. How long have they been here, and what are they planning? Not that goblins were known to plan, but they weren’t known to keep quietly to themselves either.

It wasn’t long before Chester saw the light from the chieftain’s cold-torch and heard the fighting stop. His stomach dropped when he heard a swell of goblin cheers, and realized that he had been rooting for the thieves. At least he knew what he had to do to stop thieves. Now, he needed to scope out this new threat.

Chester, thankful that he wasn’t wearing his noisy armor, followed the goblins on the edge of the light. The woman who had punched him turned and looked back at him, and he froze. He thought about hiding behind a stalagmite, but also considered trying to get her attention in order to let her know that help was on the way. But why should he help such scoundrels? Before he could decide, she got tugged by a goblin and turned back to follow their march. She hadn’t even seen him. Chester gritted his teeth and continued to sneak behind the group.

The goblins took the group back towards the river, following it until it joined another stream, then another. At this point, the river was several yards wide, and had eroded the tunnel to be a wide cavern with smooth, slick walls. The chieftain had started a chant, and the other goblins joined in to sing as they marched. They seemed jovial, and the rowdy group reminded Chester of a festival parade, except with the addition of prisoners being dragged along.

The cavern grew wider, and Chester saw an eerie glow ahead. He ducked back when he saw where the goblins were taking the thieves. The river led to a huge, swirling lake that seemed to be emitting dim light. They marched along the shore, around an outcropping of rock where Chester lost sight of them. He scanned the area, his eyes having adjusted to the miniscule amount of light available, and saw that there was a cliff that rose above the lake parallel to the direction the goblins had gone.

Chester considered what his plan was. Was there even anything to learn from spying on the goblins? Their presence endangered the city, as they clearly intended on capturing any other people they came across. Those thieves were vastly outnumbered, and even if they were able to take the goblins by surprise, a fight would likely not go their way. If Chester left now and brought the threat to the attention of the guards, they would surely take it seriously. Ignatius may want to help out the Firemen to line his pockets, but he’d gain nothing from aiding a tribe of outsiders. On the other hand, if he left now, the thieves would likely not survive.

He sighed. It was his duty to try and save them, even if they were lawbreakers. He had to face it, everyone in Fannen-Dar was a lawbreaker to some extent. If he wanted to protect the town’s citizens, these four should be no different.

After waiting until the voices had gotten farther away, Chester started to climb the narrow jut up to the cliff. He hoped the light would not reveal him, or if it did, that the goblins would be too focused on their captives to look up.

A rock fell loose and his hand slipped, almost sending him over the edge and into the lake. His arm hooked onto a stalagmite, and the rock plunked into the water with an echoing gulp. Chester also let out a gasp when he slipped, so once he had stabilized, he looked up towards the goblins. None seemed to have noticed him. He let go a silent sigh of relief, then continued climbing.

From here, Chester could see the chieftain watching over a gang of goblins tying the thieves up and forcing them into a small rowboat. The chieftain started to give a speech in Goblin, while two more dressed in fish scale armor threw scraps of food as far as they could into the lake. Chester watched as the glow that came from the lake intensified. Dozens of luminescent fish came to the surface, drawn by the scent of the meat scraps. Chester saw one leap above the surface, and saw it was a piranha with razor sharp teeth and spots of glowing skin among its scales. It devoured a chunk of feed. The chieftain finished his speech and the goblins cheered and laughed. Three of them pushed the rowboat containing the bound thieves so that it started floating aimlessly into the center of the lake, where the piranhas were impatiently waiting.

The thieves struggled, but could not escape their bonds. Chester instinctively put his hand to his side, but his sword and sheath were sitting at home. He surveyed the scene again, and realized he only had one option. He grabbed another loose rock, one as big as his fist, and brought himself up onto his knees. Chester threw the rock with all his strength, sending it flying over the goblins’ heads and towards a tunnel entrance at the other end of the cavern.

The rock clattered into the wall, and broke into smaller pieces, but caused enough of a sound that several of the goblins heard. Their heads turned quickly towards the noise and they suddenly grabbed their weapons. One called back to the chieftain, who also tensed. A small group divided off to investigate the source of the noise.

It was the perfect diversion. Chester stood up and took a step back from the ledge. One of the goblin mooks noticed him, and started trying to call back the scouts who just left. It was too late, though; Chester had already jumped.