Monday, September 12, 2016
Glass and Roses, Chapter 12
Berit woke up to the sound of hissing and chanting. She groaned and tried to move, but her hands were tied to a pole. She was hanging from her hands and legs, being carried by two figures. One turned when he heard her awaken. He had the body of a man, but the head of a snake. He hissed and bared his fangs, then turned back to the path. Berit craned her neck to see Valdimer, Dror, and Laurence also captured.
They reached a large clearing in the jungle. Berit wondered how long it had been since they were ambushed. She barely recalled something jumping out of the bushes at her back on the road. How would they figure out how to get back? Berit shook her head, reminding herself that they needed to escape before they could worry about being lost. The snake people had stopped walking when they reached the center of the clearing, in which there was a circular pool of water about twenty-five feet across.
Great, Berit thought. We're being fed to the crocodiles. How typical. She looked over to see that Valdimer and Laurence were also awake and trying to analyze their situation. Dror was still dangling limply. He did always like to sleep in.
The snake people began a ritualistic song, and placed the poles so that the four victims were dangling fifteen feet above the surface of the water. "Okay, now would be a good time for a plan," she said, now that there were no spears being held to her throat. "Got any spells prepared, Val?"
"Yes, but I can't cast anything with my hands tied," he said.
"I've been praying since I woke up," Laurence said, "but Luck is a fickle goddess. I believe she will come through for us in the end, but it may not be as soon as we'd like."
The water stirred as the chanting grew more fevered. "We'd better come up with something soon," Valdimer said. "Before they serve the main course."
Berit wiggled her hand until it was straining against the binds, but pointed in the right direction. She then flicked her wrist in a way that unsheathed the dagger that was hidden there, and starting using it to cut through the ropes. "I'll be free soon, if they don't notice. Stall the crocs while I work."
"And then what?" Laurence asked.
"We'll figure that out when we get there."
She heard the surface of the water part below her. She started sawing faster, not looking down. It would only make her lose her focus. "Um," Valdimer said. "That's not a crocodile."
"I don't care about the difference between crocs and alligators," Berit said.
"That's not what I meant."
Berit sighed and looked down. Rising out of the water were four heads of an enormous hydra. It had glistening green scales and webbed spines, and four sets of long, pointy teeth. "I knew I shouldn't have looked!" Berit shouted, turning back to her binding.
"This is a good thing!" Laurence said.
"Are you mad?!" Valdimer shouted.
"No, listen, hydras like to play with their food! We have extra time!"
"THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING!" Valdimer said as one of the heads starting nudging him, drool dripping back into the water.
Berit freed her hand and her head fell backwards, as she was only suspended at her knees now. The snake people started hissing with displeasure, but they could not reach the victims now, and they did not want to throw spears for risk of hitting the hydra. Or maybe it was some part of the ritual that they couldn't interfere with the feeding, Berit didn't know. She tucked her body up, barely missing being chomped by the hydra, and fully unsheathed her dagger. She cut her final bonds with one slice, and stood atop the pole.
Three of the hydra's heads were focused on her now. She jumped from her pole as one shot up and bit down on it, splintering it in half. She balanced on Laurence's pole, and he shook his head. "Don't cut me, I'm still wearing my armor! I can't swim!"
"And I can't balance like that, I'd fall right into its mouth! Er, mouths," Valdimer said.
"What am I supposed to do alone?!" Berit shouted. She looked over at Dror, still somehow unconscious. She saw that his sword was still strapped to his back. She also heard an ululation from the side and quickly dodged a spear that was thrown at her.
Berit jumped onto Valdimer's pole, then Dror's, and swung down to dangle next to him. The hydra's eight eyes were all focused on her, ready to lash out. She grabbed the pommel of Dror's sword and yanked it out of its sheath. The hydra stretched up to gobble her down. She let go of the pole and dropped into the midst of its necks. She splashed to the water, and all four heads recoiled down to follow her.
There was a moment of thrashing in the water, and then silence. Then, Berit resurfaced, and three severed hydra heads bobbed up around her.
"That was very impressive!" Valdimer shouted. "Now what are we going to do about them!" The snake people were getting ready to slay the sacrifices themselves.
Berit grinned and rose from the water, her feet pushing open the last hydra's mouth as it tried to consume her. It moved higher, allowing her to jump off and land in the crowd of snake people. She brandished Dror's sword.
Dror eventually moaned and opened his eyes. He was sitting on the ground under the shade of a tree. He looked around to see that the clearing was covered with the bodies of snake people. Valdimer and Laurence were nearby, rubbing their wrists. “I knew Luck would come through for us,” Laurence said with a grin. Valdimer rolled his eyes.
"What happened?" Dror asked.
Berit smiled and handed him his sword. "Let's figure out where we are, and then I'll tell you."