Hello internet friends – Kris here!
Whew! It’s been quite a delay since our last entry. Tina and I have taken up going to the gym, lots of crafting projects, and other general non-keeping up our blog type things. This is pretty sad though and I’ve been wanting to get into a serialized story to help polish my skills whilst my super-long-take-20-years-to-finish novel is in the works. It’s a working title.
So here’s the first chapter of what I hope to be at least 15-20 chapters of the story of Leliana, a feisty girl who generally likes to shoot first and ask questions never.
Chapter 1: The Swipe
Leliana stalked between the rows of jagged teeth. A shadow slinking in the darkness. The gargantuan demophant had more than enough teeth to hide her approach, still, it would hurt her pride to be discovered prematurely. It wasn’t difficult to find a hiding place among the reeking yellowed spikes. She took a moment to breathe slowly, coiling her muscles, ready to spring into action the moment she heard her cue.
There was a team of stocky men with picks and machetes and shovels flailing away at the back of the creature’s throat. She visualized them now; marking their progress over the last 2 hours, she’d stowed her spyglass and headed in when she realized they were basically done.
“AH HA!” A gruff cry of delight, followed by a sickening squelch and rushing air.
Palming three sleep bombs, she vaulted off a few teeth larger than she was and scattered the explosives to surround the small party. Using her own pick, she suspended herself from the roof of the dead demophants’ mouth to get a better view. A yelp escaped from the mercenary hired for protection as one of the bombs hit him square in the mouth, the other two landing behind a group of idling specialists and the actual diggers in the very act of freeing the creatures’ first heart. Everyone froze and turned to face the burly guy nursing a loose tooth.
Woops, bad habit.
The mercenary was the first to react, eyes bulging as he noted the object which had smacked him a second ago and shrugging a large metal shield into his left hand, right hand instinctively grasping the small arm at his side. One of the specialists cowered as he pulled his colleague in front of him with a whimper, the latter yelling in outrage and wrenching himself free to throw himself backward, hands protecting his head. The dig team recoiled against the inner wall of the throat of the monster they were performing their macabre surgery upon, one fellow falling into the breach they had just opened up with a cry.
Leliana found an odd glee in allowing a second of realization before actually springing herself on her prey. She waited, all eyes on the bombs. When nothing happened, the mercenary called for everyone to get out of the mouth as quickly as possible, leading the charge. The other dozen or so men scrambled to follow, slipping back and forth on the slimy tongue.
Tapping the detonator on her wrist against the ceiling, she set the bombs to spewing shrapnel and sleeping poison in a large radius, simultaneously creating a haze of fog. The mercenary slumped to the floor mid-stride, most everyone else following suite. She shook the pick free, folding and storing it in her belt on the fall down. She landed on the unfortunate mercenary who’d been riddled with spikes full of the potent poison and took the opportunity to toss his gun among the creatures’ teeth. Even if it took only a minute to find, that was a minute not chasing her down. She leapt between a few of the specialists, sliding and hopping over the diggers into the tight quarters of the first heart’s chamber.
Allowing herself to slide around the unconscious brute to the opposite side of the chamber, she unclasped a thin, flexible knife and filleted the human head-sized chunk of metal that was the power source to the first heart from the wall. Stowing it inside the lead-laced canvas bag on her back, Leliana tied the bag quickly and slid back out the entrance of the cavernous mouth.
She lowered herself to the ground and snuck back through the workers’ camp, lifting a few bombs from a sleeping guards’ belt. He probably wouldn’t find enough work to use them after today anyway. The stealthy rogue spent a few moments scattering the collected firearms into the underbrush surrounding the clearing; they were too trashy for her to bog herself down with, but they were still deadly enough not to want them close at hand when this lot woke from their bad dream. The ground beneath her trembled, a distant thunder caught her breath.
Holy scrap that was close. She vaulted into the nearest tree and raised herself high enough to make out the towering monster slowly walking in her direction. Seeing a living demophant took her breath away every time, and she took a moment to admire that monstrosity crashing in her direction. The fact that each tooth was only about as big as she was gave evidence to this one’s young age. The single, wide fluorescent green eye fixated hungrily on the corpse below. Time to go.
They could only see irradiated plants and animals so she wasn’t afraid of being seen or eaten. They bunched their fat, serpentine bodies and bounded forward in a thundering explosion of movement which easily splintered trees and would displace an entire lake’s worth of water. Those posed a lot more of a risk. It was common knowledge they flocked to the death of their own kind, feasting on the body for days. It was also common knowledge that this was a bad time to be sleeping in the mouth of the dead one. Common knowledge to her, anyway. There was only one close enough to worry about for now though, and that was easy enough to work around. She dropped to the forest floor, setting a brisk pace for herself opposite the direction of the still living carnivore.
Two hours later she was facing a problem.
A large clearing full of people seemed to be a makeshift trade camp. She’d been planning to head to Imperious or Triad or some other city to sell off her stolen prize, but if she could get rid of it now there’d be no reason to stuff herself into one of those terrible places. The crowds, the smells. The guards. She’d almost give this thing away for a ham sandwich to be honest, it was definitely worth something, but it was also toxic and heavy. If she were being honest with herself, she only took it because someone else had been trying to get it first.
If it were a trap though. That would be real irritating.