Just Like 2012 But Not

I guess it was inevitable that things would take a turn for the worse. Even though it seemed unlikely to begin with, somehow the Girl and I managed to at last cross paths. Yet no sooner were we finally starting to entertain the notion of a conversation (or smooches) than our first (and hopefully not last) opportunity vanished. And when I say vanished, I actually mean "was eaten". But I get ahead of myself.

I've gotten ahead of myself before. Never drink and time travel.

Let's rewind a bit: we're on top of the tower. I'd just said, "Hey" and was grinning like a big doofus (no, that doesn't mean what you think it means. The doofus is a noble creature; I specifically imitated its grin because I knew the Girl was some sort of Druid, and thus I needed to impress her with my knowledge of animal lore), when suddenly we heard the unmistakable beeping of an electromagnetic pulse grenade. A platoon of bowelbears was hut-hut-huting their way up the stairs, and one had just chucked the bomb around the corner. It rolled up to our feet.

I immediately shouted for the Girl to take cover, and mumbled a spell to activate my absorptive shield. It should've allowed me to drain the energy from the blast and transform it into mana. Unfortunately, the lone EMP grenade was soon among friends; the bowelbears tossed a few more explosives into the room, probably for good measure. I didn't recognize the others.

Time for plan B. I grabbed the Girl's hand--she already seemed to know what I was thinking. The vine coiled itself around her like a belt, and we jumped.

But we jumped too late. The EMP went first, and although I deflected and consumed its energy, the vacuum it created pulled the other grenades toward us, which--if you know anything about grenades--is seriously not good. Whatever was in them knocked us flying at high speed, and off we went.

The sounds of battle faded rapidly, for obvious reasons. Our salvation from a splattery demise on the dragon floor turned out to be the faithful vine. As we tumbled head over heels into love (and through the air), we passed by a number of dangling structures. The vine lashed out, snagging one and immediately slowing our flight. But alas! The poor vine became lodged against whatever it'd grabbed, and we lost it. The Girl and I continued forward, crashing through a few membranes before finally coming to a halt.

I'll accelerate the tale from here. The vine didn't return, so I assumed it injured or lost. I couldn't go looking for it because the Girl had taken the brunt of an influenza grenade and was desperately ill. Instead I fortified the area as best I could, made a fire, and tended to her. A nearby treasure deposit provided clothing and supplies--did you know I almost went to the Occult University? They were shut down at the last minute. Something about vampiric cucumbers filled with sunlight. Can't remember now.

Three days went by. The Girl and I had numerous meaningful conversations, or at least we did in my head, because all she could do was murmur "fair-trade" and "organic" in reply to any query. But it was enough to be near her. Her hair was long and tangled. She wore simple pirate garb, and looked healthy considering the artificial disease that had incapacitated her.

She woke up free of infection on the third day, as I slept. I found her curled up against me.

It was a pretty nice moment.

But as I said, this perfect opportunity slipped away in an instant. I'd finally concocted the perfect opening line--"So, what's a nice girl like you doing in a dragon like this?"--and was about to say it, when suddenly the hot air shook with an all-too-familiar roar. A dragon's roar.

The flap of massive wings. A flash of scales. Huge teeth. A warm tongue, and a steaming mouth. Tumbling, turning, spinning, sliding. Darker darkness than the darkness to which I'd already become accustomed. The Girl shouting, and her hand slipping from mine.

Ugh, not again.




When we last saw our heroes, they were standing atop a scale model of the Eiffel tower, alit like a giant candle celebrating the passing of spirits from one realm to another. The air was thick with dust and sound. Yet it was not the tickle of pollen that made their mouths smile and their eyes water. Nor was it the stench of digestive fluid and the death all about them that made their stomachs flip circles within their tired bodies. And the sparks between them, those first sparks of love and hope, did not originate at the Guy's fingertips, nor from the EMP that had been attached to the top of the tower by a Bowelbear sorcerer. Wait, what? An EMP?!


I don't remember how I made it out of that tower, but I do remember the aching in my skull as the sounds from the battle subsided. For the dragon's next three digestive cycles I experienced nothing but migraines and fever dreams--waking up only long enough to see that the Guy was there and Viney was not. We were in some warm, closed area of the beast, and he had a small fire going.

But I digress.

First dates are awkward. I often find myself at a first date, drinking a cruelty-free hemp half-caff cappuccino (free-trade espresso of course) trying to figure out if he's a worshipper of the Lady of the Green Star or a Belieber without directly asking. It always starts with "so, have you heard any good songs lately? Any totally lame 'heartthrob' Canucks?" and ends with him trying to serenade me with "One Less Lonely Girl" and me casting a boiling spell on his cafe americano.

Of course, dating in a dragon is a different story entirely. I once heard of a couple who would climb dragons and fly on them during dates--so that's the closest comparison I have. They either ended up getting scorched or hitched--I can never remember.

Anyway, I was pondering all of these things while undergoing my delirious recovery, perhaps taking a little longer to awaken than I needed. We could go treasure hunting together for the third date... Maybe we will find a cask of wine and have a romantic flarynx-lit drink? Long walks are sort of dangerous, but maybe he'll be good at skipping coins across the acid pools? That would be a good second date... But the instant I wake up, there I am on my first date without a plan, a wing-man, or a Scroll of My Friend Has an Emergency and I Have to Go Now.

Oh Gods.

I opened one eye, and there he was. He was dozing near the fire, light dancing across his serene face and playing shadow-puppets on the wall.  His dirty hair curled just a little, and his nose was slightly too big for his face. He looked comical in an over sized sweatshirt from the Occult University (not accredited), and I couldn't help but giggle a little when I saw that he was holding an old helmet that contained the remains of a meal.

Oh what am I so worried about, this is the Guy I've been searching for. I slid myself up next to him and fell asleep to his steady breathing.

My final thought as I melted into his warmth was: what could possibly go wrong?

I was about to find out.

-Girl inside a dragon


Bowelstille Day

It was a mess out there. Quite literally a mess. I mean, I was expecting a gruesome sight, but this was just untidy. The pirates had upset trash bins and broken windows. They were scattering debris about with reckless abandon. The tribes, meanwhile, were doing all they could to fight through intense sneezing and coughing. The acrid air was misty with pollen.

“This your doing?” I asked the vine, not expecting an answer. It shook. I drew my sword and began searching for my ticket out: the Girl. I scampered into an alley and used a discarded grapnel to scale a roof. From here I could see the most curious sight I’d yet encountered inside the dragon: a scale model of the Eiffel Tower, with its top aflame like a candle on a flesh-flavored birthday cake.

Wait… fire? The Girl!

With the vine coiled about my torso like a bandolier, I lunged from rooftop to rooftop, avoiding all the conflict on the streets below. And what conflict it was! Bowelbears casting minor cantrips to dazzle the pirates before running them through. Pirates lifting gallblins by the ears and hurling them about as though they were juggling pins. It was chaos, and all the while the endless plop of wet muskets and achoo from most everyone. I myself avoided the pollen’s effects by clever use of a handkerchief from my pack.

I reached the base of the tower to find it brimming with pirates. No way I was getting in without a disguise. There was a dead one in a nearby alley whose outfit was mostly intact. “If I must…” I groaned as I removed his stripey shirt and stupid beret.

“Let me pass!” I bellowed to the guard, and was allowed inside. In a flash I made my way up the narrow staircase—why was this tower even here, I finally let myself wonder—and soon reached the landing at the top…

To find the Girl dangling helplessly in the grip of a very ugly, very massive, very dangerous-looking trollon in a pirate costume. He (or she, it was hard to tell, although I guess the true answer is it because trollon have no sexes) had the woman by the throat, and was looking about ready to hurl her over the side to a painful death below.

“Zis iz ze end of ze road for you, druuuid!” the trollon cackled. The beast readied its petrifying vision ability.

Didn’t I mention that trollons have petrifying vision? They do. They don’t use it often, and only the really smart ones even know how, but once in a while they can fire a beam from their eyes that turns the victim to stone. It’s quite unnerving. And can have hilarious results for the trollons who aren’t properly trained in its use. Which includes most of them. I overheard more than one story about a trollon accidentally petrifying a coworker or friend over a cup of what passed for coffee in this hellhole.

Anyway, the trollon was distracted. Time to make my move. But what to do? I thought as quickly as I could. If I fired electricity, it’d cook the Girl along with the foe. If I threw a blade, it might strike her, and it'd use its vision power anyway. I needed a way to turn its power… against it… that’s it! I moved swiftly.

“Zut alors! Your baguette is showing!” I hollered.

“Eh!?” the trollon gasped, turning its head and firing the eye beam.

Directly into the mirror I now held in my hands.

The trollon released the Girl and staggered back, its flesh turning to stone before my eyes. “Non… noooon!” it howled, and then fell over, now a statue. The Girl fell wheezing to the floor, but rose moments later. I felt the vine unwrap itself from my chest and watched it crawl to her side. At last, I stood before her: this ravishing woman who may just be the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, inside or outside a dragon.

“Hey,” she said. Think Guy, think! Say something clever!

I went with, “Hey.”



La Grande Fleur

Oh deities, how could we have been so unprepared?! The Bowelbears knew we were coming--there was a traitor in our midst! Yet we still had the advantage--we had me, and I had a secret.

The day before the battle I had found the Pirates' cache of muskets and bullets. They were slimy and moldy, but with any luck these would be our ticket to victory--these plus some spores. Viney was in heat and creating a serious mess of pollen. Together we covered everything--muskets, gunpowder, bullets--everything in pollen. I was leaving nothing to chance, and even if it meant depleting my supply of Claritin I was going to saturate our supplies with Viney's reproductive material.

Nothing is as distracting as allergy season. We were going to make these assholes sneeze--all of them. The Pirates were going to be"intoxicated with liberty and enthusiasm," sure. But they were also going to be intoxicated with histamines. I had no intention of spending the rest of my life as a magician for French Pirates. Sure, it was nice to be the only one around with magic, but there are only so many times you want to make a worm grow a couple feet or a make stomach toad sing opera for praise and moldy baguette. I had better things to do--like not be inside a dragon.

And so when the battle began, I tied a bandana around my mouth and nose and ran for it--I had only a few minutes to find and rescue the Guy and escape this dismal city. It would have been so easy--I had planned everything so perfectly! But the Bowelbears had been expecting us and created the perfect diversion--a model of the Eiffel Tower!

Instantly the French Pirates swarmed to it and began complaining loudly about what an eyesore it was and how it would blight the horizon (what horizon, I thought) for generations, and how they would never accept it as an icon of their beloved, historical, and far more elegant memory of Paris.

I had little time to reflect on the utter silliness of the situation as the Bowebears began their siege. The crack and boom of musket-fire was overpowering, and the scent of burning flesh mixed with pollen is one I wish I could forget.

As the sneezing and wheezing began I spotted what I was looking for--the entrance the prison, the infamous Bowelstille, and my spirits rose. In there, I hoped, sat my one hope for getting out of this miserable Wyrm--another magic user.

Just as I started running towards the gate the unthinkable happened--I found myself face to face with the traitor. She and her goons had me surrounded; there was no way I could reach the Guy in time!

Now that I looked at her, it was rather obvious that the one we called Gary Mantoinette was not just a charming, but slightly disconcerting Pirate--she was a Trollon!

I had only one chance. I kissed Viney and sent him on his way--he knew what to do--and began my incantation, praying this silly trick would work.

"Just get inside the damn tower!" I yelled. "You can't see it ruining the view if you're inside it!" Gulp. Let's do this.



Storming The Bowelstille

The siege began after all were “asleep” for what I presumed was the night. It was impossible to say when day and night occurred, for there was no natural light whatsoever down here, as usual. I dozed lightly in my cell, a thin blanket covering my slightly emaciated frame. Two weeks I’d been in captivity here. Two weeks of runny slop to eat. Two weeks of trying to remember, in vain, the incantation for a teleportation spell—not that I had mana to cast it anyway. Two weeks worth of stupid, trite riddles from King Omentum. Check out some of these gems:

- “When is a door not a door?” (When it’s ajar.)
- “I’m lighter than a feather, but no bowelbear can hold me for long. What am I?” (Breath.)
- “How do you drop a trollon egg three meters without breaking it?” (Trick question: Trollons are asexual and reproduce by budding.)

I was extremely pleased—and admittedly somewhat confused and distressed—when I heard the wet cracks of goopy musket-fire outside my tiny window. It sounded like someone was trying to shoot a rifle while submerged in heavy cream. I heard roars, screams, shrieks, curses in French, and all manner of other noises from beyond, but could see nothing save for the faint glimmer of reflected light on the rusty bars. I waited, gathering my strength. This was the day the bowelbear king spoke of. The day they’d finally face the pirate menace, or as the bowelbears called them, les petite cancrelats. The little cockroaches.

It was to be a bloodbath.

Let me back up. I feel that I’ve rambled a little; it’s been so long since I spoke to another human that I’ve quite forgotten how to form a coherent tale. During the first few days of my internment here, I was left in a cage in the town square. From that vantage point I was mocked and stared at, which didn’t much bother me, in part because I couldn’t care less about the opinions of stomach creatures and in part because I was able to eavesdrop on the happenings in the city. Trollons and bowelbears are quite chatty and prone to telling secrets. It was in this manner that I came to know a number of useful things about this place.

I learned that a large band of sub-humans had been living in the stomach for perhaps sixty years, and were descendents of a troupe swallowed at some past point during a great battle. These once-French once-humans had adapted to life here, taking on slimy attributes and speaking in a strange dialect. They kept to themselves for the most part, occasionally stealing supplies from the three clans or setting sail on voyages across the Sea of Acid. It was never clear why the clans hadn’t swarmed over these intruders, but I got the impression that they saw them as little more than insects. Minor annoyances.

All that changed just a few months ago. A new leader rose among the pirates, one with “demented” sensibilities. He increased the number of raids, implemented mandatory dress codes in keeping with the group’s French ancestry, and worst of all, had his men set up their own nets in the dragon’s gullet to catch food and possible new recruits. The rivalry between the two races was growing.

The day before they moved me to a prison cell, I overheard one final useful tidbit: the bowelbears knew of a newcomer to the ranks of the pirates. A human much like myself, they said. Had a pet vine that followed her around like a puppy. Could do magic. She, the bowelbears gossiped, was a powerful dark omen, and would soon lead an assault on their fair city. By order of the king, all citizens were to prepare themselves for a final confrontation with the pirates. It would not be long in coming.

After that I heard nothing more, until now, with the mixed screams of many races: bowelbear caws, trollon grunts, gallblin squeals, pirate cries, and somewhere in the midst of it the sound of fire magic. I waited, and waited, unsure which would be the worse fate: to have the pirates win and raze this building with me inside, or the three clans, leaving me with no hope for escape.

Just then I noted a quiet rustling at the window. A creeper vine peeked its curious head over the lip of the frame. In moments it slid down beside me, forming a neat coil. This, I reasoned, was the Girl’s vine, perhaps sent here to rescue me. But how?

The vine ejected a small object it’d been carrying, and waited for, I assumed, me to act. I picked up the object. It was a Mana Berry. Did the vine grow this? I patted the vine gently on—well, I couldn’t be sure it was the head, since the vine had no obvious cranium—and thanked it. Then I popped the morsel into my mouth. Its minty, fruity juice ran down my throat, instantly invigorating me.

My mana was fully restored in seconds. I stood, feeling more awake and lucid than I had in days. “C’mon little vine,” I said, holding my arm down for it. The vine slithered up my body like a snake and loosely wrapped itself around my torso, allowing me plenty of mobility. “Hang on friend. Time for me to return the favor.” I’d been thinking hard about how to break out of here, had I the chance. Well, now my moment had arrived.

I moved to the window of the cell door, spotted the keys on a hook on the wall, and used Telekinesis to bring them to the lock. I was free! I quickly located the treasure chest where the jailers kept personal belongings of various criminals interred here—a storage space I'd scouted during one of my many journeys out to see the King—and reacquired some of my lost gear. It wasn’t much, but at least I had my travel bag again. The vine adjusted its grip to accommodate this new addition. I scrounged through the small prison quickly, taking anything that might be of use: a dagger, a shortsword, some other keys, a few rations, a torch, a copy of Us Weekly, and a piece of broken mirror. There were no guards or other prisoners here; apparently everyone was outside, fighting.

I went to the prison door and took a breath. I didn’t know what I’d see when I stepped outside, but it wasn’t going to be pretty, of that much I felt certain. The vine shuffled restlessly at my hip.

Les dieux nous aident, I muttered, and stepped into the fray.



The Wyrm's Croquet-Ground

I've been with the pirates for a week now, learning their ways and their language, and have found that they are somewhat decent folk. But my God, these French Pirates smell like merde. Even Viney is welting from the hostile air.

They were an odd bunch, scraggly and misshapen from a lifetime spent inside a dragon. They were the offspring, they told me, of those who survived a raid many ages ago. The Wyrm, they told me, swallowed their ancestors during the Storming of the Bastille (which they claimed was named incorrectly due to mistranslation and was in fact known locally as the Day That Dragon Swallowed a Bunch of Really Fine Folk Who Were Just Minding Their Own Damn Business, but whatever). 

They, of course, aren't pirates in the traditional sense of the word. But they refer to themselves as les pirates français and make routine raids on the neighboring communities. Then again, they aren't particularly French either. Sure, they speak something sort of like French--if French could sound intestinal, gurgley, and more even acerbic than it already does. They wear stripes and drink something they call a cappuccino, but really, they are just smelly, slimy, strange creatures who get passionate about rather random things.

Their latest passion, I found, was croquet. Not having the proper equipment, they used Bowelbear skulls for balls and swords as mallets. For hoops, they removed their disturbingly large hook-hands and wedged them into the flesh of the dragon. They were in the midst of the First Annual Wyrm-Croquet Tournament when they abducted me, and were competing for a rather lame looking trophy, an old helmet that looked as though it had never been cleaned.  

They had abducted me, I found out, to referee their final match, as none of them could remain impartial upon penalty of death. This seemed very prudent to me, and I understood at once my solemn duty to judge fairly and watch for cheating (as French Pirates do love to cheat at a game). The Guy could wait, fair-sportsmanship was important. And so I refereed eagerly and honestly with one hand on my nose and the other holding a copy of The Game of Croquet, its Laws and Regulations. You can imagine my horror when I found that as I called 'foul' the offending party was immediately executed! 

This, however, gave me an idea. It was clear that the French Pirates were a vicious bunch, and although they had lived in relative prosperity for some time, they were itching for a fight. And so it was that on the final match I unleashed my plan.

"Foul! The balls are cheating!" I called. 

That's right. The balls, those hideous Bowelbear skulls, had been cheating the entire game. The Bowelbears themselves were working to undermine the beloved First Annual Wyrm-Croquet Tournament to steal the glory of the French! Those bâtards!

With their nationalistic spirit raised, they took their mallets and hoops in a vengeful fashion and plunged into the dark to take their penalty shots, carrying their beloved referee, myself (nose-plugged), on their shoulders.

Together we sang:

Aux armes, joueurs de croquet,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Whatever the heck that means. All I know is that my nose hurts and it's time to storm a prison.



Why is a bowelbear like a writing desk?

It’s strange, the things you notice while you’re in captivity. I’d never paused long enough to really listen to the inside of the dragon until now. Sound carries strangely here. There isn’t much of an echo anywhere. It’s a bit like when you place your ear against someone’s chest: you can hear what’s happening beneath the flesh, but it takes on a gurgling, liquid quality, like you’re trying to differentiate between smooth jazz and hard rock through a wall of gelatin. When the most common sounds you hear are marching feet and screams, you really begin to notice the difference between how those things sound topside and how they sound in the belly of a beast.

That’s not the only thing I’ve noticed. After a few encounters with the leader of the monsters, I’ve really started to wonder if I’m not the first human to descend into this slimy, accursed place. These creatures down here—bowelbears, trollons, and gallblins—are nothing like their unintestinal counterparts. My studies into the nature of such horrors were limited at best before I arrived here, and it was only because a clever pneumonic that was able to recall their names at all (If ever an owlbear or troll you do meet / and if there’s a goblin ahead at their feet / then into a stomach you surely have fallen / so beware of bowelbears and trollons and gallblins!).

I’ve been carted through the “town” square and dangled in a cage for the younglings to gape at. From that perch I was able to see many things. The trollons, while still mostly primal monsters with a ravenous appetite for fresh meat, possess a remarkable aptitude for construction and tool making. It is their nimble fingers that weave the bone and scrap metal so abundant in the mire into cages, rudimentary huts, armor, weapons, and even conveniences like cookware, toys, and wagons. The gallblins, it appears, are the least intelligent of the bunch, and though they alone wear gear, they’re the slaves of the camp. The two who’d originally accosted me were special cases—armed goons with no more reasoning capacity than was needed to follow the command to kill.

Apologies. I seem to be rambling. Allow me to get back to my main point: the bowelbear king. Yes, that’s right. The bowelbears: those hideous half-bear, half-owl monstrosities that growl and hoot like deranged howler monkeys with fangs; those naked, feathered mutations that plod about with filth caking their wings, claws, beaks, nails, their swollen, oft-used genitals on display; those disgusting, wretched abominations are in charge down here. They possess the highest level of intellect and some minor magical capability (cantrips barely more advanced than a child at the Academy could perform, but magic nonetheless). It is they who order the other creatures about. It is they who commission the trollons to build torture devices and pleasure machines of various crude sorts. It is they who have nets set up in the dragon’s gullet to catch live prey for transport to their encampment (and subsequent slaughter).

And it was one among them to whom I was dragged after that first awakening in the cage.

Their leader introduced himself, in shockingly smooth Common, as King Omentum, ruler of the three clans of the Underdigest. It was here, he told me, that they’d made their home for hundreds of years. The three species had been in this dragon’s stomach—they referred to her as the Wyrm, in a reverent tone—for as long as their history could trace, and perhaps longer still. It was here that they’d created a small empire for themselves--in ages past, they'd needed to ward off the attacks from other tribes (there'd been more native races here? My mind boggled at the thought). It was here that they now lived a life of relative luxury and, hard though it may be to believe, peace.

It was also here, he informed me, that I was going to die.

There was, however, one catch. One way out. King Omentum had a penchant for riddles, and offered me this challenge: if I could answer a conundrum from him each day, I would be spared until the following morning. He assured me that his word was his honor, and that he would continue to grant me this boon until such time as I no longer provided correct answers—at which point I, a rare magic-user, would be sacrificed to the great Wyrm, in order to obtain her “blessing”.

So here I find myself. I’ve answered two riddles so far. Neither was particularly clever. If this trend continues, I can probably stay alive for quite some time. But is this really even living? Spending my time in a darkened cell, with only a few pilfered trinkets for my amusement? I’ve no way to escape. My magical abilities are useless without mana, and I’ve been given hardly enough food to live on, let alone enough to regain my supernatural powers.

My only shard of hope at this point lies with the Girl. I spotted her, once, hiding in an alcove with a glowing plant at her side. I assume she saw me. She must’ve. It raised my spirits considerably to find that she’d come for me after all, and hadn’t merely turned away when she saw me disappear in the Sea of Acid. My reassurance was short-lived, however, for upon the fifth day of my captivity, I overheard talk of another group present in the stomach. A group with weapons and intent to kill. A group comprised of the only thing worse than bowelbears, trollons, and gallblins.

French pirates.



Hide and Sneak

I crept down the passage with nothing but the bioluminescence from Viney lighting our way. The walls oozed disconcertingly, the floor was damp and sticky, and here and there my foot met the brittle crack of bones, long abandoned by their previous owners. There was a faint groaning that reminded me of a night I spent in the Land of the Dead--the sort of groaning only made by disembodied heads and people listening to bad puns. I began to feel the first pangs of fear and doubt as my foot crushed yet another skull, its decaying eyeballs peering at me through the steaming muck. 

What if the Guy was a jerk? What if he was just some dudebro pretending to be a hero? As much as I longed for company, what if he was boring and obnoxious? What if we had political disagreements? What if he didn't like plants? Worse still, what if he was a Pacific Northwesterner? All those guys know how to talk about is the weather--and we have none of that down here

And I stopped in my tracks, attacked by visions of dull conversations about the humidity and windchill and lack of sunshine and oh God I can't care less what type of rain you prefer. A rumbling and sloshing of footsteps awoke me from my reverie and I tucked within one of the rough crevices within the wall, pulling Viney behind me to dim his light. 

A contingent of, what are those? Bowelbears? Oh gross. They were marching straight towards me--maybe ten of them--slowly and steadily. One of them had a drum and I could hear a faint chant, almost like a song, echoing through the chamber.

This is what I heard:

"God save our hungry Wyrm,
Long live our vicious Wyrm,
God save the Wyrm:
Send her victorious,
Food that is goriest,
Long to reign around us:
God save the Wyrm.

O Lord, our Wyrm, take flight,
Rend her enemies in fight,
Make them most foul.
Confound their magic sticks,
Frustrate their conjured tricks,
For thee these wounds we inflicts, (at this point I heard a voice yell in pain and shout out, “That’s grammatically incorrect and hardly counts as good verse!”)
God save us all.

Thy choicest beasts in store,
In her be pleased to roar;
Long may she slay:
May she defend our maws,
And ever give us claws
To sing with hate and vice
God save the Wyrm"

I stayed well out of sight until they were gone, and as I hid I caught sight of the Guy's face. Battered though he was, he seemed to enjoy grammar well enough. I think I may have caught his eye, for although he was chained and bloodied, he had a little smirk on his dirty face, and my fear melted away.

As they squelched and sloshed into the distance,I began to follow. I'm sure this Guy who liked grammar and could smirk when being led down the digestive passages of a dragon by Bowelbears could talk about something more interesting than the weather. The beginnings of a plan were forming in my mind as I stole quietly through the passageway, but suddenly I was grabbed by a rough hand and pulled into the dark. 

"Avast missy you best be strugglin' no more," said the creature. Its hot breath stank of sand and rum in all the worst ways. The scent was so foul that I didn't even have time to say "Why did the pirate go to the Apple store?" before everything faded to black.


(To buy an iPatch! Arrrrr!!!)


Never Been To Kansas, Actually

I awoke in darkness. How long had I been unconscious? Blinking my eyes rapidly, I noted a dim glow somewhere in the distance. The air here was tangy and bitter simultaneously, like a whiskey sour. Which I could really have gone for at that moment. Time to take stock of my resources. Light: not much. My pack: missing. My body: lying prone, face-down on something firm and mildly damp. Pain? Yeah, some. Mostly my ankle. Might be broken. Damn, and I hadn’t prepared any healing spells before being consumed. No reagents on hand. I’d have to patch it up the old-fashioned way… assuming I could find any materials to do so. Memories: few. Falling through a hole after killing the Volcanocotopus, and then... nothing. No idea. Time to explore. I shuffled forward a bit and hit my head against something hard. I put out my hand in the gloom, testing what was before me. My arm felt heavy.

Bars. I was in a cage.

I rolled over and discovered why my arms were harder to lift than usual; I was in shackles. Both wrists were clasped in thick irons, with a three-foot chain between them. I studied it, noting that while it appeared sturdy, there were also spots of rust along its length, much like those I now noted on the bars of my prison. I managed to struggle to a kneeling position on the bare metal floor. The distant light flickered: a torch? Where was I? What was happening?

Then suddenly, a growling hoot and a snarl, followed by barked orders in a guttural tongue. I turned my head quickly and spotted a gang of figures moving in my direction, carrying torches. They weren’t quite close enough to… wait… no. Not friendly. I couldn’t see who or what they were yet, but I heard the sound of a cage opening, and a piercing, animal shriek. A roar. A squelch. Movement.

This couldn’t be happening. This wasn’t possible. How was anything else alive down here, let along setting up cages? Marching closer. Opening more cells. More screams. I began to sweat. Things had just gone from bad to worse to way worse. And then, as my captors drew ever nearer, I finally saw what they were. My breath caught in my chest.

Four or five towering abominations—ten feet if they were an inch—each mottled with wet feathers and fur, brown, gray, dingy red like old paint, their talons and claws clicking on some unseen surface, blood at their beaks. Next three spindly, wiry-frames, their faces like punched meat, their beady features like carved stone, with long fingers still holding rent flesh and a thin film of putrid fur. And at the head of the line, two armored humanoids, squat and bulbous, like rotten broccoli with chainmail and pikes, their eyes gleaming orange in the torchlight, their boots falling apart, still wanting for repairs and better nourishment, as I could see the thin bones pushing through the mottled, camouflage skin.

Bowelbears and trollons and gallblins, oh fuck.



The Girl is Puzzled

When we last left our intrepid heroine, she had embarked on a quest to find the mysterious Guy. Since then she's fought through acidic heat and bitter cold, past sleepless nights punctuated by the screams of the dragon's latest victims, and through another painful cycle of menstruation. Now running frightfully low on both mana and Kotex, she sits before a large and complicated puzzle that involves moving blocks around. She hates this sort of thing, you guys. 

I have a confession to make. I never played through all of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Now, I know that's not the best 'Greatest Regret' to carry with you to your untimely dragon-induced death, but still, now I'm beginning to regret it. Maybe if I had carried on past the Water Temple I'd know what to do with these damn blocks. Unfortunately, Viney was being about as helpful as Navi and kept telling me something about smoke. (Hey wait, is one of those a companion cube?)

After searching the acid swamp for several hours, I came to the conclusion that the Guy must have been sucked down to the lower levels of the dragon. Unfortunately for me, I can't get there without draining the beast's stomach acid. I searched around for a map for a while (I only found the compass) and happened upon this chamber. It's obvious that I need to solve the puzzle to move on, but the answer is just eluding me.

I seriously need to get out of this place. I think I may go crazy if I don't see another mammal soon--Viney just doesn't cut it. I must have tried every last combination though. Maybe if I move the companion cube over that big heart symbol... Nope. GAH! WHY ARE THERE EVEN BLOCKS INSIDE THIS STUPID DRAGON?!?!

You know what, skrew it! I saw a bunch of bombs growing out of the previous chamber, I'm using them to blow this puzzle to smithereens. (Sorry companion cube--you're cute and all, but you have to go.)

Hold on, Guy, I'm coming for you!

As the smoke clears, we see the brash Girl and a now slightly singed vine descend into the darkness, the puzzle broken into a million smoldering pieces, a faded pink heart becoming marred with soot. For those of you with psionic powers, you see that the Girl is hoping the Guy is nice, charming, and found the dungeon map already. 



Guy vs. Volcanoctopus - STRIFE!

Previously, inside a dragon…
As I belted out carol after joyful carol, I heard the sound of churning acid nearby. My head whipped round just in time to see a massive tentacle—spotted with sores and covered in a thick, orange slime—erupt from the mire. I barely had a moment to react before I was suddenly entwined about my waist. I drew the only weapon I had on hand and pummeled the creature mercilessly, but to no avail. I guess it must’ve been immune to Rachel Ray. Next thing I knew I was airborne: my bag of loot tumbled free as another tentacle rose and crushed the kayak, sending shards of lightweight wood in every direction. I spun about through the hot stomach air, shouting and trying to wriggle loose. Now the body of a great Volcanoctopus splashed to the surface the pool. I heard a rumbling cry of hunger and rage ring out from the monster’s beak, as the disgusting, bulbous head wobbled like month-old Jello, black and moldy. Except with lava spots. I knew then that things were dire, for a creature of this strength would be a fearsome foe indeed. Around me was naught but the dim glow of the acid. Would there be no respite? Could I not find some means to escape my fate? Was this the end?

And that’s when I spotted the Girl.

My rapidly pulsing heart still found time to skip a beat. She was breathtaking! I could scarcely believe so fair a lady had chanced to end up inside this dragon with me, alive no less. Now, granted, given the isolation I’d experienced up to that point, even a female Bugbear would’ve seemed a sight for sore eyes… but still! She was seated some distance away upon a raft constructed from beer casks and other refuse found floating in the acid lake. I tried to call to her, but the constriction around my torso was tightening, and it was all I could do to breathe. Thankfully, she noticed me—how could she not, given the tremendous noise of the Volcanoctopus and the disruption in the acid—but instead of moving to act, she paused to chat with some sort of unusual vine affixed to the rear of her vessel. I could only watch in confusion as she and plant appeared to converse. Was she a Druid, perhaps? Regardless, whatever aid she might’ve provided came too late, for just as quickly as my hopes rose, they sank again, along with the rest of my body. The creature’s next meal was at hand… er, tentacle. Me.

And now, the conclusion:
I found myself mumbling one of the few protective spells I knew: an endurance charm that would grant me temporary immunity to the effects of the acid and, hopefully, the impending blunt trauma of the Volcanoctopus’ beak. But alas! My mana, depleted at this critical moment! I could sense that I only had enough energy left for one or two small spells. Curses! As I twirled beneath the warm, stinging liquid, moving ever closer to the mouth of the beast, I felt despair overtake me. This was it. Journey’s end. No phoenix down to save me. Think Guy, think!

The Orb of Arching Bolts in my pocket sent out a tiny spark, pricking my leg like a thorn.

As if spoken by divine providence, I suddenly knew the path that lay before me. Only one shot at this… needed to make it count. I drew the crystalline sphere from my pocket and focused as best I could—which wasn’t saying much, since I was still a) underacid, b) gripped by a semi-molten tentacle, and c) about to die. The Vocanoctopus had dragged me deep into the acid lake in record time, causing my head to throb with the increased pressure. Now it decided to consume the choice morsel it’d found. Nom! I was inside the beak. The creature’s rough tongue scraped against my flesh. Mere seconds to act.

So long, light source. It’s been fun.

With nary more than an anticlimactic stream of bubbles, I used the last of my mana to shatter the Orb.

Immediately, a shockwave erupted outward, electrocuting me—but only a little—and completely frying the Volcanoctopus. It emitted a horrendous dying cry and spat me out, as tendrils of lightning weaved across its supple body like ants crawling over a fresh slice of watermelon dropped onto their hill. I didn't have much time to celebrate, as I was now adrift deep beneath a huge lake of acid, and had about five seconds of consciousness left before I drowned.

Yet it seemed fortune was to smile upon me again, for at that moment I saw and felt radiant waves of golden light leap around me, and I gained a level. My mana, health, and air, instantly restored! Yes! I felt my mind expand with new spells, the nature of which I hadn’t time to quite contemplate at that moment. I cast a breath charm and a fortitude charm, and started toward the surface.

Or would have, except at that moment, a strange muscular contraction opened a wide hole in the stomach lining below me. I tumbled through the passage in a torrent of acid, and fell into darkness, landing hard on something even harder. My eyes slid shut as I lost consciousness.



The Girl's Quest

I had the most bizarre dream last night. I dreamt I was a grad student and starving artist with no time to write on a blog... Funny that.

Anyways, things have been pretty busy for me inside the dragon since the new year. I have obtained a quest!

It all began Christmas eve. I was floating along the stomach in my makeshift boat, debating the existence of an omnipotent DM with my dear friend the vine (he's an a-die-ist), when all of a sudden I heard a voice from across the acid. At first I thought it was the assassin vine, casting ventriloquism in a meagre attempt to distract and subsequently strangle me, but it got closer and closer until I could distinguish the words.

"I don't want a lot for Christmas/There's just one thing I need/I don't care about the loot/Underneath the dead treant/I just want you and me to pwn/More than you could ever know/Make my wish come true/All I want for Christmas--"

Suddenly a tentacle erupted from the stomach fluid (and I mean, like, erupted, it was probably a volcanoctopus or something) and grabbed the mysterious singer. I had to think quick--if I wanted to save this guy, I needed to know I was with something I could trust. I turned to the assassin vine and explained the situation to it--offering it freedom and a life of endless meandering through stomach acid or a life of adventure, companionship, and one day-I prayed-friendship. I gave it my coldest of contractual looks (I have some cold contractual looks, btw) and held my hand out to it. "The choice is yours," I said.

It hesitated for a moment, then wrapped its 'hand' around mine. We held our grasps firm, but true. I knew I had an ally at last.

We sped off towards where the tentacle had grabbed the singer, but found nothing but kayak pieces and some splinters from a cask of Dwarven IPA. What was he thinking, drinking IPA in a place like this?

Since that day I've been searching for the mysterious voice. I know its against the odds, but somehow I know he's still alive.

It's going to be a difficult quest, but hey, it's not like I have anything else to do. Besides, I think luck is on my side. When the vine and I shook hands, a bright light encompassed me and I leveled up. The GM in the sky must have liked my role-playing, I now have some nifty spells and can finally purify water!