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.