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.