Snailagon

CHAPTER 1 – Setting off

I’ve decided,” said the little creature to no one in particular, “to go on an adventure today.”

The little creature was a snailagon. A fairly common creature, as these things go. His name was Nurdd. A fairly common name, as these things go.

He had no plans for this adventure, but was sure it would all work out any way. He thought to pack a bag full of essential items, and then realized he had no bag and nothing essential to put in it anyhow. So instead, he thought it best to just begin his adventure as he was. He looked left, right, and back before picking a direction (mostly forward with a little bit of a leftways curve), and began slooping along the forest floor.

Nurdd had been on a few adventures before, and they usually turned out to be good times. Once he climbed a very large tree and found a stash of acorns. Another time he floated on a strip of bark down the stream. Once last Spring he had uncovered a magic underworld of moles trying to summon a very large badger and had to battle them with the Crystal Mace of Reckoning. There was also the time he crossed a big field of flowers and found a neat looking rock.

As he traveled, he thought of what sort of adventure he’d like to have this time. Climbing was always fun, so he hoped for some of that. He didn’t like to swim, so he planned to avoid the stream this time. Some monsters would be neat, maybe an explosion. Definitely a sword thrown in the mix. On further thought, a sword AND an axe would be a spicy combination. Secretly, he hoped this adventure would somehow involve eating a large cookie, although he couldn’t imagine how.

Nurdd was so lost in thought that he did not notice the eagle plunging down from the sky above him.

CHAPTER 2 – Oh no, an eagle!

The eagle’s name was Candice, but that isn’t important for this story. Candice (not important) was looking for something small and adorable to eat, because that’s just what eagles do. You can imagine her delight when she spotted our little snailagon, considering just how small and adorable he is.

Very small, and intensely adorable.

Candice circled a few times to make sure she had a clear path down, folded her wings, and began her plunge.

CHAPTER 3 – Unawares

The little snailagon continued to sloop along, unawares.

CHAPTER 4 – Plunging

Candice plunged faster.

CHAPTER 5 – Still Unawares

The little snailagon was still unawares of the eagle plunging down.

CHAPTER 6 – Still Plunging

Candice continued to plunge.

CHAPTER 7 – Even More Unawares

A bug had caught Nurdd’s attention, so he was even less aware of the plunging eagle than he had been just a moment prior, when he had already been almost entirely unawares.

CHAPTER 8 – Even More Plunging

Candice had been flying rather high, so this plunge was taking longer than usual. We apologize.

CHAPTER 9 – Interlude

Ten miles to the east, a family of muskrats was trundling along the forest floor. There was a mother, a father, two children, and a pet shrew named Shrewy. The family was on their way to a picnic at the lake, and were very excited. This picnic was a celebration of sorts, as Shrewy had just that morning been adopted into the family. Both children had been asking for a shrew for months, and been told that taking care of a shrew was a big responsibility, not to be taken lightly. They had subsequently proven their maturity and accountability, and thus here we are.

It wasn’t a very long walk to the lake, but to the children it seemed to last an eternity. They wanted nothing more than to splash in the waves with Shrewy, play fetch with Shrewy, run in circles with Shrewy, and scratch Shrewy behind the ears.

What a wonderful afternoon they would have.

CHAPTER 10 – Where Were We, Oh Yes

The next thing Nurdd knew, a tremendous weight had fallen on him, a tremendous set of claws had wrapped themselves around him, and a tremendous blast of wind had rocked his senses as he was carried up into the sky, tremendously.

After a moment, he realized what had happened, and took stock of the situation. Snailagons as we know, are rather tough, so he hadn’t been hurt in the kerfluffle. Snailagons can fly as we also all know, so being this high up was not too troubling. Even the knowledge that this eagle more than likely meant to eat him did not trouble our snailagon too much, because he knew this sort of this was common on adventures.

He was a little afraid though, deep down.

The eagle’s talons held him tight, so for the moment a daring escape was not an option. Nurdd considered blasting the eagle’s foot with some fire, which we all know is a thing snailagons can do. Fire blasting can only be done a few times a day though, and considering the full scope of questing Nurdd had hoped for today, he thought it prudent to save those blasts in case an even more dire situation should occur.

The possibility did exist that his initial conclusion was wrong, that this eagle did not intend to eat him. Being sure of a situation is important, so Nurdd called out, “Hey! Excuse me! What’s all this, then?” but the eagle didn’t reply. He yelled louder, “HEY! WHAT’S THE PLAN HERE?”, but again no answer.

Nurdd rethought his position. He was unharmed for the moment, true, but if he allowed this eagle to take him back to her nest, his chances of remaining unharmed would not look good. Maybe a fire blast was appropriate after all. Indeed, there was no sense in saving his fire for later in the adventure if he were eaten this soon after beginning it. He drew a deep breath and aimed upwards at the leg holding him.

CHAPTER 11 – A Blast Of Fire

FOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!

CHAPTER 12 – Owie

Candice was in incredible pain. You would be too, if your leg were engulfed in flame. She let go of the adorable thing she was planning to eat, and had no desire to try catching it again. Adorable things weren’t supposed to explode before being eaten, they were supposed to just be plump and delicious. The whole situation was very confusing to Candice. She watched as the little creature fell away back down towards the forest. No way would she try eating one of those again.

CHAPTER 13 – Back To Adventuring

Nurdd sailed away through the sky. Blasting his fire always left him a little light-headed, so he was happy to just glide for a bit. The eagle had carried him far off-track from where he had been heading, but that really didn’t matter. He had no destination in mind, remember, so a drastic change of course was really no change at all.

Now though, from up in the sky, he could see a number of interesting-looking destinations. That number was three. He could see three interesting-looking destinations.

To the left there was a single tree that grew twice as thick and three times as tall as any other around it. The branches were gnarled and twisted and full of knots and whorls. The branches were heavy with leaves which were larger and darker than any other tree around. Around the uppermost branches, Nurdd could see sparkling lights zipping around, although he couldn’t tell if they were being blown by the wind or propelling themselves. If you think Nurdd should fly towards the tree, go to chapter 14.

To the right was the entrance to a dark cavern. The lip of the cave was surrounded by large, conical rocks, like the fangs of a great beast. Even though the sun was high in the sky, no light broke through the inky darkness. Distantly the sound of grinding could be heard. If you think Nurdd should fly towards the underground cave, go to chapter 15.

Lastly, in front of him was the peak of a mountain. The foothills were rounded but the higher levels were jagged and sharp. On one peak, a crack in the rock leaked a lazy trail of purplish smoke. Around the crack were piles of sun-bleached bones. If you think Nurdd should fly towards the mountain, go to chapter 16.

CHAPTER 14 – The Forever Tree Of The Fairyfolk

Just kidding, Nurdd is going to the cavern. Skip ahead to chapter 15.

CHAPTER 15 – The Forgotten City Of The Wormikkins

Tricked you! Nurdd is going to the mountain. Turn the page for chapter 16.

CHAPTER 16 – The Something Something Of Something Mountain

Nurdd did a circle then banked towards the mountaintop. Snailagons normally can’t fly very well, they’re more of a gliding species, but we all knew that already. This high up though there was plenty of wind pushing Nurdd along. A few flaps here and there brought him to the mountain.

He circled twice around the column of purple smoke and then dropped down to the ledge. The piles of bones were arranged in a rough semicircle around the cave entrance. Nurdd poked a few of the closer bones, but soon lost interest. He turned toward the cave, curious about the smoke and where it came from.

He slooped along the rocky platform and inside the cave. Immediately after crossing the threshold he heard a dry click, then a dry grinding sound, and lastly a dry thunking sound. All three sounds, of course, were the result of a previously hidden portcullis being unlocked and dropping down behind Nurdd, slamming in to the ground mere inches behind his tail.

Meh huh MA HA HA heee hurrrr haHARRR”

What a terrible laugh, Nurdd thought. He turned to see what sort of creature would make such an obnoxious sound, and was surprised to see the skeleton of a bear glaring down at him from outside the portcullis.

Now you’re trapped! FOREVER! Mer herrm HAAARRRRRR,” the skeleton cried.

Trapped how? And why?” Nurdd asked.

This gate is unbreakable! You’ll be stuck in the caves until you become a skeleton like the rest of us!” At this, Nurdd noticed the piles of bones behind the bear beginning to stir. Other animals were taking shape from the mass.

Nurdd faced the bear. He slooped forward, between the bars, to the outside. “But why?” he asked again.

Hey! Get back inside! You’re not supposed to escape, you’re TRAPPED!”

Nurdd turned and slooped back through the bars into the cave, did a loop-de-loop and came back out through a different section of the gate. “This isn’t a very good trap, you know.”

Stop it!” the bear cried. “Come on, be trapped!” Behind him the other skeletons looked annoyed. Some were swooping their arms at Nurdd as if to direct him back. A few were chattering to each other and the words “trapped”, “gate”, and “spaghetti” were heard.

Nurdd went back inside again. “Ok, I’m trapped, but why are you trapping animals and turning them into skeletons?”

MRAH RAHH HHARRRRRR! Now you’re trapped until you become a skeleton!!” the bear roared, pumping his fists into the air. Behind him two horse skeletons high-fived and an owl skeleton hooted so hard he fell over.

Nurdd began slooping further into the cave. Anything to get away from that bear’s horrible laugh. He shivered, remembering how many M’s and R’s were used when writing it out.

CHAPTER 17 – Moving Beyond the Entirely Superfluous Trap

Nurdd moved further into the cave, winding left and right as the trail wound and forked deeper into the mountain. This was definitely the sort of perilous path that would definitely lead to some sort of monster or magic weapon or really good pizza buffet.

After a few more turns, a straightaway, four twists, and half of a slide, the trail opened up into a modestly-sized, minimally-decorated cavern. At the far end of the modesty-sized, minimally-decorated cavern was an enormously-sized, ornately-decorated door. Hand-chiseled boulders formed a 30-foot arched frame, surrounding a construction of thick oaken timbers and chunky iron bars with rivets the size of baseballs. A knocker in the center of the door was shaped like a grotesque beast’s head, snarling fangs clasped around a heavy ring. Torches blazed in a dozen sconces on either side, the flickering light casting hypnotizing shadows on the walls.

What a great looking door!” Nurdd gasped.

He slooped halfway across the room, turned, and stopped in front of a much smaller door set into the wall.

Look at the craftsmanship on that thing!”

Indeed, the small door was very well made from a single piece of carved wood, set into a tastefully accented stone frame. It was painted a pale blue and had a small Welcome mat in front.

Knocking on this bad boy is going to be great!”

Nurdd took a deep breath, reached out his wing, and gave the door three smart raps.

CHAPTER 18 – A Pleasant Conversation

The well-crafted door swung open on well-oiled hinges. Nurdd saw a well-kept foyer inside, occupied by a well-groomed creature. “Welcome!” it called out. “What can I do for you, Sailor?” The creature was covered in luxurious hair, which shone and sparkled in the flickering torchlight.

I was on my way to an adventure, but your door was just so nice looking, I had to stop and knock”

What followed was an hour of conversation centered on doorology, framing techniques, arguments on shades of blue, a healthy debate on proper lighting, and a short but unhealthy debate on entryway tables. When the two creatures were finished with this incredibly interesting conversation, the hairy one said, “You mentioned an adventure then, Captain?”

Right!” Nurdd exposited, “I was setting out for an adventure and wound up in these caves. I had hoped there would be something worth adventuring for in such an obvious setting. Some sort of magical weaponry, or pretty tapestries, or unfulfilled prophesies. You know the sort.”

Of course Chief, all sorts of wacky things to pursue down here. Although I’m more of a homebody, don’t know too many of them personally. There’s the big gaudy door out there you could knock on, I hear there’s some monster on the other side.”

Nurdd shook his head.

There’s an underground lava flow, very pretty this time of year.”

Nurdd considered.

Lots of goblins mucking about, could probably suss up a quest or two from them. Gotta be careful, some of them are grumps though.”

Nurdd nodded thoughtfully.

I heard from Gorciao, something about a Sword of Booming.”

Nurdd slapped his wings down. “I love swords! That’s the one, that’s the adventure I want!”

Right-o Constable, well, you’ll have to find Gorciao for the details, I only know it’s a sword, and it apparently booms. You can usually catch him down in the Rat Pits.”

Nurdd was confused, “are those pits full of rats?”

Oh goodness no, a pit full of rats?” The hairy creature chuckled, “who ever heard of such a thing? The rats run the pits. The pits themselves are usually full of moles. Sometimes voles. Once a whole mess of gophers got in. Never saw such a mess as that, let me tell you. They were talking about it for weeks at the docks.”

And what do they do in these pits?”

What pits?” The hairy creature looked puzzled, “I told you I’m more of a homebody, don’t get out much. Don’t know a thing about any pits or any fellows named Gorciao.” And with that he shouldered Nurdd out of his well-decorated foyer and slammed the door.

CHAPTER 19 – Well That Was Odd

Well,” thought Nurdd, “that was odd.”

CHAPTER 20 – Finding Gorciao

Nurdd considered knocking on the nice door again to ask more about the sword, but decided against it. Instead he turned and surveyed the chamber around him. The immense door still stood to his right, the hallway he had entered through on his left. Ahead of him the chambered narrowed into another, larger hallway, from which Nurdd could faintly hear sounds of an excited crowd.

Figuring that a crowd would be the best place to find a person, Nurdd slooped towards the new path. It wasn’t long before the sounds of the crowd got louder, and Nurdd began hearing the words “rat” and “pit” and “spaghetti” being screamed over and over.

Coming around a bend in the tunnel, Nurdd saw a row of merchant’s stalls, each with a sign showing a different rat body part.

Is this the Rat Pits?” he asked a bug who had walked up behind him.

Pits!? Naw, this it the Rat Bits. Get all the bits you need.” the bug answered before scuttling off to a stall selling rat ears.

Nurdd realized his mistake, a rather silly one at that, and shook his head in amusement. He heard the shouting crowd further ahead and moved on, knowing that he would find the Pits with no more silliness to slow him down.

CHAPTER 21 – You Better Believe There Was More Silliness

The tunnel ahead led Nurdd to another loud chamber, this one full of tiny little gloves, neatly arranged in piles but size and color. In the middle of the piles was a small counter with a cash register, behind which sat a single gargoyle.

Ahoy there! Need any mits for the rat in your life?” he called to Nurdd.

No, thank you,” Nurdd replied before scooting past the piles of paw-wear.

Leaving the Rat Mits behind him, Nurdd rounded another bend and saw a gang of rats holding what looked like rather intense yoga poses.

Their top halves were mostly upright, although some were slouched and a few were wobbling side to side. Their bottom halves, though, were all perfectly aligned with their legs akimbo and their hips touching the ground.

Nice form!” Nurdd called as he moved past the Rat Splits.

Thanks!” came a chorus of replies.

The next chamber was empty, but the floor was covered in craters. Nurdd slowly leaned in and then jerked backward as a small rat dropped from the ceiling and exploded in front of him, leaving behind one more crater, this one smoking faintly. It would take all of Nurdd’s speed to get through this Rat Blitz.

He backed up a few paces, took a running (sliming) start, and leapt into the cavern. Immediately rats began raining down on all sides, exploding on impact and knocking Nurdd side to side as he dodged.

Nurdd flapped like crazy, one eye stalk trained on the exit across from him, the other frantically scanning above to see incoming rat projectiles.

He was almost to the end when three rats all exploded right in front of him. The shockwave knocked him back and he tumbled into one of the many craters.

Although dazed, Nurdd popped right back up, knowing the more rats were already dropping. He jumped just as an explosion went off right behind him. The shockwave sent him tumbling forward this time, and he rolled the rest of the way to the exit.

Snailagons are excellent rollers, due to their round shells, but we already knew that.

Nurdd banged into the wall and lay on the floor catching his breath. A sudden splash of water across his face made him jump.

How’d you like that refreshing spritz?” a smiling rat asked. She was holding a large bottle with a pump-top and was aiming the nozzle at Nurdd. “Would you like another? It’ll rehydrate you after those antics in the artillery room.”

Please,” Nurdd gasped, “are there many more puns before I get to the Rat Pits?”

Oh the Pits are just around the next bend, don’t you worry,” the rat smiled.

CHAPTER 22 – I Lied There Was One More

Nurdd stomped out of a room full of rats, yarn, and needles and towards a sign that proclaimed (finally) Rat Pits Ahead in a surprisingly cheery font.

Nurdd still wondered exactly what the Pits were for, and why they were apparently filled with various burrowing mammals. Imagine his surprise when he entered the chamber and spied dozens of rats standing around with their arms raised, enthusiastically gesturing to one another’s armpits.

Nurdd groaned so loud the rats all turned in his direction.

What’s the problem, Friend? Don’t like our pits?”

No,” Nurdd replied, “your pits are just dandy. I was just expecting something else, is all.”

The rats stared, not understanding how someone could possibly misinterpret their sign.

Listen, sorry to interrupt you pit show, I’m looking for someone name Gorcio, or just any information on a magic sword hanging around down here?”

The rats stared more. One rat in the back arched his arm further so his pit stuck out more. He was just trying to help.

After a moment, one rat near the side of the cavern lowered his arm, causing the rat next to him to gasp. “I know Garcio,” he said. The rat next to him gasped again, even louder.

Nurdd was thrilled, “can you take me to him?”

I can, but,” the rat leaned in for effect, “there will be a price I’m not sure you can afford.”

The gasping rat gasped once more.

The rat who knew Gorcio walked across the room to where Nurdd was waiting.

The price,” he whispered, “is 17 cents.”