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. Mostly snailish, but with a set of fancy little wings and some other dragonish touches, but we all know what a snailagon is. 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 anyway. He thought to pack a bag full of essential items, and then realized he had no bag and nothing really essential to put in it. 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 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
CHAPTER 12 – Owie
Candice was in incredible pain. You would be too, if your leg were engulfed in flame. In shock, she let go of the adorable thing she was planning to eat. She could have grabbed the adorable thing again with her other foot but didn’t. She had no desire to eat this particular adorable thing any more. 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 into 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.
The trail was full of branches, and Nurdd wished he could explore them all. He chose his path randomly. After a few turns, a straightaway, four twists, and half of a slide, Nurdd found himself in 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.”
“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 racket 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 chamber 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 is 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 by 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 flaming 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 that 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 through 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 anothers’ 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 your pit show, I’m looking for someone named Gorciao, or just any information on a magic sword around 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 Gorciao,” 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 Gorciao walked across the room to where Nurdd was waiting.
“The price,” he whispered, “is 17 cents.”
CHAPTER 23 – A Fair Price
“That’s not too much,” Nurdd shrugged. “But I just don’t have any money with me. No pockets, see?”
The rat did see, and nodded appreciatively. “In that case, I’ll tell you what I know in exchange for two favors.”
“One favor,” Nurdd countered.
“One favor, and a solid fist-bump, in front of someone cool so they are impressed.”
The rat crossed his arms. He wasn’t going to haggle further, Nurdd knew. “Agreed,” he said.
“Then follow me,” the rat replied in a hoarse and foreboding whisper.
CHAPTER 25 – Gorciao is Mysterious
The rat led Nurdd down a narrow path, glancing over his shoulder a suspicious amount of times as they walked. After a few minutes he stopped.
“What do you want to know about the sword?” he asked Nurdd.
“I guess, everything? I just wanted to find an adventure, and the hairy guy upstairs mentioned some kind of Sword of Booming.”
“Hairy guy? You mean Gorciao? Lives in the cave with the really nice blue door?” The rat stared.
Nurdd was confused, “Gor – no, he told me to find Gorciao. He isn’t Gorciao. Is he?”
“No, yeah, that’s Gorciao. Always pretending not to be Gorcaio, that prankster.” The rat chuckled, “One time, last week, he sent some snail-looking guy on a wild goose chase for some sword! Hilarious!”
“Ha ha, yeah….” Nurdd was very confused and uncomfortable. “That was me. An hour or two ago. I’m looking for the sword.”
Now the rat looked confused, “No that wasn’t you, that guy was some kind of snail with wings. Anyway, you said you were looking for Varcoun to tell you about a magic battle axe?”
“No,” sputtered Nurdd.
“Lucky you,” said the rat, “because I AM Varcoun!!”
CHAPTER 26 – A Slightly Different Adventure
“Listen pal, I’ll tell you all about the Axe of Booming,” the rat proclaimed proudly. “I won’t even make you fist-bump me or do me any favors or anything! Although I will still need one favor and one fist-bump before this is all over.”
Nurdd was thoroughly confused. He had no idea who was Garcio and who was Varcoun and what sort of magical weaponry was down here, but the rat was already talking again before he could ask for clarification.
“Now listen, this axe you want, does all sorts of things. If you swing it at stuff it’ll cut, or bang, or thump. And it’s got a nice wooden handle, and it’s pretty heavy.” The rat paused, waiting for Nurdd to be amazed.
“That sound like all things a regular axe does,” Nurdd said, thoroughly un-amazed.
“No, right, regular axes do those things, but this axe does them too.”
“Does it do anything magical?”
“The axe? Heavens no. You want magic, we should be looking for the Sword of Booming. That’s the magic one.”
“I was looking for the sword! You’re the one who brought up the axe!”
“Naw,” the rat waved his arm, “You came down here blabbing about the Flail of Combustion.”
“No I wasn’t I – actually, that sounds pretty cool too.”
“Great!” The rat yelled, “We’ll go get you to the Sword of Booming, then stop for some frozen yogurt, then if there’s time we can swing by the Flail!”
Nurdd was very confused, but this sounded like an adventure, so he nodded his head and the two began walking again.
CHAPTER 27 – Watching Where We Are Going
The confusingly-named rat explained to the snailagon that the path they were following would weave through Goblin Territory, touch upon Skeleton Territory, loop-de-loop around Dragon Territory, and finally end in Magical Weaponry Territory.
Nurdd was very excited for the last two territories. The first two territories he was unsure of. Nurdd had never encountered a goblin before, and had really no idea what one was like. He had met the skeletons at the entrance to the cave, and shuddered yet again at the memory of the skele-bear’s horrible laugh.
Mostly, Nurdd just hoped that the rat wasn’t entirely crazy, despite the shifting names and shoddy memory, and that there would indeed be something magical to find at the end of the path.
The two began moving down the path, with the rat chattering about all the people he knew and then changing topic to how he didn’t know anybody at all. He pointed out various holes and cracks in the pathway, explaining how each led to different parts of the mountain. Nurdd was listening, but not fully. He was daydreaming a bit, just making his way alongside the rat without really watching where he was going.
This was not a good way to be moving through a windy, hole-and-crack-filled pathway, as Nurdd soon found out. His foot slipped and before he knew it, he was falling shell over mantle down into a dark hole. The rat, whose name was in fact Olivertt, shook his head and said, “and I was just about to point that one out to the poor guy.”
Chapter 28 – Convenient Signage
Nurdd tumbled through the darkness for what seemed like two and a half minutes, but was actually only two and a quarter. He was able to tuck himself up into his shell, so wasn’t hurt, although he was very dizzy when he plopped out of the wall in a lower pathway.
Unfurling himself, he looked around to get his bearings, and saw immediately to his left a sign reading “Dragon Territory Ahead”. It would seem that Nurdd had discovered a shortcut, bypassing both goblin and skeleton territory, as well as the secret hidden subterranean duck territory that not even the rats knew about.
Good thing, that, since as we all know snailagons and ducks harbor a deep rivalry ever since the Custard Wars over a hundred years ago. Such a senseless waste of delicious desserts.
“Oh great!” Nurdd said, “That fall must’ve saved me hours of wandering around with that weird rat guy. If his directions were right, I just need to scoot through these dragons and I’ll be at the weapons!”
Chapter 29 – If You Disliked The Rat Puns, I Apologize For What Is About To Occur
Nurdd slooped past the sign, excited to see what sorts of dragons lived this far below the surface. He wondered what forms and shapes they would take, his imagination running wild. Being half-dragon himself, he knew there were other hybrids in the world, but had only ever met a few of them. The notion of being related to something so strange and new was interesting but also a little frightening.
It was like going to a family dinner and being told that your distant cousin from across the country whom you had never met before would be there, and then being warned not to mention the you-know-what, and having absolutely no idea what the you-know-what is.
Nurdd cruised down the path, excited for what new creatures he would meet. He turned a corner into a large cavern and found himself on a ledge looking down over a crowd of bustling bodies. It seemed to be a marketplace, with shops and stalls scattered about. Crowds moved around forming clusters and streams. And everywhere he looked Nurdd saw wings, horns, tails, and scales of all colors.
This was it. This was dragon-territory. Nurdd was stoked to meet as many dragons as he could. Certainly, there would be no silly pun-based humor in the next few chapters, just good old dragon stuff.
Chapter 30 – The Next Few Chapters Are All About Puns
The ledge that Nurdd was on extended around the sides of the cavern, providing an elevated walkway for travelers to bypass the crowds. As eager as he was to mingle, Nurdd decided to stay up here and survey the creatures for another minute.
He saw a small scaly thing further along the walkway and began slooping towards it. As he got closer, Nurdd saw the little dragon was plucking at a guitar and mumbling to itself. The music had a good rhythm, but it was all just single notes going up and down.
“Nice beat, whats the song?” Nurdd asked the dragon.
“It’s not a song, I’m just practicing my scales,” the dragon replied, grinning enormously.
“Cool,” said Nurdd, not realizing what had just happened. He waved his wings and kept slooping.
Chapter 31 – Don’t worry They Get Worse
As the sounds of the music faded behind him, Nurdd saw another little dragon on the walkway. The dragon looked like a common sort of creature, front and hind legs, wings, tail, the whole bit, but instead of walking it was sitting on its tush and pulling itself along the ground.
“Hello there,” Nurdd called out. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m great,” the dragon replied. “Just dragging myself about, as I always do.”
“But why dragging, if I may ask?” Nurdd moved closer, “I’m from up on the surface, you see, this is all very new to me down here.”
“How else should a drag-on move about?” the drag-on answered.
“I suppose I don’t know,” Nurdd admitted slowly. “Well, carry on, pleasure to meet you.”
Nurdd looked ahead and saw a line of dragons sittings in chairs outside of a door, they all looked rather glum, so he wondered if something was wrong up there. As he moved closer the door opened and a dragon wearing hospital gear and holding a clipboard stepped out. The dragon motioned to one of the others in the chairs (Nurdd saw now this one was holding its forearm at an awkward angle and winced every time it moved). The pained dragon got up and followed the be-garbed dragon through the door, which shut behind them. As he passed it, Nurdd read “Dr. Agon, MD” stenciled on the glass in simple black lettering.
“I’m getting a bad feeling about this,” Nurdd muttered to himself.
Elsewhere in the caves, Olivert the rat had just told a hilarious joke about two bears wearing coveralls, and was holding his hand out waiting for someone to fist bump him. No one did.
“If only that snail guy was here,” Olivert thought sadly, “he owed me a fist bump and this would have been the perfect time to collect.”
Luckily the crowd around him was laughing so uproariously that no one noticed his outstretched fist being left hanging, and he was able to slowly lower it back down to his side with no further incident.
Chapter 32 – Let Us Continue
Nurdd was becoming very frustrated. He had met half a dozen more dragons during the interlude, but instead of being interesting hybrids like him, they were all just very silly. There was a Book Wyrm who hadn’t even looked up from its stories, a b-lizard who spewed snow and ice all over the path, and a small planning committee who continually started to organize before screaming “let’s just wing it” and devolving to chaotic shouting. Just a lot of silly things, which have no place in a high-brow publication such as this.
He was about to jump down into the main chamber, hoping to find less puns and more magic weaponry, when he spotted one more creature just around the bend ahead. It looked like a run-of-the-mill dragon from the shoulders up and the hips down, but the middle section was incredibly long and featured many sets of legs.
Nurdd thought, “maybe this guy is half snake, or part centipede? That’d be interesting.” and edged closer.
“Hello there, pleasure to meet you!” Nurdd called out.
The very long dragon turned to look, “Hello to you,” it called. “You’re a strange looking fellow. I see some dragon in you, but what’s the rest made from?”
Nurdd was a little put off by the question, then realized he had been about to ask the exact same thing.
“I’m a snailagon, from the surface. All the good parts from both a snail and dragon,” Nurdd said proudly. Now, we all know that snailagons in fact had mostly good parts, but also some mediocre ones, but Nurdd was still proud of what he was. “Check out my shell! And my wings!” and he flexed both.
“That’s great!” said the long dragon, “Don’t see many creatures from the outside down here. Although you do remind me of my cousin Durnn, you should meet him.”
“That sounds wonderful, I’d love to,” Nurdd said despite the fact that he thought it sounded horrible and didn’t want to. “But first, I was looking for an adventure, and heard about some magic weapons. I think a sword, maybe a flail, the guy wasn’t very clear about it. Do you know anything about it?”
“Naw, weapons aren’t my specialty, but again, my cousin Durrn loves that stuff. In fact, he was just planning an expedition this morning, you might be able to tag along if you hurry.”
Now Nurdd was more excited about meeting this cousin. Instead of yet another distraction, Durrn may finally be just the person to help him complete his quest.
“Ok, yeah, where can I find him?”
“You should be able to find him in the pit below, look for the stall with blue banners. It’s got a sign for ‘Enchanted Expeditions’.”
“Is he really long like you? How will I recognize him?”
“No, no, his body doesn’t drag on like mine.” (Nurdd shuddered) “He’s a hybrid like you, half dragon and half snail; a Dragonail!”
Chapter 33 – What a Shocking Twist
Nurdd was bursting with excitement as he pushed through the crowds in the pit. Not only was he about to meet another hybrid, he was about to meet another dragon/snail hybrid. His mind was racing wondering what the differences between a snailagon and dragonail could possibly be. What mixture of wings and tails and shells would this Durnn fellow be composed of? And not just that, but this dragonail was an expert in magical weaponry!
Nurdd was already planning a lifelong friendship, and they hadn’t even met yet.
The very long dragon, whose name had been Quincer (but that isn’t important), had given Nurdd directions to the Enchanted Expeditions tent. It was located in the Travel District, next to a stall offering tours of the surface and across from a food truck (which sold swiss charred (of course)). A very nice location for business.
The stall should be just ahead, Nurdd realized, and he braced himself against the excitement growing in him. He rounded one more corner, squeezed through one more cluster of bodies, and there before him was a stall with bright blue banners.
Chapter 34 – Durnn
Nurdd inched up to the stall, shaking in anticipation. “Hello!” he called, “I’m looking for Durnn?”
There was the sound of shuffling, and a figure came around the half-wall that divided the front and back of the stall. The figure had a dragon-ish head, thick snake-like body, and a coiling tail that ended in a super-cool looking barb. Instead of spikes, a series of small shells protruded along its spine, each with a pair of stubby wings peeking from underneath. Running along the edges of his foot were short, thick claws.
But we all know what a dragonail looks like.
“I’m Durnn,” the figure called happily. “What can I do for you?”
Nurdd didn’t answer right away because he was too busy shaking with joy.
Chapter 35 – A Few Shakes Later
Once he calmed down a bit, Nurdd explained to Durnn how he had come to the mountain, escaped the annoying skeletons, talked to the annoying hairy guy, escaped the annoying rats, and was lead around by the annoying Gorciao fellow before finally making his way through the annoying dragons on the rim and finding his way here.
“Sounds like a rather annoying day,” Durnn murmured.
“Oh no,” Nurdd replied, “today has been awesome! Best adventure I’ve been on in a long time!”
Sometimes the best adventures are the ones with the most bumps and turns, but we all knew that already.
“Anyway, I’m super interested in these magical weapons I keep hearing about. Although every time I hear about them, I’m told different things. It started with a Booming Sword, then a pike of some kind, then gauntlets and a crossbow. But your cousin, the long gentleman, said you knew all about them all.”
Durnn nodded, “Oh yeah, all those things. The swords actually nearby where I was headed today anyhow, if you’d like to come along?”
Nurdd replied as calmly as he could; “YES!”
“Well, help me with these packs and we’ll be on our way.”
Chapter 35 – On Their Way
The two creatures slooped their way through the crowds towards one of the many tunnels that dotted the rim of the cavern. Along the way Durnn nodded to a number of other hybrids; Dragotoads, caterpragons, beetleagons. All sorts of common creatures, but Nurdd was excited to meet each one.
In between these encounters, Nurdd told Durnn about some of his friends up on the surface; Chrakk the crowagon, Gargar the dralmon, and Hildie the mouse. Hildie wasn’t part dragon, but she was a very accomplished witch, which is just as interesting. Again, very common creatures, but Durnn was excited to hear about them all.
Nurdd was so engrossed in their conversation he didn’t even notice they had entered a tunnel until Durnn stopped and said “Now, the Sword of Booming is down this side-tunnel. Kinda tight and dark, but not a bad jaunt. Not too far either, in fact you should be able to hear it a bit already.”
Nurdd realized he could indeed hear a muffled thumping sound.
“It can get pretty intense in there, you sure you want to go on?”
Nurdd nodded his head with such resolution that a passing ladybug was stuck in awe for four seconds.
“Let’s be on our way then,” Durnn said, squeezing into the side-tunnel.
Chapter 36 – Booming
The side-tunnel was darker and tighter than Nurdd had expected. The sides varied in width from “brushing my sides” to “scraping my sides” and the roof had been steadily lowering the further they progressed. What little light filtered in from the main tunnel quickly petered out as the side-tunnel twisted away.
After a few minutes the side-tunnel was in total darkness. Nurdd could hear Durnn ahead of him, but just barely. The thumping was growing in intensity, drowning out all other sounds. Nurdd realized there was a rhythm buried in the noise, making it hard to focus. He puffed little flames with his breath, just enough to see Durnn’s tail moving ahead of him, and hurried to keep up.
As the tunnel continued to squeeze tighter and the thumping continued to rattle louder, Nurdd began to worry just how much further the Sword would be. Just as the first fringes of panic set in, he noticed flashes of light coming from ahead.
Every few seconds, a different color would shine, just a little. Every step further and every twist closer, the lights would flash a little brighter. The thumping and booming from the Sword was now so loud that Nurdd’s shell vibrated with each beat.
As they neared one more bend, Durnn looked back over his shell at Nurdd and yelled, “You ready?”
Chapter 37 – BOOMING
The chamber that the two creatures entered was exploding with sounds and lights.
Nurdd was too dazed by it to see everything at once. The side-tunnel had opened into a ramp that led downwards, but his attention was focused on the enormous sword, five times the length of his body, sticking out of the ground in the middle of the chamber.
The blade shone in different colors, changing with each room-shaking boom. The booms themselves came pouring out of the hilt, high above Nurdd’s head. It was silvery, polished to a mirror finish and reflected the flashing lights, creating a strobe of overlapping colors. The pommel was a multi-faceted gem slowly spinning on the end of the handle, further scattering and layering the lights that filled the chamber.
It was loud. And beautiful, And very loud.
As his senses returned, Nurdd realized that not all of the noise was coming from the Sword. At the bottom of the ramp, the chamber was filled wall-to-wall with an incredible menagerie of creatures. Nurdd saw wings and claws and tusks and scales and furs and all manner of strange body parts jumping and moving like some sort of chaotic dance.
It actually was some sort of chaotic dance, that wasn’t just a metaphor, Nurdd realized.
He looked up at the Sword, the flashing lights and rhythmic booms and thumps. He looked down at the crowd again, saw them hopping in unison and bobbing their heads. He looked up again at the Sword, noticing that the guards on either side of the grip ended in flared horns, from which the booming was emanating. He looked, once more, at the crowd below and saw a group of four crayfish selling CDs and t-shirts to passersby.
He looked, finally, back towards Durnn. “Ready to party, brother?” Durnn yelled with a grin. “You know, I was setting out today for a real doozy of a trek, looking for some artifacts, but when you mentioned the Sword of Booming Tunes, I thought ‘sure, lets have some fun before the work begins’.”
Nurdd was very confused.
Chapter 38 – Technically No One Was Misled
It took some explaining, made more difficult by the incredibly loud music the sword was pouring out and the constant jostling of the crowds, but Durnn was able to explain that the booming magic of the Sword was less about shooting destructive blasts at enemies and more about vibing hardcore in a moshpit.
Just because an object is a weapon by design, does not mean it has no other uses.
Nurdd tried to be angry about this, but really, the party in the pit looked like a lot of fun and the music from the Sword was getting him all sorts of jazzed up. When Durnn gestured down the ramp and began slooping into the crowd, Nurdd eagerly followed.
Hours later, the two emerged – sweaty, dehydrated, slightly bruised, thoroughly exhausted, and very very happy. A good moshing will do that to you.
Durnn led the way back through the side-tunnel, down a different side-tunnel, and around a bend, where the two could relax and catch their breath.
Chapter 39 – Well That Was Fun
“Well,” Nurdd said, “that was fun”
Chapter 40 – Yes But What Now
“Yes,” Durnn replied, “but what now?”
Nurdd shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been adventuring down here all day. It’s getting late and I’m pretty exhausted.”
“You can sleep back at my place if you’d like. It’s just a short sloop back from the main cavern. I’ve got a guest nook, plenty of space. Then in the morning I can show you the way back out to the surface.”
“That’d be perfect, are you sure though? Weren’t you setting off for some expedition?”
Durnn shrugged, “I had heard about some enchanted arrows down in the Southern Ravine, but I’ve got plenty of those in my store already. I’d probably have a better time following some leads up near the peak anyway, supposedly there’s a suit of armor right near the exit I’ve been wanting to investigate.”
“Armor? Does it do anything?”
“Supposedly leaks some kind of purple smoke. No one knows what it does though. My bets on some sort of camouflage, but who knows?”
Nurdd shrugged again. “Sounds like a plan.”
And so, the two friends slooped their way back up the tunnel.
Chapter 41 – The Final Chapter of This Story