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“Watt arrr yuuu?” asked the Balrukh thickly.

“I’m a Troll,” said Rrraff. “A really little Troll right now, but I’ll get bigger if I can stay alive.”

“Why arrrr yu here?” asked the Balrukh.

“I’m inspecting these caverns for the Trollgod,” said Rrraff. He waved his ring before the Balrukh’s face. “He can see you right now through this ring.”

“Izz hee a reell gawd?” asked the Balrukh.

“Oh, yes! Not the biggest god around, but he has power. How would you like to get in good with him?”

“How kin I duu thet?”

“Just walk around with me, and help with my survey.”

“Thet sounds like funnn! Wannn some bug t’eat?”

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Rrraff. He looked at the cockroach’s head, tore off an antenna and began chewing off the meat around the base of it.”


Rrraff took a bite of cockroach antenna.

Meanwhile, Middleclaw looked at the bloody streak along the side of his foot. It itched and burned a little, but was already beginning to scab over. “You’re kidding about the poison, right?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” said Gimor. “I know a lot of useless stuff, and I’ve heard that most insect bites are poisonous. That’s why they turn red and sting. With a giant bug, the poison ought to be much, much worse.”

“That’s just great,” griped Middleclaw. “I fly down to save you – against my better judgment – and you get away unscathed, while I’m poisoned and going to die. I’m half tempted to kill you right now just to keep you from winning this race.”

“Don’t,” said Gimor. “If we can clean out the wound, you might not suffer too much damage from the poison.”

“There’s nothing here to clean it with,” said Middleclaw.

“But there is,” said Gimor. “Fluids from the bug would only make things worse, and my Trollish blood would burn you like acid, but you have a loincloth that would work as a washrag, and if you washed the wound clean with some of your own blood, you could probably clean out enough poison to survive.”

“I don’t like that idea much,” said Middleclaw.

“I have two other ideas,” said Gimor. “You could cauterize the wound with your own fiery breath. Heat would probably destroy the poison.”

“That’s worse than your first idea,” said the Dragoll.

“Or, you could let me use your sword to cut your foot off,” said Gimor. “But we have to act quickly. Once the poison reaches your heart, you will be in a lot of trouble.”

“It might not even be poisoned,” Middleclaw whined . . .

Mahrundl let out a bellow and raced to Tmuwo’s aid. He didn’t know why he was risking his life this way – he didn’t even have a weapon, but he couldn’t just stand by and see a fellow troll from Trollhalla be destroyed by a giant cockroach.

Wounded and dripping lava-like blood, Tmuwo tried to run, and managed to stagger even deeper into the cave. He heard a yell, but looking back, all he saw was a giant cockroach, frantically trying to rub its mandible against a stalagmite. It looked like he had poisoned it.

As Mahrundl drew closer, he saw the bug acting in an irrational fashion, repeatedly scraping its head against a column of limestone rising from the floor. It didn’t seem to be paying any attention to him, so he ran around it, and continued down the trail, and caught up with Tmuwo.

“Hey, Tmuwo, you’re pretty badly hurt,” he commented. “Need any help?”

“Ugh!” said Tmuwo. “I think I’m poisoned. Yes, I could use some help. What can you do for me?”

“We could bandage the wound. We really need to find a way to clean it out, though.”

“Too late for that. It has already scabbed over. I would appreciate it if you stayed by me and helped me fight anything else that appears.”

“I can do that for a while,” said Mahrundl. “We need to find a way through this cavern, and two fighters might be better than one if we meet more of these beasties.”

The two Trolls staggered onwards, looking for a way out . . .

SilverHorn continued to explore the narrow passageway he had discovered. It twisted and turned, and went deeper into the bedrock. He followed it for what seemed like a long time, and gradually the air grew hotter around him. Finally, the passageway ended in a dead end. A kind of deep rumble issued from the rock around him, and there seemed to be a small hole in the rock ahead of him. Red light poured through the hole. SilverHorn put his eye to the hole in the rock and noticed that a kind of fiery red light was coming from somewhere below him, bouncing up off great stony walls of basalt. There wasn’t too much to be seen, just the light, and stone. He put his finger into the hole and noticed that the stone was less than an inch thick. How he wished he had something more than a top hat to work with. If he only had a tool of some sort, he might be able to break through this relatively thin wall of rock, and if he did, he might be well ahead of the other racers. Or he might be totally lost. Either he had to find a way to go forward, or he had to go back. For a while, he hoped he could find a secret door – after all why have a tunnel that just ends? But there was no secret door to be found . . .

Taran was having the strangest dream. He dreamt that a dozen Goblins found him sleeping in the cavern, that they picked him up, carried him to a section of wall behind the second pool, opened a secret door, and carried him into a dark tunnel. He dreamt that they carried him a long ways, came out into a large cavern, made their way between mighty stalagmites, and finally deposited him beside a reed-choked pool in the rock. He dreamt that he heard frogs croaking. It was all very strange. The croaking lulled him back to sleep.


. . . half a dozen goblins . . .


When he woke up, he found it was perfectly true. He was lying beside a reed-choked pool in a large cavern. Far overhead, cracks in the stone ceiling admitted more light than he had yet seen in these caves. And he felt quite a bit better than he had at any time in the recent past. The pool didn’t poison him after all. And he was hungry, ravenous in fact. A fish leaped out of the water, caught a dragonfly, and splashed back down. Frogs croaked in the reeds. Taran sat up and tried to decide what to do next . . .

(to be continued)


What’s an adventure blogger to do?  I need to keep this story moving along lest everyone totally forget about it, but it would be so much better if Greywulf could break free from whatever is keeping him busy, and get me some more monsters in action renders.  This time I cropped the one picture I have from him and inserted bits and pieces of it in the text.  It’s unsatisfactory, really, but better than nothing.



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