Here is episode 2 of Quests. Those of you who read the old version of Quests, please note that I have changed the name of the snake monster to a humaviper as this better reflects what the creature is.
Read the series prologue here.
Read episode 1 here.
Episode Two: Crisis of the Lost Monster
The last rays of the sun vanished behind the Emerald Mountains and shadows covered the peaks. As full night covered the rocky, sparsely vegetated landscape of the mountain tops, a number of small, hairy, bow-legged creatures emerged from the low entrances of a series of caves which stank of rancid meat. They made their way down the mountain face keeping their balance with sharp yellow claws, their beady black eyes searching for prey. They were trolls; the great nocturnal hunters of Irowasa.
A troll girl named Felnar broke off from the main group and passed through a huge carved archway, gateway to an underground city, which was set into the slope. At three and a half feet tall, Felnar was shorter than the average four foot troll. Wiry brown hair covered her body save on her leathery face, the palms of her hands, and the bottoms of her feet. She turned from the main corridor into a smaller tunnel which sloped steeply downhill and was rough, as though it had long been in disrepair. Felnar didn’t know it, but this had once been one of the main passages connecting the upper world to the rest of the city far below before the huge tunnel leading to the front gate took its place. Felnar skipped down the passage, her clawed feet made echoes bounce off the stone walls with a strange, thump-clack, thump-clack.
When the rough path ended Felnar turned into new twisting passages carved from polished stone and lined on either side with arched cave entrances. This portion of the city was inhabited by goblins. Felnar passed several of these creatures on her journey but they were busy about their own business and took little notice of her.
As she left behind the residential areas and came to a series of messy storage caves at the heart of the mountain, Felnar at last found the object of her hunt. Crawling the cool walls of the cavern and hiding in dusty corners were a number of fat cave beetles. Felnar had recently developed a taste for these creatures. She licked her lips, scooped up three beetles and shoved them into her mouth, enjoying the crunching noise they made as she sank her fangs into them.
Just as she finished her first handful of beetles and pounced on a few more she heard a low hiss from the passage behind her. The sound sent shivers down her spine. She stared into the dark corridor. Her sharp eyes fixed on a coil of a scaly body with a female humanoid face rising above it. The monster gave another hiss and bared a set of narrow white fangs. Felnar screamed, dropped the beetles and ran back up the passage she had come from. Her heart pounded and her ears rang. She knew what the monster was, she had heard the rumors of a lost humaviper hiding in the lowest levels of the city.
Felnar tried to recall all she knew about these monsters: they had the heads and arms of humans and the bodies of snakes. In their mouths they had retractable fangs filled with potent venom. This venom could kill victims in a matter of minutes after a bite had been inflicted. It was also said that they had slightly less potent venom in their finger nails. If someone was scratched by a humaviper it could take them anywhere from a few hours to a day to die. Several recent disappearances had been attributed to this humaviper. Felnar had heard a story that the monster had killed a whole family of trolls just to eat for dinner.
Was that a rustle of scales on the stone floor? Shuddering the troll girl tried to remember if the stories mentioned a way to escape a humaviper. Her mind drew a blank. She continued running, turning corners without much thought for where she was headed until she was once again in the residential area of the underground city.
It was not until she ran into him that she noticed a goblin boy with slimy green skin like a frog, bright cat eyes, and yellow fangs.
“Hey, watch where you’re going!” snapped the goblin.
Even through her fright Felnar recognized the boy as an old friend.
“Oh Fedrick!” she cried. “I’m so glad I found you. It’s true, there really is a humaviper in the mountain! She’s horrible!”
“What are you babbling about?” asked Fedrick.
“I saw the humaviper while I was hunting cave beetles. She smelled me and started looking around to find me. I ran as fast as I could to escape!”
“You’ve been listening to far too many rumors and you always think someone is out to get you,” said Fedrick, rolling his eyes. “The humaviper is probably just passing through. She could be gone in no time and I doubt she’ll go to the trouble to chase down one scrawny little troll.”
“I hope you’re right!” said Felnar casting a quick glance over her shoulder.
Another goblin ran past calling, “Come on, Fedrick! The king’s council just announced that all goblins are required to gather in the central meeting hall.”
“What should I do?” Felnar asked as Fedrick turned to follow the other goblin.
“Just stay with me for now,” Fedrick replied.
They made their way through several smooth passageways until they came to a gigantic circular chamber with a domed ceiling lost in deep shadows. Passages opened from all sides under huge archways. The chamber was already crowded with goblins when Fedrick and Felnar squeezed into it the just as the meeting began.
“Our fellow goblins to the north,” one of the council members was saying, “have asked for our help fighting the dwarves so that these enemies will not build another mine, which will certainly threaten the existence of their city. We intend to send them help of course, but we have a little problem of our own to take care of first. We have within our city a humaviper who has been attacking citizens, thus dwindling our numbers. We must rid ourselves of this monster before we can assist our brothers to the north. Are there any suggestions on how we could go about doing this?”
“We should send a group of warriors to hunt and kill her,” someone called out.
“Are you crazy?” replied another. “All those who meet her vanish. It would be a waste of good warriors!”
“Perhaps we could collapse a section of tunnel on top of her,” came another suggestion.“Too risky,” said a council member. “She moves around so much it is hard to pin-point her exact location and collapsing tunnels would weaken the structure of the city.”
With a sarcastic smirk Fedrick called out, “Why not take care of both problems at once? Hire the humaviper to kill some dwarves. We’ve seen how good she is at killing things.”
“What was that youngling?” asked one of the council members, thinking he was serious. All the goblins turned to Fedrick, so he repeated what he had said.
“What an intriguing idea,” said the leader. “But how would we convince the humaviper to help us?”
“Well…” said Fedrick, “we could negotiate a deal with her. Offer her riches and the best meat or something if she’ll help us fight the dwarves.”
“Ah yes, but there’s still the problem of getting such a proposal to the humaviper.”
“Begging your pardon,” said an older goblin toward the front of the crowd. “Why not send the boy who had the idea in the first place as a messenger? He seems clever. Perhaps he can find a way to attract the humaviper’s attention so a deal can be struck.”
Eager to find a suitable solution and wishing to avoid being sent in search of the humaviper themselves, the other goblins murmured their agreement.
“Very well,” said the council. “It seems our minds have been made up for us.”
Fedrick realized it would be pointless to try to talk his way out of being chosen messenger but not wanting to face the monster alone he said, “My troll friend here has seen the humaviper. Perhaps she can help me find it.”
“What?!” Felnar squealed.
Her protests were lost in a great cheer from the goblin crowd as it surged forward to sweep her and Fedrick into the deepest tunnels so they could negotiate with the humaviper.
Continue to Episode 3.