Chapters 1 – 39 Archive
For a moment the swim didn’t seem particularly suicidal, but then something bit Doug’s leg. He kicked it off and swam harder, heading into an underwater cavern he hoped would come to an end before he did. He could barely see, but Doug thought he saw some light a few yards ahead. Something brushed up against him and he tried to ignore, but then something bigger slammed against him, knocking him into the cave’s wall. He stabbed back at it with his sword and felt it make contact, and then turned back towards his destination only to see another shape racing towards him. Doug thrust his sword tip at it as he moved out of the way. He felt the blade cut through flesh and bone but he did not have the time to try and see exactly what damage he had done. It didn’t feel as if he could hold his breath much longer, and the extra exertions weren’t helping. He swam towards the light as fast as he could. He thought he was near, but it was hard to tell. Doug’s lungs felt like bursting, and it seemed like he could last only a few more moments.
Something grabbed his leg. Either claws or teeth were gripping into his ankle as he tried to kick away. Doug could see the water’s surface just a foot above his face, and he swung his arms with full forces to propel him towards it. If something was going to cling to him, then he was taking it out of the water with him. It was strong, but he felt stronger, and with one last kick he breached the surface to take a breath.
Suddenly, he was being pulled upwards. Then Doug realized he was falling; it was if gravity reversed soon as he left the water. He slammed hard into a rock floor — but at least not quite as hard as the last couple times he got slammed into things. He lay on the ground for a moment, sopping wet and gasping for air. And then he stood up, holding onto his sword tightly. “Well… that wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting.”
Doug appeared to be standing on Loch’s ship — a giant structure that looked like it had been carved out of rock. The sky around them was a swirling dark purple; it didn’t seem quite like the wasteland but it didn’t seem like regular old reality either. He at least had enough light to see that the top of the ship was empty except for him.
And then he heard a scream.
“Charlene!” It seemed to be coming from in the ship, and Doug spotted a stairway leading down. He charged down it through a thin hallway lit by glowing veins that stretched through the rock walls. Eventually he saw a room lit ahead of him. There lay Charlene on the ground, crying. She seemed to be alone, but he felt a frightening presence there. Charlene screamed again, and for a moment Doug saw something standing over her ripping into her.
“Char–” Something grabbed Doug by the mouth and slammed him into the wall. He tried to strike at it with his sword, but his arm was pinned to the wall. Something grabbed him from the other side, and he tried to kick it only to have his leg restrained. He was completely immobilized, able to do nothing but watch Charlene scream and the massive beast attacker her once again before disappearing just as quickly.
“Don’t waste your breath on trying to call to her.” Ronove hobbled in front of the defenseless Doug. “She can’t see or hear you.” Ronove tapped an unseen wall between Doug and Charlene.
The claw stopped holding Doug’s mouth so he could speak, but he didn’t feel there was any purpose into talking to Ronove.
“As I have explained, this will be a painful process, but I assure you there is an end to it,” Ronove said.
Charlene screamed again. She looked to be in too much pain to even plead against the torment.
“Right now, you’ll react to her screams of agony with anger and despair, but after enough time the only thing you’ll feel is boredom. Then perhaps we’ll be ready, but to be sure I’m going to make you watch the rest of your friends suffer as well. Even those you befriended while imprisoned at my lab will meet unspeakable torture only for having known you. It may seem wanton, but what it will prove is…”
Doug was getting really tired of listening to Ronove, so he decided to ignore him for now. Instead he tried to get a glimpse of what was holding him. They appeared to be large beasts unlike anything he had ever seen before, and they held him so tight it was if he was welded into the wall. The faces’ of the creatures seemed to be mainly a mouth of sharp teeth pointed in every direction, and they had red eyes that were almost painful to gaze into. They seemed too fearsome and powerful to even notice Doug struggling against them, but he was kinda curious how they would react if he spit in one of their eyes.
It did not appear to be expecting that.
The grip was loosened just enough for Doug to yank is sword arm free and stab the creature on the other side of him. It let go and fell to the ground, and then the other swung at him. Doug dodged out of the way and cut off its limb. He then stabbed it through its stupid toothy face.
Ronove’s expression was as inscrutable as usual, so he couldn’t quite tell if he was surprised or not. “What exactly do you expect to accomplish?” Ronove asked. “You don’t even have the brainpower to understand just how futile your…”
Doug ignored him again and turned to Charlene. The massive creature appeared again and Charlene screamed as it grabbed her, tormenting her for a moment before disappearing again. Doug touched the wall between him and Charlene. He thought it was some invisible force field, but it felt just like glass. All he needed was something large to throw at it.
Now he finally turned his attention to Ronove.
* * * *
“We have to fight back!” Chimezie yelled.
“Great idea,” Bryce said. He looked around the room they were in. Solid rock with no exits. “We’ll get right on that.”
“We need to cause trouble!” Lulu said. “If they’re going to like torture us for all eternity, we should at least making it really annoying for them.”
They heard a scream. Bryce assumed it had to be Charlene — which probably meant Doug was out there. He really didn’t want to just be sitting there, but he didn’t see any option. “Clearly, we have nothing to lose by being difficult considering what’s already being threatened against us, but it still seems like we should have some sort of plan here. Eventually, they’ll come for another one of us and… then what?”
“We are not less than them,” Chimezie preached to the group. “We _can_ fight them. We must have faith!”
“I’m liking the attitude,” Bryce said, “but could we at least have some sort of substantial action we’re planning here? We have beings with power beyond our understanding; what’s the plan of action there?”
“I already kicked the Ronove guy before. We could also try punching him in the face,” Lulu suggested. “He looks very punchable.”
“Okay; good.” Bryce paced the floor thinking. “We now have a plan for Ronove: Punch him in the face. What about the intangible force of evil that is Loch? He doesn’t seem to have a face to punch. We’ll need another plan there.” Bryce looked around the group. “It’s a brainstorming session; just start throwing ideas out there. It will help if it’s in English.” No one said anything. “It can’t be _that_ desperate. Do you know of any fictional stories at least of someone taking on a massive, unimaginable powerful being?”
“It’s not fiction, but once Jesus faced down Satan,” Chimezie said. “Jesus was fasting in the desert and Satan tried to tempt Jesus into turning rocks into bread.”
“And what did Jesus do?” Bryce asked.
“He resisted the temptation.”
Bryce was slightly confused. “So he defeated Satan by not turning rocks into bread?”
“We’ve been not turning rocks into bread all day that hasn’t gotten us anywhere,” Lulus said.
“Puss n’ Boots!” exclaimed one of the women.
Bryce turned to her. She was a small, frightened looking blond woman. “Excuse me?”
“Puss n’ Boots is a story of a cat with… uh… boots. He face powerful ogre, so he tricks ogre to turn into mouse. He then eat mouse.”
Bryce nodded thoughtfully. “So the plan is to trick Loch into turning into a mouse and then we have a cat eat him. It’s a stupid plan, but it is one plan better than we had before. So where do we get a cat?
“Oh!” Lulu exclaimed. She then reached into a jacket pocket and pulled out a little pin. “Look; a kitty.”
Bryce smiled. “That’s a start.”