For Bonus XP 2
Tanivel was hunched in a small offshoot tunnel waiting for the footfalls of the six-limbed creature to dissipate in the distance. This was the third time he’d needed to hide to avoid the giant tunnel snake. The monster had come out of the lower caverns two days ago. It had injured several people and almost dragged off a child before the adults drove it back into the lower tunnels. They had sealed off the larger passageways, but he knew other routes down into these musty brown caverns. Now here he was, avoiding a beast.
As he lingered amongst the brown rock he thought again on the story his mentor Beldon had told him of the Copper Flower. It was a rare geological formation, poisonous to touch, deadly to hold. Tanivel thought it was the best way to kill a monster with skin so thick blades could barely pierce it. He had brought cloth to hold the flower, and his sling to deliver it. Now here he was, to fell a monster.
There was little natural light in the tunnels, the occasional glow. He had brought his own glowbasket but was keeping it sealed as long as possible. He stepped out of the smaller natural cave and into one which had been expanded into a hallway by his ancestors. There was no sign of the tunnel snake, so he moved deeper into the tunnels, seeking the caves under the old settlement. Now here he was, chasing a legend.
Tanivel crawled through winding tunnels, the old homes and workspaces a blur around him. He had to be both silent and ever vigilant, wary of the creature’s return. The smooth stone cave way to rough rock and he knew he had reached the lower tunnels. Even his quiet footsteps echoed weirdly around him. He could smell the age of the rock in the dust. This was old, and untouched for ages. Several times he hid in small tunnels, fearing his enemy had made him the prey first but he remained unfound. He wondered the tunnels until he heard the dripping of water and made his way toward it. He found his way to a dark cavern, the few bits of glowing fungi on the walls not enough to illuminate the whole thing. He opened his own glowbasket. Then he saw it on a raised clump of rock in small pool of water. The Copper Flower, a bloom of metal shaped by falling droplets. Now here he was, with a deadly beauty.
He leaped across the small pool, glad for his sturdy boots and thick gloves. He had to pick the right one, fully formed, but not yet breaking down. Beldon was a good teacher, and Tanivel was a good student, so it was easy to select the strongest blossom of the Copper Flower. The cloth and sling came out of his pouch, and he carefully gathered the clump of metallic petals into his weapon. With a quick leap back, he moved into the tunnels, confident now that he had a chance of victory. His footfalls rang loud now, a siren’s call to his prey. This was a battle he would win by appearing as food. When he crossed back into the old habitat the giant tunnel snake turned a corner to meet him. The six-legged beast rose up, and the cavern ceiling rose to let it. Tanivel stood in front of the gaping maw. Now here he was, a false feast.
The boy had his sling moving as soon as he saw the monster. Before the fanged giant could descend, the cavern crawler let the Copper Flower ascend. He watched as the blossom flew between the fangs and disappeared into the darkness beyond. The tunnel snake jerked back and closed its mouth in response. Tanivel scampered out of the way as the beast brought its bulk crashing down where he had been moments before. He raced away as it continued to hiss and thrash, trying to dislodge the metal flower. The edges of the petals lodged in its throat through. Now here he was, a victor in retreat.
An angry hiss and heavy steps followed him down the tunnels. The loud crashes of the beast pushed him ahead. Tanivel managed to stay ahead of the beast, but not the damage it was doing to the old tunnels. First, he saw cracks move ahead of him. Second, the rocks began to fall. Finally, the caverns he knew crumbled around him…
And then he awoke. He was on the Hephaestus and narrowly avoided bumping his head on the ceiling above him. Soon he realized the terrible sounds he was hearing were not a great beast and collapsing rock, but thunder.