If you’re going to be breakfast, at least bring some cutlery
Nothing like firmly gripping a giant slug’s throat bristles to make you appreciate the little things.
The textures, the squelching. The assembly line of muscles effortlessly sucking you down screaming and clawing into your new, dimly-lit pinkish home. A warm, quiet pouch of caustic ooze. A place where someone could get away from it all, relax, be digested in peace. This isn’t so bad, Chael thought, as a sphincter opened in the pouch, and sucked them screaming and clawing into a second stomach, then a third, then a forth. Each one darker, each one lined with rougher and rougher stomach burs, each one home to larger and larger symbiotic digestive organisms, and each one smelling different, with a different flavour of acid, each stronger than the last.
It was in the forth stomach, with its thumb-sized stomach ticks, and its notes of applewood and persimmon, almond and rotting algae-mold, that Chael started wondering if they should try to pull off one of their own fingernails. But no, instead they would have to escape from this giant slug’s digestive track the old-fashioned way. Grit, guts, roguish ingenuity, and hopefully not the colon.
They felt around in their shepherd’s jacket, which was bleaching at a visible rate. Normally, Chael would have five daggers hidden away, the standard family-pack of blades most rogues carry at all times. But today was special. Today was the day they were being eaten alive. An occasion like this calls for… a handful of grain. A scrap of leather. A dog whistle. And the dullest shepherd’s tool ever stolen. Shepherd’s tools were invaluable little things. There was nothing better for clipping burrs out of wool, cleaning hooves, and bouncing uselessly off of a giant slug’s rubbery stomach lining.
Chael put the tool back inside the dissolving jacket’s pocket and took a breath of sour air. They were so close. Less than a foot of translucent slug separated them from freedom. They could see out. Through the twelve inches of membrane and gel they watched dungeon walls streak by, rocks fall, acid spray, spells being cast. Mahani and Glig must be trying to fight this thing after all. Chael felt warmed briefly, by either the thought of having friends, or by the acid, but after the lengthy tour of this slug’s interior, Chael knew how this encounter was going to end: Digestion all around. They were severely outmatched, painfully underpowered, and level-inappropriate by any calculation.
Chael was what the dungeoneering community would call a 4th level rogue. Or at least that’s what they scored last time they took the test. Mahani was a little harder to classify. She was a summoner, but also trained as a hedge wizard. Maybe some sort of multi-class then. A couple levels of this, a couple levels of that. It didn’t matter. Chael couldn’t think of anything either a hedge wizard or summoner could pull with enough firepower to kill this thing. This slug could swallow a grizzly bear whole. And then Chael would just end up sharing this stomach with an angry grizzly bear.
And Glig. Well, Glig was what Chael and the dungeoneering community would call a reluctant hero. Brought into the adventure through a great misfortune he didn’t deserve, surviving mostly by cashing in on that luck debt as needed. A level 1 or 2 commoner, with most of his skills centered around farming and pulling off fingernails. But slugs don’t have fingernails, luck runs out, and for every commoner who miraculously survives adventuring long enough to get written into some bardic song, there were a dozen who die exactly as you’d expect, in this case by being eaten by a level 9 Crazed Hellspawnic Dungeon Slug.
They couldn’t kill it.
Chael watched their sword pass by, still resting peacefully against an undisturbed part of the dungeon wall. And without something with a pointy-end, Chael wasn’t going to escape either.
The stomach convulsed and low gurgling echoed through the slug’s body. It had just swallowed something else. Chael sloshed over to the far wall, not sure whether to be ready to fight a grizzly bear with nothing but a dull shepherd’s tool, or whether to be ready with a roguish wisecrack for Mahani. “Nice of you to drop in.” “Funny meeting you here.” “Guess we weren’t too weird to eat this time.” Nailed it.
But it wasn’t Mahani, or a grizzly, it was something else. Something with a pointy end. A lot of pointy ends. A thrashing, four-point rack of antlers, attached to the bewildered, bellowing head of a purple elk.
Chael narrowly avoided the flailing antlers, their eyes widening. Those things could kill them, but they could also puncture this membrane! Judging from the slime and viscera hanging off of the antlers, they had probably already done it a few times on the way down. Blueish-green slug blood was already trickling in from further up the digestive track. Chael smiled, dodging again. Mahani didn’t have to be a high-level summoner, she just had to summon the right things. And Chael didn’t need cut their own way out, they just needed to survive these antlers for a few more rounds.
And maybe guide them a bit.
Chael positioned themselves near the thinnest section of the slug. They couldn’t imagine this gentle lilac-colored animal was very aggressive unless threatened, but Chael was a seven-foot-tall green humanoid, and likely the scariest thing this poor elk had seen today. Well, second scariest.
Sure enough, the elk bucked forward and Chael, like a celestial matador, peeled away just in time. There was a snap, then bubbling, then rupturing, then spilling and splattering and spewing and tumbling and when Chael wiped the ooze and gelatine from their eyes they were laying on the dungeon floor in a puddle of gunk, beside a confused, slime-covered elk, as a shrinking, shrieking Hellspawnic Dungeon Slug retreated, squeezing itself back behind the dungeon walls.
Four or five other purple elk trotted by. Chael laughed, looking over to the elk next to them, getting up and trotting off with the others. Its coat had bleached almost as badly as Chael’s, but it looked healthy otherwise.
“Thanks for the tip,” Chael called to it as it left. Nailed it.
Chael looked over to see Mahani winding her way effortlessly through the herd of purple elk, steam pouring off her magic glove, a level 20 smile on her face.
“I guess, uh,” Chael stammered, groping for a wisecrack that wasn’t there anymore.
“I’m glad you’re not dead,” said Mahani, hugging them, not bothered at all by the slime and stomach ticks clinging to Chael’s clothes.
“Me too,” said Chael, “Why were you two even here? I didn’t think — ”
Then Chael’s eyes took in their surroundings. The large, important chamber. Runes carved on the floor. In the centre, the Four Stone Pedestals. Three empty. Shards scattered on the floor. A hammer laying amongst the pieces.
And Glig walking towards it all, slowly, slumped over, dropping his pack.
Chael slumped, too.
Someone had destroyed the godstones.
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