Note: This is a piece of fiction I wrote during NaNoWriMo in addition to my actually NaNo project. Essentially, it was just a series of sentences to help break writer’s block on my main book. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to doing anything with this; it’s not my normal style, and I didn’t outline like I usually do. Aside from a quick copy editing pass and formatting for WordPress, it’s been untouched since November.
Ivona tried to control her breathing, control the pounding in her chest, the tremble in her hands. It was cold in the cavern. She had backed herself into a small crack in the stone, barely wide enough for her to slip through sideways. She couldn’t do it with the pack on, or with the sword on her belt. She unshouldered the pack, squeezing it through the crack one handed. The other hand rested on the hilt of the sword. Her eyes, now accustomed to the flickering lights in the cavern, scanned for any movement coming through the tunnel, her ears straining to hear a foot scrape against stone. Once the pack was through she took off her belt and slid it, the scabbard and the sword behind her, then slipped through herself.
She dropped to the ground, and inched backwards, eyes focused on the small opening. Ivona knew what hunted her through the caves, what had killed Jofen and Pel. She knew it wasn’t far behind her. Wasted too much time already. She could have stood her ground. She could have killed the thing in single combat. But there was never just one. A pack was here, they had the bad luck of running into a scout, foolish children playing at guards. They might find this crack, but it went deeper, further into the hillside. She needed to run, now. She needed to get as far away as possible, hoping these caves doubled back or came out the hill near the creek. She should been moving. She stayed very still, watching.
Her heart pounded in her ears. I’m afraid I’m afraid I’m afraid It wasn’t fear keeping her, watching for any signs in the cavern beyond. Pel Jofen Pel Jofen Pel Jofen The town needed to know how big a group was in the caves, whether to expect a small raid on the fields, a larger raid on the town. A sacking. A bloodbath. If they needed to run, if they could hide behind the walls safely. If they could stand and fight.
She was about to rise to a crouch, to turn and head further into the cave when she heard the sounds in the cavern. The sounds. Little mistaking the scraping, the labored, ragged breathing. She crept as close to the opening as she dared, watching the entrance to the cavern, counting numbers.
The first was already in the cavern, no torch, using the ambient light reflected down the cave walls to see. It could see in twilight as well as daylight, perhaps better. That’s what Ivona had heard, in the stories. Large splayed-toed feet, a leathery quality like a boot. Backwards canted legs, like the rear legs of her cat. Long body, pitched forwards, flesh like chalk, like death. Long head, snout, fangs protruding upwards. Segmented, dull eyes, wide spaced. It wore Pel’s bloodied mail shirt – scavengers – and held a long knife in one of its hands. The other was stretched out before it, straining, feeling the stone floor. Feeling for heat, where she had been, stood, ran.
Another entered the cave. He carried a wicked looking sword, something wet on the blade reflecting the soft light. Then another. Three, five; she stopped counting at thirteen. A good sized raiding party, and more besides. It won’t do any good to be killed here, or trapped, and not get back to Dunned. The first goblin, the one with Pel’s mail, was stalking around the cavern, stumbling in a circle. Fire! That’s how I stumbled in here! Turn around, look up, run to the fall side; the goblin was matching every move she had taken, its hand still stretched before it, low to the ground. She had to move out of her hiding spot, crawl further down into the caves, try to double back somehow.
It was dark behind her, the reflected light didn’t carry any further down. She stretched a hand, groping blindly behind her, turning her head and slowing scooting backwards.
The stench caught her throat. She whipped her head back to the small opening in time to see the goblin’s head, screeching, a hand clawing through the hole. The smell of it make her retch. On instinct, she drew her sword, a short draw, just halfway out of the scabbard due to the low ceiling and her crouching position. She turned fully toward the goblin, and as hard as she could slammed the pommel of the sword at the eye of the creature. The hand pawed at her glove, scratching the leather. She fell the eye give way, the howl of the beast as she blinded it. Then she was scrambling backwards, kicking out with her legs, trying to get as much distance between herself and the goblin. She knew the cavern floor was sloping down, she could feel it, then she felt nothing under her hand. Twisting, but before she could catch herself, Ivona was sliding, falling, and then into the cold water.
She hit the water hard, back first, the air driven out of her lungs.The water rushed over her, pulled her down, drug at her coat. Ivona couldn’t breath, had no breath, the cold drawing the strength from her arms. She lost grip on her sword, Father’s sword, Gran’s sword. She clawed at the water. Her lungs burned. She couldn’t see, just trusting she was moving towards the surface, against the pull.
Then her head broke the surface, and she sucked in air, cold air. She felt a current. This must flow out into the creek. How long, I don’t know. She struggled to remember anywhere along the creek there was a stream, some tributary of mountain water.
There was a splash, a thrashing noise, churning in the water. Gods, it followed me. Half-blind it followed me down here!