Here's a flash fiction piece I wrote just for the heck of it. It involves the main characters from my Vargrom series. If you don't know already, they have a knack for finding trouble.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
by Kevin Hopson
“You know I don’t like confined spaces,” Modrad said.
“We don’t have any other choice,” Farfiz replied.
Kneeled next to the hole, Modrad glanced over his shoulder. His closest friend stood motionless only a few yards away, looking more like a statue than a living, breathing dwarf. And why wouldn’t he? Kasig had been turned to stone.
Modrad eyed the hole again, hoping to find enough courage to pursue the draqotta. The giant eight-legged lizard was responsible for freezing Kasig in his tracks. Modrad turned to Farfiz.
“You’re going with me,” he said.
“Because I said so,” Modrad ordered.
The gnome swallowed and forced a grin, a nervous chuckle following. “Okay,” he finally said. “After you.”
Modrad shook his head, still uncertain. He’d do anything for Kasig, but this felt like a suicide mission.
“Are you sure about this?” Modrad asked.
Farfiz nodded. “Their stomachs possess a rare acid. It reanimates their victims, allowing them to digest their prey.”
“Like eating them alive?”
The gnome shrugged. “I suppose you could say that.”
“So we need to kill it, cut it open, and collect some of this acid? All the while not meeting its gaze?”
“Not unless we want to be stone statues, too.”
“Sounds like a great plan,” Modrad said with cynicism.
“Just be thankful we scared it off before it tried to eat Kasig.”
Modrad took some comfort in that, but it did little to build his confidence. “You stay right behind me.”
Modrad lowered his head, peeking inside the hole. Being a mountain dwarf had its advantages, good night vision being one of them. Even so, he could make out little in the darkness. Modrad laid flat on his stomach, his hands acting as rakes, helping to pull him along the damp and cool soil.
He waited for his eyes to adjust. A minute passed. Modrad’s vision began to clear ever so slightly, just enough to make out his surroundings. Though the hole was several feet in diameter, the battle axe slung over his back hindered him. Roots dangled from the tunnel ceiling, catching the blade on occasion. The weapon would likely prove useless in such tight quarters, but Modrad felt better having it around.
There was scuffling from behind as Farfiz followed. More comfortable with the terrain now, Modrad stopped and slipped a knife from its sheath along his belt. Unless the tunnel led to a larger room, he would have to kill the draqotta at close range. Farfiz bumped into Modrad, but he resisted the temptation to scold the gnome.
With the knife in hand, Modrad used his elbows to press on. He advanced deeper, the tunnel turning darker as he progressed. Pitch black soon engulfed him. Then Modrad’s head hit something. He reached out a hand. A wall.
“Why’d you stop?” Farfiz whispered.
“It’s a dead end,” Modrad said, keeping his voice down.
“Were there any side tunnels back there?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to see a thing.”
Modrad shifted, his axe handle scraping the wall as he turned.
Farfiz led the way now, and Modrad felt the walls on both sides as they moved toward the light.
“Why does this seem familiar?” Modrad said.
“Because it is. Remember that dragon in the abandoned mine?”
“Of course I do. Don’t you know sarcasm when you hear it?”
Within minutes, they were back to where they’d started. Surprisingly, Modrad hadn’t detected any openings.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Modrad said. His head collided with something again. Farfiz’s boot. “Keep going.”
But the gnome wouldn’t move. Not forward, at least. He circled around to face Modrad, attempting to squeeze between him and the wall.
“What in the name of Xelmes are you doing?” Modrad said.
“Don’t look,” Farfiz shouted.
That’s when Modrad saw it. The draqotta. Peering into the hole, its red eyes began to glow. Modrad closed his eyes and lashed out at the creature with his knife, but the blade struck nothing but air. He’d have to get closer, but he was operating blind. Modrad turned his head to the side and peeked out of the corner of his eye, trying to catch a glimpse of the beast. What he witnessed shocked him.
“I can’t say I expected that,” Modrad gasped. “How in—”
“Your axe blade,” Farfiz interrupted. “Its red glow must have reflected off of the metal.”
“So it turned itself to stone?” Farfiz nodded and laughed with relief. “Great. Now what are we going to do?”
Farfiz’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you’d be happy.”
“We can’t get the acid if it’s turned to stone.”
“Oh.” The gnome had obviously forgotten about Kasig.
“We can worry about it later,” Modrad said. “Help me push this thing out of the hole.”
Together they shoved the petrified beast to the surface. As Modrad went to climb out, he heard a familiar voice.
“Can I offer you two some assistance?”
Modrad looked up, and Kasig stared back at him. He took his friend’s hand and, after being helped out the hole, immediately hugged him.
“How is this possible?” Modrad said.
“I don’t know,” Kasig replied, “but it’s nice to be free.”
Farfiz sidled up to them. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one succumb to its own powers. Maybe that’s what freed Kasig.”
Kasig bobbed his head. “Perhaps.”
“Whatever the case, I’m not going to complain.” Modrad looked to Farfiz. “Next time, though, I hope you’re the one who turns to stone.”
Farfiz crossed his arms and frowned, the two dwarfs laughing at his expense.