Lead vs Fantasy 8-4

8-4  Sounds like Something.

 

After leading the team through the forest, Cauliflower stopped in front of a small hole in the ground.  It descended at a slight angle into the earth and was about large enough for her to slide into.  Though, once she was inside the small cavern below, she’d probably have to crawl on her belly.  Plus, she’d come out covered in those hairy kind of roots that liked to cover themselves in roots before clinging to you.

“What is it?”  The Captain asked, looking into the immediate darkness of the hole’s opening.

“It’s what we found,” Champ answered, staring into the hole and decisively not looking into anyone else’s eyes.

“What is it,” Edge stated, then he sighed, shook his head and asked, “How bad is it?”

“This place is terrible for this,” Cauliflower complained, pursing her lips in frustration at the world.  “I understand that a lot of monsters hibernate around here, but even considering that, we don’t have a lot of options.”

She couldn’t definitively say why the forest had so few monster nests in it, but she suspected it was tied to all the strange things they’d been finding lately.  If her neighbor was a bizarre electric mouse, she’d move too.

“How bad is it, then?”  The Captain asked, looking up from the hole and running his fingers through his snowy hair.  “A snake?  That diameter, it’d be hard to pretend that a mercenary band couldn’t deal with it.”

“They’re groupies,” Cauliflower answered, kicking a few clods of dirt into the darkness of the burrow.

“Grupisanths,” Knot explained, brushing aside a small pile of leaves to reveal the corpse of a lizard.

It was small by monster standards, maybe a third the height of a person, and had a thin neck leading to a small head.  It was bipedal, but in no way humanoid.  Its body more resembled the large raptors one might find on the wide plains at the center of the continent.  Though it lacked any of the terrifying ferocity of its larger cousin.  It could almost be called cute, saving the viscious wound that’d been dug into its neck.  Though, the better word for it was probably ‘weak.’  It was small, weak, and pathetic.

“Grupisanths…” Lotus echoed the word, looking down at the lizard, her cool, composed eyes dripping with disappointment and derision.

“This is what we have?” Edge asked, nudging the lizard’s small, clawed foot with the toe of his boot.  “How is it that our ranger friend can keep us on our toes with new monstrosities ever day, but all we can scrounge up are a bunch of rat lizards?”

“This isn’t all we have, it’s the best of what we have,” Cauliflower answered defensively.  “We went through a lot of worse stuff to get here.”

“Show me the options,” Edge responded, rounding on Cauliflower with an incredulous stare.  “What is worse than this?”

“Well, there’s a family of those swoopy squirrels that breathe tiny fire,” Champ shouted, his frustration pointed more at the situation than anyone in particular.  “You know, the ones that people used to keep in cages to light their stoves.  You want to go with that?”

“Other than that there’s a dryad further in,” Knot declared his characteristically dry tone undercut by the deep exhaustion worn into his face. “If we lead everyone to her, she could be dangerous.  Also, a juvenile rocket porcupine that will probably starve to death before spring without its pack.”

“At least the gliding squirrels would make it over the fence,” Edge muttered, followed by a bitter sigh.

“How many are there?” The Captain asked, looking back down into the burrow with a contemplative frown.

“Over one hundred, probably closer to two,” Cauliflower answered dutifully, following his gaze.

“So many…” Lotus whispered in shock.

“How the hell…”  Edge started, then he shook his head.  “It doesn’t matter, it’s not enough.”

“Two hundred is more than enough to tear a village to hell, no matter how well armed the villagers are,” Champ argued, taking a step forward.  Then he looked down at the small, lizard corpse and hesitated before adding, “They’re just a bunch of farmers, after all.”

“It doesn’t matter how much damage they can do if they can’t get through the fence,” Edge responded, not backing down.  “It may be weak, but it’s still electric.  Even if two hundred are attacking, it’ll be about twenty at the front that hit the fence first.  Probably around four or five will die from that and the other fifteen will learn not to touch the fence.  Then the whole pack avoids it.  They’re bottom feeders.  If they encounter something dangerous, they run away.”

“Then we just need to help them through it,” Cauliflower declared with a shrug as she tried to think of what that might entail.  Maybe a ramp?  Or explosives.  Most problems could be solved by explosives.  One way or another.

“We could try equipping them with something…” The Newbie threw out his idea as he scratched at the underside of his lip.  “Like armor or something?”

“And where would we get that?” Knot asked, raising one questioning eyebrow.

“We could make it…?”  The Newbie answered, seeming unconfident in his own response.  “We’re surrounded with wood… so we could… carve it…”  As the Newbie spoke, he started to lose steam and eventually he was left staring at his own shoes in silence.

“First of all, wood isn’t an insulator,” Champ replied with a tone that was a little too well informed on the matter.  “You send electricity through wood, it catches on fire.”

“Might not be bad,” Cauliflower responded, envisioning the scene of hundreds of flaming lizards running through a village square.  “It’d be pretty intimidating.  Plus, if they were on fire, I bet they’d be more energetic.”

“Frantic is the word you’re looking for,” Edge corrected with a shake of his head.  “Also the first problem with that plan is how we’d even equip them with anything.  They might be hibernating, but I doubt they’ll sleep through that.”

“If you want to find the first problem, it’d be time,” Lotus declared with a wave of her hand.  “We only have one more day.  That isn’t even close to enough to make tiny helmets for two hundred lizards.”

“Obviously we can’t do that,” the Captain declared with as charitable a tone as could be offered for the idea.  “However, something like that could work.  Maybe with an actual insulator.”

“So now we’re going to make them rubber hats?”  Lotus asked, her eyes straining themselves to remain respectfully disrespectful.  He was their captain, after all.

“Like, tiny lizard condoms?”  Champ asked, seeming to stare into the universe where such a thing existed.

“I was thinking we could borrow some of the army’s rain gear,” the Captain answered with a wry smile.  “It should be insulated for just these kinds of situations.  If you want to assault or retake a village without damaging one of its greatest assets, you need something to throw over the fence so you can climb it.”

“So, we give them little rubber gloves?” Edge asked, stooping down to grab one of the lizard’s small, three-fingered hands.  The body had already gone rigid, however, as he attempted to raise the hand for inspection, he picked up half the body with it.

“It’s not a full thought, but I was focusing on their ponchos,” the Captain clarified as he watched Edge drop the corpse and wipe his hands on his dark pants.  “If we time it right, we can throw the rubber cloaks over the lizards as they run by.  Then, they’ll be protected enough to thrash a hole in the fence.”

“Relies a lot on luck,” Edge criticized, picking at the corner of his ear thoughtfully.

“A bunch of monsters running around, draped in military equipment,” Lotus added coolly.  “It isn’t exactly subtle.”

“I like the idea of stealing form the army, though,” Cauliflower replied slowly.

A voice in the back of her mind tried to make her consider what she would’ve done if her equipment went missing back then.  In the next instant, however, she imagined what he would’ve looked like if he was caught in a storm without his rain gear.  That brought a smile to her face.  Only for a moment, though.  He was already dead.  Not many more indignities he could face at this point.

“Helpful as always,” Champ declared sarcastically.

“There might be something there,” Knot spoke up, causing everyone to turn towards him.  After meeting their collective gaze, he continued, “They must have ways to get through fences that are more destructive.  Like bolt cutters, with insulated grips.”

“Cutting a hole in the fence also lacks in subtlety,” The Captain asked, studying Knot’s face with that look that said he wanted to be persuaded.  “What do we do if they find the hole before our lizards do?”

“We don’t need to make a complete hole, do we?”  Knot asked in response.  “We can just weaken it enough for the Grupisanths to break through before they get too shocked.  In a few places, too.  Improve the chances one of them will be hit.”

“How are we going to be waking and directing them, then?”  the Captain asked, turning his eyes away from Knot and addressing the group.  “It’s not that far to the village, but it’s too far to hope they’ll find it on their own.”

“I assumed we’d use smoke,” Cauliflower responded quickly.  That was the one part of the plan she’d actually been considering.  “Throw a smoke grenade down there and they’ll wake up fast, assuming the forest is on fire.  Then we just line their path with smoke to guide them where we want.”

“That’ll get them excited enough,” Edge responded with an accepting nod.  “It’ll be chaos once they’re inside.”

“It sounds like we have a plan,” the Captain declared with a smile.

“Sounds like we have something,” Lotus followed up coolly.

The rest of the team could easily agree with that sentiment.  They were about to do… something.

 

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2 thoughts on “Lead vs Fantasy 8-4

  1. Pingback: Lead Vs Fantasy 8-3 | Dakotah Sicking Web Novels

  2. Pingback: Lead vs Fantasy 8-5 | Dakotah Sicking Web Novels

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