Reaver’s Return: Chapter Three



I kicked away one of the rocks that had fallen from the narrow stone chimney.

Another day, another dead end.

“Come on Snix, let’s go. There’s nothing here for us.”

From his perch on top of the pile of stone, the strange white critter chirped, then flowed down the pile of stones like fuzzy water.

We climbed up a short incline, and I muttered, pulling my hair back from my face from where it had fallen out of a piece of thin vine.

It’d been months since I’d been trapped down here, and my hair was past my shoulders now, constantly in my way, an annoying reminder of how long it had been since I’d seen the sun.

How long had it been since Tirac, Yelan and I had stumbled into these caverns with that strange female creature?

I rubbed at the long scar that crossed my chest.

I hoped they made it out. I’d done my best, but at this rate, I’d never know for certain.


The furry creature wound around my feet and I blinked, realizing I’d stopped walking, the small bag of woven vines that held the Deiyon stones hanging loose in my hand.

Stooping to pet him, I ruffled his fur. “I’m alright. Sorry, just got a little lost.”

That was a bit of an understatement.

Lost in the caverns, lost in my thoughts.

Lost enough that sometimes I wasn’t entirely sure what I was still doing down here.

“Who’s a good critter?”


“That’s right. You’re a good little beastie.”

No idea what Snix was, but right now, he was the only friend I had. Freakishly oversized eyes, hands like mine, and white fur so thick it made him look fat. Or her. I hadn’t looked that close.

“Let’s head back to the stream.”

Not really a stream, more like a dribble of water than oozed down a rocky wall to trickle away down another crack in the stone.

But it was enough to keep us alive, and the same cavern was home to a colony of thick wriggling worms that were surprisingly spicy.

Not saying that I wanted to keep on the worm and rat diet forever, but it had been enough to keep me going, ever since I’d broken free of the cavern-dwellers.

The Grubs, I’d named them.

Not at first, of course.

After I’d been captured, I didn’t have time to come up with a clever name.

I was too busy coming in and out of consciousness, wondering what they were going to do with me, listening to their grunts.

At first I thought they were just a particularly shouty clan, but soon I began to wonder.

It looked more like they were arguing, fighting among themselves, snarling.

Probably not sure what to do with me.

Whatever they wanted, I was sure I wouldn’t like it.

I barely remembered escaping.  A fight broke out, and bound, wiggling like a worm on my shoulder, belly and knees, I had dropped into a black hole in the stone.

In agony, I’d kept crawling until I collapsed.

Snix must have liked the taste of my bindings. I was too beaten to free myself, but down there in the dark he’d found me, gnawed away until I was free.

Even then, I could barely move. Bruises, breaks, tears, one closed eye and a few loose teeth conspired to still me.

After my escape, it was hell; blinded by darkness, constantly afraid, walls too close.

I couldn’t reveal myself if I wanted to live.

If not for the ugly, fuzzy burrower who had befriended me…

“I’d be crazy by now. Right, Snix?”


“You better believe it.”

Snix stopped his weird noise. I heard him sniff the air.

He left my side, but claws scrabbling on stone quickly stopped.

“You smell something?”

Covering my ‘lantern’ with a scrap of rat hide I crawled after him, feeling my way in pitch black.

My ribs no longer ached. Nor the break in my left arm I’d barely managed to splint. How long had that taken?

Time didn’t pass underground.

Snix came back to my side, bringing my attention back to the here and now. Sniksniksnix.

Then he ran forward again, back and forth, quivering.

What was Snix smelling?

Then, the voices came.



“Yay! She! Beth sooth!”

“Poke she, en herberwe. Coy! Coy!”

My gut froze at their words.

For a while, I had been able to follow the Grubs from darkness, using it against them. Over time, I began to understand some of their tongue.

The word she I hadn’t heard before.

But poke she, en heberwe, sounded like they were putting something in one of their nets and bringing it deeper into their dwelling.

Like they had done to me.

Coy, secretly, quietly.

Beth sooth—believe, real, true, listen to me.

But she?

It was worth a look.

Crawling silently, I headed for a spot of wan light ahead. This cave intersected a larger, brighter one from above.

A pink glow—the dim deiyon stones they carried for light. Bobbing, shifting, the Grubs were in motion.

For an eternity, I had secretly followed groups of the monsters.

Eventually, I’d figured, they would lead me somewhere.

So far, either in avoiding being seen, or just moving too slow, I had come up with nothing.

This cave system was a jumble of tight tunnels intersecting larger ones. The monsters stuck to regular paths.

I had learned where they slept. Where they ate.

Once, wracked with hunger pains, I had stolen food from them.

Turned out, it was better to grab whatever crawled on the cave walls.

Even when my injuries made me nearly immobile, I could creep and crawl in secrecy and Snix’ nose had kept me from getting spotted.

My enemies were busy, constantly moving.

I had no idea what they were doing.


Yes, I could smell it, too—freshly disturbed soil.

That meant a tunnel to the surface.


I tried to still myself, to stay hidden, silent—coy.

From my position, I saw the tops of the Grubs’ hoods as they passed beneath.

Two of them carried a net between them, a squirming burden within.

Waiting for them to pass, I hung from the upper cave.

Light. Not pink stone light, but daylight. Fading. Dim.

A breeze struck my face as I dropped—a breeze, fresh air, when was the last time…?

Snix followed after, landing on my shoulder. This cave was just large enough to stand in. I moved as quickly as I could toward the light.

Daylight, maybe dusk, maybe dawn, I didn’t care, I could crawl up that little rise and see the sun, the moons.


Right. Stay coy. I absently rubbed Snix as I crept toward escape.

I didn’t really care why the Grubs were digging their way out of the caves.

All I knew was that joy bloomed in me, my heart pounding with excitement.


“Yeah, it’s different up there. Don’t worry, buddy. You’ll be okay,” I whispered.

That dirt slope was steep. By now, I was an expert creeper. One way or another, I was getting out of—

“Help me!”

I looked at Snix. He didn’t speak in words. Huge dark eyes turned in the direction the Grubs moved.

Leaning back, trying to see around the bend in the tunnel, I caught sight of them, and instantly leaned forward.

“Somebody help me!”

A high-pitched voice.

It couldn’t be.

The sound of a slap followed, echoing.


“Impossible,” I whispered to Snix.

Sniksniksnik, he argued.

“What do you know about it?”

Sniksnix. His huge eyes chided me.

I sighed, tearing my eyes off freedom. “Fine. Just a quick look.”

Pressed to the slimy wall, I pursued. This cave curved a lot, which could keep me hidden from eyes used to the dim.

I nearly ran into the hooded party.

Eyes caught mine.

Not those of a Grub.

Pleading eyes, crying eyes, fearful eyes.

Female eyes.


A soft creature like the one who had captivated Tirac, bossed him around, pushed him into this underground hell, dragged me along…

Curvy, with dark curls of hair, she was trapped in a net, hauled toward who knew what.

The troupe vanished around another turn.

I turned back toward the surface tunnel.


“Females are nothing but trouble,” I told him.

Snik. Sniksnix.

“But we can get out of here.”


“Yes, I hate the Grubs more than anything,” I said.

The little animal might be right. Depriving them of their captive would be a coup. And with an exit found…

“You know this is a stupid idea.”


“Same to you. I don’t even have a weapon.”

The creature leapt off my shoulder and ran along the cave, chattering away. He looked over his furry shoulder, telling me to follow.

Snix didn’t follow the Grelzoks. He dived into an unlit cave to the right.


He jumped atop something with straight edges. From the deiyon stones outside, I made out the shape. It was a moving thing, like Tirac, Yehan and the female had dragged me into. What had she called it? A cart?

This one didn’t move. Brown covered the metal surfaces. It had only a single wheel.

Grelzoks had dragged it here, I thought, and wondered if we were close to the large, metal tunnel that ran between towers above.

“What did they want with it?” I asked Snix.

He crawled around it, chittering.

I followed. “What?”

Snix. Snix.

Though it was hard to see, I made out a familiar shape. Even if it was metal…

“A bow?”

Part of it remained attached. But a few twists freed it. It felt heavy in my hand, but just as flexible as any weapon I’d handled.

“Needs arrows, a string—”

But there, segmented like a bug but long and narrow, a thick shiny strand of vine. I stepped on one end, tugged the other.


In a moment, I ran it through the loops on one end of the metal bow, angled it with my foot, and strung my bow.

After all this time hiding, sneaking, it felt good in my hand.

There were long, straight shafts running beneath the boxy thing. I managed to dislodge them. Two arrows were better than none.

But I had nothing for an arrowhead, nor kaqen feathers for fletching.

There were vine-like things, in many colors splaying from a box.

I yanked some free. Not exactly feathers, but they might be enough to keep an arrow straight. I tied them tight to the end of my two arrows.

Perfect? No.

Would it work?

Well… we were about to find out.


“Definitely a good find, Snix.”


I nodded. “Let’s go ruin some Grubs’ day.”

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