Chapter 5: Marooned in Mushrooms pt2
William followed Mozza through the mushroom woods in the direction the lightning bolt had flown. Multicolored mushroom trees of all kinds blocked out most of the sunlight for a good time. After about an hour, the trees started to thin out as the ground got softer underfoot. The two wayward travelers had arrived at a swamp that stretched for miles in all directions. Mozza looked worried as she was only two feet tall and would surely drown if they continued on foot. William wasn’t keen on swimming in the filthy swamp water either, so he looked around momentarily when an idea hit him.
“Hey, if I cut down a tree can you use your tools to make a boat,” William asked the mouse girl as he eyed a good-sized tree. The folf didn’t anticipate how much this suggestion would excite Mozza.
“Oh yes! I can make a good boat,” Mozza excitedly answered as she bounced around. “I have a cannon we can put on it! We will be the most feared swamp folk around.” William motioned for the small mouse to stand clear as he pulled a small metal cylinder from his belt. A flick of his wrist made the metal telescope out to the full length of an axe hand with a fiery bearded axe head that erupted from the end. William half chopped half burned his way through the tree in minutes. Once it fell, the folf trimmed all the branches from the trunk to leave a usable log.
“There you go,” William announced as he collapsed the axe into its original cylinder shape.
“Let's see here, your magic is air type,” Mozza mused momentarily before an idea struck her. With tools in her hands, the mouse girl started to wave her hands around the log in what appeared to be a pointless fashion at first. Magical formulas started to appear in the air as she worked until the boat began to take shape. Moments later, a boat of strange design sat where the log used to be. Mozza walked William through how everything worked, and for the most part, he understood. Steering with the levers, pumping air into the receptacle, and using the peddles to give the boat a boost of speed seemed simple enough.
Once the boat was in the water, William could steer it ably enough to avoid obstacles. Mozza and the folf idly chatted as they zipped across the swamp. William began to sense something in the water as his sky magic dissipated into the water. He reached out his senses and could feel something twenty feet long that was vaguely reptile that aggressively followed the boat. With a shout, William yelled for Mozza to hold on as he pumped extra magic into the boat to increase speed. Despite the boat's acceleration, the water beast kept up across the swamp. William ran out of magic quickly, and the boat slowed to a slow drift with the reptile closing fast. Mozza tried to find it in the water to shoot it with her cannon but couldn’t spot it. The arctic folf sliced his finger with his talisman dagger and used the blood to draw a rune outside the boat just above the water line. After some chanted magical words, a burst of air rippled across the water.
“Thirty meters to the east and closing fast,” William yelled as his makeshift radar highlighted the beast in the water. Mozza turned her cannon and fired, but the beast dodged and rolled in the water. The shot managed to tear a leg off but didn't slow down the beast. “Reload,” William ordered as he struggled to stand in the rocking boat. “I’ll get you your shot.” William struggled to whistle as he used up all of his magic. Slowly the reptile rose from the water and into the air. The beast snapped and struggled until Mozza’s next shot exploded the beast. Viscera from the beast knocked the small mouse girl into the water, where she quickly began to sink as her heavy armor dragged her down. Without a second thought, William lept into the water and dragged his companion back into the boat. Mozza, in turn, used her power armor to pull William into the boat. “Trophy,” William asked as he held up a jawbone from the gator beast he managed to snag from the water.
“Trophy,” Mozza asked, confused to be offered an animal bone. “Why would I need an animal bone? Is this custom of yours?”
“My clan collects trophies to ornament ourselves and use as enchantment focuses,” William explained as he dug a tooth out of the bone. With a bit of wire, the folf made a necklace from the tooth he offered to his mouse companion. “With this necklace, I proclaim you to be Mozza the Gator Slayer.”
“I’m the Gator Slayer,” Mozza asked as she powered down her armor to take the necklace. “I’ve never had a title before.”
“Now you do, and a story to tell about how you heroically slayed the twenty-foot mossgator,” William laughed as he pulled himself back into the pilot seat, “now let's get out of here before something else tries to eat us.”
“Yes, sir,” the small mouse squeaked as she ran to the back of the boat. Mozza’s power armor powered back on before flames erupted from her hands to rocket the boat across the water. William struggled to steer at this new speed, but it wasn’t long before the boat reached the opposite shore.
William was helping pull the boat to shore when something tickled his nose. The tickle became more intense till it became a full-blown sneezing fit. The sneezing folf tried to steady himself, but unfortunately, he bumped into a nearby mushroom tree. As the tree shook, it glowed as spores began to fall. Nearby fungus trees also began to glow and drop spores as well. Colors became more vivid for William as his vision became hazy. Frantically he looked around till he saw a shadowy figure that William recognized and ran off after it. He crashed through trees and underbrush before emerging into a clearing. There stood William’s archnemesis, The Matriarch. With a metal right hand, the seven-foot-tall black she-wolf tried to leave, but William charged here with his water sword. As the water blade struck the metal hand of The Matriarch, it froze into a solid ice blade.
“Still letting your anger direct your actions,” The Matriarch cackled as she pushed William back. “Or perhaps it's fear that drives you. It’s not fear of me, is it? You’re afraid you won’t be able to save everyone you love.” As she talked, The Matriarch’s form shifted to William’s dad, his mom, and his wife, Violet.
“No,” William shouted above the voices that echoed in his head. With a mighty lunge, the ice blade impaled the entity in front of William. Voices screamed in his head as colors exploded in his eyes. The folf fell to his knees as the voices wouldn’t stop. Time seemed to shift forwards and backward as pain ripped through William’s head. Suddenly, something hot sank into his chest. Air purged from the grey folf’s lungs before fresh, clean air took its place.
“The iron lung will protect you from inhaled poisons,” Mozza informed William as his vision cleared to see her. “Are you able to walk?” William struggled to pull himself to his feet but nodded. “I can fly. Can you keep up if I use my rockets?”
“Yeah, my greaves allow me to wind walk,” William weakly answered as he did a little hop to activate his greaves. “I should be able to keep up for a bit.” The pair traversed the skies for a while to avoid extra spore exposure. Mozza and William covered quite a distance before setting down on the ground. All the magic used up all the magic in the folf’s greaves. Just as the duo found themselves in front of a cliff. “Of course, I would run out of energy just before we need to descend a cliff,” William sighed as he looked over the side.
“We can use a mushroom cap as a sled if only it weren’t so rocky,” Mozza pipped up as she eyed a mushroom tree.
“There should be enough magic in my sword to create a mudslide,” William suggested as he unsheathed his water sword.
“Perfect,” the mouse girl excitedly squeaked as she used magic to create some sort of saw. William plunged the blade of the water sword into the edge of the cliff. Water began to gush out the side of the cliff, causing a mudslide. While he did that, Mozza had cut down a mushroom tree and removed the cap. Much like she had done with the log, the small mouse girl waved her tools around in the air as arcane formulas appeared in the air. After a bit of time, she had made a functioning sled. “Hop on, and I’ll push us off,” Mozza instructed as she positioned the sled at the cliff's edge.
“Ok, let's do this,” William gulped as he pulled his water sword from the ground. “The water should keep flowing for a bit.” The nervous folf sat on the sled before Mozza pushed them off with her power armor. Immediately it became evident that they were traveling too fast. William gripped the sides of the sled with white knuckling strength as the sled skipped through the air a bit. He ripped his talisman dagger from its sheathe and dug it into the ground as a rudimentary brake. Mozza saw this and fired her arm thrusters forward to help slow the descent. Slowed down to a more manageable speed, the sled more easily slid down the cliff face.
“That was fun,” Mozza laughed as the sled slid to a stop at the bottom of the hill, “let's do it again.” William got off the sled a little shaky. He did not enjoy the ride as much as his companion was.
“Maybe some other time,” William said, looking out into the distance. “Let’s just focus on getting back to civilization first.”