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The tip of my kindjal punctured the wall of the Hell’s Pitfall about an inch. The monster shuddered and writhed, agitating the liquid around me and making it splatter on my shoulders and chin. My numb feet slipped on the uneven bottom again and my unfeeling fingers nearly slipped off the handle. I gripped it with both hands and and leaned into it, using my weight to push the blade through the thick wall.

My weak knees buckled, but I hung on. The kindjal sliced downward leaving a gash from shoulders-height to my hip. Liquid gushed through the open cut and the surface level decreased. The lucky result wasn’t good enough, I was still stuck in this monster that wanted to digest me. I jerked my kindjal out and aimed for the plant wall again, ready to make a cross cut. Since I couldn’t escape out of the top, I would just have to cut my way out through the side of this huge flower-monster.

At the mouth of the flower, the more vines appeared, sliding between the gaps of the ones that caged me in. They slapped at me, leaving sharp, painful welts. But every time they tried to wind around me, they recoiled. It took a second to realize that they were getting burned by the same juice that was burning me. Crazy! This monster’s ‘arms’ weren’t immune to it’s own digestive juices? The instant realization helped me. I could live with it’s slaps and hits, even if each one made my weak body stagger, as long as the vines didn’t tie me up again.

I gripped my kindjal with both hands and stabbed the wall of the flower again. The monster thrashed more than ever. One of the vines slapped at my face, but I reached up and grabbed it with damp gloved hands. The vine jerked back before my numb fingers closed around it and then disappeared over the edge of the flower. My smile was more like a grimace as I leaned on my blade and forced it down at an angle, creating an X on the wall.

The volume of the liquid lowered another inch around me. Holes had started to erode in my armor, revealing ruined skin. My hip satchel was looking just as worn, but I hoped that it’s function wasn’t damaged — there was a lot of stuff in there that I needed or wanted to sell.

I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, just pain. My whole body felt sluggish and heavy, even though my mind raced a million miles per hour.

I jerked my kindjal out of the flower then jabbed it into the middle of the X. The wall gave way and my body fell forward as my hands rushed right through the plant. Cracks snaked across the flower wall wedging the X wider. Even more liquid spilled out.

The plant shook and thrashed and my legs gave out. I slouched forward, my arms guiding my dead weight against the flower’s wound, forcing the opening to widen. Almost there.

The kindjal fell from my numb fingers, but I wasn’t too worried about it. It would come back. I shifted and leaned my head into the hole my arms created. The tearing cross-cut wasn’t big enough to fit through yet. I tried to lift a leg to press against the side of the flower, but I couldn’t raise it high enough. I reached back and lifted my right leg with my hand and propped my foot against the slippery wall. My eroding boot kept sliding off the side, but I held it in place with a trembling grip.

In the corner of my vision, my HP flashed red, signaling that it was less than twenty-five percent.

A System window popped open. [Low HP. Please seek medical help.] Very unhelpfully.

“Working on it,” I muttered. Then I kicked with all the strength that I had left in my body. My head and one shoulder popped through the hole. I jerked my arm through the hole and tried to push against the outside wall of the bell-flower. My movements were awkward and clumsy because I could barely feel my arms now.

The vines came back. They slapped at me and attempted to wrap around my slippery limbs, but kept jerking away because of the acidic liquid that clung to my body. Still, every time they grabbed me, I used them to help pull myself another inch through the hole. A vine wound around my wrist. I twisted my hand and gripped it. With another desperate burst of strength, I held on as it tried to pull away. With a squelching pop, my other shoulder popped out of the hole.

And then I was airborne.

The vine I’d gripped ripped from my hand and wind rushed past my face, whipping my hair about. Through watering eyes, I could see branches zooming past me and the ground getting closer.

Below, the three Velociorheas that had been stalking me for the last hour looked up and opened their mouths wide.

My heart stuttered in fear and panic sparked through my mind. Instinctively, mist exploded out of me and solidified beneath me. I slammed into the solid surface hard enough to knock out what little air remained in my weak lungs. Bright lights swarmed my dim vision. My nose felt wet and warm. Hopefully it wasn’t broken, but if it were, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Even though I felt dizzy and numb, I squinted my eyes open …

The foaming mouth of a Velociorhea widened before my face.

I gasped and tried to jerk back but my body was slow to listen.

The monster’s body dragged back, and it’s mouth clamped shut with a snap less than a foot from my aching nose. It’s size diminished, it’s body falling away and I understood what was happening. Fifteen feet below my mist, a Velociorhea stood still while the other two took turns jumping on its back and using it like a springboard to get closer to me. They jumped one after another, reaching as high as they could with their mouths, only to come up short over and over again.

Even though they couldn’t get to me, it was still terrifying seeing them come so close. When they were a safe sixty feet below, it was almost comical how they followed me around.

I gasped out a couple breathes, trying to calm my freaked nerves and force the muggy air into my stiff lungs. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get a full breath as if there was a tight band constricting my chest.

All the while, the Velociorheas continued to jump at me, their mouths shutting with a steady clump, clump, clump sound. Though I was safe, my nerves frayed.

I wedged my hands under me and started to push up with the speed of a turtle. I hadn’t found a Cyan-Agaric or a Aero-Teuthida, but I couldn’t go on. If I got cut open, lost a finger, or reduced my HP to 1, my Regen would fix it. But poisons weren’t a part of that deal. I needed to get to a Healer before my lungs restricted much more.

My head lolled to the right. My lids were heavy, every fiber of my body screaming to simply just stop moving. My eyes widened. In a nook eroded away at the base of a tree was a small, bright cyan blue circle. It was so dark inside the hole that was formed at such an odd angle, I wouldn’t have seen the circle if I wasn’t right here.

“No … way,” I whispered. I’d been looking everywhere for that thing. And now, here it was, the Cyan-Agaric just twenty feet away, and I couldn’t get it. There was no way. Not in this condition, with less than twenty percent HP left, semi-paralyzed and a group of Velociorheas playing pinata below.

A deep sigh moved through me, one of resignation. I couldn’t get to it now, but I could come back. I knew my location because of my map. I could make a mental note and come back tomorrow. And hope it was still there. Unfortunately, knowing my luck, I wasn’t too optimistic. Still, hope was better than nothing.

I pushed to standing and stumbled to the side. Since I controlled the mist with my mind instead of my body, I didn’t have a risk of stepping off the edge and dropping to the open mouths below. The solid mist stayed right under my unsteady feet as I staggered through the rainforest towards the transportation circle.

If I could muster the strength to Feather Step, I could have made it back to the magic circle in less than thirty minutes. Now that I wasn’t going through the rainforest one layer at a time, I could just cut a straight line to the exit. As it was, I had to stop every twenty minutes or so just so that I could have a breather or pick myself up after my legs gave way. I lost track of the time, all I knew was that it took me a long time to go only a little ways. I was going slow enough that the Velociorheas stalking me still had time to leapfrog off each other, never once falling behind. The sounds of their mouths snapping shut were more frequent than my heavy footsteps.

The drizzle kept falling. It did a good job washing away the blood that stuck to my body, but it stung when the cold liquid hit my raw skin. The acidic plant liquid seemed to resist the rain, clinging stubbornly to my body and continuing to slowly eat away at my skin and armor. Though I wasn’t at risk of indecent exposure, the holes in my black leather and gray under armor were growing.

When I finally caught sight of the pale purple circle through the trees, I nearly collapsed with relief. I was almost there.

The last I’d checked the time, it was already past three. I’d gotten in my daily energy crystal amounts, but I hadn’t cultivated. With all the liquid in the air, this might be a good place for that. The problem was, there wasn’t a single safe place to sit down here. Since I’d already given up on getting an Aero-Teuthida and a Cyan-Agaric for the day, my daily list shortened to: Get healed and get back to Fogmire to cultivate.

I staggered to the magic circle, watching as it slowly got closer and closer. When I was ten feet away, I came to sudden realization that I had a problem. Or rather three problems, hungrily waiting below my feet. How was I going to get inside the circle at ground level with those monsters here? Just how smart were these things? Would a distraction work on them?

I opened up my Items Bag and looked at the drop items in there. Then I pulled out the most fleshy thing I had — a piece of breast meat from a big monstrous bird. I lifted my left hand and wiped the blood still flowing from my nose then smeared it on the meat. Then I gripped it with my right hand, barely able to feel the thing at all, and lifted my shaking arm. I threw the meat as far as I could. It was more like trying to drill the meat into the ground twenty feet away as opposed to actually throwing it like I meant to.

The Velociorheas immediately turned and ran after the meat, snapping at each other for dominance.

I turned and jumped. As soon as my body was in the air, I lost all control of it. Like a limp doll falling through the air, I tipped head down, arms dangling and facing the rainforest as I fell. I could only watch helplessly as the largest Velociorhea turned and sprinted for me, yellow eyes fixed on my throat and toothy mouth open. The question was, which would happen first? Would I land on my head or would the monster snap my neck?

Five feet away, a bright yellow barrier flared up and out into a circle around me. The monster smacked right into the barrier and was blown back thirty feet. It screeched as it landed on the ground and skidded across the moist dirt right into a tree, leaving a trail of ruined feathers behind. It took a second for my dizzy mind to realize that there was a protective wall around the magic circle. From the looks of it, it had to be cast by someone A rank or higher. At least I wasn’t going to be mauled to death.

My hand touched the ground just inside the glowing transportation circle. Instantly the purple magic flared and the gravity that was pulling me down disappeared. A nauseous wave of disorientation washed over my body as I was shot the opposite direction up into the sky.

I made it. I actually made it to the magic circle. As relieved as I was, the speed I was flying at was too much for my air deprived mind. I blinked furiously, trying to keep my eyes open and force away the black that was creeping around my vision. But each time that I blinked, my eyes would stay closed longer than the last time. Stay awake! I ordered myself. Breathe slowly and don’t faint!

The other side of the transportation arch came into view. All I could see was the ground getting closer, with dozens of colorful people filling around it. I braced myself as much as I could, but I didn’t have control of my body anyway. My feet hit the ground followed closely by my body. I rolled across the ground, seeing only a mix of brown, green and black. The System was flashing some red message in my face, but I couldn’t focus enough to read it. I stopped face up, my whole body screaming in pain but I couldn’t make a sound.

Noise erupted around me as people yelled and words jumbled together.

“Oh my god! She’s still alive!”

“Where’s the rest of her team?”

“Careful, don’t touch her! That’s Hell’s Pitfall juice!”

“Healer! Is there a Healer here?”

“Quick! Get the—!”

Then everything disappeared into inky black silence.

*****

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About the author

MichelleRReid

Bio: I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.

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