Here’s another excerpt from The Life & Times of Ichabod Brooks and it’s pretty lengthy. The reason is because it’s an underwater scene, which means I had to work with no dialogue. I’ve found that I’ve been attempting these a lot lately. I depend a lot on dialogue and action when telling a story, so removing one of my two most common author weapons presents a challenge. It also means it’s tough to find a good breaking point for spoilers, but I can just give you the whole thing. People seem to really like Ichabod Brooks, so it shouldn’t be an issue. Enjoy!
Ichabod is the last to reach the bottom where Dex and Meg are arguing, the pair knowing enough sign language to continue their previous debate. The adventurer tries to speak, but gets a mouthful of water that is purged from his lungs by his ring. Snapping fingers and clapping do nothing to get their attention, so the adventurer puffs out a few bubbles from his nose while he waits. It takes a few minutes for his companions to realize he is there and put their childish feud on hold. Joining them at the edge of another large drop, Ichabod hopes his scowl is enough to tell them that he is annoyed and wants the bickering to stop. They shake hands to show that they will behave, but the adventurer knows his friends are itching to start up again.
All three draw their weapons and prepare to float off the cliff when trails of bubbles rise from the murky depths. Meg tugs her companions back a few steps, the strange sight reminding her of something she has seen before. Pulling out her waterproof book, she thumbs through the pages until she comes to a hastily scrawled note from five years ago. The gnome frowns at what the bubbles mean and makes motions with her hands that the others cannot figure out. Ichabod merely shrugs while Dex does an imitation of an elephant that causes him to suck in an uncomfortable amount of water. She lets her frustration get the best of her and darts forward to pinch both of them on the stomach. Trying again, Meg moves from side to side while making snapping motions with her hands, which finally gets the warning through to her friends.
Cycling through his various sight spells, Ichabod stops on one that shows him movement down below. He can make out the silhouettes of large crabs that are scuttling among the rocky floor in search of food. Drawing back his longbow, the adventurer aims at the largest of the predators and prays that the faint image is its body and not an oddly shaped rock. As soon as Ichabod fires the ice arrow, he is rocketed backwards by the enhanced force of his shot. Straining his back, he flips in order to bounce off the undersea wall and swim back to the others. He holds his longbow out to Meg, who holds up an apology note and promises she will examine the bubble suit when she gets a chance. With his shoulders aching and his arms feeling like jelly, Ichabod rethinks his plan to snipe all of the crabs. Looking over the edge, he is not sure his attack had any effect since he can only see those that are moving and all of them have swarmed the area where he last saw his target.
Spotting something with his keen night vision, Dex waves at his friends and points toward a dark patch of ground. They follow him to the mouth of a vertical crevice that would be a tight fit for the two men. He holds out his hands to his own shoulder width then nods at Meg, who emphatically shakes her head. Refusing to let the gnome go alone, Ichabod tries to fit into the hole and only gets as far as his knees. The adventurer tugs and wiggles to free himself, but needs Dex’s help getting out. With a bubbling sigh, the dwarf takes a seat on the ground and throws up his hands in defeat.
They feel a gentle warmth strike their backs before realizing that a strong current is barreling towards them from above. Knowing that it is not a natural occurrence, Meg swims along the shelf in the hopes of leading everyone out of danger. The gnome stops when she sees Ichabod rocketing toward the crabs, the adventurer having fired an arrow at some distant figures. A blast of ice reveals a group of chaos elves that includes a caster who has created a tide tunnel to carry them to the bottom. Meg waves for Dex to throw his grappling hook to Ichabod while she creates illusionary sharks to distract their enemies. Her magic is dispelled within seconds, so she flexes her fingers and prepares to try again with more focus. Before the gnome can finish casting, Dex grabs her by the arm and they are both yanked off their feet. Gripping the other end of the grappling hook, Ichabod does his best to sail high above the crabs that have become more active with the promise of fresh food. His latest shot explodes against the cliff, creating a fan of ice that falls off the fragile edge.
Losing momentum, the trio are caught in another current that drives them toward the hungry crabs. They can barely make out the chaos elves sliding down the far wall, their caster’s glowing hands moving through the water. Ignoring his friends’ frantic waving, Ichabod ties the grappling hook around his waist and gestures for them to hold on tight. With his eyesight enchanted to see in the dark, he aims his back at a craggy section of the floor that is clear of the predators. Bracing himself for a lot of pressure, the adventurer fires five magic arrows at the chaos elves. All of them hit the wall and explode into spikey plumes of ice, which impales the caster and wounds the others as they try to escape. Ichabod watches half of the crabs hurry to catch the injured swimmers while the rest watch him and his friends. None of the animals make a move to enter the large circle of dark red and dull white stones, which makes him fear that he has made another mistake.
The trio hits the ground hard, the impact stunning all of them enough that they momentarily forget where they are. Meg is the first to get to her feet and finds that the seafloor is starting to wobble back and forth. Turning around, she watches as two eye stalks rise out of a shadowy crevice and a pair of giant pincers break free of the earth. The enormous crab swings its arms to keep the smaller predators away, its motions causing Dex and Meg to leap for Ichabod. Still groggy from being driven into the armored creature, the adventurer stretches his arms for his friends to grab. Holding his longbow in his mouth, he curls his legs to keep them out of the animal’s bubble-edged maw and lets himself get pulled to safety. They cling to the coral that has grown on the crab’s back and push off the rough mounds whenever they have to avoid the large claws. Meg draws her daggers to meet one of the pincers and slams them through the hard exoskeleton, the blades tearing bigger holes as they are yanked out. The gnome repeatedly stabs the beast through the shell, which causes it to flail and thrash. Blood fills the water and the other crabs clack their claws, many of them inching closer in the hopes of getting to eat their enormous brethren.
Spotting an opening, Dex tackles his friends off the predator’s back and kicks off the shell to send them hurtling toward the seafloor. He holds the others above his head as he lands, his stone-like bones allowing him to absorb the brunt of the impact. Drawing his shortsword, the dwarf prepares to fight the hungry predators while searching for a place to hide. Feeling a tug on his sleeve, he looks down to find Meg pointing at a dark hole beneath the huge crab. They can see the surviving chaos elves on the other side of what is a shallow crater, a horde of flailing claws and eye stalks chasing after them. Dex is about to lead the way when he sees the splayed legs of the giant predator begin to shudder. The dwarf curses in his mind as he tries to think of a way to avoid getting crushed without being stuck battling through an army of crabs.
It is Ichabod who makes the decision when he tucks Meg under one arm and grabs Dex by the collar. Before they can stop him, he pulls back his bowstring with his teeth and fires. He battles the shock to his head and neck as the group sails under the huge crab, which is beginning to sink toward the ground. Catching the string in his mouth again, he tastes blood in his mouth from a slice across his tongue. Aiming for its underbelly, the adventurer waits until they are over the hole before taking another shot. The pressure on his body is too much for the bubble suit to fight against and it begins to tear at the seams. As he loses consciousness, Ichabod is faintly aware of rocketing through a barrier and hot air hitting him in the back.