Palan wiped the dirt off his nictitating membrane and dug a pocket of air out in front of his face. He spat. The glob of spit went up for a second, then fell back onto his face. At least he knew which way was up. He learned this trick after getting buried alive by his mother during one of her episodes. He concentrated his powers of pride into his hand and pushed upwards with his palm. The earth easily lifted off of his body. A breeze rushed past his fingers, but there was no light. He used both arms to dig himself out and uncovered Raea’s body which was still attached to his. She raised her head.
“Palan? Is that you?” she asked. The place they were in was sparsely lit. Palan had no clue where the source of light was even coming from. Raea wriggled around, but her lower body was still covered by a mound of dirt.
“Stop squirming,” Palan said as Danger Noodle popped out of the ground and gulped in a breath of stale air. “What the hell was that? The ground ate us.”
“I don’t know,” Raea said and gripped Palan’s cuirass. “I really hate narrow spaces.” She trembled. It felt like spiders were crawling all over her body. Her body tensed up. Palan seemed to notice and pinched her nose, causing her to gasp for breath.
“Can you produce light?” Palan asked as he used his tail to dig their lower bodies out from underneath the earth.
“Erm.” Raea made a weird sound and focused on her hand. It started to glow, and the light illuminated their surroundings. They were in a cave with pale white mushrooms growing out of the ground. The mushroom caps were wider than dinner tables, but the mushrooms were only as high as their knees. Danger Noodle finished digging the two out from the ground, and Palan shoved Raea off himself.
Behind them was a slope of dirt. Palan could see a corner of the storage chest sticking out of the surface of the slope. He furrowed his brow and used his electromagnetic sense to locate any beating hearts—there were three. He dug through the earth and stabbed his hand into the earth. He groped around until he felt something scaly and yanked.
“Uwaah!” Cleo shouted and began to cough. Chunks of dirt flew out of her mouth. She hung upside-down from her ankle where Palan had grabbed her. “That was scary! I thought I was going to die. Where are we?” She coughed a few more times and blew her nose using Palan’s sleeve. “Or did I die and this is hell?”
“Pull out a torch,” Palan said and dropped Cleo. Raea’s hand stopped glowing after the lizardman pulled a burning torch out of her invisible space. Palan reached back into the pile of earth. After rummaging around for a while he felt something feathered and soft like down and grabbed it. He frowned. The pile of dirt violently shuddered, but Palan ignored it and yanked Sally out of the pile. She was thrashing around while hanging upside-down. “Let go!” she screeched and flailed her wings and legs. Palan stared at her and watched her struggle for a bit before dropping her. Her feathers puffed up and she smoothed out her skirt before glaring at Palan with a flushed face.
“Save Mr. Bubbles!” Cleo said and tugged on Palan’s armor. “It’s all your fault the earth broke underneath him. Do you know how heavy you are? Mr. Bubbles always slowed down when you rode the storage chest.”
“Mr. Bubbles is dead,” Palan said as he walked up the pile of dirt and dusted off part of the storage chest.
“What?” Cleo asked. “No. I don’t believe you.” She turned towards Raea and Sally. “Help me dig him out.” Sally glared at Palan and waddled after Cleo while Raea followed after them. Palan ignored them and smashed open the corner of the storage chest. Once there was enough space, he turned around and stuck his tail through the hole. There was a muffled scream, and Danger Noodle rose out of the gap with a pair of bound legs sticking out of its mouth.
“Who is that?” Raea asked with wide eyes. She stopped digging the dirt away from the elephant whose back was just beginning to show through the earth.
“Your sister,” Palan said as Danger Noodle made a heaving motion. Selena slid out of Danger Noodle with a layer of slime covering her body. Her arms and legs were bound together by a leather rope. Palan untied the leather rope around her mouth.
Selena spat out a sock before coughing. She struggled to stand up and faced Palan. “What the hell is your problem!?” she yelled. He shrugged. She glanced around. “Where are we? Untie me.”
Palan snorted and tipped her over by pressing his finger against her forehead. She yelped as she landed on her back. Raea rushed over to help her sister, abandoning the halflings who were still digging Mr. Bubbles out. “Palan!” Raea said as she began to untie the knots. The leather was slimy. “What did you, no, how—, I mean, why … Why are you like this?”
“You wanted this,” Palan said and shrugged. There was no lightning, but Raea wasn’t sure if that was because he was telling or truth or if they were just too far underground.
“I didn’t ask you to do this,” Raea said, clarifying for Selena. “I’m sorry, Sely.” She finished untying the ropes.
“That doesn’t matter right now,” Selena said and sighed. “I’ll remember this, but I think you should explain our current situation to me first. See, one second I was walking back to the checkpoint, and then I think I was eaten. Then I found myself in a storage chest. And then I was eaten again, but now I’m here.”
“The earth collaps—“
“No! Mr. Bubbles! My royal steed!” Cleo’s wails pierced through the cave. She exhaled, and her back seemed to shrink as her shoulders hunched over. She pet the dead elephant’s head and closed its eyelids. Sally frowned and covered Cleo’s back with one of her wings.
Palan, Raea, and Selena glanced at each other. “Anyways,” Selena said, “you were saying?” She turned to Raea.
Raea bit her lower lip as she looked in the direction of the elephant. “The earth collapsed after Elly destroyed some tunnels beneath the farms,” she said. “That’s all I know.”
“We’re in one of the farms,” Sally said as she led Cleo over to the group of three. “This is where we grow the mushrooms that we eat.” She gestured at the white mushrooms growing out of the ground. “I think the cave-in covered the entrance to the farm. We should dig our way out before we die. I’ve seen it happen a lot. There’s a silent killer in small rooms; people die even when nothing’s around to kill them.” She started to walk towards the collapse but hunched over and waddled after taking a few steps.
“What happened to her?” Selena asked. Palan shrugged.