Art by Mackenzie Holman, 2021.
The first thing Eitra noticed was the tentacles. She could see four of them. Each one slimy, red, and colossal in size. More deadly appendages were most definitely waiting beneath the waves of the river. Then, Eitra caught a glimpse of its mouth with several rows of sharp, shining teeth. Its large body was just as huge and intimidating. It continued to rise from the depths of the water, its three yellow eyes focused on its newfound prey.
Taris held on tightly to the rope, pulling on it with all the strength he could afford, desperately trying to turn the boat around. The current was too strong, however, and his efforts seemed to do little but violently shake the boat from side to side.
“We’re heading straight towards it!” Eitra yelled.
“Yeah! I noticed!”
The Jiax raised a giant tentacle from the depths, moving it to strike the boat as it approached. Taris yanked at his rope and the boat jerked to the right as the tentacle crashed into the waves, sending torrents of water into the air. The boat was sent off course, and Taris barely managed to pull at the rope again to avoid a sharp rock jutting from the rushing water.
The crimson monster roared in anger, showing off its rows of teeth, and swung another one of its tentacles at the boat. This time, the Jiax hit its mark and the boat crashed into the side of the cliff beside the water.
“Argh!” Taris was knocked off his feet and the rope flew from his hands. The sail fluttered wildly in the wind with no one continuing to guide it.
The boat was getting closer to the Jiax now, so close that Eitra could smell the creature–a stench both strong and terrifying.
Another tentacle flew up from beneath the water, striking the bottom of the boat and crashing it into the cliffside once again. As the tentacle attempted to sink back down into the depths, Eitra managed to draw her dagger and drive it into its slimy, red skin. The Jiax roared in pain, although the wound only seemed to make him angrier.
Taris had drawn his bow now, an arrow pulled against its pearly-white string. He aimed at the creature’s yellow eye and fired. The Jiax roared again, this time louder.
“Take that you nasty beast!” Taris yelled and notched another arrow in his bow.
Another tentacle rose from the waves and Eitra was able to get a quick swing at it this time. It retracted in frustration before sinking itself back into the water.
“Nice hit!” Taris shot another arrow, then his eyes widened, “Look out!”
Eitra whirled around only to receive a tentacle directly in the head. She barely had time to react as she was knocked out of the boat and into the cold water of the river.
Taris dropped his bow and grabbed a rope, tossing it overboard where Eitra floundered in the water, “Grab on!”
Eitra struggled against the current, desperately trying to stay afloat and grab the rope. She felt the slimy skin of the Jiax’s tentacle wrap around her legs and suddenly felt herself rise into the air, held captive in the creature’s clutches.
Her arms were bound to her side as the tentacle tightened its grip. She struggled against its squeeze, trying to raise her arm holding her dagger, which was pinned at her side. The creature cried out in pain once more, an arrow protruding the tentacle holding Eitra. Taris had an arrow notched in his bow, ready to shoot another projectile at the beast. The Jiax briefly loosened its grip and Eitra managed to lift her dagger and swipe at its flesh. Green liquid oozed from the cut, and the Jiax swung Eitra around before dropping her back in the water below.
Taris once again threw the rope to Eitra. She caught it and pulled herself to safety. Taris raised his bow again and sent an arrow flying at another one of the Jiax’s eyes. It cried out in pain, its tentacles flailing and crashing in the water.
“Turn the sail!” Taris yelled, “We’ll have to steer around it!”
“Are you crazy?” Eitra said.
“Probably!” he shot another arrow, this time managing to hit a tentacle as it was about to hit the boat.
Eitra snatched the rope up from the floor, “I don’t know how to steer this thing!”
Taris ducked as another tentacle nearly missed his head, “I’ll tell you when to pull it!”
The boat was fast approaching the creature’s mouth. Eitra could only imagine the damage those teeth would do to the boat, let alone to her.
Taris took another shot at the last of the Jiax’s eyes. The creature cried out again in pain, realizing that it was now blinded.
“Now!” Taris yelled.
Eitra pulled at the rope and the sail caught the wind, sending the boat racing across the river’s current.
“Now to the left!”
One of the Jiax’s tentacles hit the side of the boat. Taris stumbled as he tried to regain his balance.
“The other left!”
Eitra pulled the rope in the opposite direction and the boat veered away from the Jiax, barely missing another incoming tentacle. A second tentacle rose from the waves, ready to strike the boat again, but they were already well on their way. The boat was stretching the gap between the Jiax and itself with a combination of the wind and water, the waves crashing against its hull and splashing in Eitra’s face.
Taris lowered his bow and let out a cheer in celebration, “Nicely done!”
The Jiax was disappearing in the mist, its roar now drowned out by the sound of the rushing current.
Taris sat down in the boat and looked up at the sail, now even more tattered than before,
“Yup. You’re definitely buying me a new sail.”
All Eitra could respond with was a delirious laugh and a shake of her head.