Once Abby was hiking up Mount Longonot. As she struggled and panted up the slope, a boulder rolled towards her. Abby, glad for a rest, leaned against it, wiping her brow. For a moment the boulder politely stayed still. Then it began to float. A little surprised, Abby pushed down on it, trying to keep the rock down. She had been up before, and did not want to repeat the experience. For a long moment she wrestled with the boulder, until at last, with a quiet, resigned sigh, it began to sink down.
It touched the ground and kept sinking. Abby stared in surprise as the ground rushed upward, submerging her toes, then her feet, then her knees, then her waist, then her torso, then her shoulders, and at last her head. It was like she was going through air–and Abby knew air.
The rock kept sinking, pulling her down faster and faster until she was in a free-fall. With a thump the boulder at last landed on a plain of glassy black obsidian. Some of the obsidian cracked, but the rock didn’t stir. When Abby pushed against it, it wouldn’t budge. It was stuck–and so was she.
Abby looked around and realized it was just her and the boulder. Well, really it’s just me, she thought, very logically, but not very happily. She started walking across the glass-smooth plain, leaving the boulder in it’s resting place. She didn’t see it slowly sinking lower and lower, slow as a snail. She was too busy walking and walking.
After maybe an hour, when Abby was just about ready to give up and turn back, she saw light up ahead. She forced her tired legs into a trot, and the light got brighter and brighter. Suddenly Abby stopped. There was a ship in front of her! How had it gotten this deep underground? But what was yet more surprising was that the ship was sailing on LAVA!
An ocean of lava stretched ahead of her, full of boats fishing and sailing and practicing with their cannons. Some even dipped under the lava–though come to think of it, that meant they were submarines, not boats. Didn’t it? Well, Abby had seen strange things. She had seen strange places. She had seen strange people. But this was the strangest thing she had observed yet.
A man in a fishing boat nearby saw her and let out a cry. Looking at her reflection in the glassy obsidian, Abby understood why–her hair was a mess, she was sweaty, and her skin was streaked with dirt. Not to mention it looked like she’d been crying and her clothes were rumpled and stained… Ugh.
“Hey!” She called to the man. Then, at a loss for what else to say, she added, “Habari?”
“What?” The man asked.
“Can you tell me where I am?” Apparently he spoke English, so Abby might as well.
The man blinked at her for a moment, then nodded and jumped into the lava! Abby squealed. The man laughed and swam towards her, occasionally diving beneath the lava to spook her. Apparently, his skin was lava-proof. Once he reached her, Abby realized there was something else strange about the fisherman. He glowed! At first Abby thought it was a trick of the light, but it wasn’t. The man’s skin was so light it was bright.
“Hello, high-child.” The fire-man said, smiling. It took Abby a moment to understand what he meant.
“Hello, fire-dude.” Abby answered. “I’m Abby. Can you tell me where I am?” She thought he hadn’t really had to swim across the lava lake to tell her that, but maybe he was hard of hearing. He was certainly loud enough.
“Yes. I am Ashgull, son of Ashbird, and I am an eel-fisher of the Black Shore. Welcome, A-B, to Firell.” Ashgull pronounced each vowel carefully, as if they were strange to him.
“I need to get back to the above world.” Abby said. “Can you help me?”
“There are dragons in the capital.” Ashgull said with a slight frown. “But it’s a dangerous trip. The–the Beast has a lair near the capital.”
“Oh.” Abby said.
“I will take you there.” Ashgull assured her. “If we die, we die.” Before Abby could answer, Ashgull picked her up and threw her towards the lava lake.
Abby screamed as she flew through the air, only to land (rather painfully) on the deck of a fishing ship. With a laugh the nearest person grabbed her and threw her to the next boat, and another man threw her to the next, and so it went until finally she reached Ashgull’s boat.
“Well, that was fun. Not.” Abby gasped out, surprised her skeleton was still intact. She wondered how she could explain to her doctor why she was covered in bruises.
Ashgull just laughed and turned the boat towards a distant island. Abby gradually grew bored of watching them sail across the lava lake and fell asleep. When she woke up, it was because the boat had stopped abruptly, throwing her rudely into the mast.
“Are we there?” She asked.
“Almost.” Ashgull answered grimly, pointing.
Ahead, on the island, was the brightest city in the world. To Abby’s untrained eyes, it looked like a glowing blur. But Ashgull could clearly see it better, and what he saw didn’t make him smile.
“Look through these.” The man said, handing Abby as pair of tinted binoculars.
“Looks like a welcoming committee.” She observed, looking at the group of firemen gathered on the shore. “A welcoming committee… with spears?”
“To defend us and them.” Ashgull explained. “Look over there.” He directed her gaze to a cave in the stone wall, surrounded by lava, though the fiery liquid seemed afraid to come too near.
“Whoa–is that water?” Abby gasped.
“Do not even SPEAK of it.” Ashgull whispered, glancing around as if afraid a waterfall might fall on their heads at any moment.
“But I like–” Abby started to say, only for Ashgull to place a grimy hand over her mouth.
“Watch the lair.” He told her, then hurried off to do something.
Abby watched the dark cave. There was no light in it at all, just water and steam and stone. Even she felt a little intimidated by it. And then she saw a rock move. A blue rock.
Abby gasped, and suddenly found herself looking right into an enormous green-blue eye. The boat jolted, then sped forward with a roar. Abby barely managed to save herself from falling over the size, losing the binoculars in the process as they sped towards the glowing city.
Without the binoculars, she couldn’t see much of it, so instead looked behind them for her pursuer. A large blue rock appeared to be following them. Finally the reached the city, and Abby was instantly greeted by a muscular woman with hair the color of molten gold and fire in a circlet on her head. The woman got right to the point.
“Greetings, A-B. We have heard of your deeds among the air people, and thank you for helping them. We need your help. The Water Beast has been terrorizing us for months, killing our best fighters with a touch. But you are immune to water. Will you please help?” All the fire-people had pleading looks.
“Sure,” Abby said, deciding a little water wouldn’t hurt. “What–”
Suddenly something erupted out of the lava behind her, and she spun with a gasp to face–the Water Beast.
It had a head like a dragon, with blue-green eyes and steam wafting off it’s fish scales. Three horns formed a crown on it’s forehead, and two more led the way to it’s snout. It’s front feet looked like blue hands, with long, flexible claws and translucent azure webbing. It’s ears were like cow ears, and as it lashed it’s tail, Abby could see it was forked and sharp and webbed.
And she felt sorry for it.
The Water Beast’s eyes glistened with pain and loneliness, it’s blue scales appearing dry and cracked. Painful scratches criss-crossed it’s snout, and a spear was embedded in one ear.
“You poor thing!” Abby cried. She stepped forward and gently laid a hand on the Water Beast’s nose. For a moment it tensed, as if afraid she was going to attack, or planning to itself. But then it relaxed and began to purr.
Smiling, Abby suddenly had an idea. She scrambled up onto the Water Beast’s back, feeling the vibrations of it’s continued purring under her legs.
“A-B! What are you doing?” Ashgull cried.
“Killing two birds with one stone!” Abby shouted back.
The Water Beast shimmered for a moment, and then Abby felt as if all the moisture had been sucked out of her body. Suddenly she found herself sitting on the Water Beast, surrounded by water. It was night time, and fog swirled around her. Abby shivered, certain icicles were forming on her skin. After Firell, Scotland was freezing. And the Water Beast loved it.
The creature set Abby gently on the shore, then set about diving and splashing and swimming and shrieking gleefully. Abby waved good-bye, then trotted off, with icicles on her nose and and boots with their toes burned off.
And that’s what happened, once when Abby was climbing Mount Longonot, and ended up in Loch Ness.