Yes, it's part eight. For those who may need reminding, I remind you that this is essentially a free-writing experiment in fiction, so don't expect much planning or polish or clever tie-ins with earlier events or the like. Also, on an unrelated note, what's up with the word "commentate"? Seriously. What's wrong with "comment"? Just so, "commenter" is infinitely superior to the ridiculous "commentator." I just thought I'd mention this. Anyway, today's installment was heavily inspired by the desire to "keep things short." Bear that in mind.
It was days since the troll. It was days since a meal as well, and there weren't even any butterflies around to engage in fluttery. Hero was rather dispirited. This deserted land seemed to go on forever and every way he looked he saw nothing but the same fire-blasted eternity. Had he not been navigating with the assistance of his pocketknife's compass attachment, he might have been worried that he was traveling in circles. He was worried about this anyway. Worry was a feeling rather alien to Hero's typical blissful ignorance and he wasn't quite sure how to react to it. Fortunately his empty stomach was currently engaged in a dialogue with his brain concerning the properties of a vacuum and how it is abhorred by nature, and this provided a distraction. Unfortunately it was not a very comforting one.
A dwarf erupted from the ground. This was strange for several reasons. For one thing, although Hero's knowledge of the dwarven lifestyle was limited, he was fairly certain they made their home in caves and mountains - underground to be sure, but not this literally. Furthermore this dwarf wore a goatee and short hair, which was closely covered by a stretch cap, and there was not a single axe on his person. Instead there were a pair of nunchaku at his belt and a katana strapped to his back. In fact there would be little reason to call him a dwarf at all were it not for the diminutive yet proportional stature. Hero felt vaguely offended at this outrageous example of nonconformity. When the dwarf suddenly donned a pair of sunglasses it was too much and even Hero had to wonder if the lack of food and visual variation had finally gotten to him.
"You're not crazy," said the dwarf abruptly. "At least, no more than you were to tackle this forsaken land in the first place."
"Right..." said Hero uncertainly, wondering how open his face was. "So there really is such a thing as, er, some kind of ninja dwarf mole person. Actually there must be because no one has an imagination this ridiculous."
"Stuff it," said the dwarf. "We can refuse to answer your insulting questions later. Right now I suggest you get underground before the Haze catches up with you."
"What, down that?" said Hero, pointing to the hole, which was far too small.
"That's right. If you have trouble fitting I could lop off a few limbs," the dwarf said helpfully.
"Thanks but no" said Hero "I'm rather atta--"
"--Don't say it" snapped the dwarf. "I was joking anyway. Just hold on a sec..." He rummaged through his clothes and quickly came up with a small bottle filled with a bubbling fluid, which he unceremoniously dashed in Hero's face. Before Hero could protest, he was filled with the most extraordinary feeling and suddenly the ground was rushing up towards him at astonishing speed. "I'm shrinking!" he shouted.
This was not true. In fact the ground reacquainted itself with Hero's face because the dwarf had tripped him. When Hero shook off the impact he looked up to see the dwarf laughing uproariously. Bear with the dwarf. His actions were not motivated by the principle that violence is funny. That was just a bonus.
"Now there's a joke that never gets old," said the dwarf, wiping tears from his eyes. "Cheer up lad," he added, seeing Hero's anger. "It's rough, I know, but it needed doing. You'll see why."
"And the potion?" growled Hero. "Was that a joke too?"
"Smells awful, doesn't it?" said the dwarf cheerfully. "It's not a shrinking potion but it is a potion - it eliminates claustrophobia, which, believe me, you will soon be glad of. Now, to business." Without another word, the dwarf drew his katana, jumped into the air, flipped, and dove towards the ground. As he fell he began spinning until he was a tornado of blade and forceful personality that tore through the hard ground as though it were sand. Before long he had widened the hole sufficiently that Hero could fit himself in, and together they descended into the earth.
to be continued...