The ground shifted again, and as the light of his sword shone upward, Balder only caught sight of the long, jagged rows of spine-like teeth as they came crashing down over him. He scrambled, staggering upward to follow Thor, but the movement of the bottom jaw, upon which the two of them had been standing, angled steeply upward, and he slid, sword and all, back into the depths of its maw as two rows of teeth met. They clamped shut, sealing the cavern from Svadren’s light.
Everything else within the cave, the lake, and the dark rocks surrounding the Prince remained dark but for the dim bulb that hung before the monstrous teeth of this new beast, suspended by a fleshy rod that mounted over its lipless snarl.
Thor’s eyes finally adjusted to the meager light that the bulb at the end of the antenna of the thing gave off, still barely sufficient to make out the outline of the creature though it was. The thing’s bulbous eyes glinted dully in the light of his lure, and Thor was at once filled with fear and rage. He couldn’t see an outline of Balder anywhere, nothing blacker than himself and the monster in the cave.
It had eaten Balder.
Thor stood in the muck, the water sloshing at his knees, and he hefted Jarnbjorn, baring his own teeth in a mocking grimace of what the creature looked like. He flew at it, swinging the battle axe with a yell.
The monster snapped at him, forcing him away, and he swung again, Jarnbjorn glancing off of its teeth before he went flying backward, smashing into the cave wall. Thor felt the deep ache of the wall connecting with his spine, and he fell with a splash into the water, coughing and sputtering, salt heavy in his mouth as he strained to stand once more.
The beast opened its mouth again, coming toward him and Thor lunged forward, aiming to wedge its mouth open. Perhaps he could pull Balder out of the depths of its stomach, if only he could cut the thing open. Thor grunted as he swung a third time, and the thing smashed him aside again with its great head.
Thor flew into the wall again, groaning this time, his body complaining as he tried to get up.
Balder could not move. Fleshy walls pressed up all around him, wet and constricting as he felt himself moving, first one way in sudden strikes, and then another, bending and twisting The light of his sword had gone out in his fall, and he braced himself within the slippery confines to try again, summoning up his energy to light his arm and his sword.
The long tube that had tightened around him only allowed for his extended arm to drop a trickle of light that jostled and moved with his surroundings. Surrounding him, pressing up against all sides, the oozing walls burned against the leathers of his armour, and as he struggled to orient himself, to try to stand or kneel within the amorphously moving prison, something sloshed at his feet, releasing a bilious odour that nearly gagged him.
Stomach acid, he realised, coughing at the stench. The squeezing of the gullet walls and the air thick with its toxic smell left him gasping, and each movement of the beast seem to slosh the acid—and other still-solid contents—around his feet and legs, corroding his boots.
He struggled against the narrow tube that clenched around him, trying to pull his extended arm and Svadren back town to angle the blade. Each movement that left space around him from his arms was soon eliminated as the walls moved in more tightly, and he struggled against the internal muscles of the monster until he had wrenched his hand back down, planting a foot against the toxin-coated tissue to give him space. His heart hammered in his ears and it felt as though he was running out of air.
As the creature lurched once more, splashing acid up from its stomach around his knees, he jabbed the lit blade of his sword through one of the walls, forcing it down to the hilt as it passed through soft tissue, toughened muscle, and finally scales.