Swala was intimidating enough when Kiwatu could barely see her in the dark. Seeing her in broad daylight made her all the more frightening. Swala easily dwarfed the rectangular structure as she loomed over the ruined city. She wore various metal rings on her wrists and ankles, too shiny and too large to have been crafted by mortals. A headdress adorned with gemstones sat upon her head, reflecting the light of the sun off of them.
Kiwatu ducked down as Swala's foot stepped down a short distance from where he hid. It was all he could do to keep Ynn quiet as the shakes of the ground frightened her. As Swala walked across the ruined city, Kiwatu spotted the herd of deer galloping after her. They darted this way and that around Swala's giant hooves, seemingly without care. And not once did Swala even come close to stepping on one of them. As Kiwatu watched Swala and the herd leave the city, the rumbles gradually softened until he couldn't hear or feel them.
Kiwatu stood up onto his feet and scratched his chin. On the one hand, it was incredible how Swala could gracefully walk across the plains without harming her herd of deer. But on the other hand, there was no telling what Swala would do if she found out Kiwatu tried to hunt one of her deer. He rubbed his stomach with a grimace.
She doesn't know I tried. She doesn't even know I'm here. So at least I'm not in danger of gaining her ire... yet. Kiwatu sighed. I should put my focus on trying to get the sphere out of her belly.
He stepped out of the ruined home and looked out at the distant figure of Swala. For such a slow movement speed, she sure covers a lot of ground. How am I supposed to catch up, let alone without being spotted?
Kiwatu decided to look around at his surroundings for some vantage point. Ynn squeaked for a moment before darting off towards the pool before the rectangular structure. Kiwatu watched her lapping at the water before deciding to join her; maybe getting a drink would help him think of a plan.
Kiwatu sat down upstream from Ynn and put his tools down between them. He then cupped his hands in the water for a drink. While Kiwatu took a sip, he spotted something on the rock formation that he'd overlooked while distracted by the deer. A length of rope ran from the river all the way to the top of the rock formation. The rope wound around two pulleys; one at the top and bottom respectively. A series A series of buckets were attached to the rope and the ones at the bottom were overflowing with water.
What could those be for? Kiwatu wondered. He stood up and began treading water to reach the rope. Ynn squeaked and followed after him at first, but Kiwatu turned around and held a hand out. "Stay here."
Ynn tilted her head and chattered her teeth for a moment. She then stepped out of the water and sat on her haunches. Kiwatu turned back around and made for the rope. He grabbed it and put his feet on the stone to hoist himself up. The stone was icy to the touch, but he ignored it. Little by little, Kiwatu made his way up the side of the formation. On the way up, he noticed that the seemingly-empty buckets had chunks of dead grass and straw stuffed into the bottoms.
When Kiwatu reached the top, he leaped over the side and tuck-and-rolled away from the edge. His rolling came to a sudden stop when he smacked against the side of an old stone column. Curious, Kiwatu stood up straight to investigate the area.
At the center of the top of the formation was a large, flat bowl on a raised platform. The bowl was cracked and eroded on all sides, with dead grass slipping through the cracks. A total of six stone columns surrounded the bowl, all of which were connected by a stone ring. Scraps of dead plants were scattered all over the floor, but most were directly around the bowl.
Kiwatu stepped towards the bowl and looked it over. A small staircase led up to the bowl's edge, which allowed him to see more of the scraps laying around the interior of the bowl. Judging from the grass, Kiwatu guessed that it was something that Swala used to eat out of. And if Swala looked like a giant deer, then maybe she shared the same taste for plants. That would explain all the scraps scattered around the bowl.
He stepped away from the bowl and looked out at the ruined city below and the prairie beyond. Kiwatu could just barely make out the visage of Swala as she bent down on one knee before a lone tree. Swala stood up a moment later, taking a large chunk of the tree's foliage in her maw. After what Kiwatu guessed was her chewing, Swala rose to her full height and slowly turned around. Kiwatu's eyes widened as the giant started lumbering back towards the ruined city.
Kiwatu looked around frantically. I've got to hide!
Since the closest thing to hide behind were the columns, Kiwatu decided to run behind the furthest one from Swala. He stood up tall and held his breath as he waited for the giant to return. Gradually he could feel the ground shaking as Swala drew closer. Kiwatu's heart raced as he carefully peered around the side of the column.
It wasn't long before the rock formation shook due to the familiar tremors left in Swala's wake. As the giant walked around the side of the structure, Kiwatu carefully scooted off to the side. He made sure to move just far enough to stay out of her field of vision. Before long, Kiwatu had stepped over to the opposite side of his column. He watched as Swala lumbered out towards the empty expanse of the prairie.
Why did the giant just wander around randomly throughout the prairie? What purpose did it serve? And what significance did the ruins hold for her? Kiwatu had so many questions, but he didn't expect the giant to give them to him. He just had to stick with the primary goal; find a way to get back his memories. But as Kiwatu pondered a means of getting the sphere out of the giant's belly, only one solution came to mind. He didn't like it, but he couldn't think of anything else. That's when he looked at his length of rope.
Yggdo said something about the rope changing size depending on the situation... Kiwatu scratched his chin. Hmm... Kiwatu looked from the rope to the buckets, and then to the bowl. A plan began to form in his mind. I hope she's right.
He walked up to the pulley system and carefully inched his way back down. Once he was back on the ground, he looked around for Ynn. The mouse poked her head out of the ruined home they'd hid in earlier. Kiwatu waded through the water as Ynn ran to him, squeaking and dashing back and forth.
"Calm down." Kiwatu whispered as he patted Ynn on the head. "Stay quiet."
Ynn looked him in the eyes before sitting on her haunches. Kiwatu was at least glad that the mouse took the foresight to take cover while Swala was walking through. But Kiwatu didn't have time to dawdle.
The first thing Kiwatu did was pick up his rope and wrap it around one arm. Next, he looked down at the nearby grass and flowers. He reached down and grabbed two big handfuls. Kiwatu carried them to a bucket and stuffed them inside, filling it to the top. He pulled on the opposite rope to lift the bucket into the air along the pulley system. Kiwatu then walked back and forth between the grass and the rope until he'd filled up three more buckets.
This should be enough, I think. Kiwatu nodded. I just hope this is a good idea.
Kiwatu climbed up the rope once again. When he was about halfway up, the rock formation shook with tremors again. Kiwatu froze, thinking that Swala was coming back again. The tremors grew so harsh that the buckets rattled and shook. A bucket slammed into Kiwatu's side, nearly knocking him out of his grip. But he held on tightly, refusing to fall. He waited in silence until the tremors died down again. When he saw no sign of Swala on this side of the rock formation, Kiwatu sighed and relief and kept climbing.
Once he was atop the formation again, Kiwatu pulled on the pulley system to bring his filled buckets to the top. He scooped the grass and flowers out of the buckets one by one before carrying his leafy cargo over to the bowl. It took several trips of going back and forth, but soon the bowl was filled halfway.
I think that's enough grass... Kiwatu tapped his chin while his mind raced. I've got to get the second half of the plan together.
Kiwatu lifted his rope off his arm and tied a loop on each end. He wrapped one loop around himself and then got down on his knees to dig into the pile of grass. He went down to the bottom of the bowl, covering his body entirely in plants. When he was done, Kiwatu took a deep breath.
When Swala comes back, she'll see the bowl full of plants. And then... A shiver crept up Kiwatu's spine. This may have been a stupid plan. But it was the only one he could think of. Kiwatu shut his eyes and tried to think things over to pass the time. Minutes went by with little action. Kiwatu grew frustrated. He just wanted SOMETHING to happen.
That's when the bowl shook. Kiwatu could hear the rumbling of Swala's steps. Kiwatu struggled not to freak out as the rumbles grew loud and fierce. Kiwatu opened his eyes and peered through a tiny opening in the grass. Before long, his view was obscured by the antlered head of the giant.
Swala stood before the rock formation, her head tilted to look down at the bowl. Kiwatu held his breath and froze in place, struggling not to make the smallest whimper of sound.
"I'm no fool." Swala said, her eyes slanted in a glare. "This bowl hasn't had grass in it for years."
Kiwatu shivered again. He wished he'd had more time to think of something else.
"Whoever did this, show yourself." Swala continued. "Someone was lurking in the southern forest last night. Was it you? Reveal yourself to me. Why are you hiding, and why fill my bowl?"
Kiwatu didn't make a sound. He only waited, hoping that the giant would just move on. He heard Swala wrack her fingers on the edge of the rock formation like a beating drum. After another painful minute of silence, Kiwatu heard the giant sigh.
Kiwatu felt the bowl shake as Swala grasped it in her hands. Everything shook as Swala backed away from the rock formation to raise the bowl over her head. At first, Kiwatu beamed with joy. his plan was working! But it only took a second as he grasped the ramifications.
The plan is working. Kiwatu gulped. And that means...
As the bowl tilted, Swala shut her eyes and opened her great maw wide. Before he could brace himself, Kiwatu fell out of the bowl with the grass towards Swala's awaiting tongue. The foliage covered his body, almost shielding him from the sticky surface. Thick teeth rose up on either side of the tongue, all coated with saliva. The air was thick with the scent of mulch and heat.
As Kiwatu struggled to keep his balance, the tongue squished and shifted under his feet. A glop of spittle dripped onto his head, making him recoil in disgust. He wanted to scream, but he didn't dare alert Swala to his presence. Kiwatu stayed quiet as more plants fell into the maw until the bowl was completely emptied. Swala closed her jaws, sealing Kiwatu in darkness.
Kiwatu was inside a giant's mouth.