The Seven Jewels

by Rev. Joe Kelly
read from the beginning

part five.

Alruf was at last figuring out something was amiss. He stopped, his eyes growing curious, but before he could ask a question he froze with terror.

From the hole there emerged the most dreaded predator of the Ogdru, what might have been the most awful creature to ever crawl upon the earth: an Ogdru death worm.

Its body, as thick as a man’s torso, was soft and velvety red, with tiny, dotlike eyes that seemed all the more evil for their dull inscrutability. It glided in a horrid undulating motion on huge, spindly legs like those of a centipede. Its formerly lackadaisical antennae now waved about furiously. From a puckered, anus-like mouth huge pincer mandibles emerged and retracted. But its venom was not in the mandibles: it was in those whiplike antennae that lashed with a frightening speed. To face a death worm, on foot, was a death sentence.

Luo was backing up quickly, though it did little good: the worm moved with a hideous speed, closing rapidly, and it was not even in a hurry. It could easily outrun a man at a full sprint. His mare, at least, had a chance, and she took it: she bolted off into the ruins without so much as a whinny.

Luo shook his head as Alruf backed up with him. “You dumb son of a bitch,” he snarled to the Wose, “you’ve killed us both.”

They stumbled backwards, up the pile of stones, both men helpless before the worm’s advance.

Luo repeated, “You’ve killed us both!”

Suddenly, Alruf looked down, all around at them. “The hell I have!” He threw his sword aside, grabbed a rock, and with all his might hurled it at the worm.

The worm dodged the rock as it bounced off the ground, its powerful body carrying it easily out of the path of the missile. But Alruf was already grabbing another. “Come on, you lazy bastard–I can’t kill this thing alone!”

Luo threw his saber away, grabbed a rock and hurled it.

Rocks landed all about the worm in a regular pelting rain. Its progress was slowed to a crawl as it was forced to dodge rock after rock. But onward it crawled all the same, dogged, still determined to kill the thing that had annoyed it.

Luo chose a smaller stone now; the bigger ones were too damn slow. This one, he held with both hands, aimed carefully, and threw with all his might. The worm dodged, but not in time–the rock smashed several of its front legs. The worm writhed in pain a moment, then stretched its head out slowly–too slowly.

With a shout of triumph, Alruf hurled a big stone and nailed the worm square in the middle of its head. The head burst open with a splattering of hideous yellow bile. The rest of the body thrashed about, pinned beneath the rock and glued to the ground by its own internal juices.

Luo howled wildly. He grabbed his saber and, whirling it in the air, he charged the worm, intending to cut it to pieces. Alruf muttered something behind him, but he ignored the Wose. If he didn’t want to join in the glory of victory, his loss.

He ran up to the worm, sword raised–and then he realized, too late, what Alruf must have muttered. One of the antennae, still thrashing about spasmodically with the remains of life, slashed across his leg.

Luo’s howl turned to one of agony and rage. He leaped back, too late. He had not got a full dose of the venom, but it set his whole leg afire all the same. Backing up from the dying worm, he heard the Wose laughing heartily at him. He cursed himself. His leg was crippled, so weak with pain and venom that within moments he was unable to put weight on it. Alruf could kill him at his pleasure.

Alruf grinned down at him. He hurled his last rock at the worm, and, not bothering to see if he had scored a hit, he grabbed his backsword and trod with light feet down the pile of stones towards Luo. Luo held his saber out as he glowered through the pain at Alruf. The tip shook badly.

Alruf shook his head disapprovingly. “I told you not to go near it.” He glanced at Luo’s leg. “Well… I’ve got some poultice in my bag. I’ll get some of the worm’s venom and make you up a paste for those bites.”

“Fuck you!”

Alruf halted in mid-turn. “What’s that?”

“Fuck you, I say! You think I’d take any of your medicine?! Why in hell should I trust you?!”

Alruf threw his head back and laughed. “Boy, if I wanted to poison you, all I’d have to do is just lie back and wait. I’m giving you a cure because I want you good and healthy for when I kill you–no man will accuse me of killing you outside of a fair fight.”

Luo considered his words, but he did not lower the sword just yet.

Alruf shrugged. “You can take the paste, or you can let the venom do its work. But that leg will turn rotten in a day or two without help.” He turned and walked off, adding as he left, “I’m going to make it up while you decide.” Luo snarled at the Wose’s back, and the point of his sword dropped in defeat.

on to part six.

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