Welcome back, my dear fiends! In this gloaming hour we have for you the ghastly first quest of the Lightbearer, a suicide mission into the gullet of giant worm, and I don’t mean wyrm with a “y.” No, this behemoth is the maggoty, squirmy kind. Do you think you have the “stomach” for this tale? We shall see. (TW for body horror).
Chronicle of the Lightbearer: The Worm that Devourers
The elders have opened a portal to the skin of the world under the hollow light of the sun. Others fled the great worm that way, though whether they are nerveless cravens or pragmatic survivors I do not yet know. Turning away from the surface glare that still infests my skin, I approached the sphincter of the passage to the worm. This was a different, more homely magic. I stood upon it and it relaxed, slippery and warm as I slid through into the transport pouch beneath. Liquid magic pooled there, in colours beyond naming, currents that flowed through me and pulled me apart.
I sloshed back together inside the worm and took a moment to survey my surroundings. Bright red corpuscular lumps laced round with darker, ropy tissue met my eye in every direction, more like the guts of a bloodworm than a common nightcrawler. The worm’s flesh is translucent, and I can see glittering paracyan and gantish flashes along some channel below. The creature’s spine? What unnatural energies make it shine so?
My reverie was interrupted by a sudden splattering of acid upon my side. My skin burned and sloughed off. It is nothing, I repeated a mantra from my childhood, torn skin frees flesh. Turning toward the pain, at first I saw nothing, then discerned a greenish-yellow mesh of tendrils emerging from the intestinal lining.
Be it part of the worm’s digestive process or anti-pathogenic in character, it was a hazard to me and must needs be destroyed. Drawing my sword, I inflated my foot-bladders and pushed off in a headlong leap at the thing. Upon my landing, the bladders popped, showering the tendrils in phlegm and small crawling life. Not waiting for its reaction, I hacked at it the tendrils, severing a large comb-shaped section. The remaining tendrils writhe and two oozy masses bubble up out of the spongy intestinal lining as if pulled by invisible strings. One ooze surges toward me, the dull impact rattling my teeth.
Inside my mouth, my tongue began to itch, and I spat it out, whipping the mass of tendrils and both of the oozy mounds, grating over them and leaving behind slime from the plague-glands in my jaw. The spots I struck discoloured and began to rot. Enfeebled, these autonomous bits of worm-flesh were easily hacked and crushed. Turning away, I followed a narrow passageway into a nearly spherical space, a dead end save for a large pustulous sack containing something that throbbed with excessive life. Alarmed, I backed away from it.
I followed the trail of the worm’s spine and discovered more of the narrow passages and spherical chambers. I soon found myself ambushed by a half-dozen of the worm’s defenders and almost surrounded. I puffed my skin out and filled it with a mucosal secretion that quickly caused it to dry leather-hard. It is nothing, I repeated to myself as new skin knit together over the raw flesh beneath, the skin dies that the growth may spread. My common sword was insufficient to this horde, and I fell back, my shed skin quickly shredding under the assault. I was a flash of metal out of the corner of my eye, and desperately I flung out my good right arm to retrieve it. My suckers tasted cold steel, and I feel a surge of hope as I ensnare the object and pull it to my side. It was a finely-wrought greatsword, and possessed of at least a little magic, as it was untarnished.
Dropping my dulled and acid-pitted mundane blade, I lifted the greatsword with both my human left hand and my cephalopodic right arm and swing it wide. It sliced through a warty sphere on a fibrous stalk that with a hiss of seared flesh followed by rapid decay around the cut. The sphere split, gushing blood and water, and as the stalk toppled, the oozes that had flanked me began to pop and split. They share vitality.
Armed with a superior weapon and new understanding,I advanced, hewing and licking my way through the villi of that great intestine, though acid mist and strange swirling distortions, seeking the worm’s ganglia.
After narrowly besting one such swarm, I stood, resting a moment, when I beheld a strange sight. A worm, a small, fat, white grub, fell from above. Then another, and another. Their gant appearance was unlike any I had seen here, so I held my blade and watched. The trickle of grubs became a flood, then stopped abruptly. They milled over each other and rose up over their fellows until they had assumed the rough shape of a man. I had heard a few whispers about the Worm that Walks, and the powerful few who dare bargain with such a dread collective, but I knew that this was beyond me.<1> I did not run, did not raise my sword, for neither could save me if I was this worm’s food.
I heard your hunger. The voice was inside my head, squishing around like something crawling up my nostrils, into the porches of my ears, behind my ears. Walk with me. It reached into itself and drew out a pair of vicious axes. Change or die.
I fought in a frenzied haze after that, feeling more than seeing my companion’s axes rise and fall. They were like great incisors, biting down and shredding, tearing through and then moving on. I felt my belly distend. Pigs chew, the voice whispered, the worm swallows. Suddenly I understood. My jaw stretched and drooped, I began to salivate uncontrollably. Something bulbous and red, half concealed by the greenish-yellow tendrils that ringed it round and dripping caustic slime, flung itself at me.
I opened my mouth, felt it continue to open wider and broader beyond possibility, and lashed out with my tongue, wrapping round the the thing and pulled it in, in, in, and swallowed. There, that was better. The bulbous thing was now just as much inside my gut as I was inside the worm’s belly. I felt it crack under the pressure and begin to dissolve. I burped.
Keep up. Hissed the Worm that Walks. If you can. It rounded a bend in the creature’s intestines, and when I followed, it was gone.
Suffused with changeborne confidence, I surged ahead, barely hampered by great worm’s defenses. Then I felt a sudden shock of emptiness tear through me, threatening to take my mind with it. I must be close. I leapt forward, propelled by my foot-bladders, but nothing was there. I took a step. Another shock, darkness and emptiness made lighting. I puffed loose my skin, hoping to confuse my enemy, raised what defenses I had and barreled forward.
I was struck again and again, my mind afire and my body suddenly heavy. I felt nothingness each for me, but then there it was, the ganglion, a cluster of nerves glowing with unearthly light, but only as large as a human brain, if that, and simple in it’s visible structure. I raised my greatsword and brought it down. The flesh yielded with a hiss and a crackle, there was a great flare of paracyanotic light, and then nothing. Stillness. Embedded in the wall nearby, I found a preternaturally sharp scalpel The worm was dead, Kroshkurr was safe, I should have gone home,
But I was arrogant after my victory, and remembering the unnerving flesh-pouch and the throbbing life within, I went back. Surely, after slaying one of the great worms, nothing could harm me. I found the pouch and split it open. Out popped a tendrilled, writing, fernlike thing. I had destroyed a great many like it, but this one was different.
Faster, it struck before I was ready, and tore a great gash in my side. Stronger, too. I made to puff off my wounded skin and strike it down, but found I couldn’t. All the wondrous energy of my own mutation had subsided. My body was stable, at rest. Vulnerable. I swung my sword around, hoping to cripple the thing before it could do more harm. I hit it, a solid blow, and cut though the first tendril I hit, only to have my sword glance off of the next one. It struck back, several tendrils piercing through me, and my enchanted blade fell from my hands. Pushing through the pain – it is nothing – I drew my head back and then lashed out with my tongue – skin and flesh and bone all come to nothing. The creature flexed its tendrils, strained, and ripped them out of me. Then I was gone.
To Be Continued?
1. I believe the appearance of a Worm that Walks as the Lightbearer’s ally was a glitch, the result of my attempting to unlock that category of abilities before I was eligible to. As a result, a Worm that Walks appeared, but it also seemed to disappear much of the time when enemies spawned, only to show up again after I’d dispatched them. And then, when it was gone, it was gone. I really should have screenshotted that.