The Unmaking of the Worm Actually Concludes, For Real This Time, I’m Serious

I was only going to use the first chapter of my father’s book, The Children of Omm: The Unmaking of the Worm, when I ran this sneak peek, because I’m one of those who believes a little nibble is more enticing than a full feast, which is why I don’t run a lot of sneak peeks of my own Works in Progress (also because I hate blogging, but whatevs). However, I’m also a big believer in letting the work speak for itself and I cannot do my father’s Voice justice unless you also get a peek at the second chapter, in which the reader actually meets the future heroes: Chemnat and Colnor, the two princes whose quest to reclaim their kingdom from the Worm’s coils is kinda sorta the whole point of the first book. Not the series, I feel I ought to add; the series spans whole lifetimes of Men and Elves (and Dwarves? I think there are Dwarves in the third book). The Unmaking of the Worm is Natty and Nori’s tale; the Curse of Cancr belongs to Delany and Matian, and I don’t know yet whose story is spun out in the third installment, only that it won’t be either of those that came before.

All of this is my way of saying that, although the differences in writing style are apparent in each of the previous three sections, Introduction, Prologue and Chapter One, the other parts of the book featuring the heroes as young boys is even more different, and I’d like to show it off. So here is Chapter Two, in its entirety. Yes, you read that right. Unlike a certain author whose name I resemble, my father is the very source of brevity when need be and if a chapter is only five pages long, so be it.

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CHAPTER TWO: The Cottage

The boys awoke amid a pile of pillows and blankets, each in the bottom of a basket that bumped and jostled at the sides of the donkey, Djolli, trotting along after Cable. However, this exciting discovery only held their attention for bare minutes—just until they decided that they were hungry. Cable set them down next to a spring that bubbled merrily out of the ground. He pointed out that there were no fancy toilet facilities there and sent them to a nearby clump of bushes. Then he told them to wash in the spring. This was accompanied by much splashing and giggling, and when they were done, the boys were more wet than dry and huddled shivering in woolen cloaks, wide-eyed and looking around them at the forest.

Breakfast was a much-wrinkled brown apple and spice cakes. “Enjoy them, dears,” Hannah told them. “There won’t be any more for a while, I’m afraid.”

“Why?” Chemnat asked. He was four, and ‘Why?’ was his favorite question.

“Because,” Colnor replied authoritatively. He was five and knew everything. (This is my favorite line in the whole book–RLee Smith) But furrows soon appeared in his forehead. ”Yeah, why, Momma Hannah?” he asked in turn.

“Because we are off on a camping trip,” Hanna answered calmly, “and we get to eat camping food.”

The boys continued to look puzzled, so Cable explained, “You’ll find that it’s great stuff. He smiled conspiratorially. “We get to eat what we catch, and cook over a campfire and other neat things.”

“There will be no campfires for a while, though.” Hannah cautioned. “We will be eating cold for a week or so.”

“Why?” Chemnat asked.

And so it went. The boys would not hear of getting back in the baskets and insisted on walking, but their short legs did not carry them far. Soon they were sitting, Chemnat on Djolli between the baskets and Colnor in the saddle on Pesky, the Pony.

“Why can’t I ride the pony?” Chemnat whined.

“Because I’m bigger, and bigger boys need to ride bigger horses,” Colnor explained matter-of-factly to his younger brother. But Chemnat wasn’t arguing very hard. Djolli seemed plenty big enough to him whose biggest ride to date had been the wooden rocking horse inhabiting a corner of their nursery.

Long before the boys awoke that morning, Hannah had led their company by a little-known pathway through the edge of the wood thick with brush and saplings into the deep woods by the light of a small candle lantern. Three of the sides had been covered with opaque material allowing only a narrow beam of light to go before them in order to prevent any watcher who might have been posted on the outer walls to note their entry into the forest. Daylight had brought them into tall trees with very little undergrowth interspersed with streams and wide, grassy meadows. They rested at one of these in the afternoon and ate something dry and tasteless as dust, which Momma Hannah called travel bread and which was a far cry from the sugar cookies they were more accustomed to, with a morsel of hard, nutty-tasting cheese and a handful of raisins to complete the meal. Soon they were once again on the move.

When they finally stopped, it was after nightfall at a rather rustic hunter’s camp composed of four mud-chinked log walls covered with thatch with an open space where a door would have gone if there had been one. A small fire pit inside and just enough floor space for a few bedrolls completed the available comforts. Through the door, moonlight glimmered on the surface of a wide beaver pond, in the center of which a large pile of mud and logs indicated the presence of the beaver family lodge.

The boys, who had alternately ridden, walked or slept the day away in their baskets, were anxious to explore. Since the walls of their shelter mostly hid the fire pit from prying eyes, Cable soon set about building a small fire. Momma Hannah rummaged about in the various packs for fixings to make their stay as pleasant as possible under the circumstances, all the while trying to impress them with a stern description of the wild and ferocious creatures that had once inhabited the fearsome woods and glades of the Fang ‘n Claw Forest. Her purpose, of course, had been to keep her charges from wandering away from the camp and it succeeded wonderfully.

A long arm of the Fang ‘n Claw (which began practically at the back door of the Columns Keep Castle) blanketed a line of rolling hills stretching north and west three hundred miles as the crow flies to Spring Hills where it joined the old forest lying east of the foothills of Craigot’s Tor. But here the land began imperceptibly to rise, each hill higher than the last until deciduous forests heavy with maple, alder, elm and oak yielded way to majestic sequoia, cedar, fir and hemlock reaching high to the craggy peaks above. There, snow covered the rocky pinnacle of Craigot’s Tor and the solitary snow leopard hunted the careless mountain goat while the giant teratorn surveyed its kingdom from where it hovered effortlessly above them in the heavens.

Wolves and the occasional bear were known to hunt these woods far from the habitations of men—even badgers and a variety of forest cats—but fiercer creatures had once haunted these woods, and then, men had been the prey. Although few records spoke of those days and the things that lurked in those ancient and eldritch forests—and no such books had been available to the young princes in their nursery at Columns Keep—legends told of creations older than Humans who lingered long after their evil masters had fallen in mighty struggles lost out of time. But if Momma Hannah watered down her tales for the ears of four and five year old boys, their imaginations and the darkness of the night supplied many of the more gruesome details her accounts glossed over, and neither boy ventured beyond the lintels of the cabin for any reason whatever without keeping a careful hold of Cable’s hand.

 

***

 

The following morning they breakfasted on beaver, which Cable had caught in a snare laid down during the night. After Momma Hannah loaded the last of the packs on their animals, she knelt down in front of her charges, and said, her eyes twinkling, “Colnor is such a stuffy name, much too stuffy a name for a camping trip. What shall we call you?”

Colnor looked up at her with alarm. He’d never given any thought to his name. He didn’t know what made a name stuffy, or why stuffy was bad, but Momma Hannah always knew best, so he looked at her anxiously and waited.

“I know,” she said, brightening. ”We’ll call you Nori; that’s such a nifty name.”

Colnor laughed with relief, and promptly forgot all about ever having had another.

Chemnat was making little jumping motions and whining, “What about me? What about me?”

“Yes, Mum. What about him?” asked Cable mock seriously, surreptitiously removing a bit of mita leaf from his tongue. “Whatever can you do with a name like Chemnat?”

“Why,” she answered him smartly, “we shall call him Natty, and if he’s not very good, we shall call him Naughty Natty.” She wrinkled up the end of her nose and touched his with her finger. “But we shall never have to call him that because he’s always very, very good.” She stood up. “Now, up on Djolli. Or would you rather walk first?” she asked.

“Walk,” cried Nori.

“Ride,” shouted Nattty, running to the burro.

And so began the second day of their camping trip, following a rough track that ran through the trees. Before long, however, Natty began to squirm. “Are we there yet?” he called plaintively.

Nori looked down at Cable walking beside Djolli and nodded his head vigorously in agreement.

Cable lifted one and then the other down. “That is not the way of grand adventures,” he told them expansively, as they rushed to the base of a nearby tree and began to pee. “Each day there are new things to see, squirrels to count, the sounds of the forest to learn and identify. Each night there is a camp to make and a story to tell. And the following day, it begins again.”

Natty returned and lifted his arms to Cable to be picked up. ”Besides,” Cable added, bending down to lift Nori onto Pesky’s back. “Where would you rather be?”

To this, neither boy had a ready answer.

“There, you see?” Hannah said. “All is just as it should be.”

And so the day continued, Cable pointing out the various small animals that stopped their work to chitter, chirp or whistle at the intruders into their daily occupations and telling them the stories he had heard at his mother’s knee. Hannah, of course, interrupted periodically with small embellishments or details he had forgotten. And so the days began to run together in one continuous and always pleasant now.

At first, Momma Hannah led them furtively, seeking to travel by terrain which would leave little for anyone to follow, with Cable frequently searching the back trail for signs of pursuit, but there was none. By the end of the second week, their bodies hardened to the rigors of the trail and the routines of camp life, the princes grew stronger and even Hannah could walk all day without tiring. They traveled more openly now, joining animal trails that took them westward through the forest bordering a southern tributary of the Gray River. The land continued its gradual rising, but though there were frequent showers, the weather was growing milder and green had come to be the dominant color. By the beginning of June, evergreen needles joined with the broadleaves on the forest floor and from the west, mountains could be seen to approach them whenever they crossed open meadowlands. Streams and rivers, meandering and calm in the lowlands, began to rush headlong and white down along the bottoms of the steeper valleys of the foothills.

Rough tracks and pathways that crossed their path from time to time gave indication of the sporadic presence of people and they caught occasional glimpses of villages through the trees, but still the group camped alone. As midsummer’s eve approached, it became plain even to the boys that they were approaching someplace well known to Momma Hannah. She began to name the streams and massive boulders they passed. Each individual peak that came into view as they ascended the valley floor she called by name, telling stories of the people who had once lived and died there.

By now their trail led them north, completely around the base of an unusually large mountain peak and up a steep meadow until, mounting a low saddle, they looked out east into the shadow of the mountains over a broad expanse of open, rolling hills where no forest grew, east and north as far as the eye could see. Cable took the pack animals several hundred paces off the trail to a shepherd’s cot, now standing empty. There they made camp for the night.

Early next morning, Hannah led her charges, still rubbing sleep from their eyes, to where they could look eastward to the rising sun. Sunlight had transformed the somber evening vista with glorious light. Below them lay a patchwork of hills marked here and there with crofts, each boasting a well or stream, houses and an assortment of outbuildings. Well-tended garden plots and pens for sheep, goats, chickens and pigs were everywhere in evidence. Smoke rose in thin, gray ribbons to the sky, and in that hazy distance small black dots went about their morning chores as they had for untold generations.

“Now we are home,” Hannah told them. “Come, let us make breakfast quickly and be off to the Cottage.”

 

***

 

It must not be imagined that this announcement seemed in any way odd to the boys. At Columns Keep, they had known only the nursery and the orchard where Momma Hannah had ruled their world and overseen their play. Until they attained the age of six, when tutors and arms masters would be chosen for them and their studies organized to fill their every waking hour with lessons, training, exercises and mindless tedium, they had no part to play in the affairs of the kingdom. Their task was simply to survive childhood. The King and Queen were much involved in affairs of state and only rarely saw their offspring. They had each other for playmate until their tutors and others placed in authority over them would choose regular companions for them and their education proper began in earnest. And so, although the castle was no longer in evidence, their home was with Momma Hannah and nothing had really changed by moving their place of residence four hundred miles by foot from the valley bottoms at Gray Waters to the foothills below Craigot’s Tor. Spring Hills was quite the same as Columns Keep to them. In a short time, following Cable’s example, the boys discontinued the appellation Momma Hannah, and simply called their caregiver Momma and later Mum.

What Hannah called the Cottage was actually its own world, as were most of the crofts established in those foothills. Built on the outside entirely of stone and timbers and lined with rough wood paneling inside, the family home boasted a large main living area, the back half dedicated to food preparation with a table and a large cooking hearth. The front half contained many chairs and two wooden couches, which often found use as a seat for the many visitors they received during the day and to sleep the occasional overnight guest. At need, they might also serve as a hospice bed for some little boy incautious enough to admit to a fever or a sniffle where Mum might hover over his every need and Cable dose him from the vast pharmacopoeia he kept in his room.

Two very large rooms led off from this main room. One was reserved for Hannah and contained, besides a large bed, a loom and spinning wheel. Additionally there were numerous tables and shelves laden with all those terribly interesting things forbidden to the curiosity and grubby fingers of small boys. And books—there were books everywhere. The other room belonged to Cable and, if anything, was larger than his mother’s. It was equipped with a small fireplace with attached drying oven. Bunches of herbs hung from the ceiling. One wall held drawers ranging from very large to very small. Other walls held shelves lined with jars, boxes and vials filled with powders and liquids, the contents of which either tasted foul or made little boys sneeze. Books and rolls of parchment took up what space was not otherwise thus occupied. A large worktable occupied the middle of the floor under which Cable kept a cot that he pulled out at night to sleep on. A sleeping loft above the two bedrooms where odds and ends were stored and the boys slept, and a well-stocked pantry off the kitchen, completed the main house.

The outbuildings included a stone springhouse where water bubbled up out of the ground all year long with enclosed areas for heating water and washing clothes as well as a tub for bathing. A drying shed with plenty of racks out front to hold fruits and vegetables for summer drying, a smokehouse for the hams, sausages and cheeses they produced, a separate cottage for their irascible handyman, Gregor, and his wife, Silverhair, and their restless son, Mudge (who looked after the sheep, goats and their one cow, but who was spending more and more time looking after one of the girls down in the village) and a privy were scattered about a yard separated from the garden by a low, stone fence. A stable with hayloft provided for the beasts and a pasture hedged in with well-tended thorn bushes led off from the stable. The few things they could not produce they bartered for at a central village the locals called Sheep Haven.

Imperceptibly, Nori and Natty’s days began to include fetching wood and building fires in the hearth in the morning, preparing food for meals and washing dishes out at the spring house, some work in the garden and caring for the animals, but Momma and Cable made most of it feel like play and they didn’t mind. At night, Hannah would take down one of her books and read stories to them. She called it history, but it was just stories and they grew to love them. As they became more familiar with each tale, being read to turned into reading, an activity both boys enjoyed.

In time, they forgot about any other existence. Harvest time drifted into the short, cold days and long nights of winter. Spring saw lambing and shearing time with Mudge and a neighbor combining flocks in summer, switching every so ofter as shepherd on the high pastures for a bit of time at home. During the warm summer days Nori was privileged to accompany Mudge to the high pastures to watch the sheep and learn to master the use of his first sling. Natty, who was not deemed old enough to tend to the sheep, companied with Cable into the fields on his search for roots and herbs, or explored the many streams and rivulets that wound their way among the hills trying to master the ways of the wily trout.

The following spring Mudge and Gregor set about building another cottage where Mudge and Lilly married on midsummer’s day. Although they were welcome at the new cottage during building, doing small jobs and generally being underfoot, the boys were soon forced to learn about respect for others’ privacy once the newlyweds settled into their new home.

Over the ensuing years, the brothers settled into the rhythm of life in the shadow of Craigot’s Tor, working when work was called for and learning letters and ciphers when that was called for, with plenty of time to pursue private interests. Nori loved books, and spent as much time as he could lost in their many pages while Natty loved the outdoors and woodcraft, and would be forever gone exploring were it not for the time his Mum insisted he spend at his lessons. Cable, too, demanded their time, teaching them to understand the natural world, the use of maps, learning to navigate by the stars and the many medicinal properties of plants and minerals, and their preparation into tisanes, tinctures, poultices and salves at which Cable was particularly knowledgeable. Neighbors from near and far seemed to rely on his knowledge both for their own health complaints and for those of their animals, and he was always ready to prescribe a goodly number of these preparations both for their use as well as his own.

At the beginning of each summer Cable, made a pilgrimage to a valley in the foothills east of Craigot’s Tor. Sheltered as it was from the clouds laden with moisture traveling inland from the Sea West in late autumn, Camillia’s Valley remained free from the snow that filled the majority of the mountain valleys of the Dwarf Mountains during the winters. Moreover, thanks to the placement of Old Man’s Mountain at the north end of the valley and warmed by hot springs from the same thermal vents which fed Warm Lake higher in the mountains, the little valley’s mini-climate was rich with the plant life necessary to the apothecary’s art, among them the tea which was his mother’s favorite beverage.

But that was far from the only reason he returned there each year, for the eastern slope of Craigot’s Tor was also the home to a thriving population of mita bushes. Although Cable often praised their taste and fragrance, if you asked him directly about it, he would have admitted they were a most potent tonic also, and they grew there plenteously. That alone would have kept him returning year after year, but by great good fortune, the north end of Camillia’s Lake supported the only population of Soma flowers he knew of. And it was only by replacing mita leaf, which awoke him each morning and sustained him throughout the day, with the soporifics contained in the Soma blossom that he ingested at bedtime that he had found it possible to sleep at night.

Accordingly, when the boys were eleven and twelve and Hannah was expecting to midwife three new births in the nearby villages, Cable rounded up Pesky the Pony and Djolli the Burro, put together enough food to last them the two weeks he anticipated it would take to go and return with enough tea to see their Mum through until the next summer and keep him supplied with the medicinals he preferred, and they departed for this annual journey. By then, Nori and Natty were fairly competent to take care of themselves on such a trip, having accompanied their elder brother many times on his search for the herbals and medicinals with which he saw to the healing needs of the folks of Spring Hills and their animals. The journey passed without incident, at least until they got home.

Cable and the boys unloaded the animals at the drying shed and then Cable took Pesky and Djolli down to the barn. When their Mum came out to oversee the withering and steaming of the newly harvested leaves and to begin preparations for rolling and drying her favorite tea, Nori studiously avoided meeting his mother’s eyes while Natty stood grinning over his work. A surreptitious glance from Nori to his younger brother and then back to her, caused Hannah to examine her youngest more closely. That was when she noticed the unmistakably aromatic smell of mita leaf coming from his direction.

Without a word, she marched both boys up to the house, and ordered Natty to spit the wad of green fiber into the fire. Then she gathered up two loaves of freshly baked bread, a round of cheese and some dried cherries, placed them in a pack, which he gave to Natty along with his bedroll. She tossed Nori’s bedroll to him and told them to deliver the food to Mudge up with the sheep, and not to return before they found him. By the time Cable was headed up to the Cottage from the barn, the boys were headed up the trail to the high valleys and Hannah was waiting for him by the door.

Nothing was ever said to either of the boys about the incident, but, on their return, Cable mumbled something that might have been an apology to Nate for introducing him to the stimulant properties of mita leaf without a sound medical reason while Hannah stood disapprovingly by. The whole thing was eventually forgotten, or at least never spoken of again, although conversation around the Cottage was somewhat strained for the next few weeks.

In all, it was a good life. The seasons followed one another in turn and the boys got older and more responsible. But like all good things, it came too soon to an end.

 

The Unmaking of the Worm Concludes!

In the last installment of the first chapter of The Children of Omm: The Unmaking of the Worm by M. Francis Smith, we saw King Kevin receive Sapristi, envoy of the not-at-all sinister land of Vermis Dei and high priest to the not-at-all an evil god, Baaloth, to Column’s Keep against the advice of his own high priest, who warned the consequence of temptation would be ruinous to all. Sapristi, however, proved to be a most civil and seemingly harmless guest with a most reasonable and mutually advantageous request: to allow a particular grain of Vermis Dei, avoine, to be grown in the fertile fields of Column’s Keep, to be sold at considerable profit back to those whose own lands bore only the most reluctant harvests. A contract is swiftly drawn up and as a gift, Sapristi leaves the king with a resplendent jewel as a gift, not-at-all ominously known as Baaloth’s Tear. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the castle…

***

After Alquint had said his good-nights to the young princes, Hannah, their nurse, hurried through the ritual of going to bed that the young princes had come to insist upon. A warm bath, into a nightshirt, two sugar cookies and a glass of milk, a prayer to Elianna, Goddess of health, hearth and small children everywhere, then into bed and a favorite story—thus performed, the ceremony was complete and they could go to sleep. Of course, once Momma Hannah had banked the fire for the night, tucked them into their beds, kissed them and quietly tip-toed out, whispered conversations back and forth were known to continue for a while until sleep claimed them. That night was no exception.

However, once she had closed the door, Hannah’s footsteps quickly took her to the stables and her own son, Cable, sleeping under a blanket in a pile of hay. Quietly, she roused him. “Come,” she whispered hoarsely. “There is no time to lose. It is as Aden warned. We must take the boys and go.”

Throwing a cloak across his shoulders against the night chill, Cable extracted a mita leaf from a pouch he kept at his belt and rolled it into a tight tube. He chewed it a few times to thoroughly mix the dried herb with his saliva and initiate the chemical reaction which released the stimulant his body had become accustomed to and positioned the wad under his tongue. He savored the aromatic taste a few moments, feeling the first effects of the drug as it was absorbed into his bloodstream, then passed like a wraith to the kitchen where he picked up a package left for him by the cook in exchange for a small pile of copper bits, then returned to the stables. Silently, so as not to awaken other grooms sleeping nearby, he offered a bit of carrot to a burro, untied her and led her outside.

“Hush, Djolly,” he whispered as she snorted her recognition of the one who had raised her while he tied on two large panniers that hung down the sleepy animal’s sides. He then went back inside, returning a short while later with Pesky, a sturdy mountain pony, saddled, ready to go and snuffling at Cable’s pocket for an additional bit of carrot. Hannah soon appeared at the gate of the corral leading the two sleepy princes, each carrying a small sack of personal possessions, blinking wonderingly about them and rubbing their eyes.

Quickly, Hannah went to Pesky and strapped on several bundles. She pushed her charges on gently before her, leading Djolli. Cable followed, leading Pesky. Stealthily, she led them past the kitchen garden plot now lying ragged, unkempt and ghostly in the light of a waxing gibbous moon, through the orchard where cherry trees showered them with white petals showing silvery gray in the dim light, to a small door nearly hidden by a rambunctious growth of blackberry brambles. The moaning of the brisk spring breeze through the canes covered the groaning of a key turning in the rusty lock. Mere shadows drifting along in the moonlight were all that betrayed their passage down the hillside and across the deserted and fallow fields below to the forest beyond. Only a silent owl hunting in the verges of the forest noted their progress as it swooped down upon an unwary mouse, but no hoot betrayed its presence or their passage.

 

 

Late that night in the royal apartments, from the black lacquered case decorated with cunningly wrought silver and gold chasing, bearing a fabulous black teardrop in the depths of which tiny, multicolored lights gleamed and swirled, an opening appeared. From it emerged two slender, segmented silhouettes. Their foreparts thinned and stretched toward the two sleepers as though scenting their presence and exact location; then, trailing a thin couch of slime, each made its way to the dreamers. Poised upon the flesh of their victim, an insignificant single very white tooth appeared at the fore. With surgical precision each worm opened a tiny slice in the skin of its victim, and entered its host. Only a minute drop of blood remained to show where the parasite had passed.

 

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I hope you’ve all enjoyed this sneak peek at my father’s debut book. The second book, The Children of Omm: The Curse of Cancr, will be out relatively soon and the third, as yet untitled, sometime next year! If you liked it, please show your support in any way that you can! A kind word in the comment section is always appreciated and can be just so encouraging to a writer who is struggling to put words on that great white nothing that is an empty page.

The Unmaking of the Worm Slithers Closer

Previously on Gar…er, The Unmaking of the Worm! An envoy from the distant land of Vermis Dei has unexpectedly arrived at Column’s Keep, requesting a royal audience. The king’s hierophant advises against such a meeting, having been warned against receiving such a one in a dream, but the king’s other advisers can’t see the harm and the king’s own curiosity is piqued. What could a dark and, by all accounts, dismal land such as Vermis Dei have to offer that could possibly tempt a kingdom as well-established and renowned as Column’s Keep to ruin? The council ends without a clear answer, which as we all know, is fundamentally the same as a yes. And indeed, later that same night…

***

 

Toward the end of the meal King Kevin caught Alquint’s eye and motioned him over. “Has the Hierophant’s entourage been fed?” he whispered.

“Of course, Majesty,” Alquint remonstrated in the King’s ear.

“Fed well?”

The seneschal startled visibly. “Even as you, Majesty,” he replied stiffly, affecting dismay that his King could suspect his servant of so gross a violation of established convention.

“Good, good.” A smile just touched one corner of Kevin’s mouth. It was plain he was enjoying his faithful servant’s discomfiture. “Then you may tell our guests that they may meet with me and my counselors in the King’s Council Chamber in half an hour.”

“But, Majesty, surely…” Alquint began in alarm, but with a tut-tut and small shooing motions of his hands, the King sent his seneschal off to do his bidding, to the amusement of the others sitting at high table. This was obviously an old game the King played on his protocol-sensitive seneschal.

“Is this wise?” Bronte whispered across Corwin’s plate seated to the King’s left.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Kevin whispered back, “but I want to know what this is about.” He stood, and the gallery stood with him. Taking the Queen seated at his right by her hand, the King left by a small side door; after looking at each other, his two counselors followed.

The council chamber was a long, rectangular room with a dais at one end on which were positioned four thrones, a large one for the King and smaller ones for the Queen and his two counselors. Before a presentation area in front of the dais, a long table and benches stretched halfway to the main door. House guards positioned by the doors, along the walls and on both sides of the three broad steps to the dais saw to the royal party’s safety. At a nod from the King, Alquint announced his Eminence, Sapristi, Archbishop of the Worm, Special Envoy of his Exalted Eminence, the Hierophant of Baaloth, and his two assistants; and conducted them to the dais, where they bowed deeply.

King Kevin, affecting bored indifference but keenly interested in spite of himself and Aden’s warning, began the interview. “Inasmuch as Columns Keep has never recognized the government of Vermis Dei, was unaware of the existence even of a Hierophant ruling there and can imagine no possible purpose to establishing regular contact between our peoples, this meeting tonight must be unofficial. I could not in good faith, however, refuse to hear you as a prelude, perhaps, to more official recognition at some later date should a basis be found upon which to establish future cooperation. I would at the least know the purpose for such an unlooked-for communication, if only to ease in part the gross ignorance we at Columns Keep must labor under regarding your nation.” With a twinkle in his eye he cast a quick glance at his seneschal to note the effect his formal approach to the unanticipated delegation before him produced in this paragon of protocol and noted what could only be smug approval.

The Special Envoy bowed deeply and replied, “We can only be grateful that you have granted our humble petition, gracious King, and acknowledge our lowly and uncultured state in the presence of such magnanimous benevolence. In fact, the home where the mighty Worm of Sargon chooses to abide does not lend itself to the luxuries you enjoy here. Our port is poor. Of the nearly thousand miles of coastline our land claims, much of it is alluvial delta suitable for gathering shellfish, spreading nets and little else. Still, our God has not left us without treasures.” A gleam appeared in the Envoy’s eye as the Queen, who had up until this moment appeared somewhat bored by the whole proceeding, sat up straighter on her throne and took a sudden interest in the conversation.

Bronte shifted on his throne and leaned toward Corwin. “Now we come to it,” he whispered. The Archbishop motioned to one of his servants, who brought forth a small black lacquered box chased with gold and silver, and offered it toward the dais. King Kevin motioned to a house guard, who took the box from the servant and handed it up to the King. Releasing the catch, he opened the lid slowly to reveal a stunning jewel. Shaped like a teardrop and attached by a gold fitting to a chain of finest gold, about the size of a quail’s egg, the jewel was black as jet—so black that it seemed more than just the absence of light, more like the negation of illumination, like looking into a dimension of non-being wherein played tiny flames of color, swirling gently deep within the center of this very antithesis of radiance.

“Baaloth’s Tear,” Sapristi explained quietly. “Exquisite and infinitely rare, a precious gift from our God.”

Kevin’s gaze shifted from the contents of the box to the carefully guarded eyes of the Worm’s envoy and back to the box. A soft, “Oooo aaaah,” escaped the Queen’s lips and she reached toward the fabulous jewel in its presentation case. A sudden loathing to surrender the prize arose in King Kevin, nevertheless, he reluctantly passed the treasure to Emayla who picked up the jewel by the chain and held it before her face to regard it more closely. Bronte and Corwin glanced from the jewel hanging from Queen Emayla’s hand to each other, frowning. It was plain to them that the advantage in the meeting had swung to Sapristi. Even Alquint peered myopically around the embassy to get a better view.

Corwin cleared his throat. “A very pretty bauble, doubtless,” he said to the smiling Envoy. “A present, or a trade item, I wonder.”

“Yes,” Kevin muttered, tearing his gaze from the gem dangling from his queen’s grasp and returning to the issue at hand. “Does the Hierophant envision the establishment of some kind of trade agreement between our two nations? For what would we trade? Not for this, surely,” he said indicating the jewel his Queen was even then fixing around her neck.

“Oh, surely not, Great King,” Sapristi spoke quickly, then smiled, indicating the Queen. “It is a gift—of wonderful value, it is true—but a gift nevertheless. It is in token of Respect from Baaloth, and of Honor and Hope: respect to the greatest of the kingdoms of Humans to grace the earth in this or any age, honor to the majesty and benevolence of its reigning monarch—” Here the Special Envoy inclined his head to the King, “—and hope that your Highness might be persuaded in one small thing to come to the aid of the people of Vermis Dei.”

Here is the crux of the matter, Corwin and Bronte both thought to themselves. “Majesty,” Bronte interrupted gently, “by your leave?”

By carefully questioning Sapristi, and repeating back to Kevin in absolute and unequivocal terms, Bronte proceeded to negotiate a tentative agreement between their two nations. Vermis Dei and the people of the Worm lacked ground suitable for growing crops. Or rather, crop. Their most important crop was avoine, a grain grown in the rich volcanic soil of Baallumis, home of the God, Baaloth, from which a nourishing paste was made. Arable land there was severely limited, and the bayous and sand bars of the delta on which their people eked out a meager living would not support growing grain of any kind. His Exalted Eminence, the Hierophant, had sent out exploratory expeditions to the great plateau which arose north out of the swamps to see if avoine could be grown there, but the people of the Worm, who had never had to understand the basic principles of irrigation, could not grow this needed crop in the high deserts and savannahs they found there. He had therefore determined to approach Columns Keep, whose skill at growing crops and surplus of arable land were already the envy of the known world in the hope that his Gracious Majesty, King Kevin, would consent to a proposition favorable to both.

Despite Aden’s warning and Corwin’s misgivings, a contract was drawn up in which it was agreed that Vermis Dei would supply the seed and Columns Keep would supply the fields and the labor to grow the crop for a one year trial. The Hierophant would then purchase the crop at the same rate Columns Keep charged for their greatest cash crop, whatever that was. If the merchants of Columns Keep desired to sell avoine in other world markets at some future date, they were free to do so as long as the Hierophant had first right of purchase for his own people. Neither side could lose. And Sapristi had thoughtfully brought seed with him in hopes that the king could be persuaded to see that it was to their mutual advantage to attempt the trial that very season. As King Kevin allowed himself to be persuaded, thinking no doubt of the difficulty he would have to face getting the Queen to relinquish the exquisite jewel now hanging around her neck, the embassy retired. Gone were any thoughts of scuttling the ship in the harbor and sending her crew to the Ferryman.

The King and his counselors talked together long into the night and made plans for implementing this new enterprise.

Alquint, his mind already on the calendar of events that were to transpire on the morrow, decided to stop in to see the young princes to their beds. He had a fondness for the royal heirs to the kingdom. They reminded him of his own son, Quinten, whom he was already grooming to be seneschal after him, to serve the heir of King Kevin as his father had served the house of the Kings of Columns Keep all his days. The thought brought a broad smile to his wrinkled face.

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Chapter One concludes next week, so be sure to tune in to see how the beginning ends!

The Unmaking of the Worm Carries On

When we last left our Chapter, King Kevin was in counsel discussing the ramifications of meeting an envoy from the secluded and somewhat sinister land of Vermis Dei. The scene continues following a dire message from the king’s high priest warning against such a meeting.

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They sat together a few moments in silence as they pondered the warning; then Aden asked Kevin, “What will you do?”

“From what I remember of my catechism, the Gods are all about goodness and light,” the King replied cautiously. “Your messenger asks me to fire their ship in the harbor, murdering all aboard without so much as a hearing and without declaring open hostilities. The counsel seems a bit hasty to this son of the Church, even immoral coming as it does from Kirel’s Highest Priest. I hardly know what to think. You may be sure that I will give your counsel serious consideration.”

Shakily, Aden arose, leaning heavily on his staff. At the door, he turned, raising his arm in direction of the King. “Such an extraordinary message foretells grave danger, King Kevin. Not lightly is their counsel given; not lightly should you take it. Fire the ship as she lies and lean not unto your own understanding: spare your people and, indeed, all the nations of the earth, the coming scourge. Only in obedience is there safety.” The outstretched arm fell to his side and his face looked wan and colorless in the dim light of the fire. He entreated the King as a friend: “Do not delay to implement the will of the Gods, my son, when it is clearly revealed to you, lest you be found a transgressor; for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are the thoughts of the Gods above the thoughts of men, even Kings; their purposes are inscrutable to the minds of their children yet they never fail. Remember, my son, in the end, when the Ferryman weighs your soul in the balance of justice, that Outer Darkness is reserved for those found to have fought against the will of the Gods. Remember and obey.”

Alquint followed the Prelate with his eyes until the door closed. Then, staring sternly at the King for a few moments, he asked, “What answer shall I return to Lord Sapristi, your Majesty?”

“Why, that I shall consider his request and send him word, Quint. What answer would you have me give?”

Alquint was a true and devout son of the Church, and lifelong friend to the High Priest. He fervently hoped that the King would adhere to the instruction Aden had received from his God. He could not, in fact, conceive of any reason why anyone would not obey immediately and in full this lawful revelation, but although King Kevin was notoriously lax in the maintenance of the proper decorum his court ought to require, his seneschal would never presume to step beyond the limits of his duties and suggest policy to his King. He bowed, turned and let himself out, closing the door behind him with just a whisper and a soft click of the latch.

Kevin stared after the departed High Priest and seneschal. Minutes passed, and no one spoke. Then the King shook his head as of one shaking off a spell. “Well, that was queer, and no doubt about it. What do you make of it?” he asked, looking from one counselor to the other and back again.

“Well, the message is clear enough,” Bronte said firmly. “What do you suppose the Hierophant of the Worm would do if we did just as we were told? They have no standing army, no industry of any account; barely grow enough to sustain themselves and their slaves. What could they do?”

“Not much, I shouldn’t imagine,” Kevin said. “But they must think they have something to offer if they’re talking about trade agreements beneficial to both sides.”

“Our agents haven’t reported anything of any importance at Vermis Dei unless they’re talking about the medicines and drugs they get from stewing the plants that infect their waterways and swamps,” Corwin added. “What dry ground they’ve got is dedicated to temple complexes. Houses have to be built on platforms out over the marshes. Even their outlying markets are conducted from boats. There is that volcanic island smoldering out in the bay they grow some crops on, but it ain’t much.”

“I don’t think we can discount what Aden’s messenger said,” Bronte said thoughtfully. “I’m not much for religious superstition, but Aden’s no fool and he’s shaken.”

“Still….” Kevin pondered this counsel for a moment, then countered, “Mother Church has offered veiled threats and platitudes. That’s insufficient for a King to govern by. I don’t see how it can hurt to listen to what they have to say. We can always tell them to push off if we don’t like what we hear.”

“I already don’t like what we’ve heard, and what I know about their priesthood I like even less,” Corwin grumbled. “No secular authority of any kind, religious head with a college of priests and some acolytes to do whatever it is they do. That’s no government.”

“So, how do they manage to order their people?” Kevin asked.

“Without trouble, apparently,” Corwin mused. “Theoretically, the Worm reveals his will to the Hierophant, the Hierophant directs the priests and the priests direct the acolytes. The acolytes tell the rest what to do, and nobody seems to complain. People more like cattle than citizens. I’ve never heard of any discord, although I understand that people disappear from time to time.”

“We don’t have much dissension here, either,” Bronte pointed out reasonably. “An occasional drunken brawl, some minor theft’s about all. Our police spend more time hunting up lost animals or missing sailors who’ve jumped ship looking for a better life here than’s available where they come from. Nothing like the real criminals you hear about in foreign parts.”

“I know, but it’s different there,” Corwin insisted. “We care about what goes on around here. If someone so much as moves a boundary stone in a field somewhere, the whole countryside hears about it. You have only to visit the markets with all their hurly-burly, harangue and barter to know that what we feel here, we feel deeply. If I had to characterize what I know about Vermis Dei, I would have to say they exhibit a culture of apathy more than anything else. It’s not natural.”

Kevin scowled. “I admit I’m curious to know what their precious Archbishop thinks is so valuable that we would be interested in a trade agreement. From what you tell me, they haven’t much of anything to trade.”

“What about a visit to the ship’s sailors down in the waterfront taverns, see if I can loosen a few lips with some of our best liquor?” Bronte offered, ever anxious to sample Columns Keep’s best whenever the well-being of the State required it.

“None have been allowed off ship,” Corwin replied with a commiserating grin. “I thought of that, but the good Archbishop apparently doesn’t want his secrets leaked through drunken lips.”

“What, I wonder, could his Exalted Eminence, the Hierophant, think we would be tempted by that we can’t simply buy for ourselves,” Kevin pondered aloud.

No answers were forthcoming, and the group discussion dithered on fruitlessly for a few more minutes until a gong in the courtyard outside announced that dinner was served.

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Spoiler alert: Nothing good happens to any of these people, so stay tuned to watch it unfold in next week’s excerpt!

The Unmaking of the Worm Wriggles On

By this third installment, you can see the difference in writing styles my father was able to whip out of his proverbial, uh, hat when writing for the first time ever in his seventy years of life. I know I keep saying that. It keeps being amazing to me. It’s like…okay, let me throw out a maybe-irrelevant allegory, but over the last year, I have been trying to teach myself to paint, having never touched a brush since art lessons in the third grade.

This is my first self-taught lesson.

It is a ball.

It is a ball.

Flash forward a few months and I felt confident enough to buy a Bob Ross DVD (love that man, rest in peace). This is his painting.

It is a forest.

It is a forest.

 

This is mine.

It is a ball.

It is a ball.

I got better. I’m not Bob-Ross-better, but I’m better. It just takes time and practice. As the great ‘Fro himself has said, “Talent is nothing but a willingness to pursue what excites you.” And I believed it, right up until my father, on his first draft of his first effort to write his first book, sneezed on the keyboard and blew out three different writing voices like it weren’t no thang.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you my father’s writing is flawless. I don’t think it is. I don’t think mine is. I don’t think anyone’s is, with the possible exception of Kipling. Kipling was amazing.

“…Deesa shouted in the mysterious elephant-language, that some mahouts believe came from China at the birth of the world, when elephants and not men were masters. Moti Guj heard and came. Elephants do not gallop. They move from spots at varying rates of speed. If an elephant wished to catch an express train he could not gallop, but he could catch the train.”  –from Moti Guj, Mutineer

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I mean, damn, right? If you never in your life met an elephant or even saw one, you would still know exactly what that scene was saying. I will never write like that. I’m a fraud and a hack.

Anyway, I’m not sure what my point is, except to say that my father has talent and he found it when he was seventy, and if that is not inspiring as all hell to you, I don’t know what else to say. So without further nattering, here is the first part of the first chapter of my father’s first book, The Children of Omm: The Unmaking of the Worm, by M. Francis Smith.

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Chapter 1 – Columns Keep

 

The castle of Columns Keep stood overlooking Gray Waters Lake from a small hill where its Kings had ruled for time out of memory. When the first of the wandering bands of men explored the shores of the lake and the lone hill that raised its slopes above the fertile river valley below, they looked upon a great square so curiously constructed that individual stones could not be distinguished and where two giant columns of purest white faced off to the rising sun. Here they assembled their pitiful shelters of cob brick and thatch, and over the years gathered broken rock for the building of Columns Keep. Successive centuries saw their crude dwellings of mud and straw give way to a primitive stone keep evolving over time to a magnificent castle with a fair city spread out around the hill running down to the lake on the east and to the Fang ‘n Claw forest on the west.

Beyond the forest where the fabled strongholds of the ancient Dwarf Kingdoms were said to lie hidden, the Mountains soon yielded their riches of gold, silver, copper and tin to Humans’ industry. Barges carrying minerals and metal ores to the smelters and foundries that sprang up along the rivers running among their forested foothills saw these crude materials transformed into ingots destined for the craftsmen and warehouses of the Keep. Rolling hills sheltered crofts where Humans tended herds and grew gardens and fields of grain, thanks to mild winters and seasonal winter and summer rains, while bottomlands kept rich by winter flooding grew whatever seed was planted seemingly without Human effort.

The lake also conspired to provide an embarrassment of riches to the king and people of Columns Keep. Gray Waters Lake supported a goodly fishery and although the inlets ran heavy with silt during the rains of mid-winter, no build-up of the lake bottom had been noted. In fact, those most familiar with the lake claimed that more water flowed out of the lake and down the Gray Flood River than flowed into it, and strange upwellings and currents at various times of the year regularly fed the curiosity and superstition of the fisher folk. But what was undoubtedly true was that soundings taken out on the lake could frequently find no bottom. Equally true, it appeared that the Gray Flood flowing out of Gray Waters Lake exceeded in depth and breadth the sum of all the rivers and streams flowing into it, easily accommodating the deepest draughts of sea going vessels that sailed the two hundred forty miles separating Columns Keep from the Inner Sea and the ports of the world beyond the Sea of Storms.

Whatever the secrets of the lake and her outflow, the granaries, warehouses and shipyards that crowded the quays of Columns Keep were routinely filled to overflowing with an abundance of raw materials and trade goods. Over the centuries, the strong-rooms and treasuries of its nobles and merchants came to be filled beyond the dreams of avarice of all save Dragons and Dwarves.

In the year 1532 of the reigns of the kings, spring came early. In the countryside, flowering trees wore a profusion of pink and white blooms while shy buds of green nestled safe in their sheathes preparing for vibrant summer growth. Tender young grasses nourished the herds and provided abundant milk for the rambunctious foals, calves, lambs, kids and other herbivorous offspring that graced the fields and forests around. The ground had begun to warm and dry out following abundant mid-winter rains, and soon the soil would be ready for plowing and the sowing of early crops. But if all was well in the kingdom of Columns Keep and its castle in general terms, the same could certainly not be said to be true of Alquint, the King’s seneschal.

No, Alquint was not happy. He scurried nearsightedly toward the King’s private apartments, shaking his great head back and forth on its scrawny neck and shriveled body, chittering to himself in his high, squeaky voice like some frantic rodent on a furious mission of great mousey importance. Alquint was not happy because, surely, the King would not be happy. How could the King be happy?

It’s all well and good, he thought with some asperity, Vermis Dei sending an embassy of questionable importance to Columns Keep. Some potentate or another is always sending envoys on some sort of business or other, but.... His thought trailed off. It didn’t really bear thinking about. The audience was done for the day, and that was that. Surely the King would see it that way, for so convention demanded. King Kevin’s noble sires had obeyed the dictates of protocol, for the most part, but the present scion of the House of Columns Keep kept a more casual court than was to be strictly desired—to Alquint’s unremitting distress.

Vermis Dei had never sent to Columns Keep for anything, ever: Alquint had checked the archives to be sure. Yet apparently the strange ship arriving in port earlier had in fact come from Vermis Dei despite that. “Nobody has heard a word from there, wherever there is, for as long as the archives have records,” he muttered out loud to no one in particular, “and suddenly we have an envoy and entourage clamoring that they must see the King on some errand of vital importance, and the day’s audience done and dinner about to begin. Pray Kirel the King sees reason.”

He fidgeted nervously with a gold button on his vest and pulled himself to his full height (which was that of a lad of twelve years and no more) and stopped before the guards stationed outside the great brass-bound door to the King’s private apartments. Carefully he arranged the tails of his coat, tugged at each sleeve and cleared his throat before knocking with three slow knocks—his own special knock, he pridefully reminded himself: no one else in the castle was permitted to use it.

“Come in, Quint,” a muffled voice called through the door. Aden, High Priest of Kirel, ushered the diminutive seneschal into a large room where King Kevin of Columns Keep sat in an overstuffed leather chair. Corwin, friend and first counselor for external affairs for the kingdom, and Bronte, friend and second counselor for its internal affairs, kept him company. Fine distinctions as to who exactly did what were ever only loosely held to, especially in the King’s private chambers.

“Sire,” Alquint squeaked in his thin, reedy voice, bowing slightly. ”We have received an embassy from Vermis Dei. Their envoy, his Eminence Lord Sapristi, Archbishop of the Worm, most urgently requests a special hearing.”

“That’s all right, Quint.” The King indicated with a wave of his hand that his seneschal should join them. “We’ve just been discussing his Eminence, the Archbishop.”

Crestfallen that he had after all brought only old news, the seneschal took a couple of steps into the room, closed the door and stood waiting.

“What can the Worm of Vermis Dei want here in Columns Keep?” Bronte wondered aloud. ”They haven’t wandered out of their swamp in, oh, forever.”

“And it’s better that way, to my thinking,” Corwin added. ”We’ve certainly got no use for them that I can imagine. But it must be important to them to stir so far beyond their own borders. ” He scowled into the fire flickering comfortably before them.

“Whatever it may be,” Aden said, his forehead furrowed in concern, “it bodes no good for Columns Keep, you may be certain of it.” White knuckles gripped the staff of office he always carried with him, betraying his tension. “What is certain is that they speak in half-truths and carefully worded lies. We cannot take anything they say at face value. Remember, the Worm they worship is the creation of the Rebel God.”

“How did you get wind of their coming, Aden? You beat Quint here by several minutes, and he’s usually right there with news.” Corwin studied the High Priest’s face intently. “I could almost suspect that you know more of this affair than you have said. What do you know, or suspect, that you haven’t told us?”

Hale and alive in spite of the toll of years that marked his body, Aden nevertheless crossed slowly to the fire and sat down heavily on a stool facing them. The sun had disappeared from the line of the horizon, and, with the fire behind him, his face was in shadow. His voice dropped in pitch, its sound issuing hollow and distant as though from the mouth of an empty crypt. “I received last night a visitor, a messenger from Omm—a Sent One on behalf of Kirel.”

At the name of his Deity, Aden’s tone assumed a dreamy, reverent quality and he paused. When he spoke again, it was grimly. “He announced the coming of a ship from the Hierophant of the Worm, Baaloth, sole remaining minion of Sargon, bringing presents and urging a trade agreement of supposed benefit to both sides, or so he claims. Yet with them they carry a hidden and secret doom: a shadow to fall first upon Columns Keep and from thence to darken the whole world.” His voice sank into a quiet, chilling monotone. “A word of counsel he left. He said: ‘Receive them not. Accept no present. Enter no treaty. Fire the ship where it lies: send all aboard to the Ferryman. Let not pity stay your hand. Then mayhap the curse of this age may be averted or delayed.’ He bade me repeat the message and then departed from my sight. I have passed the message to you as it was given me. Kirel forefend the messenger spoke true.”

 

***

To be Continued….

The Unmaking of the Worm Continues

Compared to the Introduction, the Prologue is actually kind of short, so I thought I’d let my Dad take a few paragraphs to talk about his experience writing this book. So without further ado, my father (who, let me add, actually talks like this in real life), author M. Francis Smith.

***

As a child of a scientist working in the aerospace industry who spent his own working career representing the sciences to the food manufacturing industry, I frequently took personal refuge in fantasy where I felt most alive. I followed my daughters’ literary efforts with a proper (if distant) proprietary interest until my retirement, at which time I settled into a quiet rut and waited for the three score and ten years allotted to my mortal life to run its course, doing little and feeling even less as my world, once alive with vibrant color, faded into a uniform gray. Concerned that their “Dude” was doddering his way into an early grave, my daughters arrived at my home one day to challenge me to write the story that had been noodling about the gray cells since my early twenties. It seems they had kept the early draft I had thrown out years before and wanted to see it finished.

Twin specters of hope and despair immediately arose before me. Was there life after retirement? I didn’t know and had almost quit caring. More importantly, did I dare to enter into competition with my erudite and accomplished Das in their own field of expertise: writing? Under the influence of their encouragement, I dared try. Out came my musher’s whip and I began again to flog my neglected gray cells into directed activity once again. To my astonishment, over the course of the next two years and in the months following, I slowly woke up to find that there is more to life than waiting to die! Akin to the experience of crawling out of a bottle of 100 proof to discover that the world outside is a wonderful place to live and play, I rediscovered the excitement and joy of living.

The characters in these tales and the world they inhabit should be familiar. They are you and I and the world we live in seen through the lens of wonder and magic. There are some who would have you believe that wonder and magic are dead, killed by the light of the magnetic resonance imaging, mathematical models and computer algorithms of modern science. Pity them and let those who are dead bury their dead. For whatever others may tell you, wonder and magic are not dead, nor will they be so long as one person believes in them, as I do.

Welcome to my world.

 

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Prologue

I am Ittalee, High Priestess of Elianna. I write in the beginning of the Fourth Age—the Age of Humanity. The Elves, children of Eliard and Vinnien and first of all the children of the Lesser Gods, fled this earth at the end of the Third Age. It is written that their grief at the passing of the Diguenmol, the second of the sapient races, children of Givvek and Mahesha whom Sargon mostly destroyed before his Fall, was so great that they could no longer endure the earth they and their friends, the Diggers, had labored so hard to beautify, abandoning it to the remaining rational races.

Dwarfkind, the creation of the Gods Dwollen and Enlenut, were a secretive race who shunned the Overearth and scorned their own Gods, angered that their span of years should be less than that accorded to Elf and Diguenmol. But whether they finally destroyed each other in their lust for wealth and power, were destroyed by the last great Dragon, Death, or simply wandered beyond the knowledge of men cannot now be said with certainty.

Pasha, seeing the grief Sargon’s lust for dominion brought to the intelligent races who inhabited the land realms, created the Piscenes and granted them dominion over the realms under the waters. They left no records of their own and Humans wrote of them not at all, access to their world being forbidden. Only the Elves wrote of them that their memory not pass entirely from history, but of their end none can now say.

Giants were the last of the intelligent races created, children of Givvek and Mahesha whom they created to console themselves for the loss of the Diguenmol, but what has become of them no record of Humankind extant tells. Men feared them, and what they fear they destroy. In this, perhaps, they succeeded, for the race of giants is no more to be found upon the earth.

To me has fallen the task of compiling and abridging the records of the fall of Sargon. The undertaking of lifetimes, it cannot be completed in mine, for Calentron itself could not suffice to hold all the volumes written to detail the events of this struggle. Nor has the struggle ended. Indeed it cannot, so long as the influence of the Rebel God remains.

May the Ferryman have mercy upon all the rightful children of the Gods.

***

Next week, the book begins!

The Unmaking of the Worm Premieres

Today, I am pleased and proud to bring you all the first peek at the first chapter of my father’s first book in his first trilogy! That’s a lot of firsts! I will be running consecutive excerpts every week until the whole chapter is here (it has an introduction, a prologue and the chapter, which together is about fifteen pages, so I can’t in good conscience do it all at once. Also, if I run it as a series, I won’t have to think about what to blog of my own work, so win-win!).

Once the chapter has run in its entirety, I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled blogging. Ha ha! You all know what that looks like by now.

lazydog

It looks like this.

And also, I may or may not have a special announcement that will please you. I mean, yeah, I definitely have the announcement; it’s whether or not it’ll please you that’s open to some doubt.

But for now, please enjoy my father’s first-ever attempt at writing, in part one of Chapter One of Book One of The Children of Omm: The Unmaking of the Worm, by M. Francis Smith! It begins…

On the awakening of Omm and the birth of the Gods, it is the account of Ittalee, First Priestess of Elianna, from the rebellion of Sargon against the Father to his unmaking at the hands of Irrn, and the rise of Baaloth, from whom the race of Dragons is ever born.

Yeah. You’re in for a ride.

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Introduction

In the beginning, Omm, the self-existent one, stirred amongst the Intelligences—that which contained the capacity to Thought and to Will—which were with Him in the primordial void. And seeing the potential for greater being, for Element contained within it the capacity for obedience to Will, He divided that which pertained to Mind and Will from that pertaining to substance, Intelligence from Element, the substance of Mind from the substance of Body, and locked each away into its own place. He looked and saw that He was obeyed. Thus ended the first creative period.

Then, He spake and separated Element from Element, that which was most refined from that which was coarser; the refined He called Spirit and the coarse He called Matter. From the elements of Spirit He fashioned a body and endowed it with intellect, by which the power to Reason and to Will inherent in Intelligence might operate. He contemplated what He had done and saw that it was good. By an act of Will, the Intelligence that was Omm then descended into the Spirit body which He had created and so became the first Spirit Being. He looked and saw that it was good; thus ended the second creative period.

Perceiving the greater power enjoyed as a Spirit Being, Omm next directed the elements of Matter which He had created, which bowed to His Will, and organized a perfect body of Element and endowed it with immortality. Into this, by an act of Will, He caused His Spirit Being to descend; and so He became God, who was God from the beginning, the First and Greatest of many, the Almighty and Master of Creation. And Omm beheld the thing which He had created and saw that it was good, and rejoiced in the work that He had completed. Thus ended the third creative period.

Yet God stood alone in Creation. And so He looked among the Intelligences which had co-existed with Him in the primordial void and separated out those who were most noble and great, distinguishing each from the other by temperament and ability. He fashioned for each a spirit body similar to His own and caused the Intelligence of each to descend into it. And so the Gods were born, God and Goddess, Spirit Beings endowed according to the capacity of the Intelligence animating each. And to each He granted agency to freely choose what he or she should do and become. So Omm dwelt no longer alone in the universe He had created and as He contemplated what might yet be, He smiled. Thus ended the fourth creative period.

And God taught His children the fashioning of matter, whereby they might shape a body of element even as Omm had fashioned His own physical body, and caused the Spirit Body of each to descend into the physical form each had fashioned, and wrought upon them that they became perfect and immortal, even as He is Perfect and Immortal. But the secret of immortality He did not teach them, but reserved it unto Himself, for even in the bosom of eternity the capacity for Agency existed and therefore the potential for good and ill. And God looked and beheld in one of His children the shadow of selfishness, and was content, for He beheld that all the elements for His perfect plan of happiness were in place. And so ended the fifth creative period.

And Omm taught His children the properties of matter, how it might be shaped and transformed according as they should desire, and set them to organize from the matter He had caused to be created suns in their infinite variety, galaxies in their uncounted myriads, planets and moons and all the hosts of heaven in their glory. And Omm saw the beginning of the work, that it was good, and He and His children rejoiced for the work they had done. Thus ended the sixth creative period.

And God caused that these should rest from their labors, and it was even as He ordained. For there was as yet no mortal life upon any of the earths which the Gods had made. But Omm taught his children the shaping of spirit, and the Gods searched among the Intelligences which existed in the void and for them shaped the spirits of all things, even as they would: the single celled plant deriving energy from the sun, the animalcule to feed upon them, complex animals to feed upon the plants and animalcules; fish to swim in the waters below the firmament, birds to fly in the waters above the firmament and all creatures that slither and creep, walk and run upon the earth. Even the spirits of all things did the Gods create in the heavens.

Then God spake to His children and said, “Where may these dwell, which ye have created?” for as yet no abode had been prepared to receive the spirits the Gods had created. But He said, “There is space and material here. Let us go down and organize an earth on which all these may reside.”

Of the unorganized matter nearby, the Gods took and organized a sun with its planets and moons. Of one planet they formed an earth whereon bodies might be organized for the spirit creations they had fashioned. And the Gods built of the elements of the earth physical bodies in form even as their spirits were—so the creatures of the earth were created, spirit and body, each a living soul. And thus were created the earth and all the creatures thereof.

And God gathered His immortal children unto Him, and said, “Now have we created a garden of perfect beauty and have populated it with mortal beings after our own image. We have blessed them with instincts to guide their behavior and granted unto them to follow according to their instincts or to choose some other path. But there is no one to tend and keep this garden, which we have created, no Man to cultivate and make it fruitful. Therefore, go to; choose you each a mate, as you will; fashion the Man according to his gifts and populate the earth with creatures that walk and run, creep and galope, swim and fly according as their spirits are, that the earth may be fruitful and all souls experience the joy of their creation. Thus were created the heavens and the earth and all that dwell thereon.

To Eliard and Vinnien were born the Elf, first children of the Gods and noblest of the races of Man to inhabit the land. Beautiful of body, avid of knowledge and wise in its application, Eliard and Vinnien endowed the Elves with mortal life unending and an understanding and love of all that derive energy from sun and soil, with power to modify and bless it according as they would.

Second of the races of Man, Givvek and Mahesha engendered the Diguenmol and blessed them to thrive at the edges where the land meets the water. Gifted as were the Elves with mortal life as long as it should be delicious to them, with power to call the Ferryman at will, their divine parents blessed them also with power over coarse matter, to shape it according to their will and purpose.

Upon these two races of Man the Gods laid a charge: to beautify the earth the Gods had made, to make of it a glorious place for their children to inhabit. And so, of an island of rock floating in the immensity of the heavens, the Elves and the Diguenmol working with the Gods fashioned First Earth and named it Eden. When in his rebellion and enmity against his Father, Omm, Sargon sent Eden into the North Country and buried her under miles of ice, the Gods raised up in its place New Earth out of the oceans. Through the labors of the Elves and Diguenmol, much that was good was salvaged, nevertheless, they could not recreate Eden in its entirety and much that was wholesome and worthy thus passed from the earth and was lost.

Dwokollen and Enlenut next brought forth the Dwarf, first children of the Gods to be born with a set span to their years. Cunning and quick to find offense, the Dwarves rejected their Gods and retreated from the Overearth into the bowels of the world. Taking delight in secrets, they crafted intricate works of great utility and beauty only to horde it deep in the caverns of the Underearth amidst the vast wealth they uncovered there. As punishment for their rebellion, Dwokollen and Enlenut deprived their children of the power of mind speach, and, looking down from the heavens where they dwelt, sorrowed over their froward children.

The Aebenot, most solitary of the children of the Gods, did Sovanef and Qwalia bear next who, forsaking even their own kind, haunt the grags and pinnacles in the high places of the earth in search of solitude and meaning.

Pasha, repudiating the need for a mate, alone brought forth the Piscenes and granted to Her children the vastness of the realms under the waters and stewardship over the creatures found there. Androgynous as their Mother and banished for their protection from those places trodden by the foot of Man, the Piscenes of all the mortal creation were most gifted in the art of mind speech.

Most fecund of the races of Man—and most susceptible to the twin thirsts of pleasure and power, and of them all most driven to subject and constrain to compliance those of their own race who dwelt in freedom about them—Kirel and Elianna brought forth also the Human family.

Other races there were, too, not all of which inhabit this earth, but they do not figure prominently in this account.

To all the mortal children of the Gods, Omm granted life within themselves that they might produce offspring after their own kind. But within each he also laid the seeds of death that in the end, death should come upon them all. And so, all of Mankind must come at last to the Ferryman to be judged of the use to which they have put the life and the Agency which Omm had granted unto them.

***

Tune in next week for the Prologue.

 

Portrait of the Author as a Young Dwarf

Portrait of the Author as a Young Dwarf.