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.
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.