The Silver Tower Chronicles Adventures in other worlds, other times, and other realities

31Oct/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0018

“What is it Mayitso?” Eurysa asked in Infernus.

“I think you call them Trenchers,” the lycanthrope said, still uncomfortable in his pale humanoid form.

“Trencher worms?” Eurysa hissed, almost in derision, “Those things are pests that bother farmers. Even the largest ones are less than two feet long and not that dangerous.”

“Those are the larvae,” Mayitso replied, “If fertilized, they get much different.”

“Different?”

It was obvious that Mayitso was struggling for the right words to describe them when a large shape zipped past the group from the direction of the ladder. For a brief moment Ritter saw four diaphanous wings carrying a worm body with six legs. It was about the same size as the Halz. The legs looked like scoops, though each had a sharp point. The dwarf thought he had seen a gaping circular maw full of needle-like teeth as well. However the creature's attack was not against the mercenaries. The lit torch was ripped from the wall as the creature flew by. The light disappeared quickly.

“How did it come from behind us?” Eurysa hissed.

“They can hide on these walls,” Mayitso replied, “And now the real fight begins.”

Ritter saw the lycanthrope shift forms. The magical fey power that allowed such a transformation was shocking to see. The darkness hid it from most eyes, however. The Halz wondered about the magic that some Feergrus used to shift their own forms. He wondered if it was at all similar. Of course, the lycanthrope's ability was innate.

His thoughts were interrupted by a shape in the darkness. The scoop-like legs of a flying trencher worm wrapped around the currently blind Eurysa. She hissed loudly as she was yanked off into the darkness. Mayitso spun in that direction, though he could not see without light. His nose, however, was working perfectly. The large wolf immediately trotted down the hallway following the scent. Kava was flailing her arms until she found a wall.

“You know, Maybe I will just guard the exit here,” the vodyanoi croaked in Infernus.

Ritter and Aldebaran looked to each other, nodded, then headed off after the kidnapper. The enormous hallways gave the creatures plenty of room to fly. Having been built to allow a giant to walk through, the ceiling was well beyond the reach of Aldebaran, even with his two handed sword adding to his reach. Mayitso bounded far out of the sight of the Halz and the Minotaur. The buzzing of a creature flying past was brief but terrifying. The two warriors moved onwards, keeping their eyes open in the dark hall.

The Trenchers had begun to build on the walls. Ritter could see horrifying shapes made out of the insect's resins. Suddenly he was glad for the darkness. Color would have made those shapes only more horrifying. The crunching of the resin under their feet was only worsened by the feeling of good that stuck to their feet as they walked.

A yell from behind the two made them spin. Far above them Ritter spotted a Trenched flying off with a struggling shape in its legs. It was too small to be Eurysa and had come from the wrong direction. It had to be Kava. Aldebaran and Ritter continued on, coming what had likely once been a huge room. Now it was choked off, with small tunnels leading in all directions.

“Wonderful, just when we need our tracker,” Aldebaran said in Nuvro, worry obvious in his gruff voice.

At that moment a pair of winged monstrosities erupted from boils on the walls. Viscous goo splattered all over the place. Ritter swung his warhammer as one flew past him. Another was pestering the minotaur. The creatures kept flitting about. Whenever it got close, the Halz could feel a strong vibration. He wondered what it was until the creature got its maw close to him. Ritter could feel the sonic emanations coming from the creature's maw. It seemed to use the noise like a sonic drill of sorts.

He could feel it trying to penetrate his armor. His metal armor had no defense against such an attack and the dwarf crashed backwards. He stumbled and rolled down one of the tunnels. The Halz could feel the thrumming vibrations coming closer as the creature chased after him. A thought struck Ritter. From what he had seen of the creature, it did not seem to have any area for eyes. It had to be feeling its way through the dark with the help of its noise.

He yelled as loud as he could as he charged into battle, hoping to disrupt its ability to see. He couldn't tell if had any effect, but his warhammer struck true. As the winged creature lay twitching on the ground, he smashed it again. Certain it was dead, Ritter looked around. He had bounced around a lot when he had tumbled into the tunnels. The area seemed honeycombed with the tunnels, so it was hard to tell where anything was. He had been separated from the others. Everyone was on their own now.

Ritter stumbled onwards, searching for some sign of life, whether it was an ally to rescue or an enemy to smash. The dwarf moved on for what seemed like hours. Then he heard something. The sound was terrifying without context. It sounded like something enormous sliding along ooze and resin, pausing for a moment, then moving again. Deciding it was better to deal with it rather than avoid it, the Halz moved towards the creepy sound. Everything he had prepared himself for had not been enough. He spied upon an enormous room centered around a large pulsating gelatinous cocoon.

Then he saw Eurysa and Kava. They were wrapped up in resin. They were to be food for whatever monstrosity would come out of that cocoon. The cocoon itself was gigantic, easily over two dozen feet long. Ritter heard the dragging sound again. It was Aldebaran. The minotaur was being dragged towards the cocoon. Ritter leapt into action. His hammer smashed down on one of the Trencher gatherers. The other made a low reverberating sound. Suddenly Ritter found himself facing off against three of the four winged worms.

His hammer flew through the air, left and right. His shield blocked sharp legs that stabbed at him. Ritter felt a solid hit as he crushed one of his foes. The other two circled him, diving in and swooping around. They finally swooped from opposite directions. Knowing his options, the warrior decided to charge into the path one one of them. His shield created an opening and his hammer crushed the creature with ease. However the other hit him in the back. The Trencher unleashed the full fury of its sonic power towards his head.

Ritter hit the ground face first. His world was spinning. It seemed he had failed his friends and would soon join them as dinner. He saw one of the sharp scoop-like legs raise up and Ritter thought it was the end. Then the insect was tackled off of the Halz. The lycanthrope Mayitso had finally arrived. He tore the winged worm in half with his mighty jaws. After a few sniffs he transformed into his pale human form.

“I found the eggs. Six of them,” Mayitso growled, showing his feral nature even in humanoid form.

“Well, I killed three here and one earlier. With the one you killed, I guess that means one is still left.”

“No,” Mayitso said, “It is here. Cocooned. Growing. It becomes.”

“Becomes?”
“King of the Trenchers,” the lycanthrope said, “Enormous, nearly unstoppable. They can make the larvae change into gatherers. Sometimes a gatherer can turn into a king. Once the process starts, the colony continues to grow and expand. My people fight a great many of these in our lands, trying to kill the kings to keep them from spreading.”

“Then we need to destroy this abomination,” Ritter said, “And free our friends.”

Mayitso spoke, “I agree. I can smell them, but the scents are difficult to pick out with the Trencher scent all over. I can not see, I need your eyes to save them.”

“If you can not see, how did you get the trencher off of me?”

“I guessed.”

Ritter shuddered to think what might have happened if the lycanthrope had missed in his guess. He imagined that even with his heavy armor, those teeth would hurt. Even if they did not penetrate, the twisting motion of the wolf's max would likely dislocate or break limbs. Ritter pulled himself up off the floor. He could feel the goo underneath the floor's resin sticking to his armor and face.

He badly wanted to take a bath, though he was unsure how to do that easily as they were isolated from civilization and sitting in the middle of winter. A great many scenarios filled his head for a moment before he brushed them away. He had more important things to attend to. He broke the webbed resin that covered Aldebaran, Kava, and Eurysa. He gathered those the could not see together for support. He then set about trying to smash the cocoon. Its gelatinous form made it nearly immune to his hammer. He looked around the room and spotted something that gave him an idea.

“Mayitso, do you think you can help lead the group to the entrance?”

“Yes,” the lycanthrope replied.

Ritter turned to Aldebaran and spoke in Nuvro, the only language the two shared, “Try to make some marks with the blade of yours in the resin so I know the path. I have a plan, but I'd like to hurry once it is in place.”

The minotaur merely nodded, still in shock from his capture. The group wandered off, following Mayitso using Aldebaran's eyes. Ritter turned and began wrenching barrels out of the resin. The man who had lived here had been a hermit. He kept supplies. This included several barrels of lamp oil. The Halz began pouring the oil over the cocoon. The cocoon was oozing it places where he had hit it. He had damaged it, but the warhammer was not the tool to truly finish it.

After rolling the other barrels of oil over to the cocoon, the Halz pulled out the flint and steel he kept in his kit bag. He struck the spark and the oil lit up. The flames started slowly, licking across the oil. Ritter turned and ran off down the hallway. The light of the flames began to create shadows that flickered across the oozing resin walls, floor, and ceiling. The place looked like it was covered in grotesque pustules. The colors that the Halz saw only made the scene more horrifying.

Behind him, the flames roared to life. Ritter hurried as fast as his short legs could carry him. He followed the path that Aldebaran had cut until he finally came to familiar territory. The group was there, standing at the edge of a mess. The insects had blocked the passage out of the cellar. In the heat of battle and his idea, Ritter had completely forgotten about that. Aldebaran was busy digging at the Resin and the collapsed floor boards.

Ritter began to help, hauling the torn out bits down the hallway. The roar of the flames soon could be heard. Eventually enough light crept in that Eurysa and Mayitso were capable of seeing the situation. Able to work in such low light conditions, they hurried to help haul the rubble. As a side effect it also made a barrier for the approaching flames.

“Didn't quite think this through?” Kava asked in Nuvro.

Ritter chuckled, “It was a good idea. Except for the whole collapsed entrance problem.”

“Damn,” the vodyanoi croaked, “No way I'm dying like this. A pyre is fine and all, but only when I'm laid atop the massive pile of enemies I was able to slay before they finally took me down.”

Aldebaran grunted and heaved a massive block of stone that had somehow been part of the collapse, “I promise to make that happen. These damn things not going to get me either.”

“Aw, how sweet,” Kava replied, “Only a true friend would want to set you on fire.”

The flames began to lick at the barrier of rubble the group had created. Aldebaran's eyes grew a deeper red as he focused his rage. He nearly exploded upwards as he jumped. He crashed through resin and wood as he roared and tore at the blockage. Spent, he fell to the ground. Things seemed hopeless, but Ritter spotted light that was not from the flame. He climbed up the ladder as far as he could while the others tended to the Minotaur. He pulled out his warhammer and battered at the debris. Aldebaran had obviously loosened it in his rage as two hard swipes cause the debris to shift. A passage had opened.

“Okay folks,” Ritter said, “Lets get the hell out of here.”

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