Everville: The City of Worms

Everville:

The City of Worms

Roy Huff

This book is fiction. Any resemblance to real names, events, persons, or organizations is purely coincidental.

Edited by Todd Barselow and Ocean’s Edge Editing.

Additional contributing editors include Liberty Huff, Shree Janani, Brian Driver, and others.

 

Cover by Damon.

 

Published August 2013 by Roy Huff. All rights reserved.

 

Visit Roy Huff on the World Wide Web at

www.owensage.com
&

www.goodreads.com/evervillefans

This book is dedicated to my good friend and Pulitzer Prize nominee, Ann Pearlman.

Chapter 1:

A Taste of Victory

Cleophas, the oldest living member of the Echo Club, leaned over his bedroom dresser, the mental anguish he was suffering temporarily robbing him of his tremendous strength. The brown-stained wood creaked as he pressed down on it with his large body. Once his knees made contact with the ground, he pulled the bottom drawer towards himself, and as the drawer slid open, empty space gave way to the tan, cloth-covered leather binding of an old journal, which he lifted out. His hands peeled away the cloth covering and opened the front cover. The pages filled the air with a distinct musty odor, the kind one sometimes finds in an old library that hasn’t been maintained.

Cleophas had taken a copious amount of scrupulous notes researching a possible solution to break free the minds that had succumbed to the battle against Them, at least until he had lost his dear love Dala to the same fate. The others had managed to stay alive, but in a never-ending sleep. Dala, though, had been unable to survive for more than a few months after the onset of her condition, but even though Cleophas hadn’t spent the same amount of time looking for the truth after her passing, he hadn’t given up the search entirely. He continued to make progress after death had stolen her away from him, and the thickness of the manuscript suggested that he might at least have a few promising leads as to where to start looking.

As he turned the first few pages of discolored notes, doodles, and other markings that he had scribbled on the margins, ‘Ubaloo’ was written at the top of the second page. Next to the word were small drawings of creatures that looked like tiny people, sketches of a humanlike race with perfect musculature, warriors who would intimidate even the bravest of men — that is, if they weren’t a mere twelve inches tall.

More notes were written below the images, foreign-looking letters and shapes. Next to the markings were etchings of the Fwaylan, ferocious doglike animals that resided in The Valley of Darkness.

Cleophas thumbed through the pages and skimmed the words he had written down so long ago. The notes were full of guesses and disconnected theories, but there was one common thread: there was an apparent convergence in Brackenbone, the land of the Ubaloo. It was a place the sketches depicted as one of the eight surrounding lands of Everville and a few days journey west of the Deep Woods, which was connected to The City of Worms across the vast expanse.

Cleophas turned the page. Stuck in the center was an old photograph of Dala. He pulled the photo free, and as he did, his eyes drifted sideways while he reminisced on some of the wonderful moments they had shared together. The shock of her passing had long ago given way to a resolute determination to give her life meaning. Even now, his face exuded a clear focus, undeterred by the reminder of her death or the current situation with Dante, who had been in a coma for the last couple of weeks. His eyes returned to the photograph before he put it back in its previous resting place and stood up from his kneeling position.

Meanwhile, in the brutal desert above the land of the giants, Oldrik, The Keeper who had betrayed Everville, paced back and forth as he pondered his options.

Elmer, one of Oldrik’s three Fron followers, standing at attention said, “Oldrik, what do we do now?”

“Let me think,” Oldrik replied.

“What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”

“I said let me think.”

Elmer plopped down on the ground in frustration, only to snap back up a few moments later. The intense sunlight scorching the ground made it unbearable. “Ouch!” was the word that escaped his lips as the rest of his body shot into the air. The Fron winced as the searing hot dirt burned his rear end. Nickel-sized, fluid-filled blisters formed on the portions of Elmer’s thighs that weren’t covered by cloth.

Oldrik continued to pace a few minutes longer, ignoring Elmer’s painful lapse in judgment, and then he spoke.

“The Keeper and Owen’s stupidity will be Everville’s undoing. We must journey to the Dark Forest and discuss the matter with Them,” Oldrik said while thrusting his long wooden stick into the ground, searching for a hollow spot.

“Let’s do it! Let’s do it!” Elmer said as he limped along, unable to hide his injury.

“Yes. Let’s do it!” said Calvin, the other of Oldrik’s Fron followers. With those words, Oldrik’s rod found a weak spot, and the ground engulfed them as they collapsed into the land of the giants.

Oldrik managed to find his footing, and then took notice of the absence of the giants that were supposed to inhabit the area. “Let’s get moving,” he said as he picked Elmer up by his collar and helped him to his feet. Oldrik himself, however, was tired and slow, as were the rest of his followers.

Portions of the walls were covered in patches of faintly luminescent insects that lit up sections of the caverns. These were followed by areas of complete darkness, which lasted tens of seconds, and as they made their way through the underground passageways their skin darkened and shriveled. The brief periods of darkness made their physical changes appear more apparent with each revelation of glowing light. The Fron that followed Oldrik had started to lose the vibrant appearance that their species was known for, and Oldrik himself began to look more tired and aged than a typical Keeper. Despite their sluggishness and disturbing transformations, they continued for hours, and before long they had made substantial gains in their distance.

From atop the stairwell in his Everville workshop, The Keeper looked down at Sako’s assistant Toe and began to speak. “Oldrik and the others have abandoned us. Even now they are conspiring against us. They are misguided and will likely fail, but we can’t afford to ignore them.”

“So what can we do?” Toe said as he looked up at The Keeper.

“We will do what we have always done, and what we will always do. We will seek the truth, and the truth will guide us to the answer. It pains me to see Oldrik and our fellow Fron, whom we have known for ages, fall for the deceit that is the great lie. It’s an internal struggle that we all face, a battle from within that never ceases to rage. At any moment, we can allow ourselves to believe the falsehoods that are spread by our adversaries and the fabrications that Them have convinced even their own kind to believe. It’s this lie that has led to the creation of Them, and it is this lie that has convinced Them that we are the enemy.”

The Keeper turned and looked through the portal wall. He watched from a distance as Oldrik and the others transformed from their previous state into disgusting, hideous creatures.

The Fron who walked alongside Oldrik shrank and shriveled. They looked at each other in dismay as the final consequence of their betrayal manifested itself. Each of them stared with horror at their hands, which had begun to throb. After expending a surprising amount of effort due to the agony, they held their hands in front of their faces and watched as their fingers grew in length and narrowed in width while the tips pulsated and enlarged to the size of large grapes that looked as if they were about to explode. Sharp nails grew several inches from their now engorged fingertips, and slime oozed out of their pores and began to wrap around their bodies. They writhed in pain as the same thing happened to their feet. The process, which had started off slow, had gradually accelerated and was now almost complete.

Oldrik had grown in height. He now stood as tall as the giants, but he had narrowed as well. He stood there, tall and lanky, shriveled and slimy. His beard was now longer and matted. It reeked of something rotten, and many of the strange-looking bugs that lived in the area were attracted to the odor; they had started to make his moist, coarse beard-hairs their home.

Oldrik picked off one of the bugs that had inched its way up to his face and flicked it to the ground after inspecting it for a few seconds. He then reached back to drag Calvin and Mallory forward. They had stopped to take notice of their own physical changes.

“Let’s keep moving.”

Calvin and Mallory quickened their pace as they struggled to keep from falling too far behind Oldrik as he stormed off.

The Keeper turned away from the portal, unable to continue watching his former friends who now looked more like one of the races that inhabited the Dark Forest and the other surrounding lands of The Other In Between than the friends whom he had grown to know and love.

“Toe, call the other Keepers and Sako. We have much to discuss.”

Toe rushed out the door and hurried off to notify the others. He called Sako, the leader of the Fron, in from his study, as well as all The Keepers who resided in the underground tunnels of Everville. The gathering in the Workshop of The Keepers grew larger, and before the noise became too deafening, The Keeper made his way to the front and began to speak.

“The First Pillar has removed the veil that Them had been using to conceal the origin of the breach, and it now appears that our worst fears have been realized. As you know, it was decided long ago that we must prevent great concentrations of power from forming. The pursuit of absolute power will drive its seekers mad. Power must be limited and decentralized. Otherwise, it will corrupt those who wield it, even those who have the best of intentions.

“With the help of Oldrik and a few others, Them have found a way to circumvent our solution. I fear, however, that Oldrik will help Them do even more harm and force our hand. We must uncover the extent of the damage, and soon. Owen and The First Pillar have bought us some time by weakening Them and helping the Fron win the first battle, but the collection of power continues, and if we do nothing, Them will emerge even stronger than before. I think it’s wise if we send some of our best men to the point of origin. If we act now, we may be able to prevent further harm. They should leave first thing tomorrow before Oldrik has time to further consort with Them.”

Sako and Toe emerged aboveground after the meeting with The Keepers. They walked towards the direction of the Great Fron Hall, and as they did so, a faint tremble grew more noticeable along with the sound of singing and laughter.

Just before they reached the entrance, a purple and yellow marmook named Grenmar lunged towards Toe’s legs and wrapped its tiny arms and humanlike hands around him. Grenmar then proceeded to jump up as high as he could, and continually fell back down to the ground as its large furry balloon-shaped torso made it difficult to get a good grip. Grenmar’s presence was reassuring to Toe. He picked up the marmook and petted its velvety soft, yellow oval-shaped head before setting it back down. The marmook looked up at Toe with its golf ball-sized eyes and arms stretched out like a small child, its tongue hanging out of its mouth like a dog hoping to get picked up once more, but Toe continued to walk forward. Although it was sometimes difficult to tell, the marmooks were not just pets. They were respected, and often made important contributions to Everville.

As they entered the Great Fron Hall, musicians were playing upbeat music from long-stringed instruments and shiny gourd drums. Dozens of Fron danced arm-in-arm in joyous celebration of the recent victory against Them. Like all Fron festivities, a wide variety of food was plentiful along with numerous wines and ales. An equal number of Fron were consuming the succulent treats that were filling the room with irresistible aromas, and were drinking various shades of brightly-colored beverages that were spread across the tables. Toe grabbed a few morsels to snack on as they passed by some of the large trays of food.

“Sako, Toe, it’s good to see both of you. Come, sit, have a drink.”

“Ah, Kearney, likewise. It’s great to see you as well, but we have a lot to discuss,” Sako said.

“I’m sure you do my old friend, but never mind that. We can talk in the morning. Tonight we have cause to celebrate, and we will not let anyone deprive us Fron of a good celebration.”

It wasn’t more than a few seconds after Kearney, one of the village elders, spoke that an attractive young Fron maiden, barely in her hundreds, coerced Sako into joining in on the merriment. She rubbed his hairless head and pulled him to the center of the floor.

For the evening anyway, Sako and Toe put their mission out of their minds as best they could. Sako danced for hours, but Toe was content to sit, eat, drink, watch, and converse with some old friends; he left the dancing and frolicking to Sako.

As usual, the only thing that could effectively stop a good Fron party was running out food and drink, but at some point it had to happen, as it always does. When the last tray of food was bare and the last crate of wine had been emptied, the musicians stopped playing, but the dancing lasted a while longer.

Eventually, the last couple stopped dancing, and only the village elders remained. Sako and Toe helped the elders put away the empty crates and clean the hall, and before long, Sako had started talking about the meeting with The Keepers. They gathered together and sat at one of the larger, rectangular wooden tables as Sako began to speak.

“The action that was taken a long time ago was a temporary one, and we knew then that it wouldn’t last forever. This is even more apparent now, and The Keeper has seen it. The action of The First Pillar has revealed part of what Them have been conspiring. Oldrik and his followers may cause even more damage when they meet with Them. That is where Oldrik is headed now. He and his followers have already been changed, and soon Them will be able to read Oldrik’s thoughts. At some point, the wall that has been erected may no longer be able to shield the knowledge from Them. We have won a great battle, but it’s clear we will soon need to win another.”

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