The Age of Worms
Two years ago, the lizardfolk of the Mistmarsh rose up savagely. They went on a mindless rampage the likes of which I had never seen from the normally stoic and secretive people. When the uprising was put down (with brutal force) by the combined forces of Blackwall and Marsh Keeps, the Blackwall battlemage, a nobleman from Greyhawk City itself, Ernst Walker, led a convoy of five soldiers to treat with the tribes. They visited the Twisted Branch nest and what happened there was a mystery. All that I know is that Walker returned, alone, to Blackwall in a dazed, raving, ice-cold fever. He muttered incoherently about the rest of the soldiers being slaughtered, about a “winged servant of darkness,” about the “the sky opening and spilling forth a harvest of writhing death.” He clawed savagely at his head, tearing great rents in his flesh until he was immobilized for his own protection. I was the closest thing Blackwall had to a healer at the time, but my meager skills were stymied by whatever was happening to the poor man. Finally, after three days of torment, Walker died under my care.
And then the world went mad.
Ripples formed beneath his flesh, which rapidly came to a hideous, squirming boil. The dead man opened his mouth in a soundless scream and tensed every muscle in his body, snapping the cords which had bound him. Then, in a moment I will never forget as long as you live, his eyeballs exploded and two six-inch long bright green worms with razor sharp teeth erupted from his sockets. All over his body, this horror followed, with neon green worms crawling out of every inch of flesh. Behind the worms writhing where Walker’s eyes once were, a sickly orange light “switched on” and when I beheld that light my mind collapsed. Unable to think rationally or control myself on any level, I sank to the floor screaming, voiding my bladder and my bowels, praying for death, praying for release from the horrible truths I glimpsed behind the orange light in Walker-that-was’s empty eyes. The former battlemage sat up and began reaching rotting, worm-infested fingers for my mouth when a group of soldiers burst into the chamber, responding to my cries. The four of them immediately went mad and sank to the floor in helpless piles of tears, piss and shit. The creature crossed the room to the four soldiers and touched each man in turn. When it made contact with the soldiers, worms leapt from the creature onto living flesh and then bored their way inside the soldiers’ bodies as the young men screamed insanely. Through all this, I watched helplessly. Fortunately for all of you, Commander Garm soon entered and managed to maintain his composure. He fought the creature as bravely as he could, beating it into the hallway and tricking it into following him into the unfinished escape tunnel the soldiery had been working on digging. He tumbled back past the creature and locked the door. When Garm returned to Walker’s room and found the four soldiers with worms writhing beneath their flesh, he killed them at once. He turned to me, and that’s when I passed out.
When I came to, Garm told me that the escape tunnel door had been thoroughly boarded up and no sounds had come from it since. It seemed as though the creature had been contained, for the moment at least. However, fully one-fourth of the garrison’s soldiery was dead, including Walker. Garm shared with me a harsh truth: the battlemage had come from a powerful family in Greyhawk, a vengeful family, a family nobody of Garm’s pay grade could afford to fuck with. Nobody who had seen the creature survived except for me and Garm, and the commander begged me to keep my mouth shut while he figured out how to handle the situation. My 17-year old mind was still reeling from the horror of what I’d witnessed and I mutely agreed.
Then, somehow, time passed. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I suspect that my brain just “shut away” conscious thought of what I’d gone through, the guilt over not being able to do more for Walker, the things I had seen following his death. Garm spun a story about a lizardfolk raid claiming nine of the soldiers lives and requested a complete restocking of soldiers at Blackwall. Soon, none were there who were much older than me, and none were there who ever knew Walker. Scared of being blamed for something he could never have prevented, Garm spun a story about Walker vanishing into the swamps, never returning from his mission to the Twisted Branch tribe. Soon, I chose to forget the thing in the escape passage – which was probably dead, anyways, since it never made a sound again. I never really got to know the new batch of soldiers very well and became a total loner on my wilderness patrols. I never spoke much to Garm again except when strictly necessary, which Garm made sure rarely happened. Life, now gray and lifeless and empty, moved on.
The next incident of importance, obviously, is the raid on Blackwall Keep that started the morning that the you arrived there. I was resting in my chamber next to the current battlemage’s room – a spitfire, slightly older woman named Marzena – when a patrol of lizardfolk burst through the door. I fought, but was overcome, as was Marzena next door and two guys who’d fought to rescue me – Wilkin and Kurt. The last things I remember seeing before I was knocked out was Garm getting disemboweled by a pair of lizardfolk claws as he also tried to free me… and a curious lizardman smashing through the lock on the boarded-up door to the escape tunnel. Then I was hit on the head by something incredibly heavy and as my vision and memory faded, I thought I glimpsed a brief flash of orange light beneath the escape tunnel door.
I came-to naked, bound and gagged in a heap with Marzena, Wilkin and Kurt inside a lizardfolk den. Marzena’s jaw had been brutally smashed, presumably so she couldn’t cast spells. In the indeterminate period of time I was held there, I drifted in and out of consciousness. I vaguely recall a towering, sleek-scaled lizardman with ominous black coloration coming to collect Wilkin and Kurt, who were dragged into the next room before a gathering of a lizardfolk, ritually slaughtered, and then eaten. I vaguely recall a smallish lizardfolk wearing fetishes of animal bones and moss coming to look in on me and Marzena when it thought no one was watching; the shaman had almost kindly eyes, but seemed unwilling to actually help me in any way.