5 Dec

Another GSP release from Author of the Week Steve Foreman.

Worm by Steve Foreman

A fantasy adventure story of epic proportions, this quest tale is filled with memorable deeds of bravery, selfless determination, courage and unassailable love, set against a background of war, sorcery, betrayal, bloody conflict and great tragedy. The story is populated by a huge cast of diverse characters, including heroic warriors, fantastic creatures, evil beings, huge monsters, and unexpected and comical allies.

Wandering in the ancient woodlands of Eria, sad and alone after being cast out of his village by a cruel and tyrannical chieftain, the weakling named Worm meets up with Grimbald the Enchanter. Little does Worm know that this is no chance encounter, for Grimbald has chosen Worm to set out on a long and convoluted journey fraught with danger at every turn, which propels the boy into a dark world of evil and terrible hardship; for Worm must go north to the savage land of Vulcanstark in search of the lost Chalice of Caladain; a quest that, if successful, will cast peace over the land of Eria and bring about the restoration of the old Kingdom . . .



Worm stole across the noisome space. With nervous fingers, he leant warily upon the smooth oaken door and it swung silently open upon its enormous hinges. As Worm surveyed the small adytum within, his gaze lit upon a low marble-topped altar, surrounded by amphorae and magic symbols and illuminated by two flaring torches and five thick candles. His heartbeat quickened, for there upon the marble slab, next to an open book of ancient spells, as though in some sacred place of honour, stood a single, shining golden cup.

“The Chalice of Caladain!” Worm whispered to himself . . .

                                                   CHAPTER ONE

“Look at Thorlam, the poor man,” Sage the Healer said to the midwife, leaning sideways as she peered out of the low narrow window of the cottage at the blacksmith toiling some distance away, “he don’t deserve this.”

The midwife, Fig of the Forest, laid a tiny bundle on the cot, straightened up and glanced out of the same window, her eyes squinting against the glare of the sun. “Yes, you are right there, Sage; what a shame,” Fig said sadly, watching Thorlam Hammerhand, blacksmith of Tarnvig, swatting away with the back of his clenched fist the errant tear trickling down his cheek. The tear fell and quickly evaporated upon the cairn of sun-warmed rocks under which he was interring his recently-deceased wife, Clandia.

Thorlam could hear the faint cries of his newborn son coming from his cottage; a son bereft of his mother and so premature he was lucky to be alive.

Thorlam placed the final rock on the grave, straightened up and gazed, deep in thought, across the township of Tarnvig and out toward distant hills silhouetted against a clear blue sky.

A tall, proud man, Thorlam the blacksmith was fair-haired and muscular, with keen grey eyes set wide below a strong brow. Thorlam forged the warriors’ weapons and repaired their helmets; he made the tools for the fields and utensils for the township and sharpened axes and honed blades. A veteran warrior was he and a Freeman, drawn originally from the ranks of slaves who had shown outstanding loyalty or worth to their chieftain. Thorlam was highly honoured in Tarnvig, and even the Kopper, Malgan, was—albeit reluctantly—subservient to him, for the blacksmith was wise and calm in all matters and had the full trust of Tallan.

But today he was melancholy and in low spirits, and wearily sat down on an ancient fallen pillar; the stone patched in lichen and half buried in the soil.

Heor Bravespear, a warrior of Tarnvig and a friend of Thorlam, sidled up silently. Sitting down next to Thorlam without looking at him, the warrior also gazed at the hills in mutual and respectful silence.

Finally, Thorlam spoke. “Is this it, Heor?” he asked, turning slightly to face the man. Heor frowned questioningly, his eyes still fixed on the purple haze of hills. “I mean, is this what it is all about . . . just dying in a dusty township amid the fume of cattle dung,” Thorlam continued, “or maybe under the edge of a sword?”

“That is all there is for me,” Heor retorted, not unkindly. “I am a warrior and it is my lot to die in the dust, whether it is tainted by dung or no.”

“Ach! Ignore me.” Thorlam smiled briefly. “I am saddened by my wife’s death and my mind is wandering.” He ran a hand through his thick fair hair. “I must now go and tend to my newborn son.”

“Does he do well?” Heor enquired, raising his chin in the direction of the thin wailing. “I know he came early.”

“Time will tell. He is a frail little thing at the moment and very underweight.” Thorlam sighed. “He arrived wriggling slowly, looking like a little pink worm.”

“Have you named him?” Asked Heor.

“Yes, he is to be called Lammeg.” Thorlam said, standing up and walking away.

From the first moment he drew breath, Lammeg was fed by a nursemaid—a surrogate mother recently delivered of her own child. Despite the strong healthy milk and attentive care she gave, the baby was slow to develop, and whenever disease came to Tarnvig or a plague swept the land, she and the healer, and Thorlam, feared for the infant’s life.

“Many times Lammeg has seemed close to death, but somehow he’s clung on and pulled through,” Sage the Healer commented to the nursemaid one day some six months after the boy’s birth.

“I just hope that the mysterious sickness what killed his mother Clandia was not passed on to him,” the nursemaid replied, shaking her head slowly.

Infant death and general sickness were commonplace in Eria, and Lammeg’s life or death was of no consequence to any but Thorlam and the nursemaid and so, whether sick or not, his early years passed virtually unnoticed by the township.

Heor might occasionally ask after the boy—if the subject cropped up, although generally a warrior concerned himself little with the doings of families and their offspring. Regardless of others’ disregard or indifference, Thorlam loved his son and watched him develop slowly in virtual anonymity from frail baby to a weakling child.





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