Excerpt from The Shades of Winter

(trigger warning for general ickiness)

Long ago, so long ago that even our earliest ancestors could not themselves have remembered it save as a fireside tale, we had dwelt far to the north, in an open plain, an endless, fruitful land of meadows and wide, slow-moving rivers. We were riders, then, riders on a sea of sun-gold grass, following the herds of deer as the seasons waxed and waned. An easy, pleasant life, they say, and one of plenty.

Until the worms came.

Not such worms as you know them. We named these ones the death-worms, for that is what they brought. Every inch they travelled, they sucked the life from the earth, a slimy, forever poisonous and unliveable destruction in their wake, as they grew larger and larger, fattening as they gorged on the game and the grasslands.

You cannot kill them, not utterly, no, because they lay their eggs in secret profusion, so that each time our forefathers thought they had ended the plague, it might only be a few short seasons before their offspring rose again to torment the world.

We might have only half-believed it all, we might have thrilled to the tale of it as children around a storyteller in our halls, but our terror was something bred deep in our bones. We didn’t need anyone to define this for us. One look was all it took, one glimpse of that dead-white, pulsating flesh, and the glistening rondels of the eggs beyond, and we had known what it was. We hadn’t needed to see that great mouth gaping wide, that blackened fang dripping its filthy ichor onto the stone below, but we did see them. And everything we were, everything we knew about the world, all of it changed in that instant.

We turned and ran.


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