I’ve discussed in previous posts the Norrgel I created for Warrior Pledge. They’re a great example of an animal/bird that is used to show character as well as setting, and also adds tension to the story.
I’m not going to talk about obvious animals like horses or cows, cats, dogs, etc. most people know about them. They’re convenient for providing modes of transport, sources of food or comfort, or magical foci. Sometimes the names are changed, sometimes some part of the anatomy is changed, but generally the animals are recognisable for what they are, and the have a purpose.
I keep thinking about a threat that comes from an unexpected and unseen source. Bacteria has been done to death, and it can be difficult to remove a mystical element from it in a society that has no scientific knowledge. I wanted something that could be seen with the naked eye, yet hidden until it’s almost too late to do anything about it.
I still haven’t decided what to call it, whether it’s animal or insect, but it’s a parasite.
In my mind, it came from observing fruit flies—the way the buzzed around my apricot tree when the fruit was forming, the small black dots that indicated an attack, the wriggling writhing mess the larvae made of the insides of the fruit even though all you could see until the fruit was opened were those small black dots.
After I’d read enough about fruit flies, I started reading about tape worms. Interesting stuff.
This is what I finally came up with:
“Stand back.” Claudio moved to the centre of the clearing, away from the flower. “I’ll show you what’s causing it.”
Nero moved to stand beside Claudio and watched as he tossed the twig at the flower. The sharp point ripped the stem of the flower open.
Nero gagged at the sight but was unable to tear his gaze from the writhing mass that was released from the flower.
Slowly the mass spread out from the confines of the flower stem, separating to show it was a single, long worm. The pointed end raised itself slightly from the ground and waved from side to side as if searching for something. Nero was so mesmerized by the swaying motion that he didn’t notice it was moving closer to him until Claudio bumped him out of the way.
He watched in horror as, instead of attacking him, the worm changed direction slightly and dove at another flower. The pointed head of the worm pierced the soft flower stem and began wriggling inside. Nero grabbed a stick from the ground and smashed it against the worm. The parasite broke but the short piece still embedded in the flower continued to wiggle, eventually disappearing into it completely.
Nero backed away from newly infected plant.
“That happens every time the worm outgrows a plant. It would have split spontaneously if you didn’t hit it. Every time another plant is infected, another worm is created. I’ve heard reports that the worm attacks people in the same way. The larger the worms grow, the farther they can jump toward prey.” As they watched, the larger worm, released from the flower burrowed into the soil.
Claudio grasped his arm. “Come. We have to get out of here. It’s gone underground. There’s no telling where it’ll come up again. It could be searching for us.”
Nero allowed himself to be tugged away. “What about the flower?”
“It’s too late for it. The worm will infest it, growing, absorbing all of its body from the inside. When there are no more nutrients to suck out of it the shell of the stem will explode and the worm will move on to the next host.”