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The Lost Dragon Chapter 4.2 (LMS VI)

by soundofmind


Chapter 4: O, Worm

It was juvenile, but it was still the width of at least five or six men standing side-by-side. Its skin was a pinkish-brown, and there was a muddy slime that coated it, coagulating in its folds.

It unearthed with its mouth flayed open like four petals of a flower, peeling away to reveal rows and rows of dirt-brown, needle-like teeth. Spit or slime (she didn't know which) sputtered from its mouth onto the ground. Without hesitation, she fired right into its open maw.

Bam! Shk. Bam!

The worm let out an eerie, airy hiss as it rapidly withdrew back underground gone as quickly as it came. As it retreated, the rumbling returned, and the tremors felt deep, and it was impossible to tell how far underground the worm had gone, or how long it was. Still, the rumbling persisted.

Either it was very, very long, or there was more than one worm.

Finally, the cows had started making some distance, but the rumbling was still following in their direction. Ahead, she could see Matt had caught up to the back of the herd.

She rode to follow, gun trained on the earth the moment she saw it begin to crack and give way. A portion of the worm broke the surface, arching up like a snake, weaving in and out of the earth.

Bam!

It connected.

Bam!

The worm wriggled underground again, and the shot merely hit the dust. The prairie grass was torn apart, and piles and sinkholes of dirt followed in the worm's wake. Clandestine rode parallel to its path.

It surfaced once more, this time poking out its head again.

The second it was fully visible, she shot it again, this time in the back of the head (though where its head started and ended was indeterminable). She only got one shot at it before it slid back down into the earth with a screech and the rumbling began to recede.

It was going deeper this time.

If it wasn't traveling parallel to the surface, she wouldn't be able to predict where it'd surface again based on its path.

Smart, for a worm. She hated smart worms.

Scanning the area around them constantly, she followed just a little behind the herd, ready to shoot. Billy kept the pace behind the herd, just a few horse-lengths behind Matt and Elliot, who stayed at the back of the herd of noisy, nervous cows.

It was contained chaos. The only thing keeping the cows from scattering were the cowboys riding on either end whipping, yipping, and keeping them in line.

They'd run sideways up the next hill. The path of broken earth the worm left behind made it obvious, along with the well-trampled prairie grass from the herd. She had a feeling the worm wasn't going to stick to its pre-formed tunnels and would happily follow them further, from one hill to the next.

That was the annoying thing about sandworms. There was nowhere to hide from them. Even when you were still, they could sense through the earth where things were.

Part of Clandestine was convinced that sandworms must have had some kind of earth magic to accomplish that.

Then, the rumbling came suddenly.

It was ahead of her, and it felt like it was centered again towards the herd this time.

"Hyah!" she shouted, urging Billy forward.

But she couldn't move fast enough. The worm erupted from the earth like the world's largest groundhog near the back of the herd. The ground around the cows gave way and caused some of them to stumble until the earth was pushed out with the worm's head, and the cows fell and rolled to the sides, scrambling to their feet in terror.

Elliot and Matt nearly ran into it. Matt pulled on the reins at the last second, causing Elliot to rear back with a sharp neigh.

She watched as Matt tried to hang onto the saddle but slipped when the worm whipped its head in their direction. As Elliot jolted away and Matt flew to the ground, rolling into the dirt.

Billy was running on course straight for them. Clandestine's gun was aimed dead center on the worm.

She waited a split second as it flayed its mouth open.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

Three shots in succession, right into its throat. She knew that this was the same worm she'd been shooting before, because this time, she saw blood sputter out of its mouth, dripping and oozing red over its needle teeth.

Instead of screaming and retreating again, the worm screamed and turned its attention to the nearest moving thing.

Matt. Who had just started running.

Billy and Clandestine closed the distance. Clandestine whipped her gun back onto her back and unsheathed her sword at her side.

With a fire in her eyes, she lifted the sword over her head. The worm reached out after Matt but simultaneously came within reach of her blade.

She connected, catching onto its neck. She pushed it in as deep as she could, thrusting past layers of fleshy skin, and with Billy's momentum, the blade up carried through to its head.

Blood sputtered out in big, gushing splashes, getting on her, her sword, and Billy in turn. But when she ripped the sword out, it was through the side of its mouth.

This time, the worm finally appeared weakened. And truly angry.

It slumped its head to the ground and faltered. She took the opportunity of hesitation to ride Billy around the other side.

She noted Matt wasn't far. He was on the ground somewhere, but she knew she wouldn't be able to help him until this worm was finished.

The worm began to slowly sink backward with a sputtering noise, but she was quick to act. She caught her sword on the corner of its mouth, where two of its flappy mouth parts connected, and she dug in again. Billy's momentum once again helped her drag the blade through its side, but she had to fight to hold onto the blade and keep it steady.

The skin was thick, and even though she always kept her blade razor sharp, it resisted. She gritted her teeth, growling as she fought to hold onto the hilt and keep the sword ripping through as long as she could.

Her heart was pounding in her chest. She could feel her sweat melding her shirt to her skin, and her muscles straining against the pull.

Then, the worm stopped moving.

Where the worm met the earth, there was no more worm to stab, so she ripped the sword out, flinging blood onto the ground. Billy kept running.

Breathing heavily, she rode Billy back around to the head, staring at the worm's still, prone body lying heavily against the torn-up, grassy plains.

It lay just at the top of the hill.

Poetic.

Billy slowed to a canter, then to a trot as she rode him back and forth around the worm, admiring her work. She'd managed to slice through its skin on both sides, and though it wasn't perfectly cut in half, it was, essentially, leaking blood and guts out both sides, and that was enough to tell her that it was, effectively, dead.

When Billy finally slowed to a walk, she hopped off by the worm's head, inspecting it just to be doubly sure.

There wasn't exactly a pulse to check for with a sandworm, but she could feel for breath. With its mouth partially collapsed, all that was leaving the worm's mouth was a trickle of blood, dripping down onto the tousled grass.

Well, this was going to smell like the world's biggest dung pile in a few days. She hoped all of the scavenging beasts would take care of it, though. At least there were plenty of those out in the plains. This would be like a holiday for them - endless miles of worm to consume.

At least, that's what she hoped. The alternative was a giant, rotting worm corpse decomposing in the plains for a long, long time.

Then again, there wasn't much she could do about that. She was hired to kill the beasts, not dispose of them - and it was unrealistic to expect her to know what to do with this one alone.

"Bah," she huffed, turning away from the dead worm.

Billy stood behind her and his ears turned to her attentively at the noise. She smiled softly and reached up to pet the side of his face, brushing away some of the splattered blood around his eye.

"Sorry about that, buddy," she said. "I bet we both look horrifying right now. But not as bad as the worm."

Wait. That wasn't true.

What about Matt?


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Fri Jan 13, 2023 4:17 am
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urbanhart wrote a review...



HIYA I am desperately trying to catch up before I fall too far behind!!

To start off, I need to wholeheartedly agree with Liminality about the description of the sandworm. Very strong visuals/descriptors. "Peeling away to reveal rows and rows of dirt-brown, needle-like teeth"?? Like DANG this animal is disgusting, I freaking love it.

WHAT A SEQUENCE. It's playing out like a western/sci-fi/fantasy mashup in my head. A lot of tension and calculating in this sandworm encounter. (Dorky conversationalist, badass ranger-type gal Clanny, my beloved.)

"'Bah,' she huffed, turning away from the dead worm'" as her conclusion to the whole affair just tickles me with its simplicity, especially following the epic-ness of the sandworm's defeat.

I've noticed there's some unneeded emphasis that it's someone's point of view. For instance, "Clanny noted that Matt wasn't far" could just be "Matt wasn't far". We already know we're in Clanny's head for this section, so cutting back on word count here is fine.
But! Definitely just a little thing that you can always comb through for after writing down the essentials of a scene. :) No need to get hung up on it early on.

Another note on fast-paced sequences: shorter sentences, especially where it's really intense. So here:

"She pushed it in as deep as she could, thrusting past layers of fleshy skin, and with Billy's momentum, the blade carried up through to its head"

Could be instead:
"She pushed it in as deep as she could, thrusting past layers of fleshy skin. With Billy's momentum, the blade carried up through to its head."

I like to think of shorter sentences as a way to simulate that feeling of shortness of breath in a physically intense scene. :) Again, more of a self-editing tip for later on in the process.

Gregor and the cows have my deepest condolences. And though it's still so early in the story, based on the fact that he gets put through the narrative wringer A Lot <.<, I worry very much for Matt/James.

AM REALLY DIGGING THIS, KEEP WRITING!!




soundofmind says...


AHHH HART THANK U FOR THIS REVIEW OMG!! ILY!!!

Thanks for catching POV emphasis thing - I've noticed I have a bad habit of over-emphasizing lmao. I'll have to cut those out more haha. And also yes!!! I can do more choppy sentences for action it do be feeling better.

Happy u enjoyed the whole worm killing sequence heheh. AND GLAD UR STILL READING :,)



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Thu Jan 12, 2023 7:58 pm
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Carina says...



sand worms: the forbidden dirt snake




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Sat Jan 07, 2023 3:06 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...



Salutations sound!

General Impressions

I really like the idea of this sandworm action sequence. Clandestine comes across as a competent monster hunter, and James continues running into the line of fire for some reason. Presumably he’s trying to help, but I guess I’ll have to wait for his POV to find out. This chapter is possibly the grittiest one so far, but I like it.

She hated smart worms.

^ Good out of context quote, by the way :D

Glows –Things I liked

In general, I thought the description of the sandworm made it seem really gross and spooky, very monster-like, if you will, and that helps to sell why they were all so scared of it in the earlier parts.
Its skin was a pinkish-brown, and there was a muddy slime that coated it, coagulating in its folds.
It unearthed with its mouth flayed open like four petals of a flower, peeling away to reveal rows and rows of dirt-brown, needle-like teeth.

This description hooked me in and made me visualize the worm. The flower metaphor is a really good one – it brings to mind a very specific image, and the incongruity of flower / worm makes it seem more uncanny. Also “coagulating in its folds” just has this ‘gross’ sound to it when you read it aloud, you know, kind of like how some people are grossed out by the word ‘moist’. So all in all, scary monster, which makes Clandestine seem all the stronger for defeating it.
The prairie grass was torn apart, and piles and sinkholes of dirt followed in the worm's wake.

I like the description of how the sandworm tore up the surrounding environment. That gives a sense of its sheer scale and the impact monsters like that have on the populace in this setting. So it helps with immersion and making the story feel ‘real’.
Clandestine whipped her gun back onto her back and unsheathed her sword at her side.
With a fire in her eyes, she lifted the sword over her head.

As an action scene, this change from the gun to the sword worked really well for me because it’s nice and simple – it quickens the pace rather than slowing it down, and also shows a dramatic change. Now the worm is close up instead of being this more distant threat. The “fire in her eyes” description is also a nice switch-up from how Clandestine has been described so far, so it looks like she’s really getting serious, making the mood of the moment cohere.

Grows – Ideas to Consider

Something I noticed was that the bracketed comments kind of interrupt the flow of reading the prose. I’m not sure if I commented on it before, but it’s definitely more noticeable in a tense action scene like this one. Interrupting the flow could be a good thing if the intent is to make the reader feel a bit disjointed from the action or make us stop and think about something.
Spit or slime (she didn't know which) sputtered from its mouth onto the ground.

^ Here I felt the bracket was a little unnecessary, since the word “or” in the regular narration already conveys that she;s uncertain which it is.
"Sorry about that, buddy," she said. "I bet we both look horrifying right now. But not as bad as the worm."
Wait. That wasn't true.
What about Matt?

As for this bit in the ending, after a few reads I think the implication is James looks worse off than the two of them and potentially the worm? Since he kind of ‘disappears’ from the main focus after he falls. It might be nice to make that a bit clearer though, or maybe to use a different turn of phrase to convey that idea.

Overall

I like the way the tension is handled in this action scene. I’m wondering what’s happened to James – if he’s injured or has just gotten a bit distanced from the group somewhere on the prairie.


Hope this helps – and keep writing!
-Lim




soundofmind says...


Ah! I didn't know the bracketed thoughts threw things off so much! I always kind of just hear them in my head as a silly little aside that flows with it but I understand especially in an action sequence how that can chop up the flow and intensity of things.

AM HAPPY U LIKED THE WORM SEQUENCE and also the descriptions lol. I had fun with those.

YOUR REVIEWS ARE HELPFUL AND ENJOYABLE AND I AM THANKFUL FOR THEM!!! THANK U OK BYE




The mind of man is capable of anything - because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future.
— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness