The Merewyrm's Tooth
Animal Kingdoms Book 1
by Oliver Paglia
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Faharen was a contented enough young lad, living a simple farming life with his adopted kin the Manxii, on the North Western Plain of the Animal Kingdoms.
After a mysterious blight begins to ravage the pastures of his homeland, he must embark on a perilous quest only he can complete; to cross the Great Forest, entering the Realms of Men to retrieve a piece of ivory with healing properties from a legendary monster, the Merewyrm; a creature so ancient it predates both man and animal kind.
Not long into his journey, it dawns on Faharen that he is part of a much larger, darker world than he thought existed and must mine hidden depths he wasn’t aware he possessed to survive.
Created by the gods to divide fallen men from the faithful animals and forsaken by them long ago, traversing the Great Forest will not be easy, for it hides many malevolent creatures such as the Satyrs to name but one; a half man, half cloven hooved beast that knows only spite and treachery!
With the body of a man and the heart of a Manxii, Faharen must do what is deemed impossible; cross the worlds to save his people.
The first thing Faharen saw as he awoke was a modest portion of cold venison left on a well chewed bone. After everything he’d experienced since the spring, it was enough to make him smile. The smell of thick smoke followed afterwards. Looking over the cliff, Faharen saw one of the wild men stamping out the fire below while the rest draped themselves in their crude, animal skin clothing. Before long the group made off across the flat, dry, gravel valley floor. Faharen descended to their campsite once again and waited until they had travelled a safe distance. The only thing they left of yesterday’s kill was a few bones and its skin. This had been partially cleaned and spread out in the sun, destined to be another item of clothing no doubt. Trekking across the barren, open landscape was a surreal experience in contrast to the claustrophobic cliffs and sharp, jutting rocks of the previous days. Faharen was surprised at himself for not being more anxious than he was, though caution prevailed as the wild men remained just in sight ahead of him. Large, fissured tracks ran through the rocky land, though there was no water to be seen. It didn’t take them long to traverse it and more sloping cliffs and boulders loomed closer. Faharen picked up the pace as the group disappeared amongst the landscape. On reaching the end of the flat land, he had walked up a thirst and after a quick swig of water, commenced scrabbling over rock and boulder. The wild men obviously weren’t in a state of urgency, because it didn’t take Faharen too long before they were in earshot. It sharpened his senses somewhat, because if he’d hurried any faster he would have stumbled into them. He paused for a moment to listen, gentle chatter drowning out the tired sobs of a young girl. For a moment Faharen questioned his own judgment in following the group. Perhaps they were just a family scratching a living beyond the edge of civilisation for tragic reasons and he’d stolen their food! He bit down on a clenched fist as he likened his behaviour to the Satyrs he’d had the misfortune to meet in the Great Forest. Guilt swirled in his belly. Then he noticed the voices becoming more distant and continued at a steady pace. It must have taken most of the morning to travel as far as they had and finally the group came to a halt in a circular clearing, flanked by tall cliffs. Faharen remained at a position above them as before, when he recognised the setting from the last part of his vision. “So these were whom I saw!” he blurted out to himself, finding some purpose in following his hunch to track them. Some of the wild men walked halfway across the clearing towards a large cave entrance on the far side, whilst the women prayed and chanted around the young girl. The men erected a knotted wooden post and after the women had finished painting something on the girl, they took her over to the men. It was then the girl began to cry louder and offered some resistance, so the men promptly tied her to the gnarly post. It was only at this point that Faharen became aware that something sinister was going on, his knuckles turning white as he gripped his rock perch in horror. A macabre ritual now began to play out whereby the entire group danced around their poor, unfortunate victim, with one of the men occasionally breaking off from the main group to run over to the cave, repeatedly calling as if to summon something. Then after some time, a response came and it made every hair on Faharen’s body stand on end. The bass shriek of a Giga sounded as a child compared to the unworldly tone of the roar that shook the landscape. Immediately the wild men stopped dancing and recoiled behind their victim, now also struck quiet with terror. The sound was constant now, but not vocal so much as an unceasing scraping, rising out of the ground. With surprising subtlety, the largest head Faharen had ever seen gradually emerged from the cave barely able to squeeze out it was of such a size. Its eyes alone were bigger than the Manxii lad and they squinted with a horrific, almost omniscient knowing the likes of which must have come before men or Manxii. All of its skin was scaly, ending in fins under its chin. A pregnant pause gripped all involved. “Merewyrm!” was the only thing Faharen could speak. Even after all of his struggles, he had never fully realised what he was up against until now. Indeed it was the Merewyrm and as it took a snort of the air through its giant nostrils, its lips peeled back to reveal a vast set of pearl white, spear shaped teeth. Finally Faharen had glimpsed what he had come all this way for and it didn’t fill him with any reassurance. The group of scruffy cowards now fled, filling Faharen with rage as he watched the innocent girl futilely trying to wriggle free. But the Merewyrm didn’t head straight for her. It weaved from side to side as it repeatedly sniffed the air, a sinister, thin tongue occasionally flicking out through a slit in its front teeth. Faharen’s conscience took over from where the concern for his quest had been and rushed down to the clearing. Suddenly the monster’s head lurched around at his presence and Faharen’s mortality became all too apparent to him. But a moment later, it continued sliding around as it had been before. “It can’t see me!” The realisation compelled Faharen on, though he moved more cautiously. With dagger in hand ready to cut the girl’s bonds, he approached her. As he reached her she saw him over her shoulder and began to protest as if he were her executioner. Faharen immediately clamped a hand over her mouth, keeping one eye on the Merewyrm at all times. Faharen’s closer distance must have given him away, as the huge nostrils turned in his direction and stopped. He tried as subtly as possible to cut her bonds but the Merewyrm had found them now and proceeded directly toward them. All caution left Faharen as he hacked desperately at the girl’s bonds. The gargantuan head was only a few paces away, as the rough leather lashes fell away. Yanking at her arm, Faharen dragged her in the opposite direction, not daring to look back, until they stumbled and fell on something sharp and brittle. Gathering their senses, all they could see was a pit stacked with skeletons of all kinds and the stench of rotten flesh. Then a long shadow was cast above them and tilting his head just enough, Faharen saw the Merewyrm’s fantastic maw descend on him.
Gauntlet of Wrath
Animal Kingdoms Book 2
Residing in a monastery far to the east of the North Western Plain, troubling nightmares stalk Faharen’s sleep as he seeks inner peace and answers to profound questions, stirred up by his quest for the Merewyrm’s tooth.
But in the Realms of Men, all is not well.
Out of the deserts to the south, like a sandstorm on an ill wind, a force of occultists, led by an armoured giant calling himself the Ferra Demiurge, or Forged Lord, wielding the strongest ever blades made of a mysterious metal, have taken the Achaean lands by coup and sorcery. Their ambition and greed is insatiable and the Demiurge will not be satisfied until the entire known world is his, including what lies beyond the Great Forest.
With the worlds of the Animal Kingdoms and men alike set in flux by recent events, the ancient prophecy of the wild men seems to be unravelling.
Now, all those standing against the Achaeans will be tested in their defence of the sacred. Some will conquer, some will die, but all will struggle to survive.
A LONELY SHEET OF ice gently floated on the slowly swirling current of the frigid Phluvus. Behind it bobbed the face down body of a wild man boy. Jets of steam billowed out into the skin-numbing air; two four-legged beasts with single hooves regained their breath,
heads obediently pointing earthward, a yoke and bridle making sure it remained that way.
Above the creatures stood a finely groomed man, borne up by a railed platform resting on two spoke wheels, surrounded by animal hide. His face was ornately decorated with sapphire painted eyebrows and thin, black lines that tapered below around his lashes
and down the cheeks, under a perfectly arranged dome of shoulder length obsidian-black hair, the odd strand rustled by the creeping, cutting breeze. His laconic expression was gradually broken by a cold smile that creased from one side of his mouth to the other, as
flames flickered in his eyes. From atop a hill with a commanding view of the Phluvus, the man in fine raiment watched the Atsadi village, Asuhis, burn in tall, all consuming flames next to the great body of water that could have saved it, had its life blood not already been slain. Behind him was a company of similar beasts and men, all their eyes brimming with barely muted glee as they surveyed the destruction they had wrought. A shiver ran through the leader’s body and he pulled an exotic animal skin closer around his neck. With a lazy arm gesture, they wheeled about as one and sped south from whence they had come, to wreak fire and death out of the still night.
Oliver Paglia is a writer/filmmaker and was born and bred in Hampshire, south England, where he grew up on a small farm in the picturesque Test valley countryside. He now lives in Reykjavik, Iceland with his veterinary nurse partner, Snæfriður Stefanssdottír. For many years Oliver has worked as a videographer in England and has a substantial portfolio of commercial and artistic film work spanning a broad variety of subjects.
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