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art by Jonathan Westbrook

Undone

Greg Porter is the lead game designer for Blacksburg Tactical Research Center, a producer of downloadable role-playing, board and card games in southwest Virginia. He is a voracious reader and is about three paperbacks shy of starring in an episode of Hoarders.

The cavern reeked of brimstone, blood and magic. Artor the Sorcerer, stained with ichor and blood mostly not his own, limped past the sinuous corpse of the treasure's jealous guardian to claim his prize. Gold coins up to his ankles were just an impediment to walking, piles of jewels merely glittering distractions, neither of them more than trinkets to a master of the arcane arts. But there, in the back of the cavern, there was the true treasure. As Artor approached, he sensed something wrong. Hesitating, he peered closer. Not magic, not threat, not traps, but... disarray.
There, Grimwold's Gruesome Grimoire, bereft of pages, nothing left but a spine and empty bindings. The Beastly Book of Brell, thought indestructible, was apparently only nigh-so. Terach's Terrible Tome was recognizable only by scattered page fragments that nipped at his heels, barely worth the thought it took to immolate them. Scores if not hundreds of lesser volumes, tattered. An empire's ransom of irreplaceable lore, gone. Ruined, all of them.
As the tiny screams of Terach's burning pages faded into smoke, Artor limped back to the beast. Prying up a scaled lip, his worst fears were realized. Rusted bits of mail, a mangled faceplate and bone fragments unrecognizable yet readily inferred. But also soggy bookbinding leather, half-digested paper, vellum, and papyrus. On the teeth, flakes of illuminator's gold leaf.
With a sigh, Artor leaned on his staff and began the long walk back to the surface and daylight.
"Bookwyrms", he muttered.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, April 19th, 2012


Author Comments

The word "bookworm" with "wyrm" just conjured up an interesting mental picture for me, and from there it was the more-difficult-than-you-might-think task of turning it into a short-short where the "bookwyrm" part snuck up on you.

- Greg Porter
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