Better Than Worms
Hot, dry and unforgiving in the extreme. This region was brutal to cross. Punishing. Even without the sand-jackals that dogged his trail like vengeful ghosts out to chew his soul to bits. But sand-jackals didn't care much about souls or spirits. They only wanted Valg for his body. He was meat and moisture to them. Out here. On the perimeter. Where there were no more stars. Only emaciated specters. Hungry jackals. And Valg.
He'd wasted the dawn hunting worms. Poking under likely looking rocks. Jabbing his prod-hook into old bore-holes, crooked nooks and crannies. Nothing. His pouch was empty. As was his stomach. Everything was hungry out here. Even the air greedily sucked away all your water. The sky drained your vision leaving you a glaring white emptiness in your eyes. The kind of things that could blind a hunter who'd forgotten his goggles. Or had them stolen.
When. Yeah; when he got back, he'd find Torm. He'd track him down if necessary. Then he'd get his goggles back. Maybe break his fingers. Maybe. He wasn't a vengeful sort. But it wouldn't do to not set a firm boundary with the others. Once they got it into their thick heads that they could push someone like him around, they wouldn't stop. Not until it escalated all out of control and someone got hurt. Or killed. There weren't enough of them left now to be killing one another over nothing. Wasn't much sense killing each other over something either. Not any more. All they needed to do in that case was to stop moving. Sit still. Let the machines catch up to them. They'd be wiped out in less than a week. Extinct. Expunged. Gone and forgotten. Even the machines would erase their memory of them once they were gone. They were real sticklers for precision. Accuracy. Efficiency.
Valg shielded his raw, red eyes with one hand. He scanned the horizon. Hoping. But no. Clear and bright. The turquoise smoldered overhead. There'd be no rain anytime soon. Just more heat. More dust. And lots of miles yet to go. All of it through rugged, broken territory no one had ever bothered to map. All they needed to do was just mark it 'Do Not Go Here,' and leave it at that. For most folks that would be enough. Not for Valg. He knew there was something special about these blistering badlands on the otherside of the Obelisks. Besides the worms. They weren't like the ones he caught back around his people's camps. These were bigger. Plump, poisonous things, like the tumbleweeds and the lizards. But tasty. He still felt a little woozy from the worm-venom. One of the last batch he'd caught bit him. Maybe injected would be a better word. The worms didn't really have teeth as such. Maybe it was more of a sting. It didn't really matter. The wriggler had latched onto his thigh, right through the burlap sack he used to carry his catches in. Through the rough leather of his legging. The wound still hurt. Slightly swollen. Dribbling a thin line of pus and watery blood that crackled as it dried as fast as it leaked out. Made a nasty-looking scab.
His leg throbbed from the worm-bite. He was getting shaky. But he kept going. Using his spear as a sort of crutch. Up to the top of the ridge. Some elevation might help him see what there was to see.
Obelisks. More obelisks. A different set. Similar to the ones he had been using as a landmark. But these were arranged in a set of eight, not five. One was snapped-off two-thirds of the way up. This was something new. Not marked on any map, but then he'd gone well off of the tribe's maps a long time ago.
Valg didn't waste any time. He got moving. Down the steep ridge. He wanted to see if these obelisks marked-out the way to some other place, like the ones behind him did. If they did, he might have found something much better than a few meaty worms.
This is a continuation of Option Three from our second Obelisk post.