For the first time, in as long as anyone could remember, the WOM was on the move. The sight of the Fallen had awakened his sense of stagnation. He had not left his grotto in far too long. He wanted to get a good look at the world and see what she had become.
Ten miles from Kern, the Giant Settlement, the WOM began to smell a disturbing sent. Now, well into the spring planting season, rows upon rows of furrowed, good soil filled the horizon. He would have smiled and breathed deeply of the scent of freshly tilled soil had not that other smell tormented the edge of his memory. What was it?
As he entered Kern, he was pleased to see the Hidden Valley’s flowers blooming in every garden.
Bello, headed back out to the fields after his lunch, spotted him. “WOM!” he yelled and happily ran to him. He hugged the very old man, “How happy I am that you have come to our village! Come and meet my family.” He directed the WOM towards his house. “Mama!” he called.
She graciously welcomed him into her house. Giant hospitality was aggressively generous; a standard Giant size cup of tea and scone were placed before him. As he nobly applied himself to the meal, he listened to the entire story of the desolation the “butterflies” had wreaked upon the Fallen.
After conveying his relief that all had turned out so well, he expressed a desire to see the fields. Bello was only too happy to comply with his request. Entering the first field the WOM asked, “Do you smell that?”
Bello took in a deep, satisfying breath of cultivated soil. He smiled, “I believe you are referring to our oxen fertilizer. I know it can be overwhelming at first, but soon it will be like nothing at all. The year we imported dragon fertilizer, whew that was the year…”
“No” the WOM interrupted, “It smells… tangy.”
“Tangy?” Bello took in another breath. “No, I don’t believe I do.”
The WOM walked with his nose in the air and his eyes shut. Bello followed closely and steadied him every few feet as his stumbled upon his beard or a rock or into a small hole.
Finally, in the middle of a perfectly furrowed row, the WOM squatted down. He explained that this area had not been seeded yet. But the WOM wasn’t listening; he began digging in the ground. “Could you uproot this seed?”
Bello had to get his face every close to the ground to see the tiny black speck. “Sure” Bello pulled at the minuscule object. Surprisingly, the seed did not budge. Little by little the seed was forced to release itself from the ground. It's root was at least a foot long.
“Here,” the WOM produced a leather pouch. Bello wrapped the root into a ball and dropped it into the pouch. “This is what produces that tangy smell. I have no idea how this has come to be here, but it is deadly. It will poison the land.”
“It is so tiny. How much harm can it really do?” Bello asked incredulously.
“More damage than you can imagine. Come, there are more. We have work to do.”
To be continued….