Sunday, November 25, 2012

Woundwort's Weapon


“They’re not very big, are they? The Father-of-Lies isn’t going to be impressed.”  Tonguebite peered at the weapons display and wrinkled his nose.

Woundwort wasn’t sure whether he had been promoted or demoted when he was given the job of developing new weapons to arm the sons of darkness.  Chief Weapons Engineer was an occupation with a history of failure, a minefield of a task that had sunk many a promising career in the Underworld.  The Father-of-Lies, curse him, refused to believe that no weapons forged against the loathsome army of light had ever prevailed. 

“You asked for a weapon.  You didn’t specify how big it had to be.”  Woundwort grumbled a little and scratched a flaky patch on his arm.  He frowned, inspecting his arm carefully.  It was possible that his skin had come into contact with the materials he was using.  He chided himself on his carelessness.

Woundwort’s creations were, indeed, very small.   Significantly smaller than a household pin, they were very sharp.  The blunt end was festooned with a dozen fine, black hairs to aid flight.  The sharp end was small enough to penetrate the armour worn by the army of light.  All armour had its chinks, and Woundwort’s darts were engineered to seek out the chinks and find the soft flesh beneath.  Of course, Woundwort was aware that the armour of the army of light was not like conventional armour.  Chinks were hard to find, but, any armour is only effective if it is put on properly. Woundwort knew that any soldier, in any army, light or darkness, takes shortcuts.  A skirmish or two won and the soldier slackens up a little.  He becomes a little too confident and lax in his discipline.  It was this inattention to detail that Woundwort planned to take advantage of.

Tonguebite picked up one of the darts.   He had once heard a preacher deliver a sermon about Satan’s fiery darts.  He had never seen a fiery dart before, and wondered if these were them.  They seemed too small to cause any damage.

“Ouch!”

If Tonguebite had any blood coursing through his veins, which he didn’t, there would have been a small globule of blood on his finger. 

Woundwort took a single step away and snatched up a clipboard from the table.

“We haven’t tested the weapons yet, you understand.  This makes you our first test subject!  Of course, we shall have to factor in the differences between demons and humans –but sometimes the difference is very minimal. Things could get interesting from now on. You have to be very honest about how you’re feeling.” 

It was expecting too much from anyone in the Underworld to be honest, but in the interests of the science Tonguebite was asked to try.

“Well, don’t look so pleased about it.  My arm really itches.”

Woundwort scribbled furiously.

“It’s very warm in here.  Why is the heating on?”

Woundwort popped a thermometer into Tonguebite’s mouth, watched the clock on the wall for one minute exactly and wrote down some numbers on the paper.

“I have better things to do, you know…and it’s about time someone told you about your bad breath.”

Woundwort breathed on the palm of his hand and sniffed it suspiciously. 

“I’d ask for a cup of coffee or something but you don’t know how to make decent coffee.  And you never have any sugar…or milk.”

Woundwort frowned.  He liked his coffee black and strong and in a chipped cup.

“Well, talk to me at least.  Even your mindless chatter is better than this silence.”

Tonguebite harped on for some considerable time.  Every tiny irritation about everything was aired without restraint.  He didn’t like Woundwort’s laboratory.  There was a smell he couldn’t quite identify.  The white of Woundwort’s coat was just too white.  It hurt his eyes.  He didn’t really approve of Woundwort’s friends.  They were too unsavoury, even for the Underworld.  He didn’t like the fact that Woundwort never gambled.  A demon should have many vices, and Woundwort clearly didn’t have enough.

Woundwort kept writing.  His smile broadened with each complaint. 

Tonguebite’s spate of complaints gradually dried up.

“For a first weapons test that was definitely successful!”

Tonguebate raised an eyebrow.

The tiny darts were designed to get beneath the skin.  Little irritations made their way to the surface and were expressed.  Faith, Woundwort understood, could not flourish in such a negative environment.  Without faith the army of light were easy to destroy.

Tonguebite gazed at Woundwort with something like awe.


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