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The Desert Crystals – Part 11: The Bleeding Face of Death

Part 11 – The Bleeding Face of Death

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Guldwych Ryme seethed. The very substance of his being was aflame; injustice and anger licked at his blood, sending it on ever faster loops of his circulatory system. It could be that he was forgetting to breathe, but his rage was overwhelming. He felt lightheaded and his fingers grew numb. Belatedly his physical awareness caught up with him and he exhaled roughly, blasting foul angry breath and petulant spittle across his beautiful desk. A further mighty inhalation caused his head to spin and in a woozy flailing he swept the desktop free of papers and glasses.

Petulant gestures rarely achieve the desired effect and Ryme’s was no exception: the ornate glass globe (a gift from the former chancellor after thoroughly thrashing the man at cards) teetered on the edge of the desk in the slow motion luxury of disaster time, allowing itself enough time to reflect the open mouthed expression of horror on Ryme’s face, before toppling off the edge and shattering on the floor. Continents (known and pondered) scattered across the floor, unknowingly accurately reproducing the continental drift of hundreds of millions of years earlier. Sadly Guldwych Ryme was in no mood to recognise or appreciate the geological quirks that had separated the southern landmasses from the Northern Continent, which academics were only now exploring anew. The potential revelations were to be kicked about the room, trodden into rug and board until finally swept into a waste basket by the professor’s maid in several weeks time.

Ryme contemplated the planetary catastrophe with a gradual lessening of his blood pressure as the violence calmed him. What also calmed him was that the face of that pretentious parasitic pretender Rosenhatch Traverstorm was no longer looking up at him with his smug mocking ignorant luck-sucking face from the new edition of the Journals Biologinary. Not content to grace the bastard’s entirely accidental discovery of the Idolatrous Buttonmole with a whole journal of pictures and articles on the “scientific wonder-man of the age”, they had now given him yet another cover shot and the lead article on his present adventuring into the lost valleys of the Northern Continent. Ryme’s only consolation was that Traverstorm could not possibly know that his face was once more adorning that cursed rag.

The Journals Biologinary had only once featured Guldwych Ryme’s accomplishments so lavishly. The cover image, framed prominently in gilt and glass on the wall of Ryme’s office, displayed Ryme in profile as a much younger man (his profile would now fill the page) beside an image of the Grosser Snatchtiger, its upsetting cheek folds splayed to reveal the gnashing teeth of the terrifying beast. The size of the beast was discussed in the fourteen page article documenting its discovery by Ryme, and its curious familial connections with the Common Shawk, an easily domesticated, larger and less toothy cousin. For many years the journal had been his prized possession (only matched by his wife on especially good days), along with his tenure and the witty blooms of his Perspicacious Tulips. Now though he brooded over the stack of Traverstorm-drenched journals that he kept locked in his bottom drawer. Oh, he claimed to not read them- but in private he would stare at them and grind his teeth, and he took on that aggressive sulking which lies at the heart of all the most vicious enmities.

Meridional University had welcomed Traverstorm in with open arms following his drunken blundering into the tunnel complex of the Host Lizards. His claims of their murderous nature were ludicrous but the attention it drew was all the college desired. His pitiful exit from an undergraduate degree went unmentioned, but Ryme recalled the lad seated almost horizontal at the back of his lecture theatre. If only he had kept the one essay Traverstorm had submitted; Guldwych remembered the infantile tone and ludicrous leaps of logic. It would have been a wonderful thing to publish.

No matter. Ryme smoothed his thinning hair and carefully unlocked the middle drawer of his desk with the small key he kept in his breast pocket. From the drawer he withdrew the note which had been slipped under his door earlier. No echoes had been cast within the corridor by its bearer; the delivery had been silent and unobservable. Ryme had recognised the handwriting instantly; he had been waiting for it. Eslie Chem had written a single word on the paper: “Dawn”. Excellent news – to Ryme it represented hope, hope that Traverstorm’s undeserved reputation and success would soon be brought to an end. Chem had assembled a crew, and transport. Shortly after dawn they would be leaving the college, at speed, with every chance of beating Traverstorm’s party to the other side of the Bane Desert, and there – far from the prying eyes of the journal or the university… Well, there were many possibilities. Ryme hurried home to pack his bags.
Next Week: Part 12 – Hark, The Wings

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