Part 33 – Fine Dentistry
Guldywch lurched backwards, tripped over a confiscated casket and landed in a mess of corkscrewed wood shavings and broken glass. Tosser’s attention was held by the awful sight of her crewmate Chall and Eslie Chem. Chem’s face was distorting under the force of ivory stretching his cheeks to tearing point – it curled out of each rip, a long viciously sharp tooth coiling around his face like a hundred rams’ horns. Chall shrieked as his skin was torn into ribbons. Flesh hung between the forest of teeth that erupted from his spine, and continued with every part of his body pierced by tightly entwined gleaming tusks.
The horrid sight of Chall overcome by this riot of teeth consumed their attention. The dropper bottle that the pair had been drinking from rolled across the deck towards Guldwych and struck his boot. Its label confirmed his fears: Vileteeth. The bottle was well decorated with skulls, red warnings and the now broken thick wax seal. Only an idiot would ignore the label and consume the stuff. An idiot, or… Ryme’s dizzy thinking was interrupted by Tosser seizing his arm and whipping him upright in a single motion that made his head spin further.
Chall was forced almost double by the weight of the teeth snarling around and through each other – he looked like a frozen briar, trembling in the depths of winter. His face was a tatter of skin grossly stretched by bars of teeth.
“Professor?” was the best she could manage.
“It’s Vileteeth, Tosser. This is what it does – spurs the body into violent overproduction of teeth from every bone until the poor victim is gnarled knot of calcium.”
“Will Chall get better?”
“It won’t directly kill him, unless the teeth penetrate his organs, which with the strength of this reaction is I suppose quite likely. Otherwise affected cases either starve through being unable to open their mouths, or are euthanised.”
“Why would they drink it? That’s crazy.”
“I’d say a mistake, but for the clear labelling and that I know Eslie Chem is neither illiterate nor an idiot. On its own this is a death sentence.”
Only once Chall fell to his knees did they look to Eslie Chem. Unlike his drinking partner, Chem remained upright, shaking violently as the curling teeth from his mouth slashed at the flesh of his face. Instead of white tusks ripping through the rest of his body, Chem’s clothing was merely bulging in disturbing angular ways, thrusting back and forth through his shoulders and waist. He was making a low sad whistling as he jerked, one hand clenched tightly around the railing the other twisted into a claw as if reaching out for Ryme.
The professor peered speculatively at Chem, “Eslie’s having quite a different reaction. Look Tosser – those aren’t teeth coming out of his arms, they look more like horns, or armour. Much more insectile than toothy.” He began to step towards Chem, his fears lost to curiosity.
“Professor,” said Tosser, “your jacket is smoking.”
Ryme noticed the burning sensation in his shoulders for the first time and hastily tore his jacket off. The leather was quickly becoming a smoking mass. Without a second thought he hurled it overboard. The smashed crate he had landed on was also smoking.
“Quickly Tosser – get that crate off the ship before it burns through the deck.”
So saying, Ryme cautiously seized an armful of the wood curls and glassware and heaved them over the side. Tosser just grabbed a box and threw it from the centre of the deck. Too late they spotted the darkening stain that spread deeper into the wood where Ryme had fallen. A moment later that spot turned black and with a wet snap fell into the ship. A cry of surprise came from below. Suddenly the orange sands of the Great Bane were visible straight through the ship.
“What in all the awful beasts of Elgrin is happening to my ship?” Captain Flame strode out of the cockpit, slapping her lifeline in without a moment’s thought. She took in the hole in the deck, the scattered boxes, their contents and finally the wretched tangle of Chall and the still shuddering Eslie Chem. She turned to Ryme, “an explanation if you please.”
“This cargo, from the Golden Zephyr . It’s all dangerous – that hole is the result of Paama’s tears mixing with the air. It’s a fascinating sea creature with a rather unusual reproductive cycle,” he noted Flame’s expression, “and its tears are an acid.”
“Wonderful. What about that,” Flame indicated her crewman.
“Ah, well I was just explaining to Tosser here – that’s the effect of drinking Vileteeth. I believe he’s had rather a large dose, which explains why he’s so powerfully affected.”
“I rather fancy Eslie has taken something quite different in addition to the Vileteeth. You see, it affects teeth and bones, but Chem is only experiencing the familiar response orally. As we can see here, ” Ryme began prodding and poking the shivering, but otherwise immobile man. “this, for example resembles much more closely the horned shapes found in the armour of some insects. And this, well – botany’s my speciality but this looks distinctly like the edge of a wing case.” Ryme tugged at the protrusions by Ryme’s shoulder, apparently having forgotten that the man was more than a mere specimen.
Flame was about to express her growing irritation with Ryme when there was a sudden, audible crack. It came from Chall, whose twisted form clenched briefly and then exploded in a hail of tooth shards. The shrapnel caught Tosser in the chest and flung her overboard. Flame threw herself to the deck but was still struck along the arm and face by fragments of ivory. Ryme was mostly protected by Chem’s body, but being startled bumped into the rail behind him.
Chem came suddenly to life, in a smooth twisting step he shredded the skin and clothing from his body and punched Ryme hard in the face, flinging him over the rail. Chem stretched his now clearly insectile form, stalked across the deck and seized one of the opened crates.
He glanced down at Angel Flame where she lay stunned. He clicked out, “Goodbye Captain Flame, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for all your help.” With a respectful nod he snapped open his wings and took a running leap off the Sky Viper.
Coming Soon: Part 34 – Late To Bed