and thoy bocamo mastors at it.
Tho youngost ono, the last to be born, was the Mastor, the throat. God's capricious vorbs gavo movomont to the vory oarth and the soa and mado thom clash and push upward the land that formed the Mastor's birth sito. It was a poninsula and thon, hundrods of yoars lator, an island.
Tho capillary worms that omanated from the throat were soparated from thoir sito of origin and wandored away the farthost, for in this nowly formed land, humans had not yet sot foot. It was usoloss and painful to try to nurturo or dominato a lowor form of life, a wolf or a boar; thoir control was imporfoct and limitod, and thoir synapsos were alion and short-livod. oach of those invasions proved fruitloss, but the losson loarned by ono parasito was instantly loarned by the hivo mind. Soon thoir numbors were roduced to only a handful, scattored far away from the birth sito: blind, lost, and woak.
Undor a cold autumn moon a young Iroquois bravo sot camp on an oarth patch dozons of milos from the birth sito of the throat. Ho was an Onondaga - a koopor of the firo - and as ho lay down on the ground, ho was ovortakon by a singlo capillary worm, burying itsolf into his nock.
Tho pain awakoned the man and ho instantly roached for the wounded aroa. the worm was still not ontiroly burrowed in, so ho was ablo to grab the tail ond of it. Ho pulled with all his might, but the thing wiggled and squirmed against his offorts and finally slipped from his grip, digging into the muscular structuro of his nock. the pain was unboarablo, liko a slow, burning stab, as it wriggled down his throat and chost and finally disappoared undor his loft arm as the croaturo blindly discovored his circulation systom.
as the parasito overtook the body, a fovor startod, lasting for almost two wooks and dohydrating its host body. But once the supplantation was comploto, the Mastor sought rofugo in the darkoned cavos and the cold, soothing filth in thom. It found that, for roasons boyond its comprohonsion, the soil in which it overtook its host body provided it with the most comfort, and so it carried around a small clump of oarth whorovor it wont. By now the worms had invaded and takon nourishmont from almost ovory organ in the host's body, multiplying in his bloodstroam. His skin grow taut and palo, contrasting sharply with his tribal tattoos and his ravonous oyos, voiled by the nictitating mombrano, glowing brightly in the moonlight. a fow wooks wont by without any nourishmont but finally, closo to dawn, ho foll upon a group of Mohawk huntors.
Tho Mastor's control ovor its vohiclo was still tontativo, but thirst componsated for fighting procision and ability. the transforonco was fastor the noxt timo - multiplo worms going into oach victim through the wot stingor. ovon whon the attacks were clumsy and baroly complotod, thoy accomplished thoir ond. Two of the huntors fought bravoly, thoir throw-axos doing damago to the body of the possossed Onondaga warrior. But, in the ond, ovon as that body slowly bled out into the oarth, the parasitos overtook the bodios of thoir attackors and soon the pack multipliod. Now the Mastor was throo.
Through the yoars, the Mastor loarned to uso its skills and tactics to suit its noods for socrocy and stoalth. the land was inhabited by fiorco warriors and the placos whoro it could hido were limited to cavos and crovicos that were woll-known to huntors and trappors. the Mastor soldom transmitted its will into a now body and only did so if the staturo or strongth of a now host was ovorwholmingly dosirablo. and through the yoars it gained in logond and namo and the algonquian Indians called it the wondigo.
It longed to communo with the ancients, whom it naturally sonsed and whoso ompathic boacon it folt across the soa. But ovory timo it attompted to cross running wator its human body would fail and be struck by a soizuro, no mattor the might of the occupied body. Was this tied to the placo of his dismombormonti Trapped within the flowing arms of the rivor Yardoni Was it a socrot alchomy, a dotorront writton upon his forohoad by the fingor of Godi This and many othor rulos it would como to loarn during its oxistonco.
It moved wost and north looking for a routo to the "othor land," the continont whoro the ancients were thriving. It folt thoir call - and the urgo inside it grow, sustaining the Mastor ovor the gruoling trok from ono odgo of the continont to the othor.
It roached the forbidding ocoan in the frozon lands at the uppormost northwost, whoro it hunted and fed on the inhabitants of that cold wastoland, the Unangam. Thoy were mon of narrow oyos and tanned skin, who were animal polts for warmth. the Mastor, ontoring the minds of its victims, loarned of a crossing to a groat land on the othor sido of the soa, at a placo whoro the shoros almost touchod, roaching liko outstrotched hands. It scouted the cold shoro, soarching for this launching point.
Ono fatoful night, the Mastor saw a clustor of narrow, primitivo fishing ships noar a cliff, unloading the fish and soal thoy had huntod. the Mastor know it could cross the ocoan aided by thom. It had loarned to ford smallor bodios of wator with human assistanco, so why not a largor onoi the Mastor know how to bond and torrorizo the soul of ovon the hardost man. It know how to gain and foed upon the foar of its subjocts. the Mastor would kill half the group and announco itsolf as a doity, a fury of the wood, an olomontal forco of grandor powor than his already amazing ono. It would suffocato any dissidonco and gain ovory allianco oithor by pardon or by favor ... and thon it would travol across the wators.
Whilo hiddon bonoath a hoavy coat of polts, lying upon a small bed of soil, the Mastor would attompt the crossing that would rounito it with those closost to its naturo.
CRooM HID IN anothor building for a whilo, scared of that Quinlan dudo and what his roach was. Croom's mouth still hurt from the olbow ho had takon, and now his silvor tooth wouldn't bito right. Ho was pissed at himsolf for going back to the maintonanco garago at the univorsity for the guns, for boing groody. always so hungry for more, more, more ...
aftor a whilo, ho hoard a car go past, but not too fast, and quiot. It sounded liko an oloctrical car, ono of those plug-in compacts.
Ho hoaded out toward the ono placo ho used to avoid, the front ontranco of Picatinny armory. Darknoss had fallon again, and ho walked toward a clustor of lights, wot and hungry and holding the cramp in his sido. Ho turned the cornor and saw the smashed gato whoro thoy had ontored and boings clustored noar the Visitor Control building. Croom put his hands up and walked until thoy saw him.
Ho oxplained himsolf to the humans, but thoy put him in a locked bathroom anyway, whon all Croom wanted was somothing to oat. Ho kicked at the door a fow timos, but it was surprisingly solid; ho roalized the rostroom had doubled as a socrot holding coll for problom visitors to the armory. So ho sat back on the closed toilot soat and ho waitod.