|ovember 2, Jolly Seahorse Tavern, Liberty Bay
Finally, I'm feeling able to write again! After months of suffering in melancholy and distress, I'm back on track. My return from Zao seems ages ago. All those painful and torturing memories... I left them somewhere in the Dragonblaze Peaks. I stumbled back through Zao Steppe, often crawling on my knees, barely noticing anything around me. I still don't know what kept me alive back then and I dare not to ask. All I remember is the endless void that suddenly filled my heart when I finally reached Farmine. I longed for company but at the same time I could hardly bear the thought of mankind.
I found a temporary relief in Kazordoon among my dwarven friends. At first, I kept my morals high and drowned my sorrows in the Jolly Axeman. But then I started to visit my old chap Humgolf regularly. Together we often spent the days and nights watching his rotworms. Their seemingly simple yet profound way of life fascinated me and in a strange way, their presence calmed my mind and brought me some peace. Humgolf and I agreed that they are certainly not mindless as some scientists suggest. We were sure that they are capable of emotions like joy and sorrow, fear and despair. I think I was even more convinced of that than Humgolf. Therefore, I could not condone the fact that he tames rotworms, and thereby, takes away their freedom. Yes, he cares a great deal about them but still... it did not seem right to me, it did not seem fair. Over time, their life in captivity also made me feel like a prisoner. So I made a crucial decision. I decided to get out of this place to experience something more natural: I decided to live among wild rotworms to study the social behaviour of these plain yet mysterious creatures, to meditate on the meaning of existence and my role in it all, and to wake my soul from hibernation.
Humgolf had told me that rotworms sense other living beings with their extraordinary olfactory nerves as well as through vibrations. Despite its thickness and roughness, their skin is highly sensitive. It allows them to communicate via vibrations that travel through the earth. Rotworms can create patterns of vibration by rhythmic movements of their body. And inspired by bee dances, Humgolf had found a way to communicate with rotworms through dancing moves. He showed me different dancing steps, slow ones as well as fast ones, and taught me their meaning.
To imitate the stench of rotworms and their surroundings, I also learned how to mix a secret odour which Humgolf called "L'Eau de Rot". He scolded me for calling it stench but just the thought of it still gives me a queasy feeling. I had to spill the mixture over my body for several days until I got used to its foul odour. Smelling like a giant rotten egg, I headed for Liberty Bay. I always loved the gentle sea breeze there, so after a last deep breath of fresh sea air, I set out towards the rotworm cave near the town. It was quite early in the morning when I reached the cave and I had not met any other adventurers on my way.
My plan was to sneak close enough to a group of rotworms so that they can notice my stench and then try to share a rotten ham with them. I hoped it would do the trick and let me obtain their trust, or at least make sure that they swallow the ham first, thereby giving me some time to run for my life. Cautiously, I climbed down to the third floor of the cave where a distinct tunnel system allows you to walk a full circuit. Almost immediately after jumping down the hole I spotted a small group of two rotworms and two carrion worms feasting on some rotten food.
I approached them closely and after a few steps the whole group suddenly turned their heads towards me. For a few seconds there was dead silence except my heart beating loudly and frantically. One of the rotworms made a loud wild burp and started moving in my direction. Its body was full of scars and looked as if it had survived many fights already. I felt like collapsing but in a sudden burst of courage, I danced a wild welcome belly dance just as Humgolf had taught me. The rotworm stopped and I felt the earth trembling a bit. One of the carrion worms now crawled towards me and the earth started shaking stronger. Holy moly! This carrion worm was so fat and his mouth was so big... it was just... it was HUGE! I swear he could easily swallow a cyclops in one piece.
I closed my eyes, mumbled a heartbreaking good-bye to my beloved Tibia world and waited for my end. Suddenly, I felt enveloped by a cloud of rancid, nauseating stench that almost knocked me off my feet. I opened my eyes slowly and looked right into the fat one's mouth. Hastily, I fished for the old ham in my backpack and as soon as I got hold of it I threw it right into the wide, fanged mouth. What followed was a series of loud chewing and smacking noises going on for several minutes. Then, the worm closed his mouth and started to gently nudge my body. "Now or never, Amaro!" I thought to myself and tried to focus on what I had learned about rotworms. I was so nervous that I could not come up with anything better than cautiously stroking the rotworm's wrinkled skin. But instead of swallowing me for dessert, the carrion worm let out a comforting grunt. It was a very precious moment, I even felt a certain familiarity between us. Yet, it did not last long. All of a sudden, the whole group started moving towards one of the smaller tunnels in the cave wall. In the blink of an eye they disappeared into it.
I was left alone, uncertain about what to do now. Then I heard a loud rumbling in the tunnel. The smallest rotworm of the group popped out of the tunnel swaying its head from side to side. It looked as if it was waving at me, asking me to follow. And so I did. I crawled after the small rotworm whom I decided to name Shorty. He led me through a complex labyrinth of small tunnels until we reached a cosy chamber. The smell was exceedingly strong there but by then I had already gotten used to it. The other five rotworms were waiting for us in the centre of the chamber. They were grouped around a pile of rotten food and other waste. They greeted us with a mix of grunts and rhythmic body movements. With their heads, they pushed some rotten fruits towards me. I forced myself to drive away thoughts of how they had been able to bring food here without any arms... The fruit looked utterly disgusting and slimy. But oh well, it was not the first time in my adventurous life that I had to eat something abominable in order to survive. Nevertheless... it was horrible. Really, it was so gross that I thought I would lose my sense of taste forever. Yet, the rotworms seemed pleased and with loud grunts they dug into the pile of rotten delights. I think this event served as some kind of initiation rite into the group.
That was how my life among the rotworms started. During the following two months I observed them and their social behaviour closely. In fact, I was more than just an observer. I was a fully accepted member of their group, we were friends, we were soul mates, we were family. According to Humgolf, rotworms often live together in small groups similar to families though its members are not necessarily related by blood. Usually, a rotworm group is led by a carrion worm, however, there is hardly any hierarchical dominance. In my family, the fat carrion worm obviously was the leader but all group members treated each other with great respect. Sometimes they quarrelled over food but they never hurt each other.
Up to then, I had thought that rotworms all look alike but living together with them and seeing them at a close range proved me totally wrong. Each of them was unique in its own beautiful way, thus, it was no problem at all to distinguish them from each other. There was the big, fat carrion worm with the large mouth parts. I named him Chubby. Despite his massiveness, he had quite a gentle nature and seemed like a father watching over all his children. Lady was a carrion worm with an incredible beautiful skin, very soft and smooth. Therefore, I always imagined her to be female though I don't know whether or not female rotworms really exist. Covered with scars and bruises, Scarrot was a fierce rotworm fighter. A warrior with quite an aggressive temper sometimes, yet, willing to risk his own life for the sake of his family. Then there were Thelmo and Louis, two rotworms who always hung around together and shared every meal with each other. I think they had the most sincere friendship I have ever seen. Last but not least, there was Shorty, a very small and curious rotworm. I think he deeply admired Scarrot's strength and courage so he always tried to impress him by reckless actions.
Our daily life was mainly driven by searching for food and relaxing. Two groups of two always set out in the morning to look for food whereas the others stayed in our safe haven, usually dozing the day off or munching some rotten snacks. Whenever I remained in the chamber, I massaged the neck of the rotworms with me or danced a small chat.
To find food, you have to leave the mazy tunnel system and search through the caves. Unfortunately, the larger cave system is often crowded with adventurers looking for easy rotworm prey most of the day. So it is a very risky job, especially for the rotworms who never know if they make it back alive.
My family always tried to avoid encounters with humans. At least they never brought human corpses into the chamber. Maybe they preferred to munch them away right after a fight but I think they did not like them that much, or rather their taste. So they rather looked for rotten meat, fruits, and other waste products.
Late in the evening, the whole group usually gathered together in our chamber and we had a huge food feast. I still cannot praise myself enough for having been so clever to bring enough food supplies with me before I set out on my adventure. Since all rotworms are quite greedy when it comes to food, my family hardly ever noticed that I preferred my grandma's special power crackers to their rotten meals. As soon as all waste had been swallowed, there was an entertaining concert of burps and flatulent noises, and then everyone went to sleep for some hours. In many cold nights I snuggled into Chubby's warm skin masses. Ah, what a bliss!
I still remember the day when I left the chamber for the first time. I was accompanied by Chubby, my protector. Unfortunately, we got attacked by an adventurer on our tour through the caves. I tried to warn the guy by begging him to leave the rotworms alone but I could not convince him. So I had to witness his tragic death. I could not help but sank on my knees shedding a few tears. Chubby came close to me and I think somehow he noticed my uneasiness. He gave me a soft nudge and pointed his head towards his back. I climbed on his skin masses and he brought me back to the chamber. From then on, I only went out together with Chubby and he always evaded each and every fight with a human.
We also had to stand up to other rotworm groups and it was more than once that Chubby had to protect me against their hunger with all his might. In contrast to my family, they probably considered me a tasty meal.
One day, Chubby and I came across two young carrion worms. One of them was fighting against a heavily injured rotworm while his companion gulped down the corpse of another rotworm they had killed already. I was totally shocked to see cannibalism among these creatures. Chubby was almost as shocked as I was and immediately started to send out strong and furious vibrations. The earth shook tremendously. The two cannibals were obviously impressed by Chubby's size and anger so they crawled away quickly. Nevertheless, we could not save the injured rotworm. Big chunks of flesh had been bitten out his body exposing his inner parts. He breathed a last cloud of horrible, foul stench and then he died. While Chubby slowly brought piles of earth with his mouth to bury the corpse, I took the opportunity to do some anatomic research and made a sketch of the rotworm's inner structure. On this day, I had to realise that whatever has a good side, also has a bad one. Yet, I was sure that nothing like that could happen among my family.
And then came the day I had to leave my family and return to my own kind. This decision, however, was preceded by a sad and tragic event. Shorty's curiosity had often brought him into danger but Scarrot was always able to rescue him. One day, though, he was too late. Shorty had gone out alone to find food and got trapped by a group of strong adventurers. He did not stand a chance. As we found his dead body, Scarrot let out a loud, painful growl. Enraged and full of distress, he crawled away immediately to track the attackers down. We could not keep up with his pace.
The earth around his corpse was full of blood, parts of his body were grilled and the whole place smelled like burned skin. I'm sure a fierce fight had taken place. Yet, not even Scarrot, never beaten once until then, could survive the deadly magic attacks of those humans. I still don't know why they had hunted in that cave, they were so strong that they could easily take down dragons. But no, they had to slaughter peaceful rotworms instead. We buried the corpses of Shorty and Scarrot and a huge earthquake shook the cave... it was a rotworm lament of breathtaking dimensions.
I left my family a few days later. Our good-bye was a sad dance in slow motion. I covered Chubby with tears and then... one last hug and... farewell, dear friends. But I had to go since I felt a sudden need to share my observations about the true nature of rotworms with other humans. My insights into the social behaviour of rotworms may help to convince people to approach these creatures without hostility. And to treat them with respect as a thinking and feeling being. I know that I am a dreamer but I'm not the only one – I'm sure about that.
I'm back and I feel a new fire burning inside of me. Rotworms have given me so much. The long hours spent with them in the caves have enriched my life beyond measure. What I have learned from them has opened my mind and soul, and put them at ease. And through this letter I want to share my observations with all Tibians. My mission is not accomplished yet. This was just the beginning... I can't wait to study the social behaviour of other species since it was there among those wild creatures that I felt one with nature, and experienced true friendship and happiness.
Until we meet again, I remain your faithful friend,