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Authors: Robert Swindells

Inside the Worm

BOOK: Inside the Worm
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About the Book

Title Page


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

About the Author

Also by Robert Swindells


About the Book

The worm was close now. So close Fliss could smell the putrid stench of its breath. Its slavering jaws gaped to engulf her …

Everyone in Elsworth knows the local legend about the monstrous worm – or dragon – that once terrorised the village. But it never really happened. Or did it? For when Fliss and her friends are chosen to re-enact the legend for the village Festival, something very sinister begins to happen.

Hidden within the framework of the worm costume, the four who are to play the part of the worm dance as one across the ground. They are the worm. And Fliss begins to feel real fear. Somehow the worm itself is returning – with a thousand-year hunger in its belly, and a burning desire for vengeance …

Inside the Worm

Robert Swindells

Illustrated by Jon Riley

For Nan
fighting her dragon


hand up. ‘Why's it called a worm if it was a dragon, Sir?'

Mr Hepworth nodded. ‘Good point, Felicity. To us today, the word “worm” conjures up a picture of a small, pink, harmless creature, doesn't it? But in Anglo-Saxon times, dragons and other reptilian monsters were often called worms, so the word would have had pretty dreadful connotations for them. The worm which terrorized Elsworth is said to have been a chain in length and five feet high at the shoulder.'

‘How long's a chain, Sir?' asked Grant Cooper.

‘Sixty-six feet. That's roughly twenty-two metres.'

‘Phew – some worm!'

‘Well yes, exactly. And five feet at the shoulder – that's like a fairly big horse, and then there'd be the neck and head, so we're not talking about something you could chop in bits with a garden spade.' The class tittered.

‘And Saint Ceridwen went out by herself to face it, Sir?'

‘Yes, Marie, she did. She wasn't a saint then, of course – just a village maiden – but she was devoutly religious and believed that God would empower her to overcome the worm, which she called an agent of Satan.'

‘I wouldn't have gone, Sir.'

‘No, Marie, and neither would I. We don't have Ceridwen's faith, you see.'

‘Is it a true story, Sir? I mean, I thought there were no such things as dragons.'

The teacher smiled. ‘There are no dragons now, Marie, but this was a thousand years ago, so who knows? Ceridwen certainly existed, and she must have done something pretty remarkable because we know she'd become the most important person in the district by the time she was martyred by the Danes in nine ninety-three.'

David Trotter raised his hand. ‘How did she kill the worm, Sir?'

‘She didn't. According to the legend, the moment the beast touched the hem of Ceridwen's skirt it
became docile, whereupon she commanded it to begone. It slunk away on to the fen and was never seen again.'

Gary Bazzard grinned. ‘It might still be out there, Sir.'

‘I doubt it, Gary. Elsworth's got you now – it doesn't need another monster.'

‘Sir,' said Fliss. ‘Why did the Danes kill Ceridwen?'

The teacher shrugged. ‘The Danes were pagans, Felicity. When they overran this area they demanded that Ceridwen worship their gods and order her people to do the same. She refused, so they hacked off her limbs and beheaded her.'

‘Ugh! And this was exactly a thousand years ago, and that's why the town's having this Festival?'

Mr Hepworth nodded. ‘That's correct, and the vicar of St Ceridwen's has invited our school to be involved in various ways, and Mrs Evans and I decided we'd ask Year Eight to perform a re-enactment of Ceridwen's encounter with the worm, and of her martyrdom. It's a great honour – the eyes of the whole town will be on us, so obviously we want to make a first-class job of it and it's all got to be ready in three weeks.'

‘So it'll be sort of like doing a play, Sir?'

‘That's right, Maureen, and the idea is that you people take a lot of the responsibility yourselves for producing it. Mrs Evans and I will be around if you
need us, of course, but we expect you to write a script, do the casting, see to props and costumes and so forth. I think you'll enjoy the experience, but I want you to remember at all times that your finished effort will be seen by practically everybody in Elsworth, so the reputation of Bottomtop Middle is in your hands. That's all, I think. You can go now, and start work as soon as you like.'

‘I'm playing the Boss Viking!' cried Gary Bazzard, as Year Eight spilled on to the playground. ‘And I'll hack the limbs off anyone who argues.'

Fliss pulled a face at Lisa. ‘Old Hepworth must be mad, putting the school's reputation in the hands of guys like him.'

Lisa laughed. ‘Gary's a loudmouth, but he's OK. We can always gang up on him – tell him we've got him down to play Ceridwen in a blonde wig and a long white dress.'

That night, Fliss had a dream. In her dream the worm came slithering out of the fenland mist with a thousand-year hunger in its belly and vengeance in its brain and she, cast as Ceridwen by the votes of all her friends, was sent to stand defenceless in its path.


the play on Monday. Lunchtime Tuesday there was a class meeting to get the thing off the ground. No teachers were present, though Mrs Evans kept buzzing in and out because they were using her room.

‘Right. Now – first things first.' Sarah-Jane Potts, who'd done some acting with a local amateur group, seemed to be chairing the meeting. ‘Where will this play be performed?'

‘On the Festival Field,' said Tara Matejak. ‘Mr Hepworth said so.'

‘So the audience will be all round us and there'll be some noise as well. That affects how we arrange
ourselves on stage, and it means we'll really have to speak up.'

‘I've got this very powerful voice,' said Gary Bazzard. ‘It's a Viking Chief's voice, really.'

Sarah-Jane had been tipped off by Lisa and was ready for him. ‘Ah well, you can just forget it, Bazzard. We're having a girl for Viking Chief.'

‘A girl?' cried Gary. ‘You can't. Viking chiefs commanded hundreds of men. They fought and killed and everybody was scared of them. You name me one girl who could do all that.'

‘How about Boudicca?'


‘Boudicca, queen of the Iceni. She led an army against the Romans. And then there's Cartimandua, queen of the Brigante. She fought the Romans too.'

‘You're making it up. You'll be telling me next that Arnold Schwarzenegger never goes anywhere without his knitting.'

‘I'm not, and I won't,' retorted Sarah-Jane. ‘But the Viking Chief's a girl, and that's that.'

‘Which girl?' Gary wasn't about to give up.

‘We don't know. We haven't voted yet.'

When they did vote, Gemma got the part. As the result was being announced, Mrs Evans walked in. ‘Don't forget your understudies, Sarah-Jane,' she said.

‘No way, Miss,' said Sarah-Jane, though she had forgotten.

‘What're understudies?' asked Barry Tune.

Mrs Evans smiled. ‘An understudy is someone who learns the part of a leading actor or actress, so that he or she can step in and play the part if the star falls ill. It's important to have understudies for all your leading roles – any teacher will tell you that.' She found the book she'd come for and left the room. The class then voted, and Maureen O'Connor was chosen as understudy.

And so it went on. There was consolation for Gary when the class made him worm's head. ‘You get to roar, bare your fangs and breathe fire,' Lisa told him. ‘What more could anyone ask?'

‘If Gary's part of the worm, I want to be in it too,' said David Trotter. He and Gary were best friends. There would be four people in the worm, but there was no voting except for the head. Trot's offer was accepted, and Ellie-May Sunderland and Lisa got the two remaining places. Fliss landed the best part of all, beating Samantha by one vote to play Ceridwen, with Samantha as understudy.

After the allocation of supporting roles, Year Eight turned its attention to the problem of costume. It was decided that people would be responsible for designing and making their own costumes, though some children who were good at sewing would stand by to help if needed. The worm must be twenty-two metres long, and light enough for four
people to operate. ‘Trouble is, it'll have eight legs,' said Gary. ‘Real dragons have four.'

BOOK: Inside the Worm
5.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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