I wrote the following story to accompany this illustration.
The body of the last of the warrior-creatures finally crashed to the ground at Red's feet. Its head fell a second later, a few feet away.
Exhausted by her battle with the multiple monsters - she'd tallied six before she lost count - Red stumbled down a steep decline she hadn't realized was there.
Painfully, Red climbed back to her feet, sore in every limb and bleeding from several wounds inflicted by the swords, spikes, and in a couple of cases the teeth and claws, of her recent opponents. She looked around, and realized that this was a part of Hell she didn't recognize.
Granted, when she awoke from death this time, naked and unarmed as usual, she barely had time to realize she was back in the netherworld before she was set upon by a horde of misshapen monsters, each standing at least seven feet tall, heavily armored, and brandishing the most fiendish-looking weapons she'd ever seen. That she was still alive - if just barely - was a tribute to her highly developed fighting skills, her quick reflexes, and her remarkable strength and resiliency.
But she was certain of one thing: this time, she'd been sent to an unfamiliar corner of Hell. She had no idea how long it would take her to find her way back to the living world; indeed, she couldn't even reliably guess which way to go.
She surveyed her surroundings. Coarse sand of a dark purplish-brown hue covered the ground as far as she could see; here and there the ground was riven with vents that belched forth great gouts of sulfurous fire (this, at least, was all too familiar to Red). Well, she thought, the only way to find the correct route is to simply set out in some direction.
Hardly had she taken more than a couple of steps, though, when the sand beneath her bare feet collapsed!
Surprisingly, however, she sank only down to her waist; but what she had sunk into was not sand, but a leathern tube-like structure that secreted a clear viscous slime. Suddenly she felt pain as of several knife-points sinking to the flesh of her waist and lower back, and saw herself being lifted some three feet out of the pit.
Red looked down and saw, to her horror, that she had been caught in the mouth of a giant worm-like creature! Its skin was yellow, and blotched all over with white and black like the deadly poisonous salamanders of Frawadu. Its body was studded with pustules that occasionally squirted a sickly yellow, pus-like fluid. it had, disturbingly, no visible eyes. Its mouth, however, was as wide as its body and lined with the teeth that were now encircling Red's waist.
All these details Red could apprehend in a split-second, however, as the hell-worm opened its mouth, releasing Red only long enough to let her drop a little farther down its gullet before it closed around her torso again, this time around her breasts and back.
This thing means to swallow me alive and whole! Red barely had time to lift her arms up so that they were free of the mouth; she slid her hands into the slimy orifice and attempted to force the mouth open. She was hampered, however, by the fact that the creature had no jaws as such; its mouth closed sphincter-like around her chest.
She struggled to at least prevent the slug-like thing from swallowing her further, but the fatigue stemming from her recent battle with the horde of warrior-monsters had depleted her considerable strength. So intent on her efforts to free herself was she, however, that she didn't notice a second hell worm rising from a pit just a few paces away...
This drawing actually began as a panel on this page of my webcomic Red the Paladin Against the Queen of the Star Monsters. The middle two panels of that page constitute a flashback to Red's most recent escape from Hell, including the warrior-monsters alluded to above, and her near-fatal encounter with the "Hellworm". (and I'm gonna be pissed if I find out the name "Hellworm" has already been used!)
I'm proud enough of how this panel turned out, though, that I decided to post it as a stand-alone illustration.
Pumpmonger's comments (from this illustration's DeviantArt page)
"I always love how you capture the mix of Red. Strong but vulnerable, soft and powerful, heroic but cursed, and beautiful!"
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Artwork © David C. Matthews
Red the Paladin created by and © Pumpmonger
Red the Paladin created by and © Pumpmonger