Part Fourteen                                                             July 29, 2016


All his years of playing by the swamp and living in the woods made his movement swift.  It was night and the world was nearly invisible to his sight.  He knew the river flowed east and he had to stay near it to find the Bard campus, but it seemed such a dangerous route.  It wasn’t just the rogues he had to worry about, but the cylindrical creatures that ate his friend Dillon, or, he may meet the witch that Angus spoke of.  His left hand felt along the outstretching limbs of the trees and brush as he passed them.  The pine needle-covered ground he was accustomed to walking on became spongy with the feel of snake grass.  He took another step—he heard a splash—he quickly pulled the sole of his foot out of the muddy water.  With the greatest of care he moved backwards.  He prodded the ground before him so as not to fall into the water that lay hidden underneath the tall grass.  He found a dry spot and stepped onto it.  He kept prodding until he found himself surrounded by water.  Exhausted, he sat down on a small hammock.  He wondered whether the bluish-grey creatures would find him, or some other meat-eating monsters.  Open-eyed he stared into the black night, waiting for the light.

At the crack of dawn the land began to form into recognisable shapes around him.    He got up and carefully made his way towards the forest.  He was too tired now to care what came after him.  He walked with a slight limp because the soles of his feet ached from carrying the rogues’ sacks.  For awhile he just went on without any specific thought.  The only thing he forced himself to concentrate on was to go east, towards the Bard campus, as he sang under his breath.

As the sky darkened into twighlight he heard the sound of someone, or something crashing through the woods towards a moonlit pond.  He felt around desperately for a tree or bush to hide behind.  The sound of scraping branches grew louder until the human, or creature was nearly in front of him.  First he noticed the face.  Human but with skin so taut he could see every outline of the skull.  The creature’s eyes probed the earth with the blue beams.  The skin of the torso stretched over the ribs as taut as the skin of its face was over its skull.  Vine-like muscles twitched every time it stepped.  Three long toes protruded from each foot.  The toes were tipped with eagle-sized talons.  The beam moved closer to him.  He could see a forth toe, shorter than the front ones, protruding from the heel.

He ducked behind a tree.  Listening intently he could hear the creature sniffing.  He peaked around the trunk of the tree and saw the creature head towards the pond.  The beams disappeared.  It snorted and began moving away.

He saw a soft green haze coming from the centre of the pond.  A female head emerged from the water.  As she stepped out of the pond he could see that her hair hung far below her waist.  She kept low to the ground as she moved in the direction of the creature.

He could hear the creature mumbling as it urinated onto a bush.  The girl, or women, moved with the stealth of a fox.  She came closer to the creature.  In her hand he saw a stone dagger.  As she moved farther from the pond she became less visible.

The creature finished and began to turn around when the female stabbed at its chest.  But the dagger only dug in through the flesh before the creature grabbed her wrist.  It hissed at her as she tried to wriggle out of its grip.  The creature belted her with its free hand but did not let her go.  As the two struggled in and out of the light of the glowing pond Bran moved closer and closer.

He edged around the pond to get away when the girl screamed!  He saw the creature force her to her knees.  It bent the tip of the stone dagger towards her neck and with its free hand tore at her abdomen.  Her skin, a glistening green colour, ripped open at her abdomen and red blood streamed out.  Bran could hardly hold himself back.  Her head bent and twisted in pain.  The creature forced her onto her back and began to lick the blood that flowed from her stomach with a long, thin blue tongue.  Bran hesitated.  Part of him remembered his promise after seeing his comrade killed, another part of him wanted to run.  The female screamed out again.  He began to see images of the green-eyed girl, when his two undead schoolmates were throwing rocks at her.  The creature brought the tip of the stone dagger closer to the female’s throat.

Bran bit his lower lip in uncertainty.  He told himself he is a man—no longer a boy, but a man.  With all the rage he could muster he charged with his dagger held high.

The creature let go of the female’s wrist.  Bran could see its eyes begin to alight with the blue beam.  Speckles of blue covered its white eyes.  Bran instinctively closed his eyes as he jumped at it.  A clawed hand crashed into his chest as his dagger dug deep into its neck.  The creature screamed and dropped the girl’s stone dagger.  It hit Bran again and he went sailing back.  Again Bran hesitated.  The creature did not seem in great pain, for it did not make a sound, but stared at him with a look of annoyance.  The girl did not wait.  She grabbed the stone dagger and rolled onto her feet.  The creature shifted its gaze to her.  As it did, she drove the dagger into its chest.  The blow went deep.  The creature wavered.  It grabbed the hilt of the dagger but its body began to go limp before it could pull the blade out.  Its eyes speckled blue and white, before filling with blood.  Blood spilt out from its chest wound as it stumbled backwards, and fell.  He watched in horror as its body squirmed.  The death dance, as his father had once told him.  Beads of blood began to pile at the sides of its mouth, piling until the blood flowed over the taut skin of its face.

The female’s head jolted towards him.  He staggered backwards.  He went to raise his dagger in defence but it was still in the creature’s neck.  The female stepped closer to him.  He could see that under her long hair she was naked.  Small, pointy breasts peaked through the curtains of her hair.  Her navel was bare and when he looked lower he could see the curly green pubic hairs of womanhood.  Her body was lithe with defined stomach muscles were the gash in her abdomen sealed before his eyes.  He breathed deeply, trying to calm the hammering of his heart.

The healing of her wound became insignificant from the overwhelming essence of her naked body.  He had seen naked women at waterholes, but none with a body like hers.  He felt himself drawn to her.  A sense of manhood unfamiliar to him overcame his other senses.  He stepped forward with the intention of caressing her body, and filling his lips with hers.  His body felt powerful and his breath grew heavier.  She appeared to him now as only a body of sensual smell, and touch.  He reached out to touch her when he felt a slight burning sensation against his chest.

Forcing himself to overcome his desire, he looked into her eyes.  “Are you the witch?” he asked awkwardly.  She gave no reply so he just stood and stared into her hazel eyes that glimmered with youthful life.  Still, there was a deeper abyss behind that youthful sparkle.  Her eyes were so deep he wondered if he would become lost in them.

“I am no more a witch than thou,” she said with an ethereal voice.  With thin, but strong arms she began dragging the body of the creature towards the pond.

Bran stood, watching in dumb amazement.  “You’re going to eat it?” he asked, his voice cracking with puberty.

She eyed him quizzically.  “I am an ancient thing, love.  I live here, and this,” she pointed at the creature, “is a Larker.  He would surely eat me if he could, for then he would have my power.  Instead I will eat him, and have eaten many of his kind.  So I become more powerful.”

“If you hunt each other, than who is the monster?” Bran asked with a shiver.  As he looked at her, terror pulsed through his bones.  She seemed so beautiful, so innocent, not much more than a teenager.

“Neither of us are monsters, this is just how it is.”  She turned away from him and bent over the Larker.  “You look tired my love.  Why don’t you lie beside my pond?”   He sat and watched her roll the Larker into the pond before descending herself.

He felt like a bizarre dream had come to an end as her hair floated on the top of the water.  What world was this, he wondered.  He knew of orcs, had heard of ogres, but these creatures, they were fairytales.  He sat down in front of the pond and stared intently into it.  The green glow began to fade until all that was left was an olive coloured haze over the surface.  This trip is unreal he told himself.  He sighed and lay down beside the pond.  No monsters, no rogues—no the rogues were real, Angus, Harold, Dwight, Plaglo, they were all real.  He could accept their existence.  He closed his eyes.  A sound came from the pond; but he was too tired to look.

“Sleeping beside me, are you?” came the female’s ethereal voice.

“You’re not real,” he said looking up at her.  He stared deeply into her eyes as his mind tried to accept, that she was real.

Her left hand moved onto his abdomen up to his chest.  “Not real,” she breathed.  She lifted her face up to his.  She smiled.  He saw succulent lips and tiny teeth.  She grasped his cheeks and bent his mouth up to hers while her right hand grabbed a hold of his left hand and placed it between her small breasts.  “You’re surely the youngest one,” she sighed.

He did not kiss her back, nor did his hands roam her tempting body.  His body rebelled even though it wanted this slender woman with the beautiful smile.  His boyish desire would be to roam her breasts and below her navel but his body could not win over his heart; he pushed her back.

Her hazel eyes glared at him.  Her tiny teeth bit together.  He wondered if she would strike him, but the tenseness he felt from her eased.  She looked down at his chest.  Her lithe fingers unbuttoned his shirt.  “So, you are taken,” she said.  She re-buttoned his shirt, careful not to touch the jewel.  Smiling with sad eyes she kissed his lips.  “You are the first,” she said.  She thudded the broad side of his dagger onto his chest.  He suddenly felt healthy.  “Wherever you go….,” she began but instead shook her head and began to slip back into the water.  Wide-eyed, he watched her disappear once again.

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