Swamp of Phantoms (Part Nine)

(If you are new to this story you can find Part One here!)

‘Gods be damned,’ spat Jethrin as Yakov’s trembling form burst out from the depths of the cloud. His armour was in tatters, his skin sickly pale and he was all but crawling across the mud towards them. Worst of all were his eyes. They were wide and staring, yet at what he could not tell. The man had been in the cloud all of fifteen minutes yet he was clearly exhausted. His body and mind were completely spent.

It was Lev that rushed forwards, pulling a loose blanket from a pile of supplies and wrapping it around his friend’s shoulders. Yakov punched out at him as he tried to pull him to his feet, his fingers curled into claws scratching at thin air like a man in mortal peril.

‘Damn it Yakov,’ yelled Lev as he felt the man’s fingers digging deep into his leg. His grip was feeble and Lev easily shook him off but the shock of the scout’s sudden appearance rippled out across the gathered soldiers. No words were exchanged, only frightened looks.

Lord Drovalak vaulted down from his horse, approaching the fallen soldier and pulling his bastard sword to bear as he drew closer. Lev looked up at his approaching lord, his hand quivering at the hilts of his own sword.

‘Do not even think it, boy,’ growled Odius, staring Lev down. Lev was taller and more powerfully built than Odius but the man’s determination was enough to tell him that he didn’t stand a chance. Diligently the soldier slunk away, lowering his head in shame. Lord Drovalak did not even acknowledge the soldier’s cowardice as he brought his sword to bear over the shaking form of the scout.

‘Blood…’ spluttered Yakov, his voice weary from screaming. ‘Blood everywhere! Get it off me! Get it off me!’

‘What blood?’ asked Odius, lowering his sword. ‘What are you gibbering about, fool?’

‘They’re dead, they’re not dead,’ said Yakov, staring up into the dark sky. ‘They’re dead, they’re not dead.’

‘Make sense damn you,’ said Odius swinging his sword at the scout. Lev made to walk forward and defend his friend but it was a weak gesture at best. The sword came crashing down where Odius had planned it to, right beside the scout’s head. Just as the sword crashed into the sodden earth it was as though a spell had been broken. Yakov’s eyes narrowed and his breathing returned to normal. He turned to face the blade that was mere inches from his head then rolled aside and pulled himself to his feet.

Jethrin and the other soldiers looked on in open-mouthed confusion at the sudden reversal. Even Odius seemed stunned by the suddenness of the scout’s recovery. The only one that appeared entirely lost as to what was going on was Yakov himself who stood, and stared at the others with a look of indignation as though he had just been the butt of some unfunny joke the punch line to which he was not privy to.

‘What’s going on?’ he asked, ‘What are you looking at?’

Lord Drovalak wiped his brow. He could feel a headache coming on. He could hear frantic mutterings from the soldiers, and he was sure that while most were as confused as he was a fair few were more interested in the fact that he had just drawn his sword on a fallen subordinate. How long he wondered before they stab me in the back.

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About A. R. Whitehead

I'm an aspiring author, with a degree in English and Creative Writing. I love books, comics, games and film. My favourite genres are Science Fiction and Fantasy.
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