The things I do for money…
Faced with the choice of going hungry or getting a real job, I had to wonder which was worse. Then, my luck changed when I heard about this old abandoned temple. Seemed like a simple job. Get in, grab some treasure, and get out of this one-horse town and back to enjoying life.
Of course, there was the small matter of the temple being in the middle of the swamp, the ferocious creatures living there, and my arch-rival trying to get to the treasure first. Oh, and did I mention the temple was cursed?
Looks like my luck’s running about normal here. But rivals and curses can be overcome . . . if you don’t mind getting your blades a little dirty.
It seemed like a simple task—well, as simple as stealing something from a cursed temple gets.
The day found me wading through the Vectis swamp, spending half of my time forcing my way through the muck and the other half swatting away bugs the size of small rodents. Taking a short break, I wiped the muck off my blade and glanced at my surroundings. The overgrown morass I was passing through resembled an alien landscape, filled with mist and strange plants. This particular area was covered in cattails, giving the ground the appearance of a submerged porcupine.
A sudden roar startled me out of my reverie. A large lizard—its mottled green and brown scales providing effective camouflage against the dark background of the swamp—voiced its objection to my presence and charged from behind a sagging tree. It’s amazing the minor details that go through your mind when death approaches. I could almost feel time slowing down to a crawl. It was a familiar feeling, one that comes from being in situations like this before. I could clearly see the water drops falling from its razor-sharp claws as it closed in on me.
I braced, admiring its freedom of movement even as my own legs fought against sinking deeper in the mud and water I stood in. I felt the rush of adrenaline, and my body moved even before I realized how close the creature had gotten. I stepped to the right at the last second and brought my blade down on the back of its neck, nearly severing its head. The five-foot-long creature crumpled at my feet, black blood oozing into the damp earth. Only when it had stopped twitching and I was sure it didn’t have any other buddies lurking around did I notice my hands were shaking. No matter how much I might have trained as a youth, nothing can prepare you for that instant when you either live or die.
I prefer to fight with a rapier. It’s an elegant weapon, but useless in the tall grass and vines I was traversing. Once I knew I was going into the swamp, I’d decided to take a falchion, its heavier blade reminiscent of a huge meat cleaver with a hilt. I wouldn’t want to fence with it, but as a chopping instrument, it proved useful against both the vegetation and the thick-hided inhabitants of the swamp.
After my heart rate settled down, I took quick stock of the situation. I wasn’t missing any body parts, the creature was dead, I was still stuck in the middle of a swamp, and there was water in my boots. All in all, about the best I could have hoped for given the situation. I cleaned my weapon on the creature’s scaly skin, wiped the perspiration off my brow, and pondered how I got into this situation.