The Dying Light (Part 4)

lantern, light, rustic

Nathaniel braced himself for going outside. He could hear the wind and the rain knocking against the lighthouse door.

‘We’ll need the lantern again,’ Tom’s voice called from behind him.

Nathaniel glanced over his shoulder as the old station master lit the candle and closed the lantern’s door.

‘I won’t need to take my case. Just a few things,’ Nathaniel announced.

Opening his case on the floor, because there was nowhere else to search through it, Nathaniel dug out a large cross, a bible and a small bottle of Holy Water. Pausing he debated what else to take. He had never done this before, he was not that kind of religious man and he was more use to standing before the congregation and leading them in hymens and prayers.

‘You ready now, Father?’ Tom’s voice spoke out.

Nathaniel nodded and closed his case. Then he followed Tom to the door and they both stepped out into the bad weather. The wind blew hard around them, making sounds like a crying person as it swept around the marsh. Rain hit and blinded them, making the walk down the rock steps difficult. The candle flame in the lantern flickered and Tom had to hold the side with the broken panel close to him to stop the light from going out.

Slowly they arrived at the edge of the low bridge and Nathaniel blinked away the rain in his eyes. He could hardly see though and he thought for a few moments he could hear the very distant sea pounding on the rocky shore. The light from the lighthouse flashed by and for a few seconds, Nathaniel thought it was lightening and the sound he had mistaken for the sea had actually been thunder. Then though he looked up and saw the lighthouse beam turning slowly around.

‘Here is good,’ Nathaniel said trying to be bold.

‘I thought you might want to go more in the middle!’ Tom shouted over the wind, ‘closer to where the boy died.’

‘And where did he-?’ Nathaniel cried then the words were snatched from his mouth by a gust of wind.

‘No one knows for sure, but further out,’ Tom concluded after the wind finished whipping them.

Gritting his teeth, Nathaniel walked on, feeling the bridge under his feet and clutching the cross, bible and bottle to his chest. After a few paces he stopped again.

‘This is good enough! Bring the light here!’ he called out.

Tom moved closer till their shoulders were touching and they could huddle over the bible and lantern together.

‘What was the boy’s name?’ Nathaniel asked.

‘Paul, I believe!’ Tom shouted.

‘Paul? To the spirit of Paul, if you are out here, we do not mean you any harm, we wish to help you. Come towards us,’ Nathaniel began, ‘your sister has been worried about you for so many years, but now it’s time you went towards the light and up into Heaven. Your family is awaiting for you there. You will not have to be lonely or lost ever again.

Nathaniel paused for breath and felt Tom shivering violent beside him. A worrying thought entered Nathaniel’s mind; he did not two deaths in his hands tonight. Swallowing water that tasted salty, he held out the cross and hoped he was doing this right.

‘Paul come towards us now! Let us help you cross over! Go into the light, rise up to the Holy Father and Mother. I release you from this Earth and into their hands. Go now and be at peace!’

Giving the cross a little wave, Nathaniel then tucked it back in the crook of his arm and palmed the bottle of Holy water. Carefully he unscrewed the lid and let a few drops fall out before closing the bottle again. The wind snatched the Holy water drops away and mingled them with the rain. Whatever power they might have had seemed lost but Nathaniel hung on to his faith.

‘I bless this place!’ Nathaniel screamed into the wind, ‘I release all the spirits that have lingered! Go into Heaven! Go and be at peace! Go!’

The wind howled and pushed hard against them as more rain flooding down on them. Tom lost his footing and waved his arms around to try and keep his balance. The lantern light waved and flickered around. Nathaniel grabbed and held on to him, struggling to juggle the things in his hands too.

Somehow, they steadied each other and the light candle survived. Pushing Tom ahead of him, they made their way back to the rock steps. Behind him, Nathaniel swore he could hear people crying but it must have been the wind. Feeling their way up the rocks, like tried and injured sailors, they reached the lighthouse door.

Tom opened the door and they tumbled in, slamming the door shut and fighting the wind as they locked it. Tom set the lantern and himself down on the first step. Nathaniel slumped against the door and they both caught their breaths back.

‘Is it done?’ Tom finally asked.

‘I did my best,’ Nathaniel answered, ‘though with the storm it was hard to tell anything.’

Tom nodded, ‘best go up and tell her.’

Collecting the lantern again, Tom started climbing the stairs.

Nathaniel opened his case and placed the now wet cross, bible and bottle inside. Closing it again, he picked up the worn handle and trailed after Tom upstairs. Water dripped off them and back down the steps. In the quietness of the lighthouse they could both hear the storm now raging outside.

They reached Mrs. Fitz and found her comfortable in bed still.

‘It’s done,’ Nathaniel said coming to her side and sitting down.

The dying woman didn’t reply.

Nathaniel took her hand which she had just slipped back under the blanket. He patted the warm skin and began praying, whispering the words softly with a bowed head.

Tom moved to the other side of the bed, the handle of the lantern tightly clutched in both his hands. The candle flame still glowing behind the glass.

Nathaniel finished his prayer and just as he was about to start another, Mrs Fitz’s fading voice uttered, ‘thank you, Father.’

‘Your welcome. Sleep now,’ Nathaniel whispered back then he took up the Lord’s Prayer.

The storm carried on through the night, seemingly attacking the lighthouse but the building had stood for hundreds of years and was well use to taking on bad weather. As dawn finally broke, grey and watery, the wind quieted down and the rain turned back into a light drizzle.

Nathaniel finished his final prayer and looked up at Mrs Fitz’s face. She was gone.

Tom, having placed the lantern down hours ago when the candle had finally melted and go out, drew up a blanket and lay it over her face.

Nathaniel took in a few deep breaths and moved his stiff body. He stood up slowly, feeling weighed down by numb limbs.

‘Thank you, father,’ Tom whispered, ‘I know she will be fine now.’

‘Of course. She is at peace,’ Nathaniel said.

‘I shall walk you back to the station and signal a train to stop for you,’ Tom spoke out.

‘Thank you,’ Nathaniel replied as he collected his case, ‘might I go to the top of the lighthouse first?’

Tom glanced up then with a single nod turned towards the stairs. They went up and on the fourth floor was another bedroom this time with a double bed and dust growing thickly across everything. They went up again and Tom opened a heavy metal door and stepped out.

Nathaniel followed, feeling cold and wet air sweeping passed him. The huge light of the lighthouse which had now gone out dominated the roof floor. A rusty railing ran around the edge stopping anyone from falling off. Nathaniel went to over and looked out. Far in the distance, he thought he could make out the sea but all around him was the marsh. A stillness had settled over the tall grasses and stagnate water pools now, bring a calmness that seemed heavenly.

Nathaniel took a few deep breaths then thought he heard the sound of playful children laughing somewhere below him in the marshlands.

The End

The Dying Light (Part 3)

lantern, light, rustic

Nathaniel waited on the doorstep to the lighthouse listening to the rain and wind picking up. He knocked again, louder this time then felt a chill go up his spine.

What if I’m too late? he thought.

He reached for the door handle and tried it, the simple brass knob turned and the door opened on squeaky hinges. He shone the lantern in and though he had not given much thought to what he would find inside the lighthouse, he was pleasantly surprised.

Many years ago, someone had re-done up the lighthouse and turned into in a comfy home. The ground floor had been made into seem like the front hallway of a house. A light bulb with a white shade on it hung down from the ceiling. The walls were painted pale blue. A handmade rug covered a large area of the floor, an empty wooden hat stand stood next to wall hooks that held three coats and a small wire framed rack on the floor held a collection of boots and shoes.

Nathaniel collected his case and stepped inside. The stone spiraling stairs were straight ahead of him attracted to the wall on his left. Next to the stairs was a small table that held a very old fashioned phone and a vase of fake red roses. Then he spotted a totally out of place door set into the far wall with a little sign reading bathroom. He pondered this then wondered if he should take his coat and shoes off.

Footsteps sounded on the stairs, catching his attention.

An old man appeared coming down. He wearing a white shirt, blue jacket and blue trousers. A scrubby beard covered the lower half of his face and his blue eyes flashed with worry and panic.

‘Are you him?’ the old man cried, ‘Father Tawny?’

Nathaniel nodded, ‘yes, I am.’

‘I’m Tom, the station master…well, retired now. The trains don’t stop here any more. But I still volunteer from time to time. I was meant to meet you. But Mrs. Fitz, she begged me to stay with her in case she passed before you came,’ Tom gushed.

‘And is she…?’ Nathaniel trailed.

‘Hanging on, just about though…’ Tom added in a dropped voice.

‘Then I must- here,’ Nathaniel said and give the lantern to Tom, ‘Sorry, I stole it and broke it. I would not have made it across that marsh without it though, thank the Lord.’

Tom stared at the lantern as if he had never seen it before then nodded his head. He blew out the candle and placed the lantern down next to the table.

‘Come up, then,’ he spoke.

The old station master turned and led Nathaniel up the stairs. The first floor was a kitchen with the cooker, sink, work tops and cupboards special made to fit the rounded walls. A small fridge and freeze took up all the room under the stairs. A small table and two chairs stood in the middle. Above the sink was a net curtained window.

They carried up to the second floor which was a living room, once again the furniture had been made to fit the round walls. There was a sofa, an armchair, a TV stand, cupboards and a bookcase. Carpet covered the floor and wall lamps lit up the room. A window above the sofa had a curtain half drawn across it. Nathaniel marveled at it all. The place seemed so homely.

They climbed the third section of the spiral staircase and arrived in a dimly light room.

‘This is it. The bedroom,’ Tom pointed out as he came to a stop.

Nathaniel give a nod. Two small single beds was opposite them, bedside tables were either side with lamps on them, there was a small dressing table and a wardrobe tucked under the staircase which carried on upwards. A window was slotted between the two beds, a dark curtain pulled tightly across it.

‘Mrs. Fitz?’ Tom said softly and moved to the first bed.

Nathaniel followed him and saw an old woman laying in the bed. The blankets were pulled up tight around her so that only her face poked out. A white night cap was on her head, keeping her hair back. She seemed to be struggling to awake.

‘Sit down, Father,’ Tom said indicting a rickety wooden chair next to the bed.

Nathaniel placed his case down and sat.

‘Mrs Fitz? I’m Father Tawny. Shall we prayer together?’

The dying old woman’s eyes eased open and looked up at him.

‘Yes,’ she breathed through dry cracked lips, ‘but first you must do something for me.’

‘Yes?’

‘Hundreds of years ago, when the sea surround this lighthouse, the owners and men from the village use to wreak ships on the rocks by turning the light off. Then they would salvage what they could from whatever washed ashore,’ Mrs Fitz spoke.

Nathaniel frowned, wondering what that had to do with anything. He moved closer and listened more carefully as the dying woman began speaking again.

‘As a child, I would play with the children from the village and we played a game called Wreakers. In the early evenings, a few of us would be here and we would turn the light on and off as the other children pretended to be ships and tried to reach the lighthouse from the village across the marsh.’

Mrs Fitz stopped and drew in some shaky wheezy breaths.

‘Take your time,’ Nathaniel spoke gently.

Mrs Fitz wet her lips and continued, ‘one evening as we were finished playing Wreakers, I realised my younger brother had not returned. We set out looking for him, but we could not find him. I had to tell my parents and they with the other villagers searched for him. Finally, it was decided he had fallen into a deep marsh pool and drowned.’

‘Oh. I’m so sorry,’ Nathaniel uttered.

The bed clothes moved and a wrinkly weak hand appeared, reaching out to him. Nathaniel took it, clasping Mrs Fitz’s hand in between his. He brushed the cooling skin with his finger tips, trying to offer comfort to the old woman.

‘Please, Father. Go out into the marsh and help guide his spirit to Heaven. I hear him crying so often that I know he’s out there still. A little boy so lost and lonely.’ Mrs Fitz begged.

‘Yes, Of course,’ Nathaniel answered.

‘Do you need assistance, Father?’ Tom asked.

‘Go with him and be my eyes!’ Mrs. Fitz cried out.

‘I shall,’ Tom answered.

‘We will be back soon,’ Nathaniel uttered.

He stood and collecting his case followed Tom back down the stairs.

To Be Continued…

The Dying Light (Part 2)

lantern, light, rustic

Nathaniel continued to shuffle his way across the low bridge. The candle light from the lantern barely penetrated though the darkness. What he could see of the marshland though, he decided he did not like. A soft breeze made the reeds and long grass rattle together and shadows played at the edge of his vision. The bull frogs were still croaking, now aware of his presence and letting all know about it.

The end of a prayer finished on his lips and he hurried to start up another. The flashing of the distant light stopped him. For a few seconds, the marshland lit up then faded into darkness again. Nathaniel tried to see if he was any closer but it was too difficult to say. Gathering himself, he walked on forgetting all his fears as the urge to just get there took over.

To take his mind off things, he thought about this morning and how everything had been so normal. Soon after lunch as he was heading over to the small village church which he was in his fourth month of being in charge of, a boy had shouted to him across the road. He had stopped and the boy had given him a telegram. It had been a simple request for him to come and tend Mrs Fitz at the Long Grave Lighthouse as she was dying.

Feeling duty bound, he had asked the boy how to get there. Then Nathaniel had dropped everything, packed a few important things in his case and caught the first train towards the coast.

‘I do not regret it,’ Nathaniel muttered through gritted teeth, ‘it can not be much farther now.’

The flashing light came by again and Nathaniel  took his chance to try and see further ahead. Luckily, he saw a tall shape growing up out of the mash. Picking up his pace, he broke into a small run. The lantern jiggled in his hand, causing the light to splash everywhere.

He suddenly felt wetness on his face and looked up. He could hardly see but then he felt a fine rain began to fall. Praying it did not get heavier, Nathaniel hurried on until the tip of his walking boots caught a slightly raised plank of wood. He stumbled and unable to stop himself tumbled face down onto the bridge.

Moaning and gasping for breath, Nathaniel moved to curl into a ball. Pain was pounding through his chin, chest and knees. His vision was blurry and his head was swimming. Slowly, he looked up and tried to make sense of what had happened. As the worse of the pain subsided, he pushed himself into a sitting position and looked for his things.

He was in darkness. The candle gone out from the lantern. He waited till the lighthouse beam came around again the spotted the metal frame a little ahead of him on the bridge. Nathaniel pulled himself towards it and picked it up. A tinkle of glass told him that at least one panel of glass had broken.

From his pocket he took the matches and waited for the light to come back around. Then he opened the door, lit another match and tried to get the candle wick to take it. The match flickered out. He tried again and this time it worked. The light showed him what he had all ready guessed. A panel was gone and another was badly cracked.

Shinning the lantern around the bridge he search for his case. Not seeing it, he felt a lump in his throat. He looked over the side, praying it had not fallen into and/or sunk into a pool of mash water. Luckily, his case had just slipped down the side and it was safe. Nathaniel pulled the case up and checking it was okay, got to his feet.

Feeling better, he walked more carefully towards the lighthouse. Approaching the towering structure, the light which had been his guide started to blind him and Nathaniel had to keep looking away. He also noticed that large rocks were now dotted throughout the marsh and the closer he got the more the rocks loomed out of the darkness.

A lot fast then he now thought, Nathaniel came to the edge of the rock that the lighthouse sat upon. A small stone staircase, cut within the rock trailed upwards. He looked up and saw other lights shinning from the lighthouse. He shuffled onto the first step and began to climb upwards, keeping the lantern low so he could fully see.

At the top, he stopped and looked at the front door of the lighthouse which was now before him. Feeling a wave of relief that he had just about made it , Nathaniel placed down his case and knocked loudly on the the door.

To Be Continued…

The Dying Light (Part 1)

lantern, light, rustic

 Nathaniel arrived late at night on the tiny train station platform, tried and dirty from the journey. As the old steam train pulled away behind him, he looked around, loosely clutching his large case in one hand at his side. There was a small hut with a single door and window to his right. A light in an old fashioned black case with a fancy pointed dome on top hung over the door.

He went to the window and looked in, but it was dark inside. He tried the door but it was locked. Sighing, he walked away and back to the middle of the platform. There was nothing else here and no other source of light. For a few moments, he wondered if this was a dream; had he fallen a sleep on the train?

Then from far in the distance came a flash of white light and Nathaniel saw for a few seconds what lay before him. Stretching as far as he could see was a marshland. Large pools of dark water, some of which were half hidden by the giant reeds created moats around islands of tall grass. Unseen bullfrogs croaked loudly and splashed into the deep waters, their sounds the only thing that could be heard.

‘Yes, I’m dreaming,’ he uttered, ‘this can’t really be the place!’

He went back to the hut’s door and banged loudly on it. The lantern above his head swung, creaking on a short chain. No one answered the door.

‘Hello? Is anyone in there?’ Nathaniel shouted, ‘I’m Father Tawny and I’m looking for Mrs. Fitz. She called me to give aid in her dying hour.’

His voice faded and he listened hard but still heard nothing. At a lost for want to do, Nathaniel paced the tiny platform which was actually only a few feet across. His case swung about then he placed it down and carried on walking back and forth. Every so often he would see the flash of white light in the distance and catch a glance of the dark marshland.

‘God, I could do with some guidance,’ Nathaniel muttered, ‘how am I to get over there?’

He quickened his pacing as he tried to think. He went back to the hut again and double checked the door. He rattled the handle hard and without really meaning to give the door a sharp kick. Suddenly, the door handle and lock came away in his hand, the wood splintering loudly. Nathaniel stumbled backwards as the door squeaked open.

He looked down, seeing the handle and lock in his hand. Glancing around he made sure no one had seen him then walked into the hut. The door, he noticed had totally rotted away which had made it easier for the handle and lock to come away. He set them on a small desk and looked around in the gloomy light.

There was hardly anything inside the hut. He found a stack of tickets, a few pens, an empty water bottle, a box of matches, four candles and a large lantern. Upon realising this, he thanked God, collected the last three items and took them outside under the light above the door.

Inspecting the lantern, Nathaniel saw it was a simply made long rectangle with black iron and thick glass panels. The handle was a massive hoop like that of a door handle and seemed quite secure. The door was a latch lock and it took a few moments for Nathaniel to open it. Picking the biggest candle, he placed it inside and lit a match. The tiny flame glowed brightly then become two as the wick caught.

Removing the match, Nathaniel shook it out then closed the lantern door. The candle light made a nice circle to see by.

‘Thank you, Father,’ Nathaniel whispered.

Putting the other candles and matches into his long brown coat’s pockets, he picked up the lantern and his case. Moving the light around the platform, he walked to the nearest corner and looked down at the train tracks which led away from the mash. The distant white light flashed by and he turned his head towards it in time to see something at the opposite corner.

There was attached to the edge of the platform a wooden plank. He approached slowly, letting the light show him the way. The plank was attached to a second one then a third by thinning ropes on either sides. It was a bridge just above the marshland. The planks were dark, but dry and seemed to led towards the distance flashing light.

Nathaniel reached a booted foot out and stepped onto the plank. There was a small groan and slight shifting movement. He put his other foot on and uttering a pray moved on to the next one. The bridge held his weight and underneath him rose the smell of stagnate water with rotting vegetation. A bullfrog crocked loudly close by, startling him and Nathaniel saw the long legs of said bullfrog jump off the bridge and splash into a pool below.

Swallowing, Nathaniel tightened his grip on his case and lantern, started whispering another prayer and walked further into dark marsh.

 

To Be Continued…

(This story was originally written for Sue’s Thursday Photo Prompt Lantern. However, I decided it was too long and I wanted to divided it up into smaller parts, making it unsuitable for the prompt. Sometimes, my story ideas demand to be longer and I like to do them justice, so that what they want to tell can happen. So, please enjoy this story and if you like it please give me a like and share it with your friends. Feel free to leave comments too, I love hearing feedback and it helps inspire me to write more. Also, if you are not already please follow my blog. I’d love to get up to 500 followers this year! I’m currently at 327 followers. Thanks, Hayley)

The Dead Marshes (Part 4)

Morgrim watched the Dead Marshes come to life as dawn finished rising and the daylight hours begin. It was an overcast day, but enough light was filtering down for them to see the marshland for a good distance all round. Rolling hills and clumps of trees and bushes were more scattered around then he had seen in similar marshes before. The stink of the rot and stagnate pools had gotten stronger and seemed to be in every intake of breath. Morgrim watch gnats and other small flying insects crowding the air, which also contained singing birds, croaking frogs and the rustling of other animals.

Ahead of Morgrim, the four kobolds were quickly walking and chattering amongst themselves. They seemed perfectly at home and even though they were still walking on the wooden log pathway, sometimes one of the kobolds would veer off and walk in the tall grass or at the edge of a pool. They scampered back quickly enough and would shoot him curious looks, before joining in the jabbering conversation with the others again.

Behind Morgrim, he was aware of his friends taking a somewhat guarded approach to their walk across the marshland. It seemed some of them – especially the half-elf- believed they could be attacked at any moment, even from the kobolds or something else. The dragonborn sisters were talking in low voices in their own tongue, but keeping their eyes searching for any trouble. Grub, bring up the rear, was muttering to himself and chewing on something. He didn’t seem bothered by their present situation, but Morgrim knew better than just to assume that.

‘How much longer to the castle?’ Morgrim called loudly.

The kobold’s chatter died down and the one that had spoken before and seemed to be their leader came over to him.

‘It-s-s two passing-s of the day and ones of the night,’ the kobold hissed, ‘we have camp half-ways-s. Heading there.’

Morgrim nodded, suddenly feeling the weight of the journey ahead.

‘Two days and a night?’ Cerseia questioned, striding to join them.

The kobold bobbed his head quickly and made a hu hu sound.

‘Are we really trusting them?’ she asked, turning to Morgrim.

‘For now,’ he replied, ‘I know you don’t like it…but sometimes…’

‘Why don’t we just get there ourselves? This pathway must go straight up to the castle. Why do you need them?’ Cerseia pressed, trying to keep her voice low, but failing to do so towards the end. Her eyes shot to the kobold leader.

He turned his head away, ducked as if she had made to hit him and hurried back to his friends. He spoke something quickly to them and they slowed down.

‘They can help us,’ Morgrim explained, ‘they might know a secret way into the castle and they might have friends they can rally to aid us. This is a compromise, Cerseia. I’m sure if they turn against us you can easily handle them. I need you to trust me right now,’ Morgrim paused then shook his head slightly, ‘At least try to anyway,’ he added.

Cerseia sighed and pulled a face. She glanced around, but didn’t say any more.

They walked in mostly silence for the rest of the day and by the time they arrived at the kobolds’ camp they were all exhausted. Morgrim eyed the spot they had been led to, it was little more than a flattered patch of marsh grass, which contained two small badly made wooden huts and a stone circle for the fire. Sinking before the circle, Morgrim watched the kobolds gather sticks and make a fire. Two of them left soon after, disappearing into the long grass that surrounded them.

Katliana and Konniana joined him at the fire, Cerseia took up a watchful position close by and Grub inspected the huts. He shuffled over a few moments later and sat down next to Morgrim. They all watched the fire greedily burning through the dry wood.

‘Here, here,’ the lead kobold said at Morgrim’s elbow.

He looked down to see the scaly hands holding him a small, but deep wooden bowl which contained a clear liquid.

‘What is it?’ he asked.

‘Water. It-s-s goods. Not Marsh-y.’

Morgrim took the bowl and swirled the water around. He sniffed it and then took a sip. The kobold had been right. The water was clean and tasted fine. He drink deeper, discovering a thirst he hadn’t know he had. He felt another elbow digging into his other side and looked over the bowl at Grub’s face. Quickly stopping, Morgrim swallowed and handed him the bowl.

Grub drink deeply as he had just done and finished the water off. He let Katliana take the bowl from him and watch her stare down at it.

‘I think we need some more,’ Morgrim pointed out.

The kobold came over, took the bowl and hurried off again. This time though Konniana followed him and found that just opposite them was a clear stream. Strangely, it was untouched by the marshland. The kobold rushed passed her and delivered the bowl to Katliana, before going over to the other remaining kobold and hissing at him.

‘There’s a clean stream here,’ Konniana called over.

They all came over and drink their fill from the stream. Upon returning, they found that the other kobolds had come back and brought some dead animals with them. These were prepared and placed on the fire. The smell of burning meat and wood filled the coming night.

‘Do you have name?’ Morgrim asked the leader after a few minutes.

‘Kak. I-is-s chief,’ came the reply.

‘I’m Morgrim.’

Kak nodded and handed him the tail of a snake on a stick, ‘not-s- much,’ he said almost shyly.

‘Thank you,’ Morgrim responded and began eating.

The kobolds passed everyone else a stick with cooked meat on the end and they all eat together. Afterwards, the kobolds curled up together and fell sleep.

‘I am taking first watch,’ Cerseia replied and got up.

‘The huts don’t look so bad,’ Grub cut in, ‘I’m going to sleep in one of them.’

Morgrim nodded and watched them both leave.

‘You should sleep,’ Katliana said gently.

‘I will,’ he replied.

Morgrim woke up to the calling of a bird. Pushing himself off the ground, he glanced around. The kobolds had the fire going again and were cooking more animals. The dragonborns were just waking up too and Grub was coming back from the stream. Morgrim’s eyes flickered around, but he could not spot Cerseia. Just as he was about to ask for her, she appeared out of one of the huts. Without saying anything, she walked out of the camp and towards a clump of trees.

Stroking his beard, Morgrim rolled his shoulders and climbed to his feet.

‘We-s- be off-s s-soon,’ Kak said to him.

Morgrim nodded and wondered off into the tall grass.

A good few minutes later they were back on the pathway again. The new day stretched out before them and though they were feeling somewhat refreshed, tiredness loomed over them. The kobolds were happy enough and seemed braver today. A number of times all of them vanished in the grass for growing periods of time. However, Morgrim was not worried and realised they were discovering their newly found freedom. His companions seemed on edge and very quiet, but Morgrim did not blame them for being so as they were fast approaching a possible difficult fight.

Hours of walking later, they spotted the grey stone walls of a tower castle on the horizon. Seeing this filled them with more confidence and eagerness and the pace was picked up. As they drew closer, Morgrim saw that it was only a small castle and fast crumbling away. There was nothing surrounding it and the place looked abandoned. Coming to a stop in a dip before the castle’s arched gateway, Morgrim gathered everyone together.

‘Do you know a hidden way inside?’ Morgrim asked.

Kak nodded, ‘arounds the backs. S-safe.’

‘And the wizard?’ Cerseia asked quickly, ‘are you sure he’s in there?’

‘Yes-s. S-sees!’ Kak cried and pointed upwards.

They all looked over and saw a dim light in one of the tower’s windows.

‘Hes’s s-studys, booo-ks.’

Morgrim nodded, ‘lead the way.’

Kak made the hu hu sound again and ducking down, crept off to the side. Everyone followed behind him, trying to keep as quiet as possible. Kak lead them along the side of the castle and to a back door. He easily opened it and waved them all inside. The passage way they entered into lead them to a store room like space. Wordless, Kak pointed to another door then upwards, before walking on.

Morgrim nudged, Konniana and Cerseia before him then slipped back beside Grub, so that Katliana was between them. Slowly, they made their way through the castle and Kak staying true to his word, brought them into the wizard’s study. The door of which was open and they could see the piles of books stacked on tables, chairs and the floor. Looking passed them and deeper into the room, they could see a figure bent over something in the far corner.

A voice tickled their ears and they heard a mash of words. Morgrim turned to Cerseia and pointed to her then the figure. Understanding with a nod, she drew her sword almost silently and walked carefully across the floor. The others held their breaths as she did so and got ready to attack.

Cerseia eased her blade onto the figure’s robed shoulder, ‘Don’t move,’ she said in a low voice.

The man jumped, twisting around and throwing the book he had been reading at her. Cerseia whacked it away, slicing through a number of pages which fluttered to the ground as the book landed with a thud behind them. The man wedged himself into the corner with his hands flat against the wall, stared at her, then reach for a short sword at his belt.

‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you,’ Cerseia hissed and confirmed with a glance over her shoulder that her friends had come to join her.

‘Are you the dark wizard of this castle?’ Morgrim asked as he eyed up the man.

He looked fresh out of childhood, very pale, skinny and nothing like what Morgrim had been expecting to find.

The man nodded, ‘I am Ralnon Sirleach and you have invaded my home!’

‘Have you been stealing treasure from the nearby villages and towns and using the innkeeper of the Blue Horned Goat to obtain it and pass it on to you?’ Morgrim demanded.

‘What? No! How dare you accuse me of such a thing!’

‘You are just a boy, aren’t you? Cerseia jumped in, she still had her sword pointed at him, ‘you are not a real wizard. Where’s you master?’

‘There is no one else! I lied, all right. Please don’t hurt me!’ Ralnon shouted.

‘Let him go, Cerseia,’ Morgrim said gruffly.

She dropped her sword, but did not move away.

‘Why are you here boy? And what do you know about the stolen treasure? Do not lie to us again or my friend here might let her sword slip just a little.’

‘I came to study. I really want to be a wizard and I have some powers already. I found out on my second night here that the innkeeper was using the cellar to store the treasure. He doesn’t know I have been staying here. I hide ever time anyone comes here,’ Ralnon explained.

‘But what about the kobolds? They said you had enslaved them and taken their marsh.’

‘Yes, well. I had to…do something about them. I knew the innkeeper already had them under his command and I sort of used that to convince them he was actual working for me, so they were my slaves too. I didn’t harm any of them though.’

‘Great,’ Grub grumbled, ‘we came all this way for nothing and I was ready for a fight too.’

‘We could still kill him,’ Cerseia counted and she jabbed the tip of her sword at Ralnon’s throat.

The boy squirmed and tried to move away, but he was now pinned to the wall, ‘please. I said I was sorry and I’ve told you anything I know! Just, please!’

‘So, it was the innkeeper all along,’ Katliana put in.

‘You were right after all,’ Konniana added.

‘The kobolds are free now,’ Morgrim cut back in, ‘and they get their marsh back.’

Ralnon nodded as his face desperately pled with Cerseia to let him go.

‘Let’s leave,’ Morgrim spoke and arranging his warhammer as he walked out the room.

‘Are you sure you want to let him live?’ Cerseia’s voice drifted over to him.

‘His just a boy and I believe what he said. Come on let’s go back to the inn and get our things. We need to report back as well.’

Grouchily, the others trailed after him and as they passed Kak, who had been hiding on the stairwell, Morgrim told him he was free and his marsh returned. Happily, the kobold turned and ran down the stairs. The high jabbering of his and his friend’s voices followed them out of the castle.

Stealing a last look at the place, Morgrim sighed and gripping his Warhammer began walking down the pathway and back the way they had come. Cerseia came to his side moments later and he was aware of the others keeping pace with them.

‘I still can’t believe it,’ Cerseia cried out.

Morgrim half shrugged his shoulders.

‘How can you be so sure?’

‘Did you see that boy? He looked almost ready to just fall on your blade. And what did he have to gain by lying? Though I’m still not sure that the half-orc came up with all of this…’

‘Where else can we look for the truth?’ Katliana asked.

Morgrim shook his head, ‘it’s over. It’s time to move on again.’

‘Maybe some place without a marsh?’ Grub called up from the back.

‘Maybe,’ Morgrim replied and lead his company out of the Dead Marshes.

The Dead Marshes (Part 3)

‘We can take ‘em,’ Grub hissed.

Morgrim and Cerseia quickly shushed him and he fell silent. Eagerly, they all watched from their hiding place as the group of enemies came closer. As the kobolds rounded the bend and came opposite them, Morgrim had to grab Grub to stop him storming forward. He pressed his hand over the other dwarf’s mouth as Grub went to argue.

‘Come on! Move! We’ve not got all day!’ the bullywug spit and cracked his whip over the heads of the kobolds, whom shrink away then hurried forward.

Morgrim shook his head and Grub growled. The bullywug and troll passed them and the whole group walked up to the stone doorway. Loudly threating the kobolds still, the bullywug yanked the troll to a stop and instructed it to open the door.

As the company watched though, a kobold rushed at the bullywug and began beating its small hands all over him. The large frog easily picked up the dragon lizard and laughing in its face, turned to the troll.

‘Kill him,’ the bullywug command.

The troll looked at him dumbly, twirling the wooden club it held in his right hand around.

‘Did you hear me? Kill!’ the bullywug yelled and threw the kobold at the troll’s feet.

The troll looked down still confused, ‘crush?’ a slow booming voice formed one of the only words the troll’s brain know how to say.

‘Yes, Yes! Crush!’

The troll shook himself, lifted his left foot and brought it down on the kobold. The creature screamed, calling out for mercy then fall silent as splattering and crunching noises echoed into the night. The troll moved his foot again and kicked the flattered body into the nearest stagnate pool, which claimed the victim hungrily.

‘Well done! Good boy, Grunter,’ the bullywug praised and turned back to the other kobolds, ‘you want some of that then? Get back to work!’

They scuttled around the door and began clawing at the stones.

‘Go on,’ the bullywug urged the troll and with lumbering steps the creature stomped over and began pulling at the door alongside the kobolds.

Now, guessing they were out of ear shot and preoccupied, Morgrim turned to Cerseia.

‘Can you cast that void again?’ he asked.

She shook her head, ‘I used it up back at the warehouse. I can create a fireball though.’

‘Let’s just charge ‘em,’ Grub argued.

‘No. We need to element of surprise right now,’ Morgrim explained, ‘Konniana, if Cerseia and I cast fire at the kobolds can you shoot arrows at the bullywug?’

‘Yes,’ Konniana’s voice whispered back from the tree top.

‘What shall we do? We have nothing long range,’ Katliana pointed out about herself and Grub, feeling the urge to fight growing.

‘After we have distracted the others, charge the troll and try to take him down. We’ll come and help you once we’ve killed the others,’ Morgrim commanded.

‘Don’t worry. I can take it on myself,’ Grub declared, hefting his warhammer.

‘Are you ready?’ Cerseia chimed in.

Morgrim nodded and at once they both casted their own fire. For Cerseia it was a bright burning orange fireball and for Morgrim a lighter flame of divine power. Cerseia went first and threw her fire towards the kobolds, however the bullywug stepped in front of them and the fireball clipped his shoulder and dropped sizzling out onto the floor. The large frog humanoid turned eyes straight to where they were hiding.

Morgrim quickly followed up Cerseia’s attack, but the bullywug was on guard and easily ducked the scared flame. It sailed over his head and into what should have been a least one kobold, but they had already scattered due to the fireball.

‘We are under attack!’ screamed the bullywug and cracked his whip across the air.

‘Forget this!’ Grub yelled and charged out of the trees straight for the troll.

Katliana chased after him, pulling her great sword out as she did so. She easily over took the short dwarf and parried the troll’s club blow that had been aimed at Grub’s head. An arrow shoot from her sister’s bow whistled past her and straight into the stomach of the Bullywug.

The frog let out a croaking scream, but still turned to command the kobolds into action. Only four were brave enough to come forward though. The other three remind behind, trying desperately to press themselves into any shadows, which seemed to be slowly disappearing in the coming dawn’s light. As the four kobolds assembled and clutched un-sharpened daggers, a fireball crashed down in-between them.

The smell of burnt scaly skin filled the air and dying screams tumbled across the marshland. One luckily kobold had escaped pretty much unharmed and he darted back to his friends. Of the others, two were dead and the third was too badly wounded to get up. On seeing this, the bullywug charged at Katliana. With a roar, he flicked the whip at her and she dodged and dived around Grub, who had become locked in battle with the troll.

An arrow whizzed passed them and buried itself deep into the bullywug’s head. Blood dropped down the creature’s frog face and the whip went loose in the webbed hand. The bullywug choked and fell backwards, landing dead and sprawled out along the pathway.

Catching her breath, Katliana turned to thank her sister, but could no longer see her in the tree. However, on the pathway, she saw Morgrim’s shield light up and he, Cerseia and Konniana rushing over to help them. She turned back to the troll and saw that Grub was struggling against the creature which was easily five times taller than he was. However, that did seem to be putting the dwarf off, only making him more determined.

The troll had no idea that his master was gone and was solely focused on crushing the figures gathering around his feet. With a mighty swing of his weapon, he knocked the dwarf over and flung the club back again to catch the dragonborn. Though, she was faster and ducked under via a roll, which caused her to stop close to the dwarf.

Grub had landed on his back and was groaning in pain. Katliana caught him as he tried to get up and dragged him backwards out of the way as the club parted the air above their heads. She slipped on top of him, causing him to cry out and start struggling to sit up as they both detangled themselves from each other.

By this time the others had reached the troll. Distracted by new things to crush, he turned his attention away and took a swipe at Cerseia. She nimbly dodged the blow and sliced her sword into the troll’s knee, whilst Konniana shot an arrow into his shoulder. He howled in pain as Morgrim stepped forward, leaving his shield and warhammer on the ground as he charged up a spell between his hands.

Enraged, the troll took a strike at Cerseia and missed again as she darted behind him. Unexpectedly, he then threw his club the other way and clipped Konniana on the shoulder. With a roar, she dropped her crossbow, drew her long sword and rushing forward stuck the blade between the troll’s legs. His eyes rolled down at her in shock and his whole body started shaking.

Cerseia sliced the backs of the troll’s knees and hurriedly moved out of the way. She darted back to Morgrim’s side, ready to protect the cleric if the troll came at them again and he no time to fire off his spell. Konniana whipped out her sword and shuffled backwards, her eyes darted across to her sister and she saw Katliana pulling Grub to his feet and them hurrying to join in again.

The troll let out a loud groan and dropped backwards. The air swooshed around him and he hit the ground hard, crushing the bullywug and the barely-alive third kobold under him. The chest heaved a last breath, then fell still.

Konniana climbed on top of him and poked his face with the tip of her sword just be sure he was really dead.

‘Are you injured? Morgrim’s voice called from behind her and she twisted to see him talking to Grub. The other dwarf shook his head and Morgrim’s eyes went to everyone else in turn, ‘is anyone hurt?’

More head shakes answered his question.

‘What are we going to do with them?’ Katliana called and pointed her sword at the remaining kobolds who were still trying to hide in the shadows cast by the wall.

‘Kill them!’ Grub half-shouted and began to stomp his way over.

The others quickly followed and Morgrim fought his way to the front. The kobolds half-turned to them before gathering to chatter amongst themselves. Cerseia conjured a fireball, but Morgrim caught her hand as a single unarmed kobold crept over to them.

‘N-n-no kills-s,’ the kobold stuttered with a forked lizard tongue.

‘Why should we let you live?’ Morgrim called over.

‘You-s kills-s bull-y-wug. He enslaved us-s, we does-s bidding-s. We nots harms you-s.’

‘I do not trust him,’ Cerseia said in a low voice.

Morgrim glanced at the others, but they seemed just as intrigued by the kobold as he was.

‘What do you want?’ he asked.

‘Our-r lands-s backs,’ the kobold lisped, ‘Marsh-y ours-s!’

‘What did the bullywug want with the stolen treasure?’ Konniana asked harshly.

The kobold put his head to one side then half looked back at his three friends and the doorway. He seemed not have understood the question.

‘Where are you taking the crates to?’ Morgrim re-put the questions.

‘Oh! The s-shin-y s-shin-y-s!’ the kobold squealed, ‘to the castle! To the castle they goes!’

‘Castle?’ Cerseia repeated slowly.

‘Why?’ Morgrim pressed.

‘The dark-s wiz-ard,’ the kobold shivered, ‘he make-s us-s alls. Enslave whole tribe. Take-s our-s marsh-y!’

‘So, you were right,’ Katliana cut in disappointedly and casting her head down, ‘someone else was been behind all of this the whole time.’

‘Can you take us to the castle?’ Morgrim asked the kobold, ignoring her for the moment.

The kobold’s eyes considered the dwarf as the kobold’s head slipped to the side once more. He seemed in thought for a few moments and then asked, ‘you-s goings to kill dark-s wiz-ard? Deads?’

Morgrim nodded, ‘yes, we are going to kill him. If you help us, we will set your tribe free and give you your land back, including the castle.’

‘No castle-s doesn’t wants-s,’ the kobold spit, ‘marsh-y only. Lands-s!’

‘Deal,’ Morgrim called over and he walked over to the kobold with his hand out. He thought he heard the females gasping and Grub ready his warhammer.

The kobold touched his hand with its own scaly clawed fingers and rushed back to jabber with his friends. Morgrim watched them, satisfied that the kobold was relaying the exchange between them. He was aware of Cerseia coming to side, but before she could voice her questions, Morgrim called over to the kobolds, turned around and set off walking down the crudely made log pathway. The chattering kobolds swarmed after him, then passed him and began to lead the way. Morgrim’s companions fell into place behind him, eyeing the kobolds warily and whispering amongst themselves. Morgrim smiled and felt his old friend victory creeping into his head. Soon they would fulfill their quest.

To Be Continued…