Uliginous #AtoZChallenge

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Uliginous: growing in wet or swampy ground.

 

Euric knew the Swamp of Maidswell wasn’t a place anyone should go, yet here he was trying to pull his knee length leather boots out of a boggy patch. Swearing, Euric give his right boot a hard tug and tried to move forward. There was a loud slurping sound and the mud returned his boots though they were covered in dark brown and green slimy mud.

Stepping onto a thick mossy bed, Euric caught his breath. The stench of the swamp filled his nose and mouth, it smelt like rot, dead animals and bad gases. It was something no one could ever get use to and the thick cloth Euric had wrapped around his face didn’t help much.

He took a few extra moments to look around. There seemed to be nothing but little islands of green or brown moss surrounded by green- grey waters. Sometimes there was a small tree, being dragged down by draping moss, reeds growing out of the murky pools and skeletons.

Euric had seen plenty of bodies and skeletons before, the life of an adventurer came with all that. He had even fought undead skeletons once but he was hoping on this quest they wouldn’t appear. He guessed the remains around him were from people who had gotten into difficulty out here which was easily done.

Turning, Euric looked and saw his two companions coming over to join him; the druid Alibus had tied his long white robes up and was wadding though a pool to the right of Euric in new knee length boots which had taken lots of persuading to convince the druid to buy.

‘You can’t go into the Maidswell Swamp with sandals on!’ Euric had cried at the market two weeks ago before they had set off on this quest.

Using his long staff for support, Alibus stepped up beside Euric and began getting his breath back too. The druid looked drained and the large bug bite on his neck was weeping pus again. Euric patted Alibus’ shoulder, hoping his friend was going to be okay.

A loud spitting sound and cursing in elfish, made Euric and Alibus look over their shoulders. A tall, golden haired elf female struggled to shake a giant grey slug off her thigh length red boots. With a high kick, she sent the slug flying and stomped over to join them on the mossy mound.

‘I think this is the most stupidest thing you’ve ever agreed to, Euric!’ the elf snapped.

‘You knew the risks, Nimue,’ Euric said in a controlled voice.

There was light flapping of feather wings and a small brown owl appeared out of the darkening grey sky. She drifted down to the group and landed on the druid’s shoulder.

‘What news, Kiko?’ Alibus asked then leaned in as the owl began twitting away.

Euric and Nimue waited then Alibus translated for them, ‘the skull is close by, we are heading in the right direction and there’s a storm coming.’

‘Good to know,’ Euric said and started walking again.

Drops of fat rain drops began to fall and a rumble of thunder echoed over the near flat land. The water of the swamp rippled and the all ready wet ground welcomed more water. Frogs and toads began croaking loudly.

The three adventurers pressed on for a few minutes as the rain around them grew thicker. Lightening forked the sky and the thunder rumbled closer. Then Euric pointed ahead and shouted, ‘there’s the giant Hangant’s skull!’

Just though all the green and rain, they could see a white-grey skull growing larger ahead of them. They hurried on and struggling through a deep pool, they made it to the giant’s skull. It stood as tall as a castle tower above them, the huge empty eye sockets seemed to be looking down on them and judging them. There was a large, jagged crack in the forehead which widened as it ran all the way down the back of the skull.

Through a missing tooth, Euric, Alibus, with Kiko hidden in his robe’s hood, and Nimue stepped inside. Darkness swallowed them for a few moments then the druid cast light on his staff and they could see they were not the first to use the inside of the skull as shelter. The reminds of a fire from months ago was in the centre and landed out against the back of the skull were two human skeletons.

‘What happened to them?’ Nimue asked.

Alibus inspected the skeletons then give a shrug, ‘don’t know. But their things are here,’ he added pointing to two leather bags and a few other things left in a pile.

‘Can we get a fire going?’ Euric asked, kicking the ashes of the last one.

Alibus nodded and using his staff, he created a real but magical fire.

Euric sat down, dug in his pack for a water bottle and some food. Nimue began looking through the abandoned things for anything useful. Alibis walked around, his light showing that there was nothing else inside the skull then he joined Euric by the fire and let Kiko dry off.

‘Sounds bad out there, I’m glad we made it inside,’ Alibis said.

‘We shouldn’t let our guard down though,’ Euric answered, ‘the stories might say that the Maids of the swamp hide during storms but we all know they aren’t the only danger around here.’

‘The bugs are!’ Nimue cut in.

A smile flickered on Euric’s face, ‘anything worth taking?’

‘No. If they had anything worth taking, it’s gone all ready,’ Nimue answered as she came to join them, ‘right. What do we do now?’

Euric looked up at the massive domed roof of the skull above them, ‘we look for the Trailing Fumewort,’ he spoke, ‘it should be around here somewhere. Remember not to touch it or breath it in.’

Alibus nodded, ‘it has small orange flowers that let off a poisonous scent, pin like purple spikes which are also poisonous, black leaves and a thick twisting vines. Death comes within minutes from it’s dual poisons.’

‘Lovely,’ Nimue muttered sarcastically.

‘The white roots, however are the opposite,’ Alibus continued having not heard her, ‘they bring life and cure all illness.’

‘That’s why the wizard Thuneas wants it then,’ Euric spoke.

A boom of thunder went off outside startling them all. Nimue drew her long bow, arrow notched in a blink and moved towards the closest gap in the teeth. An unsettled feeling rose the hairs on her skin.

The lightening flashed and in the few seconds of light, Nimue didn’t see anything through the cloud of heavy rainfall. It was hard to tell if there was anything about even with the elf’s sharp eyes. Perhaps, the feeling was because of the current nature of their shelter?

‘What is it?’ Euric whispered.

‘Not sure. Let’s look for the Fumewort and go. I really don’t like this place.’

Euric nodded and their search continued.

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Bone #WritePhoto

The skull was laying in the trodden down wheat field daring me to pick it up. It looked like the remains of a deer or a cow without the horns, I couldn’t really tell because it wasn’t whole and the jaw was missing. The bone was clean, snowy white and looking out of place in this yellow-brown acre.

‘Just walk away,’ I said aloud and turned my back on the skull, ‘but it looks so good and far better then the fake ones you’ve seen. And wouldn’t it make the perfect table center piece for Halloween dinner? No, you don’t know where it’s been, Bryce!’

I walked back the way I had come, brittle stalks crunching under my boots. The wind blew tassels of my flame red hair and rattled the branches of trees. A crow cawed in the distance and the clogging smell of upturned soil blocked the air.

Isn’t that exactly what you’ve been looking for? A voice in the back of mind that was half my own and half not whispered, it’s right there for the taking, a gift from nature. No one else would give it the admiration and respect it deserves. Go back and get it!

I stopped and spoke aloud, ‘No, No! I just can’t!’

Why? the head voice asked, who would know you’d taken it? No one knows its there. If the farmer finds it he’ll crush it with his tractor or just throw it away. Could you bare that? You should rescue it! Keep it safe!

I pressed my lips together, scrunched up my face and turned back around. I wanted the skull to be gone but it was still laying there, a rectangle of stark white in an yellow nest. That’s how I’d seen it to begin with from up on the ridge of the woods. It was hard to be sure what it was from over there but seeing the murder of crows flapping above had made me believe it was a wounded animal. I couldn’t have walked away from that.

A dog barked sharply, jumping me out of my thoughts. I look around, hoping it was in the woods but no, the dog was in the field with me! It was a big, black and brown beast which was bounding towards me! Giving no more thought, I dashed back to the skull, snatched it up, despite the heaviness of it and raced out of the field like an Olympic gold medal runner.

I scrambled over the lowered barbed wire fence, clutching the skull to my chest. I stumbled but got back up and over the ridge into the trees. I ran through the woods, out of them and over a main road before my burning lungs forced me to stop. Looking wildly around, I saw no sign of the dog, only a startled man who looked to be in his fifties, waiting at a bus stop.

‘You all right, love?’ he called.

I nodded, too breathless to speak.

‘What happened? What you got there?’ he asked, pointing towards the skull.

I glanced down at it, my mind racing and said the first thing that came into my mouth, ‘I’m fine. Jogging with weights, new exercise plan.’

Before he could reply, I turned and walked quickly away, my words echoing stupidly round my head.

I made it home with the skull without meeting anyone else. On my doorstep, meowing his head off was one of my black cats. He stopped and watched me as I approached, seemly startled that I was outside and not inside getting ready to open the door for him.

‘Hi, Spooky. Where you been? I just had an adventure!’

He yowled and weaved around my feet. I let us both in and we headed into the kitchen. I placed the skull in the sink, ran the hot tap and washed my hands. Water splashed on the skull, darkening it. I washed it and realised I would to have research how to clean best.

Spooky jumped up on the counter next to the sink and I held the skull towards him. He took a few sniffs, whiskers twitching.

‘What do you think? isn’t this going to be perfect for Halloween?’

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/10/11/thursday-photo-prompt-bone-writephoto/ with thanks).

The King’s Skull

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By the time the goblet was handed down to Wisdom, the legend that the sliver helmeted skull was that of an forgotten ancient King killed in an unknown battle, had long been lost.

Wisdom placed the goblet on to his bookcase, not knowing what else to do with it. Staring at the empty eye sockets, he decided the skull was too real looking and he turned the goblet around.

Feeling a little better, he sit down at his desk and loaded a fantasy war game up on to his PC. For some reason though, his eyes kept drifting to the goblet and he couldn’t concentrate on his game.

There was something creepy about the goblet he decided and he didn’t want it in his bedroom. Getting up, he picked the goblet off the shelf and took it downstairs. He went into the dinning room and placed it in the glass corner case. The helmet wearing skull goblet looked out of place beside a small crystal rabbit and a hand painted porcelain box.

Wisdom went back upstairs and sat down at his desk again. He felt a lot better now. He got back to his game and forgot all about the goblet.

 

(Inspired by; https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/sunday-photo-fiction-january-15th-2017/)

The Underneath

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The bones lay long lost and forgotten. Nothing more then bricks the world had used to built upon. Who were they that had laid down their lives for this lie of a promised land? Soon though, we would join them and become the foundation for a failing world.

Here We Stand (Part 1)

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The church seemed too quiet. I paused in the doorway and peered in. A lot of broken wood, plaster and stone covered the floor, making it look highly dangerous. A quick look up and ceiling was holding strong, even though there where a few holes. The place smelt bad; damp, mouldy and animal like. There was no telling what had or was living here.

‘Hello?’ I shouted.

My voice echoed slightly then fade. I didn’t recognise it as it reached my ears. I sounded like some other twenty year old man who was rough and tried from illness and lack of sleep. Well, that was sort of true. The world was now too dangerous to sleep soundly anymore.

I stepped in. Something crunched under my boots. The sounded echoed softer then my voice had. I looked down and saw a pile of yellow bones. They looked too small to be human, but until I’d seen the skull I wouldn’t know for sure. Nudging them with my foot, I couldn’t detect anything further, other then it wasn’t a complete skeleton.

I looked up and around again. Most of the stain glass windows were gone. In their place were loose boards made up wood and metal, however that was only for the lucky few. Weak sunlight was pouring through the rest, causing there to be rectangles topped with arches across the floor. The largest amount of light was coming from the three biggest windows that looked down upon the altar space.

‘Hello? Is anyone here? I come in peace!’ I yelled and held up my empty hands out.

I shuffled into the first patch of light, with my arms up. My shoulders and back ached with the weight of my hiking bag. Some wisps of my too long black hair fell into my eyes and I blew them away with a hot breath. Sweat dampened my dirty t-shirt, not that any more staining would matter. I listened, holding my breath so I could hear more. The church stayed quiet as if it was holding it’s breath too.

I dropped my arms, deciding it was okay for now. Walking slowly towards the altar where I knew there might be some doors leading to backrooms or a basement, my alertness didn’t drop. It was hard walking over the ever shifting rubble, especially because I didn’t want to keep my eyes down all the time.

I reached the first step of the altar which was just visible. There was a dead bird next to my left foot. It looked like a fresh skeleton as it was fully laid out with feathers circling it like a halo. Leaving it, I walked up the rest of the steps and tried to make sense of the space before me.

Churches were apart of the old world now. Though the generation before me had desperately tried to hang on to them and religion, they had been unsuccessful. My generation didn’t care and these ‘holy places’ were just empty meaningless shells now, just liked all the other places.

I craned my neck upwards. Maybe statues had once stood in the hallows above me. Their stony eyes staring blindly down at me in silent judgement. And what would they see? A scruffy, exhausted kid just trying to survive from one moment to the next in a world now gone to hell. Perhaps, their faces would plead with me to save humanity? And I would turn my back on that request, knowing it was an impossible task.

Turning from the wall, knowing I didn’t have to worry about that today, I checked left and right. There was a small blocked up wooden door to my left, possibly an emergency escape. To my right was an open passageway and what looked to be a stone spiral staircase.

 

To Be Continued….

Soulless Eyes

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The empty eye sockets gazed out over nothing. The mouth leered upwards displaying every tooth. There was a large gap were the nose use to be and the high cheek bones protruded too much. A lightning fork zigged cross the dome and that was all that remained of the body.