In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter Forty Nine
BY AL BRUNO III
No one entered the swamp but the foolish and the doomed and nothing ever came out but terrible rumors and whispered legends. The surrounding forest was posted as private property but the true owners had never been a matter of public record. There were occasional disappearances in the nearby town but search parties avoided the swamp as a matter of course.
The swamp has clammy and humid at night. The vegetation was thick and lush, with plants that obscured the water and tall bent trees that choked off the sky. Cicada songs and the chirping of frogs filled the darkness. In the distance other creatures splashed and fought, sharp eyed mammals and solitary birds; hunting beasts all of them.
The two men that made their way through the fetid, knee deep water were neither foolish or doomed, but they were predators ancient yet new. Despite the darkness and noise they moved through the marsh without pausing to consult a map or check their bearings.
One of the men was broad shouldered with features that seemed to naturally settle into a placid smile, he wore jeans and a plain black t-shirt. “It’s so close Piers,” he said.
The handsome but stern looking and he wore and expensive three piece suit that was stained and torn to ruins. He bristled, “My senses are just as sharp as yours Mr. Grant.”
Up ahead of them was a shoreline clogged with lily-pads and weeds but before that the water deepened submerging both men to their waits. Insects fled ahead of them as they moved, snakes darted back and forth in the water.
Mr. Grant tsked, “You really shouldn't have worn that.”
“We are what we wear,” Piers said, “and I won't let some retrograde element try to drag me down to his level.”
“What do you think of the new girl?”
Piers glared turned to glare at him, “Frivolous.”
“She keeps winking at me.”
Mr. Grant chuckled, “That’s the new generation for you.”
The water level began to recede but by the time the men reached the shore their clothes were filthy and Piers had lost one of his shoes in the more. The leaches that had latched onto their skin were curling in upon themselves and hemorrhaging a fluid that only slightly resembled blood.
The plant life that bordered the shore was more lush and varied than anything else the swamp had to offer; some of the blooms were so strange and fragile looking that it was hard to imagine them surviving long in a garden much less a place like this. Piers grabbed a handful of them and tried to wipe the worst of the muck off his tie.
“Once again let me remind you that when he gets here I will do the talking,” Mr. Grant said. “You're no diplomat.”
“Diplomacy is for people that aren’t sure they’d win in a fight.”
There was a structure in the clearing up ahead. It was lopsided building with walls the color of bone. They drew closer to the structure. It ten feet tall and made from uneven slabs of rough marble that created an archway that seemed to be on the verge of toppling. The sounds of the swamp took on a reverent aspect. The soft light that spilled from the structure cast cast impossible shadows. Licking his lips Piers moved towards the entrance only to have Mr. Grant catch his arm, “Steady on old man. All in good time.”
“I didn't think they could be so beautiful...” Piers choked, “I should have realized...”
A thick sounding chuckle silenced him, both men turned to see a shape moving out of the shadows. It approached them, revealing itself into the half-light; first the head, with silver eyes and fur the color of blood, the features blunt and bestial, then the body, four legged thick and leonine.
Mr. Grant bowed, “Galen Dela Worg I presume?”
End of Book Three