Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chronicles of the Baron of Crows part 4

The heat and humidity of the jungle around him caused beads of sweat to break out all over Mortimer's body. He could feel it leaving hot streaks as it travel down his back. The clothes beneath his armor were soaked as he pushed his way through the leaves and vines. He could imagine his skin raw and red from the chafing of the coarse cloth. There was a foulness in the air and the faint aroma of decay, but the baron had gotten used to the smell of dead bodies long ago and he paid it little heed. His goal was to find his way out of the dense jungle. The ground had become more of a marsh than hard earth and each step had become more difficult. He had, at first, tried to find Olaf and the others, but they had been separated and now they no longer returned his calls. He would look for them after he had found his way to an area of open ground and got his bearings. Weak daylight filtered through the canopy above, transforming the light into yellow green hues that made his skin look jaundiced. Strange biting insects flew through the air and he was glad that only the skin of his face was exposed. His armor had begun to rust in several places after months of wear with no maintenance. He had first abandoned the helm that would not accommodate his horns, but kept the chain mail coif. The dirt and grime of continually sleeping in the forest had accumulated quickly and the armor had lost its shine after only a few days. Mortimer didn't care about the condition of his armor as long as it held fast. He praised Nurgle for providing it in the first place. Though now that he was moving through muddy ground it had become more of a hindrance, but Mortimer was not so short sighted that he would abandon it.

Mortimer started at the sound of a crow calling overhead. He hadn't noticed until then that the only sound he had heard for quite a while was the buzzing of the insects swarming around him. Through a rare break in the canopy he saw flashes of a crow flying overhead in the yellow haze of the sky. He could hear it through the trees drifting off the direction he was headed. Further in the distance he could hear the cawing of more crows. The ground under his feet had gradually been getting wetter and now the stagnant water had reached his ankles. He had tried to find dryer ground but anything less than turning back led to deeper water. He decided if it got to his shins he would have to turn back and find another way. The trees were beginning to thin and hanging moss replaced the thick vines. Occasionally collapsed trees revealed more of the featureless yellow haze of the fog shrouded sky. The underbrush had cleared to reveal the thin layer of marsh water that had replaced the wet earth of the jungle floor. Though the forest was still thick many of the trees looked dead and rotted and many of them were twisted into strange and vaguely disturbing shapes. The ground he walked on began to look more and more like a path as the woods to his left and right looked less like a forest and more like a swamp. There were breaks in the tree line that revealed deep patches of swamp with yet more trees beyond. There was still no signs of life besides the insects and the sound of crows. There was no wind. None of the trees around him swayed yet occasionally he could hear the creaking of branches. There was little point in calling out to his companions since they would have no way of crossing the waterways that separated them even if they could hear him.

Mortimer pushed through a thick tangle of brambles and brush that blocked the path he had been following. The thorns cut into his face as he pushed passed them, but the pain barely registered. He felt that his destination was near, though he hadn't realized he had a destination. The vista that met him as he pushed through the last of the bushes brought him to his knees. Stretched before him, to the horizon, was a foul bog and in the farthest distance was a being of vast and ultimate corruption. The massive blob was the embodiment of filth and putrescence. A foul wind blew into Mortimer's face and the noxiousness of the vile odors it contained force the bile to erupt from his mouth onto the marshy ground. After a moment of emptying the contents of his stomach upon the ground he regained his composure and marveled at the scene before him. Wiping the filth from his chin with the back of his hand he stood and began to walk towards the distant figure. His god was not alone in the swamp. Even with the vast distance Mortimer could see that the figure was surrounded for miles by disgusting rotted creatures in the forms of men. Some of them wore rusted and filth encrusted armor and some were naked, green and rotting. The number of forms and mutations was vast and beyond counting. As he walked along the path toward the towering form of putrescence he noticed that not far from him was a blackened and dead tree filled with cawing crows and he realized that this was what had lead him to the putrid swamp.

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