Ragnar was lost. He could hear people yelling his name. Calling for him through the gloom and swirling fog he now found himself in. The water came up to his knees. A muddy soup thick with wiry grasses and reeds that tangled his long legs as he waded through it.
Torveld was to blame for this Ragnar thought bitterly. Torveld. His supposed best friend who knew he was going to ask Sighilda to the village dance. Torveld knew how Ragnar felt about her. He’d talked to him about the pretty smiles she’d given him and teasing conversations between them. Then, just as he was plucking up the courage to ask her, he spotted Torveld, Sighilda and a few other youths of the village. They were heading in his direction.
Torveld had a smile on his face as the group had approached him. As he stood, cold water sloshing in his boots, Ragnar could almost feel the words physically rattling round his head. Words that he just couldn’t shake out. “Sighilda is going with me to the dance, you’ll have to ask someone else.”
The lanky youth stood rooted to the spot as he processed what Torveld had just said. A quick look round the gathered faces suggested they all knew. Ragnar then looked straight at Sighilda, hoping that she would say it wasn’t true. She looked away from him, staring at the floor. The sting of tears. He tried to talk but the words wouldn’t form. But his fists did. With a surge of rage, he pounded Torveld to the ground and he couldn’t stop. It felt good. The others piled in. Some trying to hit him, others trying to pull him off and break it up. He broke free of them, Torveld no longer with a smug smile, trying to crawl away.
Ragnar paused to try and get his bearings in the mist. Another memory of the fight. Someone had dropped a knife in the scrap. One normally used for gutting fish. Ragnar didn’t specifically remember picking it up but he remembered slashing out at those around him. Someone went down, then he ran.
He kept running. Humiliation. Anger. Jealousy. All powering his running legs. He hated Torveld, he hated Sighilda, he kept running and now he was in the one place he’d never thought to be in. Ragnar was so wrapped up in his anger and utter shame he’d blundered straight on into the marsh. He thought that the boggy ground and shifting mists would be the last place people would look. He’d momentarily overcome his fear of this swampy mire, so had kept going.
The marshes were an area the villagers feared to tread. Constant thick mists that changed and treacherous muddy pools that could suck you down. And there were other things that lived here. Watching and waiting to trap the unwary. Hours later, Ragnar had begun to regret that decision to push on into the gloomy swamps. His blind rage and wild emotions earlier had meant he hadn’t bother to check his bearings as he floundered on.
Ragnar noticed that the voices that had been calling his name had now stopped. It was getting dark and the people looking for him would have been heading back to the village. The village had a wooden pallisade around it complete with sturdy wooden gates. Ragnar knew folk wouldn’t venture out after dark. He gathered his thoughts now, trying to put the catastrophic events of earlier to one side as he focused on this new problem. He knew people had been hurt in the fight. When he’d used the knife he knew then that things were much more serious. Had he killed someone? He wasn’t sure, he’d lost the knife when he’d run off. It was all such a blur.
He sighed when he thought of how much trouble he was in, he’d have to go back. Do the right thing. He looked around him, all he could see was the vague shapes of scrawny trees and long grasses with a thick fog weaving in between them. In the gloom he peered around, searching for some gap in the fog that might reveal the low hills from which he’d come. And that was when he saw it. Looking right at him, no more than forty feet away.
Ragnar could see a a tall shape in the mist, moving slowly toward him, he heard a sharp hiss then the splosh of feet as the shape advanced toward him. As it got closer he could see now coming out of the fog a humanoid shape, at least 6ft tall stooping fowards. A pair of yellow eyes blinked at him. Fear had rooted him to the spot as the creature came closer. A reptilian mouth opened and a long hiss came out. Sharp but irregular teeth lined the mouth. Strong muscular arms gripped a large crudely made spear with an iron tip, the spear pointed in his direction. Ragnar could see the large tail swishing behind the creature. It stopped and croaked some kind throaty noise. He ran. He fell. Ropes entangled him, more splashing and croaking noises.
They had him in a rope net. Big enough to catch human sized prey in. Ragnar pissed himself, he remembered now who had fallen when he slashed with the knife. It was his beloved Sighilda but none of it mattered now. He wept freely as rough clawed hands hoisted him up in the net. The Lizardfolk had him now. His bones might be found months later. The folk sometimes offered up the remains of people caught at the edge of the marsh as a thanks to those that had provided food for their tribe.
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