First Monday Free Fiction: The Thing From the Dread Swamp

The Thing from the Dread Swamp by Cora BuhlertWelcome to the November 2022 edition of First Monday Free Fiction.

To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.

November tends to be a gray and dismal month, so here’s a Thurvok sword and sorcery adventure that takes you into a gray and dismal swamp that’s inhabited by a monster, too, a monster known as The Thing from the Dread Swamp.

So follow Thurvok, Meldom, Sharenna and Lysha as they face…

The Thing from the Dread Swamp

The road to the seaport city of Neamene led through the so-called Dread Swamp. And never was a swamp more aptly named, for it was truly a dreadful and dismal patch of land, a wasteland of green and grey, of brackish bogs and stunted trees, trailing vines and deadly creatures, that stretched along the great river Tereine as it made its way to Neamene and the sea.

The road itself was high and dry enough, built long ago by slave labourers, prisoners captured during one of the wars the coastal cities kept waging against each other. But take even one step off the road and you ran the risk of stepping into a boghole. If you were lucky, you’d only sink in to your thighs or waist or even neck and you’d soil your clothes and lose your boots, once you were pulled out. If you were unlucky, the swamp would swallow you whole.

But bogholes were not the only danger that lurked in the Dread Swamp. For the swamp was beset by deadly water snakes and venom-fanged lizards, clouds of bloodsucking insects and dancing ghost lights that lured unwary travellers to their doom. There were also rumours about even worse things living deep in the swamp, but no one had ever seen any of them and lived to tell the tale.

Four travellers, two men and two women, trudged along the lone dry road through the Dread Swamp. One of the men was tall and muscular, with long black hair and the bronze skin of the nomads of the Eastern Steppes. On his hip, he wore a mighty sword. This was Thurvok, the sellsword.

The other man was shorter and lither, wiry rather than muscular. He had black hair and grey eyes, a dashing moustache and a devil may care attitude. His attire was completely black with the only relief offered by a silver amulet at his throat and a silver dagger at his waist. This was Meldom, cutpurse, thief, occasional assassin and habitual adventurer.

One of the women was tall and statuesque. She was swathed in a moss green cloak. Tresses of flame coloured hair escaped from underneath the hood. This was Sharenna the sorceress.

The second woman was slight and almost waifish, with long dark hair and large eyes, which seemed perpetually terrified. She was dressed in men’s clothes and carried a slingshot on her waist. This was Lysha, the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant turned fugitive from justice and Meldom’s beloved besides.

The four of them were travelling to Neamene in search of employment and adventure. And as with all travellers approaching Neamene by land, they first had to cross the Dread Swamp. It had been a weary two day trudge with nothing but the grey, green and brown swamp on either side of the road. Even making camp was difficult, for there was scarcely enough dry land beside the road to build a fire. And even if you could have found a spot for a camp fire, you’d never have found enough dry firewood.

And so all four of them were weary and miserable, but none more so than Thurvok, for the blood sucking swamp flies had taken a liking to his hot barbarian blood. Another one had just landed on his mighty biceps. Thurvok swatted it away, but it was already too late, for the tell-tale itch told him that the fly had already taken its road toll in the form of a droplet of blood.

“Accursed insects,” Thurvok swore, “Give me a dragon or a monster to slay any day. Cause anything is better than these demonic fiends that no blade can harm.”

“You should cover up, my friend,” Meldom, who up to now had remained remarkably unmolested by insects, said, “Those mighty muscles of yours may impress the ladies, but they also attract swamp flies.”

“Or you could rub your skin with my special blend of insect-repelling herbal oil,” Sharenna suggested, “It’s keeping Lysha and me unmolested by swamp flies and other pests.”

“I am a son of the Eastern steppes,” Thurvok growled, “We do not cover our arms nor use perfume like a woman.”

Meldom shrugged. “Have it your way then and suffer.” He turned to Sharenna. “Might I perchance borrow some of that herbal tincture of yours?”

In response, Sharenna dug into her bag and pulled out a small bottle. But before she could give it to Meldom, an obstacle on the road ahead attracted her attention.

“Say, isn’t that the coach that passed us earlier?” she wanted to know.

Meldom squinted into the distance and nodded. “Looks like it. And it seems to have suffered a broken wheel, too.”

“No surprise, considering they were driving as if a flock of demons were after them.” Thurvok swatted away another swamp fly intent on drinking his blood.

Meldom grinned. “Poetic justice, I’d say.”


This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in The Thing From the Dread Swamp. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.


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One Response to First Monday Free Fiction: The Thing From the Dread Swamp

  1. Pingback: S&S Weekly Roundup #29 (11/9/22) – Thews You Can Use

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