The Swamp
by eric drewes

...So the Adunai trail to Terrapin led them into the dark swamp. The berzerker was the first one to enter and the first one to be lost. The swamp's wickedness did not come from its size, for it was not a large swamp, but from its ability to turn the strength of all who enters into weaknesses. When the berzerk had first entered, the forest had felt him and his ferociousness. It felt his strength but was not afraid. It quickly began to grow vine after dark and twisted vine. Soon they began to creep and wither along the berzerk’s legs, and he slashed at them while he laughed and howled. As he went further into the darkness and mugginess of the swamp, the vines got stronger and pricklier, and while the berzerker was quite strong and brave indeed, his stamina quickly wore thin. The vines slowly tightened around his ankles and legs and he became less and less powerful with his attacks, and soon, his blade slipped from his hand altogether, and the weeds enveloped him fully. He had been encased into the swamp like a thousand before him.

The Paladin saw this scene and lowered his head in sorrow. He went next, knowing his fate was to be the same, yet, his pride gave him the glimmer of hope that he would succeed where his comrade had fallen. His blade glimmered against the august sun as he raised it into the air, and began his trek into the darkened forests. At first he had been surprised by the path, because though the berzerker’s blade was quickly caught and bound in the thick fleshy vines, the Paladin's sword sliced through them as though they were nothing. He was quickly able to transverse the first half of the forest when he came upon a mighty tree. The tree was no ordinary tree, it was the "Withering Tree" and it was one of the most ancient of trees.

It spoke:

"Imbedded inside me is a sword that was placed long ago by a true Crusader of the Adunai. It was pierced into me when I was a sapling for a true Adunai master to find. That was thousands of years ago and my bark has long since covered the hilt. Should you be a true and worthy Knight, you may climb into my womb and retrieve the great sword."

And so entranced was the Paladin at the possibility of finding a true Adunai sword that he foolishly believed the ancient tree's lies. He crawled into its womb and it quickly grew around him and trapped him.

The Ninja watched this happen and laughed. Not because of the Paladin's folly, but because of how easy it would be for him to save his true comrades and get through this dangerous swamp. He drew his blade and ran into the forest. Bobbing and weaving his way through the darkness, the slashing vines, and the warped weeds, his blade flashed and easily sliced through the thorns and leaves. He was not captured. Soon he had reached the place where the Paladin was entrapped. He drew his dagger, and slashed against the wood that had captured his friend so tightly. However, the Paladin was too deeply entrenched. Each slash did nothing to lessen the strength of the trap the Paladin was in. Next the Ninja went to the berzerker, surely when he freed the berzerker, the Paladin would be easy to free. However he found that the berzerker was just as strongly entrenched into his niche also. After hours at futily trying to free either of his compatriots, he gave up his efforts and sunk into his own lonely trap, where he, too, was quickly enveloped by the swamp.