by eric drewes
The sorceress stepped forward to gaze upon the scene. The swamp, the death of so many, seemed small from her standpoint an hour walk, it could be crossed. She had nothing to fear, though she trembled. Her powers far exceeded the swamp's.
She approached timid at first, the dark swamp looked forbidding to her, and she began to have her doubts, but she soon overcame them and pressed on. The end goal of her quest gave her the courage to press on through what looked like a minor obstacle. She had been warned, she knew better then to underestimate it, but she had also the wisdom and strength to triumph where the paladin, ninja and berserker prevailed. As she walked, she saw many corpses of fallen warriors, intertwined with the vines and foliage of the swamp. To another, it'd be a horrifying vision, but this was her playground. The further she pressed though, the more horrific the scenes she observed. The remains of humans twisted and deformed, no longer resembling mortals but instead manifestations of some demon god, insane with rage and anger. Yet nothing moved. There was absolute silence.
As she neared the center, the darkness and ugliness of the swamp faded slightly, then completely. It was, for her, like stepping through a portal into another world, the difference between the part of the swamp she was in and the center she had arrived at were as different as day and night. The green of the leaves no longer looked decayed and poisoned, but instead looked lush and lively, birds fluttered between branches, chirping happily as if there was no danger, as if there was never danger for them to even consider. A small brook ran through, and was crystal clear, revealing small fish of numerous colors swimming around.
It seemed a bit like paradise.
A large stump sat across the stream, and the sorceress decided it would be a good place to rest. She did not fully trust this place, knowing the deception the place was capable of. It had defeated the berserker, so it was very strong, capable of overwhelming brute force. It had defeated the paladin, who could only be defeated by temptation, so it was very cunning. And it had defeated the ninja, which was no easy task. The more she thought, the more she became afraid that the place was indeed a trap.
Gathering her robes around her, she summoned a lesser demon, by the name of Israndi.
"Reveal the truth of this place, i have summoned you and i command you" she spoke to it, firmly.
"Oh but mistress, what shall I be gifted upon for this task, my true masters will be angry if I come back empty handed…" it replied.
She revealed a small ruby ring and handed it to the demon.
"Now show me" she said, as if speaking to a child.
The demon pushed the ring into it's flesh until it was absorbed into him. He raised his hand, nothing happened.
"I will need more then this, milady," he hissed, "the magic that binds this place... its different. I will need my master"
He disappeared through a slip in reality. In an instant he returned on a chain leash, a dark, scale covered skeletal beast dragging it across the ground.
"You seek my assistance mistress, but I am not one of...minor rank like Israndi, I am the true demon, Jahalu. What have you to offer for my action? Hurry, for you have interrupted my feastings."
"Jahalu" the sorceress spoke respectfully, but firmly, "you speak bravely, but I see through you, you are not the powerful demon you proclaim yourself, but because I need your assistance, I shall honor you."
She removed a pendant with a solid diamond in the center; in the middle of the diamond was a human eye.
"Ah, this shall work well as a fee" the demon nodded and took it from her, and placed it on his neck. He glanced around and lifted his hand. Nothing.
"Ah" it hissed, "the magic binding this wicked place is more powerful then I suspected. I cannot aid you here, you need another."
"Bring him to me then," she commanded.
"I shall, but his price is high." the demon smiled, and dragged his servant off.
A shrill high pitched sound echoed through the forest and a being appeared next to her. He was humanoid in form, but his skin was darker, and rigid. His face was handsome, but his eyes glowed. He smiled.
"You seek to dispel the power of the swamp?" he asked
"Indeed, I must get through."
"So be it. The price, of course, is high."
"It doesn't matter" she said, resolutely.
The demon smiled. "Ah, then. So be it."
She shuddered, but nodded. Declining his price was a risk she could ill afford.
"As you wish." he said, flickering his tongue.
He raised a finger and there was a bright flash.
When the sorceress' eyes cleared up, the demon was gone.
As was the stream, and birds and indeed, the whole swamp altogether. It lie in the distance behind her, shimmering like a mirage. The secret of the swamp for her was that it was all an illusion.
But it had indeed defeated her as well.
Her sacrifice had been great.