The Swamp
by Kaol

"The Swamp"
(Excerpted from the novel Tandron)

Three figures trudged wearily through the black mud of the swamp as the sun eased its way down towards the horizon. These three individuals, a tall, brooding man, a generously proportioned blonde, and a thin, long-haired brunette, did not want to be there, but had little choice in the matter. Having recently participated in the assassination of the oppressive leader of a moderately civilized nation, they were being chased by the dead leader's police. They hoped by entering the swamp, they might perhaps be able to slow down or throw off their pursuers.

The ground they moved across was covered with a thin blanket of decaying leaves, but beneath the soil was wet and ripe in odor, carrying the pungent smell of decay. The tall man's frown deepened slightly. At least there weren't many bugs to pester them, due to the slight coolness of the weather, Kaol though to himself. Leeasz, the vivacious blonde trailing slightly behind him, had stated earlier that the swamp was full of dangerous wildlife, but so far none had crossed their path. Kaol supposed that was something he could be thankful for, but also felt it was indicative of his current lifestyle that he simply became thankful when nothing horrible occurred. The final member of their party, April, had almost blundered into a rather sharp fanged snake dangling from a tree a mile or so back, but Leeasz had spotted it before April could pass beneath it, and so that potential menace had been easily avoided.

They continued slogging their way through the knee deep mud, with April in the lead and Leeasz bringing up the rear. With each footstep the muck sucked greedily at their feet, slurping noisily as they jerked a leg up to take another step forward. "How's it going up there?" Kaol called ahead.

Art by Robin N.


"Fine," April replied. "Oooops," she added, stepping onto a particularly wet spot in the mud. It gave way beneath her weight and she slipped in up to her bare thigh.

"You okay?"

"Geez, yeah, I guess," April responded in disgust. She looked over her shoulder at Kaol, trying to give him a reassuring smile. She doubted it was especially convincing. April wanted to be a good sport about all this, but it had been a physically as well as emotionally draining day, and she wanted desperately to lie down someplace dry and go to sleep. "This stuff does feel pretty gross, though."

"It feels as gross through our clothes as it does on bare skin, I'm sure," Kaol replied, smiling tiredly. He was also barely running on reserve, moving on sheer willpower. His head swiveled around to face Leeasz. "How much longer would you say, Leeasz?"

"Three miles at most," Leeasz replied distractedly, blowing a wisp of blonde hair out of her eyes. Her bare thighs were now coated with the slick and smelly mud as well. Yet in spite of the dreariness of their environment, she appeared determined not to let her spirits grow heavy. Chuckling softly, she continued, "I can't escape my fate, it seems. Once a mud wrestler, always one. I'd always wondered where they got the mud I used to roll around in. Maybe it was from someplace like this! We're sort of in a natural mud factory."

"Oh, sure," replied April, not quite willing to make light of the situation as her companion. "But I can think of a lot of other factories I'd rather tour."

Leeasz shrugged in acknowledgment, pushing hard against the muck until she caught up with Kaol. The trip through the swamp had taken its toll on her, Kaol noticed, and her brief halter top was sweat stained and sticking attractively to her chest. Looking down at himself, he wished he could look as good as she did in such a situation. No matter how sweaty and dirty Leeasz became, Kaol doubted she could look unattractive. Besides, in a way the dreariness of their locale only made her all the more pretty in contrast. "So," Leeasz asked, breaking through Kaol's thoughts. "What next?"

Kaol glanced over at her again, studying her for a moment before answering. His eyes traveled over the landscape of her body, and he thought once again that she was much more worthy of his attention than was this tedious swamp. He forced the tired frown from his face and said, "Well, I think we just need to try to find our way out of here, Leeasz. That's as far as my planning skills take me at this time."

"Come on, Kaol," Leeasz responded with a smile. "I know you better than that. You've had to have been thinking ahead a bit. We assassinated Spawn as we'd planned, and you picked up the Artifact you came here for. Where do we go from here?"

Kaol paused a moment to wipe the sweat from his forehead. "I'm afraid I'm telling the truth, Leeasz. I really haven't thought much about what happens from here. Truth is, I think I'm still in a bit of shock from the whole bloody mess back there. I just want to get out of here alive and then think about it."

They continued their tiresome trek through the fen for another hour when the silence was broken by a muffled blast. It came from somewhere ahead of them, and the earth shook violently beneath and around their legs. As they were all now approximately crotch deep in the soft earth, this effect was amplified for them, as if they found themselves standing in a giant gelatin mold.

"What the hey?" April shouted, holding her blaster at the ready and using her arms to maintain her balance. She shot a frightened glance back at Kaol.

"I wonder what that was?" Kaol replied, staring into the distance with concern, trying to see what ahead might have caused the sudden upheaval. He twisted about to look back at Leeasz, who had resumed her position behind Kaol once more. "Any ideas, Leeasz?"

"Not me. I, wooaah!" Leeasz yelped, her voice breaking as she found herself suddenly up to her waist in the gooey mud.

"Leeasz!" Kaol shouted, bobbing up and down through the swamp towards her. April turned and saw what was happening and instantly began moving forward to help out. She had not taken more than three steps forward when she stumbled into a deeper pocket of mud herself. Abruptly, she and her sparkling bodysuit were breast deep in the black-green mud.

"Kaol!" April called out in a sudden panic. "Quicksand! Just like Leeasz warned us about earlier! Get over here! I'm caught in quicksand!"

"Calm down, April," Leeasz called out reassuringly. Her own breasts were now resting on the surface of the mire. She had quickly become a living island in this sea of mud. It was somewhat disconcerting, but she didn't feel she was in any particular danger. "It's not quicksand. It's only deep mud. You'll be all right."

"Deep mud, quicksand, same difference!" April yelled back, pushing futilely at the mire surrounding her body. As she would push away one handful of mud, another handful would flow in to take its place. "It's swallowing me up, so it's quicksand to me! Kaol, get me out!"

Leeasz rolled her eyes in exasperation. She could understand April's fear, and was more nervous about the situation than she cared to let on. However, April's fear had a calming effect on Leeasz, as it annoyed her to see someone panic so, and she did not want to come across as being as frantic as April. "You'd better get her out first, Kaol. We're just caught in the same mud we've been tromping around in all day, but I don't think we're going to convince her of that. But don't forget about me once you get her out," Leeasz said, deciding to be generous. Besides, if they truly were in quicksand, Leeasz could tell her descent was not all that quick, and so she felt it was only a small sacrifice to have Kaol attend April first.

Kaol eyed Leeasz skeptically, but she didn't seem to be sinking any deeper. Then again, she had strategically placed adipose that seemed to help support her, and April was not quite so blessed. He sighed at last. "Fine, but don't move. I'll be right with you."

Leeasz laughed gamely. "Believe me, I'm not going anywhere for the moment." She glanced down at herself. "Except maybe down. So a little hurry up would be appreciated."

Kaol looked back at April and noted instantly that she had clearly sunk deeper, and the gentle swell of her chest was covered in the sticky mud. Yet it was difficult to tell if her rapid descent was the result of her constant squirming of the action of the mud itself.

"Kaol!" she cried out when she saw she had his attention once more. "It's sucking me down! I can't stand it!" Her voice had lost its pleading tone from before, and Kaol could see the struggle to keep calm reflected in her face. Kaol hated to see her upset so and was determined to get her out of this predicament, as he had done in many similar before.

Kaol easy his way over until he stood waist deep in the mud, and then leaned forward and reached a grimy hand out to her. Amazingly, she was able to reach him, and her muddy fingers closed eagerly about his wrist. "Got you," he grimaced.

Breathing hard, April locked her own fingers about his wrist. "Great, but I'm not free yet. Let's go." Her eyes flicked up to his, and the calm she saw there boosted her own confidence somewhat.

With his lips pressed tightly together, Kaol focused on pulling April free from the quagmire. Slowly, too slowly for his liking, April's body began sliding greasily forward up and out of the deeper mire. After what seemed an eternity of concentrated pulling and tugging, she was at last able to step forward into the less hungry, knee deep mud which made up the majority of the swamp. She moved next to Kaol and tossed her arms about him in a tight embrace. Kaol grimaced and glanced down at the hole where April's body had been moments before. The sides were slowly caving in and filling the gap she had recently occupied. He glanced down at April with some concern as he noticed that she was still shivering. Apparently she'd been even more frightened than he had guessed. "You gonna be okay?" he asked.

She nodded her head up and down against his sweaty chest and then stepped back to look up at him. She gave a nervous smile. "Just a bit scared, I guess," she sighed, trying to pull herself back into control. "It felt like it would never let go."

"Pardon? Excuse me? Um, I hate to break up a golden moment, really. But my center of gravity seems to be gravitating downwards..." Leeasz interrupted with forced calm.

Kaol turned back to face his golden maned friend. Leeasz had indeed been moving steadily down, albeit slowly, during the time he'd spent rescuing April. Only a short line of cleavage gave any indication of the breasts that had now been claimed by the bog. Leeasz had stoically maintained her silence as she had watched her body being devoured, inch by inch, by what clearly appeared to be some type of quicksand after all. At this point, Leeasz had to grudgingly admit that April had been right. Yet she also knew panic would accomplish zilch, and so she had not said anything to Kaol while he had been occupied with April. However, she was now something of a human iceberg with the majority of her mass beneath the surface, and it was growing harder to maintain a cool exterior.

"Hold tight," Kaol called, forcing his way back through the morass towards her. "We'll have you out in a moment."

"Great," she sighed. "I..."

Leeasz was cut off as a tiny squeak emerged from her throat. Her eyes bulged in surprise, and her trapped body strained to move forward. "Kaol," she choked, and her body abruptly went limp, though still held firmly in the grip of the mud. Her chin came to rest on the remaining exposed portion of her chest.

From behind Kaol there came the roar of a blaster, and he lurched to the side, toppling over into the swamp. He rolled awkwardly over and saw April firing her blaster rapidly. "Got him," she stated with conviction, and looked down at Kaol with a smug grin. "You can get up now. I've got the situation in control."

Kaol struggled back to his feet. "What happened?"

"A Skoral must have followed us into the swamp after all." April walked carefully around Leeasz's still body, careful not to come too close to the softer mud which had held her earlier and now gripped her friend. "Yeah, it's like I figured. There's a dart in her back like the ones Spawn's goons used on us when we first crashed on this hellhole. She's out cold."

"Now what? We can't carry her. We've enough trouble trying to move through this swamp as it is. We may not even be able to free her now without getting stuck ourselves."

April slogged slowly over to Kaol. "We've got to leave her for now."

"Leave her?" Kaol replied, not believing what his friend was suggesting.

April sighed in exasperation. "Why do you always make me into the bad buy by having me tell you what you already know? We don't have any choice. She's not sinking into the mud anymore. Besides, it's not like the real quicksand that I was trapped by. Leeasz will be fine until we can come back for her, once we find Treb and the others."

Kaol frowned, unsure. "Why can't we wait until she wakes up?"

"Because if one Skoral followed us in, there have to be many more on the way. The guy I blasted probably radioed for help before he fired on us. He obviously wanted us alive or he wouldn't have been firing darts. He couldn't carry us out alone any more than we can carry Leeasz. We have to get out before his reinforcements arrive."

"But then they'll capture Leeasz!"

"Maybe, but maybe not. If we stay here, though, they'll almost surely get all of us and the Artifact we fought so hard for." April studied Kaol's unhappy face and suggested a compromise. "Tell you what. Let's see if we can maybe get her out of the mud, and set her beside a tree or something. At least that way we won't have to worry about her drowning. How about that?"

Kaol nodded, not satisfied with this plan, but unable to come up with any better. "All right. Let's get to it then." He moved closer to Leeasz's motionless form. "Any ideas?"

April shook her head and moved forward. "No time for cleverness here. You just grab an arm and I'll grab an arm, and then we pull as hard as we can."

Kaol moved forward and grabbed an arm as April had instructed. They had not been pulling for more than a moment before it was evident that Leeasz was not budging. "The mud has to be loosened around her body," Kaol snapped in exasperation.

April frowned, annoyed that she had made the suggestion to free Leeasz in the first place. She seriously doubted Leeasz was going to be in any more or less danger whether they freed her or not, but she also know Kaol would be too stubborn to give up now. "Fine," she sighed, and eased down on her belly in the yielding mud.

"What are you doing?" Kaol asked, his eyebrows drawing together.

"I'm going to try to help dig her out. The mud will support my weight easier than yours," she grunted as she moved onto the softer mud around Leeasz. She dug her hands beneath Leeasz's armpits and began scooping the mud away from the blonde's chest, trying to decrease the vacuum that held Leeasz so firmly.

As Kaol continued tugging on the unconscious woman's arms, April worked at pushing the mud away, while occasionally grabbing hold of Leeasz and trying to lift her upwards. The process forced April's own body slightly down into the mire, but it also seemed to be gradually freeing Leeasz. After much labor on both April and Kaol's parts, Leeasz was once again waist deep in the mire. In a snakelike motion, April wriggled her way back onto the somewhat more solid mud. Kaol pulled Leeasz the rest of the way free on his own.

He looked at April with a satisfied smile. "Thanks. I appreciate it."

April smiled patiently. Sometimes she had to wonder about him. They had gone through all that trouble, and now had to leave Leeasz behind. But it was also clear that Kaol felt better about the situation, and that made April feel slightly better as well.

Together, they moved Leeasz's still unconscious form over to a tree sticking out of the mire. They watched for a moment to determine if Leeasz would sink, but she seemed to have settled waist deep in her seated position, and was descending no farther. Without a word, April and Kaol turned about and continued their trek through the swamp.

copyright 1987 Kaol


This page created on April 22, 1997

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