The Beast of the Bog

Viktor trudged through knee-deep mire, each step churning the vile slush of the swamp. Now and again a flash of light illuminated the sickly green landscape as putrid fountains of rot-gas caught alight, spewing dark smoke into the venomous sky above.

A sonorous burble bounded off the worm-riddled boughs that bracketed the hunter, each rumbling call rattling Viktor’s teeth. His crude musket was tucked tightly under his arm, his finger wrapped around the worn trigger. As he slopped through the horrid mess he scanned the diseased wall of shrubs to his flank, on the lookout for the swamp’s otherworldly inhabitants.

“A damn sight uglier than home,” Viktor grumbled, fiddling with the hammer of his gun. He pined for his ragged bed, tucked away in some shadowed corner of the city he called home. But duty had called him to this damned place, on the hunt for some vile beast.

Viktor shuddered as he recalled tales of the legendary horror that stalked the swamp, a maddening amalgamation of toad and slug. It had devoured entire villages, leaving not but half-eaten corpses and sickly slime in its wake. More recently, it had encroached upon the private estates of merchants and landholders, devouring livestock and farmhands indiscriminately. Whole herds of cattle disappeared overnight, with nothing but gnawed limbs and gore left behind. Fortunes dwindled as valuable livestock were devoured, sending the landowners into a rage.

Having drawn the attention of the rich and powerful, a bounty was placed on the monster’s bulbous head, and teams of woodsmen and militia were dispatched in the hopes of curtailing its gruesome feasting. Viktor was one of the latter, bedecked in proud purple garment of his city and bearing a pocked breastplate in addition to his crude firearm. He and many like him were dispatched by the city’s ruling elite, in the hopes of easing the minds of the cattle-barons that held the countryside. Acting alone, Viktor had stalked the beast since dawn, braving the foul aromas of the swamp and dodging its more vicious denizens.

A soft sloshing alerted Viktor to the presence of some unseen horror to his side. He levelled his musket at the line of foetid reeds, prepared to fire. Yet the brush was devoid of any movement, save for soft ripples upon the water’s gloopy surface.

Viktor’s heart drummed in his ears, and beads of sweat rolled down his cheek. A horrid gurgle echoed about him, its origin impossible to pinpoint amidst the noisome bubbling of the swamp.

A flash of gangly movement caught Viktor’s eye, and with trained efficiency the hunter wheeled on the spot to face the thing to his flank. Squinting, he pulled the trigger of his hand-cannon, and in a flash his vision was filled with pale smoke. His shot spent, the hunter tossed the weapon to the side, and drew the axe from his belt. His head down he barged through the haze, prepared to strike.

As he broke the through the smog, Viktor was assaulted by a gurgling bellow, a defiant challenge from the demonic toad that loomed before him.

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