The Cursed Swamp
The sun shone high above the bustling town of Greenwood. Sounds of chatter and footsteps filled the air as the locals went about their day-to-day routines. Shops overflowed with people, performers danced and sang as crowds gathered, and the taverns rang with the cheers and laughter of the various patrons. The town was at the heart of the various trade routes that spread across the land. Many travelers and merchants passed through the town on their various adventures to restock and sell merchandise. The town was also a large exporter of crops. So much went in and out of the town that a special guild of delivery men and women was needed to help transport it all.
Camellia was one of those delivery women. She was quite familiar with the many roads and towns, and had traveled all across the land on her multitude of jobs. Despite her many ventures, her uniform looked as if it was brand new. The brown undershirt and yellow top were well taken care of. Not a single spot could be seen. Her blue pants and leather boots were the same. She herself was also spotless. Her blond hair shone in the daylight, and her skin was clean and pure. Camellia was one of the best in the guild, and she wanted to make sure she looked the part.
She was on her way to the local bakery. The baker, Mrs. Bails, had just received an order for a dozen loaves to be shipped to Goldstone, the next town over. It was only a day’s walk there, so the errand would be of little issue for a veteran like Camellia.
“Mrs. Bails!” Camellia called as she walked into the small bakery. Tables were laid out along the walls of the shop, and a large oven was visible behind the counter at the end of the room. Mrs. Bails turned and smiled at Camellia as she walked in.
"I'll be right there!" Mrs. Bails called from the back of the bakery. "Just taking these loaves out of the oven. I'll have them wrapped up for you in no time." Turning, she revealed a sheet of freshly baked bread still steaming in her hands. Setting the tray down, she gathered some cloth from the cupboard behind her. She walked over to the counter and laid them beside her. She then reached underneath the counter and pulled out the tray of bread she had prepared earlier. One by one, she placed the loaves onto the cloth, and carefully folded them up. Once they all had been wrapped, she carefully carried them over to a basket she had placed on the counter. Once they were all stacked up nice inside the basket, she covered them up with a few rags, and handed them out to Camellia.
“Here you are hun,” she said as she smiled once more. “The tavern keeper in Goldstone said he needs these delivered by tomorrow. He ran out of bread and his patrons are getting restless. He said if he doesn’t get some more soon, they might stop roughing up each other and take to him instead.”[a][b]
“Don’t worry, I should be able to get there by sunset. He won’t be getting into trouble with his patrons. The tax collector he keeps avoiding is another story.” The two giggled as Camellia grabbed the basket and headed to the door.
“Oh, remember Camie, stay on the path, and do try to get there before nightfall. You don’t want to end up as spider food.[c][d][e][f]”
Camellia turned as she stepped out the door. “I’ll be fine. I haven’t missed a delivery yet![g][h]”
Camellia walked down the crowded street, making her way to the town’s exit. As
she walked, she gazed at the many vendors that lined the road. The smells of various foods mixed with the sweet smell of the loaves that rested in her basket. Meats, fish, veggies, herbs and spices were everywhere she could look. It all looked so good. Camellia then realized something she forgot as her stomach began to rumble.
She had forgotten to eat breakfast today.[i][j]
She had overslept this morning, and to save time she decided to just head to the bakery. However, all the food that surrounded her and the growing emptiness in her gut made her regret that choice. She needed to get something to eat, but with this delivery, would she have time to get something? It was already noon, and if she didn’t leave soon, she might not get to Goldstone by nightfall. Traveling at night wasn’t an option. Monster sightings had become common in recent months, and no one dared to test their luck against the many creatures that hunted after dusk. However, going out on an empty stomach wasn’t the best idea either. She needed her energy for the long walk ahead. With no fuel, it would be quite a lot harder to make it there on time. Camellia stopped and considered her options. After a long and hard though, she came to a decision.
“I guess a bite or two couldn’t hurt…”
Camellia reached for another meat bun as she finished the last of her chicken leg. What
had started as a simple snack to hold her over till the next town, turned into an all out gorge fest. The vast amount of food that surrounded her had been all too tempting. It didn’t help the local butcher was having a sale. Camellia was quick to buy a small feast with how much of a good deal it was. However, she had failed to realize how much time she had spent eating. What should have only taken twenty minutes at most had taken over an hour instead. The glorious flavors had taken all of her attention, but when she caught a gaze of two meatheads being thrown out of the tavern across the street, the situation dawned on her.
“The delivery!” she cried out as she jumped from her seat. She grabbed the basket from beside her and dashed off towards the town gate, leaving behind the half eaten meat bun. She ran through the crowds of people, barely avoiding to hit them as she dashed left and right.
How could she have made such a rookie mistake?!? She had always made sure she had plenty of time to get to where she needed to go. Why did she have to skip breakfast?!? Had she eaten even a honey bun or two, she could have left with time to spare! But alas, now she was left with only a few hours till sunset. If she ran as fast as she could, she might be able to make it. She had never missed a delivery before, and she wasn’t going to do so now!
As she approached the town gate, she waved to the guards to let her though. However the gesture fell flat as she dashed by before they could say a word. She heard the sound of cursing and vague warnings and she ran down the dirt road.
It had been two hours since Camellia left Greenwood, and the sun was starting to set. She had been running as fast as she could, but the food she ate seemed to have done more than just make her late. Having eaten so much, she had become a bit bloated, and it had caused her to need to rest far more often she normal. She only had a few more hours till the sun went down, and at her current pace she wouldn’t be able to make it on time. She was already too far out to head back now, and she she hadn’t brought anything with her to help her make camp. She was running out of time, and she needed some way to get to Goldstone before dusk. Camellia came to a sudden stop as she spotted a signpost up ahead. It stood between a fork in the road.
“Left, Goldstone : Right, Gnarled Swamp” the sign read.
Reading the name of the infamous swamp sent shivers down Camellia’s spine. The swamp was well known for being the home of many dangerous monsters, spirits, and witches. Tales were told of many who ventured into the marsh never to be seen again. It was a gamble heading into the swamp. You never knew what you would run into, or if you would make it out the other end.
The other end. A realization hit Camellia. Goldstone was right across the Gnarled Swamp. The road to Goldstone went the long way around the swamp. It was a lot safer, and easier to trek through, but it took far longer than going straight through the swamp.
“If I went through the swamp, I could make it to Goldstone just in time,” Camellia muttered to herself. While the tales of monsters were quite numerous, most monsters in the area were nocturnal. Even in the swamp, the amount of monsters would be low, at least till the sun set. The swamp also had lots of places to hide should she get into trouble. The vast fields the normal path crossed would leave her defenseless when night fell. If she traveled through the swamp, she might very well be able to get to Goldstone before anything happens.
Camellia stood at the crossroads for a while. She needed to get to Goldstone. It was dangerous, but she was one of the best in her guild. If anyone could do it, she could. With a confident nod, Camellia headed towards the swamp.
Though the sun had not set, the swamp was shrouded in darkness. A thick mist filled the air, constricting Camellia's lungs as they inhaled the heavy haze. The swamp was oddly quiet. Not a sound could be heard except for Camellia’s feet squishing against the damp soil. She gazed around her as she continued to walk forward. Aside from the trees that dotted the swamps surface, the area was barren of life. No grass or vines grew. The trees themselves bore no leaves, and looked dead; their branches clawed at the air around them. It was definitely an odd sight for Camillia. She knew that the swamp had many sections, all with their own unique appearances. But she had never heard anyone mention a lifeless forest like the one she was wading through now. The whole place gave her goosebumps, but with Goldstone so close, she kept moving forward.
Though she knew no one was around, Camellia felt like she was being watched. The trees around her towered over her. It was if they were looking down at her with contempt. The haze that filled the swamp didn’t help either. Far off trees looked like tall, shadowy figures behind the dense fog. The swamp had an odd feel to it, as if it was hiding something within. Camellia tried her best not to think about it. She was almost there. She just had a little longer to go.
Camellia froze. She looked around her; her eyes darting left and right. It was faint, but she swore she heard a voice call out to her. She stood completely still, listening to see if she could hear it again. Her heart began to race. Was someone there? Who would be in the swamp?
“Why...do you...disturb us?”
There it was again! A sudden chill came over her as the air got heavier. Camellia started to shake in her boots. Was someone following her? Was it a monster? A witch? Camellia looked around for something to use to defend herself. She spotted a lone branch a few feet away. She dashed over and swept it off the ground. She waved it in front of her like a sword, ready to strike whatever it was that was stalking her.
“You...wish to hurt us…?”
Camellia gulped. She adjusted her stance and stood her ground. She didn’t know who or what was talking to her, but she would be damned if she went without a fight!
“I…...I’m not afraid of you!” she shouted into the mist.
A long silence fell upon the swamp. Camellia tried her best not to show how scared she actually was. Despite going on many deliveries, she hadn’t ever encountered a bandit or monster. She had gotten lucky, but it seemed like her luck had run out. Finally, the voice called out to her again.
An eerie cackling sound echoed through the swamp, as glowing green orbs started to appear in the mist. Camellia began to panic, and started swinging the branch around wildly. The basket of loaves fell onto the ground as she flailed about. The green orbs crept in closer, slowly swirling around her. An odd chant filled the air, and Camellia started to feel stiff. She began to shake, dropping the branch in front of her. Three green flames gathered around her, though they felt cold as ice. Camellia tried to run, but she found herself frozen in place. The chanting got louder and louder, becoming all she could hear. She tried to scream, but nothing came out.
One of the wisps rubbed against her, and lit her clothes afire with green flame. An icy chill enwrapped her body as her clothes dissolved into nothingness, and she was left standing nude. Fear filled Camellia’s mind, wondering what was going on. Regret and anger soon joined as well, as she wished she had just taken the long way. It was her fault she was in this mess. She was careless. She overslept. She left late. And now she was paying for it.[k][l][m][n][o][p]
Her eyes darted down as she felt a tingling sensation in her feet. All she could do is look in horror as her toes began to crack and extend. They dug into the ground as her skin turned rough and black. Her changes began to crawl up her legs, slowly consuming her knees, then her waist, then her chest, her shoulders, and finally her arms and head. Soon her whole body was covered in the rough black crust.
She looked down once more as the tingling sensation returned. Her legs began to move on their own! They moved closer and closer to each other until they touched. The crusty skin then began to grow into itself. Her legs warped and expanded as the fused together, becoming a large, round mass.
Camellia turned to her arms, which had also begun to move, cracking and aching as they extended outwards. Her fingers grew long and jagged as pointed growths sprouted out of her arms. As Camellia realized what was happening, tears began to swell in her eyes. Her head began to feel heavy. She tried to look up to see what was happening, but still her body wouldn’t move. She only weeped harder as her hair turned hard and fused together, creating more gnarled branches.
Suddenly, her whole body began to surge in size. Her torso grew taller and wider as her arms grew out longer and longer. Her neck also became taller and wider. She watched what were her arms grow farther away as her head jet up into the sky. Soon, only her face was left. The rest of her was now one of the trees that inhabit the swamp. She stood tall above the ground. Looking down, she saw the basket she had carried with her all this time. Seeing it like this just brought more tears. Finally, she managed to get out one cry of sadness as her face melted into the bark, leaving no trace of the woman that once made her way through the forest.[q][r]
The wisps that were dancing around her scattered off. The swamp became quiet once more.
Time passed, and the swamp remained quiet...at least it seemed. Though Camellia was nothing more than one the many trees that stretched out across the landscape, she was still inside. She could hear the many voices of the forest, resounding in her mind like thousands of whispers gathered together in a deafening chorus. She could only make out fragments of what they said amidst the uproar. Regret, sadness, longing, and anger echoed in the murmurs of the damned. Occasionally, she would also speak into the void, adding her voice to the choir of the trees.[s][t]
The hours dragged on, days bleeding into one another. Or was it minutes? It was impossible for her to tell. She couldn't see the sun rising or setting, or feel the cool of the evening and the heat of the day. Weeks could have gone by, or maybe she'd only been there for a day? She could no longer tell,all she could do was continue to listen and whisper. Occasionally a new voice would appear, and occasionally one would depart[u][v][w][x][y][z][aa]. She didn’t make much of it. Much as time passed without care, as did the voices. Listening and whispering, as is the way of the Gnarled Swamp...
[a]I'm gonna inquire about this sentence, but I think I'll just read the story first, and then I'll come back and go through things with ya. Otherwise, this first reading could take a while. XD Might as well get a hang of the story first!
[b]Ooooh... okay, I get it now. Just didn't read it quite right the first time.
[c]Well, shit. This probably isn't good foreshadowing. X);
[d]XD well its foreshadowing some bad times lie ahead. also a reference to killers work.
[e]Heh heh, ah yes, spiders, yes. X)
[f]Appreciate the reference, but I wonder if "spider" is a bit too specific. Especially if she's supposed to be avoiding the Gnarled Swamp where they live
[h]What could possibly go wrong
[i]MOAR foreshadowing that today is gonna lead to something different!
[j]Something always goes wrong
[l]This isn't one of killers Happy stories. Welcome to inktown. Population : Soul crushing sadness.
[m]though this is hinted at taking place in the same world as Killer's dangerous potions story. Though it could just as well share the same name for the swamp, and have no relation. which is it? you'll have to wait and see.
[n]Damn, yeah, I was just thinking how you do dabble in darker stuff every now and then. I need to remind myself that one of your prime avatars is in fact a villain. Yeah, I had a feeling, especially when you mentioned spiders or driders earlier. Indeed, we shall see! It certainly is a nice change of pace... well, not really, as a lot of your stories tend to involve people getting TFed with unfortunate endings, with Synthex being the ones ddoing the TFing, and getting their way. X);
[o]Yeah. The reason i tend to go more dark with certain tfs is it feels more real to me that way. A lot of people in the tf community seem to forget that tf in real life would be really scary and horrifying in most cases.
[p]For sure, yeah. Which is certainly really good, as turning into a tree... would be really scary, especially in a context that...
...is reminding me of that scene from the animated Beauty and the Beast... of the Shortcut Woods, with the dead trees... and the wolves...
... and... what scares me really badly in recent times now that I've rewatched that scene... is the extreme closeup wolf silhouette we see for half a second. It's sending chills down my spine just thinking about it.
That this girl... is becoming one of those trees... is really quite scary...
[s]Holy frick... all those trees used to be people... and... frick... frick...
[t]probably not ALL of the trees were people. But some of them were people once.
[u]Ummmm... good... or bad depart? o_o
[w]Is this a sign that there is hope? or is it a sign that she only has so long till her time is up?
[x]I guess we will have to wait and see if/when a follow up to this comes
Do it. >B3
Ha ha, just joking, but yeah... have to wonder... I guess we will see, for when that day ever comes!
[z]I guess my only thing is, if this is gonna be followed up on, is that years can't pass, cuz I figure by that point, she's already completely crazy from be isolated alone with a bunch of equally stuck and crazy people
[aa]oh yeah. i guess i could leave it vauge. that way it can stand on its own, or be followed up on
A delivery girl goes on an errand to the next town. However, she is running late, and decided to take a shortcut through a murky swamp. Little does she know that the swamp holds many secrets, and not all are good.