Krom, a 16 year old boy, had lived in an isolated but subjugated town in the middle of the equatorial jungles with his father, Rodric, for longer than he could remember. But his tranquil existence was soon to change as he found a mysterious dagger and discovered an Imperial army has come to destroy his home.
In the depths of the jungle, a young man stood gasping for air. The sounds of his exertions joined with the howling of monkeys, the chirping of lush birds of paradise, and the splashes in the murky pool as the swampus he had been following slipped away. He stood at over six foot, powerfully built, but not stocky. Rather his stance had an unusual elegance; as he bent over the dappled sunlight that pierced the canopy far overhead danced upon his naked back. His face exuded youth and intelligence, but far more than that. There was something about his calm but mournful gaze that drew one in; he aroused a sense of something one couldn’t quite put one's finger on. His name was Krom, sixteen years old a day ago. The swampi were animals native only to jungles of the north; they were a murky green colour, had large heads, short tentacles that propelled them through water, and dwelt in the small interlocking pools and waterways that criss-crossed his homeland.
He sought not to kill the creatures, but to capture the colourless liquid they secreted when induced by such stress as being hoisted out of the water and shoved unceremoniously into an oilskin bag. This mildly poisonous substance was a defence mechanism against predators that lurked in the cloudy waters, but when heated it was a remarkably form of glue that was used to bind wood together and could even lock the stone blocks of a wall in sufficient quantities.
In the stagnant waters, the wreathed roots and creepers that hungrily sought out the water lay bare for the eye to see; the scrabbling of small creatures had long since eroded the soil away. As Krom looked, a small crab-like creature scuttled out of the pool, and it appeared to glance round warily before scrambling into a rotten tree-trunk that had collapsed and lay sideways on the ground. His head jerked to the left as he heard the tell tale bubbling sound made by a swampus. Running up to the water’s edge, he peered ahead, just making out the ripples on the surface. He began to run, circling round through the undergrowth.
Brushing aside a tangle of vines with a violent slash of his forearm, he stumbled over a concealed root at his feet and fell forward, the foliage opening up to reveal another pool. His eyes widened as the water rushed up to meet him, and instinctively took a gasp of air before plunging into the clouds of green and grey.He could see nothing but the faint echoes of sunlight from above. He tried to swim back to the surface but there was something holding him back. He realised that his foot had become entangled in some roots at the bottom of the pool. He contracted his body so he could use his hands to loosen the bonds, but he couldn’t see what doing and had to rely on touch to free himself. His hands searched frantically along the length of the roots to find a weak point, but they were solid the whole way and until they dove back into the ground. His air was running out, and in desperation he yanked at the roots, pulling as hard as he could, but this served only to tighten their grip. There was nothing he could do, and he stretched back upwards, flailing his arms, trying to somehow break the surface. He couldn’t hold his breath any longer, and in panic took a great gulp of the cold water. His body was so cold, he thought.
Suddenly a hand grasped him by the wrist in an uncompromising grip,, and with a powerful wrench that almost seemed to tear his arm away from his body, snapped the roots and lifted him up onto the ground.He lay on his stomach coughing up water for quite a while before looking up, red-eyed to thank his saviour.
There was no one there.