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by Nixie Fairfax
Copyright 2017 by Nixie Fairfax
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This work contains explicit sexual content and is intended for adults only. All characters in this work are 18 years of age or older.
He came upon the ruins as dusk was settling over the brooding reaches of the swamp. The sky against which the spindly, twisted skooka trees were silhouetted was dark blue deepening to black, and the first coldly glinting stars were appearing in the east. The swamp’s pools and hollows were filling with shadows, making Korzan's navigation of the treacherous terrain slow and uncertain. Swamp birds screeched and hooted from hidden nests, and blood frogs, carnivorous things the size of a grown man’s head, croaked amid the sedges and mangroves. Low in the northern sky the full moon was a bloated orb as leprously white as the naga Korzan sought.
The ruins stood atop a low, broad artificial mound ringed all about with cracked, eroded stone steps half-hidden under centuries of dirt and moss and humus. The place appeared to have been a sprawling temple complex with ornate, monumental architecture constructed from massive blocks of some strange pale stone that was faintly luminous in the moonlight, lending the ruins a ghostly aura in the deepening gloom. The place’s decrepitude only added to that aura. Most of the walls were fissured with cracks. Roofs had collapsed, baring the buildings’ interiors to the sun and the elements and leaving their floors thick with mud and moldering leaves. Many of the colonnades that ringed and connected the structures had fallen or were listing badly. In niches in the buildings’ outer walls stood statues of robed figures, their faces and other details worn smooth by the years, their eroded heads streaked with guano.
The style of the architecture was strange to Korzan. But that meant little; the world was ancient, and the landscape was studded with the deteriorating works of creatures and cultures long vanished from the globe, their names and histories unknown to any living man. He wondered how long this place had been here. No one from the village had mentioned it, but they probably didn’t know about it. Few ventured into Gwallo Swamp, and fewer still ventured out again. Its murky depths were no doubt full of unknown ruins such as these, many of them probably built before there was even a swamp here.
In Korzan’s view the temple ought to remain unknown. A distinct aura of menace hung over the place. The very stones seemed saturated with evil, and the faint breeze that blew through the ruins seemed to bear to him the lingering stench of mass slaughter and the faint echo of ancient screams. The vines and other vegetation that covered the crumbling structures had a febrile, unhealthy lushness about them, as if some unwholesome force were fueling their growth. Yes, this was exactly the sort of place the naga and its acolytes would choose for their foul work. Korzan only hoped he wasn't too late and that the girl still lived.
He drew his sword from the leather sheath strapped to his back and clutching the dragon-horn hilt in one fist and his oval ox-hide shield in the other, he ascended the steps and crept warily through the labyrinth of tottering buildings and spilled rubble. He kept every sense alert for the slightest trace of the naga.