The Song of Sword and Magic - Chapter 9
Chapter 9: The Oasis in the Swamp
[Translator — Asuka]
[Proofreader — Karane]
It has been two days since Fern had stepped into the swamp area. He was still slowly following Dark Cloud. Not much food and water were left in his bag, but the end of the swamp was still nowhere in sight.
He had slept on the tracks he left behind last night, but he was afraid that he might sink into the swamp at any moment, so he wasn’t able to get a good night’s sleep. After he woke up at the break of dawn, he was unable to go back to sleep. On the other hand, Dark Cloud was more energetic than he was apparently, it had a good rest.
The wound on his shoulder had worsened and pus had formed. Any slight movement would make him gasp in pain. Although he had tried to place some crushed herbs on the wound, it didn’t help alleviate the pain. Undoubtedly, exhaustion and hunger had worsened his wound. Furthermore, being in this seemingly endless swamp, he couldn’t see any hope of survival.
If I still can’t get out of this place today, I’ll die from hunger by tomorrow, Fern thought as he looked at this vast swamp. Or, this wound will kill me. Hopefully, I won’t come down with a fever. While he was lost in his thoughts, his stomach started growling. After fishing out some meat jerkies and dried fruits from his bag, he placed some in his mouth and stopped abruptly. Have they arrived at Wet Port? If everything went well, they should have reached the port yesterday. I suppose they’re in Rose Inn now. At the thought of the warm food at Rose Inn, he started drooling. Not wanting to think about it any longer, he stuffed the food into his mouth. When he was done with his meal, he also shared some dried fruits with Dark Cloud. There was no grass in the swamp area, so he had to share food with his horse.
After walking for a long time, the sky was turning dark as it became evening. The sun had painted the entire land red, including the swamp. Even the feathers of the crows in the sky appeared to be crimson.
Fern heaved a sigh helplessly. It seemed that he had to sleep in the swamp again. However, the muddy ground wasn’t an ideal place for a night’s sleep. Suddenly, his eyes shone with excitement as he thought of something. “The crows! They don’t typically fly for long periods of time, and they only appear in places where there’s food. Hence, it means that there’s solid land nearby.” At the thought of this, he immediately regained some of his energy and kept walking.
The sun turned from red to crimson before eventually sinking into the horizon. Fortunately, the moon and the stars were bright enough for Fern to see his surroundings clearly. In the distance, a vast area of forest came into sight. Although it wasn’t the end of the swamp, it did give him a sense of hope which made him elated.
Together with Dark Cloud, Fern walked toward the forest. Just like what he had expected, they were now in the oasis of the swamp. The ground beneath his feet grew more solid as they approached the forest. Without the need to follow Dark Cloud’s hoof prints anymore, Fern could walk on his own as the muddy ground had solidified.
When they stepped into the forest, the fresh smell of grass and trees came right at his face. Smelling the fresh air and stepping on the soft grass, he was moved and forgot all the pain and fatigue he felt.
Fern decided to look for a safe place to get some shut-eye. Although he would love to eat something, his body was in a desperate need of a rest. After looking around, he found two suitable trees. Then, he fished out a hammock from his bag and climbed up the tree to tie the net to the trunk. After that, he climbed up another tree to fix the other end of the hammock to the other trunk. He had to ensure that the hammock was high enough to avoid the attacks from other animals. However, the wound on his shoulder slowed down the speed he climbed, and the pain he felt in his body made him unable to focus, which almost made him fall to the ground.
After using up all his energy, he finally managed to get the hammock ready. Following that, he tied Dark Cloud to a tree and fed it water from his bota bag before he gulped down most of what’s left. He did save some water in case of emergencies. However, he was too fatigued to drink so much water at once, so he fell on his knees and started coughing violently. A while later, he pulled himself together and got to his feet with difficulty. After hurling the bota bag onto the hammock, he used his last bit of energy to climb up the tree. As soon as he slumped into the hammock, fatigue started washing over him. Without the energy to think, he slumbered off immediately.
“Fern, I’m scared. Can we get out of here?” Kaya questioned in a trembling voice. Her arms were wounded by the twigs as she ran past the trees in the forest. Her face was covered with tears and sweat. At that instant, she was starting to lose hope.
“We can get out of this place. Trust me. I will bring you back to Deville!” Fern held her hands and looked firmly at her.
Kaya forced a smile. “Okay!”
Moments later, a sword penetrated Kaya’s body. “Fern, you must survive…” Tears dripped from her eyes and fell upon his face.
Fern woke up in shock. His forehead was drenched in sweat, and his heart was pounding against his chest. The sky was still dark, and he was surrounded by the buzzing and croaking of insects and toads, which sounded like a lullaby. He took a look at Dark Cloud, which was sound asleep as it was standing. “Kaya…” Fern muttered, then he dozed off again while listening to the lullaby of nature.
It was the afternoon when he awakened. The sunlight filtered through the branches and shone on his face. However, the swaying of the leaves made the sunlight flicker, which made it difficult for him to open his eyes. If it weren’t because he was starving, he would have loved to keep sleeping for a while longer. Left with no choice, he had to start looking for food and water.
There were a variety of plants in the oasis, so Fern could easily find some berries. After that, he also found a kind of shrub with large stems. Upon digging out their roots, he peeled off the outer skin of the stems and started chewing on them.
When he was done with eating, he went on to search for water, which was more important than food. However, it was dangerous to look for a water source because all the animals would drink from it, so he could possibly bump into some brutal beasts. Fern tried to search for a place where plants grew densely. A while later, he could hear the sound of flowing water in the distance. “Wonderful.” Everything seemed to be well within his control. To ensure his safety, he didn’t immediately dash toward the water source. Instead, he ducked inside the underbrush and observed the water source through the gaps of the grass.
It was a river with a large pool at the end, and it seemed to be a spring. The plants around the river and the pool were abundant and lively. “It should be alright, but I’d better wait for a while longer.” He was full at the moment. Moreover, he had consumed enough liquid from the berries and the stems, so he wasn’t in a rush.
Moments later, two birds of different sizes skipped toward the river and drank water from it. “They’re… a kind of heron that has gone extinct!” Fern widened his eyes in disbelief as he gazed at the birds he had only seen in drawings.
However, the following sight was even more shocking to him. Two disheveled people appeared by the pool as they crouched down and filled their tanks with water, which made Fern feel uneasy. Why are there other people here? Where there are humans, there is trouble… he thought. Not wanting to expose himself, he continued hiding in the underbrush. At least the water is safe to drink.
Just then, something unpleasant happened. The herons were alarmed because they noticed that someone was hiding nearby, so they started screeching at the underbrush. The people by the pool stopped what they were doing and looked in his direction in fright. Before Fern could react, they abandoned their water tanks and ran into the forest as fast as their feet could take them. It seemed that they were more frightened than Fern was.
In confusion, he rose from the underbrush and walked towards the river. Seeing him, the herons left the place in a hurry. After crouching down, he started drinking the fresh water greedily and forgot about his pain temporarily. Upon filling up his bota bag, he then started cleaning his wound with the water. As soon as the water came into contact with his wound, he gasped in pain. He clenched his clothes with his left hand and gritted his teeth as he continued cleaning his wound with water using his right hand.
When all the pus was cleaned, he wore his bota bag on his back and was ready to go back to his horse. Just then, he could hear noises coming from the area across the river. Alarmed, he tried to make out what the sound was, but the sound soon disappeared. Looking up, he realized that there were no other sounds apart from the rustling of the tree leaves.
With years of experience living in the wild, he reckoned that he had better leave immediately, but it was too late. Just when he wanted to turn around, a few people jumped out of the woods with wooden javelins in their hands and shouted, “Stop!” One of them directly hurled a javelin at him.
The javelin whizzed above his head and stuck into the mud. Apparently, they didn’t have the intention of killing him. Knowing that he had no chance to flee, he turned around and saw ten sturdy men standing across the river. Just like the two people from just now, their outfits were on the skimpy side, but their tanned skin and well built muscles suggested that they were terrific warriors.
The leader whirled around and whispered to two men. After that, they took out ropes from their waist and started surrounding Fern from both sides.
“You’d better stay put. We haven’t killed anyone with our javelins for a long time,” the leading man said unenthusiastically.
“Who are you? And why are you here?” Fern shot a look at the two men who were hemming him in, and he examined the rest of them. Then, he decided to surrender for the time being.
“These are the questions we should ask you, but you don’t have to answer us now.” The leading man motioned for his companions to take action. Following that, they encircled the ropes around Fern’s body and tied him up.
“Bring him back,” the man ordered.
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