The swamp was cold and wretched, and in the air was a feeling of dread as thick as the fog cutting off the travelers' field of vision. Five. That is the number of people travelling this place, with but a torch as their source of light. Barely strong enough to glimmer several feet ahead of them, it does little more than to disrupt the shadows around them and make them contort and twist as if they are bony limbs trying in vain to reach and slaughter them for disturbing the peace of this place.
The group moans and groans as they have gone near two days without rest. 'Once we are out of this bog' the leader says to them again, and again, and again. But like their muddied feet, this place seems tempted to trap them within itself forever. Finally, with many of the younger travelers, of which many were barely old enough to grow hair anywhere but their head, nearly collapsed from exhaustion they decide to stop and rest, finding a place where the mud below them does not clump downward from the weight of their steps.
Finally, as they find a place suitable, every last one scurries about like a worker ant, as they set about to do their designated duty. That job could be to set up a tent, or to tie tarps from one branch to another, hoping to block the ceaseless rain in this no man's land. Tired, lost, running out of ration and morale, many of them are questioning why they had come to this place.
The town in the deeper reaches was once a bustling source of trade and coin, and they had decided to become merchants true, and such a place could be as a promise land...but that town, it had been several decades since any word had come from them. No trade, no festivals, not even travelers to greet the world outside. As many in their ranks question this for near the hundredth time one of the elders in the group spots something in the distance as he pushes nearby shrubbery away from the other.
It appears...to be a man...a man collapsed upon a small islet in the center of a muddied circle of water. The traveler cries out to the man, garnering no response, save the questioning looks of his scattered comrades. He continues to howl at the man, hoping for any response, and getting none he decides to rush toward the man, disrupting the inky waves and splashing it all about as he runs to the patch of dirt in the middle, his friends not far behind once they realize what he is doing. Again and again the first merchant submerges his feet in and out of the mud-water until he reaches the hill. But, as his foot finally stops a few feet from the man something seems wrong.
He notices it right off, and his friends are soon to sense his tensing and follow suit. The man on the hill is a corpse. But, that is not what is wrong, only a part of it. He feels...watched. Perhaps even like he's being studied or appraised. Even stranger, the feeling seems to be flowing from the corpse. The merchant inches ever closer to the body, despite his own inner instinct to back away, 'what could the dead do to the living?' his thoughts retort to his own instinct to live...and that was one of the last thoughts he would ever have in this world.
Quick beyond human capacity the corpse springs up like a snake and takes hold of the man, earning a shriek of terror from both he and his friends who could only look, frozen in shock. By the time they had regained the ability to act it was too late. The man; the creature had taken hold of their friend and torn at his flesh, peeling it from the muscle and the marrow both. It had twisted his head upward beyond its ability and seemingly torn at his lung-though his hands never seemed to reach there...so they can only assume he had bitten at it.
The corpse looks to them all. It does not look like it itself is studying them. In fact, its eyes and movements are more like that of a puppet on strings, for his head and several limbs are sometimes not even set in the correct direction or looking the right way. Filled with terror, they all pull out their revolvers and fire upon the murderer. Piece after piece of the cadaver's flesh is blown off until finally his own head flies far from his body, and from his now severed neck springs tendrils of what could only be described as organs...organs that twist and swirl about like worms contorting in movement.
Though its head is lost the body still shambles forward, ever closer to the group. Rasped in terror they continue to fire at the corpse, until finally their guns give the clicking sound to signal nothing left to fire. What remains of the body stops and stands there motionless only to slowly fall into the mud, the organ like tendrils seeping from its neck into the waters.
All is silent, save the weighted breathing of the surviving four. Soon, sure of their survival, they all begin to collectively utter sighs of relief. But, the companion silence is broken soon by the shrill shrieking of a girl, one of the youngest of the group who had hid far back from the rest. The others look back to a terrible sight.
There is the girl, but the unnatural organ-like appendages have sprung up from the waters and are now coiled around the girl like rope-intent to drag her into the depths. The few closest to the child attempt to rush to her aid, but as each get close they are soon tripped up to fall into the waters by their feet, most likely by rogue tendrils still waiting in the water. They can do nothing as the girl is dragged into the water, and the bubbles signaling her breathing cease almost instantly. The creature is still very much alive.
Consumed by fear and no longer thinking straight the remaining three travelers all pull out a knife, or hammer, or anything with which to stab or bludgeon. Some are even so consumed with fear all they can think to do in their survivalist instinct is to swing their now empty pistols around in the water as if it were a small bat.
They all begin to attack the water madly, hoping to land a strike on the creature waiting in the water. But, one by one they are all picked apart by the unnatural beast before them, each one being grabbed and either torn apart, drowned, or worse. No matter their age or gender the creature does not discriminate its attacks or method of torture. Finally only one remains, huddled upon a nearby tree that has long wilted and petrified.
Moments pass with only the sound of his choked heaving, and the slightest ripple in the water sparks a great fear in the remaining victim. One second passes. And then another. And another. And the next after that. What could easily be a minute seems an eternity to this fear-ridden individual as he attempts futilely to huddle ever closer to this tree he is starting to consider a sanctuary.
Then, just as the man thinks all is well, that he is safe, he hears the most horrific of screeches as the beast lunges from the murk to coil around him. Interwoven tendrils of flesh coated innards rise up grabbing one limb after another, even attempting to coil around and choke his throat, and as the man fights with all his strength only seeming to delay fate but a second he sees for the first time the face of the creature .
It is a horror in of itself to think such a being even has a face...but what else could this object before him be? Its head is shaped almost like a budding flower comprised of heavily veined flesh coated in cactus-like needles. Many rows of small, almost unseen saw-like teeth dot his multiple petal-like lips, and from this maw come several straw-like tongues. But his eyes, they are like something that should stand on the vilest of insects. Then he realizes he has read of a creature like this before-a parasite that is prone to using its flower-like head for camouflage. A beast that loves to live in dark, cold, and damp environments. Just like the murk they had been traversing.
The beast does not drag him down like he did the others; that would be too boring. It begins to tear him apart just as it had done to the first, only these openings are much smaller and cut-like; the kind of wounds that could close within an hours passing, if not sooner still. And as it is doing that, the creature forces the man's jaw open, wide enough to dislocate it from the strength of the beast's vice, and lunges itself inside, descending into parts unknown. Soon, the man can feel the organs inside of him being eaten away, he can feel the agony of loss, and he can feel the creature forcing the less desired of his innards through the small openings he had created earlier. He can feel as the creature positions itself, placing itself in place of his original organs. In the man's last moments he can feel as his limbs are now refusing to listen to him-instead listening to the goading of the creature inside him.
It was of little wonder now that they hadn't heard from that small and friendly village in decades...their home had become a den for Blood Skal!