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A Hatchling.


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Well, in one of the recent discussions about fan-fiction someone mentioned "experimental" genra, and how its main praisworthy quality is that the reader is warned before hand that it's an awful reading. Here is one "experimental" short story in the "experimental" setting. Another good thing about it - it's short! Obviously has nothing to do with BG or FR... whatsoever. Dark, huh.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A Hatchling.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



He swallowed another mouthful of stinking water, rich with mud and tried to gag it down. The edges of his open throat bled first, than rotted, and now become another set of lips. The murky swamp liquids did not sting his eyes any longer, but he could not see his body in the darkness of the bog’s innards. He could not even touch his body, tied up with the thin leather cords hand and foot. The druid said that otherwise he will worry his wound, and will not transform. He was transforming, all right. But what was he becoming? And will the druid ever deem necessary to see if the miracle has happened? It was a stupid, desperate thought, bred by the timeless stay in the reeking abyss. They had to come. The entire village livelihood depended on the miracle. But there was no way to count out the forty days, after which they’d return for him - whether to bury or to set lose. Sometimes, he thought he could feel the sunlight, but it must have been a trick of his imagination.


Another swallow... and again he breathed it in with his throat... He was already lucky to have lived through the ritual, and now the least he would become is a vodyany and wander the bogs luring the incautious, but bowing to those gifted with the Forest power.


But he did not want to become the “leastâ€Â. He prayed again, that among the eight of them, the Offered, he’d be the chosen one. As if Perun heard him, he felt a tag on his rope... he almost ascribed it to his imagination, so faint it was, but then it intensified and he was sliding upward, through the ooze. While he was carried, he felt rather than saw, that the road led upward, toward the sky. Milky- white light was all that his eyes could distinguish in the world once full of colors and shapes.


They must have found the stake marking his burial last, for he was thrown atop of the other seven mud-covered shapes, unrecognizable as human bodies. But they were not humans... except those who died. So they lay in the deep pit, dead and alive together, waiting.


Someone was twitching and shrieking faintly underneath him, someone was sucking in fresh, blunt air hurriedly, forgetting that nose and mouth were no longer of use for that. Pain came as tender water-soothed tissues became exposed to the forest wind. He could not believe that he missed the sun for the whole of forty days. It was searing, scorching globe... He forced himself to look up at it. Closing his eyes to Perun, the druid said, will make him into vodyany... One of the bodies underneath him wriggled free from their pile, and was beating wildly, like a fish ashore - and someone invisible against the blinding sunlight ordered to release Narim... He heard a splash. Then there was another who gave into the temptation of the bog. She screamed badly even after she went under water, and he almost smiled when it became inhuman wheezing and bubbling of the swamp water instead of that high pitch, troubling wail. The other five were motionless - dead by the test of earth and water, or just like him staring up at the sun, hoping against all hope to pass the test by fire.


One of them moaned... a deep, unhappy moan... it was him, he realized, as the world began taking shape. The pain relented, the patch above him was blue again - the color of the summer sky. He moved his hands in disbelieve and the bindings opened effortlessly releasing him. He rolled to his belly and a new wave of pain went through him, pushing on every joint of his body, ripping his skin... from under that dirty, thin cover came the shiny brown scales. His fingers grew and grew and between them - a thick layer of black leather covered by fluff. The pit was rapidly becoming small for him. Another moment and it would strangle him...


Instinctively, he flapped his itching wings and lifted his long, sinewy body and a lashing new tail above ground. His throat pulled in warm fragrant air and a line of flame came out of his mouth. It hit the pit, from which he had arisen, scorching the dead five in the last show of gratitude and respect. The villagers led by the druid ran away, down the slopes as he roared and labored. When he was done, the hill top stood black and barren.


He had passed the test by air and fire.


He made a large circle, trying the strength of his wings, feeling joy at the absence of pain. Below him laid the hills covered by the dark forest and deceivingly vivacious emerald-green vastness of bogs, pinned here and there with sickly tall birches. Below him, on the highest hill, at the clearing he just burned out for them, small people were rushing about, mounting a tall pine scorched, but not consumed by his quick fire. They would carve Perum on this totem poll in gratitude to the deity of fire and lightning... They are grateful to finally have him.


He squinted and looked towards the East.


That’s where the Black Hordes where gathering, the wild riders with curved bows and swords. A Zmiy cannot shudder, when in flight, but he closed his eyes for a moment. The rain of their arrows has slain his predecessor, yet they did not know it, for the Zmiy stayed in the air, until they retreated from the hills to the steppe, held afloat by his own will and the druid’s prayer.


Now he was a Zmiy. All that was left to them is to pray that he grows strong enough before the Horde comes again.




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