Nicyes staggered through a patch of tall marsh plants, blood trickling from his ears and temples. He was exhausted, lost, and confused and nothing about the marsh terrain was conducive to an expeditious retreat. Somewhere along the way, he’d dropped the toothy scroll, but it seemed so unimportant now. His mind was otherwise occupied with his escape.

Water sloshed around him as he struggled to stay upright, as memories of the last week drifted past him with all the pleasantness of swamp gas. His recollection of the events in the marsh and the surrounding farms was as stable as the muddy ground, but he wouldn’t soon forget the giant, or the bloody scroll with the teeth.

Nicyes lost his footing and fell to his knees, his arms sinking into the soft earth in front of him. He pulled them free a moment later, cursing, mud stinging in the numerous tooth marks covering his hands and forearms. He climbed back on his feet and tried to scrape some of the mud off by rubbing his hands and arms together, but doing so while jogging forward was largely unsuccessful.

He remembered reading from the scroll for days on end with only his prayers to the gods keeping him conscious and alert enough for him to continue reading. Not that it had kept him safe through the entire ordeal, as his wounds attested.

Stopping for a moment to catch his breath, Nicyes listened for his pursuers. A small patch of soft earth gave him a place for his feet, and a withered tree offered him a place to support the rest of his weight. He rubbed his forehead with a muddy arm and it came away with fresh blood. He was a mess, but at least the sounds of pursuit were far in the distance behind him.

When Nicyes had finished reading the scroll, the giant was furious, and had told his followers to extract payment in the form of equal knowledge. He rubbed his nose, snorted briefly, and spat on the ground. He’d managed to escape before they had taken anything from him but a little pain, and it had cost them.

Nicyes had hoped Alquis could make something of the scroll’s contents, but that hope was lost in the murky water. Still, he had to make it back to the others and report his findings. Together, they could put a stop to everything. They could put a stop to his nightmares.