Thru the swamps again, this time with a guide that has never been here. I've been here. I walked here before it was the mire, and again two-fold being brought to my own execution, frozen into the ground when the ravens had my eyes. The elixir of the invited guests has already been used once for a broken leg from twisting in the mud, and once for a bite from a rat that came from the jungle version of the swamp. Not into the nest of rodents we shall take the main entrance unless the marsh freezes suddenly.
A camp with snakeskin drying for leather. The air is clear from the three small fires, one for boiling water, cooking snake meat, and forging metal, each. The comforting scent of food and the sight of blood and weapons matched with the pungent lye and tools. Pagan art on the satchel and the soup not special, before it burns one of the hunters removes it. When the craftsman returns, he puts the pot back to the fire and tells us that it isn't soup - that the smell of burning snakes keeps new ones from approaching. Paired in lack of time our stories share, we seek a way out, he seeks a way in, our presence is known and a great snake the size of many men has no fear of the fire or its measure of disdain.
A man with a sword and shield of ice prepares, but the snake passes him. A man who believes he must pour a pouch of blood on his head before swinging an ax, draws the master serpent to him, cutting one of its massive fangs, it bites him and its venom flows into him by the gallons many times faster, but still as disastrous. His eyes become black, he breaks his own neck. Where one could assume its shoulders would be, one man digs daggers, another the back, another the tail, the serpent sensing danger coils them up and twists them. The snake hunter new to our acquaintance puts and arrow to its eye and in a running leap, a hook to-under its mouth and throat, he runs around a tree and straight-toward me. I use the memory of many winters to embrace the magic of ice. The snake follows its hunter around the tree, it both whips the hunter with its tail and tries to bite him whole, but the hunter pulls the anchored hook just in time to save himself.
The arrows of many others begin to fly, some bouncing against ice, others against heavy scales. Pulling from the tree and rope the snake is caught, a sword-wielding warrior wounds its head to reveal its skull and it slows to be angry with us. The recoil, the gathered strength it strikes the swordsman, he it crushed beneath it, carving what he can as it begins to coil, he is struck as I run to save him. With winter in my hands serpent armor cripples brittle frail crumbles scales and I remove it's giant heart, ripping at cords, tendons freeze, but not the heart.
The others will eat, the ax man may live, the snake hunter offers us all work, we eat for a day and gather mighty serpent armor, stacking the scales into sacks. The hunter offers its blood to the warrior and he heals. He offers his healer his sword and that healer gives him a sword honed of a giant scale. I wait for its heart to stop beating.