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Old 06-22-2008, 02:54 PM   #151
Animated Skeleton
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 50
shaggydog has just left Hobbiton.
Light eyes stared back into dark, the bond of humanity now welded securely, linking these two in the way only death so close to life can approach. The ache of muscle and sting of raw, abraded skin went unacknowledged by the simple shepherd. Together, they had accomplished that most exhilarating, and yet humbling, of feats – snatching a life back from the edge of that abyss into which all men must ultimately fall.

The sight which had met Oeric’s eyes when he first rushed back into the copse and then through it ti the boggy patch of ground beyond had almost convinced him that such a feat was beyond possibility. The strange, dark man had sunk up to his ears, his face turned desperately upwards, his mouth and nose still clear of the muddy ooze, yet barely so. Oeric had not hesitated then, his actions becoming those of instinct tempered by experience, haste mixed with calm. Panic and a wrong move could spell disaster for them both. He had called out in a low voice, so as not to startle or alarm, brief reassurances that, though it might take a while, freedom was within sight now. Oeric wasn’t sure if the fellow spoke the same tongue as he, or if his ears were so full of mud as to render him deaf. But a slight relaxation and continued lack of struggling, as Oeric had advised, led him to believe the man might have heard and understood.

Meticulously, Oeric had chosen his path until it was no longer feasible to actually place a foot down in safety. With utmost care, he began laying out his pattern of willow boughs, stretching out his length on them, spreading his weight over the treacherously shifting mud. A head long rush to aid without the needed forethought was usually the cause of multiple deaths and a failed rescue from these bogs. The would-be benefactor, if unwise enough to try to reach the one trapped directly, merely ended up mired in the same predicament.

Oeric crept forward as quickly as he could, testing each move, each shift of his own weight. Finally, with one last wiggle, he was within a body’s length of the dark one. He dared move no closer. Coiling the rope, he cast and succeeded the first time in lassoing it over the man’s shoulders and arms, which, mercifully, were still above the mud, although Oeric could only guess at the suffocating press of such a position on the fellow’s lungs and windpipe. Slowly, Oeric pulled at the noose. The man’s hands flailed about, grasping at it and it seemed he had it. But as Oeric tried to pull steadily enough for it to tighten about the other, it slipped and lay impotently on the mud. Grimacing, Oeric tried once more, and with a brief smile of triumph, he managed once more to cast well and this time pull it tight enough to hold firmly. The far end he had already knotted around a sturdy willow root back on the edge of the bog. Now at least there was a functioning counter-point to the suction of the bog which would keep the man from sinking in further.

Oeric wriggled backwards until he was on firm ground then, wishing for a horse, or better yet, a team of oxen, he grimly untied the rope from the willow and looked about. The closest overhanging limb wasn’t that close to the man, nor was it overly sturdy looking, but it would have to do. Circling about, he threw the end of the rope up and over the limb, gave it a preliminary test pull, and then, wrapping the rope several times about his fists, he put his back into it and started to pull steadily. His body leaned at a sharp angle to the ground as he silently pulled with all his might. For many long moments nothing happened. Sweat trickled into his eyes, but he dared not slacken up to wipe it away. After what seemed an entire lifetime, he felt the smallest of movements. Redoubling his efforts, he grunted loudly, gratified to feel the rope move an inch. He risked a glance at the man, only a head and arms visible, the hands gripping the rope determinedly. Oeric called out again for him to stay quiet and not try to push or kick with his legs. The man stayed quiescent, and inch by inch, Oeric’s efforts fought the bog’s grip. Finally, the man’s upper body was free. He was stretched out, bent at the waist and half laying on the surface of the mud. Although Oeric could imagine the fatigue of body and mind that the ordeal was putting the fellow through, he still on grimly to the rope, which no doubt was sawing through the skin of his back and ribs as surely as it was Oeric’s hands. With renewed determination, Oeric pulled steadily, leaning almost horizontally to the ground. With a terrific squelching sound, the bog at last relinquished its hold and surrendered the man, who skimmed across the surface as Oeric fell to one knee and almost onto his face.

Jumping up, Oeric hurried back to the mud encrusted fellow, grasping his wrists and pulling him the last few feet to solid ground. Oeric had the fleeting impulse to run then, knowing he had done what he could. But exhaustion and ambivalence both overcame this urge, and he flopped down beside his new acquaintance. The man was laying on his back, breathing noisily, and staring up at him.

“Next time, be more careful.” was all Oeric could think to say. For some strange reason, the stocky, dark man grinned, then chuckled, then laughed outright at this. And for no reason he could think of, Oeric tilted his heads back and laughed along with him.
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