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Contents Copyright by Bruce Durham unless noted otherwise
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“You can say ‘ouch’, you know.”

 

”It doesn’t hurt.”

 

“Oh? Why the grimace?”

 

Moirya leaned back on her arms, fingers digging into the soft oasis sand, relishing the shade of the palms and the warm breeze blowing off the dunes.

 

Dalacroy hunched beside her, working with his knife at the tattoo on her ankle, applying a paste in the vain hope of disguising the telltale slaver’s cross. He was having little success.

 

Finally, he flipped his blade into the sand and sighed. “I’m making it worse. This was a bad idea.”

 

Moirya flexed her leg and sat straight to inspect the work. She giggled. “It looks like half a wheel. I think you should stick to fighting.” She frowned. “It won’t get infected, will it?”

 

He shrugged. “It shouldn’t. I just pricked the skin.”

 

She nodded and stretched, her tattered garment revealing more flesh that Dalacroy wished to see. Moirya smiled as he looked away. “Embarrassed? I hardly expected that from you.”

 

He mumbled, “Not embarrassed. I think we should go. I don’t want to risk an encounter.”

 

She sighed and stood. “Very well. Let me wash my ankle. You’ve made it a mess.”

 

Dalacroy nodded, watched her walk to the still water, admiring her tall, slender shape, gentle curves and long legs. He picked up his knife and cleaned it. He looked again.

 

Auburn hair hung shoulder-length and framed an oval face, accentuating high cheek bones and contrasting expressive green eyes.  Her naturally bronzed skin was darkened from exposure to the sun and amply exposed through a torn white tunic--a fact Dalacroy found increasingly uncomfortable. He'd be happy when they reached her home town of Qialtl.

 

The days after the events in the haunted marsh of Qetzkol had been spent journeying north, traveling at night to escape the heat of the desert and roaming Yakuli nomads.

Altogether, I would give this story the classic Marvel promotional hook – ‘If you only read one S & S story this month – make this the one!’
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... well written with good atmosphere, combat, horror, powerful arcane magic and clever, surprising plot twists. This good S&S tale works well as an intense short story.
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I like this even more than “Marsh God”. I wasn’t expecting such a twist on the Golem/Gorgon legend. Very inventive.
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The Catacombs of Dharwataqan
Excerpt
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Click graphic to read the entire story.

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