“Ahahah, look who it is! If it isn’t tomorrow’s champs!” Cried the bartender as Lord Nate, Lord Jack, and Lord Merryl walked in, to have a fling before the showdown.
“It’s on the house for you three! What’ll you be havin’?” Lord Meryll ordered a round of beers while Lord Jack started up a conversation.
“Bunch of ugly louts we’ll be fightin’, right?”
“You’d be surprised. I saw ‘em arrive yesterday and one girl was actually quite pretty. Salome, they said her name was.” The bartender replied.
"Salome?!" Nate thought, starting. "It’s a different one. It has to be. The other one is dead."Without meaning to, he flew back to his past.
“Salome, will you marry me?” The handsome 18-year-old boy asked, holding out a less than best quality ring. The girl leaned down and kissed him rapturously. “Oh Nate, I though you’d never ask!” She said happily.
“Salome, you’ve just made me the happiest man alive!” With that he picked her up and gave her a hearty kiss on the cheek.
“Stop it!” She said, giggling. He set her down, and she looked at him through her black hair. “Will you be here tomorrow night?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” He whispered back enthusiastically.
Lord Nate shivered involuntarily. “Nate, are you okay?” Lord Jack asked, concerned. “Are you cold? You really should start wearing clothes.”
“I’m fine!” Nate snapped. “And then came the worst day of my life.” Lord Nate thought, going back again.
“What flowers would ever be good enough for my Salome, my ethereal beauty?” Nate wondered, as he wandered into a bog that sported giant and beautiful flowers, somehow missing the spectral hand that was sticking up through the ground. In his dreamy state, he also didn’t see the bodies littering the swamp, many with their skeletal hands clasping the stems of the flowers Nate sought.
He spied a large white lily, and let out a cry of joy. “It’s perfect! What an ideal contrast to her dark hair!”
He stumbled forward to grab it, but on touching it, he was seized with incredible pain. He dropped to his knees, clutching his hand. He gazed in wonder at the flower. There was no doubt it was the lily that had caused his pain. His eyes scanned the surrounding area. Only then did he notice he was encircled by the dead. He jumped up and ran, praying nothing would happen to him.
Once he was safely out of the swamp, he examined the sky,
“I’ll have to go meet Salome without flowers. I’ll have to get her a bouquet some other time.” Once he got to their meeting place, a lovely sylvan dell, he saw Salome with her back to him.
“I’ll just go and surprise her.” Nate thought with a mischievous smile.
He slipped silently around the other side of the tree she was leaning against, and leapt in front of her, yelling, “Boo!” He looked at her in surprise as she shrieked, not of surprise, but of pure terror.
“I’m sorry Salome! I didn’t mean to scare you that bad!” Nate cried, reaching for her hand. She screamed again, and drew back in revulsion. “How do you know my name, you naked creature?”
Nate stood still, completely shocked. “What are you talking about? Salome, it’s me, Nate!”
“You are not Nate.” Salome replied, and with that, she turned and fled.
“Salome!” Nate shouted, but she didn’t come back. “What’s wrong with her?” Nate wondered. He then glanced at his reflection in the placid pool, and stumbled back in horror.
“Surely that isn’t me!” He yelled, for the pond reflected back a nude, green monster. “What could have caused it?” He wondered, and then slapped his forehead. “That swamp! It must have been the bog those old hags in town are always warning people of! What a fool I am!” He slumped to the ground, as the realization that Salome would never marry anyone as ugly as he, dawned on him.
She would end up marrying that bully, Albert, that had been after her for years. No doubt about that, since even though Salome was precious, she was a weak character.
A few days later, it was all through the town that handsome young Nate was gone, some people claiming that he had wandered into the cursed swamp, and was never seen again.
Nate never ventured into town, knowing he would be shot at first sight. He remained in the glade, knowing that he would never hear his beloved’s voice softening into musical tones as she said his name, or hear her magical laughter ringing thought the forest. She would never come to him again, which caused him to cry himself to sleep every night, in the dark, lonely dell.