“ I’m bleeding.” Denmark stared in wide-eyed horror at the rivulets of scarlet blood pumping from his leg. “Gods be damned, I’m bleeding everywhere.”

A creeping sense of morbid apprehension snaked its way up his spine, nestling in a stiff, twisted knot between his shoulders. He grunted as he stabbed his sword through the throat of the creature, pinning its corpse to the ground. Wincing in agony, he used the blade to lower himself to the ground beside the body.

The fight had lasted less than a minute but the giant, lizard-like beast had had the element of surprise.

“Well” He muttered through clenched teeth, “this has been a grand beginning.”

Being out on the barren plains was bad. Being out on the planes and bleeding into the dirt was going to make it far worse. Scavengers tended not to trouble themselves over whether their meal was still breathing or not.

Denmark took a deep breath and began to take stock of his predicament. He spotted his knapsack lying in a heap roughly twenty yards away. It must have been flung loose in the early stages of the ambush when he was being tossed about like a child’s toy.

He took a moment to recompose himself and then examined his right leg again. The tattered, bloody remains of his leather britches hung off the side. A vicious laceration ran down from his groin, three lurid parallel lines of opened flesh snaking their way around the front of his thigh. Blood flowed freely from the wound.

He looked back at his knapsack and sighed. He was going to have to crawl over to it. The contents weren’t likely to save him, but there was some tincture of opium he had been saving for later. It would certainly help take the edge of the singing pain he felt seeping up though his consciousness, demanding attention.

With a grunt he wrenched his sword loose from the fallen creature and began doggedly crawling towards his knapsack. The ground beneath him swayed with a sickening lurch, he was beginning to feel nauseous. He felt his chest tightening as the exertion and continued loss of blood caused his body to enter the first stages of shock.

Twenty yards. Twenty long yards.

After what felt like an age, he reached the rumpled bag. He opened it up and rummaged around inside, grabbing the small, glass stoppered vial of laudanum. He rolled on to his back with some difficulty, opened the vial and knocked back the contents with a sigh.

The tincture acted quickly. He felt his heart rate slow and sensed the searing pain drifting away from his body. His mind’s eye imagined it as a gaunt, icy creature pulling away from him.

As the soft twilight of unconsciousness settled over him, he heard the faint, distant cackling of the approaching scavengers floating towards him, carried on the breeze.

“Fuck ‘em” he smiled wryly to himself.