This month’s /r/fantasywriters writing competition wasn’t posted until yesterday, to give us writers the challenge of writing to a tight deadline (the submission thread goes up on 26 December) and to a very tight word limit – 300 words.
This is my submission, 300 words exactly.
Scouting through the delta swampland was something assigned to the lowest, most expendable grunts. Corporal Solinski knew that Lieutenant Staunton, back in his nice cabin in Putyanovka, was taking advantage of the peasants’ gratitude on being liberated, while he, his ne’er-do-well brother-in-law Kurak and several other under-enthusiastic miscreants were out here, shivering in the mud under the surveillance of Lenkish soldiers. They hadn’t found anything of consequence, and were about to go home in disgrace.
“Bloody w—- of a goddess!” Kurak yelled from the riverbank.
Solinski stalked over, angry at this unnecessary noise and expecting to find that Kurak had fallen in.
Branches snapped nearby, and the other men fell in behind him and took out their guns, just in case. He put his hand on his pistol – and his mouth fell open.
A mammoth, bark-brown creature stood before them in the river, dripping with moss and leaf-litter, with a nose like a dripping gutter-pipe and mis-shapen, green teeth in a partly-open mouth.
It waded towards them as if every step was painful.
Kurak was cowering on the bank, hiding his face. The creature, some sort of forest spirit but clearly visible to them all, stepped out of the river, reaching out its hands towards Kurak, each one big enough to grasp a man’s torso in its fist. Solinski heard a burst of gunfire, and instinctively fired his own pistol towards it, blinded by fear.
He heard his brother-in-law’s screams cut off with a thud and a whimper. A knot of enemy soldiers had launched themselves upon them as they had stood insensible with fear at the creature’s appearance.
The creature looked reproachfully at them and shambled onwards unhurt.
Solinski knew what the enemy would do to him if he didn’t run, so he took off back towards the road.
This 1906 illustration depicts a Russian leshy or lesnik, a forest spirit akin to an ent but a little more humanoid in form.