“We’ll hang him high in the sludge branches!”
Not if he could help it. He ran through the mire. Behind him, the angry men’s shouts turned into frightened screams. Then silence.
Uh-oh. Prackles. He could picture the large, saber-toothed reptiles devour the lynch mob.
Prac, rackles! The prackle’s raspy cry echoed through the sickly humid air.
He darted through a clump of reeds and weaved through the tall, gray sludge trees. He ducked under one of the thick branches. Still nothing appeared to pursue him. He stopped to listen, but not too long or the mud would’ve sucked him down to his knees.
His head jerked at a motion toward his left. A prackle surged toward him, mouth agape. He dashed away. Its breath was hot on his back.
He shivered. The prackle call sounded incredibly close, but it had not come from behind him. Reeds swayed at his right. He jumped, grabbed a branch, and used his momentum to swing himself onto it. As he did, the second prackle broke through the reeds and lunged. The reptile’s saber tooth barely missed his leg.
Once higher, he peered through the autumn leaves. The two prackles wrestled beneath his tree. Blood trickled from his leg where the prackle’s tooth had nicked him. It wasn’t bad, but the smell of blood made the reptiles crazy. He turned away, as the larger prackle overcame the smaller one. He climbed from branch to branch, tree to tree, toward the borderline of Bal and Od.
Who would want to live in this place? With the muck, the extremes of the seasons, and the constant danger of ravenous reptiles that lived nowhere else? Thunder rumbled above him. Oh, yeah, and the rain, 365 days a year, and on leap years 366.
It was sickening to see the prackles turn on one another. But the people were even worse.
He paused and wearily surveyed the wide gap between the two kingdoms. A few foolish young people paced up and down their respective side of the Border. He could probably creep over to the Odish side, as they seemed preoccupied with creating nasty names.
“All you Balens are garbage-eating fish heads!”
“Yeah? Well, you’re a leech-infested stink face!”
“Wait.” One of them pointed at him just as some prackles snuck up behind them. “There he is! The —“
People scrambled and screamed in all directions. Mud flew everywhere. He escaped to the other side during the skirmish.
Hard living should have brought people together for survival. But not the Balen and Odish. Anyone of those people who found themselves on the wrong side of the Border, would not survive long. All homes would turn them away. Those wanting war would form a lynch mob and hang them, if the prackles didn’t get to them first.
Half breeds had it worse. Though because of the hostility between the two kingdoms, half breeds were rare and always very young. He was lucky he’d even survived the seventeen years he had. Between the angry people, lynch mobs, and cunning prackles, he had swift feet, but not swift enough to leave Bal or Od altogether. By now all borderdwellers knew his tall frame and ragged brown hair, and they scorned him as Oddball.