Chapter 4:

The Child Raised by a Monster

Otherwordly Reincarnation: The Hag Son

Otherworldly Reincarnation: The Hag Son
Part 1: Anacrusis

"Be careful with that, boy."

The early morning sun shone high over the leafless treetops of the Slough of Flatdown. A bog unlike any other. It was known well throughout the world, for having particularly tricky and dangerous monsters, creatures and plants that carried various types of poison. Ancient things were said to have been resting beneath the bog water.

The Slough of Flatdown was far more crucial and daring than the average bog. It wasn't just a bog, it was a border. A border between all that was bright and physical. Few that wandered in could escape it, bound to be eaten up or torn apart by some wretched mutant.

However, there was no creature in the bog, let alone anywhere, as avoided as the lone hag, the Hell Hag of Mists, the Crone of Evermore Nevers, the Deep Claw Thing. She went by many names, and stayed secluded in her hut, located in the edges of the bog's forest where the dead just about avoided prowling.

They feared the woman, feared the gaze of her single eye. And they well should have. But I, having been under that gaze time after time, came not only to stop minding it... but in some ways, to crave it.

Her hut was a stout one, small and petite, made of stones and grass to make the rounded rooftop, but inside it was rather homely if in disarray.

I was arranging a collection of various liquids and chemicals on a wooden table, that looked as though it had been put together out of lazily cut lumps of logs. I placed one vial next to another, sorting them by poisons and effects. The Mandrake Poison vial would go next to the Stummusys Urine vial, but to its right seeing as one was more lethal than the other.

Few things were as poisonous as Stummusys Urine. Just about the only thing that could compare was Pixie Blood. But even then, I wouldn't say it was as dangerous. 

I couldn't at all imagine how the hag had come to posses Stummusys Urine, but I really didn't feel like asking either. Some part of me foretold that I wouldn't like the answer.

"Are you done yet, boy?"

"Almost, Mother Margretka," I replied, softly. "I'm just not sure where to place the Gloom Flower petals..."

"Oh, those are hardly poisonous at all, put them at the very end there!" She told me. I did as she asked, and stepped back to admire my work. Poisons and dangerous chemicals all sorted by order of danger. Perfect! 

For a five year old, I knew far more about poisons now than I felt I should have. But it couldn't be helped, considering who'd found me upon my rebirth in this new world. I almost thought it was some sort of poor joke, from the three Gods, the holy beings that didn't any more seem so holy. 

But living with Mother Margretka wasn't quite the nightmare I originally thought it was going to be. The hag stepped up next to me, with heavy thuds, the cloak wrapped entirely around her figure swaying there and back, brushing up against my side as she placed a metal claw hand on my shoulder.

Her veiled face inspected my work slowly, looking over everything with her one eye. There was very little space in the hut, so I'd grown accustomed to the closeness by now. Growing up, it was pure horror, being constantly held and poked by the beast, but now, since I could walk on my own, I found her closeness to be more of a comfort.

Even if she did still horrify me and treat me as something of a workhand. 

She stared for a moment more, before pointing at a vial. "That's in the wrong place. The Limbo Leaf isn't a poison, it's a tea."

"But... doesn't it paralyse your whole body when it's consumed...?"

"Only when it isn't boiled for five minutes! And even then, the paralysis last too short a time to be dangerous! A full grown man could shrug off the effects with some strain. You need to pay attention, I tell you over and over!" She hissed, as she approached the table and took the vial of Limbo Leaf away, taking it over to a cabinet across the hut to put it alongside other jars of leaves and dried vegetation. "I swear, I ought to have eaten you! I still don't know why I didn't, boy."

I lowered my head, a little shamefully. I... completely forgot about the Limbo Leaf's effects after boiling. "I'll try harder next time, Mother Margretka."

"I hear that every day from you!" She said, dangerously. She extended her metallic claw hands and grabbed a branch that was hanging from a string, beginning to tear its leaves off and putting them in a bowl. She quickly got to crushing them with a pestle. "Make yourself more useful and go out to fetch me some more firewood for the cauldron."

"...what are you going to boil in the cauldron?" I asked, a little hesitantly.

"You, if you waste any more of my time," She growled back. "Go on, go boy! I don't have all day, The Leviathan waits!"

I nodded, running over to grab my little bow -about the size of my equally little body- and quiver, strapping it to my belt. I hurried out, but stopped at the door, pausing to look towards Margretka. "...I'll remember the thing about the Limbo Leaf next time. Like I remembered the other things, about the other poisons!"

She stopped in her crushing of the leaves in the bowl, to look at me sternly. Her single eye flashed from orange to yellow, then back to orange. It did that sometimes, but I couldn't figure out what it meant. 

"...what's the safest way to harvest Mandrake root?" She quizzed me.

"...stick a knife through the top of its head before pulling it out of the ground!"

"And then?"

"Er... then grab a clump of dirt and stick it over where its face shape should be, to trick it into thinking it's still under the ground!"

"What about Wyvern Venom? Where does it secrete its venom from-?"

"The tip of its tail!" I cried, knowing the answer. "And, um... from the fangs too, with Black Wyvern females!"

"" She seemed to assess me for a moment, before shrugging and turning back to her crushing. "See, you're not entirely useless. Go on now, the daylight's dropping."

"Right!" I grabbed a little basket at the doorway and tied it to my back, unable to suppress a slight smile. 'not entirely useless'? From her, that was just about the closest thing to a compliment I'd ever get! "I'll be back!"

"And if you aren't, I'll assume you ate raw Limbo Leaf and got eaten by a Bog Bear, like a fool."

"I wouldn't-!" I began, only to stop myself. The woman was probably making fun of me. I sighed. "Bye for now."

With that, I let myself out, and into the open fresh air of the Slough of Flatdown. It was the biggest and most dangerous bog in the world. Though, not that I experienced any other bogs personally. I only knew this from what the hag told me, and what the hag told me was very little.

I set out, walking through the large, muddy clearing, in the middle of which sat the hut - repelling all monsters with the presence of Margretka within it.

All monsters feared her, so the clearing and any area near the hut was safe.

They didn't fear me, unfortunately. 

So the farther I went from the hut, the more I'd be putting myself in danger. Thankfully, I didn't need to go too far out this time.

It was a cloudless day for once. The Slough of Flatdown was typically covered in clouds, and there were few days when it didn't rain for hours on end. It was nice, to feel the caress of the sun after so long a time.

Bow in hand, quiver at my side, and basket on my back, I wandered, picking up dry sticks wherever I could and putting them in the basket. Sticks were easy to come by, but dry ones were another matter. Luckily on this particular day, not everything was impossibly damp.

My basket was filling up, stick by stick, and with it, I grew progressively heavier.

Five years, since my rebirth. Five years since my class and I had been torn from a baseball game, and I found myself standing before three magnificent but kinda shitty beings that told me I'd be reincarnated in another world as a 'hero'.

Or... a discount hero. I'll be honest, being reincarnated to be raised as the son of an ugly bog hag didn't seem all that heroic. And as much as I was hoping for something more incredible, like a position as a Prince or a Viscount's son, maybe a future Baron, I... couldn't exactly complain about this.

The environment was cold, uncomfortable. My 'parent' was cruel and tough with the love... and, well, inhuman.

If I were a real child, I'd have trouble dealing with my upbringing. As a teenager, in a child's body... I was doing fairly well for myself. Perhaps it was my initial intelligence -unlike that of a typical child- that gave her the patience not to eat me right away. Maybe she could tell somehow that I wasn't going to end up one of those irritating brats that would cry every time they wanted to be fed.

It wasn't a comfortable new life, not at all. But with how much I'd learned thus far, in only five years, I was happy enough where I was.

As I bent down to pick up a stick, I heard a crack someways off. I got up hurriedly, notching an arrow and pulling back, aiming in the direction of the noise. Nothing, but a greying set of bushes and unsteady ground. The noise rang out again... a familiar sort of growl.

I lowered my bow and slowly approached, sneaking low and crawling on my knees, under the bushes, noiselessly, to investigate.

Ah... and like that, I found the source of the disturbance. A Brain-Eater. Or rather, a Ferhel, as was their official name. It looked like a round, black fluffy ball, about as big as my five-year-old body, harmless enough. Four-legged and with a single big eye and mouth. Some might have looked upon Ferhels and thought they were a cute species of monster.

But I could assure just about anyone that they didn't look anywhere near as cute standing over a man's cracked-open skull, feasting on their brain matter. Their favourite meals.

This one was letting off various grunts and pained cries, one of its legs bleeding heavily, another leg cut off completely. I looked at the cut from where I lay under the bush, still unnoticed. It looked gnawed off, rather than cut off, actually. As though something had bitten it. Probably a Bog Bear, judging from personal experience. They liked to go for the legs first, to hinder their prey immobile, so that they could eat them alive.

Yeah, I said 'personal experience'.

I saw a lot of shit no five-year-old should have seen.

Bog Bears were most weary about coming this close to the hag's hut. This little Ferhel probably managed to crawl away from it while it was distracted, deep enough into this part of the swamp to dissuade pursuit.

Unfortunate for the Bog Bear, fortunate for me.

Hmm... now how to go about this?

I uttered, silently, the word "[Status]." and like that, a hologram-like screen of stats appeared before me. My stats, that is.

Name - Boy (Bram Engels)
Title(s) - [Hero] [Hag Son]
Age - 5   
Sex - Male
Race: Human

Lvl - 1
HP - 20/20
MP - 10/10
Str - 5
Dex - 15
Def - 10
MRes - 15

Class - Leviathan Alchemist
Blessing - None
Skills - [Hero Skill - Soldier of Fortune LV1], [Identification LV1], [Archery LV1], [Alchemy LV1]

I had troubles figuring certain stuff out, at first. The whole skills aspect of displaying essentially 'what made a Bram' on a holographic screen, in a world that didn't seem as though holographic screens belonged at all.

The first couple times I made myself a bow (I failed on my first attempts) I began to practice with it, against unmoving targets like trees, or nearby vegetation. Never on anything living. I'd never hunted anything, not a thing. The clothes I wore, made from the fluffy skin of a Ferhel, were made for me by Margretka, after she willed a Ferhel near her with her odd powers, and skinned it with her claws. So this would be my very first time.

I activated [Identification] and inspected the thing where it lay.

Lvl - 6

That was... as much as I could tell from it. I bit my lip. I assumed that [Identification] would level up, the more I used it, and that eventually it would be able to tell me more than just the name and level of whatever I tried to inspect. I didn't know how much health this thing had left, but it had to be very little, considering its circumstances...

Very well. I wouldn't hesitate. I pulled back on the string of the bow, aiming it right at the moping, pathetic pile of a creature. In my old life, I'd have been uncertain about killing just about anything... but in this life, I'd seen firsthand what these things could do. How mercilessly they killed and ate. They were a hazard. And leaving it here to die would only attracted scavengers.

This was the way of the Slough. I took a deep breath... and as I let it go, I let go of the string. A cracking sound resounded, telling me that the arrow had hit its mark. The noises of crackled growls and whimpers halted in an instant.

In a moment of surprise, a sort of ding resounded in the back of my head. Eyes still set on the dead Ferhel, astounded somewhat by the simplicity of my first kill, I opened up my [Status] once more, only to be greeted by three sorts of... pop-up messages. The same sorts I'd received before, when I earned the [Archery] and [Alchemy] skills.

You've gained two levels!
[Archery] has gained a level
You've earned the title [Child of the Hunt]

Name - Boy (Bram Engels)
Title(s) - [Hero] [Hag Son] [Child of the Hunt]
Age - 5
Sex - Male
Race: Human

Lvl - 3
HP - 45/45
MP - 16/16
Atck - 8
Dex - 34
Def - 15
MRes - 29

Class - Leviathan Alchemist
Blessing - None
Skills - [Hero Skill - Soldier of Fortune LV1], [Identification LV1], [Archery LV2], [Alchemy LV1]

Two entire levels! Well, the Ferhel was level six, where I was only still at first level. I imagined it became tougher and tougher to gain levels, the higher your level became. But my stats had also improved significantly! In some ways, as soon as I got the messages, I felt somewhat stronger.

I had no idea what the 'titles' changed, nor what levelling up my [Archery] skill would gain me. Perhaps I did more damage with it now, or had better accuracy with it? Either way, it was some good progress. I could hardly hold back my excitement! I had finally gained a level! Two levels, in fact! A first step towards becoming stronger in this vast world. For now, I was secluded in a bog, but at least I knew I was capable of...

...killing... a damaged, unmoving target that couldn't even fight back.


On second thought, I sucked.

I pulled my arrow out of the carcass, and admired it for a second. Simple or not, it was my first kill, and that had to be worth something. After dragging it back to the hut, Margretka seemed to have felt my returning presence as she was standing by the door when I arrived. She was flexing her metallic claw fingers, open and closed, as though in consideration. I paused, five feet from her, looking from her to the Ferhel I was dragging.

"I found it close by. It was hurt and bleeding. I worried it might have attracted something bigger."

"A wise choice, then," She said, stepping out of the hut and approaching. "What a hollow creature. Its fate was sealed from the moment of birth, unlike yours."

"What do you mean...?" I asked, as she took the corpse by the leg and held it up. Instead of answering me, she grabbed me by the shoulder and turned me around, to inspect my basket, almost filled with sticks.

"You didn't collect quite as many as I'd hoped for. But here comes your next lesson! Ferhel bones..." She turned me back around again, just in time for me to see her peeling back the skin and flesh along the side of the dead monster's gnawed leg. "...are a far more effective fuel than any wood or bark you'll find out there. You can burn them even moments after pulling them out of the body! Remember that, it might save you one day."

"...I... right. I understand. Now, about what you said-"

"You've grown stronger!" She pointed out, walking into the hut. I was surprised, a little, but followed her in as quick as I could. 

"You can sense it?" 

"I sensed it from far off!" She growled. "The moment you killed it, I'm to assume. Your level's gone up, hasn't it?"

"It... It has..." I nodded, following her in and closing the door behind me. "Should I not have done that?"

"On the contrary. It's about damn time!" She thrust the carcass onto a table, pulled a knife from the windowsill, and began to skin the beast. Most of her actions were covered up by her body, so I didn't see much of the skinning and tearing, but I did see pieces of meat fly off on occasion. "Thought I could make you hit the second level by teaching you about alchemy and mixing poisons. But for a whole year, nothing! Goes to show, nothing levels you faster than killing."

"So... It's possible for me to level up simply by... making potions and elixirs, and all that?" I asked, putting the basket of sticks down next to the cauldron.

"Possible, aye. Easy? No, not quite. You won't get much out of a failed attempt, and even with a successful one you'll sooner level your [Alchemy] skill than your actual level. You've not made a successful elixir yet, have you boy?"

"I... made you tea that one time?"

"Then somehow blew up a cup the next time you tried." She reminded. I sat down leaning against the cauldron, lowering my head. 

"...okay, so no, I never really made an elixir."

"Well don't despair over it. You look pathetic!" She growled. I raised a brow at her. She wasn't even looking at me, how could she tell I was despairing?! "The answer isn't to mope around, boy..."

She turned back to me, holding the still somewhat red skull of the Ferhel, with the occasional clumps of fur attached. Otherwise, it was a clean, round skull, with a crack in the side where my arrow found its mark.

"The answer is in action," She tossed the skull down at the little pit below the cauldron next to me. On impact, the skull shattered into pieces. With a flick of her hand, and a mumbled word, a small flame seemed to jump from her finger to the shattered bones beneath the cauldron, where they immediately caught fire and burst into life. " get up, and begin."

I stood, promptly, lip trembling slightly.


"That's right. You're going to make me something. You're going to make me... Hmm..." She tapped her chin, curiously, before an idea came to her. "Ah! Seeing as you live around so many dangerous poisons and toxins, you're going to make me a counter. A strong counter, that is. An elixir that can nullify the effects of any ingested poison!"

"That... that sounds difficult!" I protested. "And aren't there different types of poison-countering elixirs?! Like, a different one for each poison?!"

"That's where you'd start, boy. To make the counter to every type of poison is a journey - first you must understand how to counter any even a single poison. So for starters, you'll make me... the remedy to Wyvern Venom. I think that'd be simple enough."

I stared at her, a little astounded at first... until she tilted her head at me, almost threateningly. I jumped up from my seated position and ran off towards the cabinets. "Yes, Mother Margretka!"

"You'll need the book, my book of the craft!"

I promptly fished it out of the cabinet, a little hesitantly. I'd seen her look through this thing from time to time, when something skipped her memory. To think I'd actually be reading from it myself! 

"I'll not be helping you boy. You'll read from the book on your own, and make every decision on your own!"

"Do I need to add more fuel to the fire?"

"No no, the Ferhel's bones ought to last, it'll heat the water up well enough on its own. Look look, it's already boiling. Come now boy, get to cooking!"

An hour later...

I stirred the substance slowly, carefully, just as the book instructed. Margretka watched from over my shoulder, wordlessly. Never nodding her head, never shaking it.

In order to make a counter, a remedy to Wyvern Venom, I first needed the venom itself. Luckily, Margretka had plenty for my disposal. 

"Wyvern Venom is volatile, and quite dangerous," She told me, as I stirred slowly, carefully, eyes never leaving the concoction. "All it takes is a tiny sting, a pinch, and once it's in your body it travels fast. Not even cutting off your own limb would save you. It gets swept up in your bloodstream, cascades around your entire body in seconds..."

I took out the wooden spoon, tapped it against the side of the little cauldron, and glanced into the book. One ounce of Grave Root... how would I measure an ounce?! I reached for some Grave Root, weighing the entire piece in my hand. Margretka spoke on.

"...It might take a day to die, with only a pinch. Maybe two days, if you're strong. But either way, the symptoms will show. Delicate boils would break out over your skin, as the liquid in your body starts to turn to pus, and tries to exit the body. The tissue lining your organs starts to disintegrate, bit by bit. Specifically in your stomach first, where the tissue is necessary to keep the stomach from digesting its own self."

It felt... just about like an ounce. I pulled a knife, a small one, from the counter next to me, and cut off a tiny bit of the Grave Root. There! Now it felt like an ounce. I tossed it into the mixture, where it sizzled for a second... hissed, and then changed colour from a transparent white, to a misty orange. Uh oh.

"That's typically how you die from Wyvern Venom. It turns your own body against you, as your stomach acids tear a hole through your own belly. And that's with only a pinch of Wyvern Venom. Imagine what a whole bowl of the stuff would do! Melt your insides in a matter of hours."

I looked into the book, panic-stricken. Oh dear... oh, oh! 'The mixture ought to turn a misty orange'... Phew! For a second, I was afraid I'd done something wrong. I stirred once again, as the book instructed.

"...the only way to save someone from the Venom is with this very concoction. However, it must be taken within two hours of having come into contact with the Venom. After that, there's no saving the individual. It can still be nullified when it's in the bloodstream, but after two hours pass it'll have caused irreparable damage..."

I stirred, carefully, slowly... and like that, for a soft moment, the mixture seemed to shine, as another ding noise popped up into my head. An update to my [Status]! Which could only mean...

"I think it's done!" I announced. I took the cauldron by the handle, and with both hands lifted it up off the fire, taking a couple steps back and placed it down. After searching around for a vial, I dunked it in, and took out an entire glass vial of the remedy. The counter to Wyvern Venom. 

I held the vial of orange liquid up high, admiring it and shaking it a little. It wasn't transparent, it was misty, just like the book said it ought to be. It was the right colour too. Just to be sure, I opened up my [Status] and had a look.

[Alchemy] has gained a level

Name - Boy (Bram Engels)
Title(s) - [Hero] [Hag Son] [Child of the Hunt]
Age - 5
Sex - Male
Race: Human

Lvl - 3
HP - 45/45
MP - 16/16
Atck - 8
Dex - 34
Def - 15
MRes - 29

Class - Leviathan Alchemist
Blessing - None
Skills - [Hero Skill - Soldier of Fortune LV1], [Identification LV1], [Archery LV2], [Alchemy LV2]

The [Alchemy] skill had gone up a level now! I bit my lip in excitement, as I looked my potion over. This was an achievement for sure! Margretka said that one could gain some level progress by successfully making elixirs. Did that mean I was closer to level 4 now, because of my endeavour?!

"I wonder if it works properly though. Is there any way to check-?"

As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a slight sting in my arm. I jumped, with a gasp, and turned back to Margretka just in time to see her holding a scaly stinger, looking like it belonged on the tip of a monster's tail. She put it back into her sleeve, and stood here, staring at me. I could only gape, in shock.

"Did you just...?!"

"I did," She confirmed. "With the stinger of a Red Bilge Wyvern. The most temperamental species of Wyvern, granted, but with the weakest variation of the venom after Palentine Wyverns."

"You know far too much about Wyverns, I have to say!" I yelled, looking down at where I'd been stung in frustration. "That was just a pinch, right?!"

"Just a pinch."

"And what if my remedy doesn't work?!" I argued, looking at the substance in my hands. Could we not have tested it some other way?!"

"Perhaps..." She nodded, before walking over and sitting down on her seat, placing her clawed metal hands on her knees. "But then, boy, you would not be getting used to the venom's effects inside your body. Part of being prepared means knowing what to expect. You cannot allow yourself a moment of weakness. The more you inject yourself with poisons and gradually fight them off, the more your body will learn to fight off those poisons itself, without any help from chemicals. But, to even get so far in your life as to naturally gain poison immunity, you'll first need to live through today. So..."

Her eye landed back on the elixir. I knew what that meant. I stared at the thing myself, before raising it to my lips, hesitantly. I reared my head back and downed the potion bit by bit. It tasted bitter. Rustic, like water out of the tap, but bitter nonetheless. 

As for the poison, I felt it quickly spread through my body, and in a matter of moments, a sickly feeling came over me. I wanted to throw up, but I kept it in, knowing well that I'd need to keep the remedy inside my body for it to take effect. Moments after, my head felt lighter, my skin paled, and I felt as though I'd been pounded with a hammer over and over.

Margretka watched my expressions shift, over this period, and upon noticing my distress, opened her arms. I approached, thoughts gone out the window, into her embrace.

"You'll be fighting off the effects for a few hours, boy," She told me. "You took the remedy right away, so if it works as it should, you just might get through the period of scorching pain in a matter of minutes rather than hours."

"There's a period of scorching pain-?"

"Hush! I said no such thing."

So in her arms I stayed, being swayed back and forth, in an eternal dance.

My mind had gone astray, but as irritated as I was with her for doing what she did, I couldn't make my sour feelings known.

In that manner, being lulled to sleep in the arms of a one-eyed monster of a woman, I could comprehend nothing but my own misfortunes. And be grateful for them. 

For misfortunes were what made real heroes.

To be Continued...