Submission (#63) Approved
Act Type: Bravery
Word Count: 2461
Adult Elnin Present: N/A
Regional Affinity: Enmir
Claiming Regional Affinity for: Spritz [ELN557]
[Noble] Rank Unlock Mini-Requirement: Depict your Elnin during a journey far from home
[Act 3 - Marsh Myths]
The wetlands were wet. An obvious sentiment that likely anyone in Eyre would roll their eyes upon hearing, but for a newcomer of the concept, it was a startling revelation. In her temporary lodging, Spritz had spent several days watching the sky open and sob its heart out. Around her, business in the Cindermarsh town never stopped. She could see the bustling waterway down below the in, moving with small boats and rafts down from the tree-laden waterway and out to where the tower overlooked the domes of commerce. Even the smells kicked up by the rain were things that reminded her of damn earth and old woods. At first, she was content to rest, especially after realizing her fear of heights, but now it made her antsy. The traveling kittom was more like a rolling stone, following after a sound - or rather the lack of noise to bring her comfort. After the few days rest, the noise returned, and she gathered her wicker bag again, eating a breakfast of fruit and a small pastry before setting out into the drizzling weather.
Though she figured that charting another raft might be the most accessible mode of travel considering the marsh inlets along the water, Spritz felt a need to walk her way to the next stop along the way. Outside of the area of trees, she made her way along a bridge of planks laid out over the marsh waters. With the spotty clouds above, waves of sprinkles fell on her and caused her fur to fluff up on her back. Around her, the pale green grass sloped down into the water, and the area was littered with short, skinny trees with full tops and bare bottoms. It was like a series of tiny islands joined with the planks of wood. Pools of water quivered from the wind and rippled with each new drop falling against them. The small pools graced with the dappled sunlight were calm and reflected like mirrors back up. She enjoyed the view as she continued along the walkway, pittering along while humming a song.
Open marshes had an allure to them; despite the light rain, she could breathe freely out among the network of waterways trapped between the soggy, green grasses on top. Life teemed within the water and the trees, and she watched while snakes and various birds moved along, unbothered by the rain. In the distance, she could hear the noise of frogs ribbiting up to the sky, and she swayed her head to the music of nature, jumping along the tracks of the walkways. A sign along the way was scribbled with the word "Salva" with a rusted yellow arrow attached underneath. The walkway split with a fork, with one way winding deeper into marshes, while the other moved back into the willow trees, hunched over to dip their branches in the water, backed by a deeper, darker forest beyond. The capital city must be like that one in the Cindermarsh, in the trees. She felt a sigh escape her lips. "Wonderful, more heights." At least with some encouragement, she was able to get over them now.
Walking along the wooden path, she noticed that the wood changed from the pale, dry colors, and to a deep brown, moss growing at the edges. The forest she approached looked darker, with long and wide trunks and large canopies that shielded the area from not only the rain but the sun as well. Nearby she noticed several small torches lining the walkways as a precaution. While she approached, she saw lights inside of the large trees emanating from doorways. It seems that the inside of the trunks were hollowed out into homes, and like the previous town had buildings higher in the trees.
But there was something wrong about the buildings in the trees.
Unlike the ornately carved buildings lining the treeline of the Cindermarsh, these buildings looked as if a giant had picked up a house and slammed it back down on top of the tree, multiple times over. All of the wooden based structures were splintered or frayed somehow, though were held together by moss, vines, and whatever else decided to grow on them. Rusted iron walkways were affixed with large metal screws, while other iron signs were faded, overtaken by time. Ropes hung between buildings, slack from years of non-use, while newer ones moved with pulleys to cross the gap above. The sun was brighter near the top, which made Spritz think it might be the best place to be. Except for the heights.
Around this time, she became aware of the small baskets lightness when she tripped over a loose board and nearly tumbled into a mess of reeds. It didn't hurt, but the distinct clanging of bottles was missing. Her supplies were running low again. Not that she should be surprised, she had holed up for more than a few days doing little more than eating and drinking her weight worth of things. A restock meant coin, of which she had some but would likely need more. Instead, she got crafty and quickly took off.
Generally speaking, a city center facilitated a bulletin board that was stacked with everything from personal ads to odd job requests. While some were nonsensical, such as literal goose chases, some paid off and big. It wasn't hard to find it, as there was a massive torch on top of it, but it was completely covered from top to bottom with paper. Spritz grimaced at some of the slimy pieces that were slapped against it. "Oh, that's so gross..." She said to herself, twisting around to find something better. There was an ad looking for someone to carry heavy groceries and another for house repairs. Both things elnin were not well suited for. Other signs were too faded to read, or asking for less savory sorts of jobs, such as dealing with toilets. That was never going to happen. After a long while of circling it over, she was ready to give up, until a scrawled ad with a misshapen, crudely drawn picture on it.
"It comes out in the day y' see when I'm out tillin' the other fields or sellin' my wares — making these horrible noises that are like screams. It chases the pests away, but then it eats my crop or the bulbs of the growin' flowers. Or it tramples on the mugwort. I ain't been able to see it real close, but it's like a giant golem covered in dark clay..." The tall human woman snorted, spitting off to her side and motioned to the broken fencing around a grassy area nearby. "If you can find it and chase it off for good, I'll happily pay ya." Her eyes moved down. "...You sure you can, little sweet thing? I don't think you 'nin are real good at monster hunting."
Spritz sat patiently as she spoke and stifled a grunt at the comment. "Monsters don't exist, ma'am." She said as plainly as she could. "And elnin are just as capable as any other creature." It was polite enough, at least, and she looked in the way of her "fields." "You go sell your heart out, Miss Milly, I'll be done with this before you come back!" She spoke confidently but had trepidation since her explanation didn't match anything she knew of. But as her journey was teaching her, there was a lot she didn't know. Her words placated the woman, though Spritz heard a chortle when she walked out onto the shaky planks.
Unlike the lush green fields before, these were clearly specifically used, where water pools mingled with muddy pits. Some of the carnage was apparent - flower bulbs yanked from their buried homes and strewn about on the sides of water pools. Herbal areas looked like disaster zones as if something dragged through them with a shovel. Spritz sniffed the air but regretted it. There was something foul here, likely an herb, but it didn't make tracking any easier. Softly, she sighed and followed the property line with her eye, looking at the old fence skeptically, and she padded off towards it.
The inspection wasn't really necessary. Anyone with eyes could see that it was broken and worn down, barely worth keeping up. The bigger issue was that anything could slip through the network of open areas or slide through the water underneath, albeit that they would end up muddy. From the description she got before, Spritz figured it might be the latter and poked her head down into the muddy holes nearest the fence line. The slimy substance was a clay color and looked more water than dirt. "Gross." She muttered, walking along. Her ears caught noises of wildlife nearby. A ribbit from a frog. The call of a bird. Even the yelling of the men in the town wafted over the little bog "farmland." When one mud hole didn't yield a clue, she moved on to the next one, staring at the trail of destruction that moved in and between the water and mud holes in a random arrangement.
Hours of similar poking and the kittom was tired, sitting back down in a clear patch of green grass among the rest that shifted between a yellow or orange, depending on the angle. There were no prints to be found: no scratch marks or bite marks. Flower bulbs, roots, plants, and some of the small trees had been pulled free of their dirt, yet most were left out to die with very little missing. "What sort of thing does that?" Behind her, she heard the sudden splash of water and jumped to her feet, staring at the water pool behind her that wiggled from being disturbed. Crap, its the monster!
She lept back from it, but the water was still once more, and she looked back down into it curiously. No, dummy, a fish. Spritz groaned and yelled, "What the heck am I even doing?!" Around her, the other animals took notice of the yell and went silent, and she stood, exasperated with a frown. What else could she do if there were no clues? Maybe the lady dreamed it. Just when she thought she could just move on, she heard a loud squelching noise from behind her, followed by a loud bellow. Warily she turned her head, watching mud fly as she stared up at the giant visage of a melting mud monster.
She screamed and bounded off, tripping on the grass and jumping back over a water hole to get away from the horrible, raging beast. In her frantic state, she easily miscalculated and slid down an embankment and into a sticky mud puddle. Wriggling, she grabbed onto the side, clawing her way out, terrified by whatever was behind her. It was as if she was covered in sticky pudding, but it smelled gross and matted against her fur. At least she was able to run away.
What lay in front of her was no monster, but rather an oversized frog that had been roaming the "field" looking for insects, which were often found in dirt. Spritz shook her head, now covered in drying mud herself, and she poked at the large creature. Puffing up its mouth, it tapped against her and shifted, jumping with a long leap. The small nin had to laugh more, and she waved back with a paw. Internally she was exhausted, embarrassed, and dirty. Grime between her paws made her flinch, but she made her way back to the cabin, just in time for the farmer's return. "So, you had a giant frog covered in mud." She said triumphantly. "If you spray something, it won't dig up your garden to get to the bugs anymore."
A blank stare met hers, and the woman looked flush. "Are you serious? That's all it were? Shoot." Miss Milly looked sheepish, staring at the mud battled kittom and grabbed a sack from her belt, tossing it at her. "I'm embarrassed to have called that thing a monster, but either way, you did identify it for me, so I thank you for that. A frog... a frog of all the dang things. Most common animal in any swamp." Spritz tuned out once she started swearing and claimed her prize of gold, settling in her shadow instead of putting her muddy hands all over it. Quickly she excused herself and wandered back into the town, dipping her body into more clear water.
There were many things that the kittom needed to be aware of in this new journey. The line between good and bad, being aware of her surroundings, facing her fears, and now remembering to stay resolute in the things she knew were true. Monsters didn't exist - at least not on little bog ingredient farms. Maybe bigger things did, but it felt silly to her that she had given up that conviction out of fright. It was learning by making mistakes which seemed on par for her type of journeying. Soon, she'd have to continue on beyond the marshlands and swamp, out from under the willow trees and towns carved into the woods themselves. It was a greater calling that transcended the "monsters" of the world, and she was slowly but surely making her way there.