The Saghane Swamp
The Saghane Swamps
The Saghane Swamp is a festering expanse of twisting trees and treacherous, stagnant pools. Arching, moss covered roots protrude from the ground, ready to snag and trip the unwary traveller, and scum covered swamps in which all manner of dangers might dwell lurk beneath the dense undergrowth. The canopy of trees above is thick, letting in some light but not enough to dispel the perpetual gloom that shrouds the swamp. The air is cloyingly humid, and alive with all manner of insects and biting creatures both large and small.
The Swamp has claimed many lives over the years. It is said that if one were to spend as little as an hour travelling within, and they were sharp eyed enough, then they would likely spot the skeletal remains of one of those who had come before them protruding up from the Marsh.
Pioloss - A Bird in the hand is worth two in the... Swamp?
Bird Eye led Pioloss on a merry chase through the streets of Tuk-Cal until the ramshackle huts and buildings were replaced by trees and marshy bogs as the town gave way to the Saghane Swamp. Flabby bubbles burst lazily in scum covered pools of festering water and all around were twisted, arching roots just waiting to snag the foot of the unwary traveller. Despite the gloom of the dense tree coverage above, the morning sun was just strong enough to make Pioloss feel heavy and lethargic as he ran.
“Bird Eye! God’s curse it man, come back!” He called ahead for what must have been the hundredth time. But the Old Man paid him no mind as he continued to run squawking and flapping through the swamp. For that matter though, just how was he still evading him?! Even in the daylight, surely Pioloss should have been able to catch the Old Pirate easily!?
The trees only grew more dense around him as they went, the ground underfoot growing ever more treacherous until it seemed impossible that Bird Eye would be able to keep his footing. But alas, it seemed the man was as sprightly as he was fast!
Bird Eye disappeared from view, obscured by the dense foliage. But Pioloss could still just about smell him, and spotting a small gap ahead which should allow him to finally overtake the mad pirate and get the drop on him, he raced ahead, eager to put a stop to this wild pirate chase!
“Oof!” Pioloss grunted as he emerged through a narrow gap in a thorny tangle of branches only to run smack bang into Bird Eye! “What’s the matter with you!” He growled, reaching down to give the startled man a hand back to his feet. “Are you trying to get yourself killed? I should have just left you back in Tuk-Cal!”
“Brak cak!” Bird Eye whispered pointedly, his voice full of awe as he stared forwards wide eyed.
Turning to follow the direction of the man’s gaze, Pioloss’s jaw dropped as his own eyes opened wide. Stretched out ahead of them was the most spectacular sight either man had ever laid eyes on. A hidden forest of tall, conical shaped trees which seemed to glow with their own inner light. The entire scene was bathed in an ethereal silver which seemed to sparkle and twinkle magically like rays of sunlight glistening of clear water.
“Now just what in the Worlde?” Pioloss whispered just as Bird Eye lurched forwards again to dart off into the trees. “Oh no you don’t!” He growled, one arm whipping out to trip tightly onto the man’s arm.
“Brak cak!” Bird Eye insisted as he reached back and began trying to pull Pioloss along with him.
“Nope! Whatever it is, you can forget it! We’re going back before you get us any more lost!”
Bird Eye paused, cocking his head to one side as he placed both hands on Pioloss’s shoulders in what was a surprisingly human gesture. Staring directly into Pioloss’s eyes he said emphatically in a very serious tone “Brak cak.”
“No! I already said-” Pioloss began, but before he could finish his sensitive ears picked up on another sound. A high pitched, angelic “Aaaaaahhhh!” Which was quiet enough that he couldn’t be sure when it had began, or if had been there all along! Bizarrely, tears began to sting the corner of Pioloss’s eyes! The sound was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard, seeming to penetrate directly through him and into his soul to soothe and reassure with it’s impossible harmonies. He relaxed his grip in wonder, only for a second, but a second was all it took! With a flurry of flapping arms Bird Eye was off again, darting off into the shimmering trees.
“No!” Pioloss shouted as he sprinted after him again.
Pioloss-The Lair of Mariah Krampus
The deeper into the shining forest they went, the louder the sound became. Going from angelic to shrill, from shrill to piercing, and finally from piercing to intensely painful.
Pioloss let out a low moan as the now shrieking noise caused him to stumble, and he felt twin trickles of wetness running down the sides of his face as his ears began to bleed. But still he pushed on, blocking out the pain as best as could, his entire world narrowed down to the madly running figure of Bird Eye in front of him. It became like an obsession. All that mattered at that point, more than the pain, which was quickly become debilitating, more than the swirling maelstrom of lights and sounds that surrounded him, was not letting this one man die because of his own misguided actions. It felt like his entire soul was staked on the fate of Bird Eye, and that if he could only save him then maybe he wouldn’t be doomed to a life of evil and darkness after all.
The silvery blur of the trees eventually began to turn red as blood started to leak from his eyes as well, yet still he continued, until out of nowhere the woods suddenly opened up around him into a large clearing. But by this point Pioloss was practically crawling as he squinted up through blood and tears at the single, enormous tree that was sat in the middle of the space. It was easily thrice the size of the others, and sparkled so brightly that it was near blinding in its intensity.
“Brak… Brak cak?” Bird Eye said from somewhere just ahead. And icy fingers of fear began to creep their way up Pioloss’s spine as he noticed how deathly afraid the man sounded.
“Bird Eye!” Pioloss croaked. “Come- come here Bird Eye! We must leave this place!”
He felt a pair of gnarled, stringy hands under his arms as Bird Eye struggled to hoist Pioloss back to his feet. The pair turned, just about to leave when the both of them caught a sudden movement out of the corner of their eyes from behind the tree.
A gangly creature, all teeth and claws stalked into view. Seven foot tall with mottled, piebald skin hanging loosely off it. It’s body stick thin to the point of emaciation, with sharp, thorny growths jutting up from its joints like tusks. Yet in stark contrast to the rest of it, it’s face was the very picture of beauty! With flowing blonde hair, and a smile that under any other circumstances would have caused Pioloss to go weak at the knees. Even Faan could not have hoped to even come close to its radiant beauty. It was almost enough to stop Pioloss from suddenly noticing that the ground surrounding the tree was littered with a veritable carpet of bones, every single one of them picked clean and gleaming in the silvery glow.
“I don’t want alot. There is just one thing I neeeed!” The Thing shrieked. It’s voice piercing and so painful that it caused both men’s vision to turn dark at the edges as fresh gouts of blood erupted from their ears. “I don’t even wish for… no…”
The nightmare Creature continued stalking towards them, bizarrely always keeping the right side of its face hidden from view, as if it were somehow ashamed of it for some unknowable reason.
“All I care about… Is the presence beneath my tree.” It continued as it stalked ever closer before crouching suddenly, it’s long, stick thin legs bunching beneath it in readiness to pounce at the two downed men. “Alls I want… Is… Yew!”
Summoning a desperate burst of strength Pioloss lurched to the side, shoving Bird Eye out of the way of the oncoming Beast. The Pirate went down with a startled squawk as the Krampus's claws slashed through the space his head had occupied just moments before. A sickeningly wet crack split the air as Bird Eyes' head landed on a hard piece of rock and his body went completely slack as he lay motionless where he had fallen.
The Krampus shrieked with outrage at being denied its prey, just as Pioloss was trying to claw his way back to his feet. Fresh blood erupted anew from his ears and the darkness clouding in on his vision grew thicker. He knew that to stay down would be to die, but the awful shrieking was acting on him like a heavy weight, forcing him into the ground.
"What do you want of us, Creature? Leave us be!" Pioloss half moaned, half shouted up at the Creature.
Shadows danced above him as the Krampus prowled closer, answering in its terrible, shrieking voice. "I just want yew for me own! More than yew could ever know!"
His body vibrating with pain and desperation, Pioloss used the last dregs of his rapidly waning strength to brutally slam both palms over his ears as hard as he could. He heard a loud pop, and then the world went blissfully silent as his eardrums ruptured. Instantly his strength returned, and he rolled to the side just as a pair of gnarled claws dove into the dirt next to him. Pulling back his legs, Pioloss kicked out savagely, feeling a satisfying crunch as his foot connected solidly with the things face. Bringing both feet up over his head, Pioloss flipped forwards, springing lithely to his feet before quickly backing off several paces, putting some distance between him and his foe in an attempt to buy himself some time to consider his next move.
The Krampus shook in a mad frenzy, stalking too and fro in rage and agony. Its blonde hair had flicked back from the right side of its face from Pioloss’s kick, and the Dhampir could only watch with grim fascination as the Things face melted like softened wax until the once beautiful visage was as mottled and gruesome as the rest of it.
His knees buckled as the Krampus shrieked, his vampiric healing having worked to restore his lost hearing. Without hesitation Pioloss slammed his hands over his ears a second time, once more rendering the worlde around him silent. Moving quickly he reached beneath the voluminous folds of his robes, searching until his fingers brushed against the hilt of one of the throwing daggers he had secreted within. In one fluid motion he brought the knife out and threw it at the Krampus. The knife tumbled end over end to strike perfectly directly over the creatures heart. But to his horror the knife just bounced off, leaving not so much as a scratch on the things mottled chest!
"What! But how?!" Pioloss gasped.
But the Krampus was already moving, springing forwards with unnatural speed. It lashed out a long, bony arm and Pioloss coughed, a thick sheet of red spilling out from his mouth. He felt a strange pressure in his abdomen, a tightness that he'd never felt before. And it wasn't until he looked down that the impossible agony registered. He gasped in shock, his eyes bulging in their sockets as he took in the sight of the things forearm, which ended directly where the pain in his stomach began!
(OOC: apologies this is taking longer than I had anticipated, had my booster jab the other day and it is kicking my butt!)
A wheezing cough burst from his lips as he looked down at the forearm disappearing into his stomach with an odd detachment. At least until the beast started clawing about inside of him, that is. After that he was consumed by waves of pulsing white hot agony.
Pioloss began swiping and clawing at the Krampus in a mad frenzy, his own sharp claws raking ineffectively down the things seemingly impenetrable, mottled hide and face. He heard a loud snap from within as several ribs snapped and the pain suddenly increased by an order of magnitude, rising to levels he had previously assumed would have been impossible. He screamed, though his cries went unheard due to his still ruptured ears. Then as the Beast's hand began to delve further still inside him the pain increased beyond all comprehension. Pioloss went past pain and fear and entered a sudden crystalline clarity. Gritting his teeth at what he knew he must do, he raised both legs and braced them against the Krampus's chest before kicking off, launching himself backwards to freedom.
He landed on the hard floor with a thud, unable to breathe, unable to do anything but wait whilst his vampiric healing saw to the devastating injuries he had just sustained. By some twisted stroke of misfortune his ears healed first, and the awful shrieking once more began to cause his vision to go dark as the Krampus leapt bodily across the clearing towards him.
At the last moment, Pioloss saw the knife he had thrown before lying next to him, the blade now covered and the handle slick with his own blood. With neither time nor need to aim, he simply grabbed the knife and held it up in front of him just as the Krampus landed. For some reason, this time the knife slid home, piercing directly into the creatures heart with a jolt. A blast of cold, foetid air hit Pioloss in the face as the Krampus breathed its last before slumping down heavily on top of him.
Exhausted didn’t even come close. Pioloss felt wrung out. Like his entire body had been scooped out until it was completely empty and then refilled with sawdust. He had no idea how long he had lain there, underneath the rapidly cooling corpse on top of him. But when he finally did manage to shove it off to climb back to his feet, it wasn’t because he felt any better, far from it.
He was ravenous!
The exertions of fighting off the Krampus, coupled with the incredible amount of healing his body had been forced to endure had pushed him to the very edge of starvation. He stumbled back through the silvery forest in a near daze, only vaguely aware of the sparkling vista around him through the agonising thirst which saturated every square inch of him. Curse Bird Eye! If only he hadn’t decided to run off in the first-
With a muttered string of choice expletives Pioloss spun on his heel to stalk back the way he had just come. All of that and he had just damn near walked out of here and forgotten the Old Pirate completely! And he was still cursing under his breath when he arrived back at the place where Bird Eye had fallen. The patch of hard stone was still there, smears of red still dark against the otherwise silvery woodland, but of Bird Eye himself there was no sign!
A low growl of frustration and hunger that came from deep in his stomach rumbled out of Pioloss’s mouth, just loud enough that it covered the staggering sound of someone approaching behind him. But no growl could disguise the man’s scent, which was as ripe as they come from stale sweat yet sweet with the metallic iron smell of fresh blood!
Pioloss dropped, spinning round in place just as a heavy branch swiped clumsily over him. He stepped backwards and to the side, coming back up lithely before lashing out with a claw tipped hand, ready to put an end to whomever had dared to-
“Bird Eye!” He blurted out for the second time as his razor sharp claws slammed to a halt a mere inch away from the man’s startled eyes.
“I knew it!” Bird Eye spat back at him. Surprise quickly turned to rage on the man’s face as he reared the branch back ready to attack once more.
“Stop it man! What’s gotten into yew!” Pioloss yelled as he ducked the heavy branch easily.
“You’re tricks won’t work on me Verdulak!” Bird Eye cried, all but spitting the last word. “Yew think I don’t know why you’ve brought me here? To you’re filthy lair?!”
“What are yew talking about?” Pioloss asked, backing up several paces. Though this was as much to get away from the smell of the man’s blood as anything else. “You ran off here by yourself! I only followed you to try and bring you back to safety!”
“Oh? By myself aye? ‘Cos you had me under your verdulak spell more like! Ah, but ol’ Bird Eye won’t have the wool pulled over his eyes so easily! You can be sure of that Demon!”
“I-” Pioloss began, but the words wouldn’t come. After all, the man was right! After a fashion at least. Though Pioloss hadn’t intended for it to happen, he had caused Bird Eye to- “Ow! God’s curse it man, stop! Will yew just listen to me for one-!” He yelled as Bird Eye caught him a direct blow to the side of his head.
Hunger and exhaustion began to mix with a righteous anger, and the next time Bird Eye tried to attack, Pioloss caught the branch on his forearm, meeting it mid swing and causing it to explode in a shower of silvery splinters.
“Look!” Pioloss implored, using up the very last dregs of his patience. “It’s a long story, but you must believe that I was only trying to help you!”
“Help? Help?!” Bird Eye replied incredulously. “What does your kind know of help? You know only how to kill! To take! To destroy! Your kind is the very opposite of all that is good and just in this worlde!”
Pioloss wilted. The worst thing was that he actually agreed with every word Bird Eye had said! But the fact that the man could be so blinded by hate and prejudice that he wouldn’t allow Pioloss to even try and explain the situation was infuriating nonetheless! He moved back, ducking and dodging the oncoming flurry of desperate blows from the Pirate easily as they danced across the clearing.
This continued on for some time until finally Pioloss decided that he had had enough. He was tired, beaten, hungrier than he could ever remember having been before, and frankly, just sick of his protests and calls for peace falling on deaf ears!
"Old Fool!" He hissed, one arm lashing out in front of him blindingly fast.
Bird Eye grunted as both bones in his right forearm shattered. To the man's credit though, he did not give up. Instead he merely turned so that his injured arm was behind him before continuing his attack.
"You think me some kind of monster?" Pioloss demanded, lashing out once more. A red mist had begun to settle over his mind. But rather than turning his thoughts hazy, it sharpened them so that he could see clearer than ever before. There was nothing he could do to fix this situation, so why even bother to try?
This time Bird Eye did scream as his left arm was suddenly bent backwards at a near perfect ninety degree angle.
"I have seen inside your mind Pirate! Witnessed your every thought and secret, and your own soul is far from clean!"
"Least I have a soul, demon!" Bird Eye snarled. Though from the way his eyes widened, and thr quiver in his voice at the last, he couldn't quite manage to disguise the fear rising within him.
"Is that so?" Pioloss answered in barely more than a whisper. He was beyond angry now.
He snapped a foot out which in turn snapped Bird Eye's left femur.
In the blink of an eye Pioloss snapped the other one before the man could even fall to the ground.
Why couldn't the man have just listened? Pioloss was no monster! He hated Vampires more than anyone! It wasn't his fault he had been… infected! That had happened of a direct result of his trying to rid the world of one more of the soulless creatures!
Well. If Bird Eye wanted a monster, then a monster was what he would get!
Moving slowly and deliberately Pioloss moved to stand over the crippled Pirate where he mewled and snarled on the ground. He made sure to give the man a good view as his fangs lengthened before he slowly knelt down beside him. There was no need to rush, Bird Eye was defenseless, as helpless as a newborn bairn. So Pioloss took his time as he lowered his head down towards the man's neck. He made sure to go slowly as his fangs slid deep into flesh. And he savoured each and every mouthful as he drank the man dry of. Every. Single. Drop.
The ground blurred beneath his feet as Pioloss sped back towards Tuk-Cal through the silvery forest. He was moving so fast that the air itself seemed to push back on him,and yet he was able to duck and dodge every single branch and protuberant root with ease. His senses were sharp, his reactions honed and lightning fast. Every cell of him was buzzing with an electric zeal.
A small part of him still felt like he should feel some sense of guilt for having murdered Bird Eye, but all he felt was acceptance. And why not? It wasn’t like he’d wanted to do it! Far from it! He’d tried his best to save the man. Hadn’t he? Of course he had! It wasn’t his fault that the stubborn old fool had left him no other choice but to remove him as a problem! Did that make him the same as any other Vampire? Of course not! What he had done had not been an act of evil, it had been an act of survival! Of self preservation! And what could be evil about that? Nothing! It was just an added bonus that it had left him feeling this amazing!
In no time at all Pioloss was back in Tuk-Cal, feeling as if he was moving in slow motion as he forced himself back down to a normal walking pace. He took in every minute detail of his surroundings at a glance as he traversed the rickety board walks across the swamp in search of Faan, Rigel and the others.
OOC: To Tuk-Cal town
Dexter "Bird Eye" Godwin
Back in the silvery clearing, deep within the ground, hundreds of agile, sentient roots began questing upwards through the soil. They moved with a singular purpose as they broke free of the ground and began to wrap around the withered husk of a body that had once been a man known as Bird Eye.
The moment the Krampus had met her demise, the Tree had known. It had felt the death of it’s avatar as any other being would feel the removal of a limb. But all was not lost. For even now the Tree could sense the still flickering embers of life below it. The body shattered, but the soul within not yet having fled.
The roots writhed sinuously over the near corpse, enveloping it completely before dragging it down, deep into the ground towards the cold, buried heart of the Tree beneath. The roots began to penetrate into and through the body, until it was impossible to tell where the tree ended and the Uman began. Tiny off shoots spread out through every organ, every muscle, and every fibre, sucking up what was left of the life within like a lesser plant would take in water and nutrients. But as they took they also gave back. The mortal identity being subsumed by the Krampus Tree before being put back. A warped, twisted version of its former self. The shattered limbs were snapped back into place. Strengthened, stretched out and changed as the Krampus tree infused a part of its own essence into the broken shell. The process went on and on, taking an unknowable amount of time until finally the ground above parted once more.
A figure rose from the soil, shaky at first but quickly gaining in strength and surety. It’s body was an emaciated thing of mottled skin and jutting thorns, but it’s face was radiant. Classically handsome with smooth skin beneath a light dusting of stubble that would cause most women and even some men to go weak at the knees.
Though it dated back thousands of years if not more, the Krampus tree had little need for knowledge of the primitive language of the sentient races, yet something remained inside the new being, and a name rose up from the murky depths of its recently remade mind.
The Thing stretched, its body popping pleasantly as it inspected it’s razor sharp claws and powerful limbs. “Buble…” It said to itself in a pleasing baritone voice that caused the leaves around it to shake and wither in fear.
A new Krampus had been born.