From Swamp to Sky: Part One
Born to the swamps of Bogshot, Irey was used to a life of simplicity and survival. Bogshot is just off the beaten path to Brightvale but is not part of the Haunted Woods, contrary to popular belief.
The folks of Bogshot are a hardy group who have made the swamp their home. The town is small and the residents friendly who always welcome visitors. All newcomers are ill advised to wander into the swamp and will take no responsibility if you venture forth. A guide or Hunting group may be provided upon request, though.
This way of life is deeply imbedded in the pretty green Krawk girl; simplicity, warmth, surviving on the bare basics. Even with her current lavish apartments in the Faerie Queen's Castle, does she only indulge in what is absolutely necessary?
How does one go from the rough swamps of Bogshot to the fluffy, luxurious clouds of Faerieland? For one, you have to have an adventurous head and two, an open mind.
One morning, Irey's adventurous heart got the better of her and against all warning from her childhood she ventured into the swamps. She didn't go far, but it was beyond the light of the village and well into dangerous territory. Irey was naive about the troubles that lurked in the muck and even just outside the village tentacles waited to grab the unwary and drag them under. Sink holes are also commonplace and will drop one into a maze of caverns in which one could be lost for eternity. Sure the young Krawk had been told the horror tales of the swamp but she assumed them to be exaggerated stories parents told their children to make them behave.
That was her second mistake.
A particularly interesting glowing toadstool had caught Irey's attention and a nasty red and green tentacle emerged from the muck. It snuck up on Irey in her distracted state and the Krawk didn't have time to shriek before the thing wrapped itself around her waist and yanked her under the water. Most Krawks, especially those born in Bogshot, are accustomed to holding their breath for more than the average time. Waiting out the tentacle wasn't an option seeing as it didn't have any obvious breathing equipment. Irey would have to fight.
Groping in the grime of the swamp water, she struggled for something to grab a hold of, anything to either pull herself away from the gripping creature or stab at it with. A sturdy tree root came within her grasp but it was quickly evident that pulling herself free wasn't going to work. With her other hand she fumbled around for a loose stick, maybe a sharp rock or discarded spear haft. The trapped Krawkling was beginning to feel the oncoming oxygen deficiency and a mild burn building in her lungs. A thick and hopefully pointed stick tickled the tips of her fingers. Frantically she groped at it, reaching with all her power to grab the hopeful weapon. Finally her fingers closed around the thick tree-shard and she stabbed at the tentacle holding her under with as much force as she could muster.
The nasty things released her in a murky cloud of blood and slithered away to parts unknown. Irey went to kick off a tree root system but instead got her foot caught in the tangle. Panicking, she struggled against the roots, yanking, twisting, tugging. There was an audible snap under the water. The trapped Krawk screamed and the last bit of good air left in her lungs escaped to bubble on the surface. The new burn in her ankle surpassed the burn in her lungs. Darkness edged in on her vision as she flailed at the surface. It wasn't the darkness of the murky swamp, but the darkness of unconsciousness. A spray of bubbled obscured Irey's vision and a very blurry hand grabbed her scrabbling arm. She felt a faint tugging sensation and another pop, more burning, and the water seemed to fall away from her.
Now with her lungs full of fresh air the injured Krawk started screaming. All the pain, the fear, the brush with death. She was overwhelmed and finally the darkness on the edge of her vision finished their intrusion into her mind. Before she fell into unconsciousness she heard her mother shout.
"Irey! Stay with us! Irey! Irey! Can you hear me?" It was her mom's voice, distant, but there. Slowly her vision returned but her limbs were heavy, her ankle burned, and her shoulder was sore.
“My baby!" the momma Krawk wailed and hugged the injured girl.
“Oh, sorry, sorry. Are you okay? How are you feeling? What happened? What possessed you to go into the swamp? What were you thinking? You were almost killed!" She started wailing again and smothered her daughter in hugs and kisses.
“Irey," a male voice, it was the apothecary, Fautt, a red Lupe; "you gave us all a scare. You broke your ankle, your shoulder popped out of place when we yanked you out, and you were half drowned when we found you. Why were you in the swamp?" His voice was gentle but stern, worried, and concerned.
Irey shrugged. "I wanted to see the swamp. I wanted to know why everyone was so afraid of it," she answered.
“Do you understand now?" the mayor asked grimly. "The swamp is no place for children. Or even untrained adults!" Oscar was an old blue Grarrl and was quite strict about villagers in the swamp.
“Now get some rest." The medical Lupe patted Irey's uninjured leg. "Come on, Mom, she needs her rest. Let's hope her thirst for adventure has been quenched.”
But like all good stories, of course, her run-in with death only enflamed her curiosity. After she recovered from her injuries, she went right back into the swamp. Of course, she was a lot more watchful with what she was doing and her surroundings.
The adults of the village quickly found out they were powerless to keep her from venturing into danger short of locking her up. To help keep her out of danger, and an eye on her, they started letting her join in on Hunting groups that went fishing or foraging or food and medicinal plants. Irey was surprisingly trustworthy, resourceful, and had a sharp eye. Quickly she became quite the asset to the village.
Within three years of that first incident, she was leading the hunting parties. The village council was shocked when Irey approached them one evening.
”But you are the best Hunter we have! The village cannot lose you," the old Grarrl mayor insisted.
“I know, Sir, but the swamp just isn't satisfying me anymore. I know every nook, cranny, root, toadstool, and tentacle slithering through the murk. I need more; I need to see more. If I don't get permission, I'm going to leave anyways and be banished from returning.”
The council was quiet for quite some time. They exchanged glances, a few whispers, before coming to a conclusion. “Granted, on one condition. You visit every now and then." Oscar smiled softly.
A huge grin split the young Krawk's face. "Thank you! I will, I promise!" She hopped up and down and ran to the Mayor to give him a huge hug. Such a motion was completely unorthodox, but also was her request. “I'm come back and visit soon, I promise!" Irey turned and ran back to the hut her and her mother shared. "Mom! I'm leaving for Brightvale in the morning. I'm going to see Neopia!"
“What?!" Momma Krawk gasped, suddenly fearful of losing her daughter. "Did you ask the council? You'll be banished!”
“Mom, they granted me leave as long as I visit." Irey grabbed her mom's hands gently. "And I will, I promise.
Irey's mom looked long and hard into her daughter's eyes and tears welled up in her own. "Okay," she whispered finally. "You better visit every weekend." She teased and hugged Irey tightly. "I'll help you pack.”
The whole village had gathered to see Irey off. There were hugs, kisses, tears, promises, and even some anger, but they all wished her the best on her travels. Time and time again she had to promise she would visit soon before she could get out of a rather tight hug, but eventually she made it to the mouth of the path that would lead her to the Bogshot Plateau and then the Brightvale plains beyond that.
The bright sun was new to her; the swamp was perpetually gloomy, and she had to shield her green eyes against it. It would be some time before her gloom-adjusted eyes acclimated to the sudden brightness of the world. Irey was almost disappointed with how easy it was to get to Brightvale. Sure, there was one or two bandits, but they were weak and easily disposed of.
The guards to either side of the large door to Brightvale didn't pay any notice to the Krawkling as she strode into the city. It was larger than she expected, immensely so, and she got lost several times trying to get to the castle. Pets hawking their wares, owners trying to get the best deal for their neopoints, and even a couple scuffles over something Irey found to be trivial.
It took the better part of the day before Irey got untangled from the web of streets and found herself before the drawbridge of Brightvale castle. The bridge was down, the guards ignored her, and there was a line to a large wood door on the far end of the entry hall. The stone walls were covered in thick tapestries, most with the seal of Brightvale, and luxurious runners covered the cold marble floors.
The visiting Krawk assumed the line of villagers and farmers were for an audience with the king, which was what she was looking for. She figured there would be plenty of time to explore Brightvale on her visits home.
The sun was sinking closer to the horizon by the time King Hagan was ready to see her. The grandeur of the throne room surprised Irey, to say the least, and like a small child she gawked at the massive space within this one room. It was almost as big as her entire village!
“Ahem, can I help you, young Krawk?" Hagan asked impatiently.
“Oh... Yes... Sorry sir, er, your majesty." Irey offered an awkward bow. "I want to see Neopia. I've come from Bogshot looking for adventure."
“An adventure! Well, I may be able to help you. There's a merchant's caravan ready to head out to Meridell in the morning. If I send a runner with a note, they'll take you to Meridell where you might find... uhm... more interesting company. The travel may be dangerous, though, with bandits and thieves lurking about.”
“I'm good with danger. The swamp can be quite a deadly place," Irey said confidently.
“So be it. Take her to the merchant's and give them the message." A yellow Acara serving woman scurried to lead Irey off.
To be continued...