Medievia Mudslinger

April 21st, 2002

Behind Nature's Curtain - by Ajiroth

Humans are an interesting species. Their endless quest for that last esoteric fact has driven them across the lands and throughout the seas. Ironically, this omnipotent intelligence bores the humans as they live their dull lives with no goals to achieve. Once in a while, however, a revelation shakes the pillars of their knowledge, sending them tumbling. Suddenly there is posed a new goal: to climb back up and seek omnipotence once again. This mental collapse fascinates the humans.

My name is Ajiroth and I am about to shake the foundations once more. I have spent many moons traveling across the lands of Medievia, from the bright lights of Trellor to the murky swamps of Lyryranoth to document the creatures in the wilderness. Hired by the Academy of Braneri to further expand the knowledge of the beasts that roam outside city walls, I expected to only confirm what we have already known. I was wrong. From my observations, the creatures in the wilderness posses far more sophisticated traits than originally assumed. Their actions are captivating to study and often humorous. Their behaviors are intelligent and eerily human, exhibiting such emotions as sadness, fear, and love. I hope the Academy receives these notes on a collection of the species I have studied so far. Though this is only a small peek at what goes on behind nature's curtain; it is sufficient enough to topple even the strongest pillars of our pre-disposed assumptions of the wilderness creatures.

I will begin this documentation with the most startling creature during my travels: the enormous ogre. Standing at a colossal height, sometimes twice the size of a human, the ogre is definitely one of the strongest and most intimidating creatures in this land. One could smell its stench from quite some distance and can feel the ground absolutely shake as the ogre tramples across the land in its blind way. Though their bodies are rarely covered, a curious nose ring is present upon every ogre, most likely stolen from some unwary traveler I fear. The domain of this species is broad, scattered throughout the lands as they are. I hypothesize the reason for its land-wide dominance is due to its ability to hunt and kill any creature with its sheer power and the awesome endurance in the most formidable weather. The ogre's enormous size contrasts with its seemingly limited intelligence. Ogres have no known forms of communications besides their physical actions. Their vicious fighting skills possessing pure strength and lack of dexterity makes the ogre seem like a simple-minded brute. The creature is commonly believed capable of only a few goals in life; eat, sleep, and mate.

I was able to observe the courtship of two ogres one day by coincidence as I stumbled upon a male ogre wooing a female ogre. The male ogre begins by displaying to the female incredible physical feats. Although the bulky body of the ogre may seem sturdy they are actually quite limber. The male ogre managed a few barrel rolls and stood on its head for a good ten seconds before he came crashing down like a redwood tree. This is a feat one must see to believe as it is quite impressive and differs greatly from the usual crude dexterity we often see from these creatures. The female ogre was impressed with the male and offered several grunts and howls, similar to our form of applause. Sensing his prize was near with a sly grin, the male ogre continued with more outstanding feats and boisterous outcries; concluding by scooping the female off her feet and disappearing among the tall grass. My scientific curiosity urged me to pursue, but I felt decorum's tug to leave them alone. This candid moment of a generally stoic and crude creature sparked my curiosity in these creatures even further. Perhaps they are not as simple-minded as we think. I humbly suggest that the scientists back home further investigate the behavior and lifestyle of the ogre. Perhaps we will uncover some fascinating fact that will benefit us both and maybe even assimilate the ogre community into a well-established town.

Before my journey I made a list of the possible wildlife I should examine if I ever come across them. The baenlyr was not on the list, yet I was unfortunate enough to meet one. A baenlyr looks like a cross between a human, a snake, and a catfish. Don't let its comical looks fool you; they are quite potent at combat and wield a myriad of mystical powers. The origin of the baenlyr is believed to be from the seas, and the species has somehow adapted to living on land. However, legend has it that the baenlyr is a reflection of one's own tainted soul, and that if one should gaze into its eyes a reflection of one's own face shall appear. The aqueous nature of the baenlyr explains why a majority of these creatures appear on the border areas and is rarely seen in-land around the city of Medievia. Baenlyrs are believed to be extremely intelligent beings and are known to stalk their prey relentlessly often chasing them for miles. The depth of their intelligence was shown to me in great detail during one of my experiments.

I had set up a trap early one morning planning to snag a wild tiger for a behavioral analysis. It was a simple trap with a trigger mechanism to clasp the victim when the bait was taken away. The bait was a piece of rabbit roast I had traded from a local road guide earlier. After the trap was set I skulked into a nearby patch of long grass and patiently waited for the sweet scent of the roast to attract a tiger. Being a naturalist, I enjoy sitting outside and connecting with the spirits of nature. I recall during my younger days where I would fall into a trance staring out a classroom window, admiring the sparkling morning dew upon the fresh morning. Though the arid landscape now differed greatly from the one back home, it was a welcoming sight to find solace.

As I waited for the tiger, the brilliant sun climbed its way up the sky and down again and soon retreated to its nightly hovel. The yellow moon rose from its slumber along with its dazzling companions and began its watch over the earth. As the night wore on, my eyes felt tired as the soporific scent of the night air beckoned me to sleep. "Just a little while," I thought, "a short shut-eye and I will be refreshed again." I yawned, opening my mouth as big as a lion, and my vision slowly grew smaller and smaller as a black curtain surrounding my sight enfolded into nothingness. I dreamt I was at sea surrounding the lovely young earth. Caressing the child in my arms as I rocked it to sleep with my gentle tides. The sky not so happy with its loss wept. The tears rolling down her clouds and unto the earth and on to the sea. On to the sea. On to me. Raindrops falling on to me.

I woke up surprised to find my face wet and quickly realized that it was raining. Disappointed at my lack of discipline for sleeping on the job I jumped to my feet, all the while trying to brush the wet grass from my hair. I ran over to the trap in hopes of at least retrieving my rabbit roast back before the rain spoiled it. Instead I spied a snake laying across my trap. Obviously asleep from its delicious meal, I half-cursed it for eating my bait, but was also glad to have a new specimen to examine. I looked over the trap and decided it was most likely broken since it had not closed-up and trapped the snake. I knew I should have paid more attention on wilderness trapping during my stay at the Academy. I approached the snake and it did not stir. Ignoring logic in place of curiosity for a moment, I gently kicked the snake out of the trap's mouth.

*SNAP* Big mistake. Not only did it wake the snake, but also triggered the trap that immediately clasped onto my leg. Blood poured out from my wound and I collapsed to the ground, cursing silently and promising myself never to use such a trap on another living creature again. The snake reared up and I now saw its face, my face. A baenlyr. I backed away on one hand while the other was clasping my wound trying to stop the bleeding. The baenlyr easily slithered across towards me with almost a smirk on its face. The rain poured harder now and I noticed a storm coming in as distant thunder could be heard. It was like a battle drum as the face-off between man and nature was happening before me. The baenlyr made a horrible screeching noise and started slithering around me like a dance, the dance of death. A quick strike hit me in the back and the shock threw me onto the floor. As I lay sobbing, expecting death, while a throbbing pain swelled across my back, I thanked the Gods for what life they have offered me. Dying as an explorer and by a self-set trap was not the noblest way to die. Then I felt the pressure on my legs being removed.

Something dropped beside me and I turned to see two tiny bottles filled with green liquid. Instinctively I took a large gulp of the bottle's contents and instantly the wound on my leg closed, the blood drying before my eyes. I looked up to thank my rescuer only to be met with the stare of the baenlyr. The monster now stood at full height over me as rain drops pattered over his scaly head and dripped down his chin. Its eyes mocked my existence and it gave a short huff as to pity my pathetic predicament. With a tired and contemptuous expression the baenlyr turned swiftly with a swish of its tail and slithered towards the horizon. A distant, passionate thunder sounded in the distance like an adrenaline rush that left me trembling in awe. I stood up, brushing the dust off my body, and looked around to see which God had helped influence this once savage creature. All I saw was a red puddle from my fall and a bloodied trap lying on the ground. I apologize to the Academy committee for being so long winded about this experience, but it was the absolute most emotional encountered in my entire trip. I strongly advise the Academy to reevaluate its plans for baenlyr elimination around its area as these creatures certainly show much deeper emotion and understanding then originally perceived. Very few creatures I can recall have the ability to pity another especially one that is not its own species. Travelers should regard the baenlyr not only as dangerous beasts but also sacred divinities, for the baenlyr certainly held my life in his hands that day.

Insects are often regarded as harmless as their diminutive size and timorous nature around humans are far less than intimidating. The insects I specifically sought to study during my trek were not of such. These were a species called drosophilae multidao commonly called a swarm of insects or the Swarm for short. The Academy's records show no known ancestral species of which the Swarm may have derived from and even the appearance of the Swarm in the lands was quite sudden. From accounts in the outer regions, the Swarm may have been brought to Medievia shipped from another land. Natives of the outer regions recall no accounts of seeing anything even slightly resembling the ferocity and bloodthirstiness of the Swarm. The Swarm consists of more than two thousand of these insects and their erratic circular flying patterns makes the Swarm appear to be a gigantic black cotton ball. The incessant buzzing of these insects can be heard from quite some distance and a putrid smell of rotten flesh is emitted when these creatures are close by. What makes these creatures dangerous is their persistence and their awesome dexterity. Veteran warriors tell me that they have never been able to lay down a Swarm since striking merely one insect down enrages the rest of the Swarm, which further intensifies the battle. Only through magic has a Swarm been stopped and annihilated. The Swarm's persistence is also of curious nature. Whenever their prey flees, the Swarm follows the victim relentlessly together in a frenzied mob. I assumed that this was under the direction of a Swarm leader insect, but I decided to compose an experiment to test my hypothesis just to make sure.

I took several safety measures to make sure that my experiment would not end up with my fighting an angry Swarm. To this end, I borrowed a mage from a nearby local clan town and carried several magical staves to ward off Swarm attacks. I also brought along several green orbs bought from a town auction that nearly depleted the small pittance I possessed at the start of my journey. My plan was simple: I knew that two Swarms often fought each other for territory. If I managed to combine two Swarms in a battle, the "leader" will be attacked first and most often, therefore making it easy to distinguish the head Swarm member from the others. There was one minor inconvenience - how could we get two Swarms together? My mage companion suggested that we use some sort of bait, but we quickly realized that the only thing a Swarm truly hungers for is human flesh. The two of us were also heavily clad: I in my riding skirt and long-sleeved tunic and him in his heavy blue hooded robe. Therefore, we theorized, that if we strip ourselves almost bare, we should be able to attract the scent of Swarms within close proximity of us. Looking back now, lack of sleep and fatigue on my part and the mage's mesmerization with what I was wearing was responsible for our absolutely foolish and senseless plan.

So there we were. About two miles from each other, we waited, I in my black-laced panties and bra (the normal clothing chafes terribly, you understand) while the mage wore his skimpy sleeping-shorts. Pretty soon I could hear the buzzing of the Swarm and its rancid stench. I pointed a wand of fireball at the sky and discharged a shot. A fiery cloud expanded into the sky signaling to the mage I had found one. He responded with a bright lightning bolt, and I started my sprint in his direction. I could feel the hot wind of a million wings flapping behind me and the hot odor of the Swarm clung to my skin and lungs. Suddenly, another burst of fire erupted in the sky, the mage had found one. I responded a lightning wand of my own to signal my direction. It felt like an endless run, and if it weren't for the murderous, bloodthirsty insects chasing me I would have stopped. Just as I was about to collapse from sheer exhaustion I heard another set of buzzing up ahead. Through the trees, I saw flashes of a chubby mage running towards my direction, his complexion red from the physical punishment he was not used to. I also noticed several welts covered his body, and I laughed silently to myself at the strained and confused face that had once beamed with power. When we finally met, I grabbed the mage's hand and yanked him hard to the side, nearly pulling his arm out of his socket.

We rolled a few yards and I landed face-down in the wet grass. I lay there for a second trying to regain my strength. The high-pitched buzzing and increasingly ferocious winds signaled that the two Swarms were indeed fighting as I hoped, and all that was left was to identify the primary Swarm insect. That was when I felt a slight pinch on my upper right thigh. I turned around, infuriated that the mage would touch me in such a way, but saw that he was barely aware of his surroundings and still panting heavily. It was then that I realized that it was a single swarm insect now returning to the two battling Swarms. My heart sunk as I saw the two Swarms stop fighting and separate into two black masses. For a second all was silent, I was upright gazing at the two hovering balls of cotton before me, my mage partner was lying there, wheezing heavily, and the sun and clouds paused their daily saunter to glance at the farce unfolding before them. Then, in a heartbeat, the two Swarms charged at us. I hoisted my companion to his feet and we took off running, every few steps blasting a spell or two in a feeble attempt to slow down two very angry Swarms. We took refuge in a clan town - the Swarms dared not enter such a well-protected place. Many of the clan members gathered around us giggling and pointing. I guess I would too if I were them. The mage and I were both nearly naked, covered with bruises, wet grass stuck to our hair, and both gasping for air. I guess those things add up to some unnecessary implication and the mage smirked as many bystanders whispered to him "What have you two been doing?" in a sarcastic tone. We rested at the clan town's inn and the next day we took along several clan members as we sought for our equipment in the woods. I offered to pay for the assistance, but they claimed that what they have seen is quite enough the payment. I warn future investigators of the Swarm to not underestimate these creatures and to never take your clothes off even for the sake of science. And if you do take off your clothes and tempt fate, be sure you partner can run just as fast as you.

It is with my greatest desire that the Academy receives these entries in prompt time. I am currently investigating the swamps in the southwestern part of the land. I hope these first hand accounts have rekindled the world's interest in the wilderness and that more respect and caution will be used when traveling and meeting with these creatures. As I journeyed, I have shown many city residents and clan members excerpts from my journal. Many of them have expressed great interest in exploring the wilderness and the creatures that inhabit these areas. I encourage these actions, as each step reveals a little something on what's behind nature's curtain. And each peek leads to a new mystery and wonder to be solved.

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