20: Many Wondrous Beasts

Their canoe drifted in synchronicity with their floats like frozen in the moment yet moving. Itero watched his bob and waited for the bite that never came. The Devourer looked at the beasts levitating high above the few groves of trees in the wast Marchlands. They were far away, but he could see their bulbous bodies flutter in the wind. Their tentacles graced the surface of the water and sucked it like some giant mosquito pumping out the blood of the earth. There were eggs in the tussocks surrounding the boat. So big they could not come from any other beast. He could see through the thin membrane how their larvae wriggled in the viscous liquid. One of the creatures let out a sound like distant thunder that vibrated the very ground the eggs stood upon. The surface of the water rippled as droplets danced around the canoe. Many more of the beasts congregated further down the coast and obscured the sunrise as their tentacles dipped into the sea.

Wondrous beasts those, Itero said.

Migratory? The Devourer asked.

Yes, Itero answered. They’re said to go into Mistwood after their younglings have hatched.

What do they do there?

I don’t know. Feed maybe. Mate?

One day I’ll go there.

I hope I can join you.

Perhaps, old man, perhaps. Should we go downstream? The Devourer asked as he reeled in his line and threw out the bait again.

Very well, Itero answered still watching his float bob.

Each man sat quiet and watched their float for a while before the Devourer said, So, are we going or not?

Goddammit, Itero exclaimed, Paddle yourself if you are in such a hurry, cripple. You if anyone have all the time in the world. I’m the one in a hurry here.

I would if I could, The Devourer said and threw out his float again while Itero reeled his in and took the paddle. The weak current carried them into the desired direction and made for a smooth voyage down the delta. Soon both men were fishing again.

Itero threw out his float and said, Supposedly they convert the water into some volatile gas that keeps them afloat. I heard a guy in the tavern talk about it. Once some boys shot one with a flaming arrow and it went up into flames like some giant ball of fire. Its burnt parts rained down over a large area. You can’t imagine their size when they’re levitating so high above the ground. The perspective plays a trick on you. They’re enormous. If you laid out the skin of one of the largest bulls, it would cover at least the High District, and maybe even the surrounding city.

As I said, The Devourer continued, we’ll go there someday and see for our selves. It’s up the river, isn’t it?

First, if you go up the river, you will find Mistwood Glade. Then you’ll have to ride from there to Red Rock. A treacherous road that one. But who am I to tell you that, haven’t you been there already?

I don’t know, old man. I don’t know. I guess I’ve had the time to.

It’s said, Itero continued after a moment of silence, Those floaters can live for a thousand years.

Who would’ve been along for a thousand years to keep track of their age?

Don’t play stupid, Nihil, If you watched them long enough you’d find small distinctions in their appearance by which you could tell them apart. Different colors, scars, size. It’s said they grow their entire life.

Are you a naturalist now?

I’ve always been, Nihil. Why else would I’ve shown such an interest in an animal like you?

Not a naturalist, a comedian.

Whatever you want, brother. Whatever you want.