Frogfeast

The swamps that filter the end of the vast Enjeket River are known only as Frogfeast in the local tongue. This name is spoken many ways in many other languages, but they all come back to the same truths: sweltering heat, muggy air, and a cacophony of buzzing insects have fed a frog population like no other. Those who live near the edge of Frogfeast say that even the Enjeket River hippos do not venture into the swamp.

Presumably, that is an exaggeration. Enjeket River hippos are savage and truculent beasts known equally well for their ponderous girth and their propensity for violence. None doubt that a full grown hippo anywhere else on the Enjeket River would be free to do as it pleased without opposition. Surely they only avoid Frogfeast due to its foul smells and dense, sucking mud.

Others venture into Frogfeast, however. Locals swear by the potency of medicines made from the swamp’s plants, and they are known to paddle cautiously through Frogfeast’s twisting waterways in search of herbs. Habitual herb gatherers are a paranoid lot, and will uniformly refuse to push into the dense thickets or across the larger stretches of swamp where they swear giant toads make their lairs. They are picky about where they will drink, and constantly chew the tough roots of a boring local flower.

Visitors from further afield explore where the locals adamantly avoid, hunting places where the waters pool and twist in odd colors, and the air takes on a strange tang reminiscent of molding citrus and iron rust. There they seek out twisting, sponge-textured mineral deposits which are said to form in the swamp’s waters, though they also prize other equally rare formations. Most such finds are valuable in the extreme.

The foolhardy from afar make the most noise. Most often those with more wealth than sense, they all have a conspicuous smattering of knowledge about the history of lost cities on the Enjeket. They bring tools and employed labor in hopes of discovering the treasures of those whom the Enjeket swallowed in ages past. Some few of them swear that Frogfeast itself covers a lost city, but most agree that it merely serves as a catchment basin, a suitable pan for the gold dust of drowned or desolated civilizations as it were.

Of all these, the locals have the longest life expectancies. Many from afar who forge paths into Frogfeast become lost. Others drown, pulled under by mud. Still others are sucked dry by countless leeches and too many biting bugs, or else take ill and wither away under fevers, vomiting, diarrhea and visions. Some merely disappear without trace, never to be seen again.

Then, of course, there are those who reemerge hale but with some sickness of the mind. They speak of swirls of light, and of smells that no others can find. In time, most of these who are found recover, though they all speak of dis-ease at the thought of returning to Frogfeast. They tend to give the swamp agency, and claim that the swamp would not tolerate their return. A few, humored by their compatriots, have written fanciful stories of their experiences while under the influence of those hallucinations. And some, a bare handful, travel back to Frogfeast once again as quickly as they can, melting into the swamp’s dense undergrowth and vanishing without a trace. They become ghost stories, of a sort, and travelers scare each other with tales of sightings—glimpses caught of them years later, weaving through the swamp, seemingly untouched by the passage of time.

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