Friday, June 30, 2017
Curious Riverine Fauna
Some notes from Sergeant Puppybones, a boxtoon bodyguard, sellsword, and amateur naturalist, based on his recent stint as security on the Fabulous Fingerling, a luxury ferry between River-Town and Frogport.
The past seven months going up and back on the river numerous times (I've lost count, truly) have not only padded my purse but also taught me much. The ferry-hands were all well-experienced sailors who knew quite a bit about not only the Great River, but also Shining Lake. I regret that I lacked the foresight to take sound notes on their anecdotes from the get-go, but I shall endeavor to make good recollections in these correspondences to my journalistically-minded fellows. I can't say what value some of these creatures might have to the scientifactually curious or magically-inclined, but as my dear father Master Sergeant Rumpsniffer used to say, "Everything's useful if you're clever."
Among the strange fish that were pointed out to me by the sailors, the most memorable must surely be the yellowback boomer. Featuring a bright yellow stripe along its spine and a flattened head, this narrow-tailed fish reminds me, in shape, of a bowling pin. The yellowback boomer is not, it seems, a native fish of the Wampus Country, or so the sailors say - it comes to us from some far-flung land, as evinced by its elemental nature.
Within each boomer is a tiny speck of elemental energy which allows the fish to sustain itself on light gathered via the yellow stripe (this explains why they swim so close to the surface). This same magical energy is what makes the yellowback boomer so dangerous; should a yellowback expire while not exposed to the light, the corpse of the fish will explode when again it sees the sun. In the natural order, this means the boomer's predators are all savvy enough to eat the fish at the surface of the water, or beyond it (as the flytrap pelican does); boomers dragged down deep to their doom have a tendency to take their predator with them to the afterlife.
One of the sailors aboard the Fabulous Fingerling had a strange method of using the boomers: he owned a stout wooden box whose sole round aperture was covered with black velvet, slashed through the middle such that one could reach into it without letting light into the box. The sailor showed us how to fish for yellowback boomers, then immediately stuff them in his lightless box, where of course they would flop about and gasp for air. The next day, when we were assaulted by some foolish river pirates, we took turns plunging our hands into the box, pulling out a boomer and throwing it, grenade-like, at our foes. The fish each took a moment or two to explode, but they did so with considerable concussive force; we'd managed five or six of them on the deck of the pirate sloop before they all started going off in a deadly chain, severing a few pirates at the ankles.
One of the animals brave and resilient enough to feed on yellowback boomers is the arline, a sort of amphibious serpent-eel which is happy to hunt in the water or on the marshy littoral. The arline is milky white, with black and yellow spots. The two varieties, so-named Eastern and Western, are easy to confuse, one bearing black-and-yellow spots, and the other yellow-and-black. Yet is important for the wilderness explorer to know the difference, as the Eastern and Western are actually the males and females of the same species, who live separate lives except during mating season. One week a year in the autumn, hundreds of the arlines swim toward one another, meeting in a massive sex-tangle just offshore (for the past several years a "Snake Sex Party Cruise" has set sail from Loon Rock in order to observe this lustful serpentine sargasso; an infamous serpent-priest serves as tour guide and party planner). At the end of the frenzied spawning, each white serpent then returns again on its own, going back down the only path it has ever known.
The males of the arline species are mildly venomous; the females, however, are massively venomous and also poisonous to the touch. In fact, the viviparous arline actually suckle their young on venom from their ample fangs. I have heard that the heart and venom sacs of the female arline can be macerated with honey-mead and left to sit overnight to create an anti-poison potion.
Weird animals created by The Boy; gamification and unnecessarily stupid gags by me.