Last week, a friend and I challenged each other to write a short story around a creature that resides in the bog of our Renaissance Faire’s guild village. It’s been an ongoing thing for years, but we thought adding an urban legend to keep people out of the bog would be fun. I know this isn’t exactly Itara related, but I thought you all might enjoy it none-the-less. It’s a rough draft, and will likely have adjustments, but I urge you to suspend your disbelief. The village name is true to the guild, the name of the bog was given two years ago, and the main character’s last name belongs to one of the guild’s largest character families. We’re always losing poor John to the bog, so it seemed to fit. This is a labor of love and meant for fun.
The Bog Beast of Duckbilled Nippingshire.
Logline: A fool-hearty farmer’s son gets caught in a vicious storm on the way home, and becomes prey for a territorial bog creature of legend.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Chill, Autumn winds howled menacingly through the village of Duckbilled Nippingshire. No business dared open its doors, and no homes dared leave their windows unlocked. The gnarled fingers of twigs scraped against glass and shutters as if begging to be rescued from the gale threatening to tear their tree roots from the ground. The waters of Duckbill Pond spilled onto its banks, and the river had become so choppy, it battered the tethered boats into their moors. Already, the night claimed two fishing vessels, leaving them completely submerged with only their lines clinging desperately to their iron holdings. The deep ‘crack!’ of thick branches groaned above the thunder as though giants snapped them off to fuel their hell fires.
There had never been a more wicked storm to strike the shire in over a decade.
Unfortunately, this was the night John Yanker had chosen to linger past sundown in Port Deptford. It was a day of gallivanting at the Bell, and spending his coin on mugs of ale at the Oubliette. Halfway to the village, he found himself caught up squarely in the storm’s rage. He kept his head low as he urged his horse onward through the driving wind. His cloak barely protected him from the needles of rain. He knew the break between first and second sleep would be soon, but he highly doubted anyone would venture outside. John clutched at the reins, and yanked back hard when a large, knobby oak came crashing down across the middle of the road. His horse pivoted in the mud, nearly throwing its rider out of the saddle, and bolted into the midst of the Fordatree Woods.
Being a Yanker, John had grown up running through these trees, and knew almost every detail, for the landscape hardly changed. Yet in the darkness, with bolts of lightning illuminating the trunks as bleached skeletons, he missed one very important landmark; an old decaying sign warning ‘Mind the Bog’ staked at the edge of Evan’s Bog.
The horse leapt over a rotten log into a tight clearing, and came to a halt. John took that moment to reorient himself, though it took less than a breath to realize where he’d stopped. His nose wrinkled from a putrid stench bubbling in the distance. If he double backed, he could reach the road, but if he risked the murk and mire, he would be home in half the time. With the storm gaining in strength, and the groan of falling trees filling the wood around him, it left him with little option.
He nudged his horse to tread carefully into the midst of a land quickly filling with water. There were moss-covered paths of solid ground that he kept to. They created a maze that was difficult enough to find in the middle of a clear day, let alone at night beneath the fist of an enraged thunderstorm. One false step and he could tumble into the mud to join past villagers lost to its depths.
He had made it most of the way through, and could make out brief, glorious glimpses of the shire through the downpour when something heavy splashed to his right.
A figure black as tar rose slowly from the bog, bowing upward with globs of murk dripping from it like puss from an open wound. Two soulless, yellow eyes opened and stared unblinking as if seeing through both horse and rider. It made a gurgling sound similar to the waters that birthed it, and snarled with sharp fangs that could tear the hide from a bear.
John’s panic coursed through his veins, and his breath stabbed in his throat. His entire sense of direction flushed away with any rational thought as sheer terror shred itself within his gut. The mighty beast of legend shadowed all hope, leaving him with one command owning his being.
The horse reared up in fright. John kicked the stead into a run without care for the treacherous paths. Its hooves sank into the unforgiving ground repeatedly, though he desperately urged it on. He could hear the creature quickly gaining ground and feared he would not see the safety of the shire ever again.
The beast let out a howl like a devil’s horn. Its large feet slapped against the ground as it chased its prey. Its lumbering bulk broke through tree limbs, and its great green claws ripped through the sod.
John broke through the treeline into the commons, risking a glance behind him. The creature’s jaundiced orbs vanished behind the trees, though he still felt he was being followed. He aimed straight for the safety of the Yanker barn. With unsteady hands, he fumbled for the latch key, shivering and shaking in terror, as he was sure the creature would tear him apart at any moment. He dropped the keys, snatched them the ground, and somehow managed the lock. John pulled his horse inside and slammed the wooden door closed, shutting out the weather and the beast.
The stables were filled with every animal that would normally be grazing on the Commons. All were brought in for the night, making the barn smell of oxen and sheep.
John heaved a sigh of relief. He removed the stallion’s saddle and placed it with the tack, then rested his head against the warm neck of his trusted friend. At last, the night’s horror had ended.
The silence broke with the frantic whinnies and braying from the animals all stomping their hooves. Something had startled them. John swallowed against a lump in his throat. He turned slowly over his shoulder at the locked barn door banging against its restraints.
Then all was still.
The hairs on his skin prickled at a cold, moist breath on his neck. His heart quickened at the sound of a deep, snarling, guttural growl. It loomed above him, as if manifested from the darkness itself. He stared straight into those demonic eyes, frozen with fright. And in a flash of lightning that muffled his scream, he disappeared.
The storm cleared, and the next morning when the animals were let out to pasture, the villagers discovered the soaked traveling cloak of the farmer’s son, and a trail of bloody, three-clawed footprints leading to the door, though it remained locked from the inside.
To this very day, no one knows what became of poor John Yanker.
Let this be a lesson to any who stray beyond the protective light of day: Stay out of the bog.
It took me a while to summon to courage to write this letter, but I feel I now can without pushing away from the keyboard.
To my amazing fans:
I know you are all counted in a small group comprised of brave individuals who love reading, and care deeply for the stories that take you out of your world. You’ve read the first book, and are probably wondering when the 2nd one will come out. I can’t answer that yet, as there are many kinks in the manuscript that I still need to work through. You’ve been with the characters of Itarathrough their turmoil and troubles, pain, love, and laughter of their stories, and traveled with them on their journeys. You’ve walked alongside Jareth with his determined stride, laughed or groaned at Khyler’s gamboling nature, fought beside Kyra and the people of the Ferryn, and felt the flame of magic with Mason as he struggles to learn his place in the world. I respect you all for your time, your heart, and your imaginations. Without you, their stories could not come to life.
That is why, with a heavy heart, I must inform you of a change in the world of Itara. I sent an email to Black Rose Writing a few nights ago asking to be released of my contract. On March 5th, I received a formal letter of cancellation, releasing all rights back to me as the author. I am no longer published under the Black Rose Writing name. Although making the decision to leave Black Rose is not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination, I feel it is a necessary step. Please know this is not a decision made in haste, but rather over a couple of months of hard deliberation. I weighed the pros and cons, listened to the emails sent to me by my fans, and took the advice of industry professionals seriously. I believe you, my beautiful readers, deserve a story that is well written, and well edited. The last thing I want is for errors to take you out of the world of Itara, as it seems this printing is notorious for doing. I am embarrassed by volume of mistakes within the book. You deserve far more.
Don’t fret just yet. Simply because I am cutting ties with Black Rose does not mean I am cutting ties with Itara. It is my life’s work, my legacy, and my baby, and it will be a part of me for the rest of my life. I will still work on the 2nd and 3rd manuscript, and will keep this page going, even if there isn’t anything else to speak about. You are still free to post your thoughts and feelings here (being respectful of others, of course), and I will continue to work on Wizzfeth Stipplewhim’s tales of daring do.
On that topic, there will be a new Wizzfeth story at the end of this month.
Thank you for sticking by me, and for believing in Itara, and it’s messages. I will not give up, and I promise someday your curiosity about the rest of the story will be sated.
Yours in the art of wordsmithing,
Hello, everyone. Happy New Year to all, and many resolutions you will see through, or at least give a tremendous shot at seeing through. Starting in 2012, at the end of January, I will post the first adventure of Khyler Fannisand’s favorite uncle, Wizzfeth Stipplewhim. Throughout book 1, Khyler is constantly recounting the wondrous tales off his uncle’s journeys through Itara. With these stories, I’m hoping you will read the title as the capricious little Gedni begins the tale and know the story as a sort of behind-the-scenes taste.
The Adventures of Wizzfeth Stipplewhim coming soon!