You attempt to wrest your arm free, but the… thing… pulls harder. In desperation, you try to punch it, but you feel your arm being more tangled.
Panicking, you grab the knocker and pound it harder and harder, until you feel the gate rise. Two mudpikes start poking at whatever’s behind you, as a pair of hands pulls you inside.
Or most of you, at any rate. It seems the creature still managed to hold onto your arm.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit,” one of the guards says. “We messed up. Should never have let you out.”
“I knew this was going to happen one day,” the other groans, taking you by the intact arm. “The day I found out, I started saying we should tell the new recruits about the rainspawn. But no, everyone’s so goddamn superstitious. Don’t talk about the rainspawn when it’s dry, it’s bad luck! Tell that to the newbie with the missing arm. Tell them that it’s bad luck to mention the rainspawn.”
You howl in pain.
“Medic’s already on the way,” another knight says. “A few minutes after you left, Burgundy asked what the hell she was thinking sending you out, so she sent more of us to the front door and sent a messenger to Medic just in case. Thank the gods you didn’t get any further away.”
John Medic soon arrives.
“Oh dear. Oh dear.” He puts a cloth over the wound and shoves a needle nearby. You feel the pain start to fade away.
“That’s going to dull the pain temporarily while we get you to the infirmary,” he says. Two knights lay down a stretcher next to you, and you lie down on it. “I am so terribly, terribly sorry. So is Sergeant Burgundy. This never should have happened.”
As you get carried to the infirmary, you find your thoughts a mess. You think to those horrifying creatures… rainspawn? Your missing arm. Everyone who could have told you about them, but didn’t.
You’re not even sure what to make of it all. As you find yourself in the infirmary once again, John Medic stares at you sadly while he bandages up what’s left of your shoulder.
“I realize it’s a little too late to ask this now, but… is there anything I can do for you?”
Uh oh, which arm did you lose? The dominant one?
“Read me… your favorite book!”
You can’t answer that, but ask him to stick around. You don’t want to be alone right now.
Stare blankly up into the ceiling.
Despite everything, you are your father’s son, so you want to know everything about what just went down. What are rainspawn? Does this happen in other swamps ’cause it sure didn’t happen at home. Are they active at all when it’s not raining? Where do they come from, where do they go? Who would win in a fight a swamp beast or a rain spawn? It might be a bit out of your current reading level, but have there been any books on them?
The idea for this story started at least two years before I actually did anything serious with it.
I had general ambitions to write a novel, but kept feeling like I didn’t have an idea that was a good fit for one.
One evening, I thought to myself, I should stop thinking that way. I should just do a quick write-up of a setting and see what ideas that gives me.
And this is what I wrote, which I’m sharing now because the big spoiler in it has passed:
It was never peaceful in the swamp.
Even now, when there was no actual fighting, the Bogknights and Marshguards lived in unease. Each expected the other side to break the truce immediately, and each planned an immediate attack once the rains stopped to catch the enemy by surprise.
But for now, Bogknight and Marshguard alike shared a common foe: nature.
The swamp was unpleasant enough in the dry season. Crocodiles lay in wait for anyone foolish enough to step into the muck; on the ground, mossbeasts hid themselves among the foliage. And of course, there was always the risk of murderflies.
But in the rain, it grew worse. Hunting was impossible – not only due to the torrential downpour, but moreso due to the ferocious rainspawn who inevitably followed it. Even if a hunter could survive them on his wits, it would be useless; there would be nothing to hunt, for the rainspawn would get to it first.
It was hastily written, but even that much was enough to build on. I still didn’t make a novel out of it, but I did do some one-off pieces where I played around with the setting. During that process, I came up with some basic ideas, most notably that the Marshguards were exiles who saw the swamp as their only home.
I think the idea really came alive, though, when I started exposing it to other people and having them ask questions about the setting, or suggest things for me to incorporate which then led to me asking new questions. I thought about the setting in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Thanks to everyone who’s contributed to this in one way or another over the years.