THE SAGAS OF KRISTALA
"THE LOST CHILD"
Once, the pleasures of the Gilsanka were small things: clear water for hunting prey, a light breeze along the surface to stir the tides, a leap into the breathless air in a moment of abandon.
The trickle of magic that flowed through each scale, each fin, was as much a mundane reality as a euphoric new experience with every brush of the water along the body. It was something they were born with, lived with, and died with, and it afforded them a simple sapience that was not quite the burden of self-awareness, but neither was it a blind devotion to instinct.
No, the Gilsanka were a special thing, finding peace in each other and their magic in the still pools of Dalamase for centuries.
When the tall ones came, for a short time, there was discord to their existence. The creatures would hunt them, eat them, and languish unaware—or perhaps unable—to appreciate their significance within the ecology of the swamp.
The tall ones came with their own power, however, and soon the quick, bright magic of the Gilsanka merge with the deep, soft magic of the Kristals. Eventually equilibrium reasserted itself, and the Gilsanka welcomed these strangers into their pools as simply a fork in the path of their life cycle.
It remained this way for some time. The next great change to the gilsanka would not be as simple, or as kind.
When the curse befell the swamp, it seemed to naturally seek out the Gilsanka in their clear pools. It seeped into the water like a poison, trickling between each scale, seeping into the skin and corroding everything it touched.
The Gilsanka grew frantic, some leaping from the water to die gasping on the soft banks, others refusing to eat, starving in the depths of their now yellow and decaying pools. Those with the fortitude—or perhaps an abundance of hope—to survive this onslaught found themselves twisted into strange, unrecognizable things.
The water burned their lungs, forcing them out of their pools and into the swamp on two uncertain legs and with eyes unused to the bright light of the sun.
In perhaps the strangest twist of cruel fate yet, it brought with it not only mutations and darkness, but a poignant and agonizing awareness of these changes. Cut off from the flow of natural magic the Gilsanka had grown within for centuries, they became creatures of loneliness, confusion, and a desperate hunger to reclaim what they’d lost to the curse.
Those that emerged, malformed, from the pools, quickly dispersed. Those that did not were culled by their own.
Suffering, of course, requires sapience, and the curse had gifted the Gilsanka with an abundance of both. One such creature went by the name of Lophi—a moniker he bestowed upon himself after the disconcerting ooh-feeeee hiss of his gills as they tried awkwardly to wrest oxygen from the air instead of the water.
Now that he had the parts to make noises, he was fascinated by what he could produce. It was a small solace amidst the constant need for magic and the pain its absence brought him.
His first encounter was with another Gilsanka, freshly bipedal and thrust from the waters of their birth just like him. The joy at seeing another of his kind was almost immediately overshadowed by the all-consuming hunger he felt toward them.
Without the cyclical give and take of the Gilsankan natural magics there was only a bottomless pit to feed...and he fed it by tearing the magic from his victim’s throat with his teeth. He tried to forget, but he couldn’t. The curse had seen to that.
After this incident, Lophi found a bit of solace for himself nestled within the forest amidst the strange, lifelike tall things crafted from twigs and vines and scattered throughout the land. His own kind terrified him now, their innate magic a constant vile temptation he could not bear to be around.
He kept to himself, exploring his new, twisted form in private. He felt the magic coursing through him, the same as always, but now alien in its flavor. It flowed through limbs he shouldn’t have, crackled across synapses he had only recently grown. He understood suffering now. Even worse—he understood the suffering of others.
And yet, the hunger remained, and Lophi could not stop.