Fire Flies and Sorrow Eels

Spotted throughout The Hidden Lands are water sources inhabited by two animals involved in a symbiotic relationship, one fire-based, the other water-based. Both feed on a victim’s spirit if they come too close to an inhabited lake or river. Fire-based “insects”  lure victims in by distorting their reflection in the water as an image of their greatest desire – food, lovers, items, whatever – and when the creature reaches into the water for it, they immediately turn into water themselves. Their soul is devoured by the water-based creature therein. It feeds on the sorrowful memories of said victim and entering them into an eternity of reliving them, but discards the positive energy of that particular creature to feed the fire-based “flies.” However, if the “flies” ever actually touch the water, the entire water source and the creature therein will turn to a stunning gold-inlaid blue marble. If obtained, this marble is rumored to be the most precious item on the entire continent and is believed to heal all illness, grow any plant when buried, and even raise the dead or turn back time.

Many explorers and fortune-seekers have met their ends searching for – or attempting to outsmart – these creatures and the water sources they inhabit. One survivor of a exploring group reported that his entire outfit of 37 men and women fell victim to the enchanting images superimposing their reflections in the water and, upon attempt to retrieve them, were engulfed. A few even tried to escape, but according to his report, their stifled cries and desperate reaches for land appeared to be nothing but treacherous waves splashing on the rocky shores. Shortly after relaying the story to a stranger in a pub, the traveler lost his mind in mourning for his lost friends.

Images of the creatures are disputed among eyewitnesses and ancient documents uncovered throughout the land. The fire-based creatures are rumored to travel in swarms and to be very small, flighted, and warm to the touch — a key factor in their ability to lure victims toward the water at night when temperatures plummet below freezing. Some say their wings do not buzz, but hum – softly, and lyrically like a mother’s lullaby and often to a tune that is familiar or even meaningful to the victim. Once at the water’s edge, the victim instinctively looks into the water, expecting to see their own reflection, but actually visualizing the object of their deepest desire.

The water-based creature is even more mysterious since nobody has ever actually seen it. Drawings on scrolls and the walls of ancient mountainous cave settlements suggest that it is a long, eel-like creature with an enormous gaping mouth lined with long, grotesque, needle-like teeth. Because sorrow is never seen, but felt, the monster lacks eyes and instead has seventeen humanoid “arms” projecting from its face and neck, used for grabbing its victims in the water and shoving their weeping souls into its mouth. Legend has it that when victims seem immune to the charms of the firefly-like creatures, the water monster will wave its “arms” above the water to create the illusion that someone is drowning in an attempt to appeal to the heroic side of passersby. Legend also says that the fangs of this creature, when removed from the skull, collapse into ash that burns the skin of someone that has been dishonest, deceitful, or treacherous. Oftentimes, parents of the human race would use this story and wave skinny sticks or animal bones at their children to scare them into telling them the truth when they’ve gotten into mischief.