Travels of Ketch : Chapter One – Marshblood

      Travels_00000      Ketch was an imp. Like most imps, he was quite vain. He always made sure he wallowed in the muds outside his home to keep his skin from drying out and his wings from cracking. His father, Karunch, had taught him an improper body was the result of an improper mind.
His home marsh was quite pleasant. There was hardly ever any sun, but it stayed nice and comfortably muggy all the same. All sorts of insects and grubs made for fine eating on the earthen banks. Plenty of fish were available as well if Ketch was in the mood for something hearty. He would spear them and eat them before they got warm.
Though they lived in a house made from the thin branches of nearby trees raised from the waters, they never forgot their roots and only used their house for protection at night and relief from the frigid waters during the winter. Karunch made sure his family composed itself like the regal imps from the mires. Ketch was willing to comply with all his father’s decisions.
Save for one. Ketch loved stories about far off lands. He had never seen a mountain, a desert, an ocean, the deep forest where the faeries lived, but he could imagine them. His grandmother had come from the mires where the richest of the imps lived in their marshtowns and he remembered all the stories she told. Mermaids, vampires, humans, and most especially dragons, Ketch loved them all. But he would never tell his father. Retelling stories was what got Ketch’s grandmother exiled in the first place.
One day, Ketch was gliding along the bank of the forest, making sure not to venture too near the trees lest he clip his wings. The waters were a rich brown marbled with thick green algae slime. It had rained recently and it always brought out the most gorgeous colors. He stopped at his favorite tree to rest and eat any nearby grubs. He loved the tree; it was where he had learned to fly, it was where he had caught his first fish, and it was the place he planned as his place of courting when he found the right one. He landed to rest his wings and look for grubs in the soft mud, when he heard a noise.
There was something thrashing in the waters close by. He jumped and glided towards it and saw a large being crying for help.
“By the Three Sisters,” it called out, “someone help me!”
His grandmother had taught him about the Three Sisters, even though his father said the moons were just moons and the Sisters were just nonsense. But Ketch believed and if this being did too, he had to help it. Even if it wasn’t Imp.
Diving for the bank, Ketch pulled out his bone knife and cut a willow branch off a tree. He landed on an earth mound and held out the branch to the being. Using the mound as an anchor, Ketch was able to pull the being out of the mud and to safety.
The being was huge, at least twice his height. Its arms were three times as thick as Ketch’s. It had a patch of hair on top its head. That itself was absurd because every proper imp would make sure any loose hairs were plucked, and never let any patches appear. And instead of a simple cloth to cover his modesty and use as a belt for weapons and tools, the entire body was covered in some sort of cloth. It had intricate stitchings and patterns such as he had never seen or heard of. Why did this being need so many clothes? The being was still covered in mud, but he could hear it panting for breath.
“Thank you,” the being said, its voice low and deep. “I was separated from my caravan during the storm last night and found myself here. You saved me. I offer my most humblest of thanks.”
The being was polite at least. The being said is name was Miles and he lived ways away in the meadow-lands. A human then. Interesting. Humans never wandered far from their safe territories. Ketch told him nothing about his home, but confided his name and how he had come to find the human.
“I owe you my life,” Miles said, scraping as much mud off his body as it was able. “Is there anything I can do to repay you?”
“Tell no one of this place,” Ketch said. It would not do to have all matter of beings to know imps lived around here.
“Very well, you have my word. I must find my people. I bid you well, noble Imp. Sisters bless thee and thy kin.”
So Miles made his way back towards the forest, leaping from mound to mound and finally disappearing among the trees.
It was good to do good works, so said the teachings of the Sisters. Ketch felt happy and proud of himself. At least until Karunch attacked him from behind. Ketch was knocked into the water and climbed onto another mound.
“What have you done?” Karunch demanded, pointing his spear at the trees where the being had disappeared. “You let that get away.”
“I saved him,” Ketch said, not thinking.
“You did what?! He will bring others here. How could you be so foolish?”
“He was a follower of the Sisters and-” Ketch tried to explain, but his father would have none of it.
“I’ve had enough! You have put this whole marsh in danger. This is the ultimate betrayal. You are dead to our kind. You are dead to our clan. You are dead to my family. And you are dead to me.”
Ketch tried to protest. “But Father-”
Karunch brandished his spear, aiming at the heart of his son. “Go and never return here.”
Ketch flew away. His wings were tired, but he flew out into the swamps where the mud was dirty and the air stank of rotting plants. He flew until he could fly no more. He found a patch of dry earth and curled his wings about him. There he fell asleep, weeping.

Chapter Two

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