The Swamp-Snails of Lakshadbi

From the loam we came; soaring, spiraling, surging from the thick muck in great swarms. Feeble we were, picked apart by the great and savage crustaceans that stalked cantankerously the mudlands. Soon, though, through miracle or magic, we began to manipulate things with only our ganglion. Opalescent energy of our creation readily and invisibly lifted and manipulated all that we required, and with that power we created tools. Hatchets, Pickaxes, and Spears, chief amongst them, to ward off the lesser predators and eventually to construct and renovate the sorrounding mangroves into communities.

We established, ultimately, a series of settlements in the more heavily wooded mangroves, held aloft by rope easily double the thickness of an eyestalk. Our globular homes, formed of fibre and twisted vines, were of architecture only possible by virtue of our seemingly occultic ability to manipulate objects with our minds. And this very power gave a few of us the capacity for extreme violence, a violent wrath that we used sparingly. Hunting parties, few in number, would go out to slaughter small crabs, ocelots, and great mobile ferns encumbered by sweet fruit. Life was, as a result, simple; we’d tell stories to each other, spawn our young at the end of the Redmonth, and eat omnivorously in small familial feasts every day.

That was, until this very day. A snail with a cracked shell, Smough, I think was his name. He came from another village, moving slowly with that crunched bulwark upon his back. He was blinded in one eyestalk and his flesh was a sickly red; which told explicitly of his ethnicity as a snail of the Blood Marshes of Lakshadbi. I was a Watcher, delegated alone to my duty, to sound the alarm if any Great Predator was observed to be skulking upon the horizon. Hitherto, I had seen nothing too irksome other than rowdy teens who sought nothing more than to pull pranks upon me. That was, of course, until a calm day in November, when the Swamps were cool and the awesome crustaceans hunkered down for their mating season. That was when I saw this “Smough”, who slithered wearily onto the rickety rampgate into town.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“You should treat a fellow of your lot with more respect,” He was especially articulate, a peculiarity I could not help but take notice of. The snails of the Blood Swamps were hideous and savage barbarians, which were no doubt deserving of my prejudice.

“State your business.”

“I am from the Blood Swamp—”

“As if I couldn’t tell from your red skin!”

“Calm yourself, calm yourself, I think it would be wise of you to let me speak to the elders of your Village. Your mind is clouded.”

What a slanderous statement, I had heard plenty of stories of Cannibal-Snails, maimed from battle, who rasped at the flesh of their own kind. Of which, plenty such stories came from those obscene and daemoniacal Blood Swamps. I would not be bedeviled any longer.

“Cease the hostilities,” the scrimshawed gate opened from within, scraping quietly against the wooden scaffolding below us. From within our gated village came another of my kind with the form of an ideal and true mollusc: A round and perfect shell, grey flesh that is plump and not gaunt, and long eyestalks. Most of such features were not present in this redfleshed fiend, with his stubby eyestalks and decollate, blunt-tapered shell that was weathered no doubt from indulgence in foul cannibalistic activities.

My villagemate’s name was Martin, a corpulent chap who was larger than I and the Redfleshed alike. Upon his shell was a strip of blue pigment, signifying his status as a Speaker. I bowed my head to him, and despite my vehement pleadings, he still escorted the Red Snail into our village. “Smough” was his name, apparently, what a lame fucking name. It would be simply traitorous of me, as the protector of the gate, to let such a foul monster defile our home. So, to make sure no profanation was to occur, I crept quietly behind Martin and Smough. I shrunk my eyestalks to almost half their true, effulgent length, so that I may further remain shrouded.

Where I was led was a radiant place, scrimshawed of old whalebones and thick lumps of swampgranite: the House of the Council. Its gates were guarded by two snails who telekinetically wielded flint spears, but the village was foolishly trusting; and when I claimed that I was among the escort the praetorians granted me passage. Our village was an exquisite place, a tangled mass of bazaars, bungalows, and workshops atop great wooden platforms and thickly compacted nets. Which were suspended highly above the brown clay via thick ropes and bolts that fastened tightly to the gargantuan mangrove trees that sprouted readily across this nutrient-rich pasture of muckland.

The House of the Council was expansive, with higher ceilings that blocked the light of the Ophanim, and so luminescence was maintained only through glowing algae and phosphorous pearls scattered about in bowls across the compound. The aperture into which Smough and Martin slimed was to be respected, and it was of great disrespect for such a lesser redflesh to walk upon it. I knew that I would be caught if I was to continue onwards, so I waited at the threshold.

The Council sat upon high chairs, decorated with bones and beautiful twigs, each with shells splendidly armored with carapace, old leaves, and paintings. They were incomprehensibly ancient, and told us all of the stories of our creation and rise to sapience. I could, through the loosely weaved veil of fabric that served as a bulwark, hear every utterance.

“Councilsnails of the Mangrove Village, we of the Blood Swamps desire cordialities. Trade, between us, perhaps food in exchange for valuable metals, is something we seek to Ratify.”

Lies, no doubt.

The councilsnails talked amongst themselves, before the largest amongst them, who centrally on the tallest chair, spoke:

“You desire, of all things.. food?”

“Yes, councilsnails, the Bloody Swamps in which we are founded hold little in the way of meat. The beasts weak enough to kill are becoming toxic to digest, and we know that the animals found in your mangroves are fecund and full to the brim of meat.”

“And in exchange, we get, metal?”

“Councilsnails, the shiny stones of Lakshadbi are of exceeding capability. We learned that through the intense heating of these pebbles, an incandescent fluid can be created. From which, weapons far stronger than stone are to be created.”

Not only were the Blood-Snails hideous and barbaric, but too were they beguilers and apparently armed to the teeth with weapons stronger than ours. Putrescent thoughts filled my mind, of a legion of Red Death descended upon us, with deranged and detestable wailings as the savages butchered our young and devoured them. Too, did I imagine their home, an indubitably fetid place, that without any doubt was polluted and stained abundantly with the blood of the Dead. Who, according to the stories, were not buried but left to rot.

“We could even, if you brook them quarter, establish some kind of embassy.”

“No!” I stormed into the room, I could not bear the possibility of these Redfleshed and their putridities despoiling my home with their accursed apparatuses.

“We mustn’t trust them!” I yelled, “They are here to deceive!”

My calls fell upon deaf ears, however, and I was escorted from the structure. I tried to tell Martin of the stories, which were passed down from Father to Father in my bloodline, but too were these limns ignored. I thought it foolish, indeed, and I realized that the openmindedness of my villagemates was to get them killed. Fools they were, but I was to prove them false, and I was to expose the guilt which weighed heavily on that fiend Smough.

The redfleshed was given sanctuary in one of our communes, and I suspected that he was planning to do something malicious. So, quietly, so stealthily in fact that I doubt even an ocelot was to hear me, I watched through the window of his bungalow his activities. Much to my surprise, the abnormalities across his appearance did not match his behaviors, and the insane blood rituals I had heard of in tales were not indulged in on that night. This creature was smarter than I thought, and masked his esoteric traditions behind a veil of normalcy. Fetid, fetid!

The night dragged on, and the inky abyss was soporific. For a moment, I fell into slumber, but I was awoken jarringly by the creaking of an opened door. Smough, for a peculiar and malicious I could not fathom, went out into the night. He slimed his way across my village, despoiling only with his stygian presence the beautiful architecture which surrounded us. Much to my surprise, the redfleshed slithered to the maingates of our town; and strangely, left the borders of our abode.

Good. That is where creatures of such vulgar constitution should reside. In the safety of the wilds, away from prying eyes, I confronted him.

“Redflesh! Your vulgarities have been unveiled!”

“The fuck? Why are you stalking me you cur?”

That was something I had not expected. He was away from all crowds and still he kept up his act. I slimed closer, for his cracked shell irked me vehemently. The mud below me was soft, and gently undulated with a cardiac rhythm. Smough backed away from me slowly, despite my expectations of an attack.

“We of the Blood Marshes have no quarrel with thee, it is customary to walk with the Moo—”

“I have caught you, fiend! You beguile us, you say to us that you live in the Blood Swamps when..”

“They’re synonyms dumbfuck!”

Unfortunately, there were no objects which I could bludgeon him with. He infuriated me, and I could feel around me the vibrations of both of our psionic energies. To both our surprise, something erupted from the gyrating sludge, sending the two of us and a wave of muddy water flying into the air. It was a horrid thing, an amphibian thing like a salamander, but so gargantuan that it could pulverize a snail within its elongated and tapered jaws. Its sharp denticulation was long and close-packed, and the creature’s limbs were icthyic, as was its tail which was long and powerful.

The prionosuchus lunged upon me, biting into the back of my foot. Instinctually, I shrieked in agony as the beast flailed me about. My shell collided against the mud with such force that it cracked, and I was dazed. Before me was the crocodilian horror and that god-awful Red Snail. It looked upon me, wide-eyed, and I thought that no doubt it was sneering within at me. I knew, however, that I was not to die to a filthy redfleshed, or be betrayed or assimilated or consumed. And, before I slipped into that creature’s gullet, I was proud to ignore that awful traitor’s faux calls to me:

“Hold on! Hold on! Fight it! Grab the branch! I will help!”

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