Perhaps it’s time to move down the road a bit. I’m still looking for that place to take me in and help me heal. I don’t know what I’ll find, but Mudbridge definitely is not that place.
With an eye on the far end of the bridge where the road disappears into the trees, I listen to the wisdom of whatever small and forgotten gods are here (-1 token => 1).
Closing my eyes, I whisper that I rejected the god my family taught me to serve. For a moment, I remember their warnings of “false” gods, but I push those out of my mind and try to quiet the angry voice in my head.
Liander is here, the mighty Cottonmouth. They tilt their head to ask if I am well. “No,” I whisper, “but I think I could be.” Their tongue flickers and smells the air. I wince, but they give no sign of the distaste or rejection that I have become accustomed to as a Skunk in exile.
They uncoil in the direction of the road and the far end of the bridge, staring at me until I get the point. Whatever I need to find, it’s that way. And there’s nothing wrong with who I am.
Time passes on the road. What other natures are here? ((I decide to roll a d4, where 1-3 will indicate the Comfortable / Verdant / Liminal natures and 4 will indicate I need to roll on one of the stranger nature types, plus a d6 for the specific nature within that type.))
What is this nearby vessel we weren’t expecting to see? I just didn’t think to expect any boat at all. There’s a small sailboat on a pleasure cruise. Across the water, I can hear faint laughter and see the boat’s name, “Galatea”.
I have reached the Chromatic Lake.
Who is the friendly soul unfamiliar with the hardship of the world? Whoever they are, they get along with folk from all over. They can always start up a conversation and get overly attached to an inanimate object. They’re also cheerful: happy and positive. People like this can always look on the bright side or gallivant into an awkward situation.
I greet Hertaris with a simple “hello”. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her, so I’m offering the chance to connect on a personal level. (spending a token, leaving me with one). Long ago, I had a crush on her - a Samoyed who might have had a crush on me too, maybe? She wears mechanical butterfly wings, similar to the prismatic ones all around us. She flutters them with a little pulley mechanism. Hertaris is all smiles as she’s happy to see me once again. We talk of happier times in our pasts, leaving unspoken the thought that we could have been together. However, I do quietly tell her that I left the workshop - it was the reason we were never together, because that place was the focus of my life and she wasn’t in it.
But Hertaris isn’t who she used to be, either. In some ways, at least, it’s been very easy for her and she just doesn’t see the places where people get pushed out of their communities. No, that’s not right - she does not really understand that people do get pushed out sometimes.
What other kinds of folks are here? More samoyeds like Hertaris, of course, but we also find frogs and skinks. Some are salvaging and cleaning everything that has washed up on the lakeside. Others tend to the prismatic butterflies.
Who are the small, forgotten gods here? It turns out that some of the butterflies are, and you can’t always tell which ones are little godlings until they land on your shoulder and whisper in an ancient tongue we all somehow understand.
The folk find abundance in the flotsam and jetsam, cast off from a world that didn’t care about itself. So much of it, though, is filthy and unusable that it takes time to dispose of it. I stay for a while and help the frog folk do this, inconveniencing myself but finding fulfillment in doing this thing (gaining a second token in the process).
I give a gift to Hertaris of something I hold dear (and thus get a third token). To any other eye, it’s nothing special: a piece of driftwood I’ve been carving in these recent days. But I tried to make it look a little like me, so she won’t forget me after I leave the lakeside. This place is nice, but it isn’t home.
The frogs here have become my friends. Who’s the one I work with the most?
Charant, the bullfrog. He’s resolute, keeping at things others would give up at but also rejecting what’s in front of his eyes. He’s also cautious and refuses to open up, always pointing out perceived dangers. Mostly, though, I see that he has a scar like the one I keep hidden behind my mask and torn garment.
One day, I quietly try to suggest that we have similar scars, spending a token (back down to two) to offer him the chance to connect on a personal level. He doesn’t really want to talk at all in this moment, certainly not to express any vulnerability. I then ask if I can tell a story of my home, which he accepts.
“I used to work in this place where we believed everyone else should come work, too. Our god had been forgotten, and we thought soon he’d become large enough to show his power everywhere. Eventually, I realized we had taken the words of a small but wise god and used them to convince ourselves that we were special and chosen. But that wasn’t what he meant at all: he just wanted us all to take care of each other. We had to make the world better by ourselves, doing the best we can.”
“Ain’t I?” croaks Charant. I grow quiet, because I don’t think he’d really listened. But telling other people what to believe is something I’ve left behind. And maybe he’s right: after all, here he is doing the work.
The month of Monsoon passes with its great rains. Here we’ve seen those torrents, but also brief moments of clear skies and beautifully green plant life. Together, the folk here have enjoyed lots of tea (and coffee!), that clean smell of the soil after a rain, and of course overflowing rivers pouring into the lake. (This is what Mudbridge, the last place, was really for!)
As Monsoon draws to a close, so does the Bright season. The time for the Sun Parade has arrived. I can’t really engage with all the happenings; that’s too much stimulation for me. But what can I handle?
Wreaths of flowers: I made several for the work crew I served with on the lake cleanup.
Beautiful dresses: Hertaris looks wonderfully happy in hers. For now, I just let her be, rather than break her heart by letting her know I’ll be leaving soon.
Streamers and banners: Many of them were made by various families to honor their own histories, lands, and groups to which they belong. I enjoy sitting with a cool drink and trying to recognize as many as I can.
Back in my homeland, just before the Sun Parade, they have a tradition to honor the death and rebirth of our — I mean their — god. So I take a little walk under the full moon and remember the times when this was the most important night of the year for me. Later, I have a glass of wine and some crackers. ((I have unlocked a new advancement to “get a token whenever you honor a holiday or tradition from your home.” This brings me to three tokens.))
As I leave without really saying goodbye once again, I set the leftover wine at a small shrine to the unknown little gods of this place (acquiring a fourth token).
Next time, we’ll reach the town this road connects to.