Episode Two, Part One: Cryptids: A History and AnthologyRilain woke up to a crack of pinkish sunlight purring across her face, the Vibranni having spent the night sprawled across the desk in one of Aunt Helen’s spare bedrooms. She was never quite able to take to any overly-stuffed beds, especially the ones Alex’s aunt provided. When she had first tried sitting on it the previous night, she felt as if she was being swallowed whole by a giant pillowy Chanka, with feathers for teeth. So instead of acting like the typical human, she went for the top of the desk, clinging to her memories of sleeping on flat-headed rocks as a child.
After yawning and stretching out her cinched muscles, Rilain stood up, slipped into her clothes, and found her way downstairs to Aunt Helen’s private library. When she opened the door, it took her a few seconds to adjust to the massive quantity of books the old broad kept neatly organized upon several floors of bookshelves. She groaned when she realized it would take her nearly forever to find the book—or perhaps books—she was hoping to find, but then shook it off with the optimistic thought of, “Maybe she has them alphabetized by subject…”
Rilain bit her lip, closed the wide oak door behind her, and started off towards the first set of bookshelves. Luckily, they were labeled “A” for “Artists,” “Adventure,” “Animals,” and the like. She stopped at “Animals” and quickly scanned through the available titles, but frowned when she didn’t come across any titles she wished to see. So she continued to another set of bookcases a few rows down where the “C” subjects were.
“Castes, no,” Rilain murmured, sliding her finger along spine after spine. “Chemistry, no. Crimes, nope.”
The Nakalo stopped when she came across one book within its very own section, a section she wished was much broader than this single book.
“Cryptids,” she read, “A History and Anthology…” She looked down at the author’s name which was printed in very elegant silver ink, sunken delicately into the leather front of the book, the font’s curls tapering off lightly. Professor Markus Nettleson, it read. Rilain pondered the name for a second, wondering if she had heard it anywhere prior to this instance, but no face or relatable name came to mind. She kept the name tacked to her spongy memory and tucked the book under her arm, walking over to a nearby armchair by a hungry yet warm fireplace.
Rilain sat down on one arm of the chair and perched her feet on the other, peeling the book open on her thighs. She skimmed through the table of contents and noticed quite a few names of creatures she did not recognize…but only one that she did.
“The Crocotta,” she murmured, flipping to the chapter that contained more information on the creature. There was a large image on the first page beneath the title, a similar image to one Rilain had seen in Fen Byen, both on paper and physically.
She turned the page and scrutinized the text on the tawny, faded paper.
The Crocotta, a large canine-like animal about three to four feet in height, is a quite intriguing creature. It mainly feeds off of livestock and medium-sized forest dwelling animals, but when it desires a change in diet, it seeks out human flesh. It often lures its prey with a mimicked human scream, similar to that of a loved one. The Crocotta is typically striped or spotted, with a large mouth full of sharpened fangs and a tail mainly used for balance and soft prowling. Although it occasionally seeks out human prey, there have only been a few rare documented killings. It is assumed that most of the disappearances within the Crocotta’s recorded territory, Fen Byen, are caused by the creature, but the bodies are then fully consumed, revealing little to no trace of the human prey.
Rilain pondered the description of the animal and realized it was written similarly to the bounty she had seen posted outside a bar in Fen Byen.
“This Professor Nettleson must have been the same person who wrote that bounty…” she murmured, turning the book over to read the cover. She wondered if it was possible to get in contact with this professor, but as she skimmed through the front of the book as well as the back, she was unable to find any contact information or where the book might have been published. Rilain figured that the book was either the first of its kind, or the author was trying real hard not to be found.
The Vibranni sighed and pushed the thought to the back of her mind, deciding to instead search for any supposed mythical creatures that might have been seen in Kuu. She flipped to one of the back pages and saw an image of a rather large and bulky wolf-like creature, light gray in color.
“The Snerra,” she whispered, reading over the text. It seemed to be a heavily-built wolfish creature with a large, blocky head and stood about four feet tall. They were mainly solitary creatures, but were known for killing humans by removing their heads. These creatures dined merely on the heads of their prey, many discovered victims of the animal’s attacks having been decapitated. Although difficult to find, the Snerra’s home is typically deep within the mountains of Kuu.
Rilain snapped the book shut, knowing exactly how to spend her next few days. She was getting rather bored of sitting around Aunt Helen’s estate, being ignored by the house’s help and receiving awkward stares and comments from Aunt Helen herself.
“Alexander could have done better,” the old woman would whisper every time she passed Rilain. “Why does he travel with one of your kind, anyway?”
The Vibranni had had enough of her verbal mistreatment, desiring a relief from the stuffy, upper-class manor and its owner. At least she wasn’t an Alpha—far from being one, actually—and at least her tail had been removed, having been forced into slavery at an early age. She looked closer to being a human than she would have during her childhood, save for her ears and the toxic green layers of hair resting on the back of her scalp.
She stood up, brushed a blonde strand of hair out of her eyes, tucked the book under her arm, and proceeded out of the library up towards her room. She needed to pack away her things and head out for supplies, requiring enough food, water, and shotgun shells for at least the next three days. Her hooded, fur-lined coat was enough to hide her ears and most of her face, assuming that the civilians of Hiemskôg wouldn’t view her as a suspicious individual, although she wouldn’t blame them. Her constant smirks were enough to lead someone to believe she was up to no good, even though she might be simply standing in one place with her hands locked behind her back... A dagger clasped between them...
Rilain pulled her hood up, strapped her pack over her shoulders, tucked her shotgun and her knife into her belt, and slipped into her boots. She had been wandering about Aunt Helen’s estate barefooted, which the old hag had blown up about on several occasions. However, the Nakalo didn’t necessarily care. It was more comfortable to walk about a wood-floored establishment with her toes caressing the delicate grains within each panel, rather than in stockinged or shoed feet.
Lastly, she pulled on a pair of fingerless, fur-lined gloves, her fingertips being somewhat resistant to the cold having once lived within the mountainous region neighboring Antiford and Titania. She pulled open the door of the guest room and walked out into the hall, hoping to run into Alex on her way out, which she so happened to by the dining room.
“Where you off to this early in the morning?” he asked, arms crossed over his chest. He seemed to be trying to read her half-shadowed face with his one good eye, his little octopus friend, Franklin, acquiring roughly the same expression. She didn’t want to mention that she was searching for a possibly mythical creature, but she also didn’t want to straight out lie to him, seeing as she owed him her life.
“I thought I might spend a few days in the mountains,” Rilain murmured, rubbing her nose against her index finger. “A lowly Vibranni like me isn’t allowed at a fancy ball like the one you’ve been invited to, and I sure as heck don’t want to sit around this dump all week, being judged by every blinking, criticizing eye.” She huffed a sigh and stood straighter, crossing her own arms over her chest.
Alex shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “Trust me, if I could, I would find some way for you to attend the masquerade, but since this is where I might have grown up, I want to stick to their customs as much as I can,” he replied, Franklin squirming slightly on his shoulder. “We have to be on our best behavior if I’m to gather any more info about my past.” At that moment, he bent over slightly so that he was eye-level with Rilain, smirking at her.
Slightly flustered, Rilain pulled up her collar to cover her nose and half of her face from the cold atmosphere outside, as well as a crawling blush. At this moment, she made her exit, promising Alex that she would be back aboard the Gazelle by the end of the week. If for some reason she did not make it back by sunset on Demiday, he should not send out a search party. She would either make it back to Conwell on her own, or get eaten by hideous, hungry beasts.
“You won’t get eaten, as long as you have that flair gun I gave you, just in case,” he said, watching her open the door.
Rilain nodded, patting the right side pocket of her bag, trying to avoid eye contact.
“Good. Well, see you on Demiday, Rilain.”
Rilain sighed and stepped out into the snow, her small footprints disappearing in the swirling whiteness of the landscape.