In an instant, Ray’s hunched human form was replaced by a wizened boggard with cloudy eyes, leaning on a gnarled silver branch. He paced in a circle for a moment, then sat down on a beaded mat, laying the staff down beside him and resting his hands on his knees. His misty eyes slowly shut as he breathed a name: “Sepoko.”
His eyes flashed open to reveal a wide expanse of calm green water. Near its center stood another boggard dressed in regal splendor, humanoid skills hanging from its neck in grim trophy. Ray’s boggard form stood slowly and walked across the surface of the water, creating ripples as he went. “Sepoko,” he croaked again. The other boggard turned sharply at the sound of its name.
“Look to your people.” Ray continued, nearing the boggard priest-king. Sepoko cocked its head to the side and blinked.
“My people are seen to. They are mighty. I made them so.” It said.
Ray’s boggard shook with a chuckle, bracing himself with his staff. “Your people embrace a dark god that does you no favors. Your people are hardened into warriors at the expense of education. Your people provoke the pinkskins and others like them for sport and sacrifice.” Visions of what Ray spoke flashed across the surface of the water they stood on. Sepoko stood with its face down, eyes wide at what it saw.
“We do these things because that is what Gogunta demands.” Sepoko’s eyes grew fearful as it spoke the name.
“And what does Gogunta do for you in return? Grants you permission to live? That is for you to decide, not for him to dictate. He keeps you in squalor because you are easy to control that way.” Ray’s tone grew darker. Sepoko hesitated, blinking several times in thought.
“Heresy.” It said after a few moments. Ray croaked a sigh and waved a bony, frog-like hand. The scene around them rippled and changed, the vast expanse of water replaced with a small bluff, overlooking the M’Botuu tribelands on the horizon. Huts and lean-tos were scattered across the peninsula, dotted by a few wispy trails of smoke from cookfires.
“This is what you have now.” Ray motioned his hand across the scene. “And this… is what you would become.” The huts were replaced by houses of stone and wood, trails replaced by beaten dirt and cobble roads. Piers stretched out into the waters of the Hooktongue like jagged snakes, and riverboats of all shapes and sizes brought goods from beyond the swamp. A marketplace, full of the cacophony of trade, sprawled across part of the city like a patchwork butterfly. At the heart of the thriving city stood a tower, jutting from its surroundings like a thorn. Sepoko’s eyes grew wide as it stared in disbelief. Ray allowed the image to linger, admiring Sepoko’s awe. Just as it moved to speak, the image before them was replaced with the boggard village of the present, but this time the scene was chaos. Many of the huts were on fire, boggard warriors lay slaughtered in the mud of the marshes, and a group of humans stood proudly in the center of the village, erecting the Ursundovan flag.
“This is what will happen if you continue on the path you have chosen.” Ray said quietly, as Sepoko dropped to its knees in anguish. The scene rippled again, and the two boggards stood again on the calm waters. “Find the boggard called Slirrkyrt. Name her your new priestess-queen, the first of her kind. She will lead you to the glory that I speak of. Fail to do this, and you sentence your people to doom.”
Over the next several days, Sepoko saw the old boggard with misty eyes that had visited its dreams, always at the edge of it’s vision, and never there when it looked again. Each night, it had the same dream, and each night it watched it’s people burn in horror. On the fourth day, warriors were sent in all directions, with orders to locate a boggard by the name of Slirrkyrt.
Her arrival would forever change the Hooktongue.