Crawling, buzzing, squawking, rustling. Hiding any kind of beastie in its overgrowth. Today’s map is the Jungle Stream.
Arlow emptied the last of his water down his throat before wiping a slick collection of sweat from his brow. He gripped his armor, shifting and adjusting it. This served only to rearrange his discomfort. The jungle had crept into every private nook and was not keen on leaving.
“Arlow, fill the water, will you? We’ll get the tents up,” a voice called from behind, passing him a handful of waterskins. He took them with a nod, stepping away from the others and through a vined thicket. The stream was barely some thirty feet from their clearing, but the density of plants formed a constricting, claustrophobic bastion.
Finding his feet caught in a net of underbrush and a wall of vines before, Arlow let out an exasperated grunt. He instinctively clenched his free hand, a sudden wave of green-black energy forming a longsword in his grip. His stomach dropped an inch. Several seconds passed as he collected himself, readjusting his hold and shaking the chill from his arm. With a horizontal slash, the vines fell.
A slow stream, enclosed by rocks and growth, snaked through the landscape. It was too shallow to hold the main river’s dangers. This safety was appreciated but did nothing to settle Arlow. He kneeled down at the water’s edge only after a careful scan of the area.
His eyes remained distantly staring forward as he let the stream’s current fill each waterskin. The bright greens and the humid stench of the jungle fought to invade his senses and drag him back to reality.
And then, in the very back of his mind, there was a whisper. He glanced down, feeling both hands in the water and realizing that he had absentmindedly lowered his blade beneath the surface. A panicked jolt tore it upwards before banishing it in the same dark magic that had summoned it. His hands dropped to the ground, scrambling backward from the stream. Arlow stopped, listening. Birds sang, bushes rustled, insects buzzed, and trees swayed in a drifting breeze.
His heart still racing and his breath shaking, Arlow returned to the water. He took the last of the waterskins and lowered it. In the seconds that it took to fill, Arlow felt as if he were miles from camp. The movement of the water seemed to grow louder into a white noise that pressured his thoughts. Wincing to wrest control, he hardly noticed that he lowered his head. His eyes opened, peering into the water.
Only inches from where it began, the shallow stream descended sharply into an ocean of blackness. The water continued further than light could pierce. Arlow could not make out the bottom nor confirm it even had one. He could not see anything in the depths, but he knew what was there. Somewhere, beyond the curtain of black, was a being unbeholden to mortal understanding. It stared back, a thousand invisible eyes and as many hushed voices all forcing into Arlow’s mind. He need not understand the words, as the message was clear. It was the same that had plagued his dreams and harried his thoughts since he made that stupid, damned deal. Images flashed of the day he lay bleeding on the beach, pleading in desperation. They showed him the sword he wielded and the foes it had vanquished. Finally, Arlow saw the temple that he had been commanded to find.
The strain quickly grew too extreme for him to bear, a muddled realization of pain sending him sprawling back again. Fear, invasive and uncontrolled, had sickened his stomach and clouded his mind.
Slowly, Arlow steeled himself. He collected his breath and pulled his senses to the current moment. This gathered resolve was interrupted as he felt the sword, tightly and unknowingly clutched in his hand. Looking up, a pyramid structure of vine-wrapped stone rose above the distant trees.
– by Troy McConnell
More content by Troy
Some maps I tend to go overboard with detail, but in this particular one, I think it works. When I think of jungles, I think of a forest so filled with vegetation and loud with life that you can barely
make out the grid hear your own thoughts. This map does a decent job of replicating that, I feel.
Whenever I start a tree-filled map I have to ask myself: do I draw tree canopies or tree trunks? With jungle canopies being so thick, the choice was simple for this map.
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