Okay, you’re jumping into the deep end at this point. Might want to start in the shallows and work your way back here through previous posts on this project. (Rosenwood Pitch, Joe, Kathy, Jude & Mason, and Rosenwood)
Squonk can’t speak as others do. Or rather, he chooses not to. His species communicates through indirect telepathy, something more like an empathic gift. His tribe sends waves of emotions and images at each other and understand the world on that level. It was something that actually made Squonk quite nervous when he joined the Iaoth. He would have to speak aloud a human language.
For as long as he could remember, since being the smallest of little beasties, he felt Rosenwood moving under him. As empathic people, many in his tribe could feel Rosenwood, but few were so affected by her as to devote their lives serving her as ambassadors. His people are actually hesitant to serve anyone, perhaps because they feel everyone… and everything.
But Squonk was determined, despite the potential of a language barrier. And he felt Rosenwood agreeing and encouraging him to go. So he made the journey and joined the others of the Iaoth in the Northwest caves, waiting on Rosenwood to link them with a special human. They all spent a significant amount of that time getting to know Rosenwood better, getting a feel for her personality, her preferences, and discovering ways they might guide as she does. Squonk watched as his fellow Iaoth were linked with visiting humans. The ones who were there before him and quite a few who arrived after him. He was confused and hurt. But at Rosenwood’s encouragement, he persisted. And he grew close to Rosenwood in a way he never thought possible. She became his only friend, the only consistent presence in his long life. He grew playful. And satisfied. At some point, he asked her in his way through their connection if he might be linked with a human before he passed. He wondered if an Iaoth had died unlinked before. She shrugged the question off as unimportant and wrapped him in the branches of a nearby tree. Her way of “hugging.” Over time, he worried less and less about his linking. Squonk was already quite old and peacefully existed in harmony with Rosenwood.
And then Kathy showed up. Rosenwood prodded Squonk to a particular field where Kathy might be received to wait. As she materialized and appeared, Rosenwood reached through her shared life-force and touched Squonk. He felt something far different than he’d ever felt before. A shade of passion and fierce protective instincts. Kathy seemed of him in some way. Even his own species didn’t feel as connected to him as Kathy did. When he approached her, he lumbered a little slower than he did in his younger days. But he approached her with peace and confidence. Being scared as she was, she held out her hand and Rosenwood’s life-force flowed out, manipulating the air into a gale force wind. Squonk wasn’t the biggest of his tribe but he patiently fought the winds to lightly place his giant hairy paw on her little pink hand. The wind calmed but her eyes remained wide. She was still nervous. Squonk had forgotten how little humans were and snorted his first attempt at communication with her. He was trying to make her feel better. It might have worked. She dug in her pocket and came out with something he’d never seen before. When he didn’t take it right away, she held it out for him and motioned for him to eat it. It was half a bite for him but he was still wary. Rosenwood had played so many tricks on him and gotten him to eat so many different things throughout the decades. He poked at the squishy thing inside. It reminded him of the guts of a Supede. She chirped out something like, “New-gut.” This language thing was going to be difficult but he got the impression off her that this thing was sweet food. It became his image for her. Not food. But something sweet. A gift. And so he reached out and tried his first word as he nudged her. “Nougat. Nougat good.” And though he would later learn her name was Kathy, to him, she was always Nougat.
Kathy only came a couple times a year. It was the way of Rosenwood. There was a difference in time and how it operated on the human home world. Between her visits, he explored more of Rosenwood than he had before, observing and feeling out the various tribes. He’d exclusively spent time with Rosenwood for so long, content without a link, that he wasn’t sure how to introduce his little one to the tribes of the world. The next time Rosenwood called Kathy, he was prepared and trekked with her to visit tribes in the surrounding hills. She was so little and fragile. But soon, she was learning more about her connection with Rosenwood. The red energy that flowed around and wrapped her hand seemed to peak her curiosity. He taught her through his various grunts and handful of words that she could control the elements of Rosenwood herself with her connection. As he taught her, they learned together that though he’d known he had energy, when they touched and used the link they shared, their abilities magnified exponentially. They accidentally created a cyclone that grew into a storm Rosenwood herself had to tame. Squonk hadn’t been truly scared in a long time. But he had never wielded so much power.
At Rosenwood’s request, Squonk followed Kathy’s lead with each visit and started paying attention to her emotional state. She often seemed sad. Not on the surface. But deep down, there was an image of a dull, colorless place in her mind. Squonk recoiled mentally. It looked like a prison. Did this little girl live in a prison? What was her world like?? He doubled his efforts as her guardian, showing her the most beautiful places in Rosenwood— vast fields of Azoks (dragonfly-fairies), thickets as beautifully designed as a home, clear aqua rivers, the ice caverns of the Iaoth, and swamps they cruised on the back of Cronnidi, crocodile-like creatures. Squonk wasn’t terribly excited about that last one… he was so big and the Cronnidi are like long slim boards. He kept being afraid he’d lose his balance and fall into the muck of the swamp. But Kathy held his hand and kept jabbering about the beautiful trees and colors and the images flooding his brain were so full of passion, energy, and love… he relaxed and saw Rosenwood through her eyes. New. Exciting. Dangerous. Wild. Lovely.
They kept visiting those that lived in the lands as well, creatures like the Vioprey (snake-lion). She took part in a brooding ceremony where a youngling became an adult. Squonk watched her mind, seeing her wanting to become a woman honored by a group like this. It made her sad because she felt she had no tribe. He quickly whisked her away to meet the Peagax (small winged horse/rabbit) and Squiqits (bat/monkey) as they skittered and fought over a track of hill country they’d both laid claim to since the foundation of Rosenwood. He could see people kicking a ball in her mind and realized as she giggled, she saw the whole affair as a game. She was young. She didn’t know how many each tribe had lost to their nonsense. And he had to admit, they did look rather silly as they traded sniping blows with one another. The Wartoose (humanoid hog people) and Salosaur (salamander/sloth) scared her. The Wartoose towered over her. They were brutish, sloppy, and clumsy.
Much of time, they wandered. Playing, discovering, and bonding with Rosenwood. But sometimes, there were things to do. Beings to serve. Items to find. There was a staff the Vioprey needed to conduct the brooding ceremony, a rare find in a corner of Rosenwood the pair had not explored. They tried to negotiate peace with the Peagax and Squiqits with an artifact that both their tribes had a history with from ages ago. A jar of some sort. But the little beings busted it, blamed each other, and kept fighting. Squonk never took Kathy back to them. He felt she was disappointed with the failure.
Through it all, there was always the magics. Kathy and Squonk bandied the magics with ease and used them as they needed to along the way.
And so it was with their last adventure: the retrieval of an Earth plant brought by the royals in their first travels. The Passion Flower. Squonk had been visiting with the Scootoo, the historians and spiritualists of Rosenwood. Though he often mocked their shallow understanding of Rosenwood’s Spirit, he was disturbed to find them all affected by some plague. Their leaders claimed the Passion Flower would cure their ails. But they refused to request the flower, which only grew on royal grounds. They felt it was too sacred to approach and if the royals wanted to save them, they would. But Squonk knew, the royals didn’t really know much about the Scootoo anymore. They hadn’t visited in two generations. They weren’t omniscient or omnipotent. But Squonk also knew that approaching the royal grounds himself could lead to a significant amount of trouble and he didn’t want to leave Kathy without her companion. At that, he lit up. Kathy could do it. As a human, she would likely receive leniency if she were caught. He asked Rosenwood to call out to her again. And there she was.
They trekked to the Forest of the Azoks, a place meant to protect the palace with low-lying clouds of a paralyzing mist. Kathy burned through them easily, keeping the mist at bay. Finally, they found a single bloom. It’s shape was strange to Squonk, though its bright colors made it feel very much like Rosenwood. But then there was a buzzing noise. Squonk grunted, “Run.” And they bolted for the fields outside the forest. The Azoks were chasing them and these weren’t as friendly as their field cousins. They’d adapted to a life inside the mist with poisonous, paralytic stingers. Even when they made it to the field and Kathy thought they were out of danger, the Azoks continued to pursue them. Squonk was hit by a bevy of stingers and goes down hard. Kathy skidded to a stop even while Squonk was trying to get her moving again. Then he saw them. Thaturs. She’d never met Thaturs and they could be quite vicious in their convictions. He told her to run. But Kathy didn’t. She stayed and fought the Azoks off with a gust of wind… and then turned to run. But she stumbled and disappeared under the ground. Squonk fought the paralysis, worried. He had no idea where she’d gone. He panicked, looking from the Thaturs to the Azoks. But it seemed they were having some kind of confab and he could stop worrying about them. For now. He could finally feel some sensation returning and rolled to his back. That’s when there was silence, like everything had been stopped by an unseen hand, and a red beam of light. The red beam shot into the sky, intense, glowing, and pierced the clouds. But a moment later, it disappeared. The world returned to normal. And Squonk scrambled to stand. He peered down into the hole and saw Kathy. Waves of fear and confusion were rolling off her. He quickly reached down to offer his hand. Just as she crawled out, the thaturs arrived. He finally had to introduce them to Kathy and hope for the best. She stood tall and explained their mission. Sikatrix, the head guard, took an affront to her tone and bowled her over. Never had a human been treated that way and Squonk’s blood boiled. He was about to tear them apart but Kathy gently stopped him and showed them her connection with Rosenwood. That’s something they would respect. And they did. They trotted off, melting back into the forest. Squonk huffed out a breath of relief, squinted his eyes at Kathy because he couldn’t believe the boldness of this little one, and started trudging back toward the Scootoo. Kathy hopped after him, wanting to be carried.
The rest of the tale is inconsequential. The Scootoo were saved. And Kathy left again.