Cyrilla can logically determine one thing about this environment. That the wildlife would likely be similarly colored for the sake of camoflague. That much she had experience dealing with, the primary issue before she and Draego is the swamp water. A tentative strike through the water with a stick lets the two determine that it’s exceptionally thick. Worse still, even such a disturbance does not clear the water enough to let the two runners see below its surface. Any number of deadly creatures could be hiding beneath.
The trees around them are mangroves. From this, Cyrilla figures that the water is salt water. That limits the kinds of creatures that can live in it, at least to some extent. The two runners determine that it’s best to just try avoiding the water entirely, even if it’s difficult. The wilderness is a fickle place, even the slightest ripple could spur the snapping jaws of a sharp-toothed predator.
As Cyrilla and Draego tread beyond the precipice, they spot an eerie turquoise glow emitting from deeper in the swamp. They carefully make their way past another line of drooping trees to see the shine coming from what look like fireflies. Their pale blue lights look otherworldly, almost spectral in a way. Cyrilla is taken by the glow for a moment before Draego gives her a light slap on the back. She knows better than to underestimate the wilderness but this dreamlike view is the kind of thing she’s aspired to see since childhood. She shakes it off and Draego leads off their next step when suddenly the muddy earth below him crumbles.
The viscous swamp water rushes into the hole, making it hard for Draego to claw his way out. Cyrilla hooks herself onto a nearby mangrove to act as an anchor for him but he cannot find her hand in his struggle. Draego’s body isn’t one that’s used to help and with mud in his eyes and squelching water engulfing his skull he has to rely on instinct. He manages to get his hands onto solid ground but before he can push himself up he feels hands grabbing onto him. He attempts to push himself up but the unseen assailants are strong. His head is almost entirely below the ground and he’s sinking deeper.
Meanwhile, the noise of the struggle has attracted the fireflies. Distracted by the situation before her, Cyrilla fails to immediately realize that they aren’t fireflies at all. They swarm around her, attaching themselves to any inch of exposed flesh on her body. Cyrilla reactively forms her protective magic into a spherical barrier to push them away, just quickly enough to see their long proboscises. Mosquitoes, almost certainly a breed carrying multiple lethal diseases. As they realize they can’t reach Cyrilla through her barrier, they take to firing their proboscises like a legion of harpoons towards her. The attacks are sharp and numerous but too weak to break Cyrilla’s barrier.
Cyrilla’s first instinct when dealing with insect swarms is lightning. Her body glows as she casts out sparks of plasma that chain between the swarm but they are not stricken from the air. Instead, the pale lights they emit intensify into a blinding blue burst. Cyrilla shields her eyes as she’s dazzled by the unexpected reaction.
She can’t worry about that now. Before regaining her vision, she kneels to the ground and places a palm upon it. No time to think, she casts an uncontrolled freezing spell into the hungry mud. The soft earth that was swallowing Draego suddenly becomes hard and he stops sinking. Though he is submerged in frozen soil, he manages to break his way free with raw force and climb his way out of the pit. He sees Cyrilla kneeling on the ground with hands hopelessly searching for him.
He grabs a hand and helps her to her feet. “I’m alright,” he assures, “that was quick thinking. Looks like you got one over me, huh?”
The mosquitoes have dispersed, satisfied with the meal Cyrilla gave them. The runners have a moment for Cyrilla’s eyes to recover but they know they can’t be idle any longer. Staying still just gives more creatures the opportunity to find them. Cyrilla has no time to be relieved for Draego’s safety or make a quip about how she kept her word. This isn’t the time for that Cyrilla. Draego sees that look again. The resolve in her eyes. More mosquitoes are starting to gather, Draego signals that they should move but Cyrilla shakes her head.
“Raise your barrier,” she orders as the number of mosquitoes quickly multiplies.
Draego nods and does so. Cyrilla, on the other hand, makes her barrier smaller. To the point where it’s layered barely over her skin. She allows the mosquitoes to come in close and releases a tiny charge of electricity. The energy chains around the mosquitos and they get slightly brighter.
Cyrilla makes a second command, “Shield your eyes,” as she slowly feeds the insects more and more. “It seems they eat magic. It would appear plasma is their preferred form but I wonder if there’s a limit…”
The mosquitoes become exponentially brighter as Cyrilla increases her output more. After about ten seconds more of this, with a great shattering noise, the new swarm that had gathered around her explodes. Her test is successful but the cost was great, Draego and Cyrilla both realize instantly that something will be coming. They swiftly backtrack the path they already determined to be ‘safe’, knowing they would need to find a new route. At the corner of her eye, Cyrilla spots murky silhouettes among the environment. Indistinct but unnervingly humanoid.
The two scout out an alternate path. The pale blue glows are everywhere they look.
“Avoiding those mosquitoes will be impossible,” Cyrilla states.
“That’s gonna be a problem if they eat magic. Give ‘em time, wouldn’t they figure they could just sap our barriers?” Draego questions.
“It’s hard to tell how intelligent they are but the possibility does exist. If we want to keep going with as little risk as possible, we can’t be slow and allow them to gather up.”
“Then it’s no problem. It’s not in our job description to be slow.”
“But there’s also-”
“’Also’ what? I’d like to see anything in this place fast enough to catch a runner. Come on, let’s pick up the pace!” Draego grins as if his life weren’t in danger just moments ago. Or, perhaps that danger is why he can’t control his expression.