Beyond the notorious city of Zibaba, and the dark jungles that ring it, begins the wide expanse of swamplands that stretch for many thousands of leagues before they finally end and give way to the dry, arid lands of the country of the cannibals. No one from the kingdom of Yokaru has ever entered this seemingly endless expanse of swamp and rivers, let alone any traveler from Haracon. This is a place that only exists in the most vague an outlandish rumors to be found in the drugged haze of the beer-huts, a location that even the Keepers have thus far not braved in their endless search for ever more exotic and mysterious beasts to sell to their wealthy clientele among the nobility of Haracon.
The Bombo tribe that inhabits this region, seems intent on keeping outsiders away, especially those as mercenary as the Keepers. And well they should. These mysterious, elusive people are in thrall to a secret that would horrify and disgust the outside world were it ever to come to know.
Among the Bombo, oral legends passed down from one generation of village elders to the next, have kept alive the mythos surrounding the Bogonu. The tales invariably speak of how the creator of the Creator Ogur grew wrathful when the spirits of air and water refused to heed his command to work together in order to hurl down water from the skies on the earth that he had carefully shaped out of his own flesh, blood and spittle so that the newly born beasts and humans would not perish of thirst. And with this aim in mind, the great god proceeded to tear off his own strapping right hand. A powerful fountain of blood gushed forth from the gaping stump but begun to immediately congeal into a thick, black fluid that soon coalesced into the awesome forms of the Bogonu. Magnificent and proud of stature, the newly spawned creations of Ogur listened intently as their father commanded them to impose his will on the rebellious elementals. And so they obeyed. Assuming the forms of powerful leopards eager for blood, the Bogonu fought a mighty war against the rebellious hosts of the spirits of air and water, determined to to wreck bloody vengeance on those that had turned their backs on their rightful masters and overlords. At the very sight of these terrifying warriors, the defiant spirits were consumed by terror. Begging for mercy, they promised to do all that the Bogonu would command. And so for eons as was well for man, beast and tree alike as the rains were summoned unceasingly by the mighty Bogonu to replenish the world.
But as time passed and Ogur lapsed into a state of eternal obliviousness, the Bogonu became increasingly arrogant and imperious, deeming themselves the only true power on the earth. Alas, they would soon be proven wrong.
As Ogur’s sleep too him into dark, disturbing dreams, the Suron slithered out of his troubled mind, already a perfectly formed dark mirror of malevolence to the one that had unwittingly birthed it. And from the very start, it knew nothing but a malevolence that urged it to bring woe and devastation upon the living world that Ogur had invested so much of his sweat and labor in.
Consumed by this nefarious ambition, it conjured into existence an enchanted fire composed entirely of black flames. And as the fire begun to swell, it willed a dark, terrible force to germinate and take root within the coils of unholy smoke that billowed upwards from the dark, unearthly flames crackling most sinisterly.
And so the mysterious evil known in the old tales as the Gorn was birthed. Suffused and motivated by the dark will of its parent, it uttered a single unearthly cry and then begun to roam around the living world that was ruled by the Bogonu, seeking everyone of them out.
And it touched their minds and tainted them, instilling in hearts grown proud and selfish with power, the dangerous temptation of the even greater power that would come, if one of them but to slay the others and become absolute master of the world, one who surpassed even that idle, indolent dreamer Ogur.
For the next few millennia, life on earth nearly came to an end as the Bogonu unleashed vast armies of enslaved elements against one another in a violent struggle for supremacy. Millions of living things perished in the catastrophic storms of thunder and lightning that ravaged the earth as each Bogonu sought to eliminate his immediate rivals. No mercy was shown or expected, as the victors consolidated their victories by ultimately devouring the weaker Bogonu and absorbing the mystical power that they held within the divine forms that Ogur had bequeathed to them.
And Ogur’s nightmares continued to grow ever more dreadful and tormented until he screamed in agony, unable to endure the torment of his dark dreams any longer. Reverberating in the fabric of the entire cosmos, this scream finally brought salvation to a world tethering on the edge of constant annihilation. The copious sweat that had drenched his body, responded to that primal cry for help and became a raging deluge that rained upon the dying earth, sweeping all away in its path towards head-long destruction.
Suddenly finding themselves swept away by the fearsome, heedless wrath of a calamity so vast and complete in its destructive intent that it seemed all but blind to their petty struggle for dominance, the Bogonu that had hitherto survived their terrible fratricide, found themselves horrified and aghast, only now beginning to realize the true extant of the terrible consequences that their foolishness had wrought. But that moment of realization was but a fleeting thought, as the Bogonu soon focused their will on surviving the terrible apocalypse that even now threatened to drown hem in their passage to watery oblivion. Ferociously determined not to allow such an ignominious fate to befall them, the Bogonu quickly assumed small, swift forms that would allow them to survive in the maelstrom rapidly drowning the earth.
Nay, they did not become fish as one would expect, for they were canny enough to realize that the waters would someday recede, as Ogur had loved his offspring the earth too much to allow it to lie forever in the watery grave his terror had momentarily unleashed upon it. And when that day came, the fish would die as their home quickly dwindled to the relatively small bodies of oceans and lakes they had once occupied.
Instead, through a stroke of ingenuity, they became creatures that Ogur’s imagination had never devised for even he had not thought to bring into being an animal that could live and thrive in both land and water. Thus, were the first frogs spawned, as the Bogonu willed these new bodies into existence.
Though they had proven themselves utterly unworthy of Ogur’s trust, the newly created Frog Tribe yet dreamt once more of ruling the world again once the flood dried away. But that could not be, for the infection the Gron had wrought in their hearts, ye lingered and continued its cruel, depilating curse on once noble and generous minds, reducing them inexorably to the state where they were little better than the other predatory aquatic beasts wandering the vast waters of the flood in search of prey to sate their ravenous hunger. Their disgusting act of cannibalism had marked them forever as beings little better than starving beasts eager to sate their hunger by dining on their own kind.
As Ogur slowly awakened from his nightmare to behold the deluge, this realization struck him, and he grew wrathful, furious that the Bogonu had not only betrayed his trust, but had even gone further into decline by allowing themselves to fall to the level of mere predators, albeit ones endowed with the powers of gods.
So the great curse was laid upon those that had once been his most proud and valorous warriors and standard bearers. Since the Bogonu had chosen to utterly forsake and abandon the faculties of reason and sanity he had endowed all the higher orders of creation with, by resorting to bare-faced cannibalism when faced with the temptation to do so, he would condemn them to be forever imprisoned in the slimy, loathsome bodies that they now inhabited, denying them forever the chance to redeem themselves in his eyes. And with those furious words, Ogur departed the mortal world forever, leaving fate to deal with his creations as it would. Time passed and the flood eventually receded. And the Bogonu emerged from the waters as a repulsive combination of both divinity and ravening amphibian.
This is the story that the Bombo tell. Generations of them have lived in both adoration and terror of the great monstrosities dwelling deep within the heart of the swamp, fearsome thongs that hold sway over the residents spirits of air and water. Once a gift is imparted, it cannot be taken back. Thus do the Bogonu continue to command the spirits to make rain as they once did in that golden age when they were the beloved of Ogur and the most revered of his creations. Within their otherwise primitive, bloodthirsty mind, fragments of their former existence as gods linger. And this is the most painful legacy of the creators anger that they must endure, to have to reconcile that innate divine spark which birthed them, with the wretched hunger of a creature driven to eat anything it sees.
Vast creatures that are easily the size of an elephant, the Bogonu spend most of their time lurking in the waters of the swamp, wary of the sun that scorches their lurid green moist hides were they to leave their watery refuge. During this time, they become motionless and enter a sate of slumber where they are oblivious to their surroundings. But when night falls, this grossly oversized frog hops out of the waters and begin its relentless search for food. A massive pink tongue the size of a python reaches out to wrap itself around any living thing that can fit into its mouth. Swamp deer, alligators, and even lone Marsh Panthers are all smothered and ensnared in the vast pink adhesive coils that renders the most desperate struggles futile. Desperate attempts at flight by the most fleet-footed beast is in vain more often than not, as the Bogonu posses a powerful spring in their massive rear legs that allow them to clear fifty feet in the span of a single hop. To have this giant, slavering horror barreling straight at you, while its massive slimy, vast coil of a tongue reaches out to grab and pin your entire body in its vile, unbreakable grip is to meet your death.
The Bombo are well aware of this fact and are careful never to ever wonder into the sacred swamps where their deities reside. They know from the old cautionary tales that the Bogonu are so blinded by their hunger that these huge predators cannot distinguish between their own worshippers and the other denizens of the wet-lands. For a Bogonu, food is all that matters. Stare into its huge, bulging eyes, and all you will see is a mindless hunger.
Somewhere, deep within them, the divine spark yet lingers, but with each day that passes, the Bogonu find themselves sinking ever deeper into their bestial nature. The Bombo speak darkly of a time when the Bogonu become so far gone, that the rain sprites will turn their backs from them in disgusts and leave these hideous brutes to continue their eternal quest for food. On that dark day of doom, the rains will take terrible revenge for the enslavement that was imposed upon them, by unleashing such fury upon the world that all life will perish in a second deluge even more fearsome than the first.
But until that ominous epoch dawns, the Bombo are bound to placate their rapidly declining gods, forced to pay homage to them so that the rains will continue.
In every Bombo village, this homage is always discharged by the one known as the Mongu, a priest that presides over the worship of his people’s monstrous deities. Possessing a power that far exceeds that of his counterparts in more civilized lands, this high priest is a much revered if sinister figure. Numerous legends abound about the ones that hold this office, all of them dark and gruesome.
In some villages, strangers hear that the Mongu is a dark phantasm that lurks in the corner of every hut, unseen an dun heard, spying for blasphemy and faithlessness among his flock. In others, it is whispered that the Mongu casts dark spells on those that think ill of him, for though they may swallow their envy and pride when they are with him, he can still hear their slanderous thoughts when they deem themselves alone in the privacy of their heads. Such individuals invariably die mysterious deaths, and their names are never mentioned again. And in yet other places, a traveler might hear that in the neighboring village, dwells a Mongu of fearsome power and potency that has gained his powers by dining on the fetuses of miscarried infants.
These are some of the more fanciful and wild stories one will hear about the Mongu, but any traveler that succeeds in wining the trust and hospitality of the Bombo, can take comfort from the fact that they are but outrageous fictions, mayhap devised by the Mongu himself to keep his supplicants in line.
The truth is far more interesting than these childish tales of horror. Among the Bombo, a Mongu holds the much esteemed position of being the sacred link that binds them with their cherished rain gods. Every Bombo learns from a very young age, exactly how the Mongu is chosen.
When a woman of the village becomes pregnant, a virgin that has had no contact with any young man save her brothers, the suspicions of the people will immediately be aroused. Since the penalty for pregnancy outside of wedlock is usually death, the unfortunate young woman is grilled mercilessly by elders determined to squeeze the truth out of her. In every case where this phenomenon has happened, the inquisitors have usually received the same answer: For the past moth or so, the young woman has been tormented by the most horrific nightmares. Her voice inevitably trembles as she describes her repeated vision of a vile, repulsive being that terrorizes her dreams the moment sleep claims her. For the next few moments, the elders listen enthralled as she tells them in a hushed, frightened tone of the hideous giant frog that forces its vile, grotesquely large member into her until her very genitals begin to seep a blood that seems all too horribly real, causing her to awaken screaming and praying that someone will come to save her from the monster’s vile embrace.
And then it is that the sublime truth is revealed to the elders. This mysterious pregnancy, and the nightmares that presaged it, herald the coming of a Mongu. The collective Bogonu, in their more lucid moments, have seen fit to take a mate from among their people and spawn a new leader that will serve as their gateway to the Bombo people. For the next few months, the unfortunate woman is treated like a queen, feted with priceless gifts and great honors. Then the day comes when she finally delivers her divinely conceived offspring and subsequently perishes as the malformed body of her spawn slays its mother as it rips free of her body with a violence truly horrifying to behold. Its first screams cut across the hushed silence as the midwives tug it free from the ruptured body of its rapidly dying mother and, ever so gently, they unclench its webbed little fists and stroke its unpleasantly rubbery skin, cooing to it.
As time passes, the Mongu grows rapidly into adulthood and is instructed in the wisdom and learning of his people by the elders that respond to his whims with an indulge that borders on the obsessive and all-consuming. He takes the best the village can offer, and among all the children, is the only allowed to suckle from the breast of a wet-nurse until he turns ten. Raised entirely apart from his young peers and forbidden to mingle with them, he is not treated as a young child so much as living god in the flesh. This misshapen mass of flesh, with his webbed fingers and toes, would be accounted a cripple or a freak in other lands, but among the Bombo, his bulging eyes and gaping maw of a mouth are prized for the nauseating resemblance that they bear to a frogs visage.
Upon turning twenty, the young Mongu has already mastered all that his elders have to teach him and he quickly grabs the reins of power that have been relinquished to him, determined to make everyone do exactly as he intends them to.
Forbidden by powerful taboos from ever straying beyond the boundaries of the village ands its adjoining wet-lands, he lives in seclusion, never leaving the tiny reed hut that his people have erected on the foul ,mosquito-infested morass marking the boundary between the village proper and the marshy wilderness where the Bogonu hold sway. And yet he remains appraised of all that takes place in the village, as his army of servants scurry to and for, carrying tales of all the going-ons that take place among his flock. Mesmerized by his slithery yet hypnotic tones and the enthralling gaze of power that emanates from the Mongu’s grotesquely protruding eyes, the mortal that faces this strange, malformed mass of flesh, find himself, as if compelled by some mystical force, to look past the obvious hideousness of this creature, and surrender himself instead to the sinister sense of power that holds him captive. Among the Bombo it is well known that refusing the Mongu’s demands, or attempting to deceive him, are impossible. This strange, frightening ability to sway people with a revoltingly misplaced charisma, is an innate trait that the repulsive being seems to be born with.
So it is that the Mongu is at perfect liberty to demand anything that he desires. The lion’s share of the profits reaped from the sale of their fish and rice crop goes to adorning the interior of the Mongu’s humble hut with expensive rugs of leopard pelts and bronze statutes, while the already numerous array of gold griddles straddling the vast folds of his body are steadily increased. Tribute also arrives in the form of the choicest young women that are regularly escorted to his hut where they will know what it means to be loved by a semi-divine being that sometimes ends up smothering them to death with the folds of his fleshy body when his ardor causes him to become to reckless. Most important of all, the elders council that decides every aspect of life in the village, cannot take a single step without first arriving at his hut to consult him. Even the most inconsequential decision must meet with the approval of the Mongu, for if his authority is ignored, dire things will follow.
For you see, the Mongu is no less than one of the Bogonu himself. They are complex beings, these rain deities imprisoned within the bodies of monsters, and each day, they strive to retain some vestiges of their divinity. One way of achieving this desperate end is to ‘‘assist’’ in the creation of a Mongu. The wise sages among the Bombo claim that during the hours of the day when the Bogonu lie quietly slumbering in the fetid waters of the swamps, something remarkable occurs from time to time. As the every hungry mind of the Bogonu lies supine for the time being, all thoughts of sating its ravenous hunger banished by the blistering rays of the sun, a quiet revolt takes place. Offered a powerful opportunity for decisive action at a time when its bestial half and bitter enemy lies in semi-hibernation, a divine souls slips out of one of the Bogonu, vacating its loathsome shell in the form of a tiny, translucent frog. Noticing this example, the gods dwelling within the other Bogonu quickly follow suit and leaving their own bodies, swiftly rush towards the spirit creature and merge with their brother god, greatly swelling its power and size.
By now bloated to the size of a coco-nut, this apparition begins to hop swiftly in the direction of the village, not ceasing in its journey until it succeeds in reaching the outskirts. Upon reaching its destination, it quickly hops among the nearest huts, cautiously peeking it head into every one as the villagers lie asleep, lulled into a siesta by the intolerable heat. Finally, it pauses when it reaches a hut where one of the residents is a young woman that appears of marriageable age. Warily surveying the dark interior of the hut to be absolutely sure that no one is awake, it then proceeds to move towards the reed mat where its target lies prone and asleep. Quickly, it begins to retch out from its body a perfect replica of itself. While its parent lies exhausted on the dirt floor of the hut briefly, very much exhausted by the painful effort that it ha just forced itself to undergo, its twin, in a single fluid movement, proceeds to spring up in a powerful leap and hurtles straight into the mouth of the young woman. As if in response to the incoming ghostly intruder, she involuntarily opens her mouth as it to yawn, and the invader makes its way into her body. From here it forces its way down the various cavities within her until it reaches her womb. Thus does the Bogonu impregnate a young woman with residual fragments of its divine essence, making her the mother of a future god that will some day rule over the village. Meanwhile, the first spectral amphibian, satisfied now that its work has been quickly accomplished, retreats back into the swamps from whence it came and dissolves back into its component souls to rejoins the various physical bodies of the Bogonu. Prior to retreating into its component parts, this combined spiritual consciousness of all the Bogonu enjoys a sense of victory, knowing that even if the Bongu were to completely succumbs to their bestial cravings, at least some fragments of their divine natures lies within the appointed mortal vessels, awaiting their manifestation in the from of the new-born Mongu.
Question the elders about this divine miracle and they will profess to you that it always takes place at an interval of five months between the death of one Mongu and the birth of the next. This a pattern that has been set by some mysterious force that none can understand. For a hundred years, a Mongu reigns and there are none who can question his authority among mortal man. But even the Mongu must answer to one greater than he.
Shortly after the wet-rice seedlings have been planted, and the people await the coming of the rains, the Bongu will make their wishes known. As the Mongu likes slumbering as the sun shines strongly in the sky, they enter his dreams and whisper the most dire threats to him.
The rains will not come and the sun wills scorch the fields with its unabated fury, causing the seedlings to wither before they’re even given the opportunity to fully take shoot. Eventually, even the lakes and ponds will dry up, and the fish too will vanish. And the dark day will come when the people are so driven by hunger and desperation that they turn upon their Mongu and devour every inch of his fat, abundant body to sate the pangs wrecking agony upon their famished stomachs. All this devastation will they rain upon the Bombo unless their high priests fulfills the obligations due to one of his most prestigious birth. He must honor them, and do so with the blood of a young child, one chosen from the brood he has sired with his concubines.
Awakening from this chilling nightmare, the Mongu immediately leaps off his sweat-stained reed mat, and frantically paces around the narrow confines of his miserable hut. When the dark blanket of night at last descends upon the wet-lands, he rushes from his dwelling and barrels into the village square. Screaming at top of his voice, he begins to vociferously berate the villagers for turning their backs on the gods, not ceasing his furious shrieks until he entire village has gathered, eager to hear what their all powerful Mongu has to say, even though their limbs tremble as they behold the terrible wrath of their august leader.
One he has been satisfied that everyone has gathered before him, the Mongu immediately halts his tirade of angry condemnation and demands that the eldest offspring be brought before him. When the wretched child ahs been dragged away from his mother’s embrace and thrown at the feet of the father he has never know, the Mongu fixes both his first and final look at his child. There is nothing wistful or remotely repentant in the goggle orbs of the Mongu, only a look of hungry satisfaction. Forced into unwilling submission by the power of that murderous gaze, the unfortunate juvenile can only look helplessly as the clammy, oversized ebbed hands grab him by the head and then quickly dashes his brains out upon with a ceremonial club that one his guards has handed to him. This grisly task accomplished, the Mongu bursts into the scared litany of chants honoring the Bogonu, and laps up the dust-spattered contents of his offsprings shattered skull, smacking his generous lips when this is finally over.
Meanwhile, far away in the heart of the sacred swamps, the giant Bogonu suddenly find themselves compelled to stop abruptly in the midst of their hunt. Whatever hapless prey poised halfway between their giant maw and the hungry gullet opening greedily to receive them, is released and unceremoniously dumped. As if dominated by a single overwhelming will, all the Bogonu have frozen, their ugly visages craning upwards in the direction of the night skies. A moment later, as one they break into a powerful deafening croak that reverberates around all the wet-lands with the force of its resounding power. Peals of thunder quickly respond with roars of their own, and soon jagged forks of lightning crack across the darkness of the skies, presaging the heavy downpour that will soon unleash its fury on the ground far below.
Powered by the sacrifice done in their honor, the divine beings dwelling within the Bogonu have managed to briefly unite their wills and summon the rains to inundate the earth. As the dead child’s soul is greedily seized and devoured by the imprisoned gods, thus endowing them with a strength and fortitude that will enable them to keep the animal natures of the Bogonu at bay for the duration of the rest of the growing season, these gods exiled on earth find themselves invigorated with a mighty force, a taste of the power that they once wielded in the days of myth, rushing upon them once more.
Amidst the booming of thunder and the flashes of lightning, the Mongu is now called upon to perform his second sacred duty. Rushing into the swamps as the voices of his parents resound within his head and urge him ever onwards into the forbidden wilderness, he begins to move with a powerful swiftness that belies his odd hopping gait, pulled inexorably towards where the Bogonu await him. At last he arrives in the giant swamp where the giant frog monsters have patiently awaited his coming. But all fatigue is swiftly thrust aside as the voices invading his head now move to take complete control of him. Filled with a powerful, all consuming need to rut, he suddenly rushes towards the heaving masses of giant slimy bodies, and begins to straddle every one of them, penetrating them as best he can, as hot lust completely blinds his senses to the ghastly act of copulation he has been drive to perform. At last, when he has coupled with everyone of the Bogonu, the haze clouding his senses clears, and he quickly flees, fearful that the monsters he has just rutted with, might be tempted to devour him.
He is not there to witness the slimy hides of the Bogonu bulge and ripple, as hundreds of tiny shapes appear beneath the skin and then break free of it, leaping from the bodies of their giant parents. Thus are the Ikoru spawned, the thousands of lesser frogs that prowl the swamps. Imbued with the essence of the Mongu’s soul itself, they will become the guardians of his legacy upon his inevitable passing, threatening to swarm into the the village and invade the hut of everyone should the villagers slacken in the worship due to the recently deceased Mongu. Every night, as the sun descends, a vast swarm of them immediately cluster around the boundaries of the village, and warn with the inhabitants with their sinister croaks, that they are lingering outside, keeping an ever watchful eye on them. For the next five months or so, until the next Mongu is born, the people had best sacrifice a white goat in the honor of their dead priest king. Otherwise, the Ikoru might just be tempted to wander back into the forbidden swamps and whisper into the ears of the slavering behemoths that birthed them just where some plentiful prey might be found, namely the village of the Bombo.