The people living in the southern parts of the country were known for being self-sufficient and hard working. There was a steady flow of merchant caravans between nearly every larger settlement and these parts; crops and meat and what not, things that had grown in or fed off the rich and nutritious ground.
Hamphred Dungbeetle used to tell his younger cousin that what they didn't grow, they didn't need.
"Except for one thing", he added with a smile. "You know what that is, Bill?"
They all sat around the dinner table and ate a strange stew, a mixture of edible things not usually combinable. It was food experiment signed Billobi's father, who had spent the entire day shopping in the nearest town. As guests, he wanted to show his appreciation for the hospitality. It was unclear whether it worked.
Billobi shook his head, and said: "No, what?"
"A bathtub!" Hamphred started to laugh so hard the table moved a bit. "Did you know, Bill, I once dreamt I was farming bathtubs? It's true! They just grew right out of that soil, like gull flowers ready to be picked. Filled with water and everything..."
They finished their plates, and while Billobi's helped his parents cleared the table, a loud knock on the door called for Hamphred's attention. He walked over to the front door and opened it.
"Hello, dearest Sir", said a tiny voice, "I hope I am not interrupting anything." It came from a thin and small man, wearing rugged clothes and a small brown hat. He held onto a small cart with one hand. It was filled with all sorts of things.
"Only my digestion! What do you want? You're not selling anything are you?"
"Well, no..." the man said nervously and took off his hat with his free hand. "Not if you're not buying..."
Hamphred snorted, and said: "All right, show me your goods then. I don't have all season!"
"Very well, dearest Sir!"
The tiny man put on his hat and turned the cart around. When Hamphred took a step closer to look inside it, something growled at him.
"I'm sorry, dearest Sir", the tiny man said and patted the cart. "It's one of them faithful carts. Never mind it."
"Never heard of them", Hamphred said and took two steps back.
The tiny man started to browse through the debris on the cart.
"Maybe I can interest you in some...long, rusty pipes...? No? How about...some...bent nails? Also rusty? No? Well then, how about...this brown little...thing...that opens, and plays a melody? Listen! Isn't that the most beautiful... No? All right...how about..."
"Not interested in junk", Hamphred declared with a monotonous voice. "Have you tried selling it to them out-of-towners? They buy anything."
"Look at this beautiful egg!" the tiny man suddenly said and held up an enormous, spotted egg. "Food for days to come!"
"More like one breakfast", Hamphred said and inspected the egg. "Can't say I recognize it. What animal is this?"
"It's...a...bird! A big bird!"
The tiny man nodded, and said: "Absolutely, dearest Sir. Tastes wonderful. And for you...only two and sixty."
"Drop the two and you got yourself a deal, peddler."
"But that's...! It's huge! Two flat, no less."
"One flat, and I won't throw it after you."
The tiny man scratched his neck with his free hand, and said with a low voice: "Deal."
Coins and egg changed owner, and the tiny man disappeared into the clear night. The next morning, Hamphred relieved Billobi's father of all chores that involved cooking, and announced an all omelette breakfast outside. They gathered wood and made a fire just outside the house. The second largest frying pan was fetched from one of the barns and placed on the fire.
"And now", Hamphred declared solemnly with the large egg in his arms, "the big crack!"
He walked over to the fire and the sizzling frying pan, and while holding it firmly with his left arm over the pan, he punched it as hard he could with the other. It cracked into two halves immediately, but instead of the expected yolk and white, a tiny humanoid creature fell out and into the hot pan. Its skin were pale green and covered in warts. A long, crooked nose grew from its small face in a bent shape, and nearly punctuated its chest. It had a narrow tail instead of legs, much like a tadpole.
It screamed horribly as the hot oil burned away on its body. Unable to move away from the heat, it melted slowly. The screaming lasted only for a couple of seconds, and a minute later there wasn't more than a grey goo left in the pan.
"It's probably still better than that stew of yours", Hamphred told Billobi's father.
Mystery eggs are small, magical organs that feed on their surroundings. Much like mushrooms, they can be found everywhere. They start out as tiny, round balls, and grow as they "feed" on the immediate environment; it collects emotions, parts of magic, thoughts, shapes, languages, and everything else that is specific for the location, and stores this in its soft tissue. This is the first phase.
In the second phase, after being fed enough, they develop a hard shell that surrounds and protects the soft interior. The egg will not grow any more now, and goes into its third phase, in which it summarises the things stored in its tissue and converts it into something materially.
After the third phase is completed, the egg goes into a sort of hibernation. This is the final phase.
Mystery eggs are so called because of their gambling nature; you never know what to get since they have been known to materialise living things as well.
The 2016 Cartographic Review!
1 hour ago