The trail led them into a thicket of greenbriar and trees, and this was when the mosquitoes began to attack. Phoebe yelped and stumbled when the swarm hit her.

Julia laughed. “Here, let me spray you.” Phoebe was doused in so much bug spray that her lips tingled. But it kept the mosquitos and biting flies at bay.

Image: Phoebe is being sprayed with bug repellant. She has her eyes screwed shut as Julia, from off-screen, aims the spray at her face. Behind her are trees and greenbriar vines, with light filtering into the dense forest beyond them. End description.

“Just another part of swamp life.” The ground softened as they walked, and oaks were gradually replaced with cypress knees jutting out of the soil. The hum of insects and frogs came from every direction. Phoebe was glad that Julia had lent her a t-shirt, because her clothes were quickly becoming soaked through in the August humidity.

“It’s definitely a swamp,” Phoebe said.

“Not just a swamp, the swamp! This is Avernus.”

Image: Julia and Phoebe walk down a path through the swamp. Their full bodies are visible, and Julia is gesturing excitedly with one hand. Both are holding their fishing poles. Phoebe is carrying the cooler. They’re framed by greenbriar vines, and behind them are more trees and grasses. End description.

Avernus was, indeed, the swamp. You’d have to travel much further south to find anything that rivalled its grandeur. Despite the humidity bearing down on her, Phoebe was relieved that she was at least close to Grand Shore as promised. Avernus nestled right up against the massive city.



Have I sprayed my face with repellant before out of desperation? Maybe.