Bowmark was twelve, reclining in his hammock with two-year-old Spearmark sitting on his chest. Spearmark’s eyes were wide as the toddler was transfixed by the shadow dancing on the wall. Bowmark’s fingers were contorted into the pose that Dad had taught him. The candle behind him cast a menacing shape vibrating with the flickers. Big bat ears and large glowing eyes. The Kratchnak! “This is the monster that comes in the night to punish naughty children!” Spearmark choked back breath. “But you’re not a naughty child. Kratchnak only make the mean kids sorry.”
The kratchnak is a giant tick whose sole purpose is to eat children who break the rules or are cruel.
This legend began shortly after the Sea Predators (StoneShell Clan) colonized the StoneGrove Archipelago. It is based on hazy memories of their ancestors co-habitating with the Tezledek. While humans generally find tezledek to be an indispensable part of civilization (due to their sewage management) The Sea Predators that broke off to become the StoneShell Clan failed to bring any tezledek with them. In what may be a moment of cultural 'sour grapes' the memories of tezledek became darker and sinister. Perhaps due to the dominant culture of the Sea Predators worship of VanquishAll, a goddess that rewards victory in battle and little else, there was a hole in the mythology for motivating children to good behavior, and the idea of the kratchnak evolved to fill it.
During the first generation of the Sea Predators (StoneShell Clan) only the Royalty and Nobels (Those of pure Sea Predator blood) used the myth in child rearing practices. At that time the creature was pictured as a monster that punished disobedient and cowardly children. But as the Commoner culture became more powerful (due to their much larger population) the myth evolved to instantiate the gentler aspirations of the Southil people. Soon the kratchnak evolved to be a kind of avenging angel, a creature who worked for the side of good to punish children only for explicitly immoral acts. Everything from theft, to bullying and lying.
Variations & Mutation
The first incarnation, and the one most retrained by the Sea Predator linage is the simplest form. When a child deserves punishment the kratchak will find them at night and gobble them up. The Commoner version has some regional differences. On some islands the kratchnak is smaller and merely sucks a child's blood weakening and sickening them. On others the kratchnak is more like a spider and wraps children in a web, forcing a confession, and, if the child is contrite, letting them go.
The kratchnak appears in several children's rhymes and songs, as well as some chasing games. It is also a common theme in shadow puppetry.