The Flying Sponge, or "Balyei", of the Drifting Woods is yet another example of the strange and bizarre flora and fauna of this particular region. An incredibly simple creature, it resembles nothing more than a fluffy ball of living tissue floating through the air. Nonetheless, one can safely state that the Balyei is one of those rare beings that make you wonder if the Spirits of the Heavens might have been in a rather playful mood when creating this unusual lifeform.
Picture description. The weird sight of a balyei sponge as seen floating through the Drifting Woods... Drawn by Quellion.
Appearance. The Balyei has, oddly little to no external features that differ between, say, back and front, left or right, or even which side is up. It appears as a two to four span long egg-shaped mass, in various shades of mottled brown and grey. The puckered surface, combined with the ever-present mists of the Drifting Woods allow its surface to become covered with algae over time, lending various shades of dark green to the Balyei, and creating a rather effective camouflage. A Balyei is highly porous, in fact would one cut one open, it would appear as if the entire animal is little more than a large amount of small and large sacks, each with an opening that can be closed by the creature at will, connecting to a branching system of canals that seems to follow no set pattern. It appears the Balyei has no internal organs like most other animals, but is able to assign functions such as eating or breathing to any sac it has available to do so, as has been proved by systematically puncturing certain sacs, such as those used for digesting prey, and observing the rapid transformation of a normal sac into a new 'stomach' sac. As a result, it is very resistant to injury, and although enough damage will disable its ability to float, it will often just vanish into the undergrowth and restore itself, provided no predator takes advantage of its weakened state.
First, and foremost, the Balyei is capable of unlimited flight. This feat,
impressive in itself, is even more so when one considers that the Balyei has no
wings or limbs at all. Instead, it seems to generate a sickly sweet smelling gas
in certain sacs in his body, which then expand into small cavities. If enough of
these cavities are punctures, the Balyei loses altitude, and eventually becomes
ground-bound until it has generated more gas-filled sacs, leading researchers to
believe this gas is the source of the Balyei's buoyancy.
The Balyei also has amazing regenerative abilities. Capable of healing and surviving most injuries that do not involve great heat or being ground to bits completely, the Balyei can lose as much as a quarter of its body mass before it is noticeably debilitated, and up to half before its regenerative processes fail to provide sufficient relief. This is most likely tied to another highly unusual aspect of the Balyei, which has, as mentioned, no internal organs whatsoever. Where other animals die after their brain, heart, or lungs have been damaged, the Balyei lacks such weak points completely. Finally, this ability also bestows a nearly complete protection against the various venins and toxins of the jungle, as most of these substances assault organs and tissue types not even present in the Balyei.
Territory. The Balyei is only found in the heart of the Drifting Woods in northwest Nybelmar. It needs the constant fog to keep its body supple, and the cover of the trees to avoid unwanted attention of those few predators that would eat a Balyei. Due to its tough, chewy texture and nauseating sac contents however, there are no predators actually living off the Balyei and attacks are usually made by such creatures as young challachoy, and small starwell phaert, a mistake they tend to make only once.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Balyei prefers warm, moist air, and as such is mainly found in the vicinity of mossmound steam vents, and the ensuing clouds of vapour and mist. It glides slowly through the air, at about the pace of a normally walking human, and seems to have no difficulties whether floating up into the canopy, or diving low towards the ground, often barely avoiding the surface. With no need to actively hunt or look for a mate, it merely glides through the air in a random path, using an ingenious breathing system to gather air from all sides, and push it out through one of its larger holes to provide propulsion.
When severely hurt, or about to divide, the Balyei will seek out the smallest cavern, hollow tree, or other such hiding place it can find, and squeeze its flexible body in. Even a fully grown Balyei of some forty-odd nailsbreadth long, and at least thirty wide, will be able to pass through a hole barely large enough for a fuzzle thanks to its flexible internal structure and the complete absence of any rigid body parts.
Diet. The Balyei abuses its innocent appearance and jungle-tree coloured exterior to trick insects into resting in one of the many hollows on its surface. Once an insect settles however, the chamber rapidly closes, and the insect is forced through the interconnecting chambers into one of the large hollows near the creature's core. Here it gathers any prey it catches, and digests them with the aid of a clear liquid secreted from the hollow's walls. The sweet-smelling gasses that appear to be a key ingredient for the Balyei's flight seem to be a byproduct of the digestive processes. The Balyei seems utterly impervious to any venom or toxin the prey may be carrying, although some voracious insects might eat their way out through the sealed walls of the trapping chamber and escape in this fashion.
Mating. The Balyei does not, in fact, mate in order to reproduce. Instead, once an individual has reached a sufficient size and has built up some resources, it will find a safe chamber somewhere in the canopy, and remain there for up to three days. During this time, the soft mass of the Balyei divides completely, equally distributing its mass over up to two dozen fist-sized miniatures of itself. By the third day, the divisions are complete, and the Balyei young have built up enough gasses to leave their chamber, and swarm out over the jungle again.
Usages. Balyei, although virtually indestructible by means of wounding, can be killed easily by means of overheating. This may occur naturally as a Balyei gets caught in a sudden blast of steam from one of the mossmounds, or on purpose by the Ter'ei'Vikh. The dead Balyei body retains its shape, and is quite resistant to decomposing. As such, it can be used to gently apply any kind of non-aceedic liquid to people of objects, to contain water, or to soak up any spilled liquid as the no longer operated chambers will try to absorb and retain as much moisture as possible, which can then be wrung back out much like one would wring a wet cloth, only with a much greater capacity for retaining water.
Bits of Balyei, or 'sponge' as the material is called, can be soaked in potent infusions and concoctions and placed under a bandage to create compresses and poultices that will aid the body in healing wounds. It is also often used to apply water to the forehead of those whom suffer from fevers, and in the cleaning of objects, both to wash them as to remove any excess water afterwards.
Furthermore, the digestive liquid can be taken from a living Balyei, and used as an unpleasantly irritating, but very powerful agent to clean wounds, which, when covered with a clean bandage or poultice immediately afterward, nearly always prevents inflammation and rot of the wound.
Myth/Lore. While commonly acknowledged as merely strange beasts in modern times, the Ter'ei'Vikh of old are said to have considered the Balyei to be benevolent dreams that have taken substance and shape, and capable of driving off nightmares by their mere presence. In fact, certain ancient Ter'ei'Vikh dwellings still have small chambers of the kind a Balyei uses to regenerate or divide built into the walls or ceilings of the sleeping quarters in an attempt to seduce a Balyei to banish the harmful spirits that would plague the inhabitants at night.