You are suddenly whisked from your current location and find those known surroundings replaced in a swirl of mist with a gently rolling ship's deck, the tang of the sea, and the roar of battle as several strange, hairless monkeys with webbed hand and feet come streaming over the rail with an unearthly screech. The only thing louder is the red-haired woman screaming at a small magic user who holds a scroll with words slowly fading from it.

"These are the monsters you summoned for me, you stinking, useless whale twat of a wizard!"

She turns to you and the others who look as bewildered as you do, and bellows, "You aren't monsters, but you'll have to do. Attack!"

Such was your welcome to the Free Floating City of Salt, a conglomeration of sailing vessels loosely connected to form a mobile haven for the seaborne. Life has taken a turn for the worse here lately, though, as the gill monkey's have raided and killed for the last few weeks, leaving everyone worried about what next will come from the sea.

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I Had A Dream
The Shambler first appeared to be a heap of rotting vegetation. Who knew it was carnivorous? I quickly found out as it wrapped its creepers around me, crushing me to death to consume my flesh and bone.

I had a dream.

I was in our Chieftain’s longhouse. Tyr’s wife, Eira, had given birth to another boy, their third. A celebration was well underway, shadows danced on the floor as whale-oil lamps flickered above our heads. A roaring fire warmed us from Njord’s mighty wind, likewise the dwarven ale in our bellies. The aroma of the boar on the spit was almost overwhelming, my stomach growled in anticipation. My brothers feasted and praised our Chief; the birth of another son was seen as a good omen for the raid planned for the next day. As was tradition, nine nights after birth, the child had to be recognized by the father of the household. Tyr placed the child on his knee while sitting in the high seat. I sprinkled water and traced the rune for “power” upon his forehead. He’ll need it growing up with his older brothers, both holy terrors. He was named Oland, in respect to our brother we lost 17 moons ago. I completed the birth Blessing confirming the child as a member of the clan and handed the babe back to Eira. An elated Tyr placed me in a triumphant bear hug lifting me from my feet. His smile abruptly turned savage. I felt a grip on my braid as his forearm inched its way around my neck, choking me. What treachery was this? The smells of roasting meat and Tyr’s hot breath that stunk of fermented ale suddenly turned into rotting leaves and foamy earth. He began to crush my windpipe. I couldn’t breathe. I was in a blind panic but I could not move.
I hear muffled voices. They are familiar, shouting in anguish. My lifeless body hits the floor. Light and pain erupt in my head as my eyes crack open to the face of Jeeva. I gulp at the air as if I had been underwater for far too long, my throat in agony. The eviscerated corruption of nature lay on the floor next to me, its tangles of creeping parasitic vines wilted. I am covered in the putrid, sappy ichor of its entrails.

Although the afterlife provided a taste of home, I decided it wasn’t the place for me.
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Epic!
Horrid Little Man
The party has returned to the relative safety of the snake’s lair inside the caverns, but Jeeva still feels his heart thumping against the inside of his ribs like a loose shutter in the wind. Death has visited the Summoned again. “He was a horrid little man,” Dashir mutters to Artis, but Jeeva hears something in her tone that tells him the females in the party have the same conflicted feelings as he. Jeeva did think Cnut was rather horrid, in fact, listening to hours of lewd stories on the night watch often left him with an extreme urge to bathe. And his name, a such a vulgar anagram. Not to mention the fish odor the man carried everywhere, and those rotted teeth! Jeeva nearly knocked them out the time Cnut poked his filthy fingernail into the tattoo of Nori … “Hey old man, a mermaid, huh? Where does a man put his staff into one of those? Heh?”

Beautiful Lycentia volunteers to take the first watch. Jeeva doubts he will sleep, but finds a spot near the front wall to settle into. In no time he is drifting into an underwater dream. And Nori is here. They are in her kelp garden, flowing ribbons of green and purple. For some reason he is remembering the time she explained that the sunlight cannot reach the deepest waters, so the ocean makes her own light. Tiny glowing animals more numerous than all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Now Nori has a salve, she is rubbing it on the blistered red bumps all over Jeeva’s skin. He suddenly remembers huddling with Cnut in the grove of trees, slapping the biting insects and brushing their tiny carcasses off his arms. Nori’s face and long arms and slender tail are all the same silken blue. She is speaking.
“This will help you heal.”
“It’s not me, I wasn’t injured. Cnut…”
“You need to heal, my love.” She strokes some of the salve onto the scar by his liver. A flood of memories: Pirates boarding the Aringa Mae. Shipmates fleeing. An enemy spear slicing Jeeva’s side. Blood. Overboard. Silky blue arms pulling him down. Breathing the water like it was air.
“Tell me about your friend Cnut.”
“He… was a horrid little man.” Dashir’s words come out of Jeeva’s mouth. “He spoke only of finding his way into the soft parts of women, never into their hearts.”
Nori laughs. “Our soft parts do not need as much protecting as you think. Tell me, did he ever desert you in battle?”
“No.”
“Fail to step forward if one of the party was down?”
“No.”
“Fall asleep on watch?”
“No.”
“Take more than his share of treasure, or rations?”
“No. But he usually took more than his share of credit for the victory.”
She laughs again.
Jeeva, I remember your crew on the Aringa Mae. Gentlemen, all. Well dressed. Nice teeth. Every one of them deserted ship when you were boarded. Not a single one came back for you.”
Shame washes over Jeeva. Nori is always right.

Jeeva! Jeeva! Your watch.” The kelp garden is replaced by a mound of dry snakeskin.
“OK, OK I’ll wake Cnut.”
A look of scorn mixed with something else on Dashir’s pointed face. Sorrow?
Jeeva covers his face with his hands.
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Memories
Back in the tavern again after a difficult and harrowing adventure beneath the waves. Lycentia feels good. Now is the time to relax, to enjoy a goblet of wine and some quiet talk with her fellows, the rest of the Summoned. She enjoys their company and the easy camaraderie they share when not adventuring. She knows that their life is not an easy one, and death can come at any moment. It does not pay to become too attached to anyone, yet friendships must be enjoyed and celebrated while they last. She looks upon their faces in the wan light of a whale oil lantern hanging from a beam over their table and reminisces about others she has known.


When her arcane powers first manifested themselves at the tender age of thirteen summers, she had feared them. But she quickly overcame this and learned to take a secret pride in her ability to move small objects simply by thinking about it. A year later, when she came upon a village boy teasing her younger sister, calling her ugly and pelting her with mussel shells, she had exploded in rage. There for the first time, the witch energy had erupted from her, blowing a smoking hole in the boy's chest.


Needless to say, the village elders had not been pleased. The most senior among them still remembered her great-grandmother, Lucretia, who had dabbled in demonology and dark summoning magicks. Few ever spoke of her, but it was widely known in Snorri's Inlet that Lucretia had been burned at the stake, while rumors still persisted that her daughter, Lavinia (Lycentia's grandmother) had actually been sired by some fiendish outsider from the unclean nether-realms. Lycentia's family had always born this taint, and in the eyes of the village elders, her burgeoning powers represented a return of those dark times. Messengers were thus sent to Castle Arwahir to consult the priests of the holy order of Heironeous to determine if she should be burned or merely banished. Lycentia had not waited for their return. Slipping away in the night, she had turned her back on her home village forever.


The long open roads between the Hrothgar settlements could be dangerous, especially for a girl of fourteen summers, but she had the good fortune of falling in with a traveling troupe of entertainers led by one, Wdjarc Silverglass, a gnome prestidigitator with a garrulous personality and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for whisky. This group of bards, acrobats, and thespians adopted her at once. Her good looks made her ideally suited as Wdjarc's stage assistant, and much to his delight, she used her telekinetic abilities to subtly enhance his feats of illusion and legerdemain. Thus, for ten years she traveled with them, crossing the breadth and length of the land, performing in all the settlements from Sealtooth Bay to Bram's Fort, from Crow Falls to Muggerbeet and everywhere in between. From them she developed her flamboyant sense of style and her love of drawing attention, as well as her skill at reading people. They were good folk, good but not averse to liberating a coin purse or two from their naive patrons or working the occasional confidence trick on an unwitting rube.


All the while, her power grew stronger and she learned to control it. Wdjarc, impressed with the girl's natural ability to summon the forces arcana without benefit of spell or device, attempted to teach her the basics of dweomer-craft. But Lycentia quickly lost patience with these lessons. To her, it felt as if the force within her did not wish to be shaped or channeled by incantation, word, or gesture. It simply was. Wdjarc found it remarkable how she used magic in the manner of a magical creature or outsider, not like a mortal spell caster. She knew he suspected just such a presence in her lineage, but he never asked about it. Times, however, were good. The ale and song always flowed liberally in Wdjarc's troupe and they all lived lusty lives of freewheeling whimsy.


But she eventually yearned for more. During her travels, she had heard tell of legendary adventuring companies like The Malachite Fist, Llewellyn's Crusaders (out of Northwaite), or the Strangers from Farholme. She knew that these souls lived lives of incredible danger and amassed almost unheard of wealth, retrieved from the lost tombs , deep subterranean passages, and forgotten maggot holes honeycombing the Hrothgar Mountains. It was this wealth that she yearned for the most, wealth and fame well beyond that which a simple performing vagabond could ever hope to attain, and she felt that her innate ability with the arcane might afford her entry into the adventuring life.


Thus it was, one spring evening in Southwaite, she said good-bye to Wdjarc and his troupe. She had joined an adventuring company calling itself The Seven Blades and was due to set sail on a merchant's cog for the distant Thrangian Kingdoms to the south. The party's leader, Bretta One Thumb, had obtained a scrap of information, a rumor dearly purchased from a crafty trader, about some ghostly tower purportedly filled with gems and jewels just waiting to be freed from their guardians. She shed more than a few tears as she bid farewell to Wdjarc and his fellows, but she had learned from them that every ending makes a new beginning and only a fool hangs on too hard to the way things were. It was thus with a light heart that she set sail on the morning tide for Thrang and adventure.

What happened next, is a tale for another day. Suffice it to say, she now finds herself here in a tavern in Salt with a new set of companions. She returns from her reverie and signals for another round of wine and ale for them all.
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Epic!
Tattoo
Jeeva fingers the soft crimson cloak. Or the blue one? He has decided to cover as much skin as possible before heading out for a taste of rum with his friends. The muscled man tattooed on his wrist eyes him coldly. That’s the one that used to be Miranda, no Celeste. Wait.
He sinks onto a hammock, water in his eyes. Now that the images are gone, how will he remember?
I can do this. He closes his eyes and begins to recite the names, pointing to his left shoulder, chest, right shoulder. But it’s all a muddle. The lovely women who have been his closest companions all these years have been scrubbed from his skin like sandcastles in a storm.
The other adventurers are waiting in the tavern. There is much to discuss. We were all near death together, I should go.
He swings out of the hammock and catches a glimpse of the fierce merman on his left shoulder. Jeeva has seen that look before, it’s the same one his brother used to give him when Jeeva complained of tending the goats in a downpour. Get a grip.
We were all near death. They’re just tattoos. Get a grip.
The decision is made. It will be the purple sleeveless vest with the open collar.
Beard immaculate, hair slicked, shoes polished, Jeeva pushes open the tavern door, while at the same time pushing away the fear that has been lurking in his mind all along.
If I forget my Loves, will they still remember me?
The Bearded Oyster is not crowded, but he spots a pretty maiden in a blue dress who he has met before. He slips an arm around her waist and she smiles.
Hello Sweetheart. Have you ever heard of a mirror that can change the way you look? It’s quite a story.
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A Tavern Interlude
The Bearded Clam is crowded but quiet tonight, mostly just day laborers and sailors relaxing over jacks of ale after the travails of the day have ended. Lycentia sits at a corner table with her companions, sipping a goblet of wine, but ignoring the bowl of fish stew before her. The cowl of her red silken cloak thrown back, her scarlet tresses spill haphazardly over her alabaster shoulders. She feels the lecherous glances of tavern's patrons fall upon her, but she does not acknowledge or return them. Striking and voluptuous, she is well accustomed to the attention of men and typically heeds their desirous gazes as much as a fish heeds the water through which it swims.


Her heart, normally light, feels heavy since the loss of Valeria, and the atmosphere in this place with its low beamed ceiling and close air, greasy with lamp oil, does not help to lighten it. She had known the elfin warrior for but a fortnight, but as is often the case, the rigors of adventuring had forged a connection that far outweighed the brevity of their acquaintance. She feels the same toward her other companions, especially Jeeva whose vanity she finds more endearing than off-putting. The witch feels glad for him that his porcine nose has reverted to normal.


She idly traces an immaculate, red lacquered nail around the rim of the scuffed copper goblet before her and listens to her companions speaking in hushed tones, planning their next move. They all concur that they must find a substitute for Valeria. She had been a great asset to them, good with spear and accomplished in spell craft as well. Not easily replaced.


Then, just as Lycentia raises the wine to her lips, she finds her eyes drawn to a young woman eating alone at corner table to her left. A young lass she is, barely seventeen summers, but the war-trident leaning against the hull beside her obviously suggests one trained in battle craft. Lycentia rolls the wine around her tongue and surreptitiously observes the girl. She is dressed simply in buckskin leggings and a light cotton tunic. Her hair, auburn, hangs in loose waves about her face. The girl's manners, the way she eats her coarse bread and salted cod with her hunting knife, bespeaks one perhaps not quite civilized. She is obviously a new-comer here as well. Accomplished in the art of watching people, Lycentia can tell that the girl wishes to remain unobtrusive and warily observe the rough assortment of knaves and oafs in the tavern.


A besotted and laughing crew-hand weaves a little too close to the girl's table and, without even raising her eyes, the stranger's hand instinctively grabs the haft of her trident. Lycentia smiles at this. From just that subtle movement, her practiced eye can tell the feline grace and power in this one's limbs.


Suddenly, the girl looks up from her repast, and her eyes brazenly meet Lycentia's. Had she been aware of the witch's gaze the whole time? Yes. Undoubtedly she had. The girl looks at the witch with suspicion, a look of warning, a look of one who wants no trouble but will welcome it if no other option presents itself. But Lycentia can also sense curiosity in her look, curiosity and something else. Something feral and dangerous and yet not entirely unwelcoming. And so she smiles at the girl, rises with palms upturned in the universal gesture of good will, and approaches her table.
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