CW: Language, Gore, Passive Aggressive Halfling Angst
TW: This episode is just one big anxiety attack for her
He fucking named them by numbers. I do not know if I should laugh or be angry. How could Eucarion be so…unimaginative. Charka’s puppies, aside from Lulu who I named, were named one through 7 in Elvish. I had stopped by the cottage to pick up a parcel of spare quills I had accidentally left behind when I moved back to the manor when I was stopped dead in my tracks hearing him shout out numbers. My instinct was something had gone horribly wrong as it came to my attention in my time with him that he takes to counting things when he is recovering from a nightmare or trying to bring himself down from the rush of battle.
I opened the front door to see him chasing after Enque and Otso who had held between them his favorite cooking spoon. Again the absurdity of it all brought me to laughter. I had steeled myself for my partner to be undone over some sleeping fit about the Goblin Wars, not undone from the attentions of his companion’s brood. I helped him corner the boys and retrieve his prized utensil. Before I handed the spoon over I brandished it at him mimicking the best grandmotherly threat and called for him to explain himself regarding naming them numbers.
Watching his mouth gape and the water wheels in his mind coming to a screeching halt when I revealed my knowledge of the Elvish language was well worth the wait. I found it very handy in this town to keep my fluency in Elvish concealed. I was privy to many a conversation that may have happened over my head under the assumption I could not understand. I never really tried to hide it from Eucarion but I definitely did not call attention to it though I am shocked he didn’t realize sooner. I have calmed him in his own language while he slept through his nightmares. Everything in his home is labeled in Elvish. I would have accidentally poisoned him with my cooking if I did not know the language, as the fool has quicksilver and mustard seeds in the same shelf in the same amber bottle.
Time will tell if his knowledge of my linguistic advantage will benefit me or put even more distance between us. At least it will stop the jokes between he and Adi about my height.
After acquiring the dinghy, then the river boat it was only a natural step of progression my Lady Frivolity would find herself in possession of a small sea galleon. She goaded me into coming on a quick tour of the “bay” citing very emphatically that as her lead of security I would be remiss to let her go without me. Like that has ever stopped her before?
Eucarion caught me in the stables as I was saddling Dusty. I don’t think he meant to startle me but his steps are so damn quiet without even trying. My awareness is usually so sharp, the thought of being sea bound even just for a day trip had me rattled. The others we met at the Rose Shell were miles more eager about this “adventure” than I. My tension regarding this trip was obvious and my inability to swim was very callously brought to the attention of the group by Eucarion who chided me for not letting him teach me to swim sooner. At the mention of my risk for drowning, Albion, in all his sweetness, set to designing some sort of float to keep me safe, describing some horror show of beeswaxed intestines filled with air which I promptly turned down. I’d rather drown than be garlanded in offal.
Soveliss insisted repeatedly for me to let him teach me to swim but I cannot help but feel his intentions are…less than professional. Eucarion was expectedly riled at the other man’s offer. Not that I doubt his skill in teaching me, nor is he an unfair sight garbed for swimming but were I to relent to anyone teaching me to swim, Soveliss Brightwood would not be my first choice. In retribution for my rebuff Soveliss transmuted not only my own flask but every other cask in the cabins and below deck to water so I couldn’t even sooth my worries without being on deck with the rest of them.
Despite the lack of my preferred beverage I stayed in the interior cabins at the front of the ship keeping my eyes away from the waters. I could hear every creak and groan of the wood as it passed through the water relatively smoothly. I would peek out onto the deck from time to time to observe my contracted duties of “security”. Albion was at the wheel, Eucarion was in the crow’s-nest (much to his discomfort) and Frivolity found herself SUNBATHING. Of all things. She could sunbathe at home why did she insist on doing it on a ship in the middle of the bay!? She luxuriated in a tasseled woven hammock looking feathered and resplendent as always using that hinky mirror we discovered in the last outing to reflect the sun onto her face and bosom. Will her eccentricities ever let up?
About just over an hour into this ill-fated trip while Z’embre rattled on about her love of cheese being a byproduct of maternal angst Eucarion shouted from the crow’s nest loud enough for me to come out on deck to find out what he was on about. Though the words “There’s some fucking crates” should have clued me in that, there was indeed some fucking crates floating in the water aside the ship. While Soveliss used his magicks to fly ropes out to haul them in I could see about 2000 yards off there actually was an island as we had heard from the pirate we resurrected on the last expedition out beyond the wall. It was large enough that it definitely would have been seen when I arrived by sea a better half of a year ago. Islands don’t just appear. Unless they actually do? I don’t know actually know how islands are made.
Eucarion made his way down the mast to inspect the 3 crates as they were opened one by one. The first seemed to be standard issue supplies like wheat and molasses. (The only exception being a mess of water logged wigs) The next crate was a massive jumble of a disassembled piano among other things but Soveliss took it upon himself to start to conjure it back together with magick. Not like we needed a gods damned piano on this madhouse of a boat anyways. The third crate had the oddest variety of things out of the three. The last item recovered from it was a delicate snow globe with a picturesque scene of a tiny cabin and forest. I tiptoed up to inspect it in Eucarion’s hands when he gave it a gentle shake.
In an instant I was not watching the snow through the glass of the globe but through the glass of a window inside a cabin. Panic set in. All of us but Frivolity had been transported through some spell into a cabin. The snow out the window was piled 6 feet high and beyond that was the thickest of dark forest. I let out a high keen of panic and looked around to take in the scene of confusion. I never thought I would miss the ocean until I was trapped in this cabin dusty with disuse. I clenched my fingernails into my palm to see if I was in a dream only to be met with the pain indicating reality. Despite the abandoned feeling of the place there was a roaring fire, a spell of sorts keeping the cabin warm. My panic grew and grew until found myself pacing in small circles, eyes darting from window to window. We were trapped. You don’t survive in the kind of snow that was outside of this place. Eucarion tried to calm me by stopping my circles but it just put me on further edge.
Z’embre chuckled to the group that they would eat me first. Like FUCK they would. I think she meant it as a joke but this is also coming from the minotaur that admitted to eating her own pet. I tried to respond in anger but she had wandered off to explore the cabin’s side room. I clutched at Eucarion’s side and buried my face in it as if a child hiding in its mother’s skirts. I am so embarrassed that my fear would get the best of me but I don’t know if the rest of these people knew how cruel winters, like the one that raged outside, could be to people. Eucarion’s face was stoic and controlled but I know that to be a historically war-perfected mask. Underneath it all I could feel his frantic pulse thrum in his touch.
We followed the party hesitantly into the side room to find it covered in even more dust with lumps and hangings covered with tarp in the gloom. I assumed simple things like furniture but there was a frantic panic in me that pushed me to reveal every covered surface. The paranoia of the unknown was maddening. I was not ready for the grimy spinning wheel uncovered. Upon further inspection of it and its surroundings, namely a fine sheet of cloth, we discovered the spinning wheels’ purpose was to turn MEAT into thread. The cloth beside the wheel was comprised of rabbit meat. I don’t even want to think further on why this delicate machine of barbarity exists. Someone just woke up and said “yes I need to make my clothes out of meat” Who does that???
I jumped slightly after I turned tear the last remaining sheet uncovering a painting on the wall comprised of tieflings in ancient garb posing successfully with the spoils of a hunt. The spoils being a disgusting bull-headed demon. I was under the assumption tieflings revered a bull-headed god so why would they kill something of its likeness, evermore why would they paint such a subject?
“Why?” continued to be the question as we made our way through the house investigating every corner. When the attic door was unlatched a large femur tumbled down and BLED. A bone BLED. I shrieked and scattered back from it waiting for more evils to fall on us but none were to follow. The attic was home to a featureless statue of sorts dressed in not but a poncho and boots. That’s a look. Soveliss was able to deduce these fashions were magickal. The poncho apparently seemed to have the ability to snatch errant projectiles out of the air and deposit them into an interior pocket. Handy, but odd. The boots were much less… useful. Their sole (hah get it? That’s a shoe joke) magical purpose was to give the wearer the power to dance in any manor they choose. Unless it gave me long enough legs to dance with him without him lifting me I had no interest.
In a blink Z’embre was off again chasing her whims down to the basement that seemed to be filled with food all radiating a wild mix of magicks. Z’embre started piling her bag full of cheeses and wines much to my distress that she would even touch this food that we have no idea what properties it has. Before I could protest in a flash we were back on the deck of the ship like the cabin never existed. Eucarion still held the snowglobe in his hands but his face held a vague distance to it. Z’embre suggested to let her take the offending artifact to Adi to investigate further. I had no complaints in regards to this course of action but Eucarion, apparently coming back to his senses, scoffed at her suggestion and retorted sarcastically “Because Adi has been such a help lately.”
I didn’t want to believe his words as I stepped away from his side to look up at him offended. Was he really so unhappy about Adi’s attempts to help our particular situation? I don’t understand how someone who claims to love me so much is so resistant to such a foolproof plan to give us what we wanted. Or am I foolish to assume he wanted this too? I already knew he was not entirely keen on having a family with me but is he also so disengaged from it all that he wouldn’t even take this chance for me to live longer with him? It seems I may have been willingly ignorant of his reaction to all this. His wilted response to that leggy body. Maybe the fact that I am a halfling and will only live for a short while comparatively is exactly what he’s looking for. Just waiting for me to die so he can move on from the mess he’s already committed himself to out of honor.
Wow, a little off topic there. Anyways, I didn’t get much time to react before the ship crashed ashore to the island we had spotted in the distance. As we were all jolted hard enough that many of us toppled off our feet (myself included) I realized how long we had been trapped in that cabin. It had to be easily an hour to have crossed this distance. When we disembarked to inspect the damage Albion found a message in a bottle. How cliché. Not that this entire day hadn’t already been one weirdness after another the message was a warning from a band of pirate explaining their captain had gone mad. I think we were assuming at this point the pirates that penned the letter were of the same crew that we had found the corpses of beyond the wall.
I felt a creaky feeling of madness settle in my bones. I was sure in that moment that we were to die on this island. I had no time to sink into this dementia because within moments of being on the shore we were attacked by 12 lobster-like monsters. I couldn’t help but laugh, bitter and hysteric before laying into them with lightning arrows. Everyone contributed their own brand of violence to this defense but ultimately Soveliss finished the lot of them with a massive fireball, essentially cooking them all to perfection. I have never been much for seafood but the rest of the crew decided that lunch was served by way of Soveliss’s fireball. Z’embre cracked off a lobstery appendage approximate to my height and tossed it to me catching me off balance and seating me squarely in the sand. I picked halfheartedly at the questionably cannibalistic meal presented to me when Eucarion returned to sit beside me brandishing coconuts. My mind was entirely overwhelmed with just how ridiculous this all was. All noise but the constant hum of the ocean started to drain away from my ears leaving me with uninterrupted din of water slamming against the land. I don’t know how long I sat there staring at the water nor do I know how long Eucarion had been talking at me but the noise of the rest of the world only came flooding back once I caught the movement of his lips from the corner of my eye. I nodded vaguely trying to show I was paying attention hoping to hell or high water that I was not agreeing to anything particularly foolish. Like a proposal. Hah. Wouldn’t that be funny.
When I slid my magicks out through the thick jungle that laid out before us I was returned with a cacophony of lizards. Large ones at that. That was the start of the twitch in my left eye. Soveliss used his magicks to fly once more to survey the territory we were about to tromp into. I was told this island is vaster that we could imagine with miles of jungle untouched and ragged mountains. That fizzling hum of the ocean gave way to the organic buzz of the jungle around me drowning out all noise of footsteps or conversation. I found myself glassy eyed and distant with a strangled smile on my face at the absurdity of the whole thing. The one time I don’t have Xiao by my side to leave Charka with some help for the puppies I am faced with virgin jungle and an inability to focus. My distraction found me stumbling over and slamming sidelong into every root and branch that was even vaguely in my path. Eucarion vainly tried to steer my adrift sensibilities with a hand on my shoulder until we came to a clearing causing the party to stop in their tracks. The space held an entire schooner, “The Painted Lady” trapped above us in the tree canopy in a cradle of vines.
I don’t know what struck me. I don’t know what dark little voice eked its way through the deafening buzz. I tore away from Eucarion’s side, bounded up to Albion and shouted “Throw me!” pointing to the suspended deck of the Painted Lady. Throw me he did. His aim was, less than spectacular.
I slammed bodily into the side of the ship and dug every finger I could into the wood to keep myself from falling. I had no time to worry about the shredding of my fingernails as my impact had set the ship into movement and my hold was in jeopardy. I scrambled for any purchase I could find finally footing my way up a slipping oar and tumbling over the railing and onto the deck. The sight that greeted me was horrific. I have seen more dead bodies in my short life than I care to count but nothing compares to the rot and disgust of bodies left to putrefy in the steam of the jungle. Bloated to bursting, infested and rotten like fruit long forgotten in the cellar. I couldn’t help but scream. Before my mind could turn cold and morph them into that long forgotten produce they so reminded me of, the ship’s precarious perch let loose and began to crash through the boughs below it. In a blink I was scooped up by Soveliss (having taken flight for the 3rd time this trip) and brought safely to the ground away from the now shattered hull of The Painted Lady.
In an instant Eucarion ripped me out of Soveliss’s protective grasp and carried me a good 30 paces away from the party before he set me down with a wordless glare. I didn’t need words to read his look of “How fucking dare you?”. I have seen this look too many times.
My mother was the first taste of this look. “How dare you ruin your dress with mud?” “How dare you scoff at his proposal?” “How dare you even talk about leaving us?”
Garrick perfected this look “How dare you stay out past dark?” “How dare you talk back to me?” “How dare you even look at another man?”
Now it comes from him. “How dare you even think of keeping it?” “How dare you speak of our shame?” “How dare you risk your life so foolishly?”
I dare. I fucking dare.
And then the rain.
It rained so hard and so fast within an hour I was up to my waist in mud. Where was his possessive protection then? It was Z’embre that lifted me from the mud to a place in a tree while they tried to plan a way to get through this mess. It was decided I would be safer in Albion's horns than risk the inglorious death of being swallowed by the monsoon’s mud. Only then did Eucarion see fit to put his arms around me and see me safely to my perch.
When the rains finally subsided we happened upon group of over a dozen pirates working at some failed attempt at digging a grave. I stared, distant and detached as they continued to scoop the same sliding mud from a pathetically shallow pit. Why were they even trying? It would take days for the ground to dry enough to dig a proper grave they might as well just give up and let the heinous wildlife of this forsaken island take the body. The pirates were in a terrible state, riddled with sores and fly-bite. I could smell the stench of rot on their skin from our cover in the brush.
We let charming Soveliss get a headstart on us to greet the pirates and insure no hostility. He was able to glean that these were the pirates of both the crew we learned about on our last trip and the authors of the message in the bottle. Their captain apparently went mad after discovering a temple of sorts deep in the forest filled with treasure. Soveliss encouraged us out of the brush to meet with the pirates and discuss a deal of sorts. We help them get past their daft captain and to the treasure and we would earn a split. Why we even agreed to this farce is beyond me still but luckily the group decided we needed reinforcements for this. Frivolity produced that unholy mirror and provided it as collateral of sorts as supposedly it was a way for us to return home to Shore Blossom and then again back to the pirates if they kept the mirror with them.
I was so far gone with this anxiety fueled delirium that I was blind to the horror of the magick passage that opened from this mirror to its partner in Elder Yen’s shop. Eucarion tells me the hall between mirrors was a mess of death and gore but all I could see was the exit. I needed to be home.
The harvest festival is this weekend. I can’t help but think of the spring festival. The memories of his shy gentlemanly arm as we walked amongst the vendors, his playful remarks as we played the games, his careful attention after the tournament, it all makes my chest ache. So much has happened since then.