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 Post Posted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:52 am 
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A wave crashed against the shore, sending mist into the air to sparkle in the predawn light. The horizon was about the only place where gray wisps of clouds didn't obscure the sky, letting loose their perpetual drizzle. On the barren rocky outcropping protruding into the sea, a lone crab scuttled about. Another wave crashed and a thick spray of salty brine fell toward the little crab to wash it away.

But it never felt a drop. For the turn had started and a body had appeared.

The woman inhaled sharply in surprise. She stood motionless for a brief moment before dropping to a knee, resting most of her weight on the pole-like weapon in her left hand. She looked up at it between the wet strands of long brown hair over her eyes. Her trident, she realized. She took her right hand off of her knee and examined the appendage. Five fingers with five nails covered in caramel skin. It was hers, but a moment ago it was nobody’s. A moment ago it didn't exist.

With a heave, she stood. Her fish scale mail making little tinkling sounds as she did. “I am… me.” The sound of her own voice seemed out of place here, but it did comfort her.

“Who am I? What am I? Why, am I?” Of course she already knew the answer to the first two. She was Melissa Ray. A level one barbarian Findamancer, popped to no side. The “why” remained a mystery, however. It was an answer she knew would be difficult for even a Findamancer to find.

Melissa closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and drew in a proper breath. She then looked over her shoulder at the sun rising above the choppy waves. It was her first dawn, and it was brisk, and it was gloomy, and it was beautiful. She knew in that instant she wanted to live to see a second.

In one swift movement Melissa spun the point of her trident downward and speared the ground between her feet. She then brought the point up to eye level and examined the little crab that was now skewered to her weapon. Her trident had found its target, naturally, and now she had the beginnings of some rations. It wasn't nearly enough, but it was a start. Melissa felt sorry for the little critter that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but at the same time realized it had to be either the crab or herself. And she would always choose herself.

A resounding crunch met her ear as Melissa forced herself to bite into the crustacean’s carapace. The shell was gritty and the little bit of meat within was slimy and slid around on her tongue. The Findamancer opened her mouth as she fought the gag reflex and little bits fell out. But eventually she managed to close her mouth around what remained and forced herself to swallow. She looked at the point of her trident and what was left of the crab and shuddered at the thought of taking a second bite. “Maybe if I had something to wash it down with…”

Melissa looked around for something to drink and noticed two containers hanging behind her from her waist. It was a canteen and a small pouch. She opened them up and turned them over. Both empty. She spotted a tide pool on the ground not far from where she was standing. Kneeling down next to it, Melissa cupped a hand and took a sip. It was salty, as expected. She swished the liquid around in her mouth before spitting it back out into the pool.

She was about to stand up when her reflection in the water caught her eye. It was a curious thing. Long brown hair framed her tanned face and was held mostly at bay by a coral headband. Her angled jaw line matched her hard brown eyes. She reached toward the reflection but pulled her hand back when she caused the water to ripple.

“Enough with such frivolities.” She stood once more and began her walk off of the rocky shore where she had popped. Before her was a dark cliffside which extended for some distance in both directions. There wasn't much space along most of the shoreline between the cliff and the sea, but there was enough. Melissa turned to the left and took the southerly rout. She would gather rations along the way and eat them after she found something to drink as well.

After only making it two hexes further along the coastline, Melissa realized that the move penalties could become a serious problem for her survival. She had managed to find a couple more crabs, a small fish, and some edible sponges, but still no freshwater. Searching aimlessly wasn’t getting her very far. She was afraid she may have to resort to licking water off of the drizzle drenched Cliffside. Melissa rested her rump and her trident against a barnacle encrusted boulder as she pondered a solution. She was a Findamancer after all. There should be something she could do to find water.

Out of the corner of her eye, Melissa spotted a Y-shaped piece of driftwood lodged between two rocks. It gave her an idea. Walking over to the small piece of soaked timber, she picked it up and held the two short ends. “Dowse!” she commanded. An exhilarating rush of juice surged from her hands and through the piece of wood. The point at the other end immediately started tugging in a different direction. She was soon being pulled across the rough terrain toward an area of the cliff near the hex boarder. Just when she thought she was going to have to nullify the spell to avoid passing into the next hex and leaving her spear behind, her makeshift dowsing rod turned toward a crevice in the cliffside.

There, hidden among the rocks, was a steady stream of water no wider than her pinky finger. Melissa opened her mouth and tilted her head so the water could drip in as it fell. It tasted dirty, but it would have to do. She set her canteen underneath to start filling, then retrieved her weapon and the rations that were skewered to the end of it.

By the time Melissa used up all of her move, she was in a hex with a sandy beach and a clearer sky. There were still a lot of large rocks about, but it wasn't as difficult to navigate. She made sure the hex was free of any hostile units before collecting up more scraps of driftwood and beach grass to make a pitifully small fire. As the sun set and the moon lit up the sky, Melissa managed to turn her collection of edibles into a small meal of crabby pâté and sponge kabobs. Something she still didn't like the taste of, but was much more palatable than eating them raw.

The sound of waves washing ashore eventually lulled Melissa to sleep, where she had dreams about what she may come to find tomorrow.

Spoiler: show

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     Post Posted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:53 am 
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    Print Book 2 & Draw Book 3 Supporter This user has been published! Pin-up Calendar and New Art Team Supporter Here for the 10th Anniversary Has collected at least one unit Erfworld Bicycle® Playing Cards supporter
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    Melissa Ray

    Melissa woke just before dawn and stretched her muscles in the early morning light. She was full of sand and her clothes were still damp in places, but she was alive. She gathered up her things, which consisted of her trident and two cold, unappetizing sponges left over from last night’s kabobs, then stood and waited for the start of turn. She was a barbarian, so she should be first in the turn order.

    All of a sudden the grime was removed from Melissa’s newly dried clothes, her hair was straightened out, and even her mouth tasted fresh and clean. The turn had started.

    The cliffside that had followed the water’s edge was no more than a small wall of rock here. One she could easily scale. Melissa decided heading inland was probably a better bet for finding rations than staying on the beach. She headed that direction, away from the sun.

    The next hex was nothing but sand and a large expanse of beach grass as tall as herself. And the hex after that, she found herself standing on a beach once more. For an instant Mellissa thought she may have gotten turned around and was back where she started, but her mental map assured her she hadn’t. Also, the sun was still at her back and this beach had dunes rather than the large rocks she had left behind. This was definitely not the same shoreline as before. It was merely very close by.

    “This is… troubling.” The further she could go, the more chances she had to find foods to sustain her. And water hexes were not somewhere she could go. She was neither a water capable unit nor a flyer, which meant that her possible directions of travel were just cut in half. She could go north, toward the rocky cliffs where she had popped and had already explored some of the hexes, or she could go south, where all she could see from here was more beach and water beyond the dunes.

    With hands on her hips, Melissa stared out at the water for a while as she pondered what she should do.

    “Indecision is not the correct decision,” she declared, then headed south.

    She took a zigzag path from shoreline to shoreline, and scanned the sand and surf for anything she could throw her trident at. She wasn’t having much luck. When the sand strip narrowed enough so that she could walk along both beaches in the same hex, Melissa tried casting her Findamancy on the water several times, incanting “Kannizzati” in an attempt to Find elusive fish. But it was no use. There were no fish to be found and now her meager amount of juice was completely drained.

    At one point the sand disappeared completely and Melissa had to wade across waist deep saltwater in order to reach the next sand bar. The land eventually widened out again, but not much. When her move was just about used up and she still hadn’t managed to find anything to sustain her, Melissa began to worry. She climbed a dune and passed into the final hex for the day, her move now reduced to zero. If there was nothing here, she would likely starve and disband. Her stale sponges she had saved would not be enough to keep her from disbanding.

    The Findamancer had been watching her feet as she climbed the dune, so when she reached the top and looked up, she couldn’t help but inhale gleefully. In the sky, high above a single palm tree growing at an angle out of the sand, there was a lone seegull floating in the breeze. Melissa pulled back her arm and aimed her trident, then let loose. The weapon flew through the air on a direct course for her intended target. But then it curved downward and landed in the sand about ten paces away. She had no juice left to add to her strike, which meant it wouldn’t Find its target any better than if a basic infantry unit had thrown it. And she didn’t have the proper special for this type of ranged attack.

    Melissa tried a few more times anyway and never even came close to hitting the feral bird. The gull merely screeched in total ignorance. She decided it was a good idea to stop trying when she threw the trident straight up and it almost impaled her own foot on the way back down. Dragging the weapon behind her in the sand, Melissa walked over to the shade of the palm tree and plopped down on the beach. She lay back in the sand and the seegull screeched several more times, inadvertently taunting the weary Findamancer.

    “Shut your beak hole!” Melissa screamed up through the treetop. Then her eyes widened as she spotted three round orbs hanging high up on the tree. This tree was a cocoa nut palm tree!

    In a heartbeat Melissa was on her feet again. She used her trident to lengthen her reach and attempted to knock a cocoa nut loose, but she was too short. Even when she jumped she was still several feet below it. She tried throwing her trident at these since they were closer and stationary, unlike the gull. The first two times all she managed to do was knock some dried leaves onto the sand, but on her third attempt she managed to hit a nut square on.

    But it still didn’t fall off the tree and now her trident was stuck to it. “Of course it’s stuck. Why wouldn’t it be?” Melissa sighed, then took a moment to assess the situation. It would do her no good to mope. Eventually she came to the conclusion that she should attempt to climb the tree. She walked to it’s base.

    “Well, learn by doing, I suppose.” She hugged the trunk tightly with her arms and legs, but didn’t make any progress upward and slowly slid downward until she reached the sand. “That didn’t work.” Next she tried a running start, running toward the slopped side of the trunk like it was a steep hill. Melissa made it a little bit higher, but then her foot slipped and she smacked her face into the trunk. She coughed a few times before spitting out half a tooth. “Rrr, stupid tree!” In a fit of frustration Melissa punched the tree, but quickly regretted it. She was not the winner of that engagement.

    The seegull screeched again and Melissa could swear it was laughing at her. On some level she knew that just wasn’t true, but she didn’t care. She was determined now. Kicking off her boots, she stretched her muscles and prepared to give it another go. Slowly, cautiously, Melissa placed a bare foot on the tree trunk. It felt a bit slippery, so she tried a different angle. Sideways felt the most stable, surprisingly. Next she put her hands on the sides of the trunk, but quickly realized she had a better grip if she put them on the far side of the tree. Using her legs to push off in order to keep her hands tight, and using her arms to pull herself in to keep her feet tight seemed to be her most successful option for scaling the palm tree. Ever so carefully, Melissa made her way up the trunk.

    Many minutes later she reached the top, stopping just under the leaves, Melissa was barely three times as high up than if she were standing on the ground, but she still found the change in altitude dizzying. She was not used to it. Now gripped tightly to the tree trunk, she ventured an arm out toward the handle of her trident. Her fingertips touched it. They wrapped around it! She had-

    “Awwgh, awwgh!” A flurry of feathers were in Melissa’s face before she knew what was happening. Apparently the gull wanted some of what she had and wasn’t afraid to take it.

    “Ugh. Stop it! Go away bird!” She tried to fend off the bird but was having a tough time of it without losing her grip. And the cocoa nut still lodged on the end of her weapon made it unruly to wield. What felt like minutes but was probably only seconds passed by until Melissa finally made contact with her makeshift mace. The bird crumpled and spiraled to the sand below, squawking in pain the entire time. She could see it moving, but not much, and it certainly wasn’t flying up to bother her again.

    But it didn’t matter. The short scuffle had made her palms sweaty and tired her arms. She dropped the trident and held on tight, but it was no use. She slipped and fell from the tree to the sand below. The wind got knocked from the caster’s lungs as she landed square on her back, then just as her breath was coming back it got knocked away again from a falling cocoa nut to the stomach. The third and final nut landed no more than a hand width from her head. “Ohhh, not fun,” Melissa wheezed as she lay on the ground clutching her stomach and assessing the damage. She was injured, but barely. It was the temporary incapacitation that had made it seem so bad.

    “Awwgh…” the seegull complained weakly.

    “Quiet you. You could have gotten me croaked, you know.” Melissa stood up and brushed the majority of the sand off of her. Next she retrieved her fallen trident and pried her prize loose before turning her weapon on the bird she had injured. She walked toward it and pointed the trident at its head. The trident’s barbs hovered there and the seegull made no attempt to move away, probably because one of its wings and legs were bent at odd angles. She pulled her weapon up for a strike but held fast. After standing motionless for an awkward length of time, Melissa let the trident slump to her side.


    “Bahh, go ahead and live, you whiny bird. Just know that if all three nuts hadn’t fallen, I would be roasting you for dinner.” After taking a couple steps away, Melissa returned and kneeled down next to the bird. She then offered the gull one of her cold hard leftovers from yesterday’s sponge kabob. “I guess if I don’t feed you it’s as good as croaking you anyway.” The bird nipped at Melissa’s finger, drawing blood and causing her to drop the sponge. The seegull quickly gobbled it up off the ground.

    “Why you- I’m trying to help you!” Melissa held out her last sponge, this time extra cautiously so as to avoid getting nipped again. The bird ripped off a chunk and swallowed it, then plucked the last little bit from between Melissa’s fingers.

    “Awwgh, awwgh, awwgh!” the seegull screeched, begging for more.

    “Shut it,” Melissa commanded. This time it obeyed. For it was now a unit under her command. She was now responsible for two upkeeps instead of one, which mildly worried her. But only for the briefest period. “You know, if you don’t pull your weight, I’m still going to cook you.”

    She smirked at her own sense of humor as she walked over and picked up one of the nuts. The warm chocolate milk within could probably sustain her for one and a half turns. Maybe two if she gnawed cocoa shavings off the inside of the shell. Regardless, she would survive another turn, and she was no longer alone in this world either.

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