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2013 Grab Bag

TrollHammer

Here are the elements for the first Grab Back of 2013. I'll change the title to reflect time period depending on what happens.



Something Spooky

Try

Something New

Long Distance Relationship

an unexpected bath




All works must be related to Elfquest, whether canon-based, original character, alternate universe, or whatever. Writings must contain all the above elements. Art can either contain all the elements, or illustrate one of the writings.

RedheadEmber

Connected



*Yes, beloved. I am here,

You never have to ask.

Though our bodies may be far apart,

our souls are ever near.*



*I know, my love. I know,

I know.

Just feel so filled with joy.

Like I could fly and touch the moons,

If I only tried.*



*No, please my lifemate.

Don't do that!

Less I should die of grief!*



*Klynn, my love,

don't sound so spooked!

I could not ever leave!

Within me a new life grows,

our sweetest baby girl.*



*Ah, yes!

Our little Korafay.

Our child of sea and sun.

Not long now, my sweetest love;

we'll hold her in our arms.

Then our hands shall touch with deepest love,

our eyes shall meet with jo...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!!*



*KLYNN! BELOVED!

ARE YOU WELL?

YOU SOUNDED SO ALARMED!*



*I am well. My love.

Quite okay!

Just a little drenched.*



*Silly lifemate, watch your steps!*

TrollHammer

I have been missing your poems Redhead! So timely, too!

RedheadEmber

Smile



Well... I might have been inspired by recent events!

Also... the Long Distance Relationship bit really called for something about Sunstream and Brill.

Cleopatra

I agree with you Red Smile

TrollHammer

horribly rough, and there's going to be some issues down the road when I explore this new clan, but bear with me....



Foam rocked the ship as waves crested over the sideboards. The captain was not having a good day. Getting your rudder stuck on a reef was no way to gain the confidence of your sailors, even if one of the more incompetent members of that crew had been the cause of the grounding. He futilely heaved on the rudder-wheel in an attempt to free the ship. Again, the only result was that Foam continued to rock the ship from side to side.The ores were only a minor aid. A few stout Trolls poking at the submerged rocks with the long sticks of wood were unable to budge the ship. It was quite the predicament.



The sea was already black, speckled with grimy looking yellow bubbles. The captian’s namesake lapped at the tops of the rocks in between wave crests, and swirled mockingly. It would be a minor thing to just step out… ten Trolls would be enough… step out on those rocks and shove. The boat was light, but fifty Trolls, ores, tools, weapons, and provisions pressed the rudder down on the submerged reef. Between the lightening of the weight of ten Trolls, and the combined strength of ten backs, the boat would be free.



But as the sky darkened further into night, such a venture would be the death of those ten crewmates. The only think keeping these briny waves from freezing solid was the wind, moving them around, keeping them from settling enough to form ice. The rails attested to this: the spray had formed a thick coating of ice, and more was starting to form on the deck. Captian Foam assigned two crew members to start cracking the ice off the rails again, as it appeared they had nothing better to do.



This was bad. It was one thing to be stuck on a reef, to the shame of the mistake, but to be stuck out in the reef away from safe harbor at night was deadly. High tide was hours away, and it would bring freedom, but the overcast skies, pitch black shores, dark icebergs, and fierce waves formed a chaos of hazards that would be unseen in the dark of night. Foam could hope that someone in the harbor would notice they hadn’t come in and start a fire, but assuming this storm was as large as it seemed, such a fire would be hard to start and hard to see. Of course, that is if they could even negotiate the reef safely to get within eyesight of the inlet where their boat was berthed.



Indeed, at this point, time had about run out. If they did not free the boat soon, they would need to find a way to anchor themselves to the rocks, to keep the ship from being smashed against them or get carried out to deep sea. He could see it now… the tide would come up, the boat would start to come loose, spin randomly away from the rocks, and he would lose all bearings. At that point, there was nothing to do but hope the waves carried them safely toward shore. He quickly took note of which way the wind was currently heading relative to the shore… cross-wise from left to right as he face the dimming shore.



A thought came to him of what last thing to try before giving up and dropping an anchor in the reef. He tied a rope off to the tiller and worked it around a nearby post. He ordered the crew to stop pushing the rocks with the ores and join him at the far front of the boat. He hoped the shift of weight would help to lift the rudder off of the reef.



He could feel the wood of the rudder start to grind on the rocks, with the waves starting to push the boat free. He tugged on the rope to help work the rudder loose. His heart started to pound with the suspense. Either this would work, or….



He noticed that the rudder didn’t return to center when he relaxed his pull on the rope. It seemed to drift free, and hopeful, he cautiously stepped toward the rear of the craft. The boat rocked as it normally did in the waves. As he peered into the darkening surf, he gladly watched the rocks drift away.



Foam quickly ordered the crew back to their rowing positions. The cross-wind could be negotiated under normal circumstances to bring them back into the cove, but with darkness on their heels, they needed to make landfall fast. They would not be sleeping in their beds tonight, but at least they would not be crushed in the reef, or carried out to sea.



They rowed toward shore. Its form was more of a suggestion on the horizon, and a mist had cropped up to further obscure the beach. The eeriness was suddenly punctuated by a far-off bolt of skyfire. Such things were not unknown, but rare, especially during this turn of the winds.



Foam hoped that no new calamities would befall them before night completely fell. The wind seemed to be building, and soon he would have to shorten the sail to keep control. He stayed calm, though. This was not his first time at sea, nor was it the first time he had been aboard ship when trouble struck. Foam had spent many bone chilling days and nights on the water, but this was the first time he was forced to head for the outer shore as a leader. It would be deemed fitting back home that he should spend the night exposed on the beach, but his crew would not be as forgiving. He may even be forced to step down as Captain.



Though failure did frustrate him, he found that as long as he would be able to stay aboard ship, able to ride the waves and occasionally pester the neighboring Tall Ones, he would feel little grief over the loss of his position. He had heard of the way the Tall Ones dealt with failure of leadership: the deposed leader was usually killed in one grotesque way or another, their lives ended in the most shame-inducing ways conceivable. But the sea Trolls Foam belonged to were different. Rotation of leadership was common. Those that proved themselves worthy of a position kept it. Those that fell short stepped aside and let someone else try, and found some other niche to fill. Foam felt part of the sea, though, so it had seemed natural that he should lead his own boat. Leadership had its responsibilities, though. One of which was to be held accountable for the failures of those you were charged with. When the Watch failed to notice the turbulent water covering the rocks, which had resulted in their entrapment on those rocks, it was unfitting for Foam to pass the blame onto the Watch, even if they had dozed off. A firm lecture and reassignment of duty to something they were more capable of, and that was the end of it. A captain had to know his men better, and assign jobs as they needed to be assigned.



This careful weighing of the responsibilities of leadership was a way of life since the clan had broke off from the Others, finding the oppression of Guttlekraw to be too intolerable. In the many eight-eights of eight since they had settled here, not a single Troll had even considered forcing their control over the clan, much less declare themselves King. Few even thought about the Others; it was nearly impossible to keep up long distance relations with kin who’s leader ate your messengers.



The crew continued their steady rhythm of rowing, except for the two assigned to Watch, and the captain himself, who steadied the tiller and kept them along the quickest path toward shore. The starboard-side Watch called out, suddenly, motioning a rapidly approaching rock sticking not too far away. The captain ordered the port side ores to hold, and the starboard side to reverse, hoping the wind would swing them around the rocks. The gambit paid off, and he felt only a slight rub of the wooden keel on submerged stone.



He could feel the shore beckon to him from beyond the fog. If he remembered right, there should be a fairly sandy beach stretching along this part of the shore, but these rocky reefs told him there was the definite possibility that the landing would be quite hazardous.



He hoped that the building fog was a sign the shore was close by. It had darkened quite a bit more, and Foam knew that if he had one of the lanterns lit, he wouldn’t even be able to see as far as the bow, much less anything farther than that. The dim glow of the fog around him really didn’t offer much more than the pitch black it would have looked like with even a single lamp, but it gave the impression that more could be seen. He hoped the Watch was having better luck.



The building waves made the boat start to undulate, and promised of a beach or sandbar. The flat bottomed vessel was designed for river travel, even though they were fairly seaworthy in calm seas. The hull was fairly smooth on the bottom, with a keel that hardly protruded. This helped the boats make shore landings without getting hung up too bad on the sand bars farther out, even if the rudder would still get hung up on a rock or two here and there. The flat surface tended to cup the water, so that if they did get hung up on a sand bar, the waves would help push them over it.



The boat slammed to a stop so suddenly, one of the Watch fell over the side and into the icy sea. Shouts of alarm and other things you could expect punctuated the ensuing chaos. The captain picked himself up off the deck and tried to make out what had happened. The other Watch was trying to help his crewmate out of his unexpected plunge before he froze to death. In some ways it was debatable if it was worth saving him: it was so cold he would probably freeze to death in minutes now that he was wet, whether he remained in the water or not. There was no fire to warm him.



Foam rushed to the front of the vessel and peered down into the darkness to discern what they had hung up on. He ordered a fire made and a lantern lit. There was no point in trying to beat nightfall at this point. He held the other Watch steady to keep him from falling in himself, and with a final surge the wet crewman was out of immediate peril, though it would remain to be seen if he would survive his bath. Several crew rushed to cut his damp clothes from his body and dry him with blankets.



The captain was handed a lantern, finally, and he held it over the bow. He had already seen the damage on the inside of the ship, water starting to seep through the cracked wood. It was as he had feared: a large crag of rock sticking out of the surf, and at the moment the boat was caught on it. He carefully tried to access the damage to the boat to decide what to do next.



He set a crewmate to start packing wool into the cracks in the wood. It wouldn’t completely repair the damage, but it would slow the flow of water. Being made of wood, the boat would never completely sink, but the icy water was death to any it touched. Fingers and toes could freeze and crack off before a sailor could fully grasp what was going on. The Trolls were hardened against some of the coldest winters imaginable, but get one wet and it was a whole different story. The Tall Ones down the coastline didn’t dare traveling up this way for fear of cold seas and weather, but when necessary the Trolls braved the elements and risked a frigid death.



Lights out on the waves the night before had drawn Foam and his crew out this time. Whether it was a ship of fellow Trolls that had lost their way long enough ago that they had been given up for lost, or a boat full of Humans that had gotten caught in the sea currents and were either dead or dying soon anyway, it was considered worthy enough to risk a quick trip out to find out what it was. Though it would seem cruel to the humans to know what happens to such boats when they are captured this far away from home, the Trolls were not, in fact, attempting any sort of cruelty. It was well known that a Human boat could not make a trip back from this point with survivors, especially during this time of the seasons. It was a week’s hard rowing against tide, current, and wind to get back into their port from here, and the small, frail looking boats usually didn’t have enough crew to keep them from getting pulled out to sea, much less provisions to last them a week of cold days and nights in rough seas that would try its best to kill them in the loneliest and painful ways possible. So the Trolls had started to take care of the Tall Ones as they could for a variety of reasons.



One was to ease their suffering. The Human crew was going to die anyway, unable to return home, so the Trolls would kill them mercifully, instead of letting them freeze or starve to death. At one time, attempt was made at returning them to their port or rescuing the Tall Ones, but in the end it always resulted in the death of Trolls. They were either attacked when they approached the Human port, or were attacked when the rescued victems attempted to “escape” or when they lashed out at the Trolls for being Trolls. Seeing the only other course of action to be allowing the Humans to die of exposure, the Trolls used a quick jab of sharp brightmetal put an end to the matter.



Another reason the Trolls visited the Human ships was because the Humans always brought the strangest things with them when they left port. Tools, gold, mechanations, fine cloth, exotic foods, and other things could be found. Occasionally, a cask of fine drink would still remain unmolested among the items the Tall Ones kept with them.



More vaguely, there was some small amount of self preservation tied into all of this. Ages ago, the Trolls attempted to settle closer to the Tall ones as it was far easier living down the coast where it was a bit warmer year around, but the Humans attacked them quite frequently once they knew the Trolls had moved in. The superstitious lot seemed to attribute bad fishing, bad weather, and all manner of other things that made their lives uncomfortable on the Trolls. Foam’s ancestors made note to keep their distance. The Humans would come after them when they moved, however, and though the Humans would not create new settlements or ports or anything else to show for their efforts, they drove the Trolls as far up the coastline as they could. The Trolls finally drew the line at one point, though, and now any human, in a boat, on foot, or otherwise, that approached via land or sea was destroyed on discovery. The legend of forbidden areas kept the Humans at bay.



There was always the chance that it was a Troll ship, a crew that had had to beach themselves down the coast line for repairs (much like Foam presently feared he might have to do), escaped crews that had been captured by Humans, or simply boats that had gotten lost. A good crew in a well stocked boat could survive for quite some time if it was necessary, but once the stars or coastline fell out of sight, a crew may as well consider themselves dead. There was no form of ‘dead reckoning’ for them to fall back on once their reference points were missing, and if they were out away from the coast at night anyway, the weather was probably too poor to see the stars anyway. Clouds covered the sky nearly half the seasons.



The boat Foam had come across was pitiable. Even by Human standards, the boat was small and had had three men aboard. Two had already died of exposure, and the last would not have survived the following night. It appeared to be a sort of fishing party that had been blown out to sea, as they had nothing with them except a few empty wine-skins and some barbed hooks on string, as well as the single lantern that had drawn the Trolls out to see what it was. It would hardly have been worth leaving port for in the best of weather. In the current light, Foam would reconsider taking on such jobs in the future.



A larger-than-average wave lifted the boat and spun it around the rock. Foam tried to keep an eye on the rock in the dark with his lantern as he shouted orders, trying to stabilize their spin and keep a rough idea of which way he had been going. The waves were cresting, now, and had a visible roll to them when Foam held the lantern over them, which was definitely a good sign.



At this point, there was little point in posting a Watch, so the previous Watch member that was still ambulatory attempted to warm his freezing crewmate while the rest of the crew worked the ores. Foam held little hope for his soaked crewmember, but held slightly more hope for the rest of them. It felt right: the waves, the way the boat moved… it all felt likely that they were not headed out to deep sea. If he was wrong about that, he deserved to be carried out to sea anyway.



But the smooth stop the boat started to make confirmed his suspicions, and the surging waves buffeted the stern as they tried to push the boat up over the sandbar. It was a sandbar, he realized, as he noted the roar of crashing waves on a sandy shore not a minute’s walk from where they were. The boat broke free of the sandbar and continued moving in towards the shoreline. They slid over two more sand bars before finally coming to rest on the beach proper. They used the ores and heaved in time with the wves to attempt to get the boat as far out of water as was possible before disembarking. No sense in getting anyone’s feet wet at this point!



The bow was now firmly on relatively dry ground, and Foam sent half the crew overboard with ropes to try and pull the boat farther out of the surf. The boat by itself was light enough that a full crew could lift it and carry it a short distance, but until it was out of the water enough to make sure it would stay beached when the crew got out to keep it from floating away, as well as keep the crew’s feet dry, it needed to be farther out of the water.



Half an hour later, the boat was fully beached and tied off to a sturdy looking tree and the crew took their half frozen crewmate in their arms and carried him out into the trees and tall grasses to break the wind. They carried the brazier of hot coals with them and started loading it with drift wood. Once the fire caught, they tried to coax as much warmth back into their fallen crewmate as they could.



Foam wished he could relax. To an extent they were far safer than they were at nightfall, but they were far from out of harm's way. If the storm gathered enough strength it would bring the crashing waves over the surf-line and down on them, and it would be a quick, cold death. Even with the sails propped up into makeshift tents, exposure alone might kill a few of them tonight. In the sea, there was something to do to try and survive. Here, there was nothing to do but wait and hope the storm didn’t bring something else to devastate them.



As he stared into the blazing fire, idly going over what repairs would need to be made to the ship in the morning, Foam realized that it was going to be a long, sleepless night waiting for that morning.