- Markshire PCs:
“What those things?” Sun-Ok stood with Rastnuh looking down on the corpses around her, and the litter of leaves and twigs broken off by Marco’s longsword. Marco had run off to help finish the fighting around the campfire after Rastnuh suddenly appeared next to them, looking very determined with a large cooking knife held in his three fingers. She avoided looking at Johannsen’s body—he’d been forced back to his knees and taken a club to the head, where it was still stuck, held by the arm of the creature she’d struck in the mouth. The creature’s lower half was a few meters away, testament to Marco’s rage, which had transformed the moments of terror into a lingering if victorious depression.
“We’s calls ‘em pygmies, the dogs thornies,” the gnome said. “Don’t really know if they’re plant or animal—jes’ know they don’t like us comin’ ‘ere. Well,” he paused, “also know they don’t seem t’ mind arrows ‘n such.”
“So why give Sun bow?” She gripped it tightly, still.
The gnome glanced up at her briefly, then smiled. “Ere’s other stuff in t’ woods, too.” He nodded at the vegepygmy torso nearby. “Damn fine shot that, though.”
She knelt to touch Johanssen’s still-warm hand, then rose and looked around. The sailors asleep on the other flank—Gromssh, Narjvik, and Rennie—had been overwhelmed. They were all from the other watch, and Sun hadn’t had much chance to know them. The main attack around the campsite had been slowed by the scattered crates and casks storing the gathered foodstuffs. The sailors there had lost another two men besides Snargill, but the entire attacking force lay in piles of foliage on the ground. A couple of the piles smoldered where sailors had grabbed branches from the fire to use as weapons.
“They come again?”
“Probly not. And Lars’ll be back with the others in a few hours.” The gnome saw Marco coming back up the beach, glanced at the horizon, and turned back toward the campfire. “Be dawn pretty soon, better start cookin’.”
[subsequent dialogue in the elven tongue]
“Seven dead out of twelve. Cap’n ‘ll be none too pleased.” Marco nodded at the undercrewed boat struggling in from the ship. “Won’t be on it, ‘course; Thrakh’ll stay aboard, but a short crew could make the Crossing a bit dicey.” He paused, quietly thoughtful. “Or maybe not…”
Sun picked up Johanssen’s broadsword and started pushing the enemy remains away from his body and their bedrolls. “So,” Marco said, “you don’t want to talk about what happened?”
Sun-Ok looked up at him, a degree of anguish in her eyes, and a hint of anger. “What’s there to talk about? They attacked us, and this bow and I could do nothing to prevent this…” she said, pointing at Johanssen’s crushed head. She saw no malice in Marco, and her tone softened. “I have hunted before—and harvested—not sure which this is, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen death, if that’s what you’re talking about.”
He studied her, but saw no pretense. How…strange. “Sorry about that—could’ve given you a sling, too, I guess, or a sword.” He patted the hilt of his own.
“You’re good with that.”
“Well, when I get mad I can flail around pretty well, I guess. And you…” he paused. “At least you stopped that bugger from shooting any more of those damn darts.”
She smiled, heartened by his words. “Tut-tut, Marco. Such language.”
He reddened, then suddenly remembered to reach up and remove the dart from his numb shoulder. He turned it over in his hands and gathered his thoughts, calming down after the thrill of battle.
“No, that’s not what I meant—I kind of assumed you’d seen trouble before.” He gestured vaguely around the camp. Sun-Ok looked up, curious. She really didn’t know—very strange. “When I told you to run, you turned toward the fire, then dove behind that little boulder.” She nodded, and he went on. “I was looking right at you—and you vanished, just like Rastnuh but without a potion.” Her eyes, in the space of an instant, widened in surprise, brightened, and then clouded. “How’d you do that?”
“Really?! Hmmm.” She was excited, a bit distracted as she explained. “Remember, I told you about the Serpents? About my aptitude? Among my people—among the elf-bloods—membership in the Serpents is largely by possession of innate ability like what you saw…That’s then refined through training and further selection happens during that process. But without training, those of us with the aptitude merely experience it in times of great stress, fear, or danger—we can’t control it. Some of us are even born in that state—I wasn’t—the fear and shock of delivery triggering it like some kind of reflex. Without training, though, it’ll just always be an involuntary thing…” She trailed off, slightly saddened. “And with me, at least, it’s not invisibility—it’s more like…the chameleon. I remember subconsciously thinking, as I saw the melee by the fire, ‘rock,’ and I must have changed somehow to resemble the rock…”
Marco looked at her, understanding her loss but more concerned with her present and future. After a few moments, he spoke again. “Sun, whatever it is—however it works—don’t tell anyone else about it. Ever.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore, but why not?”
“It’s understandable when a mage casts an invisibility spell or some gnome drinks a potion, but people don’t walk around like that, certainly not just at will. It’d make other folks fearful, suspicious, hateful…You’d never be trusted.”
A few minutes lapsed, both quietly cleaning up, then they buried Johanssen. As they marked his grave in silence, Marco at last snorted a little near-derisive laugh, “Not like bein’ a chameleon’s goin’ to help in the Crossing anyway—and now we’ve only Lars and the cap’n what can take the helm.” He seemed to share in her fatalism if not her sense of loss, but then changed tone. “Let’s see what that gnome’s made for breakfast.”