Chapter 1 - The Battle of Farshore; Aftermath

Lavinia emerged from the church with Diamondback and Liamae at her side. As they slowly walked giving Lavinia a chance to survey the damage, Saris rounded the corner of a building on his way back from relieving himself. He stopped, staring bug-eyed at Lavinia, his face ashen.

"I'm so glad you are alright," Lavinia said with a smile.

"You…You…" Saris stammered.

"Yes, it seems my wounds were great enough to render me useless in the final throws of the battle, but as you see, not beyond a healer's touch. The last thing I remember was administering the Healing Potion to you, so I am very relieved that effort was not in vain," Lavinia said as she stepped closer to Saris. "Have you been fully healed of your wounds? You really don't look well at the moment."

"Um…Yeah. I'm good. I just…Well, the last time I saw you…" Saris shook his head to stop the uncharacteristic babbling. "I'm glad to see you looking much better. Are you sure you should be up and about after…what happened?"

"Yes, Ken-ji advised that I should rest for the remainder of the day. I'm on my way back to the manor, which I am told is still standing. With the church filled with so many other wounded, I thought it best if I went home. There is much to rebuild," Lavinia said as she looked around at the damaged buildings.

Saris took that moment to look at her a bit more closely. He just couldn't believe that her charred flesh could have been healed so thoroughly. Diamondback shot him a scowl, and Liamae shrugged her shoulders mouthing the word lucky, as if she could guess his thoughts.

"Well, I better not keep you then, if you should be resting. I'll just go check in with Viselys and ,well, him anyway."

"Yes, I was told that Ken-ji will be preforming some form of reincarnation upon our fallen comrades. I'm unsure who he was going to begin with today," Lavinia said as she glanced back at the church. "I'll have the guest rooms prepared for those of you that were lodging at the Last Coconut."

"Sure. That sounds great. You go rest. After today, you've earned it," Saris said with an awkward smile.

As Lavinia continued on to her manor, Saris quickly headed for the church and marched right up to Viselys. "How in all the world did Lavinia survive?"

"Um…I do not fully understand the healing arts, but Ken-ji is quite skilled in healing where others have not been so." Viselys explained carefully.

"Yeah, but she was a cider! How did he cure THAT?" Saris persisted.

"Look, I don't really understand all the ins and outs of it, but he did for her. The others, however, won't be so fully restored. Remember? New bodies for them," Viselys said in an effort to end Saris' line of questioning.

"Hmph," Saris acknowledged. "Does he have to bring back Malfus?"

Viselys chuckled at that. "Has Amella returned to port yet?"

"No. With the pirate ships blocking the way she and the others are out there dealing with the prisoners and that mess. I should probably get out there and help, too."

Just then Ken-ji emerged from the anteroom with an unfamiliar gnome.

"Who is that?" Saris asked.

"What? You don't recognize me?" The gnome asked as he spun around in the remains of a shirt too big for him. "You think Amella will like the new me? I think there are some distinct advantages here I'd like to explore," the gnome said with a mischievous smile.

"Malfus?" Saris blurted in disbelief.

"How are you, Malfus? According to Ken-ji this wouldn't have worked if you weren't willing, but…" Viselys trailed off.

"Oh, sure. Alive's better than dead. Might have some more fun like this anyway. Probably going to be harder to rebuild the Last Coconut, being short-handed as I am now," Malfus said with a grin waiting for them to get it, but no one laughed.

"I'm not sure if this is better or worse than you being dead," Saris finally said.

"How so?" Malfus asked bewildered.

"Well, I wasn't necessarily looking forward to telling Amella you died. But this? I think it best you tell her yourself. She'll think I'm making it up or something."

"Yeah, probably right," Malfus said scratching his chin. "In the mean time I think I'd like to get myself properly clothed."

"Yes, we should see to finding you lodgings as well," Viselys said before turning to Ken-ji. "What about the others? You said you could do one a day. Should we do anything…special…with the bodies?"

"The one known as Vesserin Catherly has assured me that the bodies will be safe in the anteroom. After I explained what I was doing and that this was not the same as the Olman warriors, he seemed at peace with the idea," Ken-ji offered.

Over the course of the next few days as the reconstruction efforts began to take hold of the town, Ken-ji preformed his reincarnation spell bringing back Lefty, Tolin, Kaskus, Zan and to everyone's surprise (and a few stifled groans), Ornrik. With the new bodies, and in some cases new races, the newly risen had a lot of adjusting to do.

Lefty found himself literally a new man, marveling at his two perfectly clean hands. He was no longer the scraggly one handed former pirate. Of all the others, he was the one most blessed by this second chance for it gave him exactly that. The town's people were more willing to accept him, and this made it possible for him to find a place for himself at Farshore.

With the reincarnation of Tolin, Kaskus and Zan the Jade Ravens were in a position of reevaluation.

"I think we should take advantage of this opportunity to reestablish ourselves as Lady Vanderboren's personal guard," Tolin was saying. His new human body seemed to have had the effect of reawakening his loyalty, though strengthening his vanity was more likely.

"Look at me, Tolin! I'm half the man I was," Zan said with a frown. He had gone from being a half-elf to a halfling, and was none too pleased.

"Well, you've only ever been half of anything anyway," Kaskus said in an attempt at levity. "But seriously, Zan, it is no easier on me being a dwarf trapped in a human body. We will adjust. We took an oath to the lady and I see no reason that this should change that."

"Yeah, but you've never really had any second guesses or regrets on that count," Zan grumbled sullenly.

"Oh, Zan, you used to be so much more open to adventure," Liamae commented.

"Look, you! I don't even want to hear it! You're still you!"

"By the grace of S'Thar, yes," Liamae acknowledged before launching into an excited rundown of her opinion. "But had our places been reversed I still wouldn't bemoan the chance to experience life in another form. Think about it. There is so much for you to discover about your new form. It's almost like being given a new life with the benefits of retaining all that you have learned before."

"Make her shut up," Zan said looking at Kaskus.

Kaskus rolled his eyes. "She does have somewhat of a point."

"Yes," Tolin resumed. "We have a chance here to prove ourselves like never before. Lady Vanderboren is going to need us at her side as she stays to fulfill her responsibilities as mayor. Those other's will be sent on any number of errands and missions. They aren't the stay and live types. The lady needs those she can count on to stay closest."

"Like your chance of getting into her bed is any greater now," Zan grumbled under his breath, earning him a sharp look from Tolin.

"I've been giving that some thought," Liamae spoke up, earning her a shocked look from the men. She laughed before continuing. "No, not Tolin's conquest aims. I've been thinking about the others. I think I'd like to go along wherever they are going. There's some interesting luck working among them. Not that you haven't been lucky, but let's face it. If you guys are determined to stay by Lavinia's side then the likelihood of adventure for me goes down."

"Is that all you care about?" Zan blurted.

Liamae shrugged her shoulders. "Well, being free of your moodiness has it's own appeal."

Before Zan could respond, Kaskus intervened. "Calm yourself, Zan. Liamae, someday your luck is going to run out with all your adventuring."

"You think so?" She grinned. "Well, I've already out lived you all."

Kaskus sighed, whiled the others just frowned in disgust. "Fine. If that is where the path is taking you. We…" Kaskus paused to look at the other two before continuing, "I will miss you."

Liamae stood. "I know, old friend. We had some good times." She stepped forward to embrace the now human Kaskus. "You know, this is interesting. You being taller than me, and being so…manly."

Kaskus just chuckled. "You take care."

"How do you even know Lady Vanderboren will allow it?" Zan asked in his typically begrudging tone.

"I don't. But I'm betting on it because she's a woman, and technically I'll still be working for her, thereby breaking no oaths," Liamae smirked.

Tolin and Zan grumphed together. Kaskus just gave her an affectionate sad smile. "Always hedging your bets."

"It's good to have a bit of an idea of the odds when taking a risk."

"Go on then. See how your luck fairs without us," Kaskus said.

Elsewhere in the town Malfus wasn't having so fortunate a conversation.

"Amella, would you please talk to me a moment?"

Amella was quick walking with the now gnome Malfus toddling after her. "I have much to do. The harbor is still a complete mess."

"Blast it, woman! Why won't you spare me the smallest courtesy and slow down?"

Amella came to an abrupt halt with a heavy sigh. Then she watched with a less than tolerant look as Malfus struggled to catch his breath.

"I know I'm not the same, but we could still have some fun," Malfus said with an encouraging smile. "We were having a good time together."

Amella sighed again. "Look…Malfus," she seemed to struggle with acknowledging him. "The battle made me realize a few things." She paused again, obviously uncomfortable with being near him.

"Are you sure it isn't my new stature?"

Amella eyed him warily. "It doesn't help."

"Alright, but you could have just said so instead of making me chase you down. If you're ever in the mood for a drink, I'll be rebuilding the Last Coconut. You're welcome anytime," Malfus smiled, though Amella's less than warm response did sting a bit as he headed back in the direction he had come.

Amella took in a deep breath then began heading for the harbor once more, though at a more reasonable pace. She had just made the dock when Saris intercepted her. She stopped and was about to speak when he cut her off.

"Amella, can I just say something?" He began.

She closed her mouth and nodded.

"I very nearly died, and it made me realize a few things. Life is short and you have to appriciate it. I can't believe I just said that, but I've been thinking about you too. I was so glad you made it through the battle, and I want to make a real go of things with you. I just hope we can get past whatever made you hate me," Saris finished in a rush.

Amella stood silently for a moment. "OK."

"OK?" Saris asked in disbelief.

"Yes. OK," she smiled. "I'm glad you made it through, too. I just want to be sure that you know I can take care of myself. I don't need you or anyone to protect me."

"You've more than shown that." Saris took a step closer. "So…We're good?"

"As long as you realize and acknowledge that I am more than capable to take care of myself. I could take care of myself and the whole of you lot, too," she declared firmly.

Saris wisely kept his mouth shut. Amella was being more agreeable than he could have even dreamed. Since he had actually expected her to slap him or curse at him, this was great!

Having survived the wrath of the Crimson Fleet, the people of Farshore were slowly putting their lives back together. Buildings had been destroyed, but a community effort, aided by a good amount of magic, had Farshore looking better than before. However, with rumors spreading about the death of Lavinia's brother Vanthus, his involvement with the Crimson Fleet, and his demonic nature and the tales being exaggerated again and again, some had come to question Lavinia's right to lead the people of the colony, and whispers of a hidden fiendish taint in her soul and ties to the Crimson Fleet grew stronger every week. This slander was fueled in large part by not so secret whispers from those who had supported Meravanchi’s Mayoral bid, yet it still eroded Lavinia's authority in Farshore. It wasn't long before Lavinia heard the tales herself.

Realizing the impact the colonists' unease might have on her control over Farshore, Lavinia had no intention of letting the people dwell on fanciful conspiracies and rumored faults. To that end, she had a simple breakfast of toast, coffee, and boiled turtle eggs prepared, over which she describes her latest mission to Viselys and company, "In the past hours I've discovered that Farshore wasn't the only victim of the pirates' attack - it seems that my personal reputation also took a bit of fire. The people of Farshore have seen too much panic and death under my leadership, and the appearance of the pirates and Van-,"

Lavinia choked on the name, and took a moment to steady herself before continuing, "-the pirates and my brother startled them. Now some of the colonists claim that my family is cursed, while others whisper that I somehow orchestrated the attack."

Lavinia took a sip of her tea, then continued, “Although it aggravates me after all we've been through, I won't allow a few rumors to discourage me from my work here. Part of me even understands the people's concerns, and I'd like to do what I can to dissuade their fears. This would be where you come in.

"Along the north coast of the isle, a dragon turtle of gigantic proportions makes his home. The beast calls himself Emraag, but the locals know him as 'The Glutton.’ If we're to believe the rumors, it's a miracle that any of us are sitting here now, as the Glutton supposedly has a taste for ships and sailors. Yet apparently the thing's vices aren't limited to swallowing down whole crews. The Crimson Fleet made a deal with the creature, bribing it to leave their ships intact on their visits to Gallivant Cove. Lord Merivanchi, however, has refused to negotiate with monsters, apparently preferring that our supply ships be eaten and our people go hungry. Therefore, my thought to ease the concerns of the colonists is to appease the beast that's already caused them so much hardship. I'd like you to sail to the isle's northern shores and seek out Emraag the Glutton. I'll provide you with a cache of treasures to bribe the brute-a down payment on Farshore's ‘tribute’ to him, offered for the assurance that he leaves vessels flying my family’s colors be. If an agreement can be met, excellent. If not… well, I trust in your ability to conquer that arena as well.

“More to the point, there's the matter of the Crimson Fleet's interest in Gallivant Cove. According to logs and papers we've recovered from my brother's ship, the Brine Harlot, they've made several visits to a beach on the southern shore of the cove to meet with a group they call the 'Lords of Dread.' According to these notes, they've been purchasing large quantities of what they're calling 'shadow pearls.' I believe you've had some experience with these things before, as one of them was apparently the cause of the trouble at Kraken's Cove some months ago, just before your visit there. The thought of dozens of shadow pearls in the possession of the Crimson Fleet is chilling."

Putting her cup down, Lavinia looked to each of those seated with her in turn, “I know it's dangerous, dealing with such a beast, but if you can convince Emraag to accept our offer, you might even be able to learn a few things from him. In any event, securing the dragon turtle's goodwill should allow free access to the Lords of Dread. And it'd be a huge step in turning this colony from an isolated backwater into a destination for merchants from the world over. Therefore, I ask you this not just for myself, but on behalf of all the people of Farshore. Will you help?"

"Of course," Viselys said without hesitation. "How will we contact this Emraag?"

"I have obtained an instrument, a sea skirl, that I am told if played well by a skilled musician could appeal to the beast. This presumably would put him also in a positive frame of mind to diplomatic discussions, but again this is more speculative than actual knowledge of his predicted response," Lavinia said. "I'll leave the details of assembling the appropriate crew to you, though I'd like to put forth a recommendation for a former member of my Jade Ravens, Liamae Teslikaria. I believe you are familiar with many of her skills. She has expressed an interest in joining your party."

"Oh?" Viselys and Saris said in unison then looked at one another.

"She is a sorceress of sorts, isn't she?" The former dwarf, now human Ornrik asked.

"Yes," Lavinia answered slowly. "Though she does also process some magics that are more Clerical in nature, I believe."

"Well, I think that's probably a good thing, her going along instead of me," Ornrik said by way of announcement. Earning him a quizzical look from Viselys and Saris. "I wasn't sure how to say it anyway, but this being human thing is more adjustment than I had thought. I've been talking to Kaskus and with us being so similarly afflicted…" He turned to Ken-ji, "Not that I'm ungrateful for what you did, my feline friend." Then turned back to address the rest, "But well, I think it'd be better if I stayed here."

Viselys and Saris both accepted Ornrik's decision, each hiding his relief of being free of the meddlesome dwarf…er, man. Immediately following breakfast the men set about making preparations for the new mission.

Continue to Chapter 2...

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