A little background:
Each Friday, the estimable Chuck Wendig posts a new Flash Fiction Challenge over on his blog, Terrible Minds. Because I haven’t done a lot of writing since I finished The Truth About Melbourne, I’m going to use Mr. Wendig’s prompts to help push myself back into it.
This week’s challenge is to go to Who the fuck is my #DND character?, and use whatever insane randomness it drops on me as the basis of a thousand word piece. And what I got was this:
You think your character is cool? My character is a fucking
brave Half-elf Barbarian from an illusory forest who wants to one day own their own ship
It still felt weird, each time he reached out and actually put his hand on living wood. Not as weird as the time the wood in question had been a treant – he still considered himself lucky that it had only shaken him up a little and thrown him a few yards – but still plenty weird. Leaning against the tree, half hidden behind it as he waited to spring the trap he had set, Daliser felt its solidity, and the slow, soft pulses of its sap moving within it.
Daliser’s parents hadn’t known what to do with him when he was born. His father was human, his mother an elf, and they both knew only too well that there was no place for a crossbreed with either of their peoples. So his mother had used her fey magic, and his father his ranger skills, and together they’d created Nowhere Forest, a tiny realm of mostly illusion that had housed the three of them until Daliser was old enough to leave it. His parents had taught him all they knew to teach – his mother the art of spellcrafting, his father the skills of hunting and trapping – for although the plants of Nowhere Forest were illusory, the beasts were real enough.
But more than their other teachings, Daliser loved the evenings, when his parents would tell him stories of the world beyond Nowhere Forest. In particular, they told him many, many tales of the seas. Of the magic of foam and spray, the song of the waves upon the sand, the cries of the seabirds and bewitching singing of all those who dwelt beneath the waves. So naturally, there was nothing Daliser wanted more than to see it for himself.
When he left home, he recalled his father’s advice about navigating, and moved steadily downhill until he found the dry creek bed at the gully’s bottom. He followed it downstream until it became a rill, then a stream, then a river. He passed villages and towns of men and halflings and minotaurs (the minotaurs cooked the best roasted pork he had ever eaten), until finally, one day as the dusk fell, he stood at the mouth of the river, gazing out upon the waves.
He had never felt so filled by sensation. The loud roaring sea was blood dark in the twilight. The noise seemed to resound deep in his chest, until it seemed his heart now beat in time with the waves. He inhaled deeply, and the salt tang filled his head and his lungs. He slipped off his boots and hose, and took a few steps into the waters. There were colder than he expected, but they pulled at him nonetheless.
Daliser could not swim, but in the days that followed, he taught himself whenever he could, and pestered strangers to instruct him whenever they were unwary enough to come near.
It wasn’t enough.
Daliser wanted more. He wanted not just to be in the ocean, but to be a part of it.
A fisherman told him of a far off isle, where it was said that mermaids would teach the secrets of breathing underwater in exchange for the kisses of men. Daliser wasn’t sure that a half-man such as himself would qualify, but the fisherman assured him that the fish ladies cared more for gender than race.
Unfortunately, the isle was considered unlucky by most mariners. The fisherman refused to take Daliser to it, and no other sailor he asked would agree to it either. In the end, Daliser realised that he would need his own boat. Something small enough to carry him easily, since he thought it unlikely that any crew would agree to sail to his proposed destination.
The next day, following directions the fisherman had given him, Daliser ventured into the workshop of a shipwright. The price was high, but not so high that a skilled hunter could not earn it in a season or two – less if he was lucky with pelts as well as meat.
But then the shipwright told him the bad news. Ships were made of wood. And wood was made of dead trees.
Daliser didn’t much care for that idea. His heart belonged to the sea, but trees and flowers and ferns and bushes seemed scarcely less marvelous to him. The idea of harming one was anathema to him. He took counsel with the treants, but they told him that there was no way to grow a living boat, and even if there were, it would soon die once removed from the soil. He spoke to blacksmiths, but none of them seemed willing to spend so much time on such a chancy venture – not even when Daliser recruited the shipwright to help him convince them.
And so Daliser hunted and trapped, hoping against hope to save so much money that even the most stubborn of blacksmiths would be persuaded to construct him a boat made all of metals. He studied the natures of metals, trying to determine the optimum combination of great strength, light weight and resistance to rust. He even spoke to the wandering wizards who occasionally visited the town, seeking a magical solution, but the only option that seemed at all likely to help was demon summoning, and Daliser was not that desperate.
So it is, every evening, that Daliser sits on the furthest rock from shore, blinking salt and spray from his eyes but never looking away, hugging his knees to his chest, and dreaming of the day that he will finally be one with the sea.