Actions

Work Header

Greenbottle's Adventures

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

Greenbottle’s Tragedy

It is either him or me, life or death. I hastily climb to the top of the nearest maple tree, leaping to the next and then dropping to the ground in a tuck and roll. I grab my grappling hook, sling it to the lowest branch of the sycamore, and I swing myself over to a large boulder.

This horack has ugly dull green skin, coarse dark hair, and terrifying beady red eyes, and make matters worse, his has horrible protruding, tusk-like teeth.

He has muscles larger than my head. his broad shoulders are thick, and his brawny hips is giving him a slightly lurching gait. This will be one fantastic kill.

After performing some marvelous acrobatics, I manage to move around to an advantageous locale, ensuring that I have cover and concealment. Whoosh, I sling a small stone toward my aggressor. The stone whistles softly through the air; thunk. Without fail, I never miss my target. The hideous horack now has a humongous pebble deep within his temple.

“Naturally, I have slain the beast.” Unfortunately, I’m daydreaming again, and I do nothing more than smash the bulls-eye I ingrained on my favorite hardwood many ages ago. The day will come when I will be able to put my admirable skills to the test. I hear a familiar chuckle behind me. It’s my best friend.

“I see you are slaying horacks again, Jillian.” she says. Rosara is her name. We are a couple quart girls that live in the metropolis of Summerharbor. We are currently outside the immense city in our favorite dwelling, that consist of a few grand boulders, and plenty of spacious fields of immense blades of grass, but what really makes this place ours are the several large trees, one that has my bullseye for practicing, and the other which has a heart with JG + RS with an arrow through it. These are mine and Rosara’s initials, I know this is usually the sign you see when two people are madly in love, and they want to marry each other someday, two women madly in love with each other and getting married, hehehe, who has ever heard of that; that’s just silly.

We’re playing with each other like we do every day in which (CHOOSE NAME LATER), the sun goddess, bestows upon us her blessings. We are still young, and we've been best friends since the day her parents bought the house next to ours nearly fifteen years ago.

Quarts are so named because an average quart is approximately ¼ the mass of an average human. Several centuries ago, quarts were known as quarterlings, but the name has become shortened.

We are almost at the age of adulthood. Unlike humans, who are allowed to make ‘adult’ decisions when they are fifteen years old; quarts are not considered adults until the age of twenty.

Being a quart woman in a human’s world is difficult. Not only do you have to worry about the gender barrier, you have to worry about the race barrier as well. Our human brothers and sister generally look down on us, and we are discriminated against.

Even though public schools for children are a relatively new concept, Summerharbor has the largest public school on the continent. While everyone my age attended the school, I am one of the few women to break the glass ceiling, by attending to the University of Summerharbor. I am also the youngest girl to do so, a fact I am very proud of; I earned my degree when I was only sixteen years old.

Even though Rosara is my best friend, if we continue along our desired paths, we will soon go our separate ways.

Rosara desires to fall in love, and live out the rest of her days in the dull and boring role of child bearing, and being submissive to her husband.

Myself, I don’t desire any of that. I am a feminist by nature. My desire is to prove women are equal to men. The most effective way for a women to prove she is equal to man is to become a distinguished explorer. We live in the “Age of Exploration” after all.

It’s generally true men are stronger than women. However, women are far more intelligent than men, of which I am living proof. I am the youngest person offered a teaching position at Summerharbor public school, but I refused the position because many of the students would be my age. I didn’t want to have my friends referring to me as ‘Miss Greenbottle.’ It would be a shame to misuse my talents by standing behind a podium, teaching a bunch of peers, that would rather be somewhere else. That is not what I should waste my time doing.

Maybe I will accept the position in a couple of years. I want to travel the world a little bit first. I’m not saying I am every deity’s gift to the world, but I’m positive the universe predestined me to be an explorer. Slaying horacks, goblyns, possibly a dragon or two; the rush of adrenaline sounds amazing. I want to liberate stolen relics. I want to discover hidden temples. I want to see signs upon the road outside the city, Summerharbor, Birthplace of Jillian Greenbottle. I desire to open up the Summerharbor Greenbottle Museum of Natural History.

“Earth to Jillian.” Rosara says.

“Sorry, I was…”

“Daydreaming about being a famous explorer. Yeah I know. You’ve been doing that about a hundred times a day recently.”

*****

The sky is getting murky, so we head back into town. I hear unfamiliar noises behind us. A horack, along with a couple of goblyns, are running across the bridge just outside of our city. Even though this happens several times a year, this is my first time experiencing it. They have weapons drawn. Judging from appearances, they are ravenous; it must be a rough day for hunting prey if they’re at the point of desperation that they’re attempting to attack the city.

Yes! This horack looks exactly like the one I have been fantasizing about killing for who knows how many years. This is the moment I have been waiting for. I am anxious to earn my first kill. I stop walking, and prepare to stand my ground. I hastily put a stone into my sling. “Run back to town, and call the city guard.” I demand. “I’ll hold them off.

“You’re crazy if you think I am going to allow you to fight them alone.”

“I’ll be fine, just hurry!” Rosara does as I request. She runs toward the gate. I turn toward our unwelcome guests. They are indeed hostile, the horack chucks his spear. It flies several meters over my head. This idiot can’t hit the broadside of a barn.

Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swish. The stone is air borne. It does nothing more than bounce off his chest. I’m sure it stings, and he’ll have a large welt later, but it does nothing to ensure my survival.

The horack screams out ferociously. Great. Now he’s angry. Now is not the time to panic. I place another stone into my sling. I am about to sling the stone toward the horack, but the goblyns are a couple feet in front of me. One goblyn lunges at me with his spear. I dodge easily, grab his spear with my non dominant hand, and counter-attack with the loaded sling. Thump! I’m sure he isn’t dead, but he’ll be out for a while. The second goblyn tackles me to the ground. My blue-frame glasses fly off my face. He is much stronger than me and I'm unable to escape his grasp.

The price of fame. Maybe I should rethink my desire to be an explorer; no wonder most end up dead within their first month. This is my first battle and I worry I will too. NO! My will is stronger than theirs; I refuse to let a horack and a couple goblyns get in the way of my dreams.

The horack apparently doesn’t care about his goblyn companions, because he runs his sword through his back trying to stab me. Luckily he misses, and the dead goblyn can no longer fight. I push him off, and I come face to face with my soon-to-be living room rug.

The horack and I stare at each other. He’s probably thinking the same thing I am thinking. Who’s going to make the first move. The horack falls over, and even though my vision is blurry, I believe I see several arrows are in his back.

Members of the city guard run out the gate and ensure I am well. NO! It's not supposed to happen this way! I am supposed to be the hero.

I feel around on the ground for my rims. Yes. Found them.

I notice one of the guards stops next to a small body. ROSARA? I sprint to her side.

The spear must have been directed at her, not me. He must have done it a time or two, as the spear is placed perfectly between the shoulder blades, and protruding between her breast. I panic. “Everything is going to be all right, Rosara!”

‘Everything is going to be all right,’ might be the words coming out of my mouth, but the only thing going through my head is Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Rosara has minutes, maybe even seconds before she bleeds to death. I need to keep a clear head.

The guard picks up Rosara and informs me he will carry her to the nearest temple.

While enroute, Rosara requests a moment alone with me. I can’t believe it. Of all the times Rosara wants to be alone with me, why now? She’s going to die.

Rosara’s voice is very weak, and she needs to take a breath after each word. “Jillian, I, am, so, sorry.”

In contrast, I am speaking so fast, I cannot enunciate clearly. “NO! It’s not your fault! I’m the one that is to blame, I am the one that wanted to kill the horack.” I have blood all over my clothes, but I don’t care as long as she survives.

She is rapidly declining, she now needs to breath between each syllable, “We’ll, see, each, ot-- her, in, the, af-- ter, life.”

“Don’t talk like that Rosara you’re gonna be fine we’ll get you to the cleric, they’ll patch you right up.”

Her blood flow slows drastically. “I, love, you. Fare, well, my, friend.” She smiles at me, and then breathes her last.

“Rosara? Rosara? ROSARA!” THIS ISN’T FAIR! She is the one who wanted to live a long and peaceful life. I’m the one who craved a life of adventure. It should have been me who died in her arms.

I refuse to cry. I’m a strong independent woman. I cannot show weakness. I will not let others know I am in horrendous pain. I am ambushed by emotion, and unable to hold back my tears.

The guard bends down and picks her up. “Let’s continue toward the temple. There may be a healer there that has the ability to revive her.”

“Please do, I can’t imagine my life without her.”

The temple is within sight, and my eyes dry up. I know she will live again.

I have seen many temples in my life, but I have never taken the time to see the building for the temple is large and silver on the outside, I’m assuming the silver color is attract all sorts of visitors, whither the visitor is a faithful attendant, or frightened bystander such as myself.

We enter the temple, and the inside, is almost as warm as the outside, “we need some help over here!” The guard shouts.

A couple of shrine maidens respond to the call. One grabs a ‘Potion of Cure Critical Wounds,’ and inserts it into Rosara’s mouth. She has trouble getting the liquid down Rosara’s throat.

“Abigail, is there a cleric in the temple?” One maiden asks the other.

“No Josephine, there’s not. Most have gone out on various assignments and the couple that stayed have been summoned to the city council.”

“How long will they be at the council?” I ask.

“It’s hard to say. It could be an hour, it could be a week, or somewhere in between.”Abigail replies.

“Do they have the ability to raise the dead?”

“I know it is possible, but I think everyone with that ability has been summoned abroad.”

“YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!”

Abigail and Josephine look at each other, and then at me. Both have sorrowful expressions on their face. Abigail puts her hand on my shoulder, assumedly to make me feel better, “I’m so sorry. There is nothing we can do.”

There is nothing we can do. That’s the worst six words in any language. I don’t want to hear it. I throw her hand off my shoulder and I push her to the ground. I don’t think I hurt her, yet she glares up at me. Josephine is staring at me in horror as well. “I am so sorry, Abigail. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

I am drowning in my grief, and I feel another outburst of emotion will emerge again. I need to leave the temple before I start throwing things. I don’t want to make a bigger scene then I already have. As I rush out the temple, I run into an elven woman. “Watch where you’re going, you damn knife-eared bitch!” So much for not making a bigger scene. “I’m sorry that was uncalled for.” I resume my hasty withdraw from the temple.

I didn't mean what I said to her; like with Abigail, I only needed to vent my friend's death, and I directed it at them.

I find a secluded alleyway and my emotions overcome me. I take off my glasses, and weep until I’m exhausted from dehydration.

*****

Night is approaching, and I face an internal struggle. Should I say goodbye to her one final time, or should I stay away? I am afraid seeing Rosara dead again, may make me hurt worse. As much as I want to see her, I cannot bring myself to enter the temple where her lifeless body lays.

Under these conditions, I find the darkness strange. Living in the heart of this city, I had grown used to having the warming, orange glow of the candle lit street lamps illuminating the night, with their light filtering in through the gaps in the curtains. However, this was a blackness that I couldn't recall seeing before - one that was almost absolute. My best friend is dead, and I am the one that has to live in the sorrow.

You just had to be the hero, Jillian. Why the hell did you try to fight them alone? Did you really think you could win? You have ‘ZERO’ actual combat experience.Yes, you can bullseye targets on trees, day in and day out, but round targets don’t attack back. Deep down, I was probably trying to impress Rosara. If I could prove I could survive, she probably would have given me her blessing to leave.

I enjoy looking up at the stars, always have. Perhaps this will make me feel better. I tilt my head skyward, I can clearly see millions of bright stars dotted on the black canvas of night, yet none of that light seemed to filter far enough down to make any difference when I turned my eyes away. I tear up again.

I am going to leave Summerharbor, tonight. Everywhere I look, I am reminded of her.

I need to end my sorrow, and what better way to drown your sorrows, than consuming a readily available over-the-counter poison? I decide to hit up a tavern.

From the outside it looks warm, humble and pleasant. I can use this after my day. Large and small stones, along with thick stone beams make up most of the building's outer structure.

It's tough to see in through the stained glass windows, but the happiness and joy from within can be felt outside. I enter the tavern through the thick, wooden door, and I am welcomed by the smile of a barmaid and amazing scents.

The bartender is busy, but welcomes me with a short wave. It's as charming inside as it is on the outside. Rounded, stone beams support the upper floor and the sconces attached to them. The walls are full of paintings; judging by the style they're all done by the same person, perhaps the owner.

The tavern itself is packed. Judging from the clothes, locals seem to be the primary clientele here, which is probably the best clientele for the owner. Several long tables are occupied by seperate groups of people, all enjoying themselves, but they appear to be keeping to themselves. The other, smaller tables are also occupied by people who are probably starting to reach the point of having drunk too much, though nobody seems to mind. Even most of the stools at the bar are occupied, though nobody seems to mind more company.

I’ve never been to this tavern, but I’ve heard of its prestige. Though judging by the amount of women in this tavern and the amount of them trying to subtly eye the bartender, it's probably his good looks and charm.

I haven’t been to a tavern in a long time. Usually my drink of choice is mead, but tonight I need something much stronger. Tonight, I am going to drink their strongest drink, Devil’s Rum.

Devil’s Rum is almost pure 100% alcohol. I down one mug, and I order another. These drinks are meant for human consumption. The best thing about being a quart, I get drunk much faster. Two is probably enough to make me forget all my pain. Yes-- after two-- I am certainly drunk. I need to stop-- at least-- for a while-- if I am going to find some travelling companions tonight.

I sit in the corner of the tavern and look for people that appear to be seasoned adventurers. I can’t have what happened today become a habit. Sure enough, three human males, an elven female, and two creatures which I have never seen before, one a humanoid lizard and another, a humanoid cat, walk through the door.  Judging from appearances, all six have seen plenty of action. One of the humans approaches a barmaid and request to sing.

*****

Wow! I'm impressed by his voice. No doubt this one is a bard. The lizard is carrying a bow, while the cat appears to be carrying no weapon besides her claws. The elf is heavily armored, hard telling what her role is, she is probably a fighter, maybe a paladin. One of the males is carrying only a quarterstaff. I believe he is a monk. I’ve heard about them, but this is my first time seeing one. The last human is quite athletic, and attractive. He’s carrying the largest sword in the tavern. I better not make him mad, for I am sure he can throw me two city blocks.

I walk over to their table and request an audience. All five appear to be suspicious of me, but who can blame them? Quarts are known to make excellent thieves.

Even liquored up, I can tell I am not wanted. I return to my corner and I patiently wait for another opportunity to request their help.

*****

The bard thanks the audience, bows and prepares to exit the stage. Many patrons are asking him for an encore. He sings a few more songs and prepares to exit the stage again. Again many patrons are asking him to stay on the stage.

“As much as I would like to sing for you some more, I would like to rest my voice a little. I’ll tell you some jokes in the meanwhile.”

His songs were amazing. I wonder how much talent he has in telling jokes.

“A horack sat down at his favourite restaurant. ‘What would sir like,’ the goblyn servant asked. The horack scanned the menu. ‘I have never had pelican before. I will try that. What's the price please? It doesn't say.’ The goblyn smiled, ‘The bill for pelican is huge.’”

I admit, I chuckled. However, the reaction from the audience is mixed.

“I have another one. A married couple in their early 60s were out celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in a quiet, romantic restaurant. Suddenly, a tiny yet beautiful fairy appeared on their table and said, ‘For being such a wonderful married couple and for being faithful to each other for all this time, I will grant you each one wish.’

‘Oh, I want to travel around the world with my darling husband’ said the wife.

The fairy waved her magic wand and - poof! - two tickets for the most prestigious luxury liner appeared in her hands. Then it was the husband's turn. He thought for a moment and said:

‘Well, this is all very romantic, but an opportunity like this will never come again. I'm sorry my love, but my wish is to have a wife 30 years younger than me.’

The wife, and the fairy were deeply disappointed, but a wish is a wish. So the fairy waved her magic wand and - poof! -the husband became 92 years old.”

Serves that chavinest, right. That one was good. Alcohol and humor are a good mix for getting rid of emotional pain. The crowd seems to enjoy it as well.

“You all want another one? Ok, let me think of a good one. Ah, ok. Two dwarves are in a field and one says, ‘Look at that dead crow!’

The other dwarf looks into the sky, and says ‘Where?’”

I laugh. However, one of the dwarves sitting in the front row throws his mug at the bard. The bard’s muscular friend storms over to the dwarf and punches him in the face. Another dwarf attacks the muscular man. The party that I introduced myself to earlier leaves their table to help him out. Other individuals join in.

I’m not sure who’s side most of the people are fighting on, they’re probably just fighting for fightings sake. This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. I have to make sure they know I am helping them out instead of fighting against them.

A human jumps onto the cat’s back and is attempting to put her into a sleeper hold. I jump onto the table, run over, and I jump off the table trying to knock him off her back. I lead with my head. I give myself a whiplash, and my back lands on the table I jumped off. Well, that didn’t work. The cat knocks him off, and gives me a quick glance. It appears to be a look of confusion.

Another human is staring down the lizard. I pick up a mug from the table, and throw it at his head. At least that was my intended target. The mug grazes the back of the tricep. The human turns and looks at me. That hesitation is enough for him to be hit over the head by the lizard.

I look over to the elf female and she has two dwarfs staring her down. I push her down and demand for the dwarves to attack me instead. They obey.

*****

Why is the earth moving? No, it’s not the earth, it’s me. I look around, it appears I am being carried. Why am I being carried? What happened? “Put me down whoever you are.”

“Certainly.” The large lizard says. He puts me down on my feet. “I only wanted to carry you until you wake up.”

“Wake up? What happened?”

“Let’s talk and walk.”

“You were knocked out cold. You’ll probably have a black eye for a couple of days.”

“How long have I been out?”

“No longer than fifteen minutes.”

“Why did you carry me out of the tavern?”

The muscular man responds, “At first I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t fight my conscious. You tried to jump on the man choking Leiko, you threw a mug at the man threatening Yiz, and you intervened to save Claire. Besides, it’s Hagar fault for telling that horrible joke. You earned the right for us to hear what you want to say. ”

The monk speaks before I have a chance to respond, “Sekani, let’s stop at this tavern.”

“Thanks, Heru.” Sekani looks at everyone, “Hopefully we don’t destroy this one too.”

*****

“Where are you from, Claire?”

“All of us are from the Kingdom of Walidah. The Walidah River runs through our kingdom, and is one of the most famous rivers in the world. It is because of this river that our civilization is one of the first in history.”

“Are there a lot of rivers there?”

“Not really. Unfortunately, the kingdom is mostly desert. Most cities dwell in an oasis. The largest city is our capital city, Tahirah.”

“Tell me more about your history and geography.”

“Tahirah is built a dozen miles from the Walidah in the eastern deserts, and was largely dependent on oases for water until the construction of the Scarab Canal, which allows the shipping directly into central Tahirah and the devotion of the Walidah River to agriculture.

*****

Sounds like an awesome kingdom. I’ll have to go there one of these days.“Fascinating.”

“But that’s the capital city, we’re actually from Sanura.”

“Tell me all about it.”

“There isn’t much to tell. Sanura is a small city with a population that doesn’t even break 10,000 people. It’s located on the Amuta Coast. It was once just a slave camp housing a part of the hordes of slaves that built Tahirah.”

“How long have you been gone?”

“Not that long. We left Sanura about a year ago. The six of us wanted to travel the world a little bit before we have to get serious with our lives. Making money off the loot and artifacts we find will set us up for a long time. A couple years of misery for a lifetime of joy.”

That sounds a lot like how I think. I want to travel along with them.

A few tables over gossip can be heard of the Jaguar Wilds. Even though Summerharbor is technically in the Jaguar Wilds, no one in the city would claim to be from there. The area is notorious for having a ferocious tribe of demon-worshiping quarts. Even though I have never thought about joining these quarts, I won’t lie that I am intrigued by them. I wonder if they are my relatives.

However, what catches the others attention is the information about all the vast treasure that can be found in the Jaguar Wilds. No one appears to be bothered by the warnings that “Almost no one who goes looking for the treasure ever returns.”

“Sekani, how about I join you for this mission, and if it doesn’t work out we’ll go our separate ways.”

“Jillian, your terms are agreeable.”

*****

Sekani gets a room with Leiko. Hagar and Heru get a room together. Liz gets a room to himself. Claire and I get a room together. It feels weird to rent a room, when I live less than a mile away. I still live with my parents, and we live next to Rosara’s family. I don’t want to face Rosara’s parents. I fear they will blame me for her death. I know my parents won’t blame me, but they will do everything possible to keep me from leaving.

I’m forming a bond with these people already. I’m not sure that is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s good to form a trust and a bond. But I don’t want to form a bond with these people. I don't want to be sad when I see one of them killed. I only need to tolerate their presence until I find something better.

Claire and I stay awake for a little bit. Even though I don't want to be their friend, it is probably in my best interest to know their strengths. “You should see Sekani split a horack in two. He is really strong.” Claire says.

“What about Leiko?”

“Leiko is our rogue. She is beyond quick. Word of advice, stay on her good side.”

I chuckle, “will do. What type of skills does Hagar have in battle?”

“The same as outside of battle. He likes to sing enchanting songs that boost our ability. We don't keep him around for his combat skills, but he can be a valuable asset at times.”

“I see. Tell me about Yiz.”

“Yiz claims to be a world-class ranger. I wouldn’t go that far, but he is very smart.”

“What's Heru like?”

“It's fun to watch him engage the enemy. He puts the ‘art’ in martial arts.”

I chuckle some more, “what does Claire have to say about herself?”

“There is nothing special about me. I'm just a humble cleric. My combat skills are mediocre at best. But it is always a good idea to have a healer.”

“Yeah. It is,” if only she had been with me when the horack killed Rosara.

*****

All that alcohol goes through me quickly. I need to go to the bathroom. I get up to use the toilet. Being drunk, I can’t find the restroom and somehow I make my way to the roof. I don’t feel like searching any longer, maybe I should pee on the roof.

My bladder is about to burst. I hastily look for a spot to do my business, yet I can’t find a good spot to squat. I take off my pants, sit on a ledge and let my lemonade flow. After having a full bladder, it feels like pure ecstasy. In the extreme satisfaction of relief, I fail to notice that I am dousing another tavern patron passed out in the alley below. Oops! I try to cut off the flow. However, my body has other plans. The man is out cold, and has no idea he is getting rained on. I can’t help but laugh.

After I finish peeing, I stare up at the starry sky for the second time tonight. The eerie darkness of night, the pitch-black curtain drapes over the sky, and the twisted, warped shapes that the stars make against the blackness. The milky speckles twirl and dance along the sky in various patterns, tugging at the corners of my lips in a way that almost makes me smile.

It is hard to shove aside the worries corrupting my mind, but eventually, I stop thinking. I am alone. Nothing from my life could touch me. Not a single thing could harm me. I stare up at the sky and study the silver glow of the moon.

The moon is smiling down at me with love so intense it warms my soul like a fireplace on a cold winter's night. And here I am, wanting to escape my life. I don’t want to do anything but cry. I’ve never cried this much in my life. I’m crying so much I am severely dehydrated, and instead of replenishing the water in my body with more water, I am doing it with alcohol.

However, crying feels good, the tears that are forming at the corners of my eyes melt down my cold face with a rush of relief, especially when they are tears that I don’t want to push away. They’re temporary cleaners to wash away the pain. I never cry, it just isn't me. I stare up at the sky and continue to let my pain run away for the moment.

The man below wakes and is not happy. I realize I am still sitting on the ledge of the roof without bottoms on. I hastily put my pants back on and run back into the inn. I stumble into the door and I fall down a flight of stairs. Luckily I’m not hurt.

I need to go for a walk. I need to stay away from the man I drenched. As I am out walking I realize I need my adventuring gear if I am going to leave the city. My adventuring gear is in my bedroom. I decide to go on a black-op, and I have to navigate in a state of inebriation.

Summerharbor is a unique city as it is approximately 35 different small islands enhanced by the dredging of soils to raise the marshy ground above the tides. These islands are separated by canals and linked by bridges. The resulting canals encouraged the flourishing of a nautical culture which proved central to the economy of the city. These canals provide the means for transport of goods and people within the city. The maze of canals threaded through the city requires the use of more than 200 small bridges to permit the flow of foot traffic.

I run into a gondolier while trying to make my way onto a foot bridge. “Watch where you’re going shrimp!”

Somehow I find my way to my parents’ house. Now I just need to sneak in. Even drunk this shouldn’t be too hard. Rosara and I snuck out more times than we can count, and to my knowledge we never got caught.

I open the window, and my parents are sleeping on the couch. The candle is still lit. I bet they’re still waiting for me to come home. Well, I’m home, but they don’t need to know that. I quietly gather all of the material I stashed away for the day I finally leave home.

I exit my parents’ house, and I realize I should bring some gold along with me. I am nearly broke considering I spent most of my money on adventuring gear. I look at Rosara’s bedroom window. I take out my silk rope with my grappling hook on the end.

I’ve done this thousands of time sober, but I’ve never done it drunk. Let’s see if my practice has paid off. I fling it toward Rosara’s window. I did it. Practice does make perfect, even when I am three sheets to the wind.

It’s been a while since I have snuck into Rosara’s bedroom without her being in it. I made my way to Rosara’s life savings that she hid underneath her bed. I’m sorry Rosara.

I feel guilty stealing from my best friend, but she isn’t going to need this money any more. Besides, she promised she would give me some the day I decided to leave. This is her way of keeping her promise to me.

I need to find my way back to the inn. For that matter, I need to remember which inn I am staying at. This will probably take most of the night. However, I quickly find my way back to the tavern with no trouble at all. I must be sobering up. I need to rectify that, I order my favorite drink.

*****

I wake up bright and early with a humongous hangover, and a headache the size of an overweight ogre. However, I am anxious to start my adventure and get out of the city before I run into either Rosara’s or my parents.

Most buildings of Summerharbor are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. Most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on plates of limestone placed on top of the piles, and buildings of brick or stone sit above these footings. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay. Submerged by water, in oxygen-poor conditions, wood does not decay as rapidly as on the surface. Most of these piles were made from trunks of alder trees, a wood noted for its water resistance. The city is often threatened by flood tides pushing in from the Bay of Summerharbor between autumn and early spring.

However, the city's harbor is an architectural masterpiece, able to withstand both the very real impact of hurricanes and the unlikely event of a massive naval assault by some unknown enemy.

This inn has an excellent restaurant next to it. It's early enough that I probably won't see any person I know. I request a table for seven. I order my favorite meal, steak and eggs.

Eventually the other six enter the restaurant. I see Claire found my note for everyone to meet me here.  They sit with me, and we talk about their previous adventures.

Long after we finished eating, we're still talking about adventuring. I hear four familiar voices, two males and two females. “JILLIAN! ROSARA!” It's Rosara’s and my parents. They've come looking for us. I need to escape.

I quickly duck under the table. “I’m not here. Send them away.”

They indeed enter and a waitress points them to our table. Even though we are not friends, my new companions are smart enough to know there has to be a reason I am hiding from them. They don’t know the reason or the circumstances, but they respect me enough to tell them a lie to get them to leave us alone.

After they leave, I get back into my chair and six blank faces are staring at me. “My reasons are my own.”

*****

Sekani asks me to lead the way around the city since I have lived here my whole life. I point out several places of interest, yet at the same time I am trying to keep a low profile because I don’t want to see anyone I know. It will make leaving that much easier.

I point out one of the more popular adventuring shops. Everyone else walks in, but I stay in the alley. I’ve been in this particular store more times than I can count. Everyone who works here knows my life story.

I already have the survival essentials; a backpack to hold everything, a bed roll, a personal tent, flint and steel for starting fires, and a waterskin. I also have three extra pairs of glasses, soap for bathing, fifty feet of hemp rope, along with a grappling hook. My weapon choice is also very simple. I carry only a slingshot along with a short sword.

After everyone leaves, I continue to lead the way through this vastly unique city. As we are about to leave town, we run into two individuals that my new companions had adventures with before. The two of them are brothers, Elas and Ehlark Paven. Both of them are mages, Elas specializes in ice, Ehlark specializes in fire. They request to accompany us, and the others are happy to accept.

Finally, we leave the city. I don't think there is any coming back from this. This is literally the first day for the rest of my life.