The day was bright and beautiful, as many days are on the Isle of Loukusa. Old Lady Beatrice was packaging up her wares to be shipped about the island, Abbot Joden was educating his many wards in the ways of the great goddess Cooglara, and Thomas was packaging up his lunch for the day before heading off to work in the lumber yard. The lad had quite a day ahead of him, chopping wood and preparing it to be made into the finest vessel his little home town had ever crafted, or at least that was what the mayor said. He had been looking forward to this day for weeks, ever since the mill boss had assigned him to the team.
The Mill Boss was a bit of an odd fellow. Despite being a gnome, he spoke as though he towered over his employees and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when and where he was needed. When Tom arrived at the mill, he saw his boss standing atop an old and wide stump so he could look some of the other workers in the eye.
“Ah, Tom, you’re here,” the diminutive manager called out when he noticed Thomas. He was clearly happy to see his youngest charge that day. As a gnome, the Mill Boss had a somewhat nasally voice, but he didn’t let that stop him from projecting far enough for every woodworker to hear every word he said. A few other workers turned to greet Tom briefly before returning to their work sawing, dragging, or shaping the lumber. “Get over to your station, Burk is just about to roll in a few more logs.”
Lo and behold, as Tom approached the station he shared with another short jack named Zib, he heard the heavy footsteps of Burk, one of the monks from the abbey on the peak. The tall, muscular, slightly green man stepped out from the trees carrying a pair of logs about three feet thick and twenty feet long each.
“Good morning to you, my brothers,” the restrained voice of the half-orc called from the tree line as he approached. “I hope the day finds you well and that you both ate heartily, for I have brough-“
“Stop that,” Zib interrupted, the stout little Halfling not impressed by the monk’s grandiose façade.
“Alright, fine,” Burk said, his smile dropping immediately. “Just trying to keep up my image, you know?” He set down the logs beside Tom and Zib and stretched his shoulders. “Anyway, how have you two been?”
“I’ve got a headache and a few splinters in my soles, but other than that I’m just peachy,” Zib said, already turning away to examine the lumber.
“Well maybe you’d be better protected from those little wooden thorns if you actually wore shoes to work,” Tom said, jokingly.
“Not a chance, string bean. I can’t risk my glorious foot hair clumping up inside some musky – Hold on. Burk, can you take a look at this.” The Halfling waved his hand for the robed green man to approach and lean in. As Burk did so, Zib grabbed a hold of his slightly pointed ear and pulled him face first into a knot in the log, generating a painful-sounding thunk as head struck bark. “You see that? That’s a knot. That, my big green friend, is a knot in a log we are supposed to use to make the biggest and best ship Loukusa has ever produced.”
“Whoah, Zib, calm down, we can work with that. It just adds character, right? Isn’t that what the boss is always saying?” Tom said, trying to smooth out the situation as Burk held one hand to his face, feeling a distinct and sharp pain in the bridge of his nose.
“What am I always saying?” The boss chimed in, popping up behind them on his stealthy little legs. “Oh… this log has a nasty knot in it. Guess you two will be working on the upper flanks today instead.”
“Oh, what? Why?” Zib said, agitated.
“Because the central beam has to be as perfect as possible. I’m sorry, boys, but you can work on that project tomorrow.”
“Well I don’t mind,” Tom piped up. “I’m just excited to be working on such a massive project.”
“That’s the spirit! Now, hop to it.” The boss said, turning to go before stopping suddenly and turning to the robed half-od, “Burk, you may want to head on back to the abbey. I heard Doc was preparing a new sermon.”
“Oh, dear, I think you’re right, I’ll be on my way then. Cooglara be with you,” the monk said, bowing and dropping his hand from his face to reveal a small bruise forming. “I’ll catch up with you later, Tom,” he said with a smile before turning on his heels and sprinting back into the forest. Tom smiled as well and waved at Burk’s turned back for a second before turning back to Zib, who was giving him a look.
“Don’t get too involved with those religious types, Tom, that’s a long path to nowhere.”
“Whatever you say, Zib. I’m going to go get the blueprints for the upper hull, you keep working your magic with these logs,” Tom replied before heading over to the mill’s main building to retrieve the pertinent scroll.
Meanwhile, Burk weaved in and out of the trees on his way back to the Abbey atop the highest point on the island. He found himself stopping for a moment to turn and look out form this high vantage point to the ocean. From here it seemed endless, as though this were the only island in and infinite expanse of Cooglara’s mighty sea. He saw a few small fishing boats sitting serenely on the rippling surface and smiled, but then something much less expected caught his eye. There was a small black shape on the horizon, barely visible. He wondered who or what was on its way to the island. His musing was interrupted, however, by the sound of the bell, which reminded him he needed to sprint up the mount and back to the courtyard where one of the Clerics in training would likely be giving her first sermon.
As Burk peeked around the massive wooden doors to the abbey’s courtyard, he saw that everyone was just now taking their seats on the dry, well tamed grass. He quickly and quietly made his way to an available spot off to the side. One of the monks nearby adjusted his position, but Burk thought he was shifting away, so he turned his gaze to his hands, his fingers interlocked and his thumbs twitching.
“Good morning, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters,” the abbot greeted the assembly of monks, sages, clerics, and druids. He was an elderly man in a heavy and simple brown robe who had raised many of those present since very young ages. To many of them, “father” was not just a title of formality. “Today is a momentous day for one daughter of Cooglara. She has been with us for fifteen years, just as long as she spent in her home city of Coralburg before coming to us, and in those years she has proven herself true of heart, will, body, and wit.” His voice welled with pride as he spoke and his eyes began to grow glassy with the beginnings of tears. “Her service to the temple and to the people of the island, her dedication to her studies and training, her flawless use of sarcasm – these are the qualities of a true Cleric of the sea. So now, without further ado, it is my honor to present to you: Cleric Docalser Thunderclaut.”
The crowd murmured with polite applause as the abbot stepped to the side and gestured to a dwarf woman walking into the opening. She had dark brown hair in a long, tight braid swinging behind her. Her wide, aquamarine eyes glinted in the light of the rising sun and her vestments, pure white with blue and cream colored fringes flowing from it like the tides, covered most of her skin, which was the color of wet beach sand, lightly tan with dark speckles.
“Good morning brothers and sisters!” She excitedly shouted, smiling broadly at the small crowd. “It is such an honor and a blessing to be standing before you all today. I never believed a little gal like me could ever make it this far in a place like this. It’s been a challenge, but it’s been fun, and I’m so happy to be joining the clergy as a sibling of such caring and good folks. I look forward to continuing to serve Cooglara alongside each and every one of you and bringing us closer to her grace every day. Now I’d like to ask any and all of you who are willing to rise and follow me down to the sea where I will claim my symbol.”
Burk happily leapt to his feet and looked around to see that nearly a third of those present had risen. He’d never seen this ritual before and was excited to experience it for the first time.
“Thank you all once again for all of your love and support and for bringing me into this glorious fold. Now I go to claim what I have earned so that I may serve Cooglara! Tides, Sides and Snides!”
“Tides, Sides, and Snides,” repeats the crowd in unison before dispersing. The age old phrase representing the three great powers of their great goddess Cooglara. Burk, as well as those others who had risen previously, approached the newly dubbed cleric so that they could follow her through the temple, down the mountain, and through town to the docks.
“Congratulations, Doc, I knew you’d make cleric in no time,” said one elf, a druid by the name of Nessa.
“Thanks! But I wouldn’t really call thirty years ‘no time,’” Doc replied. Nessa, being nearly four hundred years old herself, saw any span of time as though it were no time at all. Burk had always wondered what it must have been like to live forever, but as soon as he thought too far ahead he started getting anxious and had to force himself to think about something else.
After the congratulations had completed, the abbot urged Doc to begin her short walk down to the docks and claim her holy symbol from the sea, so the dwarf proudly led the group through the grand halls of the abbey, down the spiral staircases into the temple where several people were praying before a large statue of Cooglara, out into the town of Loukusa and down to the docks. She paused a moment at the end, looking at the rippling water and smiling.
“Cooglara, find me,” she whispered before shedding her robes, holding her nose, and jumping into the sea, holding her knees near her chest so as not to risk landing feet first on a stone outcropping or bit of coral.
Burk looked on in wonder as the dense little woman jumped into the water, creating the largest splash he’d ever seen. He was fairly certain that dwarves did not float and was more than a little confused as to what was going to happen next.
“How’s she going to come back up?” He asked Nessa.
“Oh, is this your first ceremony?”
“Well it won’t be much of a show for the next minute or so,” Nessa explained. “Doc has to find a symbol of the sea that calls to her, that yearns for her to bring it back to the surface. Then, once she’s found the symbol that connects with her, she will gain access to the powerful magic that Cooglara grants to her most devout followers, and then she will be granted a brief spell of water control, allowing her to rise to the surface again.”
“What happens if she takes too long to find the symbol?” Burk asked, slightly nervous but completely in awe of the process.
“She’ll drown,” Nessa replies, matter-of-factly.
“Oh…” Burk trailed off, watching the water intently.
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