“Ah, doesn’t that sea breeze just do wonders for you? Opens your nostrils, opens your mind, opens your heart!”

Zaldi Xianuende stood astride the deck of the Curmudgeonly Toad, a ramshackle but seaworthy skiff out of Toan, and bellowed out platitudes in a powerful voice. After the better part of a week with her, the Toad’s crew was less than enthusiastic as she walked the decks clapping them on the back and waxing poetic about the sea.

“Tetpa, isn’t this invigorating work?” she cried at the seaman busy emptying the bilge.

“Hmph.” Tetpa wasn’t about to disagree with Zaldi since she was both taller and broader than he. But he wasn’t about to disagree either.

Zaldi pirouetted around the mainmast. “Katapti, isn’t the air up there just so gloriously invigorating?”

The lithe she-elf in the ropes, who tired easily but was as dextrous as a ball of spiders, felt safer to be honest given the twenty feet and howling wind betwixt them: “Blow it out your rear, you pointy-eared giant of a pest!”

“Yes, I agree!” Zaldi said in singsong, catching only the barest snatches of Katapi’s grousing. “It is the best!”

The ship’s master, a dwarf called Poxos, was at the wheel, staring intently at the horizon. “How do you do it, captain?” Zaldi said, taking the steps up to the small bridge in three bounds and all but blocking his field of vision. “How do you deal with the ecstasy of the open waters?”

“I manage,” grunted Poxos.

“It can be difficult, I’m sure. But you do it well, I can hardly tell that you’re joyful under that mask of indifference!”

Finally, Zaldi found her charge, Myn. The young lady was around half Zaldi’s age and a somewhat more than half her height, but she shared a similar mixed parentage. She was at the gunwhales, the sea breeze in her face and the boat at her back.

‘Mom said you could be a handful,” Zaldi said. “But she has a tendency to look on the dark side. You haven’t been any trouble at all!” She gave Myn a hearty clap on the back.

“HUUUUURK!” Myn, who had been looking rather green even for someone whose mother was a goblin, lost her breakfast over the side at the blow.

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