Tales from the Drift: Making Waves

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

I smile encouragingly at the wounded dragonkin. Trinek stares at the empty beach, holding his surfboard in front of him as if wondering how he and it got here. Even now, the program was backfilling the memory of a long shuttle ride in which he’d spent most of the time staring gloomily out the windows thinking about his dead partner, Lily.

“We’re... going surfing?”

“That’s right. You can call me Maro.” I let Trinek look me over, an old scarred winterborn ryphorian woman in a Second Skin wetsuit. I know that his eyes linger on the scars, wondering how I got them. I let him wonder. “C’mon, time for your first lesson.”

He limps awkwardly after me, his claws tensing on the brilliant white sand on this deserted beach in Grenloch. He’s suspicious of the sun and this brilliant warm day, shading himself protectively with his wings. He’s twitchy, anxious, continually looking for fighters overhead, or dangers waiting to ambush him behind any rock. I let him limp around the perimeter, looking for the enemies that are not there.

I introduce him to the board while still on the sand, show him how to position his body, balance, paddle. “As your leg gets stronger, we’ll work on other positions, but for now, the basics.” He picks it up quickly, and soon we transition to the water, paddling out.

As we paddle, he glances around suspiciously. “Shouldn’t Grenloch be more crowded, fancy resort like this?”

“Sure, near the dining areas and the hotel. But the waters are rougher here, and that keeps the tourists away. It’s the only reason they lease this spot to veterans. You and I are gonna be roughing it. Camping in the shuttle, fishing to supplement our supplies. And surfing and swimming each day until you heal up that leg.”

And that mind. I am going to keep you so busy that you forget to keep blaming yourself.

I teach surfing elsewhere on Grenloch. There are currently twelve copies of me teaching wealthy clients one-on-one at the resort. Most of the basics are standard enough that I can let the copies run on autopilot for a bit, giving me more bandwidth here.

With the wealthy clients, I start out easy, with a few perfect waves and good weather to build confidence. For Trinek, I’ve programmed the water to be difficult. He’s paddling against the tide, and surprise waves unseat him from his board multiple times. He has to work for it. More than once, he goes under. In his second skin, he’s in no danger of drowning as he swims furiously up to the surface. He mounts his board again, and the difficulty of just staying atop it is what sells this illusion for him.

“Trinek!” I bark out like the drill sergeant I once was. “You gonna give in to the water, or you gonna master it?”

No legionnaire is going to let a drill sergeant see them fail. No matter how much they’re hurting inside. He gets on top of the board, paddling fiercely out, not letting it unseat him.

Good.

Then the waves reward him, carrying him out, and he’s riding with them, and I hear a “Whooooo! Who’s the wave master now?”

I let him have that moment, then dump him under again. As he grimly claws back onto the board, he grunts. Still, he knows he can do it now, and he paddles out again.



Later, I pull out the fishing gear. “I had enough crappy rations while I served. Want to help me fish?” He’s exhausted, but he can’t admit it yet. He shrugs, nervously, but then I toss him a beer. “C’mon, soldier. Drunk fishing is a tradition.”

“Alright,” he opens the beer. “I don’t see how being drunk helps us fish, though.”

“If we don’t catch anything, the rations taste better,” I say with a grin. He laughs, and we get to it.

This I don’t put on hard mode. He needs some victories. Once we bring in our catch, I make a show of cooking it with the spices and herbs I brought. He eats with appreciation. Afterward, both exhausted, we lay on the damp sand, eight feet apart, looking up at the stars. The other copies of me have taught their lessons and are now off duty, so I can be fully present in this time and place.

“I can’t believe this is still Triaxus. This beach... This sand...”

“They told me it was because of a microclimate,” I say, half-truthfully. They tell everyone that, even though our unconscious bodies are hundreds of feet underground in a virtual reality bunker. The real Grenloch, while still warmer than the rest of the planet, is covered in snow. “Does it matter?”

“Maro?” he asks. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Those scars... you served in the Skyfire Legion, right?”

“Nine and a half years.” It’s the truth and I know he can feel it. “We did a tour of bugtopia. Carn never made it home. Swarm.” I’ve told this story two hundred times now, and grief gets me every time. I don’t have to fake the tears glistening in my eyes. I just let the stars and the silence tell my story.

“What was Carn like?” he asks.

“Goofy.” I say with a half-smile. I pull up pictures of Carn dumping snow on my head, and another of me dumping it right back down his uniform. Finally, I pull up an image of the last parade we’d been in, all of us marching through the frosty streets of Cumo, dress uniforms and rifles, trying to look fierce. “Before we went out, the Legion held this parade to suck up to Xandrig, the director of Sinterfang. It was stupid, but we needed the funding. Xandrig loved having the crowd shout for him, and Carn loved strutting in uniform.”

= A military parade consisting of uniformed dragonkin and ryphorians makes its way through a snow-covered city street while a small crowd of citizens looks on. A massive red dragon oversees the proceedings.

Illustration by Roberto Pitturru

“Lily loved the uniform too.” Then Trinek tries to muffle his sobs, and I’m up, holding and rocking him, as if I was his mother and he were newly hatched. The sobs wrack his body, and I know he’s remembering. Bonded partners are closer than lovers or twins. They’re the other presence that always lives in your head, the soulmate who did everything with you, and who’s now been ripped from your mind, leaving nothing but a gaping hole. It’s a searing psychic wound. Some grieving warriors fall into a hole so deep they never come out of it, willing themselves to die so that the pain will stop.

Or... they find another calling and purpose, like I did.

About the Author

Hilary Moon Murphy is a librarian, martial artist, and mom who has contributed to over a dozen different Paizo products.

About Tales From The Drift

The Tales from the Drift series of web-based flash fiction provides an exciting glimpse into the setting of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Written by members of the Starfinder development team and some of the most celebrated authors in tie-in gaming fiction, the Tales from the Drift series promises to explore the worlds, alien cultures, deities, history, and organizations of the Starfinder setting with engaging stories to inspire Game Masters and players alike.

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Tags: Starfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Tales from the Drift Web Fiction

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Hilary, that was awesome! A simple story about healing...something we can all use! Bravo!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Very cool story.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsebo)

2 people marked this as a favorite.

A lanky rhyphorian with shaggy, dull white, fur absently places his right hand on his right shoulder, on top of an armour pauldron. The pauldron obviously doesn't match the rest of the man's newer armour. Underneath a tangle of scratches, a faded Skyfire emblem is still visible.

"It gets easier, Trinek, I promise you. Over time, the emptiness and loss of mourning gives way to a sort of...thankful remembrance of mourning. All loss has meaning, and for those of us still here, it's our job to find that meaning."

The ryphorian takes a moment to touch the symbol hanging from his neck - a hollow circle with three trailing lines curling clockwise away - and then once again rests his hand on his shoulder, as if seeking to find a reassuring, draconic, hand there.

"Eventually, we all find some meaning, one way or another. And when we do, I have found, more often than not we want to help others put themselves back together, as well." With a quiet sigh, he turns back towards the Forum Chambers in the Lorespire Complex.

Great story HMM - hits close to home for the ol' -702 :D

Grand Lodge

36 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I wrote this story in the loving memory of my dear friend Bob Wagner, and to all those who currently struggle with PTSD. Bob and I celebrated our first short story sales together, argued politics, and had many passionate talks about gaming.

Thank you all for your kind words so far on this story of healing, surfing and attempts at redemption.

Hugs,
Hmm

Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Wonderfully done, Hilary!

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

...

Holy crap this is a wonderful story! Nice job Hmm!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Oh wow, that was a heavy one. Great job HMM!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Short stories based on tabletop games doesn't often get me, but this one did. I would hug Trinek so hard. This is lovely work, and I can't wait to read more of your stuff (and maybe a little bit of Starfinder at long last too).


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Wonderful tale Hilary. Thank you.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Awwww...I wanna give Trinek all the hugs and snugs and make him breakfast in bed and give him all the love! I feel so much sympathy for that wonderful Dragonkin.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Well done HMM :)

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I don't need to be crying before work dangit.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Nice!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Nice work HMM! :)

Paizo Employee

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Love it!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

VR rehab? Neat.

And that's a good story.

The Concordance

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great story Hilary!

The Concordance

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Amazing story, fills my soul with all the emotions. <3

Dataphiles

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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Excellent work!

Dataphiles

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This is... I'm not sure there is a word that encompasses both this magnitude of beauty and sadness.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hit my very core hard, but loved the story presented. Story of remembering soulmates, whom they have lost. The memories never die, nor the pain of remembering , that I can attest too. Though as it pains, I always enjoy the good times we had, which usually brings a smile to my fae, even with tears running.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Associate

9 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm not crying I'm just allergic to virtual sand

Grand Lodge

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Alex Speidel wrote:
I'm not crying I'm just allergic to virtual sand.

I must be allergic to Virtual Sand as well, because I cried when I wrote this.

A few weeks ago:

Bret: Hilary, are you okay?

Me: [snuffling] I'm fine.

Bret: You're sitting at your computer, sobbing. Are you sure you're okay?

★ --- ★ --- ★ --- ★

Sometimes writing is like that -- you get inside the hearts and heads of your characters, and for a moment, you touch them.

Hugs,
Hmm


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Hmm wrote:
Sometimes writing is like that -- you get inside the hearts and heads of your characters, and for a moment, you touch them.

Even when it's not fun per se, that's the best thing as a writer. :)


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Almonihah wrote:
Hmm wrote:
Sometimes writing is like that -- you get inside the hearts and heads of your characters, and for a moment, you touch them.
Even when it's not fun per se, that's the best thing as a writer. :)

Damn straight.

This was an awesome story.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This was absolutely wonderful, and the setup seems like if I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream was wholesome.

I would love to see these characters again at some point.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Thank you! This is spectacular!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I wonder if there are any spells in Starfinder that can help with that.
A Mnemonic Editor could probably do it, but its kinda expensive for normal use.

Acquisitives

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A well-dressed ysoki straightens her well-crafted professional thief outfit.

"Mental survival is the toughest part, especially when one keeps getting thrown into missions without the proper amount of time to prepare for them correctly. Compared to physical recovery, mental recovery takes longer and costs more. Not saying 'hug a vet' here, but be ready for them. They've been through the sorts of Hell that no sane person would enter willingly."

As she ends that her features take on a bit of a haunted expression and a very long stare at nothing in particular.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ixal wrote:

I wonder if there are any spells in Starfinder that can help with that.

A Mnemonic Editor could probably do it, but its kinda expensive for normal use.

..and it only clears a level or two of most recent experience, as well.

Thank you for writing this, Hilary!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks for writing this. It was beautiful and affecting.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
Ixal wrote:

I wonder if there are any spells in Starfinder that can help with that.

A Mnemonic Editor could probably do it, but its kinda expensive for normal use.

..and it only clears a level or two of most recent experience, as well.

Thank you for writing this, Hilary!

Yeah, its a bit hard to adjust this limitation to how the editor would affect traumatic memories, considering it was never really intended to be used outside of respeccing.

I just brought it up to highlight that there are things in Starfinder which can aid in such cases besides regular therapy, as far as being in a VR simulation can be called regular.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great story! I really liked it!

Grand Lodge

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ixal, that is such a good question!

I thought about mnemonic editors and memory therapy in Starfinder when I was writing this, and I kept running into the same problem. While a mnemonic editor could certainly wipe a traumatic event like an assault or even a war... would you be willing to let go of the memories of that traumatic event when they included the last moments of a loved one's life?

We will hang on to all sorts of pain in order to keep the memories alive of those we love. In such cases, the answer can't be a quick technological fix. It has to be learning to process the grief. Sometimes the only way forward is to move in circles, learning how to navigate the world again until you find your path again.

Maybe it's that I am at heart still a California girl (despite all the years I've now lived in Minnesota) that I chose to write about surfing dragonkin -- even ones in a VR setting. Still, I am overjoyed that my story is having people think deeply about our healing process, and how it might shift in a world with both technology and magic.

Hmm

PS I was a psychology major. Can you tell?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Ahhhhh, my heart ;_;

I’m feeling all the thing right now for the right reasons, HMM.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Hmm wrote:

Ixal, that is such a good question!

I thought about mnemonic editors and memory therapy in Starfinder when I was writing this, and I kept running into the same problem. While a mnemonic editor could certainly wipe a traumatic event like an assault or even a war... would you be willing to let go of the memories of that traumatic event when they included the last moments of a loved one's life?

We will hang on to all sorts of pain in order to keep the memories alive of those we love. In such cases, the answer can't be a quick technological fix. It has to be learning to process the grief. Sometimes the only way forward is to move in circles, learning how to navigate the world again until you find your path again.

Maybe it's that I am at heart still a California girl (despite all the years I've now lived in Minnesota) that I chose to write about surfing dragonkin -- even ones in a VR setting. Still, I am overjoyed that my story is having people think deeply about our healing process, and how it might shift in a world with both technology and magic.

Hmm

PS I was a psychology major. Can you tell?

The description of the editor states though that you are not necessarily losing memories, only the meaning is changed.

It does make sense though that Dragonkin (and partner) would suffer extra hard from this and that the Legion, or anyone on Triaxus, would have a special program for them.


Ixal wrote:

I wonder if there are any spells in Starfinder that can help with that.

A Mnemonic Editor could probably do it, but its kinda expensive for normal use.

Psychic Surgery, 6th level Mystic spell and Empath connection ability.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Xenocrat wrote:
Ixal wrote:

I wonder if there are any spells in Starfinder that can help with that.

A Mnemonic Editor could probably do it, but its kinda expensive for normal use.
Psychic Surgery, 6th level Mystic spell and Empath connection ability.

That makes one wonder how health care plans for Dragonkin look like. Counselling (of various degrees and with different methods) in case of the death of the bond partner sounds like an option they could add to their plan.

Wayfinders Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

It is my personal head-canon that Grenloch has entered into this counseling side-business as a tax write-off, and that this is an option available to Skyfire Veterans. It was nice to think that some good came out of Grenloch.

Hmm


A bit off topic, I have no idea what I should think of Grenloch.
The entry in Pact Worlds makes it sound like its a secret that this is a VR experience or at least something bad. But why would it? It would be impossible to fool people into thinking that it is an actual tropical anomaly on a rather cold planet (satellite photographs, etc.). And being a VR experience could actually be something to advertise. Because lets be honest, considering that there are several earth type planets in the Pact System you need something more than just beaches to attract off world tourists.
When VR is advertised as a feature you can offer so much more than just a normal beach experience. Think Total Recall (original).

Exo-Guardians

Awesome short story! As a surfer, myself, the fact that you incorporated surfing into the story was great. It's so rare that I see surfing incorporated into media or entertainment. I love it.


Love it.
WOuld be a great series of posts.
could b e really cool to set up a "fan submissions" or starting a new thread area for Starfinder/Pathfinder stories folks can post.

Kind of like the Japanese web novel things.


I tried to envision a dragonkin on a surfboard when I realized that I have no idea how large dragonkin actually are.
AA2 lists their size as 8 to 20 feet which is a very big range (and 20 feet is imo close to huge size).
What would the average size for a dragonkin be? And for which one as you have normal dragonkin and a genetically modified spacefaring variant and most (all?) descriptions never mention which one is meant. I assume all published material means the spacefaring variant? Which makes me wonder how large those two groups are in relation to each other?


Hmm wrote:

Ixal, that is such a good question!

I thought about mnemonic editors and memory therapy in Starfinder when I was writing this, and I kept running into the same problem. While a mnemonic editor could certainly wipe a traumatic event like an assault or even a war... would you be willing to let go of the memories of that traumatic event when they included the last moments of a loved one's life?

We will hang on to all sorts of pain in order to keep the memories alive of those we love. In such cases, the answer can't be a quick technological fix. {. . .}

Which makes me wonder if somebody got too eager for a quick technological fix on a galaxy-wide scale, and thus made the Gap . . . .


1 person marked this as a favorite.

"Rogueys DON'T surf!"

Hmm ... ride that wave 'til you don't want it no more!

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