and untold hopes and anchors rot

Setting: Is there a place more wrought with possibility than the sea shore? Where two worlds—each exclusive of the other—meet in roiling tumult, the strangenesses of the deep are vomited up, and the for-granteds of our lives meet their boundaries. What is happening at land’s end? Roll d10.

1: A drystack stone tower sits atop a low treeless promontory. The blackened remains of innumerable bonfires litter the top; a rough set of stairstep stones winds around the base, the void within little more than an abandoned firelighter’s hovel. While the base of the promontory is awash with wave-tumbled roundstone, the sea is now over the horizon.

2: A moot of treants—summer cypress and slumping willows—have gathered on the sand of the shore. One by one they have trudged beyond, buffeted and leaf-stripped by the surf, into the sea. They stand in mournful clusters, ritual suicides in the salt water.

3: Molpe and Thelxinoe, loveliest of ladies with bright plumage for hair, perch atop spires of rock just outside the surf zone. They sing—songs of joy and desolation to rend a man’s heart—at rather than to each other. Those who have heard the songs float face-down in the surf, wretchedly attempt to claw their way up the spires, or slump stupored with the sea lapping their feet. Molpe and Thelxinoe eye the number of men bewitched by the other, competing.

4: Some colossal denizen of the deepest reaches has washed ashore. An enormity of swim bladders and appendages and milky white sensory organs, the carcass has become an ecosystem in itself for every parasite, scavenger, and opportunistic predator of the coast.

5: A rat-king of corpses floats in the surf, a tangle of arms and legs and torso, all atwist in and about each other, a flotilla of rot and bone and bloat moving of an accord exceeding the pace of the surf. It scrabbles and claws and snaps, a slow-motion massacre making way to shore, hindered by the ebb and flow of seawater and the counterpurpose movement of dead men inextricably twined.

6: Flotsam of shipwreck has washed ashore in a since-passed gale. Among that detritus and wrack are bedraggled mariners, sea-battered and parched of thirst. A greeting party has ridden to meet them, with waterskins and warm clothes and slavers’ manacles.

7: A simple greenglass bottle lies upon the shore. It is stoppered with cork and wax. Within is a scrap of vellum—roughly sliced from a larger sheet—with a few words scrawled upon it in sun-whitened ink. Written is a brief message pertaining to whatever the reader most dreads (even subconsciously) at the time of reading.

8: Hairpickers and raggedymen crawl over the sea-washed stones, searching for strands of mermaid hair. Apothecaries pay handsomely for each strand, which are used to infuse elixirs having to do with breathing underwater.

9: A nonsensical structure lashed of bone-smooth driftwood and kelp crouches above the highwater mark. Local whispers hold that when the moons are right, the gillelves crawl ashore and perform unfathomable rites within.

10: Standing at the seacoast, the waves and water suddenly—and rapidly!—begin receding, all the way to the horizon. Guess what.

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