V Fish Out of Water

Clover

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A warm, orange glow washed over Clover as he lay stiff upon a plush surface. The only feeling that pulsed throughout his numbed body was a deep sense of disorientation. Adjusting to the light, his groggy eyes began to make out faint shapes. Wooden beams running across the ceiling. The shadow of a flickering lantern. A quick glance around revealed nothing more than a quaint, humble room. Aside from the desk upon which the aforementioned lantern sat, it was almost barren. Pushing himself upwards to investigate further, a sharp pain shot through his torso and down to his toes. Falling backwards, he cursed through clenched teeth.


"Z-zounds!" He yelped. As if on command, the door at the end of the room creaked open slowly. Through it, a stout figure entered.


"Oh dear. Are you awake?" She cooed. Clomping across the floor to the window next to the bed, she gave little warning before flinging the blinds open and filling the dim room with blinding, yellow light. "I was beginning to think you'd never wake up." Clover squinted, his eyes adjusting to the sun that now enveloped him. Looking downwards, his gaze met with that of a young lady.


Wider than she was long, you'd be forgiven for not deducing that she was naught but a few years older than Clover. A frayed, matted head of hair was tied loosely into a sloppy bun, accompanying a tired face. Stressed and wrinkled, it could have only been the face of somebody who had been through a lifetime of hardships. A damp rag had bloated and sank to the bottom of the bowl of water that she carried in her hands.


"You were running a fever earlier," the woman said, placing the warm cloth on his forehead. "If I'd have known you'd be awake, I would have brought you something to eat. Poor dear, you must be starving." Clover tried elevating himself to a sitting position once more, to no avail. As he collapsed yet again, the woman shook her head. "I wouldn't recommend that, dear. You've got a rather nasty wound, 'bout the size of a coin, just to the right of your belly. It's a wonder it wasn't infected, floating out in those waters"


Biting his tongue to prevent himself from cursing in front of a lady, he took a deep breath and swallowed nothing in particular. "W-water...?", sputtered Clover. The honey-tongued politician was out of his element, barely managing to croak out a single word.


"Yes," the woman replied dryly. "We fished you out of the ocean not too long ago. I volunteered myself to care for you until you came back to your senses. You sound parched. Would you like me to get you a drink?" Clover only nodded in response. As the woman left him once again, he felt humiliation course throughout his veins.


Here laid the great and honorable High Councilor Clover, half-naked in the bed of a stranger and completely helpless. If his face could have been any redder, it would have rivaled the crimson feathers of a cardinal in the winter snow. His caretaker reentered the room, this time with a glass and a pitcher full of water. "It's a bit lukewarm, but I'm afraid it's the best we can do." Clover didn't hesitate in snatching the glass from her hands, guzzling the whole thing in mere seconds.


The woman snickered as he caught his breath, pouring him another glass. "You still have a fire in that heart. That's encouraging to see!" More gently this time, Clover took the cup again, taking another large sip. Coughing, he wiped what was left off of the brim of his lips. His parched body rejuvenated, he tried speaking once more. "I am so-", he paused. Rebuilding his composure, he spoke his first full sentence since waking up. "I'm sorry for my savage behavior. It's quite unfitting for a man of my rank. Please, what's your name?"


The woman grinned. "I suspected as much. You're from the surface. No denizen of the ocean is so kempt. The name is Kimberly. Kimberly Walish. Pleasure to make your acquaintance, I think." Kimberly outstretched her hand towards Clover, which he grasped gently and shook, though the look of confusion on his face had only grown more apparent.


"Surface?" He inquired. "What do you mean by 'surface?’ Why do you have a second name?"


The grin faded from Kimberly's face. "Oh. Oh dear. You're not from around here, are you?"


Clover tried to swallow the anxiety that was now sitting in the back of his throat like a lump, visibly shaken. "Wait", he spat, without any of his usual pomp or grace. "This is Magonus, is it not?" Kimberly sat the bowl down, wearing a new look of concern on her face. "Magonus? Dear, I've heard of at least six different planets, but never once have I heard of a 'Magonus'. You're on the planet of Opaleon."


"P-planets?", Clover stuttered. "More than one?" Garnering no response from the clearly confused woman, Clover summoned any strength he had left in his body to push himself off of the suspended mattress. Though the searing pain persisted, he was successful in finding his footing on the hardwood floor. Standing tall, he looked Kimberly directly in the eyes. "Lady Kimberly," he began, "I need anything that I may have possibly had on me when I was rescued."


"You had a set of armor and a weapon. They're in the broom closet just down the hall," Kimberly responded. "Please, sir! I implore you to stay awhile longer. You're in no shape to go off wandering!" Clover ducked underneath the door frame, Kimberly following close behind.


"I have questions, and I intend to find the answers," Clover said. "I need to be taken to dry land as soon as possible. Your efforts would be well-compensated" Kimberly looked solemnly down at the ground.


"I'm afraid that might be harder than you think."
 

Clover

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The familiar and comforting feeling of the Sun upon Clover's face was a welcome change of pace from the dim, dank room he'd awoken in. Placing his feet firmly on the ground, he took a deep breath. The overpowering, briny scent of wide-open waters permeated his nostrils. In front of him was what he would describe as a "village", were he to be generous. In truth, he had seen bandit camps back on Magonus that had higher standards of living.

The ground was made of solid wood, from what Clover could gather. It certainly wasn't oak, cedar, mahogany, or any other species he could identify. It was something entirely new. The existence of something beyond the reality that he knew both excited and terrified Clover's scientific mind. The potential benefits that undiscovered flora and fauna could have were only outweighed by the potential dangers.

Extending in all four cardinal directions, dotted with shoddy huts and small market stands, all of it ended in the same place: the murky, blue waters of Opaleon. Clover's brow furrowed, disgusted by the squalor of his surroundings. These people didn't seem barbaric, lawless, or even uncivilized. Why were the conditions so dire in this little village? "So, this is your home, Lady Kimberly? It's rather...quaint?" Clover smiled warmly, trying his hardest to be polite.

"It's not much, but it is home", she replied. The sound of waves crashing against the floating town was only drowned out by the screams of the children playing in the streets. For a moment, they almost made it hard to concentrate. "Do you see what I mean, now? There's not really anywhere to go from here, I'm afraid."

Clover wiped the sweat off of his face with a small, fabric cloth that he kept knotted around the end of his trusty rapier. There were many things he dedicated himself to, but Clover's need to keep his appearances up bordered on obsessive. He tapped his leather boot on the ground anxiously, contemplating. "Lady Kimberly, do you have any idea as to who may know what brought me here? A scholar, a scientist, some sort of authority?"

The small woman shook her head. "I'm 'fraid not, dearie. Your best bet would be somebody on the surface, though I wouldn't have but a clue of how to get up there", she responded. Clover pivoted to meet her gaze.

"Surface?", he replied, wearing a look of confusion. "I don't mean to sound daft, but whatever do you mean by 'surface'?"

Kimberly simply pointed upwards. Hanging above them, far into the reaches of an indigo sky, was the lip of dry land. Clover couldn't quite believe his eyes. In all of the books he had read and in all of the tomes he had studied, nothing could have ever prepared him for this. By all accounts, it seemed impossible. Physically, logically, and geographically, it was devoid of any plausible explanation. Something like this defied all known laws of science and the will of nature, yet it was treated as nothing more than an every day fact of life.

Clover was known to be a collected individual. Most of his comrades saw him as a cold man, devoid of any emotion that wasn't prideful contempt. Yet, here was a revelation grand enough to shake him to his very core. The alien surroundings and unfamiliar culture scared Clover, but the conclusive proof that he was dealing with something outside the boundaries of rational thought terrified him. Heart pounding under a thin sheet of metal, hands shaking, and eyes dilated, he did his best to keep his composure. "Wh-what exactly is up there?", he stuttered.

Kimberly rolled her eyes at the thought of it. "High society. A whole bunch of aristocratic fools. They stay up there and shovel food into their fat gobs endlessly, never working an honest day in their life. At least, that's what I've heard from people who have actually been up there. They don't take kindly to denizens of the sea, so we tend to keep our distance." Kimberly paused. "By the way, just who are you? You never bothered to give me your name."

In what seemed to be an instant, the panic that overwhelmed him melted away, overcome by habitual pride. Clover stood valiantly, arrogance practically coursing through his bloodstream. "I am High Councilor Clover, the Unbreakable! Renowned far and wide for my wisdom and cunning, I am third in line of succession to the noble King Liongrass!"

"Sir, I just wanted your name", replied the very confused woman. Clover's prideful grin twitched and began to fade, a red hue lighting up his tanned face. In such a short span of time, he'd run the emotional gamut from panicked, to joyous, to humiliated.

"Yes, yes. Of course", he mumbled in embarrassment. Attempting to swallow the lump that never quite left his throat, he immediately moved on to his next question. "You mentioned that people have been up to the surface though, correct? That means there is way out of this....wonderful little community?"

Kimberly nodded. "I'd assume so, yes. Most often it'd be our traders, looking to turn profits, establish a new source of income. Never really worked out, though. We have a few shops here, but your best chance would probably lay in Market Square."

"Market Square?", Clover inquired. "May I ask just what this Market Square is?"

"It's a traveling village, much like this one", she answered. "Difference is, it's inhabited completely by traders. There may be a few houses for more permanent residents every now and again, but it's largely just shops, stalls, and vendors. You could find one of our local businessmen to catch a ride with, if you fancy it, or you could wait until they come to us. Your choice, really."

Nonsensical geometry? Floating villages? This was all beginning to sound like something out of a vapid fantasy novel that he would have confiscated from the soldiers in training. What was next? A hideous sea monster? Clover smirked, briefly amused by the outlandish thought, before snapping out of his daze.

"I would love to stay", Clover lied through his teeth, "but this is an urgent matter. I thank you deeply for the hospitality that I've been shown. Could you point me towards one of these merchants? One that may be willing to take me with them?"

Kimberly looked disheartened. "Not really, I'm afraid. They're frugal by profession. Most, if not all, would require upfront payment for their services. I'm sure that my husband would have taken you, but he's out somewhere scavenging for whatever junk he thinks will make us rich. Dumb sod is lucky that I love him."

Clover, on the other hand, didn't look so troubled. Not by the idea of finding transportation, at least. "I appreciate your concerns, Lady Kimberly, but I'm quite adept at bargaining. I'll work a deal out, currency or not. You can bet your husband's boat on that." He paused. "Thank you, once again. I would have shuffled off of this mortal coil in a most disgraceful manner, had it not been for your kindness." Unlike most of what came out of his mouth, this extension of gratitude felt sincere.

Without a word more, Clover walked off into the village, heading straight for the small ships docked in the horizon.

Kimberly waved, shouting after him. "Goodbye! Be careful out there, and keep that bloody hair short!"
 
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