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Miara's Hat

With his bare feet braced against the transom Jastas Pricklebag pulled at the creaking oars. Whistling what he could remember of the music the harper had played, he glanced over his shoulder, marking the southern entrance to the ever shifting Shoalmaze. Another ten minutes and he would have to pay attention.

Until then, he thought of perky Miara Rosethistle. He thought of the smell of her hair with the flower crown she liked. He thought of the melting taste of her extra buttery butter scones. He thought of the heart pounding laughter as she whirled in his arms to the harper's call at the Happy Helmet this night past. He thought of taking her to wife.

Hearing the sluggish shush of low, slow breakers he checked his course. No more daydreaming for a bit. Shoalmaze could be dangerous even to the tiny fishing dorys of the hobben of Bayberry. With a strong, deft pull to the right, he turned the First Corner and glided to a stop in the area he was privately naming Miara's Pool.

Jastas shipped his oars and set out the fork and the sacks. He made sure, as his papa had shown him so long ago, that his coil of line was clear and untangled, the lure ready to throw. Peering over the side, his face inches from the water, he carefully examined the reef a fathom beneath him. Not seeing any tell-tale signs, he picked up the coiled line and expertly tossed the lure just beyond the clear blue shadow of his dory.

After a half an hour with no results, Jastas lifted his floppy hat and wiped the morning sweat from his forehead, pushing back his curly brown hair. Looking about he saw most of the other dorys seemed to be drifting toward the Grotto. Suddenly wondering if the stoneface were spawning, he dipped a hand full of water and tasted it. If the Greenwell was in flood, the great upwelling of fresh water would turn Stone Bay brackish and trigger a spawning frenzy in the Grotto. But the water was salty. Where were the stoneface?

Jastas moved to the newer side of the slowly changing pool and again began casting and pulling, always alert for movement. Finally, a rock twitched as his lure passed.

"Ah-ha!" he thought. "There you are! Trying to trick Mister Pricklebag, are you? But I see you now!"

He reached down and, after spreading the top sack open with a flip, set the fork to hand. With a veteran's aim, he dragged the flashing, bright metal lure past the suspect rock. In a sudden flurry, the "rock" lunged, but Jastas jerked the lure into the dory and the eel's body was exposed. In that short moment, Jastas snatched the fork in a practiced move and speared the stoneface behind it's crusty head. Immediately, it wrapped it's fathom long body around the fork, trying in vain to inject it's deadly poison.

With one hand holding the sack, Jastas flipped the fork and it's writhing cargo into the sack. With a quarter hour to wait while the eel relaxed, he settled back to think of his beloved again, but something pulled at his attention. There was something small, green and blue, floating nearby. With a reach of an oar, he snagged it and scooped the walnut sized object out of the water.
It was a tiny green hat with a bluejay feather stuck in it. A sprite hat! What an odd place to find it.

Turning a bit he looked north, toward the Fair Isles, glistening green in the bright morning light. Fisher folk gave them wide berth, and the sprites weren't known to enjoy flying out over the water. Odd.

Still, Miara was crazy about little corn-husk dolls and had a huge variety of them. There was no doubt the hat would please his love. Perhaps he could use the hat to set the mood for his Question.

By now the stoneface fish was slack, though still deadly. He quickly slid the fork free, never once risking petrification.

Stoneface yield three products, each worth more than the last. Their flesh is a great delicacy. Their roe can be used by clerics for a potion to protect against petrification. But most valuable of all is an intact venom sac. Stoneface venom petrifies it's victims beyond the power of even a stone to flesh spell. However, properly processed, the venom makes a powerful enhancement to construction spells. Fortifications can become utterly impervious.

In all, Jastas caught a respectable eight stoneface that day. Eight stoneface, a hat and a bride.

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