• So there was once this young mate named Bronker I knew. He was a little off in the head, people would say, but I had no quarrel wit ‘im. Anyway, ‘e had this collection of nails. You know, Cartwright nails, pulled from timbers on ships and boats. It was a little off, like I said, but stranger things I’ve seen on the Seas.
    These nails, though, were all bent; cracked and warped. They was no use to anyone for anything ‘cept Bronker’s own appreciation. Daft Bronker, ‘e used to take these nails out of a sack on deck at night and cant with them real good. I mean he would eye them close like a jeweler, paw over them and even smell the lot. Like I said, a little off, but ‘e loved ‘em. Meself, I asked ‘im what he wanted with the nails, being of general int’rest in most things I see. He wouldn’t answer me, though. Just always with the nails, caressing them, holding them up to see close, like a jeweler.

    Mate was a good sailor. Could move about a ship like wind on a sail. And fearless in the face of the sea. ‘E would oft be the man hauling mates out of the frosty deeps, right in the jaws of death and all, I mean really scraping his sack on the icy waves, ye know? An every time we had a breached longboat or frosted keel, he would be there, tenden’ . . . and keepin’. When the Freeze twisted decks and hulls, he sorted through the cast off nails like a Dale boy through wives. I mean he really scoured them clean with ‘is eyes! The ones he kept, he kept in his ratty leather sack. Always with the sack.
    Anyway, I was only on the oath for a six week hop, moving from Cordus to Inner Hydra, not expecting much more trouble than a tax boat in those waters. Well, me sworn fealty to the crew was tested mightily when the sound of steel drums in minor key came drifting from the night. The Ghost Sea was comin' to pay us a visit.

    A Green Ship arose from the depths near Azure. None expected so powerful a Demon foe near one of Hydra’s sacred Isles, but there she was, as terrible a sight I ever pray to set eyes upon. Burning runes and will o’ the wisp lanterns hung from intense blackness that wrapped her in a shroud. A mighty warship, taken by the deeps when the Sivak still ruled Hydra. She dwarfed the bravest carrack: a luminescent hammer stroke. We were lost.
    A typhoon from Hell tore from the deeps that night, and my mates scrimmed bravely to bring the ship to rights – but t’was to no profit. We had scarcely laid in sail when the first salvo of ethereal cannon struck us.
    Some describe Ghostfire as a terrible feeling of eruption from within the pit of yer stomach. A sense of sudden, paralyzin’ fear, and subsequent pain as ye’ve never felt in yer numbered days. I say, this is an adequate description for the likes of this story, but until ye face that brilliant emerald blast ye will never love life as I do now.
    The Green Ship plowed out of the unholy storm like a brute through a chow line. We lost six men in the masts alone when they opened with their second broadside. Terrible sounds men can make...

    I make a life of stories, mind you. While I watched my mates freeze and twist, I swore to live the day so that I could carry the tale to Azure. I knew I must spread word of this malignant force in the seas of Hydra. Right in the home seas!
    So the Green Ship is bearing down, ready to claim our lives for the deep, when I hear this laughter. A mad sound, upon the shriek of the wind. There, in the frosty waves at the bow, is this mate. Bronker.
    I still have to chuckle, and I takes a drink for him whenever I drink, but the desperate soul had thrown himself upon the figurehead and was prying hysterically at some or odd thing. I thought, hell, I’m dead anyway, lets see what e’s got. So I fought my way up the twisting, splintering planks to the bow. The wind was fierce, and like to sweep me into the sea, but I makes me way onto the bowsprit, amidst the thrashing, frosty waters and the devil Dhue’s bloody orchestra. Well I crawled out over the danglin’ mate, Bronkers. I shouted out to him in a gen’ral way. I really din’t know what to say, ye eye it? I mean, there he was, hangin’ over a raging bloody Deathsea, and laughin’ like he was made Lord Archon of Hydra!

    Anyway, I gives him me hand to come up to deck, but he passes me cold, letting me wave me hand to the emerald glowing strands beneath him. He’d nothing to do with me, ye see. What he wanted was in his hand already, and he was laughin’ and cryin’ over the beauty of it.
    When they came for him, as ye know they did, he reached up and pressed a cold, iron token into me hand. I tried to seize him as ‘e was dragged beneath the ship, but the Glow, it just didn’t want me then. It wanted him. Ye kind to it? The deeps wanted him.

    As soon as his joyous face slid into the blackened green waters, the storm died. A whisper was left where the mighty Ghost Ship towered, and we were set drifting, crippled, toward Hydra’s warm hearth on a cool, calm sea.
    When we made it into port at Azure, I recovered his leather sack and made my way purposefully to the Water Altar “Devotion,” the sacred ground of Hydra’s Tenth Head. Ye may scoff at the thought o’ meself in that prissy patch, but the message I bore was grave. The prances of the Water Templars mean nothing t’me, but I had to give his remains, such as they were, to their rightful caregivers.

    Ah, “Devotion.” I still believe there to be reason in Bronker’s death and the unexpected appearance of ancient Hell upon Hydrian waters. I knew his precious collection deserved a place among the artifacts recovered from the deep, resting amid pure Temple streams. The Watermasters took his sack, his nails, his miracle, without question. Ye know they could see the wonder in it as well as any. It was one of a kind, I mean really.

    You see, the sack was full of bent and busted nails, destroyed by the dead souls of the glowing Deeps. They were the clasps of civilization, designed to pin together trade ships and spread our mortal lives in defiance of the dead. They were the linchpins of human culture and they were broken, frozen, conquered - by contact with the deadly, bloody Ghost Sea. Ye eye it? They had The Freeze. All but one.
    That final nail, pried from the frozen figurehead after the deadly strike of the sea. . . that cursed nail was straight. It was unbent, unshattered, unfrozen, unconquered. It had been smote by the Ghost Sea and still served it’s duty: holdin’ the wooden beauty fast to the bow of our struggling ship.
    Ye see . . . the Deeps took Bronker, but not before he found that damn beautiful nail. The Glowing Sea couldn’t take that nail.