Friday, November 24, 2017

The Solitaire Crow - Ivinia - 6

The Storm
Peoni, Peoni, what are you guarding?
A child, a child, asleep on the grass.
Larani, Larani, what are you guarding?
A cloak, a cloak, nestled up to its chin.
Save-K'Nor, Save-K'Nor, what are you guarding?
A book that she was reading, ere it was halfway through.
Siem, O Siem, what are you guarding?
A lyre, a lyre, softly sweet and pure.
Halea, Halea, what are you guarding?
A key, a key, which she will certainly lose.
Naveh, O Naveh, what are you guarding?
The last illusion, by which quickens her throat.
A Child's Song of Uncertain Origin.

The raindrops fell, though very wide apart. It fell to green to introduce their new passenger, which Gwynwyffer was a burble of babel – until she stopped at a place where no one seemed to be. Or rather, she seemed to know that the white-shrouded figure was there before anyone else did. And what was more surprising was the reaction.

“I am surprised that you are here. Surely, there were better things to spend your time on than me.” There wasn't a laugh, but there was the constant hint of it.

“There things more important, but they are waiting there turn, because many of them live a very long time.” As opposed to the pandemonium of Gwynwyffer, Loria's voice was calm, and could be hard to hear.

“I forget that you take the long view, it is not the way with the wealth of humanity.” while the voice had turned down, there was no indication of any real hint of dissatisfaction.

“You do not know what a gift that is, to wake up each day, and go to sleep that once good night.” Even Loria was beginning to get, if not gay, then happy.

“I could afford a little bit more time.” Teased Gwynwyffer, with a great deal of mirth.

“You think you could, but having a day without forgetting, is not something that you really wish to have.” Retorted Loria, the without as much play.

The tête-à-tête between Loria and Gwynwyffer caught everyone else off guard. But finally, the Watcher managed to enter into their discussion – though he did so by speaking Hârnic. “It is clear that you know each other, and know each other quite well. Why do not you speak what you mean, because you imply much more than that.” He did not phrase this correctly, but it would have to do. 'Twas enough.

Two women looked at him, and first Gwynwyffer laughed, while Loria just made a slight half smile.
And then Gwynwyffer turned to Loria: “Did you not tell them of what you were doing?”

“But you do it so well, that is explanation is your strength, one might almost say your forte.”

Someone else might have blushed, but not Gwynwyffer – though it was difficult to know whether it was pride in her talkativeness, or she just did not realize that she was insulted. A good mannered insult, since it is clear that the two women were friends, or as much as they could be on opposite sides of life's divide.

Again, interjecting himself into the conversation, theWatcher interjected: “Are you saying that you are the mysterious companion, and you,” that is Loria, “was the gate opener?”

“Of course she was.” In a mellow high-pitched tone which was Gwynwyffer way. “But I did not know she would be on this vessel. How could I? It would be a strange thing for you to dredge up the one person who carried me through the pseudo-stone. You will have to forgive me if this did not cross my mind.”

Everything fell into place: Loria had been searching – at least among other things – for this person; and everyone began to suspect that the undead of Morgath were looking for her too. Thus servants of Naveh were recruited. Naveh desired evil, but not so much evil that human beings could not control it; whereas Morgath had no such compunctions – human beings were to serve, not to command.
The Commander them asked: “So what are you going to do now? And why did Naveh decide to rebel, if they had not gotten what they wanted?”

“They only needed Loria and myself, and I would imagine that they would terminate the relationship when the last hurdle was passed.” though she did not know it, the island capital was the last hurdle. There ever afterwards, there was no one to stand in the way of procuring that which Naveh wished for them.

There were more questions to be asked, but at this point, ominous low high clouds gathered, and it was that they had to gather things together, and batten down the hatches. Fortunately, this long ship had a full main deck, so people could huddle beneath.

It was just in the nick of time, too. Although the Commander was on the ship, everyone else asked a great many questions, though they often wanted for answers. The ship had come from the continent, and they suspected that it was sent for them. The other thing which puzzled more than a few people – was why did not the Skald maiden participate. With all of the goings-on, it made this suspicious. But later on they understood, she was in bed with one of the rowers, not quite the tallest, but the broadest one.

The Commander stood out all night, and watched the dragon hole, which spewed sparks and lava. None of them knew if it was going to explode, and none of them wanted to find out. So every so often, one or another of them looked out. They saw the orange light from the hole, and the red sash, which was brooding in his footsteps. Everyone stood away from him, because there was a foul temper to him. It was not just Loria's skirting around the issues – though that was part of it – it was that no one knew where the Morgath undead would strike, and that was on his mind again. So while it was light, it was the darkest light that anyone had ever experienced.

Bells chimed at 8 o'clock, and the crew slowly roused themselves. Not that there was any change in either the weather, or the Dragons hole – though no one had seen the black dragon. Which had a kind of mercy to it, even as the was still aclouding sky, that still rained down upon them. The crew only roused their sleep, which was unusual for them. It was almost like a holiday – though undeclared. Different people stretch different places it the anatomy – but the general consensus was that it was a day of rest.

There were only three people who were on affected, course the elves who rarely ever slept, more a command with nature, were not effective – and the last person was the Commander, who could not sleep because he watched the dragons hole and the twisting sky. Buy 8 and a quarter, all of the crew was assembled, and one might add crisply so. The holiday was over. And it was back to work, though a did not make a cleanup of the main deck, instead they sorted out the cramped quarters below – there was only about four and a half feet. But they managed to make quick work, and then go on to the little jobs which made what could be called spin and span.

If it were a slave ship, many things would have to be carefully constructed by the crew – but since they were free men, and they had a bond between them – there was a willingness and an eagerness about them which was infectious. The men even told jokes in their strange tongue, even though for many of them it was a second language. But down below, Gwynwyffer would not permit the priest to do anything but continue to instructor, at which she was amazingly gifted. Ones or twice was enough to fix in her memory a word or a phrase or idiom.

Then, suddenly, everyone had something to do – and in each case it was the Commander who suggested it, and if not suggest ordered it. But only one person understood this, and he was the Watcher. Bags of flour were stacked, water was laid out into open buckets for the next journey – and 1000 different things that needed someone's attention. That is why the Watcher went over to him when he was done giving orders, but watching everyone with a still calm eye, and rested a still and on his red cloaked shoulder. Slowly, with a stare framed in the steel helmet, the eyes of weariness stared back at the Watcher.

“What is it you would like to say?”

“In all the world there are few people who could organize this motley collection of men and women into a crew. Just do not forget that one of them is you. And some of us will remember it, at least one at the time it happened.”

“You are too gracious.”

“I only knew one thing. I would not serve under Green, or Loria, or anyone else here; but I went would serve again under you. You can take that as a compliment, or what you will.”

Under the helmet, there was little expression from the Commanders face, but he thought that the rough edges had smoothed. This was the most internal thought that he would ever see. But then, in both of their eyes, something was moving along the sea sky - and they both suspected what it was.
A Black Dragon. A sinewy thin dragon, as before.

At this point, the Commander was waving his hands - and shouting orders, in two languages. He was a torrent of energy in this mode, because things had to be done. So he rolled his gait and was all over the deck shouting orders. But the Watcher was moving his eye to focus on the black dragon. And he saw something very interesting – and he started to wave down the Commander.

“That is not the same dragon as the one we watch before.”

“And what is different about it?”

“The first dragon was almost straight, with only a bending loop going down from the head. The bending loop was formed into a circle, that was straight down as the as the circle moved from head to tail. Thus it was pure, even when it was stretching out. This dragon reaches left and right, it is pure in a different way. It will left than right, up and down, and the whole body stretches in several directions. This is not the same dragon at all. I do not know whether they are mates, or even which sex is which. But I do know that there are at least two.”

“How do you know these things?” In his steel helmet moved back and forth, as to motion amazement.

“Most people watch, where have I observe. There is a difference.”

The Commander just nodded.

Soon the dragon was no longer in the background, but had moved to the mid-ground. And they all saw, when they looked up at different times, a man dressed in black armor and wielding a long sword. There was no detail on his face or figure. There was something of dread about him, even those who did not know what. But the Watcher knew.

“That is not a Gulmorvrin – because one of them would be dead. This is different but the same. It clearly is under the command of Morgath, but it has a deep life to it.”

Because most were scrambling around, and only a few people paid him any heed. But the Commander was interested. “What is it?”

“I do not know. But stories tell of undead that have life to them, and command the Gulmovrin with their mind. There undead, of a kind. But they have life left – which they willingly give to Klyss - Morgath's second in command.”

“So how do we defeat them?” Asked Green.

“We do not defeat them, but we can dissipate they're to form a little while.” Countered the Watcher.

“Wonderful, we cannot defeat it just drive it off.” Commented Gwynwyffer. “If I ran the world, things would be rather different.” She checks her quarterstaff, and felt for her sling.

“Watch out for the sword, it has fell treatment about it, and eats with sword, a Bukrai blade – the un-magic force.” Commented the Watcher to no one in particular. The rowers had gone beneath, and in a view minutes were growing out of the island. It is this point that the dragon lit down, with its talons – which were five – reaching below to strike at the vessel. Right up overhead, it was vast – easily twice the length of the ship, but of course only about one quarter the size in breath. It was clear after it had missed that that was a warning shot, and that what it wanted to do was to have the ship move towards the land.

And it was working: both because of the tide, and because of the storm – as well as the motions of the dragon – the ship moved towards the coast. Gradually, it was heading for the easiest beach that the Commander could find. Then the Watcher saw Loria bend to the Commander – but what she said the Watcher did not know. And then finally, the craft beached itself on the pebbles – and that was the moment that Loria sprung into action. She wielded an enormous bow – longer than almost any that anyone had seen – and with the dragon bearing down on the vessel – she fired a shot which struck directly at the right eye. And what is more amazing – she managed to hit.

With that two things happened, one is the dragon pulled the arrow from its high, snaking around as it did so, and disappearing into the mist. The other one was that the undead released himself from the saddle and stretching his arms gracefully pulled open a cloak, and slowly descended far away from the crew. He was still completely back. He hit the ground, with his knees sinking to earth – but righted himself again. It was clear he was tall, broad, and cover in armor from his head downwards.
No one but the Watcher saw that smoke and steam was coming out of the dragon hole, and eerily dead men came spewed out by fours. Eventually, the dragon Rider landed at the middle point of the point at which the dragon whole was further up the chain, and spun to – perhaps embrace - his legion.

From out of the lava from the hole the minions were collecting and streaming down the pinnacle. Clearly, this is not what the Dragon Rider intended, but it would have to do.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Solitaire Crow - Ivinia - 5

5 The Whaling Islands

O between the Month of Peoni,
When all the morning sway -
Comes a tide of Larani morn,
On here does stray.
Light the summer's waking,
Yet spring takes the day,
For on here the Flowers bloom,
Water gayest burbling brook.
But look not past the breeze,
Into tumulting torment,
For that way lies the winter,
Though it hides behind
Autumn's lament.
Ifor's Cry ca. 600 TR

One would think that the ship would immediately dock in the nearest available harbor, with the great vista of a mountain peak stretching not so tall as an Ivinian spire. But the Watcher knew something about this island – was very small, but at the crest of a range of such isles. So he directed the Commander to sweep all the way round – and check every view. And it was good that they did so, because while the mountain was bare of trees, and even bushes – there was an opening which they could spy at the limits of Green's eyesight. Coming closer, where everyone could see it, it was obviously some sort of dragon, or other such thing. But they did not know if it was inhabited.

“So your sure that this is new?” Questioned the Commander.

“Surely so, there was no such place when the Ivinians last checked this island, at least as far as any were willing to tell.”

“It does not seem to be inhabited.”

“Only very large dragons live in a single place. Most go from reach to reach, thus to feed on the local sheep, cows, deer, and moose – or what they can catch out of the sea. And there are only a few large dragons, most of them are small. I do not know if the small ones grow into larger ones. But the dragon holes are populated by different dragons.”

The Commander just nodded. “The other thing that we should look for is the undead ship. I have not forgotten about her, and I do not think it has escaped your mind either.”

“No, indeed not.”

Each of them stared out over the island, which was surmounted by a shield-shaped peak, and rapidly dwindled. It looked like it had just appeared there, in many parts of the volcano had nothing on them – not even grass or lichen. In fact, the black rock looked almost pristine and new.

“Each time I see her she is a bit larger, she is still growing. As you look at the crevices near the water, you can see how they are active – not just the peak.”

“Why do not you settle this place?”

“It still too new, but there was a village about four islands down, on a much larger rock. But no one has heard from them in five years – through what took them one will never know, no one goes there – it is forbidden.”


“Captains law. Which is an orally transmitted thing. But law none-the-less.”

“So what you are saying is that the islands are inhabited by magic creatures?”

“Not magic so much as large. And there may be people who do not wish us to know anything about. That is aside from any fell creatures - undead and the like.” The creatures of Morgath, and his demon Kyss.

“Where do you want to place the dragon ship?”

“Right here, where we can look at the vast maw. You never know when it is going to lose a dragon, or acquire one.”

“You think it is likely that there is something living in it?”

“Or will be soon, as said before. Dragon holes do not rest for long, at least this is what my pitiful experience tells me.”

“You have more experience than any except the elves, and they do not talk about it. And I have tried.”

It was up to the Commander to pick the crew: Green, Ebasethe, and the Watcher. Normally, he would not even consider the Watcher, but he detected an eagerness to set on this island again. If things went well, he would send everybody to catch their legs, because the rowers were not seaworthy.

The boat was dropped in the water, and the three men went over the side – the dragon ship was only a few feet above the boat's draft. It was not like a Dak, or even a Nivik – the older kind of ship, with its keel outside of its dock, way older ships had it. Nivik was slenderer then a Dak, as well as having no main deck – thus the crew is protected by tarps, or other canopies.

As they went in with the boat, it was not sand, or pebbles, but a thick mass of black which clumped together unevenly. This was new here, and he knew it from fjords which were under the spell of active volcanoes. It was clear that this one was very active indeed, and as they surveyed the rocks, they could see steam coming up from a variety of places. They could even see hot molten lava coming up from the depths. Clearly, be volcano was active – more than it had been the last time the Watcher came.

Somehow, all of them knew that quiet was to be observed. So they beached the boat about 100 yards in, and begin to explore the area. Mostly it was a lush form of green and yellow grass, though many flowers were in bloom. There were at least 30 varieties, and then the Watcher stopped counting them, there were other things that needed attendance. Ebasethe was clearly amazed, he had never seen such a place, and looked about eagerly. Green, however, was much less impressed, it was both professional and personal. Clearly, he would rather have trees and bushes with which to hide among, but it was also that there was no glamour to it, no sense of wonder. The Watcher, however, felt a cool breeze, and only cirrus clouds overhead – and for the moment was happy and content. But the dragon hole, and creeping air of undead kept him wary. Thus, he looked at the flowers, the bees, and other forms of insect life, but only for a moment – forcing his eyes upwards, to the ridge which was before them, and even up to the sky.

And it was up in the sky which something happened, he did not know what, and he looked over to see that Green had seen it first and was motioning with his arm. It was a dragon, black in color, and seemingly circling something else than them.

It came each of them, almost simultaneously, to move to a thick band of another sort of grass – almost 7 feet tall and as much across. This was a true green with only a little bit of yellow. They rushed inside of it, hoping that the dragon was looking for something else – and that it was not searching for the correct moment to pounce on the ship, because that leaves them stranded. And that would mean that there was only a very small chance of being picked up by an Ivinian whaling ship – or anything else that might stop by this island. Whaling ships were not known for picking up loose stragglers in any event.

So they watched it slowly looping around, adjusting for both yaw, pitch, and roll in its hunting for whatever it was. Clearly - it was not looking for denizens like themselves, and what was more surprising – it was not looking for a ship. Clearly - it was looking for something else, perhaps it was measuring the heat which was coming off of the island. But whatever it was, after an hour, it then departed for the islands far away – which they had just barely seen when they launch the boat. They saw white mountain caps in the southeastern direction.

Its long ornate body then disappeared, with the ridges of its body undulating its way. But it looked back occasionally, with a trust of its head, and a bit of green flashing – which could be seen for an extraordinary way.

“That was not meant for us, though I do not know who it was meant for.” This remark came from Green.

A rumination came from the Watcher, who then replied: “ I think it was checking whether or not the island was inhabited, and unless I miss my guess, that was not the dragon which carved the hole.”
“Why not?” Asked Green.

And then Ebasethe piped up: “It would have stop... stopped.”

At this Green nodded. “Yes, that makes sense. But that means that another dragon either seceded, or there will be another dragon to contend with.” This took a moment for Ebasethe to parse, obviously, he was not stupid, but this was a language that he did not speak well.

They were clumped together and seated on their hunches, when a distinct snap registered with all Green and the Watcher, though not with the priest. A normal person would have thought it to be a rustle in the grass – but that was not the case. Immediately the two of them stood up, and moved there heads ever so gradually to where the noise had been coming from. Immediately, both of them caught a flash of dirty blonde hair decking beneath the grass, which was probably female – and decidedly prone. The Watcher raises his voice: “We can see you, so you might as well come out.”

It took a moment, amidst the wind swirled grass – but gradually a thin, and middle aged woman stood up. She was decidedly plain, but had an intense grey-eyed stare – she was obviously intelligent. Though it was that she was then, it was not for want of food, but and asceticism which marked her hands and body. She raised an arm, as if to say: she was not going to contend with them at all. All at once there was a hard edge to her feature, but a gentleness. But in her left hand was a quarterstaff, which meant she could defend herself quite well.

“It was when the twig broke that you were going to find me. It was truly stupid of me, and not the sort of thing that I would do. I suppose I should introduce myself: I am Gwynwyffer. Yes, that will do for me. What are your names?” the rush of her voice, and the patter of its expression, was a torrent. Even Green could not understand it quickly, though the Watcher could. Then she continued: “ please tell me if I am speaking too quickly, it is a habit of mine. I try to slow things down, but in my hurry to express everything – I usually forget that not everyone speaks as quickly as I do, or masters languages as succinctly. And as for why Ivinia, and not something else, one of you is dressed in the Norse custom. And I would guess that that would be a lingua franca. Your eyes tell me that at least two of you know what I am talking about, even if my words come out too fluidly.” indeed, her words were an onomatopoeia of sound – a melodious symphony of noise – which was largely unexpected.

“Why are you here?” Asked the Watcher.

“I was left here as a punishment. They could not in good course kill me, but they would do everything but, and by them, I mean the Ivinian raiders. I assume that they would find me dead, but that is a bad assumption, because there are several things to eat – if one is not particular. And I have other things to worry about then the nourishment which I consume.” Her green dress was skittering about from the nervous energy which she had.

“Could you speak more slowly, and with simpler word - words?” The priest asked.
And At that moment, Gwynwyffer slowed very far down, almost as if she were speaking pidgin, or some form of trading language. The effect was palpable, as if she were slowing down intentionally. “I am sorry.”

Then Green spoke up: “How long have you been here?”

“They dropped me here during the longest night. So six months, give or take.”

“And you have eaten what is on this island?”

“The thermal pressures do not just give heat, they also form food.” For a moment she meant to say “sustenance”, but thought the better of it.

“We are exploring the island, but obviously you have done a great deal more than we could. It is very surprising that you have stayed alive this long.” Commented the Watcher.

“One has to live.”

“Most people would have starved, or nearly so.” At this point, the Watcher looked to the sky just to be sure that the dragon was not looping back.

“I can only vouch for myself. And living is by far the best option.” She opened her mouth to say something else, but thought the better of it.

At this point, Green asked: “Have you gone up to the dragon's hole?”

“I reached the mouth, and there was a terrible smell. Like sulfur, only worse. If you know the Agrikans, it is the kind that they deal in, especially when summoning their demons.”

“They really do summon demons? I heard that was a myth.” Green took this moment to align his cloak just so.

“I know of at least one that does so.”

“Where there is one, there is more.” The Watcher look at the hills, wondering whether they had exhaust they secrets.

Gwynwyffer looked at the priest, “The Agrikan do things on a wide scale. Almost as if they were turning out galley ships, the way the Azeriani do. A practice that was invented by Agrik.”

“You have been a long way around the world.” as he said this the Watcher was faintly impressed on his face.

“You do not know the half of it. I have been three-quarters of the way around the globe, driven by Earthmasters, though I did not do anything about it. There was one person who unlocked the secrets, and three of them – while not masters of it – could from time to time reach into the pseudo-stone and teleport us to a different place.” What she did not say, was that she remembered every detail, and thus when they were going to a different place, could recollect every detail.

It was clear that this had to be processed, because pseudo-stone was an object left behind by Earthmasters – and no one there had the smallest clue how to manipulate them. That they could be a form of teleportation was extraordinary. And all three were awed by the prospect.

Green recovered first, and asked: “You came through pseudo-stone?”

“That is why I am in this place. They did not want me to use a pseudo-stone to teleport. Even though I tried to say that I could not do so of my own accord. I do not know where they took my companion. One of them could unlock the pseudo-stone.”

“Even trying was a blessing.” Replied the Watcher, still looking at the hills.

“In my experience, Sarajin is – I was quite disabling but that is not quite correct – and honorable god - that is the right word. Thus for every transgression there is a penalty. And since I had no one to watch for me, the trail by combat was out. Not that I would have taken it, mind you.” She had gone back to speaking higher and more quickly.

“So they tried to, why not put you to death?”

“There were a number for that position, yes. But the position that I was doing something, though they knew not what, for Sarajin finally held the day. So I was put off on the next whaler to go to these parts, and spend what remained of my life, in their minds, freezing cold. But plans came out differently. Perhaps they knew something about what their god wanted after all - whose to say?”

“Do you want to go back to the ship?” The Watcher looked at her directly.

“I have been here six months, waiting another day will not hurt me in the least. And you would like to go to the hole, and smell the aromas from within.” so with that the began climbing towards the dragon hole, with Gwynwyffer sticking with the Watcher and the priest. Green, however, would pop in to view, and then pop out again – often appearing in a different place. He was energetic, and had to reign himself in.

At last the reached the hole – which was at least 40 feet in diameter. The outside was black, and within 30 yards, it spouted down.

There was indeed an odor, and it was as Gwynwyffer described – like sulfur only riper and more dense. But none of them until the very last minute covered their faces, because they wanted to imbibe the odor for themselves. Gwynwyffer was not affected, but all of the others finally wrapped their noses.

“You are gifted with understatement.” Kicking his foot on the blackened rock as he did so, the Watcher eyed Gwynwyffer with a renewed respect.

“You wanted to know what it smelled like, and I complied. Nothing more nothing less.” she uttered back in amusement.

Green looked at the two of them and ventured a question: “Do we want to go down there?”

“I would have done so already. If going down there is what you want to, that will be to your god or goddess.” With that, she kicked a black stone in two the darkness and listened to it fall down, as if to enunciate what would be happening. The long fall into darkness had sobered the other three, and there came an unspoken agreement that they would not go down, unless something urgent depended upon it.

The sun was at the top of the hole, engorging with orange and yellow the depths which it plumbed. There was storm clouds coming, and at last they turned their back – hoping that this would be the last time that they stood there. On the way down, a small brown bird was chirping, and that reminded them all that there was no noise at the top.

All the way down there was conversation, but not what you would expect: Gwynwyffer and the priest were harmonizing the intricate language which he spoke. At first, Gwynwyffer would ask in Ivinian – but gradually she passed questions in his tongue, and got replies in it. By the time they were off the mountain, and in the sea of grass – she was more fluent than he was. As the whispers of stalks were pending down the forth them – and they were almost to the boat in the distance – she was able to hold a very crude conversation with him. Which was impressive, he had taken a week to do the same thing, and he was readily acceded to be a master of languages.

The tide had come up and down, but it did not reach the boat had all – the Watcher had made sure of that. Gently popping was the sounds of insects, who had been waiting for this time to mate. In the distance, a flurry of water crashed down a gorge which was over 50 feet long, which had not been there when they left. Obviously, a glacial ice had broken – and this was the flood. There were what looked like flowers, but when looking at them, they could not be flowers because at least half of them were in the water. They were currant feeding to marigold, when finally it occurred to the Watcher that they were starfish, which he had never seen before in all his journeys. As much as he would like to pick one out, the boat beckoned them – and they would have to tell everything about their journey.

He wondered if Gwynwyffer was what she seemed – but a glance in her direction told him he should not be worried. If she could beat all of them, then there was nothing to be done – she was some form of demon, or perhaps undead. In any case, they would decidedly be finished.

All the way along, the boat was slashed by waves from the South – it was that a storm was brewing, and they were just beginning to feel it is wrath. The clouds congealed effortlessly, but there was no sign that it was anything other than natural. It was not the high clouds, reaching all the way into the atmosphere and topped by a thunderhead – but the wall that says it will be rating for a long time. It was at this point that the Watcher had thought about the progress from the ship's point of view, and how they saw four, not three, bodies – and what they might make of this. But then, they would find out almost immediately.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


“It’s a deal—we overlook the allegations against you, and you vote for the tax bill.”

The Solitaire Crow - Ivinia - 4

4 The Haonic Ocean

Hark, it is new and midsummer's morn -
And on the shores of endless day,
On the land which tells us so,
Now is the time when the sunlight lands.
Ivinia is bright and fresh, the peak
Crestfallen, with winter and spring behind.
O the fine ocean, please hear my prayer:
Captivate me with the afternoon to morning light,
Ever westward until day is one in an eternal sky
And there I shall worship the one sun,
Never more to sleep again on Kethira's side.
Written between the leaves of a Sarajin tome, 455 TR

It was almost the beginning of the long day, the day of never-ending days. For almost a month, the sun would never set – and in fact the first day where evening twilight and morning twilight merged, was a festival for many of the worshipers in the north towards Sarajin. It was not a religious festival, exactly, and perhaps it was merged in through some local goddess, a ritual that only had significance for the few people. But it made its way into folklore, and was celebrated by whaling ships who were out that time, as well as others who were working – so to give thanks. There was an uneasy red light in parts of the sea, and some view Mariners took it as a slain Pradeyalkri, trying to tip over the world, and challenge Sarajin to a fight. A few dwellers of dry land, whispered softly that Naveh would gather his forces on the longest of nights, just to prove that they – unlike Morgath – could operate at any time of the year, because they were not bound by darkness. After all, even when the sun is up, people need to sleep, except those who pray upon them. And these Naveh calls to his flock.

In his own mind, Morgath wanted to be the only God, Naveh wishes to serve the needs that god and goddess will not supply, and Agrik wants to have all of the other gods behind in his legion. Which is why most people serve the Ljarl – the code of Sarajin – in the north. Even here, the evil gods have their power, and those who serve them. Especially Morgath, who probably have sent the black oak Dak to pounce on them, when the first dark of autumn dons upon them.

It had been several days, and the last Island of Hutheng's cluster had fallen behind the horizon. Now, there was only see until the whaling islands rested over the brink of the world. Most people did not know that they exist, only a few who would look for baleen whales. Most when North, where a view hundred them around the Yarli inhabited lands. There was, of course, a fight between the Ivinians and the Yarli, especially because originally the Yarli populated much of what was now in the Norsemen's grasp. There was much bad blood between them. Especially because the older people would not worship Sarajin, nor did they worship anything resembling the ancient ones – the Pradeyakri who would never serve Sarajin - instead they worshiped the gods of the dwarven gods, or at least as much as they understood.

The Watcher glanced out at the reddening sun, and thought that tomorrow night or the next would be the beginning of the transfixed night. And he, which was a personal tradition, would stay up all night, and remember the last year and fix to memory the most important days. This year, aside from this boat taking him along, there were few days of interest. It is not been particularly memorable year. But it had been cold, and on this eerie just barely twilight, the frost was even reaching through his fur. But he would Remember it in every detail, because it was not often he was aboard a ship, and even such bitter cold as this would be something he would tell all of the children in his little town. Because he knew that his adventuring days were numbered.

Out of his mouth came what sounded like a sigh, it was only rarely did he reflect on the time when he would not see the ocean, nor feel the whitewashes which well in the wake of any ship, or note the time when he was truly on board the ocean, as opposed to a bay which surrounded him. All of this would be gone, unless he was taken by Sarajin and wrapped into the ships which would take him to Talagaad – heaven for the worshipers of the Norse god.

On his tunic, he flipped the hatchet which he stored, reminding him of all the times when this was the only thing that protected him, and there had been a few times in the last year. He remembered all of them in a surge of reminiscence. Even in a year which was dull, he managed a few close shaves. If he was asked, he would say that such instances were normal – did not everyone have the? But deep in his heart, he knew that not to be the case. Instead - standing out to the bow, and risking his life, was part and parcel of who he was.

Then he spun about, to see who was on deck. It was the captain and to of his henchmen, and towards the right of the ship – Green was taking a view measurements, with a contraption that he had never seen before. So he set his course for the Sindarin, if nothing else than to have someone to talk to, and perhaps to reveal some clues as to where the other elf was.

Gathering himself together, because he was taller than Green, he cleared his throat to begin. But the elf turned his back on him – as if there was nothing that he wished to talk about. This angered the Watcher, and raised his voice, and said:

“What have I done to disturb you?”

The Sindarin turned and faced the Watcher, and took two steps forward – getting his face in humans. Then he whispered: “Something that I do not know if you have done, but I will not believe you if you deny it.”

Unconsciously, the tone was ratcheted down, and they were both whispering. “And what is that?”

“You worship the wrong god.”

“And which god is that?”

The elf was torn up by this, obviously it had been on his mind, probably from the instant he first laid eyes on him.

“The same god as the captain worships – Naveh. The god that uses a skull.”

He stopped – the Watcher that is – and thought about how the elf-knight had arrived at this conclusion. “That is wrong.” He realized at once, that supernatural beings of Morgath had been occupying his time, so that mere natural ones of other evil gods had not bothered him in the least. Because Naveh deigned two use humans, rather than those that were once human, but had moved on. 

Thus, he saw the ship, but not the Captain of his own boat. He hoped that would convince Green.
Suddenly, one of the captains men was behind the elf, and there was no way the Watcher could do anything about it. But the elf could, twisting himself down, and punching into the Captain's man - which reacted quite violently to the blow. In fact, the captain's man was spent - and that gave the Watcher time to handle his hatchet, and pushed his aggressor over the side of the gunwale. All at once things got out of hand. Both the human and the elf were gasping short breaths, and scanning which way there next move was.

There was a loud braying, which sounded a bit like a drum. Then the oars, which had been moving quite steadily, stopped. The Watcher then wondered why they had been moving, because was not it strange? Then there was fighting beneath the ship, obviously, not all of the rowers were supplicants of Naveh, but many of them were. Gradually, some of the rowers came up to the deck, and they heard the captain – speaking there own language – giving orders. It seemed like Green and the Watcher were going to be annihilated, at least 10 of the rowers would be immediately on top of them.

One of the rowers, the man who spoke some of the language, that the Watcher had conversed with, was up on deck and had a magic form of blue around him. And with its release from his hands, seven or eight of the rest of the rowers were down on the deck, and they could not move. He had suspected something about that particular rower, and it only vaguely surprised him that he was a spell caster. Once that had been shown, it fits with the other details of his personality. The forehead was noble, his eyes more erect – it was now that it had been pointed out. The elf raised past him, a rambunctious bit of speed which the Watcher could not duplicate – it was that Green was faster than even in elf of martial prowess was.

But before the Watcher could move, the Captain was upon him, and had a sword out, though he did not know from where. Then he felt in his midsection a sharp pain, which was clearly the sword puncturing through all of the furs and leather. A normal person would have gone down, but the Watcher stood there, and chopped his hatchet across the neck – almost decapitating the Captain's throat.

Then it was over, because this was not a Viking ship, and the crew was largely untrained. They also were surprised by the ferocity of the rowers, though many of them had died, many of them were healed by the black rower, who had obviously been biding his time for something like this. A quick glance had told him that four of the crew were close to the captain, and were probably Naveh worshipers as well. They had all been sliced by Green, who was remarkably quick. Then the Watcher went below, and saw that a large number of the rowers were dead, and were dead by a remarkably long sword, almost all humans would have to use it with two hands. But he did not see who had used it.

“Turn around, I can hear what you are thinking inside your head.” With that, he turned around, and saw a very tall female elf – the very one who cast her face in front of the black oak merchant ship. Her face glowed with a white luminescence. “It seems you have much to tell us, because we thought you were like the captain, and about half of the rowers, and almost all of the crew. Please forgive us, because we thought you would be among them. You also found one who divined miracles, so that is also to your credit.”

“Please sit down after we clean up the ship. It is that we have been working at different angles, when we should be working together.” though there was no flourish to his actions, there was a sense, remotely, that he had been trained in the finer details of etiquette, though it was a long time ago, and he did not remember much about it.

So, with that, they started dumping over the dead – giving all a prayer for their forgiveness. He also proved very slowly on his stab wound, and the black cleric – worshiper of Peoni as it turns out – looked at it, and cast a minor healing on it. Then he introduced himself, but the Watcher could not make out his name, so he called him Ebasethe – a priest of Peoni.

It had been an interesting day into day, and although he would have to listen to each one of them, and learn what they had to say – it was they wanted to learn from him, as well. Thus, he would tell them the truth as he understood it, because even while they were divided by different gods, they were united by other things. Which is not something that he ever thought about, because he rarely ever met people worshiping other gods.

The sun dipped below the rim of the sky, and then came up again – barely entering twilight at all – when the crew gathered together. There were about one-third of the rowers, the priest of Peoni, the two elves, and the Watcher. Most of the Ivinians were dead. In the scarlet color of the morning twilight, the sail was almost orange, and though it was not magical, there was something to it which was like the bird singing for a worm. And everyone sat down near the keel, with only the Commander standing up and took charge of the meeting.

“All of you who are alive, greetings. The force of Naveh, who gathered together on their secret place in Pelyn – that is the large town before we picked up this man.” Pointing to the Watcher, “and combined with the rest of the crew, are dead. We had to take the chance that they would ambush us on the way to the Whaling Islands. It did not happen that way, but fortunately for us, we were stronger, though we did not know it at the time.” He was speaking slowly, enunciating carefully, and using small words – because he knew that each spoke his own version of a dialect. He knew that some of the rowers only spoke a few words of any language he could comprehend. Unfortunately, the only person who spoke there time was the Captain and the priest. So he had to allow Ebasethe to translate. This took a longer time than anyone but the Commander had appreciated.

As the proceedings carried on, the Watcher looks around for the taller female elf. It was only gradually that he realized that she had been stand there all along, glowing dimly with her distinct slightly off-white aura. He then understood that the white aura and shadowy presences were one and the same: as single spell which closed over her, though how long it took to cast it was a mystery. In all probability, she had always been on the ship the whole time, but on the borders of it. Thus he had missed her, in the glamour. So had any other people, he assumed. But he would be more careful in future.

Finally, the talking had gone on long enough, with a few questions put to the Commander. It was then decided to take a vote, would the boat continue to look for the Whaling islands, or go back. Though it was which way they were going to decide: forwards, because none of them wanted to know the depth of rage that the capital would hold. Because even they knew that it would be exquisite. So the hands were taken, even though it was a foregone conclusion. The Commander announced that the decision had been taken, and only a few did not wish to scurry forth. And the few who did not, were made aware of what a tiny share of votes that they had.

Every day at noon, the Watcher checked the sun. and every day, or close to it, he had seen the will crest – and usually peaked out of the ocean, either in full or mostly full. This is how he knew they were on the right track.

Then, as before, the dragon ship slipped into a routine – and for the next 30 days it treks on under the clear blue sky. But then the last day came, and a bit of twilight crept in. the food was running short, and it became clear that if they did not see land, that a decision was going to have to be made. The tension was building for a week, and just as the Commander was going to hold a meeting, fortunately, from the top and of the sail a voice was heard, loudly and clearly.

“Land ho!”

Which was repeated in the Southern language below.

The oars pulled harder, because now there was something to pull for. For none of the people, save the Watchmen, had ever seen this land before. It was a gray-green sort of place, with a tip of white and gray, some distance from the ground. It would take a day to reach it, and everyone was talking about it – and all the measurements that had been taking.

Then when the Watcher was down below, Green took him aside and said: “Until today I did not really expect to see land.”

“Is that you did not think he was here, or that I would lead to a stray?” Answered the Watcher.

“I think we both know the answer to that, but that is passed and forgotten. You have a friend in me – and I think there is more ahead.” Smirked the knight.

“Oh, there is definitely more had – because what is coming forward, will be the heart of the tale. Remember, my presence here was just too get you to the islands, which is a trivial thing.”

“Yes, I have heard just a fraction of what the Commander and the elf who is known as Loria our planning.” obviously, there was a circle within a circle, and Green was not in the inner circle.
“That is the first time that you have mentioned her name. And you have not mentioned yours at all.”
“She did not want it, until I was sure of which side you were on. Mine is Lalorian, but no one calls me that. Green is just fine with me, I have grown used to it.”

Meaning that it was time, which the Watcher noted. He whispered his name into Green's ear. At least the elves extended trust, eventually, so he should do the same to them.

What is more, it is more than can be said of the Commander, who still had not mentioned his name. And, suspected the watchmen, he was not going to do that for a very long time, if ever. Which indicated to the Watcher, that there was a secret which no one knew, and would be revealed only with his true name. Which was interesting, to say the least.