Can you imagine someone fairer than this?
With green eyes that are almost turquoise.
With red lips with no Ruby touch upon the face.
With no black hair that comes down to one's nape.
With just some lavender to adorn my eyes.
Can you imagine someone fairer than this?
“Can you imagine someone Fairer than this?”
Traditional Tune ca. 675 TR
Then very suddenly, everything became routine – after all, the captain had added one member, to a group that had a routine. Once the new member was added, the entire ship was balanced again. But not quite – because every day, the minke would appear – as if it were planned, and perhaps it was. The Watcher talked only to the captain, the Commander, the Skald, and the black crewmember – which he found was slightly less than average height but broad and smooth. He had a bit of facial whiskers, but certainly not a full beard. When he was off, he told the Watcher about his homeland, and how strange everything was – particularly the food. While both of them struggled in a foreign tongue, they had a camaraderie, that came from the fact that there was no one else to truly talk with. The other detail remained strange – he occasionally saw the very tall white shroud of a figure, and even saw the captain talk to it. But he had not seen where it slept. He noticed he said “it”, though he suspects it was a woman.
But for two days, he did not think about this – instead he was watching the wind. This is because if it changed to the south, that was a sign that the water current and the air were aligned, bringing with them “Skivaal Flood” - and that would mean icebergs. While merchant vessels would be alerted when the first sign of this, even a warboat had to the wary. He sensed that the wind was almost ready, but was not quite. So for much of the time, he took long droughts – just in case turned, but it never did. Though he seats rocks, and this told him that he should look for the Captain.
“Captain, may I have a word with you?” He sensed that the captain guest what he was going to say, or the gist of it, rather than hearing every word distinctly.
“I have an idea for you, instead of going to the port, you should go somewhere else.”
“What is wrong with the port?”
“Yafors is the choice, and everyone, and his brother, goes there. There are a lot of ends and bars there, and I do not think you want to draw that level of – notice.”
“Everyone will be talking about every ship that comes in, and you have enough pieces of interest to have everyones' eye raised. I would suggest that even though it is more trouble to get to, there is a better choice.”
“I have only heard of Yafors, which other choice is there?”
“On the inside, there is the capital – Inlevik. While it is not as – thirsty – a place, it is where the business is done. You would do better to load up supplies from there, and they will check your papers, immediately - rather than just before dawn when paperless ships will think that they have gotten away with it. I assume you have stopped by Pelyn for papers that allow you to pass?”
“I did so, I showed you remember? I was warned that any ship that passed through these waters would be inspected – and will be tied to any who either did not have papers, or was related to a noble house. Since I was not the later, the first stop was to secure papers for my voyage. Otherwise, I would be straggling home, and unable to stop for food. It is going in that they will surely stop you.”
“It is a long voyage. But that is why you got me – because I am one of the few who news where the islands beyond the pale are. And I would not sign on without papers from Pelyn, though forged papers could have been the ones that you showed me earlier. I just had to be sure.”
The captain nodded, that was in fact, one of the reasons that he was there. “Can you take us to the island capital?”
“Of course, easily so. And though Hutheng is only … the locals are only vaguely attached to Pelyn, and the kingdom which it represents. Kingdom of Menglana is not a word that should utter, except where papers are concerned. It is rude, and it shows that you are from the core islands, or even worse, from someplace which hearers only what the callers from the core islands choose to say.” At this, the Watcher grew quite serious. It was obviously something that the Huthengers took very seriously.
What he also realized, was that the Captain was conversant with his dialect, though he hid it very well. But the conversation needed to be precise, and therefore the captain dropped all pretense.
So the dragon ship changed course running West rather than Northwest. But out of the corner of his eye, the Watcher saw another ship change course with them, it was far away, and often could not easily be seen over the troughs and waves, but he knew that it was there.
Just then the Skald came up to the Captain. “ I was just casting my runes, and I found something odd. Wyrd is a rune that could mean a longship, and it came in a place which warned of an attack. You may, of course, think nothing of it, but I think that it was important. I have not cast the runes so forcefully in a long time.”
At that point the Watcher piped up: “That tallies with something I observed – that a ship was also moving west at the same time that we were. I would suggest that it is not equal.”
The captain nodded to both of them, but did not say anything - but moved down below and barking some orders. In less than a minute, the oars were out, and making good time. Clearly, he had listened to both of them, and decided not to take chances. But then the rowers had not been doing any thing for a day, so they were fresh. Slave rowers would have been exhausted, and would only been doing about half of the speed.
But the wind came up from the south, and had a foul sense to it. And no one could describe it as anything other than natural, even a dead body procured enough stench. This was not unpleasant in that way, it was putrid in a way that could not be described by anyone. Everyone wanted to be away from it.
About an hour in, on the directions of the Watcher, they made a series of turns, and all hoped that they would land before whatever it was caught up to them. In an intricate series of turns, the cliffs were visible. From daylight in open sea, through crystal deep blue where the pillars were distant, to the twilight which was as dark as it got here – they were finally able to see a shifting series of lights, which were men made. Overhead, there were the natural green stripes of the northern lights, which covered Hutheng virtually all the time. But while the people who were not rowing gazed up at the spectacular show, the Watcher was looking at the dimness on the horizon – and he found what he was looking for.
“There is another ship, and it looks like a Dak. A merchant vessel from the South. I do not think that it is friendly, or that this is just happening.” then the others looked at the ship, and saw that it is oak was black, which is unusual color. But somehow it stood out, though none of them could say why. And its course was designed to ram the dragon ship, and it was catching up. Which was not really possible, but it was true none the less. So as the man-made light from the capital was growing, so to was the Dak. There was no telling which would work first – would the dragon ship make it on to land, or would the black Dak hit them first?
In olden times, when dragon ships were the fastest in the world, it would be not a problem. But as men began to settle the communities on the ocean, they finally built ships which were able to make long journeys. It was at this point, that the dragon ships were not capable of reading the largest citadels. They still could read the smaller towns – as was seen in Orbaal on Hârn. But these were not common, and generally among people who did not like the sea to being with. But this Dak was new – or newer than the longship was – and it was bearing directly for them, there was no question of that.
And very rarely did it come this far north – and never to such a small port. It was too large for this, smaller boats would have done just fine - or old ships of the kind who made they're living off of other things, such as whaling.
The Captain was shining orders in some other language – he obviously spoke the language that the most southern people understood. The Commander was taking the view who had arms, and was going to board the ship if it came to that. The Watcher started to move to the Commander, when suddenly the white shroud appeared at the rear of the vessel. Suddenly it reached up with its hands, and dropped the hood.
There every one gazed at the face which shown forward. The hair was white and long, the face was more Elvish then Elvish, as if it was the real form that the Sindarin only approximated. Along the Dak, a white light was cast and there were people scattering around the ship. A wave that could not be natural, came up and hit the rigging and first over the deck. It was at this point that the Dak shied away, and disappeared into the night.
The figure had already closed the hood, and disappeared from the rear of the ship. All at once, there was no magic anywhere to be found – it had disappeared. Every person was wondering what had happened, and whether the show was over – or would there be a second act. Then people were talking, and had questions for the Captain and Commander, which were calmed by lowering the hands, which the Commander spoke to:
“I will answer your questions in time, but I would have you think, and not to answer to anyone of the ship what you just saw. It would be bad, and I think you know that.” There was a murmuring, but there was a universal sense that they had gotten in order, rather than anything else. Then the talking stopped. After that, the captain went down below, perhaps to see if any of the rowers had seen anything. Green was looking at the rear of the ship, and wondering what he had just seen. And everyone else tried to find something to do, even if it was not necessary. Even the Watcher looked towards the front of the boat, that is when he realized he too was staring.
He wondered why the Dak plunged away, there must be some kind of reason for that. But he would have to talk to the Commander, and get whatever answers could be had from him. Then there was the question as to whether he would trust those answers. And he did not know if he would or would not, the tone, syntax, and other things, would be crucial to his response. In other words, he would have to trust, and that was a particularly hard thing for the Watcher to do. Very hard indeed. Because while it was not much of magic – light shone in various ways, against the northern lights which were indubitably stronger than that – he had seen magic, for the first time. And Elvish magic, which he did not understand.
They beached the ship on a little cove, which was of sand. Unusually for such a small village as Inlevik – it had a wall around it – though it was a small wall, to ward off such boats as would come here. Of course, the real trick was that it was down a winding straight, which one had to know how to get down. The wall was then too slow down a ship which new that it had come to the capital, and had an experienced navigator to direct them. In other words, it has happened before.
A few men lead by the Captain trudged towards the open gate. Or rather, the just open enough gate – where only one person could wedge themselves through. Strangely, the gate was of pine and only a bit over 7 feet. Usually, it was of oak or elm, and would be even with the other portions of the gate – which were 3 yards. This meant to the Watcher, that someone had tried to break in fairly recently – and the inhabitants had not yet had the time to get more settled structures. Because, there was only pine here, and getting other forms of wood would be a challenge. They moved into the firelight, and one slender man stood out and raised his left arm, in a signal for them to stop.
“Halt, I am the chief guard. I want to see your papers.” There was no nonsense to his voice.
The Captain complied, and then spoke: “I was wondering if we could come in, and rent beds for our men?”
The guard checked the papers and then folded them up. “No, you cannot. When the sun is a full stand over the horizon, you can get food. But then you should be off with yourselves.” Then the door shut, firmly, with no reply being asked for or accepted. Clearly, the town was on watch for anything unusual – and that probably meant that there were raids still.
So the men trudged back to the ship, with the Watcher relaying his observations to the Captain. He also saw two figures retreating away from the ship – one was the elusive white shroud, and the other one was Green, he doubted that anyone else saw them moving over the pebbles and sand. He thought he could hear talking, but in a foreign tongue. Perhaps it was some form of Elvish.
Back under the deck, he noticed that the rower that he had spoken to was engrossed in his book, so he tapped him on the shoulder. The man looked up at him, and smiled broadly. “ I thought you were going to rent us some beds? Or are the village folk not wishing to do that?”
“They have had some encounters with the black oak ship. But that is only my guess.”
“I would say it is a good guess.” He again grinned and it seemed to the Watcher, that he was gregarious, once you got to know him.
“That means that we will have to spend the night here.”
“It is fine. By the time we are let free, I would not know anything else. And I would tell any birds who stop by that this was the way people slept.” And he would halfway mean it, but then went back to reading his book. It was the end of the matter.
He slept for a little while, but a knew that they would be getting up shortly, and it was his custom to be ready for it. Thus, he stirred up early, and was out with only the captain has his only companion.
But he did not approach the captain, because he was totally how much food and water, and which people would carry them. Which is all right, because he had calculations do as well – getting out of the inlet, and out to the sea. There were rocks to avoid – which was part of his primary mission, because when they were all on the ship, he would have to plumb to make sure that nothing had been moved. And things often were moved. He thought about the undead, and there was very little time for them – he wondered why they would be reaching for him. Soon it would the day, a great span where night did not come. He imagined that there was no way for them to catch them. But then night would close in again, and they would be near the whaling islands, which would be a much better time to close in on them. Perhaps that was the point – just a warning shot, where the real occurrence would be much later on.
Looking outwards, beyond the pebbles and send, to the pine clusters – he saw that while they were numerous, they also were short. It was that the villagers would come out and chop as often as possible, for kindling. About a mile away the pine trees grew up instantly, saying to him that they were out of reach, and it would take anymore determined resolve to get wood. In all probability, there were rules determining who was able to go on these expeditions. There was no deciduous trees at all, except one oak away in the distance, he did not know why it should be so – he did not remember it being there, but of course, it had to be. oak trees to not come up from nothingness.
Then he went back to his calculations, and was absorbed in them. He finally looked upwards, and saw the captain and a group of rowers herding the provisions back up to the ship. And that meant that soon it would be time to get moving, and be out to see. So he wrapped his calculations, and put them in a leather bound scroll case – and set out to see the captain about a variety of things. He met the captain on the dock, and talked with him about assorted matters, not getting to the heart of what he wanted.
“Do you have time to talk about something rather important, Captain?”
“Please, there is more to this place then meets the eye.”
“To have someone to investigate?”
“Yes, I do. If I need you to do something about it, I will tell you.”
“Then I would like to put something to you.” The mouth held itself just slightly open.
“Go on.” The captain was not looking at him but at the food that he had obtained.
“The are two ways to get to the whaling islands, one to the north, and the other way is to the deep south. I assume you want to go to the north.” Again, the mouth was just slightly open.
“That is correct.” The captain glanced back at him, and then continued to keep an eye on the provisions.
“Then I have my calculations are correct. Would it be possible to check on the rocks, just to make sure that nothing has shifted.”
With this, the captain turned and looked, and said: “I would assume that you would ask anytime you want.”
“Good. Because the next thing that I would ask, is that we follow the whale, if we can. I think it is waiting beyond the inlet, and will lead us in the proper direction. Even if it is not our first choice.” The Captain scowled, but did not say anything. “And, when the time comes to fight the undead, it will be the whale's place to take it.” Finally, his mouth was closed.
“So you really believe it to be a pradeyalkri?”
“Whatever it is, it is on our side. Remember not all that is pradeyalkri is necessarily good.” And now it was the Watchers turn to give him his back.
After that, the ship was on its way, and around the inlet, there was a curve which ferreted away the town, though it was much longer for the dragon ship was truly out and towards the open sea. And again, he wondered how in oak grew up in the middle of the pine forest. And he saw a dance of Viking men, enjoying the feast of Midsummer. Of course, they were drinking, and the captain ordered a barrel of mead – dry and fruity, and with a touch of cinnamon. Everyone, including the rowers, got themselves a little tipsy, but no more than that. The captain was not having anything that would qualify as bad behavior.
But, he is still the did not see the white shroud, and he wondered where it was. Because he was sure that she was somewhere on the ship, doing what he could only guess. But it had to do with the black oak ship, and it is Gulmorvrin that he felt sure was a part of it - because he saw her and green go off to get something, and that something had to be related to whatever curse it had. The oak tree and the white shroud, perhaps that was a thought implanted in his mind. But perhaps not, because many towns would plant some form to mark their territory, and she had just grabbed the chance when it was found. Do not make anything harder then it is, and the easiest is to partake of an oak when it was available.
After a few hours, there was a pot, and in that pot was the tiniest of oak trees, and a mistletoe nestled among a split in the branches.