Monday, November 20, 2017

A Solitary Crow - Ivinia - 3

3 Hutheng

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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Solitary Crow - Ivinia - 2

2 Sea of Elkyri

Alaryr loves the oceans and the sea.
Bronwyne burns the battle where your future lives.
Deanaal is quick to honour the fallen favor.
Easlyn pulls the melody for some forgotten song.
Eynwif guards the tree, where the forgot live.
Freana blesses the hearts of two people in love.
Gresalyne gives battle to shield maidens,
Lynraal wants nothing but blood, to taste with her dirk.
Maarne tends to farm and fields, orchard and flower.
Sendryl crafts weaving for children, for when they sleep.
Ylina lift ones soul with poetry, trippingly on tongue.
Know your path for today – and leave the rest to memory.
The New Wives Song ca. 710 TR

Out through the fjord of Leim, where the depths of the bottom, gave way to the shallows – and then back again – the oak runners were carefully eye by the captain, in case something from underneath came up to swallow them, it was not unusual. Gradually, the mysteries of the ship were revealed – the rowers were black, and did not speak the language – and they were free to leave after this journey. This had been a pattern, everybody on board the ship was only attached for this one journey. The rowers, the Watcher, Green – all were for this one voyage. This was not the way things were done in Ivinia, or elsewhere in the larger universe. Usually be rowers were serfs, or slaves, and the other people were hired at least for a year – if not longer. There was also another person on board the ship, and he – or possibly she – was very tall, at least six and a half feet, but he was swallowed from head to toe in a white sheet, almost resembling a shroud. Obviously, this person had said nothing, and kept away from all the rowers, and the passengers and Captain.

Later the next evening they were out of the fjord and into the bay, which suited everyone. There was an easy way, and everyone relaxed. Perhaps it was started by the captain, who stopped looking over the side – and instead looked along the horizon. Perhaps he was looking for a different danger.

For the Watcher, be a moment of going from fjord today was an exact thing – the wind stirred up and blew away the clouds that had hung around them for the length of time from the dock. He suspected that they were not natural, there was the air of magic, perhaps born from a helpmate, and perhaps bed partner, to Sarajin. There is a difference between magic of one's self, and divine intervention, and since they were coming up to the sea named for the helpmates, one would have to be sure of which one was being invoked. That is why the Watcher stared at the captain, and wondered whether he was casting magic, or whether he was invoking. There was a great deal about the captain which defied all logic, of the ordinary kind, and veered into something unworldly. He also noticed that Green and the red Knight were best of friends, and were talking about different things, but were also studiously avoiding talking about the captain, it seems they had some of the same intuitions about him that he did. Which means that they were not close to the captain, but like him, pilfered for a reason, to be let loose when it was time. He wondered if the captain had any real friends. The Watcher was dubious, but would not approach anyone to ask. They were strangers, and did not speak his tongue well, better to be aloof.

But that was not going to be the case, as the Commander, red tunic following him into the wind, came to talk to him. No one else could hear them, as the wind picked up. The sun was no more than an hour in this very long day from setting, and it captured the essence of this very military man, who for the first time the Watcher saw as being driven by forces that had not been mentioned – the Commander was doing this for someone else, and not one of the people who he had seen.

“What do you want, Commander? While I have looked for danger, I would like to be of use in something more tangible.”

“That is all right, I want you to keep an eye out for ships, especially ones which are not populated by humans.”

“What other kind are there? I have heard of many kinds, but have not seen any in my experience. Though many of my companions disagree with me.”

“You have not seen what I have seen, then. There are many kinds, but what I am worried about is a crew of undead – the Gulmovrvin.”

“And you have actually seen these? What does a Gulmovrvin look like? How will I know if I have been visited by them?”

“I have. By sight, they look like you or me.”

“I am not sure what I could do for you.”

“You have the gift of watching intently, and seeing what other people miss. I believe that you will see strange things among the undead, and whether you will know it or not, give warning first.”

“That is quite a compliment, but I do not see how I deserve it.”

“You see a great deal more than other people.”

“Perhaps so, perhaps not. Know your path for today – and leave the rest to chance.” He looked at the Commander, and realized that the Commander did not recognize the allusion that he was using. His loss.

“Just report it you see something amiss with the crew, because I am certain that you will be the first to know. Let us call it faith in your gifts, if you will.” Intoned the Commander.

It was perceptible that he knew something, and the only question was, what was the source – and how detailed was it. He knew Green was a Sindarin – it should be to anyone – he knew that the tall white-robed individual was also Elvish, but he did not know which kind. There were dozens of things which he knew about different people he had interacted with, why they did not know was a mystery to him. 

Yes, he knew things about the others which most people would have ignored, even if they saw the signs – but how did the Commander know? Not only did he not know, but the Commander retained as part of his secret – and it annoyed. Perhaps this was intended. It felt like a mouse caught in a trap, to be eaten alive by cats.

At that moment, something wonderful happened: a large gray minke whale plunged out on the depths, almost to it is dorsal fin – and for just a moment stood before submerging again. This jolted him into action, though he realized that the Commander had moved on, but he found where the red tunic was waving and lock a course in it.

“Commander, you want to have me tell you something... Well I will, that whale should not have left from the ocean.” One can see that he was serious about this.

“I thought whales did this all the time.”

“Dolphins do, Hunter-killer whales do, enormous finback whales do. But not the kind that just popped out from the water.”

“Explain to me.”

“Most whales are either quite small, or they have huge flippers to propel themselves with.” He waited for a nod, or other form a confirmation, when he got a nod he continued. “ this has small flippers in proportion to its size.” again, he waited for confirmation, because now he could see that his speech was only to be guessed at by his companion, so he had slowed things down, and waited for confirmation. “So this species of whale is loathed to do that.” Wait. “The only reason is that it is either being hunted, or it is in open water.”

The Commander looked out over the ocean, which was becoming blood red, and seemed to understand. “So it must be hunted. What of it?”

“There are only two things that hunt that species of whale. Hunter killers, or when the ocean is deep, squid that are as long as your boat, or even longer. But such creatures do not come into where islands live.” He hopes it would get through to him, but apparently not. “We saw no school of hunters in this area, we were under clouds and fog almost the entire time.” He did not mention that the fog-clouds were peculiar, and might be man-made.

Then light dawned on the Commander's face.:“So what you are saying is it is odd that it jumped up, since neither hunting, nor open ocean joy, could be responsible.”

“Indeed, so we should watch out, because I have the feeling we will find what caused it. Because the other possibility is that it wants us to follow, knowing that we are not a whaling vessel.”

They both looked out over the tide, and stared for whatever event was coming. Because now they both know there was one coming, probably – or that they had made a friend from under the water.

The Watcher stayed on deck, monitoring the changing of the guards, before retiring to find a place to sleep. There were no staterooms, or even an area for bunkbeds – he imagined that people used the small ramp waves between the benches, or just sat upon them if need be. Of course, it was dark below, with only three candles exuding light. You had to walk beneath the keel, for that was a sacred trust – nothing could be allowed there. He asked each one of the seats, and saw in each case men blacker than any he had seen, he did not know where they came from, or what their heritage was. He was bothered by them, but not in the way that certain things bothered him. There were certain things which were an alarm, and needed to be attended to – but the faces were not of that species. They were just different, and he would get used to them.

Then he came to a seat and what surprised him was that a man was reading from a book – torn on the edges, but still a book. This surprised him for many reasons, and he decided to touch this man, and asked him where he had learned to read. The script was not runic, but he had seen it before – on the letterings and numberings found in merchants script, they used Lakise, which was from the continent.
“Where did you get that book?” speaking in Hânic, which was the only language that he spoke, and he spoke it with a drawl which could only identify him as from the north.

The reader slowly turned his eyes up to him, and slowly replied back, in another version Hârnic – but an understandable one. “I got this to understand the merchant's tongue, which I was told would be -” he reached for a word - “good in all sections of the world, at least by someone who had the badge.” By which he meant carrying a merchants guild symbol.

There was a nod from the Watcher. “So it must be a language dictionary.”

The reader puzzled over this, and then got what the Watcher was trying to get across. “It is a group of stories, which teaches how to use different parts of words. Of course it tells it from the point of view of Larani, who is worshiped in the South. She is a reluctant warrior.” The last few words were Larani's trademark, and were easily off his tongue because he had heard them many times. At this point, the Watcher moved his head, that is ending the conversation – but he would remember that face, because at least they had a common basis of communication. Neither of them spoke it well mind you, but in time they would get things across.

And he would remember the etching of Larani, because it was new to him – it covered the outside of the book. She, in this picture, was pure and tranquil in nature – not something that he saw very often – even if her red and white checker shield had a note of defiance. He wonders whether the Commander was a worshiper of the goddess. He put that thought away for more consideration.

Finally, he alighted on the prow blank, with the Skald next to him. At first, he was just going to sleep – but he noticed in her hands' squares which had runes written on one side. He watched as she shuffled them, realizing that she was practicing a ritual, that was almost certainly for prediction. He had seen this before, and incidentally watched her. But only after some few moments, she lifted her head and gazed back in to his eyes. “Do you want something?” There was something in her voice which was standoffish, not that he minded this at all, because he had been rude to watch and not comment.

“I apologize if I did anything wrong, no strike that, I know I did something wrong, and I am sorry for it.” He hoped that his face showed that he meant it. There was a wilt on his lips.

“Pray thee, many fine words for your gift.” An old reply, and perhaps, to loosen the tone of her conversation.

“I did not know that you were allowed to do that.” The graces nearby are more foreign to us.

“In the city I am allowed to, I would, I not know what is allowed in hamlets and villages, but these are not places that we frequent.” She was standoffish, though not quite boorish – maybe abrupt.

“That the goings on of my village do not count since we are on a ship which has things left to offer me, and I am learning a great deal. So, again, I am sorry, I seem to have offended you again.” There was a light, and low, sense of forgiveness to his words, but an edge to them.

“Your village took unkindly to different ways, and that it was a Viking place. We prefer to trade with people, it is our way.” It was she was trying to back to her runes.

“It is interesting that people from far away, we reach out to them on the smallest of circumstance. Even if it is a language which either of us speaks well. But when we are close, but not to close – such as a Viking villager and a highly praised member of a town – we divide ourselves, even though we have a great deal more in common with each other.” He wasn't going to let her.

“I have heard this many times from many other people.” She clamped her mouth shut, though it was that she would like to say more. But she turned her face down to the runes, and pretended to practice her divination. The Watcher took this has a sign that the conversation was over, but as he huddled down to sleep, she amended, and added: “We will have to speak more at some point, but I need to polish my casting.” And with that, he fell asleep, and gifted, at first to nothingness.

In his sleep a dream alighted, only he did not know where it came from. At first, he did know it was even a dream, just a drumming in his head. But then he realized, that even drumming in his head was a kind of a dream – then it had a picture, of a boat which had rigging and sails, and no oars. He saw it come out of the distance, slowly forming, until it had a full length or loop and main deck – and even to raised areas – a forecastle and a quarterdeck. It was nothing like the longships that he was used to. 

But even that was not the have of what was strange about it – it was the glimmering light that came from between the spaces on the oak beams. It was deep in the belly – unlike the dragon ship.

It was odd, because he had never seen the like of it before. And in fact, every detail of it was new and different, as opposed to being a melange of things he used to see. This to market as something other than a normal dream, he was sure of that.

Then it vanished and he returned to slumber, with just a nagging sensation that this was not memory, which most dreams were of, what foreknowledge. That kind of slumber which is infected by something outside. He would remember this stream, and even awake wondered what it was. It had such detail. There was also equipoise to it that made him sure that it was not something that he created.

When he woke up, he turned over the ship in his mind, trying to remember if he had seen the ship before. But if he had, he did not recall it. Though he did rack his brains over the matter, whether it was real or a picture in a larger book – because of course he could read quite well, which was not the case among his companions. He even had a dozen books by his bed, some given to him by his mother, and three were his own – which he prized greatly.

The other thing which bothered him, was he should not have used “I” so often when talking to a woman – particularly a Skald. He had learned from his mother that that was rude, very rude – and his mother was not Ivinian, but from the regions on the continent, where manners were more particular, and the gods and goddesses that they worshiped were more refined, and demanded that each phrase be uttered as if it depended upon it, as opposed to being, in Ivinia, the last thing that you ever uttered.

 “Forgiving mother, I have sinned against your goddesses.” Which was not the first time he had.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Solitary Crow - Ivinia - 1

1 Leimenfjorld

Call for the Pradeylki of Sarajin time, who etching on immovable stone
the glories of victory in fighting, and the sins of wanting and waiting
For who could not want to fight, when the days are long?
For who could not buckle his armor, rather than retelling long tales
whose ending is already known, rather than furloughing long sails,
and catch a glimpse of the banished Suerlji, and his ghastly brood.

Light brought forth light, but not to serve in heaven – but to command a wooden ship in hell. She – that is the ship – was barely above the waves that she cut through, with only the single mast, as well as the prow and stern, protruding above the rolling swells of currents from below. It was marked to anyone who knew it, that this was a vessel from the north wind of the world – with the prow that was ornately set into a dragons scowl, with another tale at the other side. It was a viking vessel, with all that implied to any who saw it. One did not know if it had come to raid, trade, or gallop fish – though if one looked at the side, one would not see Shields, which meant that if it were raiding, it was taking pains not to show it. Of all things in the world, this vessel would have totally different meanings depending on whether one were hoping for it or against it. The difference between hope and fear was a chasm, depending on whether out of the shimmering clouded light one was expecting or dreading a Nordic shape coming through the glamoring fog.

On the shore, of pebbles and rocks, stood a man – who was taller than most – thinking as to what purpose it had. He knew all of the scheduled ships that were coming in, whether to raid, trade, or fish – and this one was not any of the three. Which both made him question whether it was for fairer purposes, or foul – and what a single ship was doing. Because, to his mind, a single ship could not have done noticeable damage even to the village which was very close to his right. First of all, one could see that while it was a small village, it boasted 11 docks – which should have been a clue that a good portion of the raiders of the area called this place home. So for a normal hamlet, one Viking ship would be a trouble, but that was not the case for this particular niche of the world.

Though he had a truename, no one in the town knew what it was – and instead called him “the Watcher”, because he was watching the sea. All people did this occasionally, but his watching was almost an obsession. Above the clear blue eyes, and red beard which did not quite cover the broad nose, thin face and pinched up eyes that made him distinct from most of the other faces, which were longer and fatter him in the cheeks then he was. He was also gaunt in his limbs, and beneath the tunic and heavy leggings – he was thin, even though his hands were large and used to tying knots. This was actually a contradiction to people who had known most of the men who went down to the sea.

Then the Watcher turned about abruptly, towards the land and the hamlet, on his mind was conferring with the other people who would be interested. The fur on his boots was tinged with a bitter frost, because he had been waiting a long time, though not for this. But it was a sign from Sarajin, perhaps to enlighten the poor creatures – and perhaps to punish them for wrongs they have committed – it depended on which of the Pradeylki, the greater giants, and demons over which Sarajin had nominal control over – most of the time. In fact, Sarajin is the greatest warrior of the Pradeylki, and most of the time the others admit this – except the evil Suerlji, who wants to consume all of man in a fit of feasting. There are some whisper that Suerlji is aligned with the evil gods of the South – for example on Hârn – though if they are caught, they will be executed, and in the nastiest way that the Herald of the Gods can think of.

It was only a few beats of the heart, when he strode in two the one building which had lights in it. This was unusual, because only whale oil would actually give continuous light. And that was very rare in this part of the world. Not that they did not have it, but they would rather trade for things which were of value to them, rather than using it on themselves. He opened up the door, and then the fur lining which was universal in this part of the world. There he saw six men talking about when various ships and boats would arrive. But they all paused, and turned their heads to the Watcher, to see what he had to say. Because, he never had anything to say which was not important, he and the Herald did not waste words needlessly.

He cleared his throat to announce his presence, though it was not needed, and began speaking in a melodious voice. “There is a dragon ship approaching, and it is not one which I recognize. It is only medium length, but it has many men lined up beneath the oars. They want something, and want it badly. Why they do not go to a larger town, even though it has a keep, I do not know.”

Instead of talking back, the various men talked to each other, and then when a point of resonance had been reached, one man who was of slightly less than average height, but a bear in terms of breath replied back to him: “In is palpable that there is a reason why they have come to us, and we should allow them to talk before we answer.” His flowing robe of black was nodding as he spoke, and all of the other men were in agreement. Agreement came behind his words from the other men, because though there was no formal arrangement to his leadership, it was none the less real. The Valhakar – the lord, or his representative - largely blesses the decision of the people in the room – so long as the taxes are paid in good order.

From out of his cloak, came a horn which had been hollowed out – though one could not tell if it was for drinking or for blowing as a signal – and the Watcher pushed aside the fur and opened up the door. While this was only a few minutes, the mood had completely shifted. Instead of light, it was rapidly becoming a shifty dark rain, with low clouds blanketing the sky. Though the ship was still rowing towards the harbor, it had a renewed ferocity – obviously the dwellers knew that there was a storm coming. It would probably dock in half an hour at best, and cover itself just as the rain loosed on the world. There was something odd about it, for example there was red, probably a cloak. Such an object would be foreign to the locals, though those who had gone viking would have recognized them from distant lands. But what was different about this would have to wait.

“It seems as if this ship is different from the others that have harbor here, and yet they seem to be intent upon landing here.” the Watcher observed, then closed the door and dropped the for from his horn.

“Put the dice away, and anything of value, whatever they are we will find out shortly.” replied the man who gave orders on land, though he had no official title. The others called him “Dagger”, because that would appear in the chest of anyone who tried to speak over him.

“Do not bet on finding out all that they know, my guess is they have secrets that they will not talk about to us.” It was clear that the Watcher and the Commander not only knew each other, but each one had his way with the other men. Sometimes that was good, but equally much they had an edge which did not crest to argument, but only just. Someday one or the other would push this too far, but not yet.

While the dice were scooped up and thrown in some hidden caches – other things were hidden in more subversive ways, because ordinarily men did not have access to long sharp steel ornaments, as well as silver brooches, and gold clasps. In fact, as one looked, one realized that they had been raiding themselves, and were divvying up the grandest slices of loot. And of course, gambling with the to proof who was the best at making wagers. Then they heard for footsteps, three male and one fem two of them were quite ordinary, boots of the kind that men. But to them were quite different, to the men were wearing steel-shod – which was only from a very few people and largely in the South. 

It said that too of the people were soldiers, and probably knights, or praetorian guards. All at once the men inside could feel a gripping knot on their bowels – it was the difference between slaughtering civilians, or going at it with equals – and finding out that there were people of a different sort entirely in the mix. Sergeants armed with steel swords and tightly mailed armor. It cast an entirely different light on what could be on the other side of the door.

Even the Watcher had tensed up. Then, slowly, the door opened up.

Both the door and the curtain were both open, and one could see immediately that the rain – though tentatively – was falling. One could see it Was falling, first of all, from the large figures, the first of which now crowded the door. There were bits and pieces of three other figures strewn below, though they were not looking through the door. It was first and foremost a gray and white-haired man, with a well-coiffured bolt of yellow and gray, above two gray eyes and a neat beard. It was from this angle that one could see the steps upwards towards the door were steep and narrow, though after a time one would dismiss this as the nature of stairs if one was used to it. This man was ready for a fight, though he had no weapons out. He was clad in the same black and gray tunic and leggings as the others were, but there was something about him which told of the differences between them – every detail said that his beard and hair had last seen scissors, whereas none of the men on the inside could say the same. There was also an iron wedge that held his tunic on, and other flourishes which made it clear he had dressed some time in the last day or so. In all things, he was neat and precise.

“May we come in? We are not looking for a fight, and will go if one is offered.” This was not what anyone had expected the men to say, if anything the opposite.

There was a grunt of acceptance behind the Watcher, but he would rather place it in words: “ of course you can sit down. What are we supposed to call you? “ before he could introduce himself the cold and gray man said something odd.

“I hope you are called the Watcher, or one of your friends is. I was sent here by a mutually acquainted friend, who said you would be in this small village – he called it Rjestuvik.” among the men they had noted that he rolled the r's like someone from the large city would do – Pelyn for example. Was a way of saying that the man at the door was close to them and far enough away at the same time. But there was an abrupt movement behind him, and into the picture came two heads which were remarkable in and out themselves.

First of all, both were smooth – which was uncommon for whatever reason. One was a woman, dressed in a decidedly polished chain mail, which draped as far down as her knees, though no skin was shown because she had leggings and boots on, her hair was tightly wound, and brightly festooned with ribbons of different colors. The hair itself was auburn, and she had a small skullcap in the center of it. From the details she was inducted to the warrior clan, which meant that she was not from around here – where only the men vikinged.

The second was a smooth-shaven man, which meant almost certainly he was not of an Ivinia, and the details confirmed this. He wore a long tunic made out of spun lambswool, which was red – a color which none of the men locally would deign to touch – and beneath the tunic was armor, with a device on it. This man had finally spoke-up and said, “As you can guess, we are not from your locally patchwork together team of Vikings, and have come to ask you a favor. We came because one of your long lost mates said that there was one here who had sailed beyond all that was known. So we sailed out here in a warboat.”

“Dragon ship... it is called a dragon ship.” Called out one of the men. The only thing that can be said of him was that his dark hair was curvy.

“Very well... dragon ship. You can clearly tell by the folds and fears, that I do not speak your language very well. By the way, you can call me the Commander of this mission… the gray-haired old man is the captain, which I imagine, he will go by that title... because even I have not gone anything else to call him by. The Skald is named Dawn, her truename she will tell you herself. She is the youngest daughter to Aymen, the cleric of Pelyn. Lastly, you can call the knight by his colour... which you can see his Green. Watcher, I know, do any of you want to be called by anything in particular?”

I must tell you now, that among people who you do not know, there is a school of thought that you are to give only use names, because you never know who will try to slap a hex upon you. This is not how people who live in towns think of such things, but it is how people who travel and meet many people think. It is one of the first things that one learns, because everyone will give such a usename. The only people who dare their truename in public, are people who have done wonders things, and therefore dare anyone to use their name in a spell. Occasionally, someone does, and the results are unpleasant for them.

Gradually, the men introduce themselves, and then fell silent. The Commander then reached over to the Watcher, and in a low voice said: “We need to have someone who has gone out beyond Hutheng.” that is the largest island west of here, which is the last island of any consequence. To people who do not know any better, it is the end of the world – but people who sailed ships new that there were islands where whales could breed, though they kept their locations secret.

The Watcher replied: “And which friend has to to do this?” at which point the Commander leaned over to his ear and told him the true name, which was from Orbaal, a land which was on the Wizards Isle – that is to say, Hârn, the great mysteries island where things are different and magic is stronger than anywhere else.

It was at that point that the Watcher pulled back and looked at the Commander, with all of the differences – the skin, the helmet, the nose pointed outwards, be rudy complexion of skin – he looked truly different. And yet, if he wanted more information, he had to put aside these differences, and speak at least somewhat more openly. And that was just to know, not to accept, which would entail at least glancing at the ship – because there was something odd about the crew, but he did not know what.

“Yes, the name is familiar, but you must be aware that coming into my harbor and asking, is a fair way from getting my acceptance. I want to know want you want.”

“Of course, the name only allows me to sit at your table and ask. There is much too discuss after that.” He had to bend close to the Watcher, because it had gotten noisy - two men were trying to entice the Skald to lie with them, the captain was engaged with Dagger, about his dragon ship – and two of the more curious ones came up to Green, and asked him about what he did. They were also noticing his short stature and pointed ears. He replied that his Lord had given him for a year to pay off a debt to the Commander, and since a year is a very short time, he decided to go.

The Commander then continued to the Watcher: “But I have an offer which you cannot refuse, our dear friend will release you from the predicament that you are in, if you serve me for this journey. He will release you after that, he promises.”

That was to say, the Watcher was in the debt of the person from Orbaal. Somehow, this man had exchanged that debt, perhaps because he was going to Ivinia rather much sooner. They talked for rather longer than either had expected, and came to an agreement. By the time, everyone else was asleep – though no one had snagged the woman warrior, though someone was nestled much closer to Green then was otherwise acceptable. But what was unmissable to a few of the men, was that everything had been rifle through, even things which were obviously too high. Which meant that someone had been through the room. Since it was a common room, the village was too small to have an inn, someone should have seen who it was, but no one did, or at least no one admitted that they had, which was different. Nor had anyone seen someone entering or leaving the dragon ship, even though there had to be rowers on board, and at least one cook – not to mention serfs tending to important people.

The other thing that was odd, was that no one talked about the ship that had alighted on the dock, because normally that would have been a great topic of discussion – where they were going, where they had been, and who was going to be taken to replace the people who had died. Or in whispers that it was a craft populated by Avalir – the semi-divine creatures from the gods – who wanted to be left alone. But there was none of this either, just a blank stare, and no more than that.