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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 them selves. 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 has 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. Some day one or the other would push this to 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. Than 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 to 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 per 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, where as none of the men on the inside could say the same. There was also a 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.

Their 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 a 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 use name. 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 in to 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 to 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.

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