Hammersfall: Saga of Verbjorn, Part 4 – Landfall
Verbjorn awoke to the sounds of sea birds and surf upon the rocks. Water lapped at his legs and hips, and his head thundered from striking it on the ladder. He shakily gained his feet, and looked to the hatch. Sunlight streamed in and a cloudless sky was visible. He could hear movement in the forward hold, where Condul and Osun presumably still slumbered. He staggered to the door, and saw Condul stirring, while Osun snored in a hammock. Verbjorn helped Condul to his feet, relaying his experiences the night before as they climbed to the deck of the ship. Condul said that the only man he had seen on the ship other than them had been the captain’s galley cook, and it must have been he who killed the crew and it was fortunate that the sea had taken him.
Beyond the damage to the mast and railing, the ship appeared to be intact. The ship had run aground on a sandbar near an island, dense with overgrowth and a slip of sandy beach running down to the waters. The two men searched the ship for any other survivors and found that they and their cousin were the only survivors of the crew of twenty. In earnest, they began gathering the bodies on the deck and taking stock of their supplies. They had plenty of weapons and clothing, plus a few supplies for fishing. They found some fresh fruit and vegetables that appeared to not have been tampered with, and set them aside. The remaining food they threw overboard, for it was all suspect and could not be trusted. In the hold, they found several sealed barrels of water and let the opened ones drain in case the poison was also in the water. They gathered what sailcloth they could find and noted that the rear sails had been furled, just as they were when they left port. They gathered the various lengths of rope and assessed most to be useless for large tasks but possibly useful for smaller projects.
They had just completed their tasks, and Osun clambered out of the hatch, even more unsteady than usual. The lame and cowardly slave was unsetteld by the bodies and the seax still around Verbjorn’s waist. He immediately chastised Verbjorn and Condul for going too far and killing their hosts, ruining their chances of escape and suvival. He snapped up a fishing spear and backed into the forward cabin, closing the door and barricading it before either brother could protest. Verbjorn tried to explain that it was not his hand that violated the hospitality of their hosts, but Osun could not fathom that they would not be slain first if it was a plot from the Aelfar. Condul vouched for his brother, but Osun was still less than trusting. Condul took another tack, and pointed out that Osun could have been left behind, sure to face the Rite of Iron in Verbjorn’s place if they had any intention of harming him; he also pointed out that none of the men were seamen and killing these Svartalfar would be dooming oneself. This point softened the fear in Osun’s mind and he reasoned that Verbjorn, while sentimental, was no outright fool. Osun also knew that he would not survive alone in an unfamiliar place without help. He asked the men to swear troth on their Gods, Ancestors, and Families that they would work together to survive. Condul countered with a demand to swear to stick together until Verbjorn’s quest was completed, through any trial that the Gods laid before them, including this one. The three men sat in silence, contemplating this oath. Verbjorn stood and swore upon his Gods, Ancestors and Families that he would not abandon the quest nor harm his brother and cousin. Condul accepted and made the same Oath. Satisfied, knowing that he was safe, Osun took the Oath.
The men, satisfied in their pledge, realized they should examine the outside of the ship and see if they could make it to shore. They reasoned that they may have run aground on an island with a settlement, from which they could find passage to their destination. The morning sun continued to climb, burning their skin with its touch. The cool shade on the beach beckoned them to come ashore. They stripped their heaviest clothes and found clean sailor’s clothing in the crew cabin in the fore of the ship. Each man gathered a few tools and a few pieces of fruit to carry them through the morning. They lowered a rope ladder over the side and climbed down into the water next to the ship, the sandbar holding it solidly in place. The water was shallow enough that they could walk around the hull, and nothing appeared to be damaged from the storm or running aground. They carefully waded toward shore, each man keeping his tools out of the salt water by raising the bundles above their heads. The waters were shallow enough that they did not have to swim, which was fortunate for none of them could do so. Once on the beach, the men decided to split into two groups with Osun and Condrul heading north and Verbjorn following the southern beach. They sat and ate some of the fruit, the cool shade doing as much to bolster their strength as the food. They decided to walk until the sun hit its zenith and then turn back, hopefully making it back before the sun set and share what they learned on their trip.
Verbjorn walked along the shore, which seemed to widen with every step, the curve of the island taking him quickly out of sight of the ship. The forest to his left seemed unreal, the massive thick foliage pressed right down to the sand, and the trees seemed alive with brightly colored birds and the calls of animals made it as noisy as the city ever was. He continued to walk, hoping that around the next corner would be a settlement or a fishing village, but every stretch of beach was as untouched as the one previous. He noted that the sun was nearly stationary above him, meaning that it would soon be time to head back. Looking up, he stumbled over a rock, falling to the sand and dropping the bundle of tools and nearly striking his head on similarly sized rock close by. He gathered himself and bent down to pick up the bundle, looking at the rocks. They were very regular shaped, as though carved or shaped, their facing sides were covered in scrapes, as though something had been drug past them from or toward the sea. Verbjorn looked around, hoping to see a hut or dock he missed on first glance. Instead, he could make out several of the pairs of rocks heading toward the ocean, spaced evenly apart every so far. The one he tripped on was mostly sand covered, and he looked toward the jungle. He paced off the distance of the previous stones and walked toward the jungle the same distance. He used his hands to dig in the sand roughly where he thought the next stones should be and was rewarded by another set of stones. He continued this process until he reached the edge of the jungle. The next set of stones were visible and appeared to be heading inland. Excited, he turned back the way he came and made haste to get back to the ship to share his discovery. He arrived as the sun was low on the horizon, which was much faster than he was accustomed to. He looked at the ship, which listed heavily on the sandbar, as though the water had completely forsaken it. One could simply walk to the ship now, as opposed to wading through the water. Condul and Osun returned, stating that they had found nothing of interest, but they had heard some pigs in the forest and the men might be able to hunt them.
The men started toward the ship, their bellies grumbling and complaining for food. Condul stopped short and pointed at the ship. Something had moved on the deck. Several somethings had in fact been moving on the ship. The ship was silhouetted against the great red sunset, so the men could make out little detail as they moved toward the ship. They readied their weapons and carefully climbed the ladder, Verbjorn first, followed by Condul, and then Osun.
Verbjorn reached the top of the ladder and nearly fell off as a great fanged visage screamed an unearthly cry directly in his face. He caught himself and heaved himself up onto the deck with a bellow, furry bodies scattering in fear. The deck was awash with monkeys, gathering what they could find and leaping down the far side of the ship, carrying anything they could get their hands on. Verbjorn lashed out and kicked one, who dropped a belt buckle it has been clutching to it’s chest. Condul climbed up onto the deck, just in time to see the small bag of fruit follow a furry body over the far railing. A cry behind them men caused them to spin around and look over the side. Osun had fallen, landing in a tidal pool, struggling with a small body trying to take the bundle from him. They struggled for a moment, Osun finally getting the better of the beast, flinging the screaming furry bundle toward shore. It ran off with its brethren, chittering in the growing darkness. Condul and Verbjorn tried to stifle their amusement, for the little beasts had taken the last of their food.
The men made a quick check and were relieved to find that there were a few pieces of fruit left, and the monkeys had paid no attention to the water in the hold. They would be hungry through the night but not completely without nourishment. Each man would sit up a portion of the night to keep an eye out for the monkeys, should they return. On his watch, Verbjorn respectfully moved the bodies to the front cabin, securely latching the door so that any other animals would be less likey to disturb them before they could be dealt with. He also gathered supplies to build a pyre and raft to lay the slain Svartalfar to rest. While the others slept on his watch, Condul began adding cross members to two of the fishing spears, so they could hunt the pigs in the morning and then butcher them the next afternoon. Osun’s watch was spent securing the captain’s cabin and placing anything of value in the rooms so that they were safe. There was a moment of panic when the tide came in and the ship settled level, but it soon passed when the ship moved no further.