Hammersfall: Saga of Verbjorn, Part 6 Rescued and Delivered.
They slept soundly and awoke well after sunrise the next morning. The gentle rocking of the ship nearly lulling them back to sleep until they realized that the ship had not rocked in days. The men rushed out on deck, and saw that they were in the open sea, the ship oriented roughly to the East and moving slowly, a westerly breeze propelling them lazily through the ocean. Verbjorn had Condul help him deploy the rear sail, hopeful it would be enough to speed their pace, while he asked Osun to take the helm and ensure they stayed eastbound, as that was the direction that they were heading initially. When he got to the helm, Osun cried out in surprise, and the other men came running. Looped around the ship’s wheel, to hold it steady was a leather thong with a blackened whale fluke on it. Taking it as a sign, the men quickly worked to unfurl the sail. After a few misguided attempts the sail was fully raised and it caught the breeze with a quiet snap. The ship launched eastward and the men quickly secured anything that might roll around and damage the ship or go over the side.
The day continued uneventfully, and the sun slipped below the horizon with no land in sight. The men tried to read the navigation charts but ultimately failed, as none of them had ever been on a ship. They retired with the ship continuing on its course undisturbed. This continued for several days, with no break from the monotony of the open ocean. The sail eventually went slack, and the ship slowed. The men were concerned for they only had a few days worth of water, if they rationed it carefully. Becalmed, the ship was still and nearly silent, making them men nervous and unsure of what action to take next. That night they ate the last of their fruit, and were down to a few more meals of the boar. They tried fishing, but they came up empty, and supplies were dangerously low. After three days of no movement, they began to despair.
Sixteen days had passed since they left the island, their water was gone and they had no more food. Condul had lapsed into a malaise from lack of water and Verbjorn and Osun felt weak. They watched the horizon, hoping for some sign of land, but none appeared. There was no sea life they could see, and their eyes had begun playing tricks on them. On the seventeenth day, the delirium set in. They began to see land off of various parts of the ship and hear voices call out to them, but these all proved false. Osun tried to go overboard to swim to what he thought was a nearby island, but Verbjorn caught him as he was climbing the railing to jump into the water. Condul had begun having fever dreams, and Verbjorn thought he would soon be joining him. As sun set, Verbjorn dreamed of a ship coming over the horizon, its sails in the cerulean of the Svartalfar Empire and fll of breeze, but their own sail had laid slack. He thought he could hear the shouts of the men on board that ship, hailing them. His resolve failed him and he passed out.
Verbjorn awoke inside. He had passed out on deck, but someone, probably Osun had drug him inside. Something cool and damp pressed against his head, and a feminine voice called to someone nearby. Verbjorn’s eyes fluttered open and he found himself in a bed with a Svartalfar woman leaning over him. He sat up, alarmed, and his consciousness threatened to leave him again. He laid back and looked around, finding Condul and Osun in neighboring beds in the room. The room was made of stone, as though in a city and not on a ship. Svartalfar guards stood at the door, watching detachedly.
The woman explained that they were safe now, in the holdings of Dodur. She said that they were located by a warship heading toward the Aelfar Empire, and their ship had been towed back to the Svartalfar islands, and they had been cared for in the intervening week. Verbjorn asked to see Dodur, and was told to rest, for there were many questions he would have to answer before he could see the Lord of the Svartalfar Islands. Verbjorn sat up carefully and accepted some water, sipping it slowly, so as to keep it down. One of the guards left the room as soon as he noticed that Verbjorn was awake.
Condul and Osun regained consciousness shortly after and the men talked quietly among themselves, trying to determine their next course of action. They did not feel like prisoners, but they were not free to leave the room they were in either. Over the next day, they were given food and water, and also subjected to a near enless parade of intermediaries who would share little information, but wanted a full explanation of how they came to be the only survivors on a royal ship that belonged to the Lord of the High Forge. Occasionally, one of the men would be taken aside by the questioners, and made to recite the events of their journey completely, as though the dwarves were trying to catch them in a lie. Every time they requested an audience with Dodur, they were rebuffed.
The pattern continued for several more days, each seeming one long parade of interrogations and insinuations that tried to get the men to change their story, but they never did. Finally, an important looking Svartaflar came with several guards and announced that they would be seen.
They were led into an impressive meeting hall, with a throne on a low dais at the far end. Several smaller chairs lined the walls, each occupied by a stern looking dwarf. Verbjorn recognized a few of them from the questionings they endured. In front of the dais, a table was piled high with the contents of the Captain’s quarters. Maps, equipment, and weapons were piled in an orderly fashion, as though they were evidence of a crime. The older dwarf on the throne rose and greeted them solemnly, introducing himself as Dodur. He apologized for the delay in seeing them and explained that they wanted to sort out the fate of their brethren before taking action. The Lord of the Island Dwarves gestured to the table, indicating a pile of papers they had not seen while on the ship. He continued to explain that the captain’s hidden papers had letters from Sindiri, Lord of the High Forge indicating that the three men should be given refuge and that the Svartalfar should begin to prepare for war against the Aelfar based on the dream of one of the men. The dwarf said it seemed nearly impossible that they had survived the storm, as it had caused several Aelfar ships that had been following them to be crushed to flotsam at sea. The Svartalfar had traced the ship’s route west at best speed for nearly a fortnight and could not locate the island the men described. There was an obscure legend that one of his scholars had located in an ancient archive that described a lost island where the Gods had once lived for a while, but it was regarded as legend until now. Dodur spoke as though he had been locked in debate for nearly as long as the men had been relaying their story. He said he had consulted his advisors and had his Augurs look into the matter magically, and while they provided no details to support the story, there was no evidence of deception. He said he was forced to admit that as far as the Gods were concerned, the men’s story was as true as the sun rising in the morning. He explained that while he could offer the Hospitality of his house, war with the Aelfar was something he could not manage, as he had local conflicts that were occupying his men.
Verbjorn thanked the Svartalfar Lord for the hospitality, and offered any help he, Condul and Osun could provide in payment for the men lost in their escape. The Svartalfar Karls seated to the sides murmured amongst themselves for a moment and one rose, requesting to address their Lord. He was acknowledged and he offered that the men might be able to help with the Troll problem that was plaguing the lands. Dodur demurred, stating that these were Svartalfar problems and it would be a violation of the guest’s hospitality to burden them so, especially when he could not promise to help the men further. Condul spoke up, reiterating that they felt a debt to the dwarves, and they would help in any way they could. Dodur thought for a moment and accepted with the provision that they heard the problem before committing to helping, for the risk to life and limb was great. Dodur invited them to dine with him and he would relay the situation.