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[Book] Voyage of the Three Winds

Posted: Sun Dec 23, 2018 9:34 am
by Tristior
Voyage of the Three Winds
Book I

Do you know where the gods are? Can you trace their movements across the Sky? Do you ever wonder what thoughts and desires guide the travels of the Hirser, and whether they are present in the moment of reflection? There was a time when they departed Skyrim, after all, and crossed the seas, and the foolishness of their Children was left without their stern correction.

It was during the reign of High King Borgas that the gods were discovered missing. In the past year, the buffoonery of that monkey-facing king had seen the removal of the proper ways of worship, and in its stead Borgas’ subjects now simpered and debased themselves before the image of a maimed dragon, as the southerners still sometimes do. There was a gross intoxication amongst the people, and for a time they did not notice the waning rains and failing crops, and they starved in their sickness.

But deep within the swamps of the Hjaal, where little authority penetrates and where people still respected the proper ways of worship, the clans noticed. They saw how the eels swam through their traps, and how the storms kept their ships aground, and how the bees made a thin and sickly honey that was not good to drink. They knew that the gods were missing from Skyrim, and that only by their return could the land find relief from this disease. And so, in a gathering of the Hjaalmoot, they resolved to send the three sons of Klaga, the captains of the Three Winds, into the western seas to find them.

Haakl, firstborn of Klaga and captain of the Cold Wind, stepped forward. He was a mighty warrior - an eater of wasabi and a known berserk - and before the Hjaalmoot he pledged himself to Kyne. He declared that he would perpetrate such slaughter on the lands of the west that Kyne herself would return home to Skyrim amongst his plunder. His crew roared their approval, and pushed their ship out into the chill waters of the fjord.

Next Frokl, youngest of Klaga and captain of the Evening Wind, stepped forward. He was a great storyteller and drinker of mead, and before the Hjaalmoot he pledged himself to Dibella. He declared that the songs he would sing across the ocean would woo Dibella herself, and he would bring her home to Skyrim as his god-wife. His crew laughed uproariously, and pushed their ship out into the chill waters of the fjord.

Lastly Grykl, middleborn of Klaga and captain of the Homeward Wind, stepped forward. Where his brother Haakl was impulsive, Grykl was patient. Where his brother Frokl was intemperate, Grykl was measured. He was a wise and modest Nord, and he knew that the living gods were women and that to propitiate them was women’s business too. And thus, he did not immediately pledge himself to anyone; instead, in the ceremony of those who have found another sex’s calling, Grykl became Gryfa, a shieldmaiden and devoted servant of Mara. Only then would she assent to the task. Her crew breathed deep with clear hearts, and pushed their ship out into the chill waters of the fjord. And so the Three Winds put out to sea.

But by morning the chill had become a bitter storm, and the Three Winds could not stay their course west. Sleet pounded the decks of the ships and the crews became afraid. Days passed like this until the Cold Wind’s watchman spotted a great confluence of icebergs through the blizzard, and as they drew closer a range of mountains beyond that. At this time the island of Roscrea was unknown to the Hjaalmen, and they were wary of its looming frame, but Haakl was hungry for violence (he had taken to sustaining himself on a little wasabi each day) and drove his ship ahead of his siblings’. Thus, as the others beached their ships upon the freezing shore and began to pitch their camp, Haakl sailed further around the coast in search of inhabitants or settlements to plunder.

He did not have to sail far. Rounding a headland, the Cold Wind came upon a fishing village teeming with activity. With a roar of pleasure, Haakl drew his ship right into the harbour, hurling spears at the fleeing townsfolk until the water was shallow enough to throw himself from the prow and wade ashore, biting his shield as he went. Bellowing demands for Kyne’s favour, he cut through the townsfolk in such a fury that he left his crew far behind, their calls to him growing fainter as Haakl slaughtered his way along the trails above the village, climbing a mountain in his bloodlust. And at its peak, as the red sun set, he found all those who had fled before him, and with delight he fell amongst them until only a great and bloody pile of corpses remained. At this point Haakl was exhausted; stumbling and delirious with fatigue he cried out one last demand - that Kyne notice his deeds and return at once with him to Skyrim - before he collapsed atop the bodies of his making.

Waking in the gloom of dawn, Haakl opened one bleary eye. He felt different, although that was not uncommon once the wasabi and rage had left his body. Stretching, he cursed his lazy crew for failing to find and return him to his ship - but all that he heard was a shriek that echoed from the peak to the surrounding mountaintops. He began to examine his surroundings, and noticed with surprise that he was enveloped by two great feathery wings. Suddenly fearful, he thrashed about, and the wings to either side thrashed with him, hurting him, until with horror he realised that they were his own. As he had slept upon the great mound of corpses, his body had become that of a great bird - what the men of Jokuud call a “ruk” - and suddenly fear overwhelmed his mind until he thought only to rip and maim.

Throwing itself from the peak of the mountain, the hawk that had been Haakl spread its wings and dived upon the Cold Wind, which had waited in the harbour for the return of its captain. The crew looked up as Haakl’s great shadow fell over them, and in that moment two Nords were snatched from the deck and carried off in great talons, only to be shredded by the cruel beak and thrown upon the rocks below. Twice more this happened, until a hail of spears drove the beast away and, with a piercing shriek, it flapped its bloodied wings and flew north, never to be seen again. Believing their captain certainly killed by this monster, the crew of the Cold Wind returned to the camp of their companions, bearing the news of Haakl’s death and their failure to discover Kyne’s whereabouts.

By the time they returned (in fact, at the point of Haakl’s departure) the storm had abated, and hearing the words of his crew the two remaining children of Klaga knew that they could not remain in this blood-cursed land. Running their ships back to sea, they divided the Cold Wind’s survivors between themselves and once again plotted their western course, leaving the truth of their brother’s fate on the rocky beach behind them.

Re: [Book] Voyage of the Three Winds

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 3:08 am
by Tristior
Book II

When you wander far from home, does a part of you remain? Does a period of exile sever your familial bond, or can it wait within you like a seed in winter, only to burst forth in the summer of your return?

Weeks had passed since Frokl and Gryfa had left their brother upon that cursed isle and continued their journey west, and there was discontent amongst their crews. Supplies were low and with the scuppering of the Cold Wind the two remaining longships - Evening and Homeward - groaned with overcrowding. Frokl’s crew were particularly disconsolate, as their captain was given to indulging them with the tastiest parts of their plunder and they were unused to such meagre and joyless provisions.

For his part, Frokl was frustrated. He viewed himself as a dashing raider and talented drinker, one for whom the songs flowed, and therefore as a worthy suitor of Dibella. He had crossed the ocean - further than any Nord since Ysgramor yet had - to win her hand, and instead found himself adrift and without her bounty. Under his breath he began to curse the Hirser’s youngest, deriding her gifts as mere illusions that led great Nords astray, and though none aboard heard he had comprehensively transgressed by the time the Evening Wind’s lookout sighted land.

However, his griping did not last. The land stretching out before him was an island in what the Nords now call Jokuud, one of many, and upon its shore lay a wondrous and colourful settlement. Although it was but a rustic village, to the crews of the Three Winds it seemed larger and more prosperous than any settlement they had yet seen; standing at the prow, Frokl eyed its ornate structures and licked his lips with desire.

As the ships drew closer, tall pillars could be seen rising up from amongst the buildings, and atop these Men fluttered from perch to perch. Where each landed, they would puff their breasts and sing a beautiful rainbow that left the Nords speechless with wonderment; sometimes they would sing in harmony, and their creation would stretch all the way across the sky. And as they guided their longships into the harbour, Frokl and Gryfa saw that a delegation had formed to greet them on the shore. These Men were dark of skin and garishly dressed, and they smiled warmly and welcomed Klaga's children in a language each understood. Leaping from the prow of the Homeward Wind, Gryfa raised her hands in greeting and explained what had brought their crews so far from home.

She told them of the gods’ disappearance, and the foolishness of Borgas, and the hunger that had fallen upon her people. The Men of Jokuud showed much consternation at the Nords' plight, and ushered them ashore to where a great feast was set out. They expressed their sympathy, explaining that their village had similarly been struck by famine and that this feast comprised the first good harvest in three winters. But they were generous, and the bounty was great, and so they invited the starving crews of the Three Winds to join them in breaking their fast.

And so, as the Nords took their places at the feast amongst the kindly Jokuudans, Frokl felt a certain understanding form. He looked upon the sumptuous feast before him, full of pleasures that the Children of the Sky had never known, and an idea took root within his heart. He gazed upward at those rainbow-singing Men, perched still upon their pillars, and realisation blossomed. Dibella had not abandoned him; no, she had been listening all this time, and - chastened by his earlier cursing - had set out all before him for his long-stymied gratification. He decided, with some consideration, that he accepted her offer.

Before all the assembled, starving Nord and starving Jokuudan alike, Frokl leapt atop the great food-laden table and began to consume. Pitching his head forward, he devoured the strange meats and plump fruits that the villagers had hungrily prepared. Throwing his head back, he gulped down the heady liquors they had spent their precious grains brewing. None moved as they watched him in horror, hearing the great gasping breaths he remembered to take between mouthfuls, and only Gryfa had the presence of mind to take notice of her surroundings. And when the insatiable Frokl had eaten all that there was, he stood entranced with all that he had just experienced.

So it was that while Gryfa furtively motioned all around her to step away from their seats and move back towards the harbour, Frokl grabbed his sagging gut and belched an extraordinary belch, which he loudly dedicated to Dibella’s bounteous beauty. He was too lost in his own grandeur to notice what his sister had - that those Men high atop their pillars were no longer singing rainbows. And as he dropped his breeches and proclaimed this a worthy wedding feast, the Men of Jokuud sang swords instead. Gryfa and the few Nords she could save barely got away before the villagers fell upon Frokl and the crews of the Three Winds, butchering the transgressors with delirious brutality.

With the screams of their countrymen lingering behind them, Gryfa and the last few survivors pushed the Homeward Wind into the water and rowed with all their might for the harbour mouth. They did not slow until the village was a mere smudge on the horizon and they were confident that the Jokuudans were not pursuing them; only then did Gryfa dare to unfurl the sail and let the wind carry her exhausted and defeated warriors westwards. The dying sun was blood-red, its light carrying across the water and into the bewildered, tear-filled eyes of the last remaining Nords as they struggled to comprehend their losses and failures.

Gryfa, however, remained a devoted shieldmaiden of Mara and did not give into despair. Instead, she found a place in the centre of the ship where should could kneel, breathe deeply, and meditate upon the Breath. Matching her own breath with that of all creation, she felt the horror and despair flood out of her and be replaced by calm and blissful emptiness. She remained in this state until long after the sun had fallen and darkness had settled upon the waves around her, and so her crew were all long-asleep when from the depths of her empty mind she was visited by three figures. Each burned with an astonishing beauty and an unbearable fierceness, and Gryfa knew that she herself had been found by those she had these long weeks sought.

Although the figure to the left would not meet her gaze, instead hungrily watching the horizon, and the figure to the right barely acknowledged her in aloof contemplation, the figure in the centre smiled warmly at Gryfa and spread her arms in greeting. Gryfa, already kneeling, drew her sword and offered it up to these objects of her devotion. She longed to ask for help, for understanding, to know what all these tribulations meant, but she was a loyal servant of the Hirser and knew her place; instead, she bowed her head, deepened her focus, and raised her sword a little higher. And seeing her devotion, the goddess Mara smiled and spoke these words:

“Be at peace, child. The gods of the world-hearth do not vanish or find themselves lost - they wander forever across the Sky, and dwell for a time wherever there is piety. The foolish followers of the foolish king have forgotten how to worship, and so we have taken our leave for a time. It is not for our Children to bring us where they would. Instead, return to your home in the land we have given you, and dwell there until the coming of the great Ashen Tongue. On the waves of his fire shall we return.”

And Gryfa heard these words, and wept, and with her limping ship and ragged crew she turned and made her way home to Skyrim.