There is nothing more for one who was driven to renounce Odin by the sword of the heathen, a heathen from their own brothers, for the kings of all great Viking realms have equally forsaken Odin and the other great gods. And when the preachers of this new and one god arrived, a few with more courage to encounter the gods in Valhalla than you refused to convert, and were slain, not in honorable duels, but in ruthless executions. Reykjavik would never be the same again, and courage slipped from you, for you took the path of the coward, you lied to a god you refused to worship, you went to their masses with a hidden spite and disdain and pretended to belief.
After some time, your secret prayers to the true gods continued unaswered. They refused to help, to try challenging this new god, and in time, the young person would gradually lose faith in all gods and ponder on a different, radical line of thought: what if there were no gods? After all, if they did exist, they would never forsake their people like they did, and a vindictive, jealous, merciless and ruthless god like the one worshipped by the missionaries could only have emerged from the depths of Hel itself. In time, you became an unbeliever in everything, and you already lost some of your faith after seeing your own parents slain by these worshippers of Christ because they refused to convert.
You had little left, most of your friends were more courageous than you and died for gods that have forsaken Iceland, and the few left perhaps were as "honest" in their conversion as you were, because they were afraid of gatherings with you drawing suspicions. It didn't take long for your hopeless life to lead you to one final act of despair: you marched north through the untamed frozen wastes as a final test, without food or supplies. If the gods exist, they would give you the sustenance and conditions to survive such journey. If they don't, you were starting to welcome death. And thus you left behind, telling your intentions only to your most trustworthy friends. If they were to betray your trust, it wouldn't matter, for you either would be back or returning from your spiritual journey with a legion of Valkyries to free your land from the heathens.
The cold, the frostbite, the hunger and the thirst. You struggled against them all as much as you could, hoping the gods would awaken to your perseverance instead of silently nodding to your less than convenient suicide, if they did exist, and you journeyed far before the deprivations took their toll. You fell over the snow, weakened and dizzy, feeling your heart going cold and all your senses going numb. You were finally dying, and indeed there were no gods, lest they would have heed your self-imposed sacrifice in hopes of summoning them for help against the zealots of Christ. And then your eyes could no longer stay open, and eventually your consciousness faded away as your heart stopped beating.
Cold... are you on the way to Valhalla or on the way to Hel for your cowardice of refusing to not "convert" and die right there with the others most resolute in their faith to the gods? You didn't know. You can only feel something cold and soft all over your body, imprisoning you, and your heart beating again, yet no more hunger and exhaustion. Tentatively you began to move your muscles and after some struggle, you rose again from your icy prison, and in shock noticed the horizon around you: the fjords, the hills and the landscape were exactly the same of the place where you died. You lived again... and your disbelief suddenly switched to doubts and amazement on your situation. Was this an answer of the gods to your pleas or something else?
You decided to return to Reykjavik, you were feeling perfectly normal, and your resurrection could yet serve a purpose. For the heathens claimed their god's supposed son resurrected a man named Lazarus and himself after being crucified, and for all you know such claims could be blatant lies to amaze the simpletons and peasants. Your return to life however was very real, proving that the gods indeed have not fully abandoned you, although your development of an inquisitve mind still tries to imagine other possibilities, other forces behind this, but you can't really. No god answered your questions during your journey back home, and your doubts grew even more once you realized another exhaustion was taking you, one you rapidly adapted to: it was during the night that you felt most invigorated, far more than what would be natural, while the day seemed to tire you, specially during the brightest sunlight, which made physical exertion more demanding, and you rapidly adapted your sleep schedule to this new reality.
On an evening you arrived at Reykjavik. Your old friends, upon spotting you, couldn't believe in their eyes. There was a lit hope in the eyes of Ingvar the leatherworker and Erik the baker when they met you again. And after some small talk, they rapidly filled you with the latest news. The most peculiar one, indeed, was how a young child just died. No signs of disease, of wounds, no hints of poisoning: it was the most mysterious death in the history of the settlement, and according to the gossip their parents just saw the kid who was an instant before perfectly healthy die instantly, all of a sudden, without symptoms or complaints about pain.
However, what caught your interest was the news that a famous navigator known as Leif Ericsson was mounting an expedition to find land west of Greenland, that a merchant claimed to have spotted when his ship was driven off-course by the winds, and he was looking for some crew to hire. Ingvar and Erik already were getting in to sign up to the ship's crew, and so, having nobody else in this place, you decided to sign up as well. This would be a journey of many wonders, enough to make you forget the many doubts your pilgrimage through the frozen wastes and return from it alive brought.
With little thought, you decided to join Leif Ericson's crew along your friends Ingvar and Erik. The ship would set sails tomorrow morning. The ship's scribe asked you which skills you had that could be useful to the expedition goals of finding new land, and you promptly answered that you are a scout and tracker, and if indeed there is new land overseas, your abilities will be much needed, and that you also are a warrior, as anyone in Reykjavik can testify, no matter the unfortunate path your family roots led all of them but you into, although the scribe seemed to believe you were a warrior from merely looking at you, after all, something has changed and your eyes couldn't completely hide the shock you felt because of such change.
The scribe shrugged, commenting on how there are never enough men to keep the deck completely clean and not being discrete on his obvious skepticism about the existence of new lands. Apparently the requirements to be hired weren't very stringent, or perhaps it was the lack of enough interested sailors that led you and your two friends into being accepted, after all there is even less use for a leatherworker and for a baker inside a ship and expedition to new lands than for a learned warrior, scout and trader, but both got in as well. Having all agreed, you decided to go back to your force yourself to sleep, but first, you made a prayer to Sól, asking for her to be merciful and forgive whichever wrongdoing led her to curse you with such weakness when she stood upon the sky.
The scribe may have been skeptic, but at least he was honest. Your only duty within the longship was indeed cleaning the deck, but at least Sól was merciful to not make such duties extremely tiresome, if not particularly willing to explain the reasons, for you still have no idea why the goddess decided to despise you after your return from death, but apparently your prayers were answered and now you can live like normally again, sleep at night and perform most of your deeds at day, or at least mostly normally.
The trip was mostly, from your point of view, boring, except for that one night: when you were getting to your cramped bunk bed to sleep, you saw a boy with his back turned to you sitting on it, weeping. Curious and surprised, you called him, and he just ignored your call and continued to sob over your bed, and so it happened for many minutes, until he simply vanished. That night was one you had trouble sleeping. Did your short staying on the world of the dead give you the ability to glimpse over it and witness clearly the ghosts of the past? For a while you wondered on the news of the boy that died mysteriously in your town, it couldn't be a coincidence, you thought, but nobody seemed interested in giving answers.
Eventually, after a stop for resupplying at Greenland, after some more days, your dull cleaning duty was interrupted by cries from the onlooker: they have found lands, indeed, Leif Ericson's purpose was fulfilled, and soon you would be tasked for a duty far more interesting than cleaning the deck, except that the first landing was not particularly long-lasted, the lands found were too uninhospitable and lacking in life to be worth anything, and thus Leif decided to sail south, accompanying the coastline of this New World. He made one more landing without interest to explore further, and then further south, he eventually find some promising land and ordered for the anchor to be lowered and for everything to be readied.
When the ship finally got close to the shore, and the disembarking began, you realized this new land was untamed, woods aplenty and no signs of any civilization. Also of interest was how much self-grown wheat these lands had: Erik could set up a bakery if this were to become a permanent settlement. For now, Leif ordered his small crew to build a longhouse with whichever materials available as he baptized this new land Vinland. You helped with what you could but being no mason or carpenter, you didn't do much in this construction, the first any European has ever made upon this land, and perhaps any human being as well. The small settlement was baptized Leifsbúdir, and due to the coming winter, you all would spend a while there. There was no time to set up a mill or to look for local animals with hides to tan so your friends never had a chance to make use of their expertises in this new land, so far.
The winter in these new lands was as harsh as in Iceland, if not more. Good thing Leif planned well for the trip, and there was enough food for everyone during those longest nights. The mead, the crew songs and the good food kept the hearts warm but one night before going to sleep, you glanced upon the harsh snow the figure of a boy, again. And once again it vanished. Better to not pay attention to such sightings, and even better to not mention them to anyone. Fortunately that night was the only one you witnessed this ghost again. And so the routine happened during the rest of the winter, until eventually, with the coming of spring it was an important time, both for you and for Leif Ericson.
Leif Ericson asked his crew to pack up. They were setting sail again, making a trip back to Greenland, back to somewhere you had nothing left to care about. Erik and Ingvar both looked at you as you stood next to the expedition leader. Vinland was gone, it would just be a report to be stored in the archives of the kingdom. There was after all nothing of worth in these lands that Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden didn't have already, or at least, not for now, but Ericson was right: how can one hope to settle a new land permanently with a only small crew of men?
"You are either the greatest madman or the greatest adventurer I have ever met. If you survive, seek me at Greenland, I'd love to hear the tales of your stay in this land. And here, you can keep these supplies for you, you are going to need them."
Leif Ericson didn't really oppose your decision, while he was about to get onboard and depart, and soon his vessel disappeared into the horizon, leaving your and your two friends alone in this land, having only the basics you built there for a temporary settlement, and indeed temporary it would be, for after some thought and rememberance of how harsh the winter was, you made your decision: this new land stretches to the south farther than the eyes can see, as one time, upon climbing the tallest hill, you could confirm, and it was obvious that winters would be less harsh south, and perhaps the lands and wild crops more rich as well.
And so you called your friends, asking them if they knew how to grow and cook any provisions that could last for a long time because you were heading south in search of more hospitable lands. Erik looked around, and after pondering as you waited for his answer, he finally said:
"I think I could improvise the fireplace in the longhouse to bake some bread, and find a way of milling wheat into flour. I need a rock, and I believe I'll take a few months to set up our supply of food."
Your other friend shook his head on the suggestion and instead proposed:
"Erik left us some salt. I know how to cure meat, and you are a great warrior and a great tracker. Let us put our weapons to use. Let us hunt some large beast in these lands and I'll make jerked beef out of it, it will be much faster than baking bread without any proper tools."
After some thought, considering your own abilities as well, you agreed with Ingvar and reminded yourself to not go too deep inland in this hunt, but you told Erik that if you failed to return with meat today, tomorrow you would do your part to get him what he needs for baking your travel supplies. Before you departed however he asked:
"What are we supposed to look for on our journey south? And what will we do now? Live on our own until we die?"
"We shall look for wood, rich lands for growing crops and perhaps iron and the untold riches Vinland could hold. And" you added with a very large emphasis, finally putting openly the primary reason for you to refuse going back, "we will look back to Oden my friends! We are the last believers and we will yet find Valhalla. We will never again kneel to the false god, we will never again lie to tyrants of such false god and speak prayers while thinking of curses to such crucified weakling! We will live free here to worship our gods again, and eventually we will build new temples to our gods in Vinland!"
Your speech wasn't particularly inspiring, with you being a man of actions and not speeches, but they already agreed with your point on that way before you openly mentioned it. As you imagined the two of them "converted" to Catholicism as truthfully as you did. You still didn't speak openly about the special gift the gods gave to you in a moment your faith was almost dead, of course, for it was better for it to be kept a secret.
And so you and Ingvar journeyed in search for a large wild animal to hunt. You spent an entire day in this hunt, and you wanted to not waste time with small animals because you knew the trip to the south could be long and you would need much food for it. Eventually you found the tracks of what obviously was a large and mighty animal, and carefully you began to search for the creature. White as snow, the bear was not as oblivious to your presence as you first thought, and although a mighty and strong creature you were confident in your combat skills and in your weapon to overcome it while your friend was drawing an arrow. The bear stood like a massive man about ten meters next to you, growling, and then he lunged at you with its mighty paws. You reacted rapidly, dodging the bear's attempt to wrestle you and skillfully using your weapon at the creature, which was then finished by Ingvar's arrow. Thank the gods this wasn't too far from the settlement, for carrying the bounty was much more difficult than killing it.
When you arrived back with your trophy, Erik was amazed. Now it would take some time for Ingvar to cure so much meat, and hopefully the salt Leif left for you would suffice. The day later, all provisions were set, and looking south, you departed. Along the way, you always sticked close to the coastline, and you could perceive its irregularity and vastness along the many camps you have set. Another far more perceived detail was the ghost child that you continued to witness, but with time you began to simply ignore the spook, although it still made you feel unsettling and nervous no matter how you tried to avoid it.
Days passed, and you could feel the climate getting warmer the longer you travelled after the first days. The land was also changing except for the ever-present and abundant trees, a resource very needed for Greenland, which led you to believe that eventually more of your kin may arrive, but they will probably stick to the north. And the journey continued uneventful, besides the ghost only you could see. For one, you never thought jerked bear beef could taste this good, and your friends were a good company in this long journey, while your food was still a long way to go.
Eventually, you found a great river leading deep inland, and also the coastline now extending towards northeast. You were no cartographer but obviously it was some kind of jagged, roughly V-shaped coastline and if you were to head north again you had no idea how far the isthmus could go northwards. Instead, you have chosen to follow the river south with your friends. And the trees grew denser, the weather warmer. You have found a vast and rich new land indeed, an entire New World, perhaps as vast as Europe and the distant Cathay. Your surprise however would take a few more days as eventually you would set camp next to a vast lake, a perfect place for an inland settlement, if you only had enough people with you to build one.
It was another morning, when suddenly Ingvar gestured to you and pointed to a direction. There you rapidly saw them. This place was inhabited after all. These were men not like any you have ever seen, wearing brown clothes and some with feather crowns and decorations as on their heads, they apparently were hunting. Quickly you, Ingvar and Erik hid as they watched the men. They were armed with bows and primitive spears only, but their familiarity with the land was visible. You could hear them speaking in a completely foreign language not unlike any you ever studied or listened to, and their mood indicated they were relaxed, probably because this was not their first time hunting for food. They all had straight black hair, large round faces, slightly slanted eyes and yellow-ish to brown skin.
4: The Wyandot
Carefully, you approached the native party as you carried a parcel of the jerked meat, and although keeping it down, always gripped upon your sword in case the worst was to happen. Upon seeing you they at first backed off and then their sudden spook was replaced by surprise and doubt. They looked at the parcel you carried as you slowly extended your hand to offer it as they spoke among themselves in their strange language, and you began to feel nervous about it for perhaps these savages could interpret your gesture as hostility.
Fortunately, one of them eventually approached you, his weapons also lowered, and slowly took the parcel you offered, unwrapping it and then checking for a while the meat. The native then took a piece of it and tasted it. Upon which he went to the others of his party and offered to them as well as you patiently awaited, hoping for the best. Your friends were still in hiding, and despite your discreet gestures for them to come out they seemed to not want to.
The skraeling then returned to you, speaking in his foreign tongue to which you replied in your own, and he realized you couldn't understand him. He simply nodded and dropped something in your hand after some minutes of hand gestures and attempts to communicate: an emerald! You then tried through gestures to ask him where, and apparently understanding your gestures, he pointed to the east. You didn't waste time to draw your large rucksack with most of the jerked meat you had and offer it as well, to which the native produced a dozen of emeralds, and you didn't think twice about the trade. With all your experience in trade you always knew that for primitive and nomadic peoples food was infinitely more important and valuable than gems and gold, and now you found your lucky streak.
Before departing, the native spoke a word repeatedly while pointing to himself, and obviously, that was his name, something you can't really put in words. And equally you gave him your name then they left with enough meat to not have to hunt for many days. Meanwhile, those emeralds opened new options for you, but the fact you bartered most of your meat meant you needed to stock food again before even thinking on these new options. And for that you'd have to remain there.
]Slowly, something resembling a cottage was built near the shore of the great lake, and across the fields where Erik tried with partial success to set up some wheat crops. The days went on, and sometimes more of the skraelingjar curiously observed the three, and particularly, they observed with much curiousity their poorly tended wheat farm, and they equally noticed as, with an improvised fishing rod, you fished from the lake as an additional source of food. And you noticed soon as one of them approached peacefully and with a small branch tried to replicate your fishing rod.
Contact with the natives grew the longer you stood with your two buddies. Due to safety, and to how your heirloom was not made for hunting but for war, you replaced hunting for fishing for the time being while Erik continued his plans for having all set to bake bread in large quantities. Slowly you began to understand the meaning of a few of their foreign words, to take tentative steps at understanding their language while your tiny outpost of civilization continued to survive and your mind to endure the haunt that has always followed you since the beginning of the trip.
Speaking of the haunt, the boy became particularly more difficult to ignore as of late, as his silence is replaced by cries and despair, and a simple wish, a wish to be gone, but you have noi idea on what you could do to get rid of this ghost. Being a man used to far worse, you still endure the cries, no matter how equally irritating and disturbing they are, but you realize now that, for some reason, this spirt is doomed to be forever in torment with you.
One day, you tentatively tried to speak with one of the natives. It was more successful than not, and then you finally understood why they always approached your settlement.
"The shaman wants to speak with you. We have been waiting for you to finally understand our speak."
You agreed, and thus alone you followed the skraeling to their not so distant tribe. A bunch of tents and nothing more, a sign fo a primitive people, as evidenced for how little worth they gave to the gems they traded with you. In one tent from where a particularly thick smoke exhaled, they pointed:
"The shaman is ready to meet you, He-who-life-traps"
You found the name the native gave to you particularly strange. How do they know? It can't be a coincidence. Wondering, you opened that smoky tent, where you finally met the shaman.
A old woman smoking profusely from a pipe with an unique scent, her wizened eyes stared at you as she began:
"The prophecy is true. The day the Wyandot meet He-who-life-traps will mark our people forever and so I summon you, because there is much unclear that your answer to one question will define, and your answer to another question ripple."
"First, among my people, it is custom to ask names first before beginning a talk." you answered as politely as you could. The old woman was clearly inebriated by the smoke, although that was definitively something far different from mead, possibly much more intoxicating and mind-bending.
"Very well, I am Revalomas, shaman of the eighth Wyandot lake tribe"
"Angantyr of Iceland, warrior and trader from the kingdom of Norway, from beyond the eastern salt waters."
"Beyond? Is there land beyond the infinite lake?" she asked with surprise.
"Yes, vast lands, many peoples, many who no longer hunt but grow their own food like you have seen in my small home, many who live in vast settlements of stone and wood. I don't really know if I can describe it with my limited knowledge of your language."
"Of course, that is not what I need to ask. I know of the trade, of the crafts you few have offered to the tribe, of the meat that never spoils, a great blessing that secured our sustenance for many moons, more than worth. That is however trivial next to..." the old woman suddenly shivered, "I sense great pain and loss on you, foreigner, that your arrival here came from such, what did happen?"
For some reason, you felt you could trust the woman, and thus you spoke openly of the reason.
"My people betrayed our gods for a false, jealous and monstrous god who wants to kill all who refuse to worship him, and my family and most of my friends, refused. And I... I lied so the traitors would not kill me as well. I am sorry to say this, but... I don't know how long it could be before others of my people choose to live in this land, and in the name of their false god, they could do bring much horror to all the tribes."
"I see... you bide dark tales, and I must confer with the high chief of your news, for we must be prepared for once they come. But there is one dark prophecy that worries me more."
Respectfully you give ears to the Shaman prophecies, for after all, she knew you were no longer a mere man, thus perhaps this one could be truth:
"To the east, near the great salt lake, a tribe driven into darkness lie. This tribe worship the sleeping ones from the depths of the great salt lake, led by a maleficent High Chief called Narackamous, and they prepare for a great ritual that shall awaken the sleeping old ones from their slumber. Narackamous, like you, is He-who-life-traps, but he became like you out of service for his evil gods, while I sense no evil in you. If he is not stopped, a great evil shall fall over the tribes of the east, and may even reach as far as the great lakes and beyond. And with this prophecy one of my questions are tied."
"I see. Your questions?"
"Remember: I can see through your eyes so speak your heart, and no matter what you shall do, we shall not stop you even if I fear your actions could in many moons later harm our tribe, for the gods have spoken. First, I ask you:" the old woman said.
"What do you intend to do now, as your own ways of survival ensure enough food for a long journey?"
"I shall head east and help your people against such wicked high chief." the shaman simply nodded to his answer
"And finally a simple question, foreign one:"
"What can change the nature of a man?"
"Hope." he was not sure why he said so, but she simply nodded, satisfied with his answer.
5. To the East Coast
"Your choice will either mark this land," the shaman said upon hearing the answers, "or bring you a second death. Is your hope greater than your fear, warrior? Go, and one more thing: do not bring your friends. They are not warriors and will not be prepared to face the threat of the evil tribe of the east and the powers of Narackamous. Go alone, for you are blessed."
It echoed in your thoughts, a combination of belief and skepticism about the words of the old woman. For considering the smokes, she could very well be intoxicated and be as reliable as a drunk prophet. However she knew too much about you before you told her, and thus, you returned to your cottage, seeing your two friends as you prepared to bide them farewell and march on your journey.
Upon meeting them, you answered to them on the immediate question of a shrine:
"Yes, the gods will rise again and Odin will avenge our brothers! Let us never forget the gods, even in this darkest hour for those who still believe, for this is why we decided to brave this wild, to be free to follow Odin and the gods of the brave warriors rather than the false god of the weak, defeated and sheep. If more of our people or other Europeans now subjugated and surrendered to this new church come, see the shrine and try to desecrate it and force their false god on us again, we will fight for Odin!" his speech was not particularly inspiring again, but they already agreed upon it, and then he added, with an emphasis:
"Ingvar and Erik, as a friend, I must ask you to not follow me in the journey I am about to take. With all due respect, you are craftsmen and not warriors, and thus I fear for your lives were you to come with me and face an evil sorcerer named Narackamous, according to the priestess of the skraelingjar, who, from what I understood of her prophecies, is preparing to unleash the most vile creatures of Hel upon this land through an unholy ritual. Stay here, do a good work to keep our small outpost of civilization in a good shape, and trust me: I will return alive"
You packed a lot of surplus food, for thanks to the knowledge of Erik of farming and baking he managed to grow far more than you'll ever need to keep yourselves fed, and then biding them farewell, you began a long journey, hopefully alone but not alone at all. Your unwanted company continued to follow you, the ghost of the boy who seemingly never gave you peace, but at least he was silent. Many days have passed, and many nights you have slept under the wilds, and nothing of particular notice happened along the journey, the wild seemingly willing to give you peace.
However, there was a point, when the trees were becoming more sparse and you could see a glimmer of the sea from the distance, where the ghost of the boy stopped following you, and then he looked at you with frightened eyes, and finally broke his long silence:
"Don't go there! There is great evil, too much for anyone alone to fight against, it is... I am cold, and I can feel its pull, stronger than yours."
"I'm not pulling you! You are following me spook!" you answered.
"I died for you, I see it clearly. I should live and you die but something changed it," the kid answered, "and now I cannot escape, and if you keep heading this way... please don't. You have no idea, I can feel it... hungry... sleeping. I'm scared."
"Why should I stop? I was told that if I do nothing this thing will awaken."
"But..." the ghost boy pleaded, "it wants me... I think, it needs me to awaken... please mister, don't go there or... it will eat my soul. What if that is what it needs to get up? What if whoever told you was lying and an evil witch?"
"How could you know? How could I know you are telling the truth at all and isn't just one of the minions of the very thing I am trying to stop?"
"I cannot prove it, just..." he cried, "do I look like a monster? Please, don't go there, don't lead me to damnation worse than Hel."
"Do you have any idea, haunt, of what could be at stake here? Your feelings are clearer than your words: something of immense power and vileness lies, and some vile men are trying to awaken it. I will not listen further to your ramblings, I must stop them before it is too late." Angartyr answered to the ghost, denying his request and considering all he knew about the situation here. And if the feelings of the ghost weren't enough, he also could feel it, something constricting, trying to crush the very air and to tear apart the fabric of the Norns and of reality, as a suffocating sensation of something terrible ahead.
And he thus advanced cautiously through the growingly sparse trees, at first noticing nothing suspicious, while the frightened ghost kid, indeed unable to get away from him, followed. The journey continued east through the approaching coast for more five minutes, when you finally began to notice something truly strange.
Chants echoed, chants in a language to sounded not only foreign, like that of the natives the first time you heard them speaking. The echoes were more than that, they were spoken in a way that gave even to the boldened warrior shivers, while the spectral kid was almost crying in despair, for that incomprehensible language echoing through the chants was above all, inhuman. Whoever, or whatever was speaking the chant shouldn't be too far. Another detail was how the sounds of nature, of nocturnal animals, were becoming rarer the closer he advanced towards the distant echoes, as if by senses unknown to man and instinct the animals were avoiding this location.
When he was close enough for all the distinguishable features of the coast line to become visible, Angartýr finally noticed the unnatural, brooding formation extending past the beaches and into high seas, where a narrow ishtmus made out of the darkest rock, standing out of the natural environment like an alien presence, extended a long way towards a distant, seemingly circular island directly connected to the mainland by such bridge. The chants were at this point obvious, although their intonations were so inhuman they could not be described with or transformed into words.
The narrow isthmus could be a serious problem for a intruder seeking to disrupt whatever primal, ancient ritual was being performed over that strip of land. As you approached it, you began to notice upon its black rocks remnants of oysters and marine creatures, dead and dying fishes unlike any you ever saw or heard of, which emitted light from their own bodies and seemingly had no eyes, and most importantly, a terrible stench which overpowered you for a few seconds. The landscape leading into the circular island was visibly foreign, a piece of landscape that was suddenly brought from a distant dark corner it once rested at to here by forces beyond comprehension, leaving as evidences of its remoteness the many signs of life and stone out of place to the rest and never seen before by any man.
The ghost child at this point was literally frozen in fear, perhaps because he could see, hear and know more from whispers of the underworld, and when Angartyr tried to speak with him, he simply was so terrified he couldn't manage to speak. Upon advancing through the narrow, treacherous isthmus, the warrior noticed how the waves were crashing more violently with the land, as the chant continued to grow louder, and somehow, he finally noticed the ghost was seemingly being dragged along reluctantly with him, as if all this time, since he first saw the ghost, he was binded to him through ethereal chains. Along the stormy waves rocking, in one brief moment, Angartyr could have sworn he noticed a ripple so strong that it was noticeable even despite the waves, and then the waves of something diving beneath those waters much larger than a fish. But during his crossing, that was the only moment he noticed such a strange thing in the water, and boldly, he continued to advance under the cover of darkness.
It was when he finally reached the end of the ishtmus that he would realize this would not be simple at all. At this point it was obvious this incomprehensible ritual is intended for a dark, primal and inhuman goal, and that it must be stopped. Yet, The circular shaped island in the middle of the coast was anything but unprotected. torches were arrayed into circles and made the only entrance to the island very well lit, and two of the skraelings stood watch, looking at his direction, having only not detected Angartyr because of the absolute darkness of this night above all others, while a large circle of natives was speaking in that primal language and conducting the ritual, from whose one seemingly stood out for being taller than the others and at the center of the circle. It must be the Narackamous mentioned by the shaman. Unlike the two guards, they were apparently so concentrated by their ritual that alerting them would require some noise and death. The ghost tied to you only didn't faint because he was no longer alive to faint.
6: Dealing with Great Old Ones
After pondering for a few seconds on his odds were him to openly defy that primal ritual, Angartyr considered another option. All that happened in his life hinted to a conclusion he was slowly becoming convinced of. The slaughters in the name of the Jewish god, the unwarranted peace of what should have been his death and no signs that there were judges or a Vahalla. Perhaps it could be the bitter truth that there is no goodness and the universe is a cold inhuman construct devoid of human values like honor, courage, justice and kindness, or perhaps there was a hidden inhumanity within his very self. But even if that was true, he still considered this alternative reluctantly, both for its moral implications and for the risk he could just be killed instead of given something in exchange for getting rid of that torment.
He stepped into the light of the torches, both hands extended and open, the incorporeal body of the paralyzed ghost child seemingly being dragged with him. The guards almost attempt to kill him, but they seemingly stopped upon noticing the ghost. One of them went for Narackamous and drew his attention. The imposing native then turned to Angartyr while the others continued with their damned ritual. A fire of madness and malice burned brightly within Narackamous eyes as he gazed upon the ghost and grinned. He spoke no words, aware the stranger did not know his language but was visibly grateful for his presence. The vile sorceror then dipped his hands into water, lifted them again closed, and approached with his two closed hands.
It was then that he began to see images in his thoughts, implanted by something of unthinkable power if it can indeed reach deep into a man's mind. Three images that appeared several times: an immense pile of emeralds, a binded tome with a black cover and a flaming sword. Eventually he began to focus your thoughts in one of these images. Narackamous brought a large rucksack where he dropped whatever he grabbed from the water and something else, and gave it to him. At this point Angartyr could no longer see the ghost, although he had no idea of its fate. The Wizard then gestured for him to leave the place, and was clearly insisting on it.
The warrior thought strongly on the image of the flaming sword when the images were flashing in his mind, and later, as he realized how distracted Narackamous was while he perused the sack, and aware of the threat this ritual could represent to his very survival, he decided what to do with the prize. Rapidly, he reached for something, carefully feeling the somewhat warm blade inside, until finally touching its hilt. Without further thoughts, he rapidly slashed this weapon at Narackamous while the native was still gesturing for him to leave.
Before the blade could reach the native cultist's neck, or before Angartyr could even make out its features, the blade he swung simply vanished in thin air, and Narackamous didn't show any surprise when such now clearly futile attempt of killing him happened, after which he began to laugh maniacally, the ritual carrying on as before, and the very air growing heavier than ever with a virulent malice, when, after more laughters, which were now obviously far more of ridicule than of wickedness, he spoke to him in a language he could understand, the language of the tribes he met near the Great Lake, while still laughing:
"You are dumber than a blind rat! How could you think you could betray a deal with the elder gods to whom your thoughts are loud voices?" he grinned, "to whom your mind is nothing but a ball of mud to be splattered if they wish so? Therefore, it is only fair that you end with nothing out of this! I would kill you right now if that would get Them rid of you forever, but remember this undying one: there are far worse things that could happen to you than death. Consider it a great, if underserving mercy, or perhaps a sign of how insignificant you are next to them, less than an ant," he proceeded with his verbal humiliation and threats, "for the gods of the endless void and beyond to have not done any of the many things they could have done with you for what you did here, because if you ever cross them again, you will beg for a quick and painless death for all eternity while they ravish and torture your undying self forever! Now leave, immediately, and never come back!" then, after clicking his tongue, he added, "Oh, you can wallow in your insignificant greed if you wish, and look for emeralds yourself nearby. All I want is for you to get out of here, an isle of the gods. Think about your foolishness on your way out: you could have been richer, wiser and stronger for the priceless thing you have sold us, but no, you had to be S-T-U-P-I-D. Now get out, imbecile without honor!"
Angartyr was growing red with rage, but he still had a scant moment to decide rationally what to do before he was overtaken with fury, while from the heavy atmosphere, the eldritch ritual in that place was very, very close to completion.
Narackamous defied more than Angartyr. He defied his very honor, but the warrior knew better than to react impulsively and make a mistake. However he wouldn't let it go like this. With his refusal to leave, eventually the wicked native said amidst laughters:
I have no time to warn you further of your foolishness. If you wish to stay, the Great Old Ones will enjoy feasting upon your soul."
He again ignored the sorcerer's warnings. The Old Ones he speak of may be able to read his thoughts, but he never thought Narackamous himself could. A rotting smell of fish and of the corpses of the most ancient upon the depths of ocean exhaled stronger than ever while the chanting in the inhuman tongue carried on, Narackamous joining the circle of cultists, which center emanated the most absolute darkness in an unsettling sight that seemed to defy the very fabric of reality and distort the shape of space. The earth began to shake, the waves growing more violent as if something was rising from the depths. He felt instinctively that time was running out. This was his only chance, and perhaps what he readied for now was what he should have done in the first place.
"Odin, guide my sword!" he mentally prayed.
His attack sought to ignore Narackamous and instead he rapidly went for the other cultists. The first one was still in a trance when his head was separated from his shoulder, and in fast movements, he carried on to slaughter all of them before this abominable rite could be concluded. It was upon getting close to these vile natives that he glanced upon their inhuman features as well. Webbed hands and nearly unnoticeable fish-like scales defining confirming them as not exactly human but twisted instead. Of course he didn't have much time to think as he skillfully dodged incoming arrows from the two guards alerted by the beginning of the slaughter. Narackamous didn't stop conducting the ritual even as his killing continued, and somehow made the remaining ones in the circle carry on with their unholy feat even as they were killed. Obviously, they were trying to desperatedly conclude it, something that could not be allowed to happen.
Through skill and determination, Angartyr eventually have slain all upon the circle but Narackamous himself, skillfully dodging the arrows of the two who tried to stop him. Narackamous was still there, in trance, chanting, ignoring his presence, and the light of the moon was nearly disappearing, a darkness about to engulf the entire region. The two other remaining native cultists continued to aim their bows at him, and he might have pushed his luck too much already, although time was running out. As he was about to try ending this, new threats emerged. From the edges of the small island, enormous two-legged amphibian monsters emerged, surrounding him on all sides, just as he was about to try killing a man deemed unkillable. And then, for a brief moment, he spotted a gap in the darkness in the center of the circle, and noticed the draft of air coming up. There was a large abyss, a downward passage to the depths, with very strong winds pulling up from it, so strong winds he briefly wondered about jumping there now that there was no other way out rather than facing monsters visibly much stronger than him and who vastly outnumbered him, as he could hear the splashing sounds of more and more of their legions surfacing to stop him.
The waves became even more intense as something was rising quickly, and the warrior didn't waste any time to finish what he started, even as the monstrosities from the depths advanced. Angartyr saw the head of the wicked sorcerer falling on the ground, and then he turned back to look upon the least insane way out of there, concentrating as the amphibious brutes, with their sharp claws as long as an entire human hand, were almost reaching for him, even more enraged. He couldn't pay attention to the darkness that was at last vanishing, but he noticed well how the ground began to quake more than ever.
He had to make a run for it, as another arrow almost hit him. Through a gauntlet with claws as long as his hands trying to tear him into pieces he ran, slashing some of the creatures on his way. Eventually, when he was about to reach the exit blocked by the two natives, his agility proved insufficient to go through unharmed, as five of those massive claws impaled his left arm, tearing through flesh and bone without any difficulty, delivering to Angartyr a pain unlike any he ever felt, and shortly after two arrows struck him on the left shoulder. Trying to endure the agony, he struck his blade onto the massive claw of the beast, severely maiming it as it growled and withdrew it from his arm. He barely managed to dodge other claws, but now he was almost there and through determination he continued to ignore the pain.
When at last he reached the natives, they tried to grab their spears, but he didn't wait to stab them quickly, taking them down immediately. Ahead of him, a narrow rocky passage to the shore, behind him countless of enraged amphibious monstrosities whose features he never managed to fully observe in this short time, but who nevertheless were clearly terrifying. He thought now all he had to do was to shrug the pain and outrun those things, and thus he ran through the treacherous and slippery passage.
He almost fell when a claw came from the waters to try dragging him down into the sea, as the creatures swam around the narrow strait in pursuit. In the short time he had for thoughts, he could only regret coming here in the first place, for now there was little hope. the rocks grinded as missed claws sharpened themselves over them, the creatures growls and voices speaking in what could be same inhuman language those now slain natives used. There was still to much to cross before reaching the coast, and they would probably not give up their pursuit there. Driven by pure instinct, he continued, until another of them managed to hit him, his claw emerging from the ocean and tearing through his groin.
He thought he felt pain before, but it was nothing compared to it. The monster ripped his guts open and sliced off his manhood, but before he could scream, Angartyr finally failed to withstand the misery and passed out. Darkness fell upon him, his last sight being that of the amphibious beasts climbing over him as they prepared to cut him to pieces.
Am I dead, is it over?
He felt a warmth, sand on his hands, opening his eyes, he finally realized he was upon the coast. There was no more pain, and his body was again in one piece, nothing wounded or missing, and now it has become clearer than ever that for him, dying would be far more difficult than staying alive. Looking above he noticed the sun was rising, it was morning, the darkness of the place gone, and looking behind, he realized that the unnatural isle and its narrow passageway were also gone, probably buried again into the depths. Fortunately, no sign of the sea creatures either. But there was one peculiar and very interesting thing on those beaches: a niche dug in the sand, where a pile of emeralds and starfish shaped emerald amulet were. After all he went through, Angartyr didn't think twice about taking such riches, as he wondered who dropped it there. He believed it was someone who decided to reward him for what he just did, or perhaps, after all he has seen, something. The starfish amulet was probably a signature of who did this, but it would remain a mystery for a long time. He felt nothing vile from the artifact, and promptly wore it as a reminder of what he somehow managed to overcome.
Upon closer inspection, those emeralds were no fakes, they were pretty real and now he could consider himself a rich man, were him to return to somewhere civilized enough to give a higher value to gems than to food and supplies. He still couldn't believe it was over, and already, he was trying to suppress everything he saw and went through in that place, only that he could feel that he didn't defeat whatever cyclopean threat was one inch from bringing untold doom and unleashing Ragnarok, he simply delayed it. He couldn't know how long it would take until more insane Skraelingjar form such vile cults and attempt to awaken these great old ones again based on whatever they require for such hallowed rituals, be it some alignment of stars, eclipses or passing comets, and considering how brutally he imagined that he was mutilated by the amphibians of the depths after passing out, he knew that Narackamous was as alive as him, if unsuccessful with his unholy ritual thanks to his intervention. Last night, he made enemies he imagined to be infinitely more powerful than even the greatest human empire of history.
But for now, at least, it was over.
END OF PART 1
-link to be added later-