The first Thonar's Day
Of the month of the Pasture
Local Year 5315
Divine Association: Forsite, the law-speaker. God of Laws, Justice, & Trade
Literal Meaning: Cattle
Interpretations: Fortune, Trust, Wealth
- Right-side: Foresight, Growth, Success
- Inverted: Avarice, Dependence, Poverty
We have arrived in the tiny trading settlement of Bella, a scant collection of dilapidated structures surrounded by stakewall that extends into the harbour some distance on either side where we docked our ship at the small wharf. I had come to learn the majority of trade goods we were carrying on the Sojourner were farmed foodstuffs like grains, turnips, cabbage, and so on, with good reason; the surrounding forestland would hamper field farming. I surmised that the locals of this village must subsist on a diet of mostly local fish and livestock, like my own folk of the north. I learned my assumption was correct, but not entirely true.
Like the vessel I travelled upon, I noticed several distinctions between the make of the structures here that matched not only with my own country, but of similar neighbouring people like the Celtfolk. Still the differences where great enough to dissuade me from jumping to my desired conclusion that I was near familiar lands; I hoped a chance conversing with the locals might provide the knowledge of what I seek.
We ported our trade goods into a longhouse whose outer walls one could not help but notice were hastily reinforced hither and yon with timber boards over damaged sections. Though largely empty the interior bore the faint odour of a large gathering of living beings. During our several trips carrying goods a scant crowd formed; several of the larger men aided our task, and it was then I was able to see them up close in the fading daylight: at first glance our assistants were undoubtedly the burlier folk of the settlement, but they were still quite haggard and thin. I soon discovered why.
When we were at last done and gathered together in another similarly battered hall to take part in a "feast in our honour" whilst merchant-captain Lorens discussed trade with their leader, which they referred to as the 'ealdorman'. We sat around the firepit whilst locals brought us dishes to sup upon, the fare of which was meagre; we slowly began to understand the foodstores in Bella: the bitter-tasting flatbreads were made with bark flour and the thin pottage was thickened with pieces of offal, seaweed, dandelion and nettle greens. The smoked fish provided was the most palpable dish, though very little was catered.
Nevertheless, despite the wanting meal, I, along with the rest of the crew, politely declined to dine upon the long, rubbery neck of some type of fowl these folk called a 'goo duck'. (Must be a less savoury relative of the barnacle goose I've heard certain holy-men dine off of during periods of religious fasting? At times I find many of the ways of other faiths peculiar.)
Whilst we dined, the ealdorman (with surprisingly little haggling), agreed on behalf of the village to trade over half their stock of commodities (furs, scrimshaw, dried/salted fish, timber) for the goods that we had brought. Before our company had the chance to agree to this rather generous offer, the elder quietly inquired how many passengers could our vessel be filled with. Without showing our collective concern, our leader replied that loaded with the traded goods we could take but a few.
Without thinking, I asked if his query was related to the haggard state of the folk here; were they facing starvation or perhaps sickness wrought by a scarce game? Speaking directly to me with a haunted look, he said not entirely, and told us a grim tale:
For several months the folk of this place had been beset by a horror that slew their best fighters. It continually strikes on the blackest of nights, which hides its form in the shadows and darkness, but it is agreed upon it's shape is not that of a beast, but like a man but with dark colouration. Nor like a beast has it been mindless in its predations; in the early weeks it struck at Bella's granary and larder, setting them alight and burning the majority of their foodstores.
After that the creature began to prey upon the townsfolk in earnest, occasionally returning the corpses of those slain as reanimated dead monstrosities. The populace has been decimated by these attacks; the few able warriors that remain are unfit/unwilling to face the creature and all the folk have been taking refuge in the longhouse where we unloaded our goods; the elder bid we all head there now before the night grew to its darkest.
As we arose and made our way, the elder related the horror seems content to let the folk of Bella lapse into starvation, for though it sends undead to batter against the walls of their shelter, it never assaults the longhouse directly; though they know it remains nearby for they can hear it mutter threats and commands in a foul tongue and ransack the empty buildings.
Once we were outside the entrance to their shelter, which was now filling up with the haggard community, the ealdorman had come to the conclusion why he asked about passage upon our ship: many families were willing to pay what little they had remaining to barter passage upon the Sojourner and flee this benighted place.
Our merchant-captain promised he would take such offers under serious consideration and his answer would be given on the morrow. Although we were implored by the locals to shelter with them in the longhouse, I advised the company should perhaps remain with the ship, for if this being was as clever as told, it would surely seek to render our vessel unseaworthy. The captain concurred; we returned to our moored ship and set watches as the ominous twilight deepened.
I feel I need to gather myself before I relate what happened that eventide.
Praise Be To The Æsir
-Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson