The third Day of Tyraz
Month of the Pasture
Local Year 5315
Literal Meaning: Aurochs, a wild ox
Interpretations: Courage, Sacrifice, Strength of Will
- Right-side: Perseverance, Unharnessed Potential, Vigilance
- Inverted: Misdirected Force, Rashness, Violence
On that moonless night, of the third Thonar's Day, it came.
It has taken me over a fortnight to recover from the events of that nightfall, and I am only now starting to commit my memories to page.
When the crew and I returned to our ship that night, we chose to cast off our mooring to the wharf and anchor in the middle of the inlet until dawn. Secure in our belief that we were physically beyond threat from the creature spoke of by the folk of Bella, we to our mistake only set our usual eventide lookout.
May the Æsir have mercy upon the spirits lost that night and forgive me for my lack of acuity, for it was the hour of my watchkeeping when that creature noiselessly found its way onto the deck of the Sojourner and silently killed a handful of my shipmates before it came upon me. I must have been fated by the norns to live on; I am still in shock I survived that encounter with that a horrific thing.
Late into my watch, I was drawn to a faint noise; I stumbled upon the headless body of Arnulf, his throat had been torn out violently yet so swiftly his head was later found across the length of the deck. Before a cry could pass my lips I raised my left arm on impulse and by chance warded losing my own neck to a clawed hand that flashed forth from a dark form lurking in the shadows.
The grip on my vambrace threatened to crush my arm; my other hand groped for Sváfnir at my side as I vainly struck out with the heel of my boot, attempting to gain distance from my foe and the other claw that I saw dart forward from the gloom. My graspfclosed around the hilt of my sword and a single swift motion, I unsheathed the blade and batted aside the ghastly arm a mere tomme from my face.
The thing cursed in a torrid voice that made my skin crawl and released my left arm only to drive its steely talons swiftly into my gut. The blow winded me and I felt several links of my maille break and the claws sink into my flesh. Its other hand caught a hold of my arm as I drove at the creature. My body began to shudder as vitality began to preternaturally ebb from it, causing me to break out in a cold sweat.
Our strife had now drawn shouts of alarm from the crew and I could sense the creature's desire to flee before my companions came to my aid, but resolutely I grasped the offending limb and quickly closed the distance between my foe and I, driving the talons ever deeper into me. Surely, we were locked in an embrace that would only result in my death, but I prayed my allies would succeed where I would fail in destroying this terror and avenging those it had slain.
The sound of feet on deck grew with the illumination being brought forth; in a move of desperation, by purchase on my chest and the grip upon right arm, the horror lifted me up and with a mighty burst of strength tossed me over the side of the Sojourner, far out into the cold, dark harbour and to my doom in the awaiting nets of Ránn.
It would have entirely succeeded in its endeavour, had I not maintained my own steadfast grip upon its own limb as it heaved me. The sheer force propelled me through the air, but also dragged my foe with me. The whole event left it sprawling over the gunwale as I stuck the side of the hull, my boots splashing in the harbour. As it frantically reached down to dislodge my fading grip, I, with my last ort of strength, swung the sword that still remained in my grasp in an upward arc towards the fiend.
The gods saw the blade struck true.
The edge dug through the back left side of it's neck and hewed the its head clean off, which tumbled past me, dashed and sunk into the bay below. Its body sagged, lifeless; I was prepared to join it from weakness and exhaustion, but my fellow shipmates quickly retrieved me from my perilous position and hauled me onto the deck, where finally darkness took me away.
In a land of mists and echoes, a lone, cloaked figure stood before me, baring a staff in his left hand. His face was obscured by a broad hat, but wisps of a long white beard wagged as he spoke. I do not recall the words, but I understood their intent. From the folds of his robe he produced a large sack and handed it to me. When I opened and gazed into it I awoke.
I started violently and found myself in the longhouse we had supped in the evening before, lying on a cot beside the firepit, my wounds bound and dressed. Nearby sat Lorens, the merchant-captain, and the hamlet's ealdorman. Seeing that I was was awake, with gladness in their voices, they told me the creature was slain and through my bravery (fortune) I had lifted the curse upon the settlement of Bella. They related to me I had been in a feverish slumber for three days even after they administered several of my healing potions and local folk remedies. Though my wounds were mended, for sometime following I suffered from a langour that shortened my breath and sapped the vigor from my thews.
The bodies of our fallen crewmen were given last rites and proper burial in according to their beliefs and customs, which I presided over to the best of my ability. Despite the loss, the folk of Bella were in high spirits and offered me gifts which I politely declined within reason.
In the following days celebration, the folk of Bella drank and feasted on the supplies we had brought. A dozen or so of the inhabitants got together and played a sort of ball sport they referred to as 'choule':
Two teams of five players, each armed with wooden sticks, had to gain possession of a ball on a cord and deposit it in the opposing teams' basket to score a point. Whenever a player was struck by an opponents' stick, he must cease moving and kneel to the ground; an unarmed member of their team would rush in from the sidelines, collect their stick, and give it to a team mate waiting in an area behind their goal, who would then join play.
It deeply reminded me somewhat of some of the competitions back in my homeland, like knattleikr. I was too ill to participate, but the ealdorman, who presided as an arbiter over the games, further explained to me the rules and gifted me a parchment with a layout of the field of play.
|Though I am mostly unfamiliar with the local dialect, I understand the areas mentioned.|
He related it was what they used play to train warriors and such tradition shall return for practical reasons should they never be helpless to such an evil.
I know not what exactly that monster was, neither does anyone else, but it is truly dead now. The decollated corpse of the creature, clothed only in a thin ragged shroud, my allies burnt upon a pyre; the ashes of which we intend on scattering across the sea. They had searched the waters in vain but could not find the head of the thing. It was I that discovered it, in a rather unsettling place: when I had recovered enough from my injuries to return unaided to where I kept my belongings on the Sojourner, there was the bag I recognized from my dream, resting amongst them. Inside was the head.
Given the uncanny connection I feel with the vision and the act of being 'given' the bag and the object within, I am reticent to dispose of it, though at the same time I long to be rid of the ghastly thing. It sits before me now, it's mouth sewn shut over a coin that I prayed for all the gods to bless. It's sockets cloudy and lifeless. The hue of the tight skin almost stretched over the high ridges of its countenance was that of dark cobalt and surprisingly dry, so unnaturally dessicated that one is given the impression the flesh is preserved from the ravages of time. The head seemed more like that from an ancient barrow-dweller than the agile terror it so recently belonged to.
The head is nearly bald except for a small black plait that grew almost to rod-length from the crown. There are ears pointed like those of an elf or goblin, but larger, more predator like. Before I placed the coin within its jaws and sewn them together, I saw its teeth, though worn and rotted in places, resembled those of a man. In order to close the lips fully (and perhaps as superstitious precaution) I took my hammer and bashed out all of the front teeth before I slid the coin in and took to the macabre task of stitching the lips together.
As I sat alone at my task, my mind when over what sort of creature this head belonged to; was it perhaps a draugr? It's body was like a cold and 'deathly black' like corpse skin, but the aptrganga, (again-walkers) and draugr I'd witnessed on Arrakis, in their sluggish or savage forms respectively, lack the seer might and cunning of this creature. Perhaps a vampir then? I have briefly encountered such undead beings, but they apparently appear in the form they once had when living, and are (thankfully?) prone to reason as mortals do. Additionally, vampir are said to seek blood, not wanton carnage as this accursed being did.
I began to recall childhood tales of from realms that lay south beyond the sea of my homeland; one was of an undead creature known to the folk of that land as the nachzehrer (which means something akin to after-living-off). Not a blood-drinker, it apparently devours dead bodies, a creature which some in even farther lands name a ghoul. Still, I know not if my conjectures are correct; until I learn otherwise, I shall refer to it as the 'wight' which simply means 'creature or being'.
When we were alone, I presented the head to the old ealdorman and my captain, and told them how it came into my possession through a dream. The ealdorman related how he believed we had taken the necessary preventative measures to ensure the creature would not return, that my vision had divine provenance, and it would be best if I safeguarded the remains of the 'wight'; evidently the gods have fated it. Though he seemed unhappy with the future presence of the head upon his ship, Lorens said he felt it could not be in better custody.
I know not why the All-Father intended for me to come to this benighted hamlet nor why he charged me with the slaying of the wight and the retention of its head. I was dismayed once I took time to inquire with the locals, that they know of no nearby places or names familiar to me. This disheartens me, yet I feel a sense of relief in a way; if all goes well I shall be returning to Arrakis and the township of Dagger Deep.
In the meantime, this sport or prowess fascinates me; if only I could find something to use as a ball...
Praise Be To The Æsir
-Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson