Monday, October 5, 2009

Pre-History of Noffel pt. IV of V

by Sawith, Chief Scribe of Kaladar

The Voyage of the Tarandis
A few years back, I had the great fortune to visit the island realm of Suhl and obtain a copy of the log of Dagbar Karibekian, the captain of the Tarandis during Awra’s fateful voyage aboard that ship.  This document is of great historical interest and importance, for it records, among other things, the last known encounter with Awra before she disappeared from the face of human (and Suhlian) history. It should be noted that Awra used an assumed name to hire Tarandis and her crew, and it is unclear from Captain Karibekian’s log whether or not Awra ever revealed her true identity. However, in the entry dated “second moon of the storms, day twenty one,” the log begins to refer to the magus as Awra. Perhaps the captain merely surmised this; perhaps he confronted “Olrath” and was confirmed in his suspicions.

What follows are selections from Karibekian’s log.  The translation (from the Old Noffellian) is my own.

Third moon of summer, day six
Still in Jakarta port, refurbishing Tarandis’ helm.  A gray-haired woman approached me dockside today.
“You are Captain Karibekian?” she asked.
“And your ship is the Tarandis?”
“I greet you.  My name is Olrath.  I come from Margdar, one of the inland baronies.  I wish to hire your ship and crew for a voyage around the southern peninsula, to the Faerie settlement of Al-Nurna.”
“I can take you as far as New Port—no further,” said I.
“This is acceptable,” said she.
“Eight hundred silvers for me, my ship, and her crew.  I further require you to retain and provision fifty warriors for the duration of the voyage north.  Dangerous seas, dangerous ports.”
“It is done.”
She pulled a worn goatskin satchel from ‘neath her weather-stained cloak, and drew out four gold pieces.
“Half payment now—the rest the day we set sail.”
I took the money, hiding my wonderment.  Gold!  Who was this woman?
“We sail in seven days,” I told her.
“Excellent!” said she.
I watched her as she walked back along the pier in the midday sun, losing sight of her in the wash of fisher-folk and merchants who crowd the waterfront.

Third moon of summer, day thirteen.
Set sail from the port of Jakarta today on voyage commissioned by Olrath of Margdar.  The day is bright and warm; there are strong southerly winds.  We are making good headway today.  I anticipate rounding the southern tip of Rakar’s peninsula in twenty days if all goes well.  Olra seems at ease aboard ship—unusual for an inlander.  She sits in the bow, looking out to sea, hours at a time.  As if she believes she is guiding Tarandis onward.

Third moon of summer, day twenty-eight.
Already the warriors onboard grow restless, eager to be on land again.  But not Olrath.  She divides his time between sitting in the bow, and walking the main deck, watching the crew.  Mealtimes in the galley, she asks them questions and plays card games with them.  She seems interested in learning how Tarandis sails.  She is perceptive and unassuming, and I see many of the crewmen have come to like her.  She is their constant companion.

First moon of the stormy season, day one.
Tarandis made the tip of Komar’s point just before sunset today.  That makes a sixteen-day sail from Jakarta, fastest I’ve ever done.  Winds have been good, an easy time for the oarsmen so far; but they’ll earn their provisions once we round the horn.  The western sea is choppy this time of year, the winds unpredictable.  Oh yes, we’ll all earn our sleep. . . I estimate one hundred sixty days to New Port, if all goes well.

First moon of the stormy season, day two.
My lifelong fear has come true: two days before rounding Rakar’s horn, and the red death is upon us.  Three crewmen are dead. . . six more in quarantine in the third mate’s quarters.  Over the years of my captaincy, in morning prayers to the sea-goddess, I have beseeched her to spare my crew from the terrible agony of the red plague, the sailor’s doom.  She has always heard me, until now.  O Kala, why hast thou brought down your hatred?  What have I done to earn the greatest of horrors?  Let us make offerings!  Take Tarandis if you must!  But spare the crew, and sweep away the red terror that threatens us all! 

First moon of the stormy season, day six.
Seven more dead, and ten more showing the telltale red spots around the throat and eyes.  Everyone is afraid.  The red death has killed larger crews than this in under a fortnight.  Of course many of the men wish to make landfall, but they know as I do that we must stay at sea until the red plague passes or kills all of us.  It is a seagoing plague and no captain has ever violated this code.  To do otherwise would endanger all our brethren on shore.  Some crewmen argue that we are too far south to be near any human settlement, but it is no matter.  We are dead.  We stay our westerly course.

First moon of the stormy season, day eleven.
Four more dead, including two of the warriors.  Baris, the chief oarsman, quarantined today.  In a few more days we will have lost enough crew to make Tarandis unable to sail.  Only the shipboard rats remain unaffected.

First moon of the stormy season, day thirteen.
Our progress is slow—the winds are against us.  Tarandis inches her way west, trying to get clear of the horn.Three more crewmen gone.  Baris still clings stubbornly to life, feverish, his breathing spotty.   Olrath spends most of her time below decks of late. Meeting her in the galley this noontide, I asked her what she was doing. 
She told me, “Observing the rats.”
“The rats?” I asked, finding this curious. 
“Yes,” she replied, “They are were well adapted to life aboard ship, and are fierce survivors as well.  They are immune to this plague which kills your crew.” 
Olrath’s habits are strange, but there is a thoughtfulness and purpose behind them.  What do the rats portend?  Will they be the only survivors of the Tarandis?

First moon of the stormy season, day fourteen.
After the morning meal, Olrath asked my permission to call a meeting of the entire crew.  I rang the ship’s bell, and all gathered around her on deck.  She spoke in a strong, clear voice, saying:
“My companions, it is time to drop pretenses and speak openly together.  Our situation is grave. 
“I am a magus—what you would call a sorceress.  While I know this will turn some of you against me, I feel you must know the truth if we are to act together to save ourselves.  I know a way to deliver you all in good health through our present circumstance.  I will need your cooperation.  I ask you not to succumb to your fears about me.  Having lived aboard ship with me these many weeks, you must know in your hearts that I can be trusted, that I serve the powers of life, and that I am able to help you.  Will you trust me?”
Rogath Silverblade, the most headstrong of the Noffellian warriors, rose in anger, shouting, “How can you be trusted?  You are a master of illusion and trickery, and an Exile!  You do not serve life—only yourself!”
Olrath answered, “By serving myself, I serve life.”
Halek Jannara, Baris’ second man and acting chief oarsman, addressed the crew, saying, “The Enchantress tries to bend us to her will and purposes!  What chance do we have to live anyway?  We can get through this without her help.”
Olrath responded, “Do you believe your own words, Halek?  I offer you help and friendship in a desperate hour.  My power can save all of you, but I will do nothing without your assent.  It is up to you to decide.” 
Jannara sat back upon the railing, unsure.
Next, I spoke:
“Olrath, Exile of Noffel!  As a magician, you have violated the decree of the king by entering Jakarta to hire this ship.  You are an outlaw and an exile.  Your powers may be inspired by evil, or perhaps they are not—I cannot know.
“But as I hear you speak, I find that I believe you.  I think that you can indeed save us from our current peril.  This places me in a difficult position, for now I must choose between everything I have been taught to feel about you, and what my senses tell me now.”
I paused.
There was no sound but the gentle slop of seawater against the wooden hull of Tarandis.  Rogath the swordsman clawed unconsciously at the hilt of his weapon as I took a deep breath.  I faced Olrath, looking into her clear, gray eyes, and said:
“For myself, I choose to trust my own senses, and therefore, to trust you.  I will consent to what you suggest, although my stomach tells me that your plan is both magical in nature, and extremely dangerous.”
“That is so,” she answered.
“Then I cannot speak for my crew in this matter.  Each person must decide for herself or himself.”  Addressing the crew, I said, “Our time is short.  You know what we face.  I, for one, have chosen.  I trust the Enchantress.” 
I came below, leaving the rest of the crew to themselves.

First moon of the stormy season, day fifteen.
By sunset today, all of the sailors (including Baris)and thirty-six of the swords-people aboard Tarandis decided to participate in Olrath’s plan.  Faced with death, they must have found the sorcereress’ confidence and open manner more convincing than their fear of her powers. 
The fourteen remaining warriors, led by Rogath Silverblade, refused to comply with Olra, believing she intends to bewitch or destroy them.  These fourteen locked themselves in their berths below decks and wouldn’t come out. The rest of us met Olrath on deck three hours after moonrise.  The sea was smooth and calm.  No clouds, the moon cast ghostly light over the faces of the magus and the crew.
Olrath spoke:
“Friends, I admire your bravery.  You have felt your fears, passed through them, and now you stand ready to do what must be done to save yourselves, this voyage, and this ship.  Your actions this night are testament to the courage and fortitude of all Noffellians.
“I have already begun my work.  Soon, you will feel sleepy—do not resist this.  When morning comes, you will awaken, feeling different and perhaps
looking different than you do now.  So take this moment to look around at one another, and remember yourselves as you are.  Tomorrow begins a new era in your lives and in your history.”
I did as she advised, looking around me in the silvery moonlight.  I stood next to the helmsman, Geb Ollarson, and turning to face him, I observed his shoulder-length gray hair, his craggy, weathered face, his long, hooked nose, his steady brown eyes.  He looked at me also, and smiled.
“Gods be with ye, Cap’m,” he said to me.
I remember nothing else.

[to be continued here. . . ]

No comments:

Post a Comment