Kraka Draka - Part Three Hundred Twenty Three (323)
Yeah I know it has been awhile but between my Rinn's rehab, the little ones, and work things have been busy and stressful. Anyway with out further ado. Ooops forgot to add that this takes place in the year 1625 or there about.
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Far to the southwest within the frozen Norsca wastelands of the fjords and hidden valleys was the first indicator that snow and ice is not necessarily the norm. Hot vapors rose near the base of an ice shrouded mountain that appeared to be dusted not with purity of snow and ice but with dark gray soot. Normally nothing grew but some enterprising Norsii several generations ago found the hot springs, the soft fertile soil ready for seedlings, and now crops they planted flourished as did a Norsii village. The hot springs provide respite from the harshness of Norsca’s long winters; for Norsca is a harsh grim land where the soft do not long survive. It would have been better if they had never found the hot springs. For several hands of days the hot springs began to slowly boil, then one night just before dawn the whole of southwest Norsca shook violently and the dirty snow-covered mountaintop melted. Those Norsii who are awake as they stood watch atop the village walls incase of attack and are quick thinking took to their longships in order to escape, but a deep-wide-river of boiling hot-mud rushed down the mountainside wiping out the hot-springs, devouring the bright green crops, the drab-log longhouses as well as the escaping Drakk longships burying them all in mud, ash, and debris that was nearly as deep as the now non-existent fjord. A huge column of roiling dark-grey smoke and ash rose from the mountaintop into the dawning sky as bolts of lightning lashed outward from the column. Then as quick as it began the mountain stopped shaking and the reddish glow at the top of the mountain was dimmed by the fall of rain that turned the falling ash into droplets of wet-clinging-gooey grey-mud. It was like a huge Norsca giant had awakened stretched its limbs, yawned then slowly rolled over and fell back into deep slumber.
There were plenty of places for an enemy to hide and observe and the Guild Master of the Warrior’s Guild had tasked the Rangers to guard the Shipwright Guild as they procured what would become the keel or perhaps the mast and spars of the newest vessel. The Rangers noted that their fellow Dawi Shipwrights did not appear to be looking up at the sky as if the openness was nothing new. Most Dawi would be looking constantly flinching at the slightest sound that was not familiar or for the matter most would be uncomfortable with the sun blazing down upon them no longer surrounded by the cool darkness beneath the mountain. But since nearly every Shipwright at one time or another sailed upon the Varr the openness was nothing new to them. Still it was unnatural that a Dawi should be comfortable above ground no matter what guild they belonged to at least that was the general complaint of a couple of Longbeards.
It would have normally taken them perhaps two weeks travel above the snow covered ground to get to the grove but since they were traveling via the Norsca Ungdrin Ankor it would only take them less than a day’s travel to get to the fortified gateway that opened out into a hidden valley at the foot of Mt Sjoktraken where a massive grove of Wutroth; mountain oak filled the entire valley. Getting back would take them much longer since the material for the main mast could not be taken back via the Ungdrin which they had exited some five marks before dawn. It was slow going; even with snow-shoes as they stomped their way through waist deep snow. Grundi Durakson, one of the Rangers wondered just how they were going to get the tree to the graving dock. The wood for the spars could be taken back via the Ungdrin but not the mast. There were two alternatives, wait until spring and float it down river to the tunnel entrance then through the tunnel from the Varr Port or and he looked to the east as the sun began to rise and color the distant horizon and wondered the logistics of transporting the wood.
He and the others felt it deep within their bones, a low level grinding moan of almost unbearable pain then a sharp snap. Then nothing more then silence for many heartbeats followed by a loud roar of sound as part of the mountain shifted and collapsed in on itself. An Umgi may have felt a slight tremor of the earth beneath his or her feet depending on how close they stood from the collapse. The mountain from the outside looked normal, trees still standing, sky still blue, streams stilled flowed, and the sun is still shining; normal except for the squawking chatter of birds of all kinds as they took to the air, the noisy passage of larger animals crashing through the brush in fear, and the mournful wail of the Norscan wolves as their howling echoed amongst the mountain valleys. High above them the glacier covered mountain is still pristine and innocent as small ice crystals swirled and danced in the non existent wind. But to the Dawi one and all everyone had a nauseous sick feeling in the pit of their stomach. Each and every one knew their present location in relation to their hearth and kin beneath their feet and wondered what had happened. All thoughts of Dawi Shipwrights finding the perfect tree is set aside as a huge section of dense glacier began to break away from the mountain.
At first glance Grundi thought that his eyes were paying tricks on him as a thin black line seemed to be drawn across the top of the glacier. Then the line widened and the glacier-field began to move slowly but then its momentum suddenly increased and to many the noise of the glacier rushing down the mountains sounded like steam escaping from a kettle hung over a fire as towering Norscan Spruce trees were snapped like so much dry twigs. The avalanche of snow and ice scooped up everything in its path, trees and boulders there is no stopping it; there is no where to run as generations worth of snow exploded outward from the mountain precipice above them. Then there is only silence and the cold weight of the avalanche.
The Dawi were in the 6th deep, at the south-western end of a played out drift. The drift ended as did the ore vein of Agril that they had mined for the better part of ten decades. The seven Boki watched as the forked-bearded Nori Belgarson a Priest of Grungni who is attired in grey-wool with a silver-rune scribed-pick embroidered upon his chest, consulted with the Master-Miner, Rorek Bronnson of the Kalan Stonecutter and the Master-Lodefinder, Dern Belegolsnev; the ten Boki had journeyed nearly five or six candle-marks through various tunnels and descended down six shafts to reach the end of the drift and any decision that was to be made could not be hurried.
Brothers Drong and Durak Finnson stood with their cousins; Fimbur, Groth, Hugnir, Kettri, and Yorri of Kalan Stonecutter wondering just what the decision would be. The drift was played out but the faint odor as well as the taste of Agril was still in the drift’s air; and Drong the eldest of the seven Boki said as much as he licked his finger then ran it across the closest tunnel wall’s rocky surface; “Agril very faint,” he muttered “with an even fainter taste of iron.”
“We have all said as much” the youngest cousin, Kettri replied sharply “but the time and effort it would take to chase down this faint taste will not put ale in my tankard or food on my plate. All Kalan has mined the drifts ore and then had it smelted; the cost of coal nearly exceeds the worth of Agril.”
“Just our bad luck that we have been unable even to follow that faint taste of iron.” Yorri muttered to no one in particular. “Be nice to find a good source of iron or even some gemstones.”
“Both Yorri and Kettri have a point we have also gone through and refined the overburden a second and third time with nothing to show for it. No Agril, no iron, and no gemstones,” Groth muttered as he held up a rather flat leather pouch that had more cheese crumbs than coins or Agril nuggets. “Not even Anaya Kettradottier at the Rusty Harpoon would open us a tab,” he said shaking his empty pouch. “Might as well lease this tunnel out for equipment storage and regain part of the Kalan’s stake.” They all seemed to agree with Groth’s assessment and as one they all looked toward other three elders who were in deep discussion.
“Well Nori as I recall you were right that this vein would come to a sorry worthless end in under a hundred years and would be more costly than it would be worth,” Rorek; the Master-Miner stated “but it was my patriarch at the time that thought you were daft and he was a Lode-Finder as well; kept reminding the Kalan that until the day he passed on that the Kalan would strike it rich in this drift.” Rorek shook his head sadly when he thought of his ancestor.
His kin the Lode-finder jammed his pick into broken-rough drift-face and pried small chunks of rocks loose. Then Dern placed them in the palms of his callused-hands and rubs them together breaking them into smaller and smaller bits of rock. The lantern light illuminated minute traces of blackish-grey colored ore with just a hint of metallic luster. Dern brought the palms of his hands to his nose and sniffed noisily. “Baaaahh this is not even worth smelting, hardly a trace; I think it was our sire that was daft and not Nori.”
They both turned toward the Nori who seemed to be lost in thought. He too is a Lodefinder, nearly every Priest of Grungni who had at one time been a Boki was but what bothered him was not that the drift had played out he knew it would back then. The scent of Agril was still a lure to these Boki wanting to strike a rich lode. He directed his lantern illuminating the surrounding bedrock. He felt uneasy which was all together unnatural for him. It was the weakness of the tunnel that Nori sensed. With a sense of urgency he toed his boots off stood barefoot and placed his hands upon the tunnel walls, then the floor, and finally the ceiling. Nori started to shout a warning when he felt it; a bone-deep grinding-motion that began far to the southwest at the very root of a long continuous chain of mountains that stretched the length, and width of Norsca. Nearly the whole of 6th deep groaned as ceiling joists atop support beams swayed and for the most part held as small cracks appeared and some became fissures that seeped icy cold-water. The Boki at the end of the played out drift made them-selves as small as possible as the tunnel they were in undulated like a crazed Drakk and all they could do was pull their mining-helms down upon their heads as parts of the tunnel collapsed around them and waited for the mountain to stop shaking. Then the shaking did stop and in some areas of Norsca where the mine tunnels were to close to the surface there was a sizeable subsidence.
Anaya Kettradottier of the Durazklad Kalan looked towards the doors to the Rusty Harpoon as they opened and a trio of Drak-Hammerers entered. She automatically reached for the new Nogarung tankard that was stored above the bar where all the other personal Nogarung tankards are shelved. Anaya picked up two other kiln-fired tankards and filled-up all three just as they reached the bar. The two flanking Drak-Hammerers were supposed to be the heir’s bodyguard but Lord Drazhgrund, King Groth’s brother often went about Kraka Draka with no escort what-so-ever. Drazhgrund was her kin, a cousin but the closeness of their blood ties precluded marriage between the two of them. No royal Kvinn ever had two husbands at the same time; only in the warrior or miner Kalans is a Kvinn permitted that custom. It had been said that King Groth wanted his one hundred twenty five year old younger brother to cement an alliance with one of the other three Dawi kingdoms of Norsca Ankor. She and Drazhgrund were born the same day, their respective father or grandfathers had been King of Kraka Draka, they shared so much except for the color of his hair and beard; pure black with not a hint of grey anywhere. Like him they were both it seemed, forever young. With a heavy sign Anaya let her unspoken dream fade away as the Prince approached.
“Cousin” she said, “Have you heard, your sister Princess Ketra has returned home from Kraka Ornsmotek with her son Tyr?”
“How can that be,” as he turned to one of the Drak-Hammerers? Drazhgrund knew that Ketra’s marriage to Prince Durgin Hadrason of Kraka Ornsmotek was not solely based on an alliance. “What have you heard?” Prince Drazhgrund demanded.
“Nothing my prince, only that Kraka Ornsmotek has been fighting small hordes of Chaos Beastman on occasion,” answered Ori Durginson. “As you know our Drak-Rangers have served alongside the other three Kraka’s to support and to gain experience.” This was something that Drazhgrund knew for he had served twenty-five years as a Warrior and then fifty years as a Drak-Ranger before becoming a Drak-Hammerer.
Turning back to his cousin whose dark blue eyes, beautiful yellow hair braided in the style of his Kalan still made his heart beat wildly, and there were many times in their youth they had wished they were not kin but she is married and is the one who manages the Rusty Harpoon which is owned by their own Kalan. Still they both remembered past shared-passions and dreams, and eventually by mutual agreement thought it would be better if they were never again alone together for neither wished to incur the Kalan matriarch’s wrath or to take the Grungni’s Oath. “Cousin Anaya what do you know,” he softly asked keeping his unspoken emotion at bay.
There are moist spots in the corner of her eyes as she sadly spoke “Only that Prince Durgin Hadrason of Kalan Agrilaz is dead.” The three Drak-Hammerers were stunned into silence for they had shared more than one keg of ale with Durgin before his marriage. Anaya continued, “Also the King of Kraka Ornsmotek gave Ketra permission to return home and rejoin our Kalan as he has plenty of other heir’s. What a thing to say, luckily Prince Tyr Durginson is far too young to understand but old enough to miss his father.”
“How did you hear this?” Drazhgrund asked and wondered how his brother, the King would deal with having their sister back in the royal family compound.
“Cousin, you hear many interesting things in the Rusty Harpoon. Royal couriers and heralds stop here either before or after their journeys. In this case one of the escorting Hammerers from Kraka Ornsmotek stopped in here for a meal spoke of is reason for being in Kraka Draka. What is heard in the Rusty Harpoon is both important and trivial to our kin, the King; now finish your drink and be off with you; go to Ketra.” Anaya ordered the three of them complied but not before finishing their drinks. Anaya watched Drazhgrund leave and the thought of a something she had written not to long after their decision;
Like a cask full of spirits
sealed to keep them in
my Dawi heart strains its staves.
I am a cask that is untapped
I am a drumhead stretched too tight
I am a loaf that waits to be split
I am an that unburned altar candle wick
I am the unknown river stone amongst many
I am a feast at which no one eats.
The ale in the cask is rich with waiting
my heart is weak from wanting you
sit at my table and let us drink
our spirits will burn hotly brightly entwined.
And that decision was only fourteen days before her Barazdeg and Drazhgrund inadvertently left her with a priceless gift which to this day is worth far more than her husband’s betrothal gift, and forever a secret from both Drazhgrund and Durak her husband. Those thoughts faded and the double doors had barely swung shut behind trio when a group of Shipwrights entered the Rusty Harpoon. When Anaya saw the Shipwrights she momentarily thought of Grundi who looked nothing like his blonde haired father but then there are calls for refills. Without a look behind Drazhgrund lead the way towards the spiral stairs that would lead to the upper levels of Kraka Draka.
Prince Drazhgrund and his two bodyguards and it frustrated him that his brother and the Kalan council ordered that he have bodyguards at least until the Queen gave birth and he was no longer the heir apparent. His sister Ketra would normally have been next to succeed but when she married into the royal Kalan of Kraka Ornsmotek that duty fell upon Drazhgrund’s shoulders. Now that she was back… and as he mused about succession he gave little thought to what went on around him as the three of walked amongst other Dawi conducting business at the various establishments along the main boulevard, called the “King’s Road”.
Even before they approached the gates to the Royal Compound they were under observation not only from the four King’s Drak Hammerers guarding the doors but from silent hidden watchers. No one entered or left the Royal Compound without someone seeing them. The four guards stood before the double doors three broad steps above the “King’s Road”. Since this is the capital’s main boulevard which has many side avenues leading to different districts and levels of the underground capital and all are guarded by the King’s Drak Hammerers who are stationed at every intersection joining the King’s Road. Their primary duty incase of invasions was to close and secure the massive iron bound stone doors so as to block entrance to the road. There secondary duty was to keep the peace.
Of all the twenty or so rooms spread over two levels Drazhgrund liked this one the best it was a two level reading room, the second level was open and looked down into the first. Drazhgrund looked up to the upper level and saw that it was empty save for the massive book shelves that lined all four walls and no one was on the stairs coming down. But it is the lower level of the reading room he liked the best. The floors were covered with thick dark green wool carpets and the walls were lined with Wutroth that was stained and polished to a rich golden hue, in fact all the furniture was made of Wutroth by Clan Kolthingaz and were upholstered with layers of wool gathered from mountain goats and sheep and then covered with the white fur of Norscan bears. The walls held heirlooms that belonged to various bygone eras. The room is lit by several bronze and crystal lamps that hung from the ceiling on bronze chains. A fire burned in the hearth, and in front on either side were two large padded chairs and foot stools with a small table between the two chairs. There is also two writing desks with a map upon the wall above and between them, and the desks are flanked by a book case and a liquor cabinet and that was where he found his mother, Marta Throlindottier wrapped in a large floor length white fur blanket from a Norscan great-bear as she talked to his sister, Ketra Martadottier. The both were sitting, and a small keg and two tankards of ale sat upon small table between them. Their weapons leaned against the side of the chairs within reach. Also within reach behind the chairs is a small day-bed where her grandson his nephew, Tyr Durginson slept as his mother and grandmother quietly talked. The two doors that lead to other parts of the royal home are open, and he could just barely hear the water garden in the distance as well as smell their dinner that was being cooked by one of the unseen royal staff. Drazhgrund went to his mother, leaned over and kissed her brow, his sister stood and they embraced and quickly realized that his sister is heavy with child. Drazhgrund was about to say something… then the mountain shook.
Note: As always to be continued.....
Edited by Skull Krusher, 20 November 2014 - 01:33 AM.