Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.
You can find the first post in the series here.
Last week’s post is here.
In the northwest part of Myrrhn, on a small, rocky islet, one can find the Dragonship docks, a field of piers filled with ships from all of the clans. On a nice day it is a veritable forest of bright sails and leaping banners. Of course, nice days were rare in Myrrhn, and when I ventured onto the docks the wind was howling and the rain lashed the ships. Only fools or madmen would choose to let sails fly close to land on such a day.
Looming over the Dragonship docks was Cassander’s Shield, a brooding fortification built when the Nordan laid siege to Myrrhn long ago. The smooth grey stones of the walls showed little signs of age or disrepair even though it served as more of a meeting place now.The sounds of merriment from within could be heard over the wind.
“What brings you here, exile?”
I was not forbidden from the Nordan part of Myrrhn, but I was not exactly welcome at Cassander’s Shield. There were active guards there at all times, and as often as not, they would make me wait or turn me away. I doubted the guards would let me in if I told them that I was investigating a murder, even if the method of execution was of significance to the Nordan.
“I was attacked by Ulfgorr tonight. He was wounded. There were two others with him. I seek news.”
“Has Garm addled your brain, exile?” said the largest of the guards. “The likes of you could not stand against Ulfgorr.”
There was a murmur of agreement from the rest of the guards. I fingered the satchel at my side.
“I make claim on having done so. I may be an exile, but none can dispute my honesty.”
“If you are so desperate to see death again, Grimfang, I’ll not stop you. Let him pass!”
I nodded. The guard was right about that: claiming that I had fought Ulfgorr was a sure way to draw his wrath. It was a challenge that could not go unanswered, especially by the champion of a clan. Of course, Ulfgorr already wanted me dead, so it did not change much, other than the perceptions of my countrymen.
A few of the Nordan that I passed on the way to the keep spat on the ground as they recognized me, but a table of sea wolves nodded and raised a glass as I passed. I caught the name Harald from their conversation as I passed, a reminder of my recent battle with The Devout and Harald Magnisson who fought, and fell, at my side in a battle under the ruins of the old port.
I found myself walking toward the one table in the hall that bore men wearing the black wolf insignia, the badge worn by my former clan, The Shadow Wolves. As always they sat apart. The Shadow Wolves cultivate a sinister reputation, and generally keep to themselves when they can.
To my surprise, I saw a familiar face at the table. He did not see me approaching until I was within spitting distance.
“Lord Wolki,” I said loudly. “I am not surprised to find you here.”
The Jarl of the Shadow Wolves raised his head and met my eyes. The men around him, his bodyguard, looked at me with surprise as silence spread through the great hall of Cassander’s Shield like ripples on a pond.
For just a moment, Wolki stared, but he recovered quickly enough. “Ragnar the Exile, have you come to beg forgiveness?”
It was a poor jest, but his men laughed nonetheless. No one else in the hall did.
“No, Lord. I have come to return something that belongs to you.”
Wolki did not react as I expected. He went pale and his eyes roamed my body for a brief second and then he seemed to relax.
“I have no idea what you mean. You have nothing that I want exile.” Wolki punctuated his speech by spitting at my feet. A score of men followed his command. I could hear mutters coming from the other tables as well. After all, unpopular as he was, Wolki was still a jarl and I was only an exile.
I opened my satchel and pulled out a charred piece of flesh holding it up by a string of coarse black fur.
“Your dog left this behind when I sent him running, lord.”