World of Crystals > Landfall
Belgememnon awoke his crew, and after it took very little time for them all to agree that they were now, indeed, far more lost than ever before. It was nice, in a way, to get confirmation that he was not insane.
He felt a momentary swell of elation. <I> A new land ! </i> This could be something amazing and exciting, like the first ships to discover Krace, or the Harschkurst ship that tamed and settled the frozen north. Perhaps he had even found the mythical Pure Land itself.
Or, he and his crew could never see land again, starve to death, and die. And it would be his fault.
The crew seemed to share his uneasy mix of excitement and consternation. For the moment, though, curiosity had the upper hand. The crew of a Taznikanze ship, pretty much by definition, consisted of people who had a bit of wanderlust.
“Steindor,” asked Belgememnon, “we ARE really seeing TWO moons in the sky. It’s not just a trick of light on the water, or anything.”
Steindor nodded. “It looks that way.” Then he shrugged. “Only Umon knows what happened.” Only Umon knows; Umon, the Creator, was of course insane. How else could <i> Brunhilde </I> one moment be surrounded by fog, and the next in a clear night with strange stars? It was being lost in Taznikaport, taking a wrong turn at the beer hall, and ending up in Kakkara.
“Do you see that?” one the ship’s men, a neko who was called Knut, the fighting son of Kralf, pointed to a blackened segment of the horizon. Knut was easily the best fighter of Belgememon’s crew; although they were competent warriors, Knut was literally as ferocious as a lion in combat, a berserker of some repute. Even the most peaceful trading expedition brought someone like Knut along for extra security or in case of trouble—and besides, many trading expeditions ended up going Viking if they went bust or were cheated anyway.
“See what?” asked Belgememnon, his eyes scanning the horizon.
“Right there,” said Steindor. Belgememnon at last caught the object as it silhouetted the moon. A dark shadow like a bat’s wing blocked the lunar light for a moment, but there was still ample illumination to trace the outline of something alien, yet familiar, a bizarre version of a very familiar object—
“A ship,” said Knut. “By Zahd’s lance and balls, I don’t think I’ve seen a ship like it ever.”
“A strange design,” said Steindor. “Definitely no longship of Taznikanze, and no trireme of Krace either. It’s too square for the former, and not enough oars to be the ladder.”
“Doric?” asked Belgememnon. “Ingrish?”
Knut snarled slightly. “We should attack it, and take it and its cargo as a prize.” His feline mouth curled back, his golden mane framing the eyes of a pure predator. “The treasure of another world…think of what songs they’ll sing of us…”
Belgememnon intuitively disliked this idea. Partly, this was because this was a trading expedition, and partly this was because when meeting an entire new world for the first time simply robbing them seemed like a terrible waste. Mainly, though, he disliked Knut’s idea because he, as Hauptmann, should’ve thought of some course of action to take, should know what to do. “I would remind you, Knut, that this is a merchant voyage, and if we commit piracy while our trade sails our up the dishonor will be very great.”
Knut, veteran of a hundred battles and raids, made no attempt to conceal his umbrage at the ridiculous notion that this young and untried whelp could lecture him on honor and dishonor. “If we have no idea what kind of ship that is, they have no idea which sails are our trade sails. Besides,” he said as he turned around and pointed at a bare mast. “We’re not flying <i> any </i> sails at the moment, Hauptmann. You ordered us to take it in in case of storm.’
“It’s a fishing boat,” said Steindor. “Not much of a prize, eh? ‘Fish from the Other World’ doesn’t seem like a huge and noteworthy tale for a saga, unless they’re magical or grant wishes or something. ”
“You’re sure it’s a fishing boat?” asked Knut, a little disappointed.
“Of course, can’t you see the nets?” asked Steindor. Belgememnon couldn’t see any nets.
“No,” said Knut.
“Right there,” assured Steindor, “and the ease and numbers with which these fish are caught suggest that they are probably not magical.”
“Well, let’s bring us alongside, then,” said Belgememnon. “Try to figure out what in Umon’s creation is going on, here.”
The crew resented the order slightly—as the night was still, and this meant manning the oars—but nonetheless once their initial displeasure was past they took to it with some enthusiasm. As the <i> Brunhilde </i> approached the strange ship, Belgememnon sounded the ship’s horn in the customary hail. It was, of course, slightly foolish to expect the ship to recognize the call, but disregarding the custom would undoubtedly bring the (further) displeasure of Zahd or Undine. Belgememnon started calling out greetings. First in Taznikanze, of course, and then Kracian. Though his Doric and Ingrish were not good, he knew the typical greetings in both of these languages. His ship was now right alongside the strange vessel, which seemed equally curious in the <i> Brunhilde </i>.
Steindor, Solmund’s son, was a well-traveled skald, and knew the hail in every language in the world. There was no response. The people of the strange ship were of a type unfamiliar to Belgememnon, and they spoke a language he did not recognize. They were a bustle with confusion and activity. Perhaps at first they did expect Belgememnon’s crew to attack; perhaps these waters were not entirely safe. The shouting back and forth of mutual gibberish began, and continued for some time as the two ships maybe, just maybe, <i> this </i> language would probe to be the Common Tongue.
“No doubt they’re trying to tell us the same thing we’re trying to tell them,” said Belgememnon.
Finally, one of the strange men who seemed invested with decisiveness—their Hauptmann—stood high on the ship’s fore, and pointed in a direction.
“…so I hope that’s a bearing he’s giving us,” said Belgememnon. There was a light breeze on the sea, and the strange ship splayed it sail and began to cruise in the direction the alien Hauptmann had indicated.
There was no question that the <i> Brunhilde </i> would follow (what else were they going to do?), and by daybreak land was in sight.
Not just land, but a city. A vast, sprawling city—from the number of settlements and buildings, more populous than any city Belgememnon had ever seen. Massive statues of green stone soldiers inlaid stood guard over a large—but ill-kempt—harbor. And, in the distance, a vast gilded tower, with a great chained bruning bird at its peak. Belgememnon could not help but think of the temples that held the Mana Seeds. “Storm, Earth, and Fire,” muttered Belgememnon. “What have we found?”
Knut answered. “A wealthy city, guarded from the sea by not even a rowboat.”
Belgememnon took Knut’s hint that he was still eager for plunder. But one ship’s hold worth of whatever they could carry off paled by comparison to what else could be gained here. Contact with the Kracian world had enriched all the Euser peoples with knowledge of philosophy and science. This land would surely possess incredible learning and wisdom. It’s not just any day a new civilization is discovered; more importantly, it’s not just anyone who discovers it.
“Prepare for landfall,” said Belgememnon, grinning ear to ear. “Let’s get ready to meet the locals.”
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