The New Faith
The following is an excerpt from a journal of an apprentice scholar seeking information about new cultures. Little is known about the man, nor who the journal was originally commissioned by. His name was not recorded in the journal, but Dalecaran records indicate a “learned man” named Örlen coming into the service of Sólthorpe not long after New Dalecaran Paganism was born. It is likely the same man who wrote this journal is the same man as Örlen, who perhaps adopted a Dalecaran name to not only be closer to the Dalecaran culture, but to also hide from his former masters.
DALECARANS IN HELIOS
My travels have taken me to a strange settlement in western Helios called Sólthorpe. It is a small village carved from a dreary forest near the western oceans. What makes the village strange is the people that inhabit it; those that call themselves the Dalecarans. I name them strange not for their garb, nor their architecture, nor their food, but from their harrowing stories and histories. Indeed, these Dalecarans tell me their recent histories are littered with anguish and strife. They are not natives of any realm in Candarion, but rather a nation of a thousand islands that lays many leagues beyond the sunset. The Dalecarans tell me they inhabited these islands for a thousand years until a great catastrophe forced them from their homes. Only through the heroic actions of their now deceased leader, a man called Halfdan Seatamer, were they able to embark on a long and tiring journey. This journey only ended when the Helvarin Sivian Vansen granted them vassalage in Helios.
The Dalecaran chief, Dan Salmonface, nephew of Halfdan Seatamer, graciously hosted me for some nights, allowing me to read the collected literary works of his people, the Dalecaran Sagas. These manuscripts were rich documents forged while they undertook their great exodus. These sagas told of their family histories, their mythos, their legends, and even occasionally their gods. I was allowed to read all but one saga, the one that belonged to Halfdan Seatamer, which had been sealed since his death. I did not immediately concern myself with this fact; afterall, I had a large collection still at my disposal. What I found most fascinating in these sagas, however, is that their religion remains scarcely documented, not because of ignorance, but because of fear. An elder tells me that the storm goddesses, Ránna, was responsible for the destruction of their home. She had, according to the man, “unleashed a storm so terrible the sea had risen into the sky, and only came down to engulf our islands whole.” I decided it was time to learn more about the religion within the settlement, so I began to question the village folk about their gods. I learned that some had found new deities within the Six Gods, while most others shunned their ancestral gods, out of fear that any new worship would alert Ránna. I was kindly asked to stop by an elder, who told me the subject was very stressful to many of the villagers. I only obliged so that I would not be forced to leave. Or worse.
Towards the end of my stay in Sólthorpe, a festival commemorating the life of Halfdan Seatamer was held; the chief also extended me an invite. Each day concluded in a ceremonial feast, in which the Dalecarans asked questions about Halfdan Seatamer’s life. I was told that the point of the festival was to honor Halfdan by making sure his deeds were never forgotten. Here I learned that Halfdan earned his byname by allegedly ending the violent waves and storms assaulting their island home, at least long enough for them to escape. Though, I decided I wanted to know more about this man. His stories and life fascinated me, and only one thing could sate that hunger; his forbidden saga. And so I, a foreigner, asked a question about Halfdan. I asked to unseal his saga to learn more about the great man.
The reaction was not what I expected. The only ones offended by my request were some long bearded elders whose skin sagged only lower than their wit. Dan Salmonface was observant, watching the reactions of his people before he acted. Others mumbled indifferently before finally, a young man echoed my response. My savior. It was his courage that prompted an elder, Lokir Longkelp, to reveal that the Halfdan Saga was only sealed to protect the information within from raiders who had given the Dalecarans trouble before Halfdan had died. Other elders soon voiced their approval, and not before long, Dan Salmonface had sent his sons to retrieve the saga.
Dan Salmonface summoned Lokir Longkelp, who was seen as a respected and trusted man, to read the sagas aloud. I watched in anticipation as he drew a salmon-tooth knife from his waste and removed the seal around the saga. I moved as close as possible to listen to him read. Lokir read the first few installments which consisted of a family history of Halfdan’s forefathers, dating back to his grandfather, Thorolf Serpentseer. This was not out of the ordinary for the Dalecaran sagas. But Lokir’s face soon grew strained, and very confused. It seemed a change of subject had occurred. What happened next is what I considered a landmark moment, for myself, for this journal, for my journey, and of course, for the Dalecarans.
Lokir proclaimed that Halfdan had communed with an ancient entity known as Dagon, who was imprisoned by Ránna, and her husband, Njordan, the sea god. Dagon was seen as an ancient evil who had plagued the world of yore until Njordan and Ránna had finally stopped his reign of wickedness. All Dalecaran children, I was told, know of how Dagon was a malevolent entity who deeply opposed the gods. Lokir continued, stating that Dagon had informed Halfdan of why Ránna was unleashing her wrath on their lands: she had discovered, once again, that her husband was seeking the love of Fjöra, the goddesses of the earth. She caught Njordan unaware, and slew him in the heat of the moment. She then began to bear her wrath across the cosmos, her rage knowing no bounds. Dagon offered his help in distracting Ránna long enough so that Halfdan’s people could flee. Halfdan agreed, but Dagon first made Halfdan swear allegiance to him, in perpetuity; Halfdan accepted. And this is how the mighty Halfdan claims to have summoned the power to tame the raging seas, with the aid of an evil entity. I feared that the knowledge may incite violence among the Dalecarans, but I was shocked to see their thirst for knowledge outweighed their confusion.
And so the elder Lokir told of how Dagon blessed the voyages of the Dalecaran people in exchange for worship. But Halfdan had curiously never converted any of the Dalecarans to his new heresy, it seemed he did not even speak the gospel to his closest kin and successor. Lokir’s reading, however, resolved this eventually. The elder spoke of how Dagon alleviated these very worries from Halfdan by telling him that his faith now represented the faith of his people; as their leader, his faith was theirs now, whether they wanted it or not. It seems Halfdan understood this dark exchange, for the rest of the saga was dedicated to the teachings of Dagon.
The teachings of Dagon were read deep into the morning nearly three days later. Some had left only briefly to tend to the feeding of animals, or checking of traps, and so on. But all returned to hear the teachings. Dagon had taught Halfdan that Ránna was a force of unbridled evil and wickedness now. She had forced Fjöra, and many other deities into hiding with her untameable wrath. When Dagon had caused his famous distraction to save the Dalecarans, Halfdan wrote, Ránna’s wrath even freed him from his eternal prison, allowing him to battle her. The two did battle while the Dalecarans escaped, and Dagon forced her into her own prison, albeit a weak one. He called himself the god of gods and appointed his own followers as new deities, in light of the weakness of the old. Dagon punished those who had abandoned the cosmos in a strict, yet merciful way. For example, he turned Donar, god of the sky, into a great bird destined to guard the cosmos, rather than stripping him of all godly power.
Dagon’s recorded teachings were, by definition, heresy, but they were encapsulating. The Dalecarans were evidently tempted by the mysterious scriptures Halfdan had left for them. Lokir was eventually stopped by the Seatamer’s successor, the chief. Dan Salmonface rose and surveyed his people and began to speak. I recorded his speech word for word below:
"Dalecarans, hear me. What has happened to us, that we now listen to the words of what would be called heresy in the ancestral lands? What has happened to us that we have shunned the ways of our forefathers, and seemingly forgotten a thousand years of worship? I will tell you what has happened. Ránna has forsaken us. Her wrath destroyed our home, our kin, our seas, and our divine protectors. We never neglected the gods before our journey; we were devout, and our worship knew no bounds. So, I ask, why would Ránna unleash her wrath on us? Because what my uncle has transcribed is true. Ránna is a being of evil; it is only true. The holy men of old told us that she was always feuding with Njordan, but now we know why; Njordan was keeping her true nature subdued! The holy men of old taught us that their union kept Dagon imprisoned; but now I see the truth. Ránna tricked Njordan into imprisoning Dagon, not because he was evil, but because he was a threat to her own evilness. Dalecarans, it is time we answer to gods who would not see us destroyed solely because we exist! My uncle was right in his new found fervor. Dagon is the true god. Look to your hearts for the truth: Dagon has only saved us. He restored the cosmos. He constructed a new prison for Ránna the Destroyer. Would an eldritch evil do so? I think not.
My uncle was proclaimed the first Seatamer, and after him I was. You all know it has been a name I have been reluctant to use myself. But now that I have seen the wisdom of my uncle, I know that Seatamer is not a name: it is a title. The duty of the Seatamer is to proselytize the new faith; it is to ensure Dalecarans know of how they survived the great destruction of our ancestral home. From this day on, I will be Seatamer Dan Salmonface, and I will see that you are all educated in the ways of our new god. What we have read together here is but one of many teachings; there are countless more. Those who wish to hear the teachings of Dagon again, come, we must bathe in the seas of our new god to be born once again; born as followers of Dagon!"
I followed the Dalecarans to the sea and observed their new tradition. From what I could discern, nearly all those in attendance of the festival followed the Seatamer to the sea to be born again. Those who rejected this new faith were the long beards who I had offended earlier, as well as those Dalecarans who had seen the light of the Helian gods. They only casted me weary looks, and returned to their homes. Time will only tell if they would have a place in the new Sólthorpe.
My journey here has been immensely rewarding. But I know that the Master Scholars will punish me for my methods. Yet, watching such a transformative event unfold before my eyes has helped me discern something, not about the Dalecarans, but my masters. They are weak. They are old, blind, and will never have the strength to find me. No Dalecaran knows I am an apprentice; here, I could be the master. Their record keeping skills are impressive, but imagine what I could teach them. I, a learned man, equipped with knowledge older than Dalecaran civilization itself. Among these people, I can accomplish things the scholars would only dream of. It is time I am born again myself.
I'm sure everything will be fine.