The seas whipped and cracked as the sky blackened. For a hundred leagues in every direction, Dag and his crew could only see the towering of giant waves, and they could only hear the eerie moans of the oceanic winds that whirled faster and faster than anything they had ever felt before. They had not been at sea for hardly more than a month, but thus far they had escaped Sopplander raiders, avoided a kraken’s nest, and even rescued a stranded Dalecaran sailor. Yet, it would seem that the thing that would end their historic voyage would be naught but nature’s wrath itself.
Dag walked down his vessel’s narrow halls until he came to the cabin belonging to his first mate, Euron Blacksail, and pounded on the door. When the door opened, a giant, one-eyed, auburn haired man stood on the other side.
“My prince,” Euron answered, bowing, “come in, I was just about to share this bottle of rum with Balon.” Dag entered the room and bid hello to Balon Sandtooth, a crewman with sandy hair that always shone no matter how dirty the human beneath it was.
“I have come to speak of the storm, Euron,” Dag said, drinking his rum. “We run the risk of being dragged under every hour. It is no longer a matter of if we sink, but rather it is a matter of when we sink.”
“Aye, there is no denying it. Had we gone west at the tip of Soppland last week, we may have avoided it all together. But now the storm has dragged us to these strange northern seas. Here we are alone but with the krakens, whales, and sharks. Will the children of our children still sing songs about us if we drown in seas alien and isolated, our bones fusing with coral and our flesh fattening the bodies of krakens?”
“Come now, Euron, that is no way to talk,” Balon said, pouring himself another glass of rum. “Perhaps when we return, you should join the men who put on theatre for the king. They are always in need of a fool.”
The three men laughed heartily at Balon’s quip. “Come, Balon, you quip, and act as calm as ice. You would have me believe that you are not frightened by this storm?” Dag asked him.
“No, my prince, I am not,” Balon replied. “You two were not born in the olden days, as the Seatamer and I were. You did not see the storm that claimed our real home. Had you seen that, you would see this is as naught but a fly on a horse’s arse.”
“Ránna’s wrath,” Euron whispered, in awe. “I oft forget how old you truly are, Balon. Come, keep us entertained while we are besieged in this cabin. Tell us what that storm was like.”
“I will, so long as you promise not to moan on in fear again,” Balon said, failing to suppress his chuckle. “It was a long, long time ago. The rainy season had just ended, and my wife and I were thinking of traveling to Rallasfjord to see a medicine man. In those days I had traded my ship in exchange for a modest compound next to Halfdan Seatamer’s home, so my wife and I had to wait until someone from the village was heading that way. It so happened that Loron Scaleneck was travelling to Rallasfjord one day, but he demanded of me a hefty sum of fifteen pounds of seaweed.”
Dag and Euron voiced some concern at the price of fifteen pounds of seaweed. “I forgot. In those days,” Balon continued, “we farmed seaweed. It was what your forefathers did Dag, when they were not chiefs, at least. A man traded his supply of seaweed in exchange for other goods. You can think of it as both our currency and our food. Anyways, I refused to be extorted by Loron. Loron was never a gifted farmer and had little land allocated to him for seaweed farming. He was trying to secure an entire season’s worth of my crop so that he could blow it on harlots, you see. He had a bit of a problem in that area. So, Loron went to Rallasfjord without us that day.”
Euron leaned to Dag and whispered, “and I’m sure he spent his crop on a good time there.” The two broke into laughter, but Balon interrupted them.
“You jest, but Loron was likely the first casualty of the coming storm. You see, the storm rolled in from Rallasfjord and swept over our island. A sailor from a different island, Yoren Smallrocks, brought news of a ship crash in between our island and Rallasfjord. He also brought curious news that those who arrived to aid those in the crash reported how the seas around the wreckage were absent of all types of fish and sealife. The next day, reports came in that Urras Ironskull was severed in half by a grotesque fusion of a fish and man; the day after women reported seeing prowling eyes lurking in the shallows of the beaches; even young Harren Coralrat claimed that a scaly creature crawled out of the shallows and chased him for half a league.
“These kinds of stories popped up all over the island for the remainder of the week. Sailors stopped coming into port and we feared that the same was happening on their own islands. So, we called a thing and debated what we should do about these happenings. We debated well into the night with little progress. Some suggested we fight, some suggested we flee, some suggested we pray, and so the night went. Eventually, we agreed to end the meeting and continue it when dawn came. On my way back to my compound, I noted that wind had picked up, and a blinding rain began to fall. I remember gazing down and being unable to see my own legs. Suddenly a strong gust of wind slammed into me, forcing me to the ground. I could not fight the wind to stand again, so I was left to crawl back to my compound. I crawled for what seemed like hours, until I was nearly trampled by your great great uncle, Dag. Halfdan had stumbled upon me blindly crawling around only ten feet outside the thingstead. He shouted at me but I could not hear him, even when his face was inches from mine. He grabbed my arms and pulled me to my feet against the wind and we ran through the alleyways until we reached the hill caves. I looked out into the rain and could see nothing. But then, suddenly, a great lightning bolt illuminated the sky. I could see that a great wave was surging through the village, destroying buildings and families that had persisted since the dawn of our people. I watched as men wept, knowing that their sleeping wives and children were being drowned alive by the all powerful waves. I thought of Helga, my wife, and how I had left her at the compound hours before the thing. I swear to you both that my tears could have drowned the rains that were sieging us then.
“I do not know how long we spent in those caves. Weeks, perhaps. We watched from those caves as the waters pummeled the island, erasing any and all traces of our settlement. We dined on the critters that were unlucky enough to take shelter with us in those caves; crickets, snakes, lizards, and so on. We knew that Ránna had marked all of man for death, with her great storm. We feared that we had done something to warrant her wrath, but we could not agree on what it was. We did agree that she had succeeded in turning us into naught but creatures of the caves, primitive, uncouth, and beaten. And then, one day, Halfdan stood up, his bones peaking through his face, and left the cave. No one had the strength to do naught but watch as the madman walked into certain death. We watched him descend the curved path and come to the sea. And then he fucking dived in. No one wept for him, and I do not doubt that some considered his apparent suicide a wise idea. Hours later, after some of us had taken turns licking the bones of a rat we had slew three days prior, the rains began relenting up. For the first time since the whole ordeal started, we could see without the flashes of lightning. We watched as the waves receded from the island, revealing ravaged and muddy fields. As many of us crawled to the mouth of the cave to watch this unfold, we jumped back in fear as we saw Halfdan standing where we last saw him. He was gazing up at the caves, his gray hair blowing wildly in the wind. He shouted for us to leave the caves and to heed his words: the words of Dagon. We hailed him as Halfdan Seatamer and set about to scavenge materials to build a fleet to escape our home, all under the wrathful eye of dark clouds and the occasional thunder clap.
“You both know the rest, I presume. How we came to these strange shores and forged a new home under the Sunmen. Ránna’s wrath was unlike anything our people had ever endured before. We are still unsure if any Dalecarans survived in our actual home. Had you two endured those rains, endured the weeks of living in a cave while the steady sound of monstrous waves ploughed the lands your forefathers lived on kept you company, then you would see that this storm is naught but a grain of sand on the beach.”
“Here is to Halfdan Seatamer, our savior,” Euron said, as he proposed a toast with his overflowing glass of rum. The others toasted with him, and sat in silence as Balon’s tale soaked in. For a number of minutes the only other sound was the constant drum of rain above their heads, and the sound of waves crashing against the sides of the ship.
“What I would give now to have Halfdan Seatamer dive into these seas and show us a path to port,” Dag said. “At least when the storm subsided you had land to walk upon. When this storm subsides, we will have but the ocean floor to walk on.”
“Come, Dag, your grandfather wears the mantle of Seatamer,” Euron said, “surely he taught you to pray to Lord Dagon in a way that eludes the rest of us?”
“No, Euron, he did not. Grandfather does not let even the gothi touch the Halfdan Sagas. My father saw them once, but that was about it. Grandfather is adamant that only the Seatamer may ever interact with those tomes. I know nothing more of Dagon than you do, my friend. If he wishes to commune with me, let him, I wouldn’t mind if he decided to jumpstart the communication process a few… decades early.”
“Har!” Balon shouted. “Do not mope my friends. We'll brave this storm and succeed on our voyage. And if you feel that we will not, do not die with a frown carved into your face forever. Lord Dagon would not want such glum companions in his watery halls.”
“Aye, I’ll drink to that,” Dag said, bringing out a new bottle of rum. The trio enjoyed the drink, not in dejected silence, but in blissful conversation. They were talking of anything and everything; of the Sunmen, of the Dalecarans, of the gods, of women, of dogs, of plants… and whatever else a drunken Dalecaran could think of.