Well, what can i say... Great work!
Thread: What is Told
Seems obvious from the current narrative but just for clarifications sake, the current events are taking place before the apocalypse right?
A hint of political intrigue! I dig it.
My favorite stories were always ones like Ogre Battle 64, FF Tactics, etc where everyone was very humanized and there was a lot of political conflict in the large scale. I doubt I'm alone on that, so you're teasing in all the right ways.
Quite the interesting and enjoyable read so far, and I expect it to continue!
This is a great introduction to the lore that forms the background to the Banner Saga, lots of interesting information there. Wars, history written by the victors, tensions simmering under the surface, threatening to boil over, giant-folk, guilds, armored colossi.
Really looking forward to the part III, Goat seems like an interesting anti-hero. I hope we'll have many interesting characters joining the caravan.
Goats and Varls and HISTORIOGRAPHY.
I am in love.
Hafr was awake with the sun this time. He was exhausted, starving and despondent. He had never had much meat on his bones in the first place, so there wasn’t much in the reserves to draw from.
He would be left alone until late afternoon. In the meantime he struggled against his bonds and came up with little to lessen his discomfort. There was nothing within reach to help loosen the ropes and the tree itself was smooth. Bersi had clearly done this before. Hafr passed the time meditating on his patterns.
“Been up long?” bellowed Bersi, finally thumping into view. “Such a nice day I didn’t really want to spend it looking at your miserable face, but I figured I ought to make sure you’re still here.”
Hafr wasn’t in the mood. He remained silent, certain that begging would only invite more mockery.
“I see,” said Bersi, who took his usual seat across the clearing. He shuffled through a couple books and picked up one without a title. Hafr knew this as the Mender primer describing the basic principals of the craft. It was written in an old language that acted as a recruits first test to becoming an accepted student of the Guild.
“Ah yes, the blank tapestry,” he would say offhandedly, flipping through the pages. “The loom-mother wove life into the tapestry, and then the jealous god wove death into it. Then they all killed each other, over us no less!” He smirked, looking up. “And then the Menders stitched the first banner into the threads of time itself to make our memories live on forever. Can you believe that, Goat?”
Hafr instinctively recognized the bluff. “There’s no history in that book, you can’t read it” he uttered. “Don’t presume to know the Menders. The loom-mother made us, the varl are just half-breeds of man and yox, discarded by some lesser god.” It was a common sentiment amongst those who would look down on the varl.
“‘Us’, is it?” replied Bersi, amused by the taunt. “Are you a real Mender now? Or you just fledgling dressmaker?”
Hafr sat dejectedly and disinterested in this new game the varl was playing. Bersi walked over and placed the book on his lap, then proceeded to tear out one of the pages and held it in front of his face.
“So mend this for me, would you?”
“I... you took my distaff, I need it to focus...” started Hafr, who was cut off mid-sentence.
“Focus on this,” blurted Bersi, pulling out a piece of jerky. “Will I have to treat you like a dog to make you do your little tricks, Goat?”
Hafr was past the shame of humiliation. If he didn’t eat soon he may not live to see his release. “Put the page back in its place,” he said calmly, closing his eyes. Usually he would run his fingers over the carvings in the walking stick to remind him of the intricate pattern that enabled him to see the lines of power that ran through all things, but in these circumstances he would have to do it the hard way. He imagined weaving together the lines that separated the page from the book as though they were strings, which would flicker and fade as he manipulated them. He could feel beads of sweat popping up on his forward as he struggled to keep his concentration, which threatened to sputter out at every stitch. Eventually he finished and opened his eyes. It was frayed and slightly askew, but the page was certainly connected to the book once again.
“I’m impressed,” said Bersi, who had been watching the whole process. He dropped the jerky on top of the open book and sat back, munching on his own piece.
As Hafr chewed on the dried meat (probably goat), he began wondering how long he could survive like this. He wondered how long it would take the Guild to deal with the varls partner and come to release him. Surely they’d be able to find him? The more he thought about it the more nervous he became. What if they weren’t coming? It had already been three days...
“How long do we do this?” he finally blurted. “Will you let me starve before you realize your friend isn’t coming back?” said Hafr.
“Let you starve? I just gave you a veritable feast, you ingrate. Besides, it’s nothing you need to worry about,” replied Bersi, but the usual pleasure of mockery was missing from his voice. It suddenly struck Hafr that his varl captor was probably just as worried as he was.
“He’s dead.” said Hafr, bluffing. “I know it. When they come here you won’t be spared.”
“Goat grows some balls,” replied a wide-eyed Bersi. “Never would have guessed.”
“That why you were gone all morning!” shouted Hafr. “Thought you’d look around a bit? He’s gone! Release me and I’ll tell them to let you keep your horns!”
Bersi stood at his full height quickly, menacingly, his face flushed red. He pulled a hunting knife from his belt. “Stop there,” said Bersi. The more upset the varl became the less he said. Flustered. Hafr had struck a nerve.
Hunger and exhaustion overwhelmed the boy’s better instincts. “Let me go, you useless half-wit!” he screamed.
Bersi shook with rage and, against his own better instincts, drove the dagger deep into the muscle of Hafr’s thigh, who screamed in a different way than previously, in a deep and primal way reserved for men in great agony.
“Mend yourself quickly,” hissed Bersi, his face inches from Hafr’s, “Because there will be another for each day we are alone together.”
And then he was gone.
Last edited by Alex; 05-28-2012 at 12:29 PM.
Important survival technique: NEVER piss off the guy with the knife.
Intriguing as ever- and as ever next Monday now seems too far away! Looking forward to hearing a little more behind the weaving of the Banner Saga's magic- the mechanics behind that sort of thing, fictional as they may be, always interest me.
I really like the story till now, can't wait to read more of it, especialy the history of the world
It's really cool how you keep giving us tiny pieces of lore every here and there... enough to get the old imagination going but not so much that you can draw any clear conclusions!
as always, great work.
Ouch, hope he can mend himself
Shepard Book used to tell me 'If you can't do something smart, do something right.' ~Jane
Hafr faded in and out of consciousness. His thoughts orbited like celestial bodies; the series of events that had led him to this place and this time looped over and over behind his eyes, in the sort of oppressive darkness that lent the same images whether one’s eyes were open or shut. He thought about how it could have gone differently, but then remembered that it didn’t, and the thought would repeat again. Self-pity and terror fought with rationality and resolve for dominance.
Slowly, and with great effort, he clawed his way out of the mental quagmire he had sunk into. The moon hid behind the clouds, as if afraid of the malevolent darkness it had itself created. Hafr had no idea how long he had been sitting here in a state of semi-shock, what time it was now, or how long he had before Bersi would return, and he believed every word of the varl’s previous threat.
With great exertion, he tried to “see” his wound in the dark the same way he had envisioned the torn book page. It was a grisly mess and momentarily he panicked, losing his focus. Repairing the fibers of a sheet of paper was one thing, but mending flesh was almost infinitely more complex; organic, layered, moving... bleeding. The intimacy of the image turned his stomach almost as much as the pain in his trembling leg, the toll on his body and the emptiness in his stomach.
He worked on it for several minutes, weaving the skin back together with his mind, making little progress and terrified of an irreversible mistake; accidentally sewing muscle askew or nicking a nerve. Sweat and tears pouring down his face, he conceded defeat. It was vastly beyond him, and Hafr instead focused on meditation, something he could manage, something that would at least dull the pain. In this reflection he knew he would have to escape this night, because the thought of another wound like this, and then another, was beyond his capacity to endure.
He instead focused his thoughts on the rope around his neck, holding him against the tree. He could feel the threads that had carved a trough across his neck and as he focused on them, his mind’s eye lent them form. Compared to skin and muscle the rope was simple and, in this trance-like state, he began to slowly and patiently unravel each individual thread that bound him.
It was a laborious, repetitive task, and time-consuming. Despite the concentration it required, Hafr felt his thoughts wander to abstruse things he seemed to have no control over. The girl he had left dumbfounded by his ineptitude, as if that mattered. The day his father forced him to choose between family and a farmer’s life or “sitting on his ass buried beneath books” when the Menders came to recruit him. If he had stayed at home would he have escaped this? Was it, in some small way, his own doing? His eyes flittered, as if searching for something to supplant that memory. He wondered if his task now was anything like when the first menders had sewn the History of All into the tapestry of time itself, and if they found it as antithetically dull yet terrifying as this felt to him now. His thoughts wandered back to what he knew of the age of myth, the god of creation and the ancestral menders who were taught the first patterns of creation. He had never felt it before, but he envied them. At least they had a god to implore. He had Bersi. It seemed impossibly unfair.
Hours, he knew not how many, had passed when to Hafr’s genuine surprise the rope around his neck began to slacken, tattered as it had become. He strained against it but immediately recoiled, his raw neck protesting vehemently. He tore at it with his fingernails, hands still bound at the wrists. It shredded beneath his assault like a burlap sack. And for the first time in three days he stood up, in that dim and quiet clearing.
Agony flashed behind his eyes with every limping step as he hobbled his way simply forward, his arms searching for hidden obstacles. A faint amethyst glow had begun to wash over him. The sun was rising, and so would be Bersi.
Hafr shuffled torpidly from somber tree to tree, leaning against branches for support, his leg like a lead anchor. As before, stories sprang forth from this new drudgery. Hafr imagined wounded warriors from antiquity, as they marched on the dredge again after a decade of slaughter or face extinction. Why did they even war? This was rarely addressed by history books, where “what” and “when” had somehow taken precedence over “why”. The way the stories told it, it was as if man, varl and dredge had only been made to destroy each other. That had a certain ring of truth to it, all things considered.
After many such bleak reveries, Hafr stumbled from out the trees to a thin cliff side battered by wind and a vast lake beyond that, ringed by slate-colored crags. To his right and left were only more rocks, scattering his hopes of discovering a path or road. A rustle crept into Hafr’s ears and he turned to see behind him a towering giant with charcoal horns lumber out from the umbra.
Hafr’s legs gave out. Bersi’s eyes glowed viciously in the buoyant sunrise, and he simply stared.
Last edited by Alex; 06-08-2012 at 04:40 PM.
Thanks for sharing these stories with the community! There's a very minor typo in the first sentence :P. Take out "to" in "the series of events that had led to him to this place and this time...." Keep them up
Thanks, and corrected!
Keep an eye out, the finale goes up on Monday.
And now the conclusion of "What is Told".
A scream stuck in Hafr’s throat at the sight of the towering giant before him, and then a long, silent moment passed between the newly liberated captive and his former captor. Bersi’s unflinching glare was the most dreadful thing Hafr could imagine, and it was unrelenting.
Finally, mercifully, the varl stepped back and quietly sat on the rock he must have been propped up against before Hafr has emerged from the trees. Hafr’s bag slumped beside him and he resumed reading one of the books, just as Hafr had always seen him before.
To call the moment unsettling would be to misrepresent the confusion and anxiety Hafr now felt as waves of panic washed over him like the whitecaps of the waves at the base of the cliffs below. How long he stayed there, transfixed, he couldn’t tell. Slowly, as if any sudden movement or sound would spring the varl into a fury, Hafr rose again to his feet, and shuffled slowly away from him.
Bersi sighed audibly. “Not that way, Goat,” he said. Hafr again stopped in his tracks, without reply. “Do you even know where you are?” continued Bersi, gesturing across the lake. “Four days ago you were hauling these books just over that ridge”.
“Is this a trick?” Hafr managed to murmur, grimacing. Bersi noticed that the boy’s leg was raw and bleeding still, the wound perhaps reopened when he fell to the ground, or never properly attended to in the first place. Bersi came close to saying something but a strange expression crossed his face instead, as if uncertain what to do next. He rubbed his temples and sighed again. Then he leaned back and continued reading.
In an absolute stupor of bewilderment and pain Hafr slowly hobbled around him, leaving as wide a berth as he could between himself and the varl, heading toward the city where he had departed nearly four days ago now. Innumerable questions passed through his mind, though he voiced none of them. Why was he really free to go? Had the menders really paid for his ransom? Did Bersi plan to follow and catch him off guard to finish the job? Why the sudden change in attitude?
Out of the corner of his eye, Bersi watched Hafr dodder away, turning frequently to make sure he had not moved, but he did not. In fact, he continued sitting there as the sun rose and Hafr had completely disappeared behind trees, then as the sun began its descent and continued to get lower on the horizon until once again evening hung in the sky.
A figure had emerged from where Hafr had disappeared. Bersi stood to address the elderly man who now picked his way across the rocks leaning on an intricately carved spear, much older and more weather-worn than the walking stick that had been taken from Hafr’s possession. “Hello, Bersi,” declared the man, catching his breath. From around his wrist he untied a jangling coin purse and handed it to the giant.
“The council would ask if we can we rely on you for something a little more important than testing apprentices this time,” said the man.
“What sort of something?” replied Bersi, thoughtlessly tucking the coin purse into his own belt.
“The young prince Ludin is traveling north to speak with your king...” he began, interrupted by Bersi; “Not my king. Just another varl.”
“Yes,” continued the elder, “Regardless, we would have someone join them who might tell us what he sees.”
“I’m the best you could find to escort your man-prince? Do you not have men by his side already?” asked Bersi, staring across the lake as the low sun reflected off its surface. “Have the menders been losing friends?”
“We have not many varl friends,” he replied bluntly, stooping to collect the remains of Hafr’s books, “And varl kings have not many human friends. I assure you, it will pay well and be less bloody work than this.”
“Alright. Guess I could stand some travel.” replied Bersi, who broke into a toothy grin.
The Mender gathered his robe so as not to trip as he turned “The prince has already departed from the capital, so you will need to inform your clan and prepare for travel quickly I should think.”
“Fine,” said Bersi as the mender turned to leave. “Give my regards to Goat. He wasn’t the brightest or the most skilled you’ve sent but I liked him better than most.”
“Forgive me,” the old man called over his shoulder. “Hafr did not return. We found him collapsed, bled to death from his wounds not far from here." Bersi frowned. The old mender continued, "Don't doubt yourself, you've done well as always. We shall return his banner to his family in the morning.”
Bersi rubbed his neck. Ah well, if they all made it, it wouldn’t be much of a test.
He shrugged, his mind already turned to travel.