33. Serpents in the Cave

         We begin by reviewing the events of the winter. At Brygjafael, life has gone well. Poul has risen in status since returning from the Mohicans, and there is the unspoken question of whether he should replace Arnkel the Quiet as godi. At Tjaraholt, Ivar the Black's health and mood has turned to the worse since his axe wound, and at times he has not left his bed-closet for days. At Syfjaourholur, Thorgerd has made a spirited effort to fit into her husband's household, taking her shot at weaving and other womanly duties. Near the start of spring, she had her strange dream of her mother and the white horse. About two weeks after the thaw, though, there came an evening when Maushop was discovered missing.

         That night a thorough search was made. He was last seen some time only around noon, at the forges. The next morning, someone was sent to contact Lofthaena and Silksif, especially to see if his former foster-brother Honiahaka knew anything about this. Honiahaka had been doing well at Tjaraholt, and had recently completed his vision quest to initiate him with the spirits.

         Skallagrim picks up Maushop's tracks, and follows them to a waterfall on the nearby mountain. Searching the area, they find the entrance to a cave partway up beside the waterfall. Skallagrim tries to climb to it but falls in the pool. However, after some effort they all climb up to the entrance. Within they can see that this clearly opens into larger caverns. They also see a fox, which Silksif announces is an incarnate spirit. It introduces itself as a landvaettir, a spirit of the local land. It tells them that it had sensed the practice of necromancy in the region, and had come to investigate. Upon seeing their presence, though, it had come to advise them.

         With the fox, they explore deeper into the cave -- making makeshift torches. The entrance passage opens out into a much larger cavern with a thin ledge overlooking a gulf within which the sound of water could be heard. The fox follows the sent of Honiahaka along the ledge and down. Using rope from Thorgerd's horse tack, they climbed down from the ledge to the base of the cavern, where they find that his trail leads to an underground river. They cross this with some difficulty.

         After stepping away from the river they have crossed, they soon hear the sound of Maushop's voice. He is speaking impatiently as if to someone deep in the darkness. Skallagrim, Thorgerd, and Kjartan sneak forwards into the dark -- when they see two glowing eyes beside Maushop. When they see this, Maushop and Thorgerd both immediately charge. Maushop is surprised and immediately tries to push away the serpent head, as though trying to break up a fight. With a mighty sweep of his axe, Skallagrim chops through the neck of the serpent, leaving its head to come off in Maushop's hands [1]. Thorgerd then runs up and drags him still bewildered away from the pool, still hold the severed head. However, the severed head looks at him and says "Now you'll never know!"[2].

         When they are safely away from the pool, Poul begins to angrily lecture his son. Maushop suddenly screams at his father [3], saying that he ruined everything. Poul asks what these monsters could possibly offer him, to which he says that he can't teach to talk to his mother. Poul makes it clear that he must choose between his family and these creatures. He then threatens the remaining serpents in the pool, but they reject him and one of them breathes a burst of flame from its mouth in warning.

         However, they are now confronted by re-crossing the river -- at which Maushop says that there are sure to be serpents there. They discuss trying to avoid the water by climbing or finding some other way out, but it does not seem feasible. Maushop then volunteers to carry the rope across, saying that the serpents promised not to harm him. Silksif concurs that they keep their promises, and Poul seems to consider it only right that he should bear the risk of problems he caused. Poul goes back into the pool room to distract them. Meanwhile, Maushop swims across, not only not attacked but aided by a serpent[4]. He tries to reason them not to attack his friends, and they are not openly hostile but do point out that they struck first. Uncomfortably, Skallagrim agrees to apologize for his hasty killing blow.

         Meanwhile, back in the pool room, Poul tries to talk to the serpents in an effort to distract them -- but only one serpent is visible there. After a bried exchange, however, his anger and his frustration at their manipulation of his son overcomes him. He charges and attacks the serpent in the pool. After several exchanges of blows, Poul painfully skewers the serpent through the roof of its mouth [5]. However, he is then suddenly surrounded by four more serpents. He attempts to threaten them into releasing him, by holding hostage the serpent he has skewered. Though incredulous, the serpents seem impressed by his demands [6]. However, they delay responding to him for a time, until the blood from the wounded serpent's mouth runs down his sword and over his hand. Then they agree to let him go.

         The group then passes back across the underground river without incident and gather near the entrance of the cave. Poul shouts angrily at his son Maushop for his behavior. Kjartan tries to intervene[7], at which Poul is infuriated and punches him[8]. A fistfight then ensues, where Poul badly bruises Kjartan's left arm, but falls over as he re-injures his ankle which was twisted in a fall in the cave. With Poul immobile, Kjartan backs off and the others break the fight up.

  1. The result of a "Spectacular Success" card played by Jim
  2. The result of a "Malice" card played by Liz
  3. The result of a "Emotional Release" card played by Laura
  4. The result of a "Inopportune Arrival" card played by Laura
  5. The result of a "Painful Injury" card played by Bill
  6. The result of a "Lasting Impressiong" card played by Liz
  7. The result of a "Horrible Failure" card played by Heather
  8. The result of a "Personality Clash" card played by Jim

John H. Kim <jhkim@darkshire.net>
Last modified: Mon Apr 28 13:03:31 2003