Ser Fiske’s Travels or An Unfinished Tale of Pilgrimage [[OOC: About a year ago or so, I chose to take my then main character, Ser Fiske Vanir, on a pilgrimage. Not just your typical 'im on holiday/hiatus, thus absent' pilgrimage, but one I roleplayed planning in advance with the help of VIROS (Whom I wish to once again thank), who was High Pontiff back then. We wrote up places for my character to visit and three relics to retrieve. I would then write a story out of this journey, though I'm afraid I never quite got around to finishing it. And now, with it being a year since I started writing this, my character long since then pk'd, I do not think I intend to finish this story anymore. Perhaps I will one day, but for now I decided I would post it for eager readers in it's unfinished form. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy the part of the tale I did end up writing!]] The Serpent as it sails through frozen waters, the icy mountains of Serrimor in the background. Ser Fiske ‘the Daring’. That’s what our pilgrim Vanir had been knighted as last month on Arcas. Since that night in the throne room of King Josef of Haense, things had gone fast. He had planned his journey long in advance, with the help of the High Pontiff. All he waited for was for himself to be finished with his squireship and to be knighted. After such had happened in the latest court gathering, he’d said farewell to his friends and family in the Haeseni capital, before retreating northward to his castle in Vasiland so he could prepare for the journey. He and his crew loaded their supplies aboard and then boarded his private sailing ship, The Serpent, as they set sail northwards past Valwyck, through the icy waves. As they began passing the frozen shores of Serrimor after a few days of sailing, he turned to what would be his confidant on this journey: his travelling journal.
Prologue It has been about a month and a half now since our departure from Arcas, and think we can see the northwestern tip of Aeldin on the horizon now. Initially, the weather conditions were very favourable for us, the wind in our sails as he we sailed north from Haense, past Serrimor and the southeastern shores of Atlas. The large stretch of eastward sailing from there to Aeldin was a different story though, as the wind was no longer in our backs. The journey was slow and took longer than expected or at least hoped. Our supplies have run low, near the point of rations, but we will be able to restock soon upon our arrival in Aeldin. One good thing about the length and low intensity of the trip was that I got a lot of time to think and read. About the places I’m visiting and their Saints, but also about why I’m going on this pilgrimage. I guess there’s multiple reasons for it, that I’m just now really coming to understand.
Late last night, we docked in this harbor town called Reden, the first place we spotted here on the coast of Aeldin. A few of my crew stayed on the ship while me and some others went to the local tavern to get our bearings and to get a proper bath. We returned to the ship around midnight, refreshed and having found the market square where we could restock our supplies. Sadly that’s where disaster struck though this morning. We’d bought all the supplies we needed to refill our stock no problem, but when I wanted to buy a map of the waters between Fjordhem and the mainland, I suddenly realized I had been pickpocketed and my pouch with minas was gone. We looked around for a bit to find the culprit, but couldn’t find anybody of suspicion. After that I decided we’d go back to the ship and we’re now on our way to Powys where we’ll probably arrive tomorrow around noon. I know God has His ways to try His servants and challenge them, but this just felt like punishment. Perhaps He wants me to learn a lesson about greed and temperance, or maybe that I shouldn’t be so reliant on money on my pilgrimage. But I don’t know. The White Cliffs of Powys
Chapter 1: Ulmsbottom Upon seeing them, I was blinded by them in the morning light of the rising sun. The white cliffs of Powys! They are truly a sight to behold, beautiful and towering chalk cliffs that rise out of the sea like a wall. We docked in Powys like the High Pontiff had suggested me to, and it immediately became apparent why he’d done such. Powys seemed like a much safer harbortown than Reden and with an even bigger market. I suppose it would have been wise to follow the plan laid out for us by the Pontiff, but that’s all in hindsight. We simply stretched our legs for a bit in Powys and asked for how to find the Monastery at Ulmsbottom, as well as delivering a letter His Holiness had given me to a priest at the local cathedral. The man seemed ecstatic to receive a letter from the High Pontiff himself, albeit it wasn’t for him but for a man called Friar Griffith, who wasn’t present at the time. While walking through some fields after I left the cathedral on my way back towards the harbor, a most curious figure blocked my way. He was a robed figure with brown hair and a black, wreathed apparition. The figure asked where I was going, to which I stated I was going wherever the good Lord’s grace led me. Then the robed man said to me, “Wherever you go, or whatever you attempt, Iblees will resist you.” For a moment, I stood in silent surprise to these words, before I remembered the prophetic saying, and said, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man can do unto me.” Then, to my utter confusion, the robed figure disappeared from my sight in the blink of an eye, and soon I resumed my way to the harbor, and to Ulmsbottom.
When we came to the rocky island of Ulmsbottom, some guards welcomed us on the dock, and invited me to come with them to meet the overseer of the penal colony that the monastery was part of; warden Bedwyr Hughes. The warden was a middle-aged man with one of the biggest moustaches and some of the thickest eyebrows I have ever seen in my life, giving him a stern and imposing look. After talking some with the man however, it turned out he was a calm, temperate and kind soul, and we quickly hit it off. He showed me to a guest room in his home where I could stay, and then took me to the old Ashford House, now their family chapel, where Pontiff St. Lucien was born and where they kept much imagery and many relics of this holy man. I asked for a moment of privacy, as I knelt down in prayer by the shrine dedicated to the Saint, and stayed there for a while in silence, taking in the scent of the little bit of incense that burned inside the little chapel. I prayed at length for the well-being of my family, both the living family members I left behind at home, but especially the ones that were no longer with me for they died when I was young, especially my parents. After all Saint Lucien was the patron Saint of the family. In prayer I asked St. Lucien, as well as GOD himself, to look kindly upon my relatives in the Seven Skies despite what mistakes they might have made in life, and furthermore I pleaded to be blessed with a good family of my own in the future. The front courtyard and entrance of the Reformative Monastery of HP St. Lucien I
Once I was finished, warden Hughes joined me again and he took me to the Reformative Monastery of High Pontiff Saint Lucien. Upon getting there, accompanied by some of my crew and some of his guards, we found the monastery seeming deserted. We figured the monks were all at mass, for we didn´t know the time of day, and so he simply accompanied me to the reliquary to show some of the relics the monks held of their patron Saint. After some time of being there and still not having seen a single monk however, we got curious as to their whereabouts and began looking for any of them. We were just looking around the monastery´s training grounds, where I had hoped to join them for a drill session as is tradition for pilgrims, when we heard the monastery´s bells being rung. The warden, who was very well-acquainted with what certain ways of ringing the bells meant, told me that someone had just passed away.
Therefore we headed to the monastery’s infirmary, not in a running hurry, but with slow, solemn steps, as I was instructed was part of the ritual the monks upheld in such a situation. When we came close to the infirmary, we could clearly make out the litany of the Saints being sang in chant by a choir of monks, and upon entering, we saw that the monks had all lined up in an orderly fashion to say their farewell to their deceased brother. A priest of the monastery came to the doorway to meet us and we exchanged a few words. He welcomed me to their monastery and apologized for the circumstances in which we joined them. He told us that a catechumen, not a monk, had suddenly passed away due to illness, which the priest explained to me was most terrible, as the poor soul had died before being able to receive baptism. Feeling sorrow for the poor soul, I in turn asked if I was allowed to also say a few things for the deceased catechumen, and the priest happily obliged.
When it was my turn to kneel beside the deceased brother wrapped in stainless white sheets, I did not say a farewell, but instead laid my hands onto the man’s chest and closed my eyes in earnest prayer. I called upon Saint Lucien, the Exalted Horen, and GOD, to save the catechumen. Then, after my extensive prayers, to which the monks silently bore witness, I rose up a little and gazed upon the countenance of the deceased, waiting for the result of my prayer and the mercy of the Lord. After about ten minutes had passed, the warden placed a hand on my shoulder and said that while my gesture was of great symbolic significance and also greatly appreciated, it was time to move on. I thought he had a point, but waited yet some more time for GOD’s answer to my prayers. Scarcely had the space of two more minutes passed, when the dead man began to move a little in all his members and tremble with his eyes open for the practice of sight. The monks came closer to gaze upon the catechumen who they had formerly left dead in surprise, exclaiming loud praise to the Lord in ecstasy and immediately baptising the man afterwards.
I stayed the night at the monastery then, together with warden Hughes and our men, and joined the monks in prayer the next morning, before being invited to furthermore join them in breakfast and their combat drills as was custom for pilgrims to Ulmsbottom. The High Pontiff had warned me already that these men were excellent martial artists, and I found myself easily outmatched by their champion in a friendly spar, as he had projected. We had a good laugh about it however, before I asked to talk to the man from the day before, who was recovering in the infirmary. I talked for a long time with the man, who’s name he told me was Bohemund and he said he was grateful for the mercy the Lord had had upon his soul, and thanked me for pleading patiently for it in prayer. Toward the end of the afternoon, one of the warden’s men told me it had become time to head back to the penal colony town of Ulmsbottom, and so I said my farewell to Bohemund.
Upon coming out of the infirmary however, I was not only greeted by the warden and our men, but furthermore by a trio of priests, the headmaster of the monastery and two others, bathing in the golden light of the sun that stood low above the horizon already. They said to me that they wished to thank me greatly for the service I had provided the day prior with my prayer for the brother in the infirmary, and that they wished to give me something to take home with me from my pilgrimage. Then, from under a white cloth, they showed me an iron manacle, linked to a chain by a bolt. I had seen it the day prior in the reliquary, and they confirmed that it was one of their relics, once worn by Saint Lucien, then still known as Velwyn Ashford, as he ventured from Aeldin to Oren on a slave galley. I thanked them greatly for their holy gift and the many blessings that followed, assuring them that their gesture would forever stay with me. After saying farewell to them, we then left for the warden’s home in Ulmsbottom, where me and my crew stayed a few more uneventful days before setting sail for our next destination. Chapter 2: Wycke Shortly before me and my men were about to set off to Fjordhem, a dove delivered an envelope from home, containing some money along with a letter, a response to a letter I had sent home when I first arrived in Aeldin. I had told about how my money was stolen, and now my fiancé and family had backed me up by sending me some. I had prayed for my family to Saint Lucien, and suddenly a sign of support from my family came from my faraway home. It felt almost like a miracle from the Saint, and it made me realize that while you can’t rely on money, you can rely on your family and GOD.
Having some funds on me ended up making a great difference to the events that followed. As I had been warned by not only the High Pontiff back in Arcas, but also the Warden about the treacherous waters around Fjordhem, I decided to hire one of the Fjordhemian former pirates that lived at the penal colony to serve as an aiding navigator. With this new addition to my crew, I bid my farewell to the Warden before setting off to the northeast, to the cold and windswept land of Fjordhem. We charted our course to sail towards the town of Austbo on the island with the same name, planning to dock there briefly before then sailing to the mainland of Fjordhem at the nearby destination of Wycke.
At first, things were fine and we experienced smooth sailing. For those who have not seen navigation maps of Aeldin, there is a strong west to east current that flows along the northern shore of the continent, and for us this meant that we were making fast progress. Furthermore, the weather was amazing, it was cold and a bit windy, but the sun burned bright and warmed us, not to mention the wind was in our sails! It seemed like we were going to reach Austbo a day or two sooner than expected, and, all of us being in good spirits, we decided to keep going throughout the final night rather than anchoring, to see how fast exactly we could get there. Our navigator Bram, a tall, strong blonde Fjordhemian with bright blue eyes, said he’d never experienced sailing this smooth going to Fjordhem, and he joked we might set a record.
As the island of Austbo became visible on the horizon, it was early in the evening, and as we were planning to sail throughout the night to get there quickly, we had a fast meal before intending to return to our positions. However, as we were briefly sitting down to eat some of our provisions, The Serpent calmly sailing forward in the sunset, the precariousness of the Fjordhemian weather first showed itself to us as the wind suddenly died down. After our meal, I instructed my men to get to their oars, having realized we’d need to cover the final stretch rowing. With our progress slow now, I kept a constant eye out for the next change of the weather to see if the wind would return. I did not have to wait long to spot the first signs of change, as a thick pack of clouds appeared from the northwest on the horizon. We were relieved at first, though it did not take long for us to realize that we were finding ourselves in the calm before the storm. The shore of Austbo during a nighttime storm
Shortly after the fall of dark, it had gotten much colder. The strong wind had returned, but this time it came from the north and wasn’t helping us get to the island. As we continued rowing, the sky only turned darker as the moon and stars began to be hidden behind dark clouds. With the town of Austbo in sight on the shore in the distance, we heard the first signs of a thunderstorm in the north. The waves became rowdier by the minute and if it wasn’t for our Fjordhemian navigator, we would have crashed on various rock formations that pierced the water. Soon the rain started pouring down upon us and between it and the towering waves, we no longer had sight of neither the town nor the shore itself. As we were going through the ever increasing storm blind at this point, the Fjordhemian navigator and I myself agreed that it would be best to steer clear from the shore rocky for now and instead set course northward to avoid being blown off course too far south.
For hours upon hours, my crew and I braved the relentless storm, gliding up and down waves that must have been higher than houses in our ship that seemed very tiny all of the sudden. We were tired and weary as it must’ve been in the middle of the night at this point but we constantly needed to put in all our energy to keep the ship under control. It seemed like there was no end to this storm. Our ship was getting damaged, not too badly at first, but as more and more damage started mounting atop of one another, the condition of the ship got seriously worrying. As this wild ride in the night dragged on, my crew became increasingly tired and less able to weather the storm. A big wave that crashed onto the ship nearly caused one of the rowers to fall into the water, only staying on board with the help of two others.
As the night dragged on towards the morning and the storm yet showed no sign of ending, our ship and my crew were in a dire state. Having lost all hope, I kneeled at the helm, soaked by salty seawater, and began praying to Saint Malcolm. Why would he do this? The patron Saint of storms, pushing us to our limits on my pilgrimage to him, with a storm so fierce it would make even the hardiest of seamen afraid. I prayed to him to aid us, he had tested us, and we had resisted the storm so far, had we not? With faith in the Lord, I begged him to save us, before promptly needing to return to the helm to guide us along a tall and rough wave. By the time morning came not long after the prayer, the thunderstorm had stopped. And while it still rained heavily, the sunrise managed to show through the clouds, revealing the main island of Fjordhem looming in the distance.
As the storm further calmed, we dared to venture closer to the shore of the island. It took a while before our Fjordhemian navigator recognized a part of the shore so he could tell us where we were, then telling me to throw the helm around as it turned out we’d been blown a fair bit off course and Wycke was the other way. Around mid-day however, we came near the capital of Wycke, and a large fishing vessel came out to guide us into the harbor. We had made it at last. The Serpent being guided into the harbor of Wycke.
Later that day, we had docked the ship properly in the cove the capital city of Wycke was situated in, and we went into the town to orient ourselves and buy new supplies while some of our men stayed behind to repair the ship and rest. The High Pontiff had told me that Wycke was not a big city, and it seems like he was right. He’d told me it would have a population of about twenty thousand people however, which seemed less accurate. Instead much of the town was deserted, with many buildings either boarded up or crumbling. As I stood in the middle of a small square, trying to determine where the centre of the town would be where the shrine to St. Malcolm was to be found, I suddenly felt a tug on my coat. Upon turning around, I was greeted by a thin, raggedy man, begging for money. After I gave him two golden minas, I asked him for his name and where I could find St. Malcolm’s shrine. The man introduced himself as Ailbert and said that in gratitude for my charity, he would take me to see the shrine. On the way we passed some more boarded up houses, which I asked him about. Ailbert said that things weren’t going well for Wycke. He told me that a series of cold winters and a lack of much fish to be caught drove many people to emigrate to the mainland of Aeldin, or pursue piracy, which in turn caused more to leave as the limited fishing industry that remained came in increasing danger.
At that point we came to the shrine and Ailbert bid me farewell as he went to buy food with the minas I’d given him. I blessed the poor man before turning to the shrine. Pontiff James II had written down that upon arrival, pilgrims would offer the shed skin of a viper to the shrine as was custom. Until now I had been unsure of how I would get the viper’s skin, but it seemed that an entrepreneurial local merchant had made use of this tradition, as I spotted a shop nearby that had snake skins hanging in the window. I bought one and offered it to the shrine of the holy man, something that was supposed to grant me immunity from the bite of a viper, though like the High Pontiff, I was not too sure if that is just folklore or a miracle the Saint will grant me.
I made a brief prayer at the shrine to Saint Malcolm, thanking him for allowing us to weather the storm of the night before, after which I paid a visit to the local cathedral. There I prayed for the rest of the afternoon and spoke to a few priests before I made my way back through the half-empty town, past the shrine to Saint Malcolm. I went back down to the harbor, to check on my ship before joining my men in a local tavern to get a quick meal before hitting the hay early, exhausted from the sleepless night before. The next day we all slept in, having a minor breakfast late in the morning before I set out to make my way back to the cathedral, having agreed to meet up with a priest just before noon mass, to talk about planning a missionary trip to a local heathen tribe.
The next day me, the priest and some of my men set out into the mountains of Fjordhem, travelling inland on foot for two days before entering the lands of the Damnonii tribe, a group of pagans who were slowly being converted to canonism. The tribesmen were an interesting folk and though they were pagan, they were surprisingly tolerant to our missionary visit, most likely because of the gifts we brought along. We gave them many furs which they clad themselves in extensively, along with some other gifts like preservable food, a bronze cross and one of the Holy Scrolls, which two young tribesmen who I was told were learning to read happily took from us. We stayed with the Damnonii for a few days, in which we preached the gospel to them and me and my men learned about some of their curious culture. The Damnonii covered themselves in blue and green bodypaint, which they offered to me and the other members of the mission as well, but I politely declined because I feared it had some pagan meaning. They also did a lot of wrestling while wearing nothing except a wool skirt. We helped them herd their sheep when needed, and at the end of our stay, four of the tribesmen, including the two young ones that were learning to read, agreed to convert to Canonism. I helped the priest with the baptismal ceremony which we conducted in a nearby creek. The countryside of Fjordhem where the Damnonii herd their sheep.
Afterward the baptism, they wished to thank us, saying they had a gift for us in return. Their chieftain told us that in a recent war with another tribe, they had confiscated what they thought was something us canonists would like. To everyone’s surprise, he suddenly gave us what the priest said was the lost half of an important relic of Saint Malcolm. He handed us a brass serpent curled underneath a cross of the same material, part of the Brazen Staff of the Saint, is what I would be told later. I must say I grew quite fond of these odd people in the few days we stayed with them, even if they were weird pagans. The fact that they allowed men of GOD into their midst, showing us kindness and to an extent even accepting and joining us, showed me that even if some of GOD’s children are misled, they are often still good and pure of heart. When we headed back, St. Malcolm must’ve been proud of us, for the whole two days of travelling back to the coast, a warm sun shone upon us rather than the rain and wind that were commonplace here.
After our trip to the Damnonii, we did not stay in Fjordhem for much longer, for winter was approaching. The last day I spent praying in the cathedral, until the priest that had gone with us came up to me and offered me the repaired staff of Saint Malcolm to take back to Arcas with us. He said the Bishopric was very pleased with our conversions, and that the Bishop was honored to have a pilgrim sent by His Holiness in Wycke. Thus they wished to thank me by giving me the relic cross which they had put back on the pine staff that it once sat on before being lost when a group of missionaries died in a blizzard. I thanked the priest and his bishop to no end, before leaving the cathedral at the end of the afternoon. Walking back down towards the harbor, I offered a bronze coin to the shrine of Saint Malcolm as according to custom, something he supposedly used to ward off pirates, before leaving again for the harbor, continuing on my pilgrimage back to the mainland, to Gaekrin. Chapter 3: Ervemark To our luck and delight, we experienced no stormy weather nor extraordinarily choppy waves as we sailed back to the Aeldinian mainland. The Serpent tore through the waves with the wind in our sails. As we realized we’d get to the port city of Ervemark sooner than expected, we came to the conclusion Saint Malcolm had to be with us now, shepherding us from potential storms just as we had shepherded the sheep of the Damnonii a few days ago.
After leaving Wycke in the morning, we docked at the castle town of Sverngard in the evening, then six days later we caught sight of Ervemark. The so-called ‘City of Flames’ lived up to its name at the first sight of it. Upon docking in the harbor we had trouble keeping our eyes off the view of this beautiful city in the distance. Its architecture was quite refined indeed, but what made the look of it all the more special was the material from which the finest of buildings was constructed: a reddish stone much like marble, that shone warmly, invitingly and purely beautiful in the late afternoon sun. The harbor of Ervemark was full of life, bustling with incoming and outgoing merchant-folk as well as some upper class looking ladies and gentlemen, sipping wine, playing music and singing to their heart's content as they floated about the harbor in small yet beautiful and luxurious sloops. We ended up docking in a somewhat remote corner of the port before walking the boulevard, a broad street along the docks that was overshadowed by cliffs with ruins on top of them and buildings inside them. We searched for a place to stay the night and have dinner which we did with little effort.. A view of the port of Ervemark. . . .