Chapter 22Mature

His jaw was still partly sore the next morning from that spiteful woman’s cross; he was stuck inside a cavern surrounded by the dead, and had been played for a fool.  What did it say about his situation that this was still one of his better days since he came to Valhalla? Davrou climbed out of the old moth eaten mattress that was his new quarters. Tying on his sword belt he yawned make his way to the main deck. Surveying the cave, it was impossible to tell day from night in this dark pit, but it must still, be the early hours he estimated seeing none of the others up or moving. That was a relief for him, after the lively introduction Simon was ordered to keep an eye on Davrou. He found it agitating, having the lap dog swordsman wordlessly following his back as he explored the catacomb’s cave system remembering the terrain and looking for an alternative exit  to have handy  if necessary. With his would be shadow gone, Davrou grabbed a lantern  and taking soft steps, he made his way around the ship to study the runes etched along its body.

 “Uruz, Fehu, Raidho, Algiz,” He recited walking around the ship.

 Each Character had many interpretations but for a ships purpose they were simple enough, Strength for the material, Luck for the voyage. Travel for is purpose, and Shield for protection. The pattern repeated itself on side of the craft.

“Eihwaz, for dependency and reliability” he read another, carefully brushing his fingers over the rune that meant yew tree.

It was repeated across the deck, along the beams from prow to aft, every couple strides. Simons and the Navigator, Arcebus,  had worked well into the night repairing and replacing old and worn aspects of the ship but the runes were left forgotten and untouched, not but ornate carvings. That’s all they should be, so why did they seem to call? He glanced around once more to make sure he was still alone then force his will into the glyph, without a reaction he focused harder. Davrou was beginning to feel foolish that the idea head even occurred him when he felt the wood warm, gradually emitting a soft glow. It was strengthening the wood under his fingertips making it feel like steel before suddenly fading to its regular state. His eyes widened at the change. This ship, what was it? Then another question formed, what could power so many runes? Even a large crew would rapidly exhaust themselves just trying, if so many even knew how. Davrou couldn’t satiate his desire to know more, following the glyphs, letting his mind wondering what kind of spell each held activating a few more just to see, the Tiwaz rune on the sail created winds but other hadn’t shown any  obvious change after waking. Without realizing, he found himself entering the engine room chasing the markings.  Turbines, pistons and pipes filled a whole side ,connecting with countless other parts Davrou didn’t recognize to create the ships engine. Even as he stood in the heart or the Mysterious Machine he could hardly understand how someone had blended all those mystical symbols seamless into these modern contraptions. Again he found another set of runes, however these looked entirely out of place.

 “Sowilo and Hagalaz?” he asked out loud to no one.

 The runes were engraved into metal almost hidden under a series of engine mounts that held the base. Alone, Sowilo could make sense, but with the other it read uncontrollable elemental force. An odd desire to want a natural disaster in and airship. Unable to hold back Davrou’s hand drifted toward the runes ready to reveal their secret, until a creaking step broke the dark silence. Slowly he stood back up move away from his discovery; if these people didn’t know what they had he wasn’t going to bother telling them. He casually turned lifting the lantern to cast its beam on the stiar case.

 A raised hand blocked the light from her eyes but a suspicious scowl was still evident across her countenance. The steel of her gaze struck him with subtle accusations yet still held beauty under the unbraided forest of long flowing platinum locks. Imagine if this violent woman ever showed a real smile, Davrou wondered. He had the sense to keep the comment to himself though.

“Why is the ship doctor lurking around the engine room?” She demanded as her eyes adjusted to the light. The annoyed under tone said she still hadn’t forgiven him.

“Just found the craftsmanship interesting, Captain Rayna" he answered with the same exaggerated bow he gave her the day before. To his satisfaction he could see her jaw tense in anger.

"It's just captain," She seethed. "And I demand a more forward answer."

Davrou shrugged spreading his hands in a gesture of innocence “I have little knowledge of airships and their workings. I found myself curious...Captain Rayna" he explained with mixed truths.

She marched closer in irritation jabbing him in the chest. "Listen Dav, it'll do you good to remember your place on this ship, and not mock your superiors. I've half a mind to kick you off this ship as it is, you're peculiar attitude is not earning you any favors."

His cool expression faded away in surprise at the name, He hadn’t been called that in months, but his guise returned just as quickly.

 "Slip of the tongue, Captain." he stated without concern, stepping closer. "And keep it at Davrou. “He added with a smirk to veil his displeasure.  

"Tell me Rayna," he adds brushing past her, ignoring the gentle fragrance of her hair as he looked around once more "Where did this odd ship come from"

. "I don't see how it's any of your damn business. Dav." Rayna answered tensely, her eyes narrowing as she turned, to keep him in view.

"The style just seems long before our time. I hope this relic can still fly." He feigned disinterest, continuing his survey of the room.

"Of course it can still fly.” She defended her ship heatedly, “This is a highly coveted steam vessel, designed by the most reputable engineers. Any more concerns Dav?"  

Hearing her repeated use of that name was beginning to gnaw at him, but he focused more on her comments, highly coveted. Did the other parties know there was more to this ship?

 "Maybe not just engineers." he muttered the thought before realizing.

Looking back to her, "Several but none more about the ship" he answered to cover is mistake, letting his sight travel along her curves.

 Her arms crossed over her chest in response. "Perhaps you should retire to your bedchamber now."

Davrou held a retort that was sure to get him skewered and instead shook his head unsheathing his long sword and leisurely heading up the stairs.

“I am already awake, but I’ll keep to the main deck for some light practice if you prefer.” He offered

The violent captain grinned at his word, "Of course. Be safe, it is dark and I'd just hate for you to slip on that. It looks sharp."

He gave her another little bow. "I’m touched by your concern. As long as you’re not blindly throwing that sharp stick around, I should be fine."

"There's nothing blind about my methods. If I intend to spear you I will.” She corrected him matter of factly, then add” Sweet dreams Dav." With subtle venom, walking passed him.

Davrou watched her leave before heading to the main deck, shaking her from his thoughts as he let his discoveries sink in. Placing the lantern in the center to give him as much light as possible, his blade cut through the air in a simple routine, and his footwork slowly carried him across the floor. Each step intuitively mapped his surroundings while his mind wandered the ship, speculating its origins. After the first pass along the planks he steps quickens combinations of parries, thrust and slashes growing more elaborate following paths and techniques ingrained in his muscle after hundreds of thousands of repetitions. Dav, the name echoed through his thoughts pushing aside the ships puzzle,taking him back to a time several years before his life went to Hel.

 “Dav, why weren’t you picked to be the next Chief?” Thaelon asked as oblivious to tact as ever, as he lunged at his brother’s thigh. Davrou didn’t mind, he enjoyed his brothers innocent bluntness. He never veiled his word and always questioned in earnest. As of the night before the boy of just 14 springs was chosen as legitimate successor and Davrou couldn’t be prouder of him

“Because, I would make a terrible Chief. I can’t get along with any of the villagers and they all fear me.” He answered, deflecting the heavy blade and launching a series of strikes that made his brother dance.

“That because you don’t even try, you always jump to insults before greetings. You would be a good chief. You know want is wrong with this place as much as I do and you’re strong enough to change it.”

Thaelon argued finally parrying Davrou’s blade enough to send it out wide. To his frustration though Thaelon big brother was already jumping back giving himself the time to restore his guard.

“I think that’s just my little brother showing nepotism on my behalf.” He teased flicking his sword to coax an attack. Thaelon swing came faster and harder riled a bit by his brother’s comment, which also lowered his precision. Davrou dodge the first swing parrying the next and rolling away from the last slapping Thaelon’s calf as he came up inside his guard. “Control your anger-“

“Or lose your head. Yeah Dav, I know” Thaelon finished the sentence, still looking annoyed. Davrou gave a long sigh.

 “Fine let’s say you’re right, maybe there is a very slim chance I’d make a decent chief. We don’t need a decent chief. We need a great one. Thaelon, you listen to them, you care about this clan more than anyone else, you’re naïve at times but people naturally rally around you because of it.” Thaelon shook his head gesturing at his sword.

 “And what of strength? Dav, I’ve yet to win against you even once.”

Davrou rolled his eyes. “Thae, you’re still young, and you’ll prove to be great, but even before then, you’re already the strongest warrior in this village.”

Thaelon gave him a doubtful look, rolling his eyes in turn.   “Beating you at the sword is, admitted very entertaining,” he assured, prodding his brother’s insecurities. As he spun his blade theatrically.

 “Yet, it doesn’t mean, I could win in a true battle. You have two hundred of the fiercest warriors to ever walk the lands ready to fight for you.”

“I would never hide behind then like a coward.-“Thaelon started. Davrou caught the sword backwards bring the blade to rest at Thaelon neck.

“Always keep your guard. And let you elder finish” He lectured before pulling away.

“Which is why they would. You command their respect like I never would Thaelon. I hold my sword and even my arts for myself and no other. It pales in comparison the weight to carry proudly.” He finished

Thaelon looked uncomfortable hearing his brother’s word his expression almost stern.

 “What’s wrong?” Davrou asked.

 Thaelon mulled his word over in his head before answering.

“Dav, even if you don’t want to help, you’re supposed to be the next high priest. You can’t say everything is for yourself.”

 Davrou stared at the overly mature fourteen year old for a moment but couldn’t help his laughter.

“Thaelon, I believe in the teaching, and I’ll continue to practice and learn, but they are all but forgotten by the others, you know as well as I, I’m seen more as a dark practitioner then a real priest.”

That answer didn’t seem to satisfy, the stubborn young successor, his eye staring impatiently for a better reply.

With a defeated sigh Davrou gave in “I won’t use them for your dear bumbling followers…but I’ll serve the future chief, with all my strength and with everything I know. Satisfied?”

With a triumphant grin Thaelon replied. “Very. Thanks, Dav.”

Davrou blade bit deep into the wooden railing. Shaking him from his thoughts. He was breathing hard, arms heavy, his shirt drenched and dripping in sweat as he fought down the fury of his failure. He couldn’t keep the only promise he ever made. The truth continued to claw at him. Sometimes his justice seemed like a pipe dream.  But…

“Eihwaz.” He stated pressing his hand again the rune once more while pulling the blade free from the wood.

 The mark was alit again strengthening the timber and erasing the gash.  Maybe this ship was the key. he had to hope


The End

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