The Tale of Karl Ørretsund
|The Tale of Karl Ørretsund|
|Printer||Roddman and Brothers|
The Velheim have many stories, but “The Tale of Karl Ørretsund” is one of the oldest. The story came from the bards of Hedryll, but actual records of a man named Karl Ørretsund are lost to time. Additionally, the oldest written manuscript of the story available to Alorians (found in a book called the Blekgeit Manuscript) is lacking several episodes in the center due to missing pages. Others have filled in this gap with their own narratives, namely bards and modern storytellers, but the story presented here is the original version known from the Blekgeit Manuscript.
The Tale of Karl Ørretsund
In Sterhaug, there was a man called Kanin who had a daughter, Saua. They lived by way of the hunt, and Saua was fully devoted to the call of Ellmår. One day, she chased deer far through the forest and encountered a Tall Ship by the river. This ship was being captained by Skifer Skogheim, and he seized her as a Hildrae, for he was taken by her beauty. However, she was fierce and bit off his ear, and so he ultimately ejected her onto the sands before he returned to the sea. She returned home, and came to bear a son who was called Karl.
Karl was hated by his mother. His grandfather, fearing his daughter’s designs upon this child, was ultimately forced to send him away to live with a friend. This man was called Granitt. With his wife Geita, he raised the child in their fishing village. When the boy turned ten, his second father came to him and explained his origin. Karl grew upset and fled along the coast until he reached a seaside cave. From within, he heard beautiful music and enchanting voices, and so he proceeded inside. He only carried with him a walking stick.
Within the cave, around a central circular pool were four musicians, two women and two men. They sang the same tune, and each held a different instrument. Karl did not interrupt them, for those of Ørretsund had raised him well-mannered. Instead, he sat and listened. When at last the song came to an end, all four turned to him.
“You are a good young man to have not barged in and interrupted our singing, friend.” said one, wearing a cloak of black.
“We are bards of many years, and we know these lands quite well. Please, speak to us and gain our council, we wish to help such a boy as you.” said another, wearing no hood and with auburn hair.
Karl told them of his plight in life. One musician kissed their teeth while another wrung their hands. “That is truly painful, my young friend, but we sadly cannot help-” said the third, her midnight hair in buns.
Karl interjected. “I truly am sorry for interrupting, but I know my deepest wish. I want to never be like that, and I want to know a girl whom I will never harm, and I want to take her to my mother to prove her wrong for hating me.”
“That...we can help you with.” the oldest of the group said, his beard quite grey and long. “Far from here near Klarfjord there is a flatland, Gulldal. The people there once farmed the land, and it was plenty, but they offended Basjtur by neglecting his shrine. Thus he summoned out the Solhest to rampage over their lands during the hottest months. Its hooves burn their crops, and its glint drives them to be blind at an early age. Defeat the Solhest, and Earl Falked, who rules the flatland, is sure to grant you his golden daughter.”
For four years, Karl stayed in his second home and trained toward this goal. His second family helped him in every way they could, and when summer approached, his second father summoned him.
“I do not know the way to Gulldal, my son, but I have a trader friend in Lider Solvik, a most cunning and well-traveled man. He and I have known each other for many years from the time when we both served aboard Earl Mørkneve’s Tall Ships. He is now a man of means and he will help you sail to Gulldal.”
Thus, Karl was seated at the docks when Lider returned from the tavern. He noticed the boy and seemed quite nervous, and did his best to avoid him. But Karl knew what he looked like, and so approached him as he rapidly tried to set sail. “You are Lider Solvik, the merchant. I am Granitt’s son, Lider.”
The merchant rapidly turned with brightness and gave the boy a firm pat. “Ah, good Karl, I am sorry, I assumed you were wrongly one of mine. Please, let us sail now for Gulldal, the seas may grow bad if we do not leave soon.”
They left, but by the third day, Lider’s words proved true. The two were forced ashore and dragged the boat aground, removing what was of value from the man’s cargo and seeking shelter inland. Then they noticed a ruined home within the shadow of a grand tree, and as rain began to lash, they took up rest within this home. After a fire had been lit and a meal of braised fish eaten, both of them went to sleep with the fire put out. However, Karl heard a noise and woke up, peering into the treetop that had punctured the roof. The leaves rustled, and then, a face came down, peering into the darkness! From his angle, Karl could see the creature, but evidently, the beast could not see him. It was a Linnorm, its scaled and sneering face soon joined by a set of clawing arms. It grabbed up Lider, and whisked him up into the treetop.
Karl soon climbed after them, and found himself gazing into a bedded hollow within the top of the large tree. There a fire burned, and the beast has wrapped its long tail around Lider, who was in the process of trying to talk it out of eating him.
“...and if you eat me, the boy will avenge me, he is the son of a friend, you will regret it!”
“Silence! I will eat you first, and then have the boy as a treat afterward. His flesh will be a delight compared to your tough skin!” the creature hissed back as it stoked the flames. Karl drew his dagger and slowly began to crawl up into the hollow. Lider noticed and tried to keep the creature’s concentration away from its death. “How did you ever get a fire up here anyway, we are in a tree!”
“How good of you to ask. Your fire’s embers provided me with quite enough fuel to start my own, so I thank you for cooking yourself ahead of time!”
“I doubt you did it, you are no Brannmark!”
The beast sighed and slithered over to a nearby hole and gestured out with its upper arms to the open air. “Here is where your embers did fly up, because down there is the hole in the roof caused—”
Karl, who had been creeping in, rushed the beast just then and stuck his iron through the back of the beast’s head. It dropped dead without a further word, and the youth then helped drag Lider out of its coils. The man was shaken but impressed and gave the boy a firm pat. “You truly are a son of Granitt! Come, let us take the beast with us. I know a market down the coast that will pay for such a rarity.”
Parts 3 and 4 have been lost, with Part 5 apparently being a form of epilogue closing out the adventuring parts of Karl’s life.
In his fiftieth year, as his wife gave birth to their tenth child, there was suddenly a rapid knocking at the door. Annoyed, he bayed his thrall Synd to go and get the man to leave. Synd returned and said that the man would not depart. Karl then called on his eldest son, Karlsønn, to go and get the man to leave. The young man returned and said that the man would not depart. Sick at the interruptions to her throws, his dear wife Lys stood up, went to the door, and screamed at the man what had been told to him twice already. He hastily retreated, and Lys returned to bed, with a dear young boy called Kunn brought into the world soon after.
The next day, the messenger came again, and Karl met him outside of the home.
“I bring word from Baron Skifer Skogheim. You are called to face his justice, for he has heard the slander you have spread about his conduct with your lecherous mother.”
Karl set the axe in wood and looked to the man. The man looked back.
“You are just the messenger, and I know you know that I am a man of fair Soldi. Tell him that I will meet his challenge at the house of my mother in two weeks' time, and let us all see if he dishonors her for a second time.”
“She dishonors you and herself both by repeating lies about the Baron.”
Karl pulled the axe from the wood and looked at the man. The man looked back. “As I said before, you are just the messenger, but unless you desire to become Staargir-like, I suggest you leave.”
Two weeks later, the parties met in the clearing before Saua’s house. With Karl was his oldest son, and across the clearing stood his father and his acknowledged son, Kullen. Ringing the space stood some hundred spectators, among them Jovrlov Kveite and Saua herself.
She marched across the ring before the fight began. Even in her age, her hair had yet to grey, and Skifer regretted for a moment what he had done.
“Confess your lie, you [censored].”
He no longer regretted what he had done, and his son stepped between his father and the woman. She looked up at Kullen and muttered beneath her breath as she returned to the viewing circle.
Karl and Kullen then began to fight, each with an axe and shield, with a dagger at their sides. Despite his older age, Karl held his own as wood and metal blows rang loudly. Gradually, the sun began to turn cold and people tired. By the time the sun was orange, both men were heaving wet, and yet neither had left the circle even as it had been tightened around them.
The Jovrlov stood and marched to the edge of the arena. “You, Karl, have stood your ground for quite some time. Do you not wish for a rest?”
Karl shouted hoarsley his reply. “NO! My mother...is a woman of...of fair Soldi...as I am a man of fair...fair Soldi. I will NOT yield to the Baron’s lie!”
The Earl turned to Kullen. “You, Kullen, have stood your ground for quite some time. Do you not wish for a rest?”
Gasping for breath, Kullen made his meek reply. “No...my father is a man of...of fair Soldi...as I am a man of fair...fair Soldi. I will not yield…”
The Jovrlov glowered and shoved Kullen, causing the man to collapse exhausted to the ground and into slumber. “Your words betray you, you lie and dishonor yourself just as your father does!”
Baron Skifer Skogheim was humiliated, and the next day, his household left to never again return. Jovrlov Kveite then bestowed the title onto Karl Ørretsund, and in his final days, he was called up to serve in the court of King Eivind, then leader of great Hedryll, which he did until his hundredth year, when he died at peace surrounded by his great family.
- Most bards insert an episode of Karl defeating the Solhest before another episode of him going to see his mother with his new bride, and saving his mother from a horrible monster keeping her in bondage. Others combine the acquiring of the bride and visiting his mother, before inserting a story about how Karl raided to a distant land of dark-skinned men, acquiring several of his thralls from the ensuing combat
- Some believe that this story explores a very transitional period in Velheim life, before raiding and pillaging dominated their lives. These analyses cite the presence of crops and agriculture in the story.
- The document of the Blekgeit Manuscript oddly appears to be Fridurfolk in origin, though it is currently in the possession of the Kingdom of Hedryll. Most suspect that the Skaggers captured a literate member of the Fridurfolk society, who was then traded to nobles in Hedryll, who made them document a number of local folktales.