Nothing in the known world reeks like this.
Ringil’s seen grown men piss themselves in terror at the smell, seen hardened soldiers turn pale beneath their campaign tans. It is unmistakeable. Those who’ve faced it, never forget. Those who haven’t, feed on the handed-down tales, and misrepresent it as a foul stench, which it is not. At sufficient distance, in fact, it’s drowsily pleasant – a sun-baked summertime blend of spice and perfume on the wind, sharp notes of aniseed and cardamon rising through a backdrop of sandalwood and there, right there, the wavering but ever-present hint of scorching….
Slammed awake like a cheap tavern door.
He sat up with the force of it, instant cold sweat, hand groping after a sword hilt nowhere to be found. Breath locked in his throat, staring around.
Where the fuck……?
The shape of his surroundings resolved – he lay in a bunk under a gently tilting ceiling lamp whose flame was turned down low. The fittings of a well-appointed ship’s cabin, painted back and forth with the shadows the lamp cast. Shelves, a sea chest against one wall, a cramped desk and cushioned chair. The back of the door was hung with a Yhelteth ward against evil, the painted image of some saint or other bordered in tiny significant writings from the Revelation. Above him, he heard the hurrying thud of footfalls across planking, voices calling out. Soft squeaking punt of wood on wood somewhere, a steady rocking. He was aboard a vessel, sure, but -
He hauled himself out of the bunk and sat, elbows on knees, face in hands, memories skipping off the surface of recollection like flung flat stones….
The fjord. The black-rigged caravel. Rowing out.
Hjel’s valedictory figure, there on the shore and not. Were there specks of rain in the air? In his eyes?
A reflexive thought. He reached under the bunk and found his boots, stacked neatly side by side. The Ravensfriend lay scabbarded next to them.