VYNNOLF AND THE WYRM

A SANTHARIAN FOLK TALE OF THE SEA

 
The Frethoni Book of Fables   
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Introduction. "Vynnolf and the Wyrm" is a story about a castaway and his desperate hopes to be saved, about treasures and a horrific wyrm guarding those, about friends, greed and about a lie that was meant to save people, but turned out to be a curse. Did the Goddess Baveras pull the strings of fate? Or was it all just coincidence?
 

here once took place an expedition headed by an ambitious discoverer who wanted to find new lands in the eastern seas. Back then these waters were still vastly unexplored, so there was reasonable hope to come across yet unknown landmasses and end up rich and famous thereof – or get sucked into the Void if one traveled too far. Well, nobody knew for sure where the world ended and how, but the dangers of the mission were all part of the excitement of an undertaking like this.

After traveling for several days the ship of the discoverer finally entered uncharted waters and the adventure truly began. Everything went well at first. Until the evening of the third day that is, when dark clouds could be spotted brewing on the horizon. Quickly they drew nearer. The sea rose and it became wild and tumbling; the vessel was already rolling heavily, and the wind was roaring in the rigging. The crew found it impossible to circumnavigate the rapidly approaching storm and soon the skies were torn by the skeletal arms of lightning illuminating the night sky all the way from north to south. So it came that a most vicious tempest descended upon the ship and its crew in the near darkness of the fading day. Sheets of rain fell thick and fast and the gale proved so torrential that it broke one of the masts as if it were a matchstick. Thereupon a great surge came in and rolled over the ship that had lain adrift already, and the once proud and adventuresome vessel sank there and then, dragging with it every sailor who was on it into a deep, wet grave.

Well, not all of them perished, because our story doesn't end here. There was one of the unfortunate crew who survived the disaster, and Vynnolf was his name. He was only eighteen cycles of age and prior to the expedition had been on only a couple of minor sea voyages; though rakish that he was, he thought that with this mission he'd make his dent in history, and so he had eagerly joined the crew of this fateful ship. Well, maybe Baveras Herself, the capricious Goddess of the Sea, had pity on him when she saw the youth clinging to a piece of wood out there in the open sea and plead desperately for his life. He was lucky, for he eventually was washed up on the shore of a small, yet unknown isle somewhere in the midst of nowhere. So one of the discoverers had indeed found land in uncharted waters. However, the isle turned out to be deserted and there was no ship to return and tell the tale of Vynnolf's miraculous survival.

Stranded on an island without companions and tools but with rather dim prospects of rescue, the adventuresome youth had no other choice than to make this newfound place his home. What is my life worth now anyway? Vynnolf asked himself when he sat all alone at a sandy beach, surveying the sea for days and days. But there was no other choice. Survival was everything he could hope for, and survive he would. It proved difficult in the beginning – as Vynnolf lacked every little thing he had taken for granted all his life – but eventually he learned to live with the little he had: He made himself makeshift knives out of coconut shards, containers from palm tree leaves, tables out of wood and nets by tying together lianas; he taught himself how to make fire or how to construct a bow and arrows for hunting, and he carved spears to impale fish who swam close to the shore.

While Vynnolf knew that he was all alone on the isle, he found out eventually – after a couple of months to be precise – that he actually hadn’t been the first who had discovered it. There had been people on the island before him, no doubt: For one day when he went exploring he came upon a cave hidden behind some dense brush at the edge of the jungle. There was a rock just in front of it that was clearly marked by someone with glaring red paint. Curious as he was, Vynnolf entered the hideout, and found a narrow tunnel that led deep down into the bowels of the earth. A self-made torch in hand he descended the passage that was winding down with bated breath, and finally entered a large chamber full with stalagmites and stalactites. At the far end of it he saw something shine and sparkle, and as he approached with his torch, the chamber was illuminated in full Vynnolf almost shrank back from the stunning sight: He had stumbled upon piles and piles of ancient gold coins, goblets, plates, jugs, jewels, pearl necklaces, medallions and chock-full caskets and treasure chests!

 

The Treasure Cave

The treasure cave as found by Vynnolf. Image drawn by Seeker.

Vynnolf figured that the fortune once must have been collected and stored here by pirates, but that eventually all this wealth had probably been forgotten in the meantime. Because months and even years after his discovery there still was no one who returned to it, to either add to the treasure or claim it. Long nights Vynnolf lay awake under the stars considering the arrival of pirates on the isle, though he wasn’t sure whether this was something he wanted to look forward to or not. After all, pirates were a vile, conniving and murderous sort, and he wasn’t sure whether he’d be better off if he were forced to become one of them in order to get off the isle. However, no pirates ever showed up to actually put him into that sort of dilemma. Also, all the valuable things Vynnolf had found in that secret cave were eventually forgotten during the many, many years that he lived on the island.

Then, one day – Baveras be praised! –, more than two decades after Vynnolf had shipwrecked, there was a fateful turn of events. A trading ship veered off course due to an extremely rough going sea, and thereby happened to come across Vynnolf’s island. In face of the impending storm the ship steered towards the isle, and as the crew was riding out the tempest in safety on land they discovered the bedraggled castaway fellow, the lone human occupant of the island. Actually it was told that Vynnolf was barely recognizable as a human back then. After years and years of solitude he didn't even know anymore how to speak properly and had to learn many things anew. But the traders took him on board of course, and after they had delivered their goods at their ports of call they at last returned with him home. There was a big feast held in his honor, and he was happy.

Vynnolf had changed however. Not only had he aged by two decades, his features were also now marked by the permanent exposure to the sun and the forces of nature, and once he shaved, it was almost as if he unveiled another man underneath. Which wasn’t that far from the truth, because the former youth who had aspired to fame and fortune had turned into a humble man. He had learned to value the blessings of a simple fire, of roasted meat, a bit of cheese, fresh juice – and what it meant to have friends again, who enjoyed listening to him, asked questions and told stories themselves. He felt like he was in heaven.

Until the day when Vynnolf mentioned in one of his narrations about his adventures on the isle that he had discovered an enormous treasure in a cave. In fact, as he related this tale, he didn’t think much of it, because the treasure didn’t matter to him back then and didn’t now, and so he just thought of it as an interesting story, and that was all there was to it. However, since the day he had told it, people didn't want to let go of him. Immediately an expedition was planned among his friends – or so-called friends – to retrieve the gold. The isle still hadn’t been charted yet, but it was possible to find it again, if one set one’s mind to it, he was told.

”Think about the life you could have with all that gold!” they tried to convince him to join the search – after all he had been there!

But Vynnolf wanted to have none of it. He saw the greed and the selfishness of the people who only wanted to gain riches and didn’t honor what they already had.

“No”, he told them, “I will stay back here, safe and sound, that’s just how it is. Never will I join such a mad endeavor, for I’ve seen the storms beating down on the sea in these parts of the ocean – these are mighty dangerous waters, they almost cost me my life!” And then he decided to add some more to the story and outright lie to them for their own good. “Besides, I didn’t want to tell you, but if you really must know: There's a wyrm in there in that cave, guarding his treasure!” he said. “Quite a vicious wyrm in fact, a two-headed one, with a fiery breath and a massive spiked tail and a serpentine neck that can wrap around you in an instant and have you strangled before you even know it! When I saw him I turned around immediately, for luckily the beast doesn’t leave his abode, so I kept away from him all the time and left him to his coins. – You see, even if you find the cave, which is unlikely at best, that dragon will kill you if you try to take away what he considers his...”

“Don’t you worry,” one of his friends said. “We’ll smoke him out!”

“And we’ll put up traps, lots of traps,” another one suggested. “Just to make sure.”

“If that’s not enough, we’ll also bring decent weapons to defeat him!”

“Besides, he might be dead by now anyway,” the last one chipped in. “Even wryms don’t live forever!”

None of Vynnolf’s friends were deterred. Quite to the contrary – fighting and defeating a dragon seemed an even better reason to earn themselves riches beyond belief.

“Don't go there!” Vynnolf continued pleading to his friends, for he was in fear that the wealth would change them. As a matter of fact already the prospect of fame and fortune had done so, for Vynnolf hardly recognized his comrades anymore. “Treasure is not everything in life!” he urged them, but it was all in vain. Nobody listened to Vynnolf. A ship set out finally, intent on defeating the giant wyrm and collect the riches, on it half a dozen of Vynnolf’s companions.

A month passed, and then a second and a third. Vynnolf dreaded the moment when the adventurers would arrive from their successful expedition. Surely they would brag with their wealth and laugh at his cowardice, and they would inquire about the whereabouts of this fabulated wyrm. He wouldn’t know what to answer.
But nobody ever returned from this mission.

Months later another ship set out to investigate the matter, with some more courageous men on it who wanted to try their luck, to perhaps find the lost ship, challenge the wyrm and return with the riches. But it returned neither.

Also a third ship eventually left, but it suffered the same fate.

Well, that's just as it happened. Nobody can tell what really took place out there in the deep seas, far, far away from the Santharian mainland. But many people back then agreed that the sailors shouldn't have tried to challenge such a mighty wyrm, especially as they had been warned repeatedly what a fierce beast it was. They said that only Vynnolf who never attempted to fight the dragon, was spared, because it was the wise thing to do, and that he was saved because of that.

But since Vynnolf had told his son on his deathbed that there never had been any wyrm, people don't know anymore what to think. Maybe the waters out there were just too stormy for all three ships, just like back then when Vynnolf had shipwrecked? Was it all just coincidence? This indeed is hard to believe. Some therefore call the incidents "Vynnolf's Curse". Others say that Baveras understood Vynnolf’s concerns about the gold that had corrupted the sailors even before they had actually found it, and that the Goddess might have done just her cruel duty.

Well, the truth we'll never know.
 


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