Nuverl - Dwarven god of the sea
A dwarf's fear of the ocean is not baseless. In the unknowable depths lurks an evil that will punish any dwarf arrogant enough to be on anything less than solid land, and unfortunate enough to die.
42 Stonfaer Year 936
The last thing I can remember clearly is the screaming sounds of the wooden mast splintering and the hoarse rip of the main sail being shredded by the storm and an image of slick beam rushing towards me. There was a numbing impact, a muffled splash that came from all around me but seemed far away that must have been me falling into the water, and then, darkness.
When I woke, I was soaked through, my clothes in tatters and shoes missing. I peered through the darkness looking for the sea, but I neither seeing nor hearing it. I searched for a mountain, some trees, the horizon, but could make out nothing in the dark. I could hear a wind, low and raspy like a giant, asthmatic breath, slow and rhythmic. As I tried standing, my hand touched the ground I found myself on and I recoiled back, unnerved by the soil. It wasn't sand, stone or mud, but a rough and malleable surface that was firm yet plastic, giving way to my hand like clay but smoothing back to it's worn rippled texture when I lifted my hand off. I managed to stand without touching the off putting surface again and look around but found my situation no different.
I will see if I can find other survivors, or at least some food and water and some shelter until I can be rescued from the place. The sooner I'm back in the bright halls, feasting on roast and ale, dry in front of a roaring fire, the better.
43 Stonfaer Year 936
I walked as far as I could, in one direction as near as I could tell and nothing changed. No others, no trees, water, food, light, no anything. I found rest when I was tired, no idea how much time has passed. The lack of sun is bothering me greatly. If I was above ground, there should have been a sun, moon, storms, rain, something to reveal or obscure the passage of time. I may be underground, but then why was there any light at all? And how could I pass from ocean to underground and wake so far from any body of water? I should be able to hear the sounds of water if there was some to deposit me here, the lapping of waves, the drip of a stalactite, something, but there is only the breathing of the wind. It is beginning to gnaw at my frustration to be taunted by one aspect of nature when so many others are absent. My belly sorely misses nourishment; my mouth is tacky with thirst while my skin is clammy with the moisture in the air wrapped around me like an uncomfortable cloak.
I sorely need a drink, of water or otherwise. I will set off in the same direction as near as I can tell. I hope to find a stream or lake, or even a puddle to drink from; at this point I no longer care what so long as I can wet my lips before the madness of thirst over takes me.
44? Stonfaer Year 936
I'm not alone.
I wish I was.
It was hideous. Eyes wide black pools rimmed with crust. Toothless mouth gnawing at the air, lips a flakey bleeding lace of tatters. His frame was gaunt and slimy, belly distended. Skin oily and covered with short mangy hairs caked down with filth. Fingers and toes both stumped and wrinkled, weeping sores where the nails must have once been.
I think it was a dwarf once.
I heard him before I could make out his shape in the darkness. There was an odd chuffing sound that must have been him smelling me. All of a sudden he was upon me, flailing and tearing at me with strength that surprises me still with the absence of substance on his body. In the moment, I was in fear of my life, thinking a beast was attacking, but in the loud silence that followed I found myself unharmed, only missing the front of my shirt.
I think he ate it.
I am weak with hunger and my throat chokes with thirst but there is still nothing anywhere in the land. Nothing but that thing. I'm going to travel in a different direction than where that thing ran off to, about ninety degrees from the direction I've been headed. Maybe I'll happen upon some relief from this dreary march, so long as I never see that wretch again.
45/46? Stonfaer Year 936
I have no idea how much time has passed. Every second I'm awake the world is unchanging, uncaring. I travel until I'm tired and then rest. It may have been several days, or only two, or a week. It's getting harder to think through the hunger, the thirst. Isn't that a measure? A dwarf will die in 10 minutes without air, 10 days without water, 20 days without food or 10 years without a maidens kiss? Hahaha. What maiden would kiss these parched lips, listen to a song from this choking throat, hold this wrinkled hand.
It's wrinkled, pruned from the moisture in the air, nails growing soft. It looks like that things hand if it had nails once. I must find my way out before I become like it, a wretch.
Stonfaer Year 936
I don't know how many days it's been. I kept walking; running at times trying to outrun the memory of that wretch, kept going until I fell from exhaustion and slept. I haven't eaten, drank, or seen anything. At some point I lost the rest of my shirt and a pant leg. I remember socks but have no idea when those went missing. I hope I didn't eat them. I'm not sure and that frightens me. Today, whatever today is, I lost a nail on my foot. My toe throbs with the sting of salt in the air. I am grateful for the distraction, it's been the only distraction I've had since I woke from ... from whatever was before this.
A ship, I remember now. I was thrown overboard in a storm then work here. I remember being dry once. Eating. Drinking. I remember now. The pain has helped my head clear. I'm skinny from hunger, on my way to becoming like that thing if I can't find a way out. I won't be running, I need to use this pain as fuel to find a way to salvation, and for that I need to be able to think. My eyes may have grown accustomed to the gloom; part of it looks brighter, that brightness, even if it's only a delusion, will be my destination.
Guldentre? Year 936
Surely it has been more than a month I've been lost. I've been walking toward the light, my missing nail plaguing ever step but with satisfaction I believe it is getting lighter. There was another frightening change today. The wind, the ever present breathing wind was never wind, it was breathing. Today it coughed. It's still coughing, long fits of coughing before wheezing breaths follow. When you think it's going to start breathing again it just coughs again. Always two or three breaths after you're sure the coughing won't come back, it does, heaving the ground underneath, although I'm sure that is flesh and not ground now. Whatever this is, it's alive; a huge creature that somehow I've ended up inside. I don't know how, how I'm still alive, how I wasn't eaten, how I'm going to escape, but no beast is endless. There must be an escape.
The coughing has been going on for days. It stopped a little bit ago. Off in the distance I heard a howling, a scream of something going mad. It was anguished, broken; a haunting scream over and over again as if pleading for mercy from the coughing, the shuddering surface. Once the screams had dissolved into tears of rage and anguish, the coughing became laughter. Lazy, slow laughter as if breaking someone's mind had been an easy trick, like balancing a cane, a trick of no consequence, a small and momentary distraction. An evil laugh.
I'm in the Hollow Halls. I've been taken by Nuverl, the turtle devil. I drowned when was knocked overboard and now I'm doomed to spend eternity inside the turtle devil's shell until I go mad and become a wretch like the one that attacked me.
The light must be the opening to the shell. I've never heard of anyone escaping Nuverl but I have to try. If I can't get out, maybe I can at least get this journal out when he flings away a dwarf's possessions. I remember that from the teachings that drown dwarves are whipped to and fro, scattering their tools, gold and treasures before being flung to the back of the Hollow Halls to be forever doomed. If I can get this journal out, maybe it can make its way to civilization and something resembling a rescue can save me. If I can't find an opening for myself, at least this book can be saved.
No more is written.
Nuverl is the water god of the dwarves. He punishes any dwarf arrogant enough to think he should be on anything less than solid earth and unfortunate enough to die with an eternity inside its shell. Dwarves refer to this as the Hell of the Hollow Halls. There is no torture, no suffering or salvation, just a purgatory of nothingness. This isn't a natural environment, so the dwarves don't die from starvation or thirst, they just suffer from it. They don't age; they are in a minor hell contained inside the water god.
Nuverl is uncaring in his torment. Tragedies on dwarven voyages are attributed to his actions, that he wanted that particular dwarf to drown, although there's never been any clear pattern why. He has his niche in the dwarven pantheon and is content, maybe even happy, although you would never know it. Turtles are patient creatures, immortal demon turtles more so. He is more intelligent than he lets on and never reveals his true motivations or goals, and there has been no record of any bargaining with him, ever.
Before traveling by boat, many dwarves give an offering to Nuverl to spare them from his wrath, alleged or real. Traditionally it is a turtle figurine or charm, and green, be it green glazed pottery, copper, carved jade or emerald, although no one can show any effect on giving offerings to avoid a drowning death being effective.
There has only been one record method of communicating with Nuverl, drowning a dwarf, and the only result of that 'communication' was Nuverl taking the dwarf and disappearing deeper to the ocean.
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? Responses (5)
I very much enjoyed the quality of prose and the tone of this piece. I really found his dissent well characterized, how he started to enjoy suffering and his use of pain to try and track time. I enjoyed reading it, found it engaging and thank you for that. If I had written this I would be proud.
I think as an RPG supplement this is wonderful, players could take this information and discuss 'shell hell' as a down side to water travel, wear little turtle offerings totems or maybe even seek to enter shell hell in order to get information from a dwarf damned there.
The questions regarding what the demon wants or his ethos or origin or his deity social circle should he have one are irrelevant from an emotional roleplaying perspective-this is the boogyman of the ocean. But some discussion of those might enrich this as plot device if a gaming group ever needs to deal with Nuverl. For example do you in vision Nuverl as being present ii all water as seen by the dwarves or just sea water? Perhaps when dwarves take baths they wear little turtle totems. Perhaps this dwarven fear of Nuverl extends to all pooled water, and they may touch their totems before picking up a bucket or dipping their hands into a finger bowl (assuming your dwarves have finger bowls).
Some thoughts about the world building and the story telling. These are not criticism but things I might offer where this discussed in a story workshop.
World Building: I like the tone. It is impersonal and it catalogs the dwarves suffering in manner almost devoid of self piety. It has a Lovecraftian feel to it. But if you were to change the journal entries to more personal and self reflective you could transmit more information about the dwarf's world as well as his plight.
For example, perhaps his desirous thirst manifests as some pontification about standing in line at his favorite distillers back home. Perhaps instead of unaddressed journal entries he direct his writing to his son, wife or father and in this way the character discusses his relationship with them. Right now there is very little 'dwarf' (no pun) in the story. You have a bit of this in the 45/46 entry. Perhaps you could add more. Of course adding this info. may change the tone, which I think is very good right now, so take that worth a drop of water.
Storytelling: I would add a climax to the story. Perhaps he finds an exit and almost gets out or feels trapped by on of the other damned creatures and tries to communicate with it. Perhaps he tries to eat one of the other damned dwarves. The climax could only be in the mind of the character in which he thinks something is going to change and he is going to escape or figure it out.
Nasty even by demon standards.
Dwarves get on this one
You had me from...'A dwarf's fear of the ocean is not baseless.'
A demonic turtle Dwarven sea deity. Sign me up! The empty-shell hell is poignant. I thought the notes were a nice touch, but my favorite part is the last few paragraphs where we get the juicy info!
This one has kept itself in the mind of my 'dwarf writer' ever since I read it. It is a good thing: both an excellent idea and write up