LotS: Frost Moon Chapter Twenty - The Jagged Crown

  • The Jagged Crown

    “Maw unleashing razor snow,
    Of dragons from the blue brought down,
    Births the walking winter's woe,
    The High King in his Jagged Crown.”

     

    Reidar ran through the corridor as if his life depended on it. And it did. With a hiss of pain from between clenched teeth, Reidar was forced to acknowledge that he wasn’t so much running as he was hobbling. The ebony claw was clutched in his bloody hand, and the aches and pains in his head and ankle were making themselves known with every step.

     

    The sounds of fighting were beginning to die off - the Stormcloaks were overwhelming the Imperials, at least from what he could tell. Bulgra would bother him no more.

     

    Galmar's scratchy baritone thundered down the corridor after him.

     

    "Slow down, boy! There'll be traps!"

     

    Reidar bit back a retort. You think I don't know that? He should've gotten here earlier - Galmar would've quickly realized how wasted his words were.

     

    Reidar reached the Hall of Stories. The torches were still lit, and despite the close proximity to the fighting, there was little sound in here except for the flame-flicker and his own strained breathing. Reidar went up to the door, fitted the claw to the three holes in the center circle, and turned.

     

    A great mechanical groan reply, belaying the presence of some mighty internal mechanism built in a feat of genius by the crypt-designers. Then silence. Reidar waited. "Nothing's happeni—" he had turned to address Galmar, who approached along with three more Stormcloaks (one limping like Reidar), when poisoned darts were launched out of the wall on either side of the enormous door.

     

    Reidar gasped, feeling a dart graze his cheek as a sickly wave of unwellness swept over him like a thick fog. Galmar cursed behind him, and Reidar swallowed guiltily. Shit, oops.

     

    "Give it here, boy!"

     

    "But I'm the one that got it!" Reidar snarled through the pain as Galmar shoved him aside, putting unexpected and unwanted pressure on his injured leg.

     

    The Stormcloak general ignored him, not giving a damn about the struggles Reidar had gone through to get that stupid claw. He turned it over, and Reidar watched with an incredulous stare as Galmar reached up and began to rotate the stone circles. Reidar had just thought them decorative; obviously he'd underestimated these ancient Nords.

     

    When he had the correct pattern - fox, moth, dragon - Galmar pressed the claw back into the three notches, pushed in and turned. Reidar spat blood into the nearby corner, glowering at Galmar’s back. It should've worked the first time!

     

    Glancing over his shoulder at the remaining Stormcloaks, his stomach suddenly lurched, while the door began its slow, juttering descent into the floor.

     

    "Where's Thurza?"


    "Healing." Replied Eomund, the young man's face tight with pain from some unseen injury. Reidar was surprised at how relieved he felt. Somewhere along the start of this adventure, he'd come to think of her as a friend.

     

    "Get ready, there's no telling what we'll find on the other side." Galmar forced the surly expressions back onto their faces; shoulders were drawn back, spines straightened, and weapons readied.

     

    Finally.

     

    Silence. That's what they found on the other side.

     

    At Galmar's say so, the meager group of Stormcloaks advanced into the ruined chamber of King Borgas. As far as 'grand tombs' went, it was empty and in a state of disrepair far worse than the rest of the crypt; Reidar looked around wildly, his arms shaking from exhaustion, ready to strike down anything that shambled out of the shadows.

     

    But there was nothing.

     

    The Stormcloaks breathed a collective sigh of relief.

     

    "Jormund, Herta, guard the entrance."

     

    That left only Reidar, Galmar, Thurza and a Stormcloak by the name of Ralof. He was the least injured of them all, and Ralof noticed the corpse in the tall stone throne the same time Reidar did. Clenching his teeth, Reidar fought the agony in his body as he strode towards it. "Found the crown." Cutting off Ralof, he held his breath and snatched the ugly metal-and-teeth thing from the rotten head of hair. "I hope it was worth it, Galmar—"

     

    "You idiot! Don't—"

     

    A shriveled hand seized Reidar's wrist with enough force he felt the bones threaten to crack. Crying out, he jabbed the points of the jagged crown into King Borgas's eyes, yelling his head off. The draugr lord felt no pain, but instead rose from his chair as if challenged to a duel. Ralof and Galmar were yelling also, and Reidar heard the tell tale thud of coffin lids hitting the stone floor. Not again.

     

    Thurza reacted the quickest. Choking back a blue vial and unfurling a scroll from her belt, sweat beading on her brow, she conjured every last ounce of magic for a destruction spell and aimed it straight for the draugr.

     

    Whatever the intended effect had been, it was not the intended result.

     

    In a blast of reddish-orange light, the stone throne cracked. Reidar and the draugr-king were launched backwards over the ruined chair, hitting the ground hard in a mess of weapons and masonry. The Jagged Crown clanged against the floor. Reidar lunged for it, tearing the skin from his hands as he gripped it so tight, the teeth adorning the metal rim bit into his palms.

     

    King Borgas wasn't giving up his crown without a fight; Reidar howled as he was kicked so hard in the ribs, his vision blackened for a moment. The breath had been knocked out of his body in the fall, and he wheezed, struggling to suck in air.

     

    Sight darkening, his heart thundered in panic, but he held on for dear life. Whispers flooded his ears, a low, ominous din coming from the back wall that rattled around his skull without mercy. Reidar groaned, vision spinning; then he was suddenly on fire.

     

    Screaming, the pain lasted only for a moment, his blood shocked in his veins as an icy blast swept over him soon after - extinguishing the magical fire that had been intended for Borgas. Galmar's axe swung down and cut off the draugr king's head.

     

    He heard Thurza shouting his name, but her voice sounded so far away.

     

    So... far... away...

     

    Succumbing to the pain, to the whispers of this strange place, Reidar White-Paw blacked out.


    ♦♦♦

     

    Falling unconscious had been peaceful compared to waking up. As if realizing he had survived Korvanjund and wanted to remind him of how close it had been, Reidar’s body jolted into wakefulness. Several hours too late, his arm reached out, striking the edge of a side-table as he tried to shield his face from dangers past.

     

    With an aching hand, bruised ribs and a throbbing headache, the first word out of his mouth wasn’t the kind said in polite company.

     

    Where is…

     

    Bloodshot eyes stared grouchily at the animal hide walls on either side of him, and the chink of potion bottles finally alerted him to another presence in the healing tent. A robed back was to him.
    “How long was I out for? Where’s the crown?”

     

    The figure at the brewing station turned, and no sooner had Thurza pushed back her hood than his hopes of seeing Kersten fell with Thurza’s flame-red hair.

     

    “Long enough for us to drag you out of Korvanjund and carry you up three sets of stairs.”

     

    If his ribs didn’t burn with each exhale, he might’ve said sorry. He hadn’t intended to pass out—and his injuries felt like punishment enough.

     

    Instead, as a flashback of that final struggle for the crown flitted through Reidar’s pain-numbed brain, he threw her an indignant look.
    “You set me on fire.” That had been her stupid spell back there.

     

    “And I iced you down right after.” Thurza showed no trace of apology, but he didn’t have the strength to argue.

     

    “So where’s the crown?” He could still feel the dragon’s teeth cutting into his palms; at once, Reidar glanced at his hands, noticing for the first time he had been stripped to an under-tunic and simple trousers. The cuts on his hand were gone.

     

    Damn, he thought. The scars from that would’ve made a nice story to tell the Thirsk warriors.

     

    “Right here.”

    The tent flap fell back into place as Galmar entered. Thurza, in an unusual show of deference, looked at their commander, said nothing, and left the healing tent.

     

    The Jagged Crown was held aloft, and Reidar smiled in triumph.

     

    “You’re in a mess of trouble, White-Paw.”

     

    Reidar’s smirk fell. “What?”

     

    “You weren’t supposed to be in Korvanjund. You weren’t supposed to get yourself trapped inside, poison your fellow Stormcloaks and then knocked unconscious while defying my direct orders.”

     

    Hard eyes met a shocked stare, and Reidar gaped like a fish until his brain kicked itself into motion. Into outrage.

     

    “But I got the crown!”

     

    “No,” said Galmar, leering. “I got the crown. You got in the way. I can’t have an insolent little gloryhound like you endangering my men.”

     

    Galmar set the crown on the edge of Reidar’s cot. “Take this to Ulfric Stormcloak, then report to Yrsarald. He’ll add you to the guards’ roster.”

     

    “Guard duty? You’re giving me guard duty?” Reidar flung back the itchy wool blanket and lurched to his feet, hands balled into fists. Was he kidding?

     

    “I’m a Stormcloak!” Reidar pressed his jaws together so hard his teeth hurt, feeling a sharp pain in his temple. “I didn’t join to be put on guard duty! I didn’t kill an ice wraith and fight Imperials to be put on guard duty!” Surviving the draugr, outsmarting Bulgra, getting the crown—was all that for nothing? He had done more than anyone else, he had risen to the challenge. So why was Galmar punishing him?

     

    “No you’re not, boy! A Stormcloak knows the meaning of honor, and knows how to follow orders.” Galmar’s eyes narrowed, and he prodded Reidar hard in the chest with a gauntleted hand, punctuating each word. “You’re the disobedient brat of a disgraced traitor. I’ve indulged you long enough.” The commander leaned in, hissing his words like an ice wraith. “Get your ass to Windhelm with that crown, and if it doesn’t reach Ulfric Stormcloak personally, you’ll have to swim back to Solstheim.”

     

    Hatred burned in Reidar’s eyes, and he shook, fighting every impulse he had to strike Galmar right in his fat ugly face.

     

    He didn’t watch as Galmar left the healing tent. Instead, Reidar sank down onto his cot, snatching up the crown. It was ugly, and looked more befitting of a barbarian king than a figure of legend.

     

    A mutinous stare was thrown in the direction he guessed to be River Yorgrim. He could hurl the damned thing right into the water —let a mudcrab be the rightful king of Skyrim for all he cared.

     

    As frustration swept over him in gusts, his agitation set in time with the smarting of his wounds, his thoughts grew despairing.

     

    It wasn’t supposed to go like this.

     

    What good were bravery and cunning if they were rewarded only with punishment?

     

    Staring sourly at the crown in his hands, Reidar dropped it back onto the bed, wishing he’d never gone into Korvanjund in the first place.

     

    It hadn’t been worth killing for.

     

    It wasn’t supposed to go like this... 

Comments

11 Comments   |   KaiserSoSay and 6 others like this.
  • Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
    Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)   ·  August 15
    Huh... really Phil said everyrhing I'm thinking so, I'll leave it at that. 
    • Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Huh... really Phil said everyrhing I'm thinking so, I'll leave it at that. 
        ·  August 15
      Ah dunno if it's just me but the next chapter image doesn't work.
      • SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
        Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
        Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
        Ah dunno if it's just me but the next chapter image doesn't work.
          ·  August 15
        Ah, whoops! Let me fix that.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  July 29
    I feel a bit sad that sorry for Reid here. He went for glory, or took an opportunity, and likely did a better job than I would have done. I can't decide whether he deserved that punishment or not, but either way it is an important life lesson for him. Wil...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  May 13
    Good for Galmar. Boy deserved a sound talking to. He's got some learning to do. 
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  May 13
    Ah, well, let's be honest here. Reidar is a professional bungler like a certain Orc I know. Maybe they should grab a drink in Windhelm and do some bungling together :D


    Guard duty. Still better than bucket duty though. :)
    • SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      Ah, well, let's be honest here. Reidar is a professional bungler like a certain Orc I know. Maybe they should grab a drink in Windhelm and do some bungling together :D


      Guard duty. Still better than bucket duty though. :)
        ·  May 13
      xD Do I even want to know what bucket duty is...
      • The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        xD Do I even want to know what bucket duty is...
          ·  May 13
        Something to look forward too in Straag part 2 :D
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  May 13
    And it was going so well, from a certain perspective at least....
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  May 13
    Poor Reidar. Don't worry, at least you'll join the rest of the guards who complain about getting guard duty. :P 'My friends are out there fighting a war, and what do I get? Guard duty.'
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  May 13
    Currently trying to get style and formatting figured out for the umpteenth time. I will add a header image later. Getting links fixed first.