LotS: Frost Moon Chapter Twenty-Three - A Sigh of Ghosts

  • A Sigh of Ghosts

     

    He had spent the morning trying to make locks. Morthal had persisted without a blacksmith for so long that much of the town had ‘gone to the marshes’. He wasn’t a carpenter — and Morthal needed one badly — but that didn’t mean he had any extra time to worry about Mor’vahka and the seal, when an honest day’s work took priority.

     

    Kjeld looked at the small diagram of a locking mechanism he’d sketched in the foggy hours after dawn. Thonnir had approached him with a request to repair the lock on their door. An hour later, Jarl Ravencrone had put it into writing; five septims for every lock in Morthal that needed replacing. With the exception of Halfmoon Hall and Falion’s house (he had a feeling the conjuror could take care of himself), including the two doors on the thaumaturgist’s hut, that was seven locks that needed replacing and thirty-five septims he hadn’t had before now.

     

    He should’ve charged more for all the iron ore that was going to consume, but Kjeld didn’t have the heart. And, Kjeld realized as he frowned over the diagram, jotting down small measurements to make sure he got the sizes at least partway right, these locks might not even be worth five septims.

     

    The Skaal didn’t have locks on their doors. The seclusion meant very few people who didn’t already live there ever actually entered the village. Threat of theft was low, and they were not unarmed. Oftentimes Rakki was all the security Kjeld’s family had needed.

     

    It was strange now, to know that he didn’t have an honest-to-goodness clue how to craft something everyone in Morthal — and probably all of Skyrim — considered essential.

     

    But Kjeld, while not about to call himself clever, had a persistence about him and a head for problem solving. After two hours, he had finished the mould for the lock and one for the pin. Between glancing at the diagram and the locking mechanism he’d removed from his own front door (ironically, also needed replacing), Kjeld cobbled something together.

     

    He hunkered before the door on one knee, the lock plate tucked under his arm as he fit the pieces back into their proper places. The old lock was rusted and dark, and the damp marsh air had worked fast in corroding the metal. Kjeld fit the lock plate over the mechanism, and stood back to observe the finished piece.

     

    It looked like a real lock.

     

    With pinched, blackened fingers from the detailed work, Kjeld hummed, great arms folded contentedly.

     

    Now to test it.

     

    Taking his house key from his pocket, he tried to slide it into the keyhole and turn the pin. The keyhead scraped and clanked, an unhappy fit.

     

    Why won’t you turn?

     

    Kjeld examined the key bit, crouched and examined the keyhole. He’d followed the diagram. There was no reason why it should not fit. Had the key been bent with age?

     

    The answer struck like a switch across the back of his neck.

     

    Oh.

     

    Kjeld caught the attention of the first guard he saw.
    “These houses. They can be opened with the same key? For every lock?”

     

    The guard stared at him. “Aren’t you a blacksmith?”

     

    Kjeld coughed, and went back to his forge, the red glow of the fire underneath just enough to hide the ruddy tint in his cheeks.

     

    So every lock needed a matching key. And every door needed a slightly different key, for safety reasons.

     

    Kjeld looked at the lock moulds he had made. Well as long as he made each set of locking bolts and the keyheads different from their neighbor’s, this morning’s work wouldn’t go to waste.

     

    A quick repast of leek soup and day-old bread.

     

    After another two hours of careful crafting and cooling, the finished key in Kjeld’s hand felt solid and still retained some warmth. Baldor had once told him that what they crafted, be it of little significance or great importance, sometimes a smith could feel the life they’d forged into it. Kjeld had asked if Baldor meant they could feel something’s soul; Baldor had laughed.

     

    If there was any soul or spirit to be found in forged metal, then a blacksmith would definitely feel it.

     

    Kjeld wouldn’t brand this little key as having a soul. But he couldn’t deny the sense of satisfaction when the key fit the keyhole, and he was able to turn the bolt lock from unlocked to locked with ease.

     

    More testing. More notes taken down on the backs of the lock diagram. The afternoon sun hung like a lazy-eye in the fog when he finally finished.

     

    It had taken him the whole morning just to fashion one lock.

     

    Kjeld forearmed the sweat from his brow, and rinsed his hands in the cooling trough. Once inside, Kjeld jotted a simple note to Jarl Ravencrone;

    The locks will take time.
    They will be finished no later than a fortnight from today.

    Good tidings,
    Kjeld

     

    That should give him enough time to get any mishaps sorted. Now he just needed a messenger…

     

    Letting himself back out, Kjeld caught the first person passing by — a boy of about Virkmund’s age — headed in the direction of Halfmoon Hall.

    “Can you take a message to Jarl Ravencrone for me?”

     

    The boy looked at him with sunken eyes set in a sallow face, the shadows permanently fixed above his cheekbones. He could have been Virkmund’s age, but the narrowness of the child’s shoulders and the way the clothes hung loosely upon him like a scarecrow’s, gave Kjeld the impression of someone younger. Someone frail.

     

    Apprehension scuttled across Kjeld’s back like a spider. His tone gentled.
    “What’s your name?”

     

    “Joric,” said the sickly boy. Though the body seemed weak, the voice was strong, with an air of command Kjeld found familiar. “Jarl Ravencrone is my mother.”

     

    Surprise joined his apprehension. Kjeld held out the note.
    “Is there something you want in exchange?” Virkmund had asked for a hunting knife.

     

    Joric’s gaze flicked impassively to the note, and with a blue-veined hand, he took it.
    “You can’t help me. Gorm thinks I’m mad. He doesn’t say it, but I think he knows it. Everyone knows it.”

     

    By the sun and wind. I’ll take the next note to the jarl myself. He didn’t want to inconvenience the Jarl’s child. There was something going on with this boy, and Kjeld did not want to kick a nest of skeevers if it could be avoided.

     

    Joric hadn’t left yet. He cocked his head like a crow’s. "You're different, aren't you? Not like anyone else. Not in Morthal. Or Skyrim.”

     

    “Aye, that’s right,” said Kjeld, taking off the heavy protective apron. “I am Skaal.” He moved to hang it on the peg by the forge, and caught a whisper. A sigh of ghosts.

     

    “Werebear.”

     

    Kjeld turned sharp, but the child was gone.


    ♦♦♦

    This one has need of your wisdom, Dark-Eyes. How does one find and defeat a ghost? What if this ghost is inside this one's head? The crypt gloom sinks into my bones, brother. I am cold. Not even the soft touch of moons' mothering paws can chase the shadows away.

    What do you know of The Pale Lady?

    I have found her. Or she has found me.


    I will leave this cursed place. This one knows not its name, only that it dwells deep within the Pale.


    Meet me in Dawnstar, and I will take you to it.


    But only if Mor'vahka can make her whisperings stop.


    I long for the heat of Elsweyr, brother.
    Now I feel only cold.


    -Ra'jirr

     

    The letter had been sent nine days ago. Just this morning, he had been summoned to the Moorside Inn to pick it up from a snow-thrashed courier. Mor’vahka considered the note with the same cold detachment he assessed a corpse. Whatever had happened to Ra’jirr was of no concern to him - unless the crypt-robber was telling the truth. Ra’jirr was made unreliable by two habits; skooma and blatant disregard for the truth.

     

    He had tested Mor’vahka’s patience unlike any other, though Ra’jirr would insist they were practically kin and it was only the familial thing to do. But a shared cousin on their mothers’ sides did not put Ra’jirr into Mor’vahka’s narrow, binding confines of family.

     

    Fortunately for Ra’jirr, Dawnstar was Mor’vahka’s closest supply of silver ingots and silver-smithed weapons. The wretched filth that had burned the Hall were unfound; Mor’vahka could not stand to keep his paws idle. It was time to lay his sights on a new malice, with one ear cocked for rumor of vampires.

     

    Mor'vahka’s enemies were anything unnatural that dared take innocent life. There was always work to be done.

     

    The Khajiit began to pack. Gathering necessities into a black leather rucksack, this included the arrowhead mould for more crossbow bolts. Mor’vahka slipped a small calfskin journal into the sack, and his eyes narrowed as a gap in the bookshelf like a missing tooth caught his eye.

     

    Knörr and the Laughing Bear.

     

    Ah yes, the Skaal fool.

     

    Mor’vahka longed to put a bolt between his eyes—but even he, the hunter of such vile things, had a code to obey.

     

    That code would not permit him to end the Nord’s life until he transformed against his will, or the seal changed him into something worse.

     

    The decay of the Skaal man’s soul would be swift. All he had to do was wait.

    ♦♦♦

    Mor’vahka pulled the hood tight over his head, looking coldly into the midmorning sun from the back of a dappled grey mare.

     

    He made one brief stop at the edge of Morthal, and lured the attention of a guard.

     

    “The stranger. He is here?”

     

    Strangers were few and far between. Once that moniker had belonged to Falion. Now it went to someone else.

     

    “Aye. He’s the new blacksmith.” A question hovered in the man’s gaze like fine mist—but Mor’vahka cut in.

     

    “Good. Keep him here until this one returns.”

     

    “Why?” The guard stared at him with open curiosity.

     

    Mor’vahka pulled the amulet of Arkay out from under his collar.
    “It is a matter of life and death.”

     

    That was all he needed to say.

     

    The guard took a respectful step back, his face as serious as a headstone.
    “Aye. I will.”

     

    “Arkay’s blessing upon you,” hissed the cat, and he rode off in a chiropteran flutter of black cloak, hood, and unfriendly eyes.

     

    Dawnstar—and Ra’jirr—awaited.

     

     

Comments

8 Comments   |   KaiserSoSay and 7 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  July 30
    Mor’vahka is the horse's hooves. Sinister af Khajiit defying a moral classification at this point. I am eager to read ho the cat and the bear play together going forward as Kjeld himself is no pussy. I like too how he was unnerved by the creepy kid, ...  more
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  July 19
    Not an easy thing being a locksmith. 5 septims for a lock and key? Slavery!
    And seriously, Mor'vahka sends shivers down my spine with his radical approach. He's really interesting and unique Khajiit indeed.
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  July 9
    An epic facepalm moment when you realized the made all the locks the same. :D 
    Mor'vahka is sure one mysterious and interesting character. So far I think he's the only Khajiit I've met who takes things really serious.
    • SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      An epic facepalm moment when you realized the made all the locks the same. :D 
      Mor'vahka is sure one mysterious and interesting character. So far I think he's the only Khajiit I've met who takes things really serious.
        ·  July 9
      xD oh yeah. This is not a light-hearted skooma-dealing kitty cat. Pretty sure the only thing more dead than his enemies is his sense of humor. :P
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 9
    Loved the crafting session with Kjeld. And as always the mystery surrounding Mor'vahka is always appreciated. 
    • SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Loved the crafting session with Kjeld. And as always the mystery surrounding Mor'vahka is always appreciated. 
        ·  July 9
      Thank you for reading! I was worried the crafting session might seem a little boring, but hopefully it gave the readers some insights on his character, and his life in Morthal. :)
      • Sotek
        Sotek
        SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        Thank you for reading! I was worried the crafting session might seem a little boring, but hopefully it gave the readers some insights on his character, and his life in Morthal. :)
          ·  July 9
        Here we go again..... I think I'll keep it simple and just bite you...
        Howl can you even think the crafting session might seem boring? It's the small moments like these which brighten the storyteller's world, adding depth and character to not only t...  more
      • The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        Thank you for reading! I was worried the crafting session might seem a little boring, but hopefully it gave the readers some insights on his character, and his life in Morthal. :)
          ·  July 9
        Fawn, I wrote a chapter that was half an old Altmer making a list.  How they handle everyday things is often, for me, a great way to see how a character ticks.