LotS: Frost Moon - A Bundle of Letters

  • Galmar,
    Imperial presence is stronger now than the beginning of the year. We have intercepted one supply cart, but it cost us our battlemage just to shield ourselves from the retaliation. Folgunther’s body has been sent to Rorikstead for burial.

     

    We need more mages.

     

    Igmund is more concerned with Reachmen than the strength of Jarl Ulfric’s rebellion. He thinks himself safe in his mountain halls.

     

    We are over forty bodies strong, and the Markarth guards are easily bribed to leave the gates unlocked.

     

    But there are Thalmor crawling through the city.

     

    Skyrim steel is not enough. Healers, conjurers, illusionists—send whatever you can spare.

     

    I await your reply.

    Kottir Red-Shoal

     

    Thurza set the letter down. It didn’t surprise her that Folgunther was dead; he had been old during the Great War, and that he could still cast a spell without overexerting himself was a bigger accomplishment than his wards.

     

    “Reach out to the College,” Galmar pulled the letter back across the table. “Let them know Skyrim has need of brave sons and daughters with tricks up their sleeves.”

     

    Thurza’s eyes narrowed a fraction, and she spoke slowly to keep her voice controlled. “They don’t want a letter from me. I was expelled.”

     

    Galmar growled. “Send them a letter anyway. To the other students, to your teachers, any who will listen.”

     

    Thurza tried harder to keep a straight face. These tuskin’ Nords; only thing more stubborn than Galmar is a mountainside.

     

    “What was it?” Galmar interrupted her fuming.

     

    “What?”

     

    “The reason they tossed you out on your ass. Forbidden spells?”

     

    There was a keen, knife-sharp gleam in Galmar Stone-Fist’s eyes; Thurza leered through the stabbing pain of guilt.

    “No. I killed another student. Is that all, Commander?”

     

    The housecarl nodded, then added without a shred of tact. “Pity, we could’ve used another mage. Go.”

     

    Thurza left Galmar’s tent, side-stepping Hjarnskar as he gave order and insult to a batch of new soldiers getting fitted for jerkins. In her own private tent, Thurza let out the pent up snarl she’d been holding. Damn that Galmar. If she wanted to be ignored and treated like an outsider, she’d find the nearest Orc stronghold. If she wanted to be reminded of how Yisra’s death was her fault, she’d write a nice formal letter, pretending none of it had even happened.

     

    Thurza’s lip curled away from her tusks. As if she had any right to petition the College for more mages. Orders were orders. Grabbing the quill, she jabbed it into the inkwell and scratched out the first line.

    Master Phinis Gestor,

     

    The words stopped coming after that.


    ♦♦♦

     

    Frea,

    You were right. I have done more harm to myself than if I’d just left it alone. I am at a loss. The only being in Skyrim who seems able to help is unwilling. I have offended him deeply, and he is not the kind to forgive easily, if at all. If I cannot change his mind, I will come back to the village. Even if Storn is unable to do anything for me, returning to our people is the only peaceful path I have left.

     

    I have become the sole blacksmith of Morthal, and while this puts coin in my pocket for the voyage back, there is so much that needs to be done I am overwhelmed.

     

    My tasks seem to be to mend six years’ worth of rusted iron, bent nails, broken locks and damaged armor. With luck, I will have a few of Skyrim’s techniques to share with Baldor when I return.

     

    Reidar joined the Stormcloaks. A rebel faction of soldiers in a war I don’t understand. If I had to bet a year’s worth of iron, I would bet that Reidar doesn’t either. Keep him in your prayers. Say nothing to Helmi, I’ve already sent her a letter.

     

    I have enclosed a legend Storn might find interesting. Maybe helpful. It’s called Knörr and the Laughing Bear. It’s supposed to be the origin of my family’s ability. I’m eager to know your father’s thoughts.

     

    Give Rakki my love,
    Kjeld

     

    It had taken him a full week to finish crafting and replacing the locks. The shoddy practice pieces had already been reforged into ingots or further broken down into nails. Despite the weight of the book’s contents hanging upon him like chains, Kjeld found some solace in keeping busy. The people of Morthal were slowly beginning to view him less as a stranger, a foreigner from a place they didn’t know of and didn’t want to know of, and he became a necessary component to the town.

     

    Morthal didn’t have much, but at least they had a blacksmith again.

     

    “Five septims for the courier, you said?” he set the envelope on the counter, Jonna nodding as she fastened on her apron.

     

    “That’s right, though I’d throw in another ten just for the distance.”

     

    “Aye.” That seemed fair. The courier was going to have to travel by boat to reach Solstheim - and it was 250 coins for a trip there and a trip back. He didn’t envy them.

     

    Jonna picked up the envelope, intending to set it on the small stack of outgoing parcels she kept on a knee-high shelf built into the counter, when she glimpsed the name.

    “Frea?” Jonna’s coffee-brown eyes found him. “Is that the Missus?”

     

    Kjeld forced an awkward laugh. Not so long ago, he would have wished it so.
    “No, no. A friend that means a great deal to me. She is training to be a shaman, like her father.”

     

    Jonna’s smile returned, as did the warm friendliness to her voice. “A shaman, huh? That sounds impressive. She must be something else.”

     

    Kjeld’s mouth hitched up on one side. If he got over his bruised heart, yes, she was impressive. Calm with that same natural air of command and inner peace that her father possessed. Kjeld had trusted her, almost without condition. The whole village did.

     

    Jonna slid over a fresh snowberry crostata on a cloth napkin. “Anyway, thanks again for fixing the locks. I’ll sleep better knowing Morthal’s a lot safer.”

     

    With the savory aroma teasing him from his brooding, Kjeld found himself smiling - much more naturally this time - it was… always a good sign, when a woman went to the trouble to bake something for you. Most inns could afford to hire a cook, but Jonna did all of the cleaning and the cooking herself.

     

    “It was good to have something to keep my hands busy,” he replied, accepting the crostata with gladness. “If you need anything else repaired, I usually carry some tools with me.” He’d encountered so many loose, broken or crumbling things that he often had to make a few fixes on the fly.

     

    The docks needed constant upkeep, and Kjeld already had a request to fix three fishing boats that had damaged hulls. It was a blessing from the All-Maker that he already knew how to do that - or else he’d be scratching his head and scribbling down awkward diagrams all over again.

     

    While he ate the crostata (and tried to ignore Lurbuk’s torturous lute-playing), he and Jonna naturally fell into conversation, moving past pleasantries to remark on anything from the war to what Jarl Ravencrone was going to do about the spider infestation in the marshes. She’d heard rumors of a dog barking in the marshes, separated from a traveling caravan, and Kjeld promised to keep an eye out.

     

    She didn’t ask why he had gone to see Falion. He found himself tirelessly appreciative of the companionship; he was almost tempted to tell her why… But he couldn’t stomach the sight of her lurching from him. Viewing him as something other than a mortal man with a (hopefully) good heart.

     

    Before noon could fully set in, Kjeld said his goodbyes.

     

    It was another overcast day in Morthal, but the sun shone brighter behind the thick veil of clouds than it had for the past few mornings. Making a slow path towards the blacksmith’s house, Kjeld returned the nod of a passing guard.

     

    “Hail, blacksmith.”

    Jurgen called from a short fishing pier, a bottle of mead in one hand, his helmet at his feet.

     

    Soren raised his own bottle in greeting.
    “Join us for a drink, smith. It’s fine work you’ve done with the locks.”

     

    “Aye, it’s good to have a proper blacksmith again.” Jurgen offered Kjeld a bottle.

     

    Suddenly missing the starry nights when he would sit by the forge with Baldur, Morwen and Wulf Wild-Blood, sharing stories and drinking good snowberry mead, Kjeld accepted it.

     

    “Quiet day?” He asked, pulling out the stopper with a throaty pop.

     

    “Aye. And with luck, it will stay that way.” Jurgen belched, and relaxed against one of the old wooden supports.

     

    "Where has Clan White-Paw been hiding?" Asked Jurgen, ignoring the warning look Soren gave him.

     

    Kjeld took a slow swig. "Not hiding. We are on Solstheim, in a village belonging to the Skaal."

     

    Jurgen frowned. "Skaal? What in Mara's name is a Skaal?"

     

    Kjeld had to forgive Jurgen. The guard barely knew where Solstheim was, and understood even less about Kjeld's people. "We're a peaceful tribe of Nords, living off the land. Our religion is different from yours."

     

    Kjeld realized a second too late that ‘peaceful tribe of Nords’ was too outlandish a phrase for these proud Skyrim men to hear.

     

    Soren chuckled. "I see why you left."

     

    Kjeld looked at the water, then said very clearly. "It's a beautiful place, full of respect and tradition. I was blessed to live there."

     

    "Then why are you in Morthal?" Jurgen demanded, taking another drink.

     

    "My reasons are my own." Kjeld stated.

     

    A frisson of annoyance passed through Jurgen's eyes, but it was Soren who broke the mounting tension, wisely turning the attention to a better-known subject.

     

    "My guess is he's here for the women. Not many choices on an island."

     

    Jurgen guffawed. "Not many choices here, but we've got a few lovely lasses. That Idgrod has hair like... like silk."

     

    Kjeld started to laugh - but caught himself when Jurgen looked at him. He returned the expression, mystified. "Idgrod?" The... Jarl?

     

    Soren choked on his mead, and had to spit over the side of the pier, gripping the wood for support.

     

    "Idgrod the Younger," said Jurgen quickly. "Ravencrone's daughter. Obviously."

     

    "Oh," said Kjeld, grinning. "Obviously."

     

    Soren was still chortling, even as the door to Lami's shop opened and two people stepped out.

     

    One was Hroggar, Kjeld had learned to recognize him from the prominent brow and perpetual melancholia that followed Hroggar like a death hound. He wore a thin linen cloak to keep out the chill, rust-colored hair sweeping against his face and neck as the wind caught up to them.

     

    The other was Alva. Kjeld had never had the pleasure of meeting her up close, but he could tell even from this distance that she was beautiful. The trouble was that she knew it. In defiance of the cold, she wore her barmaiden’s outfit, and Kjeld hastily looked at the water, made uncomfortable by the long stretch of leg and upper thigh revealed with each step she took. The cloak fastened at her throat only helped draw attention to her exposed chest.

     

    Kjeld looked at the guards. They couldn’t take their eyes off her.

     

    When she saw them looking, Alva smiled, her pale face alluring and almost cat-like. It was a dangerous woman that knew what sort of power she held over others.

     

    Soren and Jurgen smiled back, Soren even waving.

     

    “Dunno what she sees in him,” Jurgen grumbled.

     

    “Lumberjacks make more than guards.” Replied Soren.

     

    Jurgen grunted.

     

    Kjeld could sense the conversation devolving into a petty argument over who really deserved Alva’s affections. He came up with an excuse about repairing some door hinges, and took his leave.

     

    He didn’t delve too deeply into this train of thought, but he was relieved Jonna did not come up in their conversation. It felt strange to speak of her in comparison to others. She was kind, and brightened Morthal considerably. She wasn’t a horse to be appraised.

     

    Frigid swamp water sloshed over the faded planks leading to the blacksmith’s house, and he stepped carefully, sensing the beginnings of ice under his soles. Without good reason, Kjeld glanced over his shoulder once. Twice.

     

    He didn’t know what he was looking for until he saw her.

     

    Alva stood on the porch of her homestead, looking back at him. She smiled again, a coquettish little purse of her lips.

     

    Kjeld felt his face warm by a few degrees, and he waved.

     

    Alva went inside. Kjeld closed the front door behind him, frowning into the dark interior of his home.
    Why did I do that?

     

    They’d never said so much as a word to each other, yet he felt this pull to greet her just the same. As if they were old friends. Or could be great friends.

     

    Kjeld put the kettle on, and tried to push thoughts of Alva, Jonna, and Frea from his mind. His troubles were great enough without affairs of the heart stirred in.

     

     

     

Comments

9 Comments   |   Lissette Long-Chapper and 5 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  July 30
    Goathorse canters across the finish line, will never look at Jarl Idgrod the same way again. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  July 26
    Oh no, I caught up! I love this story, each character draws me into their world. I like how the brothers are both unraveling the same mystery but from opposite ends of the thread.


    And kjeld, show Alva a beast she can't handle ;-), the...  more
    • SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      Exuro
      Exuro
      Exuro
      Oh no, I caught up! I love this story, each character draws me into their world. I like how the brothers are both unraveling the same mystery but from opposite ends of the thread.


      And kjeld, show Alva a beast she can't handle ;-), then take Jonna home
        ·  July 27
      Haha, that makes 2 for Alva, and one against Alva! :P I know what happens next, so I have to say I'm in the second category. I'm so touched that you've kept reading it, Exuro. It really means a lot.
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  July 26
    Nice short interlude for what is to come next. And damn, I would fall for Alva too :D And more Thurza, yay!
    And those letters are alright, keep it simple. :)
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 26
    Sorry, I have to say it...
    I feel you've missed an opportunity here. (Does this sound harsh? If so, sorry, not my intention).
    You've got it all;
    The compelling story,
    Great characters,
    Atmosphere,
    But when it comes...  more
    • SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      Sotek
      Sotek
      Sotek
      Sorry, I have to say it...
      I feel you've missed an opportunity here. (Does this sound harsh? If so, sorry, not my intention).
      You've got it all;
      The compelling story, ...  more
        ·  July 27
      Thanks so much for the feedback! It doesn't sound harsh at all. The discussion between you and Lissette has actually given me an idea. :) I think I might've found a way to marry the style of the blog with a letter format that won't be too jarring. 
    • Lissette Long-Chapper
      Lissette Long-Chapper
      Sotek
      Sotek
      Sotek
      Sorry, I have to say it...
      I feel you've missed an opportunity here. (Does this sound harsh? If so, sorry, not my intention).
      You've got it all;
      The compelling story, ...  more
        ·  July 26
      I disagree, Sotek, I think how Fawn presented it works for the overall scheme of her blog. If she suddenly plastered her blog with bright images, I'd be scratching my head. She's known for that awesome quasi-written, blurry ink animal stuff and her scratc...  more
      • Sotek
        Sotek
        Lissette Long-Chapper
        Lissette Long-Chapper
        Lissette Long-Chapper
        I disagree, Sotek, I think how Fawn presented it works for the overall scheme of her blog. If she suddenly plastered her blog with bright images, I'd be scratching my head. She's known for that awesome quasi-written, blurry ink animal stuff and her scratc...  more
          ·  July 26
        Well, like I said. We all have our opinions. What matters SF is you have a look and form your own mind.  As Karver and Lissette has said, just because someone suggests something, it doesn't make them automatically right. Do what's best for you.
  • Lissette Long-Chapper
    Lissette Long-Chapper   ·  July 24
    NO KJELD!  Look. The. Other. Way. She bad, bad!