LotS: Frost Moon Chapter Twenty-Six - Plans Are Made

  • Plans Are Made

     

     

    It wasn’t Meridia. Why would a Daedric Prince who hated the unnatural create a seal to wear his soul away? To contain his power, instead of simply killing him?

     

    Kjeld turned the page, and flinched at the horrific illustration of a horned, demonic creature staring right at him. With great hesitance, Kjeld’s gaze fell to the name written neatly beneath the disturbing artwork.

     

    Molag Bal.

     

    The domination and enslavement of mortals. Harvester of Souls. King of Rape. Lord of Brutality.

     

    “All-Maker protect me,” Kjeld murmured. He read on to discover that Molag Bal was the father of vampires. With a protesting screech of the chair, Kjeld shut the book as he stood up, abruptly calling an end to his education in Daedra. He could not stomach the possibilities.

     

    Each Prince seemed worse than the last, and Kjeld could not stop himself from feeling afraid. Afraid of the terrible, terrible mistake he had made. What if the seal did belong to Molag Bal? What if, instead of stopping his transformation, it was turning him into something else?

     

    Something much more dark and depraved. Wretched. Capable of an evil he could not put into words.

     

    Mor’vahka had told him he deserved his fate. His remorse was as sharp as a butcher’s knife, flaying him each time he felt the seal itch, each time he woke up feeling stretched taut. Ready to snap. Yet Kjeld would not be so quick to relinquish his life or his soul, to anything but the All-Maker.

     

    Be calm, he exhaled, his eyes closed to bring him to a peaceful place. The bridge across the Isild River, the constant rush of the falls filling his mind. Clarity began to snake through the fear, and he tightened his hold around it. Think. If you were becoming a vampire, you would have not been able to enter Windbreak Chapel without pain. Mor’vahka would have killed him on the spot.

     

    It was a temporary balm. As he looked at the little table bearing the weight of that dark book, and his future, Kjeld felt hopelessly out of depth. He was swimming through the sea in search of an island that may be of some help to him, or it may very well be his ruin.

     

    I can’t do this alone. But who to ask for help? Who could he trust with such a heavy task?

     

    The answer came to him, wrapped in the advice Falion had given him upon parting. He needed to change the question. No more pleading with the cat priest. He was going to have to help himself.

     

    The blacksmith caught his reflection in the window pane, and smiled ruefully to see the hope burning in his eyes. He quickly tempered it down, letting that hope cool until he knew he could shape it into something else, like certainty. Invigorated, Kjeld yanked the front door open - and startled Jonna on the porch.

     

    “Good morning,” she said hurriedly, awkwardly thumbing the thick paper parcel in her hand so that it crinkled. “Didn’t know when you were coming in, thought I’d bring this to you.”

     

    Kjeld took it, thanking her. It immediately became apparent that there was something else in it besides a letter; a trinket, perhaps? Something from Helmi? He tore it open at the corner, pulling the letter out first.

     

    “Good news?” asked Jonna, and he could tell she was trying very hard not to sidle up next to him and give it a read also.

     

    “Hope so,” he replied.

     

    It was short, but meaningful.

     

    Kjeld,

    Father and I are grieved to know you are suffering. We are praying to the All-Maker and Father is consulting with the spirits of past shamen for answers. Do not lose hope; your soul is not for the Adversary to keep. Enclosed is an amulet, forged with Baldor’s skill and Storn’s knowledge. Wear it always. It will provide you some protection from the coming hardships.

     

    Keep sending letters, Kjeld. You are not going to endure this alone.

     

    Frea

     

    “Are you alright, Kjeld?” Jonna’s voice took him out of the village, and slowly dissolved the faces of Storn Crag-Strider and Frea from memory. But the feelings remained. He smiled slow, his eyes not unlike the docks after a storm - damp, but holding strong. Kjeld slid the Skaal amulet out of the envelope and onto his palm. The pendent was in a likeness to the All-Maker - or as close to a recognizable form as the Skaal gave their creator - wispy arms crossed before an ancient, powerful face. The life cycles of souls - that they were infinite, ever renewed by the breath of the All-Maker - depicted in the flow of wind through their god’s arms and around him in an endless loop. Three beads on either side of the soft leather skin were supernaturally cold.

     

    Stahlrim.

     

    He had to clear his throat more than once, so deeply touched by the support of Storn and Frea, and by this strong reminder of home. Of what they were.

     

    “Yes. I am now.” Kjeld made sure to smile at Jonna, trying to assuage her worries. “I am sorry if I frightened you. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard news from my village.”

     

    Jonna smiled, evidently relieved. “Oh, no more than anything else in this hold. I’m glad to see you looking better! Stop by when you get the chance,” She leaned in, the sun on her eyes and a lock of straight dark hair teasing the soft edge of her face. “I want to know all about that amulet.”

     

    Kjeld laughed, the sound made rough and quiet by a tight throat that hadn’t fully recovered.

     

    “Aye. I will. Keep the kettle hot.”

     

    He watched her depart for Moorside, the Skaal smith drawing a hearty breath of clean air into his lungs. He felt better for the first time in months. Arming himself with the amulet, Kjeld hastily grabbed a wolfskin cloak, throwing it over his shoulders as he left the blacksmith’s house. He had to remind himself to lock up, and even this minor delay couldn’t dampen the crescendo of determination in his core.

     

    ♦♦♦

     

    He had found Frostmere Crypt. Another stone skeleton of Skyrim’s long, violent history. It was to this country’s brigands what a beggar’s hovel was to rats. His horse was tethered, hidden, near the treeline. Far enough to avoid arrow-shot, but not so far Raulitha could not be reached in desperation. He braced against the wind chill, golden eyes narrowed into slits no wider than the edge of a Septim.

     

    Mor'vahka was suspicious of surprises. He did not believe his predictions - and the preparations made based on those predictions - to be infallible. In his line of work, however, there were no such things as pleasant surprises; just that which had not yet materialized into threat.

     

    Mor'vahka approached Frostmere Crypt, and the twitching, muttering figure left on the steps in front of it. A little insurance gathered in his palm as he walked, one gloved claw concealed by the sweep of his armored robes. The other was empty of sword or spell.

     

    A risk, but one that would pay off if he was not ambushed.

     

    "Fo-Forest... Vah-Vahka... hel-help." The bandit's muttering was made more pitiful by the chatter of his teeth, and Mor'vahka could see the snow and ice stuck to Raj'irr's ear tips and mustache.

     

    The khajiit’s mind must be deep in Sheggorath’s claws to care so little for his ears. Mor'vahka didn't immediately announce his presence. Instead, he stood at the base of the thin, icy steps stretching across the crypt's entrance like a toothy broken jaw.

     

    Raj'irr's ears twitched frenetically every couple of seconds — as if searching for a sound beyond the stubborn moan of the wind.

     

    "May your road lead you to warm sands, Raj'irr." Said Mor'vahka, even as he observed a small encampment that must have been the bandit’s.

     

    Raj'irr cried out, flinching and reaching for his mace with clumsy, frozen claws.

     

    Mor'vahka threw his insurance.

     

    The calm spell hit the Khajiit square between the eyes; even as Raj'irr swayed, made dizzy by the potent spell striking a very disturbed brain, Mor'vahka was preparing a second one.

     

    "Vahka?" Stammered Raj'irr, wobbling down the steps to clasp his forearm with frigid claws, like the thin, gnarled fingers of draugr. Mor'vahka aborted the urge to pull away. Instead, he adopted a friendly tone, the kind used to appease children and temper fools. "Why is Ra’jirr not inside, keeping warm? This place chills us to our bones."

     

    "The cold!" Raj'irr's eyes widened, glassy and wild. "This cold is nothing - inside is—is HER. Much colder. Too cold for Raj'irr to bear."

     

    "This one mentioned a forest?" Mor'vahka led Raj'irr towards the encampment, if only to get the haunted fool out of the wind's path.

     

    Raj'irr nodded. "The forest. She speaks to this one. Tells us to stop - this one tells Kyr, but he will not listen. Not to Eisa. Not to her."

     

    "Speak this one’s troubles. Vahka is listening.”

     

    Mor'vahka lit a small fire, and nurtured it to something more substantial, using what looked like old discarded bandages for additional fuel. The bandages smelled like Raj'irr.

     

    "S-she torments... Sh-She whispers. She whispers in this one's head every night." Raj'irr's teeth chattered again, and he hunched by the fire, rocking on iron boot heels. He got so close to the licking flames, Mor'vahka pulled him back so he wouldn't burn off his whiskers.

     

    "You've seen her?" Raj'irr pleaded, turning his sickly stare upon Mor'vahka. His tone was getting louder. The calming spell would not last much longer. "The whispers, the whispers, the whispers - Forest. Blade. Sword. Cold."

     

    Raj'irr babbled to himself, rocking and staring at the fire, seeing that which was not flame. Mor’vahka pressed him three more times for answers, but the khajiit seemed past rational conversation.

     

    Mor'vahka masked his irritation by wrapping a scarf around his mouth and throat. This damnable hold and its wretched winds of ice. Damn Raj’irr and his years of skooma.

     

    He would get no more out of Raj'irr. The bandit's mind was stretched thin, preparing to rip apart like weak hide stretched too tight to a tanning rack.

     

    Every scrape of the pale lady’s knife weakened it further.

     

    Mor'vahka backed away slowly, not turning his back to the other Khajiit until the only sound he heard was the crunch of his own footsteps in the snow.

     

    The cold... Raj'irr spoke of her, of the cold as if it were a living thing. And a sword. Mor'vahka returned to where he had tethered Raulitha. He knew what was inside Frostmere Crypt, if the legends had any inkling of fact.

     

    “Ya!” He snapped the reins in time with that single, curt command, and Raulitha high-marched through the snow back onto the road leading south. Time passed much the same way it had on the journey from Windbreak Chapel - the landscape unchanging, only the increasing loss of warmth and feeling in his hands an indication of how many hours had passed.

     

    He stopped once to make camp, allowing Raulitha to catch her breath and his bones to catch some warmth. All the while, his mind was not idle.

     

    In his personal library, there was a book about lost legends. Mor'vahka had perused its dusty pages sparingly, preferring the trails he could find and follow himself instead of tales spun to keep the Nords from getting bored.

     

    Yet he recalled a passage about a wailing woman, a woman from the days of Ysgramor. An ancient foe that had been conquered. Sealed away.

     

    Raulitha strained against her reins as they charged up the steep hill to the chapel, the mare eager for home. The late afternoon sun was upon their backs. Raulitha’s tall ears pricked. Mor'vahka’s brooding was left behind him, temporarily forgotten as he identified a lone Nord standing in front of Windbreak Chapel. Broad of shoulder. Tall of stature.

     

    It was the Werebear. The wretch who bargained his soul to the Daedra. Mor'vahka ushered Raulitha to her stable, and dismounted. He didn't speak first; if the Skaalman was here, then it was because he had something to say - and Mor'vahka would wait to see what that was. The type of response - word or weapon - were determinant on the Skaal’s civility.

     

    “I can see you’re eager to get settled. I won’t waste your time.” Kjeld moved away from the doors, his wide hands raised in a gesture of placation until he was well clear of the entrance. “I need to use your library. I’m willing to pay. 5 Septims an hour, if that isn’t too inconvenient for you.”

     

    Mor’vahka removed the saddlebags, his right ear rotated towards the Nord, catching - and considering - his words. So the Skaal wanted the use of his library.

     

    “To undo your idiocy,” he said icily. Five septims was hardly enough.

     

    Kjeld’s jaw flexed, but he managed a nod - stiff as if his neck had been bolted to his jaw bone.
    “To get rid of the seal. I don’t want your help, Mor’vahka. Just your books.”

     

    It irritated him that he could not find a flaw in the Nord’s plan. Kjeld would not be taking the books from the chapel. Though he felt reluctant, covetous of his precious hoard of hard-obtained knowledge, coin was still a necessity of life.

     

    “Afternoons only. If this one asks you to leave early, you leave.” Mor’vahka stalked to the doors, pulling a weighted iron key from his robes. The heavy locks, sluggish from the cold, were made to yield.

     

    “Fine. And I brought my own paper.”

     

    Mor’vahka glanced over his shoulder, watching the brute stand there, his face set like stone, a rucksack in hand.

     

    The priest scoffed under his breath. “One hour. This one is busy.”

     

    “I won’t get in your way.”

     

    Mor’vahka let the doors swing in, and he stepped inside, dropping the saddlebags in the entrance hall. Kjeld followed, shutting out the wind as the doors were eased calmly back into their frames. Mor’vahka went to the cold hearth, and got the chapel’s heart beating again.

     

    The soft rustle of Septims caught his ear, and Mor’vahka accepted the coins - setting them over the mantel to be placed in a lockbox later.

     

    “Damage nothing,” he hissed, tail flicking. He did not like having his privacy disturbed. He did not like sharing his space with another; but the werebear had nodded in promise, and already become engrossed in the shelves of the reading alcove.

     

    You will be searching for a long time, White-Paw, Mor’vahka thought as he laid another log into the fire. You never should have consorted with Daedra. Untangle one knot, three more appear.

     

    Whether depression or madness seized Kjeld first, Mor’vahka didn’t care. That this was a rare moment, in which a man he intended to kill at first signs of savagery, offered him coin in exchange for time, was not lost on Mor’vahka.

     

    The blacksmith would die before he found the answers he sought. Mor’vahka’s coin purse would be heavy, and there would be one less werebear tainting the world.

     

    That, Mor’vahka reasoned, made allowing the Skaalman into his space worth this minor irritation.

     

     

     

Comments

8 Comments   |   Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921) and 8 others like this.
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  September 18
    I like Mor'Vhaka's cold pragmatism. Fill my pouch, then remove the filth from the face of earth. As pragmatic as cold steel.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  August 28
    Possibly my favourite chapter yet. I don't know, hard to say, but throughout incredibly rich in atmosphere. " He smiled slow, his eyes not unlike the docks after a storm - damp, but holding strong." That's a very nice sentence, too. 
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  August 28
    The calm before the storm. or rather the not so calm.... 
    Here's a howl in the hope of a cure. I wouldn't wish that fate on anyone.....
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  August 25
    Good setup chapter, Fawn. Great to see Kjeld take matters into his own hands. Albee raises a tankard of milk and toasts him good luck and many blessings in his quest for a cure. 
    • SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Good setup chapter, Fawn. Great to see Kjeld take matters into his own hands. Albee raises a tankard of milk and toasts him good luck and many blessings in his quest for a cure. 
        ·  August 25
      Thanks, Kjeld heartily accepts the well-wishes! And thanks for giving this a read. :)
  • Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
    Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)   ·  August 25
    Ah, can't think of a super meaningful comment about this chapter Fawn. It was a fun read but I'm kind of reading it as the lead up to a badass next chapter with the Pale Lady, or whenever that comes... I expect badassery though :D
    • SpottedFawn
      SpottedFawn
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Ah, can't think of a super meaningful comment about this chapter Fawn. It was a fun read but I'm kind of reading it as the lead up to a badass next chapter with the Pale Lady, or whenever that comes... I expect badassery though :D
        ·  August 25
      It's coming soon! This was sort of a segue chapter into the next part. More action to come. :P
      • Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
        Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
        SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        SpottedFawn
        It's coming soon! This was sort of a segue chapter into the next part. More action to come. :P
          ·  August 25
        Hell yeah, your really good at writing action scenes and  Mor’vahka is a total badass so I'm definitely excited for that.