LotS: Frost Moon Chapter Two - Questions Arise

  • Chapter Two

    Questions Arise



    Dawn broke over Skaal village, rosy fingers stroking snow-covered eaves and sooty chimneys, the Greathall bathed in a dusty glow. Kjeld shambled out of bed like a draugr from a coffin, adopting an undead lurch and a bearish yawn, wide naked feet striking cold wooden slats as he lumbered downstairs. The home of Leiv White-Paw had been built to comfortably house a family of four, with two bedrooms upstairs and a third bedroom just off the dining area on the first floor. The addition of a third child had been a pleasant surprise, but had turned a cozy house into a cramped house, and for years, Kjeld and Reidar had shared the third bedroom, with their elder sister Helmi taking the other small bedroom upstairs. The largest room, unquestionably, belonged to their parents.

    After tragedy, love, marriage, and more tragedy, the house had only two remaining occupants. Reidar slept in the third bedroom, Kjeld slept in the second; it was an unspoken rule that, even with their current crowded rooms, the master bedroom went untouched. It had been years since their mother’s death, and even more since their father’s. Though a family of few material goods, what was left of their lives to preserve was done so with the doors closed, the room frozen in memory.

    It had taken a while, but Kjeld could now pass those doors without the weight of a thousand memories—some pleasant, some painful—pressing so heavily on his heart. Kjeld shambled around the little dining table (still laden with dirty, worn wooden bowls from last night’s supper) and went straight to the firepit by the entrance; his stomach made a wet gurgle as he brought the fire back from the brink of death. Stirring of embers woke the dog sleeping peaceably near a flour sack. The husky’s coiled tail shook in gladness, and her yodeled greeting briefly pulled him from his somber, sluggish mood.

    Kjeld grinned. “Good morning, silly beast.”

    Rakki stretched like a cat and trotted over to lean against his leg, nuzzling his hand with affectionate persistence until he finally relented to a good ear-scratching. “Reidar sneak out again?” Asked Kjeld, suspicion growing as he looked past the fire to the closed bedroom door. Reidar wasn’t what you’d call an early riser; oftentimes, the quietness from the third bedroom was synonymous emptiness. Rakki kept wagging her tail, which wasn’t much to go on; Kjeld snorted. It was easy to assume the worst. His brother didn't try very hard to prove him wrong. The day Reidar stopped acting like he was king of the island and gained some sense would be a blessing to all who knew him. A day like that would have to be seen to be believed.

    While the oats boiled over the cooking fire, the smoke brought yesterday’s events to the forefront of his mind. Frea’s distrust had stung deeper than he’d care to admit, but he was hardly blameless in the deterioration of their friendship. She has her methods and I have mine. I’m not a shaman. Could he get through to her? He knew the moment he tried to approach her with the intent to clear the air, she would shut him out like she had last night. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t try anyway. It was a small village; she couldn’t avoid him forever.

    Going directly to Storn, seeking advice from their shaman, would potentially yield better results.

    Navigating through the crowded cooking area, he overturned a basket full of leeks on the cupboard, and as he stooped to retrieve the vegetables, it was impossible to miss the two sets of mud-caked boots and snowshoes sitting beside the door. So Reidar hadn’t sneaked out after all.


    “You know, Rakki, he’s had it too easy for too long.” Kjeld gestured to the dog with a leek, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “He should be up and working like the rest of us.”


    He hadn’t forgotten about Reidar’s obnoxious interruption last evening. Wearing the kind of smile that spelled trouble for an unsuspecting younger brother, Kjeld tossed a few scraps of horker meat into a bucket in the corner, and quickly shoved his feet into his boots to brave the outdoors. A fresh layer of snow had coated the village in the lightless hours of the very early morning, and Kjeld took two big handfuls off the top of a barrel of frozen fish. He had grown up to have his father’s bulk and stature—which included hands the size of coal shovels. Kjeld compacted and pressed until he had two tightly packed snowballs as big as a baby’s head, and his fingers and palms were reddened from the biting cold. If he’d felt like bundling up, and he had a guarantee that Reidar would stay asleep for another fifteen minutes, Kjeld would have gleefully fashioned a snowball as big as Reidar’s head.


    Kjeld hastened back inside, elbowing the door shut and dancing around the firepit to get to Reidar’s room. Intrigued by her master’s eager steps, Rakki abandoned the emptied bucket and followed.


    Kjeld gave the double doors a jaunty push. His brother lay in a messy tangle of limbs and furs, his face wedged into his pillows, a foot dangling over the edge of his too-small bed.


    He looked peaceful. The picture of Oneness.


    The snowball made a whpp! noise as it struck Reidar square on the shoulder, Reidar flinching against the wall with wild-eyed alarm, the shelf above his head rattling in the mayhem as flecks of snow sprayed over pillows, long-empty mead bottles and speckled the maps stuck to the wall over his bed.


    “What the f—"


    The second snowball struck Reidar in the face. Unexpectedly, Rakki dashed after it, burying the roaring youth under 60 pounds of excitable husky while she proceeded to lick the slush off of his face.


    Annoying, isn’t it?” Kjeld almost choked on his own laughter. “When some piece of horker dung tries to ruin your day?”


    He had few precious seconds to gloat—Reidar savagely reached for one of the empty bottles on his bedside table—and hastily shut the doors lest the torment take a turn for the bloody. Oh, his stomach ached more from laughter than hunger when he finally went back to stir the oatmeal, and he whistled through the terrible cacophony of Rakki barking and Reidar’s full vocabulary of crassness. Half the village probably heard the ruckus.


    Kjeld gave little thought to the inevitable payback that was sure to come of this.


    Peaceful mornings were sweet, but vengeance was sweeter.




    A quarter of an hour passed. Rather than throw himself out of bed and seek immediate payback, Reidar had slumped into an angry sleep, and Kjeld could now be found ‘waking’ the forge right outside the home of Baldor Iron-Shaper. Though the altitude and weather demanded thick goat-hide coats and boots lined with warm furs, Kjeld wore little more than fur-lined pants and a sturdy long-sleeved vest to keep out the winter sting. Working so closely with the molten forge kept him warm, and it wouldn’t be long before his hands would ruddy from the heat. Rakki greeted the rest of the village with high-pitched yips (she had certain fondness for the youngest villager, Aeta), Deor Woodcutter already calling the dog to him to harness on small but dependable wooden sled, designed to drag along behind the husky as Deor took her wood-collecting along the shore. She was Kjeld’s dog, in the sense that he had raised her from a pup and let her sleep in the kitchen late at night (and, he noted with no small amount of pride, he was her favorite), but her uses were many, and she was given tasks to complete the same as any villager. Kjeld, on the other hand, had very clear jobs to perform that centered around the all-important craft of blacksmithing. Today was a day for smelting, so he bent his back, reminded again of how short the shovel was in his hands, to fed charcoal into the belly of the smelter.

    Baldor likened the forge to the heart of the village; it was important that they keep it beating, keep the fires fed. So much of their livelihood depended upon it. As an apprentice under Baldor, the tasks of feeding the forge fell to him, along with scavenging charcoal in the ash wastes southwest of the lake, forging pots for cooking and steel arrowheads for their hunters. Edla had requested a new cauldron, so that was chiefest on his chores for the day. Movement near the shaman’s hut at the top of the hill caught Kjeld’s eye; it was Frea. Stomach tightening like a drum, he busied himself with cracking the icy filament that had formed over the cooling tub, watching the flat, frozen chunks break under the blunt head of the shovel.


    Frea carried a bearfur pack over her shoulder, and was dressed for a trek through the ash wastes; the cloth covering her nose and mouth made it hard to gauge her expression.


    Kjeld cleared his throat, forced to lean awkwardly low as the shovel bit into the snow, his wrists crossed over the handle.

    “Collecting plants and bones? Need some help?” He couldn’t afford to leave the forge unattended, and Baldor wouldn’t let him go anyway. But the offer was out of his mouth before he could stop himself.


    “Thank you, but I have it handled.” Frea lowered the cloth down by her chin. “My Father wanted to ask if you or Baldor would craft another offering bowl for him.”


    “Aye, I can do that.” He could. The hardest part of the offering bowl was engraving the images on the outside, but Baldor had shown him how to set the moulds evenly. He could manage. With something else in mind, however, Kjeld’s voice lowered, speaking quickly. “We need to have words, Frea. Are you going to be out all day?”


    Frea covered her mouth again, her steps slowing a little until she was standing in front of a workbench situated between them.

    “There’s nothing for us to talk about, Kjeld. I tried to help you, but you ‘solved’ it yourself.”


    Her eyes darted to his shoulder, and he scowled, unconsciously rolling it as though to shake off her suspicions. Damn it, why couldn’t she see sense? He trusted in her abilities as a shaman, and he also trusted her father; Storn hadn’t said a damned thing about it. Why Frea couldn’t let it go was beyond Kjeld’s understanding.


    “I did solve it, and it’s working. Praying at the Beast Stone didn’t do much else but waste time. If you would just trust me and let me show you—”


    She stepped back, but her voice remained a harsh whisper, careful not to attract the attention of the others. “No. You made a mistake when you let them put that mark on you, Kjeld. The others can’t see it, but Father and I can sense it. It’s evil.” A fierce gleam in her eye, she shook her head. “I’ll have no part of this. I meant what I said before.”


    Rakki’s joyful barking announced Baldor’s presence.


    Frea glanced at the other end of the village, seeing the stocky smith make his way to the forge.


    “Until you get rid of it, Kjeld, we’ll be seeing a lot less of each other. May the All-Maker protect you.”


    Kjeld’s heart jolted. “Frea wait—”


    “By the All-Maker, have you lost all sense?” Baldor set down an enormous crate of ebony ore, the wood creaking from the weight as it partially sank in the muddied slush. Baldor snatched the shovel away, his mouth following the drooping contours of his mustache in a deep frown. “You’re smothering the flames. Got to let it breathe, see?” He made a show of fixing Kjeld’s error, but Kjeld wasn’t fully listening; his eyes lingered on Frea until she went past the outskirts of the village and disappeared from view. Damn… She just needed time, he reasoned. They both needed time.


    Time to see that he was right.




    By the time Reidar had stumbled out of bed and into the village center, the sky had cleared, the clouds now thin and wispy as smoke over a brilliant sun. It was not enough to melt the snow and ice, but it lifted the spirit. Aeta watched in fascination as Deor fit the freshly shaped legs onto the body of the chair, sandpaper held tight in his hand as he smoothed and buffed rough edges. Kjeld worked in silence, hammering out his frustrations on a new pickaxe for Nikulus, the rhythmic tang tang tang of hammer striking iron must have been louder than usual, loud enough to make Baldor stop and take notice.


    “Someone put a mudcrab in your boots or something?” Baldor brushed his hands on his apron. “You’re weakening the iron.”


    Kjeld stopped, straightening to wipe a few beads of sweat from his brow as he looked over his handiwork. His brow creased. “Oh. This was for practice, I’ll make a better one.”


    The blacksmith growled. “Get it right the first time, we don’t have extra materials you can waste.” Baldor seemed to regard him with a scrutinizing look, but thought better than to ask what was really bothering him. “You have the skill, but this forge takes more than skill Kjeld.”


    Aye, but it doesn’t take a lecture either. A retort was suppressed, and Kjeld only nodded as he melted down the practice axe to start over. He respected Baldor, the hardness of his character oft reminded him of a silver-haired man he had only known for a short time. Leiv had considered him a friend. Kjeld and Helmi considered him an uncle of sorts, but Kjeld couldn’t bring himself to confide in his mentor. While he couldn’t be as honest as he liked, Baldor still deserved a decent apprentice, and Kjeld tried to shake off the stress.


    With a sixth sense for trouble, his attention was made to shift as he took notice of Reidar lingering near their home at the village edge. Deor Woodcutter threw him a dark look, but Reidar either didn’t catch it or didn’t care.


    It was a woman’s voice that stopped him in his tracks, however.


    “I see you over there, Reidar! Don’t think you can sneak off like a skeever!”


    Fanari Strong-Voice’s name was well earned. Not only did her words carry, but they carried with the weight of authority, the kind not even Reidar could ignore at his leisure. She stood with a skinned wolf’s pelt over her arm and a still-bloodied knife, the Skaal leader presenting a fierce visage—even for someone most villagers would describe as diminutive. (Never within earshot).


    Reidar turned slowly, painting on his most winsome grin. “Who said I was sneaking? I’m going hunting.”


    Fanari, cool as autumn rain, gestured at the axe on his hip with the skinning knife. “I’d reckon you’ll have a bit of trouble trying to hit deer with that.”


    Reidar glanced down at the ebony weapon, maintaining that loose, easy smile. “Uh, new techni—”


    “Spare me your silver tongue, Reidar. You’re going with Wulf today, so prepare yourself.”


    Reidar perked up like a fox out of its hole at the first sign of spring. Kjeld glanced at Fanari; sending Reidar with Wulf Wild-Blood was exactly what Reidar wanted. If he could earn his place by emulating their best hunter, Kjeld knew his brother would try. Noticing the gleam in her eye, Kjeld didn’t question her decision, instead pausing long enough at the forge to hear the outcome. It didn’t come from Fanari, who was busy bringing the animal hide to Finna, Oslaf’s wife, to be fashioned into a backpack.


    “You’ve threatened the balance with your actions,” Wulf fixed the accused with a piercing stare, one eye clouded from an injury that had stolen his sight, but the other was a keen, wolfish brown. The Skaal’s First Hunter had returned to the village with Oslaf, heavy sacks of ash yams and cabbages in their arms, newly bartered from Raven Rock. Wulf set them down under the awning of the hunter’s shack, his expression grim, shoulders back. This would be no jaunty outing.


    “You need to make an offering to appease the All-Maker.” Said Wulf. "Fetch your gear."


    Reidar threw Fanari a long-suffering look, as if she’d amend the laws of the village for the inconvenience it was causing him.


    “He’s got the face of a fox stuck in a thorn bush,” Baldor chuckled. Kjeld returned to work with a grin on his face. This was entirely deserved; seeing Reidar actually learn something from this purposeful outing with Wulf would have been a marked improvement, but Kjeld wasn’t holding his breath. The only thing legendary about his brother was that his obstinacy rivaled even Oslaf’s. Reidar returned to the house to fetch his bow and quiver, and Oslaf (notoriously grouchy, even around his wife and daughter) approached Kjeld without so much as a surly ‘good morning’.


    “Got this letter ‘ere for your Pa.” Oslaf’s thick-bristled brows were furrowed in a perpetual expression of having stepped in bear droppings. He held out a faded envelope.


    Kjeld stared. A letter for Leiv? Eydis, their mother, had kept up correspondence with relatives in Skyrim, but never in the few years their family was whole had a letter come for Leiv. He never sent them. He never received them. And as far as anyone could tell, he’d preferred it that way.


    Oslaf scoffed. “Don’t look so shocked, boy! I said for your father, not from your father.”


    Kjeld shook the fog from his eyes and took the letter, keeping his feelings on the matter private; Oslaf was the kind of man who preferred the company of mudcrabs (boiling in a pot) to sitting by the firepit in the Greathall, listening to the tales and murmurings of others. Oslaf wasn’t the best company for sentimental matters. Only after the man had stomped off to harangue his wife about baking another snowberry pie that Kjeld flipped the letter over to have a look at the seal. Pressed into blue wax was the image of a bear’s head, the jaws parted in challenging snarl. It was no secret to the village that Leiv White-Paw had been a werebear—but who else knew? Whether this was just a common mark of the sender or a nod to his father’s true nature mystified the recipient. With unusual brusqueness, Kjeld broke the seal, dumped the letter into his palm and unfolded it.


    Reidar had a sixth sense for excitement.


    “What is that? Who’s it from?” Reidar eyes were awash with curiosity, his face shining in the early light as he sprinted to him.


    In anticipation of Reidar trying to snatch it, Kjeld raised an arm to bar him from trying.
    “A letter to our father. Don’t know who sent it yet.”


    The Skaal were heavily isolated. Even just a letter out of the blue would be considered ‘a strange event’ by the villagers. To Reidar, it was the promise of excitement. His eyes were round as Septims.

    “To Pa? Read it then! Maybe it’s an inheritance letter—”


    As predicted, Reidar made a grab for the envelope, but Kjeld jerked it out of reach.



    “You’ll inherit a knock to the head, now shut up and let me see what it says.”


    Kjeld glanced at Baldor—the blacksmith didn’t appear to be listening, too busy smelting ore into ebony ingots—and cleared his throat to start.
    “Leiv, ‘I don’t know if this letter finds you alive or dead, or if it will find you at all. Much has changed since’—”


    “Reidar, come!” Wulf raised his bow and beckoned him from the edge of the village.


    Reidar jolted, glancing over his shoulder to the huntsman, face contorting. “Just give me a moment, Wulf. I’ll be right there.”


    The First Hunter of the Skaal glared. He had endless patience for the island’s wildlife, and none for insolent whelps. “Come, now.”


    Reidar groaned, spitting out a few choice words before trotting after the hunter. “Don’t read it till I get back! I mean it, Kjeld!”


    Kjeld, surprised as he was with the current happenings, saw humor enough in the situation to smirk at his brother.
    “I’d keep up if I were you. Wulf doesn’t like lollygaggers.”


    His brother growled in exasperation and disappeared into the wilderness.


    Without Reidar’s listening ear, Kjeld stepped off to the side to read the rest of the letter in private:


    I don’t know if this letter finds you alive or dead, or if it will find you at all. Much has changed since we last fought side by side, but the cause now is as great as the cause then. It is time for Skyrim to govern itself. To no longer let the Empire and Thalmor scum decide what is right for our great country. Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak is leading this rebellion, and we need true sons and daughters to change Skyrim’s fate: Ulfric spoke of you personally when we talked of the strongest warriors of the Great War. Even after all these years, you’ve made an impression on him. Ulfric’s putting together a war council to help govern in the coming strife. The forgiveness is best earned in blood. Sovngarde can still await the House of White-Paw.


    Should you be interested in aiding your kinsmen, in making the name White-Paw stand for honor and fearlessness once again, you know where to find us.


    Stand with us. We have need of your strength and council.


    Let bygones be bygones, you old snow bear.


    We’ll be waiting.


    Galmar Stone-Fist. Housecarl of Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Windhelm.

    A council of war? What war? And the only ‘Empire’ he’d heard tell of was the East Empire Trading Company. “Thalmor,” he muttered beneath his breath, frowning in mystification rather than any negative association with that name. Who or what they were wasn’t something he could answer. The phrase let bygones be bygones chewed at him, but his apprenticeship couldn’t be put on hold to go visit Helmi in search of answers, so he stuffed the letter into his pocket and returned to work.


    He would make tracks for Thirsk Meadhall as soon as Baldor allowed it.


    After crossing the bridge near the north end of the village, the distance to Thirsk was greatly reduced. In spite of the short trek, the rough, uneven landscape promised no easy outing; with the Moesring Mountains arching their backs to the west, the path steepened as it followed the Isild, curving around lake Fjalding where it would bring him to Thirsk’s porch. Mountain hare skirted the rocky terrain, darting through short spiky grasses and tundra shrubbery as Kjeld made short work of the trail. Despite the ashfall smothering the land to the south, the air here was fresh, and when he inhaled deeply, he felt the sting high in his nose and deep in his lungs. Any outsider to the village would’ve likened the sensation to wading chest high into Lake Fjalding—but the Skaal knew better. Lake Fjalding, with its perpetual frozen banks and wide, flat sheets of ice hugging the surface, was far far colder.

    Deviating from the low-trafficked trail to the jagged rocky brow overlooking the lake, Kjeld stopped long enough for the huffs and puffs of air to grow fewer and smaller, observing the wondrous natural beauty his people strove to preserve. Among the snow-dusted aspen and towering pine sat Thirsk Meadhall, with it’s hull-shaped roof and soot-streaked, black-smoked chimney. The Meadhall was visible just below him. The ‘shortcut’ down the cliff-side wasn’t worth the broken legs, so he returned to his path. The path was not well worn out of frequent visits between the Skaal and the warriors of Thirsk; the path derived from necessary pilgrimages to the Beast Stone, one of six All-Maker Stones that dotted the island. The Beast Stone came into view now, and Kjeld squared his shoulders, eying the towering stone pillar as if it might embody its namesake and bite him. In the near past, he had stood in the low pool surrounding the stone, head bowed, eyes squeezed shut as if through sheer concentration alone, he might gain an ounce of control.


    Frea’s guidance hadn’t gone unwanted or unappreciated, it had gone unsuccessful. If he hadn’t found a different solution, Kjeld fully believed he would be standing there now, head still bowed, eyes screwed shut, struggling to understand his…curse.


    He found Helmi on the bank of Lake Fjalding, picking the ripened fruit from the snowberry bushes, one of very few plants who could endure Solstheim’s frozen climate. With rounded face, rounded cheeks and rounded belly, Helmi Light-Hearth straightened up, basket on her hip, and beamed.

    “Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!”


    Kjeld grinned, mindful not to squeeze her too tight during the hug. “Otto owes me an explanation. That lazy troll’s inside drinking his cares away while my poor sister’s toiling in this chill.”


    Helmi laughed. “Trust me when I say that Otto is not to blame. I got restless and finally convinced him I wouldn’t get swept out to sea or eaten by bears if I stretched my legs.” She spread her arm out before her, looking at the frozen eye of Solstheim. “Confined to the lake while Otto’s woodcutting.”


    Indeed, when Kjeld paused to listen, he heard the rhythmic thunk, pause, thunk, as the Redguard split firewood down the middle, stacked them and prepared another log. It was good to know that Otto wasn’t neglecting her, not that Kjeld had been serious in his opening remark.


    “I have news, Helmi.” He smiled a little cautiously. “Good news, and strange news.”


    Helmi regarded him quizzically. “Strange news first.”


    Kjeld told her the good news first anyway, and she took it with a softening smile, her hands placed on her belly.


    "Otto!" Called Helmi. "Storn's spoke to the All-Maker, our baby will be born healthy!"


    Storm hadn't so much spoken to the All-Maker as he had interpreted the signs, but Kjeld didn't correct her. It wouldn't matter; good news was good news.


    Otto appeared at her summons with an axe over his shoulder, and cut a striking figure; red tribal paint up and down his bare dusky arms, coarse black hair kept short, and a single gold earring hanging from the left lobe. He was so different from the other warriors, but he had proven to have a fighter's spirit. The way he handled a shamshir was enough to earn the admiration of even the most jaded Thirsk warrior.


    "Did he now? We are lucky to have a shaman on our side. I'll have to slay a bristleback for him in thanks." Otto's deep brown eyes settled on Kjeld, and they exchanged smiles and jests. "Think you can carry it back to the Skaal on your own, Smith?"


    Kjeld felt his pride prickle. "Aye, could carry two, but I know you won't trap that many."


    Otto laughed, lowering the axe, his grip readjusting as though he planned to fell the next boar that dared walk by. "Is that so?"


    "Enough with your bragging, tell me the strange news." Helmi moved to stand beside her husband, watching Kjeld intently.



    She had always been impatient, and Kjeld wouldn't have kept her waiting even before her pregnancy. Otto claimed she had the temperament of a sabre-cat when riled nowadays; Kjeld didn't wish for proof. He told her quickly of the strange letter.


    "What do you think it means? 'Let bygones be bygones' Those are words for grudges."


    "Or rivalries." Interjected Otto. "Leiv was a mighty warrior. It's common for soldiers to get competitive."


    Kjeld didn't dispute his extended family's word, but a gut feeling convinced him that there was more to this. "Helmi? What're you thinking?"


    "I'm thinking of when our family first arrived. I was scarcely old enough to walk when we left Skyrim." Her eyes, mottled brown and green like their mother's, were dark and distant as she drifted through vague memories for a beacon of clarity. "All I can remember was how cold the journey was. How serious Ma and Da were."


    "They were in a hurry to get here." Said Kjeld, repeating the story as he'd once heard their mother tell it. "To get away from the fighting."


    "Aye, clearly you know as much as I do." Helmi absentmindedly looked out across the lake.

    Over the years, the offspring of Leiv White-Paw and Eydis would ask for stories of Skyrim, of the reason behind the family’s decision to rediscover their roots on the island of Solstheim. The answer was the same: to find peace. To live quiet lives.


    Having grown into the man he was now, Kjeld could see plain as day that no one came to live with the Skaal because it was safe. Avalanches. The boldness of predators. Frost trolls, ice wraiths, and the fatal cold. Life here was hard. And often short.


    The gears and cogs of Kjeld’s mind began to turn faster. What if they had been trying to escape more than just the fighting?


    “I didn’t know your father was friends with the Jarl of Windhelm.” Otto’s painted arms folded, dark features set in contemplation. “Leiv was respected, that much is clear—and as much as any son can hope for his father. What words will you send back?”


    A response would be the polite thing to do. Kjeld had only half-considered a retort, too caught up in the strangeness of the letter as a whole to devote any thoughts to a reply. Kjeld shrugged. “The truth.” Trying one final time to get some kind of answer, he asked Otto. “Does the word ‘Thalmor’ mean anything to you?”


    Otto had been a quartermaster aboard the Redguard trading ship, Suncrest, for many years. There was much he had seen and experienced, far above any man in the Skaal village had. It was, in Kjeld’s honest guess, what had probably drawn his sister to him.


    Otto nodded grimly.

    “S’not good. Elves and powerful magic, with a hatred of men. You would do well not to get mixed up in that riffraff.”


    Elves. That wasn’t the answer he had expected, but it was the only one that made sense. ‘Thalmor’ wasn’t an ancient Nordic word, or the language of the dragons. Elves with a hatred of men... For the first time in many seasons, Kjeld felt the hair on his arms prickle, his curiosity likewise roused. It would serve him no purpose to pester the citizens of Raven Rock for a fully fleshed explanation—oh but was he tempted.


    “I’ll take care.” Kjeld promised, an easy gesture to make, though a voice in the back of his mind argued otherwise. “Thank you.”


    “And I’ll take care of her,” Otto took his wife gently by the arm. “Come, Helmi. Let’s get you warm.”


    Helmi conceded, briefly stepping away from Otto to embrace her younger brother. She whispered in his ear as they broke away. “Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”


    Kjeld smiled. Even if he had more questions than answers, the visit hadn’t neglected to pour warmth into his heart. Soon enough, he would be an uncle, and perhaps matters like these would be the least of his concerns.


    “Keep an eye out for Reidar, he should be along soon.”


    Otto cocked his head. “He promised to clash steel with Kuvar this morning. What kept him?”


    Kjeld chuckled, walking backward to the trail.

    “How long have you known Reidar to stay out of trouble?”


    Helmi clucked her tongue, humor in her eyes. “Little fool. What did he do this time?”


    “Oh he’ll tell you all about it if he ever gets free.”


    Kjeld parted ways with the Thirsk-Meadhallers, their laughter carried off by the wind as he took a walk around the lake to think. Let bygones be bygones... Why did that feel so important? Somehow, the letter became the corner of a much larger picture. A picture he was no closer to fully visualizing. A sigh slipped out, and he was left to scratch the edge of his bearded jaw. It was hard to tell if he ever would get the full picture.


    Funny; Storn’s smoke signals had promised a change moon, but they hadn’t said a damned thing about unexpected letters.









15 Comments   |   Paws and 1 other like this.
  • ilanisilver
    ilanisilver   ·  March 12, 2018
    I like the tension with Frea and that conflict. All the relationships are building up well, but that one is my favorite so far. 
  • SpookyBorn2021
    SpookyBorn2021   ·  August 14, 2017
    Ah, yet another great chapter. This one was really good Fawn, I have to say that my favourite bit was just some of the work and banter around the Forge, I felt like Smithing was kind of an impactful part of Kjeld's life so far (dunno if it will be, but it...  more
    • SpottedFawn
      Ah, yet another great chapter. This one was really good Fawn, I have to say that my favourite bit was just some of the work and banter around the Forge, I felt like Smithing was kind of an impactful part of Kjeld's life so far (dunno if it will be, but it...  more
        ·  August 15, 2017
      It's just a difference in font size and coding, with the quotes put on it. :) Pretty easy to do!
      You're very right, smithing has been and will continue to be a big part of Kjeld's life. His identity is very much tied to his occupation.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  January 19, 2016
    Thanks so much for reading, Exuro!
    Me too. You'll soon find that there are a lot of secrets to be uncovered in Book 1. Chapter 4 will be going up soon!
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 19, 2016
    Very nice family dynamic and small village feel you've set up with this. Looking forward to seeing just how many secrets their father was hiding.
    Also... werebears!
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  January 13, 2016
    I was giving a nod to Supernatural, which is a very popular TV show we have over here in the States; I believe it's on like it's 10th season now? Either way, the two main characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, are very different. Dean is the overprotective...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  January 11, 2016
    I beg your pardon, I meant to say *genius rather than ingenious. Get it right Unhelpful!
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  January 11, 2016
    Oh damn, now that you mention it, I do recall you already telling me about your twin brother. xD I beg your pardon. Unfortunately, I have no idea which pair of TV brothers go around killing monsters...
    I have learned through careful self-observation...  more
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  January 10, 2016
    Heehee, I have one twin brother, but thankfully he's nothing like Reidar! We actually get along really well, but we didn't always! Inspiration for the dynamic between Reidar and Kjeld came from quite a few sources, one of which being a c...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  January 9, 2016
    The family love warms my heart, Fawn. Do you have siblings? You know so well the dynamics amongst siblings who can't relate to one another. Reidar reminds me jarringly of my own stupid wonderful brother.  My dislike for him is steadily increasing. (Don't ...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 9, 2016
    It was. You know me and dogs. Loved all the stuff with Rakki. I enjoyed the reading very much. Oh, I still get very nervous. Very nervous about Going Elsweyr. It's very nerve-wracking when you are writing stuff with very obscure lore.