LotS: Frost Moon Chapter Sixteen - Thurza

  • Thurza


    Reidar limped back to Camp Varglya. His cocky stride had quite literally been broken, and every step sent a tremor of pain through his foot and a string of expletives through his brain. He slowed only to glower at the cart that had arrived ten minutes before him, though the driver was nowhere to be seen. With a hiss through clenched teeth, Reidar gingerly set his foot down, testing his weight on it; it still hurt exactly like what you imagined getting your foot run over by a cart hurt like, but he wasn’t about to walk into camp looking like a hunting dog too stupid to avoid a bear trap.


    Tightening his jaw and pulling his shoulders back, Reidar marched into camp, bitterly ignoring the relieved atmosphere as the Stormcloaks passed around rations of decent bread and cheese, and two others rolled a keg of mead onto a table that looked too small to support it’s girth. At the center of it all stood a tall she-orc with muted green flesh, overseeing the distribution with burning fuchsia eyes, outmatched in vibrancy only by the lank fire-red hair that fell past her shoulders. When she looked left to speak to Hjornskar, Reidar caught sight of the floral tattoo scrawled across the left side of her head, the hair shaved down ages ago. He didn’t know if all she-orcs wore this hair like this or if she was trying to stand out even more; whatever the reason, he didn’t bother swallowing his resentment.


    She must have noticed him glaring, because she glanced briefly his way - and then ignored him, not even bothering to leer back, no matter how much he wanted her to. No matter how much he’d prefer having a good reason to hate her. It wasn’t that she was an orc, he didn’t care, it was that she had stolen this moment from him; and he had a bone to pick with her about her cart-driving. That nonsense with Cicero had been for nothing.


    ”Are you alright, Reidar?”


    The surprise of someone knowing his name mitigated some of his irritation, and he turned around to find Kersten standing there with about a dozen gleaming red potions, all slotted with care into a wide crate.


    “Fine.” Slipping into a self-assured smile, his eyes went to the crate before returning to her face. “Need any help?”


    Kersten declined. ”Sorry, I can’t have you limping around camp with these. If they break, I don’t know a spell to mend glass.”


    I’m not LIMPING around camp! ”I’m fine.” He tried again. ”Just stepped on a rock funny.” Making a show of striding along the uneven suggestion of a path, he bit the inside of his cheek as his toes seared with pain.


    Dammit. He gave in, raising the injured foot and catching his hand on the wooden fence for support.
    “Stupid cart.”


    Kersten didn’t scold him for his pride like he’d been expecting. Rather, she laughed. “I’m sure you gave it a good fight.” Leading the way to the healing tent, she went in first to set down the crate of potions, then returned to take him firmly by the arm, leading the way up the hill.


    “How did you get your foot run over by a cart?”


    Though the air was cool and the wind stung his face and hands when it swept across the tundra, the sun started to bear down on him in full force. His helmet provided protection from the rays, but he began to sweat under it, feeling the metal grow slick around his ears and the nape of his neck, trapping heat against his skin. It felt like something was breathing on him. Reidar ripped it off immediately, shaking out damp locks. It was stupid to be here. Even if he DID find the cart and it was broken, he couldn’t fix it. What was he supposed to do, drag Loreius all the way up here? Wherever ‘here’ was.


    Wagon wheels clattered on the cobblestones ahead, and Reidar gawked as a red-haired woman steered a wagon loaded with crates and barrels towards him - or rather, down the path he’d been walking on. He recognized the dark blue of her uniform, and it was as the horse-and-cart drew closer that he realized there was something wrong with her face. Her mouth looked misshapen, or she was holding something between her teeth. It took a surprised second to pass before he realized she was an orc! An actual orc.


    She was a sight to behold, her hair streaming behind her like torchfire, the cart moving fast along the stones, bumping and rattling with every divot or crack in the road, but she stood up against the seat, her legs braced, reins tight in her gauntleted fists as if she would have to bring them to a stop at any sudden movement. Burnt wood-smell stung the air, and there were dark stains on the side of the cart. The horse’s mouth frothed, continuing its breakneck pace.


    Something shadowy and vaguely canine loped alongside the cart. It was the wolf from last night at the camp, keeping an unearthly pace with the driver.


    So THIS was the orc-mage.


    Reidar cupped his hands around his mouth, calling when she was but two yards out. “Whoa there! Slow down, we’ll go back to Camp Varglya togeth—”



    The orc hadn’t seen him, or if she did, she hadn’t cared enough to slow the breakneck pace she had put the horse into. Reidar’s face flushed white and then red as the cartwheel rolled right over his foot. Even if she hadn’t seen him, she definitely heard him. And so did all of Whiterun Hold.


    Reidar grimaced, caught her looking at him and at once dived headfirst into a lie.
    “There was an old man who needed help with his cart. A farmer. The wheel was stuck in a rut so I helped. Anyone would’ve done the same.”


    “Mhm, I’m sure the farmer would be very apologetic if they knew.”


    Reidar glimpsed the orc again through the gap in the tent flaps as he sourly pried off his boot, revealing mottled, swollen toes inside. Kersten’s hands glowed with a light not unlike the kind Frea and Storn used whenever they healed one of the Skaal. Momentarily distracted from his grudge-building, Reidar sighed with relief as the agony in his foot began to ebb.


    “Do you know what the Skaal are?”


    Kersten glanced at him, puzzled, though her hands stayed fixed in their spherical position, the glowing light swirling between her palms. “No. Is that a kind of bird?”


    I’m one of the Skaal. We’re a village in Solstheim. Our shaman has magic like that.”


    “Restoration magic, you mean.” Kirsten replied, the sphere of light growing smaller now that there was little left to mend except for the bruises.


    Restoration magic? “...right.” Reidar cocked his head. “Where did you learn it?” Did Skyrim have shamans too?


    Kersten smiled. His question must have amused her. “The College of Winterhold.”


    “Oh.” And where is that?


    The obvious answer was ‘Winterhold’ but he couldn’t find it on a map unless someone pointed it out to him.


    “I think Thurza’s from the College as well. She doesn’t care to elaborate on her background - or talk to us much at all, but I recognized some of her equipment.” Kirsten straightened, and the healing light vanished altogether, though the warmth in Reidar’s foot lingered long after the spell had faded.


    Thurza must’ve been the orc. “Well that’s a shame.” Reidar flashed a smile, putting his boot back on. “You’re nice to talk to, Kersten.”


    The healer shook her head, but her eyes twinkled. “Get out of here, silver-tongue. Before they eat all of the new food.”


    Reidar didn’t need to be told twice.




    His anger at the orc-mage had subsided, only to be replaced by a burning curiosity. Thurza kept to herself, even when greeted by some of the more senior officers. She had her own tent, right at the top of the hill near Hjornskar’s. He knew the healers had their own tent as well, but apart from the spirit wolves she conjured at night, what had Thurza actually done to deserve that kind of specialty? Reidar intended to find out.


    Stuck with sentry duty in one of the watchtowers again, Reidar leaned back in his chair, his boots crossed at the ankles and propped on the table. Arnolf was filling in for the blacksmith, and Reidar was left to unhurriedly survey the surrounding tundra by himself, the majestic mountain peaks and open gray sky no longer as enchanting as they’d been on the first day. He hadn’t come to Skyrim for the scenery.


    Distractedly, his mind wandered to that weird merryman. Where was he now, with his mother in a box? Picturing Cicero trying to explain to some bandits that he was carting a corpse to a new crypt had Reidar snickering under his breath. How that little fool had gotten as far as he had with only a busted wagon-wheel for trouble, Reidar didn’t know.


    Hjornskar Headsmasher left the Commander’s tent, and a shock of red hair moving out of his peripherals revealed Thurza leaving the cooking fire behind to confront him. Reidar didn’t shift much, but he did lean sideways to better see over the edge, giving up on overhearing the conversation but resolved to at least get a decent view.


    Hjornskar was saying something, and she was nodding intently.


    A letter was passed between them, Hjornskar walking off while Thurza wasted no time in tearing it open.


    Reidar swung his boots down off the table, leaning the chair onto three legs to get a closer look - though it was impossible to make out the tiny scrawl on the letter. Thurza glanced around and Reidar hastily straightened, putting his eyes on the horizon but listening hard for the crunch of steel boots.


    He caught sight of her again out of the corners of his eyes, a red flame moving towards the entrance to Camp Varglya. When she was walking out in front of the tower, Reidar tore his gaze away from the alpine scrub to stare at the she-orc’s back. No one stopped her.


    She walked right by the horses. Except for the belt with assorted things on it - scrolls, potions, a book with a glowing symbol he had yet to ask about - and her battle-mage armor, the orc took nothing with her.


    Reidar itched to follow, especially when he could no longer see her stark red hair once she crossed into the trees. If anyone else noticed her departure, they weren’t saying anything.


    “What are you staring at?”


    Reidar started, glancing to see Helena standing there to either join him or relieve him of the watch.


    “Nothing.” He stretched as though he had been sitting too long, and even feigned a convincing yawn. “I need to piss.”


    Helena waved him off, and Reidar thumped down the wooden steps with a deliberately slow pace. It would look suspicious if he took off again with all of his gear… So he stopped only to pick up his bow and quiver, once again leaving the shield and helmet behind; if anyone asked where he’d been, he’d just say he went out hunting.


    Striding out of camp with the same purposeful steps Thurza had made—as if he had every right to come and go as he pleased—Reidar left Varglya for the second time, aware that Helena could see him as he ferreted off into the woods.


    “Where do you think you’re going?” barked a voice nearby. One of the Stormblades with his arms full of firewood.


    “Hunting, and Hjornskar wants me to scout the area for bear tracks. They’re spooking the horses.” Reidar replied, his steps slowing but his stride unbroken.


    The Stormblade narrowed his eyes at him. “Good hunting. May Kyne go with you.”


    Reidar nodded solemnly as if that were the most important thing anyone had ever said to him. When the Stormblade was out of view, Reidar quickened his pace, feeling a burst of joy at being back in the woods again.


    Thurza walked for longer than he had anticipated. Her pace was quick, each footfall into the snow deliberate, the crunch of frond and twig under her heels punctuating the orc’s long stride. Reidar followed at a more measured pace, used to tracking game over considerable distances. His hands felt strangely empty without his horker-tusk bow, so he stopped only a moment to string it and keep an arrow at the ready. Thurza wasn’t his target - but the spiders from a few nights ago had been hard to forget.


    Growing up on Solstheim, following in the wake of expert hunters like Wulf and Torkild Wild-Blood had given Reidar an edge. Though this forest was different from what he was used to, his movements, the lessons he’d been taught were still applicable here; make as little sound as possible, move fluidly, know where to step, know where to hide, know when to listen.


    The thin coat of mail he wore under the tunic, however, was working against him. Feeling as noisy as a whole pack of buzzards fighting over a dead rabbit, Reidar went even slower than usual to make up for the clinking.


    It didn’t come as a complete surprise, then, when Thurza stopped dead in her tracks.
    “I can smell you, New-Blood. Why are you following me?”


    Reidar didn’t break pace, instead stepping closer, watching her hands in case she decided to throw anything at him - or summon one of her spirit-wolves.
    “Why are you sneaking off by yourself?”


    Thurza turned to face him, and this time she did leer. “Go home before you get yourself hurt.”


    “And do what? Keep watch? No.” Reidar shook his head, adamant. “You’re up to something. Let me help.”


    “No, boy. I meant go home, back to wherever you came from. Anyone who sticks their noses in my business won’t live long.” Thurza kept walking, the growl in her voice still ringing in Reidar’s ears.


    He sneered at her departing form, and kept on following.


    Aware that she now had unwanted company, Thurza’s pace increased, and her own movements alluded to a past spent in the outdoors. She seemed to know where she was going without having to consult a map.


    The woods grew denser, and more than an hour had passed; Reidar’s stomach growled,but his resolve was harder to ignore. Wolf-fur lining in his boots fought off the snow as he trudged up a snowy embankment, his eyes watering at the sudden icy gust that slapped him across the face.


    Thurza was just ahead, the wind pulling at her robes, her hair hidden beneath a hood as she paused at the hill’s summit. Her expression was impossible to read, but she seemed to be listening hard for something. When the silence satisfied her, Thurza disappeared.


    Reidar blinked, and climbed faster, forcing stiff, cold legs to plough through the high snowbank until he stood exactly where she had been moment’s ago. His eyes widened.


    Directly below him were steep stone steps that descended into a bastion, a tomb built for a king or an ancient hero. Everything about the place, from the dark stone to the huge, unlit braziers, sang of forgotten history; he held his breath, glancing furtively to every shadow, every glinting snow pile, and carefully descended the icy steps.


    Thurza stood in the shadows of a pillared entranceway on the second level, sheltered from the wind and unfurling a scroll from her belt.


    “Maybe I should just kill you myself,” she growled without looking up, lazy tone laced with menace. “Save someone else the trouble.”


    Reidar ignored her. “What are you doing?”


    “Writing a letter to my aunt. What does it look like?”


    There was a pause, Reidar’s icy breath coming out in puffy clouds in front of his face, before everything clicked into place.
    “This is Korvanjund!” He breathed, the light in his eyes almost enough to diminish the numbness in his nose and cheeks. “You’re… setting a trap?”


    Even as he spoke, the spell-scroll in Thurza’s hands began to glow; the paper dissolved as though eaten away by an unseen flame, and she aimed her palms at the floor, directing the flow of magic with a snapping of both wrists.


    Reidar stepped back as a glimmering rune etched itself into the ice-slicked stones before the entrance, the heat coming off of it enough to make the air shimmer. He felt the snow-caked fur lining of his boots grow wet from the momentary warmth. Before he could marvel much further at it, Thurza’s gauntleted fist had suddenly grabbed him by the collar.


    “What do you know about Korvanjund? Are you an Imperial spy?”


    Her face was close enough now that he could see the sharp points on her tusks, as well as the small, uneven teeth just behind her lips, the bridge of her nose scrunched like an agitated dog’s.


    “I’m not an Imperial spy. Are you?” It was a stupid question to ask, but he didn’t know how to deflect the conversation back onto her.


    Thurza sneered, the expression even more unpleasant up close. “How do you know about Korvanjund?”


    “I overheard Galmar and Ulfric talking about it in Windhelm. That’s all.”
    Sometimes there was a time for more lying; this wasn’t one of them. Her fist tightened, and he felt the tunic start to dig into his neck, the panic flaring up in his gaze. He gripped her wrist, shocked to feel how strong she was. She’s not human, he realized, and for the first time understood what that meant. She could have thrown him down the nearby flight of steps if she wanted to.


    Thurza let him go. “Then you know what’s inside. I’m setting traps, so shut up and stay out of my way.”


    Both the orc and the Skaal froze, as the sound of boots - lots of them - echoed from the top of the crypt.


    Thurza cursed under her breath, and without a word, they hid behind the pillars.
    “Imperials. That’s no scouting party.”


    “How did they know about this place?” Reidar hissed.


    “The same way Galmar and Ulfric knew about this place. From Farengar Secret-Fire. I’m gonna kill that little shitstain!”


    “Who?” She wasn’t making any sense.


    “Balgruuf’s court wizard. I did him a favor, he told me the location of the crypt.”


    The bootsteps had grown louder. Thurza pulled the glass mace from her side-holder, brandishing it with all the violent intent of a particularly territorial ice wraith.


    “And then he told the Imperials?” Reidar pressed tight to the pillar, catching a glimpse of red leather and steel armor.


    Thurza grunted in reply. “That little shit still told them, even after I threatened to use his skin for my new spellbooks.” The orc-mage raised her loosely closed fist, a purplish flame glowing in the center. “I’ll distract them. If there IS a Talos, he’ll let us get away without an arrow through our brains.”


    “Distract them?” Reidar’s stomach tightened, and he looked at the entrance to Korvanjund. “We have to get the crown before they do.”


    Thurza was so surprised, the oblivion-flame in her palm went out. “What?”


    “We have to get it first. Let’s go. The two of us can get to it - and there’s bound to be a back entrance.” His heart was hammering so loudly, he almost missed Thurza’s scathing retort.


    “Oh yeah, sure, because the dead tend to leave when they get tired of lying around.”


    Despite this, she still helped him lift the heavy iron bar laid over the enormous iron-reinforced doors. Care not to trigger the fire rune on the floor, they creaked the doors open, air that had not been breathed in over a hundred years filling their lungs as they squeezed in through the narrow gap they had created.


    Reidar gripped his war-axe, and stole a blazing torch from the wall, glancing at Thurza.


    Her expression asked the same thing.


    If this crypt was empty, why were the torches lit?


    Maybe something else had gotten here before they had.


    With traps ahead and swords behind, Reidar drew in a bracing breath, then led the way. There was nothing left to do but go forward into the darkness.


    “If we get out of this alive…”


    Reidar didn’t bother glancing back or reading her expression. The murder in her tone was clear.


    “The next fire rune I make goes on that fat head of yours.”




    Reidar took a torch from the wall. All-Maker please let him be right about the back door!





8 Comments   |   A-Pocky-Hah! and 7 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  July 28, 2017
    Has Reidar developed a small crush on the she-orc? Sexual tension in this chapter.
    • SpottedFawn
      Has Reidar developed a small crush on the she-orc? Sexual tension in this chapter.
        ·  August 15, 2017
      Haven't we all? :P
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  January 12, 2017
    I think I like  Thurza, she's a character alright.... Not sure what but there's something about her..
    A great job here SF; looking forwards to more.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 7, 2017
    Yes, she is a true Orc. And we go from a war story to a proper adventure yarn. Very excited to see them do the tomb. Great job, Spotted Fawn. :D
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  January 7, 2017
    Ha! It´s interesting how Reidar is so nimble with lying, shooting one lie this way and another that way. Lot of practice. 
            And more importantly! Thurza! Making spellbooks out of Farengar´s skin! Yay! That´s one prope...  more
    • SpottedFawn
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Ha! It´s interesting how Reidar is so nimble with lying, shooting one lie this way and another that way. Lot of practice. 
              And more importantly! Thurza! Making spellbooks out of Farengar´s skin! Yay! That´s one proper Orc ...  more
        ·  January 7, 2017
      XD It's how he got out of chores back at the Skaal Village. He's a bit shameless that way!
      Haha glad you liked her! Hopefully Thurza was worth the wait!
      • Karver the Lorc
        Karver the Lorc
        XD It's how he got out of chores back at the Skaal Village. He's a bit shameless that way!
        Haha glad you liked her! Hopefully Thurza was worth the wait!
          ·  January 7, 2017
        She definitely was :D But I think she´s not using "tusk" enough. xD
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  January 6, 2017
    Still having trouble with how the formatting looks in the preview box and how it actually appears. >.< Ah well, Chapter Sixteen is up! We finally get to meet Thurza! Hurray!