LotS: Frost Moon Chapter Eighteen - Korvanjund Part I

  • Korvanjund Part I


    If there had been bandits here once, there weren’t any longer. A stone firepit was cold, the ashes undisturbed in the center of the ring. The unused sleeping bags scattered across the floor looked like shedded skins.


    Thurza and Reidar could not shelter inside the entrance. There was no cover, and no chance to properly defend themselves once those double doors opened.


    Without pause, Thurza strode into Korvanjund, unimpressed by fallen pillars as wide as a ship’s prow, and the brown, crooked fingers of gnarled roots splayed over the cracked stone floor. A ceiling that looked more darkness than stone was lost somewhere in the blackness above, the light of the sconces - who lit them? - not reaching so high.


    The chamber was big enough to drive a cart through. A couple carts. Reidar’s ‘whoa!’ of surprise was lost; if the sound ever reached the ceiling, it did not bounce back down. Thurza summoned her wolves, one from each hand. Their growls carried greater resonance than Reidar had, and the reverberations had him eying the shadows with suspicion. His grip on the axe tightened. With no chance to set down more traps, the two Stormcloaks ran up the steps, one ghost-wolf left behind to slow down the Imperials, the other following in Thurza’s wake like a dog come to heel.


    “Where do we find the Crown?” He nearly stumbled over a collection of roots, cursing as he righted himself.


    “On the head of King Borgas. Find the King, find the Crown.”


    The stomping of boots and baritone voices chased them down a stout tunnel, Thurza and Reidar halting as they discovered a smaller passage halfway through. At the end of the hall was a doorway.


    Reidar glanced at her. The battle mage nodded, and he hastened up the short flight of steps to try the door; he threw his shoulder in, pushing with all his might, but something barred the way. Wordless, they moved on, and the sensation of being watched crept over the back of Reidar’s neck like a fine mist.


    They reached a two-tiered central chamber, with several enclaves and more branching tunnels. By now they could hear the keening snarls of Thurza’s spirit-wolf, and then silence as the Imperials cut it down.


    “Up or down?” Reidar demanded, locating a rickety set of stairs leading to the crumbled lower level. He could see painted burial urns beside wide iron coffins against the far wall, but nothing that looked like a crown or a king.

    “Down.” Thurza went to the stairs, even as the first pair of Imperials rushed in behind them.


    Spitting a curse, Reidar flung himself into a tunnel on the second level, abandoning the torch and fumbling his way through the darkness, grateful that it did not seem to end as soon as he’d expected.


    Reidar caught a glimpse of Thurza’s battle as he scuttled over a narrow stone bridge — just wide enough for a nimble man to cross — stretched over the lower level. Her glass mace smashed into Imperial shields, marring the dragon symbols in the middle. The harsh exchange of blows bounced off the crumbled columns. Conjuration was her specialty, but the Imperials gave her no chance to squeeze in any more spells.


    He needed to even the odds while he had a vantage point.


    Reidar hastened back to the center of the crosswalk, crouched like an awkward vulture over the battle. The steel point of a hawk-fletched arrow aligned with the neck of an Imperial. Thurza deflected a swing, forced to take a step back as torchlight spilling into the cavern heralded the arrival of more Imperials.


    He should’ve fired. He should’ve.


    Thurza broke the arm of an axe-wielding Imperial, but snarled as a shield struck the edge of her jaw hard enough to break the neck of a weaker man.


    His throat constricted. Could he really kill someone? Even an enemy? And if I don’t, Thurza could die.


    Wait, what's that?


    The slick, iridescent pools of oil under the feet of the battle-mage and the legionnaires below shimmered in the flooded torchlight.


    Reidar looked up and caught an answering glimpse of fire up above; three jugs suspended over the cavern. He had to admit these old Nords were crafty.


    “Thurza! RUN!” He roared, standing up and taking aim. He pulled back harder than he’d meant to, but his aim was true; the arrow shattered the top of the pot, sending pottery shards and more oil down into the fight below.


    Shit! How do I light it?
    Feverishly wishing he hadn’t thrown his torch away so soon, Reidar whipped around as the rest of the Imperials found him, and they were so close his face was reflected in the wide steel flats of their blades.


    Thurza glanced at the oil puddles, and the color in her hand changed from blackish-purple, to the incendiary glow of fire. The Imperials’ faces on ground-level lit up with fear for the half-second they had to register what was happening, then a meager fireball was flung from the battle-mage’s clenched hand.


    The spell ignited the flooring in a blast of heat, light, burned metal and screaming soldiers. The whoosh of air from the ignition nearly knocked Reidar from the catwalk; the two Imperials closing in on him had not been so lucky. They fell, yelping, into the flames.


    Reidar took advantage of the chaos to race to the other side. Thurza was shouting for him to hurry, and he took off, running through a haze of acrid smoke into the confusing twisting and turning passageways until he found her. The screams of dying Imperials snapped at their heels as they fled into the central passage, which at once curved into some sort of well-lit funerary preparation room, smashed urns and embalming tools littering the ground.


    A shriveled corpse in armor Reidar had never seen before lay slumped against the wall, a rusty mace clutched in a deathly hand. Though the light had long since faded from its eyes, it looked as if it would come alive at any moment…


    Reidar jumped as a loud scraping tore his attention away from it. He hastened to help Thurza, and together they heaved the iron bookcase in front of the entrance. The remaining urns were pushed against this.


    When they were done, and Reidar could finally lower his aching arms, he grimaced.
    “So when were you gonna tell me you could shoot fire out of your hands?”


    Thurza gave him a long look.
    “The same time you decided to douse me in oil.”


    “I thought they’d light by themselves… Why else would they glow?”


    Thurza grunted but said nothing further, moving away from the entrance to inspect the corpse. She cursed.


    Reidar snorted. “Ugly, I know. But we have bigger things to worry about. Like where in Oblivion this passageway goes and how we’re getting out.”


    What he got in exchange for his attitude was a gleaming fuchsia eye drawing level with him, her hair afire in the light. “Well you can add draugr to your list of troubles.”


    Reidar glanced at the corpse, his expression twisting. “What’s a draugr? Is it that corpse, or what did that to the corpse?”


    Thurza rolled her eyes. “Malacath’s Balls! Don’t you know anything? About anything?”


    Reidar reddened, indignation catching fire without the aid of a torch. “I know how to save your sorry hide! You’re welcome.”


    “Don’t get cocky, boy. You shot a jug of oil from the ceiling.”


    The bookcase shuddered, and their bickering ceased at once, the iron feet of the heavy case gouging marks against the stone floor as the Imperials tried to break their way in.


    "Lay down some more oil, let's make a fire trap." Reidar suggested, but Thurza shook her head, instead pulling out another scroll. But she hesitated."No.” And put the scroll back. “And I can't use that spell again."


    "The fireball one? Why not?"


    "You ask a lot of pointless questions." Thurza pushed him towards the entrance to another darklit, narrow corridor. Reidar scowled, furious that after everything they'd been through he was still being treated like some kind of belligerent child.


    "In case you haven't noticed, Thurza, we are fighting on the same side. Why can't you use that spell anymore?"


    She glowered at him in the crypt-light, and he glared back.


    The battlemage scoffed. “We don't have time for this!"


    Thurza made to stride past him, but Reidar boldly blocked her path. She looked as if she might bash him for being so annoying, and for one precarious second, he thought she would - before a frustrated sigh rushed past her tusks.
    “I’m a conjuration mage. I summon monsters, I bash in heads with my mace - I don’t do destruction spells.”


    “.... But you just did one—”


    “And that one was hard enough!”


    Pottery broke somewhere behind them.


    Thurza and Reidar moved quickly into the gloom, and with a snap of her wrist, a small sphere of light hovered a few inches from their faces, illuminating the treacherously tangled pathway beneath them. The tree-roots here were especially overgrown.


    Reaching an iron door with intricate carvings, the metal, blackened with age, seemed to glimmer like discarded snakeskin in the spell-light. Thurza gathered more dark magic in her fist, mace at the ready, and gave Reidar a curt nod.


    As the Imperials broke through behind them, Thurza and Reidar heaved the doors inward and slammed them shut, moving more furniture to barricade them.


    A long hiss. A cold, almost mechanical slide of boots on the floor. Reidar spun around, his eyes widening as rattled breathing reached out to them from the gloom. Two bluish lights glinted from a rotten face, as an ancient warrior stepped out of nightmare with the grating shiver of rusted chainmail and weathered iron.


    "Draugr?" He whispered to Thurza, trading his bow for the ebony war axe.




    The spirit wolf reappeared to sank it's teeth into the draugr's leg, before the long-dead warrior cleaved it in half with a harsh axe-swing. Reidar ducked, his stomach turning in on itself as the smell of death and rotten flesh swept over him; Thurza's glass mace bashed the draugr's skull in, and Reidar quickened it's fall by knocking it's legs out from under it.


    The light in its ruined face died away. There was a heavy exhale, as if of a spirit leaving its earthly prison, and a thick stillness that lingered after.


    Reidar glanced at Thurza. "These things protect the king?"


    "There'll be more. How many arrows do you have left?"


    "About twenty. Probably not enough, these things can take a beating."


    “Save them for the Imperials.”


    “Alright.” Reidar took a torch from the wall - Thurza's candlelight spell had gone out once the fight started, the brunt of her concentration going to the wolf - bracing himself. She probably thought him an idiot for this, but... He preferred hacking down men that were already dead then putting an arrow through the eye of an Imperial.


    Thurza led the way, pulling a blue bottle from the belt on her waist, she took two swallows, placing the stopper back in.


    She saw Reidar's curious glance and snorted. "Not for you."


    "What is it?" It had a funny smell, but he couldn’t describe it at all.


    "Magicka in liquid form."


    "Well what is that—"


    "When we get out of this, I'm buying you a book."


    Reidar snorted. "You sound like my brother." He was starting to miss his family.


    He could write letters later. There was no time to get sentimental. More rattled breathing, more dark passageways promised trouble just ahead.


    "Let's go get that crown."







6 Comments   |   A-Pocky-Hah! and 7 others like this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  May 13, 2017
    So nice to finally sit my fat arse down and play catch up. Ha! Reidar is almost a clown, but you know, this is correct. Why would he know? And I like that you go there. Thurza is cool and haha Albee knows that feeling. He can heal and turn undead and do s...  more
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  May 13, 2017
    Well, Reidar is still as useful as nipples on a breastplate I see. Big mouth and not much action. I love it :D And it's interesting that he is hesitant to kill, so rare in Skyrim these days. And Thurza rocks!
    • SpottedFawn
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Well, Reidar is still as useful as nipples on a breastplate I see. Big mouth and not much action. I love it :D And it's interesting that he is hesitant to kill, so rare in Skyrim these days. And Thurza rocks!
        ·  May 13, 2017
      XD He's got some character development to go through, for sure! And yes, hard to be raised by the Skaal and ever find killing to be easy. He's a lot of talk and not much action, exactly like you said. xDD He's in way over his head.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  May 7, 2017
    One line above all stood out for me. 

    “On the head of King Borgas. Find the King, find the Crown.”
    It's a simple statement but it carries so much weight to the scene. Well done for that.

    Nice scene with the ...  more
  • A-Pocky-Hah!
    A-Pocky-Hah!   ·  April 14, 2017
    Clueless Reidar is clueless! XD 
    I think Thurza should've given him a big orc-smack just for that line alone.
    • SpottedFawn
      Clueless Reidar is clueless! XD 
      I think Thurza should've given him a big orc-smack just for that line alone.
        ·  April 14, 2017
      Haha! xD Reidar gets enough pummeling in the next couple chapters that one orc-smack from Thurza might be the finishing blow.